November 15th to April 5th -- 2008/2009




Well, you just got to hand it to Elsie!!! As you read in the previous epistle ../../china 2008/china trip.html we decided on the spur of the moment -- how unlike us -- to partake in a Princess Cruise that had captured our imagination for many years. Unfortunately, for the previous years, it had been sold out and so there never was any "deals" available. But, out of the blue came a deal; so we jumped at it. Now, that seems a logical thing to do, but for poor Elsie, it meant several months of chaos.

As most of you know, I play Shakespeare's Lepidus to Elsie's Marc Anthony ... I'm the ass "fit to carry the gold" (luggage) but after carrying it, I'm put out to pasture and left alone. This, of course means that Elsie gets to do the planning, organizing, and paying whilst I just carry the luggage. This time through, it was specially tough as we had about 3 weeks to get ready for the trip, take the 6 week trip, and then on arrival home, we had 4 weeks to get the house ready for Leah and her family to move in. This was the chance for us to take our long planned, year long trip, down south and then east to Newfoundland. Leah had decided to tear down the old "Chez Dalton" and build a new "Taj Mah Dalton" in its place. It would take about a year to complete this mammoth task so Leah, Stephen, Candace, Andy and Karman needed somewhere to hang their hat for a year. What a break for us!!! But, there was a downside .... the huge storage room downstairs at Chez Paynter had been stuffed to over flowing for the past 20 years. It was full to the ceiling, and all of what was stored, were, of course "treasures". If we were to have the Dalton Tribe move in, they needed space to store some of their "stuff" so that room had to be emptied .. finally.

Enter Elsie ... riding a white broom!!!

Constantly interrupted by my blubbering "you can't throw that out ... it was my Mom's" or "I need those boxes if I ever go back to teaching" or "that was my 'stuff' when I was a kid"! The only response I got was "right" and out it all went. I think she moved most of the important stuff out when I was not at home, or the fight would still be raging! Anyway, it was done and on time!!! (sounds like a lying liberal comment about the buildings for the upcoming over testosterone show called Winter Olympics). Anyway, we were out on November 12th, and the Daltons were in. We headed to DogPatch to provision Harvey and get ready for the "Great Trek".

Our plans originally called for heading south as usual for the winter, and then east to Newfoundland for the summer. Sounds simple .. right? Well, given the RV Gods, and the fact that all our plans are, as our RV'ing friends Matt and Carol say, "carved in Jell-O", things did get convoluted. We were, for the first time ever in our RV'ing life, to spend 3 months in one place. As you tireless readers of these epistles recognize, we usually like to wander, and if we spent a whole month in one spot, we got really antsy and more than ready to head off. Three months ... Hmmmm ... that is 90 days .... Right??? .... Hmmmmm.

Elsie was frazzled after the past several months work, but rest was not immediately on the horizon. We had replaced Harvey's old 26 inch front TV last Fall with a new flat screen HD TV, but we had not had a cabinet built around it. It sort of stuck there with bungee cords holding it in place. You know, the typical RV'ers solution except this one did not include duct tape. On the way south, we have to pass through Junction City Oregon where friends of ours, Ken and Betty, had their RV interior cabinets worked on. The fellow, Dylan,did a terrific job, so we had made an appointment there to have the TV permanently affixed in a matching maple cabinet.

Well, it took almost a week living in the Cabinet Maker's parking lot to have the job done. But, the result was worthwhile. With our new StarChoice Satellite, we would not only get Canadian TV, but it would also be in High Def. --- a luxury we do not have, yet, at home. Hey, Harvey is getting as close to what we would want if we ever go "full timing"..... but let's see how this year long voyage pans out before plans are made in that direction.

I was getting worried about Elsie as months of work with no rest, and living with me in a 37 foot space, was having a toll on her nerves. No problem ... we were heading to Desert Hot Springs CA with its 3 hot tubs, huge swimming pool and relaxing sunny weather. Just what the ole Doc ordered! Let's see .. 10 days there, followed by 3 months in Del Pueblo Tennis and RV Resort. What could get better?




