Saturday, December 20, 2014

Arizona Snowbirds, 2014-2015: Part 1

Tired of Oklahoma winters and black ice?  Then, come along with us as we journey to the land of sun and spend the winter of 2014-2015 in Apache Junction, Arizona. 


We enjoyed a large Thanksgiving celebration with family, and a small, but enjoyable Christmas with Nana, children and grandchildren, before departing Oklahoma City on December 8. 


We originally planned this trip to occur last winter, but illness and family issues caused delay.  Once we saw the path was clear for this year, we made our reservations in July and watched weather and road predictions as the departure date grew near.

Because we winterized the coach upon our return from Albuquerque, we set it up at Rockwell RV Park in OKC so it would be easier to load groceries and other items and ensure that all systems were operating properly. 

The first day of travel was met with light winds and plenty of sunshine, which allowed us to travel 368 miles to Tucumcari, NM.  We once again stayed the night at our favorite spot, “Cactus RV Park.”


Although it was cold the next morning, the skies and wind were cooperative and we drove an additional 312 miles to Gallup, NM.  There, we stayed the night at “USA RV Park,” which is the sister park to Amarillo’s “Oasis.”  This is a “no frills” park, but it serves as a great overnighter. 

An interesting Christmas decoration greeted us at the office of the “USA RV Park” . . . .


Gallup is also home to “El Rancho Hotel & Restaurant,” a long ago “home to the stars!”


I’ve written about this establishment in previous blog episodes, and once again, the food was excellent, but the service was terrible. 




On future trips to Arizona, we’ll probably wait for Mexican cuisine until we reach Apache Junction (to be further addressed later in this segment). 

We intended to leave early the next morning in hopes of making Apache Junction before sunset.  However, travelers’ advisories had been issued due to the dense and freezing fog.  Nevertheless, we departed Gallup around 10 a.m. and cautiously headed west . . . .

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Within an hour the fog cleared and we once again had clear skies!  Occasionally, fog would appear in the canyons and around the mountains as we climbed into the high country around Flagstaff.


We originally planned four days for the trip to Apache Junction, averaging about 250-300 miles per day (970 miles via I-40, I-17).  But because of the clear skies and roads, we were able to shave off a day; albeit, they were long, hard drives for this old boy! 

I was recently asked if I “get bored driving the coach on long trips?”  Bored?  Really?  Not with all these gadgets! 


With Susan as navigator and Maynard as co-pilot, we finally reached our destination at “Shiprock RV Resort,” 1700 West Shiprock Street, Apache Junction, AZ  85120. 


This is an upscale, age 55+ RV resort.  It features many activities, i.e., bingo, cards, community dinners, dances, etc.  But, it has no “membership free” RC airplane field nearby, which is important to me (member parks require you to have someone else with you as you fly to act as spotter for other aircraft, which is not always convenient).  I brought my RC plane with me and I look forward to getting in a little “stick time” while we’re here!

Shiprock is a beautiful park and well maintained.  The sites have concrete patios and the streets are level and paved, and there is a beautiful heated pool and hot tub.


The great thing about wintering in Arizona is the weather!  After sitting up the coach and getting settled in, we went out for a quick dinner and I wore short sleeves (71 degrees at 7:05 p.m. on December 10) . . . .


The wind is generally calm and humidity is low, which makes for a very pleasant day if the temp is 60 or above.  The nights average in the mid 40s, and as of the day of this writing, we have used no propane heat – just one heat pump or a small electric space heater. 

In spite of the fair weather, our neighbors reminded us it is the holiday season . . . .


So, we did our best to join in!

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My friend, Mike Colaizzi, who lives here in AJ, came by to visit us in his 1966 Corvette.  What a car! 


We also had the opportunity to visit my mother’s youngest sister, Bobbie Lavato, who lives in Phoenix.  She and her husband, Joe, moved here in 1967 when he was transferred for his job with the U.S.P.S.  Aunt Bobbie treated Susan and me to some fabulous enchiladas!


