“Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord That David played and it pleased the Lord But you don’t really care for music, do you? Well it goes like this: The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah”
As our eldest son, Andrew, played the chords of Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallellujah, in the backyard of our Phoenix-area rented home, Betty & I enjoyed the company of our family for a belated Christmas celebration. We were in a community appropriately named Anthem, Arizona! Our fabulous week together can best be summed up in one word: Hallellujah!
For the first time in 40 years, we had not been together with our family for end-of-December festivities. Betty & I were anxious for a happy gathering to take place.
We didn’t want to drive our motorhome back to Winnipeg, necessitating winterizing and de-winterizing, and we didn’t want to put our aging golden doodle, Charlie, in a kennel and fly home. So we said to our family: “If we rent a house in Phoenix, will you come and spend a belated Christmas with us in January, when flights are cheaper again?” They all answered “yes”, and our gathering last week was the result. As a bonus, my brother, Allon, was able to fly down from the Yukon to spend a couple of days with us as well. A great time was had by all, with the following pictures providing some evidence.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience for a couple of full-time RVers to spend some quality time with their family. We hope that all who wander this earth can find opportunities to connect in ways that inspire and evoke the response of King George II, on hearing George Frideric Handel’s Messiah: Stand up and sing Hallelujah!
When Betty & I were planning our travels, we were keenly aware of how much natural water has played an important visual role in our vacations. Our destinations have usually included oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams, with many preferred choices including a combination of these. Water has also played an audio roll, as we have been pacified by the gentle sound of lake waves on the shore; electrified by the crash of ocean waves or waterfalls; and lulled to sleep near babbling brooks.
So how would we handle up to four months in the desert? Betty & I knew from our earlier two week visit that water is a scarcity here. There are no car washes, and we haven’t seen a swimming pool yet, in Quartzsite, Arizona. Grass is non-existent in this arid land, except as previously noted in the artificially created oasis from Parker to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Yes, there is fertile growing land down in Yuma, but after spending time in Quartzsite, it appears to all the senses as an extreme novelty! Did you see that big tree? Did you smell that field? Did you feel that grass? Check out all those colourful flowers!
As a result of our past experience, and inability to predict our reaction to a seemingly desolate space, we created a Plan B. Betty & I decided that if we could not hack a full winter in the desert, we would either travel one day to the Pacific Ocean out west, or a few days back east to one of the free beach camping spots on the Gulf of Mexico.
Well I can’t use the saying that “the bloom is (not) off the rose”, because this climate is a little too dry for growing roses, or any other flora and fauna anyway. We are extremely happy with our choice so far! BTW, when we first arrived, I went around gathering rocks to create a fire pit. Usually when one picks up a large rock, all kinds of little creatures scurry out from underneath. Here in the desert – not so much: I didn’t see one bug under any of the 20+ stones collected. And on a related subject, last year in Florida we had to keep our screen door closed, so that our motorhome wouldn’t be filled with flies, mosquitos, and other nuisance insects. While we keep our screen door closed here out of habit, and to keep Charlie in or out, it is not really necessary. Flies and other such bugs appear few and far between in the desert. Bonus!
So far, Betty & I have found lots to do, and we are far from bored with our choice of winter destination. Apart from a couple of overcast and light rainy days over Christmas in Lake Havasu City, we have seen nothing but blue skies and beautiful days here. Nights turn cold as soon as the sun goes down, but we prefer sleeping under warm blankets in the cool night air, without the need for air conditioners like last winter in Florida.
This week we are headed to Phoenix to spend a “Christmas week” with our family. It will be another unique experience for us – and for them – and we look forward to sharing some of it in a future post.
On the first part of the journey I was looking at all the life There were plants and birds and rocks and things There was sand and hills and rings The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz And the sky with no clouds The heat was hot and the ground was dry But the air was full of sound
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name It felt good to be out of the rain In the desert you can remember your name ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain La, la …
After two days in the desert sun My skin began to turn red After three days in the desert fun I was looking at a river bed And the story it told of a river that flowed Made me sad to think it was dead
You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name It felt good to be out of the rain In the desert you can remember your name ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain La, la …
Those who follow our posts will know that Betty & I have been counting down (or up, depending on your perspective on life – lol) the number of provinces and states visited on our overlandish odyssey. We have a sticker map of North America on our entry door, with Betty or I usually pictured pasting another jurisdiction for our post. May 8, 2019 was the last such entry, with Betty sticking to Illinois (state # 36), while I added Wisconsin (state # 37). That’s a full eight months with no new additions. Are we falling down on the job or what?!!
Well yes, we have been travelling quite a bit since then – adding 5,500 miles (not kms) to our motorhome’s odometer – but it has all been to states previously visited on this adventure.
