Thanksgiving Week in Arizona

We took a week off work to celebrate Thanksgiving. Okay, my boss told me I had vacation to burn up and it’s getting close to the end of the year. Since we can’t all take off the whole month of December(something about that whole needing someone in the office thing) I took the week off on Thanksgiving. Okay, so it’s 3 extra days. I’m still new to this whole “Paid Vacation” thing.

20151123_095518_zpsu6ymzs7oUnlike before, we decided against going out of state. I think my better half is trying not to get that Texas sticker on our RV. Instead we headed to the south eastern section of Arizona. I guess it’s for the best, as the trip down took one of our RV windows. “What was that? Did a gorram 20151124_154421_zpsqbcvbixowindow fly off the RV?” Somewhere along I10 a mangled and smashed window frame sits. I didn’t actually see the window fly off. Well, sorta. I saw something fly off, but didn’t connect the dots until much later along the drive.

Our first destination was Hot Wells Dunes. The area is more of a offroaders kind of place. Many people go there to ride around in their 4 wheelers, and such. We were there on a Sunday, and it wasn’t too bad. It has a hot tub that 20151123_133748_zpsu4jbefn6used to be naturally filled, but the water levels have dropped to the point where it has to be mechanically filled by a pump. That pump shuts off at night, because it is powered by solar. Cool. Except that it’s empty at night when you want to relax…

20151123_141329_zpsryhw2dgeThere’s also a large pond where birds supposedly gather, but sadly when we were there, no birds were to be seen. Well, that’s not completely true. There were birds, but not really any that were taking advantage of the water. We stayed there for a couple nights. The first night was quite chilly. I had decided in my infinite wisdom that the window that had taken flight around Benson didn’t need to be covered or anything. The desert can get pretty dang cold at night. And it seemed intent on proving that to us. We were chilled to the bone that night. Even with the heater running the room got brutally cold. It was not a pleasant evening. The morning had us scrambling to make coffee to wake up and warm up.

The next day we actually just hung around the camp site. Aside from a trip to the hot tub we spent the day just relaxing. We had no internet connectivity on our cell phones. So we actually had to *GASP* talk to eachother. I found out my better half has green eyes. Seriously though. We had a pretty good time even though we had no internet. Or perhaps because of it. We did spy a roadrunner pretty close to camp. 20151124_112454_zpscmj1zyixSomething strange was going on with our batteries. We didn’t seem to actually be fully charging them. Usually by noon, my batteries are full, but this time they were still around the medium mark. The internal battery monitor showed full, but that shows full right up until the batteries are dead. I figured I would simply monitor it. If need be I can fire up my truck and charge the batteries.

I played with the dog most of the day. She was enjoying chasing after a hunk of log… No seriously. Not a branch, a hunk of log. I’d toss it, she’d come back with it. I would try to go to a smaller branch, so I could throw it farther, and she would sit there and gnaw on the big log. After a while I noticed she was tearing up her gums, so I called it on the fetch. We went inside the RV, and she laid on the couch.

That night we had a nice fire, and waited for the evening to come. I had fixed the window with a chunk of plexiglass I had laying around. What? Doesn’t everyone just have random plexiglass hanging around? Actually it was from the Air Conditioner opening I had previously. The rollaway AC used less power that the roof unit, and we kept cooler in the summer. I fired up the heater again that night, and of course the better half felt it was too hot. I can’t win. Well except Monopoly… Which I dominated that night.

20151124_154312_zpsyy88dpniTuesday it was time to move. We were still having charging issues, but decided meh it’s not that bad. Lets move the RV someplace where the solar not charging isn’t going to affect it. And so we moved it to a place that is nice and shaded… That’ll surely help the solar charging issue. Honestly it’s a shame we were worried about the solar. Because the location is spectacular. Bonita Canyon Campground is just an amazing campground. They were worried about us scraping, but I wasn’t. We had been here before, but just checking the place out. There is a pretty sizeable dip before we get to the camp site. But other than that, it wasn’t too serious. Amazingly enough, the site was pretty level and worked out perfectly for us.

We were only here for two nights. The first night went well aside from my better half being too warm. We couldn’t have fires, which was okay, because we understood. Way too much vegetation. But that was okay. It was probably the warmest of the trip. The first night we took a walk around the camp site, and I realized we were walking in pitch black in bear country with nothing to defend ourselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, I doubt that a bear would randomly appear and “ROWR” *munch* us, but without any kind of defense, I was a tad nervous. I played too many games of DND I guess. Random encounters happen.

We brought along a “Big Buddy” heater. This was good enough to keep us mostly warm. Even with the furnace the front of the RV could get chilly. But after a few games of Milles Bornes (which I promptly lost. It’s French) we headed off to bed. We had an actual restful warm night’s sleep, and woke up the next day mostly rested.

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I often wonder if Europeans giggle at our “ruins” that are younger than some of their homes.

The next morning we headed off to Fort Bowie. We passed it coming in, and figured it would be a good thing to check out. The web site said it was a mile and a half easy trail. Apparently whoever wrote that was in better shape than me. It was doable, but it certainly wasn’t easy. There is some interesting history there though. If you can walk it, I suggest you do. I got my phone to tell me that I had achieved a milestone and had my most active day EVER after doing that. But the story that goes with Fort Bowie is worth the miles on my shoes. Which incidentally was another mistake. I always wear boots, and decided to wear tennies. Not a good decision. Still worth it though.

We got back and apparently hadn’t punished ourselves enough so we decided to hike the Chircahuas. Seriously. We just got done doing 3 miles of unpleasant stumbling through mountainous terrain, and we hop on another trail. Totally worth it though. Not long into the hike we came across a whole slew of deer. then not far from that we hear, then see a red tailed hawk. The call is unmistakable. Unless you get your information on bird calls from TV and movies. Nearly every time you hear an eagle in TV and movies, the sound is actually the call of the red tailed hawk. Then at the end of the hike we saw some blue jays. A lot of them. At first there was one. And when my sweetie started taking pictures, they all came out of the woodworks.

Apparently the jelly legs we had wasn’t bad enough. We decided to go ahead and pay our respects to our friend who passed. He always wanted to head to the Chiricauha mountains, so we brought his ashes to the mountain.

