Category Archives: Arizona

2015/10/17 (S) First Snow

Last night we removed the dining table from the back of my car and put it on the bed in the bus.  We then removed the two rear seats and put them in the garage.  We wanted the back of the Honda Element empty when we got up this morning as we do not usually have time to spare in the morning before driving to South Lyon for breakfast with the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.

It’s always good to see our fellow hams and today was no exception.  We arrived just before 8 AM and stayed for over an hour.  We left around 9:15 and drove to Chuck’s shop in Novi to get the box with the two remaining lower windshields for our bus.  Chuck was already there and helped us load the box into the car.  The box was sized to hold five windshields but only had two in it so it was light enough for us to move by hand.  I knew it would fit in my car as we had measured it on a previous visit and I had checked the dimensions against the car.  We set one end on the tailgate, lifted the other end, and slid it in.  We chatted for a while, and looked at a project Chuck is working in for new front window shades, before heading home.

Phil was not at our house when we got home but he had obviously been there.  All of the concrete, and many of the rocks and boulders, were gone from the driveway extension area so I presumed he had loaded them in his truck and hauled them away.

The Converted Coach Owners (CCO) Halloween Rally was going on this weekend and today was the main day for activities.  We had intended/hoped to go to the rally but the progress on our bus remodeling has slowed over the last couple of weeks for various reasons, all legitimate, and it was not in a condition to travel or be used.  It’s not that things are not getting done; they are, just not as fast as we would like or need them to.  Among other things I have not yet secured the refrigerator and pantry.  We thought about driving over in the car but it was over two hours one way and we needed to spend what time we had available working on the bus and could not justify being gone.  Thanksgiving does not look/feel that far away anymore.  It also seemed ill-advised to be gone while Phil is here digging up the yard.

My main bus focus for today was completing the installation of the built-in sofa.  We had already set the plywood seat board on a blanket on the bus kitchen floor so I had access to the inside of the base/storage box.  I did not need Linda’s assistance for a while so she worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  Before starting on the sofa, however, I took care of a few other minor things.

First I replaced the alkaline batteries in the TempMinder thermometers with Lithium ones.  I then reset the minimum and maximum temperatures for the two remote sensors.  Sensor #1 monitors the freezer and sensor #2 monitors the fresh food compartment of the bus refrigerator.  The directions for the TempMinder suggest using Lithium batteries if the remote sensors will be in cold environments.

Next I got a piece of scrap SurePly underlayment to see how it would fit in the rabbited wood trim on the lower outside wall of the hallway.  I inserted it fully into a corner and marked the edges with a pencil.  It is approximately 3/16″ thick and fit nicely without being too tight.  With a layer of veneer it should be just right.  When I removed it the depth of the rabbits appeared to be 5/16″ to 3/8″.  I think the underlayment will make a nice base for hardwood veneer.  I will cut the panels 1/2″ wider (22-1/2″) and 1/2″ longer (28″) than the 22″ X 27-1/2″ dimensions of the framed opening and allow them to “float” just like a frame and panel door.

My last mini-task was locating the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood we removed from the old refrigerator and measuring it to see if we had pieces big enough to panel the damaged area on the wall by the co-pilot seat.  I was pleased to find that the remaining pieces are large enough for this application.

By now it was 12:30 PM and my phone reminded me that we had an RVillage Ambassadors webinar/meeting at 1 PM.  Linda heated up some Amy’s Vegetable Bean Soup and made hot lentil loaf sandwiches with ketchup.  Yum.  We got our first snow flurries of the 2015-16 winter season during lunch and they continued off and on through the afternoon.  We moved to Michigan in May 1976.  It snowed on October 15th that year and we had snow on the ground every day until early April 1977.  While that has not held up over the years as a “typical” southeast Michigan winter it was very different from what we grew up with in Missouri and formed our first and most lasting impression of our adopted state.

I retrieved the link for the Go To Meeting from the RVillage website and put it in my web browser.  1 PM came and went with no meeting.  The meeting notice said “Saturday, October 17 at 10 AM PST” but they had clarified that was actually 10 AM PDT, which is 1 PM EDT.  We decided that perhaps they really meant PST, which would be 2 PM our time.  We tried again an hour later, but no meeting ever commenced.

When I finally got to work in the bus on the sofa I removed six screws, three each from two angle brackets, and pulled the entire base assembly out from the wall, giving me complete access to the HVAC duct and wiring chase.  Much of the final installation of the sofa involved this duct.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

The ends of the plywood seat rest on two boxes with open ends that also serve as plenums for air from the OTR HVAC system ducts.  I needed to cut out rectangular openings in the vertical face of the duct to allow air into the back end of these boxes.  I used a 1/2″ drill to create starter holes at the corners of the openings and then used a manual sheet metal nibbler and a drill-powered reciprocating nibbler, both of which I borrowed from Chuck a few weeks ago, to cut out the sheet metal.  The two tools work differently but they both worked well and I was glad I had both of them for this task.  The powered nibbler created a lot of small metal debris so I vacuumed the whole work area very thoroughly when I was done nibbling.

The right (forward) end of the duct also had an extra hole in it where I did not need or want one.  I removed an old sheet metal patch plate and cut a new one to cover the area I needed to close off.  I ended up having to pre-drill holes as I spun the heads off two of my cheap sheet metal screws.  I had a heck of a time getting the shafts out, but I got it done.  This was just one more example of why seemingly simple projects always take longer than they should.

Phil returned while I was working on the sofa and continued trenching in the French drain.  I stopped to chat with him briefly and Linda came out to let me know she was headed to the grocery store.  I then got back to my own tasks and let Phil get back to his.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The open fronts of the two plenum boxes are attached to the inside of the vertical front support, which is 3/4″ walnut veneered plywood.  To get the air out of the boxes and into the coach my design called for brown plastic 4″ round louvered diffusers.  They are considered “four inch” because the two inch long cylindrical pipe on the back will just fit through a 4″ diameter circular hole.  (A 4″ flexible duct, like dryer duct, will also just fit over the pipe.)  The visible part of the diffuser is actually 5-1/2″ in diameter.

The inside width of the plenum boxes is 4-1/4″ by design.  I needed to center a 4″ hole within that space so I had to locate the center point for my 4″ hole saw very accurately side-to-side.  I also wanted the hole centered vertically.  Using my small square I marked the vertical midpoint on the edge of the front plywood at each end.  I then measured in 2-13/16″ from the midpoint mark and used my spring-loaded center punch to mark the center of the hole.   [The 2-13/16″ dimension came from half the inside width, or 2-1/8″, plus the thickness of the plywood used to make the plenums, or 11/16″.]

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

I stood the boxes on their back ends so the front board was horizontal.  I straddled the front board with my legs to hold it and drilled starter holes with a #6 countersink bit.  I then drilled the 4″ holes with a 4″ hole saw using my 1/2″ Craftsman corded drill, being careful to have the pilot bit in the starter holes and drill perpendicular to the face of the plywood.  I have had this drill for 37 years.  It is very powerful and has several ways it can be gripped quite securely.  It is large, heavy, and lacks the convenience of a cordless drill but when I need to use a bit with a 1/2″ shaft and/or need the torque, this is still the drill for the job.  The hole saw created some sawdust so I vacuumed the whole area thoroughly when I was done drilling.

I was just finishing this work when Linda got back from the grocery store.  She put the groceries away and came out to see if I needed any assistance.  I already had the roll of plastic screen in the bus and she got the Gorilla Tape from the garage.  I cut pieces of the screen large enough to cover the two rectangular openings in the HVAC duct and used lengths of Gorilla Tape to secure them.  We then slid the base/storage assembly back into position, pushed it tight to the HVAC duct, and reattached it to the wood wire chase on top of the duct.  The two support boxes and the return air box have foam weather stripping on the back edges to seal against the duct.

We picked the plywood seat up off of the kitchen floor and set it back in place but did not secure it.  We left it out several inches from its original position and got a seat and back cushion from the bedroom.  We experimented with different spacings and finally agreed that we need to have the seat out 4-3/4″ farther than originally designed.  The current hinge board is 11/16″ plywood, 2-3/4″ wide by just under 78″ long.  This board is screwed to the top of the wiring chase and to one side of the 72″ piano hinge.  I will replace it with a piece that is 7-1/2″ wide by the same length.  I will also have to provide some additional support for the seat side of the piano hinge as in the original design had both sides of the hinge resting on top of the wiring chase on top of the HVAC duct.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory.  This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory. This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

That was the end of the interior bus work for today.  By the time we were done Phil had driven his front-loader onto his flat-bed trailer and secured it so it appeared he was wrapping up for the day.  I chatted with him about the project for 30 minutes before he left.  Earlier in the afternoon I had found my site plan drawings for the bus barn and agreed to stake out the driveway tomorrow so we could review it first thing Monday morning.

Linda had invited Meghan and Chris for brunch tomorrow but it was not a good weekend for them as the Michigan vs Michigan State football game was taking place in Ann Arbor.  Chris manages the Pizza House restaurant, and being away on football Saturday is not an option.  They will come next Sunday (31st) instead.

For dinner Linda made a nice salad of mixed greens with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and diced onions dressed with raspberry vinaigrette.  The main course was pan-fried polenta with vegan puttanesca sauce.  It held its heat to the last bite and was very satisfying on a cold evening.  I opened a bottle of Cupcake Black Forest red wine.  We have had it before and, although drier than I prefer, it went well with the meal.

After dinner I got my flashlight and checked the bus for axle/hub seal leaks by looking under the bus from the opposite side to see the inside of the wheels.  I did not see anything to suggest a problem on any of the six positions and will text that information to Joe tomorrow for planning purposes as he would require a second day to work on the seals if that was needed.

We spent the last couple of hours of the day in the living room, with the fireplace turned on, reading, writing, and playing games while enjoying some red grapes for dessert.  Linda got a text from her sister-in-law, Mary, with a photo of her and Ron “standing on ‘the’ corner in Winslow, Arizona.”  Ron has been retired for many years but Mary only recently retired and they are on their first extended camping trip in their A-liner trailer and their first trip to the southwest U.S.

We went to bed around 10 PM.  Linda fell asleep quickly while I divided my attention between cooking shows on the Detroit PBS Create channel, a concert by Eric Clapton on PBS, and working on this post.

 

2015/10/13 (T) Desk Alignment

I got up at 8 AM, put on my robe, made coffee, fed the cats, and refreshed their water fountain while Linda got dressed and washed blueberries to put in our granola.  We took our coffee to the living room where I turned on the fireplace and we were joined by our feline friends.  I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s post and e-mailed it to myself while Linda pulled up the latest video post from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org.

Linda left at 9:30 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark for their weekly walk.  As this will probably be their last walk together until spring they planned to go to lunch afterwards.  While there was some work I could do by myself on the (permanent) installation of the desk there were other aspects of the job that would definitely require two people.  I needed to finish updating the roster for the FMCA Freethinkers chapter so I spent about 30 minutes reading the manual for the new Sony SLT-a99v camera and then got dressed and worked in my office for the rest of morning.

After a short lunch break I resumed working on the roster until Linda got home.  She and Diane had lunch at Baker’s in Milford as it is close to the Metropark parking lot where they meet.  We removed most of the things from the bus we were not currently using, many of which were stored in the sofa storage box.  We got the sofa seat off of the desk pedestals and set it back in place on the sofa base.

I wanted to use pieces of a 24″ X 30″ furnace filter to cover the various air inlets in the desk bases and the air outlets in the OTR HVAC duct.  The best way to hold the filter material in place appeared to be with some very strong tape.  We did not have any such tape on hand so Linda went to Lowe’s and bought a roll of Gorilla Tape while I cut pieces of filter material to fit the various openings.

The left desk base and passenger side OTR HVAC duct showing the pieces of furnace filter material used to seal these openings while permitting filtered airflow.

The left desk base and passenger side OTR HVAC duct showing the pieces of furnace filter material used to seal these openings while permitting filtered airflow.

We got all of the openings taped up but I still needed to fabricate two tongue and groove alignment devices between the pedestals and the center connector/cover.  I make these out of flat mending plates, one on the pedestal (tongue), and two on the connector/cover (groove).  The tongue is flat against the back side of the pedestal vertical board and protrudes about 1/2″ beyond the edge.  The groove is made from two plates, one stacked on top of the other, attached to the back side of the vertical connector/cover board.  The upper plate is just back from the edge of the board and the lower one (next to the wood) is offset from the edge a little more than 1/2”, just enough to create a space for the tongue.  The tongue and groove devices match two others lower down on the connector/cover.  All four of them are oriented vertically allowing the connector/cover to drop into place and force it to align with the matching pieces of the pedestals.  A pair of horizontal plates, one on each pedestal, provide a resting surface for the connector/cover that aligns it horizontally.

With the devices fabricated we were finally able to set the pedestals on the bases, drop the connector/cover in place, and align everything as if the entire desk was a single unit.  We then got the Corian desktop out of my car, brought it into the coach, and set it in place.  It will require some careful adjustments before we screw everything down but it basically fit properly and looked good.  Final positioning of the left pedestal and base, however, would require us to put the front HVAC duct cover in position.

We got the cover out of the library and into the bus for the first time since we brought it home from Jarel Beatty Cabinetry in Logansport, Indiana.  The length was perfect but the bump out where the heater hoses were originally going to loop through was too deep.    I suspect the mistake was in my design/drawings.  Jarel knew this piece was supposed to line up with the left pedestal and base but I no longer recall if he even had the desk pieces in his possession when he was building the cover.  At this point it didn’t matter anyway.  The misalignment is with the base and is not very visible.  Also, the bump out is screwed on to the main cover so it can eventually be removed and trimmed or replaced with one that has the correct dimensions.

Once we had the cover in place I realized that I also needed to fabricate and install alignment plates between the cover and the left pedestal.  I had not planned on this and did not have enough mending plates so we went to Lowe’s to buy more.  While we were there I bought another can of 40:1 premixed fuel and a bottle of bar and chain oil for the new Poulan Pro 18” chainsaw.  We stopped at Walmart to see if they stocked a particular folding chair made by Stakmore that we have seen online, but they did not.  We think it would work nicely as a desk chair, and go well with the interior materials and colors in our bus, but we would like to see one in the round before buying it.

Back home I worked on the alignment plates while Linda prepared dinner.  We had leftover lentil loaf, microwaved sweet potatoes, and a mix of steamed broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  She added a little water to the lentil loaf before reheating it to moisten it a bit.  We both like ketchup on our lentil loaf and I added some Pick-a-Poo sauce to mine.  All three dishes were served hot, which was comforting on a cool evening, and everything was very tasty including the cup of hot tea.

I returned to the bus after dinner and finished installing the mending plates on the HVAC duct cover.  I was not able to put it in place by myself, and there was no reason to have Linda come out and help at this hour, so I set the thermostats back and locked up the bus.

I called Butch and this time the call went through.  I updated him on the installation and testing of the fan-coil heat exchangers and asked him about the operation of our new refrigerator.  He suggested that I isolate the remote temperature sensors by using pieces of the furnace filter material to keep them from touching an objects or surfaces directly.  He and Fonda are wrapping up at the RV Park in Bouse and moving to Quartzsite on Thursday.  After we were done talking I worked on this post while we watched a few TV programs and then went to bed.

 

2015/03/27-31 (F-T) Wrapping Up Arizona

2015/03/27 (F) Queen Creek Olive Mill

This is really Linda’s post more than mine.  Lou and I stayed in camp all day working with our information technologies while Linda and Val went on an explore.  I have been using my iPad2 to go through drafts of blog posts dating back to March 1st filling in details, turning notes into complete sentences, and then e-mailing them to myself.  I got caught up as far as that goes and then started writing drafts of posts for the last few days.

Linda and Val made a day if it away from camp.  Linda took our car and drove them to the Queen Creek Olive Mill (QCOM) in Queen Creek, Arizona just beyond the southeast limits of the Phoenix metropolitan area.  QCOM is a large olive grove producing 17 different varieties of olives.  (Technically it is an orchard as olives are a stone fruit.)  The hot, dry desert conditions in this part of the U. S. turn out to be ideal for growing olives.  They are harvested by spreading tarps on the ground around each tree and stripping the olives off.  Olives that fall to the ground naturally are past ripe and are not used.

Once harvested olives are processed within 24 hours.  For pressing into olive oil they are simply washed to remove dust and then pressed (ground or milled, actually), pits and all, to extract the oil.  The mash that remains is used as fertilizer for the trees.  Olives that are destined to be sold whole may be packaged whole in a brine or have the pits removed and replaced with a piece of garlic or habanero pepper and preserved in a brine.

QCOM has a restaurant so the ladies stayed for lunch.  Val had a chopped Italian salad and Linda had a quinoa and kale salad, both of which they said were ‘excellent’.  The Mill also had a gift shop and Linda picked up several things there.

It was late afternoon by the time they returned and neither of them felt like cooking so Lou suggested we go out for dinner and try the Chinese restaurant we intended to eat at a few nights ago when we ended up at the Golden Corral.  We piled into Lou and Val’s pickup truck and set off in search of Big Wa.  Linda had checked the menu online so we knew they had several vegetarian dishes we could probably eat.

Lou and Val had been to Big Wa before and knew approximately where it was but Linda pulled it up on her smartphone and guided us in for a soft landing.  Big Wa was a small mom and pop Chinese restaurant; the kind we used to patronize a lot back home once upon a time.  We rarely go to Chinese restaurants anymore because it is essentially impossible to get anything vegan.  We ordered vegetable Kung Pao stir fry and Moo Shu vegetable dishes.  We suspect that chicken broth was involved in the stir fry and I think the Moo Shu, which was already made up when it came to the table, contained eggs.  We rarely stray from our chosen diet and although doing so doesn’t kill us our systems do not always react well either.  In this case our dishes were mostly vegetables and it was very tasty.

We stopped at Home Depot so I could look for a GE Water filter cartridge and then stopped at Walgreen’s so Val could pick up some things.  It was well past dark by the time we got back and we retired to our respective rigs for the night.  Linda and I watched some TV (Big Bang Theory) and she played online word games while I responded to some e-mails.  Linda liked Queen Creek Olive Mill well enough to enter it in the RVillage Marketplace and recommend it.

A panorama of our motorcoach parked at RVillage World Headquarters in Arizona City, AZ.

A panorama of our motorcoach parked at RVillage World Headquarters in Arizona City, AZ.

2015/03/28 (S) Haircuts

Linda was awake by 6 AM and read quietly in bed.  I was awake before 7 AM and got up, put on my sweats, and made a pot of coffee.  Our two cats climbed up on us to be adored and when they’d had enough of our attention we had some granola for breakfast.  Linda got our last bag out of the freezer so if we want this to last until we get home we will not be having it for breakfast every day.

