Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ready to Roll!

I picked up my Minnie and tow car today from Cliff's Welding and hitch shop, where it was being fitted with a Roadmaster Sterling All Terrain towbar and built in braking system. Jake, the rep who I worked with, went over all the instructions with me and walked me through all the steps of hitching and preparing to tow. I made notes of everything and took lots of pictures of each step and the final hookup, so I feel like I am as prepared as I can be.

We went back inside where he took a LOT of my money, 😆 then he walked me back out and we shook hands. He reminded me one more time to NEVER back up, and said to call if I had any questions. I hopped into Minnie and pulled out onto the street.

When I watched that car rolling along behind me in my rear view camera, I was overwhelmed with emotion and might have cried for a minute. 😉 A block down the road, I pulled over into a big parking lot just to go back and ensure everything looked okay, and to slam my Minnie door closed (because it was rattling), and then I got on the freeway ... yes, the freeway!! ... and drove her home.

The car sailed right along behind me and I didn't really feel it there other than having to keep a little closer handle on the steering wheel. It felt like it could have a tendency to wander a bit more than it does without towing.

We have been having record heat in the Valley of the Sun (more like the Surface of the Sun) this week, and packing and loading the rig has been a miserable job. But it's nearly ready, and I hope to pull out for cooler country tomorrow.

See you down the road!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fit to be Toad

I bought a 2009 Honda Fit last week and will get the tow bar installed Tuesday.
Orange was my last choice of color! I had hoped to find a decent white, blue or silver one. I looked at a few Fits and even made an offer on one that was accepted. Then the owner disappeared (thankfully before I gave him my money!) and I didn't hear from him again. Maybe he got a better offer and decided not to even let me know. Anyway, I had seen this orange one in the search results and decided I better take a look at it, since the other ones were selling so quickly.

In my research, I had settled on wanting an automatic Honda Fit. They are nice and small, lightweight, and are one of the few automatics that can be towed. I have owned 4 Hondas in my lifetime, and am very loyal to the quality of their vehicles. I figured if I could find a decent inexpensive one, I would be set for many years of enjoyment.

Daryl and I drove to Scottsdale and checked the orange one out. It was in good shape with just a few cosmetic dings (nothing major), a very sound engine and nice interior. The mileage was a little high (105k), but Hondas have a very good reputation for upward of (or more than) 200,000 miles, so I knew it still had a lot of life. I thought it over and made him an offer, which he accepted. I decided I better jump on it while I could, because used Fits are gone before you know it.

The towbar installation will cost me about 3/4 of what I paid for the car. It's a very expensive process, especially if you get a high end towbar. I knew I wanted a Roadmaster All Terrain system so I wouldn't have to deal with binding, since I travel alone. I also decided on a built in braking system, which is slightly more money than a portable brake, but a lot easier to handle. Although I'm paying a lot for this, all of the equipment will be mine and if I change cars, I can have it removed and re-installed on another car. I'll just have the labor costs.

My plans are falling into place for a Thursday departure, when I'll head north to Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana for the remainder of the summer. It's not a moment too soon, since the temperatures have been in the "one teens" this week, and forecasted to hit 120° tomorrow!!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shopping for a Toad

I've been wanting a scooter for quite a long time, so when I'm parked for a few days, I can do some running around and sightseeing. After a lot of discussion with my RV advisors, they finally changed my mind on the wisdom of that.
  • My Minnie has a moderately short wheel base and the rear end sticks out about 8 feet, which swings wide when I turn. I've already had one fender bender because of it. The extra length and weight of a scooter on the back will add to that stress on the rear end.
  • I'd want a small scooter, but one that I could go up to 45-50 mph on a highway. Intimidating!
  • I couldn't ride anyone with me; particularly my grandkids when they are camping with me.
A small car also has drawbacks.
  • Can't back up while hitched. I will have to constantly be aware of where I am and where I am going, especially in parking lots and gas stations, so I don't get into a predicament and have to hop out and deal with ...
  • Unhitching - hitching up
  • Cost - initial and ongoing. Purchase price of car & tow hitch, plus gas, license and insurance are more than a scooter.
But a small car has a lot of advantages and I think the challenges are outweighed by them. It will give me a lot of freedom to see more places and stay in camp spots that I fall in love with for a lot longer. This summer, I plan to camp for about five weeks near Glacier National Park and northern Idaho, and having a car will really allow for settling in and exploring.

