Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Life in Quartzsite

Well the week has flown by and tomorrow we will be pulling out of
"The Q" and heading 80 miles south to Yuma.

This year in Q I've been forced to spend most of my time indoors.

Our hectic travel schedule the past month coupled with an upcoming
name change at my job has kept me locked up and working most of the time 
that we have been here including the weekend.

The few times I did show my face in the circle I would hear the inevitable
but understandable "where have you been?" comments.

Most of the folks here are retired so to them the "W Word" (work) is no longer
in the vocabulary.   Heck...  most don't even wear watches.

To me its all a small price to pay for the freedom of 
working in such beautiful and varied locations.  

If I get tired of the view from the office window...
I move the office!

As in the past we have had aerial photos taken of the circle.

The one below was taken from an unmanned drone with a GoPro camera.
We are the 3 rigs circled in the upper left.

Ron strikes a pose at the grill.
He's a Salmon Grilling Fool!

As the sky turns orange, I took this photo of the circled wagons.
Our private little encampment outside of the big circle.

Continuing the tradition we started in Alaska - Ron and Kate
pose for the camera.
It began as a goof on all the tourists that we would encounter who would
always strike these poses when taking photographs.

It has now taken on a life of its own. 

One of the great things about the west is the dry weather.

Each day the temps are in the 70's and each night as soon as the sun sets the
temps would drop into the 40's.  Great sleeping weather for sure.

Each night we would have a warm campfire.

Desert sunsets are the best.
I have not messed with the colors in these photos...
these are the real deal.

Tonight we launched "luminaries" - these miniature hot air balloons.
The rise hundreds of feet into the air and are carried off into the distance - riding
the gentle breezes until they run out of flame.

A group pose.

Quartzsite is a fun place.  
Its sort of an old age playground without the swing sets.

The great thing in this playground is the quality of the toys.
Spending the kids inheritance is the order of the day.

Ultralight aircraft, hot air balloons....
Harleys, Jeeps dirt bikes...  you name it.

One of our fellow Montana owners took me for a spin in his Off Road Vehicle.
There are dozens of those ORV's out here running all over the wide open spaces.

I've been thinking of getting one so i jumped at the opportunity to take a spin.

We went for an 8 mile ride in the desert, on some pretty rough terrain.
It was a blast.

I was impressed just how smoothly it handles bumps.

Yep...   add another toy onto my wish list.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Quartzsite Again

We are back in Quartzsite for our Montana Groups annual
rally in the desert.

We arrived at DoodleCamp on Thursday, spent Friday getting the
Montana ready for the road, and then on Saturday we made a 5hr drive
south to the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield.

The OG is a neat place.  It is built in the middle of an old Orange
Grove and every site has Orange Trees.

We were here once before in the Summer but this time our timing
was perfect.  You can pick as much as you want and we left loaded with
sweet, fresh, & juicy California Navel Oranges.

Remember you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

On Sunday we drove 4 hrs east and then spent two nights on the shore of
Lake Havasu at Lake Havasu State Park.

We hooked up with friends here and in total we had 4 rigs in attendance.

Today - Tuesday - we drove 70 miles south to Quartzsite.
It is here where we will now spend a week or so in the Desert.
There are about 70+ rigs from our Montana Group here.

We set up camp outside of the big circle.  Ron & Maxine are here
in the Party bus as well as their friends Fred & Tracy.
We have our own little circle of 3 outside of the big circle.

I clicked on our blog map, then selected the last 8 months to see just
where we have been during that time period.

Its been a busy time indeed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Last Hurrah

Well the trip is over and we are back are in the States,
but our last few days were not without lots of activities and
great sites to see.

To back step a couple of days - before we headed up into
the Alps - we were treated to one more special dinner.

Marcel & Michaela treated us to a special Swiss Dinner called Raclette.
It is made by taking a special cheese, and other ingredients,
heating them up in a small oven and pouring the melted cheese over
various ingredients in your plate.

We had boiled potatoes, numerous veggies, chicken and shrimp.
Oh..  and Hefeweizen too!

