Sunday, April 27, 2014

What is over the hill?

Have you ever wondered what is on the other side of a hill?  I often have, and I hope part of our adventure will be to be able to find out, from time to time.

From our site we see mountains in one direction, and hills in the other.  I know civilization (or what passes for it in the LA area) is beyond the mountains, but what lies just on the other side of these scrubby hills?

View from the end of our Jojoba road
The other day, I set out for a short walk around the Jojoba RV Resort by myself.  I had intended to stay within the park boundary and on the paved road, but I discovered a pass-thru in the fence to the land beyond.  

I went thru the unofficial gate in the fence, and walked about a half mile up a sandy track.  But then, I thought about the fact that it was almost noon and getting hot.  I didn’t have any water with me and no one knew where I was.  I decided it was prudent to go back and explore this path another day.  Later that day I did stop at the office and asked who owned that land.  I was told they thought it was BLM land.

I decided to make it our Thursday morning hike, for which I packed water and peanut butter and pickle breakfast sandwiches.

Several sandy Jeep/ATV roads crisscross the area. They must be used frequently because we could see several different tread prints in the sand.  We also noted many quail tracks, rabbit tracks, and either dog or coyote tracks.  Ants and quail were the only wildlife we actually saw, but I did recognize some tarantula burrows and a lot of much larger gopher or ground squirrel holes.

The widely scattered Yucca plants were blooming.

When we got about a mile up the track we could see a house far up on the hill. We speculated as to how they built it there. Was this sandy trail the driveway? Did they transport the building materials by this rough trail?

At about two miles into the hike we came to a fence line that we think might have been the boundary between the house and BLM lands.  Although it wasn't posted, we decided not to cross the fence.  I had seen empty 8mm and shotgun shells along the way.  

We didn’t want to be trespassers.

From this vantage point we could see the valley that was on the other side of our hill.  The sandy road branched off down to quite a collection of buildings and houses. 

There were more open scrub covered hills in one direction. Mountains in the distance, and we caught the glint of cars driving on what we think might have been Hwy79.  If it was, we were standing below the back yard of the big house on the hill. It probably has a nice paved drive on the other side!

We had our sandwiches and headed back to the SKP park.  

So, now I know what is on the other side of this hill. It was fun to find out.

I hope that we can explore many more in the future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Met the Sculptor and took a hike

As we've explored the area around Jojoba Hills SKP park, we were delighted to see several horse sculptures in the hills, and a large sign for the studio/gallery of Ricardo Breceda, the artist that did the sculptures that we saw around Borrego Springs.

From the highway it looked like there was a nice park next to the gallery, and I decided we would first go to the park, have a picnic lunch, a walk, and then visit the studio.

But, it turned out the park was a private RV park with a gate guard who said the public was not welcome to walk or picnic there.  The gallery is actually in the park. The gate guard gave us a 30 minute pass. We didn't pay much attention to the time.

The yard of the gallery had many wonderful critters lined up and ready for new homes. His work is very animated! They seem ready to jump or chomp. He does great teeth.

This warthog was one of my favorites.

Ricardo was there and I was thrilled to meet such a gifted man.  

The dinosaurs in the shaded grotto were fantastic. They made me wish I had a large yard and a few extra thousand dollars to spend. Oh well, the pictures will have to suffice.

We then went over to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve for our lunch and hike.

We started with a short interpretive trail reading the charming words of a past docent, Gordon House. Many such brochures are a bit stilted.  You could hear his love of the place in his playful descriptions. 

The Granite Loop trail started through some chaparral, 

Across some open meadow land,

and under some very old oak trees.  About as diversified a trail as we've been on.

It then linked up with the Vista Grande trail that took us up into some garssy hills, and as the name suggests led us to a place we could see the far mountains.  

When we got back to the visitors center my pedometer read 4.6 miles.  A nice hike!  

Monday, April 21, 2014


It has been a week since I last posted.

For me writing a blog is something I only do when I feel like it. I don't post every day, but I do think about it often. There are many posts that only get written in my head. This is probably a good thing. But then when I feel compelled to catch up, I end up with a very long post.  

On Saturday morning we drove 75 miles down to our daughter's home in San Diego. This spring weekend visit was an unexpected treat for us, since we expected to be heading east by now. I don't post much about my two wonderful grandsons, but of course they are the nicest, smartest, best looking boys, and an extra day or two with them is always good.

On Sunday we were invited to join a large extended family feast. Good food, good people, much love. As I chatted with several people I had not met before I found myself answering several questions I had heard before. 
"Where were we going first?"
"Do we have a bucket list?"
"How long do we plan to do this?" 
"Where do we want to settle down?"
"Do I miss my house?"
"What will I miss most?" 
And finally "What if one of us gets sick?'

I have answered all of these before, but it was always in a theoretical "someday" mode. Now it is for real! We are full timers, and I now have ever-changing answers to these questions:
  •  We do not have specific plans beyond our next stop at the Alfateers for our upgrades.
  • Our bucket list changes every day.
  • We will do this as long as it is right for both of us.
  • Settling down is not on top of our list, but of course we have a vague exit plan.
  • Yes, some days I miss my house a little, but not enough to be sad or regret our choices.
  • I miss my large ovens the most. RV ovens suck!
  • And finally, if one of us gets sick, we will deal with it. Bad things happen to people, in houses and on the road.
  • We will live each day as it comes, wherever it is.
My plan for today is to go off to the pool for a water aerobic class in a few minutes, and then come back to the rig to make a picnic lunch to take to a nearby park which we want to explore.  


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.