Sunday, December 31, 2017

From Phoenix to ….

Top of the Hill RV Park, near Boerne, Texas

South of Phoenix

We left Phoenix by 5:15 am, and it was still dark.  As we got south of Phoenix, the sun was coming up, and we were surprised at the inversion layer…much like we saw over Phoenix.  Stopped at a Walmart in Casa Grande to get eggs and spinach for our morning omelets, and to feed Skruffy at 7:30.  As a diabetic dog, she eats 12 hours apart.  In California that is 7 am and 7 pm.  In Florida we are shooting for 9 am and 9 pm…so we adjusted her to 7:30 when we got to Arizona (which is 6:30 California time), and 8:30 now that we are in Central time, and when we get to Eastern Time, it will be easy to got 9 and 9.

Tucson, Arizona

I “wonder” if any of my faithful blog readers remember this view from “their” new home?  

Southeast Arizona

Southeaster Arizona had clear blue skies…and wonderful landscape.

Amtrak headed to New Mexico and beyond

Here is one way to “see” America…but you only get to see views from the rails…

Southwest New Mexico

New Mexico had nice blue skies too…

Coming into Las Cruces, New Mexico

…until you get to town of another one of my blog followers.  But hey, I don’t think it is Las Cruces’ fault…I think much of the smog come up from the south where regulations are not nearly as strong as their are in the states.

Entering Texas above El Paso

And finally Texas…

Top of the Hill RV Park, Boerne, Texas

…where 530 miles later, and a nights sleep in Van Horn, here we are.

Top of the Hill RV Park, Boerne, Texas

So wait…what happened to 500+ miles of “scenery”?  Well, as we headed to Van Horn, it was getting dark.  This morning we left Van Horn at 5:45 am.  JUST as it was starting to have what would be a very pretty sunrise, we hit a fog/cloud bank.  For a bit I thought I was driving between San Francisco and Sacramento, the fog was that thick…well, almost that thick.  Then the temps dropped to as low as 27.  Ice built up on the mirrors, on the wipers, and the tire sensors went crazy with the cold weather.  Thankfully, the road was not slippery…but one never knows so speeds were kept to around 55 most of the way today.  What should have been a 6 1/2 hour trip, took well over 8.  Notice in the pictures above that the car is still hooked up, the slide is “in”, and we only have our electric plugged in.

Arizona border    New Mexico border

Texas border    Continental Divide

So we have completed 1,700 of our 3,000 mile trip back home.  We will be here in Boerne (pronounced “Burney”) for two nights.  It is New Year’s Eve tonight, and we sure did not want to be out on the road very late…getting here after 2:00 was late enough.  It may or may not snow and/or have icy rain tonight, so I we decided to stay for two nights.  Tomorrow I will add water to our water tank, empty our holding tanks, and put everything back away except the electrical hookup.  We had the slide out for awhile today, but with possible ice, I did not want to have problems pulling it in tomorrow or Tuesday.  I also lowered the antenna to where I just get a clear picture…but low enough that I can drive if absolutely needed in case the ice is heavier than predicted. Tuesday we plan to have a late breakfast with my brother Jim and wife Carol in San Antonio, and then off we go…hoping that this is the worse of the weather…it is bound to be the coldest with temps hitting the low 20’s, perhaps the teens while we are here.  But we are staying warm with our DeLonghi radiant heater, and the motorhome’s propane heater periodically coming on and off.

Note:  Why the "...." in the title?  Because Marcia would not let me say Hell  😉

Friday, December 29, 2017

Lake Pleasant, Phoenix Arizona

Roadrunner Campground, Lake Pleasant near Phoenix Arizona

Roadrunner Campground, Lake Pleasant Regional Park

We had reservations for two days at the Roadrunner Campground at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, one of the Maricopa County parks in the Phoenix area.  Previously we had stayed at Cave Creek Regional Park and McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  I like all three parks, and all three have a different feel, and a different view.  Lake Pleasant and Cave Creek are closer to where Laurie, and her mother when she was living, than the other parks.  All of the Maricopa County Parks take reservations, and cost $30 for electric and water…although this looks like it is going up to $32 in the spring/summer of 2018.

