Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quartzsite to Phoenix International Raceway to Benson

Wow, been two weeks since I updated the blog.  Again, time is flying by, as we begin winding down our fourth year of snowbirding.

The first thing I need to do is to finish up with Wednesday February 19.  For my birthday dinner, we decided to go to Parker and eat at  Strokes Bar and Grill as it had pretty good reviews on Yelp.  The steaks were great, and the creamed corn was not like any creamed corn either of us had eaten before, and I mean that in a good way.  The service was a little sketchy as when the server came to take our order we asked for the price on the special  She said she didnt know, but would find out for us.  Instead of coming right back with an answer, and then take our order, she stopped at the table next to us, who had been seated after us, and took their order before coming back to us.  I guess maybe they looked hungrier than we did.  :)

Here we are after dinner, and about to have birthday cake.

 And here is a pic of the restaurant's sign.

The trip back was uneventful and we ended my birthday with a quiet evening in the RV.

Thursday February 20 was my grandson, Camden's, birthday.  I had sent him a birthday card on Tuesday by USPS Priority Mail, and also had our mail forwarded to us on the same day.  With USPS Priority Mail you get a tracking number so you can see where your mail is.  I tracked both mail pieces and saw that my grand son's card was "out for delivery" and hopefully would be delivered despite the bad weather back in Iowa, however, our mail didnt look like it would be here by Friday, the day we planned on leaving and driving to Phoenix International Raceway,  which, as you can see on the map, is in the southwest corner of the Phoenix Metro.

In the afternoon I watched practice for the upcoming NASCAR races at Daytona, and in the evening I watched the "duels", which are 150 mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500.  Neither of the races was very exciting, but the "big one" was spectacular!  To me, crashing is not racing.

During the evening I happened to walk by our Trace battery monitor, and noticed that with the TV, surround sound, satellite receiver on, plus two computers plugged in, and couple of lights on, we were using  16.6 amp hours, well within the capabilities of our batteries.

For dinner, at the suggestion of my brother in law Walt on Facebook, we picked up a pizza from Silly Al's Pizza, a favorite place to eat in Quartzsite, and as usual it was great!

On Friday February 21, the first thing I did in the morning was to check the tracking on our forwarded mail, and sure enough it wasnt going to be delivered until Monday.  Not really a bid deal, as it isnt costing us anything to stay where we are, and we cant get into the campground at the race track until Monday, anyway.

The rest of the day was pretty much spent first watching more NASCAR practice, and then in the evening watching the Camping World Truck race.  The trucks usually put on a pretty good race, but tonight's race as boring a truck race I have ever seen!  I hope NASCAR can do something about the quality of the racing at Daytona.

Saturday February 22 started out by a trip into Quartzsite to Sweet Darlene's for breakfast.  During January this place is pretty busy, and the service can be slow, but as the crowds around Quartzsite have thinned considerably the last couple of weeks the food and the service was good.

Although, we had just got done eating a nice breakfast, our next stop was the Quartzsite Bakery and Pastry Parlor.

Not the nicest looking place, but the bakery products are awesome!

After picking up a half dozen apple fritters, and a couple of other fine tasting pastries, it across the street to the Road Runner Market for a couple of things, including  Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, my favorite salad dressing.

They didnt have it, so it was down the street to the Quartzsite General Store, but they didnt have it either.  Guess we will have to wait till we get to a bigger store.

We then stopped to get some fire wood in case we wanted to have a campfire back at the RV some night before heading toward Kuehn Street to see how many vendors were still there, and we were surprised that it was still a pretty busy place.

We got back to the Rv in time to watch the NASCAR Nationwide race.  Not to sound repetitive, but a another boring race with the cars being either two or three wide, so unless you were in front you had no place to go, even if you were faster than the cars ahead of you.  If NASCAR thinks that side by side racing is what the paying public wants, they will go the way of Indy Car which tried the same thing, only to see there attendance and ratings fall.  To me, passing is what racing is about, not driving around side by side till some crashes.

