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Elks Care. Elks Share.

We joined the Elks in Kansas a couple of years before we took off full-time in the bus. When Jim’s dad found out that we joined, he said cryptically, “Those people like to have fun.” This is the same guy who, when we told his folks on the phone (25 years ago) that we were getting married said, after a very long pause, “Well, Jim. That’s a big step.”

We had friends who traveled full time and found out about the Elks Lodge RV parking options from them. We have stayed in several lodges on previous trips and since we got going this year, we have made the most of the options, particularly in California. We stayed at one lodge in Scottsdale, Arizona that had some full timers living there with lots of (all good) stuff all around. That was the only one we have encountered like that. Who knows? Maybe he was the Grand Exalted Ruler. That is seriously the actual title.

So far in California we have stayed at several lodges and we are only partway through the state.

Hesperia, before heading into LA. They had a large lot that was completely empty except for us. Carmella loved that, but it was so hot that she barely wanted to go outside.

Santa Maria, after leaving LA. Very large lodge with its own small RV park. Carmella went out here but there were a few dogs.

Atascadero, on the way to Fresno. Large lot with just a few other campers.

Fresno, waiting for refrigerator parts. Nice site facing a lake (that wasn’t empty!)

Hollister, to cool off. Right next to a small airport where we got to see sailplanes being towed and biplanes taking off.

And Lodi, where it is very hot again. Nice lodge with a golf course view from our site and close to restaurants and shops.

We are heading to Ukiah next, then Eureka in the redwood country where we may stay as long as a couple of weeks.

The parking is great, quiet and safe. Many of the lodges offer your first or second drink free. Most have water and electric and a dump onsite. It is normally not free, a donation or much cheaper (and better) than an RV park. No kids, very few dogs, no loud music or fires.

We got to watch this sunset unfold in Hollister…

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We are happy to be Elks and highly recommend membership to other travelers.

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The Furnace of Fresno

We headed to Fresno for several reasons. It is fairly close to Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon and we figured we could rent a car to see the trees. Our friends and old next door neighbors, Mike and Rita Sanders, were there visiting their youngest son and his family. And we knew there was an Elks Lodge there since the refrigerator was acting cranky. That is not good in 110 degree heat! So we knew we would want to be plugged in while we waited for parts. And to stay cool.

It was great to see Mike and Rita. They fall into the category of friends when even if you don’t see or talk to them for a while, you fall right back into your friendship. We had a great lunch and visit with them.
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The next day we got a car and headed to Sequoia. The “groves” of giant sequoias are really impressive.
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And the biggest tree on the planet: The General Sherman. It is not the tallest but in sheer volume, it is the biggest. All the other trees bow down to it, although they are marvels in their own right.
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Hiking through the groves of giant sequoias is memorable. The quiet, heady smell, and sheer size of the forest envelops you as you strain to see the tops of the trees. And SO MANY BIG TREES! A singular experience. Highly recommended.

The next evening we got to visit with an old bus nut friend that we last saw in Blytheville, Arkansas for that town’s bus rally to dedicate their newly restored Greyhound station. RJ Long has a great store of bus knowledge and he lives in Fresno and was very helpful with attractions and what we should do there. It was great to catch up.

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On to Hollister! It will be cooler there, much better than 110 degrees in Fresno. Seriously cooking!

That will be a nice change.

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Morro Bay, PCH & Hearst Castle

We figured we better make a reservation since we were landing in Morro Bay on the Pacific Coast Highway on the weekend. Jim found a campground and we settled into our spot before heading out on the bikes to explore the town and Morro Rock. Bikes are the best way to get around this beach town, especially on a weekend when traffic is at a crawl. We enjoyed riding on the dedicated bike paths and on the beach. The last  time we got to ride on the beach was at Padre Island and that was months ago. Time for beach riding! And seafood!
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The first day it was cloudy and foggy and we could barely see Morro Rock. The next few days we got a better look at it. It is impressive. They used to mine its volcanic granite-hard rock but that stopped in 1960 and now it is off limits. We saw a few surfers and snorkelers. All wearing wetsuits; it was chilly.
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The gulls and ground squirrels were fat and tame and the sea otters lolled in the bay with the stand-up paddle boarders.
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It’s a little hard to make out in this picture, but they float on their backs, feet and flippers up. We ate at the highly rated Galley Sunday evening, snagging the last Father’s Day reservation. It is right on the water with views of Morro Rock and the harbor. And really delicious food. We shared Oysters Rockefeller. I chose ahi tuna and Jim had sea bass. Got my Absolut martini fix in. Seriously five star.

