Thursday, December 30, 2010


It’s avocado season, and here in Yuma you can buy creamy, ripe, unblemished Hass avocados for fifty cents each.  Smashed, lightly salted avocado spread on toasted wheat bread or a toasted English muffin – it’s one of my favorite breakfasts and easily indulged this time of year.

Avocados Toast and Avocado Going... Going...-1 Gone!

Avocados, on …

…wheat toast.




Last night, Patsy Cook organized a Boomer Pizza Party at the Round Table in Yuma.  Sixty one of us showed up – a boon for the restaurant, I’m sure – and had a great time.  Patsy passed out “business cards” from a local chocolatier, Chocolate Crafters.  Each packet included a normal business card backed by a slab of Crème de Menthe chocolate.  Odel and I split our when we got home – WOW!  It was something special.

I was happy to discover that Chocolate Crafters is just a few miles away, near the intersection of I-8 and Foothills Blvd.  (By the way, I posted a “review” of the Foothills area to our campsite review blog today – click here if you want to read more about the area.)  I didn’t have to do much talking to persuade Odel to come along with me for a visit this afternoon.

Chocolate Crafters Odel tasting

The little Chocolate Crafters Kitchen and Shop

Bob (chocolate crafter), daughter Lorena, and Odel

Bob prepares the samples – many, many samples!

Lovely, delicious artisan chocolates.

Preparing samples Chocolates

In a little shop in a southwestern-styled strip mall, Bob and his daughter Lorena make fabulous chocolates in small batches.  As we chatted, Bob offered us sample after sample of his delicious wares: several different kinds of nut barks, creamy truffles, salted caramels.  When Odel asked Bob how he got started making chocolate, Bob replied with a smile,  “I read a book”.   

We had a fun time tasting just about everything Bob makes – oh, the candied, chocolate dipped orange peel flavored with Grand Mariner!  And the Aztec Chocolate, a bar flavored with chilies… and a bit of orange?   Yes, we were charmed, and possessed by the magic, we left with a BIG bag of goodies.  If you like chocolate and find yourself in Yuma, don’t miss Chocolate Crafters (11242 S. Foothills Blvd., Suite 18).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Sunrise in YumaHere on the far western edge of the Mountain Time Zone, sunrise comes very late – 7:30 or so.  This morning, when I rolled over and peeked out my bedside window at that time, the world had a pinkish cast.  I scrambled out of bed and into clothing in time to get a shot of the spectacular sunrise.  Wow!  Five minutes later, just dull gray clouds.

When I last wrote, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a General Delivery package – two identical, used, LG “feature” phones (which I called “dumb” phones recently, but have since been educated) mailed to me by a very kind Boomer who read of my phone accident.   The package arrived right on time – but of course we went to the wrong post office, the one 12 miles away, instead of the one practically next door.

As soon I we got home with the package, I plunked myself down on the sofa and was soon surrounded by boxes, charging cords, instruction manuals and packing materials.  It took just a few hours to activate the new (used) phone with my phone number, deactivate my old phone and pack it for recycling (drop it into the mailbox in a free mailer),  download my contacts list from the Verizon website to the new phone, and “pair” my new Bluetooth headset with my new phone.  Eek, I’m a geek!

I spent almost as much time rounding up the charger cords that went with the old phone (which can be discarded), labeling all the new charger cords (a 110v. for the new phone, a 12v. for the new phone, and a 110v. for the Bluetooth headset), and replacing the old user guides with the new.  Then I spent the rest of the evening playing with the new phone, which has some cool stuff my old phone didn’t (though they are about the same age) – including a tip calculator.  :)

Cabbages Lettuce field

Unlike today, when it is cool and sprinkling, yesterday was gorgeous – approaching 70 degrees, sunny, with very little wind.  We drove from our site in the Foothills out to the Boomers encampment at Mittry Lake north of Yuma to visit during happy hour.  In the past, when we have visited Yuma over New Year’s, we have always boondocked with the gang at Mittry.  This year, we are so happy on our little full-hookup site in the Foothills that our intent is wavering and we’ve been commuting instead.

Field of green lettuce Purple lettuce

Once on the north side of I-8, the drive out to Mittry is beautiful on a sunny day.  This is the land of winter greens: lettuces of all kinds, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli.  If you are having a salad today, chances are your lettuce came from Yuma.  The dark green, bright green, and purple crops are a colorful – and mouthwatering - counterpoint to the jagged, arid mountains in the distance.  It is a very appealing side of Yuma.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Boomers at Christmas potluck

Christmas was a day perfect for travel – sunny, 60+ degrees, no wind and no traffic.  We left Sands RV Park earlier than usual for us (8:45 am) and we pulled into our current site in Yuma at 1:30 pm – even though we lost an hour when we crossed the California/Arizona state line.  We set up quickly, hopped into the Jeep, and took off to the super-secret (ha, ha!) boondocking location of the Boomer Christmas gathering.  We pulled in just 10 minutes after the potluck dinner was scheduled to begin and were shocked to find that dinner had not yet begun!  Oh, my gosh – we Boomers must be aging; in the past, 10 minutes late meant digging the scraps out of the corner of the casserole dish.

It was a great way to spend Christmas afternoon: sunshine, shirtsleeves, and the camaraderie of long-time friends.  Thanks to Jan Moore, I was able to pull this photo off Facebook – our happy group, post repast.

Jan 2I have very mixed feelings about Yuma.  Snowbirds come to Yuma in winter for the sunshine, the usual lack of precipitation, and the fairly low cost of living.  Mostly aging RV parks of every size cater to snowbirds with reasonable monthly rates and a full schedule of planned activities.  In the eight years we have been passing through Yuma, a big new mall has been built, with movie theaters, restaurants, and most of the stores you expect to find in a urban area.  I’ve read that Yuma is one of the fastest growing town in the country.

