Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal 11

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

From A Hopi Perspective, the Primary Reason for Migration Is the Fulfillment of a Spiritual Covenant

NPS

Monday, April 1, 2013:  Happy April Fool’s Day, hope everyone had a great celebration!  We are on the move once again (no joke!).  Left Desert Eagle RV Park at 1035, and made tracks for the southeast on The Boulder Highway until we intersected the Lake Mead National Recreation access road.

Lake Mead NRA, Pix #1

Using our old guy NPS pass we sailed past the entrance station and cruised through the park from north to south.  There are other ways to head southeast out of Las Vegas toward Boulder City and the Hoover Dam…..but none more scenic!

Lake Mead NRA, Pix #3

Lake Mead, at 247 square miles is the largest manmade lake in the United States.  It was developed in 1936 when the Colorado River was impounded by the construction of the 726 foot high Hoover Dam.  The resulting lake created a major water and recreation resource for the folks in this otherwise inhospitable desert environment and the dam’s 17 Hydro-generators supply power for the region as well.

The stark contrast between the desert terrain, blue water and distance of the mountains makes for a picture postcard scene.

Lake Mead NRA, Pix #2

The lake is currently about 50 feet below average mean water levels due to the persistent drought that has plagued this area the past few years.

Lake Mead NRA, Pix #4

The normal water level is evident by the white line of deposits depicted in the photo above…..where my rig is parked is the normal boat launch point.  Even with this greatly reduced water level, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is still a nice place to explore, and it is only a few miles from the Las Vegas strip!

Lake Mead NRA, Pix #7

Crossing the new Pat Tillman Bridge into Arizona, we found our way to Willow Beach Campground located south of Boulder City.  Even though it is below the Hoover Dam, Willow Beach is also a component of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  Being mid-week, we were able to score a full hook up site for the next two days.

Willow Beach Pix #3

Willow Beach is situated on the east shore of the Colorado River 12 miles downstream from the dam.  This is a new campground as the original facility washed away in a spring flood a few years back.  Nice spot and an Old Guy NPS card will net a 50% discount on camping fees.  The only negative, at least for Kit, is no cell service and no internet.  However I’ll have to give her credit, as she spent the better part of an hour carrying her iPhone aloft and walking about in search of any hint of a signal.

Willow Beach Pix #2

Oh well, guess she will just have to sit back, relax and do some reading.

Willow Beach Pix #1

OK Kit…..not that relaxed!

 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013-Willow Beach:  Woke to a beautiful bright blue mid 60 degree morning…..the early sun was busy painting a scene of color and shadows on the adjacent hillside as I started to plan my day over a cup of steaming coffee.

Willow Beach Pix #1

Full well knowing that Kit would like some quiet time and considering that one of the main reasons we (I) decided to camp here for a few nights was access to the Colorado River for some kayaking, I gathered my gear and headed for the river.

Colorado River Pix #4

So off I set under warming skies with everything I needed for a paddle up the river stored in the rear dry hatch.

Colorado River Pix #1

This part of the Colorado is known as Black Canyon, and before the Hoover Dam existed the river was very turbulent due to the narrow canyon walls.  This portion of the Colorado may have featured more quick water today if it hadn’t been for the creation of Davis Dam 50 miles downriver.  However at Willow Beach the river has some current due to the spillway from the base of Hoover Dam and flows at a little over one MPH.

Generally, The Colorado is warm and full of red silt, however at this point in its travel it is cold and crystal clear.

Colorado River Pix #5

The photo above was taken in about 10 feet of water.  Notice the shadow of my kayak and, if you look closely, you can even see the shadow of my arm holding the camera aloft.

On a previous Excellent Adventure trip, I paddled this area and explored downriver…..this year I decided to paddle upstream.  After a few miles I came across this good sized cave, so I decided to see how far back into the cliffside it penetrated.

Colorado River Pix #8

It only went back in for about 30 feet, but it did open into a large chamber big enough to turn the kayak around.

Colorado River Pix #9

It was cool and damp, and kinda spooky so I didn’t hang around long.

After about four hours of paddling, I rounded a bend in the river and was confronted by a stiff breeze.  That coupled with the river current caused my little craft to make very little headway.  So I prudently decided it was time to turn around and basically “go with the flow”.

