Our First Christmas in Our Home-away-from home


Our Tree

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here in Mesa Arizona, at Mesa Regal RV Resort, for two weeks already. As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”  There is so much to see and do here.

One evening we were out on the bike, looking for a coffee shop I think (or perhaps ice cream), when we noticed, not for the first time, three lit up camels in a yard along Main Street.

Three CamelsThis time we decided to investigate. We were awed by what we found! The camels were on the grounds of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Temple, and the camels were only a small incentive to draw people in to see the thousands of other lights, listen to a choir performance, and view the many Christmas Nativities. Several of these were life-size, on the temple grounds; others were miniature nativities from around the world, displayed in a room inside the Visitors Centre. We tried to take pictures with what cameras we happened to have with us – a point-and-shoot and an iPhone, while holding onto our motorcycle helmets. Needless to say, we didn’t get the pictures that we’d hoped for, but here are a few of the best.

Star of Bethlehem

Nativity 1

Miniature Nativities

Nativity 2

Mesa Regal is very much in the Christmas spirit, with street decorating contests, street parties with Santa Clause, a Christmas dinner, and school choirs entertaining.

Lighted Bicycle

Street Lights

We’ve had our picture taken with Santa a few times.

With Santa 1 With Santa 2

Santa 3

On Wednesday we took advantage of a Gift Certificate given to us as a Christmas gift from Jim’s daughter and family. We signed up for a four hour jeep tour with Apache Trail Tours, and had a great time bouncing over rough, twisty trails and holding our breath, while at times looking straight down the side of a cliff, as we were transported from and elevation of 1100 feet to 9000 feet, up the Superstition Mountains. The view of Canyon Lake, and the changing rock formations and vegetation, and the history told to us by our driver/guide made it a very worthwhile adventure.

Canyon Lake

Looking down to Canyon Lake

One of many sharp curves on the edge of the mountain

One of many sharp curves on the edge of the mountain

With our GuideWe hope to go back another day to the old west village from where the tour began to do some more exploring, but by the time the tour was done we had just enough time left to get to the Christmas dinner, for which we’d purchased tickets.

Petersons Mercantile

The Western Village

Despite all of the decorations and parties, we’re still having trouble believing that Christmas is just a few days away. We’ll spend Christmas Eve with some of our new friends at a house party. Christmas Day we hope to connect with our families back home through the internet. We miss them all.

WISHING EVERYONE A MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, AND SAFE TRAVELS.

See you in the New Year.

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A Detour to Tombstone, Arizona


We were excited to cross the Arizona border at 11:00 am on Friday. We still had five hours of driving to go before we’d reach Mesa, but we expected we’d at least get to Tucson before calling it a day. However, the billboards along the highway were calling us to Tombstone, so we had to heed the call.

We took the exit off Hwy. 10 into Benson, and then took Hwy. 80, south to Tombstone, where we spent a few hours living in a time-warp, walking the plank sidewalks amongst cowboys, gunslingers and stage coaches.

Allan St. Tombstone

Looking down Allan St., downtown Tombstone, AZ

Bird Cage Theatre

Bird Cage Theatre

Stage Coach

Stage Coach on Allan St.

We took in the re-enactment of the famous shootout at OK Corral involving Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and the Clanton and McLaury gangs.

OK Corral Monument

The story

Gunfight re-enactment

Gunfight re-enactment

We sat through a film and histogram to learn about the development of Tombstone in 1880 during the silver mining rush, and its struggles to survive in one form or another over the next two centuries. The sun began to set and the temperatures began to drop when we climbed back into the motor home after everything closed up at 5:00 pm. Even though Benson was further north, the elevation was much lower, so we decided that a campsite back there might be more comfortable. At 6:00 pm we found a Wendy’s for a quick dinner, but went to the hardware store in the same mall first to pick up a couple of items. We were too late. What stores close up at 6:00 pm on a Friday night? Apparently in Benson it’s common practice. We looked up the RV Resorts in the area and drove to the closest and highest recommended one in the Good Sam Directory, but the office was already closed. On we went to another. The office there was closed too, but the owner saw us come in and told us where to park before he left us to return to the karaoke. With some difficulty and a little tension, because of the darkness and the need to back up to get into a spot, we got settled in for the night. We were exhausted and hit the sheet early. The furnace, although we thought we had the problem solved earlier, wasn’t working properly again. This meant having to get up during the night to manually turn it on and off by connecting the wires. But we were glad that we’d made the trip to Tombstone, and if it hadn’t been for the cold weather we might have stayed another day. There was so much more that we hadn’t seen.

