Sunday, December 31, 2017

12/31 Happy New Year & a Year-End Summary

Instead of sending out a Christmas letter, I put thing together as a summary of the past year.  Here are some statistics:

  • I started 2017 in Florida, and then headed to Ohio in April.  After visiting with family and friends in Ohio and Michigan, I headed west to California, via Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and finally Grand Canyon in Arizona where I met my son and his family for a few days.  Next was Utah, and finally back to Colorado to find some cooler temps in higher altitudes.  After several weeks at elevations from 7,500’ to 9,600’ in western Colorado, I headed north to Oregon and then down to northeast California to meet up with some other solo women RVers.  
  • I ended up driving 17,581 miles in 2017, about 4,000 miles less than in 2016.  I have been trying to save money by staying in places longer and staying at more federal campgrounds where I get a discount.  I used 2,234 gallons of gas this past year, which cost me $5,734.  Expensive, but it is not cheap to haul your home and all your belongings all over the country.  I also spent a lot of money on campgrounds, but camping fees averages out to about what you would spend on a mortgage for a home. 
  • I spent only $299 on propane this past year to heat water, run furnace, cook, and run my refrigerator while driving.  That compares to $218 in 2016, $230 in 2015, and $365 in 2014.  A tank of propane costs me about $30 and lasts about 6 weeks unless it is very cold outside.  Since I spent a lot of the fall and early winter in cold places, the increase makes sense. 
  • I thought I spent a lot of money on maintenance last year, but I ended up spending even more in 2017—a total of over $6,000.  The biggest expenditures were for slide roller repairs and all new brakes.  And, I broke my own record for replacing the house water pump once a year—this year, I had to get it replaced twice.  Most people have no problems with water pumps lasting several years, but mine seem to be constantly failing.  
  • Water use stayed the same.  I average about 10 gallons of water per day for a hot shower and washing dishes once a day, so that totals about 3,650 gallons per year, which is a lot less than the average person uses.  You tend to conserve water when you have to drive to a dump station and empty it down the sewer yourself.  

While all of this sounds horribly expensive, remember that I have no other vehicles other than my motorhome.  In addition, I do not pay property taxes or utility bills, and I don't own a house or condo with maintenance costs.  Since I am retired, I don't need clothes or shoes for work, nor do I have to commute to an office.  And I have not bought winter clothing for years! 

I am still very much enjoying this life and have no intentions to quit.  I visited with some cousins in Florida this winter and also got together with some other RVing women in Tampa, Arizona, Eagle Lake in northern California, and in San Diego.  

12/29 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH

I'm in Ohio for a few days visiting family, so one trip we took was to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland.  I had never been before, but it is really an enormous exhibit.  However, being as old as I am, I stopped taking pictures when the exhibits got beyond the 70s!  If you want to know about more recent artists, you need to go there yourself.

 Not sure what the giant hotdog had to do with Rock m' Roll, but I think it was part of the overall ambiance and an art exhibit. 

Here are some photos of the exhibits that are organized by era.  

Muddy Water's guitar.
Some early soul singers. 

Country and folk music.

 They had several items from Elvis.  Here is one of his performance outfits.

And Jerry Lee Lewis at the piano along with more things that belonged to Elvis.

And since I am from Detroit and grew up in the 50s....

More 50s stuff.

Michael Jackson's belt.

And some outfits and other stuff.

  And of course, his glove.

There was a lot more, but I got tired of taking photos.  It really was a worthwhile visit, especially since it was much too cold to do anything outside.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

12/24 North of Las Vegas

I have not been posting lately and no photos today.  Mostly, I have been visiting family and traveling in not-very interesting places.  I also spent a day-and-a-half in Bakersfield, CA, dealing with motorhome problems and another half-day in Fairfield, CA, getting my squealing brakes looked at.   

