Fredericksburg, TX, March 2022

Where has time gone? Poof and months go by. A friend mentioned last week that he missed my blog posts and I figured I better get back to it.

We have been to Fredericksburg several times, it is starting to feel very comfortable being there. We have many friends who live there, we know about half of the good places to go eat (that is a never ending learning curve), we know where to get groceries, we know where Walmart is, we know where the hardware store is, almost like home. But there is always something new and new people.

We left a few extra weather days to move from the Phoenix area to Texas after cancelling out stop in Santa Fe which got us into Fredericksburg early so we stayed at the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park Campground in the Lady Bird Johnson Park. There is a golf course there, a big dog park, lots of places to walk and ride bikes, and it is next to the airport which provides endless entertainment.

Runway right in front of us. This particular day there was a grass fire not too far away, lots of white smoke for a while.

Jeff and Sandy and Hans and Marjet, all of whom were in Tucson when we were there stopped in for a while at the Fredericksburg RV Park. It was fun to see them again.

We had lunch with Jeff and Sandy at Alamo Springs Cafe. It started as a cool day but the sun came out and it was nice. Their dog, Greta came along hoping for a morsel.

Hans and Marjet and I went for a hike to the top of the Enchanted Rock, a giant granite boulder about 20 miles from Fredericksburg.

You start by coming down a long set of steps, cross over a dry stream area and then up the rock.

You just go up there aways.

It is a ways and then you get to the rock, no specific trail, just up. Easier to zig zag. Hans and Marjet were on their way.

Closer.

At the top (about 400 ft higher than where we started) there are views in every direction. And then back down and at the end that long stairway back up to the parking area. We slept well that night.

We had a nice time visiting with Hans and Marjet and Jeff and Sandy again in Fredericksburg. And the dogs. And then they were on their way.

Our friends Mike and Jackie from Nacogdoches, TX, sold their home there and bought a home in Fredericksburg. And they moved all of their stuff and their Motorhome to Fredericksburg while we were there. The coach moved into the RV Park and they stayed there while things were moved into the house and had some work done on the house to get it just right. We visited the new house, perfect for them and much closer to their kids in Austin.

We managed to get to Emma and Ollie’s for breakfast again, went to Warner’s for lunch one day with several friends, visited the Airport Diner, and we went to Camp Verde about 40 miles south for a birthday lunch.

Susan and Norm and Shirl
Dave Cobb and Debbie, Mike and Jackie

Mike surprised me with a gift certificate to a place in town to get a pedicure. I was skeptical. But it was fabulous.

I also started playing Texas Hold’em Poker one or two nights a week with a regular bunch from the park (as many as 14 would start). Curtis is sort of in charge, $10 buy in, the top three at the end get shares of the pot. I never won anything but had a good time, every time.

Susan and I got over to Lady Bird Johnson Park to ride our bikes a couple times a week. We rode 6-8 miles each time. It is pretty hilly so it is a good workout. Our new Terra Trikes are working quite well.

I added a phone mount on one of my handlebars so we get accurate route, distance, and time information and it lets me take videos while we ride.

Time to head for home, sort of.

We had another pleasant spring time in Fredericksburg. We left at the end of March and headed for Houston. We wanted to see Rudy and Caroline in their new, to them, 2001 Foretravel in their new place. And then we went to dinner at the Monument Inn, Rudy’s favorite. Keith and Jo joined us.

Their new coach used to be our friends, Scott and Carol’s. So now it is Rudy and Carolyn’s coach. They have more room to spread out and relax. Rudy is an AquaHot heating system specialist and he finally has a coach with one in it.

Always nice to see Keith and Jo.

Then we headed to Nacogdoches to get our fuel lines replaced. At 22 years old there are a series of preventative and normal maintenance items related to age, just like all of us. This is the last of these that we need to have done.

Motorhomes of Texas did the work, they suggested we stay overnight in a local motel since it usually takes more than one day. So we made reservations. Scott and Carol drove up from Houston and stayed overnight in the same motel.

That night we went to Auntie Pasta’s for dinner and some time together. Dinner there is always good. In the morning we went to Dolli’s Diner for breakfast. Dolli’s is on the main square downtown and is a favorite spot for many.

Good food, good friends. Our coach was done so we were leaving the next morning. We said goodbye to Scott and Carol. One last stop, an afternoon visit with Chappell and Mary Elizabeth Jordan.

We had a nice visit, they are very kind and gracious and a pleasure to visit.

And so, finally, we left for home in the morning. It was an uneventful drive home, three days and we were there. Then the move from one home to the other, a dozen or more doctor, dentist, eye doc, lab, and more appointments saved up until we got home. And coach projects, home projects, easing back into Habitat for Humanity work. A full schedule and a busy summer ahead.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan.

Back to Texas, Late February, 2022

We tried to get more time at McDowell Mountain but it just wasn’t going to work. We heard about a new tool that checks for openings in reservation systems and it works well. It is called Wandering Labs. https://wanderinglabs.com/ Check it out.

We planned to leave McDowell Mountain and drive north to I40 at Flagstaff and drive east to Albuquerque then north to Santa Fe. We had reservations at the Trailer Ranch in Santa Fe. https://www.trailerranch.com/ They weren’t actually open, but they said they had a spot for us, just call when we arrived. We have stayed there before. It has been there since the 1950’s as I recall, back when most RVers had trailers. I am sure it was way out of town then but today is in the middle of town and right at a bus stop. Walkout, get on the bus and watch Santa Fe go by. Soon you are at the Rail Yard and train depot or just a bit further to the downtown bus stop. It is a block to the Plaza or just steps away to a different bus line going anywhere, the Museum Hill for example. It is a pleasant and safe ride. No parking issues in the Plaza area.

