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On being gone

Life changed dramatically for Leslie and I this year. On January 12th our first grand child was born to our son Patrick and his wife Mysha. Ronan Michael Baker may be the cutest kid ever, of course I may also be slightly biased.

I stepped down from my role as Group President for ASSA ABLOY EMS & HS on March 1st. I have been with Securitron since 1984, we sold to ASSA ABLOY in 1998 so it has been a great run. But time for me to dedicate to Leslie and the family.

We leased our home in Phoenix the beginning of May and moved full time into our 44′ long Newmar Dutch Star! So we are on the move and look forward with great joy to spending more time with friends we have made all over this country. Hope so see you on the road

Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, CA. Eight weeks of “Shelter in Place” for COVID safety

It was now official: COVID-19 changes EVERYTHING! To this point in our travels the pandemic had only lightly affected us. A trade show in Las Vegas was postponed but we still went to the same RV Park and just sheltered. We also had not been able to see a bunch of friends we had planned to see or do any other local activities. But at this point everything really starts over.

Me and my sweet girl on the road

We had always planned to go to Motorcoach Country Club in Indio (near Palm Springs) for a few days as we have thought about buying a lot there for rental investment or staying at during the winter in the future. After that we were supposed to fly to Miami and get on a cruise ship for a 2 week cruise through the Panama Canal ending back in Los Angeles. Once back to LA we were going to stay at Dockweiller State RV Park on the beach and go to our daughter Madison’s graduation from USC with 2 more Masters degrees (MBA and Masters in Real Estate Development MRED). The cruise was obviously cancelled, Dockweiller was closed for COVID and while Madison still graduated (with honors I must add) there was no ceremony or celebration.

A view of the beautiful Motorcoach Country Club

So instead we decided to just stay at MCC for the next 8 weeks while figuring out what to do next. As I like to keep these short I will cover our actual stay in tow more short posts upcoming.

Lake Mead – March 6 to March 20

Our next stop was at Lake Mead RV Park.  A very nice spot that is part of the National Park system so I was able to use my lifetime membership to enter and exit without hassle.  COVID-19 closures and changes had not really started yet so we went through a normal sign in and were escorted to our spot.  Much of the park is filled with mobile vacation homes and many spots have long term RV rentals.  But the entire line of spots closest to the lake (and with unobstructed views) was for RV rentals like us, so our spot offered great views.

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That is Lake Mead view from our coach.  The land in between is for rising and falling water levels.  The lake looks low, but this is not as low as we have seen it.  

Our original plan was to keep the coach here while we went into Las Vegas for the industry show I was supposed to attend, plus some other friends were going to meet us there and see the town for a few days.  Obviously by this time all of that was cancelled.  But we still planned to drive the coach into town for a couple of days to get some warranty work done by NIRVC (National Indoor RV Center) as they are a great Newmar dealer and service center.   But when it was time to go into town I was too nervous about COVID to be willing to leave what is in effect my home with someone while I stayed at a hotel.  In retrospect we probably could have done it safely but much was (is?) still poorly understood.

A couple of days after we arrived is when I stared to feel COVID restrictions were going to come soon.  By this point no states had forced restrictions, but it sure was in discussion.  So I went and shopped early to get food for the 2-3 weeks we were going to be there and at this time there was no rush of shoppers or shortages of anything.  Sure enough two days later was a panic and people flooded the grocery stores to buy anything they could.  One thing I didn’t anticipate was the run on toilet paper!  Still seems crazy to me, but sure enough it became impossible to find.

Basically we stayed “sheltered in place” at Lake Mead for two weeks.  We actually tried to stay longer, but they were shutting down and wouldn’t let us extend our stay.  So we made arrangements to move on the Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, CA.  Much more on that in upcoming posts.

 

Desert Diamond Distillery- Kingman, AZ

We have been to a few Harvest Host places so far and enjoy them a lot.  The negative has been that they can be far off the main road, and sometimes the roads have been narrow which can be difficult for our 44′ rig towing another 20′ of tow bar and car.

