Friday, December 28, 2007

12/28/07 Hello from Quartzsite. We drove here yesterday with Mike and Marilyn Harrison and are now set up on the desert where we are enjoying peace and quiet. After driving up to Phoenix on Christmas Day to be with their family, we didn't want to have to drive all the way back to Yuma to have New Year's with the Boomers at Mittrey Lake. Hopefully, most of the people there will be coming up here in a few weeks and we will get to see them then.
Christmas Eve we enjoyed a very nice dinner hosted by Elaine's cousin Tom, at El Conquistador Restaurant. Besides Elaine and I, the dinner was also attended by Penny, her sister, Aunt Marion, and quite a few of Tom's clients and neighbors. Then we had a gift exchange at Aunt Marion's. It capped off a three day visit with Aunt Marion. We were happy to have some good visiting time with her and also with Penny. The next day we drove up to Phoenix to be with Mike & Marilyn's family for Christmas Day dinner. It was quite enjoyable and we were happy to meet their relatives and friends. Unfortunately, I didn't take any good pictures to put here. We spent 2 nights camping on a street near their daughter's house and the second night the police showed up because someone in the neighborhood complained. They were nice about it and didn't push us out when we said we were leaving the next day. The next morning we drove to Beads Galore so Elaine and Marilyn could get some more supplies. It is one of the biggest places for this and they got lots of nice crystals, silver fasteners, etc. I suppose they will be making some nice jewelry pretty soon while we are camped out here.
Today we spent a little time collecting dry wood for campfires and building a nice fire pit. If you are in the area, stop by at Happy Hour for a campfire, a libation, and some conversation.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

12/16/07 Today I finally got our Christmas letter written and sent and a copy of it is below, in case you didn't get one sent to you. There are now 8 rigs of friends out here at Sidewinder Road and we have been having enjoyable social times. Usually we all meet and walk together every morning at 9:30 with some of us walking 2 miles and Elaine, Nancy Hurley and I walking 4 or 5 miles. This sounds like a lot but with all the group meals we have been having, we need to walk off the calories! Then we each do our own thing during the day and we meet again at 3:30 to go for another shorter walk. Happy Hour around the campfire, if there is no wind, or in someone's rig usually follows, if there is no group dinner planned. There have been several wonderful dinners for the whole gang, 2 put on by Jerry and Nancy Hurley, 2 by Mary & Elaine, one by Nancy and Bob, and the biggest one the other night (14 people) in Gretchen and Frank Knapp's rig. Most of the people here will be moving over to Mittrey Lake on the 22nd to take part in the Boomer Christmas gathering. We will be heading for Tucson to have Christmas with Elaine's sister, aunt, and cousins. Then on Christmas Day we will join Mike & Marilyn Harrison in Phoenix at their daughter Darcy's place for another Christmas celebration. Other friends in that area might also be seeing us in the following days.
One of the best parts of camping out here on the desert are the fabulous sunsets whenever there are any clouds. I am attaching a picture below, although we have quite an array of amazing ones that we took, because as we sit through the changes, the color changes and intensity changes are incredible.
Tomorrow we will be heading back to Algodones, the nearest Mexican town, to buy some good tequila. Jerry and Nancy Hurley have exposed us to a new one, which is very good especially when you drink it straight with some limon. Try to get some Herencia del Plata tequila (in the blue box) and you will see what we mean. When we compared it to Jose Cuervo, we realized how harsh the Cuervo is compared to the Herencia. Life is too short to drink cheap tequila!!

Dec. 2007

Once again it is the time of year when we start getting e-cards and letters from friends and family and we always say, “Where the heck has the last year gone??!!” I guess that means that we have been having a good time because that is when time really seems to fly away. Well, we love hearing from everyone and sure hope that the following missive from us will be of interest to you too.

Our year started with a new motorhome, which we acquired at the very end of 2006. It is a 2005 Seabreeze LX which is 34 feet long, and increase of 11 feet from our last one. And it has 2 slideouts, which make it even more spacious. It was offered on eBay and by driving all the way to Denton, TX to get it before the end of the year, we got a great deal. It only had 4058 miles on it and was like new. It has become our “party house” because we now have a larger rig than lots of our friends, so when the weather is windy or cold, the gang ends up in our rig. Fun. It also means we have to be really careful when we make tight turns or try to park it.

