And the road goes on forever...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our Pony is Getting New Shoes

Our RV has grown long in the tooth traversing America’s highways and it hasn’t always been a sweet ride for her. Unquestionably overloaded, and subjected to not only some very rough pavement but off-road boondocking, this baby’s undercarriage has suffered mightily over the years. It finally came time to perform some major surgery to prolong her life, so we bit the bullet of a major expense and ordered up three new sets of axles and brakes from Dexter Axles, all custom made to specs Marc figured he needed.

The difference between the old and new is not merely striking; it is astounding. Whereas the others were three inches (light duty) in circumference; the new ones are five (heavy duty). The brakes go from two and one quarter inches to four and the weight bearing capacity of each axle jumped from 6,000 pounds to 10,000. These axles also enjoy an oil bath so will mitigate the maintenance headache of wheel bearing greasing.

Knowing we planned to do this project this winter, last summer while in Virginia working, Marc bought the higher capacity heavy duty tires and wheels that would be needed to go along with the new axles. After all, your axle may hold 10,000 pounds but if your tires won’t correspondingly hold that, you will be constantly blowing tires. It was a slight leap of faith, given that the axles hadn’t been measured and manufactured as yet so one of the first orders of business after unloading the axles and wheeling them onto the lot was checking to see that, indeed, the new tires and wheels would fit. Success!

Next will come the hard part of doing the installation by himself. That’s my guy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

For Those Stuck in Bad Winter Weather

There was a time long ago when we were anticipating going fulltime when we still couldn’t leave the bonds of responsibility and household ties. Earlier, some friends we had met through Escapees were able to go about their fulltime travels well before us. They maintained an entertaining website featuring marvelous pictures of where they had been or where they currently happened to be. Nothing has ever made me feel as jealous as seeing them hiking and enjoying the desert southwest in the wide open spaces which I myself longed to be in. I must have been sitting in Bend’s cold and snow as I sat gazing at their colorful photos featuring rocks, cactus and vistas of 80 or 100 miles rolling off into the perfect blue sky distance as they stood atop mesas they had hiked, and it was just purely almost more than I could bear.

It’s not my intent in this post to give readers in bad weather climates more than they can bear. Despite my longing when I looked at my friends’ photos; knowing that there was a place out there where it was sunny and nice lifted my spirits to even think on it. I hope our day here can do the same for you.

To the east of us sits a barren set of mountains called the Gila. Actually, there are a string of rock mountains running all the way into Mexico from here, with different names. I don’t know what constitutes the end of one range and the beginning of another since they all meld together. On Saturday we took up some exploration of the eastern side of our mountains, which follow south from the tiny town of Wellton onto the bombing range. The range is passable to all if you have the free pass, four wheel drive, and call in to the Marine Air Force base first to make sure no bombing exercises are planned for the area you intend to be.

Out on these washboard sand roads we always intend to go further than in actuality we manage to do. We had wanted to see the “tanks”, those areas up in the mountains which hold springs and life-giving water. Ha; we made it about one third the way! Despite being off course and distracted, we happened upon an area that filled us with the curiosity of discovery. Here was cactus we had never seen before; here was a grove of saguaros (see previous blog); here was a type of rock unlike any we have noted in the area, filled with caves, and here were shrubs and small desert trees unknown to us.

It’s an empty space where the only sound reaching our ears was the wind. It’s wild and is achingly and starkly beautiful. So much as our friends did for us so long ago; I present here just a photo montage of our day. If you need to get away…do so at least through my pages.

The Death of a Giant

We spot her from a distance, entangled with a stranglehold on an equally dissected desert tree. Even from this distance we can tell she is dying.

Now stooped and twisted like the very old, she was once a mighty giant, aged; a matriarch in her time. We note her lifeblood, black, oozing down her thick wooden trunk; and at her feet, her former arms are slung askew on the desert floor as though chopped off by the Terminator. The death of a saguaro takes a long, drawn out route.

Saguaros begin life usually beneath a nurse tree or shrub which provides a moister, shadier environment. Perhaps this matriarch spent her lifetime growing in this tree’s clutches. Growing only an inch a year, they may take 30 years to grow an arm and sometimes last up to 200 years before they topple. Their shiny skin expands like an accordion to drink up moisture when it’s available in the desert and thus they can add up to a ton of weight. They flower every year due to this hidden reserve of water, but the white flowers are fleeting (usually in May and June) and their opening occurs at night. By the next mid-morning they again close up forever, either pollinated or not.

They are majestic sentinels of the Arizona Sonoran desert; Arizona’s state flower, and highly protected by law. Their various shapes enthrall us as we travel the back dirt roads taking our pictures.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Claudia’s New Happy Place

I haven’t mentioned our new project that we’ve been working on. Several years ago we had noted the use of those canvas canopy/gazebos on many of the lots and thought they looked like a good economical shade structure. With my mother here this winter I thought it would be nice if we could go ahead and purchase one so she would be able to sit outside out of the sun and sometimes the wind. Many of the gazebos come with full curtains and can be totally closed up much like a tent. I found one that has both curtains and bug netting so either/or can be utilized. Yuma rarely has any bugs of note in winter but in very late spring there can be flies that invade for awhile.

Yuma is notorious for its sometimes windy days during winter so Marc figured he had better secure the legs in a permanent fashion to concrete footings so the gazebo didn’t end up in someone else’s yard. The first task was putting all the metal pieces together in the approximate area where it would be sited.

Next we removed the gravel, and then he proceeded to install an electrical connection up one leg directly wired into the park model panel. This allowed for the possibility of hanging a chandelier, which can further be (via extension cord) quickly taken down in inclement weather and at the end of the season.

Once the footings were poured, we had Mexican brick delivered directly from Mexico, then two workers set about placing it in a herringbone pattern. This brick is not grouted; sand is used to secure its placement, much like the interlocking pavers we have in other parts of our patio. The Mexican brick defines this space as being separate from the rest of the patio, which was what we were after, plus the fact that the cost ran about one third what pavers would have been. We purchased extra and Marc intends on continuing the pattern into the back of the lot to the storage shed and possibly around the spa. But that’s later.

After washing the dust off all the furniture, we moved it to its new home inside the gazebo, hung the chandelier and curtains and now it’s all ready for game playing or evening al fresco dining in front of the fire pit. I have in mind additional decorating items I will eventually add to make it more like the outdoor room I envision but for now, it’s time to go enjoy it! Wow, do we love this!