It takes 5 or 10 minutes to melt the cheese each time so dinner is a slow
and very social event.  Make a little, eat a little and make a little more.

We capped off the event with Marcels Toblerone Mousse.
A white chocolate and milk chocolate mouse.
The man is a master with chocolate and cream.

On our way up to into the alps I wanted to share this screenshot of my Garmin
GPS while traveling on A-8.   The road entered a tunnel and tunnel made a
360 degree turn inside the mountain.

When we left Wengen and headed back to M&M's place for our last night,
we made one detour to revisit the town of Murren.

Murren is located on the other side of the valley from Wengen and is also
perched on the side of the steep valley about 1,500' up from the valley floor.
The views from Murren are incredible.

Like Wengen, Murren is also a car free town.
You can reach it only by Tram.

Paragliders were taking advantage of the clear calm air.

Kate and I stayed in Murren 6 years ago.  On that visit the town was socked
in and we never go to see the incredible vistas.

Below is almost the same view as above.
Note the view once the clouds parted.

To leave Murren you take two trams
The second tram headed down is quite breathtaking.
You come over the edge of the cliff and all of a sudden you are more
than 1,000' above the valley floor.

On Thursday we headed to the airport, returned the rental car and soon were seated
on Swiss Air flight 38 headed to San Francisco.

Once again our business class seats provided lots of room for comfort on the 
long flight homeward.
We were wined and dined and given the royal treatment.

Even though the flight leaves and arrives in daylight, it travels far north as
it follows a great circle route, and this time of year at the high northern latitudes
it is perpetual nighttime, so we had a sunset, nighttime, and sunrise on this flight.

This was taken high in the sky over Norway leaving the sun far to the south.

In summer the same flight would be all daytime.

Our course took us right over Banff National Park in Canada.
You might remember Banff from our travels to Alaska last Spring & Summer.

Approaching SFO we flew right over the Golden Gate Bridge.

We arrived back at Ron & Maxines to a raucous welcome from the Doodles.
By the time we hit the sack it was a 25hr day.

We had a wonderful time.  I hope that you enjoyed visiting with us.

We like to  acknowledge and thank some special friends.

Ron & Maxine for taking such good care of the Doodles and making the trip possible.
Without them, we would never have been able to take the trip.

Marcel & Michaela for their incredible generosity and hospitality.
They really made our time in Europe extra special.
From Driving 5hrs up to Frankfurt just to greet us - to the wonderful way
that they took care of us while we stated with them in Switzerland..

Michaela parents for opening up their home to complete strangers,
they welcomed us and made us feel at home.
Michaelas mom spent a lot of time preparing special deserts and German meals.

Thanks so much to all of you.

Tomorrow - we hook up the Montana and head off for the Arizona Desert.
Ron & Maxine will be coming along with the Party Bus.
Our eventual destination will once again be the big Montana RV circle in Quartzsite.

First stop will be the Orange Grove in Bakersfield for some fresh fruit picking.
Then Lake Havasu where the 4 of us will hook up with Jim & Kristi.

Somewhere along the line I'd like to take a nap.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wengen Switzerland - The Alps

Yesterday we drove about 2 hrs south and east into the Swiss Alps.
Our destination is the small town of Wengen which is precariously perched
high on a hillside below the famous trio of Swiss Mountains named
 Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.

Our home for the two nights is the
Hotel Schoeneg.
It will be our last hotel of this trip but certainly not the least.

2 sets of twin doors open up to a nice balcony and
the view is fantastic!

One of the reasons I selected this hotel was the reputation of the resturant.
I opted for the "half board" which means a 4-course dinner is included.

Last night we had a pickled seaweed, caviar, and crayfish appetizer followed by
Creamed truffle soup, and finally Medallions of Venison with red cabbage and
a condensed berry sauce.

Our room is the top floor - right side with the two awnings extended.

Wengen is a car free town.   We left the rental in a parking garage at the train station
and took a cog railway train up the mountain.