Since we’ve been fulltimers, we have spent six of our eight New Year’s in the area, boondocking with  Boomers either north or west of Yuma.  We always have a good time with our friends, but the town impresses me as ugly and dull (the mall was a BIG improvement).  Though the weather is usually sunny and reasonably warm, wind frequently plays a prominent role.  I took the above photo on January 2nd, 2007, when I had unintentionally left a window ever so slightly cracked open – yes, that dust is on the INSIDE of the motorhome!

Foothills scene 1Since we don’t appreciate the amenities offered by what we view as overcrowded RV parks, we’ve had a tough time appreciating a stay in Yuma if we don’t want to boondock.  In the past, our choice has been a small, no-frills park on the east side of Yuma in an area called The Foothills, but over the years the cost of a stay at our park of choice has become way to steep for the (no) amenities offered.  For this stay, thanks to a lead from friends, we were able to land a short-term site on a private lot in the Foothills, still no-frills (fine with us!) and much more reasonably priced. 

“The Foothills” is one of the most unusual and RV-friendly developments we have seen in our travels (click here to read more information on our campground review blog).  A huge area, the Foothills consists of several square miles developed as small deeded lots – owned, not leased – separated by low stone walls on wide streets.  Residents can build a home, live in an RV, or anything in between.  The smallest (single) lots can have hookups for two RV’s; a double lot can have four hookups.  All four sites on our lot are rented to long-term residents (January-March) beginning next week, so we need to be out – which works perfectly for us. 

Christmas sunset in YumaWe’ve been exploring the area on foot and by car, enjoying the views of the arid mountains to the east and the fascinating mix of “living units” on each street.  Some lots hold appealing, southwestern style, site-built homes with gorgeous, drought tolerant landscaping, selling for well over $200,000.  Next door, four large RV’s have settled into spacious graveled sites for the winter  – just FHU’s and trash provided.   Across the street, a lot owner lives in a park model during the winter while her Class C motorhome awaits her departure when the temperatures hit double digits in April.  So interesting!

We’re off shortly to visit the Post Office – tracking shows that my new-to-me phone should be waiting at General Delivery.  Bright sunshine outside, 60 degrees, slight breeze… if this keeps up, I might end up LIKING Yuma!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Sunny dayFour o’clock in the afternoon, and the SUN has just slid down behind the western mountains. It is our second day of SUNSHINE! Can you tell how welcome this change of weather is?

We awoke to a beautiful day yesterday and headed outside earlier than usual, curious to look at the condition of the drainage washes that run through the park. The washes were in good shape, just a little sand and mud across the roads and a few puddles here and there.

The golf course, though, is a different story, and access to the course was totally blocked off with yellow “crime scene” tape (actually, “caution” tape, but it looked like a crime scene!). During the heavy rains on Wednesday, when Dillon Road, adjacent to the park, was running with mud, gravel and debris, a river of muddy runoff washed through the middle of the otherwise green, grassy, extremely popular golf course. At least a few of the fairways are now muddy ponds – a particularly sad sight on such a lovely and long-awaited day!

Wet FairwaysOutside the RV park, area roads are a mess! The White Water River runs from northwest to southeast through Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert and Indio, and every road through the urban area was closed at what is called “The Wash”. For those of us who don’t know the area well, it means poring over maps anytime we want to go anywhere, consulting online lists to see if roads on our route are blocked and how to get around the blockage (the answer: drive 20 miles out of your way).

We had planned to hike in Indian Canyons today, an area reputed to be some of the most beautiful hiking in the Palm Springs area. I called the visitor center there at 8 am to see if the trails were open (yes), then asked Ranger John for to suggest a route from Desert Hot Springs to Indian Canyon. A drive that normally would be around 12 miles turned into 30 miles because of the road closures – so we nixed that!

Happy Hikers, Sue and LaurieInstead, we picked up our friend Sue Malone from her RV park a few miles away and headed to the Coachella Desert Preserve for a hike to one of the palm oases protected in the preserve. We chatted as we hiked along the ridge tops and washes, getting to know each other better while enjoying the sunshine and 60-something degrees. We couldn’t help but stop frequently and exclaim about the perfection of the day, drinking in the sunshine and 360 degree views.

When we got home at 3 pm, delicious aromas from the crockpot filled Scoopy. I’d put lamb shanks in the crock pot before we left, using the Basque Lamb Shank recipe that I had forgotten is already in my recipe archive (thanks for reminding me, Sue!). The lamb shanks are cooked with white beans, tomatoes, and butternut squash, and we have a special red wine our friend Pat gave to us as an early Christmas present before we left Sacramento. My mouth is watering as I write…

We’ll be hitting the road tomorrow, driving 200 miles from Desert Hot Springs, CA, to Yuma, AZ. Our Boomer friends are holding a Christmas potluck in the desert near Yuma in the afternoon, but we’re not sure we’ll arrive in time for the meal (hence the special dinner tonight).

Pushwalla PalmsHey, remember my story from the other day, when my cell phone jumped into the swimming pool? A Boomer couple were among the many readers/friends who responded when I wondered about what I should do. They had two “retired” LG phones, along with all the cords and user guides, sitting in their rig. After a quick series of emails and little internet research, Jan put the phones and their accessories in a box and shipped them off to us yesterday – estimated date of arrival in Yuma (c/o General Delivery) 12/27. Isn’t that great?

Jan’s response to my comment about reimbursing her for the shipping expense and effort was “...let's just make it a Pay It Forward transaction”. Jan and Ken, thank you again. What a nice Christmas present!

