Updated on February 22, 1999.
We began the year 1999 asleep in the Palm Springs TTN Park in Palm Desert, CA, surrounded by the date palm trees. We celebrated with sister Janet, brother-in-law Michael, and niece Sasha earlier in the evening, and then with Alice in her kerchief and me in my cap (nothing else for either of us), we both settled down for a long winter's nap. When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter: some damned RVer decided to serenade the park with Auld Lang Syne over his air horns. We had a good laugh and sang along. It was nice to welcome in the new year at the correct time. Even Misty our dog climbed into bed with us and gave us each a lick on the chin.
The winter weather in Palm Desert was delightful, but it was beginning to warm into the high 70s. We decided we would just have to bear with it -- the alternative was to go north or east with temperatures in the low 0s in some places. Please note that I am not making an issue of this to make people jealous. It is one of the crosses we on the road must bear. To my good friend Gene I say, "Just be patient. Someday, you too will be here."
Alice, Misty, and I have now been full-time RVers for nine months. It is beginning to become a habit for all of us. We thoroughly enjoy the chance to drive around and see things and to meet new people. The scenery we have already seen is choice, and there is so much more to see. We look forward to sharing it with you.
My brother-in-law Michael is a psychologist with a practice in Palm Desert. He says things really heat up in the summer. I have been helping him computerize some tests, and both Alice and I took the tests to try out the programs. Michael gave us a free analysis in payment (wow!), and we found that both of us enjoy change and travel. In fact, our preferences for change are near the top of the percentile curve. So maybe part of what makes a good full-timer is a real desire for change. Of course, we left Palm Desert soon after that.
Palm Desert has a delightful place they call the Living Desert. It is a portion of land set aside to remain undisturbed by the improvements all around it. Alice and I took a mile and a half walk out through the desert. We had a chance to learn of some of the plants you find on the desert, and get a good view of the trace of San Andreas fault which runs up through the Coachella Valley from the Salton Sea. The line of palm trees in the far distance is on the trace of the fault.
We walked around the Living Desert as the sun was setting, and it gave us the rare opportunity to take a picture of ourselves. The facility also contains some wild animal exhibits that are quite good. The organization serves as a habitat for endangered species.
We stayed at the Living Desert for supper and an evening of holiday lights, which is part of their annual holiday schedule. It was a very pleasant experience and a good chance to contribute support to their efforts.
While at Palm Springs TTN we met our "old" friend Jim Stevens from Oregon. He had sold us on the Dri-Wash product, and this time he sold us on a Brake System being touted by his next door neighbor. What a salesman! Basically, the Brake System acts like a dashpot to smooth out the braking action on quick stops. It costs a bit, but it has already helped to make the braking action on our Dodge truck much more smooth.
Meanwhile, back at the TTN preserve, they were trimming the date palms. We were amazed at the agility of the workers who would climb an extension ladder of immense proportions and then, without any safety harnass, cut the old stalks out of the palm and drop them down on the ground -- without hitting the rigs below.
While in Palm Desert we took care of several mundane matters. I had the truck serviced at Cathedral Canyon Dodge, the same as last time we were in the area. Again, I recommend them. Alice also visited with a cardiologist for a check up. She had been having some irregular heart beats and her blood pressure was a bit high. Dr. Bernstein gave her a complete checkover and ran some tests, then put her on a low level dosage of atenolol. Her blood pressure has dropped dramatically. She will be going back for some follow-on visits later this spring.
We finally made contact for our mail at Thousand Palms and found nothing really interesting. Maybe our interest levels are changing. We had several fine visits with our kinfolk, but finally, we decided it was time to head out. Besides, we had reached our time limit for the stay at TTN. Quartzsite was next.
Monday morning we filled the water tank with fresh water, dumped and washed the holding tanks, and prepared for our trek to the BLM lands of Quartzsite. Apart from sitting in parking lots at rallies, this would be our first real experience in boondocking.
