Going Home: The Long & Winding Road

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind.”

Betty & I found ourselves running on empty roads through much of rural Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South & North Dakota, & Manitoba, as we drove to outrun the coronavirus.

Like all other Canadian snowbirds, Betty & I were told to head for home before the COVID- 19 virus catches up with us. In addition to our regular travelling songs, Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” seemed to capture our mood and experience, but it could just as easily have been Bruce Springsteen’s “Baby We Were Born To Run”, Ten Years After’s “Going Home” or “The Long & Winding Road” by the Beatles. Lol

Spring colours are now filling the fields throughout southern Arizona. Wish we could stay to enjoy them.

From the Painted Rock Petroglyph campsite, we headed east on Interstates 8 &10 to the Pima County Fair campground, where the FMCA International gathering was to be held this month. Of course, everything is cancelled. Lots of full-service sites were available, and for $28. we were able to flush out our tanks (after a winter of limited flushing) and re-fill our water.

We found ourselves on the Deming Lot, a Boondockers Welcome site on a dirt lane in southern New Mexico: a very convenient social-distancing location for us.

Our next night was spent at a quiet Boondockers Welcome spot in Deming, New Mexico. In keeping with social distancing rules, we were able to stay well away from our hosts, who were back at their home base in North Dakota at the time. The site is a vacant lot on a dirt lane, but served our purpose well.

Heading north from Deming we passed by Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which almost became the title for this blog post. lol

By the time we reached Coronado Campground in Bernalillo, New Mexico, where we had previously enjoyed a stay while visiting nearby Albuquerque & Santa Fe, the campground was reduced to its ordered limit of half capacity, with no sites available, even for dry camping.

Our overnight rest area, just south of Santa Fe, had great mountain views. The snow-capped peaks foretold what was about to come…

After a pleasant night at a roadside rest area just south of Santa Fe, we continued north, without a visit to the beautiful, but closed, downtown shops and art galleries.

We passed amazing rock formations along the road somewhere, just not sure where… lol

In our last post we mentioned our intention to continue north to Denver, before turning east. For some reason our radiator appeared to be guzzling antifreeze (we couldn’t see a leak anywhere) and our engine temp. gauge kept rising into the warning zone. We had been enjoying the scenery on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains (in that area known as the Sangre De Cristo Mountains) but decided to turn toward the prairies when we got to Trinidad, Colorado. Our engine temp. returned to normal on the flatland, which was a relief!

Many majestic snow-capped mountains came into view on our journey home.
While not our intended state sequence, Betty was able to add Colorado (state #39) to our sticker map last week.

We were soon on the kind of flatland familiar to prairie dwellers, and decided to stop for the night in a turn-off beside grain elevators in the small town of Pritchett, Colorado. It seemed like a quiet town that has seen better days, with most buildings on their short main street boarded up or abandoned. 

Broken windows and boarded up buildings greeted us in Pritchett, Colorado, but we thought it would still be a safe place for a quiet night’s stay. However, like The Boss: Baby we were born to run…

A couple of pick-up trucks passed by in the evening, but no one approached, which seemed fine due to the rules around social distancing. Betty & I had been on the desolate roads since early morning, and chose to turn in around 8:45 pm. When a gunshot was heard nearby at 9:00 pm, we leapt out of bed, deciding it was time to find another resting stop for the night!

A nice find for us along our route: the price of gas was at record lows. This pump was at $1.679/ gallon, but others were even cheaper. No need for running on empty…

We had our slides in and motor running in record time, and were on the road again before finding out whether we had heard a warning shot, or just a farmer shooting a nuisance  skunk. Lol

In Montezuma, Kansas, we found a full-service campground (Prairie Wind RV park) where we had lunch, dumped and filled up for $10. (drop-box honour system – no attendant.) The price included the night’s accommodation, but needed to get back on the long and winding road.

Springfield, Colorado is only 16 miles east of Pritchett, and contains a truck stop that was full of 18 wheelers when we arrived. We nestled in for a peaceful sleep before heading to the famous Dodge City, Kansas the next morning.

Because of our need to get outa Dodge, we didn’t have time to visit any of the local attractions. Maybe another time…

Betty has always wanted to tell me “Get outa Dodge!” so that is what we did after topping up with cheap gas at the local Flying J.

At Dodge City’s city limit, I think the Flying J gas was about $1.59/ gallon.

Later that day, we turned north at Salina, Kansas, onto a road often travelled in our trips to the south. A northbound rest area near Salina was our overnight campsite.

