Good Luck and Good Ice Cream

This morning we went to the San Felipe Hollywood Casino for their breakfast buffet, which the camp hosts here told us about. It’s a nice small casino and wasn’t even too smoky! We signed up for their Players Club and got $20 in free play plus an additional $10 because it was Seniors Day! And we also got a $1 discount on the $7.95 buffet. By the time we got there they also had the lunch buffet going too, so we could have any of it! I can’t say it was a memorable buffet; I’m not a big fan of buffet food except maybe for Golden Corral.  But we ate our breakfast (with dessert!) and then went to get rid of that $30 in free play. Joanne and I were thinking about just cashing in and getting the $30 but it didn’t work that way; they kept winnings and promotional credit separate. So every time I won more than a dollar, I’d cash out and stick the ticket in my pocket. That was I was sure to not spend any of MY money, just the Promotional money. When I had run through that $30 in free play I went to find J & J and explained my plan; turns out they were playing on their own money by then. So they cashed out too and I ended up with $27.25, and they each got $20-21!! I credit those turquoise door photos we took at Taos Pueblo for our good luck….best casino ever! I usually go in with a very tiny amount of money and lose it all in about 5 minutes.

We wanted to be sure and get some real ice cream today, since it’s my last day here. But we were still too full from breakfast so we went back home and then went back out in the afternoon. We went to La Lecheria in Santa Fe. They make their own ice cream and have cool flavors like Lemon Goat Cheese, Ceylon Cinnamon, Chocolate Sea Salt, Green Chile and Earl Grey. Good, really really good.

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Bandelier National Monument

Jeanne, Joanne, the dogs and I set out for Bandelier National Monument on Sunday. We did not realize it was one of the free entrance days….what a crowd! There were hardly any parking places open and people were everywhere. Plenty of beautiful scenery on the way there, and inside the park. The “good stuff” is only seen by hiking at least 1/2 mile, which I was unable to do, so some of the photos are courtesy of Joanne Jarrett.

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Dogs are not allowed on the trails so we tried to leave them in the car so I could TRY to do part of the hike, but Roxie just won’t shut up in someone else’s car (and Lord knows, there’s no room in my car for passengers!). We had a windshield foil thing up, windows part way down and it was NOT a hot day, but with her barking her head off, people were muttering about the poor dog in a hot car so I sat in the car and waited for J&J to do the 1.2 mile hike, so Miss Mouth would be quiet.

When they returned we were really hungry so we went to the tiny snack bar in the gift shop. They had a soft-serve ice cream machine but it seemed there was only one person working the whole gift shop, so Jeanne applied her Dairy Queen experience and got us all cones, and when she went to pay for them, she got yelled at for doing it. We didn’t care.

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On the way home we stopped at Red Lobster for an early dinner…yum! Again we put the foil in the windshield and rolled the windows down quite a bit. It was even cooler by then but someone complained to the management about the poor doggie in the hot car. They think just because she’s barking, it means she’s too hot. So when we stopped at Wal-Mart, I didn’t even bother to try and go in the store, I just stayed in the car with the dogs.  I really hate that my life is controlled by a less-then-ten-pound-dog!

I started taking antibiotics for my toothache and it’s feeling much better.

 

 

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Santa Fe and Taos

On the 19th I met up with my NC camping friend Jeanne and her sister Joanne. We are camped at Tetilla Peak Campground in the Cochiti Lake Rec. Area, about 25 miles SW of Santa Fe. It’s only $10 a night with the Geezer Pass, and has electricity and water. We can see the lake but we’re not really close to it.

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The photo above is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on the way to Taos. You’re supposed to park at the rest area at one end and walk halfway out on the bridge to see the river far below. (We didn’t. )

Our most memorable experience in Taos was the pizza at Mondo Italiano. We ordered the large pizza for $14, and ordered 4 toppings. It was pretty good though the sauce was very spicy and the cheese was scanty, we enjoyed it. Then we got the bill…$29!!!  None of us noticed that there were any topping prices on the menu, but each veg. topping cost $2.50 extra, and each meat topping was $4!  Yikes!  Next time we’ll look for the small print, or ask.

We went to Taos Pueblo, where around 1000 people still live the “old way”…no electricity, they dip all their water from the stream, and they farm and hunt for their food. I took a few photos of the turquoise doors, as that’s supposed to bring good luck.

