Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Exploring near Casa Grande

We’re continuing to enjoy life in Casa Grande. We’ve added line dancing to our busy schedule this week, it will be at least a couple of weeks before we stop falling over our own feet!

We made a couple of trips out, one to Gilbert AZ to pick up a new car radio for the RV. The old one was a CD/Cassette player with a multi CD changer. When it worked it was OK but the display was too dim and it wouldn’t always work. Now we have a CD/USB/Bluetooth setup that will play our iPhone music and allow phone calls to come thru the speakers of the rig.

Biosphere 2 the Library Tower

There are 3 "habitats" rain forest

Ocean and Desert

Crawling around in the utility tunnels

Biosphere 2 near Tucson is an interesting place. Currently managed by the University of Arizona it is a totally enclosed environment designed to study the effects of changes in atmospheric conditions on various habitats.
The Biosphere was used to see if it was possible for humans to survive in a totally closed system back in 1991 when 8 people entered the chamber and it was sealed behind them. After 2 years they emerged. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2


Along the way we saw signs for a Tom Mix monument. Tom Mix was almost single-handedly responsible for Western Movies. He starred in over 200 in the early years of Hollywood. Only 9 were “Talkies” however and the advent of sound finished his career. In 1940 he was driving near his hometown of Florence AZ at high speed when he came upon a bridge under construction. He swerved and the car overturned into a dry wash killing him. Today there’s a bullet riddled monument and the dry wash is called “Tom Mix Dry Wash”.

Bullet riddled horse

The Tom Mix monument

Tributes left at the site

Also near Tucson and visible from I8 is Pinal Air Park. If you are an airplane nut, or you wondered here all the commercial jets go to when they get old, this is the place. There are hundreds of them from little DC-9’s to big 747’s all parked along the runways. A company recycles parts for them and converts some for other purposes. There are about 8 Grumman amphibians parked in one area. You can’t get really close to any of the planes but it’s only miles from the I8 exit and there’s a picnic area if you’re looking to break your journey somewhere. 

Boeing 747 "Jumbo Jets" 

Hundreds of commercial airliners

Grumman Amphibians in the desert

There’s an even bigger place than this in Roswell NM where several hundred aircraft are stored, but I neglected to take pictures when I was there.

A trip to Mesa to see the Doctor Who Christmas Special let us wander around, see the statues and sample some beer.

Virgil Earp and Doc Holiday

Twisted Mural

Beautiful Statue


Good Brew Pub on Main Street

Friday, December 18, 2015

Settling Down

A ½ hour ride thru the beautiful park right next to the campground We discovered a new part with a fishing lake and stopped at the monument to the Mormon Battalion before heading back to the rig for a quiet evening and finally bed.

No not football, RV’ing silly.

We’re in our “Winter Quarters” in Casa Grande. Same place we spent last Christmas and New Years ( http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2014/12/where-heck-is-casa-grande.html). We’ve been looking forward to it for the last couple of months and hoping it would live up to our expectations.

Getting to look a lot like Christmas here

There's a prize for the best decorations.

We arrived Dec 1st and intend to stay until March 1st. Casa is quite a small community but has outstanding shopping and easy access to I10 and I8. It’s almost halfway between Phoenix and Tucson and we can be in either in an hour or so.

The best thing about this place (Sundown 1 RV Resort) is the facilities at the resort. There is so much to do it would be impossible to do all of what’s on offer in a day.

So far we’ve joined a darts group who play Tuesday and Thursday for 2hrs at a time every week. (That’s why we’ve been getting some practice in whenever we could). I’ve joined the Painting group on Thursday afternoon for 3 hrs. just before darts, so Thursday is full! We’re also looking at playing Pickle ball, doing Water Aerobics, Yoga, Power Walking, Aero Modelers. We may have to work nights to fit it all in….

While we’re here hopefully we can get the Ford Fiesta fixed properly. The story so far is that Ford built this vehicle with a fancy computer controlled transmission. It started rattling and grinding after about 10,000 miles from new. 
After 20,000 miles it sounded like there was a bucket full of rusty bolts in there, Ford rebuilt it under warranty and extended the warranty on the transmission to 150,000 miles. 

We soon found out thru friends who had them that they ALL have the problem and there’s a 3 month backlog on parts. 

After another 20,000 miles our transmission is at least as bad as it ever was, probably worse. I had it booked in at the local Ford dealer for inspection so we will have the 3 months we’re here for them to get parts and get it fixed.

The Fiesta went in to Gary Jones Ford here in Casa Grande. I must say the service rep Brandon was wonderfully welcoming and helpful.

The sad news is that they won’t inspect it until they completely reprogram the computer and we drive 1500 miles so it can “Learn” how we drive. That will only delay any repairs another couple of weeks. 

In the meantime they did the recall on all the door latches which “Might accidentally open at any time or fail to latch closed”. 

Then they also re-installed the piece of heater duct that keeps falling out from under the dash and can’t be replaced without taking an airbag out!

