Thursday, December 31, 2009


Decorated skull at Whitewater DrawI had every intention of viewing New Year’s Eve through the eyes of Bisbee’s inhabitants and visitors.  Really, I did.  Visualized myself dressed up in my warm coat, watching the stilt walkers, fire-dancers, the parades…

It’s now 9:30 pm.  Odel and Luna are in bed, asleep.  I am sitting in front of the new heater, warm and toasty.  If it isn’t yet freezing outside, it soon will be.  If all I had to do to see the festivities was open the curtains on the big front windshield as the parade marched through the RV park, I’d still have a hard time talking myself into leaving this warm and cozy chair. 

Well, who knows?  Maybe my “second wind” is right around the corner!  :)

Wherever you are, I hope you are doing JUST what you want to be doing, whether it is mingling with the adventuring crowds, taking in a breath of fresh night air alone or with your significant other, or sitting in your own warm and cozy chair, watching the ball drop on TV or quietly contemplating.  Welcome to the new year! 

The Whitewater Draw in late afternoon light.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Chocolate, another Bisbee Shop To help orient our friends Jeff and Margaret to Bisbee, we started the day with a walking tour, planning to head up Tombstone Canyon to High Desert Market, then up, up, up along High Street to take in the view across town to the RV park and the big pit mine beyond.

Just past Castle Rock, though, we spied an enticing shop I had tried to enter recently with no success – not because it had been closed, but because it was packed with (potential) shoppers.  Not so this morning, so we all crowded in to check it out.

Chocolate (wish I could figure out how to add the little accent mark over the “a”, but I can’t) sells just that: all manner of homemade chocolate – individual candies, truffles, hot chocolate, bars.  The retail section of the store is tiny; most of the small building is dedicated to the production process.  Not only do Gordon and Kim make chocolate, they roast and grind their own cacao beans! 

Laurie, Jeff and Margaret on a cold Bisbee morning. Making a living in retail in Bisbee must be a challenge.  With a population not much over 6,000 and no obvious major industry, you don’t get the feeling that residents spend a lot of money on life’s luxuries.  It appears to me that many of the retail businesses in downtown Bisbee rely on the cash tourists bring to town, and capturing those dollars demands not just excellent marketing skills but a true passion for pursuing your dreams in Bisbee.

Gordon seems to have that passion.  While we ogled the fabulously beautiful chocolates displayed in the lighted cases, we learned all about chocolate, from cacao beans (did you know that beans from different regions taste different from each other?) to finished product.  We tasted freshly roasted beans, unsweetened – a texture similar to a roasted pecan, with a lovely deep chocolate flavor.  Gordon brought us each a tiny cup of “the world’s best hot chocolate” to sample, and offered tidbits of chocolate from various exotic locations.

Port and Chocolate, ready to be consumed. As we sniffed, tasted, and talked, I remembered a bottle of Zinfandel port we had stashed away to be consumed during the holidays.  We had plans for dinner out with Jeff, Margaret, Sydney and Frank… how about a post-dinner port-and-chocolate tasting?  We came away with three chocolate bars, Fair Trade 65% West African Dark Chocolate, Fair Trade & Organic 70% Dominican Republic Chocolate, and 68% Madagascar Rare Red Chocolate (With Natural Plum Notes).

After our walking tour was complete, we hopped in Jules and took off for a driving tour through the various “neighborhoods” of Bisbee: Warren, Lowell, San Jose… past the ball park and the little airport, down to Naco and the golf course, up to the Safeway.  We all grabbed a Chicago-style hot dog at Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company – where Jeff reminisced with Jimmy about Chicago comfort foods – then headed back home.

Bisbee has quite a number of restaurants – but many of them are open only for breakfast and lunch.  Neither of our favorites (Cafe Roka or Rosa’s Little Italy) are open on Monday, so our choices were limited.  Since none of us had yet been there, we decided to try the just-opened Angela’s Italian Restaurant in the historic Copper Queen Hotel.

Peeking into the dining room - Angela's in the Copper Queen Hotel We were seated promptly at 6 pm in the warm, welcoming dining room – and proceeded to have a typical Bisbee Monday night dinner out: pleasant ambiance, mediocre food, friendly but unprofessional service.  Nothing was BAD, nothing was particularly good (except the salad dressing on the Caesar salad).

One bright spot: we brought our own wine, expecting a corkage fee of around $5 – but the corkage fee was waived.  We mentioned it to our young waiter, who shrugged, smiled, and said it was no charge… particularly welcome since a 20% gratuity had already been added to our checks!  While the food was forgettable, what we bought was the experience: a warm, nicely decorated spot to sit at a big table with friends, plenty of wine, interesting conversation, and no one had to do the dishes.  :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Odel, Al, and Kelly (of the Bayfield Bunch) at the Bisbee Breakfast Club The snow is gone, the presents are opened, we’ve eaten almost all the Christmas cookies… and I can still button my jeans.  That probably won’t last long, though, as we connect with friends in the area.

We started following The Bayfield Bunch (Al, Kelly, and their three dogs) last year when they camped near Borrego Springs next to Richard Dopp’s clay oven, a spot very familiar to us.  They did a stint of ranch sitting for our friends Jeannie and Ray in McNeal, AZ last year, and have returned again this year to enjoy the area and animals while Jeannie and Ray take some time to travel in their 5th wheel.

