June 2nd 2015
It was time to start planning to travel for this year, and the first thing to create a problem was we wanted to move Luda's father from his apartment in Kiev in the Ukraine to Luda's apartment in Rostov, he was born in Russia, spent all of his working life in the Russian army, most of the time with the Army in the various satellites countries, and when he retired as a Col he chose the best city in the Soviet Union to retire to and that was Kiev and then of course Ukraine separated from Russia, his passport was changed from the Soviet Union passport to a Ukrainian passport, and none of that was really a problem, but we wanted to have him closer to Luda's daughter in Rostov, so we had him living in Luda's apartment for 6 months and he liked the location, his next door neighbour in Kiev indicate he want to buy the apartment in Kiev as his extended family needed room to expand and the apartment next door was the obvious choice.
So the beginning of April Luda went off to Rostov, collected her father, they went on to Kiev, then it was a matter of her father go through all this possessions to work out what little things he could take with him, the decision had been made that none of the furniture or large items be taken because the freight and the duty crossing the border would be worth more that the items.
They ended up with six large suitcases full, the only practical way of getting this to Rostov was on the train, the best train appeared to be the express to Uzbekistan which stopped near the Russian border where they would change trains to finish their travel to Rostov. Now with the trouble between Ukraine and Russia you cannot buy the ticket for the Russian train in Kiev so when the train stops you get the six large suitcase off the train, father looks after the suitcases and Luda runs to the ticket office where there is a very long line and one person selling the tickets. Eventually she got her ticket then it was to get the suitcases to the other side of the station and she was fortunate to get some young guys to help her in the next thing was to get them from the station to the apartment fortunately Luda's son-in-law came with somebody else in a pickup so that was a major event which was completed successfully.
Last year Luda stayed in Minneapolis to see her grandson being born and it just happened that at the time Luda was due to go to Minneapolis this year Olga had lost her nanny so Luda was able to step in and have some one on one's with her little grandson, Luda is absolutely thrilled and makes claims that he is absolutely beautiful, he is probably a little bit confused as Luda is talking to him in Russian but it seems to be all working out okay.
Last year we drove our American motorhome all the way up to the top of Alaska and I cursed the motorhome all the way, it was big, was heavy, and it was not easy for me to drive, but never the less we felt we were going to have another major trip this year so I spent some money getting the motorhome set up the way I wanted it.
However in the end I decided that I was not going to put myself through the pressure I had last year so I decided to sell it, there must be something in the way in which I price my old motorhomes as they sell very fast so it was a quick trip to Tucson, put the motorhome into storage for the new owner, for me to remove all of our personal bits and pieces, or that is the way it was planned.The first hiccup came when the Christchurch to Auckland plane could not land in Auckland because of fog so we went to Hamilton, sat on the Hamilton airport whilst they gave us some more petrol, or whatever, then back to Auckland and in theory my plane was supposed to depart one hour earlier but there were 12 of us on the plane so they held the plane for us. I was mentally prepared to not see my suitcase in LA but it arrived so they obviously had adequate time to get luggage there as well as the passenger's. I've started to do all of my bookings through the Internet and it has worked well, but I had to learn why I cannot check the luggage through to my destination. So was out of the international airport walked a few hundred metres to the next terminal I put my luggage on the plane. Uneventful flight on a puddle jumper to Tucson, luggage arrived, then on to pick up my rental, again booked on the Internet, evidently the company I had chosen was not on the airport, but telephone them for a pickup, this works well except today the telephone was not working, so after 45 minutes of trying, I got a taxi to the hotel and $25 later I was at the hotel, tried ringing the company and after about an hour going through all the computer controlled questions they hung up on me with a message that the company was closed for the day.
A $30 taxi ride to the airport soon put me in a rental car, but of course not at the price I had booked nor the size I had booked! But at least I had transport which with the way American cities are laid out this absolutely vital that you have.
