Saturday, January 31, 2015

Superbowl Frenzy in Phoenix Arizona…

imageFrom our camp here at Sun Life RV Resort in Mesa, we done some exploring in town but there are hoards of people here. When we made our appointments for our physicals at the nearby Mayo Clinic we never realized how many big events were taking place at this time.  In fact, the first day we pulled into town the Pro Bowl was scheduled to play that evening making the traffic a bit heavy.

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It looks like there will be considerably more congestion the next few days as the TPC Phoenix Open tournament is going on now and the Super Bowl will happen on Sunday. There has record attendance at the Open and the attendees witnessed Tiger Woods play his worst golf as a PGA pro thereby not even making the cut. I am sure there will be less people in attendance now that there has been rainfall for over 20 hours with more yet to come. Is this really the

However, before all the rain came through town Sharon and I drove a few miles west into Mesa and caught the light rail train to visit the Super Bowl Extravaganza held in downtown Phoenix. The train was only $4.00 for an all day pass which included transfers and buses. With event parking as high as $40.00 near the event, this was a no brainer… The newscasters here are saying parking at the super bowl will be $100.00…yikes!!! desert?

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The train took less than 30 minutes where we exited on 3rd and Washington right in the heart of the portion of downtown that has been cordoned off for the festivities. Lots of people in town were sporting their team’s colors and lots of slick advertising could be seen over the place including on the skyscrapers. We walked into the main area with a large stage where we saw there were Native Americans dancing. There would be all sorts of free entertainment on this stage throughout the day,

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Lunch was covered by Papa Johns and Tostitos as they were giving out samples of their new products. A Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza slice and a bag of rolled up chips and spinach artichoke dip together made a decent gratis lunch. However, we would likely never order the pizza nor the chips because we didn't care for the heavy sauce (thousand islands dressing???) on the pizza and the rolled up chips were, well, rolled up and difficult to use for dipping (what were they thinking?). But for free… it was pretty good after all.

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The coolest thing we attended was the Verizon interactive technology exhibit called the Verizon Powerhouse. While standing in line Verizon representatives helped everyone download the Verizon Powerhouse app allowing for all kinds of fun things once inside. Sharon virtually chatted with Clay Matthews, a Green Bay linebacker. We both virtually caught a football from our favorite team’s quarterback and do our own version of the end zone dance.

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The neatest thing we did there was to wear virtual reality goggles where we found ourselves inside the locker room listening to the coaches pregame talk and then running with the team through the tunnel out onto the field of cheering spectators. Next you become part of a play where after catching the football pass, you run in for a touchdown eluding tacklers along the way. The view was 360 degrees so you have a panorama giving the sense that you are actually doing all the stuff you are seeing.It was great fun standing in the line watching all the people wearing the goggles running in place and trying to miss tacklers. Many were clapping and cheering but mostly all had this grin from ear to ear as they were experiencing the game day action. I especially loved watching an elderly lady in a wheelchair experience it all as she had her feet moving and had that same ear to ear grin… how cool for her to experience such innovative technology!!

Now we will take it easy today as the rain continues and probably take this time to make plans for where we will watch the big game. No tickets for us as a the going rate is well over $5000 per ticket according to the media unless we win free tickets from our registration at the downtown event.  Most likely we will enjoy the game at home on TV and think of all the money we saved…

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Leaving the Q and moving east to Mesa AZ…

Last night in Q and Blogfest 071Wow! What fun we had during our week stay at Quartzsite with the Class-less Class of Escapees… But everything must come to an end and so did our fun at the Q as it was time to begin our very slow crawl back out east. We packed up everything and went around to say our “see ya laters” (not goodbyes) and finally headed out of the desert around 10:30 am. A few miles south we entered the town of Quartzsite where we turned east on the interstate and drove about 3 hours to the city of Phoenix Arizona.

Last night in Q and Blogfest 011Phoenix is a large city so we were on the Interstate highway with up to seven lanes but finally made our way through Phoenix and entered the suburb of Mesa where we turned into the Cal Am resort called Sun Life RV Vacation Resort. We will be here for one month. I originally only wanted to stay in Mesa for a few weeks while we had our medical appointments scheduled at the nearby Mayo Clinic.  In comparing weeklong stays with  the cost to stay a month it was cheaper to book a month. At least most of the 2015 winter will have passed by the time we start the engine again to head further east. It will give us time to begin planning our eastward route as well…

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Our first few days found us relishing having full hookups again after boondocking in the desert for a week. Long showers, washing our hair and enjoying unlimited electricity were all enjoyed in those first few days. This park also allows washing of cars and RV’s so we will tend to those chores while we are here too.

Last night in Q and Blogfest 069The resort itself is typical of those found in Mesa as it is predominately park models with sites here and there for RV rentals. We are parked between a nice work camping couple from Maryland and what appears to be a somewhat abandoned travel trailer to our west.  Sun Life Resort has plenty of activities including a fabulous pool and hot tub (both of which are enjoyed after a week at the Q). There are pickleball courts that we plan to frequent as we try to better learn the sport. We also found a billiards room, hobby rooms, batting cage, shuffleboard and a really nice fitness center that Sharon has already been enjoying.

It seems the only downside is the that since there are so many permanent residents with the average age in the park well into the 70’s even including the younger work campers in that average. I am sure we will meet a lot of nice people  but will not likely find any hiking buddies. That being said I am not sure how much hiking we will do while in the big city anyhow… Nonetheless there is restaurant and a small bar by the pool with live music during the 4-6 pm happy hour so I am sure we will be checking that out as well…

Now it is off to the hot tub for me…

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bloggerfest 2015 and the last day in Quartzite AZ…

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Our week in Quartzite went by fast and we sure met a lot of new friends. Our last full day there was filled with activity. We got up, had coffee and then headed north to the Bluewater Casino near Parker Arizona to eat a late breakfast at the buffet at the casino. When we signed up for players cards we each received free breakfast buffet vouchers so we decided to use it.them this day. The buffet was great especially for the price!!!

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Normally we would not drive 30 miles for breakfast but we used this breakfast trip as an opportunity to visit a quirky bar we had heard about out in the middle of nowhere – The Desert Bar. We plugged in the coordinates of 34.20151°N 114.14899°W into our garmin GPS to find it. Apparently I fat fingered one of the numbers as I was in California before I knew it so I had Sharon verify our bearings on her smartphone GPS. Yep,  I was indeed heading the wrong way, so we made the adjustments and eventually left the blacktop onto a pretty rough dirt road (some high clearance is definitely helpful on this road)  After about 5 miles into the desert we at last found the infamous bar…

The Desert Bar is run entirely on solar power and has a unique history. Their main page outlines its interesting past. As the bar was built in phases each phase added another interesting twist to the whole atmosphere. About 15-20 people from our group were there with probably about another 1000 people right at  the 12:00 noon opening.  This popular bar is only open on Saturdays and Sundays and is truly a Road Treat!.

We only had a short time to experience the bar as we had more on our itinerary. It would have been nice to stay and listen to the live music but we wanted to get back in time to visit to the first ever bloggerfest held right beside where we were camped off of Plumosa Road in Quartzsite. After about an hour we arrived at the already pretty crowded bloggerfest.  Over 50 people showed up for the bloggerfest with a lot (and I mean a lot) of bloggers that I have followed over the years of RV’ing and even some I followed before we bought our first (and only) RV.

Last night in Q and Blogfest 049It was a treat to be able to meet so many fine writers and photographers. The biggest treat for me was to finally meet Kevin and Ruth another couple we have come close to meeting so many times. Visiting Judy one more time as well as finally meeting Al and Kelly was a treat as well. We chatted a bit with Barbara but didn’t get to meet Katie… I want to shout out a very big Thank You to Jeri and Sandi, who organized this event.  They were also part of our Class-less group so we really enjoyed hanging out with them. Interestingly we had many many other great bloggers in our sizable camping group we mingled with even before bloggerfest! 

Last night in Q and Blogfest 052Unfortunately the crowd was so large and the time was limited that we were unable to meet many of the bloggers there including some we follow closely. However due to bloggerfest's initial success I am sure there will be many others in the future… Since we will likely be on the east coast next year we are hoping maybe there will be two next year – a Bloggerfest West and a Bloggerfest East!

