Launch

4:30 AM – Multitasking

It’s early and I’m “hard” at work. I’ve got the dog’s leash in one hand, coffee in the other as I make the a last walk around of Roamward Bound, checking compartments and clearances. There’s no sign of the Fox 10 news crew, maybe they are stretched thin covering ‘tree fell down in last night’s storm’ stories. I guess it’s for the best that I decided against the high school marching band. No prob, I’ve got Tom Petty ready to play Runnin Down a Dream, cranked to 11.

Waypoints

The sun hasn’t quite come up as I pass by Perryville, looking for that beautiful glint of moonlight on the razor wire, as Duane used to call it, but alas it’s overcast.

Flying J at Ehenburg, AZ. Gotta try out my new RV discount card. Gotta spray my sandals with diesel. OK, they’re riding outside with Scooter of Anarchy.

Western foothills of San Jacinto … camp for day 1. Time to break out the good stuff, thanks Aaron.

View from site - San Jacinto western foothills
View from site – San Jacinto western foothills
Seems to like the location
Seems to like the location
Good
Good

Empty Nest

Poof!

Empty Nest
Empty Nest

Well, not exactly poof.  A little more than two years ago, summer of 2011, it was just a concept – my daughter, Kylee, is going away to college. And me, with the empty nest, why not retire and go RVing?  By January 2012, there was the plan, with hundreds of tasks and way too much detail (occupational hazard), to get Kylee off to college and me on the road.

So, not poof, but still.  On Friday we loaded Kylee’s stuff up, drove up to Flagstaff, and moved her into the dorm. Flagstaff was beautiful and rainy.  NAU ready and welcoming the new and returning with concerts (The Dirty Heads, The Maine and Noah played Saturday night), block parties, movies in the pool and more.  I returned to Phoenix Sunday afternoon.  The house we’d lived in until Friday now empty in every sense.  The estate sale company I’d hired removed every trace we’d been there.

It’s hard to say how I felt looking through the house.  Definitely no sense of remorse, but no thrill of victory either.  I thought the last big milestone before departure would be more than “yep, check.”  I suppose there’s just so much momentum that it all seems already done.

Now just four tasks remain on the plan before I leave Friday morning.

The Right Angle

To do anything on the motor home, household tools are useless.  Have a screwdriver, you need a right angle screwdriver. Have a drill, you’ll never get it in there, you need a right angle attachment. Got a wrench, you’ll need a crows foot wrench. Got that bolt off? You’ll need a magnetic retrieval tool if you want it back.  Need to add water to the battery, washer fluid, anti-freeze, hydraulic fluid? Better have 2 feet of hose and a siphon pump.

Shake & Ed-Gee-Kate, part 2

Well, the RVSEF conference was excellent.  It’s hard to believe how much information they packed into five days.  Perfect for someone new to RVing like me, but people with five or more years full time had similar reactions.  The presenters, definitely an RV celebrity lineup, included Walter Cannon (RVSEF), Gary Bunzer (the RV Doctor), Jim & Chris Guld (Geeks on Tour), Mac McCoy (the fire guy), Howard and Linda Payne (RV-Dreams.com) and many more.

Of course, like any RV gathering, I met a lot of great people I hope to see again, on the road.

Shake Down

So the trip was supposed to expose issues with the rig when off the grid with 9 days of dry camping, and it did.

First, the fresh water pump fuse blew 6 times during the trip.  Remarkably I actually had that many 15 amp fuses with me.  Could be the pump is going out, an intermittent wiring short, or the batteries.

Speaking of batteries, the house batteries were not holding their charge a normal amount of time.  I wound up using the generator every day.  The starter batteries were also almost drained after being parked only 5 days in Colorado Springs (and I have a solar charger for them).

Finally, on the way home, the alarm on the hydraulic jacks was going off when I’d make a right turn. An internet search says that’s just low hydraulic fluid.

So, a bit of work now that I’m back … can’t wait to get on the road again.

Shake & Ed-Gee-Kate, part 1

I’m off to Colorado Springs for the RV Safety, Education and Lifestyle conference.  This will also be a big test of the “dry camping” systems aboard the rig as I’ll be off the grid for 9 days. It doesn’t hurt to get out of the Valley heat either.

Roadside

I’m a fan of (or sucker for) roadside attractions and the route takes me through plenty of Rt 66 towns, stars of the roadside.  Gotta stop in Winslow …

...such a fine sight to see
…such a fine sight to see

Near Grants, New Mexico, I took Scooter of Anarchy for a ride about 30 miles to the Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave. Thirty miles puts it well off the roadside, but it was a nice day and the road goes up into the mountains and pine forest.

The 800 foot deep crater is about a 25 minute walk from the trail head.
The 800 foot deep crater is about a 25 minute walk from the trail head.
Ice cave? Well, it's a cave with a pool of water that stays frozen even in the summer since the cave never gets above 30 degrees.
Ice cave? Well, it’s a cave with a pool of water that stays frozen even in the summer since the cave never gets above 30 degrees.

I love single topic museums.  The New Mexico mining museum along Rt 66 in Grants was really well done with an underground exhibit of mining equipment and techniques that featured recordings of real miners explaining how each item was used.

 

Uranium Made and Killed Grants, NM
Uranium Made and Killed Grants, NM
Part of the underground mining exhibit
Part of the underground mining exhibit

The Road Through New Mexico

I-40 and I-25 are long stretches of barren, dusty, windswept land interrupted only by the odd Indian casino.  Most of the way there is no plant visible over 10 inches tall or closer together than 25 yards.

