Wednesday, February 04, 2015

sunday january 18 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Today is Sunday, January 18, 2015, and today we will begin our journey to Quartszite Az.  It has taken several months of planning and preparation, and several weeks of packing to get ready to leave today.  It is 5 AM and we are up having our morning coffee and taking care of last minute details before departing from our home here in Ohio.  Soon we will be on the road to a destination which has been on my “bucket list” for quite some time.

Actually, this story began back in 2003.  My wife, Linda, apparently decided that I was working too hard and needed a break.  At that time, I owned an electrical contracting business which required my time and attention 24/7.  With 14 employees, I was constantly under stress and it showed.  Linda believed “getting away” would be a good idea so she went out and bought a motorhome.  It wasn’t much of an RV and needed a lot of TLC, but I soon found that I enjoyed working on the RV and also enjoyed getting out in it and away from the stress.  The following year we sold the RV and bought a newer, and larger one and then again in 2005, we did the same thing, ending up with a very nice motorhome that we have used to travel all around our wonderful country.

During this time, I became aware of an annual event that takes place in a small Arizona town named “Quartzsite”.  Quartzsite is a sleepy town with a population of around 3600 for most of the year, but in early winter, thousands of RVers begin heading there to spend the winter, enjoying the mild desert climate of western Arizona.  During November through April, the population of Quartzsite swells to around 150,000 or more and the little town responds by throwing out the red carpet.  During the month of January, there is a huge RV show with hundreds of vendors housed under a giant tent and numerous RV dealers displaying their latest models.  During the remainder of the winter, there are regular activities held in Quartzsite and all the restaurants in town, and the local watering holes are very busy, catering to the needs of the winter visitors.  Many local businesses do their yearly business exclusively during this time and take the rest of the year off.

All of this is interesting, but here is the most interesting part to me, the part that began to fascinate me.  While there are many traditional RV parks located in Quartzsite, there is no way they could handle to huge influx of campers.  What has fueled this annual gathering is the availability of land around Quartzsite.  Bordering the town on several sides, the US government has thousands of acres of desert land, land that is open to all campers.  For the sum of $180.00, an RV owner can drive out onto the desert land, plunk himself down for the rest of the winter and relax in the moderate climate.  The $180 covers the entire “season”, from November through April.  Cheap?  Yes, but keep in mind, the typical RV park or campground supplies water, sewer, and electrical connections for the RVer.  At Quartzsite, on the government land, you get……..well, you get dirt.  Plain old desert dirt.  And wind.  Lots of wind and lots of sunshine.  If you plan to stay, bring your own water, and electricity.  There isn’t any there.

Over my years of RVing, and as I became aware of this, the whole concept of me against the world, began to appeal to me and this trip, this year is the culmination of that interest.  This morning we are heading to Quartzsite.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ft. Desoto State Park, St. Pete Florida, July 2012

For the last week Linda and I have been staying at Fort Desoto State Park  located near St. Petersburg Florida.  This is an interesting campground primarily due to its unique location, on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico where it meets Tampa bay.  This is a spectacular location and we have certainly enjoyed our time here.

The campground is located on a peninsula of land, or perhaps more accurately, sand and shell.  The campground has 238 campsites, all of which are equipped with 30/50 amp electric and city water.  There are shower rooms located throughout the campground and many of the sites back up onto the water, providing spectacular views of the water, the lush vegetation, and of course the sunsets.
This is a photo of the sunset just after a huge storm.  Absolutely beautiful.

Fort Desoto is a quiet, family style campground with a lot of the residents staying here for the fishing and the other water recreation opportunities.  There is a decent sized camp store with all the usual and necessary camping items, as well as a menu of freshly prepared hot meals and Edy's ice cream.  The store is located on the second floor and there is a back deck where you can sit and enjoy your meal while enjoying the view of the bay.

The fur kids have enjoyed our stay here as they have had ample opportunity to chase after the countless lizards inhabiting the park. There are also gray squirrels that love to tease the pups and there are a fair number of raccoons which we stay far away from .

While walking the pups, I have also enjoyed the beautiful flowers, unique trees and other vegetation.  Linda and I have also spent time riding our bikes around the park on the shell paved park roads, checking out the other campsites for a possible return visit.  All in all, we would consider returning here again in the future.  Hopefully there will be less rain and fewer thunderstorms next time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Monday, July 9 Daytona Speedway

Last weekend, we attended the Nascar race at Daytona International Speedway, watching the Coke Zero 400.

