Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great review for Yuma snowbird's guide

My latest ebook, The Snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona, just received a very nice review from a website geared to Canadian snowbirds.

Here's what Suncruiser Media had to say about it:
Like the snippets of sample appetizers, handed out by folks at groceries store, you get a small taste of what’s available but you’re left hungry for more. It is informative and decently written; and although I would have liked it to be twice the size, the information it contains will easily save you the cost of the book 100 times over.
If you need more reasons to buy it, such as ways to save money in Yuma, check out an earlier blog.

The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona is available only on Amazon where it sells for $2.99.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Six reasons why you need 'The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona'

Need a good reason to buy The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona? Here are six of them:

1.     The snowbird’s guide to Yuma, Arizona is full of tips to make your sojourn in Yuma more pleasant. This guide is geared to first-time snowbirds to Yuma, but anyone who plans to visit Yuma will find the contents useful.

2.     The snowbird’s guide to Yuma, Arizona has tips on how to save money when you’re eating out. It lists Yuma restaurants that offer discounts to their senior customers.

3.     The snowbird’s guide to Yuma, Arizona offers a comprehensive list of things to see and do in Yuma and the surrounding area. This includes attractions, outdoor activities and visiting Mexico, which is just a few miles away.

4.     The snowbird’s guide to Yuma, Arizona lists all major flea and farmers markets where you can search for treasures among someone else’s trash and shop for fresh veggies for the dinner table.

5.     The snowbird’s guide to Yuma, Arizona is more comprehensive than websites on Yuma, though not as comprehensive as the only other snowbird’s guide to Yuma I found. It does, however, contain the most recent information available, while the other publication is five years old.

6.     The snowbird’s guide to Yuma, Arizona is a bargain at just $2.99 and is available for instant downloading on AmazonKindle. Books don’t get any more convenient than this.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The joys of saving money

As RVers on a budget, we are always looking for ways to save money on our excellent adventure.

We've found numerous easy ways to save money on groceries, eating out, gasoline and RV parks.

Of course, this means we prefer tourist attractions that are free or low cost, and always ask for senior discounts. And then we hit Tucson where some of the attractions we especially wanted to see cost upwards of $20 per person, fees that our budget can't handle.

Luckily, the Tucson Visitor Center is making it possible for us to see everything we want to see here. The center offers an attractions passport that it calls the Book of Fun. The pocket-sized booklet costs $18 and offers one free admission with one paid admission.  It paid for itself on the very first attraction we visited after buying it. We've used it other times and plan to use it a few more times so we're money ahead. The visitor center told us it was only good on regular adult admission, but we always ask for the senior rate and get it.

The passport is good for most major attractions in Tucson, as well as some in Tombstone and Bisbee. When an attraction already has free admission, it usually offers a discount at the gift shop instead.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona

We began our grand RV adventure just after Christmas 2013. Three weeks later it came to a screeching halt in Yuma because of health problems. We spent the next 7-1/2 months there while I underwent an aggressive treatment program.

Yuma is filled with so many things to see and do for a city that size, it is almost unbelievable.  Winter is the best time to visit Yuma. Temperatures are just right -- not too hot and not too cold. This desert southwest city does have four seasons; hot, hotter, hottest and hotter than hell. My husband used to joke he wished he could go to hell because it just had to be cooler than Yuma.  Many tourist attractions close down in the summer because of the scorching temperatures, making winter an even better time to visit.

Our stay in the desert southwest provided me the time to write a book for other first-time visitors here. The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona is a great introduction to this city of almost 100,000 year round residents.

Yuma is a city that  has something for everyone, regardless of their interests. Snowbirds need to make some tough decisions on how to spend their time year.

The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona is filled with tips and recommendations designed to help snowbirds make the most of their time here. It is geared to the first-time visitor to Yuma, as we were, though returning snowbirds are sure to find useful information in it, too.

The snowbird's guide to Yuma, Arizona is available for Amazon Kindle for $2,99, If you're planning to head south for the winter, this 11,000-word book will come in handy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Another must-have tool for the RV

Anything that makes living in an RV easier when you're on the road quickly turns into a must-have tool.

My latest "joy" that meets this criteria is something that I've thought about getting for the last several years, but never got around to it because I didn't want to spend the money on something that seemed so silly.

I recently bought it and discovered to my amazement that it's not silly, but does one heckuva cleaning job. That's the Swiffer wet mop. After using it a few times in our trailer. I am kicking myself for being so stupid about buying one earlier.

I've always used a sponge mop to clean floors. Don't ask my why, because I was never really happy with the way it cleaned. It seemed like I was just rearranging the dirt on the floors. If it hadn't been for my toes, I probably would have kept on using the sponge mop anyway. When it became imperative that the trailer floors be kept clean and disinfected, the sponge mop went; in came the Swiffer.

It does an amazing job of picking up the dirt, not that that much dirt accumulates since I'm Swiffing twice a day. I feel more comfortable going barefoot in the trailer now.

It's pretty easy to use: Just put on a fresh mop cloth, glide the Swiffer over the floor and then toss the dirty cloth.

