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Riding in the Wilderness - Sonoita, Arizona - ATV Tour to The Empire Ranch

Riding in the Wilderness -Sonoita Arizona – ATV tour visiting the Empire Ranch   Martha and I decided to do an ATV Tour out of Sonoita, Arizona. We opted to take a cross country 4 hour tour which took us through the vast Empire Ranch. It was a lot a lot of fun. Our tour guides were Apache ATV Tours and their website can be found here: http://www.apacheatvtours.com/ The Empire Ranch is located on East Empire Ranch Road, three miles east of the intersection with State Highway 83 (between mile markers 39 and 40). It is 36 miles southeast of Tucson and 31 miles north of the Mexican border. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the nomination included only the main building of original ranch headquarters which was 160 acres in Pima County Arizona. The Empire Ranch House and facilities circa 1900 (Source Wikipedia)
  The Empire Ranch represents one of the most successful, long-lived, cattle ranching enterprises in the Southwest and has been in operation for over 140 years. The ranch is located in the ecologically rich Cienega Valley in Southeast Arizona, Ranch owners made full use of and, husbanded well, all of its natural resources – grass, water and soils – in support of their livestock business. The landscape retains a remarkable degree of integrity both of its natural resources and its built structures and features. Those ecological and historic values were recently recognized by Congress when the landscape was designated as the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in 2000. Now administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the Empire Ranch landscape still functions as a working cattle ranch and its headquarters are being stabilized and preserved. (source Wikipedia) Vaquero’s mounted and ready work on the Empire Ranch (source Wikipedia) The Empire Ranch was originally established in the 1860’s as a homestead ranch of 160 acres with a flat topped four-room adobe ranch house and adjoining adobe-walled corral. In 1876 the ranch was owned by Edward Nye Fish, a Tucson businessman, when it was acquired for $2,000 by Walter L. Vail, a native of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Plainfield, New Jersey, and Herbert Hislop, an Englishman. John Harvey, an Englishman from Bermuda, joined the partnership a few months later. Circa 1890’s The economic and financial success of the Empire Ranch was dependent upon the ingenuity and determination of two ranching families – Walter L Vail and relatives and, later, Frank Boice and his descendants. Walter Vail expanded the original homestead through a series of strategic acquisitions of land parcels and water rights and effectively secured control of several hundred thousand acres to support over 40,000 head of cattle. Possession and control of these valuable lands and water sources allowed the Vail family to protect the ecological integrity of their most important natural resources – soil and grass – when other ranchers regularly overused and ultimately damaged theirs. Like other entrepreneurs of the time, they invested in other resources and land uses. The discovery of silver at the Total Wreck Mine provided additional financial support for the Vails’ cattle empire. This lead to the growth of the ranch to an eventually the ranch grew to 115,200 acres, or 180 Sections which made the ranch 180 sq. miles. Today it still remains large by any standard at 46,000 acres owned and operated by the BLM. It is open to recreational activities of all kinds. Ready to depart on the tour
  Scenery that just won’t dissapoint Ranch resides amidst rolling grasslands at the transition between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. The Valley is surrounded by the Santa Rita, Huachuca, Whetstone, Mustang and Empire Mountains. The Santa Rita’s are in the background. That ain’t a cow! Lunch break under giant, old cottonwoods More, “not cows”

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

Going Underground in Bisbee Arizona

Going Underground in Bisbee Arizona Bisbee – Circa 1916 Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine. In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone to Bisbee, where it remains. Greed was major motivator in town. As a result the Bisbee Deportation took place. The workers lived and worked in deplorable conditions and also small wages. Therefore the workers went on strike and as a result the deportation took place to prevent profit losses. The deportation was the the illegal kidnapping and deportation of about 1,300 striking mine workers, their supporters, and citizen bystanders by 2,000 members of a deputized posse, who arrested these people beginning on July 12, 1917. The action was orchestrated by Phelps Dodge, the major mining company in the area, which provided lists of workers and others who were to be arrested in Bisbee, Arizona, to the Cochise County sheriff, Harry C. Wheeler. These workers were arrested and held at a local baseball park before being loaded onto cattle cars and deported 200 miles (320 km) to Tres Hermanas in New Mexico. The 16-hour journey was through desert without food and with little water. Once unloaded, the deportees, most without money or transportation, were warned sternly against returning to Bisbee. Workers awaiting their cattle car deportation Source -Wikipedia Workers being held at the local ball park. Note the armed guards. Source – Wikipedia Copper Queen Mine Martha and I visited Bisbee and took a tour of the Copper Queen Mine, a hard rock mine in Bisbee that is played out and is now a tourist attraction. Outfitted in hard hat, miner’s headlamp, thousands of Bisbee visitors ride into the Queen Mine Tour each year—heading underground and back in time. Tour guides, retired Phelps Dodge employees, lead the groups 1,500 feet into the mine and recount mining days, techniques, dangers and drama. Adding a personal touch, the miner-turned-tour guides help visitors experience what it was like to work underground. Tours depart each day, seven days a week, from the Queen Mine Tour Building, located immediately south of Old Bisbee’s business district, off the U.S. 80 interchange. The town is an interesting place though we didn’t see as much of it as we wanted. Instead we did the mine tour and then went to a local micro-brewery. After donning our safety equipment we were ushered onto the mine train. This is the original train that ferried workers underground and back to the surface. It’s very narrow and you sit facing forward while straddling a seat somewhat like sitting on a horse saddle.   Tour Guide and previous Phelps Dodge mine worker making sure everyone is ok with going underground. At this point we are about 1000″ into the mine tunnel. Getting ready to dis-embarked the train for a visit to a former work area The group making its way to a stop in the mine for a little orientation to the mining lifestyle Quartz deposits in the mine wall Typical work area within the mine. The bracing and scaffold in the background is typical of the type of reinforcement used inside the mine to shore up the weight above after blasting and clearing the tailing’s from the tunnel or openings  Mine supervisors peddle cart. Supervisors used these to get around within the mine. This saved time. Miners would hide these to frustrate the supervisors. Examples of hard rock drills used in the mine to drill blasting holes. The holes were then loaded with dynamite. After the holes were drilled they were loaded with dynamite with a blasting cap inserted and then a fuse which ran outside the drill hole. The fuses were cut to length depending on which holes had to be blown first. The center most holes were blown first to clear space for the rock debris to fall into and then the blasting continued (all in rapid succession from center to the outermost drilled holes). This allowed the debris to be cleared by mine workers without rock getting jammed up inside the diameter of the blast. Mine shaft elevator. This was formed using the same shoring/scaffolding shown above, The elevators were used to ferry men and equipment to and from the surface. They also provided room for fresh air to come into the mine. Mining in Bisbee wasn’t limited to hard rock mining. It also included strip mining and where possible hydraulic mining. This gigantic hole is the “Lavender Pit” The pit is an open pit mine that was mined by blasting through the rock and then using machinery to remove the tailing’s and bring them to the top for processing. After the mining tours we made our way to the “Old Bisbee Brewery” This spot is a local’s favorite and turned out to have great beer. I can recommend the mine tour and the Brewery. It was very interesting to learn the techniques used to extract the ores. The Copper Queen produced some the most pure copper ore ever found it averaged 25% in purity.