This was our first time attending a race at Daytona so this qualified as a learning experience for us.  As usual, we camped at the track, and as usual we dry camped, or for the RV un-initiated we parked on a piece of ground and lived on what we carried in the motorhome which included about 100 gallons of water, our most precious and limited commodity.

With that information in mind, and with the understanding that this race takes place in sunny Florida where the temperatures hovered near 100 every day, along with very high humidity and you can begin to suspect that not all would be smooth sailing.  Actually, quite the opposite was the case as we had a great time at the "headquarters of auto racing", and we got to watch a rare, EXCITING Nascar race.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.

We arrived at the speedway on Thursday night after traveling from New Jersey over the holiday and with a quick stop in North Carolina to visit with our son, daughter-in-law and grandson.  It was late when we pulled in, and after a brief delay when we got lost and turned into the wrong gate, we were quickly escorted to our reserved "campsite".

We use the term campsite loosely here as we really had a piece of grassy dirt 20'x40' long, in the midst of dozens of other campers with the same goal we had.  We backed into the site, did minimal setup and then hit the sack.  Tomorrow would begin the weekend and bring new adventures we were sure.  Another thing that really adds to the "color" of camping at a Nascar race are the extreme eccentrics who attend.  These folks go to all sorts of extremes to express their support for various sports, including college football.

If you have never camped at a Nascar race, one thing you should understand is that you need electricity.  With temperatures hovering near 100 all weekend, if you didn't have access to air conditioning, you would wilt very quickly.  Fortunately in our RV, we have a large built in diesel generator which is capable of supplying our electrical needs 24 hours a day, and just as importantly it runs quietly.  Unfortunately most folks who camp at these type of events do not have this capability and provide for their electrical needs with what is known as a "contractor" generator.  This type of generator is relatively inexpensive, and works well on noisy construction sites.  However, in the close confines of a Nascar campground, the din of dozens of such generators running throughout the day and into the night begins to approach the level of a modern day rock concert.  Add to this the ever present carbon monoxide cloud and you have at best, an unpleasant situation. 

Then the cavalry comes to the rescue!  Or perhaps more correctly, our son Larry jr..  Jr. was camping with us during the weekend and after our first attempt to to settle in comfortably, he took it upon himself to find a better location, and succeed he did!  Jr. took off on one of our bikes and returned shortly after announcing that we were going to move.  The new location was, by comparison, almost heaven.  We had almost unlimited space, with not a single noisy neighbor, we were across the road from the local airport, and had a great view of the racetrack.  There was a large grassy area where we could walk the pups and plenty of room to set up the pool and other comfort accessories.  To say the least, the outlook for a great weekend was much brighter.

We decided not to attend the Friday night Nationwide race and missed a very exciting event with plenty of action and an exciting finish even though Kurt Busch eventually won.  Some of you may know that I am not a fan of either of the Busch brothers and consider them both to be total jerks and spoiled brats.  A study of their careers in Nascar will confirm my opinion.

Kurt Busch, one of the all time top 20 sports jerks!

Saturday, the day of the race, we spent relaxing and enjoying the warm sunny weather in Florida in a raceday kind of way.

  This is a plastic cup that was setting out in the sun and melted!  Man it's hot!

These are good times, spent with good folks, having good fun and we are fortunate to be able to do this kind of activity in our motorhome.

Saturday night we journeyed to the track, did some sight seeing, and then found our seats in preparation for the main event.  Nascar races are always filled with tons of "sight and sound" occasions and this one was no different.  The evening started with a live concert by "Train", and then the opening ceremonies which included driver introductions and a special event which was the introduction of four Congressional Medal of Honor winners.  This was a very moving ceremony and one that I enjoyed.  I was proud to be part of the large crowd that gave a standing ovation for all four hero's.  Following this, was the presentation of the flag, and the singing of the national anthem, which concluded with a flyby of a B-52H bomber, probably one of the most dramatic scenes you will ever see.  The B-52 is powered  by EIGHT huge jet engines and even though it was first introduced in 1952 it is still one of the most impressive war planes in the world.

