Monday, February 28, 2011


Which part of the brain is responsible for research and planning?  I’m sure it is a left brain activity, and wherever that particular clump of cells resides, mine usually are enthusiastic and up to their task. 

Not so this past week!  The research, planning and execution of our renovations, purchases, and installations must have worn the planning group out, as those brain cells went into hibernation as soon as we settled into Borrego Holiday Home Mobile Home Park (click here to read our review).  Where I would normally ferret out hikes and activities, instead I sat in my lounge chair, gazing out the window.  Doing nothing rose to the top of the priority list, and that is what we did for the first 24 hours.

I followed Odel into the Anza-Borrego State Park CampgroundThen, with a knock on our door, our social life organized itself (no thanks to me). 

We got to know Lynn and Jim Howe during our first trip to Borrego Springs.  Our friends Marlene and Richard Dopp were boondocking off Rockhouse Road; their friends Lynn and Jim were parked nearby, and we joined them for a few days.  Richard decided to build his second clay oven at that spot, and enlisted our aid.  Those of you who boondock at “the oven” off Rockhouse Road have seen the result, now an icon of the area.

We heard about Borrego Holiday Home Mobile Home park from the Howes, and they came looking for us.  After a short, lively reunion, they invited us to join them for an outdoor happy hour gathering with some of their local friends – and even offered to pick us up.  No planning involved; we just said “yes” and spent a (cold, windy) hour enjoying the company of a lively group of liberal foodies who like to hike. 

Two of Odel’s ex-coworkers live in Borrego Springs during the winter and on Saturday, Ross arrived to take Odel to Dick’s house to watch a basketball game.  On my own, I did whatever was appealing and spontaneous – a little shopping, a walk in the desert, and a whole lot of nothing.  When Odel arrived back at home, he had an invitation for us to join Ross and his wife, Kay, for dinner at Carmelita’s Restaurant.  YES!  Great!  No dinner to plan!

An appealing pool in Palm CanyonOnly one project challenged my hibernating brain cells during this time:  setting a time and place to meet up again with Al and Kelly, The Bayfield Bunch.  Kelly and I exchanged more than half a dozen emails on the subject, and finally set the time at 3 pm and the place as our site at Anza-Borrego State Park campground (click here to read our review), where we moved on Sunday.

Our move from the RV park to the state park was short and easy – we didn’t even hook the Jeep to the motorhome.  We were in our new site by 11 am, the sun was shining and the wind was still.  Birds flitted from bush to palm tree; fat, green arms of ocotillo beckoned us into the desert.  All my brain cells - left brain, right brain, and whatever prehistoric clump it is that rejoices in our natural environment – awoke and began to shimmy with anticipation.

As soon as we set up camp, we took off towards the west, up the Palm Canyon trail (where I had my Close Encounter with the Bighorn Sheep a couple of years ago).  Heavy rains from a week ago have carpeted the arid mountainsides in green; the ocotillo buds are bursting into blossoms; shrubs are covered with yellow, purple and red blooms.  Plenty of cool, clear water flowed in the streambed. The weather was perfect, just cool enough to stay comfortable hiking uphill and just warm enough to be comfortable heading back down.  Some kind of magic…

Early morning sun fires the mountains at Anza Borrego State ParkWe arrived back at camp half an hour before Al and Kelly arrived in their beloved new Jeep.  It was so good to see them again and conversation picked up where it left off after our first meeting at the Bisbee Breakfast Club a few years back.  We follow their blog, they follow ours, so we were already up to speed with each other’s doings.  Much of our conversation centered on upcoming travels and, since ours will be somewhat curtailed if Odel gets a knee replacement in Sacramento next month, we are very interested in their plans!

And now it is Monday.  I dropped Odel at the golf course for a round with his buddies and have a low key day planned for myself: blogging, groceries, a bit of hooping, and a desert walk.  Tomorrow we head north, making three short hops up to the Sacramento area.  No planning needed; we have traveled that road many, many times!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


We were up unusually early this morning, pulling (with great regret) out of our campsite at Catalina State Park before 8 am to make our 10:30 appointment at Blinds Co. Inc. in Tempe, AZ.  It was our last step in our renovations: the replacement of our dusty, stained, drooping day/night shades.  Eight years have taken their toll.

For those of you who don’t live in an RV, day/night shades have two layers.  The “day” portion is designed to diffuse bright light, to knock down the sunshine if it is too bright.  The “night”portion is designed to BLOCK bright light.  On our old shades, the night portion was known as “privacy” – its coverage provided privacy to the interior occupants, but did NOT completely block out bright nighttime lighting, an ongoing complaint of ours.

Our NEW shades have blackout lining on the “night” portion, which totally blocks all nighttime lighting.  What a great feature!

