Sunday, March 30, 2014

A New First For Us

100_9202We do like our TV.  We have this wonderful contraption on top of our motor home.  You stop for the night, hit one button on this little box and magically the Winegard satellite dish raises up and finds the signals from the Directv satellites automatically.  In less than five minutes from pushing that button, we are watching any program we want.

But there can be one little problem.  On some occasions, the signal from the satellites can be blocked from the dish -- by trees or some other obstructions.  Back in the Denver area last year, we tried everything to get our automatic satellite dish to work.  We pulled the motor home as far forward on the space as we possibly could.  Gary did some midnight tree branch pruning. But no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get past the obstructions and had to go three weeks without our satellite television.

After that episode, Gary decided we needed a backup plan, or backup satellite dish at least.  Through some Craigslist purchases, we became the proud owners of as 18 inch round dish and a tripod.  Although we bought the stuff, we haven’t had a need to use it until this stop in Vegas.  As we mentioned in our last blog, we have some shade trees this stay, but those very shade trees are preventing our automatic satellite dish from being able to lock on to the satellite signals.

DSCN0877So, it was time for Gary to break out our back up dish and see if we could make it work.  After watching a couple of YouTube videos on dish alignment and satellite box setup, off he went to aim it generally toward the satellites about 20 miles into the sky.  After setting up the dish on the tripod and doing some preliminary aiming, he came in and switched out the cables in the back of the satellite box.  After running a setup on the box for the different dish, the most amazing thing happened.  At the end of the setup, we had picture on the television.  Without any fine tuning whatsoever, he had somehow aligned our backup dish to the satellite signal and we had picture.  What are the odds?  With that kind of luck, off he headed to the casinos.  But somehow his satellite aiming luck wasn’t an omen of gambling riches to come, but it is nice that we have satellite signal for our stay here in Vegas.

Guess Where We Are -- Again

DSCN0855So let’s see, we moved north from Tucson to Phoenix and then northwest to Lake Havasu followed by another northerly move to Kingman.  So obviously we are starting our northward migration.  And what is north of Kingman.  Well, enough of this huge suspense.  As if if isn’t obvious, we are back in Las Vegas.

DSCN0847We took a bit of a longer way from Kingman to Las Vegas, passing through Laughlin, Nevada.  We didn’t go that way to stop at any of the Laughlin casinos, but rather we wanted to test further the repairs that had been made on our cooling fan system back at the shop in Tucson.  There is about a 3,000 foot drop down to the Colorado River and an equal climb back up the other side.  The new fan controller worked liked a charm and we now have confidence in it for our tour this year of Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia  and back South.

We are also back at the RV Park of the Main Street Station Casino where we stayed in September and October.  We gave up the 50 amp electrical service we had the last time for 30 amp service this time but gained the shade of some trees in the deal and moved just a bit farther away from the freeway.  It seems to be a good trade as it very likely won’t be necessary to run two ACs.

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Gary already has won one small poker tournament and of course we have made our way back to the 777 Brewery at Main Street Station.  Ahhhhh Vegas.

Friday, March 28, 2014

We Have Water!

IMG_0581No, we did not not have a problem with the water system of our motor home.  We have water in the form of a spring on the raw land that we own in Kingman. Arizona.  After we left Lake Havasu City, we moved just over an hour north to Kingman for a few days.  We reported back in November on our visit to the “ranch” on our way south into Arizona.  But at that time the battery on our GPS was no longer holding a charge and we couldn’t use it outside of the car and couldn’t use it to try to locate the spring that at least used to be on the property.  We had a satellite image that suggested the tanks related to the spring were still there at least and we had the coordinates of those tanks, but without a GPS we had been unable to find them.  We had seen some old tanks along the side of a road leading back into the property and we were afraid that they were the tanks from our property  which had been removed as perhaps the spring no longer functioned.  (There is cattle ranching all through the old master ranch from which we bought the property.)

IMG_0579We had chosen a realtor to list our property for sale based on the fact that she and her husband own a remote ranch property with a rustic cabin in the general vicinity of our property.  When we called her to talk about the listing, she volunteered to drive us back to continue our quest to try to find the spring.  So we did not have to rent a pickup truck this time.

 

IMG_0569With our new GPS, we were able to locate the tanks and the first one we came upon was full of water.  We traced the water line up to a spot where it came up out of the ground and found the other older no-longer-used tank nearby as well.

