Hello all, this blog has proven to be far too much work to maintain, along with the costs associated with it. WordPress has not proved to be easy to update and it’s very difficult to make quick posts as we roll along with it.
We left Quartzsite and headed to Congress AZ to stay at an Escapee’s club park there called North Ranch for a week. We get a pretty good rate as members and our friends Marc & Julie Bennett of RVLOVE.COM were there at the same time to attend the Escapee Boot Camp we went to last July. This is a big park with many “permanent” residents. We had a couple of nice visits with Marc & Julie between their work and their Boot Camp classes. It was good to see them again as they were most helpful when we were still pondering life on wheels and they had a lot of helpful documentation and advice on their website and youtube videos. Congress AZ is just north of Wickenburg, the self proclaimed capital of “Team Roping”, and we attended a Team Roping event there which was really cool to see !
We left the rig at North Ranch and headed up to the Grand Canyon for 2 days with an overnight in a motel there so we could see sunset and sunrise. We could have taken the rig, but they had snow on the ground and we didn’t want to chance it. We had a great time at the Canyon and it was very moving to see it. Many photos from our Grand Canyon visit here.
We decided to also visit Sedona and would take advantage of a Thousand Trails Park in Cottonwood (about 25 miles from Sedona) where we could stay “free” so we booked 5 day there and headed up. We got there and were setup by 2:30 so decided to take a ride and visited “Old Cottonwood” where we walked the main street, checked out a few shops, and I got a chocolate malted at an old retro burger joint made from an old gas station which even had a 1952 Plymouth Cranbrooke out front. We had one of those in the family when we were kids! From Old Cottonwood we drove to Jerome as it wasn’t far and several people had suggested it was a “not to be missed” destination. It is built on the side of a mountain and is amazing with spectacular views everywhere. We visited an old mine shaft there and drove through town to a scenic lookoff just north of town. Very cool place!
We spent 3 days traveling around Sedona and took hundreds of photos. It is simply amazing with breath taking views EVERYWHERE! Like the Grand Canyon, the photos hardly do it justice, but do give some idea how beautiful it is. Our first day there we stayed until sunset at the Sedona Airport lookoff spot and took in the spectacular views from there. We also climbed the small hill reported to be an energy vortex spot near the airport and enjoyed the views from there. Our third day there when we left we went across 179 and visited the V Bar V ranch Petroglyph area which was really amazing. Another day we visited Montezuma’s Castle (Hopi indian rock dwellings) and Montezuma’s well, a limestone sinkhole where the Hopi lived in caves also. There are nearly 150 photos of Sedona and the Montezuma Castle/Well and the petroglyphs here.
We had been hanging out with Michael and Kathy at their beautiful property in Catalina Arizona. When we discussed going to Quartzsite, to the famous RV “Gathering in the desert”, they thought it might be fun to go there with us and see for themselves and their friends Clyde & Sharon decided to join us too! So we all “convoyed” up there (Kathy even found the old “Convoy” song from the 70’s and played it over the CB for us all as we drove up there! We arrived in Quartzsite Friday afternoon and joined the Escapees Boomer group in a place they call “Boomerville” where we “boondocked” or “dry camped” together for 3 days. Boondocking or dry camping refers to camping with no hookups at all – running on battery/generator power and using the 105 gallon fresh water tank.
We visited the “Big Tent” and shopped around a little. Long time Quartzsite attendees said the big tent used to be “all RV related” items, but now there is tons of kitchen items, personal care items and so many unrelated vendors there… it was a little disappointing. We still had a good time looking. We also walked through an outdoor Gem show which was interesting and visited the famous “naked bookseller” who was wearing a coat that day as it was rather cool. After 3 days we all left the boondocking site. Michael, Kathy, Clyde & Sharon headed for a free 3 day stay in Yuma they got from the big tent, and we headed for a nearby RV park where we would have water and be able to dump our tanks and have a full 50amp electrical hookup. We had planned to meet our friends David & Jo at “The Scenic Road” RV park… actually drove in right behind them to register at the same time. We went back to the big tent with them and shared some great meals together out on the town and in our rigs. Photos of our boondocking adventures can be found here.
David & Jo headed back to Yuma after 3 days but we were at the park for a week. Met some new friends there, and also re-connected with some old friends, Jerry & Gaye Young. Gaye is the National Secretary for FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) and we met them in Vermont while attending the Escapee Rally and Boot Camp last July in VT. It was great to see them again and we went out for pizza at Silly Al’s in Quartzsite.
We also took a day and did a long ride out to the north of Quartzsite to a local intaglio site, then up to Parker where we checked out the Parker dam at the southern end of Lake Havasu, AZ. The dam was cool and I put the drone up just below it for some spectacular photos. We also saw some wild burros below the dam and then headed into California and south to Blythe to visit the famous Intaglios there which did NOT disappoint! Photos from that day can be seen here.
