Travel Log for March, 2003

Updated March, 2003

Log Date: +1793: 030301: 31N20.76': 110W15.38: 5,302': Coronado National Memorial, Sierra Vista, AZ

Saturday morning John and Beryl went off to work and Alice and I took it easy in the rig. I accompanied the classic country music channel with my dobro for a couple of hours then updated the travelogue.

We decided to drive into town for lunch. I wanted to check the local music stores and we needed some things from the grocery store. We located both music stores and bought a set of picks and a shoulder strap. I also purchased diesel at $1.76. We had lunch at Chili's and bought a few groceries.

When we got back to camp I did not pay enough attention and drove the truck over some soft fill. The front tire punched a hole in the dirt and I could not get enough traction to back out. When John returned from work he called the park ranger to ask for some help. Much to my surprise the rangers considered it to be an accident that had to be reported. They checked me for sobriety. It then took almost 45 minutes using the come-along winch (the one I purchased for $5 in 1996 at a garage sale near Mike Coker's place and carried all this time) attached to John's truck and shoving rocks and boards under the wheels to finally get the truck back to firm ground.

It was probably a good thing to have had this problem, since the next morning I would have hooked the truck to the trailer and driven straight through the soft part of the parking lot. It would have required a tow truck if the entire rig got stuck.

After that experience we fixed a pork chop stroganoff supper in John and Beryl's rig and talked into the night. We finally had our discussions about what to do with the ponds. Then Alice and I went off to bed.

Log Date: +1794: 030302: 32N34.94': 114W34.03': 210': KOFA SKP Coop, Yuma, AZ

Sunday morning we rigged up and I carefully pulled the trailer to the side, staying on the firm ground, to get out of the parking area. After stopping at the headquarters to say our goodbyes we retraced our route back towards Phoenix, planning to stop at the Rover's Roost SKP Coop in Casa Grande.

We stopped early at the Dairy Queen at Picacho Peak on I-10 for a quick lunch and headed on. It was just after noon when we turned onto I-8 and I suggested we continue on to Yuma. Alice agreed and we passed within a mile of our intended parking place for the night.

The drive along I-8 was a great improvement over I-10. There was much less traffic, and more importantly, there were almost no eighteen-wheelers. After over two hours of having those big trucks whip by at 75 mph while I was tootling along at 57 mph, I was much less tense.

Alice tracked our trip for a time, but since we would not leave the Interstate until we reached Yuma, there is no need for the directions. So she turned off the GPS and we did some planning for our trip next summer. At this point it will be over 6,500 miles. There is still more planning to do.

Our elevation had been fairly constant, dropping to around 300 feet as we followed the Gila River west. As we neared Yuma a range of mountains appeared in our path, and the road quickly went to 700 feet before we crested the top and looked down into the Colorado River valley. Quickly we returned to 300 feet and coasted on towards town. Turning off at the E3 exit, we headed south to County Road 17 and turned left to the KOFA entrance. The total trip for the day was 341 miles.

The office was closed but the notice said there were no rental sites available and we would have to stay in boondock (not bad at $3.50 per day). Finding a good spot, we backed in and unhooked.

Since we would have no hookups, I decided it was time to install the invertor and solar controller. The invertor installation went well, but I still needed to install a wall-plug to complete it. For the time being we could use an extension cord. I was not able to complete the solar controller installation because the wires to the batteries are too short. I needed another couple of feet of 12 gauge wire -- an item I could get the next day. Then I could attach the solar panel and replenish some of the power we used during the night.

While in the basement I noticed the convertor fan ran all the time, even when the temperature was in the 50s and there was no AC power being converted. I removed the convertor to take to an RV repair station for a checkup. At the very least I can put a switch on the fan so I have some control over when it drained the battery.

At 6:30 pm we went to the KOFA social hour. They had cake and ice cream.

Monday morning I went to the office to pay up, and they had a full hookup site available. I made arrangements to move that afternoon. Alice and I took the clothes over to the laundry and started washing while we had breakfast. We spent time in the spa then I did some more work on the invertor arrangement and moved the solar controller so there was room to attach it. I had to repair some of the wiring connections but finally I had the solar panel working. However, the day had turned to cloudy and hazy, so there was not much help for the batteries. We were down to only a fair condition.

