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On to Boise

Day Four, from Ogden, UT to Boise, ID was pretty uneventful. We drove all day on the Interstate, stopping as needed for breaks, food, and gas. We arrived in Boise around 3:30 p.m. We were looking for the Flying-J that was purported to be down a certain ramp, about ¾ mile. It wasn’t there. After driving through part of downtown Boise we found a Chevron station and pulled in for a fill-up. Again, asking the cashier about any nearby RV parks, she told us of one near the fairgrounds.

We found the park, and its setting was very nice, along the Boise River greenway. It had grass and fairly large trees. There was no one in the office, and as it was a weekend I thought it was possible that the office wasn’t staffed. There were flyers about the park and how to find a spot, and envelopes at the front door. So we went ahead and pulled into a spot – another pull-through with a small tree.

A little later we noticed that someone was in the office, so I went over to confirm the site selection and pay. The man behind the counter seemed abrasive to me – perhaps it was me, as I was hot and tired, and didn’t want any hassle about getting the rig situated well. He said if I turned the rig to face the other way the distance to the services would be the same – or I could unhitch the trailer. I said I wasn’t going to unhitch for one night’s stay! At any rate, the way the site was situated none of my ‘leads’ would be quite long enough to the electric or the water. Luckily Doc had bought a 30-amp extension cord that I now got to use for the first or second time in its history. I also had to put two hoses together to reach the water, as the main one was about three feet short of reaching the water.

When I paid for the site I said I wanted water and electricity – didn’t need the sewer hookup. He said, oh, that’s a full hook-up site – $30 please, and you can have a 10% discount for cash – we don’t discount for club memberships (Escapees, Good Sam, etc.). With the discount it was $29 and change, after he added tax and other fees. I paid it because I didn’t want to have to move – but I wasn’t happy.

The door to the trailer was facing the western sun, and it was expanding to the point that it wouldn’t close properly – Doc and I had had a similar situation in Pahrump where the door would expand while closed so that you couldn’t get it open without a lot of tugging. It would be about four more hours of sunlight before the sun would be low enough to end the heat.

Liz and I had decided that we would grill the steaks we’d brought, and use our new grill. She was in charge of getting it lit and doing the cooking. After a couple of false starts we had it going. She cooked some rice pilaf as well, and we had some sliced fresh tomatoes. Yum!!! After the sun set and we sat outside a while, we watched another movie we’d purchased at a Flying-J stop – “A Soldiers’ Story.” I began to relax more, and began to sleep a little through some of the movie. So when Liz wanted to pause for a smoke, I went back to what I’d missed.

After movie, bedtime, and a good night’s sleep.

Into Utah

The beginning of Day Three arrived very early in the morning with Liz shivering from the drop in temperature through the night. We’d forgotten about the cool nights – she was trying to keep warm with a little fleece blanket and her lightweight robe. I found a big, warm blanket for her and then went back to bed for a little while. Later, after warming up a bit we got dressed and went for breakfast – a nice buffet. We especially liked the sausage gravy over biscuits. Liz had a hypoglycemic attack as she hadn’t eaten anything for dinner the night before, so she wasn’t feeling well at first. After getting something in her stomach she recovered and felt much better.

After breakfast we disconnected the water and electric and headed out for our trip up I-15. But before we could get there we had to take a little trip west on a secondary road, which turned out to be rugged and slow climbing, and beautiful. Finally on the Interstate we began traveling a little faster.

While the Interstate is faster, it is also a little boring regarding the scenery. I found myself sort of zoning out every once in awhile. Liz took a mini-nap. We had an agreement that I would stop about every two hours so she could smoke a cigarette. As the two hours coincided with the need for a fill-up, that worked well.

Through Utah there are many Flying-J truck stops, and as I had a Flying-J card I stopped there to make my gas purchases. This day we also ate a nice lunch at one of their bigger centers – a lunch buffet this time (two buffets in one day – oh, my!!!).

As the miles passed by and the day wore on, we began to look for a place to stay for the night. There was some construction near where we needed to transition from I-15 to I-84, in Ogden, UT. Following the signs we thought would take us to I-84 we took an exit that actually put us on RT 89, which parallels the Interstate. Again, it was time for another fill-up and when I stopped I asked the cashier how to get onto I-84, and whether he knew if there was an RV park nearby. He said we could pick up the Interstate about four miles down the road, and he thought there was an RV park in the next little town.

