December '06 and January '07


Let me begin by mentioning that this was Elsie's turn to choose just when we picked up stakes and headed out of the late Fall and Winter blahs that affect everyone in the "Pacific Wet Coast". Just where the heck that snowstorm in late November came from is anyone's guess. The fact that it did come, and that it did have the bad manners not to follow the established practice of quickly melting, sure altered our plans. We had decided to pull out of Vancouver on December 1st, head to DogPatch to provision Harvey, and then head into the sun December 3rd. These plans turned out to require just a little finessing.

The morning of Dec 1st arrived, and the snow plow still had not cleared our Cul de Sac in North Van. I guess that we just don't pay enough taxes. Add to this is the sad fact that the Whatcom Meadows Exec.-- we store our RV in Whatcom Meadows Park --did not allocate the funds to fix the Dump truck. So what you say??? Well ... guess which vehicle carries the snow plow??? The last 1/4 mile out of the Park is quite steep. It ends with a very sharp turn to the right to get to Cain Lake Road which leads to the I 5. Just at the bottom of the hill is the Park Gate that is manned all day. I could just see us heading down the hill on the unplowed road, hitting the brakes and parking Harvey's 16 tonnes several feet into Tina's office. This was quickly decided not to be a good option.

The only thing to do was wait out the melt and postpone our departure date.

We finally got to leave Vancouver on the 5th and DogPatch on the 6th. This was not an auspicious start!!! Fortunately, we had built in several extra days to get to the National RV Factory in Perris which was our only immediate fixed date. Yes, Harvey was going back to the "hospital" for some more work, and this time it was not all our or Harvey's fault. We now have 75,000 kms on the clock and the front window's show just how many rocks can be found on our highways. Literally dozens of small chips, a large 18 inch crack that the bird in North Dakota gave us, and the 2 inch rock hit that looked like a bullet hole, all contributed to the fact that we had to have them replaced. Thank goodness for insurance as to replace them both was just over $2,300.00 US. OUCH!! Also, given that two years have passed since the 3 slides have been adjusted, it was time to employ some preventative maintenance. This was no big deal, but if you keep on top of things ....

But as always, there was something more. If you remember, with the snowfall we had, came some very un-Vancouver like cold. We were not worried about Harvey as we had him plugged in electrically, and we thought that there was sufficient propane to run our two furnaces. Of course, you know just where this is heading ... we checked Harvey's propane levels two weeks before our scheduled take off and, given the usual winter weather in Nov. I, figured we had sufficient to last till we took off. You can imagine our worry as the temperatures continued to drop to Toronto's usual winter levels, and Harvey's furnaces had to do Yeoman service. When we finally got to Harvey, there was no propane left in the tank. It must have run out that morning as there was a tiny amount left in the lines to the stove. Inside, Harvey was cool but not frozen. A quick trip to the gas station in Alger solved the propane issue. This was the first time we had to completely fill the rather large 69 gallon tank we have on board. We dodged the freezing bullet .... we thought...

But it was not to be. We returned to DogPatch, hooked up the power and sewer and then turned on the water. Now all this is happening on the driver's side of Harvey, and as I turned on the water tap, I could hear the sound of water running on the other side of the Coach. Visions of cracked pipes, blown water heater, cracked water lines running through out Harvey, tore through my mind as I ran around to the other side. Sure enough, water was cascading down the side coming out of the refrigerator vent. As you might imagine, refrigerators that run on electric and propane are incredibly expensive to replace! I could see our trip to the sun disappearing in a blaze of refrigerator repairs.

I guess that I must be getting better with this sort of stuff because instead of slitting my wrists, I pulled the ventilation cover off and there was the problem. The water lines that run from the water filter to the solenoid that activates the ice maker were pouring out water. Sure enough, just turn off the water to the ice maker inside the coach, and the roaring leak from the solenoid went away. We could do without ice till we got to the factory, and our extended warranty covered the replacement costs. Whew .... Now we have three things to have the factory look at. But, I'll bet it will still take a week to get things done.

