Fran Crawford's WebBlog

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Just Beyond the Border

4-19-05 - 4-29-05

Winterhaven is just across the river, and the state line, from Yuma, Arizona. The RV park we were in is called Sleepy Hollow and is not exactly in Winterhaven but rather Andrade. Winterhaven post office serves the Andrade area. Andrade is not an official town but serves only as the border crossing location. The RV park, BLM land and a parking lot for those who don’t take their vehicles into Mexico are the entire contents of Andrade, CA.

Sleepy Hollow RV Park is on the Quechan Indian reservation and is shaded for the most part with rows of Salt Cedar trees. Salt Cedars, I have found via the internet, are not very popular trees to have around. They consume vast amounts of water and spread their pollen everywhere in the winds. They grow fast and large and drop their needle-like ‘leaves’ year round.

Where we were parked was about a quarter mile from the Mexican border town of Los Algodones. A lot of ‘snowbirds’ have already departed the area and headed for their summertime homes. However, many are still in the area hoping to find greater ease in getting medical and dental appointments with the smaller, off-season tourist throngs.

The BLM land and the area in and around the RV park, is frequented by Border Patrol vehicles including helicopters that ‘watch over’ us night and day. One night’s TV newscast from Yuma told of an RV with 51 illegals in it that was found near the Andrade crossing. They showed a picture of it and it was a motorhome I had seen earlier parked just across the highway from the park’s office/rec building. It isn’t even as long as ours and I don’t know how they got that many people into it.

Other than some prisoners that were reported to have escaped from a prison in Mexico, I don’t think those who cross the border illegally are particularly ‘bad’ people. Probably most of them are just trying to better themselves and their lives by coming here to look for jobs that will pay more than they can earn in Mexico. Language is the root of a lot of misunderstanding and they are, after all, illegal which causes them to be sought by the Border Patrol. I can’t condone the illegal action but the folks who try it are totally ill prepared for existence for any length of time in the dry, barren desert.

The night after the authorities had rounded up more than a hundred illegals the Border Patrol helicopter was doing extra duty checking the area. One craft hovered over the desert area just south of us for quite a while searching the river and surroundings with a spotlight.

Steve stepped out into the darkness around our house to get a better look at the helicopter as it hovered so low in the air. As luck would have it, along came a neighbor from down the road in the RV park. She was headed for the restroom. She seemed unaware of Steve standing there in the almost total dark. He didn’t want to frighten her as she passed by and might suddenly see him there, so he said “Hi, how are you doing?” She was startled and freaked out. He tried to reassure her and finally calmed her down (we’re not sure if she still needed to use the restroom...).

Life in this park is never dull. After dark it is difficult to tell if the vehicles with the flashing, revolving lights are ambulances here for ailing RVers or Border Patrol SUVs rounding up illegals. Both type officials are usually ‘chaperoned’ by low flying helicopters. One day we picked up the mail in Winterhaven and drove on into Yuma for supper. Afterward Steve asked if there was there anything I wanted to do before we headed home. I said no... it didn’t make much sense to pay sixteen bucks to go see a movie when we could watch high speed chases in the BLM land from the comfort of our rig.

We came to the area for dental work and quickly learned that finding a dentist in Los Algodones isn’t difficult. There are more than 250 of them in the area according to a website. And many of our fellow RVers had already dealt with the system so they all had someone to recommend. This was good.

We crossed the border with a list we had accumulated. The street into town is lined with young men holding out handfuls of more advertisements and information about dentists and maps to show where they are located.

Some dentists were booked for the current week and we preferred not to wait until the next week. A receptionist in one of our stops suggested one who might not be as busy, so we headed there. Scrunched in behind a crowded row of sidewalk vendors we found the office. We found out that we could be seen that week, in fact if we could wait a sort time the dentist could do a consultation that day! Wow.

So we took turns in the dentist chair. Steve sat patiently in the waiting room while the dentist worked on me... but when he was in the dentist chair I went shopping!

Another day after picking up our mail in Winterhaven we headed on in to explore Yuma a bit. It’s been a while since we were there, but it was our lucky evening. As we passed the Marine Base we noticed the AV-8 Harrier jet aircraft was practicing vertical take-offs and landings. We had seen it perform at an air show a couple of years ago, but did not get to see it take-off or land. That process is awesome.

