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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February in Arizona

We spent the month of February in familiar territory – Quartzsite, Lake Havasu City, and Yuma, Arizona.

After participating in the SKP Geocachers’ rally off Plomosa Road in “Q”, we moved north 56 miles to Cattail Cove State Park near Lake Havasu City where we had reservations for two weeks.  We have been coming to Cattail for six or seven years while attending the annual Western Pyrotechnic Association’s Winter Blast – four days of unbelievably spectacular fireworks.  More on that later….

CATTAIL COVE

This campground is divided into two sections and, for the first time, we were assigned to the lower end, closest to the marina on the Colorado River.  Being closer to the water means the sites are a little closer together than we are used to, but our space still provided a very picturesque setting.  Our dog Star also likes the laid back times when she can enjoy the outdoors, too.

We had lots of time to do minor projects, read our Kindles and we generally just kicked back.  Luke’s biggest project was tackling the dulling of the headlamps on the CR-V and the motorhome.  He purchased polishing kits, prepped the areas, applied the polish, and then buffed them to a renewed brightness.  We don’t drive a lot at night, but the cleaning has definitely made a difference.

IMAG1137My projects were less demanding.  I did learn you DO need to remember to turn off the sink water when you decide to answer an email…  The sink nearly overflowed while doing the dishes.

 

AROUND LAKE HAVASU CITY

Lake Havasu City is known mostly for being the re-located home of the London IMAG1130Bridge.  We have visited the tourist areas in the past, so this year our 12 mile trips into town were mainly for groceries, project shopping, and dinners out.  We visited the China Buffet Restaurant twice, had the cracked Corian near our stove repaired, and spent a nice Sunday afternoon at the LHC Winterfest Street Fair.

 

IMAG1131Luke also managed to break a tooth while out to dinner one night. He was able to get an emergency appointment the next day with a local dentist who did a grinding job on the tooth to hold him until he can get a cap made when we get home.

This was a nice, soothing, wall-size waterfall in the waiting area.

 

ELKS LODGE DINNER

We went to the local Elks Lodge for another dinner out with Barbara and Tom Westerfield one night and scoped out the site for a potential RVers group dinner.  We put the word out that it would be nice to have a group get-together for the Lodge’s popular Wednesday night $10 Rib Dinner (ribs, baked potato, beans and slaw).  They would “only” be IMAG1142serving 500 dinners so we booked for an early group seating.  I estimated we would have maybe 20-25 people show.  Well, I was wrong – try nearly 50 people – but the Lodge staff was great!  They set us up in the Darts Room where most everyone got a seat (with overflow in the adjacent main dining room).  A great meal at the fifth largest Elks Lodge in the nation!

WINTER BLAST

We started coming to Winter Blast because the chairman of the event, Lyndon King, is the son of our friends Phyllis and Jim King from Elk Grove, CA.  IMAG1133(Phyllis and I worked together at Cosumnes River College for many years.)  Over the years we have also become friends with some of the their friends that we have met in our travels.  This year we spent a couple of Happy Hours and meals with the gang.

IMAG1134Enjoying a Happy Hour Dessert:  Top: Phyllis and Jim King, Luke, Jim Sinclair, and Len Hoare.

Bottom: Edith Sinclair, Teresa Hoare, and Phyllis King.IMAG1122

Teresa had her hands full giving equal attention to their dog Lucky (on the left) and our dog Star.  The two dogs have been friends since they met up in Michigan and have spent time together in Ontario, Canada, Quartzsite, and Yuma, Arizona.  They have been mistaken as daughter and mother, but they are not related.

 

FIREWORKS, FIREWORKS AND MORE FIREWORKS

Most of us enjoy watching fireworks on the 4th of July, New Year’s Eve and on other special occasions.  Community shows typically last 15-20 minutes and are produced by local companies who call themselves “pyros”.  The Western Pyrotechnic Association’s (WPA) Winter Blast is the conference where pyros attend seminars during the day to learn how to build shells and rockets, choreograph productions, and pass safety certifications. At night they get to practice what they learned. 

The public is invited to the evening displays and over the years we have seen the latest and greatest in fireworks demonstrations from national vendors and pyros from Disney, Italy, Japan and from those who have produced shows for the Olympics, the Washington, D.C. Bicentennial Celebration, and other national and international events.  Oh, and did I mention that the fireworks at Winter Blast start with “open shooting” at 5 pm and go until 10:30 p.m. for four nights in a row?  The multiple “formal” shows start around 8 pm and last about an hour.  Last year I posted a 1:35 minute video on YouTube which captured the finale on the Sunday night show.  Check it out at: Winter Blast finale video.  The Winter Blast is held at SARA Park in Lake Havasu City every year during Presidents’ Day Weekend.  Add it to your “bucket list”.  It will certainly spoil you.

