It is hard to believe another page is off the calendar and the new 2012 family calendar is back up on the refrigerator. That makes today an appropriate time to look back at where we went and what we saw in 2011. This posting is a long one re-capping our January to April winter travel that happened before I started blogging.
OUR TRAVELS… Pre-Blog Adventures
We have been “extended” RVing since 2004 and our first trip of any new year is called our “Winter” trip and our destination is normally to the desert areas near Palm Springs and Western Arizona.
We departed January 3, 2011 and traveled sloooowwwwly through the fog-shrouded Central Valley of California. Our driving days were short, with only 2-3 hours of visibility through an area know for dense winter “tule” fog that can limit visibility to just feet. After overnight stops in French Camp and Wasco, we eventually made it to Desert Hot Springs and snuck in a dinner with friends MerrieAnn and Jeff Martin.
It was then off to Mexico! We overnighted in Quartzsite (commonly just called “Q” among RVers) and then met up in Gila Bend with other RV friends from the Escapees Chapter 8, Mexican Connection Club. We were going to be “advance scouts” to see about bringing the entire club here in 2012. Our five rigs caravanned the 132 miles to Puerto Penasca (aka Rocky Point), crossing the Mexican border at Lukeville, Arizona, without incident.
On two occasions we used an American expatriate to tour the town and eateries in a 12-passenger van. During a day tour we visited oyster fields, a local aquarium, went tequila tasting, and visited scenic overlooks. The town is very “Americanized” with English spoken and US dollars accepted.
“Locals” do pester a bit and try to have you buy their trinkets, fresh shrimp, and offer their labor services for very low costs. We did buy shrimp and Luke had the wheels on the motorhome hand-polished.
The only memorable story about this trip was learning that while we could bring pork and chicken INTO Mexico, we could not bring it back into the USA – even if we brought it with us from home. We all had stocked up our freezers with both meat products to start the trip and had to cook and eat it all while in Puerto Penasca or risk having it confiscated at the border. How many ways can you cook pork and chicken???
BOOMERVILLE IN LATE JANUARY
“Boomerville” is a plot of BLM land in Quartzsite that our Escapees RV “Boomers” Club calls home for two weeks every January. it is a reunion time away from the congested shopping areas and the “Big Tent” RV Show that attracts a million or more RVers every winter.
The Boomerville gathering is really a non-structured rally that goes with the Boomers’ philosophy of no rules, no officers, and ‘call it and they will come’. More than 100-150 units can check in during the two week period. Hosting is by committee with places to check-in, exchange goodies, have free pancake breakfasts, hold fire ring discussion groups, enjoy dinner potlucks, go for hikes or 4-wheeling, compete in chili potlucks, go geocaching, share foods during breakfast potlucks, and, did I mention potlucks? Boomers like to eat!
The group also enjoys lots of “fun” entertainment and fund-raising for our club’s charity – CARE, Escapees’ Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees.
A new addition to Boomerville was an evening program called “Pace’s Theater”. Each night someone would present a slide show that was projected on the side of Sue and Ken Pace’s white motorhome. Programs included travelogues about Burning Man, RVing to Alaska, and I presented a recruitment slide show on attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta “the Boomer way”. It worked as sign-ups came in fast and furiously and we ended up with 46 rigs attending this year.
LAKE HAVASU BALLOON FIESTA
We slipped away from Q for a weekend and took the RV up to Lake Havasu for their “first annual” Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. We had planned to crew for the pilot we crew for in Albuquerque every year, but winds played havoc with the event. Mike and T Liberti were only able to get one flight in with their sponsors. They safely landed on shore – not everyone did. We did hang around for a “candlelight” or “torch” burn one night when some of the pilots set-up their baskets (without the balloon “envelope” ) and burned their propane tanks synched to music. Fun, but not flying.
I’m on the Administrative Team for the Escapees’ Geocaching Club and helped organized this year’s rally back up in Q. We had nearly 50 rigs show up at our Plomosa Road location in Q for a four-day free rally.
Cold weather did not hamper the group who gathered each morning for coffee and the day’s caching challenges. I hosted the general sessions and taught a bit of the beginner’s sessions. Barb Westerfield held court in her rig with beginners and others wanting to learn more advanced geocaching techniques. Sue and Ken Pace, other members of the Admin Team, provided lots of games and prizes for the winners.
LAKE HAVASU CITY – WINTER BLAST
We bounced back to Lake Havasu City (LHC) and took up residence at Cattail Cove State Park. We were there for two weeks and attended the LHC Street Festival, a Geocache Event, Winter Blast, and plenty of Happy Hours with the Boomers who had also migrated north for the Winter Blast.
Our dog Star enjoys the off-leash dog beach at Cattail Cove on the Colorado River. This year she decided to surprise a couple of ducks who had been teasing her for quite a time. She looked like she was walking on water in this photo.
Winter Blast is a four-day/night fireworks extravaganza that is actually a training and demonstration conference for the Western Pyrotechnic Association. Fireworks are shot from three areas from 5:00 p.m. until after 10:00 p.m. It is hard to describe how spectacular the “formal” shows are each year. Presenters are fireworks vendors wanting to show off their latest, greatest products. Shows have been done by those who have done the Olympics, the Washington, D.C. Bi-Centennial, Disneyland, etc.
Check out this video I shot during the 2011 Sunday finale.
MORE TRAVEL STOPS
Our winter trip also took us to Boulder City, Nevada where we toured the insides of Hoover Dam, saw the new bridge, and did some local geocaching.
We then passed back through Q and Phoenix to Yuma where we stayed with retired RV Driving Instructor Dick Reed on a lot in the Foothills before landing at the Yuma Fairgrounds for the Gypsy Journal Rally.
The GJ Rally is a fun, educational rally put on by Nick and Terry Russell, publishers of the Gypsy Journal Newspaper. I have been assisting Barbara Westerfield teach Geocaching classes and this year we added a session on “Smartphone Apps for RVers”. I was also asked to fill-in for a missing presenter and facilitated a Women’s Only RVing session. Feedback was great!
Wherever RVers gather you can count on the Boomers getting together. There was a “Happy Hour” during our times in the Foothills and another during the GJ Rally.
VALLEY OF THE SUN – PHOENIX
Our wheels rolled north back to the Phoenix area where we bounced to RV parks on the North, West, and East sides of the valley. We caught up with a number of friends who live or were traveling through the area.
BACK TO CALIFORNIA
Every year we wrap up our Winter Trip in the Palm Springs area where our daughter and her family spend a week at their timeshare in Palm Desert. This year we based our RV at the picturesque Indio Elks Lodge, close to shopping, restaurants, and freeway access to the family.
We arrived early and got more excitement than we anticipated. An older RV parked across from us caught fire and both Luke and I had a chance to help get the owners out and to help put out the flames before the fire department arrived. We have attended numerous RV fire safety seminars taught by “Mac the Fire Guy” and our training and supply of extinguishers certainly came in handy. No one was hurt, but the rig was declared “totaled” once the firemen used their axes and hoses to douse the remaining embers.
After our visit with the family we got one more quick visit with MerrieAnne and Jeff Martin at their new winter home in Desert Hot Springs and then it was time to head north past the snow-capped mountains and windmill farms for the two-day trek home.
Our Winter Trip lasted exactly 100 days and covered 3,359 miles in the RV and another 230 miles with the “toad”. We would stay home until May 24th when we would join Gloria and Frank King for our trip to Alaska and the rest of our Summer-Fall Trip.
[You can read details of that ~15,000 mile journey by clicking the Blog Archive on the right side panel of this Blogger posting. If reading on Google Reader, click the blog title to go to the original posting.]
ABOUT THE BLOG…
Doing the blog was probably one of the most challenging and rewarding personal accomplishments of 2011. For the record, this blog began in May, 2011 – just before we departed for our 5-month Alaska+ adventure. The rewards were the written comments I got after each entry and recognizing that 58 folks actually “subscribed” to this blog and that it received 30,660+ “hits” during its first 6-months! Thank you!
NEXT: THE ROAD AHEAD