As we headed east on I-10 from the Palm Springs TTN, we passed a sign near the Salton Sea telling us we were at sea level. Then for the next 30+ miles we climbed out of that depression. It was fairly easy, and looking back we could see the sea and the Coachella Valley in the distance. We continued through washed hills with bits of creosote bush and cholla on their sides, and finally came down towards the town of Quartzsite. Rigs started appearing parked out amongst the desert bushes in various places, becoming thicker as we approached the town.
I have placed the description of our destiniation with it many images on a separate page. Please click Quartzsite to take a look.
After exiting at the first Quartzsite exit, we drove nearly a mile through the town to reach the north-south highway. It gave us a first chance to sense the flavor of Quartzsite. There were lots of garage sales going on all over the place. The traffic was pretty dense and slow, and truckers who had to leave the freeway with their 18-wheelers and drive down the main street seemed impatient with everyone else on the road. They seemed to appreciate any kind of courtesy. Most of the vehicles on the road were either an RV or had some kind of hitch to connect to an RV.
We turned south on US95 in the center of town. My notes from the Life on Wheels Conference last July said something about going to the Long Term Visitor Area, and that the Escapees would be somewhere around there. We stopped at the first LTVA (at milepost 103) and paid $20 for the week, giving us the rights to use the LTVAs and their facilities, including the right to camp in the area, draw water, use the trash dump, and dump our holding tanks! We signed up and then headed down the road where we did not need the permit to park, but we did come back to use the LTVA as a place for the other services. The BLM needs the money.
We pulled off the highway at milepost 99. We had heard a rumor that the Escapees gathered in that area. We never found them. We drove into the desert about half a mile to escape the noise of the road and found a semi-secluded place where we could set up and put down our roots.
It did not take long to back into a spot; you just stopped where you were and dropped anchor. Then, that evening turned out to be spectacular, with a sunset that rivaled any I have ever seen.
Our camp site was simply on a flat area between a couple of shallow washes, as most of the area was. You just had to avoid parking in the wash. The surface was composed of rock slightly embedded in sand. It looked like the sand had all been blown away.
Misty enjoyed being in the desert as well. She could go outside and walk around as much as she wanted. Both Alice and I watched after her well. We had heard stories about pets becoming coyote lunch, and we did not want anything to happen to her. There were also stories about pets running into cactus and scorpions, so we had to watch for that as well. Misty did not seem concerned one way or another.
One thing that works well in the desert is cooking on a barbeque. However, it means you have to do it early, while there is still some light to see by. Of course the cook has to keep a proper perspective and needs to be adequately lubricated.
Our time on the desert at Quartzsite was absolutely delightful. The temperature was exactly what it should be, and in the beginning the breezes came up only when they were needed. It was indeed Camelot. Alice had been worrying about boondocking on the desert, but she was seduced as well. Around us were several saguaro cactus plants, ranging from youngsters like those next to Alice to some that were thirty feet high.
The next morning we went into town for our first tour of some of the junk and stuff and rock and gem shows. It was a great treat to have such a large group of flea markets in the same area. Some of the stuff was pure junk; other stuff was spectacular. Alice is standing next to a "bowl" of fossilized ammonites. I decided it would not fit in the trailer.
We finally found some Escapees. They gathered for breakfast every Wednesday morning about 8:30 at Sweet Darlene's on the main street to the east of US95. This was a temporary diner, made up of a tent on metal poles. The seating was at a bunch of parallel folding tables with folding chairs. The food service was frenetic, but the food was good. SKP's were doing their thing of going around announcing who they were. There were some other announcements, but we could not hear them because we were already in deep conversations with our nearest neighbors. From what we heard, we were there right at the start of the busiest part of the season, and things would become completely crazy in about five days.
Quartzsite is a lot about rocks, and they have a collection of many kinds of rocks. The copralites seemed to be in evidence in many places. There was also crocodile copralite. I am not sure if it is fossilized or not.
I purchased a rock hammer while shopping around, something I had given up many years ago. It feels good to go around beating on rocks and being successful (in breaking them apart). It also provides a good excuse to search some of the more remote areas. Here you see me when I was up an arroyo looking for whatever I could find. What you don't see is the small bit of cholla that got stuck in my shoe and went right through the rubber sole. The desert is friendly, up to a point, and then it can get downright mean and nasty.
