Quartzsite Redux

Our last day before leaving Kartchner was a busy one.  Greg finished his install, Cori/Kelly and I went looking for sand hill cranes (no luck there) and Lee and Bill had a great time at the Pima Air and Space museum.  Lee took lots of pics and may do a supplemental blog post later.  The last night I made a meatloaf dinner for everyone and then we went to see an observatory that Kelly found on trip adviser.  This small observatory holds about 17 people, but has a huge telescope and a rotating roof.  It’s free if you stay at the Butterfield RV Resort and only $2 a person if you aren’t staying there.  You need to call first thing in the morning though, and make a reservation, and I absolutely recommend you do it if you are in the area.  Lee said “This is the coolest thing we have done since being on the road,” when we finished, and those that follow our travels know that is no small statement.  The work kamper, a retired chiropractor and amateur astronomy enthusiast, was very knowledgeable and entertaining.  More importantly instead of seeing the stars on a screen we all got to step up to the telescope and look in the eyepiece.  Everyone took a turn seeing two stars in the Orion constellation, the Orion nebula, the seven sisters (my favorite), the moon, and Jupiter.  Obviously their was some down time between turns, but it went quicker than you would think and there was a lot of interesting information while you were waiting.  Although I wouldn’t say it was the coolest thing we have done, but I definitely would recommend it one evening if you are in the Benson area.

We may not have found any birds but I did buy a bag of locally grown pinto beans for $4.50!

We may not have found any birds but I did buy a bag of locally grown pinto beans for $4.50!

The observatory

The observatory.  Sorry for the quality, night shot with phone, not great

Pretty big telescope inside for the room's size

Pretty big telescope  for the room’s size

Beautiful full moon in Kartchner

Beautiful full moon in Kartchner

It was only a 5 hour drive to Quartzsite the next day, so we decided to all go separately and then make sure someone met Kelly and Bill at the front when they arrived.  Normally we would not have come back to the same area so quickly, but we wanted to be with Kelly and Bill when they experienced Quartzsite for the first time. And we had left some things undone, believe it or not, despite being in Q for a month.  We ended up driving on HWY 8 and bypassing Phoenix and I really recommend that route.  It goes right through a beautiful section of nationally protected Sonoran Desert and there wasn’t much traffic on it compared to HWY 10.  Cori and Greg took the straighter route, plus Greg drives faster, and they got to Q around 2:30.  We got there at 3pm and had just finished dumping and filling with water when Kelly and Bill arrived.   Our old spots were open again, so back we went and getting settled in was much faster the second time around.  Pam was nice enough to organize a hot dog dinner and had a huge turnout of folks for Kelly and Bill to meet which was very nice.

Travel day potluck

Travel day potluck

Harry and Vicky

Rick (in hat), Dino, Harry, Vicki, and Steve

The number 1 thing I wanted to do when we got back to Q was go on a hike with Jim and Barb.  I absolutely love their blog Jim and Barb’s RV Adventureand although we have gotten to know them better in a group setting, we really wanted to do something with just the four of us.  We had planned this hike, but other group activities kept getting in the way, so we were all committed to making this happen.  And boy am I glad we did.  Several people have hiked the Palm Canyon in the Kofa Wilderness area, but the pictures really don’t do it justice.  That’s not a slam on the photography, by the way, it’s just one of those places that’s tough to capture but takes your breath away.  Because the hike is very steep and goes through some narrow crevices these pictures were taken by me, Lee, or Jim.  The good news about this hike, which was the toughest we have done from a footing perspective, is you can drive the 8 miles right up to the canyon, then park and walk as much or as little as you want to. All the pieces of it were beautiful to me and even though touching the palms was cool and all, the views were more amazing. 

The desert leading up to the canyon was very green in late February

The desert leading up to the canyon was very green in late February

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Loved that the ocotillo's had leaves now

Loved that the ocotillo’s had leaves

Still lots of thorns in there though

Still lots of thorns in there though. Hope we get to see the flowers before we leave the desert

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The canyon

The canyon with the little windy road at the base

The view from the end of the road back to the desert

The view from the end of the road back the way we came in

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The canyon was cool in the shade and had tons of greenery

Barb previously climbed up to this ridge and saw lots of relatively fresh bighorn sheep dung

Barb previously climbed up to this ridge and saw lots of relatively fresh bighorn sheep dung

Finally we got to the spot where we could see the palms. These are the only indigenous palm trees in Arizona and many people stop at this point and turn back

Finally we got to the spot where we could see the palms (in the center crevice). These are the only indigenous palm trees in Arizona and many people stop at this point of the trail and turn back

We kept going and the views got more spectacular

We kept going and the views got more spectacular

Barb initially found this way to the palms, you have to climb up on the right hand side.

Barb initially found this way to the palms, you have to climb up on the right hand side.

