Year 2 Days 15 and 16 The Party Is Over

Yesterday morning the kids packed up their trailer and pickup truck, hugs and smooches with the grandkids and kids were had, and Mary Margaret and I waved goodbye as the Boyless troop drove away.  We do not anticipate seeing them again until Christmas when we return to Tucson for the end of year holidays.  We had such a wonderful time and are so glad that Christina and Michael took time off from work to extend the weekend to 4 days.  Whoo Hoo!

When the dust cleared from their departure, Mary Margaret and I were faced with…. Quiet!  The decibel level was noticeably lower.  It is remarkable how active and noisy three normal kids, 5 and under, can be.   This is all part of the deal in raising three curious and smart kids when they are so young.  Christina and Michael shared with us that they think they are about 2 years away from being able to go camping for longer periods of time and maintain their sanity.

These last two days Mary Margaret and I have just relaxed and rested, with a nice, long walk mixed in.  Tomorrow, I will spend some time refining our travel plans.  This next phase of our journey is rather loose.  We know we wish to go up to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where the famous Carlsbad Caverns are located but exactly how we get there is still up in the air.  Once this is resolved, I will share what we decided with you.

Year 2 Day 14 Tombstone

This morning we all piled into our respective vehicles and headed down the road to Tombstone.  The grandkids were all excited about seeing cowboys.  I had visited Tombstone this last October and thought that the little ones would enjoy the experience.

After getting oriented at the Tombstone Visitors Center we walked the wide streets over to the OK corral, which was the location of the famous gunfight between the Clanton-McLaury gang and the Earps and Doc Holiday back in 1881.  We explored the museum and the outside displays.  The grandkids were able to sit in buggies, splash their hands in gold mining sluice, see actors dressed up as the “bad” guys and lawmen.    We opted not to watch the reenactment of the gunfight as I had watched it last October and was very disappointed with it. IMG_2674IMG_2713IMG_2668IMG_2641

Instead, we walked to the western end of the town, to where another gun fight reenactment would be held.  There was a mini-arcade with a shooting gallery that Isaac and Stella with a little help from Christina, really enjoyed.  We then watched the gunfight and afterwards, Stella went up to meet the actors and was scooped up into their arms with a big smile on her face.  Isaac, to my surprise, was a bit intimidated and hid behind Christina, too shy to get involved.IMG_2732

After a big lunch, topped off with a visit to an ice cream shop, where the kids seemed to get more ice cream around their mouths then in them, we returned to our campground.  Once there, well deserved naps and rest time was had by all.

After dinner, we once again retired to the fire ring and with a nice fire blazing away, marshmallows were roasted and enjoyed.  This was going to be our last nightly fire together as Christina, Michael and grandkids will be returning home tomorrow.  This three-day weekend has gone just too fast and it has been wonderful to share our RVing experience with the kids and grandkids.IMG_2772

Year 2 Day 13 The Caverns

After a yummy breakfast of eggs and bacon with lots of strong, black coffee, Mary Margaret and Wyatt headed down the campground road, jointly pushing a stroller. They would be staying in the campground while the rest of us would be exploring the Visitor Center and then touring the cavern called “The Rotunda”.

The Visitor Center is excellent with lots of displays that explain how the caverns were created, discovered, and what has been found inside the caverns. It is very educational as well as entertaining.

We next went outside to be part of the tour group and received a nice briefing by our ranger who would be giving our tour on what we were going to be seeing. There were 17 in our party. We then piled into the tram that took us up part of the limestone mountain that contained the caverns.

Once at the entrance, we walked through a series of big, steel, bank vault like doors, each time stopping to be locked within the cave. This was to prevent the natural cave humidity to escape as we moved deeper and deeper into the cave system. In the last enclosure, we were misted by misters mounted into the walls just to be sure that our clothes would not absorb any of the natural humidity within the cavern.

