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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our cracked windshield

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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.

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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.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona


Many of you know from following me on Face Book that we are now in El Paso, Texas, stranded until we can get a windshield replaced. I won’t go into further details now, because I’d rather share some of the lovely trip we’ve had along the way before this problem suddenly hit us. Before now I’ve not had adequate internet connections to post anything.

 

After his carpal tunnel surgery, Jim was forced to wait until October 17th before he had his second appointment with his surgeon and was given the green light for us to leave for Arizona. By then we had most of what we needed already loaded into the motorhome, and we’d planned to finish up some things in Peterborough while we were there, in preparation for leaving the next morning. Well, as usual, the best laid plans don’t always work out. The US money that I ordered wouldn’t be into my bank until the next day, and our barber wasn’t working that day. We got the rest done and figured we’d just stop back in on our way through Peterborough in the morning.

We were up very early to load the remaining items, mostly the food and the electronics. It didn’t seem like much, but it was 10:30 by the time we got away. When we were finished making our stops in Peterborough it was lunch time. We picked up wraps at Tim Horton’s and then finally got on the road. We’d planned to go only as far as Jim’s cousin’s place which we thought was near the Windsor/Detroit border. They were expecting us for dinner. It was just a tad further than we thought, but we arrived by 6:00 pm, exhausted. After a delicious meal of organic beef and fresh vegetables from their own farm, a couple of their friends joined us for some old fashioned hymn singing. One son played his guitar and Jim played his ukulele. It was a lovely evening.

The problem with getting together with long-lost relatives is that there is so much catching up to do and it’s hard to stop talking! Once again, we didn’t get on the road until after one in the afternoon. Therefore, we didn’t get too far that day either. We did have one new little adventure though. Dave had suggested we take a the ferry across the river from Sombra, Ontario to Marine City, Michigan, instead of our usual trip over the bridge into Detroit. It was small, and we had our doubts that there would be room for us, but they squeezed us on! It was a short and easy crossing into the US.

Wondering if they will take us

Wondering if they will take us

We squeezed on!

We squeezed on!

Entering the US

Entering the US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Customs, Marine City

US Customs, Marine City

From Marine City we just pushed onward. Traffic going through Detroit was very slow, taking us over an hour to get through the city. Shortly after 6:00 we crossed the state border into Ohio and forty-five minutes later we called it a night in the Walmart parking lot in Napoleon, about two hours from the border into Indiana. The sunset was beautiful.

Sunset in Ohio

On day three we were up early and barreled right through Indiana and Illinois, stopping only for gas and meals. As usual, we got a little lost going through St.

Louis Missouri. We stopped at the KOA RV park in Stanton Missouri for a couple of nights so we could see the Meramec Caverns that we’d missed due to timing the first couple of times we were there. It had been raining off and on all day and was still drizzling when we arrived.

The next morning we left for the Caverns. This year we don’t have our trailer and motorcycle with us, so we have no transportation other than the RV. Jim thought we would unhook it and drive down to the Caverns, but it was only three miles. I thought we could walk as it was a nice day. After the first mile of winding, hilly road with little to no shoulders, we stopped at a yard sale to buy a backpack for $1.00 because the temperature had climbed and we found our hands were too full with cameras and water bottles, and the sweaters and jackets that we no longer needed. When we saw the sign for a very steep grade, we knew we might be in trouble when it was time to climb back up. The going down was difficult enough. We think that the three miles was as the crow flies, not as the road turns!

When we finally made it to the Meramec Caverns Centre, we had to nourish ourselves with pumpkin pie and coffee at the cafeteria before embarking on the eighty minute Cavern Tour.

At the entrance to the Caverns is a large room that was set up with a stage and chairs, ready for the 150th Annual Gospel Sing that would happen later in the day.

Meramec CavernsOutside Meramec Caverns

Outside Meramec Caverns

 

It wasn’t until we were about half way through the tour that we began to see the beautiful “decorations” inside the caverns, but it was a worthwhile, if pricey excursion.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Rippling Texture

Rippling Texture

Water Reflections

Water Reflections

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

When we returned to the surface we considered buying tickets for the Gospel Sing, but I was just too hungry. We hit the cafeteria once again for lunch. Once back outside we watched people taking the Zip-line over the parking lot and river. If we hadn’t been so tired, and hadn’t seen most of the participants struggle to make it back to the stand on their return trip, we might have tried it ourselves. Of course the cost of $50 each was a little prohibitive too.