By 12:30 pm on Saturday we were in Mesa. Before going to the RV Resort we hoped to get the motor home and the bike washed. We had seen many signs along the highway advertising RV washes, but in Mesa we could find none. Instead, Jim backed the bike into a car wash so we could get the grease and grime off of it at least to make it ride-able. We managed to get most of the dirt off the back of the RV too. At 5:15 we pulled into Mesa Regal RV Resort and got our spot. Set up and dinner was all that we managed before bedtime.

Sunday was devoted to “nesting”: finding our way around town to purchase some necessities like a phone SIM card and a new thermostat for the furnace; catching up on a week’s worth of laundry. On the way to the Laundromat, just a couple hundred feet from “home”, we noticed the parking lot of the main building was rapidly filling up with cars.  We asked what was going on and were told that there was a choir performing in the Regal Ballroom. We deposited our laundry into the washers and then went to see just what all the fuss was about. On the stage was a ninety member choir, accompanied by a twenty-five piece orchestra. We were thoroughly entertained with beautiful Christmas music, mostly unique arrangements of the traditional Christmas Carols. The hall was packed. It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful Christmas here, despite not being white.

Storm, What Storm?


Today the news everywhere is about the winter storms that have a grip on many areas of the US. We escaped Dodge, I mean Oklahoma, just in time it seems. When we woke up this morning in Santa Rosa, there were school closures being announced on the radio. We looked out the window and there was nothing on the ground. It was very cold, and Jim was up a few times in the night checking on the water and the furnace. All was well. But we changed our plan to go through Albuquerque towards Flagstaff, and that turned out to be a wise move. Instead we turned south down Hwy. 54 and eventually made our way to Deming, NM, where we are tonight.

We ran into some light snow on the way, which soon got a little heavier and started to pack on the road. If we’d been in the car with snow tires, we’d have no worries, but not knowing how the RV would handle slippery roads caused some concern at an elevation of nearly 7000 ft. By two o’clock we were on the descent. When we stopped to eat, the wind was still strong and there seemed to be a mix of snow and sleet, but when we left the restaurant it had all stopped and the sun was peaking through the clouds. It was smooth sailing after that. It seems that everyday we find ourselves squinting as we drive into the sunset. We are blessed.

I’ll add pictures to this tomorrow night, when we expect to be in Mesa Arizona, with a better internet connection.

More Challenges; More Food


Each day we learn something more about this motor home. Yesterday morning when we were ready to leave Branson, I plugged the back-up camera back into the lower cigarette lighter, and the light didn’t come on. We checked different things, to no avail, but found that it would work when plugged into the dash portal. So we left it there and took off. The morning was foggy, visibility poor in some spots. We were barely onto the highway when a beeping started, coming from the back. After checking the CO2 detectors and pump and furnace switches, I finally determined that it was a fridge warning, but I couldn’t find the cause. Jim took the next exit off the highway in search of a place to stop. Five miles down the road we found a church with a large parking lot. By now all gauge lights and the fridge were no longer working. After fiddling with switches, Jim finally discovered that a button to disconnect the house battery had been switched off the night before, when he was trying to get the stabilizer jacks down. Turning that back on fixed the problem, but he still hasn’t been able to get the jacks to work.

We heard on the news the night before that a nasty winter storm was a couple of days behind us, so the only stop we made yesterday, other than for stretching our legs, was at the Lambert Cafe in Ozark, Missouri, advertised on billboards as the “Home of the Throwed  Roll.” We had to check that out!

It was only 11:30 and already the parking lot was half full.  We pulled into a bus parking spot – yes they come by the bus load. We were seated in a wooden booth in a room where the walls were covered with old tin advertising signs and licence plates. Helium Balloons floated from the backs of the seats. We ordered coffee to start and before we could look at the menu, we heard a cry, “Hot buns!  Hot buns!” We looked up to see a young man tossing dinner rolls to patrons who gave a nod or held up their hands. With a nod, we soon had one of those fresh-from-the-oven buns in our hands. We tore pieces of paper towel from the roll on the table to use for plates. Another fellow came by with a can of molasses and a spoon. When our coffee arrived and we gasped! The mug was the size of a coffee maker carafe.

LARGE coffee

Now that’s a LARGE coffee, the only size offered!

We ordered our lunch of pulled pork on a bun with candied yams and coleslaw, which would certainly satisfy us, but there was also a list of free sides that were delivered from pots to each table – deep fried okra, black-eyed peas, fried potatoes, tomato macaroni, and more. We tried some okra, and Jim tried some black-eyed peas. Everything was delicious, but far more than I could finish.

Lunch

Lunch?

The fellow across from us had a medium chief’s salad that was piled six inches high in a big bread bowl! A lunch menu it wasn’t! An interesting break in the day it was.