No, I did not find this one in the arroyo with my new rock hammer. It was in a booth. I was very tempted to purchase a lapidary and cutting saw, but after thinking about it I realized I had been there and done that, and there were many other things for me to do now. But the temptation was great.
Mixed in with the rocks and gems you could find antiques that brought back real memories. Alice remembered this item from her childhood, and looking at it now it seems so long ago that this washing station was really high-tech.
We finally found something of a food market in town and got some milk and a few odds and ends. My suggestion is that you go to Quartzsite with a full larder if you can. You can also drive 20 miles back west to Blythe, but we did not bother. The markets have some of the vitals, but not everything you might need.
Mixed in with all these garage sales, I was able to spend a considerable bit of time getting organized with the book I am writing. I finished roughing out the first chapter and did some organization on another.
As luck would have it, we had another great evening of sunset. I guess I just like sunsets; they give such a nice glow to everything. Of course, one of the problems with darkness is that if you do not watch out, you use up all your electrical reserves creating light. We did that, and by the last night we were on the desert the batteries were no longer able to keep the inverter turned on. So we were given some real practice in the arts of boondocking.
This convinced me that I needed to look at beefing up the solar system on my rig if I am going to do much serious boondocking. I will discuss that in the section about Solar Power elsewhere in this website.
Finally, after a week on the desert, we decided to head back to civilization.
We got up Monday morning and rigged the trailer for traveling. One of our concerns was that there would not be enough power left in the batteries to close the slides. It turned out to be no problem.
Then we were on our way towards Laughlin, Nevada. We stopped by the South LTVA and dumped our holding tanks before we left the area; it was nice to have that right. And we only had to wait for 40 minutes. Returning to the highway, we traveled north through the middle of Quartzsite and then on towards Parker.
Now it is confusing about Highway 95. South of Quartzsite, you drive on US95. But that road turns left and follows I-10 over to California and then heads north. So Arizona built AZ95 which continues north out of Quartzsite to Parker. That is the road we followed.
As we left the area, the nature of the desert started changing, becoming more sandy with dead grass and creosote bush, and we were glad we had been staying near Quartzsite. The road followed the lay of the land, and there were numerous moderate dips through runoff channels, but nothing rough.
We turned to the left when AZ95 intersected AZ72 from Wickenburg and as we drove towards Parker road signs indicated it was one of the fastest growing areas in Arizona. Upon reaching the town, we wondered just where the growth was.
With no real desire to go see Lake Havasu, we left AZ95 and turned west across the Colorado River to take CA62 over to US95. All the roads were well maintained and we made good time. US95 headed north in a straight line for most of the way. Then about ten miles from Needles, we had some slower turns as we came back down off the uplands towards the Colorado River Valley.
We stopped for lunch in Needles, then headed across the river and back onto AZ95 (it got confusing to say the least) on our way to the Avi Casino RV Park. There had been a coupon offering three nights for the price of two, so we decided what the heck, let's try it. We also had a coupon for free nights at a membership campground provided we listened to the 90 minute proposal. We were simply not in the mood at the time.
The Avi Casino is just across the Colorado River from Arizona at the southmost tip of Nevada. I believe it is associated with the Mojave Indian Reservation. It is something of an oasis out in the middle of lots of sand and brush. Some of the sand has been turned into green farm fields on the Arizona side of the river. On the Avi side, it has been turned into a beautiful golf course.
We checked in and found our pull-through spot. The first thing we did was set up and hook up to shore power. Then we sat back and enjoyed electrical things again, like TV, lights, and computers.
We mostly relaxed at Avi. We had a couple of meals in the casino restaurants, and we lost a few dollars playing video poker and roulette, but then it was back to the rig and hang out.
We had one night of really strong winds, and a couple of times I was sure the roof was being ripped off the top of the rig. The next morning, the barbeque had been knocked over and there were some tumble weeds stuck in the wheels, but other than that everything looked fine.
