Sunday, December 12, 2010

Going to bed

The week before Thanksgiving we put the rig to bed for the winter.  Jim took it to Camping World where they blew air into the water pipes to get the water out, put in anti freeze, and then drained most of the anti freeze.  Any water that’s left has anti freeze in it and supposedly won’t freeze when the temps get low.   Then, Jim and I put a cover on the rig, which was kind of akin to putting a thin cozy on a huge toaster. It was a good thing we did all this, because the following Tuesday while Jim and I were in Ohio celebrating T-Day week with family, SLC got about a foot of snow ... and it stayed very, very cold for two weeks.  Jim is thinking that every few weeks he wants to start up the rig, run the generator, and try everything out just to make sure it’s all running and he did that last week.  Other than part of the cover ripping, so far so good.

      Top photo:  Jim and the back of the rig.  
       Bottom photo:  Jim and the front of the rig

          What we came home to after Thanksgiving in the balmy midwest.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two miles high; one thousand lakes

We hiked by only 14 of them, but per my hiking book the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah have more than one thousand lakes and ponds.  Our campground, Lake Washington  -- named for what else, the lake you can see behind our motorhome below -- was at ten thousand feet, more than twice as high as Salt Lake City. That kind of altitude means it gets cold early in the season so most of the other nearby campgrounds (there are dozens in the Uinta's) closed this weekend.  And the leaves were already turning. It's fall.

Our campsite.
View out the back of the rig.
One of the lakes.  What a view.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A weekend in Hades is not all that bad

We spent Labor Day weekend at Hades Campground in the Uinta National Forest. There are dozens of campgrounds in the Uintas and probably hundreds of trails. It is amazing that so much wilderness is close to a metropolitan area.

We didn't start looking for a site until 2 weeks before the holiday, so there was not much choice of campgrounds, let alone individual campsites. I called the Kamas Ranger District and got names of a few places that might still have spots, and then Jim made reservations. He picked Hades -- about 40 miles southeast of Kamas and about 80 miles from Salt Lake -- because the reservation page said it was only partly in the shade and we wanted to use the solar panels on our rig.  And, one web site described Hades Campground as “stunning.” After being there, I’d call it “unkempt.”  There was trash (including half a page of instructions about how to co-exist with bears) in our site, plus the campground was next to a funky dude ranch called “Defa’s” and the only trail from the campsite was stopped by a fence because Defa's is private property. Some sites on the river that would have made for a prettier experience.

Friday night we walked up the road near the campgrounds and saw deer. The next day we walked to a campground higher up the road called Iron Mine and took a shorter hike that night, so we probably did about 7 miles, but most of it was on the road with pick up trucks and other big vehicles rattling by.

After all that bitchin' and moaning we really do like new places, so I'm glad we went.

We left a day early, stopped at a park in Heber where I made lunch, and were soon home. And we still had one full day of holiday left. I liked that, too.
I need to get a good camera so I can take really good close ups.

View from the back of the rig. 

Along the Duchesne River

Sunset at the campground.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Backing up a bit: Bringing home the rig

Ever since Jim and I were married seven years ago, we've talked about buying a motor home and living in it full time for a few years after we retired.  A search on the internet told us that we'd probably wanted one made by a California company called Lazy Daze, which gets high marks for reliability -- important to newbies like us.  We looked at Lazy Daze ads for several years; visited the factory where they are made in Montclair, CA; and knocked on the door of every parked Lazy Daze we saw (and they are few and far between here in Utah).

In January of this year, we started seriously looking for a “mid bath” model because it has this great lounge area in the back with windows on all sides – and we love the idea of having great views from our home on wheels. We ended up buying the very first one we found on line on Craig's List.  Helping us with the purchase was Tim Pease of Extra Mile RV, who used to work at the LD plant.  Fortunately for us, Tim lived just 50 miles from the rig, did an inspection and said he highly recommended the coach as it was well taken care of. We made an offer, sent $1,000 to hold it, and told the couple we purchased it from – Norman and Delores Bolia of Banning, CA – that we’d pick it up the end of March. We knew we’d leave it with Tim for about a month to make minor repairs and didn’t want to start the trip from California to Utah until the weather was better, so that March date worked for us and the Bolias were OK with it was well.