There are a couple of things that Swiffer doesn't tell you, though. One is that the cloths are pretty saturated with cleaner, You need to hold the head over the sink while you attach the cloth, but you're still going to end up with sticky fingers. The second thing is how expensive the cleaning cloths are.  Swiffer brand cloths cost about 75 cents each. We bought a supermarket house brand that was on special; the cost worked out to about 25 cents a cloth.

The floors in our trailer have never been this clean since the day we got it.

Disclaimer: Federal law requires me to tell you Swiffer did not provide any compensation to me for writing about their product.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Goodbye Yuma! Hello Mile Post 147

The view leaving Yuma
To say that we were eager to leave Yuma, our home for the last 7-1/2 months would be an understatement. Fifty-three minutes after we walked out of the doctor’s office, we were pulling out of the RV park; that time, by the way, included the half-hour drive from the doctor’s office to the RV park.

We had already made up our minds that we would leave Yuma that day, even if I wasn’t released by the doctor (I wasn’t, which means we’ll be driving back to Yuma next week for what, hopefully, will be the final appointment). Everything was all packed, and all we had to do was take in the slides, turn off the electricity (we hadn’t unhooked that because we needed to have the air conditioning on for Chester), so some last minute site cleanup and leave. We were just starting the cleanup when the maintenance manager came by and told us not to worry about it. So we just hopped in the truck and took off.
Sonoran Desert
We had a grand trip until just about half-way to Tucson, when the truck broke down at Mile Post 147. Now the last thing you want to do is break down in the middle of the Sonoran Desert when there is an extreme heat emergency warning in place. We immediately got on the phone with Good Sam Roadside Assistance for a tow truck to come rescue us. We are sitting in the truck, sweating away, because the breakdown took out the air conditioning, when we learned Good Sam would only cover towing of the truck. I immediately got on the phone to our insurance agent in Kennewick to see if we had tow coverage on the trailer. We did, but it only paid if that company made the tow arrangements. I was brusquely told I should have called the insurance company first, and suggested I cancel the tow truck on the way and have the insurance company make new arrangements. However, they would only tow the trailer in.

Give me a break! We’d only been sitting in a hot truck (doors open and windows down) for two hours and weren’t about to sit there another two hours, especially since it was 120 degrees out. Actually, we wouldn’t have been allowed to. About that time, an Arizona Highway Patrol officer stopped and informed us he was taking us to a truck stop about four miles up the road. We said we were told we had to stay with the truck and trailer. He told us to call the tow company and have them pick us up there, and if they said they couldn’t do it, he’d talk to them.

So that is how Chester got to ride in a cop car and be a K-9 officer for four miles. Not that he knew or even cared what was happening.  He was so hot he was gasping for breath, and then he collapsed; we thought we’d lost him. We waited at the truck stop for about 15 minutes before the tow truck arrived. It took about 35 minutes in the air-conditioned cab before Chester stirred again.

While we were waiting, Jon had called an auto dealer in Casa Grande about getting the truck repaired. However, the tow truck driver suggested we use a repair shop next door as it was more reasonably priced and did good work. After dropping me, Chester and the trailer off at an RV park, he took Jon and the truck to this shop.

And now begins the most exciting part of our day. The repair shop was really great, quickly diagnosed the problem and called for parts. The only catch was that they didn’t accept credit or debit cards; it was cash only. They had one of their employees drive Jon to the RV park to get me, and then took us to the local branch of my bank to use the ATM. Why is this exciting? Because the guy drove like a maniac – talking on his cell phone, talking to us, waving both hands around all the while speeding down city streets, changing lanes with no particular rhyme or reason. Jon, who was in the front seat, was hanging onto the “oh shit” bar for dear life. When we got back to the repair shop, he left us in the car while he went to check on the truck. I whispered to Jon, “are we still alive?” He replied he thought so, and then said the driver never went under 60 mph, even though the speed limit was 35 mph. We later determined the driver had graduated summa cum laude from the Beijing Taxi Drivers Training Academy.

The repair shop was great, and stayed past closing time to get the truck done that night. We stayed in Casa Grande a couple of nights, and drove into Tucson this morning.



Monday, July 14, 2014

The joys of RV showering

The shower in our RV
Keeping yourself clean is a never-ending job as well as a challenge when you’re living the RV life.

Almost all recreational vehicles today have showers of some size, from very small to almost as big as what you had at home.

The challenge is to make the most of what you have. If you’re dry camping, you have to be more conservative with your water usage than if you’re hooked up to an RV park’s water system.

Showers have a hand-held shower head that can also be hooked up to the wall. Positioning the shower head can be tricky if you’re using it at its full height. In our trailer, this isn’t such a good idea as the water sprays over the top of the shower, down the wall and onto the floor.

Just under the shower head is a horizontal button to control water flow. This is very important when you’re dry camping and you need to make the water in your fresh water tank last as long as possible  You just slide the button back and forth to turn the water off and on. Turn the water on and rinse down, then turn the water off and soap up. Turn the water on and rinse the soap off.

