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Day 22, 03/21/2021 Monday: We were woke up in the wee hours this morning by a pouring rain, but it did not last very long. We got up not long after daylight and started getting ready to head to the convention. I dumped all out waste tanks (FHU site), we buttoned up and left around 10:00 for the half hour drive to the Pima County Fairgrounds. We had received our documents and instructions several weeks ago. Since FMCA has done lots and lots of these conventions they have it down to a science. Very impressive to witness their organization and set up. They have many, many volunteers that help run everything, including getting a couple thousand or so RVs in and parked in this massive place. We had three large placards we had to place inside our windshield; the top one identified us as first time convention goers (our name tags also have a red “First Timer” ribbon attached). The second placard was our entry day and the bottom was our parking lot and whether we had power or not and what power drop. We are in the Red lot, 17th street, with 50 amp power (actually 100 amp, since there are two 50 amp hot legs). They guide everyone to their parking spot and assist with directions. It was super easy. We are parked on the very front row in our lot, nestled in and surrounded by some really large, super expensive motorhomes. The sites are actually a bit wider than I thought they would be.
The lady in the motorhome on our driver side told me she was very happy to see some nice fifth wheel trailers here. Everyone has been super helpful and friendly. I was amazed at the long line of RVs coming by! It went on like that until 5:00 PM and they tell me it will be like that all day tomorrow! I made several passes around the place on my ebike and Jeri and I walked and rode in a tram around the place to see where things are and stopped at the Cantina for a adult beverage. Steak and salad for dinner.
Days 20-21, 03/19-20/2022 Saturday and Sunday: Nothing much to report for these two days since we were at the Casino Del Sol RV Park on the “Res” waiting for Monday to check into the FMCA 104th convention, “Sunsets & Saguaros”.
On Saturday we visited the San Xavier del Bac Mission, a centuries old Mission. We visited it a couple of years or so ago, but it is so beautiful it is worth seeing again and again. And besides outside Native Americans fry up fresh Indian Fry Bread and Fry Bread Tacos. YUMMIE!! After eating we went into the mission, Jeri lit a candle for her Mother and we took some pictures.
On Sunday we drove out to the west part of the Saguaro National Park. There are two parts to the park, one east of Tucson and one west. The west one is smaller, but more Saguaro cactuses than can be counted; millions!
Jeri went to the casino and won some more money, so she treated us to good burgers and fries in one of the casino restaurants. It rained a little this evening.
Day 19, 03/18/2022 Friday: Well, this campground is so booked up (with good reason) that we could not extend another day, so we sadly had to say goodbye. I had our driver side 30 lb propane tank refilled as we left at around 10:30.
We have three nights booked at the Casino Del Sol RV park in Tucson, so we headed down that way with a leisurely 221 mile drive. If you recall we stayed here one night on our way from Pancho Villa State Park to the “Extraterrestrial Highway.”
Not much of interest, except for a backup on our I-17 southbound side for what was left of what looked to have been a very bad traffic accident. There were still several police, fire and ambulance vehicles there. We arrived and set up here for the three nights before we head over to the FMCA convention Monday. The convention actually starts Wednesday, the 23rd, but since we are first time attendees they bring us in and get us parked early so we can attend a first timer orientation on Tuesday; however, Jeri will probably have to attend this for us because I have a mobile RV tech coming to check on our brakes and I think there will be a time overlap.
After very spotty trailer brake operation for a few days and getting “Trailer Wiring Fault” messages on our truck’s trailer brake controller, the messages went away and the brakes are working, but I think they are only working on one axle, not both. So, we will see what the tech finds.
I took Jeri to the casino and dropped her off so she could hit the slots and I came back to the trailer. A while later she called to tell me she would treat me to dinner because she had won almost $100. We enjoyed the buffet!!
Day 18, 03/17/2022 Thursday: Happy St. Patrick’s Day. After doing the usual morning things we drove to the Montezuma Castle National Monument about 8-9 miles away, stopping at an Indian Fry Bread stand. It was pretty busy as the lone Native American guy cooked the fry bread one at a time, hot and fresh. He offered four types: Salt (he said this was the traditional one), cinnamon, powdered sugar and honey. The fry breads were about 8-9” in diameter. We got a honey one and a powdered sugar one. I thought, wow, how are we going to eat both of these, but we did. LOL
After polishing off our fry breads we went to the monument. We have a lifetime senior national park pass, so we normally get into any federal park, monument, etc., free and we did here, too, saving $20. Because of the pandemic they were limiting how many people could get into the store at 20, so a queue was forming for that, but we bypassed it for the time being and went to see the “castle”.
