Pennsylvania, that is. I watched the weather forecast for the Niagara/Buffalo area and saw that the weather in WI was moving eastward and bring colder winds yet south out of Canada. Thursday was supposed to be sunny but with high temps of 52 degrees. The WI rain would move in Thurs night and Friday would be rain all day with high temps never even getting to 50 degrees. With nothing open. I could see no reason to stay but rather use the sunnier part of Thurs to head a bit south and west. I can be warm driving and heading westward will get me to the backside of the weather faster. So I drove a short day and ended up in Erie, PA. If the weather is decent Friday, I’ll do a midday drive right through Cleveland to probably Sandusky. If not, I’ll just hang here Friday and drive through Cleveland on Saturday.
The mapping program I use, called NEBO, is a marine mapping program I used while on the boat. It is heavily, though not exclusively, used by boats doing America’s Great Loop. Loopers can track each other, communicate with each other etc. and landed friends and relatives with the app can follow. I ‘dropped in’ on the app today and see the exodus out of FL northbound up the ICW is in full swing. Many, I’m sure, are hoping and counting on Canadian borders being open by the time they get there ‘cause there’s no way for many, probably most, to continue the Loop westward and then to the Mississippi River without crossing into Canada.
Maybe I should have titled this entry ‘How to document a boring day’.
I don’t! It’s May and still, in the 50’s, feels too close to winter. The 4 space campground in Lockport is very comfortable. There are no other campers. The soccer field behind is empty [on edit: tonight the pre teen rug rats came out for a 3 hour practice or game. Cars and pickups parked in the other RV spots and all over the lot including blocking me and my car in. Kids and parents walking alongside the rig and over electric hookup. Two moms standing next, right next, to my door talking. I opened the door and asked them for their addresses. Why? They asked. So I can go to your house and invade your back yard and block your porch. No doubt how the new generation will learn property and person respect. Not].
Everything is neatly mowed and tulips/daffodils are blooming. On the north side of the Erie Canal (the town is basically on the south side with ‘fingers’ of housing across the drawbridges to the north) the road (N Canal Rd) accessing and fronting the campground is not very busy, to say the least. [see above]? Indeed, the closest bridge to the campground over the canal is a single lane and on the south side of the Erie, that road goes under a railroad overpass with a clearance of only 10’ – not an access route for a motorhome or most other RVs. I took the route over the drawbridge downtown to the north side in order to access the park.
Besides that, it is quite chilly, covered in thick gray clouds, rainy, drizzly, and foggy till 11am and nothing touristy is open. The NY canal system, including the Erie Canal, doesn’t open for business until May 21. The canal cruises aren’t open yet. Nor are the caves, the underground boat ride, the zip line (I really wasn’t considering it) over the gorge and canal, or any historical exhibits of the building of the canal and the Flight of Five Locks. Of course the nearby US/Canadian border is closed so the traditional Canadian Niagara Falls views and Maid of the Mist are off limits. I’m staying two nights so I can sleep in a bit to compensate for the early shop hours at Cummins.
Nonetheless, as a former boater attempting America’s Great Loop, the canal was one of the options available (though not to me – insufficient vertical clearances) to get from the East Coast to the Great Lakes and eventually the Mississippi/TennTom back to the Gulf, and so it was of interest to me. Built with hand and mule labor over 8 yrs beginning in 1817, the Erie Canal measured 363 miles long and was so narrow that barges, 7-8’ wide, needed to navigate carefully when meeting each other. The canal has been enlarged several times over the years.
The present Erie Canal rises 566 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The original “Clinton’s Ditch”/“Clinton’s Folly” Erie Canal had 83 locks. The enlarged Erie Canal, built between 1835 and 1862, saw this number reduced to 72 locks. Today, there are 35 numbered locks, with the 5 westernmost locks here in Lockport. The original 5 locks in Lockport were named the Flight of Five Locks. Those, no longer in use and now ungated, have reverted back to waterfalls and are situated alongside the current locks. The original cost of construction was $7million. Two of the five locks (34 & 35) create a lift/descent of 49’ between them.
Here’s my power setup in the Cummins parking lot for the weekend.
Shown is my connection from the 15 Amp power outside box on the Cummins building. It’s one of 3 outlets installed by Cummins for 3 motorhomes spaces to accommodate RVs. Select Cummins facilities are specifically designated as “Cummins Coach Care” facilities. One of “Coach Care’s” set of specific services setting it apart from just being a diesel shop is that they will handle RV system issues which specifically include all internal electrical power from the electric power outlets in the RV to the inverters, transfer switches etc.
So this is what the electrician installed to handle responding RVs. Presumably Cummins specified this. I’m not aware of a single diesel powered RV, now or ever, that doesn’t require at least 30 amp service and probably 95% require 50 amp service. Kind of makes one wonder if Cummins knows what “Coaches” are.
I had nothing available to utilize a 15 amp outlet. I can run on 30 amp with an adapter which just means I have reduced power availability inside. I need to be careful then to monitor how many high draw items are on at the same time (air conditioners, electric hot water heater, toaster, hair dryer, microwave etc). I have the adapter to go from 30amp at the pedestal to my 50amp Coach service. So I went to Walmart to buy a 15amp to 30amp adapter. Shown above is the (blue) 15amp adapter from Cummins outlet connected to my (yellow) 30amp to 50 amp adapter further connected to my (black) 50 amp energy management box(to assure Cummins’ wiring is OK and does surge or drop) and finally to my coach’s 50 amp cord. I reset my inverter to show 15 amp availability of charging power (can’t afford to blow a circuit breaker which is inaccessible inside a locked building for the weekend). I can’t run any air conditioning which isn’t a problem as it snowed last night. No electric heater nor my heat pumps (my normal heat source when outside temps are 45 degrees or higher), no microwave (should be able but marginal and can’t afford to blow a circuit breaker inside the bldg), no elect blanket, toaster etc. My household frig works just fine so my ice cream and steaks stay frozen😎, as well as lights, TVs etc and my Coach batteries stay fully charged. I’m toasty warm as my heat (and hot water) are via AquaHot, the diesel boiler, which easily provides more than sufficient and very even heat utilizing just a small internal fan to move the air (less draw than a small home oscillating fan). So all is fine except for the looks of spaghetti hanging outside the rig.
That was the complicated way of saying my whole rig, and everything that’s electric about it including the charger that keeps the 4 coach batteries full, is plugged into the same outlet that your alarm clock is plugged into. And though you may have many such outlets, they are probably grouped through numerous circuit breakers – which this one isn’t. And I have no generator to fall back on. There, now you know more than you wanted to and I found something to write about!😂😂
Day of reckoning. Pulled the motorhome back into the Cummins shop after waiting out the weekend. Added coolant to the overflow tank. Much better but still two small leaks. Highlighted them, got in the car and brought the tank back to the auto body shop to see if they can work on making it leakproof a bit more. They’re going to try and then I’ll sit overnight again to let things ‘cure’ and we’ll see tomorrow morning if I have success.
Hooray! Pulled the rig back into the stall this morning. The tank hold water except for a tiny leak way at the top, above the top of the fill line, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Mechanic hooked it back up and we ran the generator and put it under load. It didn’t shut down and it did produce power. 😁 The parts guy found a replacement at the ElPaso Cummins but it’s part of the reserved stock for the US Border Service. The Border Service is being consulted and if they OK it, it’ll be sent to Cummins Horseheads and they’ll let me know. I’ll put in on my CCard and have them Fed Ex to wherever I’m at. There’s little doubt that the repaired tank will again fail.
Went into the office to pay. I’ve been in and out of their bays 4 times, they removed the tank, reinstalled it, removed it again and reinstalled it and then buttoned the generator all up. All of this due to an old and disintegrating part. Four nights of ‘camping’ in their lot and using electricity. Total charge – $0.00.
Total was another miserable rainy foggy day. I had planned to snoop around the Finger Lakes but with the delays and the weather I changed my mind. Sharon & I wandered around there probably 20 yrs ago. I headed instead to Lockport, NY, a few miles east of Niagara Falls. Lockport is on the Erie Canal and is named for the once Flight of Five Locks running through downtown. Those locks later were replaced by 2 large locks. Unusual to have the canal and locks in a city. Many city cross streets have draw bridges. In the late summer it must be a bit of a pain, but also a charm(?), as so many Great Loop vessels take this route on their way to Lk Mich., Chicago, Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. I am staying in the Elks Campground for two nights. Four nice sites in total, level concrete pads and 30 amp service plus water. Wide open grassy area and I can see the ‘canal’ from my site – well I can see the raised banks which form the canal. Too early in the season to see boats.
When we last left this soap opera, I was in Horseheads, NY (immediately east of Corning, NY). Weather was rotten, wet, chilly and F O G G Y. I decided to stay even though the next day (Fri) was supposed to be colder and under wind advisories. Oops. Campgrounds around here don’t open till May 15th so why not stay at the local Cracker Barrel? It’s not as though I’ve never done that😂. So I pulled in, found a space along the rear perimeter, put down the jacks and extended the two curbside slides (I don’t want a crazed Cracker Barrel junkie drunk on sawmill gravy to do a drive by and hit my slides).
Settled in, I turned on my generator which had just been serviced. Vroom. It started right up and 15 seconds later shut down. What the …? So I started it again and it shut down within 2 seconds. It has an auto start feature which activates when needed. While I tried to think about why it might be malfunctioning, it repeatedly restarted and immediately shut down. I finally figured out how to disable the auto start and then called Cummins Williamsport to discuss. The manager there used to be the mgr of the Cummins in Horseheads and he called them to tell them of my problem and that I’d be coming. I brought in the slides, brought up the jacks and drove over.
So I got to the Cummins here and immediately pulled the bus towing my Jeep into a pull thru stall and the local folks started to see what was going on/or not going on. They discovered generator coolant leaking on their floor and upon opening the gen set up, found the coolant reservoir had several cracks and the leaking coolant on its way down to the ground was leaking onto wires going to and from the genny. Not good, not supposed to happen. The reservoir is probably a 2 quart heavy plastic ‘bottle’ similar to a windshield wiper fluid reservoir but heavier. It has an opening at top to add fluid if needed (shouldn’t need to), a fitting on the bottom to accept hot coolant as it expands in the system and a wire or two for some reason unknown to me. Then, in the strangest engineering I can imagine there is a round tunnel right thru the reservoir from top to bottom. The generator oil dipstick goes thru that tunnel into the generator Diesel engine.
The plastic, now more than a decade old, apparently is getting brittle and has also developed hairline cracks where the bolts attach. The bad news was the facility didn’t have a replacement. The worse news was that in the system there was not one single tank in stock anywhere in the country! I speculated that probably the world’s entire supply was in a container on the Evergreen ship in the Suez Canal. I stayed the night sans electricity and generator in their parking lot.
I seemed to remember having heard of ‘plastic welding’ so I googled it and found one return about 40 miles away. I called and left a message. Then thinking there may be others who just don’t have the phrase ‘plastic’ in their website, I called a welder a couple miles away and asked. He didn’t have equipment for plastic welding but had a collision shop customer that did. In luck, they said they’d look at it and were only 1.5 miles away so I took it over this morning (Fri). I got it back about 1 pm with no promises. Told to try to not touch all the repaired spots for another hour and to not put fluid in for 24 hours☹️ which of course would be Saturday and Cummins is closed for the weekend.
The empty tank is rebolted onto the genset and I’ve moved back into their parking lot for the weekend. They do have 110/15amp outlet on the outside of the building. I do have an adapter to reduce my 50 amp service to 30 amp and I went to the local Walmart to buy another adapter to reduce the 30 amp to 15amp. I reset my inverter so that the Bus will not allow a draw exceeding 15 amp (I don’t want to blow the building’s circuit breaker when it is locked and no one here to reset it). Temps are going down, wind warning extended into tomorrow and expecting snow tonight. Thankfully all is toasty inside. So I’m again plugged in at Cummins parking lot and Monday morning we’ll fill it with coolant and if it holds, then try to start and run the genset and see if this was the only problem or did something else break as a result. I don’t think so because of the computer’s self protection from damage programming.🤞
I did finally find one used tank on EBay (it’s the one pictured above) for $270.00. I think I’ll pass. For all I know that plastic is probably brittle too. Cummins has placed an order for a new one to be shipped from wherever, whenever to the Horseheads facility. When and if they get it, they’ll call and we’ll make arrangements for it to be shipped as a spare to wherever I’m at.
On a more personal note, when I lived in the condo in Naples I had a new neighbor move in maybe 6 yrs or so ago. I would see him constantly fishing from the sea wall wearing a clerical collar. That included Sundays which would be contrary to my early upbringing. So I eventually walked out and met him and talked with him. He’s a semi retired Episcopal priest, Dr. Father Frank. He had a very interesting history as a marine, a member of one of the never to be named US initial services serving as a foreign service member in Kabul, Afghanistan, chief of staff for a US Senator, partner in a US firm that consults with and provides training and consultation to major US corporation in the terrorist prevention field and a published author via Princeton University. I learned snatches of this in various conversations over time and finally said “Frank, I don’t know what I can believe vs what may be BS. Please let me know when you have a few hours so we can talk it out about who you really are.” We did spend a whole afternoon in his condo and went over his history. It was a bit disconcerting having this “not sure I trust you” conversation in his office with a closet full of ceremonial religious gowns and me sitting next to his kneeling bench topped by the largest ornate Bible I’ve seen.
As a traveler, I’m not in any one place long enough to make friends and when living in the condo after Sharon’s death, I wasn’t looking for friends and found less than a half dozen in the project that wouldn’t be nice to your face and slit your throat from behind. Frank and my upstairs and my next door neighbor were amongst those who told you what they thought. He organized “The Lounge” in his driveway where a half dozen or so of the condo owners would get together weekly or monthly, when the spirit moved, in the evening, bring their chairs and have a glass of wine or a Macallan’s scotch, a fine cigar and bs with each other. Though I neither smoke or drink, I’d get a text from Frank “the Lounge is open”. He’s probably my best non relative friend. When I decided to sell go RVing again, I wanted to sell my Key West fishing boat. I priced it so it would be a really good deal and went to see Frank. Frank, I said, I feel so guilty that because of me and the boat, you are guilty of coveting. And so I’m going to offer to sell it to you at a great price. I’m not sure if it took two or three seconds for him to buy it, a memory that makes me chuckle. I’d guess he uses that boat 300 out of 365 days per year ever since.
So a week ago this past Thursday, he called and we got up to date with each other etc. He was well past having completed his vaccinations, was going to have cataract surgery the first of the week, was writing another book, was on the verge of finishing a year long+ project of getting boat docks approved and built. All was well.
Then Saturday morning he called again. In clone toon with his upcoming surgery, he’d been COVID tested despite being fully vaccinated and he just got the word that he tested positive for Covid, an as yet unknown variant he was told. He was feeling shocked and I think a little depressed. This morning I saw a fresh, 4 minute old Facebook post from this friend and senior encourager and I responded immediately. A couple minutes later, my phone rang and caller ID indicated it was Father Frank. I answered and didn’t recognize his voice. He was having so much trouble (he lives alone) with his breathing and lower than desired oxygen levels. He apologized for calling so early but figured that since I posted a response, I’d be awake and he could talk to someone. His doctor doesn’t want to see him. He said he’d been told that the local hospital didn’t want him there. Alone, he had hired private nurses and they have failed to show up. He said he was awake part of the night to update his will. I truly cannot believe how this person could be so despondent. He was told in no uncertain terms to place a 911 call and have EMS bring him to emergency, that by law they cannot refuse him.
I have no idea who most of the blog followers are or what their beliefs or disbeliefs might be. I do know that there are many in foreign countries who read it. I would ask your prayers or at least best wishes for Marine Father Frank, senior encourager, my friend.
Leaving Centreville, I decided I wanted to take a different route than I usually do. One reason, I had the time and my second was I really am sick of the PA Turnpike and OH Turnpike enroute to Michigan. Seems like I’ve driven it all my life – it’s boring and with a Coach pulling a car, it’s expensive. An alternative that I’ve taken, “America’s Highway” I-68 to Morgantown WVA and I -79 north to Pittsburgh is a tiring drive with few stops and then you still have a bit of the PA Turnpike plus the OH Turnpike.
So I’ve decided to go north through PA and into NY State, the Finger Lakes area, and from Rochester go along the Lake Ontario shore to Niagara and then along Lake Erie’s shore to Toledo/MI. It’s been many years since I’ve been in that area.
Today was almost a perfect travel day with the exception of it being Interstate. Temps of about 70 degrees, full sun, relatively light traffic and only 180 mile segment and 3 rest stops. I pulled into a Cracker Barrel for an overnight. Nothing worth taking pictures.
My next segment, and for that matter most of those that follow for the next 6-700 miles, will be nearly free of Interstates😎.
Yesterday, about 50 miles before Harrisburg, the motorhome did a small ‘lurch’ and the check engine light came on and the dash screen changed to say ‘stop engine’. I pulled off the road, shut down and restarted the engine. Light went out and screen turned to normal so I pulled back on the highway and finished the ride into Harrisburg with my eyes focused on the dash. No more lights or messages. So I woke up at 7 am this morning and called the Cummins shop in Harrisburg. I was told they were booked till the end of May. So I left and headed north. A pretty ride with half the distance driven following the contours of the Susquehanna River. A very rocky river.
I noticed on my Cummins app that there was a Cummins service facility in Williamsport so I pulled off the highway and stopped in. Very friendly and extremely neat & clean place. The bus was due for an oil change and filters and the generator past due. The diagnostics showed a short fuel delivery fault some 4 engine hours earlier. So they are changing out the fuel filters, changing the oil and filters on both the engine and generator, plus the air filter on the generator and checking the transmission. The report on one of the engine fuel filters is that the O ring was not seated and so was rolled and could very well have let small amounts of air into the filter which could well have caused the stutter and check engine light. Then when the engine farted, passed the air, the dash light etc went out.
I got the rig back at 3pm and plugged it into 50 amp service on their lot. They have room for two rigs. Tomorrow morning the correct air filter for the generator should arrive from Harrisburg and the genny will be serviced. Supposed to rain tonight so the rig will get washed as well.😂
Did you know that there are two 7 o’clocks in a day? Yes, there’s one in the morning too! Cummins opens at 7 am and I was ready – slides in, jack’s up, power cord disconnected. Parts arrived during the night sometime and so the Bus is back in the service bay getting the generator serviced. I use the generator a lot. By 9ish am. The service was done and I was presented an invoice for hundreds less than expected. That plus amazing service from a most friendly crew! Less than 24 hours after pulling in without an appointment, I have full preventive maintenance done on the engine and generator and the overnight was caused by having a needed part delivered over 100 miles. Plus I got a great overnight stay with solid 50 amp power and best of all I got a free Cummins TShirt. Now I’ll be able to walk around as though I’m a mechanical genius vs the dunce that I really am.
Today’s drive was good & bad. I enjoyed the non interstate drive (though it was of interstate quality). I enjoyed the elevation changes and what views I got crossing the Allegheny Mtns. It rained the whole time which was a downer and most of the drive was in the clouds/heavy fog. So I opted for a short trip and stopped before noon just east of Corning, NY in a town named Horseheads, NY. Of course I asked what kind of story went with that name. The name is derived from the number of bleached heads of pack horses found here from the ‘Sullivan Expedition’ of 1779.
The Sullivan Expedition was an extended systematic military campaign conducted by the US during the American Revolutionary War against the Tories and the four Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) which had sided with the British. The campaign ordered and organized George Washington and his staff was conducted to “take the war home to the enemy to break their morale”, and the expedition was largely successful in that goal as they destroyed more than 40 Iroquois villages and stores of winter crops, breaking the power of the six nations in New York all the way to the Great Lakes, as the terrified Indian families relocated to Canada seeking protection of the British. Today this area is the heartland of Upstate New York, and with the military power of the Iroquois vanquished, the events also opened up the vast Ohio Country, the Great Lakes regions, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky to post-war settlements. Don’t remember learning any of this in history class. I also learned that in Elmira/Horseheads were the locations of WWII concentration camps hold German and Japanese POWs. Never learned that either.
With the rain and fog plus heavy wind warning for later today, I plan on staying in Horseheads for the night.
Broke the trip to Centreville up into two smaller segments from Blacksburg to Staunton and then Staunton to Bull Run Regional Park (campground) in Centreville/Manassas. In Staunton, I overnighted in another Cracker Barrel.
Centreville is home to Jon & daughter Vic. My youngest grandson, Charlie is also home from Univ. of Oklahoma. I plan on having another nice visit.
My home for the week+ will be in Bull Run Regional Park situated between Centreville and Manassas. It is a very large county park, several miles long. Its many picnic areas, pavilions, shooting and archery ranges, water park, trails and 150 site campground are big draws in this metro area.
The Bull Run stream, of Battle of Bull Run and Manassas fame, runs through the park and is part of The Blue Bell Trail with literally acres of low woodland area covered in spring wildflowers. The park has a long meandering trail through the area visited by many many county residents.
Grandson Charlie, while job hunting, has started a small business via a web site called Etsy. I think he’s getting it up and running via other online venues as well. He’s making and marketing tree nut free custom hand made special occasion cookies and though just starting, orders are coming in. Sold by the dozen, they are shipped individually wrapped Good luck, Charlie, with that and with the job hunt too!
Just so you know, it’s not all fun and games. There are chores and now after 8 or 9 days and before hitting the road, it’s time to do laundry. Sure is handy being able to do it aboard. After a nice visit, tomorrow, Tuesday, it’s back on the road.
Last night I got together with my very favorite granddaughter, Juliana. She’s a Junior at Virginia Tech studying areospace engineering. Sounds like she’s going to capitalize on her high school robotics competitions. She’s been offered a paid internship at the University this summer.
The school and her digs are located in Blacksburg, VA. The city of 42,000+, founded in 1798, is located on a plateau between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. It is economically dominated by the University of 30,000+ students. Despite its age, from what I saw it is a modern appearing town with the appeal of a large open area campus.
I’m happy to have taken my RVs, over the past 5 or so years, to see grandson Tim at the Univ of GA, grandson Charlie at Univ of Oklahoma and now Juliana at Virginia Tech. Proud of them all!
While at the campground here and with a known destination ahead of me, I did a bit of shopping at Amazon. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I ruined on of my breakaway cables between the motorhome and Jeep. I was able to cobble together a temporary replacement so now I’ve ordered a new pair of 10,000 pound strength permanent cables. At the same time I ruined my cable, I also broke one of the wires that comprises the power umbilical cord between the motorhome and Jeep and power to the right rear tail light/blinker/brake light was lost. It’s not an illegal situation in that the tail lights etc of the motorhome are mounted high enough to be seen over the Jeep but I’d rather not try to explain and show the law to a law enforcement officer etc. So Amazon is delivering a new power harness as well. I have traveled since 2016 with one of those digital picture frames that I can plug a flash drive into with pics of my travels with Sharon. When actually traveling, I disconnect it and lay it in the middle of the king bed. Recently I had to stop very very suddenly abandoned heard a crash. At the next campsite, I found my broken frame on the floor nearly all the way to the front of the bus. So that’s getting replaced as well.
Getting concerned with the news reports on Michigan’s Covid recurrence. MI Governor has a history of trying to shut down the State and I’m hoping she doesn’t close down the state Park/campground system since I’m to be a campground host for 2 months at two of the parks. On the other hand, reduced contact would be OK with me. I’m told I get a $150 allowance per month for coffee supplies for campers that want a cup on their morning walks and for craft supplies etc for morning kiddie activities. What do I know about crafts for kids etc? The mere thought of that to those that know me must be generating the loudest of guffaws. So Gov., keep the campgrounds open but terminate the state sponsored activities enhancing ‘social distancing’. Gov., if you can close the schools, you can prohibit kiddie crafts on Al’s campsite🤠.
I also managed, while here, to snag a 10 day reservation at Wabasis Lake County Campground in northern Kent County just before I’m due at Silver Lake State Park for hosting. I stayed there for a few nights last year and it’s a very nice public campground.
What a long day! The reason I hate to make reservations! I have reservations starting April 18th in the DC area for the start of a happy event – a visit with Jon and Vicki Ruiter. So last night at the Cracker Barrel, Springhill, TN I started planning and the 18th was 10 days away and travel time is 3 days or 4 short days. So I needed to absorb a few days of down time and a good start would be this weekend. So I made a 3 day reservation, starting Fri night, in Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area.
So with my reservation for tonight, I had a destination to make today and, wouldn’t you know, the drive was horribly slow. The run from Nashville to Knoxville was basically one traffic jam after another. 5-10miles of 20 mph progress or slower for no discernible reason, then a speed up back to 70mph followed 2 miles later by the dreaded line of red tail lights ahead. According to the CB radio, no reason other than typical Friday traffic. Situations like this would normally see me at a rest area looking on the AllStays app for a place to stop ~ a Cracker Barrel, COE park, county park, someplace. But I had a paid for destination and so I struggled through. I’m too old to work like this. The scenery was nice though with lots of purple/lavender trees lining the interstate as I approached the Smokey Mountains.
I finally got set up in my weekend campsite at 17:55ET, 5:55pm at Riverside RV Park. It’s a very nice, large park along the Little Pigeon River and I’m backed up to the River. I’ve stayed here probably a half dozen or so times several times with Sharon, once I remember by myself and I think three years ago with daughter Deb and her rig as we toured looking at boats for sale.
This morning before I left, my inverter stopped working. The inverter takes DC power from my house batteries, inverts it and provides 110 AC power to most outlets in the bus, but most notably the microwave and the residential refrigerator. The inverter circuit breaker didn’t seem to be tripped so I’ll troubleshoot it a bit more this weekend to see if I can fix it. I’m thinking there’s probable a second breaker somewhere. So I ran all day with the generator operating which kept the house air conditioning and fridge going. Don’t want to chance having the ice cream melt!
Yesterday must have really tired me out as I slept in. Nonetheless, before noon, I washed off half of Tennessee’s insects from the front cap of the motorhome, found the second circuit breaker for the inverter which had tripped. Glad to say my inverter is again functioning. The electrical systems are complicated between the AC system from the park’s power pedestal, the AC system from the bus’s generator, the house battery DC system and the inverter system that bridges the AC and DC. Each has its own set of switches, relays, breakers and fuses which are all hidden from plain sight.
Looks like I got out of MS/AL just in time as there were severe storms there again last night. Reports of LIME (not dime) size hail in AL but the immediate area was blessed again with just heavy rain. Happy to not visit the community storm shelter for a fifth time and happy to not have broken roof air conditioner covers, cracked fiberglass roof and broken glass to say nothing of a ruined paint job. Even though TN dodged the storms, it looks like it’s going to be a dreary day.
I also had fun browsing in the world’s largest knife store and looking around in a Lodge Cast Iron factory store. More knives, daggers and swords than I’ve ever seen much less in one place. Never knew there were so many styles of authentic Swiss Army Knives. Likewise, who knew there were so many cast iron skillets, pots, griddles and everything in between? I did stop at the Coleman store and bought a replacement for the Fold n Go grill that I used to have when I traveled the summer of 2016-17. It’s a grill for one and provides searing heat from the little disposable propane canisters.
A nice bright sunny travel day heading towards the Blacksburg VA area, home of Virginia Tech University and my youngest and oldest granddaughter. I plan on having lunch or dinner with her, her choice. I’ve pulled into Fort Chiswell RV Park which is about 40 miles south. It’s a decent interstate full hookup pull thru RV Park where I’ve stayed 3 times, I think, before.
I did not get a resolution on my bedroom slide-out issue so have decided to get back on the road. I’ll address it later this summer after my stints as volunteer host for Michigan State Parks. If needed then, I’ll just head to Moscow, IA and the HWH factory.
Today was a windy drive with even heavier gusts. The first 50 miles or so I drove the Natchez Trace Parkway. It saved about 45 miles to S. Nashville vs. cutting straight east to I65 and the straight north. The downside is the 50 mph speed limit. With the narrow 2 lane Parkway road and virtually no shoulder, the wind gusts made it a difficult drive so once I got north of the Tennessee River I parted ways with the Natchez Trace and headed to I 65.
On the south side of Nashville, I fueled up at a Travel America truck stop. My last fuel stop was in Lafayette, LA on March 9th. I’ve written in a prior post about the TSD trucker’s fuel card that I got that provides a healthy discount on diesel fuel. You access the pump via the fuel card rather than cash or credit card. To the fuel vendor, with my card I look like part of a trucking chain. The fuel vendor charges my fuel to the ‘trucking’ company and I leave without paying the vendor/truck stop. The ‘trucking’ company takes a 10% of the savings fee and debits my personal checking account for the net discounted transaction and the receipt shows up on my phone as below
I am bunked down tonight courtesy of a local Cracker Barrel. And it is courtesy. I lost one of my two 10,000 pound safety cables between the bus and the Jeep (insurance cables in case of a hitch malfunction). Am guessing I didn’t secure it properly this morning and dragging it 1-200 miles on the pavement just frayed the end down to NOTHING! Not good!
So I went shopping after I arrived at Cracker Barrel. Best I could find was a 5,000 pound cable so my insurance is one 10,000 and one 5,000 pound cable. Ordered a new 10k set off Amazon to be sent to daughter Vic’s address. Anyway, passed a Five Guys on the way back and stopped there for supper rather than ‘paying’ Cracker Barrel by buying dinner there. Very comfortable safe place to ‘parking lot camp’. Thank you Cracker Barrel. It’s a great service you offer at 95% of your facilities.
On edit: I forgot to note that last night sirens again woke me up, at 4:15am, necessitating a fourth visit this stay to the community tornado shelter.
A cold morning and cool day. There were freeze warnings last night and for tonight as well. But it was a clear sunny day. This post is going to be about motorhome repairs/maintenance again. Sorry that I can’t find something exciting to write about all the time. It’s life.
The windshield place, First Class Glass (say that 10 times), got me inside their garage about 10 am and back out by 1:30pm. Interesting concept – get bugs squished on your windshield so replace it😄.
Once it is in place, there was about an hours more labor with micro positioning, reinstalling all the rubber, silicone caulking and cleaning/polishing. When finished, I drove the rig back to my full hookup site as they prefer that the rubber and silicone caulking cure over night before going on the road.
The motorhome next to me had its windshield shattered though safety glass kept the glass from coming inside. On an interstate, they (and other vehicles) were passed by a pickup at a high rate of speed. The pickup was pulling a flat trailer upon which was another pickup being toted with its rear bed towards the front. The pickup being hauled had its tailgate down but the bed was covered by a fiberglass tonneau cover. So all the air was being forced into this covered bed with nowhere to go. Apparently the tonneau cover was blown right off and struck my neighbor’s rig as well as parts the hitting other vehicles. The tower did not stop. My neighbor said their camera captured the license plate. Looking at the destroyed windshield, it must have been loud and frightening.
Saturday morning I returned to the campground in Belmont and Monday afternoon I went back to Pro Finishes where a team of 4 attacked the exterior of the rig to wash/wax and detail it, not a job I could physically handle anymore. It only required their services to the roof and sides as the front and rear caps had already received their extensive attention😂.
I hope to leave here either tomorrow (Tues) or Weds. Doing a last minute load of wash and then I’ll empty the holding tanks so I’ll be ready to hit the road and be independent of hookups, if needed, for the next 10-14 days.