Hey, a big group of carolers just passed by the front of our rig. Merry Christmas, every one of you and yours.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Flooding 1The big weather news for the last several days has been the huge, wet storms hitting California.  Here on the east side of the mountains in the Coachella Valley, we’ve been spared the brunt of the storms – but have received enough rain in the past couple of days that many streets are closed (flooded).  Our heaviest rains arrived last night and are forecast to pound us most of the day.

Mid-morning, Odel put a batch of chili into our crock pot, which reminded me that I had a new recipe to add to my recipe archive: French Split Pea Soup in the crock pot.  The recipe came from The Gourmet Slow Cooker cookbook, by Lynn Alley, given to me by my friend Becky when we were in Sacramento a few weeks ago, and it is both inexpensive and incredibly simple.  You don’t even have to hang around while it is cooking.

Odel couldn’t get enough of it – the recipe comes with his high recommendation.  I made one change to the recipe, substituting smoked turkey wings for the smoked pork chop specified.  I first discovered smoked turkey parts in Fredericksburg, Texas, a couple years ago and have substituted smoked turkey for smoked pork in all my recipes (pinto beans, lima beans, greens, and soups) every since.  Great flavor with way less fat!

Flooding 2Cabin fever set in by noon, and Odel agreed in a quick second when I suggested we go to a matinee of The Fighter.  A movie about boxing?  Laurie wants to go?  He probably couldn’t believe his ears!  It has received great reviews, though, and I’ve wanted to see it since I heard Mark Wahlberg interviewed about his role. 

It was GREAT (though I covered my eyes during some of the scenes).  The characters were complex and the dynamics of his dysfunctional family were both painful and comic.  Phenomenal acting by Melissa Leo as the mother!

Back home through the flooded streets in DRIVING rain, where the aroma of the chili made our mouths water.  Too bad, it’s not for tonight’s dinner – it’s for tomorrow (better after it sits for a day), with half destined for the freezer, socked away for our next boondocking interlude.  Now, off to make tonight’s dinner!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


If you haven’t heard the phrase “smart phones”, you’ve been living in a cave.  Though many of our friends have switched to smart phones, I’ve not felt the attraction.  We already pay a bundle for our Verizon service (smart phones require a minimum of $15 more per month) and I’m not in the mood for the learning curve when all I want to do with my phone is talk on it.

So, what I want is a “dumb” phone.  Not only do I not need to access the internet via phone, I also don’t care about a camera or a keyboard.  Texting is NOT in my future.

PalmsBefore you write me off as a technophobe, let me say that I LOVE technology and gadgets!   I’ve got a GPS (actually, 2 – one for vehicular navigation, one for hiking).  I’ve got a great little Canon digital camera that carry everywhere.  We have two computers that I back up regularly to external drives and flash drives, and we have a MiFi hotspot for easy internet access. Our in-dash radio plays music transferred from my computer to a flash drive, and Sirius satellite radio.  So, I’m NOT afraid of technology – but I don’t like being pushed into technology before I feel a need.

We spent an hour in the Verizon store last night.  Although I had complaints about my current un-smart phone – the one that went swimming – how I wish I could find one just like it now!

In the entire in-store inventory at Verizon, there was one – ONE – phone that came close to what I want!  There were at least ten “texting” phones with tiny keyboards; another ten plus “smart” phones with even tinier keyboards; a few phones that didn’t even look like phones and earned the scorn of the Verizon rep we spoke with; and two – that’s right, JUST TWO - of what I now think of a “dumb” phones.  Of those two, just one was Bluetooth enabled, a feature I have decided to embrace – and it is exactly the same phone Odel has!  He isn’t crazy about it, and neither am it.

Since my old phone is working again (except that it doesn’t ring), I left without making a decision.  It was depressing.

That didn’t last long, though, as we were off to meet our friends Sue and Mo for dinner at a favorite restaurant, Fisherman’s Market and Grill in La Quinta.  Sue has an iPhone, so we chatted a little about phones over a delicious seafood dinner.  With a good meal, a glass of wine, and lots of laughs, I soon cheered up. 

Since the rain has settled in here for the long haul, Sue and Mo made plans to come over to the Sands RV Park today to give the shuffleboard table a workout.  This afternoon I’ll get online for more phone research.  If any of you readers have suggestions – like where to get a dumb phone or what to look for/at in a smart phone in case I step up – send me a comment or an email (click on our profile photo to send an email).  I’ll probably end up switching phones in Yuma (after Christmas). 

Sunday, December 19, 2010


In an email I received today, my friend Sue commented on how much she enjoyed sitting in the Jacuzzi at her RV park here in Desert Hot Springs last night, watching the clouds blow by overhead.  She added that the swimming pool there is kept quite warm, so it can be enjoyed even during our current cool-and-cloudy spell.

When Odel and I went out for our morning walk and passed the common area, we decided to check out the temperature of OUR spas and swimming pool.  I dipped my fingers into each of the Jacuzzis, then bent down to check the water temperature in the swimming pool.  As I put my hands on the edge of the pool to hoist myself back up (butt first, I guess), I heard a small splash and saw my cell phone float through the water to land on the bottom of the three cement steps.  Uh-oh!

Wet Laurie and the cell phoneA few sharp expletives slipped out of my mouth while my brain tried to process what I was watching.  With my only thought being “GET IT OUT OF THE WATER”, I hopped up – amazingly quickly – and jumped in, waist deep.   Keeping my head above water, I grabbed my phone with my right hand, water up over my shoulder.  Cell phone in hand and eyes bugging out in shock, I climbed out of the pool.

Talk about eyes bugging out: Odel hadn’t seen the phone take a dive, he’d only seen me suddenly decide to go for a dip, fully clothed.  Now I stood beside him, dripping wet but for my head and left arm, clutching my phone and looking woebegone. 

