Wednesday, August 29, 2012

8/29 People Watching

I turned my recliner around so that I can see my TV more easily and also out of the front cab windows better.  One of the advantages of not having it tied down.

This makes for really good people watching.  It is about noon, and I have been watching people pack up and leave for the last couple of hours.  The typical camper seems to stay no more than 2-3 nights, so there is a lot of coming and going.  Right now I am watching an older couple pack up their popup trailer--that is a LOT of work!  Everything has to get folded right, and the two of them have been tucking the canvas sides and ends in, lowering the top a bit, and then doing more tucking in.  It has taken them an hour.

Today, I am taking an at-home day.  My biggest activity, when I get around to it, will be emptying my fresh water tank and changing the water filter.  (Actually, I am not sure there is even an existing water filter, but I know I have to put one in.)  I also need to check the tire pressure on my bike because I want to take a ride tomorrow morning before it gets hot.  I might also take the shuttle and get a fresh loaf of bread.  Other than that, my students have a big assignment due tonight, so I told them they could call me and I have been answering emails. 

I baked four pasties last night and froze three.  That was an effort, but it means I now have three easy meals in the freezer. 

Can hear rain on the roof.  Days are hot here, but every afternoon so far, we have had rain. Then it cools off to about 48 degrees every night, so the furnace goes on.  An hour ago, there was not a cloud in the sky, but now it is spotty.  Likely the rain will not last long, but it has made the grass grow and the elk love it.  (The canyon is green in spots instead of the usual brown because of all the rain.)  Here is the big guy two campsites down that I videotaped from about 10 feet last night.  He was very close to a popup trailer and stayed around the area for more than two hours, wandering around from one area of browse to another.  He likes grass and oak leaves:
3:26 p.m.  -  Sprinkles and rain since morning, so this is a good day for staying inside and reading and working.  Can't do my outside chores, however. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

8/28 Trying to Live Slow

I spent about 5 hours out and about yesterday, visiting the visitor center, Mather Point, Bright Angel Trail, and the Post Office and Market, all by shuttle.  It was nice not to be in a hurry and to come back to my home when I was tired or bored.  Finished a bit of work, cooked dinner, and tried to view a DVD, and that was about it.

I am really glad I brought a ton of groceries with me--enough for at least 8-10 days.  The market here in the park wanted $7.95 cents for a pint of Haagen Das!  I passed, obviously, but did buy an Grand Canyon t-shirt on sale.  I did see a mother elk and her calf hanging around the entrance of the market area.  The grass has been very lush from the rains, so she is enjoying a meal while her calf rests:

Last night, I looked out my motorhome window and saw an elk munching on the grass just across from me--about 20 feet away.  Got my cell phone and took some video, but had trouble because it was upside down.  (I swear it was rightside up on my camera!! Next time I will use video on my camera instead of cell phone.)  He hung around for over half an hour, not seeming to mind all the photographers, and finally wandered off.  Nice to have wildlife around.

Here are some photos of the Canyon just to prove I am here:
By the way, one of the fun things about being here in a campground is watching what everyone else is doing.  Quiet during the day, but lots of cooking and things happening in late afternoon.  Very quiet after dark with hardly any sounds or lights as everyone is inside their RVs.  Dinner last night was a small steak with mushrooms, strawberries, and a tomato.  Tonight I may make pasties.  Yum!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

8/26 Grand Canyon, Arizona

I made it! After more than a year of planning, I am set up in my campsite at Grand Canyon in my motorhome. I am really exhausted after my long drive from Napa, so I am just relaxing the rest of today.  Tomorrow, I will take the shuttle and go see the Canyon, which I have not even peeked at yet.  Got here and went right to my site.   

I have all the groceries and propane I need for at least a week, plus I have full hookups. The park service has a shuttle that runs all day, so I can hop on and off, leaving my vehicle parked.  Because of the altitude, it is a lot cooler here than the rest of Arizona.  Night temps will be in the 40s, which is nice.  They have also had a lot of rain lately.  I just got hooked up and settled before the a thunder storm hit, so temps are getting chilly and I will probably need my furnace tonight. Love it! 
More tomorrow, but here is my campsite. I asked for a site near the shuttle pickup spot, so the ranger gave me this one--very short walk and no one on one side of me:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

8/25 Long, hot drive to Kingman, AZ

I left Napa on Friday, and drove 315 miles to a really nice park in Bakersfield, OH.  I had not gotten much sleep the night before over undone warranty issues, so I was really tired when I arrived.  Temps were in lower 90s, and it took about an hour to get comfortable inside the RV.

