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Showing posts from February, 2008

Another "Hook Day"

Friday, February 29, 2008 -- Los Banos, CA

We got out of Pomona and the LA Megaplex without much trouble this morning. It's amazing, but all those motorhomes seemed to evaporate as the morning wore on without lines or hassle or raised tempers. I don't get it... you'd think an orderly planned departure would be more efficient and faster than leaving it to randomness and independence and chance. But it seemed like the exact opposite happened. On the way into the fairgrounds last Saturday and Sunday, there was order... go in this gate, turn left, follow the yellow line to row I-4, and follow directions from the parking team -- and it took two days to get everyone parked. But on the way out today we could leave whenever we wanted, we could go out of any gate we wanted, could turn onto any road in any direction and I didn't see anyone directing traffic. Things went faster and smoother without planned order. Could this be a concept to apply to my, or anyone's, life? Don&#…

He's An Old Hippie...

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Thursday, February 28, 2008 -- Pomona, CA Fairplex
The FMCA International Convention



FMCA is a large organization with enough people attending these rallies so they can sign some fairly big name entertainment. Last night we saw Peter Noone and the current version of Herman's Hermits. Tonight we were treated to The Bellamy Brothers. The shows are held at the grandstand of the horse racing track here at the Fairplex.

The Peter Noone show last night surprised me. I had low expectations but he put on a heck of a show. The music was good but his rapport with the audience and his self-deprecating humor and gags made it a fun time.

I had higher expectations from the Bellamy Brothers tonight and they came through with more than an hour of some of their biggest hits. The first song of the night was my theme song, "Old Hippie", and I was hooked. The cooler than normal evening did drive some not-so-hearty individuals back home early, but most of us stuck it out till the end.

Tonight'…

Rally News

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008 -- Pomona, CA
At the FMCA Rally

This morning started early as Dar headed off to an exercise class she though she'd try and I headed off to the association's free coffee and donut seminar. I've always heard that life is a balance, so I think I have a responsibility to take on whatever weight she looses.

The weather in Pomona has been spectacular -- even by Southern California standards. I talked with a native Californian today who said she's never seen the nearby San Gabriel Mountains so green. They're normally dry and brown and ready to catch on fire. A little rain, added at the right time, can turn a desert, or a dry hillside, into a garden of new life and color. The added treat is that they're snow-capped right now and there's been no smog. Seeing the mountains near LA at all is a cause for celebration, but seeing them green and in full bloom is almost reason to turn the kids out of school and dance in the streets. And we were there.

I …

Rally Kick-off

Monday, Feb. 25, 2008 -- Pomona CA Fairplex

I heard today that there were about 2500 motorhomes that had pre-registered for this convention. There were some no-shows so the best guess at this point is that something like 2200 showed up. Maybe we'll get an update later in the week.

This convention used to attract 4000 to 5000 units, but, according to some vendors I talked to today, FMCA is here in Pomona every year and it's just getting old for those close-by folks who are the core of the attendees. It's like going to the county fair every year -- after a while you've had enough corn dogs and want pizza or gyros, or drive down to Madison for a night on the town. I'm sure fuel prices and the weakening economy are having an effect as well. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens with this convention in future years.

How about this? The motorhome manufacturers that are displaying their latest and greatest models here at the show brought in a total of 850 units …

Fruit, Windmills, and Campers

Sunday, February 24, 2008 -- Pomona, CA
For the FMCA International Convention

Yesterday, Saturday, we got a good early start and were heading west out of Quartzsite on I-10 a little before 9am Mountain Time. Just a few miles down the road, where the Colorado River forms the border of Arizona and California, we drove into the Pacific Time Zone and it was suddenly only 8am. You gotta' love driving west.

I think we were both a little sad to be leaving the solitude and openness of the desert. Much of our time since leaving Rockport TX in January has been in sparsely populated and very open western desert areas. There's an attraction to all that wide-open space that I really grew to like. The contrast will be dramatic as we wheel into the Los Angeles Metroplex. We'd been hanging around in some of the least populated areas of this great country -- where the population density is 2 or 3 people per square mile. The Greater Los Angeles area has a population density of almost 8,000 per…

A Rainy Chore Day

Friday, February 22, 2008 -- Quartzsite, AZ.
Camping FREE in the Scaddan Wash short term area.

It was still dark when I awoke to the sound of rain falling on the roof. That soothing sound coupled with the early morning chill inside the camper is a sure-fire combination that'll keep me in bed until Dar has the furnace running and the coffee made. We have nothing scheduled today, other than preparing to hit the road tomorrow, Saturday, morning.

In Pomona, CA., at the Family Motor Coach Association Rally, we'll be dry-camping again (no hookups), so Dar's going to run over to a laundromat in Quartzsite and wash up a few duds. I'm planning to get caught up on a few administrative tasks and work on a writing project.

