Monthly Archives: April 2018

The International Banana Museum

Really. Google it. Admission is something like two bucks but it is waived if you buy something. And we did. You will too. From the outside it looks like a scary place – old bars around the windows – attached to a liquor/convenience store. They only open when they want to but usually that is Fri-Sat-Sun. We had scoped out parking the RV on a previous visit, when we tried to get in when closed, and it was easy to get the 42′ motorhome and dinghy in and out. If coming from the north and miss the turn, there’s another driveway 100 yards down the road.

Once you get in, you’re in another world. It is literally bananas.

Someone’s gotta tell me what the deal is here with the peeled one to the right. Look closely:

And more stuff:

And finally, a little where’s Waldo in this one except it’s not Waldo. It’s Jesus with bananas in his hands. If you can locate him then you can say in all honesty that you’ve found Jesus. I did and feel as proud as I do when I find Waldo.

Since the resolution is reduced here you may not find Jesus. If you haven’t found Jesus and would like the original, 3.17mb photo, email me and I’ll send it to you. I hope you find Jesus.

On to Desert Hot Springs. Couldn’t find him at Salvation Mountain. Couldn’t find him in East Jesus, but Lordy, Lordy, I found Jesus in The IBM.

Salvation Mountain and East Jesus

Wait, before we go to the edge – hold on, “the edge” is being kind, the guy who built Salvation Mountain is flat out fucking nuts – of sanity, check out our new (January) overhead dining light. We hated the piece that came with the Odyssey and we hated everything we saw at Camping World and online, so, we went to a Lowes.

This little section is for RVers or those who would like to learn a little about our world. 100% of the built-in lighting in our RV is 12volt DC. You don’t need to plug in to have light – that’s a plus. Most of it’s ugly – negative. We have purchased a couple of 120v AC table lamps because we are plugged in 99% of the time. One of those has an owl base and the shade is a black and white Manhattan skyline. With a beautifully embroidered and framed, 8×16 Mets logo in the windshield – oops, I’m told that has been banned and sits in a storage box (sorry Tricia, your sister did it), a Mets pillow (from one of those giveaway weekends when I had season tickets) also, that is, now alone, in the windshield, the “NY” Giants logo on the Jeep’s spare tire cover, and the Manhattan skyline on a steering wheel table (a good use of dead space when staying a while), there’s no mistaking where we came from – yet people look at our Montana plates and ask what part of Montana we’re from. (Yes, Miss Krippenstaple, long, run-on sentence. Sue me.) But I digress.

Andrea started researching RV lighting after one of our kitchen fluorescent lights (again, 12v DC) blew and almost caught fire. I mentioned this previously. A little detail here for RVers. Besides a wall switch that controls both fluorescents, each light has its own on/off. To avoid future excitement, I turned the bad one off and I jumped on the light replacement bandwagon. Seems as though everyone is replacing fluorescents with 12v DC led strips so I bought some on Amazon. Not needing a ballast and all that clunky hardware, I snipped the wires coming from the ceiling into the ballasts, removed that junk, the bulbs, and extra wires, and hard-wired the led strips to the ceiling wires. I ran the strips back and forth across the reflective metal several times – the led strip has a sticky back – and wow! Brighter than before. Next one won’t need as many led’s.

For you electrical novices, there are websites to guide you in this modification, even a You-tube, I think. Just understand that you’re not dealing with killer voltage so don’t be afraid.

Back to the dining overhead. Andrea impressed upon me the fact that though standard lighting thingies sold at retailers like Lowes are intended for 120v AC, if you screw in a 12v DC light and wire it to a DC power source, it will work just fine, safely. The trick is finding screw-in DC bulbs. At Lowes, this light fixture jumped out at Andrea and said “buy me”. She loved it. We bought it.

But, they only had one DC bulb that fit. It was hard finding bulbs, even online, so why not try the strip lighting again?

I lined the top of it, rerouted the incoming wires to the strip lighting and it looks great (first picture is with strip lighting). The light is more evenly distributed.