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

Mayport Naval Station, Mayport, TX

We had a big time camping at the Navy Station at Mayport, Fl.  Plenty of ships pass by our campsite, most often a dredge operating in the channel and car carriers.  A tour of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and a navy ship were highlights of our stay.  A foggy start to an offshore fishing trip went well as we caught quite a number of fish.  If you qualify, a stay at this military campground should be considered.  The campground is well run, clean and close to the beach and St. John’s river entrance to Jacksonville, Fl.  We hope to get a chance to return soon. Our next adventure will be from our home in South Carolina to San Antonio, Texas to watch our granddaughter show her pigs at the Livestock show and Rodeo in February.  Stay tuned,  Patrick

Bosun

Bosun

New Mexico - Tent Rock National Monument

Tent Rock National Monument  - Pueblo Cochiti, New Mexico These rocks are known by the Native American people of the area as Kasha-Kutawe (Cosh-a  Kuta- way) Tent Rocks.  They are a geologic wonder. We are staying at Cochiti Lake in Pena Blanca, NM.  Our campground rating is shown below after this blog entry. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is (Cost information in the link) located over a mile above sea level on the Pajarito Plateau about an hour’s drive north of Albuquerque. The park is littered with rock shapes known as Hoodoos. Hoodoos, otherwise known as tent rocks are unique structures. In Kasha-Katuwe’s case, they started forming more than six million years ago when volcanoes in the Jemez Mountains began to rip themselves apart in extended series of eruptions that covered the region with almost a thousand feet of ash and pumice. In time, this volcanic debris compacted and hardened, and was eventually topped with a deposit of sandstone. Through time, the tougher sandstone cap resisted erosion, but the softer layers of volcano rock below were slowly sculpted by the whims of wind and water, resulting in the odd, amazing cones that now occupy Kasha-Katuwe. The hoodoos, some almost 100 feet in height, curve, twist and contort their ways skyward, forming pillars that are fascinating to see. We hiked the Cave Loop and it was beautiful. There are two walking trails at the monument. One is called the "Cave Loop" and the other one is an out and back trail that is called the "Slot Canyon" hike. The latter has a vertical rise of just over 600' Some of the views are "other worldly"   I hope you enjoyed our tour of the Tent Rocks. Please, if you'd like to comment please use the link at the bottom of the page.  We were staying at Cochiti Lake in Pena Blanca, NM.  Our campground rating follows. Cochiti Lake - C.O.E. Campground - 4/5
WIFI - No ATT - Yes, 2-3 bars and very slow VERIZON - Yes, 4-5 bars and stable OTA TV - Non-existent SERVICES - 20/30/50 Amp plus improved boondocking sites DISCOUNTS - Yes, All Access and Golden Access Pass rates for us $10 nightly with water available (across the road) and 50 AMP electric REVIEW -  Pro's - The first (lowest loop) is boondocking and has water available. The next two loops have water and power. These loops almost brand new with nice bath house. Each site in the second two loops have it's own  casita and picnic table and power and water in those loops is at every site is at every campsite along with power. with level and mostly level sites. Pick your site carefully to insure your rig will fit. We were on site 15 in the Juniper Loop. This area has not been renovated, the toilet/shower is not working but we drove to the other shower houses to shower each day so big deal. Con's - Dog waste pick up stations don't have bags (there is a place for them) just a waste receptacle. Check in is a mystery, no attendants at the check in office with signs saying "Off Duty." The same applies to the visitors center, nobody home. How do you deal with it? Register online, pay online and come in and go to your site. The site placards are updated daily so if you have registered you will have a tag on your site with your name on it.      

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

Wind Gust Ripped our Patio Awning Off

Wind Gust Ripped our Patio Awning Off (Part 2) Read Part 1 - Click Here   November 9th 2018 Some of our readers may know about our RV patio awning getting ripped off by wind. Now that we are in the Benson/Tucson area we will be getting estimates for repairs. Getting one blown off while in motion is sort of nerve racking and dangerous at best. And then there is the whole what to do about removal after it happens. I can tell you it's a bit like playing Jenga. If you get it wrong you gotta problem and if you screw up you could damage the coach or RV while removing the wrecked parts. Since we were in disbelief of what had just happened Martha googled what to do when your awning does this while I dug out the tools, rain coat and my 10' step ladder.  She ended up looking at Exploring the Local Life's blog for advice since this happened to them. We pondered the problem for a bit before we decided to rip down the remaining awning and awning arms. The bottom line is that if the awning hardware was substantially bent or ripped through it's pivot points and mounting hardware you are screwed. You might as well just take it down. My first thought was that I could maybe save the awning roller. But on close inspection I could see that it was damaged too. Since there was no dumpster nearby I did something I would never do otherwise. I left all the debris in a ditch along the highway. Estimating Insurance Replacement and Labor Costs December 4th 2018 Today's task is to get an estimate started for replacement.  I didn't think I would miss having the awning but when you want to grill something in the rain, well, it's indispensable. Tucson where the repair guy's shop (Ricks RV Repar) is located is about an hour away. This requires me to break camp and then re-establish it later in the day. It'll be a pain in the arse but necessary.  So, I went to the repair shop in Tucson (Ricks RV Repair) and we discussed my options for a new awning. It'll depend on how much the old custom awnings replacement will cost. It is/was an electric awning with a wind sensor. What I really want to replace it with is something on the order of the type awning Entegra uses. Our side walls are very tall and the old awning came almost straight out from the coach. In this configuration there wasn't much shading because the awning was 12' off the ground. Entegra uses one that looks like this: This configuration will provide the shade we want but I worry it won't take much wind.  Not making a decision yet so I have a bit of time. Getting your RV awing ripped off while you are driving really sucks. But it could have been much worse. December 10 2018 We seem to be making some progress on putting together an estimate. Rick from "Ricks RV Service" called me this morning with some concerns regarding being able to get information on the awning that came with the RV.  He will be contacting Newmar for information on the old awning by using the original build sheet for the coach. So, we wait again. December 12 2018 Ricks RV Service sent the claim to State Farm and copy to me. The total for replacement and labor is $3,469.00 for the awning hardware, awning fabric and labor. I am going to talk with Rick and find out if we can work within this budget and replace the one awning with two.  I would like the power awning on our kitchen slide which is next to the entrance door and a manual awning on the space between the kitchen and bedroom slide with this one set down lower on the RV so we can reach it to put the awning out.  I guess I will determine what we can do after State Farm reviews the estimate. More later.