We've really enjoyed our time here in Quartzsite. It's hard to beat the weather during the winter. The only negatives I can come up with are two: first, we're separated so far from other campers that it's necessary to make a real effort to wander ove…

Palm Trees and a Full Lunar Eclipse

Wednesday, February 20,2008 -- Quartzsite, AZ.
Camping Free on BLM Land

A few more clouds than usual this morning and a little unsettled weather is expected later today. As the morning wore on the skies cleared some but remained a tad hazy most of the day. We decided to drive about 25 miles south of Quartzsite to investigate reported sightings of palm trees in this otherwise placid desert. You see, palm trees are not common in Arizona, except the ones dragged in from the Foreign Land of California and planted in those walled and gated areas around golf courses. If some real native palms exist, it's really quite a find.

The scene of the sightings was Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, a more than 650,000 acre preserve established in 1939 mostly for the protection of Desert Bighorn Sheep.

It's not easy to reach the location of the reported sightings -- a place called Palm Canyon. The drive south from Quartzsite on Arizona Highway 95 is easy enough, but after turning onto the road into t…

Quartzsite Entertainment

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 -- Quartzsite, AZ
Camping Free on BLM Land

It's time for a confession: I'm developing a severe case of the "lazys". Being here in Quartzsite, there's not exactly a lot to do. Sure, we sleep, deep luxurious sleep, until an hour after the sun rises and begins to naturally warm the camper. We savor hot coffee for longer than we should. We take long walks around BLM Land. We run into town to compare laundromats, truck stops, and dump stations. We had breakfast this morning at Sweet Darlene's, a local restaurant, arriving about 10:30am, but still in time for a big ol' Denver omelet from the breakfast menu. I, for one, am almost feeling guilty for being so unproductive, so lazy. Give me a little more time and I'm sure I'll get over it.

Today, we drove north to Parker, a small town of about 3,000 people on the Colorado River, which forms the border of Arizona and the foreign land of California. Parker has a casino and access to t…

Quartzsite and BLM Lands

Sunday, February 17, 2008 -- Quartzsite, AZ

Yesterday, Saturday, we woke to clearing skies at the Pinal County Fairgrounds in Casa Grande. The rain had stopped but the parking area was still muddy. Both Dar and I are getting the travel day routine down... each of us goes about our chores and we're ready to leave after an hour or so. Often, if possible, we hook up toady right where we're parked, before even starting the bus. But since it was so muddy and we needed to visit the dump station on the way out first, it'd be cleaner and easier to hook up in a big asphalt parking lot near the entrance to the fairgrounds. All chores were done, tire pressure adjusted, toady hooked up, and we were on the road by 10am.

Our objective was Quartzsite. This little town near the western border of Arizona has a population of about 3,000 year'round souls according to the US Census. Around Quartzsite are many thousands of acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which pe…

Gypsy Journal Rally Ends

Friday, February 15, 2008 -- Casa Grande, AZ.

We joined some neighbors last night, Thursday, in huddling for warmth around a circle on the leeward side of a camper to talk and enjoy a little wine. Another winter storm was getting geared up to attack places east and north of here, and colder weather, higher winds, and rain was predicted. RV'ing is a lot about being outside and often, especially in the evening, it's common to find groups, here and there, braving less-than-ideal weather at times, to be not-inside. To some degree I'm sure it has something to do with the size of the "indoors", but the fresh air, the camaraderie, and learning about new places and experiences is the real motivation.

As we huddled and talked, Dar and I finally found someone who's newer at fulltiming than we are. One couple had just sold their house in California last week. Their first official trip as fulltimers was to Casa Grande for the Gypsy Gathering Rally. Their real estate agent …

Rally Almost History

Thursday, February 14, 2008 -- Casa Grande, AZ.

Since the big holiday of Valentines Day is upon us, I suppose it'd be a good idea if I went out and got my sweetie something. But checking my list of immediate needs and wants (new sewer hose, temperature probe, a second fire extinguisher) I don't find anything that seems to feel right... that will hit the "sweet-spot" and put a smile on her face. If the gift's not right, bad things can happen. Ever hear of the Valentine's Day Massacre?

The rally is almost a "wrap". Only one day to go. One of the many people we've met here, Mike Fousie, is a professional photographer with a neat 360 degree camera. He took a photo of the rally that'll make you feel like you're here with us. Check it out at his website... www.lightcurve.com/ ... and go to his February 12th entry. Click on the photo and you'll be amazed.

T

Easy Tuesday

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 -- Casa Grande, AZ
The Gypsy Gathering Rally

A rather quiet day today. I attended a seminar on solar power, which included a lot of good discussion about electric power in general... batteries, generators, and ways to lower energy consumption overall. Dar found time to run into town for a little shopping after she attended seminars on personal safety and another about keeping the camper's exterior clean without water -- something of value since a lot of RV parks restrict the use of water for washing RVs.

