Saturday, July 27, 2013

Back home in Northern Arizona...

July 12, 2013 – July 26, 2013

We arrived in Sedona today!! So glad to be here! Our plan was has been to get to Sedona, hang out and see family and that is just what we did.  This entry will not be day by day and it will be mostly photos as we know the area and though we love it, it does not need the detail of the other areas we visited since we have been here many times. 

We had a very long day coming from Moab. It was a beautiful and nice easy ride until we hit the Flagstaff area.  We cruised into Flagstaff and needed gas. We hit a local station that seemed like it would be easy to get into. As Sean loves to say, “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  We pulled in and suddenly realized a car was blocking our access and the easy entry we thought we had was not near as big as it looked from the road.  Add the car and it could have been a disaster!  I got out of the truck and directed Sean and inch-by-inch we averted disaster but getting gas was not an option.  We were just happy to not blow up the gas station with a direct hit!  We made some turns and eventually hit a truck stop and made a pinky promise to NEVER attempt a gas station that was not a truck stop unless we were unhooked.  We gassed up and continued on our way down 17.  A monsoon hit with a vengeance! Sean handled it perfectly and we took our exit to head to our resort but it was a blind exit. By blind exit I mean you exit the freeway but the exit turns sharply in the other direction in a circular fashion so you don’t know what you are getting into. Much to our surprise, a large semi was stalled out in this circular exit.  We came up behind him and stopped too.  Quickly traffic piled up behind us. We had no idea what to do. The truck was broken down and couldn’t move. The rain poured and we had nowhere to go! I called 911 to let them know of our dilemma and then a stuck motorist came to our window and suggested if we backed up we could turn around in the median and get back onto the freeway.  It looked muddy and Sean thought we would get stuck but one of the drivers behind us was familiar with the terrain and said it was asphalt under all the mud and we would be fine. So every one inched backwards so we could turn and so we did!  Whew! We breathed a sigh of relief and headed onto Sedona Pines.

Sedona Pines is our timeshare resort where we own.  Sedona Pines started its life as an RV park.  The current owners bought it and turned it into timeshares but deeded 10 or so spots for owners to park their RVs.  We knew of this benefit but since we never owned an RV, we never paid much attention to it.  We called a week out and made our reservation.  Again, not really understanding too much, but knowing we could park their for a bit free of charge.  We also had a week of free condo time coming to us, so we reserved that for Sean Jr. and family to enjoy.  We pulled in after our very stressful past hour or so to get into our space. The local maintenance guys led us in.  Again, you don’t know what you don’t know and what we didn’t know was that having FIVE slides was going to be a challenge. There were bigger sites but we didn’t ask for them so we didn’t get them! Poor Sean! He backed in, then realized the one slide wouldn’t open. He pulled out, then pulled back in and realized the other slide wouldn’t open and so on and so on. It was a long ordeal and it took myself and two maintenance guys to finally get us situated.  All of this in the pouring rain I might add…….anyway we finally got in and hooked up. We were so happy to unhook for two weeks!!!!!!

We knew we had this benefit with our ownership but again, we werent really too sure on the details. We had originally planned to stay a week but after I visited with owner services and realized we could stay their, free of ANY charges for two weeks A MONTH we were hooked! Why leave the most beautiful country in the world when you can stay there for FREE!!!! And I mean free. Free spot, free utilities, free laundry, and access to all of the resort amenities! This includes, a beautiful pool, several spas, free miniature golf and all of the activities.  Sean and I felt like we had just gotten the best Christmas present ever! Wow! And we learned from other RV’ers and owner services that you could plan your two weeks at the end of the month, then add the next two weeks at the beginning of the next month and really get a whole month with never moving! That is work camping without working! We are definitely coming back for a month after the holidays when get back to Arizona.  Anyway, we were so happy to camp for free, in a beautiful location, where we could put up family and friends for a minimal amount.  Life is good.  We spent July 13 getting groceries, hanging out in Flagstaff and having a wonderful meal with my brother Kent and his wife Kathy in Cottonwood.  His home is just about 15 minutes from our timeshare.

Sean Jr and family couldn’t get there for a few days so our best friends in the world, Brad and Lisa Wierck, came down and spent two days in the timeshare and hung out with us. They are so much fun and we always have a great time together. There son Zach came too. Then after they left, Sean Jr showed up with his crew….his wife Lisa, Aislynn and Carson. The next day after they got there, Sean’s mom, Lou and her partner Ken came in and spent the day too. It was great to get the multi generations together.  Cory and his partner, April, came in and stayed with us in the RV but it was pretty squishy so we rented them a condo too. They also brought our grand dog, Bruce as well.  We were pushed to our limit but our little condo on wheels did just fine! Luckily Lou brought some extra snacks and with her contributions and mine we had plenty of food.  Lou and Ken just stayed for the day and headed back down to the Valley. They also had a big trip they were getting ready for back to 

The next days were spent just lounging at the pool and hiking and enjoying the area.  Sean and Lisa celebrated their second wedding anniversary.  Sean and I took care of the kids so the could enjoy the day with Cory and April. They hiked, went out for lunch and the got to sleep in the next day because we had the kids.  The kids were perfect for us! However, I was such a worry wort over Carson that I didn’t sleep much but that is to be expected.

