Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Maple Bench Campground

I left the dispersed camp site near Bryce about 9:00 a.m. and drove north to Payson, UT where I turned southeast. My destination was Maple Bench Campground, a pretty, little Forest Service campground with 2 bars of AT&T signal. I had stayed there last year on my way home, so I knew right where it was. There were 3 of the 9 campsites already filled, but the nicest spot (which was the one I took last year) was vacant again, so I unhitched and backed in. Hanna and I walked about a mile up the s-t-e-e-e-e-e-p road above the campground until we were both winded, then turned around and made our way back to our camp, where we tucked in for the night.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

I slept in until about 7:00 this morning, after the best night's sleep I have had so far. Checking the indoor/outdoor thermometer, I saw it was only 54 degrees. Heaven! I took Hanna for a one mile walk, and then locked her into the Minnie, jumped into my Fit and headed up the road to Bryce.
I stopped at the Visitor's Center first to peruse the exhibits and see what I could see. It was jam packed with people. After studying the history of the park, I decided to drive to some of the lookout points instead of taking the shuttle. I wanted to be on my own time table. It worked out perfectly as I found parking at each stop.

Last year when Dale and I were here, we rode to shuttle to Sunrise, Sunset and Inspiration Points, so this time I went farther up the road to Bryce Point. I took a magnificent panorama photo from there, but I don't have enough cell signal to upload it tonight. Here are a couple regular shots I took.

From there I drove back down to Fairytale Point, which is a much smaller canyon. The sign called it "intimate" and that's what it felt like after the magnificence of Bryce Point. The sign also said eventually this canyon will be as large as Bryce Amphitheater because of the rapid erosion. Within 60 years, the trail will have to be moved. I got one pretty good shot.

I was gone from Minnie about three hours and when I got back, it was still cool inside. Hanna was glad to see me. 

I got out my stovetop pressure cooker and made a Swiss steak for dinner. I have enough for at least 2-3 more meals.  

After dinner, Hanna and I walked about two miles and saw four pronghorn in the woods and meadow. They were spooked and ran before we could get very close. 
I sat up reading and texting with family in the evening and hit the sack about 9:30. Back on the road north tomorrow morning. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Very Long Day

My dead battery was on my mind a good part of the night and I was awake at 4:00 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep so I got up about quarter to five. I turned Minnie around and jumped the Fit. Once that was running, I moved it to the back of the motor home and hitched it back up. Shortly after, I was on my way north to the Walmart auto department in Page.

The service guy said he had a battery, but it would be at least an hour before he could put it in. I took Hanna for a short walk and we climbed back in Minnie to have an early lunch and wait. It was 103 degrees out, so I had to turn my generator on and run the AC. Finally, the guy came out with the battery. Only after removing the old one did he notice it was the wrong size and he didn't have the correct one after all. He put my old one back in and sent me across the street to O'Reilly Auto Parts. Thank the Lord, they had one AND the nice clerk even installed it for me. I told him I would love him forever. It set me back almost $150.

I filled up with gas, swung through a free dump, and finally got on the road toward Bryce Canyon at 2:00. It was another steep haul from Page to Kanab and up and down from there to the turnoff toward Bryce. I'm not looking forward to calculating my gas mileage. It's definitely being affected by the extra weight I'm towing.

I found a nice boondock spot in the Dixie Forest just a few miles from the entrance to Bryce. It was 5:30 Utah time. I never drive that late! I was bushed, but took Hanna for a walk. The best moment of the day was when we  saw a doe with two fawns gambol across a meadow. (Of course, I didn't have my camera again!)

After that hard day, I treated myself to pancakes for supper. Doesn't maple syrup cure everything?

This is what happens when you drive 
a motorhome over a washboard road. 

Lake Mary Road

I left Blue Ridge around 9:00 and took Lake Mary Road northwest all the way to Flagstaff. I stopped at a Walmart to try to find a Straight Talk Verizon hotspot. I finally found one at the second Walmart. 

I checked two free dumps at Giant stations, but neither had potable water. I really wish they wouldn't put the water faucet so close to the sewer hose.  I ended up going to an RV park and paying for fresh water. 

I traveled north on Hwy 89 to the Sunset Crater turn off, but I turned left toward the forest. I knew there was dispersed camping available not far from the highway, and I found a loop site for Minnie and the Fit. 

When I went to take my key out of the Fit, I discovered a very dead battery. Even the locks wouldn't work. I spent several hours texting with my brothers, and decided to jump the car with my motor home in the morning, rehitch, and drive north to Page for a new battery, since I don't really know how old the one in there is. In addition, we researched how to pull the radio fuse (which is recommended during towing) and I will do that from now on. I really hope this fixes the problem. 

