Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Las Vegas to The Grand Canyon

At Grand Canyon Railroad RV Park, Williams, Arizona...

We decided to stop in Las Vegas on our way to the Grand Canyon, knowing the temperature there would be even hotter than St. George, but we scored a Passport America discount at the Oasis RV Park and thought we might see a couple of shows. 

It was every bit as hot there as we thought it would be, but thank goodness for Phannie's new bedroom a/c! It took all three a/cs running to keep cool, but that's why we have them, isn't it?

We went to see 'Vegas,' a musical variety show with music from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and it was just okay. It was pretty well done, but we didn't know a lot of the tunes. It is a bit unsettling that the 'oldies' shows in Las Vegas no longer include music from the 50s and 60s, which are the 'oldies' we know. My guess is that our crowd is largely confined to assisted living and nursing homes, and their Wal-Mart bus won't take them all the way to Vegas! 

I must say that I'm a little conflicted about our good fortune as far as our health goes; so many of our peers do have health issues that are commonly a part of getting older, and we feel extraordinarily blessed to be out here roaming the country in a motorhome while their world is steadily shrinking. I think that's a pretty good reason not to wait too long to do the things you've worked for and dreamed about.

The other show we saw was Donnie and Marie. Now that would be full of oldies, we thought! Well, they did include a few of their saccharine hits from the past, but the emphasis was clearly on attracting a younger crowd with insanely loud amplification and hard rock histrionics. This was not money well spent for us; it was very disappointing. We have arrived at the conclusion that the music we like is largely extinct--you know, the kind with a melody you can hum and lyrics that are meaningful and decipherable above the noise?  There are perhaps vestiges of this kind of music still around in Branson, but who knows how long that will last after our generation is gone? Seems like we're going full circle back to where we began beating on logs and chanting some kind of mystical nonsense and calling that music. Give me a break.

Our primo find in Las Vegas was one of the best Thai restaurants ever. Lotus of Siam was so good that it made our stop in Las Vegas completely worthwhile. It's in a very nondescript location that belies the very large and well appointed restaurant inside, and everything we had was just superb. We ate there twice, and it definitely goes on our list of favorite restaurants linked on this blog.

We had an uneventful trip to Williams, Arizona, the gateway to the Grand Canyon, except for the bone-jarring condition of I-40 east of Kingman. I think Trump is right about our infrastructure crumbling; we had to move Phannie over to the passing lane for quite a distance to keep the fillings from falling out of our teeth.

We've been in Williams a few days, again scoring a Passport America discount at this very nice RV park. The only problem with it is the BNSF railroad track nearby but, fortunately, there are very few trains per day that go by with their horns blaring.

We've also failed to find a restaurant in Williams that is worth mentioning. Friends Janice and Dave are showing up soon, and we're going to have to break the bad news to them. Looks like Flagstaff will be a better bet for eating out.

We made a trip to the canyon today because the weather was just perfect for taking some photos. Here are a few that I thought turned out pretty well:

We had a visit by some Indian dancers.
The next one is my favorite, caught just moments before sunset:

The weather here has been so nice, with temperatures mostly in the 70s and low 80s. What a difference after St. George and Las Vegas!

I'll have some more photos to share in the next post, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the whole world and see little of it. 
--Alexander Sattler

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Adios, St. George

At Temple View RV Resort, St. George, Utah...

Aside from the sweltering heat, we have had a pleasant stay here in St. George. It is a city in which the residents take pride, with streets that are clean and wide, boasting numerous shopping areas, well-kept neighborhoods and nothing that caused any safety concerns. The topography around the city is typical of the desert area with multicolored buttes and mesas nearby. Here's a view of the city from an overlook north of town:

The city maintains a very nice desert garden on top of one of the buttes nearby:

We scored tickets to a local community theater that had ambitiously put together a production of "Singin' In The Rain" that was actually quite good. If you find yourself here, whether on purpose or due to bad judgment in the summer--like us--their theater group can afford some good entertainment at a bargain price:

During a hot busy day while we were here, the RV park had an electrical brownout of sorts, probably due to so many air conditioners on so many big rigs that came in for the holiday. Our EMS apparently sensed some anemic power coming into Phannie and knocked us off the grid for a time. When the brownout subsided, the system powered us up again, thankfully. If you don't have an EMS, you might want to reconsider. I know of some horror stories about fried electronics in some coaches, and that is easily preventable with one of these handy devices.

