What to Look for When Buying a Used Motor home – Learning the Hard Way


We bought our second RV, a full sized motor home, in the spring of 2010. No, actually the second one was another wide-body, longer van that had a higher kitchen area, and an actual toilet, but we changed our minds about that and sold it. We thought we might like to spend a couple of months on the road, so we looked for something bigger, but we didn’t want to spend too much money before we knew if we’d enjoy that lifestyle.

We searched e-Bay and RV Trader, and the local online buy-and-sell where we finally found what we thought we wanted, within our price range.

We drove across town to take a look. It was old, a 1992 Thor Pinnacle, but it was low mileage and seemed to be in good shape. When we went inside the woman told us to take off our shoes because she’d just replaced the baby blue carpet. I wondered at the time how long baby blue carpet would stay clean. I also wondered about the smell of moth balls, but didn’t ask then.

Jim asked questions about the engine and what kind of mileage it got and:

“Do the appliances all work?”

“Yes. I had to replace a part on the fridge, but it worked great the last time I had it out.”

“Why are you selling it?”

“I really don’t want to, but my husband died and for a few years I had some lady friends who would travel with me. I could drive it anywhere, no problem. But they aren’t able to go anymore and I don’t want to go alone.”

“Does the generator work?”

“We only used it a few times. We always were plugged in at campsites.”

“Do the leveling jacks work?”

“We never used them. It was always level where we parked.”

We went home to think about it. She said she needed to know soon because someone from down in the US was thinking of coming up to buy it, sight unseen. Somehow that didn’t sound right, but we didn’t question it.

A few days later we returned with $20,000 cash, prepared to purchase. We took another look around and this time I did ask few questions:

“Why does it smell like moth balls in here?”

“I had mice in the garage so I wanted to make sure they didn’t get into the motor home.” (it was parked in the back yard). “I’ve taken them out now. The smell will soon go away.”

I noticed something I hadn’t noticed the first time. “Why is the hand bar for getting up into the motor home from the driver’s side sitting on the floor?”

“A really big guy was looking at it and yanked it off when he was getting in.”

I think Jim looked under the hood, and checked the tires. We looked in the back compartment and were impressed with the size of it.

We made the deal. She was almost too happy to have all that cash. Were we making a mistake? Were we too trusting? Turns out we were.

At the safety inspection we were told that the tires would soon need to be replaced. They were starting to crack, but they’d be good for a few thousand miles yet. Everything else was good, as I recall.

We took it to the local RV Maintenance Shop where the seller said she had annual inspections done, and talked to them about the fridge work, which they confirmed. They took us through a “tour” explaining how everything worked.  They couldn’t get the generator to run. Then they told us that, even though there was no rust on it, the propane tank needed to be replaced because of its age. They claimed no one would fill it. That would cost $1,000!

We thanked them and left, deciding that what propane remained in the tank would do us for our ten-day maiden voyage, and we would avoid needing the generator.

I gave the motor home a good cleaning and stocked the cupboards. I searched for, and found moth balls hidden in the backs of drawers and cupboards. I used our air exchanger and fans to get rid of the odour.

The day before we were planning to leave, Jim ran an extension cord from the house to the fridge, so it would be cold enough to hold a few food items in the morning. But in the morning the fridge was just as warm as it had been the night before!

Our plan was to drive east through Quebec and then cross the border into Maine, after stopping the first night at my brother’s, just a few hours away from home.

Before we got very far, the coach began to shake. Jim slowed down and it was fine until we reached the same speed and it started again. So we limped into the first city where we could get into a shop right away. The problem was a loose shock stabilizer. Fortunately, they were able to fix it and we were on our way again.

That night it rained. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I spied a wet spot on the ceiling! We went to Canadian Tire for some caulking and an electric cooler, which we filled with a few grocery staples, and continued on our way.

We found a little campground, John’s Camping, somewhere between Trois Rivieres and Deschambault, Quebec that night. We parked beside the man-made pond and were lulled to sleep by the sound of frogs, crickets and loons. That and the sun rising over the pond in the morning were the only positive things of note.  Neither the TV cable, nor the WiFi internet worked from our site. We had to climb up the hill to the office, passing rusted and derelict pieces of abandoned machinery along the way. Our neighbouring trailers looked to be permanent, with strange additions.

