*****

Quartzsite AZ, 2016 You can never enjoy enough sunsets!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Kartchner Caverns and Tombstone AZ

The weather has been very cold in southern Arizona! We are very happy with the double pane windows and furnace in the Alfa. They  do a good job of keeping us nice and warm in the night. On Monday we just missed the stormy weather in our driving. The wind had rocked the coach enough for us to pull the slides in Sunday night, but died down in the morning. Our drive from Tucson to Kartchner Caverns was just under 80 miles, and except for the last few we had no cross winds.

But by the time we were parked in our spot at the campground a few flakes of snow were flying. When we woke in the morning it was to a clear sky with just a dusting of snow on the ground.

I had bought our tickets for the cavern tour online so we knew what time to go over to the Discovery Center for the tour. I had read that the cave was always 72° so we only took our light jackets.  Big mistake since we had to ride in an open tam to get to the cave entrance. Brrr!

But once inside, it was a very pleasant temperature. Photography is not allowed inside the cave, so the following two pictures are from the web image file.




If you like caves, as we do, this one was very good with numerous formations. It is still a wet, growing cave, with new formations growing over the millennia. 














Thursday's adventure was a drive over to see Tombstone AZ.



Because my foot is not yet healed, and I am still handicapped by the boot, we decided to take the trolley tour instead of a walking tour.

The cost for the trolley tour was only $8 each, and if we wanted to buy the combined trolley tour and gunfight show the tickets were only $12. The gun fight show was not the re-enactment of the showdown at the OK Corral. Instead it was a rather lame, but delightful little comedy presented by four silly actors.


The seated audience was encouraged to cheer and boo. The actors made a lot of corny jokes, but fun was had by all. Hey, what do you expect for $4?

After the gunfight show, we were driven around on the enclosed trolly (good thing because it was cold) and the driver told us yarns about the buildings and the history of Tombstone. 



Another type of tour can be taken in one of the several stagecoaches that clip clop around town. I could hear the blather coming from the stage and noticed a mike on the driver, so his passengers must have been getting a story as well.

We also spent some time walking the main street and looking into the shops. There were several rather nice places that sold authentic looking period clothing. 

On the way out of town, we stopped to visit the Boothill graveyard.




Since it is a real graveyard there is no fee to walk through it. A large part of the downhill graveyard was destroyed by flood waters over the years, but up on the hill the markers have been restored and the stone cairns kept up. 





Most of the graves that had names on them were dated 1880 - 1883. 
I wondered who  put flowers on a 135 year old grave.



There were also several examples of grave yard
humor.



This was just one of the views we had while driving back to the campground. The color was soft, and the sky a brilliant blue.

Next stop ... Bisbee Arizona for a Mine Tour and a town walkabout.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Biosphere 2

Not far from Tucson is an amazing structure that I remember learning about in the 90s. Biosphere 2 was built with private funds as a closed, 3.14 acre building to study the "web of interactions within life systems".

[From Craig] So you walk into this place, and there's a little round structure like a Midwest water tower, but there's no sphere! The "sphere" in the name comes from looking at the Earth as "Biosphere 1", and they tried to build a miniature version of the Earth to find ways to help the Earth survive and improve.  Instead of a sphere the big structure is a flat-topped pyramid, kind of like the Incas and Aztecs built.  And once you get over the lack of a sphere, it's a very interesting place...



In September of 1991, eight "crew" members entered Biosphere 2 to live for two years. They did have a few problems, but these were not considered failures of the experiment. Rather they were considered accumulation of enormous amounts of information and experience that might someday be used in space or on another planet. There also was a second, much shorter, closed experiment. 

There were five biomes, plus an agricultural area and a human habitat. 

On the tour we saw several of them:  


The plants and trees in the Rainforest biome have grown much larger than when the closed experiments where going on. 



Some of the plants in the Desert biome died out because there was more water from unexpected condensation that developed on the glass walls and ceiling.



