March 2017 ~ Desert Country

Chronological Order

Day 2172 ~ Cloudy, With a Chance of WorkMarch 31st, 2017

Blustery all night and into the morning; clouds overhead and intermittent rain. As long as work calls, it may as well be today.  We were up early so headed into town first thing to knock out some projects at the library.  Peter ended up buried all day long so, when we were done, it was starting to get dark.  Needing showers, we took advantage of the Lazy Lizard Hostel's generous $3 shower policy before heading for the hills north of town.  This morning, we scoped out a couple boondocking possibilities closer to town.

Despite Moab's tight control on willy-nilly campers like us, we are finding everything we need for low or no cost.  A gas station provides free dump and water, cheap hot showers at the Lazy Lizard and wifi at the library.  Tomorrow being a weekend, we plan to explore one or both parks; the weather is even predicted to be sunny.

 

Day 2171 ~ CanyonlandsMarch 30th, 2017

I rose at 5:15am to catch the Milky Way before sunrise.  It was just arching over a huge pointed rock so I managed a few pictures, but finding my camera is limited for night photos so they end up a bit too dark.  No matter, I'm learning at any rate.

Went back to bed but couldn't really warm up and the sunrise called for more photography.  By 8:15am, we were on the road in search of more photo ops.  Later down the road, after catching up with morning chores, we headed into the Moab library to do some work and pay some long-procrastinated bills.  Peter's also still attempting to recover my photos from the crashed hard drive.  Thankfully, I was able to find the company we bought from whom we bought a recovery program when this happened in 2014.  They were still in business, still had our record and emailed another copy.

By 5:30p, it was time to go do something else.  We ate dinner in the RV, dumped at a local gas station and set off to find a place to overnight.  Sounds easy, and most of the time it is.  However, Moab is located five miles from Arches and 30 from Canyonlands National Parks.  The residents evidently got tired of seeing RVs and tents parked and pitched willy-nilly and put a stop to the wonton boondocking practices.  We turned alongside the Colorado River where there are several BLM campgrounds situated for the next 30 miles.  We made it only seven before giving up and turning back as every one was full.  I managed to find another 'disbursed' camping spot (i.e. no services) in a parking lot about seven miles north of town.  There it was $5 to day park and $15 to overnight on private property. Although there was highway noise, it was level and good enough for us at our late hour.

 

Day 2170 ~ Four States in OneMarch 29th, 2017

We were up early to the sound of a horse's whinny.  However, when we opened the window, there were no horses to be seen except for way down yonder.  Because Four Corners is now a fee-based tourist trap and, yesterday, we arrived 30 minutes after closing, we back-tracked the few miles to get there first thing.  With a brisk wind whipping over the plains, we braved the cold and did our photographic duty standing in four states at once.

That visit checked off the bucket list, we headed into Utah.  Turning on to CO-41, the Abajo Mountains, known locally as the Blue Mountains or The Blues, became our backdrop most of the way over the high plains dotted with a few houses here and there.  The views are incredible, but one must be a serious introvert to live far from anywhere.

A couple hours later, we arrived in the fair town of Blanding for some power and wifi.  Unlike yesterday, their library's internet was open and fuss-free.  Peter and I parked ourselves in a meeting room and worked away until late afternoon.  Peter was able to transfer more photos off the corrupted hard drive, with only a few problem files causing issues.  Hopefully, with not too many more library stops, we can at least save my photos.  Late afternoon, a small group of teenage boys arrived, flipped on the lights, loudly slurped their Cup-o-Noodles and chatted amongst themselves seemingly oblivious to anyone around them.  Time to go anyway.

Stopping for showers and a water fill, the RV park owner told us about a forest road access into the park that would provide a roadside overnight stop.  When we turned onto it before the next town, the steepness of the road was a bit daunting but we went for it; nothing like off-roading in a 28-foot box.  We climbed higher and realized that we were winding our way up and over the Abajos that we've been looking at most of the day.  At a mere 11,360 feet with snow appearing and covering parts of the road, at times we considered our sanity.  Seven tons on summer tires isn't meant for snow or ice.  However, just when we thought of turning around, we crested and began our decent along the sunny side of the mountain so we continued.  We followed the instructions and eventually found ourselves at the base of the canyon with huge boulders and rocky buttes surrounding us.  By now, the setting sun cast a lovely orange glow which made for great photography.  Just when we thought it was really cool, the road opened up into a wide flat valley, obviously privately owned by beef rancher(s).  We figure, hermits with a keen sense for incredible 360 degree beauty.  Like the Grand Canyon, it's really hard to take it all in.

Eventually, we ran out of light and pulled off next to a gated road as the official free campground area was still a fair distance away.  With a cloudless night and no light pollution, I readied my camera for some early morning Milky Way photography.

