Archives for category: RV Life


SIREN SONG OF THE DESERT

Just about anywhere you camp in the desert you can hear the coyotes at night.  Their yip, yip, yipping, sometimes far away, sometimes just outside the RV door, is as much a part of the desert night as the starry sky and saguaros in the moonlight.  Naive little Rudy thinks they are calling to him “Come out and play with us.  We’re your friends……arooooh!”  Rudy doesn’t speak coyote, you see.  He only speaks dog and he thinks all dogs want to play with him.  He’s still a puppy and he wants to play with any and every dog so he doesn’t know any better.  He hasn’t yet learned that it is a cold, cruel world out there.  He doesn’t know that the coyotes would tear him into pieces.

What the coyotes really mean behind their siren song is “Give us the little black dog and we’ll leave you alone.”  The coyotes are trying to strike a bargain but I’m not buying.  They don’t intimidate me.  A man with a stout club is more than a match for a pack of coyotes.  I might even use the jaw bone of an ass, Sampson style, to subdue them.  I say “Bring it on, coyotes!”

Speaking of Sampson, I wonder what would have become of him if he had lived into old age.  They say his strength lay in his long hair.  Well what if Sampson had lived to be 67 like me and gone bald (like me)?  Would his strength have decreased as each hair follicle shrivelled up and blew away?  Would he have become weaker and weaker until he was just a feeble old man (unlike me)?  Would some Phillistine punk have jumped him in an alley and kicked the _ _ _ _ out of him?  Would the lead story in the Jericho Times the next day have been “SAMPSON ROLLED IN ALLEY BEHIND AARON’S BAR”?  Alas, we’ll never know since that Delilah bitch sold him down the river.  Poor Sampson.


SAMPSON AT 67


We arrived at Lake Mead (near Las Vegas) this morning after leaving Tucson yesterday.  Several events to report:

 Just outside of Wikieup along Highway 93 our windshield was pelted by a sudden downpour (or so we thought).  Strangely, the sky was cloudless.  Even stranger, this downpour only lasted a mere second although it left our windshield covered with residue.  Mary and I traded looks of bewilderment.  On closer inspection, I noticed that the “raindrop” residue had a distinct yellowish cast.  “Bug guts!” I declared in triumph.  Further inspection when we stopped for gas showed the bug remnants to contain bits and pieces of bees.  We had hit a swarm of bees at 60 MPH and the bees, predictably, had not fared  well.  Lucky for us, we had a windshield in front of us.  A band of motorcyclists that had just passed were not so lucky.  We passed them a few miles down the road, pulled off to the side, removing their clothing and picking bees out of the folds.

At the aforementioned gas station, we pulled in behind a car to be next in line to use the only accessible diesel pump (which was the next one in front of the car).  Before that car moved, a motorcycle drove up to the pump we wanted to use and started pumping gas.  Meanwhile, the car leaves and I’m all set to pull forward as soon as the motorcylce leaves.  About this time, Mary decides to wash the bug guts off the windshield and she’s hanging on to the cab with the door open (because the truck windshield is too high for her to reach from the ground.  The motorcycle leaves but I can’t pull forward because our open door would have hit another motorcycle or squeezed closed on Mary.  Before I can notify Mary to get down, a car full of women pulls up to “our” pump.  The driver gets out, but instead of pumping gas, she heads into the MiniMart, to pee (or worse).  Five minutes go by; ten minutes.  About this time I’m thinking about barging into the Ladies Room and pulling this lady out by the shirt collar with her pants around her ankles but she saves me the trouble when she finally emerges.  She leisurely pumps some gas.  But now the gas station attendant has decided to clean the garbage cans and has pulled one out to block the way.  I don’t even have to tell Mary what to do.  She runs up to our pumps and begins to stand guard.  Woe be to anyone who had dared drive up to our pump!