The Ocean was neat: small but neat. The coral reef that had been included died because they wanted to see if coral could adapt to slowly increasing temperatures.  It couldn't, as has occurred many times since in the real oceans.

We also saw the Savannah, which now has more trees and less grass than it did in the 90's, and the Mangrove wetland. 

The area that had been the "farm" or agricultural biome has been transformed to house a huge experiment to study how water moves through the desert.  The kind of work you'd expect from the U of Arizona, which now owns and runs the place.

After the second closed experiment, the place fell into limbo when the company that had been formed to build it dissolved. It was first purchased and operated by Columbia University, and later was purchased and donated to the U of Arizona, which uses it for research and runs the public tours.

We are very glad we had the opportunity to see this remarkable place and learn about its history.

In the 90s I remember wondering what it would be like living  in a closed system with seven other people for two years. But here I am, living in a small space, 24/7, with one other person. We have done quite well for over two years! The Biosphere 2 is huge by comparison, but I don't think I could do it without a Trader Joe's.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dry Camping and Fortuna De Oro RV Resort

Laura asked how dry camping went for us, and how we managed our tanks for that long. When we first started out RVing we overnighted a few times in Walmart parking lots. I was OK with it, but Craig said he would prefer to go to RV parks and have full hookups. Basically I am in charge of choosing where we stay, so in respect for Craig's wishes, I avoided Walmarts but slipped in a Casino parking lot from time to time.  We also stayed in state and regional parks that have power and water, but no sewer connections. We found that driving to the dump station when needed is no big deal. 

Last fall we dry camped for nine days with a group at the Albuquerque Ballonfest. We got accustomed to running our generator for a few hours each day, and being just a little careful with our water use. We did pay for a service that came to our site and pumped out our holding tanks and refilled our water (once to do both) during our stay.

So, we felt pretty well prepared to dry camp at Quartzsite. We came with empty holding tanks and full freshwater, fuel, and propane tanks. There was a dump station and fresh water fill station several  miles away, on the BLM land.  We went there once halfway thru our stay. We were not particularly frugal with our water. We did take fewer, shorter showers. I washed dishes every other day, and tried to use fewer dishes. Most evening meals were pot luck for which we used paper plates.  The only power compromise we had to make was to not use the microwave, and to run the generator when we used the coffee maker. We also had to have the inverter on when we wanted to watch TV or charge the computers and iPads.

So, all in all we I thought it went well and Craig said he would be willing to dry camp from time to time.

Or, so he said!

Yesterday, as I was looking at or options for camping in Big Bend National Park later this month, I asked him which he would want to do: dry camp for $7.00 per night in a National Park campground, or pay $35.00 per night for full hook-ups at the commercial concession-run campground, nearby.

He chose the commercial full hook ups.  I have not yet made reservations.

[From Craig]  I have no head for money.  That's one of the things that for which I rely on Merikay.  When I'm offered the choice between less work and more convenience vs. less money, I'll choose the former as long as the money delta seems reasonable.  Which brings us back to the question what is reasonable...

Onto another subject. I promised several people I would write about the Fortuna De Oro RV Resort in Yuma. Like many others, when we were browsing the Big Tent, we picked up a coupon for free three nights.  

I am happy to say the offer is legitimate with no strings attached, and no sales pitch to listen to. The resort is enormous! The map show over 1250 sites. It is not as fancy as some of the snowbird parks, but the spaces were large, the laundry was clean, and it looked like there were many activities available. I did not make it to either of the pools, but I heard they were nice. Their regular daily rate is $39.  There were a half-dozen others checking in when we arrived, and they all had coupons. One lady told me she didn't have one and they gave her one at the desk. We all like a free sample, and this was the best. We will keep this resort in mind for future stays in Yuma. 

We are now on our way to Tucson. I'm writing this as Craig drives down I-8.

Since I had no pictures to share today, I'm ending with a coloring page:


Picture from Mandelas Coloring Book bought at Michael's.
Birds brown feathers, beaks and legs colored with Sharpie Fine Point pens
all the rest done with PRISMACOLOR Pencils

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Now for the rest of the story ...