I have been overdue for a haircut for a while so this morning we finally got the clippers out and Linda lightened the load.  Not that my hair was long, but the daytime temperatures have risen into the 90’s and it is much cooler and more comfortable with my buzz cut.  As long as the clippers were out I trimmed up my beard and shaved.  Linda said I cleaned up pretty well.  🙂

Linda is also way overdue for a haircut but I am not about to attempt that.  She and Val had planned to go to the mall in Casa Grande today anyway, so she did a quick online search and located a hair salon at the mall.  She assembled a short shopping list and added the haircut to it.

While they were gone I pulled together all of my blog post drafts for the period before, during, and after the Escapees RV Club Escapade rally into a single Word doc and attached it to an e-mail to Lou.  He plans to use it as the starting point for an article about the Escapade in the next edition of our SKP Photographers BOF newsletter.

Lou and I needed a break from working with our technology so we put two of our camp chairs in a shady spot with a nice northeast breeze and just sat and relaxed and chatted.  Lou asked about the barn we plan to build and I described the three approaches I am considering.  We were still doing that when the ladies returned home late in the afternoon.  They had both done some shopping so I helped carry bags of stuff into our rig.

Linda made a nice salad for our dinner and Val heated up leftovers for them.  There is a period of time in the late afternoon when the sun shines into the covered porch of the house and is so hot it us uncomfortable to sit there.  Small ants have also appeared with the hot weather so we ate inside at the dining room table.  We lingered for a long time talking before finally retiring to our rigs for the night.

Curtis got a good deal on this Fleetwood Bounder.  He plans to put it in a rental pool.

Curtis got a good deal on this Fleetwood Bounder. He plans to put it in a rental pool.

2015/03/29 (N) Mexico Connection

I made arrangements on Friday for us to visit with Larry and Orene Brown today.  We left at 10 AM to drive to their place northwest of Florence, Arizona.  Larry and Orene are members of both FMCA and Escapees and belong to the Freethinker groups of both clubs, along with several related RVillage groups.  We crossed paths with them most recently at the Escapade and agreed to get together after we returned to Arizona City.  We stopped briefly in Coolidge to buy flowers at the local Safeway and arrived at their place in the Del Webb (Pulte) developed Anthem communities at 11:10 AM.

Larry and Orene are also active in SKP Chapter 8 — Mexican Connection, and will be the wagonmasters for the Chapter’s February 2016 caravan/rally to Puerto Penasco, Mexico on the mainland shore of the Sea of Cortez.  We have not had any desire to travel to/in Mexico, but after chatting with Larry and Orene at Escapade we became intrigued with the possibility of traveling with a good sized group and wanted to know more about it.

Larry gave us a tour of their house and Orene poured small glasses of wine which we enjoyed sitting outside under their Ramada.  Orene made a green salad and vegan chili for lunch.  Both were delicious and enjoyed with some iced tea.  By the time we were done eating the air temperature had warmed past comfortable so we went inside where Orene served fresh strawberries and cantaloupe for desert.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in pleasantly stimulating conversation on a wide range of subjects including, but not limited to, the outing to Mexico next year.  We got a lot of important insights, most of which furthered our interest in going.  We have enjoyed getting to know everyone from our Freethinkers chapter we have had the opportunity to meet and hope to cross paths with Larry and Orene many times in the years to come.

As we wrapped up our visit at 4 PM I got a call from Curtis letting me know that he would probably be arriving tonight between 11 PM and midnight unless he decided to pull in to rest area, in which case he would arrive early tomorrow morning.  Either way it meant that Lou would have to move their 5th wheel trailer so Curtis could park his bus in its usual place.  It also meant someone, most likely me, would have to open the gate when he got here.  I tend to stay up late anyway, but we would obviously do whatever was required to get him in and settled.

As we were getting back to our encampment around 5:30 PM Linda called Lou to have him open the gate.  After we were in and settled we let him know that Curtis would be returning late this evening.  They were in the spot where Curtis parks his bus, so before it got dark Lou hitched up their 5th wheel and pulled it around 180 degrees to the east side of the driveway and pointed towards the gate.  He plans to take their rig to Casa Grande tomorrow morning to buy some tires for the truck and the trailer and have them installed so the rig is positioned for an easy exit.

Having had a nice lunch Linda and I just had hummus with chips and grapes for dinner and watched several episodes of The Big Bang Theory.  Curtis called at 9 PM to let me know he would be arriving around 11 PM.  Linda headed off to bed while I let Lou and Val know that Curtis was definitely arriving yet this evening.  I then settled in to watch TV while I waited for the call to open the gate.  That call came a little before 11 PM.  I opened the gate, waited for Curtis to pull in, closed the gate, and helped him get parked.  I returned the gate fob and house key and we chatted about RVillage and the FMCA rally while Augie got reacquainted with his yard.  Curtis asked if I would take some interior and exterior photographs of his Fleetwood Bounder before we left so he could use them to help advertise it for rent and of course I agreed.  I then retired just before midnight, leaving him to finish unpacking a few things from his bus and car

Another view of Curtis's Bounder.

Another view of Curtis’s Bounder.

2015/03/30 (M) Re-Tired

Since we knew at 4 PM yesterday that Curtis would be returning late last night, Linda started doing several loads of laundry as soon as we got back to camp.  We watched TV and snacked for dinner while the loads washed and dried.  She took the last load out of the dryer around 9 PM and we then folded clothes and made the bed.  She turned in while I waited up to let Curtis in the gate.

I slept in until 8 AM his morning and finally got up when I heard (and smelled) the grinding of coffee beans.  Breakfast was toast and fruit juice.  As planned, Lou and Val left around 9:30 AM to take their truck/trailer to Discount Tire in Casa Grande.  He needed two tires for the truck and two for the trailer.

Although Curtis did not leave Pomona, California until 4 PM yesterday he managed to make the 400 mile drive back to Arizona City in seven hours.  In spite of what was obviously a long day for him he was up and working this morning, although we did not see him until later than usual.  Launching a company is exciting but hard work.

Linda sat at the outside table and chatted with Curtis while I worked on blog posts at my computer in our bus.  By 11:45 AM the temperature in the bus was 85 degrees so I turned the generator on, turned on all three air-conditioners, and closed up the coach.  That kept it cool enough for the cats but I decided to take my computer into the house and work at the dining room table as the house is air-conditioned and quite comfortable.

I had copied all of the posts for January 15 – 21, 2015 into a single Word doc but by the time I finished editing it I decided it was way too long so I split it back up into individual daily posts.  The other reason for doing this was that this was a very busy week during which I took a lot of photographs.  I managed to upload posts to our WordPress blog for the 15th through the 19th.  It was a small dent in what I need to accomplish, but it was something.

Val brought over a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade at 4:30 PM.  By that time my computer battery was run down a bit and I was tired of staring at the screen so I took the computer back to our bus and plugged it in and then joined the others on the veranda to enjoy my glass of lemonade.

Although it gets pleasantly cool after the sun sets, and a bit chilly by sunrise, the hot days have brought out ants and midge flies, compounding the notion that we have probably lingered a bit longer in southern Arizona than is ideal.  On the other hand, we are experiencing this for ourselves rather than trying to understand it second hand.  Also, highs in the mid-to-upper 90’s are not typical for late March in this area, running 15 or more degrees above normal.  That is the old (historical) normal, of course, not the new normal.

Curtis eventually rejoined use around 5:30 PM.  We asked if he wanted to go out to dinner but he was not up for it so we all made and ate our own dinners.  While Linda was cooking and I was wrapping up a conversation with Lou and Curtis I got a call from Butch Williams.  He and Fonda had just arrived home having driven all the way from the Wal-Mart in Forest City, Arkansas.  That same drive took us two days on the way out west in December.  It was 7:30 PM here and 10:30 PM there.

Linda had the TV on while she was cooking and we watched NCIS Los Angeles and other Monday evening programs during and after dinner.  She made a red beans and rice dish and added greens (kale) and crushed red pepper flakes which definitely kicked it up a notch.  I continued working on blog posts while half paying attention to the TV programs.

One last look at Curtis's new Bounder.

One last look at Curtis’s new Bounder.

2015/03/31 (T) Farewell Arizona

As March draws to a close so does our time in Arizona.  We have, and more specifically our motorhome has, been here since December 11, 2014 when we drove from the Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico to the RoVers Roost SKP CO-OP near Casa Grande, Arizona.  From there it was on to our winter “home” in Quartzsite where the bus remained parked until March 3rd.

On March 3rd we said our “so long, see ya down the road” to Butch/Fonda, Jim/Barb, and Jim Liebherr, our host/landlord while we were in Quartzsite.  We drove to Arizona City and boondocked at the rental house of Curtis Coleman, founder and CEO of the RVillage social networking website for RVers.  From there we relocated to an RV park in Tucson for a night and then went to the Escapees RV Club Escapade at the Pima County Fairgrounds where we worked very hard as event staff.

After the Escapade we drove back to Arizona City with Lou and Val Petkus, stayed three nights, and then drove over to Why, Arizona for a week to visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The four of us then went back to Arizona City to decompress for a week and try to catch up on some computer/Internet-based work.

While we were in Arizona City we managed to drive the Florence-to-Kelvin scenic road with Lou and Val Petkus, tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West (just the two of us), visit an Olive grove/mill (Linda and Val only), visit with fellow FMCA/SKP Freethinkers Larry and Orene Brown (me and Linda), and visit with Curtis when he was there as much as his work permitted.  The daily high temperatures the last few days have been in the mid-to-upper 90’s while only a couple of hundred miles to the north they were just reaching 70 degrees F with lows at or just below freezing.  Our Aqua-Hot is working better than our air-conditioners and we are ready to start moving east and north.

Lou and Val pulled out today at noon for the short drive to Tucson and checked into the Prince of Tucson RV Park where we stayed for one night just before going to the Escapade.  We will depart tomorrow and head to Deming, New Mexico, or thereabouts.  From there we plan to head over to Las Cruces and up I-25 to Albuquerque where we will look for a full-hookup RV park for a few nights so we can explore the area a bit.

From Albuquerque we will push on to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to visit my only uncle.  A long day’s drive from there will put is in an RV Park near Edwardsville, Illinois not far from where Linda’s sister (Marilyn) and her housemate (Linda) live and a reasonable driving distance from my sister (Patty), niece (Amanda), and her family.  We plan to hang out in the area for a while if folks can make time to visit with us and keep an eye on the weather and road restrictions in southeast Michigan.

Another day’s drive will put us at Butch and Fonda Williams’ place in Twelve Mile, Indiana; the place from which our two two-bus caravan departed for the southwest on December 3rd, 2014.  We will likely linger there a few days and try to figure out what is going on with our two front air-conditioners.  Once we leave there our final stop will probably be an overnight at the Turkeyville Campground south of Lansing, Michigan where we can dump our holding tanks in the morning before driving the last 80 miles to our house.

With the hot temperatures have come bugs so we spent a long evening inside the house having a relaxed conversation with Curtis and getting to know each other better.  It was the first time we have had a chance to talk to him without RVillage being the focus of the conversation.  We opened the bottle of Black Currant wine we bought at the Forestedge Winery in Laporte, Minnesota in July 2013 and remembered why we bought it and why we brought it along.  It was nice to share it with our new friend.  We finally went back to our coach at 9:30 PM, had an easy, light supper, and went to bed.

 

2015/03/26 (R) Taliesin West

[Note:  Photos are in an image gallery at the end of this post.]

Although I have never written down a bucket list, I have a mental one, and one of the things on my list was to visit Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter camp in Scottsdale, Arizona.  We have toured Taliesin in Wisconsin and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania as well as his home/studio, Unity Temple, and some 15 houses in and around Oak Park, Illinois, the S. C. Johnson building in Racine, Wisconsin, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  I am a long-time, big fan of his architecture.

Scottsdale is a suburb located ENE of Phoenix and ~70 miles north of Arizona City.  Since we knew we would be hanging out in Arizona City for a week we decided a couple of weeks ago that we wanted to take the “Behind The Scenes Tour” and purchased two tickets for the 9:15 tour today.  We set our alarm clocks for 6 AM and left camp at 6:45 AM.

We had researched coffee shops last night and had an address for a Seattle’s Best not far from Taliesin West.  We left early enough to go there and enjoy coffee and a bagel and still get to Taliesin West on time.  Or so we thought.  We used our GPS to navigate to the coffee shop, fighting our way through stop and go traffic, construction, and general urban congestion only to discover that it was no longer there.  By that point we did not have time to try the alternative location we had identified so we just went on to Taliesin West.

We arrived at 8:30, took care of getting our tickets in the bookstore, and then grabbed a table by the outdoor coffee kiosk which did not open until after 9 AM around the time our tour began.  Why the kiosk was not open much earlier was a mystery to us, but whatever the reason, it meant no coffee for us this morning 🙁  They did supply bottled water for our tour, however, which was appreciated.

The tour took three hours and we got to see some areas of the camp that folks on shorter tours do not.  That included a stop at the dining room where we were served a light lunch of fresh fruit, a small croissant sandwich, and a date nut bar and “Arnold Palmer” to drink.  A women who apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright, and still lives at Taliesin West, visited with us during lunch and shared personal reflections about her life.

The most interesting thing to me about Taliesin West was learning that FLLW regarded it as his “winter camp” and that most of the original construction was open to the outside and “rougher” than we have seen at other sites.  When construction began in 1937 there was no road to the site, which sits on high, sloping ground at the base of small mountains.  There was no electrical power, no water, and no heavy equipment; everything was done by hand.  They used kerosene lanterns and candles and trucked the water in.  Shutters allowed buildings to be closed off from the weather or light if desired, or opened to admit a breeze or reveal the night sky.

Windows were eventually added to some buildings at the insistence of the 3rd Mrs. Wright and many of the spaces now have air-conditioning.  As buildings were added and others reshaped or repurposed over time Taliesin West took on a more refined quality but its origins and use as a winter camp are still very evident.  Like his home/studio in Oak Park, Illinois and his estate at Taliesin, Taliesin West was a living laboratory for his ideas about the way architecture should/could connect people to the place where they live and actively enhance the quality of their lives.

We spent a few minutes in the bookstore after our tour.  The items available from the FLLW Foundation are very nice but we did not buy anything as we trying not to collect things at this point in our lives.  We had done research on vegan restaurants and found one in Tempe, just south of Scottsdale, which had a nice menu and good reviews on Happy Cow.  Before going to lunch we used our GPS to navigate over to RV Solar Electric.  For the second time today we discovered that a business did not appear to exist at the address given on the website.  I called the phone number and talked to owner Doug Kirkby who indicated that they were an online only store and the address was a storage bay where they warehouse their products, and was, indeed, at the location indicated by our GPS (but on the other side of the street).  I had overlooked that little detail on their website, but it wasn’t far from Taliesin West and we were only going to window shop anyway, so we hopped on Scottsdale Road and headed south to the restaurant.

The New Green American Restaurant was on the south side of the Arizona State University central campus and we had an up close view of Scottsdale, which is a very upscale place, on the drive down.  With the exception of Sublime restaurant near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida our experience with vegan restaurants is that they are usually slightly funky little places near college campuses and New Green American was no exception.  We studied the menu, made our selections, stood in line, placed our order, took our number placard, and found a table to sit and wait for our food which did not take long to arrive.  I had a mock breaded fish fillet po’boy and Linda had a mock chicken marinara po’boy, both with savory French fries lightly seasoned with Thyme.  The food was very tasty.  The also had almond milk milkshakes.  Linda had a chocolate one and I had strawberry and they were a real, and rare, treat.  It’s probably a good thing that we do not have a vegan restaurant like his anywhere close to where we live as we would eat out too often.

By the time we got back to camp it was pushing 4 PM.  We had left windows open and fans running to keep it comfortable enough for the cars and left the door unlocked in case Lou or Val needed to get in.  By 5 PM our rig was partly in shade and as the afternoon gave way to evening it cooled back down to a more comfortable temperature. We left the windows and ceiling vents open all night but I turned off the exhaust fans before I went to bed.  By the time we got up in the morning it was chilly enough inside the coach that we put on our sweats for a while.  But that’s a story for another day.

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2015/03/24-25 (T-W) RVillage WHQ Redux

2015/03/24 (T) Return to Arizona City, AZ

[Note:  There are no photographs for this post.]

We targeted a late morning departure from Hickiwan Trails RV Park.  The normal checkout time is 11:00 AM but that had nothing to do with our target as we were paid through Tuesday evening and the park was empty enough that the manager did not care when we left.  The timing mostly had to do with the necessity of having some agreed target time when traveling with other RVers, not wanting to feel like we had to get up at the crack of dawn and get on the road, and not wanting to drive into the morning sun but wanting arrive at our destination by mid-afternoon.  There is a lot that goes into something as simple as answering the question “what time are we going to leave?” which was preceded by answering the apparently equally simple question “what day are going to leave?”

We only had 120 miles to travel so an 11 AM departure met all of our requirements.  We pulled out of our site about 10:45 AM and hooked up our car.  I tried to adjust the driver’s side rearview mirror and could not position it where I wanted it.  The mirror had loosened and moved on the support arm and needed to be repositioned.  Lou got out his small step ladder and I found a star bit for my screwdriver.  It took a bit of back and forth but I got the mirror repositioned and tightened so that the correct view was near the center of the motorized travel that I can control from the driver’s seat.  By the time we put everything away and were ready to pull out it was 11:20 AM.  11 AM was a target, not a hard and fast requirement.

It was a warm day and Lou decided that he wanted to keep his speed at 50 MPH because he was unsure of the spare tire he had installed on their trailer on Thursday.  That is slower than optimal for our bus, especially when the speed limit is higher than that.  He suggested that we travel at whatever speed was comfortable for us and they would meet up with us sometime later at our destination.  Once we cleaned Ajo we had a good run up AZ-85 at 55 MPH.  The road is posted 65 MPH but it is a 2-lane highway with very little shoulder, so 55 felt just fine.  Once we got on I-8 headed east the speed limit was 75 MPH.  I set the cruise control at 63 MPH and let it roll.  The bus likes that speed which has the engine turning ~1,800 RPM in the top gear of the transmission.

We did not need to stop for fuel or to rest so we rolled slowly through Arizona City to our destination and got ourselves parked at the RVillage headquarters.  Lou and Val stopped to eat lunch and take on fuel and finally arrived an hour or so behind us.  We circled our camp chairs, slumped into them, and said a collective “ahhhh.”  It was beautiful and peaceful here, as always, with warm sun and a cool breeze.  Linda captured a gorgeous sunset over the lake and mountains to the west on her cell phone.  It cooled off quickly after the sun set and soon enough we retreated to our rigs for the evening.

