Winter Recap 4/5/23

As we head into Spring and move away from Phoenix, we wanted to share lots of pictures of what we did this past Winter. We are planning to be back at Rocky Ridge Outpost by the first of May and we are spending most of the month of April in Cottonwood at Josh’s place (he’s the glass blower that Jeff works for) even though we swore we would never again bring the bus back over the mountains to get here… There is always so much going on!

Trying to figure out where I was supposed to start this post took a fair bit of time as I had to figure out what we had already discussed in previous posts and what we hadn’t. I think I’ve got it somewhat figured out, so lets start with some of Braydon’ new things! After saving up his Birthday and Christmas money, Braydon had enough to buy a real racing RC Car. He’s gotten really good at driving it and he zipps it all over the desert at any chance he can get! While it isn’t “waterproof”, it is fairly mud-resistant and he enjoys running it through the puddles. We’ve had a very wet winter, so the puddles have abounded to our astonishment as this is the desert and one does not typically expect to see puddles in the desert.

Recently, Braydon also got a bike. We had to get rid of some things and rearrange some other things to figure out how to take a 20″ bike on the road with us, but it was so worth it! Braydon had been asking for a bike for a while; he had tried to sit on one of the Forbes’ kids’ bikes over the summer, but was not quite ready to actually ride it. We got him a red one from OfferUp and he was riding it in the desert on day one… without training wheels! We went out the next day and got him a helmet so don’t worry!

Our favorite bargain store in Peoria, AZ was having a “scratch/dent/fell of the truck/amazon returns/closeout” sale one weekend and we decided to go! It was so much fun! There were literally thousands of items that they had categorized into price points and you could just dig through the huge crates and find some gems! I got my dream countertop ice machine and every weekend since we have been making soft, chewable, pebble ice to keep in our freezer and enjoy in our beverages! We found a few other great finds too, but Braydon’s favorite was this craft box that had a little sampling of all sorts of craft items. He has been having a blast making things with all the little bitts and bobs.

In February, we got invited to a neighboring bus for a concert. Jeff was at work, but Braydon and I got to walk over and enjoy some good, live music off the most creative slide-out deck contraption we have ever seen on a Skoolie! They raised the roof and the floor of their bus and cut a hole in the side wall to create a pocket deck that slides in under the floor while driving and out when parked. They also installed some of the neatest double glass doors that open out onto the deck. It is super cool! It was neat seeing the bus at a rest stop on the way to Skooliepalooza, meeting the owners of the bus at Skooliepalooza, and then catching up and sharing some buslife time with them after Skooliepalooza on the State Trust Land for a while.

One of the days I was at work, Jeff and Braydon met up with our friend Mike to do a little prospecting. Mike had saved the dirt in buckets from his Summer in Prescott and was taking the Winter to pan it all out. Braydon had fun learning all about gold finding, but he really enjoyed that they actually found a couple of nice pieces as well! Thanks, Mike, for sharing this experience with Braydon!!

My boss had been talking about taking us out on his boat to cruise around Lake Pleasant when it got warm enough since I had been working for him *last* Winter. A few weekends ago it finally hit the mid 70s and we took the boat out for a spin! It was really fun! The three of us went as well as my coworker, Kim, and of course Brian was there, too. While the water was still super cold, the views were gorgeous! The boat ended up having engine issues and we were stranded out in the middle of the expansive lake, but luckily someone was kind enough to offer us a tow to one of the marinas. This was not where we had launched from and was too far away to limp along to get to the ramp where the truck was parked, so we had to have one of the tow boat companies take us to the other part of the shore. It made for a loooong day, but we were all in good spirits and enjoyed every minute of it!!

This was definitely a winter of emergency and preventative maintenance and upkeep. Back before Skooliepalooza we found out that the ball joints and tie rods were completely shot in the Jeep and needed to be replaced immediately. Later, we decided to get some work done on the bus that we had been pushing off for a while because they weren’t things that were keeping us from traveling, but would enhance our travel experience if taken care of. We had a leaky gasket that we were loosing oil out of fairly quickly, some squeaky king pins, and a radiator fan that would only come on if it felt like it… which wasn’t often enough to keep us from overheating on the seemingly-endless climbs up the mountains in Utah or up the 8-mile-long climb north on I-17 on the drive from Phoenix to Cottonwood. We were invited to go back up to Cottonwood for the whole month of April to help Josh with a bunch of projects he had lined up before Summer started. If we were going to make it over the mountains, we were going to need a fan that kicked on reliably. So we took the bus to arguably the best mechanic in the Skoolie world, Tony at AAA Bus. We had learned about Tony through another Skoolie-dweller who stopped by to say hi a year and a half ago before our first Skooliepalooza when we were living a block from Tony’s shop in the heart of inner-city Phoenix. Not many good things came from our time in that toilet bowl, but getting Tony’s contact information was one of them! Tony and his guys got the engine gasket replaced, king pins packed with grease, the entire coolant system flushed, and an override switch put on our fan. With the coolant system clean, the fan should kick on automatically to keep the engine cool while climbing, but if it doesn’t (or if I’m just being proactive and want to force it to come on before we even start the ascent) I can just pull a switch and the fan roars to life. The bus had to stay overnight in the shop because the job took two days to complete, but Tony was understanding and let us stay there in the bus instead of having to find a hotel.