My sweetheart and I shared the wine they had gotten on a cruise. They were a couple at one time, but had life happen and they decided to go their separate ways. Fortunately they were able to remain friends. And I was able to be his friend as well. To Steve. We truly miss you, and it was an honor to have been counted among your many friends. We returned down to our camp site, and my sweetie took a few pictures on the way down.

 

The next day was Thanksgiving. Our original plan was to have turkey day at the Wildlife Refuge so we could hear the cranes while we relaxed. That plan was shattered by the lack of cranes at the wildlife refuge. So we decided to head back to the Hot Wells Dunes.

It didn’t take long to realize that we had made a huge mistake. The Hot wells Dunes area becomes a massive off road meeting place. It was hard enough to find a spot, and when we did, it was a constant drone of off road vehicles. While we were there though I did get the opportunity to do a quick window repair…

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Not bad for redneck repair.

We had our Turkey Dinner to the sound of two strokes instead of cranes. and the next morning we decided it best to move elsewhere. Not too far off is a free camping area that is also BLM land. Indian Bread Rocks has a whole slew of free camping areas. It was nice to have relative quiet, for the last few days of our trip.

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Of course even with it being “quiet” we didn’t go without incident. After our first night we ran out of propane. Really… Sooo first thing in the morning, I’m humping my happy butt to the nearest place with propane. Actually, it wasn’t the nearest place, but it was the cheapest place.

Of course our entire trip was plagued with us having some kind of weird issue charging our batteries. Even here, we had the batteries dying down on us. With plenty of sunlight through the day it should have been good. Not to mention we were letting the RV sit for long periods of time not doing anything.

Somehow, during this trip we also broke our poor dog. So that’s the reason for the delay in getting this to you. Well that’s my story at least. Poor thing had to have knee surgery. She’s doing better now, but she had to suffer the indignity of the cone of shame.

broken dog

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Colcord Ridge Campground

The first spot we were going to camp at. Not bad by any means.

It was my birthday weekend, and we had decided to go to one of the places we drove to on a prior weekend. We thought about dry camping near the road, but all of the ones we wanted to try were already taken. So we took a side road and were told that all the camp sites that were open were “down that way” and that it would be best if we just parked and walked to check it out. So we took off walking down the road. about two miles down there was an open camp site, and I left my sweetheart there with the dog, and hiked my happy butt back up the mountain to get the truck. On my way back I noticed that the gate we thought was to a closed campground was just an emergency exit. I figured since I was already up there, it would be a good idea to go drive down and get my sweetie rather than make her walk up the road.

It appeared that I had misunderstood the campground host when he was talking about “down that way” he actually meant within the campground. I drove the truck and RV down to where I left her, and gathered up my sweetie and brought her up to the actual campground. We did a quick once around and found a spot. Maneuvering with a huge trailer with a bunch of trees around sounds easy, but surprisingly, the trees tend to pick the wrong spot to have been growing for years. I had to swing wider than I would have liked, and the end turn around was far sharper than I though. Fortunately for me, I was watching my mirrors, because I came within inches of ruining the trip. And earning an earful from my sweetheart. She was blissfully unaware of how close the RV came to being assaulted by that rogue tree that came out of nowhere. Well she was until just now as she reads this… I’m pretty sure I will get a death stare and an ear full once she has a chance to read this.

We set up camp and wandered about the campground a little bit and our dog got a chance to stretch her legs.. .and get to meet some campers. She was in heaven. I got to throw the stick a little with her… she destroyed said stick… She got belly rubs and pettins. And we got to be good ambassadors for the breed. All in all it was a good day. Storm loved it.

Interestingly Colcord Ridge Campground is a well cared for campground. I say interestingly, because it’s free. You can stay there for up to 14 days and not pay a dime. It’s strange to think that such a lovely campground with such an awesome view would be free. But it is. Some stay longer than the 14 days, but there are enough sites open to accommodate campers. Thank goodness, because we’re campers. It’s fairly easy to get to. You take the 260 from Payson to the Young highway. If you hit dirt road, you just passed it. It’s on the left hand side, and as I said, just before you get to the dirt road. If you are in the area, check it out. You won’t be upset.

We hung around the campground for the rest of the evening, and that night the moon was huge and bright in the sky. We learned from Facebook and the like that we were out during a super-moon. When the moon is the closest, and nice and full. It lit up the campground almost like it was day.

The next day we got out and decided to drive around a bit. We were curious about the area down below. So we drove to the other campground. I think it was Valentine Ridge campground, but I could be wrong. At any rate, it was shut down by the forest service, because a bear had decided it wanted some pic-a-nic baskets. As we were turning around I noticed a faint smell of diesel fuel. I guess I got a leak somewhere which might explain the sputtering I was experiencing. AND why my fuel mileage went to pot. But along the way we saw a few good free camping spots, so if you get kicked out of the campground because of the bear, you can go a few hundred yards down the road… Because for some reason the bear can’t walk that far…

Afterwards we decided to check out a house we were thinking of buying in the area. The drive there was pretty long and the road was slightly less than ideal. We got most of the way in and my little woman’s phone died. But despite this we did end up making it to the house, we just didn’t know it. There were some great sights along the way.

Whoops, looks like someone was too busy clinging for deal life to anything she could to take any pictures at all. Seriously I don’t blame her for not taking any pictures. It was very rough driving, not quite 4 wheelin, but very rough. Not only that, but when she opened her window the smell of diesel would waft into the cabin. So I don’t fault her for it one bit. I just wish we had gotten a few pics of the drive.

That night, was the darkest I had ever seen. It was a stark contrast to the previous night. Then while stumbling about I realized why. It was the super moon lunar eclipse that everyone was talking about. I tried to take a picture of it, but…
What I saw:

What the camera saw:

That’s just not right…

We decided to have a fire, and enjoy the rest of the night…. What better way to do that than with pina collada. 

That’s right nice big picture of an alcoholic beverage. I’m at work right now, on a Friday… guess where my mind is.