If you need high water pressure to feel really clean, you’re probably not going to get it in your RV shower. Most RV parks have public showers for guest use. I’ve used these in the past, but mostly I’m too lazy to carry everything over to the shower and back.

No matter how frustrated I get with the shower in our trailer, I only need remind myself of our first trailer which had no shower or toilet facilities. We used to go camping at a place that was very dusty, dirty, dry and hot in the summer. I’d be ready for a shower after a couple of days. Since I consider sponge baths a waste of time, that left bathing in a glacier-fed creek as my only option. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Something every RV cook needs

Old colander, new colander
I found something today that anyone who does any cooking in an RV or other small kitchen needs to have: a collapsible colander.

The regular size colander I have is great if you’re in a regular size home kitchen, but it takes up too much room in the limited cupboard space our travel trailer has. I didn’t want to toss it because I use it several times a week, but I was getting tired of moving it around in the cupboard as I looked for other utensils and dishes.

Collapsible colander
After an unsuccessful few hours of running around Yuma this morning for a tool Jon needed, we were on our way back to the RV park when we passed Wally’s World (no relation to Wal-Mart that I am aware of) on 32nd Street in Yuma. Their street sign boasted tools for sale, and Jon found what he needed for his project.  The store has much more than tools. It has a wonderfully eclectic mish-mash of a little bit of everything, including this plastic collapsible colander.

While this colander isn’t as big as my other one, it will do the job. It is small enough to fit in a kitchen drawer. It collapses and expands easily. Though I’ve never seen something like this before, it should be found easily in other stores, since it bears the Pillsbury logo.

Disclaimer: The federal government requires me to tell you that neither Wally’s World nor Pillsbury provided any type of compensation for mentioning them in this article.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Staying connected on the road

View from Foothills library
We’ve been spending a lot of time at the Foothills library recently. Partly because it’s a lot cooler than our trailer and partly because of the free internet. It also has better views out the windows than our trailer does.

We have a mobile hotspot (Verizon Jetpack)  that allows us to get internet service wherever we can get Verizon cell phone service. It’s a handy little device to have, but expensive to use. The rate is based on the amount of data you use. Initially we signed up for 4 gigabytes of data usage per month. Go over that amount, and the cost zooms from $50 to $80 a month. I upped our plan to 6 GB a month for just $10 more total. Still expensive, but we can usually manage on that amount.

We were managing pretty well on 4 GB a month, but that was when I was in treatment five to seven days a week at the hospital. Jon used to bring his laptop and watch youtube videos for two to four hours a day on the hospital’s internet connection. Videos eat up so much data that I won’t let him watch them at home. Since we no longer make daily trips to the hospital, he needed another internet connection. Hence, the daily visits to the local branch of the Yuma County Library District, so he can watch videos to his heart’s content.

Like most libraries, this one limits internet time if you use their computers. Bring your own laptop and you can be online all day. The Foothills branch is a really nice library, and is bigger than the main branch of the Mid-Columbia Library back home in Kennewick, Washington. One side of the building is nothing but windows with a wonderful view of the mountains that surround Yuma. The library also sells snacks, such as sandwiches, bagels, chips, soft drinks and candy bars, so you can munch away while you’re online.

Staying connected on the road is important. We both do more than just email. I use the internet to research articles for the clients I write for, as well as for my own writing projects. Many RV parks offer internet service, but it’s usually not free. Plus, you have to sign up for each park’s service and that can get to be a hassle. We got our portable hotspot after one park’s service said my bank refused the credit card charges – this is after I’d spent an hour on the phone with a tech just trying to get to the web page where you sign up – while the bank said the ISP never submitted any charges, so how could they refuse them. Multiply this by a different park every night or every week, and it’s just not worth the trouble.

The convenience of not having to go through this every time we change RV parks is worth the extra money. We hope to be back on the road in the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to researching campgrounds while Jon is driving. That’s something you can’t do with a standard modem.

Disclaimer: The federal government requires me to say that I did not receive any compensation from Verizon for mentioning their service in this article.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Doing laundry on the road: save those quarters!

Whether you live in a stick-built house or a recreational vehicle, doing laundry is a necessity unless, of course, you’re one of those people who wear clothes until they get so dirty they stand up by themselves and then you throw them away.

It just isn’t as much fun on the road. Few RVs have room for even a small washer and dryer, which means you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the RV park’s laundry room. Before we left home, I scoured the internet for manual washers. I found one that was hand cranked and used only two gallons of water. It could hold a couple of pairs of jeans and four t-shirts or a sheet. Unfortunately, it did not come with a wringer. I looked into getting the wringer off an old wringer washer, but those things are considered antique now, somewhat hard to find and not cheap if you do find one.

During the season, doing laundry is a social activity in that you get to meet other RVers doing their laundry. There’s also a good selection of magazines left by other RVers when they’ve finished with them, so if you’re the only one there, you’ve got lots of reading material to occupy your time.