We felt it would be important to be able to advertise in the real estate listing that there is a working spring, but we couldn’t just rely on Gary’s visit of 35 years ago to that spring to be make that claim.  But now we know the spring is there and working.  Just think, when California breaks off from an earthquake and falls into the ocean, this could be your future Pacific beachfront property.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

London Bridge

20140319_140050The story of how London Bridge wound up in Lake Havasu City is a very interesting one.  So let’s get on with it.

It all started with a guy named Robert McCulloch.  That is the McCulloch of McCulloch chain saws.  He had some family money and an engineering degree.  His real desire was to make boat motors but it was his lightweight chain saws that brought him his fame and fortune.  But while he was still dabbling in boat motors, he thought he needed a place to test them so he bought some lakefront acreage along Lake Havasu for testing of his motors.

In that era, the 1960s, there was almost nothing in that area.  It was hot, rugged, and desolate.  The Air Air Corps had a little rest camp in that area and that is the property that McCulloch purchased.  He came to like the area and eventually bought about 25 square miles of land in the area, paying about 75 dollars an acre.

He tried to create development in the area, but it was a hard sell when there wasn’t even a decent road into the area.  McCulloch built a factory there in part to foster growth, but he really needed something that would attract the attention of the world.

About that time, the city of London had an old bridge over the Thames River that was sinking and decaying and needed to be replaced.  Rather that tearing it down, they auctioned it off and McCulloch was the winning bidder at $2.4 million.  He had the bridge taken apart block by block with each block being numbered for reassembly.  The blocks where shipped through the Panama Canal and to the Port of Long Beach from where they were trucked to Lake Havasu.  There wasn’t really any part of the lake where the bridge could be used so McCulloch cut a mile long canal that turned a peninsula into an island and created the body of water for his bridge to traverse.

Lake Havasu was still a very remote city and so McCulloch flew in most of his prospective purchasers of lots, built a hotel for them to stay in, and employed a staff of realtors who drove the prospects around in white Jeeps.

20140319_141051Today, Lake Havasu City has a permanent population of around 60,000 and who knows how many for the Winter months.  It is quite a modern town as it has only a short history.

\'We really liked the town.  We were able to take a boat ride on the Lake in the form of a $2 round trip ferry to an Indian casino on the other side in California. And we resisted the temptation to gamble, just getting right back on the ferry for the return trip.  

20140317_152703Fortunately, we arrived before the peak of the Spring Break crowd arrived; it is a popular Spring Break destination.  We did catch a bit of the early action in a park across the canal.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Phoenix to Lake Havasu

20140312_162811Near the end of our stay in Phoenix we visited a steakhouse called Pinnacle Peak Patio in North Scottsdale.  They have a tradition as a very casual establishment.  Reportedly, many years ago they told a well-dressed customer to remove his tie.  When the customer didn’t the owner took out a butcher knife and cut off his tie and mounted it to the ceiling of the restaurant.  Since then, they claim to have cut off a million ties with many of them also mounted to the ceiling.  We think the claim of a million ties is more than a bit of an exaggeration but they sure do have a lot of ties mounted to the ceiling.

We also caught a glimpse of the University of Phoenix Stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play football.  It will be the home of the Super Bowl next January. 

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We only planned to spend a week in Phoenix then we got a call from the glass shop where we had two side windows repaired in December.  The new inner seals were doing fine,but the outer seals seemed to be shrinking and we wanted them looked at.  They found a time for us the day we were otherwise leaving Phoenix.  They thought the old outer seals looked fine when they worked on the windows and hadn’t replaced them.  But after they had torn the windows apart and put them back together the outer seals then deteriorated.  To replace them, they had to pull the two windows from the motor home a second time and take the windows apart again.  But they did all that work free of charge.  Since we had been there in December, another window had developed creeping seals so we had that window repaired as well.  By the time they finished all this work, it was too late to head out of town so we just camped in their lot with their 50amp hookup.

DSCN0783As we watched a little TV, we saw the local weather forecast.  For Saturday, the prediction was for winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 with blowing dust.  No way were we going to head out in those conditions so we stayed another night of “free camping” in the lot of the glass shop.

The guy who sealed up our windows noticed a few other areas on the motor home that were in need of some more sealant so we had him come over on Saturday and do that work.

