Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Fat Man's Pass to Natural Arch

Another hiking day and we went back to South Park where we had hiked last weekend. We had heard from the young woman who took our photo then that a neat trail was the Mormon Loop through Fat Man’s Pass and the Natural Arch. We usually take advice on trails since those who live here probably know it much better than we do.

Up early, breakfast and we were off. We stopped for donuts but - this time I had decided I would have a protein bar instead. We found the trailhead with a few other cars, donned our hiking clothes and were off. We met quite a few along the trail, both heading out like we were and heading back after their morning exercise. We’ve often found neighborhood people using the trails for daily exercise. They run up and down, sometimes trying to beat their best time. Me: I’m just hoping to make it back before dark.

We really enjoyed the trail since it was challenging, had great views, could be made longer or shorter with adding or subtracting additional loops and had some interesting geologic formations. Perfect for us.

Of course, the first part of the hike was upward and upward. Then we took the path towards the Fat Man’s Pass. 9” wide it is although there is an alternate path over some boulders if you can’t make the slot. We took off our packs and I got a neat shot of Gary coming through to show how narrow it is.
The valley itself was a neat slice of nature, very quiet especially on a weekday. Lots of cacti, green bushes and we could see the wash where water would run through it after a rain.

HiddenValleyTrail%252526NaturalTunnel-7-2012-10-31-11-32.jpgFatMan%252527sPass-3-2012-10-31-11-32.jpgWe did see this wild creature. There was a whole colony of chipmunks probably hoping for a food handout.
The end of the valley was a natural arch to walk under. Beautiful rocks.

We then completed the Mormon Loop, added the Pima Wash and Ridgeline Loops and headed back to the car. A soda at Walmart and we headed home.

Nice hike and I’ll recommend it to others who want a challenging interesting hike.

StrangeNeighbors-1-2012-10-31-11-32.jpgNow, today is Halloween and there is a big Halloween do tonight in the park. The costume ‘suggestion’ is nursery rhymes. Our neighbor is going all out: Steve is Bo-Peep and Cathy is the sheep. She’s been sewing for days and they’ve been looking for little parts for their costumes for a while. Gary and I in nursery rhyme costumes? I don’t think so. However, today, during our hike I decided that we could go as Jack and Jill in our hiking clothes. All we would need would be a bucket. Not too difficult. But, it was too late to sign up. Shucky darn. Anyway, before our neighbors left for the big do, they stopped over so I could get their picture. Earlier, Steve had asked Gary if he could wear Gary’s name badge - he didn’t want anyone to know who he really was. Fat chance.

I was sure they could win a prize but she told me that there were some pretty elaborate costumes. I also found out that about 1/3 of the people there were not in costume. I'll remember this for next year if we stay here.

9.2    2128'

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blythe, CA - the Notary Public

‘Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.’ – Unknown

Well, today we might not have gotten a trip around the sun today, but we did get a free trip to Blythe, CA. Blythe CA, but that’s 190 miles away, why on earth are we traveling there? Easy answer: to avoid paying the 9.5% AZ sales tax. If you buy something in AZ, that’s your tax. But, because we are Iowans, we take what is called an ‘out-of-state’ delivery and do not have to pay that tax. (Believe me, Iowa will get us later.) “Out of state’ means the nearest notary public out of state who can attest that we did not take delivery in AZ. And, that is Blythe, CA, 190 miles down Interstate 10.
So we hop into the RV with a driver from Camping World who will drive us to Blythe, get the paperwork signed, witnessed and notarized, after which we can drive back to Arizona as happy Winnebago Journey owners. We went in tandem with another couple from Canada in their RV with their driver who then will drive on to - wherever - after they get their paperwork signed. Both drivers will then return to Mesa in the car that they are towing in back of other couple’s RV. Got it? Just a tap dance that all non-Arizonans dance to when they buy an RV here.

Our driver was quite a talker and told us lots of stories about people and their RV’s. He is a British National, which means that he was born in Great Britain and is a British citizen. He is also an American as is his wife. Now, I’ve lived in America all my life and I know that you can move to America from a foreign country like he did and become an American citizen. However, he told us that we can never move to Britain and become a British citizen. You must be born one. Didn’t know that.
Journeyout-of-statedelivery-2-2012-10-26-22-06.jpgWe got to Blythe, signed the paperwork - above is a picture of Gary, the driver and the notary public all signing something. Me - I just take pictures and am along for the ride. And, we were on our way back to Mesa. 10 minutes in a Blythe office and we were off.

Hey, what’s the definition of an optomist? An Alaskan who buys a convertible. And, today we saw a convertible with an Alaskan license plate tooling down the highway with its stereo blaring. But we saw something even better - something that was a blast from the 60’s.

We stopped at a rest stop along Interstate 10 on our way back to Mesa. As we were walking back to our car, Gary’s eyes bugged out and he started drooling: ‘look at that’, he stammered. Sure enough, there were 3 women in the entryway of an old school bus painted like the 60’s in psychedelic colors. One of them was absolutely, totally nude. Soon she stepped out laughing, ran to the front of the bus with the other 2 women, lifted the hood, did something and about 2 minutes later ran back into the bus. Gary and I laughed. And, of course, I’m kidding about Gary’s drooling and stammering.

Here’s a picture of the bus. You expected a picture of the young woman? Hey, this is a family blog. But, one look at this and I could imagine that Ken Kesey lives.

All of a sudden we felt as if we had become our parents watching the antics of our generation back in the 60’s. Although, we were more amused and bemused than our parent’s generation was. I think they were shocked, wondering what the world was coming to.

Then back on the road heading back to our campsite in Mesa. Driving the RV for a long period of time brought out several facets. One of these is the ride. Now, we all know that roads are not always as smooth as they should be. Some have real bumps. especially when roadways transition to bridges. Too often, there is a real bump there. We usually look ahead and can see if the car or truck ahead of us bounces when it hits this transition. If it does, I often grab the bar by the passenger seat so I have something solid to hang on to while we bounce over the transition. Sometimes, on really rough roads, I keep a constant hold on it. Jarring is the best word to describe the ride at times.

