Sunday, November 26, 2017

Family Gathers in Fresno

November 17-26, 2017
Santa Clarita-Fresno, California

Mommy and Ezra ready for their "ride in the bus" last week.
We've settled into the "being home" mode with days running into each other. 

Richie and girlfriend Gabby bring over breakfast on Friday morning and we enjoy getting caught up with them. They drive away and I remember my camera. I swear I have a mental block about capturing people.

Over the weekend we visit Ezra and his parents, do a little shopping, and watch mid-season (how is it half over?) football. 

A punch of fall color at the post office.
Monday I go to the dentist for a regular check-up. Turns out that whole "flossing everyday" thing really makes a difference :-))) 61 years old and I'm sort of disappointed I didn't get a smiley sticker!

Nick's in-laws are really fun people, and Tuesday evening we meet up with Steve and Denice for tacos and great conversation. We're already looking forward to seeing them again before we leave. You weren't expecting a photo right?

Whether you take Interstate 5 or Highway 99, the drive north from Los Angeles County is dull. Wednesday we leave the Jeep at the RV park and head over Grapevine Pass. It's an easy drive, but as we descend into the Central Valley we're shocked at the black air waiting for us! It's really disgusting to see the level of pollution trapped by the inversion layer. Don't guess we can hold our breath for three days...

Not much heavy traffic, and we're setting up at our cousins Cindy and Kurt's home again. It's a long drive, but so worth it to have our own house when visiting.

Lots of space!
I am an only child and have three cousins I've lost track of over the years. For most of my adult life, family has been my two sons and myself. Marrying into a family of lots and lots of cousins has given me the opportunity to be part of several big gatherings. This Thanksgiving we spend with 30+ great people from four generations! Only one of our sons can make it from SoCal, the rest having plans with other family or living out of state.

Third and fourth generation - they had SO much fun on the bouncy house!
The big boys setting up our dinner seating.

Cousin David decides if Bill is serious....

A delicious spread!

A combination of screens,

and board games kept everybody entertained when indoors. Thanks Oliver - you win the photos for the day!

Harry Potter Clue - Malfoy did it (of course).

Tessa holds down the sofa, waiting for the next human to come pet her.

The youngest, Ellie, stole our hearts.

Enjoying good eats with Jenna and Cindy under sunny skies.

Sterlings and Haleys - Sarah is the shy one......

Another table full inside.

So happy to have mother-son time for the holiday! 93 years old, Anne is our oldest matriarch.
Friday we had a nice gathering of the Gravel branch of the tree - Jessica, Corey, Melissa, Marilynn, Jenna, Bill, Joey, Anne, Lauren, and Noah. Love them all bunches!
We wrap up the evening playing Harry Potter trivia - yes, we're a Hogwarts family :-)))
I hear from Brian that Ezra is swimming in 95 degree weather 'back home'. All my life in California, and hot weather for the holidays still seems wrong.

What a grand time we had with this fun and loving family of ours!!

We load up, visit Anne one last time, and head out after 1:00 on Saturday. Until we get to the pass we avoid any heavy traffic. It's almost 4:00 when we pull back into our site, and we're quickly set up for another couple weeks.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Time Slows Down

November 11-16, 2017
Acton-Valencia, California

We're in our old hometown for a combination of necessary appointments and the joy of time with our family. Mostly it's time with Ezra and his parents, but we do get to see Maximus and his folks once too.  If you're tired of grandson pics you can bail now :-) 

Saturday we try a new taco place, meeting Brian, Shalise and Ezra for an early lunch. It's rare to find real tacos without the yucky, fake, formed shells, so we're happy to find good, crispy corn tortillas at Shredded Taco in Santa Clarita.

From there we head to the nearby park where we have fun playing with happy boy and happy dog. The weather is perfect. 

Whatcha got over there Gramma?
Kids and dogs...

When your grandson wants you to hold the Frisbee......
Cooler than all of us.

