Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coastline

Just a random pic of the Pacific coast.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Driving Hwy 1

Driving Highway 1 was pretty difficult in the bus. A 34 foot motor home is just not made for sharp curves!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mountains

We drove the Blue Bus over 2 mountain passes today. The first one took us by surprise; the GPS sent us on a "shortcut". It was 7 miles of climbing 6-7% grade and then 4 miles of similar descent. For anyone who is familiar with it, the old Rainbow Bridge in BC is 3% and 1 mile long. We dropped down to 15 mph with the pedal to the metal! Since it was only a one lane road the people behind us were mad! What could we do? The way down was also stressful while Chris tried to slow this 12 ton bus! The brakes will overheat and fail if you just stand on them. We sucessfully completed that mountain pass and discovered another one up the road. This one was only 4 miles of 6% and had 3 lanes of traffic.
We are relieved to know our rig can handle those kind of roads and now we're in a great full hook-up spot in Paso Robles, CA. This place is the center of central California wine country. There are literally a hundred wineries within easy driving distance and one we could walk to from here. They also have a tempting olive press in the area with tasting and several gourmet food shops around. I would love to stay and play here awhile but we are low on funds and I can't trust myself to visit those places and not buy some wines and food! Besides, I have a job in Big Sur to get to...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Made it to the Pacific!