When we were talking with the salesman about the Journey, he was telling us that the ride would astonish us. He said going from a Simba to a Journey was like going from a Chevy to a Lexus. Yeah, sure, salesman talk. They’ll say anything for the sale. He said that the Journey had an air suspension ride, that we had air bags in the Simba but that the Journey had AIR BAGS. As if I’m going to believe all that.

Then the first, the very first, thing I noticed when we took a test ride with the salesman was the smooth ride. Today, I confirmed that first observation: this RV has a smooth ride. I think I might have reached for the grab bar once and that was only an anticipation grab. I expected to be airborne and jarred when we hit the bump but - nothing. I wasn’t airborne and didn’t feel the need to reach for the grab bar for the rest of the trip. There is also a foot rest for the passenger. What a heavenly ride. Gary also noticed the easy handling.

Gary was excited about trying out his new air horn. Of course, that motorcyclist might never get over the shock. Just kidding, he blew it when no one else was around. I was excited about listening to our new Sirius. We had Sirius in our Simba but it was our portable Sirius and had about 3 wires that looked a bit messy on our dashboard. Here, we just turn the radio on, tune it to Sirius and sit back to enjoy. Then, there’s the small drawer that we used for donuts and spice drops which is a bit lower and harder to reach for Gary but I’m sure he’ll manage.

Some people think that our life is just one happy-go-lucky, fun-filled vacation and most of the time things go very well; however, sometimes, our life is a little more exciting than I can imagine. When do we get to do some hiking? When we get back to Mesa, maybe we can spend some time trying to get ourselves back together and relax.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Parking Lot

Today, we finished moving into our new home. Here’s Gary moving a load from one RV to the other, down the steps, over the mat, up the stairs and into Nancy’s waiting arms.

We then let Camping World, the dealer, have it for several hours to fix some things we had found in our walk-through that needed to be fixed. That, of course, meant that we had to find some place else to camp out. We couldn’t go back to the Simba - that didn’t belong to us and had nothing in it anyway. Our second option was the dealer customer waiting area: bo-o-oring. So, we went to MacDonalds to have a bite to eat and to sit to relax for a while. We’ve been on a merry-go-round for a while and it was nice to just sit. In a MacDonalds? Well, it was better than our other two options.

Meanwhile we called our neighbor to tell him that we were not going to be coming back tonight to the resort but would be back on Friday afternoon. But, first let me explain a rule of our resort. Every RV lot has a spot for an RV, a cement section for a patio and a section big enough to park 2 cars. And everyone gets a tag to hang in the car from the rear-view mirror to show to the entry booth as we enter the resort whenever we leave. Because this is still October and lots of RV lots are still empty, there are lots of extra spots and some people park their cars there, next to their lot. Since the resort has RV’s moving in every day, people might park in a spot that someone is moving into. So, the resort gives tickets and has threatened to tow cars parked in spots that are not their owners spots. That’s the rule and now here’s what happened and, I’m sure, you can see the punch line to this story already.

We had taken our tag with us to put in the new RV so we could show it to them as we entered with our new RV. Thus, there was no tag on our Jeep sitting in our lot. But, since it was our lot and our Jeep, we saw no problem. As our neighbor was talking to us on his cell phone, telling us that everything was ok, he was walking over to check on it and, sure enough, we had a ticket on the windshield of the Jeep - with the threat that the Jeep would be towed next. Ouch. No tickee, no parking spot. Obviously, the park rangers thought that the car was in a spot where it didn’t belong and had ticketed it.

I called the resort, explained the problem and got their assurance that we would not be towed. Whew. We already have enough on our plates.

Camping World finished our new RV and we had some more time to arrange our stuff in it. Here’s a floor plan of our new RV. The squares on the floor indicate tile. Luckily, we have lots of tile - so much easier to clean thatn carpet. RV’s used to have all carpet but then the manufacturers asked people what they actually wanted: fancy that, actually asking the customers. And, most RV’ers wanted tile or linoleum or something easy to clean. This has lots of tile and will be mostly easy to clean. I will, however, miss the central vac in the Simba. We’ll have to buy a small vac so I can dust and vacuum.

Here’s an interesting picture for all of you who know that Gary and Nancy don’t watch much TV. We have 3 TV’s, one in the main coach, one in the bedroom and here’s the outside TV. Oh, boy. One of our friends thought this was a great idea since he could watch TV as he grilled, which he does often.

I will admit that I am a bit disappointed in two features of this new RV. Firstly, the sink is smaller. Now, my rule is: if you can see dirty dishes, you must wash them. If you can’t see those dirty dishes, you don’t have to wash them. I was a master at stowing dishes in the previous sink since it was larger. I knew how to pack them tightly. This sink is smaller and I can’t stow as many dirty dishes in it so will have to wash them more. shaky-darn.

Secondly, the mirror in the bedroom is a convex mirror. Our mirror in our bathroom in Iowa is concave - which makes you look slimmer (I'm thinking that this is a great selling point for our house.) This one is convex and you look a bit chunky. Too bad.

I’m thinking I’ll get over these two little setbacks.

Mesa, AZ - Movin' In

 Our walk through went fine especially since Gary and I had spent a lot of time in the RV prior to our purchase and knew lots about it. We also had spent lots of time opening every window shade, blind, window, drawer and cupboard. We also had tried the AC, the heat, the TV’s, the burners on the stove, the microwave, etc. Secondly, we know lots more about RV’s now and I didn’t have to take so many notes. I certainly didn’t have to ask about how to operate the toilet. We had already put together a list of several little things that we thought needed to be fixed and went through this with him. He agreed and hopped to it right after the walk-through.
I've put in some pictures of our new home so you can see where we're living now.