Once acclimated to the natural temperature and humidity of the cave systems (70 degrees and moderately high humidity), the last of the big steel doors was open and we walking into the cavern itself. We were greeted by huge cathedral like pillars, stalagmites, stalactites, ribbon flows, 20-foot-long straws hanging from the ceiling and walls, as well as a ceiling of various colors. It was beautiful, almost breath-taking. The tour was over after an hour and we saw and learned a lot. It was great to share this with the kids and grandkids.

We returned to LeuC and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying our time with the kids and grandkids. After dinner, we once again lit a fire and roasted marshmallows. Mary Margaret and I retired for the night, tired but happy that we could spend this time with our kids.

Year 2 Day 12 Kartchner Caverns State Park

We finally left La Mesa RV around 11:30 after discovering that they did not know how to fix the toilet in our powder room. Apparently, the electronic toilet is a new model which they have never worked on before. After waiting a couple of hours for the Tiffin technician to return their call for help, our technician came and told us that he would have to pull the toilet and pressure test it before he could determine what was wrong. Since we had to be 150 miles southeast of Mesa this afternoon, we decided not to proceed with fixing the toilet until we arrive at the Tiffin facility in Red Bay, Alabama this coming March. We can survive just fine with the main bathroom toilet… as long as that one does not fail!

The drive to Kartchner State Park was uneventful and once we arrived, we immediately pulled into their dump station to empty our black and grey water tanks before going to our campsite. As we were finishing, Christina, Michael and their kids pulled up with their extended cab pickup truck, pulling their rented trailer. What great timing! They had come from Tucson, about an hour away.

We both then proceeded to our respective campsites and set up. We are within about 100 feet of each other and will be spending a lot of time together. Once we were set up, Mary Margaret and I, armed with a handful of beers to share, went over to Christina and Michael’s site to get a tour of their accommodations. It pretty clever how it is designed, allowing a family of 5 to travel in style. The kids were being entertained by watching cartoons, while Christina and Michael were putting the finishing touches on their temporary abode.

After our tour, we returned to LeuC to start preparations for dinner. Michael had made a great spaghetti sauce which needed to be heated up and the noodles and salad had to be prepared. While Mary Margaret did that, Michael and I, along with their youngest, Wyatt, met our neighbors. They had a 1 year old dog that got very excited around Wyatt and nipped his hand. Fortunately, no blood was spilled but big tears ensued. Already, the big camping adventure had started!

Dinner was delicious and once the dishes were cleared away, Isaac and Stella helped me start the campfire. They were very anxious to roast marshmallows, which were to be the hit of the night! As the adults sat around enjoying the fire, the kids worked on getting their sugar high and one, and then another, and another and another and another marshmallow was crisped brown and then popped into the mouth of each kid. They loved them, even when some fell to the ground. Yum!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The last half hour of the evening was spent trying to coral the kids as they were now filled with new found energy. It was a hoot to watch as Isaac lead Stella and Wyatt in a program of calisthenics by doing leg stretches, jumping jacks, and other creative forms that I had not seen before. Both Isaac and Stella are in kiddie gymnastic classes each Saturday, so I am guessing this is where they learning their routines.
Tomorrow, the clan will regroup in LeuC with Christina and Michael making breakfast for all and then we will go out and explore the visitor center and caverns. Since Wyatt is still too young to go, he and Mary Margaret will “entertain” each other while we are away.

Year 2 Day 11 Let There Be Light

We spent most of the day at the La Mesa RV service center.  We had set up an appointment last week to have the failed ceiling lights replaced and a ball cover to our powder room toilet adjusted.  The toilet will not stop flushing because the ball cover keeps recycling from closed to open to closed to open again when flushed.  I believe the ball cover is misaligned with the electronic sensor so it never stops flushing.

