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


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


  1. Tazzy would like to meet your lizard friend��

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer in the Grand Canyon, see you next winter,

    Dale and Ruth

  2. I can totally relate to what a bummer it is losing a day off to household stuff, Glad you got to see the monuments though...they are really cool

  3. Sorry for your battery and toilet woes!!! Glad you were able to get them fixed without too many problems. And we saw rain for the first time in a long time as nice!!!

  4. Our toilet just broke too...CW said it would take a week to get new one (we are in Sacramento and it was a Saturday just before the 4th), but I already knew that Amazon could get me one by Monday (and $10 less expensive)...which is what we did. Hard to see the toilet you have due to that big tail of yours Rambling Rat, but if it is the Dometic 310 Series you will like how easy it is to clean and/or replace the seal. So simple, even a Rat can do it (but most likely a job for dad)