Sunday, September 29, 2013

On the Road to Zion

My post about the run-down desolate towns in Nevada was an observation, not a criticism or judgement. As we travel I am likely to write about what I see without great modification or perspective. I write after a long day of travel while the impressions are fresh and real.

Today, after a relaxing day and a half at the Oasis RV resort in Las Vegas, where I was able to catch up on the wash, do a bit of shopping for my son, and top off the groceries, we hooked up and headed off to Zion National park in Utah.

As we drove out of Las Vegas I thought about what I had written in my last post. As I looked at the desert landscape I started to see its unique character. The further east we went, the more green it became and the more interesting the mountains grew. The best thing was that aside from the road itself there was very little trace of mankind. No junk. No rundown buildings. No dead towns.

The terrain began to change in the small slice of Arizona that we crossed. More hills and more color in the rocks. As we crossed the Utah border a spectacular range of hills and mesas were revealed. 

The towns we passed thru were well kept and the road and yards were tree lined. Quite a difference. 

We are now at the Zion Canyonland RV Park. Our spot is a shaded pull-thru just a short distance from the pool and laundry.

We are both looking forward to a full week of hiking and exploring this wonderful park. 

This is the view from our dining table window:


In coming here we have changed time zones. Craig just went around the coach changing the clocks. The "kitchen clock" on the wall, the bedside clock, and the Alfa dashboard clock. 

I would have just added an hour each time I needed to know what time it was.

What would you do?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shutting Down?

Will the National Parks close next week? 

 I try very hard to stay far away from writing about politics or religion in my blog, but in the paper this morning was an article about what parts of the government would shut down, and what would stay open. It said the Parks would close and that campers would be given a 48 hour notice to leave. 

What a bummer.  We are booked into a site at Zion National Park for a week starting Sunday night.  I don't think the RV park will  close because it is operated by the concessionaire, and if Zion closes its gates we will just have to find some non-park sites to visit.

Has anyone heard anything about National Wildlife Refuges closing?  I know that would't affect the animals, but what about the volunteers?  Could they stay?  Are there camp hosts and other volunteers who trade work for their sites in National Parks?  Would they have to leave?

I'm sure that even if they did close the parks it would only be for a short time.  And then what? 

What a mess!

I know this will affect many people who work for the government in far worse ways than an interrupted RV trip, and I sympathize with them.  

I know that both parties think they are doing the will of the people, or at least what they think is best for the country.  I just wish they could negotiate and come to a workable resolution. 

Name calling is not a solution!

Friday, September 27, 2013

No more Tonomah!

Thursday was a travel dayWe were done at the Truck Center by 10 AM with one small disappointment.  Freightliner had given Craig the wrong information when he called, so one of the upgrade parts was the wrong size.  No big deal.  We will get it straightened out and installed after Zion. It is not a safety  issue.

I had padded our travel time with an extra day in case there were any unexpected delays in the repair work.  Seems if I do that, all goes well!  If I don’t, I just add stress to my life.  One thing we have now is time.  I love it!

We drove across Nevada on I-80 some years ago when going to Salt Lake for a ski trip. I remember how desolate and barren the land seemed.  It was mid winter and I think we went for hours without seeing another vehicle or man made structure.

The landscape between Reno and Las Vegas along Hwy 95 is also open desert range.  We saw numerous warning signs along the way for cattle and horses, but saw none. Unlike I-80 there was no lack of traffic or small ranch outbuildings. The two-lane road was quite smooth in most places.

The open range land is balanced by the many mountains on the horizons. As an artist I am enchanted by the play of light and the dramatic cloud shadows rolling over them. I have always been interested in geology, and seeing the results of the millions of years of natural earth movements it took to shape them is exciting.

One thing I find very distressing in the West is the small towns. I doubt they were ever vibrant centers of civilization, but they all seem so run down I can’t understand why anyone would live there unless this was the end of the line for them, and yet I saw school busses and schools in some of the larger towns, so families must live there.

I know many people love the desert and the West. Al for one, but he has worked hard to fix up his Congress Arizona house and make it a nice place.  It’ all the old deteriorating mobile homes and shacks that I find disturbing. I would have taken some pictures, but that would be like taking pictures of the poor in a third world country. We just cannot comprehend.

As we left Sacramento I started looking into where we would stay overnight. We have not yet tried to use the BLM system, but I’m sure there would have been many places we could have boondocked for a night.  Checking through the Passport America book I found a listing for a place in Tonomah, Nevada, at total day’s drive of about 360 miles. It seemed OK on paper. I really didn’t have many choices, and as we drove along 95, I didn’t see anywhere else we would want to stop. 