I heard a park volunteer explaining that the lighter colored parts of the castle were original and the darker parts were reconstructed, but done by Hopi Indians in the traditional building method.
This national monument is fairly small overall, but very well laid out and maintained. The ranger said that up to sometime in the 1950s the monument had ladders for those brave enough to climb to actually go inside the castle, but I guess our overly litigious society must have put a stop to that and the ladders were removed. We did see pictures of them.
This evening Jeri found us this little hole in the wall Mexican Restaurant in Camp Verde. It was small, but hopping! Very popular place and with good reason; the food, service, prices and ambiance was great. Some of the best Mexican food I have had. The name of the place is La Casita, so if you are ever in Camp Verde, AZ we highly recommend it.
Day 17, 03/16/2022 Wednesday: Another nice day, but partly cloudy and dark rain clouds passing by to the north of us. We took the dogs for a nice walk this morning and when Jeri took Faith and headed back Sugar Belle and I continued on. Sugar was having a great time; pretty much her old self, sniffing everything in sight and being pretty playful. It made me a bit melancholy thinking of her age and heart problems and wondering how much longer we would get to enjoy her companionship.
We hiked down to West Clear Creek and saw the small falls and rapids. This campground has several trails through the woods.
Some of the small falls and rapids. The tree is a Arizona Sycamore.
We drove 35 miles to Sedona, famous for its red rock formations and they were pretty awesome. The traffic was crazy. Every view point was so packed with cars and vehicles that all we could do was drive through and continue on. The number one attraction in Sedona is the chapel on the mountain.
There is one narrow road that goes up to the chapel and it was packed with cars and people. Parking was scarce and packed. We inched our way up and finally made it to the chapel and I let Jeri out. I discovered the only thing vehicles could do was pull up, back up to turn around and head back down, one at a time, so that is what I had to do. I made my way back down with the truck and sort of meandered around in the general vicinity until Jeri called to tell me she was heading down. She had to walk all the way down to where I could pick her up. She lit a candle in the chapel for her Mother who died on the same date in 2014.
Next we got into a three mile long queue of vehicles on highway 179 through town, headed for a Native American shopping and art center. We finally made it there and again I let Jeri out while I maneuvered around the parking lot (not made for maneuvering a one ton truck around in). Jeri wasn’t very long and by this time I think we had both had enough of wall-to-wall people and traffic, so we headed out of town on highway 89A, stopping at a pizza place (also extremely crowded) for a slice of pizza (pretty good) and finally breaking out of the crowd we headed back to the campground. Sedona is a truly beautiful place, but was not and is not designed to handle the huge number of visitors it gets.
Day 16, 03/15/2022 Tuesday: We did our laundry yesterday afternoon at a laundromat close by our campground; it was starting to pile up after two weeks on the road. We broke camp and left the park around 9:30 this morning headed east on I-10. Shortly after passing by Quartzite (we camped there a few years ago) we got off I-10 on highway 60 still added east northeast. The idea was to get to I-17 bypassing the Phoenix area. We headed north up to Camp Verde. Our thought was to get a bit north and higher in altitude to avoid some warm weather and to get fairly close to Sedona. Jeri called several campgrounds and RV parks and they were all full. We stopped in Cottonwood and I was trying to find a dispersed camping area when the Zane Grey RV Village called Jeri to say they had a cancellation and we could get three nights there. This place turned out to be awesome!
I will post more pictures tomorrow.
Day 15, 03/14/2022 Monday: Whew, it’s been a busy and mostly no cellular signal areas to update this blog. From Pancho Via State Park we traveled to Tucson and spent the night in the Casino Del Sol RV Park.
From there we traveled up through Las Vegas, NV and spent the night in the middle of nowhere in a turnout beside the “Extraterrestrial Highway” (highway 375). This goes by the famous Area 51, well, it was about 40 miles away behind a mountain range. Talk about a quiet and very windy night. We woke up to 28° and spitting snow.