Drone picture of Alfa Roadrunner rigs at 2016 Quartzsite Rally

Before we came to Quartzsite, ten days boondocking in the desert seemed like a very long time. But, even though we really have not done very much away from camp, the days have just zipped by. My foot is slowly getting better. I continue to spend most of my time with my foot up.

Colored with PRISMACOLOR pencils
in Adult Color Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs.
Purchased both on Amazon


Thank goodness for my new-found coloring book hobby! It has really helped pass the time.


On Friday some of the ladies had a craft show and tell. It was wonderful to see the creative things they have been making. I shared my color books and was surprised by the complements and questions. I was asked if I would do a class about color and materials at the upcoming Alfa National Rally. Unfortunately we will not be going to it this year. I felt flattered by the idea that I could advise anyone. For me, coloring is a natural act. Choosing color combinations is not a challenge. I don't really plan, it just happens, and if the results aren't pleasing to me, I just move on.

Sticking to a healthy eating program is impossible at a rally like this, with nightly pot luck meals. Knowing this, my only goal for January was to cut out drinking wine. I am pleased that I have been successful. Not a drop of wine to drink since New Years morning when I hand one Mimosa with champagne.

February is going to be salad month. No wine, and a nice salad with a low-cal dressing as a starter for every dinner. I know it will be a good way to help myself eat a little less fattening food for dinner. I am really trying to change my eating and drinking habits for life! I like salads, I just have to eat them more often.

Potatoes roasting in campfire at Quartzsite Roadrunner Rally

Speaking of rally food, one of the nights we had a potato pot luck. Everyone brought a potato, a topping, and a side to share. All tasty, but not very low carb or calorie foods.





George Y. and Barbara D. at the Bloggerfest 2016

Saturday we had get togethers in the afternoon and in the evening!


George was one of the coordinators of the second annual Quartzsite Bloogerfest. 

Thank you, it was fun to meet so many of our good friends for the first time and say hello to some of those we have met on the road. 





Other bloggers who have posted pictures from the day include Al and Kelly from The Bayfield Bunch  and George and Susie from Our Awesome Travels. People pictures don't seem to work well for us, so if you want to see some more of this group check them out.

Saturday night was the last Pot Luck with the Roadrunner group. We all wore our official red shirts. Craig and I missed getting back in time for the group picture, but here it is anyway.


Alfa Roadrunner Group Photo at Quartzsite January 2016

We enjoyed spending time with them.

So, where to now?

On Monday we will be heading down to Yuma to spend three nights at the Fortuna De Oro RV, Golf and Country Club Resort. We picked up a coupon at the Big Tent, for a free three night stay there. We have been assured by friends that there are no hidden strings attached. 

After that we will be heading to Tucson.

Check back for updates!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quartzsite Big Tent Show

The Big Tent, image from the Web
Many other bloggers have written about their experiences at the 
Big Tent RV show held at Quartzite Arizona every January. I guess it's different for everyone. My report is aimed at those who have never been here, and are wondering what it is like for a first-timer.

If you are a good walker, you can see everything in the big tent and in the many side small tent areas in one day, but two would probably be better. That way if you saw something you were interested in, you could think about it and buy on the second visit. I went one day by myself on Saturday, for a few hours, and then went back with Craig on Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the vendors were selling products aimed at RVers. Things like tow bars, tire monitor systems, RV bedding, water filters, LED lights, chairs, patio mats and camping membership programs. There were a number of RV resorts passing out information about their parks, as well as representatives from the Alaska visitor centers and Tombstone AZ tourist bureau. Many others were just selling things like hot tubs, exercise machines, cleaning products, cooking tools, t-shirts, and even Medifast diet programs. Overall it reminded me of the many state fairs I have been to, but with an RV twist. 