Driving distance:  2104.7 miles
Trip duration:  4 days, 5 hours, 52 minutes
Driving time:  38 hours, 4 minutes
Cost:  $584.12


What to say about 3 months in one location? It must be remembered that over the past 6 years or so, we had spent considerable time in this area. One of Western Horizon's Parks is in Pilot Knob which is only 6 miles west of Yuma. So, we had seen most of the sights here and visited most of the area's attractions at least once. What to do for 3 months? It has become very clear to us that there are two "kinds" of Snowbirds. The first kind are those who are fleeing the cold winter weather of their local areas. These people find a Snowbird Campground with the type and number of amenities they want, and then return to the same place -- year after year. As the time goes by, they make friends with other people staying there who like the same activities, and close friendships are formed. To not return to the same place becomes unthinkable; they would certainly miss their friends, and as well the activities they partake in. The other "kind" of snowbird is also fleeing the inclement weather in the north, but these people would rather travel and visit areas not heretofore visited. Into this group, it has become very clear that Elsie and I belong. After 2 weeks our feet begin to twitch and after 4 weeks we find ourselves staring at maps and wondering ..... After 3 months .... well ....

This is not to say that we did not meet some fascinating people at Del Pueblo. We certainly did make some friends whom we would like to see again. The Park was very nice and clean and there were lots of activities if you were so inclined.

So, December 5th 2008 we pulled into Del Pueblo Tennis and RV Park. As I said, many of the people here come for the season --- Nov 1 to April 1 --- every year. A great number of them return home for Christmas Season to be with family, either by car or by air, and then return January 2nd or 3rd. The result, of course, is that we had a very quiet time in the Park for most of December. The exception to this was a very unfortunate experience ... for the first time in over 7 years of RV'ing, we had something stolen from our site. Many Snowbirds travel with their bikes attached to either their Toad or to their RV. We thought that bikes would be a good thing to have as we wandered this year. Now, my old mountain bike is over 20 years old and is as heavy as hell. The only place to carry bikes with our set up is on the roof of the Toad which meant that at every stop we would have to wrestle them off, and then as we leave, wrestle them back on to the roof. The weight of my old bike was a real concern. Elsie's bike, of the same vintage, is much smaller, and therefore, not as great a challenge to put it on the roof . So, the obvious decision is for me to buy a lighter, more modern bike. The day before we leave, I run down to my friendly bike dealer in North Vancouver and quickly choose a bike that fits with our weight requirements.

Now, it has been over two decades since I bought a bike so you can imagine my surprise at what $850.00 can buy. This bike could not only be my traveling ride, but also be of use at home. Hydraulic Brakes, extremely light, good quality shifters ... every thing I wanted. So, the deal was struck. We put the bikes on the Toad in Vancouver, and there they stayed until Desert Hot Springs. As we thought, they were of use in the Park, and we got a lot of pleasure riding them around. I actually thought that I might get my old legs back in shape .... GREAT! But, as usual, the RV Gods just had to interfere.

The Park in Yuma is close to the Mexican border. Why do I mention this fact? Well... after setting up I decided that I could secure the bikes at the Site simply by leaning them at the back passenger side of Harvey and locking them with a Master Bike Lock to the permanent ladder affixed to Harvey and the step ladder that we carried with us. I cleverly thought that the cable that ran through both bikes and both ladders would discourage even the most ambitious thief. So, just before Christmas, Elsie was last on her bike and when I locked them up for the night, hers was on the outside ... mine was on the inside. The cable intertwined both the bikes and the ladders. Now, please remember, that with the bikes in that position, they were only feet away from our heads as we slept. I'm sure that you can guess what happened.