Next stop: Las Vegas. Yes, I know it's hot there, too. (I must be a masochist.)

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it. 
-- Alexander Sattler

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bryce Canyon National Park and Relief From the Heat

At Temple View RV Resort, St. George, Utah...

It was a treat finally to be heading back up into the mountains northeast of St. George to find Bryce Canyon. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive, and we chose to go eastbound on highway 9 through Zion again to intercept U. S. 89 to Bryce. This was really good fortune, as we only drove a short distance through Zion on our previous visit and didn't see the section of highway 9 that continued beyond the Zion canyon. It was a gorgeous drive, and we highly recommend it. 

As we gained altitude toward Bryce Canyon, the temperature outside steadily fell until it read 79 degrees at the 8,000+ foot elevation in the park. Now this was more like it, since the Mae's outside temperature gauge read 105 degrees when we left St. George. 

Because it was so pleasant outside, we spent quite a bit of time walking around the trails overlooking the remarkable hoodoos (the totem pole-like pillars of rock that are more prevalent in Bryce than anywhere else. These are formed, according to Wikipedia, by the erosion of softer layers of sediment underneath harder layers that protect the spires beneath.) Here are some photos:

Such colors!
I liked this one because it reminded me of the entrance to some ancient temple with people standing in the entrance.

This one looks a bit like the Parthenon in Greece with smaller buildings around it. 

This grouping looks like people very close together lined up for something.

The setting sun in late afternoon proved perfect for accentuating the vivid colors of the canyon and the thousands of hoodoos. 

I loved the look of this long-dead tree standing sentinel-like over this amazing spectacle.

And so we bid goodbye for now to this fantastic geological wonder:

Before we left the small community of Bryce, Utah just outside the entrance to the park, we stopped at Ebenezer's Barn to see the western music show that also included dinner:

This was a recommendation by friends Chuck and Tita. The singers and instrumentalists were an unbelievably talented group doing western swing music probably as well as it can be done. I think their rendition of "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" was the best I ever heard. The dinner, unfortunately, wasn't so memorable, but the show made up for it. Thanks, guys, for telling us about this.

What a fine side trip this was! I hope everyone has an opportunity to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon Parks. They are well worth the effort.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Hot Time in Zion National Park

At Temple View RV Resort, St. George, Utah...

Okay, let's go ahead and get this out of the way:  We are spoiled, whiny, tenderfoot, prima donna deplorables. No one reading this post could arrive at any other conclusion, based on what will be my sniveling account of how hot it is here in St. George. Furthermore, this post may get the prize for being off-the-rails silly. I think it's because of the heat, but sometimes I just feel like writing something for fun.

Here's the strange part: I knew it was going to be hot before we headed down I-15 to get here. I assure you that my faculties have not yet deteriorated to a point where looking at a high in St. George of 105 degrees on Weather Bug doesn't enable me to associate that with a certain level of potential human discomfort. Yet there we went, undeterred, as though I were thumbing my nose at silly little things like, well, facts. 

In this case, my discomfort level when we arrived at St. George and I descended the steps from Phannie's air conditioned cockpit led me to believe that, somehow, I had flatlined at the very moment I opened the door and, having perished, stepped squarely into the afterlife which, to my surprise, turned out to be hell! I must tell you that this was not the outcome I had in mind as my exit strategy.

I looked again at the sign that read 'Temple View RV Park' in an effort to convince myself that I had not, indeed, been cast into the lake of fire. I instinctively raised my forearm to cover my mouth and nose in an effort, I suppose, to keep from inhaling the hot wind that would surely char my lungs. 

Across the driveway, I could see the park office's entrance door, and I staggered toward it, hoping it wasn't a mirage. After I took a few halting steps, I looked at the soles of my shoes to see if any melted asphalt had clung to them, impeding my only chance to save myself. Then it occurred to me that I had left in Phannie's cockpit cupholder my Yeti mug that was filled with ice water. I was beginning to panic; I think I saw buzzards circling overhead.