Lake Pleasant

This is the lake view we get from our camping site.  Since it is nearly New Years, the campground is nearly full.  It was the only campground within the County Parks System that I could get in for two days.  At Lake Pleasant there are two campgrounds, Roadrunner and Desert Tortoise Campgrounds…the latter of which has Semi-Developed (no electric or water) and Primitive Camping (just a fire ring) at $20 and $12 each, but I think the Primitive is for tents.

Christmas Lights at Roadrunner Campground

A number of folks have Christmas lights going on, including these two sites across from us.  One even played a movie outside in a large canopy tent, but thank goodness the movie ended fairly early.

December Moon

And with the darkness (outside of Christmas lights), it was a good time to get a picture of the moon.

Picture of Joyce and Laurie

Laurie gave Marcia this nice picture of her and her mother Joyce, who passed away earlier this year while we were in Indiana and Michigan area…that changed our entire summer plans, and that was good with us.  Marcia and Joyce were friends for over 40 years.  We had a nice visit with Laurie on Thursday when we met at Cracker Barrel, and today when she came to the motorhome for awhile, and then we went to Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner.  It has been a challenge being the Executor of her mother and father’s trust, but she has done a great job handling it, has already sold her mother’s house, and things are starting to calm down in her life. 

Scammer

As a follow up to last night’s post, I did call AAA to let them know about this scammer in Kingman City.  The hardest part was trying to decide which phone number to call, so I called the Internet Hoax Report line…and they transferred me to the proper person, who took down my report and thanked me for calling.  He said, “If he is not a true representative of AAA, our legal team will be getting in touch with him…if he is, my boss will be getting in touch with him.”  I assured him that I did not think he was a legitimate AAA representative, and that I did not expect to hear back at all…I just thought they should know.  He again thanked me.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Scam Alert – Kingman Arizona (but it could happen anywhere…)

Lake Pleasant, near Phoenix Arizona

Scam Alert

Drove from Coalinga California all the way to Kingman Arizona Wednesday…just under 500 miles.  Not an easy drive since the traffic was still very heavy from Christmas, especially from Coalinga to Barstow…less traffic as we got closer to Needles and Kingman.  We stayed the night in a Passport America park in Kingman, Sunrise RV Park, a very nice little park, good for a stay-over, that’s for sure.  Only small complaint…the sewer is way to the back in the pull through, so I just didn’t hook sewer up.  We left the park around 9 am, and headed just across the highway for Flying J…and that is where the scam started.  And I want to say right up-front, Flying J had NOTHING to do with the scam, it just so happened that the scam artist followed us onto their property to do the scam.

Kingman Arizona Flying J

Above is a google map of the Flying J from the street.  We took this right turn, just like the white van (black arrow) is doing…and yes, I did run over the curb with my back right tire…then it was a sharp left into the RV gas pump area where the white arrow is pointing.  I got out, and I see a white van (more like a family van than the business van above) pull up behind me on the side street.  As I started to run my card at the pumbs, a guy walks up to me…my first thought was that he was going to ask me for money or for gas.  But no, he starts his little scam…

“Did you not see me trying to pull you over?  There are sparks coming out all over the place as you were driving down the road.  Especially as you ran over that curb over there…I work for AAA, saw those sparks and tried to flag you down…did you not see me?”

“From the car of the motorhome?” I ask.

“From the motorhome right here”

He quickly walks to the back right of the motorhome…of course, I am at the back left…but I quickly follow him.  Before I get around the corner, he is already on the ground looking and reaching up to the axle. 

“Hey, get out from under my motorhome!” I yell.  I see his finger up over the axle which he rubs hard and shows me a greasy finger.

“See, you are leaking grease real bad…you have a broken strut under here, it is hitting causing the sparks…”, and he goes on and on.