After all the kids left, Sean and I had one glorious week to do whatever our hearts desired! We hiked Devils Bridge, Cathedral Rock and Sycamore Canyon. One day we got hit with monsoons and Sean decided to take the moment with the free water to scrub our RV too. Talk about multi tasking!! We also hung out in the resort pool and spa as much as possible. We just did not much and had a great time doing it!!!  We also took a day and went to Prescott to see Cory and April. While we were there I met my oldest brother, Hank, at my parents gravesite. I haven’t been there since my mom had passed away so it was good to see their final resting place and I visited with my big brother too.  We had a great time in Prescott with Cory and April as well. I sure love that little town.  Having my wonderful son and daughter living there was sort of like a full circle moment! I pointed out many places that I loved and shared my memories with them.

On July 26 we had an appointment to get our sliders fixed at camping world.  The original plan had been for Sean to repair them but once we realized that there was a camping world in Flagstaff, we decided to let them handle the repairs.  We pulled out reluctantly on the 26th and headed to Camper World.  They took most of the day and we only got to Holbrook since we hit yet another monsoon.  On the 27th we left Holbrook and went to Albuquerque.  We are here until the 29th and then onto Texas!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trucking on.....


Rocky Mountain National Park

We got up early to take a trek into this huge, beautiful park.  We started off the day by traversing over the mountain to 12,000 feet, well above the tree line. The beautiful tall evergreens fell away to tundra. It is stark, cold and in my opinion a little spooky. Very little will grow and the growing season is only a few short weeks. The winds were hard and the cold went straight through to your bones. I don’t tolerate cold at all and I didn’t find this part of the trip very pleasant though it was interesting to see. We went for a short hike at the top and breathing was not easy. The air was very thin.  Thankfully we went downhill from there. The drive was beautiful and we saw elk and even a few moose.  After getting back down the mountain we took another hike to view a waterfall. It was a beautiful hike but we did notice that compared to Custer Park, Rocky Mt. is grand central station. There were people everywhere! Sean surmised that is probably because of its fairly close proximity to Denver so it has a huge population to draw upon and a major international airport. I preferred Custer to Rocky Mt. but both were incredibly beautiful.

We got home at a decent hour, as we needed to get laundry done and start to get ready for the next days drive to Glenwood Springs.


Glenwood Springs, CO

Our drive to Glenwood was our first really large elevation change while hauling the rig. The truck did a great job pulling it and Sean did great handling it all but it is pretty thought provoking to see all the long runaway truck ramps on the side. I hope to never need one of those.  We took our time and enjoyed the sites all through the Rockies.  We pulled into Glenwood springs and reminisced about our last trip there when the kids were small. We had rented a condo in Vail and spent a week exploring the area. I doubt if they remember much of it. We did spend an afternoon at the hot springs in Glenwood and if they remember anything, it is probably that since there were big slides for them to go down. 

We went through town to Carbondale where our RV park was.  Our site backed onto the Crystal River. We could see and hear it from our window all night. The park didn’t have a pool, tv or internet but we didn’t miss it for a minute. It was probably the prettiest park we have stayed in but it also had a pretty price tag.  Sean noticed on one of our slides that a cable was fraying. We sent a text to the rv repair guy we used in Texas and he told us how to find the parts. We ordered the replacement cables and had them sent to my brother Kent’s house in Camp Verde. Kent lives about 15 minutes from the rv park/timeshare resort in Sedona we will be staying at. Poor Sean, he is being dragged into being a handyman whether he wants to or not! The plan is to replace the cables as soon as we get to Arizona. Anyway, we fretted about the cables a bit then went for along bike ride. There is 35 miles of trails here and you could ride all the way to Vail and beyond if you wanted. We rode into Carbondale and had a look around. Very cute little town. 

The next day was spent in Glenwood Springs. We saw Doc Holidays gravesite and spent many hours at the hot springs.  Hopefully it will cure all that ails us.  We shopped and headed out to our beautiful rv site for the night.