We enjoyed the night as the moon slowly reappeared, and lit up the campground again. The next morning was the day we had to head home, but fortunately since we weren’t at a pay campground we didn’t have to leave right as soon as we woke up. Good thing too, because there was this squirrel that had been eluding getting it’s picture taken by my sweetheart all weekend. Then finally she managed to snap a picture of it.

Then the ham decided it was okay to hang out and get more pictures taken.

Success haha. So we returned home, which was much easier without the long weekend traffic of before, and over the next couple weeks I found the source of my fuel leak. When I got my fuel filters replaced they forgot to replace the O ring on the fuel filter cap. It literally fell off after I started messing with it. So glad that now I’m not dumping a large quantity of fuel all over the top of the motor and onto hot exhaust… Diesel doesn’t explode(when not pressurized), but it does burn. And that would be slightly less fun. I do still need to get my DPF serviced, but that’s a tale for another day.

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Winn-ing

Before we got the idea to get an RV to camp, we were tent campers. We loved it… until Winn Campground. When we went it was October. Slept on an air mattress, and learned what a pain it is to sleep in cold weather on an air mattress in October…

I can’t be too upset at that day, because of that freezing night, we decided on getting an RV. Our first choice was less than ideal for us, as the darn thing was having all kinds of electrical problems and ended up costing us several thousand dollars to get fixed. And then because all of that money was thrown at an RV that still wouldn’t make a short drive, we ended up selling it and getting our 5th wheel. I had to upgrade my truck, because the transmission kept getting lunched, and now, we’re happy.

Going on a trip to nearly any campground on a 3 day weekend is bound to drive you crazy. Labor day weekend was a perfect example of this. Many of the spots were taken, and there was a lot of loud partying. But fortunately Winn is laid out with the spaces far enough apart that we weren’t too close to the party. There’s two separate loops for camping. Some are walk-up only. Friday night I got off early enough that I could have the RV ready to go by the time the little lady got home from work. We headed out on our long drive to Greer up through Payson and out past Show Low.

As we pulled in after dark, we had to wait til the morning to actually see the campground. It didn’t disappoint. The lush greenery and tall pines surrounded us. You know we often get critter visitors, but the problem is we’re usually not quick enough with the camera. Or we’re just able to get a nice picture of squirrel butthole as it’s bounding away… Sometimes though we actually get a nice picture of a cute little furry woodland creature. It’s one of the reasons we take these trips. That is, to get back in touch with nature in a nice peaceful way.

We popped in to Pinetop because we wanted to check out a few antique shops. The first place we stopped at was a nice place with a huge sign that said ANTIQUES, and clothing. We walked in and my initial reaction was, “It’s nice, but where are the antiques?” We wandered through, and it wasn’t until we hit the second floor that we found a small room with a smattering of antiques that looked like stuff I would find on the side of the road while changing a tire. To say I was unimpressed with their “antiques” would be like saying the ocean is a tad wet. I’m not going to call them liars, but with the huge sign saying “ANTIQUES”, and then clothing, when it was mostly a shop to sell those wire and rock ants and modern art is a tad disingenuous in my opinion.

Obviously friendly to those who carry.

We decided to stop for food at the place called Grumpy Jake’s BBQ. The food  was pretty decent, and the staff was friendly. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t like what I got. My sweetheart got the ribs, and those were VERY tasty. I was just a tad jealous, but she let me have some that she couldn’t finish. Afterwards we headed back through town and we stopped at several other antique shops. Nearly all of them had more ACTUAL antiques than the first shop, but we didn’t really see anything that we really had to have. I darn near got a leather jacket with fringe and all, but just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Almost… but not quite enough to justify the purchase.

We returned to the RV, and I spent what seemed like forever trying to get the fire to light. I’m usually pretty good at it, but it simply refused to light, and stay lit. I was feeling like I failed my fire skills… I couldn’t get PAPER to stay lit. I couldn’t get the barbecue lit to cook dinner, after I lit the fire pit(finally), so I decided to take the charcoal and sit it over the lit fire pit and let it light the coals… Future reference, if you’re going to light a fire pit and a grill for food, do the grill for food FIRST. That way if you run out of lighter fluid, it’s no biggie, you just go without a fire to sit by.

When we were in Jerome, we picked up a book with a bunch of scenic drives in Arizona. Since we were in the area, one of the trips was on Forrest Road 285. Granted it was going the opposite direction from Eagar to Big Lake and we were closer to Big Lake. But as far as I know the view out of the window is only on the opposite side of the truck, and other than that doesn’t change because we’re going the other way. At first the road was kind of nice, with tall pines and a cruise through the woods on a back road. Then after we crossed through a field we closed in on some horses. It looked like a family of three. They were standing in the middle of the road, so I slowed down until by the time I was up to them, I was at just about a crawl. I’m a bit of a softie at times when it comes to animals. And horses have always held a small part of my heart. They gently moved on and we eased past them.

We continued the drive into Eagar, and weren’t quite done yet. So we decided to check the campground out that we didn’t get to last time we were in the area. We also wanted to complete the Coronado Trail that we kind of abandoned last time. So we started at the other end and drove toward Clifton on 191.

A stark reminder: This was caused by one campfire that wasn’t all the way out.It didn’t take long before we started to see the damage done by the Wallow Fire. As much as I love camping with a nice fire, all of us need to be reminded of the dangers of our camp fires. Two men were camping and thought their fire was out. The wind picked up and caused the fire to re-ignite, and embers lit the forest on fire. Driving through the area is a tad saddening, because the fire was entirely preventable. But there is hope too, as life is coming back to the area.

Feels like the top of the world

Sometimes you see something and you simply cannot comprehend it in your first glance. The double-take. We round a corner and I see a tree that looks like it’s a porcupine… We stop and look and see that the thing is covered in arrows. I have to admit, If you’re going to randomly shoot something, it’s better to do it with arrows… They don’t fly as far.I’ll give these guys bonus points if they managed their shots from a moving vehicle.

As we drove through the mountains my lovely woman forgot to take pictures as she was gripping the “OhShit” handle as I was driving. Her exact words were something like, “Why aren’t there any guard rails around here?” Though she did manage to snap a couple pics as we headed to the Honeymoon campground.