I was thinking that if I could just make it inside the door, perhaps one of the staff members would call 911 before I dissolved into a puddle of lard before their eyes. Sandy, of course, was oblivious to all of this, as she had probably resumed her nap back there in Phannie's copilot seat, footrest extended, and with four A/C vents blowing enough cold air directly on her to make her usually cover up with a light blanket as we roll down the highway. 

Before I had brought Phannie to a stop in the driveway, I had fired up the genset to give life to the roof airs, which I turned on before heading outside. With the dash a/c and the roof airs on, it was downright frosty in Phannie. Except I wasn't there; I was busy succumbing with a heat stroke there in the driveway.

I had just enough strength left to pull open the office door, where a blast of cool air washed over me. After a few minutes, the room stopped spinning and I could barely see the counter clerk, gesturing toward me and saying, "Are you Mr. Mills?" 

I wondered, "How did she know?" My first delerious thought was that she had read my name on a secret 'Do Not Resuscitate' list circulated by some left-leaning group toward anyone whose vehicles show Texas license plates. After a few minutes of deep breathing, I was able to make sense of things and finally get registered.

Okay, maybe I've embellished things a little, but my point is that it is pretty danged hot here in St. George and, after months of our frolicking in cool and mild temperatures north of the equator--which I believe runs exactly through St. George--we were not accustomed to this hellish climate where the sun is certainly no more than about 65 miles from earth.

So why would we come here in the summer, you may ask? Other than the obvious answer--stupidity--my thinking was that, since we are headed toward Flagstaff anyway, why not stop here and see a couple of national parks we had not visited before? It made sense to me, and I thought we could just 'man up' and git 'er done. And really, that's what we're doing, but not without plenty of shared speculation as to whether my dementia is becoming really obvious.

We really didn't know what to expect as we drove toward Zion N.P. We had looked at it online, but there is nothing quite like seeing it in person. The photos and videos don't quite do it justice. It consists of a relatively short canyon whose many-hued rock walls soar almost vertically above the fast-flowing stream that runs through it. It is a beautiful and colorful display of nature's wonder, and I would like to have spent a good bit of time there, walking on some of the many trails and taking photos. 

But that wasn't going to happen. It wasn't any cooler in the canyon than it was in St. George, and neither of us enjoys the outdoors in these conditions. As luck would have it, the shuttle bus that drove us through the park was a brand new air-conditioned one--the only one in the fleet--and we didn't dare get out of it for more than a minute or two at its stops. Nevertheless, I was able to get a few decent photos, but this place is worth another trip when brimstone isn't falling from the sky like it was on this day.  Here are a few photos I was able to shoot:

I kept thinking how lucky we were to have had Phannie's bedroom air conditioner replaced in Salt Lake City. If it had gone out here, I guess we would have had to be airlifted out or something--who knows?

I hope you've had fun reading this silliness; it was fun writing it.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it. 
--Alexander Sattler

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Stop in Provo to See New Old Friends

At Lakeside RV Resort, Provo, Utah...

Did you ever run into folks you've never seen before, yet they seem like old friends? Such was the case when we met Dave and Janice as we were parked near Yellowstone about a month ago. These are retired fellow Texans who have been fulltiming for 14 years, their current rig being a Monaco Dynasty motor home. A very brief visit on our departure day led us to conclude that we must get better acquainted because our personalities and outlook on life are so similar. So, as we were leaving Salt Lake, we decided to stop by their campground in Provo where they were spending a few days  and do just that.

We enjoyed three fun afternoons and evenings in Provo with Dave and Janice and, even though we didn't do a lot of sightseeing (here is a photo of Bridal Veil Falls, near Provo that I snapped as we were together with them on the road to Sundance Mountain Resort. (We wondered if Robert Redford was at home.)

Janice and Dave also joined us for games in the evening. We played 42 and a new game to us, Rummy Kub, which we enjoyed. The laughter was pretty much nonstop as we came to know these new friends better. Thank you, guys, for showing us a good time. (I have a feeling we'll be running into them again soon!)  