Because we were coming back from Texas, we missed the New Year’s gathering with the Boomers at Sidewinder Road near Yuma. But we did have many other happy times camping with the Boomers and the RoVing Rods (our fishing group) in Arizona through February and March and later in the year. The annual gathering at Quartzsite in January was a highlight because it is a chance to reconnect with so many of our RVing friends.

This has been an unusual year for us, as we did not spend very much time traveling outside the United States. Our only foreign trip was a trans-Atlantic cruise from Galveston, TX to Barcelona, Spain in mid-April. We have taken this cruise before, so the appeal of it was not the ports of call but just the cruising experience, which was greatly enhanced by the friends who were cruising with us. Daily Happy Hours in someone’s stateroom and gourmet dinners every night pretty much sabotaged our good intentions to stay slim and trim, but Hey, there is time for all that later, right? After arriving in Spain, we flew to Seville where Elaine’s nephew picked us up and we had a nice visit with his family at Maron Air Force Base where he was a squadron commander. It is always enjoyable to have warm weather, a different and interesting culture, and family or friends with whom to share it.

It was a good thing we weren’t lingering in Europe this year because we got an unexpected 30 day notice from our tenants in the Santa Clara house and we had to deal with that immediately upon our return. Although the house selling market is in the toilet just about everywhere, luckily for us the rental market is still strong and we had no trouble re-renting it after some painting and cleanup. Every time we fix up a place like this, we say we are getting too darn old to be working this hard but, after all is said and done, rentals are our only retirement income!

Then we had to hightail it up to Washington, as we had accepted a job at a Forest Service campground called Lake Kachess. The goal of working at all was to get one more quarter of Social Security credit for me so I could qualify for Medicare eventually, because at $7.93/hour, we weren’t exactly getting rich working at this job! Happily, we had a convivial relationship with all of our fellow workers there and the campground was in a heavily wooded area right on a big and beautiful lake, just east of Snoqualmie Pass. We managed 2 of the loops, which encompassed 50 campsites. Supposedly we were being paid for 30 hours per week, but in actuality, we probably worked 60. It wasn’t hard or nasty work but the hard part for us was just that we had to be in the same place for 3 months. In 13 years of being full time RVers, we had never stayed anywhere longer than a month before. Our on-site managers were delightful, but the area managers managed to stress out the entire staff every time they visited. That was an on-going problem, and we also had some unexpected incidents. The worst incident was when a freak wind swept across the lake and toppled more than a dozen old growth hemlock trees right in a couple of the camping loops. It was very lucky that people weren’t injured or killed, as several of these huge trees landed directly on a tent trailer, a tent, and a car, and blocked a lot of the roads needed to evacuate people. One of the best parts of being at Lake Kachess for nearly 3 months was that our family and friends knew where we were going to be for a while. There was a pretty steady stream of visitors, which we greatly enjoyed.

Eventually a few of the confrontations between our staff and the area managers got to us and we quit the job in mid-August. The RoVing Rods were fishing for salmon at Sekiu, on the Olympic Peninsula, and Elaine was itching to join them. It was wonderful to be with our friends in the group and also to be catching, smoking, and canning salmon to be enjoyed for months to come. This event was followed by the crabbing gathering at Winchester Bay, OR. Good thing it is a beautiful area to stay in and the social part of the event is so enjoyable because this year the actual crabbing and salmon fishing there was dismal. It didn’t help when 2 of our traps were stolen the very first time we put them out! The weather was fairly good this year all through the gathering. We were going to stay for another week but then rain and cold came in right after it was over. Our tenants in Roseville also surprised us with a 30 day notice, so we started heading south.

Boomer friends have a home on Agency Lake, near Klamath Falls, and we stopped to visit them. Crater Lake is only about 35 miles from their home so we all drove up there on an excursion. There was fresh snow everywhere (and not just a “dusting”), and it was beautiful to be up there, but quite a surprise as it was only Oct. 2 when we were there.

