Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

From Our Family to Yours

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Aroma of a Roaring Fire is Quite Pleasing

Unless, of course, you are living in the middle of a forest.

Two days ago, there was a thunderstorm. The lightning ignited a small fire on the other side of the ridge, a short distance from Dean Peak. Small enough that we didn't notice the smoke until the next day. I heard from one of the park maintenance guys today that the Pinion Pines Fire Department was fighting the blaze and had it under control.

That was about 8 o'clock this morning. Two hours later, the county sheriff was banging at our door, telling us we had to evacuate. We figured that the fire would be out later that day, so we started to pack up the laptop and the dogs for a brief downtown vacation.

Then someone told me that the Fire Department was going to let the conflagration burn itself out. That means two or three days, not one. So we prepared the RV for moving downhill.

That brought up an annoying problem: I procrastinate. When we first moved to Haulapai Mountain Park, I learned that the transmission fluid was low. "We're here until September," I thought. "I have plenty of time to deal with that." Well, today I had to drive the rig with an almost-dry transmission. To minimize the possible damage, I made nearly the entire trip in neutral. I only had to put it in gear twice, and then once again at the edge of town. From there, it was only about two miles to Zuni RV Park, where we are lodged for the next few days. Later today, we're going to Walmart to get some transmission fluid and a funnel.

We're safe here, but the temperature is over 100 degrees, instead of the nice, cool 79 degrees at the top of the mountain. Even with the air conditioners running, it's still over 90 degrees inside. I have no idea how we will sleep tonight.

On the up side, the local newspaper says workers are still attempting to put out the blaze, so we might be back on the mountain in a couple of days.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

An Apology to My Faithful Readers

Yes, both of you.

For the past six or seven months, my employment situation has been just this side of depressing, and I have not really felt up to writing more than the occasional post.

A lot has happened in that time, which has all gone under-reported.  I've got my notes and my memories, so none of those experiences are lost.  As my situation and mood improves, I'll back-fill some of those stories, and hopefully complete them all before the turn of the next decade.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Meeting the Neighbors

Our dogs do not like people. Cutie, our largest, is a hopeless case, but I think the smaller two can be cured of this malady. So I decided that, when the opportunity presented itself, I would hand off the smaller dogs to stranger, to get them acclimated to other people.

Today, I had such an occasion. A neighbor with whom we've been chatting (Dennis) came over near supper time. He had baked a pizza, and wanted to share two slices with us. As we stood outside the door talking, I reached inside and grabbed Kome, our mid-sized dog. Once Kome stopped barking, I handed her to Dennis. Kome was shaking in his arms for a bit, but after a few moments was calm enough to reach up and lick his nose.

Heartened by this, I reached inside the RV again, and scooped up Anzu, our compact dog. As I brought her outside, she took one look at the neighbor ... and peed all over me.

I guess she's not quite ready for people yet.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spelunking

When we lived in Tuscon six years ago, it was on our list to visit Collosal Cave.  Since we lived there, of course, there was "always time", and so that time never happened.

Today, though, we knew we here only for a short while, so we made it a point to set aside time to visit the cave.  We arrived around 9:30 in the morning, giving us about a half-hour before the tour started.  We spent that time browsing the souvenir shop, where we bought nothing, but Kazumi got very excited over the magnetic stones.  Back outside, I managed to take a few shots of the valley below while waiting for the tour guide to appear.


Once inside, we gathered for a few moments, allowing our eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Andy, our guide, explained that the glowing rocks were sculptured sheets of fiberglass with lights behind them.  Probably none of us thought they were radioactive.  The stairs and walkways, Andy continued, were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, as part of Roosevelt's New Deal.  Eighty years may not be a very long time, but judging by the depth of the stairs and the width of the pathways, folks were a lot smaller back then.

As we inched through the maze of twisty little passages, Andy regaled us with a story about bank robbers who hid the loot from four banks somewhere in the cave, and of the unwitting sheriff who guarded the entrance to the cave while the bad guys snuck out the back for a beer.  When the banditos were finally captured, they had apparently left some of their stash hidden in the caves.  It wasn't anywhere along the beaten path, so we're not independently wealthy yet.