The next stop would logically have been Needles, CA, but temps there were expected to be at least 105, so I decided to push a little further to Kingman, which was 91 when I arrived.  I did have to drive through temps starting in the low 90s and then up to 106 as I drove through Needles.  Hardly stopped along the way at all, other than once briefly to get gas and a couple of times to use my inside facilities.  Just too, too hot to do much of anything.  Even with the cab AC blowing directly on me, it was even warm in the cab.  My legs and feet were roasted by the engine compartment. Wish I could get more insulation on it next to my leg on the accelerator pedal. 

After a very long 340 miles drive, I made it to Kingman, AZ, where it is 3,000 feet higher in altitude and therefore 10-15 degrees cooler, so 91 felt good, after the 106 I had driven through.  340 miles may not sound like much, but it goes slowly when you are only hitting 60 MPH, and you are mostly riding in the truck lane.  It is also tiring because you have to fight the vehicle so much to drive it.  Stressful, at least for me, because I do not want to scrape anything, like that big semi I could almost reach out and touch or the gas pumps that are always trying to reach out and snag something as I pull in for gas. 

Tomorrow, I drive through Williams, AZ, and then head up to Grand Canyon.  It will be a LOT cooler up there, with high in the upper 70s or lower 80s, and lows in the 40s--nice!!!!

AC is finally cooling me off.  Instead of cooking, however, I tried to get a Quiznos sub but they were closed, so i went with a chicken pot pie in the microwave.  Did NOT want to turn on stove or oven.  So, now I have taken my "dribble" shower and am eating my dessert of cheesecake, which watching TV from my recliner!  Talk about living the good life!!! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

8/24 Not Quite the French Laundry

Walked all over downtown Napa today:


Then, went back to Rob's and got my bike and biked the 7 miles to Yountville.  I took the road that followed along Route 29, so there was not so much traffic:

Here is Yountville, filled with tourists!

Walked around a bit and got a sandwich, raspberry macaroon, and Coke from Bouchon bakery, which is supposed to be world famous, but I did not know that at the time.  Here is my not-quite-the-French-Laundry lunch:

Had a much rougher ride going back home because there was a stiff headwind that made me feel as if my tires were flat.  Took about twice as long to ride the 7 miles back, and my knees and muscles are complaining now, but it was a very good ride!  Hardest part was trying to cross Route 29 because there are no stop lights along the route and the divided highway has a 55 MPH speed limit with no breaks in traffic.  One car honked at me as I was crossing.  Wouldn't it have been more polite to slow down a bit to allow me to cross than just lay on the horn??  Beginning to dislike agressive and rude California drivers. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

8/22 Loose Ends

Getting loose ends tied up and packing stuff away to get ready to leave Napa. My replacement steps are supposed to be in on Thursday.  I was going to head out to Davis around noon to the dealer and then head south on my way to Grand Canyon.  Instead, I will delay my departure another day and head for the dealer on Friday. Will have to cancel first day in GC, but since I had 7 days planned there, that is fine to only have 6 days. Just hoping steps make it on time to get them installed on Friday and the door torn apart and fixed.

Discovered the dealer was NOT planning on fixing the drawer under the refrigerator that smashed into the cabinet and created a large hole.  I have to put something there whenever I drive so it doesn't continue to do damage.  Also eventually need to get cabinet repaired.  They keep claiming I overloaded it, but when I ask for the load limits for all the drawers and cabinets, customer relations says there are no load limits  Still trying to reach service guy and Fleetwood Customer Relations.  If it does not all get fixed, I will be parking in the factory parking lot in early November, since I am retired and have nothing better to do!! 

Did some grocery shopping this morning and have loaded the freezer and refrigerator with enough stuff for a week of meals for one. I have stocked my "basement" with enough paper stuff to last a couple of months.  Will get bread and fruit on the way. (Packed my 3 new bottles of wine in a new cooler with some cold packs, so they will not spoil in the desert. Just don't have room for them in the refrig. Will add prescription drugs to the cooler because they will spoil in high temps also.) Tomorrow I am going to just spent some time looking around Napa and maybe riding my bike.  I want to walk around in the new area near the river in downtown and ride my bike to Yountville.  With all the family and kid stuff, I seldom get a chance to really do touristy stuff while I am here.  Babysitter will be here for the kids.

