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Monday, March 29, 2021

Another long and cold After-Winter

 It is the same every year. When snow and ice have disappeared, we have to drag ourselves through a long windy, wet and mostly cold after-winter. Officially, spring has started, but remains out of sight. Rain showers are followed by wintry-mix, and when we finally have a warm and sunny day, we can be sure that the following day will be extra miserable. How I ever hate this time of the year. It's not fish nor meat. I hate sitting idle on the couch and being relegated to peppering Facebook with unnecessary comments. My whatsapp account is running over with pictures, and my contacts must be wondering where I find the time to do all this posting. I used to read lots of books and used to find enjoyment with it, but lately my eyes have gone tired after a few pages. I attribute that to my poor reading glasses I got some time back. So when in town lately, I dropped by the optometrist and got an appointment for new eyeglasses. Hope that'll help me reading. Have tried the bifocals for years and it's worse.

So what else I have been up to?

You wouldn't guess it: I have been quarantined for 2 weeks by an idiot customs officer. Here's what happened:

You'll remember the Jeep disaster? Well after we got a new bord computer I had to send the old one off to the company within 7 days. Otherwise, they would have voided the warranty for the new unit and charged me with $125 fee for the core. They had also provided me with a paid Fedex return label. 

With the package in my car, I went across the border to the nearest Fedex station, which is a simple dropbox 40miles south of the border. Returning to the island immediately without stopping anywhere else, I was presented with a real surprise when arriving at the CBSA border station.

The CBSA officer on duty deemed my trip non-essential and punished me by sending me into federal quarantine in my home. My point that I never was in any office or in any contact with any American was ignored. I was told that if I had grabbed a gallon of milk at the local grocery store, I would have been "fine".  This piece of advice I deem the most grotesque, as I would have had to enter a US store for that and expose myself to a possible Covid infektion,

Needless to say, I was flustered and mad. Campobello Island residents have a federal exemption from being barred of going into the US for "essential goods and service", which are not available on the island, and they are not to be quarantined for those trips. So, to make matters worse, not only were we having bad weather, but now I had to stay home. One day, I even was visited by a police officer who was checking on me staying home.  

As outrageous as this might sound, I fully realize that this regimen is why Canada kept a rather low infektion rate. But reason should have been applied when I required the service of a mail courier company not serving Campobello.

Well, I am done with it now and still waiting for the weather to improve.

Meanwhile, Bea has been busy with putting tiny seeds into black soil to produce all kind of vegetable plants. She even bought a grow-light and several other remedies to make it work. If and when the sun peeks out, our greenhouse is warming up quickly, but we need the nights to stay frostfree before starting to move the tiny plants into the greenhouse. So for now they stay in our heated entryway.

And here's some other good news: Bea and I will get vaccinated on March 31 right here at the local pharmacy. That means that we won't have to be afraid to get infected with Covid, mind you, we will still follow the rules and wear our masks in public.

Monday, March 15, 2021

"I Like This One", She Said

 Yes, that's how it began.

It was a normal evening we were spending in the living room when she came over from her couch showing me a picture on her cellphone. This picture.

First I thought it was a new car, I mean new like brand-new, but it wasn't.  I have to admit that I liked it too. We have had 2 Jeeps in earlier years and had only good to say, mind you, they really were new vehicles.

Contacting the seller, he used the word "MINT", in his description. 

So we ended up driving there to take a look - and a short drive. It seemed fair enough and the price was reasonable for a "mint" (rustfree) vehicle. "Rustfree" in our area is definitely a big temptation as many vehicles end up in the scrap yard after 5-7years. Our winter roads with tons of salt and on top the salty air here at the coast, can just about kill any car in record time.

In this case the Jeepster is 15yrs. of age and would not have been among us any longer, if the first owner hadn't kept it in the garage every night.

But that's not a good enough reason to write about a vehicle purchase.

The story really only begins at our local mechanic's shop who was tasked with giving the car a prescribed provincial inspection plus putting new front brakes on it. When he was done and the car was ready, he wanted to drive it out of the garage again, but the vehicle refused to start. It didn't even turn over, nor gave it a click, nothing, just playing plain dead.

The following technical investigation went over several hours with no result. The next day he had spoken to an online help desk engineer and the conclusion was that the bord computer, also called PCM (Power Control Module) had failed and was to blame. The mechanic ordered a replacement unit at the sweet price of one thousand Dollars. He called again on Sunday with bad news. NAPA Autoparts couldn't get it. 

That was when I went online and found a shop in North Carolina offering refurbished units at USD 298. The company had tons of good reviews so an order was made.

A week went by, but one day the unit arrived. Next morning our mechanic put it in, said a little prayer before turning the key and  ---- it ran. It actually ran again. What a relief.

Yesterday I took the SUV out on some park roads and, just for testing, put into low gear, drove a few yards and wanted to put it back in high. But it refused to do that. I tried over and over, but to no avail.