I figured we would get there after five, so I called, and the man said, "yes" they had full hook-ups and asked if we wanted a pull thru.

All I can say is “What a place!” In the Passport America book it is called JoyLand RV Park. Once there, it was called Joyland RV Storage and Campground. 

I’m learning that for an overnight, if the place is reasonably quiet, once you pull the blinds down, you are home. Sleeping in your own bed and cooking in your own kitchen! But this place stretched this to its limit.

Starting with the office. There was a faded note with a cell phone number taped to the window. I didn’t have to call because the “manager” came out from behind the building when we arrived. The office was a sad room that I think started as a patio for the mobile home it was attached to. It was filthy. It smelled strongly of mold and rodents.  I could see droppings on the floor. The manager himself looked like someone out of a B horror movie. Creepy and missing a few front teeth.  I paid cash because I would never want to give him a credit card number!

I don’t know how to put this, but as he filled out the receipt with a stub of a pencil, he leered as me and asked if this was my real name. I try not to judge people by their appearance, but I definitely would not open a door to this one.

Our space? A gravel pull thru in a parking lot.  Although there were junky buildings all around, there wasn’t any trash in the lot. Only one other RV came in overnight.  The 50 amp and water hookups worked, and we were able to take morning showers in the Alfa. We could have done that if we were boondocking too.

Tonight (Friday) we are staying at Oasis RV Resort in Las Vegas. We have been here before. Nice pool, clean laundry, level pad, cable TV, good cell phone signal: the other side of the coin.

I do have one picture to include in this post: As we switch drivers so Craig can have some ice cream. The joy of having a Class A coach. Ice Cream on the road.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Well Done!

From Merikay:

We had a good day as far as repairs go.  We stayed overnight at a small mobile home park Tuesday night. The place we were having our leveling jack replaced at, was quite near. That work was finished in a couple of hours and we went over to the Sacramento Truck Center for the replacement of our bell crank and the front brake drums, plus installation of SuperSteer motion control units which go in front of the air bags.  Big $$$.

STC has a comfortable driver's lounge with a nice TV and we were able to watch the last America's Cup race. Craig writes about that below.

They didn't finish the work on the Alfa this afternoon, so we're staying overnight in their parking lot.  It's OK because we  have an electrical hook up. We will be heading down to Zion as soon as they finish.  A good three day drive.

The rig is starting to smell wonderful because I'm baking a homemade chicken pot pie.   Looking forward to a yummy dinner!

From Craig:
Yes it was possible for a sports team to win a "first to 9" event after being down 8-1, and in fact Oracle Team USA did it! We watched the cup-presentation ceremony and everything, and the Kiwis were as gracious as runners-up as they have been throughout the regatta. Several speakers including the SF mayor murdered Spithill's name. We hope that both New Zealand and Oracle retain their interest in contending for the America's Cup in the future, and that future boats end up more like those used this year than like the smaller, slower, and less expensive AC45's.

We hope that Dean Barker recovers from this experience and continues to play a role in the international sailing community, as many AC guys have done as they've gotten older.

We would have been more neutral between Oracle and ETNZ if not for the sports-court decision to ban Oracle's sail-trimmer and penalize Oracle 2 races.  We heard both sides argued on public transit in our first weekend (SF is great for such things :-), and by our understanding the penalty exceeded the offense.

AC72s (while sailing) are among the most beautiful expressions of mankind's urge to engineer and design things. We sincerely hope that the reactionaries in the US, NZ, and elsewhere who call for "a return to proper single-hulled sailboats" will not prevail. They remind us of the Texas politicians who passed a bill/resolution to ban the teaching of critical thinking in their schools.

When we were young there was a saying that we've not heard much of recently: "American ingenuity". When was the last time you heard this phrase? Oracle's design team, who "worked all night every night" according to James Spithill, seem to embody these obsolete words. We assume the design team included a higher percentage of Americans than the sailing team.

We're drinking Skyy Vodka (one of ETNZ's sponsors) in tribute to both teams.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

America's Cup: unbelievable

Tuesday September 24, 2013

[From Craig] We arrived in our favorite Sacramento Mobile home park, hooked up and settled down to watch the America's Cup racing today.  Oracle Team USA made its comeback complete with two victories over Emirates Team New Zealand.  "Comeback complete" means that the two teams are now equal in the scoring, including the two-race penalty that a sports court imposed on Oracle for something involving a small amount of weight added somewhere about two years ago.  We rode on a streetcar in SF two weeks ago with several Kiwis who were carrying on about how Russell Coutts (GM of Oracle) should be banned from all future sailing because of his role in this weight-shifting.  Which amazed us because Coutts is himself a Kiwi.

That's not important anymore.  However much weight was added where and when, and who should be banned from sailing, are for the moment blown away by the amazing comeback of Oracle USA.  We think they were down by 8-1 (8-3 in races) before they have gone on what may be the greatest comeback in sports history.  120 years of US baseball history can provide some comparable comebacks, but baseball has had 240 or so seasons to do it, compared to 34 America's Cups.

Please try to watch tomorrow's head-to-head race for the Cup.  It will happen about 1:15 PM Pacific Daylight Time, and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports (previously known as Versus), on live outside the USA, and on in the USA after an hour or two delay.

Try to watch!  Trust us, it's as good a sporting event as we may see in the rest of our lives.

From Merikay:   took this picture on Monday.  The distance between ORACLE and Fly Emirates as they passed by us was such that it was almost impossible to get them both into the same picture!  :`)

As someone who is not a sports fan, this series of races has been quite fun, and not just because it has been the USA that has come from behind.  Both teams have sailed spectacularly, and the boats are both things of beauty and engineering achievement.

May the best team win.  Whatever the outcome, it will be memorable.

FINAL Race for the cup is on Wednesday afternoon!  We will be watching.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

America's Cup

It couldn't happen…
Could it?

It's not possible!

Is it?

Has any team ever been down 8-1 in a race to 9, and come back to win?

Don't know, maybe a good internet searcher could find out…

Only know two things:

It's 8-5 now, and we're going to San Francisco tomorrow!
Update: it's 8-6 now, and we're going to Sacramento tomorrow.

Craig & Merikay

Sidelight from Craig: when it was 8-1, I went out and bought a bottle of Skyy vodka (one of the sponsors of TNZ) so we could properly toast the NZ victors.  (Don't know of any local stores that sell Camper shoes.)  I like vodka, but would be willing to return it. :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Leg Cramp update and other odds and ends

If you were reading my blog a few months back, you may recall I had a terrible time with severe leg cramps.  Bad enough to call 911 and take a trip to the ER.

Since then I have taken a prescription potassium med every day and have supplemented my magnesium with OTC products.

At first I was using something called Magnesium Oil. It seemed to work well, relieving cramps when they started, but it was messy and dried the skin on my legs and feet.

Then Karen, one of my readers, sent me an e-mail about a product called Magnesium Plus Ionic-Fizz, by Pure Essence Labs. Although it is available at some health food stores, we ordered it on line.

All I can say is WOW, it really works wonders.  I've waited a couple of months to be sure before I recommended it to anyone since I am skeptical about "supplements." 

You mix a small scoop (spoon provided)
with water. The flavor I have (berry) has a very tart citrus taste and fizzes much like those little fizzy candies we had as kids.  It's quick and easy to take.

I take it as needed. Not every night, but on the many nights when I start to get a cramp in my foot or thigh, I don't wait for it to develop or hope to walk it out. Instead I go mix up and drink an Ionic Fizz. The cramp relaxes and does not come back.  I also seem to sleep much, much better.

So, if you also get leg cramps, you might want to give it a try.  All I can say is it works for me and so far I have had no negative side effects.  My doctor also says it is OK to take with the other medications that I'm on.

Needle Point:

I'm still finding plastic canvas needle point a very relaxing hobby. I actually finished this set of three "closet pockets" in early August, but never found a good time to put them into my post.

Each of the three pockets are about 12" wide. 

Our closet has four doors. I put these up on the bottom part of one of the doors on Craig's side. So far he hasn't thought of anything to put into them. 

My latest project is for this space next to the chair. I'm doing a pocket for the TV remotes and a larger one that will be a place to put a few magazines.  I'm doing them as geometric designs in the Pendleton blanket colors.

These projects help me cope with the stress of waiting for news about the house.  Keeps my fingers happy!

Our plans for our next trip are coming together. All parts for the Alfa repair have come in, and we have appointments for Wednesday, September 25 up in Sacramento.  Two different places, one for the jack and one for the steering, with the second one possibly extending into Thursday.  It's at the Truck Center, and they have a hook up which we hope we can use to stay overnight.

Our reservation at Zion National Park starts on Sunday, September 29. Plenty of time to get there. It's about 700 miles. They say Zion is great in early October.  I'm looking forward to it.

