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.