Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Ice!

Show Low, AZ, Elks Lodge #2090 - May 24 to 27, 2019

ice cubes

Ice, the elixir of life. The substance, the glue that pulls together an excellent adult libation. Warm bourbon and soda? Nope! Warm gin and tonic? Nope again! Ice is a staple of life, an absolute requirement.

In our refrigerator, a residential model, we have a spot for an ice maker, but they are problematic and  takes up a lot of room. So instead, we buy our ice, as it is readily available at almost every filling station and certainly every grocery store across the country. Plus , a bag of ice doesn’t have any delicate parts to break like an ice maker.

For the two of us a bag of ice will last about 2 weeks and cost between $2 and $2.50 per bag or about 5 bucks a month.

Uh oh! Looks like the ice situation is getting critical.

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Fortunately we have reserves.

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All is good, the adult beverages shall not go unchilled this evening. Once again, all is calm in Miss Mosey.

Monday, April 1, 2019

RV Dreams Boondocking Rally

Quartzsite, AZ – 3-22 to 4-6-19

After leaving the Escapade in Tucson, we were in need of a place to dump and fill our tanks and do some laundry. Our plan to stop in Gila Bend to fill with diesel and spend the night at the full hookup campground behind the Shell station didn’t work out as it was full. They offered to let us dry camp there but that wasn’t going to help get the laundry done. So to EJ’s dismay, I insisted on driving another 130 miles to get to Quartzsite.

This worked out nicely as we found Park Place Campground which had full hookups and was reasonably priced at the Passport America rate of $14.50 per night. We settled in for 2 days and got our chores done.

Then it was time for the RV Dreams rally to begin. This was a new experience for us, going directly from one rally to the next. I had chosen this particular rally because I knew it would be small (limited to 40 rigs) and it was about boondocking. We love to boondock and have done so for many years, but we figured what the heck you can always learn new tricks.

We had met Howard and Linda Payne years ago at the RV Show in Tampa Florida. I have followed their blog for several years and knew Howard to have an analytical approach to things which was right up our alley.

We drove out to Plomosa Road just north of Quartzsite Arizona and got set up.

The Rig Circle

Once we arrived we learned the rally was going to be smaller than we originally thought as only 21 rigs signed up. In years past they had to turn people away. Howard and Linda weren’t sure why the attendance was low, but we liked the fact that it was going to be small and not unwieldly.

To our surprise there was no set agenda. It was more of a “What do you want to know and we’ll talk about it”. In fact only a few things were preplanned. An analysis of each rigs suitability for boondocking, a golf outing, campfires every night and a trip to the Desert Bar.

So Howard inspected Miss Mosey and concluded we were pretty well set up. I knew there were a few things I wanted to tweak, but more on that later. We already know how inept we are at whacking a hard little white dimpled ball with a long stick so the golf outing didn’t interest us. But we did enjoy the campfires and the stories.

Beverages at the CampfireRing around the campfire

A couple of times we had a group meal where we cooked dogs and burger and a pancake/bacon breakfast. When everyone had their grilles all set up it was very colorful.

Cooker Selection

One day Linda decided to show the ladies how to knot t-shirts. EJ had to take a look at that. She later said she liked her t-shirts just the way they were.

Crafty Ladies

Getting ready for the nights big bonfire.

Chatting in the big circle

We’ve had the opportunity to go to the Desert Bar before, but for one reason or another, we never actually made the trip. Plus it’s only open on weekends which is when we generally stick around the campsite to avoid the crowds. But when our fellow rally goers decided it was time for a visit we opted to go. Our little caravan made the trek in one piece but not without a few harrowing moments.

Because none of us were interesting in beating our vehicles to death on the long bumpy rock/dirt road to our destination we drove at a reasonable speed. But of course there were dirt buggies and pickup trucks that thought we were going way too slow.

Idiot Driver

Some enterprising fellow bought some land out in the desert that had no electric  and no water and decided to build a bar/restaurant. And it became famous. When we finally arrived we had to wait to get a parking spot. We later heard that it was always this packed.

Solar at the Desert Bar

When building out in the desert, you make do with what you got. The toilets were no exception.

Nothing but the finest plumbing

So we traveled about 100 miles round trip for a couple of beers and a burger. And now I have the t-shirt to prove it.

Meanwhile, back on Plomosa Road at the rally we enjoy evening after evening of beautiful sunsets.

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We met some interesting folks, but surprisingly few of them seemed interested in boondocking on a regular basis. Almost everyone was headed to an RV park for an extended stay after the rally. Several folks were headed to Howard and Linda’s next rally in Parump, Nevada.

We wanted to have a little time to ourselves to decompress after 2 rallies back to back so we stayed on after the Boondocking rally was over. And then there was one.

And then there was one(2)

Maggie chose to take the opportunity to sleep in.

Someone wants to sleep in this morning

Since we were practically next door to Yuma, AZ, and the place where I bought the Lithium batteries for Miss Mosey, why not drive down there and pick up 2 more batteries to bring our total up to six?

This is a good time to talk about our boondocking philosophy. We don’t like commercial campgrounds because they are crowded, too many campers exhibit no common courtesy towards their fellow campers and they are generally expensive. However, they are a necessary evil when you need to dump and fill or do laundry and there is no other option.

Good choices to dry camp are campgrounds built by the Corp of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Forest Service (NFS). BLM, NFS and State lands also offer excellent boondocking opportunities. The advantages are fewer people crammed together, better scenery, low cost and if your neighbor is being obnoxious you can move.

Having said all that, we feel we have paid our camping dues. We started out camping in a tent, then a Volkswagen Bus, then a Volkswagen camper, then a Champion Class A built on a Dodge truck chassis, back to a Volkswagen Westfalia, then a Roadtrek 19 foot Poplar, then moving up to a 34 foot Itasca motorhome and finally a 36 Tiffin Phaeton. Having said all that, we have roughed it and now we are to the point where we like our creature comforts. Yes, we know there are campers out there that say what we do isn’t really camping.  We like to boondock, but that doesn’t mean we have to be uncomfortable while doing it.

So we run our residential refrigerator, use our built in bathroom, watch our LCD TV, charge our electronics, use our mattress warmer when it’s cold and operate our electric recliners. Yeah we have an energy hog, big deal, this is our home, and that means we will build up our 12 volt system to where it can support the way we chose to live.

That is a long winded way of saying our solar power system and our house battery bank has worked well, but it could use a little tweaking.

We have been contemplating adding more batteries to our existing bank for 6 months or so. Our overnight electric consumption would result in our battery bank state of charge being the 30 to 40 percent range. Which was within the tolerable discharge range for a LiFePO4 battery. But Lithium batteries will live longer if you don’t discharge them so much on a regular basis. So would we rather replace our current 4 batteries sooner or add 2 more batteries and enjoy the benefits of additional capacity for a longer period of time since we wouldn’t be depleting the batteries so much every day? That’s easy, MORE POWER!!

Like we said, Yuma was an easy 3 hour round trip and that is where Starlight Solar is. Larry, the owner, was very helpful in supplying us with the GBS LiFePO4 batteries for our original installation. So we contacted him and he just happened to have two more batteries in stock. All right! Road trip.

After picking up the batteries and various parts, we wandered over to the local brewery for lunch and to quench our thirst. The desert is a thirsty place you know.

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And then it was time to head back to Quartzsite so we could arrive before dark.

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Over the next few days time was spent building a battery box and insulating it to protect the new batteries.

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When we get back to Orange Park (whenever that happens), a proper battery box with decent insulation will be built to house all the batteries in one enclosure. But for now, all six batteries are protected and that’ll do.

Next stop Kingman, Arizona.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Escapade 2019

Pima County Fairgrounds, Tucson, AZ 3-16 to 3-21-19

At last we are on our way to the 2019 edition of the Escapees Escapades. We have heard so much about this from other Escapee members that we thought we should check one out. But you know, we are a little apprehensive about camping in very close proximity to 800 or 900 hundred other rigs for 5 days.

The literature Escapade sends you advises that you disconnect your towed vehicle prior to entering the fairgrounds. Well we can follow directions, so we did. And we found that the Explorer had a dead battery. So we had to jump start it from Miss Moseys batteries before we could drive on in to the fairgrounds.Sonny's Dead Battery

After that, getting to the fairgrounds and to our campsite for the week was uneventful. But the dead battery really was dead which allowed us to meet our “good” neighbors, Scott, Tammy and faithful companion Bullet,  the next morning when we had to ask for a jump start from his jeep so we could go to Walmart and buy a new battery.

Parking “Rally Style”. The lower right corner is the display of a local RV dealer. We were amazed at how many RVs were sold during the 5 days of Escapade. Miss Mosey is kinda lost there in the middle.

Escapade Rigs

Since we were parked “Rally Style” ( which means just enough room to put your slides out and leave a little walking room between rvs) we set up our Genturi to direct our generator exhaust up above the other rvs and not blow it at our neighbors. Scott and Tammy did the same. Unfortunately our “Bad” neighbors did not do this. Even though the weather was quite comfortable, perfect open window weather, our “Bad” neighbors chose to stay inside their rv all the time and run their generator. This meant every time we opened our door, we got a face full of diesel exhaust fumes. So we had to keep all the windows on that side and the entry door closed. But with the ceiling exhaust fans going we could draw in enough air from the other side to keep the inside temperatures at a manageable level.

Quiet hours were from 10pm to 7am, meaning no generator use during that period. One night our “Bad” neighbor chose to ignore the 10pm deadline. I figured I’d give him an additional 15 minutes before I knocked on his door and gently reminded him about quiet hours. Before I could get my outside shoes on I heard a loud pounding coming from their rv and someone yelling at them to turn off their “D@#m generator”. Wow! Someone else was peeved at them too!

After that, they got pretty good at obeying the 10pm deadline, but every morning they would jump the gun on the end of quiet time by 5 or 10 minutes. I guess they showed us!

This kind of behavior is why we prefer to camp with friends or boondock off by ourselves. More and more campers are ignoring common courtesy towards their fellow campers.

But on to the main reason we came to Escapade. There were a number of seminars being offered that we were interested in. When we saw the schedules for the seminars, that’s when we realized that there was no way we could attend all that interested us. If you are a couple, split up they say. That way you can cover twice the territory, they say. Well that’s all fine and good, but if there are 3 or even 4 interesting seminars being held at the same time, you are out of luck. The seminars start at 8AM and are over by 4PM. If they would continue the seminars later in the day, they could duplicate some of the more interesting ones. That would allow those of us who couldn't attend the earlier sessions to attend later ones. Maybe that is the organizers plan to get you to attend next years Escapade.

Several of the sessions were  nothing but sales pitches for cleaners or car wash products or certain brands of electronic gadgets. We had hoped for more unbiased informational seminars, but I guess those folks have to make money some way.

Some of the sessions, however, were quite informative, such as those about insurance, domiciles, solar, water management, lithium vs. lead acid batteries, going paperless and new CPR.

Ex 1  Ex 2Ex 5Ex 9Ex 10

And some were solely focused on selling stuff.

Ex 3Ex 4Ex 8

Of course all seminars and activities must end by 4PM or else they would interfere with Happy Hour. We understand the need for a Happy Hour to exchange information and socialize, but at 4PM a lot of folks are still out exploring, shopping or just being active. It’s like cutting the afternoon off in the middle. But it works for a lot of folks and has its place.

And of course one of the favorite things Escapees like to do is eat. So here we are bellying up to the food table.

Food rush

We came prepared and brought our own chairs. (By the way, that plate is for two)

Own chairs

As far as Escapade goes, we know a lot of work goes into it. But primarily it seems to be a vehicle for paying money to hang out with your buddies. Some folks seem to thrive on going to rallies just for that purpose. We have to admit we did enjoy meeting up with old friends and making new friends while we were there.

Oh and we almost forgot to mention. Probably the most important reason we attended was to take part in the Smart Weigh Program. We got the 4 corners of Miss Mosey weighed and her height measured as well. And we found we were running too much air pressure in the rear and not quite enough in the front.

And a huge shout out to Hendersen’s LineUp of Grants Pass, Oregon. They exchanged some incorrect motion control units for us that we had purchased a year ago from another dealer. If you are ever planning on going to Oregon, make an appointment with them to have your suspension upgraded. You’ll not regret it.

So would we attend another Escapade? Let’s just say been there, done that. There’s a lot of other places in North America we have yet to discover.

Next up, we try another rally, but in a much smaller setting.

Friday, March 15, 2019

It’s not Bryce, but that’s a good thing!

Chiricahua National Mounment March 14, 2019

EJ had been researching things to go see while we waited for Escapades to start. She found that the Chiricahua National Monument was only about 50 miles away. So a ”Road Trip” is in order.

There is still snow on the mountains, so we bring along appropriate clothing.

Chiricahua Mountains with snow

Along the way we pass farms and such. Gorgeous view with the mountains as a backdrop.

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At the Chiricahua Visitors center we encounter a troop of older folks that don’t seem to be very well organized. They are slowly meandering around, oblivious to the existence of others, trying to decide who is riding with whom when I overhear one of them saying they didn’t have enough gas to drive to the top of the park AND make it back where they came from. We leave the discussion to go inside and enjoy the displays. When we come back out, all the cars are gone. I wonder if we’ll encounter them again on the way up to the top.

We stop for lunch at one of the parking lots on the way up and are entertained by lots of Mexican Jays. They act like they haven’t eaten in days as they keep an eye out for dropped morsels from our meal.

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Then it’s off to see what we came for. Bryce Canyon is known for it’s Hoodoos and rock formations but it is so packed with people it is difficult to enjoy. While Chiricahua is not as spectacular, it still has amazing colors and formations (and hardly any people, but don’t tell anyone).

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On our outing today we stopped to investigate a cackling noise we had heard from the Elks Lodge in Willcox. I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but I wanted to take EJ to the source as she enjoys natures creatures. I apologize for the fuzzy pictures, but my camera was at max zoom and I didn’t bring a tripod.

Sandhill Cranes 1Sandhill Cranes 2Sandhill Cranes 3

That’s right, they are Sandhill Cranes. We never expected to see them here in the desert. This area is called the Willcox Playa. It is a “dry lake”, the prehistoric Lake Chochise. This is the site of a former Bombing Range, now owned by the Department of Defense and administered by the US Army Corp of Engineers. It is also home to 6,000 to 8,000 Sandhill Cranes that use it as a roosting habitat.

Our time here at Willcox, AZ has come to an end. Now we head to Tucson to participate in the gathering of Escapees from all over the country at the Pima County Fairgrounds. Our route takes us through Las Cruces where RoadsideAmerica.com tells us the worlds largest chili pepper resides.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Remiss and Tardy Again!

Payson, AZ (sorta) Sharp Creek NFS Campground May 6 to May 19, 2013

Sometimes it is hard putting together a blog.  We are not alone with this struggle. The most common reasons we read for putting it off are “I was having so much fun, I just didn’t have time to blog” or “I didn’t do anything interesting so I didn’t have stuff to blog about.” Well, in my case we are having fun, we are doing interesting stuff, but we just having trouble getting motivated about writing.

Part of it is because when we started this blog, we didn’t want it to be a travelogue, documenting that we drove so many miles today and we saw this or that. When we read blogs, we want to learn about the person or persons writing and how they handle everyday life. That’s why it’s better to write the blog while the day’s events are still fresh in your mind as opposed to trying to recreate the experience days or weeks later. I’m a great procrastinator! So, all those great things  I wanted to blog about are lost in the maze that is my memory never to surface again.

So why am I writing today? Well, here we sit in the Aphache-Sitgreaves National Forest enduring our 4th or 5th day of rain. It’s gotten to the point that Gabby (the younger cat) is swatting at rain rivulets on the windows and EJ is dancing around the motorhome like a ballerina. I need a mental distraction so I thought “Why not put together a blog?”. Please don’t expect much, as this will be a series of brain burps while I ineptly attempt to recreate the last 2 and a half months.

Starting back in San Angelo, TX in preparation for leaving after a 4 month stay I had one last project to wrap up. We have a Tire Pressure Management System (TPMS) and it has really been a huge disappointment. It only has two jobs. 1) to warn if the pressure in a tire goes too high or too low and 2) to keep an eye on the tire temperature. Out of the 10 tires we have (6 on the motorhome and 4 on the car) It normally only gives readings for 3 or 4 of the 10 tires. We even installed a signal booster, but it doesn’t help at all. But I dutifully did the maintenance and put in new batteries and lubricated the seals to prevent water intrusion.

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It didn’t help. There is still no signal reaching the receiver from 6 of the sending units on the tires. BAH! Well, the system is 8 years old, maybe technology has improved by now. Maybe it’s time to invest in a new TPMS system. It sure would be nice to keep an eye on the tire pressures as we are going down the road.

Our preparations were finally complete and it was time to head on down the road. But, we have been to West Texas many times, and it was plain boring driving the same roads again and again then stopping at the same overnight spots again and again. We needed to shake things up a bit and try something different. So we started researching some small West Texas towns to see what they had to offer.

I had been hearing stories of a WWII bomber base in West Texas and I wanted to check it out. Pinning down a location was interesting because the old bomber base was in one town and the museum for it was in another. And what really piqued my interest was the informal name of the base. Rattlesnake Bomber Base. Turns out the base, even though no longer in use, is off limits. So to the museum it is!

Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum Entrance

The museum itself is in Monahans, TX while the actual bomber base is in Pyote, TX about 20 miles away. The bomber base was named for the many rattlesnake dens discovered during construction. At one time this was the largest bomber base in the United States. After the war it was used as a storage facility and is where the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan) was stored.

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At one time 100’s of B-29s were stored here before they were scrapped. The West Texas environment was thought to be conducive for long term storage.

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And vicariously Frank got to pretend he was dodging strafe and shooting “bad guys”.

Gunner Frank

Outside the museum was a huge concrete “hole” or as they called it, a “tank”.

Million Barrel Tank

Working around the clock for 90 days men and mules hauled material and built this huge concrete structure. Supposedly the bottom of the structure could hold 5 football fields. “Why was this built?” you ask. In the 1920s Shell Oil Company had discovered oil deposits in West Texas that when tapped, were free flowing 500 barrels a day. During those days there was no infrastructure to easily transport the  oil to market so they built this huge tank to store the oil. Over the tank they built a wooden roof covered with tar paper to protect the oil from the elements. While this all seemed like a good idea, it really wasn’t. The concrete was poured in sections, which meant it had seams that allowed the oil leak out. Also the dry Texas weather meant accelerated evaporation causing even more oil to be lost. Between these two problems enough oil was lost to make the whole venture unprofitable. In 1929 all of the oil was pumped out and shipped to Oklahoma to be refined. In the 1930s Shell abandoned it. In all that time the tank had only been filled to capacity once.

A later attempt was made to use it as a huge water park. Water wells were drilled, the tank filled, and even water skiing exhibition teams were hired. But it encountered the same leakage and evaporation problems. The water park was open a single day before it too, was closed and abandoned.

Next it’s on to Wink, TX. Where in the heck is that you say? It’s 7 miles from Kermit, 22 miles from Wickett, 31 miles from Notrees, and 40 miles from Pecos. Didn’t help much, huh? Let’s just say it’s in the middle of nowhere out in the oil patch.

Love Hurts, Blue Bayou, Pretty Woman, Crying, It’s Over, Only The Lonely, and I Drove All Night. All songs by the Wink Hometown Boy, Roy Orbison. Roy Orbison was actual born in Vernon, TX but grew up here in Wink. Roy’s songs were big hits in the USA, Britain, Germany and Australia.

Roy's bench

Wink, TX is home to the Roy Orbison Museum. It’s a small but interesting collection with people visiting from all the world just because they are big Roy Orbison fans. One interesting tidbit about Roy’s dark glasses. He wasn’t blind, as some thought. He simply left his regular prescription glasses on a plane on his way to a performance and had to wear his sunglasses. Since Roy was shy and uncomfortable performing on stage he found that the sunglasses acted as a shield between the audience and himself. It made him feel more at ease and he wore them from then on. On December 6, 1988 Roy died at the young age of 52 in Hendersonville, Tennessee of a heart attack.

Below EJ crooning with the “Big O”  and trying on his sunglasses.

EJ Crooning with Roy OEJ with Roy O Glasses

Roy Portrait

You all know about my aversion to large crowds but EJ and I decided to push our comfort zone a lot and go see what an Escapees Rally was all about. With only 3 or 4 weeks to the event we were surprised to find that space to attend the event was still available. So we signed up, paid our funds and wondered what we had just done. But we figured that for 5 days we could endure most anything.

There were two reasons we wanted to attend Escapades. 1) We wanted to see what all the hoopla was all about. Whenever we met an Escapee member they always told us we just had to go to an Escapade. 2) According to the published schedule, it looked like there were quite a few seminars we would be interested in attending.

Because we would be dry camping for 7 days (we were arriving early and leaving late) we needed to position Miss Mosey to be able to dump and fill on the day we were to arrive at the Pima County Fairgrounds where Escapades was being held.

We tried to get into the Escapees Park in Benson, AZ but it was booked solid, so we ended up staying at the Elks Lodge in Wilcox, AZ about 70 miles to the east of the Fairgrounds. We spent 5 days there doing laundry and exploring.

While we were there, the winds from Texas continued to follow us and we spent several days with the slides in on one side of Miss Mosey. With the windward slides out, the toppers flapped unmercifully in the unrelenting winds. Rather than worry about the fabric ripping to shreds, it was much more calming (and quiet) to cope with reduced living space for a few days.

More about Escapade in the next popst.