Monthly Archives: April 2019

Long Time Gone (1)

(Crosby, Stills, and Nash – start singing. Come on, get in the mood)
It’s been a long time comin’
It’s goin’ to be a long time gone

And it appears to be a long
Appears to be a long
Appears to be a long time
Yes, a long, long, long, long time before the dawn

Go ahead, I won’t be insulted if you pause me for a couple of minutes. Go on, find that sucker on your phone or computer (you still use your computer?) and play it. You don’t have it? Who doesn’t have the self-titled album ‘Crosby, Stills, And Nash’? Yeah, it’s not as good as ‘Deja Vu’, but it also didn’t have Neil Young. That was a talented bunch of guys – David Crosby was from the Byrds since their day one; Stephen Stills came from Buffalo Springfield (For What It’s Worth) with his buddy, Neil Young; Graham Nash, the vocalist from the Hollies (he had a fling with Joni Mitchell); Neil Young, with his buddy, Stephen Stills, you know, Buffalo Springfield – he had also been recording with his own group, Crazy Horse. I’m ok if you just put me on hold and go listen to some of their stuff. As a matter of fact, please do! Listen amongst yourself.

OK. Let’s get going. Or catch up.

It’s really been a long time, like you might have thought I died. It happens. Old people die. Well, it didn’t happen, but lots did. Die, that is. Luckily, nobody I knew too closely. Condolences to you who lost loved ones. That’s all I got for serious talk.

We got back to Colorado in the middle of July and then settled in for a couple of months. All that driving took its toll on the RV, Odyssey. We have a spider shot on the windshield, far upper right, that may or may not be a $1,000 repair. Our left rear jack lifts us up to put us into a level position but it then fails and drops back down. The driver’s side slide, after some repairs, still has some characteristics of a parallelogram with a little tilt to the front. There are lots of other little thingies that need “adjustments”.

In mid-September, we drove into a repair shop, #Premier Auto and RV, in Falcon, some 15 miles east of Colorado Springs. I added the “#” to their name hoping internet searches might find every sentence that I mention their despicable name. The allure was that they had electric and water so you could stay in your RV during repairs. After two weeks they hadn’t done shit yet charged us for work done so I reviewed them on Google and told the truth – that they were filthy, lying cheats!

The next day, five people, including the owners and managers descended upon us, trying to resolve our issues, not exactly to our satisfaction, but just enough to change my review. After a few days of trying to change our minds without actually doing anything substantial, the head guy, I think the asshole’s name was Devin, decided he could not ever make us happy. He then made a deal with us that felt as though he was holding us hostage. If he fixed a couple of our items within a week, would we change our review? At that point, we just wanted to get away from the devil.

We agreed to the ransom. They did a shitty job with everything they did. We felt good about leaving, at any cost. Devin is the Devil. If you own an RV, avoid #Falcon, Colorado. The town is evil. It hosts the devil. Stay away at all costs and tell everyone you know that #Premier Auto and RV is a living and breathing manifestation of Beelzebub. Ok, maybe that’s a bit much. They are just a bunch of low life criminals.

But, I digress. We escaped after paying a substantial ransom and bolted south. One problem they couldn’t fix was a smell that developed after they brought the slide in and out numerous times. That smell, which everyone thought was sewer odor, followed us.

After the obligatory stop in Raton, New Mexico, we headed to Albuquerque, to get an oil change at #Statkus Engines, the place that made us feel like they saved us the year before, charging us $3000 to fix a $100 part. I’m beginning to think I have a huge “Sucker” sign on my forehead. After the bill for that oil change I’m sure of it. Thank you Mr. Statkus for making me believe that every RV repair shop is run by Lucifer’s armies. I hate you all!

We left very late in the afternoon into the setting sun on I-40 and stopped at the Sky City Casino before it got dark. Never pull into an RV park after dark. That’s our motto. It was another forty, fifty miles to Grants but everything there was full and too far to Gallups. Sky City has a parking lot with full hookup pull-thru’s. It was fine for an overnight stay. We’re not big fans of driving more than a couple of hundred miles in a day, so with Mesa another 350 down the road, we made one more stop in Holbrook, AZ, the OK RV Park. It’s perfect for an overnighter, say, to and from the Phoenix area. Stay a day or two and see the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. You might want to stop at Knife City, if that floats your boat. Their billboards start about 100 miles away.

