23 November 2010

Postcard from Arizona

We're finally out of Santa Fe! You'd almost think we didn't want to leave. Which is close. But temps were dropping and we even had some snow. Clearly we'd over-stayed our welcome and it was time to move on.

Plus the solar power system being installed at Santa Fe Skies RV Park is in the early construction phase which means they're moving dirt. And moving dirt means dust. Yuk! Everything would get a fine layer in a matter of a few hours. We are actually very excited that a small RV park would tackle the largest private photovoltaic installation in the state. Way to go guys! Maybe when we return in April to check on the house they'll have some of the 1,100+ panels installed and working.

Las Cruces, NM

We drove from Santa Fe to Las Cruces for the first stop. Nearly 300 miles which is over our informal limit. Unfortunately, unless you want to stop in ABQ- only 50 miles away- there's nowhere to stop except Socorro and they were rebuilding their water system.

The Las Cruces KOA is a nice park. Yeah, it's dusty from the gravel base, but the view is spectacular and the park is very well maintained. In fact the were in the midst of replacing the decking around the pool while we were there.

I'd been haunting the propane crossover valve/empty tank gauge since Santa Fe. One tank had stopped delivering propane even though it was nearly full. And of course it had to happen on a cold nite when the furnace was cycling a lot. I went to Ferrell Gas before leaving Santa Fe to see about repairing or replacing the tank. One of the staff said the tank was probably fine and that I just needed to change my habits. Seems there's an additional valve inside the Overfill Protection Device which will cause flow to stop if the main valve is opened too quickly. Sounded like BS to me, but what the hell... I'll give it a try. I reinstalled the tank and opened the tank as I always do. Sure enough, the flow stopped and the crossover valve indicated the tank was empty. So I closed the valve, removed the hose then re-installed it. This time I very slowly bled the valve open. Then for 2 days I checked to see if crossover valve still indicated it hadn't switched tanks. So there we were in Las Cruces and... I'll be damned: it's still OK! He was right on the money. So far the tank has been operating just fine and hasn't switched unnecessarily. So here's Lesson #3,417:

Thou shalt always open the valve on a re-filled tank of propane very slowly.  

Thank you Ferrell Gas of Santa Fe!

While in Las Cruces we made an emergency trip to Starbucks for coffee beans. Don't want to run low else the Admiral gets nasty in the morning!

Mesilla, AZ

We also took a short drive to Mesilla. It's a small town adjacent to Las Cruces that has had the foresight to preserve it's old plaza area. We spent a little time wandering the area and shops and enjoyed the change of pace from busy traveller to casual tourist. Unfortunately we couldn't try the usual touristy things like fudge and ice cream (yeah, it was that warm!) but we still managed to have a good time not eating.

Loved the look of this small walled compound. Great colors and interesting xeriscape plantings. You see a lot of low water-need plantings in the southwest.

One mishap... a protective filter attached to my favorite Canon lens went for a walk and crashed on the sidewalk. Bummer. Thankfully there was not other damage.

Lordsburg, NM

We were faced with another 300-miler going from Las Cruces to the Tucson area, so this time we broke it up with a midway-stop in Lordsburg. Not much here except a decent restaurant. We didn't eat at Kranberry's this trip, but it's a worthwhile eating place if you pass Lordsburg at mealtime. And Kranberry's has a fair sized parking lot in the back so a motorhome or smaller trailer could make a food stop here before moving on. I believe you would have to approach it from the back street.

The Lordsburg KOA reminded me of Van Horn, TX in a way, but without the corrals, rodeo ring and great on-site restaurant. Not a garden spot but the park is fine and we were well off I-10 so it was quiet.

Benson, AZ 

Fred the Gnome in thermal distress!
We ended up in Benson even though I'd hoped to stop at Beaudry RV Resort in Tucson. We knew Beaudry RV sales had gone bankrupt (the Montana dealership is now with Orangewood RV of Phoenix which gives them a presence in Tucson), but since the phone still worked at the resort I thought the park might still be operating. After 8 or more calls I finally gave up (the park is indeed kaput). Then I tried South Forty RV Park which didn't want dogs larger than 20# (maybe they prefer small dogs that bite instead of big dogs that lick?), so that was out. Then several reads on various web sites left me with more questions than answers. So I gave up and opted for KOA again. The Benson KOA isn't a high end park by any stretch (though you wouldn't know it from the price), but the scenery is wonderful, it's a long way from I-10, and since we'd been here before, we knew what to expect. Got a little chiily while we were there. A little frost on the pumpkin... and on Fred the Gnome.