We completed the “Highway” the next morning driving into strong headwinds, passed through Tonapah, NV and headed back southwest, this time with a good tailwind. We stopped in Beatty, NV for BBQ sandwiches at Smokin’ J’s BBQ. He really piles the meat on!! We continued on to Death Valley. Wow! Went to Furnace Creek first, then to Stovepipe Wells and back to Furnace Creek where we dry camped for a couple of nights in the Sunset campground.
Very strong winds the day we got there, but the next day was beautiful. Warm day and chilly nights. I went sightseeing.
Jeri did not go sightseeing with me, thus no photos of her. There are only two filling stations in Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek and only Furnace Creek has diesel fuel (our F-350 is a diesel). Fuel was extremely expensive, especially diesel. Here is the pump display after I filled my tank.
Jeri and I went to lunch, but way overpriced for a buffet, but okay.
After lunch we bought an hour of WiFi for $5, then visited the outdoor Borax museum. Here’s a couple of photos.
The following day we left and headed south to Joshua Tree National Park. We spent the night in Yucca Valley and added two more state stickers to our RV map.
The next day we drove through Joshua Tree National Park and down to I-10. I will add photos later, but we saw lots of Joshua Trees. It was a rugged place. We have spent the past two nights at the River Breeze RV park in Ehrenberg, AZ, just across the Colorado River from California.
Day 8, 03/07/2022 Monday: Bagels with cream cheese, coffee and juice for breakfast this morning. I was up before sunup and made a pot of coffee. It was cold out. The visitor center at the park recorded 24°, but of course we were warm and snug in our Montana. Before we left I hiked up to the top of Coote’s Hill, a small hill in what used to be a fort back in the 19teens the soldiers used for an observation post. Great 360° view.
We buttoned up and pulled out of the campsite a bit after 9:00 this morning and the stopped at the visitor center to see their museum dealing with the Pancho Villa bandit raid on Columbus, NM in 1916. Very nice little museum. Ten town people (civilians) were killed in the raid along with eight US soldiers, but Villa lost over 100 men. This place was also the location of the very first Army Aviation base. They have a plane in the museum, as well as some old cars, firearms and lots of other interesting stuff. There is one car, the Smith car, that a couple and their baby escaped the attack in although the husband was shot up (he survived). The car is riddled with bullet holes, but they made it to Deming, 30 miles away on what was then a very rough dirt road. Unfortunately I failed to take a picture of it. Duh… This car sat outside in the weather for over 70 years, yet had no rust.
We finally pulled out of the park at 10:00 and headed up to Deming and took I-10 west. We stopped at a couple of rest areas, then a TA for diesel and a Walmart in Benson, AZ for a few items. Jeri had bought a somewhat cheap set of stainless steel dinnerware and it was turning black in places. Not sure why unless it was the rattling around going down the road. So she bought a new set. We are staying the night at the Casino Del Sol RV park. Jeri is in the casino now losing a few bucks no doubt. This is a pretty nice RV park. FHU, fully paved for $50 a night.
Yep, she lost a few bucks, but hey, it’s her thing, so no worries. She bought us supper and it was pretty good. A Barbacoa Bowl and a fully loaded Southwest style hot dog. 😁🤪
Total miles today was 257. Tomorrow we head toward Las Vegas, the Extraterrestrial Highway (Area 51) and Death Valley and who knows what else, so stay tuned.
Day 7, 03/06/2022 Sunday: The wind died down a little late last night, but was blowing strong (20-30 mph) again by the time I got up. I made coffee and after Jeri got up at 7:25 (early for her) I made frambled eggs and toast for a light breakfast. Jeri is in a lot of pain with her right hip area, but not sure what happened to cause it. I called a mobile RV service company in Tucson, but they were closed on Sunday, so I sent an email to them to see about getting the brake issue resolved tomorrow evening or Tuesday morning. I booked a reservation at Casino Del Sol RV Park in Tucson for tomorrow night ($50 FHU).
