The Journey comes to an end

Well here we are, January 9, 2012 and we are on day 130 of this incredible journey that we have been on.  We have been in San Diego since December 15 and have had a wonderful time exploring this fabulous city.  Danielle joined us for Christmas and we got to do things that we wouldn’t normally have done, like Huntington Beach for surfing, Tijuana for the experience and Disneyland just because Danielle wanted to.

Prior to Danielle arriving we just regrouped and enjoyed the sunshine, but did manage to visit Old Town, the Hotel del Coronado, toured the aircraft carrier USS Midway and there are still things that we want to do before we leave.  Balboa Park and the Gaslamp Quarter to mention two things.

The main reason for this blog though is  to let everyone know that we are coming home.  We leave San Diego on Sunday, January 15 and we will be making our way slowly north, and plan to be back in Canada by  the end of January/beginning of February.  Sad to be leaving the sunshine behind and by all accounts we will be coming home to weather that is not nice at all.  But when all is said and done, we are ready to come back to reality.

See you all soon.

 

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Laughlin, NV to Fountain of Youth, CA

Well here we are again, its the primary blogger’s turn to bring you all up to date.  We left Williams, AZ on November 11 and headed to Laughlin, for a well earned stay in a hotel, of course its a casino town so we were able to secure a room at the Edgewater Hotel for 3 nights for $12 a night.  It wasn’t the best we have stayed in but I guess you get what you pay for.  It was clean with comfortable beds and hot showers that we didn’t have to leave home for.

While I had some casino time, Frank explored nearby Bullhead City, not a lot there but he travelled to Needles, CA and found it was an old railroad town, so he was quite happy with that.

After the 3 days we touch base with Ed and Eileen and are meeting them in Quartzite, AZ, so after leaving NV we cross the bridge back into Arizona and we briefly cross into California then back into Arizona for Quartzite.  The drive was uneventful with a few mountain passes and wide open desert.  We are going to experience camping in the desert on the BLM Lands (Bureau of Land Management).  Apparently its quite popular with RVers, you pay $40 and it gives you 14 days of dry camping in various desert sites throughout Arizona and California.  Very basic, you just camp wherever you want and because we are self contained with a generator, bathroom etc. we wanted for nothing.  It was like camping old style, only in luxury.  We just had to make sure we had lots of water, there are places in town which was about 10 miles away that had vending machines on the sidewalk where you could fill up your gallon jugs with fresh water.

Our first 5 days were spent in Quartzite which is a desert town with hardly anything going for it except other rvers.  The site itself was a flat gravel plain with some scrubby trees and bushes, but it was nice to have some down time and just relax, and catch some sun.  Eileen and I played Scrabble and the four of us played cards and we had lots of happy hours.

From Quartzite we travelled to Yuma and replenished our supplies before continuing to another BLM site in California called Pilot Knob.  Just after leaving Yuma, we have to go through a check station just after passing the Welcome to California sign.  Apparently there is a quarantine on citrus fruits coming from AZ into CA so I had to give up my lemon, boo hoo.  How silly.  Incidentally what we saw of Yuma was not too impressive, spread out, dusty, dirty in the sunlight.

We reach Pilot Knob and encounter a wide open, largely gravel plain with some undulations and scrubby bushes.  The weather is great, hot sunny days and cooler at night, just the way we want it, but it does get windy as well.  Frank is pretty sure the whole area must have been the floor of an ancient ocean, a mixture of sand, gravel and small stones.  The evenings are really special, I have seen some of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

On our 3rd day in Pilot Knob we venture to Alcodones, Mexico which was a 4 mile drive to the border where we leave our car and literally walk down some steps past the American checkpoint and through an unmanned Mexican checkpoint into the town of Alcodones.  It is a very small town consisting of a couple of streets filled with dentists, pharmacies, liquor stores and the usual Mexican trinkets.  Eileen and Ed head for their dentist because Eileen has an appointment to get some work done.  Frank and I got our teeth cleaned for $15 and were given an estimate of the work they thought should be done.  Frank’s wasn’t too bad, his came in at $2500, mine on the other hand was $13,500, apparently they thought that all of my teeth should be capped with gold, LOL.  We said we would think about it and quickly left the office.  But I did feel good getting my teeth cleaned.   I am a sucker for Mexican pottery and bought a couple of bowls and of course some cheap Kahlua.  We meet up with E and E and have lunch in a open courtyard along with some beer of course and then walked the two blocks back to the border for our face to face with the US border guards.  I got well and truly spanked because when he said one at a time, I told him Frank and I were together, he proceeded to give me a lecture about `when I say, one at a time, that`s what I mean`.  He eventually let us through and we continue back to our camp.