 

Day 2169 ~ Desert BeautyMarch 28th, 2017

The scenery is incredible; vistas that reach for miles, changing colors, diverse terrain.  Snow-capped mountains, rocky canyons, grassy fields, bluffs, massive boulders, winding roads, straight roads, it's all here.  Blink once and it changes; around every corner can be something totally different, a new state perhaps.

We left early (well, earlier than normal) so we could get to a library close to the start of business in Alaska; Farmington was today's choice.  It was a nice library, but with strange habits.  Their computer lab alone probably had 30 computers, all full with people no less.  However, evidently these people are not to be trusted.  Just to get the internet password, required at least 10 minutes (if you don't leave your ID in your car).  First, you show your ID at the front desk so they can write your name, contact info and license number on a form.  You then take that form to the computer lab guy who prints out a ticket.  From there, you login to an IP address, type in your code and you're good to go.  Now if you want to also connect your phone, patrons are only allowed one pass for one device per day, no exceptions.  You must first return to the lab guy so he can log out your computer after which you repeat the process above to log in your phone.  Needless to say, Peter recovered a few more of my photos and completed only necessary work before moving on a little after 3pm.

Poking up in the distance was this interesting spire.  Eventually, we found a decent view and I took some photos from atop the RV.  A passing man hollared up to ask where we were headed.  Thinking he might be a hitchhiker, I told him something nearby, but he was just being helpful.  He proceeded to tell me where we could get a better and closer view of this landmark called Ship Rock.

We didn't have the time for a detour, but we did pass through a town by the same name on our way.  From there, we made a sweeping S-curve, passing through three states within half an hour.  Unfortunately, our 5:20pm arrival found the Four Corners Monument property gated, closed until 8am and charging $5 per person for the opportunity to stand in four states at once.  So much for plans.  We continued into Colorado and spotted a decent turnout just a few miles.  We figured that, since we've been talking to the girls about the monument for some time, we'll just call it a night and return in the morning to do the tourist 'thing'.

 

Day 2168 ~ DepartureMarch 27th, 2017

It seems we've been going steady for some time so, naturally, we weren't prepared for departure day.  The girls had school, Nana was still working on Nika's birthday gift and Peter needed to tackle some work projects.  The time got later and later, but we finally headed out at 11 to make a dump run at the base RV park.  Once off-base, we hit Costco, then drove to the next town for an IHOP lunch.  IHOP has become Nika's birthday tradition and, being as Peter was in Alaska for her actual day, we delayed the event.

By the time the food was gone and gifts were opened, we were late getting out.  Thanks to my freecampsites.net site, we had a couple destinations to choose from.  The casino came first just before sunset, so we pulled off.  Another camper gave us the scoop on where security told her she could park and ended up across the road in a parking lot all to ourselves.  Not bad.

 

Day 2167 ~ SundayMarch 26th, 2017

Sunday was a day to chill.  After church, we bar-be-qued some chicken and burgers and hung out for most of the afternoon.  Later, Jim gave us a tour of the base and where he works.  Other than that, we just laid low.

 

Day 2166 ~ Mountain ClimbingMarch 25th, 2017

Ah, the weekend.  The girls all piled in the living room for a sleepover, emphasis on lack of sleep.  Nana was the first up and made Swedish pancakes for everyone.

For a little sightseeing, Jim and Jaymie offered to take us for a drive in the afternoon.  We were one seatbelt short so Nana stayed home to do projects while the rest of us drove to Sandia Crest, the highest point in this mountain range at 10,678 feet.  It was difficult to fathom being able to get so high so easily; it's like driving to the top of Mt. Redoubt back home.  Crazy.  The wind still blew hard and we were ill-prepared to go hiking, so we took a few photos and headed into the cafe/visitor center to warm up.  Too bad, because the hike looked like fun.  Evidently, the trail goes for quite a distance along the ridgeline.

Eventually, the building closed and it was time to descend.  Nana met us with a spaghetti dinner, complete with cookies for dessert.

 

Day 2165 ~ B-I-N-G-OMarch 24th, 2017

After the last of this week's lessons, we all trooped to Dollar Tree and Hobby Lobby for some art and slime project supplies.  That evening, we went to Bingo night on base, which included dinner.  Wearing a funny hat gains you an extra card.

Not having any luck with any BINGO combinations, one of our tickets did win the door prize so we didn't go home empty at least.

Peter flew in from Alaska later that night so Jim took me to the airport to pick him up since I don't have military ID to get back on base.

 

Day 2164 ~ Blasting to AlbuquerqueMarch 23rd, 2017

We took our morning slow, working through lessons and making a grocery run to restock.  The morning began sunny and relatively warm.  By the time we left at Noon, the wind had picked up significantly and the clouds rolled in.  That's when the trouble began.  Just after entering the highway, with the wind blasting against the passenger side, something started flapping and banging.  Turned out the awning had unrolled with the gusts.  Not having any way to tie it down or turn around to get the awning in the lee of the RV, I managed to finally stuff it behind the roller with the hope of getting to the next exit before it came undone.  Not.

