Monday, November 15, 2021

Desert Friends and Beach Friends

October 28 - November 5, 2021
Laughlin, Nevada; Tehachapi-Grover Beach, California

Planning to join our annual high school reunion in Laughlin, Nevada, means making some choices about just how much we're going to socialize. We know it's  a much smaller gathering as many choose not to attend because of COVID, others because they have Halloween or different plans with family. Figuring we'll do just what we're comfortable with is our plan.

Since 2015 we've attended in the motorhome, staying at the Riverside Casino RV Park's top level overlooking the casinos and Colorado River. Basic level dirt spaces with 50 amp FHUs, and a few trees that provide more parking challenges than any shade. With more of us now retired there are always a few other RVs from our group. 

This year there are five,, and we've managed to get parked next to, or close to, each other. The two of us from the driveway in Kingman are next to each other, and the party comes to us at Donnie and Anna's next door every day we're here. Being outside with light winds feels safe, and we're grateful that several people come up to visit. Also grateful that Donnie and Anna cook for everyone everyday - not even a plan, just happened that way. 

Thursday evening getting caught up with a handful of friends.

Friday is the annual golf tournament and again Bill is the unofficial-official so he and several others are out early. Maggie and I have planned a day on Christmas Tree Pass to enjoy the natural beauty and to add our own decorations. We have such a wonderful conversation that I fail to take any pics of the pretty geology along the way. A short hike breaks up our drive, and then we find a tree to decorate. I'm surprised to see only one other dressed up tree when last time I was here there were several decorated junipers along the hillside. We wrap up our outing with a yummy lunch at Casa Serrano - always a good choice!

The camera doesn't pick up the pretty blue and gold decorations shining in the sun. We're happy with our efforts.

It's a fun way to spend half an hour adding to a tradition along this back road between Laughlin and Highway 95.

Tessa and Lizzie are very enthusiastic about the project. 

Two nights have planned events and we join the Friday night happy hour at the Aquarius Casino. We visit with a couple dozen classmates and teachers for a short time then return home without any casino time. It's nice that all of Clark County requires masks inside any establishment, but we're not enthusiastic about hanging around this time.

That's the last time we leave the RV site until we pull out on Monday morning. It's hot in the sun just like our usual April dates, but comfortable in the shade. We hang out with our neighbors and visiting friends, and choose not to attend the Saturday night dinner. No regrets, we have a good time and see lots of good people. 

It used to be a couple ice chests that brought us all together - now it's an outdoor coffee pot :-)))

Bill and Dan 

With our back-on-the-road plans it's very likely we'll miss our first reunion in 13 years in 2022, so I'm glad we made the effort to do this modified gathering. We continue to be grateful for our connection with friends from our little hometown.

Monday is what should be an uneventful 260 mile drive to Tehachapi, California. Instead, at what looks like an easy access fuel stop off Highway 40, we shred our safety tow cables at the bottom of a steep and sharply angled exit driveway. The deep gouges in the road show that we're not the first to sustain damage here, but it's the only way out of the station. I think I'll remember the name of the place so I can warn others, but unfortunately it's "gone" now. Between Daggett and Newberry Springs is as good as I can do.

We order replacements and install them when we get to SoCal. Not an emergency, but who wants to spend $100 on cables that should have never needed replacing?

Surely we'll have all we need in stores and elsewhere very soon with the million trucks we see on the road and the thousand long trains full of cargo!
Our one-night stop in Tehachapi is at another quirky  spot recommended by Laurel and Eric (Raven and Chickadee)  A small park where we can watch gliders "take off" from the adjacent private airport, Mountain Valley RV Park has maybe 18 sites with several shade trees between dirt sites. We're able to get satellite for the football game, and enjoy a very quiet and cool night. It's a pretty area I've driven through a dozen times, but never explored. We'll stay a few days next visit!

Wide open spaces in all directions from the park. The airstrip is the thin dark stripe in the near distance. 

Tuesday morning we're back on Highway 58 through the very dry and brown hills, west down the mountain to California's Central Valley. Also dry and brown :-(  Here we take a new-to-us route through a very different landscape. First we traverse narrow roads through agriculture fields then enter miles of naked hills. No trees or crops or any bushes - it's very strange. In Cuyoma Valley we return to agriculture which is also strange. Who says "this will be a good place to grow crops" about an area that is naturally plant-free? 

The few weeds here are the exception to an otherwise landscape of dirt.

Lots of this.

Our destination is Grover Beach, California, close to the new home of Bill's best college friends, Steve and Lori. They all attended nearby Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo a "few" years ago. Bill is even the one who introduced them :-) Realizing their retirement dream, they returned to the area and a beautiful new home overlooking a vineyard just over a year ago. 

RV parks in the area are plentiful, large and very expensive. They're also usually full. I was happily surprised to get a spot at the least expensive park, about 12 miles from our friends', and 1/4 mile from the beach. We spend every day at said friends', and never get to the nearby beach. 

Le Sage Riviera RV Park is a fancy name for a very, very tight group of gravel and asphalt, with un-level sites. First time I've ever had to back up to make a turn inside a park, and to make several attempts to get in a pull-through. We aren't able to get level with a large drop at the front of the site, but we make-do for our three nights. I think we'll pay the higher price next time and hope for better. 

Lori and Steve host us each evening in their wonderful open new home. The floor plan is brilliant!

Pic from earlier in the year, their beautiful backyard overlooks vineyards that are wearing their golden fall colors during our visit.

Mostly we visit, but also get out to see some of their neighborhood. The central coast is such a unique and lovely area, I'm so happy for them!

One of several Monarch Groves in the area. 

Hard to capture in the light, but there are several individual and clusters of the beautiful butterflies.

