Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quartzsite to Yuma, Arizona

February 26, 2013:

We had to hustle a bit on Sunday morning to get our trash to the waste dump at 7:30, then get ready for takeoff at 9, then to the dump station to dump tanks, followed by the ARCO station to get our RV weighed by Howard and Linda.  We discarded new friends Jesse and Meaghan's two RV doors that they removed to help their over weight situation.  Good news, our RV is 1,000 lbs. under its gross vehicle weight rating, our only issue is the "Tow Max" tires that are rated very poorly, prone to blowouts.  I will be watching them very closely and plan to replace them this year. 

After saying goodbye to RV Dreams visionaries Howard and Linda Payne it was happy trails time and we pulled out of Quartzsite taking Rt 95 south for about 90 miles to Yuma, Arizona.  It was a very windy day, but luckily it was mostly a tailwind, our fuel mileage was 11.5 MPG on the run. There were places where the dust was blowing reminiscent of 1920's "dust bowl days", mostly where the desert was plowed and transformed into farmland. All the stuff that wasn't green was blowing away !  We found our way to the Escapees Kofa KO-OP Retreat without incident at 12:30 PM.  We had just joined "Escapees" to give us more RV park discount options.  We are now really into being "Cheap", so we opted for a $5.00 per day dry camping spot.  We quickly set up camp and then went for a ride out to the nearby Sidewinder and Ogilby Road 14 day free BLM areas to search for potential boondocking spots. We found lots of wide open sites there and we plan to move there on Tuesday. In the meantime we are using all the escapee retreat amenities that we can. We did skip the Sunday evening ice cream social, we sort of overdosed on social activities during the past two weeks.

Monday 8 AM, it was down to 39 degrees last night, had the heat set at 50 degrees last night to conserve batteries (we are hard core).  The generator is now running, the heat is cranked up, all the electronics are charging, the sun is shinning brightly and Twinkles is singing "All my Ex's live in Texas", (it got stuck in her brain back in Quartzsite at Silly Al's Pizza listening to the Highway 95 band), all is good !

We checked out historic downtown Yuma on Monday and found it very interesting with tons of history, amazing history !  Like most old downtowns, all the shopping has moved to the mega-malls, but there are some fun restaurants, bars, antique shops, museums, professional offices, craft shops and other artistic stuff. We also went down to the once mighty Colorado River and learned the sad story of the Quechan Indian tribe who once controlled this entire area, learned of the old ferry to get across the river to California, saw the bridge to no where, the coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the gold mining frenzy. The taming of the west is a very sad story, more will be revealed latter.

Next stop is the BLM free 14 day area off Ogilby road within sight of the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation area. 

Stay tuned for more,
Twinkles and Slick

Nude book store owner "Sweet Pie" in Quartzsite

Old Yuma Post Office

Sheep in field near Escapees KOFA KO-OP Resort in Yuma, AZ

Twinkles posing at Lutes Casino

Twinkles posing by Ocotillo mural in downtown Yuma

Entrance to Lutes Casino

Yuma Tattoo parlor display window

Interior of Lutes Casino

Aerial view of RV Dreams rally site at Quartzsite

Twinkles posing at controls in Southern Pacific steam loco X 2521

Colorado River in downtown Yuma, the "Ocean to Ocean" bridge in background

Another aerial view of the RV Dreams camp circle
Interesting painting at Lutes Casino

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Quartzsite week 2

February 24, 2013:

We took a ride with friends Jeanne and Glen to "Quinn Pass", named for Thomas Quinn, who came from from New Jersey, settled here and started  mining, for a short but excellent, scenic hike.  We then continued on to the town of Bouse. At Bouse we stopped for a beer at the interesting "Somewhere in Arizona Bar", which had a friendly old biker bartender who gave us some travel tips for the area.   Latter in the afternoon, I went on a solo excursion to an area near our campsite where the name "Quartzsite" and a directional arrow is spelled out with rocks to be visible from the air for WWII pilot trainees to see.  Also a mile or so away is the "Fisherman Intaglio" the outline of a fisherman was drawn on the desert floor by ancient indians. It is very faint, you can just barely see it, it's more visible from the air, but it is amazing to me that after hundreds of years it is still visible at all.  Then I went to downtown Quartzsite to see the "Hi Jolly Monument" and town cemetery.  Hi Jolly's real name was Hadji Ali and he was one of several camel drivers brought over by the US Army in a failed attempt to introduce Camels to the American Southwest in the mid 1800's.  Ali was the only camel driver to remain in Arizona where he took up prospecting and became known to the Quartzsite locals as "Hi Jolly".  Also in the cemetery is a stone for James Mareles - Earth shaking, (see photo) with a railroad spike in the stone, there must be a story ?, another John Henry, steel driving man ?

RV Dreams did a seminar on how to find boondocking spots on BLM land, state parks, National Parks, Corp of Engineers sites and others. Also much information about helpful web sites and RV clubs was revealed.  It seems that boondocking is way easier and done almost entirely in the western US where almost all of the public land exists.  It basically comes down to doing lots of research on the web to find good spots.

On Tuesday we hitched up and towed the RV back to the "Pit Stop" in Quartzsite to drain the holding tanks and fill our water tank.  We did a good job of conserving water over the past week and probably could have lasted at least another day or two, but the weather forecast looked bad (wind and rain) for Wednesday, so we decided to just do it early.  Tuesday night and Wednesday lived up to the advance billing, it was windy and rained overnight, then Wednesday morning we had a period of hail or sleet, then alternating sun and clouds until late afternoon. 

The desert is really starting to green up and there are a few wild flowers starting to bloom, there is a definite change of seasons here.  I am really looking forward to the spring wildflowers and the cactus flowers. I had shorts on for the first time this week since mid December, that sure felt good !

On Thursday Twinkles and I took a ride 20 miles over the California border to the town of Blythe, lots of agriculture there and shopping, but the town itself was sort of uninspiring.  We did manage to stumble upon a restaurant for lunch that had some character, "Steaks and Cakes", which had considerable local flavor and the food was pretty good too.  I also managed to find a few cool old signs and graffiti to take photos of. Then back to the campground for another evening pot luck meal and cocktails that continued by campfire well into the night.

We have been over indulging on much good food and drinks (not complaining at all) between all the pot luck evening meals, Gina's "Solo Cafe" breakfast in the morning and the campfire sessions at night. Almost looking forward to quiet times, more hiking, less eating and drinking.  It was a great rally, we learned some things, gained boondocking experience, had a lot of fun and made many new friends.

We are now heading to the Yuma, Arizona area on Sunday where we hope to enjoy a full hookup campground for a couple of days and then boondock for another 2 weeks on BLM land in the area. 

Stay tuned for more,
Twinkles and Slick

The Fisherman Intaglio

View from Quinn Pass hiking trail

The Quartzsite rock alignment

Cholla Cactus with new green growth

Ocotillo with new green leaves

The Fisherman Intaglio

HI Jolly Monument in Quartzsite

Earth shaking gravesite in Quartzsite

The Parker Train Station

The RV Dreams campsite in Quartzsite

Railcar in Parker, Arizona

Sleet bouncing off the truck and covering the ground

Rainbow from our RV window

The Steaks and Shakes restaurant in Blythe, CA

Interesting old cafe in Blythe, CA

I loved this bar room diorama in the museum

The historic Camel Stop in Quatrzsite

On the Quartzsite's most colorful characters

Windmill at the Tyson's Well Stage Station Museum in Quartzsite

Monday, February 18, 2013

Boondocking in Quartzsite

 February 18, 2013:

It was a rough start to our travel day to Quartzsite, the temperature had dropped to 24 degrees overnight and there was no water, we were frozen up. We had been looking forward to nice hot showers before the start of our boondocking adventure. So there I was at 7 AM in below freezing temperature putting on our spare water hose and dumping hot water on the valve to thaw it out.  To my relief, it worked and we got away clean, on the road at 9 AM as planned.  

A nice sunny day, nothing but blue sky, good driving conditions.  After 350 miles, we arrived in Quartzsite about 4 PM and stopped at the recommended "RV Pit Stop" to fill our fresh water and propane tanks.  It was then about 5 miles out into the surrounding BLM land to the RV Dreams rally site.  

We set up, (pretty easy when boondocking), and were just in time for the dinner spread put on by RV Dreams.  It was then the usual rally information, rules and introductions.  Then time to relax and unwind under a beautiful clear night sky, filled with stars, cold enough to want to get right up next to the blazing wood fire.  It seemed that everyone was around the fire with assorted beverages and much laughter and conversation.  A couple that we had met at our first RV Dreams rally in Hershey, PA were there and it was great to see them again. 

The cold front that froze us at Bisbee seems to have followed us to Quartzsite.  On Sunday and Monday low temperatures were in the low 30's overnight and since we were only on battery power we barely used the furnace.  I fired up the generator in the morning to make coffee, crank up the heat, use the toaster and recharge the batteries.  The generator is going to get a good workout over the next two weeks.  The sound of multiple generator's running, not exactly serene, solar panels are now making more sense to me, even if they aren't exactly cost effective.

As it was cold and cloudy with light rain Monday morning we took a ride to downtown Quartzsite to look around and were very surprised.  We had been told by other people that there was nothing at Quartzsite, it was just a barren wasteland.  We sure found this to be wrong, there are several stores to buy food and supplies, restaurants, bars, gas stations, even McDonalds.  There are also lots of vendors selling all sorts of stuff, but if you're idea of civilization is a shopping Mall, then this is a barren wasteland.

The RV Dreams rally has had several informative seminars during the week on boondocking related topics. Also there has been lots of great food, pot luck meals, a chili cookout, pot luck hors d'oeuvres, a Valentine's party with dance music under the stars, an RV open house tour and several new friends.   Our nights have consisted mainly of sitting around the campfire, drinking assorted beverages, (beer has been our largest expense), listening to RV travel tales and other related stories and laughing out loud !  

There are still lots of rock and gem vendors in Quartzsite although the big show is over.  We would love to buy lots of rocks but they are not especially good in a RV where weight is kind of important. Our new RV rule is "Little rocks only" !

While I was at one of the RV Dream seminars on Wednesday, Twinkles and her friend Jeanne went shopping in Quartzsite.  They went to the local bookstore and found the owner almost totally nude and of course Twinkles sneaked a photo.  It seems that this is his usual attire at the store.  He is quite the character and years ago was a musician of some renown who went by the name "Sweet pie". Minutes latter Twinkles had a stimulating conversation with another Quartzsite shop owner (character) who warned her about the government plot to kill the 49% people and how the scientists were working in the desert in FEMA trailers developing an antidote to save the rest of the population, it's true, it's on the internet he told her.  So while Twinkles is learning about government plots to kill us, I am back at the camp learning how to properly maintain our RV Toilet holding tank ?  

On Thursday, we went for a short hike at the "Kola National Wildlife Refuge".  The hike was only a mile round trip and takes you into Palm Canyon where you can view a stand of native Palm trees, one of only 2 or 3 groves in Arizona.  We then drove several miles down a very rough, rocky gravel road to the Crystal Hill rock collection area.  This is an area where you are allowed to pick a limited quantity of rocks.  We walked around there looking for cool rocks, didn't find anything great, but left with a few to add to our collection.  

There was an RV Dreams caravan on Sunday to the Desert Bar. The Desert Bar was 30 some miles away, then another 5 miles down a rough dirt road to what looked like an old mining area, it was packed with people, was very scenic and had a live band playing, it was a lot of fun !

This is a very successful rally so far, we are having a great time and learning much. That is the goal !

Stay tuned for more,
Twinkles and Slick

Quartzsite  vendor

RV Dreams circle view

Every kind of rock imaginable can be found here

View from the Palm Canyon road

RV Dreams circle at Quartzsite

The rough road to the Desert Bar

Old Ford Truck at the Desert Bar

The native Palms in Palm Canyon

View inside Palm Canyon looking out into valley

 Crystal Hill rock collection area

View at the Crystal Hill rock collection area

View looking down on the Desert Bar from the hill top

Old car at the Desert Bar

The RV Dreams crowd at the Desert Bar

Someone on top of rig catching the sunset

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bisbee week 3

February 9, 2013:

The holding tank sensors have been progressively getting worse, so I decided to take a look.  I opened up the lower cover of the RV (flimsy cardboard sheet) to see how they were installed in the tank and how accessible they are to replace. I am tired of putting various chemicals into the tanks trying to keep the sensors clean and working.  It's not working !  I found a company, Horst, that manufacturers a replacement sensor that is designed to keep working without all the fuss.  It looks like the Horst sensors are an exact easy replacement and they are easy to access, so I will be trying them shortly.

It's not much fun on your back on rough gravel working under the Sewer Tank and it was really ugly looking in there.  Quality workmanship seems to exist only in areas of the RV that are visible, everything else is a mess.  I worked as a railroad QA inspector and we would never let a contractor get away with such poor wiring, piping and mechanical assembly. I couldn't deal with it at the time, so I just put the cover back up for now.  I'll go back in latter when I change the sensors and try to improve the mess.  

Tuesday was a hiking day, to Chiricahua National Monument where the notorious Chiricahua Apache used to roam.  We did an overly ambitious hike for us, 7 + miles with a goal of doing the Heart of Rocks Loop Trail.  It is an incredible hike, every rock formations seemed more spectacular than the previous one, photos do not do it justice, and around every corner is something awe inspiring.  It was a warm, sunny day, but the trail took us into a few northern exposure canyon areas where there were pockets of snow.  Also there was  a large fire a few years ago and some areas of forest are burnt.  Twinkles ran out of steam about a mile from the Loop trail and sat it out while I continued on to the Heart of Rocks area, did a portion of the Loop trail, then returned.  Twinkles had a magical play time with a mexican bluejay who came right next to her begging for cracker crumbs.  It was then another 2 1/2 miles back to the parking lot, we were dragging ass on the way back, but it was worth it. 

Wednesday for lunch we went to a little Taco shop down the road, Tacho's Taco, the place is great, everything is fresh homemade.  I then went to the Bisbee post office to mail a couple of packages, I was there about 10 minutes and could hardly believe the strange cast of characters who came through. I then took another short but steep, rocky 1 mile hike up Youngblood Hill that overlooks Bisbee. At the top of the hill there is a large cross, several interesting shrines and great views of Bisbee and the surrounding hills. 

I dragged Twinkles to the acoustic jam at the St. Elmo bar in the evening, her first time there.  We met Bruce there, who had won $200 on the lottery and started a $100 bar tab, buying drinks for everyone.  He was a real fun guy !  They have an old gentleman there every week who plays a bass saxaphone (rather poorly, but who cares) that makes a dreadful deep bass sound. Bruce was really grooving to the music and told us that we had to put our feet on the floor so we could feel the vibrations. Sorry to say we didn't feel it, but Bruce did !  These are the kinds of things that make the St. Elmo special.  

Boondocking requires considerable planning and preparation; towards that end, Thursday was a trip to Sierra Vista to stock up on supplies.  I also had an appointment for an oil change, then we made the rounds to fill a propane tank, then to Target, then lunch, then the library used book store, then Walmart, then back to the GMC dealer for an air filter which didn't show up.  It was a long, tiring, expensive day, Twinkles (ever the optimist) said it still beats working, doesn't it ? 

Friends that we had met while at "Desert Trail RV Park" visited us on Friday.  We did a little shopping and had lunch in downtown Bisbee, it was great to see them again.  

This winter keeps coming back, it's now Saturday morning, the wind is blowing 20-30 MPH and we have a snow squall at the moment.  The snow didn't amount to anything so I was able to stick to my original plan and went to Sierra Vista, got the air filter for the truck, then to the local high school for the Cochise County Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  

We are planning to get out of here at 9 AM tomorrow as it is about 350 miles to Quartsite, Arizona.  I'll miss Bisbee, but new adventures call !

The Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering

Balanced Rock at Chiricahua National Monument

Trail view at Chiricahua National Monument

View at Chiricahua National Monument

View at Chiricahua National Monument

View from the trail at Chiriicahua National Monument

Tacho's Tacos sign

Sunset view from the RV

Bisbee one way sign and mural

Downtown Bisbee view

View of Bisbee from the trail on Youngblood Hill

Shrine on Youngblood Hill

Bisbee from the top of Youngblood HIll

A beautiful flowering Yucca plant on a Bisbee building

Shrine on top of Youngblood Hill overlooking  Bisbee