As alluded to earlier, Susan and I also found some great Mexican food in AJ – “Elvira’s Mexican Restaurant.”  It’s located at 1520 W. Apache Trail, and we strongly recommend it! 


Bob and Jan Samples also told us about “In/Out Hamburgers.”  There are several locations in and around AJ, and they serve a great hamburger, fries and drink at a reasonable price.


AJ is a great seniors community!  It has wide streets with very little traffic, and all the usual stores, fast food, and other conveniences you may require, i.e., Walgreens, CVS, cleaners, etc.  And, you can see very unusual things here . . . .


You can even find a walker for sale on the side of the road:


Susan has found her gaming paradise at Shiprock, where she regularly plays Bingo, Hand & Foot, and Mahjong.  I will occasionally join her for the weekly bingo game, but generally, I find some project to work on at the coach. 

Recently, I decided to install an LED light strip to the curb side slide of the coach under the awning. 


We had installed the same type of light strip to the side of our previous coach and it worked great.  The light strip has 7 different color lights that can be programed to pulsate, alternate in color, or remain steady.  They provide good lighting for the outside of the coach after dark. 

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I installed the LED controller behind the refrigerator in the outside compartment, and used the 12-volt transformer (which came with the unit) by plugging it into the ice-maker outlet using a multiplex plug.  The light strip has 3M self-adhesive tape, which applies easily on a clean, dry surface, and I ran the electrical connection through the top access vent and down to the lower vent for a clean appearance.


No electrician needed!  Huh, Susan? 

As Christmas Day approached, Susan and I decided to take in a local dinner show at the “Arizona Opry.”  Barbara and Brenda Barleen, twin sisters, own the dinner theatre and not only serve good food (roast beef, chicken breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, wild rice, vegetable medley, whole wheat roll, and chocolate cake), but also put on a “Branson class” music show!  Their dinner theatre is located at 2275 E. Old West Highway, (480) 982-7991. 


From the age of 12, I accompanied my father in his long search for the “Lost Dutchman” gold mine.  The mine is thought to be somewhere in the Superstition Mountains, just east of Apache Junction. 


My dad was a private investigator for more than 34 years, and was hired to find the mine by a group of attorneys in the early 1960s.  For more than twenty years, my father searched for the mine by doing extensive research and observation, but rarely dug a hole or picked at a rock. 


A book written by Curt Gentry, “The Killer Mountains,” describes dad’s venture for the mine and gives a good history of the Peralta family who was once believed to mine the gold in the Superstitions. 


I have many fond memories of spending time in these mountains with my father, especially the early morning campfires and coffee from the vantage point in the following photo. Thus, my desire to return to Apache Junction and the surrounding area!

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By December 31, we had settled in and prepared to ring in our first New Year while on the road in the Coach.  My son, Keith, gave Susan and me several gift cards for local Phoenix and Mesa area restaurants as Christmas gifts.  We enjoyed a wonderful New Year’s dinner at “The Keg” in Mesa.


I’ve visited Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains numerous times during my life, but January 1, 2015 was the first time I ever saw snow dusted upon the mountain.  The sight was a beautiful New Year’s Day gift!


Our friends, the Samples, will be joining us in just a few days.  So, while I had a little free time before their arrival, I thought I’d complete another project. 

I read on an online RV forum that adding small electric fans to the back of the refrigerator would assist in reducing heat buildup on the coils and help the fridge run more efficiently.  I found several 12-volt, desktop computer cooling fans for sale on Amazon and had them delivered to our park. 


I attached four fans to the back of the upper refrigerator vent with plastic zip ties, and wired them to the available 12-volt wiring in the lower outdoor refrigerator compartment.  It’s important to ensure that the airflow is directed to the outside of the compartment so that the fans exhaust the hot air from the coils.  It so happens that Monaco had factory-installed two similar fans midway up from the lower compartment near the center of the coils, in a horizontal position, which assist in pushing the hot air upwards toward the upper vent.  Once the hot air rises to the upper area, the newly installed fans push it out of the compartment.  I can now place my hand over the upper compartment and feel warm air being discharged while the fans are running. 

