Friday, April 20, 2012

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

I'm thrilled to finally be able to get completely caught up on here and tell you all about where we are currently at and what we are doing!

As the title of this post suggests, we are now in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  We have been here for about 3 1/2 weeks now and so far we love it!  The landscape is pretty much the same as the rest of the areas we have been in Arizona...desert, cacti, and rocky mountains...but there is one huge difference.  There's WATER here!!! 

Lake Havasu City sits right at the banks of a wide spot in the Colorado River.  The word "Havasu" (have-uh-sue) comes from the Havasupai Tribe and means "blue-green water".  What a true statement that is!  The water is crystal clear and beautiful, especially against the desert landscape, and is already warming up as the temperatures climb...the last few days have been in the 90's and we are expected to reach 105 degrees on Sunday.  We've found lots of great places for sun-bathing and swimming...I have a great tan and feel healthy and happy nearly every day!

One of the interesting attractions of Lake Havasu City is that it is home to the world-famous London Bridge.  In 1968 it was bought from London by Robert P. McCulloch and brought piece by piece to be reconstructed across the canal here.  It was completed and re-dedicated in 1971.  The canal is a popular local spot which features shops and restaurants housed in buildings resembling those in London.  Locals and tourists alike flock to the canal on foot or by boat throughout the day...we arrived here during spring break and it was packed with college students!  They were certainly having fun but the events were well-policed and everyone behaved better than I would have expected.

Another cool thing about Lake Havasu City is that there are tons of hot rods/antique vehicles cruising the streets on a regular basis.  I have a hard time getting Mike to keep his eyes on the road around here because he's eyeballing all the vehicular eye candy!  Here are a couple of photos taken at a random show that took place in a parking lot...on a Thursday!

By now you may be wondering where we are staying...there are two BLM camping areas, one on each end of the city.  We are at the one on the North side, camped about 3 miles down a dirt road into the desert/mountains.  It's "dry-camping", no electricity, water, etc., but we can't complain because the camping is free and we can get to the city rather quickly when we need water or other supplies.  There's tons of hiking to do back there and lots of wildlife to experience.  So far we have seen lizards, snakes, big horn sheep, coyote, scorpions, wild burro, kangaroo rats, and probably more that I'm forgetting since we've been here.

We call our site the "Happy Face Camp" might be able to guess why! (We didn't do it...but it sure does make us smile. :) )

Big Horn Sheep

Lizard Sunning on a Rock

Of course while living the way we are is cheap, it certainly isn't free.  This fact inspired us to yet again go on Craigslist and look for temporary work gigs we could do together to keep some money coming in.  I found an ad looking for two people to do 3 weeks of work planting Mequite sounded perfect for us so I responded and we got the job! 

The gentleman we are working for needed 30,000 Mesquite tree seeds planted in cones...based on previous employee production he anticipated that it would take us about 3 weeks - 5 days a week - to complete.  We did it in one.  I'm not sure what the previous employees were doing with the rest of the time, but sitting around talking or napping comes to mind as possibilities.

You would think that by exceeding expectations we would have worked ourselves out of a job but instead we were slated to build a wooden shed and do some painting to keep us working longer.  Now that everything in that regard is done we have been asked to be part of the next phase of the project...installing irrigation (spray and drip) on the 60 acres the trees will end up being planted at.

The location is the Avi, an indian reservation in Laughlin, Nevada, which has a resort and casino.  Our employer estimates that it will take us a month and a half to complete the installation and in addition to our regular pay we will be receiving free accomodations in a suite at the resort on site.  Who would have thought that a temporary position planting seeds could turn into this!  We should be on our way there in the next few days or so...whenever the supplies we need to start working there arrive.

20,000 cones planted - 10,000 to go!

Mesquite tree seedlings beginning to show

Full-grown Mesquite tree

Closer view of Mesquite tree branches

After our stay in Laughlin we will probably head out of the hotter areas of Arizona, as they will at that point be reaching into the 120-130 degree range.  Mike still wants to visit the Hopi Reservation in the Northeastern part of the state, which is much cooler than the southern areas, so we will probably head there next. 

I'm sure plenty will happen between now and then, however, so who knows where we'll end up but I will most likely be posting again before a decision is made!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The "Star Treatment"!

As we made our final exit from Dateland we felt an immediate sense of relief and a lowering of our stress levels. While we knew that we were on edge there we didn't realize just how much until that point. We made our way to Yuma to visit with my family one more time before heading into California. Mike has always wanted to do the Hollywood Walk of Fame, get a picture with Bruce Lee's star, and see the Hollywood sign in the with a little money in our pockets and all the time in the world on our hands we figured now was as good a time as any to make that dream a reality.