Last time we came to the river crossing it looked like water was over the road. I said then if I knew the road I would have simply driven through it. This time I got up to it and it looked the same way. I figured they wouldn’t have people living back there with no way to get out, so I decided to go for it. It’s a low water crossing, and I figured I could ease through it and if I started getting too deep, I’d stop. Of course as I got about halfway there someone decided to head the other way, and scooted along pretty quickly, so that let me know it was safe.

The other side of the creek. Almost magical.

We scooted along and back further into the area beyond the creek. It was a longer drive than I expected, but as we got further back it was pretty neat. I don’t think our 5th wheel would fit well back here, but if you had a smaller trailer or a camper and wanted to get away from everything this would be a good place.

It started getting later, and we thought we would take the short cut back through the end of the road there. Unfortunately, there was no way through. So our only option was to return the way we came. Which meant it would be about 6 hours to get back to the poor dog that hadn’t been out the entire time we were driving. I drove as quickly as the law would allow(😀 ) and made it back to a happy puppy who drained her bladder as soon as we let her out. Whew. Poor thing…

The next morning my sweetheart woke up a little early and was sitting outside where she was yelled at by an angry angry squirrel. No, that isn’t a joke. He spent most of the morning yelling at her from up in the trees. I don’t speak squirrel, but it sure sounded a lot like when my mom found out I had a whole bunch of lizards in my room jumping around(not a joke either, I used to catch them as a kid). That squirrel was letting her know in no uncertain terms that this was HIS house.

We walked around the camp ground one more time and then packed up to leave. Of course it’s Monday of a holiday weekend, so we weren’t the only ones on the road.

Looks like someone forgot to tuck their stinky slinky all the way in

A long weekend brings out the people that don’t camp much, as well as those that do. I have a feeling these guys camped a lot…

Love the flamingo.

As we got closer to Payson, traffic began to pile up. We ended up spending several hours getting through Payson.

This is Payson on a holiday weekend… It’s What LA is like a 2:30 in the morning.

For the rest of the pictures, click here

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Welcome to Jerome, Now get outta the road

Our site at Dead Horse

Occasionally you visit places so often that the idea that they can surprise you seems like a silly notion. It’s even worse when it’s a place you wish would surprise you, but that you don’t go looking outside of the same places you always go. This happened to us. Jerome, AZ is such a great place to visit and wander around. It also happens to be a favorite of one of our good friends Miss Theresa. Hopefully she’ll be swinging through real soon as she recovers from her fire.

Our faces through a kaleidoscope

We did our first day in Jerome as we normally would. A quick walk up and down the streets hopping in to stores with artsy stuff, and decided to say what the hell and went into the walking tour of the Jerome Museum. Pretty glad we did. I learned that Jerome has had a pretty interesting(to say the least) history. It burned down three times in rapid succession, and at one point the Madame who didn’t want to rebuild yet again offered the firemen girls for free if they saved the brothel. Oddly the brothel stood… Can’t imagine why. There were other interesting stories, that showed how tough the people of Jerome were, but I’ll leave that to those who will take the tour. It’s $4 so I don’t think it’s too terrible of a burden.

Bookshelf in the ceiling

We stopped in to the Puscifer store… because thanks to Miss Theresa, we actually became fans. We picked up a few things in there for ourselves, and they gave us a handy little bag which will probably be our new “going to the shower house” bag. They were celebrating a year in that location. Right on. Because we got to Jerome kind of late, things were closing down already. After a bit of walking around and shopping, we stopped in to eat at the Haunted Hamburger. I enjoyed my burger, noticed a few ghostly things, but honestly it’s just a dang good burger joint… that happens to enjoy the “ghost” aspect of the ghost town.

We also had the misfortune of not being able to find any parking when we arrived. Which meant we had to park near the old mining camp… This turned out to be a positive thing though. My sweetheart said, “Lets go check out the old mining camp.” It was already past the closing time, but hey, it’s down a road… We can check out the boring old mining camp… Or so I though… As we drove in it was just an impressive sight. It’s a mess of old engines, and vehicles. Some collectible, some just … cool. But we could only see it from the outside. And I was a bit saddened.

Well dang it. That wouldn’t do. So we decided we’d come back the next day to see more of it. And to be honest, I was glad I did. There’s just so much to see, it’s like an automotive graveyard, and Frankenstein Laboratory at the same time. I’m not kidding about that. The place had trucks wasting away, but then there were creations being born from that rusting mess. There were old engines that still fired up and ran. There’s a saw mill that still cuts lumber. I really lose myself talking about it, because frankly, there’s so much to see and explore, even the pictures don’t capture the excitement of seeing an antique Packard inline 6 fired up by a hand crank. Or seeing Don Robertson’s 1930’s era indy car recreation come to life with it’s Studebaker inline 8 and wagon wheels.

Don Robertson even fired up his old Model T tractor that used the kit from Montgomery Wards to change a normal Ford Model T into a tractor

Here’s a nice view of his race car… which he still races… against modern open wheel Sprint cars… and wins…

There really was just so much to see, there’s no way I could put it in a single blog post. I’d suggest that if you are into old cars and the really odd, just go see it.

Seriously, there’s bound to be something weird and odd that you’ll like about it.

1902 Studebaker electric car

Even an electric car for the green crowd.

And for the dog lovers

And so we finished our trip through Jerome with a new favorite spot. I can’t believe that I had been there so many times, and never stopped in to see this thing. It’s just impressive. And I still didn’t show half of it. There’s just too much to put in a post.

We headed back to the RV and simply couldn’t believe our fortune. We added our Puscifer sticker to the RV, and started packing up to head home. We took another walk around the park, and while Deadhorse isn’t the best park, it is one of the better located parks. Right in the town of Cottonwood, near Clarkdale and Jerome.

On our way home we watched a nice light show courtesy of Mother nature. But didn’t really get hit with too much rain.

