grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Monday, March 31, 2014

17-29MAR14 - Phoenix, AZ (tolleson & mesa really)

Monday, 17MAR, we got back on I-10W heading to the Phoenix area, our destination was Freightliner of Arizona, Tolleson, AZ.  We go there usually in the spring of every year, as we drive from Louisiana to Washington, for our annual maintenance on the RV chassis, engine, transmission & generator.  You can read a couple of our previous BLOGs below on our feelings on RV maintenance/service; & why we go out of our way to have it done here almost every year!

Tuesday morning we vacated the RV so that Freightliner could start the first day of our two day servicing.  This means that Dan & Gumbo got to sit in the RV customer lounge for over eight hours; while Corrie would stay until bored & would leave in the Toad.  Wednesday it was back to the customer lounge for Dan & Gumbo while RV maintenance/service continued.  Since the RV had gone over 100K miles, & the Onan generator had gone over 1000 hours, several other major manufacturer recommended services were due!  We had an estimate of the total cost before hand, but still suffered sticker shock when presented with the final tally for payment!!!  Even though our credit card was stretched pretty thin, we still went out to dinner at La Piazza Al Forno our favorite Italian restaurant in Phoenix (Glendale really).
Thursday morning we waited for rush hour traffic to clear & then headed to Good Life RV Resort in Mesa, AZ.  Good Life is a "senior" RV community we have stayed at several times before (see below BLOGs).  In the afternoon we wandered down to the "sports" complex to check out the afternoon happy hour, unlike in the past there was no freebie food or drink.  The reason we are staying in Phoenix rather than heading to the Pacific NW; is to meet up with Corrie's brother Ed & wife Elaine who are driving down from Manitoba, Canada.

Friday, 21MAR, we ran some errands & then headed to the pool after lunch.  We no sooner had got settled at the pool when in walked Ed & Elaine looking for us.  So it was back to the RV for a little reminiscing before Ed, Elaine & Corrie took off to find a hotel/motel for them to stay in.  We had hoped that they could find a park model for rent inside the RV Park, but nothing is available until early next week.  After they got back we had an excellent bbq steak dinner at the RV.Saturday morning the girls took off to go shopping, while the boys went to the Commemorative Air Force museum in Mesa, which Dan visited last year.

Everyone met back at the RV for lunch & then it was off to the pool; followed by a dinner of bbq chicken at the RV.  In the evening we headed to central Mesa for SPARK!, an arts festival we went to last year.  But this year they added night time activities.  In our opinion there was less going on at night, then what we had witnessed during the day last year.  For example there were many uniquely decorated bikes with LED lighting on display, but none were actually pedaled around showing the moving lights?


Sunday, 23MAR, we all headed to the Mesa Flea Market; which is not really a flea market, but more of discount merchandise for retirees.  After lunch & it was off to Bass Pro for more shopping.  Monday morning it was off for more shopping at Home Depot & Costco.  That evening it was into Phoenix for dinner at Alice Cooper's Town (note - Alice Cooper is a native of Phoenix).  Alice's restaurant is a cross between a Hard Rock Cafe & a sports bar.  The food is not gourmet, but definitely fits what you would expect from Alice Cooper:)!  

Tuesday morning it was off to Tortilla Flat & driving the Apache Trail Road (a challenging dirt road we drove three years ago).  After a great time enjoying the natural landscape it was lunch at Taco Bell - normally this is no big deal, but Ed & Elaine had never been to one.

Wednesday was windy w/possibility of rain, so we all decided to stay close to home.  Thursday, 27MAR, everyone headed into old town Scottsboro for shopping at the boutiques, jewelry, & art stores located there.  Lunch was at David's Hamburger, rated as one of Phoenix's best.  Unfortunately the yodeling cowgirl was late & we didn't get to hear her, but the food was still very good!  The hi-lite of the day was when Ed & Elaine sat next to a "statue" for a photo.  But the statue was actually a young man in "disguise", hustling for tips.  Boy did Elaine jump when he moved:)!

Friday morning we all headed out to two swap meets we had seen driving out to Tortilla Flat on Tuesday.  The swap meets were only open on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.  Once again we were disappointed because most vendors choose not to be there on Friday, & only show up on Saturday & Sunday.
Saturday morning, 29MAR, Ed & Dan take of for some guy time.  First stop was Harbor Freight; then it was off to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI), part of Universal Technical Institute (UTI), for an open house.  The open house is the precursor to Arizona Bike Week next week in Phoenix.  We had seen commercials for MMI on late night TV, & had assumed they were one of many similar mechanic schools focused only on Harleys?  Turns out they are the largest in the world, with state of the art facilities, & provide company certified technicians for Harley, Honda, BMW, Yamaha, Kawasaki & Suzuki.  And their training covers generators, personnel watercraft, ATVs, snowmobiles, & side-by-sides.  For dinner everyone voted for German, so it was off to Zur Kate for excellent food!

