Friday, March 24, 2017

Visiting the Dentist

When I retired last year, I gave up my Delta Dental plan, figuring I could go to Mexico for dental care and it would likely be more economical than the premiums and co-pays of continuing the insurance plan under COBRA. So it had been about a year since my last checkup and cleaning.

When I went to Quartzsite in January, my plan was to drive down to Yuma for a few days and visit the dentist in Mexico while I was there.When that trip was cut short due to Mom's health, I didn't make it to the dentist. I wanted to go back to Yuma in my Minnie and spend a few days camped near Richard, Dianna and Dale out near Imperial Dam. But the heat wave that hit at the end of February burned off all the appeal of that. In fact, Richard & Dianna moved to the RV park at the Yuma Proving Grounds (which R's Veteran status allows) and Dale moved north to the Prescott National Forest. So I decided to just drive my car over from Mesa, spend the night on the spare bed in R & D's rig, and go into Los Algodones the next morning, then home that afternoon. That's exactly what I did.

The dentist said my teeth looked good; even the one crown I was concerned about only needed polishing near the gum line, not re-sealing. The only glitch we ran into was after she cleaned my teeth with that gritty tooth polish they use, she flossed each one, and the dental floss and grit mixture got stuck between two molars (that don't usually have any problems). It was caught so tight, she actually had to put a spacer in between them and drill a tiny bit to get it loose. She said that has never happened before and I told her it had never happened to me either! Anyway, all is well that ends well, and we were on our way to a cute outdoor restaurant for some delicious lunch before walking back across the border.

We made a quick stop at the Purple Pharmacy on our way to the border gate to pick up a Z-Pack and some antibiotics to keep on hand. The line at the border took about an hour and a half, but it was shaded and we talked to pass the time, and before we knew it we were back in our cars headed our separate ways; R & D back to the RV park and me back to Mesa.

Thanks go to Brian and Carrie for keeping Hanna overnight and to Richard and Dianna for their hospitality.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Quartzsite, the Big Tent Sale, and a sad goodbye

I realized I never posted an update on my latest RV trip. A lot happened the last week of January / first of February, so it's not surprising I forgot.

On January 21st, I drove over to Quartzsite and into the LTVA area where Dale was camped. I bought a two week pass, with the intention of staying about nine or ten days there and then driving down to Yuma and spending a few days parked near Richard and Dianna in the LTVA out at Imperial Dam. My main focus was attending the Big Tent Sale at Q and then a visit to the dentist in Los Algodones for my annual check up. (I lost my dental insurance when I retired, so it's the Mexican dentists for me!)


The week turned out to be cold, rainy and very windy. It was so nasty, we sat inside our motor homes most of the time and listened to the wind howl outside. Richard and Dianna drove up a few days later to go to the tent sale with us. We wandered through the main exhibits, purchasing a few tidbits, and perused a few of the booths along Kuehn Road. It was a bit of a disappointment that there weren't more RV specific gadgets and deals, but it was enjoyable and now I can say I've been there and not waste my time going again. The next day, Dale and I drove up to Plomosa Rd to visit with Barbara (Me and My Dog) and Kim (Kimbopolo), two bloggers that I've been following for several years. We sat and chatted with them for a few hours, and made our way back to the LTVA. I got my things packed up with plans to head back to Mesa the next morning. Two things prompted this decision. One was the weather, which continued to be nasty and limited any outdoor activities. The other was Mom.

Our mother's health had been failing for several months, and we had recently put her on Hospice care. We thought she was doing fairly well, but it began to appear she was declining faster than we thought. I knew I had better head home and spend what little time she had left with her. Richard, Dianna and Dale agreed, and headed that direction shortly after. It was a good decision, because Mom passed away on February 3. I'm so glad we all got back to town in time for her to know we were there and visit with her a few days before she slipped away. She loved that we kids have the RVing spirit, and enjoy traveling and camping so much. It was Dad and her who inspired that in us. I know we are fulfilling her hopes and dreams for us by exploring this great big world and appreciating the wonders of nature as much as we do. Rest in peace, Mom. I'll keep you in my heart always.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Numbers recap of my 2016 Summer trip

I was on the road for 51 days, traveled 4167 miles, through 7 states (AZ, UT, WY, ID, OR, WA, MT). I visited 5 national parks (Grand Canyon, Bryce, Grand Teton, Mt. Rainier, Yellowstone).

I spent $503.40 on campgrounds and RV parks, but camped for free for 22 nights.

