Saturday, February 18, 2017

Desert Entertainment

It’s been a busy few weeks out here in the desert!  We’ve enjoyed the company of fellow RVers on several occasions, from attending more happy hours to hosting a luncheon at our desert abode with co-workers from Crazy Horse Memorial.

The desert is starting to bloom!  And it never fails to provide us with a glorious sunrise or awe-inspiring sunset.

Say hello to my little friend!

I had a pleasant Valentine’s Day!  My parents presented me with a tray of all my favorite cheeses!   This should satisfy my needs for at least a month.  We shared a delectable dinner at home, ribeye steaks grilled to perfection!  Dad got the diamond reset in Mom’s engagement ring, which fell out while she was cleaning the rig one day in December.  (Good thing it didn’t fall out while working at Amazon—with all the territory walked in a day there, it would be impossible to locate).  Mom was a real big time spender:  her present to Dad was emptying the crapper for him!

Twinkle toes is back!  Yes, I started to attend dance classes again with my parents.  Since we show up so late in the season and never use what we learn, we went back to the beginner class.  We are doing so well, our dance instructors encouraged us to try the intermediate class.   Needless to say, not such a good idea.  We are quite inept at this higher level, especially since the class started way back in November.   But at least we are picking up a few new moves here and there to use at March Madness Dance Day at the QIA!

Speaking of dancing, it seems the Naturalists had several dance parties recently.  I could hear the famous tunes of Chubby Checker and Big Joe Turner emanating from their clothing optional camp area.  I can only imagine how much was twisting, shaking, rattling, and rolling over there!  I was ready to join in the fun, but once again my parents stymied me from expanding my life experiences.  I really need to emancipate myself!

Last week we visited Cibola Wildlife Refuge.  What a cool place!  Created to mitigate the impact Colorado River channelization and dam construction had on wildlife, it provides natural habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl like sandhill cranes, snow geese, and those ever pesky Canadian geese (I swear, there were more Canadian geese in New Jersey than in all of Canada!).   To protect the wildlife from getting spooked, most of the area can only be viewed by auto.  Being in Big Boomer gave us a height advantage over regular cars, so we were able to look over the fields rather than through them.  Unfortunately, spotting wildlife through acres and acres of land expanding for miles and miles off the road is like finding Hidden Pictures in Highlights Magazine!  But with perseverance and my trusty binoculars, I saw several fine specimens, although my photos don’t do them justice.  We did walk the 1-mile nature trail, but didn’t see any bobcat, snakes, or coyote.  There were mule deer tracks alongside the road, but no sign of them out playing in the fields.  We were rewarded by seeing not one, but two burrowing owls when we returned to the auto tour!  We must have spent an hour watching them!  Of course, my photos are pathetic.  I’ve come to realize that the best snapshots are the ones in my mind that I tuck away as fond memories.  There are other areas of the Refuge to visit along Levee Road, too (Cibola Lake, Three Fingers Lake, etc).  We visited a small portion of them but decided to forego traveling too far--we didn’t want to push our luck and bend another tie-rod on the rough, unpaved road.  We did get to watch a hawk capture his lunch and start to eat it, but he got perturbed at us disturbing his meal and took off.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Cibola Wildlife Refuge and will return again next January, which is the peak period for migratory bird visits.

Sandcranes in the foreground

Bombs away!  Canadian geese in flight!

A very bad photo of one of the two burrowing owls!

A very blurry pic of a hawk eating his lunch.

It hasn’t been all fun and games in our lives, though…

…Our Splendide washer/dryer unit underwent another emergency surgical procedure.  Yes, good old Dr. Dad had to replace the drum boot and rebuild the counterbalance weight.

…We incurred a $200 increase in our motorcycle insurance and insurance premiums for the RV/truck skyrocketed by $1,000, so we decided we needed to explore new options.  Our agent said that our motorcycle insurance increased because we had a $60 claim for a windshield chip on our truck.  What does one have to do with the other, I ask you!   As for the truck/RV, supposedly the company put through a major increase across the board.  Ironically, that was what we were told the year before.  In two years, our premium increased 75%!  That's with no claims, excellent credit scores, excellent driving records, and discounts for renewal and prompt payment (would hate to see what the premium would have been if we didn't fit into these categories)!  And in Texas, no insurance company will offer agreed value on our custom-built truck.  So we pray we never get into a disastrous accident since they will never pay out enough money for us to build another Big Boomer.  Anyway we have changed insurance agents and carriers and are now paying less than we did 2 years ago for the same coverage on both the motorcycles and truck.  At least that puts some extra cheese money in the budget!

…Last night’s heavy wind, with gusts at 50 mph, proved too forceful for our wind turbine—it lost one of its propellers.

…We waited a week to get the parts that were supposed to be in the next day for the RV leaf spring fix.  We ordered them (and paid for them in full as required) on a Monday, were told they should be in the next day, and were informed we would get called when they arrived.   Dad phoned on Tuesday afternoon and was told the parts weren’t in, they should be in on Friday.  When we didn’t get a call by Friday at noon, Dad phoned.  Nobody working that day had a clue what he was talking about, but would check with the owner.  Since we heard nothing back, we showed up in person first thing Tuesday morning of the following week. Lo and behold, the parts had been in for days on end!  Where was our phone call?  Yeesh, you just can’t get good help these days.  Anyway, Dad spent about 8 hours over a 2-day period working on the leaf springs.  I don’t know all the technical garble-gook, so he will probably tell you about it himself.  The good news is, the task is completed and hopefully we don’t have a recurring problem.

Well, I’ve rambled long enough.  My tummy says it is time for a snack.  Talk to you soon!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Time for Some R & R

Can’t believe it is February already!    January just flew by!  I guess that is because of all the happy hours we attended with Escapees, Xscapers, and Montana Owners Club, a great pork chop dinner hosted by MOC friends Curtis and Stephanie, friends from Amazon popping by to visit with us, and, of course, the fact that this year I actually worked with my folks at the Escapees booth at the Quartzsite RV Show.   Despite the cold, windy weather, I had a blast!   So many people stopped at the booth over the 10 days.  Nothing like reconnecting with old friends and making new ones!   Not to mention all the beautiful doggies on display with their families--I felt like I was at the Westminster Dog Show!  Teammates Chick, Debby, Dave, and Carol were terrific to work with, too, and we all did quite well enlightening folks to the merits of the Escapees/Xscapers organization.   Once Sunday night came and the Show officially ended (and it couldn’t come fast enough—we were all pooped!), we celebrated a job well done and expressed our thanks to the team with some of Mom’s Italian cooking.  As she always says, she isn’t the best cook, but no one had ever suffered food poisoning from her meals!  I’m happy to report that her track record remains intact!

Montana Owners Club Happy Hour

Escapees RV Club Show Team...

...Including Yours Truly

Show doggies hard at work or hardly working?  You decide...

After completing all the required show paperwork and returning all the show materials to Escapees North Ranch, we spent a day chilling.  Then we reinstated our daily early morning hikes (completing 5-6 miles now), catching the magnificent Arizona sunrises.   We will start attending line dancing lessons at the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA), too.

While we are just settling back in at Q, several friends are already leaving.  Time to host a Happy Hour at our humble desert abode!  Good food and drink, a roaring wood fire, a lovely sunset, and much warmer temperatures made for a perfect evening.

It seems many folks deserted the desert early this year, probably seeking warmer temperatures.  This makes boondocking here even more appealing to me!  Nothing around but vast, open land and blue, cloudless skies (and no more lines forming at the dump station!)  The extra rain the area experienced late last year has already transformed the dormant ocotillos from dull brown to vibrant emerald green, and the creosote bushes are already sprouting buds.

We love the unobstructed view!

Our "backyard"

The Dump Station Line: Growing, Growing, Now Gone!

This ocotillo has come back to life quite early!

Did I tell you we lined up workamping for the summer?  You may remember me mentioning a while back that we pick a state we want to visit and then seek out jobs, and our 2017 goal was Wyoming.  In the midst of pursuing jobs, Amazon said it was uncertain whether Camperforce would be used again in Haslet, TX for 2017.  If you know my folks, you know they always analyze logistics, costs, net revenue.  No one can ever accuse them of making rash, spontaneous, uninformed decisions!  Mom ALWAYS has Plan B (and many times Plan C) in case things don’t gel into place with Plan A.   So while we did get offers of employment in Wyoming, we didn’t get the one job we really wanted and loved in Jackson Hole.  Rather than take a job offer we found less appealing, we decided to abandon working in Wyoming in 2017 and focus on Arizona, because if Amazon offered no workamping in TX, we knew we would not go to its KY or TN locations.   We would just come to Q in mid-October and relax instead of work.  So by January 3 we had signed commitments to work at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  And not for one of the subcontractors/vendors, but directly for the Grand Canyon Association, the nonprofit organization that partners with the National Park Service to raise awareness and funds to preserve the Park.  We are so excited!  Furthermore, we learned at the Quartzsite RV Show that Amazon will have some TX locations open to workampers.   So now we have new options to consider for picking up some extra bucks, which is always a good thing, especially when faced with repair bills.

You see, we just spent $553 on getting a new tire installed on Big Boomer.  Mind you, the bad tire was not old nor did it have many miles—we purchased it in Spring 2015, when we had the first tie rod replaced.  When we had the second tie rod replaced in 2016 after our Alaska trip, Dad noticed that the inside tread of the tire was wearing quickly and unevenly.  He had the tires rotated and the wheels aligned, but the problem persisted.  It was determined that the tire was defective, but good luck trying to prove that!  Dad explained the problem as “tire conicity”, or in simpler rat terms, it was manufactured with the steel belts slightly out of center, causing the tire to roll like a cone. This made the truck feel as if it were out of alignment when, in fact, the tire was causing the issue.  The problem stopped once the new tire was installed, and the truck now rides so much better.

Except now Dad just discovered issues with the leaf spring hangers on the fifth wheel. The bolt that holds the leaf spring to the hanger is cutting a vertical groove in the horizontal slot in the hanger steel.  This is similar to the problem we incurred last April (except last year, the steel sheared the bolt off).  You see, the manufacturer cheaped out, installing the spring hangers with a thinner steel than should have been used.  This is quite obvious, even to this feeble-brained stuffed rat, when you examine the thickness of the steel on the after-market “fixes” for the hangers.  So now Dad has to order new hangers so he can begin repairs, estimated to be about $400.  Now that's a lot of cheese!  

The sheared leaf spring

As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, “it’s always something.
But it is all a part of this nomadic, free-spirited lifestyle, which we just adore.