 

When we found ourselves at a KOA in Richmond, Maine the next evening, I tried to use the stove, but it wouldn’t light. We figured the gas gauge wasn’t right and we were out, so I had to cook dinner using the microwave. Later, Jim asked the campground manager if he could fill our propane tank, and he said sure, as long as it had no leaks. Well, that saved $1,000! It turned out it wasn’t even empty. I don’t know why I couldn’t light the stove, but it was fine afterwards.

On the first cool night, we were happy to know that the furnace worked, but in the morning we wondered what the terrible smell was. Jim lifted the dining benches, which hid the furnace vent hoses and we were sickened to discover that they were chewed up and full of mice nests and dried feces! We spent a few hours vacuuming, scrubbing and covering the hoses with duct tape!

Thank goodness that was the worst of it for the rest of that trip.

We spent a couple of nights at the KOA in Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where we rode our bicycles to the beach and ate seafood.

Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA

Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA

 

From there we went to Salem, Massachusetts, where we stayed for two nights in Winter Island Park.

Looking out from Winter Island Park

Looking out from Winter Island Park

We caught the tourist trolley the first day, which took us to downtown Salem. We visited the Witch Museum and walked around the harbour where the Friendship ship is moored, but it wasn’t yet open for tourist season.

 

IMG_0713 (2)

 

 

The next day we caught the very inexpensive train to Boston and spent the day doing the City Tour that included a narrated trolley tour and a harbour cruise.

 

Bostonredcoats (2)

Boston Redcoats

 

Our next stop was Plymouth Rock where we spent a few hours, and then drove on to Middleboro for the night.

 

Plymouth Rock

 

 

 

We spent the next day taking care of domestic chores and touring the pretty town of Middleboro.

 

We were in Mystic, Connecticut by early evening the next day. The following morning we rode our bicycles into the Village of Mystic Seaport, a very interesting, restored historic village.

 

 

 

 

Our last stop was to visit with old friends in Bloomfield. We spent the night with them before heading for home.

When we got home, we found a reliable RV repairman and learned that the problem with the fridge was only that the coach had been sitting on a slope in our driveway. The fridge requires it to be level.

It wasn’t until our return from our second trip a few months later  (two months traveling through the US to the Sturgis Bike Rally, San Francisco and up the west coast) that we discovered the loose rust in the bottoms of the storage bins, and consequently the major water damage that had been done to the bottom rails, the floor and the walls!

$2500 later we had the motor home we wanted.

Advertisements

Looking Back – Our first Cross-country trip to British Columbia, through the US


Because we’ve not been traveling since our return from Arizona more than a month ago, I thought it would be fun to revisit our very first cross country trip to British Columbia in 2006. I did do a little blogging about it at the time, on a site that no longer exists. The only purpose of my blogging then was to keep family and friends informed of our progress.

That trip was quite different from the ones we have taken since. Our first “motor home” was an old (1973 I think) high top Chevy camper van. It had a fold-down table with bench seats that could be converted, with great difficulty, into a narrow “double” bed at night, and a small kitchen with overhead cupboards that I hit my head on every time I prepared a meal. There was a two burner propane stove and a finicky mini-fridge. We removed the port-a-potty and used that room for clothing storage. There was no shower; no bathroom sink; no furnace. We had to depend upon public restrooms and campgrounds for personal care and laundry, but we ate many meals in that little camper.

How the Adventure Began

The purpose of our trip was to attend the graduation of my one daughter from the Kootenay School of Arts in Nelson, and the wedding of my second daughter, in Vancouver. We pulled a trailer containing our Yamaha Venture motorcycle to use for transportation once we reached British Columbia.

We left Peterborough at 8:15 in the morning on April 13th and headed west, then north towards Elliot Lake, where we would spend our first night with friends, in the comfort of their apartment. By 11:00 it was time for a pit stop. We saw a sign for gas off to our right.  Thinking we’d use the washroom there, we took the exit.  This is what we found!

It seemed the operating gas station was many kilometers further, so we decided to continue down the highway. A few kilometers outside Parry Sound, we found an information center with washrooms and picnic tables.  After a 45 min. break, we were on the road again.

In Espanola we filled up the gas tank at 106.9 per litre, for a grand total of $104.01 Yikes! That’s why the next day we would cross the border into the US.

By 4:00 we were in Elliot Lake.

