Crater Lake, OR: Flat Tire Day

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Oh yah, twice!

I don’t get a lot of miles out of tires. Typically, about 4,000 of them. I would expect to have less success even if my alignment is off. But not this much less success.

Methinks the real culprit for excessive tire wear is gravel roads. And I do a lot of gravel road.

One morning, I set out for my neighborhood Walmart, some 47 miles away. I didn’t get very far. I lost my back driver’s side tire on a long right curve after only 5-6 miles.

Pastoral Breakdown

There were trees and a small lake or pond, even some horses milling around.

It’s a good thing, too, because it’s been a while since I’ve been actually frightened of anything.

When the tire literally blew up, I was going about 45; not fast enough for anyone to kill themselves without a head-on.

But the moment it went, I was no longer in control of the Sienna, despite being in full command of the two, functional front tires. It was a chilling thing for me to discover the system of chucks and balancing that losing one of the four tires poses on the entire vehicle’s steering track.

It’s a system, stupid!

Scary stuff.

When I slowed way down, I regained directional control and managed to pull off onto a wide shoulder and stop.

Mangled and stuck.

Can you say explosive decompression? The moral of the story is, don’t try to save money with Mexican Re-Treads! The Medford tire store showed me that the actual tire, everything the belts and rubber were attached to, was 16 years old and a new tread wasn’t going to stay attached for very long!

A caveman could.

I have counted on Geico for over two decades now for worry-free car insurance and that’s from whom I get my road service.

I was 55 miles away from Medford and Geico arranged for a tow truck! Only problem: a three hour wait.

I should note here for anyone to read that, during my disabled time, no less than six Oregonians (judging by their license plate) stopped and asked me if they could help me, including a Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy who was the first to show up.

Little did they know that, minutes before, I was piloting a 4,000 pound chunk of moving metal that was not in my control.

The tire store.

This is my tire store in the Pacific northwest. Les Schwab has me in their computers as a great repeat customer. My addiction began at a Les Schwab in Washington last winter.

The parsed lips.

I got a parsed lips column of air from the tire guy: “[whew] Well, you’re all right,” he said. And I shook, eating popcorn from the popper for about an hour in the waiting room.

It’s done!

Then came an ominous warning: “better watch that other back one.” Absolutely.

19 miles.

I didn’t have to watch it for very long! Same highway, going the other way, I felt a sudden lack of steering (although I continued going straight) and immediately pulled off the highway.

Flat Tire One had taught me to recognize exactly what a Sienna flat tire felt like, and quickly. I knew instantly that Flat Tire Two was occurring, in real time.

Hello Geico?

Not a peep of objection or lack of understanding. They told me that the record was four tows in one day. But, I’d have to wait until after dark for this one to arrive.

I had lost Flat Tire Two on a long hill before one of the many bridges over the raging Rogue River approaching Shady Cove, Oregon, home of Ma’s Chinese, Thai and American restaurant (just don’t) and Phil’s Frosty, the pink building where I recently swore my passion to eat more ice cream.

Tow Two.

It’s especially challenging to tow a front wheel drive car with a flat rear tire–and in the dark. The two front wheels are supported on their front and rear by a hefty arm extended from the truck, and are lifted off the ground for transport.

Two car-width rails are placed fore and aft of the back wheels and, attached on each side, is a 2 tire dolly lifting the entire rear end of the vehicle off the ground. Once in place, the minivan will move!

We arrive back at the Les Schwab just before midnight and I know exactly where they want it parked! My second tow truck guy leaves me in the tire store parking lot for the night. They opened, on a Saturday, at 7AM.

“How far did you make it?”

Just short of Shady Cove, thanks. I need to get a little farther, though. “You will now.” What great words!

Smooth as glass.

This is how the 2000 Toyota Sienna CE minivan is supposed to work!

Ahhhh.

I was getting a little shimmy around 56 MPH for as long as I can remember, which prompted me early on to reduce my speed–and find how much gas I have saved by going the “truck speed.”

And for a couple weeks, I have felt a small jerk whenever I applied the brakes; I compensated for this by always tapping the pedal to bypass the lag.