We finally get our diesel, drive away and a mile down the road we see a large yellow sign next to a palm tree with thick black letters that reads “INDIAN JEW”. “Indian Jew?” I wonder.  “That’s a first”.  But as we drive past, I see that the palm tree has obscured the rest of the sign.  No, we have not come across a unique cultural hybrid.  The little adobe building next to the sign is actually selling INDIAN JEWELRY!

Another fifty miles past Wikieup, we stopped in Kingman and had a nice chat with my nephew Ranier and his mother Mavis.  Kingman is the spittin’ image of Victorville, CA forty years ago.  Same Joshua Trees, same elevation, same jackrabbits.  All in all, a nice little town.

The last time I remember going through Kingman was 1960.  That was before Interstate 40.  Route 66 went through downtown then.  I was ten years old.  I must not have been paying attention as we came into town because as we drove along the main street I noticed Kingman Grocery, Kingman Hardware, Kingman Pharmacy, etc.  I said something like “Boy, those Kingmans sure own a lot of this town.”  Older brother Lars set me straight:  “Kingman is the name of the town, Idiot!” 


LIEF & HIS TUTOR

When looking for a project this winter, we considered prospecting for gold, volunteering to labor on the Pacific Crest Trail, and rehabilitating a house in Ajo, Arizona.  After due consideration, none of those projects was panning out so I investigated Plan D – studying German in preparation for our bicycle trip in Europe this summer.  Plan D was looking like another dead end when I chanced upon a University of Arizona website that listed something about language tutoring.  I was rather discouraged at that point but on the off chance that something might come of it, I inquired about a possible German tutor.  I was immediately put in touch with a student named Christina whom I then contacted and it has worked out very well indeed.

The arrangement between tutor and tutee is whatever the two agree to.  In our case, it is $20/hour.  For that, I received the undivided attention of Christina  with no unwanted emphasis on grammer or other linguistic trivia that is of no interest to me.  No waiting while each classmate in-turn regurgitates the same answer to the same question.  Pure conversation is what I got; lots of practice deciphering everyday speech and cobbling together phrases determined by the situation.  After six weeks of conversation, I am convinced that an hour of conversation is worth a week of classroom instruction.  Christina is a German exchange student at UofA studying architecture so I got the real deal, not Americanized German. (It didn’t hurt that she is a beautiful young woman either).

Winter is over so we’re pulling up stakes and heading home.  After six weeks of conversation practice my German is much improved.  Now, if only I can find a German tutor near Chelan to keep up my progress.



AQUANUTS?

We have taken full advantage of the record warm spell in Tucson.  Every day for the last two weeks we have swum laps at the trailer park pool.  We’re up to fifty!  We have definitely improved.  I’m getting so fast that Mary is complaining about the wave I leave in my wake.  She says it “swamps” her when she’s backstroking, which I find hard to believe because she has a mean backstroke.

Tomorrow it is forecasted to be down in the low 70s which is too cool for these fair-weather swimmers.  We have had the pool to ourselves as this is a senior citizen trailer park and most of the residents, for various reasons, don’t feel up to swimming.  We would probably resent it if anyone were to use “our” pool at this point.

They say the snow is melting back in North Central Washington so we will be pulling up stakes by the end of the week and heading for home.  We’ll probably stop off at Lake Mead for up to a week and then make our usual mad dash for home.


NO MARK SPITZ, HE

The name of that new guy who won all the swimming gold at the Rio Olympics eludes me at the moment so I’ll compare myself to the great Mark Spitz of Munich fame.  Let’s just say I’ve got a way to go.   There is a decent sized swimming pool at the Crossroads RV Park in Tucson where we’re staying and with the 90-degree weather Mary and I have been swimming every day for a week.  We’re up to 40 laps now but I’m spaghetti-armed for the last few laps.  The weather is forecasted to stay hot for a few more days before it cools down.  We may make it to 50 laps before it all ends.

Even with the warm weather, the water takes some getting used to.  It generally takes us five minutes to slowly and painfully adjust to the cold water.  I know it’s better to just jump in and get it all over with but I somehow just can’t.

Keen student of human behavior that I am, I have become aware of a primitive instinct erupting to the surface of my psyche of late.  The annual NCAA basketball tournament, the so-called March Madness, is underway as I write.  I generally pay about as much attention to basketball as I do to the latest trends in wedding gowns (none), but the University of Arizona is in the competition this year and I find myself giving a damn about their prospects.  Why?  Good question.  My affiliation with UofA amounts to no more than that I meet with my German tutors on the campus several times a week.  But sitting as we do at an outdoor table in the shadow of the enormous Wildcat football stadium, I have absorbed a modicum of school spirit.  Such a strange thing allegiance is.  After all, if the Wildcats do well, it is no reflection on me.  I have contributed nothing to their success or failure.  And yet, how easily we humans attach ourselves to groups, teams, nations of all kinds.  Even a rationalist like myself is susceptible.  Instincts – don’t understimate them.


MR BOMBASTIC?

Rudy is quite the strutter and walking him reminds me of a Chase Bank commercial I once saw.  Take a look: http://youtu.be/NaFlfaXJW4Y

My German lessons are going well.  The weather is warm and sunny.  We are healthy.  What can I say?


It’s not exactly scenic but it suits our purposes.  We have taken up residence in a traditional trailer park in Tucson for the next month.  Gone are the natural vistas of the national parks and the wailing of coyotes in the desert wash.  We have traded them for the sewer connection and the electrical grid connection of the Crossroads RV Park.  Our primary motivation for this conventional setting is the availability of the nearby University of Arizona.  With so much time on my hands I have once again taken up my German studies.  

In my never ending, penny-pinching quest for the best deal, I stumbled upon several foreign exchange students at the university who will willingly tutor me in German conversational skills.  The alternative was to employ the Berlitz school in Phoenix but that worked out to $80/hr which seemed a bit much.  In a classic “cut out the middle man” strategy I get the real thing for a small fraction of that – $20/hr.

Mary is pleased with our present circumstances because it provides her with unlimited nearby shopping opportunities.  Should she wish to exercise, there is a fitness facility on the corner.  Two miles away is the connection to the bicycle path that encircles the city.  If anyone is suffering here it would be Rudy.  He has to be walked on a short leash lest we incur the wrath of homeowners who don’t appreciate dog turds in their front yards.  (Mary has adopted the new-fangled practice of “bagging” dog turds but I prefer the traditional natural approach of natural decomposition.)

Tucson is a very bicycle-friendly city.  While the university campus is a full four miles from our trailer park, there is a nearly traffic-less bicycle route the whole way.

I was pleased to discover that Tucson is populated by numerous orange trees, the fruit of which no one seems interested in harvesting.  They let the oranges fall to the ground.  “Fresh fruit going to waste!” I thought.  Not wanting the fruit to go to waste, I “havested” a few oranges.  Now I know why no one else does.  These things are more appropriately called “orange lemons!”  Tart!  Sour!  And don’t tell me they’re not ripe.  They’re bright orange and falling to the ground.


Wish me well in my German studies.  Hoffentlich, ich werde mein nachste Post auf Deutsch schreiben!


Nine months of the year Quartzsite is little more than a collection of filling stations along Interstate 10 near the California-Arizona border.  But each winter its population swells from several hundred to many thousands as RVers from all over the US and Canada stream south to enjoy the bountiful sunshine and cheap living it offers.  

Blessed with flat terrain and a gravelly surface that holds down dust when the wind blows and doesn’t turn muddy after the occasional rain, it is the perfect landscape for vehicles of all shapes and sizes.  Some genius at the Bureau of Land Management has put together an amazingly simple program (Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA)) that seems to work to everyone’s benefit.  For the modest fee of a few dollars per day RVers get uncrowded parking, fresh water, and sewage and trash service.  The BLM pockets a tidy profit of several million dollars per year (a government program that makes money!)

LTVAs, incidentally, offer the curious a sort of sociological experiment.  What kind of community do you get when you pluck several thousand middle-class, over-fifty couples together in the middle of nowhere?  No crime for one thing.  No trash for another.  Not a great deal of socialization either.  People here are friendly enough if you approach them but few people seem to go out of their way to congregate or exchange more than a few friendly words.  Past a certain age, the company of strangers holds limited appeal.