After a fun day and evening seeing the sights, fondling statues, and posing with french Spidermen we decided to stop into a bar called 25 Degrees for a couple of beers and some relaxation.  In the next room from the bar they were having a premier party for the "American Reunion" movie...we didn't see any stars (that we knew of) but we did start chatting with one of the security guys (Chris) that monitors the goings on at the bar and connecting hotel, The Roosevelt. Before we knew it he was ushering us into an inner outdoor courtyard at the hotel...there was a beautiful pool surrounded by palm trees and other greenery and a huge fire with couches to sit on by it.  He set up a security guy to keep everyone else out of the area and for a couple of hours we enjoyed our beers in private by the fire...we still aren't quite sure why we received such special treatment but we certainly weren't complaining! 

Over those two hours we continued to talk with Chris and the other guard G.K. and learned a little more about the history of The Roosevelt.  From the courtyard we could see an apartment that Marilyn Monroe stayed in for two years...we were also told some ghost stories about a couple of the rooms at the hotel.

Even though we were nowhere near able to afford to spend a night there (rooms started at $300 per night) we were treated like we mattered by all of the staff there and would highly recommend it to anyone who can!

Marilyn Monroe's Apartment

I wish we had been able to get better pictures there, these ones don't do much justice at all!

After having some coffee and sobering up for the drive out of Hollywood we made our way down the highway until we found a rest stop to get some sleep at.  When we woke up in the morning we were met with this spectacular view...

This is San Jacinto Peak...Palm Springs is in the valley next to it and there's a tramway you can take to the top.  It was a little pricey but we decided to go ahead and do it anyway.  We stopped at a tiny little Dinosaur gift shop and museum before we headed to Palm Springs for our tram ride...everything was incredibly overpriced but the photo op was free!

San Jacinto Peak is nearly 11,000 feet above sea level and typically has temperatures 30 degrees below those in the valley.  It had a fresh blanket of snow when we went up, which made for some beautiful photos and a chance to experience "winter" without suffering too much!

It was an amazing experience and definitely worth every penny! 

Palm Springs was a quaint little town but it was obvious that the cost of living would be expensive so we didn't spend much time there at all before getting back on the road and heading to Lake Havasu City, AZ, which is where we have been for the last few weeks.  I will cover that part of our journey in my next post but for now I will leave you with a blurry but interesting photo I got at a gas station on the way here.


You don't see that every day!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Date Palms in the Middle of Nowhere

It's been months since I have updated this blog...I apologize to those of you that may have been worried about us but there were some good reasons for holding off on posting for as long as I did.

Since my last entry we managed to fix the van (it was the power steering pump) and she has been running like a dream ever since.  While in Phoenix we responded to an advertisement for work in a tiny little town called Dateland, AZ...we would receive housing and bi-weekly paychecks for working full-time at the travel center there.  Dateland is halfway between Phoenix and Yuma in the middle of nowhere...the population is about 300 (no, that is not a typo...I really said 300) and aside from the travel center/rv park there is a post office, small mexican grocery, K-8 school, and a hole-in-the-wall bar...that's it.  So, of course, we agreed to take the job when it was offered to us...because we're crazy like that!

Above are two pictures of Dateland, the top one shows the housing we stayed in and the bottom shows the other side of the street...railroad tracks and then miles upon miles of open desert and mountains.  We had no internet access out there so it was practically impossible for me to do any writing on we were busy with work and hiking around the area or heading to Yuma for supplies when we had time off.

Dateland was so-named many years ago because of the date palms raised there (you can see some in the top photo).  There are tons of varieties of dates, the travel center we worked at offered Medjool, Honey, Thoory, Halawi, Khadrawy, Black, and "Dateland" (unknown variety) dates.

 I managed the gift shop and handled all online orders...Mike managed at the Texaco.  When we accepted the jobs it was understood that we would be working the same or very similar shifts - that did not end up happening.  I ended up working 8am-4pm and Mike typically worked 2pm-10pm...with only one day off per week together.  Work there was strained and stressful, as was the fact that we were hardly seeing each other.  As much as we tried not to let it interfere in our relationship it did affect things for awhile.  We lasted a whole 4 months before giving notice and finally leaving.

Mexico is approximately 30 miles south of Dateland (if you feel like trekking across the desert and over mountains to get there) so needless to say we had to brush up a little bit on our basic Spanish-speaking skills and couple those with hand-gestures to try to communicate with some of the locals.  Most of the younger generation were bilingual, however, so that helped quite a bit at work and when needing an interpreter.