We pushed hard to make it here. We've spent 7 days including Christmas in Quartzsite. We left there on Saturday at noon. We stopped at a Flying J in Blythe, Ca to get fuel, propane, and we tried to dump our wastewater there but this was the first Flying J we've seen that did not have a dump station. So we tried to stop at another Flying J on I-10 near Indio; we stopped at the stoplight where there was a homeless lady selling oranges. We were shocked to see someone throw change at her face! That's when we realized that California is not all puppies and peace signs. The way was not well marked for the station and we ended up on the road again. We decided not to turn around for a city like that. Traffic got heavy pretty far outside LA. We had planned to stop for the night at a rest stop in Beaumont, Ca but that was closed. It was getting on towards dinner hour and we were getting into heavier traffic as we continued. We found a Camping World about 70 miles out of LA and stayed the night in their parking lot. We were both all nerves all night; it was a loud business district. After sleeping about 2 hours we started on the road again at about 3:30 in the morning. We really wanted to pass on LA traffic right after Christmas! LA was a city that never ended. Talk about huge! All of its surrounding cities are like satellites. We finally arrived at Carpenteria State Beach on the coast at 6:30 AM. We were exhausted, our batteries were extremely low, our septic full, and low on fresh water. And neither of us had bathed in 3 days. We decided to use their honor system and check ourselves into a full hook-up site for the exorbitant price of $50 daily. We checked the reservation board, paid the iron ranger, and got settled into our spot by 7:30. At 8:30 the park host stuck a "ticket" on our door saying we had to move because our rig is too big for the space. Admittedly, we were a foot over the front edge of the parking space, but we had our back tires on the curb. I walked to his site and said ok, we will move, but where should we move to? At first he didn't even come out of his trailer and then he just told me he didn't know where we could move to; we just had to move. So we drove to the ranger desk where we were told that 1.check-in time is 2 pm and 2.we will have to stay in a no hook-ups site because everything is reserved. We negotiated that since we arrived much earlier than check-in time our money we had paid already would stand as a day and a half rent on a boondocking spot (which are usually $35 a day). We still have low batteries and very little fresh water. We did get to dump the septic. We will get to watch the tide roll in and listen to the waves all night long. Now we are looking forward to a good night's sleep and we can't wait to get to Big Sur!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Trip to the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon seems like the most classic place in the world to escape your troubles. If you are stuck in a cubicle all day and always feel like you are cramped in too small a space then the Grand Canyon is the place to run to. It's all about the wide open spaces. It has miles of breathtaking views, dangerous precipices, soaring heights, and a history of millions of dreamers gazing into its depths. I've always wanted to run away to the Grand Canyon. So here we were in Arizona and still haven't made it there! Well, we decided to close up the RV and take off in the Jeep for a trip to see those breathtaking views. Chris has never seen snow so we were excited to check the forecast and see that they are expecting to have a foot or so of accumulated snow. We made reservations at the Bright Angel Lodge which is right on the rim and splurged on a room with a view of the canyon. We planned to drive up Tuesday the 22nd. We would spend just one night in our warm hotel room watching out the window as the snow fell over the edge of the canyon, play in the snow a little, and then drive back to Quartzsite on Wednesday. Apparently these plans were not in our destiny. Here is the story of the adventure to the Grand Canyon.
We left Quartzsite, AZ at 7 AM Tuesday morning. We turned off all of the appliances we could, gave the cats a big dish of food, and jumped in the Jeep. Now we knew we were on a timer. We had to get back to the rig before the battery drained dead. Even though we had turned off as many things as possible there are still some items that suck energy. So we knew that if anything happened to delay us we could come back to a dead rig (not to mention some very upset kitties)! According to Google Maps this drive should only take about 4 hours. The first leg of the drive was through the most desolate desert highways you have ever seen. Two hours of nothing but sand and cactus. The few "towns" we came across didn't even have so much as a stoplight or a Shell. Suddenly out of nowhere a mountain loomed ahead. I swear this mountain is the most surprising thing ever. How does a mountain sneak up on you? No foothills, nothing. The road just turned up at a 45 degree angle and we started to climb these switchback mountain roads, winding in a hundred and eighty degree turns and always climbing. The conditions limited us to about 25-35 miles an hour most of the time (in the Jeep!) After climbing for about an hour we finally came to the picturesque city of Prescott, AZ. This was the first real city we'd seen and it was time for fuel. So we filled up and headed on our way. We drove straight out of Prescott and started winding around the mountains some more. A light snow began to drift down, sometimes snowing, sometimes raining. We drove through several tiny towns - one was called Skull Valley. The roads twisted and rose and fell for another hour. Then we came into Prescott again... We had taken a wrong turn!!! We just drove a hundred miles around in the Weaver Mountains and made a full circle! Apparently there is a right turn to stay on Hwy 89 in Prescott which is not very well marked. Oh well, we said, and continued on our way to the Grand Canyon. Once we were past Prescott it started to snow.
This was a thick snowfall with the snowflakes clumping together as they fell. It came down so hard you could barely see the road and the snow was accumulating fast. It was freezing on the windshield. The land around us was turning into a winter wonderland and we started watching for ice on the roads. Chris was very excited to see real heavy snowfall! We were approaching the last leg of the drive which was I-40. As we got to the highway, we saw red and blue lights flashing...the interstate was closed! The whole eastbound side of I-40 was closed. We stopped at a gas station in Ash Fork, AZ and carried in the old Rand McNally. The map showed a couple of back roads (gray on the map) which might get us to the Grand Canyon. The locals at the gas station said yes there is a back way, but do you have four wheel drive? Well, as a matter of fact, we do! There was a lady driving a Frito Lay truck which she had nicknamed "The Beast" who said she was going to try the back way and we told her we'd follow her. The directions were: follow Ranch Road AA until it forks and then take the right fork. It's 24 miles to Williams, AZ, and the roads are all mud. Sound like fun? We followed the Frito Lay truck for several miles. With the snow still falling it was getting hard to tell where the road was, everything was covered in snow! And this road had some pretty bad rocks and ruts in it. We could only drive at about 10 miles an hour. After about 20 minutes the Frito Lay truck turned around and told us, "I'm not sure if we're going the right way. I'm turning back." So we turned around also. The interstate was still closed and when we tried to ask the cops about an alternate route they told us to "Just go." So we started heading south again. There was another possible route, a mystery road on the Rand McNally (gray again) that heads through Drake, AZ. We found the road through Drake and turned off the highway. The road passed some factories or plants and quickly turned to a dirt road. At least the snow had stopped at this point, so we started down the muddy road. The Jeep was throwing up mud in every direction, the road was soft and slippery. In some places the Jeep would start to slip and we'd slide until the tires caught again. We kept thinking this road has to go somewhere! We saw other traffic on the mud road. We actually drove down this mud road for about 45 minutes and made it about 10 miles. It had started to snow again. The mud road didn't seem to be leading anywhere. The Jeep was so dirty you couldn't see at all through the layer of mud on the windows. We are starting to be suspicious of gray roads in the Rand McNally! We finally decided that the Grand Canyon didn't want us. Sometimes you just have to believe in fate; apparently we were not meant to make it to the Grand Canyon today.