The next stop on our BLM camping adventure is 46 miles away in Holtville, CA.  This site is a little different in that it has some hidden sandy spots, which Ed gets stuck in.  It was touch and go for a while, but Frank came up with a trusty shovel and eventually dug him out.  We end up in a spot where we are able to make a little compound of our own with the rigs and the car.  The neat thing about this place is that it has a couple of natural mineral hot springs which Ed and Frank take advantage of a couple of times a day.  Eileen and I decide to wait until we get to the Fountain of Youth to sample the hot springs, because at least there we know they are cleaned regularly.

After 5 nights our 14 days are up and we are now headed back into civilization or at least as civilized as we can be in this part of the country.  We leave Holtville and drive to El Centro for supplies and then drive north for an hour to a place called the Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort.  This is a place that actually does live up to its name of `resort`.  Its fabulous.  The facilities are first class, there is every activity you could imagine including a talent show that we attended last night.  There are 3 natural hot spring pools with varying temperatures ranging from mild to very hot, of course we had to sample them all.  There are two swimming pools, a gym, bocce court, pool tables and shuffleboards.  A restaurant, beauty parlor, grocery store and laundry.  In fact everything you could ever want.  It is a very popular place and people (especially Canadians) come here to spend the winter.

Its a shame we only have 4 nights but we need to move on to the Palm Springs area.

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THE GRAND CANYON

This will probably be the last blog in a while as the “discovery” part of our trip is over and the next segment of our trip will be through more familiar territory (although I am sure there will be adventures along the way.)

We left our somewhat creepy RV camp in Mexican Hat (Utah) just next to Monument Valley.  It was a gravel lot behind a restaurant and we were the only ones there. Our
next destination is Williams, our gateway to the Grand Canyon, for us, one of the supreme highlights of our journey.

We reach our RV resort, settle in, and then explore Williams. It’s what |I consider to be a genuine relic from the heyday of the old route 66, the ‘Mother Road” from Chicago to LA. It’s got the old diners and motels, and it’s not yet gone completely touristy. Tomorrow, the Grand Canyon.

What an awesome day today!  The Grand Canyon is our destination and it’s just an hour’s drive from our RV resort in Williams, Arizona. The weather is cooperating today, sunny and cold, with evidence of a recent snowfall all around.  We’re at an elevation of about 7,000 feet so the weather can change quickly. We have time to walk around and take in the views from the lookout points; it takes your breath away.

All too soon, its time to head to the nearby airport for our helicopter tour over the canyon. We board, there are 6 people including the pilot. We lift off, a strange sensation for both Barb and I (yes, it’s the alternate blogger yet again) as this is the first time in a helicopter for both of us.  And what a sensation when the pilot, flying low over the forested ground
below, suddenly approaches the forest edge and then the big drop-off as we fly over the south rim of the canyon. All of a sudden, from being several hundred feet above the ground, we are now a mile above the canyon floor. We see the Colorado and the little Colorado twisting through their narrow gorges, and dramatic cliffs rising above.  The play of shadow and light in the different parts of the canyon adds to the overall impression, the grandeur of this place.  Our ride is only about an hour and we are soon heading back to the
helicopter airport.  Even on the drive back “home” we are still awestruck by what we have seen.

For both of us, this has been the high point (literally and figuratively) of our RV adventure so far.

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Utah National Parks

The “alternate” blogger returns for another guest appearance! Well, we reach Moab,
Utah after an easy 3 hour drive from Monument Valley. First thing we do is settle into
our RV resort (can’t decide if they are resorts or camps) some have all the luxuries of a vacation resort; others have just the basic amenities. This one is in between, its comfortable, sites are private and the showers and facilities are good.

We originally planned a 2 night stay, but stayed 4 nights to avoid some nasty snowy weather on our route. The nearby attractions are 2 national parks, Arches and Canyonlands. After our first day of settling in and just relaxing, we spend the whole second day exploring Arches. The park is immense, and the views of stone arches; teetering boulders and high bluffs are breathtaking. Hope the attached images give some idea of the grandeur of this place.  There aren’t very many images of the Arches National Park because Barb forgot to put the memory card back in the camera.  But the images we did manage to get we think are pretty spectacular.