Another part of my summer plans include taking my grandsons, Nathan and Steven, to South Dakota and exploring the areas near Mt. Rushmore and Badlands National Park. I already have a reservation at an RV campground (with hookups) for several nights, and we will be able to drive to the sights from there.

I can't believe where my change of attitudes have taken me already in life, and particularly in retirement. Ten years ago, I was lamenting that being an older single woman meant I could never camp again in my life. Then my family encouraged me to read blogs of other women who RV on their own and I came to realize "if they could do it, I could do it!"

I thought I would only travel the main highways and stay in populated campgrounds and RV parks. After a few experiences boondocking with Dale, I came to realize there's a whole world out there when you get off the road, and actually, the lovely, lonely woods are a lot safer than being in a locked up house in the city. (As long as there is cell phone signal!)

I've always said I would never want to deal with the hassle of a tow car, and would just plan my routes to see what I wanted to see as I drove past on my way to those (populated) campgrounds. Now, here I am shopping for a toad!

Once again, I've sought the advice of those experts, and they are helping me find a small used car and seek out a shop for installing the tow bar equipment. We haven't found the exact car yet, but I am confident something is out there. I have lots of possibilities to consider judging from the CraigsList links filling up my texting feed. Once we've found "the one", I'll be sure to post an entry here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cherry Creek Road and FR525

Dale is camped up near Cottonwood waiting for the weather to warm up enough to head north toward Alaska. I had some open days between other trips and commitments, so decided to go up and camp with him for a few days one last time before he leaves. Remembering I did not like the Thousand Trails boondocking area much from last year, he found a nicer spot on Cherry Creek Road just out of Camp Verde. The whole area is prettier this year because it has been wetter and the surrounding hills and desert are much greener and more flowery. So I really enjoyed this spot.

I drove up on Monday, arriving just after noon. I set up camp and was pleased to discover I could get 39 TV channels with my antenna. Of course, half of them were Spanish and several were religious or shopping channels, but at least I got all the network stations. Score!
On Tuesday morning, we hopped on Dale's motorcycle and went down the road to Out of Africa Wild Animal Park. The $30 admission price got us a bus tour and access to all the walking areas, plus we watched the Tiger Splash show. Dale got a picture of me feeding a giraffe from the bus. It turned into a warm day and by 2:00 we were ready to head back to our camp. After lunch and a rest, we took the motorcycle up to Montezuma's Castle to see the cliff dwellings. Our senior pass got us free admission and we enjoyed walking the trail and seeing the ruins.
On Wednesday morning, we packed up and drove about 20 miles north toward Sedona and found a nice spot on a spur road off FR525 a few miles from town. Surprisingly, I got 41 TV stations there! Later that afternoon, we walked over to a nearby site where several RVs were camped and visited with Barb from Me and My Dog.
On Thursday, we rode the motorcycle 10 miles north planning to make a short hike up to Devil's Bridge. We were unaware just how far it was and how difficult the hike would be, and we did not take our water bottles with us. Turned out, the hike was pretty tough. Between the heat, exhaustion, dehydration, difficulty of the climb, and discouragement when we kept meeting people coming down who told us we still had a long hard way to go, I was tempted to give it up. But with some shady rests, Dale's encouragement, and a determination to succeed, we finally made it, and the view was spectacular!
I was so far back from the edge you can't get a good perspective of how high this is.

Look at those boulders we had to climb up!
The height of the natural bridge and people walking out on it made me feel physically ill, and I kept having to turn away and look at the scenery elsewhere. Coming down was just as hard as going up, and it felt like an even longer walk back to the parking lot. But we made it and downed our water bottles before riding back into Sedona for a burger. When we got back to camp, we were both pretty tired and just relaxed the rest of the day.

I packed up on Friday, said goodbye to Dale for the rest of the summer, and turned south toward home just before noon. Unloading my Minnie when I get home from a trip is always something I'm anxious to get done even if I'm too tired to do it. So I put her in the back yard, got out the plastic bins and carted all the clothing, electronics and perishable foods back into the house.

My next planned sojourn will be in May when I head up to the Rim for a few days.

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.