On Thursday, we had washed the motor home.  We noticed that the water left all kinds of water spots.  I took a towel and wiped it down and in that light it looked ok.  But when we saw it in different light at the glass shop, it seemed that my toweling had just spread the hard water spots around as a smeary film.  As we had an extra day, we took care of the smear problem by wetting clean microfiber cloths with the distilled water we carry for the batteries.  We wiped down fiberglass and voila, no more hard water spots.  But a wash, a wipe, and a wipe is a lot of work to have a clean looking motor home.

DSCN0782-001Sunday, the winds were low so we made the 200 mile trek to Lake Havasu.  At a rest stop we saw this creative bus conversion. 

We traveled through the town of Quartzsite again.  There were still desert campers but not nearly the number that there had been at the time of the “Big Tent”.  Gary asked me if I wanted to stop at the book store with the naked owner/operator?  I passed on that opportunity.  When we passed the RV dealer lot where we went for the free pancake breakfasts we were very surprised – there were no RVs.  Even though there are buildings, a paved lot, and a permanent sign, the dealership is apparently just a temporary one for the peak of the desert camping season.

The final leg of the trip paralleling the Colorado River and then Lake Havasu through the rugged terrain of the river’s basin was stunning.  By about 2pm we were set up in our campsite in its 85 degree blue sky and its distant vista of Lake Havasu.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Cactus League

DSCN0753In our full-timing travels we now have hit the preseason baseball ‘bifecta’ -- we have seen Spring Training games in both the Grapefruit League in Florida and now in the Cactus League here in Arizona.

On Monday we headed over to Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix for a game between the “visiting” Chicago White Sox and the “home” Milwaukee Brewers, an interleague rivalry of tremendous proportions among two of the three teams occupying space near the southwestern shoreline of Lake Michigan (the Chicago Cubs being the third).

DSCN0760As our hometown Detroit Tigers are training in Florida, we had to choose from those teams wintering in Arizona.  We chose the White Sox as they are a divisional competitor of the Tigers.  We saw the White Sox’s ace, Chris Sale, start the game and pitch as if he was in midseason form.  That wasn’t a good sign for our Tigers.  And that Adam Dunn who plays first base for the White Sox is just a behemoth of a guy.

It was an amazing weather day for baseball – thoroughly sunny with temperatures in the low 80’s.  Fortunately we had seats in the shade.  It was a pretty low energy affair.  The ballpark’s announcer didn’t even introduce the batters as they came to the plate.  The only between-innings activity was a race among various forms of sausages.  They were probably also in Spring Training as the Milwaukee Brewers are reported to feature the best sausage dogs in all of baseball.

DSCN0758The Brewers rallied from three runs down in the bottom of the eight and tied the game only to be unable to hold the White Sox in check.  The Sox scored three in the top of the ninth to take the victory 6-3.  It was a bit tough getting really into the game as we were not fans of either team.  But it was a great warm up for the regular season to be at the game singing, “Take Me Out To The Ballpark…..” during the seventh-inning stretch.  The Tigers will open at home in Detroit on March 31.  Given the weather of the North this year, we wonder if the ground will still be frozen and if it will snow during that first game.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Day In Scottsdale

20140308_152019We headed over to Scottsdale to do something that neither one of us had ever done – a true first – we went to have a piece of sports memorabilia professionally authenticated.  Huh?  If you have been following our blog, you might remember that back in Las Vegas in October of last year Gary won a football autographed by hall of famer Marshall Faulk in a raffle at the Main Street Station Casino.  We have no interest in it so we want to try to sell it.  We figured our chances of a sale would be better if we had it professionally authenticated.  A sports memorabilia store in Las Vegas gave us a couple recommendations for authenticators and explained that our cheapest route to an authentication would be at a “show” somewhere in our travels so that we could avoid to-and-from shipping and that the fee at a show was generally lower as well.  It just so happened one of the authentication companies was in Scottsdale for a Saturday afternoon of offering authentication services at a Scottsdale hotel, largely because a lot of people are in town with their baseball memorabilia as it is MLB spring training season here in the Phoenix area.

IMG_0322We walked up to the table in the hotel conference room.  There were a bank of guys on computers at the back of the room and they are examining things from what was quite a stack of stuff on the side walls of the room.  A representative of JSA Sports Authenticators greeted us. He saw what we had, heard our story, and explained that their most basic service is a simple pass/fail authentication performed by the unanimous agreement from their panel of experts and it is $20 up front with no refund of any kind if it isn’t authentic.  We agreed and he gave us a receipt and told us to come back in about an hour.

