Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pie, Walmart Solar, VLA, and Crash at Elephant Butte

Mazatzal Casino

The Mazatzal Casino in Payson was a great place to meet a friend of a blogger friend of John’s, who had contacted us about getting together while we were both in the Payson area. It had several lots for parking, and the third one was perfect to accommodate our rig with the trailer. We all had their $2.99 breakfast special that consisted of eggs, hash browns, and two strips of bacon, compliments of our new friend. We had a very good hour and a half visit, wished each other safe travels, and were on our way.  

I interrupt this blog post to give you a News Report on 5/24/16…

It pays to pay attention to what happens as we travel this lifestyle. As I am writing this blog on 5/24/16, I am listening to ABC-15 out of Phoenix which reports that State Road 87 between Shea Boulevard and Bush Highway is shut down. Police officers are on the scene. A vehicle has been reported going the wrong way and shooting out of their window with a long rifle. We are safe, but this is a stretch of road we had traveled from Fountain Hills on our way to Payson, and it was a stretch of road we were on many times when we lived in the Phoenix Valley.

Back to the Blog and our Travels

Traveling east on 260 through Tonto National Forest, we eventually came to the rise where we started up to the Rim. This long climb is nearly twenty miles, mostly at a roughly 6% grade, to get to the top of the Mogollon Rim. Driving the steep grades on this long climb reduced our speed to 30 miles per hour, but given the fact that we have a gas engine, it was not a surprise. Still, the RV and trailer performed flawlessly, and never overheated.

Our intent was to stop for the night at Pinetop-Lakeside to boondock in the casino parking lot. We loved being on the road again, and were leisurely enjoying the scenery so much that we did not realize we missed the turnoff in Show Low. When we drove through Show Low, instead of staying on 260, we took Route 60. It wasn’t until we arrived in Eagar, that we realized what we had done. So we took a side trip through Eagar that led us through town and past the school. Then we turned around, and by that time, we decided to pull off on a side street next to a church, fix lunch, and then continue east.

Pie Town

We had read about the Pioneer restaurant in Pie Town that had been closed. A lady and her daughter came to Pie Town one day, and saw the closed restaurant. The lady liked to bake pies, so it seemed a natural for her to buy it and open it back up.

Come to find out, they opened at 11 AM and closed at 4 PM, because they only served pies – no other food. It was nearly 6 when we rolled into town. We saw another small restaurant about a block west that did serve food, but they closed early also, at 6 PM, even on Saturday. By the time we parked and got to the door, it was locked. They were cooking barbecue at an outside trailer and had a plate that someone had ordered but never came back to get, so they offered it to us free, rather than throw it away.

We told them we were surprised that the Pioneer restaurant had closed already. We thought they might be open until 7. That is when they told us they do not serve food down there, only desserts. We accepted their to-go container with a huge barbecue sandwich on a bun and a little bit of potato salad on the side, and thanked them, but also told them we were hoping to get a pie. The lady said she could sell us a pie and immediately led us inside where there were five pies setting on a rack. Since I do not get apricot very often, that is the one we chose.

They also told us that after the publicity came out about the Pioneer Restaurant in Pie Town, two other restaurants opened up, but none stayed open into the evening hours. Strange, but we guess they must know when their traffic slows up.

I honestly do not know what I was expecting, but was shocked when she said the pie was $9.95 for a six-inch pie. By the time she added in the tax and a 15% tip (we felt obliged to tip since the sandwich was free), our bill was $12.50 for one pie that was no wider than a ball point pen was long!

Wanting to stop before dark, we continued 20 miles east on Route 60 to Datil, where we found a great boondocking site for the night, right next to the entrance to the Datil Well Campground entrance! OK, so it was only a turn-out in the road, but it served our purposes well. Even though it was within 50 feet of the road, there was very little traffic, and we slept very well.

Both this photo and the new header photo were taken before we left this boondocking spot.
After we were comfortably parked, it was time to eat. I took one bite of the sandwich which had already cooled to a not quite warm temperature, and gave my half of the sandwich to John. After paying $12.50 for the pie, and having a cold on top of everything else, my appetite was gone. But he said the sandwich was very good, with the BBQ pork piled high, but still not worth the price of all the combined food.