It was also time for a break and lunch so I found one of the few beaches where one could make a landing.

Colorado River Pix #16

It happened to be on the Arizona side of the river, however in the background is the Nevada side.  It was obvious that many river travelers had used this beach for a break and likely fed the two resident ducks…..they showed no fear as they paddled about the little cove waiting for a sample of my lunch.

Colorado River Pix #10

After eating, I scrambled up a rocky trail to a small overlook so I could get a different perspective of the river.

Colorado River Pix #14

Also overlooking the river is the foundation for the “River Gaugers” house.

Colorado River Pix #15

During construction of the Hoover Dam from the 1920’s to 1935, the person living in this one room cabin had one prime responsibly…..to gauge the river’s seasonal characteristics.  A few times a day he would use a cable supported cart to haul himself out over the roaring river and take flow measurements and water samples.  Great view…..and a great job for a hermit!

Back on the river I was floated along while Mother Nature provided the propulsion…..basically just dragging a paddle blade to steer the kayak.  As I rounded a bend in the river only about 5 feet from a sheer rock face, I was startled by two ducks flying full tilt about four feet off the water.  Actually, I’m not sure who was more surprised….me or the ducks.  Anyway as I ducked, (pun intended) the ducks humaned, (yea, it’s a word) and we avoided a rather messy collision.

Floating down river with the combined current and tailwind I was making about 3 MPH headway according to the GPS.

Colorado River Pix #7

OK, that gadget in the dry sack is not technically a GPS…..but it is a GPS app installed on my iPhone called GPS Tracks.  My Geocaching buddy Randy back home in Maine told me about the app and it works as well, if not better then, my dedicated GPS unit which admittedly is a number of years old.  Anyway it’s pretty slick, I highly recommend it as a download…..after all most of us always have our phones with us but few folks think to carry a GPS unit around!

After about 5 hours on the river, I returned back to the launch spot.  I gathered my gear together and headed back to the camper to download the GPS Tracks data:

  • Time on the move-3hr 37min
  • Miles paddeled-7.3
  • Altitude-561 to 622 feet
  • Average speed-2.18 MPH

For a statistics geek like me, GPS Tracks is incredible!

It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day on the water.  Sometimes I question whether it makes sense to drag a kayak about the nation…..days like this make it all worthwhile!

 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013:  Up to sunny skies with temperatures quickly rising into the mid 70’s.  We broke camp, stopped by the marina and store to oz around and then up the long windy road to US-93.  Reaching an elevation of 1,268 feet…..cell service was restored…..Kit was now officially a “happy camper”!

In a few hours, we reached the town of Kingman, Arizona, then hopped on to I-40 and made tracks easterly toward Flagstaff, Arizona.  Wasn’t really planned, just felt like the right thing to do since we had not explored that portion of northern Arizona very thoroughly.

About a half hour east of Kingman we received a call from Dewey and Bea.  They had been on an adventure of their own in their new camper.  We had been trying to figure out a place to hook up for a few days of joint camping (no…..not that kind of “joint”).  Since they were about a half hour west of Kingman, looks like Flagstaff will be it!

I-40 east is a steady climb…..soon we were trudging past 2000, then 3000, then 4000, then 5000 feet before topping out at 7335 feet when we tipped over the Arizona Continental Divide and started to gradually descend.

Flagstaff Pix #1

Talk about travel whiplash!  From 500 feet elevation to over 7,000 feet, with the corresponding drop in temperature and the change from desert vegetation to mountain forest in a little over three hours was pretty dramatic!

Entering the town of Flagstaff, we headed south a few miles to Fort Tuthill County Park.  Fort Tuthill was once an Arizona National Guard training facility until shortly after WWII when it was closed and turned over to local jurisdiction.  On the grounds there is a fair complex, horse race track, equestrian center, an outdoor adventure park, hiking and biking trails and two campgrounds, a county facility and one managed by nearby Luke Air Force Base.  We decided to stay at the military campground…..yea, I know, big surprise!  It was nicer, had a better layout and the most important factor?  It was open for business…..the county park would not open for another month!

