It has been an interesting week. The weather here in Phoenix, Arizona, has been a bit of a roller coaster. One day it’s nearly perfect and the next day it’s anything but. Along with the ups and downs of the temperature, the wind has been relentless causing dust and dirt to permeate every square inch of my RV.
With that said, the RV needs a good spring cleaning. As our departure date nears, I like to go through every cabinet and closet. I usually start with the pantry. When was the last time you checked the expiration date on your spices? Eek! At least three of mine ended up in the trash. I’m pretty sure the Rosemary with the expiration year of 2017 has lost its flavor by now. 🥴
And although I feel really good about the cleaning progress I’m making, all that dust and dirt has caused a ‘dry eye’ flare-up. It’s brutal when this happens and I struggle for relief. This means as part of my dry eye relief protocol, I have to limit my computer screen time. Endless hours looking at the screen on my laptop just adds to the eye irritation.
So, in this week’s post, I got nothing. Nothing to write about other than letting ya know I’ve been busy with RV cleaning and doing my best to stay away from my laptop. No hiking. No photography. No travel tales. Gosh, I’m even using photos from Pexels today. Can you believe I’m not using my own images? I think that’s a first!
But come on … who doesn’t like cute doggie pics? Plus, these particular photos seem to fit my current mood.
On that note, please excuse my absence for the next … week or two? I’ll miss reading your tales and seeing your lovely images, but right now, my vision is a little blurry and my eyes are irritated, thus forcing a blogging break upon me. Sigh!
Have a great Sunday and a great week and we’ll talk soon!
It’s a cold and gloomy Sunday. We said our good-byes to our new friends that morning and are now sitting in the warmth of our dry comfy RV parked in our little corner campsite all by ourselves. The abundance of windows in our tiny home allows us to watch the nasty weather roll in. It turns into an entertaining sight, and I’m incredibly thankful I’m camped in an RV and not a tent.
Al and I are shocked when we see snowflakes fall. It’s March 2012 near Phoenix, Arizona. We’re camped at the Lost Dutchman State Park, and I’m seeing snow accumulate on the Superstition Mountains. Really? The rain, hail, and snow continued most of the day. Bear’s walks were quick, much to his displeasure. I call my dad, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, and tell him where we’re camped and all about the weather. My dad can barely contain his laughter as he briefs me on the sunny blue sky and 80 degrees F weather he is enjoying.
It’s mid-March and I’m sitting in the Phoenix valley bundled up in winter attire while dad is in the Chicago area wearing shorts and a golf shirt. What’s wrong with this picture? We enjoyed a good chuckle and I promised to send him lots of photos.
RV Group Camping
Shortly after noon, the first of our Escapees Boomer Club starts arriving. This is our very first ever RV group event and first with the Escapees organization as well. We brave the elements with each RV arrival to introduce ourselves. Wanting to return to the dry warmth of our RV as soon as possible, we kept the introductions short. By late afternoon, our formerly empty group camping area was nearly full.
The next day, the only sign of the inclement weather from the day before was the dusting of snow left behind on the Superstition Mountains. From what we gathered, snow is a rare treat to behold around here which caused photographic excitement amongst locals and non-locals alike. Al and I changed our opinion from disgruntled to fortunate. After all, we did leave Colorado to escape the cold and snow, and here we were in Arizona experiencing the very weather we were trying to avoid. But back home, that weather is the norm while here it is a rarity, and we were able to witness this rare sight. So, we considered ourselves fortunate even though we weren’t necessarily happy about pulling out the winter coats.
With fair weather upon us once again and a group of around twelve RVs gathered, the organizers posted a list of activities for the upcoming three days. We had a choice of activities in which to engage. While the days were filled with hikes, seminars, and outings, the evenings centered around various get-togethers either at the pavilion or inside someone’s RV, activities determined by the weather.
One of the daytime outings with a couple of our new neighbors included a visit to Tortilla Flat for lunch. A few days earlier, Al and I had driven through this entertaining town and vowed to return. So, here was our opportunity. The restaurant walls are plastered with dollar bills covering every square inch of wall space and the bar stools are made from saddles. It’s a fun and busy place plus the burgers are tasty.
I believe this was the first time I ever snapped a photo in a lady’s restroom. The stall doors were each painted with a different dance hall gal dress design. So once you stepped up to the door, your head finished off the design. Too cute! After lunch, we stepped into the gift shop for a look around and then over to the ice cream shop. We had heard that the ice cream is delicious and shouldn’t be passed up. Feeling compelled to confirm that tidbit of info, Al and our friends confirm that the ice cream was definitely worth the indulgence. Nice job team! Unable to tolerate the dairy, I looked on longingly … sigh!
One evening, a large group of us car-pooled over to the Organ Stop Pizza for a meal and entertainment. This was our second visit to this one-of-a-kind establishment. Organ Stop Pizza is home to the world’s largest Wurlitzer Organ and even if you’re not a fan of Organ music, it’s an experience I highly recommend at least once. We enjoyed the food as well as the entertainment, but others in our group shared a different culinary opinion. Regardless, we all had a fabulous time!
RVing education seminars
Our days whizzed by as our RVing education with the Escapees Club continued. We learned about solar panels, batteries, inverters, holding tanks, boondocking, and more. We learned so much from these seasoned RVers and appreciated their time and friendship. We were sad for this way too short of a gathering to end. Alas, it was time for us to move on with more education to be had at the Good Sam Rally being held in the town of Goodyear, AZ.
Our stay at Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains left an indelible impression upon us. It’s a magical place … a spiritual place … a place we feel compelled to revisit time and again. There’s a unique draw to explore this wilderness area, a longing to experience its ever-changing personality with the weather, and a pull to uncover its hidden secrets. We left with the solace of knowing we’ll return … I must return!