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Desert Diamond Distillery 

Harvest Host is great because you stay for free (with no hook-ups), with the expectation that you tour or use their facility.  Most of our visits have been to wineries, and we have picked up some wines Leslie really loves.  Other places can be farms, museums, golf courses, breweries, and in this case a custom small rum distillery (they use the term “boutique distillery”).  The place was only a few miles from the freeway in Kingman, AZ near their little municipal airport.

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The parking area at DDD.  Our rig is the largest one in the back.  Plenty of room for all

Inside they had a nice tasting room,  much like a nice winery would offer.  You could also pay for a small tour and tasting combo which we did.  The rum was fine, but Leslie doesn’t drink much rum so we didn’t get that.  They did have a vodka that was made from their distilled rum and we bought three bottles.  We drank a little but gave two away as gifts.  We also bought some boutique foods these types of places always have.  In this case I bought pickled asparagus and pickled green beans.  They were both spiced up with hot chilies and were very good for a quick yet healthy afternoon snack.

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The tasting room

The tour was given by owner.  She and her husband bought the places 15 years ago and have slowly built it up.  She did a fine job, except she spent too much time telling us what was wrong with large batch rum, and how bad the other boutique places were.  In any case they had a good story and we enjoyed it.

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The main distillery room

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Guess what’s in here

We stayed the night in the parking lot and the next morning before we left we went over to their local regional airport which was right nearby and had breakfast in this cute little diner.  Clearly locals are their key clientele, as everyone knew each other except of course us.  Like our other Harvest Host visits, a very unique and enjoyable stay.

 

Dazzo’s in Wikieup, AZ. March 3 2020

Our next stop was only an hour or two past our last stop and further on the way to Las Vegas.  I picked a small RV park in Wikieup, AZ (yes that is a real town).  I picked this place named Dazzos to stay at for several reasons.  It was right on the main road, it was cheap ($30 a night if we paid full price), they are a member of a new fee discount group we joined named Passport America (so the price of $30 was cut in half to only $15), and they were owned by a small restaurant on site that features Chicago comfort food favorite like Chicago style hot dogs, Chicago Beef, deep dish pizza and other items.

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Our rig was a little nicer than the others here.  Many were here for months on end and some even lived here full time.

The food was actually really good, and there was a store attached that sold some specialty foods but mostly knick-knacks based around the area, Chicago and the old west.  The negative was it was owned and ran by a right wing person who ran Fox news all day and had posters up featuring his “shoot first” attitude about gun ownership.  I couldn’t care less about your politics unless you thrust them at me.  But the food was good enough, and the people around us were nice enough that we still enjoyed the place.  It too only supported 30 Amp electrical though.

 

Moving towards Las Vegas: North Ranch Escapees RV Park, Congress AZ

We were supposed to be in Las Vegas for the a very large trade show in my industry named ISC-West.  It takes place in Las Vegas every year in March or early April.  While it was cancelled due to COVID we had RV Park reservations based around it and decided to just go ahead with those plans.  We could easily do the drive from Phoenix to Lake Mead (near Las Vegas) in one day but decided to do some different type of stuff and really take our time getting there.

Our first stop is just 120 miles northwest of Phoenix in a small town named Congress, AZ.  It is just north of Wickenburg on the way to Vegas.   A few months ago we joined a large industry group named “Escapees”.  They have many events throughout the country and across the year.  We had actually planned on being at their largest one in Wyoming during mid-June but it too was cancelled due to COVID concerns.   Well they also own some member only RV parks and as this one was on the way we decided to give it a shot.  The good news is it is very cheap ($15 a night), and reasonably convenient.  The bad news is you get what you pay for.  The park is mostly filled with long term or seasonal rentals who have old and low end trailers and fifth wheels.  The sites are small (we actually couldn’t put one side of our slides out because it would have hit the electrical box and we couldn’t put our awnings out on the other side because they would have hit a tree) and not very level, the total place is very  dusty, and they only have 30 Amp electrical hook-ups when our coach needs 50 Amps to run everything.  But they did have this nice little cactus garden and the people were all very friendly.

In truth we don’t mind staying at a lower end place if it is large enough and the hook-ups work well.  And the 30 Amp limit really only matter is we need to run all of our Air Conditioners (we have three) or high amp appliances . We are not at all snobbish about the units around us as most people in RVs ave been so friendly no matter what kind they have.  We stayed there for 2 nights and moved on.  We won’t go back there because of the small site size and 30 Amp electrical, everything else was fine.