We headed to town for shopping. I bought fuel on 32nd Street, the second least expensive place in town according to Arney, the KOFA manager. It was $1.78 per gallon. We were getting just over 13 miles per gallon on this trip so far.

We headed east another mile on 32nd Street to the RV Connection, a parts place. I talked with CJ, the manager, about my convertor problem. He said most people complained about the fan never coming on, not staying on all the time. We agreed a switch was probably the only solution, and he had what I needed. I also talked to him about a head unit for my hitch. He quoted a price of $216 plus shipping but with a 25 day lead time. Since we will be heading north about that time I had to pass. I recommend this place if you are shopping in Yuma.

At Applebee's eating lunch I talked by phone to Chuck Dillow at Jojoba. Things seemed to be getting along without me, and the new crew was handling issues as they come up. Next we went by Lowe's for parts. I bought wall plugs and wiring for the electrical changes I was making in the rig. When we got back to KOFA I remembered we were supposed to move, so Alice brought in the slide and rigged for travel while I went looking for Arney. He was busy handling a problem with the phone lines but came over a few minutes later to move us.

Once we were on the new site I installed the switch for the fan in the convertor and reinstalled the convertor. It worked well. I next mounted the handles on the shelving unit, put up the night light in the toilet, mounted the CO detector, and moved the twistlocks around on the outer doors. I was a busy beaver. There was work still to do, but I decided I had done enough for the time being.

Tuesday morning we were up fairly early and headed out for breakfast then a trip to Algodones. We took I-8 across the Colorado River to the second California exit, about 6 miles. Turning south we drove two miles and came to the border area. There is a large, paved parking lot on the right. It cost $3 to park our truck. We followed the crowds to the sidewalk and across the border.

Everything is within two to four blocks of the border crossing. There are restrooms immediately after you cross. There are about 10 pharmacies and 20 dentists in that area. The rest of the space is filled with small shops selling all kinds of curios and wares, though after the first five you start seeing the same thing over and over. There are lots of street vendors trying to guide you into their shop or pharmacy. The rule is smile and just say no.

The pharmacies have many drug names and prices posted outside, so you can look for your prescriptions there. After checking four or five we found that in general they all had the same meds at the same prices. The meds are all generics, so when you get the bottle it will not necessarily be the same brand name you expected to see.

After shopping around we went back to the first place we had checked, mostly because the fellow who waited on us had been pleasant and helpful. We purchased four prescriptions for me and three for Alice, all a three or four month's supply. I will have to check but it appears we saved about 70% of what we would have had to pay in the USA using the best Internet pharmacy we could find.

Alice also purchased a new purse and some hair color at a 50% saving and I bought a new belt. Shortly after 10am local time we headed back to Yuma. The line through the border check was still short because the liquor sales had not started until 10am.

Since it was early we stopped by the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park and took the tour of the grounds and museum. Since the weather was a pleasant 65 degrees with a mild breeze, it was hard to imagine the place as being the hell-hole it was for those who were incarcerated there. It was a fascinating trip through the past.

We next went to the old Yuma center where there were street merchants selling a variety of produce and goods. We had lunch at a little deli just off the plaza. While there we reviewed our experiences in Algodones and decided we should go back and up our supply of meds to cover the next six months. That way we could make it through our planned trips without having to order from a USA pharmacy.

We drove the nine miles back and once in town we took our time to walk around and tour some of the other shops. We did not find anything that we really needed, and finally went by one of the pharmacies and bought our meds. The line to the border check stretched back a couple of blocks but it moved quickly. This time we were veterans and had our driver's licenses out and declared our citizen ship immediately so it took only a few seconds to pass through customs.

Returning to Yuma we found the Wal-Mart Superstore on Pacific Drive and searched for things on our shopping list. We had little luck except for purchasing some groceries. Then it was back to the rig. Wolf was happy to see us and sniffed each of the sacks as we brought them in. We did a little walk around the park and then had supper, a frozen pizza cooked in the oven. Alice had wanted to try out the oven before we left on our big trip. It worked fairly well. The artichoke we had planned on having as well did not fair so well. We over-cooked it in the microwave, so we need more experience there. But the pizza was good and only cost $3.60, though it had a lot of the things we are supposed to avoid, like carbs and salt. According to the packaging we each had four servings. Sure, a small pizza will serve eight people, right?

