I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.
~ Caskie Stinnett
It is good to have an end to journey
towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end
Stop worrying about
the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. - Douglas Adams
tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out
that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity;
that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of
timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."
"Illegal aliens have
always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian."
As Ben Franklin said: In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in Water there is bacteria!
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. ~ G.K. Chesterton
Stop worrying about
the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey
It is good to have an
end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end
No one traveling on a
business trip would be missed if he failed to arrive
Travel like Ghandi,
with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind
The world is a book,
and those who do not travel, read only a page
When you don't know where you're going, any road will
take you there
Never before did I get so close to Nature; never before did she come so close to me….
– Walt Whitman
The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what they did, they regret what they didn’t do - Unknown
When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over
I told the doctor
I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.
Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive!
Pat's 2008 January Blog
If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime RV Journey with our Past Blogs
Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp.
Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not
already have a list made up.
We've spent the last few days compiling our 2007 Year in Review questionnaire. We added all the normal questions that we get asked the most and answered them all on one page.
Tuesday January 1st 2008
Wow, it's almost been one year on the road for Cindy and I. How time flies when you're having so much fun.
This was probably our mellowest New Years celebration we've had in our lifetime, but after our last year on the road, we need no wild and crazy times to celebrate. Having the kids with us was celebration enough.
Playing Gin Rummy till the wee hours of the morning, we had our own little party and spent the morning hours getting things ready till the temperature warmed up enough to go for a hike.
Once the early morning frost was burned off, we drove over to the Tonto Natural Bridge to spend the rest of the day hiking the trails. That was until I went in to the Ranger Station to pay and found out the trails were closed due to ice conditions.
We could hike down to one of the viewing platforms, but wouldn't be allowed to hike underneath the natural travertine bridge. The entry fee was only $3 for Cindy and I and the kids got in free, so we decided since we were here, we might as well show them the beautiful natural attraction.
I guess the ice was building up on the underside of the cave and when the afternoon temperatures would warm up, vehicle size pieces of ice would come hurtling down. Not something we wanted to be hiking around. It just sucked that we had brought them up here to hike this route and wouldn't be able to.
Do you think young kids care about where they hike? Hell no. We showed them the natural bridge from the viewing platform and spent the rest of the afternoon hiking around the stream which flowed out from the bridge area. For them this was a slice of heaven. Scrambling over boulders the size of our truck and loving every minute of it, you would have thought they were in Disney World.
Courtney has taken years of Gymnastics and is the girl in her Cheerleading team that gets thrown in the air. So launching herself from rock to rock over the freezing creek was nothing short of a weekly practice session for her. Mix that in with the numerous handstands on random boulders or balancing on broken logs hanging over the stream and you would have thought she was a professional mountain climber.
Austin on the other hand had fallen in love with trying to never touch the ground with his endless pursuit of energy. Bouncing from rock to rock using his 11 year old skills of skateboarding, snowboarding and mountain biking, he reminded me of a supercharged Mexican Jumping Bean. For some reason he forgets that I'm 20 something years his elder, and expects me to follow him along every route he can think of. With a camera bag on my back and holding a big framed camera, I just cant follow him all the time.
When we were all wore out, we hiked back up the rugged trail to our waiting lunch. Oops, Cindy had left the packed cooler on the kitchen table of the camper. Luckily for us, we were only minutes from the campsite. It was all I could do to keep Cindy and Courtney from falling asleep on the short ride back to our waiting Sunline.
While I hooked up to the camper, Cindy unpacked us some lunch and got things ready to travel. We scarfed down some food and hit the road back towards Phoenix.
As always, Cindy and Courtney were asleep within minutes of pulling onto the road. Thankfully Austin knows so much about music as he kept me informed on every song and band that came on the radio. If only Cindy was this talkative, it would make driving long stretches so much faster.
Driving down Route 87 during sunset is quite the sight. At one point I even woke Cindy up to take in the amazing views. As the sun dropped behind the Superstition Mountains, we pulled into the Pebble Beach Campground in the Tonto National Forest. I joked with Austin and Courtney how in Arizona they call them forests, but really they're only Saguaro Cactus.
The campground was rustic with no hook-ups, but it was only $6 and had a locked gate after dark, so the measly price was worth the security. We spent the rest of the night getting rocked back and forth by a fierce windstorm and knocking back games of Rummy.
Wednesday January 2nd 2008
The kids had to be at the airport at 3pm to fly out at 4, so we spent the day fooling around in the campground and packing their things up. We're camped right on the Salt River, which is known for it's spring time rapids, but the state of Arizona is working on the Roosevelt Dam, and has the water level very low right now.
The banks of the river are lined with bright white rocks from the salt content of the river water which makes it look like it's covered in snow. Sort of deceiving since it was in the mid 60's today.
We drove to the airport and spent a few hours going through the security and paperwork to get Cindy and I to the gate to see the youngin's off. It was hard to say good-bye and as I choked back tears, I remembered how much I enjoyed spending time with family.
I don't think Cindy and I spoke a word on the ride back to the campsite. I'm not sure if we were depressed or just soaking up the quietness that we hadn't seen in the past few days with the kids endless chatter.
We relaxed with some dinner and somehow our small camper seemed huge. For the past two weeks we had been sharing the 200 square feet of living space with Christine and her dog or the two children and their big duffle bags.
It was at this point that I fully understand when families buy big travel trailers with multiple slides. I've always wondered why people need such huge campers, but when you add kids or multiple adults to the picture, every square inch reduces the stress level.
You don't realize how much you've become acquainted to rationing your water until you throw a non-camper into the mix. When Christine and the kids were staying with us, what would normally last multiple days or even weeks of camping were shortened down to only a few days time. Not that they were doing anything wrong, they just don't realize that every drop of water is sacred and you cant leave the faucet running while you're brushing your teeth or washing you face.
I cringed when I heard the pump running for an extended length of time and heard one of the kids yell with their foot on the flush pedal "This is soo cool!" My only thought was how much water was going down the toilet just for amusements sake. This is another reason why if friends are visiting, boondocking is out of the question. It's too much to ask friends of family to skimp on water, or live by the rules "If it's brown flush it down, if it's pee, let it be."
Even with the wind trying its hardest to blow the camper over, I think Cindy and I slept better than we have in months.
Thursday January 3rd 2008
We had received our package from Wilson Electronics a week ago, and I had been dying with the box of equipment in the back of the truck and not being able to break it open to set everything up. Like a kid drooling over his Christmas presents under the tree, but having to wait a week after Christmas to open them.
It really chapped my ass that we didn't have a signal on New Years Eve and couldn't call or contact any family members. Knowing if I had spent a few hours and hooked the equipment up, I would have a signal and the kids would have been able to call their parents or Cindy and I would have been able to contact our daughter, it would have made the holiday that much more enjoyable. Today was my day to get the necessary equipment to install everything.
I needed to find a Radio Shack to grab the Male end of a 12 volt connector for the amplifier connection and some miscellaneous clips to run all the wiring. Once I got to installing it, the hardest part of the whole install was getting the supplies.
For some reason my GPS kept giving me directions to the local Radio Shack, but it wasn't in the plaza where the GPS was telling me it was. I walked into one of the local stores and they gave me directions to where it had moved, but it wasn't there either? After numerous stops, I finally found it in the new plaza right across from where I had started, grabbed my supplies and headed home to the RV. This was after 3 calls from Cindy to see what was taking me so long?
In the past month, this 2 hour time period was the longest we had been away from each other...I'm Not Kidding! She was yelling at me as to why I had been away from her for so long and asked if I was having an affair on her. Something tells me we need to get away from each other more often.....LOL
The directions say to mount the antenna on the roof and wire the cable through a window, but being as once I get the system up and running, I'm not going to move it for a few years, I'd rather not tie up a window with the cable which would leave a small gap in the window. I was able to run the wire down the refrigerator vent shaft, and drill through the wall to the cabinet where I mounted the amp.
All in all, this took maybe two hours of my time. Once I got everything hooked up, the campsite we were staying in where we couldn't get a signal on either our cell phones or our Broadband card, now gave us full bars on the cell phones and we were able to log on to the internet with a strong signal!
Man how I love modern technology!! In the long run, this should only save us money as the normal reason we find a regular campground is so we can find a signal to update the website. If this amp and antenna helps us stay out in the boonies longer, then in the long run it will save us valuable money. (But then isn't all money valuable? I guess I'm such a smartass, I even make fun of myself)
For the full story on the Install, check out the Wilson Electronics Page where I have a bunch of pictures on how I installed the set-up.