We managed to get onto the Interstate, and shortly afterward we saw a big RV Park sign looming next to the road. We took the next exit ramp and made our way to the park, which was just down the street. It actually backed up to the Interstate. It was a beautiful park with big old trees, grass, and flowers. They said they had space available – a pull-through – and that was fine for us. In the evening we watched the DVD of the movie “Chocolat!” on the computer. I love that movie! And it brought me some much-needed relaxation.

When Things Get Tough, The Tough Go Shopping

Our journey toward Flagstaff and Page became a challenge as the day progressed. As we approached Flagstaff, making the transition to Route 89 N I noticed that the truck brakes seemed to be doing the work to stop the trailer, and the brake controller was not showing the right light configuration. Something was definitely wrong.

I pulled into a pullout space seemingly made just for me to get off the road to assess the situation and decide the next step. As I looked around I saw that within only a short distance there was an RV service center! So I made my way there. It was located at the end of a shopping mall area, with very little maneuvering space. I pulled in and went inside.

The man at the desk said that it would probably be two hours before they could look at the trailer. I called the mobile RV service I’d been using to get my repairs done, and asked their opinion of what the problem might be – the trailer brakes or the brake controller. The consensus was that it was the brake controller. The technician had checked over the brakes in March when repairs were made, and he reported that they were fine. The trailer hadn’t been out but once for the driving course I took.

I told the man at the desk to make a ticket to check things out and do what was necessary. He said he would call me. It was almost 10:00 a.m. by the time we completed the paperwork. Liz and I headed over to the mall on foot to bide our time.

We found ourselves in Penney’s and noticed that there was quite a nice sale in progress. So for a while we perused the wares and eventually I found some dresses that appealed to me. Did I need a dress? No. But could I use a dress? Definitely! I found a ‘designer’ dress that I just couldn’t live without and it was over 50% off, for a sale price of just $30 – couldn’t pass it up. And it looked great on! I also found some jeans on sale – and I did need some new ones.

Liz found a couple of shirts and a pair of pants. So we headed to the cash register.

After making our purchases we decided it was almost lunchtime. So we went to the food court and ordered a Subway ‘foot-long’ sub to share. As we were sitting down to eat, I got the call that the trailer was ready. They had put a new brake controller in – cost $210. So after eating our food we headed back over to the service center.

I paid the bill with my charge card, and I asked the technician there to show me how to adjust the controller. He showed me how he had set it to the recommended settings. He said that the same company that made my old controller also made the new one, but the old one had had many problems (the driving course instructor had told me the same thing). He said that he’d had the new controller on his truck/trailer for over a year and a half and had only had to reset it three times. I thanked him for his help, and we drove away.

We were finally on our way again, to Page. This was a very arduous journey through steep climbs and a really BAD road. The road was ‘wavy’ so it felt like riding in a boat on a choppy sea. We were bounced and bounced. Because of all the climbing I didn’t run my air conditioner. So in addition to the bouncing, we had the ‘blowing’ of the wind through the windows. And it was HOT!!!

I was concerned that the last fill-up at the gas station would not get us to Page, and I made a comment about coasting into Page on fumes. Because of the climbing, the truck used a lot of gas, and I couldn’t count on the 100 miles per half tank that I’d been getting. So I became very concerned when the indicator dropped below ¾ and we had many more miles to go. As it turned out, the last few miles into Page are mostly down hill, so I did use coasting to help me get there. Luckily, I had about 1/8 tank when I arrived at the gas station. I filled it up and we headed into Utah.

We figured that we could make it to Zion National Park in time to settle for the night. We approached the park as the sun was dropping. Again, gas was a concern, but I felt we would be fine. When we got to the park entrance the ranger told us that all the camping sites were full, but if we wanted to drive through the park it would be $25, plus another $15 for taking the RV through the tunnel. He said there was an RV park at the junction where we had turned on the road to the park – I guess I didn’t see it – but he couldn’t tell me whether there were any spaces, as it wasn’t the park’s responsibility to keep up with that information. He was blunt and humorless.

I turned the rig around and headed back the 11 miles we’d come. We found the RV park near the corner of the intersection. There was a gas station there where I decided to fill up and inquire about the RV park. It turned out that the young man and woman who were running the station also ran the park. We could stay there for $16 – pull-throughs, water, electric. We had our pick of sites as there was no one else there.

As Liz needed a smoke break she walked over to the park that was old, and could be easily missed as an RV park – it looked like a vacant lot. She walked around to select the right site for us – one that had a working electrical box and water pump. I’d never been to a park where the water was turned on by pumping it first.

After filling up I drove over to the site Liz had selected and pulled in, hooked up, and set up for the night. It had been a long, hard day – still hot. I was glad to be able to turn on the AC in the trailer for a while before we went to bed. Then I opened the windows and turned on the fan. We noticed that there was a restaurant across the road that served breakfast, and we decided that we would eat there in the morning.