On the side of the road, just north of Salina, Kansas. Not much traffic either on or off the roads. We’re going home…

From there we continued north and then east to Pine Grove RV Park, between Lincoln & Omaha, Nebraska. Paying $44. for a full-service site was the most we had spent on accommodation for a long time (Our total campground cost from Yuma to Winnipeg was less than $100.) but it gave us a last opportunity to dump & top up before returning to Canada.

Charlie got quite the surprise when we let him out to pee in Fargo, North Dakota!

Our final night in the U.S. was in Fargo’s Walmart parking lot, where we were shocked to see high rows of snow piled across the lot.

We never intended to subject our Cruise Master to that white stuff ever again, but it was seen in increasing amounts from Sioux Falls, South Dakota northward.

Just after noon on Friday, we approached the normally busy border crossing by Emerson, Manitoba. Only one lane was open, and only two cars preceded us, with no-one behind. Nearly all information exchanged was coronavirus related, and after receiving our 14 day quarantine instructions, we were on our way to Winnipeg.

Granddaughters Isabella and Georgia greeted us from afar as we pulled into their driveway.

It’s been quite the run, and while we’re not quite running on empty, we are somewhat exhausted by the stress of dealing with the unexpected risks related to COVID-19. While hotels, motels and restaurants were closed, shopping malls exhibited huge vacant parking lots, and almost only commercial trucks shared the roads with us, we were still able to get gas along the way, always donning disposable gloves and paying at the pump. We didn’t stop for groceries since leaving Yuma, and were happy our daughter & her husband, Kevin, could drop emergency supplies at our door.

Betty & Charlie relax in a quiet, isolated spot in front of our daughter’s garage. It’s great to be back, even though we can’t have personal visits yet!

Yes, it was an unexpected long and winding road, but it’s great to be back with our family, even though we can only visit them through glass and share virtual hugs for the next two weeks. Hope you can stay safe and healthy through this strange time, wherever the roads take you.

Valerie made us each a delicious “quarantini” to de-stress with, during our period of isolation.

Cheers!

Coronavirus: Head For Home or Shelter In Place?

The world has changed immeasurably in the past few weeks with the pandemic spread of the coronavirus. Every day new unprecedented major decisions are taken by local, national, and international leaders in efforts to control the expansion of this deadly virus. Everyone is being asked to do the right thing to curtail the advancement of Covid-19. And so, many friends and family members who follow our adventures have been asking about how Betty & I are coping, and what our immediate plans are. Do we plan to head for Winnipeg or shelter in place?

Betty captured evidence of recent flights from Los Angeles on a bright sunny sunrise in Quartzsite, Arizona

On the one hand, the U.S. and Canadian governments are discouraging travel, because most known cases are currently travel-related.  And on the other snowbirds like us are encouraged to make a beeline back to Canada, in case the border becomes closed. As it stands, all discretionary travel is banned or limited, and some travel health insurance providers are warning that coverage may soon be ended. We have Manitoba Health and CAA coverage, but will it last if we do not immediately return to the province?

Our home, with little car on behind, packed and ready to leave our place in the sun.

For us, our motorhome is our home, and provides the best opportunity to safely “shelter in place”. We have been staying in the Arizona desert for the past four months, and there are few better places to practice social distancing, if that is what is required. We are fairly self-contained, with our own kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom, and as a general rule are already camped at least forty feet from our nearest neighbours.

Leaving a vast land under an equally vast sky…

Also, at the end of March and beginning of April, winter hasn’t left Winnipeg yet, and our motorhome would need to be winterized with antifreeze to prevent the plumbing from freezing and bursting. It would still be too cold to live safely or comfortably in our home, even if the local campgrounds were open, which I don’t believe is the case.

Hope you like sunsets, because it’s hard not to take pics of them in Quartzsite. Evidence of passing planes is still visible in the sky.

Yes, we have four grown children in Winnipeg with their own homes, but how easy is it to self-quarantine in someone else’s home, especially where grandchildren are involved?

Ok, this is the last sunset pic, for today…

So under the circumstances, what is the right thing?

A recent full moon rises over the desert. We had planned on going “howling at the moon” in Yuma with our neighbours, but our slide-out got stuck, so we couldn’t go.

Our original plan saw us heading into California for a leisurely, scenic drive through Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojavi Desert, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite National Park, before heading east past Lake Tahoe, Reno, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Mount Rushmore, among other attractions on that route. We would not be back in Winnipeg until we knew the snow was gone.

Parts of two bolts were left behind when our slide-out motor broke away from this bracket.

As new information is presented, we have literally changed our travel plans daily in the past week or so. About two weeks ago I was headed out to dump our black & grey tanks, and fill up with fresh water. But when I pushed the button to retract our living-room slide, nothing happened. With the able assistance of a number of kind neighbours, we discovered that the slide-out motor had broken loose from its mounting bracket. I searched on-line for a replacement motor, to no avail. One of our neighbours was able to remove the motor, and another manually cranked in our living room. Yet another neighbour supplied us with water, and offered to pump out our holding tanks, if necessary. But once we were mobile again, I performed the original task and took the motor to a machine shop in Yuma for welding.

