Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life After Grandkids

So much for the RVing life. Our first grandkids, both boys, came in February and April and we, with sappy grins, volunteered to babysit for the first year. Now don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade the time spent with them for anything and am actually wondering how well I will handle being separated if/when we leave. Right now we are pretty well ensconced in our son-in-law and daughter's driveway.

We had 30 amp service installed, plumbed in a sewer connection, applied heat tape and insulation on the fresh water line and installed skirting around the trailer to help keep it warmer this winter without the propane furnace running all the time.

The skirting is 3/4" R-Tech foam board found at most big box hardware outlets. It's screwed to a simple wood frame at the bottom. We're sitting on concrete or I would have dug a trench and just buried the bottoms. The tops are taped to the trailer with foil backed tape. The vertical seams are done with white duct tape. I hung two 150W lights on the leaf springs near the holding tanks for the extra warmth. The trailer bottom is enclosed and the furnace is ducted to provide heat to the tank and storage areas, but, what the heck, more is better. Right? The furnace is set for 64 deg and we have a 1500 W electric heater we run at night. So far, with the night time temps in the low 30's the furnace has only run once or twice so that will save me extra trips to get the propane bottles filled.

I bought 2 extra 30#ers and go fill them when 3 are empty. I looked into renting a bigger tank from the distributor, which at $99/year and a one time installtion fee of $120 sounded pretty good, but one of the contract stipulations was that you purchased at least two tanks full. That was a total of about 240 gallons at about $2.39/gal and was a bit more propane than I thought we would use.

Next project is to put that shrink to fit plastic sheeting on the windows. I'll leave a couple of the openable windows uncovered for ventilation.

And last, but not least, I ordered a dehumidifier. The windows have been damp in the mornings and the cheap bucket of white pellets just isn't enough.

Enough for now and I'll try to post more often but two babies are really kicking my butt...also giving me a good work-out. My back is getting stronger everyday and not hurting as much as it used to. Kind of like going in for physical therapy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

RV Refrigerator Revisited

It's been 2 weeks now since I installed the new cooling unit for our refrigerator. I wanted to give it some time before I reported on how well the job went. So far, so good. It's been running on 120 VAC and holding around 0 degrees in the freezer and in the low 40's in the refer section, which is about where it should be.

Going back a couple of weeks to the ordering of the cooling unit. I had trouble with the shopping cart website of the company I wanted to buy from so I opted to go with another supplier that let me order online. Their website stated that the cooling units normally shipped within 24-72 hours of receiving the order. I received an order confirmation email right away but after a week I still hadn't received a shipping confirmation so I called them. The guy who answered the phone was a bit surly and said he'd go check with the shop. He came back to the phone and said it MIGHT ship in 2 or 3 days. MIGHT??? I went back to the first company, who was highly recommended by rver's on various rv forums I'd visited while researching my refer problem. I called them on the phone and after confirming that they had my cooling unit in stock and could ship it right away I placed the order with them and called back the first company and cancelled that order. I followed up with an email to confirm the cancellation and received an acknowledgement email reply and the message that the original order had been packaged and was sitting on the shop floor, ready to ship. I replied back that if I had gotten a better answer from the guy on the phone I wouldn't have cancelled the order. They did promptly reverse the charges to my credit card so all I had lost was another week without our refer.

The new unit arrived 3 days later with only minimal damage due to UPS's careful handling. Had to straighten out one of the angle iron mounting frames and some of the cooling fins.

Now for the fun part. I had been studying the instructions that the second company had sent me via email and already had the 120 VAC and 12 VDC disconnected and several components that would be reused on the new unit removed. I chose to unbolt the propane supply valve from the refer and leave the propane supply pipe attached rather than just disconnecting the pipe. It's a flare fitting and probably would have resealed but I chose to do it my way instead. I did check for propane leaks just to be safe. Since I was by myself I also removed the two refer doors to make it as light as possible.

In our trailer the refer is mounted in the wall about 24 inches above the floor. My ice chest is a couple inches shorter than that so, with a couple of towels on top for padding, it was just the right height. I had to lift the refer up just a little bit to clear the wood cabinet in front and then work it side to side to work it out of the framework. It is a snug fit.

Once the refer was out I used a milk crate (because I had one) and some more towels and carefully laid the refer on it's face. I removed the rest of the components that would be reused on the new cooling unit and, following the instructions, used a 6ft by 3/4 inch pipe (or a 2X4) to pry the old unit off. It is sealed to the back of the refer with a special compound that helps to transfer the cooling and won't work very well if it's not resealed again correctly. Again following the instructions, I test fit the new cooling unit to make sure it fit properly and then applied the sealing compound and set it back in place. I replaced all the components I had removed from the old unit and stood the refer back up and slid it back into it's place.