Friday January 4th 2008
Now that we have a signal and can update the site, the day was spent answering the hundreds of emails we hadn't been able to get for the last week.
With the change of the New Year and everything that goes along with a new month, our day was spent updating the website and making many needed phone calls.
Funny how a simple amplifier can make such a difference in what we're able to do.
Not much to talk about unless you want to hear about Cindy's amazing noon time fajitas and home made guacamole all washed down with margaritas in the Arizona desert. Sorry to rub it in, but sometimes you just got to kick back and enjoy life to the fullest.
Camping on the Salt River, the banks are low right now because they are working on one of the dams up river. The exposed river rocks are all covered in a white film that makes it look like the river is lined with snow. Sort of deceiving considering even though it's cloudy today, it's still in the low 70's.
Saturday January 5th 2008
We've been boondocking since the 31st of December and with the kids staying with us, our usual 8 day water supply had run out early. Cindy needed to catch up on some laundry and while she was doing that, I headed over to the neighborhood gas station and used their dump station.
Of course, while filling up our 40 gallon fresh water tank, which takes for ever because of the dual filters we run the water through, I had some impatient old-timer pull up behind me and give me an ear full of what he thought of me and how long I was taking at the dump station.
I found it quite humorous when he said "I don't waste other peoples time like this and usually fill up my water tanks at home!" I let him know that since this was my home, any place I could find water was the only place I could fill up.
He also told me that "He didn't know why he was waiting for me, and should just open up his black tank on the road like he normally does and let it empty while driving." WTF is that nonsense? That's when I just ignored him and knew the old coot was crazy.
With our black and grey tanks empty and our fresh tank full, we should be good in our little $6 campground boondocking for the next week. On the drive back to the campground, it started to rain which made for an early night.
With no sunshine to charge our batteries today or yesterday, and the fact that I had sat on the computer all day updating the site with the big 2000 watt inverter running the whole time, our battery level was running low.
Sunday January 6th 2008
What a dumb ass I am! I was just looking through my blogs for the past week making sure I hadn't spelled anything wrong and realized I had labeled everyday as 2007?! OOPS!! So if anyone noticed that, I've fixed it now, but I'm sorry I was still a year behind.
I think every year for the first few weeks of January, everyone makes that mistake and writes the wrong year on their checks and when ever they write the date down.
Well we had hoped we would wake to some sunshine so we could get our batteries charged, but instead we opened our eyes this morning to the sound of rain drops falling on the roof top.
I tried to fire up the small 400 watt inverter to see if I could just charge the batteries on the lap top, but any time I made the lap top do anything other than sit idle, the inverter screamed telling me it didn't have enough juice to power it.
It's times like this when I wish we had a small generator to just bring our batteries back up to full power. Then I know we would be good for the next few days again. We're just too cheap to drop a $1000 on a generator when we would really have only used it a handful of times this past year. One of the other campers in this park has a small 1000 watt 2-stroke generator that he only paid $200 for and says it does a great job of charging his batteries. The thing is about as small as a milk crate and I'm thinking that this might be something we could afford for times like these when the sun goes away for a few days at a time.
Really we would be fine, except I hadn't looked at the forecast when I had left the big inverter on for the entire day and drained our batteries down so low. We can normally run the inverter just fine and when the sun comes out the next day, it just recharges the battery bank back to comfortable levels and we have no problems. Maybe I should start checking on the weather forecast next time I'm going to go on a computer marathon.
We heard a comedian the other day who said "The American Government cant figure out how to use Solar power because it cant figure out where the sun goes at night!" I mean come on, this isn't rocket science!
The gentleman camping beside us, Darrel, has a full workshop set up under the pavilion for woodworking that he runs off of a small Honda EU2000i generator and while I sat and talked to him this morning, he told me I was more than welcome to charge my batteries off of his generator if we needed to. I love how fellow campers are all so nice to each other and go out of their way to look out for one another.
Speaking of Darrel's workshop; he's into Wood Turning and was making some wood bowls out of Mesquite Burls yesterday that were just amazing. The character in the burled wood is like nothing I've ever seen before, and to see such a beautiful piece of artwork come from such an ugly piece of wood is like watching a diamond be cut from an old piece of coal. It's just one of those things you have to see to believe.
Darrel came and knocked on our door and let me know he was going to be turning another bowl if I wanted to watch. What I watched was a master at work.
He started with a small burl from a mesquite tree and ended with a true piece of art. That picture is the bowl that Darrel turned for Cindy and I and all I can say, is I'll never get tired of looking at the unique designs in the deep texture of the wood. Thanks Darrel.
By the time he was done, it was Happy Hour time. Darrel asked if I wanted to join him for a Makers Mark and Water, and who could turn down that offer? Next thing you know, Cindy's coming over to his coach and we're all sitting around chewing the cud and laughing our tails off.
What a great guy filled with very interesting stories and a great outlook on life. I sure do love this lifestyle and cant imagine any other way. It's just amazing to me that it doesn't matter if you're in your 60's or 30's, life is what you make of it, and as long as you have a good attitude, you'll get along just fine.
Monday January 7th 2008 In Search of a Generator
Any thoughts of waking to blue skies and bright sun to recharge our batteries was squashed when we opened our eyes to rain still pounding on the RV roof. What are the chances of camping in the desert and getting hit with a weeks worth of rain storms?
The weird part was I noticed that the Inverter/Battery Charger was running when we woke up. It's mounted in the pass-thru bin, which is right below my head while I sleep. I thought that was strange because the only time that runs is when the inverter is on, or we're plugged into shore power and it's charging the batteries. Please No! Did the dogs somehow hit the button and turn the inverter on all night long?! (They've done this before)
We got out of bed, and when I looked outside, I couldn't tell if Darrel's little Honda generator was running or not because it was about 20 feet from our camper. A few minutes later, he came knocking on our door and let us know that as soon as he woke up, he took the liberty to plug us in so we could bring our batteries up to full charge. Like I said, it's so nice to know that campers go out of their way to make sure their fellow camper is warm and cozy.
Darrel let us know he was headed into town for the day and we were more than welcome to run his little generator as a long as we wanted to. His words are "They like to run, and if you don't use them, they end up breaking."
While the rain was coming down like cats and dogs, we got our morning rituals done, and decided that we needed to get our own generator. I knew there was a Harbor Freight Tool outlet in Mesa, and there was also a Camping World. We thought we'd go drive around and compare some prices.
Harbor Freight has a few different options to choose from, but they were some no-name brand and when we asked about the decibel rating, the salesman just laughed and said "If you have to ask that, then you probably don't want to know the answer."
When Cindy asked if he could find the exact decibel rating, he got out the owners manual and said "The only thing it states is, you must use ear protection while the generator is in use." Looks like they can keep their generators.
So we drove over to Camping World and I never even got out of the truck. Cindy walked inside while I fired up the lap top. I figured I'd look on Craig's List or EBay to see if I could find any deals. She walked in and walked out saying "I'm not buying anything from here!" The generators were overpriced and the 3 other things we were looking for were on the shelf, but were almost double what we had just saw them for at a competitors.
In the short time Cindy was in the store, I found a Honda EU2000i Generator for $650 on Craig's List and another one on EBay for around the same price. That's almost $400 off of what the normal asking price is, and the same exact price that the Honda EU1000i normally sells for. So I contacted the person and asked if they still had it for sale, and while we were waiting for the reply, we stopped at Home Depot to see what they offered.
Home Depot had a little Coleman 1800 Watt Generator for only $399 that claimed to be "quiet" and one of the selling points was "It's great for camping because of the quietness." The packaging also said "It's Florida campground approved."
At $399 we figured let's try it, I know nothing competes with the Honda's and their whisper quiet motors, but the beauty of Home Depot is, you can return anything within 30 days.
We got home in the dark, I unpackaged the Coleman, and checked all the fluids on our new generator.
It's a heavy little bugger even though it's not much bigger than the Honda. The Honda EU2000i weighs in at 46lbs and if Cindy needed to load it by herself, she could handle the task easily. The Coleman is considerably heavier and would need two people to lug it around. Darrel was out walking his dog Charlie, and stopped by to say "Hello." He was asking if we needed to use his generator for the night when Cindy told him we had bought our own. That was until we fired it up.