Finally, we settled back and put things in order. Tomorrow we would return to our base camp and resume some of the work we had left behind.

Log Date: +1797: 030305: 33N27.13': 116W52.12': 2,191': Jojoba Hills SKP Resort, Aguanga, CA

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early to head back to Jojoba Hills. At least it seemed early because we had already set our clocks back to California time.

We caught I-8 and headed west. The drive was smooth as we followed the All American Canal out of the Colorado River plain and through the Imperial sand dunes. As we dropped into the Imperial Valley there were more and more large fields of alfalfa and produce crops. Around El Centro we saw a sign by the side of the freeway indicating we were at sea level. That would explain how the water could run from the Colorado to this area.

We exited I-8 at Ocotillo and headed northwest on Imperial County Road S2, also called the Imperial Highway. As we climbed through the wide valley towards the mountains in the distance the primary cover was ocotillo plants, chollo cactus, and creosote bush. But those plants covered less than 10% of the area, leaving a wide expanse of sand, gravel, and rocks. There were a few hints of green in some places where the recent rains had coaxed some grass to quickly grow and seed before the hot weather hit.

We entered the Anza-Berrego State Park, but the only difference was in the condition of the road. We were climbing slowly but steadily, and I drove at a leisurely pace, averaging around 45 mph. There was only one pickup that passed us and there was a clear view of the road far ahead, so I wandered around the road a bit as I watched the land flow by. This land has its own kind of beauty, though it does get monotonous after a time.

S2 follows the old Butterfield Stage road from the Colorado Crossing at Yuma to near Warner Springs. This was one of the first paths into California, dating from even before 1849.

We topped out over 1,300 feet before reaching Sweeney Pass, which is really just a half-mile long, steep, winding drop into Sweeney Canyon. I drove past a sign telling of the Well of the Eight Echoes thinking I really should come back and see such a place with a name like that. Just up the road was the Canebrake settlement, with a number of houses and a landing strip with a couple of airplanes tied down. Further up the road we passed Agua Caliente Springs and eventually came to the Vallecito Stage Station.

We continued through the Vallecito Valley and came around to a roadside marker telling of Box Canyon. This was a place where the Mormons had to cut a path through the rock walls so they could pull their wagons on up the grade to reach the Blair Valley, 400 feet higher. S2 takes steep climb up and over a shortcut through the hills. The stagecoaches took an easier grade half a mile to the east through the Foot and Walker Pass. Then we were in the San Felipe Valley, also known as Earthquake Valley.

There are a number of homes along San Felipe Creek, and the Pacific Crest Trail winds down from the mountains to the south and through the valley. Highway 78 intersects S2 as they both cross the creek, creating the place known as Scissors Crossing. It is easy to get lost driving S2 as you make a hard right turn onto the highway then a quarter mile along turn hard left.

As we traveled up the road towards Teofulio Summit we could see the remains of the Julian fire of last year. We finally came to the place where it had crossed the road, and the destruction in some areas had been complete. But with the rains of the past few weeks, the grass had sprouted and was covering the hills with a beautiful green carpet, signaling the time when the land would return to what it had been.

The summit marked our highest point on the journey at 3,679 feet. From there we headed down the last few miles to CA-79. Turning right we were on our last leg to Aguanga and our base camp. We reached the gate of Jojoba Hills four hours after we had started from Yuma, a trip of 184 miles.

I parked the traveling rig next to our larger Automate and we started unloading. Wolf was glad to get home, and so were we. But I had to know what had been in the back of my mind during the whole trip. I took time to go collect the mail and found the letter from Linda Allen, the other agent I had queried. She was kind but declined to take on my book. So it was back to square one -- what to do now.

Life at Jojoba Hills started returning to normal on Thursday. There was a Board meeting, and I began to recruit for the committees to which I was liaison. But I found it hard to get enthused. Maybe in a week or so.