These double swings are great!
So much fun with Mommy.
The joy of tree bark.

Too soon we need to head out for a birthday dinner two hours away. Our dear friend Michelle is celebrating at a winery in Temecula with her family, and invited us to join them. It turns into nearly three hours with typical southern California traffic. Not that bad when we don't have to do it on a regular basis, and we're not going to work!

Seems like we're either going 70 or 0.7 mph in SoCal.
We have a room to ourselves and enjoy good food and good company, and I fail to take a single photo :-( 

Football takes a backseat to an opportunity to see Maximus on Sunday. Nick and Jillian moved into their new house a couple weeks ago and we get a tour of their dream home. We're so happy for them.

Attempting to "save" Tessa from the backyard.

Sweet face :-))

Clapping to his music - he sings too.

Silly smiles for the camera.
Our time with the little guys is the best part of being home for a few weeks. We also continue to check medical and other appointments off our list. Days run into each other as time slows down a bit with "just life". It's the right time of year for an easier pace, it feels fine. 

Despite our slower pace, work continues just outside our window as the crew lays braces for the solar panels. 
Brian has the great idea that Ezra would probably love going for a ride in PopPop and Gramma's "bus", so he brings him and Shalise to the park on Wednesday morning before he goes to work.

Ezra is not so sure about those walls moving in, but checks out the smaller space with confidence. I'm so mad that I didn't get a pic of he and his mom and Elmo all ready for the big adventure!

Bill drives the Jeep so he can make a quick stop, and the three of us meet him at Valencia Travel Village, where we stayed the last time we were home. It really adds a lot of fun to the trip with a two-year-old cheering "Weeeeeeee" from the back :-)))

Two and a half years on the road, we've never had passengers, and we've never had such a difficult time getting into our spot! Tree trimming blocks our entrance from the "right" side for our pull-through site so I'm forced to come in from the wrong side. This is a crowded, tight park and after side-swiping the short light pole, I make a 26-point turn to get in. Geeez! This would never happen without family on board. We all stay calm through the challenge, get set up and go pick up Brian for lunch.

After dropping off the dad and the PopPop, Shalise, Ezra and I run around for a couple hours before I take them home. 

Bill gets his cataract surgery dates, and Thursday I make more reservations through Christmas. We'll see how slow feels after another six weeks :-)

Looking forward to more of this!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What We Miss Most As Fulltimers

October 31-November 9, 2017
Acton, California

Other than some road construction in Victorville, our familiar drive to Acton, California is uneventful on Tuesday morning. This is our first time staying at the Californian RV Resort, about 30 minutes from our former hometown. At $12/night less than the closer park, it saves us a good amount for our first two weeks here. 

Terraced, level, concrete sites with 50 amp FHUs, nice pool and spa, and views of the surrounding hills, this is a good option for us. The spacing is "snug" with some road noise from Hwy 14. They are installing solar panels around the perimeter so there is construction noise during the weekdays as well. 

Maximus is out shopping and trick-or-treating with his parents and invites us to meet them for dinner. It's wonderful to see them all!

Maximus, 14 months.

Maximus and mom, Jillian.

With dad, Nick.
Ezra is out trick-or-treating with his friend Cal - they let their parents tag along too.

He's getting so big!
Wednesday is a full day of family. We meet Ezra and his folks for lunch, then take him with us to the park for a couple hours. After dropping him back home we meet three of Bill's boys, Travis (and fiance' Emily), Richie and Corey at a brewery to watch game seven of the World Series. Given the outcome, a packed venue in Dodgers' territory is not a happy place. The company and brews more than make up for it.

Of course I completely fail to get pics of the evening meet up, but we had a great time!

Ezra and PopPop - that look :-))))
These two wore each out. Ezra and Tessa.
I have lots of errands to run on Thursday, including Tessa's overdue grooming appointment. So nice to have a clean dog again! In the afternoon I pick up Ezra to come spend some time at our place. He is such a lovable little boy, and his excitement at spending time with us just melts our hearts! 