Jerad, our service advisor got us in right after opening.  The first thing we did was count all of the failed ceiling lights.  The final count came to 31 since we had a few more failures since leaving the Del Valle Recreational Park, in Livermore, last Saturday.  We discovered that before Jerad could replace these lights, which are under warranty, he had to email Tiffin, the manufacturer of our Allegro Bus, and get authorization.  This was because the cost of labor to replace each light was set at .3 hours at a billing rate of $150 per hour.  With 31 lights to be replaced, the labor cost was going to be $1,395!  Wow!  Needless to say, authorization took quite a while before it was received.  My guess it took a number of hours just to revive the poor Tiffin employee who got the authorization request.  He must have fainted and fallen to the floor!

In my opinion, $150/hour as a labor rate is a ridiculously high labor rate for service technicians.  However, given the paucity of RV service centers around the US, compared to the heightened demand for RVs by the US public, I guess this is what the market will bear.  Only 20 years ago, this was a typical rate the many attorneys would bill at.  My, my, my… times sure have changed!

Jerad had told us when we checked in that for one-day customers like us, their policy was to limit the number of issues to be addressed to 5.  Thus, we still had three potential issues we could add to the service list.  Since we had a long list of minor issues, Mary Margaret and I selected three more.  They were to inspect and pressure test our hot water heater and refill it with antifreeze since it had recently dropped in its level, tighten a docking light that had come loose, and inspect and refill the tires with air.  We had hoped they would also rotate the tires but we discovered this was something that the service center does not do.

With this list of items determined, Mary Margaret and I then hopped into our little Fiat and drove over to the nearest supermarket to provision for our upcoming stay at the Karstner Caverns State Park with our daughter, Christina, and her family.  We then splurged on a Starbuck’s coffee as we bided our time, knowing that LeuC would be in the shop all day.

We returned to La Mesa RV before lunch and discovered that they operate a BBQ and offer free brats, burgers and chips.  Yea!  Armed with our tasty lunch we sat at a table with another couple and chatted the lunch time away.  The couple was from Minnesota and we enjoyed sharing our respective RVing experiences.  They told us about the great Corp of Engineering (COE) campsites and we shared our great BLM campsites.  The COE campsites are mostly east of the Mississippi River while the BLM sites are mostly west of the Mississippi River.

It was not until 2:30 that Jerad received Tiffin’s approval to replace the ceiling lights but, with “determined” effort, the technician finished the job right before 5 PM.  Hmmmm…, .3 hours per light for 31 lights makes out to be 9.3 hours…  He must have had a number of associates in LeuC helping him.  What do you think?

As it turned out, the technicians forgot to address the misaligned toilet ball cover and they told us they could not figure out how to remove the tire pressure sensors that I had installed on each tire.  Thus, these two items will now be addressed first thing tomorrow morning.  It is not a big deal to us as they do host us for the night and we get to suck down their 50-amp electricity for free while we are here.  Plus, it is only a 3 or so hour drive from here to the Karstner Caverns State Park, where we need meet up with Christina and crew tomorrow afternoon.

As an Post Script to this blog, we have also discovered that they failed to replace one of the ceiling lights and with one of the lights they did replace, they forgot to replace its cover plate.  I guess with all of the technicians they had stumbling over each other, replacing the lights in such a short period of time, they must have forgotten about these little items.  Thank goodness, we ended up staying an extra night so they can also address these items tomorrow.

 

 

Year 2 Day 10 Return To Mesa

On our journey back to Karstner Caverns State Park, about an hour and a half east of Tucson, Arizona, we have stopped at Mesa, just outside of Phoenix. The place where we bought LeuC just 4 short months ago, La Mesa RV, is located here. We want to have LeuC inspected for her ceiling lights as they continue to fail. We are now have 30 LED ceiling lights that have failed and have only 20 or so that still work.

Our drive from the beautiful Burro Creek BLM campground to Mesa was easy-peasy. The only challenge we faced was that we mostly did it without the assistance of Google Maps. This was because Burro Creek BLM campground is located down in the gorge and did not have cell phone or Internet access. Thus, before we left, I could not plot our rather strange, out of the way route that would take us around Phoenix instead of straight through it. We have decided that we will no longer drive through Phoenix because we have discovered that the Phoenician drivers are the worst drivers we have ever experienced in our travels around the world.