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

Enjoying Pensacola - Going Coastal

LIFE'S A BEACH - PENSACOLA, FLORIDA Sunset at the Naval Air Station We're at the BEACH! We haven't blogged in a while, so I told Chuck that I'd write one this time.  It's been a fairly quiet few weeks, as we've slowed down (yay!) and are doing a lot of just living, instead of playing tourist.  After Hurricane Michael disrupted our plans to stay at Pensacola Beach, we spent 2 1/2 weeks at Navy campgrounds in Pensacola, drove 30 miles ands spent a couple days in Alabama, drove 90 miles for a couple days in Biloxi, moving another 35 miles to the beach at Waveland, Mississippi and then are headed for another few days on the beach in Mississippi and Texas before Thanksgiving.  A month and a half by the beach isn't too bad! Work, work, work I am amazed at how full life can be when you aren't working full time.  I have been working quite a bit lately, as I've been fortunate to have several freelance jobs come in.  It's kind of nice to turn away work because you're too busy...although I definitely am not working 40 hour a week.  I like putting in a couple of hours a day, but it does cut into my Facebook time.  I have also been working on Chuck's family tree.  I had a breakthrough where I identified a whole branch of Ketchums that are DNA matches to Chuck, and now I have to figure out exactly how they are related...and they've now added a chromosome browser to MyHeritage's DNA section, so I can try and map gene segments to family branches.  Of course, Chuck has thousands of DNA matches, so this is a long-term project.  It's getting me familiar with the technology, though. Disk Golf for low-cost fun Anyway, besides work and genealogy, we have enjoyed a bit of disk golf time.  Our campground at the Blue Angel Recreation Area in Pensacola had three 18-hole golf courses and the weather was nice while we were there, so we played every day!  And Chuck also took time to wax The Beast, so we are nice and shiny again.  We also have played in a city park in Pensacola and a city park in Biloxi.  It's a great way to get out and get some fresh air and some steps in. Getting some exercise I went and invested in a new Fitbit for myself, and am working on getting those steps in!  One thing about living in an RV is if you don't go outside, you don't get much exercise.  It's a whole 20 steps from the very front to the very back!  When it rains or the heat is too much, I end up walking in place or turning on the music and dancing....which looks foolish (I can't seem to get away from the full length mirror), but hey, it's exercise. Our tourist activities Other things we've done:  go to a wedding on the beach, mead tasting, finding Thai restaurants, meeting online friends in person, climb a lighthouse, watch the Blue Angels practice, walk on the beach, visit the Flora-Bama, snap a few sunset pictures, and relax! Late afternoon sky at Blue Angel Recreation Area Trying a Mead Flight at Swan Neck Wine and Meadery NAS Light house At the Famous Flora-Bama Beach at the Naval Station (no swimming allowed) Oak Grove Campground on the NAS Pesacola, the roof was chock-full of acorns after 10 days there!      

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

Getting Your Cowboy On - Tombstone Arizona

Getting Your Cowboy On - Tombstone Arizona Viewing Businesses along Allen Street - Tombstone, Arizona 1879   Like most children of the 50's, I grew up with westerns. I watched every black and white television series like The Lone Ranger, Sky King, and Gunsmoke. And we lived for movies like Fort Apache, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Winchester 73, anything with John Wayne in it and, well you get the picture.     When I learned how close Benson, Arizona was to Tombstone I knew we had to visit.  As you might suspect, it is now a tourist trap. But the history is true, the shoot out at the ok corral was real. But there is so much more history to this town.  Is Tombstone a tourist trap?  Yes.  Is it worth going to?  If you are fan of western lore and western movies, by all means.     Viewing Allen Street - Tombstone Today In 1877 a man by the name of Ed Schieffelin was staying at a place called Camp Huachuca, Arizona and during his stay, he decided to join a military expedition to scout for Chiricahua Apache Native American strongholds. Ed would leave the expeditions encampments to look for rocks within the wilderness despite the fact that fellow soldiers at his camp warned him not to. The soldiers told him that he wouldn’t find stones out in the wilderness and would only eventually find his own tombstone. Fortunately, for Ed, he did not find his tombstone, but he did find something. He discovered a large exposed vein of silver in the place he eventually named Tombstone, an name which he of course took from his military friends. Tough Nut Silver Mine Word of the silver find soon spread and the town of Tombstone grew.  If you are a fan of the wild west you have no doubt heard of Tombstone. The area around Tombstone became well known for its silver mines. And more people came to the town. Some were settlers, storekeepers and miners. But others were looking for easy money. These were gamblers and thieves who drank too much alcohol and settled their disagreements with their guns. Big Nose Kate By the end of 1881, the town of Tombstone had a population of more than 5,000. It also had five local newspapers, at least two theaters, a courthouse, hotels and many local drinking places. And a gunfight had already taken place that would forever include Tombstone among the famous stories told about the American Wild West. Doc Holiday
One of those famous stories was about gunfight that took place on October 26, 1881 between the town's top lawman, or marshal, and his deputies on one side and an outlaw group called the Cowboys on the other at the now famous O.K. Corral. On the day of the famous fight, those men were gathered near the OK Corral, an enclosed area used to keep horses and other animals. They were armed, in violation of a town ban against carrying guns. They were also drinking alcohol and threatening to kill the Earp brothers. Morgan and Louisa Houston Earp     Virgil Earp     Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp (not positive this is real)   Virgil Earp decided that it was his duty to disarm them. His two brothers and a friend, the gunfighter Doc Holiday, went along to help. The four walked down the street toward the corral. Virgil Earp told the cowboys to surrender their weapons. Billy Claiborne ran away. And the fight began. Ike Clanton Historians say 32 shots were fired in the space of about 23 seconds. No one really knows who fired first. But Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton died of gunshot wounds. Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded but survived. Only Ike Clanton and Wyatt Earp were not hurt in the gun battle. Wyatt Earp's Wife Josephine aka: Sadie Jo Looking At Tombstone Today Today, Allen Street in Tombstone is the "main drag."  The sidewalks are boardwalks and the street is dirt, and everything (except the merchandise and the prices) feels like you're back in the old west.  There is a "theme park" where you can see a comedy gunfight and of course, the OK Corral, where you can see a re-enactment of the famous event.  The courthouse is now a state park, and the gallows where the guilty were hung are still in the yard behind the courthouse.  You can tour the town in a Humvee, a trolley or a horse-drawn wagon.  There are several museums, only one of which is free.  Expect to spend $5 to $15 per person on anything you do.  Catch a Stage?    