It unrolled one more time.  Unable to get behind any buildings off the next exit, I spotted a parked fifth wheel, a little bigger than I was.  Using that as a wind buffer, the driver kindly assisted with getting the awning undone and rolled up again.  He also mentioned that the winds were supposed to get stronger, with gusts to 50-60 mph.  In spite of the forecast, I chose to wing it and move on.  I could always pull off ahead if things got too much.  The next few miles were in a canyon, which buffered the wind some so I kept on.  In the end, there were only a couple of areas where the blasts rocked the RV and caused me angst.  Eventually, the highway turned east which gave me a tail wind into Albuquerque.

Just when I thought I was home-free, I turned south so I could dump, get propane and gas before heading to my brother's.  I probably would have been fine had I been in the city, but this road was on the edge of town with nothing but 'do not pick up hitch-hikers; prison facilities' to block the blasts.  About four miles down the road, more flapping and more stuffing.  I managed to flip the rig around on the shoulderless, 2-lane road and went in serach of some shelter, but not without a second blowout.  Turning in to the first road, I ended up in this huge trailer court with endless speed bumps.  I eventually found a trailer to hide behind and the girls and I re-rolled the awning.  It was my brother who, for lack of finding any straps, suggested duct tape (aka 100mph tape) so I drove around town trying to find yet another big building.

By this time I was cold to the bone, windblown and coughing from the dust in my lungs.  Tape secure, I finally had time to think.  It was then that I realized the reason for my troubles.  Thinking I flipped the latch to the lock position after the awning rolls up, I actually unlocked it.  Duh.

I then found an alternate route to the propane place through the city, with plenty of buildings as buffer.  After a dump run, I finally finished my 57 stressful miles and arrived at the Kirtland AFB gate at 4:00pm.  My brother came to lead us in and it was really nice to be parked for good.  Over a nice dinner out, it was great to connect with family.

All's well that ends well.

 

Day 2163 ~ Petrified ForestMarch 22nd, 2017

Another quiet night in an awesome boondock site.  I tried my hand at Milky Way photography around 4:30am, then went back to bed.  We wanted to stay longer here, or even another night but, alas, we needed to move on.  I studied the map a bit more and found if I head southeast on 180 to the south entrance of the Petrified Forest, it would only add 23 miles to our route to get back on I-40.  A quick phone call confirmed that was do-able with the RV and we had a plan.

The girls enjoyed the sunrise and ate their breakfast on the rock by the creek and then it was time to go.  We still had a couple hours' drive just to get to the park.  We made good time and stopped in the visitor center where one of the workers there kindly suggested a 'four hour tour'.  He highlighted his favorite viewpoints on a map and off we went.

Each stop contained a totally different landscape.  Some had short scenic trails and long trails and others just viewpoints.  The first contained much of the petrified 'forest', a wasteland strewn with 'rock' logs.  Another contained purple and white layered hills with no vegetation.  Still others had more red and brown hues.  We even saw some pueblo ruins as well as an old Studebaker left for history on the infamous, but non-existent, Route 66.  The park really caters to variety and we're glad we came.  Even with all our dawdling and a lunch break, we completed it in four hours.

Back on the road, I kept driving until I got tired or 'til dark, and managed to make it as far as Grants, New Mexico.  There, we pulled into Sleezeville, as Nana dubbed it, and found a spot on the far edge of the Walmart parking lot, surrounded by TraveLodge, Super 8, Denny's and Dollar Tree.  However, it felt safe and was close to the highway so a perfectly decent stopping point now and again.

 

 

Day 2162 ~ It's a Bird, It's a Plane. No, it's a Meteor!March 21st, 2017

Yesterday, I decided to stop and see Meteor Crater.  This RV park was great.  Quiet, clean and hot showers.  I did a load of laundry while the girls worked through their lessons.  We weren't in a hurry to leave like our neighbors, so we got everything caught up before heading out.

The crater itself is six miles down a dedicated road surrounded by a family-run cattle ranch of 300,000 acres.  Both families have been here since before statehood.  Originally, the crater was thought to be a volcano since there are several among the nearby San Francisco peaks.  The original owner, an east coast geologist, wasn't so sure and went mining.  He got 2,000 feet down and found nothing of substance, volcanic or meteoric, and eventually went bankrupt when the Depression hit and died shortly after.  In that time, an alliance formed between him and the cattle ranchers where they managed the crater while he was back east.  In the 40s, the two families  opened a small museum which eventually became what it is today.

Granted, there's not a lot to offer the visitor so they do go a bit overboard on meteor hype, gift shop sales and the fact they have a Subway on-site.  Visitors can explore a 1/4 mile on their own, but must take the tour to go the 1/2 mile in the opposite direction.  The museum and former was enough for the girls, but taking the tour would afford a better sun angle so I did that.  The tour guide was low-key and knowledgeable, so also ended up with a geology lesson and learned the history of the operation.

By the time we were finished, it was late afternoon so we only made it to Winslow, which got its fame from the Eagles' song, Take It Easy.  The website, freecampsites.net, to find boondocking sites has proven to be a gold mine for us and this was no exception.  Located five miles out of town, the park is situated on a reservoir, a change from all the dusty dryness of this land.  Several others were already parked, but we found a nice little perch overlooking the creek.

Cool.

 

Day 2161 ~ One of Those DaysMarch 20th, 2017

I awoke about 5:30 to Pippin pacing.  That usually means business and, considering he's had the runs since the day after we arrived in Grand Canyon, that means I need to hurry and open the door.  It wasn't until after I let him back in that I saw this was his second emergency.  Of course we have either throw rugs or plastic runners everywhere but one spot.  You guessed it, it was that one spot that couldn't be removed and washed so I did my best with rags, soap and baking soda.

I should have gone straight to bed.

However, the sun was coming up by this time so I just stayed up.  The morning turned beautiful, crisp and sunny. The snow-capped San Francisco peaks loomed large behind the Ponderosa Pine forest. Pippin and I went for a walk and came back to eat breakfast.  What a perfect morning.

After running the generator for an hour to charge the batteries, I then made the simple mistake of backing up some photo files and accidently trying to copy over another set before it was finished.  From the time I tried to stop the second backup and the time I finally gave up trying to get my computer to act normal again, an hour and a half had passed.  Of course, we're up in the mountains and have minimal data to research fixes, which adds to the frustration.  I finally just had to leave and, over a particularly large bump, a water bottle fell and spilled all of its contents on the floor.

Sunset Crater National Monument was just down the road 2 miles so went to check that out only to find the Wupatki ruins that I passed by 20 miles ago yesterday sounded much more interesting.  Since the girls weren't excited about seeing ruins, I opted to move on to Flagstaff instead.  As I turned onto the highway, the main door flew open; thankfully, nothing and no one fell out.  Managed to get down the mountain and, just outside the town, I did spot a small archaeological site.  Elden Pueblo was an ancient Sinagua village, inhabited from about A.D. 1070 to 1275.  We stopped for a short history lesson and at least found a walking tour guide to tell us about the ruins.

Once at a gas station in town, I then couldn't find my wallet.  After a 5 minute search with zero recollection, I remembered I last used it yesterday to get quarters for showers.  It was still in my shower bag.  Whew.  Next was food and I was going to use the wifi to download my New Mexico map and find a camping spot for the night, but couldn't connect.  Tried the mifi device in the RV and no service.  Tethering the computer to my phone timed out.  Tried to search directly on my phone and no connection.  Time to find a library, but then the website worked and found a free campground and library about an hour's drive away (90 min. in the RV).

Managed to find I-40 without incident and we began lumbering down the Interstate with the truckers and fast cars.  The road was straight and landscape flat, but then a Meteor Crater sign came into view.  I ventured to ask the girls if they had any interest and, surprisingly, they both wanted to go.  They read about it in science and were excited about the potential to see it up close and personal.  Conveniently situated next to the off-ramp was an RV park named the same.  I called expecting the same no vacancy answer as most, "It's Spring Break".  However, she quoted me $32 for electric and water, dogs free and kids are a buck each extra.  Of course, my Good Sam discount card expired 5 days ago.  However, considering the two free camping sites were 20 miles one way, factoring in the gas costs made it only an extra $15 for power, water, showers, wifi and no more driving.

Once the carnage was cleaned up (including that half box of baking soda) from bouncing along dirt roads and misjudging corner-turning speed, the dog washed and power and water hooked up, Nana made dinner and I could finally sit and write about my day.  Granted, now that my never-ending, what-else-can-go-wrong day is on paper, it really doesn't sound all that bad, but hindsight is 20/20 and tomorrow's a new day, right?

 

Day 2160 ~ All's Well That Ends WellMarch 19th, 2017

We decided that we've pretty much seen all we wanted to see of Grand Canyon.  It was great being able to park in the parking lot for the last two nights, less hassle that way and it's nice to have the RV as a home-base in between activities and outings.  This morning I realized something was off with my house finds yesterday so I took Pippin for a walk back to Tonto street.  There, I scoped out the street a little better and found that I was one house off; we were the duplex on the right, not the one on the left.  Now it all makes sense and, other than size perspective, matches my memories.

The final checks off our list were dump, fill and showers.  One can only go so long without soap and water and today was the day.  While the campground has no facilities other than pads and picnic tables, they do have a nice laundry and shower facility next door.  Lots of machines and $2 got us an 8-minute shower with plenty of hot water.  I even found 12 forgotten quarters in my stall; what a deal.  So many campground showers we've used went tepid as soon as a second shower began.