Exactly one week before we were to pick it up, Norm died. He was 79 and passed away during  unexpected surgery. Dolores had a friend call to tell us; we felt so bad for her.  This friend also offered to do a walk through with us, but couldn't meet with us the weekend we were going to be in Banning.

It had to be a very emotional time for the Bolias, which may be the reason one of Dolores’ daughters thought our bank check was fake – apparently there is a bogus certified check scam making the rounds. But once we got that straightened out, we flew to Ontario, CA, rented a car, met with Dolores and her daughters and bought our new-to-us 2003 Lazy Daze.  Dolores and a daughter walked us through it. This was the first time we’d seen it other than in pictures, and I’d been concerned that I might not like it "in person." But it seemed roomy, and I didn’t hate the upholstery – it’s a little purpler than I thought, which I like, and not as bad as most RV upholstery, which can be downright ugly. Jim later told me he thought it was crowded – but then realized there were five of us in there (me, Jim, Mrs. Bolia and her two daughters.)  Dolores and the girls were not as knowledgeable about the rig as Norm was, and we knew we would have been able to call him for advice and with questions after we got home, so we were missing Norm without ever having met him.  Another friend of Norm and Dolores later sent us a DVD they made of their “walk through” when they picked up their LD.  But we two RV newbies were essentially on our own.

I’d made reservations at a county park – Bogart Park  in Cherry Valley, just six miles from the Bolia’s home. I’d found it on line, and it was a lucky pick. It’s the type of place we like – small, rural, clean. Our space butted up to a creek in a ravine; hiking trails were nearby. It was only $12 a night and if we had belonged to a camping group, it would have only been $6. I hope we can find more places like that.

So after we did all the paperwork with Bolias, we drove to the campground in the rental car to make sure we could find out way there in a 26 1/2 foot vehicle.  Then I drove the car, Jim followed in the rig, and made our way to Bogart Park where we spent two nights in the RV, reading the owners manual and hiking. We had no idea what we were doing (we had to call  the Bolias' friend because we couldn't find the dump hose). But we had a great time.  Then we met Tim and left the RV with him, and flew home.
Map of the campground.  We were in spot 2.

The view.

Jim before he really knew what he was getting in to.
A sign we loved at Bogart Park.  Fortunately, we did not see the bear or attempt to disturb it.

On April 29, we flew back to CA to pick up the coach for good. Tim picked us up at the airport, then went over the repairs/changes: a digital flat screen TV to replace the analog one; making the rig satellite TV ready; installing 4 new tires since the old ones had cracks in the sidewalls; doing a mechanical check (everything was A OK); remove and replace the sealant on the roof; replace several cracked vents, replace the toilet hose; fix the generator fuel line;  install another solar panel (we now have two), and removing the “legs” of the old fashioned valance that surround the windows. Then Tim gave me a short driving lesson about backing up, showed us how to set the mirrors, and we were off.

Using a GPS system Shad and Ashley loaned us, we found an Albertsons for groceries, got gas at Costco and drove about 15 miles from Fontana to Bonita Ranch in Lytle Creek, CA.  Jim said it was the type of place kidnappers take hostages.  I liked the remote canyon, but no, I would not have wanted to be there alone.  The camp manager -- who was from Bryon, OH -- found out we were inexperienced and helped us hook up to the water and electricity, and that was so nice.

The next morning we realized the importance of having a “leaving camp check list” when we almost drove off with the automatic levelers down.  (Levelers are metal "stilts" that descend from the body of the RV and help level out the living area.  A level rig is more comfortable, plus the rig has to be fairly level or you can't use the fridge without damaging it.)  We were saved by a last minute "Eureka, we almost blew it" on Jim's part. Then we drove to Sam’s Town “RV Park and Gambling Hall” in Las Vegas. As the kind of RV Park where you are almost elbow-to-elbow with your neighbors, it was OK. Actually, more than OK and I’d go back. It was clean, the people were friendly, it had a laundry and a swimming pool and was nicely landscaped. We met a couple (the man was also from Ohio) who lived in the Florida Keys but had been essentially wandering around in their RV for the last nine months.
Our RV plugged in at Sam's Town.
After Sam’s Town we drove to Zion National Park. What a treasure. A crowded treasure, but wonderful nonetheless. I’d reserved a space back in March and the campground was beautiful. Because Zion was on the verge of being “loved to death,” Zion limits the number of cars that can drive up the canyon. Instead they have a shuttle service that drops/picks people up to/from about 8 spots every 7 minutes.