Today we move in to our new ‘home.’ First we have the walk-through where the official ‘Walk Through’ person goes around and through the coach with you pointing out the features and making sure everything works. That’s your chance to try something and, if it doesn’t work, you can tell him and get it fixed on the company dime. Of course, you’ve only got 2 hours with him so it’s difficult to check everything.

I remember the first ‘walk-through’ that Gary and I ever had. Now, Gary and I had never owned an RV nor lived in an RV - ever in our lives. We’ve walked through some RV’s at the Iowa State Fair but that is hardly a thorough examination. So, I’m taking notes while the guy is talking and Gary is listening, trying to get every word and every hint so we know how to work the huge thing we’ve just bought. When the guy gets to the bathroom, he says dismissively: ‘there’s the toilet’ as if everyone knows about the toilet operation and he needn’t say any more. I’m looking at it, noticing that there is no handle for the flush - but there is a foot lever. Not wanting to demonstrate my ignorance, I let it go, hoping against hope that I would be able to operate this thing later. But, of course, there was always the Operations Manual. Right, as if an opertions manual would have that little detail.

Our walk-through is scheduled for 10:00 - 12:00 so we readied our Simba for travel (our last time in it), got to Camping World where we had purchased our new RV and parked.
105809921_6thumb_550x410-2012-10-24-22-11.jpgWhile he’s working on these, we were sitting in with the finance guy paying for the thing. They gave us a $50 gift certificate and some stuff for the RV also. And, of course, they wanted to sell us the special extended care insurance policy from Good Sam (which specializes in RV services, information, products, etc.) which retailed for only $8995 for 4 years or 48,000 miles but - special for us - only $5995. Yep, I’ve just handed them a check for the RV and they want $6000 more? Not on your tintype. By the way - when I didn’t bite, he offered us the same policy 2 days later for $5100 - because he wanted to ‘help us out’ and ‘ensure that we had insurance’. Hmmm. Rught, and how did the price get from $8995 to $5100? Actually, we had already bought an extended care policy (from Good Sam) from an agent whom we’ve met at several rallies. So, we’re covered. Same company, different agent.
And, then the fun began. They parked our old RV door to door with the new RV and we got to move in.

We had the whole afternoon to do it. Huh? Is that all? Gary put our outdoor patio mat down between the steps of the two RV’s so we wouldn’t track sand or dirt into either RV and we began loading up and hauling in. I then got to find spots for all the stuff. Now, this RV is 34’ 7” whereas our previous RV was 35’ 9”. This one is a bit smaller so it was not always easy to cram things in. Our previous RV also seemed to have better storage so I’m having a bit of trouble finding spots - especially going so fast. But, did I ever stuff. Luckily the refrigerator was exactly the same so I knew how to pack it.

So, if the RV is shorter, why in the world did we want it? Well, firstly, it has everything we wanted: an attached awning, working slides, a windshield firmly attached to a metal framework, and a roof that is spotless. Well, actually we want more but it did solve those problems.

Secondly, it is much nicer - it started out at a higher price point that our previous RV and, though used, has been very gently used and it is difficult to see where the previous owners made any scratches or dents. I, at one time wondered, if they had ever used it but, yes, there is some dust, some cat hair, some cat scratches and, what we in the RV community call a POD, pyramid of death (I will delicately refer to it as a guano pyramid in the black tank.) So, yes gently used, but used none-the less and at a price point we can stomach.

It also has a much nicer ride, handling, braking, a basement AC which is much quieter than a roof-top AC, and quite a few other features that we really like. It might be a bit shorter but is truly a step up from what we had.

We got moved in to the main coach - it was not pretty but it was done and I continued to find places for everything. Gary, meanwhile, after dinner, continued to work in the dark with his head lamp finding places to put all his ‘basement’ stuff into the new coach’s basement storage areas. He finally finished near 9:30 and came in. We had to toss a few things that were might have been needed in the Simba but we did not need in the new Journey since they were already part of it.

And, tired, we fell into bed.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mesa, AZ - New Home

So, are you wondering what we are going to do about our motorhome problems? Well, so are we. There are no good or cheap solutions. We’ve spent loads of time reviewing our insurance, we’ve made two trips to dealers for estimates, we’ve spent hours reviewing the problems and we’ve spent countless hours noodling the question. I’ll have to admit that I have not always been ‘in the moment’ when we’ve been hiking, sometimes I’m reviewing our options in my head as I put one foot in front of the other. We finally made a decision. But, first, let’s review the problems.

First we had an awning just fall off the side of the RV as we were driving down Hwy 169 south of Ogden, IA. The awning ripped but the metal struts were intact and can be used again. Unfortunately, those same metal struts made several gouges in our RV when they fell off. So, there is also body work.

Secondly, our slide cables broke, though, after much work, we were able to get our slide in. However, the slide will need to be taken off the motor home, the cables repaired and the slide reattached to the side of the motorhome. And, how does one live in a motorhome with a slide that doesn't move out? It’s pretty tight and I have no room on my side of the bed since the slide with the wardrobe is right next to the bed. But I can slide in from the bottom. Of course, when the slide is being repaired we’ll have to find some place to stay and our extended service plan gives us a daily stipend for room and board. However, we’ve been told that the whole process ‘might’ take upwards of 19 hours or labor.

Thirdly, Gary noticed that the gasket on the driver’s side on the front windshield was slipping down. Below you can see the shiny green top of our RV, the black gasket which goes around the windshield, the white unpainted fiberglass which is now showing because the window is slipping and Gary’s putty knife showing that there is a gap here. I was sitting inside the RV when Gary asked me if I could see his putty knife. Shucky darn, I could, right up there above the driver’s seat. Well, now we’ve found out that it’s not the gasket but the actual windshield is slipping down, a not unheard of problem with RV’s.