In the roughly 1 year since we were last here, the park seems to have become busier. We pulled in to find perhaps 15 rigs already parked. Last time we were here there was more than one nite when ours was the only rig here (not counting the 10 or more permanent residents at the back of the park). After we arrived we learned the park is providing dinner on Thanksgiving Day (as well as another planned on Christmas). Pretty nice for travelers that are probably not expecting anything!

High Desert Mkt & Deli
Bisbee, AZ

We took a side trip to Bisbee, AZ just to see what it was about. The old town was a great place to explore and we managed to find a primo lunch stop. Hi Desert Market & Cafe has a deli to die for! The food was excellent and compared to Santa Fe it was inexpensive. Well... it's inexpensive if you stay away from dessert! Unfortunately it was more temptation than we could bare so we split a piece of carrot cake. Which was no hardship since each slice is about double the size of anything I've been served before. And their carrot cake recipe adds some apple which was excellent! It's only 40 miles from Benson, so if you're in the area do yourself a favor and head over here for lunch or dinner.

Lavender Pit in Bisbee, AZ
I'd assumed Bisbee was yet another gold or silver mining town. I was only 1/2 right. It's a mining town alright, but it's copper that they were after while gold, silver and turquoise (an oxide of copper) were byproducts from of copper mining. A large open pit mine (Lavender Pit, named after the person who conceived the project) is visible from the side of AZ-80 and there's a pull-off so you can see down into the mine. Open pit mines were tried first in Utah in an attempt to make low-grade ore profitable and it worked here as well. The name "Lavender" has nothing to do with color. The pit is named after Harrison Lavender who was a VP for Phelps Dodge and was in charge of operations when they started mining, You can get a tour of an open pit mine ( Copper Queen Mine) if you're inclined, but the Lavender Pit has been closed since 1974 (to the extent that an open 900 foot deep pit can be called "closed"!).

F-100... I passed these being assembled daily on my first job
Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ

We had hoped to connect with internet acquaintances from Alaska who were staying in the Family Camping facility at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. The base is right beside the Pima Air & Space Museum which we wanted to see, so access would have been very easy. Unfortunately (thanks to the extra problems we encountered at the house) we weren't able to arrive in time to be brought onto the base for a couple nites as their guests. And since Benson is about 40 miles from Tucson it makes the logistics impossible to get between the Pima museum and Benson to be able to get the dogs out for a walk mid-way thru the visit (Pima has in/out gate privileges). So unless we find another RV park nearby, we'll have to save the air museum for another trip.

At least we were able to meet and visit with Dan and Betty for awhile and see their new (2-days old!) 2011 Montana 3400RL. We thought it was gorgeous but then we should since it seemed to be identical to our own 2010-3400RL which we bought last March. They're on their way to Phoenix next and we'll stay in Benson a little longer since the weather is decent and we want to see more of the area.

SKP Saguaro Co-op

One of our stops here will be at the SKP Saquaro park. This co-op park is affiliated with Escapees RV Club and we want to see what their facility is like. Friends Mike & Susan who we met in Santa Fe are on the waiting list for a long term lease on an available site so we want to see what grabbed them. From the web site it appears the sites are huge... on the order of 2,000 sq. ft. or more.

More coming...

04 November 2010

Postcard from New Mexico

7 August - 3 November 2010
(Santa Fe, NM)

We had an easy drive back to Santa Fe. Unlike the trip North, it's pretty much all down hill getting to Raton, NM. That probably made the truck happier, but it's a real test for trailer and engine brakes. So it was nice to get back to level land again. We pulled into Santa Fe Skies RV Park and were given the space adjacent to where we were before we left for Canada. Great site and it's easy to get into.

Once we were settled in we took a look at the house and confirmed that things are what folks said they are... a mess. There was definitely an electrical problem, so I went back to look at the power drop from PNM (our utility supplier). I couldn't see anything obvious but I did see that the roof in the shop had leaked and the shop smelled like mold. It was really bad!

I called Johnny Bowles who came over. Within 15 minutes he told us that we had no power inside the house cuz we had no power coming from PNM. He gave me a number to call at PNM and said if we still needed him after they got things fixed to call him back. PNM took a couple days, but they repaired what proved to be a broken line. They first had to trim a tree at the rear of the property. Our tree had grown up thru the wires and a wire was rubbing against a branch. The branch won and the wire broke... the wire was literally worn thru. Not just the insulation, but the metal as well.

After that was fixed we got Johnny back to the house and after 2 days of nasty trouble shooting (I've come to hate old adobe houses!) he had us up and running. Seems we had a couple shorts in buried wires that weren't shorted when we left town. Odd, but the problem is fix and the previously shorted wires were re-routed in conduit over the roof. Plus we had him sort out what had become a mess in the conduit after the new roof was installed on the main house in 2006.

The blackened area is the mold
The shop was not so easy. We had our favorite builder (Daniel Tellez) take a look and he cut a hole in the ceiling to confirm that there was mold damage. Once more wallboard on the ceiling was cut away I could see what was causing the problem. It turned out to be coming from a poorly sealed area at the canale (the troughs that allow the roof to drain). The roofer who installed the foam roof said it was a bunch of holes caused by bees and sent a bill for repairs. Some warranty, but both the warranty and the leaks are about what I've been told to expect. Welcome to the real world, Bruce!

Same area after remediation
We got an well known mold repair company (Paul Davis Inc., a Canadian company) to clean up the mold. Took several days, but when they were done it looked like new wood.

Then Daniel took over and installed new insulation & wallboard in the damaged areas, painted the walls and installed a new TPO roof. The material is white and seems nearly bullet proof so I have high hopes. We'll see.

The north wall; south wall had even more
Not only is the odor from the mold gone, the shop looks like new again. Especially after new epoxy paint was applied to the floor. Plus Daniel did some repairs to the outside stucco which made everything look right again. Almost looks good enough to live in! :) (We're not living in the house... we prefer the Montana.) With more time we would have been able to get the house on the market, but we're running into the limit of days we're permitted to be in the state without reverting to NM residency.

As I was saying goodbye to Daniel in the car port, he casually asked "Do you want me to do anything about these posts?" Turns out the 10" diameter posts which support the car port were hollow. Yikes! Because of a combination of building errors (6" beam on top of a 4" corbel on top of a 10" post), water could collect on the top of the posts and rot started in the end-grain. It had been going on for years and no one could see it. It was only because Daniel knew what could happen with that combination that we were saved from having the carport collapse on the car while we were gone. So Daniel replaced the posts (square 6" this time) and the corbels (also 6") plus he repaired the posts and corbels of the front portal (the 'porch' at the front door). Thank you Daniel for once again saving our butts!

While still in Santa Fe, they had their annual Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. We'd planned on visiting one night, but as often happens they had excessive winds and had to cancel the evening's 'balloon glow' or 'glow-deo'. But at least we got to see some of the crowd. Santa Fe Skies gets overflow from Albuquerque and the park was full every night starting a week ahead and continuing till the week after Balloon Fiesta. They have 98 sites and one night they had 105 guests. It was chaos. Orderly chaos if there is such a thing, but chaos. Then one night the temps dropped to freezing and within 3 days they were all gone. Poof! Now we're seeing mostly Canadians heading south.

We'll leave for Arizona soon. We have an invite to join a USAF retiree at Davis-Monthan AFB (near Tucson, AZ) for a couple days and we'd like to take him up on the offer. As I understand it, Davis-Monthan is where the USAF 'bone yard' is located. I've been hearing about it for decades (as early as 1957 when I was a student at Northrop Aero Institute in Inglewood, CA) so I'd love to have a look-see.

Our truck will be serviced tomorrow and the car shortly thereafter; we've seen doctors and dentists while here; gotten prescriptions refilled; we'll get hair cuts tomorrow; and we're pretty much ready to head West. That's assuming we can still figure out how to connect to the truck!