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We then went up up up into the forest to Eagle Nest and Angel Fire, cute little towns up around 8400′. Angel Fire is a ski resort town.

In Santa Fe, we visited the Loretto Chapel, the church with the “miraculous staircase”. The story is that the architect for the chapel died, and once the chapel was built they realized there was no stairway to get to the choir loft. Many churches back then just had ladders, but the nuns were afraid their long habits would be dangerous on a ladder. So they prayed to St. Joseph for nine days, and then a drifter appeared. He said he would build them a stairway but he needed total privacy, ane he locked himself in the chapel for three months. The staircase is built totally of non-native wood, using a few primitive tools. It has no central post and was not attached to any walls. It really is pretty amazing. The handrail was added later. As soon as the staircase was finished, he disappeared and no one knows his name.

 

At the Visitor Center we asked about a good restaurant that was NOT Mexican and she told us the Plaza Cafe. So we went there and the only non-Mexican dishes they had was breakfast, so I had bacon & eggs for lunch! I’m just not a big fan of Mexican food. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with a tooth so it was really hard to eat.  After the waiter took our orders, he said “How about some chips and salsa and guacamole?” And Jeanne said “Yeah!”. Well those chips she thought were free, cost $12.95!! It’s OK, Joanne was paying, LOL.

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El Malpais National Rec Area

Well I guess I was confused. I didn’t realize there was an El Malpais National Monument and an El Malpais National Recreation Area. Turns out they are both kind of at the same place, not far from Grants, NM. So I arrived at the Visitor Center at the Nat. Monument after several hours of driving and was upset to hear I had gone way out of route to get to the Joe Steen Campground, and still had to go another 30 miles to reach it!  I finally rolled in around 3:30 and the folks I’d “met” in the A-Frame Facebook group were waiting for me, and had even saved me a site! Linda McPhee was waving madly as I drove up….I don’t know how long she’d been sitting there. waiting! We hit it off right away and had a nice chat. Her hubby Gary greased my 7-way electric plug for me; it had gotten almost impossible to plug in and out, and that day I never got a good enough connection for the right taillite to work. But that grease fixed everything right up; thank you Gary! Here’s a photo of their Chalet A-Frame camper….it’s 6′ longer than mine plus has the nice dormer which means they can actually stand up and cook!

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They left the next morning and I went sightseeing around the park. New Mexico’s largest natural arch is only 1/4 mile walk from the parking area. I tried but I couldn’t make it the whole way so this photo is the best I could do……it sort of “suggests” there’s an arch up ahead somewhere, will that do?

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It was really nice to be among pinnacles again and I really enjoyed the drive around the park. There’s a sandstone overlook that I went to and along the way a woman hiker stopped me and asked which way the campground was. She’d gotten separted from her boyfriend but didn’t want to take the long way back via the road. So I told her the direction to take and she set out across the desert. I worried so much about her after that….that I should have made her take the water I had, and should have made her take my compass, and maybe some granola bars. Gosh I may as well be someone’s mother!!  Anyway I guess she made it back just fine because I didn’t notice hordes of police and park rangers in the campground, and they would have been if she’d gotten lost.

 

This huge solar array in the campground was to provide 50 amp service for the Camp Hosts!

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Here are more photos from El Malpais. I really liked it there…..it’s worth driving the 11 miles off I-40! (Just be sure to get off at the correct exit for the Rec Area and not the Nat. Monument!)

 

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Happy Easter from Winslow, AZ

Yes, I DID drive by the guy “Standin’ On The Corner in Winslow, Arizona”.  He’s much smaller than I imagined. I did not stop to take a photo; I had already been gone too long and Roxie was waiting in the camper, hopefully not barking her head off!

I was on my way to the free camping at Crystal Forest Gift Shop near the entrance to Petrified Forest for the night, but I noticed the sign for McHood Lake Park so I decided to check it out. I’d been planning to go there but I saw a bad review that said it was “creepy”. I guess maybe during the week it might attract some creepy people?? But for Easter weekend, it had plenty of big rigs and nice campers. Plus it has flush toilets and running (non-potable) water, garbage cans, picnic tables and grills!  This is the site next to me…many of the sites are pull-throughs with paved drives and some are back-in sites with gravel drives. Not much shade, the trees are young.

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There’s a nice lake in sight, and a day use picnic area across the lake that also has good kayak access. And there were plenty of people kayaking too! It looks like the lake becomes a little river at one end, and I saw people paddling up that way.