I'm hoping we can get COVID tests before we head to see the kids and grands, but appointments are required with a couple days for results. Then I learn about OTC tests available at local drug stores - yay! 

Bigger yay are the negative results now, and the 24-hour follow up. Yes, it's weird that "C" means you don't have COVID.

While we're on the coast Elliott turns one! That was really fast!! A delightful, beautiful, funny little boy, we can't wait to see him and Ezra and their parents in a couple days.

Too cool Elliott :-)

Happy, happy birthday boy.

Just yesterday his brother Ezra was that size!

Next up we make another new-to-us drive on our way to Frazier Park, California, for the first of our visits with the grands!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Repairs Continue, Friends Get Visited

October 5 - 27, 2021
Tombstone - Wickenburg - Kingman, Arizona

With ongoing work on the house damage, our contractors soon become part of the family, part of our everyday life. When we asked Billy and his crew to take on our rebuild we understood they already had a full schedule. Very full. Great for them, and once the missing wall and front door are replaced there's no real urgency on our part. 

Doesn't mean we don't look forward to having it all done :-)

We're very happy with our pretty new door and keypad door knob! It also has a new color in its future.

One day a lot of secret work is completed. 

One of the things left by the previous owners was a stack of roof tiles, so our patched roof is seamless. With no chimney for the new ventless fireplace, the holes are no longer necessary.

I make a solo run to Tucson for a few "big city" errands, and best-of-all a long-delayed spa day. Nothing like a massage and facial to make me feel human again. I'm pleased with the strict COVID protocols, and very happy with the two new therapists, so I make an appointment to return for the same next month :-)

Consistently great weather gets us out and about. Even after two years (gasp!), it's hard to believe we own property in this pretty corner of Arizona. With so few people, and such never-ending natural beauty, we continue to love our winter home!

Ghost Town Road  

High clouds make a light brush over the Dragoons.

Looks like nothing is open any longer in the crossroads that is Pierce, Arizona.

We get out for breakfast a couple times, laughing at this public service notice in the restroom :-)))))

So happy that our pals Michael and Rebecca (fulltimers we met on the road who now winter in Sierra Vista) are back in the area! They suggest lunch in Bisbee at their favorite Mexican restaurant - now ours as well. 
A cozy patio under old growth trees, with views of the unique hillsides of the little mining town, add to the fun of getting caught up. Following our delicious meal and cucumber-jalapeno margaritas we return to our place to continue our first visit of the season. Of course I fail to get pics of humans or dogs :-(

Finally, a good Mexican restaurant in our area!!

On Bill's return drive from Fresno, California, the Jeep got a rock chip in the windshield which becomes a 9 inch crack after a couple days. Our local Safelite gets us in and out quickly with a new only-for-Jeeps windshield. While we've been fortunate in finding services on the road, it really is nice to have a "local town" for getting things done. 

With cooler temps we're back to enjoying more time on our back porch, enjoying many spectacular sunsets. It is Arizona after all!

The fireplace is the biggest piece of the puzzle that will be our repaired living room. A couple changes in the design set us back a day, but soon it's framed with the firebox installed, cement board up, and the surrounding wall completed. Stacked stone veneer and hearth stone are ordered for delivery while we're in California. It's getting easier to see how the space will look. 

In addition to the damage repair, we're removing the dated paneling and replacing the brown wood trim. With new paint and carpet as well, it's going to be a whole makeover when finished.

53 year-old drywall behind the paneling.
COVID has postponed and moved our annual reunion more than once over the past 18 months, but we're on our way to Laughlin, Nevada, the last week of the month for our first gathering of high school classmates since 2019. 

On our way there we make two stops to see friends and their new homes. First stop is to see Sue and Dave (Beluga's Excellent Adventure) and Mona Lisa and Steve (Lowes Travels) who now have lovely homes in the pretty area of Wickenburg, Arizona. We stay at Horspitality RV Park again with 30 amp FHUs on a level dirt and gravel site. 

It's a very fun evening (can't remember the last time I laughed that much!) with a progressive meal starting with happy hour at ML and Steve's, followed up with dinner at Sue and Dave's . It's amazing how many of us who met on the road over the last several years have ended up with full or part-time Arizona homes!

Thankfully Sue remembers to get pics of our visit which I've shamelessly stolen to share here!

Fun times with good friends enjoying the outdoors before the temps drop. Dave, ML, Pam, John, Jodee, Bill and Steve.

Sue and Dave are pre-furniture, but with a little improvisation they provide a delicious dinner with lovely ambiance :-) Same people, different order!

The drive on Wednesday starts out with some highway drama as we're delayed through town for a fatal pedestrian vs vehicle accident. Disconcerting to see the victim still lying under a tarp as we pass by. Beyond that we enjoy a beautiful drive north on Highway 93, catching up with high winds for the last 10 miles on Highway 40. 

Jim and Maggie moved to Kingman last year and spend their summers traveling in their 5er. We last saw them in Idaho in August! Jim went to high school with Bill and I, and wife Maggie is a very dear friend. This is our first visit to their new home. Arriving a day earlier, our Tombstone pals Donnie and Anna have their own 5er parked along the house. I pull in and there's just room for both of us with the gate secured behind!

Jim's sister Polly who was in my class is also here, and we all have a nice visit watching the birds and eating lots of yummy food! We'll all caravan to Laughlin on Thursday for the reunion. 

Quail and dove and mountain views.

All tucked in for the night.

Jim takes us for a ride in the ATV to see their large desert community north of Kingman, Arizona.

Back in SoCal newest grand baby, Penelope Anne, is getting to know her family. We can't wait to meet her in a few days!!


We're bummed to miss Halloween with the grands, but it's fun getting regular updates of their local activities and wonderful costumes.

Elliott and Ezra and parents.

M & M

Reese and Penelope with their parents.

Henry and his parents.