Superstars of the desert – the Saguaro flowers

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My wish of seeing the Saguaro blooms has been granted, even though with Steve’s situation it’s under less-than-desirable circumstances.  But we’re enjoying this opportunity as our consolation for being in Tucson this time of the year.  The best way to view the white Saguaro bouquets was to revisit Saguaro National Park. Driving there was also a step forward for Steve, as it was his first outing following surgery when he wasn’t feeling like a zombie from all the drugs.

It’s said that the indicator plant of the Sonoran Desert is the majestic Saguaro cactus, the icon of the southwest.  During late April thru June, as other desert wildflowers have done their thing and wilted, the superstars of the desert awaken to fill the landscape with blooms at the ends of their arms, like a bouquet of white flowers.

In our past visits here, these tall green giants seemed to stand patiently awaiting their turn to show off.  The time has finally arrived and we are glad to be here to admire the explosion of floral beauty.


Surprisingly, the Saguaro flower is a short-lived beauty; it opens after sunset and by the next early afternoon the blossom wilts.  Despite this short time period, the flower attracts an array of pollinators.  During the night they’re pollinated by the Mexican long-tongued bat and the lesser long-nosed bat, while daytime hours bring the birds and bees to a feast as they continue the pollination process.

The Northern Flicker waits for his turn

The Saguaro flower clusters don’t all bloom at the same time on the plant; the blooming cycle of a single Saguaro can last up to 6 weeks before all of the flowers have opened and closed for the last time.  The road leading to Steve’s doctor’s offices are lined with Saguaros, so for several weeks we got to see the progression of the blooms each time we drove by.

Getting up close and personal, I discovered the flowers are trumpet-shaped with silky white petals, each containing hundreds of golden stamens.

The flowers are suppose to emit a strong smell, sort of like overripe melons but then I am vertically challenged to reach them so I could not confirm that.

Seeing the Saguaro flowers is a tick off from my “must-see” list and I’m really happy with that.

Steve update:

The drive to Saguaro National Park – East and West – signaled one of the first breakthroughs for Steve.  Since his hospital discharge the focus had been to fatten him up and reverse his weight loss.  It would have been an easy task if not for the terrible pain he had when swallowing.  As time went on he was able to slowly progress from a liquid diet through soft foods, and then onto “real foods” in four weeks.  His speech impediment has lessened and his energy level remains high, as he has to actually reduce his daily walking routine so he won’t walk off all the weight we’re trying to put on him!


After a month he could handle one of his favorites, my Pancit

Head and throat pains linger, and Tylenol is his friend.  In order to distract from nagging pain he works on simple repairs.  Serious hiking is still a ways off, but we walk around the RV park and in the area several times every day.  As for me, our daily walks meet my 10,000 steps goal which is wonderful!

His next phase is radiation therapy, beginning on June 6th.  Just as he’s gained weight and is feeling better, he’ll soon be back to square one for a while.  We know we’ll get through it, taking one day at a time as we’ve been doing.

The ” fight the cancer beast team” on a cool day at SNP


Winter Maintenance for Betsy – Riviera, TX

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Eternabond tape

[Steve wrote this post, Mona Liza gets the day off!]

Like many full-time RV’ers running around the country,  we tend to slow down and “stay put” in a particular area during the coldest winter months.  We have found it’s the best time for us to complete the many little maintenance items we’ve added to our list during the more intense travel months.


You want me to treat you good, you better treat me good!

This is our third winter on the road, and as you know Texas is this year’s state of choice after spending the winters of 2012 in Arizona and 2013 in Florida.  Our current list of “to-do” items is many, but the number of decent weather days to do them has been few!  I had planned to complete everything by mid-January, but it was not to be due to several weeks of cold, windy and wet weather.  Thanks to better days here at Riviera, TX I’m just about back on schedule.

Note:  If you don’t own a coach or full-time you may want to skip this post!

So, here’s how I’ve been spending my time while Mona Liza terrorizes the local bird population:

Installed new batteries –

My highest priority regarding mechanical maintenance was to replace all of our batteries – coach and chassis – after 6 years of constant use.  We purchased the new ones as soon as we arrived at Port Aransas, since there was a major Interstate battery warehouse just down the road in Corpus Cristi, and those were the batteries I wanted.  You should have seen our poor car sagging in the rear as I hauled over 350 pounds of batteries home!