We left Quartzsite after about 10 days and headed northeast to Congress AZ, which is NW of Phoenix about 50 miles.
As you might have noted in a previous post… We had been without our regular freezer since about November 30th. At Newmar’s suggestion, we took it to Freedom RV in Tucson as they claimed they had a local guy who would repair it in 2-3 business days. The failed cooling unit was removed on December 13th but it still was not ready by December 23rd and they closed up shop from the 24th-27th and we needed to be in Phoenix on 12/26 so we didn’t get back to Tucson to have the repaired unit installed until 1/11/17. The good news is, it seems to be working. Fingers crossed as we break in the repaired unit. But, really nice not to have to go outside to our slide out chest fridge in the basement every time we need something from the fridge! (That got really old on cold mornings…).
On 12/26 we arrived in Tolleson AZ at Freightliner. Jane flew out early 12/27 for a week or so in Maine to visit with our daughter and her family and friends. We had scheduled an appointment there back in November to have the chassis serviced, oil changed and the failed heater core diagnosed and bypassed way back in NC replaced. the repairs were done in a couple days and happy to say we can now defrost the windshield again if need be. When we ran into 21F and snow back in TX, we had to run the generator going down the road so we could run our electric heater and use a fan to blow it onto the windshield, but by the end of that day we were in NM and 60F+.
When the guys put the fridge back together, they also help me drill a hole in the roof into the cabinet over the passenger door to bring in wires from 3 new antennas for the roof. 2 Antennas for our Verizon jetpack (used for internet data when no wifi available), and 1 antenna sitting on the top of our TV antenna to pull in free wifi from as far away as a mile or more. It’s called a Wifi Ranger and helps us get free wifi with a better signal when available.
So in the past few weeks we had a new windshield, fixed the leveling system dump valve, the fridge, the entry stairs, a heat circulator pump for zone one of our coach heat, and heater core for cab heat while driving as well as chassis service. Michael, Doug, Julie, Clyde and I plan to go to the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale on 1/16 and we’ll be heading to Quartzsite 1/20 for the big “gathering in the desert” which can bring over 100,000 RV’s… Michael & Kathy plan to go up with us and we look forward to seeing our good friends David & Jo Dains there, as well as perhaps Marc & Julie Bennett of www.rvlove.com . After quartzsite, some time north of Phoenix and hope to see the Grand Canyon and perhaps Sedona.
From Las Cruces, we had planned to stay a night in Benson AZ, but we had made such good time, we called Michael & Kathy Lempert (our ultimate destination) and asked if we could possibly come a day early… they said “Sure” and so we continued on and made the beautiful “Starship Southwest” (their name for the property) around 2:30pm. The views from their place are absolutely amazing. We sat on the hill above the RV’s drinking wine and enjoying some cheese and crackers as we watched the sun setting and the beautiful colors on the Santa Catalina mountains. While at the starship we had 2 trips (with overnights) to Tucson for fridge repair and a new windshield. We learned all about the ins and outs of service warranty repairs and the fridge repair took far longer than planned and we didn’t get the repaired part back before we had to leave for Phoenix on 12/26 so back on 1/10 for the repaired cooler to be re-installed… Ugh! Thank goodness for our slide out chest fridge/freezer in the basement. A PITA to go outside to get stuff, but far better than the alternative of no fridge at all! Michael loaned us a 12v mini fridge for in the coach so we could keep a few things inside too. Thanks Michael!!
We stayed at the Starship through Christmas and enjoyed many holiday outings with Michael & Kathy and also Doug & Julie. We had a wonderful turkey dinner at Doug’s place prepared by Kathy, as well as 2 nights of Christmas parties at their friends Gary & Lilly and also Doug’s sister Sarah & her husband Don’s beautiful home overlooking Tucson. Great food and great people, all with roots in Maine too! We had a nice Christmas morning with Michael & Kathy and Kathy made some wonderful waffles with Maine blueberries! I grilled up some nice thick smoked bacon on the grill to go with them. It was nice to be with friends from Maine on our first Christmas “away”. We chatted and videoed with Sarah & Ryan as well as some of our siblings & friends which was nice too.
We left the Starship on 12/26 and headed to Tolleson AZ (part of metro Phoenix) as the coach had a service date there and Jane was flying out of Phoenix early on 12/27 for a visit back to Maine & NH to see Sarah and her family. They repaired the heater core at the Freightliner shop so we now have heat and defrosting capabilities again! Also had an oil change, lube, fluids checked, greased chassis etc.