Men at Work Shade mounted on valance

We arrived at Blinds Co. Inc right on time, and Greg (owner) was there to begin the installation (for which he charged $115 for 8 blinds, WAY less than it was worth).  As it turned out, all eight valances had to be removed completely from the walls (five in the front room and three in the back).  Greg took the valances into his workshop and – while we ate our lunch -  installed the new blinds on the valances, rather than on the walls of our motorhome, as they had been before. 

Daytime shades closed Blackout shades closed

Here the daytime shade is pulled down; the blackout shade is partway down.


Greg brought the three bedroom shades out to the MH (parked in his lot) as soon as he had installed them on the padded valances.  While he worked on installing the remaining 5 shades, Odel and I re-hung the bedroom valances, then pulled down the “night” (blackout) shades, closed the door, and reveled in the almost complete darkness.  What a change, a very welcome change!

Even with Odel and I providing a lot of help (removing most of the valances and re-installing the three in the bedroom), the replacement took 3 hours.  As soon as we paid the remaining balance on our bill, we took off to the west.  Two and a half hours later we were parked at Scaddan Wash at Quartzsite, boondocking overnight. 

Plent of space in QWow, does it look different than it did one month ago when we camped here with the Boomers.  Now it is practically deserted.

I can’t believe it was just one month ago that we left the Boomer gathering in Q to head to Phoenix and begin our renovations - it felt like months!  Looking back, I am amazed by how smoothly everything went, and I give great credit to Odel for that.  He is a bulldog when it comes to staying on top of details and making sure everyone involved (me included) is aware of our expectations and our schedule.  He might not know his way around a tool box, but he can sure keep the troops in line!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


It was a special occasion for us today: lunch at Vivace, a favorite restaurant in Tucson, with some of our treasured family and friends: (cousin) Rosanna and (aunt) Carol, and (friends) Doug and JoAnn Dubrouillet.  Though we have been in the SW since Christmas, we have not had the chance to get together with any of them yet… and we will be heading west to California soon.

We planned lunch as a bit of a surprise party for Carol (Auntie Carol to me).   We missed her birthday, but we knew she would be up for lunch in Tucson.  Since Carol and Rosanna are friends with Doug and JoAnn – and famous Fillmore, who they have hosted at their home – we planned to surprise Rosanna and Carol with a table for six rather than four.

Well, Fillmore was the giveaway – Rosanna saw his distinguished poodle head sticking out the window of the Dube’s truck when she walked past.   By the time Odel and I arrived, after a spell of sitting in construction traffic, the surprise had already happened and the other four of our group were deep in conversation and laughter (standing in the parking lot) when we arrived.

Doug got the jump on me tonight – he has already written about our lunch over on his blog, Living Our Dream (though he didn’t delve fully into the deliciousness of the food we consumed).  However, I managed to get the elusive good shot of Fillmore!  Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Roz, Carol, Odel, Laurie, Doug, JoAnn Doug and Fillmore Fillmore licks his lips

The happy diners: Rosanna, Carol, Odel, Laurie, Doug, JoAnn

Doug and famous Fillmore

Fillmore licks his lips as we rehashed our meal in the lot.

Fish Stew Spinach and Cheese Souffle Tiramisu oops

Doug and Odel had Seafood Soup.  Looked and smelled fantastic.

We four women had the divine Spinach and Cheese Soufflé.

The Tiramisu was long gone before I remembered the photo!

P.S. (added 2/23): I should have mentioned that all of our plates looked just as empty as the tiramisu plate when we were finished.  Delicious!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Willcox, Arizona, is just off I-10, 100 miles east of Catalina State Park, our current home base (click here to read our review).  Its small, historic downtown is bisected by the east/west railroad; perhaps its biggest claim to fame is the Rex Allen Museum.  To birders, it is known for the winter population of Sandhill Cranes and a chance to spot the Elegant Trogon in summer; for hikers, Willcox is a gateway to the trails of Chiricahua National Monument, Ft. Bowie, and Cochise Stronghold.

We made the drive for a much different reason: the wine (and, particularly, the “bartender”, my cousin Rosanna)! 

Downtown Willcox Rex Allen Museum

Not much action in historic Willcox when I took this photo standing in the middle of the street.

The Rex Allen Museum draws fans of Westerns to Willcox; head next door to taste wine.

It is hard for me to picture Cochise County as a hotbed of wine production – and, compared to the wine producing regions of California, I’m sure it isn’t.  Nevertheless, grape growing and winemaking has developed considerably there in the past decade.  When my BIL Frank opened a gift bottle of Keeling-Schaefer red wine for us a few months ago in Sacramento, we were impressed – it was far above the quality of the wine we usually consume, quite luscious.  I guess there IS a noticeable difference between a $5 bottle and a $20 bottle!

Wine Tasting TodayKeeling-Schaefer Winery has a tasting room in Willcox, right next door to the Rex Allen Museum in what was originally a bank.  Since we haven’t seen my cousin Rosanna in way too long, since she manages the tasting room, and since we like good wine, a road trip was in order.