Once we took care of the basic needs, it was time to explore the east end of the Canyon.  Desert View Watch Tower is the furthest landmark in the park so that was today's goal.  I hesitated going as it's located 25 miles from the main village and I had planned to return to Flagstaff using the same route we used coming in.  My concern going to Albuquerque was the steep decline getting off the canyon plateau followed by steep inclines to get up and across the Indian reservations, but my Dad suggested turning south on 89 which also ends up in Flagstaff, which is what I decided to do after all.

I stopped at several lookouts on our way to Desert View and each offered new features to the Canyon.  The thing is mind-bogglingly huge.  The only way one can really grasp it's immensity is by seeing it in person.  We found a less-busy viewpoint for a lunch stop, stopped and climbed up the Tower and then exited the park.  Sad to go, but we really enjoyed our four days.

In the end, the hills were much less steep than those we experienced getting to Payson.  Despite reaching a desert, the scenery turned spectacular.  Dropping to 6,000 feet onto the lower plateau, the Little Colorado's canyons came in to view.  We stopped several times to see if we could see what was in the canyon and finally found a now defunct overlook to get close.  The gate is permanently closed, but there's nothing preventing people from walking in.  A sort of Petite Canyon by comparison to what we just witnessed, with steep walls and a river flowing way down at the bottom.  One false step and there's nothing to stop a fall.  A sign telling visitors to, "Control your Children and Pets" still sits atop one cliff.

Once we had our fill of photographs, rather, I had my fill, we continued east then south.  Once we began climbing over the San Francisco Peaks, we entered Forest Service land, a perfect place to find boondocking options.  As I turned in to the Sunset Crater National Monument, I spotted an RV'er on his way out directed me to a 'couple of good spots' to try.  A little highway noise, but otherwise perfectly situated.

 

Day 2159 ~ Down Memory LaneMarch 18th, 2017

The girls were keen on checking out Hermits Rest for sunrise.  Because I scoped it out yesterday, I was able to narrow down the must-see stops to three and knew that we'd need to begin an hour earlier (at 7am) to get the best light. 

Despite the early hour, we did make our goal.  We rode to Hopi Point, walked a mile to Mohave Point, then caught the shuttle to Pima before returning; it's amazing the difference an hour makes.  I accidently left my hat at the last stop so the girls continued on without me and I caught with the next bus.

Because we don't have to rush to fit everything in, naps were in order on our return. A little cooler with a breeze, we hung out in the RV for a while then decided to move the residential tour to today. Pippin was in need of a decent walk, so we headed out to find all my old haunts from when my Dad worked here from 1975-79.

One thing that's nice about the Grand Canyon Village is that everything is close.  We began with my first house and then walked to where we lived for the last year and a half.  The latter was more difficult to remember as there were three in a row that looked the same.  We then looped around so I could 'walk to school' from my first house.  The playground now had a new building, but most everything else looked the same there.  It was nice to share my childhood with at least two of my kids.

We finished off with dinner before calling it a night.

 

Day 2158 ~ Sunrise to SunsetMarch 17th, 2017

Wanted to get an early start to get a parking spot before the crowds arrived so, when I awoke at 6, I gave Pippin a quick run and then drove on in and then finished getting ready for the day.  I spotted a camper still parked from yesterday which got me thinking.  There are no signs prohibiting overnight parking so perhaps we just stay here tonight.  I confirmed with the hotel staff nearby that vehicles can be left overnight so may as well give it a shot. The worst that could happen is to be sent out of the park boundary where we camped last night.

Knowing the girls wouldn't be up and moving all that soon, I decided to try the west rim shuttle to see what I could see.  The shuttle is free and runs every 15 minutes which allows easy on and off.  I left the girls at 8am to tackle their school day and boarded.  As I walked and rode between points, the views just kept getting better.  About halfway, I realized that an earlier start would offer more dramatic views; by the time the views reached their peak, the sun's height was just starting to make the canyon look a little flat.

I returned around 11:30a and the girls were finished.  After lunch we walked to the library and then to the store for a few freshies before returning via shuttle.  For the sunset, we chose to watch it from Yaki Point on the eastern end, which required two shuttle buses and an after dark return.  Once back in the parking lot, we kept a low light profile and will hope for the best that we can remain undisturbed all night.

 

Day 2157 ~ A Really Big HoleMarch 16th, 2017

We took our time leaving our boondock spot.  It was peaceful and the girls could finish their lessons before rolling.  The last 70 miles went by quickly and we entered the park mid-afternoon.  Since I had already conferred with both Kelly and Al on the parking situation, I knew roughly where to aim. Surprisingly, the larger lot for RVs wasn't full.  From here we went on foot up to the rim to reminisce and show the girls the canyon.

 

Day 2156 ~ Up on the RimMarch 15th, 2017

I wanted to leave between 10 and 11 so aimed for the earlier and managed to miss the latter by only a few minutes.  We wandered back down to Payson where we filled up on propane, gas, food and purged our holding tanks; all we need now is a water fill.  By the time we were finished, we were famished so didn't actually start down the road until just after 2pm.

