Saturday, March 23, 2013

Change Of Plans

Our Campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park

Sarah and I have suddenly changed our plans of migrating north as the weather improves. In fact, we are now going to Florida. Be sure to read on to see how this all came about.

Before leaving the Phoenix area, we decided to have the minor transmission leak fixed. This time we used Robert Horne Ford ( in Apache Junction. I left the truck at Horne Ford on Friday morning. They found the leak was at the rear shaft seal and they would have to order parts that would arrive on Monday. So, we were to enjoy Lost Dutchman State Park for a few more days. 

Sarah stayed at the park while I dropped the truck off for the repair. When I returned she was next to the trailer waving wildly at me to stop and not drive into our parking place. When I got out of the car she told me she had just encountered a rattle snake and it was now in the rocks that were at the edge of our campsite. She had been washing the windows when she heard the sound of the rattle come from the grass next to where she was standing. She jumped back, retreated to the trailer and watched in the grass. She then took her camera, went outside and just as she came to the side where the snake was, she saw it slither under the trailer and across the campsite to the rocks.
Mr. Rattle slithering from beneath the Mary Joan
Mr. Rattler is watching

We informed the park ranger of our find. Since the snake had gone from the rocks back out into the wash and away from the campground they were not concerned about it. In truth, the snake is more at peril than the campers are. It seems that, while there are many other venomous snakes in the area, the rattle snake alone is becoming threatened. While people have close encounters with other snakes, they are usually unaware of it. However, the rattle snake gives a warning because it doesn't want to have a conflict with a large adversary. It is this warning that gives them away and leads people to kill them. The rangers further informed us about the demographics of human rattle snake bite incidents; males between the age of 16 and 25.

We had one more important errand. Our friend Paul collects and restores antique ambulances. A friend and co-collector of his, Robert, lives in Scottsdale and had some rare and very expensive lights and lenses for Paul's ambulance. We agreed to pick them up in order to safely bring them home for Paul. Robert proudly showed us his impeccably restored ambulance.  
Robert and Sarah
The 1970's Honda 350 is not too bad either

One of the surprising things we discovered about our cell phone service is that data is more reliable than voice in weak signal areas. Making telephone calls was difficult, but we could access the internet fairly reliably. While the speed was not as fast as usual, we could access the internet. I like to read the news, check my e-mail and browse through Facebook while having my coffee in the morning. Sarah does the same, but on Saturday evening Sarah decided to see what Airstreams might be for sale on e-bay. While we both really like the Mary Joan II, Sarah has always admired the Airstream Classic model. On this night, she found a deal we could not pass up, a 2013 Airstream Classic 31'. It was selling for a substantial discount from what it would sell for new. The detail listing said it had only been used once. The person selling it appeared to be a dealer whose history showed a perfect satisfaction rating on all the other Airstreams he had sold on e-bay. There were no bids above the minimum bid, so waited until the last moment and submitted our bid. We won the auction. 

Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night. I could not help wondering if I had just done a very irresponsible thing. Who would buy an Airstream on e-bay without ever seeing it? The next morning, I received an e-mail from the seller with his phone number and a request to call him. I needed to go to the Post Office and wash the truck so I waited until I was in Apache Junction with reliable voice signal to call him. The seller, Rudy, explained many details about the hows and whys this trailer was for sale. He also told me that he acts as a broker for the seller. One of the details I learned was that the trailer is in Traveler's Rest RV Park in Dade City, Florida. That bit of information was invaluable because a member of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International Cape Cod Chapter (WBCCI is the international Airstream club) , to which we belong stays at that very same park. I sent an e-mail to our fellow member, Rich, and asked him to drive by and take a look at the trailer for me. 

Rich called me the next morning. He did much more than I could have expected. It happens that Rich is acquainted with the seller of our new Airstream. He took advantage of that association and asked if he could look it over. The seller gladly agreed. Later on Rich called to report that the trailer was indeed in like new condition and had only been used once. 

As did the seller of our new trailer, we engaged Rudy to sell the Mary Joan II so we could afford the Mary Joan III. He told me he would have no trouble getting a fair price for our current Airstream. True to his word, a week later, he had secured a buyer. 

