Troubles come in 3's (I hope that's all!) . . .

20 Dec, 2017; Imperial Dam LTVA, Winterhaven CA

#1 Mail Service forgets to forward my mail!!!

This would be merely annoying - but the last several months, I've been hassling with Medicare to get my payments paid automatically via their 'Easy Pay' - but since my monthly payments have been delayed and late (because of the problems I'm having getting my mail in a timely fashion), the Easy Pay option hasn't kicked in yet.  And now, I'm looking at being delinquent again!!.  My only thought is that last month I did manage to get all my payments in on time - so, if the 'guvmint' is on the ball, they'll realize this and the auto-payments should kick in.  What are the chances of that happening???  I'm not optimistic . . . .

#2  My grey water tank overflows into the shower

Guess I wasn't as frugal as I usually am.  The first sign was in the middle of the night, in the dark, when I stepped into cold, dirty gray tank water in my bare feet - Yuck!!

But - that's OK - I figure since I'm in an LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area), I can just trundle over and dump in the morning.  This sounds like a good plan until . . . .

#3  As I'm hooking up in the morning, I find I have a flat tire on the trailer

The back tire on the passenger side is dead flat!  Ok, I think - I have a AAA 12v air compressor for just this kind of emergency.  I get it out, set it up - and 10 minutes later, I realize that not only has the pressure needle not budged, but it's unlikely that it will ever budge.  Very disappointed.

Wimpy air compressor

Luckily, my neighbor has a big 5th-wheel and a big full-size truck - very likely he has a bigger, beefier compressor.  Yes!  He's a rancher from North Dakota (dry farms 12,000 acres of grain in the summers) and he has a monster generator and air compressor.  

In minutes, he has pumped up my tire enough to get into town to the tire repair place. They find a chunk of metal in the middle of a tread - in a few minutes, they've drilled out the metal and repaired the tire.  I'm so grateful, I schedule them to repack my wheel bearings in a couple of days.  I've been meaning to get this essential maintenance done - but my experiences in the last couple of days has pushed me out of my usual 'procrastination' mode into 'pro-active get everything done, leave nothing to chance' mode.

The tide may be turning . . . 

Another irritant recently has been lack of cell phone data.  I lost track at the beginning of the month and used way too much data - so, for the last 10 days or so, I've had my phone on airplane mode, or had the cell phone data off.  Today, the month turned over, and now I have data again!  While I've been doing some things via public wi-fi, today, with my protected cell data, I was able to check with my bank.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my Medicare Easy Pay DID kick in and so getting my mail on a tight schedule to avoid late payments should, again, be a thing of the past! As a full-timer, it's just critical that all my bills are either auto-pay or payable online. 

To honor my luck turning, here are some sunrise pics!

What do you do all day as a full-timer?

I get this question a lot.  The answer (besides sitting in the sun, hiking, sight-seeing) is deal with life's chores (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, etc) and challenges (flat tires, bills) that we all deal with all the time.  Being on the road reduces some of the chores, adds others, and tosses in the need to explore services in each new area I visit.

And, what post would be complete without a sunset!

Old Portable Solar Panel really boosts the power!

15 Dec, 2017; Imperial Dam LTVA, Winterhaven CA

The ability to angle the panel into the sun really, really helps!

My rooftop panel is 150w – but mounted flat.  My old portable panel is only 85w but I’ve made adjustable legs for it so that I can angle it into the sun and move it around to face the sun all day.  Yesterday – before plugging in the portable my solar input was 1.9.  After plugging in the portable, I was reading 3.8 – DOUBLE the rate with a panel almost HALF the size.  I was pretty impressed.

The Zamp Solar Port I had Escape add when I was in BC this year.  

Only a couple hummingbird visits all week

I really enjoy watching the hummingbirds fight over the feeder and zoom around my campsite.  Unfortunately, I’ve only had 2 brief sitings of a hummingbird at the feeder.  I think it’s just been too windy here lately.

Kind of glad I didn’t  bring my inflatable kayak this year

The water in the dam is very low!  People pay good money to camp on the shoreline by the reservoir – they aren’t getting their money’s worth this year!

Usually, those rigs would be right on the shoreline!

Wouldn’t be a good day without the sunset

I’m liking the sunrises too – but usually enjoying them from inside the trailer with a mug of tea.  They haven’t been as spectacular – so no sunrise photos from here.

A reminder that sunsets are 360 degrees - this is a NE view.

Another luxury - or concession to age

13 Dec, 2017; Imperial Dam LTVA, Winterhaven CA

Lifting and pouring 48 pounds of water into my fresh water tank is hard!

