Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Favorite Things

Today, we saw a few of my favorite things. We went on our first hike of the winter season--to Wind Cave. The trail is accessed in Usery Mountain Regional Park and goes into the Tonto National Forest. There we saw saguaro cactus

palo verde trees

cholla cactus

and lichen that is somewhere between lime green and fluorescent green.

When we first visited southern Arizona and hiked in the Sonoran Desert, I found it pretty dull and ordinary--maybe even ugly. I don't feel that way anymore. I love this landscape and the many different shades and types of green plants. They come in so many unusual shapes.

This is wind cave. It doesn't look like a traditional cave. It was carved out by the desert winds, I believe.

The trail is short--1.5 miles one way--but is rated difficult. It is rocky and fairly steep. It is also very popular. We see more people on this trail than on any other in the Phoenix vicinity. Today we saw something different.

This fellow was carrying a bunch of balloons up the trail. We asked a man hiking up with him and learned they were going to release the balloons in honor of their nephew's birthday. I didn't learn anything more than that.

When they reached the cave, they unwrapped the balloons and released them into the sky. I was able to take a picture of the uncovered balloons, but I didn't get them ascending into the sky.

If you aren't familiar with Usery Park or Usery Pass Road, you still might know where it is. This sign is right across the road and is visible to many who fly in and out of Sky Harbor Airport.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What a Difference a Week Makes

Are we ever glad we made it to Mesa when we did. Last week it was cool but pleasant as we drove from Kansas to Arizona. Last Tuesday, we drove from Albuquerque, NM, to Holbrook, AZ. Then we came to Mesa on Wednesday. Today would have been a good travel day. But Monday there were winds gusting up to 60 along I-40 and in Show Low. Yesterday, the winds were 40-45 mph. And last night it snowed on the mountains up there. We are grateful we didn't have to sit out any of that weather in Holbrook.

Each day we are busy. Sunday we received a very warm "welcome back" from many people at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Tempe. The church is another reason we really enjoy our winter home here in Arizona. John has installed towel racks for our bath towels. We have hung pictures, arranged things on our new shelves, prepared sunshields for the front and side windows of the truck, assembled the paper work so our son Eric can get our RV licensed in Colorado. We are beginning to feel settled.

To top it all off, we have had some really nice sunrises and sunsets. I took this picture out of our window Monday.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It Works!

The TV, that is.  Five years ago, when we bought our last new 5th wheel trailer, we had a technician come out to where we were parked at Chatfield State Park to help us install our Dish Network satellite service in the RV.  He did get that working, sort of, to the main TV but not to the set in the bedroom.  When we got to Mesa, we had another technician come and he fixed it so we could see the Dish service on both TVs.  He also showed us how to change the connections and use the roof-top antenna.  We were never able to hook up to cable TV, which is available in most RV parks. And in the past year, the antenna signal also failed to work.

With this new RV, we have had excellent reception with both the antenna and cable.  However, the rig is wired to use a roof-top Direct TV satellite antenna and we have a Winegard carry-out Dish antenna. So, we called around Mesa until we found someone who would come to the RV and install the system for us. That wasn't easy.  Dish wanted to guide us over the phone to set it up ourselves.  I called the technician recommended by Dish and never received a call back.  The local Radio Shack couldn't recommend anyone.  Finally, we found someone willing to help us. Were we ever lucky!

Doug of Components Electronics in nearby Gilbert came.  They install home theater systems, among other things.  Doug is very thorough and a perfectionist.  He had never seen a system like ours.  That big TV I showed in a previous post is on an electronic lift and raises and lowers from a cabinet.  There is virtually no access to the back of the TV.  There is an electronic box in the cabinet where each component of the system is wired to so it communicates to the TV.  He knew what all the parts were, but it took him a while to figure how to integrate our Dish receiver into the system.

John explained the problems we had in the past and asked that he please not take apart anything that was already working.  It took him two hours, but he got everything working!  That means satellite, cable, antenna, CD player in the bedroom and Blue-ray player in the living room.  Wow!  We are delighted.  When we told him how hard it was to find someone to do this job, he said lots of people won't come out on a job that is less than $1,000.  As much as we like our TV, it certainly isn't worth that!

After Doug left, we headed to the Container Store in Scottsdale. Many of the cupboards in this new RV are large but don't have any shelves. We needed lots of stuff to make those spaces more useful and to keep items in place, especially when we travel. Look at what we came home with.

