Sunday, June 30, 2013

It’s A Dry Heat



Flagstaff and much of the west have been experiencing record heat for the past several days. In fact, it was 96 degrees here on Friday, just one degree below the highest temperature ever recorded. But it is true what they say about dry heat. It may be hot, but it’s nothing like the sauna feeling we used to get in Florida, and in the shade with a breeze it’s actually comfortable. And monsoon season has begun. We had a few drops of rain and thunder the past couple days, but this morning it rained enough to wash off some of the dirt and cool things down.

On Thursday after our morning walk with the Rubber Tramp group, Debbie and I went to town to do laundry while Jim stayed home to install the new 12 volt outlet he bought last week.

Gathering together for one of the morning walks.


Some days there were more dogs than people. And they all got along.


It took Jim most of the day to install the outlet, and when he finally got it hooked up and tried plugging something in, he blew a couple fuses. He’ll probably remember to test the polarity the next time! To make matters worse, it was really hot that day, so he decided to turn on the generator so he could run the AC. The generator started and ran, but when the compressor kicked on it shut the generator down. He was not a very happy camper when I got home. But at least the new outlet is now working fine.

He tried starting the generator again but this time nothing.  We checked the Onan manual, did some research online, and he called our more mechanically inclined Lazy Daze friend John. We were not aware there is a circuit breaker on the generator, since it’s hidden, but Jim got his hand in there and sure enough the circuit had tripped. This time the generator started, we ran the microwave first, then the hair dryer, then the air conditioner. It ran fine for about 15 minutes and didn’t cut off.

In the meantime Jim called an Onan authorized repair shop in Flagstaff and made an appointment to bring the Lazy Daze in on Monday morning. He figured if it continued to work  okay we would call and cancel in the morning, but we just tried running it again and when the air cut on the generator cut off. So we’ll just take it in tomorrow and see what they say. It could be a generator problem or something wrong with the AC. Either way, I’m sure it won’t be a cheap repair. We would have needed to go dump and get water in a day or two anyway, so we can do all that after the repair shop while we’re in town.

Bob and quite a few of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous people left today, as their 14 day stay limit was up. I must say we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed this group, since we weren’t sure what to expect. As it turned out, we met some of the nicest people whom we hope to see again somewhere down the road. It was a relaxed atmosphere where you could join in if you wanted, but there was no pressure. We walked almost every morning and evening with the group, which was a great way to get to talk with different people and watch the dogs frolic.


Information exchange was also a big reason many people came. Some of the guys helped others work on their RVs or vans, installing brakes, solar systems, and troubleshooting problems. Several mornings Bob, Laurie, or Randy led talks on different subjects, such as fear, alternative cooking methods, and even a show and tell where everyone brought their favorite gadgets. There was a little of everything, from MiFi and GPS devices to fast drying underwear. Randy even showed us his tongue cleaner!


Bob treated us all to Little Ceasars Pizza one night, courtesy of his mom, and there were two other group dinners. Last night after the soup dinner we were chatting with Jason, a very personable 38 year old from Austin who is on an eight week leave of absence from his job as an arborist. He has a nice van and wants to quit work and travel but is trying to figure out a way to make it happen while doing some kind of work on the road. He asked us if he could do a recorded interview with us to show his girlfriend back home, and promised it wouldn’t show up on YouTube! He asked  questions about how we came to the decision to become full time RVers and general questions about the things and places we liked best and what advice we would give others thinking about an alternative lifestyle. He was lots of fun to talk to. We wish him luck and hope he can figure out a way to live his dream.


I’ve been remiss about posting cat pictures but I haven’t taken any good shots of them recently. These cats just love being in the forest where it’s quiet and they are getting really good about walking with their harness and leash. The bad thing is they are covered in dirt when they come back in. They spend most of their time outdoors chasing grasshoppers.



Sister Sophie. At eight months old our babies are all grown up!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous



Definition from the Urban Dictionary.

1. Rubber Tramp

A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.

2. Rubber tramp

A person that lives in, and creeps around in a vehicle that looks like it's barely held together with rubber bands, chewing gum, and chicken wire. They're often seen parked in the back of supermarket parking lots, or hanging around public parks, alleys, shelters, welfare offices or liquor stores.

Definition number one certainly fits us, as it does for everyone we’ve met here at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. Maybe in another ten years or so we’ll fit the second definition, but I hope not!

This is not your typical RV gathering with happy hours and pot lucks, although everyone is invited to join the morning and evening 2-3 mile walks, which we have several times. They did have a chili dinner Saturday, but since it had meat in it we didn’t attend. Turned out there is one other vegetarian, so we will join in the soup dinner next week.


Bob, the organizer, giving Homer some much needed belly rubs before our morning hike.


There is quite a variety of living arrangements.


