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Saturday, August 2, 2014
While most of my blog readers also do Facebook, I am well-aware that I have readers who stay away from “social media” and just want to know where we are and what we are doing. They follow our travels vicariously through these blogs, often telling us they wish they could do what we do. Our advice is always to DO IT! Don’t wait until your health tells you it is time to hang up the keys!
WINTER TRIP ENDED IN APRIL
My last blog update was published on April 16, 2014 and can be read by clicking the Blog Archive tab on the far right panel on the right side of the screen. Those 19 posts from January to April 2014 chronicled our typical winter travels through Southern California and Arizona. Later trips are also listed by years. I am pleased that these pages have been been viewed at least 68,115+ times since the blog started in 2011.
We started our extended RV travels when I retired in 2004, and we continue to basically define our trips by the seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Some trips are 3-4 months long but others have been as long 7 months. Since 2004 I have also kept detailed log sheets using Excel spreadsheets and I can tell you where we stayed by city and overnight location by GPS location, what we paid and did we use club discounts, did we have wi-fi service, and how many miles we traveled each day. There is also a section for all our fuel and propane expenses for each of our outings. Yes, I am anal about keeping these travel logs up-to-date both on the computer and in a tabbed binder for quick reference.
RVing by the numbers: Luke keeps all of our expenses detailed in Quicken while I keep the travel logistics. The bottom travel line, current up to today, shows we have traveled 101,810,1 miles in four different RVs (Itasca 22’ Spirit Class C, 24’ Holiday Rambler Atlantis Class C, 34’ Monaco Monarch gas Class A, and our current 40’ Itasca Horizon Class A diesel I call our “rolling condo”. We have also traveled another 36,801 touring in the 2006 Honda CR-V we have towed behind two of our larger Class A motorhomes. The first two years we had smaller Class C RVs and did not tow.
TIME BETWEEN TRIPS
We got back to our “stick house” in Cool, CA on April 17th and our only travel since then has been to Pleasanton, CA to where our daughter and her family live. Later in this blog series I will include some photos from those mini-trips. During those outings we travel the 238 miles with the motorhome towing the car from Cool and staying at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, conveniently just a few blocks from their home.
This “2014 Summer-Fall” trip began July 22 and will ultimately have us on the road for about four months. We plan to get back to Cool in early November, 2014!
TRIP PLANNING – “SHAKING THE JELL-O”
RVers often say traveling is not about the destination, but the journey. For us we start our trip planning by looking at a calendar and posting events we want to attend or people and places we want to see within our timeframe or along certain routes.
This “2014 Summer-Fall Trip” schedule has been about getting back on the road and meandering about the West until we have to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico the first two weeks in October to host an RV rally for the ABQ International Balloon Fiesta. So, during the next 100+ days we have penciled-in a few specific stops: scenic Lake Tahoe, Sparks/Reno, Nevada for “Hot August Nights” classic car show, La Pine, Oregon to visit family, Redmond, Oregon for the international Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) RV rally, Washington State to visit various friends, and then working our way back to ABQ via Idaho, Colorado, Utah and an area known as the “4 Corners” to meet friends from PA who will be in the area. We will get to Albuquerque the last week in September and prepare for our 9th “Balloons and Boomers” rally. We are expecting 40 RVs and all the participants will be encouraged to crew for a hot air balloon team. A great time is always had during the two weeks we are together. From there we will meander our way back to Cool in Northern California.
Earlier I mentioned “shaking the Jell-O”. That is what RVers say after they start their trip planning and “stuff” happens before the plans are firm. We all shake those itinerary lists and get excited to just be on the road enjoying the RV-lifestyle.
RECAPPING OUR SPRING
So, what did we do from April until last week? We dealt with a lot of health, home, and mechanical issues that kept our calendars full of appointments. Happily, we also included a number of family activities that made our time at home fulfilling.