After the race, Ann and I went on a fairly long walk around the Hi Jolly BLM camping area. This time we went past the camping area to the atv and off road area which is quite a bit different than the camping area.  Out here there are a lot more cacti, so I took the opportunity to take some pics of them.

As you can see these saguaro cacti grow in a variety of ways, and you can also see how tough they are by looking at all the damage to some of them, and they are still alive.

While beyond the borders of the camping area we walked along this wash for a ways where obviously there is more water here than in the adjacent areas, as there is much more plant and tree growth.

Then in the wash itself, you can see the damage caused by the ravaging water after a heavy rain.

And then there is the lone dead tree still standing.

The evening was topped off with another awesome Arizona desert sunset.

The plan for Sunday February 23 was to be in Phoenix where we could get over the air channels on our tv, so we could watch the Daytona 500, but because we couldnt get our mail until Monday morning, we had to stay here, which meant no Daytona 500, at least not live on tv.

The day started with a beautiful sunrise over the mountains.

Even though I couldnt watch the race I decided that I could at least keep up with what was going on in the race, so I logged on to where they showed the running order, laps run, and track condition(green, yellow, red or checkers).  I also tuned on to MRN radio on the computer to listen to the radio broadcast.  It wasnt the same as watching it on tv, or being there, but it served the purpose, and it was good to see JR. win.  Been along time since he has won, and I am sure his fans were elated!

Later in the afternoon, Ann returned from doing laundry, and wanted to hang up the bed sheets to air them out before putting them on the bed.  Since we dont have a clothes line we had to improvise with what we had, so with some thin rope, and some binder clips for clothes pins, the job got done. :)

We finished off the day with some grilled burgers, and a rotini pasta salad.

Monday February 24 was a travel day to Phoenix International Raceway.  Ann started getting things put away, while I went into town to  get our mail.  Then it was off to the Love's Truck Stop where the local boy Scout Troop had a bin for recycling aluminum cans, and on the way there I stopped at Solar Bill's to check on the price of solar panels. Someday I would like to get one more 200 watt panel just to get maximum use out of our solar controller.  They had what I wanted, but were way more than I wanted to pay for them, which brings to mind a saying about Quartzsite; you can get almost anything you want there, but the hardest thing to find there is a bargain.  While I was there I took a couple of pics of an older all electric car they had sitting in front of the building.

While I was gone, and Ann was getting things ready to move, she found a birthday card she had got for me, but had forgotten to give to me, so I had a quick look at it.'

The next project was to go through our mail and get rid of the unimportant stuff.  Since they dont have paper recycling here, we decided to just burn it.

Finally, about 2:00 we headed out and took some pics on the way out.  One last look toward Quartzsite from our camping spot.

Couldnt pass up the chance to take a pic of this older GMC motorhome, which was quite the motorhome in it's day.

 Then it was on to the RV Pit Stop in Quartzsite to empty our black and gray tank, and refill our fresh water tank, as we will be dry camping when we get to the race track in Phoenix.  Filling with water went kind of slow as the water is filtered before going into the tank.

Dumping our black and gray tank was easy as they already had a hose there, and a water hose to connect to the black tank flush valve.

Hard to get lost here, lots of arrows telling you where to go.

Got to be a good place if you are NASCAR supporters.

Then it was over to the Pilot Truck Stop to fill with gas, and while I was doing that, Ann went to the Dairy Queen attached to the truck stop.  Cant get that close to a DQ, and not stop, then finally off to the race track.

Along the way we saw these beautiful orange flowers. The desert is coming alive.  the picture doenst do them justice.

On the west side of Phoenix there is this huge road construction project that has going on since we first started coming to Arizona five years ago.

This one looks like a movie set for a Blues Brother movie.

We exited the freeway at Estrella Parkway which took us down through Goodyear.

On the south end of Goodyear farmers were chopping hay, probably to feed one of the many dairy operations in the area.  Not the best pic, but I hope you get the idea.