Finally on Wednesday Dec 6th we headed south for the sun, sand, fun etc!!! (1,440 miles from door to door)

As you who travel south in the winter know, there are two winter sensitive bottlenecks on the route; the Siskiyous Pass on the Oregon/California border and the Grapevine just north of LA. Either location can be suddenly closed for several days due to high winds and tons of snow. So, we laid our attack plans carefully. From The Meadows to Eugene Oregon for the first night which would place us just perfectly to hit the Siskiyous around 12:00 noon the next day. If there was a slight snow fall during the night, we figured that the road crews would have it clean by then. Sharp at 8:00 AM we hit the road and headed to Seattle. Things were looking up as we even timed it perfectly so we hit the Express Lane which makes the horrid traffic-crazy drive though Seattle much easier. The weather was clear and dry and our spirits were soaring. On arriving in the Premier RV Resort in Eugene, we were still on a roll. A good day and a good meal!!! WOW ...

Thursday morning at 8:00 saw us back on the road for the run through the Pass. Again our luck was holding, and the road was clear and dry all the way to Redding Premier RV Resort. Whew ... well only one more potential blockage ... The Grapevine.

The plan was to continue on the I 5 until south of Sacramento where at Wasco we would turn west to Paso Robles and the 101 Coast route which would allow us to bypass the Grapevine. We had a couple of days in hand now so we figured two days in one of the less known Californian wine areas would be in order. And besides, we had stayed there before in the Winecountry RV resort and found it to be incredible. The prices of wine and food there seem to be less than similar products in the south. So, again at 8:00 we pulled out of Redding and headed south. Here our weather luck ran out ...

Up to this point, we had dry and clear roads with absolutely no rain. The news the night before warned us that a front was coming in from the northwest, and that the highway passes behind us would probably be closed. Ahead of us was to be wind and some possible rain. What the heck ... better than snow!!!

Everything was fine until we made it through the Sacramento area and the wind started to blow! The distance was 261 miles, and it was one of the toughest drives I have ever had. Harvey weights almost 16 tonnes, but this wind was steady with gusts over 50 mph. As the speed limit for vehicles towing anything in California is 55, you generally have a slow, scenic, fuel saving trip through the state. But, with the wind blowing like this, and Harvey rocking and rolling with every gust, the only safe thing to do is slow down even more. In places we had to drop to well under 40 mph with the steering wheel constantly cranked to the left. For the very first time, I actually considered pulling over on the side of the road and waiting out the wind. Even the big trucks were slowing down, and actually keeping Harvey in one lane became the priority. You can imagine how relieved we were when we finally saw the turn off to Paso Robles! Now the wind will be at our back pushing us on. Much better situation!

The distance to Paso Robles from Wasco was about 70 miles along a good two lane road and with the wind at our back, we expected no more problems. We had forgotten the rain promise!!! We got soaked!!!! The clouds roared by over head and the rain came in squalls. Actually, the sky was rather beautiful through all of this storm. But, as we pulled into the Winecountry RV Resort, it stopped and the wind dropped!!! I was totally exhausted and almost numb until I looked at Elsie. Her face was pale, almost bleached, and I realized the strain the passenger must have been under for the past 5 hours. At least I had something to do ... all she could do was hang on! She sure is a real RV trooper!! I don't know if I could have been the passenger through that experience!

Anyway, the next day, we had a dry day to wander around Paso Robles, buy some great wines and slowly relax. The next morning, we were to head to Perris CA and the National factory.

The next week was to be spent having Harvey spruced up. As you might remember from previous epistles, the arrangements at the factory are simple; there is a large parking lot with electric and water provided for the RV and each morning at 7:00 sharp, the techies come to collect Harvey to take him in to the repair bays. While we waited during the day, there is a large comfortable waiting room provided where everyone sort of gathers. You get to meet some fascinating people here. We met one lady traveling solo who was really interesting. She lived in Dawson Creek as a farmer/rancher and business entrepreneur. She is planning to write her memoirs, and I am certainly looking forward to reading them. She sure has a fascinating life complete with the most positive attitude to life that I have ever seen.

We also ran into "Chef Robert" from the PacNats (Robbie and Linda from Whiterock BC) who were on their way to the San Diego area for the winter. We met Ray and Connie there who we were to run into again in Desert Hot pools and Casa Grande. Meeting and getting to know new people sure helps pass the long hours you have to sit and wait for the repairs to be completed.

