Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 2018 - The trip to Florida and progress on our building project and Bill's knee saga.


On April 26th we went to the Tucson Orthopedic Institute, as a referral from the Tucson V.A., where Bill was given a shot of Cortisone as a first step to try to avoid needing a total knee replacement. Though there is still some pain, the shot helped immensely so on April 27th we opted to go to Florida to pick up and move our  storage there to one we now have in Sierra Vista, close to Benson. We were able to get a very good deal through Enterprise , on a One-Way rental of a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan, which apparently they needed in FL (probably for the Orlando market). Instead of having to pay a driver to take it there, they give a renter an excellent rate to drive it there for them. And so it was. Our total rental cost was just $60.07. Since we had the room in the van we stopped at rest areas and slept in the back to save money and be able to get there faster. Mary got the back with blankets and a sleeping bag as bedding, and Bill slept in the front passenger seat. This (below) was the van we got.



After a comfortable drive for two days on I-10 Eastbound (except for driving through San Antonio and Houston), getting onto I-75 on April 29th suddenly we noticed an unexpected high volume of traffic, in both directions and even though it was on a Sunday.  Suddenly we remembered why we settled in Benson AZ… away from the maddening crowd and tourists, yet within 5 miles of a Safeway and Walmart, and 25 miles from a town large enough to have all our preferred restaurants (like Popeye’s, Schlotzky’s, Culver’s, and has larger stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart Super Center, etc., and within 45 miles (on I-10) from Tucson, which has everything else, including Costco and a major V.A. medical center.

The above plaque was at the Florida Welcome Station on I-10 Eastbound near Pensacola. We found it very inspiring and thankful for their tribute to our servicemen and women.


Here's a sampling of the heavy traffic on I-75 (both northbound and southbound) which as you can see was not even truck traffic but cars for the most part. It was not a holiday weekend so we can assume only that it is just a symptom of Florida, after having the peace and tranquility of the light traffic of Benson and Sierra Vista in Cochise County in Arizona.



While in The Villages we stayed at the Motel 6 in Wildwood, which was not the most comfortable place but economical and convenient. We spent one day (Monday) running errands getting stuff we wanted that we cannot find in Arizona, like Fresh Market Kona coffee, 1.75L Brugal Rum for just $24, Dominican Longaniza from Compare supermarket, 2 cases of Yellowtail Riesling wine from Total wine and Cheng’s  Chinese food. That night we were too pooped to even get together with any friends and had to turn in the van and pick up the truck the next morning and then load the Penske truck to leave the following morning.


This are the beautiful wildflowers along the FL countryside and in some fields. In Arizona most wild flowers are yellow, and then there is a lot of cacti that are also flowered.



On  May 2nd with the truck loaded we left Wildwood and headed north on I-75 and then west on I-10., staying overnight at the Comfort Inn in Gulfport MS (where they gave us a King suite for a King room rate and included a great hot breakfast) , then at the Days Inn in Boerne (almost as comfortable as the Comfort Inn and  with a suitable breakfast.  From Boerne TX we had to navigate through a pretty bad storm and we were anxious to get back home to Benson so we drove straight through (12 hours taking turns, and arrived at our lot by 10pm on Friday May 4th.)
 



Mary driving the truck,


Look at her... Even though dead tired she can still muster a smile, and still looks beautiful.


Checking the truck before taking off from Boerne TX.

 
The truck at a rest area just past Las Cruces NM, almost home.
 
Though very tired, gluttons for punishment the next day we drove to our new storage room in Sierra Vista (about 25 miles away and unloaded the truck, then turned it in to Penske.) This rental was also a One-Way rental, with a 16-foot truck, but did not get as good a deal as with Enterprise. Still with Bill’s military discount it was decent enough.
With the storage transfer behind us and Bill’s knee still feeling better now we can focus on trying to get our casita plans drawn, electric and utilities connected and eventually the house built.
 
The  North and South side walls are going up. And as you can see the backyard view will be to the East, across the valley and looking at three mountain ranges.