Both of these problems went away with the replacement of the last Mexican re-tread. Adios, mi amigos!

Yes, I think it’s the dirt and gravel roads I regularly travel that wears out tires pretty fast! That’s a future cost I had not anticipated but I now know that every 4,000 miles or so, I had better be ready for a blow out.

These are just the facts of minivan life.

I’ve moved further east down Highway 62, closer to Crater Lake by about five miles (I’m not allowed to stay longer than two weeks at a particular campgrounds so, I must move on every so often).

The “Rogue River Bridge” campsite is remote and appears little used, except for maybe some extracurricular activities by someone who likes making it look like there are makeshift graves at several campsites!

Despite the possibility of seeing something I shouldn’t, I’ll be staying here until it’s time to restock supplies.

Happy trails, my friend.

Rouge River Nat’l Forest, OR: Mill Creek

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My Personal Waterfall

I have a campsite next to a small waterfall that never ceases roaring with water falling the four feet of my little personal waterfall at Mill Creek campgrounds, about an hour north of Crater Lake.

I went all the way to the back of the campgrounds to find this golden little spot. A winding gravel road took me through a green forest spotted with sizable campsites, outhouses and large trash bins took me to where I needed to go.

Even though there is no cell service nearby, this is where the locals hang out. Over the past few days, over a dozen families have arrived with their gear asking if I would mind if they did some fishing at “your waterfall.”

I’m just chillin’ so, of course, I said “be my guest!”

Foot and a half long trout is what they’re pulling out of the water here. One family pulled out 22 of them and then had a fish fry I could smell from 200 yards away.

And no, I wasn’t offered any fish that was cooked.

Oh no, bugs!

Yes, bugs are to be expected in the forest. But, there are very few mosquitoes which I simply bat away (three times and they learn to stay away), and an assortment of bees (3 kinds!), flies, worms, and several kinds of butterflies.

There’s a war going on here but, the battles are few and far between so there must be some kind of balance that had been achieved before I got here.

The war is between the different families of bees.

Each type has a patrol territory that explicitly ends where the next species’ begins. There have been only a few dust ups where I think the brinksmanship has to be measured by the amount of noise each bee can make to convince the other to, well, buzz off!

The bees have noticibly different intelligence factors. The smartest and smallest bees have no self control though: they are haphazard in their travels but appear to be fairly organized in their activities (patrolling).

The largest bees, however, are not so bright. I suppose they might simply be blind, but the big bumbles have a tendency to fly into things: the Sienna, other bugs, trees, ME…. They’re not hurt, just a bit befuzzled. They’ll shake it off with some frustrated buzzing, then they’ll take off again and wind up plowing into something else—just a moment later. I wonder if the other insects are as entertained as I by the antics I’ve been seeing in these large and not-too-well-coordinated-but-certainly-comical bees.

I’ve always been a subject of interest by hummingbirds no matter where I’ve travelled (this is true here as well albeit a different species of hummingbird).

And sun-up and sun-down are always the great attractor for deer (big ones, too) in the forest!

The cupboards are bare!

Okay, I really don’t have “cupboards” to be completely honest. But, it is that time of the month when the Social Security check arrives and it’s none too early this time. I’ve been low on food, goodies, water and gas for about the last week, so it’s back to the Eagle Point Walmart to restock in the next day or two.

I have a special place in my heart for the Eagle Point Walmart. It’s where I have had a couple life-changing moments, including coming to the realization that I needed a propane heater and buying my first dress.

Once I’m stocked up with everything I need, I’ll probably spend one more night—at least—at Crater …for a shower (truck stop showers are $14 so, this is a good deal—including a night’s stay). And then, I’m thinking of researching where the nearest BLM campgrounds are.

Bureau of Land Management sites are considerably less developed than National Parks or Forests but, there is typically no cost for staying overnight—and you can camp for a couple weeks at a time.

I’ll let you know where I’m heading before I disappear into the no-internet-zone again.

A little note of humor…

I walked past a rack in Walmart and saw—for two dollars—a clearance item that resembled a Robin Hood style shirt (you know, a square, laced up area on the front). Me? The forest? A Robin Hood shirt? Only two dollars? That’s a no brainer! But, when I got back to the forest and tried it on, I found out that it wasn’t a shirt at all!