Lee was great keeping up with her. I took a little longer

Lee was great keeping up with her. I took a little longer

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Finally made it

Finally made it

And a little bit farther to touch the palms, which were very big

And a little bit farther to touch the palms, which were very big.  I was breathing a sigh of relief

Thanks Barb and Jim, no way we could have done this without you guys

Thanks Barb and Jim, no way we could have done this without you guys

The way down for me was actually worse

The way down for me was actually worse

Lee once again did great

Lee once again did great

 

I held my breath a lot and scootched on my butt in several places

I held my breath and scooched on my butt in several places

The views were once again spectacular but I really wished I had my poles for the way down

The views were once again spectacular but I really wished I had my poles for the way down

Look in the bottom middle of the pic and you can see a person down there. It was a long way up, but very glad we did it

Look in the bottom middle of the pic and you can see a person down there. It was a long way up, but very glad we did it

And if that wasn’t enough dare devil activity for one day, a bunch of us went to Silly Al’s for pizza and karaoke and I actually got up and sang.  I dedicated my one karaoke song “Honey I’m Home” by Shania Twain to Red and Pam and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  I may not sing very well, but I am sassy which works very good for that song 🙂  Plus I got to sit at the end of the table with Harry and Vicki and I really enjoyed getting to know them better.  They have a great story.  Harry worked a corporate job and when they retired they went on the road.  Vicki works in quality assurance for an IT department so could work out her few remaining years on the road and she works and Harry takes care of everything else.  He plans their routes, cooks dinners, and has done work kamping stints, including one at Amazon!! I really love what they are doing and like them very much as a couple so it was great to learn more about them.  They have a blog, and although Harry doesn’t post a ton, I really like his writing style.

So we have definitely hit Q running.  Looking forward to Jo and Ben getting here this weekend to hang out as well and a big Margarita/dance party  on Saturday.  Stay tuned!!

The gang at Silly Al's

The gang at Silly Al’s

Red and Pam dancing!

Red and Pam dancing!

Me getting my karaoke on

Me getting my karaoke on

 

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First Time (for Tracy) Dealing with the Black/Grey/Fresh Tanks

Although the RV tech work for Lee has largely been a non-starter so far, luckily Lee had booked some free lance camera jobs in Phoenix with a company he used to work for many years ago.  One of his best friends still works there, and when his friend found out he was going to be in the area they hired him as a freelancer to work on some of their live business events.  Lee was pretty excited, because he hadn’t had the opportunity to work with the company in 15 years, but a little nervous because he was 15 years older.  We talked about moving the rig closer to Phoenix, but since these would be long days I really wanted to stay in Quartzsite with our friends.  So Lee agreed to make the 2 hour drive each way on the days he worked, but we had to figure out what to do about the tanks.  He is working Tues, Thurs, and then Sat-Fri and no way would he be able to take care of the tanks also.  He gently broached the subject with me and I immediately said it was time for me to learn.  Yes, I will still need to borrow a vehicle to transport the portable tanks, but I wanted to be as self sufficient as possible.  Plus there are three big things I still cannot do that make me nervous about my ability to be self reliant if something happened to Lee.  Hitching/Unhitching comfortably, driving on a 6% grade, and tank management are the big three and after a year on the road I am pretty embarrassed that I cannot do these things yet.  So his work opportunity was also a blessing in disguise because it forced the issue.  Sometimes in life you just have to put your big girl pants on and do the tough thing.

Thankfully Lee is a wonderful teacher.  He has a soothing, calm voice and is very patient.  The hardest part was stopping himself from taking over when I struggled, but he got into the spirit of it and started saying, “Hey, I am in a coma remember, you can do this by yourself.”  At a couple of points I really was starting to resent that fictional coma!!  I am going to walk you through the steps as he taught me, but keep in mind everyone’s system is a little different and this has way more steps because there are no hookups here.  In general though the actions are the same for everyone and if I can do this anyone can, because trust me I am NOT mechanically inclined. 

The first thing we did was drive to empty the Blue BoyOne of the nice things about a Blue Boy is you can fill it and the gray water can stay inside until you have time to empty it at a dump station, assuming you aren’t pulling it behind your truck. They have wheels, and are designed to be pulled like a tiny little trailer, but some people, like us, keep it in the bed of the pickup so pulling it around on those little wheels doesn’t ruin it. Obviously when it has liquid in it you can’t lift it. Ours is 35 gallons, and water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so when it’s full, it’s a hefty 300 lbs. Emptying an already full Blue Boy was a nice way to start actually because it only involved a couple of steps.  I got myself a pair of blue rubber gloves, jumped into the driver seat and off we went.  La Posa has two dump areas, one for the rigs and another smaller one for Blue Boys only.  Since the stations with rigs were very full, we went closer to the entrance and used the Blue Boy dump station. I actually wanted to use that one because it is all by itself and I thought I wouldn’t have an audience.  Unfortunately, one of the camp hosts was stationed there (probably to ensure rigs didn’t use it) and couldn’t refrain from commenting as we went along.  When I said I needed to learn I hoped he would back off, but he watched every move and even said “I am enjoying this,” at one point.  OK, side rant here.  Not cool.  I don’t care if you are a girl or a guy, when you are doing something for the first time it is tough and shame on people who stand around and watch, or worse, pass judgement.  It actually stiffened my resolve though.  No better way to motivate me than to tell me I can’t do something and I pulled down the tailgate and started.  Lee talked me through it step-by-step and the hardest part for me was connecting the sewer hose to the Blue Boy hose. It’s completely manual and involves turning a plastic piece and “latching” it with another, and obviously you want this to be tight so it doesn’t leak.  I almost gave up, I really did, and the guy looking on didn’t help, but finally I put the hose between my legs for leverage and twisted and it locked in.  Then I did the easy part which was to put the connector into the hole (I held my breath first so I wouldn’t get a full whiff of waste) and then opened the vent hole on the blue boy, which allows air in so the vacuum of draining liquid doesn’t collapse the tank, and then opened the waste valve unlatching it so it lays flat in the truck.   Hooray the water started to come out. 

