Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Well, we did it.

We put ourselves on the Jojoba wait list for an opportunity to buy a membership in the co-op. We have read all the paperwork, bylaws, and history of the place, and think we understand how it all works. You do not buy a deeded lot. You buy a membership that allows you to "adopt" a lot as your own. There is a complex, but straightforward system for adopting a lot. All lots have the same nominal value, but some are more desirable than others.

We are #20 on the wait list. When a lot becomes available, it is first offered to current members. If they want to move from the lot they are on, they have ten days to put themselves on a list. Whoever has been there the longest gets the lot, their current lot goes up for "adoption," and the process is repeated.  If none of the current members want to move to a lot, it is offered to the wait list people one at a time, until it is claimed. If you are on the wait list, you can pass three times, for any reason, without losing your place on the list. But after passing three times, you are put on the bottom of the list and are not called for at least 30 days. If you want to remove your name from the wait list, the total cost is a $100 administration fee. 

We are told there are some people who are on the list, but not quite ready to buy in, for either personal or financial reasons. In fact, we are not in a big hurry either. We are told there is usually more turn over in spring. In the last few years, many of the founding members have been leaving as they are getting into their 80's and 90's. Jojoba is not an assisted-living community. In fact, as part of the purchase contract, a buyer agrees that when they reach a point where they are no longer physically able to care for themselves and mentally competent, other living arrangements must be made. The members do help each other a great deal, but all understand they cannot stay  if they become infirm. It seems that spring is a time to move on. Someone told me that 36 lots have turned over this year. 

When we started on this adventure, I never thought I would want to have another "permanent" home base. One of the things I was trying to get away from was the need to return to, and support, a sticks and bricks house. 

Many full time RVers go back to the same winter park year after year. But as we have reviewed our options for the winter, we find we are not drawn to the wall-to-wall RV parks in Arizona. Nor are we attracted to boondocking out in the desert for months on end. We are not golfers, and really don't want to pay for the maintenance of a golf course. 

There are many features that attract us to Jojoba Hills. One of the biggest draw for me is that it is a reasonable distance to San Diego, where our daughter and grandsons live. Close enough that we will be able to drive down for a holiday, special event, or even just a weekend. This winter we are spending a month in San Diego at the Mission Bay RV park. It is an expensive parking lot, but it is close to where they live. We will be back on the road in January. 

When we do get a lot at Jojoba, it does not in any way mean we will stop our travels. We plan on spending some of the winter months here, and going on the road for the rest of the year. We still have so many places to see, but the thought of a home base is good too. 

 Especially one we don't have to maintain or pay taxes on!

Where do you spend your winters?

[From Craig]  You know those knitted caps that people wear in winter?  In Wisconsin and elsewhere, we called them "stocking caps" even though we never saw stockings made out of similar material.  I'm currently reading a book that has people wearing "toboggans" on their heads, which for me leads to pretty fun images but is meant to designate the same kind of headwear.  Also one of our grandchildrens' au pairs was Canadian and called the same kind of cap a "tuque" which she pronounced "tewk".  Other names for similar caps around the world are "knit caps" and "watch caps".  Other terms for such caps are "beanies" and "skull caps", but in my experience these terms are also used to describe the Jewish yarmulke or kippah.  Do you suppose we have enough names for such caps? :-)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Alive and very well at Jojoba Hills

Our days have been passing quite quickly here at Jojoba Hills. We have not really "done" much, but I at least have not been bored for a moment.

Almost every morning I have gone over to the Friendship Hall where the big beautiful pool is, and first walked for a mile or two on one of the treadmills in the exercise room, while watching the morning news, then joined a half dozen or so others in the pool to do 40 minutes of easy water exercises. 

They play a recorded routine. The exercises are suitable for older bodies, but give a great relaxing stretch and a complete series of joint movements. After the pool time, we gather in the hot tub for a bit. Then I use the showers and dress for the day.