The first two problems are easy to understand and reason why they happened. Fix the cause, fix the problem and you’re on your way. However, the window problem is a bit more serious. No one seems to know why it is happening and then how to fix it so that it doesn’t happen again. They can fix it but, not knowing the cause, can’t guarantee it in the future. We had a friend who had just bought a new-to-her RV and was driving it for the first time over the mountains from Yuma to San Diego when the windshield came out. How scary is that? We sure don’t want that to happen to us.

Windshieldproblems-3-2012-10-21-22-13.jpgFinally, we need to have some work done on our roof where the gel coat on the sides, front and rear attaches to the roof coating. They are separating and need to be fixed.

Then just as we thought we were done with problems since we’ve had 3 major ones in the last 2 months (don’t things come in 3’s?), Gary discovered a small pinhole leak in our ice maker hose. He’s fixing it now and should be finished but he actually had other things he wanted to do today. Don’t ask if he gets tired of fixing problems - the answer is yes. But, every house has problems and especially if it rolls down the highway. We know people who have had to have their air conditioning, their roof, their furnace and one ceiling in a lower level room replaced and fixed all in the last 5 years. And that was in a new stick-built house that was standing still, not rolling down the highway.

So, we’ve been noodling all this over in our minds for the last few weeks. We’ve been to several shops, had several opinions, talked with our several insurance companies (did you know that if an uncovered part of our motor home breaks and damages a covered part that the damage is now covered? Huh? Yeah, if an awning (uncovered) breaks and gouges the side of the motorhome (covered) causing bady damage, the body damage is covered? And, the awning is part of our regular collision and comprehensive policy where as the slide room is part of our extended care policy. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. How does one ever figure this all out?

And that was just the point - how does one? Well, we figured it out and it was to buy a new RV. Well, it’s new to us. Yep, a new RV. we found a 2009 Winnebago Journey with only 21,000 miles on it. It’s in great shape and nicer and plusher than the one we have now. And, hey, it doesn’t have any major problems. We noticed some things that the previous owner had left in the motorhome which indicated that he or she did not trade it in but had given up motorhoming. We found out later that he had bought this RV and then his wife had come down with some health issues and couldn’t continue to RV.

Do I think this new RV will be perfect? Do I think it will be problem-free? Nope, but, maybe the problems will be smaller, be less expensive, be less time consuming and not happen all at once. However, we actually think that this motorhome is pretty well built and won't have the problems that our current one has. The line around the RV industry is that the Iowans who build the Winnebago line of motorhomes ‘come to work.’ But there are no guarantees. But, again, we were a bit leery of getting the Simba fixed and not knowing if it was ‘fixed’ for good.

Interestingly, we’ve had no major problems with the Simba until now, whereas most people have some problems right away. I guess they hit us all at once. When you think of cars being made on an assembly line by robots, you think that all parts are made and assembled the same. And, they’re governed by rules and regulations and tested for safety lots. Of course, if a part goes wrong on one vehicle and it has to be recalled, thousands are recalled. Well, RV’s are all one-offs. There are no assembly lines with robots and everyone is made differently. No two are the same. There are very few rules and regulations and safety measures coming down from the government. Shucks. And, we got caught.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Bonking on Barata

Time for a hike and the trail is in the South Mountain Park. We’ve been looking at the South Park for a while: challenging, high, great views - what more could anyone want? In fact, one of the reasons that we moved to Mesa this year rather than return to Gold Canyon is that Mesa is closer to this range and several others. Actually, we really liked the hike - well, most of it.

We awoke at 6:00 and Gary went into his Mountain Man mode - he didn’t shave so that we could get going early. The temp is supposed to get up to the high 80’s today and we want to get some of the hike done in the cool of the morning. Of course, we headed on down to Wildflower Bakery for a bagel (no donuts today - we’re going ‘healthy.’) The clerk was bagging them and told us the price. Oops no wallet, no billfold, no purse, no money - no bagels? Aha, we’ve got a ‘stash’ in the car so Gary toodles out to the car, retrieves the stash, which used to be our laundry money, and begins to count out quarters. 

Of course, since neither of us has a billfold, one of us is driving without a license and the other one can’t take over because he also is without a license. So, home we return. Luckily we started out early. And, we’re off again, much more successfully this time.

I had read in an online hike description, that we had to park in the ‘triangle’, actually where 3 roads meet, or we’d get a ticket. Getting a late start, I was worried that we might not get one of the coveted triangle places. However, we were still early enough to get one. But, we were surrounded by bikers, in groups of 8 or more, making an assault on Antenna Hill, which looked as if it went straight up. More about that later.

HikingAlta%252526BajadaTrails-9-2012-10-20-19-09.jpgWe planned to hike a loop which was a conbination of three separate trails: the Alta, the National and the Bajada. ‘Alta’ in Spanish means: steep, rocky, craggy, long, full of switchbacks, right? Oh, you thought it just meant ‘high?’ Well, I must have a different Spanish dictionary. I call it as I see it. And, boy, did I see it. Actually, since we started out on this and it went up fairly soon in our hike, it wasn’t so bad. Up for 1 1/2 miles, along the ridge line for 3 miles and then a precipitous drop. Remind me never to start at the other end of this trail. It was sometimes dicey coming down with all the scree on the steep slope, going up must be a ‘treat.’ Of course, then we met a trail runner on the trail heading up trying to prove me wrong.
At the half way point of the hike we found a stone structure pefect for sitting in the shade and eating lunch. We also got our picture taken by a woman who had run in. Here’s Mountain Man and his Hikin’ Honey. My, what happened to my hair? Gary must have just told me that there was a rattler by my left foot.

After lunch, we curled around the mountains we had just hiked over and headed back. Here is where it got long. Dusty, rocky and more up than I wanted to hike. I tend to sweat a lot through my head and, was I ever sweating. At one point Gary thought I looked flushed and I knew that my legs weren’t working as fast as I wanted. Well, they were working as fast as I wanted, I just didn’t want them to move fast. All I wanted was to see our car, knowing I was done with the hike. Next time I eat a protein bar and not a bagel. I’ll also use our electrolyte mix which we keep in the RV. Lotsa good it does there. What kept me going was the thought of a cold, frosty soda when we got done with the hike.