“I said, get out from under my motorhome…”

He starts getting out, but continues with his scam…kept saying that we had a broken strut, and that he could fix it real quick.  He gives me his card, says he drives for AAA, but also has a mobile repair, and he could fix me up in less than a hour, all I needed to do was pull over to this large lot just down the street.

“I will get a second opinion in Phoenix, thanks for letting me know” I said.

“Oh sir, you will never get to Phoenix, there were sparks coming out all over down there…Just look at the grease dripping down...Here is my card, you are going to need this work now…”

“Regardless, I am getting gas, then we will decide if we want do something here, or wait until Phoenix.  But thank you for your concern.”

Scammed

NO, we did not fall for the scam!  But believe me, it was tempting.  But as Marcia and I discussed it, these are the signs that made me believe it was a scam all along.

  • The van was not the typically AAA van, like the one that jumped my HHR battery outside Walmart when I took mom and dad shopping a few weeks before Christmas.  Yes, there was a sign on the side of the car, but it was one of those magnet type of signs, and the sign did not have the AAA logo, but clearly said AAA on it.

  • The guy was one of those fast, smooth talkers who anticipated what I was going to say and had a quick answer for it.

  • The grease on his finger was that dark, “been there on the axle” type of grease which one could easily find on an engine or an axle.   He rubbed real hard and deep to get it.  It was black, but not shinny like new grease.  But he said there was dripping…but the grease did not come from dripping. 

  • As I came back from inside Flying J, I did see a small wet area right under where he was…but when he came out from under there, there was not fluid on the ground.  A large Class A pulled in just as I was walking back to the motorhome with my coffee…so I gave them to Marcia and went back to ask the man to watch me as I pulled out to see if there was any sparks.  (Of course, I had to tell him a bit of the story…he agreed to watch…I told him I would pull in along the street behind him and get out to talk to him)

  • I talked to the Class A driver (from Provo Utah, nice couple headed to Mesa for the winter) after pulling out and along the side street.  He sais he saw nothing.  We talked for a few minutes, and both agreed that if the sparks had come from electrical (which is NOT what the scammer said), it would have popped a breaker…if it was metal hitting metal, I would hear it, and we heard nothing, not even when I hit the curb.  As I went back to the motorhome, I looked to see if there was any signs of grease on the ground since I had stopped a few minutes ago…there was none.

  • Non-contact Instant-Read Infrared Digital Temperature Thermometer Gun Laser PointMarcia wanted me to call Arny, I wanted to get out of Kingman…so I drove about 5 miles east on I-40 to a Love’s Gas Station, pulled in and called Arny.  He agreed that it was most likely a scam, but said to drive part way to Phoenix, stop and check to see if the area around the hub was real hot.  Well, I carry a Non-contact Instant-Read Infrared Digital Temperature Thermometer Gun Laser Point.  So I took lots of temperature readings from both sides of the motorhome, and saw very little difference in temperature readings between both sides.

  • One thing that puzzled me was the liquid under the axle that showed up after I came out of Flying J with my coffee.  After I pulled over to check the temps, I started contemplating this, and then it hit me as we were driving down the road.  You see, I have seen that type of grease on pavement before…power steering or break fluid type of leak.  This guy is so smooth, that he actually went under the motorhome to squirt fluid up on the springs…but when I got there faster than he thought…before he could wait for it to drip onto his finger because I demanded he get out from under my motorhome, he rubbed into the top of the axle and came out with that old, dirty grease.  That is why he said more than once to “look under and see it drip” even though I had already gotten down along side of him to begin with as I yelled for him to stop.  (I was afraid he was going to cut a brake line and say that this was our problem.)  I saw no drips then, saw no puddle of fluid then, but did see it coming out of Flying J…but by then the Class A was behind me, and I did not want to make him wait, and I wanted to enlist his help.

