Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Resort Living

IMG_0496We haven’t been in campgrounds lately with much in the way of amenities.   So it is time for a bit of resort living here in Yuma, if “resort living” and “campground” are not inherently at odds with each other.  It was tough to zero in on one as there are just so many campgrounds in greater Yuma.  But we finally chose one a bit west of town, almost to California and to Mexico for that matter – Cocopah RV and Golf Resort.  It is owned and operated by the Cocopah Peoples (roughly translated to River People as they lived in and around the Colorado River).  The campground is on the Reservation and is located at the big bend in the Colorado River where it then makes its final run south into Mexico and to its mouth at the north end of the Bay of California.

It is a large campground with something like 800 sites.  It is built in “spokes” with an 18-hole golf course running between the spokes and then finishes right along the river.  It has a large pool, hot tub, access to the Colorado River, a restaurant, cantina, sports courts, and a large activity center.


Our neighbors here seem quite nice and as we noted in our last blog post, the weather has been just spectacular.  As with most campgrounds in the south, there are a lot of Canadians here.  The percentage of Canadians who are snowbirds has to be huge.  The park even flies the Canadian Flag with the American and Arizona ones.  We don’t have any grass at our site, but at least we have a concrete patio for a change. We think it was a good choice for our month stay in Yuma.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3:10 To Yuma

We didn’t have specific plans for our stay in Arizona this Winter.  Escapees North Ranch worked well for Thanksgiving through New Year’s and until Quartzsite.  At one point we thought after Quartzsite we likely would return to Congress and then go to Lake Havasu for the pyrotechnic show (fireworks) in February.  But there was one thing that came through quite clearly in weather reports – that Phoenix and Quartzsite were 5 degrees warmer than Congress and that Yuma was 5 degrees warmer than Phoenix and Quartzsite.  Although I am not a mathematician, it was pretty easy to figure out that Yuma was 10 degrees warmer than Congress.  So, that settled it, after Quartzsite we were going to head to Yuma and get at least a month of the warmest winter place in Arizona.

The weather in Quartzsite was spectacular.  Many veterans of the Quartzsite said it was the best weather they could ever remember.  Highs were in the low to mid 70s every day for the two weeks we were there and lows were about 40, So, after Quartzsite, we headed south to Yuma on Highway 95, not the 3:10 train of the film starring Russell Crowe.  (Gary watched that movie not long ago and I gave the DVD to my parents without ever watching it.)

IMG_0492Now, for the benefit our friends back in the North, here is the forecast this week for Yuma.  And if you can’t read it, that is a predicted high of 86 for Thursday.

If that comes to fruition, it would be an all-time record high for January 30.  Anyone want to visit?  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Big Tent And More Quartzsite

The major draw for RVers to Quartzsite in January is the “big tent” RV show.  The actual name is The Quartzite Sports Vacation & RV Show, but everyone just calls it The Big Tent.  And as shown below, the show here really is in a big tent.


100_6922We were told to skip the first two days of the big tent as there would just be too many people there during Saturday and Sunday.  So we made our first foray over there on Monday, failing to remember that it was the Martin Luther King holiday.  It was a huge throng.  It was difficult to navigate the maze of people in the big tent perusing all things RV.  Our major purchase of the day was some fire extinguishers from Mac the Fire Guy.  We met Mac back in Wyoming and had been intending to upgrade to his extinguishers, so we were able to avoid the shipping and purchased them here in Quartzite.

IMG_0475We went back again on Tuesday thinking that the crowd would finally be diminished after the three-day holiday – wrong.   It was every bit as busy as it had been the day before.  But we did get to drop off our tow bar (for towing the car behind the motor home) for a free cleaning and adjustment.  It checked out fine; we don’t want our car ever coming loose on the road.  We went for a third time to the big tent and hit who knows how many flea markets and rock shops.  It is amazing how this little Arizona desert town can support so much of an influx of people and commerce for two to four months of the year.

Our first trip to Quartzsite was quite an experience.  After nearly two weeks dry camped in the desert, we are ready to move on down the road.  We did catch a few other of the “can’t miss” places about this dusty town.  One was the Oasis Book Store, whose proprietor doesn’t wear clothes.  You can’t even call the thing that he wears a g string or a thong.  We dined one night at Silly Al’s, where there sign says, “If you haven’t been to Al’s,,,,,,,,you haven’t been to Quartzsite.


