Sunday, March 4, 2018

Jan-March 2018

It's been a while since I've completed a post.
Not due to lack of material but rather a lack of time.
My day job has been keeping me extra busy the last few months, the
day job becoming the day and night job at times....

Now that the year is closed, the budgets done, some of the special projects cleared
off of the plate,  I can take a breath (sort of) and get back to work on my
second job...   posting on this blog.

Since our last post we have continued our seasonal migration south and
are now back in our usual wintering grounds...  the Arizona Desert.

Our Travels January 5 thru March 4 2018
After spending the holidays at Ron & Maxines home, we headed south to
the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield.

We love this place because of the delicious oranges just waiting to be picked throuout
the park. 

We met our friends Rob & Pat here along with Ron & Maxine.
Look at this big, sweet, & juicy globe of liquid sunshine!

After a few days we departed with the gang to hook up with more friends at
Lake Havasu State Park where we spent a week.

While there, they had a gathering of VW Busses.
There were over 500 of these great machines of all vintages.
Having owned two of them myself in my younger days it was a lot of fun.

This view below is inside from the rear of a bus that the owner called
inside the genies bottle.

On our morning walk at LH State Park

Next stop was Quartzsite for our annual get together with dozens of other RV's
from our old Montana Group, and of course to see the RV Show.

We spent almost two weeks here dry camping.

Again...  The morning walk.

And happy hour for both 2-legged and 4-legged creatures.

And the usual (ho hum) beautiful sunsets.

While at Q I had my Blue Ox towbar serviced by the Blue Ox Factory team that
always come to Q.   For $30 its a real bargain and brings the tow bar back to spec.

Next... with a couple for several free nights in hand - we headed south to Yuma
and the Fortuna Del Oro RV Park for 5 nights.

While in Yuma we enjoyed the Lunar Eclipse.

I was able to shoot these pictures laying in bed and taking the pictures out
of the window next to my head.

LazyBoy Photography for sure.

Lunar Eclipse at Totality
While in Yuma a group effort created Pizza on the Grill.

Now we were into early February and we headed east to Tucson and
Gilbert Ray Campground.

Its first come first serve here, and a one week limit so the sites turn over
frequently enough that one can usually find a spot if you are patient.

The setting sun lights up the Tucson Mountains just east of Gilbert Ray.
Tucson is just on the other side of these peaks.

Since it was February - that means The Gem Show!
This was one of the hundreds of tents scattered about in venues all over
the city.   This area of tents featured all sorts of African gems, jewelry, and art.

After our week in Gilbert Ray, we headed up to Oro Valley and Catalina State Park.
One of favorites, it is located about 15 miles N of downtown Tucson.

Its been very busy all over Arizona this winter so since we did not have reservations,
we could only get a couple of nights in a regular campsite, and then
moved to overflow for several more.

The setting sun lights up the Santa Catalina Mountains which lie to the east of the valley.

A large Coyote - part of a pack - that ran in front of the bus one morning.
We usually see Coyotes while here so it is not good to leave small dogs unattended outside,
even for a minute.

We did a bit of hiking on the wonderful trail system in Catalina SP.

And Rob & Pat cooked us a wonderful meal of Roast Beef, 
Robs special pan Gravy, and Yorkshire Pudding.

It's a rough life

Mashed Potatoes, peas, and curried cauliflower rounded out the meal.

Desert was chocolate dipped Strawberries.

Next stop was Tombstone.
While I stayed behind and worked...  the outlaws hit the town!

Soon we found ourselves back in Gilbert Ray a couple of weeks after we left there before.

While there we visited the Mission San Xavier del Bac.
Founded in 1692 it was one in a chain of Spanish Missions established in the Sonoran Desert.

The mission served the dual purposes of converting the local native population and
also to give the Spanish a Colonial Presence in the northern Sonoran Frontier.

A pair of vagrants outside the mission.

Now it is early March.
After Gilbert Ray we headed north to Picacho Peak State Park
which is located about 40 miles north of Tucson next to I-10.