It's chilly outside, and keeping a two-year-old entertained in 350 square feet is great fun. All the buttons and switches on the dash are very tempting :-)

When a two-year-old can find the camera on a cellphone and take selfies....

He cracks himself up :-)))
Brian (Daddy) comes to pick up Ezra when he gets off work, and we have a good visit before they're both off for home.

We get more errands and a doctor's appointment out of the way on Friday. 

The next day Corey takes us out to breakfast and then we hang out at home until it's time to drop Bill off at a wedding, and I go to babysit Ezra. Shalise (Mommy) isn't feeling great so we all end up hanging out at their house. It is wonderful to spend time with this happy family. I don't take any pics.

Bill has a great time seeing old friends and three of his sons at the wedding, and we have fun sharing stories of our evening on the way home.

Bill with daughter-in-laws Emily and Jillian - happy man!
Being back here means slowing down, and in addition to our football Sunday, we hang out doing small projects at home for a couple days. We pick up a new printer, watch the solar panel frames being installed behind our house, and see the eye doctor. Normal people stuff. 

After lifting the beams into place with a strap on the end of a forklift, these guys secure them with large bolts. Nothing quiet about an impact drill! They're so close to us, that's our ladder shadow at the bottom.
Thursday is Gramma-all-day at Ezra's house - heaven! We spend much of it playing outside, then come in to watch movies and play with little boy toys. After his nap we share an apple until Shalise returns around 4:00.

There is no doubt what we miss the most in our travels. Grandchildren are so very special, and time with them is something we can't enjoy when we're on the road. We're having a great time with Ezra, and are looking forward to seeing more of Maximus. As much as we're ready to head out, it's going to be even harder this time!

We get some gorgeous skies here.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Getting Back to SoCal

October 25-30, 2017
Williams-Golden Valley, Arizona
Newberry Springs, California

Other than mooch-docking at our friends' Tombstone home, we have not been to any place more than twice. And even those are very few in our relatively short time as full-timers.

Wednesday morning we drive to Williams, Arizona, where we set up at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park for the third time. Just a nice, clean, concrete park with small gravel space between sites, it's really not anything that special. But we like it, even being right next to the active train track. It is one of two places we've stayed that requires pads under the jacks. The WiFi works most of the time, all sites are 50 amp FHUs. Although we don't use it, the laundry/shower/restroom building is very nice. A major draw is the Passport America rate of $22/night for up to a week :-))

The smoke we saw the day before is a controlled burn in Coconino Forest, north of the interstate and still visible for miles. Fortunately the light wind keeps it away from Williams, and they have it out by the end of the next day. Presumably as planned.

One of the things we love about this location is the access to miles and miles of forest roads. We check out Dogtown Lake, and an old corral at the edge of a wide meadow. Mostly we enjoy being out in nature where no one else is. The weather is perfect, and we spend several hours just exploring. Life is good.

Bill Williams Mountain behind Dogtown Lake.

These Albert's Squirrels with their tufted ears and thick bushy tails entertain us along the trail around the lake. 
The forest opens up to golden meadows.

Old corrals have such interesting textures.

Old cattle chute.

I love having the quiet time to discover small treasures - like a thread flower on weathered wood.

Aged plank.

Too late for this old guy to pull energy from the light.

A tiny hole in the forest floor.
My last opportunity for really good green chili, we enjoy lunch at Anna's Cafe. There are dozens of eateries in the little tourist town of Williams, but none we've tried are as good as this nondescript diner/bakery - they close at 3 PM everyday.

Friday we're back on the road, driving 175 miles to Golden Valley, Arizona. This section of Interstate 40 has some great views and interesting geology, but the condition of the road is still awful in places. Miles of construction indicate there may be some relief in the near future.

Taking Hwy 95 at Kingman we pass a couple miles of backed up traffic - coming from Las Vegas and Laughlin? We're just glad it's clear in our direction.