In addition to the Mexican locals there was a solar plant going up about 10 miles away so we had a lot of the solar plant workers staying at the rv park and coming to the travel center for supplies.  We also have a steady flow of border patrol agents that came through and kept us informed on the goings on in the area (border jumpers, drug busts, etc)...we personally saw a couple of arrests and a few more "runners" during our time in Dateland.

Since we were in Dateland over the winter most of our customers were what are called snow birds, older people from the northern states and Canada who migrate to the southern states and Mexico for the winter months.  They weren't all as pleasant as I would have hoped but we did meet some really interesting people, too...usually the ones that were on foot or bike and traveling cross-country. We met 3 young guys riding "tall bikes" cross-country, an older Italian gentleman who has traveled 10s of thousands of miles by bike all over the world, and countless others who have for one reason or another decided to leave their material possessions behind in exchange for a different kind of life.

One of the things I particularly loved about being in Dateland was my ability to go to Yuma every couple of weeks to visit with my Aunt Sally and Uncle Richard, who have been living there for about 20 years.  I didn't get to see them very much while growing up so it has been wonderful to finally be able to get to know them.  To make things even better my Grandma travels from Connecticut each year to stay with them for the winter so I got to see her quite a bit, as well. We also took day trips to Quartzite, AZ (they have a really cool gem/craft show with vendors from all over the country that lasts a couple of months there each winter) and San Diego (which I absolutely hated...too many people and too little natural beauty).

I'm sure I left a ton out but my brain is fried for the time next blog entry will be about our travels after leaving Dateland and where we are currently...but for now I will leave you with a photo taken at our going away party at the hole-in-the-wall bar the day before we left Dateland.

From left to right (co-workers) Leslie, Larissa, Star, and me!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Overdue Update!

As you can imagine, a lot has happened since the last time that I posted...I will probably forget to include half of it but here's a quick run-down of the goings on for the last 4 weeks!

At around the same time of my last post we met a couple at the RV Park we were staying at that had some products (pool mastic and concrete crack repair) they were wanting installed at various residences in the area.  The money was decent and the work wasn't so much difficult as it was long and tedious (not to mention hot being out in the sun all day!).  We stayed there with them for a couple of weeks (procuring a conversion van in the process given the fact that my knee was not, and is still not, in top working order).  There were, however, some issues with drinking and fighting (between them on a daily basis) that caused us to eventually decide we could not stay any longer and maintain any semblance of sanity.  We took what little money we had and left, first heading down to Austin and San Antonio to see if we might want to stay there to work instead, then ultimately deciding to take the chance and head straight for Phoenix, AZ.

We made it (with nothing left to spare in the cash department) and have been here for a week now.  We have been sleeping in our van (which has a convenient couch-style back seat that folds down into a bed)...alternating between truck stops and Walmart parking lots. 

So far we have been lucky enough to make just enough money responding to various Craigslist Gig ads to keep some gas in the van and food in our stomachs.  When I say "just enough" I mean "no more than what's needed on a daily basis".  We daily get down to completely broke, then we get a call back on a job we requested and we're set for another day.  It's a very stressful way to live, not knowing when/if you're going to make it from one minute to the next.

At the moment we are attempting to fix the van (it's emitting a high pitched squeal that seems to be coming from the power steering pump) with a little help from a gentleman we met while helping a lady replace a couple of blown tires on her horse trailer yesterday.  Right now it's our livelihood so we are putting the last of our money (again) into it and hopefully it will be fixed when we're done!

I will make another post at a later time with more details and some pictures as well but right now I'm being summoned to make a run to the auto parts store...oh, what fun!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Local News - Dallas, TX and Surrounding Areas

This happened two days ago...Waxahachie, TX is about 12 miles south of the RV Park we are staying at...we could see the smoke plume coming from the plant.  The wind was taking the smoke northwest so thankfully we could not smell it and therefore were most likely not breathing in any toxic materials.  At least I hope we weren't!

Wild fires in the Bastrop, TX area have started up again...we aren't near there, thankfully.

Will Work for Tent Site!

The verdict came back yesterday that Mike could work with the maintenance guy here at the RV Park to cover our stay.  It appears that each day's work is equal to 2 nights...he worked yesterday leaf-blowing and today he guessed it...leaf blowing again.  I tried to procure a job of my own to do but nobody here is letting me work...some BS about needing to stay off my feet so my knee can heal. 

Ok, I know it's not BS but that doesn't mean I have to like it!