Good Sam Rally
Our drive from Apache Junction to Goodyear took less than an hour. We set up camp at the Destiny RV Resort which was an easy 15-minute drive to the Good Sam Rally location. Thus, we could spend all day at the event with a quick return to the RV for lunch and a dog walk if necessary. Thursday morning we headed off to the Rally. We looked at dozens of RVs and visited the majority of vendor booths set up in a huge event tent. We looked at the seminar schedule and attended a partial seminar with a lackluster interest.
I think we were on RV information overload at this point especially after the previous days camped with the Escapees. By late afternoon, we had accomplished our goal and decided we wouldn’t return to the Rally the next day. We also knew our six-week road trip was nearing its end, and we’d need to start the 800-mile journey home soon.
As we pulled into the driveway, Al and I looked at each other. Home? We felt detached. We weren’t happy to be “home”. Why? Even the dog didn’t jump out of the truck immediately. We were tempted to turn around and head back out. Where too? Didn’t matter. We just knew we didn’t want to be here. Ah, life! Obligations and responsibilities still bound us to the house and this location in Colorado. We were tied down, yet longed for the freedom of the open road. We were given a taste, and we wanted more.
Is this the end of our RVing journey or is it just the beginning?
The sun is still tucked behind the mountains when Bear nudges me. He’s ready for his morning walk. I had a rough night, a very restless night. So, I’m moving rather slowly this morning. A weather front had rolled in and the high winds kept rocking the RV all night long. Perhaps, one day I’ll get used to living in the RV and won’t be so worried about every sound, smell, and movement felt in this tiny home on wheels.
March 16, 2012 – Upon exiting the RV, I noticed the water level had risen even more. Soon our firepit will be underwater. Each night as more water is released from the dam, the water level continues to swallow up more shoreline and encroaching closer to our RV and campsite.
A few days earlier, the rangers came around notifying RVers that we’d have a few more days before we’d have to move. Some RVs, those that were camped closer to the boat ramp, had already moved on considering their slice of land was already covered with an inch of water. Since Lake Pleasant is a reservoir, water levels are closely managed and levels fluctuate a lot. During the fall, lake levels are allowed to go down and in the spring, the lake is allowed to fill. Soon our beautiful lakefront property will be underwater.
Walking the dog and reflecting on life.
While walking Bear, I glance up and down the shoreline. There’s only a handful of RVs scattered about. I take in my tranquil surroundings and admire the colorful sky as the sun begins to rise. As I leisurely stroll, I reflect on the past month of life on the road and ask myself, “Am I ready to head home or am I home”? I don’t have the answer just yet, but I do have a much better understanding as to why my mother encouraged me to start RVing while young and healthy. It’s a fantastic way to travel, and I feel a sense of contentment that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I find so much joy and peace being near the water, camping in nature, and enjoying the wildlife. Perhaps it’s due to fond childhood memories spent camping near lakes in northern Wisconsin. My mind wanders …
My parents are originally from Germany and had traveled all over Europe on their motorcycle before emigrating to the United States. As two very adventurous souls, they sold most of their belongings, packed two steamer trunks and a suitcase, boarded a ship near Amsterdam, and a week later mom, dad, and their two-year-old son (my brother) arrived in New York City. They then took a train from New York City to Chicago, Illinois, where their sponsor would help them get settled into their new life in the United States.
My father did not speak any English with the exception of some very inappropriate phrases taught to him by American soldiers during the war. My father spent his eighteenth year in an American-French prison camp. He had been a German soldier during World War II and had been captured by the Americans. So you can imagine the type of English he was taught. My mother was a bit more adept at picking up languages and knew enough English words (proper words) to get by.
What guts and fortitude they had to leave their home, their family, and move to a foreign country … a country that had previously bombed and destroyed their homes and towns and imprisoned my father. Their intent was to explore the United States for two years then move to Argentina for two years and then eventually return home to Germany.
Life did not go exactly as planned or expected. I showed up a bit more than a year after their arrival to America. I guess the doctor was wrong, much to mom’s delight. Thus, with two kids and all the responsibilities associated with a growing family, the travel that they intended to do was slightly out of reach.
But they weren’t content to just stay housebound. Summer weekends were spent at Chicago’s Lake Shore with the additional car and tent camping trips to Wisconsin and Michigan. During these explorations, my father developed a passion for fishing. Summer vacations were soon spent camping throughout the state of Wisconsin at various lakes. My brother and I loved these trips. We would spend hours swimming, making new friends, catching frogs, fish, grasshoppers, and lighting bugs. Television was never missed.
When my sister came along (doctors were wrong again), a pop-up trailer replaced the tent. My dad also added a boat, which was pulled by his fishing buddy and co-worker. The guys would fish early in the morning and again late in the day. I guess that’s when “the fish are biting”. During the heat of the day, my brother and I learned how to water ski. Oh, how fun these summer vacations were, and I thank my parents for such fond childhood memories.
Fast forward … three grown kids, empty nesters, and retired. It was finally time to see the United States of America, the whole reason for coming to this country all those years ago. For over fifteen years and a few RVs later, mom and dad explored the United States making friends from around the country. These adventures turned into the best years of their lives. My mom’s face would always light up just talking about their RV travels and the friends they had made.
Would history repeat itself? Would I too embrace this RV lifestyle with the same passion as my parents? Questions to ponder! Hmm, it might even be fun for Al and me to retrace some of my folk’s travels.
Our ten days camped at the spillway near the 10 lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant were enjoyable and educational, but we had new territory to explore and new people to meet. It was time for us to move over to the east side of the Phoenix valley for some new adventures which would include group camping with the Escapees.
After an awe-inspiring trip to Death Valley National Park, we reluctantly bid farewell to this incredible national park. February 2012 – Today’s destination is Mesquite, Nevada. The main reason for our visit to Mesquite is to connect with long time friends of my parents. The two couples met during their RVing days via their regular winter excursions to the Texas Gulf Coast. Even though both couples sold their RVs due to health and age, they still managed to maintain their close friendship regardless of distance.