It took at least half an hour to get from Catalina State Park to I-10, where we joined the stream of 18-wheelers roaring east at 75 miles an hour.  Past the turnoff to the fairgrounds (FHU RV sites there), past Gas City with it rip-off diesel prices, past Benson with its many RV parks, past the big billboards for The Thing, past the beautiful (but closed) Texas Canyon Rest Area, rollin’ on toward Willcox. 

This time of year, when the grass is brown and dry and the trees completely leafless, the beauty of the landscape relies on the play of light on the arid mountains.  With Sunday’s heavy cloud cover, no such luck.  Instead, we reminisced about the many trips we have made to Cochise County, the wild weather we have experienced there, the fun we have had there.  And then, we were in Willcox.

Keeling-Schaefer Wine TastingWhat a lovely little tasting room!  The pressed tin ceiling, the hardwood floor, and the front doors were retained when the 1917 Willcox Bank and Trust building was remodeled.  The walls are hung with original art, each piece for sale.  Of course, the centerpiece is the tasting bar, where Rosanna took a break from her work long enough to run around the bar and give us each a BIG HUG (special treatment, I think). 

Since we were there primarily to visit, we settled on a couple of stools, then slowly made our way through the tasting list while we watched Rosanna at work and interacted with the various groups of tasters who came and went during the afternoon.  We met several RV’ers, including a couple who started their fulltime adventure just last August.  Rod and Jan Keeling-Schaefer stopped in, so we got to chat a bit with the winemakers, and we met the artist who also manages the small art gallery.

What a pleasant way to spend a relaxed afternoon! 

Driving homeWhen we finally left, around 4 pm, we drove across the railroad tracks to the Willcox Elks to check out their RV parking (spacious and level, on dirt/gravel, with water and electricity at the sites), then turned back to the west.  On the edge of town, we stopped at El Ranchito for an early Mexican dinner (to soak up a little of the vino sloshing around our stomachs).  I wish I could recommend the restaurant to you if you visit Willcox, but this is its last week of operation – the owners are moving away. 

A few miles from Tucson, we drove into a mighty rainstorm.  A wash in Catalina State Park is well known for flooding during heavy rain, cutting the campground off from the entrance/exit (click here to read about our experience a couple years ago); we were happy that the rain didn’t hang around long enough to cause any problems this time.

As I write this on Monday, the sun is shining, Odel is on the golf course, and I can see our friends Alex and Ellen setting up their motorhome two spaces down from ours (after they spent a night in the overflow lot of this VERY popular park).  They are coming for dinner tonight; I have posole (a pork and hominy stew served with toppings of raw vegies) in the crockpot.  For dessert?  Something special: Keeling-Schaefer  2007 Caldera Red Dessert Wine (made from Syrah grapes in a port-like style) with Safeway’s outstanding Chewy Chocolate cookies.  I’d better get out for my 10,000 steps!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Though we are far from the cutting edge of technology (no iPad, no Kindle, no HDTV satellite), we aren’t complete dinosaurs.  I don’t Tweet or Skype, but join the social networking crowd via Facebook – a great timesaver for communicating with our far-flung friends.  And of course this blog connects us with more people than we will ever meet.

A few weeks ago, I took another step into new technology: I bought and then used a Groupon.  I approached with my usual caution and suspicion, but our experience with our Groupon coupon and Corbin’s Bar and Grill (where we received $30 worth of food/drinks for our $15 coupon) in Tucson was very, very  positive. 

CupcakesI had a happy surprise recently when I received a $10 credit from Groupon, after someone (a blog reader, I assume), used my name as a referral when they joined Groupon.  This morning, as I reviewed my email (including the daily Groupon deals for Tucson and Sacramento), Sacramento’s deal caught my eye: half a dozen cupcakes for $8, usually $16.  I studied the deal, good for a year, and read reviews of the company.  Three locations, one near where we stay in Sacramento.  Best of all, free to me thanks to the $10 referral credit.

So, I’m in! 

Although I have heard Groupon mentioned in the news frequently recently (mostly because they rejected a $6 BILLION buyout offer from Google), I didn’t know how Groupon got started… as an off-shoot of a website called The Point.  This is from their website:

Groupon grew out of a website called The Point, a website launched in November 2007 that lets you start a campaign asking people to give money or do something as a group — but only once a "tipping point" of people agree to participate. By delaying action until enough people come together to have a real impact, The Point helps consumers, employees, citizens, activists, parents — or anyone — come together and solve problems that they couldn't solve alone.”

Another interesting concept!  Maybe I can browse The Point while I enjoy my cupcakes?