The few things we were interested in were not being offered at bargain prices. I have been looking into Fantasy RV Tours and at their booth I was told that I could get a discount if I booked a tour while at the show. I asked how much of a discount, and it came to a whopping $100 off a ten thousand dollar tour! I did buy a little clip-on purse at one booth and since I am getting used to being offered deals in Mexico, I asked if his posted price was his "best price." The answer was that the sales tax was included if I paid cash.  No bargains there either.

The outer tents were a bit more flea-market-like. I enjoyed browsing through the many open boxes of cheap stuff.  But that is exactly what it all was. Cheap stuff! Things you can find at any swap meet or Dollar Store.

At risk of sounding like a complete curmudgeon, I also felt the food offerings were ordinary and very expensive. At one point I had to sit down to rest my foot, and shared a table with some others while I drank a  $2.50 small bottle of water. One of my table mates had a $6 order of french fries, and said they were limp and greasy. 

Around the show area, and in the town of Quartzsite itself there are a number of  RV dealers who are showing and selling both new and used rigs. At one point my foot hurt, so I flagged down a salesman with a golf cart and he took me around to see several rigs. Unfortunately there were very few in his area that filled my list of "wants", and none of them appealed to me enough to even ask "how much." But it is a good opportunity to see a lot of RVs that are on the market. If that is your purpose, I'd plan on staying several days.

Now about our nice experiences with the Alfa Roadrunners, our chapter of the Alfa Owners group, at Quartzsite:

Quartzsite Sky on Fire

We arrived in the early evening, just as it was starting to get dark. Our plan was to park with the Roadrunners out on the La Posa BLM (Bureau of Land Management). They have been coming to the same spot for many years. 

The La Posa lands are huge, 11,400 acres with four entrances! Looking at it on Google Earth, all I could see was a big open desert hard-pan with many small dirt roads and tracks going in many directions. Fortunately we got very good instructions from the president of the Roadrunners as to how to find the other Alfas. We entered at the North entrance, just off US 95, and there were many RVs parked at every angle. There are no "spaces." The cost to park on BLM land is $40, paid at an entrance, for two weeks. They also have a yearly rate. The entry road is paved for a short way, but then becomes a somewhat rough gravel track, with smaller tracks off to either side.  We were told to drive straight for a while and turn at the Alfa Roadrunner signs.

This worked fine, even though it was starting to get dark, and after about two miles we found them, but by this time it was dark and the road was getting vague. We had been warned about a gully we might get stuck in if we turned too soon, so when we got within five hundred feet of them, we stopped and Craig went out to scout the way on foot. 

By this time, the other Alfa owners saw us and one of our friends came out to guide us in. The message here is to avoid driving in to the La Posa to park after dark, unless you do so quite near the entrance road! 



There are about twenty Alfas here, and several other Roadrunner couples have come to visit from other parking areas. Our rig is the farthest right in this line. We are parked in an orderly way, much closer to each other than most of the other RVs on the BLM land. I guess that is because we are a group and want to visit with each other. I have noticed many clusters and circles of rigs and assume they are also groups of friends. 



The view out our side windows is very peaceful and we cannot see any other rigs at all on the driver's side. It was a bit overcast the day I took this, but the weather has been fine most days. Cool overnight, but warming up enough to go without a jacket during the day. The nights are totally silent once the generators go off, and we have been sleeping soundly.


As a group, we get together for a campfire every evening. This was taken right after our president-and-log-handler had put quite a few new logs on. 

Of course there are always many munchies to share, and on all but two nights we have pot luck dinners as well. 

Craig and I have been sleeping late, so we have missed the group breakfast gatherings. We just are not morning people.


Wednesday night we made S'mores. 

I like my marshmallows to catch fire!









Lots of talking, making new friends, and catching up with old.



Perhaps Washington should have campfires instead of Congress. Maybe we could solve the country's problems with camaraderie and woodsmoke.

There has also been a  Tech Talk and shared repair work going on. 

