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Cross-Country Journal -- April 2003


Tuesday, April 1 -- 

Wednesday, April 2 -- Today I began a project to change the oil and oil filter on the generator.  The generator is a 7,500 watt driven by a diesel engine.  It provides enough power to run the entire motor home.  I realized quickly that I had forgotten to buy an oil filter wrench, so I changed the oil, managed to remove the old filter and then hand tightened the new filter.  I will buy a wrench.

Thursday, April 3 -- The toilet is acting up.  Seems to have lost the ability to seal the bowl so it doesn't hold water for long.  I called the manufacturer and they are sending me a special adjustment tool to Tommy's address.  Tommy and I played golf this afternoon. 

Friday, April 4 -- I bought an oil filter wrench today and finished the generator job.  Also, I lubricated the entry step mechanism and greased the slide-out gears.  We went grocery shopping and had a Mexican dinner with Tommy.  We had planned to leave West Palm beach tomorrow but we will wait for a few days until we receive a manual and special tool for the toilet.

Saturday, April 5 --

Sunday, April 6 --

Monday, April 7 -- We went to Red Lobster with Tommy to have a last meal out together for a while. 

Tuesday, April 8 -- I made reservations to come back to the same campground in Florida in December.  We are not guaranteed a full hookup but we like the location near Tommy's.  We found out that our awning did not work again!  Tom was able to get the awning rolled up and secured.  We cooked dinner at Tommy's.

Wednesday, April 9 -- We finally departed Florida.  A long drive (754 miles) up the state and across the panhandle.  We targeted the middle of Mississippi as our stopping point.  We were surprised to see the person checking us in wearing a winter jacket and pants.  It was very cold there!

Thursday, April 10 -- We got up early and started our drive towards Texas.  We decided to quit early and stay at a RV park just past Houston.  We had stayed there on trip across Texas to Florida.  We actually stayed in the same spot.  Tom wanted to watch the Masters but it had been cancelled due to rain.  I decided to clean off the windshield and then got carried away and cleaned the back of the motor home. 

Friday, April 11 -- Beginning at 6 AM, we drove from east of San Antonio to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  I drove about 4 hours.  We entered Mountain Time Zone.  We are staying at another Passport park.  Not the prettiest but we are not sure there is a scenic park in this area.  The price is right and we have the necessary things. 

Saturday, April 12 -- We went to see Sitting Bull Falls.  Our camping neighbor had recommended it and said the road to it would be closed on Monday for a "controlled burn"  We traveled 30 miles through no man's land, mostly desert and were having a hard time believing there would be any water for a waterfall.  We had to scrap up $5 in change to get in and then we walked a short way to see the falls.  There was water.  It comes from a spring and falls 150 feet.

It was good to be stopped after three days of traveling.  In the three days we moved 1774 miles.  We are 500 miles straight south of Jaimie's house and right on the edge of the southern Rockies.  Next Wednesday or Thursday we will go directly north to Colorado Springs.  The temperatures here in Carlsbad are good, 80 daytime and 50 nighttime.  Colorado will be significantly cooler.  Today I watched round three of the Masters.  Later, I used a windshield repair kit to repair another stone damage point on the windshield.  We have just over 20,000 miles on the motor home.

Sunday, April 13 -- We enjoyed watching the last round of the Masters. 

Monday, April 14 -- We drove some 50 miles to Guadalupe NP.  We could see the main peak and rock formation for miles.  We drove a Jeep road through the desert to the other side of El Capitan to a house built in 1906.  Quite a remote place to live but a great view off the front porch.  We saw cactus blooms.  We walked a trail to see a spring oasis.  We drove to the beginning of a canyon but didn't have time for the 4 hour hike to see it.  Maybe next time.

The 2.3 mile hike to Smith's Spring was our first high altitude hike in at least two months and we felt it.  We collapsed after arriving home at around 5 PM.

Tuesday, April 15 -- We went to Carlsbad Caverns.  We walked down the natural entrance and walked around the Big Room.  We had done both of these last time.  We also did the Kings Palace tour.  This cavern is much more impressive than the one in Arizona.  You could walk at your own pace and spend as much time desired.  I got a little chilled and was looking forward to the return to sunshine.  We were surprised to find the wind had picked up and you could not see very far due to all the dust.

The wind had become very strong.  At Guadalupe NP, where we were Monday, the wind velocity hit 98 MPH.  Where we were in Carlsbad it reached 60 MPH.  It lasted until early morning hours Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 16 -- Today we took a nice drive north to just inside Colorado along I-25.  Our plan was to get to Jaimie's new house in Colorado Springs without getting into the Rockies.  It worked well because from Carlsbad north we drove right along the edge of the mountains.  The weather was sunny.  We stopped at Trinidad Lake State Park in Trinidad, CO.  Nice campsite.  Temperature at 5 PM is 70 degrees.