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it. 
--Alexander Sattler

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Goodbye, Salt Lake!

At the Salt Lake City KOA...

We must tell you that we have enjoyed our stay in Salt Lake City, checking out some places we didn't go on a previous visit two years ago. We've faithfully posted about these and, having nothing else on our agenda after Phannie's repairs, hitch itch has set in. So, we'll be moving along to St. George, Utah, with an intervening stop in Provo to see some new friends we came to know through RVillage when we were back at Yellowstone.   

Speaking of, the social media site that is a bit like a Facebook for RVers, I have been a member almost since its inception. One of the purposes of the site is to allow RVers to become more engaged in social networking within their group, but that seemed to have taken off a bit slowly in the first couple of years. However, now that the site is up to about 75,000 subscribers, I'm getting an increasing level of social contacts by fellow members. Besides Dave and Janice, our friends we're meeting in Provo, we met a delightful couple from England named Murray and Barb while we were at the KOA in Salt Lake. Our visit with them was brief, unfortunately, as we were scheduled to leave the park the day after they arrived. The RVillage website alerts the user when new RVillage members arrive in the user's RV park. Introductory greetings by Dave and Janice and Murray and Barb are the first we've actually received since we've been members. I guess the generally older RV population has been slow to warm up to the technology.

We're leaving with our wallet a few thousand dollars lighter, but we have a new air conditioner and a new microwave oven to show for it. The new A/C makes us especially happy since we're going toward some much warmer weather in southern Utah as we pay visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. We don't need any A/C hiccups while we're there in the heat. 

A few nights ago, we attended a play in a community theater in downtown Salt Lake City. Sandy loves live theater, and this was part of her birthday gift. The show was a musical comedy named "Utahoma," performed at the Off Broadway Theater. It was a spoof of the classic "Oklahoma" musical and was conceived, written and produced here in Salt Lake using local actors. The whole thing was woefully low-budget and not terribly well attended on this, a Monday night, but I must tell you that it was absolutely hilarious. I think that if we had been staying longer, we would have seen it again, just so we could catch more of the rapid-fire jokes, puns, songs and antics of the energetic little troupe of actors:

What we've posted over our three weeks or so here in Salt Lake City is fairly typical of our life as fulltimers. Reading back in the blog, we see we've been quite leisurely in our sightseeing, not wishing to over-schedule ourselves. A proper schedule, in our retired way of thinking, involves planning only one activity on a given day and making sure there is least one intervening day of rest before scheduling something else. And we must remember to try to make time for a daily nap to keep up this strenuous pace. 

I can see your wheels turning; you're probably thinking: 'You mean to tell me that it took you three weeks to see the few things you posted about?' Well, yes. But you have to remember that we also had to perform everyday living chores in the meantime. We had to shop for groceries, make trips to Wal-Mart, get the car washed, cook meals, do the laundry, clean house (even though it only takes 15 minutes to make Phannie spotless inside), go to the beauty shop (not me--Sandy), try new restaurants, etc. Scheduling our activities and down days while tossing in some nap times is almost work in itself!

According to the generally accepted wisdom regarding the experiences of new fulltimers, we seem to be settling, as expected, into this more thoughtful and measured existence--staying longer at the places we go and avoiding the frenetic traveling excesses that come from the first taste of freedom. And that's a good thing; we find ourselves enjoying retirement even more now in this leisurely mode. 

We stopped at Speedco just outside Salt Lake City to have an oil change and lube job for Phannie. 

We've covered a good bit of territory in the old girl this summer, so we had to have an interim service done before the annual one that will be due next spring. We're not sure where we will be then, but we like to take it to Bay Diesel in Red Bay, Alabama.

After we leave Provo, we'll stop in St. George for a week, finally to see Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks for the first time. Then, we'll be headed to Williams, Arizona for our first visit back to the Grand Canyon in 20 years.  Stick around!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather see the world and own little than to own the whole world and see little of it.
--Alexander Sattler

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Golden Spike National Historic Site

At the Salt Lake City KOA...