Until last week…
We were in Yuma, Arizona paying our pay-as-you-go Verizon jetpack bill, and picking up a few groceries. When it was time to return to Quartzsite, we asked Samantha (our gps) for the most direct route from our location. As she took us over a bridge, Samantha announced that we were crossing a state border into California. She then told us we were entering a different time zone. Samantha next advised us to turn right at the end of the bridge. She then reported we were crossing a state border into Arizona, and entering another time zone. This whole process took less than 90 seconds!
So yes, Betty & I were there in California – our 38th state. But we were not really there long enough to count.
At the end of March, we hope to cross over to Palm Springs, California and make our way up the eastern side of the state, through Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite National Park, on our way to the state capitol of Sacramento, before heading back to Winnipeg. Next year – 2021 now – we hope to drive down the Pacific Coast all the way from Port Angeles, Washington, to San Diego, California.
So we definitely want to see more of our 38th state than the 90 seconds last week. As with all of our travels, we never really know what to expect. But we’re very much looking forward to visiting this one state with a larger population than all of Canada! And I’m sure that will take more than two minutes next time…
Ok, it’s only been three days since our last post, so why are we adding more ones and zeros to the digital universe so soon? Firstly, the good news (well secondly and thirdly, it’s all good news…) our dear granddaughter, Georgia, got a special Boxing Day gift this year – the successful surgical removal of her appendix! And she is now resting at home, doing great – yeah Georgia! What a Christmas surprise for her, her sister, Isabella, and dear parents, Kevin & Valerie, with a whole lot of stress release now that it’s all over.
As noted in our last post, Betty & I spent most of Christmas week at Lake Havasu State Park. Within the park is a beautiful little garden where all the native Arizona plants and trees are labelled, for easy reference. On Christmas day we enjoyed a peaceful walk through the park, and up a small hill to a great view of Lake Havasu, the nearby community, and the mountains beyond.
On the drive back to Quartzsite yesterday, we passed the magnificent Emerald Canyon Golf Course, north of Parker, Arizona. Labelled “The Jewel in the Desert” this 18 hole course, overlooking the Colorado River, features brilliant green tee boxes, fairways and greens, all nestled into a rugged, otherwise arid landscape. Truly spectacular!
Having purchased a new set of clubs in Florida last winter, and having taken golf lessons last spring, I was very aware of the “use it or lose it” effect: If you don’t develop muscle and mental memory, it’s difficult to stay in the swing of things.
We didn’t have time to pull in for a round of 18 or even 9 holes on this fabulous course, but were able to take a couple of hours for Betty to set up her sewing machine in the parking lot, while I knocked out a few buckets of balls on the amazingly beautiful driving range.
So we are back in the same desert spot in Quartzsite we vacated on Monday, and are now setting up for a longer stay. I’m sure there will be many more stories to tell about this magical place, but wanted to get this post up before the accumulated pictures got out of hand.
While the common image of a desert is of a barren, desolate space, so far Betty & I have experienced the warm embrace of neighbours in our corner of the La Posa West Long Term Visitor Area. Yes, we’re back in the desert and lovin’ it!
Well this is different. For the first time in 40 years Betty & I are celebrating Christmas without our family. It is also the first Christmas where we are sitting outside in the Arizona sun, without a hint of snow in the air or on the ground. Like the character Tevye in “Fidler On The Roof” we are a family steeped in tradition, and are definitely not accustomed to breaking all those customs. This is very different!
Yes, we enjoyed some FaceTime with our family a couple of days ago, while they joined together for the traditional Chinese food pre-Christmas meal. And Betty & I did get our annual FaceTime with the Queen today, as she delivered her Christmas message. (Note to our kids, in case you missed it: I saved a copy on our VCR, so you can see it when you come down to Phoenix for a belated Christmas celebration next month. lol)
In the meantime, we truly miss this traditional time with each of our kids and grandkids, especially our dear granddaughter, Georgia, who had to spend a very non-traditional Christmas eve night and part of Christmas day in Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital as she prepares for surgery to have her appendix removed tomorrow! Here’s expecting another great story to tell about a very memorable Christmas, and a most unique Boxing Day present!
While the Christmas carols we sang at church on Sunday were traditional, the church itself was far from it. We were still on BLM land at Quartzsite, with very few structures in the desert. On Sundays, the picnic shelter doubles as a church, and it was in that outdoor space that we sang “Oh Come All Ye Faithfull” and other favourites, led by a cowboy preacher in the appropriate hat and boots.