Back at CatalinaSpeaking of freebies…

A few days ago, I, along with many other bloggers, received an email from Joani Jones at Microsoft announcing the release of Microsoft’s newest version of Streets & Trips, 2011.  A press release was attached, and the offer included FIVE free copies of the product to offer as giveaways on my blog – generous, and a smart move on their part. 

The unsolicited free offer made me realize exactly how lazy I am.

I already own, use, and like Streets & Trips 2010.  Upon reading Joani’s email, my first thought was “The old version works well for me, and I understand how to use it.  I don’t want to take the time to learn a new version

Next came, “We’re on the road.  I don’t want to figure out how/where to receive the package.” followed immediately by “How would I decide who should get the freebies?  Too much work.” and finally “…then I’d have to ship them off!”

So I hit the delete button! 

Meanwhile, Rick (Rick and Paulette’s RV Travels) has already received his free copies, has designed a simple contest, and has 86+ comments on his blog to enter the giveaway.  For those of you faithful readers who suffer due to my lack of imagination and motivation, I suggest you get on over to Rick’s post (while I pour a glass of wine and relax) and get in on the contest today and tomorrow just by leaving a comment on his blog.  Tell him lazy Laurie sent you!  :)

Friday, February 18, 2011


It’s all over (almost).  The planning.  The research.  Moving out, managing and micro-managing.  Moving back in, checking to make sure everything works.  And, finally, driving away! 

Leaving RV RenovatorsWe couldn’t be happier.  We’re happy we made the decision to renovate, happy we followed through, and happy that we chose RV Renovators to do the work.  We aren’t quite done – we still need to pick up our new day/night shades next week – but RV Renovators has completed their work and have our appreciation for a job very well done.

Every RV owner has a horror story about repairs, warranty work, or renovations (click here to read about our worst experience).  Over the years, we have developed a rather suspicious approach to service facilities… you might say “guilty until proven innocent”!  Thus we approached our recent renovations with some trepidation, knowing we were about to commit a chunk of time, effort, and money to an unknown entity, RV Renovators.

A few minor glitches early on set our trouble sensors trembling, but we had done enough research on the company to feel we were in the right hands.  In the end, RV Renovators did everything they said they would, more quickly than estimated, at a price we believe is fair.  Best of all, we’re very impressed by the quality of their workmanship.  (Click here to see the work in progress on Nick and Terry Russell’s TV cabinets.)

In slightly over two weeks, they replaced our bedroom and living room carpet; replaced our two-pane windshield (they handled all the insurance paperwork); remodeled our front TV cabinetry, installed our new TV, and rewired components; built and installed a shelf/magazine rack behind our sofa, matching our existing medium oak wood work perfectly; replaced slide seals on both slides; resealed the roof; and six or eight other minor maintenance issues.

Old TV New TV

This is the big, old TV, with Bose speakers hanging under the side cabinets.

Speakers gone, TV cabinet shortened, frame re-worked.  We lost about 20 pounds!

As in all endeavors, communication was the key to success.  Once the work began (right on schedule), we visited the lot every other day.  On each visit, we were able to talk with the guys actually doing the work, particularly Jerry (who handled the carpet job and seemed to oversee the entire project), and Billy (RV Renovators’ talented cabinet maker).  When we had questions, they answered patiently.  They spent plenty of time listening to us - our ideas, our concerns, and our explanations – and then did exactly what we envisioned. 

While our rig was on their site, RV Renovators made our lives as easy as possible.  We had 50 amps of electricity, a water spigot we could use to fill our tank, and a full hookup site we used for a night or two before vacating the rig.  Their facility is securely locked, and we had a key that allowed us to get onto the lot at night and on weekends (and it seemed as though there were always a few RV owners in residence).  I understand that WiFi is available, too – though we didn’t use it.

Anytime we have work done on our rig – maintenance, repairs, or renovations – I add a review to, and this was no exception.  Good service, great quality.  We would return.  Thanks, RV Renovators!

Now, we’re ready to move on!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


After our massive cleaning job on Saturday, my mind was racing on Saturday night when we got back to the loft.  Would be possible to move all our belongings from the loft to Scoopy in the Jeep on Sunday (instead of waiting until Monday, when we could drive Scoopy to the loft’s parking lot)?  The big question mark: would my Euro-lounger fit in the Jeep?

Spotless Scoopy at Apache PalmsAs I drifted off to sleep, I had an Ah-ha! moment: we needed to take the Euro-lounger in our first trip.  If it fit, we could do all our moving with the Jeep; if not, there was no point in trying to move everything in one day via the Jeep.  All I needed to do was convince Odel of the soundness of my plan, and that it would be worth the effort.