Back at the car, we decided to head up the other road, the ones the bikers had taken to get to the top - where the Phoenix antenna garden was.
But, so many cars were headed up that direction, we though there must be something more to see than just the antennas. The road curled around the mountains, curving in and out but inexorably upward. Sure enough, there were 3 overlooks. We stopped at the first, Dobbins Overlook, where there were swarms of families picnicing and running around. What great views of the Phoenix area. We could see the city and the suburbs and all the small mountains which surrounded it but also were spaced throughout its borders.

We stopped to enjoy for a while but we were still tired, dirty and thirsty. We could hear those cold frosty sodas calling our names. We knew we had passed a gas station/convenience store on the way in to the park and, sure enough, it was still there as we were leaving.

Boy, did that soda tast good. Back home, I took off my hiking shoes and socks by the car. Whew - look at all that dust from the hike. Inside I looked down and decided to clean off my ankles before I began dinner. Sure enough, that was not a new tan - it was dust from the hike. Whew.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mesa, AZ - The RV Service Center Adventure

Doesn’t that sound like an adventure you’d like to have?  We've all taken our cars to the Service Center and had the Car Service Center Adventure. Wasn't that fun? Well, if you thought that was fun, have I got an adventure for you: twice as big, twice as expensive and twice as inconvenient (since you actually live in your RV at the shop.) It’s easy to take your car into the shop for service - you just find other means of transportation. But - imagine rolling your house over to the service center where they tell you that they need it for a few days, or a week or two. Now what? It’s more difficult to find alternate means of housing. This is the only one you’ve got. More about that in the future.

As I have written before, we’ve got a few problems with our RV that need to be fixed. We’ve read in several places that you’ll spend about 6 months in the shop out of the first year that you have your RV. We were talking with our neighbors here and mentioned that statistic and they agreed. They actually did spend about 6 months out of the first 12 in the shop. We’ve been lucky: we’ve taken our RV in for regular maintenance and a few small problems but certainly have not spent any 6 months in the shop.

However, we are finally getting our chance to spend some time in the shop. Back in August, our 20' main awning fell off the RV as we were traveling down the road. Luckily it was not an interstate but a smaller road. And, luckily, we were able to salvage all the parts except the awning itself which ripped as the struts came off the RV. Seems like a few of the bolts holding the awning to the RV were drilled into the side of the RV and not into any studs.

Then, as we were coming down to Mesa, our bedroom slide failed to come in one day and we struggled mightily to get it in. But now, we cannot put it out since it might not come back in again. Seems that a bracket was put in the wrong place and rubbed on some cables enough to break them.

Finally, our front windshield is sinking a bit in the two upper corners. Is this manufacturer error like the other two problems? Don’t know until we get the whole windshield off the RV. 3 major problems and we’re hoping that things come in 3’s - which would mean that our run of bad luck is over. But, truth to tell, these are inconveniences - not real problems. Real problems are much more serious. Life is much less stressful if you know the difference between these two. Don’t sweat the inconveniences. Save your sweat for the problems.

Hmm. to say that we ‘limped’ into Mesa is an understatement. However, better here than in Iowa. Here there are about 4 major dealers and repair shops within 3 miles of our resort. In Iowa - very few for all RV's and even fewer for motorhomes.

Thus, I haven’t written much lately because we’ve been spending lots of our time looking at the RV problems we have currently, thinking about options and reading online about others who have the same problems.

We’ve been to one major dealer and service shop and have another appointment this coming week. We also are trying to get into a smaller shop to see what they might say. We’ve actually looked at a ‘new to us’ RV but we might be buying some other problems that we don’t know about but would find out about soon enough. To paraphrase the old saying: Better the RV you know than the RV you don’t.

Lots of options (all of them costly) and we’re spending our time mulling them over. In fact, that seems to be the only thing we’re doing these days. Oh, yeah, laundry too.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mesa, AZ - IF This is a Training Hike, What's a Real Hike?

Today, we could do nothing with the RV so we decided to do what we came to Mesa for, hike. For our second training hike, I had picked a trail that we had done last year that was about 7.1 miles long and about 1400’ in altitude. Not too bad and it’s a beautiful day out. The temps have been in the 90’s but we had a ‘cold’ front pass through which not only lit up the sky with the lightning, watered the deserts with water but cooled the temps down to the 70’s for one day and 80’s for today. Tomorrow and for the forseeable future, it’s back to the 90’s.

So for today, we’ll forget about the RV and its problems and get out into nature and hike. Since this is a shorter hike, we didn’t rush in the morning and finally reached the trailhead to start about 9:45. Since it was a Saturday, the trailhead parking lot was close to full and we could see colorful shirts bouncing up the trails. A busy day in the Sonoran Desert Preserve. And, isn’t that the idea? Gary suggested going clockwise this time and also suggested going around a loop we hadn’t gone around before. Added a mile or so to the hike so no big deal.

We hiked along, standing off to the side for the trail runners and the mountain bikers. We circled one small peak and then began the inexorable climb to Windgate Pass. Now, I’ll admit that passes are shorter than the mountains between which they run, but that doesn’t mean that they themselves are short. This pass was 3052’ up there and there was a lot of that infernal switch-backing. Well, better switch-backing than climbing straight up.

Luckily Gary took the picture above when I still had the energy to smile and raise my hand. He took the picture on his I Phone, e-mailed it to his sister and some friends of ours and received an e-mail back - all while on the hike. Obviously, we're close to civilization and the cell towers even on a hike in the desert mountains. 

Viewsfromourhikingtrails-1-2012-10-13-21-08.jpgFrom Windgate Pass, we had a view across the valley to the next mountain ranges with the 4 Peaks on the left and the Superstition Mountains on the right.

