Finally!

We did a walk-through of our new house on Monday, May 2nd, and closed on May 3rd.  We’re missing a few pieces like the decorative front door window, the gate to the patio and the epoxy coatings on the garage and patio deck concrete, but we don’t care.  We’re finally in our new domicile!

On May 4th, we moved everything from our largest Fruita storage locker over to our new garage. On the 5th, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo by moving our trailer over to the Village RV storage lot. 

After the required Cinco de Mayo burritos and maggies at one of our favorite Fruita eateries, we spent our fist night in the new dwelling.  Lacking real furniture, we bunked down on our newest tent-camping investment – a large, inflatable air mattress. 

On Saturday, we made a drive over the hill to Gridlock City and bunked down in a La Quinta motel near our storage lockers.  On Monday, the movers arrived and began loading up two trucks with our furniture and boxed belongings. 

After saying goodbye to our longtime wine guy (we’ve been buying wine from Will since 1984) at the neighborhood liquor store, we put Denver behind us and drove back to the Grand Valley.

The movers showed up bright and early on Tuesday morning to unload the furniture, boxes and 300-pound log table.  We now had a bed on which to sleep. 

We also had a garage filled with boxes and more boxes in totally unsorted stacks.  I spent an entire day emptying everything out and repositioning the boxes by contents and destination.

Unboxing items has been an adventure in discovery.  Dianne found her REI (Really Expensive Items) down jacket that she feared had been stolen.  I found my missing ski clothes, which I had to replace here in Fruita so I could ski last winter. 

We also discovered that our wonderful Sony TV was not going to function after bouncing around in moving trucks.  No problem, we replaced that old 40-inch Sony with a new 65-inch model.  Wow, what a difference.

Of all the things we admire in our new house, the 40-bottle, dual-temperature wine cooler stands at the top of the list.  With a little careful shopping, we’ve managed to fill it with some nicely fermented grape products. 

We have a new rule in the house – other than finishing up opened boxes of camping wine, only bottled wine will be served in this house.

Look What We Got

We were scheduled to close on our new house yesterday, but that needed to be postponed because the gas company couldn’t find a meter to install. As a result, we had to pay for another week at the RV park.

We went out to visit the property this morning and found a brand new gas meter installed on the side. The last hurdle has finally been lept. It’s now a sprint to the finish.

Monday, we should be able to schedule a closing date and soon thereafter move into our new hovel. Dianne is pleased.

Flume Canyon

Today, Dianne and I joined six others on a Colorado Mountain Club loop hike up Flume Canyon in the McInnis National Conservation Area.  The outing was led by one of our soon-to-be neighbors from the village.

Our route up was by the Inner Flume Trail, which follows the creek along the base of Flume Canyon.  Dianne and I tried this route a few years ago, but we had to turn around when we found the trail blocked by a growth of poison ivy.  The ivy hasn’t sprouted leaves yet this year, so we had no issues this time.

It’s quite pretty down in the bottom of Flume Canyon.  At least I think it was pretty.  I like to hike slowly and absorb the environment.  Our CMC leader had us sprinting right along, so views and photos were limited.  Dianne and I may head back down there next week with the big camera gear and just wallow in the scenery.

The trail up the inner canyon came to an abrupt end at the base of a huge pouroff.  After an in-and-out water stop, we dropped back down the canyon a short distance and followed a trail up onto the rim. 

From there, it was up and down over hill and dale as we followed the trail above the rim of Flume Canyon and back to the trailhead.  The Garmin said I’d covered 5.77 miles and burned 798 calories on the three-hour hike. 

To make sure we got those calories replaced ASAP, we all headed into town for pizza and beer at Hot Tomato. 

Back when we hiked out of Reno, everyone stopped at some predetermined restaurant for food and brews before heading home.  When we hiked with the CMC out of Denver, nobody ever wanted to stop after a hike or climb.  I don’t know if it’s because Front Rangers are more stuffy or maybe they just wanted to get an early start battling the Gridlock City traffic.  I hope the après-hike dining practice continues on future outings out here.

Disappointment

A week before we returned to Fruita, we were told that our scheduled closing date of April 22 might be delayed.  It seems that gas meters are in short supply.

After setting up the trailer in our old spot at the Monument RV Resort, we drove over to take a look at the house.  We were quite disappointed at what we found.

On the plus side, the siding is almost completed, the flooring and tile is mostly finished and the granite countertops, faucets, toilets, dishwasher and microwave have been installed.  And that’s about it. 

The rest of the appliances sit in the garage, presumably waiting for the gas to be hooked up.  Until the appliances are moved out, the epoxy coating on the garage floor can’t be done.

The electrical hasn’t been completed, the HVAC hasn’t been piped in, the cabinets haven’t been completed and the patio fence waits to be erected. 

The biggest disappointment is the granite countertops, an upgrade for which we paid a hefty upcharge.  There’s a huge defect in the granite right in front of the kitchen sink.  It’s gouged and looks as if it had been burned.  It will have to be replaced.