The opportunities for hiking and primitive camping here are endless; this is truly a vast wilderness area.

The next day, we visit Canyonlands, and all the above comments about Arches apply. One difference though, the viewpoints seem to offer vistas that are even more far reaching than those in the Arches. You can see the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers and the deep gorges they have cut in the landscape. Surprisingly, there is a small campground which can accommodate large RV’s. Somewhat unexpected. Some of the viewpoints are at a high elevation, around 7,000 feet. We actually encounter light snow on the drive up to one of them.

Barb and I take a one mile rugged hike to one of the viewpoints, a look out on top of a high bluff which yields views of far off mesas and deep gorges, and what some geologists claim is an impact crater as a result of a hit by a large meteor or comet. Here, the striations in the landscape are bent and twisted upwards, so something pretty cataclysmic happened here.

I found some time to explore in and around Moab. It’s a town almost totally geared to river rafting, hiking, ATV tours and other outdoor activities. If it weren’t for the nearby parks, it probably wouldn’t exist.  Although, surprisingly, it has a rare book store. Go figure.

So, back at our “home’ for a nice dinner with some “3-buck-chuck” (wine, that is) and a relaxing round of cards.

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Four Corners and Monument Valley

By “special request” the following post is being written by Frank the reserve blogger. Well, we’re leaving our pleasant little lost in the 60’s RV resort at Farmington on a cold brisk morning in convoy with Ed and Eileen. We are in the lead as their sat nav is having a hissy fit.

We are driving through some pretty fantastic scenery, red rock plateaux, massive rock formations rising out of the ground, like Ship Rock, which we see in the distance.  From
certain angles it looks like an old sailing ship, a galleon perhaps, sails set.

Question: How can you be in four states at the same time? Answer: visit the ” Four Corners monument where the “corners” of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado touch. It’s a plaque set into the ground marking the exact location where the corners of each state touch. Nothing much else, however, it’s a wide open plain with the usual strong winds.

We arrive at Monument Valley in the Navajo Tribal Lands where we will be parked for the night camping. It  is really just a small gravel parking area.  But, we are surrounded by the desert and more unique red rock formations.  Its cold and windy in the desert and later
that night it really picks up. But we don’t care, after a good dinner in the nearby Navajo resort complex, a hotel, restaurant and museum. There are a few other motor homes here, and amazingly, a couple in a tent braving the cold winds.  We are joined by one of the local dogs, a friendly little guy who seems to have appointed himself as our temporary guardian. We see him sitting between our two motor homes and in the morning he is still there, ready to greet us.  I have decided to name him Shep.

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New Mexico and Colorado

We are now headed toward Cortez in Colorado, its going to be another 5-8 hour day and we both really are not looking forward to it. We try to get hold of E and E because we are meeting them in Colorado. All morning we can’t get them, until finally Eileen answers the phone and they are in Farmington, NM. That is just about 15 miles ahead of us and we tell them to wait there. We meet up with them after getting lost a couple of times and the four of us decide to spend the next two nights there. We find an RV park that is called
“Mom and Pops RV park”, it was right out of the 60s, but it was fabulous and although very dated, it was clean with lots of pressure and hot water in the showers.

Once we get settled Frank and I and Eileen head off to see some Aztec Ruins just outside of town. They are in the process of being excavated but a lot of it had already been done.  They date back to the 10th century and we find them very interesting.

Our next stop is the following day and is Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, where we had the privilege to see some of the cliff dwellings where the Ancestral Pueblo people made their homes in the overhanging cliffs in the canyons for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300.

Its an 1 1/2 hour drive from our RV park and we leave around 10:30.  Once we arrive at the entrance to the park we take advantage of the Annual Pass we had bought which gets 4 people into all the National Parks for $80.  The ranger tells us to continue to the visitors centre which is 20 miles into the park itself.  Off we go and soon realize that this is going to be quite the drive.  We go up to an elevation of 7000 ft on switchback roads and sheer drop offs but with the most beautiful scenery you could imagine.  I am driving and have been told in no uncertain terms by Frank and Eileen that I am not allowed to take my eyes of the road to look, so I have to make do with the OMG’s and wow thats amazing.  I will get my turn on the way down.

We arrive at the visitors center and were told by the ranger to have a look round the visitors center then go off to view one of the cliff dwellings just off to the left and then to drive the two 6 mile loops for other vantage points.

When we go to look at the cliff dwelling, we find that we have to walk to the bottom of the canyon which we did with the help of a paved path that switchbacked all the way to the bottom, which wasn’t bad.  The site on the way down and at the bottom was amazing.  I will let the photos speak for themselves.  The walk back to the top of the canyon was a lot more strenuous but we all get there finally.  Back to the car for the drive around the top of the mesa to find the two loops for more photo opportunities.

On the way back down to the road, Frank drove and I got to see what all the fuss was about on the way up.  They weren’t kidding, the view was absolutely amazing, the camera just didn’t do it justice.  We get home around 6:30 and Frank and I go to the Olive Garden for dinner, it was fabulous as usual.  Another successful day on our adventure.

 

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Onward through Middle America

The next few days are just travel days, we leave Mississippi for a brief journey again through Memphis so that we can take the bridge into Arkansas.  We are not really interested in anything to see here so after an overnight stay once again courtesy of Walmart we continue through Arkansas into Oklahoma.

We have just about caught up with the double “E”s there are a day ahead of us and we plan on meeting up with them in a place called Shawnee just outside of Oklahoma City.  We have found a casino that allows RV camping complete with water and electricity so we meet there.  Not a lot happening but Frank finds Shawnee to be an interesting town, they have a railroad museum so he spends an afternoon there, while I amuse myself in the casino.  Ed and Eileen leave ahead of us again and we plan on meeting near the four corners in New Mexico.  I have a very successful afternoon at the casino so we leave Oklahoma ahead of ourselves and continue into Texas.

We have heard from E and E and they had a terrible drive through Oklahoma into Texas, the winds were so bad that they pulled off the road and spent the night in a motel in Shamrock, Texas.  So we were a little concerned about our drive the next day.

While getting ready to leave this morning we encounter a few minor mishaps.  After Frank disconnected the electric hookup, an alarm went off and we had no battery power at all.  I call Frank in and we set to work trying to find out what was wrong.  Frank gets one manual and I get the other and we retrace our steps, after some head scratching I come across a photo in the manual that shows a switch that I had seen before. Lo and behold the switch which was right by the door near the floor had been pushed to off instead of aux.  So with that fixed we continue on.  Just need one last pee break but find that the bathroom door has locked itself, Frank had had enough for one day and this was before we even set off.  So I do my thing, which was really not a lot of anything except wiggling the handle, but it worked and we can finally get on the road.

This is going to be a 5 hour driving day and with the potty stops and lunch makes it almost 8 hours.  We are pleasantly surprised that the weather than Ed and Eileen experienced has passed by so our drive was uneventful.  What can I say about western Oklahoma and Texas, its big, its flat and its boring.  So when arrive at our RV park in Amarillo, we are happy to find they have an indoor pool and hot tub which we take advantage of.  The nasty cold that Ed started with in Washington DC has made the rounds through Eileen then Frank and finally to me.  So the soak in the hot tub was wonderful.  The people at the RV park try and talk us into going to the local restaurant where there are people who try to down a 72oz steak along with salad, potatoes and desert and if they complete it in an hour they get it for free.  If they dont finish the dinner costs $78.  As interesting as it sounds, we take a miss on it and settle in for an early night.

We leave early the next morning because its another 5 – 8 hour driving day and the Texas terrain is getting to me.  Frank and I amuse ourselves with word games just to pass the time, there is absolutely nothing to look at except flatness as far as the eye can see.

We do eventually make it through and into New Mexico, but once again the terrain doesn’t change until we get closer to our stop for the night just outside Albuqueque where we finally see some hills, yeahhhh.  Another one nighter, but I have found out there is a Trader Joe’s in Albuqueque and my stash of two buck chuck is quickly dimishing and needs to be replenished.  Frank doesn’t feel like going out after the long drive so I put myself in the hands of the GPS and off I go.  Albuqueque is a lovely town, very southwest as you can imagine.  But is it so clean, the roads are well marked and it was no problem getting to Trader Joe’s and back.  Danielle, there isn’t a day goes by that we don’t thank god for your gift of the GPS two christmases ago.  It has been a godsend.

We are getting close to the “piece de resistance” of the trip for me.  The rock formations in and around the four corners.  New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

 

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