Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tombstone Arizona

What a fun day we had today! From the I-10 RV Park in Benson (which accepts Passport America 50% discounts) we visited Tombstone and Bisbee, two historic towns south of here. The I-10 park is small (only 88 sites and one park model), without all the fancy amenities of many Arizona snowbird destinations. But the people here, both in the office and campers, are very friendly. As we walked around in the evening, many people said hello. We want to come south in future winters to enjoy the weather. But we don't want the pressure of having to participate in a lot of activities. We noticed last night that people were sitting out in their own sites, not gathering in large groups. That is the way we would like to live.

Tombstone is famous for the gunfight at the OK Corral and Boothill Cemetery. Since we are from Colorado, we are familiar with historic western towns and cowboy tourist attractions. Sadly, Colorado has lost many of its historic towns to gambling casinos. Tombstone is well run, with many people in costumes and few t-shirt shops. They do charge for visits to most historic sites, but sightseeing tours are done in an old trolley and in horse-drawn stagecoaches and other wagons. Boothill Cemetery gives insight into the causes of death in the frontier 1880s—shooting, leprosy, suicide, murder, scarlet fever, pneumonia. It certainly was a hard life.

Historic Bisbee is amazing, built on the sides of a steep canyon with business buildings and housing climbing the hills at precarious angles. Who would want to carry their groceries up these steps? We enjoyed a good lunch at the Winchester Restaurant in the Copper Queen Hotel. We skipped the many art galleries and artist boutiques, but did drive up to see the open-pit copper mine. Since we didn't go to the copper mining museum, I don't know how the land will be restored when they finish mining.

Over the past couple of years, we have become big fans of the J. A. Jance mystery novels featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady of Cochise County, Arizona. That is the main reason we wanted to visit Bisbee, which is in Cochise. We felt like we already knew the area. I'm not sure we did, but we will have some new insight when we read the next novel in the series.

I am most at home in the mountains. My second love is probably the sea coast. During our time last year in southern Utah and Arizona, I have begun to have an appreciation of the desert. This week I am seeing trees and bushes begin to turn green, contrasting with the bright almost yellow of the dry grass and the soft pink of the mountains. The scenery is growing on me

As we drove north from Tucson to Denver in October, we saw large numbers of snowbirds coming south in their RVs for the winter. We must have spent most of the snowbird season in Denver, because now even greater numbers of RVs are headed north. We almost celebrate when we see one going our direction. Right now the weather here is comfortable. Tucson has been about 10 degrees above normal this week, with highs in the mid-80s, where the average is in the mid-70s. Either is very comfortable. But soon, the highs will be in the 90s and above. So most snowbirds are headed home, even though there has been snow up north this week.

This has been the first day we felt free to sightsee and enjoy living on the road. Until now we have been pushing to move south and getting the trailer fixed up and organized. Today is what this lifestyle is all about!

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Snow at Chatfield State Park

What a day! It is truly springtime in the Rockies. As we returned from the Easter Vigil worship last night, a storm front was moving through, leaving us with about two inches of snow. The low temperature at our trailer this morning was 18. As we drove out to have breakfast with our son and his wife and two children, we crossed a river and the temperature registered 13. On Easter morning!

By noon, all the snow had melted. The high this afternoon was 50. The day was sunny and beautiful today. It ended with a pretty sunset.
Still, I would never have expected to see so many people camping in late March in Denver. Quite a few people left this afternoon, but there are still between 20 and 25 units here. A group of five RVs with probably 15 or more people have spent the day around the campfire, having a great time. There are a number of couples, as well as several children. They are probably here because it is spring break.

This is a great park. A lake for sailing, boating, fishing. A model airplane area, hot air balloon launch site, heron viewing facility, and lots of fishing. It is very popular with bicyclists. So in addition to the camping, there is extensive day use. We will definitely come here again before heading out on our travels.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Back on the Road

We are so happy to be back on the road again, even if we only drove 15 miles from home. This morning we loaded everything into the RV and drove to Chatfield State Park. We will spend three nights here, making sure we have everything we need and nothing that we could leave in the house. We also want to be sure the trailer systems are operating as they should.

In past years we have driven 200 miles to Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg to do all this. Today we wondered why we haven't come to Chatfield before. I already know I forgot to bring all the kitchen knives from the house and I don't need two large packages of paper napkins. Last year I forgot the cords to my laptop computer and we had to have our son overnight them to us. It will be much easier to drive home to get what we need.

We are really surprised at how many RVs are here in the state park. Granted, it is Easter weekend, and probably some schools are on spring break next week. But it is windy, the temperature is in the 50s and will be colder the next couple of days with light rain possible. Despite all this, there are about 35 camping units here by 7 pm.

It has been five months since we put the trailer in storage. We are so glad to be back in our small, traveling home. We can't wait to begin this year's adventures.

Create a Home Theater Like the Pros. Watch the video on AOL Home.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Warranty Issues, Part 2

Well, the RV is repaired (at least we hope it is, we won't be sure till we move in about two weeks from now). But the saga with the extended warranty company continues. We ended up paying for the four hours it took to remove and replace the underbelly of the RV, which is the only way to access the hydraulic system.

Today I called the Montana-Keystone customer service department to see if they could tell me how long it should take to remove the underbelly cover on the RV so the work could be done. They estimated two hours to remove it, two hours to put it back on. And they were willing to send me an email with that information. I sure hope that persuades the warranty company to pay up.

As soon as the fifth-wheel was back in storage, we went to the Colorado RV, Boat and Travel show. By the time we came home, we were so anxious to get back on the road, we wanted to start loading up our clothes and other stuff to get going.

While we wait till the week after Easter, we are beginning the many tasks needed to move into the trailer for seven or eight months. We make lists of what to pack, back up the computers in case moving them around causes memory loss, gather up computer programs that can be reinstalled if the computer fails. We collect al the office supplies, household supplies and clothing we will need for the upcoming months. Copies of health insurance and vehicle insurance policies, financial information—all of these things are needed to live most of the year away from the house.

We also have the maps and the Trailer Life Directory out to plan our route to California. What RV parks are open in late March and early April? All of this is part of the planning. Then we wait till the day we hope to depart and study the weather carefully. We would rather not camp or drive in a snowstorm.

But we are ready to go—soon!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Extended Warranty

        We've entered the land of the extended warranty!  Anyone who reads any of the RVing magazines has heard about problems with extended warranties and about some companies that offer such warranties going out of business.  In 2003, when we bought our Montana, we also purchased a five-year extended warranty that started in 2004 when the one-year manufacturer's warranty expired. It is good till July 2009.  We never buy extended warranties, but paid out the $1700 because, in this case, if we didn't use the warranty, we would get our money back at the end of five years.


        Until this February, we hadn't used the warranty.  Last summer, when we were afraid the refrigerator was going out, we thought about using it—those appliances cost $800 or more.  But luckily the fix was simple.  However, when we were looking for a repairman, we called the warranty company to get some referrals.  We were relieved to learn they were still in business.


        Then, last week we took the trailer in for maintenance before leaving in late March for seven months or more of travel.  The dealer service department called to tell us the hydraulic system that operates the slides was leaking and needs repair.  We already knew that.  We had to do some repairs in 2004 while in Alaska.  At that time, John did most of the work with some help from a local man—recommended by the RV park in Valdez—who didn't charge us for his advice and help.  Since then we have noticed some hydraulic fluid leaking, but not enough to necessitate adding fluid to the hydraulic pump reservoir.


        When I asked the dealer what would happen if we didn't get the leak repaired, the service manager said that at some point we wouldn't be able to open or close the slides.  That sounds like a horror story to anyone who lives in their RV as much as we do, so we asked him to contact the warranty company for authorization to repair the leak—there goes our $1700 refund in 2009.  And that's when the real problems started.


        Yes, the repair is covered.  No, they won't pay for all the hours the dealer says it will take to make the repairs.  He asked us to call the warranty company and appeal.  We did.  They didn't budge.  I found another dealer that said the job could be done in much less time—meaning the authorized repair amount would cover the work.  However, they were at least two hours away from the first dealer.  At $3.28 a gallon for diesel fuel (that's today's cost, who knows what it will be later this week), the four hours of driving to pick up the RV, deliver it to the second dealer, and drive back home would cost almost as much as we would save by making the move.  Late Friday afternoon, I called and said, "Go ahead with the job.  How much will you work with us on the part we have to pay?"  Watch for the next post to find out how we came out.