Today we headed further up the mountain on the train to Kleine Scheideg where
we switched to the Junfraujoch Cog Railway for a 1 hour trip up to
Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe at over 11,333'

We sat next to a newlywed couple who were visiting on their honeymoon from
Singapore.   I learned that in Singapore - English is the main (and first) language.

I visited here almost 50 years ago with my father.
The views from on top are amazing.
Down in the valley in the center of the picture is Interlaken Switzerland.

The Aletsch Glacier - the longest in Europe at about 14 miles.
It is over 3,300' thick.

On Junfrau is the Ice Palace.
It is carved into the Glacier and contains numerous ice sculptures.



Heading back down from Junfraujoch we change trains to the Green/yellow
ones at Kleine Scheideg.   These trains runs down either side of the mountain
into either Lauterbrunnen or Grindlewald.

We took the train towards Lauterbrunnen getting back off at Wengen.

On the way to Wengen, you can see the mountain village of Murren on the
far side of the steep valley.   Kate and I stayed in Murren 6 years ago.
It was cloudy during our stay last time and we never got to see the mountains.
This time the weather was perfect.

We have some time to kill tomorrow so we might head over to Murren,
and take the tram up for lunch and see the view under better conditions than last.

My watch battery happened to start to go bad on me last night.
Since it was made in Switzerland I was able to find a repair shop in
Interlaken so we headed down there this afternoon to drop it off.
It should be ready tomorrow afternoon.

Normally I have to send it out for service and it takes
almost 2 months to get it back and meanwhile I am lost without it.

It's all about timing.

Tomorrow after I get my watch we will head back to
Marcel & Michaelas house for our final night in Europe.

We will say good bye to our friends and head back to the US, to
Ron & Maxine, The Doodles, The RV, and The Arizona Desert.

Thursday we have a 1pm flight on a Swiss A340 headed back
to San Francisco.

Again it will be business class seats so the trip home should be 
another fine flying experience.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Who cut the cheese?

In my haste to put out my last post, and in an effort to keep it short
and hopefully interesting - I forgot one of the highlights of our trip...

New Years Eve!

Before I get there however, a couple of housekeeping items:

First...  Remember I said that Kate learned some new German Words
in the Bierhaus in Munich?

Well here are her teachers.
They had been there since 1030am and it was around 7pm.

This is me and "Christmas Greggi"
In his pocket are "The two Doodles
Christmas Greggi is a new addition and looks over the family dinner table
during the holidays.

Frankly I don't see the resemblance - do you?

Finally - in my previous post I talked about our Alpli-Milch that we had 
enjoyed in the small Swiss Bar in Zurich. 

It came in 50cl jars and is poured into small glasses.
It is quite thick, creamy, and foamy when first served.

Here is a picture of it.

Now to New Years....

Think of a cool moonlit winters night.
Add in a nice warm campfire.

Now throw in some wine...    some good crusty bread...  and some cheese.

Sound good?    You bet.

Throw it all together in a big pot and you have Swiss New Years.

We celebrated the arrival of 2015 with a traditional Swiss Fondue over
a nice wood fire outside in the snow.

First Marcel & I went into the village to pick up the cheese
and then the girls prepared it indoors.

Wine and secret ingredients are added to the cheese and it is heated till melted
to just the correct consistency.

This is their friend Bridgette stirring the mixture.

Bridgette works in a local Bakery and brought the bread.
It is a special bread made just for fondue.
It is sliced some before baking.
Then baked until it has a nice hard crust.

The bread is then broken apart and put in a bowl.

Meanwhile the fondue is almost ready for the fire.

A tri-pod was erected over the fire.
A chain with a hook is suspended from the top of the tripod.
The pot is suspended from the hook.

You can move the hook higher or lower along the chain to adjust the heat
of the fondue.

The pot was hung from the Tri-pod and it was time!

Long forks make the job simple.
Dip, twirl, enjoy!

Wine, bread, and cheese on a stick!   
Can't go wrong with that!

At midnight we were treated to church bells ringing and more fireworks than we
usually see on the 4th of July.

 It was a New Years Eve to be remembered forever for sure.

Kate & I hope that all of you had a very Happy New Year,
and wish you all the best for 2015.