Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Decisions, decisions.
Sitting on the backlot of Sunshine Rv

Every Rv’er goes through this process a couple times throughout their Rv life.  Which camper to pick.  Motor Home, 5th wheel, travel trailer, Class C.  Once that decision is made, which usually comes down to, do I want to drive inside of the Rv, or tow it with a truck.  Quite often pets help make that decision as well as the wife as to her preference.

For me, it has always been the 5th wheel camper, as that would afford the most space, high ceilings and easiest to maintain compared to motor homes and Class C campers and driving would be easy as I‘d be driving a truck.  Not sitting inside the camper driving a couple feet higher up in the front cab of the camper, looking down at all the little cars and seeing eye to eye with all big truckers.  But once one decides on the type of camper one is to live in, there’s now a huge decision as to length, weight, how many slides it will have and all the goodies that make the camper unique.  Oh and don’t forget about layout.  That can start the wheels spinning literally and figuratively.

I’m now on my third 5th wheel camper, or will be in the next day or two.  And this wasn’t any easy decision to make.  First off, I love the current one I’ve had for 5 years now.  It’s a Titanium 5th wheel by Glendale though they’ve gone out of business as of Jan 09.  Kind of sad as they were one of the many RV manufactures that just couldn’t hold on during the recession.

My old Titanium 5th wheel
The Titanium was a unique design in that it has a double hump up front that puts about 5 more feet of camper over the truck bed and cab.  This makes is easier to tow as a 32 foot camper only has 26 feet being pulled behind the truck.  And it’s a super aerodynamic design.

But alas, it didn’t have a lot of space in the bedroom.  But really, that was it’s only major flaw.  construction, design and style were all there.

So what made me decide to go to a bigger camper?  From a 24’ to a 31’ to a 35’ camper?   One, I’d convinced myself that as a full time Rv’er, I should have a larger bedroom.  Did I have to compromise anything else.  Yup.  Sure did.  One being that the larger the camper, the more limited places one has to stay.  Many older state parks and forest campsites can’t accommodate campers larger that 24 feet long.

Of course one always can keep searching so one doesn’t have to compromise at all, but do you know how many different manufacturers there are, and how many different designs there are as well?  It’s mind boggling. The search could take years.  And in my case, the camper I had been interested in, the Domani was discontinued while I was trying to make up my mind.  Gheez… really.
3 slides, I'm living big.

My decision was to go with the Montana, Mountaineer (Hickory Edition), now if that isn’t a mouthful I don’t know what is. I had to decide whether a smaller kitchen, going from an island kitchen to galley kitchen would work.  I figured it would be ok, since I don’t cook that much while on the road.

The Hickory edition has lots of extra features I didn’t have on the Titanium, like power leg stabilizers on the front and back of the camper, electric awning, an actual door into the bedroom, desk and entertainment unit with fireplace and two plush recliner rockers.  Even a TV in the bedroom though I doubt I’ll ever use it.

 But I’ll miss the designer spot lights in the living room and bedroom.  No stereo in the bedroom.  The kitchen sink has a really nice composite counter top and flush sink with covers over each sink as well, though the sinks are really shallow, no where near as deep as the old one in the Titanium.

My last Titanium had real hard wood floors in the kitchen and entry way.  But it was the last model that contained that anyway and it would be hard to find a new one with hardwood floors.  Unless one really steps up to the top of the line RV series.  And the new Montana doesn’t have a built in vacuum system.  Imagine.  I actually thought at that point, how cheap.

Decisions… decisions.  Bout the only other thing is the bathroom, or on-sweet which has the shower, toilet and sink all in one room.  Most campers these days, have the sink or shower actually in the bedroom.  And although the Montana has them all together, it is a pretty snug room but very well appointed.  I guess the final decision came down to the fact that the Montana has a huge basement, meaning that all the “stuff” that gets thrown into the back seat of the truck and bed of the truck will now nicely fit in the basement!  Ok, it’s probably a guy thing, but I almost started to salivate when I saw the size the basement.  Sold.

Well a very good friend wrote and said, “you are never satisfied” when he heard I was looking at getting a new camper.  I had to search deep within to see if that was a true statement or not as I value his opinion very much.  The more I contemplated it, the more I realized that I really did like the Titanium a whole lot, but I also enjoy change.  So, though it may not be practical to some people or even cost effective, for me I will enjoy the change of having a new place to call home on the open road.

It’s even a bit scary, as I’ll be towing a camper a bit larger and heavier than the previous units I‘ve owned.  My practical side says, you don’t really need it.  But I do like the excitement and challenge so I guess it’s a done deal.
there's actually walking room in the bedroom

So the decision is made and I pick up the camper in the next day of two.  Happy Thanksgiving and oh maybe the next 4 or 5 Christmas’s all rolled up into one as well.


New Camper, Part II

After a six hour drive up from Tucson, I arrived at Cattail Cove St Pk once again.  It’s Thursday, Thanksgiving day, and I’ve arrived around 2PM.  As I quickly set up in one of only two sites remaining, a St Pk volunteer came over and invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.  I’d figured I’d missed out on Thanksgiving, so it was an especially enjoyable dinner and one well worth being Thankful for.  After dinner one of the rangers sang and told some corny joke for the entertainment.

The next day, I was all set to go and drove out early to complete the last 15 miles to Sunshine Rv to pick up the camper.  A minor hitch developed that made it impossible to complete all the paperwork until Monday morning.  We needed to have a paper signed across the boarder in Calif. By a notary republic so they could wave the AZ taxes since I would be registering the camper in Florida.  Sounds a bit complicated doesn’t it?  Bottom line, it’s going to save me hundreds of dollars in taxes if not thousands.

each dining chair has stg under the seat!

With the rest of the transaction completed, my name signed on the dotted line on a half dozen legal papers and writing a check for the new camper, it was time to begin the arduous task of transferring all my “stuff” from the old camper to the new one.