I got up early on Sunday, plotting and planning while Odel was in bed.  When he got up, he announced “I have a plan”.  I said, “Me, too!”.    Odel:  “My plan is really radical.”  I could tell by his enthusiasm that I was going to hear about his plan before I told him mine, so I quickly asked “Should we load my chair into the Jeep first?”  He mouth made a big round O of surprise, and he said “That’s my plan!”  He, he, he.  No wonder we get along so well together.  :)

So we did it, moved everything from the loft to Scoopy in two trips.  Man, that Jeep holds a LOT!  We had everything moved in and put away by 6 pm, then headed off to meet Nick and Terry Russell (Gypsy Journal) for dinner.  We had met very briefly at their Gypsy Gathering Rally a few years ago and were happy to have the chance to spend time relaxing with them over a meal, swapping tales.  We got a free issue of their Gypsy Journal newspaper AND, best of all, Terry brought us a loaf of homemade rye bread – hand-shaped, beautiful, and delicious.  It was a great way to wrap up a long day of hard work.

Big slideWe woke early on Monday, still in the lot at RV Renovators.  After an early morning discussion with Jerry, we left to run errands while Scoopy was being washed.  We were back at noon, Scoopy was ready to go, and we drove 8 miles down the road to Apache Palms RV Park (a return visit) to set up and give our new electronics a test.  Everything works!

Our good friends Fred and Jo Wishnie (The Wandering Wishnies) are here, just a couple of sites away.  We had dinner out again… not only out, but OUTSIDE on a lovely patio at a nice little pizza place in downtown Phoenix, Cibo Cucina Urban Pizzeria.  We had semi-forgotten that it was Valentine’s Day and were surprised to see the restaurant and patio full… but were seated under twinkling lights outdoors (with a propane heater to remove the ever-so-slight chill) within about 20 minutes.  Good meal – REALLY good – and GREAT conversation, topped off with a beautifully presented Valentine’s dessert of gelato hearts with fresh fruit.  Jo took a picture – I didn’t even bring my camera.  :(

Into hallWhen I awoke this morning, I had one more chore in mind: photo documentation of Scoopy and her contents.  Several months ago, we changed insurance agents.  Over the phone, we discussed how insurers price your policy versus what they actually will pay (I was complaining). 

The conversation moved on to the personal property aspect of the policy, with the agent pointing out that most full-timers don’t buy sufficient insurance to cover their personal property (a separate line item on your policy).  She suggested I open and photograph each cabinet and drawer, the closet, and all of the bays, then save the photos in a safe place (in other words, OUT of the rig)  – so we could reconstruct a list of belongings if necessary to make a claim.

Obviously, NOW is the time to tackle this task.  We’ve recently put a lot of time and money into Scoopy, and she looks much better than is average for her age.  I set about documenting her condition in photographs, then took the next step, suggested by our agent: I opened and photographed every cupboard, drawer, and closet.  As I did so, I realized how difficult it would be to reconstruct our belongings from memory! 

Funny, so little of the stuff is worth much on its own, but the aggregate would be very costly to replace.  Think of all the stuff in your medicine cabinet!  Dishes, glasses, cooking utensils.  Towels, sheets.  Clothes, shoes.  Books.  Small appliances. MP3’s, CD’s, cell phones.  We would all be able to remember our computer/s, television/s, camera/s, the big stuff, the costly stuff… but all those small, well used things that would need to be replaced would add up quickly.

Pan drawer spices Under kitchen sink

Replacing my heavy pans would be a couple hundred bucks.

Spices:  Three to six dollars a jar… you do the math!

A vacuum sealer, toaster, some fancy oils and vinegars…

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the bays.  I plan to scan the receipts for the new electronics and the bill from RV renovators, then put those files, along with all the photos, on a DVD to send off to a family member – and maybe upload them to a private Picasa album when I have a good, fast WiFi signal.  That done, we’ll be back to “normal” life again, in our newly rejuvenated traveling home.  Done!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


As anticipated, all the renovation work on Scoopy was done when we arrived Friday afternoon.  Jerry showed us how the new toys work, and we talked about the various things that had been done.  Then, we paid the bill, which was just what we had been expecting.  Now OUR work began! 

11 am in the living room 4 pm in the living room

Living Room at 11 am; an explosion of activity!

Living Room at 4 pm; note the windshield wrap.

We had three goals on Saturday:

- pick up and install the cleaned, repaired windshield wrap (the curtains that wrap around the cockpit);

- attack and clean all the hard-to-reach dusty corners and under-sink areas (not to mention normal scrubbing, dusting and vacuuming);

- return to their rightful places all the things that had been moved from the drawers and cabinets in the slides, clearing the spaces that will be occupied by those many items we moved into the loft.

11 am in the bedroom 4 pm in the bedroom

Bedroom at 11 am on Saturday

Bedroom at 4 pm on Saturday

Odel got right to work on installing the windshield wrap.  With sun pouring in the windshield (new glass!), the temperature was rising rapidly.  While he sweated away in the sunshine, I got to work with the vacuum and dust cloth.  Every dusty corner was on my hit list, along with the bedroom’s fabric covered valances and padded headboard.  I sucked a tablespoon of accumulated grit out of the laundry hamper; even vacuumed the kitchen cabinets and drawers!