Curtis is a very gracious host and even though we are boondocking he lets us use his wireless Internet connection.  I wasted almost 4 GB of our 10 GB Verizon data plan last billing cycle trying to download a map update for our Rand McNally RVND 7710 GPS that failed after most of it had been downloaded.  The GPS is an excellent device but the download/update protocol is one of the most stupid I have ever encountered.  Why do I say that?  Read on.

Almost 1,000 files are involved in the update and even at that a few of them are gigantic.  The entire download of 4.4 GB has to succeed or everything is lost and you have to start over.  Even on a good Internet connection it takes one-to-two hours for the download so the chances of having it fail are definitely non-zero.  By 11 PM no one else was using the Internet and I was able to get everything downloaded in a little over an hour.  It took another 30 minutes to install the updates into the GPS, after which it indicated there were more updates available.  Thankfully those only took a few minutes to download and install and I managed to get to bed by 12:30 AM.

2015/03/25 (W) Chill’n at the Lake

In a switch from our normal routine Linda got up before me and made coffee while I slept in until 8 AM.  We have our customary ways of doing things, but they are not hard and fast rules.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with fresh grapefruit and coffee.  We opened up the windows and turned on the exhaust fans to keep the inside of the bus comfortable for the cats and then moved to the shaded table on the porch by the lake. I took my iPad and worked on drafts of posts for the last two weeks.

Linda made up a nice lunch platter for each of us and brought it to the table where Lou and Val eventually joined us with their mid-day meals.  Mid-afternoon Lou wanted to go find some tire stores and get prices for two new truck tires and two new trailer tires.  I was ready for a break so I went along.  That proved useful as I was able to use Google voice on my smartphone to research places and request navigation.  Linda uses this feature all the time, but I rarely do.  It’s pretty cool and I should probably use it more than I do.

Our first stop was the local SpeedCo truck tire and lube facility in Arizona City but they only sold 22″ and 24″ truck tires.  We stopped at the Love’s truck stop across the street where I found the 12 VDC cigarette lighter style plug I needed to wire up the TireTraker repeater we got from Darryl Lawrence at Escapade to try out.  We stopped at Discount Tire in Casa Grande next and that turned out to be the best quote Lou got.  We stopped at the Arizona City Post Office at 4:30 PM on our way back to camp so Lou could mail something.

The rest of the day and early evening was spent by the lake quietly using our technology.  Once the light faded and the temperature started to drop we returned to our rigs to have dinner.

 

2015/03/22-23 (N-M) Why Ajo

[Photos for this post are in an image gallery at the end.]

2015/03/22 (N) A Day of Rest

After two days of bouncing around in the desert, getting in and out a truck and working hard to capture good images, we were all tired and needed/wanted an easy, relaxing day.  Lou and I also wanted time to work on processing images on our computers.  Being Sunday, and not being in a hurry to go anywhere, Linda made her yummy vegan blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  After breakfast she walked up to the office and switched us to the weekly rate which would allow us to stay through Wednesday morning for just a few extra dollars.  We then settled in to read (Linda) and work on RV club and photo tasks (me).

Early afternoon we cleaned out the back seat of our car and took Val with us to see the small city of Ajo and visit the mine museum there.  Most businesses were closed but the museum was open and the people there were very knowledgeable.  We then drove a scenic road that went west out of town and circled counterclockwise through some very interesting and rugged BLM land before ending at Darby Well Road and AZ-85.  The road was good enough gravel most of the way that we were able to do it without difficulty in our front wheel drive Honda Element.  The Element, however, has very good ground clearance.

Based on our few days experience in this area I would not venture off of paved roads without a high ground clearance vehicle at minimum.  A 4-wheel drive vehicle with tires that can withstand gravel/rocks and also perform well in soft, sandy soil would be preferred or necessary depending on exactly where you want to go.  We have been thinking about eventually getting a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to replace our Element but developed a serious case of Jeep Wrangler envy while we were in Quartzsite.  Driving through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Florence to Kelvin Road has only served to solidify our desire to have a vehicle that is up to the challenge of being off-pavement.

As we drove the loop there were smaller two-track roads that led off through BLM land and into the Prieta Cabeza National Wildlife Refuge (PCNWR).  They were not all closed but we knew from the Visitors Center that they would be before reaching the PCNWR.  The PCNWR is the last place where Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope survive in the wild and their numbers are dangerously low.  The breeding season is mid-March to mid-May and most of the NWR is closed during that time.  Not that it is ever really open.  The Visitor Center is on the north side of Ajo on AZ-85 and easily visited.  The refuge, which lies to the west and south down to the Mexican Border, is the size of the state of Connecticut.  It has no paved roads, a few very rough dirt roads, no human inhabitants, no services (including cell phone signals), and a climate with daily and seasonal extremes.  This is why it one of the few truly wild places remaining in the lower 48 states.  I would not consider traveling through the refuge without a functioning HF ham radio system; it would be the only way to call for help.

Every drive we have taken in this area starts with a large sign warning you of drug smuggling and illegal immigration activity and advising you of the risks and what to do if you encounter people in the desert.  The only evidence we saw of such activity were the black plastic one gallon jugs, that are apparently the container of choice for carrying water, and the U. S. Customs & Border Patrol vehicles, agents, ATVs, and helicopters which are numerous and ever present in this area.  One reason is that the main facility for the Customs & Border Patrol in this area is on AZ-86 just east of where it starts in Why and about a mile before the boundary of the Tohono O’Odham Indian reservation and Hickiwan Trails RV Park, filling station, and casino.

The helicopters seemed particularly interested in the mountains just east of our RV Park, day and night, the entire time we were there.  Dave, the park manager, told us that the mountains contained many small caves that were used by “spotters” to elude detection and escape the desert climate while the washes were favored travel routes providing cover and easier travel.  The helicopters would hover or travel very slowly below the ridge line, apparently checking each known cave and crevice where someone might be hiding.  Dave said that on one occasion he witnessed heavily armed agents repel out of the helicopters.

It’s a constant cat and mouse game, but it is serious business.  Illegal immigrants risk their lives trying to enter the U. S. through this vast and inhospitable wilderness and some of them do not survive the journey.  The drug smugglers are criminals and agents have been killed by them.  The Visitor Center at OPCNM is named for one such agent who was murdered patrolling the Monument.  He was in his late 20’s.  And yet we felt perfectly safe the entire time we were in this area.  Like rattlesnakes, cacti, and other aspects of this desert you simply have to be thoughtful about where you go and what you do and be aware of your surroundings.  Vigilance is your best/only defense here.

2015/03/23 (M) Return to Ajo

Ajo is Spanish for garlic.  We found a few widely scattered Ajo Lilies blooming in the desert just south of our campground and tried photographing them on several different occasions.  The Lilly is not a member of the garlic family, but got its name because the flowers have a faint smell of garlic, or so someone thought when they were named.  Regardless of where the name came from they are lovely white trumpet bell shaped flowers that are 6 to 10 inches from the ground, and therein lies the photographic challenge.

Mid-late morning all four of us headed back to Ajo.  The central plaza is a three-side U-shaped arrangement of (faux?) adobe buildings that dates from 1917.  The two sides of the U house a variety of stores including a cafe and coffee shop where Linda and I got some coffee.  The bottom of the U is the old train depot and now houses the Ajo Chamber of Commerce.  The buildings have full length covered sidewalks with arched supports.  The parking is also U shaped, following the arrangement of the buildings, and the central area has grass, benches, and a bandstand.  Ajo is something of an arts community and many of the store fronts were gallery spaces with local artwork for sale.

Just across the main street from the open end of the plaza were two white washed adobe  churches, one Catholic and the other Federated, and beyond those the old high school that is now a conference center with 30 apartments that are rented by local artists.  Kitty-corner to the left was the only restaurant in town that appeared to be open for business.  Fortunately for us our friends at Technomadia had been there earlier in the season and assured their blog followers that it was an excellent little place to dine.  Our waitress was charming and our food was good.

Being any artsy community there are lots of murals around town.  Some of them were in an alley across the street from the restaurant so we started there.  One in particular that we wanted to find was a tribute to the movie “Night of the Lepus” which was filmed in Ajo some years ago.  It was a B- Sci-Fi/horror flick about mutant killer rabbits, but it is Ajo’s singular claim to movie fame, so it is remembered and celebrated.  We found the mural on the north end of town.

By the time we finished scouting murals and visiting the occasional shop it was 4:30 PM and we were all ready to return to camp.  When we got back to our rigs we circled our chairs in the shade of Lou and Val’s 5th wheel, brought out an assortment of snacks, and enjoyed the cool early evening breeze while we talked about our visit to the area.  We shot a few sunset photos and called it a day.  Lou wanted to take one more stab at astro photography before we left so we checked websites and apps to determine where/when the Milky Way would be visible.  The answer was low in the southeast sky from 3 to 5 AM.  Given that my camera was not up to the task I decided to pass and get some rest, as we had decided we would leave late Tuesday morning and head back to Arizona City.

2015/03/20-21 (F-S) OPCNM

[Note:  Photos for this post appear at the end in an image gallery.]

Friday, March 20th, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Day 1)

We finally made it to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM) today.  The Sonoran Desert has a beauty all its own and the drive down was scenic.  Although OPCNM is a remote place that borders Mexico, and most of it is designated wilderness that is difficult-to-impossible to access, the volume of traffic on AZ-85 surprised us.

We have learned that anytime we are surprised by something it simply means there are aspects of a place/situation that we did not understand or anticipate in advance.  AZ-85 runs from I-10 west of Phoenix to Gila Bend, jogs to the west, and continues south through Ajo and Why and then through the center of the Monument to the border crossing at Lukeville.  Mexican Highway 2 runs along the border and is a major east-west route that is busy with truck traffic.  Puerto Penasco, on the Sea of Cortez, is only 62 miles farther south from the border.  Often referred to by “northerners” as Rocky Point Puerto Penasco is a haven for U. S. and Canadian snowbirds from the western states and provinces.  We saw at least a dozen businesses in Ajo selling Mexico Travel Insurance and billboards welcoming “Rocky Pointers” to town.  Now we know.

This was all of more than passing interest to us.  Fellow FMCA/SKP freethinkers Larry and Orene Brown will be serving as the wagonmasters for a SKP Chapter 8 (Mexico Connection) caravan of some 60 rigs to Puerto Penasco in February 2016 and we are actually considering going!  They plan to rendezvous at the OPCNM campground and then head into Mexico.  With that in the back of our minds we drove to the Visitor Center, which is much closer to the south end of the Monument than the north end, and is the access point to the campground.  We picked up a guide for the Ajo Mountains Loop Road and decided to drive that.  Linda and Val also bought general purpose field guides.

The Ajo Mountains Loop Road is a 21 mile gravel road that starts on the east side of AZ-85 across from the Visitor Center.  Most of the road is a one-way loop that does not require a 4-wheel drive vehicle but does require good ground clearance.  We were traveling in Lou and Val’s Chevy pickup truck, which is 4-wheel drive with significant ground clearance, so we did not have any trouble with the road.

The Monument Rangers and the printed guide said the road would take two hours to drive, an average of only 10 miles per hour.  There were places we could go faster than that (but why would we) but also places where we had to go much slower.  The two hour time estimate also did not account for the time needed to take photographs or go on even short hikes at some of the trailheads.  It took us 4.5 hours to drive the road but we stopped often and took a lot of photographs.  Lou continued to work with his small Sony camera and concentrate on photos of flowering plants and cacti.  I tried photographing those subjects as well, but I don’t seem to have a natural talent for taking pictures of flowers.  I did, however, get some nice landscape images, including both panoramas and HDRs.  I entered one of my HDR images in the RVillage spring photo contest, which was unusual for me as I do not enter my photos in contests as a rule.

When we got back to the Visitor Center it was still open so we did some more shopping.  Linda bought a T-shirt and some jellied (soft) Prickly Pear Cactus candy that turned out to be excellent.  The only other drive through the Monument is a 41 mile one-way loop on the west side of AZ-85.  It was too late in the day to start that drive and we had been bounced around enough for one day anyway.

We drove down to Lukeville to check it out.  We were told there was a restaurant there where we might want to eat dinner, but changed our minds after getting there.  Lukeville is a Port of Entry with a filling station, a restaurant behind it, and an RV park (of sorts) across the street.  We drove back to Hickiwan Trails RV Park, stopping along the way to take more photos in the warm early evening sunlight.

Long after dinner I tried taking some night sky photos but may Sony alpha-100, which is 8 years old, was not up to the task.  Lou, however, went out around 3 AM and got some excellent photos of the Milky Way in the southeast sky.

Saturday, March 21st, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Day 2)

We had originally planned to only stay at Hickiwan Trails RV Park for Wednesday and Thursday nights.  With tire repair taking up Thursday we extended our stay by one night on Friday morning.  We were not able to see as much of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM) yesterday as we wanted, so we extended our stay at the RV Park for another night.  The lady in the office said she would retroactively switch us from the $19 daily rate to the $85 weekly rate if we decided to stay longer.  The longer we have been at Hickiwan the more we like it.

Linda and Val packed picnic lunches, we loaded up the truck, and headed back to OPCNM.  We stopped at the Visitor Center again to get information about the 41 mile west loop road.  This road is more isolated and less traveled than the Ajo Mountains Loop Road we drove yesterday and a 4-wheel drive, high ground clearance vehicle is required.  The Ranger indicated on the map an area where we would probably find wild poppies in bloom and we knew there was a picnic area with a modern pit toilet about half way through the drive.

The ranger told us to allow at least four hours for this drive.  There were fewer places/reasons to stop but it still took us almost seven hours to get back to the Visitor Center.  And yes, we found and photographed the poppies.  As we were driving along the border with Mexico near the end of the loop we were looking for Senita cacti.  The Senita cactus is similar to the Organ Pipe cactus, but is a different plant.  We saw some at the Sonoran Desert Museum west of Tucson, but the southern part of OPCNM is the only place in the U. S. where they occur naturally.

OPCNM is a biosphere preserve and has a sister preserve on the Mexican side of the border.  The Senita Cactus is indigenous to the Mexican Sonoran Desert but a few plants are found just north of the border.  We had not seen one all day when we noted a spur road on the map that ran up to the Senita Basin.  Surely that must be where they are growing.  We still had plenty of daylight so we headed up.  We had gone about a mile when Val spotted one so we stopped to examine it and take pictures.  Having accomplished our objective, and having grown a bit weary of the long, bouncy ride, we returned to the main road and completed the loop, taking AZ-85 back to the Visitor Center.

As long as we were at the Visitor Center we took the opportunity to drive through the campground and check it out.  The campground is beautifully designed and landscaped.  They claim to have sites for RVs up to 40 feet in length but our assessment was that they had maybe two or three sites that we might be able to get in and out of without scratching our paint or damaging some aspect of the campground.  Unless/until we outfit our rig with a serious solar system we will not be staying here anyway because of the restricted generator hours.

We made the drive back to Hickiwan, passing through the northbound Border Patrol checkpoint at the northern boundary of the Monument.  After dinner I transferred my photos to my computer and started processing them.  Between yesterday’s visit and today’s visit I took a LOT of photographs so I had quite a bit of work in front of me.

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2015/03/18-19 (W-R) Why, AZ

2015/03/18 (W) Hickiwan Trails

Why, indeed?  Or perhaps Why Not.  You can go there too.

Looking east from Hickiwan Trails RV Park at sunset.

Looking east from Hickiwan Trails RV Park at sunset.

Bonnie left yesterday headed for New York (eventually) and Curtis was planning to leave today for next week’s FMCA national rally in Pomona, California.  We were invited to remain at RVillage WHQ while Curtis was away, but we had our sights set on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM).

An Ajo Lilly at Hickiwan Trails RV Park.

An Ajo Lilly at Hickiwan Trails RV Park.

Our original plan was to stay in the ‘modern’ campground at the Monument.  It is strictly boondocking (no hookups) which would have been fine except that the section where generators are allowed is limited to only four hours a day with two windows from 8-10 AM and 4-6 PM.  We could have managed on the four hour limitation for a few days, but the unequal spacing of the two windows would have drawn our batteries down more than we wanted during the 14 hours from 6 PM to 8 AM.

Linda searched for websites and found Hickiwan Trails RV Park in Why, Arizona.  It was 10 miles south of Ajo, the nearest/only town of any size, and would locate us about 20 miles north of the north entrance to OPCNM.  Linda called to make reservations, which were not necessary as it was past prime season and the park was mostly empty, and confirmed the availability of full hookups and 50 Amp power.  The price was $19/day or $85/week with bathrooms/showers and a laundry.  It was located just inside the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation behind their combination casino, filling station, and convenience store.

Wild burros on the trail leading east out of Hickiwan Trails RV Park.

Wild burros on the trail leading east out of Hickiwan Trails RV Park.

We left Arizona City around 1 PM and traveled back west on I-8 to Gila Bend where we headed south on AZ-85 through the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, a beautiful drive through yet another part of the Sonoran Desert.  We wound our way slowly through Ajo (25 MPH speed limit) past an enormous open pit copper mine (shut down) and continued on to Why, AZ where we took AZ-86 (the left branch of the “Y”) for two miles.  We pulled in to the RV Park around 3:30 PM after missing the (poorly marked) entrance, finding a turn-around spot, and unhooking the car so we could turn around.  Linda got us registered while I parked the bus.  We drove through the campground and selected a 50 Amp back-in site facing east.  Lou and Val took the site just south of us.

A group of wild burros watching us watching them.

A group of wild burros watching us watching them.

Hickiwan Trails turned out to be a hidden gem.  The park was clean, the roads and sites generous in their size, the bathhouse and laundry clean and fully functional, and the view in all directions amazing.  We had barely finished making camp when we heard the braying of burros.  The park manager, Dave, and several of the campers confirmed that there were wild burros in the area east of the campground and all we had to do to see them was hike out a wide, clear trail about 3/4 mile to the wash where they like to hang out.  Or wait for them to come through the campground at night.  Linda hiked out and found them and took a few photos with her cell phone.

The wild burros were obviously used to the presence of people.

The wild burros were obviously used to the presence of people.

Somewhere before pulling into the RV Park the driver side rear tire on Lou and Val’s 5th wheel trailer went flat.  We got out our Dewalt air compressor and aired it up and the leak was immediately obvious, a 1/2 inch gash at the edge of the tread.  It was likely not repairable but the condition of the tire tread, which was badly worn in one spot, ruled that out anyway.  They had a spare that had never been used but was 10 years old.  Not ideal, but it’s what they had.  We discussed several options and Lou decided to sleep on it.

A nice family grouping of wild burros.

A nice family grouping of wild burros.

We took some sunset photos and let ourselves be awed by the dark night sky and plethora of stars before turning in for the night and using the park Wi-Fi which had initially been a bit fussy and not very fast.  I discovered, however, that the connection stability and performance increased the later it got.  By midnight I may have been the only user and was seeing a rock solid connection and almost 12 Mbps, which is outstanding for RV Park Wi-Fi.

