Phoenix, Sedona, Sacramento, Alameda(?)

Another way of titling this would be high speed moving.

After leaving Tucson we made a small move to Phoenix, Phoenix Metro RV Park which is just about as citified as RV Parks get, even those on the edge of the desert.  During our stay there we spent another day at MIM (Musical Instrument Museum). The small exhibit (in floor space, not content) “Women who Rock” took us two hours to enjoy.  We took a break for lunch in their cafe, listening to an Irish group on the lunch patio, it was March 17, before reentering the galleries to spend some serious time in the geographical areas where we had just been traveling, mostly Asia.  Of course we had to take in the Japan music area as well since we are headed there shortly.  This consumed another two hours and our heads were full, our feet and legs sore and it was time to take a break from “museuming.”

We met Rick and JoAnne Morgan and their travel companions in Scottsdale for lunch in the gallery area.  We had a delightful time touring galleries and having a very nice lunch at Daily Dose. It is always fun to catch up with people we have followed through their blogs and spend time with them in person.  We last met Rick and JoAnne in person in White Sands National Monument.  During our conversation they talked about Sedona.

I checked the weather because the last few times we thought of going there the daytime highs were in the 30’s.  This time the highs were forecast in the 70’s so after we visited the Markusens in Cave Creek we made plans to drive the coach up into the mountains to visit Sedona.  We elected to stay at the Sedona Elks Lodge.  It turns out to be right in the middle of all the places you might was to visit and the view from the camping area is mountains, red rock peaks across the valley, OMG!  The drive was fairly straight forward although the endless number of roundabouts on the way in on 179 gets tiresome, it’s bad enough in a car, but in the coach. . . Carol had the privilege of that stretch of highway.  We drove Schnebly Hill Road in the Jeep. The first 6 miles were a mild challenge, we saw passenger cars on the road and heard their frames banging on the rocks – they must have been rentals, no one in their right mind would do that to their own car. The second six miles were basic smooth dirt.  We also booked a tour on the Verde Valley Railroad.  This looked like an expensive tourist trap, but we decided to give it a try.  Worth It, every penny!!! Susanne in the parlor car serving drinks and keeping everyone happy and Ralph, the Attendant on the open air car, pointed out all the rock formations (Presidents canyon with Lincoln in front and Tricky Dick in back with lots of little bushes) and eagles and many other sites.  18 miles and 2 hours in the train stopped and using a siding they moved the locomotives to the other end of the train to pull us back to Clarkdale Station.  The locomotives were built for the Alaska RR, and then served other lines before being acquired by Verde Valley and reconditioned to pull their tourist consist.  We had turned down the opportunity to take the trip on the cheap by sitting through a timeshare sales pitch, I would rather pay my money than subject myself to 90 minutes of high pressure sales presentation for something I have no interest in whatsoever.

It was time to begin a high speed move.  We had made plans to have dinner with AnnaLee and Jerry in the Sacramento area and we had just under 800 miles to cover in two days.  For folks who consider 250 miles a long day this was a challenge.  Fortunately we had John Grisham’s Sycamore Row queued up (actually we had been listening for several hundred miles already and were looking forward to road time to finish it).  471 miles later as dusk was settling we pulled off the road, CA 58, at an intersection with 202 just west of Mojave, the town not the desert, and found a level piece of packed sand left by road crews and set up camp there just off the road along with at least one other camper we saw and spoke to.  We slept fine to the lullaby of passing traffic and the occasional train.  Early in the morning we had breakfast and set out for Sacramento, the KOA just west of town.  By 2:30 we had covered another 322 miles and were setting up in a full hookup campground where we could do laundry and take long luxurious showers. Grisham still had hold of our concentration with his very detailed unrolling story.

After a delightful dinner at Vic’s Ice Cream !? which of course included ice cream, with Jerry and AnnaLee we went to their home and spent the evening sharing travel stories until it was time to get back to the coach, we had to move on immediately.  2 hours after starting we were settling into the Alameda Elks Lodge, not far from Berkeley, or anyplace else in the Bay Area.  Although Alameda has a reputation as a gritty industrial area, it appears much of the grit and industrial is gone and the town appears to be quite nice.  The Elks Lodge is right next to the city hall and it is somewhat surprising that in this august neighborhood we would be permitted to stay in our coach, but there you are.  We are not alone in the lot either.

No more moving until Saturday!

Where did ten days go?

From Marfa Texas to Phoenix Arizona doesn’t take ten days driving.  We have made a couple of lengthy stops along the way, but somehow I never got around to writing about our experiences.  Our next stop after Marfa was Las Cruces NM where we stayed five nights.  We had a delightful evening with Leora Zeitlin attending a Jazz concert that was the culmination of a high school jazz festival held at New Mexico State University Las Cruces (hereafter NMSU).  The performances were by NMSU music students who were wonderful with the addition of a couple of top notch professional performers/teachers.  We gathered at Marianne Zeitlin’s new home with her family for Shabbat dinner and also had dinner out on Saturday night.

In between we managed to find a museum we had not heard of or been to right on the campus.  It is the Zuhl Fossil Museum.  It is a couple of rooms in the Alumni Center and has a wonderful collection of petrified wood pieces from slabs to cross sections to logs.  There are also a large number of ammonites.  It is worth a stop for the beauty although I am not sure about the academic value.  We also went to Las Cruces Museum of Art where there was a special exhibit of an artist named Bauman who worked in many media, but his woodcuts are among the most interesting and wonderful.  I do not remember seeing woodcuts that are so colorful.  He also was a sculptor and cabinet maker as well as a painter. On leaving the Art Gallery we exited through the Science Museum which is connected.  These two museums are on Main Street in the market area.

From Las Cruces we continued west to Tucson where we set up in Catalina State Park which is just north of the city.  We couldn’t get a site in main camping circles, but we were able to get into the overflow area (Ringtail Circle).  This is an open circle of sand with sites marked out around the edge.  There are no facilities other than a wonderful bathhouse with great showers.  We had site 12 and, should we ever head there again we would much prefer either 12 or 13 which are deep in a back corner with a bit of privacy and room to establish a patio.

 Our solar panels (photovoltaic energy panels) provided us with sufficient electricity to keep our batteries charged and so long as we were judicious with our use of energy (no tv, microwave etc) we had little need to run the generator.  Over four days we ran it less than 5 hours.  There is wonderful hiking and fine birding throughout the park.  We started the climb to Romero Pools, but turned back about a mile short as the going was very steep and we had not brought lunch with us.  This was not a miscalculation so much as a decision.  We were meeting my high school classmate Marjorie and her husband Larry for dinner nearby at 5:30.

The night before we had dinner at Eleanor and Kelly’s home in Saddlebrooke about 6 miles north of Catalina SP.  We met them on our trip to Thailand and Vietnam in December and had looked forward to continuing the friendship.  It was wonderful to see their lovely home with great mountain views and quail marching along their garden wall.  Carol and enjoyed the evening and will certainly call again when we are in the vicinity.  It is not altogether impossible that we could see them in Rochester some day as they have a son living there, Kelly worked for Kodak once upon a time.

From Tucson it was a short jaunt north to Phoenix.  What a change, from the desert campsite with no hookups and absolute quiet at night to Phoenix Metro RV Park located on the frontage road to I 17 with coaches lined up every 20 feet and a city stretching in all directions.  We plan to visit the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) again and maybe some other galleries/museums we have seen before.  We also hope to see the Markusens from Rochester who have a wonderful place near Cave Creek.  The timing depends on how their basketball team does in a tournament (pardon my ignorance of teams and tournaments – I do know March Madness will be upon us very soon, I heard it on NPR).

I hesitate to comment on my dealings with coach issues, Murphy may be looking over my shoulder.  Everything has been working as I would hope.  I guess I have shaken out most of the kinks, for now.

The world is changing as we travel

I’m working on my cliches, if I can be said to be working at anything.  We have too many sources of news, if that is possible.  In the morning we get the NYTimes on our Kindles while listening to NPR and read and listen over breakfast.  When the NPR morning news recycles we sometimes turn on TV for CNN, MSNBC, or a Food Channel show to settle our stomachs.  We read each other headlines and clips from the NYTimes and we remember what some of the places we are reading about looked like just a few months ago.