One of the things that I love about PP are the great sunsets.

Picacho Peak Sunset
Today - Sunday Morning March 4 Rob, Kate, and I,  took a hike up the Calloway Trail.
The cool weather and refreshing breeze made the trek all the more pleasant.

Kate among the Saguaros
At the top of the trail we sat on a bench and Rob took a picture of us looking at the
mountain off in the distance that our new house will be built upon.

Oh...  did I say "Our new house"?

While at Gilbert Ray we signed a contract for a new home to be built on
Dove Mountain in Marana, Az about 20 mi North of Tucson.

Its a wide open floor plan, lots of windows and sliding doors opening to the outside
to make the great outdoors an extension of the home.

Model of the new home
The home will be on a cul-de-sac in a smaller development of about 70 homes
on 3 streets that all end in a cul-de-sac.  

There are only 12 homesites on our street.

The subdivision, called Boulder Pass at Dove Mountain,
is part of the larger Dove Mountain Master Planned Development

We purchased the absolute best lot in the development - with million dollar view$
Located on the slopes of Dove Mountain will will have 100+ mile views with
no future development to block those views.

Facing WNW we will have fantastic sunsets!

Part of the view from the back of the lot
Below, the main road that leads up to Boulder Pass.

Next to our development is the Ritz Carlton Golf Club which is the host each February to
  WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship which is an invitational tournament that
hosts the top 85 golfers in the world.

The house will be started any day and is scheduled for completion around Sept 1st.

Below is the view from our hike this morning.

Our homesite is on the slopes of the first dark ridge in the distance,
which is about 40 miles away

The yellow arrow points to approximately where our house will be located
We can see Picacho Peak from there so it would be visible from here.

The second line of mountains behind that is where Catalina State Park is located,
and behind that is Mt Lemmon (9,100') where you drive up to and leave the desert behind
and enter pine forests, and a whole new climate zone.

Tomorrow it's off to Lake Pleasant Regional Park in the Northwest Phoenix
metro area for 11 nights and some Baseball Spring Training Games.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Annual Recap

What can I say?
2017 was one heck of a year!
We've had a lot of pretty good years but this one is going to be one to remember....
At least until 2018!

Below is the map of our travels from Jan - Dec


We started off the year getting new tires for the Bus.
Using the Michelin Advantage Program thru FMCA saves us about $1000


Honey I sold the house!

On Feb 5th we went under contract to sell the house.
It was a cash deal, but we had to be out by March 7th so we had to move and move fast!

Living room on Feb 5
Before the ink was dry - we shifted into high-gear.

Living room one week later. (Feb 12)
Within a week the Living room bedroom furniture was sold and moved out.

Bedroom on Feb 12


In less than a month Kates Odyssey, the boat, and tons of other stuff had been sold.

On March 5 the movers were here to pack up what was left.
All was shipped to Tucson, Az and put into climate controlled storage.

We hooked up the toad, and left for one last time!

We were now officially Full-time RV'ers

First stop was Freighliner in Gaffney, SC 
We toured the factory where our chassis was made and had the chassis
and engine serviced while there.

Next up was Livingston, Texas where we would set up our mailing service and domile.
We would now be Texans!

We completed all the paperwork, re-insuring the vehicles etc in record time!
In 2 days we were done and headed west across Texas, chasing the
Budweiser Clydesdale Horse team for several hundred miles westbound.

Winter 2016-2017 had been wet in the desert southwest.
This translated into a "Superbloom" of spring flowers and and we were in a hurry to
get out west to see the last remnants if possible.

Chihuahuan Desert Flowers in New Mexico
Our first destination was Casa Grande, Az where we rented a small storage room.
This room was where we would keep things that we wanted from time to time
but did not have room in the Bus for.

It was now late March...
After Casa Grande, we continued west on I-10 and headed to Lake Pleasant Park
on the Northwest fringes of Phoenix.

We met Jim & Kristi here and spent about 5 days or so enjoying the great weather and
remnants of the spring flowers.