I wanted to stay in a state park to get a big campsite and hopefully have a place where Pepper could run.  Since there were only about 5 campers in the campground we were able to let Pepper run.  She enjoyed having some freedom.

Thursday, April 17 -- The overnight low approached 30 degrees and the LP gas furnace came on at 2 AM.  We filled the LP tank yesterday morning in preparation for this week in near freezing temps.  (By the way, the last time we filled the LP gas tank was when we left Petaluma around December 20th.)  We took our time leaving the state park this morning because we only have a 3 hour drive up to Jaimie's.  Jaimie flies back from LA tonight at around 9 PM.  We plan to visit their house around 10 PM.

Pepper took a run around the campground and didn't want to stop.  She surprised a rabbit and gave a little chase.  We drove the rest of the way to Colorado Springs and it is amazing to see the snow covered mountain peaks to the left of us.  We got a great view of Pike's Peak and drove to Wal-Mart.  We drove a road that is on the way to Jaimie's house but followed our strict orders not to go near it until she and Mario and see our expressions when we see it for the first time.

Friday, April 18 -- Today started off with a bang and a big problem.  Pepper had been sick overnight.  So sick that she had released bowel movements, mostly diarrhea, in no less that 9 locations on the carpet.  Needless to say, it was terrible.  We worked quickly to clean up the big chunks and then we had run through our only two rolls of paper towels.  I went to the store for paper towels and to Jaimie's to borrow her small steam cleaner.  About two hours later we had finished a clean-up and steam cleaned the carpet.  After that, around noon, we very happily went to Jaimie's because we just needed to get away from there.  We shall see what the rest of the day brings.  Later Mario made an Indian dish for dinner.  It was very good but also extremely hot from an overdose of red chili pepper.  We watched a movie and got home around midnight.

Saturday, April 19 -- We vacuumed and examined the carpet.  Four areas were not perfect so we put baking soda on them and left them for another 24 hours.  I worked on updates for the web site for a couple hours this morning.  Went to Jaimie's afternoon and used their high speed internet connection to make the updates.  We had pasta for dinner and rented The Ring.  Weather-wise today was nasty.  The temperature never rose above 35 degrees all day and it snowed or sleeted all day long.  This was our first snow in over a year.  Not happy.

Sunday, April 20 -- Back to sunshine today.  Even if the temperature is in the 40's or 50's the sun makes it feel very warm.  Jaimie's house is at 7000 feet elevation.  Finished working on the carpet this morning and it is nearly perfect everywhere.  Puttered around the house until about 1 PM and then went to Jaimie's. 

Monday, April 21 -- We left Colorado Springs.  We were retracing some of our route.  We noticed more snow on the mountain peaks and even some snow off to the side of the road. We headed towards Santa Fe.  We drove 17 miles off towards a state park and had a nice campsite with electricity along the Pecos River.  Pepper even went in the river and then rolled in the red sand.  She was a mess but very happy.  We had a knock on the door from a new to camping camper that needed to borrow some duct tape. 

Tuesday, April 22 -- We retraced our route so that we would be able to drive through Santa Fe.  We ended up needing fuel but not finding a station very easily and with a reasonable price.  The price of fuel can vary wildly but if we are able to find a spot where truckers fuel it is usually the best.  We got a small amount and hoped it would be cheaper down the road.  We found it at one of the best prices at a Casino/truck stop.  We dove to Red Rock State Park and stopped.  It was very windy and sandy.  The temperature started dropping and when I took Pepper out for her last outing it seemed like we hard landed in the arctic.  We got two knocks on our door this night.  Someone checking in late wanted to borrow the bathroom key.  I hadn't gotten one since we always use our own.  The other knock was from an Indian craftsman.  He was selling his pottery and it was very nice.  We didn't have any cash though and he didn't have a bank account so he could deposit a check.  We drove to an ATM. 

Wednesday, April 23 -- We had broken our rule and had paid for two nights when we checked in.  We had planned to go over and see some ice caves and a national monument.  The ground had a light dusting of snow and the wind was still strong.  We decided to head for better weather.  We studied our web weather site and knew we would be facing strong winds as we drove towards Arizona.  We thought we would just start moving and play it by ear.  We headed towards Holbrook.  We had visited the Petrified Forest NP ten years ago and didn't have strong feelings about revisiting but since we were practically driving through we got off the highway and drove the Alfa through.  Each time we got out at a lookout we were afraid the door might be blown off!  The wind hit the antenna in a new way and created such a racket we thought things were falling off the roof.  Pepper went for a few of the loop walks and it was good to have her to anchor us down.  There seemed to be more pieces of wood than I remembered and I was glad we stopped.

