Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chairs, Chairs, and more Chairs

Is the problem the chairs? Or is it us?

When we bought this RV in September 2008, it had a couch, a dining room table with four heavy, uncomfortable chairs, and two large, ugly, heavy, and very uncomfortable recliners. We quickly (like within a week) got rid of the couch. We got rid of the recliners and bought some very inexpensive chairs to replace them before we went on the road full time in January 2009.

By October 2009, we knew those chairs were worthless, so we bought these relatively expensive Lane chairs when we got to Mesa.

During early 2010 we got rid of the dining room table and chairs and had a custom-made desk and table built for the dining room. Without a couch, the chairs are where we sit almost all the time we are awake in the RV. By October 2011, those Lane chairs were sagging, with the seats needing extra padding. And the leather was loosing its color. So we replaced them with less expensive chairs last fall.

You can probably guess where this is going. By this summer, those chairs were sagging and one was wiggling on its base. We had owned La Z Boy chairs in our house and RVing friends Art and Connie suggested we look at some of the smaller La Z Boys. We thought they would be too large or too heavy, but we decided to look.

That was all it took. Today we drove to their warehouse and had two chairs loaded into our truck.

After moving last year's chairs out onto the patio

we set up the new chairs. Since they have no ottoman, we have more space in the RV. And they are comfortable. We just hope they last more than a year or two.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Good Memories

When we began traveling, we began saving mementos and putting together scrapbooks, printing photos we had taken and combining everything to tell the story of where we had been. But scrapbooks take up lots of room and can be heavy, not to mention a lot of work to make.

I began blogging in 2006 and soon wished there was a way to print out the blogs in chronological order. But blogger doesn't accommodate that. Then I learned about Blog2Print, a service that takes a blog, from blogger and other services, and prints it in book form. I was delighted.

Usually, I wait till the end of the year, but our trip through Canada and Alaska is special and needs its own scrapbook (blog book). So I ordered a book of just the blogs on the trip. At the end of the year I will have another book made of the time before and after that trip.

Today the Alaska book arrived in the mail. What a treat to begin looking over those wonderful adventures. Here is what we received. I could select the photos for the front and back covers.

Inside, all the blogs and all the photos are included. These two pages are from two days in Fairbanks.

This book is lighter and more compact than a scrapbook would be. And we can enjoy the photos and stories for years to come.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The flowers of fall

At "home" in Colorado, where we lived most of our lives and where we still vote, pay taxes and receive our mail, they have already seen snow and had enough temperatures below freezing that, most likely, the flowers have seen better days. The flowers of fall bloom in September and are mainly chrysanthemums.

Today our "home," the structure we actually live in, is parked in Mesa, Arizona, and the flowers are very different. We spotted one barrel cactus with a few blooms left.

The bougainvillaea is blooming all over the park.

And roses are blooming. By this time of year in Colorado, we would be cutting back the plants and mounding the dirt to protect the grafts so the bushes don't die back to the wild rose roots. Here are a few that we took pictures of today.

Many of the bushes in the Valle del Oro rose garden are planted in memory of former park residents. That makes it special to have them blooming as the snowbirds return for the winter.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Now what?

Why is all this stuff on the patio instead of in our basement storage? It can't be good.

It wasn't. The last couple of times we turned on the furnace, there was a screeching sound, not a blower operating normally. It isn't time for heat, but we thought it was better to get it fixed before the need arose.

We thought the folks doing the repair might need to access the back of the furnace compartment, so John took out a good part of the things we store in the basement and removed the partitions between the storage area and the utility area. Look at all those wires and pipes and stuff!

And look at this! Behind all those pipes and stuff, below the floor, John found a space filled with pine cones. Where on earth did those come from?

We still have no idea. We found mouse dropping behind the partition, but these look too big for a mouse to carry around. Squirrels, maybe? Anybody have other ideas? Wherever they came from, John twisted and and reached and picked up most of them.

