Monday, June 25, 2012

Hubby just reported "the ol' thermometer says 106, and that's not a radio station", so I guess it's a good time to kick back in the house, enjoy the A/C and do a bit of updating.

We're trying to get ready for departure, which will be sometime early in July if things go as planned. The weather lately makes it hard to get the outside tasks done, so we're progressing rather slowly (that's our story and we're sticking to it!).

A friend commented one time that she just assumed it took us a couple of days to get things ready and packed when we hit the road for the summer. I wish! Heck, I can't pack that quickly for a three day plane trip! We've always got things to repair, or improve, kitchen staples to refill, groceries to buy and load in, and then there's always the unnecessary crafty project of some kind that I'm determined to do, even though it isn't strictly necessary.

This year the essential repair was the forward spring that broke just as we were leaving Balmorhea State Park back in mid May. We had moved the short distance from our site over to the dump station when, in his customary walk-around, Steve noticed some unusual wear on the trailer's front tire sidewall.  Upon inspection he discovered the front spring had broken two leaves, allowing the fender well to drop. It was rubbing on the side of the tire and had done noticeable damage in only a few feet of travel.  It's a little unnerving to think about what the results might have been if that had happened at a high speed.

As a temporary fix to get us home Steve put a wooden block between the axle and the trailer. We certainly couldn't rely on that solution forever, so he found these heavy rubber axle bumpers that mount on the axle and will hopefully serve the same purpose should we ever break another spring.

The parts arrived the other day and after completing the installation Steve said the project went better than he'd expected, so in consideration of the wear and tear all the springs have had over the years, he ordered another spring for the other side and replaced that one too.

He did most of the work lying on his back in the gravel, under a metal roof, in a thunderstorm, with Shiner either breathing in his ear or laying on his tools - does he know how to have fun or what!

He's also done some general reorganization for the cargo spaces, and some repairs to the cargo box on the back so he's almost done with his to-do list.

My crafty project for this season was targeted at getting rid of the peeling wallpaper border. When we bought our Arctic Fox 30U, back in 2003, it had a wallpaper border all the way around the main living area. It's pressure sensitive sticky back promptly curled up and let go of the wall in the Nevada heat on that 4th of July trip. So, I put up a regular paper border, one that's attached with a water based paste. That survived pretty well, but now, nine years later, it was beginning to curl up at the corners and was driving me crazy.

The vinyl surface walls in an RV do present a particular challenge as not much wants to stick to them. My current solution is a stenciled design. Using a couple of purchased stencils and craft paints I applied a subtle leafy vine along the long side of the slideout, and two birds (colored to resemble the Texas scissor-tailed flycatcher) near the windows on each side of the slide. I dare this wall treatment to fall off!

I also remodeled a couple of foil window shades to fit our living space windows. These are the same kind you buy for autos, cut down to fit exactly so they can be tucked behind the shade during hot sunny days.
We find it makes a huge difference in being able to keep the inside cool when it's over 95 outside. The shades are already accordion folded, so are easy to tuck beside the sofa out of the way when we don't need them. We now have a foil blind to fit every window, so we're ready for that southwest desert sun!

Housekeeping is pretty much the same in an RV as at home. In spite of routine cleaning sometimes you need to dismantle an area and start over with everything clean and new. This year I talked myself into tackling the spice collection.

We like to cook, and we like spicy foods, so we carry a lot of spices for both baking and BBQ. Between road dust and humidity, the RV life is kind of hard on them. So, completely cleaning out and starting over seemed like a good plan. It only took most of a day (but I was able to stay inside where it's cool!)

We keep most of the spices in a nifty hanging rack that holds 12 different spices without taking up any shelf space. (You can find one like this by doing a web search on "select a spice carousel" - there are several, at varying prices.) I think this is one of the best inventions I've seen for organizing a small RV kitchen. It's taken all these years of bouncing down the road with no ill effects, too!

Remaining to-do's: reattaching our plexiglass storm window on the front door, steam cleaning the carpet, and installing the new sound system. So that my friends is why it takes us so long to get ready to travel.