Since I couldn’t possibly fit all the cool pictures in the blog, here’s more

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Survival

Some trips you just let it flow and things work out. Others are a struggle to simply make it to the end. This was one of those trips. For some reason after a little under a month of not going out camping we seem to have forgotten how. We were completely unprepared for the trip. It rained, and I ended up getting stuck on the side of the road waiting on AAA. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We went shopping on the Friday before our trip. We said we wanted to hit someplace cool. Not like “neato spiffy” cool, like get the hell out of the 185º oven that is Phoenix cool. We had previously checked out the Lava River cave area on one of our day trips. It’s up past Flagstaff, and kind of on your way to the Grand Canyon. There’s a good deal of free camping in the area as well. It’s cool enough to camp without the AC on during the summer. You pretty much follow the route as if you’re going to the Grand canyon, but you turn when you get to FR 245. Every time I was heading there though I asked, “Did I just pass it?” just before I got to it.

We set up the RV in a field by some trees. As we were setting up I noticed there were plenty of cow patties. My sweetie and I(mostly her) cleared out the patties as best as possible. After the setup, we headed back to town for an art festival that was going on. It was a nifty art festival that we got a few little things from, and found a local honey harvester. Oddly, they are located in Phoenix. We drive all the way to Flagstaff to find a honey guy in Phoenix. I found that kind of funny.

We headed back to the RV. I asked “Did I miss the road?” Then the sign for FR245 appeared. We headed down the dirt road, and I was probably going a tad too fast. My sweetheart tells me to slow down as I am already hitting the brakes, and as I moved to the side to allow a person going the other way a clear road. That’s when it happened. I heard the PSSSSSSSSSSssssssssss… And there went my day. I must have hit a rock on the side of the road that poked a rather large hole in the sidewall of my rear tire. Of course I didn’t have my good jack. Oh no, that was sitting at the house under the boat trailer, because THAT makes sense. I mean it’s not like I was driving hundreds of miles and onto backroads. Instead I have the stock crappy Ford jack that barely lifted the truck, and pushed itself into the mud… Did I mention it was raining? Yeah, it was raining. I was slightly less than pleasant, my heartburn was really acting up, and the jack was barely working. The one thing that made me finally stop being angry(ironically), was thinking of the into to the Incredible Hulk. Oh, if I could have flipped that truck at that point I probably would have.

I finished putting the spare on, and we decided to head to town to get the tire fixed. But it was after 6. Discount Tire was closed. And they are closed on Sunday, so I would get to experience driving back to Phoenix from Flagstaff with no spare. I was slightly nervous about that. But we decided to return to the RV, and cook dinner.

And I was an idiot. Seriously. I forgot the seasonings I normally bring, I left all kinds of things at home. I decided to try my hand at experimenting. And failed… MISERABLY. I really wanted to do well, but my dinner was a horrible embarrassment. It was so bad we didn’t even finish it.

We woke up the next morning, and I realized we hadn’t filled up the propane tanks. What fun. So we have to head BACK to town to get propane. I felt like such an amateur. Then we returned to the RV after spending the morning searching for a propane dealer. Driving back I asked “Did I just pass the road?” Just after that, I saw the sign for FR245 again. We drove down the road and didn’t lose a tire this time. I made bacon and eggs. No butter, so the eggs had to be cooked in bacon grease instead. The bacon was old… not bad, but it was old. This was shaping up to be a pretty rotten trip.

After choking down breakfast, we went to the Lava Cave. It’s an old lava tube that would have been a cool thing to see when it was active(though much harder to walk on), but it was still rather interesting to see. Even in the middle of summer, the entrance and the cave are very cold. Well cold from a Phoenix couple’s standpoint. I could see my breath… Finally there was something that we did successfully on this trip. It’s amazing how we a few things going bad can set the ball in motion for badness the rest of the trip. It’s also amazing how one positive thing can brighten up an otherwise painfully bad trip. While the hike itself was rough, the sense of accomplishment for both of us making it to the end lifted my spirits again.

After having been through all of the wonder and joys of this trip we had decided against having dinner at the camp site. Instead we packed up a little early so we could get back to the house and make dinner there. I was ready for the trip to be over this time. I was just not feeling right this trip. Almost nothing was falling into place right. And it was just time for me to be done with it. I quickly arranged everything and stuffed it all back in the RV as best as I could. And carefully we took off to avoid losing the spare. I had too long of a ride to risk blowing the spare tire.

We drove back through Flagstaff. and got back on the 17 headed South to Phoenix. Things were going rather well, and the truck was handling great all the way to Sunset point. This was where we were originally going to cook dinner and relax a bit. But we figured after our tinkle break we’d just go ahead and push on to Phoenix. That wasn’t the best decision.

Fix a Flat won’t do.

I learned something important. If you have an RV get AAA Plus RV. Seriously. It’s way worth it. Regular AAA will get your car towed five miles, without a trailer. Plus RV will get your whole rig transported up to 100 miles. I also learned that I REALLY should have eaten at the rest area. We initially called AAA and we thought we had RV Plus. We didn’t. Fortunately though we were able to get an instant upgrade this time. We’ve been with AAA for a long time. And for some stupid reason we never upgraded to RV. The manager n duty was willing to instant upgrade us, and got us towed back to our house.

It had just gotten dark when the tire went. It was the rear tire, and that meant they couldn’t really tow it. So I had to swap the tire from the rear to the front. With a real jack this would have been about a 10 minute job for me. BUT I was stuck with the crappy Ford jack that really didn’t work… at all. In fact it was so bad that it simply didn’t even lift the front wheel off the ground. It actually broke down and refused to lift enough to do anything. Good thing for me I had the RV. Inside that I had an 8 ton bottle jack. It wasn’t easy getting it all situated, but since I also had jack stands it ended up only taking me an hour to do a 10 minute job.

We got dropped off at our other house. Our original intention was to fire up the other car and head home… Remember how I was mentioning nothing worked this trip? Yeah after the tow truck left, we were kind of stranded. Fortunately we weren’t stranded in a place that was too bad. But my sweetheart got a taxi and headed home to get her car. I was thoroughly done with this trip.

No… I CAN’T end the blog on such a negative tone…

On a previous trip up to Flagstaff, we didn’t bring the RV, but instead stayed at a hotel along RT 66. We ended up getting a Presidential Suite at Hotel Aspen in Flagstaff. I must say I was actually quite pleased with it. I’m not a huge hotel person. But that time it was really nice to have all the amenities. Oh yes, we made use of that tub that night. How could we not?