The next morning we crossed into Michigan at Sault St. Marie and drove until 9:00 pm (Wisconsin time, 10:00 our time).  We had planned to stop earlier but were unable to find a campground that was open.  We thought we had it planned out with the KOA sites, but it turned out the ones they had listed were 30 or 40 miles away from the highway we’d chosen!  Private ones weren’t open yet.  There weren’t any convenience centres along the way either. When my bladder was about to burst, we finally found a motel and campground in Brule Wisconsin.  The campground wasn’t actually open yet, but they let us park and use the electricity for only $10.  The showers and washrooms were closed, so we had to make do with what we had in the camper.  I sure was wishing we’d kept that port-a-potty! The temperature plummeted during the night and I vowed to purchase an electric heater before the next night arrived.

Highlights of the Next Few Days

April 15 – Easter Sunday, we spent on the road. The weather warmed up, so we postponed getting a heater. We parked for the night at the KOA in Bismark, North Dakota, where we indulged in hot showers before leaving the next morning.

April 16 – We took some time to take pictures of these huge metal sculptures along the highway in North Dakota, and visited Painted Canyon and the Badlands.

We were at the KOA in Billings, Montana by night fall. Later in the evening a thunder and rain storm blew through. It rained all night; the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the Weatherman predicted up to 14 inches of snow the next day!

April 17 – We left camp at 9:00 am. By 10:00 we were driving up the mountains in a blizzard, with no snow tires!

Fortunately, it didn’t last too long, but changed to rain off and on most of the day.  The van really struggled going up the hills. By the final fill up for the day Jim realized that the gas octane he’d been buying was way lower than ours at home.  When he used a higher octane at that fill, it made a world of difference.

After spending a couple of hours in a Walmart debating with an employee about an exchange or refund for a defective camera that Jim had purchased a few months ago, and looking for a heater (they had none), we set out again. We’d thought we’d make it to Nelson that day, but it wasn’t looking good.

We weren’t back on the road long before Jim thought there was a problem with the transmission.  He stopped at a gas station to check it and put in some transmission fluid.  Then it wouldn’t even start!  He checked the batteries and didn’t think it was that.  He thought it was the starter. He spent a half hour taking things apart to get at it and still couldn’t get it fixed.  He finally decided he needed a new starter.  Luckily there was an RV repair center right across the road so he walked over.  The guy came over with his big service truck and boosted the battery.  It was dead, but they discovered that the alternator belt was loose as well, which caused the battery to not charge.  The cost was nominal. I breathed a sigh of relief. We finally got back on our way and stopped at 7:00 pm for the night at the KOA in Missoula, Montana.

BlogPost (13)

Apr 18 – At 4:00 pm our van was parked outside my daughter’s apartment in Nelson, BC where it would stay for the next thirteen days while we attended the family events and travelled around BC on the bike.

It would be May 11th before our 10,000 kilometer trip would end, upon our arrival home.

Looking back now, I wonder how we survived nearly a month in such tight quarters without any major conflicts! Of course a year later we did another month-long trip to Canada’s East Coast, that time on the motorcycle all the way and tenting most of the time.

Last Weeks in Arizona


We’ve been home from Arizona for nearly a week and are finally settled back into a bit of our summer routine, except for the fact that the weather is very much like winter today. In fact we haven’t had more than a few hours of sun since we arrived back in Ontario! We did have a beautiful sunset on our first night, while we were parked in an empty parking lot for the night, and a lovely sunrise at 5:00 a.m. the next morning.

The rest of the drive home was too long to get us there at a reasonable hour, so this is where we stayed, right near a Tim Horton’s!

Our trip back to the frozen north was pretty much uneventful this time, with the usual high winds and gradually falling temperatures, although a little more severe than usual.

I think it was a battle for Jim to keep the beast on the road at times. Even when we were stopped for gas it was rocking.

windsofNM (9)

Flags flying straight out in New Mexico

My big excitement happened when we were driving through Indianapolis. The highway was so full of bumps that the motor-home was coming down hard and rocking. Dishes in our cupboards were rattling and I kept looking back to make sure no doors or drawers were opening. After a particularly hard slam I looked back to see the fridge door swinging all the way open and a can of ice tea hitting the floor just ahead of the suspension bar that had been in place inside the fridge to prevent such occurrences! I rushed back and tried to get the bar back into place, but the ride was too rough. All I could do was push the remaining items back on the shelf and slam the door shut. I picked up the fallen can and then rode the next few miles standing with my back against the fridge and my feet braced against the opposite wall until the road I felt confident enough that slamming had ended and the door might stay closed.

