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!