While awaiting the removal of temporary caps and installation of the permanent ones we spent several days visiting with friends Gayle and Buddy Lee. Our east side of Yuma friends... the Roger and Diane, Pat and Bill, Norm and Marge... had all snowbirded north by the time we got here.

Gayle and Buddy always have suggestions for a new and yummy place to eat Friday’s supper. The next day we all went to see Sahara at a new movie complex and then had mid afternoon breakfast at a fifties diner. Sunday the Lees invited us for dinner at there place in the Cocopah RV Resort. They have expanded their park model so it is roomy enough to enjoy and yet easy enough to maintain and still have time to do all the fun activities in the park.

Monday we went back across to the dentist and had our permanent caps installed. That completed all the work we wanted to get at this time, but we decided to wait a day to see if everything settled in well in our mouths. The park was peaceful, the weather was pleasant and high winds were predicted for the next few days.

Friday morning was calm so we hitched up and headed west along the 8 and north, choosing the route to the west side of Salton Sea. When we reached the 10 the wind was back as we had expected in the canyon we call ‘the wind tunnel’. Gasoline prices are a new form of dieting... you think if you don’t have fries, a desert or large soda you will be able to buy another half gallon of gas!!

Except for encroaching smog and heavy traffic, the climb up the hills from ‘down below’ to the Antelope Valley was pleasant because the hills were greener than we had ever seen them. But we decided that coming up through Twenty Nine Palms, Yucca Valley and Landers is our favorite way to go... just too much traffic down below.

And now we are parked with full hook-ups, including cable and internet faster than our satellite service in the Crawford RV Park, Space A, in Lancaster, California.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How Much Wood Can A Woodcarver Carve...

4-02-05 to 4-19-05

Once we were beyond Hope it was only about an hour and a half to the Escapee RV park at North Ranch. More old friends to meet and visit. We have missed the past two years of the Woodcarver meetings so it was really great to see everyone.

North Ranch has more or less become the home of the SKP Woodcarvers BOF (Birds of a Feather groups are gatherings of SKPs who have like interests). The recreation hall facility there is large enough to hold the big group and is a great, modern facility. The group has grown over the years to more than 70 active 3-D carvers, wood burners, relief carvers, chip carvers, and power carvers.

North Ranch is in the hills west of Phoenix between Wickenburg and Congress somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. Here's a cute story about being in the 'boonies'. We went to the Congress, Arizona, Post Office one day to send a Priority Mail package to Yuba City, California. When the woman in charge looked up Yuba City to find the charges she commented “Wow, Yuba City must be out in the sticks!!”

Ha! And that coming from someone who lives in Congress, Arizona!!??

In our carving classes Steve did a cute cowboy caricature and worked on a cane and I tried the class of carving on found wood... or bark carving. I made a tree house first and then a dog coming out of the bark... usually the bark comes out of the dog!

It has become a custom for any dulcimer players in the woodcarver's group to get together and entertain on Wednesday night. This was the first time I joined them and also the first time I tried to play with a group. I did not do well but the others were able to cover my sounds so it wasn’t too awful. Anyway, everyone was nice and said we all sounded great. And they clapped when it was over... probably BECAUSE it was over!

At the end of the second week it was discovered that several of us in the carving BOF had Q Chords. None of us are experts or even players but we gathered one night and had a great time hooting at the little we all knew about the instrument since we all had them for several years. We vowed to get together earlier next year and work up an evening's entertainment for the others.

Our friends Ginny and Ron Boyce who now live in the Phoenix area came to visit one day and we went into Wickenburg for a great dinner at Anita’s Cocino.

Cell phone service is non-existent at North Ranch. We had to go into Wickenburg to use our Verizon system and those with other systems reported like problems with theirs. Our computer satellite system worked fine after the correct zip code was input. Steve opened access to our system so that others nearby with wifi could get their email. Friday before we left the man next door told Steve his wife would pay for us to stay another for another day... she wanted to do more email.

We had a great time at North Ranch despite wide variety of pollens and the very strong winds that buffeted us most of the time we were there. Suddenly it was Saturday and time to fasten everything down and pull the house from North Ranch at 2800’ to Winterhaven, California where it is 137’ above sea level.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Adios Snowbirds

3-19-05 to 4-02-05
Our two weeks at Ramblin’ Roads in Hope, AZ went by quickly. We were kept busy visiting with folks we knew. We also toured the new Little Church of Hope that the congregation built almost entirely with volunteer help and donated materials. They built it in three or four months and were able to hold Easter services in it. Winter inhabitants of the park presented a Quilt Show, Art Show and Craft Show on separate days the first week.