Fort Tuthill Pix #14

Shortly after we arrived, a Class C motorhome pulled in across from us sporting Maine license plates!  Now, you should know that Maine state law requires all snowbirds to migrate to Florida.  However there are a few scofflaws that head west…..in fact, this is the only other Maine plate we’ve seen this year west of the Mississippi!

Turns out that Ron and Clara are from Rangeley, Maine.  Ron is an airplane pilot that was previously under contract to Mountain Air, a service we used extensively for radar alignment purposes back in my working days.

Flagstaff Pix #2

In addition he was a close personal friend of Mountain Air’s owner and chief pilot Stephen.  In fact, they were building a Kitfox experimental aircraft together back in 2000, when Stephen was involved in a fatal air crash.  It was obvious that the loss of his friend and business partner affects Ron still.  We exchanged contact information and will try to visit when we both return to Maine from our RV trips.

 

Thursday, April 4, 2013 through Sunday, April 7, 2012-Flagstaff, Arizona:  What a change…..this morning we woke to morning temperatures in the twenty’s!  In fact it has been so cold the water in the campground had not been turned on.  However electricity is available, which is a good thing as this is the first time we have needed heat in the camper in over two months!  Since Dewey and Bea were not going to arrive until the afternoon, we decided to head into Flagstaff to poke around the historic district.

A rather unique structure we came upon was the old Catholic Church, built in the 1920’s.

Flagstaff Pix #4

The material for construction was volcanic rock taken from the lava fields just west of town.  This rather porous stone has kept the parishioners warm and dry for over 80 years and looks like it will serve the purpose for many years to come.

Since it was my birthday, Kit treated me to a nice relaxing lunch at the historic Weatherford hotel.

Flagstaff Pix #3

Back at the camper we anxiously awaited Dewey and Bea’s arrival.  We were able to sponsor them at the military campground and I selected a campsite next to ours for the next couple of days of their stay.

Fort Tuthill Pix #1

After they got settled in we gathered for fun, food and drinks until the wee hours of the afternoon.  It was a bit cold, so we bundled up and endured with the help of some consumable antifreeze.

Fort Tuthill Pix #6

Here Kit is researching on her iPhone the proper ingredients to make a “Slippery Navel”.

On one of the days we were with Dewey and Bea, we all decided to explore three nearby National Park facilities…..Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater and the Wupatki Pueblo.

The first stop of the day was at Walnut Canyon National Monument.  Here there is a path called The Island Trail that leads down to the “sky island” seen in the photo below.

Cliff Ruins Pix #6

Around the year 1200, the native people that settled this region built small cliff dwellings along the rim of the island by taking advantage of naturally occurring shallow caves and building rock and clay walls to enclose them.

Cliff Ruins Pix #5

The trail encircles the island and allows access to the many dwellings along the rim.

Cliff Ruins Pix #2

Only inhabited for about 100 years, anthropologists are stumped as to why the tribes abandoned the area but speculate either drought and/or the rumblings of seismic activity in the area caused their hasty departure.

After a pretty vigorous hike in Walnut Canyon, we were ready for lunch.  Fortunately Dewey and Bea had an app loaded on their iPhone’s that listed all the restaurants featured on The Travel Channels, Diners, Dive-in’s and Dives (DDD).  Since the app grabs your location from the phones GPS it lists places that have been featured on the show that are near your current location.  One place the DDD app recommended was a Mexican restaurant called, Salsa Brava Mexican Grill.

Salsa Brava

And, as you can see…..the quantity was incredible as well as the quality.  The salsa bar featured eight different traditional salsas featuring various heat components and a few Salsa Verdi offerings as well.  Looks as if the DDD App is another download for the old iPhone……wonder if I can actually make calls with this thing as well?!?!

After an incredible meal, we were ready to take on the rest of the day.  Our next stop was Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

Sunset Crater Pix #2

The volcano erupted around the year 1050 creating a 1,000 foot cinder cone rising above the desert floor and spewing ash for miles about.  The volcanic material quickly broke down into fertile, moisture absorbing soil.  This was soon followed by migrating native peoples that decided to settle in the area and build a communal shelter, which brings us to our final stop of the day…..Wupatki Pueblo National Monument.