Coming up with enough quarters to do our wash can be a hassle. We put every quarter we get into a special jar; if we’re lucky, we have enough quarters saved up by the time to do laundry again. If not, we have to leave the park to get more. However, not all RV laundry rooms take quarters. One park we stayed at required campers to buy tokens from them in $5 increments. In our case, $5 wasn’t enough to do one session of laundry, but $10 was too much. Unfortunately, park management won’t buy the unused tokens back. I’m told some parks require RVers to use their special pre-paid cards in amounts of their choosing. Supposedly, they also won’t buy the unused portion back. If you can’t sell the tokens or cards to other RVers, I guess you’ve just bought yourself some souvenirs.

Our first encounter with an RV park laundry room was in Redding, California, on New Year’s Day. The weather was sunny and balmy, and we enjoyed sitting by the pool while their machines did our work.

So far, we’ve only encountered immaculately clean laundry rooms, though I was distressed about finding “out of order” signs taped to half the washers and dryers at an older RV park. Of course, a lot of people wanted to do laundry at the same time I did, which meant a long wait for the machines. Just as I was putting my last load into a washer, a man carried eight laundry baskets in. I was so furious when I saw him rip off the out-of-order signs, put his quarters and laundry in and the machines miraculously worked.

What I’ve learned from doing laundry on the road is never to take a home washer and dryer for granted again.



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yuma, Arizona: Summertime and the livin' ain't easy!

Skies definitely are blue in Yuma.
To paraphrase that beautiful ballad from Porgy and Bess is almost  like ruining the song, but the words describe what a summer in Yuma is like for snowbirds who stay on after the season is over.

Sure, the lines at the Walmart prescription counters are a lot shorter. Instead of standing in line for an hour, at least, to drop off prescriptions and then another hour or more to pick them up, you can be in and out in mere minutes. I, however, would be willing to stand in these long lines if it meant lower temperatures outside. Temperatures have been in triple digits here since early April. I swear I’ll scream if I hear a permanent resident tell me one more time, “If you think it’s hot now, just wait until July.”

Keeping cool is paramount
Life in Yuma these days is a mad dash from an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned building and back again. (Some Walmarts and the local mall have covered parking.)  I’m beginning to see why siestas are such an important part of Latin American culture, though I’m finding it too hot to sleep in the afternoon. Even running the air conditioning full time in our trailer, temperatures don’t get cool enough to sleep comfortably until about 4 a.m. By 6 a.m., the temperatures are moving from searing to scorching, and the day goes downhill from then, even though the temperatures are only going uphill.

We’ve taken to doing our laundry in the middle of the night because the laundry room isn’t air-conditioned. Plus, we used to do laundry every week, but now try to go at least two weeks between washing. A hose connects our trailer to the city water system. Cold showers have become the norm because water comes out of the cold tap warm enough that you don’t have to turn on the hot water tap.

Our awning would provide some shade if we could use it. High winds can come up at any time in Yuma and will bounce the awning around, damaging it. (There have been times I’ve put the awning down at 6 a.m., only to bring it in at 6:30 a.m.
Avoiding dehydration is important
Dehydration is always a risk in hot weather. Our bottled water bill has quadrupled since the temperatures started soaring. While we may leave our American Express card at home when we go out (well, we would if we had one), we never leave the trailer without cold bottled water, frequently in a small ice chest. A bottle of frozen water can go from ice to too hot to drink when left in my scooter's drink cup holder even for a few minutes.

There’s less to do in Yuma in the summer months. When we arrived here back in January, I was too sick to do many touristy things. Now that I’m better and can get around more, the attractions are closed until fall. That includes one of our favorite spots, Martha’s Gardens, an organic date farm that serves the most delicious date milk shakes.

So when will we be leaving Yuma? Who knows? Our intent was to be here only a few weeks, but my medical problems have kept us here longer. We’ve quit guesstimating when we might be able to leave; every time we think we might be out of here in a few weeks, I have a setback. Note to snowbirds: If you’re looking for excellent, senior-friendly health care, Yuma is the place to be. The main facility where I treat is considered one of the best in the country, and on the cutting edge of medicine.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The joys of RV cooking

At least these pancakes didn't get burned!
Cooking in an RV’s small kitchen is proving to be a challenge. Not only is there inadequate preparation space, storage space for pots, pans and ingredients is limited. No siree, cooking is not a lot of fun these days.

The stove has a cover you can put down and sink covers that are supposed to provide additional counter space, since the counter space is in inches, not feet, like a house’s kitchen. In theory this sounds good, but in reality it’s not. If you’re cooking one dish while preparing another, you can’t have the stove cover down. Not to mention that I hate this stove; it runs on propane, and only one of the three burners has an adjustable temperature. When I have to use more than that one burner, I frequently end up burning a lot of food. (My apartment at China Daily had a gas stove, and I never burned so much food in my life. It probably didn’t help any that the temperature dial notations were in Chinese!)