When I sat back down, Jim asked, “What was going on back there?”

We eventually got off the highway. I found a plastic basket to hold the bottles and jars of condiments and put them back into the fridge where they wouldn’t tip over anymore. I put the bar back into place and we were good for the rest of the trip. Lesson learned!

The only stops we made were for food, gas and sleep. We tried a different RV Park in Tucumcari, New Mexico that was really interesting. A note in the office of Cactus RV said, “This is a business. No personal questions.” I wasn’t sure what constituted “personal” but I would love to have asked about the history of these old buildings on the property.

We did have a few more interesting adventures in the Mesa area the last couple of weeks before we left for home.

We took part in the Mesa Regal Polynesian Theme Day, playing ukulele with twenty-five other members of the band, while riding on a float, and then forty-five of us put on a concert on the patio, complete with the Hula Dancers from our neighbour resort. Jim was honoured with much appreciation from his ukulele students.

We went once again to Tempe to the Aloha Festival. This time Jim spent an hour teaching beginner ukulele lessons. When he was done, we looked around the vendor stalls and then sought out our favourite lunch spot. It was a beautiful day to sit on the patio and people-watch. Several people stopped to chat when they noticed our Hawaiian shirts and leis.

One day we drove out Bush Highway to search for wild horses, the one thing that Jim’s daughter Karen asked to do during her visit. We found some!

From there we drove to Fountain Hills and then to Saguaro Lake where we had lunch at the restaurant overlooking the beautiful water.

On Karen’s last day we did a hike on Superstition Mountain, led by our friends and neighbours, Dave and Pauline. It was another perfect day with a few clouds to keep us from overheating. An afternoon neighbourhood St. Paddy’s Day Party and then a trip to the airport with Karen pretty much ended that day. We fell asleep on the couch while attempting to watch a movie.

Our last week was filled with meetings (I’m now the new VP of the Mesa Regal Pickle Ball Club!), meals out with friends, including a trip to the Rockin’ R Ranch, a sort of theme park, for a Chuck-wagon Supper and Western Stage Show,

and many sad goodbyes. But since we’ve both made commitments for the fall, we will be back!

 

 

Sites of El Paso and the End of the Journey


We’ve been in Mesa Regal for two weeks now, and I’m finally getting this post done. Because of competition for internet connection, I decided the only time I was going to be able to get the photos added was to work during the night. So here I am.

We finally got our windshield replaced on Monday, November 6th and were on the road by early afternoon. Once we got back into New Mexico, Jim searched out a State Trooper, hoping to file an Accident Report, but he told us it was too late. However, after seeing how upset Jim was, he offered to give our “friend” Mark a call and try to mediate a settlement. It turned out that Quality Towing was on the rotation in that part of New Mexico, so Mark was a little worried when he got the call. However, he first said he didn’t remember the accident, then had a great excuse as to why he wasn’t paying – “They wanted me to pay for their accommodations, and food as well as the windshield!” We sat with our mouths hanging open. Sure, he should by rights pay for the extra days at the RV Park, but we’d never mentioned that. The insurance company just might, though. Anyway, he finally agreed to have Jim call him to work out a settlement. Before we stopped for the day, Mark called us and asked Jim for a mailing address. He said he’d have a cheque for the window in the mail the next day. As of the date of this posting, the cheque still has not arrived. Fortunately the insurance company paid for all but our deductible, but we had hoped to get that back and pay the insurance company back. Enough of that saga.

While we were in El Paso, Shawn introduced us to many things that we would never have seen if we hadn’t been stranded in the city. As I mentioned before, he checked on us every day of our twelve day stay, and when he learned that we were not yet leaving, he took us out. One day was spent searching for a windshield wiper without success, followed by lunch and grocery shopping; another was spent trying to find someone to weld a very small spot on our old wiper after Jim had managed to fix it to work. Shawn saved the day when he thought of a friend who works for Job Corps. We took it there and had the job done by a student in no time flat!