We’ll talk to the builder on Monday about some of these issues and try to find out when a gas meter might be coming.  Because of the delay, we’ll have to reschedule the movers, keep our storage units for yet another month ($560 per month) and continue renting a site at the RV park ($375 per week).

We’re not happy.

Getting ready

Hallelujah! We’ll soon be Arizona bound.

You would think that after spending 165 of the past 177 nights bunking in our trailer, all we would have to do to leave is simply hook up and go.  It’s proving to be not so simple.

For example, we’ve got to remove all of our “winterizing” modifications.  The skirting has to be taken off and pitched into the trash.  The cover over the air conditioner needs to be removed.  The heated water hose needs to be packed away in our storage unit. 

The freshwater tank needs to be sanitized with bleach. The water heater anode needs to be replaced and water in the water lines needs to be blown out so the pipes don’t freeze up in transit.

Since we’re going to Arizona where it’s warm, we’ll need to ditch our cold weather clothing and pack up shorts, t-shirts and Tevas.  We’ll need to stock up on beer, wine, food and toiletries to last until we get to the Phoenix area.  Both propane tanks need to be topped up. Did I mention we’ll need to stock up on beer and wine?

We’ll be doing all that with great big smiles this weekend.  After months stuck at an RV park, we’re finally going to go “camping” again.

First Stop – Monument Valley

Years ago, my favorite motel chain was Motel 6.  Besides Magic Finger beds, they had cheap rooms where a night’s stay came cheaply.  Since then, my favorite motels still have numbers as part of their name.  My preferred motels now are Four Seasons and Super 8 – Four Seasons when traveling on OPM (Other People’s Money) and Super 8 when paying with my own dimes. 

Since we don’t have a Four Seasons in Fruita (and we’re not traveling on OPM), we opted to spend the night before our Great Arizona Escape Trip at the local Super 8.  The idea was to have the truck gassed and the trailer ready to go with hoses detached, slide out in, beer in the fridge and plumbing blown out before our departure. 

We got up early, enjoyed a fantastic Super 8 waffle, picked up coffee at Starbucks and hit the road by the crack of 9:00.  By then, rush hour traffic had cleared, and we didn’t even have to wait for anyone in either of the two round-abouts separating us from the Interstate.

Nineteen miles later, we entered Utah, hightailed it to the Cisco cutoff and followed the former Grand River toward Moab.  Clearing the town made famous in Jim Stiles book “Brave New West: Morphing Moab at the Speed of Greed” we headed south through Monticello and Blanding and on to Bluff. 

There we made our obligatory stop at Twin Rocks Trading Post and Café for Navajo Tacos, which consists of chili, cheese,salad and salsa on top of a huge patty of Navajo fry bread. That was washed down with some good Utah brews, which now real beers and not that 3.2% near-beer they used to serve in the Beehive State.

We got to Monument Valley early in the afternoon. In spite of enthusiastic directions screamed by someone who I believe is Wrong Way Corrigan’s distant relative, I took the correct turn to Goulding’s campground. 

After spending the winter in cold, cold Fruita, it was nice to walk around in a sweatshirt and watch as the sun bathed the nearby cliffs in warm afternoon light. 

Since we had a large lunch and would be going on a thought-provoking tour the next day, we dined on a bag of Smart Food that evening.

All Day, Two-Valley Tour

When we booked our campsite, we were given the opportunity to book a Monument Valley tour at a slightly discounted price.  To maximize the amount we’d save, we booked the most expensive tour available – an eight-hour, all-day drive through both Monument Valley and neighboring Mystery Valley. 

At 9:00 a.m. in the morning, we met our driver at the campground office.

“How many do you have on this tour?” I asked.

“Two,” our Navajo guide, Art Nelson, replied.  “Just you two.”

Our private tour began with an inside visit of an unoccupied Navajo hogan, this one built to educate us tourists.  We learned how they were built with stripped juniper logs and found out there’s a difference between female hogans and male hogans.  Dianne was happy to learn there are no transgender hogans.

From there, we drove around the backcountry on trails that would hardly qualify to be called roads anywhere else in the country.  Our van, Art assured us, was all-wheel drive. 

We spent the morning in Mystery Valley, which lies south of Monument Valley.  We visited natural arches, gazed at Anasazi ruins and admired pictograph and petroglyph panels of rock art.  Our driver was gracious about stopping frequently and giving us time to waste digits photographing landscapes in the cloudless, midday lighting.

After a box lunch devoured in the wild and a stop at the Navajo-owned View Hotel gift shop (Dianne spent less than $50 there buying things for our new house), we started down the famous 17-mile loop road. 

Partway along, we turned off on a, tour-groups-only, two-track trail into the Monument Valley backcountry.  There we observed more arches, more ruins and more rock art along with sites where scenes from John Wayne movies were filmed.