It took about 5 - 6 hours and cost $520 compared to a new refer at about $1200 or more than $2000 to have it done at the dealer.

The only thing I would do differently is to take pictures of everything. I had one piece of tin flashing that went around the propane burner that I couldn't remember where it went. I ended up going to the rv dealer and looking at one of their used trailers with the same refer to finally figure it out.

We now have ice cream and cold beer again. Life is good.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Who Knew Dry Ice Was So Expensive?

Well, not as expensive as a new refrigerator, but it also does not last as long.  The remanufactored unit has not yet arrived, so we are keeping things in the refrigerator and freezer cool using dry ice.  It works very well actually, and saves us from having to run into our daughter's house multiple times a day for food.  We are a snacking bunch.  Unfortunately, ice cream does not keep well.  Why is it that one always wants ice cream just before bed?  Perhaps I shall lose a few pounds this way?  Come on Fed Ex - I want my refrigerator to work again!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

As President Barlett says on West Wing, 'What's Next?'

The next lesson in owning a RV is upon me. This morning I noticed the thermometer in the refrigerator was going up. I checked all the usual things, ie: fuses, breakers, voltages where there is supposed to be voltages.

Phase 2, check online. Where would we be these days without the world wide web?

After about 15 minutes of searching I confirmed my problem. A cracked weld in the cooling unit piping has let all the ammonia escape. Dometic, the manufacturer, has a recall for several models, including mine. Unfortunately, their 'fix' only addresses the possible fire hazard the leaking ammonia can cause and nothing to actually fix cracked pipe.

So, back to the internet and more searching. A new refrigerator is about $1200 plus shipping and you have to go pick it up at the freight company's warehouse, or a remanufactured cooling unit for about $550 with shipping to your door, and from all I learned online, pretty easy to install.

New/remanufactured cooling unit ordered and on it's way.

Stay tuned for the follow-up blog on how the actual replacement job turns out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NECCESSITY: The Mother of Invention

As we sit, parked in our daughter's driveway, awaiting the arrival of our first grandkid, several things become apparent about urban camping. First, 15 amp electric power doesn't run much. We have to be very aware of what we have running before turning on any other appliances. We found out the hard way that the circuit we are plugged into is also shared by our daughter's bedroom and if the breaker trips in the middle of the night their alarm clocks don't go off in the morning. Ooops!

The second problem is what to do with full waste water tanks. It is a big hassle to get the trailer ready for the road and drive 15 miles to the nearest dump station and back again ever two weeks so I was really looking for a simpler option.

Ideally one would just tap into the houses sewer system through the clean-out plug but it hasn't been opened in decades and the previous owners built a wall that partially encloses the drain making it almost impossible to get a wrench on the plug. I've got some ideas on how to go about getting the plug out but for now I needed a sure way to get my tanks emptied.

I searched on the internet and found "blue buddies". The name belongs to one manufacturer but is used generically to describe any small tank with wheels, a handle and sewer hose connection. They are called "blue buddies" because the originals are made out of blue plastic. They are made to be either pulled by hand or the handle is designed so that it can be hooked over a hitch ball and then pulled to the dump station. The problem with this is that the wheels are cheap plastic ones like on a kiddie car and the handle just loops over the hitch ball. I have to go 15 miles on the freeway to the nearest dump station plus the largest "blue buddy", at 45 gallons, is over $250.

Since I already have a Flomax mascerator pump that liquifies everything so it can be pumped through a regular garden hose I decided I could put a tank in the back of the truck. Tanks of any kind are still not particulary cheap so I ended up with a used white plastic barrel I got for $20. I built a cradle out of a 3 ft by 3 ft piece of 3/4" plywood I had laying around with 4 plastic wheel chocks screwed to it and two ratcheting tie-down straps to hold the barrel in place. I used two more tie-down straps to secure the whole thing in the back of the truck.

The barrel has two 2" bungs in the top. One is standard pipe thread and I bought the necessary PVC fittings at the local big box store to fit on a 2" PVC ball valve and reduce to 10 ft of 1 1/2" spa/pool hose. The barrel was placed in the cradle so this would be on the bottom.

The top bung was coarse thread but had been pre-cast with an option to use a 3/4" fitting. I just had to remove the molded in plug. I used a pipe thread to female hose adapter and added one of those in-line garden hose shut-offs.

Just above and to the left of the top bung I drilled a 3/16" hole to let the air out when pumping liquids in and used a 1/4" sheet metal screw to plug it when not in use.