On other days we saw the highlights of El Paso:

We drove up the mountain to view the city of 700,000

OverlookingCity (1)

OverlookingCity (5)

We visited the Chamizal National Monument

Chamizal National Monument (4)

Cool Murals on the Outside Walls

20171029_135621

Jim and Shawn

Chamizal National Monument (6)

Interesting that the US and Mexican Gov’ts could come to an agreement

US-Mexico Border

The sculpture in the distance marks the US-Mexico border

We peeked through the gates of Southwest University Park, a fairly new Baseball Field that is seldom used, Shawn told us.

Southwest  University ParkSourthwestStadium (2)SourthwestStadium (4)Southwest Stadium (1)

We toured some of the History Museum

history museum digital wall

A moving history lesson on the wall, controlled by the observer

History Museum Digital Wall

We had our picture digitally taken and emailed to our friend in Cincinnati

history museum (1)

A very Antique Fire Engine

We strolled through Concordia Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in El Paso. It was the Week of the Dead, following Halloween, a time when people visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones, and there are often parades through the cemeteries, but this one had few visitors. Except for the Monument to the Buffalo Soldiers, it looked to be abandoned.

Concordia Cemetery (7)Concordia Cemetery (5)Concordia Cemetery (1)

Donators to the Buffalo Soldiers Memorial

Donators to the Buffalo Soldiers Memorial

We spent a good portion of another day enjoying the warm sun while walking through the very modern campus of the University of Texas El Paso (UTEL).

University of Texas El Paso Campus

Beautiful Buildings

Lovely Parks

Lovely Parks

University of Texas El Paso Campus, plants

Interesting Plants. Who knows what this is, at the base of a palm tree?

University (12)

20171104_12151320171104_11592320171104_115705

By Sunday, Shawn’s wife was home and she and her mother met us downtown in the afternoon at the Art Museum where we found many interesting works of art, especially the Day of the Dead collages created by students from many of the local schools, mostly commemorating deceased music artists.

ArtMuseum (3)ArtMuseum (2)ArtMuseum (28)

ArtMuseum (19)ArtMuseum (20)ArtMuseum (7)ArtMuseum (6)ArtMuseum (5)ArtMuseum (16)

We stopped into the Ysleta Mission, located in the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. It is recognized as the oldest continuously operated parish in the State of Texas.

Mission (8)Mission (1)Mission (2)Mission (3)

On the way back to our “home”, at Jim’s suggestion, we stopped into the largest Harley Davidson Store in the country. I think we got Shawn dreaming of riding down the highway with the wind in his hair.

Again we expressed thanks to Shawn. We really did enjoy seeing the city through his eyes, and he said he enjoyed learning a thing or two about Canada. It worked out well. But by Monday we were ready to be on the road again.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona – Continuing the Journey Part 2


After our stroll around the Camp Washington property, and chatting with our RV neighbours, Lisa and Vicky, and the maintenance guy, it was 10:30 before we left to go back to the Caverns. We spent a couple of hours taking our time and taking pictures on the 1¼ mile walk down to the bottom, doing the self-guided tour. Trying to capture the beauty was difficult without more sophisticated equipment, but we did our best. It’s amazing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By the time we reached the bottom it was well past lunch time and we’d worked up good appetites, so we took advantage of the sandwiches and drinks that could be purchased in the only area where food was permitted. We wanted to continue touring the 8.2 acre “big room” but decided, since it would take another hour and a half to explore its perimeter, we would have to return another time. We were anxious to get to El Paso so we could touch base with the glass company and the tow truck driver and get the windshield repaired.

When we got back down to the highway and saw a sign telling us that there were no services for the next 138 miles, Jim pulled into the only gas station around to top up our tank. That shouldn’t have taken long, but a while earlier there had been a gas spill there and the pumps had been turned off. We had to wait until the manager returned to reset them!

At last we were headed back south at 2:30 pm. The scenery was boring with nothing but  dry, empty fields for miles and miles. The sun shone bright and hot through the front windows.

Desolate road

Desolate road

The battery on our Bluetooth speaker had died  so we could listen to no music – no radio stations, no cell service, just desolation. By the time we arrived at Mission RV Park in El Paso at 5:00 local time, we were both out of sorts. The sun reflecting on the windshield cracks (which had spread further) made it difficult for Jim to see where he was going to find our spot. I had a major tension headache. When Jim checked in he asked how far it was to the nearest restaurant. Five miles! Across the highways! But they did have take-out menus for a Chinese Restaurant and a Pizza House. After a heated discussion we settled on an order from the Chinese Restaurant. Jim tried to order from his phone; it wouldn’t work. Before that he’d tried to put the slide out; it didn’t work. Hence the “heated discussion” over what to eat for dinner! I called in the order. The menu was very confusing and we ended up with enough food to last us for three meals, which was a good thing, since we were miles away from a grocery store and had no idea how long we’d be here.