We added a step stool into our truck which helps make it easy to get in and out

We added a step stool into our truck which helps make it easy to get in and out

Me twisting the cap on

Me twisting the cap on

Happy the water was coming out

Happy the water was coming out

Unfortunately the good feeling didn’t last long, because the self-appointed tank watcher said, “It will drain faster if you tilt the blue boy up.”  So I jumped into the truck and of course when I tried to lift it it was still too heavy.  I lifted the hose a tiny bit, being careful not to pull out the end that was in the ground, and it went a little faster and then I tried again.  when it was about a third full I could lift it and indeed it did go faster.  By the way, all of the liquid does not come out but you can get most of it that way.  The I screwed the cap back on the vent hole, shut the waste valve and relatched it in the upright position, and pulled the hose back into the truck.  Feeling pretty happy that I made it through the first step we headed back to the RV fill it up with black water.

To be perfectly clear, Lee would have just as soon skipped the black tank, but I was adamant.  We can go two weeks without emptying our black tank, and Lee prefers not to use the Blue Boy for black water if it can be avoided, but If I was doing this, I was all in, and really there isn’t that much difference.  We have a macerator pump which turns the poop into what we affectionately call a poop milkshake (think garbage disposal).  So really the only difference between the gray and the black tank is the smell and the mental fact that if it gets on your hands it’s poop.  Technically there was no difference between the two and I just decided that one was the same as another.  When we got back to the truck I disconnected the hose (again needing to put it between my legs and twist several times to get it loose) and then unclamped the garden hose from the rig.  Lee hangs the dumping hose , with a clamp, facing up on the wire on our slide out so that the waste water remaining in the hose does not run out on the ground.  If you are going straight into full hookups this is not necessary, but since we had to pump the milkshake into the blue boy there would be some remaining in the hose.  I unclamped it and held it up as instructed and then climbed back into the truck.  Taking the very top of the hose I screwed it onto the valve on the blue boy.  There was nothing in the end I used so no mess other than a few drops of water. I opened the waste valve on our tanks and no leaks.  Next I took the extension cord Lee made with tiny power clips and hooked them to the truck battery.  Lee’s ultimate goal is to hard wire power directly from the RV but for now this is an acceptable way to get power to the pump.  It works just like jump starting a battery.  Place the black clip on negative and the red clip on positive…in that order.  I then opened the vent hole in the blue boy again.  The air in the blue boy has to go somewhere when it starts to fill up so this was an important step.

Attaching the hose to the valve

Attaching the hose to the valve

The valve connected

The valve connected

All hooked up

All hooked up

Ready to turn the pump on I looked at Lee.  He shook his head and I walked through the steps.  Duh, I forgot to open the waste valve on the blue boy so I would be pumping the water into a dead end at the valve..not good with a poop milkshake.  I open the waste valve on the blue bloy and started the pump with a red button controller.  I asked Lee how I would know when the blue boy was full and he said that when the little red ball on the vent hole popped up you have about 10 seconds to shut off the pump before over flow.  Yikes!!  He is comfortable enough at this point to wander around, but I stood right at the disconnect switch never taking my eyes off the small vent hole.  Suddenly the pump started to make a different noise and I looked up in panic.  Lee had me look at the clear connector we have on the hose and saw hardly any water was running through, because the black tank wasn’t even close to half full.  Many people won’t do clear connectors because they think it’s gross but we have them on both ends of the hose.  How else can you see what’s going on?? I stopped the pump, closed the black tank and then opened the gray.  Water started coming in and I once again used the red button to turn on the pump.  A little while later the red button popped up and I quickly turned off the pump.  Next I stood in the bed and lifted the hose to eye level so what was in that end drained out.  I then unscrewed the hose, again with just a little coming out and quickly held it pointed up.  Back on the clamp it went and voila, one full blue boy.  I shut the waste valve on blue boy but first upon my request I got a piece of tape and wrote Open Valve to Fill on it.  I knew that might be a step I would forget again and this note will help me remember.  Then I screwed on the vent hole cap and back we went to the dump.  

The macerator pump

The macerator pump

The pump connected to our power

The pump connected to our power

The pump start/stop button

The pump start/stop button

We have electric valve switches that Lee had installed. Makes it super easy

We have electric valve switches that Lee had installed. Makes it super easy

Out clear connector and waste valve at the tank. Yes it's gross but you can see what's happening

Our clear connector and waste valve at the tank. Yes, it’s gross but you can see what’s happening

The blow hole

The vent hole.  The red ball pops up when its close to full.

My reminder note

My reminder note.  Lee said it’s open to empty also but that is what I need to remember.

Thankfully when we went back to the dump, the camp host had wandered off, but this time half way through there was an older gentleman waiting in line.  He seemed somewhat offended by the fact that Lee was just standing there with his hands in his pockets while the “little woman” did all the work, but thankfully he was mostly silent.  This time it went better but I was definitely more cautious when I was trying to get the hose latched.  Finally after some finagling it clicked into place but it was still pretty tough.  I followed the same steps as before for the grey tank and stayed up-wind.  The one extra step I added was to take a fresh water hose they had nearby and run water into the hose when it was done.  Then back we went for round three.  The third go round was easier and we emptied the gray tank completely dry.  We probably could have skipped this last trip, since the blue boy was not completely full, but you always want to “rinse” with gray after running black and a blue boy is no different.  I was starting to get the hang of the latching though and it was much easier the third time.  Wow, I was pooped, but felt really proud of myself and Lee took the picture to prove it.

Victorious!!!!

Victorious!!!!

 

After the tanks we took a little break and started on fresh water.  There are numerous options for containers and we haven’t really found the perfect solution, so we borrowed Red and Jim’s hard plastic tank and also brought our collapsible rainwater container.  After strapping them down we drove up to the freshwater station.  Most people here will not drink the water, but I will say I drank some from the hose and it tasted fine.  Speaking of hose you should not use regular garden hose for this but pony up the money for a separate drinking water hose.  We attached one end on the spigot and the other end to the attachment on the barrel.  Next you open the hole to once again equalize pressure and turn it on.  Easy peasy.  It does take quite awhile to fill the barrels (think kids plastic swimming pool time) and you need to stand and watch it, but it was pretty easy.  We drove back to the rig and it got a bit more complicated.  We had to buy a totally separate water pump (without the macerator) for fresh water and once again we powered it up to the engine.  You stick one end of the white drinking hose into your rig and the other end into the barrel.  Turn the pump on and wait.  Our pump only does 3.5 gallons per minute and since we have a 81 gallon fresh water tank this can take awhile.  You also need to keep an eye on the barrel and when the water gets low tip it up to get as much out as possible.  Plus the only way on our rig that we know the fresh water is full is when the water starts to run out of the bottom.  Not the best warning system, but compared to the grey and black this was a snap.  After the fresh was filled up, Lee took the remainder over to Steve and Deb.  It’s a nice gesture to give your excess to a close neighbor and we were paying forward the kindness that Red and Jim did for us earlier.

Hose connected to the rig

Hose connected to the rig

We have to turn the red, blue, black areas at the top to fill

We have to turn the red, blue, black areas at the top to fill

Fresh water pump

Fresh water pump

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The white barrels are sold at the local hardware store

Hose connected to solid barrel

Hose connected to solid barrel

Connector on our collapsible barrel

Connector on our collapsible barrel

Another little break and  Lee taught me how to take our propane tanks off.  I know how to go get them filled, but had never taken them off and I wont go into the details since they are all so different, but again pretty easy just make sure you shut the tanks before you take them off.  So now I can deal with having full tanks, empty water, and low propane all by myself.  I do feel very confident that I won’t forget how, but just like driving need to continue doing it occasionally to stay in practice.  Lee will have the truck, but our friends have all volunteered their vehicles when I need them and I am super happy that I can do this by myself.  This was a very big deal for me and feels fantastic, so if you are putting off learning this because it’s scary…I totally get it, but feels really nice on the other side!!

Another beautiful desert sunset

Another beautiful desert sunset

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Trying to Settle in at Quartzsite

Where to begin?  Well first off I should say, we are newbies here and all of the following are our experiences and impressions, YMMV.  I have no doubt with more time under my belt, I will know more, but wanted to capture these thoughts while they are fresh.

After the initial flurry of welcomes, you start to get settled in.  One nice thing is people give you plenty of room to do just that.  We have started a little RV-Dreams enclave over here, but we are also trying to not sit on top of each other.  I do see these little groups though all over the place and they are so close they are almost touching.  Not sure what that is all about.  I get the desire to be close for comfort, but it’s a big huge area and for us kind of the whole point is to not be on top of one another like at some campgrounds.  Still, to each his own, and for all I know there is a reason people group together so closely.  People are starting to trickle in though and I am glad I built my rock “front yard”.  Folks so far have respected that boundary and it has given us some space in front of us. I feel bad for this guy in a little trailer sort of next door who has been here since October, he started out all by himself and now is slowly being surrounded.  We tried to maintain some distance, but a small group of Class A’s parked practically on his doorstep.  I think part of the problem is people don’t realize how far back the land goes. (We are about one mile in on the main LTVA artery, and it goes at least another 3 miles or more.) They see other folks camping, and say “here’s a good place to stop”.  Plus, the closer you are to the front, the closer you are to the trash, dump station, water, and restrooms.  Personally, I like the spots in the back closer to the mountains, but I hear those can be much dustier since they are closer to the ATV trails.  We are sort of in the middle and as first timers it was great to have someone pick the spot for us.

The main "road driving in

The main “road” driving in.  You can see why people get confused on where to park.  Technically you can park anywhere but the main road but then you might block someone in.

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Dump Station. Lee said it was fine, as those things go.

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Trash dumpsters which they empty pretty regularly

I am thrilled that they have these things available and am a big fan of La Posa South because of that.  You can stay in more remote areas for the same price and drive here to use these facilities,  but as “first timers” it is nice having them on the same property. And of course you can’t beat the price of $40 for two weeks, or $180 for 8 months. Despite our best efforts we generate a lot of trash and our plan to separate and burn the paper products has not been possible because it has just been too windy. Although many folks only shower every other day, we both take short showers daily and so we use more water.  Draining the water is not a big deal though for us, because Lee doesn’t mind using the Blue Boy to empty the grey tank (black tank is another story). I have tried to cut down on water for washing dishes by using the Dawn Foam Pump .  You put the foam directly on the sponge and then only really need water to rinse.  Plus it gets the dishes extremely clean, which is very important to Lee.  The only other water issue we have is for drinking water. The water is potable (I brush my teeth with it), but so far I am using bottled water to drink. At $1 for a huge bottle of water it’s more of an inconvenience than a monetary consideration at this point, but I will try filling the jugs up directly at the pump at some point.  We don’t have filters because water has been great everywhere that we have stayed, but we will re-evaluate if that changes.  Filling up the water has been interesting. We carry 250 feet of fresh water hose and in every campground where we didn’t have water at the site, this was enough to run hose to the nearest water spigot.  Obviously that isn’t possible here, so Lee bought a 50 gallon collapsible rain barrel.  The hardware store here sells hard plastic 50 gallon water barrels with fittings, for $50,  which many people invest in for transporting water and then leave behind, but we wanted something we could take with us.  Unfortunately, the collapsible version is top heavy when filled and as soon as Lee started to move the truck the collapsible barrel tipped over and about a third spilled out.  Our friends Red and Jim have co-invested in the hard barrels and Lee thinks he will chip in and just borrow those as needed since it seems easier.  

Power is the other big resource and is especially important when you need computers for work.  We have a wonderful solar setup (thanks to RV Solar Solutions) and on sunny days we are generating more power than we are using, so not only are we able to run the computer all day, we are also charging our batteries for using the computer and TV after dark. Of course it can’t keep up on cloudy days though and we have had an abnormally large amount of those.  When it’s cloudy it’s also colder, and the combination of extra heat and power generation with the propane generator costs about $10 a day when it is severely cold and rainy.   Thankfully we have started to experience more sunny days and the $10 days have been minimal.  The good news here though is propane is selling at $1.99 a gallon, which is the lowest we have seen so far on the road.  We have paid upwards of $3.29 a gallon in certain places, so we are certainly not complaining about the price.  I just hate the extra money, even though rationally I know $10 a day for a campsite is still an excellent deal, but if it was going to be cold and rainy for an extended period of time, I would just as soon be on full hookups.

The other issue is the heat.  It has been cold here in comparison to Florida and I draw the line at being low on resources and cold.  So we do run the heat at night for our regular furnace set at 67.  The thermostat is in the warmest part of the house, so 67 equals 63 in the living room and about 65 in the bedroom.  We gave away our big comforter last summer because it was taking up a ton of space and seeing little use so we have an electric blanket (which we have enough power to turn on briefly to warm the bed before going to sleep), a thin comforter and our throw blankets.  Lee and I are also both wearing flannel pajamas and there definitely is more cuddling for warmth.  Even though we brought a trucks worth of wood with us, because of the unseasonable cold additional wood at a reasonable price is hard to find, so we can’t really use fires in the mornings and every evening to provide warmth. Many of the more experienced boondockers are using small propane heaters (which are more efficient) to heat rooms, but they make me nervous.  I may change my mind about that if the propane bills start racking up, but for right now this is working for us.

 I think the big misconception about boondocking is you have no services at all, which freaks many people out.  Water, power, heat are all available, but you need to invest in infrastructure,  change some patterns of behavior, and do a little extra work.  Most importantly in my mind, is you can have limits and let’s not forget our homes are on wheels.  If things get really bad, we can always pick up and move.  That’s sort of the whole point.  Oh, and its not a competition.  When our friends Deb and Steve said they went 5 weeks without emptying the black tank I was simultaneously very proud of them and ashamed of myself because, why couldn’t I go 5 weeks?  Well, their black tank is bigger,  they employ tank savings techniques I am not willing to do at this time, and who knows, maybe they poop less!  Seriously, everyone is different and it is totally fine to have individual limits when boondocking just like anywhere else.  Not much different than any other campground.  Some people can’t tolerate barking dogs or lots of kids, others couldn’t care less.  Some have to have wide spaces for satellite signal others like heavily forested campsites. The variation is infinite and finding ways to live in Quartzsite is no different. 

