Gulfstream Rally in Arizona Feb/Mar 1998

On this trip we will initially attend a Gulf Stream rally in Casa Grande, AZ.  Actually it is called a pre-rally.  They hold these just before rallies of the FMCA, the Family Motor Coach Association.  FMCA holds several rallies a year, and as we have just come to find out, they are the major events of motorhoming.  There are literally thousands of RV's and hundreds of RV and accessory vendors in attendance.  As it turns out, we really should have planned to go to the FMCA rally also.  But this was a trial to discover just this type of information.  

After the pre-rally we will be heading up to Prescott to see our good friends Betty and Gene Wilkison, and then, weather permitting, on to Forest Lakes to see other good friends Virg and Keith Scholl.  We will probably park the motorhome in the Payson area and drive up to the Scholls' in the Nissan.  Before leaving home we talked to Keith, and there was about 3 1/2 feet of snow on the ground.

Thursday Feb 26 
We left home today.  We got up around 6:00, had breakfast, did our last minute packing, hooked up the Nissan, and got away before 7:30.  We had a pleasant trip, and by a little after 4:30 (including the 1 hour time change) we were at the Pinal County Fairgrounds, just outside Casa Grande.

As we approached, a couple of men by the side of the street flagged us into one of the gates.  I was hoping it was not a couple of highway robbers!  It wasn't.  It was the Gulf Stream International (the owners club for our brand of motorhome) parking committee.  After we identified ourselves, they led us with a golf cart to a spot they had reserved for us in the handicapped area.  We are facing into the side of the building where all the local activities take place.

By the time we were settled it was after 5:00 so it was too late to register either for the rally, or the extra night's parking at the fairground.  We had originally told Gulf Stream that Friday would be our first night.

Friday Feb 27 
We got up at a leisurely pace, and went into the large building to register for the rally.  In this building were 7 large motorhomes on display, a semi-trailer with a full chassis and engine on display, four rows of tables to seat about 240 people, and a table of registration people.  After registering here, we wandered over to the fairground's office and paid our extra $10.

We pinned on the large badges we were given and went exploring.  In addition to over a hundred Gulf Stream coaches, there were a large number of varied brands.  Upon asking, we found that a large group of camping singles were also at the fairgrounds.

It was almost eerie whenever we came upon a coach of the same vintage and paint colors as ours.  At first they would look just like ours, then as we got closer, we would notice that the windows were different, or the door was in a different place.  We saw a couple almost like ours, but none exactly the same original floorplan.

We feel like the "poor folks" where we are parked.  All around us are bright and shiny new or near new coaches.  Most are Friendships or Tour Masters.  These are the luxury coaches from Gulf Stream.  They are really nice.  They ought to be at two to three hundred thousand a pop!  On a per dollar basis, we totally beat any of them!

We went back to the building and looked for the service sign-ups.  They offer to make up to three minor repairs at no cost.  We didn't have any actual repairs that I hadn't already done, but I did want to get as much information of several things as I could.

We talked to the Generac service fellow about the repair I had made to our generator.  He didn't see anything wrong some changes I had made.  For some reason, the 12 volt battery charging winding was only putting out about 5 volts.  Normally this winding pulls in a relay which latches in 12 vdc to the fuel solenoid, the running time meter, and the indicator light.  This relay was dropping out, and the fuel valve was shutting.  Obviously this caused the generator to stop.  All the while, the 115 volt winding was putting out full voltage (until the genset stopped), and would drive the full load just fine.  I put in a 115 volt relay that holds the fuel valve open, and all seems OK.  I was hoping that there was nothing that would cause a problem with the voltage regulator, or anything else.  He could see nothing wrong with what I did.

He also indicated that if the stator winding failed completely, which the low voltage could indicate had already happened to the 12 volt winding, it would do no additional damage, and would not cost any more than replacing it now.

The other vendor I talked to was Spartan.  They are the makers of the chassis for almost all Gulf Stream diesel motorhomes.  Their display was really nice.  They have a beautiful semi-trailer with a drop side.  This side wall forms a kind of stage in front of the trailer, with step assemblies and a safety rail around the edges.  In the trailer they have a complete chassis with a 300 hp. Cummins engine, and all the equipment which they supply to Gulf Stream.  They also have a nicely appointed office in the front of the trailer.

They presented a 1 hour seminar dealing with a multitude of subjects.  He gave examples of his and other's experiences with on the road failures, and ways to avoid being held up by them.  He once had an injector line crack, spewing diesel fuel all over.  He pulled the line off, turned it around with the good end on the pump, placed a tin can under the other end and drove on 5 cylinders to the next place they could get him a new line.  He would stop occasionally and empty the fuel from the can back into the fuel tank.  He said he didn't get any fuel on his car he was towing and lost almost none.  He also broke a throttle cable one time, and showed us how he was able to jury rig it and complete his trip leg.  The factory "next day air'ed" a new one to him at his motel room and he was off for real.  He also showed us a number of things all owners should know about the engine, filters, air dryers, etc.  Between this seminar and the various individual discussions I had with them, they made the trip worthwhile by themselves.