One morning we had a Coach Walk, which is somewhat like an open house where we can visit each others' coaches to see how they've been modified and/or decorated. Participation, by having a sign posted and an open door, was optional. We saw and sat in a chair which both Craig and I agree on. What are the odds of that? It is a La-z-boy. We are going to wait until we get to a city with a La-z-boy store so we can see and feel the different leather choices before we order one. I'm excited!

We each contributed $15 towards group expenses. This covered a pizza dinner on the first night, and since there was money left over we are having an Ice Cream Social Thursday. 

On Friday I am looking forward to a craft "show and tell". It is always interesting and inspiring to see what the other ladies are making. I wonder if any of the men will come.


The group has also gone  to see  a couple of nearby places, one of which was the Blythe Intaglios

To me they look like they could have been created just a few months ago, but they are thought to be several thousand years old!

I have to recommend the place where we had lunch after our outing. 


The Rebel BBQ (TripAdvisor rated #1 out of 37 restaurants in Blythe, CA) had outstanding food at reasonable prices. It is located on South Lovekin Blvd., just two blocks from the I-10. There is only car parking in their lot, but we spotted ample parking for a large RV or two, behind the McDonalds across the street.  This is a good place to keep in mind if you are rolling through the area, and want to stop for lunch, or if you want to pick up some carryout to eat in your rig later.

So, all in all it has been a very pleasant week. I would certainly come back to see the other Alfa Roadrunners. I would not come back to see the Big Tent!

We are also going to join many of the other bloggers that are in Quartzsite this week for the Second Annual Bloggerfest  on Saturday. We are looking forward to meeting so many of our friends for the first time!


[From Craig]  It's been quite a while since I've posted a food recommendation, but these two are really good. 

Frito-Lay introduced Tostitos Rolls for last year's Super Bowl, and they're available at many supermarkets across the country.  To me they have several advantages over other corn-snack products: 
* they're crunchier, in a more solid way
* they stay fresh longer (if you close the package tightly)
* they pack more densely, so you get way more crunchy corn stuff per package.

Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar has a slight sweetness and a hotness that grows on you.  If you're not near a Trader Joe's, try a different brand of corn, black bean, and pepper salsa.

Just right for this weekend's NFL championship games, and the Super Bowl!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort, and the Salton Sea

I like to include a map from time to time to help my New Zealand friends, and others see where in the country we are. This week we are at the Fountain of Youth Spa and RV park, which is just east of the Salton Sea in California.



Although Google Earth put the red bubble in the sea, we are actually on the east side of it. This area is called the Imperial Valley, and you can see the textured green areas both north and south of the sea indicating intense irrigated agriculture. Although, as we drove up from the south we saw some food crop fields, most were in hay. Wikipedia has a very good article about the Salton Sea


The Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort is a large, older 55+, commercial park that is a Snowbird destination.  Based on the conversations I had while in the pools, many of the occupants have been coming here for the winter for many years. There are numerous casitas and RVs that appear they have not traveled for a long time. I guess this, not because of their conditions, but because of the extensive add-ons of sunrooms, awnings, and furniture. I heard that there is an age limit on rigs and casitas, and that last year they removed quite a few of them. In addition to the more permanent structures, there are a lot of RV spaces and many of them are occupied by newer, large class A rigs.  A nice mix. I am comfortable here.


The main draw seems to be the two large warm pools, one of which is a saltwater pool, and the four or five large hot tub spas. One of the hot tubs has mineral water from the hot springs in the area. It is said to be very good for relief of pain caused by arthritis and other joint and muscle pain of the elderly.

Based on the activity board and weekly park news, there are many clubs and activities to participate in. As visitors we did not explore these, but it looks like no one needs to be bored or lonely spending a winter there. However, if you want to eat out, or shop at city malls, shops, or grocery stores this may not be the place for you. There is a small, well stocked general store and a cafe in the park, but anything else is pretty far away.

We have spent a very relaxed low key week here. Craig still has a cold and had been resting and reading.