 

Monte Vista Village RV Park in Mesa, AZ

We left Tucson earlier than we had planned to head back to the Phoenix area. We moved on February 21st and stayed until the 1st of March.  I had a doctors and dentist appointment in the area, plus both Leslie and I needed to go into our respective offices for short visits.

We normally stay at The Motorcoach Resort in Chandler but it was booked full.  The Monte Vista Village was way far out from the places we had to go, but it seemed like a reasonable place since we couldn’t seem to find something nice that was closer.

This is a huge place with a very large amount of small bungalow type home sites, plus many other RV spaces in the front area.  But we got escorted back to anew area dedicated to RVs, especially larger ones like ours.   We ended up parking right next to another Newmar Dutch Star Motor-home that is the same floor plan (4369) as ours with virtually all of the same features.  Theirs was a 2018 and ours is  a 2019, but still very similar.

That automatically drew us to them and them to us, and we ended up have a great week with Russ (aka TJ) and his wife Tamara.  Both are retired Navy who live in Newport Beach, Virginia.  Russ was the Captain of an Aircraft Carrier and Tamara was a nurse/anesthetist!  Two very special people who shared many great storied and tips about RV life.   It turned out our going to this place because we had no options was a great “mistake”.  A wonderful RV Park and nice area around it in Mesa, and some terrific new friends.

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Tamara outside talking with Leslie

 

Back in Tucson for Leslie; Colorado for Scott

After Patrick, Mysha and Ronan left (and the sales meeting also had ended) we went back down to our coach in Tucson at the Casino Del Sol RV Park.  But I only had the weekend there as on February 17th I had to fly to Colorado for the “ASSA ABLOY Base Camp”.  This is an annual meeting of the top 70-80 executives for the company from around the entire world.  It was in Stockholm last year but I was lucky to have it so close to home this year.  While I flew into Denver Airport the actual event was at Keystone Lodge at the Keystone Ski Resort about 2 hours up in the Rockies from Denver.  I was lucky to have a private driver and car shared only with my good friend Paul Dauphin for the drive up,  It was great to spend this time with such a great guy again.

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The view from my room at Keystone,  We have stayed away from the cold in the coach, but this was business.  I’ll admit the resort was great and the area beautiful.

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A little colder than I’m used to

Leslie din’t want to stay by herself on the coach so her good friend Rosemary Thompson flew in from LA to stay with her.  Rosemary also had a friend of heirs from her college days there and the three of them toured the area.

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Rose, her friend and Leslie touring Tucson

 

Leslie certainly enjoyed here time with friends and I actually got a great deal out of my trip.  Good networking, met up with some old fiends, and learned some new things.  The only real down component was the first effect I had of the coming COVID-19 disaster.  Our colleagues from China were restricted due to the pandemic.  Although a couple participated by video conference it was not the same as being there.  But because of our global footprint we were a little more up to date on the possible economic effects and started early preparation.  Although admittedly we couldn’t see how much the world changed in the next month.

A week with Ronan: We are now MiMi and Big Poppy

While we were in Tucson in February our youngest son Patrick, his wife Mysha and their son (our only grandchild so far) Ronan were scheduled to be in Phoenix for a few days to go the wedding of a friend.

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Our cute little grandson Ronan at our time share apartment the week we were in Phoenix.

That week was also  the annual DSS Sales Meeting.  DSS (Door Security Solutions) is the in house sales team for ASSA ABLOY (my employer) commercial products in the USA.  It consists of nearly 500 field sales people and support staff.  In my prior role as a Group President I obviously was very involved with this fantastic team.  Now I remain a direct employee but have stepped away from my full time role and act as more of a consultant.   In any case I was asked to attend the meeting and was pleased to be going.  By coincidence and great stroke of luck the meeting was in Tempe (right next to Phoenix) this year!

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MiMi and Ronan. Cute and cuter

So with both events going on we obviously decided to spend that week back in Phoenix.  We had a really low monthly rate at the RV Park in Tucson so there was no point in cancelling there. We thought about driving Elsie (our RV) to Phoenix for the week, but we planned to have Ronan overnight when Patrick and Mysha went to the wedding, so Leslie arranged for a time share we have to be used as it is more of an apartment type facility.   The place she selected was The Legacy off Baseline Rd. just south of downtown Phoenix.

