Category Archives: Arizona

Errands and Detours

We left the Casa Grande Elks Lodge early Wednesday morning – we pulled out around 8:30am which is an early start for us. Our first stop was at Speedco where I had the coach motor oil and filter changed and the chassis greased. They also checked the tires and coolant – I knew these were okay – I checked our tires that morning and the coolant was flushed and filled with Fleetguard ES Compleat coolant in Albuquerque. Rather than get on the interstate, I took a shortcut down Trekell Road and intended to hit Sunland Gin Road. However, I forgot that I needed to turn on Jimmy Kerr Road to get to Sunland Gin and ended up out in the desert. So much for shortcuts.

Speedco used to do the service on our coach for under $200. Last year they raised their prices considerably and it cost me nearly $300. This year they raised the price again and I paid $330 – this includes a used oil analysis report that I always pay for. By the way, the report looked good with no worries.

It was nearly 11am by the time we hooked the trailer back up and pulled out of the Speedco lot. Originally I thought we would go to Yuma and I would get fuel before we crossed into California. However, our fuel gauge is unreliable and I wasn’t sure how much fuel we’d burned crossing the mountains plus we had lots of generator run time. So, we backtracked up I-10 to the Pilot/Flying J travel center before we headed west on I-8. We ate lunch in the Flying J parking lot after fueling.

We planned a fairly short day and wanted to run a few errands in Yuma. We made a stop on the way at Dateland (exit 67) to take a break and get a date shake. The travel center at Dateland used to be a gas station and a separate small building with a gift shop and milkshakes. They’ve upgraded it considerably over the past few years and it’s a nice stopping point in I-8 for refreshments and touristy stuff. We saw several Border Patrol vehicles along this stretch of freeway and a few Border Patrol officers stopped for lunch at Dateland. They had one of their rigs with two ATVs on a trailer out front – a Polaris four-seater and a smaller ATV.

Polaris four-seat ATV with Homeland Security badges

Our next stop was at Al’s RV Service and Supply on Fortuna Road in Yuma. I wanted to stop there and buy a bottle of Tank Techs RX – the treatment I use in our holding tanks. Al’s is one of the few RV stores that I find it in and buying it at the store saves the cost of shipping when I buy online. I’d also planned to go to the RV Water Filter Store in Yuma, but I found the filter elements I wanted at Al’s. Then Donna said we should look for a new latch for my closet door. The old one broke and the mirrored door slides open and closed as we drive down the road. I was doubtful, but we found the right latch on a display rack! Then Donna found a rod for the kitchen window shade – it went missing earlier this year when were having work done at RV Renovators. Al’s has almost everything for an RV.

We drove across the overpass to the Pilot/Flying J and I topped up the tank with diesel fuel again. We’d been running the generator and roof air conditioners all afternoon and I wanted to avoid buying fuel in California. I also had our propane tank filled. The gauge showed less than 1/4 tank of propane remaining. It took 30 gallons so we had at least a quarter tank – it holds 42 gallons when filled to 80% of actual capacity.

We made one more stop in Yuma at Walmart to get a few things. It was after 4pm by the time we left Yuma. We decided to stop for the night at our usual stopping point on Ogilby Road where we dry camp on BLM land. Interstate 8 is being rebuilt along large sections between El Centro and Yuma. The exit from westbound I-8 was closed at Ogilby Road. We had to continue a few miles west to the Gray’s Well exit and come back east to get on Ogilby. As we crossed over the freeway I noticed the on-ramp to westbound I-8 from Ogilby was also closed so this would present another detour when we left.

We went to a familiar area where we’ve boondocked before. The area was empty – not an RV in sight. We set up a little closer to the road than usual and called it a day. After dark, another motorhome came past us. The driver was brave to drive deep into the desert at night!

Ogilby Road is usually quiet with few cars passing by. The road runs north where it merges with CA78 and continues all the way to Blythe. This morning, a gaggle of cars came south on Ogilby starting around 5am. I got out of bed at 5:30am and the traffic quit coming by shortly after that. I’m guessing the crew working on the interstate must be camped up the road and were heading out to start an early shift – I can’t think of any other reason for that much traffic on Ogilby Road.

Dawn in the desert

We knew the day would warm quickly and planned to hit the road before it became hot out. Tuesday was in the upper 90s and we expected the same today. To get on I-8 westbound, we had to go east to Sidewinder Road – about five miles, then cross over and head back west. Our plan was to cross the desert early and stop at the Golden Acorn Casino across the Tecate Divide. The Golden Acorn is near Campo at an elevation of about 4,100 feet above sea level and would be much cooler. Our reservation at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego starts tomorrow, so we needed a place to spend another night before we arrive there.