And finally a last few shots from our first Quartzite experience – our camping circle at the second site where we camped, a vista of the sea of RVs parked out in the desert, a beautiful sunset over the desert, and our friend Dennis Hill doing a big Uncle Si “HEY” after a dusty ride across the desert.




We have been to Q.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Old Boys And Their Toys

The full timing crowd and especially the Escapees Club tend to be well…….. there is no other way to say it,,,,,,,,,,,OLD.  The average Escapee must be about 75 years old.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, it is just a fact of full timing (and once a full timer always a full timer at least at heart) that most of us are retirees and are at least somewhat elevated in age.  But out here is the desert Southwest, it certainly doesn’t keep anyone from being young at heart.  Here at Quartzsite, the old boys and their toys are out in full force.

DSCN0567The old boy toy of choice seems to be the side-by-side four wheeler.  I assure you, Gary will not be buying one of these go karts on steroids.  One of the couples we presently are camped with is the Hills, Dennis and Carol former owners of the RV Driving School, line dancers extraordinaire (well at least Carol is), and candidates for the full timing hall of fame (if there was one).  Shown to the right is Dennis’ RZR when is it is looking like it is supposed to.  And shown below is what is looks like as it is not supposed to and what Dennis looked like in the aftermath that included an airlift out of the desert to a hospital to have his ear sewn back on.  And yes, he still is riding with all the other old boys a year later.

Dennis Hill 050[2][1]_thumb[1]Camera(2) (1)_thumb[3]

And there are other even more exotic old boy toys out here too.  Shown below is one of the para-gliders that was flying about yesterday evening and the hot air balloon that went up just over the way this morning.  And, nope, Gary won’t be going up in the air either.  But as he is afraid of heights, I don’t have to worry too much about these anyway.


Yep, the old boys and their toys are out in full force here in the desert.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Still In The Desert

We still are dry camped in the desert outside Quartzsite, AZ.  This is our longest period of dry camping in our 2+ years of full timing.  Everything is going well.  A couple hours a day of running the generator keeps our batteries charged up and provides power for some of the more high-amp accessories.  We moved today (Saturday) to another somewhat more remote desert area.  And as long as we were moving, we dumped the waste tanks and refilled the water tank.  We think we probably could manage dry camping for at least 10 days before we would have to dump again, but we likely won’t stay here that much longer.

The “Big Tent” RV show opens today.  They say it is really crowded in the early days and especially during this opening weekend.  We will wait until Monday to check it out for the first time.

We went to the two official Escapees happy hours on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.  There were probably 250 or more people at each of them.  We met another couple from our last home town in Michigan.  There was music each day and a ton of potluck snacks.


IMG_0466We had toured several of the flea markets, the many vendor tents that are here, eaten the the free pancake breakfast twice so far, and especially have enjoyed some of the rock shops.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

North Ranch Wrap-up

DSCN0498We have one more post in us about Escapees North Ranch RV Park in Congress, AZ.  On our last day there we took another walk through two gardens on the premises.  We previously wrote that there is a fascinating cactus garden, Saguaro Park that has a huge variety of cacti and some other desert vegetation.  This time we took a lot of pictures.  We are sure there are many more cactus varieties than are in this one garden, but we certainly didn’t know there were this many.


Our cactus garden pictures – all 52 of them including names -- can be seen by clicking on the following link:


DSCN0497The other garden in the Park was even more eclectic – Flamingo Park – a park of plastic pink flamingos and other flamingo kitsch.  We stopped by this park specifically to make a donation.  We were a bit of pink flamingo people in our pre-fulltiming days.  We had some plastic ones, the classic flamingo mailbox, and a two-foot tall flamingo mirror that adorned one of our bathrooms.  We had some strings of flamingo lights that fit well with our old hoopty motor home, but were little used in our present one.  They were taking up a chunk of space in the basement of the motor home.  So, we donated them to the North Ranch Flamingo Park.  The “curators” of Flamingo Park just happened to be sitting at a table in the Park when we wandered up with our bag of lights.  They were most appreciative of the donation and posed in flamingo stance for a picture.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quartzsite, AZ