Now granted, it started up on the first pull of the rip cord, but when I say "Fired it up" that's exactly what I mean. If I can recall, the Honda is right around 53 decibels which is quiet enough that you can be standing right over it and still have a normal conversation. When I fired up this Coleman, Darrel and I just looked at each other and started laughing. It's basically a Contractors Generator dressed up in a fancy little package to try and make it look like the Honda EU Series of generators.
We couldn't say anything to one another because of the earth shattering sound, and Cindy just turned around and walked away. Yep, this generator would be getting returned in the morning. We figured we would run it for an hour to get our batteries up to full charge and box it back up for the morning.
I came inside and Cindy and I just looked at each other. "That's embarrassing" She said to me as we both started laughing. It's at this point when you know that the steep price of the Honda's are well worth the quietness of their motors. They just make for good neighbors. While Cindy was making dinner, I couldn't even stand the obnoxious sound coming from outside, and just said "Forget it, I don't care if we have to eat with our headlamps." I went outside to kill the noisy beast.
I also got a reply back from the lady with the Honda for $650 and told her I would take it "No questions asked.". That extra $250 is so worth it, that I don't care if we never take the generator out of the truck for the rest of the year, I know if we have to, we wont be obstructing any noise ordinances when the need arises.
Tuesday January 8th 2008
I was so excited to go and pick-up Donielle from the airport that I could barely sleep last night. It had been almost a year since we had seen her and probably the longest time I've gone without her since I met her and Cindy so many years ago.
Luckily her plane arrived on time, and we headed down to Old Town Phoenix for some lunch so we could catch up on lost time. We sat talking and enjoying the warm sun till her jet lag started to creep up and it was time for an afternoon nap.
We forgot to mention that she works nights at a casino in New Orleans and had basically gone straight from work to the airport with only a short cat nap on the plane ride.
We drove back to the camper and continued the talking in a more relaxed atmosphere where we could swear and laugh without disturbing anyone else around us. Darrel was in the process of making another Mesquite Bowl on his lathe and we sat watching for a short while.
After watching Darrel and his next masterpiece, I left the girls alone to talk like mother and daughter do, and ran over to the other side of Phoenix to pick up the Honda EU2000i generator we found on Craig's List. Of course my dumb ass forgot that afternoon traffic going through Phoenix would be a parking lot. So an hours drive turned into two and luckily for me, I got caught up on the political happenings of the presidential race taking place right now.
I'm amazed that the only thing every news channel will talk about is how much the candidates have raised for their campaign. What does this tell us as Americans? That who ever has the most amount of money is the best candidate? Why not just buy your way to the Presidency? What a Joke! But lets not even go there.
I will say that I think they should put a cap, say $100,000 that can be spent on the campaign and no more. The rest has to be done on personality and hard work, just like most of us have to do to get ahead. Ok, enough political jabbering.
After picking up the generator, I returned the Coleman we had bought yesterday explaining to the woman that they should remove the part about it being campground friendly.
By the time I got back to the camper, Cindy had dinner waiting for me, and the girls were ready to watch a movie. While I was away, Darrel had come over and gave Donielle the newest bowl he was working on which was so nice of him. This would also let me keep the bowl he had made for me since Donielle had already claimed it when she saw the beautiful work of art. Cindy was in tears saying how nice that was and how thoughtful he was for doing that.
We all crawled into our bed and watched a movie like old times when we lived in Michigan. This was one of our favorite things to do as a family and was designated as 'Movie Night.' We would stuff ourselves on one of Cindy's awesome dinners and then veg out in front of the TV for the rest of the night.
It was cool to be back together as a family and enjoying each others company.
Wednesday January 9th 2008 Happy Birthday MOM!!
We had a full day ahead of us, and none of us knew just how crazy it would end up. Cindy started us off with a big breakfast, and while she packed a lunch, I took Donielle for a ride up and down the twisty mountain roads on the motorcycle.
It was hilarious to hear her squeal over the sounds of the rushing wind like the little girl she is when I would lean the bike into one of the tight corners. She was squeezing me so tight, I finally pulled over to ask what was wrong? She let me know that her legs were numb, and she was freaked out by how fast we were going.....LOL
So we turned around and headed back so we could start the day of four wheeling. While Cindy finished packing up lunch, Donielle went over to thank Darrel for the bowl he had made her. He said the only requirement was a double-breasted hug, "None of this off the shoulder shit! I want a good bear hug like you mean it!" he told her.
I started talking to Darrel about changing the oil in the Honda Generators as he said his was due, but he had personally never done it. I didn't get a owners manual with mine, so he dug out his and I read up on the process.
Nothing much to it really, just unscrew the oil cap, dump out the old oil into a pan, and refill it right in the same hole with some fresh oil. I kept a quart of 10W-30 Synthetic for my motorcycle in the tool box, and the small generator only holds 0.4 quarts of oil. So in twenty minutes, we had the oil changed in both our generators and that task was out of the way.
The area we are staying in is surrounded by the beautiful Superstition Mountains and miles of backcountry ORV trails. In order to get onto them, you need to go register with the Forest Service, but no worries, it's free.
I had filled out the paper work earlier and they provide you with the combination of the locks on the gates. The map said that the Bulldog Recreation Area had a 10 mile trail that would leave only a few hundred yards from our campground, and dump us out over in Apache Junction. The Great Western Trail actually stretches from Canada into Mexico and is over 800 miles long! Since we had so much history right next to us, I figured we should enjoy it while we can.
I figured that these back roads would be a bit rough like the ones we encountered in New Mexico. The scenery would more than make up for the bumpy ride we would encounter and it would be a great way to sit and talk with Donielle. We would all enjoy some beautiful Arizona scenery while catching up on some long lost memories.
Little did I know that this trail would take us over 4 hours to cover the short 10 miles, and the truck would limp out with numerous dings and scrapes on the underside from the wild terrain. It just wasn't what I wanted to subject my wife and daughter to while on vacation.
When I was in the Forest Service office filling out the paper work, I asked the forest ranger how rough the trail was? He replied "As long as you have 4-wheel drive, you'll be fine." I should say that in my hundreds of miles of four wheeling history, I've never tackled trails this rough. We're talking 4-Low, 90% of the way, and trails that would make Cindy walk the majority of the 10 miles. I've 4-wheeled hundreds of miles in my youth, and these trails were way more than I had expected them to be.
By now you all know that Cindy is not one to keep her mouth shut when it comes to her feelings. Well our spunky little daughter isn't any different, and if anyone could have heard the cuss words coming from these two girls, I'm thinking even a Marine drill instructor would have blushed.
I finally told them they needed to stop yelling at me and start spotting me on some of the more technical descents. This was after scraping the step bars on a few large boulders and thinking that I had made the wrong decision, which both girls had told me I had made.
With Donielle acting as my spotter, and Cindy covering her eyes to not seen the carnage, we became a pretty good team that tackled some of the wildest four wheeling of our careers.
The heated yelling, became frantic screaming at one point when Cindy was spotting me over a giant boulder and the A/C compressor decided to empty its holding tank. All Cindy saw was fluids gushing from the undercarriage and automatically assumed we had broke something under the hood.
Her exact words were "Shut the F-ing truck off right now and call for help!" I jumped out of the truck and came up laughing as I explained what it really was. I could tell I was going to pay for this little trip dearly with the looks I was getting from both girls at this point.
Coming to the top of a really wild section, we spotted a gate and the girls let out their cheers thinking we were at the end of the "Trail from hell." Now remember, at this point, neither of them were in the truck with me, they had both decided it was smoother to walk behind the truck rather than get thrown around inside cab.
I tried to not say anything to ruin their little victory dance, but if they would have looked past the truck, they would have realized we still had a few miles to go, it was just simply a gate and didn't mean we had finished the rugged trail.
With the end in sight, we had made it with only some big dents in the step bars on the sides of the truck. The tires looked like their sidewalls had seen better days, and I'm sure the skid plates on some the under carriage parts were mangled up, but all in all, we came out with flying colors.
The forest service should let people know, that these trails aren't drivable for just any four wheel drive truck. Granted our truck is bone stock, but the crawling ability of a diesel in 4-Low is really impressive compared to most stock trucks. I could see some more inexperienced drivers doing some major damage to their vehicles on this trail. I say it should at least be rated as an Expert Trail or one for more experienced drivers.
None the less, it'll be one we don't forget in the near future and I guarantee that Donielle will tell her children about the time that her goofy parents took her down this short trail, that just about ruined the truck.
We got back to the camper, and were all whipped from the day of excitement. We snacked on some dinner and enjoyed a nice quiet night with another move. If you haven't seen 3:10 to Yuma, and you enjoy suspense thrillers, it's a great movie.
Make sure to check out Our Gallery from the day of four wheeling with Donielle on the Bulldog Trail.
Saturday January 12th Back to Normalcy, If That's Possible
For the first time in multiple weeks, it's back to just Cindy and I. Our visit with our daughter was better than expected and I'm just glowing at how well it went. You have to remember that she's 21, and usually a 21 year old daughter doesn't want to spend that much time with her boring older parents.
It was so nice to be able to sit and talk with her without having to worry about school, grades or where she's headed. As long as she's safe, in good health and keeps in contact with her mother and I, what more could I ask for as a parent? It's nice to know that from here on out, we can get along almost as equals rather than always having to preach like parents are so good at.
By no means do I think that I'll ever have to stop preaching, but I know she's becoming a responsible adult and is starting to make adult decisions that are thought out. No more of these childish comments like "That stupid cop gave me a ticket because I rolled through the stop light." How many parents have heard that one over and over?
So the last few days were spent updating things and catching up on emails. We needed to head into town to empty our holding tanks and refill our fresh water and maybe throw a load of laundry in before the pile gets too big on us. You know, the day to day things that get put on the back burner when company is visiting.
Darrel had invited us over for some dinner tonight, and we were rushing to make the 4 o'clock Happy Hour time. Darrel's motto is "Do what you have to do during the day, but Happy Hour starts at 4pm, and there aint too much that is going to get in the way of that!"
So with a Makers Mark in hand, Cindy and I strolled over to his coach to sit and watch the sun set over the mountains. His son Scott had spent the day fishing on the Salt River with his son Cody. We sat around enjoying each others company swapping travel stories. Scott is a very interesting guy who has traveled all over the world and has fantastic stories from countries I've never even heard of.
He know resides in Scottsdale with his wife and two kids and is in charge of the Southwestern section for the high end restaurant chain Black Angus Steakhouse. Being in the restaurant industry, we had many funny stories to share and it was great just enjoying the night with like-minded company.
After filling our bellies with some mouth watering steaks, I could feel my eyelids becoming ten times their normal weight. It wasn't long before Cindy and I were saying our "Goodnights" and heading off to bed.
Sunday January 13th
We've decided that we have to start getting into an exercise routine. Could it be the giant steaks that we ate last night, or the fact that my pants are becoming harder to button up?
We both said that we need to do something active everyday for a minimum of one hour. That shouldn't be too hard, and hopefully, it'll help me lose my ever growing tool shed. So we woke up this morning and went for an hour long hike along the Salt River.
This area we've been staying in is absolutely beautiful and only drives home how amazing it is to me that people would rather waste their money in a normal campground with hundreds of other campers around them. Pebble Beach campground has maybe 10 other campers staying here, and with our million dollar view, what more could you ask for?
When we had driven into Apache Junction to do some laundry, there was a campground that I tried to pull into so I could turn around.
The roads were so tight with the campers packed in like sardines that I had to back out and couldn't even pull through?. I honestly don't know how they got the campers that close together? It looked more like the lot at General RV back in Michigan rather than a campground. You would have to pay me to camp like that!
Now if you've been paying attention to our journey, you'll know that this is the longest we've stayed in the same campground. What is keeping us here?
It's the fact that we can leave in the morning and hike right out our door. We're on the Salt River, so we could paddle if we wanted to. There are numerous mountain bike trails that are within riding distance and we all know about the Four Wheel Drive trails that Cindy's still giving me dirty looks about.
Then there are the Camp Ground Hosts. Jim is so damn nice that I'm wondering if he's human? The first day we pulled in, he sat talking with us about the local attractions, gave us maps of everything we questioned him about, wrote down his cell phone number for us incase we got lost, and invited us up to his camp site for a BBQ. How can you top that?
His side kick Tom is just as nice and both have made our stay as nice as we could imagine. Staying in a campground like this reminds me of moving into a new town. Within a day or two of moving in, we have learned a bit about each resident and have all become new friends. We spend each night sitting under one of the canopies beside our campers sharing stories while the sun sets against the beautiful mountain sides behind us.
Did I mention that the campground only costs $6 per night? The only thing is you have to have a generator, or solar panels, as it's all rustic camping. In my book, this is one of the nicest places we stayed so far and I'm just imagining how much its saving us from paying for a regular campsite. Thanks Arizona Forest Service!
Monday January 14th 2008
Rather than do another hike today, we decided to pull the mountain bikes off the rack and go for a ride. We rode out of the campground and just a short distance up the Bush Hwy, I noticed a few motorists sitting on the side of the road with their trunk open.
This usually only means one thing, so I pulled off the road and asked if they needed any help? This is something that everyone who has aftermarket rims should pay attention to.
This very nice couple from Alberta Canada who spend their winters here to escape those frigid Northwestern climates, had gotten a flat tire on their car. The problem was they had installed aftermarket rims and the stock lug wrench was too big to fit in the holes of their new rims. So they had a spare, the jack and all the necessary equipment to change the flat, they just had no way of getting the rim off the vehicle.
I told him that I had a socket set back in my truck, and could ride back to camp to get it for him. By the time I returned, Cindy was old pals with our friends from the Great White North.
One of the funniest parts was one of the guys, a neighbor of theirs from Alberta was down visiting and worked for a Tire Distributors. How's that for karma? You work for a tire company and you're stuck on the side of the road with a flat? Like I said, these are little things you would normally never think about till the need arises and why you should make sure if you have aftermarket rims, you should make sure you have the proper tools to change the flat.
By the time the flat was changed, we had swapped business cards and they made sure when we get up their way, that we would look them up so we could share a few ice cold Molson's. The Schmid's actually told us that a few of their kids are guides and would be happy to show us the area. I guess everything happens for a reason.
We spent the rest of the day cleaning up the camper and doing some piddly things that had been put off with all the company visiting. Happy Hour was spent with Darrel and our other neighbor Gene, while trying to figure out why anyone would want to live any other way than relaxing out in the desert surrounded by nothing more than Mother Natures beauty. Aint life grand!
Wednesday January 16th 2008
We had gone for a long walk along the Salt River yesterday and were just appalled. We should say that while we've been staying here, the State of Arizona has been working on the dam that feeds the river were camping on. With their work going on, they have the Salt River almost shut off right now.
This sucks for us because we really wanted to kayak the famous river, but instead, we can walk across the river in many places. What's wild is the rocks that are normally under water are now all exposed. They are a bright white from the salt content of the water that gives the river its name. What appalled us so much was the amount of trash on the bottom of the river. You can see where ever the river must have rapids because the cans and garbage will be very heavy in certain areas.
Since we love paddling so much, we felt it our duty to bring some garbage bags with us and spend a few hours cleaning up this river while we had the chance. Little did we know how much stuff we'd collect. It didn't take long for our contractors bags to be filled so full I couldn't tie them closed.
This was all with aluminum cans. We even crushed them so we could fit more in the bag. What we didn't think about was once the bag was full, we'd have to carry them all the way back. I'm not lying when I say each bag weighed close to 50lbs.
We had been talking with Jim, the campground host who told us about a guy staying in the campground that is riding his bike from Florida to Montana! When we had told Jim we would be cleaning up the cans, he said that this guy was doing the same thing and bringing the aluminum into a recycling center for money.
So we thought we'd donate our two bulging bags to this fella. He was more than happy to take them, and I think he was a little confused that we filled these bags, and just gave them to him.
Neither of us cared about the money side of it, we just couldn't stand that all these cans were sitting in the bottom of the river. While cleaning up the river, we sat talking to each other between the crushing and couldn't figure out why the forest service wasn't doing this? Why are us tax payers paying for inmates to be sitting in a heated cell, watching cable television and not cleaning up the rivers or the roadsides?
Cindy laughed saying "We're such nerds!" I think she was saying this because most people would do this as a punishment, and here we are doing it for shear enjoyment. Maybe we are nerds, but I don't mind being nerdy if it helps the environment.
When we got back to the camper, I noticed that Gene and Darrel were working on the lathe together. You see, Gene lost his wife two years ago to diabetes, and is sort of searching for something to fill that emptiness. Darrel also lost his wife, but his was to a recent divorce. When these two guys found each other and heard each others stories, Darrel, who had given up woodturning after the divorce, went out and bought a full set-up so he could teach Gene a new hobby.