I get back to the rig about 10:45, by which time Craig has finished his breakfast and morning routines. On a couple of days I have found him just getting up, and on a couple of others he was outside washing windows. This has been a very easy-going time!

Temecula is about 14 miles away, and we have gone there several times to shop. We also went to an afternoon movie one day, and out for an excellent gourmet pizza on another. 

One of the things I brought along on this adventure was my sewing machine. Just about the only thing I sew is pajamas for Craig. It is hard to believe it has been three years since I made him three new pair while he was working on repairs and painting the high, dangerous places outside our dining room windows. I set up my machine on the table so I could keep an eye on him.  

Well, it is time to make him some more. He went with me to the fabric store and picked out three lengths of nice 100% cotton. Of course they are quite colorful! 

I have taken advantage of the huge sewing room open to all here at Jojoba Hills. 

Room for all, they made space for me to work too!

My back no longer is happy about standing over a work table for hours on end, so I have gone over on three different days, cutting out one pair each time. The ladies who have their machines there and were working on a variety of projects were very welcoming and friendly. There is a sewing machine that anyone can use, or if I had wanted to bring in my own,  there was a space for it. I have been doing the sewing in the Alfa. I find it quite easy to set up, and put away, so I can work for a few hours whenever I wish.

I'm in no great rush to get these finished, since although he picked out the fabric, the overall project is meant to be a Christmas present. 

Temecula, CA, the nearest town, has a number of large chain groceries, including Albertson's and Ralph's, plus a Trader Joe's, Sprouts, Fresh and Easy, and Walmart.

We were happy to be able to buy some end-of-season heirloom tomatoes this week for one last go at our favorite meal of just tomatoes, cheese, lots of very fresh basil, and warm baked french bread, with a balsamic-and-caper dressing. A laptop and a glass of white wine is all that is needed for a super supper.  :-)

Recently I saw a video about making perfect poached eggs by wrapping them in plastic before lowering them into boiling water:
1. drape plastic wrap like a liner in a cup or ramekin, 
2. put a little oil in the plastic wrap, 
3. crack egg into plastic, 
4. tie off, and
5. boil about five minutes.

I have wanted to try it, so when we had a lazy Sunday last week I did.

It worked great, far less stressful than trying to poach them in just water the way I had learned in the past.  I topped a toasted English muffin with some ham, chopped spinach, and Hollandaise sauce from a can, for a homemade Eggs Benedict.

Not exactly your typical camping breakfast!

Let's see.  What else have we been up to?

Craig helped our friend Judy put together a new picnic table. Emma watched, and I took pictures. She treated us to a hamburger cookout the next day.

We also drove down to Escondido to see our grandson Dylan play in a San Diego Youth Symphony concert. It was a treat to be able to do a "family" thing.

Other than that we've just been pretty lazy, reading and watching TV. There are tons of things to do here at Jojoba, but since we are just visitors at this time, I don't want to start anything. We are thinking about getting on the waiting list for a membership, and if we do I am sure to join many groups next time we are here.

I will end this post with a glimpse at a very nice sunset. 

Until next time!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


It has been more than a week since I did a post. Craig wrote the last one, and I have just been a bit burned out and not feeling like I had much to say. I had wanted to head northwest when we left Bullhead City, and spend a couple of week in the southern Sierra Mountains, but being late October the weather wasn't looking promising. Several of the parks I called were closing in a few days, or at the least turning off the water supply. So we turned toward Southern California instead. I knew there were two discount parks in Desert Hot Springs, one of which we had been to a few years ago. Unfortunately I choose the other one because it looked like we could get a discount for five nights, unlike the other one's offer of only two.

Desert Springs RV Spa and Resort is not terrible, but it was not great either. I felt "bait and switched" when we were told we could not use the Passport America discount on a 50 amp site. In the PA book it indicated 50 amp was available, and since it was still hot there I thought we might need 50 amp for the air conditioners. Anyway the 30 amp site we were given was very tight and in the midst of some "older" park models. I paid for one night and did some checking around for other options.