Betty captured some of the colourful spring flowers on the roadside leading to Yuma.

The day before yesterday Betty & I said good-bye to Quartzsite and our great neighbours, and turned south toward Yuma, Arizona. Just before Yuma is another BLM campground, on the California side of the Colorado River, where we spent a quiet night. Known as Imperial Dam, we were finally able to add state #38 to our sticker map, before heading to C & C Machine Shop in Yuma yesterday.

State #38 – California – joins our sticker map, just not the way we planned it.

Manuel and his great staff at C & C did a fabulous job of repairing the motor, and welding a plate under one of our holding tanks, which had been sagging. He also found some of our lithium battery cables to be loose, and tightened them before sending us safely on our way.

These are some of the mountain ranges on the drive today from Yuma toward Tucson, Arizona. Yes, that’s a rotary dial phone on the dash. Call us! lol

Tonight we are at the Painted Rock Petroglyph campground, west of Tucson, where we had stayed on a prior trip. 

Betty & I are sheltering in place tonight at a scenic Painted Rock Petroglyph campsite, far from the madding crowds.

Given all of the current information, the answer to the question in the title is: We are headed to Winnipeg! Right now our plan is to take a fairly direct route through Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, before heading up through Denver, Colorado, and over to Nebraska, South and North Dakota, and back into Canada. We expect to cross into Canada by the end of March, and will need to sort out living arrangements along the way.

Obviously, Betty & I aren’t the only ones trying to make sense of this crisis. The grocery stores visited this week are out of toilet paper and other basics, as some people feel the need to horde. While some states have announced the closure of campgrounds and even highway rest areas, we hope that gas stations and other essential travel services will remain available during this most interesting leg of our adventure. 

While it’s not what any of us planned, Betty & I hope that we all can stay safe and roll with the punches, whether you shelter in place or head for home. Regardless of what comes our way, keep your chin up and wash your hands!

 Cheers!

Gary, Betty & Graham displayed their birdies on the Quartzsite golf course, before the six foot social distance rule took effect.

Welcome To Our Neighbourhood!

As full-time RVers, Betty & I follow the axiom on our doormat: “Home is where we park it”. Through our travels we have found many kind, friendly folk with whom we have shared stories and life adventures for a matter of minutes, or maybe days, and sometimes months. While even brief encounters can be extremely meaningful and memorable, our longer stays have resulted in lingering friendships, based often on a common love for travel and our shared encounters in that particular location.

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Some of our South Padre Island neighbours.

One of our first experiences with a sense of neighbourhood – and neighborliness while on the road – came from our stay at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre IslandTexas. The full-service sites in this county park are fairly close together, and many residents on our “street” near the beach were seasonal campers who had been going to not only the same park, but the same campsite, for 20 years or more. They were able to point to fully-mature palm trees and shrubs that they had planted years ago. Betty & I were warmly welcomed and invited to join in on local activities. It created a most enjoyable experience!

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The Reddoch Retreat sign marks our campsite in the Arizona desert.

While we had made a two week visit to Quartzsite a couple of years ago, and enjoyed our encounters with fellow travellers at that time, Betty & I had no idea what to expect as we planned an extended stay in the Arizona desert. 

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A full moon rises over the desert landscape.

There are no assigned parking spots on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land where we are staying, and campers can park as near or as far from others as they choose, although the local rule is not to set up closer than 40 feet from your neighbour, unless you are invited to do so.

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Dust from passing ATVs blows across the desert as dusk arrives.

We fairly arbitrarily chose a spot in La Posa West Long-Term Visitor Area, although there are thousands of acres of BLM land set aside for short or long-term camping stays. We chose the west side of the main dirt road, as the wind tends to blow from the west, so campers on the near east side receive more dust from passing ATVs and other vehicles. We chose to park near one of the “washes”, as the trees and other vegetation are a little more robust there. And we chose to not park too far from downtown Quartzsite, so we can make easy trips in for groceries and other necessities.

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No additional charge for these spectacular nightly shows.

The hand painted sign at the entrance to our “loop”, or cul-de-sac, as they would say in French (lol) identifies it as “Rattlesnake Flat”, although apparently the snakes have remained in hibernation for the duration of our visit so far. That’s fine with us! lol

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Betty goes clubbing at the Quartzsite links. Note the cone-shaped ball tee. In many places the ground is too hard to plant a regular tee.
Betty got a birdie during one of our golf games. You can tell because it’s pinned to her hat. lol. Gary & Cathy are in the background, with Cathy awarding successful players with a noisy bird. It’s always lots of fun!