It was a real treat to get such a good look at this wild animals.

It was a real treat to get such a good look at this wild animals.

2015/03/19 (R) First Things First

We came to this place to see and photograph nature; western landscapes, flora, fauna, and night skies.  But our homes on wheels always take precedence over everything else except our personal health.  Until the flat tire on Lou and Val’s 5th wheel trailer was fixed we were not going to be doing anything else.  After thinking about it overnight, Lou decided to call Coach-Net.  Yes, they could send someone out to take care of it.  The guy arrived an hour or so later and in less than an hour had the bad tire/wheel off and the spare tire/wheel on and inflated.

I know they are wild animals, but this is just too cute.

I know they are wild animals, but this is just too cute.

You just can not have too many pictures of wild burros.

You just can not have too many pictures of wild burros.

While the tire was being taken care of Linda and I hiked out the trail in search of the wild burros.  We found them about a mile out, a group of 12 and another group of 5.  As best we could count we saw and photographed between 17 and 20 wild burros in a beautiful, natural setting.  On the way back we left the trail as we neared the edge of the campground and headed through a sparsely vegetated area, watching the ground carefully for snakes.  We were strolling along when I heard a rattle and looked to my right to see a rather large snake coiled up and staring at me.  It was only about 7 feet away and Linda had passed by it on the other side by about the same distance.  It decided I was not a threat, uncoiled and slithered off under a large, nearby bush.  That was when I could positively identify it was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that I judged to be at least five feet long, which is close to the maximum size they attain.  It was so well camouflaged when coiled up that either of us could have easily stepped on it even though we were looking carefully where we were going.

They never took their eyes off of us.

They never took their eyes off of us.

Look carefully.  That is, indeed, a very large Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Look carefully. That is, indeed, a very large Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

By the time the tire issue was resolved it was too late to head down to OPCNM so we decided to scout out a good place to photograph the sunset.  It turned out that there was a BLM 14-day STVA just south of Why on the west side of AZ-85.  It was a maze of makeshift dirt roads and washes but we kept working our way west trying to get beyond where most of the campers were located.  We were surprised at how far back some of them had gone and the size/type of rigs they had brought back there, including large tag axle motorhomes and a full-size tractor towing a huge 5th wheel trailer.  We could not have gotten our bus in here without scratching the paint and risking getting stuck.

Panorama of a desert thunderstorm at sunset near Why, AZ.

Panorama of a desert thunderstorm at sunset near Why, AZ.

We finally found a suitable spot and set up our cameras on tripods.  Rain had passed through the area and there was a thunderstorm in progress over the mountains to the northwest.  Lou concentrated on shooting HDR images with his small Sony camera which has excellent low light sensitivity and records colors very nicely.  I concentrated on shooting panoramas and got several nice ones with rain falling from the storm clouds.  We hung in as long as the color was good and then packed up our gear and found our way out while there was still just enough light to see.

Sunset as viewed from the BLM STVA just south of Why, AZ.

Sunset as viewed from the BLM STVA just south of Why, AZ.

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20150317 (T) Florence to Kelvin

With the starter problem on Lou and Val’s pickup truck resolved we decided to give the Florence to Kelvin Road a second try.  Bonnie was pulling out today so we said our goodbyes before we left for the day.  We took a different route than yesterday, heading west on I-10, which runs more north-south at this point, and then heading due east to Florence on AZ-387.  It still took 45 minutes, but the scenery was more interesting than the route we took yesterday through Eloy.

As we approached Coolidge we saw the signs for the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and decided to stop.  It was getting to be lunch time so we spread our items out on a picnic table under one of the Ramadas and enjoyed our meal in the shade.  A park employee wandered by checking the area for rattlesnakes and we ended up having a nice chat with him about the Monument and the local area.

After lunch we gained admission to the grounds using Val’s Senior Access Pass.  We spent a few minutes in the Visitors Center and then went outside to see the ruins.  It was a small but interesting site that is still being actively examined and preserved.  We learned that it was the second driest national monument in the country; only Death Valley NM was drier.

We finished the trip to Florence and started looking for the road to Kelvin.  Even though we had a GPS and knew approximately where we were headed it took us two tries to find the road.  We were glad we did.  The Florence-Kelvin Road is gravel for most of its length and runs through some amazing country that is, indeed, very scenic.  It was a good road in most places but had some washboarding, pot holes, and small boulders.  Along the way we did our best to photograph what we saw.  We also rescued a Desert Tortoise by removing it from the road in a construction area and putting it in the brush just off the road.  Hopefully it continued on into the desert instead of back into the road.

Kelvin is a dot on the map with a huge strip mining operation.  We eventually wound our way out of the high country, past the mine, and back to Florence.  From there we headed west towards Casa Grande and a Chinese restaurant that Linda had found through a Google Search.  Before we got to the Chinese restaurant we saw a Golden Corral restaurant and decided to go there instead.  We ate at one in Yuma back in December so we knew they had things we could eat.  It was dark by the time we got back to our rigs but Curtis was still up and we visited until we were all tired and turned in for the night.

Following is an image gallery of some of the photographs I took today along the Florence to Kelvin Road.

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2015/03/14-16 (S-M) Escapade to RVillage

2015/03/14 (S) Wrapping Up; Signing Up

I spent most of the day and evening processing photos, although I took time to dump the holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank.  Linda and Val did Laundry and then went grocery shopping after which Linda started preparing the inside of our coach for travel.  It was a long, busy, productive day but it was mostly chores and work, so not much to write about.  We did, however, sign up to be staff at the July 2016 Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont.  I signed up to be the assistant staff photographer again while Linda signed up for any job that was in a quiet environment so she can hear.  We really do enjoy the Escapade rallies.

Sunset as viewed from our campsite at the Pima County Fairgrounds near Tucson, AZ.

Sunset as viewed from our campsite at the Pima County Fairgrounds near Tucson, AZ.

2015/03/15 (N) Back to RVillage WHQ

Today was our scheduled departure date but we did not need to vacate the Pima County Fairgrounds until noon.  We would be caravanning a relatively short distance with Lou and Val and targeted 11 AM for our departure.

The more time we spend in our bus the less anxious we are the night before we are going to move to a new location, but there is still a certain anticipation about it.  Moving the bus is not like getting in a car to go to work.  It’s a big, complicated, machine and there are many details to attend to before we can move it.  It also rarely travels the same route twice so we spend time researching and planning travel routes.  Fortunately, we enjoy these aspects of the RV lifestyle and had most everything in order by the time we went to bed last night.  We both slept well enough having worked and played fairly hard all week.

We had a leisurely morning and took care of the final preparations for travel.  As it was getting to be 10 AM we had to ask someone to move a car so we could pull out.  Paul Evert’s RV dealership had moved some of the rigs they had sold during the rally to the full hookup area where we were camped all week and had folks pull there trade-in units there so they could transfer their belongings.  As a result the area was getting crowded and obstructed with cars parked wherever it was convenient (for the owner).  The RV Driving School was also busy in one of the parking lots near us teaching people how to turn, back up, and park, including teaching the “spotter” (co-pilot/navigator) how to give hand signals to the driver.  (This is actually the more difficult job requiring judgement, proper positioning, and clear/timely signals.)  As long as the driver can see the spotter all they have to do is follow directions.  Many of the Escapade staff were still at the fairgrounds and attendees who signed up for HOPs (Head Out Programs) were still camped there as well.  The HOPs are organized outings that sometimes involve a tour bus for transportation, a tour leader/guide, admission to one or more venues, and possibly food.

We pulled out roughly on time with Lou and Val right behind us.  We headed out of the fairgrounds and then north on Houghton Road to I-10 where we headed west.  They needed fuel so we took an exit on the west side of Tucson where there was supposed to be a truck stop, but it wasn’t there.  Lou pulled into a station where we could not get in/out so we found a spot a little farther down the road where we could turn around and waited for them to pull out of the station.

We followed them back on to the highway and then retook the lead.  We exited at Eloy where there were both Pilot and Flying J truck stops.  We topped up our diesel tank while Lou filled their propane tank.  We got back on I-10 for another eight miles and then exited at Sunland Gin Road and headed south into Arizona City.  A few miles, and a bunch more minutes, later we pulled into the rental property that currently serves as Curtis Coleman’s residence and headquarters for the RVillage social network.  Good things are happening for RVillage and it was good to be back here to spend a little more time with Curtis and his adorable dog Augie, a Bevar (sp? may be Biewer) Yorkshire Terrier.

A panoramic view looking west from the deck of RVillage World Headquarters.  It was very peaceful here.

A panoramic view looking west from the deck of RVillage World Headquarters. It was very peaceful here.

We got settled in and then visited a bit.  We eventually went to Duffer’s Restaurant at the golf course and then went back to the house for movie night.  The film for this evening was “The Social Network” about the founding of Facebook; a most appropriate choice given where we are boondocked.

2015/03/16 (M) Florence, AZ

Someone at the Escapade told Lou about a road that runs between Florence and Kelvin Arizona.  They said it was mostly good gravel and very scenic and Lou was determined that we find it, drive it, and photograph it.  Linda and Val packed a picnic lunch while Lou and I prepared our photography gear.  I grabbed the Garmin GPS out of our car (just in case) and we took off, leaving Curtis some peace and quiet to attend to RVillage.

I managed to navigate us to Florence where we decided it would be prudent for Lou to top off the fuel tank in his truck.  We pulled into a Circle K (Kangaroo?) and took care of that.  When Lou tried to start the truck the starter would not engage.  It would turn but made a really bad grinding sound.  Sometimes the throw-out gear binds and we tried tapping on the starter with a long stick and hammer but it did not help.  The starter had just been replaced a month ago in Mesa, Arizona and had a 60 day towing policy in addition to the parts and labor warranty.

Val, Lou, and Linda having lunch by the fuel pump island at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Val, Lou, and Linda having lunch by the fuel pump island at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Lou called the repair shop and they dispatched a tow truck.  I then called Curtis to see if he could fetch Val, Linda, and me from the Circle K and he graciously agreed to come get us.  We let the station attendants know what was going on and they were cool with the whole thing even though we were blocking one of the pumps.  It took a while for the tow truck to arrive so we ate our lunch standing in the shade at the end of the fuel island.  We must have made an interesting sight to passersby.  The tow truck eventually arrived, pulled the pickup truck up onto the flatbed, and drove off with Lou riding shotgun.  A little while later Curtis arrived.  We loaded our picnic supplies and camera gear into the back of his SUV and he drove us back to his place.

Lou photographs their pickup truck being loaded onto the flatbed hauler at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Lou photographs their pickup truck being loaded onto the flatbed hauler at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

I expected to get a call from Lou letting me know that I needed to drive to Mesa to pick him up.  What we got instead was a call that the truck was repaired and he was on his way back.  The problem was that the starter mounting bolts had not been torqued tight enough and had backed out about 1/4 inch.  As a result the throw-out gear was pushing the starter back rather than engaging with the gear teeth on the flywheel.  As we thought about it we were realized we were very lucky this did not happen on the road from Florence to Kelvin.

Bonnie was also staying at the RVillage compound and joined us for dinner last night.  This evening we did a pot luck thing and dined at the outside table by the lake.

 

2015/03/13 (F) Sonoran Desert Museum

We were up at 6 AM and left the fairgrounds a little before 7 AM to drive to The Sonoran Desert Museum west of Tucson, Arizona.  That meant we missed the hitch-up breakfast, which is the last official activity of the Escapade.  We also missed the SmartWeigh operation, an activity run by the Escapees to determine individual wheel weights for RVs, toads, and toters.  We were not going to have our coach/toad weighed, but it would have been nice to get some photographs of the operation.

We drove separately from Lou and Val Petkus and were running a little ahead of schedule so we stopped at a McDonald’s about seven miles from the museum for coffee.  We met up with Lou and Val and another couple from the SKP Photographers BOF in the parking lot.  We needed 12 people to get the discounted group admission price so we all paid full price and went in.

The museum is spread over 21 acres at a mean elevation of ~2,800 feet.  Most of the museum is outdoors and is a magnificent collection of Sonoran Desert flora and fauna that was worth the price of admission.  We did not mind paying the asking price for this museum, however, as it is undoubtedly an expensive operation to run.

One of the highlights of our museum visit was the raptor demonstrations at 10 AM and 2 PM.  We went to both and took a lot of photos.  We were surprised how many people were there to see both demonstrations, especially children, as it was Friday (work/school day).  Perhaps the area schools were on spring break.  We had lunch in the cafe and it was very good.  Reviews for the restaurant were excellent but it had white linen tablecloths, so we took a pass on that.

We left around 4:30 PM and drove up to Gates Pass where we parked and took photos of the mountains and sunset.  The light was fading as we pulled out but we made it down the mountain road before darkness fell.  It was way past dark by the time we got back to the coach; a long but very productive and satisfying day.

Sunset from Gates Pass west of Tucson, AZ.

Sunset from Gates Pass west of Tucson, AZ.

Following is a gallery of some selected photos from our visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum.  Some of the photos were taken by Linda.  Photos were taken with Sony alpha 100 DSLR and Canon 50D DSLR.  The photos are presented without captions.

 

 

2015/03/06-12 Escapade Images

Here is a gallery of additional images from the 2015 Escapees RV Club Escapade.  Most of them are of our friends, old and new.

2015/03/06-12 (F-R) Escapade 2015

2015/03/06 (F) SKP Escapade Arrival

Linda sitting with Val Petkus at the opening staff meeting.

Linda sitting with Val Petkus at the opening staff meeting.

We unhooked our car last night so we could go grocery shopping and left it disconnected as the Escapade prefers that folks arrive with their toads unhooked if possible.  We only had a 28 mile drive to the Pima County Fairgrounds so driving two vehicles was not an inconvenience.  There is, in fact, an advantage to having the car follow the bus as it can create space for lane changes in dense traffic.

Lou and Val drove over from their RV Park on the other side of I-10, turned their rig around, and positioned it so we could follow them onto the highway.  We pulled out at 9:15 AM.

Kay Peterson, SKP#1, is recognized at the opening staff meeting.

Kay Peterson, SKP#1, is recognized at the opening staff meeting.

We had arranged to rendezvous in Tucson so we could park together, which requires us to arrive together, or so we thought.  It turned out that staff parking was pre-assigned and since Lou was the head photographer and I was the assistant photographer we were assigned parking in different areas.  Our location was not that far from Lou and Val’s and actually afforded us more privacy, a better view, and 50 A electrical service, so we had nothing to complain about.  We were a bit less convenient to the activity buildings, but the Pima County Fairgrounds was compact and very walkable.  Besides, we were parked next to Travis and Melanie Carr, who were next to Cathie and Bud Carr.  Cathie is the president of the Escapees RV Club and Travis is Bud and Cathie’s son.

 

Linda puts a pin on the map to mark our home town.

Linda puts a pin on the map to mark our home town.

And walk we did.  Even though the Escapade did not start until Sunday afternoon, and regular participant arrival was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the fairgrounds was already abuzz with activity.  Besides the staff arrivals, which were spread out over several days, the vendors were arriving and setting up, seminar rooms and hospitality areas were being prepared, and there were two pre-rallies taking place.  One was the Escapees RV Boot Camp and the other was the Geeks On Tour Camp Re-Boot.  And the job of the staff photographers was to capture all of this activity.

Things quieted down by dinnertime.  A bit later Brendan (our son) called to update us on his interview at Eastern Michigan University where he is a finalist for an art history professorship.  He is also a candidate for a curatorial position at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Art Museum so we are excited at the possibility of him securing one of these jobs.

2015/03/07 (S) Escapade Setup

I was up and dressed before 7 AM and slipped out of the coach while Linda was still asleep.  Today was the final day for the RVers Boot Camp.  Their day started with breakfast from 7 – 8 AM and I wanted to take a few photos of their meal.  As long as I was up I wandered around the fairgrounds taking pictures of the facilities and RVs and occasionally a person or group of people.  The parking crew was in position and started parking rigs at 8 AM.  The parking process went on until 2 PM but most of the arrivals were solo rigs that dribbled in.  I was told that 300 rigs were scheduled to arrive tomorrow and they expected it to be a bit crazy, so I will look for photo ops of groups of arriving rigs tomorrow.

I went to Old Pueblo Hall to get some free coffee and wandered around to see if any more vendors, chapters, or BoFs were setting up but there was not a lot of activity.  I talked to Wanda Lewis about our missing event shirts.  Lots of folks were apparently aware of the situation and several of them had looked through the “specials” packaging but ours were nowhere to be found.

SKP Chapter 6 displays their banner on "the row."  We have been members of this chapter since the 2010 Escapade but have yet to make it to a rally.

SKP Chapter 6 displays their banner on “the row.” We have been members of this chapter since the 2010 Escapade but have yet to make it to a rally.

I went back to our rig and had breakfast.  I then resumed my photo rounds, still looking for shots of RVs arriving and being parked.  I ended up back at Old Pueblo Hall by which time the participant registration desk was open and there were very long lines.  The Escapees Mail desk was also open along with the Store and other specialized SKP functions.  Teresa Moore, the COO of the Escapees RV Club, was in the Store so I talked to her about our missing shirts event shirts.  They had shirts for sale and I suggested that she give me our pair before they were gone.  She agreed, albeit a bit reluctantly.  We won’t wear them while they continue to look for the rest of our order, but my guess is that this was not really a priority for anyone and I doubted that they would find them because I don’t think the shirts ever got ordered even though we were billed for them.  They would have refunded the cost of the two shirts but we really wanted the shirts, that’s why we ordered them in the first place.

Bill McGrath and Stephen Pinn from the SKP Photographers BoF contacted Lou Petkus, the head photographer, and Lou arranged for all of us to meet briefly with Lora Newby, the Escapade coordinator under whom Photography falls.  I ended up having a long chat with Steve afterwards about mobile communications.  He also let me use his 18% neutral gray screen and color checker squares to shoot a series of exposure compensation test shots.  When looking through some of the images I had shot over the last 24 hours I noticed that a lot of them had the highlights blown out, especially when using the on-camera flash.

We stayed at the RoVers Roost SKP CO-OP on our way to Quartzsite for the winter.

We stayed at the RoVers Roost SKP CO-OP on our way to Quartzsite for the winter.

I copied photos to my computer and worked with the color checker and gray scale images.  Many of my photos from the last 24 hours seemed to be overexposed and I was using the color checker and gray scale images to determine if I needed to make an exposure compensation under bright sunlight, shadow, or indoor flash settings.  I was using Lou’s older Canon 50D, so I had no prior experience with how the exposures might need to be tweaked.  I did not arrive at a definitive conclusion other than deciding that I should figure out how to enable automatic exposure bracketing, which Lou eventually showed me how to do.