I got a Tiffin moonlighting mechanic in this afternoon to look at/fix my slideout in the BR – the one that makes a horrible loud snapping noise when extending or retracting. It had been diagnosed as needing a new Teflon block installed to slide on. Well, that, it turns out, is not the issue.
The slide is hydraulic chain driven. The chain is attached at the bottom and about midway up another is attached to a 2-3’ long cylindrical hydraulic pump. The other ends are fixed to the floor and wall of the coach. Depending on which way the pump is toggled, the chain draws the slide in or out. The pump is bolted with two top and two bottom bolts to the interior side of the outer slide frame. All of this is hidden behind the interior bedroom trim.
One of the two lower bolts was nearly out so when the chain went in and out, the cylinder would torque with a resounding bang. It’s not going anywhere but I don’t want a failure at the most in opportune time. It turns out the bolt was loose because the bolt hole in the cylinder was stripped. My repair guy will check at the plant tomorrow if they have a new cylinder and arm in stock and, if so, if he can find someone who can repair it in the next couple of days. If not, I’ll be judicious in my use of that slide till I can get it repaired. The slide being in does not interfere with my ability to walk around in the bedroom nor with access to any closet or drawer. The only functionality I lose with the slide in is the ability to access the washer/dryer. In keeping with my pedantic tendency to over explain, I offer:
Keeping my fingers crossed that the parts are in stock and that one of the busy independent repair folks will work me in for what I’m told is about a 4 hour job. If not, I’ll be careful and when my stint is over camphosting, I wander over to HWH Corp in Moscow, IA (the mfr of this system) to get it fixed. I’ve been there before with my prior RV as they are the predominant mfr of hydraulic leveling jacks for RVs and one of the most accommodating companies I’ve dealt with.
10:00am and one of the workers appears and starts working. It’s lunch time at the Tiffin plant (they start at 5 am) so he’s here for 10 or so minutes to prep for later when the paint crew comes in at 3 pm. Hope he knows what he’s doing!!!
This was actually a little painful to watch after how good it looked last evening! But a mere few hours later the pin striping was being redone followed again by clear coating. Last night in the ‘garage’ while it finishes curing. Two new decals to be applied in the rear and some new trim around my entry door and I’ll be out tomorrow and headed for a new windshield on Friday.
Some final small items taken care of today. There is a wind deflector that is installed on the leading edge of the entry door. It’s a thin piece of hard rubber about 8’ long which sticks out about 3/4” from the RV side. Deflecting air from the hinge side of the door eliminates the wind whistle when driving. Someone had tried to repair it in the past but the repair failed north of Las Vegas when a 3’ long strip tore free and started banging on the door. Wind whistle would be better than the banging. So I had contracted to have the paint and collision repair shop replace it. It’s a bit involved. The door and door frame need to be loosened from the bus and the remainder of the old strip removed. Then the new strip is inserted and the door frame screwed back in place holding the rubber strip. Finally, it is caulked in with silicon caulking. It all needs to be done after the painting is done and the paint solvents cured, i.e., today. Uncured, the paint solvent would turn the caulking into a dripping mess.
Last night I also went over the newly painted area a came up with some areas that needed a little attention. Finally, the two new decals on the rear cap,were installed. So about 3:30pm I got to finally start up the bus, back it out, hook up the Jeep and head out. Felt really good to be behind the wheel again. But not for long. My next stop is First Class Glass in Red Bay, 5 miles away. 1st Class has its own campground of 24 full hookup 50 amp sites. There’s about 20 Tiffins in the campground tonight plus 3 inside the facility getting new windshields. Quite an operation doing only motorhomes with dozens of windshields lined up waiting to join up with their new coach. They have a large elevated platform servicing the 3 bays. The employees are at the correct height for windshield mounting. There’s a larger type ‘crane’ on the platform which can pluck the right piece of glass from the floor and maneuver it to the right RV for install.
So I’m hooked up to power. Not having had water or sewer for the past 8 days, I dumped here and refilled my water. I also have more than a weeks worth of laundry in the washing machine. By morning, I should have clean and dry clothes and a presentable motorhome and by afternoonish, the new glass should be installed. I think they prefer that the motorhome not be driven until the glass is properly seated so am guessing they’ll want me here tomorrow night as well. That’s ok. I can see the sun here. I have Tv and radio now as well as cell service etc. But I’ll have to run the heat tonight as there’s a freeze warning. I’m hoping Monday or Tues I can find a shop that will squeeze me in, lift the BR slide out up and insert a new Teflon slide block. And then I’ll be back on the road!😎😎😎
OK. This is getting old. Three times in less than 10 days.
Sunday morning, 12:30 am finds me back in the community tornado shelter. Awakened by sirens followed by blasts from my phone and iPad. It was cancelled about 1/2 hr later and I got back to my ‘campsite’ in the garage about 1:30am. Heavy thunderstorms quit rumbling through about 3:30 am. The cold front through, the high for the day is supposed to be only 61 degrees so guessing there’ll be a reprieve for a few days.
And it’s a lot smaller crowd at the shop too. I’m the only human here since early afternoon Saturday. Glad the owner gave me a key and appointed me ‘night watchman’🤣👮🏻♂️ With the door open, I can get some natural light besides the 24 hr fluorescent glare. Not being able to see out of any coach window due the plastic covering and the fluorescents make for an unnatural existence.
Sorry about the steady photo stream picturing my ‘exciting life’. No TV, no radio, basically no phone or internet inside the building. Either watch grass grow or watch paint dry!
Three pm and the crew starts coming in. The prep work never ends. They sanded down the scraped area on the two basement doors and primed them. Then they ‘washed’ with rags and some strong solution all the areas that have been sanded and primed to rid them of dust, grease or hand oils. Then more spot sanding and more priming. It’s now 7pm and it looks like they are going to start painting the main areas yet tonight. I’m guessing they want that done and drying overnight so that tomorrow they can tape and paint all the artsy scroll and curvy work. As I understand it with today’s high tech paint, it can dry in an hour and even the two coats, later, of clear coat are dry in two hours. The bus that finished clear coated Saturday was back this afternoon to be detailed and waxed. It wasn’t that long ago that waxing wasn’t recommended for at least 6 months. I’m getting kind of excited to start seeing some of the grey primer being recoated.
The painter finished at about this point for the evening. He will be back tomorrow (Weds) during his lunch break to paint the rest of the solid colors, front and back so that all will be dry and ready for the painting of the finer swirls and lines followed by the clear coats when he comes back after work at Tiffin at 3pm. I’m enjoying watching them work as the work and accompanying smells remind me of some 60 yrs ago when I painted summers for my dad. I remember back then enjoying working at Calvin College’s new Knollcrest Seminary staining the oak trim and then spraying hot lacquer (in the days before polyurethane) and the similar all permeating smell. I need to wander outside a few times at night for some fresh air though. Getting my fill of VOC’s.
The butterfly starts to slowly emerge from the cocoon.
Mother Nature returns. Tornado watch started about 9 am and by 2 pm or so turned into a tornado warning one county east of me. In another half hour a warning was issued for the town of Belmont for a 1 hour duration. So pack up and back to the shelter.
Besides the bad weather, the paint shop workers were home instead of working on the Bus so it will add another day to my unpleasant ‘camping’ experience in the garage. I had first thought the job might be finished by the weekend. Then I found that the shop is basically closed Fri., Sat., and Sun as the full time Tiffin painters want long weekends from their part time gig. No TV, no radio, and rare sporadic cell service in here. It’s going to be a long weekend. No basketball, no NASCAR. It’s doubtful at this point that I’ll be able to keep my Tues appointment to get the new Teflon plate installed on the BR slide. I checked this morning to see if I could delay the appointment by a day. Yes, but it would be an 8 day delay!
The first repair place I was going to use, on recommendation of Tiffin, is building a new shop about a block away (moving out of their old one 15 miles away) and isn’t opening till April 1. When I came 2 weeks ago, that seemed to far away but now… So walked over this morning and I think he’ll work me in on Weds or Thursday 🤞🤞🤞. My windshield arrived and the glass shop scheduled me for replacement Tues afternoon. Hope I can make that.
Good news is that 2 guys must need extra $ and showed up this afternoon (Fri). The Bus in the next bay (from NC) has one of the guys wet sanding the entire Bus. I told him to remind me never to arm wrestle him and he responded that he does wet sanding 10 hrs a day at Tiffin. The NC folks will be leaving in the morning so I probably won’t have any fellow in-garage campers this weekend. One other coach left this morning and there are three more sitting out in the parking lot waiting entry. The 2nd guy is busy on mine, doing more taping, sanding and prep work. The prep to get ready for paint is extensive. I’m told the actual paint time will be a bit more than a half hour! I’ll do my best to be around for that!
I also had a startling reminder today.
Soon after we were married, I taught Sharon how to drive and about a year later bought her a used car. A 6-7 yr old ‘57 Chevy painted this color. It’s likely it also had dice hanging from the mirror. Of course in those chauvinistic times, I bought it, sight unseen by her, and gave it to her. I will say she was beyond thrilled. As I remember it, within a month, someone ran a stop sign a block from our apartment and totaled the Chevy. Poor as church mice, we carried only the required liability insurance. I don’t think the other driver was collectable. So she no longer had a car; I was miffed; she was sad; and I told her she wasn’t getting another one. At the time I just didn’t get it how independent that so-called gift of a car had made her feel. I later understood and she could always then get the car of her choice/color etc. or boat, or RV or house (and of course she always made sure she’d pick what she knew I’d like (Corvette convertible, 30’ sport fisher, 38’ motorhome, condo, etc). Anyway, seeing this car was a jolt to me of both good times and my crappy male attitude. I sure would like a do over of that, Sharon. Now that I think about it, you gave me decades of great do overs and two daughters.😍
Actually, Belmont, MS. Two towns 6 miles apart complete with Tiffin plants. Red Bay probably has a half dozen large Tiffin plants while Belmont only one. But Belmont is a nicer place, IMO, a far nicer place and more convenient for my purposes. I’ve got appointments to have my windshield replaced – 1 day in Red Bay. The windshield is on order. I also have a 3 day appointment for painting the front and rear caps of the motorhome in Belmont and a 1 day appointment in Tuscumbia/Muscle Shoals, AL to lift up the rear bedroom slid out and replace the Teflon pad on which it slides. Thinking I might try to get the generator serviced while here as well – if I can get in.
The latter is a key phrase. Tiffin warranties and services all their motorhomes up to and through 10 yrs old. Beyond that there are so many outside businesses owned and operated by former and present employees which specialize in Tiffin motorhomes. Seriously, the traffic jams around here are primarily motorcoaches. National shortages related to COVID aren’t helpful either (as in windshields, air conditioning components etc., etc.
Yesterday (Weds March 17, 2021) was a weather day. Warm and humid and predicted, for the prior 3 days, to be a major storm day. Monday’s predictions were for “Level 3” (out of 5) storm day on Weds. Tuesday the predictions were upped to Level 4 for almost the entirety of MS and AL. Weds continued at Level 4 some areas to my south being Level 5. It started by late morning with rains and tornado watches beating the predictions by being 6 hours early. By 5 pm the tornado warnings were in full blossom with sirens blaring. Had made some earlier inquiries as to county names of those south and west (helpful when listening to weather reports) and as to location of shelters. With the sirens, it was time to hop in the car and drive a mile to downtown Belmont. City Hall is built on a rise and behind it, built in a hill, is the community shelter; concrete walls, concrete ceiling with concrete beams and concrete posts. With ground overhead and torrential rain, there was significant water leaks but it appeared very safe – certainly more so than a RV. The street in front looked like a parking lot with cars parked ever which way. The shopping area parking lot across the street was likewise jammed with cars. I joined a crowd of townspeople inside. Huge shelter easily capable of holding probably 5-600 people.
Nearly a week has gone by. It’s been quiet as in boring. The windshield has not yet shown up. I’ve ‘unhooked’ the motorhome from the ‘campground’ and driven it a couple blocks to the paint shop where I’m plugged in. I’ve got two slides out and inside my motorhome inside the paint shop will be my home for awhile. The paint job won’t be finished till Monday evening instead of Friday and that means I’ll probably have to delay the 6 am Tuesday appointment for the work on my slideout. It gives the glass folks a couple more days to get the new windshield in. If it doesn’t arrive, I’ll probably head towards Elkhart, IN, after my visit to DC, to get it installed. Be nice to have it handled here and get everything done.
More forecasted bad weather heading this way with storms to start in the early morning hours tonight and changing to strong storms by 9 am Thursday. Predictions are for strong winds, thunderstorms, hail and tornados tomorrow. I had the shop owner show me how to get back in the building if I have to head to the storm shelter again. I have a folding chair in my car this time so I don’t have to stand. It looks now as though the front may be through by early afternoon Thursday which would be good as the workers here don’t start till 3 pm and if it’s under storm warning, they’d probably head home to be with family instead of working on my motorhome. I don’t have TV coverage here inside the shop so I’ll be sure the phone is charged so it can sound its piercing alarm if there’s a warning. Meanwhile I have a few dozen DVDs – currently playing Gaither American Freedom 9/11 Carnegie Hall concert. It’s a bit stinky in here this evening. The neighboring coach got clearcoated just before everyone left and I’ve just shut down the big evacuation fan and closed the bay door so not all the smell is gone yet.
In other news from Lake Wobegon…
In blog #118 I wrote about a camp host gig I got for June ‘21 at Silver Lake State Park in Michigan.
I also had a telephone interview for Volunteer Camp Host at P J Hoeft State Park in Rogers City, MI. It’s on Lk Huron about 50miles south of the Mac Bridge. But timing didn’t work out. This morning I was awakened by my phone and interviewed with the Bay City State Park located also on Lk Huron at the base of Michigan’s thumb. Things are looking up! Third ‘job’ interview in my life and I got to do it from bed! When finished, the interviewer said she get back to me.
A half hour later I also got another call, this from Ludington State Park but they were looking for a mid June to mid July gig and I’ll be at Silver Lake State Park till the end of June. So this interviewer said she was going to try to see if she could find someone to cover the June portion and would get back to me. Ludington is a very large campground, somewhere around a thousand site I think, and they have 4 campground hosts.
45 minutes later I got another call from Bay City SP offering me the month of July which I accepted. So I emailed my “sorry” to Ludington. So now I know where I’ll be from May 28th to Aug 1st. Hope I’m not sorry. Actually looking forward to the experience.
I am heading to Red Bay, AL, the home of Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. manufacturer of my Bus. I want to find out the cost to repaint the front cap of my mh. Also one of my slide outs makes a loud snapping or cracking sound near the end of its travel out. Sounds like a board cracking. It’s been that way for months and doesn’t seem to affect the functionality. But Murphy’s Law dictates that, untreated, something major will break when the slide is extended preventing my ability to bring it in and drive. So I’ll get that checked out. Also, yesterday a truck threw a stone into my windshield and this afternoon I discovered about a 12” vertical crack near the outer edge so I guess I’ll get that checked out as well.
I wrote yesterday about how windy the drive was. I noticed in the afternoon that my Motorhome would buck like what you sometimes feel behind a or when a semi passes you and the wind coming off buffets you. I’d get this momentary, very momentary, feeling of slowing down though it wasn’t noticeable on the speedometer or tachometer. Well today was as or more windy but 60 miles down the road I’d be heading north on I-55 and the wind should be substantially from behind.
I didn’t notice any improvement once I turned north so I started paying more attention. I decided I was only noticing it on inclines and so I mulled over in my mind whether the winds would gain more speed or affect coming down on me as I was climbing. Then on a longer climb (these are hills, not mountains) I did notice my speed decline, RPMs decrease and sitting forward could see the warning light hidden on the dash and then the message screen said “stop engine”. I found a place to pull over within a half mile or so and when I did, the idiot light turned off and the message screen cleared. I pulled back on the road and all was fine with the next nearest town being Jackson, MS some 40 miles away. I now knew it wasn’t wind!