Furnace Problems

It was hard to believe that the temperature would dip to 34 degrees that night, but we were at an elevation of 7400 feet. We had extra blankets with us and the furnace in the motorhome to keep us warm. But wait! I woke up in the middle of the night and the furnace was blowing cold air. After checking to make sure it was not set on air conditioning, I shut it off.  No heat was better than cold air! We retrieved our Mr. Heater Big Buddy heater from the trailer in the morning to warm us, and it didn’t take very long.

Breakfast was a cup of nice hot instant coffee and the pie that we cut in half. The top crust was a little thicker than I was used to, and a pleasant consistency to eat. The top crust looked like pieces of the crust had been cut using a heart shaped cookie cutter to form a nice heart decoration on top of the pie.

But, we also realized it was no better than any other store-bought pie, and for the price they charged, was a total rip-off. If we pass this way again, we’ll make sure our stop is at the “original” Pie Town restaurant, and then update our findings. For this visit, we have to say that Pie Town was really nothing more than an expensive tourist trap with nothing to show for it.

We cut the pie in half
When I was growing up, sometimes a person having a piece of pie would teasingly say after they ate one piece, that it wasn’t enough to taste. They needed a second piece to taste. That is the best way I can think of to describe how I felt. Only in my case, I actually had trouble picking up the flavor from the apricots. Admittedly, it might have been that I was over-paying $12.50 for it. As time wore on into the next day, and I had a chance to forget about the $12.50, the apricot flavor caught up with me, and I had to admit that it was good. I could actually get a sensation of the delicious flavor of the apricots. Or maybe it was just that the cold was wearing off.

Very Large Array - VLA 

The road seemed to go on forever without a twist or a turn
Within twenty miles down the road, however, we were in the National Radio Astronomy Observatory VLA Telescope area, which we toured at least ten years ago. The VLA are telescopes directed to the skies to gather astronomical data. They are mounted on huge satellite dishes. Each satellite dish is mounted on a platform that can be moved over their system of railroad tracks for proper placement to gather data. The tracks extend about nine miles out in three directions. They can be seen in the Jody Foster movie, “Contact”, from the early 2000’s.

This is one of the VLA telescopes that was to our left as we got closer to the VLA facility on the right.
Walmart SuperCenter outfitted with Solar Panels

From Socorro, we traveled south on Interstate 25.  Almost the entire parking area at the Walmart in Truth or Consequences, where we boondocked the next night, was covered with carports and solar panels. The main feature of these solar panels was to use energy from the sun, but they also provided shade for cars, while customers were inside shopping.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Monday, after filling up with propane, we spent the rest of that day and night in Elephant Butte Lake State Park overlooking the picturesque lakeshore. We needed to dump our holding tanks and get fresh water. We could either pay the day use fee of $5, or the overnight fee of $8. We opted for the latter.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Shocking Crash

When we got ready to pull out, John backed up the motorhome and trailer, taking great care to make sure we did not get hung up in soft sand. The shocking crash that followed was when he turned left and stepped on the gas to make it through the soft sand -- the cupboard door over the sink flew open, and dishes came flying out onto the floor …. crash, bang, landing on each other and everywhere on the floor for at least three feet each way toward the front and rear from in front of the sink cupboard.

Watching all of it in motion was a very helpless feeling, but after he got totally turned around and stopped, we swept up the pieces. It could have been worse. Only one Corelle dinner plate, one lead crystal coaster, and one glass lid for an older 1.5 quart dish broke, but from the pile of broken glass, you would have thought it was much more. We have never had a problem with those doors flying open. Guess there is always a first time, but now we have a small Irwin bar clamp to secure and keep the doors closed from any future attempts to fly open.

Many of the doors need latch repairs anyway, and we’ll replace them with positive closing/locking latches, but that is one of those things on our “want list”.

OPG – Other People’s Generator

Our last night in Truth or Consequences, we boondocked at the Walmart Super Center. It must have been about 4:30 when another motorhome pulled up and parked across the sidewalk from us heading the opposite way. This blocked the nice breeze we were getting through the windows. They had no more gotten parked when they started their generator, which dumped gas fumes into our living room window. They shut it down for about 45 minutes to run into Walmart, but started it up again when they returned and ran it until nearly 10 PM. That was awful. Folks, if you ever want to run your generator, then please have the courtesy to park far away from other boondockers. They do not want to hear the noise from your unit, nor smell the exhaust fumes.