I also attended a seminar on Onan generators.  I don't have an Onan, but I figured that a lot of what he said would be generic.  He had some interesting points, but did not help me nearly as much as the Spartan one did!

I was disappointed that there were not more of Gulf Stream's vendors present here.  Every time I asked about something specific relating to another vendor's product, I was asked if we were going to be at the FMCA rally in Las Cruces.  They always said that that vendor would have a number of experts there and that they could answer my question.  This happened about a dozen times with somewhat different questions.  Always there would be experts at the FMCA rally!

There is another FMCA rally in Ogden, UT in August, and another Gulf Stream pre-rally in St. George just prior.  Maybe we will go to these and see if the FMCA stuff is really as great as everyone is telling us it is.

Dinner tonight was provided, and was really good!  They had a buffet with various salads and fixings, a veggie tray, corn, green beans, wild rice, turkey and stuffing with gravy, and baked fish.  There were several types of cake for dessert.  All this was on linen tablecloths with linen napkins!

After dinner they had an auction.  They auctioned off 6 burros in preparation for the burro races Saturday.  The successful bidders received their burro and a kit of "fixings", along with a title of ownership.  

Each owner, or partnership must dress up their burro in a unique manner with stuff in the bag of "fixings".  They must select a jockey and a trainer and be prepared to race after dinner on Saturday.  The burros turned out to be piņatas on wooden stands.  The whole thing is yet another way for people to gamble their money away.  All the purchase money for the burros goes into a pot.  Gulf Stream also put $400 into the pot.  After the auction was over there was about $840 in the pot.

The winning burro's owners receive 50% of the pot, the second place 30%, and the third place 20%.  In addition people can place side bets on the burro of their choice.  These bets all go into a pot and that pot is split between all who bet on the winner in proportion to the size of their bets.

The race is run with a pair of dice of different colors.  Each time the dice are tossed, one of them indicates which burro will move, and the other, how far he moves.   I guess we will see how it really works tomorrow night.

Saturday Feb 28 
Today was one of the busier days on the schedule.  At 8:00 AM everyone else boarded 5 chartered buses and headed toward Tucson.  We boarded the Nissan and followed the buses.  The buses have provisions for carrying wheelchairs, but none for getting the people up the many steps.  There were two other ladies in wheelchairs, but they both were able to get in the buses.  One boarded by sitting on the steps and scooting up backwards a step at a time.  She had a sprained or broken ankle, with the other one OK.  I didn't see how the other lady did, but we knew that Betty could not do it without extreme effort.

The first stop we six buses made was at the Sonoran Desert Museum.  We spent over an hour and a half here.  They started in five different directions by bus, so we had to adopt a bus quickly.  We chose the tour that started down the ramp instead of the ones that went down stairs.  The museum is primarily an outdoor display of the many species of plants and animals that inhabit the area.  Our guide (from bus 1) would explain about the various plants, then would ask us questions a little later to see if we were paying attention.  And I thought I was OUT of school!  

We saw many varieties of birds including a wild (not captive) Cardinal - Betty's favorite!  We only saw one Cardinal while we were in the East - in North Tarytown (now Sleepy Hollow), and now this one is only the second!  They are really a beautiful bird!  We also saw a Hummingbird aviary, numerous parrots, and a couple of Road Runners.  Our guide told us that the Road Runner had been classified as a predator, and as a result was open to indiscriminate shooing.  The nature lovers did not like this so they had it re-classified as a migratory songbird to give it protected status.  The only problem is that it neither flies nor sings.  I was also very disappointed to find out that it doesn't even go "beep beep"!

We saw a number of dead or "Ghost" Suguaro cacti.  I hadn't realized that they have an internal framework of slender wooden rods.  These remain standing long after all the skin and outer fibers have disappeared.

The wolf was not out, but we did see an ocelot, several species of other cats, a couple of bears, otters, prairie dogs and several other animals.  We saw a beaver habitat from underwater (through a window), but no beavers. 

In the time we were there, we only saw about a half, and that was fairly hurried.  You could easily spend all day if you wanted to.

It was a totally enjoyable visit.  

Next we (as bus #3 1/2), drove to the La Fuente Mexican restaurant in downtown Tucson.   Here we had a delicious buffet style Mexican lunch.  As usual at buffets, we ate too much!