We arrived at the track about 5:00 PM and pulled in a spot I thought was pretty level, but wasnt, so I moved closer to a motorhome that was already there. The guy came out and told me that he hoped we were big partiers, because he had some more friends coming and they partied all night.  Actually, what I think he was trying to say was, why are you parking so close to me, when there are 500 acres to park in.  Afterward, I felt somewhat bad as it was not that long ago in Yuma where I was upset that I guy parked what I thought was too close to me.  So we moved to a level spot in the next area to the west of him, but when we went to set up, the jacks wouldnt go all the way down, and the slides would not go all the way out.

My first thought was that the shuttle valve had failed, as we had had that problem before, so I did the work around that the HWH Corporation tech had explained to me the first time we had the problem.  Sure enough, the slides worked properly, but with the work around, the jacks dont work, so we just put more blocks under the ramp for the front wheels.  We didnt get level, but close enough for tonight.

Then it was off to find food.  Ann had searched for local restaurants and found Litchfield's, which sounds good, so we put it into the gps and took off.  We ended up in the development called "Wigwam" and ended up talking to the valet as to where to park, and where was the restaurant.  We parked where he told us, and when we came back by, he told us that Litchfields was closed tonight, but there were two other restaurants on the properties.  We opted not to stay, so then it was on to Plan B, which was to go to a restaurant called Black Bear Diner that we had passed on the way.  It is part of a chain, and was a nice place, with some unique characteristics, including and old jute box that played old country music.  The food was good, and the service was excellent.

Once back at the RV we set up the tv to receive over the air signals so Ann could watch "The Voice" on NBC, but for some reason our front tv could not find the signal for the NBC station, but the rear tv could, so Ann watched "The Voice" in the bedroom.

Tuesday February 25 started out cloudy and cool.  First order of business of the day was a trip to Waffle House for breakfast.  We had spotted it yesterday when we went for dinner, as it is right next to the Black Bear Diner.  We love the atmosphere at Waffle House, so we eat there most every chance we get.

After breakfast my efforts turned to fixing our hydraulic problems.  First I pulled out the shuttle valve expecting it to be broken but it was not. hmmmmmmm must  be something else.  One difference between this time and other times the shuttle valve failed, is that this time the right front jack would not go up.  When I went to turn the manual relief valve on the back of the solenoid that controls the right front jack, the whole back of the solenoid turned.  That isnt supposed to happen.  So I tightened the solenoid, and pushed the button to retract the jacks, an voila!  Success!  I then undid my work around, and the jacks and slides both worked.

In the afternoon Ann and I went for a walk around the campground.  We walked to the Camping World store, but they were not going to be open until tomorrow morning, but we had a nice chat with one of the employees.  Then we walked over to Safeway to see what they had.  Their inventory was mostly drinks and snacks, but they did have some real food as well.

They had a nice patio set up in front of the store and we took the opportunity to take a break there.

While sitting there we noticed the extra cell phone equipment that Sprint had brought in for the race.

We also saw one of the support trucks for Kyle Busch's team.

Across from the Safeway these guys look like they had a pretty good place, and a pretty good set up for people watching with their comfortable swivel seats under the shade.  I am guessing it is not their first race.

This is what most of the roads look like around here.  Looks like they put calcium chloride, or something similar, on them, then they water them throughout the day to keep the dust down, and it works quite well.

Back at the RV I was looking over some of the literature we got when we checked in.  Holy, Cow!  I hope we dont have to dump and fill while we are here, as it costs $40.00 to have your black and gray tanks emptied.  $50.00 for a gravity fill fresh water tank, and $75.00 for a pressure fill fresh water tank, and oh by the way, we have a pressure fill only tank.

In the evening, I got some interesting pics of the sunset.

Ann watched "The Voice", and I spent my usual time reading RV blogs, RV forums, and generally cruising the internets before calling it a day.

Wednesday February 26 was a pretty quiet day with Ann working and me pittering around the motorhome, and spending time on the computer.  For dinner I grilled some pork chops.  After dinner we went for a walk to visit an RV Blogger that I have been following for some time now.  For the last three years, they have worked at the racetrack during the NASCAR weekend, and I had visited with them briefly the first we both were her in 2011, I believe.   It was quite fun visiting with Brian and Heidi, and sharing tales of our RV lives.  We visited for about an hour before walking back to the RV past some loud partiers.