What this did was get Darrel back into woodturning, and get Gene to look forward to something new. I went down to see how Gene was doing on his first bowl, and was just amazed at how fantastic it looked.
Darrel's work is amazing and anything he turns could sell for hundreds of dollars in any gallery. What I found out is that he is also a great teacher. Gene's first bowl was something that any woodturner would be proud of. I was thinking his first piece of work would be just that, something anyone would say, "Well it was his first." Nope, this first of many pieces was something to be very proud of.
We sat during happy hour swapping stories till it got too cold to be outside anymore. I guess a cold front is blowing in and the temperature was dropping fast. Pull out an extra blanket because it was going to be cold tonight.
Thursday January 17th 2008
Now that we have the generator, Cindy has gotten so spoiled, she thinks she's a woman or something? This morning she asked me to go start the generator so she could use her blow dryer!?! What is this crap? Suddenly we're doing our hair?
I think the girl has gone completely mad. Next thing you know, she's going to be thinking she's a model or something.
Everyone keeps talking about the Apache Trail, so we decided to see what it had to offer. Actually, Mike Waters who is a local from this area had contacted us and told us about this route a while ago. This is the first chance we've gotten to take what was high on his suggestion list.
He said that after following our Blog's, he thought we'd enjoy this route and we should make sure to spend a day driving the winding trail. So we thought we'd see what it had to offer. Jim, the campground host gave us detailed directions and we were on our way.
The Apache Trail starts out easy enough, just a normal road heading past Superstition Mountain with a bunch of cool roadside attractions. This little chapel is called the Elvis Chapel because it was once used in one The King's movies. That's Superstition Mountain in the background.
But once it gets past Goldfield, which is a little Tourist Trap of a ghost town, but worth the stop because it's free, the road gets a bit twisty and very scenic.
If you've ever been to Maui and driven the Hana Highway, it reminds me of that stretch of road. If you're not familiar with the Hana HWY, it's in the Guinness Book of Worlds Records as the road with the most amount of turns in the shortest amount of distance.
So after we left Goldfield, where we only sat long enough to warm a bar stool in the historic Mammoth Saloon, we headed up towards Tortilla Flats that everyone had told us about.
There is no need in thinking you'll be able to make this route in any hurry. The road is so twisty, you'll be lucky to get out of second gear. But you'll be in no hurry, because with every turn offering outrageous views, you'll be stopping every few miles for pictures anyway.
Talk about "Don't Blink, or you'll pass right bye!" The population of Tortilla Flats is a whopping total of 6 residents. The town consists of a bar/general store/post office and a camp ground. In other words, make sure you bring your supplies with you if you plan on staying.
The Superstition Saloon is something to make the drive just on its own account. With the bar stools being topped with well worn Saddles, it's one of those things you just have to say "Been There, Done That!" But how many can really say they've done it?
We saddled up with a couple of frosty Coors Lights, and I mean frosty, the bottles actually had ice running down the sides like in one of the commercials! We sat admiring the dollar bills that lined the walls getting to know a few of the locals. The bar is known for it's decorative wallpaper. For some reason, people have been signing one dollar bills and stapling them to the walls for so long, there is barely a square inch of open space to leave your mark.
Cindy and I really wanted to drive up the rest of Historic HWY 88, which was once used as the main supply route for the Roosevelt Dam. But the locals talked us out of the treacherous trail because it was getting too late in the evening. I guess that once HWY 88 leaves Tortilla Flats, the road becomes dirt and narrows quite a bit. Rumor is you can see dozens of cars that have tried the trail at night and ended up on the side of the mountain. Enough for Cindy and I to come back another day.
So with our tails between our legs, we headed back down the way we had came. Heading back to our campsite, both a bit disappointed we had missed Happy Hour with Darrel and Gene. But we were able to witness a spectacular sunset over the Superstition Mountains, which made the drive worth it.
Driving back along the twisty roads in the dark was a long bout of cuss words flying out of Cindy's mouth, enough to make any salty sailor blush. But by now I'm used to it, so I just kept hitting the rumble strips to get her all fired up. Oh how we make ourselves laugh.
Friday January 18th 2008
Every morning we wake up, I thank the Lord that I opened my eyes and was able to experience one more beautiful day. Some days are very good, others are just so so. But as long as I'm breathing, I think it's a good day.
While sitting around pondering what we were going to do today and finishing off a nice breakfast, I went out to talk with Darrel and Gene to see what today's story was.
Gene had spent the day yesterday turning another masterpiece on the lathe, and was talking about what he was going to turn today, Darrel was just shooting the breeze and I decided Cindy and I were going to go finish the rest of the Apache Trail.
I came back into the camper and was talking with Cindy when my phone rang. In an instant I was brought to attention by my mothers shaky voice. The last time I answered the phone and heard her like this was when she called me in the middle of the night while I lived in Florida to tell me that my little sister had passed away.
I immediately knew what had happened. For the past few months, my Grandmothers health had been going down hill and I was instantly brought up to speed that she was no longer with us. There is nothing worse than to hear your mother crying on the other end of the telephone line! You know at that moment that nothing good is going to come out of her mouth.
I wanted to be able to hug her or just be near her, but with a few thousand miles between us, I sat like the typical guy on the phone with nothing coming out of my mouth. What do you say at a time like this?
We sat for a few minutes talking before I hung up the phone. The woman who had spent so many years teaching me how to be the man I am today, had just went to join the rest of our family on the other side from where we all live.
Of all of my relatives, my Grandmother was probably the one I was closest with. I can remember so many childhood nights with her pulling the sheets up on my chest, making sure I had a glass of water and sitting with me to talk till I fell asleep on her couch. I spent so many nights at her house, eating breakfast with my uncles in the kitchen before my Grandpa would take me to work with him.
It's amazing how events in your life will conjure up memories that you might not have thought about for many years. I know I didn't spend enough time with her in her later years, but I have enough great memories from my childhood with her to last a life time. The whole family knew this was coming, her health had been headed down hill for the last few years, but no one can hold back the day it actually happens.
Except for my mother and my wife, I cant think of another woman who was more loving than my Grandmother. I know she'll be missed by all who knew her, but at a few weeks shy of her 92nd birthday, we all know she lived one amazing life.
Saturday January 19th 2008
Since we didn't get to finish the Apache Trail on Thursday, we thought we'd make another run at it today. The weather was perfect, and the temps were warming up a bit. The last few days have been a bit chilly.
Our friend Nancie came up from Scottsdale and was going to take the scenic drive with us. It had been a few weeks since we had seen her, and we all thought that rolling along some beautiful Arizona Highways would be a great way to enjoy our weekend.
Nancie had driven the trail a few times before, but only to Tortilla Flats like we had done on Thursday. So we didn't need to stop as many times as Cindy and I had on that first trip. Those virgin runs are usually the long ones, when we're pulling over for every cool site we see along the road.
We made good time up to the Superstition Saloon. The place was packed and was wall to wall people like us who were just trying to enjoy a beautiful day. There were bikers everywhere, classic cars lined up the street and the outside patio was filled to capacity. By some miracle, we walked in the bar, and even though there was a 45 minute wait for a table, there just happened to be 3 stools empty for us at the bar.
We saddled up and grabbed some lunch. Now I'll say that the beers at the Superstition Saloon are as ice cold as they can get without being frozen, but the food is nothing to write home about. It's food, and I was hungry, so it worked. A burger and fries washed down with an ice cold Coors is hard to ruin, so I wasn't complaining. I should have just split Cindy's nachos with her. This plate was just humongous would feed her for the next few meals.
From Tortilla Flats, the Apache Trail climbs up even higher into the Superstition Mountains where the road narrows and becomes dirt. I wouldn't recommend this section for anyone with an RV, but as long as we kept it slow, we had no worries. Not that you could tell from Cindy and Nancie squealing at every turn we made.
It probably didn't help that you could see straight down the side of the mountain, and the road had no guard rails to hold you back if you were to break loose. There was a few crumpled cars sitting at the bottom of some very steep sections just to let you know what would happen if you got a bit too cocky for the tight switchbacks.
We crossed numerous single lane bridges with towering peaks all around us. Rolling through saguaro forests with beautiful blue lakes flowing for miles, the views were just breathtaking. This is a "Must See" drive for anyone who is visiting the Phoenix area. Thanks Mike Waters for sending us the email and suggesting this drive!