Both campers were set up next to each other and two planks where run across through each doorway.  Yikes, was I going to be walking the plank metaphorically speaking.  I must admit, looking across at the new camper, I was trying to judge how comfortable I’d be towing a 35 foot camper as opposed to a 32 foot camper that towed like a 26 footer.  Would it be hardly noticeable it being technically only 3 feet longer, or would the reality of it being 9 feet longer behind the truck that would hit me once I was on the road.

Thoughts of how much more difficult will it be pulling into gas stations to fill up the truck while towing.  How would it handle going around corners?  And most importantly, how will it be backing up into a campsite for the first time, second time and beyond?  Can I get my old camper back?  NOT.  The deals done, now get packing, I told myself.

I’d done some preliminary packing before heading out, even leaving lots of storage stuff etc. back at the campsite in Tucson.  Removing all the choch kas and taking pictures off the walls.  But once one starts to unload a camper lived in for 5 years, it’s amazing the amount of stuff that needs to be transferred out of one and into the other.

Probably the hardest thing is deciding where everything will fit in the new camper.  Like all the stuff stored under the old bed now had to go into the big new basement, as the new camper had very little room under the new bed.  Finding hidden storage space under the new couch, who would have thought to look there.  Fortunately about mid way into to moving all the stuff, they were able to get me a helper, who toted stuff along with me back and forth between the two campers.  After about 4 hours, I was done transferring all the stuff, with quite a few piles of stuff just sitting on the floors of the new kitchen and living area, waiting to find a new home behind cabinet doors and drawers.  My last trek between campers was to pull all the bedding out of the old camper and put it into the new one.  Coming down the steps from the bedroom, I tripped on the bedding sheets and tumbled the last few steps right on top of all the sheets, waffle/memory foam padding and blankets breaking the fall.  I sat there all tangled up in the bedding, completely exhausted and thankful I hadn’t sprained or broken anything.

With a fork lift, Paul, one of the workers here at Sunshine Rv backed my new camper out with all the slides still open, guiding it over to a holding area where the camper would be plugged in to elect. Water and cable tv for my few days stay here until we could take that drive into Calif.  On Monday for the notary signing.

I’ve had a few days to begin to enjoy my spacious new camper.  The subtle smell of a new fabrics, carpeting and walls.  The joy of being able to walk into a bedroom with space to get around in with lots of storage for all my clothing.  How do couples do it?  I’ve filled a good ¾ all the cabinets and closets.

I’ll enjoy one more evening here, keeping warm by the fireplace and watching my big 32” TV.  I might have to become taller, or get a step stool, as many of the cabinets are very high up.  All in all, I can’t wait to move it down to Tucson and enjoy the winter  in my new camper along with my friends at Desert Trails Rv Park.
yes, I even have a hallway leading to the bedroom

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yuma Arizona, A Bonus Report

A Bonus Report
Yuma AZ

One last short report before settling in for the winter.  I had never been to Yuma AZ before.  It being on the very south western tip of Arizona, California and Mexico. I was surprised to see a vibrant city of 70,000 surrounded by flood irrigated fields on both the California and Arizona side.  Many fields of lettuce were being grown during the winter growing season.  Palm trees dotting the boarders of many fields and surrounding farm houses.   Finally only a trickle of water remaining in the Colorado River as it passes into Mexico.

Yuma has a couple of museums to check out and I concentrated on the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. One of the many Arizona State Parks currently being run by local funding and local volunteers during the many cut backs in State funding.  A very interesting site to learn about the people who were imprisoned here and what their crime was that got them here.  It eventually became the local High school and later housed many poor during the great depression.

For me the highlight of the area was learning about the Old Plank Road created over the Imperial sand dunes between Yuma and San Diego CA.  This was a brief period in our history back in the early 1900’s when cars were becoming a very popular means of transportation.  The sand dunes created a unique problem in that they couldn’t put down a solid road over the sand.  In 1915 they experimented with a design of two parallel planks for a model T to ride on.  The cars kept fall off the tracks.  In 1916 they finally got enough venture capital to build a solid wood planked road with turn outs for passing as it was only a single lane road.  The planks were built in sections and could be lifted and moved into place.

Barely a few days would go by and sand would cover portions of the road, causing delays and many accidents.  When vehicles came from opposite ends and met, one  of the vehicles would have to back up until they reached a turn out, before continuing forward.  Needless to say, there were many arguments of who that should be.  The plank road was rough and bouncy but many people would ride it to Gray’s Wells out in the middle of the desert for a picnic.  Just to experience the unique adventure of riding on a plank road.

Even though the road was only in use for 10 years, I still find it amazing how they persevered in finding a way to build a road across an ever shifting sand dunes.  Eventually a raised paved road would be built to replace it.  To be able to view a portion of the original road created during a dynamic era in our history is a great way to experience history as it almost seems to come alive in front of me.

Each one of these discoveries along the byways and highways teaches me more about how we got to where we are today.  With wonders of what could come our way in the future.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010-37 Lake Havasu to Quartzsite to Yuma Arizona


Campground:  Cattail Cove State Park, Lake Havasu Az.  $26 a night, elect/water.  Each site has an asphalt pad, and some have a tree but not much shade overall.  The surrounding ground is all raked gravel.  Boat dock and beach and some trails over and around the barren landscape overlooking the lake.

Campground:  Kofa Mt RV Park, Quartzsite Az.  $17 + tax Passport America, full hookups.  This is one of the 70 in town RV parks.  A nice neat square park with a few park models.  Friendly staff and residences.

Campground:  Cocopah Casino, Yuma Az.  $5 for 3 nights.  Dry camping.  large spacious parking lot sites designated for campers.  Within a couple miles of town and Wal-mart. I met some Rv'ers who are staying here for the winter... $50 a month.  They say it's pretty windy and dusty though.

I spent about 4 days at Cattail Cove, a nice state park, particularly if you have a boat of any kind and the summers would be great as they have their own boat dock and private beach on Lake Havasu.  It’ about a 15 mile drive into Lake Havasu proper.

From 95 one winds their way down through a canyon to get to the small park.  It was a nice place to stay for a couple of days.  Another 30 miles and I was in Parker Az and then onto Quartzsite the snowbird Mecca of the west.

Quartzsite is a hot, dry ragged town where everything looks like it’s been dusted with sand since forever.  During the winter (I’m visiting on the edge of the winter season) there are flea market type booths set up all throughout town.  Much of the towns stores, if that’s what one can call them are makeshift structures with maybe a metal roof, screen fabric sides and tables and merchandise covered in a thin layer of dust.   It’s not crowded yet, but the sleepy little town of less than 4.000 will grow by about 70,000 snowbirds within weeks.  In it’s heyday they used to get over half a million snowbirds.  Over 70 RV parks are in the town and thousands of acres of BLM land are available for long term dry camping in the winter.  No one is around during the 110 degree summers.  Two over the air tv stations are available, but they’re both Spanish.  Guess one could learn Spanish if that’s all they had to watch.

I’ve explored a few of the historical sites in the area.  Like Tyson Wash, where I saw grinding holes created by native American Indians.  These are deep holes on a rock outcropping that were ground down over the ages as the Indians would grind their corn, wheat and other type grains.  On the other side of the wash was an abandoned mine and along the walls were some impressive squiggle lines and shapes drawn by the Indians .  Found out this was the original site of Quartzsite until if flooded and destroyed the town.  They moved to the present location on higher ground.

I stopped in a bookstore called Reader’s Oasis Books.  The owner, a musician by the name of Paul Winer and affirmed naturalist told me about his life as a nudist and that he both performs music and runs the bookstore in the nude… well  ok, he does wear a mesh sack over his privates, but usually that’s it.  Today he did have a sweater on because it’s been only in the 60’s but his deep dark tan on his legs and slightly wrinkled buns were in full view. Great book store and great to meet someone who has always lived his life the way he wanted too.  He told me he went back east last year to do a concert and 1,000 people showed up to here the Nekid guy play some real razzmatazz music.  I should mention the book store has thousands of new and used books for sale, a true book worms paradise.

And of course I had to visit the memorial to HI Jolly, Hadji Ali, a camel driver brought over from Syria to manage an experiment by the Confederate Army for moving supplies across the desert.  The experiment was abandoned, Ali stayed and became a prospector.  Locals liked him and eventually built a monument to honor him and the camels he cared for.


Ok, this was the highlight of my trip through the Quartzsite area.  I drove over to Blythe Calif., about a 20 mile drive and then north on 95 for 15 more miles to see the Blythe Intaglios also referred to as geoglyphs.  These are drawings that have been either created by lining up stones on the ground, scraping a shallow trench to create an outline or tamping the ground.  The Blythe Intaglios were created by scraping the surface of the hard desert down to a lighter sand.

I believe the only other place on earth where these types of  drawings have been found have been in Peru.  The Intaglios were rediscovered in Blythe by a pilot flying over the area in 1931, George Palmer.  Some are as large as 100 feet by 90 in size.  Must have been quite the surprise seeing them for the first time.

A sign put up by the BLM marks the entrance.  I drove through the now fenced in area, once open to all ATV’s, which have caused some damage to the sites.  Driving along a rise over rough stone covered dirt tracks, I arrived at the first site.  It was early morning and the desert was still chilly from the cool night air.  A strong breeze was already picking up, meaning sand storms would follow shortly in the area.  Walking across the stone and rough rock landscape brought to mind the desolate area these drawings were created in.

The images were not all that easy to discern my being at ground level and they being much easier to view from above.  But just being on the site where they were created by an ancient Indian tribe, who knows, perhaps some only 500 years old, others could be thousands of years old.  Hard to get a date on something carved out of  the dry desert.  The native Indians that inhabit the area today do not claim them and do not know who created them.  So they could be very very old.

It got me to thinking about all the ways man tries to make sure he is remembered.  Or the gods he is creating an image of, as many of these images are believed to be of one of their gods.  How we are geared to purchase and own the land, for what 60 or 70 years and then we’re gone.  And yet the land goes on, thousands of years to millions of years and our touch can only be so brief upon the land.  Yet these Native Indians did create there geoglyphs and petroglyphs, many having survived thousands of years.  And in that spirit, people have piled rocks on top of the fence posts kind of as a remembrance.... and so did I... wanting to be remembered, even if only for a moment in time.

This may not be for everyone, but it’s of interest to me and gets me hiking across barren land and exploring these remote out of the way places.  Great way to get exercise without thinking about it.

Back in town, I had to go through some of the many flea market type vendors scattered around town.  Many catering to the RV crowd of course.  Purchased a few items along the way but mostly enjoyed talking to some of the vendors and customers.  One gal noticed my Key West T-shirt I had on which always starts a conversation.  She used to live in Fla. and traveled down to the keys and even lived there for a while.  I asked how she ended up in Quartzsite and she said she had been abandoned here.  Reminded me of the movie, Bagdad CafĂ©.  I’m sure there was much more to the story but didn’t get to hear it as we bantered back and forth about our love of Fla. and the keys and what it was like to live in Quartzsite.  You know, Quartzsite is a town of only about 4,000 folks with no good food stores or big box stores.  So most go to Parker or beyond to do any shopping.  And she described the dust storms and how everything gets covered in it.  My friend Mary Lu used to live in southern Calif.  In a place maybe like this.  The shop owner described how TV’s can catch on fire what with all the sand and dust that get caught inside the TV.  Never thought of that one…

At the Lacas Mexican Restaurant, the waitress, age about 70ish said she was glad to be working 6 days a week.  One of her customers who was leaving the area exchanged addresses and phone numbers with the waitress, saying we all like family after a while aren’t we?  She had just lost her husband 6 months ago and our waitress has a husband in the hospital.  That’s life in a small town where the workers and customers are family and look out for each other.  Even the clerk at the place I’m staying got a divorce recently and ended up in an old motorhome wondering what her next move would be.