I am now the proud owner of a two dollar, scarlett-red, Robin Hood dress!

Thinking back, that rack I plucked my new dress from? It was the juniors department!

Yup, girls’ clothing.

Oh, yes, I look positively marvelous (good thing I lost all of that weight or I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off so well)! Of course, wearing blue jeans with a red dress has got to be a new thing for me!

Next question is, then, where do I go to get a pedicure!?

Happy trails my friend!

Crater Lake, OR: Finally!

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It’s beautiful: I knew it would be.

They say the third time’s the charm. Here’s the thing: I was here last fall and tried twice to reach the Crater (it’s the maul of a dormant volcano, not a meteor crater).

Snow, some two feet of it, had earlier stood in my way. But, no snow this time; and the forest is lush and green with clear, running water and temperatures at night hovering in the high 40’s range.

I stayed for four days at the official campgrounds for Crater Lake, a National Park. My Lifetime Senior Pass for National Parks got me in for free—and the campsite was half price (@$11/night). They even had showers available: so, I’m heading back there next week (showers are SO much nicer than half a dozen baby wipes!).

Since I did not make a reservation some three weeks in advance, I had to use the “first-come, first-served” sign up method, which means I could not ask for a campsite for more than one night at a time!

On the fifth day, I walked up to the reservation window (kiosk) and asked my “regular guy” for one more “blue pass” night.

He said “no.”

No!? Yup, the entire grounds were packed full …and so, I moseyed up the road to the Rouge River National Forest.

Now, I may have mentioned this before but, I like National Forests better than National Parks. The Forests are a bit less “organized” and less restrictive than the Parks in where you can overnight. Forest campgrounds are cheaper too, although they seldom have shower facilities. Also, less people go to National Forests, even though I don’t know why.

There are some pretty nice areas with gorgeous scenery that are National Forest sites. Yes, the roads wont be as advanced (dirt, maybe gravel), but there will also be a bit more wildlife just walkin’ around.

And oh, I’ve come to the realization that I haven’t been eating my required allotment of ice cream! So, from now on, I’m going to make a point of stopping at every pink building in every small town innocuously branded “Phil’s Frosty” or something similar.

Happy trails my friend!

Eagle Point, OR: Last Stop!

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California Dreamin’…

Yes, I took my time traversing south to north through California, staying mainly on Interstate 5 (“the 5”) and stopping overnights at rest areas.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t too terribly tired one night: I aimed for a rest area that was closed when I got there. I said, “oh there’s another one about 34 miles up the road.” That one was closed too! I had already driven an hour longer than I had planned on …and now the next rest area was another 74 miles away.

Wait, what!?

Not on any map—or app—was a brand new rest area just 10 minutes or so past the second closed rest area near Mount Shasta. I spoke with a worker who told me he was proud to have opened up this new rest area about three weeks ago.

It really was brand new.

The bathrooms were new clean. The benches and even the trash cans were new clean. This rest area was only an hour away from Yreka (you’ve read about Yreka here before). Yreka is the last stop before Oregon, with the exception of a little town called “Weed.” I spent a couple weeks near Yreka the last time I was through here. The Klamath Forest where I met the cantankerous gold miner is only a few miles away.

And so is the California-Oregon border.

First stop, Medford. It’s a real city with everything you want t real city to have—including an In-N’-Out and some marijuana dispensaries.

Then, it’s Crater Lake.

Eagle Point, Oregon, is the “Gateway to Crater Lake,” according to the sign. For me, it’s a last Walmart supply center. I was here, stopped twice by the forces of nature, more specifically, snow, and had to layover at Eagle Point. Memories, too: it was at Eagle Point where I got my real first taste of overnight cold on a nightly basis. It’s here I bought my Mr. Heater Portable Buddy!

A warning, there is no cellular signal whatsoever east of this little haven so, you won’t be hearing from me for a few days. And after Crater, I’m going to head into the wilds of the Umpqua National Forrest, again, a place with no signals or any kind. I’m stocked up on eats and water (and cooking fuel) so I’m just going to disappear for a little while.

Happy Trails my friend!