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

"Things" Matter - Don't They?

The Thing? Come with us as we go to see the thing. Do you believe in extraterrestrials? If you have driven I-10 through New Mexico and Arizona you had to be asleep not to have seen sign after sign advertising "The Thing."  For three hundred miles bill boards tease and entice you with things like "See the Mystery of the Desert" or "What is it?" Well, I'm happy to say I have the word "Sucker" written on my forehead. We paid our money and willfully, dare I say happily went into "The Thing Museum" and had a ball viewing all the exhibits.  Do you believe in alien life? Are you at least open minded about it? I'm not talking about folks that are crossing our borders, instead I am talking about the extraterrestrial kind of alien.   Once inside the museum, the signage extols "What if....the conspiracies, cover-ups, and concealment's are true?  What if.....the conspiracy theories are based on the truth."  How could you not want to go and see what they offer? Entertainment or Truth? The creators of the "museum" were very careful to frame every claim with a "what if," but their hypothetical situations were both funny and fascinating. Dinosaurs Were Once Ruled by Aliens From Another Planet?  Say Whaaaat? Must Be True. I Mean, Someone Built a Museum About It After all Family Snapshots Yes folks, what if there were aliens here from another planet that used mind control to control the dinosaurs?  And then the dinosaurs figured out that they were being controlled and turned on their masters?  So the aliens sent an asteroid to make the dinosaurs extinct. Is Human History a Lie? And what if there were "good" aliens and "bad" aliens …. and the "bad" aliens controlled the likes of Hitler while the "good" aliens are responsible for all of the technological advances that have helped society?  They have pictures where you can see an Alien in the background where WWII treaties were signed.  If it's in a picture, it must be true, right? Throw in a few bits of "old stuff" and "stuff we found in the desert"....don't forget the dinosaur bones with suspicious marking. Who Controls Your Mind? And at the end..."The Thing".....perhaps an alien from prehistoric time.  Who knows?  But how fun to speculate.   This exhibit reminded us of a bad B movie or a junior high creative writing project.  It was too much fun to turn away, but certainly nothing to take seriously.  Definitely worth our investment of $8 and change for the tour. After the tour, make sure you shop at their gift shop.  In addition to "Thing" tee shirts, there are some pretty cool blankets and moccasins, jewelry and sculptures.  Yep, this is where our cheap date got expensive. Where to find the thing?  Take Exit 322 off I-10 in Arizona.  From there, you can't miss it.

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

Exploring Saguaro National Park

Exploring  Saguaro National Park was a unique experience. No where else in the world does Saguaro grow in "forests.  Even with ever increasing pressure for housing around the park the Saguaro thrive in this other worldly place. If you visit Tucson by all means take the drive to the National Park and see the Saguaro. Join us as we visit the Giant Saguaro Cactus Forest (click below).            

MarthaChuck

MarthaChuck

 