Best laid plans, you know. We watch the weather closely and after a colder than normal winter in Arizona, the weather for 10 days was showing significant storms along I40 eastbound, even up to Flagstaff at almost 7,000 ft and all the way to Albuquerque. The weather in Santa Fe looked OK, around freezing at night, 50ish during the day. But getting there looked more challenging than we were expecting.

We called to see if we could get in a week early at Fredericksburg RV Park and were surprised that we could. So we made that reservation and canceled the Santa Fe reservation. We were disappointed. Santa Fe is one of our favorite stops, always a pleasure to be there. The people, the weather, the food, everything, are all nice. We try to get there every couple of years, we are over due. We have been regular visitors since 1980.

We went the safe way back to Texas. South from McDowell Mountain back towards Tucson and then east through Texas Canyon heading for Deming. We stayed in Deming for two nights thinking we could visit one of our favorite local history museums, The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. https://demingnmtrue.com/deming-luna-mimbres-museum/

This is a museum we have been to several times. It is big and complex. A wide range of historical events, people, ancient indigenous cultures and much more. This is a museum worth a day or more. Unfortunately, the days we chose to stop were days the museum was closed.

So we relaxed, read, cleaned a bit, and went to Si Senór for lunch. It was Sunday and the after-church diners were just finishing up. We enjoyed the families, mostly multi-generation, all dressed up in dresses and sports coats with clean, pressed jeans, and cowboy boots. There was a lot of family pride that day, just another Sunday. It was almost as good as an afternoon at the museum.

One of the interesting things we learned was that many of the young men from Deming and Luna County were soldiers in the 200th and 515 Coast Artillery Regiments. This was like a National Guard unit before World War II. They were activated in 1939 and sent to the Philippines. When the war started Japan soon invaded the Philippines and thousands of American service people and tens of thousands of Philippine people were captured and forced to march to a prisoner of war camp. It was the Bataan Death March. More than half of all prisoners died on the March. Demming and Luna County had a total of 39 men that died during the Bataan March and 53 men that were fortunate enough to be liberated. It was a huge blow to the community to lose so many of their young men. https://bataanmarch.com/about-bataan/

And just last week we heard a story on local TV about the 64 men in the 194th Tank Battalion who left Brainerd with Company A in 1940 also bound for the Philippines. Like the men from Deming, about half died in the Bataan Death March, while the other half returned home to Minnesota. All except one who remains missing to this day. And for that family, there is an on-going search for remains in many of the unmarked graves along the trail of the Death March.

We discover new and meaningful things everywhere we go, and even at home. Stories of people, places and communities. Important to them and us as well.

Next an overnight in Fort Stockton and then on to Fredericksburg.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

McDowell Mountain, near Phoenix, February, 2022

We were at McDowell Mountain Regional Park east of Fountain Hills for only 2 weeks, way too short a time. We have been here 3 times before and wouldn’t hesitate to come back again. We will try.

The reservation system has changed, each reservation can be for up to 14 days, you can have multiple reservations, and you have to change sites after each reservation. This is as it was but it is now you can only make reservations up to 180 days before the date you want to arrive. It used to be any date in the month 180 days before you wanted to arrive. This makes the number of sites becoming available on a specific date much smaller and makes it much more difficult to more than one consecutive two-week reservation. We met several folks who were there for a month or more. They had reservations that sometimes overlapped, some for less than two weeks, and some periods where they had no reservation in the main campground so they made reservations in the dry camping overflow campground. It is a complex game whose outcome is unknown while most alternative locations may have already been filled.

The campground at McDowell Mountain is high up on a sloping area about 500 feet above the Verde and Salt rivers and the valley they share. It is a very open desert landscape with camping sites that are far apart.

It is about 30 miles across the valley to the Superstition Mountains to the south.

To the west the sun sets behind McDowell. Mountain. On the other side of McDowell Mountain Frank Lloyd Wright built his Taliesin West studios in Scottsdale which was then the rugged outskirts of Phoenix. https://franklloydwright.org/site/taliesin-west/

Fountain Hills is off to the west and a bit south about 6 miles away. They are famous for their very large fountain which pumps water high into the sky. We see the top of the fountain at times but cannot see Fountain Hills itself or even its night-time lights from the campground.

In the morning the hills and mountains to the south look like layered cardboard cutouts of different shades of gray. This is a common desert appearance.

As the sun moves towards the west the light changes and color and detail emerge.

And closer to the end of the day colors change again. And with almost nothing else in the way, these views are pretty amazing.

Off to the south east, the late afternoon sun shines on Four Peaks and lights it up.

These are the views in a place that is very comfortable to us. Quiet, restful, beautiful.

This is also a huge park with about 75 miles of off-road bicycle trails to ride on, or walk, or ride on horseback. Lots to explore. If you are moving east or west it is sort of level, north is mostly uphill, south mostly downhill.

A Desert Walk

There are also many paved roads which were more suited to our three-wheeled trikes. We rode several times, short rides at first and then some that went from the campground to the south east corner of the park where there is a tent campground.

These rides were about 8 miles round trip with a total elevation change of just over 800 ft. These were some strenuous rides. We and the trikes did fine.

Bike Riding

I found a phone mount that fits on my trike that helped me take this video while riding. This is on a road with very little traffic. Susan’s trike has electric assist, she zoomed right by me.