As mentioned in prior posts, Betty & I have met all of our near-by neighbours, and find we thoroughly enjoy their company. We are living in a very laid-back, impromptu neighbourhood, where there are no raised angry voices, and generally there doesn’t appear to be a care in the world! Everyone seems to go out of their way to be helpful, and to watch out for their neighbours. It’s a very safe place to be. The warm sun shines almost every day, providing enough solar power to keep us going without those pesky hydro bills.  The cost of our campsite can’t be beat – $180. for seven months – so it’s possible to live on a very modest budget in this community. There is a lot to do locally (including a quilt guild and a free golf course, as previously noted), so travel further afield is optional. While there are a number of local restaurants, we enjoy preparing meals at our home base, often outside on our trusty Weber bbq.

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We did take a day trip to the west to visit friends in Palm Desert, California. Snow can be seen on the mountaintops in the background, but Palm Desert, at the bottom of this hill, was nice and warm.
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Betty catches up with old Winnipeg friends, Debbie & Bev, at their Palm Desert condo. The condo is near Frank Sinatra Drive and Dinah Shore Boulevard…
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Their condo backs onto a golf course, which is a little more lush than the Quartzsite golf course. lol

After dinner, it has become customary to join our neighbours at a communal fire. One neighbour has a large truck that he has regularly loaded with free firewood from Yuma to the south, and Alamo Lake to the northeast. 

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Gathering at the Quartzsite nightly fire.

Those who know me know that I cannot sing, but do know one campfire song: The Mountain Dew song. Well one night I sang a few verses, until Betty told me to stop and another neighbour encouraged me to continue. Following the rule “Happy wife = happy life” I shut up, but prepared a few more verses for the next evening’s fire.

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A warm neighbourhood gathering by the fire, with Charlie watching from the centre right.

Now known as Kevin’s Quartzsite Fire Choir, in honour of our campfire host, we have the following verses, with hopes of one day making our Grand Ole’ Opry debut:

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A roaring blaze with free firewood from Alamo Lake, Arizona.

The Quartzsite Mountain Dew Song

(Chorus)

Well they call it that good ol' mountain, mountain  dew,
And them that refuse it are few.
I'll shut up my mug if you'll fill up my jug
With that good ol' mountain dew!
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Kevin’s Quartzsite Fire Choir prepares for a visit to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
Well my good friend Kevin
Is in a little part of heaven 
In the Arizona desert known as Q  
Every night he lights a fire  
And the only way to get higher
Would be drinkin’ that good ol’ mountain dew!
(Chorus)
If you look closely on the right, you can see the truck Bruce uses to bring in free firewood from Yuma & Alamo Lake.
Well then there was Pat
She just said “Imagine that
We’ve assembled us quite a crazy crew!
They’re in Quartzsite for some beer
But what they really need is here – 
It’s a cistern of that good ol’ mountain dew!”
(chorus)
Well my neighbour Bruce
He came lookin’ for the juice
He was wondrin’ if it was really true
If Kevin lights a fire
Is he really gonna get higher
By drinkin’ that good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well there’s Cathy & Gary
The way they golf it is scary
Every shot is another woo hoo!
They put the ball on the green
On every hole that I’ve seen
Because they both had lots of good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Well our neighbour Marvin
He comes out with dear wife Ardith
To discover what’s all that ballyhoo?
His neighbours just won’t be quiet
Are they getting in a fight
Over who drank up that good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well Darlene & Dale
Have a life that just won’t fail
They're having fun in everything they do
Whether going on a cruise
Or with Debbie they can’t lose
‘Cause they’re chuggin’ lots of good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Well Betty’s sitting by the fire
Her eyes sparkle like sapphires
Is that love she shares with even me and you?
No, it’s just a touch of lust
Mixed with all that Quartzsite dust
And a hearty dose of good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Well Mike & Elaine think this place is insane
What’s with all of these crazy yahoos?
What brings everyone to Quartzsite?
Is it because no one’s uptight?
Or ‘cause we’re hankerin’ for more good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well Bob is a dear
On his bike there’s no fear
His rides around here are more than just a few
Is he looking for a drink
To whet his whistle don’t you think
He’s just on a search for good ol’ mountain dew?
(chorus)
Well Charlie’s dawg-gone pretty
Even though he’s awful dirty
He really needs a very good shampoo
But the problem here tonight:
There’s no water in Quartzsite
So we’ll have to wash with good ol’ mountain dew!
(chorus)
Another free neighbourhood light show.

Cheers!