The original RV light had a push button switch, no wall switch as it is in the slide. I surgically removed the switch and rigged it on a hidden bar on top of the light but that was only until I got this installed:

Oh, and those are the strip lights. That remote control was easy to install. It even dims. I ended up buying a few different remotes because the same manufacturer uses the same RF signal – it would end up controlling the bathrooms and kitchen lights (when I get to them). I also bought easy plug-in connectors (bottom) to avoid dealing with loose wires:

The remote signal receiver is on the left. Different remote than one in picture with led strip box.

This particular brand of remote, sold by a dozen different Amazon retailers – buy the cheapest, they’re all the same – gets mixed reviews. Many say it craps out after one use. I agree. But somebody posted a fix. Every couple of days the remote seems to stop functioning. It has a couple of “Speed” +/- buttons for blinking speed. I suppose that’s for when you’re smoking some good California Kush, but if you press both buttons simultaneously, it restores functionality. The lights blink several times and then it works.

And that’s all about RV lighting.

Ok, already. On to Salvation. What a mountain. If you are staying in Palm Springs and need a quirky adventure, this is it. I think the pictures speak for the sculptor though you can Google this place and learn more:

There’s a photo-bomber everywhere. Maybe Michael Jackson coming back as a woman.

Just a half mile down the road is a town, and yes, you can go to Google maps and find it, East Jesus. If you think Salvation Mountain ain’t crazy enough, you can totally drop out in East Jesus, population 6. I spoke to the chief resident and he gave me that approximate number (as of Jan 21).

Welcome to East Jesus:

The interesting irony of all the peace, Love, Jesus, and God stuff is the constant background noise of machine guns, artillery and mortar fire, and ground shaking bombs. The Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range is very close by.

If you continue south and follow 112 around the bottom of the Salton Sea, the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge awaits you. Total bore. You can see the same birds everwhere in the area.

Just down the block (west), turn north and at the end of that road is a giant pile of obsidian.

We picked up a bagful of the shiny glass, from quarter inch pieces to six inches square. I’m going to do something with it. Not quite sure what yet. Stay tuned. Suggestions?

We left the Fountain of Youth on February 2nd, but had one stop to make up the road on 112 on our way to Desert Hot Springs. Next installment is The International Banana Museum.

The Fountain of Youth RV Resort – 1/2-2/2/18

Leaving nowhere in Arizona, you go further into nowhere. I love driving nowhere.

Go look up the Salton Sea in Google Maps. It’s nowhere, right? Now find The Fountain of Youth Spa, about halfway down the east side of the sea. It’s all by itself, forty-five miles from shopping and a Walgreen’s. Yeah, it shows Bombay Beach on the map. More on that later.

We got a site that was very tight. The RV in the site next to us faced east while we faced west. Our doors faced each other. Our awnings almost touched. The good news – the rows of RVs are tiered and facing west, we had an unimpeded view of the Salton Sea and more gorgeous sunsets than we saw in Gold Canyon, in just a month.

These were just a few:

After a trip up to the stores in Indio, I was racing to get back before dark, but had to stop near the “Sea” (I have no idea why it’s not a lake), because the sunset was so breathtaking:

I forgot to mention another key feature of the park. Due to it’s remote location with one road going in and one out, making a silencing a dubious prospect, the Secret Service has, apparently (or for legal purposes perhaps I should say, allegedly), been using, or more likely, built, the Fountain of Youth for its witness protection program. Unfortunately, some of the inmates, er, campers, stand out.

A month away from civilization will have you searching for side trips and we had a few. The pictures from those are too numerous for just one posting.

We took a few at the (not-so) high-brow Bombay Beach, which I’ll post here but the other trips deserve their own posts.

That was the nice part of town facing the beach.

From the beach we saw what at first looked like a miss by one of the many bombers and massive artillery from the Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range, just a couple of miles east of the Fountain of Youth, but it turned out to be controlled burns of entire fields of grasslands.

To follow:
Salvation Mountain
East Jesus
And, The International Banana Museum

Ramblin’ Roads RV Park -January 1, 2018

The distance between Gold Canyon and our January hideaway on the east side of the Salton Sea was just a bit further than we’d care to drive in a day. And what’s the rush? So we went a little out of our way to stay at Ramblin Roads RV Resort.

The address says Salome, AZ but it’s really just all by itself at the point where AZ 72 intersects with US 60. Actually, it’s not by itself. Across the street is the Little Church of Hope but by the looks of the town of Hope, which is just a few cactuses down the road, I kept saying, the Church of Little Hope. The truth is, there’s a sign on the other side of the couple of houses that declare themselves to be the town of Hope that reads, “You Are Now Beyond Hope”. Really.

Anyway, we had stayed at Ramblin Roads before and liked it. Nice place, but nothing truly exceptional. I was pretty tired after the drive and lay down for a minute. An hour later a sliver of light came through a hole in the shade of the rear window. I lifted the day night shade and was blown away by the sunset. I opened the window and was disappointed by a blah sunset.

A few weeks earlier, we put some simple window darkening film on the bedroom windows. I doubled up on that window by my head. I kind of liked the effect and the reflection on the side of the rear panel of the RV. I fooled around with the camera settings to get different looks.

It’s a Happy New Year, so far.

Phoenix Christmas Lights – Dec 2017

You can call them holiday lights and you’d be politically correct, but wrong. They are for JC’s birthday. Nobody puts up lights at this time of the year for anything other than JC’s birthday. So, Happy Birthday JFC. Turn on the lights, Phoenix!

We heard that the Mormon Church of Phoenix puts out a pretty good light display for the birthday boy. Then Andrea found a web site of a local radio station that listed the best 100 private home Christmas lights displays. Those homes owners had volunteered their addresses to be listed. We looked at the listings and tried to pick the ones with lights in at least the six figures. Yeah, some of them are really proud of their massive electric bills. Whatever, let’s go.

The Phoenix highway system is, by far, the easiest to navigate of any city we’ve been in, so we weren’t too concerned with which houses to visit, in terms of distance. That said, it still took a few hours to see just seven houses and the Mormon Church – the first night. We had so much fun, we went back two days later and saw seven or eight more houses.

It’s such an easy city to get around. If you want a cheap winter, or near winter, getaway, Frontier and Southwest compete to get you there. The lights go up about two weeks before Christmas. There’s enough to see, other than the lights, for a week. Check it out. Hey Phoenix Tourism Board – hire me! Or send me discount coupons!

The Mormon Church was our first stop.

The next one was carnival-like. People were parked up and down the streets. This house was a good start.

After that first “private” house, it was all a blur, but fun. The address for this one was just the street. Every house on the street got into the act. There were limos at the end of the block – lights tours. There were two, maybe three horse-drawn carriages taking people up and down the street. There were a couple of vendor trucks serving hot dogs, hot chocolate, and ice cream. People wandering around like blinded zombies. Fun atmosphere.

This next one was the lone house on the block lit up but you could see it a few blocks away. It was pretty damn cool.

We got out at the next one and sat down in the driveway to watch a few minutes of Tim Allen in ‘The Santa Claus’. We saw people with popcorn and then got a bagful at the popcorn machine. The host then brought us some hot chocolate. Nice touch. The rest of his property was a sea of lights.

A few more:

The one above included the obligatory radio station to tune into the Trans Siberian Orchestra performance of ‘Christmas/ Sarejevo 12/24’. We saw them live at the ice arena in Colorado Springs a few years ago and, quite frankly, I had only heard that one song so I was not sure what to expect. Then it was on – Jesus meets heavy metal. Holy shit! I loved it. That was the loudest concert I’d ever been to and I’ve seen John McGlaughlin – with Frank Zappa, with Carlos Santana, Yes, ELP, old Genesis, and Pink Floyd (and variations, solos, and tributes) more times than I can count – ok, I’m not that stupid, I was always good at math, but that was volume metal guitar, bass, and electric violin at instant tinnitus levels! Damn! Why’d you have me bring up tinnitus? Whooop, there it is! Don’t you hate it?

But, I digress.

And finally, we wondered how all those people in front of this house in a cul-de-sac got there before we saw the bus around the corner.

And we saw no more than 15 listings. A lot of crazies. A lot of fun.

Goodbye to 2017. Good riddance.