Nothing  else to do than drive it the few miles home in slow motion.

Now our mechanic is enjoying another challenge in his profession.

Of course I searched the internet for solutions, but came up empty-handed. Except that a stuck-in-low-gear seemed to be a much common problem with all kind of 4X4 Chrysler products. I would never buy any Chrysler product, except a Jeep, which after all, is a popular SUV everywhere. My mechanic could also confirm that stuck-in-low gears are a common occurence in Chrysler's 4x4 vehicles. What are these Chrysler folks building in their factories? 

So what did we learn from this? Well, "Mint" is not the one and only criterium for purchasing a vehicle. Reliability would be another. Unfortunately, the Jeep Commander does not excell in that category. In fact the Commander model had 5 factory recalls, all of which had been fixed on ours years ago. It was only built over 4 years from 2006 - 2010. Main reason being the totally messed-up 3rd row seating arrangement where only dwarfs might be able to enter the 3rd row. We are gonna throw them out to make some room. Whether Dixie will ever be able (and willing) to get into that car is an unknown. She is kind of picky that way as she is spoiled with the low and easy entry into our vans. "lifting" her into it is impossible unless you are Hercules and capable of lifting 95pounds of fighting dog. Besides, we don't want to traumatize her. She will never forget.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Travel Memories: The Old Town Of Yuma, AZ And Our Camp Life

December 02
The old town of Yuma. AZ

Today we went to see the old town of Yuma and pick up our mail. After 2 previous attempts we receive our mail at the Yuma Post Office. Then we drive down to see what is left from the old days. Well, there isn't too much being really old. Most of the old center has been rebuilt even though architecture reminds of long-ago days. Some single buildings seem to be from the beginning of last century. The center, or "Main Street Plaza" as it is called, resembles a market place with its numerous booths of artistic merchandise. 

Since we are close to Christmas, a decorated tree has been put up at the entry. Yuma Main Plaza has a relaxed atmosphere which is underlined through a country musician on stage. People are hanging out here, browsing, buying or just sitting around on benches under the shaded store fronts.
Yuma has indeed a rich history beginning already at the time when several Indian tribes were populating the banks of the Colorado River, these were namely the Quechans, the Cocopahs and the Mohaves. Recording, however first started in the 16th. century when explorers, adventurers and pioneers were pressing on to reach the American west. At that time the river was broad, untamed and wild rushing towards the Gulf of California. Some places the riverbed was 15miles wide and quite impossible to fort. Because of a geological formation the river narrowed into a 400 yards wide channel at the future town site of Yuma. Until 1950 the tribe of the Quechans were also called the Yumas and as a result the Colorado Fort was called Yuma Crossing. 

Yuma's history recordings began on a day in 1540 when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Alarcon arrived at the Colorado River. From that day and until 1854 Yuma was under the Spanish and Mexican flag. Then, in 1854 and as part of the Gadsden Purchase Yuma became part of the U.S. Territory. As a strategic point with an increasing east-west traffic Fort Yuma was founded in 1849. Being the only viable south western route 60.000 people passed through Yuma from 1849-1850. During this time the town was called Colorado City. In 1870 Yuma had become an integral part of the Wild West and represented a challenge for law and order. Bandits preyed upon the civilized part of the population and in 1876 the Arizona Territorial Prison was built in Yuma. housing the most dangerous and notorious criminals until 1909. It soon became a symbol of frontier justice and still stands as a landmark for Arizona's intolerance of treachery.

December 03

The day turns out to be windy and I have a terrible back pain and we stay home.

December 04

Another windy day. Walking along the canal is quite impossible because of blowing sand. I am still in back pain.

December 05

Today we have to bring the trailer to the Sani Dump in El Centro. Louis and Terri help putting the 5th.wheel hitch into the truck bed. From El Centro we go to Calexico for laundry, from where I call home to get the newest.

December 06

It seems the nights are getting chilly. As of this morning we had about 0 C (32F) however at 8 am we have 18 C in the sun and actually can sit outside. Desert temps during the winter.

December 07

We decide to do a drive to famous Quartzsite today. Quartzsite is the renown capitol of the snowbirds in America.

Several TV-crews have published footage about Quartzsite and its millions of winter campers coming from all over North America.

So we follow Hwy 78 east and north. At Palo Verde the road touches the banks of the Colorado and the County offers a nice free campground right besides the river. On both sides of the road farmers are growing cotton, and now is the time of harvest.

Passing Ripley the 78 soon connects to Interstate 10. At Blythe we stop to buy some lunch. And then we reach Quartzsite. The first thing you'll see is ---- RV's. There are RV's everywhere. Parked in the desert within the town, at RV-Resorts, the reason why Quartzsite is known to the world. It simply is the capitol of all winter vacationing campers of North America.

Besides of coming here for spending the winter people love the Gem and Rock Shows. It all kicks off in January when the big RV-show is on. 