Our month reservation in San Diego doesn't start until November 23rd. I guess we could have called and tried to get a spot there for some time earlier, but I consider their daily rate outrageously expensive. I called a couple of other San Diego parks, but all were booked for all or part of the time we wanted.

Then I checked the calendar and realized the number of days we needed was within the maximum allowed annual "visitor" stay at my favorite place, Jojoba Hills SKP park. We were there in April of 2014 and really liked it.

IMO Best Pool in the country!
It is a cooperative where individual Escapee members own the lots in the park. If they are not there, they can put their lot into a rental pool and other Escapee members can rent them for up to 28 days a year at a very reasonable rate.  There are two small caveats: no advanced reservations can be made, and if the owner returns while a visitor is on his lot, the visitor has to move to another space. There is also a very sizable dry camp area, so if no spots are open there is always room to park there for a few days. 

Local resident
So, we have been at Jojoba for eight days already, and will stay until the 23rd. Although we are not yet ready to settle down again, nor buy into and call one park "home", the feeling of being set for the next 25 days, in a wonderful spot at the Jojoba SKP park in Aguanga California, is very nice. We are strongly considering getting on the waiting list for a lot here, so this time is also a short test period. Plus, I feel I need a few quiet weeks after all the travel we have done this year, before a month or so of "family time."

We did have one nice upside to our time here. Judy, our blog friend from "Travels with Emma", arrived to move onto her new lot on the same day as we got here. We enjoyed seeing her again and hope to spend some more time together before we have to move on.

I expect I'll be posting again soon to tell you about what I have been doing to keep busy this month.  

A  beautiful evening at Jojoba Hills

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bullhead City

[From Craig] Sunday we drove from Flagstaff AZ to Bullhead City AZ.  It was quite a weather transition: the low in Flagstaff was 27 F, while the next night in Bullhead City it was 68 F.  A 41 degree change in 180 miles east-west involves either a large body of water or a significant change in elevation.  Coming down from 7000 feet (2130 m) to 560 feet (170 m) also meant we could roll over in bed without having to catch our breath!

"They" promised that if we spent months at altitude, our bodies would adapt and we wouldn't need to huff and puff all the time.  Maybe that only applies to kids under 50?

That evening I went for a walk in the Silver Canyon RV Park, and encountered this toothy totem which was carved from an old palm tree.

It was pleasant to leave the windows open and to not have the furnace run all night.  We originally planned to just stop for the night, but the air was so nice we decided to stay another day and hike near the Colorado River, which separates Bullhead City from Laughlin, NV.

After a nice breakfast we headed for the Heritage Greenway Park and Trails.  Unfortunately Google Maps took us to the Davis Dam, a couple of miles upstream.  Davis is the first dam on the Colorado below the famous Boulder Dam (f.k.a Hoover Dam).

There were hiking trails in the vicinity of the dam, so we started down one on the Nevada side, toward Laughlin.  A short while later we met a knowledgeable-looking couple, and we asked them if we could hike downstream in Nevada and then back upstream on the Arizona side and cross back over the river at the dam. They said "sure", and cited a pedestrian walkway on the first highway bridge over the river.  They were right about the walkway.

The trail on the Nevada side was well-paved in a federal park that had lots of educational storyboards but no grass or trees, just desert scrub.  The Arizona side was a county park that included lots of palm trees, grass, and RV campgrounds.

After about 2 miles we came to the promised brdige, which was the one we had driven across on our way to the dam.  The following view looks downstream toward the Laughlin casinos.  (Nevada allows gambling, Arizona not so much.)

We walked across the bridge, and on the Arizona side we snuck under it, past some sleeping gear that may have been left by homeless folk, who weren't around.  A short way from the bridge we found ourselves among the palms and campsites we had seen from the other side.

Past that campground we found an undeveloped stretch of scrub vegetation that  came right down to the river, but we found gravel roads through it.

