Thursday, February 26, 2015

When Las Vegas was famous for its mushroom clouds

As you drive northwest of Las Vegas on U.S. 95, you’ll pass the Nevada National Security Site, formerly called the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear weapons were tested from 1951 to 1992. In the 1950s, the mushroom clouds of nuclear blasts could be seen from downtown Las Vegas’ hotels, and became tourist attractions. In this photo from the era, a showgirl wears a mushroom cloud headpiece to promote the tests. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Historical Society.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dumping in Phoenix to an audience

Driving into Phoenix was horrible. It's a big, sprawling, congested city with freeways every which way. The last place on Earth I want to drive my motorhome is in a big city.

I had to be there for a business meeting. After spending the previous night in a gorgeous, spacious campsite surrounded by saguaro cactus and wildflowers at Picacho Peak State Park outside Tucson, I was forced in Phoenix onto a stingy-sized gravel pad smack dab at the entrance to the sprawling Desert Shadows RV Park. There — at the very lip of the park — at its very portal — I enjoyed the sights and sounds of passing cars, RVs, UPS trucks, scooters and golf carts.

The locals — those snowbirds who come each winter to escape Minnesota, play horseshoes and walk their poodles — strolled by one after another. They were very friendly, laid back, enjoying their golden years. They smiled and waved. Some said hi. But they stared at my RV. What did they see? Then it hit me! They were reacting to my prominent position at the gateway to the park: "How did he get to become the official park greeter?"

But, there I was, just inside the park, no more than 20 yards from 29th Street. I immediately met my neighbor, a dog named Ruby, a Lab/Border Collie mix who believed that life is not acceptable unless you have a stuffed doll in your mouth. Ruby became my instant friend as I prepared to hook up my RV to the three camping essentials — water, electricity and sewer.

Ruby's owners seemed nice, a couple from Colorado. As I prepared to attach the sewer hose in preparation of dumping, they smiled from their lawn chairs not more than 12 yards away — a superb vantage point to witness sewer dumping, all the while relaxing with a cocktail.

Hooking up to electric and water is no big deal to me. I don't care if anyone watches. But hooking up the sewer, especially when the very first action is to dump full tanks — in my case nearly overflowing tanks — is not something where I want an audience.

AT SUCH MOMENTS, should someone be watching, I think, "What if the hose should come unattached, or breaks, or pops a huge leak and spews the vile contents every which way?

Oh, it was okay for Ruby to watch. Dogs don't count.

As I gathered up my hose in preparation of the forthcoming purge, I struck up a conversation with the neighbors. I think it was a subconscious defense mechanism — just in case something should go wrong. Maybe if they got to know me a bit they would not be so upset if the hose broke or came unhooked or sprung a massive hole. "Boy, they sure do pack the RVs tight in here," I said to the woman as I prepared to attach my hose. "Oh, this is nothing," she said. "We were in a place on this trip where there was only six inches from our slideout to the neighbors'. You couldn't even walk between our coach and theirs."

I told her I, too, had experienced such places.

That ended the small talk.

I felt better. I returned to the matter at hand — the dump!

Finally, both ends of the hose in place, I pulled gently on the handle, ever so slowly at first to be sure all was okay, that no unwanted ooze was spewing forth. All was good. So I pulled a little harder. With each tug, I could hear the increasing, reassuring sound of liquid flowing like perfection into the bowels of Mother Earth.

It was a flawless dump. No smell. No leaks. My neighbors drank their cocktails. Ruby played with her doll.

I retreated to my RV and listened to traffic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Younger than 55? You can still stay at a "55+" RV park

If you are younger than 55, you can still stay at an RV park that advertises itself as "55+." You don't really need to be 55 or older.

A federal law says that if a park wants to call itself 55+ it must not rent more than 20 percent of its spaces to people younger than 55. So should someone show up younger than that, the park management can accept them, provided the park is still below the 20 percent "young people" occupancy limit. But they have the right to turn them away if they choose.

"We're a don't tell, don't ask park," one 55+ park owner told me, which was her way of saying "we can take anybody." But what she did not say is that the main reason a park would turn away people younger than 55 would be if they had kids along.

Their residenets don't want kids around. They don't want them riding their bikes, screaming or otherwise making noise. "These snowbirds would rather be around snakes than kids," a friend in the RV industry told me.

So instead of advertising "no kids" on its sign, a park says "55+."

You find these parks mostly in snowbird areas like Arizona. You seldom see them elsewhere.

When I was younger I once got turned away at a 55+ park. I was probably around 40. I didn't have any kids with me. But I did have an old, ugly motorhome, so maybe that was the reason. Whatever the case, I was not allowed to stay and that made me mad.