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.

Entering Wyoming from South Dakota on I-90.

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 inadvertently 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. My wife has many more pictures of this historical attraction on her blog, which you can find in the top of the right margin on my blog.

Independence Rock welcome sign, Wyoming.

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, from $5 a day here, to more than $10 at others. And for that or less, we can boondock in far more locations, without dealing with all the rules of membership resorts, most of which have more amenities than we will ever use. And why pay for services and amenities we don't need?

So again, we may have to abandon a membership which cost us nearly $7,000 when originally purchased (plus ongoing maintenance fees since 1986), 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".

Update 12/20/16: We have contacted all of the resorts plus Coast to Coast, and have told them we no longer want or need any of these memberships, and they allowed us to opt out, so 2016 is the last year we will have to waste money on these things.

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 (that system is 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.

Entering Utah from Colorado on I-70.

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.

Headed south on Hwy 163 into Monument Valley.

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.

A fleeting look at the Grand Canyon, somewhere east of the South Entrance gate.

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. If we go here again, we'll stay in one of several sites along the main entrance road and closer to the Interstate, where we know the cell signal is much better.

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. It was nearing the end of the season in a "non-touristy" area, and they sometimes bend the rules.

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 FR 525 at Sedona.

We had no need to go west toward Kingman via I-40 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 at Ehrenberg 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 trailer brakes have failed again. 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! As long as it doesn't turn out to be a money-pit like our last one!

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! But that gets into letting a place set empty for months at a time again... a situation that I said I would never get into again!

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, as long as we have sufficient power available.

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


Susan & Jerry said...

Sounds like you have had quite an adventure. We also bought a low mileage older MH. It is an Alpha See Ya We met the folks who have the very first Alpha See Ya Coach made and they took it to Charlies in Utah....he is an expert on Alpha's but also works on other MH's. They said everything is like new. The one advantage to our MH is the 400 HP Cummins engine. We have had 0 problems pulling up hills!!! We are planning to take the MH to Charlies in the Spring and have him go over everything. We already had Cummins go over the Motor and Freightliner go over the Transmission and the Chassis. If you trade yours in, it might be a good idea to look for a stronger engine. We've put a lot of dollars into the Alpha already, but we figure with that motor it is worth it. Will be interested in following how you work this all out. None of us are getting any younger. We are the people you met in South Dakota with the two Aussies. Good luck and be safe. Jerry & Susan Forrester

Gary Wood said...

John, It was nice meeting you and Sharon at my last camp. Jagger and I had a great time there, especially Jagger. It was a great area to be able to throw the frisbee. Sounds like you have some expensive repairs coming up. Hope they cost less than you expect.

Best wishes on all the upcoming travel style decisions. Even though I'm having a blast traveling, always in the back of my mind I'm thinking...what next. Anyway for now I am having fun and can still travel.

Safe travels on your adventures.

Brad said...

Hi John. I'm sorry to hear of the difficulties but it's the only way to learn what works and what doesn't. I think a homebase does sound like a good idea, whether it be moveable or not.

I met up with Plein Air Guy here in Iowa. I sure like his LazyDayz Class C motorhome. The larger ones are nice but I can only imagine what they would cost to use! Thankfully my little 3/4 ton van has been cheap to run the last 5 years - just an alternator and 4 tires.

Take care and please update us a little more often! I'm sure I wasn't the only one hoping you and Sharon are okay. - VT

John Abert said...

Hi Susan! You have a nice rig in that Alpha, but unfortunately, we aren't interested in going any bigger, and it's hard to find a larger engine in a smaller RV. We aren't sure what we are going to do yet, but we definitely need a smaller vehicle to tow behind us. At first, I was thinking of a high-top extended van, but after running the numbers on fuel economy versus storing our excess, it makes more sense to have some kind of small home base, and not in a park. Our current RV would work as a mobile home base if the expenses don't get too high, but I think a sticks and bricks is going to be back in our future later on, but one with as little maintenance required as possible, and then go back to using a minivan camper for shorter trips. After all, I wrote one of the books on creating one without building anything (you can find a free download at http://caravancamperrv.com). Enjoy your visit in Missouri and travel safe.

John Abert said...

Hi Gary! Yes, it was great meeting you and Jagger, too! He is a great pup! We expected to have some repairs on this RV, considering its 52,000 miles (right before things like brakes go bad) and age. Still not sure if we are going to keep it as long as we originally thought, though. We might ending up staying longer and leaving it set more once we get a much smaller daily driver. There's a lot of major decisions to be made yet before we commit to anything. We'll know before the end of next summer. we're going to hang around Sedona until about mid-October to let the temps cool down farther west, but maybe we'll see you in Q or Ehrenberg this winter! Travel safe!

John Abert said...

Hi Brad! Speaking of Lazy Daze, two of them just left the area here about 15 minutes ago. Yes, they are nice and well built, and I wouldn't mind having one as a replacement for this Gulfstream, but I doubt it will happen. We aren't even sure we will still have this by the end of next summer. Whether a rig is old or new, there is always going to be expenses, and the more systems built into it, the higher the odds of expensive problems, especially if you don't do your own work on it. My favorite sayings still apply..."no bigger than you need", and "simpler is always better".

I had in mind a high-top extended van as a daily driver, partly to absorb our stuff in storage and then convert it to a camper as we purge stuff. But I ran some numbers yesterday, and they prove that a minivan, still pulling the Harbor Freight trailer that we still have in storage, is still the best way to go for now. The larger Haulmark trailer will be sold (I'm keeping the solar that's on it to use on the minivan), and then we will still have an economical daily driver without having to drag everything with us on errands, and as we purge the excess stuff, the little trailer will also be sold. The difference in gas mileage between a minivan and a high-top extended van is nearly double, and even of we continued to use a rental storage awhile, there is still better than half that fuel savings left!

Considering that we plan to drive no more than an average of 400 miles per month between stays, having to drive the little van separately won't add much to the overall cost, and by leaving the RV set for longer periods (except to go out and dump and refresh tanks and get propane), the additional fuel expense will be nil. The insurance will be a little higher than the trailer, but still, for the fuel savings, it still comes out way ahead. And if we go to a home base of some kind, we won't have to carry all this crap with us, and can get by with a minivan camper, especially the way I will set it up, mostly as per the free ebook I already wrote (with some new additions and improvements that will also be mentioned in the newer edition of the ebook).

Anyway, I'll email you when I get a chance to fill in more details. BTW, sorry to hear about Jesse James. If surgery is out of the question, don't let him be in pain. Best wishes to all, and travel safe!

Steve said...

I've had your blog on my blog sidebar for years but just checked your blog tonight in case you edited some new updates. I hope everything is going okay for you and your wife. It sounded last fall that you were on your way to some major changes over the winter.

I never did see a link to your new blog and haven't found anything when I do a search. So I thought I'd leave a comment on your last blog post in case you still get notifications that some one has left a comment.

Did you sell your cargo trailer? Did you sell your RV?

John Abert said...

Sorry for the late reply, Steve. Between traveling, tasks to do, ad computer problems, I am way behind. But I now have a new computer, and a little more time to write, so I will be catching up with posts about our travels and other things very soon. No new blog has been started yet, and that may still be months down the road. And yes, we still have the trailer for the time being. Many other decisions to be made before we do away with it. But we do have a new van...a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country. For now it's a great daily driver. Not sure about future plans for it yet. Thanks for commenting.