I googled Cummins service and entered it into my GPS. Upon arrival, I explained my situation and was told that they were scheduled out for three weeks. I practically begged to get them to plug their computer into the engine diagnostics and they finally did. It showed fuel flow faults (3 warning lights history so I must have missed 2) and then the service mgr explained those were the most difficult issues to trouble shoot – pumps, filters etc. I said it seemed to me that rather than wait 3 weeks, maybe it would make sense to change the two fuel filters and I’d see if it cleared. They didn’t want to even do that so I asked where else I could go for a simple filter change and someone suggested Speedco about 2 miles away.
Away I went and found the Speedco (a National chain of lube and oil change shops for trucks – similar to Jiffy Lube for autos) and got in line. Once I was next in line for entry, the service guy came to see what service I needed and I told home I needed 2 fuel filters changed. They got that done while I was still in line, I paid, turned around and left. Problem appears to be solved and the Bus is again riding smoothly as though on a pillow.😎. Yippee! I’m guessing my fuel probably got a bit of algae during the 2 months of sitting and week of freezing weather. I doubt the diesel I bought in the RG Valley was a winter blend.
It was getting late and I found a nearby campground with 50 amp service and pull through and so I treated myself.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
A longer day but one I liked as most of it was not Interstate. Even included about 35 miles on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a historic 444 mile roadway through MS, AL and TN following an old Indian trail. Similar driving experience to that of the Blue Ridge Skyline Drive. Two lane, woodsy, low traffic 50mph drive.
I am across the state line from Red Bay – in Belmont, MS. I’m getting an estimate to repaint the front cap of the Bus. It has a lot of paint chips and apparently the cove area from the top of the windshield to the roof line had peeled and was “repaired” by prior owner with a spray can of bedliner material which is now peeling. It drives me nuts. The lower grey paint on the front cap had also been previously repainted, poorly. The foundation wasn’t properly done so there’s some peeling plus, though the color was right, it wasn’t blended so there’s a abrupt line. Repainting will fix it all at once. The bus is 13 yrs old.
I’m told that in those years, the cove area from the caps to the roof, were thinly painted from the factory and haven’t held up well to UV light. It is also evident on the rear cap cove and the prior owner must have used the same painter in the rear as the front. There’s some overspray that never got taken care of and the cove itself shows ‘orange peel’. So I want that fixed as well. There is also a small scrape at the bottom of two of the exterior storage doors which probably can be buffed out or painted. Finally, I want them to remove and replace all the exterior name decals which are showing a lot of sun fade.
Tiffin has a huge manufacturing facility in Red Bay. But their main paint shop is a large facility in Belmont, MS. Tiffin no longer provides factory service on rigs older than 10 yrs. Like in Elkhart IN (the mecca of US RV manufacturing) this policy creates many many many independent satellite businesses catering to us ‘older crowd’. It’s a good symbiotic relationship. The knowledge and technical people base is here as is the immediate supply of parts. As a company town, or nearly so, it’s a magnet for Tiffin owners to get good work done.
The paint shop I’m going to is next door to the Tiffin paint plant. The shop is owned by the guy who supplies, and has for years, all of the paint to the Tiffin Company (and also to Newmar and other Elkhart manufacturers). Tiffin paint plant closes at 3 pm. This guy’s paint shop opens at 3pm with Tiffin painters walking from the plant to his shop and moonlighting from 3-9pm. They know how to paint all those swirls you see on custom RV paint jobs (no they’re not decals).
The windshield crack, I described yesterday, grew today. It’s now about 4 foot long stretching from the top of the windshield to within 8” of the bottom. Repair is not an option. Bet I can find Tiffin windshields and installers around here! It’s a big one piece windshield. Also am getting shop recommendations for looking at the slide out noise I described earlier. Guessing I’ll be here 2 weeks or more. All or many of the shops have RV spots with hookups for their customers so that’s nice.
Got a decent morning start this Monday morning and headed thru CChristi and its refineries towards Houston and its even more refineries. I didn’t think mid-day Monday traffic would be too bad through downtown Houston but it was major congestion. On the north side, I picked up Interstate 10 and headed east. I planned on stopping around 3:00 pm at the Cracker Barrel in the refinery town of Beaumont. Instead I arrived at 4:40 pm. The last 15-20 miles took nearly 2 hours. The Interstate was throttled down to two lanes narrowly bounded by concrete barriers on both sides. Zero shoulder. Complicating it was (I found later) was a single car roll over about 1/4 mile from the end of construction. It blocked the right lane and with the concrete barriers/no shoulder it was a further squeeze past the police and the tow trucks. Everyone seemed to stay relaxed as there was absolutely no place to go.
Corpus Christi and the towns north including Galveston and Port Arthur have deep water channels accommodating oil tankers.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Great quiet night’s sleep. Got a reasonable start heading east.
Heavy, heavy winds out of the south making for a crosswind the entire drive. Easy to tell which 18 wheelers were pulling empty or lightly loaded trailers as the trailer would abruptly shift sideways a foot or more before the driver would correct. Weighing probably only 40% or so of a fully loaded semi, I certainly felt the wind and had to work the wheel – made more difficult on restricted lanes in construction zones.
Some posts ago (#114) I wrote about “color” as I transitioned from arid brown to green grass and then to white snow. Today was color again. Blue as in blue roof tarps. The last 10 miles in TX and first 50 miles in LA were obviously in the path of a fairly recent hurricane. Interstate 10 runs through a fairly heavily forested area but trees were flattened or leaning and stripped of foliage. In some areas there would be a concentration of twisted trees evidencing a spawned tornado. The world’s entire supply of blue roofing tarp must have been used here. The attorneys have been busy. About 1 in 5 billboards were from lawyers advising the reader how this lawyer or that lawyer could help with one’s hurricane claims. It would appear that the one in question was Hurricane Laura in late Aug 2020, the strongest hurricane making landfall in Louisiana in 150 years.
I decided today would be a short day and headed for Louisiana Welcome Center some 100 miles across the state line. The Atchafalaya Basin Welcome Center west of Baton Rouge to be specific. It is a very large welcome center encompassing both sides of I-10 with several cross overs under I-10, if that makes sense. It is part of the massive Atchafalaya National Heritage Area and Atchafalaya Natl Wildlife Refuge. The Basin is the nation’s largest river swamp and the Welcome Center showcases a variety of exhibits showcasing the unique local flora, fauna, and cajun cultures.
The Welcome Center has about a dozen dedicated long and very wide spaces where RVs are welcome to overnight. I pulled in to one, large enough to accommodate the motorhome with my slide outs extended, as well as the car. So I’m having a restful afternoon, I took a couple of walks through their gardens and past a couple dozen gazebos and I have a loaf of bread baking in my convection oven.
What follows are some pics of the rest area including some of the many animal sculptures placed around the property and walkways. Amazing what all happens in a freeway rest area, right?
In the ‘when it rains, it pours’ category. I received a phone call this afternoon from another Michigan State Park offering the camp host position for a month. Too bad, it was also for June and another early bird got this worm already.
After 2 months in the Rio Grande Valley, time has come to head out. My two main Mission missions were accomplished. Avoided snow (what snow I did get wasn’t enough to cover the paint color of the Jeep and was gone by 9am.) and I got my 2 COVID inoculations). Have no immediate destination in keeping with my wandering philosophy. I do have a couple of plans though.
To finish the story in this location, weather has finally changed from northern winter to TX winter weather or warmer. Highs in the 70s and 80s. A treat after a full week below and well below freezing. Local crops have been devastated (citrus, broccoli, onions etc). Power has been restored after 4 full days and nights without electricity (though I did run my generator continuously). A week after the restoration of power, there was a water main break serving a huge area of this city and so I was under a boil water notice for 5 days. That resulted in a lot of dishes to wash when the boil notice was lifted. Following on the heels of the freeezing weather, the grocery stores etc never got restocked with water and I was down to my last bottles.
My fridge is fixed. Tiny $80 part plus labor. Feels great to have it back. I had forgotten that I have a second dorm room sized frig in one of the basement areas I never use. So I could have kept my meds there🤪. My wash machine also had stopped working so when the frig appliance repair guy was here, I asked him to listen to the loud noise I was hearing. My washer is again working. He explained, with a chuckle, that what I was hearing was the sound of the evacuating pump trying to suck out the last of the water after it was already empty. The giant sucking sound. Apparently I’ve never been back in the rear of the bus before to listen at the end of the wash cycle. A bit embarrassing. Gringo!!
I also received my two vaccination shots while here. They were very efficient in TX rolling out the vaccines. Good move to leave AZ and come to TX. They may not be able to keep the power on during a winter freeze but they do know how to facilitate the efficient, non hysteria distribution of vaccines. Even heard on the news that two counties have opened up vaccinations to everyone. I also found a very good chain fish restaurant (Mambo) nearby. It’s a treat from my cooking. Excellent shrimp and fish grilled over mesquite with a large helping of shrimp-fried rice and a salad.
FUN NEWS! Also before I left, I got my settlement $ plus return of the gross overcharge of SD fees from Avis (Avis collected and identified SDak title transfer and plating fees of approximately $800 vs the actual SDak imposed fees of less than $40. and then refused to return the overage).
If you’ve been following the blog, you may remember that last May I bought my Jeep from Avis Used Cars in Orlando but then Avis Corporate for months and months failed to issue title. I had to drive for 4 months after the expiration of the temp title and temp paper plates. Avis, based on internet chatter, was in the same trouble with a great number of people such that, in FL, the DMV had a special process for such stranded FL Resident Avis buyers.
You might also remember my sitting on a mountain top at the border of WY and UT with a non operable motorhome waiting for a tow truck with a WY State trooper parked for 3 hours behind my illegal car waiting with me. Each time the trooper got out and stretched his legs and walked up to my window, I worried if it was for the purpose of ticketing me and impounding the Jeep.
During those months, the Jeep was subject to a claim from my insurer that having it on the road illegally voided my insurance. During those months, I restricted my driving. During those months I would be unable to sell the vehicle if I wanted to. During that time, Avis was aggressively unhelpful as was FL DMV which licenses used car dealers. I finally got thru to Avis’s General Counsel but with little success. I contacted the Better Business Bureau and the FL Attorney General’s office responsible for making a FL regulated business follow FL laws.
Last September I finally got to have a person to person conversation with Avis’s General Counsel (still not plated etc at that time) and impressed on him my unhappiness and my allegation fraud, embezzlement and elder abuse. We agreed on a settlement payment to me. He drafted a Settlement Agreement which was signed and which called for wire transfer payment within 10 days. Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec., Jan. and Feb but Avis was nowhere to be found. Avis reneged on its Agreement.
Those who know me know I can be like a dog with a bone when wronged. Time for Avis to get to know me and understand that it doesn’t pay to mess with an old fart who has nothing but time to make life miserable.
During the entire time since late September Avis has involved outside counsel to stall and stonewall me. I’ve been ‘transferred’ through 3 separate named partners of the outside counsel’s firm plus a 4th attorney specialist who works regulatory affairs with the FL Attorney General’s office (the FL AG has not been helpful at all while the BBB has been really good about timely follow up to Avis and, in particular, publishing my long detailed communications online for the world to see).
Anyway a new avenue to pressure Avis was found. My daughter Deb went to U of M law school with now US Congressman Ted Deutch (D) FL. So his Chief of Staff was contacted, given the information on both the Avis’s issues (its seizure of my funds under guise of governmental authority – specifically against FL law and the extreme difficulties experienced with the non responsive Republican AG office). The Democratic congressman’s office was asked if they’d like to make a political issue out of the FL Republican AG not protecting the voting citizenry whilst protecting the corporate interest of a New Jersey company -Avis. The congressional office apparently ‘liked’ the idea and contacted both the FL AG’s office and the FL DMV.
Don’t know if it represents ‘cause and effect’ but 2 days after corresponding with the Representative Duetch’s congressional office one of the named partners of Avis’s outside counsel emailed me (first time in 5 months I was actually contacted directly), acknowledging the Settlement Agreement and wanting to confirm the wire transfer instructions. By early afternoon the next day all the moneys due were comfortably ensconced in my bank account. The great price that I paid for my Jeep had just got substantially even more reduced. 😎 👍
Leaving here I want to slowly meander to VA and spend some time with Vic and her family. Looking forward to that if they’ll have me😂
Though I generally don’t do much advance planning I have given thought generally as to a plan for the summer after the VA visit. I’ve often seen signs saying “Camp Host” in various parks. Michigan State Parks utilize Volunteer Hosts in their parks. Observing the hosts over time, it appears their duties are nominal such as putting a large pot of coffee, paper cups, sugar and cream out in the morning on their site for campers to come if they wish for morning Java; advice to campers about attractions in the area or travel, etc. and a walk around to see if maintenance needs to be called to address some problem etc. A short work week in return for a non taxable campsite.
I found a Facebook site of Michigan SP hosts to get some idea of their duties etc and found a ‘crowd sourced’ info table they put together of which State Parks had what amenities for host sites. I made a list of those parks which had full hookups for the host site (not many), that could accommodate a 40’ motorhome and which were located on a body of water.
I pulled a Volunteer application and wrote a little accompanying blurb about my camping/travel history and sent it to a half dozen MI State Parks. I recd emails asking me to interview by phone from two parks. One park, it turned out, really only had electric, no water or sewer on the host site. The other resulted in my first, as far as I remember, interview for a ‘job’ in my life. I’ve interviewed 100’s of others in my career but never have been the recipient of a formal interview myself. Bottom line I got an immediate offer. I’m going to be the Camp Host from May 28 through June 30th at Silver Lake State Park near Mears, MI. A bonus is that it appears there is lake view directly from the host site!
It’s a busy 150 site park on Silver Lake which is nestled in extremely popular (amongst all the dune ride companies and ATVrs) State owned sand dunes between Silver Lake and Lake MI. It’s about a 40 minute drive from my favorite Grand Haven’s Fricanos Pizza (yes, I asked), maybe 20 minutes from Pentwater, MI and 40 minutes from Ludington, all ports of call frequently visited by us on our boat many years ago. When my girls were young, we rented a cottage on Silver Lake for a summer week so I’m heading to very familiar territory. I’m going to have to seriously practice not being a ‘grump’!
I had planned on leaving Pleasant Valley RV Park Friday morning. I had steaks (to replace the ones lost when my fridge stopped working) ordered from Snake River Farms to be delivered Thursday. SRFarms screwed up and sent them a day late so they weren’t going to arrive until Friday. I decided to wait in my site until Fed Ex delivered them on Friday. Well, Fed Ex didn’t show at all on Friday so I called and cancelled and instead headed out on Saturday. Not a good start to my travel as I try my best to not try to join the hoards checking into a campground on the weekend.
I arrived early afternoon on Padre Island just east of Corpus Christi. I elected not to go to So. Padre as the camping there seemed to be a heavy mix of trailers and fixed mobile homes and many parks had crowd sourced reviews that were ‘seedy’. At the end of Dec when driving to TX, I was pleased to leave arid AZ, No and southern UT behind in favor of green TX. Today I didn’t see green. After the very hard week plus freeze across the entire State, there was no green, most dead grey.
Crossing the bridge from Corpus Christi over the Tx ICW and onto S Padre Island reminded me of crossing onto NC’s Outer Banks and into Nags Head. Miles of commercial beach attractions and restaurants. Ten miles south I entered S Padre Island National Sea Shore — again just like passing the OBX Pea Island and into the OBX National Seashore. Thirteen miles further south in the SPI Nat’l Seashore I reached my campground destination – Malaquite Campground. 50 sites right on the Gulf. No water sewer or electricity but with the Sr Pass, only $7.00 per night. My generator provides all the power I need though the Gulf breeze is cool so no AC is needed and the occasional ‘pop’ from the AquaHot diesel boiler will keep it as toasty as needed overnight. Campground also is reminiscent of the OBX National Park campground at Ocracoke minus the vision obscuring sand dunes. I got the second to last available campsite.