We left Medina Lake TT on 12/4. We headed to Kerrville to spend a few days with an old friend, David Horn who winters at Buckhorn Lake resort. I had spent 4 days washing and waxing the coach to have it looking great for our trip west but it was raining on the way to Kerrville and there went all the spit and polish… Ugh.
We had a nice 3 days in Kerrville and visiting with David as well as a drive to Fredericksburg to visit the Pacific War museum there and the Admiral Nimitz museum as well as walking around the town and lunch at a nice German restaurant.
The next day, David and I went to lunch for “the best hot dog in Kerrville” and then toured the Mooney aircraft factory together. I got to fly a Mooney 201 back from Indiana to NH back in the 80’s so it was cool to see where they were made!
We left Kerrville headed towards New Mexico, but stopped in Fort Stockton on the way across since it’s such a huge state! We stayed in Fort Stockton RV park which had a nice little diner in the park where we had a great dinner and reasonably priced too! After a beautiful sunset at 60F, we awoke to 21F and light snow, yes SNOW in the AM! There went another cleaning job on the coach… The flurries were melting as soon as they hit the ground so it was really just a nuisance. But, if you recall we had a problem with our heater core for cab heat and defrosting so we had no heat to throw on a cold windshield. We used our electric heater with a fan facing the windshield to defrost in the morning and ran the generator to keep the heat going as we went down the road until it warmed up. By the time we drove through El Paso, it was near 65F and we made Las Cruces that afternoon after topping off with diesel.
We planned 2 nights at Las Cruces to give us a full day to see the White Sands National Monument. On the way there, we went to the White Sands Missle Range and toured the museum and displays there. White Sands was amazing and I even got to borrow a flying saucer from a kid there and take a saucer ride down the dunes! Pretty strange sliding down a mountain on a saucer in shorts and a t-shirt!
We spent our first 2 weeks in Texas at the Thousand Trails park at Lake Conroe in Willis Texas. From there we headed to the Thousand Trails at the Colorado River in Columbus Texas. We decided to take backroads as it was only a 120 or so mile travel day and we were pleasantly surprised and saw some nice scenery at a much easier pace. We only booked at Colorado River for 2 days and almost as soon as we got there, wished we had booked a longer stay! This was a nice park, well kept and we managed a spot right on the river’s edge! Literally had the sound of rushing waters of the Colorado River out the bedroom window at night.
With 2 nights, we only had 1 full day at that park. With that 1 day, we decided to ride over to Lockhart Texas, proclaimed BBQ capital of Texas by their legislature! We had a great day in Lockhart and went to Kreuz’s BBQ (pronounced “kroyt-zes”). Fantastic BBQ with NO sauce! They say they don’t need to “hide” their BBQ in sauces.
We went around town looking at all things “Lockhart” and taking a ton of pics. On the way home we saw some parachutes coming down and stopped to grab a few photos of them. Then a local farmer’s market to buy some local pecans. And of course at Colorado River CG, there were tons of deer roaming the property! We got some good photos of them but they kept their distance. We were also parked in a grove of pecan trees. Our rig was right under a huge pecan tree and a couple dropped during the night with a big thud on the coach roof!
On Tuesday, 11/22 we left the Colorado River TT and headed for Lakehills, Texas and Medina Lake Campground. It was about 160 miles and mostly on I-10. We arrived to find they only had 3-4 50 amp spots, so we looked them over and chose the one we liked and got setup.
We immediately started seeing deer everywhere! They were very close to the rig! We also rode our bikes down to the lake (about 1/2 mile as this park is huge!) and saw a gorgeous sunset.
On Thanksgiving we went with our “next door neighbors” Frank and Karra, (who are from NH!) down to the activity center here at the park where they put on a very nice Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. Desserts were “pot luck” and attendees all brought one which was cool to have a wide variety of things to choose from.
Saturday after Turkey day we took a drive over to Boerne where they were getting right into the Christmas spirit with an open market which was sort of like a fair atmosphere. We wandered around a couple hours, had a bite to eat and bought a big bag of kettle korn for the road. We also stopped to check out Ancira RV, a large dealer who sells Newmar & Tiffin coaches as well as others. Then before heading home, hit the local HEB+ in Boerne. They had Christmas trees for sale marked with “low prices” signs… you be the judge on that! Ouch!
At the local Lakehills True Value, I had bought a string of solar rope lights for some ambient evening lighting around the coach and a Quartz heater. They also had bags of “apple scented corn” for deer at $2 for a gallon sized ziplock bag. I can tell you that’s the cheapest entertainment we’ve had in a long time as the deer here love it and one doe actually came up ate right out of my hand. The bucks are a little more shy… the more horn they have the further they keep their distance. What fun though! I’ll post a movie of feeding them when we have wifi again.