And the GPS app on my phone tracks all the details of the ride and saves them.

A Saguaro cactus is about 100 years old when it gets its first arm. I wonder how old this one is? It takes 10 years for a Saguaro to reach 1” in height and 60 to 70 years to reach 6 feet. They can live for over 200 years.

While we were here we had lunch with Jennifer, a friend from Minnesota who moved down to the Phoenix area, and her friend Melanie. We went to an Italian place, Susan likes pasta. The restaurant was halfway between us and them, still an hour away. The Phoenix area is vast.

We also had a nice dinner with Frank and Patti, Susan’s brother and his wife at their home in Rio Verde. They live nearby to McDowell Mountain and are a willing drop-off address for Amazon packages.

And one of the main reasons we went to Arizona this year was to see my cousin Sandy and her husband, Claus. This got very iffy right off the bat after Sandy tested positive for Covid, Clause did not. Even after recovering she continued to test positive for some time. But then she had a negative test so after both Susan and I had also tested negative, we found a place to meet for lunch.

We were very glad it worked out. It was important to me to try to stay connected. They moved to the Phoenix area about 6 years ago. Sandy is from my Mom’s side of the family and many of us have stayed in touch over the years. We miss them at the Senior Cousin’s brunches and picnics.

The restaurant was sort of an old-time diner-themed place with lots of Coke memorabilia. Fifty’s music too.

Two weeks here just flew by. John and Sandy from Minnesota have been campground hosts here for as long as we have been visiting. And another Foretravel couple, Andy and Eilene, were hosts here as well this year. Nice to see them all.

We are on our way back to Fredericksburg, TX for the spring weather and flowers (we hope). We are looking forward to seeing our friends there. We had thought about going to Santa Fe for a week on the way but the weather from Flagstaff to Albuquerque looked stormy with snow. Being in Santa Fe would have been OK but not driving there. So a few phone calls, some reservation adjustments and we just headed to Fredericksburg. We could do it in three days, the plan is for five.

More Later,

Much Love,

Susan and Roger

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, near Phoenix, February 2020

We left Quartzsite in the morning, no specific check-out time when boondocking in the desert. We still had plenty of water, plenty of spare room in the waste tanks, a bit low on diesel fuel and almost a 100% battery charge. Lots of folks were leaving the same day.

We headed back east on I10 (our friends from California would call it “The Ten”) to Tonopah where fuel was the cheapest anywhere in that part of Arizona. We took on about 100 gallons that topped up our 194-gallon fuel tank. I start looking for fuel when we have about 100 gallons left. I like to get where we will be parked for a while with a pretty full tank.

Then a bit north and around the northwest corner of the Phoenix area to Lake Pleasant. We were amazed by the number of immense warehouses being built. And what appeared to be an even much bigger computer chip fab plant going up.

Lake Pleasant is a lake created by dams to hold water coming from the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project. This is a huge system of aqueducts, underground storage reservoirs, pumps, siphons, dams, and lakes to get water to Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties from Lake Havasu above the Parker Dam on the Colorado River. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Arizona_Project

There are access points where you can drive down to the water. The water level changes up to 60 ft depending on whether they are accumulating water or releasing it.

Our site was on the Desert Tortise loop fairly high above the lake. Water and electric only. The water was quite a ways away, I had to get out my 50 ft hose to reach the connection.

The ramadas (sun covers) in the distance were in a picnic area along that ridge.

There were hot air balloons just to the south.

There are two marinas on the lake, one a county-run marina and the other a private marina.

At the Scorpion Bay marina operated by the county, the only access was by this steep inclined tram. The cars held about 6 people and it was slow. There was a boat launch as well, it was a long steep back down to launch boats, it was 10 lanes wide so at some times it must have been crazy busy.

The other marina, Pleasant Harbor, was the private one. There was a single-lane boat launch, lots of boats, a boat sales office, a water slide, and a floating restaurant where we went for lunch, all accessible by golf cart or walking along the curved floating bridge in the background. There was also an RV park on the hill above the marina level. Pricing close to $90 per night. Yikes!

No inclined tram here, just $10 for parking and a ride down and back on an 8 person golf cart. 5 minutes each way.

Lunch was good, nothing extraordinary but the tab.

There was a big three-chute water slide that was closed for the winter. $10 for one slide. There are other options for a half-hour, hour, half-day, and all day. You had to climb the stairs so I imagine many got worn out before their time was up.

We went to the Visistor’s Center that was on a hill overlooking the dam. There was lots of information about the dam and how it was built. There was an earlier dam that is still there but underwater now. We followed a nature trail past a tortoise enclosure and around to a playground area.

There was an interesting slide that came out of the mouth of a Gila Monster. It had rollers, I had to try it.

Short but fun.

We were only here for a few nights as a filler before we could get into McDowell Mountain Regional Park. It is an interesting park but not one where we would consider for a much longer stay. We are off next to McDowell, we have been there before and it is one of out favorite places in Arizona.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Quartzsite, AZ, January, 2022

We have been hearing about the giant RV show and gathering of hundreds of thousands of RVs at the tiny town of Quartzsite Arizona on I10 just east of the California Border for many years. There are quite a few RV parks there for those spending the winter or for many who come with an off-road vehicle to drive in the open desert in the area. Getting one of the limited spaces to park your RV is limited to those who make reservations a long time in advance. The urban legend says that 750,000 of every type of RV show up and just park anywhere they want in the desert, mostly south of Quartzsite. It is true. RVs are parked for miles south of town. The count might not be RVs but campers (people).