Desert sunrise on our coach

The traffic on westbound I-8 across the California desert was very light. Even with the construction zones we made good time. West of El Centro, we were at sea level. We started climbing before we reached Ocotillo, then quickly gained 3,000 feet of elevation. The coach handled the climb easily – we never went below 50mph and the coolant temperature topped out right at 200 degrees for just a short time.

We found the Golden Acorn Casino on the south side of I-8 at exit 61. The parking lot is large, but we were a little confused about where we should park the coach. We came in the truck entrance on the southeast side of the casino and saw what was clearly a truck lot. Then we saw a couple of RVs on the north end of the lot and another on the southwest side. We found a fairly level spot on the northwest end, well away from any parked cars. I think we’ll be fine here for the night. It’s always windy here by the divide. There are wind generators on the mountain tops around the casino and to the east. The temperature is over 80 degrees but the breeze makes it feel cooler.

Our spot at Golden Acorn Casino

Tomorrow we’ll have a short drive – less than 70 miles to Mission Bay. We’ll settle down there for the next two months.

Jake and the Shortcut

Donna rode the Spyder to pick up some groceries before we hit the road Sunday morning.  The traffic was terrible as everyone was exiting Balloon Fiesta Park as well as the RV park. She was trying to go east to Trader Joe’s, but police had closed Alameda and were diverting traffic down San Mateo and onto the I-25 frontage road. She didn’t want to get on I-25 and was able to make a detour back west to Jefferson and south to Paseo del Norte. She ended up at Target on Coors Boulevard. It took her about an hour and a half to get groceries and make it back to the RV lot – but she managed to do it without getting lost.

We hit the road around 11:30am. Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J travel center. I didn’t need fuel, but I topped up the tank to estimate our generator fuel burn rate – I had topped up before we came into the park. We put about 40 hours on the generator at the balloon fiesta and took on only 18 gallons of fuel – less than half a gallon per hour. This is better than I expected. We had a lot of generator run time in the last two months – 95 hours since August 17th.

We drove I-40 westbound to exit 89 and got on NM117 south. This took us along the El Malpais National Conservation Area. We traveled through here two years ago. We were pleased to find much of the road had been repaved and was much smoother. We then followed NM36 to Quemado where we hit US60.

On US60, we found a primitive rest area about 8 miles east of the Arizona border and called it a day around 4pm. The rest area was all dirt and gravel with a few covered concrete tables and no facilities, but it was level and overnight parking is allowed. Two other RVs and a tractor/trailer rig pulled in before dark and stayed overnight. There was plenty of room and everyone had their own semi-private space.

We had a quiet evening. I watched football while Donna watched a couple of episodes of 24 on her laptop. I woke up at 5am – a hangover from eight days of rising early for the balloon fiesta. I rolled out of bed at 5:30am and went outside to look at the stars. It was very dark in this secluded area and the stars filled the sky. It was also cold – the elevation was 7,500 feet above sea level and the temperature dropped to 34 degrees overnight.

Our overnight spot just after sunup

We hit the road around 8:45am and gained an hour a few minutes later when we crossed time zones entering Arizona. When we came this way in 2015, I took AZ260 from Show Low to Payson, then down through Phoenix. This time I stayed on US60 – it’s a shorter route and I wanted to do something different. It also allowed us to bypass Phoenix.

The thing is, short cuts are never easy. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be a short cut – they would just be “the way.” This route took us down into the Salt River Canyon – a steep winding descent from about 5,000 feet above sea level to about 3,400 feet.

The south side of the canyon is equally steep with a number of switchbacks – we topped out around 6,000 feet above sea level. This was a good test of the new turbocharger, charge air cooler and engine radiator. We had good power and made the climb easily and the engine coolant temperature never exceeded 193 degrees. I should also mention that having a full functioning turbo also means the Jacobs (Jake) engine compression brake worked flawlessly and made the descents easily controllable. Donna finds peace of mind when she hears the Jake smoothly slow our coach instead of me having to stab the service brakes!

Our route on US60 took us through the mining towns of Globe, Miami and Superior before we turned off at Florence Junction. We stopped and ate lunch in the coach at a park in Florence, but moved on when we couldn’t find a suitable overnight spot. About 45 minutes later, we found ourselves in Casa Grande and set up in the Elks Lodge lot. I wanted to stop in Casa Grande to have the coach serviced – we’re due for an engine oil change and chassis lube. I didn’t have this done along with the other work at Cummins in Albuquerque due to their high rates. I’ll have it done at Speedco in Casa Grande where I usually stop for routine maintenance.

We’re well ahead of schedule to make it to San Diego on Thursday. I want to stop in Yuma to pick a few supplies – tomorrow we’ll decide where to stop next after we have service at Speedco. The temperature here in Casa Grande is 93 degrees today and we expect to see 90s for the next two days before we reach the coast. More generator run time to power the air conditioners!