There are 4 additional camping areas in the National Seashore. Two are tent areas on the Intracoastal side and the other two, on the Gulf, are camping on the beach areas assuming you’re not worried about getting stuck or about high tides.
It’s been a quiet couple of months here in the RGV. Very little, to almost no, sightseeing. But the brutal weather has lifted so I’ll update.
I took a side trip 30 miles west along the border past Los Ebanos and Rio Grande City. Not too much to see except this church, which I thought photogenic, in Los Ebanos
I received my phone call from Ashley Pediatrics telling me of my appointment two days later for my Covid booster shot. At my appointed time, I arrived, got my shot and was gone.😎. No ill effects from either and 10 days post I’m as protected as I can get from the vaccine.
AND THEN the weather changed. A full week of freezing temps and with constant north winds 15-25mph, gusting higher, wind chills down to zero, freezing rain and a smattering of snow overnights. Further north but not that much further, snow accumulation on the roads and from the I-4 corridor and north, substantial accumulation. Texas does not have the equipment to handle snow and the operators not enough experience to understand how to use it. You don’t plow snow from this lane onto the next lane which had already been cleared until you plowed it back over, guys! Duh.
It also brought to the forefront that TX does not have power producing equipment properly set up for zero degree weather. No or insufficient antifreeze coolant in the generators. Electric windmill turbines (yes there are a lot of them in oil country) frozen. Solar panels not seeing sunlight. Pipelines freezing. The State’s electrical infrastructure couldn’t keep up as sources came off line and finally power was basically turned off to the State lest there be a complete failure. Attempts were made to keep power to necessary facilities like hospitals, shelters etc.
No power meant no heat for most of the State with many stories of house interiors dropping to 40 degrees or less, people setting up a tent in their living room, carbon monoxide poisonings etc. No power meant, for most, no water pressure and no water which, when restored, meant pretty much statewide boil water notices. No power meant gas pumps didn’t function even if the station had fuel. Ravaged grocery stores had the balance of their frozen food, produce, meat etc spoil. Zero delivery trucks on the road resupplying. Bottled water was scarce with the best supply being government handout. However that too was a problem.
FL should consider putting on seminars for state and local governments on how to deal with nature’s emergencies. For example, back in maybe 2005 or so, Sharon and I were in Naples when a hurricane came ashore at Cape Romano (Marco Is) and tore through Naples and the Everglades heading to Ft Lauderdale. The area was a mess. In Silver Lakes Golf & RV Resort, lanais storage sheds were destroyed, RVs blown sideways on their site and even blown off site and into the lake. Similar damage around the cities. Police, fire trucks, city and county trucks were employed to drive down the streets filled with cases of water stopping at every inhabited home. ‘We’ve got water for you. How many cases do you want? What else can we provide?’ And they kept coming around daily for probably a week.
People could 1) stay off the roads 2) use less unavailable fuel 3) take care of their families 4) try to clean up debris 5) try to restore some normalcy rather than use precious fuel and time trying to find supplies, wait in lines etc.
TX also got FEMA and other donated trucks full of water which were centrally located at a county center (you know how big some counties are?). You needed to drive to pick up the water. But wait. There’s no place to replenish your fuel. In a coup de grâce, the powers that be declared “one case per car” which surely discouraged two, three or four neighbors or families from car pooling it. More cars on the road, more fuel burned, longer yet lines at a single distribution point. TX version of a primer on “how to turn a red state purple”.
Thankfully the water supplier to this park did maintain a generator and, therefore, water pressure so no boil order here now that we’re above freezing. (It’s in the 70’s as I write and last night was the last sub freezing night in the forecast). I did disconnect the water hose from the park’s bib for the week. I had a full tank of water aboard which, on a day above 32 degrees, I topped off.
As I wrote a few blog posts ago, I have a diesel fueled AquaHot system on this bus. My diesel tank, which I topped off when I arrived, is 150 gallons. My generator and AquaHot running full time will use about 1/2 gal per hour or slightly less. With total loss of power for 4 full days plus some partial, my generator flawlessly put on quite a few hours. I had complete power in the rig. The AquaHot kept me toasty at whatever temp I chose. Dual pane windows equaled zero drafts. The AquaHot also provides heat to the basement ‘wet bay’ (where the fresh water, waste water tanks are as well as the hose and sewer connections) so all I needed was to dial up the temp below and my systems were free from freezing.
But all wasn’t rosy. The last of the powerless mornings, I woke up and my frig and freezer were warm. It’s a GE residential frig. It had power and I could hear the fan, see the light etc but it was not cold. And it smelled. Everything was thawed and am guessing it failed the previous day sometime but still was cold enough the prior evening such that I didn’t notice. Everything needed to be thrown out.
I had, maybe a month or two ago, purchased my first ever in my life cast iron fry pan. I then practiced and discovered that one can control cooking steaks, for example, better in a cast iron skillet than on a grill. And so, about a week or so prior to the ‘great TX freeze’ I ordered a selection of Wagyu (first ever too) Gold filets and tenderloins from Snake River Farms. I’ve had one and the others were comfortably resting in the freezer until they all thawed. 👎😰.
I had just gotten the prior week 3 month refills on my meds which includes 5 refrigerated meds. I have an extra couple months of each in that pharmacies might not always be handy when I travel (a habit from the boat). So there was approx $5-6,000 of meds in the frig. Since all of them can be a room temperature for a month, once placed in service, I don’t think they were ruined. I’m borrowing other frig space temporarily for those.
I got a mobile appliance authorized repairman out on Thursday and the. Frig needs a new thermal relay for the compressor. Part suppliers either not back open or didn’t have so part ordered from Dallas to be here Monday. Easier fix than getting old frig out and new one in. Cheaper too.
So Friday the day got above freezing so I hooked up the hose, switched from tank to city water and did my laundry. All went well except for the very end of the spin cycle. It stopped and front loading door wouldn’t open. The motor growls but the drum won’t turn. Turned it off and laundry was wrung out enough to go into the dryer. When the repairman comes Monday, I’ll have him look at it.
About 2-3 weeks ago, I bought a power management system for the motor home. I’ve never had one before cause I was too cheap. One is always plugging into some park’s power pole which may or may not be wired properly or may or may not, at the end of a ‘street’ or a very full park have enough volts/amps. Brown outs, loose or bad ground wires etc can easily take out part or all of your appliances, computers, heating systems, inverters etc. I found out how expensive it can be on my boat when a marina’s power was wired wrong at my pedestal causing reverse polarity and causing about 2 weeks repair and $20,000 in damage. So the power management system is placed between the power pedestal and the bus’s power cord. It does the simple things like preventing power surges and the more valuable work of checking polarity, ground faults, proper voltage and amps before it even will allow power to flow (about a 90 second delay). Once cleared, it continues buffering and monitoring the incoming power and I think it was helpful with all the brown outs and on/offs of power that have occurred of late. The LED display continuously shows avail amps/volts and any error messages. A problem may destroy the management system but replacing that is far less expensive than fixing the RV.
Haven’t been east to the Gulf/S. Padre Is area yet. It’s about 90 miles east. I leave here in two weeks and am thinking that rather than a side trip there, I’ll wait till I leave and make a park nearby S Padre my first stop for a few nights. From there, who knows. Don’t want to plan too far in advance!
Have now been here about 10 days and getting a bit acclimated. The Rio Grande Valley is a series of cities along the Rio Grand River/Mexico border from the Gulf’s S. Padre Island inland some 100 miles to the Rio Grande City. It encompasses 5 of the lowest per capita income counties in TX and has a population of about 1 million. It is also home to a great number of snowbird RV parks with a heavy Canadian snowbird population.
I am in a park named Pleasant Valley RV Park which is one of 4 large parks adjacent to each other all under the same ownership. Pleasant Valley has about 320 RV sites with probably half developed with park models etc. I am told it is normally full. Not so this year. From my rig I can count about 35 non park model sites next to me, in front and behind me. On those, there are 5 RVs including mine. There are probably another 15 or more park models within easy eyesight and I’ve not seen one occupant. With the Canadian/US border closed, the Canucks have pretty much stayed home. No trouble staying socially distanced anywhere in the park including the in the massive club house and heated pool.
The reason, as I earlier reported in the blog, for leaving AZ and going to TX was COVID19. AZ wasn’t taking COVID seriously. Where I was, no one was masking up. Social distancing was a concept for avoiding the Russian gulag system. Centralized rules for vaccine distribution changed daily and seemed to push seniors down in the system while elevating, well, everyone else. TX, on the other hand seemed to have it all together. Their rules for vaccine access were steady and well publicized including listings by county of where the vaccines were going and how many dosages. While states like AZ and FL debated whether “their” vaccine supply would be restricted to residents or not, TX was overtly welcoming to snowbirds recognizing that it was federal, not state, tax dollars responsible for the vaccine.
So how has that worked for me? While in AZ I was completely unable to find out when (or even if) vaccines would arrive in Mohave Co. Mohave Co absolutely had no plan whatsoever what they would do with the vaccine if and when they got it. AZ had the distinction of having the highest per capita rate of infection in the WORLD. It’s ICUs statewide we’re reported at 115-120% of capacity and there was not one available bed within 100 miles of Lake Havasu City. And the maskless community seemed to not have a clue.
While still in ARIZONA(!!!) I was able to register for a vaccination in Hildago County (Rio Grande Valley), TX. I did not need to lie. Where I lived or where I was wintering was not an issue. Upon arrival in the RGV, I registered in 3 more sites (out of dozens listed). They were following CDC guidelines, ie, 65 and over were phase 1b (not over 75 yrs as per AZ). Late last week there was a cattle call type inoculation with people lining up overnight for the next day. Sunday the 10th they announced a modified cattle call. The 1st 6,500 people to arrive would get a bracelet guaranteeing an inoculation on Monday. Those people in their cars would be sent to a large parking area where they could stay the night and groups should then be escorted by the police to the inoculation site on Monday. A one, perhaps two, second debate with myself decided that I would be patient and wait for my name to bubble up via the registrations (the first list signed up for while in AZ was now up to 50,000 names and was closed).
Monday evening my phone rang from Ashley Pediatrics (one of the 3 other lists) and I was instructed to call another number at 9 am Tuesday at which time I’d be given an appointment for my shot. Made sure my alarm was set and I called promptly at 9 am. Several times. Finally got through only to be given the news that the vaccine had not yet arrived and so ‘no appointment’. Tuesday noon, my phone rang and I was given an appointment for Weds at 11am with directions to download an info form, complete it and to bring it in. I found my way there Weds, got my vaccination by 10:50am, waited the obligatory 15 minutes to assure them I was not adversely reacting, received my CDC card recording my vaccination with instructions for the follow up vaccination and was back on the road back to the RV park by 11:05am. On the drive back the radio was reporting AZ’s plight as the worst in the country and that they were going to do a statewide cattle call at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix. As I write, Friday, the only side effect was injection site soreness which is now gone.
In other news… Last Friday afternoon my email delivered to me a bunch of documents from the service hired to accomplish the closing of the sale of my boat. Compared to the sale of a car, it’s a relatively complicated set of paperwork to transfer ownership from my corporation to a buyer via the US Coast Guard for the vessel and via Montana for the dinghy plus my signature needed to be notarized on some (9) of the documents. Late Friday was too late to find a Notary in a strange, to me, area so it all waited till Monday. Monday morning/early afternoon I got all the documents executed and delivered to UPS for overnight delivery back to the documentation service in Florida. As of this morning (Friday), the boat has mysteriously transformed itself into a deposit in my bank account. Last Resort now refers solely to a motorhome vs a motorhome and a boat. Bucket list item checked and now officially in the rear view mirror.
Have arrived! Palm trees. 78 degrees, full sun. No more white stuff on the ground. Good start. Hope to finish the winter here. Also hoping to hear soon on an appointment for COVID19 vaccination.
Here a public service announcement for you spread all around the country. Watch your “Sales Flyers” for an upcoming national tenderized venison meat sale. The last 3 travel days across TX disclosed more deer road kill than I’ve ever seen in my life. There had to be a carcass every 5 miles and there’s a whole lot of 5 mile increments crossing this state.
I’m at an inland park having elected to stay away from camping at South Padre Island. The Rio Grand Valley (RGV) is known to be quite windy, much more so than S. FL, and I don’t want to have to rinse wind blown salt spray off the rig every morning. If not actually camping on the Gulf, why pay for the much higher Gulf prices. So I’m inland but within easy driving distance to the Gulf. (When I lived in Naples for 6 yrs, I think I actually walked the Gulf beach twice.).
I’m also very close, I think within 10 miles, of the nearest border crossing to MX (Reynosa) and hope that I can visit MX. Maybe I can stock up on my meds as well like I did early summer, 2019. I still have a vial left of one of my meds from then. It is an absolute blessing to not have to deal with the Walgreens and CVSs of this country as they botch their way through their own computer systems. And I’ve never had a US pharmacist come around the counter to shake my hand and hug me when I left. And to not have to see the Dr. for an appointment solely to get another set of refills (or from the Dr’s point of view, solely to get another crack at billing Medicare for a useless 3 minute appointment plus 1 hour more in the waiting room) is priceless. And pricing less than 1/4 of the US Medicare Part D Rx charge ain’t bad either.
You may remember from a prior post that I signed up for a fleet fuel card via trucking company. I finally got to use it on this leg and I’m going to love it. Adjusting for leaving Lake Havasu City with only 1/2 tank of diesel, I used 190 gal of fuel for 1448 miles or about 7.6 mpg. Using my card, the diesel I purchased cost $506. at the published posted pump price. For the use of the card, I paid 3 fees totaling $1.95. plus the fleet company ‘raked’ off 10% of the negotiated savings or $10.24. My checking account has been credited $110.15 with the balance of the savings. Works for me!
In other news, news of probably little interest to you but which makes me happy, I finished a little project. Sometime ago I mentioned that I found, on the net, 3 prior years of my summer RV wanderings that I had published on another blog site that I thought had been lost. I’ve reformatted, primarily grouping pics at the end, and now have published ancillary to this blog. They are available via the index and below
Sharon and I also traveled full time in our RVs from 1997-2011. During that time I posted travels and pics via Facebook and individual emails. Those are now irretrievable, I think. Hence my desire to aggregate what I can, for myself, under a single controllable source. I am pretty sure that I did put together an annual map of the US showing our travel and I’m going to try to find those amongst probably my 10,000 or so pics on the cloud. What I find, I will, in some form, also add to this forum. The gap from 2011 to 2016 was one of no RV travel as Sharon & I hung up the keys and bought a condo in Naples.
I left this morning from Van Horn, TX – about 140 miles east of ElPaso and the New Mexico border and ended 508 miles east of ElPaso without leaving the confines of I-10. But I’m now only 315 miles from the goal. What happened besides miles and macadam?
In New Mexico I would strain my eyes to see something other than brown desert soil and grey barren mountains. Maybe that’s a trace of white snow on that mountain top! Entering TX I read news reports of a snow storm that occurred a day earlier stranding traffic. Van Horn showed some traces of white snow on the ground when I actually arrived. This morning my black car was completely frost etched in white.
About 50 miles into today’s trip, it was no longer a patch of snow here and there in heavily shaded areas. It was the Michigan white that I grew up in and work hard to avoid. For 200 miles the ground was a white blanket left from the earlier storm. Multiple times per mile there were tracks of vehicles crisscrossing the median, from some vehicles presumably pulling of, others skidding of and others just trying to reverse course. I enjoyed the humor I’d see every 1o or so miles of snowmen constructed along the roadside with stick arms waving me on. Not so numerous were the sights of overturned cars in the median, a flipped pickup and cargo trailer, large trucks at the roadside while machinery uploaded on them remnants of what appeared to be at least two semi trailers down in the gully. No sign of the tractors. All remaining of a snowstorm that passed 2 days prior.
