Utah – Comb Wash, House on Fire, and Natural Bridges

April 7 – 10, 2014

After getting our fill of camping on the edge of a cliff in Gooseneck State Park, we continued north on Hwy 191 toward Blanding, Utah, and turned west on Utah 95 for 14 miles to arrive at Comb Wash.  Comb Wash is BLM land and it is free to boondock at this lovely spot.  We read about this location on another blog that we follow Wheeling It.  We have the same size rig as Paul and Nina, so I always feel confident following in their footsteps.  If they can do it, we can do it!  Plus, they always find amazing places.

Comb Wash campsite with views of Comb Ridge

Comb Wash campsite with views of Comb Ridge

We got a very large level site and set ourselves up so that our refrigerator was on the shady side.  This also gave me the necessary afternoon shade to enjoy sitting outside and watching the late afternoon sun light up beautiful colors on Comb Ridge.

Our view of Comb Ridge

Our view of Comb Ridge

Mike and Lucy get comfy for happy hour.

Lucy knows how to relax

Lucy knows how to relax

Nigh-night

Nigh-night

There are many wonderful hikes in this area, but one that we were particularly interested in was the hike to House on Fire.  This is a Puebloan ruin that looks like it is on fire when the sunlight hits it just right.  We read that late morning was the perfect time to catch the light.  What time is that?  We aren’t early morning people, but I figured that we would be doing good if we got to the trail head by 9:30 a.m.  That would give us plenty of time to hike the 1.5 miles to the ruins and still arrive by “late morning”.  I’m impressed that we actually did make it to the trail head at 9:30, but then I got so anxious about missing the perfect sun moment that we practically ran the mile and a half!  We got there way too early.

Mike and Lucy patiently wait for the sun to be right for my picture

Mike and Lucy patiently wait for the sun to be right for my picture

Finally, at about 11:15 am, the flames appeared.  It was definitely worth the wait.

House on Fire Puebloan ruins

House on Fire Puebloan ruins

House on Fire2 I don’t want to take away the magic for everyone, but I thought I would share a picture of what it looks like when it’s NOT on fire.

When the sun gets too high, the flames fade out

When the sun gets too high, the flames fade out

The sun doesn’t actually shine on the rocks.  They are always in the shade.  It’s a reflection of light at a certain angle that creates the magic flames.  We continued on the trail for another couple of miles and saw other cliff ruins, as well.  It was a good hike.

Dirt trail to House on Fire

Some of the trail is dirt

Some of the trail was sandy

Some of the trail is soft sand

Some of the trail was slickrock

Some of the trail is slickrock

Of course, we had to visit Natural Bridges National Monument.  Lucy couldn’t hike with us there, so she had to stay home.  There are 3 natural bridges at the park.  A natural bridge is made by the erosive action of moving water.  We hiked to Sipapu Bridge which is the second largest natural bridge in the world.  It also has the steepest trail to the canyon bottom in the park, and we felt it!

Sipapu Natural Bridge

Sipapu Natural Bridge

On the trail to Sipapu Natural Bridge

On the trail to Sipapu Natural Bridge

Several ladders on this trail help get you down the canyon

Several ladders on this trail help you get down the canyon

Beautiful view from the trail

Beautiful view from the trail

Climbing back up was the fun part.  Whew.

We're under the bridge

We’re under the Sipapu bridge

Huffing back up the canyon trail

Climbing back up the canyon trail with a little help in some places

We also hiked to Owachomo Bridge, the oldest and most delicate of the 3 bridges.  This was a short and easy hike.

Owachomo Natural Bridge from the trail head

Owachomo Natural Bridge from the trail head

Under the Owachomo Bridge

Under the Owachomo Bridge

We only stayed in Comb Wash a few nights, but we plan to return.  There are many more excellent hikes in this area that we have on our list!

Next up, Moab and Arches National Park.  Cheers!

Utah – Monument Valley to Gooseneck State Park

March 28 – April 7, 2014

We were excited to begin our month of boondocking as we headed into Navajo Nation and the Monument Valley.  We felt like the weather was finally warming up enough  to allow us to leave Arizona and head north into the beautiful state of Utah.  The picture below is the road that Forrest Gump was on when he decided to stop running because he was tired.  Do you recognize it?

I Call This Forrest Gump Highway

I Call This Forrest Gump Highway

We learned of a primitive camp (no electricity or water) on Monument Valley Road about 1 mile east of Highway 163, called Mustang Valley.  Dorothy is the contact person at 928-209-5106.  She can see the camp from her house, which is about 1/2 mile away, and she will drive down to collect the $15 fee each day.

Monument Valley Primitive Campgroup.  Uh-oh, what's Lucy doing?

Monument Valley Primitive Campgroup. Uh-oh, what’s Lucy doing?

We paid another $10 to go into the Navajo Nation Visitor’s Center which was 3 miles further east on Monument Valley Road.  Within the Navajo Nation is a 17-mile scenic drive through Monument Valley on a really rutted bumpy dirt road.  Many people pay for the jeep tour, but we decided to beat up our car and drive it ourselves.  The speed limit is 10 mph, but even that is too fast for this rough road.  I’m actually glad we drove because the jeeps went flying by us and all the passengers were covering their eyes and mouth to keep all the dust out.  That didn’t look like fun.  We were able to pull over whenever we wanted, take pictures or take a walk at our leisure.