By the end of the day, we had survived the 40 mile Apache Trail, and sat watching the sunset behind the Roosevelt Dam. We hopped onto I-60 and headed back towards Mesa. Cindy was asleep almost instantly, and Nancie and I kept each other awake talking to one another during the hours drive home.
Flying through Superior, even though it was getting pretty dark, I made a note to make sure we return to this area to check it out. The mountains looked beautiful and I was pissed we were driving through it after dark.
Feel free to check out or Apache Trail Gallery to see some of the beautiful sights we saw along the mountain road. Remember, proceeds from our photographs are the only way we earn money to keep this adventure funded.
Monday January 21st 2008
I didn't sleep well last night with the full moon and all. It was like we were sleeping under a street light and the coyotes were yipping like crazy. I sat up reading a book and probably could have turned my headlamp off and still been able to read it just from the light coming through the windows.
When Cindy got up at 7am was when I was falling asleep. Thank God I don't have to be to work...LOL When I finally did wake up for the day, Cindy was cooking a few different dishes for tonight's going away party.
Darrel had invited us over to his RV for dinner with a few of the our other neighboring campers. It's just amazing how close we've all become in the past few weeks, it's like are own little community here in the desert.
While Cindy was doing her thing in the kitchen and I had a few hours to waste, I threw on my backpack and grabbed a few garbage bags. Why not go wander around the edges of the Salt River to see if I couldn't clean up a bit more trash.
Wandering along the river banks with only the occasional hawks screech to break up the peaceful sound of the flowing water, I was lost in my own thoughts for a few hours. It's nice to be alone out in nature and just be able to think about nothing. It's very rehabilitating even if you have no aliments. You come away from the solitude feeling refreshed and alive.
I kept one bag open just for aluminum cans and another for everything else I found. It only took me a few hours before I had the beer can bag filled to capacity, but the crazy part was the other bag was even heavier. I guess random garbage weighs more then a few hundred cans.
I carried my giant bags back to the camper and had worked up a good sweat. Cindy was just finishing up with her dishes, and I had just enough time to jump in the shower before we headed over to Darrel's for Happy Hour.
I'm sure gonna miss these little therapeutic sessions we all have every day at 4pm. I've actually grown to like them very much. Sipping on a beverage and contemplating life's decisions while the Superstition Mountains change from gold, to red to an amazing glowing color right before our eyes.
Between Tom, Darrel, Jim, Gene, Cindy and I, I'm thinking we've seen quite a few places around this country. We all agree that this is one of our favorites.
Darrel was cooking the steaks under the pavilion while we all talked, and I didn't realize how hungry I was, but my mouth was watering the entire time. Soon enough, it was time for dinner, and we ate like Kings, with one Queen of course.
For the record, today is our One Year Anniversary on the Road! It's just amazing how much we've done in the past year, and to think how much more we have to see! We're truly blessed to live in such a beautiful country with such nice people along the roads!
Tuesday January 22nd 2008 Leaving our Beloved Campsite
We have to meet our good friends Derrick and Tish, the ones we stayed with up in Minnesota this past October, in Las Vegas next week. Knowing that we travel like a couple of Turtles on Valium, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get there. So we had to leave our dream campsite to move on.
We were up early and said our goodbyes to the Darrel and Gene. It was like leaving family, and we tried to make it quick before we got emotional. We promised we'd meet again when we come back to this area and I know this is one of those promises we'll keep.
I wanted to get on the road early, but anytime you think you're going to accomplish that, it never happens. I'm not sure if I mentioned that a few days ago, our credit card company called us asking about a large purchase that was being made online?
This call came in at 5am, so at first we thought it was some kind of scam. But they gave us all our information, and when we said that we werent the ones making the purchase, they had to put a stop on our credit card. Since we try to not carry cash, no need in getting robbed, our credit card is our means of money. Not a good thing!
They overnighted us new ones, but we both said that we needed back-up, incase anything was to ever happen to our only credit card. So before we pulled out of the Phoenix area, we found one of our banks and ordered ATM cards. At least now we'll have something to fall back on in case of an emergency. For those that don't know, that picture is the "International Sign of Marriage"
So once on the road, we made it out of Phoenix just as the traffic was starting to come to a stop. Thank goodness, because that can be brutal.
There is only two ways to get up to Vegas from southern Arizona, one is to take I-10 over to the Colorado River, then follow it up on Route 95, and the second is to cross the state in a diagonal line. We chose the first one.
We figured since we would be going this way, why not check out Quartzsite. If you have never heard of Quartzsite Arizona and you're into RVing, then you need to get your head out of the hole it's stuck in. This little city in the desert becomes one of the largest cities in the state for the first few months of the year.
With thousands of acres of BLM land to camp on for next to nothing, it's considered a Mecca for snowbirds or RVers looking for a free place to camp. Normally large crowds aren't our cup of tea, but this week is the Quartzsite RV Show, which is one of the largest gatherings in the RV world.
Why not stop by for a day or two just to say "Been There, Done That."
Driving across the desert out of Phoenix, the terrain is pretty wild. Cindy commented on the fact that "When most people mention a Desert, you think of the Sahara or something like that, but it's really quite alive with scrub brush and animals."
It's wild how big the mountains are off in the distance. The reason I say this is they look like you can drive over to them in a minutes time, but when you see a little town at the base of one of the giants, it looks like one of the miniature train towns you'd see in a hobby store. So I can only imagine how big these mountains would look when you're sitting in that town at the base.
Cresting a hill just as the sun was setting over California, the road sign let us know that Quartzsite was only 7 miles away. You could see all the lights twinkling in the distance scattered out into the desert on both sides of I-10.
I hate pulling in some place in the dark, but we had no option. We found the coveted free BLM land, and grabbed a level spot. I'm sure when we wake up in the morning, I'll probably be parked right in the middle of an isle way or something, but "Oh Well"
When we got into the Sunline, I was checking emails while Cindy was cooking up some grub, and we got this email from Darrel.
am looking forward to crossing paths again. The King and I
While we were driving West, when the clock hit about 3:58, Cindy looked at me with big welled up eyes and said "I miss our Happy Hour Buddies!" Something tells me that we'll be back to the Salt River very soon. Oh, and when Darrel signs off saying "The King and I" he is talking about his dog Charlie as The King....LOL
Wednesday January 23rd 2008 Our 1st Day at Quartzsite
Once we finally got up and about, we realized that we were right on the edge of a road, so we pulled the rig into the BLM a bit farther which also brought us away from I-10 and the road noise.
Basically as far as you can see, there are RV's scattered all throughout the desert. The coolest part is you'll have million dollar coaches parked right beside a VW Bus that looks like it should have been salvaged years ago. There is quite the eclectic mix of people out here, and I'm sure it'll be some good people watching for the next few days.
Before we left for the Quartzsite RV Show this morning, I climbed up on the roof and tilted our Solar Panels so while we were gone all day, the batteries would charge back up 100%.
By simply tilting the panels to a 45° angle, the incoming charging amps went from 8.5 amps, to 14.1 amps! That's a considerable difference. I wish I had one of those automatic arms on the panels so I could raise them up from inside the coach. Maybe we'll look around at the show to see what they offer.
The Quartzsite RV Show - Is it worth the Drive?
If you've never been to Quartzsite, then I'll say that just the desert scenery is beautiful enough to make the drive. If you're into rally's, then this is probably one of the largest in the RV world. Depending on what website you read, there are anywhere from a few hundred thousand to a million RVers for the first month of the year. So if you're into crowds, then this isn't the show for you to attend.
I'd compare it to Sturgis if you're into motorcycles, or the Daytona 500 if you're into NASCAR or any of the biggest of the big name events for which ever sport you're into.
From what I can see so far, this show has more booths with RV gadgets and accessories. The Hershey Pennsylvania show is one of the largest shows in the country for actual RV's. Cindy and I went to this show when we were looking for our Sunline, and I'll say, if you're in the market for a new camper, then that is the show to attend. Where else can you see almost every RV that is made in the USA all in the same lot?
The booths here at Quartzsite are selling anything from dog brushes to RV Water Softeners, RV Satellite Dishes to 12 volt curling irons. It's sort of a giant swap meet, but everything is geared towards RVers. There are RV Dealers with all the latest new models to drool over, and you know Cindy and I had to spend an hour or two wandering through many of the new models looking for any ideas we could copy into our Travel Trailer.
