Saturday, May 12, 2007

5/3 - 5/12/07 Basking in the Desert Sun (NV & AZ)

Mary Ann and the gang headed for Nevada, to that family center known as Las Vegas. We celebrated Karen Powel’s __ birthday (shhh!) with the whole family in town. The RV park was paved, had pull-throughs (something that will get EVERY RVer’s heart pounding with joy), and special pet walking areas and pens as well. About the only thing it didn’t have that I expected was slot machines in the bathroom. I mean, hey, even the airport and the laundry rooms have slot machines – though the latter at least regularly give you back something useful.

From Las Vegas, we traveled through the desert to Hoover Dam. The security there was interesting. More than a mile away on either side of the dam, Homeland Security has set up inspection sites on the road. No inspection, no pass. Two very professional, and very thorough, guys went through our coach – one outside with me, opening every compartment including the battery and engine areas. Inside, the other officer opened every compartment, looked under the bed (no monsters this time – silly, it was daytime and they were hiding!), and inspected all the nooks and crannies. Given the crowds, I grabbed a photo from Google Earth (with credits) for both Las Vegas and Hoover dam, as reminders.

We drove in late afternoon to Cottonwood, Arizona, to another 1000 Trails camp. Again, a wildlife preserve and well-maintained park. The first night, trees deliberately blocked our satellite dish after we set up the coach…and some neighbors were, shall we say, disagreeable about having to hear/smell us run the diesel engine while we put down the jacks, leveled the coach, and slide out the slides. O’course, then they went back in their coach, and smoked all night – with the secondhand smoke wafting into our open windows. Sigh. We moved the next morning to another part of the camp.

There was Wi-Fi in the main building, a nice pool, river to walk to, and lots of nice and knowledgeable folks. In all of the parks, we have been able to learn from RVer’s who’ve been at it much longer than us, and the knowledge base (what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t work, or what is not good) is invaluable, and offered freely.

Cottonwood is only 20 minutes from many wonderful places. We took the Verde Canyon Railroad on a half-day trip through the desert and into the Verde canyon, seeing eagles and fledglings along the way, along with other wildlife, Indian ruins, an old stage set for “How the West was Won” (if you are old enough to remember that movie), and outrageously cool rock outcrops and a picture perfect, partly cloud-filled sky. AN afternoon drive and walk by the river in the Cottonwood Canyon above Sedona was another side trip well worth visiting. Yes, I took way more pictures than you get to see here – you can thank Mary Ann for judicious pruning.

Another day we traveled to Sedona for lunch, and to admire a town’s art project. Many, many stores and other businesses took on the challenge of painting Havelinas (like overgrown wild pigs); I’ve included a few shots here. The next day, we went back for a Pink Jeep Tour up to the Mongolian Rim, thousands of feet above the town of Sedona. The views were breathtaking, and Sarah’s driving was, well, an adventure. [OK, just kinda, ‘cause I have a photo to prove it!]

Montezuma’s Castle was another of the ruins we visited, built high above the Verde River. We also stopped along the side of the road at a Native American stand selling “fry bread” …we had different toppings (powdered sugar, honey, cinnamon and sprinkles) on it and Dave and Sarah liked all of them. The desert rocks are hot enough much of the year to use them instead of the cooktop at the roadside stand.

Thankfully, we had wonderful weather in the 70’s and 80’s, perfect for basking in the sun. The visibility was over the horizon, and the roads were great to travel. On the drive back to California, we got our first hint of what later became a major electronic brain challenge for our coach – see Mary Ann’s write-up from her summer 2007 travels. The speedometer suddenly read zero (while we were traveling at 60+ on the highway). It came right back up after a moment. And, we had had, and continued to have, some cruise control glitches where it would suddenly lose its memory, or not engage initially.

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