Near the end of this wilder stretch we encountered a roadrunner.  I wished I had brought my Nikon and zoom lens that goes up to 300 mm, but we had to rely on our point-and-shoot Sony and a lot of cropping.

Past the scrub area we came to the second campground area, which had electric and water hookups at many sites.  The sites nearest the river even had a beach! 

Past that campground we were again nearing the dam, which is where we had a problem.  A fisherman and a country park maintenance man told us that the only away over the dam (back to our car) required a long walk-around on highways, which our chance-encountered hikers near the start of our day hadn't known about.  That way was much farther than just retracing our steps!  

So we turned around and walked back toward the bridge.  After we had walked about for about half an hour, the fisherman we had met came and found us and drove us back to the Nevada side of the bridge.  This saved us a mile or so, and we thanked him with heartfelt gratitude.

As we walked back, we saw that these folks who we had talked with an hour or so before, were still soaking their feet in the river.  This was something we did last December in the Florida Keys, and looked very familiar and pleasant.

Almost back to our car, I took this shot of the overall campground.  One problem with RVing is that we know of no way to learn about local campgrounds like this one.  Do you know of a resource that lists such places?

In all, we walked about 7 miles when we had expected 4.  But more miles are good for us, right?  

From Merikay: "good for us" yes, but because we had had a filling breakfast and I anticipated being back to the Alfa by noon after an easy four mile walk, I did not pack our usual sandwiches for lunch. Instead we stopped at a Chili's restaurant and had big fat hamburgers, fries and margaritas, then took a long afternoon nap.

Life is good!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Canyon De Chelly

We have been north of it, south of it, east of it and west of it, but have never made it to Canyon De Chelly until now. It has been on my "must see" list ever since I read a post by Al of the Bayfield Bunch sometime before we even had our RV.

We drove down from Mesa Verde on Monday, stopping to see the Four Corners Monument. It was on Craig's bucket list.

Left hand in AZ, left foot in UT, right foot in CO, right hand in NM
When we were still at the Balloon Fiesta, I spent some time looking through my campground books, and searching the internet for campgrounds near the canyon that had hookups. No luck. 

Looking down on eroded sandstone in Canyon De Chelly
We have had bad luck with a couple of parks that were "walk up only" this summer. 
I had mixed feelings about the reviews I saw for the campground in the park itself. Partially because Cottonwood campground was described as "shaded by large, mature trees". This would be a positive in the heat of summer, but this is baseball playoff time, and I know Craig wants to be able to see the games on TV. Large trees can prevent satellite reception.

We had our GPS set to take us to an RV park down on I-40, that was about 100 miles past Canyon De Chelly, so we decided to stop for a quick look and ask some questions about the campground at the Visitors Center, leaving our options as open as possible. 

As it turned out we could see the edge of the campground from the VC, and I spotted a nice big space, that had no trees. Hooray! A place to be. We ended up staying for four nights.

This picture, with the Alfa in her spot, was taken a few days later from the VC parking area.

We woke up early Tuesday morning to thunder and heavy rain pounding on the roof above. We snuggled in and had coffee while reading the news and other bloggers' posts. By the time we were up, showered, and had breakfast, the storm had passed and the skies were clear.

Our plan for the day was to drive the South Rim Road and also walk down the White House Trail. It is the only place you can go into the canyon without a Navajo guide.

We stopped at several observation points. The weather was perfect, 70° with a sweet breeze. The clouds were puffy white, but growing.

Then we tackled the 2.5 mile (round trip) hike down to the bottom of the canyon to see a ruin called the White House. The arrow shows where we were going.  It seems to me these people were more sensible than those who built high on the cliffs. This building was at canyon bottom level. There was also a building above it in a cliff niche.

This is a look at the trail down. There were some rather rough and steep sections, and as we went down I kept thinking about the return climb.

Sandstone rock walls do some pretty strange things. 