Randy (Mobile Kodgers) and Laurie, whom we met in Silver City, NM last year, are also here.  Nice to see some familiar faces.

Our first four days here we just hung around camp, hiked on the forest service roads, and relaxed. We did take a drive to Camping World, just a few miles west. Jim bought a 12 volt outlet, which he intends to install one of these days. There is a retired electrician here just in case he needs help. We also explored some jeep roads in the Subaru looking for other possible campsites.

Some sights from our hikes. We’ve seen lots of wildlife, elk, deer and pronghorn, but they were moving too fast to photograph.

Art in the forest?





On Sunday morning I awoke to see what appeared to be fog, not normal in this dry climate.


By the time Jim got up it was obvious there was a forest fire. He called the number to report a fire, and was told it had started the night before in Shultz Pass and they were working on it. Guess it was fairly small, as by that evening the smoke was gone. We were happy since we didn’t want to leave this lovely spot.


Yesterday we finally took a drive to Flagstaff to get some info at the Visitor Center, pick up some groceries, and check out the dump situation. There is a very nice Giant station 8 miles from here with a free dump and water. We won’t need it for another week or so, but wanted to be sure we could get the Lazy Daze in. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Last evening we went back to town for dinner with Debbie and Todd, recently retired and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. He has a travel trailer, but took off from Yuma for 4 months in a small truck camper to see if he could live a more minimalist lifestyle. He did want to look at our Lazy Daze, though, since he is also considering a smaller class C.

Flagstaff has several microbreweries, and last night we sampled the Flagstaff Brewing Co. located on historic Route 66, where the food and beer were both good. The downtown area looks interesting so one of these days we’ll have to take a walk around. We like what we’ve seen of Flagstaff so far. Quite different from Prescott, where there is a large population of retirees. Being a college town and surrounded by National Forest with it’s variety of outdoor activities and tourist attractions, there are a lot more younger people here, which makes people watching much more entertaining.

Since my thoughts are all over the place today, I will add one more link to Bob’s most recent blog post, Choose Life-Reject Fear.  Great food for thought!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Moving On Up


Bright and early Wednesday morning we drove the 100 miles to Scottsdale for Jim’s doctors appointments. Other than a slightly low platelet count, so far all of his blood tests have been normal. They did draw more blood for a few other tests so we are awaiting those results.

He also saw the ophthalmologist, who said that his eyes looked much better. Although nothing grew on the cultures it was apparently some type of bacterial infection that responded to the antibiotics. He prescribed some topical steroid drops to try and get rid of the remaining inflammation, and wanted to see how he’s doing in a few weeks. So I guess we’ll be making another trip to Scottsdale. He’s just happy that his eyes are feeling better and he is not having the fluctuations in vision he’s been experiencing for a good while.

It was way too hot in the Prescott area, and the nearby Doce fire was still raging, so yesterday we headed north to Flagstaff and higher elevations. We saw that the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was taking place in the Coconino National Forest, about 8 miles west of Flagstaff, so we decided to stop and check it out. It was very shady where most of the group was camped, so we went on down the road a quarter mile or so and found a great spot to park by a meadow with a view of the San Francisco Peaks, with Humphreys Peak being Arizona’s highest point at 12,637’. 


We love our view. Our site is at 7600’, which means highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, with lows in the mid 40s. Perfect boondocking weather.


We’ve never been to Flagstaff because it was always too cold when we drove through. This is a picture taken as we passed by in April, 2010.


Last evening we met Bob Wells, author of Cheap RV Living blog. He’s an interesting guy, and we’ve enjoyed talking with him and taking a couple walks with him and some of the other people here. He puts on a big Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite every January, and a smaller, more informal, summer gathering. He is a big advocate of free camping on public lands, and likes to help others learn to do the same.

This morning we all took a hike to a nearby pond hoping to see some elk. I think there were too many dogs and we were all talking, so we didn’t see any wildlife. Nice scenery, though.


Some of the group and their pups.


Bob’s sweet dog Homer, just before he raced off into the water.


We are really looking forward to exploring Flagstaff. We enjoyed Prescott, with all the hiking, proximity to the National Forest, and a Trader Joe’s. It was also one of the neatest and cleanest cities we’ve visited. One evening we even went downtown to the Courthouse Square for a free jazz concert. We’ll see what Flagstaff has to offer.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Willow Dells Trails, Prescott, AZ



After our short but fun hike and rock scramble in the blazing sun at Watson Lake last week, we decided to get an earlier start and check out the trail system at Willow Lake, Prescott’s other small reservoir that contributes to the beauty of this area.


The city of Prescott has constructed quite an impressive trail system. This description is from the city web site.