We had met these friends previously during one of our Texas vacations visiting my parents at an RV Park on Mustang Island. Bill and Sigrid are a delightful couple that were currently splitting their time between their ranch in Montana and a Park Model in Mesquite. Even though they had sold their motorhome the previous year, they weren’t totally done with RVing and had recently purchased a little travel trailer for an upcoming trip to Alaska which I was particularly interested in hearing all about. This would be their third and final RV road trip to Alaska, and they were a wealth of information. Considering such an RV adventure was on my radar at the time, I was eager to soak up as much knowledge as they were willing to share.
From our campsite at Stovepipe Wells, we headed west via Daylight Pass Road (Hwy 374) toward the town of Beatty, Nevada. In Beatty, we picked up Hwy 95 and headed south toward Las Vegas. Once in Las Vegas, we picked up the 215 beltway east to I-15 north. The trip took us about three hours including a stop for gas and lunch.
Finding a place to stay in Mesquite
Mesquite is a small town about an hour’s drive north of Las Vegas, Nevada, with a population of less than 20,000. We had lived in Las Vegas in the 1990s and kept this town on our shortlist of possible places to retire. So we were curious about our current feelings toward this community.
With only two exits off of Interstate 15, we chose to exit at the first one and stop at Walmart to stock up on supplies. Before turning into the Walmart parking lot, we notice a banner hanging on some fencing – RV Resort with an arrow. Once our Walmart shopping trip was complete, we decide to check out that RV Resort on the banner. The Solstice Motorcoach Resort had only been open less than a year and was an absolutely beautiful facility. Considering it was so new, there were plenty of empty sites. We decide to spend a week and focus on ridding ourselves, the dog, and the RV of dirt and sand. I’m sure we were carrying a few extra pounds of weight in sand alone from our stay in Death Valley.
The Park sits high above the town of Mesquite offering a beautiful night view of the lights. No dark sky around here! The folks at the RV Park were extremely friendly, helpful, and made this stop perfect to tend to chores, relaxation, and a couple of fun visits with family friends.
Enlightened by seasoned RVers
One of the things I enjoy most about the RV lifestyle is the people we meet. There’s something about RVing that connects folks from all walks of life … age, economic status, race, religion, etc. doesn’t seem to matter as much as our common interest in RV travel and getting into nature.
We visit with Sigrid and Bill a couple of times throughout the week and our conversations flow freely. We talk about their plans for their upcoming Alaskan RV road trip. They bring out maps and The Milepost Book. They share photos and tales from previous trips as well as impending details of their upcoming trip. We are enlightened and soak up the information.
Eventually, the conversation switches over to photography and Bill brings out his new camera. He has owned many cameras, both DSLR’s and Point & Shoots, but really loves this new Panasonic Bridge Camera. Hmm, a bridge camera? … more enlightenment on my part. He shares the pluses and minuses of a bridge camera as well as some recent wildlife images taken with the new camera. I’m impressed and make a note for future reference. My little Point & Shoot camera was definitely limiting and I was getting ready to upgrade.
Before bidding farewell to this engaging couple, Sigrid and I turn our attention to her relationship with my mother, especially since this was the week of my mom’s birthday: Feb. 26th. Mom and Sigrid were particularly close and Sigrid and I bond over tears as we share tales about my mother and how much she is missed.
Life can be fleeting, and little did I know at that moment, but a month later, Sigrid would pass away in her sleep from a brain aneurism. 😥
Our week in Mesquite was very relaxing and productive. We accomplished some chores, visited with family friends, and engaged with other RVers at the RV Park. This last week in February, the weather was still a little chilly so it was time to move on in search of warmer weather. As much as we enjoyed our week-long stay, we decided Mesquite was no longer on our retirement shortlist.
During our stay at Lake Havasu, fellow campers had shared some of their favorite campgrounds with us … particularly places in the desert southwest. One such place was the Davis Camp Park located along the Colorado River and right below the Davis Dam in Bullhead City, Arizona. We were in the process of working our way back to Phoenix and decided the Davis Camp Park location was perfect for splitting the distance between Mesquite and Phoenix.
Upon arrival, we were allowed to drive around the campground and pick out a site before paying and filling out the paperwork. After driving all around, we finally decide on a waterfront campsite with no hookups. Ah, let the entertainment begin! I stand at the rear of the site to help direct Al in backing up into the RV site. I begin to wonder if he even pays attention to me and my direction other than when to stop. I ponder … perhaps I should get some of those orange wands ground crew use to direct pilots. Maybe then, just maybe, Mr. former Airline Pilot would give dear wife more credibility. Probably not! I’ll just continue with my usual hand gestures, or as Al likes to call it “my song and dance routine”.
These two RV newbies continue to be stressed whenever arriving at a new campground and needing to back into a site. In addition to the normal everyday stresses of learning this new RV lifestyle, the extreme wind that was blowing all around us was another stressor and concern. The wind was so incredibly bad that the RV swayed from side to side. This former Illinois gal has seen first hand the devastating destruction caused by extreme wind. I immediately have a fear of our RV being flipped onto its side by a gust of wind. I quickly extend the slides thinking perhaps the slides would act as outriggers. Al laughs at me, but in my defense, the RV did sway less with the slides extended.
We really enjoyed our great waterfront campsite … wind and all. And no, we never did come close to toppling over. This was merely the first time we had encountered such extreme wind in our new RV, and this was just another lesson in our long learning curve.
The town of Laughlin and its Casinos are practically within walking distance from the campground, and Bullhead City is bigger than we originally thought with lots of amenities. Although we liked our campsite, the warm weather, and the area in general, after three nights, we’d had our fill of the winds and were on our way bound for Phoenix.
I’m sitting in our climate-controlled truck on a cushioned leather seat watching the scenery unfold in front of me. The land is vast, harsh, barren, and the road free of traffic. I can’t fathom the life of Pioneers who first explored these lands via horseback and wagon. Complaining about the lack of cell or internet coverage seems so petty on my part. However, the thought of a flat tire or other breakdown has me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. No calling AAA out here. We’re on our own!
