From Senator Wash

We are sitting in this delightful spot on our ever pulsing lake. It is fluctuating like a Bay of Fundy tide. The difference is the lack of correlation with the sun and the moon. Last night is was lapping about a foot from our carpet. Today it receded 10 or more feet during the day only to turn around by late afternoon and start to return to last night’s high. I had hoped to generate a close in Google Map to show where we are, but level of detail necessary to give you an idea is not available. I suspect three possible reasons. First the area is not populated. Second it is adjacent to the Yuma Proving Grounds and US Army installation where systems of all types and tested and the Golden Knights Army Parachute Team is based in the winter, third is is next to a dam which might be considered a National Security item. Here is a clip from the DeLorme Street Atlas which I use for route information
Senator Wash

I may have a better map from Google soon. I have things to learn.

Yesterday, Saturday, Carol and I set out to find an abandoned turquoise mine we had heard about. Using the old GPS with its very detailed topographic maps I located “Old Senator Mine” not more than a 1.4 miles from G2 as the crow flies. Unfortunately the terrain was a bit more bumpy than would accommodate a straight line route. We set out using a straight line route which took us up onto a ridge line with magnificent views. As we worked toward the mine it became very clear that we would have to find a way off the ridge line into the valley. In fact we would have to find a safe decent in any event as neither of us felt that the route we had taken up would be a wonderful route down. Eventually we came to a point where the ridge line veered off to the east and out destination was due south. We found a sort of reasonable route down although it was clear that other hikers had not used this particular decent route. We made it unscathed and continue our cross country traverse until we came to a road (kind term) that went in the direction we were headed. As we climbed toward the mine we became aware of a fence and signs that seemed to indicate we were venturing onto private property the one I remember best read “ bad dog, shotguns, KEEP OUT” We ignored these and ducked under the wire that crossed the road and proceeded up to the mine area. No dogs at all, no shot guns no people, abandoned.

We wandered around the various shafts and picked over the detritus looking for something the color of turquoise to no avail. Of course we are not rock hounds with picks and buckets so we might very well have passed over decent specimens without even knowing it. We sat on the walls of the abandoned building and ate our lunch enjoying the view before turning our path back to G 2 by way of the road we had found.

The neighborhood keeps changing as new made friends move on and new people arrive and set up camp near us. Most recently Dora and Don arrived with their friends Ken and Ellie and a third unit with Dan, a single. They set up next to us in their three units and we have had a couple of happy hours with them. . . . just came from Happy Hour and I will try to get this uploaded.

My repair achievement for the day was to buy a fiberglass repair kit and repair the crack in the left front by bonding the edges from behind. Also called a mobile welding outfit and they will be here tomorrow to solidify the repair to the rock guard. The quick fix on the road in Virginia let go when we arrived here. I hope we are done for a while.

A Bad Start to a Day, With a Good Ending

This morning, Saturday the 16th of February we slept in until 7 AM then puttered around getting breakfast and preparing to get underway. We could not see going hiking or even serious birding in the cold and predicted precipitation. I know 40 may not seem cold to those of you in the northeast facing sub teen temperatures and wind chills below zero, but it is cold when you expect to be out in shorts and a T shirt. Anyhow we made all the preparations to get going and at the last minute our neighbor came out off his Casita and I had to greet him with my usual big hello. We talked for a bit and then I excused myself and went in to pull in the slides and stow the leveling jacks. Usually I take a moment to take in all the obstructions around the coach before moving it. This morning I had decided to go straight back and then swing wide to align with the exit before hooking up the car. Somehow I did not have a complete image of my surroundings, but it seemed so clear as there was no RV near me and there were no trees or poles that I could see to my rear where Carol was sitting in the car waiting for me to get in position. As I moved back I immediately swung the wheel hard right to speed up the alignment process. My motion was impeded and as my foot went to the gas to overcome the rock I must be trying to roll over it came to me that there was another obstruction, the water spigot standing a couple of feet out of the ground. I had hit it with my left front tire and bent it over to a 45 degree angle and water was spouting from it. I then looked at the coach and saw a neat crack in the fiberglass just in front of and above the wheel. I spoke to the campground owner and she turned off the water and I left her my card to assure her I would pay for the repair. I applied gray tape (otherwise known as high speed tape) to the crack in the quarter panel and we were off, trying to figure out how we could avoid being distracted in the future. I think the answer is that some distractions are just inevitable and stuff happens.