Shortly after we crested and began going down, we came to an intersection and decided (stupidly) to go straight rather than curl around the mountain to the Bell Pass and down to the car. I knew that if we went straight, we’d meet another trail which would then bring up back to Bell Pass. However, we had not brought the map which showed this. Now, and here is the rub: the trail went further down meaning that we would have lots more altitude to regain and it went further on than we thought. Oof-da.

When we finally met the trail which led back to Bell Pass which was between us and the car, we were much lower in altitude than we wanted and further out. Shucks, but at least we were headed in the right direction. And, on we went. Me, I was getting tired. Imagine being on a stairstepper all day - well, that was where I was - heading inexorably up My thighs were burning and I had to stop a bit more often than I wanted. But, as the old saying goes: Out is optional, back is mandatory. I knew I would make it back just not as fast as I might have wanted.

Interestingly, we think we heard a helicopter rescue of someone on the trail. We saw the helicopter flying over Bell Pass and into a crease in the craggy hills. We couldn't see where it went but knew that Bell Pass trail that we had taken last year was over there. We could hear that helicopter for quite a while but, again, could not see anything because the mountains were between us and it. We did see it take off back over Bell Pass. When we got around the mountains to Bell Pass trail, we could see nothing unusual. Who knows?

And there we were at the top of Bell Pass, looking downwards to where we had parked the car. Whew.   On the way back home, Gary said, 'I suppose you'd rather eat out than cook a meal after all that.' He was reading my mind. And, thus we found ourselves, sweaty, disheveled, in our hiking clothes eating at a local restaurant. Delicious. 

14  2856’

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Classic Rock and Mesa Resorts

We’re staying at a resort called Val Vista here in Mesa. It’s considerably larger than the one we stayed at last winter and has a plethora of activities. There are 3 pools, a large ballroom, a pool room, a library where you can borrow books as long as you bring them back, a quilt room, a woodworking shop, ceramics, jewelry making, stain glass studios, tennis courts, miniature golf, pickleball courts, a batting cage, shuffleboard courts, golf driving cages, fitness room with at least 45 pieces of torture equipment, several card rooms, everything the over-55 set could want. Well, Gary and I would like a few mountainous trails to hike but they’re all around.
Here’s a map, and a cursory look at the numbers on the lots gives me over 1400 lots. many of the lots are empty and can hold RV’s for those people who still are living in their rigs. Close to 2/3 of the lots have manufactured homes on them. Right now the place is not full, but more people are filtering in daily. There are actually people who live here year round but most of the people who have homes here live in the northern climes and about 1/2 live in Canada. Come January when all the lots are full, the place is hoppin’ I hear. We’re here on a special deal of $700 for 4 months: September 1 - December 31. Yep, that’s right, only $700 and you get 4 months. Pretty good deal and not one that this cheap old lady is going to pass up.

What we have noticed the most is the number of parties and entertainments provided. There is the scheduled entertainment and this week we had 3 separate days with entertainment in the courtyard area where drinks and food are served, plus we had free tickets to another resort in the same family where they were having ‘Octoberfest.’ Next week it is the same with 3 days where entertainment is provided and you can go if you wish or not.

There is also the special entertainments where any excuse is a bona fide reason for a party. Food is provided, everyone is invited, there is entertainment and lots come. Next week, they are having a party because the new elevator in the main building is finished. Last week they had a party for the renovations in the ballroom. I can’t wait for the party for the completion of the new tennis courts. That should be a biggie. Do we think they’ll have a party for the first ride in the new elevator? Wouldn’t put it past them.

On Thursday mornings we have the weekly coffee and donuts where the Social Director gives her spiel and we learn all about the next week’s entertainment, parties, activities, trips, etc. This week we heard that a group called the Thunderbirds played at one of the weekly dos last week. Unfortunately they played mostly music from the 60’s and 70’s and they played it a bit too loudly for a few who left with their hands over their ears. Next time the Thunderbirds come, they will be asked to play songs form the 40’s and 50’s also. It can’t be easy to play to all tastes here since there are people in their late 80’s who like mellower music but there are also a lot in their 50’s and 60’s like Gary and I and our next door neighbors who like the 60’s and 70’s music.

Which reminds me. Today I was in the UPS store and I asked the young man about the Classic Rock he was playing in the store. ‘That’s what the boss wants here’, he told me. ‘Well, I sure like it’, I said’, ‘but then I’m old. ‘There are lots of older people who like that here in Mesa’, he told me. And, here’s an amazing picture from Google. Here is the center of Mesa and look at all the Snowbird villages in white. And, that’s not the half of it. The white roofs are just the obvious ones, but there are lots of darker roofs that don’t show up on Google quite so obviously. There are also loads of villages that I have not shown in this picture.

We have some friends who are traveling out to this area this week in their 5th wheel along almost the same route we traveled to get out here. Today, they are in Grants, NM and driving into the Phoenix area tomorrow. We called them to talk about the shorter and extremely scenic route we took several weeks ago. I also wanted to ensure that they might not take another route that I thought would be pretty stressful in an RV. Guess what route their GPS told them to take? You got it - the one I thought might be a bit stressful in an RV. It is the most direct route to where they are staying here in the Phoenix area, but that does not mean that it is the best.
This route is the Globe, AZ to Show Low, AZ route. Now it is all paved and some of it is quite straight. Much of it is scenic and there are loads ot turn-offs for you to get magnificent shots of it. But, anytime, there are turnoffs to see the scenic view, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore (or not in Iowa any more as the case may be). There’s a reason why it’s scenic and it’s not because there are lots of cornfields blowing in the wind.

I’ve never traveled this route before but I’ve looked at it on Google and in an app I have on my I Pad. I’ve also done some reading about it - and just about every description uses the word ‘plummets’ somewhere in it followed by the words ‘hairpin curves’. ‘Plummets’ as in ‘it plummets 3000’ down to the Salt River and then climbs back out.’ ‘Hairpin curves’ as in ‘there are hairpin curves along the cliffs of the canyon.’ Now, what is there about those innocent little words that makes me think that an RV is not the vehicle to take to get those scenic views?

