Monday, 25 April 2016 16:24

2016- April- Palm Springs RV Adventure

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The Dream

I have been dreaming of owning a trailer, 5th Wheel or RV for at least 25 years. Milton and I had looked at Hi-Lo trailers back in the nineties and the possibility of owning one was part of the reason we bought a tow package when we bought our Ford Ranger. We never did get the Hi-Lo trailer after getting the truck, getting side tracked with other things that came up in life but in the back of my mind, I continued to contemplate having a trailer one day to travel with.

 

Over the years, we would subscribe to Trailer Life magazine from time to time and we would attend RV shows. I realized that most trailers had relatively low ceilings for 6'4" men and discovered 5th Wheels. For several years, we looked at 5th wheels and I dreamed of owning one some day. The problem was that the 5th wheels we liked would require a more powerful diesel truck. By this time, we had gotten rid of the Ford Ranger anyway. 

 

One fantasy that I entertained for a while was to buy a 5th wheel and just hire someone to move it from place to place. We could set it up in Palm Springs for a year or two and go there during the winter to get out of the rain in the SF Bay Area. Then we could have it moved it to San Diego for a couple of years. Then maybe Phoenix. In this scenario, I was't really thinking in terms of short term vacations as much as a moveable second home where we could spend the winters. To see how it might feel to live in a 5th wheel, we found a company in the San Diego area that would deliver a 5th wheel to any of the local RV parks and we planned a road trip around this. You can read about that "adventure" at this link: San Diego Road Trip and 5th Wheel

 

The road trip to San Diego and living in the 5th Wheel at the lovely RV park in Mission Bay was a positive experience for us but after that, I started looking at diesel trucks and realized just how expensive they were! I was still working at that time and one of my co-workers had bought a "used" diesel truck for twenty-something thousand and suggested that I could do that and get a used 5th wheel for another twenty-something. This seemed like a pretty good compromise but then, in my looking around, it was really difficult to find a used diesel truck and used 5th wheel in that price range. I was also concerned about buying something used that had no warranty. I am not mechanical at all and worried about buying a truck that might need a lot of work or getting a used 5th wheel that leaked when it rained. I had a cousin that had bought a trailer for thousands of dollars from a private party and the first time it rained, it leaked and was "totaled." 

 

One day, while visiting an RV dealer and looking at 5th wheels and dreaming, I was talking to the salesman about my budget and my dilemma of finding a reliable truck and not wanting to pay more than $500 a month for whatever I got, he suggested that a class A motorhome might work better for my needs and budget. He pointed out that I could get a used gas class A for around $80,000 and the payments would come out to about $500 a month AND I could write off the interest on my taxes. That did sound pretty good. 

 

I had never really considered class A motorhomes before then. Up to that point, I couldn't see how it made sense to combine the motor and drivetrain with the "trailer." It had always seemed like it would be better to have a truck which could be used for other things and a mode of transportation when you arrived at your destination. If there were problems with the truck, you could still live in the 5th wheel while the truck was being repaired. But, the tax write off was very enticing. Later, I would talk to my friend about this and he told me that he WAS able to write off his truck, too, because of his rental properties and using it in regards to this "business." So, I wondered if I wanted to become a landlord for the purpose of writing off a truck or wouldn't it be easier just to get a class A? 

 

I started leaning more toward the class A idea and started taking a look at them. We went out to Mister Motorhome in Elk Grove and looked at the used ones they had to offer in the $80,000 price range. The used gas class A's they had looked pretty nice. There were even a couple of older diesel class A's in our price range. After this, I started seeing ads on t.v. and elsewhere for brand new class A's in the $80,000 price range. We went to Manteca to look at some of these and then down to San Jose to See Grins. Manteca Trailer salesman were very nice and answered all of our questions. The first salesman at See Grins admitted he had only worked there for a week and didn't know much about the R.V.'s. He went and got a salesman with more experience to help us and that salesman was helpful initially, up until he found out we were not going to buy something that day. Then he seemed to lose interest in us and gave us his card and told us to call him when we were ready to purchase. Of course, we were NOT ready to purchase that day and were still in an "exploratory" phase, but with his attitude, we would never consider going back to him for anything. 

 

Since we had stayed in a 5th wheel in San Diego but now were thinking about a class a, and we were planning a get away to to Palm Springs for the White Party, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to rent a class A for a few days and see how we liked living in one. How different would it be from the 5th wheel experience?

 

El Monte RV Rental

I started doing some research. I looked at "Cruise America" but they mostly rent class C motorhomes and we knew we were not interested in something that small with low ceilings. Their rigs seemed more geared toward family camping. I also looked at Road Bear and then El Monte RV. They were comparable in a lot of ways but the selling point for El Monte for me was that they had a location in San Bernardino, which is about 60 miles from Palm Springs. I had never driven an RV except for a ten minute test drive with a salesman in Manteca on a country road and still had a lot of anxiety about driving one in real traffic on a freeway.

 

El Monte requires that you buy insurance from them or have a "rider" from your insurance company. We had our home insurance through Allstate since we had owned our home but our auto insurance through Geico. I called Geico and found out that they are not willing to do "riders" for RV rentals. I called our Allstate agent and they would be willing to do a rider for an RV rental if we had our auto insurance through them. Their auto rates were about they same because we got a homeowners discount and so it was an easy decision to switch our auto insurance over to Allstate. The rider through Allstate was less expensive and more comprehensive as far as I could tell than the insurance through El Monte. Because I had never driven a class A motorhome, I wanted to be sure we were covered completely in case of any unforeseen accidents. 

 

To get the "rider," our Allstate agent needed information about the RV we were renting. I had called El Monte in San Bernardino and spoke to "R," who assured me that she would fax a form to my Allstate agent with the information he needed the following Sunday, four days before we would pick up the RV. I let my Allstate agent know to expect the fax when he came in on Monday. On Monday, my agent called to say there was no fax. I called El Monte and spoke with "F" and she got the fax sent that day.  I WAS surprised in San Bernardino that they still put a $1,000 on my credit card in case there were "damages." I thought that was what the rider was for but I did get the $1,000 back when we returned the RV so no big deal.

 

When we were taken out into the lot to go through the RV, Milton and I were both disappointed that it was much shabbier than we had expected. It was a 2006 "Flair" with 2 slide outs. I knew we had reserved a "Flair" but I didn't realize it would be ten years old!! It had over 90,000 miles on it. The agent, "F," who was very kind and helpful, went through everything on the RV rather quickly and I felt overwhelmed with trying to remember everything!! Milton and I were taking pictures as she went over each ding and scratch on the motorhome, of which there were plenty! She explained how to use the slide outs, the propane, the hookups, the generator and a lot of other stuff. Thankfully, I had done a lot of research and had watched youtube videos so I was able to follow the orientation but it was a LOT of information!! The ugly blue carpet had stains & floor outside the bathroom was pretty "soft." The whole checkout process was pretty fast.ps19

 

In the checkout process, at one point, I was asked if I wanted to pay $25 to have the gray and black water tanks emptied on return. At first i declined, saying that the purpose of this trip was to learn about those kinds of things. The agent said that was fine but if we didn't empty the tanks before return, we would be charged $75 to do so upon return. I thought about it for a minute and figured that $25 wasn't so bad and I could still try to empty the tanks if I wanted to have the experience but if there was a problem, it might be good to just let them do it. At the end of our four days, I was so glad I had paid the $25!!!

 

My anxiety was pretty high when I was handed the keys. Milton was going to follow me to the Happy Traveler RV Park in Palm Springs in the Prius. I didn't dare have the radio on or any distractions. I was extremely tense and aware of every bump in the road and every rattle and groan of the RV. It seemed very noisy on the road but I did develop some confidence in my ability to drive one of these behemoths and that was one of the main purposes of this "adventure."

 

ps21One of the things we were disappointed about was that this RV had a "tube" tv rather than a flat screen and, even with Happy Traveler's "cable" at the RV park, we would only be able to get about 3 English speaking channels. San Bernardino is only about 60 miles from Palm Springs. The gas tank appeared full when we picked up the "Flair" & you are expected to fill it up on return or El Monte will charge $6.00 a gallon!! We paid somewhere around $3.00 a gallon and for the 120 miles there & back came to $80! That seemed like a lot of gas but we are used to driving Prius's that get about 48 miles to the gallon.

 

Happy Traveler RV Park

The biggest anxiety I had about Happy Traveler was that all of the sites are "back-in." I had such minimal experience with driving a Class A motorhome, that I worried quite a bit about those back in sites. I was assured by Happy Traveler that I would be given an "Easy Back In" site. I watched some videos on youtube about backing in an RV into a site but all of those assumed backing in from the driver's side of the RV. That WOULD have made it much easier and anything called an "Easy Back-in" site should certainly be from the driver's side as it is much more difficult to back in from the passenger side!!! 

