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After getting settled into our site at Valle del Oro (VDO) in Mesa, AZ, it was time to renew our acquaintance with Norm & Linda Payne and Jim & Patty Hammond. They were wintering in VDO and had been there for a while before we arrived. It was nice to see them again. We hadn't seen the Hammonds since the Escapade in Goshen, IN in September 2000, and we hadn't seen the Paynes since meeting them for dinner one evening in Ocala, FL in November. We enjoyed playing a round of golf with Jim & Patty at a par-3 course across the road from VDO. When John and Libby arrived from New Mexico a couple of weeks later, we introduced the Hammonds and Paynes to raclette, which we had already introduced the Veaches to at The Ranch in New Mexico.
We stayed at VDO twice during our stay in the Phoenix area. The first was for about 10 days prior to the Y2K-2 Party, and then again after we completed our physicals at the Mayo Clinic. I have to tell you something about Valle del Oro. It is a HUGE RV resort with something like 1800 RV sites. During the winter months, VDO becomes like a small city of some 3500+ people. It has a large and beautiful clubhouse, pools, and all the activities one would find in a retirement community. The grounds around the clubhouse are well-maintained with manicured lawns and flower beds. It has a huge library where people can borrow books to read during their stay at the resort.
VDO isn't just for motorhomes and fifth wheels. The park is actually designed for what is known as "park models", which are really single-wide trailers. Folks who are true snowbirds (i.e., they own a home somewhere in the north and travel to the south for five or six months in the winter), purchase a park model and then pay an annual rent to VDO (around $3000 in 2001). Now you might think this is just a trailer park. However, you should see what people do with these trailers. Some have porches, some have double wide driveways, and some add an Arizona room, which I guess is Arizona's answer to the Florida room folks build in the Southeast. I never thought I'd say that I could ever live in a trailer park, but VDO is beautiful, clean, well-kept, and the folks were all very friendly.
However, it's not exactly inexpensive, especially for full-timers. The monthly rate was $505 and the weekly rate was $185. We were there for 10 days, so we paid for a week and 3 extra days at $35/night. However, after all the snowbirds leave, VDO offers a deal where you can stay for up to two weeks for $11/night, and that is a DEAL. Given our extended stay in the area, we ended up going back there for 11 days for the $11/night rate. It all averages out over a year's time. Full-timers try to average somewhere around $300-400/month for campground fees.
I had two unexpected treats during our stay in the Phoenix area. The first was to find out from Joanne, a high school friend, that someone from my high school class, Jim Sim, lived in the Phoenix area. I made contact with Jim and we went to their house for a great dinner and visit. The second treat was to find out that another high school colleague, Rich Gorin, was visiting in the Phoenix area, so we made arrangements to meet one day for lunch when our coach was being worked on at the local Cummins shop. Rich rode up on this great looking motorcycle and we went and found a place to eat. In both cases, it was great to be able to visit with folks from my past, and I mean DISTANT past. I hadn't seen Jim for 20 years and hadn't seen Rich for almost 40 years.
Diane's sister, Carol, and her family (husband Kevin and children Jeffrey, Justine, Jenny) live in Tempe, so one of the highlights for Diane was the ability to visit with Carol several times during our stay in the area. We got to go out to eat with them a few times, as well as visit with them in their home. Diane also got to spend some time alone with Carol to talk about whatever sisters talk about when they are together.
I established email contact with Ron & Barb Hofmeister several years ago while we were researching the RV lifestyle. One of the things they do when they winter in Mesa, AZ is to organize a campout at the Lost Dutchman State Park. We always said that someday we'll be able to participate in the campout and this was the year since we were in Mesa the same time as Ron & Barb. What a great time we had. There were about 25 rigs at the campout, including a couple from England who came to America, bought a rig, and full-time. They love it. I have included a number of photos from the campout. I hope you enjoy them. Additional photos can be found on the Hofmeister's web site at http://movinon.net/Whatsnew/OldNews/March01/March.html. I was absolutely enthralled with the Saguaro (pronounced Sa-wa-ro) cactus in the area. Tens of thousands of them. They don't grow arms until they are about 50 years old. Some of them are real oldtimers based on the number of arms they have grown. We were also blessed with having arrived in Arizona after a lot of rain, and that meant the wildflowers were blooming better than they had in 20 years.
We signed up to take a "short" hike up towards the base of Superstition Mountain one morning. Well, it turned out this short hike was something like three miles and the first half, of course, was UPHILL. However, the scenery was beautiful and we enjoyed the hike, even though it pointed out how much out of shape we were. We had a potluck dinner one night and those are always great thanks to the marvelous variety of food that is put out for consumption. On another morning, Barb cooked pancakes and sausage for everyone at an outdoor grill at the pavillion.
One day we took a ride with John & Libby around the 100+ mile loop that included a stop in Tortilla Flat. Most of this road was dirt and gravel with twists and turns and on a ledge. The views were great. It was so nice to finally have gotten the chance to participate in a Hofmeister Campout. We had a great time for the three days and met lots of nice folks.
The other big event going on in the area was the RVAMERICA Y2K-2 Party. Back in 1999, some folks from the RVAMERICA bulletin board (BB) joked about how it would be cool to have a Y2K party after the hubbub about Y2K subsided. The thinking was that maybe a few folks from the BB might be willing to get together to meet each other and put faces with names. The decision was made to have this party in Harlingen, TX in February 2000. Well, around 65 rigs showed up with about 130 people. Diane and I didn't have our motorhome at that time. However, we didn't want to miss the inaugural event, so we flew out for the week and stayed in a local hotel. What a great time it was. So now folks wanted to do it again, hence, Y2K-2. Pat and Nancy Gallagher agreed to organize this second party and did a great job of putting it together.