And, oh so heavy!  Last winter I even slipped and dropped my plastic jerry can and punctured it.  So, this year I found a 12v water pump to transfer the fresh water into the tank with the push of a button (more or less).

Plugged in to my outlet

The pump came with a short intake hose (with a filter in case you're drawing water from a lake or river!) and some battery clamps.  I knew I'd be plugging into my 12v outlet on the side of my trailer so I got a cigarette type connector and did a little rewiring so I could use that or the battery clamps.

Close up of the pump

The hardest part is getting the intake hose primed; I stick the hose all the way into the jug and then screw it onto the pump - still takes a few seconds to get going.  

There isn't actually a start button - it starts to pump as soon as you plug it in.  

Water pouring into my tank with no personal muscle power!

It's very fast - only takes a minute or two to transfer 6 gallons.  

After such hard work, I get to enjoy sunset and moon-rise!

As usual, if there is a great sunset, I'm there to enjoy it!  This night was a special treat (This day actually occurred a few days ago on the full moon) as it was the last full moon of the year.

I've started to decorate for the holidays

I'll be moving before Christmas, so I'm holding off on the outside lights - but I've been doing a bit of decorating inside!  I love the strand of battery leds along the back window!

A nice walk in the desert to no where

1 Dec, 2017; Painted Rock Petgroglyph Site, Gila Bend AZ

Pick a direction and head out - I'm always interested in what turns up

At the south-east end of the BLM campgound at Painted Rock, there is a BLM road that heads south, eventually crossing other BLM roads.  

Every once in a while, I see these little balls on creosote bushes.  Perhaps someone out there can identify them - I think they might be cocoons or some kind of insect thing.  It looks like they're made of creosote leaves - but they don't look like a growth coming out of the bush itself.

The terrain here is pretty barren and flat with mountains in the distance.  Mostly I'm seeing creosote bushes, ?Rabbit Bitterbrush?,  fishhook barrel cactus, and an ocassional, not very healthy looking saguaro.  

Things green up around the frequent washes I'm crossing

From little washes only a feet across and barely a couple steps deep, to wide washes (maybe 30 feet across and 10 feet deep), these sometime waterways support grasses, mesquite, ironwood, palo verde and more that I can't identify.

Cattle chute, corrals and cistern for watering

This looks like a water pump with a pipe into the rock cistern

This trough surrounded the cistern on 3 sides with pipes to fill them from the cistern

A fire ring - although camping is not allowed here, the ashes were recent and I found a potato that wasn't even shriveled up yet -  so  - hmmm.

I decided to hike up the the top of a ridge of exposed volcanic rock before turning around.  Sometimes, when I hike, I get into a mindset of  "I wonder what's over that hill, or around that corner" and don't think to turn around until I'm really tired and stuck with having to trudge all the way back from wherever.  Now, I tend to pick a time frame for the hike and try to turn around mid-way.  

View back to the campground - hard to get too lost around here!

And a lovely sunset

Yesterday was too cloudy for a good sunrise or sunset - kind of like winter in the PNW - black to gray to black.  But this night, the partly cloudy sky made for a great sunset.  I watched it until the sky was dark and then made a small fire.  I don't do campfires very often but this just seemed like a good night to have a fire and enjoy the night.  The desert is very quiet, the moon is almost full - I love it here!

Perfect coals warming the night

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

30 Nov, 2017; Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, Gila Bend, AZ

Just as nice the second time around

I was here with friends in February and since it was on my way west, I decided to stop again.  If you want to know more about that visit, check out my post.  The campgound is a BLM site with a host.  There are 2 large loops with very spacious sites (no hookups, but nice fire pits and picnic tables).  $8/night; $4 with the old geezer pass. The camp hosts maintain a free exchange book bin, kept near the visitor display/picnic area.

Sometimes exploring is a bust

My map shows 2 areas I want to explore - Oatman Massacre Site and the Painted Rock Dam.  Well, the dam road is chained off with no trespassing signs and the road that I think leads to the Oatman site is marked as private property.  Dang!

I do see this funny sign:

I can relate to this!

And, I always love seeing old rusty stuff and ruins of old buildings.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

28 Nov, 2017;  Buenos Aires NWR, Sasabe AZ

Final day in Tucson (for this visit)

For my last day, Amber and I decided to take a hike in the Buenos Aires NWR.  While we didn't find the wash that Amber remembered hiking years ago, we did take a nice hike around Grebe Pond near the visitor center (which unfortunately was closed).

I was surprised to see some water in Grebe Pond.

There were lots of birds - I recognized some of the more common ones like Herons, Egrets, Red tailed Hawks; Amber, the birder, identified Merlins, Harriers and many more.  We also saw a bunch of Mule Deer.  

Two javelina burst out of the underbrush and we got a good look at them as they ran away.  I wasn't quick enough to even get a pic of their departing fuzzy butts.  

The highlight, for me, was seeing a BOBCAT emerge from the bushes near the water and then slowly disappear into more distant bushes.  I've only seen one other bobcat in the wild and seeing this one was a gift!

If you look very closely in this fuzzy photo, you still won't see the BOBCAT - I was too busy watching it to get my camera up and focused fast enough.  But this is generally where it was :)

Old cattle chutes are everywhere in the SW

Old cattle chutes are a common site in the SW - evidence of ranching and mining dot the landscape.

I ran out of water!!

I don't think I can remember ever having that happen before.  It wasn't a particularly hot day(kind of cloudy) and I took my usual 2 litres - but ran out towards the end of our hike. Guess I'll be filling up my water container to it's full 3 litres from now on!  

If I had to come up with one negative for hiking in the SW, it would be how much water I have to carry - water is heavy and by the time I add the 'hiking 10 essentials', my smart phone camera, perhaps a small set of binocs - my day pack feels really heavy!!

Gymkhana - a definite contrast to the high level dressage show

26 Nov, 2017; Tucson AZ

I spend the morning watching kids at Gymkhana

Gymkhana is a much more relaxed schooling show.  I had expected a fun day filled with Western riders but this was a hunter/jumper schooling show (jumps didn't exceed about 12").  Lots of equitation classes, including a few western pleasure.

Shows at this level are family affairs.

The Dad and grandpa hung out in their easy chairs while the kids got ready for their classes

Coaching took place ringside - no one had the high tech microphone/ear bud systems of the previous weekend dressage show!

Very cute paint horse!

My favorite rider/horse combo was this little girl in pink and her very fuzzy pony!!

Overall, I've enjoyed staying at the fairgrounds and would recommend it

The campground area is wide open - I get great views of the sunsets every night.   The campground is far enough away from the venues fields, arenas and exhibition halls that if you get tired of the hub bub, the campground is quiet - but everything is still just a short walk away.  

Unfortunately, there is a remote-controlled flying field nearby and almost every morning I woke up to the buzzing of someone flying a small plane or drone.  In addition, on the weekends, the noise from a nearby raceway made it almost too noisy to sleep (my mp3 earbuds and a good audio-book helped a lot).

Even though the campground was nearly empty, I managed to attract a 'clinger'.  I have no idea why this guy chose to park right next to me with over 200 empty spots nearby - but he did and I had to look at his sewer hose every time I left my trailer.  AND - I couldn't sit in the shade of my trailer without tripping over his hoses.  It's a sign of how lazy I am that I stayed in my spot rather than asking management if I could move to a different spot (a couple hours worth of work to unhook from services, hook up the trailer, un-chalk, wind up the stabilizers, etc and then do it all over in the new spot).

What could he been thinking of!!

Colossal Caves!

25 Nov, 2017; Colossal Caves, Tucson AZ

Colossal Caves - a pretty rare type of cave

Colossal Caves are dry/dormant caves - so they aren't growing anymore.  They are also known as 'labyrnth' caves because of the maze like layout.  Unlike the lava tubes that I've explored in Oregon, it would be quite easy to become lost in these caves.  Passage-ways disappear into the dark in all directions (including pits and holes in the ceiling.

In addition to the tour guides flashlight, the caves are lighted to show off the various formations.  Nicer than the Oregon caves where one is requested to bring 3 flashlights to light your own way.

I wasn't in the mood to visit Kartchner Caverns - a more well-know cave system about an hour SE of Tucson - so I was glad to see Colossal Caverns and visit them.  

They are a constant 70F with 45-50% humidity - much warmer than the caves of the PNW!

I asked about their bats - I know that the epidemic of white-nosed fungus has drastically impacted bat populations across the country.  But, here, no one asked us about our recent exposure to caves or whether we were wearing the same boots (forbidden elsewhere with a year of being in another cave system).  

Some of the passageways were barely wide enough for my shoulders, and some of the ceilings would be difficult for anyone taller than me (5'6")

watch your head here!

I was told that because the bats here are migratory and the cave environment doesn't promote the growth of molds/fungus, that there bats are doing well.  I was glad to hear that - not that I love bats, but I hate to hear of bad things happening to a critical part of the eco-system (enlightened self-interest).

Some of the floor is just a thin crust - exposing deep holes below - follow your guide closely!

I took a 'level 1' tour - meaning that anyone who can walk, can do it.  They give a bunch of different tours - including one that lasts most of the day and requires participants to pass a series of physical climbing tasks to prove that they can accomplish the terrain within the cave.  One test is free-climbing a 30 foot vertical hole - yikes!!