Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Installations Done and Meeting More New Friends in Salt Lake City

At the Salt Lake City KOA...

Consistent with hiccups that often happen in the service world, our new microwave oven was delivered to the KOA office here, but the delivery guys didn't know they were supposed to install it, and promptly drove away. After some less-than-genteel conversations with Home Depot's customer service (obviously an oxymoron in my case), an installation was rescheduled to take place in a couple of days. 
*     *     *
So, it's a couple of days later.  Whoops! The installation guys took one look at the old microwave oven and informed us this would require custom work that was beyond their capability. I think they were spooked by the motorhome; this was obviously the first time they had been inside one. The installation clearly didn't require any custom work; it was a standard microwave and a standard opening. I think these guys just didn't want to tackle anything that was a bit outside the ordinary. It made me wonder exactly what they were good at--metabolizing? Motor functions? I suppose I'll never know. But I do know that they did not represent Home Depot well. I decided to cancel that installation and add it to the list when Access RV installs the new air conditioner.

Meanwhile, we're still finding creative ways to heat up and defrost food items. Have we become so spoiled that we forgot microwave ovens haven't always been around? Did people really heat food on a stove in some ancient time?  Heck, I can remember when I saw my first microwave oven--I was about 14 years old. Let's see...that was more than 50 years ago, wasn't it? 

A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that the microwave oven was invented in 1947 and patented by Raytheon under the RadarRange brand. The first commercial model weighed 750 pounds and cost  $27,000 in today's dollars. The smaller residential versions didn't see wide use until the 1970s.

The microwave oven in Phannie is a combination microwave/convection oven, so it took us a while to find one of these that would fit the bill. The one we bought, a Kitchen Aid, is ever so much nicer than the original Panasonic model that has cratered on us.

We had the good fortune to gain a new neighbor in the site adjacent to us. The very nice Discovery motorhome pulled in, and I went over to greet the couple and say welcome to the neighborhood. I learned that Allen and Carrol were not only fellow Texans, but former residents of east Texas, as is yours truly. Here's their photo:

Instantly feeling almost like kinfolks, we were privileged to accompany them downtown to watch a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The choir and orchestra were, of course, magnificent, and we enjoyed the experience again, having seen them here a couple of years ago:

We also accompanied Allen and Carrol to dinner the next evening, and we really enjoyed the fellowship and laughter. Here's hoping we cross paths again one of these days.

*        *        *

So, it's a couple of days later, and the new A/C and microwave oven are installed and ready to go. We really like the new microwave; now we have to learn how the controls work:

The installation work was done by Access RV here in Salt Lake City. I thought their work was excellent, and the price seemed very fair. I think I'll include them in my list of favorite service providers, linked in the far right column of this blog.

While I'm on the subject of links, I am still adding new parks to the "Best of the Best RV Parks" linked at the same location. An alert reader notified me the other day that I had included the wrong link for one of the RV parks, which I promptly corrected. Thank you for your help!

Also remember that you can get a 15 percent discount on any product you buy from Strongback Chairs by including the coupon "PhannieandMae15." This will save you about 15 bucks on the Elite model (and no, I don't get any kickback from them).

We will be here in Salt Lake for the better part of two more weeks, then off to Provo and St. George, Utah.

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 8, 2017

This is Turning Out to be an Expensive Trip

At the Salt Lake City KOA...

It started in Memphis, when Phannie's big slide wouldn't retract. I had to call a mobile tech who replaced a shear bolt that I hadn't discovered. It cost me the better part of $100 to find out that tidbit of information.

In Detroit, Mae developed a problem with her throttle body for the second time. This cost $500 after having the same thing repaired in Tupelo for $700 a few months ago. A week or so after we left Detroit, Mae's throttle body (I still have no idea what that is) failed for the third time in Middleburg, Indiana. Three strikes--poor Mae was out; rest in peace, old girl, and long live the new Mae! 

The new car was doing fine, except for my tire fiascoes in Elkhart and Butte that I described in earlier posts. (It wasn't the tires at all, but a leaking tire pressure sensor.) That cost about $500 for no reason other than my non-working brain.