We caught one of the last Spring Training Games in Surprise, Az


Heading back East (south) towards Tucson with Jim & Kristi, we met 
Ron & Maxine at Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, Az.

Oro Valley is one of the places that we love and could very well be our next home town
when it is time to buy a house.

The desert was still in bloom - albeit not as prolific as it was earlier prior to our arrival.

Catalina has lots of great hiking trails and we tried to take a nice hike each day.

We took a hike in Sabino Canyon in Coronado National Forest.
The canyon is a true desert Oasis.

We visited Old Tucson Studios where many famous western movies were filmed.

We took a trip to visit Biosphere 2 - now owned and operated by the University of Arizona.

After a return trip to Lake Pleasant with Ron & Maxine we then parted ways and
we began our slow trek northward to Alaska.

First stop was the Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort.
We love it here.   The Resort is just so beautiful

Tiki Bar & Outside Kitchen

While here we stopped at our favorite place to give the doodles a bath.

Gracie in the tub
Anticipating taking the long dirt road north to the Arctic Ocean later in the summer,
I used the Michelin Advantage program to put new tires on the toad and 
saved over $300 on the 4 tires.


After Las Vegas we headed north to Heber City, Ut - just east of Provo, to
Deer Creek State Park.
Being early in the season we had the place almost to ourselves and had a prime
campsite with a great waterview.

While at Deer Creek we went for lunch to the nearby Sundance Resort owned by Robert Redford.

Sundance Resort
Continuing north we next spend several days in Butte, Montana.
One day we toured the Copper King Mansion which was built and owned
by William Clark.

Another Mansion built by William Clark
We left Butte on a change of weather and had some snow to contend with as we drove
north towards Canada.

Crossing into Canada we first spent a few days in Cochran, Alberta and then
moved west to Banff National Park.

While in Banff we visited a lot of the local sights including Lake Louise which was
still frozen with several feet of snow around the shore.

Leaving Banff, we head up the Icefield Parkway to Jasper.

Always majestic...
The views change with the season.

As we approach Jasper at the north end of the Parkway
the terrain levels out a bit.

We spent a couple of nights in Whistlers Campground in
Jasper National Park.

While in Jasper we toured the local area including Athabasca Falls.

Leaving Jasper we headed north on the Bighorn Highway (Alberta 40)
and then highway to Dawson Creek, BC

Along the way one must stop in Beaver Lodge to visit the Big Beaver.

In Dawson Creek, BC we (once again) get the obligatory picture at MM O
of the Alaska Highway.

Our first day northbound on the Alcan and we see our first (of many) Bear.

We spend the night at Summit Lake in Stone Mtn Provincial Park.
The highest point on the Alcan as it crests the Rocky Mountains.
The lake is still frozen.

The next day we see the usual Stone Sheep along Mucho Lake

We stayed at McDonald Campground on Muncho Lake for about a week.

There was ice floating by, but that did not keep me from taking a swim.
The views are just beautiful.

While at Muncho Lake we day tripped 40 miles west to Liard Hot Springs for a hot soak.

Leaving Muncho - it was May 30 when we passed thru Watson Lake and the "sign forest"
and found our old sign from 3 years earlier.


We found ourselves starting the month of June in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon.

Canada National Parks positiion these red chairs at all the photogenic places in all their parks.

We are making a collection of Red Chair Photos as we travel thru the country.

Red chairs at SS Klondike Whitehorse

We visted Miles Canyon which we missed last time around.
There were Kayaks negotiating the canyon while we were there.

Leaving Whitehorse we continue north.
We stopped next at Kluane National Park, the Kathleen Lake Campground.

We were able to pick up a decent 3g signal from Haines Junction so this was a good place
for me to work yet be out in the wilds.

Kathleen Lake - Kluane National Park
We took a day trip down the Haine Highway towards Haines Alaska.
We drove down to the border and back.
The drive is beautiful, and the Haines Highway is in great condition and very smooth.
Dezadeash Lake Yukon along the Haines Highway

Our next stop heading North was Congdon Creek Yukon Govt Campground on
Kluane Lake.