Sometime late that night, somebody came into the Park, found our Site, and saw my bike. I'm sure that someone had been through the Park during the day and had given all the bikes the once over. So much for Park security eh? Anyway, on getting up the next morning, there was the scene of disaster. Someone had snuck onto our site, and with bolt cutters cut the cable and removed my new bike. What really enraged Elsie was, that as I mentioned, her bike was on the outside of the two, and in order to get my bike, hers was moved off, mine was wheeled out, and then hers was placed back in the identical position. It was not worth stealing in their eyes, I guess. In the next couple of days, 6 other locked up bikes were also stolen from the Park; two of which were bikes that were worth in the thousands of dollars. But, I craftily figured, no problem. We have insurance ... right?

I have not had a lot of experience dealing with insurance agents, but I did know that you had to have a filed police report number to proof that the theft had actually occurred. Grabbing the local telephone book, I looked up the Sheriff's office, called, and made my report. Sure enough within a couple of hours, up drives Deputy Bubba. I know you can picture him ... grey uniform, Sam Brown Belt bravely attempting to control the outstretched belly, and the quick draw revolver half falling out of the holster. After he took the details, flashed several pictures of the footprints that led away from the crime scene, he became quite pleasant. "You have very little chance of ever getting this bike back", was his overall assessment of the incident. He went on to say that ever since the economic freefall occurred, he now spends many hours of each day filling out stolen item reports. Christmas was coming and locals had to have Christmas Presents for their kids. You can imagine how much better that made me feel???? But, remember I have insurance? I can easily replace the bike and continue on. Right???

After making the call to the insurance company, I now wonder why we bother paying the premiums. Did we have coverage for stolen bikes??? Yes! We had the maximum coverage ... $1000.00 for bikes. "Oh Good, says I. The bike was worth $850.00. Just send me the cheque". The "voice" on the phone sadly informed me that there was a $500.00 deductible. Well, thought I, $450.00 towards another bike is better than nothing. But the "voice" was not finished. He droned on to say that they would send the $450.00 to me, but that would mean that I would then lose my 5 year No Claims reduction on the complete policy. This, he droned on, would mean that I would lose the $125.00 per year deduction for 5 years --- or 5 times 125 equals $625.00. He finished by saying that he would be delighted to send me the cheque for $450.00 immediately. What would I like to do? I just shook my head realizing that they "had" us. When I informed him that I would not be making a claim, I swear his voice lightened and I'm sure he was laughing at me .... I did manage to refrain from informing him of his probable genus and the level of ignominy that his company would soon suffer if I had any say in the matter.

But, we still had one bike we could share so we decided to wait until we returned to Canada to look into replacing my lost Christmas Present to myself.

Well, the three months did indeed pass with several moments of interest. I do have to stress here the people we met. To a person, they were a great bunch of folks. On top of the new friends we made, we had Mark and Pat from Vancouver, Matt and Carol from Vernon, Bob and Sue from the Pacnats, Hershell and Louella from the Pacnats, and of course, Bob and Judy, friends from many years back, to visit. It made for a busy time. Rather than mention activities here, I will leave the details to the Pictures page.

One thing we did manage to do this visit to Yuma is finally locate "Slab City". We had heard of this rather unorthodox "Camping Spot" for years but have never quite had the time to actually find it and make a visit. This spot is an ex-Marine Base from WWII just off the Salton Sea in California. At the end of the War, the Federal Government, no longer needing the Base, deeded the camp to the Californian Government. They had no use for it either so there it sat through the 50's and 60' and 70's slowly decomposing. The little town, Niland, on the corner of Highway 111 and the road that leads to the Camp area, has a surprising number of buildings that closely resemble ex-marine structures, so I guess much of the material was not wasted. Since the 80's all that really remains of the Base are the cement slabs upon which the buildings sat. What has happened is the area has been taken over by RV'ers who are looking for an absolutely free place to spend the winter. What has developed, though, is something quite different.