Wupatki Pix #2

Many of the native dwellings in the southwest are ruins, basically left as they were found.  Others have been restored as they might have appeared by using materials found about the ruins.  This pueblo is unique as it is original…..basically it is as it stood when the National Park annexed the area in 1930.  There have been some stabilization efforts, but no rebuilding.  The pueblo at one time featured over 100 individual rooms and despite the ravages of time, weather and early artifact hunters, remains as a testament to the building skills of early native peoples.

Wupatki Pix #7

The doorways supported by small timbers are barely 3 feet tall and were likely covered with animal skins in an effort to retain heat during the cold winter at this 7,000 foot altitude.

Wupatki Pix #10

One often hears the phrase, “if walls could talk”, well this is one case that I wish they could…..oh, what a story they could tell!  Um, well…..actually, talking walls might be more interesting than what they might have to say.  Just sayin’.

The final day with Dewey and Bea started out by Bea, Kali and I taking a nice walk through the Ponderosa Pine forest behind the campground.  Yep…..time to launch GPS Tracks on the old iPhone!

Fort Tuthill Pix #3

Instinctively Kali knew exactly where to go and was one of the best dogs off leash that I’ve ever seen out on the trails.  At times, she looked like a coyote sulking about looking for its prey.

Fort Tuthill Pix #2

Great hike was had by all!  OK, I know you have been waiting for the stats, so here they are:

  • Time on the trail-1hr 11min
  • Miles hiked-2.38
  • Altitude-6910 to 7093 feet
  • Average speed-2.0 MPH

Man, I like that app!

Bea has a friend and former co-worker that has retired to the Flagstaff area.  John and Mary Ellen graciously invited us to their beautiful country home at the base of 14,000 foot Mount Humphreys.  Being tired of eating out and even more tired of our own cooking, we quickly accepted the offer.

Old Friends

As it turns out John is retired Navy as well, so Dewey, John and I had a great time comparing careers and trying to one up each other with Sea Stories.  And, much to my surprise, John’s and my Navy careers crossed paths at one point.  Back in the early 70’s I was assigned to an old beat-up WWII destroyer out of San Diego.  During that time we were pressed into service to conduct a training cruise for a bunch of Naval Academy Midshipmen…..well, John was one of those middies, and had some fond and not so fond memories from the ordeal.  It truly is a small world, after all.  (Yea, I know…..you’ll have that song stuck in your brain for a while…..sorry.)

After a very pleasant and all too short camping visit, Dewey and Bea had to get on with their own excellent adventure.

Fort Tuthill Pix #4

Till next time guys…..love you!

The final day at Fort Tuthill, Kit just wanted to Veg, and Bill just wanted to play…..pretty good compromise I’d say.  As I left Kit relaxing with her book, I took my bike out for a little romp in the woods.

Fort Tuthill Pix #13

Started out on the Soldiers Trail that is supposed to loop around the Fort Tuthill complex.  After about an hour I came to another loop trail off of that.  Well after another hour, I was officially lost!  Soon, I came to this rather disturbing sign alongside the trail.

Fort Tuthill Pix #11

Fortunately I had remembered to start GPS Tracks and so I pulled up the app, checked the map, discovered where I had zigged when I should of zagged and within 15 minutes was back on track.  Great ride through some beautiful countryside.  However the 7000 foot altitude did take a toll on my lung efficiency…..usually my legs give out, but in the thin air my lungs cried foul first.

OK, if this is boring…..you can just skip right over it:

  • Time on the trail-3hr 7min
  • Time on the move-1hr 22min
  • Miles ridden-7.26
  • Altitude-6910 to 7176 feet
  • Average speed-5.4 MPH

Have I mentioned how much I like GPS Tracks?

Back at camp, after some rest and nourishment, I remembered the Travel Bug that I had obtained from a geocache a few months ago…..well time to get it on its journey once again.  According to Geocache.com, there was a cache within a mile of the camper, back in the same woods I’d previously hiked and biked…..probably passed right near it in fact.

Well, after using the iPhone app to get me to the vicinity I started searching, and searching, and searching!  Then I remembered a hint from Randy about sitting and observing and thinking…..if I were to hide a cache in this area, where would I place it.  Within minutes I spied an old decaying log and there it was!