The First Post – From Northern Utah

This evening is the first opportunity I’ve had to make a post. We made it to Ogden, UT this afternoon, and found ourselves ‘in heaven’ – a pull-through space, showers, wi-fi, beautiful trees, cool breezes, and cold beer after a very full day of driving from southern Utah, near Zion National Park.

We got away from the park in Tucson about 10:30 a.m., a little later than I had planned. But we got everything done that needed doing before we could pull out. We took a route out of Tucson through the city streets that wove from the eastern side to Interstate 10 on the western side; it took about an hour. Heading north we drove through Phoenix and into the cooler part of Arizona, toward Flagstaff.

We stopped at the Cliff House Indian Casino to park for the night, not wishing to spend $35 for the RV park across the highway. The RV park is part of the Indian Casino. Visitors to the casino can park on the lower level parking lot and spend the night ‘boondocking’. We decided to do that, and we inquired about getting a shuttle ride to the casino to get some refreshment, and make sure that we could overnight in their parking lot. No problem.

After about two beers and $100 each we later returned to the trailer, wondering why we didn’t opt to spend that $35 afterall!!! We spent the rest of the evening sitting in the shade of the trailer and a nearby tree, on the tarmac, eating ham salad sandwiches and resting. Bedtime came about 10:00 p.m. The first night was a little restless for me, but Liz slept fine. It was still quite hot, and without any ventilation except for the open windows, it took quite a time for the trailer to cool down.

The next morning, we ate hard-boiled eggs and bananas and watched the sun rise over the area. Then we packed up. We had noticed while eating our breakfast that there was a cop parked across the road from the parking lot. He left when we left; he must have been watching us – and watching out for us. We said grateful prayers, and headed north toward Flagstaff and Page, AZ.

The Other Shoe

…was about to drop when a little good news came last week. Liz’ daughter had been anticipating surgery for over six weeks, and the doctor wanted her to have her surgery on June 12. “Daughter’s” insurance folks said ‘no’, you have to wait to June 18, and Liz felt that would mean she would not be able to leave with me; perhaps she could meet up with me later. Well, the surgery ‘magically’ got moved to yesterday, the 16th. With some regrouping, Liz and I agreed to leave on June 26, which will put us into John Day a day later than planned.

The surgery was successful, and “Daughter” is expected to leave the hospital tomorrow if all goes well. Liz will assist her for the next few days, and make her own preparations to move her things into the trailer.

In the meantime I am busy trying to move some things along that have been in storage for the last few years since I sold my condo. I have postings on Craigslist, and have made arrangements for some folks in the park to take a few things to a local charity. I’ve also contacted my family about ‘family heirlooms’ that I just can’t keep ‘just in case’ I later move into another apartment, condo, house, whatever. So today I’m wrapping fragile things in bubble wrap to send out.

I also had the RV technician out to service my air conditioner (since I’m still in the southern Arizona heat -108 yesterday), install two new batteries, a support arm for my awning, and change out some lighting to fluorescents to save power. I haven’t quite committed to a solar panel…yet. Yesterday I decided to run the AC in the truck – I haven’t been running it when toodling through town, so it had been a long time since it had been on. I took it to the garage where they ‘just happened’ to have a free AC check. I didn’t get away free, but I did get some freon and a new part that keeps it from leaking out – for less than $100 – AMAZING!!!

Maybe the extra days before we leave is giving me more space to complete some things I need to do…

My wi-fi service will end when I leave, so I hope to get another post done before we hitch up.

Heating Up!

If I wasn’t waiting for Liz to finish her business over Memorial Day, we would have been out of here weeks ago. I turned on the AC for the first time on Monday when the temperature was forecast for 97 degrees and it went to over 100. Today again it’s forecast for 97, better than yesterday’s 104. Until Monday I managed to get by with just the ‘fantastic fan’ and two oscillating fans. Now the electric meter is spinning, spinning, spinning!

Recently Liz became ill with a gastrointestinal problem that she is having tests for today. She babysat her two small grandchildren over the weekend and had a difficult time with them, as they are both ‘special needs’ children. My feeling is that her physical upset was brought on by the stress of caring for these boys, and her feelings associated with it, namely anger and resentment that her daughter was off having a ‘family outing’ with her daughter and a friend, spending money that they owe Liz. She just couldn’t ‘stomach’ any more.