Poolside music

After a few weeks, my booted foot bones seem to be healing. I no longer feel a burning pain across the top of my foot. 

According to the web, carefully walking in a pool is therapeutic at this stage. It helps keep the muscles working while limiting weight bearing. So, although my cold is not quite gone, I have been going to the pools for an hour or so every day. I have tried them both, but favor the saltwater pool.

The rest of my time has been spent relaxing with my feet up while I listen to TV and color. I love my new Prismatic Pencils!









From one side of the coach we can see the Salton Sea. 



In the other direction we have a view of a rugged mountain range. Because our days are running at a slow pace, we have noticed a remarkable show of light and dark, sunshine and overcast, and a remarkable range of natural color on the rocky faces. 


Finally, we have enjoyed colorful sunsets almost every evening. This is the view through the side window of the Alfa.

We head over to Quartzsite on Friday. It promises to be yet another type of adventure!

  
[From Craig]  This is our second Fountain of Youth, not that either seems to have done much for us yet. The first was in St. Petersburg, FL in November of 2014.



Sunday, January 10, 2016

More About Mexican Dentistry

I choose to write more on this topic because I see there is a lot of interest in it.  Many of the other RV bloggers have also written about their experiences, and I highly recommend reading their input and checking out reviews before making any decisions for yourself about your own situation.


Starting as a teenager, going to the dentist was a regular part of my life. When reviewing my most recent x-rays, the dentist and I noted that I had only one tooth that had not been crowned, had a root canal, or was pulled to make way for a bridge. 






It seems, like everyone in my family, I have lousy teeth. I have always tried to take care of them, brushing regularly, and seeing dentists twice a year and at the first sign of any problems. I sometimes wonder if my brain has been partially fried by all of the x-rays I have had over the years!





I am the youngest in my family, and I two of my siblings have false teeth.  

I feel I have made a firm stand against getting dentures. It has been very expensive, and disappointing when my American made bridges or crowns have failed. A few years ago I spent over $3000 for a three tooth bridge, only to have it break in a couple of years, it had to be replaced with a five tooth bridge (only $5500). The dentist gave me a price break because I was retired. I have to say, this bridge seems  to be OK.  For now.


How much worse can Mexican Dentistry be for me? Will my new crowns hold up over time? Maybe, maybe not, but I am willing to give it a go. 

One of the crowns I just had replaced is on a molar that I have had trouble with for years. It has had a root canal and a crown, but always bothered me just a little. My American dentist checked it several times over the years and wanted to send me to a specialist if it got worse. He felt there was nothing he could do for it. I know it has only been a day since my crowns were put on, but this is the first time in seven years that that tooth has been quiet. I hope it lasts!

We chose Sani Dental in Los Algodones. We have seen both good and bad reviews, and except for the long waits in the waiting room, have been satisfied with their work, cleanliness, and cost. 


While writing this, I thought of another advantage for us as full time RVers. With my dentist in the States, I would have to make an appointment, weeks in advance, unless it was an emergency, get the preliminary work done, make another appointment for when the lab work was complete, sometimes a couple of weeks, and come back for the final work. When you travel the way we do, this just doesn't work. 

I have been able to get cleaning appointments by planning ahead, and a couple of times we had dental emergencies that we only had to wait a week or so to get in for treatment. We have found many small town dentists and doctors have offices in more than one town and it is not easy to get in as a traveler.  In Mexico, although we generally do make an appointment, the system is loose, you will be seen, and getting a crown or bridge only takes three or four days. 

Would I get a knee or hip replacement in Mexico? Probably not.  If my insurance didn't cover it, I would go to Thailand or Dubai.

[From Craig] I looked up Merikay's Zirconia crowns on Wikipedia.  The article said they are a good investment for both appearance and durability.  It finished with this sentence: "Zirconium crowns cost around $200 in India, $450 in Hungary and $550 in Mexico".  Which makes me wonder why they chose those three countries.  It's also an interesting data point for someone who needs most or all of their crowns replaced.