Minnie averaged 8.32 mpg, guzzling $1166.43 worth of gas.

The temperatures ranged from the coldest night of 31° in West Yellowstone to 103° daytime high in Boise. I drove through some hotter places, but didn't camp there.

I think the prettiest place was Mt. Rainier. The most surprising was eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, which were hot, dry, windy desert.

Summer is road construction season. Everywhere I went, some percentage of the roads had orange barrels, barricades and road work signs.

All in all, it was a great trip. I learned a few things: paper plates are the way to go; you really can shower with just 6 gallons of hot water; Hanna needs a doggie sweater for those cold nights; good cell phone signal makes every camp more pleasant; a comfortable recliner love seat would be really REALLY nice; I can squeeze my motor home through a lot of narrow busy streets; and camping really is the answer to any question.


Here's a map of stops I made.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Home!

I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. to the cracking sound of thunder and pouring rain. Now I love a good thunder storm when I'm home. I also think rain on my Minnie rooftop is the coziest sound ever. But sitting alone deep in the forest of tall Ponderosa Pines listening to lightning strike after lightning strike around me was a bit disconcerting. I jumped up to roll down my antenna, and Hanna jumped up to tell me she was awakened by the storm, too. I did something I have never, ever done. I took her into bed with me.

The storm calmed a bit over the next hour, but the rain continued to pour. About 5:00, I fell fitfully asleep and slept about an hour. I finally got up to turn up the furnace and make coffee. It was so wet outside, Hanna had to wait to go out until about 8:00, when she and I made a run for a spot fit for her to add to the numerous puddles, and quickly climbed back in the RV.

My plan for that day had been to drive to Blue Ridge Ranger Station and spend a night next to Richard and Dianna's rig before heading back to Mesa on Sunday. But in text conversations with them, I discovered it was very wet and muddy there and the Doppler radar showed promise of continuing stormy weather in the Coconino Forest. We all agreed it was probably wisest for me to head straight down I-17 toward home.

Around 11:00, I caught a break in the weather, and got on the road. After longing for home for the past week, and realizing this was my last morning to break camp and head to my brick house, I had a moment of regret that I wasn't just off to find my next campground. Then I remembered, I could go again whenever I wanted to ... I'm RETIRED!! And that bolstered my resolve to head home. I had no problems and reached the outskirts of metropolitan Phoenix about 1:30. The last 30 miles through town were some of the busiest traffic I had experienced the whole seven weeks of my travels, and I was glad to turn onto my street and see my house ahead. Hanna was very glad to be home, but looked at me expectantly as if to ask when our next journey begins.

I unloaded my leftover food, my clothes (and mountain of laundry!) and a few electronics from Minnie, and then took a long (water gluttony) shower. Hanna's shower will wait until tomorrow.


Final Push Toward Home

After leaving Grand Teton National Park, my sights were set on home, and I began my journey south. After studying the maps and my Allstays app looking for the best route, I decided to go back to Sunrise Campground, where I had spent four nights on my way up. I knew it was a good location and had a cell signal, and I wanted to stay two nights. I had done a lot of driving, and needed a "Zero Day" of rest. In fact, it was on that day of rest that I took a nap and Hanna got herself stuck under the seat again! Little stinker!
My next stop was Maple Bench Campground southeast of Payson, UT. It was a very steep one lane road up to the campground, and before I drove it, I pulled off and parked, and Hanna and I walked it. I didn't want to get into a predicament and have to back down that narrow mountain road. It turned out to be a great location with only one other couple (tenters) in the entire campground. Hanna and I walked the steep road up and down three times and got a really good workout.

The next morning, I headed south again with no particular place in mind, but with my cell phone handy, looking for a signal. I tried three areas on my way, but none of them had a signal. With the campgrounds getting more and more deserted, I wanted to be able to be in touch with someone if necessary. This point was driven home when I drove to Piute State Park south of Richfield. I passed a few fishermen along the road, but when I turned into the campground, it was empty, and I had the dreaded "No Signal" on my iPhone. I drove through anyway just to check it out. I noticed some of the roads were kind of sandy, so I drove around the patches. I could see the road condition was getting worse with no place to turn around, so I put it in reverse and tried to back up the same path I had come in. Suddenly, I couldn't go any farther, and as I gave it a little more gas, I could hear my tires spin... sluggishly. Oh rats! I knew I was in the sand. I hopped out and surveyed the situation, then got out my shovel. After digging around each tire and scraping the sand away, I was finally able to pull forward about five feet. I carefully turned into the weeds, then backed up a bit, then forward again into a non-sandy area. This went on for several minutes, hopping out many times to survey and calculate where I could move to, and finally, Minnie found solid ground and beat a track back to the main road.