Our Own Generator Repairs

The dealer where we bought our motorhome said they would repair the generator. They let it run long enough to start the air conditioner and see the display lit up on the microwave. The first time we used it, three days later in Fountain Hills, it started and ran fine, but there was no power coming into the motorhome, even though everything was plugged in as it should be and all breakers were on.

Fortunately for us, we found and were able to boondock at a Walmart conveniently located near a Generac Generator dealer in Albuquerque. We called the generator repair shop. They were very helpful and suggested we call back in the morning to see if they could work us in, which they did. After two hours, their technician had troubleshooted two problems, made the repairs, and other necessary adjustments, and let it run fifteen minutes to make sure it was fixed. They were very professional and we were very glad they could work us in, especially since they were a dealer. We were not anxious to have anyone else waste time playing around with it. The bad news was the bill for $374.39.

Santa Fe

With the generator repairs behind us, we headed north toward Santa Fe. The mountains in the distance, at over 12,000 feet, still had snow on them.

Northbound lane of I-25 headed to Santa Fe
We boondocked two more nights at the Walmart in Santa Fe. While boondocking, we used our time doing research on things to see and do in the area and places to camp. The downtown area had several interesting sights to see. We also located a Corp of Engineers Park, but even with our senior pass (which would get us 50 percent off), the fee would be ten dollars per night. Other options available included free parking at casinos located north of town, but we had no need to go farther north at this particular time.

The first night at Walmart was quiet and peaceful.  The second night a large motorhome parked across from us in the next row, opened up all of their slides, and had their generator running all night up to at least 10 AM the next morning. I woke up once during the night feeling like I was breathing so many exhaust fumes that I could taste them. I got up, got a drink of water, took some deep breaths in the kitchen area, and walked around and finally decided to try lying down again. I will say it again, folks – Think -- if you intend to boondock and run your generator, please park far away from other rigs not only due to the noise of your generator, but also due to exhaust fumes that can enter the indoor air space of others.  

There were also many car and van dwellers in this parking lot, and they are a lot closer to the ground than we are. We can only imagine the stench of foul air that they had to endure all night because of this one inconsiderate individual!

Some repair guys came the next morning.  As we watched, the motorhome with the “all-night” generator had one slide that would not go in.  One repair guy stood on the outside talking to the owner behind the wheel as the owner followed their instructions to put the slide in or out, while a second repair guy lay on the ground looking up underneath. If I understood what they were saying, a part had rusted out underneath and would not let the slide go back in without the mechanic holding the part together. They told the owner he would have to drive it to their shop for them to make the repairs. Good riddance!

Albuquerque and Area

Further research included what kind of accommodations were available in Albuquerque and which Walmarts allowed boondocking. One of the casinos did not have boondocking because they also had a campground. Other casinos in other directions did allow boondocking, but were not convenient for our needs. We also checked on monthly rates for campgrounds that met our criteria and found one with a monthly rate of $564 and one for $310 that we had used in earlier travels. Our experience with campgrounds with monthly rates is they want an electric deposit of up to a hundred dollars for monthly renters and at the end of the visit will read the meter and refund the unused portion of the deposit.

While in the area, Angel had his annual visit to the vet, where he got all his shots and medications so he stays up to date. It had been two days short of a year since his last visit.

Water filters have also been purchased for the motorhome, each one at a cost of $29.98 plus tax. As in the past, we opted to get two filters, one for sediment and one for taste. The filters are something we would have gotten sooner or later. We opted to do it now because the water in the area where we are is terrible! It is so full of minerals that boiling one pan of water on the stove will leave it covered with a coating of white! Since it is recommended that we change filters every 30 days, we also purchased two charcoal filters and two wound filters so we would have an extra on hand. We buy bottled water for drinking, and take our empty gallon jugs to Walmart and refill them for 27-cents each. Yesterday we purchased a 35-pack of Great Value 16.9 oz bottles for $3.33 and before that a 24-pack of the same for $2.48.

We have another visitor arriving near the end of this week, and more adventures coming up. If you would like to be notified when a new post is done, please enter your email at the upper right of our web page to subscribe. Be sure to go to your email and confirm your subscription.  We respect your privacy and do nothing with your email address. It is strictly a convenience so you know when new posts are ready.

Don’t forget to visit to get John’s take on our travels.

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