Forecasttonightisrain-7-2012-10-12-20-34.jpgAbove is a view of the Salt River in blue and the road in yellow.
Forecasttonightisrain-3-2012-10-12-20-34.jpgOn the other hand, I’m excited about traveling the Globe to Show Low route and can’t wait to stop at each and every one of those turnouts for the scenic views sometime this winter. But, in a car, not in an RV. Locally the Salt River Canyon is nicknamed the Little Grand Canyon and I’ve read it’s quite spectacular.

Meanwhile our friends have decided to ignore the advice given by their GPS and are taking the less stressful route to their destination tomorrow. WHEW.

Evening in the resort and the sunset was gorgeous.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mesa, AZ - The Training Hike

As you all know, Gary and I like to hike. That’s one of the reasons we’re in Arizona, there is a wealth of places to hike around here. You get tired of hiking in one mountain range, try another. You want to hike in piney-top mountains, hike over there, you want to hike in Sonoran desert, hike over here. There are even some hikes around lakes. Lakes? Lakes? In Arizona? Sure and we’ll hike around some while we’re here.

Meanwhile, near Mesa is a park called Usery Mt. Park with a nice 7.1 mile trail going over a neat pass from which you can see Phoenix lost in haze on one side, the 4 Peaks on another and the Superstition Mountains across the way. We hiked it twice last year, once clockwise and once counterclockwise. Since we’re woefully out of shape for hiking (although we’re in great shape for walking around neighborhoods in Des Moines - as long as it’s flat) we decided we needed a few training hikes before we try anything difficult. Usery Mt. would fill that void.
The park is quintessential Arizona, plenty of ocotillo, saguaros, bundles of jumping cholla just waiting for an unwary hiker to pass by, soaring craggy rocky peaks and abundant views. In the picture below, you can see the slender branches of the ocotillo with the small red flowers at their tips, the bushy, light green, almost white chollas scattered around and the stately saguaros holding forth in the background.

PastedGraphic-2012-10-9-13-12.jpgBut, hey, there is also some history about the area. Long ago, before suburbs, there were many individual homesteads in the area and today many of the trails are named after the homesteaders. The most famous, or possibly the most infamous, of these homesteaders in the 1870’s and early 1880’s was named ‘King’ Usery. Times were not easy on the ranges in Arizona and King and a friend of his Bill Blevins held up a stagecoach near Globe, AZ, and took 2 bars of gold. This earned them 7 years in the Yuma Territorial Prison. When he got out he was arrested as a horse thief. But he left his mark and a local park was named after him and a trail was named after Blevins. Well, hey, you can’t name everything after a President or a philanthropist. Equal time to crooks.

We enjoyed the hike although near the end it was painfully obvious that I had been neighborhood walking rather than mountain hiking recently. At least it was a good training hike.

7.5 1127’

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mesa, AZ - Vegas, Ads and Chocolate


A friend of mine recently visited Vegas on her way back home from Seattle, WA. She saw something that I’ve never seen and never throught of looking for. And, I’ll bet she’s seen something that you’ve never seen, too. THE LAS VEGAS PHONE BOOK YELLOW PAGES. And - she sent me a picture of some of the pages. Now, this is a family friendly blog and I can’t put those pictures in it. But - here’s a travel hint: the next time you’re in Vegas, pull out the yellow pages and take a short tour through the seamy side of Vegas.

But, then, you do not have to pull out the phone book to see the seamy side, you only have to walk the streets. Cars towing tailers down the main drag with huge lighted moving signs advertising women, groups of men (and sometimes women) standing on every corner flipping cards with women’s pictures on them. This permeats Vegas and is extremely depressing. I’ve seen families in Vegas and how parents explain all this to their kids is beyond me.


We’re listening to the national and local news down here in Phoenx. Now, as you probably know, Arizona tends to be fairly conservative although we’ve seen several signs that the senate seat might go Democratic. On the other hand, since it is somewhat conservative here, we don’t see many ads for the Presidential election. In fact, we haven’t seen even ONE ad for the presidential election. President Obama must figure that he doesn’t have a chance here and Governor Romney knows he’ll win the electoral votes in AZ and doesn’t need to advertise. So, you, who live in Iowa, think we’ve got it lucky, no political ads on TV. But, if you think that - you’d be awfully wrong. We can get 3 20-second ads in 1 minute for 3 minutes - that’s, 9, count them, 9, total ads, one right after another. Sometimes we’ll hear ad ad for Jeff Flake about how bad Joe Cremora is. The next ad is for Joe Cremora talking about how bad Jeff Flake is.

And are they ever nasty. I’ve heard only one good ad about any condidate since we’ve been here. Only one ad saying: ‘this is what I’ll do in Congress’ or ‘this is my background and why I think it will help Arizonans’, or ‘here’s what I’ve done in public office thus far and what it shows I believe in.’ Nope, only one positive ad in all the time we’ve been here. And, since it’s the middle of October, I expect it to get only worse.

The one good ad had the candidtate stand there facing the camera saying ‘this is what I’ve done in the past, this is what I believe, this is what I will do in the future, if you elect me.’ Only one ad - and thsi is the one for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the infamous Joe Arpaio. I wouldn’t ever vote for Joe but I like his ad.


It’s hot down her in Arizona. Now, I’m not complaining. I’m only explaining what we have missing in our house. We are missing
We always have some form of chocolate in our house, whether it be brownies, or chocolate chip cookies or the Russell Stover chocolates my father-in-law gives us. Usually we’ve got some semi-sweet chocolate chips in a plastic container with a handy dandy flip-top lid so all we have to do is flip that top and scoop out a small handful of the delicious little chocolate goodies to scarf down or savor individually, whichever desire hits us at the time. And, no, it’s not just the female here who is a chocolaholic. There is a certain guy, whose name will remain anonymous, who also favors chocoate.