On our second day of beach riding, we rode from Morro Strand back to the rock. As we slogged our bikes through the deeper sand, an angel appeared in the form of Patrick Sparks. He walked toward us with bowls of homemade pea soup and handed them to us. How did he know we were hungry? He and his friend, Michael set up on the beach and made soup for folks like us. How lucky are we?
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Thanks Patrick!
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We wanted to drive as much of the Pacific Coast Highway as we could because at some point, they discourage big rigs like ours. Mike Izzo’s neighbor in LA told us about the elephant seals near San Simeon so we went to see them on the way to Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst donated the land for the state park and it is a much finer legacy than the Castle, in my opinion.
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The seals spend 10 solitary months of the year at sea, eating and diving and return to the beach for rest, socialization and mating. They eat and drink nothing during the time they spend on the beach and they are fairly social, juveniles sparring, females giving birth and mating. I could have watched these guys all day! We had reserved a tour of the Castle, however, so after an hour or so in the blustery wind, we headed for La Cuesta Encantada.

Hearst Castle. Meh.

The site is lovely, on the hills above the coast and the clouds, a truly fabulous setting. Our take on the experience was that the tour was too short, too expensive for what we got and tour goers were hounded by a proctor-type guy who acted like a former prison guard. He was berating people for things they hadn’t even done; not pleasant. When we toured Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, we got to see much more for our twenty five bucks. At Hearst Castle, our “Grand Rooms” tour included like four rooms and a lot of talking by the guide. This is for a residence with 115 rooms, 38 bedrooms and various guest cottages on the grounds. Four rooms! The indoor pool, hydrangeas and theater lights were the best parts. The famous outdoor pool was empty and under repair, the building surrounded by scaffolding. And they asked us for more money on the bus trip back down. I think we’re done with the grand houses.
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Next up: Fresno where we planned another stay at an Elks Lodge. We started having some cooling problems with the refrigerator and the propane ignitor died, so no boondocking till fixed. Jim ordered another PC board, had it shipped to Fresno and plans to install it during our stay. We know we need to be plugged in because it is HOT! Like 110 degrees hot.We seldom run our air conditioning but there are times that we are glad to have it.

More pics on Flickr.

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Comin’ Into Los Angeles… Olds #3

Bringin’ in a coupla keys… Not really!

Mike and Char Izzo are the final piece in the triumvirate of Oldsmobile Friends we have visited in the last month or so. We first met Mike at the 2009 NAOC National Meet in Prescott, Arizona where we drove our Falcon convertible, pretending to be an Oldsmobile. We got Honorable Olds status and had a great time at the meet.

Mike is not only an Olds guy; he is a bus guy too. In fact, on one of the garage tours at the meet that year, he and Jim started looking hard at a bus in one of the collectors’ garages. Jim had been ruminating about the full time RV living idea and during the tour he got a chance to talk to Mike about buses vs. RVs. Mike had recently bought a bus of his own, a 1979 MCI 5C and he emphatically said “Get a bus, not an RV” and the advice stuck. After we visited the RV salvage yard later that year in Carthage, Missouri, Jim’s mind was pretty much made up. We needed a bus, not just an RV. So the seed was sown.

Since we got the bus in 2010, Mike has been very helpful with all kinds of bus issues. We met up at the 2011 meet in Oglebay, West Virginia and Mike got to see the progress we had made so far. We still had a long ways to go but the guys spent quite a bit of time going over things and as a bonus, Mike’s cousin Paul, a diesel mechanic., was with him. Jim put Paul’s number in his phone right away.

Fast forward to 2015. Before we even moved out of our house, Mike had mentioned in an email that if we made it to LA in the bus, he had a place for us to park right in front of his house and offered his services as a seasoned Los Angeles tour guide. Knowing about Los Angeles and the crazy traffic there, we tucked his offer into our heads and put them on our list of Places to Visit.

Before we left Rocket Ranch, Mike had some very specific helpful advice on entering and exiting the narrow gate at Jim Schultz’s since he had been there in his bus. His thoughtful take on the subject was much appreciated and we got out the gate with just inches to spare. The next step: he sent very explicit instructions how to get to and park at his place in LA and said he would park a few cars in the street to hold our spot. Car guys have plenty of cars.

As it turned out, we came into LA from Hesperia on a Friday afternoon. Good timing… I had started out driving and we figured we would switch so Jim could drive the final leg into the city to Mike and Char’s place. Once we got close, there was absolutely no place to pull off and switch drivers so I just kept going. Jim was more familiar with the directions anyway and what else could we do? The drive went smoothly and we pulled into Mike’s place in the mid afternoon, ready to get reacquainted in person.

Mike is a former Greyhound charter driver and his inner tour guide really kicked in while we were there for almost a week; another extended stay. The first night we all went out to the original Bob’s Big Boy Burger for a SoCal cruise night. We saw lots of very nice cars, including a couple of Oldsmobiles and some Falcons too. I met a couple of the Falcon folks, always nice to put a face with a name. A cruise night in Los Angeles, Burbank actually, is an exercise in close parking and skillful maneuvering! We got a table outside and it was nice and cool after the desert heat.

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Just an aside about Char. She and Mike are two of the world’s nicest people, hands down. Mike is a gentle and kind soul, a saint, actually. And Char is the best example of absolute grace and positive energy under very challenging conditions. Without going into details, she deals daily with way more than we average folks can imagine. You think you got problems? You got nothing. She is tough, strong and resilient. She is always smiling her light-up-the-room smile and trying to turn attention away from herself while doing everything she can for others. She brought us a fragrant gardenia bouquet from their beautiful yard which made the bus smell divine.

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She grows oranges, lemons, Bird of Paradise, Lily of the Nile and many other flowers in their personal paradise of a back yard. She baked us some delicious cookies. She is smart, strong, sweet and awesome. We love her. We love Mike too.

Mike also has a roomy man cave/garage.
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Mike had done his homework, for the past 40 years since he moved to LA from Pittsburgh. He had several lists; places to visit, to eat and to consider. We took off the first day to see an amazing mural designed and executed by Judith Francisca Baca, a local artist whose legacy is this fine work. It chronicles the history of California in many colorful panels along a tributary of the LA River. We spent quite a bit of time there and we got to meet her! She had been giving a tour and just appeared to see if we had any questions. What a treat!

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The mural is remarkable in that it doesn’t always show the pretty picture of California/American life. It chronicles the exploitation of the Chinese to build the railroad, the Japanese internment camps in WWII and many other sensitive times in history. Many more pictures on Flickr.

Next Mike took us to Forest Lawn Cemetery which is in a beautiful setting and very lush.
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From there it was on to the Griffith Observatory, made extra famous by the chase scenes in Rebel Without a Cause. There is even a bust of James Dean on the site and you can see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign from there.
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You can kinda see the Hollywood sign behind us.
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Once back at the ranch, we set about some serious eating. Mike grilled lamb steaks, asparagus, zucchini and Char made a delicious salad. I contributed some garlic mashed potatoes.
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That evening, Jim convinced Mike to dust off one of his several electric guitars. They plugged in and jammed a little. Pretty good for a guy who hasn’t played guitar in years (Mike) and one who is a beginner on ukulele (Jim). Char and I really enjoyed listening. Hear them hereIMG_7697

Mike took us to see his bus. It turns out he bought it about a year before we bought ours. His 1979 MCI 5C is very nice. Very light and airy. And beautifully maintained. Former bus driver, remember?
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Mike said in the eighties, when he was a charter driver, normally his name appeared. After a few days getting to know the folks on the tour, he would replace it with this:
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We also went to the Vasquez Rocks on the way back from seeing his bus. This otherwordly landscape has been used in countless science fiction and “alien planet” movies. Recognize it?
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And on the way back, another famous site.  
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One day he loaned us his truck, a 1964 Chevy pickup and we braved LA traffic to drive the bikes to Santa Monica and ride along the beach. That was an adventure! The bike paths are extensive and the people watching is excellent. We rode to the end of Route 66 at the Santa Monica pier, around Marina Del Rey and through Vernice Beach. Our ride for the day to haul the bikes was perfect:
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Jim did a great job driving on the 405 and we beat the worst traffic while being entertained by the surroundings. When we got back to Char and Mike’s, we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant they frequent. It was delicious. So nice to be with the locals. We also had excellent Italian at a local place. Mike is Italian, so you know this place was good. The best thing about each meal was the company. And all the food was really good.

The next day we biked on the extensive bike trails in their neighborhood, thanks again to Charter Mike for his maps and directions. We got lunch at a Greek Market and inhaled the fragrant plantings along about 16 miles of the bike path. Honeysuckle, magnolia and bouganvilla line the way. And some razor wire.
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We visited the Japanese Garden on the way back, upon Mike’s recommendation, and it was well worth a stop. Perfectly manicured, quiet, with many water features. Ironic for California right now. It is a project of the LA Water Department and the state and EPA.
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We shared a final evening outing with our hosts to Wood Ranch. So much eating! So delicious! We are so thankful to Char and Mike for their friendship and gracious extension of sincere hospitality. We truly are fortunate to have frinds like these guys. I don’t know how many times I heard Mike say, “But you’re our guests!”

Our nice quiet spot;
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in front of their house. The house may look small, but it is not.
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The next morning we prepared to hit the road. While Jim was doing his outdoor check, he discovered the outside drive tire pressure was down to 23 pounds. Wut? Mike said we either picked up a nail or the valve stem was leaking. Great. They checked the valve stem and no problem there. We jacked up the bus with a little additional leverage and rotated the tires to look and feel for nails. None. Whew! Jim used our onboard compressor to bring the tire up to pressure and it held all day.
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By this time we were even later hitting the road than we usually are. We aren’t in a hurry and we were happy to have Mike’s expertise at hand on the tire issue. As we got ready to leave, we started to say our goodbyes again. In her usual gracious style, Char’s first thought was to do something for us.

She said, “Lunch?”

That pretty much sums up their generous and thoughtful attitude. Once again, we are so thankful, so blessed to have folks like Char and Mike in our lives!

More pictures on Flickr.

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Olds Friends: Round Two

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I first met Joyce and Ed Burke in Montana where we converged for the Beartooth Challenge, an Oldsmobile tour through the Beartooth Pass near Red Lodge, Montana in June of 2011. I flew in on my own and was the guest of the organizer, Greg Childs, once I got there. All I had to do was take pictures and write an article. What a great invitation!

Since I didn’t have an Olds, I bummed rides in the vintage Oldsmobiles for the various activities and there were many. Ed and Joyce took me under their wing and I rode in their awesome 1958 J2 convertible much of the time, including during our two attempts at crossing the pass. We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. They lived in California at the time but when I caught up with them at the 2014 NAOC Meet in Minden, Nevada, they had relocated to Henderson, Nevada. Once again I was flying solo and we quickly renewed our friendship. When we said our goodbyes at the banquet, Ed said, “Come see us.” I told him to be careful what he wished for. We were already moved into the bus and I put them on my list of Places to Visit.

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When we were heading for Lake Mead and I saw the signs for Henderson, I finally realized how close we were. I sent them a message and we made a plan to get together. They came out to the bus to pick us up and we headed back to their place for margaritas and dinner.

The margaritas were sublime! Joyce’s recipe: Six ounces of tequila, six ounces of beer and six ounces of frozen lemonade mix. She mixed them up in an industrial sized blender loaded with ice and we enjoyed them several evenings while we were there. OK, every evening.

After the first night, we moved the bus to their place where we had electric and water. This was excellent because the temperatures were climbing and we ran the A/C during the hottest parts of the day. Ed had the motor out of the ’58 due to a blown head gasket and he and Jim spent several afternoons in his very nice cool garage working on it. He also has a 1966 Toronado that he recently acquired at an estate sale. And a 1965 Starfire convertible. He’s a convertible kinda guy. Except for the Toro.
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Joyce is one of those people who is good at everything she touches. And she makes it all look effortless. She was working on some craft projects while we were there and we got to check out her very creative efforts. She does upholstery, makes gold and silver personalized Christmas trees and decorates old bowling balls she finds at thrift stores. She also introduced me to coconut oil and gave me a coconut oil lotion bar that she made. It is divine.

Their house is cooled by a swamp cooler, no A/C, and it was very comfortable, even when the thermometer approached 100 degrees. Even the courtyard covered with sailcloth is cool, as Carmella found out when she got brave enough to enter.
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We spent a lot of time there drinking margaritas. And sangria. And eating and talking up a storm.
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A few of her projects. The porch was great for practicing yoga.
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They have a lovely garden with hummingbirds buzzing all around. Carmella liked to lay under the Mexican Bird of Paradise and watch the hummingbirds.
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 And Ed’s garage is a treasure trove of not just Oldsmobiles, but Olds memorabilia and awards.
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Joyce and Ed and the Toro.
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Henderson is just about 25 miles from Las Vegas and we had a great view of the city lights from the bus. One night we went in for dinner and a show and a tour of Fremont Street. It was fun to see the lights and over-the-top characters busking on the street in “old” Vegas, which I had never seen.
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Joyce and Ed are former (whole other story!) RVers and assured us that we could just park and go about our business, no interference from them. They have guests who park there often and just do their own thing. Of course, we ended up spending most of our time hanging out with them. Joyce and I hit several thrift stores and I found some much needed shorts. Jim and Ed worked on the head gasket project and Jim discovered that Ed had a staggering amount of music on his computer that he ended up copying and adding to his collection. We took turns cooking dinners that we enjoyed together and had a most delightful time. And the margaritas… As usual, we ended up staying longer than we planned but that is the beauty of not having a schedule or reservations. 

How can I describe how lucky and blessed we are? After we blogged about our initial Olds visit to Rocket Ranch in Arizona, and our planned visit to Olds LA to visit Mike and Char Izzo, Ed said he began to wonder if we were going to pass them by. GAH! I am so glad that my memory kicked in when I saw the mileage sign to Henderson! We wouldn’t have missed connecting with Ed and Joyce for the world! In fact, if we had, we would be headed back there right now. We will never get within any range of Henderson without connecting with these two. Gracious, easy-going, thoughtful, fun, unpretentious down-to-earth real people… We can’t thank them enough for their generous spirit and friendship. This is our tribe.

See Flickr for more pics.

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It’s a Dry Heat. And a Dry Lake.

Once we got set up in the Lake Mead camp area, we rode around on the bikes a little just to check out the trails and the lake. Jim wanted to rent a boat and tool around the lake but we quickly found that was a little cost prohibitive. We rode around looking for a beach or somewhere that we could get in the water because, once again, it was HOT! We ended up getting separated which was fine since we could meet up back at the bus.

The lake is really low. The camp host told us it was down 112 feet and had been for the last 12 years. He said they get four inches of rain a year and evaporation occurs at the rate of six feet a year. Plus there was very little snow runoff from the mountains. Same drought California is in. The islands are getting more and more exposed but the color of the water is incredible. These are from the shore.DSC_4165_tonemapped DSC_4154_tonemapped DSC_4155_tonemapped DSC_4164_tonemapped
The next day we set out to ride to Hoover Dam. We were there in 2000 when we drove Jim’s newly restored Falcon across the country to Sacramento, seeing the sights along the way. This time we were back by bicycle. It was about 13 miles round trip and a nice ride, even in the heat and wind. The trail was along the old railroad line they built to haul concrete to the dam and there were some cool tunnels for shade. Plus you are way up above the water and the color is stunning.
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There were five tunnels in all.
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And that marvel of engineering at the end of the trail. Electric Valley.
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The lake is the lowest it has been since it was built. Ironic that all that engineering and planning and back breaking labor will eventually result in an empty lake. There are whole areas and bays that have no water in them now.

As soon as we had settled in I realized that we were very close to Henderson and my Olds friends Joyce and Ed Burke! I didn’t know we were so close, plus I blame the heat. I sent them a message immediately and we made a plan for the evening.

More Henderson/Las Vegas/Olds Friends to come and more photos on Flickr.

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Rt. 66 & BLM to Lake Mead

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You can’t be in this part of the country and not take in at least some of Rt. 66, formerly the premier highway to the west. Now it is a shrine to tourism; the hotels are empty, most restaurants closed. The entire main street shops are “Antiques” or “Souvenirs.” Japanese tourists come in busloads from Las Vegas, I guess, and they love it. I bet Seligmann, Arizona is a lot different than Japan.

We met Boston right away. Hi Boston! Best place on earth to live, he said. He has a black cat named Snowball and according to him, his two houses are on the original Route 66, one block from where it is now. He has a good view of the action.
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We parked on BLM land near Kingman, our first BLM camping. It went fine but there are some spots the bus can’t go. We found a good overnight spot where the cats got to chase lizards and the prickly pears were still blooming.
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From there we planned to head to Lake Mead for a few days; they have bike trails all over the park. I was driving and on the way, just past Hoover Dam, I saw a sign that said Henderson, 19 miles.