 

Upon arrival at Happy Traveler, we discovered that they don't take credit cards at all!! But they DID have our reservation, so I was happy for that!! There was a very sweet older woman to greet us and to tell us where our site was and since we didn't have $220 in our pockets, she said to just bring the cash by later. I'm not sure why they didn't mention the need for cash in our correspondence before our arrival. There was an office, but apparently there was new management and some transition and maybe some drama. I don't know, regardless, during our stay, there was rarely anyone in the actual office but they did refer people to a space where assistance could be found. ht2

 

We were given these little slips of paper with passwords for the "wifi." Unlike most hotel wifi, each device had to have it's own password and the passwords were only good for 3 days. The wifi would turn out to be very spotty and not very useful at all. Thankfully, my iPhone could be used as a "hot spot," although that bumped up our phone bill. I have never stayed in a motel with wifi as bad as Happy Traveler.

 

The toilet in the RV we had rented was plastic and had a hand flush at the height of the toilet seat. I think the 5th wheel we had in San Diego was a foot flush. I remember having used that one with no problem but this toilet looked like it might be problematic with "solids" and so I never used it, opting to use the toilets near the Happy Traveler office.

 

(After we got home, I did see an article and a youtube video that explained better how to use an RV toilet. Apparently, you pull the handle half way to fill toilet with water before depositing solids.)

 

El Monte had given us one pack of chemicals for the toilet and one roll of one ply tissue. They also insisted that we use a "pressure regulator" when hooking up to water at the RV park which then made the water pressure useless for taking a shower, (although, just enough to get water all over the floor because of the poorly designed shower screen).

 

The alternative to taking a shower in the RV was taking one in the Happy Traveler showers. Milton did this one of the days we were there. I looked at them and thought they looked to disgusting to use and will include some pics here. Between the non-existent water pressure problem in the RV, the poorly designed "shower curtain" and the disgusting Happy Traveler showers, I ended up not taking a shower for THREE days!!! I was so glad to get back to a motel after dropping off the RV!!!!

 

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It is hard for me to see the "economics" of owning a class A motorhome for short trips like this one. For anything less than 8 weeks a year, I think it makes more sense to stay in motels, where you usually know the quality of the motel/hotel chain before you leave home. It would only make economic sense in my mind if one were going on trips of more than a couple of months at a time or just parking it somewhere for the winter season and using it as a second home.  

 

A basic model, gas Class A runs about $80,000 or a nice used diesel pusher for about the same. Financed, about $500-600/mo? The payments could be tax deductible but even then, when you add in gas to get to where you want to go, insurance, the cost of an RV park, the costs go up. And then there are the inconveniences of having to make your own bed, hooking up and unhooking and having to deal with sewage hoses and then having to pay for storing the RV when not in use.  The "dream" of having an RV for short vacations is not so much a "dream" at that point as it could be a nightmare.

 

I suppose if one had a million bucks and could get one of those 2-3 hundred thousand luxury models with the ceramic toilet and shower that a 6'4" man can stand up in and not use a "pressure regulator" so you could have decent water pressure, and you could get a good phone plan so you could have wifi at a decent cost and not be dependent on whatever is available at the RV park and have satellite t.v. so, again, you are not dependent on the RV park.  I suppose if you had a family of four to six, the economics might get better, too. This RV rental from El Monte and staying at Happy Traveler was more like "camping" & we are not campers. When we are on vacation, we want to relax. Maybe, for a full timer, the economics would work but not for vacations less than 8 weeks a yr. 

 

Happy Traveler showed us another major drawback to an RV vacation. With motel or hotel chains, as I mentioned before, there is a certain level of quality expected and you are pretty clear about what to expect when you get there. If you are dissatisfied, management will usually try to move you to a better room or make things right. I guess there are some RV Park chains that are more reliable, where you kind of know what level of quality to expect. The RV park in Mission Bay, where we had stayed with the 5th wheel was 100 times better than Happy Traveler, more professionally run and had better wifi and cable.  I know it is possible to find good RV parks but Happy Traveler would not be one of those.

 

I chose this RV park primarily because it seemed the closest to downtown PS but, while there, I did see several others that might have been better choices and only slightly further out. 