An Unexpected Move

Let me introduce our motor home, VGER.  VGER is named for the villainous character in the first of the Star Trek movies.  VGER has been in our family going on 15 years this summer.  It (VGER was an it) was purchased at a Monaco Come Home Rally in Raine, LA.  We traded in a 10 year old Monaco we had purchased as a used coach in the spring of 2001.  We sold our home and moved into that used coach full time on July 7, 2001.  VGER was purchased new, 1235.4 miles on the odometer when we took possession on November 14, 2003.  Today it has 177,326.1 miles on the odometer.  From November 2003 until October 2010, we lived in VGER full time.  Starting in the fall of 2010, we move into a mobile home each fall and move back into VGER each spring.  When in VGER, we travel.  A long stay is on the order of 3 to 4 weeks.  Those stays are when we are visiting our children and grandchildren.  Once a year we move into our children's neighborhoods and become neighbors for a period of time.  In between time we follow our noses.  We've visited 49 states and 12 provinces in Canada.  We have begun slowly remodeling VGER.  Carpeting, lights, some furniture, plumbing and more.  Some of the remodeling has been out of necessity some just to keep the coach looking modern.  Our work continued this summer, right up to the time we found our next motor home.  While at Gillette, first at the Monaco International pre-rally and finally at the FMCA Convention, we purchased a 2015 Monaco Dynasty.  The Windsor is up for sale, look for the ad in the Family RV'ing Magazine (FMCA) January issue. We transferred the license from the Windsor to the Dynasty, VGER lives on.  Since the purchase we have put 4500 miles on the Dynasty and are enjoying many of it's features.  There is a trade-off when moving from a 40' coach to a 45' coach.  The two are not directly comparable as they are of a different age.  Right away we realized that the relative frugality of the Windsor was dramatically different from the Dynasty.  Fuel mileage dropped from 8.3 with the Windsor to 6.5 with the Dynasty.  That was no surprise, I figured it might even be lower.  The Dynasty has an Aqua-Hot for hot water and heat.  Both run off the fuel tank as does the generator.  With the Windsor only the generator shared the fuel tank.  With all these uses for the diesel fuel, I have lost the ability to get a true mileage performance figure.  Due to the demand for electric, we have an induction cooktop, the Dynasty really needs to be plugged in regularly.  The generator will run things but using the generator extensively is an expensive proposition.  The water and waste tanks are roughly the same size as the Windsor but the water usage in the Dynasty is going to be greater.  The toilets use significantly more water with each flush.  The shower has a rain shower head which is a big water user.  That means we will have to be hooked up every two or three days.  With the Windsor we were able to go close to a week without hook-ups and longer if we really needed to stretch it. When we pulled up to our home at Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas we faced another challenge.  Our parking space is adjacent to our mobile home.  The driveway barely accommodated the length of the Windsor with our toad parked behind.  I knew that and planned to park the toad cross-way in the driveway, that worked fine.  We also had to maneuver a longer coach onto the driveway.  The park road is fairly narrow and there is no way to run off on the opposite side.  We always had to make three or four passes to jockey the Windsor into the driveway.  I didn't even know if we could get the Dynasty  into the driveway.  As it turned out, we made it, a few more passes than the Windsor.  With all the slides open we have about 6 inches between the Dynasty and the roof of the mobile home.  Whew! That is close.  Surprisingly, the space in the storage bays is less in the Dynasty than the Windsor.  Some of our gear made the trip home in the toad rather than in the storage bays.  We'll go through some winnowing of our gear before departing next spring.  All in all we are quite happy with our new VGER and as we get to know it better I'm certain we'll continue to look back to the Windsor with many happy memories while enjoying the luxury of the Dynasty.

TBUTLER

TBUTLER

 

Greetings

I’ve decided to start a Blog.  I will be sharing our RV adventures in the near future.  As a River Towboat Captain I work a  month on, month off schedule.  We will be headed to Pelicans Roost Campground at Mayport Naval base after Christmas for a week.   I have a few maintenance items to knock out before departing our home in South Carolina for Florida.  I do all maintenance and repairs to the Motor home myself (so far). I find that Motor homes are very similar to large boats that I work on with all the same basic systems on board.   So, stay tuned as I chronicle our trips!   Patrick  

Bosun

Bosun

Annual Review as We Begin Our 6th Year

As we enter our sixth year of retirement and RV'ing it was time for a review of life. It is always good to look backwards in time to review how plans, goals and reality match up.  We continue to evolve in our RV lifestyle.  My advise to anyone just entering or planning on RV'ing is to be flexible and open to change.  Our original plans when we first began in 2013 have grown, evolved and today our lives look much different than our first plan. We began with a 13 year old motorhome because we had no idea if the vagabond life style would suit us.  We knew that Mexico would be part of our plan, but we were not sure we would love being in a third world country.  We had no plans to travel internationally, but we have now visited 19 countries.  The financial advantage of RV living for us was that it opened up possibilities we had never considered.  We can park the RV and suspend almost all our costs while we try different things in life. Life in Mexico is working great for us.  The financial savings each year finance our travels the rest of the year.  For us it is impossible to spend an American retirement while living in Mazatlan.  Each month we have "left over" money. After seeing how our first five years have gone it was time to up our commitment to RV'ing.  So we purchased a new-to-us diesel motorhome and a four wheel drive Honda CRV.  These vehicles should take us through the next many years until we hang up our traveling shoes.  I went back to what I had written 12 months ago to see how our plans have worked out.  We seem to be on track. Here's what I was thinking last year:   Thursday, October 19, 2017 Why Did We Change Motorhomes?   Our new-to-us Holiday Rambler Endeavor 40 PDT - 3 Slides
330 HP Cummins Diesel with an Allison Transmission So the question to answer today is, "Why did we buy another motorhome?"  Was it "RV envy"?  Did we need a bigger motorhome?  Was the LaPalma giving us problems?  Was it just time for a change after owning the gasser for 6 years?  Was I tired of owning a sea foam green RV?  Was it because my brother-in-law bought a 40' diesel pusher?  Was it because I had done all the improvements that I could do to the LaPalma?

There was no one answer to why I wanted to change.  I thought that it was time to own a big boy coach.  Here's how my thought process worked.
  Our faithful old Monaco LaPalma 34 SBD
It sold a couple days after we traded it in on the Endeavor. Six years ago we bought the Monaco LaPalma 34' SBD with two slides and a Ford V-10 gas engine.  It had 48,000 miles on it.  This year we passed 78,000 miles.  That's 5,000 mile per year during the time we owned it.  It was a great RV and we spent close to $16,000.00 repairing, improving and maintaining it during those 6 years. The depreciation on the motorhome during that time was another $16,000.00.

Our cost of ownership was $32,000.00.  That comes down to $444.44 per month over those 6 years.

Now 32 grand sounds like a lot of money but compared to owning the home on Raft Island it's a bargain.  My property taxes and insurance on that house were higher than my monthly cost of owning and maintaining an RV.

The LaPalma was a starter RV for us.  We didn't know if our dreams of traveling and being vagabonds was really something we would like and want to do for many years.  As we start our fifth Winter we are nearing the midway point of our 10 year plan.  We still love our traveling lifestyle.

A question I asked myself was, "Is the LaPalma going to last another 5-6 years and would we still be happy with it after 100,000 miles?  Was it time to start over with another low mileage motorhome?

The new-to-us Endeavor has 28,400 miles on it and it should be our last RV up until we are too old to travel this way.  I didn't want to get down the road 2 or 3 years and be faced with the decision whether it was worth changing RV's for the last few years of our travels.  I don't want the RV dictating that it is time to retire from our planned 10 year goal.
  The most important feature is my 'old man recliner'. So for me it was a long range plan to get an RV that would get us through those coming years.

We loved owning the LaPalma.  It was a part of our successful plan.  Hopefully the Endeavor will take us into our 70's when it will be time to hang up our traveling shoes.