It’s not only the places I visit, the sites and attractions, it’s the people that make the places real for me.  They become a part of the fabric of my memories and the stories I share.

note: you'll always find more pictures on my PICASA web site.

Friday, November 5, 2010

2010-36 Cottonwood to Lake Havasu Arizona

Leaving Cottonwood
Verde Valley Rail Road
Lake Havasu, AZ

Campground:  Winsor/Lake Havasu State Park, Lake Havasu, AZ.  $18, no hook-ups.  Great for fall/winter and early spring camping.  I’m within walking distance of the small beach and picnic area.  Main restroom also has good shower facilities.

Campground:  Buckskin Mountain State Park, Lake Havasu area.  $25, for electric/water hookups.  Many great shaded sites, but some in full sun.  Request a shaded site if you can as even in the fall it can be in the 90’s.  They have a restaurant and gift shop, but it wasn’t open in Nov while I was here.  The river wraps around the park and many kayakers enjoy paddling the calm waters.

Campground:  Cattail Cove State Park, Lake Havasu area.  $25, for electric/water hookups.

Note:  Lake Havasu is in an “Extended Network” area for Verizon.  This is the second location within AZ that I’ve found to have an extended network.  What that means is that although I can make and receive phone calls and receive e-mail messages on my Droid phone, I cannot get onto the internet.  So it’s back to wi-fi sites while in the area. My smart phone has temporarily become a dumb brick.

I was all set to leave Cottonwood when Bill Warner was able to get me a 1st class ticket on board the Verde Valley Train on of all days, Halloween.  Bill, known as Pumpkin Head for the day, greeted us and even got us pre-boarded on the train.  How cool to be able to be sitting in 1st class, looking out the window  as the “commoners” waited in line to get on board.

After a champagne toast, the train headed on down the steel rails through the Verde Valley.   The wheels squealing as the train went around curves in the track. As the powerful diesel engine quietly propelled us forward at about 10 miles a hour.   A lunch buffet was served and we enjoyed a good meal as the spectacular views rolled on by.  I spent most of the day out on the open deck cars, a perfect 70 degree sunny day with the occasional  thin layer of clouds sliding by.
The Verde Train

Thanks Bill for making my last day in the Cottonwood area so much fun.  I’ll miss all the folks at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and friends in the area. But….

Monday morning rolled around and I was ready to once again get back on the open road.  It would be more than a 5 hour journey to Lake Havasu and I was able to get out on the road by 7:30.  A bit early for me, but I was so eager to get on the road, that all I had left to do in the morning was close the slides, unhook the power and water and I was off.

I arrived at my first destination, Lake Havasu State Park, right in the town of Lake Havasu City home of the famous London Bridge.  I’ll be staying here for a few days, then checking out two other state parks in the area throughout the week.  One of the perks of work camping is that AZ state parks will comp their camp hosts a stay at other parks for a few days.  Winsor is right on Lake Havasu of course and I was able to get a primo site overlooking the water and the desert hills of California on the other side of the lake.

As the sun set early this evening, around 5:30 (who knows, I may be in another time-zone by now), I was able to enjoy a perfect desert sunset.  With the mountain range on the California side turning a dark black silhouette and the horizon turning a deep orange color blending into an ever darkening deep blue sky above.  Such rich colors.  So pure and deep.

I’ll enjoy a wonderful breeze through open windows this evening, as small rabbits hop around my camper in the twilight, munching on twigs and scrub.

London Bridge history lesson.  Robert McCulloch purchased the 13,000 acres for Lake Havasu for just under one million dollars back in 1963 at auction and was the only bidder.  The land was originally part of the 71% of the land owned by the Federal Gov in Arizona.  The Feds permitted the State to acquire some land for free and they could then lease it or sell it.  Hence, McCulloch was able to purchase this valuable land along the Colorado river.  As part of the development, he decided to purchase the London bridge which was up for sale in the late 60’s.  Yes the original 1825 London Bridge that we all sang songs about in our youth.  This bridge has seen of lot of history pass over it throughout the centuries including many beheadings that took place and the heads impaled on spikes along the bridge.  The bridge was purchased for $2.4 million twice what he paid for the 13,000 acres of land.  A channel was built to separate the peninsula jutting out into Lake Havasu, the bridge was rebuilt stone by stone and then rededicated in 1971. It is the second biggest visitor attraction  in Arizona behind the Grand Canyon of course.  It’s in remarkably good shape for a 300 year old bridge.  Now why can’t our bridges last that long?

While staying at Lake Havasu State park, my views of the lake have been wonderful.  The one annoying thing has been the constant noise from the boats.  The cigar boats, with their huge engines and often completely out of tune, sit idling on the lake with great roars and  thunderous guttural belching until finally taking a spurt of energy and racing across the lake, always seeming to be out of site behind the foliage along the lake shore. The casino boat crosses the lake every half hour, with a deep syncopated humming that seems to go right through me.  And of course the numerous party boats or pontoon boats cruising along to get to the other side of the lake or up the Colorado river their sounds becoming more distant the further they travel, all before turning around and making themselves heard once again on their way back.

Topock Gorge Tour:  While in Lake Havasu, I went on a 50 mile roundtrip tour up the Colorado River.  Sandy and Erich (Desert Trails Friends) joined me.  We left from our mooring at the London Bridge and headed north, through rugged barren terrain, except for the grasses and the occasional shrub and palm tree along the shore line.  The tour guide gave a monotone description of the landscape and stories about various boating enterprises along the river.  All terribly boring.  Thank goodness the scenery was worth the ride.  Love the image of the “Star Gazer” and although I only saw one petroglyphs, Sandy got a couple really great shots of the rest of them.

And lest I forget, Sandy and Erich recommended the Javelina Cantina.  Wed. is all you can eat taco's for $1 each.  Chicken, beef or bean.  I had mine on hard shells and they were home made and delicious.  Margareta's on special as well.  Good food, great prices on Wed. The locasl know about it and they don't advertise the specials... you have to know about it.

Thursday I headed down the road to Buckskin Mountain State Park for two days.  This is a very popular park.  I was given a great shaded site and with a bit of difficulty I finally backed into the site.  Odd how sometimes, it’s a piece of cake to back in and other times you’d think I was drunk on peyote buttons or something.  What’s nice is it’s a very quiet park and no loud motor boats passing by.

I have one more state park to hit, Cattail State Park, before heading south to Parker and Quartzsite, the winter home of thousands of snowbirds.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010-36 Work Camping, Cottonwood Arizona

Cottonwood AZ
Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Lagoons at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

This month has flown by so quickly.  As you may remember, I have been work camping at Dead Horse Ranch State Park here in Cottonwood.  I’ve been working in Quail Loop which has 45 campsites, mostly electric and many pull thru’s.  Because our camp loop has the most shade trees, most campers try to get into our loop and it’s been full many weekends and continues to be filled throughout the week as well.

Fred and Jo are fellow work campers in my loop and this is their first time to work camp here at Dead Horse.  They’re from Wisconsin and had never gone camping before.  Having lived in town in a condo.  One day they got a bug up their butt and decided to chuck the ole work a day world.  Did some research on the Rv lifestyle and before you knew it, they were out on the open road.  We also have Jerry (a pretty little gal) who’s also in our circle and is work camping in a small Casita camper.  She’s divorced from Bob who has been work camping here for years.  They remain friends and I often see them sitting outside enjoying the cool evenings.

cutting wood, one of our Camp Host duties

Eric our Ranger who’s in charge of all of us work campers (and does a darn good job of it) has gotten married this past year, has a new baby boy who I like to call Little Eric.

It’s nice to be around all the other work campers, giving back to the community and enjoying friends I’ve met over the past couple of years in the area.

John Hoopes, a friend from the area and I went to Scottsdale last week to see Taliesin West.  Frank Lloyd Wrights  winter home and architecture school.  We took the 90 minute tour which included his personal rooms, large expansive angled ceilings, originally just large beams and canvas.  (They had no idea wha the winters would be like in Scottsdale Az.)  Compact bedrooms, his and hers as it was common to sleep separately back then.  Huge walk in fireplaces, even in the bedrooms.  A dynamic, demanding, inventive, creative person who lived his life exactly the way he saw it.  Never compromising.  Not always an easy person to get along with as many of his clients would testify.  But can you imagine what a joy it must be to live ones life  fully to the beat of your own drum… never getting out of step.

Taliesin West, Frank L Wright 

I’ve gone up to Jerome a few times, the most active ghost town that was once a mining town clinging to the side of a mountain.  Now filled with artsy shops and hippies from the 70’s that found the place and have claimed it as their own.  The winding cliff hanger road leading to the town will get your heart pumping real good.  If that doesn’t work, a good walk along the winding roads and sidewalks along the three main levels of town will work up a good appetite.

Jerome, Az
In a few days I’ll be heading out to tour Lake Havasu, Quartzite, Park dam, Yuma, Organ Pipe and a few other places on my way to Tucson for the winter.  So you can expect one more report as I sneak in one more adventure before settling in for the winter.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Travel Costs for the 2010 Season

For all of my traveling readers or future travelers, I thought I'd once again provide a few basic cost expenses as I traveled along the byways and highways this past season.  I traveled over 7,700 miles as you can see by the map.  I started in March and ended on Oct 1st.

click on picture to enlarge
Note: sorry the table does not come out correctly in this Blog.... oh well.


        DAILY             Monthly         Monthly                       Other
                Avg          CAMPSITE       FUEL                        EXPENSES, 

April   $15.24           $457.17        $263.56
May  $20.99           $629.82        $231.32
June              $16.40            $492.11        $389.46                 $180.61
July               $21.19 $635.65        $336.46
August $23.98            $719.34        $430.38 $1,574.14
Sept             $12.48            $374.45        $724.58                  $268.05
October      $0.00                $0.00 TBD                     TBD

One of the things I usually try to do is use my half price camp club sites to lower the cost of my monthly overall camping fees.  As you can see that only worked for about half of the months, as any that averaged over $20, I was either unable to use Passport America or just found myself in areas that I stayed for longer periods of time at a higher camping rate.  The other camping discount club Recreation USA was a disappointment this year, as many of the campsites I tried to get into, no longer recognized Rec USA or had never heard of them.  Forcing me to pay a higher price than planned.   I will probably not renew my membership with them.

It should also be noted that many State parks have upped their camping fees to $25 a night.  Dead Horse Ranch State Park, where I'm currently a camp host, just raised it's rates to $25 a night as of Oct 1st.  This of course puts quite a damper on all of us full-timers and will in my case restrict some of the places I would like to camp.

Fortunately, as of this coming July 2011, I'll be able to purchase the National Park Pass which not only get me into National Parks, Forests, BLM land for free, any campgrounds in those parks will be half off.  I'm really looking forward to that.

Looking at the fuel expenses, you'll notice that they stayed in the $250 to $400 range most of the season.  That is because I traveled shorter distances and stayed longer at each site.  My last month on the road, I traveled across the Northern tier states on my way to AZ to do some camp host work.  By traveling such long distances in one month, the fuel bill jumped to $724.  Showing ones fuel expenses can sky rocket when traveling long distances, that and the cost of diesel fuel also jumped in Sept.  I was able to offset the cost of fuel in Sept by reducing the camp site fees to almost half what I would normally spend.  Wal-mart parking and a few discount campsites really helped out there.

the only other expenses were those out of the ordinary expenses for things like Insurance, tires, repairs along the way.  One has to budget for those expenses, so that when they come along, they aren't devastating.  I always put money aside for those unexpected expenses so that when they occur, I know I can afford it without any worry.

I hope that helps all you campers and wanna be campers get an idea of travel expenses.

