February 5, 2013

Southwest Getaway and Modifications

Carol writes:  As the new year rolled in, we knew it was time to get serious about RV modifications which would make life simpler in the European campground scene.  In early January, with temps at home in the single digits, we headed to Phoenix, Arizona.  We had arranged for our RV modifications to be done at D & R  Family RV, owned by Ron Wicklund.  The plan was that we would spend the night in Ron’s fenced business area in an industrial part of Glendale, and the work to install a solar panel and a hookup for our new Wave 3 catalytic heater would begin early the next morning.  Along with 3 other couples awaiting work by Ron, we spent the night.  Then, as promised, the work was completed by noon the next day!  Ron is definitely a pro and has created his business to fulfill a niche in the RV world for RV modifications, with a specialty in solar panel installations. Knowing the electrical supply in European campgrounds will fall short of the amperage we are accustomed to in the U.S., a solar panel will be a perfect solution for keeping our coach/house battery charged.  As for the Wave 3 catalytic heater, it runs off of propane, but far less propane than our built-in RV furnace, thus conserving propane.  Another plus is that it makes no noise, unlike the noisy fan that runs with the RV furnace.

It was nice to experience the warm, sunny days we had hoped would greet us in Phoenix.  It was also time to try out our new clothes washing machine.  Spare time in the industrial lot, 5 days of dirty clothes, and a sunny afternoon definitely added up to laundry time.
Getting in a little reading time as our clothes dry.  Our silver 'Class B' rig is in the background.

Our portable clothes washing machine is called the Wonder Wash.  It can wash up to 5 lbs of clothing by slowly rotating the washing tank with a hand  crank.  Good old-fashioned hand wringing and drying on a collapsible/portable clothes line completes the job.   We have read that laundromats in Europe are pricey, have small tubs and are very slow; dryers are scarce.  So…we will try our new method, and I am sure we will probably generate lots of conversations in campgrounds…or we will end up leaving the Wonder Wash on the side of the road like another couple that we read about.
Campsite outside of Phoenix near the Superstition Mountains

When we left Phoenix, we headed to a remote section of Arizona along the Mexican border and camped in lovely, peaceful Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The awesome organ pipe cactus, along with the stately saguaro cactus and the graceful ocotillo, created a very lovely desert setting.
Ocotillo and a small saguaro cactus at our campsite at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ pipe cactus

Hiking in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Large cholla cactus along the trail

Our next destination was lovely San Diego, California, where Al and I met and married 35 years ago this month.  I was hopeful I could get together for a visit with a dear friend of mine from my single days when I worked as a medical technologist at Sharp Hospital.  Luck was with us!  We were fortunate to be able to spend a long afternoon with Norma Reyes at her lovely home overlooking a canyon in San Diego.  Even though we hadn’t seen Norma since our family trip in 1989, it was like old times laughing and remembering fond times together.

We couldn’t leave San Diego without a visit to the hallowed USS Midway, which is permanently docked along the waterfront and is open to tours.  Four hours was barely enough time to reacquaint ourselves with the Midway’s amazing service to our country.

Aboard the Midway—flagship of the first Gulf War

Upon leaving San Diego, we headed up the coast through many small towns that had been such a big part of our lives in our single days.
  Lunch in Carlsbad, California
  Along the beach in Carlsbad

Our trip thus far had taken us all the way to the Pacific Ocean, so it was impossible to pass up a bucket list item for me—I wanted to camp on a beach where I could see and hear the waves right outside my door.  Chalk that up to my fascination with the idyllic setting of James Garner’s beach trailer in The Rockford Files.”  Beautiful San Onofre beach hit all the bells and whistles.  A gorgeous day hike along the beach past the famous Trestles of the surfer world, followed by lunch on the pier in San Clemente, will go down as one of my all-time favorite hikes.  It wasn’t hard to imagine what inspired the Beach Boys to mention the Trestles and San Onofre in their classic song Surfin’ USA.”
Beach hike from San Onofre to San Clemente
  An interesting beach find
Lunch in San Clemente, the second of many future pictures with a beer in Al’s hand

Campsite on San Onofre beach.  We could see all the way to Santa Catalina Island.

Time to swing back east and head for home, but we wanted to make one more visit to Joshua Tree National Park to camp among the jumbo rocks we remembered so well from our stop here on the family trip in 1989.  Yep, the park still draws rock climbers from all over the world who want to climb those magnificent granite faces.
Two old-timers checking out the Joshua trees
We had two very interesting stops on the way home.  We spent a great afternoon at a gigantic outdoor gem and mineral show in Quartzite, Arizona, then boondocked for the night in the desert along with thousands of RVers who come to Quartzite every winter to camp free of charge on local BLM lands. We felt right at home in a little gathering of about a dozen other Class B RVers.

Our final stop was at Buckskin Mountain State Park along the Colorado River.  As soon as we pulled into the campground we knew we had been here before—35 years ago as newlyweds.  We both remembered camping here in a tent our first night out as we left San Diego in 1978 and headed to Al’s first shore duty assignment with the Navy in Mississippi. The grassy tent sites along the river were just as lovely as we remembered.  However, spending the night this time in a comfy RV suited both of us a little more.

Our cabana site along the Colorado River

Here’s the guy who shared my tent last time we were here

Back home now…We felt the solar panel and new Wave 3 catalytic heater were worthwhile modifications.  We had lots of chilly nights, so the heater was much appreciated.  We spent a few lazy days with our daughter before she set off on a big adventure of her own.  Time to watch a little Super Bowl.  Preparations will accelerate in February with a tentative mid-March departure for the east coast, from where we will ship the RV.

For now, I will let the words of Susan Sontag sum things up: 

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”



  1. I am jealous of the Wonder Wash...

  2. Great narrative, looking forward to following the rest of the saga, because it is going to be "an ongoing saga" as you have described this forthcoming adventure. It was great seeing you both and hearing some details of your trip, you both looked great and relaxed and happy.