We love Kluane Lake and this campground.

Kluane Lake Reflections
We had great solar and all three dish satellites!
We stayed here about a week.

The view of the St Elias Mountains out the front window.

From Kluane Lake we crossed back into the US and entered Alaska.
Our next destination was Valdez, Alaska
The views crossing Thompson pass are beautiful

Thompson Pass is the snowiest place in Alaska and receives almost 600" of snow in
an average year.

Keystone Canyon on the Valdez side of the pass

Our spot in Valdez was breathtaking.
Bear Paw II RV Park in Valdez

A pair of Moose just outside of town.

Our goal heading north was our rendezvous in Anchorage with our friends Eric & Pat
who flew in and spent 3 weeks traveling with us in a rented Class C RV

Here is our traveling group in Seward Alaska

While in Seward we took a wildlife cruise on Resurrection Bay and
the Gulf of Alaska.

I just love the Arctic Puffins

Mountain Goats cling to the side of a mountain.

A Whale takes a dive.

Leaving Seward we headed to Homer.
Enroute we stopped to admire the view at Trail Lake in Moose Pass, Ak

A Bald Eagle flies by

We camped on top of the bluffs overlooking Kachemak Bay outside of Homer.

In Homer I posed with my catch.

The boondocking sites along the Homer Spit.

Enroute to Soldotna we stopped to visit the Nilnichik Russian Orthodox Church.

Mama Moose gave us the "stink eye"

The Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai, Ak

The old church annex in Kenai.

Heading north to Denali, we stopped at Williwaw NF Campground so
that we could visit Whittier.

The gang poses along the Whittier Waterfront.


Further north still we stopped at the brand new K'esugi Ken Campground in
Denali State Park.
The campground was full but they let us boondock in the visitor center parking lot
which was just fine.

Behind us in the photo below are the Alaska Range with Denali Hidden in the clouds.

Our next stop is Denali National Park.
A couple of days in Reilly Creek Campground, then 4 nights in Teklanika further inside
the park where most campers do not go.

Kate got this cool shot of a seagull.

We hiked the Savage Creek Loop Trail.

The bus in Teklanika is dressed for 4th of July.
Yes the satellite dish is up.
We had all of our channels here in the wilderness.

Pat & Kate pose in front of Denali.
You can just see the peak poking out above the clouds in the center.

As far inside the park as you can go.

Riding the bus back to Tek, it stopped for 20 minutes at the Eilsen Visitor Center.
We told the bus driver that we were going to walk ahead and to stop and pick us up
when he came by.

It's a good thing the driver stopped and picked us up.

Just a few minutes further up the road was this big guy.

Leaving Denali we headed north to Fairbanks.
Along the way you pass Skinny Dicks.

We went to the Alaska Salmon Bake in Fairbanks

We went Kayaking on the Chena River

And then it was time to say goodbye to Eric & Pat.
They were headed back to Anchorage & Home.
And we were headed to our next adventure.

But first a farewell dinner of Kates awesome Eggplant Parm.

Next up for us was an EPIC ROAD TRIP!

Leaving the bus in Fairbanks we headed north and up the Dalton Highway
towards Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean.

About 420 miles of dirt road each way with one fuel stop about 1/2 up.

The Dalton Highway Stretches far to the horizon
Only about 1% of visitors to Alaska venture further north than Fairbanks.
Almost all of them who do - turn around once they reach the arctic circle.

From the Arctic Circle we still had about 300 miles to go!

We camped for the night at Marion Creek, a BLM campground just north of Coldfoot.
We brought plenty of backpacking meals to eat and as emergency supplies in case of
trouble along the way.

Our camp in Marion creek.

The next morning around 0700 we set off for the final 240 miles to Deadhorse.
My goal for this trip was to see a MuskOx and the Northern Lights.

About 40 miles south of Deadhorse we checked off one goal.