Around 11:15 we drove down and parked the truck in a lot next to the border and walked across into Mexico. It was a bit confusing because unlike in the US where the border signs are in English and Spanish (down here anyway) the signs in Mexico were all in Spanish. Jeri started to take a picture of the border wall from the Mexican side, but a Mexican soldier/border guard told her not to. (Silly woman!!). We asked a Mexican border guard/soldier (armed with a loaded automatic rifle, all of them were thus armed I might add) where to go and he motioned to a window where an agent was. We waited there a bit until the guy noticed us and asked where we were going. We told him the Pink Store and he said to just go on. Jeri did have to have her purse run through a scanner, but that was all. Relatively easy. We shopped in the massive collection of Mexican trinkets and goods to see what we would buy after lunch then had a great lunch. Oh, when we got there we were asked if we wanted a complementary Margarita (is the Pope Catholic??!). So we sipped and shopped, then lunch. Great service, good food (my Enchiladas were delicious) low prices, good music and an all around fun place. After lunch we bought our stuff and walked back to the border. Everyone was very friendly at the store and everyone was having a great time. If you are down this way bring your passport and go visit.
It was a bit easier and more intuitive about where to go coming back into the USA (not that Mexico was difficult). The agent checked our US passports and in we went and walked back to the truck. We drove around Columbus a bit, but there isn’t much to see, especially on a Sunday. The Catholic Church bells were ringing. I paid $4.79 a gallon to fill up the truck with diesel. Paid $20 for two packs of cigarettes! I gotta quit! We took short naps. I fixed a loose fender skirt on the trailer—a screw had fallen out. Since it is supposed to get down to 27° here tonight I put some more water into our freshwater tank and disconnected and stored our water hoses, filter and pressure gauge so I don’t have to maybe deal with frozen ones in the morning when we are trying to leave. As I type this at 6:00 PM it seems the wind is starting to die down.
Day 6, 03/05/2022 Saturday: We dumped tanks and left the RV park at 10:00 this morning, headed west on I-10. Mostly uneventful drive. I filled up with diesel yesterday evening after we had dinner out at a local Chevron that Gas Buddy said had diesel for $4.29 a gallon, but it turned out to be $4.69, the highest so far. Yes, I updated Gas Buddy. We had our easiest drive through El Paso ever. Good road and much lighter traffic than our previous trips through there. We stopped in Las Cruces, NM at a TA truck stop for diesel ($4.41 a gallon with our TSD/EFS discount) and Jeri bought us lunch in the Burger King there that we ate while parked at the truck stop. Now some of you may think we’re a bit nuts for spending this kind of money on diesel fuel and traveling, but two things: 1) as I have pointed out previously, we are doing more dry camping (without any hookups) for free or very low cost to offset the higher cost of fuel (our stay here at Pancho Villa SP with electric and water is only $14 a night); and 2) who knows at our age how much longer we will be able to do this for health reasons (my recent cancer bout definitely contributes to my thoughts here) and when we are no longer able to RV I don’t want to be sitting there waiting to die thinking that I let a few dollars stand in the way of our travels. Anyway we gained another hour when we passed into the Mountain Time Zone. At Deming we got off I-10 and headed south to Columbus, NM and Pancho Villa SP on highway 11, arriving at the park around 3:45. WINDY!! Fuel mileage was less than 9 mpg driving pretty much into strong head winds. This park is pretty nice and seems very laid back for a state park. Normally when checking in you get a receipt or tag or something to put in your window, but not here. In fact the guy told Jeri we didn’t even need to check in since we had a reservation. We found our site NL-23 and situated the trailer and hooked up to only 30 amp power and water. Did I mention it was WINDY??!! 20+ mph with gusts to 30. We mostly just hung out in the trailer and Jeri made a good dinner. We watched a bit of TV. We are about four miles from Mexico, which is right on down highway 11, and we could see the lights of the border patrol station and the town of Puerto Palomas, Mexico. Our trailer brake issue seems to be getting worse.
Day 5, 03/04/2022 Friday: Good night. Nice and quiet. Batteries were still around 80% full when I got up just before daylight and the fridge was on all night. We left the park around 9:30 and headed west on US90 to Langtry, stopping at the somewhat famous Pecos River bridge picnic area/viewing area. Wow! What an awesome view! I believe I read this bridge is the highest above water in Texas.
Next stop, about 20 miles further west, was Langtry, home of the “Law west of the Pecos” Judge Roy Bean. There is a very nice visitor center and the Jersey Lilly Saloon and Court and the Opera House. Very interesting.