I did get a couple of pics about sunset.  Here is one of the neighbors RVs with flags flying.

And some sunset pics.  The first two looking east with the setting sun shining on the mountains.

And one looking west as the last rays of the day reflect on the clouds.  I have seen these clouds before, and it usually means high winds are coming.

Thursday February 27 was the first day there was activity on the track, but I chose not to go, and none of it interested me enough to pay $20.00 to see.

At lunch time we walked toward the track looking for something for lunch, but will all the food vendors inside the gated area of the track that took a ticket to get in, but we found that Safeway had some deli sandwiches and salads, and that became our lunch.

In the after noon we started on doing some planning on where we would like to go next.  Since Ann wants to be back in the Central Time Zone when daylight saving time starts, and since Arizona doesnt participate, it basically means going East.  While at our RVForum Rally in Quartzsite in January one of the forum members, Janene, gave out coupons for the Saguaro SKP Park in Benson Arizona.  The coupon was $50.00 for a week of full hook ups.  A really good deal, so we decided to go there next, and then on to Texas.  In Texas we wanted to go to Big Bend area of Texas, but a check of the Verizon Wireless coverage map shows there is no Verizon data service in that part of Texas, so Big Bend is out.  So I guess it will be on to Plan B which we havent come up with yet, but we still have a week or so to decide.

In the evening we went to visit with a school mate and her husband, who lives nearby, and who invited us over for dinner when we were in the area.  After getting their address and driving directions, we headed out, and were there in about twenty minutes.

Beth was a year behind me in school, and also knew most of my family, and even though we hadnt seen each other for about 45 years, it was like we had seen each often over the years.  Her husband Rich is also from Iowa so he understood why we are in Arizona for the winter.  We had a very nice visit and caught up on some of the happenings in our lives over the past 45 years, and then we had a spaghetti dinner that Rich had prepared for us.  Very good!  After dinner we continued our conversation for a while before we took some pics, and said out good byes.  The two are Beth and I.

And her is Beth and her husband, Rich.

On Friday February 28 I went over to the track to watch practice and qualifying, while Ann worked and listened to the radio with the surround sound to an oldies station.  I really took a lot of pics today.  Here is my vantage point from about row 35 in between turns one and two.  The first is looking east across the track to the Toyota sign on the hill.  There used to be bleachers on the hill, but they were removed, but people are still allowed to watch the race from there.

This is looking back up the track toward turn four.

And looking at the exit of turn two and down the back stretch.

Tony Stewart leaving the pits during practice.

Jeff Gordon on the track during practice.

The scoring pylon during practice.  At this time Jr. was the fastest.

A close up of Tony for our friend Amy.

After the Sprint Cup practice I went to the midway where all the displays are, but before leaving the grandstand I took this pic aimed back toward where we are parked in the campground amongst the thousands of RVs.

It is nice to see John Deere and American ethanol represented at the race.  For those who dont know, the NASCAR cars run on a 15% blend of ethanol and gasoline.

I stopped at the Chevrolet display where they had an engine like is used in NASCAR race cars.

Next I went to the Phoenix International Speedway Museum where they had several race cars on display, with most of them having some connection to the speedway.

Here is a pic of a Silver Crown car that Tony Stewart race at PIR.

A Cup car that Rusty Wallace drove to many victories in.

The black Number 3.  Need I say more?

A "midget" driven by Bill Boat at PIR.

A Brumous Porsche that has raced at PIR when they had a road course.

An old USAC silver crown car from back in the 80s, I believe.

A dirt Silver Crown car that Jeff Gordon drove before getting into NASCAR.

Cole Trickle's car from Days of Thunder.

 Two views of the Sheraton Thompson Special that A J Foyt drove to victory in the Indy 500 in 1964.