2015/03/08 (N) The 55th Escapade Begins

Our motorcoach, parked in an out-of-the-way place with Cathie & Bud Carrs motorhome, Travis & Melanie Carr's Airstream, and the Rivolli Review's motorhome.

Our motorcoach, parked in an out-of-the-way place with Cathie & Bud Carrs motorhome, Travis & Melanie Carr’s Airstream, and the Rivolli Review’s motorhome.

Although the Escapees RV Club Escapade officially began at 3:00 PM (MST) today the event is really multi-faceted and aspects of it have been taking place since Thursday with the Escapees Boot Camp followed by the Geeks On Tour Camp Re-Boot.  Some of the staff have been here for weeks, but most of us arrived on Wed, Thu, or Fri.  The staff appreciation dinner was Friday and the Vendor appreciation dinner was Saturday.  Early arrival for attendees started Friday and continued Saturday with regular arrivals starting at 8 AM this morning.  The registration desk opened at 10 AM on Saturday and the vendor area opened at 9 AM this morning.  The “first timers” meeting was held at 2 PM.  The opening ceremonies commenced at 3:00 PM and lasted a little over an hour.  We had time for dinner and then headed back to Thurber Hall for the evening slide show, door prizes, and entertainment.  The Rivolli Review, a husband and wife team, was the evening entertainment.  Their motorhome is parked right next to our bus but we have not seen much of them, or had any conversation with them so far, as all of us are usually busy away from our rigs.

L-2-R:  Chris Guld (Geeks On Tour), Cathie Carr (SKP President), and Linda chatting at the informal Xscapers launch party.

L-2-R: Chris Guld (Geeks On Tour), Cathie Carr (SKP President), and Linda chatting at the informal Xscapers launch party.

2015/03/09 (M) Seminars & Socials

Today was the first full day of the Escapade.  That meant a full schedule of seminars during the day and a full slate of social gatherings in the late afternoon.  The vendors were open for business and “the row” was open to greet attendees and explain the joys and benefits of SKP CO-OP Parks, Chapters, and BOFs (Birds Of a Feather, a SKP special interest group).

Linda with Howie & Nora Glover, fellow SKPs and RVillage Vegan RVers.

Linda with Howie & Nora Glover, fellow SKPs and RVillage Vegan RVers.

I spent most of the day capturing images of the event.  We then attended the Xscapers launch party at Technomadia’s bus where I got some additional photos.  We wandered over to Thurber Hall around 6:30 PM to catch the pre-entertainment slide show, much of which was built using photos I shot the prior few days.  The door prize drawings started at 7 PM.  We did not win anything.  Once the drawings were done The Mentalist was introduced and kicked off his performance.  We stayed long enough for me to take a few photos and then went back to our rig.  I off-loaded photos onto my computer and backed them up on our NAS, post-processed the ones I considered usable, and loaded them onto a thumb drive to give to Lou.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a long, full day.

2015/03/10 (T) More Escapade

L-2-R:  Val Petkus, Lora Newby, and Linda.  Have you noticed that Linda always seems to be having a good time at the Escapade?

L-2-R: Val Petkus, Lora Newby, and Linda. Have you noticed that Linda always seems to be having a good time at the Escapade?

Today started with “Donuts for CARE.”  CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) is the Escapees RV Club subsidiary that provides assisted care for club members at Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas.  One morning during each Escapade donuts are made available for a donation rather than a fixed price.  Up until today the largest amount donated for a donut was $500 but this morning someone (a vendor) presented the Executive Director of CARE with a check for $2,000!

The rest of the day followed the same pattern as yesterday with the five seminar rooms busy every session, the Ladies Luncheon, line dancing, music jamming, vendors selling, socials, and entertainment.  We attended the SKP Freethinker BOF social at the rig of fellow photographer Bill McGrath and his wife Anna.  It was a smaller gathering than the previous day and we missed the Boomers social, which apparently had 150 people in attendance.  As with so much in life, it was just a matter of timing.

L-w-R:  Melanie Carr, Marianne Edwards and Randy Sturrock ( of Boondockers Welcome), and Linda.

L-w-R: Melanie Carr, Marianne Edwards and Randy Sturrock ( of Boondockers Welcome), and Linda.

There was no entertainment this evening so I took pictures of the cards and games activity and the music jam.  Big RV rallies, including Escapades, are exciting but intense experiences.  An evening without major activities gives attendees an opportunity to go out to dinner or just relax with a few friends.

2015/03/11 (W) Free Day

Today was “free” day at the Escapade.  Not for me, of course, I had to work harder than ever.  No, today was “free public admission” day, and the public came in droves.  By one count 700 people took advantage of the opportunity to check out what was going on at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

For the photographers it meant more crowded venues but also the opportunity to get more photos of crowds of people.  Otherwise it was business as usual except for the “row party.”  From 10 AM to 1 PM all of the Chapters, BOFs, and CO-OPs put extra effort into staffing their tables and talking to attendees about their group.

The attendees at the Xscapers Social (except me, of course).

The attendees at the Xscapers Social (except me, of course).

4:30 PM brought another round of socials, including one for the new Xscapers club-within-the-club.  It was well attended and I got lots of nice photos including one of the entire group of about 100 attendees.

The evening entertainment was the Ham-O-Rama, the amateur talent show that has been a feature of Escapade for many years.  With 851 rigs and 1,400 people staying at the fairgrounds, plus additional attendees staying at other venues, there is always plenty of talent to form a show.  Lou covered the event photographically and I went back to our rig to process my photos from the day.

Chris Guld (Geeks On Tour) and Linda with big smiles for the camera.  Escapades tend to make people happy :-)

Chris Guld (Geeks On Tour) and Linda with big smiles for the camera. Escapades tend to make people happy 🙂

2015/03/12 (R) RVillage Birthday

Today was the last day of the Escapade, sort of.  Closing ceremonies were at 3 PM but there was still a lot going on before and after that, some of which had to be photographed.  I spent much of the morning, however, processing photos.

The big daytime event was the Chili Cook-off.  There were at least 18 entries including a vegan chili (yum) and a chocolate chili (which everyone claimed was incredibly good).  Some were hot/spicy and some were not; something for every taste.  Attendees got a small sample of any chili they wanted to try (until it ran out) and voted for their favorite(s) by putting money in a jar at each table.  The jar with the most money was declared the winner, and all of the money raised went to the CARE program (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees).

Some of the attendees from the Xscapers Social gather for a sunset photo.

Some of the attendees from the Xscapers Social gather for a sunset photo.

The closing ceremonies are always fun and touching.  Attendees, volunteers, and staff (especially staff) are tired, but it’s a good kind of tired.  It’s been an exciting, intense week and folks are ready to move on and slow down, but always with a bit of reluctance at parting company with old and new friends.  Those who have worked to make the event happen get recognized, which is always appreciated.

After the closing ceremonies there were more socials.  RVillage launched one year ago today and founder Curtis Coleman scheduled an RVillage get-together / Escapade social for 4:30 PM.  We went to that one.  It was well attended and he announced that the beta status had been removed from the website at midnight, a significant accomplishment for only one year of being online.

Some of the Xscapers looking to new horizons and the future of a new generation of full-time and extended-time RVers.

Some of the Xscapers looking to new horizons and the future of a new generation of full-time and extended-time RVers.

There was bingo and a farewell party at 7 PM (two separate events) and I photographed both activities.  I spent the rest of the evening post-processing photos but turned in earlier than normal as Lou had planned a SKP Photographers BOF photo outing for tomorrow.

A panorama of the sunset.  This is what we saw out the windshields of our bus.

A panorama of the sunset. This is what we saw out the windshields of our bus.

 

2015/03/04-05 (W-R) RVillage Stopover

2015/03/04 (W) RVillage World Headquarters

World Headquarters of the RVillage Social Network and residence of founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.

World Headquarters of the RVillage Social Network and residence of founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.

We pulled into the driveway yesterday of the house that currently serves as the World Headquarters of RVillage and home of the founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.  Forrest and Mary Clark were already here and Randy Sturrock and Marianne Edwards, who run Boondockers Welcome, arrived about 20 minutes after we did.

Augie doggie strolling on the sidewalk by the lake.

Augie doggie strolling on the sidewalk by the lake.

We were not in a rush to get up this morning, made coffee once we did, and enjoyed the lovely grounds and the view of the lake.  Curtis had work to do, some of which involved Randy and Marianne, so we visited with Forrest and Mary and just relaxed and read or worked on our iPads and computers.

RVillage founder/CEO Curtis Coleman at work on his patio office.

RVillage founder/CEO Curtis Coleman at work on his patio office.

By lunchtime Forrest and Mary had left, followed by Randy and Marianne.  Not long after that Dave and Vicki McKenna arrived.  They handle membership for the Escapees RV Club SKP Boomers BOF, so it was nice to finally meet them.  We all had a nice chat with Curtis and then left him to work.

Forrest and Mary Clark visiting with Augie by their Foretravel motorhome.

Forrest and Mary Clark visiting with Augie by their Foretravel motorhome.

The five of us went to dinner at Duffers, the bar/grill/restaurant at the local golf course.  Linda and I had nice garden salads with fresh ingredients and a basket of sweet potato fries.  We sat and talked until we were the only folks left in the restaurant.  We took the conversation back to the house and continued it there much later into the evening than is normal for us.

2015/03/05 (R) Prince of Tucson

Linda holds Augie for a beauty shot.

Linda holds Augie for a beauty shot.

We spent the morning visiting with Curtis Coleman (RVillage) and Dave McKenna (SKP Boomers BOF) and then started getting ready to leave.  We turned the bus around, hitched up the car, and finally pulled out around 1 PM.  We had a relatively short drive of just over 50 miles to get to the RV Park in Tucson where we had a reservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marianne Edwards and Randy Sturrock with Linda (holding Augie).

Marianne Edwards and Randy Sturrock with Linda (holding Augie).

RVillage is run by Curtis, and Curtis runs on coffee.  :-)

RVillage is run by Curtis, and Curtis runs on coffee. 🙂

We had an easy run with good access to the RV Park.  Tucson is not a kingdom, and it does not have royalty, but it does have a street named “Prince” and it has an RV Park at the end of that street by I-10 named Prince of Tucson RV Resort.  The park was clean and attractive enough and there were some aspects of the park that were better than usual, especially the road leading in and the check-in lanes.  It was right up against a retaining wall for the entrance ramp to eastbound I-10 which we thought might be a noise problem, but it wasn’t.  The pull-through spots, which are intended for overnight guests, were very narrow, but they had full hookup 50 Amp service and were easy to pull out of when leaving, so they served their purpose.

Lou and Val Petkus were going to stay at Prince of Tucson but changed their plans and stayed at a Passport America park just on the other side of I-10 from us.  We called to let them know we were in and see if they wanted to go to dinner.  They were both tired and settled in so they took a pass on dinner.  We needed groceries so we unhooked the car and drove to a Whole Foods Market about 8 miles away and stocked up on some items that are difficult to find elsewhere.

Forrest Clark and Marianne Edwards talking on the lawn at RVillage WHQ.

Forrest Clark and Marianne Edwards talking on the lawn at RVillage WHQ.

Back at the rig we got the groceries put away.  We then scanned for TV stations and found some!!!  We could not receive OTA TV in Quartzsite and were not able to pick up any stations in Arizona City, either.

Linda, Curtis, and Dave McKenna discussing details of RVillage.

Linda, Curtis, and Dave McKenna discussing details of RVillage.

2015/03/01-03 (N-T) Wrapping Up In Q

2015/03/01 (N) Clean Flying

I had coffee and toast for breakfast.  That finished the sourdough bread, which lasted two weeks, and the strawberry preserves, which had been around a lot longer than that.

I spent most of the rest of the morning cleaning the inside of the coach, specifically the tile floor, and putting things away so that there was someplace for two people to sit.  The floor and kitchen counter looked better than they have most of the time Linda has been away.

Heavy rain over the mountains and desert east of Quartzsite and south of Plomosa Road.

Heavy rain over the mountains and desert east of Quartzsite and south of Plomosa Road.

I left a little after 11 AM to drive to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.  Linda’s flight was scheduled in at 2:35 PM MST but was delayed on departure with a revised ETA of 2:56 PM.  The weather was overcast with intermittent rain; something we have not seen much of since we arrived here in early-mid December.  It is approximately a two hour trip from Quartzsite to the airport so that left me two hours to take care of two shopping errands.  That seemed like plenty of time but I had not calculated in the time required to deal with Sunday noon traffic at a major shopping location.  I needed cat food and had an address for a PetSmart.  I also needed a GE water filter and had an address for a Home Depot.

As I approached the Dysart Road exit on I-10 I saw a Home Depot.  It was not the one I had programmed in my GPS, but it was right there.  Little did I know that the area around that exit was a massive shopping complex that felt like square miles of retail stores.  The Home Depot did not have the GE housing or filter element I was looking for, even though I bought it at a Home Depot in Logansport, IN.  I no sooner got on the highway when I saw the sign for a PetSmart on the north side of I-10.  I took the next exit and doubled back.  In retrospect I should have taken W McDowell Road and snuck in (and out) the back way but I had no way of knowing that in advance.  They had the Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach and Skin cat food and I bought a 20# bag.  There was a Lowe’s on the same (north) side of I-10 on the west side of Dysart Road so I went there looking for the GE water filter but they also did not have it.

Although I still had plenty of time to get to the airport the delays associated with dense shopping traffic and finding stores led me to abandon my quest for a new water filter.  I didn’t really need it anyway as the filter in question fits in a GE inline housing under the kitchen sink and provides the final filtering for our drinking and cooking water.  It’s a 1 micron cartridge that filters for at least five different classes of things and costs $35 – $40 as I recall.  I think it is supposed to be good for six months of ‘normal’ use.  Our filter has been installed for about four to five months, and has not had that much water run through it, so it should be good for quite a while yet.

I got to the west cell phone lot at 2:38 PM, about the time Linda’s flight was originally scheduled to arrive.  I knew it was delayed because she texted me when she boarded.  I checked the status on my smartphone and it showed the flight arriving at 3:10 PM.  It was a bit latter than that when Linda texted that they had landed.  She called me from the terminal at 3:30 PM and I headed for Terminal 3, Door 5.  I missed the pull-off and then missed the turn-around, ending up six miles east of the airport before I could exit and head back.  I called Linda to let her know but she saw me drive by and knew I was out there somewhere trying to get turned around.  Fortunately the airport was easy to get back to and this time I pulled in to the correct place, looped around, and picked her up.  Another loop-around and we were headed back to I-10 West.

The first serious weather we had was on our last full day in Q.

The first serious weather we had was on our last full day in Q.

Linda picked up a bug yesterday, perhaps just a cold, but she was obviously tired and not feeling well.  She dozed off and on the whole trip back to Q.  The weather had lifted a bit, with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds, but closed in the farther west we traveled and we encountered light but steady rain for the last 60 miles.  The skies were especially dark, and the rain heavier, as we cleared the last mountain range and made the long descent into the La Paz Valley and took exit 19 into the east end of Quartzsite.  I stopped at the Road Runner Market for a bag of salad greens, sandwich bread, and bananas and then headed to our coach.

It was cool in the coach so I made some hot tea.  I fixed a big salad for dinner after which we were not hungry enough to have soup.  Linda went to bed early while I checked e-mail and then worked on my blog post for the third week of January.  I took a lot of photos that week and did not have enough time left to make selections, process them, and upload the post.  I won’t have time to work on it tomorrow but I will try to finish it on Wednesday and upload it.

2015/03/02 (M) Our Last Full Day In Q

Today was our last full day in Quartzsite, Arizona unless something prevents our departure tomorrow morning.  After our usual breakfast of coffee, juice, and granola we filled out our mail forwarding form for the P. O. Box, signed our tax returns, and got them ready to nail.  We left around 9:15 MST for the post office.  There was a line so we decided to come back later and headed for the UPS Customer Service Center in Blythe, California.  The center is only open for will call pick up from 9 to 10 AM PST Monday through Friday.  We pulled into the parking lot at 8:57 PST and were second in line behind a couple from Alberta, Canada.  I retrieved my package and then had a nice chat with the other couple in the parking lot.

We stopped at Albertson’s for cat litter and a few other sundry items and then headed back to Q.  We stopped at the RV Lifestyles store to buy a repair kit or replacement for the fresh water tank blade valve.  They had both 2″ and 1.5″ and I did not know which one I needed so I left empty-handed.  By then it was after 11 AM MST and we avoid the Post Office between 11AM and 1 PM as those are the hours for General Delivery pickup.  I stopped at the Union 76 station just behind the post office and topped off the tank before heading back to our motorcoach.

Another view of the storm.

Another view of the storm.

We spent the next four hours straightening up the interior of the bus.  Linda sorted through all of the brochures and guides we had picked up and designated most of them as trash.  I consolidated bus parts in cardboard boxes and put them in the car.  I cleaned out the storage space under the bed and we pulled out the air pump for our old Select Comfort air mattress.  The pump went in a big bag and we took it over to Butch and Fonda along with some literature on things to do in/around Yuma.  I reorganized the space under the bed which created room for us to store things.

At 3:15 PM we drove back to the Post Office.  There was a line but it was short and was moving along.  We turned in our mail forwarding form, put postage on a letter to the FMCA Freethinkers chapter treasurer, Dan Fregin, and mailed our federal and state tax returns certified mail with electronic tracking.

Back at camp Linda put a load of laundry in the washing machine.  Fonda had taken Butch to pick up a “desert bug.”  He found a 1969 VW bug for sale that had been modified to be an ATV.  Butch drove it to Bouse with Fonda following him and we made the trip a short time later.  We got to see the dune buggy and the park where they will be the working next season as the managers.

On the drive back to Q we drove through some heavy rain and pulled over at one point on Plomosa Road to take pictures.  We stopped again on AZ-95 to photograph brilliant white RVs against the very dark storm clouds and then finished our return trip to Q.  Linda and Fonda had left a few items on the clothesline to dry when the rains came through so she put them in the dryer.  The laundry was done by 6 PM and we headed over to Crazy Jerry’s for our last meal together for a while.

I got a call from Lou Petkus.  He had just found out that they are supposed to be at the fairgrounds on Wednesday rather than Friday.  He wanted us to check our e-ticket which Linda did back at the bus.  We were definitely setup for Friday entry which means we will not be able to enter and park together.

On the drive back we scouted out places to hook up the car and decided the ARCO station on the east end of town looked like out best bet.  I had e-mails from Stacy indicating that she had finished proof-reading two more of my articles.  I retrieved them from our Dropbox and did the final editing on them while Linda streamed the last episode of Downton Abbey for the season on her iPad using our Verizon MiFi.  She went to bed to nurse her cold and I uploaded the final versions of the two articles and also updated/uploaded my article tracking spreadsheet.  I then headed off to bed too.