The weather continues to be warm and I think today was the fourth consecutive day in the 70's. A cool-down is coming in the next day or two before it warms back up again. I don't like to talk about the weather here, considering so many people we know are enduring the worst winter in recorded history back in the Midwest. But I've really come to enjoy the cool, crisp mornings followed by warm, dry afternoons -- all under a bright sun all day long.…

RV People

Monday, February 11, 2008 -- Casa Grande, AZ
The Gypsy Gathering Rally

Those living the RV lifestyle don't have the persistent stable neighborhoods that folks with normal houses have. In our previous "vinyl siding and waferboard" lives, we knew those living around us: next door was Gary and Maureen, on the other side Keith and Mary. Across the street was Bill and Jill, Paul and Cindy, Paul and Claire, and Tony and Helen. We'd get together, play cards, party, borrow tools, and talk about the other neighbors. There were informal competitions for who could put the most fertilizer and water on the yard -- the winner got the greenest lawn on the street. There was a comfort... a stability... something to rely on.

So when one commits to a fulltime RV lifestyle for a period of time that consistent social "backstop" isn't there. Neighbors come and go... You come and go. The "neighborhood" is constantly changing. Yesterday, Phil and Jane were next door. To…

Pima Air Museum

February 8, 2008 -- Benson, AZ

I'm a sucker for big old flying hardware, especially World War II "warbirds", so any visit to the Tucson area wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Pima Air Museum. Pima has one of the better collections of old military aircraft that I've seen. We stopped by for a couple hours a few days ago and spent most of that time walking around the outside exhibits under the warm Arizona sun.

I'm not sure if I'm right about this but I have a suspicion the location of the Pima Air Museum -- adjacent to Davis Monthan Air Force Base right next door -- is more than just a coincidence. You may remember that Davis Monthan is the place where obsolete and surplus military aircraft are sealed up and stored in large desert parking lots. Despite the current military activity in Afganistan and Iraq, there are fields full of C-130's, A-10's, C-141's, F-14's, and many many others. Millions and billions of dollars worth of high-tec…

Kartchner Caverns State Park

February 6, 2008 -- Benson, AZ

A couple days ago we visited Kartchner Caverns State Park. We don't have much experience with caves and caverns so this stop was especially interesting for us.

This place was discovered by a couple amateur cavers in 1974. For the ensuing four years they explored and cataloged the extent of their find in complete privacy. In 1978, they told the family that owned the land and together they agreed it must be preserved and kept as natural and pristine as possible. Other caves and caverns around the country had been trashed by the time experts appreciated what they had, and no one wanted this to happen here. As far as they could find, no human had stepped foot in the caverns before they were discovered. It was totally virgin and unbelievably beautiful.

It took 10 more years of secret negotiations with Arizona State Park officials and legislators to make the park a reality. In 1988 it officially became Kartchner Caverns State Park and the public was told of t…

Wintery Arizona

February 5, 2008 -- Benson, AZ

Look, I know that it's not always warm in Arizona. I know the sun doesn't shine every day. I've been around long enough to learn weather can be extreme and unpredictable at times, wherever you are. But it's still a bit of a shock to wake to snow on the ground in southern Arizona! And that, my friends, is exactly what we found when we pulled open the blinds this morning.

On our way down to Green Valley for a family visit yesterday, this large, dark, angry-looking cloud, which stretched from the distant southwest to as far as we could see to the northeast, was rolling it's way toward us as we drove west on I-10. It looked like something from a science-fiction film. The instant we collided with it, the outdoor temp on my car thermometer dropped 10 degrees. Every imaginable kind of precipitation fell in the next few minutes... rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, ice pellets... we had it all. The wind was man-handling the little Blazer, but 80…

Across the Great Southwest

February 2, 2008 -- Benson, AZ

My last post had us blowing into Deming, NM. As morning broke the next day, the 31st of January, the wind had subsided, was predicted to remain low the rest of the day, and had turned around so it was now coming out of the east -- a tailwind as we drive west! Since we already had everything pretty much in travel mode it was easy to make the decision to move on to Arizona. So with Dar behind the wheel we got back on the road and continued our trek westward.

Both we and the bus enjoyed the tailwind. The bus was getting over 8mpg and running smoothly, the roads were good, and the sun at our back illuminated the mountains ahead of us on this bright clear day.

By a little after noon, we'd arrived at Escapees Saguaro Coop Park in Benson, AZ. This park, like all other Escapees parks, doesn't take reservations. Arrivals are handled on a first come, first served basis. This is a very popular park and it can be tough to get in, but we arrived early and they h…