Our Route – February 22, 2012
We pulled out of our campsite in Lake Havasu City bright and early that morning. We traveled north on Highway 95 to Interstate 40 west. After studying the map the day before, I thought it would be interesting to drive through the Mojave National Preserve.
The Mojave Desert is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America. And just like I imagined, the views are miles upon miles of sparsely vegetated land … harsh land that deserves respect if one is to survive. After our turnoff from Interstate 40 onto Kelbaker Road, I think we saw less than a dozen other vehicles, if that. Fascinating terrain!
Once in the town of Baker, we top off with fuel. We realize, the further we get from civilization, the more expensive fuel costs will become. Our journey continues toward Death Valley National Park and Furnace Creek.
The Furnace Creek Campground was currently undergoing a renovation and therefore closed for the season (Feb. 2012). Signs directed us to the Sunset Campground where we quickly found a level gravel site to pull into. The Sunset Campground was pretty much an organized gravel parking lot with no services, but at $12 a night, we weren’t complaining. We made a quick note of the generator hours to assure we kept our batteries topped off.
Sunset Campground is aptly named. Every evening, we found ourselves sitting outside to watch the sunset. Once the sun had disappeared, the sky would turn into fantastic shades of colors ranging from pinks to reds and purples. Then the sky would slowly darken to the most incredible deep, deep midnight blue. The stars were bright and the crescent moon stunning. Al and I would just sit quietly in awe watching the show unfold.
Although we lived in a community with a dark sky policy (Pueblo West, CO), I think this was the first time we truly understood light pollution. There was none here to detract from the beauty of the sky, and we were appreciative observers. Each night was a little different but equally spectacular. There are some things in life that can’t be captured via a photograph and must be experienced first hand. Admiring the night sky in Death Valley National Park was definitely one of those special moments … a vision etched in my memories.
Exploring Death Valley
Established in 1994, Death Valley National Park is a beautiful but challenging landscape where unique wildlife have developed ingenious adaptations to the arid, harsh environment. Located in both California and Nevada, it’s the largest national park in the lower 48 states and has nearly 1,000 miles of roads that provide access to both popular and remote locations in the park.
After reviewing the Death Valley National Park map, Al and I discuss our plan for the day. National Parks are not usually pet friendly and Death Valley is no exception. So Al and I plan our day keeping our dog, Bear, in mind. Fortunately, the weather would be in the 60 degrees Faherenheit range allowing us to leave Bear in the RV alone for a few hours. Since he was over thirteen years old, Bear was showing his age and could use a little extra rest after a rather exciting, fun-filled five days in Lake Havasu. So, he didn’t mind being left behind to catch up on some much-needed rest.
Our first stops were Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View. Dante’s View is considered the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park. The overlook is more than 5,000 feet above the floor of Death Valley and overlooks Badwater Basin. We were extremely glad that we wore our sweatshirts considering the temperature was only around 52 degrees Fahrenheit that morning and extremely windy at this high overlook.
On our return to the RV, we took a side trip and ventured down a dirt road known as Twenty Mule Team Canyon. This is a one-way 2.7 mile drive through badlands. The history of this road dates back to the days of mining for Borax in the Valley. It was a fun little side trip even though there were points I wondered if our large truck would fit through some of the tight corridors in the canyon. If it weren’t for our growling stomachs beckoning for lunch, I would’ve loved stopping more frequently along the way. Yes, more photo-ops would’ve been nice, although Al might disagree.
Upon our return to the RV, we find Bear still fast asleep and needing to be coaxed for his walk. He is one tired little guy and doesn’t mind being left behind the rest of the day.
After lunch, Al and I head over to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Badwater Basin is a vast landscape of salt flats. From a distance it looks like snow.
We ventured out onto the salt flats taking in the fascinating landscape. Badwater Basin was once the site of a large inland lake. The lake had no outlet, leading to the accumulation of sediment and salt over time. When the lake eventually evaporated, concentrated salt deposits were left behind. Today, captivating geometric salt polygons form on the flats as groundwater rises up through these deposits and evaporates.
After more than thirty minutes of walking around the salt flats and marveling at the unique and surreal environment, we returned to the truck where we noticed the salt residue had stuck to our shoes and was now leaving a fine coating of salt residue on our truck floor mats.
A Golf Course that isn’t a Golf Course
Just north of Badwater Basin is a side road that took us down a bumpy dirt road to a parking lot. We found ourselves surrounded by craggy boulders which are really meteorite like sharp crystal formations of salt. Imagine an immense area of rock salt that has been eroded by wind and rain and turned into jagged spires and boulders. The sculpted salt formations form a rugged terrain that is simultaneously delicate yet dramatic. Rocks are so serrated that only the devil could play golf on such rough links. Hence, the name Devils Golf Course.
The terrain looks daunting and can be dangerous, thus best viewed from the parking lot. We had the place to ourselves and it was so quiet that we could actually hear the salt formations cracking. It was like tiny little pops and pings. The sound is literally billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart as they expand and contract in the heat.
The next stop on our tour was driving the scenic, one-way, nine-mile paved road known as Artist’s Drive. A photo-op stop at the Artists Palette is a must. Artists Palette consists of multi-hued volcanic hills, best photographed in the afternoon. Known for its variety of rock colors, it’s no wonder where the name came from. The various colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals. Iron compounds produce red, pink, and yellow. The decomposition of mica produces green, and manganese produces purple. Once again, we are left speechless and perplexed by the terrain.
After two full days of exploring this southern section of Death Valley, it was time to move north. Al and I never realized just how enormous this national park is; 3,373,063 acres.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
On day three, we move camp to the Stovepipe Wells Campground. Upon arrival, we realize its remoteness. With the exception of Furnace Creek, all of Death Valley is extremely remote and vast. We park the RV with the backend into the wind. The wind is blowing and dirt devils are twirling.
Once settled in our new location, we head on over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes nearby which is the whole reason we moved to this new location. Al and I hike the dunes being sure to keep our eyes on the ground for critters; snakes, scorpions, etc. We occasionally stop for photos or to marvel at the landscape. These dunes rise nearly 100 feet from the Mesquite Flat and are in a constant state of change due to the winds. It appears wind is the norm in this part of the park.
