Saturday, November 2, 2019

Sedona and south.

Water and electric sites for $15 a night and a free dump station just around the corner, what else can you ask for?

Things are winding down for our winter break but we have a few things to do before then. From Bisbee we circled back thru Casa Grande and then headed up to Prescott Valley again but instead of staying with John and Debbie we dropped in at a Shanty Shakers RV Rally at Orchard Ranch RV Resort.

A happy bunch of Shanty Shakers
We like to surprise people and I think we achieved that. Our hosts Garth and Judy had everyone over for dinner TWICE and had side trips to local spots laid on. A potluck at John and Debbies, catching up with everyone's news and San Diego happenings filled in the rest of the time!

Our gracious hosts Garth and Judy (right)

We had a nice trip to Jerome up a winding mountain road AZ 89A. The Miata was in heaven powering thru the hairpin bends. Barbara only said “Oohhh: a couple of times.
Jerome iis one of many mining towns in Arizona

Pretty soon it was all over and we had to decide where to go for the next week. November 1st was approaching rapidly and with it our arrival at Sundance 1 for another winter. It's amazing that will be the 5th winter out of the last 6 that we will have been in Sundance!

Sedona is famous for the vivid red rocks
So what to do? I am due to be in another paint out in Sedona in mid November. We've heard a lot about the place which is rightly famous for the Red Rocks on which it is built. In order to have a feel for the place we decided to spend a few days exploring the area first.
Flowering cactus
We stayed at the Elks Lodge which unfortunately was closed for most of the time, and from there we looked around.

The Church on the Rock
First impressions where of traffic. This place is jammed with it! Driving south on 179 along a marked scenic highway we saw a backup that lasted 3 miles coming the other way. There weren't any wrecks on the road, it was pure congestion. Every scenic overlook was full, stopping at the Church on the Rock we found the last parking space, People were everywhere pushing and shoving. Not our kind of place at all.

Time to move on and we have less than a week before the big winter layover, but only a couple of hundred miles to go so we thought about where we would like to spend the next 4 days and the Escapees North Ranch came up.

Wickenburg is a Western Town. Even the street signs wear cowboy hats!!
A pleasant spot about halfway to Casa Grande and part of our RV'ing and Escapee history since we did “RV Boot Camp” before we even bought an RV.

One of the several Antique Stores
Since then we stayed there in the first couple of weeks fulltiming whilst we waited for the house to sell and again when our friends Graham and Elaine came over from England and we went to the Blue Grass Festival.

This is where Elaine bought her Fox Fur stole that she wears in 1940's events in UK.
That all seems so long ago! North Ranch was just as we remembered it, low key and friendly and fairly busy. It won't be much longer until the snowbirds stream in after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Naturally we visited the Elks Lodge! We collect the unique “Pins” (Badges to our UK friends) that each lodge have and when we checked we didn't have one from here. As usual a great big Elks welcome awaited us and we were soon chatting away with a whole new group of friends. They invited us to partake in a dice game and we won a drink for 25c. We were invited back the next night for dinner and Bingo and because my membership number ended in zero we won another drink for 25c so dinner for 2 and 2 rounds of drinks came to less than $20! We had a tough time tearing ourselves away, but we had to.

November 1st means it's our last day traveling for this year. We are due back in Sundance today for our winter stay. E-mails are arriving for the various groups and clubs we are involved with, we can feel the call of “Home”. Fill the rig up with propane, put the fuel stabilizer in the tank and fill it for the last time. Back the rig into our “New” space (It points us the opposite way from the one we've been in previously, which gives the patio shade during the day). Set the jacks, put out the slides, set the satellite dish, plug in the power, water and sewer.

We're HOME!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Bisbee AZ

We managed to surprise several of our friends in the park by showing up unannounced!!

The thing driving us right now has been the prospect of the Bisbee Plein Air Festival. 