The Apache Trail – 11-14-2017

The Apache Trail

This was rather cool. It is a long drive through canyonesque desert, mountain switchbacks with gorgeous but tiny overlooks, twenty-two miles of washboard dirt road that you would wish on your mother-in-law following the Salt River and lakes, a spectacular bridge, a return ride through a ghost town (or close to it), and finally a gradual descent with a beautiful view of the mountains and Phoenix to the west.

I need to catch up quickly – we’re moving up the California coast in April – so just brief commentary. Too much information in the last one anyway. The censors weren’t pleased.

You start out northeast on AZ 88 and within 5 miles the road turns to dirt hell but the scenery is more on the heavenly side:

Then we got to the Roosevelt Dam:

Arriving at the Roosevelt Bridge in late afternoon, the low sun in the western sky, behind us, made for a nice picture with a little reflection:

And this is the Roosevelt Bridge if you were into more intense reflection on acid:

(I plead the first)

Then you’re finally back to a paved highway toward the bustling metropolis (not!) of Globe.

Before we got to Globe, we made a right on US 60 to head back toward Gold Canyon. I liked that side view mirror picture so much I tried another through the canyons of the empty town of Miami:

Coming out of the canyon, the western horizon spread out in front of us.

Luna says hi:

And lastly, a few days later in November, the annual Leonids meteor shower was a dud. However, I started playing around with various settings on my phone’s camera and caught the Big Dipper rising over that RV in the middle. It’s balancing on its handle. Ah, The Balance, and all is right with the world.

Good night, Vienna.

Gold Canyon, Superstition Stuff, The TSA, and OTB – Nov 2017

This is a long post. I got an app to shrink picture sizes so I can combine some topics. This new phone creates pictures anywhere from one to eight megabytes. I hope the quality isn’t too compromised.

Canyon Vistas is our favorite, large, 55+ RV resort. It’s not all that different from others, it just seems to get more plus marks than others. For one thing, it is very dog-friendly with three dog parks and a mostly shady, grass and tree lined pavement walk that runs from one end of the park to the other – about a mile. That’s another great thing about the park – it is flat and connected to three other communities. One is a younger, sister park with nice casitas (little Adobe-looking homes), each with its own parking area for an RV. These are designed for snowbirds who come for the winter. We’ve toured each model and they are all very attractive. Maybe someday. One of the other two is a golf community with a mixture of RV’s and park models (nomenclature for small, mobile-home looking homes). The other park is strictly new homes geared to the ex-mobile home owner – small houses in a well manicured, gated community. They are all gated.

The fact that all the communities have pedestrian gate openings to each other makes it great for casual bike riders. If you rode up and down every block you would get in close to 20 miles. It got me thinking about trading in my 21-speed mountain bike for a beach cruiser. I hate getting rid of things that work – like I should have kept my belt sander, drill press, table saw, and most importantly, the toaster oven.

So, I started converting my mountain bike to a hybrid cruiser. Besides that tinkering, we both got involved in some of the many craft shop offerings of the park. Andrea got into yoga, beading, and stained glass. I actually only participated in one group thing. I tried yoga but my legs and back couldn’t take it. However, while walking the dog I was inspired by another camper’s work to try wood carving.

I also installed a new, heavy duty, 120volt AC outlet in our living room, juiced by the extra 30 or 20 amp sources at the park’s power box, if available. You can’t otherwise run two electric space heaters. We hate using the big, overhead jobs – too noisy. If you want the details on how, email me at bjcarlin71

We also replaced all 27 of our small, 12 volt halogen lights with LED’s. One of our kitchen fluorescent lights shorted out and almost burned, so I pulled out the ballast and all the other junk and installed some strip LED lighting under the old cover. Works great. Intend to replace the others soon.

We have a new, rolling, storage cabinet that took me about six months to complete. That project sort of coincided with my inability to complete a blog post. Let’s not go there.

Now, back to the Gold Canyon experience. I left off our southbound travel with a photo of Superstition Mountain. Sunsets at Canyon Vistas were a kind of ritual.

Happy hours at many sites as well as a park sponsored band an hour or two before sunset culminated with people in the streets at the witching hour with wine glasses, beer bottles, and Solo cups paying homage to that Fat Old Sun as it dropped behind the western hills, Phoenix, smog and dust storms yielding brilliant oranges, yellows, reds and purples. It felt sacrilegious to take photos but we caught a couple.

