Headed Home by an Indeterminate Route

On Friday we got a decent start out of Pomona. It was a beautiful warm day and we followed our plan precisely, a rare happening. By mid afternoon we were pulling in to Mayflower County Park just north of Blythe, CA. This park had been suggested to us by a passing RVer at Dockweilers who had spent some time there. We stopped first at Hidden Beach RV Park and selected a site and paid for it, they had a laundry which the county park didn’t. As we pulled up to the site it became apparent that the person who was responsible for irrigating the area had turned on the system and forgotten about it. All the sites it the transient area were under an inch or more of water. I went back to the office got a credit and moved on to Mayflower.

Boy, are we glad we did that. If you are looking for a wonderful quiet place on the banks of the Colorado River with some of the nicest RVers you are likely to meet (that is going some) this is the place. The sites have plenty of space and there is shade and sun and families and older folks and long time residents and transients. It is a great mix. Also the sound of the birds was fantastic, especially after three weeks of no bird song at all. The first bird we saw was a Vermillion Flycatcher (I am not counting all the various black birds). The next was a Great Horned Owl perched on her nest hatching her brood. Dad was flying about in the neighborhood and hooting to let us know he was around too.

I set up everything for are campsite even though we planned to leave the next morning.
It was great to have the awning out (and need it) and our rug and tables and chairs. We sat around and read, when we weren’t talking to neighbors, and at dinner time I grilled myself a steak and some veggies and a veggie sausage for Carol. We were kicking ourselves for not finding a way to stay on for a few days. However we were staring at 2,400 miles and two weeks to do it. If we took a couple of extra days now, we would have no slack whatsoever to play as we went. We will get back to this campground in the future.

In the morning, we took our time getting things put away for travel. By 9:30 we moved out and drove 6 miles to a supermarket to restock after spending the week in Pomona without buying any supplies at all. We then drove another 7 miles into Arizona and our first Flying J of the return trip. This stop took almost an hour to buy 30 gallons of gasoline. The line was long and the first person in line seemed to have no odea at all that there were others waiting. Even after he finished pumping he continued to clean the front of his coach with the window squeegee. Finally we were able to fill the tank and get on down the road..

We left I 10 behind shortly and turned north on AZ 60 to 89. the signs along the way provided constant reminders that trucks over 40 feet were banned from the road ahead. After Carol took the wheel we learned why the long trucks were banned, the road twisted back on itself like a snake coiling up to sleep. Speeds over 35 mph were not possible over much of the road. Elated and a bit tired we pulled into Point of Rock RV park just outside of Prescott, AZ where we spent the night.

Sunday, March 26. We go on the road again fairly early. I had stopped at the office and been convinced that taking Gee 2 up 89A would result in gnashing of teeth and frayed nerves. The turns were tighter than what we had encountered already and stone walls came right down to the road. Not being totally without commonsense we elected to take the slightly longer in mileage route up 89 to I 40. This put us on I 40 about 40 miles west of Flagstaff rather than coming right through Flagstaff. I your car you might be aware that I 40 had some hills. We got in line with the trucks and spent a fair amount of time in the right lane at speeds well under the limit of 70. Actually we passed a lot of trucks as we were able to sustain 50 mph or so most of the way. I was seeing $$$ spewing out the tailpipe as we climbed at 4000 RPM. Somehow at the end of the day when we filled the tank our mileage came in just a mite below the norm (since you asked that is 6.5 mpg).

As we rolled we looked at our maps and discovered that we were about to pass the famous Meteor Crate only five miles south of the highway. Since we would get there at around lunch time, it seemed reasonable to make a stop for lunch and decide from there what to do. After eating in their parking lot, we went up to the window and decided to fork over the senior’s admission fee of $13 each (this is privately owned and operated) for access to the crater and a tour and movie. Our guide was Kate, a fulltimer who workamps with her husband across the country.

The crater as formed some 50,000 years ago when a modest sized meteorite (150 feet in diameter it is conjectured) plummeted to earth at a fairly step angle. It is very well preserved as there is no rain in the area and thus little water erosion and almost no plant life to bury the crater or change it or disguise it. It has been a mine site (no success on that score), a movie site, an astronaut training site and even the site of a real plane crash. I did not take any aerial shots as I did not have a plane no [icture taken from the ground will do it justice. Go to http://www.barringercrater.com/ for photos and more information.

Kate and others told us that there would have been problem coming up 89A, it just would have been slow. Oh well we will try it another time and go on into Sedona in the process.

We spent the rest of the day driving east and we stopped in a Wal-mart parkinglot in Gallup, NM for the night. Monday we rolled out early and with nothing to prepare to get underway we breakfasted and were on the road by 7:50 MST and pulled into Amarillo, TX 437 miles later at 6 PM CST. We are in a KOA and the WiFi is free if you can see the signal. For some reason this time I can and Carol cannot. Go figure!

California to California to California

I think I am getting redundant, but we are still here. I cannot say much about Pomona or Lavern (the town adjacent to the exit from the Fairplex closest to where we are. Um, Fairplex, a California name for a Fairgrounds, actually the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. It is situated on the edge of Pomona conveniently near the I 10. It contains what may be the single largest paved parking lot I have ever seen. We have about 4,000 motorhomes arranged on this parking lot in camping herringbone and the lot seems to be about 40% empty. We are located at the last row in our section very near the NHRA Drag Strip (second time for us next to a drag strip) right at the starting line. The lot extends the entire length of the strip (quarter mile) plus the outrun. The distance from the strip to the other edge of the lot seems to be about the same, call it a mile square.

The trip from our coach to the center of activity is a 10 to 15 minute bike ride, a tram ride can take 10 minutes, or if you get on one that does the entire serpentine route past every coach on the way it could take 30 minutes. We rode our bikes it whenever possible. When Carol was doing her Seminar and her Workshops she was able to use her car and park near the seminar building to reduce the distance she had to carry computers and equipment.

The seminar on Photo Composition: Taking Your Best Shot went very well. The room was a large meeting room in the hotel adjacent to the Fairplex and as such it was warm and the sound was good. All the equipment promised was present and worked as expected. Carol was brilliant as usual and the 175 to 200 attendees were captivated and never moved (as proud husband I believe I am permitted to enlarge on the success just a bit). In fact the attendance was excellent and the questions were very good. The next day she gave two workshops where attendees were encouraged to bring there own images for review and discussion. The workshops went fine if you ignore the fact that for the 8 AM gathering the door was locked when we got there and when we got to the room it was bitter cold and there was none of the promised equipment. One other features of the Fairplex is a horse track and the meeting room was set up in the Pari-mutuel betting room. Of course we had great access to the grandstand level of the track and the view over the track to the not very distant mountains covered with snow was just grand. It was even better a day later when the temperatures finally got over 60.

We are in California, in case I hadn’t mentioned it. We are at a motorhome convention. It rained on Tuesday night, a lot, and it was cold really cold for these parts, below 45 overnight and not over 55 in the day. ENOUGH!

I did mention something about spending money here. This is always part of the entertainment. There is the opportunity to spend $1,000,000 on a new coach – didn’t do that – although some did. There are goodies that make life more comfortable on the coach and we are so comfortable that we didn’t buy those either, well nothing big. Then there are safety items. We have driven our motorhomes a total of about 70,000 miles over five years with no supplemental braking system in the tow’d. This results in extended stopping distances and in some cases may even be illegal. I have resisted buying a system because the type that can be moved from car to car easily has to be installed and uninstalled each time you hook up or disconnect. I did not like the concept, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a permanent installation in the old tow’d. Last year when we bought the Toyota to tow I decided to investigate a permanently installed supplementary braking system. When I finally saw the one I had decided on being offered for installation here I ordered it and had it installed the next day. For the RVers among you, I bought the US Gear vacuum assist unit with a charge line to prevent running down the tow’ds battery. I hope I have nothing more to say about it as we drive the 3,000 miles to Rochester over the next two week.

We have made a umber of new friends, especially Beverly and Dan Armstrong who we first met at Sky Valley and then at Dockweilers and have had some nice times with here as well.