Liz is scheduled to fly to Indiana with her teen granddaughter next week, and spend a week there. When she returns her daughter is supposed to have surgery for a hysterectomy that hasn’t been scheduled yet. She wants to be available for her daughter’s initial recovery, but she is concerned that that will interfere with her plans to travel with me to Oregon. So it’s still possible that she will opt out at the last minute.

It will definitely be a financial hardship for me to travel alone this summer; however, I will manage…When I get back in October I will put all the rest of my ‘stuff’ on eBay or Craig’s List to add to the coffers, and sell my storage shed. Then I will definitely be ready to ‘travel light’. And I will look for part-time or short-term employment to supplement my income and hopefully save for a solar display on the rig.

Next month, which is coming up fast, I will need to purchase new house batteries and have the technician back to finish ‘the list’ we started in March. This year the maintenance for the rig and the truck are taking a financial toll. I had to replace the starter in the truck earlier this month. Oh, boy!

Getting Ready to Roll

Many folks advise not making any major decisions the first year after losing a loved one…

Doc and I pulled into Rincon Country East RV Resort in Tucson, AZ in January 2007 after spending the few months before at its sister park, Rincon Country West. Early in March Doc unexpectedly was hospitalized with a condition that was to keep him from returning home – he passed into Spirit two months later.

So I remained, and day by day said goodbye to a dream, and hello to a new beginning. Not wishing to remain in the Arizona desert for another summer, it became imperative that I assess my ability and desire to continue living in a travel trailer. And if I chose to keep it as my home, then I should certainly travel in it.

In a conversation with a friend in the park about getting relief from the summer heat, I was guided to to the U.S. Forest Service program, Passport in Time. I went online, and discovered that volunteers were needed for a heritage preservation project in the Malheur National Forest in northeastern Oregon. On Christmas Eve I shared my interest in participating in this program with another friend who also lost her husband two months after Doc passed away. She indicated that she was very interested. I told her I was going to apply online, and we began a dialogue about making the journey to Oregon together.

I knew that before I could travel anywhere I would need to have repairs done on the trailer. We’d lost a tire moving from the West park, and some damage had been done to the underneath side of one of the slide-outs. In addition, there were maintenance items that I had not kept up with. So I hired a local remote RV repair business to come to my site and make the necessary repairs. Four new tires, and almost $1100 later I felt the rig was almost ready. At least I could take it out for the driving lesson I’d signed up for the following week.

As my driving experience with the trailer was minimal – about 100 miles on the straight-away and a turn into a gas station while on its maiden voyage almost four years ago – I felt I should take the RV driving lessons that were available before and after the Life on Wheels conference, an annual RV school that takes place in several locations nationwide. To learn more about caring for the trailer I also registered for the conference and made my way into downtown Tucson, where I attended 10 90-minute classes on such topics as fire safety, tires, batteries, boondocking (aka dry camping), working while on the road, awning care, and how to create a travel blog.

Those days were also filled with getting my ‘stuff’ packed up in the trailer, stowed safely to make the trip across town for my driving lesson. Doc and I always checked each other to make certain that we’d covered everything – disconnect the propane, electricity, water, and sewer hose; turn off the water heater, fold up the steps and the hand rail, etc., etc., etc., and hitch up the truck. My neighbor, Liz, became my teammate. Not only did she sign up for the trip to Oregon, she helped me pay for the classes. She’s not done any RVing, and so she is learning a lot. She helped me unhook the trailer from its ‘mooring’ and accompanied me on the trip across town to the driving lesson. We had plenty of ‘neighborly’ help from the men nearby – some things just require more muscle power than women have. They were all very encouraging and helpful.

It felt good to pull that trailer out of its space and maneuver it around the corners of the park, and onto the road. My biggest anxiety was how I was going to put the trailer back into the space. Not to worry! After three and a half hours of instruction, including backing the trailer straight and around a corner, I made my way home again. With Liz’s directions I put that vehicle right into the spot, perfectly, the very first try!!! With the truck still partly in the road it didn’t sink in that the trailer was in place. I was so excited, and the neighbors all came out from their carports where they’d been watching, to congratulate me!

So, now I wait until we leave on our journey in June. I have plenty of work to do to get ready. I learned more about how to pack my cabinets, as some things were jostled around a bit. I remembered that I need to keep things simple – it takes a long time to put away the things that had been sitting out for the last year. It’s time to consolidate tools, organize compartments and label them so that Liz and I both can find what we need while we are gone. Doc had his own way of organizing things. The year has required changes, and now I’m looking forward with confidence, to go on the road on my own. It isn’t what I had planned, and yet it’s beginning to have a more comfortable feel to it.