Monday, April 14, 2014

More than one way to get there!

After a nice driving day, we spent a peaceful night in the free RV/truck parking area of the Casino in Indio CA on Sunday. It was just a stop-over on our way to the Jojoba Hills SKP park.

As I mentioned in my last post, the portion of the drive from Indio to the park looked like it was a winding mountain road.  After our mishap on Highway 1 in 2012, I tend to look at any new route on my large Rand McNally Atlas for Truckers and RVers, and if I am uncertain I also check it out on Map quest and Google Earth.

Although there is a drivable road thru the mountains west of Indio to Aguana, it is not marked as a trucker route. This is what Map quest looked like:

I was definitely suspicious of the part of the road that is circled.  I enlarged it. 

Nope! Not a road we wanted to drive in a 36' Class A, towing a car.

When I entered the destination in our Rand McNally RV Navigator, the same route was given.

Sorry lady, we are not going that way.

The alternative was a lot farther, but it went around the mountain instead of over it.

I was unsure about the circled section, but figured since it was more in the foothills it would not be as bad.  

One interesting fact was that the first route was a state highway, and the alternate was just a county road.  But then our nightmare drive was on a state highway as well! 

This is a blow up of the circled part. It had a lot of curves and hills, but there was almost no traffic. 

We got to that part just as it was my turn to drive. Craig did offer to drive it, but truth be told, I feel less stressed driving a hard route than being the passenger. I think it has something to do with feeling in control.  I really took my time, and we had no mishaps. 

There was a very easy, but really long way to get there from the west, but that would have added another 30 or 40 miles.

We are now settled into our spot at the SKP park. We will be here for 28 days, or less if Alfateers can fit us in sooner.  It is a delightful place and I will have more to share in upcoming posts.

What tools do you use to plan your routes?  
Have they ever misguided you?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rally Specials

One of the nice things about going to an RV rally once in awhile is having various vendors offering slightly reduced prices ready to come to your site.  

On Wednesday we had several windows defogged, and on Thursday morning our Alfa got her annual wash and wax. 

Thursday afternoon we had the holding tanks professionally blasted clean. Now, the SENSORS ARE WORKING. In two and a half years the black tank sensor has never read empty. We will see how long this remains true. We have tried lots of recommended things to keep them clean and unclogged, but despite them the sensors still showed 2/3 full after being emptied. EMPTY is good. The cleaning did cost $180, but that is far less than having the sensors replaced. Now we know they were not malfunctioning.

Throughout the week we have been to a number of seminars. As usual some are just informercials with product to push, but some have been interesting and informative. We have some very smart people in our group who gave talks about some of the systems we all have.

Our favorite repair service guys from Alfateers are here, but we waited too long to get on their work schedule here. We were surprised that we couldn't get in for work at their shop until mid-May. We had unrealistically expected to be able to just drive there next week and get our work done. Not. We are on the list, and if they get a cancellation earlier they will let us know. In the meantime we will drive there, in the car, for a day next week to look at carpet samples and discuss satellite systems and installation of our new front TV. If we order something they do not have in stock it will take a couple of weeks to get there anyway.

With this in mind, we are going to go to the Escapee park, Jojoba Hills, near Aguanga CA. It's about sixty miles from Alfateers' location. It looks very comfortable. A bit on the rustic side, it has been on my list of places I wanted to visit in California. They don't take reservations, but I called and they said they currently had several sites in the rental pool. So we should be able to get in.

I've done my homework, and made the plan for the next drive. We will leave here Sunday morning, meet a friend in Phoenix for brunch and then drive most of the way to the Escapee park. It looks like the last miles are on a narrowish road and we don't want to drive it at the end of the day in the dark. Best to do that Monday morning.

Gee, it's nice to be able to take our time! I checked my "Casino Camping" book and located the Casino in Indio that allows overnight RV parking. So that's where we will stop over Sunday night.

The rally days have zipped by. We have had wonderful dinners each night. I have only had to cook once! They are even going to pass out complimentary "breakfasts in bags" Sunday morning. I think we will save ours for an afternoon snack when we are driving.

So many people have worked very hard and volunteered their time to make this a fun event. I did a little by volunteering to teach a craft class. It was fun. I asked the lady who had showed me how to do plastic-canvas needlepoint last year, if she would join me in leading a class. Between the two of us, we think we have inspired a few of our friends to give it a try, or if they had done it years ago, to give it another look. Leading a class also helped me become "part of the group" and get to know some of the other ladies better.

Everyone has a story, and everyone comes from a different place, but they all enjoy RVing and are part of the Alfa family. We also enjoy the Alfa Rally because is is a lot smaller than the FMCA's. We only had 120 rigs, so it was actually possible to get to know some of the people. 

We may be able to be back next year, or we may not. We will just have to wait and see where the Alfa take us.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Camp Freightlier

First off I want to thank all of you who encouraged us for these many long months.  It was great to read so many celebratory comments.

