2015/02/14-18 (S-W) Busy Times in Q

20150214 (S) The Lights of the City

Note:  There are no photos for this post.

We stuck around Q today.  While driving through Borrego Springs yesterday afternoon we came upon the Sea View roadside fruit stand.  It was on the northeast corner of an intersection north of town surrounded by citrus and palm orchards.  The stand had 5 pound bags of tangelo oranges and 10 pound bags of jumbo grapefruit for $3 per bag; self-serve.  We stuffed $6 in the collection box and took one of each.  We had grapefruit for breakfast this morning and several oranges throughout the day.  After breakfast Linda went for a morning walk and I settled in to work at my computer on Bus Conversion Magazine articles.

We had planned to drive to Sara Park in Lake Havasu City mid-afternoon for the Western Pyrotechnic Association fireworks show but decided we would go tomorrow instead.  We were tired after our whirlwind 2-day visit to California and did not feel like making the 150 mile round trip.  Larry and Sandy drove up to see the show on Friday evening and said it was spectacular.

For dinner Linda made pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and honey, quinoa, and mashed Romanesco brocciflower with salt and pepper.  A small glass of white wine completed the meal, which we ate outside, and it was all delicious.

We had just finished eating when Butch and Fonda brought their chairs and their dogs over.  They have gotten deeply involved in the Quartzsite Road Runners Gem and Mineral Club and we have been busy with travels so we have not had as much opportunity to chat as when we first got here.  We sat and talked until long after the sun set.  It still cools off here when the sun goes down but not as quickly or as much as it did in December and January.  With proper clothing or a light blanket we can now sit outside well into the evening.  Even with the lights of the city the stars are bright and numerous.  Once we came inside we did our usual evening things for a while and then went to bed.

2015/02/15 (N) Winterfest 2015

We had a quiet morning at home that included the last of our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans and some of the grapefruit we bought on Friday.  One of the couples we were visiting with on Friday, Steve and Liz Willey, started, owned, and operated Backwoods Solar in Idaho for many years.  They sold the business a few years ago but they still carry copies of the Backwoods Solar Planning Guide and Catalog when they travel.  Much of the information in the planning guide section was written by Steve and he gave me a copy of the 2014 edition.  We had exchanged several e-mails about a solar system for our bus so he knew I was interested in the subject.

I spent the entire morning reading through the Backwoods Solar book while Linda checked up on the state of the world, the weather back home, and, finding no good news, went for a walk.  I checked my e-mail at 1 PM and then started getting ready to leave for Lake Havasu City at 1:30 PM.  Today was the final day of the Western Pyrotechnics Association 26th annual conference which was also billed as Winterfest 2015.  The gates opened at 3 PM and we wanted to be there by then so we could get a good spot for our chairs.

The ground displays were set up in the infield of the small Havasu 95 Speedway.  Like most race tracks it had a high, curved fence surrounding the track.  We entered from the east and by bleachers that were there facing west towards the mountains and, way off in the distance, the Colorado River.  To either side of the bleachers were large areas where spectators could set their own chairs.  We put ours to the left up against a border fence designed to keep spectators about eight feet back from the track fence.  The aerial displays were launched from beyond the other side of the track.  That area sloped downhill away from track so that the firing stations were not visible.

The sky was clear, the air temperature was warm but not uncomfortable, and the sun was hot.  We brought a lightweight blanket to protect us from the chilly night air that would inevitably occur after sunset but we hung it on the fence as a sunscreen which kept the sun off of our legs.  Although our Tilley hats could shade our heads and faces, we also had two small umbrellas that we brought just for this purpose.  With all of our sun paraphernalia in place we relaxed, snoozed, and waited which was actually a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

We eventually got hungry.  Given that the venue had food vendors and bathrooms we did not have a reason not to eat.  Our choices were popcorn, soft pretzels, and veggie burgers with lemonade to drink.  Unlike a lot of closed venues, the food was not overpriced and all of the workers looked to be high school age.

