Friday, September 24, 2010

RAIN ! Inside and out !

SEPT. 25

Never made it into the Petrified Forest, as the sky decided to cloud up and dump rain all over the area. There was massive flooding in Albuquerque, where residents experienced the most rain in recorded history! Anyone who knows about our travels will understand the humor in this, although what we usually hear is that the area we visit – no matter where we are in the world – is having the hottest weather recorded in their history. We’ve become used to such things and simply roll our eyes every time another “record” something or other happens just in time for our visit.

I just love working in the rain ! 
The storm was warm (almost tropical), and the RV park was unpaved, though there were patches of gravel scattered across portions of the red, muddy ground. Puddles turned into tiny lakes, and I wondered if we were in an area subject to flash flooding. Thankfully, the pounding storm moved East, and we finally got on the road about lunch time, trailing slightly behind the nasty weather.

One thing we’ve already learned about spending a lot of time on the road is that just about everywhere you go, there will be an Indian casino with a buffet. The food is almost always terrific (a good way to draw people there to gamble), and is always very reasonable. And for me, the cook, if we eat a larger meal at lunch time, I can open a can of soup or mix up a protein drink for dinner.

Great buffet lunch at the casino outside Albequerque.

After finding a nice RV park, opening up the slide-outs, and settling in, I opened an upper cupboard and discovered a small flood inside. Water had dripped from an apparent leak that had given way in the deluge of water the night before. So (sigh), it was into the nearest RV repair shop for repairs.

By the time we picked up Shamu, it was too late to make our next destination. We ran errands while the RV was in the shop, so we only went a little further and found another place to stay overnight. One thing we have discovered since being on the road is that most of the RV parks are built directly next to the busy highway! I don’t understand the logic in this. Why don’t they simply put a sign directing anyone with an RV towards their location?? But, no! The RV park is often located on the frontage road, so that you feel as if you’re sleeping on the highway. Needless to say, one of the first purchases we made was a package of ear plugs. Still, there wasn’t much sleep happening this night. Several motorcycles raced back and forth for well over an hour about midnight. Oh, did I mention the train tracks that were nearby? Toot, toot!!!!

KoA campgrounds seem to be the worst, when it comes to the noise factor. Tonight we’ll search for a NON-KoA. A place far enough away from the highway that you can hear a pin drop!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Flagstaff / Williams AZ

Shamu gets weighed  ( and, no, I don't mean at weight wachers ! )
September 23 – Left William, AZ (near Flagstaff) on Hwy. 40 heading east. We got off fairly late. Rick needed to fix some things, like a cupboard that sprung the magnet when we had to hang a U-turn in a bumpy, unpaved lot. Everything bounced, but other than the one ruined cupboard thingy, we came through it with a nothing more than thick coating of dust on everything. Did you know that you can’t back up when pulling a tow car? I sure didn’t…until we had that small adventure searching for a place to turn around on a narrow two-lane highway way after we missed a turn-off. At an overall length of 58 feet, doing much of anything except driving in a straight line can be challenging.

We weigh about 28,000 lbs., which Rick says is lower than he expected. And no, all of you smartie pants. That doesn’t include the two Fliedners! I’m not telling how many more pounds would be added to the tonnage if we were both included in that number. And how do we know how much our rig weighs? Because Mr. Rick simply had to find a truck stop with one of those weighing stations for big rig truckers!

So picture our RV, which we have tentatively named Shamu because of its very plain light grey (supposedly, silver) and black markings, among huge trucks. Imagine the glare of the hardened truckers as Rick spun around not once, not twice, but three times through the one and only scale available. He had to weigh Shamu in various configurations to determine the weight distribution. Most amazing was that we were only given “the finger” once, though there were a few strange looks and shoulder shrugs when we pulled in front of trucks twice our size!

Shamu at the left, pretty coaches to the right.
 Speaking of Shamu’s battleship gray and black exterior, I took a photo of our RV parked next some of the fancy rigs that surround us in the RV campgrounds. If I could draw, I’d make a cartoon of the other “pretty” RVs (with all of their expensive, swirly paint jobs) pointing and laughing at poor Shamu when we roll into our parking spot. We bought an ugly duckling, but saved a good amount of money by doing so. On the other hand, the poor beast may deserve a new coat of many colors this winter when we return to So. Calif. On the other, other hand, if we keep having to have repairs made constantly, the money tree may be bare by then!