The entertainment was variable. Debbie Reynolds is old and shows it. Her humor was off color, not appropriate for the audience. A number of us thought she was drunk or otherwise impaired, although I guess the cold could have accounted for her slow start. The last night was the Bobby Vinton Show. He is very intense and really put on a grand show. The venue is the grandstand of the race track and he came into the audience and eventually made his way to the top of the grandstand. It was very enjoyable and he sang all of the favorites “Blue Velvet” “Blue on Blue” “Roses are Red” and far to many more for me to catalog (or remember).

On Friday morning we will push out into the edge of LA traffic heading away from the center. We hope to be in Blythe, CA when we set up camp next. At least that is the plan at 10:15 PM.

California to California

Fast forward!

We left our desert beach and headed for the real California. First we stopped in the land of the lotus eaters, Desert Hot Springs at Sky Valley RV where we stayed last year. It ain’t great but the price was reasonable with Passport America and their hot spring fed pools are very nice. We camped on sand in an overflow area with water and electric, no sewer, for two nights. The people were pleasant as was the weather. We were vamping on our way to LA. Didn’t want to get there too soon, there is only so much big city we can stand, even with seeing Yechiel, Miriam and Azriel and Avtalyon. I had a very early flight to catch out of Long Beach for meetings and a Bat Mitzvah in NYC and we had timed our arrival to give us time to see the kids and get settled in before my departure.

The main thing we did in Desert Hot Springs was got to dinner and Billy Rieds which I enjoyed and Carol actually enjoyed far more than she expected. Getting to Dockweiler RV Park which is run by LA County Dept Beaches and Harbors is really easy once you commit to driving the freeways. However we did it, once we got to the 105 west bound we continued to the end which becomes Imperial Highway which ends, very conveniently, at the park entrance. Somehow, trying to stay on I 10 across LA did not work, we found ourselves off route on the 101. Using our mapping software and our FMCA Atlas I was able to construct a new route on the fly and we never missed a beat.

The park is both less and more than we hoped. It is essentially a large parking lot laid out with really large parking slots and all the facilities promised. I can look out my windshield at the Pacific, which is across one more row of RV’s and 50 yards of beach. If I turn the other way, inland I can see (and smell if the wind comes from the east) the second lagest waste water treatment plant in the US. Having taken care of the senses of sight and smell, we are just to the south of the southern departure runways of LAX, like a city block to the south. Planes are departing overhead every 60 to 180 seconds, the good news is that the traffic is so constant that, for the most part, we aren’t even aware of them. Neither of us has noticed any sleep deprivation.

Each day we get to the kids house and spend some time with the little ones and even have the occasional moment with the adults. Everyone has a schedule and we have fit ourselves into those schedules. The major excitement this week has been Purim. School was closed for Purim and the whole day was devoted to play. Erev Purim (the evening before, after sunset) we accompanied the family to their synagogue, which is a liberal orthodox shul, for Megillah reading. Each of us is required to hear the entire Megillah read in the evening and the next day. This reading was performed by a member of the congregation with appropriate voices and selection of melodies to keep everyone (well most everyone) listening. I recognized Ode to Joy from the 9th and the major themes from Star Wars, not to mention selections of liturgical music that were used for parody. I am sure there were many other melodies from contemporary music that I just didn’t get, oh yes there was a passage from “Walk the Line” as well. Everyone was in costume – I went as an RVer and Carol went as a tourist – the boys were royalty and I am not sure who Yechiel and Miriam went as. We made it through the first reading and were able to eat and get home in good time.

I will not replay all of our wonderings around LA. Carol and I have taken to finding new and interesting routes for our travels when we have the time to get lost or tangled in traffic. We have seen the Getty Villa, thank you to Jan Shapiro who had tickets looking for someone to use and the strength to escort us there, we took the kids to the Lebrea Pits (on Wilshire) and the Page Museum and we have tried to follow PCH route 1 from our front door to the I 10 twice, maybe we will make it the next time. We have managed to find our way around the area between the beach and Wilshire and beyond and are becoming savvy in the ways of LA traffic. There is too much of it and it is always stalled.

On Sunday morning the 19th we pulled up stakes and move about 30 miles east to the Pomona Fairplex for the next FMCA gathering. Carol will be giving her seminar on photo composition and then she is offering two critique sessions for attendees to bring images to share. I will report my perspective afterwards as we began a slow dash across the country. We leave CA on the 24th and plan to be in Rochester on April 7 with stops in Indianapolis and Cleveland.