Early tomorrow morning everyone gets back on the road heading home.  Saying aloha is always bitter sweet.  Not only did we have an excellent time as noted above; but probably had more fun reminiscing while lounging around the pool, playing cribbage (not bragging, but the guys were the champs!), & home cooked meals at the RV.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

10-16MAR14 - Willcox & Fort Huachuca, AZ (via fort stockton, tx & las cruces, nm)

Early Monday morning, 10MAR, we hit I-10 heading west towards Phoenix, AZ, where hopefully we will meet up with Corrie's brother Ed & wife Elaine in about ten days.  Also we plan on stopping near the Army installation at Fort Huachuca, AZ, to visit with our son-in-law, Raymond Pitre, who we just left in Houma, LA.  Raymond is in the Louisiana National Guard & has been selected for advanced training at Fort Huachuca.  Unfortunately this means a four month separation from our daughter Rebecca, & the kids Jaxson & Mason:(!

First stop was at Fort Stockton RV Park outside of Fort Stockton, TX, where we stayed back in MAR11.  We stopped here because it made for a reasonable drive for the day, & because it is home of The Roadrunner Cafe.  The Cafe is only open for breakfast, & during "in season" for dinner.  There are only five items on the dinner menu & all come with green beans, mashed potatoes, & a small dessert.  Dinner is only from 6-8PM, & certain items (like ribs) sell out fast; very good food at affordable prices!
After dinner at the Roadrunner, we went back to the RV & skyped with Rebecca, Raymond & the grandkids.  As long as you use "free" wifi or a home network, it is free; & we actually thought it was pretty neat to see everyone "live" while you talked.  Grandson Jaxson even asked where Gumbo was, so we dragged him into the picture.
Early Tuesday morning back on 1-10W for another long drive to Las Cruces, NM.  This means going thru one our least favorite cities for traffic on I-10 - El Paso, TX.  We have learned to take Loop 375 around the NE corner of the city, even if it adds time & has a steeper pass to climb.  At least you bypass all the idiots driving in central El Paso!  The drive was pretty windy most of the way.  We stayed at RV park we always stay at in Las Cruces, NM.  The weather people said it would be windier tomorrow.
Wednesday morning, 12MAR, we awoke to very little wind; turns out that El Paso got the worst of it, while Las Cruces was spared.  Today was a short drive to Willcox, AZ, so we (ie Dan) can tour the Chiricahua National Monument.  We have stayed in Willcox before, see below BLOG for our thoughts on the town.
Thursday morning we had nice waffle breakfast provided by the RV park & then headed to Chiricahua National Monument.  Since we would be touring most of the morning past noon, we were going to park the RV in the RV park's parking lot rather than pay for another day in our site.  But the manager said they would only charge us $1.50 per hour past 11AM.  Our first stop at the Monument was the Visitor Center to get park information & to watch the eight minute park video.  From there we took the dead end Bonita Canyon Drive to Massai Point at the end of the drive, before retracing our route.
To paraphrase the park brochure - Chiricahua is a sky island; an isolated mountain range rising above the surrounding grassland sea.  Meadows dotted with cactus & mesquite begin to fill with sycamore, juniper, & oak trees.  Farther up are cypress, pine, & fir woodlands.  The landscape is typical of the basin & range topography in this part of the SW.  It's the rock pinnacles looming over the road, like guardians of the forest, that announce you are in Chiricahua country.  The Apaches called these pinnacles "standing up rocks".
We have discovered that by getting to a National Park early, going to the end of any scenic drive, then turning around to hit the scenic overlooks on the drive back; we end up in front of the usual large groups of tourists who get to the park later & stop at each scenic turnout as they hit them.  We weren't prepared for hiking, but Dan did quickly hike the Massai Nature Trail.  Departing the National Monument we took a dirt road north over Apache Pass, past Fort Bowie National Historic Site (hopefully to be visited in the future), to Bowie, AZ, & then I-10W back to Willcox.
Returning to the RV park we broke camp & headed to Apache Flats RV Park on Fort Huachuca Army Post outside Sierra Vista, AZ.  As we stated at the beginning of this BLOG, we are going there because son-in-law Raymond will be here tomorrow for a four month Army "school".
Late Friday morning we first headed to the base exchange, followed by the Commissary for groceries.  Then it was back to the RV for lunch.  After lunch Dan headed to two museums on the Fort - the Fort Huachuca Museum, & the US Army Intelligence Museum.  The Fort Huachuca Museum serves the Fort by collecting, preserving and exhibiting artifacts representing its own history and the larger history of the military in the Southwest.
Opened in 1960, the Museum houses several thousand objects and documents, many on display in attractive exhibits telling the Fort’s one hundred and thirty-five year story.  The Museum is located in two buildings on the Fort’s historic Old Post, and is open to the public without charge.  The nearby Army Intelligence Museum serves the US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence’s training mission with exhibits interpreting Military Intelligence history from 1885 to the present.
A large portion of the Fort's museum is devoted to the Buffalo Soldiers who were a significant portion of the troops at the fort from the late 1800s until WWII.  Also of interest is the history of the Army's Apache Scouts who were a part of the Fort until 1947.  Dan also learned that MRE stands for "Meals Refusing to Exit", "Meals Requiring Enemas", & "Massive Rectal Explosion".  Another small example showing the true value of museums:).
That evening we attended the RV park's St Paddy's Day pot luck; where there was lots of good food, most of it green. There was group sing-a-longs of Irish songs (and a great solo Danny Boy); Irish joke/story telling; capped by the Armed Forces Song Medley.  The even showed the "age" of the attendees - starting at 5PM, finishing by 7PM.