But right now we are interested in visiting the flea market. And what a flea market that is. You have been looking for that rare kitchen item what your grandma had in the fifties? You'll find it right here. Looking for a part for your 56 Chevrolet BelAir or a couple of used tires or an old gun? You like old records of the sixties? Ok start looking at the Quartzsite flea market. Chances are you'll find it all here. 

Here we also meet Joe, standing by his sales booth ready for a talk with a potential customer. I don't know what Joe actually is selling, because his personality takes all of my attention. I assume him to be around 75 years old. His face, marked by wrinkles as deep as the Grand Canyon, is framed by gray hair growing wildly from everywhere where a mans face might show hair, forming a collar around his neck. He's holding his 1 year old grandson (?) on his lap, while he is telling us about Quartzsite. "You wait until next month and there will be approx. 1.5 mill. people here leaving you no chance to park your truck anywhere close to town".

After parting with Joe we are heading down Hwy 95 south towards Yuma. And here, right after leaving Quartzsite we discover the biggest campground in the world. 11,000 acres (4,500ha's) of desert land are giving space to several hundred thousand campers. This is the biggest LTVA within the BLM-system. Besides of that, you are free to park anywhere else outside of designated areas for max 14 days without a permit.

The area borders to the KOFA Wildlife Refuge east of Hwy 95. Here we admire peaks, towers and pinnacles striving against the blue sky out of the flat desert landscape making the perfect backdrop for a Mel Gibson Fiction movie.

Far to the west Bea notices a huge dust cloud moving through the desert. Oh, that sure looks like the Santa Fe Stage Coach crossing. We wonder what that might be and stop for taking a picture of the huge old giants of the southwestern desert, the SAGUARO CACTI. A Saguaro gets many hundred years old, and it is said that it takes 100 years before the first arm starts poking out. The process of dying takes not less than 40 years, but you'll rarely see a completely dead Saguaro as their stems are popular for making lamps, selling for hundreds of Dollars at tourist places like Sedona, AZ.
Meanwhile the dust 
cloud has moved across the desert and towards Hwy 95. Finally, a mile ahead we see a big tank truck appearing out of the cloud, and turning onto Hwy95. Of course we are disappointed of not seeing that Stage Coach we hoped for.
When reaching Yuma the sun is about to drop behind the horizon. And shortly after it is dark. We have to shop some groceries and fill diesel and propane. Rolling in on our campground at 6.30 Ca-time we have a quick supper and then join our neighbors at the fire.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Icey Days

 I am interrupting my series of travel memories to let you know about some up-to-date happenings here on the home turf.

After my last posting it has become evident that January has left the scene to the month of February, which around here, always seems to be the coldest and most snowy month of winter. That has especially been true for the last 4-5 years. Winter seems to start later than in former years and rather keeps us with company into the months of March or even April. (God forbid!)

Out here at the coast, winter does not only mean snow and ice but more than anything ferocious winds (means storms) In combination with temperatures way below the freezing mark, this also means that a person can receive serious frostbites. And hardly ever have I come across a word better fitted to its meaning than "frostbite". The wind chill is quite literally biting into any part of your exposed skin, which encourages a person to cover up any possible surface against a potential frost attack. And that does not mean you are fit to step outside with your usual pair of jeans and a regular jacket. No Sir, when you want to step outside, and we have to do that on a regular basis with Dixie, our Anatolian Shepherd, you have to get dressed in multiple layers. I am talking a good woolen sweater above your shirt, a very thick down-filled long winter coat with a fur-lined hood, under which it is advisable to sport a woolen bobble hat kind-of-thing, and even better, another thinner fleece hood with integrated collar covering your exposed neck underneath.

Hopefully, you never leave your long johns off during winter, but even with long johns under your jeans, your legs will quickly change color to a bright pinkish red, if you should attempt to meet the gales out of the north-east on a frosty February day. So you need another layer, like something windproof with a fake fur or fleece on the inside.

Now it's time to look at your feet. I hate getting my feet cold during a hike, so I find my thickest woolen socks and 2 pairs of it, for again, think "layers". 2 socks on each foot "may" just be enough, but it'll depend on your type of boots. Forget about Gortex. It might be waterproof, but it'll welcome the cold right onto your poor feet, and your dog will look at you and wonder why the early return home. You'd be well equipped if you got fleece- or fake-fur-lined boots. That, together with your double-layered socks will keep your feet warm.

Now, that we are dressed somewhat appropriately, we can find the dog and step outside. It'll hurt a lot on unprotected parts of your face, but you either get used to that or you can use your Covid-19 facemask for further protection. They are NOT fleece-lined though! Remember you can't cover your eyes as you need to see where you are going. Have a wonderful hike!

Oh darn....we forgot our lined gloves!

        Photo credit: Beatrix Kohlhaas taken with Nikon P-900