I expect I will get a fiberglass repair kit and apply a patch from the inside of the cracked panel that will just leave a surface mark on the exterior to go with the many other stone chips and marks we have suffered over the 47,500 miles we have driven Gee 2 in almost four years.

Eventually we decided that we would continue on to Benson AZ a drive of about 320 miles. We have stopped there many times, but this year as new Escapee members, we chose to stay at the Saguaro SKP Coop on the edge of town. There was no room for hookups, but we decided to stay in the boondock area, a sort of level asphalt parking area with no water, electric or sewer. It cost $5 more than staying at the Wal Mart four miles away on the main drag with trains going by every few minute. Worth it.

I’ll save this and add to it in a day or two once we know where we are going. It appears that our next stop will be at the extreme west of Arizona, maybe just over the border into California near the Imperial Dam adjacent to the Yuma Proving Ground.

Several days later: We are “on the beach” at Senator Wash just a mile or so from the Imperial Dam on the Colorado River. The wash is an interesting body of water. It is totally artificial. It is dammed at one end and the authority fills it and drains it on a rhythm of their own devising. The area is a desert community of RVers. On the floor of the desert is a BLM (Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior) LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area). Anyone can stay there indefinitely for a semiannual fee of $180. The only facilities are a dump area, water supply and scattered washrooms. A slightly more desirable are near the water is a STVA (yup, Short Term Visitor Area) limited to 14 days in any 28 days for an annual fee of $75. The fee structure could only have been devised by a government agency and the daily rates are enough to make me confused. Suffice it to say we are in the STVA on the edge of the water,

There are two agreed reasons for the movement of the water level, one relates to the need for water for irrigation and the other to the need to generate electricity in periods of high demand and to store it in periods of low demand, so called pumped storage. Anyhow when we arrived he water was lower than we had seen in any of our past visits. Most of the lake bed was dry and exposed. We parked above the ridge line that indicates the general high water mark which left us walk of a couple of hundred feet to the water. This morning the water was within 15 feet of our outdoor carpet.

We are among a large group of people living a very water conservative life style. We arrived with 100 gallons of freshwater in our tank and an empty 60 gallon gray water tank. We still have about 25 to 30 gallons of freshwater and room for another 10 or 15 gallons in our gray tank after five days. When the gray is full or the fresh empty we will have to secure everything in the coach and drive up to the dumps to empty the tanks and pick up fresh water. This is an annoyance more than anything else. It does mean showers are brief and meal preparation is guided by limiting what will need to be washed. Dining out is not a real option as it is a longish drive on desert roads to get to a place that offers every fast food alternative and few decent restaurants. Carol is great at preparing wonderful meals from the supplies we have on board while dirtying the minimum of cookware. The grill helps on occasion.

Damages and fixes: The weld we had done back in Virginia has broken and I have made a repair with the guidance of a handy mechanical type with tools that should hold using angle iron and C Clamp. We drove 60 miles each way to Quartzite in the car to save a couple of bucks on a replacement interior light ($4.75) some replacement entry stair wraps and a couple of sundries. The lunch and the shopping made it worth the drive. I have not had much else to do on the coach unless you count cleaning and thinking about improvements.

We have met people we would never meet in our Rochester life and had some interesting conversations with people whose backgrounds don’t even begin to relate to what we usually know. Ken, a former waterworks maintenance supervisor has more tools on his coach than your normal auto mechanic has in his garage. The guy next to us, pulled out his TV and remade the cabinet to hold a lighter LCD TV on its front while preserving the cabinet for storage. Charlene, in front of us, is a loner in a converted van who lives in a dirt floored hogan with no plumbing when she is at home. And the beat goes on. No two are alike.

Our next stop from here in a week, will be an RV Resort that is part of a chain (Western Horizons for the RVers among you). They have sales people at busy fuel stops handing out coupons for 5 days four nights FREE in exchange for a 90 minute sales pitch. I have pitched uncounted numbers of these coupons over the years. When I looked at this one I realized that out friends the Hoggs will be staying at the Indian Wells Resort in Indio, CA which is between here and LA and is part of the chain. We have arranged to stay there starting on the 27th. This will give us a chance to visit and to get our laundry done before going on to LA to visit with Miriam, Yechiel and the kids. We have no plans for what we will do between now and the 27th but I am sure we will fill the days.