 

Palm Springs 

We had been to Palm Springs a couple of times before this trip for The White Party weekend when thousands of gay men descend upon this small city. We did go to the actual "White Party" on one of those visits but it is pretty late at night for us at this point in our lives and too expensive for out budget, too. We usually go to a couple of the pool parties which are in the afternoon, much less expensive and still a lot of fun. On this visit, though, it rained A LOT! Essentially the pool parties were rained out. We were so glad we had not purchased our tickets before coming!! We had been to Palm Springs in the winter previously when it rained a little. We are feeling at this point that Palm Springs does not have reliable winter sunshine! We also learned that there really ins't much else to do in Palm Springs if your not attending White Party pool parties or other events or playing golf. 

 

ps7A friend had recommend we try Lulu while in Palm Springs, which is located in the heart of all the action on Palm Springs Drive. We stopped in around noon and made a reservation for 3pm but probably not necessary. There were four stylish millennial women taking reservations, talking among themselves but one could be distracted long enough to take a reservation. When we arrived at 3pm, we were told there would be about a 5-10 minute wait. I'm not sure if it was because we were a gay interracial couple or that we were "older" and not "cool enough" or what, but we watched other's walk in and could hear the interactions with the hostesses. Several walk-ins that did not have reservations were taken to tables before we were seated. I think there may have been one other party that had children that was made to wait also. After a few minutes of, what appeared to be discriminatory practice, I returned to the four hostesses and pointed out that we had a reservation for 3pm and we had been waiting about ten minutes while they had been seating others just walking in. Three of the hostesses looked at me perplexed but the fourth grabbed some menus and said, "we can seat you now." When we got into the restaurant, it was surprising to see how many empty tables there were!!

 

Apparently the "cool" looking people are seated out on the patio or toward the front but we were happy with our oversize booth on the back wall. The waiter assistant came and introduced himself and was very nice. Our waiter, David, was also very nice and accommodating. These two made Lulu a much more pleasant experience for us than the hostesses in the front. If you can get passed them and their attitude and obvious biases, the rest of the experience isn't so bad. I had the chicken piccata but was disappointed there were no capers. The food was average at best. We watched one table of two millennial parents, a baby and two toddlers while waiting for a food. Like so many parents today, they essentially ignored the kids and let them run wild, climbing all over the chairs, sitting on the top of the tables with their diapered behinds and wandering off to other tables to play with their toys. I am always surprised when people have children but no interest in actually raising them or teaching them anything!! Of course, that wasn't the fault of Lulu and this is a review of the restaurant, not parenting skills. Overall, the experience at Lulu was nothing special for us. We have much better restaurants in the SF Bay Area with far less attitude.

 

Our favorite restaurant by far on this visit and others, was Sherman's Deli and Bakery. It is such a great, casual, friendly atmosphere and excellent food. We highly recommend it! 

 

 

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Escondido 1960's- Click for story
2005- Darlene Visits for Gay Pride- Click to read story.
Me in first grade- Click for story.
1964- Luv Please- Click for story.
Me in my 20's in 1970's- Click for story.
The Psychedelic Experience- Click to read story.
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Women in Oils- Click for story
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Article

01. Introduction

03- Dads Family

03- Photos of my Father and his family

04- My Mother's Family

04- Photos of my Mom

04- Video of my Mom

04- Walling Family Reunions

04-Audio Files of My Mom

04. Billie

04. Ole

04.1. Forbidden Dreams of Love

04.2. Flames of Forbidden Love

04.3 Mom Writing Her Life Story

05- Jim Tarbert

05. Roger

1950's Grandview to Toppenish

1957-1958 1st Grade

1958-1959- Third Grade

1959- Palouse

1961- 4th Grade- Last time I wore a dress

1962- Abilene

1963- Escondido- Early 60's

1964- Darlene Marries Chuck

1964- My Beatle Haircut

1964-The Luv Please

1965 or 1966- Steve Castle

1965- In Foster Care

1966 Living with Darlene & Chuck in Seattle

1967- Juvenile Hall

1976- I Praise Thee (poem to Stanley)

1976- My Second Lover, Stanley Dunne

1976- Paul McCartney and Wings

1976-1330 Bush Street #9J

1977- 1667 Haight Street

1977- Trip to San Diego with Mary Jo

1977-1980- Tumultuous Relationship with John Perry

1978- 525 Haight Street

1979- September- Dad is Murdered

1980's- AIDS- Death and Dying

1980- Winter- First Trip to New York

1980- Word, Sound and Power

1981- Milton- Falling in Love

1982-1993 465 Waller Street

1982-1994 Computers to MacNursing

1984- 33rd Birthday

1985- Graduation from Nursing School

1985- Trip to Hawaii (Oahu)

1988- MIdnight Caller

1989- Earthquake!