Get this: my phone still worked!  After squishing back home in dripping wet clothes and shoes, I decided to take the battery out and dry everything off.  Well, that was apparently a bad idea.  When I replaced the battery, things weren’t going so well and the phone wouldn’t come back to life. 

To the computer!  I googled “dropped my phone in water” and followed the recommended steps, including putting the phone in a container of rice to draw out the water inside. 

Meanwhile, I got on Odel’s phone and called Verizon.  I am eligible for a phone upgrade on Christmas Day, and managed to talk them into letting me upgrade early since they won’t be open on Christmas.  That accomplished (with only three phone calls), I decided to get the phone out of its bed of rice and give it one more chance and – guess what?  It is working again!

We’ll be stopping by the Verizon store tomorrow to do the early upgrade (if possible), since the phone is making some unusual sounds.   Still, it’s been a reasonably good outcome for what looked to be a mini-disaster in the making.  Now we need to finish up our walk.  :)

Friday, December 17, 2010


Site 163, Sands RV and Golf ResortJust before we left Sacramento, a string in one of our day/night shades broke – arghhhh! Yesterday, when we picked up Scoopy, the 12 v. socket we use for our Brake Buddy braking system in the Jeep was dead, so we drove on (illegally) without it. Once we arrived at our destination and I raised the over-the-air TV antenna, the handle and its various component pieces fell off, the spring ricocheting into the wall and disappearing temporarily. Suddenly, we had a surprisingly lengthy repair list.

Working through the repairs and other errands constituted most of our activities today. Odel replaced a fuse in the Jeep so the socket works again. We dug out a teeny, tiny little tool and reattached and tightened the antenna handle, then tackled the shade repair and – for the first time ever – restrung and rehung the shade without bloodshed. Woo-hoo!

Before we tackled our tasks, we took a walk through this large RV park to see what they offer. First, and most obvious: a very green, 9-hole golf course. At the clubhouse, the clear, blue swimming pool seems a bit on the small side for a park this size – but the weather forecast for the next week is not conducive got a dip in the pool, anyway. Two nicely sized hot tubs appealed to me, and one amenity thrilled us: a shuffleboard table!

ShuffleboardSoon as we saw that, we challenged each other. Wow, that table was FAST. I took the first game but then, as always, Odel whipped me… still, lots of fun and such an unusual find at an RV park! The next room of the clubhouse held a half-completed jigsaw puzzle, another of my favorite activities. Looks like it will be easy to spend 9 nights here.

It is VERY unusual for us to stay at an RV park of this size (500+sites), but we like this area (let’s call it Greater Palm Springs, which includes Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Palm Desert, La Quinta) this time of year AND the Sands RV Park is offering a great deal: pay for a week (at the discounted weekly rate) and get 2 more nights for free – nine nights for $215. We usually stay at the Elks Lodge in Indio, paying $20/night for water and electricity (no sewer). Using the special offer at the Sands RV Park, we have full hookups and a nicer site for just a few dollars more per night. Good deal.

This afternoon, inspired by the Christmas lights on our street, we dug into our basement and hauled out the Christmas decorations, indoors and out. Our hula-hoop “wreath” is lit, and flameless candles are flickering on our patio. Yes, it looks like Christmas here now… but PLEASE, no snow!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Hello, all – family, friends and followers. The hiatus is over: we’re back on the road and back on the blog, settled in at the Sands RV and Golf Resort in Desert Hot Springs, California (readers of Rick & Paulette’s RV Travels know the Sands as Rick and Paulette’s winter home base) until Christmas. (Click here to read our review and view photos.)

We left Sacramento last Saturday with a mission in mind: a thorough washing, waxing, and detailing at VIP Enterprises in San Bernardino, California. This is the company that renovated the outside of Scoopy two years ago with new stripes – the shine they put on Scoopy has not been duplicated since and we wanted it back.

Rather than spending three noisy nights sleeping in Scoopy in VIP’s lot adjacent to the 215, we rented a “beach cottage” on the California coast for an out-of-the-motorhome “vacation”. This is something we rarely did (only once, in fact) during our first seven years of travel, mostly because of Luna. We pictured this 3-day stay as a fun holiday, a time to regroup after our busy stay in Sacramento.

Another learning experience for Odel and Laurie!

Our vacation rental was a cute, four room cottage – a living room with huge HD TV, bedroom with queen bed, small bathroom, and small, well equipped kitchen with a dining nook. Very roomy compared to Scoopy.

Though our rental had plenty of square footage and a lovely front yard, it lacked several of the things we value most: a flat, firm mattress; a well-lit, cozy reading spot; a comfortable seat for the TV watcher (though we both enjoyed the huge HD TV). How I missed my window right next the bed, with its cooling breath of fresh air. And why didn’t I bring a nightlight?

When I whispered to Odel, laying on the too-soft mattress on our first night in the rental, that I was rather disappointed with the experience of “vacationing” from Scoopy, he agreed, and added that we would just have to “endure” it. We started laughing so hard, and loudly, that we were afraid we would wake up the neighbors (yes, another thing: the cottage turned out to be a duplex, so we shared a wall!).

I’m not complaining about the cottage – it was a cute little rental, no less than what we had expected. What I learned is that, in the eight years we have owned Scoopy, we have tweaked our little space to meet our needs better than I realized (or perhaps appreciated). Scoopy fits us like a glove.

And now, here we are, back home. Odel is clicking through the satellite TV channels on his “favorites” list (another thing we missed), reclining on his sofa after a dinner cooked in our efficient little kitchen. I’m lounging in the bedroom on our nice firm mattress, vanilla-scented, battery-powered “candles” flickering, the switches for my reading lights within reach and my current book beside the bed. Gosh, it’s so good to be home!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


In answer to a couple of comments and emails we received: yes, we are OK – still here in Sacramento.  Thanks for thinking about us!