Promontory, Utah is truly in the middle of nowhere. It consists mainly of a relatively nice visitor center operated by the National Park Service, situated on a treeless rolling plain near the summit of the Promontory Mountains north of the Great Salt Lake. Near the visitor center are several outbuildings, the largest of which is a locomotive maintenance facility. And those were all the structures visible anywhere as far as we could see, except for a section of railroad track of perhaps a mile in length which is all that remains of the historic rail line that finally united the U. S. after the end of the Civil War. This section of track was abandoned in 1904 when a shortcut rail line, the Lucin Cutoff, was built on a 32-mile trestle across the Great Salt Lake.

I was quite surprised that the Promontory site receives fewer than 50,000 visitors each year--a tiny number, given the enormous importance to the our country of the joining of these rails. Obviously, the remoteness of the location is a significant factor in the paucity of visitors, but it seems a shame the level of interest is so low. I wonder if this is one of the positive events in American history that are ignored by educators who are forced to concentrate on things like social ills and the sins of our forefathers. (Sorry for the mini-rant, but this is something that bothers me greatly.)

Being a bit of a history buff, seeing the place where the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 has been a bucket list item for quite a while. We decided to make the 1 1/2 hour drive from Salt Lake City and check it out on a very warm and sunny afternoon. After a nice drive north on I-15 through Brigham City, we exited at Corinne and continued westward on an excellent two-lane highway that passed just north of the upper Salt Lake Basin, where Mae began her climb to the summit of the relatively modest Promontory Pass. Looking to our left, it was easy to see the dry northern end of the lakebed of the Great Salt Lake:

It wasn't long until we saw this sign as we neared the visitor center:

As we entered the park environs, there were turnouts where we could look at historical markers and view portions of the old track bed that paralleled the road in some places:

Continuing toward the visitor center, I imagined what it must have been like 150 years ago when the Union Pacific's bustling and noisy army of workers were feverishly laying track here east of Promontory, knowing they were so close to the end of the line where they would meet the Central Pacific crews. At the visitor center, we watched a short but very informative video about the history of this place and the driving of the golden spike in the final railroad tie. There were some exhibits of relics from the project as well as a replica of the golden spike itself (the real one is in a museum now):

The engravings on the spike are the names of some of the dignitaries at the joining event.

Leaving the theater, I snapped a photo of this painting I liked that commemorated the rail joining:

The next photo is a copy of an actual photograph taken of the event:

Next is a photo that I took during this visit of the same site. Notice that the telegraph pole seen at the right of the photo above is still replicated at Promontory today in the photo below:

I was disappointed that the replica locomotives were not in place here at the meeting point as they usually are on a daily basis, to the delight of visitors, I'm sure. The track is undergoing some maintenance, so the locomotives were tucked away in the maintenance facility. We were allowed to see them, however, and they let us climb up into the cab as well:

An interesting bit of information that I didn't know was that the Central Pacific and Union Pacific crews didn't suddenly meet at Promontory on May 10, 1869. They had previously met some time before that and actually laid their tracks parallel to each other for 250 miles before the two companies could agree on an official meeting point. Promontory wasn't chosen until President Ulysses S. Grant withheld payments to the companies until the decision was made. Here's another tidbit: Because a telegraph line was built along with the railroad, the announcement of the joining was known immediately on both coasts, as the telegraph operator was keying the message in real time.

We spent a good deal of time at the point where the final tie was laid, commemorated by this varnished railroad tie:

Looking west from the Promontory site, I took this photo and stared for quite a long time toward the horizon, trying to take in the magnitude of this achievement so many years ago when the work of modern machinery was done by human laborers under harsh conditions, hacking their way through forests and blasting through vast granite mountains, where progress was sometimes only eight inches per day.

There is so much more to learn about this amazing event in our nation's history that I can't possibly mention here. Its importance in unifying the country--especially just after the Civil War--and its vital role in advancing the development of the West is probably not fully appreciated by the majority of our citizens. 

We lingered here for quite a while after the visitor center closed, pondering the sensations all around us in silence. A light breeze stirred the grass in the dry, nondescript and lonely landscape. Besides the two of us standing together, there were only the rails, rusting, unused and seemingly forgotten in the middle of nowhere, saying nothing about how very important they were. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

More Adventures in Salt Lake City and Some Thoughts on Blogging

At the Salt Lake City KOA...