This day wrapped up what turned out to be our most lengthy boondocking experience to date. Both Sharon and I are so glad we decided to check out the Q. as we had such a wonderful time with some amazing like minded people.  The last evening at Happy Hour it was fun to share one last campfire with our friends back at the Class Less group and we look forward to seeing all these great folks on down the road....

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In Quartzite it is all about making new friends…

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I am not sure what my real expectations were when we finally decided to go to Quartzsite but I think I mostly envisioned a lot of people packed into the desert with huge crowds visiting the exhibits and the big tent. Sharon envisioned lots of down time that might become a little stifling.  Well, as it turned out nothing could be farther from the truth!

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I was correct about the sea of RV’s packed into the desert and thousands of people crammed into the big tent…  However, what I hadn’t envisioned were the tight communities of people who gather in Quartzite for the social side of the RV’ing boondocking lifestyle. People who are nomadic but still in search of “community” find just that here in the Q. From the minute we drove up people such as these greeted us with open arms and made us feel right at home. Remember these are people we have never met before…

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The Class-less group of Escapees who began as a class of 2008 fulltimers have evolved into a large gathering of RV’ers who have been on the road since 2008 and others who have been on the road only on a few months. They call themselves the Class-less group since they are composed of so many different classes of fulltimers. This all inclusive group of very friendly folks far exceeded our expectations… truly an oasis in the middle of the desert!

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We have gone on hikes with some of our new friends, partaken in fireside chats, enjoyed semi-organized events such as the exquisite margarita night which even included a beautiful “house on wheels” piƱata. The evening social time beginning at 4:30 has been a big part of the frivolity that this group represents. I can truly say there are very few, if any, neighborhoods in the cities and towns around the USA and Canada that could rival the friendly atmosphere here in the Q. It has been so refreshing to spend time with like minded people who embrace this lifestyle as we have. Thank you so much Marsha and Paul Weaver for inviting us to this wonderful gathering and it was fun finally meeting the two of you for the first time too..

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We urge anyone out there contemplating retirement, whether early or not, to come join the denizens of people wandering around the USA and Canada in an assortment of homes on wheels. Quit your jobs, sell your houses and enjoy exploring this great land of ours. We guarantee that in addition to wonderful sights, you too will meet more friends and interesting folks than ever before in your life…

Take a chance and we cannot wait to welcome you on the Road of Retirement…

NOTE: We leave for Mesa, Arizona today but I am a bit behind in blogging (due to all this fun and adventure) so one more blog is forthcoming on Quartzite and our stay here…

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Few Days in Quartzsite…

imageAfter nearly four years on the road we finally decided it was time to visit the boondocker’s mecca – Quartzsite, Arizona or would it be more appropriately called The Woodstock for RV’ers… We spent one night boondocking in Quartzite on the way to San Diego along with our friends Dan and Merlene and Jim and Cookie.  At that time passing through the town we noticed it was very quiet and hardly any RV’s were taking advantage of the free overnight camping. This time would be different…

Quartzsite, located in western Arizona, is just off of Interstate 10. It's was widely known as a paradise for  rock hounds since the 1960s. Things have changed since the 60’s and Quartzsite, or the “Q” as it is often called is now home to one of the world's largest open air flea markets and home to over a million visitors each year. There obviously isn’t enough hotel space for these visitors so most of them arrive in thousands and thousands of RVs mostly during the months of January and February. It is an unbelievable sight to see.

Since we had no real affiliation with any group who annually camp out in the Q I had pretty much settled on staying with the Boomers, an Escapee Birds of a Feather group. But the morning we were departing Yuma I changed my mind after Paul Weaver contacted me and asked us to join the Classless Class which is a popular group on the Escapee Forum. We had always hoped to cross path with the Weavers one day and this was the perfect opportunity to finally meet in person! 

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We drove about 85 miles and turned off on Plumosa Road where we found the The Classless Class (a really fun group of fine folks – don’t let the name fool you!). Though we arrived ahead of the Weavers the entire Classless group was very friendly and welcoming. The week looks to be full of potlucks and group outings making us instantly feel really glad we came.  We are scrambling to learn all the names of these fine folks and testing our memory while gathering around the fire at 4:30 each afternoon for Happy Hour.

