17 January to 13 February 2023 This is a long blog as it took me so long to get organised. They will not be this long going forward.
17 January 2023 5am We departed Brisbane for LAX. 6 suitcases and 2 carryon bags are all the possessions we are taking for our 12–18-month adventure in USA, Mexico, and Canada. The Qantas flight was especially good as we were upgraded to Business Class, and it was very nice!
We arrived at 7.30am on 17th January (yep we lost a day travelling) and were met by Paul, one of Jeffs staff, at LAX airport in our own truck which was cool. We went straight away to AllClass RV yard and checked out our 5th Wheeler. It seemed huge – and it is!
Our priorities for the first half day we determined were to get our phones sorted, a bank account opened, insurance for the truck and RV, and then start stocking the RV with the necessities. We left our cases in the RV and headed to Verizon in Anaheim. Not so easy! Because we didn’t have a utility bill with our name and a USA address, we could only get prepaid phones, and it took about 2 hours to get that sorted. Insurance was next and we got that sorted. Then we headed to the Bank of America and spent about another 3 hours trying to get a bank account. Same deal. Luckily the young lady who served us felt sorry for us and because I had kept an old bank of America statement from our time on the boat, she was able to open an account for us. (It was also after closing time by this time) But, it meant that the cards had to be sent to Jacksonville, (the other side of USA) which was the address on the old account. (1 forward, 2 back) Luckily that was our good friends – Mark and Jennifer Ullman’s, off the Nordhavn “Starlet” brother, Paul, and he was fine with that. Thanks guys!
We headed back to the RV grabbed all our bags and checked into our hotel the Ayres Suites at Yorba Linda.
Then we went on a mission to find a good Navigation device, so checked out Costco and joined (where we got a brilliant RV sized GPS from last time who we named Bloody Nora!) but they didn’t have any but we thought we would get the discounted diesel, after queuing up they don’t have diesel (of course they don’t!) Off to BestBuy and found the one we wanted a Garmin Drivesmart 86, but of course they didn’t have one in stock so off we go to the store that did have it, only a few miles down the highway but because of the traffic gridlock, took over 30 mins. (1 forward, 2 back) We had forgotten how busy the traffic is here, the gridlocked traffic jams on the highway are very common especially later in the day. We are having issues with our phones as they still think we are in Australia. It was late by now and we drove to Denny’s restaurant next to our Hotel and had the obligatory Fried Chicken. Robbie had a beer, and I ordered a Cabernet, but the server couldn’t understand my accent and I ended up with a Chardonnay, which he took back and exchanged for me. No Shiraz on the menu. We have to get back into the practice of tipping, it seems between 15% to 20% depending on your service.
We were dog tired by now as we had literally missed a night’s sleep.
18 January We had a great sleep and did a few jobs organised to transfer funds from Australia to our new USA Account, we are using OFX, and have found them to be the best rates, its easy, safe and secure. Robbie set up the Garmin in the truck. Meanwhile I am starting to get many calls, and messages on my new number. (1 forward, 2 back) Whoever Arlene is, she has been a very, very naughty girl!!
We set off to meet Jeff at his office to complete the paperwork for the transfer of the truck and RV. Fueled up and we were shocked at how expensive Diesel is here. It was well over $5 per gallon. Jeff was great and he kindly added us to his water bill, and we were emailed an invoice which was a great help so back to the bank, changed our address and cancelled the cards heading to Jacksonville and ordered more to be sent to Yorba Linda.
By this time our phone issues were annoying as we couldn’t download anything from the App store, and we tried everything we knew so we headed to BestBuy thinking we may need to buy new phones. However, we were sent to the “Geek in the corner” of the best buy store and he patiently sat there for over 20 minutes and got it sorted for us. Such great service!
We had a humongous list of things we had to buy for the RV as it was bare. The main items being the pipes, hoses, wheel chocks, power cords, tank chemicals and tools. The list was huge. We spent the next few days shopping up a storm at Walmart, Camping World, IKEA, Kohls (department store) and Harbor Freight (tools).