The drive from Holbrook to Payson is pretty boring but from Payson to Mesa is beautiful. I’ve posted those pictures before so just go back to last year’s drive south (or the one before) if you missed them.

We ended up in Countryside RV Park, a Thousand Trails Park. They stick the Thousand Trails people in tiny sites up against a wall that backs up to South Idaho Rd, a busy one. On the positive side, the park has a few nice palm trees. This one was right behind our site.

Also too close to US 60 with an exit/entrance on Idaho creating more noise. Again, let’s find a positive. We experienced a double rainbow (it’s there, look harder)

and a magnificent sunset our first few days there.

Arizona has lots of these:

But as an RV park, it was an “only-if-desperate” for next time. Too noisy.

That sewer smell kept following us. I spent twenty bucks at a dollar store on candles and various odorific items. The RV looked like a memorial scene at times, and well it could have been. Read on.

We did a little hiking. I love the desert. Every few hundred feet another Saguaro gives you the finger. Makes me feel at home, the NY one.

We alternated between different Thousand Trails parks and a Passport America park, Carefree Manor in Apache Junction, where we participated in a Christmas parade.

Most residents drove their golf carts, all decked out with boughs of holly (because they don’t have halls) and fa-la-la-la-la’d their way to stops full of jello shots and became jolly. Nice, older place, mostly park models, but they accept PPA all year, which, for a week, comes out to about $128.

I finally put new cables on my twenty-year old bike. I switched out the mountain bike handlebars for the hi-rise type. My back made me do it. Before the new cables I had one gear and only front brakes. Now seven gears and both brakes. One of these days I’ll figure out how the front gear changer is wired.

Right about that time, after having our black (poop) and grey (shower/kitchen water) tanks cleaned out professionally for the third time, we brought in an RV repair guy to look at our big slide problem. He was highly recommended by the professional poop people. After making an adjustment to the slide with support from a cinder block, a few pieces of wood and a car-Jack, Andrea asked him to come inside to check out our smell. As soon as Juan got a few feet in the door he said, “You’ve got a gas leak”, and went quickly out to his truck to bring in gas pressure gauges – two of them because he wanted to be sure. Both detected huge drops in pressure when turning on the oven gas. He brought in two other guys and tore into every possible place a gas line might run through the RV. Whoomp, there it is!

On our way back from the Northwest in July, we developed a water leak after the ties that kept a jumble of wires, tubes, AND the propane line to the rear heater, broke. That jumble moved in and out with the slide as it went in and out, an engineering marvel – NOT! When the plastic ties that supported the whole mess failed, the water line was the first to rub enough times against something that it split. That one I fixed. I thought it was the cold water line and the one wrapped in a metal mesh was the hot water line. Wrong. That was the gas line. Apparently, when the assholes from #Premier Auto and RV brought the slide in and out numerous times trying to understand our slide problem, they ripped a hole in the gas line as it rubbed back and forth against the rear bathroom wall on each cycle. That’s when and where the smell started. That satanic shop nearly sent us to a fiery death.

We had lit dozens of candles to make that smell go away. After an hour or so, Juan’s man, Jesus, saved us. No shit. That was his name. I’ll never doubt that phrase again. Jesus saves. But make sure it’s the guy that works for Juan. Don’t trust any other guy claiming to be a saviour.

A couple of days later, when Juan found the right part, he replaced our torn tube and let us light a match again. Holy liquid propane gas! Do you know how close we came to being blown to high heaven, or wherever it is you get blown. The lord certainly works in mysterious ways, if you believe in that shit. Personally, I’m a karma guy. Juan kept us alive and we sent Juan’s family on a Caribbean vacation. He charged us enough. I guess that’s fair. We live to tell the story of Jesus and Juan has an umbrella drink for Christmas.

(Continued)

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Long Time Gone (2)

In December, right after Jesus saved us, we discussed returning to Canyon Vistas RV Resort in Gold Canyon, a bit further east on US 60. It gets really expensive at places down here come January so Andrea checked out their Workamper page. Just posted were two jobs. She called immediately and we had an interview in a day or two.