Report from Pomona to follow almost immediately.

On to California

We stayed in Gilbert Ray CG outside Tucson for four days touring and relaxing with our friends Pat and Bob Hogg PatandBobThey are fulltimers from Alberta who, as I am sure I have mentioned, we met in an RV Park in El Paso two years ago. We hiked Sabino Canyon in the northeast part of town and we drove to Kitt Peak Observatory to tour several of the huge telescopes located there. We engaged in that all time favorite pastime of shopping in the RVer’s candy store, Camping World (magazine racks this time). We dined out a couple of times and a couple of times we had extended “happy hour” followed by light suppers on our own. One dinner was at the Bamboo Club, its location in a large mall adjacent to several other large new restaurants gave away its character as part of a chain. It is a new chain and it seems to be a copy of PF Chang. It is very good for what it is and I would go to another one if there was no local alternative.

The Hoggs travel is generally north to south and return while our route is generally east to west and return. They are members of an RV Park system and have to reserve well ahead to be able to take advantage of the investment, thus their itinerary is far more fixed than ours. We have found that we can more easily adjust our peregrinations to intersect theirs and for two years now it has worked out that we have met at this campground. They are thinking of coming east this fall and maybe we will get to entertain them at our “fixed base” in Rochester.

After four pleasant days in Gilbert Ray CG it was time to continue west. For anyone interested in the campground the images in the last post provide an idea of the nature of the sites. There is 30 amp electric only. Water and sanitary connections are centrally located (dry camping). The sunsets can be spectacular desertsunset. Somehow it seemed that we just wanted to take the most direct route this time so we retraced a few miles to get on I 10 west bound to I 8 just south of Phoenix. We paused at Gila Bend for driver change and lunch. I note this for future reference as this is a reasonable stopping place and the rest area that is supposed to be at 223 does not seem to exist. We finished the day at Senators Wash LTVA. Actually we are in no mans land in a short term area that is adjacent to the LTVA (Long Term Visitors Area – BLM terminology for open land that is available for extended camping for a fee of $120/year). We have stayed on Mountain Time although we are a mile or two into California and are formally in the Pacific Time Zone. Most people here seem to do the same and call it Yuma Time.

We are dry camping on a beach next to a reservoir that seems to pulse with the rhythm of life as it fills and empties. desertbeach It is a pumped storage facility. During the night when there is little electrical demand and irrigation requirements are minimal water is pumped into the reservoir. By day as demand for electricity and irrigation water rises the water flows out into the irrigation ditches through the same turbines that pumped it in during the night restoring most of the electricity that was used to pump it in to begin with. We awake each morning not knowing quite where the waterline will be relative to our location. We are camped above what is the long term high water mark, although it is clear that at certain times the water has gone higher. Also, the warning sign that says “Evacuate Immediately When Siren is Sounded” does give one pause. We are above the Imperial Dam and so not likely to be flooded rapidly.

The biggest disadvantage of this location is the lack of reliable phone service. For the 7 days we will have been here we have had to drive around looking for a phone signal. Connecting the computer is a joke. We will have to invest in satellite service for internet if we plan to do a lot of this. The hardware is $5,000 and the connection charge is $50/month or more depending on the service desired. I am not sure I can justify this for the week or two we are without service. Thus this posting will be put up when we get out on the road on Tuesday the 28th.

We have had the boat out on the Colorado River, I have ridden some bicycle in the sand here and we have done a fair amount of walking and hiking. Most of all we have sat and read and I have continued to do minor jobs and updates on Gee 2. The cabinet over the entry door which houses the slide switches, the battery cutoff switches and last minute items to grab as we go out the door such as flashlights, now has a gas strut to keep it open, why it wasn’t factory installed I have yet to figure out unless they just forgot it. I have hung the two magazine racks we picked up it Tucson. I have also made some other minor changes to improve comfort and usability. The next serious addition will be solar power and a couple of more batteries along with a more powerful central inverter/charger. Once these are in place I can begin to think about adding satellite internet. Who said a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money? They never owned an RV with dreams of extended desert stays 