Just after 6 PM the sun slipped behind the small mountain range nearest to the track and we put our umbrellas away and took down our blanket.  Although it was still daylight the crews started shooting off small aerials sporadically.  By 7 PM the sun had set and there was a beautiful glow along the distant mountains.  By 7:30 PM it was dark and the fireworks got started in earnest around 7:40 PM.

A local radio personality served as MC.  Being a Western Pyrotechnics Association event it was different from other fireworks displays we have seen over the years.  Before the main (commercial) display began they shot off shells and ground displays that had been made by WPA members in workshops during the four days of the Association convention.  They were shot off (or lit) one at a time and the MC announced the name of the builder and type of firework.  Most of us just watch a fireworks display and say “ooh” and “ahh” at the appropriate times, and maybe clap for a particularly impressive burst.  Not surprisingly, however, the things we are watching all have names.  Indeed, pyrotechnics has its own specialized vocabulary but most of us are never exposed to it.  It made for an interesting as well as entertaining evening.

As the evening went on the air temperature cooled off and the fireworks heated up.  We put on our shirt jackets and threw our blanket over our legs.  The two professional displays were done by the Not Yet Ready For Prime Time Players and AM Pyrotechnics.  The NYRFPTP show was all done from the infield and was very interesting.  The AMP show was all large aerials that were shot one at a time.  The main reason for this was so the buyers in attendance could see each shell by itself, but it had the same benefit for the other spectators and had the added benefit of extending the show without overloading the senses.

When the main show was finished around 8:30 PM most of the audience left, but WPA members were instructed to come to the launch areas and finish shooting off their products.  Some people sitting next to us had advised us to stick around, so we did.  By 8:45 PM more fireworks were being launched and lit and that was still going on when we finally packed up at 9:30 PM and headed back to the car, which was parked right by the entrance to the track.

There was a soundtrack but the fireworks were not synchronized to it.  Perhaps the best part of the evening was that we were much closer to the ground displays and launch sites than is usually the case at a major Fourth of July celebration.  One of the “effects” was a “wall of flame” that was set off on the far side of the track.  I do not know what they used for fuel but we felt the heat where we were sitting!  An interesting side note was that the larger aerial “bombs” (technically “salutes”) kept triggering car alarms.

We drove home in the dark but it was not our first time driving this route and traffic was light at that hour.  We got back at 11:15 PM, checked e-mail, and headed off to bed.  If we are back in this area again at this time of year we would likely position our coach closer to Lake Havasu City and attend the fireworks display all four nights.  As with many other things this winter it was a new and unique experience.

2015/02/16 (M) Travel Preparations

With the Western Pyrotechnics Association fireworks display last night at Sara Park in Lake Havasu City our sightseeing and tourist activities in and around Quartzsite came to an end.  Linda is flying home tomorrow for two weeks to deal with corporate accounting and both corporate and family tax returns.  That meant today was spent getting her ready to leave and me ready to have her gone.

After our usual coffee, juice, and granola breakfast we drove to the Albertson’s supermarket in Blythe, California to stock up on grocery items for me.  We bought lettuce so I can make salads, but we bought a lot of prepared/packaged vegan foods that do not require much cooking time or technique and have minimal cleanup.  While Linda has a lot to do back home I also gave an ambitious list of things I want to accomplish while she is away.  I also want eat well while she is away, but I do not want to spend a lot time cooking and cleaning up.

At the top of the list are six or seven small, but critical, bus projects.  Right behind those is to finish cleaning and waxing the passenger side of the bus.  We have acquired a certain amount of “stuff” since we got to Q and it needs to be organized and stowed for travel, after which the inside needs some deeper cleaning.  After that it’s continuing to catch up on blog posts and working on drafts of articles for Bus Conversion Magazine.