No fat jokes, please, but we Fliedners were really excited when saw our first sign for a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. There aren’t any in California, so when we travel out of state, we make frequent stops at this down-home cooking, countrified eatery. Rick says they serve the best chicken and dumplings he’s ever tasted. I opted for a low cal chicken dish, though the side orders included fried apples with cinnamon. And the gift shop is terrific. Old-fashioned candies, home d├ęcor, fun clothes, and seasonal items. I bought a really great Halloween shirt, covered with sequins and colored stones, pumpkins and witches, and even the silhouette of a haunted house! (This should drive my kids nuts!)

Tonight, we’re in Gallup, NM, near the entrance to the Petrified Forest National Park. We’ll be detouring into the park in the morning to take photos and check it out. Rick and I have both been there, but we were little kids and have few memories of the place. The literature, however, sings the park’s praises -- its colorful beauty and postcard-worthy vistas seem to be worth the extra hour or two it will take to get off of Hwy. 40

The photo is of the overflowing drain in the shower this morning, a “slight” miscalculation about how full the “gray” water tank ACTUALLY was!! Won’t make that mistake again! (Drain, baby, drain!)

Shower filling up with water.
Another view of shower. ..  dumb !!

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that we LOVE truck stops? They’re so great and have everything imaginable that one might need on the road, including inexpensive books on tape. Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole, into a world filled with big rigs, mud flaps, and today’s version of a rough-and-tumble cowboy. Surprisingly, when you’re rubbing shoulders with them in the truck stops, they’ve very polite.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flagstaff and cool weather !

DAY 3, SEPT. 20

Woke up early and made eggs for breakfast. Rick knew that the coach wasn’t completely level, but didn’t know how to fix the problem. The jacks automatically adjust the entire RV, and we’re on a bit of a slope, so our front wheels are literally off the ground about a foot. Still, when I dropped the eggs into the electric skillet this morning, they all slid down to the end of the pan. Rick took a picture of me attempting to put the last egg in the pan; it rolled down to the bottom, low end of the pan in an instant. I had to fight gravity with my spatula, and the eggs were a total wreck. I don’t know if cracking eggs into a pan would make a better leveling device than the fancy one Rick has! 
Using eggs to level the coach !

After a leisurely morning and a little fussing around rearranging a few cupboards, we headed into downtown Flagstaff for lunch and to run a few errands. After eating at a Southwestern Mexican restaurant, I headed to the ladies’ room and had an interesting experience. An elderly Navajo woman was in there with her granddaughter. She wore the traditional clothing (long navy blue skirt, untucked eggplant-colored blouse with silver belt, silver and turquoise jewelry, and leather moccasins. Her gray hair was fastened on her head with a silver comb. She looked like a painting. The lines on her face reflected her years in the sun. Her deep-set eyes reflected sadness. The two of them conversed in Navajo, one of the most difficult languages on the planet (which is why the Navajo Indians were used in WWII to transmit vital messages in their native tongue to confuse the enemy. No one could break the code of the Code Talkers!). It’s not every day that I hear Navajo spoken. It’s an ancient language, nearly wiped out by our well-meaning ancestors who rounded up Native American children, forced them off of the reservations, and shipped them to Indian Schools, where they were forbidden to speak their native language. The object was to Americanize the young Native people; to “civilize” the “savages” and bring them into the fold with the rest of the “foreigners.” The great experiment didn’t work.

The curious writer in me I wanted to ask her a thousand questions. But she spoke no English. Instead, I simply smiled, nodded, and said “hello.” Her granddaughter translated. The old woman smiled and dipped her chin to say hello back. It was a small thing, but something really cool!

Our next stop was good ol’ Walmart for some odds and ends we forgot to bring. I immediately noticed two women dressed in strange, long dresses. They were identical, except for the color. The women’s hair-dos were also the same, swept up in an oddly high roll with no bangs. There was a movie about one of the polygamous Mormon groups on t.v. a few weeks ago, and these women were obviously the victims of one of these strange cults. But what were they doing in Walmart, for heaven sakes?

I tried not to stare; others didn’t try to ignore them. A few minutes later, and there was yet another wife with a couple of children in tow. She wore the identical dress in pale green. She couldn’t have been more than 13 or 14. Were these her children? Not only were these women dressed the same, they were all expressionless: no anger, no happiness. Just vacuous eyes and blank expressions. What I really wanted to do was to kidnap the youngest of his wives. To take her to safety somewhere where she wouldn’t be forced to have sex with a man old enough to be her father. Why are these cults still allowed? Isn’t this statutory rape? At least two of these wives were obviously under 18. Isn’t it against the law to have plural marriages, especially with minors? I know that only the first wife is legally married to the man who is the center of the cult. The rest are wives in name only…. Ugh.