Our days were very hectic shopping, cleaning and then setting up the RV. I washed every cupboard and shelf and lined them with the non slip lining stuff. One night I was so tired I poured a glass of wine and fell asleep before I could drink it! We had a few issues that are too many to mention here in detail but one was a missed exit on the highway, which led to ending up on a toll road, which cost us 45 minutes to get back.
By the 22nd January we were sufficiently stocked with the hardware and kitchen and linen stuff that we were able to check out of the hotel and drive the RV out of the yard and to our first RV Park only a few miles away, which was the Canyon RV Park in Yorba Linda. $346 for 5 nights. The park was lovely with huge sites and big grass areas all around.
We set up and then headed straight to Ralphs Grocery Store nearby to stock the food. Robbie installed the washing machine so I could wash our sheets, towels etc. and the pile of washing we had accumulated. We cooked our first steak that night on the new Weber Q. It was a good feeling! We were sick of fast food and restaurant food by now.
We saw our first Squirrels for this trip they are cute, but they call them critters here and don’t encourage them as they eat wiring apparently.
The next 2 days we continued cleaning stuff (e.g., all the vents in the RV, behind and under the sofa bed) and re-sorting and putting stuff away. We made the time to go for a walk around the park, its very big and there’s a lot of room between sites. We were backing onto a huge, grassed area and a big high climbing ropes area that the Navy/Airforce cadets used to come and train each morning. We came back and poured a drink, and I said I will get the next one… But I couldn’t get in the RV – we were LOCKED OUT! Oh shit. There was no way to get in, so lucky we had our phones and the car keys on us. It was getting late by this time and dark and cold. We rang Jeff couldn’t get him, after a few phone calls we got hold of Paul one of his staff and he very kindly drove to the yard to get their set of keys which had a master key on it, thank Goodness! We eventually got in and got dinner and had to drop the keys back to the yard by 6am. next morning. Important lesson learnt. We now have a lock key box bolted to the outside of the RV with a spare set of keys in it. Robbie’s still scratching his head and looks at me in amazement, wondering how I managed to achieve this, and I am too 😉 (1 forward, 10 back)
We spent the next few days washing everything, all the containers I brought from Ikea had at least 2 or 3 stickers on each and they were not easy to get off. I spent hours desticking, removing the sticky residue and washing and drying them all. Robs ATM card arrived but mine didn’t. Nevertheless, we decided to move on and Jeff would post the card when it arrived (which it never did – 1 forward, 2 back)
27th Jan we got up early and dropped in a box of pastries to the staff at AllClass RV yard and luckily Paul turned up and we gave him $20 towards fuel and a beer for rescuing us when we were locked out. Back to park, hooked up and drove to Indio, still in California. Lovely Park – Hills RV Resort, $103 per night plus tax so its expensive.
We organised for Ruddy a local contractor, to come tomorrow and clean and polish the truck and the RV for $900. (you’re not allowed to do it yourself)The RV needed cutting (for the oxidisation) as well so 3 guys would be here all day. Had a walk around the park, we were squeezed in tight and it was all concrete lots’- but a lovely lake in the centre, with lots of the silver old style, but new Airstream caravans.
There was a couple of ladies backing in an airstream in a brand new Ford F250. We were amazed to see that the truck was backing them in automatically, she didn’t have any hands on the steering wheel! It’s the latest “tow package” and we were impressed, but of course Robbie joked with them that its cheating. This area is renowned for gay couples, which we had noticed, and with which we have no problem with at all.
28th Jan I cleaned all the inside windows and screens while the boys were cleaning and polishing, Robbie was outside doing odd jobs. That night we drove to Palm Desert only 20 mins away and had dinner at Mitch’s Restaurant. It was really posh -Valet parking and busy as. (we didn’t give them the pleasure of parking the old Dodge) The food was really nice, Robbie had a “Sharkenator Beer “and I had a wine.