The Daytona race is a "restrictor plate" race, referring to a component that limits the horsepower of the cars, and thus the top speed.  This practice creates a totally different racing environment and typically a very exciting race.  This one was no exception.  Although the early part of the race appeared to be boring, a study of some of the strategies employed by the various race teams kept observant fans keenly watching the race.  The latter part of the race was exciting because of the number of wrecks, sometimes known as "the big one" at Daytona and other super speedways.

To make a long story short, at the beginning of the race, I predicted that #14, Tony "smoke" Stewart would take the checkered flag.

There were times when my prediction didn't look too good, but at Daytona, track position during the race is not too important, only where you are when you cross the finish line.  That night Tony was the first.  I like Smoke, and was glad he won that night.

After the race, we went back to the motorhome and relaxed while the majority of the crowd fought departing traffic.  On Sunday morning we packed up and headed for our next destination in Sarasota on the west coast of Florida.

Our experience at Daytona ranks near the top of our ratings of various tracks.  The camping area was clean when we arrived and clean when we departed.  Although we were camping without connections, there were water outlets located around the campground that you could get water from at no charge.  That is a first in our experience at other tracks.  We enjoyed the race and had a good time all weekend and would definitely consider returning in the future.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 Goshen Indiana

Today is Tuesday and we have relocated to Goshen at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  We are here for the Fleetwood owners national rally which opens tomorrow.  We moved in here on Monday and have had yesterday and today to just sit and relax which we are getting good at.  Actually, yesterday we went trailer shopping.  No, not a camper trailer, rather an enclosed car hauler trailer.  Ever since we started RVing, we have always towed our jeep behind the RV and this has been a simple and easy method to get our car to where we are camping.  However, a couple of years ago, we spent the winter in Florida and it was, to say the least, traumatic, due primarily to the weather.  Apparently the winter of 2009 was one of the worst in Florida with temperatures in the 30s, and high winds most days.

Now, we love our motorhome and all the conveniences it provides, but for what ever reason, I really like to get out and do "something" during the day.  Some of you know that I like to make pens on my lathe and the plan that winter was to do just that.  However, it is the nature of wood turning that it produces a lot of dust, something that is not really compatible with the inside of a motorhome.  During the 4-5 months we were in Florida, I attempted to set up an outdoor work shop on our patio where I could spend time doing my pens.  To say the least, the weather did not cooperate.  Between cold, wind, and rain, it was just about impossible to do anything outside.  I tried sitting and reading a couple of times but finally gave that up too.  About the only outdoor activity we could engage in was taking the pups for walks around the lake.  By the time we left Florida, I was traumatized and hesitant to ever return for another winter.

Fast forward to today, and we are now considering an enclosed trailer which would serve two purposes.  First, we can haul the car in the trailer, but more importantly, when we arrive at our destination, and unload the car, the trailer can serve as a climate resistant workshop that doesn't mind having a bit of dust around.  At least that is the theory.  We don't know how that will work out, but we see a lot of RVers doing just that, and it seems to have some possibilities.  As a result of this line of thinking, we have been looking around for a suitable trailer.

  The first thing that we realize is that there are no used ones anywhere.  For whatever reason, people who buy these things hang onto them.  This is encouraging and gives us confidence that we are moving in the right direction.  The other thing we realize is that it is possible to order these things with just about every imaginable option including 42" plasma TV, surround sound, etc.  I mean, you could live in it if properly spec'd out.  Of interest to us, are the various options that affect the utility of the trailer such as torsion axles, lights, etc.  To this end, we visited 3 trailer dealers yesterday on our day off to help in the education process, and we did learn a lot, including that we want an extended tongue!

Today we are talking with a trailer dealer in Georgia about pricing and options as we begin to zero in on what we want.  I will also add this comment, if President Obama is looking for a bright spot in US manufacturing, he should hitch his wagon to the cargo trailer industry.  These folks, by their own admission, are booming!  Most are selling 6-8 trailers a day, and if you want to custom order one, you will wait 6-8 weeks!  Add to that the fact that nobody is selling their used ones and you have an amazing success story.