Still in Texas, but written in AZ

Today – Presidents Day, February 20 – we are in Tucson, AZ in the Gilbert Ray Campground which is adjacent to the Museum of the Desert and Old Tucson. As you can see it is really camping in the desert. desert1
I have spent this morning being Mr Fixit. I had to tighten the rear medicine cabinet door again as the screws keep working loose. I may have stopped that with the infamous toothpick trick, we shall see. Our friends noted that I had a backup light that was out, so I replaced the bulb. In Falcon SP we had a bee problem. They invaded our Fantastic Fan (for the non RVers this is a very quiet, very powerful ceiling exhaust fan). I thought I had eliminated them by running the fan on high. It did get rid of most of them, but it left behind a fair amount of bee parts on the fan blades, also the I had not cleaned the screen, ever. All is now spotless. One of these days I will tackle the nonfunctioning connection to the running lights on the car. I have dealt with that by not running after dark and if I had to I turned on the car lights and ran the battery down a bit.

Retracing our route through Texas: we left Seminole Canyon Historic SP on the 12th and made our way to Davis Mountain SP just outside of Fort Davis and about 18 miles from McDonald Observatory which we visited last year. WOW! This park is located in a canyon with an amazing Inn at the far end, Indian Lodge. It was constructed by the CCC in the ‘30’s and after a period of neglect in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s it has been restored to the original standard. The campground is quite lovely with roomy, fairly level sites and all the hookups you could want.. The thing to see here is the Montezuma Quail. We never did see any, I guess they heard about Cheney and all went into hiding. We did see many other birds and the deer were in the campsites begging for food. We obeyed the law and did not feed them, although others were totally ignoring the law. We drove up the Skyway Drive and left the car at the top to hike on over to historic Fort Davis. The altitude changes were fairly significant and when we reached an overlook with this view  FtDavis we decided that it would not look any better from up close and turned around to return to the car. Along the way I had turned an ankle which is still sore, but not so sore asa to slow me down any.

While in Davis Mountain we learned that Dan Rather was coming to Marfa, 26 miles away, to pull the switch to turn on a new Public Radio Station, MPR (Marfa Public Radio) 93.5 should you ever be in the vicinity. We did not run down to that, but we did by tickets to a benefit concert being given by Willie Nelson in Alpine, 26 miles away, also 26 miles from Marfa. It was great fun although I am not sure why many of the people were there as they seemed more interested in hooting, whistling and generally being rude than paying attention to the concert, I must be out of date, I thought one went to hear the performer and enthusiastically cheer his performance.

The next day we headed on out toward Tucson, but with a planned stop in Las Cruces, NM. We called ahead to Leora Zeitlin and Stuart Kelter, Leora is Zvi and Marianna Zeitlin’s daughter, they are close friends in Rochester. After some wine and conversation with Leora and Stuart we went to dinner at Mix, a restaurant not to be missed if you are in the area and love Pacific Rim food. I raised the subject of Shabbat service at the synagogue and they very graciously invited us to Shabbat Dinner at their home. This was a great pleasure as we have not had anyone to share Shabbat with since we left our kids in Virginia. Leora and family, Thank you again, we really enjoyed the haimish Shabbat.

On Friday we drove to White Sands National Monument, about an hour drive. The sand is so white that it looks like snow and it is only when you get out of the car that you realize it is not a winter wonderland. whitesands We decided to begin a 4 mile loop hike. Before the hike we had a picnic lunch in a park shelter. I saw a Horned Lark near the shelter and tossed a piece of tomato near it. That became our lunch time entertainment as he worried at the tomato for the next 15 or 20 minutes. HornedLark We did not plan to complete the loop as we did not have the time, we decided to go as far as we could in the time allowed and then turn back. About five minutes into to the hike we were overtaken by the Ray and Darlene who were camped next to us in Sunny Acres Campground. We enjoyed having another couple to hike with and were a bit sad when we had to turn back. Shortly after we turned back the wind picked up and began to drive clouds of the white alkali sands into the air. We hurried back and got in the car for the drive back to Gee 2 so we could shower and prepare for Shabbat.

Saturday morning, early, we moved on to Tucson to join Bob and Pat Hogg for a few days.