I suppose I could cook one dish at a time, but that means the first-cooked dishes would be served cold. I suppose I could warm them up in the microwave, but running the microwave at the same time the air conditioner is on trips a breaker in the fuse box and we have a trailer-wide power outage. It’s such a hassle to go back and reset clocks, computers, etc. We have the AC running most of the time because of Yuma’s triple-digit temperatures. (109-degrees in April? You better believe it!)

I also don’t do as much baking as I used to, mainly because you have to get down on your knees, stick your head in the oven, and wave a lighter around to ignite the pilot light. I can usually sweet talk Jon into doing this, but that means I can’t surprise him with treats.

As I was packing up my kitchen in Kennewick, I organized my spices, herbs, flavorings and other ingredients into plastic boxes by the frequency with which I used them. I then placed them in the trailer cupboards in that same order. This turned out to be another thing that sounded good in theory, but in reality doesn’t work out. It is such a hassle to get the boxes out of cupboards I can barely reach unless I stand on a shaky step stool.

Even if the ingredients were more easily reachable, I don’t have the necessary pots and pans for cooking like I used to. At home in Kennewick, I had two woks and six frying pans, each used for a different purpose, and the same amount of sauce pans. Due to limited storage space in the trailer, I was only able to bring three frying pans (two small and one medium-sized) and two sauce pans. It just isn’t enough to do the type of cooking I want to do.

We eat a lot of sandwiches for dinner.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The snowbirds are migrating

An emptying RV park
With days getting warmer all the time in southern Arizona, the snowbirds are going home. Yuma, where we’re at, has been in triple digit temps for several days now, though locals say these temps are unseasonably warm for this time of year. The temps are so warm that news reports say rattlesnakes are coming out of hibernation early.

Many of Yuma’s 90,000 snowbirds started going home in mid-March, and more are pulling out every day. It’s hard to get a handle on how many are left in the RV park we’re at, because some people leave their RVs here year ’round or else have park model homes. We pass about a dozen RV parks on the way to the hospital every day, and they also are turning into ghost towns. We recently drove through Quartszite, where we spent a week in January, and saw many of the city’s 28 RV parks totally empty.
Another sign the snowbirds are migrating is the lines at the Walmart pharmacy department. Back in February, lines to drop off prescriptions wound down the aisle, almost to the door. Lines to pick up prescriptions were equally long the other way. People easily stood in either line for an hour or more to be helped. Now there are no lines and prescriptions are ready in 15 minutes or less, instead of a day or two.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Our first house-hunting adventure

One of the things Jon and I hope to accomplish on our excellent adventure is to find a new place to settle down. One of the places I was interested in living was Las Vegas, so we made a quick trip up there to check out the housing market.

Prior to leaving, Jon searched the Internet and compiled a list of properties he thought we should look at. They were mostly fixer-uppers. When we got to Vegas, we started calling real estate agents, which turned out to be a waste of time.

Jon gave the addresses to two different agents, both of whom said they’d map out a route and call us back with a meeting place. They never did. A third agent said he didn’t show any properties to buyers who weren’t pre-qualified. Since this was just a scouting trip, we didn’t see any need to get pre-qualified. A fourth agent said he considered showing properties valued at less than $100,000 a complete waste of his time.

We ended up just driving around neighborhoods to get a feel for the city, but found very few for-sale signs up. Which was OK, because we quickly decided we didn’t want to live there because of unsafe driving conditions. Check out this post on Cheryl’s China for more details.

We took a drive north of Vegas to look over a couple of towns, but they didn’t appeal to us. On the way back, we detoured to Bullhead City, Arizona, and were impressed with the town. We even found some properties we might make a return trip to look at. I’m still not convinced I can live in the desert, because I do like my green forests and blue water. Bullhead City is on the Colorado River, across from Laughlin, Nevada, so that at least met some of my requirements.
We anticipate getting to leave Yuma, Arizona, where we've been since mid-January, in late May or June, so we'll have plenty more opportunity to house-hunt. Jon is also keen on checking out Missouri and northcentral Florida.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Yesterday's RV rests in museum

A vintage RV
Today’s RVers have never traveled in so much comfort: microwaves, television, gas or electric-powered refrigerators, small but adequate bathrooms, in short all the comforts of home.

That hasn’t always been true. Our first trailer was only 15 feet long, had no bathroom or running water, an icebox instead of a refrigerator, but we survived. And, I assume, we would have survived even in the antique motor home we saw at the Cloud Museum in Bard, California recently. The motor home dates to the 1930s and is in pretty bad shape, but you could still see how advanced it must have been for its time.
Inside an old RV
It had an ice box, a four-burner propane stove, a wall storage system I’d love to have in our current trailer, a nice sized sink and bunk beds. The sleeping area had a small vanity sink and a toilet (Jon thinks the waste was just dumped out on the ground), which I wondered why it hadn’t been put in a nice-sized closet. There were chairs that looked like they would have been very comfortable for the driver and passenger.