Stay tuned

A Different Route West

The most frequent question we heard as we prepared for our seventh annual crossing of the United States was, “Are you going to take a different route this year?” If you have been following, you know that we departed from our usual route when we left Virginia. We had not gone to Florida since 2005 and this time we went south of Okeechobee and spent time in Boynton Beach. As we passed through New Orleans we went way south to Grand Isle. Finally when we left Austin we turned north out of Ft Stockton headed for Carlsbad then on to Bosque Del Apache NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) where we have settled in to Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park. I expect that, weather permitting, we will continue across the high plain of New Mexico to Arizona where the choice will be north to I 40 (very unlikely) or south to I 10 and on into Tuscon. That all remains to be seen. The forecast for tonight is snow and freezing rain in this area which may cause some different thoughts in the morning. Our plan now is to decide what we are doing tomorrow. So what else is new?

Today’s forecast (February 15, 2008) was for difficult driving conditions and snow and rain and fog, etc along our route. We had clouds followed by sun with temperatures ranging from the 30’s into the mid 60’s depending on altitude. We had decided to head for this campground as it overlooks the overnight roost of the Sandhill Cranes that are migrating through Bosque Del Apache. When we were here several years ago, we were searching for the cranes and after arriving late in the evening we were stunned to be awakened by the large birds flying out of their roosting pools with the sunrise. After we got here this time, we set up quickly and took the car to tour the NWR to see as many birds as we could. I will spare you the entire list. We did see a Bald Eagle and many Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. The ducks were too numerous to even determine how many species we saw. The last addition to the list were several Killdeer and of course we saw a Great Blue Heron.

This is not high season here! There are six or seven campers in the campground. The nearest town is San Antonio, NM and there is nothing there but a bar and grill. Socorro counts as the big city and it is not big enough for a Wal Mart and it is 50 miles away. 60 miles north of that is Albuquerque. As many or more miles to the south is Las Cruces. I expect we will see neither of them this trip.

To go back briefly. We had a great stay at the Carlsbad KOA. Although we seldom stay at KOA’s because they offer many amenities that are not of interest to us and are priced accordingly, this place is very special. We have never seen such nice facilities in ANY campground. I had the smoked brisket dinner, delivered to the coach for $10.00 and really enjoyed it. That is a treat I do not remember being offered in any campground we have stayed in. Susan and Scott are working very hard to make an enjoyable stay. They even arranged for me to have a local mechanic come to the site and change the oil in Gee 2. This is a change in their basic policy which forbids such work being done on premises. Dave, who did the work, was very concerned to keep the site clean and prevent any spillage of oil. His price was very fair as well, especially as he had a 15 mile drive to get to us. Thank you to the Bachers. If you are going that way, I can certainly recommend a stay there.

One More Stop in Louisiana and on to Texas

As I have noted before, we are inclined to short days on the road if there is a place we feel like stopping and there is no schedule to force a long day. Crossing Texas will result in at least one long day, if not two. The I 10 mile post at the Texas Welcome Center just west of Louisiana reads 880. But I get ahead of myself.

After leaving Grand Isle we were enchanted with the low prices and high welcome of Louisiana State Parks and decided to stop at Sam Houston Jones SP north of Lake Charles, LA. Because we arrived with no reservation on Thursday before Mardi Gras weekend we were able to get into an end site in the older section of the park for only two nights. It was plenty! I could not find the sewer connector as it was under debris under several inches of water. We could not use the back half of the site as that was where the mud and water was. And two feet beyond our picnic table was the exit road for the dump and the units near us. There was just room for the bigger coaches to squeeze past our car which we refused to park in the mud. That being said the park is lovely and worth a visit for anyone who is passing. It is in the midst of wetland and on the bank of the Calcasieu River (don’t ask me to pronounce that). Our big adventures were a drive around the scenic loop on LA 27 which took us through Holly Beach yet again. We were impressed with the amount of rebuilding that we saw this year.. After our drive though last year we were convinced that Holly Beach would not be making any kind of a come back. We stopped at a Cameron National Wildlife Reserve and took an hours bird walk during which we saw very little other than a Golden Eagle and the usual Great Blue Heron and Great Egret and assorted little birds we could not identify. On our return to G2 we freshened up and went out to a local Cajun restaurant. Carol made do with asparagus salad and sauteed mushrooms while I ate stuff I don’t normally eat.