Taking off

Taking off

And away!

And away!

Struggling against the wind

Struggling against the wind

We could postpone our trek back up the hill no longer, and we were right. We were in trouble. Half way up we started putting out our thumbs. The Gospel Sing had just ended and there was plenty of traffic, but the first half dozen cars passed us by. Finally, a nice senior couple stopped and cautiously allowed us into their back seat. I’m sorry that I didn’t get their names, but we had a nice chat and we were ever so grateful. We had walked over seven miles at that point, once again reminded that we are not as young as we sometimes think we are. We were in bed very early that night.

A Welcoming “Home”


December 8th in Mesa Regal! Yes, we did arrive safely without any more annoyances, last Wednesday. Although it wasn’t hot when we arrived, it was a whole lot warmer than the night before in Holbrook, and it was wonderful to be greeted by our neighbours. It’s like coming home to family. So much so that it takes a long time to get settled in because of all the stories to be shared as people pass by on the street. A couple of fellows helped Jim to unload the bike from the trailer and push the trailer into the lot, something I just didn’t feel quite confident enough to do this time. We love it! By the time we finally got things somewhat organized (slide out, floor swept, cooler outside instead in the middle of the floor, etc.) I was too tired to cook, so we began the walk to see what the Grill had to offer.  We didn’t get too far. Our neighbours Bob and Cheryall saw us going by and invited us in to share their lovely meal of leftover beef and gravy with lots of veggies and salad. After the equivalent of a   large glass of wine (Cheryall kept replenishing what I drank) to accompany it, all my former stresses had disappeared and I felt no pain in my hip that night while I slept.

Thursday morning we were at the weekly coffee and donuts meeting held in Regal Hall, with some of our neighbours who’d saved us seats. This meeting is an opportunity for the Activity Committee and the Sales Team to bring us up-to-date on the coming events for the next week.

When we got home from there, we sorted the laundry in order to take it to the laundry room. I searched everywhere I could think of, but I couldn’t find either of the two laundry cards that we possess. I had to buy yet another when I finally got to the laundry room that evening, while Jim went to the ukulele jam. Somehow we just never got off the block during the day.

But our troubles weren’t over quite yet. On Friday when we did some grocery shopping at the very convenient Fry’s Store I discovered that the change they’d made at the end of last winter season, the one that caused my Debit Visa Card to become “unaccepted” was still not resolved. Fortunately I had some cash. Then we went to the fresh produce market across the street, where I had no problem using that same card last year, only to find that it no longer works there either. Back at the park, I went to the ATM to withdraw some more cash, knowing that was never a problem. The ATM was temporarily out-of-order! By the end of the day I discovered that somewhere along my journeys I’d lost the new bracelet that I’d treated myself to at the Country Store that morning. Saturday morning our fridge decided again that it was a freezer. Luckily most of the fruit and veggies I’d bought the day before were in the outside cooler. It was Sunday morning when Jim figured out how to fix that, and things started to turn around.

We borrowed a neighbour’s car and drove to Phoenix to look for another car; Jim drove back in this 2003 Sebring!

car

It seems to be a very good buy. We might not want to sell this one at the end of the winter. That evening we went out for dinner with a group of ukulele players, and then to the Mesa Arts Centre to see, again, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – another fabulous two hour show.

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Other than finding out that the local internet provider, Century Link, was unable to connect us up this year because the wiring at this, our new chosen site, is fried, the week has gone well. We went back to using a T-Mobile Hot Spot for internet. We spent some time watching the three-day Pickleball Tournament here in the park; I volunteered a couple of hours working in the kitchen selling lunches.

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We got the RV washed. Today I was pleased to see that my Debit Visa Card still works at Costco, and that I was able to dance to the rock and roll music of Come Back Buddy on the patio this afternoon.

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The temperature climbed enough for us to dig out the shorts too. Life is good (as long as I can ignore that little nagging feeling in my gut that something just isn’t right and trouble is on the way). That reminds me – better register with the Canadian Embassy.

That’s all for now folks. Hope to have some new real adventure stories in the new year, but for now it looks like birthday parties and Christmas parties and bocce ball and maybe some pickleball are filling our calendar.

WISHING YOU AND YOURS A MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!