Members of our Boomers RV Club have been also coming to Winter Blast for many years and the gang starts to gather near the grandstands hours before the fireworks begin.  Socializing occurs wherever Boomers gather.  Almost everyone in the following photos is a member of our Boomers RV Club who were in attendance before the Saturday night show.

THE STEPS

When our time at Cattail Cove State Park ran out, we move just over a mile south to where the Boomers were boondocking (dry camping) in an area known as The Steps.  The now-public land was once terraced to become a hillside mobile home park.  Story has it that the land went into bankruptcy and became the property of the State of Arizona.  The Boomers and other RVers have adopted this area along Hwy. 95, just north of Parker Dam, and there were easily over 100 RVs parked in the area.The Steps EntranceIMAG1175

ED’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

Besides the Boomers gathering for Winter Blast, there is another reason so many migrate to The Steps – “Ed’s Birthday Party”.  This event started as a simple hot dog potluck birthday party for one of our members, Duane Peyton, and was originally held SARA Park on the Saturday of Winter Blast.  The party, however, took on a new persona a few years ago when Duane and Betty went IMAG1176to a local grocery store to buy a cake for the party.  Unfortunately, there was only one cake left in the display case and it said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ED”.  The bakery clerk informed them that they could actually buy THIS cake because it was now available.  You see, “Ed” had died and the cake was now available at half price!  Thus, a tradition was started!

The party has outgrown the picnic area at the park and moved to The Steps where the Boomers now gather to honor “Ed” (RIP), Duane, and anyone else celebrating a birthday during Winter Blast.  IMAG1178

About 100 people attended this year’s birthday party and the cake inscription, while a little “wordy”, honored Ed and noted the rain and hail that greeted the group the last two years.

 

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Besides singing the traditional Happy Birthday song, the Boomers now also sing the theme song lyrics to the old TV show, “Mr. Ed” and gather for a group photo to commemorate Ed’s Birthday Party.IMAG1207

 

 

Such is life on the road!  Remember that growing old does not mean you have to grow up!

 

NEXT:  THE FALL OF YUMA

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cactus Chronicles 1 – Q and Boomerville

Visiting the Western Arizona desert has become an annual winter destination for us since I retired in 2004,  The area around Quartzsite, AZ (referred to as “Q” by everyone) is known as a “mecca for RVers”.  The population of this little town swells from 3,000 during the summer to over a million and a half visitors and hundreds of thousands RVs during the “winter snowbird season”.  The biggest draw to Quartzsite for us is the “Big Tent RV Show” which runs for about 10 days in late January. There are also thousands of swap meet-style venues that line every major street in Q.  The other major draws are the rock and gem shows and you-name-it vendor booths.

Q Big Tent aerial 

The Big Tent, vendor areas, and the white roofs of RVs everywhere you look.

We made our obligatory visits to the “Big Tent” but didn’t buy much.  We also had the “bushings” on our Road King shock absorbers replaced under warranty by the service teams from Redlands RV and Henderson’s Alignment.   Luke arrived early with the RV to avoid the heavy traffic mess in the area.  Star and I followed him in with the car so we had a place to hang-out during the service work which took most of the day.

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Found this metal camel sculpture behind the service tents while taking Star for a walk.  The camels are all around town as a salute to an 1860s military experiment in using camels for desert work.

 

 

BOONDOCKING IN BOOMERVILLE

While the town has plenty of full service RV parks, most visitors opt to stay on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) desert lands and “boondock” – live in their IMAG0930RVs without electrical, water, or sewer hook-ups.  Modern RVs are fully self-contained with power generators (or solar), large fresh water tanks, and waste holding tanks allowing for extended time off-the-grid. (We go about 8-12 days before we require a trip to town “to dump” or a visit from a “honey wagon” and water tank.)   

Scaddam Wash signYou can also pay to stay in “Long Term Visitor Areas” (LTVA) where “2-week” or “season” permits allow RVers access to water, garbage, and tank dumping services. We only did that our first year in Q.  Instead, we now go to a section of desert that our RV Boomers Club has claimed for years where we can stay free for 14-days before we are supposed to move on to land at least 25 miles away (not always enforced). Our area, fondly called “Boomerville”, is actually about 6 miles from the Tent area and IMAG0871transforms into a well-developed community with parking areas for those who prefer the quiet of a solar-only area or, closer in to the action, a series of graveled branch roads where vehicles park however they prefer.  The focal point of activities is called “the fire pit” where Boomers gather daily for Happy Hours, “circle” chats on posted topics each day, and, of course, food events and evening campfires.