Next day it was time to clear out the motorhome, I loaded up the car and took everything back to the hotel, opened up some of the mail that I had collected from our PO Box and discovered they had cancelled my motorhome registration because when I registered it they had not recorded that the insurance company had a branch in Arizona as they thought was an out of state insurance, which they did not permit, they cancelled the registration, so my next port of call was the vehicle registration so I joined the other large crowd that was there waiting to be served but fortunately they had probably 50 or more tellers working but it was still a two hour exercise, but evidentially my problem was not major so after about 10 minutes of tapping away at her computer the officer had sorted out the registration, I then attempted to transfer the registration to the new owner and whilst I had copies of everything including their passports drivers license I did not have a letter giving me power of attorney witnessed by a notary public so it looks like the new owner has got a some excitement ahead of them when they go there to complete the registration. At least the officer witnessed my signature transferring the motorhome to the new owner, had that not happened the new owner would have needed my signature witnessed by a notary public, yes it is exciting working your way through the red tape of another country.Of course the temperature whilst all this was happening was incredibly hot and the GPS almost stopped working because of the heat but is not even worthwhile thinking of driving around American city without a GPS.
We are intending to buy a car and use that wandering around the country checking in to a hotel every night, and it is absolutely incredible how cheap some of the hotels are, I booked this one of the Internet and its $39 a night, and I see everywhere large signs offering accommodation for less than this amount.
Today I made arrangements with the service manager to have the Trek shifted to a parking area near the airport. The drive to the parking facility and I take them back to camping world. They tried to start the motorhome but they soon discovered was out of petrol, so they got a 5 gallon tin of petrol and put that into the tank, the motorhome would now start but it would not move, evidently on a Chev workhorse Chassis you run out of petrol it turns off the automatic transmission and you cannot move until it is reset by a small handheld computer. So after about 90 minutes we were on our way to the storage facility, however the service manager did not let me lead the way as I was the only one with a GPS I could see the trek motorhome going or in the wrong direction so with a bit of acceleration I caught up, passed, and indicated we had to go back but eventually got to the storage facility, open the gate with the code, found the allotted parking space, and we had no more problems, which was surprising considering the record so far, I must admit leaving the trek at the storage facility was somewhat of a relief to think that I would not have to repeat last years experiences.
I dropped the service manager back to camping world and while I was there had a look at the smallest motorhome that they had, and quite frankly, compared to what you can buy in Germany, it was ridiculous, so I went on the web and showed the American salesman a Burstner 586 and he quite frankly could not believe his eyes.
I then set off to a second hand vehicle dealer, they had one Lexus there and most of the others stuff was American, I asked the salesman what did he have and it turned out to be a Lexus with almost 200,000 miles of the speedo with no problems whatsoever, which to me was very interesting!
It is quite interesting watching American television, you would sit down of an evening feeling good and healthy, and very soon you find out all the things that may be wrong with you which you can cure by getting the latest drugs, but you had to ask your doctor could this drug suit your ailment but you had to be careful that the whole big list of possible side-effects that this drug could create which you needed to make your doctor aware, it is an interesting concept, selling the drugs to the patient first and getting the patient to ask the doctor of this complaint that they never knew they had could be cured by this new drug. It must be nice to be a doctor in America!
Having completed all of my chores I changed my ticket for the next day and flew back home to the winter and get ready for 2015's tour ..........
Wednesday, July 1st
The Last months have been fairly hectic…
First I travelled to the States to dispose of our motorhome of last year, the 2001 Trek, its main problem was ME, I first saw the Trek’s when they were introduced in the 90s and thought they were the ideal motorhome, very short by American standards, but with all the American amenities, that one has come to expect on American RV, the bed came down in the middle of the lounge and so this kept the length of the motorhome down to 26 feet instead of 34+.
The one I bought was on a Chevy workhorse chassis which even the Trek lovers (the group that thinks they are the ultimate) admit was not the best choice so I is pleased see it go and in its place I was intending to buy a car and wander around the states staying in medium priced motels.