Life is good  Russ & Terri Ranger Travel since July 2013 5 months - Winters in sunny Mazatlan, Mexico 6 months - Wandering the USA in our Holiday Rambler Endeavor 40' PDT Motorhome 1 month - International Travel -19 countries, so far http://grandbanksruss.blogspot.com Page 1 of 1  sorted by Oldest FirstNewest First  

RussRanger

RussRanger

The Weeks Before our First FMCA Convention in Gillette

Devils Tower - Wyoming  This is how we spent our time before our first ever FMCA Convention.  We needed to fill a few weeks before we got to Gillette, Wyoming.  We visited 3 states, one of which was North Dakota, our 49th state visited.  That leaves only Alaska, which will be our destination for 3 months in the Summer of 2019. Needles Highway through Custer State Park in South Dakota. We dry camped in Wind Cave National Park for a week.  The wild life was abundant and every day we added to our list.  Custer State Park which is 70,000 acres borders Wind Cave NP became our favorite state park in the USA.  We hiked and drove for days to take in the amazing sights.     Next up was a week exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  We stayed in Cottonwood Campground in the South unit of the park and drove on a day trip to include the North unit.  Seeing herds of Bison was great.   We also enjoyed the burros and wild horses.           Our next stop was at Devils Tower in Wyoming.  The campground at this National Monument is right under the shadow of the Tower.  An amazing night sky and a great hike around the Tower were the highlights for us. The view from our campground. The view back down to our camp site from up on the Tower hike. Not my friend. Fortunately this guy did not visit our campsite.  As a Ranger I would have been obligated to beat him with a stick.  I hate snakes. We are enjoying a very slow pace as we work our way West.  Our plans change every few days as we find new things to see,. We will spend six days in Gillette, Wyoming at a Family Motor Coach Convention.  It's just us and 1,600 other RV's.  We'll be attending great seminars on the RV'ing life.  It's hard to choose from the 150 classes, but we both look forward a good week of learning. Eva is loving life on the road.  She has learned to sit up like a Prairie Dog.  She would sit with her head out the window and listen to them talk.  Every time we would see a colony we would have to pull over so that she could listen. Eva's new BFF. Life is good for the wandering Ranger's.

RussRanger

RussRanger

Captive in Wyoming

We don't seem to be able to leave Wyoming.  After being here for two weeks we still have a week or two of sites to see.  We both agree that Wyoming is beautiful and we are nowhere near Yellowstone yet.  There are still great things to be seen and done. Ten Sleep Falls near our boondocking spot in the Big Horn Mountains. We have spent the last 7 nights boondocking or dry camping at 3 different spots in the Big Horn National Forest in north central Wyoming.  Each day has been spent hiking and four wheeling through very amazing canyons.  The new Honda CRV is four wheel drive and we could not have done the dirt roads we traveled in our old Honda Fit. It's hard to pick a favorite day, but the day spent in Crazy Woman Canyon may be it.  The dirt road/path was a challenge.  The river running through the canyon was beautiful.  And Eve loved it all. One of our campsites was on this beautiful lake. The view out our front window. One morning a moose walked about 50' in front of us.  I was so excited I forgot to take a picture.  We've seen lots of different wildlife, but my favorites have been the various moose (or is that mice). Another windshield shot as we squeezed between boulders. Our last three nights were spent boondocking off a dirt road between Bear Lake and the Ten Sleep River.  We could listen to the water cascading down the river from our RV. Ten Sleep Lake We enjoyed our warm 3 mile hike beside this lake. The next day we decided to change our scenery so we drove out of the mountains to see Castle Garden.  Again it was many miles of dirt road but well worth the effort. Time to climb a Hoodoo.       We needed to do laundry after two weeks so we headed into the town of Ten Sleep (population 250).  We'll spend the day here getting water, dumping tanks and getting ready for another week in the northern portion of the Big Horn National Forest.  Next stop will be Lovell, Wyoming. The reason we came to Wyoming was to attend the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) convention.  We both enjoyed picking our favorite seminars from a list of 150 classes.  There were over 1,600 motorhomes in attendance.  It was alot like a big county fair for RV'ers. Great concerts every night. We're loving life on the road this year.  The new-to-us motorhome is a pleasure to drive and we are getting to know all the different systems.  It has kept us cool on 100 degree days and warm through chilly nights.  This was the hail from a few nights ago up in the mountains. Not snow, just large hail stones. Life is good....driving down the road to somewhere unknown.

RussRanger

RussRanger

From Gillette to Three Weeks in Wyoming

Fifty years ago someone rolled up this barbed wire fence and hung it up on an old fence post. In 1968 the federal government purchased 35,000 acres of ranch land in the Pryor Mountains to protect the wild horses that roam this area. Today we went hiking and once again found out how beautiful Wyoming is.  We began on an old ranch and drove 3 miles up a canyon on an old rutted path.  When we ran out of road we began hiking the winding path up a canyon between two mountain ranges. After about a quarter of a mile we forded a small stream and had a constant sound of falling and tumbling water for the rest of the hike .  The canyon narrowed and I thought in was time to test for an echo.  I whistled loudly and was rewarded with 3 or 4 return whistles.  Cool! Eva "the wonder dog" led the way up the trail. Eva and Terri pose on a rock.     I think when the arrow points up they really mean it.  The elevation here is well over a mile high so I wheeze as I go.  It was a great hike, Eva loves her job as leader. One side of the boundaries is the Big Horn Canyon.  The road follow the rim of the canyon as much as it can, but hiking a mile to the very edge was worth it.   This canyon led us into Montana.  The water/canyon is 56 miles long.  We only saw a hand full of other cars all day.  We felt like we owned a private canyon.  We Rangers must be rich (in experiences at least).   A big bend panorama. If you climb high enough this is the reward. It's named Big Horn Canyon for a reason.  We also saw wild horses, but at a great distance.
There were 9 Big Horn in this group.  I couldn't get them to cooperate and stand facing me in a nice line.  No group picture for these stubborn animals.   It was another warm day topping out at 91 degrees.  We had gotten up early and had our hiking done by noon, so we missed the hottest part of the day. We are staying in a small town park in Lovell, Wyoming.  The town built a new park with 5 RV spaces and we can stay for three days FREE. We hadn't  climbed to the top of the canyon yet. We were still smiling. Life is good in Lovell.

