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.

Sunset 1Sunset 2Sunset 3

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.