This blog will not go into much detail. It was intended to explain why there have not been any blogs since April. Now that I am back in my writing mode, I will start to fill in the calendared events with photos. For now I will just mention we are parked in Sparks, Nevada and attending the Hot August Nights classic car show until Monday when our wheels will start rolling towards La Pine, Oregon.
NEXT: SPRING IN COOL
I try to end each blog with a preview of what will be included in the next blog. Over the next few days I will re-cap what has kept us busy. Please, feel free to leave comments after each published blog. Feedback is encouraged. See you soon.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
When we pull into our driveway in Cool, California on Thursday, we will have been on the road for 106 days for our Winter trip. This trip only involves time in Southern California and Western Arizona and covered about 2,400 miles.
SO CAL -- AGAIN
Unless we are doing the Pacific Northwest or traveling the Midwest to the East Coast, our journey to the Southwest takes us through the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs both coming and going. Our stay this year on our way home was at the Sands RV & Golf Resort in Desert Hot Springs. We have stayed here a few times and have dealt with their narrow spaces. While the shot below looks like a lot of space, our passenger side slide is not extended because of heavy winds we experienced most of our week.
We requested a spot near their spacious, clean, and grassy dog park which made Star very happy.
GOLF and MORE GOLF
As mentioned back in my blog in mid-January, when traveling in the Indio/Palm Springs area we enjoy getting together with MerrieAnn and Jeff Martin, RVing friends who winter in Desert Hot Springs, MerrieAnn and I enjoy playing golf and we ask the guys to join us for meals out.
This trip through we first played the 9-hole Sands course that had a beautiful mountain view. We then played 18 holes on the Martins’ home course, Mission Lakes Country Club.
Thursday nights in Palm Springs means a street fair with vendors and lots of people watching. We had an early bird dinner with MerrieAnn and Ken at a popular downtown eatery, Lulu’s California Bistro, and then had a chance to stroll down the street to take in the local scene. Sometimes the local color comes in the form of pigs and statues.
The pot-bellied pig (above) attracted a lot of attention and is apparently a “regular” on scene. The sidewalks throughout the downtown feature “stars” for local celebrities. This featured fountain statue and star were dedicated to Sonny Bono, former Mayor of Palm Springs and, later, a California Congressman. Yes, he is the same Sonny Bono that sang with Cher.
The famed “Palm Springs Follies” will end their run at this landmark Plaza Theatre this year. Unfortunately, we never stopped to see it.
Strolling Palm Canyon Drive
When I took this photo, the gentleman on the right did not realize that the “statue” was alive. A good startle occurred when the statue moved.
ROSES IN DECEMBER
Before leaving SoCal we drove over the San Gorgonio Pass to visit Boomer friends Fran and Bill Rayner. They purchased a “stick” house in the Sun Lakes Country Club development in Banning, CA and they invited us to dinner and a local production of “Roses in December”, a readers’ theatre production by their local drama club. We had fun getting caught up on each other’s travels (not trials) and tribulations.
Our next destination was the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA, less than a mile from where our daughter and family live. We have found it is much easier for all if we stay in the RV rather than doubling up on the office futon.
During our five days there we helped our oldest grandson Taylor celebrate his 14th birthday at Hana Japan Steak and Seafood Restaurant, a teppanyaki-style performance venue. Taylor invited a friend and they enjoyed sitting grill-side.
Our other grandson Tanner, 11, is on the “DL” (disabled list) from Little League. He has apparently cracked a bone on his knee cap but they cannot put a cast on it or put a brace on the leg. He has a month of “no weight” on the leg and is dealing with crutches and “hopping” a lot. This week he received a wheel chair and is trying a new sport for him: wheelchair basketball. We also got him a new baseball glove (planned prior to the injury) so he is spending a lot of his time breaking it in.
WARE IN LODI
This year’s rally was much smaller than in the past with just about 85-90 RVs present. We are not crafters nor game players so there were few activities that interested us.
I set up “recruitment tables” for two of the RV groups we are active in: the Boomers and the Geocachers. I also participated in a session for beginning Geocachers with Sue Pace and Barbara Westerfield, part of our club’s administrative team and instructors for our annual Quartzsite rally.
