Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back to Colorado

Wednesday we left Benson headed east. On our way to Deming, NM, we crossed the Continental Divide at 4,585 feet above sea level. That makes me want to laugh. In Colorado, the divide is at 11,000 to 12,000 feet. We often cross it on a high mountain pass, like Berthoud or Vail or Loveland Pass. There was nothing high about the divide near the US-Mexican border. It was marked only by a sign along the highway and a gas station and store that hyped the Continental Divide with billboards for several miles.
We drove to Deming, NM, a town we have stayed in at least twice before. This trip we stayed at the Dream Catcher RV Park, another Escapees park. This park isn't restricted to Escapees members only, but many of the RVs there had the Escapees logo. We paid only $12 plus electricity ($2.09) and tax for the night.

Today we headed north, the direction we will be going till Saturday when we reach the Denver area where we own a home. This is the third time in just over one year that we have stayed in the Isleta Casino RV Park on the south edge of Albuquerque. The park has large sites, good restrooms, good hookups, inexpensive gas and several lakes where the locals fish. Today we enjoyed walking around the lakes twice, putting in just over three miles. That is good exercise for us on a travel day.

Since we have been in the southern US recently, we have missed most of the fall colors. As we traveled north out of Deming this morning we began to see some colorful trees along the Rio Grand River Valley. I had to take photos of the trees here surrounding the Isleta Lakes.

Two photos of the fall color at Isleta Lakes

On our way, we drove through Hatch, NM, the home of the most famous chili peppers in the US—or at least in the western US. We stopped for a few minutes and bought a ristra—a string of peppers. I chose one that had red, green and yellow peppers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


This is the time of year when the "snowbirds" begin arriving in Arizona and other points south. Some of them own a house or condo in Sun City or Scottsdale. Others come in their RVs. And still others spend the winter in a park model—like an RV but also like a regular house. The park model can be moved but is not made for traveling.

A park model in Mesa

We have stayed at parks that have 800 and 1716 spaces this year. We were there just off season and most of the RV spaces and park models were empty. They must be very busy places in January, February and March. Most of the residents in the parks that have mainly park models seem to be in their 70s, maybe even 80s. Often they leave a car in Arizona year-round, then fly down for the winter. Most come from places like Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, as well as Canada, where winters are every long, cold and wet.

After two days in Tucson while we had some warranty work done on our new 5th wheel, we spent a week in Benson, a town east along I-10. We recently joined Escapees, a club for RVers. They have RV parks around the country, as well as offering discounts at many other parks. We wanted to see what the parks they own were like, so we came to the Saguaro Co-op Park in Benson. We Love It!!! And a bonus was to find that a couple we have known for over 25 years, Del and Pat, lives in the park.

Each site, which measure 52 ft by 70 ft (huge by RV park standards), has hookups for an RV or Park Model and owners may build a Casita, a small building with plumbing, storage and space for visitors to spend the night. (Owners must sleep in their RV or Park Model, not the casita.) Unlike the parks that contain mainly park models, many of the folks in the Escapees' park are full-time RVers and all of them are or have been RVers. Most seem to be in their 60s or 70s. We really feel at home there.

One of the casitas

A site with no casita, just an RV.

Two more good-looking casitas

We are considering putting our name on the waiting list for a space in this park. The waiting list is long enough it will be at least three to five years before we can lease a lot. By then we may be tired of volunteering. The Casita would provide space for storage and maybe a workshop for John and a sewing room for me, as well as room for our family to come visit. Perhaps in a few years, this is where we would like to spend the winter. The park is quiet, filled with the most friendly people we have every encountered. There are numerous activities, but not as many or as elaborate as the other parks we have visited. Escapees are about living on the road inexpensively, so these parks don't have all the bells and whistles we found elsewhere. And we really appreciate that.