17 Mile Scenic Drive Through Monument Valley

17 Mile Scenic Drive Through Monument Valley

IMG_5726 Mike frames Monument Valley

 

We went across Highway 163 to Gouldings Resort $$$ to check out how the other half live.  An interesting sight at the fuel station!

Interesting...

Interesting…

We enjoyed a couple of days in Monument Valley, and then saw that a wind storm was approaching the next day.  We were camped out in the open in soft and very fine red dirt.  We could just imagine what would happen to us if we sat here in 40 mph winds.  We’d never get all the dirt out.  So we decided not to find out.  We hot-footed it up to Bluff and spent the next few days at Cadillac Ranch RV Park.  It was nice to have a full hook-up, I must admit.  And, as predicted, the wind blew!

Dust In The Air During The Wind Storm

Dust In The Air During The Wind Storm – Metal Benches Overturned

What a difference a day makes!

Calm Weather Returns

Calm Weather Returns

After The Storm - Clear Skies

Cadillac Ranch RV Park in Bluff, Utah

The RV Park is across the street from historic Fort Bluff, settled in 1880 by Mormon pioneers.  The story of these 70 families and their 6-month journey covering 260 miles across some impossible terrain was impressive.  Historians consider this expedition one of the most extraordinary wagon trips ever undertaken in North America and I agree!  The presentation we watched was jaw dropping.  These were some tough folks!

Early Mormon Settlement of Fort Bluff

Early Mormon Settlement of Fort Bluff

We also drove another 17-mile dirt road through gorgeous Valley of the Gods.  This is another sandstone valley with stunning rock formations.  It is considered a photographer’s paradise.  This dirt road was MUCH better than the one through Monument Valley.

Valley of the Gods, near Bluff, Utah

Valley of the Gods, near Bluff, Utah

If our rig was a bit smaller, we could camp here.  This beautiful location made us wish we were in something smaller.  This is BLM land, and camping is free.  In the picture below, Mike is standing at a campsite clearing.  Can you imagine waking up to this view?

I Want This Campsite!!

I Want This Campsite!!

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

So cute

What Are You Looking At?  (I think they are so cute)

Next it was time to backtrack a little bit.  We had blown past Gooseneck State Park when we were running from the windstorm earlier in the week.  We absolutely did not want to miss camping on the rim of the canyon.  And we were planning to rendezvous with our blogger friends Ingrid and Al of LiveLaughRV.  Then, another weather system decided to head our way bringing the wind back.  It was kind of scary!  We even pulled our slides in.  I didn’t want our slide-out toppers to turn into parasails and send us into the canyon!

Camped On The Rim of Gooseneck State Park

Camped On The Rim of Gooseneck State Park

This is the view from our side window.  Imagine the wind rocking the rig!

This is the view from our side window. Imagine the wind rocking the rig!

We had a blast anyway because we were enjoying fun times with our friends.  Thanks to Ingrid for sharing some of her pictures with me and allowing me to use them on my blog.

Sitting By The Campfire

Sitting By The Campfire

Mike is feasting on Ingrid's yummy guacamole!

Mike is feasting on Ingrid’s yummy guacamole!

Mike and Al solving the problems of the world

Mike and Al solving the problems of the world

If you’ve never seen her blog, Ingrid is a wonderful photographer.  You should check it out at www.livelaughrv.net

Ingrid is always looking to catch the light just right

Ingrid is always looking to catch the light just right

 

Ohhhhhh!  Too close for comfort!

Ohhhhhh! Too close for comfort!

We drove the switchbacks up to Muley Point, which was another vertigo-challenging day.  But oh so beautiful!

Switchbacks on Route 261 up to Muley Point Overlook

Switchbacks on Route 261 up to Muley Point Overlook

I put the camera on a tripod and set the 10-second timer so I could be in the picture.  Then I just hoped I wouldn’t be running so fast to get in the picture that I would fly off the cliff.

Muley Point Overlook

Muley Point Overlook

Lucy must really like to look over the edge of cliffs!

Lucy must really like to look over the edge of cliffs!

Next up, Natural Bridges National Monument, House of Fire and Comb Wash BLM.  Cheers!

 

More Fun In Prescott National Forest and Beautiful Views At Grand Canyon

We were glad that we decided to spend a couple of extra days at Lake Pleasant, near Phoenix.  After moving to the other side of the lake, we joined our friends Al and Ingrid for some fun happy hours and beautiful sunsets!  Check out their blog “LiveLaughRV” for some fun pics of our get-togethers.

Beautiful Lake Pleasant

Beautiful Lake Pleasant

We eventually tore ourselves away and headed up to Cottonwood in the Prescott National Forest.  We settled in to a *free* boondocking site on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) for a couple of weeks.

Dry-camping in Cottonwood, AZ

Dry-camping in Cottonwood, AZ

Sweeping views, including the red rocks of Sedona

Sweeping views, including the red rocks of Sedona

Enjoyed this view early one morning

Enjoyed this view early one morning

The last time we were in this area was during the government shut-down, so the National Monuments were closed to visitors.  This time we were able to tour the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument.  This 2-3 story pueblo ruin had 110 rooms and was built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400.  An interesting feature is that the rooms had very few doors.  Instead they used trapdoor openings in the roofs and ladders to enter each room.  We enjoyed touring the museum and reading all the history of this development.