The winds continue to blow and Al and I are covered in a fine layer of dirt and sand. We return to the RV for dinner in hopes of enjoying another gorgeous sunset. We were sorely disappointed with the sunset in this location. However, the night sky and the crescent moon made up for any lack in sunset color. If we had it to do over, we probably would have stayed at the Sunset Campground and just driven to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for the day.
Although I feel we barely touched the surface of this awe-inspiring terrain, the constant extreme wind was irritating, and we decided to leave the next day with the promise of returning to Death Valley another time.
Throughout our entire Death Valley explorations, we were intrigued by the landscape and felt like we had stepped back in time … Jurassic time. With each bend in the road, it would not have surprised us to have encountered a dinosaur or perhaps see a pterodactyl fly overhead. Or perhaps it wasn’t another realm but rather another planet. Regardless, we were awed, mesmerized, and perplexed by the incredible landscape. We left with the realization that another visit to Death Valley National Park would be warranted. Four days and three nights were definitely not enough time to explore this expansive and special land.
Our one week vacation over the Christmas holiday went by way too soon, and now we were back to the realities of life. We were in the thick of winter in Colorado. Fortunately, the climate in Pueblo West is much milder than in other parts of the state. It’s actually located in what’s nicknamed the banana belt of Colorado. But regardless, it’s still colder, and of course, snowier than Phoenix, Arizona.
Winter 2011 – Our RV was nestled on the side of our new home. We began to enjoy living in this newly built house and finally understood why our customers loved the floorplan. After selling our large custom home, we decided to build our “bread and butter” floorplan for ourselves. Sure, I had spent plenty of time in this floorplan at the model home, but I had not personally lived in it.
As well as selling our custom home in 2010, we also sold the model home. We were still in the throws of surviving the Great Recession, and although we managed to keep building homes here and there, it was a scary time financially. Building one home at a time was a far cry from juggling the usual six at a time.
In our small community, we were considered a mid-sized volume builder. There were no national builders for us to compete against. I loved my job and quite often worked seven days a week, but that all changed when the economy changed. Nonetheless, we were one of the lucky ones still able to hang on with a couple of new custom home builds contracted for the year. A lot of home builders had closed shop along with many of the subcontractors. It was a challenging time to work in the construction industry.
The phone call we all dread
April 2011 – The phone rang. It was my sister. Mom had been in and out of the hospital the past year, but this time my sister wasn’t sure how much time mom had left. Her COPD was winning! After the recent hospital stay, mom was admitted to a rehab center, and her survival was questionable. I immediately booked a flight from Denver to Chicago for a ten-day visit.
My brother arrived a few days earlier than me allowing him a little one on one time with mom, and then he left before me so I too could have some one on one time with her. Dad was doing as well as could be expected and was grateful to have his three children nearby to help him through this difficult time.
A week after my return to Colorado, my mom passed away. Those precious conversations are forever etched in my memories. I’ll always miss her!
I feel so grateful to have had ten days to sit with mom and just talk. Not everyone is as fortunate. Mom repeatedly encouraged me (and Al) to “Hop in that RV and LIVE … enjoy life while young and healthy … life is short. Who needs a house when you have an RV … a house on wheels. Go live, explore, have fun.”
She absolutely loved the RV lifestyle and when they had to call RVing quits due to health reasons, she was pissed. “Damn cigarettes!” she’d say.
Life goes on
With the arrival of spring and the snow long gone, our new home was in dire need of landscaping. And I was in dire need of a project to keep my mind and hands occupied as I worked through my grief.
There are very few subjects that Al and I have difficulty working through together. We’re a pretty good team and have worked together from the moment we met during our airline careers as Pilot and Flight Attendant. Then years later, we ran a home-building business together. We rarely fight with the exception of backing up an RV or doing yard work. Then, all bets are off!
Unfortunately, Al’s dad put a bitter taste in his mouth when it comes to yard work. His dad didn’t just want Al to mow the yard but also wanted it done a certain way including alternating directions from one week to another. I’m sure that’s the short version of the story, and we’ll leave it at that. I guess, we all carry around negative experiences from our childhood, and when it comes to landscaping and general yard maintenance, Al prefers to hire it out. End of subject.
But with our finances in less than stellar circumstances and my go-to landscaper out of business, what’s a gal to do? I know, bribe the husband with a Bobcat rental. A week later, we had just enough landscaping around the house completed to make it look presentable until I could come up with a plan for the rest of the property, and the bonus was a husband who didn’t complain once about landscaping the yard ourselves. That’s a win in my book!
Ah, but what about that neglected RV on the side of the house? We really should plan a trip, but that’ll have to wait until work allows us to sneak away. I’m just glad we’re still working!
With the RV shakedown under our belt, warranty repair on the landing jacks complete, and our long to-do list checked off one by one, it was time to take the RV on a real road trip. Plans were made for a Christmas getaway. The date: December 2010.
Our son had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, immediately after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder and our daughter was currently attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins. We coordinated dates with our daughter, Ashton, on her winter break, and when we had the perfect winter weather window, we hit the road bound for Phoenix.
The three of us along with our dog, Bear, spent our first night at the Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We arrived just before dark, and once comfortably parked at the far end of the parking lot, we entered the casino and enjoyed burgers and drinks at one of the restaurants. The next morning, we were rolling before the sun came up.
Two days and 800 miles later, we arrived at our destination; Desert’s Edge RV Park located on the far north side of Phoenix, a convenient location to enjoy visits with our son, Logan. Upon check-in, I asked the gal behind the counter for an easy site to get into because we were newbies and my husband still wasn’t great at maneuvering the RV. She responded, “This site should be relatively easy, but if your husband has any problems, just ask my husband for help. We’re in the site across the street from you.” This was also the first time I’d heard the term Workamper.