After Langtry we continued west on US90 though Marathon (we spent a night there a few years ago in our way to Big Bend National Park), Alpine, Marfa ( we stay there a couple of years ago and saw the famous Marfa lights) and up to Van Horn. While passing through Alpine Jeri picked up her Yeti tumbler with coffee, not realizing the top was open and dumped a lot of coffee in her lap, necessitating a quick pull over so she could change pants. LOL. We thought about spending the night in Marfa and seeing the “lights” again, but the campground we stayed at before was full. We arrived in Van Horn and got a campsite at the Van Horn RV Park (we realized we stayed here before after pulling in). We set up the trailer then went to a local Mexican Restaurant for some very good food. Our site is a FHU, so in the morning I will dump our three waste tanks for the first time this trip. Then it will be off for Pancho Villa SP in New Mexico for two nights. I will add that this part of Texas is in drought conditions and everything is dusty, brown and dry. We have virtually no green grass or trees. We did a bit over 300 miles today and the great part of it is the traffic is few and far between.
Day 4, 03/03/2022 Thursday: Slept well last night because it was totally quiet. There was one thing about the campsite that ticked me off.
145 miles today. We left Garner SP around 10:00 this morning, headed toward Langtry, TX. Driving on US90 it is somewhat difficult to find diesel fuel, at least where we can maneuver a 35’ fiver that’s 13’5” high. We found a Texaco on the outskirts of Del Rio, TX that we could get in and I got 20 gallons in the tank at $4.29 a gallon, the most we’ve paid on this trip so far and the first non-TA (where using our TSD EFS card we get around $.50 a gallon off. North of Del Rio, near Comstock Jeri found Seminole Canyon SP, so we pulled in to at least check it out and ended up with a beautiful dry camping site for $10.00. We have views of Old Mexico out our Montana’s windows.
We took a hike along the canyon rim trail.
Day 3, 03/02/2022 Wednesday: Last night after Jeri researched and suggested it we booked a FHU campsite (153) at Garner State Park in Texas, so that was our goal for today. Approximately 330 miles. When I got up this morning just after daylight the battery monitor showed we still had 85%, so I turned the fridge inverter on and set the thermostat up to 68° to warm the trailer up. Made a cup of coffee, turned on the water heater. Beautiful, cold, clear morning here in east Texas. The rest area is between Beaumont and Houston, so today we have to drive through the huge Houston/Katy area (never fun towing through there) and San Antonio. We got on the road at 8:30. Very nice day. I think the highest temperature I saw on the truck’s outside temp reading was 75 or so. We made it through the Houston area without any problems, but twice now I noticed the extra Valterra knife valve had worked loose from the sewer outlet on the trailer and was dangling from a couple of plastic tie wraps. I cut the tie wraps and stowed the valve so it didn’t fall off and cause damage to us or someone else on the highway. Lots of road construction and work on I-10 and pretty rough in places today. We stopped at a Buc-ees for their awesome bbq brisket sandwiches. In San Antonio we took US90 west to Sabinal, then 127 up to Concan and US83 to Garner State Park. Jeri made Salmon, potato salad and asparagus for dinner. I got my ebike out and did a bit of riding. Saw some wild turkeys and a nice view of the Rio Frio river below. This seems to be a popular area; I guess for summertime river floats, etc. The park is clean and well kept, the staff is friendly and helpful, but Jeri wasn’t real happy with our FHU site. The FHU sites are all in a row and very close together. My major complaint is the hookups. Believe it or not the sewer drop is about a foot and a half directly below the water faucet!!! Wow, just wow! Our next door neighbor said the water is well water and not very good, so I will skip adding any water to our tank. The water pressure was reading over 60 psi, so I had to crank the adjustment down. Another strange thing is the power box. I always use a non-contact voltage tester to check the metal enclosure and normally it doesn’t beep or light up, but it did on our site’s box, although it must be a very low voltage leak because it didn’t shock me when I touched it with the back of my hand and the power (50 amp) is good per our EMS. Anyway, it should be a quiet, peaceful night. Supposed to be in the 40s.