Wait a minute, Henderson? Really?

To be continued. 
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Rocket Ranch

From Phoenix, we had a short day climbing into the Chino Valley where we planned to spend a few nights at Rocket Ranch. Jim Schultz, proprietor and head honcho, is the President of the National Antique Oldsmobile Club and I am editor of the national magazine. Besides catching up with a friend and fellow car guy, we planned to confer on the magazine going forward. Always good to talk in person.

If you don’t know about Rocket Ranch, you are in for a treat. I first went there in 2009 at the NAOC Nationals. His was the third on a tour of three local collections with many unusual cars and plenty of memorabilia. Jim not only maintains his stable of “children,” as he calls them; he is always looking for Oldsmobiles and Olds stuff. He has quite the collection of both cars and literature. They seem to find him…

The barn was much more full than during the 2009 tour, of course and we enjoyed seeing his additions to the collection. I had never seen it at night.
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It was so much cooler in the Valley! Elevation is the key, of course and we enjoyed perfect weather with some hiking and plenty of good meals and conversation. The dogs, Eddy and Zoey were friendly, enthusiastic and well behaved. They have their own Oldsmobile Lab Cabs, Vista Cruisers with the back all set up for them and personalized plates too. We took the cats out when we knew they were in their yard. As Jim said, they had no history with cats. That worked out fine and Carmella developed a definite curiosity about them, just not at close range.

The surrounding countryside. The desert is full of color.
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And lots of Olds stuff! We ended up digitizing tons of old Olds literature. (I just had to say that…)
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NAOC members will be seeing more of this in the magazine and on the website at antiqueolds.org. The war stuff was particularly interesting to me. Even when they weren’t making cars Oldsmobile was still advertising in The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, keeping their name out there.

Speaking of those years, we were taken for a chauffeured tour of the Chino and Prescott Valleys in Jim’s very rare 1942 B-44 two door Olds with all the chrome. Later that model year, they quit adding chrome and shortly after that, Olds was no longer manufacturing cars, just war equipment.

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We went to the Prescott Antique Automobile Club club’s garage and checked out the 1931 Fire Engine restored by the members for the City of Prescott. It is meticulous and fascinating. They drive it in parades and Jim said the siren was deafening.

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After several relaxing and enjoyable days, we had our final evening happy hour at the bus and planned to head for Lake Mead the next morning. But not before Jim got what he called “the trash can picture” Of all of us, including Eddy and Zoey. He propped up the camera on the trash can.
Jim & Wendy with Eddie, Zoey & I
We got the bus into Jim’s gate and parking spot without any trouble. It was a little tight but no problem. The way out was a little trickier. We had some coaching from our Bus/Olds friend, Mike Izzo, who we are planning to see in LA. And we are five feet longer than him. With his measured advice on executing the turn, since he had been there, along with all necessary caution, we proceeded to exit Rocket Ranch. Jim took pics while WIlkerson drove and I directed.

Getting into position.
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Easing it through the gate… Driver’s side.
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And passenger side. Literally a couple inches to spare.
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Whew! 
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Thanks to Jim for not just bus parking but opening his house and garage to us, showing us the area and sharing good meals with good company, and your canine companions. And for all the ice too!

On to Kingman where we camped on BLM land for the first time. Kitties got an outing; even Astrid came out for a few seconds. Tikita and Carmella went on long walks through the blooming prickly pear.
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Check Flickr for more pics.

Next up: Lake Mead and more Olds friends.

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Phoenix: Desert Botanical Garden

After we left Tucson we stopped in Phoenix for a couple of nights at the Scottsdale Elks Lodge. The parking was fine and it was quiet and safe enough but there were a couple of “long term” campers there that we were surprised to see. We are reminded often that some people didn’t really choose the full time RV lifestyle; they were forced into it by financial, health or other circumstances. We are grateful we had a choice.
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We spent a couple of nights there, including Jim’s birthday. Phoenix, like all the western cities we have been in so far, has very good bike trails and we were close to the Desert Botanical Garden so I decided to bike on over and show myself around.

It was HOT. Even hotter than Tucson. But the gardens were beautiful and I enjoyed strolling around and seeing more desert in bloom.