Sure enough, Al struggled to back into the site. The guy across the street (husband to the gal in the office) had been entertained by our struggles and eventually walked over to see if Al could use some help. In the end, the neighbor parked the RV for us, and Al and I were no longer on speaking terms, at least for the next couple of hours. Apparently, Al didn’t understand my hand signals, and I didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Thank goodness, our daughter had taken the dog for a walk and didn’t witness our little spousal episode. Ah, this RVing thing isn’t as easy as it looks.
Celebrating Christmas in Phoenix, Arizona, for the first time.
With the parking situation quickly forgotten, we set about enjoying the beautiful winter weather and indulging in the abundance of citrus trees covered with ripening fruit located throughout the park. We were loving it! This RV park fit our needs and was the perfect place to spend a week over the Christmas holiday. It was super dog friendly and conveniently located to our son’s apartment. During our stay, Ashton chose to sleep at Logan’s place which offered her more room to spread out than the RV did and allowed for some sibling bonding.
On Christmas day, our family of four exchanged gifts, stuffed our tummies with delicious food, and generally enjoyed a relaxing day. Holiday phone calls were made to family members several states away. Well wishes all around.
I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, I too joined the kids in playing mini-golf. Golf of any kind is not my forte. Actually, I’m really bad and provided a great deal of entertainment that day. I also learned a valuable lesson that day, a lesson that at my tender years, I should have learned long ago. “Be careful of what you say.”
As Logan and Ashton each took their turn at the Par 1 hole, I mocked what a wasted obstacle this was. “Seriously, how easy is this?” Each kid made it on the first try. So of course, I assumed I too would make a hole-in-one. NOT! My ball did not drop into the hole until the eighth attempt and by then Ashton and Logan were laughing so hard that we garnered the attention of other players. Oh well, it was a fun and memorable day filled with lots of laughter.
Trouble strikes again
Our week was going well, and we were loving this RV lifestyle. We learned the ins and outs of “Workamping”. The term and spelling is actually a trademarked company that helps RVers find temporary work in exchange for a free place to camp, or in some situations, provides income in addition to a campsite. We also ran into quite a few couples and families that lived in their RV’s full-time. What an interesting concept! I’m sure I had heard about full-time RVing from my parents, who were part-time RVers, but the thought never really sunk in until now.
Anyway, all was going fine until the toilet stopped working. Seriously? We had only two more days to savor before returning home to Colorado. Al fiddled with the toilet to no avail. He walked across the street and asked his new buddy, the seasoned RVer who parked the RV for us, to look at our toilet. After looking at it, he suggested we talk to the RV Dealership just down the road.
I’m not sure if it was the panicked tone in my voice or the begging on my knees (just kidding), but the extremely booked service department at Little Dealer Little Prices agreed to look at our toilet first thing in the morning. Awesome … well not really. That would require these RV newbies to quickly hitch up and pull out bright and early and maneuver around a jam-packed dealership lot. Not something Al was looking forward to doing.
The following day, after a three-hour dealership visit, we returned to the RV park repaired – complete with a new under warranty toilet. Although replacing the toilet didn’t require three hours, the service department did their best to fit our fix in in-between other service orders. We were grateful and also learned our RV Vin number was associated with a travel trailer and not a 5th Wheel. That would make it interesting when ordering parts in the future.
Fortunately, I had made arrangements for a pull-thru site upon our return from service. Thus, no need to back-in and no spousal discord. (snicker) It was perfect for our last night in Phoenix.
Ingrid takes the wheel
We hated saying good-bye to Logan, but Al and I needed to return to work and Ashton needed to return to college. Our little vacation had come to an end … sadly. All things considered, it was a great first trip, plus we learned a lot.
Before we knew it, the sun was rising and we were on the road heading north toward Flagstaff then east via Interstate 40. Over eight hours and 475 miles later, we once again pulled into the Sandia Casino parking lot in Albequerque where we enjoyed burgers, drinks, and a good, but cold, night’s sleep.
The following morning, I decided it was time to take my place behind the wheel. No time like the present time to learn how to handle the truck and RV. Al and Ashton stood side by side in the casino parking lot and with praying hands, they looked skyward …. “Dear Lord yadda yadda yadda Amen”. They ended their verbiage by making the Catholic sign of the cross. A few jabs and laughs later, I had an hour of truck-RV driving under my belt.
I successfully navigated in and out of a gas station and continued driving all morning. There were a couple of white knuckle moments for me along Interstate 25. First was going up and over Raton Pass at the Colorado-New Mexico border. With an elevation of less than 8,000 feet, this is a pretty mild and easy pass in comparison to other mountain passes in Colorado, but it’s still up and down with turns. The second was major construction on the Interstate through the town of Trinidad … single lane with concrete barriers on both sides. There didn’t appear to be a lot of room between the barriers and certainly no room for error, but one of us had to drive this stretch. Why not me?
That day, I drove the entire five-hour drive home, and not only impressed Al and Ashton, but myself. I’m not sure why any of us felt impressed. I’ve always had the opinion that if a man can do it, a woman can too. After all, I was a licensed General Contractor working in a predominantly male-oriented position. I guess it boiled down to the fact that this was something new, a new experience, and new equipment that I’d need to get comfortable driving. There’s always a learning curve when doing something you’ve never done before.
And there would be many more learning curves in our future …
July 2010 – With my signature complete, I slide the paperwork back over to the salesman. It’s official. Al and I just bought a new RV. Since it’s still on the Keystone assembly line in Elkhart, Indiana, we’ll have to wait a couple of months to take it home. Perfect, that’ll give us a great opportunity to get in one or two more trips with our underutilized truck camper before trading it in.
September 2010, we make the one-hour drive from our home in Pueblo West, Colorado, to the RV Dealership located in the quaint Colorado mountain town of Poncha Springs. We drop off our beloved truck camper and return home with a new 2011 Keystone Laredo 5th wheel in tow.
