Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Catching up in Sedona


It has been roughly two months since my last post, and a lot has happened since then, some of which will affect plans into next year. Besides the ups and downs of climbing various mountain ranges to get from Rapid City to Sedona, thoughts and emotions have been on a roller coaster, as well as our internet service. When traveling, I did not have time to think about writing, and for the past six weeks, our internet was barely suitable for texting. And often, I was just not in the frame of mind to think about writing a blog. I just had way too many, and more important things on my mind.

On top of everything else, in the process of trying to delete one video file from my camera this past Saturday, I accidentally hit the delete on the camera album portion and wiped out over 250 good quality camera photos. I did a little Google research and found an app that could retrieve the photos, but it located all 5967 files on my phone, and I had to click which ones I wanted to retrieve, which took hours... and even now I'm not sure I have them all. And the ones I am seeing are nowhere near the clarity of the originals, which is why I am hesitant to even add them to the blog. I will continue to try to salvage what I can, but it doesn't look good... literally! What I have is good enough to refresh memories, but that's about all.

Update: 12.18.16: I have finally downloaded all my wife's photos from her camera, and can now share a few of them! Hurray!

Back to the travels... 

We left Rapid City and headed west, into somewhat new territory for us. We came through part of the area in 1994, on our way east from Portland, but it has been so long ago that nothing looked familiar.

We followed I-90 to Gillette, WY, where we stayed at a Walmart overnight, and then headed south on State Road 59 to Wright, where we headed SW on Hwy 387, and then 259 south to meet up with I-25 north of Casper. We thought we were going to stop at the Walmart there, but inadvertantly took a loop around it, so we continued on.

From Casper, we took Hwy 220 southwest, and then it changed to 789/287 southwest of Independence Rock.

We stayed at a Rawlins, WY Walmart for the night, and then headed west on I-80 to where 789 continues south into Colorado and becomes Hwy 13. Our next overnight stop was in Craig, CO at another Walmart.

The next leg of our trip was a long one... all the way from Craig to Montrose, CO, with only one short stop at the city rest park at Rifle, CO to dump our tanks. Unfortunately, out of several water spigots on the site, NONE of them worked, and we were nearly out of water in our tanks. All we had was a few gallon jugs for spares until we could find more.

We also thought we might stop in Grand Junction for another night at a Walmart, but we had plenty of daylight left and decided to continue on to Montrose, and it worked out even better.

We got into Montrose and found a great parking spot right along the grassy area in front of the Walmart Superstore. We could still see snow on the mountains to the south of us. The next morning, we needed to do laundry and also find water and propane, and after a quick search of Google maps and then Google Earth to make sure the parking could accommodate our rig, we found a laundromat just up the street from the KOA, so we were able to take care of all three tasks within the same block, but on the other end of town.

We stayed another night at Montrose, and then headed for Gunnison, with a goal of checking out our new home park in our resort system membership...Blue Mesa Ranch, 12 miles west of Gunnison and right next to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. We had been past it before in 1989, but were not members back then, so this was our first time "in" the resort.

Blue Mesa RV Ranch Resort Clubhouse

We found it very nice, with a lot of amenities, as a luxury resort should be, but the Verizon (or any other) signal there is so weak as to be unusable... even for email. We were forced to leave our parking spot nearly every other day, to go about 12 miles into town to take care of business, both on the web and off. For that reason, the park is not one we will use again. Lack of internet caused delays and interruptions in some very important communication, and at very inopportune times!

We did gain enough information as to what connections still remain with Western Horizon Resorts, AOR and Sunbelt, that instead of our having two weeks free as our original contract stated, that we now have to pay varying amounts of fees in order to use the resorts. So again, we may have to abandon a membership which cost us nearly $7,000 when originally purchased (plus ongoing maintenance fees), and now has become worthless to us. But to continue to pay on something which we no longer use and is only going to cost us more fees when we do... well, as they say "it ain't gonna happen".

So... after spending our maximum two weeks in a park that we were forced to pay not only $5 per day for camping fees (unless we upgraded our membership to $499 a year rather than the $299 we currently pay), plus another $12.50 a week extra to use their in-park WI-FI system... on one computer only (also owned by the park's owner, Lance Loken), we headed back to Montrose, where we spent an additional three days at Walmart in the same parking spot we had before.

We debated whether to head south through Ouray and Silverton, down the "million dollar highway" #550, but we had been on that road in 1989 and didn't feel like doing it again with this RV and trailer. Too many steep hills and less than ideal brakes on the motorhome actually made our minds up for us. So we headed back northwest (and out of our way) to go through Grand Junction and into Utah.

We stopped at one very scenic rest park just inside the Utah line on I-70, and hiked to the top of the nearby overlook.

Utah Welcome Center on I-70 west bound.

We then cut south on Hwy 191, right past the Arches National Park entrance, Canyonlands National Park entrance and to an overnight stop at Monticello, Utah in a convenient empty lot next to a quick mart. Other trucks and a couple RVs joined us there for the night, so we knew it was OK.

Approaching the west entrance of Arches National Park.

The next day we continued our journey south and then cut west on Hwy 163 through Monument Valley, toward Mexican Hat, and on to Kayenta.

The famous upside-down sombrero of Mexican Hat, Utah.

There, we followed 160 west through Tuba City and then a short hop on Hwy 89 to Hwy 64 west toward the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

We had been in contact with another blogger who suggested a site just south of Tusayan on Long Jim Loop Road, and found a nice site for the night. 

Our free RV site on Long Jim Loop Road at Tusayan.