One of our members, Tom, is a power hang-glider and each morning he flies over Boomerville capturing aerial photos he gladly shares with club members.  This year about 140 RVs “checked-in” during the two-weeks of the annual club gathering.  Some folks stay the full two-weeks while others stay a short time and bounce around the desert with other club gatherings or traveling friends.

Our dark colored rig is hard to see on the far left edge of this photo. Solar-only rigs are in the upper right corner across a gravel wash and the fire pit is in the middle.

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BOOMERVILLE HAPPENINGS

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Unfortunately, we were off-site when the group photo was taken for our Boomer Newsletter.

imageFor our non-Boomer friends, I’ll try to explain the attraction to the Boomerville experience. The Boomers RV Club is not an age-based group, but rather based on a fun-loving, active state-of-mind.  Our club has about 550 registered “rigs” and has an unofficial motto of “no officers, no rules, call it and they will come”.  Every year hundreds of Boomer converge on this plot of desert land from all over the US and Canada on dates that coincide with the Big Tent RV Show.  Most folks visit the sales tents at sometime during their stay, but the real reason for the gathering is renewing friendships, comrade and fun times.  Rather than having just one or two couples hosting this gathering, in recent years, there have been various folks who have offered to “host” different events. 

IMAG0912This year, Gretchen and Bob Mattison set-up the Welcome check-in area where new arrivals signed-in and where we would check the daily activity board. Each day’s activities from morning walks, hikes, and Zumba exercises, were hosted by different Boomers.  Gretchen and Bob also provided multiple pancake breakfasts for everyone.  They raised about $350 in donations for CARE (see below for more on our Escapees charity).

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4:00 pm Happy Hours at the fire pit were hosted by Pam and Steve Ritchie, who made the daily announcements of upcoming events and welcomed each day’s arrivals and offered the microphone for self-introductions.  “Newbies” to Boomerville are given a red piece of yarn so us ol’ timers could make them feel welcomed. 

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We missed a couple of popular events while we were en route and/or off-site having minor repairs done at the Big Tent service centers. 

The judges had their work cut out for them (and their Tums nearby) with 30 entries.  This year’s Chili Cook-off was won by Bill Rayner (shown with fist raised in victory).

chili judgesBill winning chili cookoff

The “Geraldine Contest”, which honors a late member named Jerry who dressed as a woman one day so he could attend a ladies-only outing, was won by Mark Thurmond (far right).  If only their former co-workers could see these guys (oops, gals) enjoying retirement and the RVing lifestyle.

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Food events are always high on any Boomer agenda.  In addition to the frequent pancake breakfasts mentioned above, the potlucks and a Happy Hour wine-tasting were popular again this year. 

Add an iPod boom box and the desert floor becomes a dance venue.

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COLLECTING FOR CARE

In the past I have written about CARE – Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees – an adult daycare and assisted living facility (in your own RV) at our Escapees headquarters in Livingston, Texas.  Most of the clubs within the Escapees (SKP) structure have adopted CARE as our RVers’ charity.  Each time there is a large gathering of SKPs, you can count on some type of fund raising event.  At our Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta gathering back in October our group of 46 rigs collected $2,876 through the donated auction items, wine sales, and services.  Boomerville attendees were equally generous and got caught up in the “spirit” of giving – even more so after a bit of wine, tequila, and snacks.  A total of $3,085 was donated this year.

Left:  Vicky Webb, one of the great organizers of the CARE Auctions here and in Albuquerque, uses her purchase of Tequila to keep the bidding going.  Right:  Judie St. Croix and Mark Thurmond “delivered” wine refills for more donations.  Thanks to all the others who helped with the auction.

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I WAS BEING “GOOD”

DSC02948Because of my current bout with Valley Fever, when we were welcomed I announced to everyone that I had planned to be “good” and not take on any teaching assignments or to do any physical activities.  Except for a round of golf (with a cart) and chatting too much during the Smartphone discussion group, my activities were limited to food events (duh, gotta keep the strength up!), watching an evening presentation at “Pace’s Theatre” (outdoor slideshow projected on the white sidewall of Sue and Ken Pace’s motorhome), and visiting with lots of old and new friends.

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Above:  Sue Pace runs the slide show while hubby Ken shares G-rated images from his Burning Man trip.  Right: Bob Williams (?) entertained around the fire pit one afternoon and into the evening around a roaring campfire.

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I golfed with Ken Bloedel, Marc Snyder, Gary Smith, and Steve Ritchie at the Blythe Municipal Golf Course.  All the women backed out so I had all the men to myself for a five-some.   Hmmm, don’t go there!  :-0

 

DESERT SKIES

You can’t talk about life in the desert without talking about the magnificent sunrises and sunsets. 

Thanks to Gloria King, Jenny Sheppard, Diane Hitzel, and anyone else who recognize their photos in this blog!

 

NEXT:  GEOCACHING BOF RALLY