Tuesday, April 24, 2018

April 1 - 30, 2018

This has been a very busy month. As previously stated, we have been looking for an RV lot where we can spend our winters, while still in the Southwest, so that we can avoid the 4,000 mile roundtrip to FL every winter. 4,000 miles at even 8 mpg at $3.00/gal is a $1,500 yearly savings, not to mention the 4,000 extra miles added to our motorhome. Now, given that many, many RVers have recommended Arizona as an ideal such destination, our plan was to stay at different campgrounds... a week here and a week there, to narrow our search. Next year we would have taken our preferred locations and stayed a month here and a month there, until perhaps finding a place that we could contract for the six 'winter' months. However, seldom do things work out the way we anticipate them, and sure enough on the second day of looking at different campgrounds in Benson AZ, we found the perfect location and opportunity.

The Escapees (SKP) Saguaro Resort:
During our stay at the Valley Vista Campground in Benson, we went to see an Escapee resort that Escapee members can LEASE (not buy). Actually one has to pay $ just as if it was being purchased BUT one does not ever OWN it. It is a 99 year lease. The only advantage to it is that when you sell it, 1) there is always a waiting list of Buyers, and 2) You are guaranteed to get what you paid for it, plus any improvements you have made. The negative is that there are way too many rules and one is expected to work to some degree in the running of the campground.. Also they limit the size of the 'casita' which can be built to 288 sf (which is about 3/4 of our motorhome). There is no pool or hot tub in the Resort and Lessees are not allowed to put one on one's lot. The people were nice enough and the facilities were ample, but given much higher HOA fees, too many controls and the fact that being 500 feet lower than Arizona Legends we would not be guaranteed a nice view of the mountains and valley below, as we have in Arizona Legends.
 




















 
From Valley Vista Campground in Benson we already had reservations at Fiesta Grande RV Resort (an Encore and Passport America park) so we decided to go there anyway, but once there, with neither of us really liking Casa Grande AZ, or the campground there, we decided to cancel all the other reservations and return to Arizona Legends to buy the lot and prepare the building of the 'casita'. Bill had an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon in Cottonwood, AZ, while we stayed at the TT Verde Valley, but realizing that if surgery was going to be needed for his knee we should be where we could stay for about a month or longer, as he would not be able to drive the RV, or get up or down during his recovery, we should be at the new lot in Arizona Legends where we could be there as long as needed. Given that he is going to transfer from The Villages VA Outpatient Clinic to the VA Tucson Medical Center in Tucson, as his primary VA facility and new doctor, this proved to be the best option.


Arizona Legends is a community of RVers, who have bought a lot and built a 'Casita' in which they spend most of the day in, on their lot. To remain an RV Resort (with a Homeowner Association) the owners can park their motorhome on their lot and connect it to sewer, water and electric, plus build a building up to 45% of the lot square footage (i.e. our lot is 40x100, 4,000sf, so we could build an 1,800sf house. However, the owners cannot sleep in their 'casita', or cook on a range (microwave/convection and outdoor grills are OK)... we know, weird rules, right? However, this is not a community of just lots with RVs and 'casitas' on them. There is a also a 6,500sf clubhouse with a pool, spa, billiards room, gym, huge meeting room, library, laundry, showers, etc. There is a Homeowner Association monthly fee, but it is only $60/month... SIXTY, that's it, and it covers use of the clubhouse, your own mailbox (at a mail station), plus city water, sewer and trash, therefore for the six 'summer' months that we are traveling on the mototrhome. However, the great things about this lot is that:
1) It is out in the country (OK, desert) but that is the way we like it,
2) It is close to shopping in Benson with a Walmart and Safeway,
3) It is within 28 miles of Sierra Vista, which is the more major town of Ft. Huachuca (a US Army post),
4) It is within 45 miles of Tucson,, whose entire metropolitan area is roughly 980,000, and is home of the University of Arizona and a major VA Medical Center for Bill,
5) And as an added benefit it sits just off of Interstate I-10, Exit 302 (SR 90 to Sierra Vista, which has a Love's truck stop and a Shell within 5 minutes on the way out or in to the resort.

It was an opportunity that when we visited it we both knew right away we would find no better anywhere else. At best, the same somewhere else, but not better, so we stopped our search and picked out a lot t hat has an unobstructed view of several mountain ranges(Dragoon Mtns., Swisshelm Mtns., Galiuro Mtns. among others) across 25 miles of valley, 500 ft below our lot. The Eastern view to the rear of the lot is spectacular and will promise wonderful sunrises from our rear covered porch.