The desert burst into bloom around us with cactus flowers of all sizes and colors plus ground cover plants showing their finery in purple, white, yellow and orange. The whole area seemed decked out in spring finery for RV travelers stopping through on their way to cooler summer places.

Activities of the festival week kept the whole park buzzin’ with tournaments for horseshoe pitching, golfing and shuffleboard. Afternoons were Steve’s favorite with a jam session every day. Evening entertainment each night varied from programs by groups hired to perform to a play and musical presentations by tenants of the park. A beautiful quilt was raffled off the last night to benefit the new church.

The great thing about the festival week is NO COOKING! For thirty five bucks a person we were fed breakfast, a mid afternoon snack and supper each night.

Saturday, April 16 was moving day. After breakfast with those left at the park there was a mass exodus of RVs heading out. Many of the group of folks who had come to join the adios festival week were caravaning to Laughlin, Nevada, for more activities celebrating River Run Week there.

By noon we were beyond Hope... and headed for the Escapee park at North Ranch.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

There Really is Hope

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Our two weeks in Lancaster came and went all too quickly. The Lancaster Crawfords are always incredibly active and busily fill each day from dawn to dusk. They try to include us in all that they do and we try to keep up but sometimes run short of energy as we acclimate ourselves to a higher altitude. Going from less than 50’ above sea level in the Sacramento Valley to Antelope Valley’s almost 2500’ saps our get-up-and-go until we get accustomed to it. But it is respectable conditioning for 1800’ Hope, and even higher, Congress, Arizona.

Steve got the satellite dish working for our computers, but we could also use wireless from Mark’s computer system in the house. Mark prides himself on running a ‘single-space RV park’ with all the amenities possible. He’s even promised the pool will be up and running when we get back in May.

With time passing so quickly and our bent for procrastination we didn’t get done a lot of things we wanted to do. But it’s always fun to be involved in the family activities when we visit Lancaster.

We packed down the morning of Friday, March 19th, and as Steve rolled the house off of a leveling board I noticed a bit of a bulge in one of our new trailer tires. It ‘squatted’ (as Steve calls it) more than it should so there was probably a slow leak. There was no convenient tire shop that we knew of on the way we were headed between east Lancaster and Victorville, so Steve got out the 12 volt air compressor and we waited while it filled the tire.

Talking to Mark later he asked why we didn’t use the air compressor he had purchased last year. He said it was included as one of the amenities of the ‘park’ and he had told us before that we could use it anytime. It was my fault... I had forgotten all about it. Most RV parks don’t have compressed air available.

We departed Lancaster around 11 a.m. just in time to get into a noontime traffic crunch in Victorville... or maybe it wasn’t just a Friday jam. Maybe Victorville and Apple Valley are always subject to traffic clogs. We’ve only been there three or four times.

We had chosen a route to circumvent Victorville by taking a small road called Air Base Road that junctioned with Highway 395 at Adelante and should take us south east to Highway 18. What we didn’t find out until too late was that road had been renamed. There was no place to turn the house around so we stopped for lunch and then headed east on Highway 18 from where it crossed the 395, to Lucerne Valley and then took 247 through Landers to Yucca Valley. When we head back to Lancaster we will take Bear Valley Road that goes due west from the 18 just below Apple Valley. It comes out on the 15 between Hisperia and Victorville and misses all that other traffic.

Traveling is definitely educational!

We traveled on through 29 Palms and then through the vast desert along Highway 62 to the Colorado River and across to Parker, AZ. The desert in California was beautiful, thanks to the rainy winter months. Each change in altitude seems to bring about a change in vegetation and color. I wish I knew all the names that go with the colors... purple lupin, I know, and white Joshua tree blossoms... but there were also oranges and yellows and some red ground cover that was so thick it looked like red soil with green shrubs growing up through. Valley after valley amazed us because they were so unusually green.

By the time we got to Parker, had dinner and headed for Hope it was too dark to see if the Arizona desert compared to the beauty of the California one. We knew we were late so I called Ramblin’ Roads RV Park and Paul said he would be in the office until nine. We pulled in at 8.