Alice and I went to town to catch up on groceries and other shopping needs. There was a jam session where I could show off my new dobro and a block party to catch up on old friendships. Finally on Sunday I started to prune the brush around my lot. There was lots to do, and I only had three weeks before the end of the month when we once again would take off on an extended trip.

On Monday I went in for an echocardiagram and installation of a Holter Monitor. While in town we took the truck by for a check of the wheels. I had noticed a thumping noise that did not seem right, and besides, it was time to rotate the tires. When they pulled the front tires off they found they each had a major flat spot, created a few weeks past when I did an emergency stop for an idiot who pulled out from R3 onto Highway 79 in front of a long line of oncoming traffic. So we bought two new tires and had everything else fully checked.

While in town I purchased a new LNB for my satellite TV antenna. That had seemed to be the problem with my inability to get both satellites. Buyt when I put in the new LNB, the problem was still there. I talked with DISH about my problems with the PVR-501, thinking it might be a bad receiver. I thought I had gone through everything the tech told me, but he wanted me to test the receiver with someone else's antenna before he gave me a return ticket. He said if they found nothing I would have to pay for the check. So I went back out and started from scratch to set the skew, elevation, and azimuth on the antenna. And lo and behold, I got both satellites. The system is extremely sensitive to having the skew set.

So now that is working and I saved myself some money by not having to send the receiver back. I did return the LNB and got my money back on that.

I ordered a replacement hitch head to replace the cracked unit I had. I was surprised when they called the next day to say it was in -- I had been told to expect a two week order lead time. While in town we talked with Weilart RV about putting out small Alpenlite trailer on consignment at their lot and decided that was what we should do. We cleaned up the little trailer and took it in the next day.

The Planning Committee met Friday morning and began to make progress. Then the Ponds Committee met that afternoon.

I decided that weekend to become proactive about finding and agent or publisher for my book. I had purchased a copy of the Writer's Market book that included an on-line subscription, so I finally did the registration and started looking for agents I could query. I sent out three, and had the first rejection the next day. So I sent out another, and got another rejection. So I sent out yet another.

My birthday was Tuesday, the 18th. Alice said for us to get out of Jojoba for the day, so we went down to Valley View Casino and had a fairly pleasant time. It rained a lot on us during the trip.

I had planned on bringing the Little Automate up on Wednesday to to the lot to start preparing for our trip. But when I went by the batteries were really dead and I could not raise the legs. I took the batteries back to our lot and borrowed a couple of chargers to try to recover them. Luckily, it worked and I was finally able to bring the rig up to the lot.

The idea was to plan on how we were going to pack the little trailer, and to do some of the changes I had planned. It turned out to be a several day task to get all that done, but I finished the installation of the invertor and recepticle, the satellite TV lead, and other improvements to the rig. We were almost ready to travel.

We had a BOD meeting on Thursday, then I put things together and returned the little rig to storage. We went to the dineout across the street on Saturday.

The following Monday I met with Dr. Wood and he said I was in good shape and did not need to come back for a year apart from checking my blood numbers. We had the AED on Tuesday and I made good progress on all the little things that needed to be done.

There was now less than a week to go before we pulled out. Both Alice and I were beginning to feel the symptoms of hitch itch.

Then Wednesday morning I went in for my physical exam with Dr. Ebersole. He pronounced me fit. At breakfast I proposed to Alice that we leave sooner than planned, and we agreed the itch was so great we had to do it. I went to the Old Tyme Music jam session (and did pretty good with the finger picks on the dobro for a change) and then we went down and pulled the little Automate to our site to start loading up.

Thursday we made major progress getting our things in order and I informed everyone I would be leaving sooner than expected. It was a matter of finishing up all the loose ends so we could get out. We rescheduled washing the clothes and in some cases just let things fall through the cracks.

Midday I received a response from the Literary Group saying they had no record of my query and asked that I send it again. I got it all together again and sent it off. Later I got an acknowledgement that they had at least opened the email. Thursday night we reviewed our planned itinerary and started the countdown.

Friday began with exercise in the Clubhouse and working at clearing up a misunderstanding on the Board. When we returned to the rig and I checked the email and found a message from the Literary Group asking that I send a synopsis and 50 pages. My spirits soared. After all the rejections I had been getting it was a real high to get at least some positive response. I wondered if it was because they lost the first one. They did want a 30 day exclusive option which I granted.