And then there HE was…the king/slave owner/husband of all of these women. Most likely, he had left more at home. He was 50ish, homely, skinny, and wore a plaid shirt, jeans, and belt with a wide belt buckle. No homemade clothing for this jerk. He pushed a grocery basket with two small children (maybe 2 or 3 years old). The little girl was dressed in a miniature version of the women’s dresses. And the boy wore a “store-bought” plaid shirt and jeans, like his daddy.

Okay, I admit that I had a reaction when I saw him. He came down the aisle where I was shopping and stopped beside me. I wanted to shout at him, to call him a pig, or pedophile, or any number of other names. Instead, what slipped out was, “Oh, god. It’s him. The lord and master.” I didn’t mean to say it outloud! Rick said, “The husband?” I motioned to what the children were wearing. “Yep! It’s him, all right.” I looked straight into that old letch’s eyes…make that, I glared into his eyes. No, I didn’t say anything else, but he heard our comments and quickly left.

The last I saw them, the “husband/owner/master” led his flock of wives and children out the front door, like a duck leading a line of obedient ducklings. I knew there were groups of these extremists in Utah and a few other states. But Flagstaff? In the mountains, where ranches off the beaten path are deep under snow for the winter? What do they do for money? Most of these cults are farmers. Does this guy own a cattle ranch and use his wives and kids for earning money to spend in the outside world? After all, they were shopping at a retail store. Even Walmart requires money!

Lastly, I wondered what these wives think about all of us. What comes to mind is the song lyrics, “How ya gonna keep them down on the farm, once they have seen Paree” (Paris).” And what about little children who have been exposed to non-cult children and kids’ toys, candy bars, etc. Will they continue the madness that these cults spoon-feed them, or will they reject it and enter society at some point? Hum…food for thought. What do you think?

Campground at Williams AZ

Another view of the Williams campground.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Real Trek begins !!!

DAY 2, SEPT. 19

Rick and I both ached from head to toe, and shoulder-to-shoulder. It was all of the lifting and stretching, loading up the beast for the big trip. Lunch in Bullhead City adjacent to Laughlin. The Colorado River looks like it has less water in it than ever. Hopefully, the winter rains in the north will help. From here, Hwy. 40 is a high desert terrain, interrupted by piles of huge boulders and jagged lava flows dusted with piles of sand. Hours of boredom later, the bleak terrain gave way to mountains, as we climbed to an elevation of nearly 7.000 feet. I say, “climbed,” when it was actually more of a chug-along at 45 mph in the steepest sections of the highway. The cedar pines were sparse at first, but the higher we got, the thicker the forest became. By the time the roadway leveled out, we were back up to speed, and the beauty spread out before us like a postcard: cornflower blue sky, a pillow-soft clouds, and a blanket of green forests stretching to the horizon.

Tonight, we stayed just outside of Flagstaff, AZ. I cooked a nice fajita dinner, and we stayed aboard the rest of the night. The temperature dropped from slightly too warm to eat outside, to a very chilly 58 degrees inside the coach in the early morning hours. Rick turned the heater on for the first time, and we were snug as the proverbial bug in a shag rug.

Tomorrow, we’ll spend time shopping, eating, and exploring Flagstaff.

Sunday, September 19, 2010



After several days of frustration with Time Warner and problems with our alarm system, we finally got on the road; albeit two days later than planned! We were both exhausted and hot, so we decided to stop just outside of Barstow at the foot of the mountains where Calico Ghost Town is located. It was a KoA campground, and in spite of its location in the Calif. Desert, there were trees and bushes providing a smitten of shade. Our first night was pleasant. When we arrived, it was 111 degrees outside. We felt a guilty; we were so comfortable, sitting in our RV with the air conditioning, color t.v., and fully equipped kitchen. I made a simple dinner and had made a low-cal macaroni salad to go with the main course, veggie dogs. It takes time figuring out where you’ve stashed items, like the napkins. But it’s coming along, and in a couple of weeks, we should have this whole thing down pat!

When we checked into the campground office, a very British couple was at the desk. They were not-so-fresh off of a big Harley that they rented in L. A. Her fair skin had turned the color of strawberry juice…with the exception of the reverse-raccoon circles around her pale blue eyes. The area that wasn’t sunburned looked as if she still had on a pair of paper-white goggles. I felt pity for the poor Brits. Some travel agent in London had obviously talked her and her husband into this trip. Ah, yes, the adventure of a motorcycle ride through the “beautiful” Calif. Desert. Surely it would be a wonderful experience, since there are no deserts in Britain. Obviously, no one had warned the couple that the desert is still blazing hot in Sept. She commented that she had had enough of the sun to last her for a life time. The couple rented the Indian teepee – no amenities, no air conditioning, no nothing. It remained around 100 degrees until about 8 p.m. Then ever so slowly, the temperature dipped into the low 60s (from the oven to the refrigerator).