We felt a bit out of place as everyone looked very young and had no wrinkles – on their faces anyway! We couldn’t help but notice 50% of the ladies were wearing leather pants. Next day we drove to Palm Springs for Brunch , very busy, and a great Marilyn statue – we are loving all the Barrell cactus and its staring to look very desert like. Fueled up at $5.29 per gallon, a bit cheaper.
30 January We hooked up and drove to Yuma, Arizona to the Cocopah Golf & RV Resort. $309 for the week. We booked in for a full week so we could order some stuff from Amazon and most importantly Starlink. We have not been able to watch a movie as the internet on the Verizon service is not up to it. (1 forward, 2 back) So, I ordered Starlink, (Elon Musk’s Satellite Internet service) which said immediate delivery, got onto our old Amazon account and ordered an EMS (a surge protection device to protect the RV from power surges), bigger battery cables, a solid plate for the Weber Q, and some rubber mounts for the gas hot plates which were missing.
We walked around the park, its huge and we are located right on the fairway. It’s about half RV’s and half trailer/houses. They’re tiny houses that they wheel in, then take off the wheels and put a wooden or aluminium skirt around the base. The golfers are literally walking past our front door! They will install a protective barrier in front of the RV tomorrow!
We found the cantina and enjoyed $2 beer and champagne. Cooked a roast lamb and tried to watch Titanic but it was hopeless. I woke up early the next morning and tried to log on to Amazon to order some more stuff on my phone, and hello it locked me out! (1 forward, 2 back) Rang a few times and spoke to people but I wasn’t answering the right answers and they wouldn’t unlock it. E.g., which charity did you nominate when you opened the account?? That was years ago, and I didn’t have a clue! Also, they wanted a 9 digit number that should have been showing on the bank statement from the goods we ordered yesterday, well there was no nine digit number and after ringing the bank direct, they couldn’t see a 9 digit number either and ringing back there was no resolution so I gave up and set up another account. Pretty frustrating and very time consuming. Still no ATM card for me from the Bank of America so we cancelled the original and ordered another one. (1 forward, 2 back)
Yuma is supposedly the sunniest city on Earth! It borders Mexico and is a well sought after tourist destination. A lot of “Snowbirds” (I love this term – much nicer than what we Australians call the Southerners who flock to the North each year for the warmth) migrate each year from Canada and stay in their RV’s or the small model homes for the winter and enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures.
Yuma is also famous for producing over 90% of the green leafy salad and vegetable plants for the USA. The park was surrounded by fields of lettuce, celery, cabbages etc. It was very pretty. Also, lots of Date Palms growing.
The farming land is all irrigated from manmade canals some concrete and some just dirt channels, with the water sourced from the Colorado River. The river has a man made canal underneath it which siphons water from the River to provide drinking water to Yuma and water for irrigating the crops. There’s 230,000 acres of growing land, 175 different crops grown and the area only receives 4 inches of rain annually.
There is a lovely historic downtown area that backs onto the Colorado River, and we explored the historic prison which was interesting especially as the first escapee was a J. Lewis which we had no hesitation sending photo to our good friends Jeff and Barb Lewis.
There’s a Marine Air force base in Yuma and the planes frequently fly over. We are impressed with Arizona, the striking desert with all the cactus and things are definitely a lot cheaper here. Fuel (Gas/Diesel) is over $1 per gallon cheaper than California. We got diesel for $4.19 per gallon.
1st February 2023 We became two of the 3,000 visitors daily that cross the border into the Mexican town of Los Algodones, its one of the easiest and safest borders to cross. Wow it was interesting, it’s a small town around the size of Harbor Town, and there’s 350 dentists. Its known as “Molar City”, the town with the most dentist per capita in the world. I think the going price for an implant is $650!! That’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Australia. Like, add a couple of hundreds and 2 0’s! There was not any patients in this surgery, perhaps they don’t like the idea of being seen.