Christina, the new director of activities, offered Andrea a job at the Activities front desk and me a position in “Tables and Chairs”. What’s that? Well, this place has two ballrooms, an older one in the Canyon Vistas section, and a much larger one built just last year in Superstition Views, in which they hold many events from movie night to dances to big name concerts to free coffee and donuts every Monday morning. The configuration of the folding tables and chairs changes with each event, from seating for 30-40 for Card Bingo, to over 500 for Sha-Na-Na.

Besides the two ballrooms, they have rooms for card playing and other activities from Bible studies to Charades, plus three “social hours” a week where special setup is required for the bands that play at the bar. And, anyone staying in the park can request tables and chairs for their own parties. We once delivered sixteen six foot tables and ninety chairs to a block party. You work your ass off in “tables and chairs”. I mentioned that I had spinal fusion and a replacement hip and wondered if the work would be too much but said I’d give it a shot. Christina was desperate for any body to fill the position. We took the jobs. My legs have noticeably improved in four months. I ditched the cane.

Andrea sold tickets to all the non-free events which included things like New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, Melissa Manchester, Sha-Na-Na, and an Eagles tribute band at the event of the year, the 50 year anniversary of Woodstock. Canyon Vistas, part of a trio of adjacent parks that also includes Superstition Views and Montessa, is owned by the Cal-Am corporation which owns several other parks in the Mesa area. The activities desk sells tickets to events at their other parks in addition to signing people up for various special equipment exercise classes. They are very busy.

After accepting the jobs, we were assigned Site 98, along the row that all workampers set up shop. This was our view to the west.

We bought tickets to one “off-campus” concert at their Val d’ Oro park, “Go Now”, a Moody Blues Tribute band that absolutely held their own. The Moody Blues were all about sweet vocals so our expectations were a bit low going in, but these guys, fresh off the boat from England, their first gig in the U.S., killed it. Good show, lads.

Woodstock. Now that was just fun. Andrea and I volunteered to work so we could get in free. Andrea worked at the face-painting table while I served twenty-five cent beer. Really? Of course, as we went through each keg, I tried to sample the goods to make sure the quality was ok. What we do to ensure the well being of our customers is often overlooked. I worked hard that night, but after sampling the product enough times, tied one on. In keeping with the spirit of the event, I had purchased some special product of my own from Amazon and gave it away for free.

We were right next to the photo booth where you could don clothing of the day for a few tiny pictures. The line for that booth was long almost all night long. Many of the people on that line did not need any extra adornments. Check out this crew:

Classic, dudes – and dudettes!

I had to get out there with them once in a while and make sure they were all taking care of each other. When some came by the beer booth and read the sign offering the free candy and started laughing, I knew they were of like minds and could tell which ones were stoned. It takes one to know one. I started waving my arms, “Hey dudes, can you see the the tracers?” One girl saw me do that once and couldn’t stop laughing. She was completely ripped. I wanted what she was doing. And she kept coming back and laughed each time. I love her. She totally gets me.

When it got dark and the Eagles tribute band got cranking, I was offered some of the same stuff that many of those folks were getting ripped to. The band turned to a Joe Walsh tune, Rocky Mountain Way, and whoomp, there it is – that massive buzz! Damn, I want to do that again.

That wasn’t even the best thing I did here. (I wrote this part over a few days before we left.) In the January calendar of events I noticed a class titled, “Writing Your Life Story”. Having completed a rough draft a year earlier, I knew I was probably in, but the leader of the group, Coleen, hooked me with the promise of publishing it. That gave me a kick in the ass to organize the mess and get it ready for outside eyes to review and edit. That is a scary step and it is in process. Later for that. A few more months, I think.

Because the RV park is so huge – if you zig-zagged every street in the park, which we have on bikes, you cover 4.7 miles – we rarely left the park to hike. However, on one of our last days, we drove out to the Boyce Arboretum where they have an amazing collection of cacti.

And this kind:

And that kind:

And the trail is very pretty throughout.

About 1.8 miles around.

But sadly, this gig at Canyon Vistas is over. It felt like summer camp, though I never went to summer camp so that might not be right. OK, it was like Breezy Point. When I was a kid we went to Breezy Point, a beach community in Queens, NY, for the summer. Though I worked quite frequently, the whole experience felt like a four month party. We made many acquaintances and some good friends. Hope all you fireside folks have had and are having safe trips.

Wednesday, April 17th:
On the road again. Most of the snowbirds, many from Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, started leaving at the end of March with just a few dozen still around when our service was up this week. We left today for our “home” park in Monument, CO. First stop was Flagstaff, AZ.