The only thing that will change the plan is if we get an offer on the house.  I wouldn't mind staying here to deal with that.

Finally I want to end this post by saying congratulations to my son, Gil (aka Joko) for finishing his first teaching assignment in Thailand and getting rehired for a second term. I had no doubt he would do well.  It has not been easy, but it is good to see him finding a new profession.  Good Job Joko! 

If you would like to follow his adventures his blog is: 

Tell him his Mom sent you!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Camp Driveway

We are in limbo as far as the house goes. There have been several open houses, a decent turnout of people and agents, a few possible interested couples, and the usual percentage of lookers who had valid reasons for why this house was not for them.  When I look back on our own home buying experiences, I remember how many houses we walked thru and how different each was. So many of them were "not for us" but were quit right for someone else.

Our house has been very "right" for us for over 25 years.  So far we have not had any feedback about anything we can change about the place. We have done all the work we planned on. When that right couple finds it, they will love it as much as we have.

Until then we will be based at "Camp Driveway," here on the upper drive at our own personal National Park.  It is probably the best minimum-hookup site we will ever have!  If you don't count the expense of keeping the house, and the 20 amp connection, the space is free, peaceful, beautiful, and secure.

Putting a positive spin on the situation, I think this time is good for both of us.  We are getting the feel for just "living" in the Alfa.  Not traveling, not vacationing, not exploring new places.  Just living. 

If we wanted to move back to the house we could.  I know I don't.  Every time I go down I feel like I'm walking into a stranger's house. It does not feel like home.  

The Alfa feels like home. 

I am amazed at myself in that I really like the limited space. I know there will still be rearrangements, but I like the fact that everything should have a place and be put away when we are done with it. Clutter is not an option!

We have been eating really well!

Grilled lobster tails with fresh beans and steamed red potatoes

My first many-ingredient stir fry in the Alfa. I always get everything cut and ready before I start to cook.  I had no problem with the limited space. This was also the first time I used the electric fry pan. Note: We did not eat all those noodles!

Craig making pulled pork 

While we were in Sacramento, one of our jacks started to have problems.  Craig says it has been "balking" for some time.  It needs to be replaced and parts have been ordered.  So another trip up there will be required soon.  Hopefully it will be before the end of the month because I've made reservations at Zion National Park in Utah for the first week of October.  We've agreed that if the repair isn't done, we won't go. The repair guy said it will depend on how long it takes Atwood to send out the parts.  You would think most of a month would be long enough!

Keep us in your thoughts!  We want to be on the move.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11

When I woke this morning I did not think about the date.  Too many other things to think about.

Then it came to me.  It is September 11.

No more needs to be said.

Monday, September 9, 2013

America's Cup in SF

I am happy that from time to time Craig contributes to these pages. This is one of those times. His description of the America's Cup races is below.  I thought I'd write a bit about our days.

The weather in San Francisco can be very unpredictable. We experienced an absolutely perfect day on Saturday. Inland, the temperatures soared into triple digits, but in the city it was in the 70's with bright sunshine and a gentle onshore breeze. We have been here many times, and I don't think the weather has ever been this beautiful.

We were up early Saturday, I packed a lunch, and we were off on a 20 minute walk from our RV to the Larkspur Ferry dock. Neither of us had ever done this, but all went smoothly and we were delighted with the $4.75 senior fare rate. 

Senior Seating

On both days, the weekend crowd was large but very happy and friendly. I like to watch people, especially when they are having a good time.

Even the wake was neat

Ghandi reminded us we still had a way to go to get to the Race. 

The nice man at the RV Park desk had given me a map and advice about which trolley and bus to take. So although uncertain, we mingled with the huge crowds going many different places, and found our transportation just outside of the Ferry Building door.

Another bargain. Senior fare $0.75. 

The F line took us about half way, and then instead of boarding a bus, we decided to walk the remaining distance.  Some of our walk was along the tourist shop line street, and some was up a hill overlooking Fort Mason and the Bay.

As we made our way to the grandstand area, we saw many ships both out in the Bay and moored at the piers.

This was not an America's Cup competitor.

I was quite pleased with the seats we had. I expected bleachers, but these had backs and were reasonably comfortable.  A bit close, but comfortable.  We had an excellent view of the course, and we could see two large TV screens that broadcast the race in detail. 

We settled in, ate our lunch, enjoyed some warm-up smaller catamarans racing, and began watching for the Big Cats to appear.

Finally we saw them!