RussRanger

RussRanger

Heading Back To Washington

We didn't want to wear out our welcome in the beautiful state of Wyoming, so after 3 wonderful weeks we are headed home.  Slowly.  We passed through Yellowstone quickly.  Drove all day to get out of Montana.  And tonight we are on the shore of Moses Lake, in warm Eastern Washington. Our plan is to go south around Mt Rainier and then work our way back north to Tacoma next week. We haven't traveled Hwy 12 in a few years and we haven't camped there in years.  It's time to go look around. Here are a few photos from this last week.  Most are from the area around Shoshone National Forest.  We had a wonderful campsite right on the Shoshone River. The view out our front window. One afternoon we could feel a sudden storm blowing in.  We picked up our chairs and secured everything knowing what was coming over the ridge in front of us.  First wind, next lightening, than thunder and last sheets of rain.  Mind you all of this time it was still brightly shining on our campsite.  Here's a photo out our front windshield. It came down in buckets a few minutes later.  There was enough rain that it turned the crystal clear river to brown in a few hours with all the run off from the mountains. Bright sunshine and rain? We stopped and looked at Buffalo Bill Dam.  They had a vast collection of driftwood piled against the dam.   When it was built it was the tallest dam in the world. Shell Falls As usual we were able to find many falls and a few great hikes along our way.  The only drawback to hiking in these areas is oxygen.  The air gets pretty thin above 8,000 or 9,000 feet.  I just keep climbing and wheezing my way up. Five Springs Falls Here's my high climbing buddy.   Sunset at our last campsite in Wyoming. Life is good..... we're heading home to see Grandkids.  Thus ends a 7,000+ mile trip that has taken 125 days.  It will be good to be back.

RussRanger

RussRanger

Poor Truck Stop Performance

So this summer I got underway from my Tennessee home and headed to parts high and west. It gets pretty muggy and warm in Tennessee in the summer as you might know!! In preparation for this, I made sure my Good Sam card and towing service were up to date and checked the FMCA and good Sam, Pilot / Flyin J & Love’s cards were connected up to these accounts for fuel discounts. All armed, off I went on my 6200 mile sojourn.   I drive a 1995 38 ft Beaver Emerald Marquis. I tow a 2016 GMC Canyon. The Beaver has a 365 HP Cat and likes diesel!! Here is what I found; All of the Love’s, Pilot/Flying J’s as well as most TA centers located on the interstates were charging up to $0.40 / gallon more that the surrounding areas! Additionally, they would often advertise a cash price of say $3.25 and a CC or Debit card price of $3.45!  or 6% more. (my Visa card charges the merchant 1.5%!) So not only are you gonna pay more than fueling stations located a bit off the freeway, but better carry large sums of greenbacks too!! So the fuel discounts are a come-on and gain you nothing.   Here is what I did. In my journey this summer, I purchased fuel only once from a Loves, not a red-cent to the others. When I’d get to about a half of a tank or so, I’d take the interstate alternate route into a city or town. As soon as you are out of site of the freeway – viola – diesel prices ranged from $2.94 to $3.19 / gal!! the highest I paid for fuel was the $3.25 once. So this is way better that the fuel “discounts” they purport.  My savings for this trip were about $360.00!   Other than that, and having to replace my generator starter during the trip, I had a great time.   R/ DH

Danheinemann

Danheinemann

Catch Some Wind

I love kite flying. It a sport, hobby that goes well with living full time in my motorhome.  Catch Some Wind (latest blog entry)      

gramps

gramps

 

Back to paradise...

It has been almost a year since we visited the Florida Keys.  We stayed at Bluewater RV resort in Saddlebunch key – about 14 miles to the north of Key West.  A truly epic vacation adventure.   Six weeks after we left, hurricane Irma hit.  We watched the updates from the park on Facebook as the hurricane moved in.  Then silence… I would check daily to see if there were any updates on the staff and the park we grew to love.  Finally, after what seemed forever, there were words and pictures.  My heart sank… The damage to the park and the Florida Keys was devastating.  No other way to describe it.  As we started planning our summer trip for ’18, the overwhelming destination vote was Bluewater Key… Checking on the park from time to time during the winter, I was amazed the staff had the facility up and running.  What better way to help the Keys recover than go down and spend some dollars.  On the trip down, the damage was still evident (especially on Big Pine Key), but we were all amazed at how far the recovery had come. Pulling in the park our hearts lifted – it was just how we remembered, even better.  I have to admit, I worried that going to the same spot it would somehow not live up to the expectation.  Thankfully, that was not the case.  Once again, we had a great time – different experiences and adventures all their own - connecting with some really good folks during our stay.

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

Cornice Board Upgrade

I have wanted to do this upgrade for some time now… Looking at the dated fabric on our cornice boards made our coach feel old, even though it is a 2011.  Pulling the old ones down was a breeze since they were barely attached with a couple of small screws… Let the fun begin… I have never seen SO many staples holding something on in my life!  As I started pulling them off (and killing my fingers in the process), I thought maybe there was a better way.  Since the fabric coverings can fade and go out of style (as ours did), I decided to take another tack.  How about wood cornice boards?  I could either stain them or paint them as desired… hmmm… off the Lowes for materials to build a prototype… Three prototypes later, I decided on a somewhat basic configuration with some extra trim pieces to make it look a bit more elegant.  Measure twice, cut once… A few hours later I had the first one complete.  We decided to paint ours to give a contrast against our light stained cabinets… I trusted the wife on this one and boy was she right!   The added bonus is that each one of these new cornice boards are only on average 2.1 pounds heavier than the original.  What a difference.  Four down, two to go…

markandlisav

markandlisav

 