Got laundry to finish, and Rob is going to help me wash the beast tonight.  Only thing left to do it fasten my bike on the bike rack, and I will be ready to head out!  From Davis, it is about a 750 mile drive to GC, and will take about three days at my usual speed. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

8/14 Environmentally Unfriendly?? (Addendum)

OK, I have to confess that I forgot to mention that I do drink a lot of bottled water.  I do so in many places because I do not trust the water quality, either in my tanks or from the water hose hooked up to my site. 

I don't know if this makes sense, but I tend to trust water from national and state parks more than commercial RV parks because I believe they are more likely to be regulated and testing done more often.  In that case, I will drink that water from the tap if it is coming directly into my water system through a hose and will also refill water bottles and freeze them. (Some of you know I love really cold drinks!)

Explanation: I have two water systems.  One is the 60 gallon storage tank that I have to refill at a water station.  I refill the tanks whenever they run low and I have no hookups or "shore" water, but there is always some residual water left in the tanks, so periodically I add a bit of chlorox to sanitize the tanks, especially when I can drive and slosh it around.  The result is tap water that is sometimes a bit too chlorinated to drink without adding more water.  Other times, I distrust the water becauese it has sat in the tanks in very hot weather for too long.  This system requires a water pump to take water from the tanks and deliver it to taps and the toilet for use.

The other system is a direct hookup from a pressurized campground water system.  I have a special water hose that is used ONLY for drinking water and attaches to a tap next to my campsite that is supposed also to be used only for drinking water.  I keep caps on the ends of my water hose when it is stored in my "clean" utility storage area so it doesn't get contaminated if I drop it on the ground when hooking up or unhooking it. (I do that a LOT!)  I also make sure the campground tap is clean and rinse it before hooking up my hose, plus I run some water through the hose before connecting it to my RV.  This system is under pressure, much like your home system is under pressure, and water goes directly to the taps. 
I have no problems using either system for bathing, flushing, cooking, or even doing dishes, but I am a bit unsure about using some of the water I get for drinking.  That's why I often drink bottled water.  I suppose I ought to buy it in the larger bottles, but storage is an issue, but I do try to limit bottled water as much as I can and refill the plastic bottles at a "safe' supply. 
So, I suppose bottled water is my big environmental guilt thing.  I will be in national parks soon, and right now I am at my son's house, so I am mostly drinking tap water. 

Other environmental guilt trip is that I am lousy at recycling plastic and paper.  Need to improve on that according to son, Rob, who has been known to sort through my trash.

Friday, August 17, 2012

8/17 Environmentally Unfriendly??

I have had people comment on how environmentally unfriendly my motorhome is beause I only get 8-10 MPG.  That is true, but I am hoping that as time goes on, I will be driving fewer miles per year than when I worked.  I did drive a lot to get out here to California, and I will be driving about 750 miles to get to Grand Canyon, but once there, I will be parked for 6 days and using only national park shuttles.  Lake Powell also has some shuttles, so I will be using those when I can.  Ditto for Bryce and Zion National Parks.  I will have to drive a bit when I stay at the North Rim of Grand Canyon because I don't believe there are any there.

However, consider my other usages:  I can manage for at least three days on only 60 gallons of water if I am alone.  I take what I call my "dribble" shower rather than use the not-quite-so-clean campground showers, and I can take three showers, flush the toilet when needed, and do dishes on those 60 gallons for three days.  That's not bad, even considering a couple of loads of laundry at a public laundromat once a week.  

I also use propane to operate my two little furnaces, stove and oven, water heater, and refrigerator when I am not hooked up to electric.  10 gallons of propane will last at least a month, even if the temps drop at night substantially. 

Admittedly, I do use a lot of electricity, especially when it is hot because I need my air conditioning.  electricity also powers my refrigerator when available and the microwave and TVs, plus it powers the 120 volt plugs I have so I can recharge all my electronics.  I managed without external power in Rocky Mountain National Park because it was cool, but I really had a problem with charging stuff and had to find a visitor center to plug into every couple of days.  Also, no TV or even DVDs without external power.  I can use my generator, but it runs on gasoline, so that can be expensive and parks limit usage time because of the noise factor.