Anyway no trip to the Q is complete without a visit to see the thousands of vendors of selling rocks, gems, minerals, hats, shirts and everything else imaginable. This sleepy little town of 2-3000 people (depending on which source you trust) swells to over 100,000 in January and February. They say that about 1.5 million people visit the Q annually and mostly in winter. And with very little precipitation in the area (only 3.51 inches annually) there are plenty of days to shop.

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Our impression of this very large show was that we must already have all the “stuff” we need as we walked for over half a day and never found a thing we just had to have. Sharon did see a few things she wanted but wasn’t willing to get rid of anything (if you know the rules). So after seeing nothing special we chose to drive over to the mountain with the “Q” emblazoned on its side and hike up to the top.

This isn’t a very long or overly steep hike and it’s not all that scenic as there is a bunch of trash in the area. the real treat was the expansive views we got once we got to the top and summited… The panorama was a sea of RV’s all over the desert replacing creosote bushes as the most common thing found in this desert. It was indeed a pretty cool sight from the top…

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We ended the day by stopping at the Yacht Club bar on Main Street in Quartzsite to meet other RVillagers for a happy hour hosted by the founder of RVillage, Curtis. We met lots of RV’ers and quite a few bloggers there. We sat a table with fun group that included the Geeks on Wheels while Curtis and the Technomadia Bloggers, Chris and Cherie sat at the table next to us. We had fun but had to leave early missing the opportunity to meet all of RVillagers there but the big fire back at camp was calling our name.  This boondocking experience is becoming as event filled as any resort we've ever attended.  We just never know what to expect in this RV lifestyle while On the Road of Retirement......

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bye Yuma, Hello Quartzite!!!

 

Our last few days in Yuma Arizona had us taking one short drive over to see Mittry Lake Wildlife Area with its boondocking sites as well as simply enjoying the amenities at West Wind RV and Golf Resort.

We drove AZ Highway 95 north about 9 miles to Imperial Dam Road. Imperial Dam Road passes through part of what is known as the Yuma Proving Grounds, an Army base used for testing military equipment. Next we turned off on a pavement road that later became a dirt road which traveled alongside a canal to Mittry Lake.

As we drove around Mittry Lake we saw several boondockers in place and located a few spots that had great views overlooking the lake. The lake itself is rather striking with its blue waters and marshlands as stark contrast to the surrounding desert with its brown hued mountains. We thought it might be a nice place to get away from it all in the desert yet still see water.  And with all the coots on the lake I am sure one would be serenaded to sleep at night…. There were trash dumpsters and a vault toilets on site for convenience and little or no traffic.  We only saw one other car at the day use area while we were there.

Heading back we stopped to look at the historic military equipment on display near the Army base. I also stopped to take a picture of the base for a friend back home who had been stationed there during the Viet Nam era. He was a helicopter pilot and when I sent him the picture he relayed a funny story he recalled about his time training there:

“It was fun then. There were lots of allied soldiers there for training - Brits, Aussies, Germans - they all had much better bar drinking songs than Americans.“

I enjoyed seeing the interesting military equipment including one old Sherman Tank. As we looked closer we saw several indentations in its armored shell where it obviously took on enemy fire. I am sure there are many interesting stories that go along with each piece of equipment on display at the Proving Grounds.

Back at the RV resort Sharon and I played several last rounds of pickleball and I visited their spacious hot tub one last time the morning of our last day.  Also on our last day we used the first timer's breakfast coupon given to us at checkin.  What a fieast it turned out to be as we each took home leftovers to enjoy later.  Westwind RV and Golf Resort was a very enjoyable two week stay  The friendly Canadian neighbors around our site made it all the better and it was great to see Reg and Karen, friends we met at Betty's RV park in Louisiana. However, it was time to move on and so we did.

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We headed north on AZ Highway 95  to Interstate 10 to the town of Quartzsite Arizona. Next we drove east out of Yuma onto Dome Rock Road turning south on Mitchell Mine Road until we found the Boomers Class-Less group.  These Boomers are part of the Escapees Group and we are anxious to meet the fun folks in this group. We plan to be here for six nights to fully explore the Q experience....