I decided to keep driving south to the area where Dale and I had camped outside Bryce Canyon, as I knew we had a weak cell signal there. My Allstays app showed dispersed camping area along a different forest road, and as I drove farther up the hill, my signal got stronger. I found a nice spot on a secluded spur road and set up for two nights.

Hanna and I took a walk up the spur road that evening and found an abandoned child's ATV with a note on it saying anyone was welcome to take it, as the owners were done with it and were buying their daughter a new one. If I'd had any way to bring it home, I might have considered it.
Friday morning, Hanna and I packed up and drove south to Flagstaff and into the Coconino Forest where Dale and I had camped in July. I drove up the same road, and found an empty space just beyond the one he and I had shared, and set up an overnight camp.


Home was just 150 miles south!


Stuck!

When I left Colter Bay Campground, I drove south and took the turnoff toward Jenny Lake Visitor's Center. The entire area is under construction (for upgrades), but there is a good path down to the lake where you can get some good views or take a hike or a boat ride. Nearby fires obscured the view and I was glad Ken and Megan had been here several weeks earlier to get their great photos.
I browsed through the Visitor's Center and headed out to the parking lot. When I opened the door, Hanna didn't come meet me, which was very strange. I called her, and could hear some muffled scratching, but she still didn't come out. Upon my investigation, I found her completely stuck under the driver's seat. She was very glad to see me, but could not move. I tried for about ten minutes to get her out, but to no avail. I was starting to get a bit panicky, and decided I better see if someone could help me.

I found a ranger nearby and explained, through my tears, what had happened. He came right over and worked with me on turning, pushing and pulling, and moving the seat forward and back. Finally, we got her worked into a space where we could squeeze her through and she was in my arms, wiggling and licking. One happy puppy!!

I planned to stuff something under that seat so she couldn't get into such a predicament again, but didn't get to it for 24 hours. Yup, you guessed it. She did it again! The next afternoon as I was taking a nap, she crawled under there and got stuck again. This time, she was turned the opposite way, and I could see how she had made her way to the spot she was in, and I simply pulled her by the hind legs back out.  I immediately stuffed a blanket under there to prevent a third event.

(The above picture was taken on day two. I didn't stop to take her picture the first time, as I was frantically focused on getting her out. The second time, she had to wait while I got out the camera.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Yellowstone and GrandTetons

I got an early start on Saturday morning because I wanted to try to visit two national parks and also find a camp space that day. On my July visit to the area (with Robin and Ken), I had talked with a ranger about camping in the Teton National Forest. She had pointed out several areas where one was likely to find dispersed camps, and also mentioned that Gros Ventre campground within the southern end of GTNP often had vacancy through the summer, even late in the day on weekends. The campground has 350 spaces. My online research also revealed a second campground near Jackson Lake in GTNP with 350 spaces, and it was a bit cheaper. I figured with 700 spaces in the area, I might find one just for me, and if not, I'd boondock in the forest

As I started down the road, a motor home zipped by me, and I saw his slide was out! I thought it was likely a mistake, and tried to catch up with him to signal him to stop, but before I drew close, he slammed on his brakes and pulled over. I slowed down as I went by him, and could hear the whine of his slide motor, so I knew he was rectifying the dangerous (and gas guzzling) situation. 

I remember my first visit to Yellowstone when I was about 8, and as we drove in to the park Mom read us the book "The Night The Mountain Fell", the story of the 1959 earthquake at West Yellowstone. The road I drove hugged Quake Lake, which had been formed by the landslide.

Smoke drifted over the road from a wildfire nearby causing my eyes to sting. I kept an eye out for any signs that the road was closed, but it must have been farther away than it seemed.

I was expecting bumper to bumper traffic throughout the park, but it wasn't bad at all, and everyone was observing the 45mph speed limit. I stopped at Lower Geyser Basin


and Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful and the Visitor's Center are located.  I timed my arrival at Old Faithful just right, as she went off just about a half hour after I got there.



I stopped at the Visitors Center at West Thumb Grant Village, and then drove on through the southern part of Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park. Once there, I headed to Colter Bay Campground, and sure enough they has plenty of available spaces. I perused the small visitors center there before driving into the campground. They assign spaces when you enter since the campground is so large. They gave me a nice space, and after setting up, Hanna and I walked around several loops, making friends along the way as we chatted with several other campers.