There is turmoil in so many parts of the world that it seems it is hard to plan a trip that doesn’t involve some area where there is strife. Over the years we have chosen to plan our trips with little regard for potential problems unless of course there are State Department warnings, in which case we think about it and then as often as not venture on.  We have been to Israel many times when others consider it unwise.  We have traveled in Latin America when others consider it inadvisable, especially into some areas of Mexico.  We have avoided parts of Mexico that Mexicans avoid and feel very sad that it really seems foolhardy for an American Jew to visit Egypt.  We may never get there.  We, or maybe just I, have mixed feelings about India. I want to go and I know that much of what we see in the press is limited in its impact on most tourists.  But the very nature of the apparently generalized abuse of women makes me hesitant about traveling there with Carol.

I would love to be able to say I know what should happen in Ukraine and in Thailand, but sitting here as a recent traveler who has read endlessly I can only say I cannot even imagine how things can work out.  Ukraine is a democracy that has turned out a corrupt leader by unconstitutional means and needs to find a way to reconstitute itself within its constitution.  It is caught in a vise between Russia and a substantial portion of its population that is ethnic Russian and a much larger portion of its population that yearns to be a part of the European community.  Ignoring, if that is possible, the financial disaster it faces with no foreign exchange or even internal funds, if Russia decides to really squeeze them it can shut off the flow of gas and that will be the end of heat and power.  Of course that will also be the end of Russia’s largest export and Putin’s income from Gazprom.

Thailand is a total mystery.  A constitutional monarchy with an incapacitated king (I can say that safely sitting the US) where the people of commerce want to throw out the constitutionally elected government and the constitution because they cannot win an election – hmm sounds like Texas Democrats – so they can change the rules (maybe that was Texas Republicans).  The current government is no prize and certainly is corrupt, but so what else is new.  In the meantime in Burma the peace loving Buddhists are slaughtering Muslims who have been exiled in Burma for more than a hundred years and have been declared non citizens.  Oh a side note, last night we watched Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957) since we had just been on the real bridge.  Boy do they get it wrong even if it is a great film.  Just one example, the tease talks about “deep in the Burmese jungle” nice line but the rail line was being built to get from Bangkok to Burma and the section of the line in the movie is in Thailand (even though they filmed it in Ceylon).

But enough about the world.  We left Falcon Lake Monday morning planning to drive three days to Las Cruces.  It is Wednesday Afternoon and I writing from the Siesta RV Park in Las Cruces.  Monday night we stopped at the WalMart in Del Rio Texas, I will leave it to you to look at a map of the Rio Grande Valley and find Del Rio.  Topped up with fuel and our purchases at the WalMart we continued on toward Marfa. Over the years we have not found a suitable place to stay in Marfa.  Being a bit more proactive this year (looking for a place before we got there) I found Tumble In.

This park offers a little piece of desert with all the amenities a traveler might want, electric, water, sewer, nice bathrooms and showers excellent wifi and laundry and much more.  No pool or playground but a short walk into town and great views.  It is honor system self check in.  knowing this I chose to reserve and pay online to avoid the need to leave a credit card number or cahs in a box. Here is Carol at the “office”

We finished a great AudioBook on the drive, The Invention of Wings, by Susan Monk Kidd.  We both highly recommend it.  We started a new audiobook by John Grisham, The Sycamore Row, so far we are deeply in its grip.  We may not listen again until Monday when we get back on the road.

Miscellaneous aggravations.  The dash fan has been acting up and we fear it is more than the breaker which has dropped out on us twice.  Rally don’t want to get into what it might be but I have been assured by Tiffin that they will take care of whatever it is under their extended warranty program, “Bob said to fix it”  The tankless water heater gave us fits, failing to provide hot water when the wind was blowing just so.  A long conversation with tech support – Gary – with me at the heater found two issues.  The heater was installed into an opening that was not square with the heater’s case.  The deformation of the case caused a small fan to stop working.  The fan is intended to help prevent wind from blowing out the flame (?).  I fixed that with a little bending and pushing.  The cover that Tiffin supplied is supposed to have a plate riveted over some of the openings by the exhaust to balance the airflow (?) to prevent the wind from blowing out the flame.  The plate is in the mail for me to install.  There are other small things that with a little twiddling will make life a bit easier.

The keys have not shown up.