Day 2, 03/01/2022 Tuesday: The night at Cracker Barrel (Day 1) was quiet, but perplexing. Temperature was in the low 40s. My wife woke me up at 4:30 AM saying, “what’s that beeping?” Since I didn’t have my hearing aids in I couldn’t hear any beeping, then she said it stopped. She described it as a slow beeping, then faster beeping, then nothing. Of course I got up to check and found we had no 12 vdc. With the residential fridge and the furnace running and an overcast day that wasn’t putting much solar into the batteries the batteries ran down to the point the BMS shut off power. I heated some water on the stove and made a cup of coffee. After pondering the situation a bit I realized that we would not be able to close the slides and raise the jacks unless I got some power into the batteries, so I started the truck and the Trimetric battery monitor showed right at nine amps going into the batteries and the lights would now work. At daylight I started the Champion 3400 watt generator and plugged my installed 70 amp charger in and started pumping amps into the batteries. There were a few other RVs that had come in during the night, but they were on the other side of the parking area and with all the road noise from I-10 I could just barely hear my inverter generator 20 feet away, so I am pretty sure it didn’t bother anybody. Around 8:00 we closed the slides and raised the jacks without problem, so I shut down the generator and we went into Cracker Barrel for breakfast before getting on the road around 9:15 AM.
We covered 390 miles and spent the night at one of the nice Texas Rest Areas (Chambers). With all the semis around running their engines all night it was somewhat noisy. The temperature got down to 42° during the night. We stopped at Billy’s Boudin Balls & Cracklins in Scott, LA and bought eight Boudin Balls, two each for lunch. YUMMIE!! With all the bright sun our batteries showed 100% charge, so hopefully no repeat of running out of power during the night. We went to bed at 9:00 again tonight and just to make sure we didn’t deplete the batteries that were down to about 86% by this time I turned off the fridge inverter and set the thermostat to 50°.
Day 1, 02/28/2022 Monday: We got on the road at 8:15 AM this morning after I brought the Montana home from storage and we loaded the fridge stuff and last minute items. We had several miles of very light rain on I-10 west and had an uneventful drive with three fuel stops at TAs (Jacksonville, Marianna and Grand Bay). We are dry camping tonight at the Cracker Barrel at Moss Point, MS after 520 miles, arriving just after sundown (fortunately we gained an hour entering the Central Time Zone) and with permission from Cracker Barrel. The evening sun was brutal driving into it.
02/26/2022 Saturday: The trailer is prepped and loaded with everything except for the refrigerator stuff and our last minute items like toiletries,etc. We will head west Monday (02/28/22). My plan is to go to the trailer and hook up at daylight and bring the trailer home for the last minute stuff. I just park it on the street for the few minutes it takes to put the last minute stuff in, load our two small dogs and button things up. My wife’s cousin will be staying in our house for part of the time we are gone, so we don’t have to do much in that regard. A US Mail hold starts Monday for 30 days. I wish one could do a hold for a longer period, but 30 days is the maximum the USPS allows, although I will queue up another hold to start a day later. 🙂 I hope to be on the road by 7:30-8:00 AM. I will have our new SPOT device in the truck and in tracking mode to update an online map approximately every ten minutes. The link to track our trip is: https://maps.findmespot.com/s/W459
We are so looking forward to getting back on the road again and our Spring trip will be a big one because we are going all the way from home in Florida to Death Valley in California.
Our plan is to leave home early the morning of Feb. 28, 2022 and head west on I-10 all the way to San Antonio, TX where we will head toward Del Rio and up to Langtry, TX for a night or two (I want to see the Judge Roy Bean saloon/court and the museum). Then it’s off to Poncho Via State Park in Columbus, NM (where Poncho Via invaded the USA in 1916) for a couple of nights. Then to Death Valley via a slight detour northeast from Las Vegas to drive (and probably camp one night) the Extraterrestrial Highway (goes by or near Area 51) then back down to Death Valley on or around Mar. 14th. Then after a few days there we will head back to Tucson, AZ to attend the FMCA Tucson RV convention from 3/21 to 3/27 (although me may leave a day early). From there up to Moab, UT to camp in the desert with our son Jimmy and his wife for a few days. From there we plan to go to Chaco Canyon in NW New Mexico and from there we will probably start working our way back toward Florida. Big trip!
I will be doing daily or at least near daily updates (depending on cellular coverage) to this blog post to include pictures and some videos.
Here is a video of our first campfire of the year from our short trip up to Crooked River State Park in southeast Georgia last week.