Then he used the vacuum to clean up as much as possible.

Desert RV arrived at 8:30.

Ron and Lauren listened to the furnace motor,

said we needed a new one, drove back to the shop, returned with it and installed the new one. In the process, they found a dead mouse in the furnace. Yuk.

By 10 am, everything was repaired. Good service, good work. Before they left, we asked them to order a new cover for the air conditioner that we damaged in the RV wash in Haines in August.

It has been an expensive week. We wouldn't mind being nickel and dimed, but it has been $300 here, $300 there. I hope it stops for a while.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Arizona weather

For the past week, the weather here in southern Arizona has been just beautiful--daytime temperatures mainly in the 80s, nights down to the 60s. It is comfortable to sit outside in the shade and easier to sleep at night. Last night, we didn't even need any air conditioning, just opened some windows and turned on the Fantastic Fan.

With such weather, we couldn't procrastinate any longer. We knew we needed to wash the RV. In Colorado, we were too busy. When we got here, it was too hot. We'll do it as soon as the weather cools down, we said. So this was the week. Monday morning John started on the roof about 8 am. Before lunch, it was all done. He washes the big spaces, I use a smaller brush around all of the edges and seams. Then we wiped it down with towels to remove the hard-water spots.

It looks great. No more dead bugs on the front. No more mud spatters. It shines, maybe not like new, but it does shine. That's done until right before we leave here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Don't Try This--at Home or Elsewhere

DON'T LEAVE THE KEYS IN THE VEHICLE IGNITION IN THE ON POSITION. Why? Because the battery will be dead in a few hours. That happened to us yesterday. We noticed the lights were on, then tried to start it. Click. Again. Click. It was 5 pm, so we decided to wait till this morning to address the problem.

Around 11, we called AAA. Guy arrived in less than 30 minutes. After jump-starting the truck, he returned to his shop for a second battery. We were only vaguely aware that a diesel truck needs 2 batteries to get started. Soon, he returned and started the installation.

He removed numerous bolts and took out one battery.

He used that battery as a step to make it easier to install the new battery.

After repeating the process for the second battery, he tested both to be sure they were putting out the correct voltage and to make sure there was no short circuit somewhere, draining the batteries. He was able to print out these reports for us.

In less than two hours after placing the call to AAA, and after a hit on our credit card for over $300, we were back in business, able to drive our truck again. It was really very simple, if a little pricey.

You better believe, we won't do that again. (Cross our fingers.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October in Arizona

Friday we connected with friends. We met Fr. Bob at a Starbucks in Phoenix and shared stories of his and our summer travels. John assisted him at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Coolidge two years ago. They discovered a mutual love of trains. He loaned John some neat old railroad books and John gave him two railroad pictures. It was good to see him again.

From there we drove to the Sheraton Hotel where the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona was holding its annual convention. Before the meeting, we had a chance to talk to two Tucson friends, Nina and Laura, who we first knew in Granby, Colorado. We enjoyed having time to catch up with them.

October is a good month at Valle del Oro. Though daytime temperatures can be very warm, it cools down after the sun goes down. That is the time to go for a walk or a bike ride through the resort. And it is really nice to do that when so few people have come back for the winter. We almost never encounter cars on the roads where we walk or ride. That will change, especially after Thanksgiving.

We enjoy all the activities that begin here as the population grows for the winter, but we also enjoy the peace and quiet when the place is practically empty. (Not enough to spend the summer here, however.)

This week we were finally able to reserve the site where we are parked for January and February. When we made our reservation last year, we weren't sure whether or not we would be volunteering in January, so we only reserved October through December. We have decided to take all winter off, so we came planning to extend through February.

Horrors, everything in the park was already reserved for those months. We kept checking back every few days until someone cancelled. Now we can stay in the same site for 5 months. You better believe we have already made our 5-month reservation for next year.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Almost every weekend through the fall-winter-spring, there are festivals throughout the Phoenix area. Last weekend, we could choose between the Greek Festival, the Fall Olive Harvest Festival, or Oktoberfest. We went for beer and brats next to Tempe Town Lake.

