Short Cut

I’ve always suspected my mate was an alien, a concern strengthened by our visit to Roswell, New Mexico.

The UFO Museum is mainly stocked with “supporting” documents.

The town sure capitalizes on the controversy. Alien symbols are everywhere: in the Savings and Loan logo, in the flying saucer-shaped kids area at MacDonalds, in the many green statues and kitschy stores.

Roswell also boasts a surprisingly large list of famous people connected to the town… who may or may not have been aliens.

Then again, the residents of the Roswell zoo appeared to consider me alien, so there you go.

Leaving Roswell, we worked our way across mid-Texas at a series of Walmart stops.

At Snyder, we stocked up on provisions.

At Abilene we settled amid an immense invasion of migrating Grackles.

At Fort Worth we decided to take a short cut home. Our outbound route to San Francisco looked like this:

Home to San Francisco

To gain moderate temperatures, we returned along a more southerly route.

San Francisco to Springerville, AZ

We originally planned to roam east and south, spending February on the road. The expected Polar Vortex changed our minds. Better to shorten the trip by 1/3 and be at home to protect the house in -35F, we thought.

Seeing a weather window between cold fronts and snow storms, we elected to do a 2-day scoot back home, with a stop just south of Kansas City. There, we winterized the trailer water system and packed everything into cardboard boxes we got from a grocery store.

Leaving early morning from KC, we beat the incoming snow storm by an hour. Pre-packed boxes sped the unloading process and we settled at home for the coming deep-freeze. Good to be home, hibernating like bears.

Of course, the cold may or may not explain the alien life form sighted later…

Boogers, not.

For the last week we’ve both been leaking goo from the holes in our heads and coughing up a storm. Such is the life of getting sick in an RV. With all the drainage I haven’t been terribly motivated to keep the blog up to date.

But that storm of snot and all-night coughing has passed, so we’re back in the game.

This post is a collection of odd socks we’ve found since leaving California.

The Tribe – Sometimes we’re alone, sometimes there are 15 members of the tribe circled ’round. Some tribe members are just passing through (like us), some live in their vehicles, some follow the rules (we do) and some blatantly don’t.

Yep, the tribe that stays overnight in Walmart parking lots is an odd bunch, so we fit right in. The Walmart in Buckeye, Arizona is very popular, since nearby Phoenix has zoned the practice to death.

By the Book – The secret to appreciating our new book, “The National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways”, is to actually use it.

So we did.

In Phoenix, we had a wonderful visit with our counterpart Grandparents, Murray and Andrea, then headed up Hwy 87 bound for Payson, AZ. Stunning, mountainous drive through Tonto National Forest, which is actually a forest of boulders and huge cacti.

Taste of Home – Yes! A Culvers located across the street from our RV park in Payson! Our withdrawal symptoms from this guilty midwest addiction went away shortly after.

My Ass is Draggin’ – Why are there abrupt curbs at many RV parks? Here’s hoping we don’t screeeeeeeeech another gouge into the road.

Snowball – This is the most snow we’ve seen all trip… and all we hope to.

Soloing – The RV park in Payson was serene, scenic and solitary. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. Winter is their off-season, so…

… we didn’t have to wait in line in their laundry room!

Siri, You B**ch! – Well, it was Google Maps, not Siri.

And it was my fault for leaving the “Avoid Highways” option checked.

Nonetheless, Google introduced us to the joy of off-roading with a 54′ rig going to the Escondido Lake campground near Socorro, NM.


Tight Squeeze – Leaving the park, with Google Maps correctly set up!



30 Days in CA

As we wrap our month in California we recorded this Best/Worst list:

  • Best New Buddy – Bennett. Hands Down. Period.
The Smile Factory
  • Best Way to Spend 21 Days – Holidays with Nikki, Nate, Bennett, Stella, Chris, Natalie, Liz, Dawn and Paul.
  • Best (Most Courteous) Drivers – San Francisco drivers, mostly, are the nicest we’ve encountered. They let you merge, they watch out for bikes, and they often drive below the speed limit… although that may be a limitation of their hybrid cars!
  • Worst Drivers – Los Angeles. Thumbs Down. Period.
  • Best Amusement Park Substitute – Piloting a 3/4 ton, crew cab, diesel pickup truck on the narrow, steep hills of San Francisco.
  • Best Sick Thrill: Putting the fear of god into Smart Car drivers.
  • Best Reunion – Visiting high school friend Kim and her family in Ojai after MANY years.
Peg and Kim
  • Worst thing to share the road
  • Best Scenery – Pretty much all of it.
San Luis Reservoir Panorama
Near Santa Paula

Taking it for Granite

Scenery aside, RV travel tends to involve a lot of the same things. RV parks begin to look the same. The same store chains, or regionally-named equivalents, fill most towns. Gas stations and truck stops blend together. Call it the homogenization (same-ification?) of America.

