Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bobcat At Camp Driveway

This is a Web picture, but the one I saw this morning gave me the same look!

I saw our resident bobcat this morning when I went out to flap our throw rugs. He jumped out of a tree just a few feet from the Alfa and gave me the most disgusted cat look as he quietly slipped away down into the forest.  

I am very glad to see him and to know that our living in the Alfa has not chased him off.  We have only caught one mouse in the bays this fall, and have had no other "signs."  I think it is because we have this excellent guy on the job.  

Other than that, there is not much to blog about.  The weather here has been excellent.  We are comfortable in the Alfa, and are planning a couple of local hikes. I think we are going to the movies this afternoon while the Realtor holds yet another Open House.  

The house has been on the market for more than two months now, and waiting for something to happen is a bore. 

I know, it only takes ONE buyer. 

But I wish they would show up soon. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Back to the House, RV Budget

Well, we are back at the house and parked up in Camp Driveway again.  

Not counting the repairs both expected and unexpected, our budget numbers came pretty close to what I expect for full time living. 

I've never been one for making and keeping day to day budgets, and Craig isn't either, but we both try not to spend more than we have, and keep track of the big things in life.  This has worked fairly well for us because we have always had a pretty good income.

But I wanted to get a better picture of our day to day expenses in this new lifestyle we are planning.  During the last few trips we have taken, I have been developing an Excel workbook to keep track of everything.  Craig has been very good about keeping receipts and or telling me the amounts of each purchase. 

Once the house sells, I want to set things up so that we have a set amount per month for all of our regular expenses, and a fund with starting "large" lump for future repairs, maintenance, and dental or medical expenses, and as well as annual expenses like registration or insurance. For example I know we will buy four new RV tires in the next year or so. If I start with a nice lump sum at the sale of the house, I hope to be able to add some to it each month so the repairs and maintenance are not a burden. 

I know a lot of you keep financial records and share your budget. I have found them interesting and helpful for me to get a rough idea of what to expect.  But each couple or individual has different priorities. For some, eating out is a big part of your life. For some boondocking as often as possible is a must. A small class C is going to use less fuel. 

If RV plans are written in JELLO, financial plans must be set in Ice.  They seem to melt away in nothing flat!

At this point, I do not feel our numbers would be helpful to anyone, and my Excel template still needs some tweaking.

I remember being a 19 year old new bride trying to figure out how to make the dollars and the days match up.  Keeping track of every penny for the first few years really helped. I've been amused looking at my record books from those days.  Our first rent was  $75, including utilities. Several years later, I was saving up at the rate of $2.50 a month,  to buy a snowsuit for my child. We didn't have savings or a buffer amount for many years.  "Pay check to pay check" was a way of life.  

We are so much better off now!  Or at least we will be after the house sells.

Speaking of which, nothing much is happening with the house. The realtor says there are very few people looking right now. I hope it is because of the government problems, and once that gets straightened out we will get some action.  

Our next trip is planned for Thanksgiving through Christmas. I've booked a month at an RV park down in San Diego near our daughter and grandsons. 

Until then it is "Camp Driveway" in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finally a Good Hike!

Although we have been able to take a few nice hikes, we had not yet done a good challenge hike on this trip.  For me a challenge hike is either one that has some really hard climbs, or is a pretty long distance.

Our hike on Saturday on the Goat Mountain Trail in the Bass Lake National Recreation area filled the bill just fine.

If we added in the distance walked from the parking area, our hike up to the Goat Mountain Lookout and back was more than nine miles!  

About two-thirds of the hike was through mixed second growth forest, along a narrow but easy path. There was quite a bit of uphill, and going was slow at times, but most was a gentle incline along the side of the mountain.

The upper portion was along a fire road.

The end of the trail was this fire lookout at the top of Goat Mountain.

Conveniently, there was a picnic table there where we had our lunch. 

Given that it is October we had expected to see some fall color, but  most of the trees are either evergreen or live oak.  There were some other kinds of oaks that were starting to turn bright yellow, but most were still quite green.  

This was one of the few spots of color we saw all day.  We're not sure whether it was a poison oak, or a small regular oak.

All in all, it was a very nice day. We both expect to be a little stiff in the morning, but that is not all that bad.  