You gotta love the large spaces and great views at this out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere RV park. The weather has been good... cold at night and sunny most of the days. The wind and allergies from abundant sprouting growth are the trade-offs for this spacious, peaceful snowbird spot. It’s like coming home at this point because we’ve stayed here a month or so for many years.

We have meet up with old friends and tomorrow is the start of the park’s farewell to winter visitors week. Our satellite computer connection is working perfectly and yesterday I got some up-to-date photos granddaughter Katie. Are we livin’ large... or what??!!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Here we go again...

March 9, 2005

After nine months in one place we are back on the road. Finishing up a round of medical/dental appointments, hanging out to meet granddaughter Katie ... who appeared February 17th... and attend the 17th birthday of grandson Clinton brought us right up to the end of February.

The day before we planned to head south I needed to take my car to Todd's in Roseville for storage while we are traveling. But first I needed some fuel. Here's how it went.

I was refueling my vehicle at a self serve pump but it didn’t seem to like my ATM card. After several attempts I went to the cashier and confessed I could not make it work despite having used that same pump many times before. She came out to the pump with me and put my card in a couple of times, pushed a button to clear the machine and put my card in again. It worked.

She then proceeded to give me the ‘little old lady’ treatment.

“First open the little door and remove the cap.” She paused so I indicated I had already done so.

“Then put the hose in before you push the start button or squeeze the handle.” I inserted the hose while she pushed the button.

“Thanks, I can take it from here,” I told her so she went back to her station.

I filled the tank and managed to get the nozzle back on it’s hook; replaced my gas cap and shut the little door. But when I started for the open driver’s side door I was suddenly halted. I could go no further. I had shut the bottom of my jacket in the little door!

It wouldn’t pry open and I couldn’t reach the lever by the front seat to release it. I removed my jacket, released the latch and put my jacket back on hoping no one had noticed THAT ‘little old lady’ maneuver. And hurriedly left the premises.

On departure day a final stop before leaving Yuba City was to have the axles flipped on our fifth wheel. We took the 'house' to the RV shop, and went to breakfast with Granddaughter Katie and her parents while the work was completed. As we pulled down the road from the RV shop and put on the turnsignal to head south Steve discovered we had no trailer brakes!

Back to the shop. They repaired it and noticed that we had a couple really bad tires. They advised not traveling any further than absolutely necessary on them. We called Ray, our tire guy, and ordered a new set of tires to be put on in the morning. Back to Travelhome Park for the night much to the surprise of those we had bade farewell that morning.

Tuesday... a quick efficient tire change and we were off at last. Destination Turtle Beach Fish Camp just south of Manteca. This is a new Thousand Trails/NACO preserve and borders on primitive but a great place to be... we rarely use the fancy stuff anyway. Our satellite computer connection was not working and with no cable few channels were worth watching. There was a heavy downpour during the night.

Wednesday Steve wanted to revisit Sonora where his folks lived a while back. It was a beautiful day for a drive up the mountain. With all the precipitation the fields and canyons were covered with velvety green. We went the whole way to Twain Harte. Nice sunny day.

We departed Turtle Beach around ten Friday... overcast and showers. We were headed for Lancaster in the high desert above L.A. Thunderstorms were predicted but no weatherman had warned of the incredibly intense hailstorm that we encountered when we were passing through Bakersfield.

Traffic did slow, sensibly, and it took 20 to 30 minutes to get through the city on the interstate. The noise in the cab of our pickup was horrendous as the marble sized ice pellets beat straight down despite reports of tornado type winds in the vicinity. The water on the road was several inches deep even on the middle lanes. The only time you could ‘hear yourself think’ was under the underpasses where many vehicles pulled over to wait. That silence didn’t last for us. Pulling our house made us too long to be able to park under one so we continued southbound. It was probably the worst hail storm I have ever experienced.

To the east over highway 58 through the Tehachapi’s the sky was black and foreboding. On the west side the dark clouds were dumping their load on the foothills. Straight ahead the sky was gray and getting brighter.

By the time we reached the base of the Grapevine the sun was shining ahead of us. Of the routes to Lancaster from Bakersfield we had chosen the best! In fact The 5, over Tejon Pass and down to Gorman, appeared to be dry, but not long after heading east on 138 from Gorman we were again under dark clouds.