RVs Everywhere
The Big Tent and surrounding Flea Market

The focus of this event is anything to do with RVs. The reality is that most of it is just like a giant flea market. Oh sure, there is a very big tent full of RV parts and accessories. And side tents ready to install almost anything you buy. But there were pots and pans for sale, socks and clothing, and lots more to everyone the barkers could get to stop for a second.

Outside the big tent for a few blocks in every direction, there were small shade canopies and bigger tents selling anything from nuts and bolts to shoes to hats to political trash. Susan bought a pair of Bamboo socks from guy from Minnesota. I bought a bag of red licorice from The Licorice Guy. It was really good, didn’t last long. And an eye bolt with a nut for 50¢. He didn’t have any washers. It is mostly the same sellers every year according to those who have been here before. There are some deals to be had but mostly not much different from what you could buy the stuff online. There was one company there that I knew, had 300 amp hr lithium batteries in an 8D size for $1600 each. $70 for shipping. Maybe that doesn’t mean much to someone not thinking about lithium batteries for their RV but it is a very good price for a quality battery. The problem is, that in Quartzsite the sales tax is 10.5% and the online price is $1699 with free shipping. So it was actually cheaper to buy them online, pay MN tax and ship them home and not have to haul them around.

So the big tent was interesting, the endless flea market junk was interesting, we were all done in under 3 hours. Lots of food vendors but we are nothing but an over-priced ice cream cone. There was a Chinese restaurant that was actually in a building that looked like it was there all the time. I was tempted.

We knew that Chris and Elka Lang and Lynn and Marilyn Sickle from Arkansas were there staying at the Quail Hollow RV Park. We went visiting, had supper with them and others they knew, and sat and visited for a while. I had sent Lynn some parts several years ago and they sent us 5 lbs of pecans from their farm. That is a lot of pecans. This time they gave us a big bag of rice also grown on their farm. Rice is their main crop. We have tried it, it is very good rice.

The Foretravel bunch circles the wagons about 8 miles south of town out in the desert like everyone else. Some spend the entire winter there, some a month or more, most a few days to a couple of weeks. This year there were over 40 Foretravels there at different times. We arrived at the end of the show and there were still about 25 Foretravels there.

Foretravels at Quartzsite

We were on the left in this photo taken by someone with a drone. I knew almost everyone there from the Foretravel Forum and met everyone that I did not. That does not mean I remember all their names.

Our friends from California, Richard and Betty, were in the middle of the circle and Chuck and Lynda were further down on the left. Hans and Marjet were there a couple down from us on the left and on the right Jeff and Sandy were at the end. Next to them were Tom and Marion who we met in South Dakota a few years ago. Chuck brought several boxes of grapefruit, a variety of oranges, and a few boxes of tangelos. Fresh fruit was great, Thanks, Chuck.

Hans and Marjet’s friends from LA arrived and parked near them. On most evenings there were as many as three propane gas fire pits going with people gathered around at our end of the Foretravels and a big wood burning fire at the other. The next day it was easy to figure who went where.

It was chilly, no one stayed out too late.

One day was Han’s Birthday. We made a carrot cake for all to share and in honor of Han’s entering into a senior level (mid-70s) of geezerdom we presented him with what all older folks need, a crumb-catching bib.

Marjet Feeds Hans His Birthday Cake

He liked it! He was a good sport. They are pretty nice, truth be told, Susan and I have them too. I used to have a “food shirt”, a t-shirt stained with the memories of meals gone by. This is easier when a messy meal is at hand.

So we went to Quartzsite, saw a bunch of folks we knew, made some new friends, and saw the big tent and the flea market. It was windy and dusty, cold at night, not particularly warm during the day. As far as Bucket List things it got a big ✔️ mark. It is quite likely we will not go again. But as always it was wonderful to see friends from all over.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Justin’s Diamond J, Tucson, AZ, January 2022.

We arrived on January 1, 2022. Diamond J’s is a place we have been to three times before. When we made our reservations for Arizona, it was primarily to have a chance to see my cousin Sandy and her husband, Claus. Diamond J’s is a popular winter hang out for many Foretravelers. When we made reservations I knew of one couple, Jerry and Nona, who would be there when we were going to be there.

And then Jeff and Sandy from North Carolina and Hans and Marjet from South Carolina signed up. And we heard that Leslie and Rick from Washington were there but would be away when we got there.

And then my Sister and Brother in Law told us that they had made reservations at Diamond J’s which would overlap with ours. They are pretty new to the RV world, they bought a 2014 24 ft Leisure Travel Van with a small slide and a Murphy Bed a year ago. And when we arrived we were surprised to see Kent and Peggy from Oklahoma there in their Foretravel.

While we were there at least 8 Foretravels were at this park and 1 in the park next door.

Our site at Justin’s Dianmond J

Our neighbor to the passenger’s side of the coach was an interesting fellow. He and his wife were from Michigan and were towing a nice trailer with a pickup truck. Just a day or so after we got there he had traded his truck in on a much newer F150. No rust. A couple of years ago he was on the last chance list for a heart transplant. His had gotten so bad that he was on a mechanical heart pump powered by an external battery pack. And he had been using this artificial heart for a year and a half. And then they got the call, a heart was ready. He told me they had sort of gotten used to the artificial heart and the thought of the transplant surgery scared them a bit. But it was what they were waiting for. And now here they are enjoying a new chance at a longer life. It was an amazing story from some nice folks.