When we got back and had the groceries stored Linda started a load of laundry and began gathering up her stuff for the flight home tomorrow while I worked on programming our new TireTraker TT-400C monitor and re-installing all of the sensors on the tires.  Our original monitor had a charging problem and Daryl Lawrence mailed a replacement to us along with a charging cable.  It arrived on Friday and Butch picked it up at the Post Office and gave it to me on Saturday morning.  I tried all of the possible combinations and verified that the original charging cable was fine but the original monitor was not.  We will return the old monitor and cable to Daryl and Cheri at Escapade in a few weeks.  The driver side front tire was giving a low pressure alarm so I checked the pressure with my digital gauge.  It was 97 PSI (it is supposed to be 115 PSI).

The Dewalt air-compressor was already out of the car and secured to the fence along the north property line so I plugged it in, got the air hose out, and filled the tire back up to 115 PSI.  I was going to check/fill all of the driver side tires, since they were in the shade, but I really needed to do that in the morning when the temperature was near its overnight low and before the sun stared to warm up the passenger side of the bus.  I may do this Wednesday, just to get them close to right, and will do it again on Monday, March 2nd so we are ready to leave on the 3rd without too much to do other than pull out and hook up.

When I was done with the TPMS we trimmed our two cats’ claws, which were overdue.  This has been a “mañana” task for a while but finally became a “hoy” task when we ran out of days.

I called Buck Bolding to see if I could stop by his place tomorrow on the way back from dropping Linda at the Phoenix airport.  Buck and his wife, Pat, were at the Eagles International Rally last month in Quartzsite with their gorgeous Eagle Bus Conversion and we discussed having me photograph it for a Bus Conversion Magazine featured bus article.  Buck remembered the conversation but unfortunately this was not a good week for him for this project.  He and Pat hope to make it back to Quartzsite yet this month.  If so, they will probably stay at the Quail Run RV Park just north of us on Central Avenue (AZ-95) which would be very convenient for me.

Linda and I sat on the north-facing porch of Joe and Connie’s park model trailer to escape the sun and enjoy the light breeze that was blowing.  Barb stopped by for a while and then retired to her motorhome.  Fonda came over to show us the small opal she spent part of the day grinding and polishing.  She went back to her bus and Butch cane over followed by Larry and Sandy.  We discussed and compared the WPA fireworks display they saw on Friday to the one we saw last night.  They returned to their motorhome and Linda went over to talk to Fonda leaving Butch and me to sit on the porch and solve all of the world’s problems.  While we were doing that Linda and Fonda decided we should all go out to dinner at Crazy Jerry’s.

We had our usual 12″ pizza–thin crust, no cheese, with mushrooms and onions–and a side order of French fries.  Our waitress was Michele and we had a nice chat with her about the restaurant and the town of Quartzsite.  She and her husband own both the Main Street Eatery and Crazy Jerry’s.

When we got back to our coach Linda finished gathering up her stuff.  All she has to pack in the morning are her computer, power supply/charger, and iPad.  We were in bed by 10 PM and set the wake-up alarms for 6 AM.

2015/02/17 (T) Fly Away

We were awake before 6 AM but stayed in bed waiting for the wake-up alarms to go off.  Linda set one on her iPad or phone, I’m not sure which one, but it did not go off.  I set the alarm on the panel mounted click by my side of the bed and it did go off.  Linda prepared herself for traveling and packed up her iPad, computer, charging cables, and other electronic paraphernalia without which modern life would be unbearable at best and impossible at worst.  I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as the Phoenix Airport was a two hour drive with limited rest stops.

We had targeted a 7 AM departure but by 6:40 AM we were ready to go.  Linda’s “suitcase” was a zip top nylon bag that I got at a conference some years ago.  Everything she had with her, except her down coat, fit in that bag or in her computer bag.  We pulled out at 6:45 AM, made our way through town to Exit 17, and got on I-10 going east.

