Monday, July 24, 2017

Sedona, AZ

Would you believe we had to travel yet again to Flagstaff!  This time it was to “reshoe” the back four tires on our 330 horsepower towing vehicle.  My parents took it in stride (even Mom the Budget Master), noting that Big Boomer was still traveling on his original drive tires seven years later.  As for me, once again I resented spending our “weekend” doing chores.  But Mom, the Queen of Compromise, suggested we head to Sedona after the tires were installed.   Of course, it took FOREVER for the tire install, with one thing or another going wrong.  We arrived before they opened to ensure we were the first to get serviced since they do not accept appointments.  Unfortunately, an hour into the task, our technician had to go on an emergency service call.  We waited about 30 minutes for another tech to take over.  Then they did not have the proper equipment at this facility to balance the tires, so they transported them to their second location for balancing.   In total, it took over 4 hours and nearly $2,000 to complete the task.   Dad was shocked at how badly worn the old tires were.  Once removed, you could see extensive dry rot on the inner walls, worn treads, and even road debris (like pieces of metal, nails, screws) impaled into the tires.  With our new Toyo M-154 Extreme Long Haul Drive Tires and the two front tires we replaced within the prior 18 months, we are now in good shape for the next few years, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

We had a quick lunch then headed for Sedona, which is absolutely gorgeous!   It is a mecca for arts and culture, boutique shopping, and holistic treatments.  We took State Highway 89A from Flagstaff--a HUGE mistake.  There is road work in progress. And I’m not just talking shutting down a lane or driving on gravel.  I’m talking about driving on newly-dug mud, reminiscent of our driving experiences in Alaska.  What a mess!  Once beyond the road work, I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery.  I was mesmerized by the vibrant orange and red coloring of the rock formations, many named appropriately for their unique shapes, like Bell Rock, Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Madonna and Child.

Cathedral Rock

Bell Rock

Madonna and Child (in center of photo)

But the highlight of the trip was visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  Built in 1956 right into a rock formation, it presents breathtaking views. Though part of a Catholic Diocese, it is not adorned opulently like many Catholic churches.  Instead, it exudes beauty in its simplicity, offering a spiritual respite for people of all colors, creeds, religions, and ethnic backgrounds.

View from the balcony of the Chapel

The weather started to change and flash flood warnings went into effect.  So we traversed along Scenic Byway 179 and then headed back to the South Rim.  Due to time constraints, we didn’t do much hiking, so hopefully we get another opportunity to visit Sedona in the future.

Speaking of weather, we had a real doozy of a storm on July 18.  Mom and Dad were working at Yavapai Geology Museum and I decided to visit them that evening.  What a relief that I arrived before the storm hit.  It was pitch black to our West—you could not even see the Canyon.  But to our East the sun was shining. The contrast was amazing!  Combine that with lightning bolts and a rainbow, and the result was one phenomenal light show!  I must say, my pictures came out great for a change.  In fact, our organization’s Social Media/Marketing guru used one on the Grand Canyon Association Facebook page!  Unfortunately, she did not credit PoPo the Rambling RV Rat.  I guess it would be difficult to explain what a stuffed rat is doing at the workplace and how one without fingers can even take a photo!

My photo, used in the Grand Canyon Association post of 7/21 (below), credited only to "GCA Store Staff"

As some of you may know, we want an ATV/UTV in the worst way (Mom has even added the necessary funds into her budget!)  But our biggest challenge has been finding a way to transport it.   Although Big Boomer has a garage, the motorcycles lay claim to that area.  Dad has been doing extensive research, so hopefully he comes up with a solution soon.  Mom and I are hoping to have a new “toy” under the Christmas tree this December!

Well, another weekend has come to an end.  I’ll talk to you again soon!

We would like to thank two amazing organizations for all they do for the RVing community:

Escapees/ Xscapers

Escapees RV Club


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Please visit their sites to see how they provide across the board support for everything in the RVing lifestyle.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend - Page, AZ

Hope everyone had a fantastic Independence Day and Canada Day!  Independence Day is quite different here at the Grand Canyon than back in NJ. There are no major festivities and certainly no fireworks.  My holiday was especially boring because my parents worked most of the four-day weekend.   But they did earn double-time for July 4, which means I'll get an increase in my cheese allowance! And July 4 was a relatively calm and quiet day at the store--especially compared to the three days prior, which were totally nuts.  

Fellow RV Dreamers Jim/Barb and Cory/Greg posted favorable reviews of the Dixie Ellis slot canyon tours in Page, so we decided to book a Dixie Ellis tour of Lower Antelope Canyon for ourselves.  The best time of day for lighting within the Lower Canyon is before noon.  It’s a 2+ hour drive to Page from the Grand Canyon South Rim, and you must arrive a half hour prior to your scheduled tour.  The Canyon is on Navajo Tribal Lands, and their lands are the only areas within Arizona to observe Daylight Savings Time—or so we thought.  While true of most Navajo lands within Arizona, Dixie Ellis Tours caters to the tourists within the hotels in Page.  Therefore, the tour company does not observe Daylight Savings Time.  So when we arrived at 10:20 for an 11:10 tour, we soon learned that it was only 9:20 a.m.  Fortunately, there was room for us in the 10:30 tour, so we were able to reduce our wait time—or so we thought.  While our tour started at 10:30, we had to wait another 35 minutes to actually get into the Canyon because there were so many visitors that day.   There were also several visitors who had difficulty climbing stairs and maneuvering through the narrow passages and walkways to enter the Canyon's deepest depth of 96 feet.

Our guide Vernon is a “4 X 4”, a term the Navajo use to denote their lineage of full-blooded Navajo, tracing back 16 generations.  Vernon educated us on Navajo (or Dine) traditions and life on their sovereign Tribal Lands.  He reminisced about coming to the Lower Canyon as a little boy to play.   We were a very engaged group, and Vernon was appreciative of our interest in his culture.  He noted that the majority of the Lower Canyon visitors are international guests with limited understanding of English.  Hence, he does not get to share his Navajo heritage with them.

Vernon and me, leading the pack!

Dixie Ellis offers special photography tours for longer durations of time.  These come with a much steeper price tag than the $25/per person plus $8 tribal permit fee/person for our tour.  Interestingly, Vernon is a host/instructor for many of these tours!  Though we weren’t on nor did we pay for a special photography tour, Vernon imparted many tips on how to get better pictures.  He even took the time to adjust each person’s cell phone or digital camera for proper lighting settings!  Pretty cool stuff for an amateur picture taker using just a Samsung S5 cell phone camera like me! 

Antelope Canyon (also known as Corkscrew Canyon for obvious reasons), was named by the ancient Navajo for the animals seen using the area to traverse down to the Colorado River from the High Country.  It was formed by excessive volumes of water flowing at high velocity—Vernon said to think liquid sandpaper.  It just amazes me what beauty the forces of nature can create!

Despite the crowds, the heat (105 F), and the wait time, the tour was excellent, earning a coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese rating!

Our next stop was Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  We hiked the 1.5 mile round trip trail to view Horseshoe Bend, a most appropriately-named curve of the Colorado River.  Many claim this is the most photographed place in Arizona.  All I know is that it is one breathtaking viewpoint!

Those tiny white specs are what boats in the water look like from 1000 feet above the River!

We enjoyed a late lunch and started to head back home.  But Page's Wal-Mart Super Center beckoned to us!  We picked up a few foodstuff items and we agreed unanimously that this Wal-Mart was 100 times better than the one in Flagstaff.  While there, Calvin, a helpful Wal-Mart employee and Navajo Tribal Land resident, apprised us of a local, non-touristy lookout point to view Glen Canyon Dam, just a few miles away, tucked behind a construction site for a new hotel in Page.   What a great find!


Time to hike back up to the parking lot

We headed back to the Grand Canyon South Rim, taking in the vivid colors of the rocks and the darkening skies.

We arrived home just in time to witness a spectacular sunset amid a monsoon season lightning storm.  Cool stuff!

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so I must sign off now.  Talk to you again soon!

We would like to thank two amazing organizations for all they do for the RVing community:

Escapees/ Xscapers

Escapees RV Club


rvillage logo

Please visit their sites to see how they provide across the board support for everything in the RVing lifestyle.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Craters, Critters, and Crises

The hectic summer season is in full swing here at Grand Canyon, and the Canyon is experiencing unseasonably warmer weather.    With temps in the 90s at the Rim and 110+ at Phantom Ranch, we have broken some records here during the past few weeks.  Thank goodness for air conditioning, something many of the locals do not have in their homes.  Mom insists we keep the rig at 68 degrees so she can sleep well at night.  Tabby and I are eternally grateful for her hot flashes—we are cool and comfortable all day long!

As part of our summer season kickoff, the Grand Canyon Association hosted its annual Star Party, a week-long star gazing event.  More than three dozen astronomers set up their telescopes for all the guests to view the constellations.  I saw Jupiter, Saturn, the Scorpion constellation, and even the Milky Way!  Grand Canyon is striving to become a Dark Sky Park.  With provisional status now, it hopes to attain the goal by 2019.  As we walked along the Rim Trail from the Visitor Center back to our RV site, we could see headlights gleaming from the Canyon—folks were still hiking back up along Bright Angel Trail at 11 p.m.!  With the excessive temperatures during the day, this was probably a smart move on their part.

Mom is blaming the extreme heat and the hectic work environment for her recent blunder with Big Boomer.  Dad, who suffered from a migraine and nausea all night, was not up to going to work one day.  So Mom drove the truck to work herself.  When she returned to the truck after her shift ended at 8:40 p.m., Boomer wouldn’t start—dead battery.  Yes, it seems the bubble-headed bleached brunette forgot to turn the lights off before exiting the truck in the morning!  She called Coach-Net Road Service, who said the only contractor in the area would require $90 in cash to get a jump start that evening because it was after normal business hours.  She didn’t have that kind of cash on her, and now the parking lot was dark and desolate.  So she had no resort but to call Dad.  He had to emerge from his sick bed and ride his motorcycle over to pick her up.   They opted to wait until the morning to have service jump start the truck.   The service truck came out the next morning, but still required a cash payment of $70 since Coach-Net did not have a contract with the company.  Mom was required to submit a claim to Coach-Net to get possible reimbursement.  Maybe my stuffed rat brain is small, but it makes no sense to me to pay for a 24-hour emergency service plan and still have to worry about putting money out of pocket for a contractor.  If we have to pay a contractor directly AND possibly be denied reimbursement, why do we need the service plan?

Surprisingly, Dad took the dead battery news pretty well.  He noted that Boomer’s battery was original to the truck, so it was more than 7 years old.  While Dad was quite understanding, I was a bit perturbed at Mom.  After all, we had to waste one of our precious days off going down to Flagstaff to buy new truck batteries and for Dad to install them.  At least we will drive along scenic Highway 180 to get to Flagstaff, I think to myself. Alas, wildfires in the area have closed down this scenic byway.  Strike 2 for PoPo.  I consoled myself by saying there is always next weekend to go exploring.  But, by the next weekend, the flush valve on our RV toilet broke.  My hopes of visiting new places just went down the crapper.  Back down to Flagstaff we went to purchase a new toilet at Camping World.

Mom and Dad empathized with my disappointment and surprised me with a side visit to Sunset Crater National Monument.    This volcano erupted approximately 1,000 years ago, leaving behind layers of cinder ash.  The ash allows water to percolate, but prevents it from evacuating.  Therefore, much of the area has experienced a rebirth.  Yes, Mother Nature has re-vegetated the area with quaking aspen trees and blooming flora.  We enjoyed some short hikes in the area, then returned to the truck.  

"The Peaks", the mountain range including Sunset Crater

I was doubly surprised—I also had the opportunity to visit Wupatki National Monument, an Ancient Puebloan multi-story dwelling inhabited around 500 A.D.  I never cease to be amazed at the resilience of humankind.  The Ancient Puebloans lived in these dry, arid climates subjected to monsoons, droughts, and heavy winds.   Yet they farmed successfully enough to provide their sustenance.

I’m glad we had the opportunity to visit these National Monuments.  Because they are small, they tend to be less popular, a plus in my book!  You can get more accomplished in less time and actually get to take photos without other people appearing in them.  What a fun day, but it was time to head home so Dad could install the new toilet.  He had it done in a jiffy.  And after a thorough testing and inspection by yours truly, it gets a thumbs up!  It is a vast improvement over the toilet provided originally by the manufacturer--better construction and sturdier seat.   And, just like a residential toilet, the water “swirls” in a circular motion from the jets around its circumference rather than just squirting from one jet in the back of the toilet.  I’m sure  the Tidy Bowl Man will be impressed.

Yours truly testing out the new can-can!

During our daily walks and hikes, we’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the Park’s resident critters.  The pregnant elk cows have borne their calves.  Many of the new mamas hang out together with their new children, forming a babysitting brigade.  

The Babysitting Brigade

And now that the female cows have given birth, the boys are back in town!  We have spotted many bulls in the area recently, including this one whose early morning date we interrupted.

The mule deer are visiting our campground more frequently, too.  They are so cute with their HUGE ears.  We got up close and personal with a collared lizard recently.  He was just lounging on a rock, soaking in the sun.  He was one good looking lizard—very colorful!  And we’ve seen several condors floating on the warm thermal winds.  Unfortunately, I have yet to capture a photo of them!  But I have snapped a few photos of other native birds like ravens, hummingbirds visiting our feeder, and even stellar jays…

Mule Deer

Collared Lizard

Ravens enjoying breakfast--a juvenile snake...

...and a pinion pine cone for this one.

Hummingbird feasting at our feeder

Stellar Jay

Not sure what they are, but there are some very unique insects in the area, too.

Some type of moth?

Some type of beetle enjoying some dung!

Well, it is official!  Monsoon season has arrived, with us encountering rain for the first time in nearly 8 weeks.  Truthfully, the rain is a welcome relief to the excessive heat and a blessing to help with all the wildfires in the area, including one in Tusayan, the town just 7 miles away from us.  Tusayan hosts a variety of restaurants, hotels, AND the IMAX Theater.  As “locals” working at the Canyon, my family received free admission to the 3-D movie about Grand Canyon, “Hidden Secrets”.  How great that I did not need to raid my piggy bank to pay for my ticket!  We were going to ride our bicycles to the theater, but Mom worried she might not have the stamina to get back.  So we rode to the Visitor Center, parked our bicycles at work, and took the shuttle in, which reduced the roundtrip to 5 miles, rather than 14.  Speaking of bicycles, check out my new accessory!  Rather than get the little “Good Humor Man” bell that people can barely hear, Dad and I opted for the “Bozo the Clown” big ass horn.  Nothing better to say “get the heck out of my way!”

Well, I’ve rambled on enough for one post.  I leave you with some photos of last night's thunderstorm at sunset.

We would like to thank two amazing organizations for all they do for the RVing community:

Escapees/ Xscapers

Escapees RV Club


rvillage logo

Please visit their sites to see how they provide across the board support for everything in the RVing lifestyle.