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4/17 thru 4/23/14 - Vegas Baby!

Last week in Southern California - aaaaahhhhh!
This week in Las Vegas - yuk!


Thursday, 4/17/14
We left Southern California on and headed northeast to Las Vegas.  There is the possibility of some photography work in the Las Vegas area so we decided to take our chances and head up there.  We are staying at the Road Runner RV Park and it's quite a comedown from Jojoba Hills RV Park.  We are parked on blacktop in a row with all the other rigs - no real privacy, you can hear tv's and radios and conversations - Yuk!   We are also on a main street so there's lots of noise from cars and trucks. The worst thing about being here is that after we checked in and got back into the truck with the rig we scraped the large concrete post and messed up the back corner of the rig.   Yikes, Las Vegas is already costing us money!!
Oh, No!
We are about four miles from the Las Vegas Strip where all the major casinos are.  We took a drive to check it all out on Thursday night and it was crazy crowded.  Maybe I'm getting older or maybe I'm getting used to the quiet of most of the campgrounds that we've stayed at - I have no desire to go to any of the casino's on the strip, too many people!!   Sam's Town Hotel/RV Park is about 4 blocks from where we are staying, we stopped in there after our drive and signed up for member cards and spent a few dollars - won a little and then lost a little more.
Las Vegas Boulevard

 Friday, 4/18/14
We spent a good part of Friday dealing with our insurance company.  The insurance company has their list of preferred repair places but the one nearest us was too busy to even see us until Wednesday (4/22).  We would have to drive the truck with the rig over there for them to look at and then we'd find out when they would be available to fix it.  This doesn't work for us, we want to get out of Vegas sooner than that. 

Lucky for us there is a RV Center right across the street and Marty went over to talk to them and then our insurance adjustor also talked to them and we are taking it over there for the necessary repairs on Tuesday morning (4/21).   Hopefully it will be all fixed and we can leave here next Thursday morning and continue to make our way East. 

Saturday, 4/19/14
Pawn Stars Pawn Shop
When we were driving around Thursday night we saw the "Pawn Stars" pawn shop.  There was a line to get in so we didn't stop, we came back Saturday morning and checked it out.  Chumley wasn't there - darn!  It was crowded but they have a "bouncer" in front making sure not too many people are in at one time.  They do have a lot of cool stuff there and I did talk to someone about selling a silver dresser set that we've been carrying around.  We planned to sell it on EBAY and the pawn shop employee agreed that would probably be our best bet.  This dresser set was left with the house when we bought our Oak Park house so there's no sentimental value.

Guitar signed by Bo Diddley and others
 After leaving the pawn shop we headed over to Fremont Street.  Fremont Street was the the home of the first casinos in Las Vegas (back in the day) but had become a less attractive area after the "Strip" took off in the 1950's.  They are working on renovating the area to draw in more visitors. 

Fremont Street
Which of these legs is not like the others?
At one time Las Vegas was known for cheap buffets and we decided to check out the one at Sam's Town.  Saturday night was their rib buffet and it was a very good deal (9.99).  We ate our fill including an amazing dessert buffet!

Sunday, 4/20/14
Las Vegas at Sunset
We spent a mostly quiet day in the rig.  It's hot here (low 90's), so we didn't really feel like going out until the evening.   Sue, Jeanne and I share a pair of Cubs season tickets and I spent a lot of time on the computer listing Cub Tickets for their May games.  Anybody want tickets?  We're selling them at face value to family and friends.