We spent quite a few of those sunsets at the dog park as the late fall hours coincided with Luna’s afternoon walks. But, we did get a shot or two.

Our little solar light had a nice backdrop one evening.

At the end of October we visited:

It was worth the price of admission. It was free. Actually, it was worth a buck or two.

And that was that. Yeah, two bucks might be stretching it. Free was the right price.

On the way back we stopped at a weird bar in the middle of nowhere:

But, lunch was good and how can you screw up an O’Doull’s (maybe by drinking it?).

You drive around the eastern burbs of Phoenix long enough and you will begin to think the original people of this area had some phobias. Every other street, shopping center and mountain has “Superstition” in the name. Superstitions are really a load of crap but, then again, if I keep buying winning tickets from the same teller at the track, I’m going back there. Whatever it takes, but I don’t think I’m superstitious.

AIRPORT SECURITY? DEPENDS!

This is good, so hang in there. Sorry, no pictures, but if you really look it up, you can watch a video. Remember, I had the AUS (artificial urinary sphincter) installed in September? No? Oh. That was in an earlier iteration of these catch-up posts. Do this, Google AUS. Then, long story short – 2010 prostate cancer, prostatectomy, then they tell me they fucking didn’t get it all (does it sound like I’m getting pissed talking about it?) and had to get 44 days of radiation. If the snip doesn’t screw up your plumbing, the radiation will. And that ain’t all but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, an AUS gives you back some control.

Back to the TSA story. Well, the post-operative condition of your junk – imagine a softball – requires six weeks to heal before you can activate the nut button (if you questioned “nut button” then you didn’t look up AUS). That six-week timing didn’t work for us – we were southbound before I could get an appointment, so I found one of those no-frills, ultra-cheap, Frontier flights direct to Colorado Springs from Phoenix and booked it for Nov 8. No luggage, no carry-on, but I did pay extra for a good seat. A window seat finally paid off. Pictures in a minute.

After eight years of deteriorating plumbing, I was up to wearing, not just Depends underwear, but also, when going out in public, a Depends pad. It was that bad. Kind of like using two Bounties when you probably only need one. Kind of. It’s bulky but you wear loose pants. Maybe you’ll get an admiring stare. (You might wonder what happened to my dignity. Who the fuck tells a story like this? Go get your prostate removed. Death of dignity.)

At the TSA scanner, they have learned how to read medical hardware in your body. So the back screws, rods, and that weird hip thing? No problem. But, the scanner detected an abnormality in my crotch. Now I needed a pat down. It revealed, yes, an abnormality in my crotch. I was pulled aside for a pat down by a senior pat-downer (that could be patter-downer but I can’t look it up where I am now). Yep, that big, fucking, giant crotch threat is still there. “Come with us, sir.”

So, off I’m marched to a private room where I’m told that the scanner and two pat downs indicate a bulge in my pants. I was very tempted to say I was a porn star but also realized who I was talking to. I explained my delicate condition and offered to show them what was causing the discovery of such a bulbous abnormality, but as soon as I went for my belt buckle they got excited and told me to keep my pants on. They weren’t allowed to look. Apparently, there’s nothing in the training manuals, tactical bulletins, or take-down guides that comes close to addressing a double Depends situation. Fuck! What would you say?

I asked how we can resolve this. Someone had to say something and these dudes, once they understood how embarrassing this situation might have been for them – that is, they looked at each other’s crotches, looked up to The Almighty, made the sign of the cross, and prayed forgiveness – were clueless. Finally, Muldoon, after a glance to Toody, looked at me with sad eyes and said, “Once you are pulled aside to a private room, you have to be escorted back out of the boarding area.”

Unsaid, “Sorry. That’s the best I can do with my training.”

Toody came alive, “Ooh-ooh! Why don’t you remove the pad in a bathroom outside and try coming back through security again?”

“How about if I take it out right here and now?”

Muldoon, “Sorry, sir. You have to go through security again.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Wouldn’t you say that? The question repeated in my head throughout this ordeal and, perhaps, obviously, still, right, fucking now!, but my mouth said “Yes, sir.” (Are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? Are you….)