Fort Tuthill Pix #9

There were a number of items in the cache to choose from.

Fort Tuthill Pix #8

I selected a small Geode and left the Travel Bug.

Geocache Geode

Then signing the log and sealing it up tight, I returned the cache to its very effective hiding place.

Well, tomorrow we hit the road once again…..where to?  Stay tuned!

Kit’s Corner:  Yes, I admit to needing a cell signal at ALL times!  Never thought I would get to this point.  Being a news junkie like my mom was, I need to know what’s going on in the world at all times, but, more importantly, I want to be able to connect with our kids and grandkids at any time.  Not that they have any time to chat, they are all very busy but just knowing that I can get in touch makes me feel better.  It’s like having a car in the driveway, even though I have no place to go; or, having a pound of hamburger and a pound of chicken in the freezer at all times.  Guess it’s a “Mom” thing.

Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #10 (Part Two)

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

I travel light. I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are.

Diane von Furstenberg

 

Thursday, February 28, 2013 through Sunday March 31, 2013-Las Vegas, Nevada (part two):  Before reporting on the continuing adventures of Bill and Kit in Vegas I would like to profile our other great kids and grandkids that live back in Maine.  Since we only journal our annual Excellent Adventures and never report on our doings for the remaining seven months of the year, our Maine family (no pun intended…..or implied) rarely gets mentioned.  The following is an attempt to rectify that inadvertent slight.

First off our oldest, Kim and her son Joe.

Kim and Joe-2013

Kim is a respected nurse coordinator at a large local hospital and is the primary reason we can travel worry free as she takes care of everything back home during our absence.  Kim enjoys dance and has participated in a number of Flash Mobs in the local area.  Here is a video I captured last Christmas of her dance group performing for unsuspecting shoppers at our local Target store:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu6-gawK_Pg

Joe, a college junior is seeing a delightful young lady by the name of Abby who is a freshman at the same university.  They have been inseparable and Abby is already like a member of our family.

Joe and Abby-2013

In addition to hanging out with Abby, Joe enjoys playing hockey, rock and ice climbing, downhill skiing and white water kayaking.

Joe WW #3

He is also an accomplished mountaineer…..last July he and a team of three other Maine folks mounted a summit attempt on Mount Rainer in Washington state.

Joe Rainer #2a

Also back home in Maine reside our son Joe and his wife Ann, along with our two middle grandchildren, Katie and CJ.

Bill's Best of 2012 Pix (42)

Joe, an IT Security Specialist is into snowmobiling and motorcycling when not working on building the family home nestled in the woods of western Maine.  Ann works for a local nonprofit and keeps everyone in the Tucker home on schedule and in line.

Katie is a high school junior and is seeing a nice young man by the name of Jimmy.

Katie and James-2013

Katie is an avid snowmobiler, skier and varsity athlete on her schools soccer and lacrosse teams.  Last December she was selected to an all-state lacrosse team to represent Maine at the Presidents Cup in Florida where they won it all!  As a result she is already getting inquiries from various colleges.

Katie is also an animal lover and especially likes the very tasty variety.

Katie-2013

Actually she is a vegetarian and rescued this little fellow last summer during our annual lobster boil and barbeque.

CJ is in the 7th grade and also snowmobiles, ski’s and plays soccer and lacrosse.

CJ-2013

In addition he is quite accomplished at the game of basketball.  Last year, he won the annual town free-throw contest and eventually went on to the win the Maine state event where he received a trophy and was awarded a brand new bicycle.

CJ Award and Bike 2012-Edited

Well, that about rounds out the doings of our five grandchildren, great kids all…..and their folks are OK as well!

The final two weeks in Vegas were as much fun and as busy as the first two.  On our travels over the past five years, we rarely stay in any one place for very long.  Las Vegas is the exception…..we usually drop anchor for a month or so to enjoy time with our Vegas kids.

As before, we continued to have Jack and Tucker out at the campsite for the weekends.  Generally all they needed to entertain themselves was a couple of grocery bags, a few sticks and plenty of dirt.