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It is HOT here! My outside thermometer in the shade says it’s 84. My inside thermometer, unfortunately, also says it’s 84. I sure miss those towering Ponderosa Pines and the cool mountain air at Clints Well!  Yesterday I ran off to the grocery store before I did anything but put the roof & sides up, and it was really hot when I got home so I dug out the poles and my little canopy, put the sides & roof down and put up the canopy.  Sweating madly, I checked out my handiwork and nearly cried….the sun was still low in the sky and the canopy didn’t cast ANY shade! So today I got out the shade cloth and clamped it to the canopy. I tried my best to keep out the sun…..making the camp look like a hillbilly shack but I don’t care!

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After this I’m heading for El Malpais National Monument near Grants, NM. It’s supposed to have some interesting rock formations and lava tube caves and arches. It’s 5 or 6 degrees cooler there, thank goodness!

I have not been a happy Dog Mom lately. From making me get up at 5:45 in the morning to eating grass and then puking on my rug and socks, to being a picky eater….Roxie seems to be trying to drive me nuts. Why do dogs have to throw up on a rug instead of the bare floor??? Is that written somewhere??

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More Snow!

Last night it snowed for a couple hours…big fat fluffy flakes that accumulated to about 2″! How exciting! I’m sure you tired-of-winter folks in the north are thinking “Snow, big deal….make it go away” but I can’t remember when I last saw snow….I think it was about two years ago in Asheville. You must admit, it’s very pretty, especially this morning when the snow was still clinging to all the trees and the sun was shining on it….it just makes me happy. I’m so glad I came here!!

 

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New Camp at Clints Well

Today we moved up the mountain to Clints Well Campground. The elevation here is about 1500′ higher than Payson, so it’s correspondingly colder….like lows in the mid-20’s! I decided I could handle it; I really love it here and didn’t want to miss staying here. I was even resigned to having to drive about 30 miles to get cell and wifi signals! But I was very pleasantly surprised to have a good wifi signal here!! Verizon must have added a new tower since last April. Thank you, Verizon!!  Even the phone has a decent signal here, so it’s way better than Payson.

The Happy Jack post office is in Clints Well for some reason, and it’s the smallest post office in the U.S. It’s housed in a little metal storage building, about 10 x 16′.  I stopped to mail a card and they don’t even have a drop box for mail! I guess you have to go when they are open.

I was also very surprised to find the campground nearly full. There are only 7 or 8 sites here but I was here for two weeks in late April last year and never saw it this crowded. I got a good site with full sun in the afternoon, though I’m parked very close and parallel to the road. When someone leaves I might change sites.

I really love camping in the towering Ponderosa pines. We’re likely to have elk and deer visitors too.

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Our campsite at Clints Well Campground

If you are following other blogs by people who are in Arizona, have you noticed that they all are boasting pretty photos of desert flowers in bloom?  I haven’t had a site with pretty flowers yet!!  Back in Pine I went looking and only found two dandelion plants in bloom, and I don’t think they count. Sigh.

I’m very excited that after a lot of planning and scheming, I’m going to be able to meet up with my friend Jeanne later this month! She’ll be headed to AZ and I’ll be headed back to NC so we’re going to meet in New Mexico for 5 or 6 days and explore Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque together. I’ll have to break my rule and camp in a PAY campsite, but it’s just $10 a night and includes electric hookups, and is between Santa Fe and Taos. There are some nice free sites up near Taos but due to the elevation, they don’t open up until May and we are meeting up on April 20-26.  I started researching good restaurants and where to get the best ice cream, etc……the important stuff! It looks like almost all the restaurants are Southwest or Mexican food. Hmm. I’m not a fan but I may have to learn to like it. To make up for it, there’s a “Chocolate Trail” in Santa Fe that looks very very interesting! ALso Bandelier National Monument and a place called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It’s filled with fantastic wind and water-sculpted rocks. I won’t say what *I* think they look like but they’re supposed to look like tents.

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Snow Day!

Wow, it snowed off and on all day today! For a while it was a little mini-blizzard, though nothing accumulated. I was going to leave today and go to the free campground in Clints Well but there’s a mountain pass between here and there and I was afraid it would be snowy or slick. Clints Well is supposed to get an inch of snow tonight; I thought that might be fun but I don’t want to have to drive in it.  It’s quite cold still in CW….tonight’s low there is supposed to be 23, as opposed to 33 here near Payson. And it’s only 35 miles away!