We had a beautiful drive on 260 to 87 to Lake Mary Road to Flagstaff.  Hardly any traffic to speak of (meaning, I didn't have to pull over too many times).  We finally reached 'the rim' at Mormon Lake and our highest point has been 8,000 feet in elevation.  Much of the snow has melted, save for the shady side of the road and in amongst the tall Ponderosa Pine forests; all Forest roads remain gated for winter.  We did, however, manage to find one where the gate was located farther down the road and that had a large culdesac area.  Our plan was to do dinner and then keep moving, but with the sun about to set I decided to just slow down and take it easy.  Peter now has to stay longer in Alaska for work so we'll not have to rush through the next few stops anymore.

 

Day 2155 ~ Sara's Birthday in the WoodsMarch 14th, 2017

Nana was up early decorating the RV and baking cinnamon muffins and homemade hash browns for Nika's 14th birthday.  With such a small space, we could get festive with little effort.  We lit candles, sang and enjoyed a quiet family party, just as Nika requested.

Nika got a day off school so Nana then worked until her computer's battery died.  We then wandered up to Al and Jane's to charge devices, finish lessons with power and wifi, hang out and visit.  Their house sits just above the East Verde River so is quite peaceful.  Later, we shared dinner and Nana made a peach pie for dessert.  Jane found some birthday plates and candles so Nika got a second party.

Fun!

 

Day 2154 ~ On the Road AgainMarch 13th, 2017

Another sad goodbye and we were off again, this time to visit some friends we met in Grand Canyon back in the 70s.

Just getting out of Phoenix took at least an hour but, once past the city limits, there was very little civilization.  Only buttes, bluffs and jagged hills dotted with Saguaros and other cacti.  We then began to climb, but only enough to be sent back down 3-4 miles.  Three thousand feet, back down 500, up to 4,000 and so it went.  Eventually, we arrived at 5,000 in Payson.  There, Al and Jane met us at Walmart so we could follow them home.  There was a question as to whether we could make it the whole 14 miles with our eight foot overhang.  The three creek crossings along the dirt road used to go under the water, but all are bridges and paved now so we made as far as their gate as the final crossing remains unchanged.  No matter; Al loaned us his quad runner to get back and forth.  Handy.

We spent an enjoyable few hours at their house, enjoying the sound of the creek running by.  Their unofficial 'campground' contains just a few sort-of-level-ish pads bordering the creek and woods surrounding it.  Serene and picturesque.

 

Day 2153 ~ Planning for DepartureMarch 12th, 2017

After church, Nana made Swedish pancakes for the whole crew.  Needless to say, they were big hits and we've gained four more Scandinavian converts.  Ha.  Our plan is to head north tomorrow morning so I tried to knock out as many pre-departure tasks as I could.  Nana and I then grabbed a few groceries to hopefully get us most of the way through Payson and Grand Canyon.

 

Day 2152 ~ Repeat CompleteMarch 11th, 2017

The day began early after little sleep from visiting so much.   Saturdays are for no school so the kids were happy.

Danny and Daniel left first thing for an airsoft war with other homeschool dads and kids; I say, more power to 'em. Kathy hosted a morning coffee for the ladies in their homeschool group so invited me to join in.  Only two were able to come, but I was grateful for the encouragement.

By afternoon, it was time to get the kids out of their cocoons with a rousing game of Five Crowns; I lost miserably.  We then concluded that, since we had so much fun yesterday, we talked the boys in joining us for another hike later in the afternoon.  This trailhead was not much farther north than the other, but I found it to have a significantly different feel. The Sidewinder trail was just as described and wandered and wound around the sides of each hill.  We ended up higher than the other so got a different perspective of the city and surrounding area.  We also found the cactus and flowers, especially poppies, to be much more plentiful.

Walking a little farther than yesterday put the last part of our walk in the dark, but the full moon helped to light the way and keep us from tripping.

Thus endeth another great day.

 

Day 2151 ~ Desert HikeMarch 10th, 2017

School went long for both parties so we decided to get some exercise and fresh air at a Preserve just north of us.  The trail was new for Kathy, but she had been wanting to check it out for some time so we made a plan and headed for the hills northeast of here.  Pippin got to go as well and, boy, was he excited.

The sun was just beginning to cast that perfect picture-taking, non-baking sunset light on everything.  We started up the Hawk's Nest Trail then cut over to Desert Tortoise to explore.  Growing up in Arizona between ages 7 and 11 must have made an impression because I really like the desert 'look' (the beauty in it, not the extreme heat).  Between interesting cacti, wild flowers and meandering dirt trails, it was hard to take it all in before dark fell, not to mention document it through my camera lens.  We even watched a dozen hot air balloons drifting over the hills, adding to the panorama.

We continued our way for 45 minutes to allow enough time for the return trip before closing time and falling darkness.  Fun day; must repeat.