Lost Hills, CA: On the road again!

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I found them!

Rest stops and gas stations…

With the Sienna maintenance completed and a full tank of gas, I have headed out into the semi-unknown once again. I say “semi” because I’ve been driving north in California many times, since my brother lives in San Diego (where I call home now) and I used to live in Los Angeles when I was producing television.

I’m several hours past the City of Angels as I head towards my latest—and repeated destination—goal: Crater Lake, Oregon. And still it’s like I have never been here before! When I started my Roadtrip 1.0, I followed essentially the same route. The only difference: it was cold and snowy then and hot and sunny now!

It’s truly very different.

Although the topography is exactly the same, the scenery is now a new experience. I breezed past Diamond Lake, with no ice on its surface. The mountains are showing their rocky underbottoms, sans a covering of snow. And the roads are dry—I’m not sliding around as minivans are want to do in icy conditions.

The traffic itself is completely different in driver behavior. With snow on the road, everyone drives pretty darn carefully. That’s not the case now! Both the cars and the trucks all seem to be running late—to their own funeral. Now, I’ve discovered long ago that going the truck speed limit (55) is seldom adhered to by actual truck drivers, but it’s not only less stressful, it saves a ton of gas for me.

There’s plenty of time to see everything along the way when you’re not in a rush. And I’m not. I can, however, tell there are some drivers who are miffed by anyone going the speed limit (California, ya know) and more so for anyone driving under the speed limit!

Road rage!

I have determined some drivers have even gone to the lengths of thinking I’m a car so, “why on earth is he going the truck speed limit?”

I wish they would think about other things! You know, like driving. Sounding your horn while racing past my side window is hardly the purpose of a horn. It’s purely intimidation oriented in nature because it serves no purpose other than to show me your need to be a total jerk! It’s also startling when it’s right next to you. There’s not much I can do about it, aside from crashing my old car into their expensive new car!

I wouldn’t do that to Sienna; I love her.

The bastards that get right on my bumper when I’m in the slow lane? I take my foot off the gas and slow down even more. I want it to have maximum effect, so I watch for other traffic in my side view mirror and make my move when there’s no chance Mr. Tailgater can make his. I’m almost guaranteed to get a horn from these people—but I’m expecting it, as they blow off their frustrations. It’s a tiny little “get back” but it always makes me smile!

Women, you should know it’s always a man who behaves like this!

As I have previously told you, I’m not in any hurry to get anywhere. With that in mind, I expect to reach Crater Lake as late as Wednesday and, possibly, Thursday. The last time I was there, I waited out two snowstorms and still failed to make it there (never was there less than 22″ of snow on the ground). I can wait a little longer if need be.

And I’ll probably be staying there for a week, at least.

Slowly but surely!

Right now, I’m about two hours south of Sacramento, California’s state capital. I’m using “the 5” again to head north. There are 29 rest areas along the way—and a slew of truck stops. My earlier complaints about the price of gas have been assuaged: typical prices range in the $2.40/gallon area. Quite a difference from the closer-to-4-dollars I was paying last fall!

Victim of a crime.

Yes, I was robbed from right under my nose at a Starbucks in a San Diego suburb! My phone backup battery, a self contained 12,000 mAh battery pack, was stolen while it was charging in an outlet just a few feet away from me. Able to charge my phone at least three times, it was a necessary addition to my menagerie of devices and I would have missed it, without a replacement.

My new one is smaller and doesn’t have a built-in plug but, I have several chargers I can use to keep it topped off. I am still smarting from being the victim of a thief while I was at home. After thousands of miles, to be ripped off when I was at home just irks me to no end.

“What’s wrong with the world today? It’s people… they’re just no damn good!”—Mark Twain, circa 1860

I’ll be writing again, no doubt, before I disappear into the wilds of the forest.

Happy trails my friend!

San Diego: Takin’ care of business…

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Got my sticker!

The new catalytic converter worked and the “check engine” light is satisfied—and off! The Sienna has passed her smog test (with flying colors) and after a short line at the DMV sticker machine, I was issued a new “2018” orange plate sticker.

How do I spell relief?

S-T-I-C-K-E-R!

Preparing to bounce.

I’ve been doing the standard not-on-the-road stuff: watching some TV, eating kitchen-made food, washing clothes and bedding, shopping for “must haves” like paper towels, cowboy foods and, of course, Mini Moo’s for my morning coffee!

Yes, those Mini Moo’s usually come in boxes of 22 but, this box—from Sam’s—has 192 of them!

I’m expiring!

I’ve been getting notices—as though the world is ending—to update the information on my credit cards. I typically don’t use cards online to pay bills (I always use my bank pay to do that; don’t want companies to have access!), but some things, ya just gotta!

So, by default, I have to wait for new cards to arrive in the mail (how quaint!) and that means I’ll be “stuck” in San Diego until the week of the 19th.

I’m heading to the alignment place this morning to get the back wheels aligned (so I don’t have to replace those tires every 3,000 miles)! I’ll be talking with you before I leave …for Crater Lake!

Happy trails my friend!

 

 

San Diego: I made it back!

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Feels like home!

So yeah, I left Lake Havasu, AZ after an extended stay. The looming expiration of my registration demanded that I return to good ol’ SD for some Minivan maintenance.

The return trip was uneventful albeit a bit convoluted. My GPS program sent me on a stair-stepped route through fields of hay, soybeans, corn, nut trees and even a strip mine!

Strange. If you’re north of I-8 or even I-10 there’s really no direct route west! At least, not in the southern half of California.

You know, the vast majority of Arizona is flat and unremarkable desert—with light brush, the occasional tree, some cactus and spotty rock formations. When my GPS announced, “Welcome to California” at the border, there was a striking change in terrain: green!

My brain, after a while in the desert sun, said “home.”

Oh, that’s riiiight.

It was nice to arrive back in the Golden State but, the very first gas station I hit reminded me of one of the reasons I enjoy traveling elsewhere—the price of gas. Just about everywhere else, regular fuel is anywhere from $1.99 to $2.25 a gallon. In my home state, it’s closer to four bucks and, in some places, even more!

But, hey, the weather is nice!

As a matter of fact, the weather is damn nice, with highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. It will be getting warmer here in a couple months but, for now, it’s perfect!

Remember the new tires?

Yup, had a flat in Oregon and another in Washington! And I caught a third tire on the verge of losing its tread and replaced it, as well, in Washington—before it killed me. So, it certainly came as a surprise to learn that both of my rear tires (both of them brand spankin’ new) were revealing some of the steel belting on the edges facing the inside of the Sienna!

The back wheels are out of alignment! Who knew? I had always thought it’s the front wheels that needed alignment, not the rear ones. This is the reason why I lost those tires in Oregon and Washington in the first place!

So, I haven’t quite done the figuring yet, but it looks like I got only about 3,000 miles out of two brand new tires (the third new one, on the front passenger side, still looks new).

Had to buy two tires again—this time, used, but in great condition—and I had both of them mounted and ready to go for $100. There’s a “special tool” needed for the Sienna back tire alignment, so I’ll have to find a shop that has that tool and can get the $40 work done.

I don’t want to buy two more tires every time I drive out of state!

The Catalytic Converter

Yes, the State of California is fixated on air pollution—not a bad thing—and requires cars, trucks and minivans to get a “smog check” every two years or, at random, every year. This is my year! And so, I needed a new catalytic converter.

Expensive, they are!

Now, “research shows” that a catalytic converter is effective down to about 75% efficiency, but the millisecond it hits 95%, the engine computer module (ECM) turns on the “check engine” light! I’ve been resetting that light with my handy little OBD device for about two months now (it comes back on every eighty miles or so).

Hello Antonio!

My trusty auto mechanic, Antonio, had his Chief Mechanic change it out for me. When import expert Marcelo put the Sienna on the lift and pulled the converter off, pieces parts came falling out of it (guess I needed one)!

That looks like the problem there, Marcelo.

“Ya think?”

Once I’ve driven about 80 miles and the ECM resets, I’ll have Antonio perform the smog test and I’ll go get my $88 sticker for the back license plate.

Hello Doctor!

I have an obligatory visit to my physician this Friday for my regular bleeding (a blood test) so, that gives me some time to take care of the alignment, smog testing and sticker business for the Sienna. I am thinking those are all of the responsibilities I have this time in SD—and I can, once again, hit the road!

I’ll let you know in a week or so the launch time for RoadTrip 2.1! At this moment, I am setting my sights on Crater Lake in Oregon, as I have mentioned numerous times here, on TheMinivanExplorer.com.

Happy trails my friends!

 

Lake Havasu AZ: Still alive!

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Talk about lazy.

Yes. Yes I am. I’ve been taking it easy and staying put—getting a really deep tan and drinking the coffee I am making with my little Coleman and at a local cafe called Social Bean in Lake Havasu City, about a mile away from my campsite.

Social Bean has a great WiFi connection. And they make a cold brewed coffee that rocks! I have commandeered a very comfy chair in the corner, spending my daily computer time defending this site, and others I manage, from Russian hackers and various proxy hack attempts—most likely also Russians, remotely using computers around the world that their users have not protected with anti-virus software!

Oh, there is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. is under attack—cyber attack—at this very moment! My only question is, why would they bother with my travel blog!?

There are no passwords stored (other than mine), no data other than my ramblings, no monetary connections, no advertising and, with the exception of my regular musings on the dangers of bears, absolutely nothing else they should want to mess with!

Invincible!

Nevertheless, I am better at keeping them out than they are in trying to get in! So far. You, the reader, are perfectly safe coming here so, no worries please!

But, just to remain that way—especially using other sites that don’t care very much about youplease install an anti-virus software if you haven’t already (don’t run more than one at the same time; it confuses both of them—leaving you unprotected).

I recommend Avast (it’s effective, doesn’t slow you down, updates automatically, daily and it’s free!). And please, rid yourself immediately of any Symantec product (McAfee, Norton, etc) as they more focused on making money—and monitoring you—than they are in protecting you.

The little, free Avast is far superior in protecting you and your computer.

More neighbors!

I’ve met a few new neighbors and have been having some great conversations. Of course, the default discussion is about our campers, trailers and RVs. I am proud to say I always get “props” on the outfitting of The Minivan Explorer!

It seems no one has had the idea of using a battery jumper charging anytime the engine is running to provide power at times the engine isn’t! C’mon, that was a no brainer!

And everyone likes the real twin bed idea!

Every. One.

Helpful to the last.

There is a genuine interest in helping one another among this group. And although I am pretty self-sufficient, it’s nice to know I am surrounded by some good people—for the most part. I have been at Craggy long enough to have learned that there is a criminal element gathered here, about three miles deep, that specialize in thievery.

I can confirm this as, in my first few days here, a solar-powered light I displayed at “my space” (also so I could find it again) was stolen while I was at the McDonald’s only a mile away—for about an hour. As a result, I always pack up my chair and table whenever I head into town for supplies, coffee or gas.

I can’t begin to tell you the range of conversation we’ve engaged in because it truly is high and wide. Some topics have included politics, religion, personal growth, Park Rangers, other campers, water, solar power (a big interest by all), garbage, noise and, of course, propane!

Other travel blogs.

I apologize to you for not writing so often as I have in the past. As I scan other blogs of travelers, campers, explorers, boondockers and van-dwellers, I find they are similar in going to a new place and staying for a while—if only to save a few dollars on gas!

I will admit, remaining static for a while cuts way down on the fuel bills. And staying in a warmer climate can also save on certain items such as propane canisters, engine idling and even stove butane (when it’s freezing, things take longer to cook!).

Since I started out by heading north in the winter (what was I thinking!?), I already have an fine assortment of cold weather clothing and bedding—and I still have that Mr. Heater Portable Buddy handy! So, I’m ready for temperatures to drop.

And I haven’t forgotten the Crater Lake, Oregon plan!

It’s all timing now.

I just checked the weather there and now, it’s within my own parameter set for going there (overnight lows dropping no lower than the low 30’s)!

The timing is a little wrong, though.

The Sienna has to be inspected, smog tested, repaired (catalytic) and properly licensed by mid June.

And that means, I should probably head home to SD to get these things done before I drive almost a thousand miles to reach Crater. Once there, I can fan out in other directions when I get tired of the place! And there’s that still unchecked box for seeing ye olde geyser erupt at Yellowstone.

You’ll remember, the majority of the park was closed when I was there last. And I remember temperatures heading south of minus 25 on my previous attempt.

So, um, no.

did promise myself I would go back there and finally see the earth boil water into steam! But, it’s Crater Lake or bust first, after a pit stop in SD. I’ll try to post more often than I have been. And, again, I apologize for taking so long to write this post, this time.

Happy trails my friends!

Lake Havasu, AZ: Craggy Neighbors

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I’m still here!

‘Been taking my time. But, read on; it’s a good thing!

Yes, the draw of the desert has been a strong one for me. It’s dry and quiet, for the most part, and I’m surrounded by some great rock formations!

It’s a BLM campground just north of Lake Havasu City—with a McDonald’s WiFi and a Walmart just a mile away (everything I need!). At my campsite, I also get a bangin’ LTE cellular signal.

Not driving around has saved a ton of gas—and money—and I’ve met some great people here (unlike the experience I had in Klamath)!

The girl next door.

A woman with a full-size camper has been parked across the dirt road from me since I arrived. After waving at me every morning, she walked over and introduced herself to me the other day, feeling guilty about her three dogs barking up a storm whenever they spotted me. I told her, “It’s their job!” And I really don’t mind them, although I prefer big dogs; each of hers is about the size of a squirrel—really, I mean teeny tiny—some kind of toy Chihuahuas.

I call them “yappers.”

Her story: she had a business building speedboats, Diamond Performance Boats in Havasu City, but tells me she was the victim of a thief who made off with all of her tools a while back. Apparently, the police got the guy and she got most of her stuff back! Her business now destroyed, she bought the motor home and now kicks back in the desert. I can tell she is entertaining the idea of getting it going once again.

After meeting me, she now brings me a local humor newspaper published by a friend.

The Roots!

Not the band. The couple from Calgary, Canada. They spend summers at home and in the winter, “owt” south in Arizona with—what is to me—a huge motor home that has all the comforts of a house. It’s one of those “the sides extend outward” things, pulled by a rather imposing Dodge pickup truck.

Very nice. And roomy!

True to most of my contacts with Canadians, in general, Roy and Linda were the nicest folks. And on their first day at Craggy Wash, Roy came over to the Sienna to invite me over to their “House With Wheels” (their motto).

I accepted their hospitality gratefully, as they not only had some A/C but, a full media array (with a satellite dish!), some red wine and Finn, the dog.

He’s quirky, like me!

After forty years of working for the City of Calgary, in Canada where it’s cold eh, the Roots took to the road as snowbirds—and have been living happily in a motor home for almost ten years! They’ve amassed a great number of friends in their travels. And Roy has an interesting little hobby more akin to that of a twenty-something: making funny videos!

As an old television producer myself, I couldn’t have been happier to watch a slew of well-produced videos that made me laugh-out-loud! Oh, it could have been Aunt Bessie’s slide show but, it was an excellent evening!

Just lucky, I guess.

And, action!

With plenty of willing—and mostly inebriated—road friends, he’s organized them into a cast of thousands to help make some pretty silly vids, set to esoteric music tracks and totally entertaining.

From a collection of people wearing cowboy hats to story tellers relating outlandish tales to a bevvy of air-guitar players using brooms, Roy’s foray into the freakish and funny has production value!

He has become a damn good video editor along the way, too! Here’s his YouTube channel.

The battery.

Oh yes, old cars, old batteries. When I found my battery wouldn’t start my car one morning, I set out to find if I had left anything “on” all night that would account for a debilitating voltage drain.

And nothing!

You know that I am carrying a battery jumper with me, charged every time I run my engine so, it wasn’t a problem I couldn’t overcome. I went to an auto parts store that has a big “Free Battery Testing” sign and voila! The battery had cells that had gone bad (8.2 volts!). Uh, that’s a NFG condition!

Sorry to say, their batteries were way too overpriced so—you know it—I headed to Walmart to score a new, 750 CCA, 5-year warranty replacement battery ($101).

Success!