Once the sun set and it got a little cooler we drove down to the "strip".  Marty wanted to take some nighttime shots and I wanted to explore a few of the casinos :).   We parked at Planet Hollywood (where the parking lot sign said no vehicles over 6'8" - that was exciting, we just made it!)   Marty walked down the strip looking for photo ops and I stayed at Planet Hollywood looking for $ ops - guess who had the better luck?  I left Planet Hollywood and meandered south on Las Vegas Blvd.  It is crazy on the strip, I saw 3 different Elvis impersonators along with a few mimes on my short walk over to MGM.  I had better luck at the MGM and quit while I was ahead - that's a first for me!  Walking back to meet Marty I was amazed at how many people were out.  There were a lot of families and tourists from other countries (especially Asia).  I understand the thr foreign tourists but don't quite understand how Las Vegas is a good place for a family vacation?
 

Tuesday, 4/22/14
Four years ago today my dad passed away.  My parents loved to travel and my dad really liked road trips (he did not like to fly!)  My sister Sue and I were lucky enough to go on a road trip with both of our  parents in July 2008.  We drove from Chicago to Childress in the Texas Panhandle to visit my mom's brother, Uncle Frank.  My dad, as usual, did most of the driving.  When we made our plans to visit my uncle I noticed that the Cubs would be in Houston that week.  Since we were going to be in Texas anyway we asked dad if we could drive the 483 miles further to see the Cubs play -"sure, no problem".  Then while in Childress we said "we've never see the Alamo, how far is that?" and off we went to San Antonio!  Hmmmmm, maybe we should have tried for Disney World. 

My parents drove in their car or on their motorcycle to, I believe, 47 of the lower 48 states.  I know they missed one but I can't remember which one it was (Idaho? Oregon?).  As Marty and I drive around the country I often wonder if my parents have been down the same road (my guess would be yes, I sure wish I could ask them).

Marty climbing the rocks on the Redstone Dune Trail
Mary hiking the trail
Ok, enough of the trip down memory lane!   We dropped off the rig at the RV dealer Tuesday morning and then spent the rest of the day exploring the area outside of Las Vegas.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 80's.  It was extremely windy which made the air pretty hazy.  We drove east from Vegas to the Lake Mead area.  We made a stop at the tourism office in Boulder City to pick up some maps and ask for ideas of where to go.  The women in the office highly recommended stopping at the Redstone dune trail for photo ops - that's all Marty needed to hear and that was our first stop.  The area outside of Las Vegas is very pretty (My 4th trip to Vegas and only the first time I've explored outside the city).  We stopped along the way to take pictures of Lake Mead and then, of course, we had to drive by Hoover Dam.  It's pretty impressive but driving by is fine, we had actually taken the tour years ago (I guess I have been out of Las Vegas before).

and more photogenic rocks
A girl and her dog
Hoover Dam


We returned to the rv dealer around 6:30 on Tuesday night and used the key they gave us to get into the lot so we could spend the night in our rig.  They did a very nice job of repairing the damage to the back corner and all that was left to do was painting.  We needed to be out of the rig by 7:30 Wednesday morning so they could do that.  Lucky for us, after thinking there were no photography jobs in Vegas, Marty got a call on Tuesday that there were seven jobs in the area so we spent ALL day Wednesday driving around photographing houses.  Then it was back to the RV Dealer where our rig was looking pretty and all ready to go.  We asked if we could spend one more night on the lot so we wouldn't have to drive at night - next stop Colorado!   Hey Mile High Merkes family, you better watch out, we may be in your area soon - I need a little kid fix!









April 1 - April 16 - Jojoba Hills

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

We left Mesa on Tuesday, April 1st and drove a little over 300 miles to Aguanga, California.  It was quite a ride once we got off the interstate.  We drove our final 50-60 miles on hilly, winding roads.  It was the first time driving on roads like that with the rig and Marty handled it like a pro! 

The view from our rig
Sunset over Aguanga, California
The park we are staying at is Jojoba Hills RV Park.  This is a very popular Escapee's RV Park and we ended up spending four nights in the boondocking area because there weren't any sites available.  There actually was one site but we didn't think our rig would fit so we decided to wait until something more "fitting" opened up.  This worked out for us since we got the one site in the boondocking area  that had hook-ups and ended up paying only 5.00 per night while in boondocking.   We also had a coupon for seven nights at 50% off so this is turning into a pretty economical place to stay.  Once we did get a site it was close to the Clubhouse and all the activities so I'm glad we waited.  We will be here until the 17th and then make our way back to the Midwest.

