Tuesday, December 4, 2018


We got to Tucson October 29.  This is the earliest in the “winter” that we’ve ever arrived at the Davis Monthan Air Force Base Fam Camp.  We've snowbirded here for at least a month for the last eight years. This year we'll be here longer.

The campground has 200 sites. Lots of them were empty when we arrived, but it’s close to full now and will probably stay that way into March.  We got a good spot with a big Arizona garden (gravel and two big mesquite trees) on the driver's side of the rig.  When the neighbors on the other side of the garden moved, so did we.  Now we step out of the rig onto our 100-foot-wide personal desert.

We’re into our usual Tucson routine of going to the gym, walking the dogs, enjoying the weather and exploring.  And we "explored" a lot of brew pubs.  So far we’ve been to Crooked Tooth, Public House, Borderlands, Yard House, Harbottle, Arizona Beer House, Barrio, Gentle Ben's, and Ten55.  (It's kind of embarrassing to type the names of all those brew pubs, but Jim says it's research so he can properly entertain friends who plan to visit in February. Oh sure.) They were all good but Jim gives an extra rave review to Borderlands.

We've also gone to see the movie "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" with Melissa McCarthy, taken a couple of trips to to nearby Saguaro National Park east, met people at the campground, and done some Christmas shopping.  And we've taken care to two sick doggies -- especially our smaller one Maddie, but both are better now. We can highly recommend the Pantano Animal Clinic on East 22nd Street, plus my veterinarian brother Bob who has helped us a gazlilion times.

In a few days we'll drive back to Salt Lake for the holidays.  It won’t take too long for us to get our fill of snow --- then we’ll be back in Tucson.  
A RV decorated for the holidays at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.
Saguaro National Park East has a short trail where you can take dogs, so we hiked it. With all the nearby cactus I have to keep Maddie on an especially short leash so she doesn't try to dive for a rabbit under a cholla.

How the RV park looked when we first got to Tucson. That's our rig and tow car to the right.  
We hiked a four-mile trail at Saguaro National Park on a cloudy and cool Thanksgiving Day.  After the hike we had a Boston Market turkey dinner with extra Bob Evans potatoes and store-bought pie.  Easiest Thanksgiving ever. 
As seen on Saguaro National Park's Cactus Forest Drive -- a mostly one-way  eight-mile loop.
One night on a trip to the commissary, Bev took this photo of a low full moon. 
A downtown Tucson mural.
The not especially scenic front door to Public House brew pub.  It's off an alley near Tucson's Fourth Avenue area, which is full of small shops and restaurants.
This is what can happen when someone (not us) pulls their RV into a campground late at night with a big rig and can't see well enough to navigate a turn.  Jim and another camper used a hand truck to move the displaced rock back to where it belonged.  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

An Adventure in Pig Chasing

I have to post about the “it takes a village” moment we had in Ehrenburg, Arizona, while on our way to Tucson.  Ehrenburg is a little (population about 1,500 people) town on the Colorado River and just across the water from California. It's also right on Interstate 10.

Because it's on the river, it has several big RV parks. And because it's on the interstate it also has a Flying J Truck Stop, where we stopped to get gas before checking in for the night as one of the campgrounds.

As Jim was pumping gas, I noticed a man carrying a small but empty pet carrying case. A tiny pig was trotting in front of him. So cute. But the pig owner (I’ll call him PO) was not walking his well-behaved, off-leash pig. Apparently Bacon Bit escaped from the truck stop dog run. I told PO I’d help catch him. After all, I was a two-time greased pig catching champion at the Lorain County Fair in Ohio. How hard can it be to grab a miniature pig? Turns out plenty.

We followed little Bacon Bit, who scampered toward the back of the truck stop. PO circled behind him. I stayed in front. We closed in. Bacon Bit squeaked past and went toward the pumps. Several others, including Jim, saw what was going on and joined in. 

Bacon Bit hid under a Prius; a big group surrounded the car. I almost touched piggy and the owner actually did. But Bacon Bit squealed and escaped. 

Several times Bacon Bit came close to getting hit by a car or truck, but many folks (including a Colin Kaepernick doppleganger -- that guy could run) blocked him from danger.

Now about 20 people, including a Flying J employee, were helping. Bacon Bit got under a second car; humans lay on the oily asphalt to create a human fence. (When humans use their bodies to corral a pig, are we creating a human fence or a pig fence?) 

Then: Success! Bacon Bit was in the hands of a very nice man and went back in the carrier. Jim said at that point he thought about yelling “BLTs for everyone!” But we’re glad little Bacon Bit is on his way home. And they should change his name to Houdini.
The finally captured little piggy.  The owner told us they'd has a previous pet pig that was "laid back."  Not so this one. He's gonna be a challenge.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

We Turned a Ten-Hour Drive into a Seven-Day Trip

October 23-28

After a week in San Luis Obispo we made our way to Tucson by staying away from LA freeways and driving no more than 150 mikes a day. We are slow but sure. Plus we like to see new places -- even if all we see is a campground.

First stop: A night in Bakersfield, CA, at the Kern River Run RV Park -- a well-maintained campground we visited after our 2017 trip to see Paul and Kat.  Last time we explored the town and went to brew pubs.This time we walked the dogs around the RV park.  Also last time the Kern River was full and flowing. Now the Kern is a completely dry wash.

Boron, CA: Odd little campground (Arabian RV Oasis) with super nice staff. Boron is a town of about 2,500 people named after an ore discovered here in 1913. According to Wikipedia, Boron is home to the largest borax mine in the world. Main Street is called “Twenty Mule Team Road”

Twentynine Palms, CA: We’ve long talked about visiting Joshua Tree National Park and got the chance when we stayed in Twentynine Palms, a city of about 25,000 people. It's home to the main entrance to Joshua Tree and also to the world's largest marine corps training base.

The campground we stayed at --Twentynine Palms RV Resort and Cottages -- left a bad first impression. The site we were assigned looked like a trash can. Seriously, it was a mess so we asked for and got a new one. Two very nice guys quickly came out to clean the old site plus trim the bushes on our new one so we could back in properly. 

Jim didn't recover from that first impression but I kind of grew to like the campground. There was a work out room, a really nice indoor pool, and lots of room to walk the dogs.  We stayed there two nights and that was the only two-night stop on our way to Tucson.

Day two at Twentynine Palms was spent at the national park. Dogs can’t be on most national park trails, but Joshua Tree has one short dog-friendly trail near the visitors center, plus dogs are allowed on dirt roads. So we got in several miles of dog/park walking.

Next stop: Ehrenburg, AZ,  where we stayed one night at a place called Desert Oasis, right on the Colorado River. Again we just walked and walked and walked around the campground.  

Then it was another one nighter in Gila Bend at a KOA where we didn't even unhook the car. The campground sites were huge and the place was spotless.

October 29 we got to the Davis Monthan Fam Camp, an Air Force Base RV park we’ve stayed at least part of the winter for the last eight years.  We signed up for a five month stay which will be our longest Tucson stay ever. 
A typical town scene in Boron, California. It was a little dry and dusty.
Bev and Maddie at Joshua Tree National Park, which became a national monument in 1936 and a national park in 1994.  The park includes parts of the Mohave Desert and the Colorado Desert. They'd had a huge rainstorm  that caused damage a few weeks before we arrived, but we didn't see any evidence of it.
Bare boulders and Joshua trees make up most of the park scenery that we saw, giving the park a kind of "moonscape desert" look.  Joshua trees are actually a type of yucca plant.  I read that the plant got its name from Mormon settlers who said the plant reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua raised his arms to the sky in prayer.
The Colorado River at sunset as seen from the Desert Oasis RV Park in Ehrenberg, Arizona. This photo is much prettier than most of the RV park. But it was good for an overnighter and had great access to the river.
The KOA in Gila Bend has what they call a "pet house suite"-- an RV site with a patio, grill, and a fenced area for dogs.  We did not take the "pet house" -- instead that's our rig next door.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

San Luis Obispo, CA

October 16-23

Next it was a week in San Luis Obispo -- a favorite place of ours for very good reasons.  It's a fun town with lots to do in a beautiful setting. And it’s where our son Paul and his girlfriend Kat live.

We went out to eat -- probably too many times -- at a small fraction of SLO's great restaurants. We were treated to a lovely dinner at the home of Kat’s delightful and gracious parents. We took the dogs (many times) to an off leash dog park at El Charro Regional Park, which was close to where we camped. We went to downtown San Luis Obispo's huge Farmers Market. Paul and I took a shopping trip to an outlet mall in nearby Pismo Beach.  We all drove north to see elephant seals near San Simeon. We were entertained by Paul and Kat's four (yes four) of the best-behaved house cats I have ever seen.

We love you, Paul and Kat! 
 A few of the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery in San Simeon, CA. The northern elephant seal is the largest seal in the northern hemisphere.  Adult males weight up to 5000 pounds and are 14-16 feet long. The seals spend 8-10 months in the open ocean, then come to the land-based rookery to give birth, breed, molt and rest. 

Our tow car and rig at the Camp San Luis Obispo RV Park, which has just 12 sites.  The base was established in 1928 as the original home of the California Army National Guard.  It's now a national guard training center and home to two paramilitary youth programs.
Kat and Paul.  Jim said, "Gee, Paul looks like he's 35," sounding surprised.  Well, he almost is. He's our baby; our kiddos are all grown up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Monterey, California

October 14 and 15

We spent two more days in Monterey, which is famous for beautiful scenery, tourist attractions (and former industrial areas) of Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and nearby Pebble Beach.  

We spent one day just wandering around. We stopped at the city’s visitor’s center. We drove though Cannery Row where the locations of former sardine canneries are now shops, restaurants and the Monterey Aquarium. We had lunch at Alvarado Street Brewery located on the street of the same name. We walked the dogs along the bay. 

At the beach we saw two people putting flowers on a marker.  We spotted a women wearing a T-shirt that said "It's a John Denver thing. You wouldn't understand."  She told us that every year at this time, a group cleans the section of beach near where John Denver crashed his plane and died in October 1997. 

I'd always heard that Denver's plane crashed because it ran out of fuel. That's true, but the actual story is more complicated. Denver was flying an amateur-built experimental aircraft. The fuel tank switch was in an awkward position behind the pilot's left shoulder instead of the usual spot between the pilots legs.  Denver knew that, but per the National Transportation Safety Board report, the odd position forced Denver "to turn in his seat to locate the handle. This action ... likely caused him to inadvertently apply the right rudder, resulting in loss of aircraft control."   I also read that the mechanic where Denver took off (at the Monterey Airport which was very close our RV park) asked Denver if he wanted to refuel the plane, as the two tanks were at one quarter and one half full. Denver said no because he was going on a short flight.  

Anyway, so sad.

The second day we debated going to the aquarium, but decided to explore the 17 Mile Drive, a curvy road with magnificent views that goes through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove.    
The lovely  Golden State Theatre across from the brew pub where we had lunch on Alvarado Street.  It was built in 1926, then neglected and later the restored.  Some of the upcoming acts include Paul McCartney and Rosanne Cash.
John Denver's plane crashed just to the right of the rocks in the rear of this photo of Monterey Bay.  
Local artists set up their easels along the Monterey coast line.  That white thing to the right of the easel is a an attached garbage bag flapping in the wind.  It was a breezy but beautiful day.

While on the scenic 17 Mile Drive we stopped at the Pebble Beach Golf course and took this photo from the clubhouse. It seemed like there were golf courses at every turn of the drive, but I read that there are actually four on 17 Mile Drive.
Called the "Lone Cypress," a drawing of the tree to the right is the trademark for Pebble Beach Golf Resort.  It may be as old as 250 years, was once scarred by fire, and has been held in place by cables of 65 years.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Petaluma, CA , then on to Monterey

October 12 and 13

We stopped at a KOA in Petaluma for one night. The campground was a kid's park on steroids with a trampoline, swimming pool, rock climbing wall, playground, and a guy driving a tractor pulling a crack-the-whip-like line of kiddie cars full of toddlers. It was crazy. Plus I think we paid our all time high dollar for an RV park: $86 for one night before taxes. But we had a hard time finding a campground anywhere near San Francisco and had to take what we could get. On the plus side, the Lagunitas Brewery was nearby and we made a quick trip.

Also crazy was our drive from Petaluma to our next stop of Monterey. It started with trips to two different places to get air for our tires -- hoses were both broken, so we made the trip on softer tires. We planned the drive to stay as far away as possible from city traffic, but still had two cars nearly sideswipe us. And we made one wrong turn but quickly corrected. Fortunately, Jim is a good driver and we arrived in Monterey unscathed.

More on Monterey in the next post.
While in Monterey we stayed at the Monterey Pines Campground, a Navy campground literally in the middle of this golf course. We had to sign a statement that essentially said that if we got hit by a golf ball to try to determine the name of the golfer. 
California:  Land of amazing succulents. These were all in our campground.  We also saw a lot of ice plants, which we have in our yard.  Only ours look miniature in comparison. 
Our RV park and site were nothing special, but we were in Monterey. So who cares.  Fellow campers were friendly and seemed glad to be here as well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Willits, California

October 10 and 11

Next stop:  Willits, a small northern California town barely off US 101 and 30 miles from the coast. We stayed at the Golden Rule RV Park south of town, which is owned by a nondenominatinal Christian church.  The campground was small, wooded, pretty, and very much out in the boonies. We liked it.

There were two newspaper boxes near the office so we bought our first hard copy newspapers in a while. The weekly, called the “The Willits News," had a front page article about a local museum exhibit called “Out of the Ashes,” commemorating the one year anniversary of wildfires that heavily damaged Mendocino and five other northern California counties in October 2017. That museum was in Willits so we made a visit.

This tiny road took us down a hill from US 101 to the Golden Rule Campground, where we stayed for two nights.  
We drove by this sign on our way to the campground. Ridgewood Ranch is where legendary race horse Seabiscuit trained, recuperated from a ruptured ligament he suffered in a race, and lived out his retirement.   When Seabiscuit retired in 1940, he was horse racing's all time leading money winner. The RV park where we stayed was once part of Ridgewood Ranch.
Our campsite site at the Golden Rule RV park. 
In the center of town is the "Willits Arch." Parts of the arch once stood in Reno, Neva, which donated it to Willits and got a new one. The town is named for a settler who arrived in 1857.
After the terrible fire last year, a Ukiah, CA, artist held a mosiac workshop for fire survivors.  Many of the "Out of the Ashes" items we saw were amazing creations made out of broken glass, melted metal, and other charred or melted objects from homes. The exhibit was at the Mendocino County Museum in Willits.
Jim looking at a display about nearby Buddhist retreat that was damaged in the October 2017 fire.
Another "Out of the Ashes" mosaic.

This statue of Seabiscuit, his owner Charles Howard, and a physician stands at the Frank Howard Hospital in Willits.  Frank's father, Charles Howard, was a benefactor of the hospital.  It was named after his 15-year-old son who died in a truck accident in 1926 at the family's nearby Ridgewood Ranch.  Howard was an auto magnet and owner of thoroughbred horses, included Seabiscuit.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Fortuna and Ferndale, California

October 8 and 9

We spent two nights at Riverwalk RV Park in Fortuna, California.  It was a short walk across a road to the Eel River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean just nine miles to the west.  

Most of our local exploring, however, was done in the nearby smaller town of Ferndale. The the entire town is registered as a California historical landmark with dozens of well preserved Victorian-style homes and business. It's also the site of what we read is the only cattle cemetery in the US. We had to see that.

The Eel River,  as seen from a two mile walking path just across a road from our Fortuna, CA, campground.  The Eel River is 196 miles long; along with its tributaries is the third largest watershed entirely in California. I read that the city was named when early settlers saw the nearby forests and the river and felt "fortunate" to live there.  
Above are just a few of the intricately painted and gingerbread-detailed homes and business in tiny (population 1300) Ferndale, California. Some of the buildings are known as "butterfat palaces" because they were built with wealth from the local dairy industry.
Jim at Ferndale's Champion Cow Cemetery.  It's at the local fairgrounds and the entire "cemetery" consists of three grave markers for Jersey cows.  Sunny King Berna was a world butterfat champion; Silken Lady Ruby of Ferndale was a Lifetime Butterfat Champion; and Challengers Joyce VG was a national Jersey milk champion.  All were owned by Ferndale dairy farmers.
And then we stumbled across the Historic Ferndale Cemetery, which climbs a hill near downtown. 
The Cemetery also has a wonderful view of the the city of Ferndale.  Ferndale is 260 miles from San Francisco but 40 structures were damaged by that 1906 quake and almost all of the cities chimneys fell to the ground.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

In Northern California Near Crescent City

October 6 and 7

We are at a beautiful northern California RV campground called Redwood RV Resort, and parked among huge trees.   

Our first night we got settled in and wandered around the park with our dogs.  The second day we drove to the Hiouchi visitors center of the Redwood National and California State Parks, which have established a cooperative management effort. Together they manage one national and three northern California state parks covering 105,516 acres. Per the park brochure, those parks have 36 percent of the old growth redwood forests.

Jim asked the rangers for a recommendation of where we could hike with our dogs.  A very enthusiastic ranger gave us advice about that, recommended a scenic bypass on our way to our next stop, and even recommended a GPS system made especially for RVs (it’s called Garmin 769 RV, he said.)

When we got to the trail, however, a sign said “No Dogs.”  We weren't sure if the sign was old, or if in the ranger's enthusiasm to describe a favorite hike he didn’t hear the word "dog."

So we went with the first and kept the dogs on literal short leashes. In retrospect and after some research, it was a no dogs hike.  We try to be responsible dog owners, so our apologies to the beautiful trail. We will not do that again. But as usual, we packed out all dog "by products."

Later we drove into Crescent City, about eight miles north of our campground, to get some groceries. I read online that Crescent City is susceptible to tsunamis and that a large part of the city was destroyed by a tsunamis caused by the 1964 earthquake near Anchorage. in 2011 the city's harbor was damaged by tsunamis after the 2011 earthquake near Sendai, Japan.Thirty-one tsunamis have hit Crescent City since 1933.

One of our first views (this trip) of the Pacific Ocean as we drove from Coos Bay, OR toward Crescent City, CA. It's a typical Oregon coast scene:  pretty beaches and big rocks.

Our RV site at Redwoods RV Resort.  Jim saw a light peaking though the trees and thought it was some sort of streetlight -- until he realized it was a sliver of sunlight beaming through the heavy tree canopy.  We are not getting a lot of natural light in this spot.
Bev and Maddie on the four-mile out and back Hiouchi Trail at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  The tree we are standing in front has a hole near the bottom that we walked through.
Jim and Arlo admiring a stand of redwoods.  Per our park brochure, some of the redwoods along the Pacific coast are 2,000 years old.
At our campground: A fallen redwood becomes a "nurse log," providing water and nutrients to a seedling that sprouted on top of it. Now that seedling is another very big tree. 
A few redwood pinecones Bev picked up in the campground. So tiny.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Coos Bay

I'm many days and one state behind on the blog, so I'm going to start adding dates.  That way when I look at the blog in the future, I'll know when we were actually at a certain place. And so will you.

October 4 and 5

From Corvallis we drove to the Oregon Coast town of Florence, turned left and started down Highway 101 South. We traveled parts of it before and it's beautiful. But it's also curvy, bumpy, and something we just might not do again in the motorhome. 

First stop was Coos Bay, Oregon, the largest city on the Oregon coast with around 16,000 people. 

Our tow car battery was dead again when we got to our RV Park.  I called AAA for the second time this trip; the customer service rep (who later told me he was in Arizona)  thought "Coos Bay" was a pretty weird name. Originally known as Marshfield, the city gets it name from the Coos Indians, one of several area tribes.

Coos Bay looked a little economically depressed to us.  Maybe it was the fact that it rained pretty much constantly the one full day we were there.  Or maybe it was because we were just off a very active week with family and in Corvallis, and needed a "down time" stop. Sorry, Coos Bay. We probably gave you short shrift.
The McCollouch Memorial Bridge spans the bay on the north side of the city of Coos Bay. It was built in 1936 and is named for Conde McCullough who designed (or helped design) this bridge and ten others on Oregon's section of US Highway 101 -- plus over 600 others. The bridge above is on the National Register of Historic Places and is 5,305 feet long.

Some ships seen in downtown Coos Bay.  Coos Bay was historically a ship building and lumber center. But per the web, forest products (isn't that lumber?) tourismfishing and agriculture now dominate the Coos County economy.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Corvallis, Oregon

Next stop was Corvallis, Oregon, home of Oregon State University where Jim got his degree in forestry -- plus most of his hoodies and many of his baseball caps.

We stayed at the Benton Oaks RV Park at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis. I wished I had taken photos of the campground.  While the sites themselves weren't anything special, the setting was pretty darn nice for a fairgrounds campground, with a huge grove of big oaks in the middle.

I kept thinking "why do they call it 'Benton' Oaks?"  Turns out to be the most logical of answers: Benton is the name of the county.  Thomas Hart Benton served as a US senator from Missouri 1821-1851 and advocated for westward expansion of the US, including control over the territory that is now the state of Oregon.

We walked and drove all over Corvallis and the campus and took the dogs to two dog parks.  We had lunch at a McMenamins, a local chain that buys historic buildings, restores them, and turn them into pubs, hotels, and breweries.  And Jim stocked up on his Oregon State gear.
Oregon state has an experimental turf field next to our Corvallis campground. They also had master gardener plots still in bloom.

Oregon State won the most recent college baseball championship, held last summer in Omaha.

Oregon State's mascot is the beaver and there are beavers galore on campus.  This guy is a door knob at the student union...

...And this guy -- named Bennie -- posed with Jim in the student union.
The Oregon State University campus. With 28,000 students its the largest university in Oregon.
Maddie, Arlo and Jim at one of the two dog parks we visited. This one was not fenced so we kept the dogs on leash - both of then are too prone to run off, usually with Maddie in the lead and Arlo willingly joining in.
Jim found one of the apartments he lived in while going to Oregon State in 1973-74 and is standing in from of his former home.  They were new at the time and Jim said they were especially nice for a guy who had recently gotten out of the Navy.  He loved that the door of this one opens to a woods. They still look nice.
As seen in downtown Corvallis:  No bikes and ... no large pickles?  Tubular vegetables?  Blimps?  The list is endless, although it's probably skateboards.