Yet each day we find something unique, like the floating granite ball in Santa Paula, California.

This physical wonder, called a Kugel Ball, floats a 5,000 pound granite ball on a friction-less layer of pressurized water. Simple hand pressure changes the direction or rotational speed of the sphere. A mass that large takes a while to accelerate or decelerate, so firm pressure and patience is required. (Video below takes a few seconds to load… fairly large)

Peg takes the Santa Paula Kugel Ball for a spin. She must be part ant, because she can move 50 times her weight!

Angles

Not only are some San Francisco streets pucker-time narrow, especially in a full-size pickup truck, the roller coaster angles add to a sense of adventure.

Nikki, Nate and Bennett live on the 17th steepest street in the city, in an enclave named Noe (“no-ee”) Valley.

As our truck glides into their driveway, the change in angle between the street and horizontal apron causes our poor truck to twist on its suspension.

The view from inside is more radical.  Unloading is easy… just open the downhill door and let everything roll out.

We do all this, of course, so Stella can be amused from her viewing angle above.

Since our arrival there has been a LOT of wind.

I love wind.  I love sailing.  I love windsurfing.  I love soaring in a hang glider or sailplane.  I love flying kites.  I love playing with the wind.

But I especially love leaning into the wind, being supported by an invisible force, the wind pressing against my angled body, almost able to take flight and join the birds.  (I’m not sure how much birds love soaring, but it did seem a couple were trying to line up and drop poop on me!)

At nearby Pacifica, the holiday decorations were angling to leave California and be blown to Mexico.

Trees nearby have taken on an angular, aerodynamic shape from the prevailing ocean breezes.

The high wind whips up sea foam and sprays it along the shore.

At Pacifica, swell conspires to wear away the pilings, while sensible birds pack into a wind shadow next to the boardwalk.

All the while, the strong Pacific swell is doing its best to wear down the shoreline near our RV park.  We are really hoping our site remains horizontal and not suddenly vertical.

 

Redirection

Traveling involves redirection.  Redirecting a route, for instance, or refocusing on a new set of goals as the trip progresses.

Or redirecting provisions into ever-shrinking containers.

The first two we do together… the last is all Peg.

My darling delights in repackaging our provisions into salvaged containers to save space in the travel trailer fridge.  Like putting Sunny D in a Mountain Dew bottle, tequila in a mouthwash vessel and rum in an emptied water bottle.

Even the ketchup and peanut butter are fair game.

This practice of hers occasionally brings surprising experiences, like gargling with tequila.  Effective maybe, but not the expected taste.

So far, so good, but I’ll put my foot down when she does something like putting hemorrhoid  creme in the old toothpaste dispenser.

As we headed off on our 2018 snowbird trip we also did a fair amount of route redirection.

Sub-freezing temps at home meant we planned to scurry south to Kansas City; usually a latitude warm enough to allow staying at Walmart without running a heater.

With a cold front sweeping the midwest we had to refocus our goals on staying warm and not destroying the trailer’s water system.  With the water system still winterized, we rerouted to an RV park south of Kansas City where we could plug in and run the heat.

Likewise, the next night we redirected from a Walmart in Liberal, Kansas to a local RV park.  Other than calm nights at anchor, this was the flattest surface we’ve ever slept on. A herd of cattle next door and distant freight trains rounded off the cowboy ambiance.

That night the temperature dropped just enough for icicles to form on the slightly leaky city water connection. No damage.

Making our way southwest we cut through the Oklahoma panhandle and the town of Hooker; home of the Hooker Bank, Hooker True Value and other Hooker related businesses.  I made a road trip through the town 40 years ago and snickered like the teenager I was.  I apparently haven’t matured much… the names still made me grin.  I’m not alone: the city’s motto, referring to the negative connotations of its name, is “It’s a location, not a vocation”(Wikipedia).

We also redirected onto historic Route 66 for a while in search of lunch.  The area we passed was every bit as kitschy and run-down as we expected.

Once clear of the plains we rolled up and down various mountain ranges, all the while very happy to have diesel power and exhaust braking to ease the way.  Don’t know how much brake pad we saved but our minds were relieved.

With the cold front still going, we skipped yet another Walmart. The third night we stayed at the Sky City Casino RV Park in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico.  We had stayed there during our 2016 trip and at $22  night it is a bargain.  Waking to a gorgeous sunlit mountain range out the window is another plus.

There was a forecast of strong winds, with gusts up to 60 mph, forecast for the next day so we left early and burned through the Flagstaff area on to Kingman, Arizona.  Doing so we were able to make our westing far enough to avoid much of the wind:  60 mph cross winds while towing a travel trailer is not fun.

At Kingman we once again headed to an RV Park, a quiet 55+ place with a large number of snowbirds.