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Ronan and our 17 year old dog Sophie. Sophie lives with our older son James and his wife Alma now because RV living is not possible for her.

Patrick, Mysha and Ronan stayed with our older son James and his wife Alma.  But they all came to our time share every day for dinner or to hang out at the pool.  James and Alma were there most of the time as well and the entire week was just a blast.  We had a little birthday celebration for Mysha one evening, and Ronan stayed overnight and away from his parents for the first time in his life.  The overnight visit went very well, and while I helped Leslie did a MiMi level job being in charge and taking  care of every detail with the baby.

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Leslie got a cake for Myshas Birthday

The sales meeting went very well for me and I was able to have some productive sessions with some of the senior staff about specific strategy issues.  It felt good to contribute again, even if it was just minor.

And we had a  great time with our boys, their wives and our grandson.  I cooked one night, we had pizza once, took everyone out to the Legacy restaurant at the golf club, had game night: it was all just wonderful to spend this time with everyone.

 

 

Titan Missile Silo

Leslie did some research on things to do while we were in Tucson and noticed there was a Titan Missile Museum about 50 miles southwest of where we were staying.  Her selection of this was based solely on her feelings this would be something I would enjoy.  Boy was she right on that one!

The Titan Missile program was a cold war era “mutually assured destruction”  program that allowed the USA to launch ICBM’s (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) to anywhere within a 6,000 mile range of the silo.  They each delivered 9 megatons of explosive power, basically enough to totally destroy a large urban area.  There were 54 of these in total, 18 each in Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas.  They were installed starting in late 1962 and the last one was finally eliminated in 1987 as part of the USA/USSR treaty of nuclear dismantling.

 

The 1st part of the tour was a very interesting 30 minute film covering many of the details and politics of the era.  Then  they gave us a guided tour of the underground bunkers were the crew worked and lived while on duty.  It was a very secure area and clearly designed for maximum safely and utility, not personal comfort.  This was finally followed by a self guided tour of the area above ground that showed some of the equipment and site security.

As a cold war kid it was very moving and meaningful.  There were also some younger people there who also seemed to appreciate the awesome meaning of what this represented.  Many thanks to Leslie Baker for arranging for this wonderful day for us.

Tucson – Casino del Sol RV Park

On the 1st of February we moved from Phoenix to Tucson. Mostly this was just to be on the move and spend some time in an area I really like but haven’t spent much time around. We picked this spot because it looked very good when researching on the internet, received solid reviews, and is next to a casino which gave us walking access to some decent restaurants, plus I like to play poker and Leslie occasionally plays Pai Gow.

Our spot as Casino del Sol RV park. The lights around it are intended to keep critters from coming in!

Our intent was to spend the entire month of February there, and that allowed for a very low daily rate. But a series of activities changed that. First of all our son Patrick, his wife Mysha and their son (our grandson) Ronan came to Phoenix for a wedding. So we decide to use a time share we had and went back to Phoenix for the time they were there. I will cover that in a separate post.

The same week Patrick, Mysha and Ronan were there was the annual DSS (ASSA ABLOY Sales Org for the commercial US/Canada) sales meeting was held in Phoenix and I was invited in my consulting role for the group. Then the following week ASSA ABLOY had a global executive team meeting at Keystone in Colorado that I was honored to be invited to as well. I will also post on these later.

Finally we came back to Phoenix the last week of February because I had a doctors appointment up there (I became ill on my Keystone trip) and Leslie did some prep work with Darren for our taxes.

Our only side trips in the time we were there were to a Titan Missile Silo (which will also receive a separate post as it was a great trip for us), and Darren came down and took us to a great play “The Book of Mormon”. While we had heard wonderful things about the play, it exceeded our expectations. Before the play we went to German restaurant near where Darren lived in the short time he live in Tucson that was also great.

We really enjoyed our relatively short time there, Leslie did well at Pai Gow and I did well in a couple of Poker Tournaments. I wish I had more photos form our time there, but most where of the missile silo!