It was in Kalispell that Phannie's bedroom air conditioner began to give trouble. The fan motor sometimes won't start and, when it does, it makes an expensive sound like a bearing that's about to swarm.

I think it was in Island Park, Idaho that the microwave stopped working. We didn't realize how much we missed that thing until it cratered on us.  

So, here we are in Salt Lake City, where we have appointments to have a new microwave and a new air conditioner installed. But that's okay; we like it here, as we've finally found an RV park where we can get a spot for more than two or three days. To make things even better, we got an email from fellow blogger and local resident Ray of Ray and Cindy's RV Travels who invited us to have lunch with them which, of course, we eagerly accepted. We met at the Spaghetti Factory at Trolley Square in Salt Lake and enjoyed a fine lunch as we chatted about our respective adventures. They are a delightful couple--RV 'most-timers' who have a winter home in Arizona. Since we're going to be in that area next winter, we hope to meet up with them again! 

Thank you again, Ray and Cindy, for contacting us; we really enjoyed meeting you. And, of course, we will add them to our link, "RV Bloggers We Have Met." 

And while I'm talking about links, you should know that I have added several more new RV parks to our popular list, "Best of the Best RV Parks." These are identifiable with a red triangle beside each new listing.

There are some places of interest here in the area that we didn't get to see on our last trip through Salt Lake City, so we'll undoubtedly seek them out while we're waiting on our service appointments.

If you're new to RVing and you're wondering if it is normal for things to break like this, the answer is probably yes and no. An RV--especially a motorhome--is a mechanically complex part-house and part-bus whose potential for something going wrong is exacerbated by the constant beating it takes on the road. On the other hand, we count ourselves lucky because we have had few problems with Phannie and Mae up until this point. Things are going to break from time to time, however, so we try to be prepared to take them on and get them resolved. We do this by 1) keeping Phannie and Mae serviced faithfully; 2) subscribing to a roadside service (CoachNet); 3) doing frequent walkarounds, checking tires and using a tire monitoring system; 4) driving carefully and sensibly; and 5) keeping a maintenance account well funded. (We don't like extended warranties after being ripped off a few years ago.)

I'm hoping this will be the end of this string of bad luck and that everything will get back to normal. More later from Salt Lake City...

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 world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rafting for Geezers on the Snake River

At KOA Campground, Salt Lake City, Utah...

After leaving the Yellowstone area, we made a brief stop at Jackson, Wyoming to fulfill (sort of) another bucket list item: Rafting on the Snake River. Our relatively short drive to Jackson was beautiful, of course--there were so many scenic turnouts where you could view sights like this one of the Palisades Reservoir on highway 26:

 Like almost everywhere else we've been since we began this trip out west, we couldn't find an RV space for more than a couple of nights so, being allowed only two nights at Jackson, we had only one day to do the raft trip. Our discounted nightly fee at the Virginian Lodge RV Park was over a hundred bucks a night, so we nearly choked on that. With that in mind, I'm not exactly unhappy that they kicked us out after two nights. Of course, Jackson is a beautiful and popular tourist destination, and they need to make their money during the short summer season, I guess. Everything here, including restaurant meals, was very expensive. Speaking of that, the Thai Plate restaurant in Jackson was very good but pricey!

We had basically two choices in terms of the kind of rafting we could do: The scenic raft tour with almost no rapids or the whitewater version where, of course, one comes close to drowning! Mindful of our age and physical limitations, we chose the scenic "geezer" trip, as the title of this post indicates. We met the raft guide, Arvin, a pleasant but uneffusive young fellow, at Moose Village, about 12 miles north of Jackson. We boarded the raft along with eight other folks, including a family with three kids who were quite entertaining during the trip. Here's the raft being backed into the river:

I guess this is my Indiana Jones impression, sitting here with a "PFD" (a personal flotation device, as the guide called it) installed. I wasn't sure why he couldn't have just called it a life jacket.

Arvin, our guide, skillfully navigated the river which, at this point, had almost no rapids although the water was surprisingly swift:

Under way, we were immediately engaged by the glorious Grand Tetons passing by in the distance. The skies were clear, except from some haze from forest fires, and the temperature on the water was in the high seventies. Just about perfect conditions, we thought.