A portion of the Tuzigoot National Monument

A portion of the Tuzigoot National Monument

We also visited the Montezuma Castle National Monument, one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.  Also built by the Sinaguan people around 700 AD.  Americans discovered this cliff dwelling in 1860 and named them incorrectly thinking that Montezuma had been connected to their construction.   When actually, the Sinaguan dwelling was abandoned in 1425 AD, 100 years before Montezuma was even born!  It is also not a castle at all.  It is more like a prehistoric high rise apartment complex, with multiple small rooms.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We made a special trip to Sedona to buy a pair of hiking boots for Lucy.  Arizona has been rough on Lucy’s feet.  So many stickers!  And she licks and chews on her feet after every walk outside, so she is sensitive to something out there.  We thought we’d try the boots with her and see if that helps.  As expected, she hates them.  We’re hoping she can get used to them, but the jury is still out on whether this will work.  She didn’t even want to pose for this picture.

I think she hates us now.

I think she hates us now.

This is a 10-second video of Lucy’s new Clydesdale horse-style walk.

We were very excited that our friends John and Nancy (who live here in Cottonwood) would be joining us on the Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train.

Enjoying the open-air car which adjoined our first-class seating car.

Enjoying the open-air car which adjoined our first-class seating car.

This is a 4 hour train ride that passes red rock pinnacles, Indian ruins, over trestles and through a 680-foot tunnel, as it travels through the beautiful canyon wilderness that follows the upper Verde River.

Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train

Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train

We saw eagles soaring overhead

We saw eagles soaring overhead

We had such fun on the train!  The views were amazing.  It was a beautiful day and we certainly enjoyed the additional amenities that came with our first class tickets.   The champagne, food, lounge style seating, aaaand more champagne!

Feeling really happy at the end of the train ride

Feeling really happy at the end of the train ride

We enjoyed getting together with John and Nancy a few more times during our stay in Cottonwood.

Nancy, John, Mike, Linda

Nancy, John, Mike, Linda

We also enjoyed hiking in Cottonwood, taking day trips to the cute little hillside town of Jerome and shopping in Sedona.  All of these places were written about and pictures posted in our last trip here a few months ago in October 2013 (click here to see).

Our Phoenix friends, Debbie and Dan, stopped by to check out our RV and see what this lifestyle is all about, on the way to their Prescott home.  The next day we drove to Prescott for a fun afternoon with Debbie and Dan at their beautiful mountain home.  Dan’s an impressive do-it-yourselfer.  They bought this house a couple of years ago, and we saw the before and after pictures of the projects they have completed and are currently working on.  Wish I had that kind of vision for remodeling.  Coupled with their impeccable taste, the results are amazing!  Then, we enjoyed margaritas and Mexican food at a cute little restaurant in historic downtown Prescott.  We are so lucky to have so many special friends in our lives!

Mike, Linda, Debbie, Dan in Prescott

Mike, Linda, Debbie, Dan in Prescott

Our next stop was Williams, AZ.  We made a reservation at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park.  We figured that we would want to go to a full hook-up RV park after spending over 2 weeks dry camping (or boondocking) without water, electricity, and sewer.  We chose this park because it is a Passport America park which gives us a 50% discount.  I don’t think we’ve ever paid full price at a private park.  We always use our Passport America membership for private parks.  However, our preference is to stay at National Parks or National Forest campgrounds, State Park campgrounds, regional park campgrounds, or BLM campsites because of the larger sites and natural settings.  Fortunately, our Senior Pass gives us half price at all National lands, and many State parks, too.

Williams was the last town on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1984.  The town’s heritage features the Old West and Route 66 from the heyday years of the ’50s and ’60s.  It is also known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.  The elevation here is 6,770 ft., so it is cold!  We weren’t thinking about the elevation when we booked it.  Brrrrr!  Good thing it is a full hook-up so we can set the thermostat on the heater at night.  We didn’t turn it on the first night we were here.  We ran the heater before bed, then turned it off when we turned out the lights.  When Mike got up in the morning, water that was left in a cup in the sink was frozen and no water came out of the faucet!  We’ve kept everything warmed up since then.

27 Williams entry

Strolling through Williams

Strolling through Williams

29 Route 66

We spent one day touring Flagstaff and walking all the streets in the historic district.  Enjoyed lunch on the patio of the historic Weatherford Hotel.  One might think that I would have had my fill of champagne after the Verde Canyon Train ride with John and Nancy, but noooooo.  I couldn’t resist ordering the Mimosa after seeing the people at the table next to us drinking them.

Lunch at Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff

Lunch at Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff

Historic Weatherford Hotel

Historic Weatherford Hotel

The last time we were in Williams, AZ was in 2007 when we took our grandchildren on a month-long RV vacation from California to Texas and back to California.  We called the excursion PAMOSA (Papa and Mamma’s Outstanding Summer Adventure) and even had t-shirts made for all of us.  The whole trip was completely focused on kid-friendly places and activities.  What a wonderful memory.  On that trip we took the Grand Canyon Railway to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.  The train ride includes singing cowboys and a shoot em up train robbery by bandits on horseback.  It’s fun when you have kids with you.

However, this time we decided to drive our car to the Grand Canyon, which is about 50 miles from here.  Then we were able to do the 25-mile Desert View Drive, with its multiple scenic pullouts, along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was a perfectly beautiful day and we were treated to breath-taking views all day long.

Grand Canyon South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim

19 Grand Canyon

Scary close to the edge!  It made me dizzy!

Scary close to the edge! It made me dizzy!