Al and Kelly feel about Bisbee like we do: it is a “don’t miss” destination in Cochise County, almost indescribable – though Al does an excellent job!  Al and Kelly also know my cousin Rosanna and Auntie Carol (Paws & Hooves Ranch) – we felt it was time to meet these two.  Since the Bisbee Breakfast Club is a favorite of us all, that is where we finally met these traveling Canadians at 11 am this morning. 

Visiting the mountaintop shrine on Christmas Day. We had plenty to talk about.  Al is an accomplished photographer who blogs daily, so topics ranged from photography to blogging to ranch-sitting to the great food at the BBC and other dining opportunities around town.  We talked GPS, the RV park in Naco, great places to visit in southern California, and of course the weather.  The time flew by, and I’m happy we finally had a chance to meet in the “real world” (if Bisbee qualifies as “real world”)…

Our next stop was right next door at the Bisbee Food Co-op where we stocked up on bulk beans and grains.  Heading back to our car, a shout brought us up short.  It was our friend Jeff, last seen by us at Collier Memorial State Park when we visited Crater Lake in fall.  Jeff and Margaret had just arrived in Bisbee, settled next to us at Queen Mine RV Park, and were heading into the BBC for a meal.  Warm hugs all around… we a looking forward to catching up with them over the next few days.

Laurie admires the view from the top. Though Bisbee is a town best explored on foot, there aren’t many marked hiking trails easily accessible from the RV park.  One of the best we have found heads up the side of a rocky red mountain from the end of OK Street, one of the hilariously narrow roadways clinging to a steep slope winding up a Bisbee canyon.  Where the road ends, the trail begins. 

Switch-backing up the steep slope is worth the effort: a multi-denominational shrine, decorated with all manner of icons, beads, crosses, statues, candles, photos, and prayer flags dominates the top of the peak and affords an excellent view of historic downtown Bisbee.  Frank and I made the climb on 12/24, while Odel played golf, and enjoyed a long rest in the sunshine on a perfect winter day. 

With the same sunny-but-cool weather, I suggested to Odel that we take the same path on Christmas Day.  Once again, the bench at the top was available to us for a long, sunny sit-down.  After drinking in the view and the sunshine, we scrambled back down, showered, picked up Sydney and Frank, and headed over to Sierra Vista (home to the nearest movie theatres) to see Invictus – a VERY interesting, inspiring movie, a great pick for Christmas viewing. 

Odel slurps sake at Hana Tokyo. Christmas dinner was at Hana Tokyo, a Japanese restaurant in Sierra Vista, probably one of the few restaurants open on Christmas day.  We’ve eaten there before, sitting at the hibachi grill – where Odel learned to drink a blast of streaming sake, courtesy of the hibachi chef.  No such hi-jinks this time – we sat at a table and conducted ourselves with suitable Christmas dinner decorum.  :)

The evening ended back at Sydney’s and Frank’s house, gobbling down a delicious, no-sugar flan Sydney made.  I’m not sure WHY I can still button my jeans!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Merry Christmas to all our friends and family.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday, wherever you may be.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Wild weather in Arizona yesterday.  A mighty wind caused a dust storm on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson, and three travelers died in a resulting pileup that closed the freeway for much of the evening.  Cochise County had a “strong wind advisory”, and the weather forecasters mentioned snow as a possibility in Bisbee. 

Sydney, Carol, Odel, Laurie, Rosanna, Laura While this was going on, the Cochise County contingent of our family gathered at Sydney’s and Frank’s house for an early Christmas celebration.  My cousin Rosanna (Paws and Hooves Ranch)  is leaving on Christmas Eve to fly to Cincinnati to visit her daughter and SIL (Joy and Greg), and we happily accommodated our schedule to hers. 

Since it is an hour long drive from the ranch to Bisbee, we gathered early so everyone could be back home by dark.  Sydney and Frank had a Christmas tree decorated in the living room, garlands here and there, the table beautifully set.  Soon the wine corks were popping, the cooks were jockeying for position in the kitchen, and the non-cooks (and cats) were wandering through looking for handouts.  As always, the food was outstanding, and we came away with a new recipe, described by Sydney as “Brussels sprouts for people who don’t like Brussels sprouts”. 

Queen Mine RV Park in snow.The wind was whipping dust into the air when we headed home in the waning daylight.  Queen Mine RV park, and especially our site backed up to the mountain side, was well protected from the strong winds and we slept soundly.  When we awoke to what I thought was light rain, we saw a different world… white Christmas!

Luna loudly declared her intention to go outside, and jumped out onto the step when Odel opened the door.  Whoops!   After a heavy application of fleece accessories, it was my turn – I wanted a photo of this unusual-for-us situation.  I know what the words “wind chill” mean, but had forgotten the reality of their physical expression.  It was COLD, COLD, COLD out there.

Clearing skies. I snapped three quick photos, then hopped back inside, where we have the electric heater going in the bedroom and the new Kozy World propane heater blazing in front.  Whew!