A Familiar Route

The final few days at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona seemed to fly by. Actually, our two-month stay here seems to have gone by quickly – even more so for Donna since she was away for a girl’s week in Sedona. Our first month of the winter stay in Arizona dragged slowly – that’s because I was stranded in the parking lot of RV Renovators having repairs made. Donna was able to escape for week from there when she made a trip to Vieques.

On Monday, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts in the morning. This turned out to be not the best decision for her. Although she played fine, afterwards the congestion from the cold she’s been fighting returned big time. She took it easy and stayed home on Tuesday. I played for two and half hours that morning and again on Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon I started packing the trailer. I reorganized a few things and had it looking good. By Wednesday afternoon, I had most of the stuff stowed in the trailer, leaving only a few items for Thursday morning before we pulled out.  We went out for dinner at Roma Cafe Wednesday evening on Main Street in Mesa. Donna loves Italian food and she says it’s great to feed a cold.

I ran across one of my pet peeves when we arrived at Roma Cafe. Someone decided they were entitled to take two parking stalls – right at the entrance to the restaurant! What? I don’t understand behavior like this.

Nice parking job – but we got the Spyder in there

On Thursday morning, I put the windshield cover, awning mat and chairs away. Then I dumped and flushed the holding tanks. Then it was time to kick the tires and light the fires – we were pulling out. I thought I had a plan to get us out of the tight spot we were parked in. I wanted to pull straight across the street, then angle back and work my way to the left around the light post.

After a couple of moves, I could see this wasn’t going to work. Time for a new plan. I reversed the operation and worked the coach around the orange tree and irrigation line on the right side of the coach and pulled into the street in the opposite direction of my original intent. This was a time-consuming and painstaking process. When I finally got the coach safely into the street, I had to back into the pad to hook up the trailer – this wasn’t so easy either.

After nearly an hour of manueuvering to get out of our site and hooking up the trailer, I loaded the Spyder in it. We hit the road at 10:50am. The trip was a familiar one as we took the Loop 202 south and followed it west on the San Tan Freeway to I-10. I got off of I-10 at exit 164 and followed AZ347 through the town of Maricopa. Although Maricopa has grown and is beginning to sprawl, it cuts several miles off the drive to I-8 versus staying on I-10 and is a quicker route. We took AZ347 to AZ84 and merged onto I-8 west a few miles later.

We made our first stop around 12:30pm at exit 119 – the Butterfield Trail at Gila Bend. We often stop there for lunch at the Subway sandwich shop. It’s next to a truck stop that has ample parking in the rear and also has a free dump station and even RV hook-up sites in back – for a fee of course.

Great parking space behind Subway

We split the daily special foot-long sub and got back on the road. Droning along on I-8 isn’t the most exciting or scenic drive, but I don’t mind. It was getting warm – Donna had me turn on the generator and crank up the air conditioners. It was over 90 degrees out. Also, the wind was increasing – it was mostly a headwind but I had a few cross wind gusts to contend with. Our next stop was another familiar one – the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center at exit 12 – Fortuna Road in Yuma. I always top off the tank there before I enter California. I paid $2.54/gallon there for diesel fuel while the TruckMiles.com site shows the average diesel fuel cost in California is currently $2.93/gallon. Plus I have a harder time finding convenient truck stop locations in California.

A few miles after we crossed the Colorado River and were in California, we hit another familiar sight – the inspection station. This is where they usually question us about fresh fruits and vegetables onboard and ask us where we came from and where we are going. This time they just waved us through, no questions asked.

About 12 miles later we pulled off of I-8 and found our little piece of desert on BLM land in the Picacho Recreation Area. I think this is the eighth or ninth time we’ve stopped here for an overnight stay. We stop here when we’re east bound from San Diego and when we’re west bound from the Phoenix area. It’s a nice change of pace to boondock in a remote site without the distractions from sirens or helicopters and traffic racing through the streets of the city. Ironically, as I’m typing this, a formation of four helicopters – I think they were military MH6 Little Birds  – flew by!

Our little piece of the desert

The view from our doorstep

We don’t have another rig in sight. Donna spotted a large American flag to the northeast of us and took a walk toward it before dinner. It turned out to be just a flag pole and flag – no people or RV there. She also found a stack of pallets where someone had a bonfire but the site was empty.

The gusty winds continued through the night. It didn’t bother me but Donna said it kept her awake all night. This morning we have calm air here and clear skies. We’ll head out around 9am. Our only planned stop for the trip to Mission Bay will be at the Buckman Springs rest area in the Laguna Mountains – about 115 miles from here. It’s another place we always stop at – we’ll have lunch at one of the picnic tables there.

The weather forecast for San Diego looks great for next couple of weeks – high temperatures around 70 degrees and mostly sunny skies.