I'm not really sure what I think about Camp Freightliner. But, I'm glad I went with Craig, so I have heard the same things he did. Two memories are better than one.

When I was a new driver I took what was called a "Powder Puff Mechanics" class. It helped me understand how a good old fashioned car worked and made it possible for me to talk to, and not be bullied by a mechanic. I had no intention of fixing my cars, but I could and did change a tire or two!

A few months after buying the Alfa we took a private RV driving class to help us be better drivers. It was a good investment. If we can remember everything he taught us, this class should also help us do the right things to keep our Alfa in good condition for many miles.

Camp Freightliner is taught by Mike Cody from Freightliner and everyone in our class of 24 has an Alfa, so all of the information was pretty well tailored to our rigs. 

Most of the participants were men. But three other women were there and we all asked plenty of questions. 

Mike was a good instructor, and tried to be sure all questions were answered and no one felt shy about asking anything. 

Each rig got a huge binder of information. 

Mike went thru it page by page and made sure we knew what was included and what did not pertain to our Alfas. Other sessios of Camp Freightliner might be tailored to other brands of motohomes.

We also got a CD of the binder, additional pertinent materials, and instructions on how to find our own answers, part numbers, and lists of maintenance scheduales.  

We all should be able to talk to a service writer and know what we need or do not need. I think the guys who are "do it yourselfers" were given great instruction on identifying parts and problems.  

There was so much information, I got bogged down from time to time, but as my new hat pin says: "I SURVIVED CAMP FREIGHTLINER"

One of the useful bits of money saving information anyone who has a Freightliner Chassis and is a member of FMCA, was to also join the FCOC. The Freightliner Chassis Owners Club is a chapter of the FMCA.  It cost only $10 per year, and you can get 10% off parts and labor at participating Oasis centers. An Oasis center is a Freightliner Service center that works on RVs.  

We have been having a nice time at the rally this week.  Lots of dinners, seminiars, service work being done, and ideas exchanged.

The Palms RV resort is huge: almost 2000 spaces. Many are casitas, and most of the outlying spaces are just gravel with a cement patio and one palm tree each.  The golf course is very pretty, and the activity center is large with many special rooms for crafts, etc.  Nice pool.  I think it is a great place for a rally. We needed a resort that could handle over 100 rigs, with a banquet hall that could hold 300 people. This place has that along with good catering and friendly staff.

We don't know where we are going next week yet.  We have some work we want done on the Alfa, and our favorite company says they can't get to us next week.  We shall see.  No rush, there are plenty of places to explore and we have all the time in the world to do so!

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Not an April Fool joke. We hope ... our realtor called us Tuesday afternoon to tell us the sale was closed.  A closing on April Fool's day seems a fitting conclusion for our sale saga; it went up for sale on August 16.

I'm not sure what we would have done if it had fallen through again.  Arson? Explosives? Abandonment? Hari kari? 

Or maybe we would have just kept running!

Fortunately, we do not have to consider any of those.  

I have waited until today to post this because I reallly wanted to see the money in our account before breathing that final sigh of relief.

But it is there now and we can do what we have planned on doing.  Driving off into the sunrise ...  

We started in California after all!

[From Craig: Story of My Life department] For years I have been lusting after the FIOS service from Verizon, but was always told that we couldn't have it in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It's about the fastest Internet and movie access available in the US.  Today I logged into the Verizon site to terminate our phone service and was confronted by a announcement "Wonderful news! Your area is now eligible for Verizon FIOS service." Grrrrr!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cactus Flower at Rio Bend RV Resort, El Centro, CA

When I took my walk Monday morning, before we pulled out, I was suprised by the largest cactus flower I have ever seen. It was in the garden in front of the Rio Bend office, not in the wild desert. 

There was one just budding.

And one fully open and perfect.

It was eight inches in diameter. The plant was growing several additional buds on the top.

I am using it as my header for now, but since that goes away when I change headers, I am including the same image in this post. 

It was amazing!

Oh, and for anyone who wants to know more about the brand of the ladder in my last post, check the comments. Craig wrote up the details there.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

This and that at Rio Bend RV Resort

What kind of ducks are these?  They were huge!  Far larger than any wild mallard I have ever seen. They were happily swimming in the pond at th Rio Bend RV resort, and when I walked by, instead of paddling away they quickly got out of the water and came quacking towards me.  They were clearly looking for a handout, and when I proved to be treatless they returned to the water. 

If they were dogs I would call them mutts.  I think mother duck was a local domestic and father duck was a traveling bird! I didn't know ducks did that, but I suspect he was a "Dandy Drake", possibly from Oregon, and she was a "Dizzy Dame." 

We returned to this park because Craig has a return appointment with the Algodones dentist on Tuesday, and we really liked it here for the $25 per day Passport America rate. I have walked every morning and gone to the pool for an hour every afternoon.  Stretching in a warm pool is so good for my back.  This is one of the things I have been looking forward to so very much. It balances the days of hiking and rock climbing very nicely.  