I do have two deep-cycle coach batteries that will power my lights and fans, plus the water pump, for several days. In fact, in Rocky Mountain National Park, they never seemed to budge from full.  I need to find a way to get an inverter hooked directly to my coach batteries so I can pull power from them for recharging electronics instead of my truck battery. 

All in all, however, I suspect I am using a lot less energy than most of house dwellers are using.  I have no second vehicle.  I also don't water a lawn or run a dishwasher.  My water heater gets turned off when I am not heating water, instead of heating those 50 gallons constantly as my old one did.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8/14 Day With the Kids

Today is the first day for teachers, so Rob and Jen are at work and kids are with me all day.  We will be going to Target to return some stuff and stopping at McDonalds for lunch.

I am still sorting through and moving stuff around in my motorhome.  I would bet that almost everything has been in at least two, and maybe three, places since I left home.  The problem is that when I first moved my stuff in, I was very rushed and just stuffed things where I could fit them.  I also had a couple of bins to bring out here to California that were taking up space. And most importantly, I had not really had the experience of living in the vehicle yet. Here is my outside storage:

I have four large "basement" areas on the passenger side of the vehicle and four on the driver's side, plus two pass-through areas that connect basement areas. The third from the front on the driver's side is the septic and electrical area, so it is not really for storage, and I use the one behind it to store my clean water hoses, stool, extra electrical cords, tv cable, and other things for hooking up.  The front two basement areas on the driver's side are for extra clothing, books, legal and financial papers, extra kitchen things, and other stuff I will very seldom use because those two areas are very hard to access when the living room slide is open.  Almost everything is in bins that can be easily lifted out.

From back to front on the driver's side, the last area has been designated my picnic area.  It holds some small bags of charcoal, my small folding table, plastic table cloths, kindling, lighters, and patio mat, etc.  The next area contains air compressor, bike bag, and bike helmet.  (Maybe some other things??  Need to check.)   The two front basement areas are on either side of my front door, so I have put things I will use often--on the left is my vacuum cleaner and toolbag.  On the right, I have decided to put extra bottled water, coke, and paper stuff.  Since I will be in national parks for more than a month, I've stocked up on paper towel, toilet paper, plates, cups, and extra groceries that can stand the heat. 

There are pass-through areas between the last two basements and the front basement, so those hold my folding rocking chairs, bunk ladders, and a bunch of small boxes that have not yet found a home.

As you can see, I really have more than enough storage.  More on inside storage later. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

8/12 Back in Napa After Visiting Monterey

Monterey, California, is a terrific place to visit.  Not only is there a world-class aquarium, but there is wonderful seaside scenery and mountains to look at, plus a lot of very good seafood restaurants and shops.  And, the weather is cool, even in the hottest summers.  Jackets are a must, which is really unusual for California.  Highs for the past four days were in the low 60s, but it was mostly sunny, at least when the fog wasn't sneaking in.  Water temps of 57 degrees and deep ocean currents create the cool, foggy climate.

Anyway, we spent Friday at the aquarium; lots of interactive exhibits for kids and just about everything you can imagine in terms of sea life.  I liked the jellies and the seahorses, but there were otters and deep sea fish, as well as outside patios where you could watch non-captive otters, seals, and sea lions in the kelp forest:

Saturday, we went whale watching on a tour boat, quite a ways out in the ocean off of Monterey.  lessons learned for whale watching:
  1. Don't buy tickets in advance.
  2. Check the weather before you commit.
  3. Choose the biggest boat available.
While it looked calm in port, there were 15-20 foot swells out in the ocean and our boat was the biggest whale watching boat, but it was still small compared to the size of the waves.  Going out, you literally could NOT walk or even stand without holding onto something because the boat was tossing so badly.  I found a spot out of the cold wind in the rear, and finally gave up standing and sat most of the rest of the trip.  The rear railing of the boat, which was about 15 feet from my sitting spot, rose and fell at least 10-15 feet with each swell.  (Rob says more.  All I know is that I have never been on any boat that moved up and down so much.)  The kids were scared and then just seasick.  Jen had to hold my grandaughter, and my grandson fell asleep on my lap, which was the best thing he could have done.  Here they are both next to me out of the wind. 

I had to use the bathroom twice, and literally was bouncing off the walls inside of it.  There was a snack bar, but it was selling no snacks, obviously!  A lot of people were hanging over the rails.  I have never been seasick in my life, nor had my daughter-in-law, but we both agreed even we were a bit sick.  The movement was also not helpful to my vertigo.  Coming back it was a little better and we were able to even sit inside and move around a bit. 