I am bored out of my ever-loving mind and am itching to get out of here.  There's nothing to see (except RVs, dirt, rocks, a few trees, and mostly-brown grass) and nothing to do (unless walking to the dollar store is your idea of a good time). 

A few random things I've learned during my stay here:

Pasta Sides (brand name) require 2 cups of liquid to cook - our cooking pot only holds 2 cups of liquid...if you fill it to the brim...leaving absolutely no room for the product.  Not to mention most of them require milk in addition to water, which is great if you HAVE milk...but that's not easy to keep on hand when you're minus a refrigerator.  Fail.

It is very difficult to find products that feed one or two, with no leftovers that need to be refrigerated.  You want to make pasta?  You're going to have to buy a whole jar of pasta sauce and then refrigerate the leftovers (and have a 3/4 bag of pasta to store, as well).  This leaves only one option...canned food.  One can of anything fits nicely in our pot...any less is not enough to feed us both, any more will overflow the pot.

Did I mention that I am sick of canned food?  I mean really, these people have no idea how to cook.  Plus there's no real nutritional value to most food found in a can.  The cows I've seen on the side of the road are starting to look pretty damn tasty right about now!

Even areas that boast 'warm' winters can get cold at night, which isn't so bad if you have a nice warm bed to curl up in at night but when you're sleeping outdoors it presents a problem.  I will say that if we weren't actively traveling things would be a bit easier.  Items that keep you warm are notoriously heavy...that's no issue if you have one set place you're camped out in for the duration of the cold season but when you're having to carry the stuff from one place to another every other day it becomes difficult, if not downright impossible.

We are apparently fairly likeable people...some of the folks here at the RV Park are already trying to keep us.  We have been offered the use of a small, beat-down trailer for the low price of $245 a month plus electric.  As tempting as that sounds I think we will have to pass...especially given the fact that even if we wanted to stay we don't have jobs and don't have $245 plus electric.  Granted, we could get jobs but we'd be walking at LEAST 4 miles (probably more like 8 miles) each day to get to and from an area populated enough to actually have work available.

Not to mention I really don't want to stay here.

My knee is feeling better, not 100 percent but definitely not as bad as when we first got here.  It's made a snap-crackle-pop sound a couple of times which has seemed to appears my legs swelling a few days ago may have made it susceptible to slipping out of place.  I just hope it heals up and doesn't keep happening.

Our plan is to be back on the road tomorrow, either by foot or by way of a ride that may or may not come through for us...we shall see!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Everything's Bigger in Texas!

Here we are, still in Texas and pretty much at a standstill for the time being.

Since my last post we continued on down the road toward Dallas when I realized that my legs were both swollen and my knee was badly hurting.  Unfortunately we were not in a place where we could stop so we searched out a campground that was 3 miles away from us (we had already walked 5 miles south and we had to actually backtrack some, then head west, to get to the place). 

You would think that of the thousands of vehicles that were passing us SOMEONE would stop to see if we needed help since I was obviously limping and sporting an ace bandage...but not one did.  Besides that one trucker that we met our first day here nobody has offered any help at all.

We did make it to the campground, which is mostly an RV Park with long-term guests, that has a few tent camping sites near the street...where we have been set up the last two nights.  The people here are pretty nice but money is running out fast, my knee is still in bad shape, and we're not close enough to the city (or anything, really) to find side jobs to replenish our funds. 

As a last ditch effort we offered to work around the campground to cover the cost of our stay here...the manager just got back from vacation last night and we asked this morning...we are still waiting to find out if she can get approval from the owner to do it or not.  If the answer is no we will have to hit the road today, injured knee or not, and find a patch of woods we can stealthily set up in for free.

Mike is more worried than I am...most likely because he is frustrated with his seeming inability to take care of me the way he wants to right now.  He also doesn't want to put me in a 'bad' situation which is why he has been choosing campgrounds and hotels to bed down in as opposed to random places off the road.  I knew when I signed up for this that those were possibilities, however, and I chose to do it anyway.

The way I see it...things will work out...not necessarily the way we expect or even want at the time but the way it's SUPPOSED to.  Right now this trip is an unfinished puzzle; not everything makes sense but that's just because we can't see the whole picture yet.  With a little patience and perseverence the reasons with become clearer!

So what's bigger in Texas?  Bigger problems, bigger pains, and bigger egos that don't allow most of the people here the heart to do anything to help anyone other than themselves.  At least that's what we've experienced so far...we hear that things are better the further from Dallas you get but obviously we're not making any distance right now to be able to find out.  In time, I suppose...