The walkway from the front to the rear was very narrow, and slides hadn't been invented yet. I couldn’t identify anything that would have served as a dining area. The inside was quite compact and would have served a couple’s needs quite nicely. If it were given a cosmetic makeover inside and out, and an engine overhaul, it would meet the needs of today’s RVers.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Health care on the road

Nurse Jon at work
Our excellent adventure is on hiatus. Oh, we're still having an adventure, it's just not excellent. We are in Yuma now and will be for the foreseeable future. Our plans to tour the United States have been put on hold, pending resolution of my health problems.

When we left Kennewick in late December, I was told the infection on the middle toe on my left foot was cured, and there was no infection in my right big toe, but that we should check in periodically with a wound care center to they could look at it and cut away the dead skin. Something happened in the month it took us to get to Yuma' the infected area on my big toe grew and the bone in the middle toe got infected.

Coming down, the best I could do was go to a walk-in clinic where the doctor said she wasn't a wound expert, but did prescribe antibiotics. I'd tried two wound centers along the way but they weren't interested in seeing anyone on a one-shot basis.

The bone infection, called osteomylitis, is being treated by the medical community here. Curing a bone infection is hard work. We must make two 25-mile round trips a day to the Yuma hospital for IV antibiotic treatments. Because of traffic, it takes about 35-40 minutes one-way. The 8 a.m. session is the longest, about 90 minutes, because they drip two antibiotics into me; only one is used at the 5 p.m. session. This is seven days a week for six to eight weeks, because that's how long it takes for new bone to grow. If the infection responds well to the treatment, they may reduce it to one treatment a day. The alternative is to have my toe amputated, something I'm not too keen on having done.

In addition to this, Jon must medicate and bandage my toes twice a day. He is getting very good at this, so good it looks almost as professional as what the wound care nurses do at my weekly appointments.
Moral of this story: Keep that damn cholesterol under control High cholesterol leads to poor circulation in your feet. Poor circulation in your feet means infections in your feet won't heal properly.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A new Arizonan

Chester doesn't think much of his svelte
new look
Chester is now a legal resident of Arizona but we’re still snowbirds.

When we took Chester to the vet last week for his semi-annual grooming, he also got a new rabies shot, since the old one expires next month.

Under Arizona law, if a dog is vaccinated for rabies in the state, he must also be licensed to live in Arizona.

He didn’t have to be licensed to live in Kennewick, which makes this sound weird.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reflections on Yuma, Arizona

Blue skies over Yuma
So we’ve been in Yuma a week now, and what do I think of the place. Jon loves it and would like to settle here, but the jury is still out for me.

Yuma is sprawled out all over the place. The RV park we’re at is way out in the middle of somewhere, not too far from the Fortuna Road exit off Interstate 8. 32nd Street is the closest major street for us. Flat fields growing veggies or citrus trees are interspersed with snowbird RV parks and strip malls. While downtown Yuma is probably about 10 miles away, there’s a Walmart superstore within two miles. Going a mile in the other direction is one of the best supermarkets I’ve been in in a long time. There also are some chain stores, banks and chain restaurants.

Food is expensive here. A gallon of milk costs about 40 cents more than we paid at Winco in Kennewick; whole grain breads that we like are about $5 a loaf. A package of frozen chicken breasts costs $3 a bag more than in Kennewick for the same brand. Even the fresh veggies are more expensive.

There are dollar stores all over the place, but a couple of them (Family Dollar and Dollar General) charge more than a dollar for many items. Only a true Dollar Store and a 99-cent store keep everything to that price, though the 99-cent store does charge more for a gallon of milk, but is still cheaper than the supermarket.

I am having problems finding my way around Yuma due to their weird street naming practice. Numbered streets are both streets and avenues; 32nd street becomes South Frontage Road just south of Walmart. Plus north and south Frontage roads are not just one street. Oh, no! They intersect each other.

Yuma is not a good city to ride motor scooters in. Traffic moves too fast for me, though I can keep up with the traffic if I go 55 mph, which I don’t mind doing for short stretches, just not for miles at a time. We really haven’t seen that many other scooter riders, and I’m wondering if this is why. The traffic doesn’t seem to bother Jon, who rides his scooter a lot more than I do mine.

Air pollution is minimal, which is very nice. Skies are really blue and you can see the mountains surrounding this big valley that Yuma sits in.

We originally intended to stay here a month, but may be staying a lot longer, due to unforeseen circumstances. Maybe I will learn to like it better, though my preference is still for a place that has green trees (forests are more like it) and lots of water, like in oceans.






Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We're in Yuma!

Vegetable fields coming into Yuma.
We arrived in Yuma early this afternoon after a leisurely 80-mile drive from Quartzsite where we’d spent the last week. After a few weeks of sagebrush and cactus, it was quite pleasant to see flat fields, neatly-tilled rows growing fresh vegetables. They even have grass here! And we have an RV site that is asphalt and not gravel. We plan to spend at least a month here, exploring the area and maybe making a couple of day trips to Mexico, which is just a few miles away.

