Postcard from Arizona- 4

Benson, AZ

We’re still camped in SKP Saguaro Co-op RV park here in Benson. It’s proven to be a great home base and we continue to enjoy the many activities the park offers like entertainment & dances. And Celia has been going to the line dance classes 3 days/week (it’s been almost 11 years and I still feel burned out, so I’ve declined to go along).

That’s not to say we haven’t been outside the park. Tombstone, just off AZ-80, is about 25 miles away, so we’ve been there several times taking friends or just for lunch. Bisbee is another 25 miles past Tombstone on AZ-80 and we’ve been there for lunch and to roam the shops in the old town. Sierra Vista, the civilian town outside the US Army’s Fort Huachuca (wa-CHU-ka), is about 30 miles away on AZ-90 and is an alternate to shopping in Tucson. You can find restaurants, doctors… whatever. And Sierra Vista has possibly the biggest dog park I’ve ever seen. The only thing they don’t have is a Trader Joe’s!

A nice surprise has been that we’ve found several restaurants in Benson that are pretty darn good. We like  the pasta over at Irene’s. And the chicken-fried-chicken at Palatianos’ is to die for, plus the carrot cake and red velvet cake at Palatianos’ is addictive… you’ve been warned! The Horseshoe Cafe has been great each time we’ve eaten there. And the Apple Farm serves an enormous multi-course meal for $9.95. The portion size at all 4 is overwhelming, so we eat half and take home the rest for lunch or dinner the next day.

The food at the SKP park is a winner as well: taco nite at SKP is a must-go event and the fish fry is great as well. It’s not that the prices are exceptional, but the food is very good. While the prices aren’t rock-bottom, all extra $$$ goes to fund park events, and for the park’s Cactus Wrens organization which uses their $$$ to fund their charitable work. One of the big food events is the annual food auction which brought in $4,000 this year.

A nice surprise has been G&F Pizza on 5th Ave. They have several very good but curiously named pizzas on the menu (we had the Zearing Pizza which uses feta… excellent!), plus I saw an Irby Pizza on the menu. I had to ask the source of the name since I went to high school with someone named Irby in Stockton. Our waitress told us that G&F has been around for 38 years and has always had the same name thru 2 or 3 owners. The founders had named some pizzas after businesses in town, hence the Zearing and Irby pizzas.  Plus the current owner, Benson born & raised, remembers how much he enjoyed going to G&F when he was in high school, so he does occasional (?) 50%-off nites for the local high school students. I didn’t know anybody did that sort of thing anymore! Way-tuh go G&F!

Something unique to Benson has been the home made soup the restaurants here serve. Apparently locals or maybe the snow birds demand good soup, so there restaurants seem to all have something worth trying. I had the best green chili soup (green chili stew) I’ve ever had at Irene’s, and some soups I’ve never heard of at the the others. Not a loser in the bunch.

If there’s a down-side to Benson it’s that they have great donuts (or doughnuts if you prefer). Celia claims they beat Krispy Kreme. It’s unfortunate cuz we’re trying desperately to break our donut habit. If we don’t, neither of us are going to fit in the truck anymore.

Btw, the worlds best donuts are homemade by our friends Doug & Pat Bartman from Ontario!

Santa Fe, NM


A couple weeks ago we drove the truck back to Santa Fe. I had another follow-up to see how the pressure in my left eye is doing. Sadly it’s not so good and has hit an all-time high of 31. So I now have an additional eye-drop to use once per day plus yet another appointment for the end of March to see if the pressure has started down to a safe range (below 22). That is near the time we’ve scheduled other medical appointments so we’ll take care of all the doctor/dentist things at the same time.

We were pleased to see that the compartment that houses the water heater (rear of the house) hasn’t given any more problem. Didn’t freeze and there seems to be no more leaks. We filed for some relief on the super-sized water bill (about $1,700) but haven’t heard anything so far.

The trip was also a chance to see how the new Banks equipment does on a different power setting. This time I upped the setting to #4. Things were looking really good with even better mileage till we got about 150 miles into the trip back to Benson. At that point the mileage suddenly started falling like the proverbial rock and I was getting a little panicky (“Damn! Is this thing broken already?!”). When I stopped at a rest stop I was greeted with about 25 mph wind in the face. At 65 mph over the ground that gave us a wind speed of about 90 mph. Apparently the #4 setting does pretty well on the straight & level with no wind. When the load goes up, though, the tuner cranks up the power (each higher setting has greater power up thru #6) which means more fuel. So I set it back to #3 and we soldiered on. Still managed to beat our old fuel economy even with the strong wind. So, with strong headwinds (but without the trailer) we’re still doing significantly better on fuel consumption. We ought to recap our investment in about 25 years!