Plein air is a French term which translates to“Open Air”. It is the painting of objects in natural light. From an artists perspective it is more challenging than painting in a studio or from a photograph because as the sun moves so do the shadows. Clouds come and go, cars park and drive off and people are fascinated watching the painting progress so they stop to talk. I find it very fulfilling.

This is my first ever competitive painting event and I only started painting plein air “Officially” last winter. As a result I was like a cat on a hot tin roof before the start and I was fighting my anxiety for the first day and a half.

The paintings had to be done in and around Bisbee and the last day had to be in Old Town Bisbee. You could paint as many paintings as you wanted but only 4 maximum could be entered for judging.

Being a newbie I decided to paint out of the way in Warren which is where the mine's upper management lived. There were some very nice “Craftsman” style houses and a few very large mansions. I chose an adobe style white church to paint but it didn't come out well. 
The Adobe Church

Talking with other more experienced artists I learned some of the tricks of Plein Air painting. The big one being to pick a colorful subject to paint. White isn't colorful!!

The second day I advanced into the town and found a gateway with patinated copper angel statues which appealed to me, and I really enjoyed painting them.

The Angel

For the third and final day I chose a store called “The Emporium” which was very colorful and let me sit in the shade as I painted. I only just completed it before the finish time.

The Emporium

Judging it turned out was far less stressful than I had imagined, as once I had set up the paintings in the park the artists were told to leave for an hour as the judges did their thing. All paintings were to be unsigned to eliminate any bias.

Set up in the park
There were many glorious paintings, 35 artists had entered up to 4 works each so there were lots to chose from. I was happy being among other artists and found several I already knew which made it even better. After the judging the public were given the chance to purchase any of the paintings and one of mine (the Angel) sold! So that paid for my entry fee!

The judges and winners

We are both happy with my art
We were camping at the Sierra Vista Elks Lodge during this event and they really looked after us. With dinner on Monday and Wednesday, breakfast on Sunday they keep you fed and we won free drinks in their daily draw. Water and electric sites for $15 a night and a free dump station just around the corner, what else can you ask for?

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Roaming Las Vegas

 The big fall is know locally as “The Niagara of the West” as it has a greater drop than Niagara although it is much narrower.

The evenings are getting colder. Next week's weather forecast shows temps below freezing at night. Guess which direction we are heading? SOUTH!

It seems like we are being drawn back to Arizona. Actually that's a pun because it's art events that are happening that is making us go!

Rt 93 keeps on heading south and we kind of like driving a road it's whole length. This one ends in Wickenburg AZ. We've been there before and we have some great friends just North of there, John and Debbie. We began our RV adventures at the same time and we all looked at the same coach as our first class A purchases. We bought the Rexhall and they bought the Country Coach we'd seriously considered. So that's where we are headed before we start into art!

Las Vegas is on the way and strangely we kind of like the place. Strange because neither of us gamble. But there is much more to Vegas than just the casinos so we stayed in Boulder City, at the Elks Lodge naturally!
We had a rainbow during a thunderstorm! Couldn't get the lightning and rainbow in the sae shot.
We arrived on Taco Tuesday, progressed thru Burger Thursday, got invited the the Annual Picnic Saturday and finished with spaghetti on Wednesday! We are definitely going to have to diet when we get back to Casa Grande!
The Hard Rock sign
A pool hall sign

Between meals we explored the Neon Museum and Red Rock Canyon (one of Vegas's secrets). We discovered the International Food Market which has an incredible variety of foodstuffs from all over the world. We spent $80 in a heartbeat on all the English specialty stuff we can't get anywhere else, plus some Indonesian sauce mixes we've never seen anywhere else but here.

John and Debbie in Prescott Valley welcomed us with open arms and Gizmo their dog with licks! A week flew by. I had promised myself I'd paint at Watson Lake Park and finally did but before we could blink we were headed South again with a plan to stay 2 nights at the Phoenix Elks while I attended the monthly members meeting of the Arizona Plein Air Painters Association.