MuskOx Grazing along the Dalton Highway
We made it to the Arctic Ocean!

Caribou Grazing in the Oil Fields.

Now past 5pm, We fed the doodles in Deadhorse.
Note the back of the pickup set up for sleeping.

After having a fantastic dinner at the Aurora Hotel - where many of the workers eat - 
we now headed back around 7pm.   It is 240 miles back to Marion Creek. 

The fireweed along the road side

For over 4 hrs we did not pass another vehicle headed the other way.
It was a magical night in Epic Wilderness!

Headed south towards the Brooks Range on the Dalton Highway
The photo below was taken around 11:30 pm.
We were about an hour from camp.

The next day we continued south.
First a stop at Coldfoot to fill up on fuel and clean the windows.
The mud on the side of the truck was about 1/4" thick in spots.

Getting back to Fairbanks it took $45 worth of quarters just to get most of the mud off!

We posed at the sign at the south end of the Dalton.
This was truly one of the best road trips we've made.
We want to go back with a truck camper and really spend some time 
 exploring up north of Coldfoot in the wilderness.

After the Dalton it was time to decide where we wanted to go and spend 
some time waitingfor fall to arrive.

It did not take us long to both agree...

"Lets go back to Seward"

We spent the next 7 weeks boondocking on Resurrection Bay.
By now, being further south, we were starting to see some darkness again at night

Our daily view.

Kate would sit out front and meet all the people who would walk by on the bike path.

The Mayor Holds Court
Sea Otters were our daily companions

Looking north from in front of the Bus towards the Harbor.

A ship arrived about every other morning.

The view changes hourly.


August marks the change in the season in Alaska.
The fall colors started to make their intentions known.

One morning we woke up to the start of the Salmon Run up the Bay.
For several weeks the bay was filled with Salmon leaping out of the water.

Eventually they made their way up the bay and into the streams to spawn and die.

With late August "termination dust" was starting to coat the higher peaks and
it was time to think about moving south.

The fall colors had arrived but think we timed our departure about a 
week to early to get the best peak colors

Fall Color along the Glen Highway
We found our way back to Congdon Creek on Kluane Lake.
We spent another week here.

A campfire at Congdon Creek takes the chill off of the day.

Fall Colors in the Yukon
We had a chimney fire in the cook shelter.


The start of September had up leaving Kluane and heading to Whitehorse for the
Labor day weekend.

Kluane Lake Fall Color
After Labor day we headed back to Muncho Lake and spent about 5 days there.

Back at McDonald CG on Muncho Lake BC

Muncho Lake BC

Lucy poses at Muncho Lake
Yes...  again I went for a swim.

42° Water
Next stop southbound was Stone Mountain.
The colors were just too nice to pass up.

Fall color at Summit Lake, BC
That night we crossed the second goal of the trip off of our list.
A strong Solar Storm gave us a strong showing of the Northern Lights

The almost full moon and the northern lights
I used a 15second exposure on my little point and shoot Cannon to get these shots.

Northern Lights at Stone Mtn BC

Northern Lights at Stone Mtn BC
A week or so later we were back in civilization...  Hinton, Alberta.
Here I found a great truck wash where I was finally able to give the bus a long
overdue bath.

Hinton Truck & RV Wash
We continued to match the change of colors as we slowly progressed
south and enjoyed our "endless autumn"

Fall Colors along the Icefield Parkway
We met up Rob & Pat and their Doodle Olivia in Banff.

Red Chairs in Banff NP

Rob Pat Kate & Greg at the Banff Springs Hotel
It was a short but fun visit and soon Rob & Pat headed back home and we headed
back into the US - Destination Glacier National Park.

Rob leads the way out of Tunnel Mtn Banff
Unfortunately, wildfires have been burning all around Glacier and the Going to the Sun Road
was closed again.    This is our third time there that we were unable to drive the road.

KOA West Glacier Mt
We visited Coeur D' Alene Idaho for a few days then headed to Seattle
Enroute it was time for a lube/filter service at Speedco in Spokane.