After a tour of the museum, it was back to the grandstand to watch Sprint Cup qualifying.  Qualifying used to be one car on the track at a time, and the best time of either one or two laps, depending on the track, determined starting position, but in hoping to increase interest in qualifying NASCAR has changed the rules so that now in qualifying there is a 30 minute time period when all the cars are elligible to be on the track, and after the first 30 minute period, on the faster 12 advance to a 10 minute period where those cars with then be allowed on the track and will start in order of the fastest time.  In both sessions, the 2 of Brad Kesolowski, and the 22 of Joey Logano each only ran two laps and were the fastest in both sessions.  I am not sure if this method is going to work as well as NASCAR hopes it will.

Here is the start of the first 30 minute period.  Some drivers went our right away, while others waited for a while.

Here are a bunch of the drivers waiting for a clear track before going out, but others didnt wait and passed them up and went out on the track.

And the scoring pylon after the 10 minute qualifying period.

After returning to the RV we went to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner.  We hadnt eaten at one of them for a while, and the food was average but the service was good.  When we got back, we could hear loud music from across the street.  Now I dont care if people party all night, but you dont need loud music going all night that people can hear hundreds yards away. So went to bed to the sounds of loud music.

Saturday March 1 started out the same way Friday ended; loud music from across the street,  I am not sure if they went to sleep, or passed out with the music blaring, but it was 5:30 AM before it stopped.  Then we had a short reprieve of 30 minutes before generator time started at 6:00AM.  We can tolerate, and expect people to run generators, but it was till a little annoying after listening to the music all night.

About 8:00 AM we headed over to Waffle House to meet my brothers Brian and Jim for breakfast, and then would follows us back to the track.  Then we all planned on going over to the track to watch the Nationwide race today. It had rained some overnight, and with Brian having taken the doors off his Jeep in preparation for spring, it was a little cool and damp on their ride over from Mesa.  After breakfast they followed us back to the track, but because it was raceday, the route we had planned on taking was limited to those with parking passes, so we had to take a very circuitous route back to the track.

Once at the RV we gathered a divided up the race gear we have.  Since we have been going to both Indy Car and NASCAR races since 1999 we have accumulate quite a bit of gear, including seat backs, scanners and headsets for all four of us.  We then went over to the track to wander around before the race started.  One stop we made was at the United Auto Workers display where they had small race track for remote controlled cars.  Ann got to drive one, but I didnt get a pic as I was distracted by the Budweiser Clydesdales passing by.

This one is for you Shanda.

We then went back to the museum where we got to see Michael Waltrip.

 And Tom Sneva, who won the 1983 Indy 500.

Then it was to our seats in the grandstand to watch the race.  Here is Brad Kesolowski leading the pack into turn one after taking the green flag to start the race.

Kyle Busch lead Kesolowski later in the race.

The only wreck during the race.

Chase Elliot, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliot leaving his pits after a stop.

Kyle Busch leading again, and this is the way it ended.  Rain start at lap 164 of 200, and despite attempts to dry the track, the race was eventually called. Another not so racy race.

Here are pics of the Titan Track Drying System that NASCAR has developed to speed track drying by using compressed air to blow the water off the track.  It is a pretty good system, but it cant stop the rain.

For dinner we decided to go to Macaroni Grill for dinner,  The food was excellent, and the service was good as well.  After dinner Jim and Brian headed to our brother Kevin's house to get the doors for Brian's Jeep before they headed back to Mesa Spirit RV Park.  We headed back to the RV in the rain.  Rounding the corner to head to our space we saw a young man waving his arms, so we stopped.  He wanted a ride to his camper which was at the other end of the campground, at least a mile away.  So we did the right thing, and gave him a ride.  I can only imagine how wet and cold he would have been had he had to walk all the way.

When we did get back to the RV, we noticed a water leak above Ann's chair.  Evidently, there was water getting on top of the slide out, and coming past the seal.  The easy temporary solution was to simply lower the left side of the RV so the water would run away for the RV.

One positive note about the rain tonight, it kept the all night music players from blaring music all night.