We discussed whether this center support was a natural or man made feature as we hiked down the steep pathway.  Craig thought the rocks involved were too large to have been manipulated by people in such a location.

Texture, texture, texture, created by the forces of nature.

Merikay wrote on Dec 8 2010: "Someday I will be hiking 1000 miles in National Parks!"

On the canyon floor we noticed this wonderful cactus! So healthy looking! The fantastic canyon walls towered above.

Views of the White House Ruins:

Although we got a closer look at the ruins, we noticed that the Navajo vendors were packing up their wares quickly,  

and that all the other hikers were heading back up the trail. The thunderheads were building above, and one of the vendors told us there were thunderstorm and tornado warnings for the area. 

I did not take any pictures on our hike back up. When faced with a one and a quarter mile, 600 foot elevation hike up the side of a rock canyon I would normally take my time, stopping frequently to catch my breath, and just do it. I would be glad to see the top, but I would stay within my comfort zone. But this time it was go, go, go! As slow as I was, I did keep going with only a few short stops to catch my breath. We felt threatened by the clouds, but quarter sized drops of  rain that started to fall on us. We really did not want to be on the side of a slippery, rough rock face of the canyon when the lightning and/or downpour started.

By the time we got to the top, the rain had stopped, but the storm was still on its way. I was very glad to have a moment to catch my breath before we headed for the car.

You have no idea of how much I regret being so fat! I was a smoker for many years, and although it has been a long time since I quit, my lungs remain compromised from that abuse. My son still smokes, and I wish I could say something that would influence him enough to quit!

It did rain quite hard that night. A strange thing happened the next day. At about four in the morning I woke feeling quite nauseous. I had a pounding headache, and stayed in bed with a barf pot all day. I don't know if I picked up a twenty four hour flu, or if my body was over stressed by the rapid climb out of the canyon the day before. Craig never got sick, and I was OK the following day.

On Thursday we drove the rest of the rim roads and stopped at the remaining interesting overlooks.

A few pictures cannot show all the fantastic views we had.

Canyon De Chelly is a remarkable place. We enjoyed our few days there and are very glad we stopped to see it. 

Cottonwood Campground was peaceful and we are becoming less leery about the idea of dry camping for a few days at a time.

I doubt we will ever be full time boondockers, but we might just try some nights out in the BLM lands next year. 

[From Craig] Merikay and I found Canyon de Chelly, in the heart of the Navajo Nation, to be much more than we expected. We recommend it to anyone who's interested in geology, ancient cultures, or current Navajo culture.  I like this place!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mesa Verde

The ancient Pueblo people built large buildings and then left them and moved on to other locations. Archeologists do not know exactly why, but the modern Pueblo people say it is because they were on a journey, and if they spent a hundred or a thousand years in a place,  it was just a stop along the way.

Our first stop at Mesa Verde National Park was at the Visitors Center for a map and other information. 

The weather forecast was for possible showers, so we decided not to linger over the VC exhibits and to drive on up the Mesa. As it turned out, although I felt I needed to carry my umbrella  on our brief stops and walks, I hardly used it. 

The weather was best described as blustery and threatening. A plus was that there were very few other people on the trails and overlooks, so we had no parking problems. 
Although the aspen trees are past their peak, there is still lots of fall color on the hillsides. The oaks above were along a short trail going up to the highest point on the mesa. 

The views of the valleys below were fantastic. The path in the center of the image above was once part of the main road up to the mesa top. Fortunately it was replaced by a tunnel!

When we got to the top of the mesa we first drove the Mesa Top Loop road and then the Cliff Palace Loop. 

People have lived on the mesa for thousands of years. There are many known but unexcavated archeological sites up there. Some of the sites that have been dug out are protected by sheds with sturdy railings to protect them. 

Above is an early style of pit house. It consisted of a hole dug out of the ground, with a fire pit in the center, and often a second chamber for either sleeping or storage. Short walls and a roof were constructed out of branches and bark. The floor was probably covered with reed mats and furs.