That was until I worked out what that was going to cost me and I considered that to be dead money, because it’s was spent and I had nothing to show for it.ISo was back to the drawing board and I started looking to see what I could get in the form of a European motorhome that was made in America. I discovered that they have just started making them to what I call European specifications but they are at the oldest three years old and beyond what I was prepared to spend for something that was possibly going to be two summer vacations.
It’s interesting to note that Hymer, the German company that probably makes more motorhomes every year than any other company is starting to look at America, but still going to be another two or three years before we see anything of their type of motorhome on the American roads.
They have been helped by Fiat buying Chrysler and deciding to make the Fiat Ducato in Mexico and they are looking for a company to build to their specifications in America.
But I can’t wait for that, so to cut a long story short it looked like the most practical purchase was an ex-rental 2009 Majestic 23 a which is just under 24 feet long and has all the basic items that you see on a European motorhome except it is not streamlined, uses twice as much fuel per mile, and is 700 KG heavier than the motorhome I drove to China.
Saturday, July 11
I have been in America for about three days, but before I left to make sure I was in tune with the American thinking I watched Fox News and the American adverts for a couple of days and hopefully I now have the right mindset.
I flew out on Thursday, July 9 with an eventful flight from Christchurch to Auckland, of course that was too easy and when I arrived the international terminal I found my flight was delayed by six hours, this of course meant I would well and truly miss my connection to Phoenix, and as I was originally just going to fly into LA I had not booked the flight all the way through to Phoenix, and made a separate booking of my own, so in doing that the airline is not interested in helping you, but that is life, I found it does not matter whether you do your own booking or booked through a travel agent something often goes wrong, and if you do your own booking you know exactly who to blame and hopefully you learn.
Eventually we arrived in LA, about the time I was due to be arriving in Phoenix, so I wandered down to American Airlines which is right next door to the international terminal, and whilst I was had originally booked to fly on United it was quite a lot further so I took the easiest option. The next flight that they could put me on to Phoenix was 6:30 p.m. so I had a five hour wait and I took this time to send emails to the RV company and the taxi that was due to pick me up so that sorted that out.
Arriving in Phoenix I had the courtesy car from Days Inn collect me, collapsed into the bed with a sleeping pill, sleep was still evasive, but no matter what, morning always arrives, I had told the taxi company to collect me after 8 a.m. and they were there at 7:45 a.m. so it was all out to the RV company arriving before the sales executive, he arrived as normal starting time of 8:30 a.m. and very soon we were busy signing documents, looking over the RV, it and all was in pretty good condition having done 143,000 miles, of course there were signs of wear, but then the price was appropriate. All that took about two hours and then I was on the way to Camping World where I bought my second Rand McNally GPS, I'd left the first one with the Trek not thinking I would be buying another motorhome, but there you are it's very useful in finding parking spots and campgrounds so really is almost a must if one is are being across America.
I had a good look around all the accessories they have for motorhomes and made the decision I'd come back when Luda arrived from Minneapolis on Saturday, so from Camping World I was off to the closest Walmart and for the rest of the day I was backwards and forwards equipping the motorhome with all the things one needs, all the things I left in the Trek.
My impressions of the Majestic ex-rental so far as that is what I would call a bread-and-butter RV with no jam at all! It's obvious were going to have to put some extra bits on it, which is what I expected, but driving round Phoenix so far it has been much better than the Trek.
It is extremely hot here in Phoenix and last night was very uncomfortable with the amount of heat but I guess one comes to Phoenix in the middle of summer one must expect that.
Saturday, July 11
This morning I drove around the airport looking for somewhere I could parked the motorhome to collect Luda and eventually came to the conclusion that I did not know the airport well enough to choose any parking spot so I went back to the Days Inn Motel where for the price of a room the courtesy car will run me to the airport, leave me there and come back and collect Luda and I when we have her luggage.