This year's party was held at the Canyon Vistas RV Resort in Gold Canyon, AZ. There were about 75 rigs and 150 people there this year, including many newcomers who weren't at the Harlingen party. Some folks came from far away for this one. Peter and Kate Pleasance came all the way from London, England to travel the USA in a rented motorhome and they included the Y2K-2 Party in their plans. They dream of retiring and coming to the USA to travel in a motorhome. Melanie Carlisle drove her Class B rig all the way from Atlanta to be part of the party. I know they all thought it was worth the trip.
There were several seminars, including the Hofmeisters' presentation on full-timing; Dave Peters, along with Rodney Simmons from Blue Moon RV Repair out of Dallas, on some technical topics; John's presentation on communications while on the road; and an impromptu session by John & Libby to talk about their journey to Alaska in Summer 2000. There is always some good information to be gathered from these sessions as there is lots to learn out here.
I'm not going to write up lots of details. It was mostly just one big party for folks to get together to meet each other and swap stories. I have included several photos on the photo pages. There are lots more photos at the RVAMERICA web site. However, there is one story I will write up here about the "wind chimes" that Bob Eberly is holding up in one of the photos. Bob is totally deaf, having lost his hearing in his 30s. But he speaks fine and reads lips and, of course, signs. Bob used to work for Kimberly-Clark and he told a story at last year's rally about how they didn't know what to do with all of the recalled tampons that were causing that toxic shock syndrome. So he said they would make them into wind chimes for the deaf. So this year, Melva asked me to ask Bob to tell his story again when we were up there doing the prizes. She had made up some "wind chimes" and then we gave them to him. Everyone in the room roared. Bob is really a cool guy. Considering his total deafness, he has a great attitude about life and is an inspiration. He and Donna are also full-timers and pull a fifth wheel with their truck. I have included a photo of their rig with their flag and beer can wind chimes.
We had to take care of several items on our Dutch Star while we were in the Phoenix area, as well as getting our physicals done at the Mayo Clinic. We figured we were in the area and always wanted to have complete physicals at the Mayo, so this was the opportunity to do that. Thanks to the Newmar Owners Group on the web, we learned about two recalls on our coach. One had to do with a fuel vent hose, which we had repaired at Robert Crist, the Newmar dealership in Phoenix. The other, more serious one, had to do with a potential problem with our air compressor that could have resulted in loss of air in our air bags and loss of power steering. We had that fixed at the Cummins shop in Phoenix. Another problem that had plagued us since about the fourth month we owned the motorhome was a faulty right rear jack. It started to fail by not extending in September of 2000. A new solenoid was put in by Bleakley Winnebago in Douglasville not too far from our daughter Jill's place. That seemed to fix the problem until we started traveling across the country to Phoenix. Then it started to not extend AND not retract, which is a bigger problem since you can't move the motorhome with the jacks down. I was able to get the jack up and the Newmar dealer in Phoenix put in an entire new jack that was shipped to them by HWH, the jack manufacturer. However, a week later, the same problem. At that time, HWH decided to replace the control panel, the touch pad, and the wire harness. That appeared to have fixed the problem. We hopel.
We had originally planned to leave the Phoenix area after we had our air compressor replaced, but I happened to notice in the Sunday paper that the Braves were coming to town to play the Diamondbacks. Being the nice guy that I am :-) I told Diane about it and said we can stay to take in a game if she wanted to do that. Silly me. As though she would have said no. So we stayed. Turned out we would have been here anyway because we had to wait for parts to be shipped in to Camping World to fix our jack. So we got tickets to a game, which the Braves won easily (it was 9-0 when we left in the ninth). BOB, which is what they call their Bank One Ballpark, is a beautiful facility with a retractable roof. Although the temperatures had been in the mid to upper 90s, with 100 degree days coming early the next week, it cooled down enough to be comfortable and the roof was open the night of the game. Parking was a snap and it was easy to get onto a main drag and over to I-10. I'm sure glad we decided to stay until the Braves hit in the ninth. Diane likes Chipper Jones and he was already 4 for 4. He ended up 5 for 5 after hitting a home run in the ninth. So Diane left in a good mood, which of course makes me be in a good mood. ;-)
We enjoyed our stay in the Phoenix area, albeit a couple of weeks longer than we expected. But it's not a bad place to have to stick around. We got to visit several more times with Carol and Kevin. It seemed like every time we said goodbye we'd call them and say we'd be around another week, or so. We also got to see lots of movies, probably something close to 15 of them. We earned enough AMC points to get two free tickets during our stay in the area. My only disappointment is that I have a cousin that lives somewhere in the area and we didn't get to see her on this visit to Phoenix. But we'll be back to the Phoenix area to spend a winter sometime in the future.
Diane ran into Ron & Barb one day during our week-long physicals at the Mayo Clinic. At that time, we thought we'd be leaving the area, but we ended up staying longer due to the repairs needed to the motorhome. But it worked out great because we went back to VDO and parked near Ron & Barb's motorhome. We visited every day and I was able to use their phone line to do email at least once a day. They also refreshed my memory as to how to play euchre, a favorite game when I was in college back in the 60s. However, Diane was too good a learner as the gals beat the guys all three games. Sigh.
It was then time to say our goodbyes to Ron & Barb and finally hit the road again on April 29. We were now finally going to be truly Roaming America. First stop - the Sedona area as we started to make our way north.