In the if-anything-can-go-wrong-it-will-happen-to-us department, we apparently averted one disaster. When we arrived in Quartzsite, we had one of our propane tanks refilled. Don’t ask me how this happened, but the attendant managed to stuff 8.4 gallons of propane in a tank that holds only seven gallons, and probably only needed four gallons, the amount we’ve been using each week. The propane went off in the middle of the night, leaving us to freeze in the cool desert nights. OK, so we didn’t freeze, but if we hadn’t had the electric blanket on, we might have. Jon got up in the wee hours and switched tanks so we could have heat.

Chester takes up scooter riding.
When we got to Yuma today, we needed to get the second tank filled. Jon told the attendant what happened with the first tank, and he said we were lucky the tank didn’t go boom! in the middle of the night. He was concerned enough with the threat of explosion that he put on protective gear before draining off the excess propane. And he told us
to never put more than 6.8 gallons in the tank at one time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Quartzsite RV show

Quartzsite RV show
What’s billed as the largest RV show in the world opened today at Quartzsite, Arizona, where we’re now staying. Of course, we had to go.

We were disappointed in the recreational vehicles they had for sale, and  couldn’t find a couple of models we were curious to see. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there; this is a big show and I couldn’t find a map which showed where everything was located. Plus, Jon with a bad knee and me with a bad foot just didn’t have the energy to walk through the entire exhibition.

There didn’t seem to be too many people looking at the RVs themselves. Most of the action seemed to be taking place in a 90,000-square foot tent which was mainly for RV accessories and other gadgets we supposedly can’t live without.

I was intrigued by a wire whisk that you pushed a button and it turned skim milk into thick foam in 30 seconds. The kid manning the booth wasn’t that excited about it and failed to convince me to buy one, even though he kept telling me how handy he found it in the kitchen. Just looking at the kid, I felt his cooking experience was limited to using the microwave. I really liked the gadget, however, just not $25 worth.

This annual show is supposed to draw upwards of one million visitors in its eight-day run.  If the number of people on hand for opening day was any indication, this just could happen. Traffic was a mess; it was the first time I’d ever been in stop-and-go traffic on my scooter. It wasn’t particularly a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Camping" in RV parks

Harris Beach campsite
Expensive does not necessarily mean good when it comes to RV parks. In fact, we have enjoyed our stays more in older, less expensive RV parks.

Probably, the nicest site we had was at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon. It cost $22 per night, with a roomy site surrounded by shrubbery for privacy. You could even see the ocean when you stood on the top step into the trailer.

The most expensive site was a Thousand Trails park just south of Newport. It cost just over $40 for a night, but it was late and we didn’t care what the cost was. We were given their longest pull-through site but the trailer and pickup still hung out at both ends. Plus, the trailer separated the picnic table from the fire pit. Not that we used either one.

We also liked a small, older park in Needles, California, that bordered the Colorado River, which was smooth as glass when I walked Chester down there the next morning.

We even tried boondocking (dry camping in a self-contained rig) a couple of times. Both times were free. Once in the Spirit Mountain Casino RV lot and another time at a Flying J truck stop in California that allowed Good Sam members to overnight free. We quite enjoyed Spirit Mountain, but the truck stop was pretty miserable. We gave up trying to sleep about 4 a.m., walked across the grounds to a restaurant for breakfast, then pulled out.

Walmart is the most popular place for boondocking, but I've met people who've overnighted in a McDonald's parking lot after it was closed. We considered boondocking on BLM land here in Quartzsite, but decided we didn't want to give up the electric blanket since desert nights are still cold.

I’m also finding that all sites within a specific RV park are not created equal. Some have picnic tables, others don’t. Some are on level ground, others slant down a hill.

We’re also finding that the staff at all the parks are really super, and go out of their way to make sure we have a pleasant stay. Because of this, we would return to most of the ones we’ve stayed at so far.

I have been amazed at how easy it is to tell regular snowbirds from newbies, like us. Regular snowbirds wear shorts and t-shirts while we're still bundled up in jeans and heavy sweatshirts. Regular snowbirds put indoor-outdoor carpeting around their RV to cover the gravel and also tote along regular patio furniture. And regular snowbirds have special cafeteria trays, about double the size of the food trays we used in grade school, to eat off of at potlucks; we showed up with paper plates.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Keeping connected on the road

Keeping connected is costly.
Communication is always important and more so when you are traveling. You need to keep in touch with family and friends back home as well as what is happening in the rest of the world.

Modern technology obviously makes this easier for us than the pioneers who crossed the continent in the 19th century.

Today, we have cell phones and wireless internet service, but all technology is not considered equal.

We have already established we need a cell phone service that works out in the boonies, though what we have works great in larger towns.

Internet service also is a must for today’s travelers. I’d looked into mobile hotspot before we left home, but couldn’t decide on a provider. Some of the RV parks we’ve stayed at have provided free internet service. Yea!

Then we hit Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The park here has an arrangement with an ISP which charges significantly for time, though the price does drop to an attractive rate if you sign up for a year. I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for the week we would be here. A disaster. I spent an hour of cell phone time (not insignificant since we pay by the minute) with their techies trying to get signed up. The rate they wanted to charge was higher than posted and as quoted by one technician. During this process, their website noted my account had expired two hours before I signed up and they wanted another payment to reactivate it. Then it said my credit card was rejected – I called the bank and was told the charge had never been submitted; I told the bank to deny the charge if it should come through. It took another two phone calls the next day to get the account closed.