Today’s travels underscored how much we have become reliant on either Google Maps or Waze to guide us in our journeys. These are such useful apps to have on one’s cell phone. You just put in your destination and they plot the shortest or fastest route, allowing you to filter the type of route you want. Since we did not have Internet when we started out, I could not input our destination and adjust our route to avoid Phoenix. Thus, I used what we all used to rely on before the advent of the Internet to guide us to our destination. As it turns out, there are still things called “road maps” which are these really neat paper tools that one can use to plot one’s travels. Go figure! I had thought they had died and had gone the way of dinosaurs. We have the “Motor Carrier’s 2018 Road Atlas” for just such situations and we had turned to the Arizona map to be our guide.

It was kind of a bizarre feeling discussing our route as we drove down the road, looking for the various exits we needed to take to avoid the horrible traffic of Phoenix. In summary, we took Route 93-S to Route 60-S, to the 303-N beltway, to the I-17-S freeway to the 101-S beltway to Route 60-E, which is in Mesa. Fortunately, we were able to input the La Mesa RV service center into our Google Maps app on our cell phone as we got near Route 60-E so it could tell us what side streets to take to arrive. Yea!

We are now sitting at the service center, plugged into to shore power and will sleep here tonight, awaiting our 8:30 AM appointment tomorrow. Jerad, our service advisor, helped us back into our space and plug in. Whoo Hoo!

Year 2 Day 9 Burro Creek BLM Campground

Last night and early this morning we had many bouts of rain but, by the time we were ready to continue down the road, the rain had stopped. Our goal for today was to drive just 132 miles and reach the Burro Creek BLM campground.

As we headed out and were driving through the back streets of Needles to get to the freeway, a scruffy old man starting running across the street, waving at us to stop. This we did and I leaned out the driver’s side window to discover what he wanted. We were so glad we stopped because he told us that we should turn down the next street instead of going straight. The bridge that crossed a side stream which Google Maps was directing us toward had washed out last night. Wow! That must have been a very heavy rain!

Once we were on the I-40 freeway heading east, the road surface started drying out and even though the skies were dark and ugly, we had no rain while driving. Once we drove through Kingman, Arizona, we were hit with very strong cross winds. They were so strong that we were forced to slow down to 55 MPH to be able to keep LeuC on the road. My guess is the winds were howling between 30 and 35 MPH.

With a half hour stop to fuel up, it took us about 3 hours to reach our campground. I was glad to get there and get out of the winds that were blowing over the roads. Burro Creek Campground is located down in a gorge that for millions of years has been carved by Burro Creek. It sits on a flat bluff that is about 20 feet above the creek.

Here is road that leads down into the gorge.

As we drove down into the gorge, we were reminded that we were now in the Sonoran Desert. Saguaro cactuses dotted the side of the gorge. This cactus is only found in this desert.When we reached the campground, we were greeted by Randy, the campground host. He told us because we had the National Parks’ Senior Pass, our nightly fee was only $7.00. He suggested that we take site 10 because it was a more or less level pull-through site that was long enough for both our RV and car.

With that in mind, we continued on, found our site and pulled in. In no time we had leveled and unbundled LeuC and were ready to explore the gorge and Burro Creek. Instead of writing about it, I am including a number of photos that capture the unique beauty we discovered.

Shot of the beautiful Burro Creek Bridge

 

Shots of the Burro Creek

 A view of the creek, the campground and the bridge

A Bull that I came across

We were fortunate we explored when we did because right before dinner the skies opened up and poured and poured and poured some more. For over 3 hours we had very heavy rains. As abruptly as the rain started, that is also how the rain stopped. One minute the skies poured, then the next minute they stopped. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warm. We shall see…