Our site is small, but cozy. There are olianders around the back, and a park model on one side. It blocks the wind nicely.

Many of the snowbirds have already left for the season, but we enjoyed meeting a few at the last park fish fry on Friday evening. Yummy. $10 each. All you can eat, although we each only ate one portion.   Beer was $2. 

On Saturday we finished our taxes, and on Sunday we worked on our wish list for the things we want and need for the Alfa.  One of them was a ladder.

We found this one at the Home Depot in El Centro. It extends to 12' 6" and is quite light. I really like the thickness of the legs. It has nice rubber buffers on the top edges so it won't scratch or mark the Alfa.

Craig didn't need to extend it all of the way to reach the back bedroom window, but can if he needs to work higher.

While we were still at Camp Driveway we had several ladders, but none were suitable to bring along.  Craig really doesn't want to tie a ladder onto the back of the Alfa. We have plenty of room in the bays for this type.

Monday night we will be dry camping at the Casino that is about two miles from the border. His appointment is at 10:00 AM, and then we will drive on over to Casa Grande.  It is only about 170 miles. We will be a couple of days early for our Camp Freightliner class, but many of the Alfa owners will also already be there. I think we will run up to Chandler (about 40 miles) on Wednesday to go to Trader Joe's and Camping World. Our total stay in Casa Grande will be 12 days.  It is a lovely resort, has a nice pool, and we will have many Alfa activities and dinners. We enjoyed ourselves last year and are sure to do so again this.

I will post about the Freightliner class.

Until then:

Sunset, as viewed from a few steps away from our Rio Bend RV Resort site on Saturday evening.  


Friday, March 28, 2014

Further thoughts about the Desert

In my last post I wrote that I didn't really like the desert all that much.  This is not really an accurate statement.  I do like the desert, I just wouldn't want to live here long term.

There are many places I want to visit, want to spend a week or two exploring, but already know they are not candidates for long term residency. I want to go to Alaska a few years from now, but I know I don't want to stay there.  I am planning a two month trip to Florida, but don't expect to settle in the Keys. New England and the Maritime Provinces call to me, but I know we will travel back to the Western U. S. in the long term.

As a blogger, I hope to be true to myself in my reactions to different parts of this great country. Some people are compelled to only write glowing reports of where they are what they are doing.

Someone wrote to us after we commented on the winds that "they never were bothered by wind in Phoenix."  They said they had seen dust clouds on TV, but had none where they lived. This person said they hoped our house would close soon so we could go where we wanted to go.  We already are! We wanted to come to Anza-Borrego.  We may just be a little late in the spring. We enjoyed the desert outside of Palm Springs last year, but we were there in December. We were fascinated by Death Valley, but our visit there was in January.

Time of day also has a lot to do with enjoying the desert too.  We are really not morning people. All winter we enjoyed late mornings in bed reading and sipping our coffee. Years ago, when I was a smoker, I was always up early so I could get my first hit of nicotine  Then there were the dog years. With our last dog it was my job to get up early, let her out, wait for her to return, give her an injection of insulin and feed her.  Then I would snuggle back into the warm bed and read the morning paper.

Now we naturally wake up about 7 AM, and by the time we do all our morning things at a leisurely pace, it can be 9 AM before we are both ready to do or go anywhere.  This is not compatible with desert living.  It seems to me that hiking might be best at 6-8 AM, and sitting outdoors is best after sunset.  

We lived in the Dallas area for four years. I remember one year when it did not get below 100 degrees (at any time of day) for over 30 days.  We went from our air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned stores, back to the air-conditioned house.  We had a very nice pool, but it was too hot to swim during the day. I didn't mind.  That was where we were and that was what the summers were like. We could not move on.

I wrote about this week's wind as an experience. It was real. The rocking of the coach as we lay in bed was not nearly as scary as listening to the wind in the trees that towered above us at Camp Driveway. We knew we were quite safe in Anza-Borrego. Someday I may write about seeking shelter in the cement block bathroom structure in a midwest park because of a tornado warning.  It will be an experience, not an indication that we didn't want to be where were at that time. An adventure.

Some of my attitude yesterday might have also been because my physical endurance is also not up to par these days. After sitting around waiting for the house to close, I have gained a bit of weight again. I love to hike. I love to climb rocks, but the heat and my weakness makes things less exhilarating. I will get back into shape! 

What a difference a day can make. On Friday, we woke to a cool morning with no wind. We went over to the Borrego Springs farmer's market, bought a few things, returned to the campground and hooked up for our short drive back to El Centro.

We had extended our stay by one day so that we could meet Nan and John Talley, and go to the Friday market.  It was really a good thing we did, because we avoided the wind on the road.

We bought strawberries and arugula from one vendor. Some great pita chips and dip from another, and both bread and cinnamon rolls from the pastry guy.

The market was smaller than we expected, but everything was good quality and reasonable priced.

We are now back at Rio Bend in El Centro and have just had some very positive news about the house sale.

Life is good.