Our site was just a couple of sites away from Jeff and Sandy who were next to Hans and Marjet. We mostly hung out with this crew, not too far to walk. But we did walk, almost every day around the entire park, sometimes twice, and a tour of the neighboring park as well. On several days we rode our bikes around the park too. It was pretty easy to get in several miles.

We walked several times with Marjet and their two golden doodles, Jazzy and Storm and Sandy and Jeff and their golden retriever, Greta. Greta is getting along in dog years and gets lots of special attention.

Buddy and Greta.

I don’t have a picture of them walking with Greta but here are Greta and her son, Buddy, when they visited us in Hastings. Buddy passed away a while back so it is up to Greta to carry on.

Storm ready for a nap.

Storm is a bit bigger than Jazzy and is her son. He likes to nap.

Jazzy looking for a lap.

Jazzy is smaller and always looking for a lap. If it looks like a lap she hops right up. She is almost 30 pounds and has the lap sitting and just sort of collapsing into you thing down pat.

Storm, Jazzy, and Marjet

Almost every night there was a firepit going somewhere. In the firelight, Marjet got both Storm and Jazzy to climb aboard.

Sunsets at Diamond J’s can be pretty spectacular when the clouds are right.

As well as the full moon rising over the mountains to the east.

Susan, Judy, and Bruce

Judy and Bruce (sister and brother in law) came for dinner one evening. We brought walleye from home just for this dinner to share.

One afternoon Susan and I mixed up meatloaf and baked it on the grill. It works well doing it that way. We have done corn bread and pizzas too. Judy and Bruce came over to share the meatloaf dinner shortly after they arrived. And before we left we had a frozen lasagne that they bought somewhere. We went over to their Leisure Travel Van for dinner one day. We all fit in but it was tight quarters.

We also went with Judy and Bruce to a restaurant on the far side of Tucson, maybe 45 minutes away for a birthday dinner, mine. The dinner was very good. A person came to our table and made salsa from scratch. It had lots of flavor. Then she made us a batch of guacamole. Avocados, tomatoes, a bit of garlic, and juice from a lime. It had a very bright taste. Judy and I had a great green chili stew, Bruce had a boiling pot of molé and seafood. Susan had a chicken quesadilla. We all left full and with a takeaway box.

While we were at Diamond J’s, I helped Hans hook up a new DirecTV satellite dish that they bought while in Tucson. It didn’t work at first, I had a long coax cable that we used to connect directly from the dish to the TV. That worked. So then the issue had to be in their coach’s inside coax wiring. Hans checked it all out and figured it was one of the cable ends. He replaced it and then the new dish connected through his wiring worked.

Bruce and Judy had the same problem. We tried connecting their roof top dish to their box and then to the TV. The box to TV connection worked but not the dish to the box. I tried connecting the dish to the box directly with my long coax cable, it still didn’t work. There wasn’t anything else to try so I gave up after several hours of trying.

Their small, pedestal-mounted table was pretty wobbly. I added 4 more pop rivets to secure the plastic pedestal end to the aluminum post. It was much more secure than it was with just 2 rivets. I also added one wrap of clear packing tape around the top of the pedestal tube to make it fit tighter into the plastic part on the bottom of the table. When the changes were all done the table was much more stable.

The last time we were at Diamond J’s, Susan and I went to the Titan Missile Museum. None of the others we hung out with had been there so we made arrangements for 6 of us to go again. Susan and Judy went to the Sonoran Desert Museum and Marjet and Sandy were planning a shopping expedition. You can look back to our blogs from March of 2019 https://home2rv.com/2019/03/ for more on our first visit.

Hans at the ready.

The tour of the missile site included a stop in the launch control room. Hans (blue shirt) volunteered to be part of the launch crew. Hand on the key, 3, 2, 1, and turn. After 58 seconds of lights coming on, systems getting checked, and alarms going off, the missile was launched.

Lots of 1960s electronics.

But not really, just a simulation. It was an interesting visit, something most never see nor knew about back in the 1960s until the missiles were retired as part of an arms reduction treaty with Russia. There were 54 of these single missile silos. Each missile carried a 9 megaton nuclear warhead. How big is that? Much more than all of the bombs dropped during World War II by all sides.

After the museum tour, we drove to Tubac, about 20 miles further south. It was a small town with lots of local artists that is quickly expanding to be a tourist destination with much more than local artists. I explored a nice kitchen and food store, bought a package of molé spices and a jar of spicy chili bacon jam. Then we all met at a small deli for lunch and a bunch of Foretravel talk.

One afternoon we taught Han and Marjet how to play Quiddler, we played at a table in a screen room tent they had set up. They were quick learners and good competition.

Marjet and Hans
Roger, Hans, Susan, Jeff, Marjet, Sandy

On another evening we had dinner in the screen room with Hans and Marjet and Jeff and Sandy. It was fun. We liked the screen room so we ordered one. The directions say it takes 45 seconds to set up. Not the first time, it seemed complicated. But the next time it was much easier. It will still take some practice to get to 45 seconds

The Fishhook cactus and the prickly pear cactus were starting to bloom. Bright yellow flowers for both.

Prickly Pear
Fishhook
You can see the fish hook spines.

Three weeks went by quickly, it was time to head to Quartzite, 4 hours further to the west, almost to California.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

On to Tucson, January, 2022

OK, I know I am way behind but we have been busy. And that is not an excuse so I will try to get caught up.