I Should Have Bought a Squirrel

In the 2001 movie, Rat Race, Kathy Bates tries to sell a squirrel to Whoopi Goldberg and her daughter.  They defer but ask Kathy Bates for directions.  Being a race, they are traveling at breakneck speed down one road after another following the directions.  Finally at one point, hurtling down a gravel road with dust billowing behind they pass a sign:  "You Should Have Bought a Squirrel."  That is followed by a scene of them going over a cliff, landing on a pile of rusted and wrecked cars.  It is one of our favorite moments in a favorite movie.  It is also a quote we use frequently as we travel, not only on the road but through life.  One or the other of us will turn to the other and say, "We should have bought a squirrel."  Our travels this spring have brought back that saying frequently.  It starts with a problem that I've been trying to get fixed all winter.  Repeated visits to repair shops still yields no solution.  We have no taillights.  The turn signals and brake lights work.  The emergency flashers work.  We still have no taillights.  So we are restricting our travel to daylight only.  For the most part, that isn't a problem since I have avoided night travel for the last several years.  Given that condition, we departed early on the morning of April 18 to attend the Lone Star Chapter of FMCA rally in Johnson City, TX.  Arriving there just after noon, we parked.  I went to step out of the coach and found that the electric step hadn't opened fully.  After stepping out of the coach carefully, I examined the step to find that a link from the motor to the step was missing.  Not broken, it was gone!  I carry a separate step for those days when the front of the coach is raised well above the ground.  So we used that step for the rally.  I used zip ties to fasten the disabled step in the retracted position for travel to our next destination, Austin.  Monday I had an appointment to get two new Michelin tires mounted on the coach.  I have adopted the practice of replacing the front tires every two years and then moving the used front tires to the rear, both tires replace the oldest pair of rear dual tires.  In this case, the coach wasn't in a shop, the work was done outside the shop so I had complete access to the coach and could talk with the workers. An aside, I have yet to find a tire tech who knows how to properly torque a lug nut. As they were mounting the tires on the rims, I inspected the brake rotors and gave the underside of the front of the coach a good looking-over.  Peering into the area behind the drivers-side tire I noticed something strange.  There was a large object dangling there in the center of the coach.  I recognized this as the supplementary air compressor which is part of the HWH air leveling system.  It maintains our  level position when we are parked and it was still working. The pump and it's mounting plate weighed at least 30 pounds and they were hanging by the air hoses (2) and the electrical supply and control wires.  Had this dropped off en-route, who knows what would have been destroyed in the process.  After bouncing along under the coach, it would have encountered our GMC Acadia!  I considered myself very lucky, fortunate to have found this dangerous  condition.  I found a large C-clamp in my tools and was able to clamp the remaining mounting plate to the frame.  I've added a second clamp to help secure the assembly just to be sure.  I have an appointment at the factory service center to get this properly remounted but we will travel at least 1500 miles before that happens.  I'm not going to turn over welding on the frame to just anyone.  What had happened to the original mounting plate?  It had cracked, all the way across a 3/8" steel plate that was about 10" wide.  Apparently 170,000 miles of highway travel had vibrated it to the point that it broke!  The piece that was welded to the frame is still there and it matches the piece that broke off.  Metal fatigue had nearly done us in. I ordered a rebuild kit for the Kwikee Step, new motor, linkage, control center, it was all different since our step was new.  I was able to successfully install that at home before we left for the summer on May 5.  Our second day out we stopped at an RV park in eastern Louisiana.  The next morning, Louise cranked the engine to air up in preparation for bringing our slides in before departure.  She turned the key, the engine answered, "Uggg."  I stopped my disconnecting process to go inside and jump the engine battery with the house batteries.  Successful, I went back outside to finish getting us road ready.  Before leaving we decided to run the generator but the house batteries didn't have the umph to crank the generator!  So with the engine now running I jumped the house batteries with the engine battery.  The generator started. Now with everything running, I got on the computer and then the phone to call a RV shop along our route.  With luck, I called Billy Thibodeauxs Premier RV Inc. near Lafayette, Louisiana.  Finding the shop was an adventure, if you decide to follow in our footsteps, check their website for the best route to get there.  Ashley was very friendly and efficient.  By the time we arrived just before noon I was informed that the batteries would be delivered to the shop by 1:30 p.m. and they would install them as soon as they arrived.  Believe it or not, we were back on the road by 3:00 p.m., $1900 lighter but with good batteries. Leaving I-10 for I-59, we left the heavy traffic behind and pulled into a truck parking area just before sunset (remember our coach turns to a pumpkin after sunset).  Our final adventure for the initial trip occurred in Chattanooga, TN.  Passing through town on I-59/I-24 to get to I-75, we were in the center lane of rush hour traffic.  Coming down a hill I applied the brakes as traffic came to a stop.  The fuel in the fuel tank sloshed to the front and the engine stopped!  Yes, I knew we were low on fuel, a station was just up the road on I-75 and we planned to make that stop our night stay at Walmart.  I tried to restart the engine, no luck.  Whoever was behind us on the right side must have realized our situation because they stopped to allow us to coast down the hill through the right hand lane to the shoulder.  I came to a stop just before an overpass but on level ground.  Now on the level, the engine started.  I wondered how long that would last but pulled back onto the highway and we continued on.  Now I stayed in the right lane. Looking for the Walmart and the accompanying Murphy station, we came up empty.  It wasn't where the GPS led us.  I had established several years before that Murphy isn't a subsidiary of Walmart and there are stations that are located at separate locations.  It turned out the station was there but Walmart wasn't.  As we passed it later, I looked and it would have been a difficult in and out for us. Passing the location, we noticed a small station on the opposite side of the street.  They had  diesel and at the same price as Murphy.  We frequently patronize small stations but I do approach them with extreme caution.  The canopy has high enough, the in and out route was do-able so we looped through a large parking lot and returned to that station.  Louise got out to scout for the diesel pump as I idled on the road in position to pull up to the diesel pump wherever it was.  She signaled a location and I pulled in.  I put 109 gallons of diesel in a 127 gallon tank.  I had to laugh when I retrieved my credit card and got the fuel receipt from the clerk in the Citgo station.  We had refueled at the "Save a Ton #2" in Chattanooga!  I thought,  "That little station saved us a lot more than a ton!"  By the way, I think I made the foreign clerk's (owner?) day when he handed me my card and receipt for $291.34.  What a big smile.  And no, he didn't furnish his house with my credit card.  Good people are everywhere!  I love it when trust is rewarded. During the winter we had the coach in the shop several times.  The Aladdin system monitors our fuel very accurately but this time it was off by more than normally expected.  We had run the generator quite a bit, that might account for some of the difference.  So maybe I should have bought a squirrel. 

TBUTLER

TBUTLER

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