While our F350’s mileage is improved by about 20%, it’s still nowhere near as good as our Toyota Highlander. We use the Highlander for our daily ride which not only saves fuel, it lets us use 87 octane regular which is cheaper. Diesel prices are going over the top hitting $4/gal last Saturday, but regular gas was $3.30/gal. So having the Highlander for everyday driving is a help. Not to mention it’s a pretty plush ride compared to the truck!

Benson, AZ


I’ve found I can do a pretty good job imitating an ostrich. But, like the ostrich, keeping your head buried in the sand leaves a great opportunity to get bit in the ass. And that’s what happened with the RV toilet. I’d been ignoring the fact the toilet bowl seemed to shift a little from time-to-time. It didn’t leak and the seal was still good, so I followed my old axiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  Well, I didn’t know it but it really was ‘broke’ and I should have fixed it sooner. On the Saturday nite before the Oscars, Celia noticed a wet area on the floor and it was clear I needed to get my butt in gear.

Turns out the toilet had not been reassembled correctly when some pre-delivery warranty work had been done at Lazy Days, the dealer in Florida where we bought the rig. One of the 2 bolts which hold the porcelain bowl to the plastic base (the plastic base has the ball valve and the seals)  had not been run home in the threads. Instead the bolt threads were pressing against the side of the boss that contains the threaded hole.

After a lot of swearing and gnashing of teeth I managed to get things reassembled (I like to think it was done correctly this time) and there seems to be no more leak. In fairness to the tech who did the repair, the assembly has to be done blind: line things up as best you can and hope the bolt is going into the threads and not to the side of the boss.

And just where exactly is it written that toilets are supposed to crap out (pardon the pun) on a Sunday?! And was it really necessary to have snow in the forecast?

And yes- it did snow. Not more than an inch, but it was snow. And cold. The snow was gone a few hours later so no biggy. It made for a cold nite but we’re supposed to get back into the high 70s as the week goes by. Hard to beat southeastern AZ in the winter!

When we take the dogs with us in our Highlander, they really have to struggle. Celia tracked down a seat-extension (my description… don’t recall the mfr’s) for the back seat. It bridges the space between the front edge of the rear seat and the back of the front seat without blocking the vents for the batteries under the rear seat. We had one before but the dogs are so big they broke it. Unfortunately we pitched it when it broke which was a mistake… if I’d kept it I could have replaced the thin plastic sheet with plywood and all would have been well again. Now the replacement is in place and the dogs are happy.

Which brings up another thing. We’d understood that hybrids needed new batteries every 5 years. Our 2006 Highlander Hybrid is now at least 5 years old and the batteries still seem to be OK. To be safe, though, I asked our mechanic (Steve Inouye, owner & head mechanic of ToyAuto Man in Santa Fe) about it and he said he’s never needed to replace a battery pack on any hybrid he services. Apparently batteries last much longer than originally estimated… ??? I believe our battery pack recharges much faster than it used to which makes me believe it has less capacity, but I’m not anxious to spend the $4,000 it would take to find out if the battery pack really needs replacing. I think I’ll just stick my head back in the sand!

Tombstone, AZ

Btw, we watched the latest Tombstone movie the other nite. It’s the one with Kurt Russell & Val Kilmer. It was released in 1993, so it’s not that new anymore. The movie had a lot more meaning now that we’ve been to the town of Tombstone several times. The movie wasn’t filmed in Tombstone. Instead they created a set in Mescal, AZ (just a few miles from Benson on Mescal Rd) and tried to replicate the original store fronts, colors, signage, whatever. They even built a replica of Tombstone’s boot hill cemetery (“Here lies Les Mor, 4 slugs from a .44. No Les, no More.”). The actors were all required to read the newspaper report of the inquest after the gun fight at the OK Corral (it was actually in a lot behind the corral) so they understood their character’s part in the fight. The film is by no means a documentary, but they did try to get the characters right before embellishing with the usual Hollywood glitz. For instance, Doc Holiday’s girl friend is still Kate, but the beautiful actress that plays the part doesn’t conjure the right image of someone that would later name her saloon Big Nose Kate’s. The saloon is still there and serves a decent lunch. And it’s worth a trip to the men’s room where you’ll find the urinal trough filled with ice with a sign above: “This ice is rarely used to make our drinks.”

And before you ask why they put ice in the urinal, it’s because as the ice melts it ‘flushes’ the urinal.

You can tell spring is getting close cuz friends Betty & Dan, who bought a new Montana 3400RL this past December, have left Tucson and are working their way slowly back toward the Canadian border. Come the first of May they plan to make the jump across the border and head back home to Alaska. Bon voyage, guys! See you next year.

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in Benson, AZ. The 2 bernese mountain dogs that initiated the name of this blog are gone but forever alive in our memory.
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