The sun should be out soon, the snow will be gone, and those welcome solar rays will warm the still-chilly corners of our little home.  It is something I can happily savor – when it happens once a year.  :)

Monday, December 21, 2009


Leaving Phoenix Approaching Bisbee

 Leaving Phoenix on AZ 60 east.

 Approaching Bisbee, heading south.

We drove 217 miles yesterday, from Phoenix to Bisbee.  The difference is extreme.  While we enjoyed Usery Mountain Regional Park, and will return if we have a reason to overnight in the Phoenix area, I don’t see us going out of our way to do so.   Too many people, too many cars and too much smog.  The charms of large cities take a long time to discover, way more time than we are ready to devote.   “Large town” or smaller – that’s what appeals to me.

First glimpse of Bisbee.

The first glimpse of Bisbee always puts a smile on my face.  Yesterday we came into town the very best way, heading south through the Mule Mountain Tunnel.  I LOVE this description, from “The longest tunnel in the AZ Highway system, Mule Mountain tunnel is also known as the "time warp" it heads from the real world into Bisbee proper....”   No foolin’! 

We rolled on down the hill, then wound our way up through the Bisbee Mine Tours parking lot and up the narrow driveway to the Queen Mine RV Park (click here to read our review), our usual home in Bisbee.   Coming to QMRV Park for the first time is a real adventure, especially if you miss a turn and end up driving your rig through Tombstone Canyon, the main street through historic downtown Bisbee.  (You really don’t want to do this.)

When you do make the turn successfully into the parking lot of the Mine Tours, it takes a seasoned driver with a steely nerve to make the uphill turn into the rock wall lined driveway.  Stan, the original owner who developed the park, knew exactly how much room to spare for a big rig… but each time we arrive I wonder if this will be the day we scrape off a headlight (hasn’t happened so far!).

Scoopy in Site 6 at QMRVQueen Mine RV Park’s 25 sites are mostly empty right now (though all reserved for New Year’s Eve), and we  settled in quickly – then took off to dinner with Sydney and Frank at their house a few miles west.  Ummmmm… what a nice treat after a longish (for us) travel day.

This morning, Odel had a tee time at Turquoise Valley Golf Course (5 miles south of Bisbee in Naco, on the US/Mexico border) at 9:45, and I had a date with downtown Bisbee.  I love browsing in Bisbee!  One of my favorite fine crafts shops, Twist, has closed… the economy?  But another favorite gallery, PanTerra, has moved from their former Brewery Gulch location (off the beaten path) to Tombstone Canyon, in the center of downtown Bisbee, and expanded.  Oh, I could have gone wild in there!

Scoopy dressed for Christmas.One of the reasons we are here for the next two weeks is to experience New Year’s Eve in Bisbee.  I’m going to try to stay awake until midnight – and probably will be outdoors.  Since Bisbee is over 5,000 ft. elevation, it gets COLD here at night (and can snow in winter).

My last shopping stop was a little thrift store in town where, for $15, I got a warm, oversized fleece coat with a quilted liner.  That will keep me plenty warm, with no worries about any potential damage from rowdy behavior (mine or others).  And I got the final touch for our outdoor Christmas decoration…

After we finished setting up yesterday, we took my big, Christmas red, sparkly hula hoop, wrapped it with a rope of multi-colored Christmas lights, and hung it on the front of Scoopy, a big red wreath.  It needed something… oh, yes, a big bow - made from the tartan plaid scarf I found at the thrift store.   Let the festivities begin!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I’m always on the lookout for prepared foods worth buying a second time, examining the frozen food aisles of Trader Joe’s, Costco, and any other interesting grocery store on a regular basis to see what’s new and interesting.  Recently, we found a few winners - not like homemade, but worth recommending.  Sorry I didn’t make note of the prices!

Trader Joe's Fettuccine Alfredo, creamy and tender. Trader Joe’s Fettuccine Alfredo was a big hit with Odel.  The pasta is frozen in little nests; the creamy sauce is included as frozen chunks and slices (you can remove a portion in advance if you feel the dish is too heavily sauced, but we thought it was about right).  Pour everything into a microwave safe bowl, nuke, stir and nuke again.

I added about 1/2 c. of frozen peas after the first stir, and the fettuccine and peas accompanied grilled salmon.  VERY tasty combination.

I believe it was supposed to serve 3 people (360 calories per serving if my memory is correct), but of course we ate it all between the two of us.  Definitely worth purchasing again.

Are you familiar with the Alexia brand?  You can find their products at “health food” grocery stores: Whole Foods, Henry’s, Sacramento Food Coop and others.  I wish mainstream grocery stores (Safeway, etc.) carried them!   I first bought an Alexia product at Whole Foods, part of Alexia’s “Artisan Breads” line: frozen whole grain rolls.  Really GOOD bread and rolls are difficult to find in many of the places we travel – and mostly impossible to keep on hand - so having sourdough rolls, whole wheat rolls, focaccia, or ciabatta rolls in the freezer, ready to heat and eat… priceless.  :)

Alexia frozen vegies
Alexia vegies in the pan, ready to saute.

