Friday, April 21, 2017

Heading East and Indecision

After spending two weeks in Pahrump, it was time to get headed back to the east. We want to be in Texas on May 13 for our Niece's wedding.

One of the activities I like to do is trip planning. I like to look at the options and try to find a great camp site. With all of the time in Pahrump, my planning turned into indecision. I originally thought about going to Bullhead City. There were a number of good camp site options even though that was taking us a little out of our way. I looked at the weather forecast for Bullhead City and it called for temps in the 90's. That was just too warm for us.

I then looked back to the east and thought about spending a night or two in Kingman, but I did not see any great camping options. We were heading to the Grand Canyon area and when I looked at the direct route through Las Vegas, it showed 265 miles to the town of Williams. Williams is directly south of the South Rim of Grand Canyon NP.

For the first time in a while we were very excited about getting back on the road. April 17 was the day to move. We both woke up early and before we knew it we had the rig ready to go. We pulled out of Pair-A-Dice at 8:10 AM. That has to be some kind of record for us.

The drive to Las Vegas is only about 50 miles, but has a steep pass just before dropping down into the city. There is some beautiful scenery around Red Rock Canyon.

After clearing Las Vegas, we headed to Boulder City. Kim tried to get a shot of Lake Mead, but this is the best she could do form the moving rig.

We then crossed the Colorado river on the new bridge just below the Hoover Dam. I was unaware that you can not see the dam from the new bridge.

The rock formations in the canyon are still nice to look at. We drove on for a while and then stopped at an overlook to see the canyon below the dam from a distance. You can see the Colorado river in one of these shots.

It was still early in the day when we got to Kingman, Arizona. We called to make sure we could get a spot at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and RV park in Williams. They had space for us in the RV park, but not on the train for the next day. We continued on to Williams. The park is very nice and is a Passport America park. We got two nights for $24 per night. Not bad for this level of a park. We did have the main line of the railroad right behind us, but it was not busy and did not wake us up. 

We ended up driving about 265 miles, which is long for us, but it was good to give the truck a good workout to see if it was good to go. We climbed to about 7000 feet in elevation, so it was not an easy day. The truck ran great. We are praying we are good for the rest of the trip.

We were now set to make the 60 mile drive the next morning to Grand Canyon NP. My next entry will be full of pictures of the canyon. It was a very strange and melancholy day. I will explain why in my next entry.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pahrump, Nevada Week 2

I am writing this on April 20. We are still in Winslow, Arizona.

Now back a couple of weeks to the continuing saga of our time in Pahrump.

The first week went by quickly. We were just waiting to take the trailer in to have the frame welded. I did crawl under the trailer and marked all of the problem areas with white chalk as Sam had asked me to do. While I was under there, I noticed a chuck of rubber missing from one of the trailer tires. It was about the size of a quarter and went all the way to the core of the tire. It is just luck it had not blown.

We got up very early for us on Monday, April 10. We even set an Alarm! We could not remember the last time we did that. We had hooked up the night before and pulled out of the park around 7 AM. I am sure our neighbors were not pleased.

As we drove to the repair shop, I noticed that the truck was idling roughly. My day just went from bad to worse. I drove on and made it to the shop. Sam was waiting for us and had a plan to get us taken care of. He was hoping to have it done that same day, but it may be the next.

We went to a Denny's in town for breakfast. Kim had noticed a Firestone tire sign at a local tire shop on our way to the shop. I wanted to see if they could get a replacement tire for me. We were sitting there discussing what to do about the truck, when I noticed a sign over Kim's left shoulder. It said, "Pete's Auto Clinic". I decided to go talk to them to see if they knew anything about Ford diesels.

The tire store was a bit disorganized, but the guy told me he could get the tire I wanted and shot me a great price. I then went to Pete's. I talked to the GM of the shop and he was very knowledgeable and offered an appointment for a diagnostic the next morning. I scheduled that.