We have no room for a Christmas tree in our motorhome, and Christmas decorations are few and far between, except for the ornaments we passed on this Lake Havasu City tree, which was next to a fully loaded orange tree, which was in front of two palm trees and a thriving cactus. You don’t see that every day in Winnipeg. lol
Yes, this is all very different. But the reason for the season remains the same. We hope to be reunited with our family again on FaceTime later today, and pray that we and you can enjoy a very happy Christmas and wonder-filled new year!
“O come, all ye faithful Joyful and triumphant O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem Come and behold Him Born the King of Angels!
O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord
O come, all ye faithful O come, all ye faithful O come, all ye faithful to Bethlehem O come, all ye faithful O come, all ye faithful O come, all ye faithful to Bethlehem
Oh, sing, choirs of angels Sing in exultation Oh, come, oh come ye to Bethlehem Come and behold Him Born the King of Angels
O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord…”
Some one-of-a-kind places just defy easy description. Yesterday Betty & I returned to one of them. Quartzsite, Arizona is a most quirky community that has to be seen and felt to be believed. We came for two weeks on the first leg of our overlandish odyssey, and decided that we should try a longer stay, now that we have solar panels and lithium batteries to keep us powered up in the desert. It became a major destination for the current leg of our adventure. Arriving yesterday, we are still getting acclimatized again, and have much, much more to experience in this off-the-beatnik-path wonderland. But I thought I’d provide another brief introduction.
As Betty & I traverse the continent on this overlandish odyssey, it can be accurately noted that we are continuing to learn as we go. Prior to our departure in December, 2017, I mapped out a 5-year plan that would take us to 48 states and 10 provinces, keeping us at moderate temperatures throughout the journey. We are now at the end of our second year, having already visited 37 states and 6 provinces. It is definitely time to slow down!
Our return visit to Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson was planned as a 2 day stop, rather than 3, but the Maricopa County web site for Lake Pleasant campgrounds near Phoenix didn’t allow for next day booking, and site A56 at the Tucson area park was as stunning as we remembered it from our earlier visit, so we stayed a little bit longer.
And our stay at Lake Pleasant was to be 3 days, rather than 5. While our first site (#139) in Desert Tortoise Campground was a large spot in a small cul-de-sac jutting out into the lake, the parking pad was steeply sloped and it was impossible to level our coach.
After a nice visit with our neighbours from Bracebridge, Ontario, Betty & I scouted other sites, and found a beautiful spot in Roadrunner Campground (#23). We set up and realized that it has one of the most amazing views of any campsite so far!
So we’ve booked it for another couple of days at $32./night, including water, 50 amp service, a solid picnic table & shelter, and a fire ring – And you can’t beat that view!
We are learning to be more fluid in our travel planning, and to sit back and enjoy the great spots and fine weather when we find them. Here’s hoping that your journey through life can also have its most pleasant moments, and you can stay in them just a little bit longer.
“Stay, ah just a little bit longer, Please, please, please, please, please, Tell me that you’re going to
Now your Daddy don’t mind, And your Mommy don’t mind, If we have another dance, yeah, Just one more, one more time.
Oh won’t you stay, just a little bit longer, Please let me hear you say that you will Say you will..”
If you remember back to Betty’s daily exclamation at Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park (March 2018), there were a lot of very tall dramatic cacti keeping watch around our motorhome. Well, we’re back in Tucson, and in fact parked again in site A56 beside the same supersized succulent: A frickin big cactus!
Our westward journey from Monahans Sandhills State Park included overnight stops in El Paso, Texas and Wilcox, Arizona, with some awesome scenery along Interstate 10 through New Mexico. Rather than driving straight to Tucson, we veered south to the old wild west town of Tombstone, site of the shoot-out at the OK Corral and tons of western memorabilia.
Tombstone had been a silver mining town, but tourism now appears its major industry. A number of blocks are dedicated to western wear, western jewellery, saloons, gun fights, and all things glorifying the old wild west. Coach rides are available up and down the dusty streets.
Betty & I watched a re-enactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral, along with a film and animated set depicting the history of the town. We took a stroll down the board sidewalks and peeked into a few shops. Fortunately, as full-timers in a tiny house, we were not tempted to add any bric-a-brac or other mementos to our current collection.
We drove the long way around to Tucson, intending to stay on BLM land to the west of the city. Arriving at dusk, we took our life (and our home on wheels) in our hands, driving off-road into a large tract of land dotted with RVs of all shapes and sizes. Following a dirt path through the scrub brush, we came to a small clearing that appeared perfect for our motorhome and Smart. This was to be our free home base for the next couple of days!
Shortly after pulling in, a lady drove up and warned us that the spot where we had parked was a spongy patch of burnt orange clay (She had a technical term for the type of clay, but we had never heard of it). If we stayed, we might find our rig sinking down to the point where a tow truck would be needed to get us out. Just getting into the site was a very risky proposition, and getting out seemed like it could be even more treacherous, with a steep bank that was partly eroded by a recent rain. We just had to laugh at our improbable situation as I gunned the motor to extricate us from the potential quagmire.