Alexia seems to specialize in frozen potato products – their waffle fries (bake ‘em) and sweet potato fries are winners.  Based on these good experiences, I picked up “Roasted Red Potatoes & Italian Inspired Vegetables”.   Lots of red potato chunks and white beans, with lesser (but adequate) amounts of other vegetables.  Thaw the included olive oil, broth and basil mixture, then heat it in a skillet.  Add the frozen vegetables and sauté 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are browned. 

Good texture, color and flavor.  Odel’s comment: “The only thing wrong with this is that there isn’t enough!”  We had it with grilled lamb chops; I don’t know how many servings were intended, but we ate it all.  Next time, I might add a cup or so of frozen, chopped spinach (one of the ingredients) to stretch it a bit.  Another keeper.

Dark meat chicken with a light teriyaki sauceSorry about the quality of this photo – using the flash produced too much glare, so I went with poorly-lit and grainy instead.  :)

I am not normally a fan of prepared Teriyaki Chicken because the sauce is too sweet, or too thick, or both.  Trader Joe’s BBQ Chicken Teriyaki was a big surprise.  For one thing, it is all dark meat, which Odel, Luna and I favor.  Plenty of teriyaki sauce is included, in two separate packets – YOU decide how much of the very light, not too sweet sauce to toss with the chicken.  We had it over Trader Joe’s frozen Organic Brown Rice, with nuked frozen pea pods (unfortunately, not worth buying again).  3.5 servings per bag (I’d say three, and plan plenty of rice and vegetables to fill the plate), 150 calories per serving. 

Bon appétit.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Last January, we briefly met JC and Bev at a gathering outside Doug and JoAnn’s 5th wheel in the desert around Quartzsite during the Boomer get-together.  Since then, we’ve connected with them in the virtual world from time to time, but it would be a stretch say we knew them.

When JC read that we were headed to Mesa, AZ, he sent an email suggesting we all get together – he and Bev were in Mesa visiting friends.  We all agreed to meet yesterday at 10 am at the Wind Cave trailhead here at Usery Mountain Park. 

Bev, JC, Laurie, Odel, Nancy, Len, ready to conquer the trail. Wind Cave from below, the black smudge at the right end of the rock band.

When JC and Bev showed up, their friends Len and Nancy were with them.  Introductions were made at the trailhead, and we hit the 3.2 miles roundtrip trail up, up, up the mountain to Wind Cave.  (See the little dark shadow to the left of the high peak in the photo?  That’s Wind Cave.)

I expected a lot of huffing and puffing (from me), with frequent rest stops along the way.  Instead, we all marched right up the trail, talking non-stop, buoyed by shared interests, amazing and amusing stories, and similar political viewpoints.  Suddenly – surprise – we were at Wind Cave. 

The Grille Master at work.The trip down wasn’t quite as easy – old knees do better on uphill than downhill – but was just as much fun.  What a congenial group!  At the parking lot, Odel extended a lunch invitation… soon the grille was fired up and burgers were sizzling.

Chalk it up as a fine, fine day.  I hope our paths will cross again soon.

Consequently, I felt less than thrilled when I awoke this morning and contemplated our agenda: make a grocery list, then off to do the errands.  Shopping within a week of Christmas is a bad idea, and I was prepared for the worst – packed parking lots, long lines and Grumpy Laurie.

First stop: CVS Pharmacy for a few medical items.  Parking lot mostly empty.  No waiting at checkout.  Hmmmm….

Next stop: UPS store to ship a package.  Two people in line, 5 minute wait, exceptionally courteous and efficient service.  Wow!

The parking lot at Costco was a different story but, since we don’t mind walking, we parked at the less congested far edge of the parking lot.  Our shopping took about half an hour (sticking to the list) and – get this – Odel was through the checkout lane and ready to head out the door in the time it took me to visit the restroom!  What’s up with that??

Luna the Morsel (thanks to Len and Nancy for the photo)We had a long, long, list for Trader Joe’s, something from every aisle.  Yes, there were bottlenecks all over the store but we were next-in-line at the register.  What a shock! 

The rest of the day consisted of vacuum-sealing foods to go in the freezer, taking a little hike, and escorting Luna on supervised walks. Yes, all you pet-lovers who sent comments and emails about Luna’s safety, rest assured that we are responsible servants.  Before Luna can walk out the door (which she did not demand this morning), Odel does a thorough inspection of the “yard”.  Upon his okay, Luna and I step out.  While she takes her dust bath and checks the perimeter for interesting scents, Odel and I flank her like Secret Service agents, scanning in all directions.  Coyotes, beware!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


We had a wonderful evening last night, meeting in “real life” Margaret and Ian, two part-time RV’ers who we met on the internet as friends of friends.  Although they were getting ready to take off on a little trip of their own, they took time out to meet us for dinner at the Blue Adobe Grill in Mesa, AZ – their selection of a restaurant that didn’t require US to drive forever on the unfamiliar streets and freeways of the Phoenix metro area.

Merry Christmas at the campground kiosk. I thought that when foodies met foodies over food, they talked about food.  We all hit it off so well that the subject of food never came up, even though our dinners were delicious!  We talked travel, we talked mutual friends, we talked cats, then talked cats again… and suddenly our margarita glasses were empty, our plates were clean, and we were the only diners left in the place!  Thanks, Margaret and Ian, for such a fun evening!