We gave a fun-filled, informative presentation about the sport of geocaching that seemed to go over very well.
Thursday is our 73-mile travel day home to Cool, California. We’ll catch up on the ubiquitous medical and dental appointments over the next two weeks and then head back to the Fairgrounds in Pleasanton for another couple of weeks with the family.
NEXT: WAIT AND SEE…
Thursday, April 10, 2014
It has been a couple of weeks since our life was evolving around spring training baseball and our social gatherings in Happy Trails RV Resort.
Our first outing was to the Desert Botanical Gardens and the featured glass works exhibit by Dale Chihuly. At the advice of the Lawrences, we signed up for the 4-8 pm time slot so we saw the exhibit during the daylight hours and then, after a dinner break, returned for the colorful exhibit under their unique lights.
The array of cacti and other desert plants lined the walkways in a series of loops and special gardens. Each plant was appropriately labeled and informational signs provided more details about the native environments of each area.
This Saguaro seemed to be communicating with a familiar hand gesture.
AMAZING CHIHULY EXHIBIT
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect since I hadn’t done much homework on our visit.
As mentioned before, we saw the pieces during both during the day and with lights illuminated. Here are a few of our favorites:
The Chihuly exhibit will continue at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens until May 18. To learn more about the artist and his other glass works exhibits, visit his website (click here).
Mike and Wendy Lawrence are both veterans and have used a web service to get complementary tickets to various events. I was surprised when we were invited to join them for the Phoenix Symphony. Now, I never imagined them as “symphony types” [no flaming my stereotyping], but, yes, they had four tickets for a Friday night concert featuring “The Music of the Rolling Stones”.
The evening included nearly 20 Stones hits performed by singer Brody Dolyniuk and a rock group that combined with the entire Phoenix Symphony. There were plenty of “Mick Jagger” gyrations and prancing as Dolyniuk admitted he had “studied” Jagger’s moves on YouTube.
For the record, I did NOT take any photos during the concert, but my good friend Mike certainly stole some shots with his phone and his iPad. With permission, here are a few of Mike’s photos:
BIG BOOMER FIX
From reading Facebook, Boomer discussion boards, and blogs, I knew there were a number of Escapee Club “Boomers” in the Mesa area. Last time we were on the east side of town we organized a “boomerang” (get-together) at the Val Vista RV Resort. Working with Bill Joyce and Diane Melde, we once again put together a ‘rang at Val Vista and posted it with a week’s advance notice. This time we added the new “RVillage.com” website and used the “get together” tab to attract potential Boomers.
As it turned out, the pool area we used before was actually pre-booked for another party, but a another patio area was available. While only 5 or 6 couples posted an RSVP, we actually ended up with 20+ attendees. Since we were in possession of the “Boomer Banner” it was a natural to call for a group photo.
NEXT: BACK TO CALIFORNIA
Thursday, March 27, 2014
WHY HAPPY TRAILS
We have visited Happy Trails (HT) numerous times as stop-overs returning from our time at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Those stays have lasted a few days to maybe a week or two. Our friends Bonnie and Ken Martin have their winter home here in the front portion of the resort, an area known as The Ranch, and have helped us arrange lots in the past.
This Ranch portion of the resort is limited to Class A motorhomes and is easy to negotiate for our 40’ rig, has modern casitas, and plenty of uncovered (open) lots that allow for use of our DirecTV dish. We have a transponder to open the “gates” and do not have to go through the HT Security Gate to get “home”. The park is aging nicely and the place prides itself on activities and volunteerism.
Life in Happy Trails often revolves around facilities located in or near the centrally-located Town Center. There are no merchants here but the area does include the Chuckwagon, Mail Center, Ballroom, craft and hobby rooms, billiards, fitness center, and a general activities office. (More photos at the end of this blog.)