Once we had the new A/C and microwave oven installed in Phannie, we began to take in some more sights around Salt Lake City that we had missed on our previous visit two years ago when we had to rush to meet a cruise departure schedule in Seattle.

One of the things we enjoyed was the very large (and, unfortunately, very crowded) Saturday market day in downtown Salt Lake City. There were way more than a hundred vendors selling everything imaginable, and we scored some really fresh homegrown peaches, corn, squash and tomatoes that were oh, so good.

On another day, we drove out to the Great Salt Lake visitor center, where we looked out over the lake and watched a very informative video. We also strode out to the shoreline of the lake, where we saw firsthand the brine flies and brine shrimp--the only creatures that can live in the salty water. We also got a whiff of the perennial stench that emanates from the carcasses of the trillions of these creatures that have expired at the end of their brief cycle of existence.

As you can see above, the lake is so large (135 miles long) that it disappears over the horizon. As we always do on these outings, we learned some new things, this time about the Great Salt Lake. I'll share a few of these things I didn't know about it:

Besides the Great Lakes, it is the largest lake in the country. However, it was, in an ancient era, 25 times larger, covering most of western Utah.

It is fed by the inflow from three rivers, but it has no outlet for the water except evaporation. As the water evaporates, the minerals from the inflow remain, accounting for the extreme saline condition of the water, which contains about eight times the salt content of sea water. Because of that salt, the water is so buoyant that it is almost impossible for a swimmer to drown. No, we didn't take a swim. I didn't think I needed to do that, as I've sorta mastered floating, which is about the extent of my swimming. Thank goodness for having discovered the dogpaddle, or I would probably drift out of sight. 

The lake's average depth is 16 feet. Because of its shallowness, the size of the lake varies from 1000 to 3000 square miles, depending on the amount of annual rainfall that occurs in its watershed.

It is an essential stop for millions of migratory birds, many of which stop to feed on the huge brine shrimp population. Besides being plentiful enough for all of these winged visitors, the brine shrimp commercial harvest is also enormous, bringing $50 million to the Salt Lake area economy each year. What is the market for brine shrimp, you ask? Well, it seems they are eagerly sought by makers of fish food and other animal food, especially in Asia. And what do the brine shrimp eat? Algae that grows on the bottom of the lake just as the shrimp are hatching and need food when the weather warms in the late spring. Amazing design or merely coincidence? I vote for amazing design.

Okay, that's enough for what is supposed to be an easily readable blog post that is not too wordy; there is plenty more information online.

By the way, since I just mentioned my concern for the readability of this piece, perhaps it is time once again to offer some thoughts on a well-crafted blog post, in case you write a blog or are considering writing one that will attract and keep readers:

1. Brevity is better. I try to keep my posts at around 500 words to avoid reader fatigue; attention spans get shorter with each generation, I've found. I blame the technology that I absolutely wouldn't want to live without. 

2. Include photos, but try not to go crazy with them. Include a few really good shots that illustrate what you're talking about, and don't include 14 different photos of a single buffalo. Your readers won't appreciate it, and neither will the buffalo. 

3. Having settled on your photos, consider using enough narrative to describe your reaction to them or to the theme of your post. If possible, try to tell a story of sorts as you write. Readers love stories, and they want to know what you observe, think or feel about your subject. Try to show some of your personality when you write by relating personal experiences. The more humor you can use, the better. 

4. Don't worry too much about the mechanics of writing. The important thing is to have a record of your traveling experiences for that inevitable time when you hang up the keys. Even then, you can happily retrace each mile, guided only by your memory and the roadmap of your journal. 

Regrets? We may have a few when we reach the twilight of our years, but having no record of our adventures will not be one of them.

(Uh oh, I think I broke rule number one above, running over 500 words. Shame on me.)  

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather see the world and own little than to own the whole world and see little of it. 
--Alexander Sattler

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Fulltiming Perk: Never a Dull Neighbor

At Salt Lake City KOA...