I know I hate to say it, but I'm in love with the new 5th wheel Toy-Haulers. We sat in this one that has a partition wall between the living quarters and the garage, and just imagined how easy it would be to fulltime with that much more room. Forget loading or unloading the bike from the hitch, or having the back of the truck filled with all our extra gear, there is enough room in these things to store everything and still not fill up all the cabinets.
I love our camper, but it is so small when you compare it to any of these monsters. Once you start looking into bigger coaches, then you need to look at bigger tow vehicles and next thing you know, you're in debt over your head, and then we'd have to go back to work. No thanks!
We finally said "Let's get out of here before we change our minds!"
Wandering around through the booths, we did see some cool things that would make the RV lifestyle that much easier. Rather than give detailed lists of everything I thought was worth it's cost, I'll just give a very brief description and link to the sites of the ones that stood out.
We did get a few things and those I'll go into detail in our Product Review Page on those items later.
Emergency Suppression Systems - Basically this system mounts in your engine compartment of your RV and has multiple sensors to detect if the motor was to ever catch on fire. He said they don't have anything for Travel Trailers, but if you've ever seen a motorhome catch on fire, you know there is usually nothing left but the steel rims. If we owned a motorhome, I'd install this fire suppression system before we drove it off the lot.
Light Blasters - By now you all know my on going battle with the LED's I've been buying and returning. I've probably bought 3 or 4 different bulbs and returned all of them because of how dim they are.
This company had some super bright bulbs designed for all the common RV fixtures, but for our tight budget, the prices were just way too high. We'll wait a few months (years) for the prices to come down to affordable levels.
But if anyone is looking for really bright LED RV Bulbs, this company has them.
Armadillo Dollar - This was one of those things that I thought was a total scam, but after listening to Ron and Catherine for about 45 minutes, I think they might be on to something. The new credit cards all the companies are advertising, which work wirelessly are going to cause a world of trouble for anyone who doesn't have one of these protection devices.
Cindy had just listened to a news piece on this same thing a few days earlier, and what their product claims to accomplish is to protect your wallet from being hacked by the new wireless credit cards that are just now starting to come on to the market. Like I said, it would take way too long for me to explain any of this, so if you're interested, check out their interesting site.
RV Solutions Hub-O-Meter - This is something that I think every 5th Wheel or Travel Trailer should come standard with. It's a device that records the miles put on your camper just like those on the big rigs.
I was just saying to Cindy a few days ago that we know the miles on our truck, but those aren't the same miles that are on the camper. Since we don't have the Sunline hooked up all the time, it's hard to know what the exact miles are and this little device would take care of those guesses.
What I really liked about this company was how nice and informative Elaine was. I really like it when women are knowledgeable when it comes to mechanical things. Maybe this is why I'm so attracted to Cindy, but something about a woman that can describe the way a motor works, or whisper sweet nothings about a diesel engine really gets me going. HA! HA! Had you on that one didn't I?
So that was the few booths that caught my eye. I got a few more things, but I want to get some pictures to go with those before I talk about them, so I'll save those till a later date.
Tomorrow will be another day of wandering around. I was a little disappointed that I didn't find any solar booths. I was under the assumption that this was where you come to talk shop when it comes to solar set-ups. But then again, we walked around for 6 hours and only saw a small portion of the show.
I did see a booth that had those arms that tilt the panels up from inside the RV. But for the cost and the weight of the motor assembly, I'm waiting till they come out with something different.
Thursday January 24th 2008
Woke up to pouring rain, but it only lasted till around noon. That's fine, it keeps the dust down around here.
We didn't really do anything today except go for a ride on the motorcycle
We did get a knock on our door from a BLM Ranger telling us that we couldn't be parked on BLM Land and advertise for anything? Now this was new to us and everyone around us, and when I asked what he wanted me to do? He said as long as we covered up the .com's on the logos, that we'd be fine.
So Cindy grabbed the masking tape, and covered up anything that had a .com on the outside. Oh well, no big deal. She said to me "Should we tell him we don't make any money at this? We just spend it faster then we know how to replace it!"
Friday January 25th 2008
Cindy didn't feel like doing anything today, so I went down to the RV Show and figured I'd wander around and look at a few things that I know Cindy has no interest in. Pretty half naked girls and Guns, but I couldn't find either, so I just looked at RV stuff.
I also took the Microwave that Cindy had taken out of the kitchen and sold it to a vendor for $50. Not bad since we have only used it 3 times in the past year. Every square inch of space counts, and having an item that takes up that much room and isn't used is just dead space.
Once I got rid of that, I just wandered around looking at different booths and their offerings. I love the little Casita's and the Scamps, but have never been in either of them. So when I saw a little camper that resembled these two fiberglass lightweights, I had to stop and check it out.
I sat talking with Billy Gibson who was one of the salesman for Oliver Travel Trailers. Billy walked me around the really cool looking campers showing me the many well thought out designs.
At only 2400 lbs. these little beauties can be towed by just about anything that has a hitch. They even had one hooked up to a Jeep Wrangler in the lot. Billy said they are so light, you don't need to hook up sway control or weight distribution bars. With a full aluminum frame and a one piece molded fiberglass shell, the Oliver has an insulation rating of R19 throughout the camper.
Now I cant imagine living in one fulltime, unless you area a single traveler who isn't into big spaces. But the space that is inside the camper is well thought out and very finely crafted. Looking around, I kept thinking of a high end boat with sleek lines and a one piece molded design.
The Oliver is also one of the only 17' Travel Trailers that has a 32 gallon fresh water tank and a 35 gallon grey water holding tank. Not bad for a camper this small. I just kept thinking of how light this thing is and how much fuel would be saved by towing this behind the F250. I doubt we'd even know it was behind us.
I thanked Billy for his time, and told him if they were to make a 25' model, I put a down payment on it right now. But since they don't, I guess I wouldn't be surprising Cindy with a new camper today.
So I wandered around more of the Quartzsite RV Show just looking at all the things offered. Think of a Carnival that takes over an entire town. Then think of almost anything imaginable, and you'll probably be able to find a booth selling it here at Quartzsite.
So I sat in the bumper to bumper traffic cussing at myself for not riding the motorcycle instead of taking the truck.
Saturday January 26th 2008
Today was domestic duty day, and I cleaned out a few of the bins in the truck while Cindy cleaned out the inside of the camper. We gathered up the laundry and loaded it up into the now cleaned out truck.
Really there is no way to clean out the truck with all the dog hair, but to tidy up all the camera bags and put everything where it belongs is my idea of cleaning up the truck. I try and sweep out the dog hair, which probably looks like I'm in there murdering some furry beast to anyone driving by.
Pulling into town, we noticed the place was just packed. This was the last big weekend of the Quartzsite RV Show, so everyone was getting their fill. The Laundromat reminded me of the front few rows of a concert. People fighting for washers with dirty laundry baskets everywhere.
I hate doing laundry at the laundromat, and think this is one of my least favorite things about being on the road fulltime. When we lived at home, the laundry was my job, and I had no problem doing it. Now it has become a chore, and one of those things that we put off till we have to do it. Another thing I think is so stupid about the washers and dryers in the laundromats is the fact that they don't take bills? If the machine takes $4 to use, why not let it accept one dollar bills? Nope, I have to go exchange my money for quarters and then feed all these quarters into the machine.
Can someone make a washing machine that accepts $1 bills!!
While the laundry was getting clean, we drove down to a book exchange where we wanted to drop off a stack of books we were done with and see if we could find some new reading material.
Pulling in, Cindy yelled out "That guy is NAKED!" Low and behold, some guy was standing at the entrance of the book exchange with nothing on but a cowboy hat and a sock monkey covering his manhood.
I grabbed my camera and said "Come on, you're going to get your picture taken with that guy!" Cindy looked at me and said "Don't even think about it, I'll take your picture if you want!"
We walked around the Readers Oasis Book Exchange which is loaded with everything you could think of, and in good shape compared to some of the used book stores we've been in.
Cindy and I kept laughing at how many people would walk in and say to the woman behind the counter "That man is naked!" The woman would just reply with a "I know, he's my husband." Everyone would just sit there looking at him in awe, some were saying how disgusting they thought it was and others were laughing out loud, but all still sat there and stared. Had none of them every seen a naked person before?
When we went out to talk with the guy, he was just a normal guy, he just happened to not be wearing anything. No big deal, who hasn't seen a naked man before? I look at one every time I take a shower and if you've ever been to Fantasy Fest in Key West or to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then a naked guy in Quartzsite wasn't that astonishing for me. Actually I was surprised this was the first one we had ran into.