To prevent unnecessary battery drainage and wear on the fans, I also installed a snap disk temperature switch on the positive line leading to the fans.  The switch activates the fans at 70 degrees, and turns them off at 65 degrees . . . .


Within a day after the installation, I noticed no buildup of hot air inside the rear refrigerator compartment, and a fall in the interior storage compartment of two degrees.  The daily outside air temperature at the time was about 76 degrees. 

The Samples arrived – Yea! 


Susan and I deliberately held off  visiting some of the local sites pending the Samples’ arrival, because we knew they’d want to accompany us.  We made a day trip of visiting several sites, including the ruins of “The Superstition Inn,” where my father, myself, and his crew would lodge when entering and exiting the mountain range. 


The “Superstition Mountain Museum,” where many artifacts and history of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine and Superstition Mountains are available for viewing . . . ,


including the Curt Gentry book, “The Killer Mountains,” describing my father’s search for the Lost Dutchman Mine (second row from top, 7th book from the left).


“Tortilla Flat,” a former stagecoach stop . . . .


“Canyon Lake,” along the Apache Trail on the east side of the Superstition Mountain range . . . .


And, the interior of the Superstition Mountains and the pathway to the Lost Dutchman Mine . . . .

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Storms over Superstition Mountain are often spectacular, especially with lightening.  But on this early morning, I got a great shot of the clouds hanging in the valleys of the mountain!


Along with RVing, off-road vehicles have become another very popular activity in and around the Arizona mountains.  Susan and I first became interested in UTVs (Utility-Terrain-Vehicles), or sometimes referred to as OHVs (Off-Highway-Vehicles), when we visited Colorado last summer.  Our park, Shiprock, has a “four-wheeler group” that gets together one morning per week and explores the various OHV trails in the Apache Junction area.   

It so happened that one of our fellow Shiprock neighbors decided to sell his 2012 Polaris RZR, and Susan and I added a new concept to our RVing experience. 

Meet “Red Fred.” 


I know you must think Jerry’s lost his mind.  This machine is black or dark gray, but certainly not red.  Well, if you’ve read previous segments of “The Adventure,” you’ll recall that our past two golf carts were also named “Red Fred.”  The first was, in fact, red, while the second was white in color.  Nevertheless, it was also called “Red Fred” because the grandchildren insisted upon such.  Thus, “Red Fred” shall live on – only now in the form of a black or dark gray RZR!

Bob Samples and I were anxious to break loose on the trails and see what Fred was capable of.  And, I thought it would be wise for me to get the feel of it and learn its limits and capabilities before taking Susan along.  So, we trailered old Fred over to Bulldog Canyon OHV Area.  A permit is required to operate a UTV on the trail system, which is available online. 


The annual RV migration to Quartzite began January 16, when thousands of avid RVers flock to the small western Arizona town for the RV and mineral show, as well as one of the largest flea markets you’ll ever see.  We first visited Quartzite in 2012, but joined the Samples for a return visit this year.  Below, is a photo of Maynard preparing for the trip to Quartzite (sissy dog).


The Samples will boondock in the desert, while Susan and I reserved a site at nearby Brenda, AZ, at “Desert Gold RV Park,” 46628 E. Hwy 60, Salome, AZ  85348, (800) 927-2101.  Although the physical address is “Salome,” which I plotted into our trusty Good Sam GPS, the actual location of the park is in Brenda.  We followed our GPS directions, which detoured us off I-10 east for about 20 miles, and actually had us arrive in the center of Salome.  But, after a telephone call to the RV park, we realized we were approximately 30 miles east of the park and our true destination.  So much for the accuracy of the Good Sam GPS manufactured by Rand McNally!


“Desert Gold” is a clean park with nice amenities.  They have various games throughout the week, and hold regular dances with live music.  There are many permanent residents, but many more available RV sites for temporary stays. 


Now, that we own Red Fred, I especially found the gate access to the BLM desert very convenient . . . .


The following photos reflect what I discovered during my walk through the BLM land, including a grave/memorial, a desert golf course, and a small grave marker.


To be continued in “Arizona Snowbirds, 2014-2015: Part 2.”