Scamming Mechanics

Every time a mechanic does any work to my car or motorhome, I ALWAYS wonder if we are going to get ripped off.  One time in Sacramento I took the HHR to a oil changing place that my dad use to use.  When I got back to Florida and took it to my oil changing place, they informed me that whoever did the last oil change (they could tell my oil had been changed since the last time I had been there six months earlier along with the high mileage) that they did not change my filter.  I asked how he knew that, and he responded that they put a mark on all their filters…this filter had that mark still.  Dad found a different place to get his oil changed after that.  I don’t like Jiffy Lube because they ALWAYS come up with a long list of other things they want to do…even if you say, “Just change my oil please.”  I think the ultimate time I got scammed was when my manual clutch for my Malibu went out in Battle Mountain Nevada back in 1975.  A Chevron Gas Station (way back when most gas stations did automotive work instead of selling groceries) did the work, and the guy said he had the shop down the street turn the flywheel (also known as resurface the flywheel).  Well, about 15 months later I needed another clutch job.  My friend Jay and I did it over at his house…and the flywheel still had the original factory grooves in it…it had not been resurfaced…which is why it needed to be done again 15 months later.

Scammer

So it came to no surprise that when we got to Phoenix, that when I did a good search on the information on the business card that I found the following:

  • No company in Kingman by the name on the card.

  • The phone number on the card is a cell phone.  Tonight I called it (*67 so he doesn’t have my phone number) and told him he is a scammer, and that I was going to call the Kingman police tomorrow morning.  He hung up.  Doubt the police will do anything, so I won’t call them.  But I will be calling AAA and giving them anything they wish to have on the guy…which isn’t going to be much but a working cell phone number and an address which may or may not be good.

  • The address, according to Google Maps, is a residential area.  Not a business area at all…but he did say it was a “mobil unit” (that is how he misspelled it on the business card).

I found no searches of anyone else saying they had been scammed.  But I am 100% sure he is a scam, and we were not expecting it, but we were prepared to not fall for it.  So keep it in mind the next time someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, you got a problem, and I can solve it for you….”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Heading Home, after Breakfast with my Children and Others

Near Harris Ranch, Coalinga, CA

Patti, Shelley, Michael, Ryan, Stephanie, Al, Dorothy, Marcia and Sandy

Had breakfast at a Mimi’s Restaurant in Sacramento with my children (Michael, Stephanie and Ryan), and invited their mother Shelley who was also in town (she too has remarried but he stayed back in Arkansas to work and take care of their kids, at least the two or three still living at home), and my sister’s Patti and Sandy, and of course, Mom, Dad and Marcia.  They put us in a back area which is not used until they are busy, and it was quiet, and we all enjoyed talking and visiting and eating. 

Michael, Ryan and Stephanie
ALWAYS good to see the kids, which we do each year…but rarely together.  With Michael (far left and the oldest) living in Sacramento now, the others came to town for Christmas.  Ryan (in the middle and the youngest) drove out from Kansas City, visiting a number of National and State Parks along the way, including the Grand Canyon, Zion and Yosemite, just to name a few.  Stephanie (my only girl and the middle child) flew in from Salt Lake City.  Shelley (their mother and my first wife), flew in from Little Rock on Christmas day.  So NICE to see them together again…it has been a long time…Ryan’s graduation from the University of Arkansas, since my kids and first wife and I had been together. 

Stephanie, Ryan, Michael, Dorothy and All

After we ate, I got this group shot of the kids with their Grandma and Grandpa.  From left to right, Stephanie, Ryan, Michael, Dorothy and Al.  Dad turns 90 next year, and it's also their 70 wedding anniversary too! Don’t know if all the kids will make the birthday and/or the anniversary…just so happy we got together over the Christmas time this year, and wish Anna (Michael's Fiance) didn't have to work so that she could have joined us!