IMG_0465Quartzsite, Arizona or as many call it – Q -- if you are an RVer, you know Quartzsite.  And if you are not an RVer, you likely never have heard of Quartzsite.  Ever since we became full time RVers, others have been asking us, “have you been to Quartzite” or, “are you going to Quartzsite”.  And when we said, “no, we will be in Florida this first winter, Texas next winter and then we will be in Arizona”, we just received the blank stares of, “how can you possibly wait three winters to get to Quartzsite”.

So, here we finally are in Quartzsite.  So, for you non-RVers, what is it all about?  Well, it is somewhat difficult to explain.  We are parked in the desert.  We are not parked in a campground in the desert, we are just parked on public desert land administered by the Bureau of Land Management – no electrical hookups, no water, no sewer,

DSCN0571In our immediate area, there are 60 or so RVs where the Escapees Happy Hours are taking place this week.  Spread out in all the desert around this small little dusty town are perhaps 500,000 rigs.  Why has this area become the winter gathering point for so many RVers?  Part has to do with the abundance of  public lands you can camp on and another part is the “big tent” RV show that is held here each January.  Somehow it has evolved such that there are not only all these RVers here, but there are all these vendors and dealers selling RVs, parts and accessories, and services to the RVers.  And then apparently you throw in several flea market and swap meet areas, vendors of rocks and minerals, and vendors selling all kinds of other goodies and now you have “Quartzsite”.

This is a test for us.  Except for the occasional overnight in a Walmart, we have not been dry campers.  We are loaded with fuel so we can run our generator as needed and keep our batteries charged.  We are loaded with water which we are using as sparingly as possible.  We don’t know exactly how long we will be here but it likely will be for at least two weeks with one sewer dump and water refill somewhere in the middle of our stay.

This week are the happy hours, potlucks, bonfires, fleas markets and the occasional free breakfast or lunch at the RV dealer who serves free food just to get people in the door.  Next week will be the big tent stuff.  And there will be plenty of socializing then as well.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

To The Moon And Beyond

We have been tidying up the belly of our motor home while camped here in Congress, AZ.  One rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used a particular item within the last year then it is time to get rid of it.  We have rid ourselves of a number of things here leaving them on the donation table in the clubhouse.

DSCN0495But there was one item we were loathe to shed – our telescope.  I received the telescope as my last big anniversary present at Ford.  They reached the point on the anniversary gifts where they just handed you a catalog and told you to pick the item you wanted.  I picked a telescope as it was something we thought we would use while out camping.

We tried setting it up before we loaded it into the motor home to go fulltiming, but we didn’t know quite what we were doing and so we really never had it set up.  And for nearly two and a half years now we have been procrastinating about using it.

We invited Ranger Steve and his service dog Jin of Escapees internet forum fame over for dinner one night.  Ranger Steve said he would bring along his telescope and after dinner we would have a good look at Jupiter which he said was about the brightest thing in the night sky right now.  That lead to a conversation about how we weren’t using our telescope and he volunteered that he would help us get it set up.

Gary set up our telescope as best he could and Ranger Steve dialed in the setup for us, and without a whole lot to it.  Here we hadn’t been using it over a failed setup that was very easily rectified.  Soon, we were looking at craters on the moon and observing five of the many moons orbiting around Jupiter.

So the telescope is not going to be one of the items to leave the motorhome’s belly.  But we did discover through Ranger Steve that there are these reflecting telescopes such as the one he uses that through a whole series of mirrors greatly reduces the overall size of the unit and makes them much easier to pack away.  It could be time for another Craigslist buy and sell.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Guitar-Picking Classmate

Gary participates in an email group with a few of his high school classmates.  They sometimes “talk” about whatever happened to this or that classmate.  And that is a bit challenging as half of their school mates came from an Air Force Base and the AF was constantly reassigning personnel in and out of the Base.