Sun in my eyes

Sun in my eyes

We are now sitting out a VERY windy final couple of days here in Williams.  It’s been blowing consistently 25-35 mph, and gusting regularly over 50.  We decided to pull in our slides because we were worried about damage to the slide covers.  The wind was trying to turn them into parasails.

This is our regular amount of living space with the slides out and we watch the large screen TV

This is our regular amount of living space with the slides out and we watch the large screen TV.  Hahaha, I just noticed all Mike’s beer bottles on the table!  We must have just had company over before I took this picture.  Uh-huh.

Now we're all squeezed in and watching the little TV at the front because the slide covers up the big screen.

Now we’re all squeezed in and watching the little TV at the front because the slide covers up the big screen.

Now the weather report calls for snow showers tonight.  Yikes!

Rodeo in Tucson, Family and Friends in Phoenix

After departing Kartchner Caverns State Park, we moved over to Green Valley (south of Tucson) for a few days of fun.  We arrived on Valentines Day and decided to go out for dinner at the Cow Palace (sounds romantic, right?)  Actually, it was quite fun.  They had a country band, dance floor and good food in a saloon-style setting.  I shot a picture of the full moon from the car as we were driving to dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

01 Full moon over Amado AZ

We were near the charming little town of Tubac, where we could hike the De Anza Trail from Tubac to Tumacacori where we visited the old mission remains.

Hiking the De Anza Trail to Tumacacori
Hiking the De Anza Trail to Tumacacori
Mission Church San Jose de Tumacacori
Mission Church San Jose de Tumacacori
This is how it looked back then
This is how it looked originally
And sadly, this is all that remains.
This is all that remains.

I’m writing and posting this blog update at my sister-in-law’s house because I’ve got internet access from here.  However, I don’t have my informational brochures with me right now, so I can’t pick off the interesting historical information about the places we’ve been recently.  Now I COULD just look up some details on the internet, but I’m just trying to get this done fast so I can pour myself a glass of wine and sit down to watch the Academy Awards with Diane!  History, schmistory!  On with the show!

OK, so we toured the Titan Missile Silo and Museum.  It was quite fascinating to see .. and scary.  I remember those days.  The air raid exercises in school, everyone building bomb shelters, all that stuff that is more frightening to me now than it was then.

06 Titan Missile Museum

Down in the missile silo
Down in the missile silo
The last remaining missile - preserved as a museum
The last remaining missile – preserved as a museum

We had a really fun day at the Tucson Rodeo.  My girlfriend Jane joined us.  Mike and Jane bought cowboy hats and they both looked so cute.  Wish I’d taken a picture of them.  I was just trying my darnest to get some good shots of the Rodeo action.  Jane actually got better pictures than I did, so I used some of her pics below, as well as some of mine.

Lots of great action at the Tucson Rodeo
Lots of great action at the Tucson Rodeo
Good stuff, that is!
Get some air!

Rodeo5

Buckin Bronco
Buckin Bronco
Ladies Barrel Riding
Ladies Barrel Riding

Rodeo3

The kids are in there, too!  So cute!
The kids are in there, too! So cute!
More kid stuff
More kid stuff
I wonder if he knew this wasn't going to work out well?
I wonder if he knew this wasn’t going to work out well?
Owww
Owww
Lots of shopping at dozens of booths around the arena
Lots of shopping at dozens of booths around the arena

We departed Tucson and headed up to the Phoenix area next.  First stop was a return to Lost Dutchman State Park.  We loved it last year and wanted to try the Siphon Draw hike one more time.  Could we make it to the top if we started earlier?  Let’s try it!

Towards to top, it just got tooooo steep for me.  I started to feel panicky!
Towards the top, it just got tooooo steep for me. I started to feel panicky!

We couldn’t do it.  We started to worry about Lucy slipping (good excuse, right?)  But the views were fantastic from where we turned around.

View from Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Mountains
View from Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Mountains
Another nice view half way back down the mountain
Another nice view half way back down the mountain

Next stop was a little closer to Mike’s sister Diane in Cave Creek.  Would have loved to stay at Cave Creek Regional Park again, but they are booked solid at this time of the year. So we stayed at the Lake Pleasant Regional Park.  That was still a 30-40 minute drive to her house!  Yikes, we’re really ‘out there’!

Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant
Hiking around Lake Pleasant
Hiking around Lake Pleasant

We stayed at Lake Pleasant for 12 days and that gave us lots of time to visit with the family and to see a few friends that we’ve been wanting to catch up with.

Mike escorts his Mom to the table.  She is always so happy to see him!
Mike escorts his Mom to the table. She is always so happy to see him!
Mike, Mom, and Diane
Mike, Mom, and Diane
No guilt filling up on sushi at the Sushi Station
No guilt filling up on sushi at the very affordable Sushi Station
Mom was craving some real Maine lobsta' (at the Salt Cellar Restaurant)
Mom was craving some real Maine lobsta’ (at the Salt Cellar Restaurant)
Dog Show in Scottsdale with Jane
Dog Show in Scottsdale with Jane

My girlfriend, Jane, is a champion Westie dog breeder.  She came up to Scottsdale (from Green Valley) to check out a very special male Westie.  This was my first dog show and it was fun!  I’d definitely attend another, the next time I have a chance.  Jane explained so much of what was happening.  It really helped me understand what the heck they were doing!