I-25 continues into Colorado, where it’s mostly flat grassland.  Permanently posted highway signs warn of high wind, and they weren’t kidding.  Pretty stressful keeping the motor home on the road.

Finally reached Colorado Springs in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm.  The view from the conference location, was, well pure Colorado …

Colorado Springs View

to be continued.

Shake

Verde Valley, Arizona, April 2013

This trip is just a short outing to continue shaking out RV systems and to help my beagle, Keira, get used to traveling. The destination, Thousand Trails Verde Valley, is less than two hours from home.

Keira wants this spot
Ready to ride – this is not going to work.

Although the campground was basically full, the property is so large it seems almost empty and isolated.  My site, like pretty much all of the sites had a big lawn on one side.

Campsite
Campsite

The new motorcycle trailer, a Kendon SRL, worked well on the trip. Although I thought the SRL loading was just advertising hype, it really does make a difference – the trailer and ramp basically flex flat as you ride up or down.

The campground was very quiet – just the sound of birds, the wind and the Verde river – about 40 yards down a steep, but easy, path from the campsite.

Verde River 2 Verde River 1

Walking along the banks, Keira managed to fall into the river.  Well at least I know she can swim now.

Keira, embarrassed after her accidental swim
Keira, embarrassed after her accidental swim

Sedona, Jerome and Clarkdale are all just  a few minutes ride from the Verde Valley.  Keira was fine at the campsite as I ventured out.  Well, I’ve been to the area many times, so it was mostly the joy of the ride in perfect weather and open road.

Clarkdale Railroad Station
Clarkdale Railroad Station

Back to Phoenix now for Bike Week.

Getting My Feet Wet

I thought getting my feet wet was going to involve a beach. This evening it involves the RV floor – not good. The water seems to be coming from below the refrigerator, so, easy enough I took the access panel off and sure enough there is plenty of water there among all the heating duct work. The wood panel above, supporting the refrigerator is wet also – gotta be coming from the refrigerator. There’s an access panel outside to get to the guts of the fridge.

Refrig Cover

Hmmm, apparently the refrigerator needs so much service it’s the only cover in the whole RV that has quick releases instead of screws. Inside, even someone with my very limited mechanical ability can recognize the water line broken off the fitting. Its the ice maker line and the hose is crunchy when squeezed. I guess they just don’t make $1 parts that last 13 years Off to Al’s in the morning…

Broken water line

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Cool_Hand_Luke_Martin

I’ve found that, in RV parks anyway, free WiFi is more an advertising feature than a useful feature. I also know that almost everyone complains about their cell carrier and I’m no exception. My current cell phone carrier, Sprint, has practically no 4g LTE deployed and their 2013 plans don’t look like any places I’ll be. Going to need a new connection.

The experts in internet for nomads from what I’ve seen are Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia. While I’d love to have half the gadgets in their mobile technology arsenal, for now I’ll need to start with some basic connectivity.

One of the services in the Technomadia arsenal is a Millenicom 3g/4g data plan leveraging the Verizon data network. I’ve added that mobile hotspot at the RV and it’s been pretty impressive so far.

On Sensorly, you can get real world, crowd sourced coverage maps. For me, this confirmed that Verizon was going to be a better bet for my travels. So now I have a Samsung Galaxy Note II on Verizon service which I’m really loving. I do, however, reserve the right to grouse about Verizon in the future.

March On, March On

The march is on, in March.  There’s a new satellite TV receiver to install, a new cycle trailer to get, dog training, communications and a couple of shake down trips.

You may have seen my post about the swivel wheel trailer I bought.  Well the last trip got it – a huge pothole at freeway speed half a mile from home broke the wheel mount.  So, I’ll be in the market for a more conventional trailer. I’d really like a CruiserLift, but the weight at the rear of the coach would put me pretty close to the rear axle weight limit and could affect handling by taking weight off the front wheels.

Keira, my 11 year old beagle, has had a back yard and a dog door the last 7 years.  She’s also a head out the window car rider.  Neither of these will work that well in the RV.  So, this month I’ll be working on getting her used to living, sleeping and traveling in the RV.

Keira and Puff guarding the RV door.
Keira and Puff guarding the RV door.

A Damn Fine Coffee at 4:30am

I’ve had both Nesspresso and Tassimo coffee makers and they were good while they lasted, but I’m not too keen on using counter space for one of these.  The RV has a under counter coffee maker which works fine, but there’s no espresso and a pretty long brew time.  I was a bit skeptical when Lisa gave me a stove top espresso/coffee maker, but damn if it doesn’t make a great cup of espresso or coffee.

Coffee

After walking the dog at 4:30am, you need a little warm up and in less than 2 minutes the GSI Outdoors 1 Cup Stainless Mini makes a hell of an espresso, directly into the cup and I’m a happy camper.

Shake

Later this month Keira and I will take a short jaunt to the Verde Valley, only about an hour away, to expose any canine or equipment issues. After that, it’s Imperial Beach for a week.

Ted’s Mobile RV Repair

OK, let me just say Ted’s Mobile RV Repair is fantastic.  He’s solidly in the five star category.

I don’t know how one person can be so expert in so many areas, but he is.  I’ve had Ted trace down an electrical problem, fix a Fantastic Fan (that I ripped off backing up under a tree with the vent up), replace a furnace motor and now replace an awning spring assembly.

Besides being a total pro, the best part is Ted comes to you.  So, if you need an RV repair in the Phoenix area, I’d call Ted’s Mobile RV Repair at 602-390-0588.