This is the New Zealand boat, far out, the gray rectangle in the corner is the Diamond Vision screen.

This how well we could see the  race from our seats. This image was taken with my little point and shoot camera, and only zoomed in and cropped a little. We think the big white boat in the background is one of Larry Ellison's personal yachts.

So now I'll turn over the story to Craig.
On Sept. 7-8 we went to see the America's Cup races in San Francisco Bay, and even spent money for grandstand seats. These give you a higher point of view for a cost of $2 per foot of elevation for the least expensive seats, the ones we bought. But the tickets cost less than those for the Rose Bowl parade or a World Series game, and way less than for a Super Bowl.

There were 2 races each day. From the USA point of view, they could be described as "3 learning experiences and then a victory". 

It was clear from the start that the two boats were pretty equal. In the first race each day, Oracle Team USA was ahead at one point, but better sailing by Emirates Team New Zealand allowed them to come back and win the race.  In Saturday's second race, Team USA's boat may have had a small problem with the mainsail (more properly "main wing") but the team may have let it get to be a bigger problem in their heads, and they weren't very competitive.

The way the competition was set up, Emirates Team NZ has raced against challengers from other countries, while Oracle Team USA only got to race their two boats against each other. Probably Team NZ was better prepared, but experience is now more even.

Sunday Team USA was competitive all day. They won both starts, which is very important in races that only take half an hour. The last race Sunday they led from start to finish, but at times by only a few feet. It was the closest race we've seen in 20+ years of watching America's Cup racing. About the time I was about to faint, the US boat won by a boat length or 4.  Wow!

Fog caused some problems for the network helicopters Sunday, and may be even thicker on Tuesday. This pic is courtesy of the SJ Mercury News:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Out and About Again

After two weeks at "Camp Driveway" we are again out and about.  We did have to take one tank-dump run during that time. Even with showers and washing clothes at the house, six days seems to be the limit.  We really do not trust our tank sensors, and since the pull up our road  involves a very steep hill, we do not want to have tanks completely full.  They might slosh out!  Yuck!

Today (Friday) we drove up to the Marin RV Park, which is on the other side of the Golden Gate from San Francisco. On the way we stopped at the Oakland Truck Center in hope that they would take a look at a small problem we've had since having work done at their "sister" location in Sacramento.  We called them last week and they said to just stop in, but when we got there and waited quite a while for the service writer, they said they couldn't look at it until next week!  

Since it doesn't seem to make the rig undriveable, we decided the best thing to do is to swing up to Sacramento after the weekend. Craig called the Sacramento place when we got to the RV Park and they can't fit us in until Wednesday.  Good thing we are thinking like full timers.  I will find places for us to go.  Actually this side trip is not all that bad, because the temperatures are supposed to be quite high for a few days. It will be good to have a 50 amp site for a few extra days. It was really nice this afternoon to have the air conditioner running in the coach and to be able to take a nice swim in the cool but clean pool.  What more could I want?

We're really looking forward to seeing the America's Cup races on Saturday and Sunday.  It should be an adventure getting there on a ferry plus public ground transportation.  

We will post pictures tomorrow night!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lost and FOUND

Images in this post are from our recent trip to the Olympic National Park and have nothing to do with things lost or found!

Don't you just hate it when you lose something that is very special to you?

Isn't it frustrating when you are sure you put it in a particular place, and when you go to get it, it's not there?

You look everywhere, you think, and look in the place(s) you were sure you had put it again and again.  You have a "physical" memory of putting it there, and now it's not.


This happened to me this week.  When we were packing up the Alfa after our week at the Sol Duc campground I remember putting my hiking poles into the large passenger-side bay.  When we got home, they were not there.  

I looked in the car and in the few places they would fit inside the Alfa.  No poles. Grrr! Craig kept saying I must have left them on the picnic table, but I remember checking the space carefully before we drove away.

Bark with lichens at Cape Flattery

On Tuesday, I went to REI and bought another pair.  They were having a pretty good sale, so it was a good time to do so.  I bought a cheaper pair than I had had before, because I had lost the good ones.

One view from Hurricane Ridge

Then today, as we were getting ready to fill the fresh water tank, we opened the big bay on the driver's side to get out the hose. 

MY POLES!  Yes, I had put them into the large bay, but not on the passenger side.  When looking for them I never even considered looking on the driver's side, because we never go into that bay for anything except water hose. 

One way of getting down the side of a tall dune

So the story of the loss has a happy ending.  I went to REI and returned the new ones.  

Not much else is happening around here this week.

Yes.  It WAS that green!