The Chihuly Glass sculptures at the entrance sucked me in. Jim went back to the bus to cool off and play his ukulele. It was his birthday, after all…

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We had thought about going out to dinner for his birthday and our one year full-time anniversary, but, like I said, it was HOT. We had a nice dinner in the bus of swordfish, pasta and broccoli. We are homebodies, after all, even if the home moves around a lot…

The next day we headed to Rocket Ranch, the first of three Oldsmobile-related stops.

More pictures on Flickr.

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Casa Rahmsahro: Tucson

I met my friend Rahmsahro about 25 years ago. We both lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time and were collaborators on a photo project I was doing for the University. We hit it off on the phone before we even met and in person we just clicked. She was impressed that I spelled her name correctly the first time. Izarian Rahmsahro. Still love that name.

We got to know each other a little more before we both moved away; her to Arizona and us to Washington D.C. We kept in touch, however and through the years she sent me some excerpts of her very eloquent science fiction writings. She is not only a very talented and descriptive writer, she has many other skills. Massage therapy, painting, tile work, gardening… the list goes on and on. Needless to say, as a writer, she was an excellent correspondent and even though we never visited in person, I considered her a true friend all those years.

When she moved to Tucson, she took on the very large task of completely remodeling her adobe house, gardens and courtyards. I followed her progress through the photos she sent. She re-tiled the entire house, after tearing up the carpet, installed decorative tiled fountains, fireplaces, redid bathrooms, installed skylights; you name it. Most of this keeping up with her progress was before email. Ancient, I know.
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Then the bombshell dropped. Iz was an independent and ardent anti-marriage type of gal for all the years we kept in touch. Then in 2006, she found a guy and in 2010 she married him! I knew Mike Lassiter had to be pretty special, and he is indeed. A gentle giant, he is soft spoken, observant, thoughtful, curious and kind. And he loves to ride his bicycles! What’s not to like?

When we headed west from Texas, we planned a stop in Tucson to catch up. I had never met Mike, and hadn’t seen Iz in years. Jim had never met either of them. We knew Tucson had many miles of bike trails and we spent a day or so riding after settling in. Their house was only about four miles away from where we parked the bus, so we biked on over and spent an afternoon touring the house and gardens and getting (re)aquainted. We met the puppies, Maya, a German Shepherd and Paco, a dachshund and had a relaxing and extremely pleasant afternoon catching up and getting to know Mike.

Some samplings from the house; so many little areas and alcoves. SO much tile! So many hummingbirds! And the whole courtyard concept is genius! Once you are inside the walls, you have your own little paradise. No wonder they like to stay home.

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Maya relaxing.

While we were talking she asked if we wanted to have a car to use while we were there. We had our bikes and Tucson is very bike friendly so we didn’t think we needed one. But it turned out that her brother had a car he needed to get licensed and asked them if they could drive the requisite 100 miles necessary for the inspection. They really didn’t want to take the time to just drive with so many projects at home so they asked if we would. How serendipitous! Why not?

The next day they came over to see the bus and brought the car. They had lots of questions about the bus and great appreciation for all the various systems involved. I love curious people!
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Iz and me at the bus. We are so glad we took their advice and her brother’s car, which had all the right bumper stickers on it, including this one.
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We went to the International Wildlife Museum, the Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park. The desert was in full bloom; it was a good chance to identify some of the plants we had been seeing in landscapes and along the bike trail and roadsides.
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We also went to Trader Joe’s (twice) to restock the freezer with swordfish, ahi tuna, salmon and albacore tuna. And some of their sides. I also got my glasses fixed. And we toured the St. Xavier Mission. Built in 1793, the second bell tower was never completed.
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A few nights later we all got together at Casa Rahmsahro y Lassiter for a Mexican feast of arrachera, guacamole, pico, salsa verde, charro beans and, of course, margaritas! They cooked the arrachera in the adobe oven and everything was first rate. Especially the company.

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We had a most excellent visit and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly! So thankful for those folks with whom we have a lasting, always-alive-under-the-surface connection that can be revived and deepened at anytime. These are my people.
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We hated to say goodbye, but the next day we drove the car back with more than the required 100 miles on it. We lingered with them outside the bus and promised we would be back sooner than another 25 years. Thanks to Izzy and Mike for being so warm and welcoming and even up for a visit. You never know… We could have discovered that we didn’t have anything in common or that we didn’t even like each other. I suspected the opposite would be true and I was right. For once!

So with the heat rising, we took off for Phoenix, where it was even hotter!

Many, many more pics on Flickr.