We continued on to Oklahoma City, where stopped for the night in Rockwell RV park.

Today we motored on, hoping to avoid the storm. Tonight we have stopped in Santa Rosa New Mexico, where the winds are already rocking us to sleep. The prediction for snow is light and low, but the temperatures are to drop before freezing, which worries us because we filled up our water tank and lines a few days back, when the weather was summer-like.  We’re also having trouble with the furnace, which suddenly refuses to shut off unless the power is turned off! We won’t be cold, unless we run out of propane.

Tune in tomorrow to learn how it all worked out. 🙂

Spectacularly Fed and Entertained in Branson Missouri


Monday, December 2

We left Sullivan without incident and arrived in Branson at around 1:30, after a brief stop at Springfield to get information about RV Resorts, and shows in Branson. After a quick lunch in the motor home while sitting in the Walmart parking lot, and picking up tickets for a show, we drove through the downtown strip and then to the recommended RV Park. It was closed for the season.  Fortunately, I had located another one in the Good Sam book, our second choice only because it was further out of town. By now it was going on three o’clock and it had been recommended that we arrive at the show by 4:00. We were going to the Dixie Stampede Dinner Theatre. We found the “America’s Best RV Park” high on a hill. It was large and welcoming, but they were too getting ready to close for the season in a couple of weeks. There were only about a dozen other RVs occupying spots. We registered, found our site and then had to head back into town. The bike was too oily to ride, and they gave us no place to leave the trailer, so we had to take the entire rig along and hope we could find parking. We did. It was a very large parking lot. We arrived at 4:00 pm exactly and had time to visit a bit with the horses in the stalls along the walkway to the main entrance. These were the last pictures that we were allowed to take until we exited the building again, two hours later.

IMG_2404

White Horse

As with all tourist entertainment shows these days, we had to pose for the staged photo before we were directed into the Carriage Room at 4:30. What a beautiful room with its dark wooden beams, stairs and balconies. In the centre of the room was a stage, and soon the pre-show entertainment arrived, a young man who told us he was going to juggle. Few were impressed; after all, jugglers seem to be a dime a dozen, right? But when this fellow concluded his act, there were many more fans of juggling than there had been. All of his tricks were very unique, skill testing and sometimes downright dangerous, like his finale – juggling flaming torches while standing on the rung of an inflamed ladder that was perched upon a burning rope! Wow! I wanted so badly to sneak my camera out of my purse for a quick photo.

From the Carriage Room we were directed to the big horseshoe-shaped arena, another impressive place with tiered rows and rows of shiny wooden “tables” extending around the perimeter, and comfortable chairs where we sat shoulder-to-shoulder with the other guests. The waiters all wore elf costumes, in keeping with the Christmas theme of this show. We were warned that our fingers would be our only utensils. A plate, a bowl with a handle, a sealer jar, and paper napkins made up the extent of our place settings.

Soon the show began with the beautiful horses we’d seen outside, now dressed in their finest and ridden by young cowboys and cowgirls in red and green satin shirts and jeans. We watched in awe as they performed some intricate routines, and some of the riders did tricks. We learned from the man sitting next to me that his brother was the Roman-style rider (two horses, one foot on each horse back). During all of this our dinner was being served. Warm cheesy biscuits were placed on our plates, a delicious cream of vegetable soup was ladled into our bowls, and we were offered a choice of iced tea or Pepsi in our sealer jars.

When the horses left and a Toy Shop was lowered from the ceiling, it was difficult to concentrate on eating. A brightly clad toy soldier rode in on a fluorescent lime green and white horse; Raggedy Ann and Andy danced with GI Joe; a fairy princess floated around above them. We thought how much our grandchildren would enjoy all of this.

Once the soup and biscuits were consumed, our plates were filled with small whole roasted chickens, thick slabs of seasoned, roasted potato, corn on the cob and a slice of pork tenderloin.

The Toy Shop disappeared.  We were entertained by a redneck clown, and were divided into teams delegated to cheer for either north or south for various “rodeo” competitions, all done with humour and no harm to any animals. Appropriately, we were on the “north” team, and reigned victorious when all was done.

A beautiful live nativity appeared, complete with a donkey, sheep and even the Three Wise Men riding live camels. Carols were sung and Christmas scripture read, before the Angel Gabriel appeared in the sky.

We cleaned up our greasy fingers with the warm wet towels provided; our plates were removed and replaced with new ones holding warm apple turnovers! I was glad that I’d opted to use the “doggie bag” for the rest of my chicken!

A videotaped Christmas greeting from Dolly Parton, a visit from Santa, and introductions of all the performers brought the production to an end. Outside, the darkness was lit up by the pretty Christmas lights. We made our way back to the campsite, full and happy.