I was able to get a couple more chapters of my book pretty well mapped out. The desert is proving to be a good place to write. There are few distractions unless you go looking for them.
Thursday morning, our three nights for the price of two deal was over, so we checked out and headed for Las Vegas. The forecast was for some wind, but we did not think it would be too bad. We followed around the Colorado River for about five miles to the north and then caught the Needles Highway up to NV163, above the casinos on the river. There is quite a climb out of Laughlin to go over the pass to US95 on NV163, so I just hunkered down and did not push the Dodge too hard up the 7% grade. It was a chance to see some pretty parts of the desert as we went over the top.
Turning north on US95, the road was mostly straight with only a few changes in inclination. We noticed the wind was getting stronger and stronger, mostly coming from the northwest. We had quite a headwind to fight with.
As we neared the intersection with NV93 that went over to Boulder City, we drove by a dry lake with the wind coming across the road from the lake. There were warnings posted about blowing sand, and I eased back quite a bit. Then as we came up to some very heavy clouds of sand, we could see an accident ahead. Amazingly, it was the first major traffic accident we had seen on the road since the start of retirement. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a killer, with what remained of a Cadillac and an 18-wheeler that fought it out headon. Neither won. I had to drive well off the road pulling the trailer to get around.
Then a mile down the road in another dense cloud of sand, out of the dust there came several more cars at high speed. They could not see any better than I, and luckily none of them was losing control in the wind. I just hoped they would think about how fast they had been going when they came on the scene down the road.
A couple of miles later, we pulled onto NV93, Boulder Highway, and headed on into Las Vegas and the TTN campground.
We had been to the Las Vegas TTN park before, so there were no surprises. We found a nice deep spot and I backed the fifth wheel in the first time with help from Alice on the 2m HT.
In Las Vegas we went to Sam's Town a couple of times for fun and food. We also picked up mail and went to Camping World and the Las Vegas Trailer Supply. I have replaced the incandescent lights in the living/dining area with florescents (for a total saving of 96 watts) and looked at how to add another solar panel to our solar setup.
The weather turned bad on Monday, and we decided to delay our departure from Las Vegas for another week. We talked with son David (aka JC), who was on his way to his new assignment at McChord AFB in Washington. He and his family made arrangements to join us at Las Vegas for three days. I settled down to do some more writing on my book as we just laid back to enjoy the peace and quiet.
On Tuesday I decided to upgrade the solar system and bought a 75watt panel at Las Vegas Trailer Supply along with wire and connectors. At Target I bought a couple of camcorder tripods like I use for the satellite dish. It took a couple of days to install the wiring and put everything together, but by Thursday I could add an additional 4.5amps to the 8amps max I could get from the four 55watt panels on the roof this time of year. The big difference at this time is that I can aim the 75watt panel; in the summer I will get more from the roof panels.
On Wednesday we drove over to Pahrump to check it out. There were snow flurries at the pass, but it was clearing and we had no problems with the weather. We met the staff at Pair-a-Dice SKP park and joined in the happy hour. They suggested we should stay at Pahrump and visit Death Valley in day trips rather than camping in Death Valley.
JC and family arrived Saturday afternoon, and we spent the next three days joining them in seeing Las Vegas. Ashlea, the dog Sunshine, and the bird Pepper stayed with us in the trailer while JC and Krista stayed at the Nellis AFB hotel. We had a good time and ate far too much. I made sushi while we watched the Super Bowl in the trailer.
The end of January also marked the occurrence of a blue moon, a second full moon in the month. This will occur once again in March, and there will be no full moon in February. It is a rare event, the kind of thing I like to note. The picture is of our rig with the blue moon rising over it.
Tuesday morning we made plans to visit with them next spring in Washington, and then they headed off towards California and Washington.
Tuesday was groundhog day; it was also our 42nd wedding anniversary. After the kids left Alice and I just relaxed around the trailer and then went to a nice dinner at Sam's Town. We are just a couple of old fogies, I guess.