One day they happened to mention a classmate named Steve Shockley who they remembered being a budding guitar player from the AFB.  No one had seen or heard of him since his family was transferred out during his junior year.  Gary subsequently googled him and found one big clue.  There was a YouTube clip of a guy with the same name who was playing guitar and appearing twice weekly at an old west saloon in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Gary said if we ever got that way our in our travels we would go look him up and see if he was the long lost classmate.

After Gary’s win in the poker tournament (will I ever stop hearing about that), we drove on over to old historic downtown section of Scottsdale.  (We will go back there on another trip as it really looked like it would be a fun area to explore with all its old western buildings and shops.)  We easily found the Rusty Spur Saloon, walked in, and the same guy as from the video clip was up playing a guitar on stage.

There were only a handful of people in the place at the time so when he finished his song, Gary walked up and asked, “was your family in the Air Force”?  And with an affirmative answer to that question, it was, “and in the mid to late 1960’s you were stationed at a base in the cornfields of north central Indiana?”  At about that point, the guitar player was probably getting real worried about just what question was going to come next, so instead of another question, Gary told him that they were likely classmates together in school which they proceeded to confirm and then carried on a bit of reminiscing.

Over the next hour or two, Steve showed that over the years he had gone from budding to very accomplished guitar player.  The two of them tried to jog each other’s memories a bit between songs,  And during a break, the three of us had a nice conversation.  Steve appears every Monday and Tuesday afternoon at the Rusty Spur and told us that on weekends he plays in a band at a place called Geasewood Flat.  We will pass back through that area in a couple of months and will get over and enjoy some more of Steve’s guitar.

So just what did Steve think of someone from the 1960s coming to the Rusty Spur to look him up?  On balance, it seemed he got quite a good kick out of it.

And we know there are a few of Gary’s classmates who follow our blog so if any of them wish to see the video of Steve, click on the link below.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Poker Pro Strikes………..

Did Gary, our self-proclaimed poker pro, strike or did he strike out in his latest poker foray?   He was needing a poker fix.  He hadn’t played since before Thanksgiving.  The online play money tournaments are just not the same as a real money game.  So, he had to find a place to play.  There are a number of Indian casinos here in Arizona.  He chose for us go travel to Scottsdale, a part of the Phoenix metro area.  We wanted to get down to that area for a couple other reasons as well.

DSCN0494We went to the Talking Stick Casino Resort owned and operated by the Pima and Maricopa Indians.  This is no hole-in-the-wall casino.  It has a 500 room hotel and 240,000 square feet of casino space making it the size of some of the smaller Vegas properties.


20140107_135427The poker room was even more impressive.  When you name a poker room The Arena and have a “scoreboard” hanging from the middle of it, you know it will be something big,  This one had 47 poker tables.  There were hundreds of players on a Tuesday morning.  This has to be one of the premier poker rooms in the country

We arrived a bit early and after checking out the poker room, we walked through the casino a bit.  There on the base of a slot machine Gary spotted a penny which he picked up and stuck in his pocket for good luck.

Gary entered the poker room and paid his $100 along with 79 other players.  About $6,500 went into the prize pool (the house takes a nice fee of course).  There was a break each hour.  At the end of hour one the report was, “I lost half my stake within the first five hands and I don’t know how long I can last”.  At the second break it was “I won some hands and now I have nearly an average chip stack”.  At the end of the third hour it was, “my pair of Jacks held up against an Ace King and I now have an above average chip stack”.  At the end of the fourth hour it was, “we are going to the final table and I am the chip leader”.  By nearly the end of the fifth hour I finally had to see just what was going on, so I entered the poker room and walked toward the back where the tournament players were and Gary was standing with one other player and the dealer and as I approached, he thrust his arms into the air.  He and the other player had agreed to “chop” (evenly split) the first and second place prize money.  But Gary held somewhat more chips so was officially the tournament winner.  He outlasted the other 79 players and won over $1,150, his biggest tournament win both in terms of tournament size and money ever.

The poker pro has become nearly insufferable, but as long as he keeps winning money playing poker he can be as insufferable as he wants

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Ton Of New Technology To Learn


Yay, all kinds of new “toys” to play with.  We have been planning an upgrade to our phones for awhile now and we finally pulled the trigger.  Top right is my new phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4.  This is my first “smart phone”.  When we ordered our last set of phones, I felt I wanted to keep my phone fairly simple so I purchased one that had only very rudimentary data capabilities.  I could essentially make calls, read my email, and take some pictures and that that was about it.  Meanwhile, I had to watch for about three years as Gary surfed the internet from almost any location with his Droid X.   “My crappy little phone” became a bit of a running joke between us.

