Archives for category: RV Life


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.


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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.

P1030294.JPGMARY GOES DOWN, INTO THE EARTH, TO GET OUT OF THE RAIN, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM

We’ve been up on a mesa near Moab for the last four days – stranded without Internet. Oh, the horror! No weather forecast, no Internet shopping, no email. Oh, the horror! We’re back down in Moab and connected once again.

The mountain biking was good up there. You ride across the mesa in any direction and come to these chasms carved by the Colorado or Green Rivers and it seems you are looking into the planet’s interior – so deep are the canyons. The photo above shows Mary riding down a road to Mineral Bottom on the Green River. Going down tested her brakes. Coming back up tested her thighs. (Her thighs are great.) Here’s a view from the bottom looking up.

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We’ve been looking at real estate this winter in Arizona but it wasn’t until today that we found a house we could afford:

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We’re getting ready to continue our northern migration so today we drove up into Arches National Park before we leave. We visited it back in the 90s but we wanted to have another look. It was well worth a second look.

A cold front is coming and high winds today heralded its arrival. Mary had to lend a hand (finger?) to support the famous Balance Rock at Arches which was in danger of being blown off its pedastal:

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P1030290.JPGSPRUCE TREE HOUSE

Back in the 90s when we had our first RV, a little green Terry trailer, and the kids were kids, we took a Chevy-Chase-style summer vacation through Dinosaur, Flaming Gorge, and Arches National Parks. For some reason which I have forgotten, we skipped Mesa Verde. I remember that I was intrigued by photos of the ancient, abandoned Pueblos of Mesa Verde and wanted to go there – but we didn’t.

Well, with all the stars aligned this year, we just had to go, and go we did a few days ago. But folks, I gotta tell ya, Mesa Verde National Park was disappointing.

In the first place, the weather was overcast which doesn’t help. When we checked at the Visitor Center we learned that much of the park doesn’t open until May so many of the popular sights simply weren’t available for us, including the campsites. We checked at a commercial campsite outside the park and it was $40 – $50. For a skinflint like me that was a real turnoff.

Outraged by the disappointments, we were on our way to greener pastures when I decided that we needed to turn around and see whatever we could in the park.

We drove up the steep road onto the mesa (which, by the way, should be called Mesa Gris (gray mesa) not Mesa Verde (green mesa.) So many fires have burned through the park that only dead wood is visible.

The only pueblo that was open was one called Spruce Tree House (see photo.) After the pristine nature of the Hovenweep ruins, Spruce Tree House seemed sullied – about like a Disneyland version of a ruin where stucco and paint simulate stone and timber. Or perhaps an aging woman unsuccessfully trying to cover her age with makeup. I suppose wear and tear is inevitable when thousands of little kids run their greasy hands over the surface of things. But what is this? Do I see the telltale patina of spray paint?

I mentioned this to Mary but she wouldn’t accept it. She put the question to the attending ranger who denied that the Park Service had painted the ruin. But closer inspection confirmed my suspicion. Cement-based mortar had been used to repair the stone wall. In places it had been rubbed off and the cement color was clearly visible. The rest of the ruin had a uniform tan color that closely approximated sandstone – but not quite. Anyone who has seen graffiti painted over knows the look. I don’t know if the ranger was lying or merely ignorant but this is not what I expect of the Department of the Interior – painting ruins and then lying about it!

We beat a hasty retreat to nearby Moab, Utah – a mountain biking mecca with red sandstone in every direction. The Moab I remembered from our last vacation as a place where outdoor enthusiasts outnumber all other forms of humanity is still here. We are camped atop a mesa out of town on BLM land – good ol’ BLM where the nightly fee is $7.50 and the mountain biking trails are everywhere.

It was rather cold and windy yesterday so we decided to forego a bike ride until today. We went over to nearby Dead Horse State Park and took a hike. The red sandstone is awesome – unless of course they PAINTED IT AND THEN LIED ABOUT IT!

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