That is the reason we are now on our way to Florida. There are some minor obstacles to overcome that result from buying and selling a vehicle so far from the place where we live. Some of them being transferring registration and titles. But, we think we have solutions to all of them. These will take some time, therefore we can take our time traveling to Florida. We can still stop and see places of interest along the way. 

The first day back on the road took us to Petrified Forest National Park. Along the way we stopped to see Fort Apache and visit the nearby Kinishba ruins. The fort is nothing like is depicted in old western movies. It did not have a wall surrounding it as is often done in the movies. We enjoyed the architecture of the buildings and the short video describing Apache tribal beliefs about their creation.
Commander's residence at Fort Apache
Officer's quarters at Fort Apache
Kinishba ruins, built by the Pueblo on land now occupied by the White Mountain Apache 

We arrived at Petrified Forest National Park late in the afternoon and camped just outside the southern entry to the park at the Crystal Forest museum/gift shop and RV park that offered free camping. Since it was too late to tour the park, we went to the visitors center to get a brochure and map of the park to plan our activities for the next day. We learned that the park archaeologist would be giving a guided hike the next morning. That was just what Sarah and I were looking for.  
Free Camping at the Crystal Forest RV Park

We left early enough to give us time to visit the Painted Desert Inn and other sights in the park before joining Bill, our guide, and the 27 other people in our tour that began at Lacey Point and took us a mile into the Painted Desert to an archaeologically significant area.
Park Ranger and archaeologist, Bill. He knows his stuff.

At this place in the badlands of the Painted Desert we came to a place where there are thousands of artifacts scattered at the foot of a small rocky mesa. In addition to the artifacts are several well preserved petroglyphs. The artifacts consisted mostly of shards of pottery and some utensils to grind corn. Bill discussed the history of the area and  how the pottery and the techniques and skills used to make it evolved. He also explained that there was evidence that the inhabitants of this place gradually transformed from hunter gatherers to an agrarian society that established trade with other groups far distant.
Pottery shard. This is a museum where you can touch the exhibit.
The ground is littered with shards. Bill tells us that less than 1/4 of the park has been archaeologically explored 
Some of the finest petroglyphs I've ever seen
Petrified log being exposed by forces of erosion 

After thanking Bill for a wonderful morning, Sarah and I visited other beautiful areas of the park and returned to the trailer with enough time left in the day to move on to our next destination, Canyon De Chelly National Monument not too far to the northeast.

As in so much of Arizona, the scenery on the drive to Canyon De Chelly (pronounced de shay) was magnificent. The ever changing colors, textures, terrain, fauna and flora kept us entertained along the entire route. At times, we wondered how any one place in this vast beautiful desert could be singled out as being special. That was until we glimpsed Canyon De Chelly. 

We arrived after the visitor center had closed and we bypassed the first campground near the entrance to the monument. I had used Google Maps to view the monument and look at the satellite images seeking a place to boondock (camp outside of an established campground). I understood the rules to be that unless otherwise posted, boondocking is allowed in National Forests, National Monuments, on Bureau of Land Management and Army Corps of Engineer property so long as one is off the road and not blocking traffic. We found such a spot high up just 40 yards from the rim of the canyon. It was late when we arrived and the overcast sky obscured what would have been a beautiful sunset, but we awoke to a glorious sunrise.

View from our breakfast table

Canyon De Chelly

Leaving the canyon, we headed northeast to Four Corners, the only place in the United States where the boundaries of four states meet, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.  We did the obligatory activity here and stood on the exact spot where these states meet in order to stand in all four states at the same time. This was a quick stop because we wanted to get to our next exciting destination, Mesa Verde National Park just over the border in Colorado, a place to see some remarkable ancient cave structures. 
Four places at the same time
When we were in Phoenix, we visited the Phoenix Art Museum. One of the current exhibits featured exquisite photographs of Ship Rock, New Mexico and Mt. St. Michel, France by photographer, William Clift . Ship Rock, a majestic solitary cone of rock was nearby and we could not resist making the detour. It was well worth it. Here is the link to the exhibit:

Like a cathedral, Ship Rock

Before leaving Lost Dutcham State Park in Arizona, we read about Mesa Verde and learned that the park is open all year and that reservations at the campground are not needed. While we were traveling and had internet on the smart-phone, Sarah did some more reading and noted that the high point in the park is over 8,000 feet above sea level. I could see the mountains of Colorado and they had a lot of snow on them. Seeing this I called the park rangers at Mesa Verde and asked what the road conditions were like. Sadly, we found out that most of the ruins were not accessible and that the campground was closed. Mesa Verde will have to wait until next year. With that we changed course and started on our way to Florida with no firm agenda, only knowing we want to arrive at the end of March.