Finally a word about the Accent:  We were very unhappy to learn that the clutch was not still under warranty. It was covered for only one year, 12,000 miles.  We have had the Accent for seventeen months and put 20,000 miles on it.  We realize it was a cheap little car.  We could have paid a lot more for a better, used toad, but at the time the Accent filled our need for a toad and a runabout vehicle.  We have also already replaced the Chinese tires it came with. Hopefully this clutch replacement is not indicative of future problems.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dealing with the Good and the Bad

The good is that we are  comfortable in a very nice Escapee Park in Coarsegold California.  It's much more park-like and pleasant than most of the short term we have been in lately.  The space is nice, we have 50 amp power and good cable TV.  Our Verizon hot spot is working fine, and the weather is good.

So what is the bad? This morning we set out to drive to Bass Lake, about 30 miles north, for a hike.  As we went up one of the hills along the way, the clutch in the Accent had a problem.  We continued on and although we were able to keep going we were well aware that there was a problem. 

We were able to pull into a car repair place in Oakhurst, but they could not help us until next week.  Thank goodness for smart phones!  We were able to locate and drive to a Hyundai dealer in Fresno. The Accent is there now waiting for a new clutch. We have a rental car and are back at the SKP park. More bad is that the clutch is not covered by the warranty.   When all is done it will be over $1200.  Not good for my budget!

But  we can stay here as long as we need to, and perhaps we can take that hike tomorrow. 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


As it turned out, the trains didn't disturb us at all.  They stopped blowing their horns at nine, and it seemed to me that very few went by after that.  Craig tells me I just slept through them. 

I asked him if they bothered him, and he said no, but it was interesting to feel the bed shake like you had put a quarter in the "magic fingers".

For my non-American friends,  hotels used to have beds that had a built in vibrator that you could activate for a quarter. It has become a symbol of cheap, old motels.

After  parking the Alfa at the RV park, we went  to a Bakersfield Costco for a few things including gas for the car.  I was delighted to see a big sign that read "Diesel Now Available". I hope more Costcos add a diesel pump because their stations, although usually busy, are relatively easy to find and get into.  They were not listed on Gas Buddy yet.

The Costco price was five cents less than the lowest listed on Gas Buddy.  In the long run that probably is not significant, but Craig does like to find the best price.

As it turned out, getting into the gas pump station was not a problem.  But the way this one was set up it required a rather tight turn to get out.  The attendant was very helpful. He made sure we had plenty of room for the turn by stopping some of the other cars, and we were on our way with no problems.  

Thumbs up to Costco customer service.

Tonight we are at the Escapee Park in Coarsegold California. We will be here for a few days and hope to find a few hikes around the area.  Coarsegold is at the eastern edge of the Sierra Mountains, somewhat near Yosemite. 

I feel very comfortable here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Buckskin Mountain to Bakersfield

As we approached the end of our week at Zion, we started looking at openings at state parks.  There wasn’t much available in Utah, so Craig started looking further afield. He ended up selecting Buckskin Mountain, an Arizona state park, south of Lake Havasu City.  Although it was not on the way home, it had spots available and sounded interesting. 

The park was pleasant enough, located right along the Colorado river with large paved spaces. Most of the other campers had boats or jet skis, the water being the main attraction.

Craig had read something about “hiking trails” in the description, so we checked with a ranger and sure enough there was a well marked and well maintained trail system that took us high into the hills and to some pretty good scenic points and an old copper mine. The mine was a big hole in the ground surrounded by fencing so no one would climb or fall in.

Looking down from the hiking trail we could see the RV's. The pink arrow is pointing at our Alfa snuggled into a shaded spot.

The day was quite warm, in the 80s, but the dryness, the slightly cloudy sky, and a gentle breeze made it very nice.

This bridge went from the campground, over the highway, to the hills and hiking trail.
We have come to like staying at least two nights at a park unless we are heading for a specific location or reservation. One night to arrive and rest after the drive,  and the next day to explore without thinking about check-out time.

This part of the trail looks very level, but in fact most of it was up or down hilly areas with many log or carved stone steps. The next morning my knees told me they had had a good workout!
Craig had read that we might be able to see the Draconid meteors just after sunset, so we took our "park" blanket out to the grassy area and watched the sky darken.  Living in the mountains we are used to seeing a lot of stars, but we saw even more. As it got darker we got a good view of the Milky Way, but alas no meteors, so after a while we went back in. Meteors are so unpredictable!  

This morning the ranger stopped by and asked if we wanted to stay longer, but we were ready to move on.