We booked into the park at Lake Conroe for 2 weeks on 11/6. Our stay is free with our Thousand Trails membership (up to 3 weeks in each park with an option to buy a 4th week). Our friends Dave & Jo have stayed here several times and recommended we check out “The Woodlands” town center area. we took a ride down and it’s a little shopping mecca just on the north side of Houston. On the way there we fueled up at the lowest price I’ve paid for gas in many years!
So we did check out the Woodlands and it was very interesting, but our big find of the day was HEB, a very large grocery store and part of a large chain. They had so many varieties of everything, lots of exotic fruits, seafood, meats and a huge wine/beer selection including some pretty wild beer labels!
We rode the free tram around to get a look at the Woodlands and it is impressive. One section has many high end stores like Tiffany’s where it’s common to see six figure automobiles parked on the sidewalks.
Jane has started another quilting project. More challenging for sure in the RV, so she setup “office” outside!
We also found a local spirits chain called Specs that had a great selection and was able to order a few bottles of the wine Jane had gotten as a gift from Matt, the owner of Pine Acres RV when we bought the rig. They ordered it and had it in for her in a couple days.
On Tuesday, 11/15 we took a ride over to Livingston and checked out the Escapees RV club home and headquarters. We did get a mini tour of the office and the big mail facility that receives mail for over 10,000 members and forwards it to them on the road. (More to come)
The day we were leaving Louisiana (headed towards Houston) we did our normal checks of everything before departure. As previously mentioned we had a pull through site so never unhooked the jeep. But we were checking all the lights and blinkers etc with the walkie talkies and Jane said the right rear blinkers on the coach weren’t working…. Great…. When the right blinkers were turned on they blinked really slow. But the right blinkers on the jeep were working fine so we had some signal for the right rear as well as right side marker light and an LED signal on the RH mirror was still working. I tried a little trouble shooting but bagged it after a while and we decided to get to TX and figure it out there. Of course, when we stopped at the TX welcome center on I-10, a motorcycle cop comes and parks right beside us. But we made it to the Thousand Trails at Lake Conroe in Willis, TX and got everything setup. Then next day I started trouble shooting the issue. first thought was maybe a bad ground to the right rear light unit. But that thought was negated when I realized the (6) parking lights in the right rear light were all working (4 of which are dual filament and also are brake lights).
So I went to the IRV2 forum online in the Newmar owners section and posted the symptoms. You either love or hate forums. Always plenty of trolls there spreading hate & discontent as well as totally useless information, but there are also a lot of cracker jack armchair mechanics and DIY types who aren’t afraid to dive into the bowels of their rigs and get their hands dirty. Got a few replies that weren’t really helpful like “check the ground” (did you not see the picture in my original post that showed the parking lights are working?), but low and behold a relative newcomer to the forum who has a similar coach said: “In the rear basement compartment on the passenger side located on the frame you should find a box with a lot of connections going into it. It has several fuses in it you will probably find the one for that set of brake lights blown. It happens on mine occasionally.” JACKPOT! Here’s what I found in where he described:
After replacing the F4 fuse it all worked again! YEHAA! Or in Texas maybe I should say YEHAW! Finding that fuse probably saved hundreds of dollars at an RV garage in troubleshooting. Thank you IRV2 forum!
We left Topsail Hill Preserve and Santa Rosa Beach area and got back on I-10 West and headed towards Texas. It was a little over 600 miles and we had decided rather than 2 long days on the road, we’d do 3 shorter days. So we stayed a night in Mississippi at Pass Christian (that’s the town name) and a night in Iowa, Louisiana (nope, that’s not a typo either). In Louisiana, we stayed north on I-12 which kind of by-passes New Orleans and didn’t have any real traffic snafus all 3 days of travel. On both our overnights along the way we got “pull through” sites. For those not familiar it means a long site, typically long enough to fit a large coach like ours and also the tow vehicle. So we hooked the jeep to the coach in Florida, and never unhooked it until we got to our site in Texas, 3 days later. That saves us 20 minutes or so a day fiddling with the hookup and the braking system for the Jeep. We were able to top off the coach in Louisiana for $2.32/gallon, the cheapest we’ve seen to date for diesel.
We arrived at the Thousand Trails at Lake Conroe (Willis, TX) on Sunday, 11/6 in the early afternoon and were all setup before 2pm. This is one of TT’s flagship parks so it’s quite well maintained and very nice amenities, such as in ground pool, jacuzzi, Pickle ball & tennis courts, mini golf and basketball courts, a boat ramp/launch and boat rentals as well. We lucked out and got a really nice site with a good sized, level lot and some nice shade trees.