The next day Jim called the glass place (Safelite), only to be told that none of their suppliers had our windshield and there was nothing they could do for us. We wondered if that meant the motor home would be written off because the windshield couldn’t be replaced! One reason we chose this RV Park is because it has an RV Repair Shop and the windshield wiper also needed to be replaced. Jim went in to see them but they didn’t have a wiper for us and made no offer to try to track one down. They did, however, have the name of another glass place that might help us. Jim made the call and got good/bad news; they could get it in, but it would take 5 to 7 days! He called the glass place back home that had previously replaced the passenger side glass. They could have one shipped to us in about the same length of time. Jim called Mark Moisa at Quality Towing in Carlsbad to tell him what was happening, since we had not heard anything from him. He didn’t answer his phone, but returned the call right away. He asked Jim to send him the information for the local glass installer that we had, saying he’d call him. Then we waited for his approval to order the glass, because he was going to pay for it. And we waited. Jim called again in the afternoon and was told by whoever answered the phone that Mark was in a meeting and would call back in about an hour. He didn’t. Jim called the glass fellow and learned that Mark had called him to get the quote, saying he’d call him back. He didn’t. Later that evening, Jim blocked his cell phone number and called Mark again. When he answered and found out who it was he gave an incredulous story about being at an accident scene that involved his driver being hit and there were police cars, and ambulances and he had been talking to the police for three hours and had to go talk to them again, but he would take care of us as he’d promised. He’d call back “in a few minutes.” That was the last we heard from him.

Jim tried once more on Friday, but was again told that he was in a meeting. We gave up and called our insurance company with the story. An adjuster called back for more details. Jim gave him a quote from the local glass company, and the one in Canada, but still the adjuster said he’d have to send out an appraiser, and then we’d need to get more quotes. He also wanted quotes for the other damage (windshield wiper, and few dings/cracks in the fiberglass). He said it would be two weeks before the windshield would be fixed or replaced! Jim told him that was unacceptable and reminded him of our circumstances and the extra expense of continuing to stay in this park. He relented, called the local glass company for the quote and then gave permission to order the windshield.  We have to pay the $300 deductible. The insurance company will go after Quality Towing for reimbursement. I hope they have better luck than we did.

Oh, Jim asked the adjuster if the motor home would have been written off had we not been able to find a replacement windshield. His response, “No we’d have a new one manufactured, but it could take up to six months.” Thank goodness we found one and it is now on its way to us! We are still here, waiting.

There have been a few positives since then. Jim figured out what was wrong with his phone, and was able to fix the slide out problem. I did some baking and made a pot of chili. I got caught up on my blog posting and laundry.

We have made a few friends that have made the waiting easier. On Wednesday night we shared drinks and conversation with a couple from New Zealand who were parked next door to us. Sadly, they left the next morning. Friday afternoon another couple came in on the other side of us. They were here for the weekend to watch their son play hockey. They took us with them to the Friday night game (about which I’ve already posted). We stayed mostly in the park on Saturday, venturing only a couple of miles on foot up to the highway interchange where we found a full service center that carried some groceries and a Subway, if we got really in need of food. We bought some bananas and a bottle of wine to carry back. We played some pickleball on the vacant tennis court.

Thanks to Nawton and Peggie, Carol and John for taking our minds off our troubles for a bit.

A friend of Jim who lives in Connecticut happens to have a friend, Shawn, in El Paso. He suggested Jim give him a call. On Sunday Shawn took us out for a tour of the city, lunch, and then to stock up on groceries. He’s recently retired and his wife is away for the week so he was happy to have company and something to do. Yesterday he took us sightseeing again, and drove us around in search of a wiper, to no avail. Today he’d planned to take us downtown to some of the museums, but when Jim showed him how he thought he could repair the wiper if he could find someone to do a tiny bit of welding for him, Shawn thought of places he could take us. Each place was unable to help. We even went to the Ford Dealership to inquire about ordering a new wiper. They had nothing in their catalogue. Then Shawn came up with the idea to check with a former colleague of his who now works for a job training center. What a good call! His friend got one of the students to do the welding.