We had a fun few hours exploring the stalls, $3 to park the truck. A lot of people walk through the border, but we decided to drive. The streets are VERY narrow and literally every shop is either a dentist, optometrist or locals selling their wares. I loved the stalls and ending up buying some of the Mexican boy (and a girl) garden statues I have admired for years. (duly named Pedro, Pancho, Pablo and Rosita)
We also got a couple of hats. You have to bargain -they started at $20, and we got them for $10 each. The statues ranged from staring at $18 to starting at $38 each, with another vendor. I got all 4 for $45. (Anyone who knows me, knows I love a bargain)
We had authentic Mexican for lunch with Coronas for $2.90. The red and green labels on the table are for yes or no to the hawkers. They still look at you wistfully when you have the no sign up though. The yellow sign in the background is hairdresser/beauty Haircut $6, Pedi $15, Mani $10, wax is $6 (not sure what though), Gel nails $8.
The queue to get back through the border was long and took us 45 minutes to get through. The border is the large iron fence you see in this photo below.
The immigration guy was pretty good, they were searching some cars inside, and out and underneath. The walkers queue also was way long. Whilst in the queue we had numerous sellers approaching the car plying their wares. I got Robbie a very cute carved wooden Bear with a Salmon in its mouth. We hope to see this in Alaska in real life. Some of the vendors were so loaded up with their wares you could not see them!
We are still finding daily things that we need to buy. Robbie found a cool store called “Wally’s World” that just about has everything you can imagine. One of the major things we discovered we need is another water filter. We had brought a small filter in Anaheim, but we were both noticing that the skin was peeling on our hands, and quite badly. After talking to some of the other RVers we needed to buy a water softener, which takes salt. So, we got the water softener and a few other bits and pieces from Wally’s. I would hate to have to do a stock take there. We got the new struts for the Dodge from Napa auto parts. We spent a day on jobs I cleaned the upholstery in the dodge and all the inside which it needed badly. Robbie installed the struts and checked all the wheel bearings and brakes on the Dodge and the RV.
We had our first guests over for drinks, Nancy and Marc from Alaska, who were staying a few doors up from us in a friend’s trailer/house. They had lived in Australia for a year as Nancy was an exchange teacher in Shepperton, Victoria, many years ago and were keen to talk to us. Marc used to be a professional Baseballer and he had funny stories of playing cricket in Australia and shocking the opposition of how far he wacked the cricket ball. We were equally as keen finding out about where to go in Alaska for the Bears and the Salmon. We exchanged contact details and will keep in touch, and visit them in Alaska. Nancy dropped in a beautiful bookmark of a bear catching a salmon. I felt bad we didn’t have anything Australian to give them, when we fly home in June I will stock up on some Australiana. A lovely couple.
After checking on Starlink we find there’s a delay in production and its now estimated to be 2-4 weeks delivery. Not an issue you may think, until you try and change the delivery address and you can change it on your account, but it does not change any previous orders! Of course, you cannot talk to a person, so we sent 3 messages with no reply whatsoever, apart from a message to say this communication is closed! (1 forward, 2 back)
6th February We decided to continue on to our next destination, Rincon Country West Resort in Tucson Arizona. $447 for the week. With neighbours from Cocopah Monique and Garth, and Nancy and Marc keeping an eye out for the package from Starlink and notifying the office of our forwarding address we drove the 249 miles, cruising at 55 miles per hour. Arrived at Rincon around 3.30pm. Its also a huge RV Park but the sites are all very tight and close together. We asked our new neighbors to move his truck, but it really wasn’t necessary, Robbie backed her straight back in like a pro – no problem. At least we met the neighbours – two lovely Canadian couples from Kamloops who have travelled down together in their 2 5th wheelers to snowbird in the warmth. Except that the weather isn’t playing the game and it’s been a cold and windy season.
We got up the next morning and took a walk around the park. Its also a mix of RV’s and the trailer homes. This is Q street, we are down the end, and that’s actually a real road runner you can see.
We’re on site 1097! We met another Nancy and she suggested we take a drive to “Sky Island”. Wow, what scenery on the drive up and on the mountain – Mt Lemmon. From the Cactus to the rock formations and then snow and -2 degrees it was fantastic. We loved it.