Except for the physical workout of hauling 5 new batteries home and 5 used batteries back to the warehouse, this wasn’t a tough project.  I photographed and took notes of the cable connections, then disconnected the main cables from each “group” of batteries to the coach and chassis.  After that it was just a matter of removing the cables that made up the parallel connections between the batteries and then removing them.

I scraped and then cleaned the trays with a water/baking soda mixture, then applied a rust inhibitor where needed before painting everything a nice satin black.  While that dried I cleaned the cables and hold-down brackets.  Finally, I put those shiny new ones in and hooked everything back up.

Some tips (certainly not exhaustive):

  • Don’t even think about doing this job without wearing safety goggles!
  • Wear the junkiest clothes you own, then throw them away when you’re done.  The battery acid will eat them, and I wouldn’t want to put them into anyone’s washing machine.
  • Always disconnect negative cables first, and reconnect them last, to avoid accidental arcing with your tools.
  • Use a good-quality steel brush to clean all cable connections.
  • Vaseline on the connections works well to reduce future corrosive buildup.

Re-carpeted our entry steps –

A no-brainer, and an easy project on a nice day.  Some contact cement and a brush to apply it with, and some good quality outdoor carpet of your choice.  After measuring carefully, I folded ours over the front of the steps and held it down with some metal doorway trim.

Insulated our indoor cabinets –

Well, here’s one we could do on a cold, miserable day!  Also a great time to go through all of our “stuff” and clean the cabinets.  I added about 1/4″ to my measurement in each direction to create an “interference fit”, and then stuck a couple of small double-sided tape squares to the back just for extra hold.  We haven’t had a warm enough day to test the benefits yet, but I think it actually looks pretty cool!  We got this idea from John and Pam when we checked out their installation.

Lubed the chassis –

Probably my most dreaded maintenance project – cramped, greasy, filthy job.  I was happy to have an image of all the grease points in the binder I got from my Camp Freightliner class.  There are several that aren’t at all obvious, including at the rear of the chassis.  And make sure to get the ones on the drive shaft u-joints.  One thing that helped me this time was having the front end of the coach jacked up quite a bit because the site wasn’t level.  It gave me much more room to crawl around.

 Installed Eternabond tape on the roof –

I finally got a nice enough day to check the drip rails along the sides of the roof, and attention was definitely needed.  Rather than trying to remove all of the old sealer and replace it with new (which I’ve heard several times can result in new leaks), I bought 2″ Eternabond tape and sealed from the roof to over the lip of the drip rail.  I used sandpaper to roughen up the drip rail, then blew away any dirt before cleaning the area with lacquer thinner.

The edge of our roof is black, so I got the black tape to make it less noticeable (it comes in white and in various widths).  This stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s supposed to be pretty fantastic and I’ll be watching it closely over the next few months to see how it holds up.

Installed a Maxxair roof vent/fan –

Although we already had a Maxxair fan installed over our bathroom, it failed and we found another model that we like better.  The old one was the 7000-series unit with the big, long hood over it.  The big advantage of it was that the vent could be opened in the rain and while driving, neither of which we do.  And believe me when I tell you that the old one was almost impossible to clean due to its complexity.


Removing the old vent – you can see my bare foot  – my next project is to apply the roof protectant and I didn’t want to drag dirt and grass onto my clean roof!

The new vent/fan is the Maxxair 4500K, which is pretty much a direct replacement for the standard roof vent opening.  It also has a great remote for VCI’s (vertically-challenged individuals – one lives here), with multiple controls and thermostatic operation.

As you may know, the toughest part of this job is to get the old fan and caulk removed without tearing up the roof.  After that, the project was very straight-forward, and the instructions that came with the unit were easy to follow.  It works great, and we like the “smoked” cover because it lets some light into the bathroom during the day.

Removed Diamond Shield protectant –

Our coach came new with a product called Diamond Shield installed on the front cap, which protects the paint from rock chips and other debris.  The trouble is, after several years it was beginning to deteriorate and look bad.  After lots of research I decided to remove it.  I was lucky to get the plastic material off in large sections without it falling apart, but removing the adhesive remaining on the paint turned into a long and tough project.

I have finally gotten all of the adhesive off without damaging the paint.  I plan to write a post dedicated to this project, since it has been a topic of much debate on some of the RV forums.