All morning the SES light on the dash was on indicating that one should service the engine soon so we took the RV back to Cruise America to get their comments on that, they did not like that and asked if we could wait around until Monday, we weren't quite sure what our program was so we left it that we would telephone them by 8.30am from somewhere about what to do, so we headed off back to Walmart to carry on with our shopping and equipping the motorhome for the travel, that covered bedding, cutlery, dishes, and all the other bits and pieces,
We decided to go to out motorcamp for the night as we're getting concerned about the refrigerator, was almost warmer in the deep freeze that was in the motorhome so we went to the motorcamp and connected up to electricity and that brought the temperature down the way it should but was still something to complain about on Monday. Sunday we went back to Walmart to carry on with our shopping and even in the motorcamp plugged into the electricity and with the air conditioner going it was uncomfortably hot so if you are thinking are going to Arizona in July forget it.
Monday, July 13
We got to Cruise America and the salesman who handled the sale was very good, he got the motorhome into the service department and they checked over the total motor to see what brought the light on, they could find no real problem but at least they got the light off!
While they had at their we had them check over the refrigerator and they ended up cleaning out the burner system and replacing the main circuit board so hopefully we will have no more problems with a hot deep freeze!
While we were waiting I started chatting with a guy that had an knee brace to find out why, evidently had had an knee replacement and slipped on a marble floor doing some damage to one of the ligaments so is left with this knee brace for the rest of his life. Knowing the way the American's sue I asked this question and he was not into that sort of thing!
Evidently the current owners of cruise America are two brothers their father having died in the last five years or so and as they have over 2000 RVs I presume there is no shortage of money, and Mr knee brace had the interesting job of sometimes looking after their vintage car collection, so he took us out into the private area where there was a collection of classic cars, the pride of place was a $1,500,000 1959 Ferrari, and it stablemates were several Aston Martin's, several classical racing Jaguars, several Porsche and a collection of American cars which do not merit a mentioning.
As it was taking a little bit longer to finish the motorhome than we thought, so are the sales consultant took us off to Denny's for lunch, a lot of people turn up their nose at the mention of Denny's, but they serve good clean food with no fuss or bother. We did note that the American menu was substantially different to the New Zealand one, but then the real Chinese restaurants in China are vastly different to the New Zealand version.
It was then time to wander on to Camping World where we decided to buy a pure sine wave inverter to power the computer, we discovered the computer was not operational without being plugged into the power and as these vanilla RVs don't come with an inverter we had to set about and get a simple one. We purchased a 400 watt and then I set about trying to decide where to install it and worked out that I'd probably have to drill a hole in the floor which meant buying another electric drill, something I've done for every motorhome, so was off to another motorcamp to be able to plug into the power, and pulling the inverter out of the box I discovered there was a cord suitable for a cigarette lighter and the instructions said as long as the load did not exceed 150 Watt it could be used so that eliminated drilling any holes at all.
Tuesday, July 14
Today we started heading towards the Pacific Ocean and decided we want to go on as much of the scenic route as we could so decided to go through Barstow and it was interesting how we kept on running into parts of the old route 66 on the trip, we did not venture into any of the old route as the heat was so oppressive we wanted to get to the destination as quickly as we could.
We stopped off at a place called Needles with the thought of going into the motorcamp overnight and as we were driving towards it we saw lots of motels advertising a room for the night with high speed Internet put $39.95 so it was with a interesting surprise to find that the motorcamp wanted $45 price to plug in to the power and stay on their premises overnight. This sort of defeats my original thought of how much less travel costs with an RV but at the moment were in what could only be described as the desert so this is not the normal situation.
The adjustments to the refrigerator seem to have worked to a degree, we have a digital thermometer in the deep freeze and in the fridge so we are watching the temperature on a daily basis.
At petrol stations the current trend appears to be to pay for the amount of petrol you want before you place it in your vehicle so you have to guess, so the first time are filled up the RV I gave them $100 which was not enough to top the tank up, at the pump you can use a credit card but you have to enter in your ZIP Code and of course we don't have such a thing in New Zealand, that the Americans would recognise anyhow. The second time I tried to fill up I gave them my New Zealand credit card inside the shop, they put $150 onto the card size able to fill up the tank this time but it only took $68 so eventually I guess I will get it right.