Jack and Tuck playing in the dirt

However we did take them on a couple of outings.  One of which was to the local Natural History Museum where they were able to learn about the history of the Las Vegas valley before Frank Sinatra arrived.  Dinosaurs being a particular fascination of the boy’s, they had a great time in the interactive dino exhibit.

LV Discovery Museum #6

On a particularly hot day we took them to see the new Disney movie “OZ, The Great and Powerful”, which was playing in 3D.

Oz in 3D Pix #2

A prequel to the famous movie “The Wizard of Oz”, it was a fantastic production and held particular significance to those of us who remember seeing the original.  In addition, the modern 3D effects were far superior to the ones when we were kids.  We highly recommend seeing this film…..with or without youngsters!

As I’ve mentioned previously, both boys are very creative and when left to their own devices will come up with unique and creative ways of play.  Here is a video of their latest invention, Ice Cube Basketball.

http://youtu.be/3mQThOGDdRs

One afternoon, while watching and photographing Jack and Tucker at a local playground I was close enough to hear this exchange.

“Hi you’re cute…..what’s your name?”  Can I have your swing…..pleeeease?”

Tuck the Swinger

OK, OK…..just stop whining.

OK

Women…..you can’t live with them and you can’t live with them!

Speaking of women, while driving about town we pulled up to this sight at a stoplight.

New TV $350.00, Tie Down Straps $7.00, Wife riding in the bed Priceless!

Gotta be a girlfriend…..no way a wife is gonna sit in the back of a rental truck to stabilize a recently acquired flat screen TV.

During a session of Retail Therapy at “The Wall Mart”, Kit, a lover of fine art, found this masterpiece that is currently occupying a place of honor in our camper.

Toilet Tattoos

Who sez we ain’t cultured?

Las Vegas was pretty warm during our stay, however it was generally not warm enough to warrant turning on the air conditioner.  It was however a great opportunity to check out the effectiveness of a modification I had made to our camper before leaving Maine.  I had suspended a couple of 4 inch fans above the bed that provide a gentle breeze at night  In addition, the rhythmic whirring of the motor created a soothing sound that blocked out any ambient noise that might come through the open windows.

Bedroom Fans

Worked pretty slick!

The last week of our stay, Kevin’s brother “Uncle Steve” came for a visit from Missouri.

Discovery Childrens Musuem #19

We purposely waited to visit the new Discovery Children’s Museum so the Uncle Steve could join us.

Discovery Childrens Musuem #1

The museum is a fully interactive facility geared for the education and enjoyment of children of all ages.  They can dress in costumes and put on plays in the mini theater.

Steve and Kit

Also, children can pretend they are auto mechanics.

Discovery Childrens Musuem #7

Or that they are shopping for the family groceries.

Discovery Childrens Musuem #8

Note the take of the two brothers…..another sign of their individual personalities.

There was a three story tower that kids could climb with concerned parents in hot pursuit…..only to realize that the kids had an express route back to the main floor.

Discovery Childrens Musuem #3

This feature allowed for some pretty funny running up and down by folks trying to figure out where their kids were.  Steve, Kit and I developed a system where each one of us would station ourselves on a level and report via text the sightings of Jack and Tucker…..worked pretty well and the kids could bounce about where they may.

In another room visitors can design a plumbing system to deliver water to various parts of the facility.

Discovery Childrens Musuem #14

Everyone that dared to enter this room was drenched to the bone; however no one seemed to mind!

A great time was had by all….The Children’s Discovery Museum is a definite candidate for a return visit!

Kit and I would fill the weekdays with shopping, errands and just lazing about camp.  On one occasion we were out in western Vegas poking around and decided to stop at a local restaurant for a meal.  As we pulled in a truck fitted for trailer towing pulled in near us and a conversation ensued about traveling about in RV’s.  As it turns out Karen and Rick are sunbirds…..retirees that live in the south and escape the heat of summer by heading in their RV to cooler climes.

Karen and Rick

We invited them to join us at a table and had a great conversation about our backgrounds, lives, kids and retirement experiences.  Rick is a car nut as well and has a 55 Chevy that he has street rodded and takes to cruise-in’s around the Las Vegas valley.  We invited them to haul their trailer to Maine for a summer visit…..hope they take us up on the offer!