We decided we wanted to stay 2 nights in Zion and not just the one we had reservations for, but the campground was booked. However, Zion also has a first-come-first served campground right next door which was just as beautiful and we got a spot there the next morning.

One of our camping spots at Zion. 

We hiked 3 trails:

The Riverside Walk. This is at the top of the canyon at the last shuttle stop, is paved and goes to the Zion Narrows—a trail right in the Virgin River. Riverside was beautiful – hanging gardens, lots of greenery -- but that Narrows hike is on my list for next time.

Watchman trail. Very few other people were on the trail and the views were spectacular.

Emerald Pools trails. Beautiful but parts were crowded, with people pushing/ carrying baby strollers over rocks.
At the mouth of the Zion's Narrows trail.

Jim on the Riverside Walk trail.

On the Watchman Trail.

While at the Zions campgrounds we saw 4 other Lazy Dazes. We had noticed a couple of our wheel lug nut coves were missing, so Jim talked with a few of the other Lazy Daze owners about it, and they lived up to the Lazy Daze owner reputation for helpfulness.

Then it was on to Salt Lake and the real beginning of our learning curve.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rock and Roll

“City of Rocks," a national reserve in southern Idaho, was our latest expedition.  Jim and I went there a few years ago almost by accident. We’d done some hiking in Idaho, were looking for another nearby place and found it on the Internet ... most people I talked to hadn’t even heard of it.  It's a wonderful small park near a small town called Almo.  It has great granite rock formations, almost like Arches (if you can imagine Arches in shades of gray and without arches). It’s a rock climber’s paradise; a park volunteer told us it’s better known in foreign countries than in the U.S.

We aren’t climbers, but we love lesser-known parks with few crowds and wanted to go back.  So we made the trip with guests in the RV -- Ashley, Shad, and baby Mia.  We girls were in the back, which is a little crack-the-whip-like. But it was great to get everyone in one vehicle.

Shad’s sister, Serene, his mom and step dad, and grandmother met us at the campground and got sites close to us. A good campsite for next time: #22, high at the end of a road with a great view.

A couple of thoughts:

--Jim and I try to eat very healthy when we're in the RV; I hope we continue.  Sample meals:  Grapenuts, fruit, yogurt, and coffee for breakfast.  Cheese and granola bars or sandwiches while on a hike for lunch.  Light dinner with salad and more fruit for dinner.  We really strayed from that this weekend with hotdogs, dutch oven desserts, roasted marshmallows.  Yummy at the time, but I feel lousy when I eat that way.

--City of Rocks may be a climbers' paradise, but it's a great place to hike.  We'd like to go again and stay longer.

--Once you have kids, even well-loved doggies can take a back seat.  We almost lost poor Adrian, Ash and Shad's Shitzu, while walking from Pauline and Shorties (Shad's mom and step dad) campsite to ours.  It was dark, we were in a hurry, and that poor dog is lucky she didn't get picked off by a coyote.

That's kind of a bummer note to end on --- but we do love City of Rocks.

Jim on the start of a 4-mile hike.  He did most of this one by himself.

A view of our campsite. 
Shad and his twin sister, Serene enjoying the view.

Mia on her first RV trip.
Shad's mom, Pauline, and stepdad Shorty.
We love the big back windows in our rig and I try to take a photo of our view.  Here is our City of Rocks view.
Ash, baby, and Shad's grandmother, Rhea.
Shad and Serene, up a little closer.

Another view of our campsite.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad movies; good hiking

For 8 years every July, we’ve made a trek to Torrey and Bicknell, Utah for the BIFF – the Bicknell International Film Festival.  The BIFF’s motto is “Better Living through Bad Cinema” and we’ve seen a heck of a lot of bad movies over the years, and even a few moderately good ones. Each BIFF has a theme—vegetables, beach movies, disco, Christmas, the circus. This year’s theme was outer space. There’s always a parade before the first movie, and people in themed clothing drive theme-decorated vehicles. Sounds crazy, but it’s fun even for quasi-introverts like me and Jim.  After the movies there are parties with great food and live music. We’ve become fans of one of the bands, the Sister Wives. And of course, we hike at nearby Capitol Reef National Park, which is a hidden gem of a national park. It’s never crowded when we visit, the scenery is amazing and the park is always full of foreign visitors, especially Germans, French and Dutch, which is interesting.

This was our first BIFF with the motor home, so we wanted to stay at the Capitol Reef campground and hike some trails near there. We got a wonderful spot – site 29, which I highly recommend. We were next to the Fremont River, which runs through the park and had a wonderful view of the red rocks. The campground was full Friday night but not the rest of the time – good luck finding that at Zion or Bryce.

We did 3 hikes, including one of our favorites, Cohab Canyon, which starts out steep then enters a cathedral-like (but much flatter) canyon of high red rocks. We also hiked the Fremont Gorge Overlook trail; I thought it was the toughest hike we’ve ever done at Capitol Reef and it included three steep sections.

We also had our first real rig problem. Lights wouldn’t work; the fridge wouldn’t stay on; the generator kicked off; the electric step made a clicking noise, etc. We suspected the “house batteries” --  the 2 sets of batteries that provide electrical to the living area of the coach -- were dead or dying, and a later trip to Camping World confirmed our hunch. It was an easy albeit expensive (welcome to the RV world) fix.  Luckily we had some good flashlights and battery-operated reading lights that look like “deely boppers” and clip on to our books.

We also had a run in with other campers, which was upsetting. We were at the campground dumpsite just before the trip home, and a family with a travel trailer pulled up behind us.  Our routine is to dump the black water, then the gray, then fill the black tank with water and dump it again, per the instructions in our owner’s manual. The adults from the trailer thought we were taking too long, called Jim a “glass bowl”,  threatened to “bump up” our rig to get us out of his way, and I think I heard the f-bomb get tossed our way. We want to be good camping neighbors, so I want to use this as a learning experience and find out if it ‘s OK to just “dump and run” and these folks seemed to think we should do. Or were they just jerks? When we were at Flaming Gorge a rig in front of us took a long time as they not only dumped both tanks and rinsed, but then filled up their culinary water. Anyway, we’ll have to do  “dump site” etiquette research.

But that’s a distant memory. Overall it was a very good trip and I’m looking forward to the next BIFF/camping extravaganza.

Some photos:

View out the back window of our rig.

That's our motorhome in the campground.   Looks like we're the only ones there.

View at the end of the Fremont River Gorge Overlook Trail.

Red rocks and blue sky.

Capital Reef is full of views that appear to be from cowboy movies.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Ponderosa (minus the Cartwrights)

We just got back from a trip to the Mt. Nebo Wilderness Area, near Nephi, Utah and about 90 miles south of Salt Lake City. We had driven through the area on a trip back from southern Utah a few years ago and were delighted to bump into “Hell’s Kitchen,” an area that looks a lot like Bryce. It was a “how the heck ---or hell, I guess--did this southern-Utah-looking-place get in central Utah?”

One view of Hell's Kitchen.

This time we stayed at the Ponderosa Campground, just a mile off the Mt. Nebo Scenic Loop. I loved the campgrounds – most sites are along the Salt Creek, the area is very wooded, it's well cared for, and part of it has huge Ponderosa pine trees. The trees were planted in 1914, and the campground itself was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. A couple we met hiking told us that the road to the Campground (Bear Canyon Road) and the campground itself was improved just last year with money from the government stimulus package.

Jim was not as enthralled with the campground because he thought many of the campsites were too close together. The first night we were there, people were on both sides of us. In fact, when we backed in, a Shih Tzu ran up to me as Jim was backing up the rig.  I picked it up so it would't get hit and it's owner said  “not much privacy between us.” And there wasn't -- their picnic table and ours were within clear view of each other.  Actually, those sites ( #12 and #13) would have been great for two groups of friends.  But both the Shih Tsu folks and the couple on the other side only stayed one night, so it was very private Saturday afternoon until we left about noon on Sunday.  The huge pines, the deciduous trees, and that creek right next to us were great. We checked out the other campsites and I think site 10 is the best. Sites 6 and 11 (although 11 is near the road leading to the campground and might be a bit noisy) were pretty private, too.

                          Our campsite.  A picnic table and fire pit are behind the picture-taker (Bev).  
                          To the right is a tent space.

                       View out the back of our Lazy Daze.  The Salt Creek is on the other side of the fence.

Campground entrance.

Saturday we walked up the road to Bear Canyon campground, which has single tent sites plus some group sites. Very well cared for.  Very pretty. There was a nice looking trail there – Bear Canyon Trail – but we were on track to do six mile without doing the trail, so we passed. Maybe next time. I think you may be able to see Hell’s Kitchen from the trail.

                                                       Trail head to Bear Canyon trail.

                            Jim and Cooper on their way back from Bear Canyon Campground,

Sunday we walked up the road in the other direction and found a trailhead to two trails in an area called Mahogany Hill Foots Canyon and Rees Flats. We don’t know anything about them, but I’d like to find out and maybe go up again this fall.

              View on our way back to the campgrounds, after checking out the Mahogany Hill trail heads.

We also spoke with the camp host. I asked him he liked being the camp host and he said this was only his fourth day but he loved it so far. Besides a free campsite with water and electric hook up, he’s paid minimum wage for 25 hours a week. His duties were to clean the restrooms, check on guests, make sure people pay, put guests names on campsite placards, pick up trash, and help folks. Sounded nice to me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bison, bugs and beautiful

Our first trip after bringing the rig home was a one-nighter at Bridger Bay campground on Antelope Island – the biggest of the 8 islands in the Great Salt Lake. It can be summed up in three words: Bison, buggie, beautiful.

Bison: we saw a bison grazing about a football field length away from the coach. People were walking out to look at it and Jim and I kept remarking about how stupid that was. Then a man not only walked near it – he walked into its line of sight. The bison stared for a while, then slowly walked forward...then charged. The bison flipped the guy in the air; he crumpled and was still.
A man decides to look a bison in the eye. Click on the photo to enlarge.

After tossing the man in the air, the bison decides man is really not much of a threat.
I started to call the Park, but since the bison was strolling away someone ran out fro the parking lot to help the man up.  I ran over to where the now-walking man's car was parked.  I'm guessing he was in his late 60's and he had had a cut and bruise above his right eye and two big streams of blood down his face. I asked if he needed a  doctor, thinking I’d call 911; he said he was going to the hospital. I said “I know you already know this, but don’t ever get so close to a wild animal again.” His reply:  “It started coming at me and I didn’t know if I should run or what.” Well, how about not getting so close to a couple of ton wild animal in the first place?  By the time that animal starting walking toward him, he was SOL. Wow.

Bugs: Tiny black bugs – so small you could inhale them -- and some sort of white flies were out in full force and hungry. Nevertheless we did a four-mile hike on Lakeshore Trail that edged the lake. Parts of the lake are the color of sage—that turquoise, gray green color. Other times it looked sky blue. The trail has some interesting rock formation, including one that looked like a human skull. We also saw antelope, deer, grouse and geese. From the rig (besides the bison) we saw two jackrabbits – love those ears. Because of the bugs, at one point we were wearing our anoraks – light nylon windbreakers with hoodies – hats, and bandanas around our faces – we looked like the Unabomber or some sort of radical hiking religious sect. Despite all that, my eyes were ringed with bug bites and so was the right side of my face.

Beautiful: The view from the coach and while hiking was desolate and gorgeous – we could se the lake, several other islands, snowcapped mountains, sage and a huge sky.

This was our first trip with Cooper, our dog, and he did well.

A couple more photos below:

1)Wearing our anti bug hiking gear. You can probably surmise that we did not hike as much as usual.

2) Jim relaxing in the back of the RV. Note the great windows and view.

3) A beautiful trail.