Tonight, Tuesday, we're staying at an RV park in Bakersfield.  Craig said he didn't care for the last place we stayed in this area so I looked in the Escapee book and found this one.  I know many of you have said read the reviews, but I have been trying to be more spontaneous. The blurb sound fine in the Escapee book, and it does have large level pull-thru pads as mentioned.  But it also has the main Bakersfield train yard right next to us.  I don't mind too much, and hope they don't run all night.

I told Craig the train whistle was "romantic."  We will see how we feel about it in the morning.   


Friday, October 4, 2013

Kolob Reservoir

On Thursday, after a slow start in the morning, we decided to take the scenic drive our neighbors had done the day before and highly recommended.  

We headed out of Springdale toward the small town of Virgin. On the way we passed thru Rockville. As we drove down the road we couldn't help notice how well kept the small homes were, and how green the lawns and trees were. It looks like a charming place. But who knows. Bad things can happen in pretty little houses.

Along the drive we also had many excellent views of the rock formations and buttes. They do not end at the park boundaries.

Just before Virgin we turned onto  Kolob Reservoir Road. Part of it is along the edge of the park, and in some places it goes thru. 

At one place we could see a ranch down by the river. The pastures were very green and the horses looked like tiny toys.

We passed a number of trail heads that were blocked with cones and tape and notices of the park closure. We also noticed a number of cars either parked at the trail heads or along the road.  

We joined the "rebels" and became trespassers on the people's land.  We took a hike.

It was short, only about three miles, and quite easy, but on the way back clouds started rolling in and the air took on a pre-storm chill.

Craig wasn't feeling great, so once back at the car we decided to head back to the Alfa and not drive on up to the reservoir.  

We did see a ranger talking with someone who was parked in a trail head lot.  I hope they were just being warned and not ticketed.

When I look at the image below I think of our government. 
 So many stone-heads!

They were fun to see on our walk in Zion, but sad to think about now.

Maybe a voice from here will give them guidance:

Zion National Park, October 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Antelope Canyon (Wednesday October 2.)

Antelope Canyon has always been on my list of places I've wanted to see in person.  We have had a wonderful large photograph from there on our living room wall for many years.  But I had not planned on going there from our Zion Campground location.  We chose to stay here so we could just hop on the shuttle and explore Zion. However since the park is closed, we decided to drive to Arizona in our car and visit Antelope Canyon because it is on Indian land and not closed.

The 120 mile (one way) drive to the canyon was itself quite impressive.  The road thru Zion National Park was open to traffic, so we were able to see more of it than we had from the shuttle bus on Monday.  We went thru a tunnel to the Eastern entrance of Zion National park. It was built in the 30's and under normal conditions large RVs can go thru with special arrangements.  (They close it from on coming traffic and the large vehicle drives down the middle.) But even that would not be a possibility for us because the Alfa is 13' 1" tall and the limit is 13' 1".  Hit a bump and we would hit our satellite dome!

So because of the closure, we took the drive in the car.

When I include pictures in my posts I try to select ones that help illustrate or tell my story.  They are usually not what one would select for a postcard or calendar.  Between the two of us we took several hundred pictures in our tour through the canyon!  So I have divided this post into two parts. First a little about the canyon, and second a gallery of some of the images we captured.

Antelope Canyon is on Navaho land, and visitors have to pay $6 per person plus are required to have a guide.  The cost of the guide ranges from $20 per person (cash only) for a one hour group tour of the lower canyon, to multiple hour tours that include several areas for almost $200.  We opted for the one hour tour which was no reservation, first come first served. These tours leave every 20 minutes. Even though it was very busy due to the closures, we only waited about a half hour before beginning our tour.

As we waited we looked out over the plateau and wondered where the canyon was.  Everything look very flat.  We did see people coming up a path who were returning from the canyon and wondered how far we would have to walk!

Our guide started the group down a path, and stopped to wait for everyone to gather round.  We noticed a crack in the ground and figured he was going to explain that this is how a slot canyon starts.

But no, instead he said: "follow me."

This is the lady who was in front of us...

The way down was a bit narrow. A wide person might have difficulty.  The first challenge of our descent was a couple of sets of steep metal steps that did not have railings.  

Later steps and ladders had hand holds and were much easier. 

In some places the walls were just wide enough to get through.

The floor of the canyon was sandy.  At all times there was light from above.