Got home and cooked a roast lamb as it was cold. Woke up the next morning to 1 degree. We are certainly feeling it after leaving Australia at 36 degrees. I am by now sick and tired of all the calls and messages for Arlene and the other spam that I am receiving. (1 forward, 2 back) Robbie’s not getting any – I guess its payback. When we got back from our time on Southern Star, and got new phone numbers, Robbie got all the scam calls for Bernard – which were still coming up until the week we left. Anyhoo I decided I had, had enough of naughty Arlene and we took another visit to the local Verizon to change my number and try and sort out the internet problem. We still hadn’t been able to stream any movies although we were supposedly on unlimited data plans. We spent another 2 hours there and the guy was lovely and very patient. We brought a dongle internet device.
We then went to Harbor Freight and brought a Predator 3500 generator and some diesel containers to get ready for our Boondocking! What is that you may ask? In Australia we call it “free camping”, here it is called Boondocking. Robbie loves nothing more than being parked on or near, the edge of a lake or River and fishing to his hearts content.
Then we stopped at World Market, Robbie had to sit in the truck while I shopped as the generator was in the back. I was on the hunt for some Australian/NZ/UK food goodies, didn’t end up getting everything I wanted but I got HP Sauce, Salad Cream, baked beans, Digestive chocolate biscuits, Tim Tams and shortbread biscuits, Darrell Lea Licorice and some Kim Crawford Marlborough Sav Blanc. We have had no problem getting the Marlborough Sav Blanc anywhere, in fact one store had 70% off wine and we got some bottles of Stoneleigh for $5! What we are really missing is breakfast cereal such as Weet-bix and Sultana Bran that don’t have any added sugar. All the cereals and bread here have added sugar and we are struggling with this. Vegemite was one of my Amazon buys, as I forgot to bring some.
We did notice an unusual (for us) sight while driving. Can you pick it?
We got back to the RV and upon checking emails I noticed one from Starlink saying its being delivered tomorrow! Although they didn’t reply to our messages, they must have decided to expediate delivery. We now knew it was coming by FedEx, so we jumped in the truck and headed to the nearest FedEx depot. Unbeknown to us, there’s a few different types of FedEx Depots. There’s Express, Ground and one other. Eventually we got where we needed to. You couldn’t get in -we had to talk through an intercom, we gave him our tracking ID no, and eventually a guy came out with a clipboard. He said he will change the address no problem. Phew we high fived him and ourselves and drove home very happy with ourselves. It had been causing a bit of angst worrying about if we would get it or not. Robbie spent a few hours trying to get the Verizon dongle thing to work and of course it didn’t. (1 Forward, 2 back) The speed test for the internet was barely moving.
Next morning Robbie got up at 3am to try it again and it still didn’t play the game. 9am we were straight back to Verizon, and he played around for a bit and then conceded it wasn’t working and credited us the money. Emails are saying Starlink is being delivered today – to Yuma! (1 forward, 2 back) I rang the Yuma FedEx office, got an awesome young man who tracked it down, found they had changed the site no on the address label but not the actual address! Should have it by Monday he said. We extended our stay here for another week.
We met a lovely Canadian couple, Kathy and Jim, who also have an Alpine RV here in the park. They invited us to breakfast the following morning at 8am. This was quite early for us as with the colder weather we have been a bit sluggish in the mornings and lying in. So, we were up and at it. Unfortunately, our Navigation guru (who we now call Arlene 😉) took us across the road so we were a few minutes late, but it was fine. We had a lovely breakfast (our first out in the USA) at a place called First Watch. Great menu and the food was beautiful. We chatted up a storm with Jim and Kathy. Robbie got lots of technical advice from Jim which was fantastic. 2 ½ hours later we left and there was quite a queue for people wanting to eat. Good thing we went early. We came back and Robbie installed the generator on a carryall thing that attaches to the tow hitch on the back of the RV and installed the new fog lights on the Dodge. He’s still working on the headlights which are badly oxidized. I polished the timber cupboards. 4pm was happy hour outside with Gail & Rick and Karen & Al, our Canadian neighbours. They got Robbie drinking a Clamato Juice and beer. Suffice to say he will only ever have that one!