Territoriality also seems to crop up with surprising regularity.  Everywhere you look, former and present RVers have gratuitously gathered rocks and outlined “their” space on the desert floor.

Quartzsite has its own radio station.  Whether it bothers to transmit a signal during the summer when the town is deserted I’d be curious to know.  But now it, most appropriately, it dredges up exclusively, oldies from the sixtys and seventys – not surprising when you consider who the audience is.  I enjoy it.

The disparity between the summer and winter populations seems to present a dilemma to the cellular telephone service providers.  During the peak season when the big RV show is taking place, late January, the signal is overwhelmed and service is slow.  I have to wait until late at night, for example, to send out my blog post.  The show ended yesterday and the ranks are thinning so, hopefully, this post will make it out during daylight hours.

We too, will be leaving.  It should come as no surprise that RVers tend to be a restless bunch.  If they were content to stay in one place they’d be sitting on the couch at home.  Always curious what is on the other side of the distant mountains, we’re thinking of heading east toward Tucson.

P1030316.JPGFEELING THE “SALT LAKE SQUEEZE”

We’re almost home. We crossed into Washington late this afternoon. The temperature in Spokane was 70 which is higher than the temperature was in Arizona when we left. With the sun heating up our truck cab, we had the air conditioner on all afternoon.

Our route took us from Moab up to I-70. If you’ve never been on I-70 through Utah, signs reading “NEXT SERVICES 116 MILES” pretty much sums it up.

I think about 99% of Utah’s people must live in the Provo-Salt Lake City area because we had the highways to ourselves until we got to Provo and then it was five lanes of packed traffic. I drive a consistent 60 MPH but I really stand out in Utah where the speed limit is 75 MPH (trucks included.) More than once I had two big trucks on either side of me squeezing the bejeezus out of me (above.)

With the warm weather this year we decided to drive for a change through Montana instead of the I-84 route through Idaho and Oregon. I-15 through Montana makes I-70 through Utah seem like a traffic jam! We probably saw about ten cars per hour and nearly every one of them had Alberta license plates – Canadian snowbirds returning home.

We crossed the Continental Divide twice today and got a sneak preview of the country we’ll be bicycling through this summer: gently rolling hills of grass at those two crossings.

And so, another winter in Arizona ends. Our next project is building daughter Rachel’s house. We’ll keep you posted.

P1030313.JPGOUR CAMPSITE AT WINDWHISTLE

We had planned to head home several days ago but a check of the weather on our chosen route through Utah, Idaho, and Montana forecasted cold and possible snow so we turned around and went back to a campsite thirty miles south of Moab (above.)

Anywhere but the Colorado Plateau and this pile of sandstone would be renown but here in southern Utah it is practically unknown and nameless. Too much of anything and the senses adapt, even dull.

I was out riding my bicycle on one of the many dirt roads near our campsite when I noticed a distant sandstone formation with what looked like several buildings at its base. I rode over to investigate. Turns out the buildings were not at the base of the sandstone, they were imbedded in it!

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A young woman was out front walking two small children. I stopped to talk with her. She was quite friendly and open. I said I had never seen houses imbedded in rock before and wanted to know more about the place. She told me her grandfather had bought the mountain thirty years ago and that all the people who lived there are related.

This was Utah, remember, and the word “related” raised the specter of polygamy. I didn’t want to put the friendly young woman on the spot so I didn’t pursue the matter. She went on to tell me that the colony is called Rockland Ridge.

When I got back to the trailer I Googled the matter and learned that The Atlantic had actually profiled the place: http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2012/11/polygamists-in-the-rock/100406/

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With a promise of good weather, we left Windwhistle Camp this morning. We’re now “camping” for tonight at the WalMart lot in Idaho Falls. We hope to make it to Couer d’Alene tomorrow and Chelan the day after.