The 18-hole public golf course, Great Eagle, is privately owned and meanders through the entire RV park. Along some of the fairways, nettings protect RVs and patios along the back of owned lots. On our first visit in 2007 we stayed on a rental golf course lot that had actually decorated the patio in a Florida nautical theme of pink flamingos and sea shells with buoys hanging on the nets and docking ropes. The protection was definitely needed as we heard repeated errant golf balls bouncing off the metal roofs of the shade ports and nearby RVs.
A BUSY SOCIAL LIFE
I have had a chance to play 5 rounds of golf with the Ladies Golf Club here. Didn’t play well, but had fun. Many of you know that Luke doesn’t play golf, so getting to play while traveling is a treat for me.
We enjoyed numerous HT breakfasts at the Chuckwagon, the volunteer-run coffee shop where prices run from $1 for a multi-grain/nut 8” pancake to $3.50 for huge, made-to-order omelets. We also attended a traditional St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinner. An English band (hmmm, probably couldn’t find an Irish group) played rock n roll music with plenty of dancing following dinner. There were other opportunities for HT-sponsored entertainment events and dinners, but sell-outs and our schedules did not allow attendance.
Flyers from some of the entertainment evenings at HT.
There were “neighborhood” activities as well. We attended two of the three potlucks that were held this month here in the Ranch section. This week, for example, one couple hosted a rib dinner that spilled over onto three lots. They had six roasters for 75 lbs. of delicious, slow-roasted BBQ ribs and potluck side dishes to feed about 80 attendees.
Above: Chef Tammy shows off one of the six roasters full of ribs. Friend Ken Martin waiting in line for food. Below: some of my golfing partners at the rib dinner.
We also ate out with our friends: Big Buddha Chinese with the Martins, and prime rib (salad for me) at Nick’s Diner with Boomers & HT residents Gloria and Charley Goss. We did one Boomer/Ballooning gathering hosted by Connie and Marshall Shapiro. Turns out they were with us in ABQ at last year’s Balloon Fiesta and they live across the street here in HT from the Gloria & Charley. The “Wicked” pilot team they crewed for at Fiesta, Dave Lopushinsky and Leslie Manion, were also staying in the area with another pilot so we had a definite excuse to get-together.
Now that I think about it, RVers don’t need excuses to get-together for food, fun, and story telling.
Gloria Goss with her redneck wine glass.
SEASON ENDING ACTIVITIES
The “season” is coming to a close in Happy Trails so it has been time for the clubs and activities to wrap things up. (Canadian snowbirds are reluctantly leaving the park heading north before their 6-month limitation time schedule expires.)
While we were getting ready to take our grandson & SIL to a ballgame during their recent visit, the annual Happy Trails Parade started lining up along our street. Golf carts, the normal method of getting around in HT, also doubled as decorated floats in the parade.
On Tuesday, the Lady Golfers ended their “season” with an 18-hole Scramble tournament and their annual awards ceremony. The morning of golf was followed by a pizza party at the gazebo overlooking a large pond near the “Town Center”.
ROY ROGERS & DALE EVANS
Most of my blog reading friends remember these icons from Western movies and television. I bet you even know the names of their horses, side-kick, and even the jeep that appeared in the TV series from 1951-1957.
So why am I writing about them in a blog about Happy Trails?
Apparently, when this RV park was being planned, the developers bought the “endorsement” of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to use the images and characters from the movies and 100 TV episodes. They never did live in Happy Trails, but the Activities Office has a scrapbook of photos from visits the pair made here. There is also a collection of memorabilia from the promotions of the early days in the park’s history. That history lives on in the street names throughout the park. (These will answer the trivia questions asked earlier.)
LOTS WE DIDN’T DO…
Happy Trails has a lot of activities that we did not take advantage of during our month here. Here are scenes from around Town Center:
We will leave Happy Trails on Monday, but there is still more to write about our time in the Phoenix area.
Until then… “Happy Trails to You” as sung by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. (click the link).
NEXT: CACTI, CHIHULY, & CULTURE