Our next target was the Coconino National Forest just west of Flagstaff, where the summer Rubber Tramp Rendevous (RTR) had been held. Bob Wells (from CheapRVLiving.com) was gracious enough to provide a video going in to where the group had been parked, so it helped to know where we were going and what the roads were like. We didn't go as far back as they did, but in reality, we had already gone a little too far back, as the internet faded again where we were. It was strong enough for texts, but no uploading files or watching videos.

Our free campsite at Coconino National Forest.

Just prior to getting there, we joined up with another Facebook personality and cargo trailer camper that we knew, and we all went in together... where we remained for over six weeks! Yes, we know the limit in National Forests is supposed to be two weeks, and we were skeptical at first, when we didn't see any rangers for several weeks. But near the end of our stay, we were told BY a ranger, that they seldom bother anyone, as long as they keep their sites neat and don't cause any problems.

Our fellow traveler "almost" blew that rule for us by starting a campfire one day with some wet wood. The resulting heavy smoke must have alerted a ranger, because that's when one DID show up that day to check out the smoke. But he got called away on an emergency before the conversation got too far, and he never bothered us again.

As the weather neared the 30 degree (overnight) mark we decided to get out of the high country and head for lower (and warmer) elevations, and we decided Sedona would be our target.

Our free campsite on FR525 at Sedona.

We had no need to go west toward Kingman and then have to head all the way south to Ehrenberg again, but getting there from here isn't easy, either. We have to go farther southeast from here to get back on I-17, and then west on Carefree Hwy 74 over to Wickenburg, north a few miles and then west on 60 to get to our goal this winter.

In the mountains nothing ever runs straight, and especially with pulling heavy loads, you often have to find routes that are the easiest to climb (or descend).

For right now, That is our plan. We still want to meet up with one of my former work associates here in Sedona, but he is extremely busy trying to get a few work projects wrapped up, and then he will be out of town next week, so meeting up with him will likely have to wait until he gets back.

Also, the temperatures in the lower desert, particularly along the Colorado River, have not started cooling down yet. It is often mid-October before they fall below the 100 degree mark, so we are trying to stay to moderate elevations, and relocate only when the temperatures allow. It's possible we could be in this area until mid-October!

What's in the future...

I will only say at this time that major changes are coming through the winter and into next year. The cargo trailer is likely going to go. With no cargo trailer, even the name of the blog may change. This one will remain, but a new one will be created that will better reflect the new lifestyle, and I would link from this one to the new one so no one gets lost.

As far as what will replace the cargo trailer, we are searching for a high-top (former) limo van, very similar to what Dan Cordray found. (You can find him on Facebook, and at his dot com web site in his name. We need an empty van right now, in order to clean out at least one of our storage spaces this winter (and the second one later) and then the van will be gradually converted (by me) to a camper van as we purge unnecessary possessions and get into next year.

We fully expect to have to drive it separately. This motorhome can barely pull itself. By eliminating the weight of the trailer, at least it will keep the strain off the drive-train, and let us get a few more miles out of this thing before a transmission or engine blows. Also, the lack of a suitable daily driver has been taking its toll on us. We haven't been getting out to see things like we had planned to. We NEED a second driveable vehicle desperately!

This motorhome may also go sometime next year, but that gets into plans that I am not ready to talk about yet. At this point we are keeping our options open, such as considering a small home base again, or else use the motorhome as a "moveable" home base, and make shorter trips with a much smaller vehicle. But if a home base is going to set in the same place for months at a time, then why have an engine and drive train when a trailer would work just as well? (As long as a tow vehicle is available).

We have to start making plans for what happens in the future. The costs of maintaining an RV this large and doing the kind of traveling we have been doing is just too expensive. We have already spent a small fortune on this thing, and we aren't done yet. A major brake job is coming up soon, which could cost as much as a thousand dollars. It also needs a power steering pump (another $600+), as this one is leaking onto the serpentine belt. The clearance lights are not working. I have no charging circuit back to the trailer, and now the brake circuit to the trailer has failed. The furnace has also stopped igniting. Despite the low mileage on this coach, I'm sure age plays a factor in failure of some items... especially soft parts like rubber seals. There are many other problems, some of which I can fix, and others that may have to be done by experts.

And if that weren't enough, this coach sets way too low to the ground to be practical for the kind of places we have been wanting to get into, and it barely has enough power to pull itself up mountain grades, let alone dragging a 3000# trailer behind it. Anything bigger, to hold all of our stuff in storage, would only be more expense to buy and operate. Rental storage is not the answer, either, as that expense adds up quick! If we are going to store stuff and use a smaller rig for traveling, it only makes sense to have a small home or some kind of place that doesn't charge storage fees! Even an RV setting for months at a time is going to incur lot rent, especially back east. If there are payments on the RV, then the liability is doubled. A Small home would not only have more space, but have one payment, and be a better investment!

If it's in snow country, that's not a problem, either, as everyone that is affected by this change is already retired. None of us have to stay through the winter!

Sharon would not continue the full-time RV lifestyle without me, especially in this particular coach with all of its problems, and we aren't getting any younger. If anything happens to either one of us, whatever we do going forward has to make a transition either way as simple as possible for either of us that is left. Those plans may include a home base closer to her sister, or at least using this coach as a "moveable" home base for the time being. The plans may include going south, rather than west for next winter. A lot of things are in limbo right now, and until definite decisions are made, some of which affect other people and who need to have some say in what happens, we can't predict "exactly" what the future may hold. Just know that there will be major changes coming this next year.

So... if I can salvage some of the photos from our trip getting here, I'll post something on the individual topics. Other than Blue Mesa Ranch and a short stop at Independence Rock in Wyoming, the rest was just beautiful country in general, with nothing really standing out. We should have reasonably good cell and internet coverage for the rest of this winter and beyond, so I should have better luck with keeping the blog up to date.

So that's the quick catch-up for now. Thank you for reading, and as always, feel free to comment.