It is a huge area, three quarters of which has become the closest I have ever seen to a description of a 1930's "Hooverville". You are in the middle of the desert; there is no water on site; there is no electricity on site, and no sewers. The shacks, old broken rusted trailers, and the few working RVs all exist in a group. There is some sort of local control, but everyone just sort of accepts each other. In fact the school bus drops off kids every day. Apparently, the police visit regularly also. The other quarter of the area has been sort of appropriated by "The Loners" -- a loosely formed Club made up of people who RV entirely on their own. They take a little more care of their area than the other groups seems to, but it is a place anyone can go, dry camp, and just live.

For the more permanent folks there, sewage is a real problem. Water is trucked in, generators can produce electricity, but sewage is a concern. As you drive along what passes for roads, you can't help but notice at the bases of many of the creosote bushes, and even in the middle of what could be a place to park, there are 4 inch plastic hookups that would fit the sewer system of RV's. As it is desert and the sand is very porous, it is a solution of sorts, I guess. But, it does crave wary walking and driving...

As we drove through, we met a lady and her next door neighbour, who were members of "Loners". They immediately invited us to the "clubhouse" that night. Apparently, there was a Happy Hour scheduled. As we were not in Harvey, we thought that we would take a pass on the invite. But, the people were sure kind! They did warn us to be careful, if we came there to stay, not to leave anything of value outside the RV. Well, Elsie and I thought as we drove out of Slab City .... Thank you, but no thank you! It didn't seem to be a spot that we would feel comfortable.

The next day, we heard on the news that more and more LA residents are losing their homes, and as they have an RV, they are parking it on certain streets and living in them. We wondered as things get tougher, how much more the population of Slab City would grow. What a life!

The last thing to mention about the three months in Yuma is a condition called, "Valley Fever" or better known as "The Yuma Crud". This pleasant little condition begins with a dry cough, progresses to a huge head cold, aching bones and severe flu like symptoms. It knocks you off you pins for 4 or 5 days and then seems to alleviate a bit. You feel pretty good for 2 days and then, back it comes, in all its glory. Now, without seeming end, it was all you could do to walk from one end of the RV to the other. As you can guess, very little was accomplished during these days. What with hacking, coughing, and Happy Hour, the 3 months did pass. What did we learn form all this? We are sure not ready for the first group of Snowbirders I mentioned above. We still need to wander.

March 5th was our release date from "Del Pueblo Plague and Pestilence Park". Casa Grande here we come.

We have written a lot about Casa Grande over the years. It is one of our favourite cities to visit, and it is the site of one of our favourite Western Horizon Parks. We stay there for two weeks at $3.00 per night so it fits well with our budget. Also in the area, is one of the most complete Parks we have found. It is expensive, but it literally has "everything" within its walls. This Park, "Palm Creek", is the site chosen for the winter by very good friends "The Oldtymers", Bruce and Geri. They return year after year and love it!!! We recommended that Mark and Pat stay there on their way through, and they too were very impressed. Also, in the area were Lou and Carole from Osoyoos who purchased a site in a park just outside of Casa Grande. We spent the two weeks catching up with everyone and just relaxing. The cough though did persist and the flu symptoms did return ... sigh!

Next stop, Tucson Arizona at Beaudry RV Park.

If you are an RV'er you'll be very aware of the impact that the financial crunch has had on the industry. Over the past year, over 10 RV manufacturers have gone bankrupt, ours being one, leaving the actual value of new RVs up in the air. As Harvey is now 6 years old and has 100,000 kms on the clock, we were wondering if there were any great deals out there on new Units. One of the larger dealers is Beaudry RV in Tucson, and they have a very nice RV Park attached to their showroom. Off we go to "kick tires" and investigate any deals on Country Coach RV's. Matt and Carol from Vernon, who just bought a beautiful Country Coach, were also in the Park at this time so we had company.