Dental appointments are done, as are most of the doctor visits.  We have one “repair” item left: the fix to our refrigerator dictated by the latest Norcold recall (which supersedes all previous recalls, even if you have had the prior work completed).  That will be handled by an extremely efficient mobile tech who makes service calls at Cal Expo RV Park regularly.

Mostly, the calendar for our remaining days here are full of fun: Thanksgiving, visits with long-time friends, visits with my family.  No touring, no travelers tales… instead, lots of laughs shared with those who know us best.  I’ll return to the blogosphere when we head out again, mid-December. 

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Hey, thanks for all the comments and emails about upgrades to to our motorhome’s interior!   Your advice will be a big help to us when we make our decisions.

It is a very gray, wet day here in Sacramento… a good day to stay indoors and focus on the many tasks I have ignored in favor of having fun (mostly).  Odel and I have both been all business since we got up this morning, he buried in Boomer business (volunteer job for our RV club) while I try to bring order to the chaos inside Scoopy.

Starry NightWe’ve got “stuff” everywhere!  Dashboard, driver and passenger chairs, plus every horizontal surface available.  Much of this is the result of my 60th birthday, with cards and gifts sitting around to be appreciated and enjoyed.  I got to attend three birthday parties AND a special event – a trip to San Francisco with both of my sisters and my 20 year old niece to view an exhibit of post-impressionist paintings (Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay) at the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park, followed by a late lunch and a little sightseeing before we came home. 

The fact that we are stationary for a month contributes to the mess inside.  As usual when we visit Sacramento, we have ordered several things online, so we have a few items sitting around awaiting a new position… along with boxes and packing material destined for the dumpster.  Books and magazines that usually would be stashed away for travel are scattered near my chair, the sofa, the bed.  And, I’m accumulating goodies for Thanksgiving – a few bottles of wine to share with family, special ingredients purchased that don’t have a usual spot in a cupboard…

So, it was funny today to read a new post on a favorite blog about minimalist living.  Though most of the blogs I read are those of other RV’ers, several non-RV blogs have made it onto my subscription list – a couple cooking blogs and two blogs about frugal living.  I’ve mentioned one of them before, The Simple Dollar.  The other, the one that tickled me today, is Early Retirement Extreme.  Jacob, the author, has a funny sense of humor and a VERY frugal approach to life.  He also currently lives in an RV in the California Bay Area.

Jacob’s post, “How to Live Out of a Suitcase”, referenced an old post by Trent on The Simple Dollar, “The Suitcase Test: The Things You Really Need”.  By the time I had finished reading these two posts, I was INSPIRED.  In short order, I had one of the empty shipping boxes filled up with discards from the “oil/vinegar/sauce” cupboard (which now has two new bottles, birthday gifts, in place), all  the packing materials ready to toss, and another small box of give-away items near the front door.   Now, if I could just face my closet…!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


After almost a year, we are back at Cal Expo RV Park (click here to read our review from a past visit) in our ex-hometown, Sacramento, California.  Visiting family and friends tops our agenda, with medical appointments, mechanical repairs, and catching up on deferred projects filling out our time here.

Odel's sauceIt’s been over seven years since we left Sacramento, yet we still know our way around this town better than any other, and we stay put longer here than anywhere else (a month at a time!).  Because of that, there are things we need, or need to do, that we put off until we arrive back here – mostly time-consuming stuff.  Researching big purchases.  Car repairs that we’ve deferred.  Reorganizing and purging our “stuff”.  I renew my cold weather wardrobe here, revisiting favorite small clothing stores (the stores are small, not my clothing – unfortunately).  There is always plenty to keep us busy!

This month, we have another big project to plan: renovations to our motorhome.  Although the engine and chassis of a diesel motorhome may well last as long as we want to travel, the interior furnishing don’t!  Our carpeting is dingy with the effects of 8 years of constant wear, and our window shades are tired and faded.  The loud CLUNK our washing machine makes at the end of each cycle would wake the dead.  Our huge windshield bulges a bit on the upper left corner; in the worst parking situations, we slap a piece of duct tape on the corner in case it rains.  And we’d really like to replace the big, old, heavy, analog TV that hangs over the dashboard with a new, lightweight, flat screen digital model.

For a (short) while, we toyed with the idea of upgrading to a newer (not NEW, just newer), larger motorhome; four slides look mighty appealing.  We’ve been very comfortable in Scoopy, though, and don’t want to take on the kind of debt a newer rig would require, so we’ve settled on renovating.  Now we’re trying to put a budget together, and have a couple questions for our readers:

If you have switched from carpet to hard flooring in your motorhome (ours is 38 feet), what type of flooring did you choose, and why?  Are you happy with it?  What did it cost you to make the switch (we’re looking for a ballpark number to plug into the budget)?

If you have changed from the original shades (we have the two-part day/night shades made of accordion-folded fabric), what did you get?  Are you happy?  We are considering blinds (possibly wood slats).  We’ve heard good things about MCD shades (with a solar daylight shade screen and a light-blocking night shade), but they seem quite costly.  Any good/bad experiences with either, or suggestions for other alternatives?

If you have any advice for us, we’d love to get your comments, or you can email us directly at LBandOK (at) (in standard format).

Baggies of sauceAs I write, Odel is cooking his special pasta sauce, filling Scoopy with the most enticing smell!  He agreed to share his recipe with you, so I’ve added it to the recipe archive. 

