Monday, October 22, 2007

Ready to Winterize

        On our drive from Albuquerque, NM, to Pueblo, CO, today, we spotted nearly 300 pronghorn.  Yesterday it snowed along much of this route, so maybe they were very hungry.  I think the only time we saw that many before was driving on I-25 across Wyoming from South Dakota to Colorado.  We really enjoyed the day.


        We spent the last three nights at the Isleta Casino and Resort RV Park on the Isleta Indian Reservation just south of Albuquerque.  This is the second reservation RV park we have stayed in.  Last year we went to Turning Stone in New York.  Both were excellent places to stop.  At Isleta there was a large grass area at each site—unusual for Arizona or New Mexico.  The sites were plenty long and very wide.  In New York we found probably one of the nicest parks we have ever stayed in.  Both places had spotless restrooms and large, well-equipped laundry rooms.  Casinos are not our idea of recreation and I don't approve of legalized gambling.  But, since it is a fact a life, it is good to see reservation Native Americans profiting from it, building schools and other needed facilities.  And we enjoy their facilities when out in our RV.


        We spent three nights at Isleta because there was a high-wind warning out for Saturday and Sunday.  Add to that a snow storm over the higher elevations on I-25 near the New Mexico-Colorado border, and we decided we would wait a couple of days to move into Colorado and winterize the rig.  Today we were treated to great views of the snow-covered Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Christos, as well as a snow-clad Pikes Peak.  It was a beautiful drive.  And we didn't have to worry about being blown over or slipping and sliding.


        Tomorrow morning we will winterize the water system, then drive back to the stick house, unload eight months of belonging from the RV to the house, and park the rig for several months.  It is both sad and happy—the travels are ending, but we will spend time with family and friends.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Arizona Hikes

We hiked two interesting trails in Arizona, after we left the Grand Canyon.  While we were in Flagstaff, we visited the Sunset Volcano National Monument.  During the last few years, we have learned that National Parks, National Monuments and National Historic Sites are always worth our time, even if, at first, we don't think we are interested.  We had been to the Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico, but this was even more interesting and informative.  The hiking trail led us through the Bonita Lava Flow of a volcano that erupted only about 900 years ago.  We learned about squeeze-ups, spatter cones, caves and why lava can be either black or red.  It was fascinating. 


        While in Tucson, we hiked the Esperanza Trail in the west section of Saguaro National Park.  Most of our experience is with conifer forests, but here we saw the cactus forest.  The countryside has a more diverse group of cactus and other plants than we had seen as we drove south through Phoenix. It must be beautiful in the Sonoran Desert (which include Saguaro NP), in the spring when everything blooms. 


        Now we are on our way back to the stick house in Centennial.  We will have been away for almost eight months this trip.  We are so content in our 200+ square feet of space in the RV, we wonder why we need 1800 square feet plus a basement and garage.  We do need to be with family and see friends, as well as get our annual physical exams and other such things.  And it is getting colder in much of the country.  We don't like RVing when the temperature dips into the 20 and 30s outside. 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Arizona—when I think of the state, I think of warm weather, sunshine, cactus.  But our first seven days in the state were spent in or near the mountains, at 8,000 ft and above at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then in Flagstaff, where we saw mountains and Ponderosa Pines all around.  The RV park in Flagstaff was closing on October 15 and that also was the last day the North Rim campground would be open.  Obviously, we weren't in the area where snowbirds spend the winter.


        Then we drove to Mesa, an eastern suburb of Phoenix.  At the Mesa Regal RV Park we found a citrus tree at every site—the oranges and grapefruit weren't ready to pick, but if we wanted to stay for a couple of months, we could have picked all the fruit off the tree at our site.  The park had 2005 spaces for RVs and park models—small manufactured homes that can be towed behind a trailer or permanently attached to city utilities.  Summer is just ending, so many snowbirds have not arrived and the park was less than half full.


        The weather was delightful—cool mornings so we could get in our run.  Then we had cool evenings to sit out on the patio or stroll around the park.  The sunsets remind me of many western movies and photographs.  And we didn't encounter bugs, at least right now.


        But we didn't have a fun stay in Phoenix.  The first time I opened the refrigerator, there was no light inside.  That meant it wasn't working—just like in late August at Kodachrome in Utah.  John installed a new fuse and it started again.  About bedtime, I opened the door and the light was out again.  When John tried to install a new fuse, it blew again.  We knew that meant another day or two or struggling to keep the food cold.  But, at least we were in a city, rather than 260 miles from any RV repair facility.  Since the winter season hasn't arrived, several of the mobile RV services weren't open.  It took us half a day on Wednesday to arrange for someone to come on Thursday.  When he arrived, Gene found that some repair work done under a recall had caused a wire to rub against a piece of metal.  That finally caused a short.  We hadn't really needed the circuit board we replaced in August.  He was able to repair the problem, as well as show us how to make the refrigerator cool down about 10 degrees more than it had been doing.