We took at break for lunch at 1 pm, heading to the Ace Hardware to pick up a few things Odel needed to finish his job.  We got lunch to go, then headed back.  Munch, munch, glug, glug - then we were back to the grindstone, Odel to attach new Velcro to the edges of the windshield wrap, me to break out the sponge and hot water.

Under the kitchen sink 4 pm in the kitchen

Under the kitchen sink – like new!!

The kitchen at 4 pm on Saturday

Above, left: my fondest accomplishment of the day.  This little under-sink nook – the storage spot for dishpan, rags, sponges, a fire extinguisher, and miscellaneous cleansers and polishers - was a only a couple weeks from full-blown plague.  The mice we’d attracted in Yellowstone had been remodeling it into a cozy home before they were vanquished.  I found poop, a half-built nest of chewed rags, food scraps… and look at it now.  If I hadn’t spilled the secret, you’d think my housekeeping was to be emulated, huh?  :)

Phoenix trafficWhile Odel took a short trip to Kmart, I scrubbed the tile floor of the kitchen, watched it dry (takes every bit of 60 seconds here in Phoenix’s negative humidity), and laid out my new “Imprint Anti-Fatigue Comfort Mat”.  Oh, man – what a treat that is!  Thick, cushy… no more aching feet, knees and back from standing on the hard tile. 

More cleaning, more polishing.  By 3 pm, we were two tired puppies.  We played with the new TV for awhile, hauled trash out – I’d become RELENTLESS in eliminating things we no longer use – and took empty boxes and bags to the Jeep to be refilled with items in the loft.  Then it was time for the glamour shots. 

Scoopy will never look this clutter free again – we’re returning on Sunday with computers, files, note pads, kitchen appliances and a variety of additional indispensible items that sit in easy-to-reach spots when we are in residence.  We’ll spend the night in Scoopy tomorrow, then drive back to the loft on Monday to load our clothes, food, and kitchen equipment. 

Though I enjoyed the once-every-eight-years deep cleaning we did today, I’m glad that tomorrow will involve less effort and more relaxation.  Best of all, we’ll be sleeping in our own bed.  :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Eight p.m., and I couldn’t be more content.  Just 24 hours ago, it was a different story.

When we arrived at RV Renovators yesterday, things were going well… so well that everyone agreed it was likely the work would be finished no later than Friday.  Whoopee!  Great news!  We answered some questions, made some last minute decisions, took some photos.  The skylight over the shower was out (being cleaned); the TV was mounted but the other components and framing were yet to come; and guys were crawling around on the roof scraping off old caulking to be replaced with new.  Another day’s worth of work, barring problems.

Over the shower! Waiting for trim and wiring Up on the roof

The couch was back in place and bolted down, and the new shelf behind it looks as though it is original equipment.  I am very impressed by how well Billy matched the new wood to the existing wood, and the attention to detail where the old and new blend.   The little flip top hides a box designed to hold magazines.  It is just what I wanted, very well executed.

Little shelf, long view Shelf is well fitted Flip top

We left the shop feeling excited and pleased, still not SURE work would be complete on Friday, but ready to make a reservation at our park of choice, Apache Palms (where we stayed for a week last month).  Apache Palms is one of few RV parks in the area with cable TV (odd, isn’t it?) – and we need a cable TV hookup to make sure the new TV and components are correctly wired.

Mid-February in Phoenix, Arizona.  Are there more snowbirds gathered in one place anywhere else in the US?  Maybe Florida, but Phoenix is the mecca for warmth-seeking seniors in the southwest in winter.  Apache Palms?  NO vacancy!   :(  

Scenic Trail benchTo the internet we flew, executing a dispiriting search in every-widening circles around Phoenix.  Nothing to be found with cable TV; in fact, nothing to be found, period.  We finally gave up and went to bed, not sure we could plan on getting Scoopy back on Monday, and wondering where we would stay if we did!

I awoke rejuvenated.  As soon as I finished my morning tea, I called Apache Palms again and, guess what?  They had a large, pull through site available – for three days beginning on Monday!  We snapped it up.  An excellent beginning to the day, and a sign of good things to come.

Sunny, cool, calm – the day begged for a hike.  With nothing to be done at RV Renovators, we set off to explore new territory, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, 30 miles from downtown Phoenix.  Like Usery, McDowell Mountain has an appealing campground, where we stopped to visit our new friends Gregg and Sally.  What a view they had from their campsite (sorry, no photo)! 

After our visit and a tour of the campground, we headed to the visitor center for hiking advice.  The volunteer sent us off in the right direction: Scenic Trail, 4.3 miles (and 10,500+ steps) of pleasant up and down, through saguaros and scrub.  Sixty sunny degrees.  Just us, the jackrabbits, the cardinals, the cacti, the sunshine. 

