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Our Christmas in Nevada and Beyond

December 19th, 2022

Joshua picked us up at the Las Vegas airport and we drove to The M Resort south of Las Vegas  for whatever sleep we could get that night.  Doug had booked a points room as we just needed a place to crash before driving 100 km / 60 mi or so to Pahrump on Tuesday morning.  If we HAD landed on time (5pm instead of 8:30 pm), this place gave us a casino to play at before bed but because it was already nearly 10pm now, we skipped that and went to bed.  Josh  has a three hour time  difference while we have a ten hour one so we’re all tired.

Tuesday morning we were up by 3AM and were wide awake!  After we all showered, we decided at 4:30 to just hit the road and hope to get to Pahrump just before dawn.  Well we did, but turned out that the storage place does not open until 7 so we drove over to Walmart to get a few things we will need (wrapping paper, beer etc.) and THAT didn’t open until 6 so we had to sit there for fifteen minutes until it opened.

We returned to Pahrump Valley Storage by 6:45 and sat there for fifteen minutes too until our access code would open the gate.

We found the truck and trailer in pretty good shape.  While Josh helped Doug get the truck ready to go, Fran went to the trailer to get a few things we’ll need at Serena and Kurt’s and within an hour, we were on the road.  The truck battery started no problem with our little jump start power unit that was only depleted one quarter – pretty good for sitting there a year!  Everything else was in good shape – it was even pretty clean on the outside!  The solar panels were charged up and the only problem Fran found in her cursory overview was a couple of ant traps that had sort of exploded but even they were a not a very big mess.The only problem we discovered was a missing a blind spot mirror that probably fell off due to the dry summer weather.

Josh dropped off his rental near the Walmart and we returned there to get an oil change which it turned out they couldn’t do (we tried a couple of other places in town with no luck) and we were on our way to Reno by 9:30 am – it’s about a 6-7 hour drive and it was quite uneventful.  We stopped too often for diet coke but we made it to Serena and Kurt’s before 4:30.

We unpacked and enjoyed a few cold ones catching up before ordering some pizza for dinner for all five of us.  Fran got back in touch with United to track our missing bag and apparently it will arrive in Reno tomorrow…..  Josh, Doug and Fran crashed by 8pm barely able to keep their eyes open.

Wednesday, we were all awake by 3 AM again and by six when Serena got up (she was going to work from home today) we got up and began the task of opening all our online shopping boxes and spent the morning wrapping.  We shared leftover pizza for lunch and midafternoon we went to a state park with Serena to give the dogs a run – it was a gloriously sunny day and not as cold as we had anticipated:  11C / 52F that day.  While there was no snow at Serena’s house, here in the valley there was a couple of inches.

Serena and Kurt’s house:

Upon returning to the house, Serena and Fran went out to go looking for Mother of the Bride dresses.  Didn’t buy anything but found one good option amongst the four stores they checked out.  They picked upon the some food for dinner and we had a quiet evening at the house (Kurt had to work the 1-9 shift that day) and the three of us managed to stay up until 9 that night.

Our duffel bag did show up while Fran and Serena were out.  Hip hip hurray! Nothing seemed to be missing and the bag was none the worse for wear.

Thursday, we woke up around 4am feeling somewhat more rested.  Fran finished her Canadian passport renewal  (Josh will take it to Canada to mail) and we all took care of a few things online while Serena left for work (hoping to have a short day) and Kurt was off today and tomorrow.  We met Serena at the Grand Sierra Resort for Fat Tuesday’s mudslides after she got off work and then went home to meet up with Kurt.  That evening we took everyone to dinner and then took a drive to look at the Christmas lights in the Hidden Valley neighbourhood.

Friday was a day of finishing up wrapping etc. and in the afternoon after Serena got home from early, we went back to the Grand Sierra Resort where we met up with Kurt’s family for a bit.  We had hoped to go ice skating on their outdoor rink after some Fat Tuesday’s but we did not know that we had to reserve ahead and they were full.   Their grandkids played in the arcade for a while and that night Serena and Kurt treated us all to take out and we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – what a hoot as always!

courtesy of Visit Franklin

After the movie we began our Christmas resent openings because Kurt is working both the 24th and 25th until 1pm each day.  So we did our stockings; this year we mixed it up a bit and each bought two stocking stuffers for everyone and it was fun.

As you know, Serena and Kurt have no children but they do have three pets now:  dogs: Heidi and Titan and a new cat named Bruce:

The ever excited Titan
Heidi sits with Fran in the backseat of our truck
Bruce loves his Christmas present

Heidi is clearly the boss and Titan follows her around constantly and the majority of the time they get along.  Bruce however, thinks he’s a dog but Heidi knows he’s not!

Titan can be very anxious at times and once Fran threw his toy and it landed a little high for him – here he is trying to get it down:

Christmas Eve day, Fran took Heidi for a walk in the afternoon.

Kurt’s family all came over in the afternoon (there are 6 of them: mom, dad, sister, brother in law and their two kids) and they did present openings before dinner (non-Santa stuff) and we did about half of our gifts.  Our family had all worked together to make a Christmas dinner complete with ham, cheesy potatoes, green beans, stuffing and 3 desserts and Kurt’s family brought along a couple of dishes too.  We all enjoyed that before we called it a night so that the kids could get home to get to bed before Santa came.

Piper & Colton with their dad, Jacob and Joshua
Kurt and Serena

Since Kurt was at work Christmas morning, the four of us enjoyed a big breakfast together and when he got home we opened the rest of our gifts before heading over to Nikki & Jacob’s in Fernley for dinner (that’s Kurt’s sister and her husband’s place).  Santa had come and Piper and Colton were working through playing with all their gifts while Kurt’s parents, Cindy and Mark helped Nikki with Christmas dinner of prime rib and fixings and we brought a couple of dishes as well.  It was another meal of overindulgence but everything was yummy.

A Strange family tradition is for Cindy to buy everyone Christmas pajamas for  next year’s Christmas card,  and she involved us in order to have us join them in a family photo:

We got back to Serena’s around 8:30 as Joshua’s flight back to Toronto was at 6 am and Serena was going to take him to the airport at 4:30.  Before bed we said out goodbyes to Josh and slept a little longer the next morning – getting back in the swing.

The weather during our stay has been dry and sunny and a little warmer each day.  Today the 26th, we are supposed to hit 12C / 54F before the clouds roll in and it begins to get wet – left over California rains.

Kurt had to work again today the 26th, but now he’s on afternoons so he works 1-9.  Tomorrow morning we begin our drive to Washington State where we’ve booked a moving truck to empty out our storage unit in Rochester to move it all to a unit in Fallon – about 99 km  / 60 mi from Serena’s – a more convenient location since we rarely end up in the pacific northwest anymore.  We hope to cull some stuff as well and give Serena the things that have been stored in there for her all these nearly 9 years.  We hope to make it at least most the distance in one day picking up the truck around 10 on Wednesday.

So we left early Tuesday morning when Serena got up for work and hit all kinds of weather: rain and wind in Nevada, sunshine in California,

snow in Oregon through the Willamette Pass

and then rain and more rain in Washington State.  We made it to Centralia (near Rochester) where we spent the night in a cheap hotel.  We were up on the early side and made out way to the storage unit and at 7 were allowed in (we are sure it used to be 24 hours but whatever….).  We spent three hours going through some stuff to see what we wanted to keep, sell or donate.

We took a few boxes as well as our old headboard and footboard from our bed and the one captain’s twin bed set we still from our kids to a thrift shop, but it seems they don’t take beds of any kind (no surprise on the mattress part) but the Goodwill also was not taking any furniture, so we’ll keep them assuming they fit as the unit we are renting in Nevada will be half the size of this one (which was never full anyway).

We went to pick up the moving truck at ten as scheduled only to learn it wasn’t back yet!  Fran returned to the storage unit to continue working and prepping some stuff while Doug waited about an hour for it.  We spent until about three hours packing it all into the truck and then made our way in separate vehicles south in the pouring rain to Salem, Oregon for the night in a better hotel.  We were very fortunate it hardly rained at all during the “move” and were both quite tired.  Thank goodness we also rented a dolly to move the heavy stuff up into the truck.

Thursday was another long driving day – with a long section of snow packed roads through the Willamette Pass and well beyond.  Some parts we were both white knuckling the drive.

The roads had been plowed (Fran actually followed two plows through the pass ) but it was hard pack and slow going so as not to slip.

Lovely clouds and mountain views near Susanville in California before the Nevada border:

We arrived safely back at Serena’s by 4:30 (there was still no snow here although they got alot o rain on Tuesday) and we joined them and Kurt’s parents for dinner trying out the venue they want for their wedding rehearsal dinner.

Friday morning we were up with Serena by 6 and we drove to our new storage unit in Fallon –  and at first glance we thought the unit was not going to be big enough. As you can see it was sunny and mostly dry but there were a few frozen puddles around.