Gizmo my lap dog!
Watson Lake Park

Bud and Judy and us.
In a great surprise Bud and Judy Swartwood friends from our motorcycle days in San Diego saw we were in town at the same time they were visiting friend here. In the blink of an eye we were sitting catching u on each others news over coffee. We just live for these unexpected meetings. Nice seeing you Bud and Judy.

Being the “No plans kids” we found ourselves in Phoenix at 11am and not in the least ready to stop. We decided immediately the we'd carry on to Casa Grande and spend an extra 2 days there at our winter “Home” before carrying on towards Bisbee where I have an art event coming up.

We managed to surprise several of our friends in the park by showing up unannounced!!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kalispel and South

So thanks to Flanagan Mazda in Missoula, Wayne and Lynn and North American RV Park for rescuing us from a bad day and making it into an exceptional day!

Glacier NP
So what are our first impressions of Glacier National Park?

Seemed like all the turnouts were full, the lodges are supposed to be nice but there was nowhere to park.

Morning mountains
The scenery is spectacular though so when you eventually find somewhere to stop it's very nice.
So still at the lake
It turned rainy the second day and rained for another 3 days on and off. We discovered a local bar just down the road that had good draft beer and a couple of dart boards so between exploring Columbia Falls and Whitefish we managed a little practice for our winter darts nights!
It was relaxing being in the same spot for 7 days and I broke out my paints for a while. We spent a little time cleaning up the rig and restocking the fridge, then sat with the maps and decided where we would go next.
The traditional Glacier tour buses
I have a painting event coming up in October in Bisbee Arizona so we looked at a straight line south from Glacier and there is a single road that goes from Kalispel Montana to Wickenburg Arizona! Hwy 93. We are into roads like this one, no Interstate, scenic. We are in no rush so we decided we'd do it. Besides it's getting cold at night so time to head South!

What a spectacular road 93 turned out to be. From Kalispel it runs down the west side of Flathead Lake and into the mountains passed the National Bison Range near Missoula. From there it follows the Salmon river which is stunningly beautiful and for the most part unspoiled. We stopped in Idaho in the town of Salmon and discovered the birthplace of Sacagewea who was the guide for Lewis and Clarke's expedition.

National Bison Range near Missoula


Although the park is beautiful the treatment of the tribe is terrible
The next day we turned off 93 onto 75 which is marked as scenic on our map. This followed the Salmon into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and over the Galena Pass and picked up the Big Wood river thru Sun Valley.

In all it was 500 miles of continuous beauty, I don't believe we have ever experienced anything to compare with it.

At the end of all that we stopped near Jerolme Idaho at the Elks Lodge. What a night we picked! They have their own golf course and it was their annual charity golf tournament. Dinner was a roasted pig! We no sooner sat down than we were pulled into a conversation with Dave and Liah who told us what was happening. There were raffles and door prizes. For every drink you bought you got a ticket. Every 15 minutes they pulled a ticket and you got to choose a prize. My ticket was the first one pulled! Then Barbara won a big gift basket in the other raffle, we had a blast.

Dave and Liah arranged to hook up with us the next morning to show us one of the local sights.

One of great things about visiting Elks Lodges is talking to the members and finding out the great places to see and do. Dave and Liah told us about a new National Historic site being developed nearby.
Minidoka guard tower
Minidoka was one of the camps that the US government opened in 1942 to house over 9000 Japanese American who were forcibly moved from the West Coast after Pearl Harbor. The size of the place is mind boggling although little of it remains. When it reached it's peak it was the 7th largest population center in Idaho. Whole families were housed in a single un-insulated tar paper building with no bathing facilities except in a separate communal ablution block and a single pot belly stove for heat in Idaho's bitter winters. Until the camp became self sufficient with its own farm the interns were forced to subsist on poor quality rations brought in by train. They were eventually liberated after winning a major court case but remained uncompensated for their internment.