2015/03/02 (T) Farewell Q

We arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona on December 12, 2014 with Butch and Fonda Williams and got our buses parked at the Liebherr-Brockner lot on the north central end of town.  Our bus remained in that spot for 80 full days and was there for all or part of 82 days.  We were up at 7 AM to have a cup of coffee and some granola early enough to have time to digest it before we hit the road.

After breakfast I dumped the holding tanks, flushed out the drain hose, and stowed it away.  We were down to 1/2 tank of fresh water so I topped it up.  I then disconnected the water softener and all of the hoses and filter housings that go with it and stowed those away.

And another view of the storm.

And another view of the storm.

We were aiming for a 10 AM departure so around 9:30 AM Jim L. read the electric meter and calculated our final bill.  Linda added in the loads of laundry and wrote a check to cover our obligations.  I shut off the power, disconnected the shorepower cord, and stowed it away.  I connected the chassis batteries, turned on the air supply valve for the engine accessories, and turned on the air valves for the auxiliary air system accessories.  I also checked the oil level in the engine and it was at the ‘full’ mark.

Butch and Fonda were also supposed to leave today for Yuma but when they checked on their reservation they were told the rains yesterday had softened the ground and they should wait a day before coming down.  Larry and Sandy had not returned from Yuma yet, but Butch/Fonda, Jim/Barb, and Jim L. were all gathered to wish us farewell and safe travels.  Jim L. was also there to help me get the bus out of the lot with damaging anything.

The engine fired right up, I switched it into high idle, switched the Level Low system to ride height mode, and lifted the tag axle.  Once the air pressure was fully up (~130 PSI) I dropped the engine back to low idle and got out to do a walk around, checking the suspension height and securing the bay doors.  Linda did her own walk around to verify everything was closed and locked.  At that point there was nothing left to do but pull out.  Jim L. suggested I back up while swinging the noise gently to the passenger side to get a better angle going forward.  I was going to back up a short distance anyway to release the brakes in case they had frozen while sitting.  The humidity has generally been quite low here and the brakes were fine.

I cut the steer wheels hard to the right (PS) and pulled forward aiming for the gap between the concrete patio pad on the left and the Palo Verde tree and light pole on the right.  Jim L. spotted me on the DS while Linda kept an eye on the PS and I made it through with plenty of room to spare.  Once clear of those obstacles I pulled up to the left and straightened out.  I then backed between the park model trailer on the PS and the cactus garden on the driver side with Linda watching the rear of the bus and the street and Jim watching the front and sides.  I backed into the street and then pulled forward so I was not blocking any driveways.  I shut the engine off and then guided Linda has she pulled the car up behind the bus.  Hooking up the car usually takes 15 to 20 minutes or a bit longer if we gave not done it for a while.

We were ready to go for real at 10:35 AM, had one last round of “farewell for now, see you down the road” and finally pulled away at 10:40 AM.

Looking east from AZ-95 at part of the Plomosa Road BLM STVA with heavy storm clouds in the distance.

Looking east from AZ-95 at part of the Plomosa Road BLM STVA with heavy storm clouds in the distance.

I had some concern about the turn from southbound Lollipop Lane onto eastbound Kenoyer with the car attached but Jim assured me it would be fine and it was.  We turned south on Central Ave (AZ-95) to Main Street (BL-10) then east to Riggles Road and south over I-10 to the eastbound entrance ramp.  I got on the accelerator and the bus responded nicely coming up to speed as I merged onto the freeway.  Leaving Q to the east or west involves long, steady climbs of 700 feet and I wanted the speed, RPMs, and turbo boost up going into the grade.

All of my gauges indicated that everything on the bus was running well except I wasn’t sure the air dryer was purging.  When the air pressure in the system reaches the maximum set point the governor actuates the unloader valves, stopping any additional compression, and sends a pneumatic signal to the dryer to open the purge valve and release any water it has removed from the compressed air.  The brief puff of air sounds a little bit like a “sneeze” and is often referred to as such.  I always listen for the “sneeze” when the chassis first airs up but did not recall hearing it.  As we were driving, however, the pressure in the auxiliary air system cycled between ~100 and 130 PSI, indicating that the air compressor and governor were doing their main jobs.  Later, as we were getting ready to pull out of a rest stop, I heard the air dryer sneeze so I finally had confirmation that everything appeared to be working correctly.

The other thing that surprised me was that I never saw over 15 PSI on the turbo boost gauge.  The old gauge only went to 15 PSI but the needle would routinely go past that to the limit of its movement.  I had gathered from the POG and PC forums that 22 to 25 PSI was more like what I should see when asking for maximum power.

The drive over I-10 was nice as the recent rain had changed the appearance of the desert.  Just before coming to the western edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area we took AZ-85 south.  As we did we could see rain to the southeast and wondered if we might encounter some of it.  The run down AZ-85 was flat but there were interesting mountains on either side of us.  We eventually reached I-8 and got on going east.  Much of the drive across I-8 was through the Sonoran Desert National Monument but we could not locate a headquarters for it on any of our maps.  We also drove through rain and started to get a glimpse of the desert in spring.

Not long into our trip Linda used my phone to text Curtis and give him our ETA.  He called back and asked if we could delay our arrival until 3:30 PM as he had a meeting at 2 PM.  Linda found a rest stop on I-8 not too far from I-10 so we pulled in there, had lunch, and took naps.  It turned out to be a picnic area with no facilities but that was OK with us; we are self-contained and it was a lovely day to sit and enjoy the scenery.

The final leg of our trip took 45 minutes.  Linda texted Curtis when we exited I-10 at Sunland Gin Road and he texted back that the gate was open.  Although wide enough for the bus we decided to unhook the toad before going in.  We were going to have to unhook the car anyway as we will have to back up to get turned around when we leave.  Curtis came out to greet us, closed the gate behind us and directed us into a parking spot.  He let Augie out so he could greet us and run around, which he loves to do.  Augie is a small, six year old, white dog who is full of energy but has spent most of his life living in a bus.  Having the enormous yard of the house Curtis is renting to run in is very exciting for Augie and he takes full advantage of it.

Rainbow colors refract from the rain near the center of this scene.  AZ-95 looking NE over the Plomosa Rd BLM STVA.

Rainbow colors refract from the rain near the center of this scene. AZ-95 looking NE over the Plomosa Rd BLM STVA.

Forrest & Mary Clark were already here in their Foretravel U295 so it was good to see them again.  When we crossed paths with them at the RoVers Roost SKP Co-op they were waiting to have solar panels and a charge controller installed.  Forrest said they did not run their generator once while boondocking for five weeks near Quartzsite so their system appears to be correctly sized and working properly.  Randy & Marianne (Boondockers Welcome founders) pulled in about 20 minutes after us.  After greetings and introductions Curtis gave us a tour of what is currently serving as the World Headquarters of RVillage.

The house is hexagonal and sits on a bump out into the northeast corner of a man-made lake.  The house was originally a bar/restaurant, with the bar on the main floor and the restaurant seating on the second level, which was not enclosed except for railings.  The property is extensive because it was once a parking lot.  When the restaurant was closed in the early 1990s the owner converted it to a house, enclosing the upper level and dividing it to make bedrooms.  He retained a portion of it as an outside deck that most of the bedrooms open onto.  Back on the main floor the central bar was converted to a residential kitchen surrounded by an open floor plan with a generous outside deck.  The building still has a functioning walk-in refrigerator that Curtis uses as a pantry.  It is an extraordinary property and the driveway could accommodate eight buses as long as the neighbors did not complain.

Exciting things are always going on behind the scenes with RVillage so one of the perks of crossing paths with Curtis is hearing about them or even getting a sneak peak at some of them.  It is also an opportunity to see the “back end” of the site which has the tools Curtis and his team use to develop and manage the system.

After tours and demos we all stood around on the lawn chatting and enjoying the view and the cool evening air.  Too soon the air was chilly.  Forrest and Mary returned to their motorhome to have dinner while Linda and I did the same thing.  Randy and Marianne had business to discuss with Curtis and hung out with him on the deck a while longer.  They may have gone out to dinner but we did not see them leave or return.

I had turned our generator on to bring the batteries up to charge and so Linda could cook dinner.  She made a green salad and red beans and rice, which went well with the Franzia Fruity Red Sangria.  After dinner we got our technology set up and got online.  Linda is still recovering from the cold she picked up just before flying back to Arizona so she went to bed early.  I checked e-mail and saw that Stacy had proofread another article so I made the final edits to it and uploaded it to the READY folder in my Dropbox BCM Articles folder.  Since we are boondocking I shut off most of the unessential electrical loads and then shut down the generator for the night.

Travel days are exciting but also a bit stressful, especially when we have been sitting in one place for a long time, be that at home or away.  But it felt good to be on the road again and to have landed in such a lovely place for the night.  It’s harder on the cats, who do not like it when the engine is running and the bus is moving, but they came out of their travel (hiding) spots as soon as we were parked and were fascinated by the change of scenery.  We were both tired but it was a good kind of tired.

 

2015/02/19-23 (R-M) Solo in Q

2015/02/19 (R) Over-Cranked

I have been busy cleaning/waxing the outside of the bus and writing articles so I have not been able to spend much time writing my blog posts or uploading them to our website.  A couple of weeks ago I uploaded the posts through the end of December 2014 but then we got busy and I have not uploaded anything since then.

Here is how my day went.  I Got up at 7:30 AM and had granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  It was cloudy and cool most of the morning, so I tried to focus on the bus cleaning/waxing and was able to clean and wax the passenger side of the bus from the front to the back edge of the dinette fixed window.

Another dramatic sunset reflected off the recently waxed driver's side of our coach.

Another dramatic sunset reflected off the recently waxed driver’s side of our coach.

The whole house generator at home runs a self-test every Thursday at 11 AM (EST) and e-mails its status to us.  Instead of getting a message at 9 AM I got one at 9:10 AM (MST).  The message was an Over Crank fault indicating that the Genset had failed to start, had dropped out of Auto mode, and would not attempt to restart until the controller was reset to clear the fault.  I did not assume that Linda had paid any attention to the details of the message so I called her.  She called Bratcher Electric and they told her how to reset the controller.  They also said they had received similar notifications/calls from other customers.  Sure, the temperatures have been below negative 10 degrees F, but the whole reason we have the generator is to protect us against power loss which usually occurs under the worst weather conditions.  The service technician is coming out on Wednesday to check the unit, which is still under warranty.

I took a lunch break at 2PM and had a jumbo tofu hot dog and some hummus with a few Fritos corn chips.  For most of the rest of the day I worked at my laptop selecting and editing photos for my Quartzsite 2015 BCM article.  I made a quick trip to the Road Runner market for some 26 ounce containers of salt and stopped at Herb’s Hardware store looking for a clear filter housing, but they did not have any.

I made a nice, large salad for dinner and finished up the box of Franzia Refreshing White wine.  I continued to process photos for my article late into the evening, taking an occasional break to check e-mail and check out the SteelMasters website.  They sell steel Quonset hut style building kits and this might be a more economical way to build our bus barn, and easier as a do-it-ourselves project.

2015/02/20 (F) Touch of Oranges

I was up late last night so I slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I awoke to cloudy skies and cool temperatures so I skipped breakfast and got right to work cleaning/waxing the passenger side of the bus, which faces south and gets a lot of sun.  I have been working front to back but decided to reverse direction.  The reason was to do as much of the side aft of the patio awning as possible while it was cloudy.  The area under the patio awning is shaded (by the awning) so I can work there anytime I feel like it.

Butch was working on their new VDO electronic speedometer and needed to borrow my air-over-hydraulic bottle jack so I dug it out of the front bay for him.  Mid-morning Lou and Donna Rice stopped by to say “hi.”  They were in town looking for newspapers that Lou could use to mask off their motorhome so he could spray some paint.  It just so happened that there was a large box of newspapers over by the trash container and they were able to get all that they needed at our campsite.

The sunset in Q backlights Saguaro cactus, a palm, and a Palo Verde tree.

The sunset in Q backlights Saguaro cactus, a palm, and a Palo Verde tree.

I quit cleaning/waxing around 11:45 AM and turned my attention to the water softener.  I have regenerated it twice this week, first with solar salt and then with non-iodized table salt, but the water coming out of it is still testing in the 3 – 7 gpg range.  A reading of 7 is considered ‘hard’ so at this point I am not very happy with our water softener.

I filled the filter housing with yet another 26 ounces of finely ground non-iodized table salt and started the regen process for the third time this week.  This time I ran the water more vigorously for a short time and then slowly (two minutes per gallon) and checked for salty water from the outlet of the softener.  When I got very salty water I shut off the flow and let it sit for an hour.  I repeated this a couple more times.  When I took the filter housing off there was very little salt left in the bottom.  I rinsed it out, reinstalled it, and ran water through the unit at the rate of four minutes per gallon for one hour, figuring 15 gallons of filtered water should be enough to flush the saltiness out of the softener.  I tested the discharge water from the softener and it measured somewhere between zero and 1.5 gpg TH.  It should have been zero, but I do not know if the test strips are sensitive to residual salinity.  This process took all afternoon, intermixed with my computer and bus waxing work.

I had granola with fresh blueberries for lunch and then finished yesterday’s post and started this one.  I settled in to work on photographs for my article with periodic breaks to check the water softener.  It was more sunny than cloudy from noon to 2 PM at which point the clouds thickened and filled in.  The air was warm but not hot and the conditions were ideal for cleaning/waxing the “sunny” side of the bus.  That is what I did until 5:45 PM, with a short break to talk to Linda on the phone.  I should be able to finish the waxing tomorrow, put a second coat of Carnu-B Coconut Creme on the passenger side tires, and put a first coat on the driver side tires.

I cleaned up all of my supplies and materials, washed up, and had a few corn chips and hummus as an appetizer.  I washed some red grapes for later and got out an orange.  I have a lot of grapefruit and oranges on board at the moment and try to at least one of each every day.

This was a very dramatic sunset.

This was a very dramatic sunset.

Speaking of oranges, Barb has been using a pair of products from Touch of Oranges; Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner & Re-conditioner, and Touch of Beeswax Wood Preserver; http://www.TouchOfOranges.com.  I went to their motorhome yesterday to see how it works and the results were quite impressive.  I thought about ordering some but decided not to for several reasons.  For one, we already have Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner on board.  It has orange oil in it and I would like to do a side-by-side test.  For another, we are getting too close to our departure date to risk a delayed delivery.  Finally, we don’t have time to use it before we get home anyway.  I might order some in May if I like the way it works better than the Murphy’s product.

I made a fancy salad for dinner.  We bought a large container of mixed salad greens on Monday and I need to have salad every day in order to use it up before it goes bad.  I found carrots and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used, so those went on the salad along with dried fruits, peanuts, Daiya pepper jack “cheese” and other yummies.

I continued processing photos after dinner.  By 10:30 PM I was too tired to concentrate and went to bed.

2015/02/21 (S) Facetime with Madeline

I was awake off and on starting at 6 AM and finally got up at 7:15 AM.  The Yuma Hamfest started yesterday and runs through tomorrow but I have too much to do here to spend three hours driving just to window shop.  Besides, Butch had to leave early this morning for a rock and mineral swap meet to try selling some of the equipment they have purchased and decided not to keep.

I did not have coffee yesterday so that was my second task this morning.  My first task was getting the cats their food and water and cleaning their litter tray.  I had granola with raisins and fresh blueberries for breakfast and then sat and enjoyed my coffee while Jasper sat beside me on the couch and groomed himself.

The sunsets in Q were usually good but this one was better than usual.

The sunsets in Q were usually good but this one was better than usual.

It was cool again this morning with a thin cloud layer so as soon as I finished my coffee and checked my e-mail I got to work on the outside of the bus.  That was at 9:15 AM.  It took me until 11:45 AM to finish the passenger side of the bus and apply a coat of Carnu-B Coconut Creme to the driver side tires.

I finished the hummus for lunch with the help of a few Fritos corn chips.  Afterwards I called Jeff to check on our coffee order.  He said it was in the mail but went out a few days later than expected.  He said he expedited the shipping because of that and was supposed to e-mail the USPS tracking number to me.  I then went over to Jim and Barb’s rig and asked if I could test their Touch of Oranges products.  Barb lent me both the wood cleaner/restorer and the beeswax wood preserver along with pieces of terry cloth for each and a piece of 0000 steel wool.  I set those aside and worked on my Quartzsite 2015 article for a while.

I took a break from working at my computer to test the cleaning products.  Following the directions, I sprayed the left side of the kitchen base cabinets with the cleaner/restorer, waited two minutes, rubbed it with steel wool (with the grain), and wiped it off.  I then applied the beeswax preserver with a piece of terry cloth and let it sit for one hour.  While the beeswax product was soaking in I went over and visited with Butch and Fonda.  While I was doing that I got a TXT message from Linda asking if I wanted to Facetime. That meant she was back at the house and had grand-daughter Madeline with her.  I indicated that a little bit later would be better.

My one hour wait was up so I excused myself, went back to my coach, and wiped down the left side of the cabinet.  I then used the Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner (with orange oil) on the right side of the cabinet.  The results did not compare favorably with the Touch of Oranges products which definitely improved the appearance of the wood.

I turned on our Verizon MiFi, switched my iPad to it, and then called Linda to set up the Facetime session.  Either I never configured the Facetime app or failed to reconfigure it but it would not let me log in.  Once I got the correct e-mail address and password set up it worked fine.  I called Linda’s iPad and when she answered I got to see Madeline.  When Linda picked her up earlier today Madeline said she was going to grandma and grandpa’s house to see grandma and grandpa.  Linda explained that I wasn’t at the house but Madeline could still see me in the bus using the iPad.  It is a fabulous technology, and fascinating to see how completely natural it is for a 2-year old.

I have enjoyed creating panorama images this winter using MS-ICE.

I have enjoyed creating panorama images this winter using MS-ICE.

Bill Stewart from our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter had requested to see some photos from the recent gathering at the Peg Leg boondocking area near Borrego Springs, California.  Last night I selected seven images, re-sized and processed them, uploaded them to the Freethinkers folder in my Dropbox, generated the “share” link, and e-mailed it to our open forum e-mail reflector.  While I was working on that it occurred to me that Lou Petkus is always looking for images for the SKP Photographers BOF newsletter and member album and I had not sent him anything in a while.  I was too tired by then to do the work so I put that on my “to do” list for today.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon and evening working on my article and the photos that go with it except for a break to photograph a beautiful sunset.  Linda called around 6 PM (8 PM at home) to chat.  She suggested that we wait to see if someone at Escapade is selling the Touch of Oranges products.  She also suggested that I check to see if Carnu-B is going to be at any car shows near us as they sell the product for a lot less at shows than they do online.

