Off to Arizona! Yes, in July…

We are currently in the middle of a trip to Arizona. This trip was not planned as we would really like to avoid the desert in the throes of the summer. However we are here for another reason. My mother broke her hip in May, had two surgeries and then rehab. After almost 2 months total she was ready to go home so we came to help her transition back to her house.

Visalia had been getting hit with some warm weather and we are not unfamiliar with heat (we also lived in the Redding area). However we usually try to avoid hot areas. Somethings, however, you cannot avoid.

I was looking at weather forecasts but only saw heat. So I looked at heat maps. I found that Kingman AZ would be a good stop for an evening as they were only around 100 degrees during the day and was very similar to Visalia.

We left late on Monday, around 7pm. The plan was to drive when it was cooler and to drive to Barstow, around 200 miles, and spend the night dry camping somewhere. The trip was uneventful but odd since I am not used to driving the trailer at night:

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We got to Barstow and it was over 90 degrees. We found a cozy spot at the TA truck stop between some trucks and under a light. We opened a few windows and turned on the Fantastic Fan. It was warm to start but we were tired and had no problem going to sleep.

We got up on Tuesday, fueled up and headed on the boring drive on I40. Barstow is where I40 starts and ends in Wilmington NC:

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Start of Interstate 40” by BrianricecaOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Perhaps we will be able to get to the other end of I40 some day but not this trip.

Just a blah 4 lane highway out in the middle nowhere. I was watching the outside temperature and the engine temperature. I set the cruise control to 60mph and the truck did great. We were planning on stopping in Needles at the Basha’s grocery store but it has been closed! The only grocery store in Needles is now closed. Given the closest grocery store was 19 miles away AND it was 109 we decided to just get some fast food and head on down the road. I was hoping that Kingman would be better and cooler since it was higher.

We made it to Kingman around 2pm and found a spot at the KOA. We took a 30amp spot because it was the shadiest spot we could find. However 30amp means we can only run one air conditioner at a time. It was 97 degrees, we had the AC going above our bed and decided to take a nap.

We woke up to distant thunder and this:

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This was cooling down the area with Roxie enjoying it:

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Shortly after this picture the rain started spitting. We got some things together to go eat at Cracker Barrel, our first time. By the time we got into the truck the rain was really coming down. On the drive to eat we saw numerous lightning strikes and knew we were smack dab in the middle of a big thunderstorm. It was really pouring once we got to the Cracker Barrel around 6:30. The rain had pretty much stopped by 11pm and had dumped .79″ in that time. One of the roads we tried to get back to the KOA was closed due to the flooding. I loved the neon KOA sign that they had up:

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The thunderstorm dropped the ambient temperature to 68! We slept the whole night with the windows open and enjoyed the cool breezes. It was wonderful!

We made it my mother’s about 2pm the next day but stopped off for a bite in a city park in Wickenberg:

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Once we pulled in (actually backed in) to her driveway we went to visit. She was doing well as she has a strong will and wanted to get back to her routine.

The next thing I needed to do was to get 30amp service for us so could run our A/C. This required a trip to Lowes to get the correct 30a breaker. I removed a 20a breaker that she was not using anymore. I plugged in the 30a and ran a separate connector and all worked well. That was until Roxie tried to run the A/C and microwave at that same time!

We are here for a bit more then back home. Not quite sure which way will be the coolest on the return!

Anza Borrego with the Chen’s

Our friends, the Chen‘s, contacted us about potentially going camping with them during their kids’ spring break. We found out that it would work out and we both made reservations at the Palm Canyon campground at Anza Borrego State Park. We had been to Anza many times in the past but they hadn’t been there since before they had their 4 kids! We set it up for 4 nights starting on a Monday.

They invited us to come down on Sunday to their house and watch their eldest son perform in high school play. Good deal! We decided to leave on Saturday, stop part way and head in to their place on Sunday. This enabled us to do most of the packing and setup on Saturday since I only planned on going 148 miles to Valencia. I had found a few places to overnight for free in Valencia/Santa Clarita from a new website called One option was a truck stop technically in Castaic. Another was an industrial area in Santa Clarita that held a great deal of promise. Roxie thought that the Camping World would be a better choice for her. The website stated that there was no parking at this time even though there had been in the past. I checked the Camping World website and it stated that they DID allow overnight parking. I called the store and they confirmed their website so we stayed there:



It was a good night and very uneventful. We got up, did a bit of shopping at the WalMart next door (which states NO overnight parking) and got on our way. We went straight down I-5 through the belly of Los Angeles, with the 31′ trailer, at the suggestion of George (Chen). Surprisingly there was very little traffic and it was a easy drive.