Next we went to the Mission San Xavier del Bac.  This mission is 180 years old, and the building has never had any re-construction beyond normal maintenance repairs.  The interior was a mix of architectural styles with many statues and a very ornate front.  It is still active with regular and special services.  We sat in it for over 15 minutes listening to a recorded talk.  Along with the history of the mission, he pointed out the various statues and explained the significance of each.  He pointed out that the walls ranged from 3 to six feet thick, and pointed out several things that we will never know about the mission, including why one of the towers was never finished.  On the front facade there are vertical ribs which rise on the edges of the center portion.  These form curley-q's near the top.  In one is a cat and in the other is a mouse.  Legend has it that when the cat gets the mouse, the world will end.  Fortunately, the cat has only been able to glare at the mouse so far!

At this point the buses were to give a brief city tour as they headed home, so we decided not to tag along any more.  A city tour without the commentary would not be worth much.

We beat the buses back by only a few minutes, so I doubt that they gave much of a tour of Tucson, other than along the route home.

Dinner tonight (ugh, I'm still stuffed from lunch!) was what they called a heavy Hors d'oeuvres buffet.  They had fruit, salad, meatballs, stuffed mushroom, cheeses, mini-burritos, etc.  There was more than enough to satisfy us even without today's lunch.

Before eating, I went back up to the Spartan display and again talked to Scott, a very knowledgeable factory man.  He had stated that they had never shipped a chassis without a little gage that displays how dirty your air cleaner is getting.  At a certain setting, you need to replace the filter.  I searched my engine for this device, called a restrictor, and determined that I just don't have one!  I told him this and he said to wait a minute.  He went to his coach where he thought he had a spare one.  Upon coming back he said he had put "all that stuff" in a plastic bag and left it at home.  He took my name and address and said he would have the factory ship me one.  I cannot ask for any better support than that!

After dinner we had our infamous burro races.  There was a lot of commotion from the various teams, including a near fight that I assume was partially caused by too much "happy hour".  They lined up the burros and started tossing the dice, moving them around according to the numbers.  Burro #4 finally won, with #1 second.  #2 was next, and #3 was dead last.

Betty and I probably did better than most with a net win - loss of exactly 0.

Tomorrow is the final day of scheduled events here, with a departure for most the following morning between 6:00 and 7:00 for Las Cruces for the FMCA rally.  Maybe it's not so bad that we are not going on.  We can sleep in!

Sunday Mar 1 
We got up a little after 8:00, and about 45 minutes later wandered over for breakfast.  They were serving from 7:30 to 9:30 to allow the golfers to get an early start, and to let the rest of us sleep in a little.  There was fresh fruit, a basket of muffins, bear claws and coffee cake, hot biscuits, country gravy, scrambled eggs (ugh!), sausages, and bacon.  There were a variety of juices, all served buffet style.  It was delicious and abundant!

I did a little puttzing around the motorhome - checked oil, cleaned the windshield, etc. - and went over to the building at 1:30 for the first of two seminars today.  This one was given by the Generac man I had talked to earlier, and was on generator use, care, and maintenance.  He didn't say a lot of new-to-me things, but I did pick up a couple of facts that will be useful.

Next there was a seminar on 12 volt usage.  Unfortunately, this was given by a general maintenance type who had read-up on the subject and dutifully stuttered his way through reading his notes.  He gave some good information, but really wasn't able to answer many questions beyond what he read us.  Still probably marginally worth attending.

Well, we just returned from the final events of the rally.  We had another buffet dinner.  The fare was an assortment of salad and veggies.  There were green beans, broccoli with cheese sauce, chicken courdon bleu, and fillet mingnon.  Desert was a variety of cheesecake flavors.

Following dinner we had a singer - instrumentalist who, with the help of a fairly elaborate MIDI system put on quite a good show.  Next the people who bought new motorhomes at the rally (yes, the salesmen were here!) drew envelopes.  Gulf Stream, as an added bonus, put amounts ranging from $500 to $2500 in one set of envelopes, and $1000 to $5000 in another set.  The cheaper (a relative term) motorhomes allowed a pull from the first set, and the luxury ones, the second set.  Of four of the first class, they drew 2500, 750, 500, and 500.  The one Tour Master purchaser drew 3000.  Being a non-gambler, I would have been very upset if someone got a better deal than I because they drew a better envelope!  Oh well, I didn't buy one, so I guess the point is moot.

Next came the door prizes.  Each couple received a ticket with their registration materials.  They started drawing numbers for sewer chemicals, cleaners, roll of non-slip material, a number of clever folding chairs that fit a nylon bag about 3 inches in diameter by 18 inches long.  They gave away several pairs of these, then several pairs of folding directors chairs.  These were the same as before except they have arms, and were slightly larger in diameter when folded.  They then did a small carpet and a couple of framed and matted glass faced pictures.  Guess what!  We won one of these!  They then gave away a couple of 1 year emergency road service contracts.  The next prizes were a pair of tea shirts, hats, and a pair of jackets.  They finished with several $25 Camping World gift certificates.

Most rigs will be pulling out in the morning between 6:00 and 7:00.  They need to reach Demming, NM between 12:00 and 2:00 where the state police are closing a section of  a local street for staging, then closing a lane prior to the onramp of the freeway so the caravan can flow continuously on.  They will then be on their own to Las Cruces.

Tomorrow morning we will get a slightly less early start.  We are first heading back about 4 miles to a Pilot station where we gassed up the Nissan for 99 cents a gallon the other night.  Diesel is 1.03 (both plus .9 of course).  We then head to Prescott to the Point of Rocks campground, and on to the Wilkisons in the Nissan.

Monday Mar 2
Everyone leaving for Demming, and then Las Cruces was supposed to leave between 6:00 and 7:00 this morning to make the time table.  About 7:10 we started to hear diesels starting up and pulling out.  Hope they all made it.

We left about 8:20 and headed south about 4 miles to the Pilot station with the good fuel prices.  When we got there, the posted prices were still 99 for gas and 1.03 for diesel.  I pulled right up to a diesel pump and put about 42 gallons in.  I then noticed the price on the pump was 94 per gallon!  When I asked, the lady at the counter said the 1.03 was for truckers.  They have an additional tax.  I was thrilled!

It took a little over 3 hours to drive up to Prescott with a couple of construction areas, but not too bad.  We pulled into our favorite Prescott park, Point of Rocks, and registered through Thursday night.

We headed over to the Wilkisons' for a marvelous afternoon and evening with them, including a delicious chicken dinner.  

After getting back to camp, I added as much of the windshield washer antifreeze I bought this morning as would fit in the Nissan and motorhome tanks.  Hopefully it is enough to protect to the temperatures we will see this trip.

Tuesday Mar 3
We got up and did some chores around the motorhome.  I dumped our holding tanks and cleaned some things up.

We went to Costco and turned in two rolls of film Betty had to be developed.  While waiting for the 1 hour processing we managed to spend over $50 (not bad for Costco!).
We then went back to Wilkisons'.

After a good lunch and some chatting, we went for an "update tour" of Prescott to see the latest advances in town, such as the hospital addition construction, and the brand new Home Depot.  Gene and Betty then took us out to dinner at Cocos.  We had dinner slightly on the early side so Gene and I could attend the monthly Casa de Aero (Gene's locas RC flying club) meeting.

The meeting was held at Embry-Riddle University and was very interesting.  It was made even more interesting as I had attended a meeting of the Palomar RC Flyers in San Marcos just a couple of weeks ago.  Gene's club is much smaller and a lot more friendly group.

The weather for this whole trip has been wonderful to date.  Every day in Casa Grande and in Prescott so far has been clear and in the high 60's or low 70's with nights right around freezing.

Wednesday through Friday  Mar 4-6
We spent several great days with the Wilkisons.  Early Thursday morning, Gene picked me up at our motorhome and we went flying - both of us!  He let me fly his plane!  

Using the buddy-cord system, we each have a transmitter, with a cord plugged into each of them. Only Gene's transmitter is active, but when he holds a spring loaded switch, the joysticks on my transmitter are active.  As soon as he releases the switch, he has control again.  It was a lot of fun!  I really intended for the plane to fly all over the sky - really. 

Our plans were to leave for Payson on Friday morning, check conditions with Keith and then either camp in Payson or continue up the hill to the Scholls'.  As we watched the Weather Channel we saw a storm was predicted for Friday.  They got that right!

Friday started out with a low overcast, wind, and showers.  The NOAA weather broadcast listed several winter storm warnings for the area we were heading, as well as where we are.  I went down to the office and extended our stay here an additional day.  All day we have had high winds, rain showers, and then this afternoon, hail, slushy rain, and then as we were leaving Wilkisons' at about 6:30 tonight, genuine snow.  by the time we got going, there was a solid coating of snow on the road.  We were the first car to go down Copper Basin Road, so there were no tracks to follow.  I had never driven in falling snow at night before.  The headlights light it up about 6 feet high!  I had a terrible time seeing anything.  By concentrating very hard, I could see the white line on the right, and things in the distance were no problem.  The illuminated snow just in front of the car, however really screened out the close stuff.  We took it easy and got in a line of cars which made it much easier.  We made it back to our snow covered motorhome just fine.

The Weather Channel is now saying the storm has slowed down somewhat, so we will have to check conditions again in the morning.  Once the storm is past, they are predicting clear and warming weather for the rest of our trip.  I hope we can make to the Scholls.