It's been a long day, but a good one. I got up a little before six, showered (it was already getting warm!), dumped my tanks, unhooked and started off, praying that I'd be able to find my way back to the air conditioning repair place. And despite a little bit of confusion and a fair amount of rush-hour traffic, I was the first customer to arrive at Alexander's A/C Service. I sat in the rig while they worked on it, until that got too hot (the back end was hanging out of the garage and was exposed to the sun)...then I sat in the waiting room and read. While I was sitting there, several of his other customers stopped by to pick up their vehicles and went out of their way to tell me what a good job he always did. That made me feel I'd made the right choice.
I had gotten through most of "Tom Sawyer" by the time my stomach started growling for lunch. I stepped back into Gertie, and just as I was making myself an avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich, Chris poked his head in to announce that they were done with the air conditioning repairs. Instead of taking a day and a half, it had only taken half a day! And the total was less than his lowest estimate, too: $1,133. I thanked him profusely, and then parked in the nearby Camping World lot with the engine running and the air conditioner blowing gales of cold air while I celebrated with a sarsaparilla float.
I spent a few minutes looking up campgrounds in Williams, a northern Arizona town conveniently near the Grand Canyon. Because I had felt too weak to do the laundry yesterday, I knew that I wanted a commercial campground for tonight so I could take care of that chore. Fortunately the first place I called, Canyon Gateway RV Park, had a free space. And the man I spoke with there did me a good turn when he explained a route that avoided the major ups and downs of I-17, the road I'd been planning to take. I had read about this in the "Mountain Directory West" I'd bought at Camping World yesterday—a book entirely devoted to describing steep places on major highways—and was a little concerned about all the 6% grades described there, but I hadn't known what to do about them. This chap's alternate route was the answer.
Gertie hates hills
Turns out I was right to worry: even the couple of upgrades I encountered on the alternate route (17N-69W-89N-40E) slowed poor Gertie down to a crawl. There were a couple of stretches of highway where I was struggling to maintain 25 mph! It was embarrassing, to say the least. And I was watching the engine temperature like a hawk, afraid that I'd overload her—especially as I had the air conditioning running most of the time. When the temperature gauge rose above the halfway mark, as it did once or twice, I shut off the A/C. Surprisingly, this didn't seem to make any difference in available power...Gertie doesn't climb hills any faster with the air conditioning off.
Ah, yes, the air conditioning! It worked like a champ—worth every penny I spent on it. Just to give you an idea, it was 105° F. outside when I left Phoenix at about 1:30 p.m...but I was comfortable as could be. What a difference from yesterday! I honestly can't fathom how Gary and Judie could stand driving this rig without air conditioning—especially in southern Arizona. Maybe they ran the evaporative ("swamp") cooler while driving, but it's hard to imagine that very much cool air would reach the cab from the cooler's former location over the rear lounge. Or maybe I'm just not as hardy in high temperatures as they are—after all, Judie grew up in Florida and Gary in Louisiana. Doesn't matter. For me, A/C is a must, and I'm very glad that I stumbled upon this excellent repair place while searching for Camping World. I really didn't think it could be fixed. Boy, am I glad I was wrong!
Not only is Gertie much cooler when driving now; she's also far quieter—because now I can close the windows. So quiet, in fact, that I can actually hear the rattles from the kitchen now! I'll attend to those later. But meanwhile, the new quiet Gertie is much less fatiguing than the constant roar of wind I had to put up with when I was driving with the windows open (and sweating buckets just the same).
Did I mention that Arizona is dry? The humidity has hovered between 11% and 25% all the time I've been here. I wake up with a parched throat, feeling as if my sinuses are going to fracture, they're so dry and brittle. I have a raging thirst all day long. Every time I stop, I buy more bottles of juice. I drink almost constantly, but it's never enough. I'm drinking as I type this. I've said for years that I'd rather live in a dry climate than in New Jersey's humidity...but this is a bit excessive!
I was delighted to see the last of Phoenix. As I headed north, the air gradually became cooler and the trees taller and more numerous, until by the time I reached Prescott it was looking pretty decent. Hill climbing aside, Gertie hummed along like a sewing machine at a steady 50-60 mph through the idyllic countryside, and I was feeling pretty comfortable about my driving. I stopped at a huge, modern Safeway supermarket just outside of Prescott and stocked up on fresh produce. They had some wonderful strawberries at $2.99 per half flat, so I indulged myself. A little further up the road I came upon this lovely lake, a turquoise gem in a red sandstone setting. I forgot to write down its name, so I can't tell you what it is...but I can tell you that the sight of all that blue water was mighty easy on my dessicated eyeballs!
The roads were almost deserted by the time I reached Williams at about 6:15 p.m. and pulled into the Canyon Gateway RV Park. This park is in a sense like yesterday's campground: rows and rows of parking spaces. But instead of park models, this place has real RVs lined up. These people are travelers like me, not permanent residents slowly roasting in their tin cans as in Phoenix. Somehow the effect is much less depressing. But then, the higher altitude here means comfortably cool temperatures as well—a huge contrast with Phoenix. The people in the RV park office were very friendly, and my campsite is only a few yards from the laundry room. I took advantage of this to do a load of laundry right away (before I got too lazy and comfortable), and thus ate supper late—around 8:30 p.m.
My original plan had been to leave Williams very early in the morning and head up to the canyon (about 50 miles, as I recall, but I need to look at my maps and make sure) to photograph it in its best light. But it's 10:30 p.m., I've been up since 5:50 this morning and I'm dead tired. And I still have not made that pasta salad I've been promising myself. Right now I'm a day behind schedule owing to that stop in Phoenix (not that I regret it!), but I don't want to feel pushed on this trip. I think I will stay over an extra day here, which will give me the chance to sleep late, catch up on various things, make that salad...and still photograph the Canyon at the best times of day: morning and evening.