Well, to make a very long story short, the salesman said that they were selling Country Coaches at below cost. Now was a great time to buy according to him. After wasting 8 or 9 hours and going through two salesmen, it turned out that they still wanted invoice price with no deductions for their unit if we sold him ours at low low wholesale. We just left the experience laughing and feeling stupid that we believed that there were any deals to be made. But, Harvey is still going strong and our trip east is still in the books!

Our good friend Derek, from Vancouver, came to visit us in Tucson. Now, this fact requires a lot of explaining .... Derek loves a "deal"! He finds that most of the really good "deals" are on Ebay so he cruises the Site constantly. This year he found that he "needed" a 24 foot Boston Whaler complete with 2 huge outboard engines. Off he goes to Ebay and sure enough .... he finds one at a great price and he buys it. The only problem is that the boat is in Port Isabel, Texas, on the Gulf Coast, and he is in Vancouver. He drives an older Mercury Sable station wagon ... not much to tow a boat of this size. Totally unfazed, he continues on Ebay and finds a boat trailer for sale in Houston Texas that will hold the Whaler. Nothing doing, but off he heads to get this boat and trailer. When he sees the boat and actually hooks up to the car, he realizes that he could have a wildcat by the tail. This is a very heavy boat, and the Mercury is not a huge towing vehicle.

Off he heads boat and trailer hooked up, and knowing that we are in Tucson, he stops by to say "hello" and pour over maps to choose a route that is the flattest possible for his return home. We help him select the best of the bad alternatives, have dinner, and wave him goodbye ..... not sure if the next time we see him he will be in a ditch at the bottom of the longest downhill section of the Siskiyous Pass in Oregon. Four days later, lo and behold, we have an email from him stating that he made it home in tip top shape. This folks, is nothing less than a miracle ... of course, he claims that it is superior driving skills and knowledge that allowed him to complete this marathon.

Well, no new RV for us, Derek waved goodbye to, and Matt and Carol off to Vernon, we prepared to head to Las Cruces New Mexico.

This is where we will have to decide just where and when we will be heading north. We had to pick a "weather window" that included no huge wind storms, no fresh snow and open roads so that we could get back into BC to renew our car, motorhome insurance, and as well, get 6 months more health insurance. We sort of chose a date to try to get to Albuquerque NM as a first leg, but the RV Gods still had us. We noticed that the slide topper over the large slide was ripped and would probably not survive one of the Prairie windstorms that we are sure to run into. This is the topper that if the wind hits us just at the right angle, it gets under the topper and billows it out like a four foot sail. Then, it retracts with an ungodly "Bang". Just one more of these experiences, and I could see myself out in a bad wind storm, on the top of the step ladder, on the side of the highway as the trucks hurled by, hanging on for dear life and trying to cut the old one off! Not for me!!!

Just beside the Park we like in Las Cruces is an RV dealer who could replace the topper for us with one that is designed to never billow out due to wind. Great, we thought! We were leaving on Saturday to fit our "window" and it was only Monday, so surely it could be done. Of course, it was not that simple! The topper had to be special ordered from Salt Lake City, and if it made the truck there, and the road was good, it might be in Las Cruces Thursday. Now, if the RV company had the time to install it on Friday, we would be good to go. Believe or not, that is exactly what happened. New Topper on Friday, and off we go on Saturday. Once again, we prove that there is not an RV problem that can not be solved if you throw sufficient money at it!!!

Up to this point, we have been visiting places that we know well. Leaving Las Cruces and heading to Albuquerque is new territory for us. HALLELUJAH!!!!!! We have a strange feeling that this is where our year long trip actually commences. Yeah, I know! We have missed one of the worst winters Vancouver has had, and missed all the druggies being shot in the Lower Mainland ... but this is actually new Road ... new Experiences ... new fun!!!

We survived the 3 month sentence ... NOW --- we are back on the road again!!!


Joe and Elsie

Lord Stanley and Lord Thurston

Recently freed from the Plague and Pestilence Park and looking forward to the blue skies and new experiences.

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