Ribs and Racing

Last week I played pickleball five days straight – I played for about two and half hours per day. Donna laid low getting over the cold she picked up while she was in Sedona. On Saturday, Donna borrowed a car from our friend Lana so she could take Ozark the cat to the vet. We suspected that she might have a tapeworm.

Before I dropped Donna off at Lana’s house we made a stop at Seńor Taco for an early lunch. This was our favorite taco shop when we lived in Mesa. They had a two fish taco plate on special for five bucks, including a 20-ounce drink.

Chipotle fish tacos

The tacos were huge and smothered with a chipotle sauce – tasty.

While Donna was out and about, I made a run to a well-known local butcher shop called Midwestern Meats on Main Street. They have high quality meats that are processed on site. We were having company for dinner on Sunday and I wanted to have another go at babyback ribs. The ribs at Midwestern Meats are not like the babybacks I typically find at the grocery store.

Most grocery stores have their babyback ribs delivered from a processing plant where they’re vacuum sealed. Midwestern cuts their own ribs fresh daily. They cut them differently from the mass production butchers. The ribs are meatier and most of the fat is carefully trimmed away.

Babyback ribs from Midwestern Meats

All I had to do was remove the membrane from the bone side of the rack of ribs.

Membrane on bone side

I dusted them with my rib rub which is three parts Pappy’s Choice seasoning and two parts Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’Mine.

Dry-rubbed racks of ribs

I wrapped them and put them in the refrigerator overnight and relaxed with a bottle of IPA Donna bought for me. It was one I hadn’t tried before called DFRNT IPA from Sonoran Brew Company – and it was different alright. Somehow they’ve managed to make a well-balanced brew at 6.2% ABV and only 42 IBUs. This seems like a low number of bittering units and suggests a lack of hops. However, the brew balances nicely and has adequate hoppiness without being over-the-top hoppy.

DFRNT IPA

Sunday was race day for me – I was a couch potato as I watched racing on TV most of the day. I started with the Formula One Grand Prix from Shanghai. It was an interesting race that started on a wet track that quickly dried. Then I watched the Moto GP race in Argentina. Another good one. Then in the afternoon I finished with the Indy Car race at Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is run on a street course in downtown Long Beach. The first race there was in 1975. An Englishman named Chris Pook, who was running a travel agency in Long Beach, came up with the idea as the city was trying to gentrify and rebuild their image. He envisioned a Grand Prix featuring the best cars and racers in the world – Formula One – racing on the streets as they do in Monaco. The course would take the cars down Shoreline Drive past the iconic Queen Mary cruise ship.

Before the FIA would sanction a Formula One race, the city had to demonstrate its ability to actually operate as a race track. In September of 1975, they held a Formula 5000 race as the inaugural event. I went to that race with my friends Jim Birditt and Steve Drake.

Formula 5000 was chosen as it was a popular class in the USA – as well as in Britain and Australia – at the time. In the USA, the class was sanctioned by the SCCA and USAC. The rules called for an open wheel chassis powered by a stock block V8 engine of no more than 5000cc – five liters. The most popular engine for the class was the Chevy 302 cu. in. V8. The engines utilized mechanical fuel injection and produced plenty of torque and about 500 horsepower. In the lightweight chassis – about 1200 lbs total weight – they were beasts to drive as the tire technology back in the day could barely provide enough grip.

The race was fierce with many top drivers competing. Mario Andretti and Brian Redmond had quite the battle. Brian Redmond was the race winner after Mario Andretti retired with transmission problems. I was looking through a packet of old photos on Saturday when I found a program I had saved from that race in 1975.

Race program from 1975

In March of 1976, the first Formula One race was held at Long Beach. I was there for that one too. Clay Reggazoni won in a Ferrari 312T2 and his team mate Niki Lauda was second. I attended several of the eight Formula One races held there – I saw Gilles Villeneuve win in 1979. The final Formula One race at Long Beach was held in 1983 and I saw John Watson take the checkered flag after starting 22nd on the grid.

I put the babyback ribs on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill while the race was on TV. With the racks of ribs trimmed the way they were, I was little unsure of the cooking time. After about 140 minutes, I wrapped the ribs in foil and let them cook for another 40 minutes. They came out fine – I probably should have wrapped about 10 or 15 minutes earlier to retain more moisture.

Our friends Howard and Sara Graff joined us for cocktails and dinner along with their daughter, Kenna. Kenna enjoyed playing with Ozark the cat – thanks Kenna for wearing Ozark out – it made for a nice quiet night’s sleep for me! Sara brought home made cornbread and Donna served up green beans and garlic smashed potatoes with the ribs. I got so wrapped up in conversation and story telling that I neglected to take any photos of the group or dinner plate. I had a bottle of Sculpin IPA with the dinner and I have a photo of that though.

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point in San Diego

This morning, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts and we played for two and half hours. Today was the first time I played without a bandaid on my left finger that I injured last week. It’s mending nicely.