There is more to tell on this story and we will try to keep you all posted as it unfolds.  Until then, have a great day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012 Getting ready to move on

I started writing this on Sunday when the quiltfest was over.  Our friends Orlando and Sally left for home early that morning and we were just being lazy that day.  On Mondaymorning we packed up and moved about 20 miles down the road to Goshen Indiana for the Fleetwood RV national rally which is being held at the Elkhart county fairgrounds.  Not sure what to expect because this will be our first Fleetwood rally.  We don't have any expectations so it would be difficult to be disappointed.  :)

One thing that deserves comment is the weather here in the midwest.  Most of last week the temps were in the 90s, with clear skies and sun.  Today is no different and the forecast for the coming week is for the high to reach up to over 100!!!!  Remember, we are in Indiana, in June!  To my way of thinking, this is not normal.  Along with the high temps, there has been virtually no rain for some time.  Although we did have some spotty rain one day last week, it lasted about 10 minutes max.  Obviously the farmers, of which there are many, are not happy.  Many fields have irrigation systems running in the hope of saving the crop.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 20,2012 Catching up......again

Since we have been spending a few weeks at home, I have been busy with other matters and have not been posting on the blog.  Now that we are out on the road again, I am hoping to get caught up a bit starting with where we are and what we are currently doing.  First, a bit of history.  Last year we attended a rally with the American Coach Association at Shipshewana South Campground, in Shipshewana Indiana.  While at the rally, Linda became aware that the town holds an annual quilt fest during the month of June.  At that point, the die was struck, and reservations were made to return this year during the fest.  We made these arrangements with our friends Orlando and Sally because Sally is also a quilter, and I needed someone to watch over me while the girls attend daily seminars to learn how to quilt.  (Silly me, I guess I just thought they already knew how!)   We arrived here last night, checked in, and went to dinner at Blue Gate Restaurant.

This is what you might call a typical Amish style restaurant with lots of "comfort food" such as chicken and noodles, fried chicken, etc. as well as lots of home made pies.  Needless to say, we did not come home

Unfortunately, while getting ready to leave yesterday, our front air conditioner decided to let the smoke get out which generally means it won't work anymore.  Add to this the fact that we are experiencing mid August weather with temps in the 90s, and you can begin to see our problem.  Today, the girls were "shop hopping" so the boys decided to attempt to fix the broken air conditioner.  This involved a trip to South Bend Indiana to visit W.W. Grainger to pick up a new compressor start capacitor, and then back home to install the new part.  Unfortunately, while the capacitor was bad, it turns out there is a PTCR in series with the offending capacitor and the PTCR is also bad.  End result: the new capacitor immediately smoked.  YIKES!!  Fortunately I remembered some spare electrical parts I had in the basement compartment and was able to get the thing going temporarily.  Now I have to locate the right parts and get the permanent fix installed.

It has been a busy time here in metro Shipshewana Indiana and while I started this post on Wednesday, it is now Friday morning.  I am going to finish here and post this and try to start another post later.  This retirement thing sure does take up a lot of my time! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012. The Preacher's treehouse

We had such an interesting day today, that I had to do an "extra" edition of the blog.  We are staying at Spring Lake RV resort in Crossville Tennessee for an American Coach Association rally.  Today was a quiet day for official activities and it was suggested that we take a tour of the Preacher's tree house.  This was perhaps, the most interesting and most weird tours I have ever taken and suggest you take the opportunity to tour this amazing structure if you ever have the chance.  If you click on the link above, you will read some of the history of this structure which is a 7 or 8 or 9 story tree house.  I'm not sure how many stories there really are, but by all accounts, the house is over 100 feet tall.  As you can see from the pictures, the actual structure is difficult to describe, even if you have been in it, walked up and down in it, toured it, and walked away from it, shaking your head in wonder.  One word kept coming to my mind and that is, "WHY??".  Why did this preacher invest the time and money into building this structure which, while unique and different, is almost totally useless.  What I have heard is that several couples said their vows in the chapel, and at one point some homeless people lived there.  Other than that, there seems to be no purpose, no use, no reason for the tremendous effort put into erecting this house.  It did, however, provide an interesting afternoon for us, along with a lot of exercise exploring the twisting random rooms, stairways, and hall ways.

While this photo doesn't really do the structure justice, you do get an idea of the magnitude of the project.

Randomly located throughout the house are lifesize carved wooden figures of various biblical characters.

This is a view of the "chapel" from the "balcony".  I use the quotes because at any moment, you are never really certain what room you are looking at or located in as the structure is very non-descript.

This is a photo of the tower that extends up from the roof of the house.  If you climb up to the top of the tower you are at least 100 ft. above the ground.  There is a warning that if you jump or fall, you will die!

This is your view of the front lawn from the top of the tower.

Our "tree hugger"  This is one of seven trees that the house is built on/into.