We didn’t rush out the next morning but had a nice walk and a leisurely breakfast. It was good that we did as we found out quite quickly by the large flashing signs that I70 was shut down near the Colorado/Utah border. They shut it down at 7:30 a.m. so we figured it would be open by the time we got there.  We kept our eye on the signs and I looked up the Colorado highway information on the Ipad and saw that it was still shut down and there was no idea as to when it was to open. By lunchtime we decided to pull over into a state park and have lunch and wait out the closure.  After about 1.5 hours, Sean had enough of waiting and we hit the road again and just figured we would chance it.  By the time we got to the closure we decided to give the detour a try. The road was terrible! It was bumpy and full of cars and truck rigs. I don’t think the road had been used in years.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why a major interstate had been closed down for no apparent reason for most of the day. After seeing the ugly and desolate area, I am convinced it was an alien crash and they had to get the aliens bagged up and taken to Roswell.  Why else would you shut down such a huge interstate with no exploration on the radio or Internet other then “police investigation”?  Hmmm………. Well we finally made it to Moab and got set up in our RV park. Then the FUN began!

My nephew, David, lives here part of the year and runs his Extreme 4x4 Tour Company.  David built from the ground up, his very own extreme, rock-climbing machine.  It is amazing and we were lucky enough to get an evening tour with him.  He met us at a local motel and to my surprise; my niece Emily (and David’s sister) was here for a visit too with her boyfriend! We all got into David’s monster of a machine along with a couple from Germany and off we went!  He took us on a 3-hour tour that was incredible! I laughed and screamed the whole time! Sean sat in the back and got a great view and an even rockier ride. I sat in the middle row with Emily and felt a little more protected. David did a great job building this machine and we passed up hummers, jeeps and every other 4 wheel drive machine you can think of. They all looked at us in envy as we went places they couldn’t dream about going to.  David was a ton of fun and when he wasn’t busy scaring us to death, would give us bits of information about the area. We were out so long that we saw a beautiful sunset and even did a bit of driving in the dark.  It was the most exciting time we have had yet!


Jett Boat

The next day we met David at his friends business, Jett Boat. He got us the family discount and we went on a 2-hour tour on his high-speed boat on the Colorado River. It was hot but he would do 360-degree turns and this would cause large wakes of water to splash up on you. We went through the canyon and waved to the rafter and kayakers. The water is not very high and this part of the country could use some rain!  It was really pretty and we could see up on top of the canyon walls and where we had been with David the night before. After we were finished David took us to this little local dive restaurant that had great burgers and then he had to go do some marketing of his business and Emily came over with her boyfriend and we visited for a while.  She is headed back to Austin tomorrow and we are on our way to Arizona and Sedona!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Boot Camp and Escapade!

6.26.13 – 7.6.13

Gillette Wyoming – Escapees Boot Camp

Our drive from Custer to Gillette was short and our setting up camp fairly uneventful.  The Escapade and Boot Camp were held at a huge complex somewhat like a fairground.  However it is called a CamPlex and it had parking and hook ups for thousands of rigs there. There is also rodeo grounds and many buildings to provide areas for meetings, get togethers and class rooms.  After we set up and had lunch we checked in for our Boot Camp.  There were probably 50-60 other participants.  After a brief introduction the overwhelming information came at us like a machine gun! I haven’t learned so much in three days since college. All the information was great but also somewhat frightening. By the end of that day Sean looked at me and said, were just parking it and not going anywhere!  Besides basic systems and maintenance that are needed with a rig, a HUGE emphasis was placed on safety. Along with learning about safety came all the horrific possibilities of what could happen if you weren’t safe. Tire blowouts, fire, fire and more fire, traffic accidents, etc. You get the picture. After each horrific possibility, they would tamper it down a bit and say how wonderful RV’ing is and how low these possibilities were but how you needed to know the worst case scenario so you would be prepared.

After three full days of frightening education, we graduated! Much more knowledgeable but yes, much more wary! 

During this period we got to meet many other people who are embarking on this journey that we have chosen. All but one or two were quite a bit older then us but all were friendly and interesting. We met our neighbors next to our rig the first day and as it turns out, Donna and Michael are from Arlington, TX and were only living 5 minutes away from us in a KOA for a few months while they were finishing up their jobs! We spent a lot of time with them and had a great time! They will be heading back to Arlington later on this year and we are going to get together again then. We quickly found out that the thing to do is make business cards with your personal information on them and hand them out to people so your not constantly trying to write down peoples phone numbers, email addresses etc. We will make our own when we get back to Texas.

After graduating from Boot Camp, we had one day, Sunday, June 30 to get laundry, shopping etc. done before the Escapade started. It was nice to take a breather as we felt as if we were going 90 miles an hour every day.  We also enjoyed watching as each day more and more rigs rolled in. They were almost all HUGE, beautiful and very pricey! We walked every day and looked at all of them in sort of awe. It would be easy to get rig envy but I love our fiver and the very best thing (and I doubt many could make the same claim) IT IS PAID FOR!