Looking back

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010-35 Price Utah to Moab to Cottonwood Arizona

Price Utah
Moab Utah
Cottonwood AZ

Nine Mile Canyon
Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail
Dead Horse Ranch State Park (Work Camping)

Campground:  OK Rv Park, Moab.  A Passport America park.  ½ off.  $15 + $1 is using a/c.  It’s about 5 miles from town.  Well maintained park, with free cable tv (lots of channels), full hookups, easy pull thru sites.  Some shade trees, but mainly sunny sites.  Ps: Sept and Oct are really busy so call ahead for reservations.

Campground:  Goulding’s Camp Park.  $25 dry camping.  Sites with full hookups were full up.  I believe they cost around $45 per night, w/cable tv.  Indoor pool, museum and movie memorabilia near the lodge.  Across from Monument Valley.

What a fun and interesting drive from Evanston WY to Price Utah.  The canyon’s, mesas and mountain ranges kept changing constantly.  As I passed through Provo Utah, I headed into an awesome canyon with huge windmill generators at the head of it.

In Price, I discovered the Nine Mile Canyon, which contains the longest gallery of petroglyphs in the world.  It’s over 40 miles long.  The canyon was accidentally name the same as a nine mile creek in the area and has retained the name ever since.  I started my adventure early in the morning, knowing I’d be making many stops along the way.  A couple miles into the journey, a met up with a family of three who were getting a free guided tour by Ivan “the terrible”, though I can tell you he wasn’t.  Ivan is part of a group that is trying their best to preserve this valuable resource.

Nice to be able to join a group and be welcomed along as we all explored the canyons and rock art.  I misplaced my brochure where I wrote everyone’s name on it, so I’ll just have to say the daughter is a college professor in the area and Ivan (retired) has taken one of the daughters classes in philosophy.

When we went into the Big Daddy Canyon, where much of the petroglyphs are, storage granaries and a number of ranches we even saw a good sized gas processing plant.  So needless to say, this huge canyon is still vibrant and active day to day.

Each site I’ve visited seems to have unique drawings that are no where else.  Big Daddy Canyon has one petroglyph of a pregnant buffalo.  Now I would have never see it, as it was around the side of a canyon wall and one has to squeeze between a barbed wire fence.  Ivan of course knew about it and how to find it.  Ivan also explained which symbols are related to the Hopi Indians, the last tribe to possibly write on these walls.

Interesting how the people interested in preserving the rock art are going about trying to preserve it.  As some of it is being damaged by dust from the gravel and dirt roads being mixed with the fumes of diesel fueled trucks.  I believe they would like to see the commercial mining trucks removed.  Ivan even suggested that another road be re-built to accommodate the commercial truck traffic.  I see it as a simpler solution.  Pave the roads going into the canyon.  That step alone would stop the dust coming up from the dirt roads.  It would aid the half dozen ranches, the mining and gas company vehicles as well as make it much easier for tourist to visit the rock art.  Of course, paved roads could also bring in many more tourists who have the potential to do damage to the rock art as well.  Ivan’s keen eye even noted a new bullet hole in one of the rock walls above the petroglyphs.  His group cleaned a small section of wall and with months, the section was covered with dust.  Which also is covering many of the drawings…

After a full day of touring this fascinating canyon, I head on down to Moab.  I’ve dropped altitude from about 7,000 feet down to 4,000 feet and it’s once again getting hot out.  Mid 80’s today, high 80‘s tomorrow.  Moab is not the kind of place I’d care to be in the summer months.  It can get very hot in this arid dry climate.

I’ve been to Arches NP, which is so worth touring, however, since there are so many other sites to see in the area, I’ll be bypassing Arches this time around.  One site I found is called Mills Canyon Dinosaur Trail.  To be able to see dinosaur bones still in the rock and rubble before being excavated is a new experience for me.  As I walk around the loop trail with it’s many signs describing the various thigh bones and hip bones and toes I have a much better appreciation of what an archeologist has to do to get these bones out of the ground.  It has to be a lot of work.  So here I am walking where dinosaurs walked in what was once a marshy wet land area near a lake.  Now that’s a bit hard to grasp when I’m sweating in a hot arid desert type setting.

A note on Moab UT.  They have some great restaurants, Like the Brewery and the Moab Diner.  And anyone who’s into ATV’s, ORV’S, biking, boat rides on the muddy Colorado River, this is the place for you.

I’m spending a day in the Monument Valley area, at the original Goulding’s Trading Post.  It’s now a full lodge, museum and campground.  As I traveled along hwy 163 through Mexican Hat and onto Canyon Lands, the western scenery that we’ve all scene in countless westerns with John Wayne on up through Back to the Future III, comes to life over every ridge of red sandstone.

Wild horses roam along the open range, majestic shaped sandstone structures with names like Mitchell Butte, Sentinel Mesa, Castle Butte, King on the Throne and so many others punch above the landscape creating long shadows with their presence.

One learns so much about the land and the people to came here to make a living.  Like Harry and Leone (Mike) his wife who were able to buy some land across from Monument Valley after the Paiute Indians relocated their reservation to another local.  After setting up the trading post in the 1920’s all went down hill with the great depression.  Not only for the trading post but for the local Indians as well.  Harry heard about a Hollywood studio scouting for places out west for a movie.  So he and Mike took off for Hollywood with the last of their money, $60 to see if they could get Monument valley as a setting for the movie.  He met John Ford, the famous director and of course the film was made out here.  Along with many more afterwards.

It helped establish Monument Valley for movies and a tourist destination.  A German photographer ended up here about the same time and his photography of the area helped to promote the area as well.  Interesting, the German photographer was living in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, and at one point, he hit Hitler with a tomato.  Needless to say, as Hitler grew in power, the German realized he’d better get out before you know what happened to him.  Fascinating stories that seem to link so many disparate things in the world into one.  Showing how we really are all linked in some way.