The Chen’s live at the top of a hill accessed by single lane road that is relatively steep and turns at the end near their house. He had an incident on the road a while back with his 25′ Airstream where he was stuck going up and sliding back down for about 30 minutes before he was able to get up the hill! No thanks! We opted to stay down the hill on the street by an avocado grove:


This is the day that the fun started. We started to disconnect the trailer by putting down the tongue jack. I went up by mistake and retracted it all the way. Not usually a problem. I went to extend the jack but it would not go. Odd. I tried up and down again but no go. I tried the light on the jack and it worked! The label on the jack stated “if the jack and the light do not work, check the fuse”. It also said “if the jack does not work but the light does, the fuse is OK and the internal thermal protector has to cool off so try later”. OK. Try it later but I want to disconnect the truck. Luckily this replacement jack (remember my previous blog post?) had a place on the top to put in a 3/8″ socket drive. I pulled out my socket wrench and started cranking. This obviously took a bit of time and effort but it worked. I thought I would wait until the next day to let the thermal protector cool down. The other issue was the tongue had to be jacked up a bit since the road is not that level.

That fun behind us we did a few errands. During one of these errands the truck (new in Sept) had an issue. The left turn signal was stuck on. If I let the signal go, the truck left signal was always on. I could turn it off by holding the signal in the right turn position, which I did for the rest of the day. However there was NO way to make a right turn signal and I could not signal with my arm because it was holding the signal stalk! I knew I needed to get this fixed. The local Ford dealers opened the next day (Monday) at 7am so the plan was to head there first thing. Oh, the play was very fun and entertaining (West Side Story).

We dropped the truck off at 7AM and had it fixed by noon. This pushed our departure back by at least 4 hours but I sure felt better about the signal working again. Now I just had to fight the tongue jack. It was still non-operational, the thermal protector must have still been protecting. The socket wrench was called into action again. My drill didn’t work and even started smoking (!) when I tried it. We got everything going and caravaned to Anza Borrego. We headed south through Temecula and toward Julian and then through the desert:


We got there about 6:30 but it was still light. Of course I had to do a lot of cranking and jacking while there because our spot (6) was very LOW in the front:



It was nice to get there and the weather was very nice.

Tuesday we all got up a bit late and decided to go to Julian for a late lunch and walk around the town. All this was new to the Chen’s so it was nice to let them see some of the sights around there. The weather in Julian was much different than Anza Borrego, cloudy and a bit cold. We had a fun lunch and time wandering around the town. On the way back the road was curvy and Roxie was not in the front seat so she had a bit of an issue, all down the side of the Chen’s Yukon. We stopped at the dump station on the way back and I rinsed it off with some help from George. That evening we got a nice campfire going and chatted for a while. After about 1 hour the wind started. That ended the campfire rather abruptly and was a premonition. The Chen’s planned on hiking the Palm Canyon trail the next day. Since we have done this before and Roxie was fighting some back pain we decided not to go on the hike.

All night the wind howled. It was disconcerting at time as I heard the underbelly aluminum skin banging around. I guessed the winds were hitting about 40+mph but I figured we two the trailer at higher speeds than that. The AM wasn’t much different. The night before we had everyone over around the fire so there were footprints all outside but after the wind here is what we saw:



The Chen’s continued on with their hike. When they got back they appeared wind swept. They stated about getting sand blasted numerous times on the hike. I tried sitting outside for a bit but I also ended up getting blasted every once in a while. Her is a composite shot from George:


We have had wind before but at least this time it was warmer than other times. We took a short drive in the afternoon down to Agua Caliente County Park to see their campground and hot water pools. George tagged along and Roxie didn’t get sick! On the way back we spied this vehicle:


The wind continued unabated that evening and everyone sequestered into their trailers. It was not much fun. The next AM we all reached a consensus that we just needed to leave and give up on the last night. The wind had changed. Now it was just be breezy then it would hit high speeds for about 2 minutes then calm down. It was teasing us. We packed everything up, I did my arm work with the socket driver to hookup the trailer. We headed out east toward the Salton Sea. We ran into some very bumpy roads near the intersection with CA86. We ended up having lunch at the Love’s truck stop in Indio.

We parted ways with the Chen’s as they did not have far to go to get home but they wanted to stop to shop at the outlets in Cabazon. We were thinking of stopping at Sam’s Family Spa but I was really bummed about the jack (more about that in the next blog entry) so we just ended up heading home. We had some fun times on the trip but all in all it was a interesting trip bordering on difficult.

But it is always good to see the Chen’s…