There were many beautiful rock formations throughout the cave, but my camera refused to work there.  I think it's afraid of the dark.  Luckily, we were able to obtain a suite of photos from a very nice woman named Stephanie (and her equally nice husband, whose name I didn't get, because I'm rude).

The Silent Waterfall. 
You can almost hear it splashing.


They even managed to get a photo of Kazumi!
  I'm somewhere in the darkness behind her.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Meet the Neighbors

Traveling to and fro across the country can be a crap-shoot, because you never know who you will be parking near.  We've had pretty good luck so far, with most of our neighbors being friendly, at the very least.

Well, this time I think we hit the jackpot.  Our neighbors here are Jerry and Ann, who claim they live in Washington state, in the Columbia River, where I assume there must be some kind of island.  They are traveling with their friends Jack and Marge, and Marvin and Jean.  These six are pretty much the happiest, friendliest people I've ever met.  All (or most) of them went to the same high school, but seem to have not met there.  I'm unclear on the details of that story.

Jerry and Ann have a malamute named Bucky.  This dog is huge.  I have no idea how he fits in their RV.  They say that they've had several malamutes before Bucky, and all of them were named the same.  (Beats trying to remember a new name.)  "Bucky" is actually short for (someone correct my spelling, please) "Bok Bok Kalanutsiway", which they say means "The One from the North that Eats Human Flesh".  Good name for a giant dog.

Bucky Surveys His Domain
Sadly, Jerry, Ann, and the rest of the gang will be departing soon, but that's part of RV life.  We wish them safe travels.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tra-Tel RV Park, Tucson, Arizona

Around 10:30 in the morning, we pulled into Tra-Tel RV Park, on the northwest side of Tucson.  I want to say that this park is a far sight better than the one we left yesterday morning ... but I can't.  All of the spaces are small: barely enough for one rig and one car.  There is a gem show in town, so all of the spaces were taken but one.  That space (ours) is at the far end of the lot, with a commanding view of the mountains in the distance, the open plain between here and the wash, and the Dumpster.  Kazumi calls this "convenient".  I have other words.

Still, the rent is cheap, the people are pleasant, and the view is nice.  And it's only for the next month.  There's a nice-looking mountain off in the distance, and a beautiful mountain view on the other side of us.  I'll provide a photo of that one when I can get someone to move the warehouse that's in between.

Our Backyard for the Month

Things Get a Bit Flakey

Morning came early, mainly because all of the construction workers were up at 5AM, diesel engines running, and holding loud, incomprehensible conversations.  We managed somehow to go back to sleep, and roused ourselves from bed two hours later.  After a quick breakfast, we unplugged the rig, and hit the road again by eight o'clock.

And found snow on the highway.


Less than a hundred miles away from Mexico, and we have snow.


This should be illegal.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Other Leg: Mountain View RV Park

 Except for the occasional heavy gust of wind nearly blowing us off the road, the trip west on I-10 was rather unremarkable.  Around 1PM or so, we rolled into the ramshackle town of Bowie.  Surprisingly long for such a small population (around 600), the main street of Bowie had the look of a town that was once a thriving community, until everyone discovered they were living in the middle of nowhere, and left.

Mountain View RV Park, on the far side of town, bore a not-very-surprising resemblance to the rest of the municipality.  The owner was a delightful old man who regaled everyone with tales of the comings and goings in town.  The lot was a little more than half-full, mainly due to the construction project at the state line.  We looked around, and finally found a spot far enough from the other residents, and near a renter we were fairly sure would not make much noise.

Our Neighbor for the Night

We drove through town again, looking for something quick to eat, but while the town had a good number of restaurants for its size, all of them seemed to have closed for business many years ago (from lack of customers, is my guess).  We had to travel to Wilcox, 25 miles away to find something for dinner.

The First Leg of the Journey

Our first trip, from Pueblo to Montrose, Colorado, was a laborious and exhausting drive of around eight hours.  We arrived after dark, too late to do any set-up, and all we wanted to do was sleep.  From that, we learned not only how to properly calculate the length of an RV trip, but that long trips should be divided into manageable components.  An eight-hour drive, therefore, would be broken into two four-hour days.  With proper planning, an overnight stay in some small but convenient place would be no more than twenty dollars.

That's what we tried to do with the trip from Elephant Butte to Tucson.  Unfortunately, the four-hour midpoint was somewhere between Deming and Lordsburg, an area comprised only of desert and highway.  In Lordsburg, the only places available was the local KOA, at $38 per night, and a parking lot behind the local laundromat.

The next available place on the highway was in Bowie, Arizona, another hour away.  What I could see of it looked decent, and it had a couple of favorable reviews (and the cost was only $15), so we booked Monday night there.  The first day was now a drive of a little more than five hours.

We hit the road around 9 AM.  The first part of the trip was uneventful.  Until we reached Hatch, that is.  It's a cute little town with cute little cartoon characters on the walls and roofs of their buildings.  I think eating too much of their famous green chili has done weird things to their minds.  Sadly, while my new(er) camera is exponentially better than that cheapo $10 one, there is still too much setup time for me to just point and shoot, so I have no photos of Hatch.  You'll have to visit there yourself.  Someday, when I'm not so much of a tightwad, I'll buy a real camera.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Winds of Change

Our lot rent is paid up until the 14th of the month, but that's Valentine's Day, a time better suited for romantic dinners than tedious drives.

So we told the managers that we would be leaving early, on the 12th.  They were fine with that, and, since the price wasn't going to go up, so was I.  A few days later, however, Kazumi and I were talking, and decided that we would be better off leaving on Saturday.  I had no work for the weekend, we would have more time to set up, and it would be easier to find a nice place to eat on Valentine's day.  I was concerned about asking the managers to change the departure date again, partly because I didn't want to be annoying, but mostly because leaving so much earlier could be construed as changing to a weekly arrangement, and staying in almost any park by the week is far more expensive than staying a whole month.

The managers were amenable, though one of them mentioned a pending windstorm on Saturday.  Kazumi was far more concerned than I was, and didn't want to drive in the wind.  I still wanted to change the plans: I'm willing to drive in any conditions, because, quite frankly, I'm an idiot. 

So we changed the arrangements, and called the park in Tucson to change the plans there.  As we busied ourselves preparing for travel, we heard more and more about the windstorm.There were warnings about dust storms and low visibility.  Saturday morning, the wind was already heavy, and the news said gusts of over 50 miles an hour were expected around noon.  That's pretty much as fast as I drive, so 50-mile-an-hour headwinds meant we would be at a standstill.  Worse, assuming we even made it to I-10, the crosswinds from the southwest would blow us off the road.

Reluctantly, I called everyone and changed the reservations back to what they were before.  Yes, it was an inconvenience, and yes, it annoyed everyone.  I sometimes think my life would be simpler if I just listened to my wife.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brave Guardians

We were awoken a little past midnight last night by the howls and yips of a pack of coyotes.  Our dogs were all on alert, bodies stiff and straight, eyes wide, ears upright.  From the clatter and yelps outside, it sounded like the coyotes were on the street right behind us, no more than twenty feet away.  We sat rooted to our spots as the pack rushed past us, and the cacophony faded into the distance.

That's when our dogs started barking.

Brave little puppies.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dogs on TV

When we lived in Pueblo, we had the TV on a stand against the wall, and we watched from the sofa.  Kome would watch TV with us, and when a dog appeared on whatever show we were watching, she would jump up and bark at them.  Sometimes she would walk in back of the TV stand, trying to find the wayward animals.

We have a similar TV stand, but since it's crammed between two cabinets, there's no way to get behind it.  The TV itself is on a shelf in front of the passenger-side window; it blocks most of the view on that side.

Kome divides her time between either lying on the driver's seat or the engine cover and sitting on the dashboard, staring out the window.  Today, she was on the driver's seat when a commercial came on with a woman walking a couple of large dogs.  Kome jumped up and barked at the dogs on TV, then ran to the dashboard to find them.  She didn't see them outside, so she ran back to the TV.  The dogs were still there (I had paused the playback), so she jumped over to the windshield again, barking all the time.  Back and forth she went, until we stopped laughing long enough to calm her down.

Apparently, she thinks the TV is a window of some kind.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Another Day of Excitement and Adventure

Those readers who live vicariously through my exploits are advised not to read this.


We woke up this morning to a bathtub full of dirty water.  We've been leaving the water running overnight to keep the water pipe and supply hose from freezing.  Just a trickle.  Unfortunately, it was a really small trickle.  Enough to keep the inlet hose from freezing, but not enough to stop the drain hose from succumbing to the cold.  I'm guessing that it froze two days ago, and we just didn't notice it.