Dixie Stampede Theatre

Dixie Stampede Theatre

Dixie Stampede Theatre

From Ontario to Missouri


We got off to a late start on Friday, with temperatures well below freezing. We had to wait for the furnace on the motor home to warm things up a bit before loading electronics and some liquids. Then, once the sun started to melt the snow on the roof, we discovered a leak around the newly replaced window. That meant that, once we were loaded, we had to make a quick detour back to the glass place for a fix.

We were just about at Hwy 115 when we ran into Tim Horton’s for what may be the last of our favourite coffee for a while. Jim had a conversation with a fellow biker while waiting in line, and he gave him some good advice – spray the bike with PAM to protect it from the snow and salt! That’s a tip he hadn’t heard before, and since there was plenty of salt on the roads when we left, we decided that a trip back to a grocery store for that always useful vegetable spray would be worthwhile. At 3:00 pm, just an hour and a half after we’d left our driveway, we were finally on our way.

Leaving The Snow

Leaving The Snow Behind

The roads were clear and the driving uneventful, but traffic was heavy and slow going through Toronto. We also drove into a bright sun for the later part of the afternoon. A stop in Milton for dinner didn’t make much difference in the traffic, and by 8:30 Jim was tired enough to call it a night. We spent that first night in our “new home” in a Flying J parking lot at St. Thomas, which was what we’d expected to do since there are no camp grounds or RV Parks open in Ontario this time of year.

We were up and eating breakfast at Denny’s by 6:00 am on Saturday. By 8:00 am we were crossing the border into the USA at Sarnia, with no problems. The rest of the day was unexciting, until we pulled into a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Bloomington Michigan for dinner. Jim still had his foot on the gas pedal when a black car pulled up beside us and the driver motioned Jim to open his window. The fellow began a whole sob story about how he needed money for food and gas so he could get back home for Thanksgiving, or after, I’m not sure which. He offered his driver’s licence and registration as proof of his worthiness. When Jim said he couldn’t help him, he immediately backed up beside another car, then another, tearing around the parking lot like a maniac. He drove a newer looking large car. I wondered if begging was how he managed to pay for it. When we got into the restaurant and reported him, others had already beaten us to it and he was sent on his way. We parked in a TA Truck Stop that night.

This morning we decided it was time for a shower. We can’t fill our water tanks until they’ve been drained of the antifreeze, and we have a source of water, which will require a campsite with hookups. So we took advantage of the showers offered by TA. This was our first experience with this and it took several tries before we figured out how to do it. We had to pay ($13.00 each) at a kiosk to get a pass code to the private shower rooms. While we paid for the first one, a very nice trucker came by and said that he had extra shower credits that he would be glad to give us. He used his membership card to purchase the second shower for us. Somehow, we ended up with a third ticket. The friendly and helpful girl who looked after the showers spoke on our behalf and got us a refund on the one we’d actually paid for. The day was off to a good start, and the lovely warm, soft water, fresh towels and extremely clean shower room made it all the better. We were much later getting started today after all of this, but we were refreshed. Again the sun was shining. The country was flat and the drive a little boring until we crossed the bridge from Illinois to Missouri. Jim thought a side trip into St. Louis would be nice. I agreed, but worried a little about how we’d get around the city with our total of 46 feet of vehicles. My fears weren’t completely unfounded. We were trying to find a place to park near the Gateway Arch, and the waterfront. We started down one hill and could see the water at the bottom, but just as we hit the last block and approached a bridge, we saw the warning: Bridge height only 12ft. 2in.!

Low Bridge

I don’t think so!!

Now we aren’t sure just how high our new rig is, but it has to be close to that. So Jim had to back up the hill to the last intersection and turn the rig around! We then turned right, down another street that soon became a narrow road of cobblestones. For three blocks we slowly bumped over that before we found another street to take us to the waterfront. All along Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd, which borders the harbor, there were “No Parking, Tow-Away Zone” signs posted along the street. Several cars were parked there, but did we want to take a chance? Jim got out and talked to Santa Claus, a horse-drawn carriage driver, who told him where there was free RV parking further along the street.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus

What a beautiful day to get out and walk a bit. The temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius, apparently rare for this time of year. We took pictures of River Boats, and bridges, and the Arch; we took the tram to the top of the Arch and looked down. Two hours later, after getting lost once more, we found our way back to I-44 to continue our journey.

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch

Tonight we’ve taken the evening off, in Sullivan Missouri. If this weather keeps up, tomorrow night we will find a campground where we can get charged up and filled up for the rest of the trip. Branson Missouri is also on tomorrow’s agenda.

A special thanks to Denny’s Restaurants for the great meals and internet access.