Now comes a neat story! During the day, you wander out for lunch and to the local Stater Bros grocery store to get dinner. The second day there, I decided to take the 3:30 factory tour so Elsie said that she would wander down to Staters to get groceries for that night's dinner. Off we go on our separate ways. When I get back from the tour around 5:00, Elsie is in a panic! She couldn't find her wallet when she returned home. She had it when she paid for the food ...

We jumped in the car and headed back to the store. The neighbourhood around the store is not particularly nice, but we hoped that someone found the wallet and turned it in. After searching the parking lot and finding nothing, we asked at the store. No one had turned in anything. It was gone!

In the wallet was about $100.00 and Elsie's Visa Card, Costco Card, Debit Card, and various grocery store membership cards. You all can imagine just how poor Elsie felt. The Visa Card is simple to cancel and to order a new one to be sent. The Costco card is just an inconvenience and the various store membership cards would just be a nuisance. But the Debit Card ... there was the rub as "Shakey" would say. That is the card you use to access the cash machines while you roam, to check bank balances, and to transfer funds by computer. Without it, you have to use the Visa and pay immediately the interest on the money withdrawn. You would never know if bills were being paid. Without that card, our trip would be much harder to continue!

We cancelled the Visa Card and ordered a new one; cancelled the debit card and then ran into a real snag. They could only send the new debit card to our home address. They told Elsie that there was no way that they would send it to us in Arizona. The next day, I called the TD Bank debit card people only to have the woman on the other end say exactly the same thing to me that they had said yesterday to Elsie. I tried to wheedle and plead, but she was absolutely adamant. It must only be sent to our home address. What followed next was one of those weird moments you sometimes have when dealing with faceless bureaucrats. I asked if I could speak to a Supervisor .... she said that would not help because the Supervisor would say the same thing. I explained very calmly that I thought that it would be polite for me to explain to someone in authority just why, after dealing with that bank for over 30 years, we will be canceling all our accounts when we returned home. This is the bank where all our cheques go and all our savings accounts etc are kept. Anyway, there was a pause, and she said that she would put a Supervisor on the line. After waiting a sufficient time to ensure that I would be either calm or totally humbled, a new voice came on and asked what the problem was. I once again, very calmly and politely explained our sad plight and just what the first woman had told us. I then mentioned that I wanted to have someone in authority know why we were closing out our accounts at their bank. There was the usual bureaucratic "count of three" and she determined that possibly, maybe an exception could be made. She would look into it, and call us back the next day. Well, this was better than before so we had to wait for the morrow.

That night, with Elsie feeling really badly, we called our answering machine at home. There was a garbled message from Costco US asking us to call someone without really saying why. It was impossible to fully understand the message but the next day, while waiting for TD Bank to call back, we called the Costco number and the person there said that yesterday an older man, William Porter, came in to the store in Perris with our card, and that he wanted to talk to us. He told the person that he found Elsie's wallet and would not trust anyone to get it back to us. He left his number at Costco and asked if we could call him. We did this immediately, but it took several attempts over several hours to get hold of him. When we finally got him on the line, his accent was DEEP South. I could not understand 1 word of 3 he spoke. After many attempts to understand each other, he mentioned that the next day he had a dentist appointment, and that if we would meet him in the parking lot in front of the dentist office --- behind a Jack in the Box fast food joint, he would give us the wallet. Now this was getting surreal!!!

The next day, at the appointed hour, we were waiting in the parking lot looking for a green Chev Malibu. Sure enough at the stroke of noon, in drove the Malibu. He saw us waiting by our car and stopped about 50 feet away. I wandered over carefully, not exactly sure of what I would find. Mr. Porter turned out to be an older black man with a US Marine Crest proudly displayed on his rear window. After identifying myself, he handed over the wallet explaining that he wanted to make sure we got it, and he was not sure that if he left it at Costco that would happen. Elsie opened the wallet and, lo and behold, EVERYTHING was there, money cards ... everything!!!! We told him just how much we appreciated his honesty, and that we wanted to offer him some money in thanks. He tried to say no, but I simply slipped it into his shirt pocket. Everyday, you hear about people getting ripped off and worse, but here is a clear example of the basic decency of man!!! It sure made Elsie's and my day ... Yet another reason we like to travel in the US!

Of course, the Visa and Debit Card had been canceled so they were useless, but to replace the other cards would have been even more pain.

Later that day, the Supervisor from TD had not called back so we called her. She was just going to call us, of course, but the decision had been made to Fed ex us the card in Casa Grande. It would take two weeks, but we would get the new card. The next day the Visa Card arrived in Perris. Our faith in mankind, totally renewed, we headed to Desert Hot Springs WHR Desert Hot Pools resort. All repairs on Harvey were complete; we had bright shiny new front windows, ice in the freezer, and all slides adjusted perfectly. Life is good!

We enjoyed our week stay ... there are three hot tubs that flow directly from the natural hot springs ... one at 98 one at 102 and one at 104 degrees. The water is supposed to be incredibly healthy ... so we spent our week soaking, eating and talking. In fact ... close by the Park, in Desert Hot Springs, is a Trader Joe's... the home of the famous "Two Buck Chuck". That's right, drinkable red and white wines for only $2.00, and the rest of their wines are similarly well priced. Right down my alley eh?

December 23rd saw us heading to Casa Grande for Christmas. We have been in the Western Horizon Park system now for over 2 years so we have gotten to know a lot of fellow RVers. Steve and MaryJo Sisk arrived, and it was good to see them again. We first met in Kino Bay last year, and we will see them again in Kino this year. Happy hours are fun and the two weeks slipped by quickly. Elsie and I did our own Christmas Dinner ... roast turkey with all the trimmings and our own New Years Eve dinner ... fillet and scallops ... in our glory!!!

We didn't do a lot of wandering this time instead we caught up with RVing friends. Ray and Connie whom we met at the Factory and Desert Pools were there, and we joined them on a trip to the Golden Corral restaurant. The cost in this "all you can eat restaurant" was around $6.00 if you got there before 4:00 and claimed the senior's discount. The idea of eating quite that early is not particularly appealing, but if you get in before 4:00 you get the really cheap price, and they start the "all you can eat" steaks at that time too. Burp!!!!

For the past several years we have run into Leona and Ernie in several campsites, Dolphin Rallies and National Rallies. Happy hour is never boring with them attending! We would meet them again at the Dolphin Rally in Quartzsite.

It was good to have time to touch bases with Steve and MaryJo as they will also be in Kino this year when we get down there. Another couple we met several years ago in eastern Washington, "The Oldtymers ... Geri and Bruce Conard" arrived in Palm Creek RV Park so we got a chance to have lunch with them. They are responsible for us having the internet satellite dish on the roof ... they had one, showed it to us ... and we were sunk!!! Oh well, you have to blame someone I guess!!!

For the past several years, Barry Lew has been after us to visit his sister who lives in a suburb of Phoenix. Barry worked with Elsie for years at the Compensation Board before he moved back to Australia. When Barry and his wife Connie visit Vancouver, they stayed with us, and we have kept in touch with them over the years. His sister, Karen, and husband, Andy, have an interesting life style. Everyone has heard of the Baby Boomers, buying yachts and living on them ... or buying RV's and wandering the world, but Karen and Andy Black have a different spin on things. They live in an Airpark. After you get through the elaborate security system on the entrance, you drive up to a very nice, modern Arizona style bungalow. As you go in, you notice the two car covered garage, and think this is a really nice place. The interior is beautiful with very high ceilings, large kitchen and a large outdoor patio. But, there is one more door that leads to the back of the house. Out that door is a huge hanger for their airplane -- complete with lots of room to service it. WOW... now this takes your breath away. Andy operated the automatic hanger door opener, and outside was the lead on runway that leads to the main runway. Everyone in the park has an aircraft of some description. Now I know from nothing about aircraft but some of these guys even have jets. One person has an old Czechoslovakian Air Force two-seater attack jet. As we wandered down the lead-on runway, planes were taking off regularly. These guys really use their planes a lot. As well as his day job, Andy is also a photographer and all over the walls of the house are shots he has taken as he flies over Arizona. So, there you have it ... the three areas for Baby Boomers to go ... boats, RV's and airplanes. Who says we don't live in a fascinating time!!!

