Shades of "Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome"

Remember Jedediah, the pilot?

Well, that's who I thought of as I stood in this desert, watching this fly over:

The rest of the day was not nearly so interesting!

Today was 'chore' day; clean the trailer, get the laundry stuff ready, and explore the services available in Quartzite.  
I found a couple of small grocery stores, a craft store (I needed thread and some other supplies for the sock monkeys in making for my twin grand-nephews), a hardware store with RV supplies (a couple of small repair items needed after my cupboard failure of a couple days ago).  

Herb's Hardware reminded me of my local hardware store in Portland and, just like home, as I described each item, the guy knew exactly what I meant and found each item in little obscurely marked bins. $1.29 for what I needed and then another $12.50 for "Oh, that would be handy".

Apparently, today was laundry day because both laundromats I found were jam packed - guess I'll wait on the laundry.

I found two places to get a haircut but both look like the kind of place I might leave with a 50's style blue rinse and a perm - so, I'm kind of waiting on that chore too.

So far, Quartzite is living up to it's reputation

As far as I was able to find in a couple hours of wandering around, Q consists of two main streets; hwy 95 going N/S and, well, Main St., which parallels I-10 going E/W.  Both are lined with RV parks, RV lots, RV supply stores, gas stations, restaurants, and blocks of swap meet and craft vendors.  South of town are 4 LTVA campgrounds ($180 for the season, or $40 for two weeks; there are water, garbage, and sewage dumps in these campgrounds) and west of town is Dome Rock campground, a free 14 day area with no services.  Just south of I-10 is a frontage road (Kuehne) which consists totally of huge RV show tents and the accompanying craft, food, and various 'other' vendors.  It's amazing in kind of a weird way.  I didn't take the time to wander around today, but will before I leave (maybe leaving my wallet in the trailer).

The last thing is really the first thing

I woke up this morning with a red glow lighting up the trailer windows.  My first thought was that something was on fire outside.  I jumped up and looked out the window - and saw the sun rise.  No place does sunrise and sunset like the desert.

Rocking and Rolling!

Whoever said that a trailer is an "Earthquake on wheels" was right!

Traveling south on 95 towards Quartzite didn't seem very bumpy - just hilly (almost like frost heaves) - but when I stopped for lunch, Oh My!  The content of two upper cabinets was spread all over the floor.  FW tried to help put it all back (yah, right!)

Discovered the plastic closure on one cupboard had busted (cheap fix the next time I pass a camping world).  And, a crimp came loose on the solar panel - I realized that when I checked on my cell phone and tablet at the "charging station" and saw that they weren't getting charged up.  Fortunately, I had plenty of extra connectors and got the panel back in service in a few minutes (I love getting power for free!).

I thought I lost my phone!

My charging station on the back seat needs some rearranging.  I went to get my phone and just found the cord - disappearing down between the seat and the back cushion - you know that place that has devoured seat belts since we were children.  It took a couple of minutes of frantic searching to finally touch the phone and then ever-so-carefully nudge it back to a place where I could pull it out.  I had visions of it sliding to some totally inaccessible spot and having to pay for someone to take the seat out to get it!

First night in Quartzite

The maps and the directions I had for the upcoming fiberglass trailer meet here seemed reasonable 1,000 miles away in my living room.  In actuality, not so much.  But, I'm in the right area and have plenty of time to hunt down the right spot - I'll get some use out of my bike this trip.  Meanwhile, a day trip into Q. will be good - laundry, groceries, and scoping out a place to watch the super bowl this weekend.

Kitty Corner

I think FW would like a bigger trailer.

Katherine Landing Campground, Bullhead City, Az

Arizona, Nevada, Arizona . . . 

Down at the pointy southern end of Nevada, it gets confusing.  But, I'm on the east side of the Colorado (omg, another state reference!) river, so its Arizona.
Katherine landing is another CG in the Lake Mead Recreation area.  At this site, there is also an RV park, a motel, boat rentals, gas, restaurant ( open in the summer), and a big marina.  There are 170 dry camping spots nicely landscaped with palm trees and bushes,  but the loops seem tight and a bit crowded to me.  2 loops are closed pending the start of some big motorcycle event.  There are bike paths out to Davis dam and a couple of coves on the river.
BIG sucker fish, hanging out in the shade at the marina.
Apparently, Canadians and Oregonians aren't the only ones to migrate south for the winter. ;-)   I saw some very chubby mallards, and a beautiful male wood duck.