Coming over the hill, Golden Valley is spread out for acres and acres. We soon learn it's all housing with almost zero services. No grocery store, two eateries. There's the local Hair Stylist/Massage/Auto Parts place so it's not without "amenities." With Kingman just 10 miles away it's not truly remote.

We check into Tradewinds RV Park, another Passport America Park, where we enjoy the $17/night rate for three nights. Just off Hwy 68, the all gravel park is a perfect "en route" stop for us to spend the weekend with a day trip and football before moving on to California. FHUs with 50 amp, wide open skies, nice hosts, and well maintained grounds. For there being nothing nearby, the park is surprisingly 3/4 full.

Saturday we visit the nearly-ghost town of Chloride. The oldest active mining town in Arizona, it also has the oldest post office. Another day of perfect outdoor weather for playing in the desert.

One of several vintage road warriors.

Many of the original homes are still inhabited.

In 1966 while on a break from his fine arts degree at Utah State, Robert Purcell worked the mine at Chloride for several months.

With the support of local residents, including funds to purchase automobile paint, Purcell painted a 2000 square foot mural about two miles out of town.

In 2006, Purcell returned with ten other artists to refurbish the murals which have become a vibrant part of  a small community of artists now calling Chloride home.

Only visible from immediately in front of the rock face, the murals manage to provide a stunning piece of art without defacing the natural beauty of the surrounding desert.
A few wash-outs along the 1.3 mile trail to the murals make a high clearance vehicle a good idea. There is space to park at the bottom for those who prefer to walk.
Local yard art.

Alien? Robot? Purple water heater with legs?

What is it about a big machine that shovels dirt that makes me want to go play with it?

We find a short wash to explore and look for rocks.

We never tire of these desert playgrounds. 

The oldest post office in Arizona - established in 1862 - has been serviced by stage coaches and trains during its wild history.
The only time we've watched our outdoor television has been for football games. And we rarely do that because even if the weather is nice, the sun is almost always in the wrong spot. Sunday is an exception and we enjoy watching the late game with a few brews. 

Most, several, some, crazy, other people would just drive the 290 miles to our destination stop in SoCal on Monday. It's not that I can't drive for five hours,  it's that I don't want to. Nor do I have to.

So we make a one-night stop in the "interstate-killed-the-little-towns-on-Route 66" of Newberry Springs, California. Newberry Mountain RV Park is literally between Interstate 40 and Route 66, and a nice, clean spot to break up the drive. A Good Sam park, the initial impression is "iffy", but once we pull in and set up it's just fine. The few seasonals are some of the best kept we've seen, and the sites are well maintained.

It's interesting to see both the interstate traffic and trains passing our window, and neither keep us awake.

This classic sits alone in the lot next to the cafe - empty window frames mirror the vacant roadside stop. 

The site of the cult classic movie by the same name.

Every wall is covered with patches, paper notes, shirts and hats. Every surface is dusty, flies show more life than the server, the food isn't bad, it's not a place you have to come back to once you've seen it.

Our first California sunset in six months - seems longer!

Tuesday morning we make the final leg back to Santa Clarita, California.

Returning to our former hometown always feels like putting a period at the end of a sentence. We don't plan "trips", we just go. And no matter how long or how far we've traveled, coming back is always the end of something, and the beginning of something else. 

Our time here is special, getting caught up with our six sons (one will fly in from Seattle next month), and of course those darling grandsons. We always look forward to it, no matter how long we plan to stay, and what other necessities are scheduled. We also look forward to heading out on new adventures at the other side.

This visit will include minor surgeries, doctor and dentist appointments, financial transactions, catching up with friends, picking up mail, getting passports (a hint of travel to come), and a Thanksgiving trip to see Bill's family in Fresno. 

We have no travel plans until New Years in the desert with high school buddies, so we may be here until then.

No matter what else we get up to, there will be lots and lots of Ezra time!