Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rain in the Desert SW

Odometer  37959
Trip meter 0

Saturday March 1, 2014

Huachuca City, Arizona

We finally got the rain storm that has been predicted, it started out partly cloudy this morning and by noon we were experiencing a light rain.  

It has been raining fairly steadily, but not with much intensity all day and should continue into the night with showers ending overnight and mostly sunny again on Sunday.  The temperature has dropped into the 50s today, but will build to 68 tomorrow and end the next week in the 80s! This is very exciting news for us!  Joan and I will be interested to see the way the desert greens over the course of the next week.

Our good friends Marla and Kermit arrived today from Portland, OR via the Bay Area, Palm Springs and last night- Phoenix.  Marla and Kermit are staying in Patagonia about 32 miles southwest of our RV park here in Huachuca City.  They drove over to see us about 3 PM and we had a great time catching up on the news and went to dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Sierra Vista.  

Marla and Kermit are the ones that first told us about the town of Ajo that we've come to love.  Back in the mid eighties they lived in Ajo, Kermit was a carpenter for the mine, and Marla taught school.  We'd heard them talk about Ajo and just had to see it for ourselves.  

Our first trip to Ajo was in 2000.  We were both still working and retirement wouldn't be in the cards for us for another 12 years, so we had to make the trip down and back inside of our two week winter vacation.  We were younger and had more stamina, but it still took 3 days to get there and three days to get back, leaving us 7 wonderful days of exploring and relaxing in the sunshine.  

That was 2 motorhomes ago.  We had a 5th wheel and a tow-behind camp trailer before we got the itch to try out a motorhome.  Our neighbor across the street from where we lived in Medford, was busy buying and selling used motorhomes, searching for just the right one for him, and his wife, to do some traveling in.  Joan and I got the fever and started looking at used motorhomes on the sales lots to see what struck our fancy.  Well, with us, when we start looking we usually find what we want and buy it- and that's just what happened.  We walked onto a lot that had a 1994 24 foot Safari Trek and fell in love with the floor plan. Jeff wanted a small coach because of the intimidation factor of driving something so large, and this coach was built on an Isuzu NPR truck chassis- somewhat narrower and shorter than most motorhomes in the A class.  Joan wanted a spacious feel, with lots of windows.  For a motorhome with out any slides this was roomy, the coach could be short because the big queen sized bed descended out of the ceiling when you needed it and returned to the ceiling when you wanted living area.


Now that we knew what we wanted, we searched on the internet and on other dealer lots for the best value we could find.  We ended up buying from a private party in Florence.  Harland Ivey had a 28' 1993 Trek with the rear bath for sale, so we drove over from our home in Medford one Saturday morning to see it.  The coach was stored in an RV barn and as the door slid open we saw what looked like a beige bus with a  brown stripe.  We trooped through the coach and it was exactly what we wanted!  One last detail was to test drive it.

 I can still remember when Harlan started it up and drove it out into the sunshine- much to my horror, I realized the "brown" stripe I had seen in the florescent lighted, semi darkness was actually pink!  Was I man enough to own and drive a motorhome with a big pink belly band on it?  What sadistic son-of-a-painter came up with this paint scheme??
    The motorhome that started it all- a 1993 28 ft. Safari Trek

I manned-up and hopped in for the test drive.  I fell in love with the sweet music played by the Isuzu 4 cylinder 140 horsepower front engine turbo-diesel.  The coach seemed to drive well enough on highway 101 and we made the deal.  For being a "small" class A coach, it was very big on amenities.  It had all the goodies you would expect on a high line coach of that era, including hydraulic jacks, propane generator, exhaust brake, hardwood cabinets, convection microwave, wood/carpet floor, rear vision camera, 1500 W inverter, heated adjustable mirrors- the list went on and on.

On the down-side the coach was too heavy for the chassis it was on, and the handling suffered from the added frame rail extensions that put way too much coach behind the rear axle.  The roof was fiberglass skin with fiberglass caps at each end and the joints between the caps and roof always opened up and leaked.  The 4 cylinder turbo diesel made by Isuzu was truly a "bulletproof" motor that purred like a sewing machine, but was rather small (140 hp) for all the weight.  In the motorhome, Joan and I were always in "vacation mode" (Who cares how fast you get there when the journey was the vacation- not the destination.) So we didn't mind that the Trek's smallish motor would not push you up hill very fast ( often 35 mph)   On the relatively flat ground you could cruise all day at 65-70 mph with no problems.