When we returned, they huddled for a bit and said they were still awaiting some additional information and that it would be a few more minutes.  That sure didn’t sound good.  We had been gone for nearly two hours and their panel of experts had been unable to authenticate the football?  And who knew what “additional information” they were awaiting.  So, we cooled our heels in the hotel lobby for awhile and then went back to the room.  We walked in and some guy was having a heated conversation with our rep.  It seemed like they had not authenticated the Muhammad Ali signature on some piece of memorabilia he brought in.  And they were explaining to the guy that they were absolutely certain it was not Ali’s signature over the now loud protestations of the owner.  And then he wanted his money back even though he bought the same no refund service we chose.  JSA explained,”you hired us to perform a service and we performed it.  We are sorry it is not Ali’s signature, but that is what you paid us to determine.”  Finally the guy grabbed his stuff and stormed out the door.

20140308_152027At this point Gary meekly asked if our Marshall Faulk football was ready.  The rep stepped to the back table, huddled with the team a bit, and set the football on the table in front of us and said, “your football is 100% authentic.  The certificate of authenticity is in the box and we have stamped a number on the ball matching the number on the certificate.”  Hallelujah, our autographed football is authentic.

DSCN0751As I am certain that one way or another Gary is going to sell this ball, it was time for me to take a little shopping trip.  We went to Old Town Scottsdale, an area of art galleries, jewelry shops, and Western and Mexican goodies.  I purchased a couple small pieces of turquoise – one was a little pendant of Kokopelli and the other was a set of earrings.  Hopefully the football will be enough to cover them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Greasewood Flat

IMG_0530After we rolled into Phoenix and set up camp, we recalled that Gary’s high school classmate who we had visited here back in January said he played in a band on the weekends at some place called Greasewood Flat.  We looked it up and sure enough that band was on the schedule so over to the Scottsdale area we went.

 

IMG_0534We didn’t know quite what to expect from a place called Greasewood Flat.  In its advertising it says it was voted one of the “oldest, quirkiest and most classic bars in America”.  http://greasewoodflat.net/

 

 

 

IMG_0535It seems back in 1955 a Scottsdale resident bought a 45-acre parcel of ranch land out of a much larger ranch.  The property included a couple of buildings, one of which became a cafĂ© for awhile.  They decided to slow down a bit so they refurbished the bunkhouse, bought some picnic tables, built an outdoor dance floor as a little party place away from the bustle of downtown Scottsdale.   The outdoor dance hall has been in operation since 1975.  Oh, the name comes from the greasewood shrub which is native to the area.

We watched and listened as Steve and his band played three sets of music as people danced, ate and drank at the picnic tables, warmed by the oil drum stoves, and enjoyed the Arizona night sky.  And we found another video of his guitar playing (lead guitar player in the blue shirt): 

IMG_0537-001The land that the dance hall sits on was sold to settle the estate taxes of the owner.  The outdoor dance hall now is operating on a one-year lease.  Apparently the upscale development that has taken place in the immediate surrounding area has led to the neighbors now wanting Greasewood Flat closed.  From what we saw, that would be a major shame.  We signed the petition in support of it remaining open.  If they have to, maybe they can draw on the “wallpaper” in the old bunkhouse.

Click on any of the pictures to make them larger.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Too Much Free Camping In Tucson

One of our main missions for the Tucson area was to have a whole bunch of annual maintenance and repairs done at a shop there.  The brand of motor home that we own, Country Coach, is no longer made so there are no dealers who sell them.  Although some of the the dealers who used to sell them still work on them, then tend to favor their current customers and the brands they have sold them.  We tend to seek out independent service shops not tied to a dealership and especially those with people who have expertise with Country Coaches.  Such places do exist and they are very good but they are a bit few and far between.

DSCN0750There is one very good such place with an outstanding reputation in Tucson – Premier Motor Coach Services.  One of the owners was a Country Coach field service representative and has great recommendations from the ownership base.  We called about a month in advance for an appointment and they had to scramble a bit to work us into the schedule.  When we arrived, we found that they were somewhat behind schedule.  Further, although we had sent them our list, it didn’t seem they had fully grasped the extent of our list until we got there – our motor home is 12 years old now and needs its TLC.  So it was clear that it was going to take awhile and that we were going to have to be patient. 

