Saturday, November 27, 2010

Phoenix at Last

Yesterday was a long drive through the desert.  I did spend a little time in Lake Havesu City to see the London Bridge and enjoy the dark rock outcroppings in and around the water.

My "home" is a mess and needs cleaning as well as myself.  Last night I stopped at a Comfort Inn in Goodyear (just west of Phoenix) for a big bed, lots of hot water and speedy internet service.  It was just dark and it's amazing how difficult it is for me to see at night. Now, after a good night's sleep and hot breakfast, I can catch up on house-keeping.  I am near an electronics store so I'll see if the GPS can be fixed. The sun is shining but still a bit nippy weather until the afternoon.  I find I schedule my life and chores by daylight vs. darkness.  Sure am glad I'm not on any tight schedule. 

Thanksgiving at the Avi

The Avi sounds exotic…yes?...not much.  It’s a casino on the Colorado River…the very south tip of Nevada.  It’s an Indian owned facility and I spent yesterday evening enjoying the buffet and movie at the inside theater.  The food was very good but the movie, “Burlesque” was only middling.  Cher was great, Christina over-done, plot was trite, but costumes and sets worth putting up with it all.  The Avi has a free RV dry camp as well as a full hook-up across the street.  I’m dry camping which means I have no electricity or other services.  The weather has turned cold and got down to 28 degrees last night but I was perfectly comfortable.  The winds blow strong and steady all day…the kind you have to lean into to move forward.  My poor van shakes and rolls all the time…similar to being on a boat.   
I came here to Laughlin rather than Las Vegas because I’ve  done Vegas  many times, but never tried the surrounding spots.  Just north of here and also on the river are about 10 major casinos…Harrah’s Laughlin, Tropicana, Golden Nugget.  My favorite was the Colorado Belle with architecture simulating an old riverboat.  The food and other prices are SO much lower than Las Vegas and the casinos are busy.   I did a bit of the River Walk that joins all the casinos but although the sun is shining…it is a cold wind.  While at the casino I talked with a man from Minnesota who has been here for a month.  He says the weather was warmer last week (wooden ‘cha know it).  He also explained that Laughlin is only a casino and residential town.  Shopping and services are directly across the river at Bullhead City, Arizona.  I had always figured that with such an ugly name it wasn’t worth visiting.  So,  this afternoon I drove it and found a shopping mall and a Goodwill.  Just the places I need to be tomorrow, the biggest shopping day of the year.   Their “park ‘n ride” is a boat that goes across the river and docks at the casino side.  These two towns have a nice symbiotic relationship.  Important note:  Buy gas in Arizona…it’s much cheaper at $2.65 a gallon versus $3.49 in California only a few miles away.
My Thanksgiving dinner was at the Avi buffet.  Since Thursdays are 2-1, I made a friend and shared the cost of the great buffet.  I had joined the players club so I used my free $5 up then played with $20 until I left with $27...a net $7 winner for the evening.  All-in-all it was a great and inexpensive few days. 

Ceres to Mojave

In spite of the stress at the Wal-Mart, I did have a good nights sleep and moved on south at early light.  The route I’m taking eventually to Las Vegas, takes me off of I-5  and driving Hy 99.  This runs parallel to I-5 for a while but it’s very poor condition and potholes  make it a hazard to drive at the freeway  speeds of up to 70mph.  It is heavily traveled. I would recommend that a traveler take I-5 and then cross over to Hy 99 just north of Bakersfield.  
Just after Modesto, a small red pick-up truck in my left lane blew a tire.  I was between two semi’s-one in front and one behind in my lane.  The red truck’s tire blew out with flying rubber hitting the side of the truck in front of me, spun around very fast, and headed across my lane and, I expected into the side of the truck in front of me.  I braked, the truck braked, and the red truck spun across our lane going backward and missing the front of the semi by inches.   It then traveled onto a large wide grassy field on the right side of the lane, spun around until it was facing the road.  It was so amazing, that everything and everyone was intact.  It was like watching a movie and the traffic just continued on.  It was just amazing..whoever was in there was very lucky.
Leaving Bakersfield I took highway 58 leading to Las Vegas.  At  Mojave, the landscape changed to barren grassy hills, then mountains of sparking gold and beige and brown.  The early afternoon son made them breaktaking.  But the best was yet to come.  Well into the mountain range was a covering of wind turbines not only across the top of the range, but in rows below that, and below that…as far as I could see.  Big white fins twirling at their best speed.  Driving between the mountain I saw more on the backsides and then I was surrounded by these flying birds.  There must have been thousands.  My guess was confirmed later when the manager of the RV park near Mojave said that many workers stayed at the park as they build 900 more plus solar panels...all to provide electricity to Los Angeles.  

On to Sacramento

Redding to Sacramento and beyond
Leaving Redding I drove by miles and miles of olive orchards…perfectly in line with green grass between each row.  That turned into fields of grape arbors with golden leaves.   In the middle of the olive country, I stopped for breakfast at Corning and had a great meal at a small café at the end of town. I don’t remember the name but it was the only restaurant  not Mexican or pizza.  I did notice palm date trees loaded with hanging fruit.  The weather feels decidedly warmer . 
Traveling south on I-5, I followed the signs to “old Sacramento”.  I was looking for more information on the gold rush.   Exiting the freeway, the streets are layed out so that the capital building is at the end of a tree-lined boulevard.  Lovely   
Well marked with good signage, I soon found the old town and special parking for RV’s (although I later noticed a lot of open parking along the streets).  The sidewalks are rough-hewn plank boards, and the buildings have been restored to their original glamour.  They now house bicycle shops, saloons, dry goods stores, ice cream parlors, tattoo parlors, and restaurants.  I especially liked the old fashioned clothes and even patterns to make your own.  Lots of feathers, ribbons and lace to become a dancing saloon girl in 1849.  The shopkeepers I chatted with said business was slow (this was Monday) and I noticed several store fronts empty and for lease.  Next was the Sacramento Historical Museum  and everything-you-want-to know about the gold rush and how to be a miner…they even used a water cannon to take down hillsides.  I knew the Chinese became miners and were treated badly including taxed as “foreign miners” but didn’t know they were contractors to the Chinese government who sponsored them.
Off to Modesto where I’d hoped to dry camp at the Wal-Mart.  Wow, it was part of a huge shopping center…not stand-alone as I’m used to.  I waved down the patroling security truck and asked where the RV parking was and he said the complex is owned by the mall company and maybe I could park but the Modesto police may knock on my door in the middle of the night.  I went to dinner to ponder my situation and found “Fresh Choice” a local franchise with salad bar, soup, lots of other stuff and desserts.  I had a big green salad to celebrate my visit to California where it’s all grown (maybe).  I then shopped the other stores and asked the nice people in Wal-Mart if there was another one nearby where RV parking WAS available.  They sent me down the road to Ceres…where it was the same story.  However they are open 24 hours and the manager’s manager gave me permission after  I pleaded with every card I had…even night blindness.  I sure won’t let this happen again.  So here I sit at my “oven desk” and  know that I can shop at 3am if there’s anything I need.  

Early Thanksgiving in Scio

Scio, Oregon
Just east of I-5, in the middle of Oregon is the most beautiful countryside I may have ever seen.  I was on my way to niece Suzie Ryan and her fiancée Todd’s farm and ranch at Scio (Sigh-O) .  Boasting the “covered bridge capital of the world” and the “Grass seed capital of the world”, this area of rolling hills and lush green fields of grass is breathtaking…even in winter.   Todd is the third generation to farm the land with cattle and grass seed crops.  Their generous hospitality  in the big old farmhouse was the 2nd annual  Ryan family “pre” Thanksgiving .  Joined by about 20 others, for two days of fun on the farm, we had a traditional turkey dinner  and celebrated Kenny’s birthday too.  They are planning a June wedding and I certainly will return for it in the spring.
Sunday morning, after plenty of coffee I waved good-by to the crowd and headed south.  The Siskiyou mountain passes were dry for the most part with a dusting of snow.  I find these mountains arduous to drive because they never seem to end.   Vanessa did fine on the ups and downs so I drove straight through to Redding, California….the first city on flat ground.  It was just about sunset when my GPS took me to my RV park where I hooked up, made dinner, and watched a DVD of “Dream Girls” .  It sounds like rain on the roof. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ready, Set…..

Winterizing the House and Garden

It seems strange to be insulating outside pipes in 70 degree weather but these are the last dry days and lots of chores still to do before leaving.  So I’m cleaning up the flower beds and harvesting the last the vegetables. The carrots went into my favorite Thai curry carrot soup.

The Brussels sprouts were a new crop for me and I think I beat out the insects.  If you are not aware, these baby cabbages grow on a thick stem with lots of big leaves.  The baby sprouts grow along the stems and between the leaves.  Since these stalks are not sold in regular grocery stores, look for them in farmer’s markets or produce stands and cut the sprouts off yourself…the flavor is so much better.  

Otherwise, I’ve been “eating down” the last of the food in a 21 cubic foot freezer so that I’ll be able to unplug it before leaving.  This year I didn’t grow and harvest the huge amount I’d done years before so I’ll be able to do this easily.  

Office in the Van
The van is ready and I keep finding corners to fill with yet one more item. My “office” while on the road will be in my oven!      

With the help of some chopping boards, I have the laptop screen on the top elements, the keyboard on the open oven door, and the mouse on the middle shelf.  The couch directly across from it provides seating.  Not very ergonomically correct, but a start.  It may be too clever to actually work…we’ll see.

Odds and Ends

Since VANessa is a 1986 model, she has only a tape deck and radio.  This turns out well since I’m finding sets of “books on tapes” very cheap at thrift stores.  Tapes seem to be nearly obsolete.  

Richard, the banjo king, wants me to look for unique songs while I’m in the south.  As a groupie of his bluegrass band, I have memorized their entire repertoire and may be able to contribute something new.  Actually, this is an excuse to rummage through old bookstores for sheet music and seek out local ethnic bands.

I just finished the last of my blogging class at Pierce College.  Thanks to Diane Mettler (the writer) and Chris Bivins, (the techie guy), both great instructors with successful writing careers and blogs of their own.  Their web site is:   

My monthly breakfast pals gave me a sendoff at our favorite restaurant. On my way there, I pushed the van’s electric window button and it went down…but not back up.  I tried the other window which didn’t budge.  Noooo!  Well, at least it wasn’t raining.  (A later call to my mechanic assured me they can fix it before I leave next week.) 

The questions of “Will you carry a weapon?”…and the ensuing conversation that included every type of self-defense known to women-kind was well intended but a bit disturbing.  Another favorite was, “How will we know where you are if you drive off the road and are at the bottom of a lake?”  Well, maybe my window will be stuck open and I can swim out.  I promise…I’ll send you a postcard.  Go to Bonnie’s blog to see more about our group.

The rain has now come.  I have only the final autumn clean-up then I’ll put away these gardening boots until next summer.