Finger on the mend

We’re expecting a high temperature of 82 today and it will warm up to near 90 over the next two days. I’ll be busy getting the trailer squared away and preparing for our departure on Thursday.

And, oh, by the way, we’re not sure if Ozark had a tapeworm or not, but the vet treated her anyway as it wouldn’t hurt. She also got a rabies vaccination booster shot.

 

Prescription Runaround

In a previous post, I wrote about changes to our health care plan this year. My former employer quit offering group health insurance to retirees. Instead they funded a healthcare reimbursement account and I was on my own to find a plan on the healthcare exchange. The result was a plan that costs triple what I paid in 2016 and essentially leaves us self-insured for the first $13,100 – we’re really only covered for a catastrophic event.

Our previous health care coverage also included prescription medications under a plan through CVS-Caremark mail-order pharmacy. When I looked at the healthcare exchange, I wasn’t too thrilled with the prescription coverage and cost. I called CVS-Caremark to inquire about retaining the plan. I have a few medications that I take on a daily basis. CVS-Caremark told me there were no changes in my prescription plan, prescriptions would continue to be mailed every 90 days. Now that was good news.

In February, they mailed me my prescriptions. Then in March, they sent me an e-mail telling me that I was no longer enrolled in their plan, my previous employer had terminated the coverage. Now I had a problem. I already enrolled through the healthcare exchange and adding prescription coverage would be problematic.

After looking at a few options, I decided to buy my medications out-of-pocket through the AARP discount mail-order plan. I spoke with their customer service and was told I needed to download a form from their web site and send it in along with written prescriptions from my doctor to start the service.

I obtained the written prescriptions and completed the form – including credit card payment information and mailed it to them about 10 days ago. Yesterday I checked my account on their web site and no prescription order was showing. So, I called their customer service again. After the usual automated phone system runaround, I spoke to a representative.

When she found my information, she told me they had the paperwork and prescriptions but I hadn’t asked them to actually fill the prescriptions – what!? I had filled out their form completely and followed all of their instructions. Maybe it’s just me, but I figure that when I drop off a prescription at a drug store, it’s understood that I want the prescription filled. When I sent in the form including billing information it should be de facto evidence of me ordering the prescriptions. After more than 30 minutes of runaround, giving them all of the information that was on the form I sent in, she finally told me the order would be filled. I should expect the meds by April 13th. Whew!

A couple of hours later, my phone rang. I picked up the call and it was a recorded message from OptumRx – the supplier for the AARP discount plan – telling me there was a problem and I need to stay on the line for a representative. I was on the phone listening to their music and recorded messages for 20 minutes before a representative came on the line. She looked up my account and said she needed to verify some information.

We went over all of the same information that was on the form I sent in and also gave to the representative a couple of hours earlier. She put me on hold several times – once for 15 minutes. After 41 minutes on the phone, she told me she had everything she needed to fulfill my order – I hadn’t given her any new information at all, we just repeated everything they already had. After this call, I got a confirmation e-mail, so maybe that’s a good sign and things are moving along as they should. They also sent a link to complete a satisfaction survey. Oh boy – this will give an opportunity to tell them what I really think.

On Wednesday evening, Donna prepared some chicken breasts she bought at WinCo Foods. She spiced them with a green chile BBQ rub that she bought when we were in Taos, New Mexico. I cooked the chicken on the Traeger. About 15 minutes before I took them off the grill, I basted them with Pomegranate and Mango Chipotle Sauce. The combination was excellent, giving the chicken a spicy-sweet flavor.

Green Chile Spicy BBQ Rub

Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce

Chicken breasts hot off the Traeger

Donna served it with steamed asparagus and garlic smashed potatoes. Once again, I’m dining like a king! We sat outside and enjoyed the meal al fresco.

A meal fit for a king

Yesterday Donna joined me for pickleball in the morning. She took a fall in her first game and scraped her knee and shin. But she hung in there and we played several games. This morning I played again for the fourth straight day, but Donna woke up feeling a little punky with a sore throat, so she passed.

The temperature should reach the upper 80s today and tomorrow, so it looks like we’ll be running the air conditioners again.

Two-Digit Damage

I managed to check one item off of my “to do” list while Donna was away. I cleaned and treated the kitchen cabinets with Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. I love this product – it’s simple to use and provides a great looking finish that preserves the wood and and enhances the beauty. I just wipe it on with a clean cloth – it may take a few swipes on areas that are dirty – then wipe off the excess. Couldn’t be simpler and it makes our solid wood cabinetry look great.

I’ve been a little hard on my fingers lately. Last Friday I injured my ring finger on my right hand playing pickleball. I mishit a shot that came fast and hard and the ball struck my finger tip, cracking the finger nail down the right side. I put super glue on it to keep the finger nail intact until the damage grows out.