But, because of the heat, I’ve not bought any chocolate chips for a while since they’d only melt in the 90 degree plus days. Today, however, we were in Costco and Gary saw the chocolate chips first and, looking at me with his pleading eyes, asked why we don’t have chocolate chips in the house. I patiently explained to him why but, fell for the sadness in his eyes and bought a bag. when we got back home with the chocolate chips in the car, we saw our neighbors out side and drifted over to talk with them. 1/2 hour later, we remembered the grocieries, and, sure enough, the chocolate chips were a bit soft. But, they are now safely ensconsed in our refrigerator in that handy dandy flip-top plastic container. WHEW.



Monday, October 1, 2012

Gallup, NM to Mesa, AZ - Plummeting Down the Mogollan Rim

One of our goals for a few years has been to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up. And, if you think we’re going to do it all in one day, you’re smoking something I’ve never touched. However, doing it in 2 days or 3, as we want to do, becomes a bit harder because only a few can be down there at one time. Our plan is to hike down one day, relax and explore the area on the second day (mostly recover) and hike back out the 3rd day. That requires 2 nights down there.

At the bottom of the canyon is Phantom Ranch which has two kinds of housing: bunk houses divided by sex and small cabins and only a few spaces in each. Of course, there is another type of housing - a tent which you bring yourself. We have not had the desire to buy a tent and sleeping bags, etc. so we are not going to be tenting down there. We want the bunkhouse. To stay down there requires a reservation and these you must make a year in advance, since there are so few spaces down there. Thus, if we wanted to hike down in October of 2013, we needed to make our reservations this year and they open the reservations for October of 2013 on October 1, 2012, which is today at 7:00 am. My goal is to be on the phone then.

At 6:30 we got up and got breakfast ready. At 6:59 I was dialing in so that I’d get in at 7:00. Nope, the dreaded message: ‘All of our lines are busy now, please try again later.’ We have an I Phone so I hit ‘cancel’, ‘redial’, ‘speaker’ and waited. Again I got the dreaded message and did the ‘cancel’, ‘redial’, ‘speaker’ again. I did this for 52 minutes. Let me repeat that: 52 minutes. I got so good that I could hit ‘cancel’ after I had heard only ‘All of…”. Check those reflexes. Pretty good for a 66-yr old. Finally, Steve answered the phone at 7:52 and I began the reservation process. Actually, we did get our reservations for 2 nights: the 12th and 13th.

Of course, you also have to order your meals down there at the same time. Breakfast is $20 at 5:00 - whoo-eee. Dinner is steak for $42 with a seating at 5:00 pm or veggie chili for $24 and stew for $24 both with seatings at 6:30. We wanted the chili the first night and stew the second. No go. They had only 1 chili dinner and no stew dinners on the first night. Since we wanted to eat together, we then chose the steak dinner at 6:30. What a price we’re paying for togetherness. My first steak dinner in decades and it’s at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. 

Of course, the question is: if I’m ordering a year in advance, why can’t we have the chili?’ I suppose it’s because they know how to pack the mules for a certain number of steak, chili and stew dinners and don’t want to change it. But, hey, we’ve got our reservations.

Reservations done, we ate breakfast, hitched up the RV and headed out for Mesa, AZ.


Well, I’ll have to admit that Gary does not have a balanced diet here, he’s got 3 donuts in one hand and coffee in the other.

Here we are in Holbrook AZ where we found a donut shop named Donuts Plus last year when we stayed in town. This year, we’ve made a second stop for old times sake and - sure enough - the donuts are still good. Interesting that each section of the country has its own favorite types of donuts. In the Midwest are lots of long johns - white frosted, chocolate frosted, custard filled, creme filled, sprinkled - whatever, there are lots of long johns. Out here in the West are more ‘old fashioneds’ which we both seem to prefer. Actually, Gary only prefers them because he can’t get long johns and they are better for him to eat when he is driving because they are not frosted. Frosting gets messy.

The ‘Plus’ in the sign refers to the ice cream they also sell. I was talking about getting a cup when the clerk shook her head and mouthed to me that I didn’t want any. It’s all icy she said. So, I got an old fashioned donut. I’m easy to please. Donut, ice cream: EASY.

After our donut break, we headed on south towards Mesa, AZ which is the destination this year. To get there we needed to go over the Mogollon Rim. Now, having been in Arizona for several winters, I’ve learned that Mogollan is pronounced ‘Muggy Yohn’ and comes from the name of Don Juan Ignacio Fiores Mogollon who was the Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712 to 1715.

The Rim itself is an escarpment of volcanic rock running diagonally across the center of Arizona. Above it we were traveling at an altitude of more than 7500’ but we swiftly descended to 4000’ before Payson, AZ and then to about 1200’ further along to Mesa. Gary used the word plummet and at times it seemed as if we were plummeting but it was a beautiful drive beginning with thick strands of Ponderosa Pine and ending with the deserts of Central Arizona.

The Rim is the line dividing the cool high country above it and the burning deserts below. If you think that Arizona has no forests and is primarily a desert, you need to see this area. It’s a recreation area for all those in Phoenix who want to escape the heat. Lots of RV campgrounds, motels, cabins, etc.

We arrived at the resort, checked in, found our spot and parked. All in the 105 degree heat. Tuesday, the day I’m writing this, was lower, at 102 degrees but the rest of the week is forecast as follows:
Read ‘em and weep, I say. Or maybe you’ll laugh. Did we get here too early? Actually, the temps are about 10 degrees higher than usual and we’re expecting a ‘cool’ front next week to bring the temps down to the high 80’s. But, hey, it gives us a great chance to test our air conditioners. We usually don’t camp in temps like this. We will probably not be hiking in these temps but we can walk around here.