I took a break for dinner and microwaved a jumbo tofu hotdog and a potato.  The potato had started sprouting so I figured I needed to eat it or plant it.  I had been accumulating dishes and utensils for the last few days so I washed, rinsed, and dried all of them.  By the time I finished my chores, played a few games on my iPad, and finished this post it was midnight.  Completing the waxing of the bus was an important milestone, and although I have a lot more to get done on the bus this coming week I plan to take it easy tomorrow and try to wrap up my Quartzsite 2015 article and perhaps some other writing.  The most I may do to the bus is apply some more Carnu-B Coconut Creme to the tires.

2015/02/22 (N) Q 2015

I did not use up the second package of blueberries fast enough and they started to go bad.  I picked out the bad ones, rinsed off the rest, and had some granola with my blueberries for breakfast.  I worked for a little while finishing up yesterday’s blog post and then got to work at my computer.  It was cloudy and windy when I got up and the winds continued to strengthen during the day.  I had closed the vent fan domes last night so I would not have to listen to them rattle.  The patio awning was flapping more than I liked so I got Butch to hold the strap while I released the rafters and then rolled it up and latched it.  I was able to retract the small passenger side bedroom awning by myself.  In the light of day I discovered that I had not wiped the Carnu-B wax off of the body as completely as I thought.  That, however, will be a task for another day.

I wanted to make a sandwich for lunch but I was out of onion so I went to the Road Runner Market to get one.  I also wanted pretzels and hummus.  They did not have any hummus and they did not have the kind of pretzels I like but I was able to get two large sweet onions.  Sourdough bread with Tofurkey brand mock deli slices, Daiya cheddar “cheese” slices, veganaise, honey mustard, fresh onion, and salad greens made a tasty treat.

I finally finished my Quartzsite 2015 article for Bus Conversion Magazine, including the 95 photos and captions, and uploaded it to my Dropbox for proofreading.  I had an e-mail back from Gary indicating that they would probably use it for the February issue, so very late this evening I uploaded all of the photo files.

A panorama created using MS-ICE from handheld images.

A panorama created using MS-ICE from handheld images.

About the time I needed to take a break Fonda left for church and I saw Butch sitting outside with his camera.  Another beautiful Quartzsite sunset was taking form so I grabbed my camera and shirt jacket and went out to join him.  It had been cloudy and windy all day and was rather brisk.  We both worked the sunset until it was played out and got some nice photos considering that they were all handheld in low-light conditions.

For dinner I made a Thai Kitchen Noodle Bowl and added some honey roasted peanuts.  I closed all of the bus windows to a crack and made some hot tea.  Tea is still my beverage of choice with any type of Asian cuisine and was very satisfying on a chilly evening.

With the Quartzsite 2015 article done (except for corrections) I started pulling together the “featured bus” article on Byron Pigg’s 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion.  I went through the photos I took last month of his coach at the Eagles International Bus Rally and was pleased that I had a good variety with good technical quality to choose from.  I made my selections, post-processed all of them, and inserted the small versions into the Word doc.  The article narrative itself was less than one page in length as I do not know very much about Byron and his wife Betty or their bus.  The Word doc template I use for featured bus articles includes two “Specifications” pages, one for the bus and one for the conversion, so the article was three pages.  I e-mailed the Word doc (with embedded photos) to Byron and cc:d Gary at BCM.  In order to complete the article I need Byron to fill in a lot of the details about his bus and conversion.

2015/02/23 (M) Seizure

Toast with apricot preserves is as close as I get anymore to the Danish pastries that were once one of my favorite treats, but I am OK with that.  I am absolutely enjoying retirement more as a result of being much healthier and more active, both of which are a direct consequence of eating better, weighing less, and not having to take a cocktail of drugs every day.  Toast, coffee, and a little fruit juice makes a very agreeable breakfast.

I finished up yesterday’s blog post after breakfast and then got into my computer-based work.  I had planned to work on the photos of Larry and Carol Hall’s GM PD4106 bus conversion and write a brief narrative, similar to the one I did on Byron and Betty’s Eagle bus, but other things kept interfering with the work.  Except for lunch and dinner breaks, and brief chats with Barb, Butch, and Fonda, I sat on my butt most of the day working away at my computer on a template for featured bus articles but had very little to show for it at the end of the day.

I have learned over the years to stick with sunsets until it is dark.

I have learned over the years to stick with sunsets until it is dark.  Panorama stitched together with MS-ICE.

For lunch I had the last jumbo vegan hotdog in the open pack.  They microwave nicely, so they are quick and easy to fix, and are so yummy with honey mustard, pickle relish, and chopped sweet onion.

I had not yet seen the e-mail from Jeff at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, Michigan with the USPS tracking number for my coffee order so I call them at noon (2 PM EST) and Mary gave the number to me over the phone.  It only occurred to me much later that the e-mail may have gotten trapped by our spam filter.  I direct all of the notifications from the spam filter to a special inbox and I have not made a habit of checking that inbox or going into the filter to release or delete the e-mails that are being held.

Butch and Fonda drove over to Bouse this morning to talk with the General Manager and park managers of an RV Park about working there next season.  They stopped at our shared P. O. Box on their way back and then went to the main office downtown.  When they got back to camp they had my coffee shipment and an envelope from Dan Fregin, the treasurer of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter.

At one point in the afternoon I looked out the picture window by the dinette, where I sit and work at my computer, and Roho was lying on the ground with Jim and Barb and Jim L. gathered around him.  He appeared to be twitching and Barb confirmed that he was having a seizure and typically has one once a month like clockwork.  We had a dog with Epilepsy (Scout) and it did not turn out well.  The standard treatment at the time (18 years ago?) was phenobarbital, the same drug used to control the condition in humans.  Scout did not respond to small doses and the amount we had to give him eventually destroyed his liver.  But we had no choice; he went into a grand mall seizure one night and would not come out of it.  We had to take him to an emergency veterinary clinic at 2 AM and they had to inject him with phenobarbital and something else to get the seizure to stop.

We had just started him on an experimental treatment using potassium bromide (KBr) dissolved in flavored pancake syrup when his liver failed and he died.  I told Barb about this but I did not know if the KBr treatment had become standard practice or not.  The apparent effect of the KBr was to mediate the uptake of the phenobarbital, allowing much smaller doses to be much more effective.  I searched online later and found that KBr has, indeed, become part of the standard treatment arsenal for canine and feline seizures.

For dinner I made a big green salad.  While pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator I found a bunch of asparagus that was spoiled so I threw it out.  That was too bad because I really like asparagus and this bunch probably came from the farmers market where we have bought very good produce.  I also had to throw away some blueberries and carrots this week but managed to salvage some of each.  I did, however, finish up the mushrooms in my salad.

Atmospheric conditions make all the difference in sunrise and sunset photography.  Panorama stitched with MS-ICE.

Atmospheric conditions make all the difference in sunrise and sunset photography. Panorama stitched with MS-ICE.

Linda called around 7 PM (my time) and we brought each other up to date on how our days went.  Around 8 PM I prepped the remaining strawberries for later and then heated an Amy’s vegan tamale with Mexican rice.

I finally put aside the featured bus article template I worked on much of the day and started selecting and processing the photos for the article on the Hall’s bus.  By that point, however, I was tired and frustrated and making mistakes so I went to bed.  The southerly winds that brought the rain had shifted to the northwest bringing cool, clear air with them.  It had cooled off enough in the bus that I turned on the electric heating pad for the first time in quite a while.

 

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.

 

2015/02/07-11 (S-W) In and Around Q

2015/02/07 (S) Bouse, AZ

We got up around 8 AM, got cleaned up, and had coffee and granola.  Linda then cut my hair, which seems to be a once every 4 to 6 weeks thing when we are traveling.  Butch and Fonda went to Yuma to meet up with Bell, Bell’s daughter, and Bell’s three grand-daughters.  Bell’s daughter was in Yuma with her Roller Derby team and the family came along.  We wanted to get out and do some more sight-seeing and decided to drive to Bouse, Arizona.

Cholla "teddy bear" cacti at Quinn's Pass on the road to Bouse, AZ.

Cholla “teddy bear” cacti at Quinn’s Pass on the road to Bouse, AZ.

Bouse is a small town located in the next valley to the east of Quartzsite, which sits in the La Paz valley.  It is on AZ-72 at the eastern end of Plomosa Road.  The western end of Plomosa Road is at AZ-95 seven miles north of the city limit of Quartzsite.  The first three miles of Plomosa Road heading east from AZ-95 runs through the BLM Plomosa Road STVA.  The road is paved its entire length and provided a fun and scenic drive out to Bouse and back.  We stopped at Quinn Pass to read the historical marker and ended up going on a short hike.  We have wanted to do this little trip ever since friends told us about it, but today provided an added incentive to finally go; the Parker 425.

The Parker 425 is an annual off-road race in the desert east of Parker, south of the Buckskin Mountains, and north of Bouse.  The course is a little over 140 miles in length and the race consists of three loops for a total of 425 miles.  It begins and ends at the Bluewater Resort and Casino in Parker.  Last year’s winner completed the race in just over seven hours.  That’s an average speed of 60 MPH, and there are plenty of curves and bumpy areas where it is not possible to go that fast, so the vehicles are really moving every place they can.

When we got to AZ-72 we crossed the highway, drove three short blocks, and made a left on Swansea.  I could see from the GPS that it was a paved road that continued in a northeasterly direction.  I had looked at a map yesterday and had a general sense that one of the spectator areas was out that way.  We did not have to drive very far before we saw Jeeps and ATVs parked on top of a big hill all facing the same direction.  We drove past the turnoff for that area and just around the hill was a large parking area full of cars and RVs.  The dirt road was closed, the Fire Department was set up there, and there was a checkpoint for the race.  I found a place to park and we got out to check out the action.

We stayed long enough to see a dozen different vehicles pass through the checkpoint and I shot photos from several different vantage points.  There are different classes of vehicles, but the ones we saw were of two types: highly modified small pickup trucks, and custom built off-road racers known as “grasshoppers” because of their long shape and the suspensions allow them to “bounce” over bumps in the road.

View looking NW from the Quinn's Pass area between Quartzsite and Bouse, AZ.

View looking NW from the Quinn’s Pass area between Quartzsite and Bouse, AZ.

The air temperature was pleasant but the sun was very hot so we drove the short distance back to Bouse, stopped at AZ-72, and quickly scoped out the town.  We spotted the Coachman Restaurant just northwest of the intersection and drove over there to have lunch.  We each had a garden salad and iced tea, and I had French fries.  We can pretty much count on lettuce and potatoes in any restaurant we visit.

Bouse was founded in 1908 as a mining camp but as a waypoint between Phoenix and Parker it now survives on tourism, agriculture, and retirees.  Measuring 10.1 square miles at 947 feet ASL with 996 residents (2010 census) the area enjoys sunny skies year-round.  We saw RVs of all types throughout town and in the dessert along Plomosa Road which is all BLM land.  There were also quite a few RVs in the Bouse Community Park.

We drove back to Quartzsite the way we came, a distance of 30 miles, because the only other ways back were via Parker (64 miles) and Phoenix (at least 250 miles).  Linda wanted to walk through the Tyson Wells market area one more time as this is the last weekend for the Craft Show.  We bought a cute hand puppet that we think grand-daughter Madeline will find very interesting.  We drove over to Barry’s Breads to get a loaf of his Barry’s Basic Bread but he was not open.  In fact, it looked like he was done for the season.  Activity really has slowed down here and he is presumably getting ready to move to his next venue.

We stopped at the Road Runner Market and bought a loaf of French bread and some red grapes.  We then drove to the Quartzsite Cemetery to take photographs of Hadji Ali’s (Hi Jolly’s) gravesite, which is marked by a small pyramid with a silhouette of a camel on top.  As long as we were there we wandered around the rest of the cemetery, which was an interesting and well-kept place.

Once we were back at the coach Linda sat outside and read while I transferred photo files from my camera to my computer and backed them up to our NAS.  I then continued selecting and processing images from yesterday’s outing to KOFA NWR Palm Canyon.  I was starting to work on the images from today when Linda cane in and started making dinner.

She decided to make “Mustard Greens and Beans” using Great Northern beans.  In addition to the usual onion and garlic, it had vinegar, a little sugar, and honey mustard.  It was very tasty and we agreed it was a keeper.  She served sautéed green beans on the side, cut up some of the French bread, and poured a couple of glasses of Franzia Refreshing White wine.  Sliced fresh strawberries and cookies for desert completed the meal.

Butch and Fonda got back from Yuma while Linda was cooking.  I gave Butch a call after dinner to discuss our TireTraker systems.  He needs to charge their monitor this evening and I asked him to check on the behavior of the LEDS on the 12/24VDC plug.

As we do most evenings, Linda read and played online word games while I worked on this post for a while and then resumed editing photos on my computer.  I checked e-mail again and had several regarding the upcoming Freethinkers gathering at the Liar Peg Leg Smith Monument boondocking area near Borrego Springs, California.  One of them posited the question of how often Friday the 13th occurs?  I did a quick online search and the answer appeared to be 1 to 3 times per year and every 12/7 or 1.714 times per year, on average.  That is 171.4 times per century or 1,714 times per millennium.  I posted that back to the e-mail reflector and went to bed.

Rocks and flora at Quinn's Pass, AZ.

Rocks and flora at Quinn’s Pass, AZ.

2015/02/08 (N) Another Meetup

I was up at 7:30 AM this morning and got the coffee made right away.  Linda did not sleep well last night but got up as soon as she smelled the coffee.  Breakfast was toast and preserves.  I was planning on putting in a long day at my computer and Linda was planning on doing laundry and some work for the bakery but our plans changed before we got started.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Lou and Donna Rice of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter indicating that they were at Mile Marker 2 on Plomosa Road.  We drove right past them twice yesterday on our visit to Bouse but had no idea they were there.

Plomosa Road is about seven miles north of Quartzsite on AZ-95.  We left at 10 AM and were parked next to their Jeep before 10:15.  We sat and talked for four hours before returning to our coach.  As soon as we got back I took our TireTraker monitor and charger over to Butch’s coach.  We tried our charger on his monitor and it worked fine.  We then tried his charger on our monitor and it did not work.  Between our four devices it was clearly our monitor that was defective.  I will have to call Darryl Lawrence tomorrow and see what we can figure out.

We each had a pear, some red grapes, and something to drink.  Linda gathered up laundry and I got to work editing consolidated blog posts.  In between loads she sat outside and read.

Fonda had two Poblano peppers she got at the Farmers Market on Wednesday and gave them to Linda.  Linda found a recipe for stuffed grilled poblanos.  The stuffing was white rice, scallions, black beans, tomatoes, vegan sour cream and cheddar cheese, and cumin.  It resembled Mexican rice but with a creamy/cheesy dimension.  She cooked the stuffed peppers on Butch and Fonda’s little grill and cooked the extra stuffing on our cooktop.  She served the dish with Clementine orange wedges and a glass of Franzia Refreshing White wine to make an outstanding meal.

After dinner we sat outside Butch and Fonda’s bus enjoying the cool desert night air and watching the lights of airplanes flying overhead.  It eventually cooled off enough that we returned to our coach where I continued to work on blog posts and Linda worked on the bakery accounting.  She eventually went off to bed and I uploaded survey items to the FMCA Education Committee folder in our Dropbox and sent an e-nail to the committee.  We have a committee work session tomorrow at 4 PM EST (2 PM MST).

Vehicles positioned east of Bouse, AZ to watch the Parker 435 off-road race.

Vehicles positioned east of Bouse, AZ to watch the Parker 435 off-road race.

2015/02/09 (M) A Bright Idea

Butch called around 8:20 AM to let me know that our light bulb order was at the Post Office awaiting pickup.  He and Fonda were headed to the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club for a day-long class on faceting, so he gave me the parcel slip so I could go pick up the package.

While we were eating breakfast it suddenly occurred to me that we should visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West while we are camped near Tucson next month.  Linda went to the website and discovered that it is in Scottsdale which is a northern Suburb of Phoenix and is closer to Quartzsite than it us to Tucson.  We selected a couple of possible dates and she went online to get tickets.  The “Behind the Scenes” tours are only done on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.  She tried to get tickets for Monday February 16 but they only had one left.  She called but they would not sell us two tickets.  We waited way too long to think of this and painted ourselves into a corner so it may not happen on this trip to the southwest.

I drove to the Quartzsite Post Office after breakfast and retrieved the package, only my second trip to the Post Office to transact business since we arrived in Q.  The first trip was to sign up for the P. O. Box.  Linda usually takes care of the mail while she is out walking and Butch usually checks the P. O. Box, which is at a different location that is not quite as convenient a walk from our camp as the main building.  We have not used the P. O. Box very much, but it has been invaluable when we have.

I worked most of the day on some of my blog posts for December 2014.  I took a break around 12:30 for a bite of lunch and then called Daryl Lawrence and left a message regarding our TireTraker TT-400C monitor which appears to not be recharging.

The Parker 425 checkpoint east of Bouse, AZ.  This race is a BIG deal with fire, EMS, and helicopter coverage.

The Parker 425 checkpoint east of Bouse, AZ. This race is a BIG deal with fire, EMS, and helicopter coverage.

Gaye Young called around 1:30 PM to make sure I was going to participate in the FMCA Education Committee work session at 2 PM.  (Gaye is the chairperson of the committee.)  There were only two items on the agenda and I had to give the status report on both of them.  Our work sessions and meetings are conducted by telephone conference.  They usually last an hour and today was not an exception.  If committee members provide me with additional input this week regarding an education survey we are developing I will have some work to do the last two weeks of the month in addition to working on articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, completing some minor repairs on the bus, finishing the cleaning/waxing of the exterior of the bus, and cleaning/waxing the car.

I managed to upload consolidated blog posts, including some photographs, for December 5 – 8, 9 – 12, and 13 – 16, 2014.  I did not take very many photos while we were traveling but once we got settled in Q I got the camera out and started using it.

I got a call back from Jeff at TireTraker support.  I explained what the monitor was (not) doing and he agreed to mail me a new one along with a new charger.  We will return the defective one to Daryl at Escapade next month.

Linda cooked up a couple of Tofurkey brand vegan Italian sausages with sweet onions and sweet red bell peppers and served some broccoli as a side dish.  After dinner I removed my bulbs from the Bulbtown shipment and checked the quantities and prices against my spreadsheet.  I then took the remaining bulbs over to Butch.  He had ordered 10 #4003 bulbs to use in his bay fixtures and realized when he saw them that he should have ordered #4004s.  Both are 24VDC bulbs but the #4003s have a single contact base whereas #4004s have a double contact base.  I think my bay light fixtures may take #4003s.  I will check tomorrow and if so I will buy them instead of Butch.