In Seattle we visited with Jim & Kristi and went to the Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Market Seattle
I snuck a selfie of Kate taking a selfie
Seattle Waterfront

Seattle Space Needle
We were headed next to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Enroute we stopped at Tough Top Awnings near Vancouver, Wa for
some replacements to our slide toppers.


Next stop was McMinville, Oregon for 6 weeks or so.
Kate flew to NYC to visit her Bro while I took the doodles to the Vet to begin
the process of getting them ready for next years trip overseas.

We also visited with Kates cousin Kate & her boyfriend Greg.
(yes - two Kates & two Gregs)

Greg Kate Kate Greg
And now we are in our third month of Autumn!

Fall at Olde Stone Village RV Park McMinville, Or
While Kate was gone I did some home improvements.
A new Stainless Convention Microwave and range.

And a Jura Super-automatic Expresso Maker 


With November came the change in Season and our "weather luck" finally ran out.
We spent a week on the coast and were buffeted by almost constant rain and 70 mph winds!

Winchester Bay RV Resort Oregon
A brief break in the rain provided this dramatic sunset.

The seas remained angry during our visit, and provided great views.

Our next stop was to be Eugene Oregon where we would spend Thanksgiving,
however the weather forecasts for all of the Willamette Valley and the coast were the
"3-R's" ...    Rain, Rain, and more Rain.

So we decided to work our way down to California where it was drier.

First stop was 7 feathers in Canyonville, Or.
Since the weather was cooperating and the hot tub inviting...
we stayed for a week.

(note there is still some fall color)

7 Feathers Resort

Pool & Hot Tub at 7 Feathers
With our luck still holding out, and our desire to visit Ashland, Oregon,
we spent a week at Emigrant Lake County Park just outside of Ashland.

Emigrant Lake Park Ashland, Or

Emigrant Lake Oregon
We really enjoyed Ashland.
It has a quaint downtown and an artsy funk to it.

Kate & I (plus the ever watchful doodles) enjoyed our Thanksgiving Feast
cooked in the new Convection Microwave Oven.

Next we headed south to Red Bluff, California

Mt Shasta
We stayed at the Durango RV Resort in Red Bluff.
Its a nice well equipped park but a tad noisy due to the adjacent freeway, but
we like Red Bluff so the noise is fine.


We began December in Napa California.
Its a very pretty town and area but the prices are just way out of control and way too
rich for our blood.

A tiny home not much larger than our bus was listed for almost $800k.

How much would these little shacks cost?

We were headed to Ron & Maxines house up in the foothills of the Sierra's for the holiday.
In preparation it was time to give our Alaskan Doodles a well earned bath.

Lucy gets a bath in Napa

The hills west of Napa looking down into the valley
Kates cousin came for a few nights to visit and again I had a pair of Kates.

Finally we arrived at
  "The Manor"

Ron & Maxines Palatial Mountaintop retreat.

Looking down  the morning clouds shroud the sleeping masses below.

Lots of Deer frolicking thru the neighborhood.

This is home for our Doodles.
3 years ago we drove from NC to California to leave them with R&M so that we
could fly to Europe for Christmas.

Kate supervised and we all pitched in and prepared
a small feast of eggplant for Christmas Eve

While here we took the doodles to R&M's vet.
They both had their teeth cleaned and Lucy had a cracked tooth pulled.

Needless to say - they were not happy with me at first but Doodles do forgive.

Gracie sleeping and showing off her new smile
R&M have 5 boys.
We did not get a picture of everyone together but here is 3 of the crew on Christmas Morning
along with the rest of us.

Well its New Years Eve.

That pretty much wraps up the year.
So much more was crammed into all the places but it would take a book to
recall them all.

It was a pretty decent year for sure!

Now stay tuned for next year...

I am going to try to top 2017 and I think our plans for 2018 might just do that!

Stay tuned for 2018
The Ride continues until it stops.

Happy New Year.
Thanks for riding along!