The next day we headed for Texas. We did not go very far, stopping at the Escapee community in Livingston, TX, about an hour north of Houston. While we were there we did many things, some that we seldom do, such as watching the entire Super Bowl. I am not much of sports fan, but the Giants have been my favorite since my college days when Y A Tittle was QB so we went into the club house and joined a bunch of others who shared finger food while we watched the game on a big screen TV. We also took a couple of hikes in the Big Thicket National Park.

One of the things that Escapees offers in Livingston is Care Center. We had heard about this before and were intrigued so we took the offered tour. Care provides Adult Day Care services for Escapees whose health has declined so that they can no longer travel or those who need to recover from surgery or injury but are not willing to give up the RVing lifestyle. There is a separate camping area where the sites include ramps fitted as necessary to provide access to the RV and help is available to deal with the physical needs such as changing propane tanks or emptying the holding tanks. Three meals a day are provided for the person needing care and for the caregiver (there must be a care giver living on the RV) . The adult daycare provides respite for the caregiver five days a week. Much of the work is done by volunteers and all of the construction costs were contributed. Nothing was built until the money was in hand. There are many other features and the cost is remarkably low. It is a wonderful facility and many of the people we know in Escapee consider it very important for their future.

We left Livingston and turned our wheels toward Austin and the the Rainwaters. We pulled into Austin Lone Star RV, where we have stayed before to find that it is operating under new management. The most immediate impact was that our frequent camper cards had become worthless. The good news was they had lowered the price dramatically and had not improved much of the facility that affects us – the roadways while putting money into stuff we have no use for, washrooms. Our visits with Leigh and Pat were fun as always, too much to eat and plenty of touring. Our first night there we had been promised “boot scooting” Texas for dancing. After dinner at the East End Cafe we went to “The Broken Spoke” a classic Texas Dance Hall. The entrance is though a bar into a long hall with a dance floor in the middle and tables around the edges, separated from the floor by a low wall. The dance floor is for dancing only as signs make very clear. It is filled with every number performed by Dale Watson and his group of rockabilly performers. We danced until we were exhausted and then drove Leigh and Pat home and returned to Gee2 for a good nights sleep in preparation for more activities they had planned.

The highlight of the day was a stop in Boern TX where we ate in an old Inn and in this out of the way old German town the menu was very interesting and the food was excellent. On our way back we stopped in Gruen (pronounced Green) to see some more small town Texas life and lots of tourists, mostly Texans, filling the eating places and buying the items offered for sale. The last stop of the day was Iron Works BBQ back in Austin where I finally got my teeth into some great beef ribs Texas style (too big and too good to describe). Sunday was some more touring, dinner at their home and then farewells until next year. There was only one little problem, Carol and I had not agreed on where we were going, nor had we planned a route.

We knew that Dan and BeverlyArmstrong whom we had last seen two years ago at Dockweilers in LA were traveling I 10 from Houston toward Gila Bend. For us to continue west it would be best to travel on I 10 because to get to our preferred route, US 90, would take us far more southerly than we intend this trip. We called the Armstrongs once we were on the road and confirmed that they were indeed westbound on I 10 about 100 miles ahead of us and they were willing to hold up in Ft Stockton, at the Wal Mart, to wait for us. Thus we found ourselves pulling into the smallest Wal Mart parking lot we had seen with the most RVs we had seen in a Wal Mart at about 4 in the afternoon. We managed to park along side the Armstrongs and we had happy hour until we broke for dinner and then we reconvened for after dinner conversation.

The choice of Ft Stockton is easy. If you are crossing Texas on I 10 and are not so insane as to commit to a 12 hour drive, you will stop there, because there is no other choice along I 10 that makes sense. This still left us with a question about the next day. Continue west, or turn north? We had been talking about Monahans Sand Dune State Park which we stayed at our first trip across and decided to include it in the itinerary. This opened up the idea of returning to Carlsbad NM which we also stopped at that first year. We stopped at Monahans for a couple of hours to take a hike in the dunes and have lunch. Then we pressed on to Carlsbad and the KOA north of town owned by former Rochestarians who are friends of Carol and Tim Kolb (Carol works in the office I have in Rochester). This is a very lux campground with the nicest club house facilities and bathroom facilities I can remember seeing. I won’t be using them since our on board facilities are very comfortable for us. We will tour tomorrow and Thursday we will move on to avoid a storm that is headed this way. I expect we will have to drive through the front again as we did last year.

Next post you (and I) will find out what our route decision was.