We still had a week before we headed to Quartzsite ("Q") Dolphin Rally so we thought that we would head to Tucson and stay at a park that claims to be the "Number One Rated Park in NA" ...Voyager RV Park. Our next door neighbour, Russ, was from Detroit ... a retired Ford man. He usually spent his winters in Florida, but this year, after hearing about the great warm winter of last year, he decided to head west. Well ... we have had a very cool winter so far, and is he upset. All his friends were contacting him from the Florida park he stayed in saying that the temperatures are always in the 80's. Here, we were lucky if it hits the low 60's. His ascorbic comment was ..."if we ever have rain ... all you will see is my tail lights on the way to Florida". On more conversation he did mention that it cost 2000.00 per month in the Florida Keys and Voyager is less than a 1/4 of that. So there was some compensation ...!

Russ is a typical RVer. He heard me saying that I had to flush my hot water tank and off he goes to get tools etc. to help with the job. He even had a spare new plug to replace the three year old one that was in there. You should have seen the hard water deposits that flowed out of the 10 gallon tank. They looked like rocks!!! It has been three years we have had Harvey, and this is the first time I flushed the tank. I would not have had the nerve to tackle this job without Russ pitching in to help. As I say, Russ is a typical RVer ... always there to help out!!!

Two things that we have always planned to do in Tucson is; visit the world's third largest air force and visit the Titan Missile Base Museum. This was our chance.

Tucson is one very spread out town. It takes a long time to get from one side to the other. As you drive along, you pass acres and acres of parked US Air Force jets. These 4,500 mothballed jets are stored there for possible future need. It is impressive!!! There is a tour of the bone yard as they call it, and a tour of the Air Force Museum which is along side of it. As you drive up to the base, you pass the site along side the road where they literally "Chopped up" the surplus B52 and Titan missiles that were agreed upon during the Salt Talks with with Russians. This had to happen in the open so the Russian Satellites could photograph it. Sort of a strange feeling ... We took both tours and instead of telling about it here, I leave it to the picture link below.

We also visited the only Titan missile Base museum in the world. During the cold war, these silos containing a Titan Missile with its 200 megaton warhead were the guarantee of a stalemate with the Russians. Again, I explain in the picture page.

On the 17th of January, we headed to "Q" for the National RV Dolphin Rally. This is our second "Q" rally with the Dolphins, and we are getting to know quite a number of them ... good to touch bases with them again!!! As there are over 100 rigs attending this Rally, National RV sends its Techies to fix or repair three small items for free. It is amazing how often you run into people you have met on the road.

"Q"'s major attraction is the Big Tent. This structure must be 150 yards long and about 40 yards wide and contains vendors that sell every toy and object that you might ever want in your RV. We had a modest list this year ... Along with the list of little items that are easy to find at "Q" ... special silicone sprays, a fantastic tape that can be used anywhere under incredible pressures, special sized sockets for those weird sized bolts in the RV, there were three items I wanted to get this year. One is a wireless air pressure monitoring system that allows all tire pressures on both the RV and the Toad to be read as I drive along the road and will warn me if I have suddenly low pressure in any tire, the second is a hard wired surge protector for Harvey, and the last one was a portable GPS System that we can use in the RV and in the Toad. Suffice it to say, these were purchased and now we are BROKE!!!! Oh well ... the next two weeks in Pilot Knob will cost us next to nothing so ... it all averages out????

The weather while we were at "Q" was weird ... it actually rained quite heavily one night, and the next day the temperatures did not get over 50 degrees with a vicious wind that ripped right through you. This is in the Sonora Desert ... go figure ... it truly is a strange winter this year.

I have included several pictures of "Q" for those of you who have never experienced the "ZOO". They claim that over 1 million RVers will visit during January and February ... that means over 500,000 coaches (two people per coach average) will be parked, dry camping out in the desert. It truly is unbelievable!!!

We are spending the next two weeks in Pilot Knob just outside Yuma. The weather has improved greatly and by the end of the month we should be in the high 70's to low 80's. YES........................

On Feb. 6th we head to Augies Quail Run RV Park in Gila Bend Az for the Rv Satellite Rally. Time for me to learn just how that thing on the roof actually works. After that ... who knows ... probably Mexico for 5 weeks ... Will keep you posted.


Joe, Elsie, Lord Stanley, and Lord Thurston (the tongue on 4 legs)

All doing well and living life!!!!!

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