This is the best red pasta sauce I’ve every tasted.  When I first met Odel, he made it with beef and mushrooms.  Since I don’t like mushrooms, he switched to olives (much better), then experimented with Italian sausage instead of beef (even BETTER).  This is the perfected recipe that he has made for the last several years.  We like it best on short, sturdy pasta (shells, tubes or bowties) that can easily be forked up with sausage and olives.  The recipe makes eight servings; we eat two servings the day he makes the sauce, then divide the rest into 3 zip lock baggies and pop them in the freezer for an easy dinner later.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


What we expected to see.

What we saw.

What we expected to see in YosemiteWhat we saw

More than a year ago, a chance encounter with a sociable couple at a crossroads on a hiking trail in northern California led me to formulate a plan: a full moon hike along the Glacier Point road in Yosemite National Park at 8.000 ft. elevation. Our target: Sentinel Dome. Our plan: Hike to the dome (just 2.2 miles round trip) late in the day, taking along a picnic dinner. Watch the sunset as we enjoyed our picnic, then lounge around on top of the dome while the full moon rose. Hike the short distance back to the car in the moonlight. Woohoo… fun!

Yellowstone washoutThe hilly, winding drive into Yosemite is not for Scoopy, so Part Two of the plan involved reserving accommodations in the park – we didn’t fancy a long, post-hike drive. My mom and dad hadn’t been to Yosemite for quite awhile, so we rented a cabin, big enough for four people, at Yosemite West, an enclave of private homes just outside the park boundary, accessible only from the park. We liked the idea of having a kitchen and plenty of room to spread out. A big bonus: the access road to the rental cabin was only 1/4 mile from Glacier Point road in Yosemite.

The final piece of the plan was to determine the dates of the full moon in October, a perfect month for this sort of adventure: the weather is likely to be mild and dry, snow would not yet have closed Glacier Point Road, and the summer crowds would be long gone. The dates in 2010: October 23rd and 24th – a weekend! As retired folk, it would have made more sense to visit during the week, but Mother Nature has her own schedule and, since the full moon was key our planning, we reserved our cabin for the weekend.

Thus, early last August, our reservations were made and our plan complete.

Reflection of Yosemite FallsThe weeks leading up to October 23 and 24 were sunny and mild. Monday, October 25 (the day we returned home), was lovely, crisp and clear. The weekend? A complete and total washout, with some of the heaviest rain Yosemite has experienced all year! Peeking out our window at the pouring rain (and heavy wind) on Sunday night – our date with Sentinel Dome – we caught not even a HINT of the huge October full moon… up there somewhere, hidden behind the think and sodden clouds.

After spending Saturday afternoon and evening indoors – while light rain fell outdoors – Odel and I dressed for wet conditions on Sunday, grabbed umbrellas, and headed back to the valley for a long walk in the rain. By this time, after twelve hours of rain, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls had picked up considerable water, and the Merced River was nudging well up into the grassy meadow along its banks.

We got home just as the real downpour started, pretty well soaked. That night, the night of the planned hike? It POURED! Even the luxurious cabin we rented sprang a leak!

Monday was our day of departure, and we awoke to calm and quiet. The remaining clouds cleared as the sun rose, and we headed back down through Yosemite Valley in bright sunshine.

Thanks to the heavy rains, Yosemite’s famous waterfalls were booming, sending up huge clouds of spray. The Merced River was a tumultuous tumble of whitewater, overflowing its banks onto the meadow boardwalk Odel and I had hiked 24 hours earlier. It was MAGNIFICENT, awe-inspiring!

After an overpriced lunch at the beautiful, historic Ahwahnee Lodge and one last walk in the welcome sunshine, we reluctantly left the valley and headed back to Sacramento. While our plan was a bust, we had a good time - lots of weekend football, a challenging jigsaw puzzle, and more than enough delicious food. As for the full moon – there’s always next year!

Cloud on El CapitanOdel, Bev (Mommy), Bill (Daddy) - three happy campers.
Damp face of El Capitan steams in the sunshine.

Odel, Bev (Mommy), Bill (Daddy).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Across from the Bob Scott Campground on Hwy 50 near Austin, NV Our last overnight stop along “The Loneliest Highway in America” was a gravel pullout alongside the road near the top of Austin Summit, across from the Bob Scott Campground, a few miles east of Austin, Nevada.  We’ve stayed in this pullout before, and choose it over the little USFS campground for a few simple reasons: it’s free, we can run the generator whenever we want without bothering anyone else, and we don’t need to unhook the Jeep.

I won’t be reviewing this overnight spot on my campground review blog, We Called It Home, but will mention the other important attributes: strong Verizon cell service for phone and aircard, very dark at night, no obstacles for the TV satellite dish.  It is a bit noisy until after around 10 pm, when most traffic along Hwy 50 seems to stop.  

As we prepared to leave in the morning, we found that our Brake Buddy - the auxiliary braking system we use to apply the Jeep’s brakes when we slow/stop the motorhome – was not working.  It plugs into a 12 v. power supply socket in the Jeep, and we discovered that the fuse to the power supply socket was blown… so it turned out that the Brake Buddy was fine, but wasn’t getting power.  Each time we replaced the fuse to the power supply, it blew immediately.  Uh, oh – except for thinking “we must have a short” and “bummer”, we had reached the end of our fix-it-yourself routine. 

Looking down on Austin, NV, heading west on Hwy 50. The drive down the west side of Austin Summit into the little town of Austin, NV, is a doozey – long, steep, and very curvy -  and we had a couple more passes to climb and descend before we reached Fernley, NV, our planned stop for the night.  Since traffic along our route was almost non-existent, we decided to continue to Fernley with the Jeep in tow, but we needed a fix before we heading west on I-80 into California on Wednesday. 