Thursday: Relaxing in Williams
This morning I slept late, got up at about quarter to eight feeling well rested, and had a breakfast of chilled pink grapefruit (wonderfully refreshing!) and granola with raspberries. Then I just sort of lazed around, in no hurry to go anywhere. I may go out to the canyon tonight, but right now I'm just feeling as if I need a day of rest after the last two strenuous days...so I've reserved this campsite for another night. (Thank heaven I'm not trying to do this trip in the originally planned two weeks, or I'd be panicking over the lost time!) There's a delightful breeze from the southwest, and I feel wonderfully cool and comfortable sitting here listening to Mozart's divertimenti with the breeze sweeping through Gertie. My blood pressure is 111/74, which is about as low as I've ever seen it. I may actually take a nap a little later.
After breakfast I made the long-promised pasta salad, and it looks glorious: multicolored rotini with diced red bell peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes and celery, slivers of carrots, all drenched in a low-fat raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I'll garnish it with avocado chunks and cashews at serving time—I know that if put in the salad and left for several days, those two ingredients become soggy and mushy. This will make a good quick meal for the next few days. It was also, by the way, the first use of one of my lovely, ultra-heavy aluminum Wearever pots, purchased 16 months ago when I had first agreed to buy Gertie. It took long enough to put them to use!
I'm eating better on the road than I do at home, which is the reverse of my usual habit when traveling. Ordinarily when I'm on the road, I allow myself to indulge in fast food of the type I wouldn't normally make a steady diet of. But with Gertie's refrigerator and pantry well stocked, it's actually easier to eat good, wholesome food than to stop at a restaurant. And how much more pleasant to sit here in peace and quiet enjoying my own food, my own music and a good book than to sit in a noisy restaurant waiting to be served!
I do have one major problem with Gertie: there's something about the position and height of the table in relation to the couch that give me a backache when working here at the keyboard for any length of time. This is a serious problem, and one that I have yet to resolve. I had originally thought to attach a keyboard drawer under the table to bring the keyboard down to a more comfortable level, since part of the problem is that the table surface is too high for typing, and my wrists end up pressed painfully against the table edge...but unless I can make it easily removable, that would interfere with dropping the table to form a king-sized bed, and that's something I will need to be able to do when I have a passenger along. (It's also something I really ought to try one of these days, just to see what it's like.) I think I'll try the keyboard drawer anyway and see whether I can work out a quickly removable scheme—perhaps using 3M Dual Lock fastener strips, which are like ultra-heavy-duty Velcro. I've got to do something—I know that I'll be using the computer while traveling in Gertie, so I need to work out some kind of livable scheme that won't give me a constant backache!
As mentioned, Gertie has plenty of storage space, and I have only filled about half of it—which is rather amazing considering the sixteen boxes of stuff I shipped out here and the large amount of additional goods I've purchased since then! But I find that I have a problem with the location of the storage: specifically, when I'm sitting here on the street side couch (as I always do—for some reason I formed the habit last year of always using this couch rather than the curbside one) and I'm using the computer or consulting a road atlas, there's no storage within reach. Oh, there's a large two-doored bin directly behind me and another above my head, but they're not reachable from my seated position without painful contortions. What I think is needed is a tabouret-style cabinet with two or three drawers and lots of compartments, sitting to my right on the rear end of this couch. It would tuck nicely under the beveled shelf in the rear street side corner of the coach—a shelf that will hold my Epson Stylus Photo printer when I get home (that's one item I didn't ship out). It would put all my stationery supplies within easy reach. I just need to find or build it.
Because I'm very close to the campground office, I get to see a parade of rigs as they park and check in. It's interesting to watch them. A few minutes ago a Newmar Mountain Aire came in—just like the one Gary and Judie are about to buy, only with blue trim instead of brown. It was followed by a Prevost—a sure-'nough full-sized diesel bus conversion that has the reputation of being the ultimate in Class A motorhomes. At upwards of $900,000, it ought to be! (To tell the truth, most Class A's are junk. But then most RVs are junk. It's an industry with very little concern for quality, safety or durability—Lazy Daze and a couple of others excepted.)
Well, it's getting toward late afternoon and I've decided not to go to the Grand Canyon tonight, but instead to leave early tomorrow. I'm just having too much of a lazy good time to break the mood. So far today I've made the pasta salad; read a dozen chapters in "Huckleberry Finn"; dozed a little while bathed in the soft strains of Händel and Mozart; removed the heavy, unnecessary corduroy corner curtains in the back, thus lightening up the look of the rear lounge; did a little bit of reorganizing; replaced one last cabinet knob that I had overlooked—by the way, I've quickly gotten used to their appearance—and replaced Gertie's nonworking windshield washer pump with an $8 "universal" pump that I had picked up at an auto store in Sierra Vista. I've had a light lunch of tortilla strips, spinach and artichoke dip and fresh cherry tomatoes, and just polished off a sarsaparilla float. I may make corn bread this evening...or I may not. Maybe I'll watch the "Out of Africa" DVD that Gary lent me.
Tomorrow I plan to get up early and head north to the Grand Canyon. I really have no idea how long I'll spend there. I might leave at midday when the light for photography is poor; I might stay till evening when the light is good again. In any case, I'd better figure out where I'm going to be staying tomorrow night and make contingency plans. Gary highly recommended seeing Canyon de Chelly, but I'm a little concerned that I may end up spending the first half of my cross-country trip in Arizona, as I joked to him and Judie the other day, so I think I will have to bypass that attraction after I leave the Grand Canyon.