The truck seemed to be running better, so we decided to drive out to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge while we waited for the trailer.

The refuge is a very interesting place. It is like an oasis in the desert of Death Valley. There are a number of high volume springs in the refuge and plenty of wildlife. We decided to take the boat out for a paddle.

It was a beautiful day and the water was an amazing turquoise color.

Light winds made the paddle all the way around the lake very enjoyable. The mountains surrounding the lake made for some very nice views.

We saw a number of species of ducks and other water fowl. You may not be able to pick it out, but there is a Belted Kingfisher up on the top of that reed.

While we were paddling around the lake, I called Sam and he told me that he was half done and hoped to be done by around 3:30. Great News! I then called the tire shop and ordered the tire.

We then went to the visitor center. It is fairly new and is beautiful. We watched a nice movie and then went for a walk on the boardwalk out to see one of the springs and the famous pupfish.

If you look closely, you can see the blue iridescent pupfish in this next shot.

We then drove to Point of Rocks to see another spring and to take in some nice views of the surrounding mountains.

As we left the refuge, the reality of our day got worse. The truck let out a big cloud of black smoke. It was still running OK, so I took it easy and drove back to Pahrump. We stopped at RPI and Sam looked a bit worn out. He had worked hard on the trailer all day and had us ready to go. He did all of the welding, but also adjusted my pin box to help me tow perfectly level. It all looked great. I paid my $800 bill and then carefully eased the rig back to the SKP park.

The trailer was still very dirty from our time in the Death Valley dust storm, so we went to the wash area and did a quick clean. What a nice facility. I then got it parked in the site and took off the bad tire and put it in the bed of the truck. I was very concerned about how the truck was running.

I was up early the next day to drop the tire off and have the truck diagnosed. When I arrived at the tire shop the guy admitted he forgot to order the tire. I said, no problem, just get it ordered and I will call you when I can pick it up.

They were ready for me at Pete's and got right on it. I was sitting in the waiting room at Pete's waiting for a word, then something beautiful happened. There was a little girl about 2 sitting with her mother. The little girl was at first shy, but then came right over to me and offered me some of her drawings. He mother looked at me with a shocked look on her face. She told me that she never does that and asked if I had done something. I said no. They left, but not before the little girl had to say goodbye and gave me a drawing. Then a grandmother and her granddaughter came in. The little girl was about 3. There were about 10 seats in the waiting area and the little girl could have chosen any of them. She came right over and sat next to me and then leaned over on my arm. Her grandmother also gave me a strange look and said she never does that. We had a nice conversation. The little girl never said a word to me, but I was enjoying the snuggles. I have been missing my grand kids lately and those incidents really made my otherwise bad day, great.

I got the word that the problem with the truck was #5 injector was bad. That was going to cost about $900 to replace. The suggestion was made to have all of the injectors replaced on that side of the engine. I called Kim to discuss our options. We decided to go ahead and do the entire side. We thought about doing the other side also, but there was no cost savings to doing that. They told me it would be ready by Friday. My friends, Gordon and Laura stopped by to pick me up.

I called the tire place and they were not done getting the tire put on the rim. Gordon and Laura offered to let me borrow their car to go get it the next morning. Once again, their generosity was amazing and saved me a bunch of problems. The shop took forever to find the tire. Then they charged me more than the original estimate. I tried to argue, but felt my blood pressure rising and decided to just pay the bill and leave. That shop was just a mess!

I was shocked late Wednesday when I received a phone call from Pete's, telling me my truck was done. They even offered to bring it to me, so that I could drive it before I payed for it. It was running great! I paid my $2100 bill and then went and thanked the guy that worked on the truck. It was an excellent experience at Pete's and I would recommend them.

I got the tire installed and we were now ready to roll. The only problem was that we had paid for another week and Easter was that weekend. We decided to stay until Monday.

We went to church for Easter at a very interesting little mission church out in the desert south of Pahrump called Mission of St. Terese. Mass was 2.5 hours long, but we really enjoyed it.

The church with the stations of the cross on the walk way around the courtyard.
We finished our time in Pahrump playing games with Gordon and Laura. They taught us two new games and even let Kim win a few times. They even gave us this fun game called Pegs and Jokers.

It is truly our belief that things happen for a reason. The reason we needed to come to Pahrump was to spend some more time with Gordon and Laura and let them help us some more. Gordon is more my hero now than he was before. Maybe some day, I will learn to be more like him. Thank you guys, we LOVE you!

I will finish this entry with a sunset. It just seems fitting.

Next up is Northern Arizona and our move back east. We heard they have a big ditch there. Come back to see if we could find it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pahrump, Nevada Week 1

I am writing this entry on April 19 from Winslow, Arizona. And yes, we are "Taking it Easy".

I know that it can be confusing having two different time lines in play as I write this blog, but it helps to keep friends and family up to date and also keep the chronological history of our travels intact.

Let's go back a couple of weeks to Sunday, April 2. We awoke at Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley NP. It was a beautiful day. We had talked to the camp host, Randy, who lived in Pahrump. He really went above and beyond to help us by giving us the names of the best repair shops in Pahrump. We got going early and drove through the park to Furnace Creek. I stopped and checked the cracks in the trailers frame and they did not seem to be getting worse. We continued on up a steep and long hill leaving the valley. The truck did ok, so I was not concerned about it. The drive was only 85 miles. I was very happy when we pulled into Lakeside Casino and RV park in Pahrump, Nevada. This is a nice park that is a Passport America park. We were able to stay for 3 days for a little over $19 per night. It was Sunday, so there was not much I could do that day. This is the first time we have spent a night camping in Nevada.

We had been planning to stay in Pahrump for a few days before I discovered the problems with the trailer. We have some people we know that live there and we wanted to see them. We talked on the phone and made plans to see them the next day.

On Monday, I made some calls and decided to take the trailer to RPI, inc. to get the trailer fixed. I worked with a guy named Sam. I liked him from the first time I talked to him. He seemed to be hard working and a straight shooter. I hitched up and took the trailer to his shop. He looked it over and said it looked like a pretty big job. He estimated the cost at under $2000. I swallowed hard and made an appointment for the next Monday to bring it back. Now, we needed a place to stay for the rest of the week.

After getting the trailer set back up in our site at Lakeside, we went over to see Gordon and Laura. They are staying at an Escapee park called Pair-A-Dice on the southern side of the city.

Let me put this in perspective. We had only met them once. We were at St. Bernard State Park near New Orleans in 2014, just a month after I retired. They came in the park just behind us and parked a couple of sites down from us. We said hi a few times and then one day I stopped to talk. They had been full timers for 19 years at that point. I immediately started learning things from them. I loved their style and laid back attitude. They became my heroes. I wanted to be just like them.

We were getting ready to leave and I had Kim join me to say good bye. They invited us in and we sat and talked for over 2 hours. Kim and I have talked about them from time to time during the last 3+ years. We used them to help us when things were difficult. 19 years!, we could surely do 1! then 2, then 3.

Laura rarely posts in her blog, but she made an entry in December telling of their decision to sell the motor home and buy a park model and put it on their site in Pahrump. Unfortunately, Gordon has a disease that is impacting his ability to walk, but in his usual style, he still has an amazing attitude and is a joy to be around. I left a note in her blog and hoped she would get back to me. She did, and we exchanged contact information.

We started by going to the office and getting the information on becoming Escapees (SKP) and staying at the park. We quickly decided we would give it a try. We then went to see Gordon and Laura. We talked for hours and loved them more this time around. I don't know what time it was when we left, but I am sure it was a long time. We told them we were moving to their park and would let them know when we were set up. When we called, we were invited over for dessert and to meet a number of other folks that were in the park. What a fun evening. Almost everyone we met had been full timing for close to 20 years, some more. The advice and input was non-stop and much appreciated.

We now were comfortable enough to join in the festivities of the "Spring Fling", that was scheduled for Friday and Saturday. More fun times and enjoyable conversations with people from the park.

Here is a shot of our site in Pair-A-Dice:

Cost was $96 per week. What a great deal. We paid for our $39 membership in one week.

Gordon and Laura took us for tours around the area and helped us when we needed help. We quickly became great friends.

Gordon and Laura and us at dinner
They took us to see the town of Shoshone, where we saw a number of interesting things.

Some Desert Tortoises
We saw some houses that were cut out of limestone cliffs. This is how some miners stayed cool out in the desert back in the 1920's.

We then went to a Date farm and had Date shakes that were awesome!

Gordon and Laura in front of a Date Palm
We loved the drive though this beautiful area.

This entry is getting too long. If you have made it this far, thank you. I will pick up this story from the start of our second week in Pahrump. It was a crazy week, but our friends made it so much easier than it could have been.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Death Valley National Park Part 3

Death Valley NP is an amazing place. If you would have asked me what Death Valley was all about before we had been there, I would have told you it is the hottest and driest place in North America. I would of course been right, but it is so much more. The center of the park is the deep valley that contains the lowest elevation in the US, but surrounding the valley are beautiful mountains. It snows and rains up in the mountains on a regular basis and the water comes down the mountains creating awesome canyons through the rocks. You can leave the valley floor on a hot day and be up in the shade and altitude of the canyons in a short time and be enjoying very comfortable temperatures and amazing scenery.

We had only scratched the surface of this awesome place while we were there. We were sitting outside our rig on the second to last night when our neighbors, Scott and Donna came over to talk. They have been coming to Death Valley for a long time and filled us in on why they keep coming back. A street legal vehicle is essential for exploring the park. Non licensed vehicles are not allowed. Scott has a FJ Cruiser and that is perfect for many of the rough roads.

Death Valley NP is also a haven for Dual Sport Motorcycle riders. The back roads are endless and you can find everything from mild to wild when it comes to difficulty.

I decided I could not leave this place without going for a ride up into the mountains and down one of the canyons. I chose Titus Canyon. It is a one way road that winds through the mountains and then goes by a ghost town and then passes through a deep canyon. This route is heavily used, so I would not find much solitude, but when riding by myself, that is not a bad thing. I estimated the ride at about 80 miles. I filled my gas tank and headed out.

It was just after 10:00 AM when I left the valley floor. It was already getting warm and I questioned whether or not to wear my riding jacket. The first 30 miles was all pavement, but still was beautiful and challenging. The wind came up and was blowing over 40 MPH. It was all I could do to hold it on the road. I slowed down and soldiered on. I climbed and climbed until I went over the 4316 foot summit of Daylight pass. The air was clear and cool. I was glad I had my jacket on. The wind died significantly on the back side of the pass. I came to the point where I left the state of California and entered Nevada. I also left the NP for about 3 miles. Then I hit a dirt road and road back into the NP and California. The road was fairly strait and flat for the first 7 or 8 miles. I was thinking this was not going to take very long to complete the ride. Then I hit the mountains and had to stop to take some pictures. The formations surrounding me were incredible.

It wasn't long before the road got very tight and twisty as it worked its way through the rocky mountains.

There was nothing on this road that was difficult for an experienced off-road rider except keeping your eyes on the road while admiring the amazing scenery all around you. I stopped about every half mile to take pictures.

Can you see the road on the far hill side? 

When I reached the summit of the climb in the previous pictures, I had this view:

It literally took my breath away. I had come up on some other jeep traffic, but all were very courteous and let me by with a friendly waive. I was not going fast, I just did not want to eat their dust and they had to go pretty slow because of some large rocks and some blind corners.

I then road down the beautiful valley until I came to Leadfield. You can zoom in on the picture below to read the sign to get a quick overview of the history.

There is not much left, but you can hike around the ruins and get a feel for what was here.

I was much more interested in the amazing rock formations that surrounded me on all sides.

Look at the shift in that one.
This rock signaled the beginning of Titus Canyon. Very quickly I was surrounded by high rock cliffs on both sides. It was stunning!

As I was riding along, I noticed some movement in the road in front of me. I kept my distance knowing it could be a snake. I stopped to examine this beautiful Sidewinder Rattlesnake.

As I was examining my new friend, a couple of vehicles came by and were also delighted to get a look at this beautiful snake.

I rode on through the remaining part of the canyon. Around every turn was a new angle that was just amazing to see.

Where does the road go?

It was not long before I exited the canyon and rode down to the valley floor. It was starting to get warm. I rode on pavement for about 25 miles back to camp. It was a very fun and interesting ride. Although too much of it was on pavement for my liking, the Titus Canyon section made it all worth while. You can do this drive is a high clearance vehicle, but I am sure it would not be as much fun as I had on my bike.

When I got back, I took off my riding gear and relaxed in the shade of the trailer. While I was sitting there I had a perfect angle to look down the frame of the trailer. Something looked strange. I then got under the trailer and saw the crack that would begin the odyssey that has been our life for the past two weeks. I decided then, I should not put the bike on the rail on the back of the trailer. My solution was to put it in the bed of the truck sideways in front of the hitch. To do that I had to take off the front wheel and front forks. It was quite an ordeal, but Kim helped and we got it done. It actually fits pretty well.

I will let it ride like that back to Missouri. In my next entry, I will give a little bit more detail on how we made decisions on how to get back on the road. I said then, that this was happening for a reason. I now know what that reason was. I will share that in my coming entries.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Death Valley National Park Part 2

I am writing this entry on April 14. To update our current situation with the truck, we received a phone call from Pete's Auto Center on Wednesday evening telling us that the truck was ready. They had told me that they were hoping to be done on Friday or maybe Thursday. I love a business that under promises and over delivers. They sent a guy over to the park with the truck and had me drive it back to the shop. The truck is running like it was new. I did get a bit of a shock when they presented the bill because it was $300 more than the estimate, but they added a couple of things that were needed and I am fine with the $2100 final cost. That makes about $3100 that we have spent in Pahrump to fix the truck, trailer and replace one tire. We are now ready to roll. The only issue is that we have now paid for another week here at Pair A Dice SKP park, so we will stick around through the Easter weekend and head east the first part of next week.

In my last entry, I left us in a bad dust storm in Death Valley. The dust storm continued for 2 days. By the end of it, the campground was almost empty.

On March 31, the wind had reduced some, so we decided to head out on a driving tour of the park. We drove to the visitor center at Furnace Creek and checked out the exhibits. They were well done. We also watched a movie about the park. We were then prepared to take our driving tour.

We started with "Devil's Golf Course". This is a very interesting area along the floor of the valley. You can see the deposits of alkali on the rocks and dirt.

This area is very near to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest elevation in the US at 282 Feet below sea level.

We then went to the Natural Bridge Canyon. It was a short uphill walk through a canyon, but the formation made it worth it. We took a few pictures and walked back to the truck.

A Look Back Down the Valley to Badwater Basin From the Trail head
We then continued to Artists Palette drive. This is a one way, very curvy road that shows off some very interesting rock formations that have many different colors in them. There are a number of short walks to overlooks of the most colorful sections.

Very tight curvy road

We really enjoyed the drive, the pictures just don't do justice to the amazing colors.

On our way back to camp, we took a few evening shots of the sand dunes. The light and shadows do neat things to the dunes.

I will break up our visit to Death Valley NP into one more entry. I really wanted to take a ride up into one of the signature canyons in the park. I planned that ride for the next day. Come back to see how that turned out.