Dinner at Debbie and Dan's BEAUTIFUL home
Dinner at Debbie and Dan’s BEAUTIFUL home

We loved seeing Debbie and meeting Dan for the first time (even though they have been together for years).  Debbie and I worked together years ago and it was so fun to get together again!  Their home is absolutely gorgeous on one acre in Paradise Valley.  We dined outside on a terraced patio next to a massive outdoor fireplace, listening to the sound of their rock waterfall, cascading into the beautifully curved swimming pool, while Lucy frolicked on about a quarter acre of the greenest grass I’ve ever seen gently sloping down a hill that is called their backyard!  So, so pretty.  Debbie just retired a week ago (freedom!), so we are hoping that Debbie and Dan meet us again while we are up in Cottonwood.  They have another home in Prescott, so, hopefully they’ll spend a weekend up there in the next couple of weeks.

I haven't seen John in over 40 years!
I haven’t seen John in over 40 years!

John Hellman’s parents were close friends with my parents.  They used to live across the street from us.  I was his babysitter when I was a teenager!!  We recently reconnected via Facebook.  So it was fun to see each other again and share the stories of our lives.  Hey, Valarie .. John told me that you were his first crush!

Walking the dogs at Diane's.  This is what the street normally looks like.
Walking the dogs at Diane’s. This is what the street normally looks like.

This weekend dumped some heavy rain on Phoenix.  Last night we got hit with a hail storm!

After the rain and hail finally stopped!
After the rain and hail finally stopped!

And, now I’m going to try to insert a 10 second video of the hail coming down.  It was amazing!  I hope this works.

OK, that’s it.  We did lots of fun stuff with great friends and family.  We’re hoping to meet up tomorrow night with some fellow bloggers, “LiveLaughRV“, for sunset drinks before we head out the following morning for Cottonwood.  We enjoy getting together with Ingrid and Al and look forward to seeing where our travel plans merge this Spring!

This Year’s RV Travels Begin in Arizona

First stop … Quartzsite RV Rally … where about half a million RVs gather for a couple of weeks of looking at stuff, buying stuff, socializing, eating, drinking, fixing things on your RV, and just generally communing with like-minded people.  And that makes for fun conversation!  We joined the Monaco Owners group from the iRV2 Online Forum for our week in Quartzsite and absolutely enjoyed getting to know those folks.  We learned sooooo much about our coach!  About two dozen of us circled our wagons in the desert and shared beer, wine, whiskey, cookies and lots of stories!  Hope to see everyone again next year, if not sooner.

Evening were spent around the campfire with the Monaco group.

Evenings were spent around the campfire with the Monaco group.

Days were spent chatting about RV stuff or doing RV projects.

Days were spent chatting about RV stuff or doing RV projects.

...Or shopping at the hundreds of booths at the RV Rally

…Or shopping at the hundreds of booths at the RV Rally

I got to meet in person several of the bloggers that I follow.  If you are interested in a complete picture of the Quartzsite RV Rally, IslandGirlWalkabout wrote one of the best overviews, with lots of pictures.  Her post is entitled “The Merchants in the Desert”.  If you have an RV and have ever thought about attending this major event, you should read her blog posts on Quartzsite to prepare yourself.  We also met another blogger couple, Nina and Paul, that I greatly admire for her entertaining and informative RV blog “Wheeling It”.  This is my go-to blog for all my destination planning research.  It was fun to meet them in person.

After the Quartzsite show, we traveled to Yuma for our annual service on our rig.  We priced it when we were here last year, and it was a much better deal than our previous service in California.  Our appointment was still a week out, so we entertained ourselves by doing laundry and grocery shopping.  After our liaisons in Quartzsite with other Monaco owners who weren’t afraid to modify their RVs, Mike was feeling courageous and confident enough to drill notches in our stove countertop.  Such a simple modification, and it makes using the stove top so much easier.  We’ve got a few more projects lined up now that we have seen what others have done!

Mike drills notches over the stove with his dremel tool.  Now the counter top pieces prop up nicely.

Mike drills notches over the stove with his dremel tool. Now the counter top pieces prop up nicely while I’m cooking.

In Quartzsite, we also learned that our sticking door lock mechanism is common.  Mike (one of the guys in the Monaco group) showed my Mike how to take apart our door and adjust the mechanism.  Voila!  The door opens easily without breaking my fingernails pulling on the latch!  (not that I actually have fingernails to speak of .. I keep them pretty short)

We were curious about all the things being touted about crossing the border into Mexico to go to Los Algodones for cheap dental, optometry, pharmacy, etc.  I have learned that many people without good insurance coverage use these services with great experiences and reviews.  We had to check it out.

Los Algodones, Mexico

Los Algodones, Mexico

We were very pleased with our experience and our purchases (massive savings), and celebrated with margaritas and shrimp tacos at a little patio cafe.

Shrimp Tacos and Margaritas in Mexico

Shrimp Tacos and Margaritas in Mexico

It brought back fond memories of our first year of living on our sailboat cruising the coast of Mexico.  Everything was so new to us then.  We had just retired, sold everything, moved onto a sailboat and left everything that was familiar to us.  We were learning how to live outside of the US and learning about living on a boat.  I can’t believe we weren’t completely overwhelmed.  Maybe we were.  Hence, the margaritas.  Maybe that’s why the margaritas bring back such fond memories!  We learned how to live in “manana time”.  Just slow down.  It all gets figured out.  Now we are going through the same learning process. Learning about our coach.  Learning to slow down again.