Raw wood interiors and no insulation
A very thought evoking place and thanks Dave and Liah for showing it to us.
Twin Falls, the Niagara of the West.
We also visited Twin Falls Idaho where surprisingly there are twin waterfalls! The snake river has carved a huge gorge that runs east/west across several rivers and streams which naturally tumble down the walls of the gorge. The big fall is know locally as “The Niagara of the West” as it has a greater drop than Niagara although it is much narrower.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Making a bad day into a good one

We moved on to the Port Townsend Elks Lodge campground while we explored the area some more, catch up on laundry, shopping etc. This is a very pretty area and we have had so much fun exploring it. I wonder what adventures await us at our next stop?

The “Camp Host” has a beautiful old trailer, a 1949 Sparton. If you have seen the TV show “Flipping RV's” you will have seen a few samples, driving by it every day finally made me want to sit down and make a watercolor painting of it.

While I was painting the owner, Joan, came out and took pictures of me painting. Kind of a circular arrangement! We got talking and discovered similar backgrounds, Joan was an architect and used to enjoy drawing and painting before her career took all her time' She had moved around the country. She likes old cars, boats and trailers.

I gave her the painting before we left and she was delighted.

We reluctantly packed up and headed East, But wait! There's a big bay in the way. Either we drive around it thru all the Seattle area traffic or get a ferry across from Port Townsend to Coupeville. Ferry it was! And at $87 for 2 people the RV and the car we thought it a reasonable value as opposed to the time, fuel and frustration of going the long way around.

We had a gorgeous drive along WA20 past Mt Baker, which is part of the same chain of volcanoes we've been visiting on our way north. The Cascade Mountains are superb and the road excellent with very little traffic. One overnight stop in Riverbend CG and we were in Coeur D'Alene Idaho with plans to stay until after the Labor Day holiday, which for the UK readership is the office “End of Summer” holiday similar to the August Bank Holiday in UK. It is also the signal for all the swimming pools to close even if the weather is in the 90's like it got here for a few days. Especially nice for us campers is that schools go back after Labor Day and so the crowds in campgrounds die down.

Coeur D'Alene is on a big lake named (Of course!) Lake Coeur D'Alene. We took a picnic and drove around it, stumbling across a National Forest Service CG named Bell Bay that looks down on the lake. We stopped for a picnic and enjoyed the perfect weather.

We are at this point of our travels heading almost due East. Objective Glacier National Park in Montana. This will be our last stop exploring before we turn South towards Casa Grande AZ for our winter quarters. It's hard to believe that we've been on the road so long. It doesn't seem 5 minutes since we were pulling in to San Diego, our first big stop of the year.

Another drop dead gorgeous road, Hwy 2, brought us to Kalispel Montana where we had planned several days exploring.

Fate had different ideas!

The Miata keys that had mysteriously deprogrammed themselves in Bend OR decided to do so again. We pulled in to the CG and uncoupled the car but when we tried to start it there was nothing. The red light signaling that the security system didn't recognize the key was flashing just like last time.

I called the Mazda dealer that I found online thinking they were in Kalispel, but they told me they were in Missoula which is 100 miles South. For a minute I panicked, my breakdown service wouldn't tow it that far.

Then a DUHH moment. All we had to do was couple it back up to the rig and take it there ourselves! The next morning we did just that, driving along the Western shore of Flathead Lake thru more wonderful scenery. Montana seems to have cornered the market on pretty roads.

We delivered the car to the dealer and braced ourselves waiting for the “We can't get to it for X number of weeks/days” statement. Instead the very nice service writer said “OK we'll get on it right now, should take a couple of hours, there's a public park around the corner where you could park your RV, you can wait in our customer area or we'll call you when it's ready”

We were awestruck by how nice they were and how quickly they jumped on it. We parked the rig and had lunch then walked back to the dealer. They came and talked about how we used the key fob and the unprogrammed spare key that we use just to unlock the steering while we tow the car and came up with a whole new theory about why the problem is happening.

They believed that it wasn't they keys that were the problem (100% different from the last dealer). They think the unprogrammed key does unlock the steering BUT at some point the car security system decides somebody is trying to steal the car with a “False” key and then locks ALL the keys out. It's the car computer that is doing it not the keys.