The sad news for all my readers is that I’ve arrived in Cottonwood, where I’ll be camp hosting at Dead Horse Ranch State Park once again.  So unfortunately, unless I can come up with some adventures while staying here, the Roving Reports have come to an abrupt end for the season.

I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me to have you along on my journey.  When I write a report, I often think about each and every one of you and how you might react to a story.  Often putting in bits that I think might interest you.

I hope you have learned something along the way and hopefully had a laugh or two as well.

Until I start up my adventures again,  Safe travels and adventures to where ever you go.

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010-34 Grand Teton NP, Wyoming


Grand Teton
Jackson Wyoming

rugged scenery before heading to Teton

Campground:  Gros Ventre, Grand Teton NP.  $20 dry camping.  Basic bathrooms, water and dump station up front.  Lots of wildlife in the area and they often come through the campground including buffalo and moose.  Three over the air Tv stations available.

Campground:  Walmart, Evanston Wy.  $0.  The store is tucked away behind all these other big buildings.  The parking lot stretches out.  Filled with cars close to Walmart, semi trucks in the outer lot and by evening a helter-skelter array of campers.  Very noisy from highway traffic, trains and semi’s coming and going.

Campground:  Walmart, Price Utah.  $0. Ok, I’m getting hooked on free parking.  Only two campers at this point in the parking lot.  

After a couple of days of enjoying the hot mineral pools of Thermopolis, I still love the name, it was time to head on over to the Grand Teton NP.  Just south of Thermopolis is the Wind River Canyon.  One of the most spectacular deep canyons I’ve ever traveled through.  Lots of pullouts to ohh and ahh over as I descended into the canyon and through three tunnels.  The Wind river flowing over rocks, crashing and churning as it wound it’s way through the canyon.  Opposite were the train tracks and multiple tunnels for it that looked more like mining entrances than tunnels for a train.

High country, before going over a pass into Grand Teton

I had to climb Togwotee Pass on my way into the Grand Teton valley with an elevation of 9,658 feet.  Sure glad I had the truck serviced before this part of the journey.  Awesome views as the cottonwood, some aspen and others are all turning a golden yellow.  Even the low scrub along the valley floors and creeks have turned a golden yellow creating a mosaic pattern on the landscape .  Then of course, there had to be road construction.  At 9,000 feet they had completely torn up 5 miles of roadway and were feverishly rebuilding the roadway.  That of course translates to 5 miles of mud, dirt and rockie roadway following a lead car through the construction zone, past huge earth movers, graders and trucks hauling dirt.

Grand Teton approx. 60 miles away

Finally making it over the pass, views of the Grand Tetons come into view.  Pulling off to enjoy the view in a chilly 50 degrees was well worth the stop.  And of course taking a ton of pictures hoping to catch the grandeur of the scenery.  

Having arrived at Gros Ventre, I sent up camp on an open plain surrounded by sagebrush and cottonwoods  all golden yellow off in the distance.  As I had asked for a sunny location so my solar panels would work their best.  My first night in camp, the temperature plunged quickly after dark.  My gas furnace ran constantly throughout the night and when I woke the next morning, it was a bone chilling 25 degrees.  

I quickly got dressed and headed out shortly thereafter for my meeting with the manager of the campgrounds in Grand Teton NP.  Along the 30 plus miles to the other end of the park, I saw a wolf out in on the range, a huge herd of buffalo crossing through the campground and three big eared mule deer.  

It’s a contractor who performs the work for the national park and I was to check out the requirements for the camp host job.  I had been told they expected one to work 40 to 48 hours a week.  The manager verified that was correct and we discussed some of the duties.  This is a full paying position and a campsite is also provided, though I believe one has to pay a small amount for the monthly campsite.

Now I can’t remember working that many hours since I was about 20 years old and that only lasted one year.  I had worked as an assistant manager of a 7-11 and the work was non stop.  It nearly killed me.  This job, the work would be less intense perhaps, but still working a possible 48 hours a week is a bit much.  After all, I am retired.  

Though I absolutely love the area, I believe I will decline the job.  It would also involve working for 5 months and that is way too long of a commitment for a work camp job.  Since I will hit the magic “62” this coming July, (I’m really about 45 in spirit anyway) I will be able to come back to the area and stay in the NP campgrounds for half price.  Yes, that would be $10 a night.  Usually with a limit of 14 days at each campsite, I could easily enjoy a month in the Tetons, and perhaps another month in Yellowstone, just a stones throw from Grand Teton.  There are benefits to getting older.

In the mean time, I’m enjoying the most wonderful fall days here in Jackson Hole Wy.  Although the nights are cold the days warm up to 70 and with those rich blue skies and sunny days who could ask for more.  I love the cottonwood and aspen in their royal gold fall colors.  I believe I timed it perfectly.  I had never seen aspen change color and they are just stunning, as I knew they would be.

And of course I’ve already committed to doing a bit of camp host work for Dead Horse Ranch St Pk in Az in Oct and possibly Nov.  Now there’s a good camp host job.  4 hour work days for which I get a campsite free.  And  of course I get to meet up again with some great people who work and live in the area.  So from here I’ll be boogying across the rest of Wyoming, Utah and into Arizona in short order.  

Along the way, I’ve been reading a Louis L’Amour book, The Lonesome Gods.  Quite an epic tale of a family heading out west and into California.  

I spent my last day in Jackson, it is not Jackson Hole as many people think.  Only the surrounding area is called Jackson Hole.  The town is on the edge of two ski areas and contains almost 30 art galleries.  Along with some pretty upscale jewelry stores and shops with everything from western wear, western inspired rugs to the numerous T-shirt shops.  Tons of good restaurants to try out like the Cadillac Ranch. With a nice square park setting in the center of town.  I talked to one gallery owner and suggested his busiest time of year must be in the winter with all the skiers in town.  He informed me that the busiest time of year is the short summer months of  late June, July and August.  Said most skiers were of the professional type since both ski areas were on some pretty vertical mountains.  Meaning you have to be a pretty good skier to come here.  So the skiers stay on the hills all day and rarely come into town except to dine.  In the winter thousands of Elk migrate to a preserve right on the edge of town and one can take sleigh rides through the herds of elk.  Can you imagine being surrounded by picturesque snow covered mountains on a sleigh ride.