After about 200 miles, things changed rapidly. Snow rapidly disappeared from sight. And then I saw something I could barely describe much less name. I consulted my friend Dr Google and my iPad screen was filled with a color wheel! I saw it!
They call that color ‘green’. It’s been so long!! Large vistas of greeeeen trees. Not just coniferous but deciduous as well. Amazing treat for the eyes. And these were not trees planted like soldiers lined up a grove. These were planted 40 yrs or so by nature’s own breath distributing seeds all over.
Terrain changes. AZ and NM and far west TX were home to barren craggy mountain peaks. Then it seemed, in the space of miles, I no longer saw the peaks but a hundred or so miles of mesas and buttes. And now those have disappeared as Kerrville is in the large TX area called “Hill Country”.
One other sight of note today. In about a 15 second snippet of driving time, I received a history lesson on a hundred years of change to power and verticality. To my right I saw the stereotypical view of a ranch windmill that last drew water from the ground probably 100 yrs ago. One vane left and it looked like it might fall off tomorrow. Behind, stretched across the vast basin were at least 50 oil wells, some still pumping, others retired with a lone derrick in my view. Further, atop the distant mesa, lined up like an army of soldiers, were phalanxes of the new wind turbine windmills waiting for Don Quixote.
My thought for the day: While there’s always change, nothing’s new.
Last night after I finished writing, I did what I normally do before a days travel. I take a good long view look at the next day’s probable route (I use my GPS while driving but it’s good to have a solid mental picture since the GPS screen maybe shows you what’s up in the next mile or so). I figure out a logical end of day stop or two, what would be nearby for an overnight, make sure there’s adequate big rig fuel stops (not sure why cause there’s always a multiplicity of them well within range but I’m anal), check the weather forecasts at various places along the route and use my elevation finder app to see what, at this time of year, nighttime temperature changes there might be due to staying in a higher elevation.
So I’m planning on a longer than normal (for me) day taking I-10 across New Mexico, southerly at Las Cruces to El Paso and then easterly stopping for the night in Van Horn, TX. Checking weather – oops. Much of I-10 between El Paso and specifically Van Horn is bracketed by the White (Sierra Blanco) Mountain range and the Quitman range at the TX/Mexico border, is higher elevation and received a foot of snow, ice and black ice (is that a permissible term in this PC culture?). News reports were that both sides of I-10 had been closed due to weather, traffic snarls and accidents. Many reports of people stranded in cars and trucks for 12 and 13 hours. And that’s going to be tomorrow’s route?
The overall forecast though showed highs for New Years Day generally near 50 degreesand it would be at least early afternoon before reaching that area and no forecasted new precipitation. And that’s how today unfolded. East of ElPaso there were some snow remnants still near the road. The roads themselves were clear and dry and relatively deserted. There was a lot of snow on the mountain sides. And almost the entire route across NM was subjected to very high cross winds so even though traffic was light, it was a lot of work.
Outside of the wind, it was a boring drive. Desert morphing into near desert morphing into scrub land. Lots of time to think and let your eyes and mind wander. Some observations:
—- whoa! What is that? What am I seeing? I haven’t seen that for at least 3 months! Hmmm. Last time must have been in middle UT or just across the CO border. Not sure I can remember what those are called. I think they are called cattle or steers. Sure enough, there were about 10 head in sight munching on, it looks like dirt, except for that one trying to eat leaves off a scrub bush.
I don’t think in that interim, I seen a horse or a mule or a deer or any non domesticated animal in the wild or in an agricultural setting. During the rest of my travel day, I actually saw three more small groupings of cattle.
—- hmm. I wonder why there is such a plethora of places selling saddlery, etc. Where are the horses that would get saddled?
—- Oh I’m not seeing anymore Saguaro cacti; they’re all flowering yucca cacti now and lots of them. Wonder what causes such an abrupt change in species?
—- My goodness! Out here in the desert type landscape, I’m seeing actual trees. Miles, literally, of them all planted in nice even ongoing forever rows. This section is very mature and that section is quite immature. For sure it’s not an citrus grove like I’m used to seeing. No leaves – It’s winter. I finally decide they are nut trees and settle on pecans as the likely culprit. A quick google this evening shows a number of pecan growers in that area. And here I thought I was in New Mexico as opposed to GA.
—- Another time occupier. When crossing dry gulch/wash overpasses, it’s not unusual to see gravel or more likely dirt 2 lane roads that stretch to nowhere in the distance. Wonder where those go? Do they lead to someone leading their life at the end of the trail? Wonder how they live? What do they do here in the desert? What might it cost to live that lifestyle and even if and probably minimal, where do they get the money?
—- What’s that in the distance? It’s so far away. Am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing? I think so.
Google this evening provided the answer and a far better picture
I hope this first night of 2021 is a better one than the last night of 2020. It was a cold one and I was ‘camped’ in a truck stop parking lot; ordinarily no big deal. But during the night my generator, while it kept running, stopped charging my house batteries. About 3 am I awoke with interior temp at 59 degrees and not enough battery power to run either the heat pumps. I started the diesel which is in the coach’s rear to charge the batteries and turned on the diesel ‘mid ships’ AquaHot to provide and maintain some heat. So I’ve got a diesel running and exhausting below/behind my bedroom and a diesel boiler exhausting right in front of my bedroom slide. So now warm enough, I start to have my eyes get heavy only to get concerned if there’s enough little breeze to keep the exhaust outside and not infiltrate my bedroom. Not aware enough to remember I have a functioning carbon monoxide detector about 2 or 3 feet away. Am I sleepy 💤 or am I passing out, that’s the question that kept me coming back to an awake state till 5:30ish. I haven’t investigated yet, too cold, but believe I probably tripped a breaker or relay at the genny. Tonight hooked up to real 50 amp power in a campground.
An auspicious New Year start! My boat is sold as of today. It’s been under contract for some weeks subject to the buyers getting to Jacksonville to see it, subject to it being hauled onto dry ground for a thorough inside and out marine surveyor’s inspection and subject to sea trials and lab analysis of the oil and fluids of the various engines, motor and transmissions. All has been completed and the buyer has signed an acceptance so it’s a done deal awaiting closing paperwork in the next couple of weeks. It is my understanding that the buyers have done their research on the Last Resort name, found this blog and have read it. If so I’m pleased that they had the fortitude to wade thru my meanderings. In the event they still read the blog, let me just say to them –
“You’ve purchased a fine vessel that will take you wherever you want to go in fine style and in exceptional comfort! Congratulations and I hope you have as great a time as I had taking care of this bucket list item.”
A very productive travel day! On the road by 8 am which is daybreak that far west in the Mountain Time Zone. Headed south on Hwy 95 to Quartzsite and then east on I 10. The drive up until near Phoenix was thru the Mohave Desert. That means arid, colorless and rather boring.
I was interested in seeing Quartzsite. It’s a crossroads in the desert with a very small eclectic town of about 3,000 people centered around RVs. The vast desert area is managed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is open for off road dry camping for 14 days at a time. There are also BLM areas that are designated LTVA 9long term visitor areas) where you can get a camping permit from the BLM for either $10 or $20 which is good for up to 6 mo of camping. You need to be self sufficient as there is no power, water or sewer.
Though COVID19 has negatively impacted the area, there were still campers in every direction as far as the eye could see. I’d never been thru that area before so I thought it fascinating. In a typical winter, thousands of RVs park in every direction, some seeking isolation of miles between rigs while others ‘circling the wagons’ in impromptu social ‘towns’. In Jan and Feb there are normally 9 major gem shows and 15 swap meets drawing 1.5 million people. So many RVrs in one place that there is annually the world’s largest RV show held in the desert. Probably every camper, tent, RV manufacturer is there. Major solar suppliers and installers set up shop. Same for awning mfrs, RV equipment mfrs, portable RV weigh stations, wheel alignment, food trucks etc etc etc. The vendors sponsor entertainment venues. Water and sewer pumpout vendors set up weekly routes to service those RVers who don’t want to pack up and drive into town for free or cheaper water and dumping. Quartzsite as an event is a HUGE deal, not one I would actually go to (too many people) but it was interesting to see.
Heading east on I10 reminded me of why I dislike interstates and use them only when I really want to go from point A to B in the shortest time. You see interesting things that flash by in 10 seconds with zero places to park, explore and take pics.
About 15 miles east of Quartzsite there was a 20mile stretch full of mostly large (15-20’) Saguaro Cactus. Really made for an interesting stretch and then as suddenly as they appeared, they morphed back to plain old desert. Again not one place to stop and look and take a picture. Further down the line I passed a large facility which was obviously open for people to look. I couldn’t stop. It was named “Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch”. Googling it later proved it would have been a worthwhile stop. But there were miles to go. Wanted to end up in a slightly lower elevation than the mountains in that temps tonight would be sub freezing above 4,000’ with snow likely. Snow and freezing not on my agenda!
I had an hour plus stop in Tonapah AZ (not Nevada). I fueled up and got a Subway footlong for lunch and probably a snack later on tonight. Fueling was a bit different for me and took extra time. I always fuel in the truck lanes at truck stops. For years I’ve carried a Flying J/Pilot card and a Good Sam card which should get me a $0.03/gal discount on fuel. While in Lake Havasu City I signed up with a major trucking company which offers their trucker card to RVers. It’s free. It’s not a credit card but instead it’s linked to your checking account. You buy fuel on the card and the transaction is transmitted to the company which then debits your checking account the next day or two. With all the fuel they buy through their system, they negotiate with the truck stop chains for pricing discounts. The current winning truck stop chain is TA (Travel America) which is nationwide. The current discount is $0.55/gal. So your checking account is only debited for the discounted amount plus, if I remember right, a $0.65 processing fee. The card is good at all truck stops in the truck lanes but only TA provides the discount. I needed less than half a tank but the discount should be something over $45.00.
It took awhile because I’m old and feeble minded. I’ve had the card for 6 weeks but this was my first usage and I forgot how. I know how to use the fuel pumps and all their selections (ICC#, DEF Y/N?, Carrier, truck number etc. but you need to put in an identifier for the card (like you do with a credit card and your zip code) and I could remember what the ID was. So I had to call the trucking company and the nice lady took me thru the process. Thankfully there wasn’t any truck behind me waiting to fuel up. Sure wish there was a program like that for the more expensive, usually, marine diesel.
So I’m now 400 miles into a nearly 1500 mile change in venue. I’m safely ensconced in a vast truck stop parking lot that is virtually empty for the holiday. All toasty warm and watching a Gaither Homecoming Classic DVD “Songs of Freedom”. Not sure what or if I’ll queue something up after. I broke out a couple Omaha Steak filets and my cast iron skillet, some yellow potato and sour cream and enjoyed a delightful New Years Eve parking lot dinner. I have it so rough😎😂😎! Wondering if there will be party favors in the parking lot at midnight. Not that I’ll be awake to notice. Have a Happy New Year and here’s hoping 2020 is soon long gone in the rear view mirror.
Postscript: comparison of two states. AZ truly epitomizes the Keystone Kops when it comes to both Covid precautions and the vaccine. The statewide priorities basically are everyone who isn’t old and who doesn’t have have compromising health issues. In fairness, they now have at least move 75 yo and older from the bottom of the list. Sun City must have some pull.
In contrast, I’ve previously posted how transparent TX is vis a vis the vaccine per their write ups. In practice, they seem to be doing well also. I’m still in AZ but have filled in the TX form and received email confirmation of my place in line and vaccine registration/location. 😊
I’m now writing on the day after Christmas so I’ve been here a little over a month. I cooked a spiral cut ham, with veggies and pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner and today took the bone and made a big InstantPot of delicious pea soup.
This motor coach couldn’t be more comfortable even if the weather has been chilly. It has a system called AquaHot which was completely foreign to me. I wasn’t sure how to operate it but it seemed to me to not be working. Couldn’t figure out if something was broken or if I just didn’t know what I was doing. I was surprised when googling AH to find a mobile AH authorized service man in the area (he winters here and lives in Michigan’s UP) so I texted him with my guess as to a problem, asking if he could look at it and let me tag along and learn. He was willing, he diagnosed the problem and fixed it and I learned a lot on operating the system.
While my air conditioners will also function for warmth, via heat pumps, they are not very effective below outside temps of 40-45 degrees. The heat pumps only put out about 2000 BTUs (typical gas grill range between 8-12,000 BTUs). The coach does not have, like most RVs have, a propane fired furnace. nor is there a traditional propane/electric water heater. AquaHot handles the furnace, water heater functions and then some.
About in the middle of the coach is a basement bay with the AH. It has a boiler containing boiler fluid. There is a flame that can be ignited in the boiler to heat the fluid and through a heat exchanger (like on the boat) the hot boiler fluid will transfer its heat to the fresh water for the showers etc while the same hot boiler fluid (which stays hot much longer than just hot water) provides heated air to the floor vents via fans. The burner is fired using diesel from the main engine fuel tank (which also fuels the generator). The AH also has an electrical element which helps maintain temps during burner intermissions or when I turn the diesel switch ‘off’. The diesel burner is 65,000 BTUs. So when on diesel, water is always immediately and continuously hot at the taps.
AH has another function as well and that is to pre heat the big Diesel engine. Diesels are not only difficult to start when cold but starting them cold greatly reduces their life expectancy. ‘Cold’ would be considered most ambient temperatures. Many diesels have a battery glow plug or 110v heater block to warm up the fuel and/or the engine itself before starting.
AH is plumbed into the regular engine cooling system (see earlier post #101 when the coolant between the two burst and I needed a mountain side tow) so when you are driving, hot engine coolant will run the AH heating functions enroute and for hours after. Conversely, before starting the motor coach engine on a cool morning, you can fire the AH boiler and its hot coolant (not the boiler fluid) will circulate thru the engine block and warm up the engine before starting.
So anyway, the AH flame sensor wasn’t working and there was no flame lighting the boiler. The fuel injector was pumping raw diesel out. A relatively easy fix putting in a new sensor. I had normal maintenance done at the same time to the fuel injector, new fuel filter etc.
In case you are wondering, it takes very little fuel and the fuel pickup is a third of the way from the bottom of the tank so it will never run me out of fuel. It uses about 1/2 gal per hour but it is off most of the time. Then when it is on, it will bring everything up to temp at which time the electrical element will hold temp (assuming I’m hooked up to electricity or running the generator). My typical use on a cold night will be to run the diesel AH for one cycle (15-20 min) and then turn off the diesel part. Elec will hold temps comfy then for the night. If it gets real cold and if I wake at 5 or 6 am, I’ll turn it on again for a cycle and reheat everything including enough water for a long shower later in the morning. So I figure I’m using about 1/6th of a gal per cold night. Heat during the day, if needed, is easily handled by the AC heat pumps. So now I’ve told you much more than what you wanted to know.
It’s been a very quiet month. There’s really not a lot around here. On top of it, it’s been quite chilly. Mostly nightly lows in the high 30s and highs of 60-65. An occasional 70 and some sub 60 days. All in all, not the weather I expected and not conducive to exploring.
Another reason for not going out too much is COVID19. I’m trying to be careful without being paranoid. When I go out, I do stay distant from fellow humanoids and if I need to go inside somewhere, I put my mask on. When reservations were made to winter here, AZ and this area were doing quite well statistically vis a vis Covid.