View from the pool
This park is an Escapee Co-op Park and it is the nicest park we've stayed at.  The amenities and activities are amazing, there is always something to do.  Marty has discovered the game of Pickleball which is a very popular game in RV parks.  It's like ping-pong and tennis on a smaller court using whiffle balls.  At this park the courts for pickleball are available only in the morning and they are busy all morning.   We've also used the pool and hot tub a few times.  The view by the pool is so pretty that the chairs face away from the pool and look out at the mountains.  They have an amazing book and dvd library, craft room, sewing room, card room, billiards room and a large community room.

The main reason we decided to head west from Mesa to California was so we could visit Marty's sister, Jan, and her family.   Todd and Dena were kind enough to invite us for dinner on Wednesday and then we had them over for a barbque on Saturday.   Jan even spent two nights with us in the rig and we had a wonderful visit catching up with her.   

Dinner at the Calbert's
Lunch at the Konopackis
 
The competition was fierce. . .
Maddie and Todd win! (thanks to Maddie's ringer)
Mason and Maddie "Chilling" at the pool

Lunch at Mom's Cafe in Julian, CA
Spending some quality time with Jan
While in southern California, Marty has had some more properties to photograph - I like these houses better than the ones in Arizona but everything here is also beige!  I guess it easier to rent houses that are painted with neutral colors.  We have driven up and down I-15 and are starting to know the area, too bad we're leaving soon. 

Maddie and Mason were on Spring Break and Dena and Todd took their vacation the same week.  We wanted to spend some more time with them and we also wanted to see the Pacific Ocean.  We decided to go on a bike ride on a trail in Oceanside that ends at the ocean - it was a wonderful ride.  The weather was perfect, it was primarily flat, and we rode about 17 miles - my kind of bike ride! We even brought Flat Stanley along for a photo op.   Jan met us at the pier and we had lunch outside on the pier - I love Southern California!
Flat Stanley is happy he made it to the ocean before heading back to Chicago

Yay!
We made it!  What a great ride!
Lunch on the pier

Maddie and Maddie hydrating back at the car.


Later that night there was a lunar eclipse - the "blood moon".   It started at 12:45 A.M. and Marty and I both went outside to watch it but only one of us could keep their eyes open to watch the whole thing - luckily it was Marty and he took some amazing photos!
WOW!

 Marty had one final property to photograph on Tuesday (4/15) so we drove north to Murietta to take care of that and then we drove to San Juan Capistrano to play tourist.  It was a beautiful drive over the mountains and the plan was to visit the Mission and then drive south along the ocean before heading east back to Jojoba Hills.  However, Marty checked his email and found out that he had just gotten one final property to photograph.  As luck would have it, it was close to the earlier one so we ended up retracing our route over the mountains.  No last look at the ocean for us :(. 

Mission of San Juan Capistrano

Senor y Senora Konopacki


Wednesday (4/16) was our last full day in California and Jan came over for a final visit.  She also brought us lunch and dinner and an Easter suprise!!  What a wonderful treat that was!  It would have been nice to spend more time with our California family but we need to be in Iowa by 5/15 and now that's less than a month away.   We had so much fun with the Calbert's and can't wait until we can come back.  The best part of being on the road is getting to spend time with people we don't see very often but the worst part is having to say good-bye.  

We are leaving Thursday morning but really aren't sure where we'll be on Thursday night.  We had every intention of taking I-40 west and then I-35 north to Iowa but now there is a possibility of a few photography jobs in another city that was hit hard by the housing crisis.  Here's a hint "cha-ching".  We will find out after we leave so we may be making a detour, I'll keep you posted :).