With the Winter being so wet this year, the desert really came alive! While last Winter we battled dust and flies akin to the Plagues in Egypt, this year the desert flora flourished and felt more like a rolling prairie than a desolate desert! Here are some pictures of the gorgeous places we called “home”.

In the previous picture you can see Francis, the little black kitten mostly grown up and chasing a lizard back into it’s hole under the Creosote Bush. While it was mostly a good Winter, we did have some sad experiences regarding the cats. While we started the winter with four feline friends, we ended it with only two as both of our orange cats decided to wonder a bit too far from the bus and never returned. Orange cats are generally accepted to be not bright inteligence-wise despite their brightly colored fur and our sweet ones did not disprove this fact. We lost Scarlett in November and Tally, the precious kitten, in February. We were devastated to say the least. But we are enjoying spending every minute with the two that we still have, Sue Ellen the mama cat and Francis the black kitten. We elected to get them both spayed as we were unsuccessful in finding homes for the kittens and could not keep growing our supply of felines. We found a clinic whose goal was to provide affordable spay and neuter surgeries for both strays and beloved pets alike. Since Francis and Sue would be recovering simultaneously, the vet suggested they each wear Recovery Suits as opposed to e-collars to keep them from licking each other’s incisions. Naturally I opted to design and make them myself instead of buying them and the cats were both adorable in them! They have been so sweet towards each other and to us since their surgeries and are often found napping on top of each other and grooming each others’ faces.

Spring came to Phoenix in mid-March and brought with it flocks of migrating birds. My favorites were the Red Wing Black Birds as their song always reminds me of visiting my grandparents in West Virginia and seeing a bright red wing sitting on a fencepost calling into the summer breeze. One morning several of these migrating birds landed on the Palo Verde tree outside our front door to sing and I had to get a picture!

Spring in the desert also brought several Western Diamondback Rattle Snakes to our camp. This year, Braydon was accustomed to staying away from them, but Francis thought they were wonderful play things! We still are unsure if she caught and killed a foot-and-a-half-long specemin or if she just found one that had recently died, but she came home from her gallivanting to show us her prize. Thankfully, she came out of the encounter unscathed, but we had to keep a much closer eye on her from then on out. Last week the cats, Braydon, and Jeff were all outside when Braydon walked past a tarp on the ground and heard the recognizable rattle of a scared snake. He backed up and called to Jeff who had to dispatch the poor thing before Francis tried to. This one was fairly large, so we decided to cook it up and enjoy it so it wasn’t killed in vain. Braydon liked it a lot and said it tasted like a fishy kind of chicken.

Through our friend Mike we met another desert-dweller named Michael. We helped him weekly by running into town to get supplies and he paid us for our efforts. Some weeks our paychecks from our jobs ran out due to repairs and emergencies and the cash that he gave us helped us buy our own groceries. It was also good to have a friend that we could check up on and spend some time with. He gifted us a couple of old CB Radio stations so we upgraded the little handheld we had in the Jeep to a full unit. This one reaches much further and we were able to communicate from a pretty good distance on the drive up here to Cottonwood. We had to make a trash dump/snack run before heading north out of Phoenix and, because the bus is so slow, I suggested Jeff just make the stops while I jumped on the Interstate to get a head start. We continued our conversation for a good bit before it cut out. Then, when Jeff and the Jeep were catching up with me, we could check in with over a half mile of road between us! It worked great! It looks a little retro… but it’s securely mounted in the Jeep and has a magnetic antenna on the roof!

On the morning of our last day in Phoenix, we woke up to the hot air balloons landing near us in the desert. Even after spending two winters in Phoenix with often morning and evening flight times, the hot air balloons have not lost their mystique and we love getting to be a part of the passengers’ experience by waving as they go overhead!!

Wow! What a Winter! Thank you for being a part of what we do and joining us in the journey! More adventures to come…!

One thought on “Winter Recap 4/5/23

  1. wow..glad to hear from you again!! 😉
    Braydon you are amazing!!! awesome RC car, and riding that bike like a pro!! you put me to shame .lol .. crafting is amazing, can’t wait to see what you make!!
    Sarah the pictures are great!! and the scenery out there is just beautiful!!
    love hot air balloons!
    unfortunately vehicle maintenance sucks! but so glad you’ll all have safe travels!!
    what an adventure on that boat! 😳
    but glad you all had fun!
    careful of those snakes!! 😱
    good luck with the glass blowing job Jeff!! definitely doesn’t sound boring!
    I’ll definitely be showing gram the blog soon!!
    you all take care, stay safe and enjoy the next adventure!!
    10-4 good buddy 😉👍🏻

    love yas!! 💜💙💚🐰🐥🤗🌵🌞


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