Reader alert! This post has lots of references to RV technical subjects that may be a trifle boring for some folks. For example, I'm not sure Sandy read all the way to the end before her eyelids banged shut. But guys--rejoice! This is for you.

One of the neatest things about RVing is the crossing of paths with some really interesting people. This will be the third post from Salt Lake City in which I have written about new friends we have met. And finding engaging neighbors is not confined to this location; we see them all over the country. I'm convinced that RVers are some of the friendliest people on the planet, and why not? Most with whom we come in contact are retired and free-wheeling to wherever they wish with little in the way of cares or obligations. Why wouldn't they be happy?

Having our obvious common interest, it doesn't take long to start up a conversation with another RVer, especially if there's something a little different about the rig he (or she) is driving. This was certainly the case when Sandy and I, out for a walk, stopped suddenly in front of an old motor home that was clearly a re-purposed Greyhound passenger bus, judging by the paint scheme, and sporting a sign on the nose that read, "Bates Motel."  

Turning to Sandy, I said, "Now there's something you don't see every day in the RV park." We were clearly transfixed by this old bus:

On the rear of the bus appeared a similar but different sign with a horror movie-stylized font. This is, of course, in reference to the 

creepy old hotel featured in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 horror classic, "Psycho." Now these folks clearly have a sense of humor, I thought.

We finally noticed a gentleman sitting in a lawn chair near the entrance door of the bus. As I walked over to him, he stood up.

"Let me guess," I said. "Your name is Bates and you get a lot of inquiries about your coach."

"Right on both counts," he replied, smiling. He had a distinctive voice that sounded a bit like that of Walter Pidgeon, the distinguished character actor who starred in many classic old movies. 

After introducing ourselves and learning that his name was Bert, I told him that I was fascinated with old bus conversions like this and began to pepper him with questions about the project. He was only too happy to oblige my nosiness and eagerly answered every question, irrespective of how dumb they may have sounded.

It was about this time that Bert's charming wife, Reen, stepped out of the bus, and we made our introductions again. These two were so friendly that we pulled up some chairs and talked as if we'd known each other for decades. Well, it was really two conversations--Bert and I talked about the bus, and Reen and Sandy talked about much more important things, I'm sure.

Reen and Bert and the Bus
We learned they are from Florida and they have been touring the country in this bus since 1992, putting about 250,000 miles on it since the conversion that Bert, a retired engineer, did himself over a three year period. The bus is a 1972 MCI, operated by Greyhound for 20 years before Bert acquired it. My guess is that it accumulated at least a million miles--and maybe many more--before it was rescued by Bert.

The work performed on this conversion was simply mind-blowing to me and, seeing my obvious interest, Bert happily opened the cargo doors to show me the inner mechanical workings. As he strode confidently around, opening and shutting the big cargo doors, I was amazed at his physical vigor that belied his 81 years of age. (Before he revealed his age, I had guessed he was in his early sixties.)

He eagerly pointed out the water and waste systems he installed, along with a new inverter and 12-volt electrical system (the bus now has two electrical systems driven by two engine-driven generators--the original 24-volt and the new 12-volt one) in addition to a diesel genset for auxiliary electrical power. He also installed a propane system for cooking and heat and removed the ancient, 20-ton original air conditioner from the belly compartment, installing two roof airs and a new belly A/C unit that he fashioned from a residential window unit. And I haven't even mentioned Bert's complete remodeling of the interior. (The bus had around 50 passenger seats when he got it.) It now has all the amenities you would expect inside a modern diesel motorhome.

Inside the engine compartment was nestled the massive Detroit Diesel engine, a four-cycle version that Bert had installed to replace the original two-cycle model. He also upgraded the transmission to an Allison automatic from the original manual shift installation.

After dark, I walked back to the front of the bus and took the photo below of the illuminated sign on the nose. Although it isn't obvious from the photo, the "No" in "No Vacancy" flashes on and off. I thought this bit of serendipity was the perfect embellishment for the awesome result of all the efforts of this talented man.

Godspeed, Bert and Reen, and thank you for sharing a bit of your traveling life with us. It was quite a show, and I hope we meet again.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the whole world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler