Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How NOT to get out of Prescott, Arizona

For those who love Arizona, but can't handle the summer heat of the lower elevations, Prescott is a huge draw. At 5,400 feet, the summer high temperature averages 89 degrees – nearly 20 degrees less than in Phoenix. It's a town with an "Old West" presence, and there's ample camping opportunity, surrounded as it is by public lands where RVers can stay for low cost – even for free.

The drawback is access.

Like a lot of other "Old West" towns, Prescott is off the beaten path. The major North-South artery, Interstate 70, is miles to the east of Prescott, and it can take a bit of time to get to 70 to make your way south. And if your travel plans on leaving Prescott would take you south and west, well, going way east to turn around and go back west just has a way of grating one's teeth.

Yes, you can assuredly drive south out of Prescott. Arizona 89 runs downhill southwest out of Prescott – intersecting with Arizona 71 at the town of Congress. The 71 will take you on farther south and west, shooting you out toward the likes of Quartzsite, even Los Angeles. And it's a short hop, to boot. Trouble is, right in the middle of it is a thing called Yarnell Hill.

Loved by bold motorcyclists, and held in no small amount of regard (and perhaps disdain) by wise 18-wheeler drivers, Yarnell Hill is a bit of a legend. In four miles the elevation changes 2,500 feet, with up to six percent grades. But it's not the grades that make Yarnell so intimidating – it's the twists and turns of the highway – evocative of a cow's intestinal tract. Throw in a few rock overhangs, some mighty narrow lanes, some pretty serious drop-offs, and an occasional rockslide without warning, and Yarnell Hill rightly earns the title of Arizona's most dangerous drive.

We've "done" Yarnell with an RV a couple of times – both up, and the dreaded downside. It's one of those places that when you make it to the bottom, you'll practically want to get out and do a little ground-kissing. So it was that on our last adventure to Prescott (coming into town via Interstate 17 and the associated western run via Arizona 69) when it came time to leave, we were decidedly looking for an "alternate route" to Quartzsite.

Enter Google Maps. We knew there had to be an alternative, so we plugged in Prescott to Quartzsite, and immediately received the helpful suggestion of traveling down 89, through Yarnell. Pull on the little button, moving the route west eventually gave us the option of going north out of Prescott, then west to Skull Valley. But again, the route still took us to Congress – via Yarnell Hill. A little more tugging on the route gave us the option of traveling through a little burg called Hillside – "a populated place located in Yavapai County." Follow County Road 62 south out of Hillside, 20 miles south, and practically smack into Congress. And looking at the map, the road running into Hillside from the north is drawn the same as the one going out of town.

Ah, what fools us mortal RVers can be. Changing Google Maps default of "map" to "earth view" and then zooming in on earth view would have told us a lot in a minute. To our credit, however, one blogger describes the road between Hillside and Congress as "an easily traveled dirt road."

At the south end of Hillside we suddenly reached the end of the pavement. A sign warned, "Primitive road, use at your own risk." We'd driven plenty of dirt roads, and there was no rain in the forecast. Going back to Prescott could be done, but then we'd either face Yarnell Hill, or a long loop east to go west through Phoenix. "What kind of trouble could there be?" Cell signal strong – on we pushed.

And it was a beautiful start. The topography rolled gently up and down, and a few potholes there were to be avoided. Forget about traffic, we were alone with our thoughts. For the first few miles. Things got a little dicey when we happened upon a power line repair crew – narrow road, but we managed it. A few miles after them, a straggling part of the crew. A flatbed semi carrying very l-o-n-g poles idling beside the road. We pulled up behind, jumped out to ask the driver if perhaps he could pull just a little more to the right – and encountered the Mary Celeste of the Arizona outback. Nice truck, rumbling engine, but nobody home.

With the navigator hanging her head out the side window talking us through the very narrow squeek of dirt between the truck and the left side of the road falloff, we managed to gently nudge past the derelict semi. Somewhere down the line, we finally encountered the driver, who'd apparently got out to scout the road up ahead.

And the road up ahead was worth scouting, because before we could quite reach the half-way mark, the road suddenly got ugly. We'd been hustling along, dodging potholes at a respectable 20 or 25 miles per hour, when suddenly the rig began to shudder, vibrate, shake, and otherwise get completely uncontrollable. The pilot had all he could do to try and keep things from pounding off the roadway – the trailer was shoving the truck on down the "roadway." Washboard! Oh, washboard like we'd never experienced before!

The balance of the trip on CR 62 – Date Creek Road – was a slow motion nightmare. If we dared to get much above five miles per hour, steering control was almost non-existent. At five miles per hour or less, no amount of Super Polygrip would've kept fake teeth in one's mouth. It was simply a matter of taking the pounding and watching the numbers creep past on the GPS. Occasionally courteous locals would wave as they blasted past in pickup trucks, leaving rooster tails of dust to envelop the view, adding just one more treat to the already laughable situation.

Adding to the fun – we came over a rise to discover a wash at the bottom of the hill – not with running water, but with plenty of mud. There was no way out of this one – we just had to hit the accelerator and make a go for it – feeling the wheels slip as we held on for dear life and hoped we didn't run out of momentum before we ran out of mud.

We finally crawled back on the pavement near Congress. A stop and walk-around revealed no outside damage – other than the turning of the normally white front of the trailer an earthy brown from the mud bath. Inside was a different story. The lower kitchen cabinets, which had stuck with us through our trials of thousands of previous miles, gave up and regurgitated their contents onto the kitchen floor. Somehow, too, something had managed to jump up and turn on the kitchen faucet. With the water pump left "on," the pump diligently did its job and pumped the contents of the fresh water tank out of the faucet, into a dishpan, some down the drain, and the balance across the counter and onto the floor.

It took several days to get it all straightened out.

And now, next time we contemplate a trip to Prescott, maybe 15 minutes of white-knuckling down Yarnell Hill beats two hours of torture on Date Creek Road

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Crooked consignment dealers who swindled RVers get their comeuppance

jj on wikipedia.org
Two crooked RV dealers who swindled Arizona residents in a consignment sale scheme will have a while to think about their victims – behind bars. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced the owners of multiple Tucson RV consignment businesses will go to prison for their role in defrauding 24 victims out of $423,542. Lorenzo Caracciolo Sr. was sentenced to five years in prison and his son, Lorenzo Caracciolo Jr., was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

“This is an appropriate and just sentence,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “The victims suffered life-altering financial losses. Their testimony and cooperation helped ensure these scammers won’t be harming other Arizona families anytime soon.”

For more than three years, from January 2010 through October 2013, Lorenzo Caracciolo Sr. and Lorenzo Caracciolo Jr. used their RV consignment business to scam 24 victims out of thousands of dollars. Most of the victims are elderly. Their financial losses range from $3,400 to over $79,000 individually. The Caracciolo’s executed their fraud scheme by entering into an agreement to sell a used RV on consignment with the RV’s owner. The Cacacciolo’s would then tell the owner that the RV had sold for a lower purchase price than had been offered and would pocket the additional proceeds. Additionally, defendants would deposit the entire sale proceeds into a personal bank account, and never transfer any money from the completed sale to the owner. Defendants employed their scheme through three business entities, Canyon State RV, Kickin’ Kampers, and RV Coachworks.

On November 17, 2014, the Attorney General’s Office obtained State Grand Jury indictments charging the Caracciolo’s with 14 felony counts, including one count of Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, one count of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, six counts of Theft, and six counts of Forgery.

The defendants pleaded guilty on June 10, 2015. Lorenzo Caracciolo, Sr. pleaded guilty to Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices and Theft. Lorenzo Caracciolo, Jr. pleaded guilty to two counts of Theft.

On Monday, the Honorable Christopher Browning sentenced Lorenzo Caracciolo, Sr. to five years in prison followed by a seven year probation term upon his release from prison. Judge Browning sentenced Lorenzo Caracciolo, Jr. to two and a half years prison followed by a four year probation term upon his release from prison. In addition to the prison sentences, both defendants were ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution to their victims.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Snowbirds arriving early in Arizona

Snowbirds are arriving in Arizona two to four weeks ahead of schedule in what is shaping up to be a stronger 2014-2015 winter season.

“I’m getting them coming in two weeks to a month earlier and they are extending out longer at the other end (of the winter season),” said Sabrina Welborn, office manager for the 265-site Silverview RV Resort in Bullhead City. “The phone is ringing and I have a stack of emails to respond to to see who we can accommodate. We’re already at about 90 percent occupancy for January, February and March and we expect to be at 100 percent in those months.”

RV parks in the Phoenix area are seeing the same trend. “We are seeing people come in earlier and they are staying longer, which is good news for the local economy,” said Jim Mathew, operations supervisor for Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort in El Mirage. “The reservations came in a lot faster this year.”

“We’re already getting busy,” said Jan Venard, assistant manager of Phoenix Metro RV Park. “The season is starting earlier.”

 “We’ve even been having people arrive (for the winter) with no reservations,” said Eric Vargas of the 203-site Desert’s Edge RV Park in Phoenix.

While many Arizona RV parks are reporting an earlier than usual arrival of snowbirds, the numbers of snowbirds arriving at each park varies. Apache Palms RV Park in Tempe, for example, is reporting small numbers of early snowbird arrivals, as is Rincon Country RV Resort in Tucson.

RV park operators attribute the early influx of snowbirds to cooler weather up North and to the Farmer’s Almanac, which is forecasting a cold, hard winter in many areas up north. “Some of our guests tell me they have already had the snow hit,” said Welborn of Silverview RV Resort. “Some have also said they want to do the drive now and get out of it.”

 Jo Ann Mickelson, who co-owns and operates JH RV Park in Flagstaff, said her park, which closed for the winter on Saturday, has been unusually busy this month with Canadians heading south. “We’ve had a lot of Canadians already coming through,” said Mickelson. “We usually don’t have them at this time of year. We’re usually closed by the time they come through.”