So, how many whales did we see??  I saw one tail from a distance as a whale of some sort dove.  Next time? There will probably not be a next time, unfortunately.  Did have a great lunch at Fisherman's Wharf at Bubba Gump's, afterwards, after our stomachs calmed down! 

I will be in Napa another 10 days. Tomorrow I try to find a carpet remnant for my motorhome, and I need to do some shopping to stock up on paper things because I will be spending the next month in national parks and far from big stores.  Also want to see about getting some new glasses and ordering my prescriptions for mail order delivery.  Not sure how I will get them since I will be in Arizona for a while.  Maybe pick up at a UPS location?  Will need to do some checking.  School starts on Wednesday, so I get to take the kids to school and pick them up for a few days.  It will be my grandaughter's first day of kindergartern!  Do you remember your first day of school?  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

8/8 Home Sweet Home

I have been asked if I am bored traveling yet.  The answer is, "No, at least not yet." I still have so many places to look forward to, and right now I am looking forward to spending a week at the South rim of Grand Canyon, six days at Lake Powell in a beautiful campground, six days at the North Rim.  Then it will be Zion and Bryce.  How can you be bored by that???

I am also looking forward to all of the state parks I am staying at in Florida next winter.

I am living in a small place, but for a motorhome it is a big one, and with the two slides, seems plenty roomy.  No claustrophobia yet, although I have not spend two or three rainy days in it yet.  (I have my DVD player and have been saving up videos for rainy days.)  One advantage to being only one person is that you have a lot of storage space, and I have still not maxed out mine.  I have my stuff around me, and it really feels like home.  I may only have 10% or even less of the stuff I once lived with, but it is enough.  Most importantly, I have my recliner and a very comfortable bed!  With my Kindle and a stack of books, what more do I need? 

I have hardly watched any television in the past two months, by the way, and only miss it a little bit.  I spend a lot of time online with my Verizon jetpack, and have not had problems finding a good, fast signal even in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Hoorah for Verizon!! 

Tomorrow morning, my son and grandkids and I are heading to Monterey and the acquarium.  Then, we will go whale watching on Saturday.  Going to be fun! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

8/5 Fortuna, CA

Kids had a terrific time at this KOA in Fortuna, CA.  It had a waterpark, two pools, spa, petting zoo, fishing hole, playground, and several activities each day.  We stayed here two nights so kids had a full day to swim and play:

Almost ran out of food and snacks on this last day of our redwoods trip.  Got to restock the larder because next Thursday-Sunday we will be going to Monterey to see the acquarium and to do some whale watching.  School starts soon, so that will be our last trip in California.  Also, got to remember to buy a couple bottles of wine to take with me to Arizona. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

8/2 - Northern California, Redwood Country

My son and grandchildren and I have been traveling through northern California.  We drove north from Napa along 101 and then cut over to the coast on U.S. 20 to Fort Bragg along a very scenic, but under construction and winding mountainous road that went through deep redwood forest.  No photos because there was no place to stop and driving took a lot of focus.  Stopped at a cozy campsite here:

We stopped at a couple of beaches along the coast on U.S. 1.  Kids had a lot of fun playing in the beach and especially along a small creek that flowed into the ocean where we picnicked:

There are a lot of little parks along U.S. 1 and 101 where you have no electric or hookups but can camp along the ocean.  Someday I want to drive from north to south, but I think I will stick to U.S. 101 as it is still scenic but not as winding or scary as U.S. 1. 

Next, U.S. 1 cut back away from the coast on a REALLY hairy road—constant turns and twists, with ups and downs that made the beast struggle.  No room for pulling over for photos, but just imagine a lot of redwoods.   Spent the night at a very nice campground in Fortuna, CA.  Kids enjoyed the pool and we went for a bike ride along the Eel River.  Next day we went to Redwood National Forest and enjoyed a hike to Trillium Falls.  Had trouble parking and driving in some areas, but this was really pretty place for another picnic:

Drove back through Avenue of the Giants, and did see some giants: 

The middle picture shows a single tree where the base has been damaged by fire, so you can walk inside.  Can you believe the size of the roots on the last fallen tree?? 
We're in a child's paradise of an RV park as of last night and staying through tonight.  Kids are fishing now, but there is a playground, petting zoo, two swimming pools, and lots of other things I will post about tomorrow.