Sunday, February 28, 2010

Decision Gets Made

Well, both issues  I last mentioned have been resolved.  We moved, and, as a result, our internet reception is much improved.  We are going to continue boondocking in the desert for awhile, just in a different spot.

We’re hoping my nieces can come visit us, and we’re both staying with friends Janna and Mike and hoping other friends will make it to the desert to visit.  As a result, our trip over to Congress . AZ to the Escapees North Ranch park is delayed – for now.

Yesterday, Mike, Jim and I made a scouting trip over to an area near Bouse that appeared to have much better cell and internet reception while still on BLM land. We talked it over, and decided to postpone our return to civilization, i.e., RV parks with full-hookups and close neighbors.

I was wondering this morning if we’d made the right decision. First, one of my 2 clocks decided on it’s own that I needed to know when it was 4:00 am, and turned it’s little blue light on.  Five minutes later, it figured I didn’t get it the first time, and did it again!  This time I had the presence of mind to pull the back off and take a battery out so it couldn’t do it again!

Finally, I got up and turned on the generator and started the coffee pot.  In a few minutes, I realized the sounds coming from the coffee pot were not normal, so I got up to investigate, only to find that I’d failed to ensure the basket was tightly installed in the basket-holder, causing the whole thing to overflow and make a huge, nasty mess of coffee grounds and hot water.  Finally, I got that all cleaned up.  Then I put another load of beans in the grinder and started all over.  At last, coffee!

I was worried about the spot we’d picked out because as we left the area yesterday, we saw a 5th wheel coming in to the area.  So, once I got the coffee mess cleaned up, had a few sips of coffee and got my head half-way started, I jumped in the car and drove to “our” spot to make sure it was still open.  It was.

Janna and Mike needed to take her quilting machine apart and get it packed away, so I figured I had plenty of time to both pack and get my spaghetti sauce on to simmer.  All of a sudden, Jim came in and said Mike and Janna were all packed and ready to head out.  I had to hurry and get the sauce finished and get everything put away and ready to roll.  We let them go ahead and get settled while we went to Quartzsite to get diesel fuel, dump our tanks, top off our propane and fill with fresh water.  When we got to our new area, we found that Mike found a better spot than we’d picked out yesterday.  Janna led us in to the area and we got all set up.

Happy hour was next, followed by a spaghetti dinner, and then a campfire with s’mores for dessert.  We are settled in to a beautiful area, waiting for visiting friends and family.  In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our new view and our faster internet access.

So…just where are we now? We are a few miles outside Bouse, Arizona, which is between Quartzsite and Parker.  If we look carefully, we might see another RV in the distance, but a casual glance around our area provides a pretty isolated view:


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We sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine and view:

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After dinner, Mike and Jim got a fire going so we could make s’mores:

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It’s been a great day, at least after it got going.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Internet Woes and Indecision

If you have been reading Janna’s blog, Tin Tee-Pee Log Cabin, you already know that we’ve been struggling for a couple of days with our internet signal.  Yesterday, it was completely missing for much of the day.  Finally, last evening, I called Verizon.  It seems there  was a major network outage in Arizona that affected a lot of data customers. Of course, when I was trying to get the error code to tell the service rep, I got connected.  The speed is extremely slow though.

We’ve also been discussing changing some of our phone service options.  Specifically, we wanted to decrease the number of minutes on our plan and discontinue the use of my Blackberry and get a “simple” phone.  Those 2 actions will save us about $50 per month.  I called Verizon this morning and got those things done.  I also found out that a small cell phone company controls most of Western Arizona, which prevents Verizon from improving their coverage in this area.

The other big discussion happening right now is whether we are going to move back into “civilization” next week.  We’d planned to go to Congress and stay at the Escapees North Ranch for a week or so, then maybe go back to boondocking for a few weeks.  We need to be in the Phoenix area during the middle of April so I can fly from there to Mississippi for my annual “camping” trip with my Weight Watcher friends.

But, we like it here so much, it is just about as perfect a situation as we can imagine.  So we’re just not sure if we want to move to an RV park just yet, although we do want to visit with friends who are at North Ranch right now.  Today Janna and Mike went to check out some other potential sites in this same area, and we may just tag along with them  if they move, and make a day trip over to Congress for a visit.

What will we decide??  How can we leave this spot??

jim 018

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cabin Fever Breaks

jim 003 Finally, the wind died down and the sunshine has returned.  Yesterday I decided that I’d had enough of the inside of this coach and announced that I was going to Parker.  I knew Janna wanted to get some quilting accomplished, Jim had some puttering around the place he wanted to do, so off I went on a solo day trip.

First stop was the hair salon that Janna had visited the previous day to see if I could get a little clean-up job on my top mop.  Yes, they could work me in, but I had an hour’s wait first.  Walmart was next, where I sailed through the list and got checked out and back to get my hair trimmed.  Then I stopped for a quick sandwich before tackling the Safeway store.

Coming out of Safeway after my groceries were purchased, I saw that a police car was parked right behind my car in the parking lot, with several people standing around arguing.  Evidently, a vehicle had been hit and the involved parties were discussing the incident.  In true “Texas” form, I asked the officer, “Could y’all move this discussion down the row so I can get out of here?” He glanced up at me and indicated it would be a few minutes.  “Sure thing”, I replied, got in my car, started the engine, put it in reverse and leaned over the seat to watch them disperse.  Sheesh.  What in the heck is going to become of me when I actually have to go to a “real” city again!  Spoiled by the desert, that’s what I am!

Remember way back in “the olden days” when we used a stove and a pan to pop REAL popcorn?  Well, Mike has been popping corn that way forever.  He and Janna have been sharing their popcorn with us for snacks, and with us boondocking and not running the generator very much, I haven’t been indulging in my favorite microwave popcorn.  I thought maybe I’d try actually popping corn in one of my pans on my stove.  Wow, what a concept.  Mike brought over his corn and olive oil a few days ago and we tried it with one of my pans.  Yep, it worked.  So, when I did the shopping yesterday, I got a bottle of the extra light olive oil and a jar of popping corn and made a batch when I got back.  Oh, that was good!  Even with the olive oil, I figure for half a batch of REAL pop corn, it’s only about 1 WW “point”.  And, we’re supposed to have a little oil each day anyway, so this is a great thing for me.

Janna fixed us a fabulous dinner of garlic-basil shrimp, salad and ice cream with raspberry sauce for dinner at their house last night.  We played Mexican Train again, with Mike running away with a win.

This morning we were all up at dark-thirty, getting ready to go to Lake Havasu City.  Janna and I were attending WW meeting, and the guys went to Lowes while we were there.  After the meeting, we stopped to see London Bridge, then went to breakfast.  After that, we took a drive up towards Oatman, checking out possible boondocking spots along the way.  Nothing struck us as being as perfect as the place we are now.

London Bridge:

London Bridge

Oatman is basically just a cute little street filled with what Mike calls “rubber tomahawk” stores and wild burros in the streets begging for carrots. We took a scenic drive back through Needles, California and back to Parker where we had “linner” at the same Mexican restaurant we ate at last week.

The Burros are the main attraction in Oatman.  Janna remembered to bring carrots, and these guys knew it!

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We were glad to get back to our desert home this afternoon, even more so after we noticed that the neighbors who arrived last week had moved on, returning our area to it’s serene beauty and quiet.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hunkered Down

Winter has made a return visit to the desert!  Yesterday morning started off bright and sunny, but windy.  As the day wore on, the wind stuck around, bringing a few clouds, but no rain.  This morning, the wind is still with us, and a few rain showers have appeared as well.

I went for a long walk with Janna and Mike yesterday morning.  When I got back, Jim had my sewing machine out of the closet – hint, hint.  He had several things that needed some sort of mending or alteration.  So, he went off to Quartzsite on a water trash dump run while I got the sewing started.

When he got back, he had another 20 gallons of fresh water to top off our fresh water tank.  Kareninthewoods, of RV’ing: Small House…Big Backyard, sent a comment about Jim’s little pump set-up, asking for pictures, so here are a couple Jim took yesterday.

The parts consist of a 12 volt pump (which will be our emergency back-up if our regular pump fails), an on-off switch, a 10 amp inline fuse on the red (positive) wire which is connected to a 12 volt extension cord.  The black (negative) wire from the pump is also connected to the extension cord.  Then  Jim got a 6’  white hose and cut it into a 4’ and a 2’ section and used the pump fittings on it:

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One end of one hose slips onto the fitting in the lid of the water jug and the other connects to the inlet side of the pump.  The other hose gets connected from the pump outlet to the fresh water tank.  The 12v cord gets plugged into an outlet conveniently located under our dining table.

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He just flips the “on” switch and pumps the water into the tank.  When the jug is empty, the pump creates enough vacuum to collapse it, then the switch is turned off.  I hope that’s a good enough technical explanation, but if you need more info, we’ll try to answer any questions.  It ain’t pretty, but it works great!

Now, while Jim was taking care of the water stuff, I was still slaving away over a hot sewing machine.  I had the generator on because I thought the sewing machine would use up a lot of battery power.  But the batteries were fully charged so I guess I didn’t really need to have the generator on.  Anyway, when Jim came in to check the levels on our “See Level” gauges, they didn’t work!  He turned the generator off, we waited awhile, and still no read-out on the panel.   Uh-oh.  He theorized that we’d overcharged the batteries and caused a problem with the electronic circuit for the read-out panel.

He went to get his phone to call the guy that installed this system, and couldn’t find his phone.  Finally, I started calling his phone so we could track it down by the ringing.  No ringing to be heard inside.  Hmm…. Call again.  No ringing outside.  Double hmmm….  All of a sudden, someone answers the phone!  The voice on the other end is telling me to have the owner of this phone come pick it up at the Quartzsite transfer station.  Jim had dropped the phone on the ground when he took the trash in.  Ok, so he jumped in the car and took off to go get his phone.  When I glanced at the clock, I saw that he had a grand total of 16 minutes to drive nearly 20 miles over a winding road, as the transfer station closes at 2:30 and it was now 2:14!  I called the phone again, and the same voice answered.  I explained that the phone’s owner was on the way, and could she please wait an extra few minutes for him.  Well, he made it in 17 minutes, got his phone and came home.

This day wasn’t going so well for him.  Once he got home he put in a call to Brannon, the fellow in Alabama who installed our See Level system and left a message for him.  Brannon called back a couple of hours later and had Jim pull the fuse to reset the power to the read-out panel.  Success!

The day improved greatly!  Meanwhile, I had finished the sewing projects and cleaned up my mess.  Good thing Janna was doing most of the cooking today.  Although she had her own issues to contend with, as their generator wasn’t working and she needed to borrow our oven to bake her cornbread.  We got that done and headed over to their place for beans, grilled pork chops and cornbread.  When she took the foil off the pan, she realized she’d forgotten to add baking soda to her batter, so the bread didn’t turn out as she’d expected.  But dinner was still great.

We played a round of Mexican Train after dinner, and it was my night to claim a win.

Today we’re trying to keep a lower profile and not get into trouble.  We’ll just see how that goes!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Little Desert Rain

The pictures today are from our hike to Palm Canyon – the dogs enjoyed themselves endlessly.  They love getting to run around off leash!

Ellie 042                Jim 038

Yes, it rained today, not much, but we did get enough to wet the ground.  Mostly we got wind.  But the skies cleared and the wind finally died down just before sunset.

Jim went to Parker this morning to pick up a few last minute items for our get-together this evening with Janna, Mike and Dave, who is camped a ways up the road.  I stayed home and cleaned the Castle.  I’ve noticed we don’t get as much dust and dirt here as we did in Santee, even though we’re out in the boonies.  That makes it much easier to clean.  On the subject of cleaning,  even though we’re careful with water use, I can still do a pretty thorough job of cleaning.  I run the vacuum cleaner when the generator is running, and I use a lot of anti-bacterial wipes.  Left over dish water becomes scrub water.

We’ve also found that we don’t have to be quite as stingy with water use as we first thought.  With our four 5-gallon collapsible water jugs and the nifty pump Jim fixed up, we can pump an extra 20 gallons into our fresh water tank when we need to.  We have plenty of capacity in the gray tank, especially when I water the bushes with left-over dish washing water.  We also have enough black tank capacity to last at least 2 weeks.  We’ve been getting drinking water jugs refilled at the RO station either in Quartzsite or Parker, and we use that for making coffee, giving to the dogs, cooking and drinking.

Dave arrived right on time at 5 this evening with a bottle of wine, a tray of cocktail shrimp and a special liqueur for an after-dinner sip.  Janna and Mike arrived just a couple of minutes later.  Janna made a spinach dip and brought veggies for dipping. Jim lit the charcoal grill and grilled the most wonderful burgers.  Janna also contributed a bowl of fresh strawberries and we had angel food cake with those for dessert.  Wonderful dinner!  We watched the Olympics for awhile before everyone made their way home.

I thought I would comment on my post from yesterday, about neighbors.  I got to thinking, maybe I gave the impression I don’t like neighbors, and that’s not true.  I appreciate neighbors, after all, we don’t live in a vacuum.  We’re all very interconnected in so many ways, and I certainly would not want to be completely isolated.  It’s just that a person needs a little space around them, and we haven’t experienced this feeling of wide open spaces for a long time now.  Since we’ve been here, we’ve really enjoyed the freedom from being squished in an RV Park where you can hear your neighbor sneeze.  When I saw that another RV had arrived and parked within our view, I was a little disappointed (well, ok, maybe more than a little) to lose some of our wide open space.  It just brought up my realization that I know I’ll be a 50-Amp Pavement Princess again one of these days.  However, we plan to do a lot more research about boondocking possibilities from now on.   I have a feeling we will also be more willing to stay in limited or no-hook up federal and state park camp grounds where we can enjoy more of these open spaces. (At least those areas that can accommodate big rigs).  Limiting our stays in RV parks will help our budget and our nerves, I’m sure!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yuma and Neighbors

The picture below was from yesterday’s Palm Canyon hike, the desert is noticeably greener these days.  Many ocotillo are blooming, I’m hoping it will be a colorful year for desert flowers.

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Today was a shopping day.  Janna and Mike mentioned visiting the market in Yuma, plus a Sam’s Club stop.  A lunch at Famous Dave’s was also on the agenda.

Janna and Mike were not terribly impressed with the market.  I think they expected more antiques, but this was row after row of little shops featuring all sorts of merchandise, everything from tools to dog sunglasses!

We looked for awhile and then headed off to Sam’s Club to pick up the things we needed from there.  Famous Dave’s was next, with a quick stop at Dairy Queen for small ice creams.  The guys managed a fast run through the Harbor Freight store as well.

Then it was getting to be time to start back to our desert homes.  As we pulled up the road, I noticed a motorhome parked – TOO CLOSE to us!!  It slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it, “Oh NO!!!”  Everyone else thought something really bad had happened, like our coach had been broken into or something.  No, nothing like that.  Just – neighbors!  I’m taking a lot of teasing about how territorial I’ve become.  Yikes.  One of these days I know we’ll be heading out of this beautiful, peaceful, quiet, remote place and pulling into an RV Park, squeezed in between a bunch of other RV’s.  Now, that’s a scary thought!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Discover Some Desert Magic

Ok, so we didn’t actually discover it – we heard about a very special canyon south of Quartzsite, where we could find natural palm trees growing in the crevice between the canyon walls.   Located within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge,  Palm Canyon is a popular destination for visitors.  We all got up at dark-thirty this morning so that we could get an early start.  Just a little after 8 we were on the way, with a quick stop in Bouse to drop off our trash.  Janna also needed to return her library books that were due today.

The turn-off to the canyon is about 20 some miles south of Quartzsite, off Highway 95.  There is a dirt road about 7 miles across the desert, right to the foot of the Kofa Mountains, just inside the wildlife refuge.  The road ends in a small parking area where the trail up the canyon begins.  It is a half-mile hike up a moderately steep and rocky trail, climbing between the very steep canyon walls.  Coming to an open area, we spotted the sign pointing to the left with the word, “Palms” on it, and sure enough, snuggled in the crevice is a line of palm trees (That little bit of green in the center):

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A closer look:

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While we were taking in the awesome beauty of this magic place, the dogs wanted to play and climb rocks.  Emmi got herself up on a large rock and needed a little help to get down:

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Then she was happy:

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Once we’d explored to our hearts’ content, and more people were starting to arrive, we returned down the trail back to the parking lot.  After we all got a little snack and something to drink, we decided to stop for a look at another magical place before going back to our desert homes.

We made one quick stop at a small fenced-in area  on Plomosa Road, where some rocks have been placed to spell out words like “Love”,  “Star”, “State”, and something else.  The story we were told is that the rocks were placed there by “The Hippies”, but that’s all I know about it.

The next destination was the “Bouse Fisherman”, a Geoglyph created by Native Americans of the Colorado River, that “…may tell the mythological story of a God, Kumastamo, who thrust a spear into the ground to make the mighty Colorado River flow”:

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It was a bit hard to make out the whole figure:

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But it was a very interesting and different sort of magical place in the desert.

After all the exploring, and with the increasing heat of the day, we decided to get back to our rigs and have a little down time for the afternoon.  Janna and I begged off cooking today and the guys agreed we should go out to dinner.

Once we were rested and refreshed, we were off to Parker for a great Mexican dinner, followed by a visit to the Blue Waters casino to check out a few penny slots.  Janna was the big winner, glad we could contribute!  Maybe we’ll have to go back and see about reclaiming some of the pennies we left there!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Couple of Days in the Desert


pointing hand pic

Yesterday morning, all 4 of us plus the 3 dogs took a walk in the desert.  Jim took the picture above, looking back towards the Castle.  I put a little pointing red hand in the middle of the picture – that hand is pointing to the Castle.  There just aren’t many close neighbors out here!

Other than the walk, we didn’t do a lot yesterday.  I worked on paperwork, trying to get some things organized and ready for the dreaded tax preparation time. 

Janna put together a wonderful dinner with potatoes, veggies and the left over filet mignon roast from Valentines Day.  We finished off the cake, too.  After dinner we settled in for a rousing game of Mexican Train, which I didn’t win.  Rats.

This morning we got up early so Janna and I could make our way to the Weight Watchers meeting in Lake Havasu City.  It’s an hour and  a half drive, and we needed to be there in time to get our lattes and be at the meeting around 9:00 for weigh in.  Today was Janna’s second meeting, and she was happy with a nice weight loss.  I also lost a little bit.  With my maintenance program, some weeks I gain a little, then I lose it, back and forth.  Sometimes I stay the same weight, but thank goodness, I’m staying close to my personal goal weight.

After the meeting we did some shopping, ate lunch, shopped some more and then headed back through Parker for Walmart and Safeway stops.  The Walmart is listed as a “Supercenter”, but it isn’t really much more than a regular Walmart with a few more groceries.  They have a very limited selection, and the produce isn’t all that appealing.  So, we go across the street to a large Safeway that has a much better selection.  Since we were in Janna’s little car, we didn’t have a lot of room to cart much home, so neither one of us bought very much.

I cooked tonight, and prepared the whole meal outside on the grill and our little outside propane burner.  It worked great, and the meal turned out pretty darn tasty.  We played 2 games of cribbage after dinner.  The guys took one, and Janna & I won the other.  We left it at that.

As of today, we’ve been here 2 full weeks.  We’re still enjoying the desert, I think we both feel very at home here and are quite comfortable with boondocking.  No plans yet as to when we want to move on.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Trip to Bouse

Jim 008 Today was the day we had decided to make the journey into the little village of Bouse to fill up our propane tank, dump our black and gray tanks and fill with fresh water.  When Jim went to the store yesterday, he drove around and scouted out the best approaches to do these necessary tasks.  In an RV park, it’s usually as simple as getting our names on a list for propane delivery to our site, and dumping our tanks about once a week.  Typically, we leave the gray tank open until a day or so before we know we will need to dump the black.  Jim closes the gray tank dump valve to let the gray tank fill a ways so he’ll have some rinse water for the sewer hose after he finishes dumping the black.

With boondocking, we just have to pack up and drive to the nearest facilities to take care of these jobs, which in this case, is only about 5 miles from our campsite.  Since it was a holiday weekend, we figured the Bouse County Park’s dump station would be a little busy this morning, so we didn’t get in a hurry.

I went with Janna and Mike on a long hike this morning, and it was great, I needed that!  I’ve been walking every day, but many times it’s just me and the dogs, so I don’t go too far away on my own.  When I got back, I started packing up the Castle, getting ready to slide in and go take care of the propane and dumping.  Soon we were on our way.  Jim’s scouting paid off, and everything worked out just fine.

When we got near the Bouse County Park, Jim mentioned that when he was there yesterday, he thought the camp host looked familiar, he was sure we’ve seen him somewhere.  We pulled in, and Jim handed me $10 to go pay the fee.  When I walked up to the camp host, I also knew he looked very familiar.  I told him I was sure we knew him but couldn’t place from where.  We talked a minute and when he mentioned Washington, I realized that he and his wife were the managers at the Evergreen Coho SKP Park we stayed at in Chimicum, Washington with Dortha and Mark a few months ago.  Talk about a small world – this rv-ing life sure has some overlapping circles!  Arch went to get his wife Shirley, and we all talked for several minutes while Jim started filling our fresh water tank. They’ve been coming to Arizona for many winters, and just started co-hosting at this little county park this year.  It was nice to see them!  They are great folks.

We finished our tasks and headed back to our piece of the desert.  We decided to position ourselves at a different angle from the spot we were originally.  It took a little time to get level, but we both like the placement better than before.  I wanted to be at an angle to get the most afternoon sun, as well as a good view of the distant mountain range out our front window.  Our “yard” is also more level, with smaller rocks, making it easier to walk on.  I got the inside all rearranged and Jim put our outside together.  We had a little relaxation time before we went up the hill to Dave’s rig.  He’d stopped by just after we got back in place and invited us all up for happy hour.  He made some wonderful margaritas and had chips and salsas out for us.  Mike popped popcorn, and we all had a good visit until sunset when it started to get cool, and we came back home for the evening.

Another beautiful day in the desert!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Beautiful Day

Jim 006 We hope you have had a beautiful Valentines Day too!

The sun was up before we were today, it felt so good to sleep in after waking up early almost every day since we landed in the desert.  That sleeping in led to a slow start for both of us, and we didn’t get around much until after 10.  I’ve heard it takes 21 days to establish a new habit, so we are still a few days away from locking in the habit of sleeping with total silence surrounding us.  It’s amazing how conditioned we become to the noise that is usually a constant in the background of our lives.

Jim made a store run to Parker, where the nearest “real” grocery stores are.  It’s about 30 miles from us, which means it is a fairly big deal to run to the store.

We took a walk this afternoon, but otherwise it was a relaxing day around here.

Janna and I planned a nice Valentines Day dinner with a filet mignon roast she provided for Jim to fix.  I baked a Weight Watchers chocolate cake and we both fixed some side dishes to complete a really fine meal.

After dinner we played a few games of Cribbage, with Janna & me on one team, and Mike & Jim on the other.  The guys beat us this time, but we’ll have a chance to fix that, I’m sur e.

Yes, it’s been a beautiful day in the Arizona desert.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yes, It Was a Gathering in The Desert!

It’s true.  Al, of Travels with the Bayfield Bunch, really did invite people (and dogs) to his and Kelly’s private, isolated spot out in the Kofa Wilderness south of Quartzsite today for a gathering.  I’ve known about The Bayfield Bunch (Al, Kelly and their 3 dogs), for a couple of years and have been reading their blog.  Al is known as a man who likes his solitude.  He has a very entertaining writing style, a very interesting background, a lovely family, and an extreme talent with photography.  I was disappointed when he and Kelly came to visit last week when Janna and I were grocery shopping, so we missed them then.  But  today was an opportunity to not only meet them, but also to see  (Froggi) Donna again and meet her husband Stu, as well as several other RVing couples.

Janna, Mike, Jim and I left our own desert home around 11 this morning so we could stop for lunch in Quartzsite before going on to The Gathering.  We stopped at a little restaurant that we had not yet tried.  Surprisingly, it was not a Mexican restaurant, but offered mostly American choices.  The food was decent, Janna and I both splurged on some sweet potato fries with our meals.

We found Al and Kelly’s spot with no trouble, as the road out there is well marked. When we arrived, Peter and Patty were already there.  This couple started full timing around 1999, and now own a lot in Quartzsite where they spend the winters.  In the summer they head North.

Soon, Donna and Stu arrived, followed closely by Motty and Patti, new full timers.

There was a lot of chattering going on, but we did manage to capture a few moments in photos for our friends who wished they could be there, but could not.

Al describes something to Mike:

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Kelly, me, Motty, and Patti respond to someone:

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Stu and Donna listen intently to a story:

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Janna and Kelly listening to a different story:

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The Gathering from left to right, Kelly, Motty Patti, Mike, Janna (and Emmi), me, Donna and Stu:

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More of the Gatherers, Peter, Patty, Kelly, and Patti:

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After a few hours of stories, catching up, comparing notes and plain old socializing, everyone started packing up chairs and goodies, and heading for their various corners of the region, from Yuma to Blythe, Bouse to Quartzite.

It was a very special day, and we thank Al and Kelly very much for opening their little piece of desert heaven for us to gather and get to renew and begin friendships!

A last look at their view of the Kofa Mountains:

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Al’s blog has quite a few more pictures of today’s event, with his insightful outlook and comments on this ever-interesting lifestyle.  Thanks again, Al, we think we’ll be seeing you again sometime, somewhere down the road.

Friday, February 12, 2010

We Meet New Friends

Ellie 056 This picture is one I took at Castle Dome Museum, a reflection of the desert in an old windowed door which caught my attention.

Today started out as errand day.  We needed to take our trash into Bouse to the free transfer station, then pick up our mail at general delivery in Bouse.  After those jobs were handled, we wanted to go into Quartzsite for more errands.  I wanted to see about getting my hair trimmed at the shop where Janna had hers done.  I had decided it would be pretty messy to try to do my own trimming in the Castle, since I typically run the vacuum cleaner a lot when I trim my hair.  Jim wanted to see about some water filters and pump parts in town.  Many of the vendors have packed up and left, but there are still a few around.

On the way from Bouse to Quartzsite, we decided we’d stop for a quick lunch before continuing the errands, so we stopped at a little restaurant on the main street.  When we walked in, a couple at the booth next to the one we headed for looked up, and asked, “Are you Jim and Ellie?”  What a surprise – Becky and JD, who are readers, recognized us.  They live in Flagstaff and are down here trying to get warm for a long weekend.  We chatted for a few minutes until their lunch arrived.  After they finished theirs, I invited them to stop by our camp site for a visit while they’re here.  They also read Janna’s blog and were interested in her quilting set up.  As it turns out, they are camped out this way too, only about 3 miles from us.

We had our lunch and then went on to the hair salon, but found that it is closed on Fridays.  Hmmm….Ok, so on to the vendors Jim wanted to check out.  It didn’t take him too long to find what he needed and we were on our way back home with a quick stop to fill our drinking water jugs first.  I decided to go ahead and trim my own hair, it was getting way out of control.  While I was working on the back, which is always a fun challenge, my mirror slipped out of my hand and broke.  Great.  I was able to salvage a big enough piece to finish the job, but a new hand mirror is now on my “must have soon” list.  We ran the generator so I could use the vacuum cleaner and get my mess cleaned up.

Janna volunteered to cook dinner, using  a shrimp recipe that Jim found and said it sounded good.  It was!  While she was getting things ready, Becky and JD stopped by to say hello and plan a longer visit for this evening.  We said that would be good, and made arrangements for them to come back later on after they’d taken care of their furkids.

After a wonderful dinner, we got the campfire set, complete with s’mores fixings.  I calculated the points for one s’more and determined with the small amount of chocolate we were using, we could afford one.  Becky and JD had arrived with several armloads of firewood, so we gathered around the campfire with the Olympic opening ceremony playing on the outside TV.  What a life.

Finally, a cool wind got up a little and we decided to adjourn inside to finish our visiting before Becky and JD needed to head on back to their rig for the night.  It was great to meet them!  They are hoping to sell their house and be fulltimers by the time she is able to retire next January.  We wish them the best with that! Becky asked if it’s a weird feeling to have strangers recognize us.  I explained it’s a little startling, but that we don’t consider them strangers, they are just friends we haven’t met yet.  We look forward to seeing them again one day, down the road!

A Day in the Old West

We first heard about Castle Dome City from Janna, when she asked if we’d read The Bayfield Bunch’s (Al and Kelly) account of their visit to this unique gem hidden away against the Kofa mountains between Quartzsite and Yuma.  When I looked at the pictures Al took, we agreed it was a day trip we wanted to do.

Yesterday, Ainslie and Beryl came by to pick the 4 of us up, and we were off to find the city.  Good thing Ainslie & Beryl have a very large truck, the 6 of us plus Emmi fit comfortably for the 65 mile ride south.  We found the turn-off from Highway 95 and headed east towards the mountains.  The road turned to gravel, but it was not too bad for our 8 or so mile ride to the museum, which is actually a whole little town, consisting of about 25 buildings that have been restored to represent the tiny, 1870’s era mining community of Castle Dome.

Allen and Stephanie Armstrong bought this property in 1994 after all mining (lead and silver) operations had long since stopped.  They began restoring it and have scoured the area to find all the items that are displayed.  Walking through the town is just like stepping back in time.  In this museum, there are no roped off, untouchable displays.  You can walk into a building and expect to see the original occupants carrying on their daily lives.  A cookbook sits open on a table, and I thumbed through to find good recipes.

In the Mercantile, wares are displayed in their glass case:

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You can step into the little church, sit on a pew and browse through the hymnals:

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Mike sure looked natural in this hotel lobby:

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There were an amazing number of pieces from all facets of daily life around the town, from mining tools to sewing machines, bottles to books.  Together, Jim and I took over 200 pictures!  We could have spent a lot more time exploring all the artifacts of days gone by in this fantastic setting, and just might find ourselves back here another day to explore more of this lovingly restored piece of history:

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Little Emmi was not so impressed with the whole idea.  No pets are allowed in the museum, so she was relegated to the truck, where she let her opinion be known!

Janna cut her visit short and went to keep Emmi company.  Jim and I joined her after our visit, and we started our impromptu picnic lunch.

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After everyone finished up their exploration of the Castle Dome Mining Museum and had their lunch, we piled back in the truck for our return journey.  We got stopped along the way at a road paving operation, and I got this picture of the desert, which turned very green after the rain a couple of days ago:

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We were soon back to our own little piece of the desert:

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And settled in for the night.  Another day with great friends and great adventure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Girls Day Out

Jim 003 I think today’s trek to a Weight Watchers meeting might have set a record for me in terms of distance – about 65 miles from our desert home to Lake Havasu City, which is the closest location we could find!  Janna fired up their little Silver convertible around 7 (yes, A.M.) and off we went, leaving the husbands to their own activities.

It was a chilly morning, but the ride was beautiful!  I’d never seen this scenery before, so I really enjoyed the dramatic hills and the views of the Colorado River as we approached Lake Havasu.  We got to the meeting location a little early, just in time to take a quick spin through town and pick up Lattes to enjoy after weigh in.

Once the meeting was over, we decided not to waste such a long drive, so we headed off to the local mall for some shopping.  We browsed through Dillards and then decided we needed some lunch to renew our energy so we could continue shopping.  We found a gourmet pizza restaurant that served single slices with salad, which was a good choice for us, since we’re determined to work on our healthy eating habits.

More shopping followed lunch, with more browsing than buying, which I’m sure the husbands appreciated. Janna did find a nice handbag, and I found some skin care products, so we did contribute a little to the economy today.

We stopped at the Safeway grocery store in Parker on our way home and bought a few things.  By this time the weather was much warmer and sunny, so Janna suggested we finish our ride home with the top down.  I may have imagined this, but I think that little car runs a quite a bit faster with the top down!  Janna wanted to stop at the Post Office in Bouse to check on a package, and then we came on home.

While we were gone, Jim took care of the laundry at the laundromat in Parker.  He did a little shopping of his own, then stopped in Bouse to fill up more water jugs.  Mike and Ainslie took a long hike.  I think everyone had a good day.

Janna  and I pooled our resources for dinner this evening and had a very delicious and healthy dinner here at the Castle.  Today’s picture is one Jim took of the sunset this evening from our front yard.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Geocache is WHERE????

Jim 020 Today’s adventures took us on a hike with a little Geocaching thrown in for fun.  “Us” included Janna, Mike, Ainslie, Jim, me, and little Emmi (Janna & Mike’s baby Mini Schnauzer).  Ainslie has a background in Geology, so he was primarily interested in checking out the composition of the rocks in the area.  Janna is still deciding whether she wants to take up Geocaching, Jim was along for the exercise (yes, true!), and  of course, I will always jump at the chance to go on a treasure hunt.

Our first objective was a rock formation just a few miles down the road from where we’re parked, known as The Crab Claw.  Janna and Mike had hiked here before, but after I checked out the web site, I knew there was a cache hidden here, and that it was a pretty difficult one, both in terms of the terrain and the hide.  But, I thought we’d see how far we could get anyway.  It sort of reminded me of the day last summer when Pat and Mike McFall and I went out on a search near Custer, South Dakota that was extremely challenging!  I knew going in today that I wouldn’t be spending as much time or energy on this one as we did in SD, so I didn’t have real high expectations – good thing, because it was a very tough location!

Emmi turned out to be quite a Rock Hound, though, here she is almost at the top of the formation!

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Ainslie and Mike spent some time examining various rocks in the area, but they were not especially interested in finding a geocache, so we soon moved on from this place without seriously trying to find the cache.

I had another cache programmed in to my Oregon GPS that promised to be much easier to get to and find, so we headed off in the direction indicated.  Since we were going directly from the first one, we had to cross several ridges.  This was the view as we topped one of the ridges we climbed:

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We finally crossed the last ridge to come into a beautiful, flat valley about a half mile from where the cache was hidden:

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Eventually, “orrie” (my name for my GPS) zeroed in on the location of the cache:

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And we had success!

A mere three hours after we’d started out on our “little” hike, we were back at Ainslie’s truck, and he brought us gratefully back to the home base for an afternoon of rest and relaxation before we gathered our salad and steaks and headed over to Janna and Mike’s coach for dinner with them.  Ainslie and Beryl, his wife, joined us and we had a fine evening of eating and visiting.  Beryl and Ainslie are a couple that Janna and Mike met in Alamos, Mexico the same year we went to Mexico.  They live in Oregon, but have just returned from their winter visit to Alamos and are staying in a nearby RV Park.

It was a beautiful day!

Monday, February 8, 2010


Thank you for the comments and suggestions for making our boondocking life easier and more efficient. There are some excellent ideas in the comments we received, and we appreciate them!

This afternoon we all jumped into the Saturn for a trip to Quartzsite.  First was a stop at the transfer station to dump our trash.  Then we stopped at a local cafe for a light lunch. 

After lunch, we took a drive south on Highway 95 to see if there might be a spot near the Kofa Mountains that would be another option for boondocking.

This is one of the views from the area we found:


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The pictures don’t really capture the dramatic scenery of these mountains!

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We did find a nice level, large area where Janna and Mike’s coach, plus ours, would have plenty of space around it.  I got a little teasing when I mentioned that I can hear a little highway noise from there, after being uncertain about the whole desert camping idea.  I just smiled and said that I’m a fast learner!  We may move down there next week to go exploring at some places nearby.

After our exploration of the area, we started back towards our little desert home near Bouse.  We made a couple more stops in Quartzsite, one for gas for Janna & Mike’s generator, and another to fill up our water jugs.  Mike has a system rigged where he can pump water from five gallon jugs into his onboard water tank.  They loaned us a couple of their jugs, and we have 2 of our own, so we were able to get 20 gallons of water, plus a couple of gallons of reverse osmosis water for drinking.  When we got back home, Mike set up his pump and hoses at our coach and pumped 20 gallons into our fresh water tank.  That will give us about 2 or more additional days before we’ll have to dump and take on more water. 

One of the comments we received was that typical RV level gauges are often not accurate.  We found that was the case on our coach before we had “See-Level” gauges installed last year.  The level sensors are located on the outside of the tanks on the opposite side of the coach from the fill and dump valves.  The read-outs are in percentages on our inside control panel.  We have a lot of confidence in the accuracy of the readings, but of course, we still pay close attention.

With all of that accomplished, next on the agenda was happy hour and relaxing.  Some other friends of Janna and Mike’s arrived at a Bouse campground yesterday, and today, they were planning to come for happy hour and dinner.  Unfortunately, Beryl was not feeling well enough to join us, so her husband, Ainslie, came for a little while for happy hour, and then went back to his place.  We hope Beryl will feel well enough to join us tomorrow.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Super Day (Or Three)

Since yesterday’s blog concentrated on our notes about this boondocking experiment, I’m behind on sharing our activities for the past few days. 

Friday morning we got up early so we could go to Yuma with Janna and Mike.  They needed new tires for their car, and needed to get them in Yuma, about 100 miles south of here.  We followed them in the Saturn.  They left their car at the tire shop and we all went in the Saturn to do some shopping.  Janna decided to look for a GPS, so we stopped at Best Buy and Sports Authority, but neither one had what she wanted.  A run through Sam’s Club was next, and we each got a few items – couldn’t buy too much since we didn’t have a lot of carrying capacity in the cars.

All the shopping worked up our appetites, so we headed over to Famous Dave’s BBQ for some lunch.  Janna and I enjoyed salads and the men enjoyed burgers.  After lunch, Janna & I suggested the guys might enjoy a trip to Harbor Freight while she and I shopped at Dillards for a little while.  She and I both found a few shirts that we needed, and the guys did enjoy being out of our sight for a while.

By this time their car was ready, so we took them back to the tire shop and we all headed back to our desert neighborhood.

Yesterday morning, we had some beautiful light playing in the desert hills which comprise our yard:

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When I step outside the door each morning, this is the view I see:

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I think it will be hard to return to “civilization” after experiencing this place.

Janna and I needed to pick up a few more groceries that we couldn’t get at Sam’s Club on Friday, so after breakfast, we grabbed our trash to dump and went off by the Bouse transfer station, left our trash there and went on to the little town of Parker, another 26 miles away and shopped both the Walmart and Safeway, with a latte to go for on the way home.

When we got back, we discovered we’d missed a visit by Al and Kelly, of “The Bayfield Bunch”.  These fulltimers are boondocking at a spot south of Quartzsite, and had come north to check out this area and meet us.  I’m sorry I missed meeting them, but in this lifestyle, I’m sure our paths will cross again one day.  Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy reading their blog and looking at their beautiful pictures.

Al, Mike, and Kelly visiting outside the Castle:

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By the time Janna and I got back, it had started raining, and it rained off and on most of the rest of the afternoon.  There was enough of a break in the rain so I could take the dogs and walk for a bit.  We pooled resources for dinner, Janna made a potato salad and I heated up some pulled pork for BBQ sandwiches.  Janna brought over angel food cake and strawberries and we had a wonderful dinner.

Of course today was the crowning glory of the professional football season, and we had a party planned.  But first, our morning walk.  Mr. Bo Jangles is on the far left, then Jim, Janna, Mike and Emmi as we walked through the wash:

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Emmi was intent on chasing Jasmine most of the time:

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After the walk, I got busy in the kitchen:

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Where I made another batch of S’mores Brownies, a lemon coconut pie, a batch of guacamole, and mixed up the buffalo burger meat with my special spice mix.  Jim grilled a couple of different types of sausage along with the buffalo burgers, and he also made a batch of “Clayton’s Beans” – one of his specialties.  Around 3 this afternoon, Janna, Mike, Emmi and neighbor Dave arrived for our Superbowl party.  Dave brought a bottle of wine, Janna brought a fabulous broccoli salad and her homemade salsa and another bottle of wine.  We were set.

Hours later, the New Orleans Saints had become world champs, and we were treated to yet another amazing Arizona sunset:

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Yes, it will be very hard to leave this place.