We ventured out one afternoon to do the Telegraph Hill hike.  I missed hiking while we were on our winter break with the kids (even though I did work out at a gym with my daughter).   We were ready to get back on the trails!  Hiking in the morning would make so much more sense as it is cooler.  But I’m just NOT a morning person anymore (if I ever was one).  So we always end up hiking in the heat of the day, which makes it all sooo much harder!

Telegraph Hill hike -- see all the antennas on the hill?  That's where we're going!

Telegraph Hill hike — see all the antennas on the hill? That’s where we’re going!

This is STEEP!

This is STEEP!  My legs are killing me!  So it must be good, right?

In Yuma, we nestled into a free campsite on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and dry camped for several days (no hook-ups for elect, water, or sewer) while we waited for our service appointment.  We’re pretty good at conserving resources (learned that on the boat), so boondocking isn’t difficult for us.

Our campsite on Yuma BLM land behind a VFW hall where old people danced to live music every afternoon.  It was kinda cute.

Our campsite on Yuma BLM land behind a VFW hall where old people danced to live music every afternoon. It was kinda cute.

We decided to break camp on Monday evening and spend the night in the parking lot of Yuma Diesel Service since our appt was for 8 a.m. the next day.  In the morning, everything looked pretty closed up at the shop.  We saw one car pull up to the office, so Mike went to check us in.  We learned that the bank had taken possession just the day before!  They went bankrupt!  So sad.  They were really a bunch of great guys and I feel awful about their financial situation.

We camped in the parking lot for our early morning appointment for service.

We camped in the parking lot for our early morning appointment for service.

Closed For Business the day before.  So sad.

Early morning and we learn they were closed for business the day before. So sad.

Oh well.  On to Tucson for us.  We’ll figure out the service issue in another town.  For now, we’re headed to Snyder Hill BLM camping just outside of Tucson.  We have a couple of days to kill before our reservation at Kartchner Caverns State Park.

Our campsite at Snyder Hill BLM land near Tucson AZ

Our campsite at Snyder Hill BLM land near Tucson AZ

We hiked to the top of Snyder Hill.  Nice view!

We hiked to the top of Snyder Hill. Nice view!

Can you see "The Bear" in the camping area down below?

Can you see “The Bear” in the camping area down below?   (center, top)

We went to Kartchner Caverns State Park for a week to see some of the sights in the area.  One of our outings took us to the old mining town of Bisbee.  Wheeling It has written extensively about all that Bisbee has to offer, so I’ll just put their link in here and part 2 is here.  Nina makes my life so easy!  Believe me, you will want to go to Bisbee after reading Nina’s blog posts.  We were there on Art Walk Saturday, so we enjoyed walking the historic district.  Went for Mexican food and margaritas, … again.  Then, since we were too buzzed to drink more, we decided to have dessert on the patio deck at the Copper Queen Saloon while everyone else was drinking and enjoying the funky band!  It was a fun day.

Lucy, don't even think about it!

Lucy, don’t even think about it!

Contessa's Cantina

Contessa’s Cantina

Original buildings in the Bisbee historic district

Original buildings in the Bisbee historic district

We found LOTS of stairs throughout Bisbee

We found LOTS of stairs throughout Bisbee

IMG_7144 Bisbee Stairs

Our good friends, Jane and Bob Forster from Colorado, have a summer home near Tucson.  They joined us for a tour of the Kartchner Caverns.  I was disappointed that no picture taking is allowed in the caves.  It was amazing!  It is a living cave which makes it even more special.  We were oohing and aahing the whole time.  So beautiful!

We took several great hikes at the State Park and also in the Dragoon Mountains nearby. Lucy is hanging tough with us.  She is impressing me with her stamina.  Some of our hikes have been really hard!

Finding cows on the trail isn't bad.  It's all the cow pies that create the challenge!

Finding cows on the trail isn’t bad. It’s all the cow pies that create the challenge!

Lots of rocks on this steep trail!

Lots of rocks on this steep trail!

Great views from the top.  We hike back to our campsite seen below (left).

Great views from the top. We hike back to our campsite, the little white specks seen in the upper left side of this photo.  Great hike!

This was a beautiful hike to Cochise's Stronghold in the Dragoon Mtns

This was a beautiful hike to Cochise’s Stronghold in the Dragoon Mtns

We hiked a couple of miles to view the Sandhill Cranes in the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area

We hiked a couple of miles to view the Sandhill Cranes in the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area

Wrong time, wrong day, wrong year?  No sandhill cranes (sad face).

Wrong time, wrong day, wrong year? No sandhill cranes (sad face).

We spent a day touring Ft. Huachuca and their excellent museum.

We spent a day touring Ft. Huachuca and their excellent museum.

We toured Fort Huachuca which was established in 1877.  Then, when the Indian Wars ended, most of the posts in the Southwest were closed.  Ft. Huachuca survived and in 1974 it was designated a National Historic Site and Landmark.  We spent another day in Dragoon touring the Amerind Museum of Native American cultures and histories.  The many museums that we have toured across the United States have been amazing.  The details, the documents, the artifacts, the personal accounts.   But it always makes me sad how unjust we have treated so many people.  (I keep writing my thoughts and erasing them so I don’t start political arguments, so in the interest of getting this finally posted, I’ll say nothing more.)

On an exciting note, our sailboat s/v Aquila is in the Miami Strictly Sail boat show this weekend.  Wish us luck on finding her a new home!  We’re land lubbers now.

s/v Aquila approaching Miami for the boat show this weekend!

s/v Aquila approaching Miami for the boat show this weekend!