Sunday March 2 started our pretty quiet until time to go over to the track.  Brian and Jim were running late, and we had their tickets and gear.  Ann was nice enough to wait for them, so I went ahead and went to the track.  The others were not far behind.  For Ann being so nice and waiting, I rented her a Scan Vision Race Monitor which provide a lot more information than the plain race scanners we have.  It provides video, instant replay, running order in addition to driver frequencies, and  radio and tv broadcast.

Here are some pics of the early part of the race.

Danica spinning out.

And spinning out again.

And here is Brian, Jim and Ann enjoying the afternoon at the track.

I took a lot more pics of the race and even some video, but they were lost in moving them from the camera to the computer or something.  I even had a good video of race winner Kevin Harvick's burnout.  Oh well, I am sure if you want to see it, it will be on tv or on NASCAR'S website.

Overall the race was not that exciting, and I dont think we will be attending any more NASCAR races until the racing improves.  Watching it for free on tv is well worth the money, but paying $100 per seat, or more, to see it in person is not.

After the race Brian and Jim took the tram back to the RV where Brian's Jeep was parked.  We had to return the rented Scan Vision, and there was a very long line of people doing that, then there was the walk to the tram stop.  By time we got to the RV we were tired and hungry, so we had something to eat, and rested a bit.  Our plans with family didnt work out as planned so we called it an early evening.

On Monday March 3 we didnt get around too early as we only had about a three hour drive to Benson, Arizona.  I did notice that our battery monitor wasnt working.  I guess I will have to check that out.  We first thought about just taking the car and going to Waffle House for breakfast, but we then decided to just load everything up, and stop by Waffle House on the way to Benson.  So load up we did and headed up the road.  It seems that a lot of others had the same idea as we did, because the traffic was pretty heavy on the way.

We parked in the Home Depot across from Waffle House along with a few other RVs.  We then noticed an IHOP right next to the Home Depot, so we went there instead of Waffle House.

As usual, I ordered my eggs "over medium", but it seems it doesnt matter to the cooks how you order your eggs, you are going to get over easy or even less cooked than that.  I think I will have to start sending them back as I hate partially cooked eggs!

After breakfast we stopped at the Home Depot to look at bathroom faucets, as we have been talking about getting a new one for quite some time.  They had quite a variety, but none jumped out at us, so we didnt get one.

Then it was off to Saguaro SKP Park in Benson Arizona. We arrived about 2:00 PM and got checked in, and assigned a lot.  We got parked and setup, but the cable tv wont work.  After trying a few different things, Ann was able to watch "The Voice".  I will have to try something different tomorrow.

The first thing I did on Tuesday March 4 was to tackle the no cable tv problem.  After much switching of cables we were finally able to get the cable channels in annalog form on the back tv only, and we could not get the HD channels the park offers. I then set up the satellite dish, which went a lot smoother that the cable.

For dinner went went into Benson to eat at Mi Casa. A place recommended by Larry, one of the RV Forum members who is staying here in the park too.  It is an interesting restaurant as it is in a relatively small building, and looks like may have been a small house at one time.  The food and service was excellent, and after our meal, we spent some some talking to one of the owners who explained how the restaurant came about.

It was them back to the RV.  Ann had missed watching "The Voice" because of our late dinner, but food is usually more important that tv.

Since we had the Directv going, we watched the John Stewart Show, and The Colbert Report, two of my favorite TV shows, before calling it a night.

 Wednesday March 5 was going to be a day where I updated the blog, as it has been two weeks since the last update.  So that has kept me busy all day. I started before noon.  

While I worked on the blog update, Ann was busy with her work work, and it seemed as if it was a pretty busy day for her, which didnt end until  5:00PM.  She then went and did laundry, and grocery shopping.  When she returned I was still working on the blog update, so she them made dinner of shrimp and crab Alfredo.  Really good stuff!  I am about to post this blog update and them call it a day.

Sorry, about no pictures the last couple of days, just havent taken any, but will take some tomorrow, as this is a beautiful areal of Arizona that we havent spent much time in.

Until next time,