        About two months ago John noticed something in the Rv's suspension appeared to be broken, but he didn't know whether or not it was a problem.  Two men he asked said they didn't think we needed to worry about it. Gene said he didn't know if it was a problem, but suggested we talk to the service manager at RV Traders, an RV sales lot in town. The manager said we should take it to a local welding shop for repair.  We made an appointment for 7:30 the following morning and in two hours had spring shackles, bolts and bushings replaced and repaired.  The tires which had been two inches apart were now about five inches apart.  And when we drove to Tucson two days later, we found the rear end bounce had returned, moving cookbooks and items in the rear cabinets around.  How long had the shackles been broken?  Over a year, at least.


        Saturday we finally had some fun, visiting the Arizona State Fair.  Then we were off to Tucson on Sunday.


        We have found we enjoy the weather in this part of Arizona.  The fall and winter here would be nice enough we can be outside almost every day, without bundling up in heavy coats.  We expect to spend some time as snowbirds in the years to come.  Something we never thought we would do.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's a Grand Canyon

September 30 we finished our time at Kodachrome Basin State Park. From there we went to Kanab, a small town on the Utah-Arizona boarder where many movies have been filmed—think westerns, for example. For us, the attraction was that they have three—count them, three—grocery stores and a nice RV park. It was a one night stop to provision for four days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive from Kanab to the Grand Canyon was amazing. We left Color Country—SW Utah with its sculpted colored rocks—and immediately entered flat land with only low-growing sage brush.

As our altitude increased, there were some low dark green bushes. We entered the Kaibab forest, where we commented that it certainly wasn't like the forests we are used to in Colorado. All around us we saw only short trees, called the pygmy forest—pinion pine and maybe juniper. Then, all of a sudden, huge ponderosa pines lined the road.

It is October and wherever there was a sprinkling of aspen, there was a spot of bright yellow. The drive over the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park was a spectacular mix of green needles and yellow leaves. This is a wonderful place in the mountains. We're over 8,000 feet and they receive 26 inches of moisture a year here—providing the moisture the ponderosa's need..

After we set up our trailer, we realized we were about 100 yards from an overlook on part of the Grand Canyon. It is called the Transept Canyon. We walked the 1.25 mile trail along the canyon to the Grand Canyon Lodge and Visitor Center. The lodge is rustic and beautiful with a drop-dead view of the Grand Canyon.

The next day, we were up early and left the RV at about 6:15 am to watch the sunrise at Bright Angel Point, a viewpoint south of the lodge. It was cold and breezy as we joined 10-20 other visitors to watch the sun come up. Sunrise over the canyon isn't all that special. And we discovered pollution makes viewing the canyon somewhat difficult. After taking maybe 150 photos, we had breakfast at the lodge; we returned to the RV and prepared for a day of photography.

The sky was clear and a deep blue, the aspen a deep shade of gold, with red and orange mixed in. Visiting Point Imperial, Cape Royal and numerous overlooks in between, we captured umpteen views of the canyon. While bemoaning the haze and pollution, there is no denying the Grand Canyon is still one of the premier natural wonders of the world. And we were there at perhaps the most beautiful time of the year, with all the fall color.

The following day we awoke to cloudy skies and wind. How grateful we were for all the photo opportunities of the day before. Leaf peepers got a real treat on the Kaibab Plateau this week. We decided to take the day off and relaxed in the RV. It was such a peaceful day.

By Friday the weather report included a high wind warning, especially hazardous to high profile vehicles. We were glad it wasn't a travel day. We didn't have to leave till Saturday. Under partly cloudy skies, we hiked the Transept Trail to the lodge, then went on to Bright Angel point, taking many photos along the way. The light on the Canyon was different from earlier in the week and the picture taking rewarding.

Our hike took us through the Ponderosa Pine forest and we worried some about the danger of trees coming down in the high wind. Sustained winds of 25-35 mph were predicted, with gusts from 35 to 57 mpg. We made it back to the RV safely and hadn't noticed any really bad wind gusts. But as I prepared dinner, the wind direction changed and it was much noisier. All of a sudden, we saw that a dead tree across the road had broken about 3 feet above the ground and fallen. The 3-foot diameter downed tree wasn't more than 20 feet from a tent that had just been erected. What a scary event for those campers. How fortunate they hadn't placed their tent about 20 feet further east!

We have loved our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This part of the National Park is much less crowded than the South Rim. We are here at the end of the season—the Lodge, campground and stores all close after October 15. But right now everything is fully booked. Soon the road will be closed by snow till about May 2008. October at 8000 feet is beautiful and very iffy where the weather is concerned. We are boon docking here and look forward to lower altitudes and full hookups in Flagstaff.

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