First thing Monday morning, Odel began calling Fernley’s auto repair shops.  The first one was busy until Thursday (we’ll be long gone by then), so referred us to a second shop.  He couldn’t fit us in until Wednesday (too late), so referred us to a third shop, Auto Docs Complete Car Care.  Odel went off with the Jeep.  I stayed home, hoping they could find the source of the problem and repair it by the end of the day.

An hour later, Odel was home with a big grin on his face.  Fixed!  When I asked what it cost, he told me it was free!  Huh?  When Odel took the car in, Tom, the owner, said they would take a look at it right away to diagnose the problem.  Odel took off for a 45 minute walk.  When he returned, the short had been isolated and the simple fix made – simple, but it required removing several of the dashboard panels, which were being reinstalled by Ryan when Odel returned.  Odel’s quick mental calculation:  parts cost – minimal; labor cost – around an hour, $50 to $80 bucks, maybe?  And, “great, it’s fixed!”

Odel, Ryan and Jason outside Auto Docs When Odel asked for the bill, Tom (the owner) said “I try to do a good deed every day, and today, you are that good deed.”  Odel was floored, knowing Ryan had spent close to an hour on the repair, but Tom steadfastly refused any payment.

After Odel told me that story, I said “Let’s go, I want a photo!”.  When we drove back, Tom had gone off on a errand, but Ryan and Jason were happy to pose with Odel.  Tom, if you ever see this, THANK YOU!   Your generous and unexpected gesture of goodwill made our day!

To our traveling friends, if you need automotive work done in Fernley, Nevada, visit Auto Docs Complete Car Care, 405 S Center St, Fernley, NV 89408-4708; Phone number: (775) 835-8981.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Heading West on 50 Because of connections we have made through this blog, our world of “virtual friends” in the RV blogging community is large.  Yesterday we received shocking news from our blogging family – Margie and Bruce Mallin (known through her comments as Margie M.) were struck and killed as they walked together near their RV park in Pismo Beach, California.  The driver of the car that hit them is a 19 year old who is alleged to have purposely left the highway at high speed, intending to kill himself.  Instead, he killed Margie and Bruce, injured himself, and is now in jail.

Reading of this accident was incredibly shocking, and it remains foremost in my mind today as I sit to write my own blog.  We had never met Margie and Bruce, but I read her blog frequently and enjoyed the comments she occasionally left on mine.  Their daughter, Stephanie, notified her parent’s RV’ing friends by posting the news on Margie’s blog, and the outpouring of shock and sadness was immediate.  Many of those who left comments shared anecdotes of Margie’s kindness and encouraging words.  Margie and Bruce will be sorely missed, and my heart goes out to Stephanie and her family.

As I made our dinner last night, as we sat together and ate, as we discussed our travel plans for today, I kept thinking “this is what Margie and Bruce did on Friday”.  Normal, mundane activities.  In their minds’ eyes they would have been picturing their day Saturday, beginning with an early morning walk and including… what?  A visit to the beach?  Time spent at the Pismo Beach Clam Festival? 

"The Loneliest Roadin America" Odel and I are always full of plans, plans for the rest of the day, for tomorrow, next week, next winter and next year.  I’m sure Margie and Bruce were, too.  In a heartbeat, that future ended and their family’s lives turned upside down.  So quick.  So final.  So hard to believe and so shocking.

Bruce and Margie were living a life they loved, and from their blog, it seems as though their relationships with friends and family were strong and positive with no unfinished business.  We, too, are lucky to be living a life we wouldn’t change, and I hope everyone in our circle of family and friends knows they are loved and valued by us. 

So, as we roll on across Nevada heading west, we’re shaken by the news of this loss, far less focused on small hassles and more focused on gratitude for our friends, families, health and freedom.  Margie and Bruce will be much missed by their RV’ing family, and today’s blog couldn’t be “business as usual”. 

Safe travels, friends.  As our friend Bobbie Chapman always says, “Remember, you are loved”.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Gorgeous vista on I-70 heading west. A week from today, we’ll be on vacation!  Seems like our life is a vacation, doesn’t it?  But, yes, we are taking an out-of-the-RV vacation in Yosemite National Park next weekend.  Consequently, we have a time commitment, so are on a tear to cross Utah and Nevada within a few days time.

Our plan is to take Interstate 70 to Interstate 15, transition to US Highway 50, and follow it west to Reno, then take I-80 into the Sacramento area.  We don’t plan to do much sightseeing, so we can easily travel the distance in 4 days.  We’ve given ourselves a three day window of time to cross Donner Pass through the Sierra in case the weather doesn’t cooperate (we don’t want to end up like the Donner party!).

Besides rolling away the miles, we hope to do our usual hike/walk each day, and it was very easy to do so on Friday.  We pulled out of our campsite at OK RV Park a little after 9 am, drove 10 miles to a convenient pullout, and walked several miles along the wonderful paved bike trail that runs along Hwy 191 from Moab to Arches National Park and beyond.  By 11 am, we were pulling out once again, heading north to I-70. 

I-70 Utah PanoramaAs we passed the entrance to Arches National Park, we both did a double-take: the lineup waiting to pass through the entrance booths was probably 40+ vehicles long!  It had been obvious to us that Moab was filled to capacity, but… WOW!  I’m glad we weren’t in that long line.  Those trails are gonna be crowded.

Thus began a 336 mile day, very unusual for us.  After a couple of hours of scenic I-70, we pulled over at a view point, ate lunch, stretched our legs, and set off once again.  We had pinpointed several boondocking spots along Hwy 50 (“The Loneliest Road in America”) short of the Nevada border that would work for an overnight campsite, so figured we’d find an appealing one and stop around 6 pm, as twilight approached.