After Toody walked back with me out of security and I escorted myself to the pat-down-free potty, I got rid of the pad and went right through the TSA doorway of dread. No bells, whistles, buzzers, or crotch abnormalities and thus, no bulging crotch pat downs. I hope the TSA locker room had a good time with that.

That really happened exactly as described, except maybe the prayer part (maybe they did pray because I was encouraging the forces of evil and good to bring justice to ignorance – that would be for them to burn in hell).

LIFE AFTER TSA & 10 YEARS SINCE WHAT?

When the plane got to the Colorado Springs area, we started circling. I had that good window seat in the second row – the legroom seats on Frontier. The clouds below the mountain tops extended to the ground – dense fog. It made for some interesting views – seemed like a sea of white.

Think about that. The land poking out of the sea of clouds is, I’m guesttimating, southwest of Pueblo, and probably 6-7,000′ high. Shoot me if I’m wrong. Then I recognized Pikes Peak in the distance.

And then we got word that the ground fog was lifting. An IFR approach dropped us through the clouds next to Pikes Peak. What the heck is that other white bubble?

It was still pretty damn foggy on the ground. Kudos to our white knuckled pilot.

Finally, I go right from the airport for my one minute medical procedure, that I could have done myself! Voila! Push button pee! No more TSA hassling my crotch.

But wait, I have one more story that I think is kind of cool. (You’ll have to buy the book for the Army stories.) At least a bartender and the parties involved thought so. Reminder, it’s November 8, 2017.

After the activation of the device, I went to a drug store down the block but had to wait an hour or so for a prescription. Damn, what is one to do? There was a Dollar Store in the strip mall and I needed a gift box – and, a sports bar – lunch! As I approached the bar I had second thoughts. It had a bit of in-and-out activity, some seedy looking characters. And that has deterred me from entering a bar when? More like an invititation. As I found a seat at the bar I noticed a multitude of TV’s, all with either a horsetrack race or toteboard on it, or the same from a greyhound track.

It’s an OTB! I’m home. I ordered a sandwich and an O’Doull’s and asked the bartender where the betting machines were. She said they only had two cashiers in the back and she pointed to the area. I looked closely, saw a cashier and said, “Holy Shit!” I made her wait while I found this picture on my phone:

And then told her the story. That guy across from me was signing some forms in the midst of cashing my $48 (cost) pick six ticket on November 10, 2007, at the old greyhound track, turned simulcasting facility. The feds took about 5 grand off the top. The cashier gave me a check for about 14 grand plus about two thousand in cash.

I had promised I would join Bree at the first annual Colorado Beer Fest that night if I won enough at the track to pay for a taxi or a limo. We took a stretch limo to a beer fest.

The bartender, who was so excited about this, came out from behind the bar and walked me back to Mike. We had a quick reunion as he worked. It was just rather interesting – nearly 10 years to the day. I was tempted several times to bet on something, but I didn’t.

Did you ever hear the story of the $21K day? You gotta be a horse racing fan. (Again, buy the book.)

The next blog post, The Apache Trail.

Southbound Odyssey – Uh-oh! – October 2017

In early October, as Colorado started to freeze at night, we packed up and headed for Arizona. About 60 miles north of Albuquerque, we pulled over to let Luna pee while we smoked a few bowls of intense hash oil, swallowed a handful of peyote buds, stuck some window pane under our tongues and chugged down a bottle of Gran Patron Platinum.

Wait, maybe that was one day in the seventies, but then again, that’s more the late Mr. Thompson’s speed. The fact is, there would not have been any tequila involved. Why would you piss into the wind? I got rules about drinking and flying.

Perhaps we should have stayed there and pursued that visit with Don Juan. As we pulled out of the rest area the engine started balking. The next sixty miles of serious hills (mountains back east) were a struggle. Our campground was on the western outskirts of Albuquerque, and if you know it, up on top of that eight-mile hill on I-40. That old reliable Cummins diesel sounded awful as we limped into our campsite. In the morning we walked over to the nextdoor Camping World and asked if they did engine work. No, but they gave us the number of a family outfit in town. We basically rolled back down I-40 East to their shop.

UH-OH!