Cracked nail glued together

Monday morning I was surprised to find a dozen 3.0-3.5 players on the pickleball courts. We had some great games and I got my 10,000 steps in before lunch! We made plans to play again on Tuesday – a lot of the guys are leaving by the end of the week so I want to get as much playing time as I can get.

Monday evening I was watching the NCAA Basketball Championship on TV. I had a cold one on the counter behind the passenger seat. Ozark the cat jumped up on the counter and I saw my beer toppling off it. I reached out quickly with my left hand to catch it and I missed. I ended up jamming my left ring finger into the corner of the Karadon counter top and damaged my finger. The left side on my finger split and tore away from the nail. Super glue won’t help this time – it was a bloody mess.

You don’t want to see what’s under the bandaid

After the game, I was getting ready for bed. I saw lightning flashes to the north of us and a strong wind suddenly kicked up. Then when I climbed into bed I heard the sound of rain drumming on the roof. We had an unexpected squall and it rained hard for a few minutes. The wind was strong enough to rock the coach a few times. We didn’t have any warning of a strong storm.

Tuesday morning I played pickleball again. I left the courts by 9:30am – I wanted to get back to the coach and straighten things out a bit before Donna returned. On the way back, I saw a maintenance crew cleaning up some storm damage. The sheet metal roof on a canopy next to the maintenance building had blown off. The sheet metal traveled to a park model where part of it ended up on the park model roof. Another piece of the sheet metal went through a window on the home and another piece damaged a car. Like I said – there was some strong wind!

Maintenance crew cleaning up storm damage

As I was walking down our lane, I saw Donna drive up in her rental car. She came home from her trip to Sedona earlier than I expected. Oh well, our coach wasn’t too messy – I’ve kept up on dishes and cleaning. I wanted to clean out the cat litter box and do a little straightening before she got back though.

It’s still breezy this morning – the forecast calls for the wind to diminish this afternoon. The temperature should hit the upper-70s today and tomorrow, then it’ll warm up to the upper 80s.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Canadians Heading Home

Friday was the last day of March – hard to believe we are already into the fourth month of 2017. It was also a milestone for ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort. The majority of the people spending the winter months here are from Canada. As Canadian citizens, they’re limited to a total of 182 days in the USA during a 12-month period. A lot of the Canadians leave at the end of March and go back to Canada to avoid issues regarding taxation also maintain their health insurance coverage.

On Wednesday we had 22 players in the 3.0-3.5 level round robin pickleball match. On Friday we only had six players! I’m wondering if there will be enough players left in the park to play this week.

Our stay is coming to an end here. Looking at my reservations, I see I made a mistake. I had us booked here until Friday, April 14th. I also have a reservation to return to Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego on Friday, April 14th. Although the distance is about 380 miles, it takes over six hours in the coach. I don’t like to make the drive in one day and enter the park and set up after a long, tiring day behind the wheel. We usually make a stop overnight in the desert west of Yuma, then we have a leisurely three-hour drive to San Diego and can set up after lunch. So, I think we’ll check out of here a day early and hit the road on Thursday, April 13th.

I’ve been meaning to cook babyback ribs in the Traeger and have friends over. Although Donna is away right now, we only have a couple of weekends left here. I decided to invite Mike and Jodi Hall and a couple of others over on Saturday to try my ribs. We’ll do it again with other friends when Donna’s here.

Mike and Jodi showed up with their granddaughter Swayzie around 5pm. Ray Laehu wasn’t feeling well and backed out, so we had a small party. Mike and Jodi brought a macaroni salad and slaw to go with the ribs. I dry-rubbed the ribs Memphis style – that’s the way I always prepare babyback ribs. I know I’ve covered the preparation of ribs before but I’ll go over what I did again. First, I removed the membrane on the bone side of the babybacks. This membrane is tough and also prevents the salts in the dry rub from penetrating the meat.

To remove the membrane, I start in the middle of the rack and use a regular table knife to separate it from the bone – you don’t want use a sharp knife, it’ll just cut through the membrane. Then I grab the membrane with a paper towel and pull it away from the rack. Then I’m ready to spice it with my dry rub mix. I did this Friday night and wrapped the ribs and refrigerated them. On Saturday afternoon, I cooked the ribs bone side down on the Traeger with the temperature set at 300 degrees – this results in an average pit temperature of about 265 degrees. After cooking for two hours, I wrapped the ribs in aluminum foil and put them back in the Traeger with the temperature set to 180 degrees. About 45 or 50 minutes later I took the ribs out and let them rest for a while before I removed the foil.

Babyback ribs ready to serve

Mike brought a couple of interesting beers to go with the barbeque. He brought a couple of limited releases from Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California. One was a strong ale called Undercover Investigation Shut Down – a long name for a 9.6% ABV strong ale. It was obviously a high gravity ale and little heavy on the palette but worked well with the ribs. The other beer was called Aunt Sally – it’s described as a dry hopped, sweet tart, sour mash ale. I loved it – it tasted like a bourbon barrel- aged ale and was very drinkable at 5.6% ABV.

Interesting ales from Lagunitas

Although the thermometer read 70 degrees, it was breezy and felt much cooler in the late afternoon. We all put on sweatshirts or jackets and little Swayzie needed a blanket.

Swayzie bundled up

We’ll be pulling out of here in about 10 days. I’m starting to think about how I’ll get us out of our site. It’s going to be a challenge and I expect it to take a lot of maneuvering. We have obstacles – on the driver’s side there’s a lamp post only 26 inches from the side of the coach. On the passenger side there’s an orange tree with a sprinkler head 21 inches from the coach.

It’s a tight maneuver to get out of here

Additionally we have a permanent park model dwelling across the street from us. The street is only 27 feet wide – our coach is 40 feet long.

The street in front of the coach

I’ll take my time and hopefully come up with a good exit plan over the next week and a half.

The weather forecast looks good with high temperatures in the upper-70s and low-80s over the next few days before it warms up by the weekend. Donna will return from her girls week in Sedona on Tuesday.

 

Arizona Renaissance Festival

The rain moved out on Thursday morning but the day remained cloudy. The temperature was cooler than normal and we had a high temperature of 70 degrees. A few light showers fell in the afternoon – very brief and not enough to wet the street. It was dry enough for me to put chicken on the Traeger. Spiced with Pappy’s Choice rub, it made a nice dinner. I had the Traeger set to 350 degrees – next time I’ll increase the temperature for the final minutes of cooking to make the skin crisper.

Chicken cooked on the Traeger smoker/grill

Friday was a clear, sunny day. As usual, we started the day with pickleball in the morning – I play in the 3.0-3.5 round robin on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. After the round robin play, I got a couple of pick-up games in with Donna.

Our friends Mike and Jodi Hall have several African Spurred Tortoises in their yard. These are native to the southern Sahara desert on the African continent. They can reach a size of 33 inches and weigh up to 200 pounds. Mike and Jodi have a few large ones and some smaller young ones. They are two or three inches long when they hatch but grow quickly, doubling in size each year for the first few years.

Donna saves vegetable scraps when she cooks and we feed the tortoises with them a couple of times per week. They are voracious feeders and eat mostly grasses and vegetables. They require high fiber diets with little protein or sugars. It’s a good way for us to utilize vegetable scraps or produce that is past its prime.

Large African Spurred tortoise in the foreground, medium size in the background

They love the vegetable scraps from our kitchen

After we fed the tortoises, we rode the Spyder back to ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort and stopped at Fat Willy’s at the park entrance.

Donna saw a Facebook post from Lori Gardner – someone she knew when she was growing up in upstate New York. Turns out Lori and her husband Jeff live less than a mile away from here.

We met them at Fat Willy’s and took a table out on the patio. Friday’s weather was very nice with a more normal high temperature of 80 degrees. We sat outside and talked over a couple of beers and appetizers. It was a good time.

On Saturday morning, our friends Howard and Sara Graff picked us up at the park. We piled into Sara’s Ford Flex along with their daughters Allison and Kenna and Allison’s friend Lauren. We headed east on US60 past Gold Canyon to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. The festival is located on 30 acres of desert with permanent structures. It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-February to the first weekend of April.

It’s a fun time – part circus, part costume party with a fair-like atmosphere. It opens at 10am and we arrived about twenty minutes early. Getting an early start is a good idea – the festival generates a lot of traffic bringing US60 to a standstill later in the morning. As we stood in line waiting for the gates to open we had entertainment from a few of the festival’s actors.

Donna made a new friend while we waited to enter the festival

The royal family arriving

There’s so much going on inside the festival that I doubt you could take it all in during a one-day visit. We wandered around and watched a few performances. There’s no shortage of good food inside – I enjoyed a curry chicken pastie plate. The cost to enter the festival was $22/person. Parking was free and the food was reasonable – my pastie with a side of peas and carrots and mashed potatoes with gravy was seven dollars. And they have beer!

Old fashioned open-air kitchen

Blacksmith’s shop

I probably wasn’t the best company for a day at the festival – my allergies were getting to me. My eyes were itchy and I had a sinus headache. After about four hours, we’d had all the fun we could stand and headed out.

Today we have clear, blue skies and the temperature should reach 80 degrees again. The forecast for the week ahead looks sunny with highs from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. I can’t complain about that!

 

Hot Spell Broken

The unseasonably warm weather has cut down my activities. We’ve had high temperatures in the mid-90s since Thursday of last week through Tuesday of this week. We’ve had the air conditioners running and I’ve spent a lot of time indoors reading books.

Yesterday the warm spell broke. Overnight the temperature dropped to 58 degrees. Donna was up early to join a group from ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort on a hike. They drove up the Beeline Highway (AZ87) toward Payson to the Little Saddle Trail near Mazatzal Mountain. They hiked all the way to the end of trail and continued another quarter mile further up the mountain where they stopped for a snack. The total distance out and back was 8.75 miles with an elevation gain of 1,900 feet.

The Little Saddle Trail follows a creek bed and crosses it a few times. I think Sycamore Creek is a dry creek bed at times, but it has running water right now and a few pools. Donna took several pictures on her hike.

Part of the Little Saddle Trail follows the Arizona Trail which runs from Mexico to Utah

Hiking up an open section

Green foliage at this time of year

Sycamore Creek

Sycamore Creek crossing

Colorful rocky section above Sycamore Creek

Sign at the end of Little Saddle Trail

Mazatzal Mountain view

One of many cairns on the trail

Checking out the creek

While Donna was out on her hike, I hit the pickleball courts for the Wednesday 3.0-3.5 level round robin games. I played seven games and had a great time. We had good match-ups and played at a high level – the best I’ve played.

The high temperature for the day was in the low 80s. Later in the afternoon, when Donna returned from her hike, I covered the Spyder, Traeger and Weber Q grill. The forecast called for a chance of rain overnight and they called it right. Rain moved in around 11pm. It rained off and on until this morning.

Today we expect partly cloudy skies and the temperature will top out in the low 70s. We’ll be back up to 80 by the weekend. Temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s is fine with me – I just don’t want any more 90+ degree days.

St. Patrick’s Day Gathering

I went out and ran a few errands Thursday afternoon. Before I left on the Spyder, I dropped Donna off at the nail salon here at Viewpoint RV and Golf Resort. You gotta love an RV park that has its own nail salon! Earlier I had stopped at the main office and booked some time here next season. I reserved a site starting December 21st for a three-month stay.

While I was out and about, I made a stop at Lucky Lou’s where I found my friends John and Stan. We had a few laughs and a cold one on the patio. Before I left, another Can-Am Spyder parked next to ours. This one was a newer touring model called a Spyder RT. The touring models are more luxurious with more comfortable passenger accommodations and we tend to see these more often than the other models.

Can-AM Spyder RT – built for comfort

They also include more storage space with built-in saddlebags. This one was even equipped with a trailer hitch!

Our Spyder is the RS model – more nimble and sporty. We find adequate space in the frunk – the name Spyder enthusiasts use for the forward trunk space. Donna also carries a backpack for groceries if she’s making a big grocery run. The passenger seating isn’t as comfortable on an RS.

Our Spyder RS – nimble and sporty

Of course, the RT models with all of the creature comforts and accessories are priced several thousand dollars higher than the RS model.

I hit the pickleball courts on Friday morning. The pollen count remains high and I suffered a bit, but felt better overall than I did earlier in the week. I played eight games and got in a couple of hours of activity. I wrote about the hawk’s nest by the courts in an earlier post and stated that I hadn’t seen the adult hawks in a while. I surmised that they moved on – well, I was wrong. On Friday morning, I saw both adults and one of them flew to the nest with a mouse in its talons. So, they are apparently still feeding the juveniles in the nest.

Red Tailed Hawk perched above its nest in a power line tower

On Friday evening, we went to a St. Patrick’s Day happy hour and dinner at the Northpoint Gathering Room in the RV park. One of our neighbors, Dave and Molly MacFarland, organized the event. For a cost of just five bucks per person, they supplied liquor and food. Others pitched in to help and Donna made her famous Irish soda bread from scratch and brought it along. Dave clued me in to the hiding place for the good IPA beer and told me to help myself – which I did.

They had all of the traditional fixings served buffet-style. The corned beef brisket was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. They served it with a mustard gravy – a first for me – and it was delicious. They had scalloped potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes with green onion, cabbage, carrots and boiled onions. They ran a 50-50 raffle to help offset the cost of all the food and drink. Donna snapped a couple of photos.

Back of my bald head on the left at the St. Patrick’s Day gathering

Lots of green in the Gathering Room

The pickleball tournament scheduled for Saturday morning wasn’t what I expected at all. It turned out to be a “fun tournament” where we had to play some silly games. Our first match had to be played with your weak hand. I never hit a ball with my left hand and it showed. Things were a bit chaotic but I had fun.

The temperature has reached the mid 90s for past few days and we can expect the hot weather to continue for a couple more days. The past two nights were a little rough for me as my allergies interrupted my sleep and I feel like I may have a sinus infection coming on. I’m planning to have a mostly quiet day today.

Ozark the cat spends most of the mid-day hours napping in her window bed. That leaves her with plenty of energy to get up and tear around the place at 4am!

Another mid-day nap

I’m going to have to find a way to change her sleep pattern.