The drive between Pueblo West and Poncha Springs is a beautiful scenic drive. However, Highway 50 just west of Canon City, turns into a two-lane road that meanders along the Arkansas River. There are lots of curves, rock walls, and narrow spots with no shoulder and no room for error. Al was a little nervous navigating this stretch of road while pulling something as large as our new thirty-one-foot 5th wheel for the very first time. There was no opportunity for him to practice or get a feel for the RV on a wider or more open road before taking our new toy home.
Little did we know what RV adventures awaited. A mere two years later, driving this same stretch of highway was no longer a big deal and just another typical travel route in our RVing world.
Our shake down trip
In the RVing community, it’s highly recommended that owners of a new (or new to them) RV take their RV on a “shakedown” outing. This means camping near home at the nearest RV Park or campground and staying for at least a couple of nights to try out all the mechanics. This is a great opportunity to get comfortable with how everything works, make a punch list for warranty issues, and review gear.
Fortunately for us, at the time, we lived just three miles from the Lake Pueblo State Park making our first trip conveniently close to home and perfect in the event we needed any tools or forgot to pack something. With that said, it should’ve been uneventful. It wasn’t.
On our second day of camping, I accidentally locked myself out of the RV. While Al went to one of our job sites, I took the dog for a short walk. (We ran our own custom home building business back then.) Since I wouldn’t be gone long, I left my phone and keys in the RV. When I returned from the stroll, I was unable to open the door. Fortunately, one of the neighbors noticed my distress and came over to see if I needed help. He lent me his phone so I could call Al, only to find out, he too had left his set of RV keys on the dinette table.
Turns out, this helpful neighbor had spent twenty years working in the RV industry. He suggested two choices; call a pricey locksmith or this seasoned RVer could grab his tools and pry the door open. However, he first looked around the campground for any other Keystone brand RV. Why? Because various brands are usually keyed the same. Unfortunately, he owned a Forest River Wildcat, but had there been another Keystone in camp, chances are those keys might have opened our door. Crazy, huh! (Note to self – change the locks.)
After about 15 minutes, our Good Samaritan had pried open our door leaving behind a little bent metal door frame which only Al and I notice. Serves as a reminder to never fiddle with the door lock lever on the inside prior to exiting which caused the door to lock behind me.
The education continues …
The rest of our Pueblo Reservoir stay was uneventful and enjoyable … kind of. Lists were made. Al needed tools and I needed to outfit the kitchen better. We both needed more practice hitching, unhitching, and leveling the RV, but that would come with time.
Eventually, our stay came to an end, and we headed off to the campground dump station. Al unpackaged the new sewer hose and prepared to connect it to the RV pipe. With a slight hesitation, he unscrewed the pipe cap and was immediately met with a flood of “yellow-tinged water” spilling everywhere and soaking his tennis shoes. Apparently, our new RV was delivered to us with the tank valves open, and being such a newbie, Al failed to double-check that the tank valves were closed before unscrewing the cap.
After a few choice words, Al and I busted out laughing. Thank goodness no one else was around to witness this nasty mistake. Oh well, nothing a bunch of soap and water couldn’t fix. No harm done. Another lesson learned with plenty of more lessons to come.
Back to Storage
After our short camping trip, it was time to return the RV to storage. Three months earlier, we had sold our large custom home and moved into a rental while we built a smaller home. Our friends were kind enough to offer us a place to store the RV until our new home on an acre of land was finished, complete with a place to park the RV.
Our friends, Gene and Wendy, also recently purchased a new RV. With the RVs comfortably stored alongside each other, the four of us discussed plans for future Colorado RV adventures together with our new toys.
A couple of weeks later, Gene and Wendy wanted to reposition the RVs on their land. No problem! Al and I headed over to their place. While the Wendy and I sat in the house talking about places we wanted to camp, the guys were outside dealing with the two RVs. About an hour later, the guys walked into the house, and with a dejected look, Al glances at me and says, “I’m sorry, but I crunched the RV.” Say what? “What exactly does crunch mean?”
Seems the landing jacks wouldn’t engage meaning the RV could not be raised up in order to hitch it to the truck. These two handy MacGyvers made a critical error on where to place the car jack while manually jacking up the RV resulting in a little accordion-style body damage. Oops! And she’s less than thirty days old.
Okay, now that’s she’s broken in with a little bent metal from the lock situation and a slightly smooshed front corner from the faulty jacks, let’s take this less than new RV out on the road and have some fun with it. Adventure awaits!
Are you new to blogging or do you consider yourself a seasoned blogger? No doubt, I fall into the latter group. I started this little blog of mine nine years ago – January 2012. On one hand, it seems like just yesterday and on the other hand, it feels like a lifetime ago. Time can be strange!
We all have our own individual reasons for starting a blog. Mine started out strictly for personal reasons as a means of documenting our travels and keeping family and friends up to date on all our new happenings. What transpired was the building of a community and a group of new friends. Friendships were forged and physical meetups were arranged.
Many of my original blogging friends have since sold their RV’s and found new places to settle and call home. Most have stopped blogging altogether. Some connections were strong enough that our friendship continues to this day while others have moved on. Life continues as new chapters are started, and as I reflect on the past nine years, I cherish the friendships and memories created.
How to preserve those memories?
What will happen to all our blog posts … our tales … our stories when we decide to deactivate our accounts? Say it isn’t so! No, I don’t plan on shutting down my site anytime soon. I still plan on being around here for a while and I hope you will be as well. I truly appreciate you stopping by, reading, liking, and leaving comments, and for that, I thank you. I love this blogging community and every time I take a break, I miss it … I miss you.
I know there will come a time when I will deactivate this account, but not before I find a way to preserve some of these memories and tales documented here on my blog. This has been my online journal, and I’d sure like to preserve it in some structured way. Thus, the idea of a “blog to book”. What a great concept. The first time I heard about this possibility was several years ago, and since then, there are now numerous platforms to choose from to do just that … turn my blog posts into physical books … books that are intended for my purposes only.
Cringe worthy writing!