More Arizona touring in our next post.  Cheers!

Home for the Holidays in California

Our Fabulous Family

Our Fabulous Family

We got “home” just before Thanksgiving to spend the winter holidays with our kids.  I absolutely cannot believe that 2 months have passed in the blink of an eye!  We’re getting back on the road in the morning and it is really bittersweet.  We look forward to exploring the west this year, but we just hate leaving our family.  We’re already looking forward to coming back to do this again next winter.

We flew to Ft. Lauderdale for a quick trip to check on our sailboat.  Wanted to insure that all systems were functioning properly and that everything looked good.  We were delighted to see her looking so beautiful!

s/v Aquila in Ft. Lauderdale

s/v Aquila in Ft. Lauderdale

Another fun little side trip was made to Phoenix Arizona to attend Mike’s son Sean’s commencement ceremony from Arizona State University.  He received his Masters Degree in Criminal Justice via an online program and decided to go to Phoenix for the commencement ceremony.  Mike’s sister and mom live in Phoenix, so they hosted a party at their home after the ceremony.

Sean at ASU Commencement Ceremony

Sean at ASU Commencement Ceremony – Masters in Criminal Justice

Mike with son Sean top center of photo, surrounded by extended family

Mike with Sean top center of photo, surrounded by extended family

Between all the kids sports events we enjoyed as many family get-togethers as possible.

Kimberly and Lance with family at Thanksgiving

Kimberly and Lance with family at Thanksgiving

Family Gathered for Linda's 66th Birthday!

Family Gathered for Linda’s 66th Birthday!

5 precious personalities (impossible to pose)

5 precious personalities (impossible to pose)

Papa walks the kids to YoFruity (it's a tradition)

Papa walks the kids to YoFruity (it’s a tradition)

Garrett likes to help Papa wash the RV.  He also helped install our new awning covers (a big job!)

Garrett likes to help Papa wash the RV. He also helped install our new awning covers (a big job!)

Paige (10) and Kailyn (9)

Paige (10) and Kailyn (9)

Kailyn and Paige

Blake holding Lucy's BFF Ruby

Blake holding Lucy’s BFF Ruby

Paige treats Papa to milkshakes

Paige treats Papa to milkshakes

Mike and Kimberly's annual father/daughter pedicure and Jamba Juice

Mike and Kimberly’s annual father/daughter pedicure and Jamba Juice

Lunch with Lance and Kimberly at our favorite sushi restaurant

Lunch with Lance and Kimberly at our favorite sushi restaurant.  I’m going to miss my daughter!!

I absolutely LOVE attending the kids sports events.  They are such great athletes!

Blake dislocated his shoulder playing soccer

Blake dislocated his shoulder playing soccer for the Jr. Varsity

Blake goes up for the header

Blake goes up for the header – He was promoted to Varsity in January

Garrett plays basketball when he's not playing baseball

Garrett plays basketball when he’s not playing baseball

Paige at soccer

Paige at soccer

Kailyn at swim meet performing butterfly stroke

Kailyn at swim meet performing butterfly stroke

Kailyn awaits posting of race results

Kailyn awaits posting of race results

Brady needs to be included in the sports category (our little monkey)

Brady needs to be included in the sports category (our little monkey)

Enjoyed lunch with best friend Russ

Enjoyed lunch with best friend Russ

We got together with many other friends while we were here and had such a great time!  We’re going to miss our family and all our friends so much!!

 

Tucson AZ to San Diego CA and our Highway Breakdown

We arrived in Tucson and set up camp at the Catalina State Park. Our campsite was fantastic with a view of the mountains and hiking trails right from our front door and into those mountains.

View from our campsight at Catalina State Park

View from our campsight at Catalina State Park

Our first hike included Lucy, but the trail had stickers that bothered her feet. Mike ended up carrying her back down to camp. The next day we did an 8-mile hike (without Lucy) for some beautiful views on the Romero Trail.

Hiking with Lucy

Hiking with Lucy

Mike had to carry Lucy back home because of stickers

Mike had to carry Lucy back home because of stickers

8 Mile Hike For Great Views and a Great Workout!

8 Mile Hike For Great Views and a Great Workout!

Blogger friends Ingrid and Al (Live, Laugh, RV) highly recommended a visit to the Sonora Desert Museum, making sure not to miss the Raptors in Free Flight demonstration. Thank you for telling us about it because we loved it!  What an incredible museum! We only wish we had arrived earlier because half a day there wasn’t enough. The Raptors in Free Flight was definitely a highlight. The huge birds fly just inches over your head. One of the wings actually touched me on one of the fly overs!

Mexican Red Wolf at Sonora Desert Museum

Mexican Red Wolf at Sonora Desert Museum

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion

Raptors Free Flight

Raptors Free Flight

His Wing Hit Me!

His Wing Hit Me!

And, of course, we had to take the Old Tucson Studios tour where so many famous westerns were filmed. The Golden Gate Mountain in the distance is recognizable in hundreds of old movies and TV shows.

Golden Gate Mountain from Old Tucson Studios

Golden Gate Mountain from Old Tucson Studios

The day wouldn’t be complete without a re-enactment of an old west shootout.

Old Tucson Shootout

Old Tucson Shootout

We were excited to learn that the 27th annual Celtic Festival and Scottish Highland Games was scheduled for the weekend. It was a great way to spend the day because these folks really know how to have a good time! We enjoyed the parade of bagpipes, the food and beer, the Irish music, and of course the unusual games!