The Flomax mascerator pump is designed to twist on to the rv's sewer outlet and has an outlet to attach a garden hose. The garden hose connects to the top fitting on the barrel, open the shut-off valve, make sure the 2" ball valve is closed and take the screw out of the air bleed hole and we're ready to try it out.

After the fact, it all worked as planned. The waste water tank pumped into the barrel in about five minutes with no problems and emptied in less than 3 minutes at the dump station at the I-5 rest stop. It took about 10 minutes to rinse out the barrel because they have some funky fitting on the ends of the hose at the dump station. I have a new gizmo to try next time called a "water thief". It's kind of like a piece of hose about 4" long with a male garden hose fitting on one end and the other fits over any kind of outlet with or without threads and has a hose clamp to keep the connection tight. That will free up my hands to tilt the barrel around while the water is running to rinse it out.

Not including the mascerator pump I have less than $100 invested. One advantage of the "blue buddy" is that it doesn't take up as much room to stow it if you are taking it with you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Well, we made it.  Completed our first 4 months on the road.  A few lessons learned - primarily the awning and the wind.  A few unpleasant surprises - the electrical problems and the stuck open slide, but all in all, I think we did okay.

Our daughter did not deliver before we arrived home, so we are happy about that.  We are parked in her driveway.  We've got water and electricity, and a place to drain the gray water.  It's the black water that will be interesting.  We do have a macerater pump and have pumped directly into the toliet before, but it really smells up the house.  It was one thing in the late summer when we could open the winds to air things out, but it won't be an option for now.  Kim has purchased some big plastic barrels, which will fit in the back of the truck.  It will work a bit like a "blue buddy" as I understand it.  You pump the black water tank into the barrel, and then take the barrel the dump station.  That way you don't have to move the 5th wheel.

I'm excited to stay put for a bit.  I've got my books and 'stuff' out - like my Lakshmi and Ganesha statues, my crystals and stuffed animals.  I've got lots of people I'd like to see during my stay in the area, and of course, I'll be busy with Grandma Duty.

I'm a big believer in taking a Play Day each week, and I hope to do some touristy stuff in my home town.  A bit of a stay-cation and I will post from time to time for those of you that haven't been to the Seattle area so you can see what there is to do around here.

Our general plans are to take off sometime in September 2010, and head east to Montana, and then south through Utah and Northern Arizona, eventually winding up in Yuma and maybe Palm Springs.  Stay tuned for our further adventures!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another lesson in RVing.

As part of my research prior to our buying our NuWa (which, by the way, is pronounced 'new way') HitchHiker II LS 5th wheel trailer I read several forums, including one ( devoted to NuWas, so I was somewhat prepared when our largest slide-out decided not to slide out. The slide rides on two toothed tracks and has two toothed wheels (gears) that ride in the tracks. The two gears are connected by a shaft so the slide goes in and out evenly because the hydraulic ram that provides the force to move it is mounted, not in the middle but, one end so that when the hydraulic ram pushes out or pulls in the one gear nearest the ram starts to turn and the shaft to the other gear makes the other gear turn and thus the other end of the slide also goes out: that is until one of the bolts that holds the shaft to the gears breaks. Then only the end of the slide-out where the hydraulic ram is attached trys to go out.

This happened to us in Yuma, AZ. Betsy and I managed to get the slide out by letting the hydraulic ram push is out a few inches and then we'd brace ourselves against the kitchen counter and push. To get it back in required a come-along and three men pushing. We had an appointment at CJ's RV Repair and 2 hours and $90 later we had the broken bolts replaced. The mechanic said he had just done the same repair the day before on another rv.

All in all not so bad as far as catastrophes go.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back in Washington

We took Highway 126 from Florence, Oregon, over to I-5 at Eugene.  This is a 45 mile stretch of road that is absolutely lovely.  We hooked up with I-5, and decided to try the I-205 route around Portland.  OMG - I can't believe I've never taken this road before.  If you are driving north or south on I-5, and don't need to stop in Portland, this loop around the city is a must!

We pulled into Brookhollow RV Park - another gem - in a lovely setting with large paved, and level pull through sites.

We hadn't unhooked the truck from the rig since we left Jamul.  Today was the day because we wanted to look around the area.  My grandparent's home was here and this is where my dad grew up and attended high school.  Things have definitely changed since I was last here in the 1960s.

Fortuna and Florence

We spent the first night on our journey up 101 in Fortuna, California at the Riverwalk RV Park.  This is a nice little park and we'd stay there again.  I know I took pictures of this park as well, but they are not on the camera.  Maybe I am my mother's daughter.....My mother travelled through Europe taking pictures with her finger over the camera lens.  I think maybe I was pushing the power button, turning the camera on and off.  Yes, I am a blonde.