First I had to help Alice get the laundry together, and then I went to the Ranchhouse to meet with Chuck Dillow and our new manager, Peter Bemke. We had a very pleasant talk about what we expected of a General Manager and I came away feeling very good about the man we had hired.

Back at the rig I started preparing the submission to the Literary Group. Fifty pages took most of the first five chapters. I rewrote the synopsis to be a little more descriptive and printed the whole package. At 2pm Alice and I took it to the post office and mailed it priority mail. It should arrive by April 1. I will know what they think by May 1.

Returning home we really got down to the business of packing the Little Automate, the rig I now call L'Au. I even moved the ship's clock from the big rig to L'Au. By the time the sun went down we had everything in its place except for the contents of the refrigerator, freezer, and bathroom. The wind was blowing like a banshee, and it was nice to finally go inside and sit down to relax with a glass of wind. Tomorrow we travel.

Log Date: +1821: 030329: 33N45.88': 116W18.78': 139': Palm Springs TTN Resort, Palm Desert, CA

There was a pancake breakfast at the Clubhouse early in the morning where we filled up for the day. Then it was back to do the final packing of L'Au for our trip. Part of this included shutting down the big rig for the duration. I even brought the slides in for while we were away.

Even though we thought we were nearly packed, it took us until 1pm before we had everything put into L'Au, the refrigerators shut down and defrosted, and everything stowed away in the little rig. We took the golf cart down for Peter Bemke to use while we were away and I had another chance to talk with him about how things will go around the park.

Finally, at 1:36 we pulled out of the park headed for Palm Desert. The wind was still blowing hard from the northeast, so it was hard to get up any speed along Hwy-371. I let the long line of cars pass me by at the junction with Hwy-74. From there on into Palm Desert it was then usual trip down the side of the mountain, mostly at 35mph. With the Pac Brake it was a very easy drive.

We pulled into Palm Springs TTN Park at 3:08pm and soon found a good site. We set up camp and relaxed for a time. When we headed out for a walk to return the forms to the office, we met some folks from Santa Barbara who had an Automate in the site across the way and sat around talking until it was time to head to see my sister Janet and Michael.

We spent several hours talking with my sister and brother-in-law and eating a great pork chop dish. Alice is supposed to get the recipe. Janet had completed her review of Memphis 7.9 and we had a lively discussion about how it worked. She was quite complimentary. She had empathized with the different characters and did not see any flat spot, but then she is my sister.

Sunday we drove over to the Thousand Palms Oasis. It was a pleasant area and I took some interesting pictures. It is an actual flowing oasis created by the San Andreas fault and there is a large stand of honey mesquite and native palm trees in their native state; they have not had their dead fronds trimmed. They look like a bunch of old, bearded Methusalas. The paths through the grove of palm trees are quiet and peaceful and give you a great feeling of comfort. We didn't wander very far because it was lunch time and we were headed off to eat.

We drove into Palm Springs and stopped by the Spa Resort Casino to lose some money. We were successful. Then we went on to the Taquaria where I had their vegie burrito. It was large and tasty. Returning to the TTN park I napped for a while then we went swimming. All in all, it is great to finally have a chance to just relax.

Monday we walked the park and then hung around for a while, watching TV on progress in the war in Iraq. About noon we headed over to La Quinta. After lunch at the Red Robin we did our shopping at WalMart. We went Palm Desert where I could check a book on short stories at Barnes & Noble for story structure. Alice located a leather shop to fix her purse strap and then we drove up to Flying-J for fuel. I was surprised to find deisel for $1.579 cash, about 30 cents cheaper than in other service stations around the area.

Back at the TTN park we collected email. Palm Springs has a good setup for this service. Again we used AOL to get online and ran Outlook Express in the background. There was nothing of importance.

Monday evening there was a jam session, so I took my laptop steel over the the Adult Center. There were about 20 musicians and 30 listeners. It was lots of fun and I did a pretty good job of keeping up. Afterwards, we drove to Janet's for a quick visit and then returned to the rig to rest up for travel the next day.

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