Walking around the campground at Nellis, one is struck by the diversity of rigs that folks select.  There are monster RV’s that include a garage.

Big Rig

The one above actually houses a Mini Cooper in a ramp accessible space to the rear.  When the car is backed out, the garage and ramp turn into a patio complete with railings and patio furniture!

There were even trailers that are actually smaller than ours!

Little Rig

The one above is a winter getaway home for a very accommodating retired couple from Washington state!  They did seem to spend a lot of time sitting outside, however.

The folks that we met during our stay were as diverse as their rigs.  There was Tyrone, a newly retired Navy Seal that was traveling about the US before embarking on his next career.  There was a fella that started a wiki site that profiles historic forts (www.fortwiki.com).  There was a retired Navy musician and Las Vegas performer that knew some of the same entertainment people that Suzie did.  There was the former USAF F-111 pilot that discovered that his camp neighbor was a Vietnam Army Vet who had radioed the pilot’s jet into a target area some 40 years ago, and possibly saved his hide.  There was the 75 year old man that retired with 30 years of service as a Navy Seal in Vietnam…..a legend in the Seal community according to Tyrone.  There was a family from upstate New York that had turned to farming after retiring from the military and was on a dream trip around the US with their 5 children.  Each and every one of these campers had an interesting story to tell…..wish I had the time to thoroughly document them all!

We also had some great neighbors during our stay, Tom and Sharon from Idaho were parked right next door.

Nellis Neighbors

Tom is a retired music teacher and band director had picked up a couple of fun gigs while in Las Vegas.  We had a great time getting acquainted and invited them to visit us in Maine during their next RV trip to the northeast.

As you may know, I have an obsession with bicycles…..don’t ask how many I currently have, its kinda embarrassing.  I especially like to acquire what I call “Rescue Bikes” or bikes that folks possess but don’t really want anymore.  Over the years I’ve picked up a number of rescue bikes and after a thorough cleaning, some repair and a tune up returned them to their former glory.  Well, on this trip I was able to rescue a vintage Gary Fisher Mountain Bike from Suzie and Kevin’s backyard.

Rescue Bike

Thanks again guys…..this baby is now strapped to the camper’s rear ladder and is heading to my shop in Maine.  Before we leave this subject an appeal of sorts…..if anyone has a vintage bike, say one that is hanging upside down from the rafters and seems to always be in the way…..I can give it a good home!

Speaking of our Vegas family, Kevin is the sound manager for Cirque du Soleil and was able to hook us all up with tickets to his show “Zarkana”.

Zarkana #2

It was a wonderful show…..Kit and I, Uncle Steve and the boy’s thoroughly enjoyed the performance.  After the show let out we all took the monorail down the Las Vegas strip.

Zarkana #1

Where we enjoyed a few different performances of the water-show at the Bellagio.

Bellagio

The music and spectacle was well worth seeing, and the price was right!

As it turned out, the boys were with us over Easter Sunday so in preparation Kit hard boiled some eggs and everyone participated in making Easter masterpieces.

Easter Weekend #1

Somehow, the Easter Bunny knew Jack and Tucker were with us and came under cover of darkness to hide all 18 Easter Eggs within the confines of a darkened 176 square foot camper without stubbing his or her toes too much.  In the morning the boys were delighted to find Easter gifts as well as searching for the hidden eggs…..hope they found them all!?!?

One of Uncle Steve’s favorite things to do during his annual trip to Las Vegas is to take the boys hiking at Red Rock Canyon, and he graciously invited Kevin and I along.

Red Rock Two, Pix #10

We all had a blast scrambling about the red sandstone rocks 

Red Rock Two, Pix #8a

And finding natural caves and holes within the canyon walls to explore.

Red Rock Two, Pix #3a

While we were hiking there were a number of bumblebees flitting about.  Jack and Tucker amused themselves by scaring the annoying bees away by shouting “Boo Bee’s” at the top of their lungs and listening for the resulting echo off the canyon walls.  Go ahead…..say Boo Bee’s out loud and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face!