We made good time as the speed limit on I-10 away from major cities is 75 MPH, allowing me to travel comfortably at 68 MPH.  We got to watch night give way to dawn give way to the sunrise and then daylight.  Once the sun was up driving was more difficult until it rose high enough in the sky that our sun visors could do their job.  Traffic was light heading eastbound but there was a steady stream of trucks headed west.  We made good time, even as we entered the Phoenix metropolitan area, until we were about 12 miles from the airport where traffic came to a standstill across all six lanes.  The GPS indicated heavy traffic ahead and one hour to reach our destination.

We had planned to drop Linda at the terminal at 9 AM, two hours before her scheduled departure, so a one hour delay would be cutting it too close.  Linda grabbed the atlas (so glad we brought it along) while I moved to the right hand lane.  There were major surface streets paralleling I-10 to the south so I exited the Interstate, drove down to the first one, and turned left to continue our eastward travel.  It moved a long reasonably well and eventually put us on I-17 southbound, which almost immediately curved eastbound.  About five miles later we intersected I-10, headed north, and took the airport exit 1/2 mile later.  From that point we just followed the signs for Terminal 3 which is the one that Delta Airlines uses.

As we were driving through the airport I got a phone call.  I dug my phone out of its case and handed it to Linda.  She said it was identified as possible spam and declined the call.  She set my phone in the console between the front seats and we pulled up to the departure curb at Terminal 3.  She took off the light jacket she wore in the car, grabbed her two bags and her down coat, gave me a quick kiss, and trotted off into the terminal.  I pulled away and before I got to the turn-around to get back to I-10 reached for my phone only to discover it was not there.

A missing phone is a sickening feeling, on a par with a missing wallet.  I searched around as best I could while driving and could not locate it.  I thought that Linda might have inadvertently taken it with her.  If so, my hope was that she would discover the mistake when she went through security and head back to the curb to look for me, realizing that I would be looking for her.  I circled through the terminal road system for 20 minutes but she never appeared.  As inconvenient as it would have been for her to take it with her, she could have shipped it back to me overnight.  My worst fear was that it fell out on the ground at the airport, in which case the best (?) I could hope for was that someone ran over it and rendered it unusable.  I should have found one of the cell phone lots and done a more thorough search of the car, but if it wasn’t in the car there wasn’t anything I could do about short of finding a pay phone, and when/where was the last time/place you saw one of those?

I circled the terminal one last time and then followed the signs for I-10 west and headed for Quartzsite.  Phoenix has an extensive highway system, which always has its own complexity, but the traffic was ridiculous.  We avoided Phoenix on our way to Q, using I-8 and AZ-85 to bypass the “big city.”  We will be avoiding it again in a few weeks when we relocate to the Casa Grande area and then to Tucson.

I remembered seeing a QT (Quik Trip) filling station and convenience mart on the west edge of town when driving in this morning.  Their listed price for Regular gasoline was $2.099, cash or credit.  I could have made it back to Q on the fuel in tank but why risk running out, especially given the price?  I exited the Interstate, used the facilities, and bought a cup of coffee.  This QT had the fanciest coffee and tea self-serve area I have ever seen.  I topped off the tank with some inexpensive gasoline, cleaned the windshield, and continued on my way.  I also found my phone, which had not been placed in the center console like I thought, but just in front of it, allowing it to slip down in front of my seat where I could not see it while driving.  Whew.  I suddenly felt a lot better.

With the delay getting to the airport, the added time driving around the airport, and the stop for fuel I got back to our motorcoach around noon instead of 11 AM.  Butch and Fonda were outside contemplating what appeared to be all of their worldly possessions which were arrayed on and around their patio.  Butch was studying his new VDO electronic speedometer, a 437-152 just like mine.  All of the printed directions referred to using a 12VDC power source but the instrument case said “12/24V”.  Chuck Spera and I have both installed this exact same model gauge in our Prevost H3-40s and my recollection was that we had them wired to 24VDC ignition switched sources.

Butch put in a call to VDO technical support (Continental) and I called Chuck.  He did not recall even checking the voltage and just used whatever was there.  I was almost certain that I had checked the voltage and it was 24VDC, which is why I wired the two 12V light bulbs in series.  Butch got a call back from VDO verifying that the gauge would work on either voltage while I had a long chat with Chuck in which he brought me up-to-date on their winter at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Naples, Florida.

Chuck mentioned that Prevost Community is having a “non-rally” rally April 17-20 at the Bella Terra Luxury Motorcoach Resort near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  There is no rally fee and they negotiated a special group rate of $35/night.  That may be a bit late in April for us to be that far south, but maybe not.  We would like to be home by May 1st and we would like to visit family in St. Louis on the way.  I-55 starts at I-10 just northwest of New Orleans and Bella Terra is an easy day’s drive from there.  Chuck said there is an Indian Casino on Lake Charles that has an excellent RV park for $13 per night that might be a good stopping spot for just before/after the rally.  He also mentioned that there is a thread on the POG forum about bus barns.

I made a nice, large salad for dinner, had a small glass of wine, and turned in early.  I plan to start on cleaning and waxing the passenger side of the coach in the morning.

2015/02/18 (W) Wax On, Wax Off (Continued)

Today was my first full day without Linda here.  This how it went.

I set my alarm and got up at 6 AM.  I made coffee and had the raspberry pastry bites for breakfast.  Yeah, they’re vegan, but definitely not WFPB.  I got the trash and plastic bottles ready to take out and then worked on yesterday’s blog post.  It was still dark out so I spent a little time straightening up the inside of the coach.

Once it was daylight I started cleaning and waxing the passenger side of the coach.  I wiped the windshields off (again) and then did the side from the front corner back to the patio awning front support arm.  I worked from 8:30 to 10:30 AM which was a bit too long as the sun was very bright and the body panels were getting quite warm causing the wax to dry too quickly.

I put away my supplies and gathered up my microfiber towels.  I had enough clothing and towels to do a load of laundry and added the microfibers to the batch.  This was the first time I have used the laundry room since we arrived so Barb showed me how to set washer controls.

Whenever I was not doing something else I worked at my computer.  Other than a few e-mails my focus was BCM articles.  In particular I am trying to finish an article on “Quartzsite 2015.”  The article was basically written a couple of weeks ago, but we have done other things since then so I want to expand it a bit.  What I mostly spent the day and evening working on were the photos.

I got the trash and plastic bottles ready and took them to their respective containers.  I let Barb know that I needed to use the car port sometime in the next 10 days.  I want to wash and wax the car and will need to get it in the shade.  When I was done with the laundry I finally ate the grapefruit I got out for breakfast.  I was still hungry so I also had a sandwich for lunch.

I checked the total hardness of the water coming out of the water softener and it was still somewhere between 3 and 7 grains per gallon, indicating that more regeneration was still needed.  First I switched the hoses around and gently back-flushed the unit using filtered water.  I switched it back to the regular configuration and added a 26 ounce container of non-iodized table salt.  I ran the water through the unit until it was noticeably salty and then shut it off and let it sit for 20 minutes.  I repeated this, letting about 10 gallons of water go through the softener each time.  Late afternoon I removed the housing, rinsed out the little bit of remaining salt, reinstalled the housing, and gently ran about 15 gallons of filtered water through the unit to get the residual salinity out if it.  It was dark by then so testing the TH will be a task for tomorrow.

I had several text messages and calls from Linda throughout the day.  One was a photo indicating evidence of mice in the pantry.  Oh joy.  We were gone all last winter, which was bitter cold and snowy, and did not have a problem so we do not know what is different this year.  Linda though that perhaps all of the construction work (landscaping and natural gas) had disturbed the local mice.  Whatever the cause there wasn’t anything I could do about it from 2,200 miles away so I made a nice green salad for dinner and then continued working on photos for my article.

 

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