Of course, the farther west we traveled, the longer it stayed light… and the last 50 miles of Utah before we crossed into Nevada near Great Basin National Park were some of least attractive, most desolate miles we traveled all day.  Since we have visited Great Basin N.P. a few times before, we knew there was an appealing rest area just a few miles past the turnoff to the national park that would make an excellent overnight spot.  We decided to push on another 50 or so miles. 

View at our lunch stop We gained an hour as soon as we crossed the state line into Nevada, and pulled into pretty Sacramento Pass Recreation Area Scenic Pullout (click here to read our review and see photos) at 5:30 pm, just as the sun dropped behind a mountain top.  That’s a mighty long day of driving for us, and it is so unusual for us to be on the road that late in the day (our typical travel hours are 10 am to 2 or maybe 3 pm); heading into the setting sun, we actually lowered our automatic sun visors.  It worked out well, though, and shaved a few miles of Saturday’s drive.  California, here we come!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Wow, our stay in Moab went by quickly!  Tomorrow we are taking Scoopy to a tire shop to have a sloooooowwww leak repaired.  Once we return to our site at OK RV Park (click here to read our review) and settle in again, we’ll head out for one last hike, followed by dinner out.  On Friday, we’re off, heading west.

Climbing on Wall Street (Potash Road)Though the town of Moab itself doesn’t knock my socks off, I would be happy to spend a month here (in the right time of year) – there is that much to do.  We’ve hiked every day – except for the two when Odel played golf – enjoying the amazing variety of rock formations in all directions from Moab.  We’ve seen people doing all sorts of adventurous activities, in places we would never go! 

The day we hiked to Corona Arch, we stopped along the Colorado River on our way home, in an area called “Wall Street”.   Half a dozen groups of climbers were engaged in their sport along this stretch of rock cliffs, and we spent at least half an hour watching this woman (photo, above – click to enlarge) climb the rock face.  We were close enough to hear her labored breathing as she slowly inched her way up the rock – it looked and sounded exhausting. 

More than one reader asked about the photo of the ladder I posted on my last blog – me climbing a ladder on our hike to Corona Arch.  Usually, camera shots show trails as less steep than they actually are, but in the case of that photo, the terrain looked far steeper than it really is.  The ladder is only about 6 or 7 feet long, just enough to climb from one reasonably flat rock slab to another.  Looked wild though, didn’t it?  :) 

Odel heads down the ladder on the Corona Arch HikeHere’s a photo of Odel on that same ladder in a shot that gives a more accurate perspective.  Still, for us, anything involving safety cables and ladders stretches our flexibility a bit more than usual!  My knees were talkin’ to me, and they didn’t sound happy.

Since we have visited Arches National Park in the past, I intentionally left my camera at home the day we hiked to Delicate Arch (the iconic image that often represents both the park and the state of Utah).  We also drove the short distance to North and South Windows, past Balanced Rock.  (You don’t need to be a hiker to enjoy Arches N.P. – most of the famous formations can be seen alongside the road, from view points, or at the end of a very short walk.)

If I’d had my camera, I would have taken another several dozen photos, different views (or, more likely, the exact same view!) of the timeless arches and vistas I have already photographed.  So, no photos today from the park, but I do have a couple to share from our hike yesterday, along SR-128 at Fisher Towers, 22 miles from Moab.

“The Titan” at Fisher Towers.  We hiked around the right side, along the base of the formation. Another ladder!  I wish they would offer a few more handholds at the top – it’s a scramble.
The Titan at Fisher Towers Another ladder

Once again, we saw rock climbers apparently having a ball climbing some of these fantastic formations.  We stuck to the trail, with its little ladder, and felt we’d done pretty well.

The list of what we didn’t see is longer than the list of what we did… another place we will need to revisit.  Darn!  :)

Monday, October 11, 2010


Beautiful Partition Arch, high above a panorama of Arches National Park After our nine day stay in little Torrey, Utah (population 171, with that many again in the surrounding area), Moab (population 5,100) seems like a bustling metropolis!  Every morning, at appears that the residents fling open their doors, jump on their bikes or into their muddy, tricked-out 4 x 4’s and take off into the great outdoors.  Hikers, mountain bikers, walkers and joggers jostle for space with road bikes, monster trucks, jeeps and motorcycles. 

Of course, the ranks of the full-time residents are augmented by active visitors.  Campgrounds, RV parks and motels are full, with their occupants adding to the crazy activity level we see every day.

This is our third trip to Moab and Arches National Park, and the first time the weather has cooperated perfectly, with highs around 70 degrees and unlimited sunshine.  We’ve hiked in the national park three times, and outside the park once.  The big difference?  The other people on the trail in Arches National Park speak a multitude of languages, including several we couldn’t place, LOTS of foreign visitors; on the Corona Arch hike outside the park, we joined local families on what obviously is a favorite “local” hike.

Odel on Park Avenue

The day we arrived in Moab, we settled in our campground then headed up to Arches National Park to hike the short Park Avenue trail.  Here’s Odel heading down the wash.
LB on the fin
One of the longer hikes in Arches is at the very end of the park road at Devil’s Garden.  Part of the Double O trail past Landscape Arch traverses the top of a “fin”, not for those who don’t like heights!
LB coming up the ladder
The fun hike to giant Corona Arch, off Potash Road – outside the park – includes a couple of safety-cabled stretches and a short ladder up a steeper pitch.  Here I am, climbing the ladder.  We saw a lot of families with kids and dogs enjoying this trail.
OK holds the arch

Photographing Odel in the foreground of Corona arch makes it look smaller than it actually is.  You can find a video on YouTube of a single engine plane flying through this arch!

No hiking for us today: Odel is on the golf course and I’m about to head out to explore “downtown”.  More to come but, for now, the sunny blue skies are calling me.  :)