It's now Sunday morning, and I'm typing this as I sit at Walmart waiting for them to install the new battery. My plan for this afternoon is to try to make it to Bryce Canyon. There is dispersed camping in the surrounding area and I stayed there last year twice. I just hope the new battery solves the issues. Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Exploring the Coconino Forest

I was just getting ready to go over to the ranger station to spend the day with Dianna when Richard stopped by in his Forest Service truck. Since that was full of tools, I asked him to make a couple of improvements on my Minnie for me. He installed a handle on the back storage bin and a pull knob on my screen door. The day before, he and I re-taped the back corner where my electrical bin door had been ripped off the year before. (I think I'll get that repaired this fall.)
With that taken care of, I headed to Dianna's with Hanna, and we three took off to see Blue Ridge Reservoir, Baker Butte fire tower and Potato Lake. 

Blue Ridge Reservoir was huge -- much larger than I was expecting. We parked and walked the boat launch ramp and let Hanna put her feet in the water. 

Baker Butte fire tower is 30 feet high, and despite my acrophobia, I was able to climb to the top, unlike last year's 70 foot Moqui tower. It's quite a view from up there. 

Potato Lake was a murky pond (especially compared to the Reservoir) but we found a fallen log in a shady spot and had fruit and granola bar snacks we had brought along. 

I didn't take one photo all day long! What was I thinking? Just enjoying the day, the company and the views, I guess. Besides, my cell phone had no signal, so I left it in the car most of the day. 

We got back to camp in time to clean up before we went down to the Long Valley Cafe for Friday night fish fry - all you can eat and it is delicious. 

On the way back to camp, we passed a clearing with about 25-30 elk having an evening graze and drink in a pond. There was nowhere to pull off so we didn't get a picture, but take my word for it; they were awesome! 

R&D dropped me off and we said our goodbyes for the summer. Hanna and I had a walk around the campground, and turned in for the night. 

Beating the Heat

Mesa to Blue Ridge

It was 119 degrees in the Valley of the Sun this week, so I was sure glad the day had come when I could head north for cooler country.  I had things pretty well packed, and added the final items on Thursday morning, and got on the road just before 10:00. 

I hardly felt my Fit behind me as I drove through the city on my way toward Payson and beyond. But when I hit the hills, I began to notice the extra weight. Minnie's speed fell as low as 35mph and as it down shifted through the gears, it really complained (revving up to 4000rpm at times). Hanna did not like the louder noise coming from the engine, and I couldn't say I blamed her. I could almost see the gas gauge fall. 

I stopped in Payson for gas because I was down a third tank and knew it would be my last chance before Flagstaff. I learned last summer to keep my gas tank over half full any time I camped so I could run the generator. It has an automatic shutoff when you hit a quarter tank. Getting in and out of a busy gas station with the car behind me was an experience, but we made it without hitting anything or anyone. 

If I could have found a handy dump, I would have topped off my fresh water as it was down a third tank, but the free dump at the Giant station didn't have potable water, so I moved on up the road. 

Again, Minnie chugged up the steep hill from Payson to Clint's Well, but since we were stuck behind another truck and trailer that fell to 30mph, I took comfort in knowing I wasn't the one responsible for slowing the traffic behind us. 

I pulled into Blue Ridge Campground about 2:30 and got set up in my favorite space, next to the campground host, Jennifer. Jen is a teacher at my alma mater, Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, so we have a nice connection. Besides, I just really like her! 

Unhitching my car was a piece of cake. It went as smoothly as red velvet. But it sure was dusty from traveling just five feet behind my Minnie. 

I excitedly fired up my Verizon hotspot eager to let family know I had arrived safe and sound, but I couldn't get it to connect. There is a whole saga involved with my Straight Talk device and I will write all about it on a day when I don't have other activities to share, but it's too long a story to add to this overly long post, so it'll wait for another day. 

Richard & Dianna stopped by on their way back to their camp from appointments in Mesa and invited me for pizza supper. I happily accepted and joined them at their trailer for the evening. 

I will mention it's a lot cooler up here, but still plenty warm. I had to run the AC for a while when I first arrived as it was almost 90, but that's still more than 20 degrees cooler than the Valley. 

I opened all the windows that night and it was perfect. I even closed the one over my bed at about 3:00 in the morning. Hanna is settling in this time pretty well. I think she has learned the drill and doesn't need as much adjustment time. She crawled under the chair - her favorite place to sleep - and didn't come out until 7:30 the next morning. 

That's it for day one. Let the adventures begin!

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!!