The Sienna has never started so well since I bought it! Indeed, I think the problem, in hindsight, has been with me all of the time. I’ve been watching it die now, for several months!

This unexpected expense drained my bank account at just the wrong time. Good thing I’ve been staying put or I might not have been able to remedy the problem for some time. I’ve imagined jumping the Sienna and plugging in the jumper to recharge it, just to repeat the process over and over again.

Not the last!

Yes, ever so slowly, it seems I am replacing all of the parts one-by-one. I am thinking that last tire may be next (left front), followed by a starter motor or a water pump or an alternator. I can only hope it’s not something more serious (engine, transmission). I can also hope that I’m going to be just fine on that front for a little while (it’s not a question of “if” at this point, methinks!).

And since “front tire” mean steering, I’ve been keeping both hands on the wheel whenever I drive, as a precautionary measure.

Crater Lake.

Again, I am casting my sights on Crater Lake! The last time I checked the weather at the deepest lake in the USA, it was 30º in the daytime and 24º at night. There was snow predicted for last night but, only an inch or two! Tempting but, not quite yet!

Happy trails my friends!

Lake Havasu AZ: Craggy Wildlife

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The hummingbird, the fly and the BAT.

This isn’t a bear in the woods story. No, it’s actually two different stories, one cute, the other not so much.

I’ve been visited by a hummingbird every day that I have been here! He, or she (who can tell when they’re so small!) arrives at my chair while I drink my morning coffee, hovering at about my eye level approximately three feet away—until I speak to it!

That’s too much to handle, apparently.

So alarmed by the sound of my voice, off it speeds, sounding more like a buzz saw than a two inch bird, to sample the surrounding nectar from dozens of little flowers.

Love at first buzz.

I have come to love this little intruder because it presents a danger (from its noisy approach) but, it turns out to be a friendly, endearing and harmless encounter with one of God’s creatures!

It’s iridescent in color and has that swordfish snout that COULD be used to run my eyeball through but, really, I’m in its territory—and our daily rendezvous is always a thrill.

I now expect—and look forward to—hearing and visiting with my little hummingbird, if only for the dozen seconds or so that we meet, my daily soiree with a bird in the wild. That’s a big change from my initial, out loud “Whoa!” reaction!

The fly.

Every afternoon, especially after the sun raises the temperature to, well, hot, a rather large fly likes to fly in an oval pattern in front of my sliding side door. It has no concern with me moving around or even opening and closing doors. Zooming over and over and around again, I was thinking this little buzzer must be either patrolling its territory or performing an aerial dance for the ladies!

Turns out, it was the latter.

He had a taker day before yesterday and the two disappeared from my view for about ten minutes—before he returned to his routine, as always, of circular reconnaissance—alone.

The bat.

I’ve been seeing these little bats at dusk, all over the place! They haphazardly dart around appearing to be mad (the insane mad) or out of control!

But, that’s not what’s happening.

What they are doing is, searching for—and finding—flying insects to eat for dinner, snatching them out of the air in great numbers! Their regular fare must be pretty small, because I can’t see them or hear them.

Now, I must admit, there are few mosquitoes and no-see-ums here in the desert (I’ve only found a single mosquito–and I killed it!).

But, last night, the bats showed up a little before the sun was entirely set. And “same bat-time” wasn’t expected by my diligent, territorial protecting, multi-eyed little buddy, the fly.

You guessed it!

The fly’s buzzing ceased with a silent strafing run by one of the bats! Quite a large meal for a bat of his size, our flying creature crusader took off—not to be seen again for the evening.

And I sat there for a few minutes, in silence, aghast that my consistent buzzing companion was no more! Yes, I had witnessed the demise of the performing fly—an exceptional pilot—that had kept me both irritated and entertained for several days!

I can only feel glad that he had a little fling the day before he met his maker! And she’ll never know what happened to him!

It’s a bat-eat-fly world out there, kids. Although it may seem cruel, it’s not unusual—and that’s the way it’s always been!

And so, life in the desert continues its struggles. The fly is toast but, the bat is buttered! I now look forward to hearing my beautiful little hummingbird’s wings paddle the air, once again, right in front of my face.

Happy trails my friends!