Once installed in several different places, our storage space is much more useful. Maybe in another week or two, we will finally feel like we have a place for everything and everything in its place. Right now, we are always looking around, asking where did I put the "________" last time (fill in the blank).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Winter Home

Wednesday we arrived at our winter home, Valle del Oro in Mesa.

This is our 8th winter to stay here. The first year it was for only a week. Each year the stay has gotten longer. As we parked, we saw that three couples we know on our street had already arrived, so we feel even more at home.

We left Kansas on Saturday, going to Oklahoma, then Texas. Next, it was New Mexico.

As we drove toward Albuquerque, we saw this ominous smoke on the horizon.

We were relieved when we learned it was some sort of trash pile being burned.

Then, we were on to Arizona.

In Colorado, we were surrounded by pine and spruce forests. Then we spent six weeks passing through flat farm fields and prairie grass. The mesas, buttes and mountains of western New Mexico and Arizona are familiar and welcome sights.

We saw some honest-to-goodness fall colors.

And a structure that I believe is used to burn wood chips or sawdust from lumber production.

Wednesday morning, we left Holbrook, AZ, at nearly 6,000 ft elevation, then went up and down, over 7,000 to eventually 1,400 ft here in Mesa. That meant numerous stretches of road with signs like this.

And roads that look like this.

We began to see the familiar creosote bush and prickly pear cactus. Next came teddy bear cholla and ocotilla. But we know we are almost here when our favorite cactus, the saguaro, comes into view.

Now we begin reorganizing all the storage in our new RV. We put everything away before leaving Kansas, but we don't know where anything is. After moving things three or four times, it will take a while to remember where we put it last. But we are beginning to make progress.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Traveling West

We are driving west from Kansas to Arizona. We have been on interstate highways most of the past two days and we will remain on I-40 till we reach Holbrook, AZ. When you travel the interstates, rest areas are very important. We saw only two in Oklahoma and one was about 5 miles from the the state border. But a little later, we came to one that you could get excited about, just looking at it. Guess what state it is in.

Does this help?

Well, if you haven't figured it out, you get one more hint.

That's right, we are in Texas. Only for about 200 miles or so. I-40 crosses the Texas panhandle, the only manageable road in the state.

Thanks to all of my readers who commented on our new RV. We appreciate hearing from you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Goodbye to the Old, Hello to the New

Finally, Thursday we took possession of our new 2014 Mobile Suites 5th wheel trailer. We went in to Kansas RV Center at 8 am, signed the papers, and were given a 2-hour walk-through of the unit. That is the best orientation we have ever had when buying a new RV. Then, we backed our truck into the dealer's garage and they helped us hook-up. Here we are, ready to pull it for the first time.

We drove it about 2 blocks to the Chanute, Kansas, Santa Fe Campground. Our first time unhooking.

Our 2009 Montana was parked there, too, and we began moving all our worldly possessions (except for a few boxes and file cabinets in Colorado) from one unit to the other. Ugh. Hard work. We called the dealer twice Thursday and Friday with minor problems and they sent technicians out to correct the problems. About 1 pm Friday, after the second visit, they hooked up a truck to the Montana and pulled it back to their shop. That was sort of a sad event. We loved that trailer and spent our first 5 years of full-timing in it. We have been to the Canadian Maritime Provinces, Alaska and the US East Coast in that RV. But we are delighted with the new one.

Moving belongings and stowing them away is a big task. We were in a mess most of the time.

Finally, by bedtime last night, things were pretty decent and almost everything had been put away somewhere. Now the task is to find it when we need it.

This 46 inch TV is a bit overwhelming when our chairs sit only 6 and 10 feet away.

What do we love about our new home? There are lots of things. One, it is very pretty. Two, it is a little over 2 feet shorter than the old one. Three, it is built much better than the Montana.

But two things , while not deal-breakers, are certainly high on the list of great things. First is this control panel.

We have 6-point automatic leveling. I have always been in charge of getting the trailer level. Now, all I have to do is push one button to raise the front of the RV so we can unhitch, then another to level. Then we just stand back and watch it go up and down, side to side until it is level. No more driving up on boards on one side or the other, checking the level and often doing it again, then lowering the front till we are level front to back, then putting out boards and putting down the rear stabilizers. It's wonderful!!! And it saves us a lot of time.