We left Fredericksburg and headed west. It is about 1200 miles to Tucson, more than a reasonable person would do in two days so we took three.

Our first stop was Van Horn, TX. Van Horn has a negative reputation among RVers. They are not very friendly to big RVs in town. But there are several RV parks so they are OK for an overnight. We have been here for an overnight before but have never spent any time in town.

We were at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in western TX several years ago on our way to Carlsbad Caverns. As is often the case every place has an interesting story. Near Guadalupe, there was an old ranch homestead that had been preserved in much the same way it was in the late 1800s. The ranch had three springs, all still active. Water was stored in a pretty large pond and was used to irrigate a large orchard. Most of the trees (probably replanted as time went by) were still there and bearing fruit. Each tree was labeled with the type of fruit. Many different apple varieties, pears, and others. The family also had a large vegetable garden. All of this was much more than they needed. Every Sunday while crops were ready, the family loaded a big wagon with baskets of vegetables and fruit and left about sunset to travel at night south to Van Horn for the Monday Market.

So much for Van Horn, next stop Deming, NM and Mountain Time. We have been here several times, a familiar stop. There is a nice Escapee’s RV Park there, a Walmart, and one of our favorite museums. But we were there for just one night, New Year’s Eve. Not much partying for us, just a nice supper and early to bed. We were leaving the next morning for Tucson.

We added fuel in the morning, prices are going up the further west we get. It is a good thing we have a fuel program card. It can save us up to 65¢ per gallon when we use it at the big truck stops. And the fuel pumps are much faster than regular gas stations, we can add 100 gallons in about 15 minutes.

Interstate 10 continues on across New Mexico and into Arizona. Shortly after Wilcox it crosses through the Texas Canyon area at more than 4600 ft elevation. From there it drops to about 1200 ft in the Tucson area. We stopped there for a lunch break. Just a few hours to go.

When we drove down the on ramp there was flashing red lights everywhere. Police cares, tow trucks, an ambulance, and one of just about everything with flashing lights. A semi-truck had run completely off the Interstate to the right and into a rugged rock formation. It was on it’s side, the contents of the trailer scattered about, we hoped the driver was OK. No way to tell.

And then downhill and downwind towards Tucson. I10 intersects I19 in a big 180-degree flyover going from north to south and then within a mile exits on the Ajo Highway heading west. Ten miles or so and then north towards Drexel Heights, the Sonoran Desert Museum, and Saguaro National Park. We were headed for the Diamond J RV Park.

We have been to this park before. Our objective coming to Arizona this year was to see my cousin who lives closer to Phoenix and to meet other Foretravel friends from North and South Carolina. We also wanted to catch up with other friends who live in the Phoenix area. And since it was the first time we have been in Arizona in January we were going to the big RV show in Quartzite and meeting our friends from Los Angeles and San Diego. So a few weeks in Tucson, off to Quartzite and then north to the Phoenix area.

We arrived, got into our site, checked in with Hans and Marjet from South Carolina and Jeff and Sandy from North Carolina. We walked up to the mail stop to pick up a package and continued walking. We saw Jerry and Nona, Foretravelers from Washington and Kent and Peggy, Foretravelers from Oklahoma. It is a popular park for Foretravelers.

We’re here.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

South Dakota, September 2021

We went to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 2019 looking for Rocky Raccoon. While we were there having burgers, Ted and Karen and Susan and I signed up for 2 weeks at the end of September 2020 at The Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park. We would be there for the annual Buffalo Roundup. (They are Bison). Several other Foretravelers also signed up.

Then Covid got going, Ted and Karen sold their coach, Ed and Deb took part of their time, Keith and Jo took the rest, several canceled because of Covid. In the end, there were five Foretravels there. Our friends from California, Richard and Betty and Sven and Kristi we’re among those who canceled but they rescheduled their time for September 2021. So Susan and I signed up for as much time as we could get at the same time in 2021.

So here comes 2021. Between all else going on for us in the summer of 2021 we were ready to go. Sven and Kristi had second thoughts due to Covid and backed out. More friends from California, Chuck and Lynda took their time.

Confused? Lots of shuffling. The gang was set. Roger and Susan, Richard and Betty, and Chuck and Lynda. No one got there on the same day and we all left on different days. And then Chris and Elka from Arkansas called, they were in a nearby campground. Now there were four Foretravels.

We drove around the Wildlife Loop and saw lots of Bison. Most that were going to be “Round-Up” were here waiting. Maybe 1500 by the Park Ranger’s estimate

Some up close.

Some burros.

Susan and I brought Canadian Walleye for a sit-down fish fry. Everyone brought something to share and there was plenty. Even treats for the dogs.

Richard and Chuck and I bought fishing licenses and went up the Grace Coolidge Stream towards Center Lake there are 5 small dams along the way built by the CCC in the 1930s.

I tried along the rock wall from the dam. Chuck and Richard were on the side of the pool above the dam.

It was a beautiful day. Then we caught a fish! Now it was a great day. And another fish and another. Maybe a dozen or a baker’s dozen. One came off my hook just as I was landing it. We all threw back a small one or two. We ended up with 7 good-sized rainbow trout, eating size. Chuck jumped right in and cleaned them up. We brought them back, tossed them in the freezer ready for lunch the next day.

Good thing, he was an expert.

Richard and Betty and Susan and I went to the Art Festival. It was mostly arts and crafts stuff, nothing we needed to have but lunch. Richard had his very first corn dog. I think he liked it.

Over on the other side of the State Park there is an old Lodge, the Blue Bell Lodge. It is a rustic log structure. Susan and I had eaten there before and it was good so we all went over there one day for lunch. I had a nice Buffalo Stew, Susan had Macaroni and Cheese. All good.

Mostly this time was about seeing friends and spending time with them. We had a very nice time, the people were wonderful, the weather was amazing. Leaves on the trees changed color while we were there.

It was a pleasant break for us in what had been a summer full of many other distractions. We needed it. And there was more coming up before we could leave for Fredericksburg.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

More Summer Projects, 2021

Bikes, Well Trikes – Nope, Tadpoles – Whatever

You may remember that Susan tipped over on her bicycle a year ago in early December, 2020, while we were in Alabama, going from a paved trail to a soft sand trail. I will never forget it, I see it in slow motion, in disbelief, in horror. She went over hard, I thought maybe at first it was just a sprained ankle but the odd angle of her foot was pointing at a different conclusion.

It was a broken bone, just above the ankle. A ride in an ambulance and a long long afternoon and evening at the ER. Two weeks until the swelling went down enough for surgery, a couple more weeks until a cast, another couple of weeks until a walking cast, and a few more weeks until PT started.

Her bicycle (2 wheeled) riding days appeared to be over. The RV Park we were in had several folks with three-wheel trikes. Some were trikes, two wheels behind the rider but most, as we learned, were generally referred to as tadpoles, two steering wheels in front of the rider, and a drive wheel behind. We looked at every one of them and talked to the riders. This seemed like a good option to keep riding. So call them anything you want, they are three-wheel recumbent trikes.

We got home and looked at several varieties on-line. The more we looked the more we learned about things like gears, seat heights, seat angles, weight, electric options, and prices. Lots to consider.

Then we went to look at several options available in the Twin Cities. Some got tossed from consideration quickly, some were OK but the bike shop folks didn’t seem very interested in really helping us figure out what was going to work.

Our last stop was the FreeWheel bike shop in Bloomington, MN. They were located in the old part of Southwest Bloomington not too far from where my Mom grew up. We went there specifically to look at TerraTrikes. They seemed to have the right seat height, weight, and other features we thought might be important. We actually wanted to see one in person. When we got there, Chris greeted us and got busy showing us what we wanted to see and answering our questions. FreeWheel has several shops around town. This was their oldest (since the mid-70s) and biggest shop. Chris is the company’s “Chief Experience Officer”. And he made our experience worthwhile.

After a lot of questions and a short test ride we ordered a Grand Tourismo TerraTrike. This is a manual (not electric) bike that we could get by late summer. It can be refit with an electric-assist motor and battery at some future time. Supply chain issues were in full play. We also ordered an EVO model, pretty much the same trike as the Grand Tourismo but equipped with an electric-assist drive and battery. It would be a 2022 model and wasn’t expected until April, 2022.

We started thinking about how we were going to transport these trikes, a pickup truck seemed like a possible option. So we started looking. We were clueless. We wanted a used truck in decent shape, probably a four-door, four-wheel drive, towable. When we went looking there was a severe case of sticker shock. And mileage shock too. Many of the 2016 models we looked at were between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. That seemed very high to us but then we are putting on only 6-7,000 miles a year on our cars. We figured we could wait until spring 2022 since we thought we weren’t going to need it until then.

The first trike arrived, we went to pick it up with the Jeep Cherokee. We were pretty sure it would fit with the back seats folded down and it did. So we thought we’re all set until next spring.

And here is Susan coming down the driveway in our Mango TerraTrike Grand Tourismo. These are seriously fun, easy to ride, and comfortable.

We did keep looking at pickup trucks, mostly to find out what equipment packages we needed to get the features we wanted. And to figure out what it was that we really wanted. Mostly a 2018 or so, a V6, preferably red, leather, heated, and cooled seats, and a long (6.5”) box on a four-door pickup. Some of the newer technology safety features would be nice.

I looked at RAMs and was even more confused about what you got with what. My preference had always been a Ford F150. We discovered that the 6.5’ box on these pickups is pretty rare. Maybe one in ten. Add in a red color and it was now maybe 1 in 50. We found just a few that looked OK. One seemed like it would work, it had a V8 which was not what we wanted but it would work. Then we discovered it had been in 2 accidents in less than three years. That was the end of that one.

We pretty much quit looking. We thought we might have to settle for a white one. Ugh! There was almost nothing in a 50 mile range. One day I was looking at one of the car search engines and increased the distance to a hundred miles or more and a 2018 F150 popped up at a smaller Ford dealer in Kenyon, MN. It was White Gold, sort of tan. It had a nice topper and new tires. I called, it had been sold new to a retired farmer who spent his winters down south somewhere. He had just traded it in on a new truck. It had all that were were looking for and much, much more but was still no more expensive than anything we had looked at closer to home with much less equipment and options.

We went to look at it. We asked if we could have our mechanic, Don, in Hastings look it over. They said sure. We drove it to Hastings. Don looked it over and said it was exceptionally clean and in very good shape. He thought it had never been driving in a MN winter which was right. He thought one of the front struts had a small leak but otherwise a clean bill of health.

We took it back to the dealer and reported what Don had found. They offered to put in new struts at no charge. So much sooner than we had expected, we bought a pickup truck.

Pretty snazzy, way more than we were thinking about but it was available and at the price point we were comfortable with. It seemed enormous to us, it is. But visibility is good, it is comfortable. Some driving practice required.

And a week later, Chris from the Bike Shop called and said one of the 2022 EVO trikes that had been sold to another buyer was available because they backed out. Did we want it? Sure!