Returning to the 17-mile loop, we made a few final stops before returning to the campground.  We said goodbye to our tour guide with a couple of $20 bills and headed up to the trailer for well-deserved brews.  After showers and a change of clothes (“You’re not going to wear those Levi’s are you?” my wife informed me.  “They’re GROSS!”) we headed up to the Goulding’s resort restaurant for dinner. 

Of course, we ordered Navajo tacos.

Petrified Forest/Painted Desert

Last time we visited Petrified Forest National Park, one of the rangers asked if we wanted to hike trailless routes in the backcountry.  We answered to the affirmative and she let us borrow a Xerox-copied booklet of off-the-beaten-path hikes.  We chose the First Forest hike and had a delightful time getting away from the hoards.  We planned on doing more of these back-of-beyond hikes on this visit.

Checking in at the Visitor Center, we discovered that since Covid, they no longer hand out the booklets.  Instead, pages covering individual hikes were available from the information desk rangers.  I wanted to do a hike in the Painted Desert portion of the park, so we got packets covering the seven-mile Wilderness Loop hike and the four-mile Onyx Bridge hike.

The original plan was to do the Wilderness Loop hike, but with the wind kicking up, we opted to do the shorter Onyx Bridge hike.  We drove out to the trailhead at the old Painted Desert Inn and set off down the trail at the crack of 10:30 a.m. in the morning.

The route drops 300 feet off the rim, passes by some old bridge abutments built in the 1920s, then cuts across the desert flats toward a distant butte.  There’s no trail, only the occasional footprints to follow.  We had the place virtually to ourselves.  The only other hikers we saw on our way in were an elderly man in a yellow shirt way out ahead of us and a pair of backpackers who passed us on their way back up to the trailhead.  The descriptions in the handouts were vague enough to keep us on our toes, and although we went a bit farther than the indicated distance, we had no trouble finding our objective. 

Onyx Bridge is a twenty-foot long petrified tree trunk lying across a dry wash bed.  A large assortment of petrified logs lay nearby.  We found a semi-sheltered spot out of the wind to eat our lunch.  From here, it was a two-mile slog back straight into an ever-increasing wind.  It was miserable.

Back at our RV site in Holbrook, we had a decision to make.  The wind howled with gusts of 45 miles per hour.  The slideout topper (a short awning over the top of the slideout) on a neighbor’s trailer had ripped apart.  Our slideout topper was whipping back and forth, threatening to become airborne.  Figuring a night in a motel was cheaper than replacing the slideout awning, we considered pulling the slideout in and spending the night at the nearest Super 8.

Fortunately, with evening approaching the wind began to die down and we nixed the motel idea.  With similar winds predicted for the following day, we decided to try finding an alternative place to camp.  With a little effort, we landed a spot at the Zane Grey RV Village down in Camp Verde, a small, central Arizona town in the Verde Valley not far from Sedona.  We would catch some rain, the RV park attendant said, but winds weren’t bad down there.  Setting the alarm for an early departure, we hoped to get out of town before the winds kicked up again.

Dropping Down

Holbrook sits in a high, flat, treeless plain at 5,082 feet above sea level.  Camp Verde, our escape destination, sits in a semi-forested valley 3,147 feet above sea level.  Between the two lies the Arizona high country where desert dwellers like my grandmother head to escape the summer heat.  Here, we experienced wet roads and fresh snow.  I wondered what passing motorists thought when they saw two adults with Colorado license plates standing beside the highway shooting pictures of snow.

Leaving our RV park site in Holbrook at 8:00 a.m. was both good and bad.  On the positive side, we did manage to escape the gusting winds scheduled to hit later in the day.  On the negative side, we arrived in Camp Verde two hours before we could check into our campsite at the Zane Grey RV Village.  The attendant was adamant that because of low-hanging tree branches, nobody was allowed to park their rigs without a staff member directing them, and that doesn’t happen until after 1:00.

With time to kill, we went into town intending to do one of two things.  We would either have a two-hour lunch somewhere or we would go tour Fort Verde State Historical Park.  The park won out. 

The historical park preserves the remains of Fort Verde, a military post built back in Arizona’s territorial days.  Several of the original buildings still survive, and the park features a small museum with artifacts and displays covering the days when soldiers fought Indians.  On this cool, wet, early season day, we had the place virtually to ourselves.

Departing the park, the lunch option hit.  Using Google, Dianne found the only Mexican restaurant in town, where we sat down and enjoyed chips, salsa, margaritas and burritos.  Then it was off to the RV park where with the help of the parking attendant, we cleared by mere inches the leaning trunk of the Arizona sycamore tree guarding our site. 

I’m not a lover of RV parks, but this is one of the better ones I’ve stayed in. Split-rail fences separate the sites and we’ve got vegetation around us offering a small degree of privacy.  Our site is relatively level, and with a tree flush against our dinette window, we can’t see our port-side neighbor.  Best of all, the wind isn’t blowing.