If you look back at the photo when we had things put away, and you are familiar with the standard RV day-night shades, you will notice that we don't have those. These shades have one shade that acts as a sun screen and another (the white ones you see in that photo) that blocks out the light and provides privacy at night. All it takes to put them back up is give it a little tug and it rolls itself back up.

Something else I like is the 4-door refrigerator-freezer. It has nearly twice the space of the old one did. And the shelves have small barriers to keep things from sliding off during travel.

Tonight, we are parked in Oklahoma City, enroute for Mesa, AZ. Ain't it purdy? And it pulls really great, too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What a Month

What a month it has been. One month ago tomorrow, we saw our new RV on the assembly line at the DRV factory in Indiana. We were very excited about what we saw. And we really doubted he was telling us the truth when the production manager said it would be at least 2 weeks before the trailer was done. "You've got to be kidding" we thought. What more is there to do? It had to go out for painting, for one thing.

Go forward two weeks. We contacted our dealer in Kansas, who contacted DRV in Indiana. He was told the RV should be back from Mor-ryde (where the suspension was being balanced or adjusted) by the end of the week. Then there would be another week of final details at the factory.

On Friday, Oct. 11, we again inquired about the delivery date and were told it was on its way to Chanute, Kansas, from Howe, Indiana. We could come to the dealership on Tuesday and it should be ready then. We had been hanging out in Peculiar, MO, near Kansas City, doing genealogy research, playing tourist and seeing family.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we spent in Iola, Kansas, just north of Chanute. The park only costs $11 a night with our Passport America discount, so it was very inexpensive. There we relaxed, planned and toured the small town. We drove to Chanute on Monday (leaving our trailer in Iola)and were able to go in the finished rig--without the slides being extended. We were told we could probably do our walk-through Wednesday, then begin moving into the new RV. We were getting everything ready for the short move when we received a call saying the DRV techs found that the black tank dump valve was broken. A new part would be sent overnight from Indiana, but the trailer wouldn't be ready by this afternoon. We decided to come to Chanute anyway.

After setting up in the Santa Fe Campground in Chanute (first 2 nights are free, after that it is $10 a night), we went to the factory and learned it could be as late as Monday when the RV was ready for us. Since we are so glad they found the trouble with the black tank dump valve, we decided to settle down and enjoy the area. It would have been extremely difficult if we discoved this problem as we were driving to Arizona. Who knows what it would have taken to get it repaired then.

You can imagine how delighted we were when the phone rang just before 3 pm, telling us to come in at 8 am for our walk through. After that, we sign some papers, then we begin to move from one 5th wheel to the other. Whoopee!!!

When we get moved in and catch our breath, I will post lots of pictures of our new home.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Old and the New

Our waiting has moved from Peculiar, MO, to Iola, KS.  Today we took a walk from our mediocre RV park in Iola  to check out the small old town.  On the way, we came across the Southwind Rail Trail.  It follows an old railroad bed, but the trail just opened this year, so it is the new.

We crossed an old steel railroad bridge.

The trail builders were really serious about keeping the folks who use the trail from jumping or falling into the water below.

As we crossed the creek, we could see the nearby highway.

We had a big rainstorm last night and there was standing water near the trail, in addition to this pond.

I thought these grasses were pretty.

We passed the shell of an old train signal tower.

It appears the local fox can enter the private property on either side of the trail, but not the humans on the trail.

After walking about 3.5 miles on the trail, we went into town. They are proud of the high school sports teams. If you look closely, you will see the first championship was in 1915. Iola was established in 1855.

We saw a sign that reminded us of our Colorado roots.

Modern buildings just don't have the charm of those built decades ago. We saw lots of neat old buildings as we walked around downtown Iola.

Have you ever heard of General Frederick Funston? We hadn't, but maybe we should have. This is the house where he was born.

Funston spent 2 years in the Arctic, returning 1,500 miles on the Yukon River in a canoe. He spent time in South America, fought with Cuban insurgents and served in the Spanish American War. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing the commander of the Filipino Army and was made a brigadier general. In 1914, during an intervention in Mexico (has anyone every heard of that? I hadn"t.) and commanded Vera Cruz as military governor, being made a major general. He died in 1917.