Spring in Arizona
Pictures can be found here
The reason for hurrying to AZ was to assist my son in his transportation needs to rehab after his knee surgery. My son lives in Dewey, AZ, which is an hour or so north of Phoenix. Apache Junction is on the far east edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area, and about two hours from Dewey. We got to the RV park on Sunday Feb 8. My son's first rehab appointment was on Tuesday, so Monday afternoon, we drove to his house and spent the night. His rehab is in north Phoenix, so we left at 0-dark-thirty for his 7:30 appointment. After the appointment, we went to breakfast, back to Dewey, and then back to the bus. It was about a 300 mile day. His next appointment is on Friday, and his wife does not work Friday, so we were not needed for that trip. By the next week, he felt he could drive himself, which the doctor had not predicted for a month, so we were off the hook for helping.
Superstition Sunrise is a typical East Valley snowbird resort. There is probably 75% park models, and 25% RV's, and many of the RV's are here for the whole winter. There are about 1600 lots here, with lots of activities for the seasonal snowbirds. We didn't take advantage of any of the amenities here though. So far, the big parks for seasonal visitors like this remind us too much of Georgetown Bahamas when we first started cruising. There is way too much organization for us. Maybe someday...
Of course we had friends to visit in Phoenix. My ex-wife Barb, whom we are good friends with lives about five miles south of the RV park. The day we got here, she and her husband Rick came up to see us and the bus. They have a fifth-wheel RV, about the same vintage as the bus, so when they saw what we had done with the interior, they were inspired to tear theirs up and remodel it too. Over the course of the month we stayed in Apache Junction, we went down to their house several times to visit them and catch up with other members of my old extended family.
Cruising friends Kevin & Amanda, formerly of Solstice, live here too. Kevin & Amanda are probably the youngest people we met cruising the Caribbean, being in their thirties at the time. We first met Kevin & Amanda in 2006 at the Southbound Cruisers Rendezvous. This event was for cruisers heading south to the Caribbean. We originally made our choice of where to stay in Grenada, which became a year and a half of our cruising story, because Kevin & Amanda chose the same marina. They cruised for a couple of years and then sold their boat and returned to real life, although their real life has still been full of adventure, working full-time part of the time and taking several extended trips to Alaska and Europe since their boat life ended. They live in north Scottsdale now and drove down to see us and the bus one evening, and we went to see their place in Scottsdale once. Since their Alaska summer was done in a Class-B RV, they had even more in common with us than before, and it was fun catching up with them.
There are lots of Alfas in the Phoenix area for the winter, and they hold a monthly breakfast at a local restaurant to get together. We were able to attend two of these while in the Valley and met several other owners. There is a Yahoo group for Alfa owners, where people post questions about their rigs and there are a couple of regular contributors who know lots about the rigs and are very helpful. This was the first time we met Vonis and Dale, who help lots of Alfa owners work through issues.
We took a couple of day trips while we were in Apache Junction, to places I hadn't been to before even though I lived in the Valley for 12 years. One day, we drove up to Canyon Lake. Canyon Lake is only about 15 miles northeast of Apache Junction. Back when I lived here, we tubed the Salt River many times, and that experience starts at the base of the dam that forms Canyon Lake. But, to get to the tubing, you are on the other side of the river, so I had never been on the road we took to the lake. We had lunch at the marina restaurant at the lake, which was mediocre, but it still was a nice day trip. Another day trip took us back by Canyon Lake, but we kept going this time. A couple miles past Canyon Lake is Tortilla Flat, which looks like an old mining town. I was aware of Tortilla Flat when I lived here, and in the late 80's the whole place burned down. But it has been rebuilt to look like it always did, and is packed everyday during snowbird season. Past Tortilla Flat the pavement ends. There is now about 25 miles of dirt road on to Apache Lake and then Roosevelt Lake. While the road was dirt, and in many places very washboard, the views were amazing. When we got to Roosevelt Dam, we stopped for pictures, and were almost caught by a rain shower. We were in shorts and t-shirts, but the temperature outside is in the 40's, the wind is blowing, and the rain started as we got back in the car after taking pictures. From Roosevelt Lake, we went south through Globe, and Superior on our way back to Apache Junction. In Superior the temp was about 35, and the storm hit us full-force. It was small hail and sleet for about ten minutes. Half an hour later, back in Apache Junction, it was back in the 70's and sunny. Quite the variety of weather.
Last Christmas, we had driven to Austin before flying to NY, and attended an annual dinner party hosted by our friends Karen & Henry. We have been several times over the years, but also missed several because we were on the boat. At the party this year, we met new friends Dwayne & Tami who are also embarking on a full-time RV life, and Gary & Vikki who live in Casa Grande, AZ. Well, Vikki threw a surprise 60th birthday party for Gary while we were just up the road in Apache Junction. Dwayne & Tami were going in their RV, Karen & Henry had flown in from Austin, and Fred & Sara had driven over from San Antonio. We met Karen & Henry, and Dwayne & Tami for lunch in Casa Grande, and then all got in Dwayne & Tami's RV and drove to Gary & Vikki's house. Gary knew they were coming by, but he was surprised when he came inside the RV to see it, and found us there. Later, Fred & Sara went "to the store" and came back with Duane & Pam who had just flown in from Austin. We spent several hours there, including going to dinner at Tommy' Bistro where about twenty of us were served a great family-style spaghetti dinner.
While in Apache Junction, my phone bit the dust. It was four years old, and Barb had a not-smart phone still, so it was time to upgrade. We both got new smart phones and got a free tablet with the deal. Now we both have new toys to learn about.
After a month at Superstition Sunrise, we headed off for a week of NASCAR at Phoenix International Raceway. I have been to PIR many, many times, but this will be the first time camping. The camping area is open all week prior to the race weekend, so we went there on Tuesday when our month at Superstition Sunrise was done. The spaces for RV's are 40' x 20', which means once everybody is there, you are close to your neighbors. Since we got there early, it was no problem getting setup. As we pulled in the main gate, we waved at a TV crew on the side of the road. We found out later we were on the morning news. The next day, we were interviewed by the newspaper to see "how technology improves our NASCAR experience". This happened because we were sitting outside both playing on our new phones when they drove by. While at the track, we met up with two old friends of mine. Jack Conroy worked with me at American Express when I lived here twenty years ago, and I knew Rick Lowman from when I owned my trucking company here. Jack and Rick are friends and neighbors and both NASCAR campers. Small world strikes again. My son joined us at the track for the weekend on Friday. He had a vendor he deals with give him passes to the pits and to his corporate RV area on the backstretch. We watched the Xfinity Series race on Saturday from our real seats, and were baked by the sun. On Sunday, we went to my son's vendor's RV to say hi before the race. He had a big setup with food and drinks, and we were welcome to watch the race from there. Since we were on the other side of the track, and we had a tent, it was much more comfortable to stay here for the race. The money spent on our real seats that we didn't use was more than compensated for by having free beer and food, since beer was $8 and a hot dog was $12 in the grandstands. One of the best things about camping at the track is not having to fight traffic after the race. We relaxed for the evening and left at our leisure Monday morning.
We took our time pulling out of the track Monday, letting others get out of the way first. Being packed in so tightly, it worked well to let it be a last-in-first-out operation. We stopped at a Flying J on I-10, not far from the track to fill our fuel and propane, and dump our holding tanks. Of course we were not the only RV with that thought, and they were very busy with trucks too. It took over an hour from off-the-freeway to on-the-freeway. Once free of the Flying J, we headed north to my son's house in Dewey, AZ. Dewey is a tiny town about an hour north of the north edge of Phoenix, relatively near Prescott. There is no real "downtown" Dewey. It is a very rural area where most people have a little acreage. Since we had been to the house a few weeks ago in the car, I knew what we were getting into with the bus. The house is a couple miles off the main highway. The roads to it are narrow country roads, but no problem in the bus. The potential problem is that the place to park the bus is downhill from the road. It drops off pretty quickly, so I am concerned if we will bottom out on the edge of the road. There is a vacant lot across the road, so when we got there, we unloaded the car and dolly, and I pulled in the vacant lot such that I would back straight across the road and down the hill. Barb got down on her knees at the edge of the road to signal me if we were going to touch and I very slowly backed in. It turned out we had an inch to spare, and it was no problem. Where we parked was a bit uneven, so it took me awhile to get us level, but I got it and we were setup.
We had no firm schedule at this point, other than to enjoy free dockage for awhile. We visited Barb's aunt who lives north of Prescott one day and had a nice lunch with her. Another day we got together for dinner with an old Amex co-worker of mine who now works from home in Prescott. We did several day trips with my son and wife also. We went to Prescott one day for lunch at Rosa's Pizzeria and then went to Superstition Meadery just down the street. I had a preconceived notion that I did not like mead, but I was very pleasantly surprised. We did a tasting flight of 11 different types of mead and then had a couple glasses of our favorites. The place was pretty cool too. Since mead is made from honey, all the decor was bee related. Another trip we took was to Jerome, and old mining town between Dewey and Cottonwood. I had been to Jerome more than twenty years ago, and in many ways it hasn't changed, but it has become much more popular as a weekend trip for folks from Phoenix, especially motorcyclists. You can get to Jerome from Dewey, either via the freeway and through Cottonwood, or over Mingus Mountain. Of course we elected to take the scenic mountain route. We had lunch at The Haunted Hamburger. The food was great, although we didn't get to sit where you can enjoy an amazing view, since they were packed. We also visited the Gold King Mine, which is just a half mile or so outside Jerome. The Gold King Mine is a barely organized collection of old stuff, mostly vehicles and equipment from the mining heyday of Arizona. The place is owned by a guy named Don Robertson, who is usually there, looks the part, and will be glad to talk to anybody interested about his stuff, especially the old Studebaker open-wheel race car that he still runs in vintage races a few times a year.
After three weeks at my son's, we pulled out and went to Flagstaff to Black Bart's RV Park. Black Bart's is an RV park with a steakhouse as it's main attraction. We met my ex Barb and her husband Rick there for Easter weekend. They had pretty much finished the interior renovation of their fifth-wheel, and we had continued our interior renovation to include the bedroom and bathroom, although we have removed the overhead TV and not finished the ceiling yet. We arrived at the park on Friday and made reservations for dinner. Rick's kids and grandkids joined us for dinner. The dinner includes the wait staff singing throughout the evening, and it was quite entertaining. The food was good too. It was pretty chilly in Flagstaff still while we were there. It was down almost to freezing overnight, and only about 50 during the day. Although we thought that was cold, they had snow the following week, so I'm glad we missed that.
From Flagstaff, we headed south to Casa Grande, AZ. We are staying at the Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort and attending the national Alfa Owners Club rally. There are actually two rallies: First is the Roadrunners chapter pre-rally, then the national AOC rally. In total, we were at Palm Creek for eleven days. There were lots of social events as well as technical seminars and vendors. It was nice to meet many of the people we see e-mails from on the Alfa Yahoo list. PJ and Megan from McMiller's in Indiana who did the exterior makeover of the bus were there a few days and brought replacement taillights for us, as our new ones were not working properly. One evening, when there was no group dinner planned, we met local friends Gary & Vikki for drinks and dinner. We also got away for lunch one day and met Dwayne & Tami who were in town just for the day.
After Casa Grande, it was back up to Dewey for a couple more weeks. We finished the bedroom ceiling by cleaning the old water stains and mounting a new flat-screen TV that folds up against the ceiling when not in use. We did a couple more day trips while there. One day we went to Cottonwood (via the freeway) and met Dwayne & Tami who had their RV there. We had a nice lunch at The Tavern Grille and then strolled the main street visiting a few shops and antique places. We also stopped at the Desert Diamond Distillery tasting room. The actual distillery in is Kingman, AZ, but they have this tasting room here too. We did a tasting flight of seven rums they make, and I left with a bottle of their cask aged rum. Another day trip took us back to Cottonwood when we went with my son and his wife. We again ate at the Tavern Grille and then continued to Sedona where we hiked to Devils' Bridge. My son has a high-clearance 4-wheel-drive truck, so we were able to drive in to the trailhead and only hiked about a mile to the arch. A third day-trip took us to Cottonwood one more time to meet up with Dale & Susan, fellow Alfa owners who were at the rally with us. They are in Cottonwood for a few weeks, and we had a deal to make. Dale had won a $500 gift certificate from Alfateers, which is an Alfa repair facility in southern California. Alfateers is owned and staffed by former Alfa employees, so they know the coaches well. Dale was not going to need any service done, and we were already planning on going there to get our a/c serviced, so we gave Dale & Susan $400 cash for the $500 gift certificate. A good deal for everybody.
On May 4th, we left Dewey and headed for California. We'll leave the story there for now.