Greer’s Pine Shadows RV Park is aptly named. Completely shaded, we let the DirecTv dish spin around enough before it fell down dizzy. Rather than hook up our local broadcast TV antenna or connect our phones that contain seasons of Prime Video downloads, we read and played with our phones. No TV. Can’t remember the last day it wasn’t even turned on. If you can’t get into the Grand Canyon, the next best option is someplace in Williams. Last choice is Flagstaff and the last campground choice is Greer’s. Not our favorite type of park but hell, it was only overnight.

Thursday, April 18, we drove to Monument Valley – the KOA Journey. This new park is just a gravel lot about a mile north of the turn to the Tribal Park, and a 42 foot motorhome with a tow vehicle barely fits in their “large” sites. Having been inside the Tribal Park several times before, we thought we’d just stay put and get some sunset pictures of the tall buttes just north of the RV park. But the moon was 99% full. When we were here in October 2017, the full moon rose between two of the mittens, and then disappeared in a full eclipse. It was pretty spectacular. So, we went in at about 7PM – free, nobody at the gate.

This view from the parking lot still blows me away. The two on the left are supposed to look like mittens.

Luna wanted to get her picture taken. We were there for her namesake.

We thought we were early for the 7:20PM moonrise but, apparently, missed the appropriate viewing angle. It snuck up on us. The shot above has a time stamp of 7:22. When the moon finally climbed above the large butte on the right, it was 7:50.

And on our way out, the sight in a side view mirror stopped me:

Before completely leaving the area Friday morning, we had to pay homage at my favorite photo-op stop in the U.S., about ten miles north of Monument Valley. You can’t miss it because the road is strewn with idiots like me who wander out into the center of the road to get this shot:

Friday, April 19th:
On to Ouray, Colorado. We stopped in Cortez for lunch and, hey, we’re in Colorado, wink-wink, and then took the route through the mountains towards Telluride. We’ve been through Durango and up US 550 a few times. This ride, mostly on CO-145, was beautiful, a great mountain drive, up to 10,200′, though not nearly as challenging as some others. My hands were on the wheel the whole way but Andrea took a few shots in the only white-knuckle section. Check out her Facebook page.

(Continued)

Long Time Gone (3)

Ouray RV Park and Cabins isn’t exactly open for the season but they took our money and put us among three or four other campers. This is our view south over the nearly empty park,

from Site 71! 71 yet again! What does that mean? It is my double rainbow. It is explained in detail in the book.

There’s a stream that runs to our right and from the mountain on the left I noticed a waterfall later in the evening:

We are surrounded by mountains. Quite the change from the desert southwest. The elevation is 7,792′. This will get us ready for Monument Hill’s 7,300′.

Saturday, 4-20. It’s the only day of the year that Andrea lets me wear this shirt:

We went to town and spent money as good tourists do. Lots of opportunities to empty your wallet.

Ouray is known as Switzerland, USA. The climate and scenery are similar. Cute little town.

Here’s a shot from just above as 550 twists out of town to the south:

With some time on our hands, we decided to take a drive on The Million Dollar Highway, aka, US-550 between Ouray and Silverton. The best part of that drive is the half near Ouray, so we only went to the summit of Red Mountain Pass. It’s a great drive:

Quite a few sheer drops and hairpin turns. Not for everyone.

The day turned a bit bleak. We escaped with just a sprinkle.

April 21st, Easter Sunday. Well, you can go with that rolling a rock story but we met the living and breathing Jesus in Apache Junction and he saved us. The bunny is more believable to me. Speaking of, one of the stores we visited in Ouray was called Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee. Seems like everybody’s got their fingers in that cookie jar, the one that bubbles over with money if you add coffee to your name. Anyway, they had some Easter Bunny related goodies, among others, that we couldn’t resist. Thank you, Rick, Security at Canyon Vistas, for directing us to Mouse’s.

On to Nathrop, Colorado. From Ouray it was up US-550 to Montrose and then east on US-50 with not one, not two, but three mountain passes. The first, Cero Summit, sneaks up on you, a relentless in and out climb. No big switchbacks but it seems to never end. The next, Blue Mesa Summit, pisses you off because you think the only one left is the big one. Before we got to the big one, we had lunch.