The next four days were as busy as the first three.  We woke up early every morning, exercised one way or the other and had breakfast then we headed out to the area that had all the buildings.  We attended more classes on varying subjects and also shopped the vendors.  After graduating boot camp we had to buy different smoke detectors (RV fires burn hotter and faster then traditional house fires and different smoke detectors are far more sensitive to that), fire extinguishers, halogen light bulbs for all our lights (pricey but so much nicer and will last forever!) and a few other things.  The evenings were spent having happy hour with our neighbors, dinner and then we would go to the evening entertainment briefly to see if our number was drawn for the many prizes they had. We never won and frankly the entertainment was for an older generation and we never stayed too long. Plus, we were exhausted!

We learned a lot more things but some of it was a repeat of what we had already learned in boot camp. One sort of sad thing we learned after attending a class on traveling in Mexico is that Mexico does not have the type of diesel fuel we need in our truck (any diesel engine made after 2007) and if we were to use it, we could destroy our engine!  Escapees host a rally into Mexico every year and we were really looking forward to attending but not if it means destroying our truck. However, the rally is set up to be about 400 miles and we should be able to do that on one tank of diesel fuel but what if you hit head winds and you use too much fuel? It was suggested to put an extra tank on our truck for that emergency.  We also plan on wintering in Rocky Point for a month or so next winter and did not know about this gas issue. The good thing about Rocky Point is that the border is not too far and we could go across and fill up but that would be a hassle too. The gas mileage we get in this truck has pleasantly surprised us. The mileage has been as high as 18-20 mph without the trailer and 8-12 with the trailer, depending on hills and wind.

At the end of the Rally there was a huge banquet.  There were almost a 1000 rigs in attendance at the rally and of course probably double that in participants.  The people who started the Escapees in 1978 are a couple named Kay and Jim Peterson. Jim passed away this past year but Kay is still going strong. She attended this years Rally and spoke several times. She is a tiny little spitfire and funny!  After the banquet we got our photo with her and told her we were second generation Escapees. Her daughter asked us to send the photo to her at headquarters so who knows, maybe we will get in the Escapees magazine! 

After the banquet we went back to the rig to get ready for the fire works.  Two couples that are traveling the U.S. but are from the U.K., joined us. They were quite interesting and I wish I had spent more time with them.  Maybe down the road somewhere….One interesting comment they made was about how many long hours workers in the U.S. work and how little vacation time there is. In the U.K. it is typical to get 6 weeks off a year and only upper management jobs work 40 hours per week. Most employees work less then the typical 40-hour workweek. I like the way they think! Unfortunately it started to rain very hard so we went into our respective rigs and saw what little of the fireworks we could from our window. 

The next day started early, again! We got the rig ready to travel and then we had an appointment with Smart Weigh. This is a mobile weight management program that Escapees provides (for a fee) that weighs your rig to make sure you are not overweight and that you are carrying the weight asymmetrically.  This is one of those huge safety issues that can cause all sorts of accidents and mechanical problems. (fire, fire, fire! It is now are greatest fear) Sean and I were both nervous about it though we were pretty sure we were ok.  Our fears were alleviated and we now know that if we need to, we can carry more weight if needed. Also, our truck is more then adequate to tow our fiver. Sean did a great job figuring out most of this before we ever bought the truck by doing his homework. He also replaced our tires with much better ones that should stand the load.

We traveled from Gillette to Estes Park Colorado. A friend and ex co-worker is getting married here and we decided we could attend since we were in this part of the country.  We have lived in Colorado for many years and we came to Estes once but we were not prepared for the huge holiday weekend crowds and narrow roads! They weren’t that narrow to us before but you start towing this monster and suddenly EVERYTHING is much smaller!  After a brief panic moment of whether or not we would make a turn to get to our RV park, we got here and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then Sean had to back in, which he did with no problems and we began our usual task of leveling the RV. For some reason, we just couldn’t get it to level. Sean had to hitch up three times and maneuver the rig before we finally got it right.  I just have to add here, Sean did not get mad once! Frustrated, but never angry! I think every woman should send her husband to Afghanistan for a while. It seems to really put a perspective on life. I am so thankful for his new outlook on life and that he came home safe and sound. Besides his ability to finance our new way of life, his time there has been an eye opener for both of us. We are both grateful the opportunities and renewed look on life.

Yesterday we got up early to go out to breakfast, grocery shop and see the Stanley House. This is the mansion that the Shining was filmed at. It was beautiful but I had another movie magic disappointment, as there was no maze! I guess that was put in digitally. The we went home and did a 12 mile bike ride around the whole town. We also stopped and watched even bigger rigs make that turn we were so worried about. One was a triple pull. A truck pulling a large fifth wheel, pulling a tow car! That is crazy but they did it. I suspect they have been towing a bit longer then us.  Last night we attended my friend and co-worker from Anza Elementary wedding. She moved to Colorado the year after I left Sahuarita and met her fiancĂ©. It worked out nicely that we were in an 8 hour drive.