Irish Festival and Highland Games Opening Ceremony

Celtic Festival and Scottish Highland Games Opening Ceremony

Fun Music!

Fun Music!

Scottish Highland Games - Caber Toss

Scottish Highland Games – Caber Toss

HWD - 56lb Weight for Distance Competition

HWD – 56lb Weight for Distance Competition

Hammer Throw - is thrown over the shoulder

Hammer Throw – is thrown over the shoulder

Our next destination was Yuma, Arizona. After traveling for a little over 2 hours through the desert, still about an hour away from Yuma, our engine started to overheat! Mike pulled over immediately and saw antifreeze dripping from our radiator. Good grief! We were on a narrow shoulder on Interstate 8, so close to the traffic lane that the semi trucks blowing by rocked our rig. It was scary! Our GPS showed a rest stop about 3 miles ahead. We unhooked our tow car, then Mike added antifreeze to the radiator in the hope that he could make it to the rest stop. I followed him in the car. After about 1 mile, he pulled over on the shoulder again. The radiator was leaking too much and the engine started to get hot again.

Breakdown on the way to Yuma on a narrow shoulder!

Breakdown on the way to Yuma on a narrow shoulder!

We called Good Sam Roadside Assistance and explained our situation. One of the challenges is that we are a 40 foot Class A motorhome and cannot be towed. We require a Landoll flatbed trailer. Another problem was that it was 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. AND we were stuck out in the desert about an hour away from Yuma. It took Good Sam awhile to find someone to help us, and our help was coming all the way from Parker AZ (about 3 hours away!)

It was pitch dark now and we wanted to get off the Interstate. We were communicating with the tow service and they told us that it would be much safer to load us on the trailer if we could get off the highway. Mike added water to the radiator. We were hoping that we would be able to drive the 2 miles to get to that rest stop. Again, I followed him in the car and was happy to see that he was going to make it. But then we couldn’t believe it when we saw that the rest stop was closed and the exit was blocked off! Mike continued to drive another 1 ½ miles to an off-ramp that put us on a frontage road. I felt MUCH better waiting for help on this desolate road, rather than on the busy highway. I even cooked dinner while we waited.

The Landoll arrived about 8 p.m. and took about an hour to load the Bear. It was fascinating to watch and I got much of it on video. It’s a major ordeal! The next challenge was that there were about 7 bridges to pass under during the hour long drive to Yuma. The driver had to get off the Interstate and take side roads around a couple of the bridges. Mike and I followed in our car and we held our breath each time we watched the Bear go under the overpass with only inches to spare. I’m sure I got a few gray hairs out of this experience. We were unloaded in the parking lot of Yuma Diesel Service where we would find out in the morning if they could service us. By the way, it took another hour to unload us.

01 Roadside Assistance

Loaded on the Landoll Trailer for the trip to Yuma

Loaded on the Landoll Trailer for the trip to Yuma

It was almost midnight by the time we got to sleep. So what did that cost us? Nothing. Good Sam Roadside Assistance is one of the best investments out there for RVers.  We spent the next 2 days at Yuma Diesel Service. Apparently, our radiator had a small hole in it. They thought maybe a rock got kicked up from the road into the fan and shot a hole in the radiator. The radiator had to be completely removed and sent out for a weld repair. If one of the seams of the radiator had split, that would have been a component failure and we would have been covered under our extended warranty. But since this was a hole from a rock, the bill was all ours. Bummer.

2 Days at Yuma Diesel Service getting radiator repaired

2 Days at Yuma Diesel Service getting radiator repaired

Now that our repair was done, we could get back to our sight-seeing agenda. We toured the Yuma Territorial Prison and the Quartermasters Depot.  The prison was built in 1876 and held a total of 3,069 prisoners during the prison’s 33 years of operation.  The Museum was filled with fascinating stories of some of the Southwest’s most hardened criminals.

Yuma Territorial Prison from 1876

Yuma Territorial Prison from 1876

6 prisoners per 9x7 cell with iron bunks

6 prisoners per 9×7 cell with iron bunks

That's what they all say

That’s what they all say

Wooden Railcar at the Quartermasters Depot

Wooden Railcar at the Quartermasters Depot

We also hiked the trail through the Yuma East Wetlands.

Yuma East Wetlands

Yuma East Wetlands

1915 Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge and Union Pacific Railroad Bridge

1915 Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge and Union Pacific Railroad Bridge

So after a few days, we moved on to do a little boondocking near Borrego Springs in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California. We loved being all by ourselves in such a beautiful location.

All By Ourselves near Borrego Springs, CA

All By Ourselves near Borrego Springs, CA

Fellow bloggers ‘Wheeling It’ wrote about this area and described a hike near here in a slot canyon that looked interesting. We found the location and really enjoyed the Palm Slot trail.

Hiking the Palm Slot

Hiking the Palm Slot

This was a really cool hike!

This was a really cool hike!

After taking a scenic drive to Julian where we greatly enjoyed the apple pie, we headed to Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego. We spent a fun day catching up with our good friend Ray Torres, and making plans for more fun get-togethers soon. Looking forward to it!

We had lots of laughs with best friend Ray.

We had lots of laughs with best friend Ray.

By tomorrow, we will be getting settled in at our daughter’s house in Moorpark where we will be staying for the next 2 months. We’re really ready for some family time over this holiday season!