But wait... there's more (like the advertisements on TV say). On the rear edge of the back yard we'll also have our own spa, and in the front we'll have a 12x16 garage to do double duty, a 12' x 8' storage room (thus being able to move our 10' x 10' storage in The Villages and a 12' x 8' garage for the golf cart or Polaris 4-wheeler to go out into the desert with, so when we leave for the summer trips, we can leave the lot closed up. OR we may be able to rent it out (RV lot and 'casita' without the garage) while we are gone for the summer.

Bill managed to change his VA appointment with the orthopedic surgeon in Prescott AZ, to one at the VA Hospital in Tucson. They don't have orthopedic surgeons at the VA in Tucson, so he was sent to a private ortho surgeon in Tucson at the Tucson Orthopedic Institute who has been recommended by several other RVers who have had successful surgeries there. His first appointment is April 26th, when they will do the additional Xrays, blood work, etc., and determine what degree of care he will need... non-invasive, invasive or total knee replacement. . And the best thing is that the VA covers all his medical expenses (as a benefit of his military service). It seems that wherever we go we benefit from that service with every matter of discounts (usually 10%).

For example, Mary decided that she wanted a large 26.8 cu. ft. French door refrigerator for the casita and found one on sale for about 60% or its MSRP... $1,499, marked down from $2,349, but then got Bill's military discount further reducing it $149.90, to $1,470 with accessories and tax included. With Verizon we also received two $200 rebates (for two lines), and at Total Wine and Spec's liquors we also benefit from the military discounts.
As a result of the potential surgery and building process we will probably be spending this summer here in Benson at Arizona Legends, and then the winter as well. Bill will undoubtedly be recovering from his knee care, and we shall also be building our 'Casita', which we have designed ourselves. It will be in the Southwest or Santa Fee (Adobe) style, typical of the area. As the work progresses we'll be posting photos of the progress, and in this post we show the lot itself, the views and the area around it.

Also, on the 27th we are on our way to our storage room in The Villages, FL to pick up Mary's stored antiques and other  stuff. We found a One-Way car rental, through Enterprise, for just $60.07 TOTAL and with a Chrysler Mini Van, so we are leaving 'Edith' (F-150) in AZ with the motor home, and renting a 16ft Penske truck to drive back in with our belongings. Until the 'casita' is built (about 2-3 months) we have a storage space in Sierra Vista. This will be a quick trip just to pick up our things and get back to AZ as we have some things we have to attend to. Therefore, regrettably, we won't be visiting with anyone in FL.

In May, after our return we are sure to have more news and more photos.

ARIZONA LEGENDS - Photos of our new Winter Home:


 

 





 

  
Arizona Legend's Vacation Village. Our lot is Lot #155.

A Barrel cactus



 
The San Pedro River.
   
 
SR 90 which leads to Sierra Vista (Ft. Huachuca) about 28 miles away with a large Walmart, Safeway, Lowe's Home Depot, all of our favorite restaurants and shops (except Costco, which is in Tucson.) Sierra Vista is a town of 60,000 and is Home to Ft Huachuca, an Army base which is best known for training unmanned aircraft (drones) pilots.

The desert that can be hiked or explored on a four-wheeler.
 
 One view of the mountains we get a view of from our lot.
 
A Border Patrol checkpoint

Abandoned barns in the countryside
 
The view from our lot with haze on the mountains. Some days they are crystal clear, some days not. Though we can see the famous dust storms beyond them, we never get dust storms here. No hurricanes, no tornadoes, no earthquakes, no dust storms, and the only Californians are the ones that are fleeing California given their politics there.

Gated entrance to our resort. This is the homeowner section of the resort, but eventually it will have another section for rallies and daily/weekly campers. 







 
 
    

Our Clubhouse with large pool and hot tub, gym, kitchen
& dining hall, laundry, pool room, library, and postal station.

 
This storage shed is on skids instead of on slab,
so that it is not calculated for property taxes.
 
One of the many beautiful sunsets that Arizona is known for, as seen from our lot.

Construction begins on our lot. They are putting in three (3) utility connections:
1) One for the motorhome, 2) One for the casita, and 3) One for the hot tub.
 
 


This is our temporary location, across the street from our lot.
   
 
 

 
NEXT POST: May 2018 - The trip to Florida and progress on our building project and Bill's knee saga.








 
 

May 2018 - The trip to Florida and progress on our building project and Bill's knee saga.

 On April 26 th we went to the Tucson Orthopedic Institute, as a referral from the Tucson V.A., where Bill was given a shot of Cortiso...