That has changed. AZ is now, per capita, the worst in the country. I think I commented when I was in Vegas how impressed I was with how 99%, nearly, of the people on the street and 99.9% of those inside were masked up. I now know what the flip side is. They don’t know what a mask is here in AZ or at least in Lake Havasu City. Grocery stores and Walmart are plastered with signs on the doors saying their policy requires masking up. That’s as far as they go. Even employees are maskless or wear them at half staff. I asked a manager and was told that it was up to customers to make other customers comply. Really??? Even LabCorp employees,including phlebotomists, were maskless. On Edit 1/8/21. AZ is now the worst, per capita, of any place in the world. https://abcnews.go.com/US/arizona-hottest-hot-spot-covid-19-health-officials/story?id=75062175
I don’t like getting Amazon packages or my mail here. To get to the office to pick up ones mail, you go through the clubhouse. Inside you walk past a dozen or so tables with 6 or more filled with 8 people each playing cards – all day, all maskless. Walk-in and they all look up, see you are not one of the ‘regulars’ and go back to cards – never one wave or greeting of ‘hello’ in over a month. Enter the office past 4 separate areas posted with ‘you must wear a mask’ sign to find 3 or 4 maskless people at the small table where mail and packages are strewn and all these maskless folks are leaned over the table pawing through the envelopes and packages. I brought it up to the mgr – why cover all your windows with “you must wear a mask” signs and then not enforce it – even she, not once, has been seen wearing a mask. She just looks at me like I’m crazy.
So now a vaccine has been released! All of it has gone to Phoenix so far. Not a trickle in the backwaters. Check with the Mohave County Dept of Health and they have no clue. Local (Phoenix) TV news shows, night after night, spend at least 1/2 of their half hour show on COVID19, deaths, hospitalizations, ICU bed utilization (not one available ICU bed available within 100 miles), etc. and still people don’t take simple precautions. The AZ Dept of Health in Phoenix is writing the priority rules for the State. Each day it seems a new group is listed as essential and moved up the priority chain. Literally, over 60% of the population is now a higher priority in this state than the 65 and up and people with chronic health conditions groups. Starting to wonder if the next group to take precedence will be illegal aliens (don’t laugh, CA is toying with prioritizing inmates). Also wondering, but can’t find out, how AZ will deal with non resident snowbirds who are spending their $$ in the local economy.
So doing some serious research. CA is out as is New Mexico (too bad as I’d like to spend some more quality time in NM but little is open in the way of campgrounds and other services). Two southern states that have released their priorities to follow the nat’l guidelines for seniors and health compromised are FL and TX. TX also has committed vaccinating the snowbird population in the state and daily publishes the most comprehensive daily supply vaccineschedule I’ve seen. Each county is listed with every vaccination site in each county along with the number of doses available at each site by vaccine manufacturer (Moderna or Pfizer)
Additional pages show the same breakdown by provider/county as to how many actual vaccinations have been given by age group and by priority type. They appear to have their act together, have committed to populations actually in the state vs those who are registered residents etc and their transparency should help against politicalization.
So am seriously considering abandoning my paid reservation here (reserved thru the end of January) and heading to the Rio Grand Valley (Gulf Coast along the Mexico border/Mission/McAllen, So Padre Island area of Texas). There are a multitude of resort type parks that traditionally are populated with Canadians. With the borders closed, most Canadians are still ‘UP NORTH’ and web sites are reflecting vacancies and reduced pricing. I’ve asked for and received some info from a good friend and reader who has wintered in that area for many winters. It would be somewhat of a commitment as the drive is just under 1,500 miles with no open parks, as of right now, across New Mexico. Can always ‘camp’ overnight in a truck stop etc.
I’ve really only gone on one side trip while here – a 50/60 mile drive south to Parker, AZ and the Parker Dam.
Well I’ve been here about 10 days, 10 quiet days. The RV park is more than OK but not resort like. It has a smaller heated swimming pool and newer club house. Neat and clean but utilitarian. I think most of the rigs here are at least monthly. I see but a few rigs coming and going and it seems management prices the place for longer stays. It should be just great for a couple of months. I had made arrangements for a site at a very nice condo park a few months ago. I was negotiating with a private owner. In an email he mentioned that the park limited itself to 10 year old or newer rigs. This is done in an attempt to regulate appearance and it doesn’t work that well. Our old park, Silver Lakes in Naples did the same thing and there were plenty of newer rigs that came in that were falling apart before they even left the showroom as the buyers purchased based on price. Older rigs were admitted after being looked at to see if they met some subjective aesthetics standard.
Mine is now 12 yrs old and I didn’t want to write a check for a couple of months to some stranger and then, when I finally arrived, find that some HOA member who got out of bed on the wrong side that morning, didn’t like something and turned me away, paid rent receipt notwithstanding. The lot owner suggested that I just lie about the age. I don’t do that plus many/most parks renting on a seasonal basis want a copy of your insurance coverage and the age of the rig clearly shows. So I took a series of exterior pics of my motorhome and emailed them to the lot owner and told him to talk to his HOA friends, show the photos and get the issue resolved ahead of time. The HOA response was that all looked fine but they’d need to see it in person when I arrived. The date of arrival is not the time to find out that you can’t stay where you planned to for a couple of months and then have to scramble for an alternative and try to get a refund from an absentee landlord, so I passed. Well, the Canadian border is still closed and that source of snowbird funds has pretty much dried up. It’s still early in the season but driving by that resort, it appears they have plenty of vacancies.
Three campers organized a Thanksgiving dinner for which I signed up. You could eat outside or, as I did, take it back to your rig. I wasn’t sure what it entailed but at $5.00 I signed up for two dinners figuring I could either combine them or otherwise have leftovers. Five people were allowed in at a time and they had those large styrofoam restaurant doggie boxes which they filled up with white or dark turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, a cup of turkey gravy, a cup of cranberry ‘whatever’, a dinner roll and butter and another styrofoam container for your choice of pumpkin or apple pie. Definitely more than enough for me to have another full meal the next night.
Overall, besides that event, masking and distancing doesn’t seem to be high on anyone’s agenda around this town. Certainly not strictly observed like it was in Vegas. All of which makes me more vigilant.
Kind of a strange area compared to what I’m used to. Definitely a desert (Mohave) valley town nestled between north/south mountain ranges with the Colorado River (well downstream of the Grand Canyon and of the Hoover Dam). The River separates Arizona and California. What the cartographers call Lake Havasu I would call a decent sized widening of the River. It’s not that big compared to the area reputation as a wintering spot.
Why though do I say it’s kind of a strange area? The full time population of about 55,000 swells by 25%+ in the winter. I’m used to the East, Midwest and even many Western areas where towns take great advantage of their waterfront, especially with condos and rentals. Here, not so much. Nothing, or almost nothing, is really waterfront. It’s all at least 1 or 2 good blocks away from the water with the intervening land desolate and undeveloped, even unappetizing to the eyes. There are 3 main roads, all north/south roads (Lake Havasu Ave, Rt95, and London Bridge Rd) but all three, paralleling each other, are only one short block apart. Commercial, industrial and residential abut each other with what seems to me to be little planning. Inelegant, at best, commercial and industrial generally populate the near waterfront rather than residential or touristy. What city has a Motel 6 featured on its so called waterfront?
I haven’t asked any locals yet, but am guessing that Spring mountain runoff may raise the flood levels of the Colorado such that insuring buildings closer to the waterfront is prohibitive. On the other hand, the back water of the Hoover Dam (Lake Mead) is huge and at half or less pool with doubts that it will ever again be full pool, that I find it hard to believe that Spring runoff would be uncontrollable. Haven’t been to the CA side yet but it appears from a distance as though the waterfront is better developed.
Off of ‘downtown’ is an island called Grand Island which also is strangely developed/underdeveloped. Vast, vast areas of vacant desert scape. Abounding this entire area are hundreds of miles of 4×4 trails and on the roads, you are as likely to be passed by a 4×4 ‘rod’ as you are by a car. Linking the mainland and Grand Island is The London Bridge, transported here stone by stone from the Thames, and re-erected mostly to stimulate tourism. I’ve driven it and it is shorter than I imagined though I really had no reason to imagine anything. The drive was disappointing as any olde English architectural features roadside seemed to be obscured by Christmas decorations. The balustrades were pretty but how much detail do you see at 25mph? During my time here I will walk it and see if my impression is better.
However, below the bridge is a commercial development, marina etc more befitting the area and it includes views of the lower side of the bridge of from that vantage point it is a really impressive bridge. Especially so when you realize every stone, balustrade etc was numbered when it was dismantled and exactly reconstructed. Unsurprisingly, the touristy area below the bridge has quite the English flavor – also incongruous in the desert southwest – and quite nice.
I have a few other places to check out while here and will post about them in the next two months as they occur.
It’s been a pretty quiet month sitting in Las Vegas. It took about 10 days after getting my tooth pulled to feel up to par again. The swelling subsided and finally I realized I wasn’t favoring that side anymore. Glad it’s done.
Reserved a site at the Oasis RV Resort, at the intersection of Las Vegas Blvd (“The Strip”) and Blue Diamond (the road to Mt Charleston and Pahrump). It is way on the south side of the strip a bit more than a mile south of McCarren airport and probably 2 miles south of the southernmost so-called Strip resorts – Mandalay Bay. Remember being here when the Mandalay Bay was near completion to become the largest hotel in the city and they discovered that one of the tower’s foundation was settling and the tower was exhibiting a tilt. Big news at the time as engineering companies debated the severity and possible solutions. Don’t know how it settled out but the building’s still standing.
Sharon and I have probably stayed at the Oasis something close to 10 times over the years. It’s older but still a premier RV park. It’s a large park consisting of 935 pull thru, full hook up sites. It has a pitch and putt 18 hole golf course, bocce ball courts, relatively large restaurant, store, a couple of ballrooms and two large heated pools plus spas. It hosts quite a number of weddings and receptions both indoors and in a special area of the patio.
Haven’t done much ‘Vegas-ing’ but one does does need to drive downtown to then walk around Fremont Street. The Fremont Street Experience, as it is officially named, is a 5 or so block long length of this downtown street which has been blocked from traffic. The abundance of neon signs, like cowboy Vegas Vic and Vegas Vickie and casino signage lit 24 hours per day, earned the street the nickname of “Glitter Gulch“. To compete with the rapidly expanding ‘resorty’ “Strip” not only were the streets closed to traffic but a large barrel vault canopy was constructed the ceiling of which is a completely comprised of computer controlled LED lights – over 12 million multi colored LEDs. Light and sound shows are programmed with the displays moving quickly and progressively down the length of the canopy. One of the coolest displays I’ve ever seen there, I think, are the Thunderbird jet formation screaming from one end to the other just over your head. The progressive movement of the jets in real time speed 130’ over your head with the jet roar moving down the street is something one doesn’t forget. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see them this year overhead.
About 1.5 months or so ago there was an loud explosion on my roof. Literally thought something exploded or hit my rig. I was inside and the bang was so loud that I ducked. My front air conditioner was the source of the racket so I turned that one off. A little depressing in that a new one would run about $1k plus install but even more, the time and hassle to get it done. been there, done that. When that happened on the last motorhome while in CO, also in the summer, it was so busy I couldn’t get any RV shop to even talk to me for weeks and I ended up buying a new AC online, having it shipped to a town on the IA/NE line and having a mobile RV repair install it. Everything RV is extra busy this summer and word is that due to COVID19 AC manufacturing production is down.
With the prior motorhome there was only one roof air and there are two on this rig. The system is ducted and the front and rear roof units, working in tandem, share the duct work. So I still had one working unit but less efficient. The roof systems not only provide air conditioning but also participate, via heat pumps, with the furnace to provide heat. Towards the end of Oct there was a significant cold front predicted to come thru – not a good time to have a unit crap out cutting off one heat source.
A couple of times in the interim I’ve restarted the front unit and it would start albeit with a tremendous racket. Thinking it thru, I decided, since it started, that there probably wasn’t anything wrong with the ac and heat pump units themselves but probably an issue with the fan that moves the air. A little googling of this model revealed that the fan, a drum made of plastic vanes, was indeed the weak link. When the vanes start breaking away from the drum, at hi speed, they make quite a racket hitting the side of the enclosure.
Unfortunately, I can’t get up on the roof anymore to check and so would have to accept the real time diagnosis of a repair person. But I felt confident and comfortable with my assessment. The RV park has a pretty long list of approved vendors (the criteria being minimal complaints) so I texted what seemed to be the biggest one. After 24 hrs I had not yet received a response so at 11:28 am the next day I texted another one. Got an immediate response and he said he’d come over in 1-2 hours to take a look. He actually arrived before noon. He took off the shroud and verified that half or more of the blades were destroyed. He had a new one in his immaculate and organized truck and he installed it. According to my credit card receipt, the time he ran my payment was 12:26pm. 58 minutes from texting him and only $183 parts, service call and labor and all was fixed. Nice to have both zones working and to have redundancy again – all with a minimum of hassle.
While here,I tooka long afternoon ride to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. I thought I had been there 10 or 15 yrs ago but I mistook it for Valley of Fire State Park. Red Rock is maybe 20 miles west and Valley of Fire probably 40 miles northeast. Both are red rocks areas. Red Rock Canyon is a 13 mile loop road through sandstone (red) and limestone (white) formations against a backdrop of granite mountains. It includes some massive valleys, lots of full as well as collapsed Joshua Tree cacti and miles of hiking trails. Climbing is also permitted. It was quite an interesting ride and am glad I visited.
And I found a fossil
Some days later I also visited a major man made monument in the area
Last time I was in Vegas I didn’t even get to the Strip so I thought I should walk a portion of it now. Due to COVID19, the crowds are relatively light (while casinos are, for the most part open, seating is socially distant, many of the restaurants are not open and almost all of the fancy resort shops are closed). Some of the hotels are closed or closed Monday thru Thurs and all the entertainment venues are closed (the first one in Vegas just reopened 11/13. After a week cold spell with daily highs 60 degrees or less, it started warming up. And so an a bright sunny day forecasted to reach 72 degrees, I thought it was a perfect day for a walk and drove to mid south Strip.
I parked at the massive MGM Grand and walked the ‘yellow brick road’ through the resort (probably a half mile) to Las Vegas Blvd. There are no crosswalks across the Strip (nor across many cross streets) but rather elevated pedestrian bridges every block (the resorts are so large that the block is very long). Access to the bridge is by steps and by outdoor escalators and by outdoor elevators. They want to make it as easy as possible to get around. Decided to walk a few blocks north on the west side of Las Vegas Blvd and then back along the east side. So I took the pedestrian bridge to the west side and to New York New York.
I will admit that I miss all the fabulously extravagant buffets in Las Vegas. One of the better ones from days of yore, Carnival of the World, is not only closed but so is the host hotel, the Rio. Caesar’s, Golden Nugget, Paris buffets etc., all closed. Good for my waistline and wallet but 😟😢
My month is up so it’s time to leave. There is a high wind warning to begin at 10 am this morning for the Las Vegas valley and extending south between the mountains along the Colorado River – my exact route. Winds are supposed to increase to 30 mph with gusts to 45 as the afternoon progresses. So I got a relatively early start (9am).
I arrived without incident in Lake Havasu City where I will stay for the holidays – actually thru January 2021. Lake Havasu City is now the home of The London Bridge.
Some years ago I lost a cap on a lower molar. It did not bother me and so I did nothing. In April/May of this year, after arriving with the boat in Jacksonville, I started having some ‘twinges’ and immediately switched to using Sensodyne. Twinges went away and I’ve been traveling for months. Friday the twinges reoccurred with more vengeance. By Sat/Sunday it was a problem. My jaw was swollen and the pain and sleeplessness increased. No dentist nearby Zion National Park. Not even nearby pharmacies. It’s when I made the decision to go to a bigger city and preferably one dealing with tourists. Las Vegas met the criteria and it was not experiencing low temps in the 30’s.