Returning to the visitor’s center there was a number of displays about the Sonoran Tortoise in honor of Mojave Max’s recent coming out.  Here the boys were able to examine the shell of a desert tortoise that had become dinner for an animal a bit higher on the food chain.

Red Rock Two, Pix #1

Towards the end of our final week and before Uncle Steve had to return home to Missouri, we all met at the Rio Casino to enjoy a fantastic meal.  The Rio Buffet is consistently rated as the best in Vegas and the kid’s scored local discounts for us all!

Rio #3

Since the buffet is within the casino, the boys were mesmerized by the show girls and cocktail waitress that were prancing about…..Jack and Tucker were interested as well!  At one point, mid-meal, a dancer started her performance in a nightclub adjacent to the restaurant.  Jack and Tucker took great interest in this cultural opportunity and stood on their seats for a better view.  I think Uncle Steve was a bit perplexed!

Rio #1

Their action and reaction pretty much brought the house down as everyone around was enjoying watching Jack and Tucker watching the dancing girl!

In addition to the Rio Buffett, we enjoyed the culinary offerings of the following establishments during our stay:  In and Out Burger, Memphis Barbeque, Captain D’s Seafood, Rubio’s Baja Grill, Baskin Robbins, Harvest Bread, Rio Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen, Pei Wei, McDonalds, Rosati’s Pizza, BJ’s Brewpub, and an incredible home cooked Easter meal at the Owens home.

While Uncle Steve was in town Kit and I were given new nicknames…..Kitty Kat and Billy Goat.  And so, Uncle Steve became known as Stevie Bob Hillbilly.  Hey, Steve….all’s fair in love and naming rights!  Actually Steve is a great guy and the boy’s love him dearly…..they anxiously await his visits every year!  We have encouraged Uncle Steve to visit us in Maine and we truly hope he takes us up on the offer!

During our stay in Vegas, the weather was incredible!  Temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s, bright blue skies and gentle desert breezes with very low humidity.  However the mountains to the west showed signs of snow and the nearby ski area was still in operation on Mount Charleston.

Las Vegas Snow

The final weekend in town the boy’s once again stayed with us.  That Friday, I heard through the grapevine that The Thunderbirds were going to be flying a practice routine…..so off to the hanger we went where we were escorted to the bleachers next to the flight line.

T-Birds and the Boy's #3

After watching the practice session, many of the same maneuvers profiled in the last journal, the boys were able to watch all six Thunderbirds land and taxi to their designated position on the apron.

T-Birds and the Boy's #4

After the engines were shut down and the pilots were de-briefed they walked over to visit with Jack and Tucker and answer some of their questions.

T-Birds and the Boy's #6

An enjoyable and fantastic opportunity for us all…..Thanks guys!

Since we were about to weigh anchor and get underway once again, I did my pre underway checklist.  While checking the tire pressure and wheel lug nut torque I noticed a Phillips head screw imbedded in the aft starboard tire.  (Hey…..I had to squeeze some navy lingo in somewhere as I’ve been surrounded by the Air Force all month!)  No telling how long the screw had been there but the tire had not lost any air.  Thinking it might be a very short Phillips head screw; I attempted to extract it and was immediately greeted by the sound of escaping air.  Taking the screwed tire to the local Firestone dealer resulted in a repair and, as a former customer, I wasn’t even charged for the service!

Well, Kit and I had a great time in Las Vegas and we hope the grandkids did as well.  It’s always tough to leave however we must be moving on.  Just one last shot of the four of us taken by Uncle Steve in front of the water-wall at the Bellagio.

Bill, Kit and The Boyz

Till next time guy’s…..we love you!

Kit’s Corner:  We had such a wonderful time in Las Vegas with our grandkids.  They are growing up so fast; it’s hard to believe the changes we see in a year’s time, or, as with Jack this time, six months.  They keep things hoppin for us, never a dull moment when they around and no rest for either of us.  Since we “tag team” it, we take short breaks now and then just to catch our breath!  An added bonus this time through was having Steve with us on a few of our outings.  With his booming voice, the kids have a lot of respect for him and he is so good keeping them reigned in, especially while on the Strip to see the Bellagio Fountains, Kevin’s show, Zarkana, etc.  Thanks Steve!

ICU