With 10-12 hours of driving left to San Francisco, we split the difference the next day and stopped at a Walmart in Bakersfield, California.  Finally warm enough to sleep without running a heater.

The last day brought us to Pacifica, California, on the coast just south of San Francisco.  Shortly before our 2016 trip the park lost 30+ sites to the cliff eroding into the Pacific Ocean.  During that trip we stayed in the site shown in green below.  This time we’re in the red site.

Fortunately they have not lost any sites since we last visited and the fence along the cliff has not been moved further inland.

So all is well… except for the weather forecasts today!

The surf has been steadily building this afternoon and should really be rocking tonight.  Pictures never do justice, but be assured those waves are huge.  So if y’all don’t hear from us again…

The main goal of this trip, one that we haven’t redirected, is spending time with our grandson Bennett, his parents, and our son and his fiancé for the holidays.  His smile makes all the driving and butt-freezing worth it!

 

Hell’s Revenge Revisited

Our friends left for home. Peg was Razer’d out.  So I went off solo to watch the rock crawlers at Hell’s Revenge.  With the wind blowing 20+ mph, any place not high on solid rock was a sandblast chamber.

This time I captured a better clip of the steep climbs using the Osmo camera gimbal.

This one, the longest climb still freaks me out.

I didn’t think there could be a steeper example until I took the path up to Mickey’s Hot Tub. The link shows the tub and a failed Jeep attempt.  Warning: Turn down your sound, the music is obnoxious.

I don’t have video of me going up; I was too busy gripping the steering wheel to hold the camera in one hand.  I knew my RZR could make it because I just watched and identical one go up.  That did nothing to take away the rush of climbing an obscenely steep, narrow, winding, bumpy path.

Going back down was 20 times easier.  Maybe 21.

Two of the four rock crawling challenges that make the trail famous:

Hell’s Gate

Tipover Challenge

Note that the rock just below the Tipover Challenge is covered with shattered windshield glass… evidence of the number of people who have destroyed vehicles on this test.  Our RZR was a spectator and not a participant.  Much cheaper and just as fun.

Poison Spider Mesa

Kyle and I started off today with the goal of riding the Moab Rim Trail.  The trail starts off climbing along narrow ledges perched high above a road and a river.  Such a sheer drop naturally causes certain body parts to clench and adrenalin to surge.

Thus we have added some calming classical guitar to the clip below, both to reduce our viewer’s stress and cover up our whimpering.

We knew that the Rim Trail was considered difficult, mainly due to two large ledges near the beginning.  After that, the trail promised scenic treasures galore… for those who can pass the first two tests.

We failed.

Our Little Mule just doesn’t have the ground clearance for large steps.  At the end of the clip below I make a key statement: “let me put another rock there”.

We tried building up ramps from loose stones, but even that could not get our trusty steed up the rise. So we admitted defeat, drove back down the trail, and put the RZR up in the truck bed.

Then five jeeps from a national off-road club showed up.  They proudly answered our questions about their modified vehicles.

Then I mentioned the rocks…

… and received a lecture, from their apparent leader, on why one should NEVER add rocks to a section to make it easier.  Phrases like “you’ll dumb it down and pretty soon people with drive up in cars” and “only attempt trails that your vehicle can handle” drove home his point.  He said they had ridden the trail before and should be able to drive right up.

Appropriately chastised, we hoofed it back up the hill to view their obvious skill and wizardry.

The lecturer went first.

And this happened.

Note that I am the one warning that he is about to drop his left front wheel into a deep gap in the rocks.  His spotter should have been watching that.

The next words out of his mouth?

Let’s throw some rocks down there…“.

Phrases like: “Pride goeth before the fall” and “Do as I say, not as I do” were ringing in my mind.

But I kept my mouth closed, smiled at him, and we walked away.

We headed to the Poison Spider Mesa parking lot.  The lot was just across the river but required several miles of driving to reach.  By the time we returned to the parking lot we both declared this our favorite trail.

It has a little of everything:

A section called “The Waterfalls” that present intimidating looking stair step climbs that are actually fairly easy and a total blast.

This waterfall was the only section that had some sand on the rock face.  As you can see, the RZR just powered up with a little wheel spin.  The driver can feel the interaction easily and control the power as necessary.

As Kyle powers up this next section you get a good view of our “Action Packer” and camera case strapped in the RZR’s cargo space.  Well-sealed cases are a must at Moab to keep sand from invading everything.

An area on top of the mesa where Kyle could indulge his lead foot in sand and gravel.

Great panoramic views.

And a stunning overlook of the Moab Valley.

The ride was a wonderful bow tied around Kyle and Leah’s visit with us.  The  ladies planned and executed a tasty Chicken, Steak, Corn on the Cob and Salad meal to wrap up the evening.

Life is good.  Friends are Great.