However, my closest neighbors appear to be a flock of quarreling quail!  Earlier, I saw about 30 of them chasing each other around and chirping in an aggrieved manner.  When I came back from my walk, all was quiet, so I assume they settled their differences.

Never know where I'm going to end up!

Boulder City, Nev - Builders of the Hoover Dam

Byron and Anne suggested I head over to Lake Mead and check out a couple of their favorite campgrounds – so here I am at Boulder Beach Campground (part of the Lake Mead Recreation Area) right around the bend from Hoover Dam. If I had known I was coming here, I would have brought my kayak!

Tall trees and cooing of doves (I'm pretty sure they're doves of some kind, but I can't find them in my bird guide) make for a very pretty and relaxing campsite.

Hoover Dam

Exceedingly big and very impressive. The 'winged figures of the republic' are, I think about 30 ft tall, and, in their day, the biggest cast bronze figures in America. At their feet are all sorts of symbolic stuff in the surrounding walkway – in addition to the usual eagles and flags, there is a depiction of all the stars one would have seen from that spot exactly as they appeared on the day of the dedication – pretty impressive. Clearly, the founders expect this dam to stand until alien life lands and use the star chart to figure out when the dam was built.

The scale is almost too big to really grasp. Not the place to go if you don't like being around big power lines and transformers (or crowds). Be prepared to be separated from some cash – parking: $10; access to visitor center: $10; Tours either $15 or $30. Also, there is a police security check before you get too close and, like airports, no guns, knives or anything carried that's bigger than a bread box.

Kitty Corner:

FW likes the mini-blinds up for unrestricted viewing, although she's not beyond climbing behind them and bending them.

FW exploring the trailer

Ghostly images, ghost towns and gas prices

Rhyolite, Nevada

On Byron and Anne's (fiberglass RV friends from Oregon) recommendation, I made a day trip over to Rhyolite, a ghost town and old mining operation just a few miles SW of Beatty, Nevada. Rhyolite has few standing buildings (most of the jail, a casino, parts of a general store, school are still standing), but lots of foundations, local history and rusty stuff.

Rusty Stuff

Fascinating to wander through what used to be a substantial settlement. It also specializes in "quirky", including a house built entirely of bottles, a gravesite behind the jail for a 'lady of the evening' (local churchgoers objected to her being buried in the regular cemetery). To this day, folks come and decorate her grave.

Another quirky must-see is the free museum just outside the entry to Rhyolite. Artists have been invited to install art and the result is really fun. The curator of the museum has a lovely collection of Native American Flutes, which he'll play for you.

Giant Lego Lady

The entire Last Supper, made by draping fabric/plaster over live models and then making them stand absolutely still for a half hour or so until it dried. 

Gas, Groceries, and cell phones

Unless you can subsist on chips, beans, and marshmallows, don't plan on buying groceries in DV Park. The closest real grocery store is in Pahrump, Nevada. Gas in the park was running between $4.50 at Stovepipe Wells, and over $5.00 at Furnace Creek. In Beatty, Nevada (about 35 miles from Furnace Creek), gas was a more reasonable $3.29. One surprising, but totally understandable, observation I had was how much shelf space in all mini-marts, gas stations, and grocery stores was devoted to water. Yup, just plain water, in cases, in big bottles, in gallon jugs – lots and lots of water. I refer you back to my previous post on monitoring dehydration. Folks down here take it very seriously.

Cell phone coverage is non-existent over much of the park (at least for Verizon), but there is limited access and some wi-fi at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek.  Mostly, the wi-fi is for paying hotel/motel guests but at Furnace Creek it seemed that it was open to the public for some time during the day.
On of these palm trees could be a cell tower, I'm told that the tower here in Furnace Creek is disguised as a tree.

Zabriskie View point

Just a few miles south of Furnace Creek in Death Valley Park, the view is spectacular. Words fail me so I'll just include a few pictures.

The little black dot is a hiker!

There are many more colorful and exotic sights to see in Death Valley, I'll definitely be back to spend more time here.