Two nights of drizzling water filled the gray-water tank to overflowing.  I went outside to check the drain hose, and sure enough, it was frozen from end to end.  On a lark, I checked the waste-water hose, and it, too, was frozen completely.  I didn't really think this was possible, since the hose is three inches across.

I pulled the hose from the septic tank, and found the culprit: the tank has a P-trap, and the water in the trap was frozen solid.  That stopped the hose from draining, in turn allowing the hose contents to freeze.  It's been overcast for the past several days, keeping the temperatures low, so nothing had a chance to thaw out.

Kazumi boiled a pot of water, which I poured into the septic tank, removing the block of ice completely.  Another boiling pot loosened the sludge in the sewer hose, but not enough to make much of a difference.  This side of the RV was in shadow, and hadn't warmed up yet, so I decided to leave it all until mid-afternoon, when things had thawed a little.  There is a small slope between my lot and the one next door.  I disconnected the sewer hose and placed it on this slope (open ends up, of course) so the sun would hit that first when it came around the rig.

In the meantime, I knew I needed another sewer hose, to help the gray-water tank drain faster.  Off to Wal-Mart we went.  We picked up a twenty-foot sewer hose, and a quick-coupler for the tanks.  The hose is three inches across.  The connector is three inches across.  You would think they would just slide together.  No such luck: I fought with that thing for a half-hour.  The tube is a copper coil covered in plastic.  I finally learned to stretch each section of plastic over the long end of the connector, then twist it the rest of the way up the shank so I could lock it in place. 

Satisfied with my work, I stuffed the hose into the septic tank opening.  I hooked the other end to the black-water tank, and went back to stuff the hose into the septic tank again.  I turned to open the value, and the hose popped out again.  This is a twenty-foot-long hose.  You'd think it would stretch eight-and-a-half feet.

I placed  a big rock on the hose (this is New Mexico: lots of big rocks) to hold it in place, and opened the valve.  The black-waste tank drained nicely into the septic tank.  I knew, though, that to drain the gray-water tank, which is further away, that I was going to need an elbow adapter for the septic-tank end of the hose, just to hold the hose in place.  These are required by law in New Mexico, so, seeing as I didn't want to be arrested by the Septic Police, we drove to Wal-Mart to buy one.  (Wal-Mart, by the way, is pretty much the only store here.)

We returned with the elbow adapter, which I proceeded to attach to the end of the sewer hose.  The [I]used[/I] sewer hose.  I already knew the secret, so this only took twenty minutes.

At this point, however, the narrow drain hose had thawed out, and gray water was leaking all over the place.  I figured if this had thawed out, then the bigger hose probably did, too.  Things were shifting around inside when I picked it up, so it seemed time to empty it.  One end in the septic tank, the other high in the air, I shook the hose a bit.  A few chunks of ice dropped out, but nothing else moved.  So I shook it harder, then harder still.  Nothing.  I raised the hose as high as I could, to pull out all of the bends and twists, and gave the hose a final shake.

Everything came out.  [I]Everything[/I].  All at once.  Yellow slush was everywhere: the ground, the septic tank pad, the hoses, my shoes, even the rock wall, three feet away.  It all came out much too fast to drain into the septic tank.  The gray water hose was still running, so I managed to wash most of the goop down the drain.  That still left the ground, rocks, hoses, trees and me, all of which I flushed (pun intended) off as best as possible.

I tossed the old hose aside, planning to deal with it when I worked up the courage to touch it again.  As for myself, I stank to high heaven.  It was time to take a shower and burn my clothes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Frigid Air

It was bloody cold when I woke up this morning.  The temperature outside was about 24 degrees, and inside was 47.  I could see my breath!

This rig has no insulation, which is why we were trying to avoid cold weather.  It's not entirely possible, since we are here until the 15th, at least.  Maybe even into February.

According to the weather history for this area, the coldest time of year is the three days before and after the solstice.  Makes sense: since this area is heated by the sun, the coldest time of the year would coincide with the shortest days.  What that means, of course, is there's a warming trend coming.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

We're watching the Tournament of Roses Parade.  The theme this year is Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"  They must have been thinking of us when they decided on that.  It's definitely appropriate for life in an RV.