I love the idea of creating a hard copy of select blog posts that I’ve written. BUT have you ever gone back and reread some of your original posts? Eek! I don’t know about you, but mine make me cringe. I mean, I literally want to hang my head in my hands in an embarrassing kind of cringe. However, if I look on the bright side, over the years my writing and my photographs have improved… at least I hope. I guess that would be known as progress. I’ll take it!
As much as my early posts make me cringe, I’m still very glad I jumped in and just wrote. My original intent, which continues to this day, is to write as I speak … minus my Chicago accent.😆 I want my blog posts to sound as if you and I are having a cup of coffee, or happy hour cocktail, together. My goal has always been to sound casual and inviting but without grammatical mistakes. Thank goodness for Grammarly. Where were you when I started this blog?
With that said, I’m not comfortable archiving many of my posts into a book format. Ah, what’s a gal to do?
Since Al and I aren’t traveling like we used to and with this virus still hanging around, I find myself at a loss of blog material, a loss of inspiration, and at a loss of what to write about. Thus, I have decided to repurpose AND rewrite older blog posts, posts about our earlier travels with the RV. I also plan to add some new content to these tales … personal content and memories that I’d like to pass down to the next generation. After all, the whole point of turning my blog posts into a book is for the preservation of our travel memories … our life in an RV.
Hopefully, my images and writing will be somewhat less cringe-worthy and acceptable … acceptable to the level that I’ll feel comfortable turning those pages into a physical book; a book that will only be found on my shelf. Notice, I didn’t use the word professional. Yeah, I’m a realist and have no inclination to try and write professionally. Even my rewrites will still contain enough faux pas for an English teacher to have plenty to redline, and I’m ok with that.
So that’s my blog writing plan for the new year … to take you back in time and relive some of our travel tales and adventures. I hope you’ll stick around as I go down memory lane.
Although I’m still dreaming about vibrant fall colors, Al and I have been back in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, Arizona) for a little over a month now. I can’t figure out where the time has gone. Well actually, I do know … our days have been filled with predominantly obligations sprinkled in with a little fun here and there. I wish it were the other way around. You know, more fun and fewer obligations. Ah, such is life!
Both trucks have been in the shop for routine maintenance and then some. My little red Toyota Tacoma was in storage all summer. So basically, all she needed was an oil change and tire rotation along with a good cleaning. The Ford, on the other hand, needed a little more attention, especially after a 6,000-mile workout. (1,900 miles each direction and then all my exploring in Wisconsin and Minnesota.)
We are so grateful and lucky that our F-250 held up on our 1,900-mile journey back to Phoenix, Arizona. After a wonderful summer and fall spent in northern Wisconsin, we made it all the way to Arizona before encountering a problem. Once in Arizona, during the ever-changing terrain on Interstate 17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix, the truck came very close to overheating and not making it at the steepest grade just south of Camp Verde. According to our Mountain Directory (a must-have), the grade is about 6%, but anyone who drives this stretch of road regularly will tell you it feels much greater.
Turns out, the F-250 water pump was leaking and probably had this slow leak all summer long. Thus, the engine had trouble cooling, especially pulling the hills with the RV. Considering we were in mostly flat country all summer long with moderate temperatures and not pulling the RV regularly, we never noticed a problem with the truck until we hit Arizona and the ever-changing elevation. Whew! We dodged a close call of getting stuck on the side of the road.
All he needs now is a little exterior TLC, aka wash, wax, and vacuum. The Ford is almost ready for his next trip and is running like a champ and easily passed the Maricopa County (Phoenix) emission test … keeping the air clean – our truck is registered here since this is our legal domicile.
Along with tending to vehicle appointments, there have been Doctor, Dentist, and Vision appointments. Drilling, poking, prodding, x-rays, tests, scans, and follow-up visits have ensued. Al’s mouth and body are good to go for another year and I’m getting closer. Geez … this getting old stuff ain’t for sissies.🤣
Oh and I can’t forget to add in the water leak and a few other attention grabbing tidbits on the RV. So much for me and my remodeling ideas. That will be taking a backseat for a while, much to Al’s delight and my disappointment.
At least we’ve been able to add in a few fun family visits on a small scale. A Thanksgiving get together this Thursday is still up in the air. The eight of us are all trying to be Covid cautious. Thus, we’ll all check with one another at the last minute, and then if we do get together, we’ll probably eat outside. Fortunately, the weather in Phoenix, Arizona has been beautiful. Perhaps even a tad too warm with record highs being broken. It has been a hot year around here, and I’m glad Al and I were in northern Wisconsin for the worst of the heat.
Along with getting together with family back here in Arizona, we’re enjoying reconnecting with our RV Park friends (on a limited and socially distanced scenario, of course). We’ve chosen not to engage in any of the park’s social functions even though they are trying to do their best with Covid guidelines. I’ve dealt with my fair share of illnesses the past several years (including flu, Valley Fever, and mononucleosis), so I’d really prefer to avoid this nasty virus.
My to-do list seems to be growing instead of dwindling. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, I’d really prefer being less busy. I guess you could say, I’ve been a little too busy lately and am looking forward to life slowing down soon. Ah, but with the holiday season in full swing, I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon. On that note, excuse me if I’m a little less active here in the blogosphere. Life!
What a change from my relaxing summer. Calgon, take me away!
As I was putting this post together, I couldn’t help but think about the differences between our summer home and winter home and it’s not just the drastic contrast between the two landscapes. It’s about our mindset. When we visit family property in northern Wisconsin, we’re more in vacation mode and tend to think less of life’s responsibilities, unless we’re talking about an RV tank leak, then it’s all business, in more ways than one 🤣
When we return to AZ, it’s like returning home after being on vacation. It’s time to think about responsibilities and get back to being an adult. Phoenix is our home base where we have an annual RV site. It’s our place of residence and the place we spend the most amount of time. So I guess it’s safe to say, Phoenix, Arizona is our main home, and Hayward, Wisconsin is our second home.
I’m so incredibly thankful to still be able to travel via our RV and enjoy two such beautiful worlds while spending time with people we love in both places. With that said, enjoy a few images showcasing how different our two homes are.