TerraTrike EVO

And they both fit in the pick up truck.

And they are easy to get in and out. They weight about 40 lbs each. So we just leave them in the back end, undercover and secure. And there is lots of room for other stuff as well. I guess timing is everything.

But in order to tow the pick up we needed to add the base plates for the tow bar connections, add the braking connections, and add the electrical wiring so that the brake, turn and running lights work.

I ordered all of the parts, it took a week to get them all and then asked Don if he could lend a hand. He is retired now but has a lift in his home shop that would get the truck off the ground and make all of this easier. Don and I had it all done in just over three hours.

The proof is in the pudding. The color looks good. We hooked everything up, went through the get-ready-to-tow procedure, checked the lights, and were ready to go. We drove several miles, around corners, down straight roads, curvey roads, left turns, right turns, and then home. We went through the end-of-towing procedure and disconnected the truck, backed the coach into the barn, and breathed a sigh of relief. Compared to the Jeep Cherokee, the F150 is a bit easier to set for towing and set back for driving.

Our friends, Ed and Deb, visited in June.

They just started towing a pickup truck behind their 40 foot Foretravel. Ed cautioned about going around right-hand turns. So we were careful but it seemed fine. We will continue to pay a bit more attention.

What we are still learning is driving the pickup truck. It is longer, takes more room in turns and more room for parking. We are getting used to it. We like it.

Well, that was the rest of the summer’s big projects. There were days when we thought we didn’t get much done while we were busy with our other tasks during the summer. But when we look back we did get a lot done. I even got in several days at a Habitat for Humanity house being built in Hastings.

And we managed to make a two week trip to the Black Hills in September, that is another post.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Summer Projects, 2021

Summer would hardly be summer without some projects. While we were busy paying attention to other tasks we managed to get some projects done.

Barn Quilt

A barn quilt is a quilt pattern painted on the side of a barn. We decided to do one painted on a 4’x4’x1/2” medium density overlay plywood panel. This plywood is commonly used for outdoor signs, the plywood part is waterproof and the surface is a smooth waterproof paper.

The pattern is one we found on the internet. Even with 6 colors, it seemed easy enough to lay out and paint. Well, almost easy. There was a lot of masking tape involved, paint, wait over night, and tape, and paint some more. Everything got at least two coats. And even with multiple coats we didin’t use more than a 1/4 of any of the 6 quarts of quality house paint we bought. They don’t sell it in smaller quantities.

We attached it with screws to the front doors of our barn. The sun helped the final cure of the paint. We think it looks good.

Painting the Roof of the Coach, New Air Conditioners

The roof of the coach is fiberglass, over time especially in the sun, the gel coat surface of the fiberglass starts to oxidize. It gets dull and chalky. If you rub your hand on it it comes off with a white residue.

The gelcoat can be cleaned with a rubbing compound and then finished with a non-slippery polish. I did this before we put on the solar panels and it took about 4 days.

There are paints that can be applied to the roof after the surface is sanded with a 220 grit sand paper and carefully vacuumed and cleaned.

The solar panels, the satellite dish, and the old air conditioners were removed from the roof.

It was pretty dirty under the solar panels. The roof was sanded, vacuumed, and cleaned. There was a lot of masking tape applied. A polyurethane primer paint was applied around all of the panel mounts, roof openings and anything else still on the roof. It cured overnight and then a full coat over the entire roof was applied with a roller. After that cured up overnight, the roof was swept and a second full coat of primer was applied.

And then three coats of white polyurethane paint with ceramic micro-beads mixed in. The ceramic beads are hollow and add some insulating value as well as some surface texture that makes the roof surface non-slip. I like that.

The air conditioners that were on the coach were original. They both still worked but were making more and more noise. As long as they were off, I decided to replace them with newer, more efficient air conditioners with about 10% additional capacity. I sold the 20-year-old air conditioners for about 1/3 of the cost of the new air conditioners. Not bad.

Solar panels back on, new ACs installed, satellite dish moved towards the passenger side by about 6 inches.

The original roof vent for the refrigerator was removed and replaced by an aluminum panel with a passageway for the solar panel cables.

A new thermostat and interior covers finished up the air conditioner installation. All seem to be working fine. The air conditioners have two motors, one for the fans and one for the compressor. And they are quieter.

Start Battery Wiring Modification

This is a project that I hoped would improve the process of starting the coach. When I start the coach it seemed to turn over slower than I thought it should. I had all of the parts since I did the Lithium Batteries two years ago. I just needed to find some time and motivation. I am glad I finally did.

The start batteries are each connected directly to positive and negative bus bars. A big cable goes from the positive bus bar to the starter motor. The negative side connects to a shunt, a switch, and then to a big cable that goes to the negative side of the starter motor. There are other wires connected to both the negative and positive sides. By eliminating the original single connection posts and battery connections, more power should be able to get to the starter motor.

It worked! The starter motor turns at least twice as fast now. Much easier on the starter motor, start batteries and the big engine.

Garden Edging

Somehow we (maybe mostly me) decided we need to define garden edges a bit more and add some additional bricks around the backyard fire pit. About 300 50 pound concert pavers later we had newly defined edges around trees, bushes, and the fire pit. Almost every brick had to get cut to make the curves. It was a bunch of work but they look good and make mowing much easier.

And there were almost 100 bags of mulch that need to get spread too. We have pavers and bags of mulch left over for next spring’s projects.

There were more projects too, they are coming up in the next post.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan