Busy Week in Q

Whew, what a busy week in Quartzsite!  I have to say for such a small town there is a lot to do here, and showing it to Kelly and Bill we saw lots of things we never got to in the first month we were here.  Also there has been tons of social activity.  Most of the folks here are leaving the 28th or 29th so lots of people are getting together to spend time or see last minute things.  The only negative time this week was our trip to Phoenix to Aspen Dental.   Previously I had blogged about our trying to use Aspen’s Dental’s network to solve our dental needs and I had some mixed success.  This time though we were driving 2 hours to Phoenix to get Lee setup in their system.  I tried to make an appointment for an extended cleaning with them and explained we were coming a long distance but they absolutely refused.  So long story short when we got there they refused to clean Lee’s teeth because of lack of time and then after my initial exam refused to clean mine as well.  I immediately called their 1-800 number for patient concerns and was told I would get a call back in 48 hours.  No phone call.  So I will never be going there again.  The only positive to using them was that your patient files were on their national network and you didn’t have to go through the new patient rigmarole every time.  This office hygienist, Sunshine, refused to accept the patient records on file because “80% of the time the other offices misdiagnosed people.”  Ok so that’s enough for me, and on the drive back we said screw it, and decided to get it done in Mexico. 

We had plans to go with Ellen, Mario, Kelly, and Bill to Mexico the next day anyway and I reached out to Ellen and explained the problem.  Not only did she make it a priority for us to see a dentist, she sat in with Lee during his cleaning the entire time.  The dentist (who was smoking hot, per Lee) spoke great English, but Ellen sat there with him anyway, just in case.  Such a wonderful friend, and we had a terrific experience.  It was $25 for the cleanings and we learned they fill cavities for $40 and offer teeth whitening for $150.  The prices were great, the office was clean, and she was incredibly professional.  Can’t ask for more than that.  We are already starting to reach out to our bosses in Alaska to see if there is an office close by so we can make cleaning appointments now for the summer and hopefully get some minor work done.  By no means am I satisfied with any dental solution I have found, but at least Mexico opens up more options.   We also had a fabulous lunch and I got another $6 haircut.  Kelly also got an eye exam and ordered some glasses saving around $400 in the process since she has a complicated prescription.  Very productive day, and Ellen and Mario were kind enough to shephard the newbies through the process. 

Getting my haircut at Marilyn's

Getting my haircut at Marilyn’s

Mexico days are long days, but more excitement was to come. Jo and Ben drove 7 hours each way from San Bernadino where they are on a contract just to spend the weekend with us.  They made it there by 8pm and we all had some drinks, sat around the fire, and caught up.  It’s so amazing to me what people will do to see each other in this lifestyle and we were all super grateful they came.  In the morning we had lunch at a fantastic breakfast place, Bad Boys Cafe Ben had heard about.  I had probably passed it 10 times and never even seen it and was I missing out.  This is my kind of diner and had wonderful prices, great service, and was clean as a pin…no small feat in this dusty environment.  Lee and I had huge breakfasts, coffee, and bottled water for $13 total.  Loved, loved, loved it and give it my highest recommendation. 

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Me, Jo, Kelly, Bill, Ben, and Lee

Afterwards we came back and chatted for a bit then in the afternoon we went out to Beer Belly’s Adult Day Care.  This is a popular bar right in the middle of the vendor tents downtown and I had never been there.  It was nice and cool in the shade and the music was really good, plus the place had a good vibe.  Best of all this fantastic home made ice cream stand is right next door and I had a terrific creamy vanilla cone.

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Cori(not pictured), Pam, Red, Greg, Bill, Kelly, Ben, and Jo (not pictured)

Then we  all went back and prepared for our big Margarita/Dance Party night. I set up a little dance area and prepared my music and Bill set up his bar.  Cori organized a taco dinner and everyone chipped in on either something either to eat or a mix for the drinks.   It was a great time, the only bummer being I had sprained my ankle on the Palm hike and really couldn’t dance on it. (I did get some excellent free medical care from Jo and Ben). We switched over to 70’s music (which made Jim VERY happy) and hung out by the fire until late in the evening.  Jim and Barb actually stayed awake until 9:30pm so I guess it was a good party 🙂

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Steve, Dianne, Dino, Lisa, Jo, Ben, Bill, Red, Greg, Cori, and Pam

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Jo and Ben talking to Jim and Barb about the trip they made to Alaska in their truck camper. Jim and Barb are doing something similar this summer

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Bill outdid himself…he really is an excellent bartender. Not one drink ran empty all night, plus he gave great advice on how to avoid a hangover to the crowd (tall glass of water, two advil, repeat as necessary)

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The taco buffet!!

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Beautiful sunset and a picture of jo and Ben’s “shuttle craft” that they take weekend trips with

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Pam was dancing away. both Cori and I on bum ankles could only hop a little …bummer

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Hanging around the campfire

It was a great night and then in the morning the Class of 2014 gathered for a brunch.  Kelly organized it and the spread was amazing then Cori and Lee worked together to get a group picture of us all.  It’s been such a good time this week and so glad we got to experience Q with Kelly/Bill and Jo/Ben.  Also Looking forward to heading back to Tuscon and doing some exploring and then New Mexico!!!

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Bill,  bartender by night and bacon chef during the day!!

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From left:  Mario, Ellen, Greg, Bill, Red, Lee (first in line shocking :P) and Pam

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Ben and Jo

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So this is how you do a communal breakfast.  Eggs by Kelly, Hash Browns by Greg, French Toast by me using Mama Jo’s recipe, Pancakes by Pam using Kelly’s blueberries, Jo bought bacon which Bill cooked,  and excellent coffee by Mario!!

Bill/Kelly, Ben/Jo, Red/Pam, Mario/Ellen, Greg/Cori, and Lee/Tracy

Bill/Kelly, Ben/Jo, Red/Pam, Mario/Ellen, Greg/Cori, and Lee/Tracy

 

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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 Week in the RV without Lee

Lee has been working all week, leaving before light and coming home after dark, and for the first extended period I have been alone in the rig.  I say alone which is odd because I am surrounded by friends, but as a self-reliant person I do feel alone.  Everyone has been incredibly nice and have gone above and beyond to help, but it’s just not the same without my best friend to share things with.  I am not lonely exactly, or sad, but it’s just not as fun without him.  That’s strange because over the years we both traveled extensively for work and often left each other for as much as two weeks at a time, but this is different.  Around every corner there are things I want to share with my best friend and it kind of bums me out when I can’t do that.  I am walking away from this experience with a much greater appreciation for what solos do and huge respect for what my husband has quietly taken care of this last year.  While I was working my corporate job last year, Lee took care of all kinds of things and they were largely under the radar.  This week I have emptied and filled tanks (thanks so much Red for the loan of your truck hugely appreciated), done laundry at the laundromat, rolled cigarettes, changed propane tanks, and kept an eye on everything rig related.  There is a lot of work there.  I always thought Lee’s constant need to be busy was personality related, but between the chores and social activities I have been constantly on the go.  As a matter of fact I am writing this at 5am, partly for a strong cell signal, and partly because as soon as the sun comes up it’s hard to squeeze in the time.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the social interactions very much, but I am surprised by how quickly a day is filled up.

And I miss the writing.  I was spending quite a bit of time on posts that I just haven’t had this week.  Which leads me to one other thing I want to talk about before jumping into the pictures.  I have gotten to meet a few readers of my blog this week and one of them said, “You have to be committed to read your blog.”  I always appreciate feedback and this particular comment really stuck with me, so I talked to Kelly and Cori about it and they didn’t disagree.  I know these posts can be a bit dense and certainly they are very long, but truly I am trying to write the blog I wish I could have read before becoming a full timer.  It’s not really a travel log, although there is certainly some of that, but hopefully a resource that people who are considering full timing can use to help them make their decision.  So the detail I provide is with an eye towards someone who knows nothing about Rving or full-timing.  For those who are experienced or really just want to know what we are up to I am sure that can be a bit tedious, but honestly that is my favorite part. There are many wonderful travel blogs out there and many folks who do it way better than me, but I hope that where this blog stands out a little bit is when I write about the emotional aspects of the lifestyle. But I get it, not everyone has 15-20 minutes to devote to one blog post, so I will try to do a better job of having the pictures and their captions tell the travel story as a stand-a-lone.  That way you can always skip the text and just look at the pictures. See what happens when Lee is away, I get all in my head about stuff and oh I am having to edit my own blog posts too this week.  He really deserves big kisses when he comes back.

Jodee and Bill (Founders of the Dreamers Class of 2015) stopped by to say hi

Jodee and Bill (Founders of the Dreamers Class of 2015) stopped by to say hi and brought yummy pastries

With their beautiful dog Tessa. Hobie had a little crush

With their beautiful dog Tessa. Hobie had a little crush

I made homemade dog biscuits (recipe below), with mixed results. Hurley and Hobie liked them, Daisy not so much

I made homemade dog biscuits (recipe below), with mixed results. Hurley and Hobie liked them, Daisy not so much.  It was fun, kind of like making Christmas cookies

Red sponsored a Dreamers Fish Fry and he fed over 26 people wonderful fish

Red sponsored a Dreamers Fish Fry and he fed over 26 people.  Steve made hush puppies

I made onion rings for the first time and it was a ton of fun

I made onion rings for the first time and it was a ton of fun.  Pam was our “runner”

Everyone really had a good tim

Everyone really had a good time

Dreamers..West coast style

Dreamers..Desert style

Hiking to the big Q

Hiking to the big Q

I loved how much plant life there was along the way

I loved how much plant life there was along the way

And an old copper mine

And an old copper mine

Pam and Deb geocahced along the way which gave me plenty of time to take pictures

Pam and Deb geocached along the way which gave me plenty of time to take pictures

They let me find it

They got me close and then let me find it

And I got my first trackable prize, so I can go to its website and log it then take it to another location

And I got my first trackable prize, so I can go to its website and log it then take it to another location

Deb and Pam reading the history and filling out the log

Deb and Pam reading the history and filling out the log

The rail was loose and steep but I did ok

The rail was loose and steep but I did ok

And we made it to the top!

And we made it to the top!

The 360 view was very cool

The 360 view was very cool

So many RV's

So many RV’s

The big tent of the RV show

The big tent of the RV show

The mine from above

The mine from above

A very old height marker which Deb told us we all had to touch as it was tradition

A very old height marker which Deb told us we all had to touch as it was tradition

At the top was this sweet kid Red who was all by himself and playing guitar and singing. Sweet guy

At the top was this sweet kid Red who was all by himself and playing guitar and singing. Sorry about the spots I have got to clean my lens again

I love how life finds a way

I love how life finds a way

Not sure what these are but they are soft and very pretty

Not sure what these are but they are soft and very pretty

Coming down we got a closer view of the big Q. You can climb that way, but I don't recommend it. Go on the back side

Coming down we got a closer view of the big Q. You can climb straight up through it, but I don’t recommend it. Go up on the back side.

Walking back to the truck we had a really hard time finding it. Almost flagged one of these guys down, but thankfully Pam had her handheld GPS and we finally found it

Walking back to the truck we had a really hard time finding it. Almost flagged one of these guys down, but thankfully Pam had her handheld GPS and we finally found it

 

So it’s been packed week and it’s only Thursday!  On Friday I am crossing the border into Mexico with Mario and Ellen, which I have never done before so that should be fun.  I also wanted to leave you with a picture of this very cool thing we keep seeing.  A guy has what looks like a dune buggy with a para-sail and he is flying through the camping area.  He gets really high and it looks like a blast, but way to scary for me.  Neat though.

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Recipes

Doggie Treats 

  • 3 TBL peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of chicken broth (you can substitute water for vegetarian if you want)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1-1/.2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  1. Combine peanut butter, oil, eggs, broth, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk very well
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a second bowl and blend
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry bowl and beat by hand or with a mixture until a dough forms
  4. Roll dough to 1/4″ thickness then cut using dog bone cookie cutters
  5. Place biscuits on greased cookie sheet and cook for 20 minutes
  6. Remove, allow to cool, and store in an airtight bag

I made homemade dog biscuits (recipe below), with mixed results. Hurley and Hobie liked them, Daisy not so much

 

 

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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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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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