Thanks to our guardian angel, we moved on to solid ground at Gilbert RayCampground, as it was then too dark to scout out other free parking. Even though we don’t need the 30 amp electrical service that comes with our site, the $20./ night charge is worth it for the amazing views provided at the site.
Betty went for a hike on one of the many trails through Tucson Mountain Park, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of one great big frickin cactus after another. We still have a couple more days here before heading north to Phoenix, but with so many pics of the perfectly prickly stuff, I just needed to put up a post.
“Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas With Waylon and Willie and the boys This successful life we’re livin’ Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Newberry’s train songs and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain Out in Luckenbach, Texas ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”
Ok, Waylon Jennings sang a catchy tune that made Betty & I look for this small town near picturesque Fredericksburg, Texas. When we arrived at our Harvest Host destination – the Messina Hof Winery – we asked the staff for directions. Turns out the road we took from San Antonio through Texas Hill Country passed by Luckenbach, so I guess we blinked and missed it. lol
Since travelling far enough south to avoid the cold that seemed to chase us all the way from Canada, Betty & I are now westward ho, to our winter destination in Arizona.
After taking one last visit to the beaches of North Padre Island and Mustang Island, we headed inland to San Antonio, where we had an appointment at Iron Horse RV to repair the leak in our fresh water tank, and replace our now-destroyed microwave oven.
It turned out the leak was just a matter of tightening a loose connection – no parts required. Yeah! But our microwave was another story. The old oven had won the battle when Betty & I tried to remove it, but it was no match for Iron Horse super technician, Tony, who removed it and replaced it with a new more energy efficient convection/ microwave/ grill that looks like it has always been there. No small feat for this odd-sized space! Tony was also able to seal up an unnecessary vent that did nothing but channel cold air into our coach whenever the temperature outside dropped.
There are a number of wineries in Texas Hill Country, and Betty & I were able to sample and purchase a selection of Messina Hof Winery tasty offerings, before crashing for the night in their parking lot.
We marvelled at the wide range of terrain as we travelled west, with the next night spent in a dirt lot adjacent to the Fort Stockton Walmart. For the last couple of days we have been thoroughly enjoying camping in the dunes of Monahans Sandhills State Park, but are now headed west toward El Paso.
As we head west, this may be our last day in the everything’s bigger state of Texas. It’s been a great adventure so far, and there ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.
Well, this post was intended to be entitled “On The Beach!”, but you know where good intentions can get you. No, we are not on the paved road to hell: We are at Padre Balli Park on North Padre Island. While it is fairly hot – currently 29c – it is far from hell on earth!
Let me explain how we got here.
As previously noted, our travel plans are best written in jello – or in this case sand. From Palo Duro Canyon we had planned on heading west to Santa Fe, New Mexico, but the cold weather was arcing down, bringing below freezing overnight temperatures. So we cancelled our reservation at Hyde Memorial State Park and headed southeast instead.
The end of our last post had us situated at Guadalupe River State Park, on the northern outskirts of San Antonio. And it was our intention to head east from there to camp ON THE BEACH at either Magnolia Beach or Port Aransas, Texas – two Gulf of Mexico locations that allow free ocean-side camping.
This all made possible, of course, by our new lithium batteries. But in addition to electricity, one needs water, and somehow our fresh water tank sprang a leak. We have an appointment next Tuesday at Iron Horse RV in San Antonio to have the tank repaired, but in the meantime we booked a full service site at a Nueces County park, next to the beach, just outside Corpus Christi.
As many know, Betty & I are not DIY people, but since we were here for Black Friday week, we thought we’d take the time to switch out our old microwave oven for a new one. Some time back the little plastic post that rotates the glass tray broke off, and crazy glue has not fixed it. More recently the button one pushes to open the door also broke, and we have been forced to use a crowbar to open the microwave: Likely not the safest method. lol. So we were due. All we needed was to remove the old oven and verify the available space. Easier said than done. Betty & I fought with the screws and bolts that hold it together for more than an hour before throwing in the towel. We just hope Iron Horse RV has the time and better luck in removing the obstinate oven!
In the meantime, we are forced to sit back and relax at the beach. My margarita at the Iron Cactus restaurant on San Antonio’s Riverwalk came with a souvenir mug, so I have been obligated to keep it filled and in reach ever since.
Betty & I would say that Padre Balli Park is far closer to heaven on earth than the other direction. Regardless of our intentions, we are more than happy with the paved road that lead us to our heavenly spot at the beach.
Cheers, and congrats to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for their Canadian Football League Grey Cup win!