When the antenna started shaking in the cross-winds it scared the "s..." out of me.  I really thought something had ripped off the roof and was dangling down the side.  Later when we were coming back from a walk among the petrified wood, we saw the awning partially dangling down the side of the motorhome.  We turned around so that the wind was on the other side of the motorhome and carefully unwound and rewound the awning.  Somehow the 40 MPH cross-wind had gotten under the awning cover and started unraveling it.  These issues with the antenna and the awning were freak experiences due to the very high cross wind.  I think that some amount of forward speed mitigates the effect of the cross-wind, so it takes just the right circumstances to make these things happen.   In addition to the wind there was a huge storm front that we skirted as we drove along I-40 near Holbrook.  This storm looked terrible and we could see blue sky to the south.  In Holbrook we made a decision to head south towards Phoenix.  We drove approximately 200 miles through some beautiful country and through an amazing canyon called Salt River Canyon.  It was a little late (6 PM) when we rolled in to a campground just east of Phoenix but the sky was clear, the temperature was 80 and there was no wind.  We will wait a week or so until the spring has a chance to warm up the northern AZ and southern UT before we head back up there.

Thursday, April 24 -- Today was pretty much all relaxation except for cleaning the front end of the motorhome.  Needless to say, we pick up a lot of bugs.  Looked up Trader Joe's and Wal-Mart on the web to find the nearest to us.  Did some grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.  Phoenix is full of snowbird RV parks.  We are in a small but reasonably nice one.  Also the price is only $12 a day.

This morning when I went to take Pepper out I step on a little piece of cactus that had been brought in on someone the night before.  It was the kind with barbs on the end and every time I got one on barb out another seemed to get stuck.  I now know why there were signs around this type of cactus warning you to stand back. 

We drove to 5 different "motor home resorts"  and must have driven by 10 or more in Mesa.  They were all about the same and not very appealing.  We decided to stay in our space as it was cheap and we were already settling in.

Friday, April 25 -- We had someone look at our awning.  It seems the motor rusts up whenever it rains.  This hasn't been a problem except in rainy areas, Petaluma and Florida.  We had the motor replaced after Petaluma and the motor stopped working the day we were to leave Florida.  We drove to the Scottsdale area.  We are amazed by the size of the Phoenix area.  We drove to the middle of Mesa and then up to Scottsdale.  We found Trader's Joe (bought a case of $3 Charles Shaw wine) and spotted an IN-N-OUT burger.  Coming back on a dirt road, Tom spotted a very long snake!

Saturday, April 26 -- We went to IN-N-OUT for a great dinner. 

Sunday, April 27 -- We didn't do much today.  Every day in Phoenix is the same.  Blue sky, hot, slight breeze, perfect evening temperatures.

Monday, April 28 -- We drove about an hour south and went to Casa Grande National Monument.  Ruins of a four story Indian dwelling in the middle of the desert.  Amazing to see the remains of something last  occupied in the 1400's.  We drove to a nearby Mexican restaurant.

Tuesday, April 29 -- We decided to drive part of the Apache Trail up to Roosevelt Lake and then to the Tonto National Monument.  There are 21 miles of unpaved road and it is winding and at times scary.  Another Jeep adventure.  Very scenic and we saw Canyon, Apache and then Roosevelt Lake.  All lakes are created by dams and offer an amazing contrast with mountain cliffs and the desert going right down to the edge of the lakes.  All but Lake Roosevelt seemed to have an normal amount of water.  Lake Roosevelt, we were told. was at about 30 percent and only must recent rains made it more than a puddle. 

We went to Tonto National Monument, a Indian dwelling ruins in the cliffs.  We had to climb a switchback trail and then we could walk through the ruins.  We drove back another route through some more incredible scenery. 

Wednesday, April 30 -- We decided to do a few errands since we were hoping our awning would be fixed tomorrow and we could depart.  We went to a pet store to buy a new leash for Louie.  We saw two cats set up with retracting leashes and the owner told me the cats don't seem to get tangled up as much as with a rope.  We tried it out with Pepper's leash and we thought it worked well.  We went to Home Depot to get some plumbing pipe to attach the new shower head we bought, Camping World to renew our Passport America camping plan. Last we went to Trader Joe's to buy a case of wine for Jaimie and Mario and another for us.  All these errands took us 60 or so miles.  It is unbelievable how sprawled out Phoenix is and we have never made it all the way across the valley.

We sat out and enjoyed some cool evening temperatures and Louie enjoyed being out.  We have lots of birds coming to our feeder.  They wait on the neighbors roof until there is a spot at the feeder.