We spent about $2500 in the alignment shop getting the coach to handle decently on the road.  It had a tendency to wander and any side-wind would send you skittering across your lane- including the bow wave of a passing semi-truck.  It was fatiguing to drive- but I didn't have any experience with other motorhomes so I didn't expect much.

There was one big reason we decided to sell the '93 Trek.  Joan likes to go to bed late and sleep in- I on the other hand, was programmed to go to bed at 10 and my eyes flew open at 6 AM.  No matter how much I tried I could not get back to sleep.  Having the bed blocking the living room was not working for us.  

In 2003 we found a vary rare '95 Trek 30 footer on a consignment lot in White City.  
    1995  Safari Trek  3060

This Trek was a rear engine, rear bedroom motorhome, but much of the rest of the floor plan was the same.  The chassis on this 95 Trek was built by Spartan to be a motorhome chassis, and it was equipped with the Chevy 6.5 turbo-diesel mounted in the rear as a pusher.  Having the engine in the rear made for a much quieter ride up front- we had to have it.  We got all the benefits of the '94 trek that we loved and now had a rear bedroom that could be closed off so that we could each enjoy our sleep cycle.  Did I mention that this one was not pink?  The '95 Trek was a cream white with teal/blue green trim.  All aluminum skin on the sides and fiberglass end caps- full body paint- same as the '94.

The down-side became immediately obvious to us- this coach wandered worse than the '94 had.  It felt like the steering wheel was connected to the front wheels with rubber bands.  Off to Henderson's Line-up in Grants Pass and another $3,000 on suspension work to get it "tolerable"  Again, too much weight behind the rear axle- along with all the normal work, we had to have 300 lbs of steel weight added behind the front bumper.  The 6.5 liter motor made 190 hp giving us a gain of 50 hp over the Isuzu in the '94 Trek, but still not a stunner going up the hills.  

Still working for a living, the most we got to do was escape for two weeks at a time (rarely- mostly one week at a time).  We took trips to Montana, Washington, California, Nevada, and of course- Ajo Arizona.

                                         Checking out the Joshua trees in So. Cal.

By 2010 we realized that the '95 trek would not be the ideal motorhome for us once we retired and could finally take off on a trip of months or years.  We were mostly paying off our RVs by using Jeff's travel and per diem checks from his employer on his out-of-town projects.  

In 2011 we were in hot pursuit of a new Class A motorhome that we could retire in- and see the USA.  Arriving at work one morning Jeff was greeted by his boss who said "I hear you are looking for a motorhome- why don't you buy mine?"  The motorhome in question turned out to be one of the top 3 brands and models on our list.

    Bus to Bus- moving out of the '95 Trek and into the '03 Horizon

Steve and Sue made us a deal we would have been crazy to refuse and we didn't.  Joan was already retired, our house was on the market, and Jeff would be retiring in a year.  When the house sold in June of 2012 we moved into the motorhome full-time, and by November we had pulled the plug, and were off to see the USA.
    A mountain overlook in Tennessee.

This "new" motorhome is a 2003 Itasca Horizon built on a Freightliner chassis custom designed for this type of motorhome.  Our floorspace stretched from 216 sqft to a whopping 293 sqft.  The Horizon is 6 feet longer and has two slide-outs, one in the bedroom and one that incorporates the kitchen and lounge.

The mode of power is a rear engine Caterpillar 330 hp turbo diesel.  This is a quality-built, well engineered motorhome, that in 2003 was top-of-the-line.

You have to know that we put this one through it's paces before we made the purchase.  The interior was in excellent shape but this time I wanted to know that I could drive it comfortably for hours and hours.  The test drive was a complete success- it drove and handled so well that I called it (and still do call it) my 36 foot sports car!  I was totally blown away by how superbly it tracked straight down the road, the motor was smooth and POWERFUL compared to the 190 horse Trek this was a monster that loved to climb hills at posted speed limits. We had found a rig we could live and travel in for months and years.
The front wheels turn in at an incredible 55 degrees allowing you to turn in a very tight circle.  You would expect that there would be a terrible penalty to pay in fuel mileage going from 190 hp to 330hp- but it isn't so.  We have fuel consumption calculations based on 10,000 miles that indicate that we are now getting slightly better mileage than the previous coach.  It's all about the power-to-weight ratio.  The engine in this bus hardly works at all and spends hours at 1700 rpm.
Quiet, strong and comfortable- we now had the motorhome we could take traveling- and this blog is all about how we have done that.

In a future blog I'll talk about our choice of towing a car behind the motorhome and some of the options we had to choose to do that successfully.  Until then-

Hasta Luego!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

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