I said in my last post we decided to buy a lot for investment in MCC, and after 10 days of reviewing every option (as there was not much else to do in COVID-19 shelter-in-place), we finally decided to buy a water facing lot, lot #334. Although the deal took a couple of weeks to close the prior owners allowed us to move onto the lot early giving us a badly needed place to stay.
The lot we bought had some limited improvements. A small Casita (9 x 13), pavers giving us a walkway to the private dock, and some nice outdoor furniture (firepits, tables and chairs).
Then we bought a boat! I never thought I would write those words. But in all fairness it is very different from someone else who does that. The canal only allow electric boats that run no faster than 5 knots. As we now have a water lot and private dock this was mandatory. The boat was owned by someone else in MCC so we got a good deal. Of course the boat is old (25 years) and slow, but perfect for our simple needs. The bad news is the boat died on the 2nd day we had it, and is getting repaired now. No worries as it needed other work anyway.
I have covered a lot of time on this post because apart from buying the lot and the boat, our activities were very limited. Leslie continued her bread baking hobby giving most away or feeding the ducks and fish off of our dock.
Our daughter Madison came for a visit one day, and the Kelly’s also came out. Kelly brought me my favorite Jersey Mikes sandwich so their visit was especially welcome. Leslie also went to LA a couple times to visit her friends Rosemary and Sara, but this was limited because we both observed social distancing the whole time.
One great idea that came from COVID, but will continue after, is the weekly video chats we have with our kids and their families, plus separate calls with other good friends.
After about 8 weeks at MCC, mostly in lock down, we were happy to move on. But it was a great place to stay and we look forward to coming back in October.
As I said in my last post we moved our coach to MCC (Motorcoach Country Club) on March 20, which was still pretty early in the COVID restrictions. Although we had reservations for sometime in advance we were worried they would close to renters like us. MCC has 400 RV lots in a gated community that includes a 9 hole par 3 golf course, 2 miles of navigable waterways (slow electric boats only), a very nice restaurant, and of course tennis courts, pools, gyms and meeting places. We believe it is the nicest RV resort in the country and is certainly the best we have seen.
All of the lots are privately owned and most have improvements ranging from simple outdoor kitchens to 800 square foot build outs with private pools and hot tubs. There are 3 lot types: golf course , water and privacy lots. The privacy lots are against the outer borders of the resort while the other two are up against the golf course or water way respectively. While privately owned many are available for rent and the nightly prices vary depending upon the location type and the level of improvements on the lot. The rentals are managed by the association who keep about 25% of the rental fee while the lot owner gets the rest. So this property can be (and is for many including us in the future) a rental investment property like any condo or house you could buy and rent out. As this is the best RV resort in the country, and the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area is in very high demand for snowbirds, this can be a solid investment.
We have been discussing buying a lot here for over 2 years, and this visit was always intended to review the idea. But the COVID crisis cancelled our other plans and after MCC agreed to allow us to stay as renters for an extended period of time to wait out some part of the “shelter in place” requirements, we decided now was the time to actually buy a lot.
Our rental when we first got there was at privacy lot #345. It is a very nice lot (and also for sale). It had a small casita, a nice large sheltered outdoor kitchen, a very large hot tub and some waterfall and fire features. Since we couldn’t go anyplace we used our time to walk around the entire resort multiple times a day looking at every lot for sale and trying to understand what suited our investment needs and personal desires the best. It is a 1 1/2 to 2 mile walk each time so it helped keep us moving as well.
Our rental at lot #345 ended with the beginning of April so we had to make a decision by then and move lots as the COVID restrictions meant leaving was not a viable option at this time. More on this in my next post.
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.
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.
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 two more short posts upcoming.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.