The next night, we stayed in Florence, Oregon at the Hecata Beach RV Park.  I have always said Heck-ah-ta, but the gal at the park pronounced it Ha-zee-ta.  I had to look it up.  The area is named after a Basque explorer who was sent to investigate the area.  His name was Bruno de Heceta y Dudagoitia.  His name was pronounced Ha-zee-ta, although the Heck-ah-ta pronunciation is also accepted.

This is another nice little park.  Spaces are large, and easily accomodated our 33' rig with 3 slides.  There were hedges and trees between each space.  It was very quiet and we would definitely stay there again.  It is a few blocks walk to the beach.

Our site

An empty site next to us.

I slept 9 hours and woke up to lovely blue skies!  Next stop - Kelso, WA.

Heading Over to 101

When we found out we were heading home sooner than we had originally planned, the first reference I checked was the Farmers Almanac.  I wanted to know what the forecast was for snow in the Siskiyous.  We were in luck and it appeared we would be able to get by without having to worry about snow or incliment weather.  Okay, we'll go I-5 all the way.  But wait, you are apparently required to carry chains when going over the pass, not only for the truck, but also for the trailer.  Quick pricing looked like we would have to spend over $200 on chains that we probably wouldn't use.  There we were, caught in the Catch 22.  We had to have chains to take I-5, but if we needed chains, we wouldn't take that route.  So forget I-5, we are going up 101.  I've never been on that section of 101, and I was really looking forward to it, but I was also concerned about the road - I'd heard it was curvy and twisty.

Well, let me just say, as I repeated to Kim over and over and over - Oh My God - I am so glad we came this way.  Each part of the drive, from the short section of I-5, over Highway 12, and then a series of weird interchanges on a bunch of interstates (thank God for GPS), we finally were on Highway 101.  It was absolutely beautiful.  The wine country, rolling hills, and into the Redwoods.  Really, I can't wait to go back and spend some time just driving around this area.

Here are some pictures I snapped from the car on the drive. 

Too bad there were cars behind us on this section - I'd have just asked Kim to stop so I could get a good picture.  It was a nice long section of canopied redwoods.

Ah, the Pacific.  I did miss you!

We had just passed a herd of elk in a large field, and came upon this straggler, all by himself in someone's front yard.

By the way, both Kim and I had expected 2 lane, rough road.  We were pleasantly surprised to find 4 lanes of well paved road almost all the way.  I just loved this drive!

Next Stop, Manteca California

When we headed south, for me, the most boring part of the drive was coming down I-5 through the Imperial Valley.  This surprised me because years before when we had driven from Washington to Alabama, I had really enjoyed this section of I-5.  Perhaps it was the difference between driving down in June and driving down in November.  I talked Kim into taking Highway 99 all the way up to Manteca.  The drive was much more interesting as far as things to see and changing scenery.  The highway gets a 7 out of 10 rating.  Most of the road was good to really good 4 to 6 lane highway.  We did notice that often times the road wasn't as well maintained as it went through the various towns and cities.  Our guess is that those city budgets did not have extra funds for maintaining the highways.  It was pretty bumpy and hard on the bladder.  This was not the day to have 3 cups of coffee!

We had elected to stay in the Stockton area because Kim's brother had recently moved to the area for a new job.  We wanted to stop and see Tom and have dinner with him.

We used our RPI membership to stay at the Thousand Trails Turtle Beach reserve for $10 that night..  We got in just before sunset and only had time to do basic set up before Tom arrived.  This reserve is another nice setting.  Nice wide spaces - enough for the rig, the truck, a picnic table and a tent (if we had one).  I know we'll come back and spend more time here later in the year.   I only wish we'd had time to walk along the delta and explore a bit.   My only complaint would be the 2 mile road leading to the resort.  It is very narrow and I'd hate to meet another big rig coming the other direction.

I could have sworn I took pictures of our site, but I can't find them on the camera.  It was a long day, maybe I just thought I took pictures......

Pio Pico - Jamul, California

After a wonderful week in Yuma, we moved west to Jamul, California.  We took I-8 to Hwy 94.  This may be the time to mention that not only am I a 5 star resort camper, but I'm also a back road wimp.  While I-8 was a typical interstate through the desert, Hwy 94 wasn't really made for a truck towing a 5th wheel.  In fact, there was a sign that said vehicles over 40' were prohibited on that stretch of highway.  We were already committed to this route when we saw the sign, with no place to turn around, so we continued on.  The road was a little twisty for my tastes, and there were spots with drop off areas on the passenger side (my side) without guard rails.  There were tons of border patrol cars on the road - about every 4th or 5th car was border patrol.  Not sure if that was the norm for the area, or if there was something going on.  It was interesting, nonetheless.

We had made reservations at the Thousand Trails Pio Pico reserve, using our Resorts of Distinction membership.  I had made the reservations 90 days in advance, requesting a full hook up.  We arrived and were told that full hook ups were not available, and that we could camp in the north part of the park that had water and 30 amp electric.  Oh, and the water was not drinkable.  Oh, and by the way, there is no cell phone service nor Verizon air card service.  However, we could go choose our own spot, come back and let them know.  Every morning at 9am, we could report to the ranger station and see if there were any full hook up sites available.  I was not happy.  Okay, I can dry camp for a night or so, but any more than that, we would have to change campgrounds. 
We found a good sized back-in site so that we had a nice view out the back of our trailer.  It was a bit of a challenge as many of the sites had black garbage bags over the electric polls.  I was a little bit happier at this point, because scenery wise, this was a very lovely campground.

Our site at Pio Pico

Other campsites

The view out our back window

We decided we would spend the night and re-evaluate in the morning.  The next morning, we lost power briefly - sort of.  The UPS (unlimited power supply) alarm went off at 7:30am.  The power wasn't completely lost, but the voltage had dropped below 100.  We speculated that it was due to the rest of the park all waking up and turning on their electric heaters, hot water tanks, etc.  Because of the problem we had with the electric system in the rig while we were in Phoenix, and the cost to replace all our electronics, we do not like to take chances.  When we started running water to wash dishes and take showers, it was all milky - and not the air in the line kind of milky.  We made the decision to move on the next day, but for that day we had made arrangements to have lunch with my friend Leila in Carlsbad.  Lunch with her was the best part of that day.

In the meantime, once we got into cell phone range, I found a message from our daughter.  She is pregnant and due in March, but was having some serious contractions and there was concern she would deliver early.  So much for taking our time heading home.  We called and learned that the contractions had stopped, and the doctor felt the baby would not be coming now, but nothing was guaranteed.  We don't wait to miss the birth of our first grandchild, so we knew we'd be packing up and leaving the next morning.

We returned to the rig after spending the day in Carlsbad.  Double checked the amperage and it was still low, so we went to the Adult Lodge to use the park's wifi.  The Adult Lodge gets a 1 out of 5 stars in my book.  It needs updating and an interior designer.  We plotted a route home, deciding to come up I-5 to the Stockton area,  and then make the decision about whether to take I-5 or 101 up to Washington.  We wanted to avoid the Siskiyous if there was any chance of snow or ice.
The next morning, we packed up and headed out.  Next stop, Bakersfield, California.

San Diego to Bakersfield

We left Pio Pico, taking Otay Lakes Road into Chula Vista, California, where we picked up I-5 heading north.  Not much to say about this drive except that I hope to never do it again, towing a rig!

We had made reservations at Bear Mountain RV Resort in Bakersfield.  I had checked and found good reviews for the park.  We had stayed at Bakersfield RV Park on the way down, and enjoyed it.  However, it was off Highway 58, and a bit out of the way.  We wouldn't have a chance to enjoy its resort ammenities, so we decided to try another resort.  Bear Mountain gets a high rating from me, if you are looking for a park just off Highway 99, and need a place to sleep.  The park manager was very nice.  The park was plain, but very clean and well maintained.  And $25 per night was great for the budget. Nice big and spacious pull through sites.   It was quiet and an easy in & out.

Our site.

Dog run and view of other sites.

Office, restrooms and laundry.

Next stop, Manteca, California.

Cocopaugh RV Resort in Yuma, Arizona

We spent the week at Cocopaugh with our friends.  Here are some pictures of the resort.  I thought it was one of the prettier resorts in which we have stayed.

One of the nicest pool areas I've seen.

Shuffle Board Court

Grounds near the tennis court

Part of the 2.5 acre pet area. 

The only challenge we had in Yuma was that when we arrived, one of our slides wouldn't open.  Kim and I managed to push it out.  Kim did some research and visual inspection, and determined we had probably shirred one of the bolts in the hydaulic system that opens the slides.  At least I think that is what he said.  He is supposed to write up something for those of you that understand this kind of stuff.  I just know that we had to push it open ourselves, and then when it came time to pack up, some of the resorts escorts and maintenance crews helped get it back in.  We dropped it off at CJs RV repair, and 1.5 hours later, less $90, we were on the road to California.  Nothing but praise for CJs from me!

We had a great time in Yuma, much of it thanks to our friends The Luques.  Next year, we will come back and stay longer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best Part Of Camping - Eating!

Oh - surely you didn't think I meant cooking.  No, I meant trying out different restaurants in various areas.  Yes, I have a few campfire recipes that I really like, but today I'd like to focus on eating out in Yuma.  Thanks to our friends locally, and some suggestions from Facebook friends, we've sample 3 great restaurants in Yuma.

First is Brownie's Cafe.  This is a good old fashioned diner.  If you were born after 1980, you probably don't know what that really means, but it refers to good old, almost as tasty as home cooked, food.  We had breakfast at Brownies.  I had the Maggie's Special which was home made corned beef, 2 eggs and hashbrowns.  It was fantastic.  Kim had waffles and eggs - the Belgian waffle kind, and he gave them a two thumbs up as well.  If we had more time here in Yuma, we'd go back for lunch or dinner as I hear the Brownie Dessert is to die for.  As it was, I was stuffed so I didn't try dessert.  Hey - there's nothing wrong with dessert with breakfast!

The next day, we were treated to Kneaders for lunch.  Soup, salad and sandwhiches - oh and desserts!  Are you sensing a pattern here?  This was a 'wheat cheat day' for me.  I do try to avoid wheat, but the bread at this restaurant smelled so good, I just had to give in.  And then there was the cannolis.  I had the turkey feta salad, broccoli cheese soup, a slice of Russian Rye bread and the aforementioned cannoli.  (Not as good as the cannoli I've had in the French Quarter in New Orleans, but well worth having.).  Kim had a toasted cheese sandwhich - I think there were 4 kinds of cheese in this double decker treat.  Again, we will return the next time we are in Yuma.  Hint - go early for lunch.  There were only 2 people in front of us when we arrived at 11:50am.  When we left 45 minutes later - the line was out the door.

And of course, you can't eat in Yuma, so close to Mexico, without sampling some Mexican Food.  We joined a group of friends at El Pappagallo.  Most of them ordered The Sampler-taco, tamale, enchilada, burrito and tostado.  I understand the enchilada was particularly good - cheese, sour cream and onion.  Must have been, because no one offered me a taste.  I had the carne asada and it was wonderful.  Great salsa and guacamole. 

If you are in Yuma, I would highly recommend anyone of these restaurants.

Now if you are reading this, and hoping for a camp recipe, I will share one of my favorites.  It's cooking in foil, and makes clean up a snap.  Take a large piece of aluminum foil (double layer if using the small regular size foil).  In the center spread out some sliced onion - I use 1/2 onion, but I love onions.  On top of that, a ground beef patty.  I like to mix my meat with some barbeque sauce, but you can also just top the meat with a generous glob.  Next layer with sliced potatoes, sliced carrots and sliced mushrooms.  Top with a pat of butter, or some olive oil.  Season for taste.  Wrap it up tent style - Bring the edges of one side together and fold over a few times, then crimp  up the sides - leaving some air/breathing room.  Put on the barbeque, right over the coals, medium heat, close the lid and cook for about 20 -25 minutes.  Yummy!  We eat this 2-3 times a week sometimes.  Easy to make.  Easy clean up.  What more could you ask for!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yuma and Specialty Diets

We arrived in Yuma last Wednesday, the day before all the heavy rains and tornado watches.  They say this kind of weather happens only once every 20 years or so.  Good thing, because I really like the area, but the ground around our 5th wheel was covered with 3 inches of water for the better part of 2 days and that was not so good.  Yuma has green!  The Colorado River makes the area very good for agriculture, and we've seen fields of all kinds of produce - all kinds of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, etc.  The skies are brilliant blue and the sun is warm most days.  I could see spending winters here very easily.  Yuma is large enough to have decent shopping, but small enough to make it feel home-town.

As I've mentioned before, Kim and I try to maintain a wheat free, dairy free, soy free diet, and finding the foods we eat can often be a challenge.  I'm happy to report that we found Sunshine Herbs N' More on Fortuna Avenue.  They stock the rice bread we use, the rice cheese I like, the coconut milk yogurt too.  If they get deliveries from those companies, I'm sure they can then order the other things I like (especially the coconut milk products from the Soy-Delicious Company).

Happy Travelling!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Earp, California and Quartzsite, Arizona

We camped 3 nights at the Emerald Cove Resort along the Colorado River.  It's a large park, over 700 spots I think.  The place was packed for the MLK Holiday Weekend.  I was afraid it was going to loud and a party park.  Actually, it was very pleasant and quiet.  Beautiful putt putt golf course.  Two pools.  Two spas.  Lovely back in sites along the river.  Unfortunately, these are reserved for members of the Colorado River Adventures campgrounds.  We stayed there under an RPI membership.  It was adequate and the spaces large enough to accomodate our 3 slides. 

While there, we made a trip into Quartzsite for the Rock and Mineral Show and the RV show.  Never in my life have I seen so many RVs on the road, and campground after campground filled along with all the folks dry camping on BLM land.  Oh my goodness.  It was a sight to see.  And that was it....a sight!  The place was packed full of vendors of all things - not just RV related or gem related.  It reminded me of the vendor areas at a huge state fair.  Not much rhyme or reason to where things were.  I'm filing this under the heading of Been There, Done That, Don't Need To Do It Again.  On a positive note, if you are looking for large crystal geodes, or are a jewelry designer/beader - you will find great prices on things.  If you own a metaphysical store, prices on bracelets and necklaces were very very good as well.

(photo courtesy of

(photo courtesy of

(Pictures courtesy of

We also took a ride up to Lake Havasu City as well.  We had driven through on our way from Laughlin to Phoenix, but we were towing the 5th wheel and unable to stop to see the London Bridge.  It really was amazing to see the bridge reconstructed there.  There is a replica of London Town, a shopping area, under the bridge.  Worth a stop to see and snap a few pictures.

We also stopped to take pictures at the Earp, California post office.  Yes, the town is named after Wyatt Earp, who homesteaded in the area while he was working some gold mines just south of here.  There is a picture of Wyatt on the building, and we stopped to see if Kurt Russell or Kevin Costner looked more like the real Wyatt Earp.  If you care, IMHO it would be Kurt Russell.

Next stop:  Yuma, Arizona

Special Diets and RVing

I am on a wheat free, dairy free diet, so finding stores that carry the products I eat can be difficult while travelling.  We were in Northern Phoenix, and there really was nothing close by that carried all the things in one store.  Here are the stores we shopped at most frequently:

Safeway in Anthem, AZ carries many gluten free products including waffles, rice crackers and pretzels. (5 miles from our campground)
Bashas in Cave Creek/Carefree carries wheat free bread and dairy free ice cream. They have a great meat market - the best hamburger and steaks we found in the area. (10 miles from our campground)
Whole Foods Market in Tempe or Scottsdale (both about 20 miles from our campground) carried everything I needed from rice bread to rice cheese to coconut milk (in a carton like regular milk, not the canned coconut milk used in Thai cooking) and coconut milk ice cream.
Trader Joes had the best bulk food shopping that I found.

I don't do soy products myself, but soy milk is readily available at most stores, and many do carry the Soy-Delicious ice cream too.  I didn't find that many stores carried soy cheese or almond cheese either - other than Whole Foods and Trader Joes.

I was a little surprised that the 'regular' stores did not carry these products as I can get them at my local Top Foods and Safeway Stores in our small home town of Snohomish, WA.  We stocked up before we left Phoenix as our next stop was Earp, California/Parker, Arizona and then on to Yuma, and I'm not sure we will be able to find these things in the smaller towns if it was a challenge in Phoenix.

Phoenix Wrap Up

I just wanted to share a few thoughts about our stay at Pioneer Park in North Phoenix.  I found it to be a nice RV Park.  Mostly snow birds or full time residents in their late 60s to 80s.  We had a site on the perimeter edge, so that our back window looked out on to the desert.  We did really enjoy this as we were able to watch the local wild life, including the twice daily parade of quail, the daily visit of the local coyotes as they ran by on their way to Lake Pleasant, the bunnies, the squirrels and the birds.  The sunsets were gorgeous!  This is a quiet park.  People were friendly, and the office staff very helpful.  The restrooms and showers are a bit dated, but clean.  The pool and spa are under cover which is nice morning or late night swims.  There is a pool (billiard) room, a craft room, a card room, a library and puzzle room, plus a large multi purpose room.  There was a shuffle board court, and a quite popular horse shoe pit (complete with bleachers), and bocce ball court.  Shopping is close by off I-17 at the Carefree Highway and Happy Valley Road.

The only minor complaints I had about staying here were nothing that the Pioneer Park people could fix.  The wind whips up quite a bit at night and can shake and rattle the rig quite a bit.  It's worthwhile to roll up the awning each afternoon.  There is a shooting range just over the hill, and the sounds of gun fire carry.  You learn to ignore it rather quickly.  And when the FBI comes to practice with automatic weapons at the nearby Correctional Center, it's a bit unnerving.  I'd rate the park a 9 out of 10.

We did drive out to look at the camping areas at two regional parks - Lake Pleasant and Cave Creek.  Beautiful desert camping areas.  There is water and electricity at each site, but no sewer hook ups.  I loved the views and the quietness of the parks, and would definitely consider camping at either place in the future.

All and all, our visit to Phoenix was good.  We have family here, so we will return.  I didn't realize how big the metropolitan Phoenix area was.  The freeway/highway system I found confusing, and I am very thankful for GPS.  What did we do without it?

Wickenburg, Arizona

We had one week left in Phoenix, and decided to take a day trip up to Wickenburg.  From Pioneer Park, we took Highway 74, connecting with Highway 60, right into Wickenburg.  It was a nice drive, decent highway.  .  We took the Walking Tour of Wickenburg, picking up the map at the Chamber of Commerce, which is housed in the old Santa Fe Railroad Depot.  There are bronze sculptures throughout the walking tour, with recorded messages on the history of the spot.  There are also some smaller sculptures of desert wildlife strategical placed on the side walks.  I had to look twice at a roadrunner, and the rattlesnake gave me a bit of a start. 

The Jail Tree (residents were too busy mining gold to build a jail, so the sheriff handcuffed prisoners to the tree used for hanging the bad guys)

Betsy at the Saloon

Henry Wickenburg

We toured the Desert Caballeros Western Museum.  This is a must see if you are in Wickenburg.  There is a Hall of History, which recounts the story of Wickenburg.  There was a large gold discovery made there by Henry Wickenburg.  Allegedly, he discovered the gold when he tossed a rock at an escaping mule.  The rock broke and gold was found.  Since that time, more than $30 million in gold has been dug from the Vulture Mine.  There was a section in the museum devoted to Cowboys, Indians, Minerals and a changing Art Gallery.  Unfortunately, the Art Gallery was closed when we were visiting, but the collection of Cowboy and Indian memorobilia and the Mineral/Gem exhibit was very impressed.  On the lower level, there is an early Wickenburg street scene, and examples of period rooms from the early 1900s, and an exhibit which features an old adobe home and stable.  This museum was well worth the admission price of $7.  The docents are quite knowledgable and eager to share the history of the region.

Kim in the General Store Replica Room

The Saloon Period Room

Gun and Rifle Collection from the Desert Caballeros Western Museum

Living Room/Parlor circa 1905

Early 1900s version of a Johnny Jump Up (bouncy chair for babies)

Stagecoach Replica

We took Highway 60 back to Phoenix, and picked up Highway 303 which took us to Happy Valley Road and I-17, just about 5 miles south of our 'home' at Pioneer Park.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Awinings: Who needs 'em...

The holidays are past, the weather was cooperating and I had no excuse to procrastinate any longer. If you recall from an earlier post or two when we were
having problems with our electrical stuff we had to stay with relatives for several days until we could get a new converter/charger to keep our batteries charged. We (I) were a little distracted at the time with all that going on and I left the awning extended while we were away. A wind storm came up one evening and, despite the best efforts of our neighbors, the awning canvas tore about 6-8 inches at the rear edge right where it attaches to the side of the trailer before they could get it put away. Some of the brackets got slightly twisted too.

I bought some awning repair tape from the local rv dealer and today I extended the awning to see what could be done. First the rear arm was stuck and I had to get out the ladder to see what was jamming. Seems it is just due to all the twisting that occurred during the wind storm. I just twisted the arm a little and the rivet head that was hanging up came free and I was then able to completely unfurl the awning.

Upon inspection of the tear it was obvious that the vinyl was sun damaged. It was brittle and cracking and had a permanent curl. I cleaned up the vinyl as best I could and applied several pieces of repair tape, which is holding for now but with the sun damaged vinyl I can see we will be replacing it sooner rather than later.

My forgeting to retract the awning while we were away is just one more of those lessons you hope you could have learned from someone else's mistakes but sometimes have to learn for yourself. I don't feel like a complete idiot as I've read many accounts on rv blogs and forums where others have 'been there, done that' already.

Ok, what's next? I'm ready for our next adventure. One without any new mishaps.

Keep on truckin'!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Traveling By Air - Now Feels Weird

We are back at Pioneer Park in Phoenix, after flying home for the holidays.  The last few years, I had flown hither and yon on business and pleasure, so much so that it got to be routine, and no big deal.  Now it just feels weird.  No fear or anxiety, but just not right.  I guess I am liking this whole RV thing.

We were treated to a beautiful sunset on our first night back!

 The coyotes were surely howling last night.  I guess they appreciated the sunset too! Rumor has it the javelinas have returned but I neither saw nor heard them.

This morning the sun is out, the quail are on parade, and life is good .