Our unit in Washington State was a 10×20 but was nowhere near full and this one was supposed to be 10×10 and we thought if we get Serena’s stuff out of it (we dropped it all at her house) we’d be okay but looking at it, we were not so sure.

We spoke with the owner, Toby, and discussed storing out truck and trailer here come March and he gave us a fair price to do so.

We put a few things aside that we could leave out IF we could find a place to get rid of it (the stuff we tried to get rid of in Centralia) but in the end, Doug’s packing skills prevailed and it all fit on the pallets with a bit of room to spare!  Fran took photos of things we want to sell and we may do that when we come back to Reno in March before returning to Europe.

We got back to Reno, picked up our Toyota and returned the moving truck to the local Penske branch.  We had planned to go ice skating that night at the Reno arena but we were exhausted and instead Serena and Fran made nachos for dinner and we all stayed in.  Serena began going through all her boxes and it was fun to reminisce with her going through her keepsakes and school work.

Saturday we awoke to heavy rain that turned to snow pretty quickly.  Fran and Serena started the day going for facials which was a Christmas gift from Kurt and then ran a couple of errands before returning home.  Reno is not really equipped for more than light snow and this was the heavy, wet kind and we ended up getting at least six inches!

Fran went for a walk in the quiet falling snow that afternoon and Doug did the same later.  It was not really that cold and we were glad we’d found snow boots in our storage unit which we’ll leave at Serena’s (along with our ice skates).

the pet perch for the view outside

That night we made dinner from leftovers and Kurt was home from work before 9pm when the ball dropped in New York  – which we watched on TV –  we all called it a night.

Happy New Year!

Sunday morning the sun was out but it never got warm enough to melt much snow and no plows had come around.  Kurt had to work morning shift today so we hung around the house, finishing up going through Serena’s boxes and doing laundry.  Several tree branches were broken in their yard due to the weight of the snow.

Serena wanted to show us her wedding venue, so after lunch enroute to it, we went to get Fat Tuesday’s at the GSR but it was closed!  We saw the venue in the snow so it was not as it will be but it looked like it will be quite nice IF the weather cooperates as the ceremony and seating area are outdoors – could be a bit crowded if we all have to be indoors.  Fingers crossed for good weather in late May in Reno, please!

After Kurt returned from work, Serena and Doug went out to get us all subs for dinner and we had quiet last night with them.  Monday morning,  January 2nd, we said our goodbyes and drove to Fallon to our storage unit to drop off a couple items before driving to Pahrump to pick up our trailer.  We were there by 2:30 and it took us a good two hours to get it ready to move and to hitch up to the truck.

We decided it was too late to head to Vegas today (that took us a while over the past two weeks to make that decision, but we finally decided to go for a couple of days before heading south of the border) so we parked on the nearby BLM land in Pahrump where we’d parked a couple of years ago in Tigger before selling it.  Fran called our standby campground in Vegas (Kings Row) and reserved a spot.

It was a dark but quiet night and we were up early.  Doug did his run, Fran her exercises and we both spent a bit of time putting some things away before hitting the road.

We arrived in Vegas at the Kings Row Campground around 10 and got parked into a site; all good.  Doug hooked the trailer up to power; all good.  He wanted to make sure all the drains were closed before filling the fresh water only to discover that when he went to do so, there was a hole in the pipe above one of the drains and then the other.  After a lot of back and forth’s to Lowes (hardware store), he got it sorted but it all took quite a while.

During all this work, Fran continued to organize and put things away to get the trailer back into the “cozy home” we remember.  It was mostly sunny and the temps hit about 10C  / 51F.  So much better than the freezing temps in Reno!

Around 3 we decided to take a break and headed down to Fremont Street for a couple of hours of casino wandering.  We had a free street parking spot saved on our Organic Maps app from our last visit here and it was still free!

Wednesday was a bit cooler and cloudy all day.  After spending the morning continuing to do chores and organization, we had an early brunch and drove to the Strip for the afternoon.  Enroute we went to the library to get some printing done and apply for our tourist visas for Mexico online.  It’s supposed to only take a day or two and it will save time at the border.  You must print it though and get it stamped upon arrival.  Turns out the visa is  not issued immediately and we may need to come back to the library to print it tomorrow or the next day.

We wandered some of our fave big casinos (The Venetian down to Paris & the Bellagio and back), enjoying a Fat Tuesday (though not our fave mudslide flavour) and some slot machines.  We do find it’s getting harder and harder to find the cheap slots we like but we managed at about 4 of them.

Today was the Canada vs USA Men’s semi-final Junior Hockey game so we went to our fave burger bar on Flamingo – The Bar Code – and the kind waitress put the game on the biggest screen in the bar (we were the only ones watching).

second period

We saw the Canadian’s win 6-2!  Off to the gold medal round tomorrow.

We decided to stay a third night at Kings Row and after a couple of hours of online time in the rec hall, we had brunch and then went to run some shopping errands and get a truck wash (mostly for the underside after the snowy rods in Nevada).  It rained on and off, hard and soft, all afternoon so no line ups at the car wash!  Later in the afternoon we went back to rec hall where we watched the gold medal game CZECH vs CANADA on the Wi-Fi which doesn’t reach our site.  How exciting – Canada scored in the first OT and won the gold!

So Friday morning we packed up and checked our email for our visa; nothing yet. We drove south to Bullhead City, Arizona for the cheapest gas around (if not in the country!) at 2.79 a gallon filling our two jerry cans too.  In Reno it was as high as 4.99 but Kurt pointed us to the 7-11 station where he has a points account and we could get 19 cents off a gallon bringing it as low as $3.35 but the price rose over the next few days and it turned out Doug already had a 7-11 account from way back so we began using his phone number.  We made a stop at the Walmart Supercentre for a couple of things and then crossed the Colorado River into California to a wild camp south of Needles – it’s a city park that’s free this time of year and it has a huge paved lot with bathrooms and it’s right on the river.

It was sad when we walked down to the river; there’s not much water – bet you could walk across it without much difficulty!

Fran tried to communicate with Mexico  visa people through their contact form to find out the status and on Saturday morning we still had no visa but she got a reply (despite their site saying it takes 72 hours to reply which is longer than the visa is supposed to take).

We pushed on southward in order to get closer to the border in the hopes of getting the visa and crossing on Sunday as we had indicated on our application.  We made it to Blythe, California with one stop at the Blythe Intaglios (geoglyphs like the Nazca lines).

We parked at a pullout of the highway 95 and walked less than a half mile on the gravel road to the first two sites.

An Intaglio is a type of geoglyph.  A design is made by engraving or incising the ground surface so the image is depressed in relief below the original surface.  It is created in the desert pavement by scraping away the darker surface gravel to reveal the lighter gravel and soil beneath.  Each shape had a specific meaning to the people that created it.  It is not certain who or when these particular intaglios were created. 

First was the figure of a man 52m / 171’ long – couldn’t get it all on one photo (unless you are above!):

And the second was an animal measuring 16.45m / 54.1’ from head to tail:

and a snake and a swirl measuring 7m / 23’ in height

Both sites had been discovered in the ‘30’s but it was until 1974 that a fence was erected around each site so damage had been down by OHV’s driving over them.

We arrived in Blythe after stopping in a small roadside park to have showers in our trailer, in the early afternoon and saw a self-wash car wash so we washed the trailer for about $4.25 and it didn’t take more than ten minutes.  We had a wild camp parking lot in mind that we’d found on iOverlander and made our way there before taking walks and chillin’.  The town is pretty quiet/dead with some shops and we managed to find a couple of things we needed (we are thinking of them in spurts…).  The parking lot is part of a huge former mall with not many open shops and even the parking lot lights are not all lit up at night but other than the faint traffic sounds from the I10, it was pretty quiet on this Saturday night.

Today it reached 21C / 71F and it was most sunny all day.  Fran is back in flip flops but we’re not quite in shorts yet as the mornings and evenings are cool and the temp drops fast in the desert when the sun goes down.

The next morning Doug went for his run, Fran exercised and we went over to the nearby McDonald’s to get some free Wi-Fi as our data is getting low on our US plans – we had expected to be in Baja this weekend but still no word about our visas this morning.

We pushed on closer to the border on Sunday.

We arrived in Brawley, just north of Calexico and parked at a Walmart – pickings were awful in Calexico.   At least here the Walmart was not open 24 hours and we had access to their Wi-Fi by setting up our extender.  Luckily, Fran was able to set it up by muscle memory as we couldn’t find the box with the instructions although it’s in the trailer somewhere.

Later in the afternoon, we realized we’d applied for our visas through a company, not the government agency and paid waaaaay to much!  We got online with our credit card company and put in a “claim to dispute” the charges based on “non-receipt of merchandise” and we’ll just head to the border tomorrow.  We also decided that instead of entering at Mexicali, we’ll mosey along the border on the US side and cross at Tecate which we know is a quieter, less busy border crossing.

We had a pleasant drive along I8 in the morning and then dipped down along the C94 to the border.