After visiting my daughter and granddaughters in the Reno area, and checking on the Roseville house, we proceeded to the Bay Area. Besides checking on the other rentals, we wanted to see Elaine’s daughter Tarra, who lives in Fremont, and my son, Thomas, who lives in San Francisco. While we were there, Tarra was fine the first day and then got sick. We returned to our lot at Park Sierra but then in a few days returned to Fremont as Tarra was so sick she had to be hospitalized. Tests showed that she had bacterial spinal meningitis, a staph infection, and an e. coli infection. They put her on massive doses of antibiotics, which continued when she was released after 9 days. Luckily, she is doing fine now because this was a very serious situation.

Once again we were able to fix up our vacant rental and get new tenants quickly. This allowed us to pack up our RV for winter and head for the Arizona deserts where we are currently camped with Boomer friends. Thanksgiving found us enjoying a delicious feast and socializing with the RoVing Rods at Mittry Lake near Yuma. For Christmas we will drive over to Tucson to be with Elaine’s sister Penny, Aunt Marion, and cousins Tom & Lucienne. Christmas Day we will drive to Phoenix to be with Mike & Marilyn Harrison and their daughter, Darcy.

As always, we are looking forward to new places to explore in the coming year. In late February we will be flying to Johannesburg, South Africa where we will pick up a 25 day safari tour ending in Capetown. After a month there, we will take another safari tour through Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia, ending at Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Then we just have to get ourselves back to the USA in mid-May. This is a trip I have wanted to do my entire life and I have high hopes for lots of animal viewing. If you are interested in reading travel reports from this trip, or in fact just checking on our whereabouts at any time, please access our blog:

As we travel the highways and byways in the next year, we are hoping that our paths will cross with many of you receiving this letter. Please e-mail us with your own news as we are always interested in your happenings. We are wishing you the happiest of Christmases and a wonderful year in 2008.

Love, Mary & Elaine

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

12/4/07 Hello from Sidewinder Road. This is a desert boondocking spot on a gravel road off Ogilby Road west of Yuma, AZ. We have been having generally sunny and warm weather with only occasion windy days. When we first arrived, our friends Ed & Jolene Northup were the only ones here.

They joined us on some walks, we had Happy Hours together, and Saturday we all went to the Arizona Marketplace flea market together. Friday, Nancy and Jerry Hurley arrived to camp with us, just in time for the big rainstorm that went through this area. We had a wine tasting Happy Hour in our rig and it was raining so hard that no one wanted to go back to their own rigs. Finally the party broke up at 8:30 and it was still pouring! The next day when we went out for our walk, the road looked like a river bottom, it was so torn up and littered with branches and debris. Our friends Bob & Nancy Colbert were supposed to come that day and we were concerned that they would get stuck on the road. But by the time they arrived, the work crews had been through here and graded the road. There are now about 4 soft spots but Bob and Nancy made it in Saturday afternoon with no problem. They are now parked next to us and we are happy to be with them again.
We have been to Algodones (the nearest Mexican town) twice; once to make a dental appointment for Elaine and the next time for the actual work. She had a chip that needed to be repaired last year in Cairo, and now it needed to be done again. It cost $42 in Cairo and $35 in Mexico - both prices far below what it would have cost in the US. The lines getting through customs to get back to the USA which were long and slow last year, are much better this year. Although, the customs guys are being tight about what you can bring back. Yesterday Nancy and Jerry met a couple that were turned back for trying to cross with 4 pairs of sunglasses!!
It seems that often Elaine and I are trying to find time to catch up on paperwork, computer stuff, RV fixup, etc. and this is our chance to do those things. Each morning we go for a walk and each afternoon there is a convivial Happy Hour but those are the only demands on our time.

One thing we were trying to find time to do was plan a trip to South Africa and now we have done that. We have booked a 25 day safari/tour from Pretoria to Capetown, starting March 2. Once in Capetown, we will stay with friends for a short while in order to find an apartment to rent until April 22. Then we leave on our second safari/tour which will be 21 days, going through Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia, and ending in Livingstone where Victoria Falls are located. After that we will have to get ourselves back to Johannesburg for the flight home. We haven't booked our airfare yet but we will be working on that soon.
Other Boomer friends will be showing up soon no doubt, because lots of people are planning to be at the Christmas/New Year’s gathering which will be held at Mittry Lake this year but which won’t start until about the 22nd. There is a good chance that we will be driving to Tucson again for Christmas, to be with Elaine’s Aunt Marion, her son Tom and her daughter Lucienne, and Elaine’s sister, Penny. More on this next time.