This year has been a really bad one for maintenance expenses.  Here are just a few for those of you who think RVing is an inexpensive way to live.  Note that this list consists of only the larger repairs.  Smaller parts and self-maintenance things are not included:
  • New toilet in Ft. Myers, FL, in February.  It was leaking, and I tried to fix it myself, then called a mobile RV repairman who also tried to replace the seal, and was unsuccessful.  After deciding I needed an entirely new toilet, ended up at the only place that would order one for me--Camping World.  Except the one that they ordered did not fit, so they installed another model in a hurry before they closed that day.  Cost = $480, and I still had an odor problem from underneath somewhere. 
  • New house water pump in GA.  Cost = $273 except the guy never told me he had left the faucet on slightly in the bathroom.  So, I turned the water on in the kitchen to wash my hands, and drove an hour farther north.  Ended up with a flood because RV sinks do not have overflow holes, so it took me over an hour to clean up the mess and wet rug.  
  • In Ohio, got AC unit cleaned and oil change in both vehicle and generator for a total of $454.  Nice service man found me a new glass microwave tray they had salvaged from a microwave they had replaced.  Microwave door had opened because I had not latched it properly as I drove and glass tray broke, making a serious mess of bits of glass I had to clean up. 
  • CO detector gave out in Ohio later in May, so I had to replace it.  Could not find the right one that screwed into same place so I super-glued it in place.  (I know, I know.) Cost = $54.
  • Also, in Ohio in May, the driver's side slide started not sliding  Found a dealer who charged me only $155 for tracing the wires and replacing a fuse.  Why would they put a fuse under my bed in a compartment shared by my electrical converter and rear furnace???  At least I will know where it is next time. 
  • In July, in Colorado, I had to have the vehicle transmission flushed after it acted up going down a high pass.  Cost = $315.
  • Also in July, but in Oregon, I found a Camping World that would replace my "new" Georgia water pump under warranty, but I had to pay the installation costs.  I have had a total of  six water pumps in five years, but have never been able to determine why so many quit working in my motorhome.  Also, was still having an odor problem from the area behind the sink, so got them to reset the new toilet I had had installed in Florida.  Cost for labor was $260.  Are you getting dizzy yet?  I can assure you I am really tired of maintenance costs and waiting in dealerships. 
  • Even though the Colorado Ford dealer who flushed my transmission told me my brakes were fine, they failed in northern California, so I spent two days in a tire place to get all four wheels done.  Cost was $1,960.  Yikes! 
  • September was a good month, except my brakes squealed a lot.  So, in October, got a brake place in Fresno, CA, to check them out.  Cost for checking them and new wiper blades was $235.
  • In December, my driver's side slide started making noise, so I discovered a roller had broken off.  Called manufacturer's customer service people and tried to find a dealer that would fix it.  I learned this required taking off entire slide, which is a major task and required a forklift and someone who knows Fleetwood products. Tried several Fleetwood dealers in California and Nevada where I am going to be in January, but had trouble getting an appointment and someone who would try to fix it by tilting slide, which manufacturer said might work and would be a lot cheaper.  Took motorhome to Camping World in Bakersfield.  Rented a car and had to spent the night in a hotel.  Problem was they did not have a replacement roller, so bent the old one back into shape and would not warranty the fix.  I was OK with this because I could not wait for a part and am hoping it would last a while.  Cost of repair was $1,200, plus $220 for hotel and car rental!!!
  • Brakes still squealing and pulling to right, and in Death Valley, the front end of my vehicle started vibrating and hopping going down a mountain.  Ended up getting them checked back in Fairfield, except they said problem was my front tires which were cupped so they rotated them.  No cost, but brakes still pull to right. 
Anyway, this is my sad story for repairs this year.  I am hoping 2018 will be a lot better!!  I am spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a gorgeous state park and then flying out to visit more family on Tuesday.  So far, slide is still working, but second water pump is acting up, as is usual, so I am hoping things last for a new months.   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

12-9 Ash Meadows Wilflife Refuge

About 50 miles east of Death Valley, in some of the driest desert in the country, there is an amazing place.  In the 70s, the area was privately owned and farmed, using the water from the many springs to grow crops.  In the 80s, it was purchased by a land developer to build into a town with houses, apartments, condos, and stores.  After a hue and cry from environmentalists who wanted this unique place preserved, the development was stopped and the land purchased by the Nature Conservancy, which donated it to the federal government.  