After all that is completed we can start with the basic food and clothes packing! Yes, it's work, and maybe it would be easier if we did it full-time and didn't have the house to worry about too, but we do enjoy both. It's no more work than playing tennis as far as I'm concerned!
[Reminder: you can click on any of the photos for a larger version]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

catching up

Weather report: 6:20 A.M., 75 degrees, 43 % humidity, with a slight breeze. The katydids still haven't given up, so they're chirping away in the background as wispy gray clouds move overhead. The clouds are coming up from the gulf, which is why it's so muggy, and as the sun creeps up over the tree tops the gray clouds take on a bit of a peach glow. Soon it will become so oppressive that all thoughts of completing projects today will soon become plans for tomorrow, or the next day.

We're usually on the road by now, some place either cool, or with a dry heat. Things didn't work out that way this year, and we are trying to get work moved along on the covered porch and a few other necessities before we go, but it's a challenge. It's even been hard to work up the gumption to post on the blog, as you may have noticed! By way of getting the blog caught up, it did occur to me though that there were a couple of places we visited on the quick trip to California that we wanted to share and hadn't gotten around to it yet, so here they are!

First, for anyone traveling in the general Palm Springs area, I highly recommend including a day at the Living Desert in your trip plans. What began in 1970 as a botanical garden and nature trail has evolved in to a full wildlife experience. The animal habitats are exceptional, especially so as many of the plants are typical of environments the animals would normally live in, and the plant life that is artistically arranged and beautifully maintained is worth a visit on its own merits.
The walking paths around the animal displays are bordered with blooming grasses and trees, and tucked here and there are sculptures and other art objects, always related to the nearby animal enclosures. Signs posted here and there give not only facts about the animals, but in many cases their African names (with pronunciation assistance!)

There's a carousel for the little ones, each animal representing an endangered species, and many of the plant specimens are labeled, of interest to the gardeners like me.

A complex miniature railway adds another dimension to the experience. Amazing in detail and complexity, the model railroad set up includes the Grand Canyon, a ghost town, waterfall, and more fascinating details everywhere you look.

I could have spent hours admiring the craftsmanship and creativity in the display. Not only the little buildings, but the plantings around the tracks, the waterways, the detail on each of the cars, including weathering and damage that would normally occur. No detail as been neglected. There's an "engineer" in the center of the display operating the trains. Several run at one time, so I'm sure there's quite a bit of management require to prevent real-life derailments and crashes.
Rushing water under a tressel

There's a tram system running a regular route through the park that stops every 15 minutes at little rest stations, and there are overhead misters at every station so even in the heat, and it was hot the day we visited, visitors can still stay pretty comfortable. There are also several gift shops and small restaurants around the park, so it's easy to dip into a cool spot if necessary. The park keeps up a pretty busy schedule of activities year round, including campouts for families and kids, concerts, and special presentations.

Our other noteworthy experience was a two night stay in the Jojoba Hills Escapees park (that's pronounced ho-ho-ba). It's near the town of Aguanga (that’s pronounced a-wan-ga), east of Temecula, off Hwy. 79.

We try to check out the various Escapees co-op parks whenever we're near one, and this one turned out to be exceptional. In the co-op parks each lot is individually owned. Some owners live there full time in regular RVs or "park models", others come and go and allow their lots to be rented to short timers like us when they are gone.

This park has been in existence for over 25 years, high atop the mountain ridgeline in the hills, most lots have a lovely view of the valley below or the rolling hillsides that are covered with jojoba bushes and native cactus.

Many of the lots are planted with citrus trees, rose bushes, blooming shrubs, and amazing cactus of all types. It's better than a visit to an arboretum! Everyone we met, as usual in an SKP park, was very helpful and friendly. We had a nice visit both days with other folks who came to the little fenced-in dog park with their pooches. There's a sizable dog area right in the park and another area outside the perimeter,  and a gate through the perimeter fence, allowing for the more adventurous to explore the pasture, and the resident cattle, that surrounds the park.

The park offers residents the use of several features, like a pool, gym, woodshop, sewing and craft rooms, and right in the middle of the park, cleverly designed to channel the rain from the frequent cloud bursts, is a miniature golf course.

Water runs down a stone lined channel, in and around the little buildings, then collects in a series of small ponds that are strategically placed around the park. It was such a pleasant environment it was hard to leave, and I can easily see why several of the residents told us how happy they are there. Some have owned their lots for the full 25 years, so have really had time to develop them. For traveling Escapees it's definitely worth a stop.

There are a few more pictures of the Escapees park, as well as the Living Desert Museum, in the album.