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was warm and sunny and still 61 degrees at 11 p.m.  so I didn’t even use the heat. Today it’s 46 now at 5:30 p.m. and I already have the heater on.

Last week my friend Donna Morey from Cottonwood came to visit in her big Chalet camper. It’s like mine only much much bigger…..15′ box and mine is only 9′. Hers even has a bathroom! She walked down to the East Verde River and took these photos. Looks pretty down there! It’s a bit too far for me to walk right now.

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For the past week I’ve been in Heartburn Hell….I’m trying to kick the Prilosec habit. I’ve been taking it for at least 8 years and it comes with all kinds of possible ugly side effects like increased risk of C. Diff, increased risk of brittle bones, depletion of Vit. B and Magnesium, possible links to Alzheimers, and a 20-50% increased risk of chronic kidney disease….well the list goes on and on. So I’m taking some herbal gut soothers, big doses of probiotics, Famotidine, Rolaids and dill pickle juice. (Did you know, dill pickle juice will stop heartburn in seconds!) Some days are good, some days are bad. I’m still learning what I can and can’t eat. It’s real easy for me to remember what foods are bad for acid indigestion though…..it’s everything I like!! Hmm. Have had to cut way back on chocolate but I still cling to having my one cup of coffee in the morning.

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Rain but no mud!

Yay!  It rained here for close to 24 hours (off and on) but there’s no mud here! SO glad I moved to Flowing Springs, though there’s not a level spot in the whole area and there’s a lot more traffic. There was a family with small children tenting near me last night but they left around noon with their very large, very wet tent. I didn’t envy them trying to keep three kids dry and happy through all of this!  It is 38 degrees right now, supposedly going down to 37….yeah, right. I’m thinking it’ll be close to freezing tonight but my heater works great so I know we’ll be nice and cozy.

I wanted to share something that my friend Pat Ronning did…he’s quite the hiker and often does 7-10 miles before breakfast! He hiked up Picketpost Mountain the other day. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“The mountain is located in the southern desert region of Tonto National Forest and is popular with hikers. The mountain is also well known for an oddly placed mailbox at the top of the mountain, which contains the log books for the Picketpost Mountain Trail. The mountain’s unusual name stems from an early military camp established at the base of the mountain by General George Stoneman in 1870. The soldiers nicknamed the mountain “Picket Post” due to its usage as a sentinel point to guard their camp from attacks. This military camp eventually grew into the present day town of Superior.”

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It’s only 4.5 miles but a very strenuous hike. Pat said part of the hike was more like bouldering! But he made it up, and the mailbox at the top he found something really cool inside, along with the logbooks for hikers; free dog tags! What a really cool idea someone had!

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(Thank you Pat for letting me use your photos!)

I could not find anywhere to legally drop my garbage so I finally broke down and took it to the county landfill. I paid $5 to drop off 5 measly little grocery plastic bags. Drove back home and shortly afterward, Donna arrived. She said “You know you have a flat tire, right?” NO, I didn’t know that! Suddenly that garbage got a lot more expensive…now I had to pay for tire repair! I called Good Sam road service and the guy came in less than 1/2 hour to change the tire.  I took it to Big O Tire for repair and was told it was not repairable! Whatever I’d driven over had made a big gash that went right through the steel belt and everything. Oh. So now it looks like the 5 bags of garbage are going to cost me over $100!  I’m never going to a landfill again!!  He quoted $134 for a new tire but I decided not to do anything today. My gashed tire only had 7000 miles on it and I wanted to check and see if it had a road hazard warranty. It doesn’t…sigh…so I guess tomorrow I’ll check around and see if I can find a cheaper tire. The Wal-Mart here doesn’t have an auto department. I thought they all did!

Our campsite here is pretty, even if it’s not level!

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The East Verde River is at the base of this cliff.

 

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Leaving Pine

On the weekend we had several new neighbors; horse people! They brought an assortment of campers, tents and camper/horse trailers, even portable corrals!  They were nice and quiet too. I have really been enjoying my solitude and Doing Nothing for days on end.  The weather has been perfect….75 daytime and 45 at night, and always nice and sunny. I have seen no (live) animals at all, except for a pair of cute bluebirds that come to visit every day.