1991- Aug 10th- Mom Passes Away

1991- Black Males in Oils

1991- Crack of My Life

1993- Move to Vallejo & Our First Home

1995-1. Road Trip to Washington

1995-2. Surprise Trip to Vegas

1995-3. Grandmother Rogers & Aunts Visit Darlene's

1995-4. Amber

1998- Camping at Russian River

2000 -Thoughts about Progressive Christians

2000- Resignation from John George

2001- April- Trip to Cancun

2001- Peace and Justice

2001- September 11th

2002- April-Puerto Vallarta & Blue Bay Getaway

2002- Nov 12th- My Stepfather, George McHenry Passes Away

2003- Trip to D.C. and N.Y.

2004- Feb- Road Trip to Baha Mexico

2004- Walling Family Reunion in Spokane

2005- Christmas Poem

2005- Darlene Visit for Pride Celebration

2005- Trip to Orlando

2005-1. Europe- London

2005-2. Europe- Paris

2005-3. Europe- Venice

2005-4. Europe- Florence

2005-5. Europe- Rome

2005-6. Europe- Athens

2005-7. Knee Surgery & Tongue Biopsy

2006 Christmas Poem

2006- February 23- Times Herald

2006- Palm Springs White Party

2006- Trip to Seattle

2006-July 8th Solano Peace and Justice Coalition BBQ

2007- Feb- Carnival Destiny- Our First Cruise

2007- Tre and Casey Visit

2008- Aug 15-18 Spokane Visit

2008- Psycho Song

2009- Honored by Vallejo Gay Network

2009- Women in Oils

2010 Christmas Poem

2010- Feb. R.C. Mariner of the Seas Mexican Riviera Cruise

2010- June 24- Badlands

2010- Trip to Seattle

2010-1. Europe- Amsterdam

2010-2. Europe- Paris

2010-3. Europe- Barcelona & Sitges

2010-4. Europe- Madrid

2011-1. Feb. My Fabulous 60th Birthday Weekend

2011-2. April- L.A., Palm Springs & "The White Party"

2011-3. Poem- Girl From Medical Lake

2011-4. Old Man Dancing

2011-5. May- Misty and Alex Visit

2011-6. August- Darlene and Sean's Visit

2011-7. Alex 16-18 & Pics

2012- March- Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera with Family

2013- Wedding

2014- Christmas Poem

2014- First Gay Cruise

2014- September Road Trip to San Diego

2015- Seasonal Affective Blues

2015- Second Gay Cruise

2015- War on Christmas poem

2015-"Badlands" and Gay Bar Etiquette

2015-September 8. Political History

2016 Do Not Speak for Gay Males

2016- April- Palm Springs RV Adventure

4/4/2016- Not Going Along to Get Along

9/4/15- Liberals vs Conservatives

1964- Luv Please- Click for story.
2005- Darlene Visits for Gay Pride- Click to read story.
Palouse- Click for story
The Psychedelic Experience- Click to read story.
5th Grade in Abilene Tx- Click for story
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click for story.
Grandview- Click for story
Gay Disco 70's- Click for story
Beatle haircut- Click for story.
Cockettes & Angels of Light- Click for story
1970's Promiscuity- Click for story.
1958-1959- 3rd Grade- Click to read story.
Where I was born- Click for story.
My Dad's Family- Click for story.
1982-1993 Waller Street- Click to read story.
1974- First Trip to Europe- Click to read story.
Photos of Dad & His Family- Click for story.
Me in first grade- Click for story.
1967- Summer of Love- Click to read story.
1973- Psych Tech Program- Click for story.
2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
Earthquake! Click to read story.
Amber- Click to read story.
2014- Road trip to San Diego- Click for story.
4th Grade- Click for story.
Summer of Love- Click to read story.
Me in my 20's in 1970's- Click for story.
1957-1958 1st Grade- Click to read story.
1974- On Larkin Street- Click for story.
Women in Oils- Click for story
2005 Darlene Visit for Gay Pride- Click for story.
Me in 3rd grade- Click for story.
2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
Forbidden Dreams of Love- Click for story.
Black Men in Oils- Click to read story
My Mother- Click for more photos.
1973 "You have to be hurt..." Click to read the story.
Click to read "Introduction."
Escondido 1960's- Click for story
Second Gay Cruise- Click for story.
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click to read story.
Darlene Marries Chuck- Click for story.