Aside from settling into boon docking and watching resource use there is also the social aspect of Quartzsite.  Despite the large groups of campers this has a totally different vibe than a rally or most campgrounds.  Unlike a rally where one group gets together, there are numerous RV groups here and people tend to float between the groups, often moving their rig to spend some time with one group and then moving onto another.  If you don’t want to physically move, almost everyone does happy hours and encourages folks to come and meet.  RVillage  has been a great tool for setting up group meetings as it has the ability to setup an electronic “get together” and then invite folks who can in turn RSVP.  The abundance of ways to communicate though might actually be a disadvantage.  Folks are communicating via text, Facebook Messenger, RVillage, Forums, and email.  Unfortunately not everyone uses every type of communication so there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to let everyone know if something is happening.  The safest thing to do actually is walk around and knock on people’s campers and let them know, but then when folks are out they don’t get invited.  Don’t get me wrong these get togethers are pretty casual, but you hate to think you might be inadvertently leaving people out.  Plus the inefficiency of it drives me crazy 🙂 So I am still trying to figure out the “rules” and don’t kid yourself there are rules.  We may be all living in glorified trailers in the middle of the desert, but since the dawn of time when a group of people gathered for anything social norms start to form.  If you don’t want to worry about all that, you can find a quiet peace of BLM land away from everyone and totally do your own thing, but you really would be missing out on a huge piece of what makes Quartzsite what it is.  The opportunity for like minded people to gather, share information, and talk to other who really get what the full timing lifestyle is about. 

Campfire at our place one night

Campfire at our place one night.  That is Steve and Diane’s big truck in the background.  No we have not upgraded although I am jealous!!

Hurley, Steve and Deb's dog playing fetch with a log of wood. All the puppies everywhere makes me happy

Hurley, Steve and Deb’s dog playing fetch with a log of wood. All the puppies everywhere makes me happy.

 In the daytime folks seem to largely do their own thing.  Some have ATV’s (tons of trails here), some like to hike, site-see, or just hang out and relax.  Quartzsite itself, for such a small town, has things to do as well.  There is a community center and the Quartzsite Improvement Association both of which have free classes throughout the week.  I went to a Yoga class with Pam and some of us are doing a line dancing class this week and it’s a great way to get away from the rig for awhile. The classes are not available the 10 days of the big show though as they are using the buildings for other things, another great reason to come and stay here in the weeks surrounding the show.  At night you can always see folks out watching the sunset.  It’s different every night and the colors are very pretty against the mountains.

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And of course there is the big show itself, although this is also a little confusing.  There are multiple shows running through January and February.  Currently there is a rock/mineral show, then the RV show, then a swap show and finally an arts and craft show.  Plus there are vendors here in tents kind of everywhere.  We went over to the rock and mineral show and it was ok.  Not much RV stuff and you really have to be careful on prices.  It had a funky vibe too with all kinds of people mingling together and I wasn’t that crazy about it.  Maybe I’ve lost my joy of aimless shopping since we don’t need much and are trying to watch our money, but it wasn’t that fun.  I am hoping that the big RV show is better because those vendors target our demographic.  This week’s been all about getting acclimated, Lee having the flu which was not fun, and my working on my new website page abut ways to generate revenue on the road.   Hopefully this week will involve better weather and getting out more to see some nature.   And finally in case you were wondering I don’t miss my job at all.   There are aspects of the work itself that I miss occasionally, but I am completely surprised by how quickly I adjusted.  Now I say that when the buy-out checks are still coming in until March.  The big test will be how I feel when the checks stop rolling in, but for now I am really enjoying myself!!  And here’s some random pictures I took this week that I just had to share.  This is a quirky place and it’s only fair to represent that as well. 

We put our flag up on the flagpole buddy. I really like it

We put our flag up on the flagpole buddy. I really like it.  Interesting that this is the first place we’ve been where I wanted a flag.

UPS hours in Blythe...I have to mail that garlic keeper to my dad and neededless to say we did not stop by between 9 and 10

UPS hours in Blythe…I have to mail that garlic keeper to my dad and needless to say it was not  between 9 and 10 when we stopped by

The sign says it all

The sign says it all

I sent Lee out to lay in the sun when he was sick on one really nice day

I sent Lee out to lay in the sun when he was sick on one really nice day

Never seen this before they were selling raw materials for people to carve walking sticks

Never seen this before they were selling raw materials for people to carve walking sticks

At the flea market

At the flea market “free midget pants”

Prepper convoy at the grocery store

Prepper convoy at the grocery store.  the Smart and Final is 30 minutes away and the Walmart is 40 minutes.

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First Time in Quartzsite

When we first started talking about this lifestyle, Lee always talked about wanting to go to the desert, and Quartzsite, AZ.  The thought of being stuck in the desert with no services scared the crap out of me, and smart man that he is, Lee backed off on the desert talk and baby-stepped me into the lifestyle.  So now a year later we are finally here and I give him full credit for the approach.  I find myself remarkably comfortable here, which I never would have been a year ago, and I am surprised by this so I want to share those first impressions with you, but please understand that I am in no way an expert and my experience could vary quite a bit from your experience.

So let’s start with what Quartzsite is.  It’s a nice little desert town on I-10 about 15 minutes east of the California border, an hour and a half north of Yuma, and two hours west of Phoenix. It is more or less surrounded by BLM land. Because the BLM Long Term Visitor Area is so inexpensive (Either $40 for two weeks, or $180 for the 7 months of fall and winter) it is a popular destination for RVers looking for somewhere inexpensive to stay during the winter. The town largely exists to support those RVers through the sale of water, propane, groceries, and lots of RV specific items and they have tons of RV parks with full hookups for those who don’t want to boondock (camp with no services).  Also for 1 week in January there is a HUGE RV show where RV vendors come from all over to sell their wares to the 250,000 to 1 million RVers who show up during that week.  That week is a totally different experience because lots of folks simply come here for one week and move on.  Since we arrived earlier than the show, my first impression is more about Quartzsite during a non-show week than during the show itself.  I will do a separate post and share what happens that week, but it’s an important distinction to make. Basically when people talk about Quartzsite they use the term interchangeably for the RV Show, camping on BLM land, and the town.  It can be very confusing and conventional wisdom could be referring to any of the three.   So again my first impressions are of the beginning of January (prior to the show week) and camping on BLM land.

People make really cool sand art . Lee snapped this pic with his drone. It was huge

People make really cool sand art . Lee snapped this pic with his drone. It was huge

I was pretty nervous about the experience and thankfully some very good RV Dreamers friends of ours Red and Pam were already at Quartzsite and this was their second year.  They talked us through finding the Long Term Visitor Area where they were, (BLM has numerous areas and unless you know exactly where your friends are you probably won’t find them) and they led us back.  Right off the bat we needed $40 cash (or a check) to pay for the first two weeks.  Since we only had $32 and no checks (seriously I need to get some checks as this keeps coming up) we were in a pickle.  Thankfully the two camp hosts were extremely nice.  Once I apologized, they said to go on back and pay in the morning and the first night was on them.  They also shared the best breakfast place in town where for $9 we could get a huge omelet big enough for two!! The campground also has  big metal trash dumpsters, dump stations, and water (potable but I wont be using it for drinking water) on the property so unlike true boon docking where it cost nothing you have access to these services.  There are also other BLM areas here that have no services at all, and those areas are free. In my mind $40 was a small price to pay for access to water in particular and I was happy we chose one of the La Posa sites.  Red has a 4 wheel quad and he brought us back a couple of miles to where they were parked.  It was tough deciding where to put the rig because there is so much choice.  There are no lines, or designated spots, heck the road is more of a suggestion, so everyone waited patiently while we picked our spot.  Despite my mental picture it isn’t a “parking lot”, though.  There are mountain views on three sides and some vegetation including huge cacti, Tamarind trees, and shrubs.  Plus there are fire pits around that people have created (be careful you don’t drive over them because they might have nails in them) and rock “boundaries” created by current or past residents.  Then you want to think about which way the wind is blowing, where the sun sets (for the views), and how can you carve out a little space for yourself.  We chose a site parallel to Red and Pam, but not too close, facing the mountains with a large empty space in front and after minimal setup we walked over to our RV dreams reception.

Our new front yard...not so bad

Our new front yard…not so bad

Groups often camp together here and some RV Dreamers have congregated together.  Steve and Diane, who had been Rving for 5 years, are the experts and they were waiting along with Ellen and Mario, and Jim and Barb.  It was so nice that everyone was waiting for us and was helping us get acclimated it really made me emotional.   It’s a lot less scary parking in the middle of the desert when you have friends close by.  We had a couple of drinks, lots of laughs and some happy hour snacks and then Pam and Red fed Lee and I dinner.  Things are very casual here because everyone is really trying to make their resources, water, tank space, etc, last but I was happy to see that the RV-Dreams tradition of cooking for folks who come to you on your travel day was alive and well.  We called it an early night though because we were still getting settled in.  The next day was all about getting settled.  I had three cardboard boxes of food in the living room and all my cabinets needed to be reorganized.  Plus I really wanted to build a rock front yard, so Pam came over in the quad and helped me find rocks and set up the boundaries.  We both have kind of large spaces marked off for those folks who may be getting in later and it was strange how happy that little rock boundary made me feel.  It’s weird isn’t it that even though we are in the middle of nowhere the human imperative is to “stake a claim.”  Oh and by the way, the rock boundary is technically against the rules but it seems like during off-season they don’t really enforce it.

First Quartzsite campfire next to Pam and Red's rig

First Quartzsite campfire next to Pam and Red’s rig

Mario, Ellen, Jim and Barb

Mario, Ellen, Jim and Barb

Diane is in the pink shirt and Steve is next to her

Diane is in the pink shirt and Steve is next to her

Me and Pam after building our rock campfire pit...good workout

Me and Pam after building our rock campfire pit…good workout

The Quad made building the rock line much easier

The Quad made building the rock line much easier

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Our "Site"

Our “Site”

Speaking of the rules, that was the only sour note of the entire experience.  Quartzsite will hopefully be a great opportunity for Lee to make money as an RV Tech and we purchased a big banner in preparation as a marketing tool.  Right away people started talking about the fact that we couldn’t put it up because a commercial permit might cost as much as $1400.  What??  Crazy.  Here’s the thing;  we are trying to work.  We need to work and even though it’s super cheap to stay here there is still money coming out for food and propane.  So Lee read the very long list of rules and it stated that he should call the Yuma BLM office for more information.  He did and left a message and finally the BLM got back to us.  According to the email  we needed a liability policy, pay a $100 permit fee and report gross sales at the end and give the BLM 3% of the gross sales.  I didn’t have an issue with any of that, but I was pretty bummed that we hadn’t done all this in advance.  We need to mail the permit information because they need a hard copy signature and the back and forth will cut into the time we have to actually make money.  Still it was good to know because staying here may be part of our future winter plans.

On a completely different note, did I mention the rain?  Yes, apparently we brought it with us, and it rained on and off Monday and Tuesday.  It is the desert so rain is pretty rare, but seriously, this rain is following us.  And it did pour on Tuesday night so when you are picking your campsite I recommend the more rocky areas rather than sand because little streams started to form.  They were all gone the next day, but the ground is so hard it takes a while for the water to sink in.  With the rains came clouds and less sun for the solar panels.   We had to run the generator some, but really it wasn’t too bad as the batteries did a nice job holding their charge.  Plus we had some experience in Glacier with no sun and this wasn’t nearly as cold.  It is chilly though, 45 or so in the morning and windy, but it’s really nice when the sun is out and the wind dies down.  Just don’t think it’s going to necessarily be hot and dusty because so far that has not been our experience.  Since it was raining there was no outside happy hour, so we went over to see Ellen and Mario at their campground Quail Run which is a very nice campground with full hookups in town that is only $350 a month (plus electric) if you stay for more than one month.  The sites are on the large side, especially for this area, and they have a great clubhouse, laundry room, and did I mention full hookups? The four of us caught up and we had a terrific conversation with Ellen about marketing our Videography business.  Ellen just retired as a pharmaceutical rep and is an excellent salesperson and gave us some great advice on how to open dialogues with potential customers about doing videos for their websites.  She even volunteered to make a few initial calls with us so we could see her technique.  Seriously, RV-Dreamers are the best people and really take care of each other.

Red topping off our water with the extra he had brought back, cause he's sweet like that

Red topping off our water with the extra he had brought back, cause he’s sweet like that

HEre's the tank he bought

Here’s the tank Red  bought and Jim (pictured) is putting some stuff in storage here at the end of the season and is going to let Red put the barrel in with his stuff

And the pump

The pump seems pretty simple

On Tuesday, we spent some time exploring the town while we waited for Steve and Deb to get here.  We wanted to do the same thing for them that Red and Pam had done for us, so we stayed close so we could lead them back and make them dinner.  The town is small, but jam-packed full of stuff and as Ellen says has a flea market “feel” to it.  Lots of vendors are in the process of setting up for the big show, but a few were open and we wandered around a bit.  There are also huge gem stone permanent vendors here and with my love of rocks I was in heaven.  We could definitely go a little crazy here buying stuff, so really need to be careful, but there are some really good deals. I did buy a rock for 48 cents so I am not going totally crazy! We went into a few of the permanent businesses, some were great, others not so much, and then headed back to meet Deb and Steve.  Even though it was raining, everyone walked over to say hi and then I got their dinner started.  Setting up is much easier when you don’t have to hook up and within 45 minutes we were in our RV laughing, talking, and catching up.  They have been with family the last couple of months and really missed being on the road, and since we haven’t seen them in 4 months we all had a lot to talk about.  Around 9:30 they left to finish setting up and we went to bed.  Early to bed and early to rise is definitely going to be my schedule here and I have to say I like it much better than I though I would.  It isn’t just a big hole in the desert.  There is life here and variety and I am excited about the rain stopping and getting out to explore the wilderness a bit.  Now that I am here I am wondering what I was so afraid of. We have 4 bars of ATT and 22 television channels!  We have definitely been in more remote areas! I hear the internet slows to a crawl during the RV Show week, and I’ll let you know, but I definitely get why people come here and stay.  If we can just work out the RV business, this could definitely be a repeat winter location for us. It’s cheap, the views are great, and friends are close by.  What more could you ask for?

The RV-Dreams Gang

The RV-Dreams Gang who is here so far. From Bottom left:  Allen and Donna, Jim and Barb, Pam and Red, Lee and Trace, and Deb and Steve.  Oh and Steve and Diane who got here first and have been on the road 5 years are the lone RV behind our loop.

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