Kitty Corner

Fay Wray is becoming more comfortable in the trailer. Which means that she's into every cabinet and cupboard that I open and, unfortunately, on the counter and stove. Yesterday, before I noticed, she was sitting on the stove next to a kettle of water that I was heating. I saw her at the same time I smelled burning fur! Aaccckkk!! I grabbed her up before too much damage was done – but she does have 4 little tan scorch marks on her tail. She's also beginning to eye the car doors for escape when we're driving so I may have to start stuffing her into the cat carrier when I know I'm going to be in-and-out of the car.

What's the big deal!

I came for the sun – so what do I do?

I think I have squinty, little mole eyes from living in the Northwest so long

The sun coming in the back window of the trailer is downright painful – and the mini-blinds don't really shut out all the light. I brought along a roll of Reflectix, thinking that I might need to insulate the windows against the cold. But, I thought it would block out the sun just as well! It was pretty easy to measure and cut the panels, although I wish I had had scissors instead of a box cutter. I taped the panels so that they can be collapsed accordian style and stowed in an under-seat cabinet. They fit easily into the window channel.

Now, a better pair of sunglasses and a hat – I should be all set.

Only in Death Valley!

One of the stranger signs that I've seen in a long time – in all the restrooms here, there is a small, color-coded poster showing how to monitor your level of dehydration by the color of your pee. The accompanying legend allows you to see how close to death you might be at any given time.

Paying attention to intuition results in a surprise visit

I had planned to leave Death Valley yesterday, but found myself strangely reluctant to do so.
So, I re-upped for a couple more days and as I returned from the visitor center with my new site tag, I spotted a 13' Scamp at the far end of the campground . . . hmmmm . . . .
and it was being towed by a dark colored pickup . . . hmmmm . . .
the appearance of a bearded man settled it – Byron and Anne had arrived!!

They left Oregon just after Christmas and had been traveling around and although I knew they usually spend a few weeks in Death Valley every year, I had no idea of their time frame. We had a nice visit and Anne graciously marked up my maps with the locations of some of their favorite camping spots and hikes. Unfortunately, they also waxed eloquent on the many things I probably won't have time this trip to see in Death Valley. Next year I'll definitely budget more time here!

First week on the road.

Don't dawdle; Get to the sun!

Well, that was my thought as I zoomed down I-5 towards Southern California. For my first winter trip, I was concerned about going through mountain passes pulling a trailer so I thought the valley would be a good bet.
WRONG! Traffic was hideous (Seattle bad!) with everyone driving way to fast and tailgating and cutting-in. Nothing like trying to navigate by gps to an unfamiliar location in the dark, pulling a trailer, with folks speeding all around you - I white-knuckled for almost 2 days! Oregon had heavy ground fog and California had 'air stagnation' which is, I guess, the politically correct term for a heavy brown layer of smog that stung my eyes. Next year I'll brave the mountain passes!

A couple highlights though:

Stopping for gas in Roseburg, OR (you can tell you're in the country when . . . ) I saw a Mom with a baby on one hip and a pretty big pistol on the other!

Driving over Mt Ashland in heavy ground fog in the late afternoon, the light was beautiful! The light alternated between a lovely golden hue, pink and finally a really unique cool blue that reminded me of the blue I've seen in glaciers. Crossing Shasta Lake, there was a huge, full moon against the dying light.

Two days later, my first real Boondock!

Dove Springs, OHV, North of Red Rocks Canyon State Park on Highway 14. I arrived on a Thursday and it was blessedly quiet, sunny and peaceful. I even had Joshua trees! I spent a couple of days there while I visited the BLM Horse and Burro facility near Ridgecrest, and spent a lot of time soaking up the sun. Saturday morning at 1:00 AM I was awakened by the sound of off-road vehicles buzzing up and down the road – time to leave this camp!

Aren't they cute!

Next stop – Death Valley National Park!

The biggest national park in the lower 48, DV is also one of the hottest places on earth (at least that's what all the T-shirts in the gift shop say). In July, 1913, a temperature of 134 was recorded, and that was in the shade! Ground temps can go over 200. This time of year, the highs are in the mid-to-high 70's with lows down around freezing.

My first glimpse of Death Valley

I drove in on Hwy 190 from the west over the Panamint Mountains – very steep and curvy road! I spent several days at Stovepipe Wells CG enjoying the perfect weather.

Mesquite Sand Dunes are just a short bike ride from Stovepipe Wells, I had fun on the dunes there and took lots of photos for Japanese tourists.

I also hiked Mosaic Canyon – a beautiful slot canyon for the first little bit and then it opens up to a wider canyon.

Solar Phase II is working really well!

Phase II is up and running, baby!!

Phase I basically got me a working system - but I soon realized that I needed more storage capacity.  So, this year I added an AGM battery that I can keep inside my tow vehicle.  It's hooked up to the panel on the roof and can charge while I'm traveling or any time I'm parked in the sun.  This will be especially handy when I'm camping in the very shady pacific northwest - during the day, when I'm off doing touristy things the AGM can charge up.  Then when I return to my campsite, I can plug the AGM into the trailer and have 2 12 volt batteries of capacity for a total of about 175 amp hrs.
It still looks a little sketchy, but it all works!  I can run the furnace all night and barely notice the battery drain.

Here in Death Valley (Stovepipe Wells), the nights have been getting below 30, so I'm very pleased to be able to dry camp and still use the furnace.

My angling device for the panel even works! Although, I wouldn't trust it on a very windy day.

Sorry start to my first Snowbird trip . . .

All ready to leave on a bright sunny Monday!!

I guess there's a reason I generally do a 'shakedown' weekend before I start camping in the summers. This time I would be de-winterizing and heading South at the same time. So, what could go wrong? The camper had only been sitting for a couple of months.

All packed, just a couple of quick tasks and we're off!

First task, make sure both propane tanks are topped off. I had used some propane running my furnace overnight in the driveway to test my 'Phase II' solar solution. Off to the propane dealer where I discover that one of the tanks won't fill. DRAT! $35 bucks to switch out the tank and get them filled.

Second task, flush the anti-freeze out of the water system, sanitize the system and refill with good water. All goes well until I try to replace the hot water heater drain plug. Every year that thing gets harder to replace. It's hard to thread even with plumbers tape and the anode rod makes it hard to hold at the correct angle (increasing arthritis in my hands doesn't help either). After much cursing, I get it fastened.

I'm packed, ready to go, cat in the car – only one more check and we're on the road! So, I test to be sure that I have a good electrical connection to the trailer (brake and signal lights) - alas, no right tail light. This has been a problem before. I dig through my tools and find the 7 plug tester for the tug side of the connection. Everything looks good. I clean the connections on both tug/tow sides, add grease, plug the 'self-cleaning' plug in/out about a million times – still nothing.

I put the cat back in the house – clearly this is going to take awhile!

Call my electrician friend as I think I'm probably going to have to replace the 7 pin plug. She comes over and teaches me (again) to fully troubleshoot before coming to conclusions. The tail light bulb connection is bad. We put in a new bulb and now I have lights – but it's really too late to get started until tomorrow.

Day 2 – still in the driveway

Ok, so the cat is back in the car and I'm all ready to pull out. Just need to check that I have lights on the trailer. And, guess what? No right tail light. In fact, no lights at all. This is easier to troubleshoot – a few years ago, the retaining cap on the tug side broke. Parts of it are still there but now instead of holding the tow plug in place it seems to be preventing it from getting a good connection. More tools, break that sucker off as much as I can.

Plug still doesn't want to stay in. Get out the duck tape – Now I have lights.

Off we go on our big adventure . . . finally!

There's a lot of ground fog for most of the day. One good thing is that with the headlights on, I can see one of the trailer running lights in my rear view window. This way I can see if I have lights to the trailer.
Within 2 hours of driving – no lights. I add more duck tape – got lights.
After another couple of hours – no lights. Hmmmmm . . . . swap the duck tape for stretchy, tight black electrical tape – got lights. Yay!
4 hours later as I'm parking for the night, a passerby notes – 'Hey, your trailer tail light is out'. Guess which one?? So, this time I take steel wool and scrub all the contact points until they are shiny. Then, I add some dielectric grease. Yes, now I have lights again.

I'm beginning to hate all things electrical. I have a large alcoholic beverage with dinner.

Kitty Corner: Fay Wray spent the day trying out various places to sleep in the car. When I got out for gas, she would hide. Then I would get to look stupid as I peered in through the windows trying to make sure of her location before I opened the car door. Once, she was under a kleenex box – completely hidden except for the slight jiggling of the box. Fortunately, she hasn't shown any desire to bolt out of the car or the trailer.