There are two roads into the sanctuary.  The southern entrance is 7 miles long and entirely dirt.  The western entrance is paved a couple of miles, and then dirt for the next four miles.  Internal roads are entirely dirt and very narrow, so it is not recommended to take something like my motorhome on several of the internal roads.  However, even though I hate dirt roads, it is completely worth the drive.  The paved part of the western entrance looks like this.

Only two inches of rain does not produce what most of us think of as a "meadows."

Just past the entrance sign, the road becomes entirely dirt.  At least, there is not much traffic, although two really irritating off-road vehicles went roaring past, kicking up a huge dust cloud!  

Since I was last here, they have finished the new visitor center. The previous one was in a double-wide trailer, so this is very nice. 

This map shows the location of the several springs in the area of the refuge. 

This shows how the springs ended up in this desert, a long way from the mountains where they originated. 

Not only is the springs fossil water, but so was the terrific water at my campground, about 15 miles away, behind a gas station in the middle of nowhere.  It tasted great, so I filled a couple of jugs. 

Detail of the water explanation.

Nice RV and bus parking. 

Behind the visitor center is the boardwalk to Crystal Springs. 

There are no leaves on the trees because it is December, but the hanging plants are mistletoe, and become green later in the winter. 

This looks more like a meadow, but it is an alkaline meadow.  It will be green in the spring. 

And here is Crystal Springs.  It produces about 10 million gallons of water per day, running off in a couple of creeks.  Living in the spring are endangered pupfish and some crayfish. Various ducks and waterfowl also stop at this area as they fly over.  

The white areas are bare sand.  The darker areas are algae that the pupfish eat.  I could see fish swimming around, but they are tiny and territorial, so they do not swim in schools.

Because they is seldom rain, footprints stay a long time.  There was a lot of action going on around the boardwalk.  Most of the prints looked the size of rabbits, but I did notice some bighorn sheep prints.

Most of these trees were screwbean mesquite.  They produce a screw-shaped bean that the Native Americans pounded into a flour and cooked.

More footprints.

The boardwalk follows the stream that flows out of the spring.

To provide better habitat for the pupfish, they manually cut the cat-tails back each year.

And I finally got a good photo of these two little fish.  The males turn bright blue in the late spring during the mating season, but they are pretty dull-looking now.

The visitor center in the distance. The boardwalk is 1.5 miles long, so it was a nice walk, especially since they place a lot of shaded benches along the way.  The weather was cook and breezy this day, so no real need to escape any desert heat!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

12/8 Death Valley Flintknapper

I found this volunteer the other day set up behind the visitor center demonstrating how to make flint and other tools from stone and bone.  He said he is here three days a week until April when he heads to other places to demonstrate.  He also makes and sells flint strikers to people who use flintlock rifles, mainly civil war and other historical reenactors. 

He is very hard of hearing, so I had to make sure I spoke loudly enough and faced him when I spoke.  Here he is with his protective leather apron, tools, and samples of the types of flint.  He showed me all the types that he uses, most of which have been given to him by friends who collect the rocks for him.  

Here are some of the items he has made.

And an amazing collection of flint points and axes he has made.  Most of these are made of obsidian. 

I told him I had seen obsidian in Oregon near Bend and that I had also seen a lot of flint in Salisbury in the UK several years ago and how I had seen a stone wall around the cathedral in that town made up of about 10% black flint.  (Flint is very common in some places in England, especially the white cliffs in Dover.  It is formed along with the chalk in those white cliffs.) 

I picked up some of the tiny scraps he had dropped on the cement and asked if I could have them. He said I could and gave me an even bigger obsidian core. I told him that I am going to the UK next spring, and I would try to bring him some flint back with me.  I brought rocks home from Orkney, Scotland about 10 years ago, so hope I can find some flint while I am there and legally bring it back with me.  

Anyway, if you go to Death Valley in the winter months and are there on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, check out the patio behind the visitor center.