San Joaquin Valley to Coast Range, from California Aqueduct Vista Point, I-5

Around 1:00 pm we were headed out from Sandy and Arny’s house.  First stop, Lodi’s Flying J for gas and especially for propane.  Had some horrific traffic in various areas…looks like a bunch of folks are headed somewhere the day after Christmas.  As we got past Tracy, but before we got to Andersons Soup Restaurant (great Pea Soup at Andersons, although we did not stop this time), there is the California Aqueduct Vista Point that overlooks the San Joaquin Valley to the east, and the coastal range mountains to the west.  Nearing sunset, I just had to stop at this vista…mistake which ended up good.  The mistake, only way to turn around, due to two large semi’s in the circle, was to unhook the car.  The good…well, the view was awesome.  Above is a panoramic of the east, to south, to west.

San Joaquin Valley, from California Aqueduct Vista Point, I-5

To the east (above) you can see the inversion layer over the valley.  It looks like mountain in the horizon, under that layer of pink…but it was really smog mix with a small bit of fog. 

Sunset over the Coastal Range, from California Aqueduct Vista Point, I-5

To the west was the last of the sun…what a wonderful sunset it was.

Sunset over the Coastal Range, from California Aqueduct Vista Point, I-5

It had been a long time since we caught a sunset, and even the motorhome seemed to enjoy it. 

Should have taken a picture of Bubba as I entered the house to say goodbye to the folks, who came over to my sister’s after breakfast, and Arny’s mother Euleda, AFTER I had backed the motorhome out of the backyard, and hooked up the car.  Bubba was right there looking at the empty RV pad…he saw me, turned around and headed for his chair.  He is going to LOVE staying at Sandy and Arny’s, no doubt about it.

Tonight we are staying in a large dirt lot, partially filled with trucks and few RVs, near the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant near Coalinga, CA…200 miles down, 2,800 miles to go.  Tomorrow, perhaps we will make Kingman Arizona, 425 miles away.  


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Getting Ready to Head to Florida

Sister’s House -- Citrus Heights, CA

Santa

As Santa makes his rounds tonight, we have been getting prepared to our departure on Tuesday to head back to Florida.  Tire pressure system totally functional, all 10 tires (6 on motorhome, 4 on car) needed some air due to the colder weather…with Arny’s huge compressor in his garage, that was easy to do.  Started up the engine today to let it warm up a bit, added a quart of oil, a few ounces of antifreeze, and  between the motorhome and HHR, nearly a full gallon of window cleaner solution.  Emptied our waste tanks today, stored the blue tote in Arny’s shed, and filled up the fresh water tank.  Had a few things which I was able to load into the HHR, and just a few things to load on Tuesday.

Dad, Mom, Ryan, Stephanie & Michael

Last time I saw all three of my kids together was when this picture above, which included mom and dad, was taken at the Elephant Bar and Grill in Emeryville, California in September 2015…that was nearly 28 months ago!   Well, it just so happens that all three are in Sacramento, with their mother, for Christmas.  Plans are that on Tuesday we will have breakfast together before Marcia and I take off for Florida. Mom, Dad, and my sisters Patti and Sandy plan to be there too, but unfortunately Michael’s fiancé Anna will have to work.

Christmas Dinner

Tonight Mom, Dad, Patti, Charlie, Parker (the last two are her dogs), Sandy, Arny, Euleda, Marcia, Skruffy, Bubba and I all had a relaxing, easy and lite Christmas Eve dinner of Arny’s pulled pork over bread or salad, along with Marcia’s lemon shrimp.  Tomorrow all of us, along with Patti’s daughter Ashely and her boyfriend will gather again for a traditional Christmas Petit Jean Ham dinner and gift exchange.  Nothing like Christmas with family, and I love Petit Jean Hams from Arkansas!  48 hours from this post and we should find ourselves in a rest area along I-5.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bubba’s Not Going to Florida With Us