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This poor creature is lying near the side of the road. I wonder what happened? And I wonder if it’s an elk, or a cow. Hard to tell since his head is missing! I think from the size of the ribcage, it’s a cow.

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I guess I’ll be leaving here tomorrow or the next day. Rain is in the forecast, and I met my camping neighbor today who said if it rains here, it becomes one big quagmire. I don’t think I can stand going through THAT again.  Plus my friend Donna from Cottonwood is coming to visit this weekend, and it’d be nice if she could  actually get her camper in.  I found a site at Flowing Well, several miles closer to Payson, where I camped for a while last year. It’s a big gravel parking lot with trails going down to the E. Verde River (which actually flows all year long!) There’s also a nice vault toilet there, and with the gravel, there shouldn’t be any mud.

I thought about going to the Clints Well Campground but instead of rain, they are supposed to get 1-3″ of snow on Thursday! And lows in the high 20’s. So maybe I’ll look at that again in a week or so.  I was surprised that all the little forest roads that lead to the beautiful free campsites were gated shut. I guess they still have a lot of snow up there at 8500′.

I went out today to pick up an Amazon package that was sent to General Delivery at the Happy Jack post office. I wasn’t sure where it was so followed my GPS directions…..sigh….which took  me 20 miles too far, and ended in the middle of nothing in the national forest! Isn’t it funny that when the GPS says “You have reached your destination”, you can’t believe there’s nothing there. I drove up an additional 1/2 mile before I decided she was wrong. So that 40 miles of wasted gas cost added another $5 to the cost of my vitamins.  I called the post office and the lady was very nice; gave me directions and said she closed at 1:00 but she’d wait for me. I got my packages and admired her bunch of shih-tzus including two adorable puppies and 4 or 5 adults. I told her I had a cousin; a Havanese and she said “Same thing, only from Cuba”.  Well, not really, LOL! Havs don’t have those smashed faces; they have real actual noses. But I didn’t disagree with her.

She told me that the Happy Jack Post Office is the smallest in the whole United States! I believe it…it’s in about a 10×16 metal storage building!

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Turn Back Around

This morning I thought of the Lucy Schwartz song “Turn Back Around”….the lyrics go:            I Turn, turn, turn, I turn back around,                                                                                                    And I’m eastern bound.

I’d been a little sad because things just weren’t working out for me to find cheap property in AZ, CO or NM. Oh, I could find cheap property, that wasn’t the problem, it was that all the cheap places also seem to come with sky-high crime rates! I was even offered some free property in Socorro County, NM but I checked all the towns in that county (they couldn’t remember what it was near) and both the violent and theft crime rates were in the 90’s out of 100! Apparently it’s a very poor county, with high unemployment rates. Well I’m just too old to deal with that kind of crap!

I have just been given a great opportunity to be a sort of minimal caretaker for some property back in Asheville, NC! My friends Cheryle & Jenni are moving to Washington state at the end of April and I am going to be camping under their huge carport to deter theft, and monitoring the pond levels, cleaning the pond filter, monitoring the chemicals in the swim spa, letting the yard guy know when to come, stuff like that. And also eating their strawberries, asparagus and blueberries!  I’ve posted photos from there several times; its kind of my “go to” place when I’m in NC.  If it doesn’t sell right away, the average high in July is 83 and with the roof overhead and electricity to run the A/C, I should be fine.

So I sort of feel like I’m starting over from scratch, going back to Asheville, where I started out! I lived in that area for 35 years before moving to Ecuador. If the house sells quickly I’ll head back up to northern Michigan for the summer and re-think the whole plan. Maybe I could grow to like Florida for winter??? It woudn’t be too bad a drive to bounce between Michigan and Florida twice a year.

On the home front, I’m still loving this campsite in Pine, AZ! I haven’t left the campsite since I got here on Friday afternoon but will need to go out and get a few groceries in a few more days. There’s a good bit of daytime traffic from people on ATV’s here but it’s very quiet at night, and the weather has been a perfect 74-75 degrees every day.  I probably won’t be heading back to NC until early April so I’ll need to make at least one more move before I go, maybe only 20 miles to Clints Well. I sure do love this area of the state, and wish I could live here, but the property costs are sky high..

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Pine, AZ

Yesterday morning we had another hot air balloon landing nearby; I took this photo out the door of the camper. I’m going to miss seeing those balloons every morning.

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Yesterday afternoon I took the camper back to A-1 RV Service in Camp Verde because I didn’t think the brakes were working. They said they were operational, but they weren’t working very well. So Dan adjusted something underneath and didn’t charge me a thing! He said one brake drum was scored but didn’t have the correct parts to fix it right then. Now the brakes seem to work fine, so I’m not too worried about getting that drum replaced right now. I’ve already spent $700 on car and camper repairs this month and that’s more than enough!

It was time to leave Sedona/Cottonwood; we’d been there for 14 days already. Just in time too, as the weather was really heating up. It had been in the low 80’s for 3 days! I rigged up shade cloth but still could not keep the camper cool. So we drove up and over the mountains, through some pretty snowy areas, to Pine which is a tiny town about 15 miles from Payson, which has all the “big box” stores. Pine does have a small grocery store, laundromat, some gift shops and a few eateries. I was going to head to Clints Well, 23 miles farther north, but Pat (my boondocking friend from Superior; yes, the Ax Murderer) told me about a great camping place here. I’m so glad I took his advice!  I found a nice site at the edge of a big clearing that has plenty of shade from pine trees all around, and still has good sun for my solar panel. I’m only about 1/2 mile from town and just a few hundred feet off the main highway, so I’m getting great wifi and cell signals.   The elevation is about 5400′ here, compared to 7,000′ in Clints Well and even higher up in the Tonto National Forest where the really pretty campsites are. So it’s warmer here. Today’s forecast is for 73/47 here, and only 62/31 in Clints Well!  The forecast for here stays about the same for the next ten days…perfect!

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I think this is going to become one of my very favorite spots. Today was just perfect…73 outside, and with the nice dappled shade, the inside of the camper stayed at 75,  very comfortable.  Behind us is a whole forest of pines and it smells wonderfully fresh and piney! Roxie and I sat outside for a long time this afternoon.

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The forest behind us

It seems like an elk-y, deer-y, bear-y kind of place so we’ll be careful. For you Worriers, we do have a few neighbors; a truck camper back in the woods and a couple tent campers across the clearing, and there have been several ATV’s going past on the forest roads.  Here’s my view out the camper door. Just beyond that line of trees is the highway but I seldom hear any noise from it. The tent campers are just out of sight in this photo, on the left.

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Goodbye Sedona; Hello Clints Well!

It’s getting hot here in Sedona/Cottonwood….81 today and tomorrow, ugh! Funny how it kind of skipped the 70’s and went directly from the high 60’s to low 80’s. Tomorrow I’m getting the camper brakes repaired (again?) and heading to Clints Well, which is just about 45 min. away but much higher elevation. There it’ll be back to the high 60’s. If i can, I might move around but stay in that general area for a while.

I got the new alternator yesterday at Phillips Auto Service in Cottonwood. Good guys. This one comes with a 36 month, 36000 mile nationwide warranty. If it fails, I can get a new one from any Napa Auto Parts. But of course my stuff never fails while under warranty, LOL.

We had a really pretty sunset last night. They’ve been not so good because the skies were cloudless.

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I had trouble getting to sleep last night; I was awake til around 2 a.m. Then at 6 a.m. Princess Roxie woke me and insisted I get up and take her out for Her Royal Pee. Then again at 7:15 for Her Royal Poop. Ugh!  Sometimes it’s tough being owned by a princess. I bet I’ll sleep tonight.

I was kind of glad I got up at 7:15 though, because I got to see a couple more hot air balloons pretty close. I got this great shot of one coming down behind the camper

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Here’s Roxie’s favorite spot, under the shady tree. Mine too! I got a nice new lawn chair that doesn’t require kung fu training to fold up.  My old Coleman chair is very comfy but very hard to fold…the best way is to throw it on it’s back to get it started! It’s starting to fall apart though, it’s about 5 years old and used a lot.

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It’s a balloon kind of morning!

WOW! This morning when I took Roxie out, I saw 4 hot air balloons; always a really cool sight, and it happens almost daily here. A little while later I heard that distinctive sound of the propane burner and I looked out…..there was a balloon landing about 50′ from the camper! How cool is that! The sun of course was coming from the wrong direction but I snapped a bunch of photos out the door of the camper. I have never seen a hot air balloon up that close…..they are massive!! I wondered if it would collapse onto the camper but there’s a rope hanging down so someone can direct where it falls.  About five minutes later, another balloon landed right next to the first! WOW!

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Wow, compare the size of the people to the size of the balloon! That thing is humungous! 

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He’s walking the rope out to guide where the balloon falls.

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TWO balloons!

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Yesterday I had a not-so-nice experience so today’s balloons were extra uplifting. The little red battery icon was lit up on my car’s dashboard, so I took the car to a repair place that my friend Donna recommended (she lives here in Cottonwood). They said it’s the alternator. You may remember that just last May I broke down in Gallup, NM and had to get an alternator and battery……yeah. The guy at this place said that they don’t use that brand of rebuilt alternator because they don’t hold up well. He’s quoted $427 to put in a new alternator. That’s bad news but what makes me feel worse is that obviously Pep Boys in Gallup ripped me off…I paid around $800 for a rebuilt alternator and battery that only lasted nine months!!  Grrrrr.  I am stuck here at camp until my Wednesday afternoon appointment. I checked the battery this morning and it’s pretty dead; so glad I have the solar panel to charge it up!

Ahhh…breathe in, breathe out, shake it off…..here’s the sunrise from a couple days ago.

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The sunsets have not been really great because there haven’t been many clouds in the evenings. It’s been very pleasant, near 70 degrees during the day, but with enough of a breeze that it’s not quite warm enough to sit outside for very long.   Last night the low here was 35 and Thursday and Friday’s highs are supposed to be 80. What a huge difference a few days make! I’m going to be miserable in 80 degrees, but I have to hang around here until Friday when I take the camper back to get the brakes checked again.Something is still wrong; they’re still not working. Boy this month is sure a big money pit! $250 for the camper repairs already, plus $427 for the alternator, and who knows how much more to get the brakes fixed! Ouch. I seem destined to not ever have any savings.

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Rain Rain Go Away!

On Friday we moved from Concho back to the national forest land between Cottonwood and Sedona. We got a GREAT site with a shade tree, and way far back from the dusty road with all it’s traffic.  Deb got a lot of things fixed on her camper (to the tune of nearly  $900) by A-1 RV Service in Camp Verde; really good guys who do great work. Those are the same guys who fixed my fridge and brakes. Now her old battery is working great, and she even has a new battery monitor inside the camper so she can easily see how it’s doing. It was a shorted-out awning motor that was causing her batteries to go dead all the time. (The new motor cost $300!)

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All was well….enjoying the campsite….then it started to rain. Uck! After an all-day rain yesterday, continuing on into today, our campsite is a muddy mess! And it’s the kind that builds up on your shoes until you’re lifting 10# of mud with each step. I’m so glad I have my imitation Crocs with me! Regular shoes would be ruined. Princess Roxie kept bugging me to take her out this morning but I didn’t want to get all muddy again so I put the leash on her and forced her out the door while I stood safely in the doorway. She landed in the mud and very gracefully somehow twisted around and leaped back into the camper without taking another step! Here’s her footprints…..the ONLY doggy footprints!  I don’t know how she managed that trick. Roxie HATES getting her feet wet!

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The next time she asked to go out I knew she REALLY must have to go, but I couldn’t even drag her out the door. It’s amazing how strong a 10# dog can be. So I put on my yucky shoes and carried  her over to a grassy area so she could do her business, then carried her back to the camper. I found a tent state and scraped 1/2″ of goo off my shoes before I went back inside. Here are my footprints:

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I think it’ll be a few days before either of us will be able to drive out of here! Now I’m not so glad we got this campsite wayyyy back from the road!  I have Things To Do, too…I’m selling my half of the 40 acres in Alaska back to the other co-owner and I needed to go print the Quitclaim Deed and get it notarized. Sigh. Maybe tomorrow?

 

I’ve been trying to make some summer plans. You know me; I love making plans, even if they don’t work out in the end. I’ve just about given up on finding cheap land in a place that’s cool in summer, where it’s also legal to live in a camper. All those places have terrible crime ratings! I guess cheap land attracts that sort of people?? Anyway, we were thinking of spending the summer around Flagstaff where it’s nice and cool, but they have that Southwest monsoon thing going on….heavy rains every afternoon all summer. And after this experience, I’m not interested in having rain every day. So now I’m thinking to maybe go on up to southeastern Wyoming; the Medicine Bow National Forest is one of my very favorite places and the mountains are beautiful and cool, plus it’s north of the monsoon territory.  Anyone have any other good suggestions of where to spend the summer where it’s cool and fairly dry? (with lots of free camping too, of course)