When I said "Can I take a picture of you in front of your store?" Mr. Naked said to Cindy "Yeah sure, you want to get in the picture little lady?" Of course Cindy looked at me with that look and stood beside the guy and his sock monkey. I knew I'd get a picture of her with him.
After leaving the Readers Oasis, we stopped at Silly Al's for some pizza and a few beers. This place was raking in the money with a line out the door and the staff running around like a mad house. After a few beers apiece, we filled up on good pizza and headed home for an early night.
It looked like a storm was blowing in and Cindy said "It looks like if it's going to rain or storm here, you can see it coming for a few days."
We've been working on our Book Review Page, so check it out and see what you think. Make sure to let us know if you have anything that you think might fit our style of reading.
Sunday January 27th 2008
I thought the desert was supposed to be dry and sunny all the time? This is the second time that it's rained in the past week. Today looks particularly nasty and the wind and rains have been pelting the side of the camper all morning.
I had posted a question on a web forum a few weeks back about traveling in Baja California. Cindy and I really wanted to head down there this spring, but have heard so many rumors that we were a bit scared to go by ourselves.
Well another couple contacted us saying they go each year had one of the couples they were going to travel with back out this year. He explained that there is safety in numbers and they also wanted to go for the month of March if we were interested in traveling with them.
So it looks like we'll be heading South of the Border for a month or two and spending the spring on the Baja Coast. If anyone has any good pointers to give us, feel free to send them our way. We're virgins at this, so anything helps.
With it raining all day, Cindy used her collapsible bucket to collect rain water off the gutter and by the end of the day, we had 12 gallons of water to do the dishes in, flush the toilet and other various needs around the campsite. This keeps us from having to use our fresh water and also is a great way of recycling.
In the picture above, the blue bucket is what she used to collect the rain water. We don't use it for drinking, only the non-essential things like dishes and flushing the toilets.
Monday January 28th 2008
Well we had planned on heading North towards Lake Havasu today, but the winds have picked up something fierce, so we decided to stay put. All I kept thinking about the last few days with this strong, constant wind was having a wind turbine. Something tells me that living out in the desert makes sense to own a turbine.
The winds are almost always blowing and I'm sure you'd have enough power to top off the batteries and sell some back to the power company.
While looking through some of the top news stories this morning, I stumbled across this article from Dr. Craven about Bio-Diesel and Going Green. Its just a short read and is pretty interesting when the facts are stated out in the open. Just think if we could really cut our ties to foreign oil what it would do with the economy. Hopefully America will "Wake Up" and this can happen very soon!
I had mentioned to Cindy that I needed a few days to just sit on the computer from sun-up to sun-down and get caught up on a bunch of little things that I don't normally like to do.
Well sitting here with the rain and the winds gave me that needed break whether I wanted it or not. So I sat in front of this damn laptop till my eyes got blurry and my butt went numb.
By the end of the day, I had sent off the pictures people wanted to purchase, I'd burned a few CD's for some people that had requested some images for print and updated almost every page on our site, which now has become a staggering amount. When did this adventure become a full time job....LOL
Tuesday January 29th 2008 Visiting the London Bridge
Luckily when we awoke this morning, the winds had died down and the sky was back to that bright Arizona blue. We went for our morning jog, where Lucy (the Beagle) did her usual, dropped a turd right in front of someone's RV while they were all sitting outside having breakfast. I swear, I think she does this on purpose. When I saw her go into the prone position, I just kept on jogging with Luca (the Pit Bull) and let Cindy deal with that nonsense.
While we were getting packed up, Cindy ties the dogs up outside and does a clean sweep of the inside of the camper. While I was hooking the truck up, we thought it was hysterical how the little dog lays across the big pillow, and the big 70lb dog curls up into the littlest ball to fit onto the smaller pillow. I had to take a picture to show how darn cute this is.
While packing up I just had to make sure I wasn't crazy the first time I made this little experiment, before I crawled up on the roof to lay the Solar Panels flat, I had Cindy check the incoming Amperage.
13.1 with them still tilted. So I laid them flat and screwed them back down, which maybe took all of ten minutes. When I came back in the camper, the incoming amperage was at 8.4. It's official, the solar panels need to be tilted up when ever we are parked for over a days time.
We were hooked up and on the road by noon. Leaving Quartzsite, all I can really say is it's another one of those events we have marked off the Bucket List. You know, that bucket you have all those things in that you want to accomplish before the trip is over.
We drove North up Route 95, on the Arizona side. If you are to look at a map, there is a Route 95 on the border of Arizona that follows the Colorado River north up to Lake Havasu. If you were to drive West on I-10 into California, there is also a Route 95 that follows the Colorado River north. We chose to take the Arizona Route 95.
This road was like driving in a RV Convoy. At one point Cindy said "There are more RV's on the road then there are cars!" The road has very little to see except a wide open valley with mountains on each side of the horizon.
We got caught up on the national news and I joked that I had no idea who was going to be playing in the Super Bowl this weekend. Isn't that sad!? I guess when you don't have television, there is no reason to follow sports.
We also were listening to a news caster talk of the people in New Orleans. He went on to say they had been living in FEMA Trailers for the last 18 months before the reports just surfaced that most RV's have quite a bit of formaldehyde in the materials used to build them.
When we bought ours, the salesman at General RV told us this first thing. He also told us if you left a few windows cracked and the roof vents open for the first few weeks we got it, it would exhaust 90% of this out. He just said that while we were driving we should keep the roof vents open till the smell went away.
Cindy and I started laughing when the news anchor said to his co-anchor, "These poor people, they've been living in 400 square foot travel trailers for the last 18 months. Can you imagine how horrible that would be?"
That is 200 square feet larger than our travel trailer that we too have been living in for the last 13 months. Funny part is we chose to live like this, and quite frankly I'm enjoying the hell out of it.
Lake Havasu and the London Bridge
The drive up to Lake Havasu from Quartzsite is beautiful! You follow the Colorado River up through the red rock canyons where the river creates these little pockets that reminded me of an oasis you'd see in a movie. Big palm trees reflecting off the blue waters of the river with these deep red rocks for a stunning back drop.
My only gripe, was I had Cindy yelling at me to watch the road every time we would hear the rumble strips vibrating the truck. The road was quite curvy and I was turning my neck around like Stretch Armstrong to try and see all the sights.
When we pulled into Lake Havasu, we pulled across the London Bridge and parked at a little road side park so we could walk down and take some pictures.
If you've never heard the story, this is the original London Bridge that was built in 1831 in London (Imagine that, the London Bridge was built in London!) By 1962, the bridge wasn't able to hold up to the constant traffic from the ever growing English city. The city of London decided to sell it and it went up for auction.
The purchaser, Robert McCulloch, was the founder of Lake Havasu and the chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation. The bridge was carefully disassembled and each piece was numbered and shipped to its present location. There it was unloaded carefully organized before the re-assembly began in 1968.
Once the reconstruction was started, it only took three years and was completed in late 1971. So that's the story on how the London Bridge made it's way to Lake Havasu, Arizona.
We walked around the beautiful bridge snapping some pictures like a couple of goofy tourists. There is a nice boardwalk along the river under the bridge that is lined with shops and little boutiques. We saw a little ice cream store that had a Coors Light sign in the window and you could see the light bulb above Cindy's head.
We walked in and asked if we could have two beers. The young girl behind the counter said, "Well you can buy them, but you cant drink them in here." I asked where we were supposed to drink them which she replied "Anywhere outside." Like that was a dumb question or something.
Now usually it's just the opposite. You can drink inside, but you can almost never just walk around the street drinking. But I guess the rules were different here, and with the beautiful weather, I'd rather be outside looking at the water anyway.
When we had finished our beers, we wandered around for a bit before we headed back to the camper. We quizzed one another whether we wanted to stay here tonight or drive closer to Vegas. Problem was, if we were to stay here in town, we would have to pay for a campsite, but if we were to drive a ways out of town, there was millions of acres of BLM Land to camp in for free.
By now you know we love anything FREE, so we drove back across the London Bridge and drove a few miles out of town. When we were getting close to I-40, where the BLM Land ended, we pulled off the road onto a little two-track till we found a nice level spot.
With the sun setting behind us, and the mountains in front of us turning that beautiful golden color, we sat in our camp chairs watching another beautiful sunset. I just wish Darrel and Gene were here to share it with us.