In a few years we might become snowbirds. It would be nice to be outside every day of the winter without worrying about ice or snow, don't you think? Until then, we will look for volunteer positions in the south where we can enjoy the warmth and keep busy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Benson Sights

For the past two days we have been seeing the sights around Benson, Arizona. We were here the last of March for three days and have returned for a week. Yesterday we returned to Tombstone, an old silver mining town that has reinvented itself as a tourist destination. We didn't return to the Boothill Cemtery. But we enjoyed the shops with western clothes and souvenirs and Indian relics and paraphernalia. Many of the storekeepers wear period clothing—the town was founded in the 1880s.

"Soiled Doves" or dance girls out for a cigarette break.

We then drove to Bisbee, Old Bisbee and Naco. Anyone who reads the Sheriff Brady novels written by J. A. Jance will recognize these towns. In March we had been to Old Bisbee, but missed Bisbee. Naco is a small town on the Mexican border with a border crossing station.

This part of Arizona is very close to the Mexican border and the US Border Patrol is very much in evidence. As we approached Tombstone on Friday there were signs bringing the speed down from 65 to 55 to 45 to 35 to 25mph. Then we passed a Border Patrol Checkpoint. Returning the other direction later in the day, we went through the checkpoint. All they asked was, "Please state your citizenship." That seems a strange way to ask that question, but we both answered, "United States," and they sent us on our way. For obvious reasons we didn't take any pictures there.

Today we drove to Willcox, a town east on I-10 about 32 miles. There we visited the Rex Allen Museum. We both knew his name, but couldn't remember much about him. We found he had sung with the Sons of the Pioneers ensemble, made numerous movies in the 1950s and 1960s, and provided the voice for a number of Disney characters. I remember going to the movies every Saturday during my grade school years. We watched an installment of a movie serial as well as another movie. Also, after school each day I remember watching Sheriff Scotty on Denver TV. He showed western movies. I am sure Rex Allen starred in many of those movies. When we went to the museum, I expected to learn about a western singer and actor from before my time. He began making movies in 1950, when I was 7 years old, so he certainly isn't before my time.

John with Rex

We had been told there was a place near Willcox that sold apple pies and other items from their apple orchards. We stopped at a local gas station to ask for directions. Expecting a small fruit stand, we were surprised to join a long string of cars driving in the same direction. We also passed many cars leaving the area. We were very surprised to see how popular Apple Annie's is.

Just some of the cars at Apple Annie's this afternoon.

They have a u-pick orchard with several varieties of apples, as well as pears. They also have a great gift shop, a bakery that sells pies and fudge, fruit preserves and butters. We bought an apple crumb pie and several gifts. On the way out we bought a dish of ice cream. If you have never eaten homemade apple crumb ice cream, let me tell you, it is to die for.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Feline Nursing Home

We live in and operate a feline nursing home.  We travel with two cats, who are 15 (Partner) and 16 (PC) years old.  They have been part of our household since they were each about 5 weeks old and we love them.  But caring for aging cats isn't much different from caring for an aging parent or spouse.


        When my mother was in the last couple of years of her life, she was wearing Depends.  When she came to visit our home, we covered a couple of chairs with plastic and made sure she sat there—both for the protection of our furniture and for her protection.  She often wouldn't realize she had to go to the bathroom until she had wet herself, and then she was very embarrassed.  It was a very difficult time for all of us.  Finally, she moved to an assisted living facility and then, at the last, to a hospice for about one month.


        We haven't seen assisted living facilities or nursing homes for cats.  Instead, we provide those facilities.  Our floors are covered with plastic.  PC suffers from dementia and often can't remember where the litter box is.  He regularly thinks it is a corner under the dining room table in our RV.  Partner has a very sensitive stomach and vomits often—sometimes from hair balls, more often because his food doesn't agree with him.  Hence—the plastic on the rugs.  We also have gates to limit the cats to certain areas of the RV or our stick house. 


        For the same reasons, we keep the cats off our upholstered furniture.  Mainly, because Partner vomits so often.


        The litter box was stored under one of the benches of the dining room table in our old RV.  In the new one, it is in a closet just inside the front door.  The area has to be lined with plastic, and then covered with newspaper.  They are old guys and their aim isn't what it used to be.


        One of the advantages of having cats in the family instead of dogs is that you can leave them for a couple of days and they will eat moderately and don't need to be taken outside.  But we can no longer leave our cats.  For five years PC has needed an insulin shot each morning for his diabetes.  Now Partner needs medicine with his food three times a day to prevent constipation.  So much for the flexibility that comes with adopting cats.


        Any of you who have pets can identify both with how difficult all of this is and why we put up with it.  Anyone who has never owned and loved a pet will think we are crazy.  No, we aren't.  We just love them—while counting the days till we are free again.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Las Vegas Contrasts

We have been in Las Vegas for a week now and it is a city of great contrasts.  The famed Las Vegas Strip is full of light, color, people and smiling faces.  Saturday afternoon the sidewalks and the aisles of the gaming floors were nearly wall-to-wall with tourists, both young and old, American and international visitors.  Each casino has its own atmosphere—whether it is the Knights of the Round Table, New York City, ancient Egypt, Venice, Parish, or a circus.  And everything is very posh.


        Friday we visited downtown, location of a number of old casinos.  The Fremont Experience is a covered street that has been made into a pedestrian mall.  Many of the signs take you back to the 1950s and 1960s.  The atmosphere is glitzy but not posh.  The Indian Chief Motel advertises "steam heat."  At the door of each casino there are Creole dancers or tuxedo-clad men trying to attract you inside.  Here you can even put real coins in the slot machines and carry around a cup for your winnings.  On the Strip, your winnings come out on a ticket with a bar code that you can spend in another machine or cash in.  And the machines only take bills or credit cards, not coins, even for the 1 cent games.


        We are staying in the northeast area, North Las Vegas, near Nellis Air Force Base.  Weekdays, squadrons of air force jets come and go throughout the daylight hours.  Across the street from our RV park, homeless people spend the night.  We encountered people panhandling even on the Strip.  And we saw a tent city for the homeless as we drove along I-15.  On the evening news, we heard that the tent city is being closed for the winter and shelters are being opened for men and for women.  Our section of the city seems to be mainly Hispanic.


        Everywhere we go, we see new construction and construction cranes.  And yet on the news we hear construction is really down.  Was there even more a year ago?  Or are the cranes sitting by unfinished buildings where construction has been put on hold?  We don't know.


        Las Vegas is an interesting place to visit—maybe once every 40 years.  It isn't a place we will return to anytime soon.  During our stay we maybe spent $5 in the slot machines and ate at one buffet and a snack of a Coney Island Dog and deep-friend Twinkie.  No one but the RV Park and Wal Mart will miss us if we don't come back soon.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Back After 40 Years

Our first outing since we arrived in Nevada was a visit to Cabelas, the outdoor provider. We have only once visited a Cabelas store, in Nebraska, though John often shops from their catalog. At Boomtown we found a casino, an RV park, and Cabelas. The wildlife display inside is amazing.

There we enjoyed shopping—and buying. We bought seat covers for our truck, to protect the vehicle from our cats.

On our drive to Las Vegas we saw a large area of the state of Nevada. The landscape is barren, but has its own beauty. The Nevada state map describes the state as the most mountainous in the country, with 314 individual ranges and hills. Our entire journey we drove through areas ringed by mountains. We saw many dry lakes and a couple with water, including Walker Lake.

As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

Nevada allows prostitution and we saw at least four brothels as we drove south. They were named "Shady Ladies," "Pink Ladies," "Wild Cat," and "The Cherry Patch." This building advertising "Adult Entertainment" shared a parking lot with a gas station. It is open 24 hours a day.

Today on the streets of Las Vegas we saw this signboard driving around town again and again, advertising their wares.

All of this is very different from what we see in the rest of the country. It gives a real insight into the state.

We also drove through "Area 51," a top-secret US Air Force research facility. This is the billboard at the gas station on the south edge of that facility. Yucca Mountain, a nuclear waste storage facility is also nearby.