For one of the only times in five years of fulltiming, I planned a decent location for a lunch stop. Usually, your halfway point on a drive, or where ever you anticipate a stopping point to eat or rest, does not coincide with a pleasant location. Out in the desert you just look for a large dirt patch on Google Maps. In towns you find a park or, sadly, a Wal-Mart. We usually don’t plan for a scenic location for lunch and thus end up in a dusty parking lot, the dreaded Wal-Mart lot, or pulled over on a truck route with huge semi’s shaking us up on a tilted patch next to the road.

US-50 goes through the Curecante National Recreation Area which includes Blue Mesa Reservoir. At exactly the halfway point, by driving time from Ouray to our campground in Nathrop, I found a small paved road to a parking area, quite visible on Google Maps, with about a dozen marked parking spaces (telling me it was paved), and other space that could fit at least a couple of large RV’s, and a turnaround.

I used the Gunnison Lakeside RV Park as a stopping point in my GPS to warn me that our turn was coming up.

We had a pleasant lunch, with another couple who had the same idea, overlooking the frozen Blue Mesa Reservoir. One of the more pleasant stops in Odyssey history. Sorry, no pictures of the frozen lake. What was I thinking?

Then it was on to the big one, Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide. Sounds impressive.

There’s an exit on I-40 in New Mexico by that name – Continental Divide, but I’m not sure if it’s a town. Anyway, as we crept forward out of the parking lot, the view east was pretty nice, but I wasn’t getting out of the RV again in those near-freezing temperatures up there. This is through the bug-spattered windshield looking east over mounds of plowed snow:

As we approached our destination, we both spotted a brown, swirling cloud directly ahead. As we got closer we could see it clearly as a massive dust devil, a mini tornado whipping around just across the road from the Chalk Creek Campground in Nathrop, our home for the night. Andrea took a picture that she will post on Facebook. It might have been a hundred feet in the air.

This is it. Last night on the road. Sitting down for dinner, the sun is lighting up the tops of some unidentified, snow covered mountains to the east,

and the Collegiate Peaks to the west. Beautiful! Nice, updated campground. Good for a one-nighter with easy pull-thru’s or as a home base for exploring the area which is worth doing. You won’t find many more mountain-scenic locations in the country. One more climb to go, Wilkerson Pass.

Monday, April 22, 7:30AM:
Fuck! It’s 33° out there, 56 in the coach. That solo space heater wasn’t up for the task. I hate those noisy overhead heaters but here goes. All that beauty outside is covered in clouds. And now Andrea has my cold.

Time to get going, “home”. We get on US-285 north for a few miles where US-24 t-bones US-285 from the east. It’s a bit confusing there because 285 becomes 24 north of the intersection and the east/west road is actually 285/24 until they split apart at Antero Junction. Got that?

As you start climbing out of the Nathrop/Buena Vista area, the Collegiate Peaks (do you see Mt. Princeton & Harvard?) scream at you in the side view mirrors to stop and take their picture. Having stopped many times before, I resisted. In a car I would have but there are few spots to pull over a huge RV. Onward.

Once beyond the view of the Collegiates and out of a pretty canyon, you’re on a somewhat flat stretch toward Antero Junction where more mountains cover the horizon to your left. I asked Andrea to take this picture:

I snuck one in also:

Once past Antero Junction, you’re in a flat valley and except for slowing down to 45 in the town of Hartsel, you can crank. Just before the summit at Wilkerson Pass on the west side is a large, unmarked pullout big enough for a few RV’s. You have to know where it is.

Now you know. The view across the valley to the distant mountains is better than this wide-angle:

One last travel photo from that pullout:

Once you peak at the pass, it’s all downhill but if you are going to take this route into Colorado Springs and I-25, be warned. Just after you pass the traffic light for Pike’s Peak, you go down 4-7% grades on a twisty-turny wild ride through the gorgeous Ute Pass, one of the better and tightest canyon drives in the country. For you newcomers, if you haven’t stopped in Colorado Springs before, put it on your list of places to visit before you die. Lots to see and do here.

And we’re back. The schmuck that owns our “home” RV park, Colorado Heights in Monument, now charges $8/day for 50 amp service. What a prick! As usual, the two nice sites are taken so we’re up on the hill.

I think that does it but only for a couple of weeks. Though the RV will be in storage, I’m going to have to post an entry or two from Greece! It should be interesting.