We saw all sorts of different hats and clothing.

And good food, including these butterfly fries.

We came for the beer, but first we had to have our IDs checked so we could get a wrist band to prove we are old enough to drink beer. Can't they just look at our gray hair and wrinkled skin? Or should we be pleased they question if we are really over 21?

We did enjoy the beer and brats with sauerkraut.

But we couldn't talk as we ate because the nearby band, J. Powers, was playing very loud country, rock and motown music.

There is an area with water features that attracted the young. We had a good time watching the little ones.

I think one purpose of Oktoberfest is to raise money for the Tempe Sister Cities program. A group of musicians and dancers from one of those cities was performing and we really enjoyed watching and listening. Unfortunately, we weren't there when they were introduced, so I'm not sure where they are from. Checking on the internet, I think they must be from Cuenca, Ecuador, based on their clothing which looks South American. Tempe has 8 sister cities from all around the world.

This is part of the band.

And some of the dancers, performing a market day dance.

At the end of the dance, the women each chose a man from the audience to join them on the dance floor. One of them chose John, and he looks like he was having a good time. (That isn't what he said about it, afterwards, however.)

I have no idea where this group of folks is from, maybe Mali or New Zealand? Those are the location of two other sister cities.

This sign has some German that I could read without the English translation. There isn't much I remember from my two years of college German.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Life in Arizona

We are getting settled into our Arizona life. We were delighted when we learned that long-time friends Dave and Kathy, who we met for lunch when we were in Colorado, were coming to see us here in Arizona. Friday they came for lunch and we showed them around Valle del Oro.

Arizona has the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen. Thursday was one of them. Before the sun went down, we saw huge puffy white clouds to the east.

Then the rich colors showed up to the west.

The Superstition Ranch Market has incredibly inexpensive fruits and vegetables. Thursday, we made our second visit there. Halloween is coming and one of the cashiers was an M and M. Clever.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eating and Cleaning

Through our years of RVing, we have owned a number of small gas grills. I don't know how many. I do know we always bought the cheapest we could find at the local big box store. None of them were great and the most recent was truly a pain. John had trouble with hot spots and flare-ups. No matter how low he turned the heat, any drip of grease caused a flare-up and charred our food.

We finally broke down and bought a better grill. The Montana Owners Club web forum surveyed readers about the grill they liked and the Weber Q won, hands down. Saturday we bit the bullet and spent $150 instead of $25 for a grill. Sunday, John used it to cook our rib-eye steaks and was delighted with the good job it did. He was so impressed, that yesterday we cooked some hamburgers and brats. Again, a good job.

In addition to properly cooked food, I appreciate it because there is a drip pan below the grill that will be easy to empty. The cheap ones held the fat in the bottom and were awful to clean (my job).

This has been the good news. But not everything is fun and games. For 5 months, we were traveling. I did only the minimum necessary cleaning inside the RV to keep it half-way decent. I don't like to clean house and the fun of traveling is a good excuse to do as little as possible. But now we are parked, not traveling, not volunteering, no obligations. It is time to do our spring and fall house cleaning. This week, I have mopped, dusted, polished, shined. And it really looks good inside.

As soon as the temperatures get down into 70s or low 80s, we will work on the outside.

Friday, October 05, 2012

We've Arrived

The first concrete evidence today that we were reaching our winter home was the sight of saguaro cactus. These aren't the very first ones we saw (I didn't have the camera ready), but close to it. As we drove down hill along the Beeline Highway, we began seeing all the plants that decorate the Sonoran Desert, including ocotillo, cholla, mesquite and palo verde.

We arrived at Valle Del Oro Resort just after noon and began setting up for a three-month stay. By mid-afternoon, we were settled. Now, it's time to relax.