That had us baffled but they were quite positive. I asked them to reprogram the spare key so that it would be recognized by the car and also the existing “Valet Key” which we would use instead of the fob. They looked at us like we were a pair of dim wits (But in a nice way).

We already reprogrammed the spare key, and there's nothing wrong with the fob or the Valet Key”

UH? The last dealer said the fob was unprogrammable and it would cost nearly $1000.00 for a new one! They also wanted $150 to reprogram each key which they said had lost their programming.

Nope” said the tech, “It's the car not the keys, everything is working like it originally was except you now have a functioning spare to unlock the steering with when you tow”

We wandered over to the service desk to pay the bill expecting several hundred dollars as the bottom line. Hurrah! $130 total and just a couple of hours. Our faith in main dealer service shops has been restored!

We had lots of time left in the day so we headed back North this time up the Eastern side of Flathead Lake to a very nice RV Park in Coram just outside Glacier NP that our great friends Lynn and Wayne Selden from Shanty Shakers had recommended, North American RV Park. And we even got their weekly deal where you stay 7 nights and only pay for 6.

So thanks to Flanagan Mazda in Missoula, Wayne and Lynn and North American RV Park for rescuing us from a bad day and making it into an exceptional day!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Washington State.

Next stop? Washington.

How do you pronounce THAT? I've always been attracted to PALLY-UP, but that's not how it's pronounced, POOYALOOP? PIE-A-Lup? POI-YAHLUP?
L-R Nancy, Steve, Barbra, Brian, Jim, Lani
I still don't know, but I do know that we've had a lot of fun there. Having friends here has helped. Jim, Lani, Nancy and Steve live here during the summer and winter in Sundance 1, which is where we know them from.
Steyr. Steve has driven a lot of the cars in the museum.
Steve and Nancy are docents at the Lemay Family Auto Museum nearby so we got a personal guided tour of EVERYTHING from the exhibits to the restoration side and I even got a peek into the motorcycle building which isn't normally part of the tour. Apparently the original collection all belonging to one man Henry Lemay was given the Guinness Book of Records award for the largest private collection of cars with over 3000 in the collection. Steve tells us that they didn't count all the cars either!! Now it's split into 2 with one part still held by the family an entirely separate one down the road, which is now called the Lemay American Car Museum.
From ancient to modern in the Lemay Family Collection
We all went to the local Brew Pub afterwards for a late lunch then arranged to have Steak Dinner at the Lodge on Friday and their Breakfast Buffet on Sunday. We aren't going to lose any weight here!
Yes a time travelling bathroom!
Nancy mentioned a local store called “British Bites” who had a tea room with a grocery section so guess where we went next! We bought our usual selection, British Bangers, Bacon, pies and a few candies for Barbara. We were both fascinated by the bathroom doors which were a British phone booth and for the Doctor Who fans a British Police phone box that in the Sci Fi TV series Doctor Who is actually his time machine called a TARDIS. And if you know what the TARDIS is then YES the bathroom was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside.
British Bites has it's shelves emptied.
If you don't know what the heck we are talking about then do some research!.
Port Townsend Fairground for the rally
Our reason for coming to Washington was to attend an Escapees RV Rally. A special one too as Chapter 5 are celebrating their 35th anniversary. We found out about it in March at Escapades in Tucson.
A hungry Chapter 5 crew for the anniversary luncheon.
And what a great rally it was! Held at the Port Townsend fairgrounds. Hugely friendly people who never seemed to stop. Outdoor games every day, Happy Hour at 4pm, and catered lunch to make the anniversary special then a super Pot Luck Dinner followed by Bingo the final evening. I think it will take us a week to recover! And we joined the chapter while we were there. Thanks Chapter 5!
Even a lighthouse.
We moved on to the Port Townsend Elks Lodge campground while we explored the area some more, catch up on laundry, shopping etc. This is a very pretty area and we have had so much fun exploring it. I wonder what adventures await us at our next stop?