 

Day 2150 ~ Excavation and DeparturesMarch 9th, 2017

While the girls and Peter did their daily routine, I began the excavation and declutter process.  Peter flew home for work and was allowed two free checked bags, which I filled to the max with items we either keep tripping over or we don't need in the RV.  I was determined to relieve the RV of at least 100 pounds of stuff.  Normally, this wouldn't take long, but of course as counter and floor space began to appear, the lack of cleaning was all too obvious so I also intermixed spring cleaning into my morning.  Not fun, but I was amazed at how much more spacious our rolling abode became.  Ahhhh.

However, not everything was calm.  About the time we were to head to the airport (4pm and we actually thought about the rush hour potential this time), Peter couldn't find his phone.  Long, panicked, 30-minute story short, he found it in the little trash can by the chair.  Argh.  Kathy was gracious to drive him so I'd have company on the return trip.  In turn, I could relax knowing that I wouldn't have to navigate a late arrival.

We had talked about a hike in the late afternoon when it cooled off.  However, the airport run took 90 minutes so we opted to just stick with dinner and visiting.

 

Day 2149 ~ Friend to FriendMarch 8th, 2017

Spent time visiting in the morning then made a pitstop at a laundromat so I could finally wash our muddy throw rugs.  Peter mange shop with machines that rivaled those in the French islands, only for a quarter the price.  One front-loader that would cost 7 Euros in Martinique sported a $2.50 price here.

Our next stop was to friends we met while in a rental in San Diego in 2006.  In a rental a few doors down, they and their kids were on the beach one day and ours naturally gravitated that way.  They homeschooled just like we did so we began there and the rest flowed naturally.  Since, we coordinated a second San Diego trip and we've visited each other's homes as well.  It's as if we've known them forever.  Pretty cool.

They directed us around the back of their house where we set up camp inside their fenced yard.  A small shed/hang-out space with an attached bathroom provided us convenience without disturbing their space.  How perfect can you get?!

 

Day 2148 ~ Catching UpMarch 7th, 2017

While the girls did school and Peter worked at the library, Kelly and I walked down memory lane while going through old pictures and yearbooks.  It's nice to have friends with whom you can continue right off from where we left off, no matter how long in between.

 

Day 2147 ~ Long Time FriendsMarch 6th, 2017

Having set my tripod in position last night with the help of Stellarium to see where exactly it would appear helped to motivate my 5am rise.  It was cool outside, but manageable and I let Pippin out for company and protection in case some wild desert creature was out wandering.  After several attempts, I can say that I captured it, but my camera ability is limited.  I also didn't realize how fast the Earth really spins and, even at 20 and 30 second exposures, the stars still left a short trail.  I worked for about 30 minutes until the sun began to lighten the sky and then went back to bed.

After everyone else awoke, we hung out in our remote 'campsite' for a while, enjoying the cool breezes and rising sun; Pippin went in and out as he pleased.  Finally, by Noon, we were ready to move and, once again, we managed to catch another city's rush hour.  We're good at this.

Our late departure and stop at a library for work purposes still didn't clue us in as to the time and day; you'd think we'd learn by now.  At any rate, traffic kept moving and we eventually arrived at my friend's house about dinner time.  Kelly and I went to grade school together (grade 2-6) when my Dad worked for the NPS on the South Rim.  Her family owned the jewelry store on the rim of the canyon and they lived above.  Living within walking distance, she and I spent many a day playing at her house.

We ate dinner together, but then Kelly and I pretty much spent much of the evening just catching up on life since the last time we saw each other, six and a half years ago.  Fun times.

 

Day 2146 ~ Desert CountryMarch 5th, 2017

Our belt has been squeaking for some time now.  Evidently, when the Indiana auto shop replaced it, they didn't tighten it enough.  Well, we're now at Walmart, Peter flies out on Thursday so time to get down and fix it, Peter that is.  It only took 4-5 trips to the store to get all the parts, but we started the engine and no screech.  Ah.

We were finally on our way again at the crack of Noon.  The land is quite flat, some even below sea level.  Glimpses of Mexico between appeared in between sand dunes and hills behind the long fence that ran parallel to us.  After miles of flat dry scenery, interspersed with RV camps for the snowbirds, we crossed the Colorado River into Arizona.

When calling around to RV parks, most either were 55+ resorts or allowed two people and animals, but charged for every additional person.  Yes, it was obvious that families with kids were not welcome.  Hmmm, we'll just have to position ourselves accordingly.  We did find a huge National Monument and BLM land mass at one end of 85 and a Regional Park at the other.  We'll just have to position ourselves with enough distance from the prison dead center.

At mile 132, we spotted a right turn lane.  The paved portion ended after a good 50 yards so, what better to do but go 4x4'ing, as much as a 28' x 8' box can do.  Thankfully, the rough dirt path was fairly level, but our cupboard contents took the worst of it.  Nothing broken so we did well.  We continued on for about a mile, went under the powerlines and out the other side before finding a level high spot.  Now we're talking.  No highway noise, nothing but sage brush and Saguaros.  The setting sun was casting a lovely orange glow over the landscape, so we rushed out with cameras to catch the waning light before cleaning up the post-bumpy-road carnage.  Pippin just got excited when we let him out to freely explore his new habitat.