I’ll be heading through Utah on my way into Arizona and from what I’ve seen so far, the state has some pretty awesome mountain ranges and valleys in-between.  All the fall colors are out, maybe not as spectacular as back east, but still a joy to see the reds and bright yellows of fall.  Heading through one large canyon outside of Provo Utah, a doze huge wind generators were at the mouth of the large canyon.  Constantly taking advantage of the breeze being funneled through.  Many of those valleys are heavily irrigated and the farm lands are rich and bountiful.  

My next report will be from Price Utah, Moab and beyond.  Keep the adventure alive within you and explore something new each day. 

more photo's posted on Picasa.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010-33 Thermopolis Wyoming, A BONUS REPORT


A Bonus Report

Thermopolis Wyoming
Legend Rock Petroglyphs

Campground:  Fountain of Youth Rv Park, Thermopolis.  $33 per night, full hookups.  No Tv reception.  Large mineral hot spring pools included in cost of camping. Older campground. Small concrete pad and picnic table at each site. Spectacular view of red rock cliffs and surrounding mountains.  Trains, but no whistle blowing.

By golly by gosh, what a spectacular drive from Cody Wy to Thermopolis.  Broad vistas of open range, rugged grass and sage covered landscapes that change with each passing cloud and splash of sunshine.  Pronghorn standing in groups or alone like statues on these wild range lands.  A lonely black cow grazing of the dry fall grasses.

As I drive down the hill into Thermopolis, 3 mule deer walk out into the road, with not a care in the world.  The next day as I drive back into town, their they are again.  Maybe they’ve been hired to greet newcomers.  And of course with a name like Thermopolis, I just had to put it on my list of places to visit.  The name alone sounds so Orwellian doesn’t it?  

And here I am after arriving at the Fountain of Youth.  You may not recognize me the next time you see me .  These campers are serious about their hot springs bathing, as I see folks walking to the pools early in the morning, midday and into the evening.  Often going back several times each day.  The owner sings his heart out in the evening while we paddle around the large heated pools.  


As you know, for those of you who have followed my travels, I have quite an interest in the Native Indian rock art.  While touring the Thermopolis area, I discovered that they have a great state park called Legend Rock.  It’s about 20 miles north of Thermopolis. Down a road pointing to Hamilton Dome, across open range land, right onto a well maintained dirt road ( have I mentioned how dirty my truck has become lately), left down an unmarked dirt road and through a gate I had to sign for access earlier and obtain a key to enter.

The State/BLM has built a small new visitor center which isn’t quiet open yet and they also have hookups for one “work camper”.  Should probably be completed in a couple more months.  Might make a neat location for anyone looking to sign up for a remote work camp experience.

The site contains over 300 petroglyphs, some being over 11,000 years old to as new as 100 years old.  Legend Rock contains Dinwoody petroglyphs that are only in Big Horn and the Wind River Basins.  They contain some most interesting features such as unusual amount of toes or fingers and figures that are upside down.  Some containing human figures with interior lines in the torso.  These are features seldom if ever seen at other sites.

I had the place to myself and it was neat to experience an historical site in silence.  With just the soft whistle of a breeze occasionally or the sound of water flowing over rocks along the Cottonwood creek.  The sun was bright yet the air was a chilly 48 degrees this morning.  Though it felt warmer up against the rock cliffs where the petroglyphs have been etched.  Giving me a chance to experience the warmth that the Indians enjoyed when they built their winter dwellings along the south facing cliffs.

Climbing up to the cliff walls, I was able to get within inches of the petroglyphs.  Seeing the deep chipping action used to create some of the glyphs, others were much finer and barely showed where the chipping away of stone had occurred.  They were so smooth and fully pecked away as to look smoothly formed figures.  I was intrigued by the figure that was portrayed upside down and some of the human forms that seemed to stretch and have multiple arms or unusual headdresses on.  

This is the kind of exploration I enjoy.  Seeing an ancient Indian art form from 11,000 years ago, still speaking to us today and having the time to contemplate those who walked this land thousands of years ago.

The following morning, as I soaked once again in the hot mineral springs pool, steam rising up into the chilly morning air, the owner, a cowboy preacher came on stage and sang a few “non-denominational” songs.  Mostly from my point of view anyway, poorly written songs, but done with good guitar backgrounds.  Then a preachy sermon on not condemning others.  And how each of us hears the same thing, yet interprets it in our own way.  Spoke a lot about his own life, making a lot of money early on and being quite arrogant but not knowing it at the time.  (He owns a number of businesses in town including the Fountain of Youth Rv park.)  So he used his life as a reflection of change and growth along the way.

Folks either sat in chairs around the stage or continued to swim in the pool, some lined up along the sides to listen more intently.  Others playing quietly with their kids in the hot mineral pools.  The sun sparkling across the blue waters and the sky.

I wander off after a while as the lessons he is preaching about just don’t seem to resonate with where I am on this sunny crystal clear day.  I feel very in tune with the natural surroundings and life feels very good.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Hot Springs State Park, where one can take a plunge in the hot springs for free as well as entry into the park for free.  It having been a part of the local Indian Reservation.  When the Indians sold this section off, they insisted that the springs always be free to get into.  And so it is to this day.

And, and even more, I visited the famous Wyoming Dinosaur Center, which has the largest Supersaurus on display at 106 feet long.  Weighed about 40 tons.  But more than that, the displays chronicle the evolution of our planet for single cell organisms on up through the ages of dinosaurs.  An excellent exhibit if one takes the time to read all the placards and view all the fossil displays along the way.    

Whew, I’ve seen enough for a couple of days, I’m jumping back into the hot springs one more time.

Till the next adventure come around, have a super great day.