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Concho

Wednesday I had an appointment at A-1 RV Service Center in Camp  Verde. I dropped the camper off and then went to PetSmart in Sedona to get some food for Roxie, and some other small errands. I had to pick up my lawn chair from Donna, as I’d left it at the rally site. They had my camper all done by 1:00 and everything now works! They said the fridge propane orifice was filled with bits of rust. That makes me soooo mad, as I paid a highly recommended RV guy in Asheville $75 to clean the propane fridge system just 3 months ago. If he’d done the job right, there would not be a buildup of rusty junk now! At any rate, the fridge works just fine now.  They also fixed the camper brakes; the wires to the magnet on one side were completely torn in half! I have NO idea how that could happen. They checked the frame welds, rotated the tires and checked out the Fantastic Vent, which had suddenly started running slow and was obviously hitting on something. Guess what….there was a dead bumblebee and a beetle in there, and the blades were hitting on them! Crazy.

So $250 later I headed to Holbrook and met up with Deb again at Petrified Forest National Park. There’s no camping inside the park but at the south end there’s free camping at Crystal Forest Gift Shop, which provides covered picnic tables and use of their dumpster, plus the restroom while the shop is open. Across the road is Petrified Forest Museum, where you can get a campsite with picnic table and electricity (no water) for $11 a night. Deb stayed on the electric side and I was at the free side. The winds were around 25 mph with gusts up to 40 so I was careful to park heading into the wind and stayed hooked up to the car for more stability, and there was surprisingly not much buffeting. Apparently the winds seldom calm down around there! The gift shop guy said they get a few good days. We decided to skip going through the park, as we’d both done it before. We went into Holbrook and had breakfast at Joe & Aggie’s Cafe on Rt. 66. It’s been in existence since 1943 and is a little run-down but the breakfast was really good!

Then we headed to Concho to check out my new property & see if I could get my camper onto it. I was embarrassed that we had to go right back past where we’d camped….a 40 mile round trip for breakfast! And we didn’t really have to haul the campers to town and back, either. Oops. We are camped at Concho Lake Park which is a pretty nice boondocking site with a porta-john and garbage cans, with sites all over in the pinon trees. Still very windy here too so the trees help block the breeze. I guess it’s Open Range here as we have to watch out for giant cow flops. I rearranged my passenger seat and moved some of the bigger rocks so Deb could fit in, and we drove out to the property.

Along the way we met up with some of the “neighbors” from about 3 miles away I think. They were on our tail the whole way so I pulled over to let them by, but they didn’t want to get past, they wanted to know what we were doing out there. They had just had their 8×8 wooden storage building stolen a few days ago!! So we got an earful about the area, and none of it sounded good. Lots of theft unless you stay on your property 24/7 to guard everything, the nearest neighbor is a drunk who steals things, the police don’t come out there. And the guy in that car had wild-looking eyes; Deb thought he was high on something, either meth or cocaine!  Apparently the wind blows pretty constantly there too. They said there was about two months in summer when the winds die down. Once we got to the property and walked around, it looked like there was really nowhere quite level to put the camper and it would require some bulldozing to make a level pad for the camper and for my future larger camper.  And it was very very windy, just like the first time I was there.

I decided perhaps this was not the place for me. I was not happy to hear it was an area where people would steal something as large as a storage shed, and I don’t think I could live with that constant wind.  So I’m not buying it after all. The seller was very gracious about it and of course I forfeited the two $77 payments I already had made but that’s OK, I think I dodged a bullet. Gee, I never knew there were places that had constant high winds like that!

So I’m “homeless” again. And very sad about it. I wanted to have a garden, and a home for my rocks. I probably picked up an additional 50# of rocks when I was in Superior, thinking I’d be dumping them off on the property! And I love them and don’t want to jettison them.  I was so looking forward to eventually getting a larger camper to live in. Oh well. I will continue to try and save money in case another promising homesite comes along. The problem is that Apache County is one of the few in AZ that allows you to live in a camper. And I think all of Apache County is also a huge wind tunnel! There are also not that many places in AZ that don’t have those really high sumertime temps. Flagstaff is great in summer but has a really harsh winter…..Prescott has perfect weather but property is quite pricey.  Somewhere out there is a home for us, I just know it!

 

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