Mile-High Trail System

The Mile-High Trail System contains approximately 48 miles of trails including Rails-to-Trails projects along the former Santa Fe Railroad, the Prescott Circle Trail System, and the Greenways Trails System. The Prescott Circle Trail is a network of trails that continues to expand, and which will eventually encircle all of Prescott. The Greenways Trails are urban trails along Granite and Miller Creeks that run through downtown Prescott.

The Willow Dells Slickrock Trails take you up, over, in and around a maze of gigantic boulders, at times ending up high on the rocks with views of the lake. It took us a couple hours to hike the 3 mile loop since we had trouble following the trail in places and did some backtracking. Much of the “trail” is just walking on slickrock,  marked by a series of white dots painted on the rocks, and was quite a workout for the legs with all the ups and downs.

It was one of the most fun hikes we’ve done lately. And the scenery wasn’t bad, either.






You can see the white dots marking the trail on the rock.



It was easy to forget that the city of Prescott is just across the lake. What a great place to hike.


On the way back from the laundromat yesterday, we noticed smoke not far off in the distance, which turned out to be from the Dolce Fire, 8 miles northwest of Prescott, that began yesterday morning. Where we are staying is about 20 miles from the fire, but we have a perfect view of it from our site.




It has yet to be determined what caused the fire, but it increased from 20 acres late yesterday morning to 7,000 acres overnight. It was very windy yesterday and is supposed to be again today, with gusts to 40 mph, so it’s not looking good for containment. 500 homes have been evacuated but none have been damaged as of this morning.

One interesting thing is that quite a few trucks pulling horse trailers came in last night to board their horses here at the Fairgrounds stables. Hadn’t thought about what people do with their big animals when they have to evacuate. Most shelters don’t even allow cats and dogs, let alone horses. Let’s hope they make some progress getting the fire under control today.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mingus Mountain Recreation Area

The Lazy Daze group disbanded on Saturday, but we decided to stay in Prescott Valley until Thursday. Jim has a follow up appointment at the Mayo Clinic on Wednesday, so we are just going to make the 100 mile drive down to Scottsdale for the day.

The Fairgrounds RV Park isn’t such a bad place to be. We moved to a different site after everyone left, and we feel much better about not having to look out at horse stables. It would be nicer if it wasn’t getting into the low 90s during the day, but the mornings and evenings are very pleasant, and there are no biting bugs. And although there are no facilities here, the owners also have Orchard RV Park, about 5 miles away, where we can use the laundry, pool and fitness center.

Our new view.


Yesterday we drove 12 miles up to Mingus Mountain for a 4 mile loop hike around the rim. We figured at 7,500’ it should be cooler, and it was, but the trail didn’t turn out so great. The first 1.8 miles were downhill, but we didn’t realize it would be so steep. We kept sliding on the loose rock even using two hiking poles, and at one point Jim slipped and fell on his right shoulder. He thought he heard it crunch, but it felt okay so we kept going. After nearly going down again, we decided to turn around at less than a mile in.

The trail hugged the edge of the mountain so the views were great, and had we needed to call for help at least we had a good cell signal.



Views of the Verde Valley and Cottonwood in the distance.



As we were climbing back up to the trail head, a group of older (like us) hikers were coming down. They asked if we made the loop, and Jim told them what happened. They said if we had just kept on going, the trail was much better and easier the rest of the loop. Exactly what we figured, but better to be safe.

We then walked around the Mingus Campground, which was actually quite nice. There were several sites with good views and electric hookups, although they got struck by lightning last summer and the Forest Service hasn’t fixed the power yet. The only downside is the 3 miles of really rough, washboard road to get there.

There is also a hang glider launch ramp and camping area at the highest point.


There were several guys suiting up to get ready to take off, so we were able to watch a few of them, until someone decided the strong wind gusts were making it unsafe. It is quite a production getting everything ready, and requires lots of help.

The ramp. That white speck in the center is one of the gliders.


I could barely watch them go off the edge. It’s got to be quite an adrenaline rush.




Then as we were leaving we saw a number of cyclists climbing up the road, with many support vehicles following them or waiting along the road. It turned out to be the Race Across America (RAAM). If you haven’t heard of it, this is billed as “The World’s Toughest Bike Race”. You can ride as an individual or as a relay team of two, four, six or eight riders. The solo riders are quite impressive, as many of them ride 250-350 miles PER DAY! And finish in as few as 8 days. If you don’t make it in 12 days you are disqualified.

Since the relay teams can ride 24 hours, they usually average 350-500 miles a day and finish in 7 days.

This year they’re riding from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD, crossing 12 states and covering 3000 miles. I can’t imagine ever being in that kind of physical condition. The solo riders are lucky to get anywhere from 90 minutes to 4 hours of sleep per day. And they have to take in about 8,000 calories to make up for what they burn. That’s a lot of Power Bars!