Sister’s House – Citrus Heights, CA

Skruffy and Bubba
We have come to my sister’s house each year since our travels started in 2012…this year we stayed here much longer than past years.  It did not take long for Skruffy and Bubba to condition themselves to early 7 am morning treat that their Uncle Arny gives them each and every day.  One time we were here and Arny and Sandy went to Hawaii on a well deserved Vacation…and I had to promise to watch the turtles, feed the squirrels and birds, and of course, give Skruffy and Bubba their morning and afternoon treats.  With Skruffy having Diabetes, her treats have been altered a bit with less than an ounce of pork which I have fried up ahead of time, and half that amount at 4 pm when Sandy gets home from work.  Although these two pictures were taken back in September when it was warm enough to have the door open at 7 am, they are still waiting at the closed door…so excited that they can’t Skruffy and Bubba, Arny at the doorcontain themselves, just about each and every morning.Once they get their treat, they do their business, then come back into the motorhome for their breakfast…and with breakfast, skruffy gets her insulin shot.  Since the pork is just part of her breakfast, she can have more in the morning than at 4 pm.  After breakfast, Bubba is let out, and we don’t see him back in the motorhome until 6:30 or 7:00 pm, in time for dinner.




Bubba in his bed on his chair

So, what does Bubba do all day if he is not in the motorhome?  He spends his time laying down in “his chair” in their living room….we recently bought a doggie bed to put in the chair, and of course, if he gets a doggie bed, Skruffy gets one too, which is at the top of our bed between our heads. 

Bubba ready to clean up after Sandy feeds Euleda

Bubba also assists with the feeding of Euleda at lunch and dinner…he makes trips out to the garage where Arny spends much of his afternoons (even mornings during the warmer weather)….and he assists with dinner.  How does a dog assist with lunch and dinner?  By picking up anything that falls…and things fall all the time.  Skruffy can’t be inside during lunch or dinner because she can’t have those little scraps that fall on the ground.  Bubba knows it is his duty, and he does it well.


Bubba back in Florida

Back in Florida Bubba cannot be at the condo, which is a no pet zone.  Skruffy is a service dog, so she is exempt.  (I blogged about Skruffy being a Service Dog a few years ago.)  Bubba stays at Marcia’s brother’s house in Tarpon Springs about 7 miles from where we live.  Not saying Bubba has ever been in the condo…but we would see him just about every week, and he was still groomed by me, and we would occasionally pick him up to go to the doggie park, and he would travel with us if we went anywhere for a few days in the motorhome.

Christmas Tree
When we leave next week, the day after Christmas, we will only be gone for 3 months, because we will be back for dad’s 90th birthday.  Since we won’t be gone very long, and because Bubba loves it here at Uncle Arny’s (and Aunt Sandy…but she is at work so long every Monday through Friday), that I asked them if it was ok if Bubba stays with them.  They agreed.  I have bought two very large bags of dog food (he eats the Diabetic Dog Food that Skruffy eats), will leave 3 months of heart-worm meds, will have him groomed in the next few days, and other than feeding him (including his glucosamine chondroitin msm pill with one meal), giving his heart-worm meds once per month, providing him his treats, giving him love…and take him to the groomers in February.



Bubba

Bubba does not have too many more years left in him.  He is 14 years old now, is doing well, but is showing his age.  Bubba is Arny’s buddy…if Arny does a quick stop, Bubba might hit his buttocks.  Bubba use to be a runner, running away any chance he got…now he sits at the open garage door just looking out.  We still keep an eye on him, but he won’t run away…he might just wander a bit due to his urge to sniff everything in sight.  Bubba won’t have a new home…just a temporary home that he is very accustomed too…until we return.  We KNOW he will be one happy camper while we are gone, we just hope he will be one happy camper upon our return next year!  Winking smile
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Christmas Tree With Stockings (photoshopped)

Hey “SIS”, I put Christmas Stockings up on the Fireplace for you!

stockings with names

Even has your names on it. 

Sister's Christmas Decorations

Sister's Christmas Decorations     Sister's Christmas Decorations    Sister's Christmas Decorations

Sister's Christmas Decorations

We really like your decorations DESPITE not having any stockings on the mantle.  


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