With no major attractions or state parks on our path and desiring not to stay in a commercial campground, we found ourselves just east of the San Juan National Forest. In the town of Cuba we there is a small road that took us 8 miles up a steep winding road into the forest. We found small pull out near the trail head of NFS trail number 98 that made a perfect site to boondock for the night. I noted that there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground on both sides of the road.

In planning the trip south, I checked the historical climate data for each place where we intended to spend the night. I know that Airstream's plumbing system is better protected from freezing temperatures than other travel trailers, but I didn't want to challenge that too much. Therefore, we tried to stay in places where overnight temperatures were not likely to drop much below freezing. However, high up in the San Juan National Forest, we heard the furnace coming on frequently during the night and awoke to 24 F. I quickly checked all the plumbing fixtures. Everything was just fine. Thank you very much, Airstream. 

Needing to average 200 - 250 miles a day to reach Florida on time is not very demanding, and that's what we want. So we set Clovis, New Mexico as our next destination. But, the weather report is for high winds with gusts to 50 mph the next day. Knowing we didn't want to tow a 30' trailer in such conditions, we pressed on to Lubbock, Texas where we could spend a couple days with more to see and do than in Clovis, yet still keep cover the needed ground. 

With laundry to do and wanting to be near the center of Lubbock, Sarah got us a reservation at the Camelot Village RV Park. This park has surprisingly well spaced campsites. It is very clean and the concrete pad we were assigned is perfectly level making camp setup a breeze. We went to dinner at the Lone Star Oyster Bar on 58th Street. The band was loud and not very good, but fortunately they took a long break just as we arrived. Most of the tables were full, but we saw two men sitting at the end of a large table that could seat six. We asked if we could join them and they gladly invited us to sit down. Unlike most states, Texas does not have a law prohibiting smoking in restaurants and bars. The smoke was so bad, Sarah took her coat back out to the truck to save it from being permeated with the stench  Our waitress was prompt and friendly. Actually, a little to prompt as our appetizer and main courses came at the same time. Sarah and I shared the fried oysters, very tasty, and we each had the blackened catfish which was also done perfectly. I enjoyed the red beans and dirty rice that came with my catfish while Sarah thought the spices in rice were not well balanced. 

After dinner, we wanted to go dancing. Lubbock is home to The Texas Cafe and Bar, known locally as "The Spoon". It is a venerable institution with a reputation for premiering some good music. Sadly, the acoustic duo that was on stage when we arrived were uninspiring and while the band that followed played some very good rock and the roll, the lead singer struggled with equaling the talent of his backup. We had a drink and left.

With the laundry done and the smoke washed from our hair, Sarah took off to explore the museum at Texas Tech and do some grocery shopping while I stayed 'home' to catch up on the blog. As I write this, the wind is rocking the trailer as predicted. Glad we decided to stay off the road. I have no idea where we will be tomorrow, so stay tuned.


  1. Congrats on the new trailer, and just picking it up is part of the adventure.

    I think I stayed at that NFS site outside of Cuba many many years ago. We were the only campers there I built a roaring fire. Good times.

  2. We enjoyed meeting y'all and our dinner together. Hopefully we'll meet up with you again some time and see your new unit.
    Enjoy your travels.

  3. Congratulations on the new trailer. We just got a 2012 31' Queen Classic from Portland OR. I will be looking forward to more pictures and stories. Might meet up down the road.


  4. Looked on ebay and found the trailer you purchased. Very nice. Almost identical to ours. Plus it comes with a Hensley. We looked for a while for that specific floorplan as opposed to the 30' (still really a 31') that splits the shower and toilet.

    We are retiring in 2 1/2 years so we will be hitting the road then.



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