Guided back home by our trusty GPS (no need to turn on a map light and squint at street signs in the dark), this is the sight that greeted us.  It was so warm and friendly that Odel turned the jeep around and returned to the entrance just so I could get the photo.  :)

As always, Luna the explorer was glad to see us.  Later, as we settled into bed, a sudden and unsettling chorus of coyote yips, yelps, and howls arose RIGHT OUTSIDE our window!  How does The Night Before Christmas put it?  “When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter!”  It wasn’t Santa!

We didn’t spring from our bed; instead, we opened the bedside window and peered out.  Luna crept close and gazed with focus into the darkness, listening very intently to the piercing chorus.  Maybe they were saying, “come out, come out, tender little kitty…”  Really, they must have been within a dozen feet of the window.  Howls rising and falling, new voices joining the chorus from 20 or 30 feet away.  Hair-raising.

Outside? Not this morning! Luna is a creature of habit (wonder where she learned that?  ha-ha) and her morning habit is to meow loudly and without a break until the door opens and she hops outside.  This morning, for the first time in the last several years of travel, she made not a peep. 

No meows when I threw off the covers.  I came out of the bedroom to heat the water for tea… silence.  I shuffled up front to open the windshield curtains – her cue to jump down the indoor steps and push her nose against the front door while her voice rises to a screech – Luna simply jumped to the dashboard for a through and searching look around.  Quiet.  Still.  Scared straight!  Yes, it can be a big, bad world out there, Baby Girl…

(Afternoon update: Luna has regained her confidence and visited outdoors under our protection, but I suspect she might give us a break in her morning demands for a bit.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Usery Park scene We have avoided the Phoenix metro area during our travels, by design.  Though I am sure that all large cities (well, maybe not El Paso, TX) have areas of interest and beauty, it takes too long to ferret them out if you are a short term visitor – so the stress of navigating urban freeways has little payoff.

Several of our friends (whose advice we trust) have raved about the regional parks in the Phoenix area, though – Cave Creek, McDowell Mountain, and especially Usery Mountain Regional Park (click here to read our review).  Though Phoenix was a bit out of our way (we are heading to Bisbee, AZ for Christmas), the stars aligned for a short visit:  a few days to spare, warm weather, highly recommended camping, and friends in the area.

Yesterday was travel day, and we set out in good spirits, rolling along I-10 with sunny skies and calm winds.  We anticipated about 150 miles, the last 50 or so in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, which we had to traverse from the west side to the east.

Six lanes heading east towards Mesa, AZ Maybe 100 miles into the drive, orange warning flags and signs began to appear alongside the road: “Accident Ahead”.  Orange cones and flags narrowed the road to one lane… and then we were detoured off of the freeway onto a road running south.  Following the truck traffic, we turned back to the east, ending up in a long, slow line of trucks and cars, inching along for 3.6 miles (that’s the GPS talking, again), sometimes stopped, sometimes slowly moving. 

We listened to the CB radio long enough to learn that a double-trailer semi had overturned, was spread over both eastbound lanes, and might pose a hazmat problem.  It was so cool to have the GPS on, showing us where we were and the route back to the freeway, with the exact distance left to travel and our current rate of speed – anywhere from 0 to 11 mph.  :)

With that little detour, our stats suffered:  166.6 miles took 3:39 hours at an average speed of 45.5 mph (max speed 64.7).  Still, we had arrived at Usery Mountain Park and picked a spot by 2:30 (pre-rush hour traffic), ready to relax and shake off the Phoenix freeway-induced stress.

Site 27 We LOVE our site – big, level, with lots of space and privacy.  We picked a site facing east, to catch that welcome morning sun in the big front windshield, so we have sunshine on the “patio” side all day.  Sitting in bed at night, looking out the opposite window, we can see the lights of the city in the distance.  Birds chirp in all directions, all day long.

The park is huge, and they didn’t skimp on space for the campground – all the sites are roomy and amazingly well maintained.   When any site is vacated, the hosts show up in their little cart with buckets and rakes – by the time they leave, the raked gravel campsite is almost Zen-like in its perfection.

The park gets high marks.  Whether visiting here is worth the aggravation of proximity to densely populated Phoenix?  I’m reserving judgment on that for now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


For the past six years, we have used a Wave 6 (brand) propane catalytic heater to warm up Scoopy when we are boon docking – or anytime we don’t want the noise of the furnace or an electric space heater – and we have been very happy with it.  In the past few months, though, we have noticed the faint smell of propane when we turn it on, and it doesn’t heat nearly as well as it has in the past.

Odel called the factory to find out where we could take it for servicing.  The answer: back to the factory, in NORTH CAROLINA!  We pay shipping, we pay labor to determine the cause, and we pay parts.  It is very likely that the part needed is a new “pad” (Wave heater owners will know what this is), $118.00.  The total cost for the shipping and repair would likely be $200 or so, plus all the hassle.  No, they don’t ship parts so, no, we can’t buy the parts and have it repaired somewhere convenient for us.

They lost our business then and there.

Boondocking at Quartzsite in December - where is everyone??  :) Quartzsite, AZ, the center of the western RV’ers purchasing universe, was directly on our route from Indio to Phoenix, so we scheduled a night of boon docking there – just long enough to purchase and test a new heater from a different manufacturer.  After a stop in Ehrenburg for diesel ($2.749/gallon), we pulled into the Scaddan Wash BLM 14-day free camping area just off of I-10 around 1:30. 

The day’s travel stats: 124.9 miles, 2:43 travel time, average speed 52.4 mph, max speed 66.7 mph.  (I’m sure I will tire of the new GPS and its statistical abilities – but not yet!)

Camping here is so easy: find a flat spot not too close to the neighbors, set up, enjoy.  Because Odel is dust-averse, we didn’t drive far off the pavement (unlike when we join the Boomers here in busy January, when we drive a couple VERY DUSTY miles to the middle of nowhere).  The interstate traffic was very nearby, but it calms considerably during the night.

We unhitched Jules, hopped in, and took off for RV Lifestyles, a few miles back into Quartzsite.  In no time at all we made our purchase – a brand new, Kozy World 2 Brick propane radiant heater, 10,000 BTU, with a stand and the fittings we needed to work with our quick-release connection.  Total cost: $245.  Time: about 1 1/2 hours for purchase and set up. 

Businesses, take note – that is how easy it is to send an otherwise satisfied customer out your door to another manufacturer.  CUSTOMER SERVICE – embrace it!

Romantic night time glow. Our new Kozy World heater.

I spent about an hour last night lounging on the couch admiring the glow of the new heater as it radiated its warmth in my direction.  By the time I went to bed, Scoopy was so warm I had to turn the heater off!  Odel turned it back on this morning when the inside temperature was 59 degrees at 5 am.  By the time we got up at 7 am, the inside temperature was a few tenths shy of 70 degrees.  Oooooohhhhhh… I can tell we are gonna be happy with this.

Now, off to Mesa.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Spacious site 17 when we left this morning. We just returned from a hike and a couple errands to find that two more rigs had pulled into the Indio Elks Lodge parking (read our review here) while we were away.  Of the 54 spaces available, 9 were inhabited when we left, and we had open spaces on both sides of us.  When we returned, 10 of 54 spaces were inhabited – and we had new neighbors in the site on each side of us.  The question:  why do people park right next door when there are dozens of empty sites to chose from???

Today’s walk was along a well used trail adjacent to one of the fancy neighborhoods of La Quinta (not the most fancy – walking isn’t allowed in those neighborhoods!).  Many folks were out walking their dogs, large and small.  Signs of this popular activity were evident at regular intervals along the trail.  The question: why do people who actually bother to pick up their dog’s poop in a plastic bag then leave that bag on the side of the trail??? 

Narrow bit of hwy 78 heading towards the Salton Sea. When I am puzzling over such minor questions, you can tell life is going well indeed – no big worries to ponder.  :)

Yes, all is right in our world.  We had an uneventful drive from Jojoba Hills to the Indio Elks Lodge yesterday: 131.3 miles, 2:53 hours of driving, 45.4 mph moving average speed, 61 mph max speed (stats compliments of the new GPS). 

We took what looks, on a map, like a very roundabout route: Hwy 79 east to S2, southeast to Hwy 78, east to the Salton Sea and Hwy 86, then north to Indio.  More than one alternate route would cut down the mileage, but these mountains! 

Unless you opt for the longest, least visually appealing route (the interstates), all routes have this in common: narrow, winding, two lane roads.  The shortest routes add the excitement of steep grades over mountain passes – no, thanks.

Hiking at Cove Oasis in La Quinta, CA We were in place at the Indio Elks by 1:30 pm, leaving time for a walk before we headed to dinner at Fisherman’s Market and Grill.  We were introduced to their sweet, succulent fried shrimp and catfish during our very first month of fulltime travel by a friend who lived in Palm Desert at the time – and we have returned every time we’ve been anywhere near here.   We even brought home a take-home menu so we could plan tonight’s dinner in the comfort of our own home.  :)  Really, their catfish is THAT GOOD! 

Tomorrow we’re heading east to Quartzsite.  Shouldn’t be too much action there yet this winter – the big RV show doesn’t start until the middle of next month.  We need a new propane space heater, so plan to pick it up there, overnight in the desert, then head on to Phoenix, new territory for us.  Who knows what we will find along the trails there??

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I can’t believe that our time here at Jojoba Hills is over – we leave tomorrow!  It’s been a great stay, catching up with many friends who either have lots here or, like us, are visitors.  Since we won’t be attending the annual Boomer gathering at Quartzsite this year, this is likely to be the last time we will see many of these folks for the rest of the year, as we head east. 

General Delivery at the post office in Aguanga, CAPeople who don’t live this traveling lifestyle often ask us how we get our mail.  Like most fulltimers, we use a mail forwarding service.  All of our mail goes to one address (ours is in Sioux Falls, SD), and they forward it on to us at the time and location we specify.  Sometimes this is a relative’s house, or a friend’s; sometimes it is an RV park.  Often, it is simply c/o General Delivery, which is most easily handled in some small town with a single post office.

On Thursday, a stormy day here in southern California, we picked up our General Delivery mail at the Aguanga, California, post office, one of the three buildings that comprise Aguanga (post office, general store, and realty office). 

Citracal with GenisteinLooks pretty bleak, especially in this weather – but as usual in these tiny P.O.’s, the single staffer was warm and friendly.  Unfortunately, the mail itself wasn’t the same… fulltimer mail consists of bank statements, bills and, in this case, an incorrectly filled prescription.  :(

Which reminds me: ladies, when I saw my doctor in Sacramento last month, he recommended (strongly) a new calcium supplement, Citracal Plus Bone Density Builder.  It includes a substance called Genistein that he felt made this particular calcium supplement superior to others (including Viactiv, my usual).  The cost is around $12 for 120 tablets (this is over-the-counter stuff), which is a month’s supply (you take 4 a day).  Just FYI.  :)

In spite of the partying we did here, we managed to set aside a day for a road trip in the Jeep.  We haven’t explored much of southern California since we have been fulltiming – the urban density turns me off, and the traffic...!  Still, the winter weather is appealing, especially around San Diego. 

Our friends Jim and Ellie are there now, at a campground others have recommended to us, Santee Lakes Regional Park.  We were able to figure out how to get there “the back way” – meaning, staying OFF the freeways and out of heavy traffic - so we headed south to explore.  Most of our route was a leisurely drive along smooth, winding, two lane back roads – expansive views from the hillsides, dappled shade in the eucalyptus-lined valleys. 

Julian Pie Company About halfway to Santee Lakes, in the tiny hamlet of San Ysabel, we came to a crossroads.  An eastward turn headed to the mountain town of Julian, known throughout southern California for their apples – and even more famous for their apple pies.  Our turn was westward.  Guess what?  The Julian Apple Pie Company had the foresight to put a little outpost right there at the intersection.  We immediately made a plan to stop on our way back to pick up a pie for the night’s dessert (we had been invited to dinner and had nothing to bring) – and that is just what we did. 

Since it was 3 pm and we still had 20 miles or so to drive, we thought a snack was in order.  I had traditional two-crust apple pie, heated, with melted sharp Wisconsin cheddar on top; Odel had heated Dutch Apple pie (the crumbly top crust) with cinnamon ice cream.  Yum… :)

Once I wrap this up, it’s time to think about tomorrow’s travels.  We’re traveling 130 miles from east from Aguanga, through huge Anza Borrego State Park, to Indio for a short stay at the Indio Elks Lodge.  The weather should be sunny and warm(ish), and we’ve got our taste buds primed for shrimp at the Fisherman’s Market.  Later!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Whew!  I’m taking the day off today.  :)  

Alice, Vicky and Odel enjoy the December Birthday PartyJojoba Hills SKP Resort is a lively park this time of year.   We arrived on Tuesday, and had dinner with our friends Carole (oh, can she cook!) and Dick at their place.  On Wednesday, Carole hosted a happy hour for us – lots of appetizers, vino flowing freely, and many laughs with old friends and new. 

On Thursday, we went to a small wine tasting hosted by Bruce and Jeri – lots of appetizers, vino flowing freely (of course), and many laughs.  Are you beginning to see a trend here?

No planned social activities on Friday night, but our neighbors – friends Joe and Carla – arrived back on their lot next to us, so we had a small happy hour gathering with them.  This time, I took a cup of tea, and sat far from the appetizers!  Last night (Saturday), the “December Birthday” Boomers had a party… lots of food, lots of drinks, lots of laughs – and bowling!

This was the first time I had seen any Wii activities, and Wii bowling was just about the right activity level for this age group.  :)  Here is my favorite video of the evening: Terry’s special Wii wiggle.  Turn up the volume and you’ll get a feel for the atmosphere… warm, welcoming, fun.

When we haven’t been partying, we’ve been computing.  With his new computer, Odel has been pushing the envelope of his computer skills on a daily basis.  He is now on Facebook (!), and as confused about it as I usually am.  More of the online tasks of our Boomer volunteer job are now on his to-do list (making me very happy) – another sometimes frustrating learning curve that he handles with his usual patience and humor. 

Christmas Tree in the Jojoba Hills ranch house. Today was a quiet day for us (by design).  We listened to a favorite radio show - the always hilarious Wait, Wait – Don’t Tell Me (Saturday’s show is rebroadcast on Sunday) on NPR - while Odel cut my hair.  We took a walk through the park, examining and commenting on our favorite sites. 

The weather got progressively colder and cloudier, so I’ve been parked in my computer chair since we got home, trying to remember how to edit and upload videos.  Odel engaged in technology multi-tasking: switching between football games and golf on TV while he checked email and Facebook on the computer.  And washed the laundry in between!  You go, Odel!  

Now the clouds are low and dark, with a biting breeze that discourages outdoor activity.  Rain is in the forecast, and I am happy to be inside with plenty of propane in the tank.  I hope this finds you warm and cozy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Odel on the deserted beach at Heceta Head, OR

Last October, much to our surprise, the Road Trip Journal entered our blog about our hike at Heceta Head, Oregon, in their monthly blog competition.  With the help of you blog readers, we won that month’s competition, and a $100 gas card.  It felt GREAT!  (And we were able to fill Jules’ tank twice.)

December’s “Best of the Best” competition includes all the winners of 2009’s monthly competitions, including us.  This time, the prize for the winner is a $500 gas card, and a $200 gas card for a winning voter.  And bragging rights for all of next year, of course.  :)

Mushrooms along the Heceta Head Trail. Our friend Jo Wishnie is also in the competition. She’s already lobbying her blog readers and Facebook friends for votes, so I thought I’d better get my own publicity juggernaut rolling. 

Here is the link to view the “Best of the Best” and place your vote: Readers Choice Award.  Our entry is the October winner, Heceta Head Lighthouse & Hike, Oregon.  From that page, click on the “Enter Survey Here” graphic to place your vote (for us, we hope). 

One unusual aspect of the Road Trip Journal’s competition: they use the original blog’s text, displayed on a plain white background with a few of the original post’s photos.  I was sorry to see that my favorite photos from the original post weren’t selected by the editor to be included… so I reprinted them here for you readers.  The variety of mushrooms along the trail was amazing.

Thanks for reading and, if you think our post warrants it, thanks for your vote.  Oh, the anticipation!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Boondocking at the Wasco Elks Lodge I get the biggest kick out of this photo our of overnight site in Wasco, California.  It looks as if wavelets could be tickling my feet as I photograph Scoopy and Jules on a packed sand beach, palm trees in the background.  In reality, it was early morning in the middle of the smoggy central valley of California, surrounded by fallow brown fields.  Let’s get out of here!

We were on our way around 9 am, with an unusually long (for us) day ahead, including a brush along the eastern edge of the Los Angeles basin.  Destination: beautiful Jojoba Hills SKP Resort, 17 miles east of Temecula, California, near Aguanga (click here to read our most recent review). 

The shortest route from Wasco to Aguanga goes right through L.A., so is not a favorite of mine.  Instead, we head east from Bakersfield up over Tehachapi Pass, pick up highway 395 at Kramer Junction (Four Corners), head south to I-15, then I-215 until we reach Temecula and head east – adding 20 miles to the route, but eliminating the heaviest traffic we might encounter mid-day in L.A.

Down Cajon Pass heading towards Riverside

Heading down the long grade of Cajon Pass.
What we saw as we travelled south on I-215

A typical LA freeway interchange and traffic.

Some years are more scenic than others, depending on the amount of rain or snowfall.  We’ve crossed 4,000+ ft. Tehachapi Pass when the mountains were beautiful, blanketed in white.  Alas, this year was not one to remember… but at least the 255 mile drive was uneventful.  We had fun dinking around with the new GPS (trip stats: 255.7 miles, 4:57 hours moving time, 51.6 miles moving average speed) and listening to satellite radio, and were settled into our site by 3 pm.

Scoopy in Site 202 Our stay in Sacramento is always a busy time, with a far more lively social life than is usual for us while on the road.  Frequently, our next stops after Sacramento are much quieter. 

Not so here at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort.  Many of our Boomer friends have long-term lots here, and have settled in for the winter.  Thanks to Carole and Dick for hosting us for dinner last night, and giving us the lowdown on the social calendar.   Happy hours, wine tasting, birthday celebrations… those are some of the planned activities.  Just taking a walk around the park can be a day long social event as we run into friends we haven’t seen in months or years. 

Odel is out walking now, swinging by in a few minutes so I can join him in the sunshine.  Later!

Monday, November 30, 2009


The highlight of my day came at 9:15 am, when I called Odel with a health report that was the result of the hastily scheduled mammography “call back” appointment this morning: FALSE ALARM.  Everything looked good on the follow-up mammogram and ultrasound; we were cleared for takeoff.  YIPPEE!

By the time I got home, Odel had gathered up our errant forwarded mail (which we had bugged the RV park office about all week), vacuumed, and finished his walk.  I was so wound up from my early (7:45 am) appointment and its happy aftermath that I needed a 30 minute walk to wind down and put my brain into “departure mode”.  It had been a month since we last moved, and I didn’t want my distracted state to result in a problem on the road.

Heading south on Interstate 5 in CaliforniaWe left Cal Expo RV Park at 11:00 am on a good day for travel: moderate temperatures and no wind.  The views on our drive south on I-5 varied from mundane to desolate – this is about the worst time of year for a trip through the central valley.  Smog hung heavy over the brown fields and vineyards, eclipsing the view of the coastal range and the Sierra.  We fell in line between the semis and watched the miles tick off on the GPS, humming along to old favorites (now called oldies) on Sirius satellite radio.

A short lunch stop.  A break at Love’s Travel Plaza to refill the fuel tank.  We turned into the driveway of the Wasco Elks Lodge just as the sun dropped down to the horizon – wow, these winter days are SHORT.  We pulled into position on the perimeter of their huge, empty gravel lot for an overnight of dry camping – no need to even unhook Jules.  The jacks and slides were deployed in no time, Luna got out to stretch her little legs, and Odel removed bug debris from the windshield while I handled the interior setup.  The football game started, we whipped up some dinner, and kicked back to enjoy what feels like our first night on the road.

A line from one of the oldies we heard today (America’s Ventura Highway) is spinning around my head: “…the free wind is blowing through your hair…”.  I don’t have much hair for it to blow through, but I sure identify with the sentiment – and it feels particularly fine tonight.