Yesterday (Monday), after some poor sleeping nights, I made what seemed to be a never ending drive to Las Vegas and checked into a park familiar from prior stays – the Oasis RV Resort. I found a dentist office and found ‘specialization’. Some dentists do fillings etc and some do extractions. So I got a recommendation for a couple of ‘extractionists’ and made an appointment for one today (Tues) at noon. As I write, mid afternoon, the offending tooth has met the tooth fairy or goblin. I was put to sleep, never felt anything and still don’t. The swelling in my jaw is still evident but the antibiotic course should handle that. Meanwhile, I’ll have to find some attractions around here to visit. That may not be easy as much is closed down. I just heard, for example, that access to walking across the Hoover Dam just opened up today after having been closed since March. I’ll probably stay for awhile since the economics today overwhelmingly favor a month’s stay.
About 50-60 miles north of my destination of Mt Carmel Junction, is the turnoff for Bryce Canyon (between Panguitch and Hatch). Bryce is just 17 miles east of Rt 89 on America’s Scenic Route 12 which is an absolutely breathtaking rim route through The Grand Staircase/Escalante area 120 miles to Torrey. I’ve done the route before and there are a lot of miles riding the ridge without much shoulder on either side of the road. I’ve been getting enough driving lately where a slight, inadvertent turn of the steering wheel can result in using up your entire 18” of shoulder and 19” can result in a disaster. So leaving Torrey this morning, I elected for a 40 mile longer route mostly southbound through what is known as “The Long Valley”.
So I parked the motorhome at the road side, disconnected the Jeep, and headed east to Bryce. Before you get to Bryce, you drive through an area known as “Red Canyon”.
Think that might rate at least ‘County park’ type status somewhere else?
Continuing on, you need to pass a large kitschy “tourist, leave your wallet here” section before you reach the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance. Much of the 17 mile drive thru Bryce is a bit pedestrian. Where are all the ‘hoodoos’?
Bryce is located on the high Kaibib Plateau which extends from the Grand Canyon in the south to Bryce in the north and also encompassing Zion Nat’l Park. The elevations run from 8,000-9,000 feet. So with minor 1,000’ or so elevation changes you are riding the high forested road comprised mainly of pines.
Then you are directed to side roads which end at overlooks and the canyon reveals itself thousands of feet below.
The views are gigantic and, in at least one case, quite surprising!
Autumn has arrived. Although most of the forestation here is of the Evergreen variety, the occasional clumps of Cottonwood and/or Birch provide a splash of color.
Hooked the Jeep back on to the bus and finished the drive to my campground. I’m located right at the Dead end intersection of Mt Carmel Road (Mt Carmel Junction) and Rt 89. There’s a Best Western motel/restaurant and golf course on one of the two corners, a fuel station and campground on another and on the third side another campground. It’s full hookup and backs to a stream at the bottom of the embankment. Campers also have access to the golf course and swimming pool. Zion National Park is about 20 miles west on Mt Carmel and Interstate 15 running between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas is about another 15 miles further west.
I was tipped by a fellow traveler that space on the shuttles, due to COVID, has been restricted and you can only get on with a ticket – $1.00 ea. However a portion of the tickets available each hour are available by reservation 30 days in advance. The remainder go on sale exactly at 9am Mountain Time the day before. So I set my alarm this morning to be sure I was awake and alert by 9 am. Within seconds the tickets for the 9 and 10 am slots for tomorrow were gone. I clicked on 11am but got the message they were gone. Ditto for noon. Saw that there were about 250 left for 2pm and 300+ left for 3pm. Yay, I scored a ticket to board anytime between 2 and 3 pm tomorrow. By 9:04am, everything was sold. By my calculation that would be about 2,000 tickets for the day PLUS I’m probably an equal number sold in the 30 day prior ‘auction’. So I’ll head over earlier and check out the towns of Virgin and Hurricane befNot that I would need to, but I can’t get there via Mt Carmel Rd with the motorhome in that there is a mile long tunnel which is curved. I’m low enough that with a permit I could drive the middle of the tunnel and not scrape (approx 13’ center clearance but a too low 11’4” clearance at the sides). They also limit the width, without a special permit, at 7’10”. With the Jeep, I’m also too long. There are serious curves in the tunnel and the geometry at the curves would put my roof onto the tunnel ceiling, not good! Some decades ago, when I was here pulling a 40’ fifth wheel, I was camped on the west side and for the same reason couldn’t get over to the east side and had to do a 60+ mile detour to accomplish it.
Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020
I left a little after 10 am this morning holding a shuttle ticket to begin at 2pm. The park entry kiosk is about 10 miles east of the Visitor’s Center and the great scenery starts about there. So does the TRAFFIC! It’s a bit of a difficult drive at that point. Between the fabulous views, the drop offs, the little turnouts with 5 cars trying to squeeze into a 3 car spot, pedestrians walking on the road with their faces in their camera viewfinders, there’s a lot to pay attention to.
I finally arrived at the visitor center and it’s many parking lots to be greeted by a sign that all lots were full. I don’t know how many cars can be accommodated but enough for a reasonable sized shopping center. Signs recommended leaving the park to the west and parking on the streets and lots in the adjacent town of Springdale and either walking back in or catching another shuttle. Being me, I decided to just cruise the visitor center parking lot and on my first go round, found an emptying space about 100’ from the center itself. Woot, woot! Another observation. It may be mid Oct and one might think the visitors would be mostly retirees. You’d be wrong! All those people out of work or diligently working from home are actually in the park. Kids! Everywhere! Apparently schools don’t take attendance in virtual school. If you thought it looked like a mid summer holiday weekend, you’d be right.
These first pics and vids are the ride in from the entry to the visitor center.
So much for the entry drive to the visitor center. Following are shots from the shuttle. The shuttle rides about 7 miles up the valley and then back to the center. There are 8 scheduled stops where you can get off, explore, hike, picnic, whatever. You can get back on any bus or elect to walk to the next stop or two. There are lots of people who walk the entire 14 mile round trip plus side hikes (and there are many). Outside the park, in Springdale, there’s a cottage industry for bike rentals and bikers are everywhere. The best way to see the park is to walk or bike it as then you can stop wherever you wish. That’s not in the cards for me so I was limited to shuttle stops. Of those, half were off limits due to rock slides and other reasons. Frankly the shuttle, though socially distanced, was not worth it due to the limited stops, the limited views from one side of the shuttle to the other and dirty windows – even dirtier than mine. The windows were opened about 5” where I could put the iPhone. But this is what I saw.
This is my third visit to Zion since 1998 and my reaction has been the same each time. Absolutely beautiful and overwhelming in scale but totally underwhelming in presentation. Too busy. All three of the visits involved the shuttles and those are very limiting. If one is to divide the park into two segments, one being the Zion Valley area and the other being the drive from the East entrance to the visitor center, the latter, IMO, wins hands down. The 5 mile or so steep switchback descent/ascent, including the tunnel, down the face of the immense cliff is worth the price of admission – and then some. My preference between Zion and Bryce is Bryce if only that in your own car, you can fashion your trip your way and, frankly, on my trip there have been many canyons, many colored rocks, many mountains and valleys but the hoodoo formations of Bryce are so unusual and plentiful and the view of same from atop so unique.
Friday, Oct 16, 2020
I decided this morning on an ‘add’ and took off on a 210 mile (round trip) side trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Although the busier South Rim is only about 13-14 miles, as the crow flies, from the North Rim, it takes about another 200 miles to actually drive between the two. They are also worlds apart in terms of traffic etc.
Things seemed COVID strange. For example, 25 miles outside the park is a place call Jacob Lake. It’s located on the plateau and in the Kaibib National Forest. There is a large Federal campground there which has always been filled to the brim in prior visits. There are now gates across the entry noting that the campground is closed because of COVID19. About 18 miles down the road, closer to the North Rim, there is another federal campground (DeMott) and it appears to be open.
Within the immediate vicinity of the North Rim, there is the North Rim Lodge. You are able to walk into the lobby but no further. The huge spacious dining room is barricaded and you are not able to walk the 25 or so extra paces to the many rear lobby French doors which open to a large outdoor patio. You can however access the patio from the outside by climbing down rock stairs. Adjacent to the lobby is a bar. Its access is off a small hallway which measures at most 4’ wide. People line up in the hallway to place food orders. No social distancing. After placing the order, the patron has to walk past the line of people to get to another location on the far side of the main lobby to pick up their order. Two way traffic imposed in this narrow hall is puzzling as is forcing additional traffic thru the lobby. All bathrooms are off limits forcing all to use the tiny portable jons – as though those might have adequate air exchange!
Most puzzling are the cabins. The main campground is off limits. Dining and restrooms are limited. But there are probably 25-30 individual log cabins all in a courtyard adjacent to the lodge (actually, they are the lodging of the lodge). The concessionaire operator’s people were all over the cabins, throwing laundry bags of linens on to the yard, hauling in fresh linens, lining up extra roll away beds to be placed inside etc. In short, getting the complex ready for what appears to be full weekend occupancy.
Though all the parks in this blog post are US Govt National Parks, they are completely inconsistent vis a vis COVID. Bryce visitors are pretty much self contained in their cars except when they elect to exit at a scenic turn out (or voluntarily congregate at the food trucks). Zion, on the other hand, is schizophrenic. The shuttles have been modified to reduce seating and capacities are severely monitored via ticketing and employees who match visitors to seats. But if you are early for your shuttle time, you are directed to a small area to wait – yes it’s outdoors but crowded. Then there is Zion’s large souvenir concession shop. Walmart on Black Friday would be delighted with the crush of the crowds. Zero controls on capacity. All sales are directed to only two small checkout areas such that lines of folks trying to pay extend deep into the areas where others are browsing and where hoards of kids are running wild and of course touching every souvenir in sight. Then the North Rim restricts outdoor isolated camping, encourages congregating much more closely cabin to cabin, and can’t decide what’s off limits and what’s not off limits if it promotes a burger sale.
Unfortunately, there was smoke in the air again, especially showing with distant shots towards the west.
In June 2020 there was a forest fire (Jacob Lake Fire) about 16 miles north of the North Rim. It consumed over 70,000 acres and is of unknown origin. The effects are certainly observable driving to the Rim.
In 2015 0r 16 when I was here, I did some dispersed camping (no hookups, no marked campsite, just find a place to park or pitch a tent in a forest or at a lake etc) about 9 miles south of Jacob Lake and about 2 miles down a forest path. I spent 3 nights there and explored many of the more than a thousand forest roads and trails. Many would dead end into some remote Lookout over another portion of the Grand Canyon.
I just had to drive down the trail again and see if I could find the site and see if it had burned. It hadn’t😎.
Saturday, Oct 17, 2020
I will be staying here yet Saturday and Sunday. Plan on doing my laundry, some grocery shopping and probably washing the rig. I also need to haul out the Atlas and figure out where I should head to next.
The old paper Atlas is still the way to go for overall planning – as in which direction shall I head and why. Once I’ve determined a general preference, then on line tools are helpful. I primarily use a program called Road Trippers (and others) to see what photo opportunities there may be on the way; I primarily use an app call All Stays to see what camping opportunities there are along with camper reviews of same; a program called RVPark Reviews for even more reviews, tips; websites of the parks of interest, Google to zoom in a sat view of the possible locations, Trip Advisor to see what shopping, groceries , restaurants, POIs etc are nearby, weather app for a one week forecast and an app called TV Towers to see what OTA stations are near and whether the tower they use will reach my campsite (I like local news and weather). If I am going to need Rx refills, I then need to see what pharmacies there are nearby.
When asked about full timing by people, I usually describe it more carefree as in “I get to a state line, flip a coin to decide whether to head right, left or continue straight.” Actually there’s quite a bit that goes into planning. I’m not quite like a hobo picking a freight car and waiting to see where it lands😎. But I like being closer to a hobo lifestyle than being tied to a piece of ground/dwelling with life, in general, circumscribed/bounded by a few mile radius. I just like my neighborhood to be bigger.
Sad news. Received a message this morning from long time full timing friend, Dale Pace. Sharon and I met Dale and her husband Terry probably 15-20 years ago online, probably Facebook, and with common interests in traveling we maintained a virtual friendship over the years. Sometime after Sharon’s passing, Dale and Terry, traveled deep into FL, squeezed their big Phaeton motorhome into a site at Collier-Seminole State Park and visited me at Port of the Islands. It was fun meeting them for real. We took a boat ride out to or towards the Gulf and Dale snapped some great bird pics and shared them. Dale wrote this morning that Terry passed away last night. He suffered severe heart issues for some 22 years and never let it stop him – though Dale did most of the motorhome driving. RIP, Terry.
Today was a bit windy but a great drive. In my last blog post, I wrote about my Thursday cross country drive along The Comb Ridge. That drive ended when it intersected Rt95 which I then took to Blanding and back to Bluff. What I missed in that blog post was that part of the route on 95 which went over and thru the ridge to get to the easterly side. I missed it because I didn’t realize what was coming and so was unable to react quickly enough. So today, heading to Hanksville, I covered the same 50 miles as far as Natural Bridges as I did last Thursday. I was prepared and ready this time.
Once west of Natural Bridges (just before Fry Canyon on the above map), the scenery along Rt 95 makes a major change going from an often green ride with mountains in the distance to red rocks ‘in your face’. No more ‘in the distance’. When I was a kid, I wasn’t much into reading Westerns. The Hardy Boys was more my style. I do have a memory though of the covers of Zane Grey type novels and I think I saw lots of them, LIVE, today albeit from a motorhome rather than a horse.
Arrived at the small town of Hanksville and guess what? Instead of a House in the Rock, they have a Sinclair Gas Station in the Rock. People must have too much time on their hands.
After checking into the campground, I took a short nap and then took the Jeep about 25 miles north to Goblin Valley State Park. Strange looking place and you can wander all through the ‘goblins’. There are actually 3 separate valleys but only one accessible by vehicle.
Tuesday, Oct 13, 2020
It was a short driving day but a pretty one driving through Capital Reef National Park on the way to Torrey. Capital Reef derives its name from a long, approximately 45 miles, north south fold, called Waterpocket Fold, or uplift which over time has eroded or folded over resembling, they say, an ocean reef. Since it’s Utah, there’s an abundance of rock of all color and type but, in keeping with the name Waterpocket, there’s a small river that runs thru the valley which provides a number of green an fertile areas. After checking into the RV park in Torrey, I took the Jeep back to Capital Reef to check it out.
Within the Park there is a historic site of an old settler’s town, Fruita, UT, now a ghost town. It’s in a valley with the Fremont River (we midwesterners would call it a creek but then again it’s dry season) and probably looked fertile to exhausted settlers. They planted thousands of trees bearing Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Ben Davis, Red Astrachan, Twenty-Ounce Pippin and Yellow Transparent apples, Moorpark apricots, Elberta peaches, Bartlett pears, Fellenberg plums, and the Potawatomi plum. Settlers also planted English and black walnuts and almonds. Grape arbors appeared later. Around the turn of the century, with basic essentials taken care of, settlers turned towards constructing a school, stores and a small lodge. The orchards are now a very very large picnic area, educational nature trails and campgrounds. Visitors are allowed to pick any of the fruit as long as they eat it in premise.
Tomorrow south towards the Bryce and Zion NP area for 5 days.
Why would they name it ‘Bluff’? I seem to be surrounded by bluffs created over time by the San Juan River and by wind erosion.
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2020
I had a touring plan for today. There are lots and lots of available choices.
Side trip into the Valley of the Gods.
Valley of the Gods, a sandstone playground, offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. There are no designated campgrounds but ‘dispersed camping’ is allowed (no services, no designated sites – if you can drive there or carry your tent there, you can camp there. There are many scenic turnout type areas where you can camp with lots of wide open areas to hike and beautiful scenes.
A 17-mile dirt and gravel road winds through the valley. It is sandy and bumpy, with steep sections. It provides a fun drive and is a great place to get away from civilization – to get away from everything associated with modern life.