An enormous thank you goes out to Shawn, who has kept us from going insane. Maybe tomorrow we’ll finally get to tour downtown. 🙂

Now we have everything taken care of except the windshield. We’re hoping it will be done by the end of the week and then we’ll be on a direct route to Mesa, Arizona.

Life is much better now, thanks to these generous people.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona – Continuing the Journey


We left Stanton, Missouri on Sunday morning and headed toward Springfield, hoping to have lunch at Lambert’s Café again. Unfortunately it was just too busy. We didn’t feel we wanted to wait the hour and a half to get a seat, so we found a little Mexican Café in the mall across the street, and were soon on our way again. We pushed on to Edmond, Oklahoma before stopping for dinner and the night at the local Cracker Barrel Restaurant. That was not a good place to spend the night. It was located at the intersection of two highways and there were two truck stops on the corners. The noise continued until well into the night, so we didn’t get much sleep.

We were on the road by 9:15 the next morning and crossed into Texas before noon. Since we were not far away, we made a detour into McLean again. This time the restaurant and the museum were open. We spent a couple of hours eating and looking around, before journeying on through to Amarillo arriving in late afternoon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just a few of the many, many interesting historical items in the Museum

As we turned south onto I-27  Jim saw the sign for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Remembering that our friend Alice had suggested we should go see it, we followed the directions. We were glad of it. It’s beautiful! We drove around the canyon before the sun was gone, and took lots of pictures. We camped there for the night. All was dark and quiet, a big difference from our last night stop.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next morning we continued on to New Mexico. Our plan was to go to the Carlsbad Caverns. When we stopped for gas at Tulia, Texas, we watched this crop duster at work.

We arrived in Carlsbad at 2:30 in the afternoon and stopped into the Chamber of Commerce to get information about the Caverns and camping. We were too late to catch the last tour of that day, but we learned that there was a big bat exodus from the caves in the early evening. Donna was very helpful in finding us a place to park for the night as there was nothing at the Caverns. After stopping for some groceries on the way out of town, we drove south toward the Caverns.

That is when our plans took an unwanted turn! The highway wasn’t very busy. We were cruising along in the right hand lane and coming up to a flatbed tow truck that was riding in the left hand land. It had two pickup trucks on it and Jim hesitated to hurry past it because the load looked possibly precarious. I was just going to comment on it when suddenly the cap came up off the first pickup. We thought it would just go over the other truck and land in its bed, but instead the wind turned it into a flying missile heading directly for us! Jim braked as hard as he safely could and swerved slightly to the right. Visions of the thing crashing through the windshield and knocking Jim out flashed through my mind. With a very loud thump it hit the windshield right in front of his face, but fortunately it didn’t break through! The tow truck seemed to keep on going until Jim blasted the horn several times. Our windshield was badly cracked, but the worst of it was below eye level, so Jim could still see. Eventually the truck pulled over to the right shoulder ahead of us and a white company pick up pulled in behind it. We were both in shock! The tow truck driver/owner walked back to see if there was any damage. He was looking at the body of the RV. Jim pointed out the windshield. He introduced himself, apologized many times, got a clipboard from his truck, and began writing down the details of the damage. The windshield wiper was broken off and there were a few dings on the fiberglass. At first I thought he said that the cap hadn’t been strapped down, but later he said that it had but the strap had broken. He said that he saw it go flying. He immediately took responsibility, calling a mobile auto glass repair company and asking them if they could get a new windshield for us. He told them that he wanted to pay for it right away, but they said they would let him know if they had one first. He told us we should drive to the nearest big city, El Paso Texas where we should be able to get the wiper replaced, and to let him know where we were when we arrived so that the glass company could find us. He gave us his business card. I asked about compensation for an extended stay and, although he didn’t think that would be necessary, he agreed to pay for one night. We had no cell service on that desolate highway, but we felt confident that he was going to make sure we were taken care of.

cracked windshield

Our cracked windshield

IMG_3578

The cap being put into truck

We watched the cap being loaded into his pickup truck and strapped down (the tow truck had already been taken away by the other driver), before we pulled back onto the road and made our way to Carlsbad Caverns. There was nothing more we could do.

The bat flight was to begin at 5:45. We arrived in the parking lot, after a seven mile up-hill climb, at 5:00 and had a quick snack before finding our way to the amphitheater situated at the entrance to the bat cave. A Park Ranger talked to us about the thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats that would fly en-mass from the cave for a night of feasting on insects. He told us that there would be no more than two chances to witness this flight before the bats would leave to migrant south.  In fact, there was no absolute certainty that they would even appear that night, but shortly after six the exodus began. Everyone, even the small children, sat in perfect silence, watching with mouths agape, as the bats flew in funnel –like formation before moving off in clusters in search of their prey. By seven o’clock they were still emerging, but the sun had gone down and we were cold and tired and still had to find our campsite further down the highway so we left. Our hearts were in our mouths when we noticed that we’d left the motor home lights on! Jim was amazed and relieved when the motor turned over with the first turn of the key.

Bat Flight

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the actual flight. This is a picture of a picture.

Us in front of bat cave

The accommodations that Donna had booked for us were not at an RV Park, but one of three sites at the Camp Washington Conference Centre. The two nearby RV Parks were both completely full. We knew from the map the general area of the Camp and we put the address into the GPS. Finding the exit off the highway was easy, but we were taken on a long winding dirt road back into the woods, toward a mountain, and then a sharp turn. We were told that it was a beautiful spot, but it was so dark, we had no way of knowing. Finally we came upon a large building with a lighted parking lot – the office. We were told that it would be closed, but someone would collect our money in the morning. The trouble is, we could see no sign of any other RVs. There was supposed to be one other. We looked around with a flashlight, and started down another road that seemed to lead to other buildings, but it was narrow and the willow trees hung too low for us to get under them, so we backed up and turned around. Jim found a notice on the building that said the RV sites were on the north side of the property, which would be somewhere behind the building, but we saw that there was a lake there! We drove back the way we’d come until we found another dirt road to the right. It looked doubtful to me, but Jim pushed on. The road got more and more narrow. We came to an old Fire Station. Then we saw an arch with the sign Camp Washington. We eased our way through and as we turned around a clump of trees we saw the other motorhome and a few other buildings. After we pulled in, our neighbour came out to greet us and assured us that it was a really beautiful spot in the day light. At least it was quiet, if cold. We were so happy to crawl under the covers for a good rest.

I was up at the break of dawn hoping to catch some good photos in the sunrise. Here are some of the things we saw before and after breakfast.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was wishing we could stay another night, but we wanted to see the Caverns and then had to be on our way to El Paso. On the way out we discovered that at the fork in the road coming in, we should have taken the one to the right, not the left.

From Las Cruces to Clovis, We’re Still in New Mexico!


 

This might just be our longest trip home yet!

As I mentioned in my last post, we stopped on Monday night at the Coachlight Inn and RV Park in Las Cruces. There were some “interesting” rvs in that park! Obviously no restrictions on what you had or how long you stayed applied.

The weather was good when we left and got warmer as we drove. In fact, at one point my upper legs inside my black jeans got a little bit burned from the sun streaming through the window. Then it was time to change into shorts and sandals.

The scenery gradually changed to more trees and less desert. It was quite beautiful. One snow-capped mountain peak caught my attention, behind lower mountain ranges, and we seemed to follow it for twenty miles or more. I think it might be Captain Mountain.

IMG_2333IMG_2335

We stopped for a late lunch in Roswell and ended up spending a couple of hours there, taking pictures and touring the UFO Museum. Roswell is the nearest town to the suspected site of the UFO crash in 1947. It was really interesting to read all of the articles and eye-witness accounts on display in the museum, some believable; some questionable. Is it true that, after admitting to the event, the government suddenly had a change of heart and covered it all up ?

IMG_2343IMG_2345IMG_2346IMG_2348IMG_2347

The theme of the whole city is aliens and UFOs, with souvenir shops selling every sort of thing that could be imagine from post cards to green soccer balls painted to look like alien heads.

IMG_2342

This creative interpretation was outside one shop.

IMG_2351

It was a fun few hours, but the delay meant we wouldn’t make it out of New Mexico that night. And today extremely high winds are keeping us put right where we ended up, at Travelers World Good Sam RV Park outside Clovis, New Mexico! The temperature has dropped and we’ve had a bit of rain. Because we don’t dare engage our leveling jacks for fear they won’t retract, the coach is really rocking.

Hoping tomorrow we might make it across Texas, but that’s not even certain. Good thing we allowed ourselves two weeks to get home.