This one done after the warranty expired because it had already been done once during the warranty.

In other words DON’T BUY A FORD FIESTA! We only bought it because Ford say it can be towed behind the RV and it's one of very few vehicles with an automatic transmission (for Barbara) that can be towed without a dolly or trailer.

To rack up some miles we've been seeing some of the local sights we missed last time we were here. The Painted Rocks Petroglyph site is right off the Interstate and we always said we ought to stop and see it. We're glad we did. The hauntingly beautiful pictures on the rocks date back 13,000 years.

Stunning ancient pictures picked into the rocks.

Been a bit busy settling in, so this is a couple of weeks further in  on our winter holdover.

Barbara is getting in to yoga classes, we’re playing darts 2 nights a week, I’m in an art group once a week, I’m getting together with a group that likes to go shooting, We’re meeting people who want to start a beginners pickle ball knock about. 
This relaxing is getting serious! 

We attended a dinner on Wednesday, a show on Thursday, there’s a dance on Saturday, We keep getting invitations to play cards several nights a week or Bingo another night. 

The Sundance Christmas Show, singing dancing and lots of fun.

Monday we went on a free bus ride to one of the local casinos where we got $20 free play and $5 off lunch (and we don’t gamble!!).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lonely in Yuma

Slowly we drift back into our full-timer’s lifestyle.

It’s scary quiet round here now without the Shanty Shakers, instead of getting on Barbara’s nerves I’ve been sitting outside painting. I decided last week to pick a photo of somewhere we’re been and paint it. Several places were calling out to be painted, the loudest of which was the Broken Arch in Arches NP.

When we were at Arches Barbara was recovering from twisting her knee, I took the short hike out to the Broken Arch while she sat in the car. From this photo I painted the picture. Very satisfying and restful to do, I have a few more in mind for when we get to Casa Grande,

I’ve also started the “Annual Christmas Letter”, we keep promising to do it but somehow it always gets pushed to the back of the list.

Of course this Thursday is Thanksgiving and we are looking forward to the celebration dinner here at the campground. Last year’s was really enjoyable and we expect this year’s too be just as good.

The festivities were due to kick off at 1pm, we signed up earlier in the week at the Rec Center. We chose to bring vegetables and Barbara made her fresh green beans with almonds. Each participant picked a side dish or desert, with the turkey being provided by the park owners. There was a HUGE amount of food and dishes of all descriptions, picking a few that would fit on the plate was quite a task.

We picked a table at the back and got to know our new table-mates Ken and Helen from Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. Ken had been a police officer up there until he retired and worked on the coastal patrol boats. He was also a motorcyclist and we rapidly settled into a friendly couple of hours chatting, so much so they had to throw us out! We were the last ones sitting at a table. Helen had volunteered to help clean up so we used that as an excuse for staying.

We were so full after the meal that we sat and digested it for a couple of hours, then guilt forced us to get the bicycles out and go for a ½ hour ride thru the beautiful park right next to the campground We discovered a new part with a fishing lake and stopped at the monument to the Mormon Battalion before heading back to the rig for a quiet evening and finally bed.

Friday night was Movie Night at the park, a bag of popcorn, a seat (Hard) and an old movie called "Spencer's Mountain" with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara. A tear-jerker but entertaining and pleasant company.

Otherwise apart from a little shopping it's been a quiet relaxing week. Monday we start packing things up, doing laundry and checking over the rig and car ready for the trip to Casa Grande and 3 months in the same place.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Yuma AZ and a big get together.

They kindly invited us to stay with them next time we visit UK and we’ll certainly take them up on the offer.

The reason for US to be in Yuma is the Shanty Shakers Rally for the Yuma Balloon Festival. We were here last year and it was our first Rally. It’s just amazing how far we’ve come along the RV road since then!

Last year we didn’t know what a “Happy Hour” was. Now we’re experts!

Last year Barbara was still scared riding her trike. This morning she loaded 2 bags of clothes on it and rode over to the laundry with them!

Somethings don’t change. Last year the balloon launch got cancelled on Sunday due to high winds. 

This year the balloon launch got cancelled due to high winds.

The whole of the Shanty Shaker contingent went to Lutes Casino for dinner. 

It’s an interesting place down on Main Street old town. It’s not even a Casino although apparently it used to be. Now it’s a restaurant with some strange and unusual stuff hanging on their walls.

After dinner we went for a walk around the North End Art Walk on Main Street. Lots of art and artists. I noticed one of them shared our surname Downing. 
Neil Downing and I talked for about 20 minutes about our relatives and our love of art. Very cool.

Another e-mail this time from our Goldwing/Motorcycle friends Tammy and Dan who are in town for the Balloon Fest. We’ll hook up with them at the launch field. We sure are doing well for visitors!

We made a trip to the Arizona Marketplace which is a must do for RV’ers in Yuma. Lots of good RV stuff at great prices. We bought some stuff we needed. (And some we didn’t!)