The next stage of structural development was the addition of simple, single-stone-width masonry walls.

The most recent pit houses were much deeper, and included side benches. This round pit was probably used for ceremonies. And the design evolved into Kivas that are part of current Native American communities 

Also revealed at this site was an example of a thick wall that was three courses wide. 

This place was part of an extensive village. In 1200 AD, more people lived at Mesa Verde's surrounding mesas and in the valleys of what we call the Four Corners area, than live here now! Although they left the area before Columbus discovered America, their descendents are among us.

On both loops we stopped at several places were we could see across the canyons to where the ancient Pueblo people had built in and under huge overhanging cliffs. These structures came after the pit houses. Apparently the people continued to dry-farm the top of the mesa, but many of them lived in such large niches in the cliffs.

At one stop we were able to look down on a structure.

As you can see, this structure rose four stories!

We walked down a half-mile path to the Spruce Tree House site.

The wide path was paved, and there were a lot of switchbacks, so it was not as hard to get to the bottom of the canyon as it might have been on a dirt path. Once down, we could see the spring area that provided water for the people who lived at Spruce House.

I think this was my favorite part of the day. There was a ranger on site to answer questions. When this place was occupied, all of the rooms were enclosed and the walls would have been plastered smooth. Many walls were painted. At the museum that we visited later, we saw pictures of what the sites looked like when they were first discovered by Anglo archeologists. (The modern Pueblo people do not consider them as having been lost or forgotten.) The cleanup and partial restorations have been done with skill and care. 

When we started the day at the Visitors Center, we purchased tickets for a ranger-led tour of the Balcony House at the end of our day. However, when we got there we reconsidered what was physically required to go on the tour: several tall ladders, low doorways, and a crawl-through tunnel that was 20 feet long and not much wider than the ranger's hat. I was not enthusiastic about these obstacles, so we decided to pass on the tour. I would have loved to do this when I was younger, thinner, and had a more flexible back. When we were at the other ruins earlier in the week, I could not bend over low enough to get through some of the doorways. My spine is partially fused.

I'm not really sure where we are going to stop next. We have decided to hang out here for a few days and catch the Sunday football games. 

Life is Good!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thank You Coachnet

Sometimes little things can take over your day. 

When I described the road into the Chaco National park as rough, I was not exaggerating. Even though we kept our speed way down, it was enough to shake things loose in a 2014 Jeep Wrangler. As we were driving the road a second time, we got a couple of warning beeps, which were a mystery to us, and then a flicker or two of the check engine light. 

We drove back to our RV site and parked as usual. When we went to hook up the Jeep the next morning all was well as I started it and pulled into position, but after turning it off, hooking up and then gong back to start it as part of the hook up process, no connection was made and the Jeep was dead! We called the Jeep dealership in Farmington and Durango, but neither could look at it that day, so we towed it to our next stop just outside of Mesa Verde.

With some careful parking we were able to park the dead Jeep, and still get the Alfa backed into her site. I suggested to Craig that something must have jiggled loose during our washboard ride, but he couldn't see anything wrong, so we called Coach Net, or roadside service provider, for help. There was some confusion at first when the Coachnet Representative said a service call would not be covered for the Jeep because we were not stranded on a roadside.  WHAT? The first thing they always ask is always: "Are you in a safe location?" I also knew that Coachnet is supposed to cover all your vehicles much like AAA.

Anyway, it turned out there were no mobile mechanics in the area they could send out to help us and instead arranged for a tow. Confusing system. They paid for the tow, but would not have paid for a mechanics service call. 

As it turned out, we waited until morning for the tow so Craig could wait for a repair. The problem?  A loose connection on the battery. We had had a battery disconnect switch installed this summer when we were having problems with a dead battery on the Jeep after towing. But then another RVer told us how to set up the Jeep so we didn't need to use it. This is what rattled loose on our drive, not an original Jeep connection.

So, we are back in business so to speak, and very glad we have a service like Coachnet.