While we certainly enjoyed the scenic two-hour, ten-mile ride down the river, we found the water a bit more tame than we expected. I can see that the whitewater experience would be a great deal more exciting, and I would recommend that over this geezer trip unless you're too young or too old and clumsy, the latter of which describes us most closely. 

Rafting is easily the most popular attraction at Jackson. There are rafting companies everywhere, and we thought this was a cute display on the roof of one of those businesses. 

Next stop--Salt Lake City; stick around!

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


At Valley View RV Park, Island Park, Idaho...

Yes, I know, I know. I said I would never go back to Yellowstone during the summer when the kids are out of school. When we visited there two years ago, the crowds and the traffic were terrible. Our frustration caused us to leave without seeing most of the sights in the park. So what changed? Practicality; since we were this close, we might as well...(how many times have you said that? Plenty, I'm guessing.) 

I'm kinda glad we did. Although the place was crowded, it seemed a little less so this time, so we decided to take two days and see most of the major sites we had previously missed. 

We wanted to maximize those two days, so I stumbled upon this tour-guide app named Gypsy Guide, for $4.99. Since I respond to technie stuff like a moth to a flame, I downloaded it to my iPad and took it with us in the car:

Perhaps some of you may have used this, but we hadn't heard of it before and, I must say, we found it amazing in its usefulness to maximize our trip through the park, advising us as we went, recommending things to see and those that were not so compelling, including turn-by-turn directions to get there. It knew exactly where we were at all times, and gave us all the guidance we needed when we needed it. The narrator proved to be a wealth of information, and we found this doggone thing almost human. I think we may even have tried to talk to it. It's not hard to use--just open the app, and it does the rest, with visual and audio cues. I don't think we'll ever be without one of these in the places for which it is offered.

We also watched Old Faithful again, just for auld lang sine. Sure enough, the geyser was still faithful, tossing out its hot water and steam about every 75 minutes:

Here are some more sights from the park, which has half the world's active geysers--150 in all.

There are many, many steam vents (called fumaroles) like this all around the park.
Here's a hot spring in a wooded area of the park.

I find these clear and colorful hot springs fascinating.
This was my favorite. Look how clearly visible are the walls of the hot spring below the water's surface.
Wildlife is everywhere in the park. This doe and her fawn were trying to drink from one of the mineral-laced hot springs. Not sure what they were thinking; looks like it burned mom's tongue.
This big guy was just ambling along beside the road as we passed. They often decide to walk in the highway, blocking traffic sometimes for miles.

The beautiful and wild Yellowstone River flows mightily through the park.

This is the iconic view of the Yellowstone River as it falls into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
As if there weren't enough other things to see, the surrounding mountains are also there for the viewing.
And so we say goodbye to beautiful and unique Yellowstone. We think we won't need to come back for a while. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the area is how large and close to the surface the magma chamber is beneath the area and how large the volcanic eruption was that formed Yellowstone. The hundreds of boiling hot geysers, springs and fumaroles throughout the park give a stark reminder that the hellish eruption that formed the area some 650,000 years ago will someday happen again. And how often does this happen, you may ask?  Around every 650,000 years. The bad news is that time is up!

On our last evening in the area, I decided to pay a surprise visit to a longtime blogger/traveler friend from Oregon who I learned was coincidentally traveling in the area and camped only about three miles from us. He had no idea we were even in this part of the country. Sandy and I knocked on the door of his cabin and Gordon answered the door, displaying astonishment so total that he had to sit down on the bed. His dear wife, Juanita, was pretty surprised, too, but she held her composure a bit better. It was the perfect prank, but the only bad thing is that there will likely be payback. Here's a photo of Gordon and Juanita and their--not spoiled, I'm sure--beagles, Abby and Luna:

Gordon is an accomplished drone pilot/photographer and posts occasionally to his blog, Gordon's Geezer Grumblings. Thanks, guys, for being good sports; we enjoyed your visit very much.

From here, we're headed to Jackson, Wyoming. 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 world and see little of it. -- Alexander Sattler