Monday, January 30, 2012

Heading East to LA

We left Q last Monday planning to be at Betty's in Abbeville by February 1st. We would be traveling I-10 the whole way and wanted to spend a couple of days at the two SKP parks along the way to see friends. We have driven almost 1400 miles in a week and did four days of 300 miles. This is very rare for us, but we were on a mission to get to Betty's.

Our first stay was two nights at the SKP Saguaro Park in Benson so we could shake out the dust from our two weeks in the desert and see some friends. We got to spend time with Rick & Terry Traver (left), 07 mates whom we last saw in Cody this past fall. We also visited Bob & Gini Huntley whom we met at the Rose Parade HOP and last saw at their home in Massachusetts in 2010. As always, it was great getting to visit with friends along the road.
The trip along I-10 is really quite boring with miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. The are a few sites along the way, one of which was this huge roadrunner in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

As Easterners who never saw a border patrol vehicle or agent in their lives until going on the road, we figured they must be few and far between and not doing a very good job from all the rantings of the right wingers. Also, in all my years of driving I have never seen a road block on an Interstate highway (see above) until we traveled in the Southwest. Surprise, surprise there are agents everywhere we travel along the border and from what we have seen they are doing a good job with a very difficult task. We were stopped at inspection stations at least three times in the past week.

Our second stop was at the SKP Dream Catchers Park in Deming, New Mexico were we knew the Mossmans and Chapmans, who were a day ahead of us on the same trip, were staying. We got to park right beside them and all three rigs have the same graphic, "Laissez les bon temps rouler", that we all bought last year when we did the Mardi Gras together at Betty's. Thanks to Jim M for getting the graphics idea started.

Jim & Bobbie (left) and Jim, Linda & Walker. We had a great happy hour and then saw them on their way the next morning. It was great having them ahead of us, as they kept us updated on where to stay and where the best fuel prices were.

While at Deming we did a day trip to Paloma, Mexico and the Pink Store. Paloma was the first Mexican border town we have visited that did not have armed border guards. We parked on the US side and just walked to Mexico for the afternoon.

We enjoyed a couple of the Pink Store's famous margaritas and had a great lunch. If anyone is in the area next month the owner told us that on February 10th they were having a customer appreciation day with free food and drinks.

We also did a little shopping. The store has a great variety of made in Mexico (not China) items. The Pink Store is a must see if you stop in Deming.

A few of the statues in Paloma. Left is Governor Patricio Martinez Garcia, middle is Nanc with a whimsical Mexican musician, and right is General Pershing and Pancho Villa. The story of their meeting is in this blog post from our last visit to the area.

The drive across Texas, almost 900 miles, brings a big change from the desert out west, into some small mountains, then high plains and the Hill Country and finally down to near sea level in the coastal plain. Our original plan was to stay three days in the Hill Country, but that would have meant driving through both San Antonio and Houston during the week. We opted to do that drive on Sunday (good choice) and are now at Turtle Bayou RV Park in Wallisville, TX. A neat place that is right off I-10 but above is the great view we have. WOW a real river with real water and not just a dry wash waiting for rain that seems to never come. We are just going to take it easy here for a couple of days before we do the last 200 miles to be in LA on Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More 07 Reunion & Q

The Class of 2007 Reunion is over and we are on the road after two weeks of desert camping. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new people as is true with all SKP functions. On Saturday we did a Skype call to 07 mates Howie and Nora who were unable to make it for health reasons. It was great getting to see and talk to them. This is the longest we have boondocked and we now know we can do fourteen days if we are very conservative (which is hard for a liberal like me). We have decided that we are not really into being desert rats, but the opportunity to get together with so many friends makes it worthwhile. As always, we look forward to seeing them all down the road.

The welcome sign at Quartzsite. This little town (population 3,300) grows to many, many thousands in January. From the time we arrived on the 9th until we left, the number of rigs that pulled in was unbelievable. I don't know what the actual number is, but the tourist info says they have over 2 million visitors a year. It really is something that all RVers should do at least once.
The feeding frenzy continued with a pulled pork dinner. Mike Bubar smoked three big butts and we had our choice of three different sauces. You can see how we "rough it" using generator powered crock pots so the meat will stay warm. Thanks to Mike for all the time he spent cooking, a job well done.

The Class of 07 has a tradition of adopting new members who did not start fulltimeing that year and this event was no exception. Here are our new adoptees. Welcome to all and I'm sure we will see you on the road.

Since going on the road four members of the class, Paul Anderson, Jay Carter, Patty Landry and Keith Curry have passed away. We had a memorial service to remember them and share stories and memories. Jim Chapman did a great job with a very touching memorial poem. This makes us realize how lucky we are to be living the life we have and that each day is so important.

One afternoon we went to the Escapees happy hour, a two day event that attracted several hundred people. It is always great to get a chance to catch up with other SKPs we have met during our travels.

Most evenings we had a fire and enjoyed the desert sunsets. We did figure out why the sunsets are so spectacular, it is because of all the dust in the air. A couple of evenings we really "roughed it" as we gathered around Hank's outdoor TV to watch football and a video of the 2008 Gypsy Journal Cactus Queen Contest in which several 07 members participated. Some of them made great looking women even with their beards.

At many SKP gatherings the group raises money for CARE, Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees. CARE is based in Livingston, Texas and is a place where SKPs can go to recuperate from an illness or surgery or get long term care. At this reunion we raised over $1,600 which brings our five year total to more than $4,000. Hank served as auctioneer and Marcia was his Vanna, displaying the goods. We had a fun time with Jim Chapman bidding "for" me and I returning the favor. I even bid against Nanc once to get the price up. It is all for a great cause and everyone had a grand time.

After the auction we had a chili cook-off with ten different entries. Jim Chapman's contribution was to cook a pork butt Cajun style which he learned in Louisiana last year when we were all there. Jim has mastered it as the pork melted in your mouth. All of the food was VERY GOOD.

The main reason so many people gather in Quartzsite in January is for the Big Tent events. On Saturday the RV show started and, as you can see, it was very, very crowded. They have just about everything any RVer would ever want and more stuff that no one really needs. You can buy clothes, toys, cookware, pets and even a few of the usual RV supplies. Again it is hard to believe this all takes place out in the desert.

To prove that many of the people out here have a lot of time on their hands we found this map of the US and Canada that someone had put together on the desert floor. It really was quite interesting.

On our last night in the desert we had Omer and Sylvia over for dinner. It was great getting to spend the evening catching up on what has been happening for the last couple of years. We hope to see them at Betty's again in the spring.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Desert Fun

More people arrive each day for the Class of 2007 Reunion. We are looking forward to a week of food, fun and friends in the desert. The group was up to fourteen by Thursday and we did our usual thing gathering around the campfire to swap tales of our travels and just generally get caught up. Nanc says I am never in the picture, but it's my shadow on the left.

On Saturday, eight of us made the trek to the Desert Bar, a neat little place that is at the end of five miles of dirt road north of Parker. The bar has grown steadily since opening in 1983. As you can see by the sign the hours are limited. The place operates off the grid and they advertise it as the Solar Bar. Most people drive in but if you don't want to get the car dirty you can opt for the chopper.

Here's our group soaking up the sun. Nanc, Jim T, Jim C, Bobbie C, Ron, Linda, Sal and Bobbie T. A grand time was had by all.

Joe bugles the call for the official start of the reunion on Sunday. The group has grown to almost forty with several new 07 adoptees.

As with all our gatherings food plays a central role. A different meal is planned for each night. The first night was finger foods and a delicious variety was available.

That frozen concoction that helps us hang on sometimes leads to wild behavior. After an early start with margaritas, twenty of us went to Silly Als for dinner and karaoke. We all want to hear Sal sing Bad to the Bone but we discovered we were way to early. Not to be let down by the lack of a music man, we called up George Thorogood on the iPhone and Sal entertained all the early bird diners.

Every picture tells a story.

Here we honored (and mocked) our leader (queen) Linda who dropped her cell phone into the black tank. We do want the give her a big THANK YOU for being the organizer of the reunion.

Another great potluck dinner. What a great variety of food for all.

Two years ago we met Omer and Sylvia at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville. That summer we took them up on the offer to stay at their place in Nova Scotia on our way to Newfoundland and had a great time. Our first day out in the desert they saw us walking and it turned out they were only about 100 yards from where we are parked. They came over one night and entertained the group. You know what I say about meeting friends on the road.

All the attendees. We continue to have a great time out in the desert.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good Bye Mesa, Hello Q

We spent most of our time during our last week in Mesa getting ready for the two weeks we plan to be in the desert in Quartzsite. There are only a few stores in Quartzsite and just purchasing the basic essentials can be very expensive. We did get together for some good-byes with friends and made a trip to the Phoenix Art Museum.

The museum had a special exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural drawings and we never miss a chance to see any of his work during our travels. No photos were allowed so only this model of a mile high building at the entrance of the exhibit could be photographed. There were drawings of a few of his works that we have seen during our travels, including Taliesin, Taliesin West, Marin Civic Center and the Price Tower. There was a special video exhibit of our favorite Western Pennsylvania Wright building, Fallingwater, which we have toured several times. This is a very interesting stop if you are in the Phoenix area.
Nanc and I in one of the many galleries.

Alan and Sharon explaining this life size pastel drawing by William Merritt Chase. The texture and detail made it look like the woman could step right out of the painting.

A few of my personal favorites from the Western American Gallery.

Here are the two new additions to the Frey family, Elsie and Murray, two cute wire haired dachshunds. They are busy learning the most important of new dog tricks, going outside.

We got together with the gang from Sun Life one last time. Here are Nanc, Jim, Rene, Suzanne, Lynn, Dick, Lorraine and Keith at our favorite local spot, Red, White and Brew. We had a great time on our extended stay at Sun Life and plan to return the next time we are out West.

Our arrival at Q was less than spectacular as I "tried" to drive our 40' motorhome through a 35' wash because I did not follow directions. That resulted in the back getting stuck with the rear wheels spinning in the air. That is the BAD news :-( The GREAT news is, we were rescued by three or four very helpful RVers who brought blocks, shovels and a heavy duty jack. They managed to get it to a point where I could drive it out some three hours later. Without their help I'm sure this stupid move would have cost us several hundred dollars. RVers are the most helpful people in the world. We have no pics because I want to erase this event from my memory, but I am sure there are a few somewhere on the net as we attracted quite a crowd. The full moon rising over the mountains was beautiful. A nice ending to a not so nice day :-)

There were four other rigs with 07 folks when we arrived with more coming in each day. (I hope they follow directions.) Our first day we had a fish fry with the main course provided by Bobby and Sal from their Alaskan trip. Everyone else contributed tasty side dishes so, as usual, we were well fed at a Class of 07 gathering. At top left Sal mans the grill. On the right are Hank, Linda and Bobby waiting to dig in. Bottom left facing the camera are Marty, Nanc and Ron sitting and Marcia standing. Bottom left are Joe and Marty. We are looking forward to a fun couple of weeks in the desert with the "official" 07 reunion starting on Sunday.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Celebrating with Friends and Family

Since returning from Hawaii we have been celebrating and visiting with friends and family. I must have suffered from camera overload while away (1200 pics) and, even though I have both a camera and an iPhone, I failed to take pictures at many of these gatherings. We had Allen & Sharon and Linda & Mike to our place for dinner and evenings of conversation. On Christmas Eve we had dinner with the ballooning Liberti family at their home and we had Christmas brunch with Allen & Sharon. Nanc organized a traveling happy hour in the park with RVers Rene & Suzanne, Keith & Lorraine and Dick & Lynn and it was a good thing the traveling method was walking and not driving by the end of the evening. These are all the times I did not take a picture. I will have to get back in that mode as we hit the road. Because we have been so busy here we extended our stay at Sun Life by a week so we could get together with friends a few more times.

One gathering where I did get pics was dinner at Red, White & Brew with several 07 mates who were passing through the area. Top are Linda & Ron and Joe & Marcia; Bottom are Mike & Sandy and Steve & Sandy. It was great catching up on all our travels and we are looking forward to seeing all of them at the 07 reunion in Quartzsite.

My brother Rick and his wife Denise flew out after Christmas for a short stay with us. We did a day trip to beautiful Sedona with them. Their Christmas gift to us filled another day with a spa visit at the Royal Palms and a fabulous dinner at T. Cooks. IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!

The trip to Sedona was to visit with Nanc's sister Michelle and her husband Keith who were there visiting his mother Pauline. We had a great time getting up to speed on what has been going on with all of them. Above is Rick, Keith, Pauline, Denise, Nanc, Michelle and Jim. As I say so often, getting to see friends and family while on the road is the best part about our traveling way of life.

Here we are ringing in 2012 at the Masquerade Ball in the park. The theme was Mardi Gras so we wore our beads and got primed for our return to Louisiana for this year's celebration.

Lorraine, Nanc and Suzanne all dressed up and ready to party.

Keith, Jim and Rene after a night of fun, fun, fun.

We also did two ballooning events with Mike and T. We crewed on Christmas Eve morning for a couple who were on their first flight. The local balloonists have a tradition of flying in the afternoon on New Year's Day. We joined Mike and T along with several others, but sadly we did not get to soar into the new year because, as you can see by this balloon, the wind was too strong. Only two of the pilots chose to fly and, while we would have loved to, even with our very limited experience we could see that conditions were on the edge for a safe flight. We want to send a special thank you to the Liberti family for the wonderful balloon experiences and for welcoming us into their family. You know what I say about friends, family and our lifestyle.

We will be leaving here on Monday and heading to Quartzsite for a couple of weeks in the desert for the 07 reunion. We will then sprint east to Louisiana for a two month stay at our favorite spot, Betty's RV Park in Abbeville.

Sunday, January 1, 2012