Mr. Statkus and his two mechanic daughters (but don’t envision Mona Lisa DeVito) have been repairing truck and RV engines for nearly 30 years. Their approach is to prepare you for the worst, like a total $25-35,000 engine replacement, first. Then, a few days later, as we contemplated a new life without an RV, and after they peeked inside the weak fifth cylinder, maybe it would only be $10-15,000 to completely detach the coach from the chassis because they can’t get to the engine. And finally, $3,000 after figuring out how to get the engine low enough (from the rear bathroom) to get into the cylinder and determine that it was a broken rocker arm. Felt like we won the lottery.

After many long conversations with dad, it appears the Cummins “legendary” tag is not well deserved. Most engines he fixes are Cummins in the 40-70,000 mile range. Our damn, piece of crap Jeep is over 130,000 and it’s never burped. If you’ve been following this blurb from the beginning, you might recall we had a major scare in Iowa our first week as fulltimers. That turned out to be a transmission problem resolved by flushing it. But the engine? Fine. Uh-oh, now I’ve really jinxed us. Anyway, if you have a Cummins, beware.

While staying in a couple of hotels for a week, we had three memorable days:

1. A visit with 1st cousin Mark and TV star wife, Wren – thanks again, guys.

2. George J. Maloof Memorial Airpark, a very cool city park with a paved airstrip for model airplanes.

This thing was fast. Yeah, that’s a model.

3. And, because it was that time of year, bucket list item number 64, the world renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It better be worth it because we had to get up really early to catch a 4:30AM bus. Liftoff at 6AM. It turned out to be a bust. The winds were too strong to allow lift off, but a couple of balloons fired up a bit so the owners could show them off, including the strangely familiar Timepeace balloon – wanderlustballoons.com.

From the pictures we’ve seen of the real thing (a few hundred balloons launching at once – the actual balloon fest), we’ll keep it on the bucket list. Maybe next year. Check it out: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/
I’m told we might be late getting into the on-site campground.

One more while-hanging-around-doing-nothing-but-internet-doodling-and-waiting-for-the-RV: Andrea came upon a great phone deal from T-Mobile for seniors, 55 and up. The plan, 55+, is free unlimited everything for $30 a line. We checked coverage maps to see if they are in our most visited places, and planned ones. Looked ok, so bye bye AT&T. Since the rate was so much cheaper, we decided to trade in our older phones for new ones – and still pay less per month. Andrea’s Iphone 6 gave way to an IPhone 8+. I still have a distaste for proprietary technology and the most popular of anything, like Budweiser or Bamboo papers (rather, any malty Porter and Esmerelda’s. I retired my beloved LG G2 for an LG V20. Great, multi-lens camera and 64G of memory with a slot for a 64G SD card. I already had a couple of those cards. Cool. Data transfer with our PC, which happens to have a compatible slot, is a breeze. And you can do that magic file transfer between Androids without a wire. l recently copied nearly every photo we have on the PC, and that includes scanned black and whites from 1951 through digital years, Polaroids from the Army, slides from the seventies, and all the old Kodak digital camera shots onto that tiny memory card. For you, like me, who grew up without computers, and you whose first big computer had a “massive” 20 megabyte – yes, kids, megabyte – hard drive, and, you fellow computer geeks of the 80’s, when you needed some data at work, had to request and wait for a tape to be mounted, having 64gig of data the size of your fingernail is just mind blowing. But, I digress…

ROCKER ARM REPLACED

Just as we started playing with our new phones, we got the call – finally, the engine fix was complete. Whoopee! With our travelling funds now thoroughly depleted, we bolted straight for Gold Canyon, Arizona. Of course, our idea of bolting anywhere may not be your idea of getting somewhere with alacrity. I think we stopped 60 miles down I-40 at the Sky City Casino RV park. It was late afternoon and driving into the sun is not fun. And, we have a rule – never arrive at an RV park in the dark. That gave us some time to take stock of our refrigerator situation. It was on propane most of the time but the temperature was a bit high. We had a couple of science projects.

It was still over 350 miles to Gold Canyon, and we won’t drive that far in a day anymore, so we also stopped in OK RV Park, a classic, specializing-in-overnighters, park in Holbrook, AZ the next night. Living up to its name, it was OK.