This picture of Merikay demonstrates the size of some of the larger spaces we passed thru. No, we don't know whose hand that was!

Photos seem to give the canyon a glow from the sunlight that filters in from above.  This seems to be the case for the pictures we shot as well as most of the professional images I have seen.

This image is a close up of a section of the wall that I think shows the actual color and texture.

We shot a couple hundred images.  Here are five.  Many of the others are just as interesting and it was very hard to choose which ones to share!

We will go back to see the upper canyon someday, but this was a fantastic experience.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Living Like A Fulltimer

Tuesday, October 1, 2013.

We knew the Park was closed when we woke up this morning.

We had a few errands to take care of, which we did in short order.

We talked about a few things we could do, and places we could go, and decided to just spend the day relaxing in this a very pleasant place. Craig read and did some internet research, and I sat outside and did some needle point.

At one point in the afternoon I went up to the office to ask a question, and ended up having quite a long conversation with a man from Australia about our political process. His questions were excellent, and I felt I did a pretty good job explaining how our government is set up to work.  I was really glad I had learned so much in my high school Civics class. He expressed amazement that although the congress had passed the Affordable Care Act, and the Supreme Court had upheld it as constitutional, and the American people had reelected Obama, the Republicans were still able to hold the country hostage over its implementation.

But then, what can you expect from an Australian. 

This is America.
Tea anyone? 

Maybe Kool-Aid would be more appropriate.

This afternoon I went for a little walk around the campground.  The river runs along the back edge where all the tent campers are.

This older gentleman was painting in the shade.

This group of young people were taking a nap in the sand.  There were others wading in the icy waters.

Monday night our Alfa was joined by a new friend.  As I was preparing dinner we saw a new neighbor pulling into the site next to us.

Another Alfa. What is it about seeing another rig of the same brand as your own? We said hello and promised to visit after they had gotten settled.

We ended up spending the evening chatting and exchanging stories. They had been motorcyclists in their younger years, and still have a two person Lance.  In a spot across from us there was a gathering of about twenty German motorcyclists who were staying in the hotel.  At some point we all got chatting back and forth and some of the Germans came over to see the inside of their Alfa.  "Only in America" said one German, looking at a Class A diesel-pusher.

Of course politics came up and we as Americans had to explain why the National Park was closing because of a disagreement over health insurance. They just shook their heads. One asked why we allowed such foolishness.

We can come back another time, but for so many international visitors this is a one time visit.

Very sad.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We made the best of it

Knowing that Zion National Park might close on Tuesday, we made the best of the situation and saw as much as we could in one day. One of my plans for the full time RV adventure is to take our time and savor each National Park without feeling rushed.

We have a site at the Zion Canyon Campground (which is not in the park) for a full week.  There is a shuttle that comes to the RV park and takes us to the entrance of the National Park less than 1/4 mile away.  The current and forecast weather are spectacular. But the mess in Washington has resulted in the closure of the park.

Well, we did have yesterday, and this is some of what we saw and did.

Hoping to have more days at the park later in the week, we started with two easy warm up hikes.  The first was to the three Emerald Pools.  Although listed as "Easy" there was quite a bit of climbing up and down irregular rock steps.  I was glad to have my poles along. 

The water in the Upper Emerald Pool was very still and the reflections were crystal clear.  

The trail was in and back, and it was interesting to see the same vistas from two directions and light conditions. 

The mid-day sun illuminated the trees high on the canyon sides.

On the trail to the Pools there was a section where water was seeping thru the rocks and falling like rain on the hikers.

After the Pools, we re-boarded the park shuttle and rode it to the end of the line. There was an informative audio track that told us about the canyon.  Unlike many of these that we have experienced, this one was clear and enjoyable.  We figure if the park reopens before the week is up we will be able to go back and take some of the other hikes.  If not, we have an overview.

Our second easy hike was the Riverside Walk. A mostly paved, level trail that was somewhat crowded. Along the path there were many wildflowers blooming. 

Each flower was tiny, but in mass they were quite colorful.

At the end of the Riverside Walk is the entrance to the Narrows. Although not absolutely necessary, it is recommended you have special waterproof shoes and socks to wade thru the river on this trail.  We did not, so we passed on this adventure. 

I have not tweaked or changed this image in any way.   The sky was that incredibly blue and clear.  

Zion National Park is not the only thing to see or do here.  We hope the Congress will get it together quickly, but if not we will make the best of it.