I woke up well before dawn at the Mazatzal Casino parking lot in Payson, Arizona Tuesday morning. Lying in bed with my eyes closed I heard Donna whisper, “Did you hear that?” “Uh-huh.” “Was that an elk?” “Yeah, it’s a bull elk bugling.” Of all the places we’ve been, a casino parking lot was the last place I’d expected to hear a bull elk bugling in the pre-dawn hours. I heard it two more times in the next 30 or 40 minutes confirming it was real, not a dream.
We were packed up and on the road a little after 9am. We drove down AZ87 – also known as the Beeline Highway – southwest toward Fountain Hills and the greater Phoenix area. Payson is 5,000 feet above sea level. The Beeline Highway descends rapidly and has a series of steep uphill grades – the net result is a loss of elevation. We arrived in Mesa at an elevation of around 1,200 feet above sea level and pulled into the RV Renovators lot on Main Street.
RV Renovators is the outfit I’ve chosen to repair the damage on the coach from the encounter with a large buck in Idaho. I wanted to stop there and go over the insurance estimate and discuss the repair work before we return in January to have the work done. The job will entail some complicated fiberglass repairs on the living room slide-out.
We had a short meeting and they have us on the calendar to return and start work on January 15th. Although the insurance estimate only shows 40 hours of labor, they told me two weeks of work was more realistic. The goal is to start work on January 15th and finish by the end of the month. They also told me we can stay in the coach at their shop – they have hook ups. Staying in the coach helps – we won’t have to find a place to stay for an indefinite period of time and have to deal with our personal belongings in the coach. We’ll also be onsite every day to oversee progress. This is good news. Now I just need to figure out what to do with our 20-foot car carrier trailer while we’re at the shop.
From there we moved on to Casa Grande where I stopped at the Speedco service center to have maintenance done on the coach. I do an annual preventive maintenance (PM) which includes an engine oil and filter change and a fuel filter change, chassis lube and inspection. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine falls under their medium duty PM schedule. In the past, I paid $179.99 for this service plus any upgrades or additional work found upon inspection. I usually upgrade the oil filter to a Fleetguard instead of the standard Baldwin and use Chevron Delo 400 LE 15-40 oil. This time I was told they had a price increase – the medium duty PM base price went from $179.99 to $249.99 – a 39% jump in price! I also have the used oil analysis done. This too had an increase – it was $17.99 now it’s $24.99.
I went ahead with it. When I looked at the used oil analysis I could see something was wrong. Everything looked good until I saw the viscosity at 100C – it was listed as less than 3 cSt. The specification is 12.5 to 16.3 cSt. If my engine oil was really less than 3 cSt, I wouldn’t be holding any oil pressure when the oil was at full operating temperature. When I asked about how this could be, I heard a lot of mumbling and the girl at the counter highlighted the specification. I told her I was well aware of the spec and what it means – but I didn’t believe the results because it didn’t make sense. She took it to the manager. After a few minutes he admitted that he didn’t even know what the measurement meant – it’s just a number their machine spits out – he refunded the $24.99. I might have to rethink how I’m having used oil analysis performed.
Later, I looked at the Speedco corporate website. Their price sheet which was updated in September still shows medium duty PM at $179.99. I sent an inquiry to their customer service asking if I’d been overcharged.
From there we had the coach washed at Blue Beacon, then found the Elks Lodge near the courthouse downtown. Parking was easy and as always, the people at the lodge were friendly. Unfortunately this is a lodge that allows smoking at the bar. Overnight dry camping cost $10.
On Wednesday morning, Donna went for a run, then we prepared to move on. The lodge lot was empty – we were the only RV there and all of the cars from the night before were gone. This made it easy to exit the parking area.
When we pulled out, our fuel gauge registered less than 1/4 tank. I wondered how this could be – where had all our fuel gone? We had several hours of generator run time, but that only accounts for half to three quarters of a gallon per hour. My plan was to fuel up in Yuma at the Pilot/Flying J at exit 12 where we’ve stopped several times before. I was pretty sure we could cover the 160 miles, but I don’t like running below a quarter tank.
About an hour later, I figured something was up with the fuel gauge. Now it was reading a quarter tank – higher than when we left 60 miles before. We made it to Yuma and I topped off the tank with only 65 gallons of fuel – there was more than a quarter of tank left. The fuel price of $2.26/gallon with my Pilot/Flying J RV Rewards card was nice too!
While we were in Yuma we made a Walmart run and stocked the pantry. I also bought a quart of Delo 400 oil to top up the generator. We’ve run it over 50 hours since I changed the oil at Eagle Nest Lake. It only took about 12 ounces to top it off – but with a sump capacity of only three quarts, I don’t like to run it low on oil. With the generator oil topped off, I fired it up to run the roof air conditioners. It was 95 degrees in Yuma!
I thought about stopping at a couple of other RV stores in Yuma for a few supplies I need, but blew it off as I can get them from Amazon when we’re settled in at Mission Bay RV Resort. We continued west on I-8 past Winterhaven, California and found our little stopping spot in the desert at Ogilby Road. We’ve stayed here several times on BLM land that’s part of the Picacho State Recreation Area (SRA). The SRA borders the Picacho Wilderness and the area we stay in has a fairly level, hard-packed gravel surface. It’s a popular if somewhat secluded area for snowbirds that don’t mind boondocking. This part of the desert sits at an elevation of about 400 feet above sea level. It’s much warmer than we’ve become accustomed to after months in the mountains.
The rock garden area we usually stay in was occupied by the only other RV in sight. We found a nice, level spot that had a site marked by rocks over a quarter mile away – leaving plenty of space. People that spend most of the winter here arrange rocks around their rigs. It’s against BLM regulations, but no one seems to mind.
Our “site” in the open desert
Path from our door step
Many people would view this area as a barren wasteland, but I enjoy staying here. I love the views, the quiet and the seclusion.
Our windshield view
Desert sunset and sunrise is always spectacular.
After dark I walked outside and looked at the sky expecting to see it filled with stars but the 3/4 moon was so bright, it washed out many of the stars.
I slept soundly. The overnight low temperature was in the 60s and we had all of the windows open. I woke up just before sunrise.
Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert
The sunrise was every bit as spectacular as the sunset the evening before.
The balloon fiesta in Albuquerque is a memory now and the days spent there seem like a blur. This morning we’ll move on to San Diego. We look forward to our time there every year – this will be our fourth winter visit. There’s always so much to do and it’s great to reconnect with old friends there.
I think we’ll make our usual stop for lunch at the Buckman Springs rest area and check in at Mission Bay around 1pm. The weather forecast for the next week in San Diego looks great – highs in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies.