grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Friday, April 30, 2010

20-30APR10 - Kittitas & Everett, WA

Tuesday, 20APR, we finished our drive into Washington state; and as we have many times in the past we stopped in at Dan’s cousin Steve & Bonnie Kiesel place in Kittitas. See the below BLOG entry about our last visit. Gumbo immediately started running around with Boots & Mabel, checking out the barn, fields & rolling around in the road apples.

After setting up camp & catching up on what has happened since our last visit, we headed to the “The Tav” for a belated birthday dinner for Bonnie. Then it was back to the house for an exciting evening of Mexican Train Dominoes. We have discussed before that the written rules for this game are not the clearest, but Bonnie & Steve hadn’t even bothered to read the rules & depended on how they were “taught” the game by friends. It was interesting to say the least.

That evening the winds that this area of Washington is known for started to kick up. Although the wind was not as bad as what we experienced in New Mexico, we still pulled in our awnings & the slide.

Wednesday morning we woke up to strong & steady winds. Since Steve & Bonnie had an errand to run west of Snoqualmie Pass, we decide to go with them & visit the Snoqualmie Casino for a buffet lunch & some light gambling.
Thursday morning we got back on the road with the RV to find an RV park in the Seattle area. We are doing this so Corrie has a reasonable place to stay while Dan is doing a small job for NCBRT/LSU in Blackwood, NJ. Before Dan departed on 26APR, we drove out to our property in Sultan a couple of times to check on things. Everything looks ok, & we were able to get the well running, but could not get the tractor running.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

16-19APR10 - Various, CA & Bend, OR

Friday, 16APR, we departed Laughlin, NV, enroute Seattle, WA. We have decided to drive pretty much straight thru because Dan has job for LSU/NCBRT 26APR, in NJ. Getting to Seattle will allow us to check on our property, & Dan to fly out of Seattle, while Corrie has a place to stay she knows & is comfortable with. That night we made it to Mojave, CA. Other than California Poppies (as opposed to Mexican Poppies) being in full bloom, there was nothing else of note on our drive thru the Mojave Desert.

Saturday we make it to Patterson, CA. While driving on north on US 99 we stopped at Bravo Farms Cheese Factory, where we stopped previously almost one year ago. Once again we bought some cheese, along with jalapeño olives, & shared a great tri-tip BBQ sandwich.

Sunday we hit the road early so we could make it to Redding, CA, arriving right after lunch & have some time to sightsee & relax. After setting up camp we headed to Damburger where Corrie had a damburger & Dan had a damthing. Why Damburger? Because back in 1938 when the Shasta dam was being built, an 18 year old Bud Pennington sold burgers (hence the name damburgers) from a tent to the construction workers. For a quarter you got a damburger, pie & coffee. Their burgers are different in that they squish them almost flat & crisp both sides. Very good! If you don’t like them crisp, order the Helen burger.

After a little rest back at the RV we headed to the sundial bridge. The bridge has a glass deck you walk on & the main support tower supposedly tells the time during the summer solstice. The bridge is now the center piece of a giant river park called Turtle Bay Exploration Park; that includes an arboretum, museum, trails & bike paths.

Monday, 19APR, we drove into Oregon to spend the night in Bend before our final days drive into Washington. Bend, OR, used to be a small farming community, but now appears to be full of young professionals. At least that is our guess, since the first things we saw on the main road into town was Mercedes dealership, Porsche/Audi dealership, & BMW dealership, & not one tractor dealership. This was confirmed when we walked around town and found a restored shopping district full of boutiques, & dotted with parks & walking trails. Tomorrow, onward to Washington.

Friday, April 16, 2010

14/15APR10 - Laughlin, NV (happy tax day!!!)

After paying our Freightliner bill Wednesday morning, 14APR, we got back on the road. We decided to head to Laughlin, NV, to test the laws of probability. Turns out Laughlin is the third most visited gambling city in Nevada, after Vegas & Reno; & one of the top 5 RV destinations in the USA! Laughlin is the result of Don Laughlin buying an abandoned motel in 1966, on the banks of the Colorado River in southern Nevada where there was no town at the time. At the start he had eight rooms, twelve slot machines, & two gaming tables. In the beginning the motel was more famous for its all you can eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, than as a gambling destination. The motel grew through the years to become the Riverside Casino, which employs 2000 people, has 1400 rooms, 900 RV spots, an 800 seat theater, 6 restaurants, 2 pools, six movie theaters, & a 34 lane bowling alley! In 1986 he used his own money to build a bridge linking his casino with Arizona, & in 1991 he donated $9 million to build a larger airport next door in Arizona to get more tourists to visit the area. The end result is that there are now at least ten major casinos in Laughlin, all because of Don Laughlin’s vision.

After setting up camp at the Riverside Casino RV Park, we walked over to the casino to check it out. One difference we noticed between Laughlin & Vegas is that Laughlin does not cater to the high rollers. For example in Vegas you will see casinos heavily advertising the latest restaurant by Wolfgang Puck or Emeril, but in Laughlin they advertise their Denny’s or McDonalds! Instead of having highend boutiques, the Riverside has stores selling cheap watches ($19.95) or cheap rings ($9.95). After Dan did a little gambling he headed upstairs to checkout Mr Laughlin’s antique car & antique slot machine collection.
The next day after sleeping in, we had a pleasant desert drive to the Native American Avi Casino where it turns out there was a very big muscle car & hot rod rally. One owner of a Cobra coupe race car had the driver’s side window labeled “ticket window”.

From the Avi we crossed the river into Arizona to take a different route back to the RV for a little sun time around the pool before dinner. That evening we took a break from the casinos, but Dan did go out to photograph some of the neon signs & lights of the various casinos. Before he even got out of the parking lot, he ran across a gathering of 1930s Ford Model A’s.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

10-13APR10 - Willcox & Phoenix, AZ

First thing Saturday morning, 10APR, Dan was at the GMC dealer to get the radio fixed from their botched repair yesterday. Naturally even though it was their mistake, it still took two hours of waiting for a 20 minute fix. Later that day we discovered they still screwed up the glove box so it only opens half way!!!

A couple times in the past we have described the difficulty of getting a large RV serviced while you live in it. Not to rehash the subject, but you need to go to a truck facility; they are few & far between, & trucks always get priority. Anyway we have been trying to get routine servicing done on RV since leaving Louisiana. While at the Rally in Albuquerque we heard several recommendations for the Freightliner truck facility in Phoenix (Tolleson actually), supposedly open 24/7.

So we left El Paso & stopped Saturday night in Willcox, AZ, at a RV park that appears to be old motel now converted to a “multi-use” facility - indoor pool, spa, fitness center & a restaurant Tacos el Sonorense. Willcox was the national leader in cattle production in early 1900s & the largest railhead in the country at the time.

Trivia – what famous lawman was killed in Willcox (hint – initials are W Earp)?

We then fired up the Toad & headed into town for exploration. Although Willcox is now a small & sleepy town, we still found it interesting. The big attraction is the Rex Allen Museum; Rex was a less famous singing cowboy who supposedly made the last singing western in 1954. Rex’s big claim to fame was that he was the voice of over a hundred Disney animal documentaries. We also noticed a very big BBQ restaurant in old RR cars; a cocktail lounge where you cook your own steaks; & “supersized” family with their burgers & drinks.

We headed back to Tacos el Sonorense for dinner. Where Dan had to have the Sonoran Hot Dog (grilled dog wrapped in bacon, with mayo, mustard, beans & salsa), along with a Taco Tripas & Taco Cabeza; Corrie settled on a Caramello (aka quesadilla w/meat). It was very good food with a great condiment bar to build your own toppings, & inexpensive to top it off.

Sunday right around noon we pulled into Freightliner in Tolleson/Phoenix, AZ, only to discover that the truck repair facility was open 24/7, but the RV facility is only open 12 hours a day, M-F! Luckily we were allowed to plug-in & stay for free. For dinner we headed to Haus Murphy’s for a truly German dinner. We don’t know why a German restaurant started by a German couple has an Irish name, but it was authentic, including an outdoor beer garden with appropriate beer hall music playing. Corrie had the traditional Schnitzel & Dan went with the Paprika Schnitzel (as featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives) along with a Spaten beer (the oldest brewery in Munich, over 600 years!). It was the best German food we have ever had outside of Germany!

First thing Monday morning we checked in for service, & discovered everyone else has an appointment. We wanted routine service done & a vibration checked-out. After sitting around all day Monday, they finally started Tuesday after lunch. They immediately found the source of our vibration was a “bad” universal joint in the driveshaft. In our opinion this bad U-joint is probably from the lousy service we got at Freightliner in Mt Vernon, WA, AUG09. See the below internet link how other things done in Mt Vernon almost caused us to have major brake failure in Kelowna, BC. In this case, if the U-joint had failed, we would have lost our driveshaft & had major repairs like AUG07 in Minot when we did lose the very same U-joint (see below BLOG for Minot)!

Freightliner finished with the routine service & repairs early Tuesday evening. To celebrate we headed to La Piazza al Forno featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, for dinner. This is a small, but excellent, Italian restaurant; that makes their pizzas in a wood fired, brick oven imported from Italy. Our meals were outstanding, Corrie had the chicken marsala & Dan had a white pizza called pizza blanco.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

01-09APR10 - El Paso, TX (fort bliss)

Thursday, 01APR, we got a very early start (at least for Dan) to avoid the predicted high winds that were supposed to develop. Enroute we drove by Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but did not stop. Many people have recommended the park as one of the most beautiful but least visited in the park system. Part of the reason it has so few visitors is that is not on a major road, & the nearest town is Carlsbad, NM, over 30 miles away. We hope to find time to visit it one of these days.

We did encounter some high winds on the road, but had no problem driving. We checked into the Fort Bliss Army RV Park just north of El Paso at lunch time, & soon the high winds really hit around 1400. We have been here before back in FEB05 on a short RV trip in our old gas RV. We stayed at Fort Bliss on one leg of that trip, & Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site (highly recommended) on the return leg. After setting up camp we decided to make a quick run to the BX on base - big mistake! Since Fort Bliss is supposedly getting 30,000 more troops, it appears the entire base is under renovation or construction (including the world’s largest BX); along with the approach roads to the Base gates. To top it off, we got caught in a major traffic jam as everyone was trying to get off base at the same time! Long story – short, we never went back to the base again.

Friday morning we headed to the National Border Patrol Museum & Memorial Library Foundation, which was right next door to the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. Both these museums are small, very interesting, & free. The border patrol museum once again shows that bad guys can be exceedingly creative in developing means to achieve their goals no matter what the good guys do. The archaeology museum was a very good overview of the various Native American people that traveled through the area & those that establish long term settlements, finishing with the Pueblo culture. The archaeology museum is surrounded by nature trails, where we viewed the Mexican Poppies (aka California Poppies) in full bloom across the landscape.

Friday night we headed to Cattleman’s Ranch for dinner. This is a working ranch & restaurant that Dan has heard about from several acquaintances that have visited El Paso. It is literally in the middle of nowhere about 25 miles out of El Paso. This is definitely a restaurant based & centered on beef. The restaurant is also part museum, petting zoo, movie set & hotel to add even more reason to drive all the way out here, other than the excellent food.

Saturday morning we headed into El Paso for some exploration. A very unique thing to El Paso is the Golden Horseshoe. If you didn’t know, El Paso is on the border immediately next to the much bigger city, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. For decades Mexicans have crossed the border on foot on the bridge at El Paso Ave (or Stanton St), walked up El Paso Ave (or Stanton St) to do their “American” shopping, made a U-turn, continuing their shopping down Stanton St (or El Paso Ave), & finally crossing back into Mexico on the other bridge. Needless to say, Anglos & English speaking persons are the minority on the golden horseshoe.

In addition to Dan’s usual tracking down of “eccentric sights” to photograph (including the rare Uniroyal Girl), we also discovered that the USBC Women’s Championships were going on for the next 3 months in El Paso! This explained the huge piñatas in the shape of bowling balls & bowling pins we kept running across.
Easter Sunday we took the Trans Mountain Highway across the Franklin Mountains enroute “old” Mesilla in New Mexico. The highway is a very scenic drive through the largest urban state park in the USA (Franklin Mountains State Park). The state park is supposedly world renowned for its mountain biking trails & rock climbing. Mesilla has been absorbed by the town of Las Cruces, but still retains the original town square & many original adobe buildings from the 1800s. We arrived just as Easter services were commencing. The crowd for mass spilled out of the church and onto the steps. We found an open café for a light breakfast on the patio, before touring the open air market on the square. After a very relaxing morning in Mesilla, we returned to El Paso on scenic Highway 28 south thru the extensive pecan fields & vintners back to El Paso. Then we took Rim Drive to Scenic Drive on the south end of the Franklin Mountains for great views of El Paso & Ciudad Juarez, before calling it a day.

Unfortunately Monday, 05APR, Dan had to fulfill a consulting obligation for a company called CRA. This meant he was back in the rat race for five days, while Corrie was on her own. But it was still better than having Dan out of town the whole time. Two other unique diner experiences we discovered were Doner Kebab & Hello Pizza. Doner Kebab is a Turkish “fast food” very similar to Greek gyros, that immigrated to Germany where it exploded to being sold on almost every corner. Upon learning that a restaurant called Doner Kebab had just opened next to Fort Bliss, Dan headed right over to get two for dinner – they were excellent!

Wednesday night we headed to Hello Pizza for a Pizza Garzing invented by Larry Gold. Larry is from Brooklyn and invented a dough that is flavored with garlic & habanero; & you can only get with a cheese topping. Larry supposedly won top National honors, & 5th place in international competition, at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas in early March as reported by local TV. Hello Pizza is definitely a hole-in-the-wall, and it turns out we ordered the last Garzing pizza before Larry ran out of the special dough that night. Although it was not on the menu, Dan ordered an egg cream soda; Larry was so impressed that Dan knew what an egg crème was that we ended up discussing our time on Governor’s Island & NYC pizza in general. We are not sure if it is the best, but it is one of the better NYC pizzas we have had (and to think it is in El Paso of all places!)!

Friday morning Corrie took the Toad into the local GMC dealer to get two minor problems fixed, some lights on the radio were burned out & the heat wasn’t at full strength. Naturally the repairs took all day & we got the Toad right before closing time. Later that night Dan decided to test the entire radio system & discovered the AUX portion did not work! So that means first thing Saturday, 10APR, we will be sitting at the GMC dealer rather than getting on the road first thing as planned.