We reached Mark's & Janette's house, parked and hooked up the basics, and were immediately swept into the activities of the family... it was time to head to the Knights of Columbus hall for their annual fish dinner and where we would meet up with many of Janette's family.

Southern California is making up for it now, though, with Chamber of Commerce type days. The mountains that rim Antelope Valley are snow covered; the sky overhead is cloudless and before long we may just be complaining of too much heat.

One of the most asked questions we get from non-fulltime RVers is how do we handle problems that arise from time to time when we are so far away from home. The answer is we are NOT far from home and we cope the same way you do if you have a leaky roof, clogged sewer or a garage damaged by a fallen tree... we fix it, get over it and move on.

We'll be in Lancaster another week or ten days and then head for Hope, Arizona, maybe.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Great Afternoon Thanks to 'gator aide

2-13-05 -- Sunday evening. I just finished a weekend of 'minding the store' here at TravelHome Park in Yuba City. It rained a bit last night and then off and on again all day and made us VERY thankful that yesterday provided the really great weather we had.

This has been an unproductive week as far as obtaining a granddaughter is concerned. Jennifer, however, has been trying and putting up with the contractions and shenanigans that Katie is providing for her entertainment while she waits.

On Wednesday I had a gold crown installed on one of my teeth which constituted the final doctor/dentist appointments for both Steve and I until June, so we are ready to roll after we know Katie is on earth and that she and Jennifer are in good health.

Newborns, of course are lovable little creatures but not much for activity other than sleeping, eating and loading their disposable diapers so I am willing to let the other three grannies claim Katie and when I get back in June she will be turning into a real person for MY turn.

Just got an email from #1 son who says his group, the Mojave Bottom Boys, played a gig at a retirement party in one of the hangers at Edwards AFB. He said he played a solo on his harmonica and banjo. Now the question is ... is that a solo or a duet?

Okay... the chilly weather we've been having parted Saturday and a gorgeous day slipped through. I was tending the park and knew that our next door neighbor was a most unusual fellow with a most unusual job. I had asked if I might interview him and then photograph some of his animals for a magazine article. He said if the day got warm enough for them to be out we could get pictures.

The day was warm enough and the grass was green and perfect for photographing Nessie, his five foot alligator, Banana, an albino Burmese Python and Abigail, an even bigger Burmese Python. His black and yellow carpet Python seemed to like wandering around in my gray hair. They entertained us for hours.

Had you asked me Friday if I would ever touch a snake, let alone get all wrapped up by one I would have said "not on your life!" But these snakes were great. I'm not sure if I can get photos on this Blog but I will try.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

In the Blog-ining

1-27-05 -- This is called a Blog. You've probably heard of them by now since they've been around for a year or so. I hope I can remember how to make it work as it strikes me as a good way to log some of the things we do and then if folks are interested they can click on the URL in my email signature and find out what's up with me (us?). I will endeavor to put something up at least monthly and more frequently if things warrant. It will mostly be for when we are traveling because that is definitely when our lives are more interesting to write and read about. Take, for example, this winter. It has been a definite four-letter word winter since the git-go... actually since November. Oh... the four letter word, by the way, is G-R-A-Y!! Rain is also a four letter word and we have had plenty of that.

We have spent the winter in Yuba City for several reasons. Doctor appointments, dentist appointments and Katie Ann Crawford ... who will arrive in February. Not having a granddaughter yet I kind of wanted to wait for her to get here. After she and her mom, Jennifer, are settled in Steven and I hope to head for Hope, or Congress to the woodcarvers workshop, or just about anywhere we can go to find sunshine and warm, fogless days.

Don't get the idea that we don't like Yuba City. We do. Steve has enjoyed visiting with his family and we've had dinner with them a couple times a month. I got to see my family Thanksgiving, Christmas and some other gatherings.

Travel has been limited to extended rides around the area. We love to drive through the Sutter Buttes and we usually check out Oroville to see how much water is there. One day, driving around southwest of Yuba City somewhere (we get "lost" a lot), we came across some cotton farmers harvesting their crop. I hadn't thought much about cotton being grown here in northern California and it was surely interesting to see how they harvested it.

Well, here it is the end of January and we have been here since the end of May last year! If God had wanted people to stay in one place that long he wouldn't have let us invent recreational vehicles!!