11 February we drove 45 minutes South towards the Mexican border, to a quaint town called Tubac. As we arrived there were numerous Sheriff cars with lights flashing and lots of cars. We weren’t sure what was happening but turns out it was a festival of Arts. Wow we were amazed. We paid $10 to park the truck and walked around for hours. The Art was just astounding and there was soooo much I wanted to buy! Especially the colorful oil paintings and the pottery wall art. I ended up getting a few Mexican small bowls, plate and a clay thingamajig. (we’re living in a RV Robbie kept reminding me) We are still trying to find a safe home for my Mexican boys 😉
We struggled to find somewhere to eat it was so busy, a 1 hours wait at Elvira’s restaurant. We found Tubac Jacks and had a beer at the bar, where we ended up ordering some Mexican Green Chili and Tortilla chips and Salsa. The barman was a hoot, he had lived in Sydney for a couple of years- back in the 90’s and he kept everyone well amused. We sat next to an American lady and her Mexican Husband who was lovely but then started talking politics and she was no Biden fan. (that means she loves you know who) We weren’t interested talking politics and left. We arrived home and our Starlink had arrived!!
Robbie got straight into setting it up. I nearly killed him – literally when I left our tiny little cupboard door open above the steps and he ran full tilt up the stairs and it knocked him for a sixer and wiped the cupboard off the wall!! To be honest, its a flimsy fake cupboard, very slim and theres only a couple of switches in there, and we added some hooks and keep our keys in there. (except our spare set in the lockbox outside of course 😉)
Poor guy – as well as that the Green Chili kept him up most of the night!! Unusually, I was OK and normally I am the one with a weak stomach.
The Starlink test didn’t go so well so Robbie read the instructions (he is not renown for reading manuals R.T.F.M.) Eventually he discovered that instead of looking for Starlink if he looked for Stinky it connected. Go figure.
12 February Robbie decided to rerun and check all of the cabling in the RV to try and get the Cable TV going, and to install the Starlink router in a permanent position under the stairs. I wanted to start on the blog, I had tried a few times but was really struggling to download the photos from my iPhone to the laptop. (1 forward, 2 back) Have tried numerous times but gave up when it was taking so long to download. In the meantime, the dishwasher was asking for rinse aid (flashing light) which I thought I dealt with. Went to unload after it finished, and the dishwasher was full of bubbles!? I told Robbie but he was too busy running wires and cables, so I ran it again. Same thing again. Oh God – then I realised what I had done! The dishwasher detergent is in a blue bottle the same size as the rinse aid!!! (You gotta love Costco everything is big!) Holy hell I googled what could I do – well Mr Google said it will take about 30 loads to disperse or its easier to replace the dispenser. Shite – kept reading- a turkey baster may do the job sucking out all the detergent. Meanwhile the dishwasher is now going night and day! (1 forward, 2 back) But you can see how easy that mistake was to make right?
Our neighbours invited us to the wine tasting, held in the auditorium. We were a little late getting there but it was fun. Round tables with lazy Susan’s and everyone brings a plate of appys ( I had no idea what appys were, and had to ask – appetizers) and a bottle of wine to share. We met more lovely Canadians and had a great time. Back to the RV in time to watch the last half of the Superbowl. A couple of Aussies were playing for the Eagles, who lost to the Chiefs 35-38 it was a bit of a nail biter towards the end.
13th February We awoke to the sound of rain. It is cold, windy, and rainy and we even got some teeny tiny hail. Not enough to get excited about – Johnny owns a Hail repair company and works all over the world but this wasn’t even worth talking about. A good day to write the blog. Robbie returned some stuff to Home Depot (the Australian version of Bunnings), went and got the gas (called Propane here) bottles filled and a few odd jobs. He’s cooking one of his famous curry’s as I write. I hope this hasn’t been too long winded but there was a lot to share. The next ones will not be this long. Adios until next time.