The first day, a week ago Thursday, was largely the process of converting our list into a work order.  The second day,  they started on some of the interior items.  But then it was the weekend so we just continued to live in the motor home in their lot.  They performed more interior work on Monday which largely finished that list.  Unfortunately on Tuesday all the chassis service bays were all still busy and stayed that way.  Wednesday saw us rolled into a service bay and a number of items knocked off the list.  Thursday they completed the chassis list and we settled up the bill, but it was too late to head out to somewhere else.

On Friday morning we left the service shop.  We had spent 11 nights in Tucson and 8 of them had been in the lot of the service shop.  We have learned that when you are in the service shop you stay at the service shop in case questions about the work come up as they always do. Our schedule didn’t allow us to spend more time in Tucson, so we rolled north to our next destination of Phoenix.

We got some very important service work completed.  It was performed very professionally and efficiently.  We were glad they were able to work us in even if the work had to stretch out over several days.  And of course the camping is “free” while you are having all this service work done.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bloggers And A Local Delicacy

 

20140304_192613Last night we met up with Jim, of the Jim and Bev Blog http://jimandbev.blogspot.com/.  So, you might well ask why we didn’t meet up with Bev as well.  Bev had traveled to the deep freeze of the Midwest to visit her mother so we only met half of this dynamic duo.  As Jim described it, “we made him put on some clean underwear and get out of the motor home” while he was batching it in Bev’s absence.

We have been following their blog for several months.  We don’t remember exactly what caused us to start following it, but we did find out they had a fondness for craft beers, one of our passions.  They had given us tips on the best places for craft beer in Salt Lake City, their home before full timing.

We met at the Barrio Brewing Company here in Tucson and had a lot of interesting conversation over a few IPAs.  We had read there was a food delicacy of this region and we saw it on the menu at Barrio and had to give it a try – the Sonoran hot dog.  Here is the description taken directly from their menu and a picture of this delicacy as well:

The Sonoran Dog

20140304_185808A Tucson classic. Wrapped in bacon then grilled and topped with tender pinto beans, grilled onions, diced tomato, a dab of mustard, and chipotle mayo. Served with a roasted hot yellow pepper upon request.

Typically when you see beans on a hot dog you think you are going to be biting into a spicy chili.  Not on this dog – just as it says in the description, there are tender pinto beans – and lots of them – but no chili.  We still prefer the Detroit Coney Dog – which has the chili and without the beans, but we are always game for our local delicacies.

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In our travels we find the occasional unique bathroom as well.  Another one of the breweries in Tucson has one of these with its sink mounted into beer keg and a beer tap as the faucet.  At least with the single handle, there is no illusion that there will be any hot water.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Rant About Golf Carts in RV Parks

IMG_0512Our RV Park in Yuma was built around a golf course.  There were a ton of golf carts throughout the park.  There were golf cars everywhere.  This was not the first park where there had been a plethora of golf carts.  At the big RV Parks in Myrtle Beach (some of these are 1,000+ site places), they do a booming business renting golf carts even though they don’t have on site golf courses.  They were renting in Myrtle Beach for the same amount as the daily rent of a site which in peak summer season can be $60 or more a day – for a golf cart.  You don’t see golf carts hardly at all in smaller parks or public campgrounds.  They tend to be a phenomenon of the larger parks and particularly the snowbird parks.

So with that background, let the rant begin.  WE HATE THEM.  Now you might say it is a bit hard for us to be unbiased as we have never owned one and aren’t going to rent one (except maybe for actual intended use on the golf course), but as observers of them we are not happy campers.  What are the issues?  Well, once people have purchased or rented them, they never go anywhere without them.  Need to visit the next door neighbor, jump in the golf cart.  The mail room – take the golf cart.  To the activity center for exercise class, yep, drive the golf cart to and from exercise.  Twenty yards down to the start of the beach, load up the cart.  And it is as if all the standard rules of the road do not apply to them.  The Yuma park was all one-way streets.  That didn’t phase the golf carts in the least.  And if you met one going the wrong way while you were in your car driving the right way it was as if the larger vehicle going the correct way was supposed to move out the way.  The speed limit was 15mph; that also didn’t seem to apply to these souped-up models.  Cars give pedestrians the right of way, many golf carts don’t including no right of way for bicycles either.  And the rule that only vehicle-licensed drivers can operate them – it seems that kids as young as three are at the wheels (only a slight exaggeration). And, we have noted that legally blind people also drive golf carts – as if it is ok for them to drive as long as they have a sign posted on the cart that they are a blind driver!
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And worst of all, they tend to scare our beloved Alley cat when she is out for one of her walks or rides.    Now that we can’t have!
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