The drive from Holbrook to Phoenix, going through Payson is really nice. At first it’s mile after mile of bare rolling hills and then it transitions to heavily wooded forest. You would think you’re in Colorado. You finally descend steeply into civilization again, Payson. The next part of the drive is one of my favorites. As you leave Payson to the south on US 87, you ascend a hill replete with a trucker’s check-your-brakes area at the top. The landscape shifts from forests to bare mountains and then high desert. As the ups and downs bring you to a lower altitude, the Saguaro cacti appear. The views are gorgeous, if you can see through the insect schmutz on the windshield.

We arrived at Canyon Vistas in Gold Canyon with the big Cummins purring. It was seventy degrees, our camp site was great, and we had a nice view of the setting sun and the glow of it against Superstition Mountain.

Life is good.

Odyssey Vacation Part 5 – Summer 2017

On the way back from Banff, we stopped in a nice rv park – I think it was somewhere in Montana. It had a lot of silhoette sculptures of western scenery. They worked well with an ominous sky near sunset:

Still, it was a nice evening for a walk:

And that was our summer vacation. Can’t say I’d do it again. You want mountains? Colorado’s got ’em. Banff is overrated. Glaciers? Well, you better get up and see them before they’re gone. (Or go to Alaska.)

The rest of the summer was – shitty weather, but great times with the kiddies.

Wait, an August family wedding at Terrace on the Park and a baseball game at Citifield brought me back to NY. Those two venues are less than a mile from each other, geographically.

Terrace on the Park was built by the Port Authority of New York and the roof was a helicopter landing pad for the New York World’s Fair in 1964. It has been converted to a catering hall and the roof is now a spectacular venue for a wedding. I did not take this picture:

Five days before the World’s Fair opened, the two year old New York Mets hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium, their new home for the next forty-four years. A plaque in the parking lot of their new home, CitiField, indicates the location of Shea’s homeplate.

For you tennis fans, Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, home of the US Open, stands between the two structures.

OK, geography and history lesson over. Nephew, Daniel, and lovely bride, Courtney, were married on August 19th. The Yankees were visiting the Mets for a four game series beginning on the 17th. Coincidentally, my friend, Artie, was going to that first game on the 17th, an annual group outing with friends and he graciously invited me along.

So, avoiding the cluster-fuck of construction at La Guardia, but also trashing common sense by just flying and staying there, a short Uber ride from the events, I flew into Islip, on eastern Long Island, so I could hang out with Artie and Judi a couple of days. The baseball game outing was fantastic – luxury bus, catered Italian food after arrival at the park, a Mets travel bag, and tickets to the game, all courtesy of my host. Thank you, Artie. A great day. And thank you also, Judi, for allowing me the priveledge of staying with you guys, and providing your husband another excuse to pour another Maker’s Mark.

On Saturday I checked into the LaGuardia Marriott, near the wedding. It was, as you might expect by the name, near the airport. You couldn’t get much closer. It was also right on the Grand Central Parkway, overlooking it and the construction in and around the airport. Luckily, I was on the eighth floor, surprisingly high enough away from the traffic noise that it was not bothersome. I also had a great view of the airport and watched plane after plane take off and land.

I must have taken a hundred pictures. So mesmerized was I that I missed the wedding.

Ha, ha. But, I did loose track of time and had to rush to make the wedding bus. As I said, the wedding venue was spectacular. Look, from the roof where the wedding and reception took place, there’s Citi Field and the tennis stadium I was talking about.

The view of Manhattan wasn’t bad either:

Two days later, the Sun was eclipsed by the Moon!

Coming next, Southbound Odyssey – Uh-oh!

Odyssey Vacation Part 4 – July 2017

We left off going to Banff. It was beautiful, but…the worst of Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge – too commercial. Lake Louise was too crowded and parking there is a joke. Believe them when they say get there before 9AM – and get a handicapped parking card. On the positive side, you can find some really gorgeous scenic spots along the highway north of Lake Louise.

Glaciers:

Lake Louise:

Too many tourists there, but it’s pretty.

On the same hike around the lake, Curly came around the bend:

Canada was very nice, and it’s going to get a lot nicer in July.