The Nevada Army Ammunition Depot is located on the edge of Hawthorne. It is huge. For miles we saw storage buildings and ammunition bunkers. According to Wikipedia, "The Hawthorne Army Depot stores reserve munitions to be used after the first 30 days of a major conflict."

Today we visited several Las Vegas casinos. It has been 40 years since we were here last. When our older son, Doug, was 9 months old, we left him with his Aunt Cindy and Cousin Craig and came to Las Vegas with my parents. We left Denver on a snowy day in October. Now it is October, 40 years later. Here the temperature is 90 and it is supposed to snow in Denver this weekend.

Many of the casinos are more glitzy, more sophisticated, and they include more fine shopping and good restaurants than they did where we were first here. This is where people come to escape the reality of their lives and live a fantasy. As we walked down the street, music even came out of the bushes. The front entrance to the newer casinos looks like the front gate of a private estate, or like a sea where pirates roam. The Mirage and the Venetian are really beautiful and elegant.

The orchids and tropical foliage at the Mirage are just beautiful.

The canals at the Venetian seem to flow under a night sky between the shops of Venice. Really, we were inside a large shopping mall. It is lovely, but surreal.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Our New Home

We're in the new trailer and somewhat settled. It has been an exciting and exhausting week. We love our new home on wheels and we are glad we survived the week.

Our living room

Our kitchen

Our dining room

Our bedroom

On Monday morning Alpine Recreation called and said the 5th wheel had arrived. We immediately drove out there to look at it. We found it had everything we wanted except a second air conditioner. We ordered that and were told it would arrive late Tuesday or Wednesday. They needed 24 hours to prep the trailer, so we set our pre-delivery inspection for 12:30 on Tuesday.

At the same time we learned that, since we weren't paying California sales tax on the trailer, it is considered an out-of-state delivery. That means we couldn't hook it up to our truck till it was towed out of state. The closest place to do that was Boomtown, Nevada, just west of Reno. Since we wanted to stay in the trailer for a couple of days to be sure everything worked, we arranged to stay in a full hook-up site at the Alpine sales lot.

Tuesday we took our inspection walk-through and learned how most things work. Then they towed the new trailer to where we would be staying and parked our old trailer facing it so we could move our belongings from one space to the other. It wasn't till about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon that we could begin the move. So we took a few of the essentials and then went out to dinner.

On Wednesday we spent about seven hours moving and putting away "stuff." We live in our trailer seven to eight months of the year, so there is a lot of that. We would pick up a load, go down three steps, cross the three feet between the two trailers, walk up three steps, put the armload away, then down three steps, up three steps, pick up a load, down three steps, up three steps. You get the picture. By the end of the day we were exhausted, our legs were killing us. And almost everything had been moved. About 3 pm we learned the air conditioner had arrived, so we scheduled that installation for 8:30 am Thursday.

Thursday we mainly rested, hanging out in the old trailer with the cats, reading, surfing the internet, napping. We were so tired we found it hard to sleep the night before. PC really enjoyed the time we spent in the old trailer. He isn't the least bit sure he likes our new home and he had spent much of Wednesday meowing and trying to go outside and back to his old home.

We got acquainted with the employees at the sales lot. One fellow was trimming the trees and bushes near our trailers and trying to find a chicken that is hiding out there. Another man drives the forklift they use to move RVs. They are both busy all day.

After our home was returned to our hook-up site, we learned that Rafael, the driver who would take us to Boomtown, would arrive at 5 am. That meant we would have to be up by 4.

We had another short, poor night's sleep, followed by five hours of driving. John and I and our cats traveled in our truck; Rafael pulled the RV with his truck. When we met up in Boomtown, we all drove to the UPS store to have notarized the paper work asserting we were buying the trailer for out-of-state delivery and we wouldn't return to California with it for 365 days.

Rafael with his truck and our new trailer. Our truck is parked beside them.

We are spending two nights here at Boomtown, getting more things properly put away. Tomorrow we head south to Hawthorne, then on to Las Vegas.