We drove back to Prescott, AZ and found a hotel room at the historic St Michael. We had a great dinner at the St Michael's Bistro and met some nice people at the bar. We played in the snow at the city park, threw snowballs and made snow angels. We had some drinks on historic Whiskey Row. What an adventure! Maybe another time we'll actually get to the Grand Canyon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The new view

This is the view at Hi Jolly camping area in Quartzsite, AZ. There are no campsites here, just a big flat desert that everyone pulls into. There are probably 50 rigs in this camping area right now but we are spread out so it doesn't feel crowded at all. At night it is so quiet here that we can hear the propane regulator squeaking.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Quartzsite

We're boondocking in the desert in Quartzsite, AZ. This town is known as a mecca for RVers. Tens of thousands of RVers come here every winter to enjoy the warm weather, cheap (or free) camping, and the communal atmosphere. There are miles of BLM lands here as well as many commercial RV parks. There are RVs parked all out in the desert. There are places in town where we can dump and take on water for a minimal fee. Downtown looks like a giant garage sale/ flea market event with motorhomes parked alongside sales areas. Everything you can imagine is for sale here and most of it looks homemade. The picture here is of a rockhound's sales area; he had minerals, geodes, and rocks of all shapes and sizes for sale!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Don't feed the strippers...

This was a sign in the visiter's center here at Lake Pleasant. :)

The new view

At lake Pleasant near Phoenix, AZ. We came here to brush up on our diving skills, the water was exceptionally clear. We found a 4 ft catfish and our first glimpse of an invasive species called a zebra mussel.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lake Pleasant

We're now at Lake Pleasant which is north of Phoenix. We're looking forward to doing some diving here. The water looks nice!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A trip to Mexico

Since we are so close to the border we decided to make a little day trip to Mexico to see what its like. I don't think either of us were prepared for the crazy harrassment in the border shopping district. We couldn't walk 10 feet without getting stopped. "Come visit my store!" "What are you shopping for?" "Will you call my wife in the US for me?" And "Hello, rich Americans!" We got overwhelmed very quickly and sought a quiet place to dine and sit for a while. We found a nice restaurant and had dessert and drinks and then got in the line to head back to the states. I don't think they could understand that some Americans want to visit Mexico without shopping! I'm sure we'll visit Mexico again but now we know the border town area is not our forte.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Our most remote spot yet

We are boondocking, living without hookups, in the desert on BLM land. BLM is the Bureau of Land Management and their land is essentially undeveloped public property. It's free to camp here! The view here is simply stunning; the photo doesn't do it justice!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm your huckleberry.

We went to Tombstone, AZ today to see a piece of the Old West. It's a small town that still has some individuals mining silver for a living. We got to see the area where the OK Corral once stood and the spot where the famous shootout took place. It was fairly quiet being out of tourist season and the middle of the week.



We walked around the cemetery at Boothill. Melissa's standing in front of the graves of the Billy Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury. (The three Cowboys killed in the shootout.)



-Chris

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Desolation



Today we visited Saguaro National Park in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Here are miles of desert and cactus every direction. The desert is framed by mountains silhouetted against a gray sky in the distance. You don't realize until you are here just how huge these cactus really are!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We're alive!

Chris fixed the rig and we're on the move again! We're pretty sure now that the problem was the gelled fuel. We still have to change the fuel filter after we find a parts shop. We will never make that mistake again; from now on if there's even a hint of freezing weather we are using the anti-gel additive!
Arizona, here we come! :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stranded in NM.

Well, with the low temps last night and today we were unable to start the motorhome to move to our next destination in Arizona. Apparently the diesel fuel "gelled" due to the cold. We've put a fuel additive in the tank that's supposed to turn it into liquid again. Tomorrow morning I'll have to put a heater under the engine and then change the fuel filters to get us back on the road again. Thankfully we'll be heading into warmer temps as we get into Arizona.

-Chris

City of Rocks

New Mexico's City of Rocks State Park was very interesting with its hundreds of monolithic rock formations. We drove the Jeep over and spent a day just wandering around the park and hiking through the giants. These are remnants of a prehistoric volcano here; the rocks have been carved by water and wind into the shapes of today. With a little imagination you start to name them: That one looks like a monkey! That one is Jabba the Hut!...We will definately bring the rig here to stay for a while sometime when the weather is warmer! We actually had a dusting of snow here in Deming, NM tonight. Wind chill is 19 degrees! Brrrrr!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The kitchen view

We've moved to Deming, NM. This is an Escapees RV Park; Escapees is a club we belong to which is awesome. I can't say enough good things about the Escapees; all the people we have met in this club are super nice! We're just going to stay here a couple days to do laundry and chores, then we are headed to Arizona!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome to December

And here is a picture of snow on a cactus to prove that it did snow in NM (barely!)