Celebration timeAt the halfway point on the trail, we sat on a bench and relaxed in a quiet of the desert, letting the stresses of the urban area and the renovations fall away.  I can’t wait to get back to the open spaces!

Then Odel flipped open his phone and called Eddie, our service writer at RV Renovators.  How are things going, we wanted to know?  Eddie’s answer: done!  Friday they will clean up, wash the outside, then they’re done.  Wow!

We finished our hike with bounce in our steps and went off to our last adventure of the day: dinner at Corbin’s Bar and Grill, using our Groupon coupon.  Have you heard of Groupon?  Each day, some sort of deal is available in the city of your choice (I have been watching three cities, Phoenix, Tucson, and Sacramento).  Most of the deals seems to be for spa services, car washing, manicures… but many are offerings from restaurants, and you see an occasional good deal at a bookstore. 

Corbin's Poblano Chilies and Fried ChickenWhile we were in Yuma, I saw the deal for Corbin’s – pay $15 for $30 worth of food.  I did a little internet research, checking restaurant reviews and the menu – where I saw Southern Style Fried Chicken, a favorite of Odel’s.  That cinched it - I bought the coupon, $15 charged to my credit card immediately.

We used the coupon tonight.  After our hike, we were hungry, and in a mood to celebrate.  Our total bill (excluding tip) was $62.  When they deducted $30 and the associated sales tax, we paid $29 (and of course I had already paid $15).  The food was very, very good, the service friendly and attentive, and we were happy because we got a deal.  What’s not to like?  :)

The day began with a stroke of good luck and ended with a wonderful meal.  In between, we explored a new area, spent time with new friends, and hiked a lovely trail.  Tomorrow we’ll visit Scoopy and make a plan to move back in.  Tonight, life looks very good, indeed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Shortly after we moved into the loft, Margaret and Ian issued a welcome dinner invitation.  What a meal: braised short ribs accompanied by endive, apples and grapes cooked together in butter until caramelized (with plenty of vino, of course).  The short ribs were delicious, but the fruit-and-vegetable accompaniment garnered the most interest and compliments. 

Consequently, I was intrigued to find a recipe for “Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pear and Shallots” in “Power Foods”, a cookbook put out by the editors of Whole Living Magazine.  I had a pear in the fruit bowl and a 2# bag of Brussels sprouts… no shallots but half an onion… and a few lonely carrots - so decided to give the recipe a try, with a twist.  Delicious – so good we had it again last night. 

Before you hold your nose, roll your eyes, and dismiss a dish made with Brussels sprouts… have you had them roasted?  Tender, but a little firm to the bite, with a rich caramelized color and flavor?  Like cabbage, Brussels sprouts are smelly and mighty unappealing when (over)boiled; roasted, they are an entirely different experience.  So good, you won’t even think about how good they are for you! 

Ready to roast: Brussels sprouts, onion, pear, carrots Odel's dinner plate

Here is the recipe, which I have also added to the recipe archive way down the left hand side of the blog.  The first night I made the recipe, we had the sprouts with grilled Steelhead trout; last night, we had chicken meatballs in curry sauce on brown rice (photo).   

No TV!We made another trip out to RV Renovators yesterday, where the renovations continue to move along.  The big, old, dusty, heavy TV that used to hang over the dashboard is out (sitting on the kitchen floor), and the TV cabinet is in the shop for a remodel.  Rumor has it that the new shelf to go behind the sofa is complete, but it had not yet been installed.

After a long and helpful (we learn something new each time we visit) conversation with Jerry, we got down to our business: turned on the refrigerator so it will be cold when we move back in, then made templates for two throw rugs.  We took our large carpet scraps back down the street to Mesa Sales (where we bought the carpet), along with the templates, and paid a small fee to have the carpet scraps cut and bound to the shape of our templates.  One rug will go near the accelerator and brake pedals, a pad for the driver’s heel; the other will cover the cockpit carpet, at the top of the entry steps.

Still to be done: resealing the roof and cleaning/resealing the skylight; caulking the kitchen sink; installing the new TV, the new shelf, the sofa and the cockpit seats.  Jerry thought the renovations might be complete on Wednesday (tomorrow!!); Friday would be fine with us (and ahead of schedule).  We’ll be visiting again Wednesday, helping everyone stay on task.  :)

Monday, February 7, 2011


I’ve already mentioned that Odel and I are at loose ends in this big space (just under 1,500 square feet).  Although we are grateful to have found this loft available when we needed a temporary home, we haven’t seen any advantage to additional space – in fact, just the opposite. 

Thus I got a huge laugh reading this post (click here) on Early Retirement Extreme – I think all fulltimers will be able to relate!  Jacob is a frugal blogger who lives with his wife in an RV - not for travel, but as an affordable alternative to urban housing in the California Bay Area.  His post tickled me, capturing perfectly many of the things I love about living in a small space.

In Jacob’s post, he describes everything he can do from his seat in his motorhome.  I, too, can do many of those things from my comfortable swivel Euro-lounger: open the window, turn on the overhead light, turn on/off the MiFi, work on my computer.  Select a magazine, reach and put on my headphones to listen to something on the computer without bothering Odel.  Turn on the radio with my little remote, or the TV.  I can reach behind me for a drink of water, or a snack (I have to lift my butt of the chair to do that, burning a couple calories).  At mealtimes, I move my computer to the adjacent shelf and use the computer table as my dining table.  Very convenient.

Best of all, though, I have an expansive view of the world outside - out the big window to my right, out the huge windshield up ahead, and out two big windows to the left – and plenty of natural light to enjoy.  If we are in an RV park, I can watch a new neighbor attempting to park in a tight space, or walking their dog.  Out in the open, boondocking in the desert or enjoying a spacious site on public lands or a fairground, it’s the ever-changing view of weather and the passage of the day, birds, wild animals… whatever there is to see, I have a front-row seat.

When we are living out of Scoopy, that is what I miss the most, and I miss it sorely.  Particularly in multiple-family dwellings, window space is at a premium.  Most condos have windows on just one or two walls; here in the loft, the only windows face one direction.  Used to lots of light and expansive views, I feel like I’m living in a cave when I’m surrounded by walls instead of windows. 

When we moved into the loft, several readers left comments that included “enjoy all that space”, and I thought we might.  Not!  However, the experience HAS given us a lot to consider for the day we hang up the keys and move into a non-rolling home… something on the small side!  :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Saguaro LakeButcher Jones…

Many western place names have a colorful history, and when we turned into the parking area for the Butcher Jones trail, I immediately imagined some madman named Jones butchering his family, a hapless miner or lonesome padre when Arizona was still the wild west.  But, who knows, maybe the upstanding butcher of some small, nearby community was honored by the choice of trail name?  In any case, we were happy to be out on the trail, skirting Saguaro lake in the company of our friends Alex and Ellen. 

In their emailed invitation to join them for a hike and dinner, they said “You don't need to bring anything...and we mean that.”  We took them at their word, so jumped into the Jeep unencumbered by anything other than thoughts of a fun day stretching before us.  This is our big THANK YOU!

We picked up Alex and Ellen at their RV park on the fringe of civilization and headed to Saguaro Lake, formed by one of the many dams on the Salt River.  The sun was bright, the air was cool, and the trail was up and down – just enough effort to keep us warm.  Along the way, Odel’s cell phone bleated and he had a conversation with Jerry, working on our renovations.  Good news – it appears the renovations might be done as soon as the end of next week!

Back at our friends’ motorhome, we were joined by Susan and Scott, also fulltime RV’ers, with an unusual background: they lived for ten years on their sailboat, circumnavigating the globe!  When Susan talked about provisioning for their travels for months at a time – working from a 4 page, single spaced spreadsheet – my mind boggled!  They stashed food EVERYWHERE, my favorite being wine bottles stored in the unused space UNDER a bottom drawer.

Alex and Odel on the trailSuch a congenial group, so much laughter, a delicious dinner… it was a wonderful break from the planning, list-making, ordering and purchasing that has consumed us recently, and made us even more eager to get back into our rolling home. 

With the renovations moving along so quickly, a special trip to Costco was in order today.  Before moving out of Scoopy, we completely emptied the refrigerator and freezer.   RV freezers take forever to freeze unfrozen food; consequently, we decided to stock up while we are here in the loft, using the sub-zero household freezer to freeze our chops, roasts and steaks before moving back home.

While I was filling our cart, Odel wandered through the TV aisle to admire our recently purchased TV – and found a manufacturer’s rebate that went into effect 4 days after we made our purchase.  The exact same TV was now $90 cheaper!  A quick trip to the customer service desk confirmed that we could get $90 knocked off the price of the TV, with just one catch: we needed to bring in the receipt.  That seemed a little odd to me since I know Costco has a complete record of every purchase we have made but, what the heck…

After we unloaded our goods back at the loft, Odel headed back with the receipt, only to be told at the customer service counter that he had to take the receipt back to the same Costco where we got the TV!  Huh?  I’m sure we could have RETURNED the TV to any Costco, but even a supervisor insisted that we had to get the rebate credit from the same Costco that sold us the TV.  After a phone consultation and directions from me, off he went to the Thomas Road Costco. 

Jackpot!  At Thomas Road, original location of the TV purchase, customer service was confirmed that the other location should have handled the rebate, then handed over $90 cash to Odel.  Not a bad payoff for an hour’s worth of work.  :)