We then headed to the local Verizon store to get their jetpack, since this seemed to be the hotspot carrier of choice with other RVers. If this is the best, then I shudder to think about the worst. We have our own network, which is not always accessible. Pages are slow to load, especially if the battery is low, and makes dial-up look like a speed demon. When the battery is freshly charged, it works well, but one bar down and you can forget about internet service. The battery is supposed to stay charged for two days, but goes down in minutes.

We are looking at this as back-up service when parks don’t offer internet, but it seems like a high price to stay. We are supposed to get internet service whenever a cell phone signal is available. I have found the reception depends on where in the trailer the device is located. Service seems to be better when it sits to the left of my laptop; nada if it is on the right. Go figure.

Monday, January 6, 2014

RV frustrated yet?

Arizona between my feet
Are we frustrated yet?

You betcha!,

The latest frustration is probably insignificant when compared to everything that has gone wrong so far, but it is indeed frustrating.

When we left Needles, California, Monday morning, we paid $4.29 for a gallon of gas, and thought it was a bargain, since most other places wanted $4.39. Twenty miles later we were in Arizona where the first gas station was selling gas for $3.13 per gallon.

Gas prices have been all over, from a low of $3.09  to the high in Needles. I budgeted $5 a gallon.

Gosh! RV ever learning things!

Ten days into our excellent adventure, we have learned a lot of things. Unfortunately, some of this newfound knowledge was learned the hard way.

Here’s a few of the things we/I learned:

You can never find a cop when you need one.
  1. We sat on the shoulder of a cold, wet and dark I-84 for two hours waiting for the Good Sam rescuer. Not once did a cop stop to see what was going on.
  2. We were driving south on Highway 99 out of Sacramento, when we observed a semi driving erratically, going off onto the shoulder and then over to the other side, crossing into the second lane when cars were trying to pass the truck by in that lane. Jon called 911 to report this. Ten miles later, the semi was so far over into the other lane he missed hitting a travel trailer by several inches. Jon called 911 again and was told a cop had been dispatched. Since the semi’s license plate was dirty, the dispatcher told Jon to pass the semi and describe the tractor. This was scary indeed.
  3. We had a problem with the trailer a few miles out of Boron, California (home of the 20 Mule Team Museum), and parked in a wide spot off the road for the two hours it took for Jon to jerryrig a repair. No cop stopped to see what was going on.
California’s bottle deposit law sucks.

California charges a 5-cent deposit per soda can or water bottle. In Oregon, you can get your deposit back at the grocery store when you return the container, but this isn’t how it works in California. You have to take a minimum of 10 pounds of cans (no squashed ones, please) to a recycling center where they pay you 40 cents a pound. Since it takes an average of 22 cans to make a pound, the state makes 70 cents on every pound of cans you turn in.

Don’t complain about the number of tools and parts Jon brought along.

Before we left home, I complained to Jon about the excessive amount of tools and parts he was bringing along. I won’t do this again. Given the number of problems we’ve had, those tools have come in handy.

Reliable cell phone service is a must.

We don’t use cell phones enough to justify going with a monthly plan from a major provider, so we use a pay-by-the-minute plan with an unknown provider. This worked really well in Kennewick and big towns we’ve gone through on the way, but not in smaller towns, though, fortunately, we were able to get service both times when we sat on the side of the road. We need something that is reliable almost 24/7, so one of us will probably be switching over to T-mobile soon. We took a road trip in 2006 and I remember being surprised to get cell service from T-mobile out in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.
A Mohave rest area

Don’t turn on the water pump when you’re hooked up to an RV park’s water system.

If you do, you’re probably going to blow out the outside water system and flood your bedroom. I learned this the hard way. Nuff said.

You never know who your neighbors will be.

The RV park where we spent New Years hosted breakfast on New Year’s Day. Imagine my surprise when the couple I was sitting with turned out to be from Hermiston Oregon, less than a 30-minute drive from Kennewick. They’ve been fulltime RVers since 2005.

You can never be too prepared.

We thought we were prepared for our new lifestyle, but obviously we weren’t, or we wouldn’t be having all the problems we’ve had.  It is not much consolation when experienced RVers tell us our problems are par for the course with newbies and that ours aren’t as bad as the problems they had starting out.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The view between my feet

The view between my feet

So far into our trip, I have looked at my feet almost as much as I have the scenery in Oregon and California. I have the snack bag and the garbage bag, as well as my purse and coat, on the floor where my feet should be. When it gets too cramped down there, I rest my feet on the dashboard.

Not a happy camper
While this is uncomfortable, I console myself by noting how much better off I am than Chester. Jon has the backseat so packed with boxes of tools and parts, helmets and assorted other mechanical things, there is barely room for Chester to ride. He normally likes to sleep stretched out, but now he has to sleep curled up in a ball. To add insult to injury, a couple of times the boxes have come loose and buried him in the back seat.