Recently, I've discovered night photography or, more accurately, night photographers. Of course, it's always existed, but I've never really thought about it before or just was too lazy to deviate from Program mode.  Among these photographic discoveries, I've also developed a keen interest in the Milky Way.  I downloaded an application called Stellarium to help determine the best time and place to view it and, now that we're in the desert and away from a lot of light pollution, it's time to begin my attempt at documenting it myself.  I did several test shots with the glow of Phoenix behind the mountain and tomorrow, I'll rise at 5am to try my hand at outer space.

 

 

Day 2145 ~ Revisiting the Ol' Stompin' GroundsMarch 4th, 2017

We have the rental car until 11:15 so we all, including Mayra, set off early to give us time to drive to Mission Bay, our old stomping grounds.  When the kids were smaller, we found a great bayside apartment to rent for a month in 2006 and ended up returning in 2007 and 2010.

We started at Mission Point Park, we did a full circle both bay- and oceanside, reminiscing along the way.  Not much has changed and it was fun to see it all again.  After a grocery pitstop, we then headed back to Enterprise and got a ride back to the RV with them.

After four days of boondocking streetside, we are now out of water and our house battery is depleted.  That, combined with Peter's flight out of Phoenix in four days prompted us to make a last-minute decision to move on. Our original plan was to spend tomorrow with my aunt and cousins.  However, as so many plane reservations do, that was thwarted.

 

Day 2144 ~ ThriftingMarch 3rd, 2017

After the normal morning activities and lunch, Mayra came over after school to hang out with us.  We still had a rental car so headed for Goodwill so the girls could shop.  Afterward, not having a desire to cook, Mayra recommended a great Mediterranean restaurant where Deanna joined us.  The food was delicious, two thumbs up.

 

Day 2143 ~ Coordination StationMarch 2nd, 2017

Today was for orthodontists, car rentals and cousins.

Began the morning at 9am by reserving a car for noon.  Enterprise's 'will pick you up' policy works wonders for those bound to a 28' x 8' box on wheels.

I then began calling around to find an orthodontist who would be willing to rebond a tooth to Nana's retainer and who could fit within our rental car constraints.  Not an easy task.  I started with what turned out to be a lab and he suggested 2 orthodontists and a dentist who he thought might be willing to do a little gluing.  Well, one office could fit me in at 2pm, but didn't sound too excited even at the $125 price for filling a cancellation and suggested I call around.  Five or six calls later, I came up empty; they were either not answering, not in today or not working tomorrow.  I also left a message at the 'emergency number' of the dentist after hearing their message saying calls would be returned by the next day after 10am.

I then called the $125 place and booked the appointment only to get a response from the dentist five minutes later.  Well, she was most helpful, offered to interrupt him at his lunch meeting with another orthodontist, ask the other orthodontist if she might be able to do it and ask a patient to switch to an earlier time to get us in at 1:45p.  An hour later, she had it all arranged and it was only going to cost half that of the other place.  Just the sort of relaxed place I was looking for.

Long story short, turned out she was the wife of the dentist, very friendly and extremely helpful and her husband just happened to be interested in boats, peppering me with all sorts of questions, much to the dismay of Nana, who bore the results of his inattention.

My cousin's daughter, 17, came over after school to hang out with the girls for a while then we all had dinner together.

 

Day 2142 ~ Big CitiesMarch 1st, 2017

Another great roadside find, quiet, great views and free. Wanting to time our LA passage best, we got an early start. Looking ahead on the map program, we opted to hang out in the Ralph's parking lot for a bit working and restocking and ended up cutting 20 minutes off our drive.

By now, we're beachside and near the big city so experienced much more congestion on the four-lane road. Most of the beach house garages are a few feet from the shoulder and, if there is a shoulder, some vehicle is usually parked. Considering we take up most of the lane, it was a bit nerve-wracking trying to keep out of the left lane while dodging badly parked cars. Not to mention tourists, surfers and shoppers. At any rate, it was time to do the freeway thing and head inland on Hwy 10. From there, we moved to the 405, then I-5.

One thing the overabundance of rain has accomplished is to green up southern California.  Rather than parched brown hills, the grass is long and wildflowers are blooming.  Snow remains on the tops of the foothills to the east.  We finally made it south of the city with no traffic to speak of and found a rest area amid acres of undeveloped land.  While we thought we did well for skating LA rush hour, our second stop managed to put us right into San Diego traffic.  Oh well, we've managed to do the same in several cities now so we just relax and enjoy the views.

Despite the slow-downs on every freeway, we did arrive at our destination by 5:15p.  My great aunt lives in a retirement village here and my cousin and her kids live 15 minutes away.  It's located at the end of a street so we are able to park our rig right outside her gate.