Saturday morning, 15MAR, we headed to Tombstone, AZ, arriving just in time for the 12 noon O.K. Corral Gunfight Site Historama on the very site of the O.K. Corral.  After the show, Dan went oneway to historical sites, & Corrie went another to window shop.  Be advised that Tombstone is almost totally geared to separating tourists from their money (ie it is a tourist trap)!  Although is prides itself in its motto as "the town to tough to die"!  It is because of tourism today, that it is not a ghost town like other western boom towns.
For example, there are several enclosed areas where the Gunfight at the OK Corral is recreated on almost an hourly basis.  We picked the one we went to because it was on the actual site & we received free tickets to "Tombstone's Historama" narrated by Vincent Price; & a free copy of the Tombstone Epitaph with all the articles about the gunfight & Wyatt Earp's murder trial (note - the paper played a role in the feud between the Earps & the Clantons by supporting the Earps not the "cow boys").

Dan really enjoyed the Historama, which is advertised as a multi-media experience?  Quoting the Roadside America website about the Historama:  "A triumph of Great Society technology, it features a big, lumpy mound on a turntable, decorated with small vignettes from Tombstone's early history, set on a stage in a small theater."

"Every half-hour the house lights dim, the curtain lowers and then rises again (it stays open between shows so that you can admire the mound) and the story of Tombstone unfolds through blinking lights, recorded sound effects, and a projection screen that lowers and raises to show Western movie clips, although it often raises and lowers in the middle of whatever it is that you're supposed to be watching.  The screen also serves to hide the lump, which silently, magically has turned to reveal a new scene when the screen is raised."

"Despite Price's cache, the star of Historama is the lump. It was designed for a generation that demanded less from its special effects, and reminds us of other mesmerizing Paleolithic-tech A/V attractions."

"One imagines that Historama's robot brain is powered by punch cards and vacuum tubes.  To depict the fires that destroyed Tombstone, tiny red light bulbs flicker in a few representative buildings.  To show the murders of Morgan Earp and Frank Stillwell (who killed Morgan), small wooden people have their internal supports pulled away, allowing them to collapse onto the turntable with an audible "tonk" of wood on wood.  We'll leave it to you to guess how the flooding of the silver mines is depicted."

Dan gives it two thumbs up!!!
About 5PM son-in-law Raymond Pitre came to RV.  We visited for a little, & then went to "The German Cafe" for great German food (can you say schnitzel?).  Turns out the Cafe is pretty small & we were going to have to wait outside in the cold wind for a table.  The waitress recommended we order & eat their German food in the bar next door.  Its been a long time since Dan has been in a dive like Paul's Pub!  For some reason Corrie didn't want to eat there & we went back out into the wind & cold & waited for a table in the Cafe; the food was excellent & we are glad we toughed it out.

Sunday morning Raymond & Dan took off for the Coronado National Memorial.  Dan had discovered that there was a West Gate on the back side of the base & you could take Forest Service roads all the way to the Memorial.  But the drive would take over two hours, so they stuck to paved roads & made it in 45 minutes.  First stop was the Visitor Center to watch the film about Coronado's expedition from Mexico, northward almost to what would become Kansas, in search of silver & gold.  There are no indications that Coronado actually passed thru the area of the Memorial, but his records show he did pass thru the adjacent valley area.  Then Dan & Raymond hiked/climbed to Coronado Cave.  Lastly, they drove up the scenic park road to Montezuma Pass to hike up to Coronado Peak.

This is the first time Dan has run into a what looks like a "park" but is called a Memorial, so he did some internet research & discovered from Wiki that - "National Memorial is a designation in the United States for a protected area that memorializes a historic person or event.  National memorials are authorized by the United States Congress.  The memorial need not be located on a site directly related to the subject and many, such as the Lincoln Memorial, do not have the word "national" in their titles.  There are 29 national memorials owned and administered by the National Park Service as official units.  Five more are administered by other organizations but receive assistance from and are considered affiliated areas of the NPS."
After Dan & Raymond returned to the RV, we all skyped with Rebecca & the kids.  After Raymond left the RV to start preparing for reporting to school tomorrow, we started prepping RV & Toad for tomorrow's departure.  We know the four month separation will be hard on Rebecca, Jaxson, Mason & him!