Gary’s new phone had a slight back order so I received mine about a week before his new one arrived.  It was his turn to cry about his “crappy little phone” watching me surf with super 4g speed while he remained with 3g.   But not to be outdone, he had ordered up an even bigger higher capability phone than mine, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.  This thing is massive.  I certainly didn’t want one of those as I can barely hang onto it with my hand.  It is so big it sometimes is referred to as a”phablet” – a cross between and phone and a tablet.

And as a Christmas present Gary purchased me -- the designated navigator as I don’t do much of the driving -- a new GPS unit.  And if I was doing a lot of complaining about the “crappy little phone”, that complaining was nothing compared with the way I was cursing that old GPS.  It had developed a ton of problems from its battery being shot to a power cord that was always causing the unit to cycle off and on (I had to constantly hold the unit in my hand in a certain way to try to minimize the power cycling.)   Further, the maps were out of date but it wasn’t worth investing in new ones as the unit had too many problems.  It really confounded “Sammy” (short for Samantha, the name of our GPS voice) when she thought we were driving off road when we hit new stretches of pavement.  Our new unit is the Garmin 760 RV GPS which has myriad new features beyond those of our prior trucker model.

The last piece of tech shown in the picture is a little device Andy bought us for Christmas – Chromecast.   You plug it into a HDMI port on the TV and you can broadcast from Google applications on your laptop or phone to the TV screen.

And finally, this picture was taken with our new camera, a Nikon point and shoot model with 26X optical zoom, more than twice the zoom we had with the camera it replaced.  Unfortunately, the old one had hit the ground too many times.  We could live with the “baling wire” holding it together, but the last drop had caused the electronics to go crazy and at times it simply wouldn’t shoot or would be out of focus.  We got an incredible “Black Friday” deal on the camera at a store we rarely ever shop at, one that we only went to because of this exceptional deal – Target.  Yep, you guessed it.  Our once a year at most Target purchase was exactly during the time for which their transaction files were hacked.  We now monitor our credit card account daily.

There is just one problem with all this wonderful new technology and especially with it all coming at once.  We have to learn how to use all of it.  And there is just so much to learn.  We’ll probably never figure it all out,   Hopefully we will have fun(and patience) trying.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Traditional New Year’s Dinner

As we were back in Arizona for New Year’s, we took in the New Year’s eve party in the clubhouse at the campground.  A couple from the park served as DJs.  It seems line dancing is a favorite pastime of campers.  There would be two or three couples on the dance floor for couples dancing, but an entire herd of line dancers for those numbers.  We aren’t line dancers, nor much of any kind of dancers for that matter so we had a nice chat with a couple originally from Oregon, until they packed up and called it a night at about 9 pm.  As we had sat at their table when we came in seeing that they were the only ones at that table, we now were left with a table all to ourselves.  Rather that try to move to another table, we called it a night for the Escapees party.  Back at the motor home, we expected at 10pm Mountain Time to see the ball drop in Times Square.  Nope, apparently the local TV affiliates time delay the ball drop to coincide with midnight in the local time zone.  We headed off to the Arrowhead, which has become our local watering hole here in Congress.  They had advertised they would have snacks, which turned out to be cheese puff balls.  We were back in time to see the tape delay of Sonia Sotomayor launching the descent of the Waterford Crystal ball.

DSCN0476On New Year’s Day, it suddenly dawned on me that we hadn’t made any plans for a traditional New Year’s Day dinner.  So, off I went to the grocery to see what I could find at the last minute.  I scored the very last corned beef brisket they had in the store.  It was a fiver pounder, way too much for two people, but then we like leftovers for making Rueben sandwiches.  Pictured are our two huge platters of food, corned beef, carrots and onions in the background and cabbage and potatoes in the foreground along with bowls of juices and horseradish sauce.  The last minute plan came together quite well.