We decided to eat in Flagstaff at a place called Criollo after getting kind of lost and squeezing my truck down an alley meant for a mine cart I’m guessing. No scratches or scrapes, and I didn’t take out a building, I call that a win. But Criollo was an EXCELLENT meal. I would definitely eat there again. They pride themselves on using locally grown and sustainable foods. So that’s a huge plus right there.

The area had some rather interesting artwork.

After dinner we went down to the pool and made use of it while we could. And afterwards we returned to our room. The next morning we took care of the business we had in Page, and then returned home.

Pics from the trip here

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Our favorite

Nuwa

From our first trip out to Roper Lake. Things have changed since then.

We really should stop calling places our favorites. It seems each week we find a new favorite. Over the past year we have chronicled our weekend getaways and every other week we head out and visit a new place. I had thought that by now we would have started to repeat camping locations. Thus far, we haven’t his the same spot twice since I started the blog. For me this is kind of funny, because before I started the blog we would hit a rotation of specific parks over and over.

Then we started the blog, and thus far we still haven’t hit either of the parks we listed as our favorite. Until this time. The park we called our favorite park is Roper Lake State Park. And I have to admit, it’s not my favorite anymore. I don’t mean that it’s bad. Far from it. As far as the state parks go, it’s still our favorite. But after hitting all the free camping in AZ, and the gorgeous views we’ve seen all over the state, it simply cannot compare.
The last time were were here we had a very odd adventure. We lost a wheel, stayed in a Walmart parking lot, lost our power plug, and arrived in time to find out all the spaces were full. But they took pity on us and gave us a host site to stay at. This time, we managed to have next to no issues while on the way down, even with a rainstorm threatening us the entire time. We reserved the space ahead of time, and pulled in the day before because we both got an extra day off. The difference between the last time and this one made the drive seem like nothing. I even managed to squeeze out 14 miles to the gallon even with the 5th wheel behind me.
Our first day there was spent pretty much just hanging out at the campground. Despite enjoying the drive, it still takes its toll on my nerves. Strangely enough I was so grumpy the night we arrived, that I was mad at the radio in the RV despite the radio having said nothing negative to me… And while this trip was a relatively peaceful one(save a few morons) I still needed to unwind the next day from the drive. We wandered around the park and took in the scenery. We went swimming in the lake, and I pretty much just relaxed. After I made dinner, we went to the hot tub, and gabbed with a couple of the locals. While hanging out, we got a nice little visitor during the evening. A giant tarantula. I have a severe arachnophobia. It’s odd knowing that my fear is unfounded, but not being able to get beyond it. Even typing this and seeing the picture still has an effect on me.

The next day was our big driving day. It was July 4th, and of course everything is closed, but we decided on a nice drive. We headed out to Clifton and were going to check out a couple camp site in the area. I think I’ve mentioned before that we scout the areas where we intend to camp. The first site we came to initially I looked at as not having much to see, but then the canyon behind it really caught my attention

Right behind the camp grounds is a gorgeous canyon.

Afterwards we took a quick hop over to the float boat drop in point nearby


Clifton itself is not a place I would consider a destination, but it is definitely a place to visit if you’re in the area. It’s at the bottom of… well… cliffs. And there’s a really cool large isolation door that I’m guessing was used for blasting. I kinda want to go back when it isn’t a holiday to see what it’s like when everything isn’t shut down.

We drove past Clifton, and past the mine. Oddly the mine was still working even on the 4th of July. I guess they can’t afford a day off. We drove past the mine and all of the sudden like some kind of switch was flipped, it turned into a lush forest.

We were looking for the other campgrounds in the area. The application my sweetheart was using had several marked in the area. It seemed that we could just about camp anywhere. For free. We tried to get to one final campground, but the rain started falling. The roads were winding and slick. I was having a little fun feeling the truck ride with me. But I had to keep just a tad more control over it than it was giving me. I could feel the back end wiggle as we turned a few of the tighter corners. But the roads themselves were still solid.

We came around a bend and there was a sign where an older bridge had washed out. By the overgrowth it appeared that it had been a while since that bridge became a Dukes of Hazard obstacle. But the road carved a path around it. Further up I saw a sign that said “Do not enter when flooded” and the road curved beyond. I turned that corner and realized our trip was not going further down the road. If I knew the area a little better I might have chanced it, but the water was too fast, and I didn’t know how deep it was. I also know that even if I knew the road, not being able to see the road means that even if there was a road, before the water, there was no guarantee it was still sitting underneath the water. Maybe if I had a winch or some other way of rescuing myself, but I remember a drive along a causeway in Texas where the water rushed over the top, and it looked like an in tact water crossing, but about halfway through the whole road was completely gone. Fortunately for me at the time I trusted my gut and didn’t go on. My gut told me not to try this one. So I turned around.

We returned to the campground and I made us a couple steaks. My sweetheart decided that would be the best time to walk around the camp ground to take a few more pictures.

We went to watch the fireworks from the dam. We were told it was a great view, but it seemed to me that it wasn’t that great. We were pretty far from the fireworks. We kept asking whether we missed them, because we didn’t see any fireworks going on, until they finally started. It’s odd, but I have never said, “Wow, that’s too much” about fireworks, but the display went on for almost an hour. We drove back to the camp site stripped nekkid, got in our swimming gear and went to the hot tub.

The hot tub is one of the original features of the park. Though it’s been changed some. It used to be just a bunch of rocks as the rim. Now it’s actually got a nice concrete edge that’s… well… nice… I think it lost some of the charm it had before. But it’s still very nice to be able to soak in the hot tub. The hot tub is fed with natural artesian spring water. And it feels great on the skin. Even in the middle of summer with the blazing heat during the days, you can enjoy the heated artesian water.

We spent most of the time there talking with a man from Spain who was a teacher in Kentucky. It was great to hear the perspective on our country from someone who came here from across the ocean. It’s especially refreshing when that perspective is mostly positive, as we hear all too often negative views from those in other countries. That never sat well with me, and it’s nice to know that despite a lot of loud voices saying bad, many have a good view of the USA. I’m so glad the internet is wrong at times.

We woke up the next morning and it was too early to think of leaving. So we headed up the nearby mountain. Mount Graham is a gorgeous drive that I really enjoyed. As we went up to the top, we passed a couple of camp grounds, and I decided we would check them out on our way back down. We passed several deer on our way up. Some of which seemed to not give a darn about us driving by. The scenery of the drive is well worth it.

We returned to the campground again, and went for a nice swim in the lake again. It was starting to get further along in the afternoon, and I needed to get the RV ready to go. The brains of the outfit had done all of her cleanup before I even started mine. So while I did that, she got to hit the hot tub for a while. We got home, unloaded the RV, and realized it would be almost a month before our next trip. And we were a little sad.

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It Still Counts

The view from our camp site

This trip has to be our least favorite trip yet. It was a holiday weekend, and everybody and their brother came out. We were far away from home, had rude neighbors, things kept breaking, in the end we had a small fire, and returned home with the aid of change we had saved for doing laundry. And somehow I was still not angry.

A little back-story here: When I was a kid, my family used to go camping a lot. We would load up the old RV and hook the Glastron on the back and we would head out for some fun on the water in Corpus Christie, Texas(or areas around Corpus). Or we would hop up to Medina Lake. Our neighbors the Moore’s and the Little’s would come with us all the time. They have several pictures that prove I wasn’t simply hatched as an adult.

Fast-forward to the weekend before our trip. We were buying a boat. We had the cash out and ready to buy a really nice Sleek Craft. Then he cancelled the deal on us. We were devastated. Then we got to looking again, and found someone with a Glastron CV23. I was a bit surprised by it. It wasn’t really on my radar, but I kind of liked the looks of it. Then that night, a Facebook friend request came in from someone named David Moore. One of the neighbor kids from when I was a kid. He and Gary Little, my two closest friends from my childhood were now back in touch with me. It was too much of a coincidence. We went to check out the boat the next day, and I absolutely loved the boat. It figured though. My memories as a kid were of our Glastron, and I just got back in touch with my old family friends.

Our mini land train

Though this one was nothing like my family’s boat. Though I think my dad would have been happy to see it is powered by a Ford engine. After the test drive on the lake, I hooked it back on to the trailer and we brought it home. The next weekend, we headed out to Lake Powell. I hooked up the 5th wheel and maneuvered it to get the boat hooked up to it. When driving on level ground, I barely felt any difference from the added trailer, but once we started heading up the mountains, the engine had to work just a bit harder. I guess adding a few thousand pounds does make a bit of difference going up hill.

We pulled on through the night. I was going to make dinner that night, but by the time we pulled in, all I could think of was how soft and cozy our bed was. I didn’t even bother unhooking the RV when we got there. It was too dark to see what our site looked like, so I figured when we saw it during the day light, we’d check to find a better spot. That worked out not too horrible, as we found several spots that looked better than our original spot. I had some maintenance to do on the boat, and so after getting the RV positioned, disconnected and sorta-kinda leveled, I went to work on the boat. This involved a trip out to Oreilly Auto parts, as the shop near my house gave the wrong parts for hooking up the regulator. Once I finally got that taken care of the fuel air mix was way off, so I had to tweak that too. No biggie really. I just set it to the normal starting position(one and a half turns for a Holley), and it was pretty well right on. In the mean time, My sweetheart applied the Utah sticker. We were barely inside the Utah border, but it still counts. We also had to get water jugs because even though I filled the water tank, it was reading less than 1/4 tank. When we got back and filled the tank again, the rains began to fall. A lot. It ended up raining the entire afternoon, and into the evening. Might have been nice to just stick a funnel out to capture the rain.

On one of our trips out to get parts(because lets face it, any time you work on a motor, you always end up needing more parts), we stopped off at the Hanging Gardens. right near the dam. My lovely woman hops out, of the truck and sees a pretty flower, and takes her time getting a good picture of it. Only to realize that when she came around to the other side of the truck there were hundreds more. We walked along the path to the Hanging Gardens and it really is quite a contrast to see the desert with vegetation coming from the sandstone.

Pictures really don’t do it justice.

We decided to go for a little boat ride, and check out the lake. And having brought the boat, it would have been a shame not to fire it up. It’s a jet boat, which means it can go very fast. But it’s a shallow “V” which is great for flat water, but heavy waves will beat the crud out of you. Add in deep water, and a whole slew of boats being there(imagine that, a holiday weekend and a bunch of boaters show up) and you have a really painful ride on the lake. Don’t misunderstand me, I had fun. My sweetie had fun. And I got a speeding ticket in the no-wake zone… Seriously, I was idling through the area, and ended up getting a ticket for a wake. The cop said my wake was “cresting” so he gave me a ticket, and a safety inspection… woohoo, we passed the safety inspection… I figured they had to give me a ticket, after they saw my shirt that read “I didn’t do it.” Not the best shirt to wear when protesting that you didn’t realize you were doing anything wrong. It may not be the worst shirt to wear, but it ranks pretty high up there.

We cruised along until the fuel tank got near half empty, and turned around. I’m not quite sure I trust the fuel gauge just yet. It’s supposed to be a 65 gallon tank, and we ran through that pretty dang quick…I think I’ll get a backup tank, and see how much fuel she really holds, and whether the gauge is really reading close to the truth or not. Of course it could also be that the fuel tank isn’t 65 gallons. Still, it would be nice to have a couple backup tanks just to have some wiggle room. We booked it back to the camp site, carefully slowing to one step above stopped at each of the no wake zones, and then before we got there, we stopped for a little break. Somehow during this stop, I picked up a rock in the impeller. So the boat wouldn’t get up on a plane, and it felt like it was going to shake itself apart. I carefully limped it back to shore and stuck it back on the trailer. It started getting late, so I had to make dinner. The boat would wait until morning.

That night, our neighbors were up til the wee hours. Apparently they don’t care about the 10:00 quiet time. That reminds me of why I like staying far away from everyone. In the middle of nowhere. Other people had their generators putting away into the night. To make it worse they were those loud worksite generators. All in all, a less than pleasurable night.

Morning came, and disassembly revealed the wonderful rock that was causing the issue. It’s now part of my wonderful woman’s collection. I took the opportunity to verify nothing else was wrong, and closed the pump housing back up. We had to go back into town to get a couple parts, because some of the darn bolts were damaged to the point that I simply had to replace them. Not really major parts, but major enough. I bolted it back up and we decided to launch the boat at the marina. The last beach launch left us having fun trying to get the boat out of the water with a stuck truck. So I really didn’t want to do that. It turns out that with the America the Beautiful pass, and the boating weekly pass, we were allowed to go to the real boat ramp and launch there. That saved us a quarter tank of fuel there. Plus we were able to fuel up the boat at a regular gas station, as opposed to $4.75 a gallon…

So we dropped it in the water, after being told about the coa… coli.. quagga mussel and how it’s RAMPANT at the lake(learn more here), we headed to go see the Rainbow Bridge. We headed out past “slow down to a crawl” marina, and while there saw people making ACTUAL wakes, and not getting pulled over, and ticketed… I’m guessing it was because the lake wasn’t stuffed with boaters. Or they just don’t like me. Either way, we motored on after I passed there. This day there was nowhere near as much chop on the water. Comparatively, it was smooth. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn. I didn’t know it at the time, but we turned down Navajo canyon. Don’t get me wrong, it is a gorgeous ride, but we didn’t get up to see the Rainbow Bridge.

Interestingly, though we did burn up a good enough chunk of our fuel getting to the end, I really don’t consider it wasted fuel. It was an absolutely lovely ride, and I thoroughly enjoyed the views. We headed back to the RV, and figured the next day we would just play around on the water. I had managed to conserve fuel a bit better this time around, and had a little over a quarter tank left after having gone farther than the previous day. Funny how not running it at top speed will save fuel.

Feeling a bit pleased I ran the engine up a bit, and cruised back to the area by the Lone Rock area. As I began bringing the engine back down something in the engine felt like it let loose. I could hear a distinctive change in how the engine sounded, and so I putted it back to our camp site. When I got there, I opened up the engine compartment and noticed oil in the bilge. A LOT of oil in the bilge. Most people call that a bad thing. At this point the boat had me beat. So we called it a night.

While we were sitting there, we realized that we left the truck over at the Wahweap marina. After dinner, we decided to walk back the several miles to the marina to get the truck. After a couple hours of walking, we got almost to the highway, and were saved by a ranger. He picked us up and took us to our truck. After realizing just how far we would have had to walk, I realized just how silly it was thinking I would just walk that .

The next morning I found a spot that I would be able to drive the truck to and pull the boat out without digging my way to China. It was significantly less steep, and I was fortunate to get a boater to help drag my boat to the spot I found. By this point I was truly feeling beaten. I didn’t want to show it to my sweetie, but I wanted to just sit there and call it done. When I pulled the boat out of the water, and dragged it back to the RV, I was feeling completely drained.

What can pick you up better than playing with your pup though. Our Storm loves to play in the water. Actually, she loves to get anything she sees in the water OUT of the water. So we threw a stick for her.

Throw the stick!

I GOT IT!

This one’s better!

I GOT IT!

I’m getting tired now.

*CRUNCH*

Thanks to Storm I felt much better. She cheered me right back up. For the first time though I was happy to be heading home. We had been rained on, and had our water tank empty on us, the boat broke down twice, I got a ticket, and the noise each night made for a really unpleasant trip. After I loaded up the RV, I tried to pull out. And we’re digging in. Back it up a little, and get a run at it. Digging in. I did this a number of times, and finally someone came over and told me how to do it. I completely ignored his advice and simply backed my trailer up until it was on solid ground and kept backing the truck up til it too was on solid ground. I’m not certain why I get better traction going in reverse than forward. I’m sure there’s some weird physics explanation, or automotive explanation, but for whatever reason it seemed easier to push the trailer up the hill than pull it forward. After it was on solid(ish) ground I hooked the boat up and off we went back to town.

The wood I have in the bed of my truck is fairly wet. It wouldn’t light for anything. And the rain we had didn’t make it light any better… But apparently being warmed gently the night before had caused the wood to actually have embers. So at 55 MPH the wood that was in my fire pit lit, and then caught the wood in the bed of the truck on fire as well. That just isn’t right. Cruising down the road I always rock and roll, and check my mirrors. Drive with trailers enough times and it becomes second nature. During one of those checks I noticed the flames kicking up. I quickly pulled to the side of the road, ran back to the boat and grabbed the fire extinguisher, and quickly put the fire out. As I’m grabbing the now extinguished chunks of formerly burning wood that wouldn’t light to save our lives before, and removing the propane tank that was enjoying some quality time roasting, the sheriff pulls up. Someone had called to report a vehicle on fire(me) and he wanted to make sure I wasn’t still burning. I appreciate that. Nothing I hate more than being on fire. Soon after, the fire department shows up, also to make sure I wasn’t on fire. They did a quick check of hot spots, and verified I did a Fine Navy Job™ of putting out the fire, and clearing out the hot bits. Never thought I would have to put that fire fighting training to the test. I’m marking this one down as “Pass”

For some silly reason, my credit card payment hadn’t been processed. So I neither had the cash, nor my credit for the ride home. And each of the trips to a certain gas station had authorized for $75 each time despite not using $75. So this put my card at the limit. So I had to figure a way to get home. We had $40 in cash, a little over 2/3 tank of fuel, and 260 miles to go fully loaded. It was not looking good. Just going from Page to Flagstaff burned most of the 2/3 tank of fuel, but then that was the rough part of the trip, as it was mostly up hill. We started looking for anything we could scrounge for fuel. We had had so many unexpected expenses hit us over the past couple weeks, that we were just tapped out. And what SHOULD have been covered by the credit card, was waiting on processing. After calling them they said it would process the next day. Great, but what about getting me home, NOW? Cool, so my credit card says I have a 0 balance, but 0 cash available. Woohoo. We remembered we had a bunch of coins for laundry, Would it be enough? That put us at $50 for the remainder of the trip. It was close, but we made it all the way from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and were able to drop everything off… The nightmare was over.

But it was still better than staying home.
And the rest of the pictures here

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