Saturday night was a Barbecue/Pot Luck at the clubhouse with the whole SKP Chapter. The guys got a big fire going in the huge barbecue pit behind the clubhouse while the ladies got an amazing assortment of delectable dishes ready for the big event. 
And BIG it was! We sampled as much as we could but there was far more than we could do justice to.

Eventually we all staggered off to the fire ring back were we were all camped and spent the rest of the evening talking about places to go, things to see, rallies we are planning on attending. Stuff we all love.

And suddenly it was Sunday. The wind was down so Barbara and I rode over to the balloon launch area and watched 3 brave pilots launch before the wind got up again and they cancelled the rest of the flying.

Back at the park people started packing up and leaving. The place got emptier and emptier until there were only about 4 of our chapter rigs left. I picked up my paintbrushes and worked on a painting while Barbara quietly read a book. 

Slowly we drift back into our full-timer’s lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bluegrass Festival.

And out of the blue we got a message that our friends Fred and Judy from North Carolina were going to be in the Phoenix area and were hoping we could meet up with them next week. It could be a party with everyone coming in.

Graham and Elaine arrived and we took them over to the Elks Lodge for drinks and a Fish Fry dinner, we soon slipped into the cozy friendship that we’ve always shared. 

They are extreme world travelers and have been to some amazing places. They mentioned their cruise around the world and trips to India and Gambia as if it was a bus ride to the supermarket! As travelers ourselves it’s fascinating to hear their experiences, like us they aren’t “Tourist” travelers but like to get out on their own and interact with the real inhabitants of the places they visit.

There is a Bluegrass/Fiddle Festival in town this week and they like foot stomping fiddle music so over there we went. Reasonable fee for entrance was followed by very reasonably priced food vendors and some very good craft type vendors.

The music was good with 3 Bluegrass bands doing 2 sets each interspersed with competitions to find the Arizona State Champion Banjo, Mandolin, Bluegrass Group etc., all while sat in our lawn chairs enjoying beautiful sunny 70’s weather.

Fred and Judy e-mailed to say that the friends they were visiting had scheduled a full week for them and we wouldn’t be able to hook up this week. We’ll see them next year when we head over to the East Coast.

We all came back to the rig for dinner and more catching up with what we’ve all been doing.

Sunday was rainy but fortunately there is a very good Western Museum in Wickenburg which we highly recommend visiting. Their Western Art collection is superb. There is also an area in the basement where replicas of buildings from the 1880’s are filled with period artifacts. A couple of hours just vanishes when you visit there. 

Lunch, a couple of antique stores and a trip to the ice cream social at the RV Park saw us back for dinner at the rig again.

Looking at weather maps and road maps Graham and Elaine decided to go to Yuma with us the next day so we all had dinner at Famous Dave’s there before they left on the start of their return journey to the UK. They kindly invited us to stay with them next time we visit UK and we’ll certainly take them up on the offer.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Great food in El Paso

So we sat in our chairs and watched the traffic show for a couple of hours until it died down then walked to the car and made our way back to the rig.

This week we plan on stopping in El Paso to visit our friend Jess who teaches there, it’s on our way to Yuma/Casa Grande and we’re in no rush.
We called him and he’ll be around so we’ll get our mail forwarded there also. 

Our first night of this leg is an RV Park in Sonora TX. Sonora RV Park is nothing fancy, but it’s flat, has full hookups and it’s close to I10 yet has no traffic noise. $22 a night seals the deal. Mike the owner is a really nice guy and tells us about his plans for the future, which include ongoing improvements.

Walmart provides our stopover in Fort Stockton and our plan is to stop in Van Horn but when we got there we were early and there wasn’t much to see so we pushed on to El Paso. 

We can use the extra time to explore.

Out of the blue we got an e-mail from our English friends Graham and Elaine. They are over touring the US again but they are north somewhere and freezing, so they suggest getting together in Arizona before they fly back to UK. Wickenburg is convenient for all of us and coincidentally there’s a Bluegrass festival the weekend we would be there! It will fit with our plan to be in Yuma for the Balloon Fest perfectly. What a happy day!

We found a darts pub just up the road from the RV Park and so we’re getting more practice in. Luckily they have 20 craft beers on tap too so practice is not too much of a chore!

We also took the opportunity to visit Fort Bliss and their armored museum. They had a Sherman on display like the one in my Dad’s picture taken at the end of WW2. I realized as I stood in front of it that there were 70 years between the 2 pictures.

Jess came over and we caught up with everyone’s news. While we were talking I wasn’t watching the grill and now it doesn’t need to be cleaned up quite as badly as it did!!

Jess took us to his favorite restaurant. We’re not huge Mexican food fans but the one he took us to, L&J is simply great! It’s on the corner of Missouri and Stevens and try the bean dip it’s amazing.

Across the street is a cemetery and Barbara and I have a bit of a thing about walking thru graveyards and reading the headstones. There are some fascinating stories to be found and somethings that just make you laugh.

Eventually it was time to head towards Wickenburg and we started the grind along I 10 heading west.