We sat outside with the lights off enjoying a glass of wine while watching the long lingering sunset backlight the mountains to our west.  As the sunset faded we looked at the stars and watched aircraft lights moving east and west high over the desert.  It still cools off here after the sun sets but not as quickly, nor as dramatically, as it did just  a week ago.

I combined the blog posts for December 17 – 20, 2014.  I had selected and processed photos for this post earlier so it was ready to upload at 11 PM but I did not want to go through the process at that late hour.  I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then went to bed.  A short time later Jasper threw up a large quantity of food so I had to get up and deal with that.  It looked like it had some hair mixed in with it, but I don’t know if that was the root cause.

2015/02/10 (T) Deionized

We were planning on heading to the Peg Leg Monument boondocking area on Thursday, spending the night in Indio, California and visiting Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) on Friday before driving home Friday evening.  Ken Harrison from the FMCA Freethinkers indicated that he and Linda would not make it to Peg Leg until Friday.  That prompted us to consider flipping our plans, doing JTNP on Thursday and Peg leg on Friday.  Either way we will stay in Indio as we already have reservations at a motel.

The Polaris RZR ("razer") was one of the most popular 4-wheel ATVs in and around Q.

The Polaris RZR (“razer”) was one of the most popular 4-wheel ATVs in and around Q.

We had another stay-at-home day relaxing while getting things done.  Linda was going to drive to Blythe for groceries, but decided to go on Sunday as we will be away from camp all of Thursday and Friday and much of Saturday.  She is going to see if the Farmers Market is still operating tomorrow morning.  If not she will stop by the Road Runner Market.

As has been our pattern recently Linda went for a long walk (5 miles) while I continued to work on blog posts.  We had a light lunch when she returned.  I then called Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, Michigan and ordered six pounds of roasted coffee beans to be shipped to us here in Q.  We are approaching the midpoint of our snowbird season and are almost out of the five pounds of coffee we started with.  Jeff is going to roast two pounds each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff, Sweet Seattle Dreams half-calf, and Cafe Europe Blend half-caff.  He will let it out-gas for a couple of days and then vacuum seal it in one-pound portions and mail it to us in a USPS flat rate box that will go to our P. O. Box in Q.  That should be enough to get us home even if we do not get there until late April.

Butch is always looking out for us and trying to help us spend our retirement dollars so he sent me a link to a portable two-tank water de-ionizing system that is available from RVupgrades.com.  The system is intended for washing/finishing cars and RVs as de-ionized water has had all of the dissolved minerals removed and does not leave spots on surfaces when it dries.  It is not, however, considered suitable for drinking.  The two tanks are plumbed in series and use special resin beds that have to be replaced when exhausted rather than recharged.  The first tank removes cations and the second removes anions, leaving the water completely deionized.  The cations are the positively charged ones typically “removed” by water “softeners”, such as calcium, iron, and magnesium, through ion exchange with sodium.  The anions are the negatively charged ones that water softeners typically do not remove, including fluoride and sodium.  The dual tank system is about 33% more expensive than a single tank portable water softener, but given the time, expense, and frustration I am experiencing trying to clean and wax our motorcoach I am seriously considering ordering one tomorrow.

I uploaded two consolidated blog posts yesterday and another one this afternoon.  I consolidated the posts for December 21 – 26, 2014, selected and processed the photos, and then took a break to sit outside and just enjoy the weather.  No book, no iPad, no computer; just ahhhh.  It was 78 degrees F with 19% relative humidity, a steady breeze from the northwest, and a hot sun shining through absolutely clear blue skies.  Linda and I agreed that it was the most perfect weather day we have had so far this winter.

Linda had some seitan ‘mock’ beef in the freezer that she heated in a saucepan and served with basmati rice accented with soy sauce.  Very simple but very tasty.  After dinner I uploaded the December 21 – 26 consolidated blog post along with 12 photos, entered all of the tags, and published it.

I got an e-mail yesterday from Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia asking if we would be interested in previewing/testing another new website.  I said ‘yes’ and she responded with the URL for the development site.  When I was done with our website I went to the new one and created an account.  I got an activation e-mail, clicked the link, and was able to login.  I spent an hour looking around the site and captured my impressions and suggestions in an e-mail back to the development team.  I took a few minutes to investigate portable water deionizers but by then it was too late to get involved in any serious research so I went to bed.

2015/02/11 (W) Update This!

Hi Jolly's (Hadji Ali's) gravesite in the Quartzsite Cemetary; allegedly the most visited place in Q.

Hi Jolly’s (Hadji Ali’s) gravesite in the Quartzsite Cemetary; allegedly the most visited place in Q.

Linda’s cell phone rang just before 8 AM.  It was Barb.  She and Jim were up, dressed, and had the golf cart out and ready to go to the Farmers Market.  When we mentioned it yesterday Barb said she wanted to go and Linda indicated that it was open from 8 AM to noon.  Somehow that got translated into leaving at 8 AM to go to the market.  Linda, being a good sport, got up, got dressed and walked over about 8:15 and said she was ready to go.  No breakfast, no coffee, just the “git er done” spirit of the old west.  I stayed behind and got the coffee ready to brew when she returned.  I then got to work on computer stuff in the true “git er done” spirit of the new/virtual west.

They returned from the Farmers Market around 9:30 AM.  Linda bought another Romanesco brocciflower, some Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, and oranges.  To our delight Barry’s Breads was also there and had a few loaves of Barry’s Basic Bread.  He told Linda he will be around, at least at the Wednesday Farmers Market, through the end of this month.

As much as I would like to have de-ionized water available for rinsing the coach as I wash it, I decided not to speed hundreds of dollars without first doing deeper research into the available technologies and their life cycle costs.  I had enough other stuff to do today that I did not want to make time to dig into this new topic.

Linda saw a photographers vest at the Salvation Army resale store the other day but did not buy it as it was $15, pricey for the SA, and she wasn’t sure it would fit me.  We drove over to the store to see if it was still there.  It was, and it was too small for me.  It also had a defective zipper.  For a moment I thought we were going to have to buy it so I could take it home and cut it off.  I managed instead to pull it off over my head like a t-shirt and Linda was then able to get the zipper undone and put it back on the rack.  This was my first time in the store so while we were there I found two pairs of shorts for $2 each, a third pair for $0.50, and a lightweight, lined, waist-length London Fog jacket for $0.25.  Linda found a white hand-held mixer with two beaters for $4.  Deal.

When we got back Linda called the Prince of Tucson RV Park and made a reservation for the evening of Thursday, March 5th.  Lou and Val Petkus will already be there and this will allow us to caravan into the SKP Escapade at the Pima County Fairgrounds first thing Friday morning.   By coming in together we will be able to park together which will make our staff photography work more convenient.

My computer indicated that it had a large number of updates to install; 34, to be exact.  It was a 334 MB download so I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and switched my computer over to it.  The Mi-Fi is much faster than the Wi-Fi and I find that with large downloads the faster I get them done the more likely they are to complete successfully.  When those were done downloading and installing I had to restart my computer to finish the installation.  I also had an updated driver available for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor, so I downloaded and installed that.

 

I figured that if I had updates for my computer Linda would have them for hers.  I switched her computer over to our Mi-Fi and checked for updates.  She had 20 recommended and 4 optional.  I selected all 24 and the download was 980 MB.  That’s a lot of updates so I started it and let it run.  As always, finishing the installation required the computer to be rebooted.  When it restarted her computer the screen was once again functioning normally.  Go figure.  She also had an Adobe Creative Cloud update so I started that.  It failed at the 29% point so closed it and restarted it.  The second time it ran to completion.

Linda needed to work at her computer so we both sat at the dinette table and did our respective computer things.  She brought our financial records up-to-date in Quicken and I compiled and then uploaded a consolidated blog post for the last six days of December 2014.  I had e-mails going back and forth with some of our fellow FMCA Freethinkers regarding the Peg Leg gathering and ended up joining the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  I’ve meant to do that for a while and the electrons finally aligned just right this afternoon.

Hi Jolly's pyramid gravesite marker is a State Historical Site.

Hi Jolly’s pyramid gravesite marker is a State Historical Site.

Somewhere during the course of the afternoon we had sandwiches for lunch and snacked on dried fruits and nuts.  Kathi Slater called to check on Linda’s travel arrangements, after which I made popcorn.  Linda borrowed a small cooler from Butch and Fonda for our 2-day trip to California and back.  Fonda came over to go through the chores involved in caring for the cats while we are away and Linda gave her a set of keys to the bus.

I had seen a quick notification from the RV Internet Resource Center (Mobile Internet Aficionados membership website) that WiFiRanger had finally released their new firmware upgrade for the WiFiRanger Mobile.  Using my iPad as the control panel I switched our WFR-MT from the Wi-Fi/DSL connection to our Verizon Mi-Fi.  Again, I wanted to make sure this upgrade got downloaded as quickly as possible through the most reliable connection we have.  The download was reasonably quick but the installation took quite a while.  My iPad eventually lost contact with the WFR-MT and I just left it to finish and went over to visit with Butch and Fonda and Linda.  We came back to our coach when their dinner was ready and the WFR-MT firmware upgrade had finished installing successfully.  I switched the connection back to the Wi-Fi/DSL that we get to use as part of our “rent” while we are here.  I switched our laptops back to our internal Wi-Fi network and then shut the Verizon Mi-Fi off to let it recharge.

Neither of us was very hungry after snacking late this afternoon so Linda sliced the remaining tofu and pan-seared it.  She caramelized onions, added BBQ sauce, and served it open faced over the tofu.  After dinner Linda made a list of things we needed to take tomorrow while I made a final check of e-mail.  I e-mailed Lou Petkus to let him know that we were booked into the Prince of Tucson RV Park for March 5th.  I sent a message to Curtis Coleman via RVillage to accept his invitation to boondock in his driveway and see if March 3 and 4 would work for him.  He phoned back to confirm that it would be OK and then sent his address via TXT message.  I also had an e-mail from Kate de Fuccio and replied to that.  I checked for updates and my computer had several more to install so I started that process.  I checked Linda’s computer but she did not have any updates pending.  Although we got a lot of other things done today it felt like I had mostly dealt with computer updates.  Update days are often like that and you cannot schedule them because you never know when Microsoft is going to drop a big ‘update bomb’ in your lap.

Linda went to bed around her usual time.  I turned in shortly thereafter and much earlier than I have been.  We plan to get up at 6 AM tomorrow, have a light breakfast, finish packing for our trip, and be on the road at 7 AM.  We will stop at Albertson’s in Blythe, California for some water, ice, and other snack items to get us through the day to dinner at Native Foods in Palm Springs and give us something to eat on Friday while we are at the Peg Leg gathering.  Albertson’s opens at 6 AM PST, which corresponds to our 7 AM MST departure time.  We should arrive at the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park around 7:30 AM PST which will give us a good, long day to explore the park.

 

2015/02/06 (F) KOFA NWR Palm Canyon

 

Palm Canyon Road entrance to KOFA NWR.

Palm Canyon Road entrance to KOFA NWR.

I slept in until 8 AM, got up, put on my sweats, and made a pot of coffee.  While that was brewing I turned the TT-400C TPMS monitor on and then adjusted the pressures in the four car tires and checked the passenger side steer tire on the bus.  Based on the temperatures it was reporting the monitor appeared to not be picking up the six rear tires on the bus so I plugged the PressurePro repeater in.  It is mounted in the passenger side rear corner bedroom cabinet and Darryl Lawrence said it should work fine with the TT-400C monitor.  Consumer TPM Systems all operate on the same frequency of 433.92 MHz and the repeater just receives, amplifies, and retransmits signals on that frequency.  The sensors have a unique digital identity and send out an encoded digital signal; that’s how the receiver/monitors know which signals to display and ignore the rest.

Linda in the parking lot at the mouth of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

Linda in the parking lot at the mouth of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

After a breakfast of juice and cinnamon raisin oatmeal Linda went for a walk while the air temperature was still cool.  I stayed at the coach and dumped the holding tanks, made up our mixture of a bottle of PineSol with an equal amount of water and a cup of Calgon bath beads.  Shake until dissolved and add ~60% to the black tank (via the toilet) and the other 40% to the gray tank via the bathroom and kitchen sinks, including the In-Sink-Erator.

 

 

 

 

The beginnng of the Palm Canyon trail, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The beginnng of the Palm Canyon trail, KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

With my chores done I recorded the dump in our notebook and then added the information to our Water Usage spreadsheet.  According to the spreadsheet and our notebook it had been 19 days since we last emptied the waste tanks.  I knew that wasn’t possible as we normally dump every 9 to 10 days when we are in normal water usage mode, and Marilyn was here for the first half of that interval.  Clearly we had forgotten to record a dump 9 or 10 days ago.

 

 

The north wall farther into Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall farther into Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

 

I finished working on some additional draft items for the survey the FMCA National Education Committee wants to send out.  I sent them to the committee chair (Gaye) and the member whose items I was revising.  We have another phone meeting on Monday and I wanted to get these items out to the committee by tomorrow so the members have time to look at them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got an e-mail from Gary at BCM last night advising the editor that I was doing an article on Quartzsite for the February 2015 issue and would have it done by the end of next week.  I e-mailed him back last night and then wrote it this morning and e-mailed it to him and Mike, the editor, for review.  Although I am no longer employed, I sometimes still work better against a deadline.

Deeper into Palm Canyon approaching the 1/2 mile mark.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Deeper into Palm Canyon approaching the 1/2 mile mark. KOFA NWR, AZ.

After cleaning and waxing the bus and spending a lot of time sitting in front of our computers we wanted to get away from camp and do some sight-seeing.  The repair we had done yesterday to the passenger side rear tire on our car seemed to be holding so at 2PM we headed for the King OF Arizona (KOFA) National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Palm Canyon area about 20 miles south of town.

A lone palm backlit high up on the south wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

A lone palm backlit high up on the south wall of Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

This seemed like a good spot to stop and let Linda take my picture for a change.  Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

This seemed like a good spot to stop and let Linda take my picture for a change. Palm Canyon, KOFA NWR, AZ.

Palm Canyon is an enormous slot in the Kofa Mountains.  The canyon is aligned ENE to WSW opening to the WSW so we figured the best light would be in the mid-to-late afternoon.  To get there we drove south out of Quartzsite on US-95 about 19 miles to Palm Canyon Road and then east for seven miles on a good gravel roadway.  Good is relative, of course; it took as long to drive the 7 miles as it did the 19.  The trailhead is at the end of the road, which is the beginning of the canyon.  There are also several areas just off the parking/turnaround designated for tent camping, and it would be a spectacular place to pitch a tent.  The last mile or so of the road climbs more than you realize until you get to the parking area and are treated to a sweeping view of part of the La Paz Valley that stretches for over 100 miles from Parker on the north end to somewhere north of Yuma on the south end.

 

Looking WSW back out of Palm Canyon at the La Paz Valley.  The trail climbs it goes deeper into the canyon.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Looking WSW back out of Palm Canyon at the La Paz Valley. The trail climbs it goes deeper into the canyon. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

There they are!  The fan palms of Palm Canyon high up in a shaded crevice on the south wall of the canyon.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

There they are! The fan palms of Palm Canyon high up in a shaded crevice on the south wall of the canyon. KOFA NWR, AZ.

The trail is a 1/2 mile hike into the canyon near the floor but to the south of, and above, the central drainage wash.  The canyon is named for the California Fan Palm trees that grow there; the only naturally occurring Palm trees in Arizona.  There is lots of other vegetation in the canyon, however, and the palms are a bit elusive.  About a half mile in there is a small wooden sign with an arrow pointing up to the left at a 45 degree angle.  All the sign had on it was the word “PALMS.”  And there they were, way up in a narrow crevice.  Mind you, some of the trees in this main grove have trunks that are 20 inches in diameter, but the canyon is a big place and the trees are far away from where we were standing.  The only wildlife we saw up close were small lizards about 3″ long, 6″ with their tails.  We heard and then saw a bird soaring high above the southern edge of the canyon but could not tell what it was.

 

Delicate colors on the north wall of Palm Canyon in the late afternoon sun.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Delicate colors on the north wall of Palm Canyon in the late afternoon sun. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

The light was nice hiking in and got better and better as we hiked out.  The trail climbs quite a bit from the parking area, but not steeply in any one place.  We took our time and I took a lot of photographs.  By the time we got back in our car the sun had slipped behind the Dome Rock Mountain Range that defines the western edge of the La Paz Valley.  We had nice colors in every direction but without any clouds we did have a particularly photogenic sunset.  By the time we got back to US-95 it was approaching 6:20 PM and we needed our headlights even through the glow along the crest of the mountains continued almost all the way back to town.

Looking back into Palm Canyon as we hike out.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

Looking back into Palm Canyon as we hike out. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

 

 

Linda made a green salad with fresh tomatoes and blueberries, dried fruit, and nuts and dressed it with Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette.  She heated up a couple of tortillas and used them to make a quesadilla-like thing with Daiya (vegan) cheese, tomato slices, and jalapeño pepper slices.  We had a small glass of Franzia Refreshing White wine with dinner and had red grapes for desert.

 

 

Before we left for our hike I had unplugged the power supply from my ASUS notebook computer to let it cool off.  It seems to me that it runs hot.  I plugged it in when we got back and had a notification on the screen that the computer needed to be restarted to complete the installation of updates.

 

The only wildlife we saw up close in Palm Canyon.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

The only wildlife we saw up close in Palm Canyon. KOFA NWR, AZ.

 

The north wall at the entrance to Palm Canyon in the glow of sunset.  KOFA NWR, AZ.

The north wall at the entrance to Palm Canyon in the glow of sunset. KOFA NWR, AZ.

I decided to check my e-mail first and had a couple from Gary, so I called him after we finished dinner and we chatted for about an hour.  It sounds like the article I sent him this morning on Quartzsite 2015 won’t run until the March issue, so that will give me a little more time to select and process photos, experience more things here, and possibly extend the article a bit.  In the meantime Gary is going to have Stacy proofread all of the articles that are ready plus the one I just sent.

 

 

My ASUS laptop keyboard appears to be functioning correctly again so I was reluctant to restart my computer, but the message said it would restart in one day on its own anyway.  I guess there’s no time like the present to find out if the machine has a problem.  It finished whatever it was it needed to do, powered down, and restarted without a hitch.  I then copied all of the photos from our canyon hike to the computer and NAS and started looking at them.  I processed a few and then went to bed.

 

2015/02/01-05 (N-R) Another Month in Q

2015/02/01 (N) Hola February

Yesterday would have been an excellent day to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus—cool and cloudy without a lot of breeze—but it was also an excellent day for the inside computer work that we both needed/wanted to do.  I downloaded the free version of the Simple:Press forum WordPress plug-in the day before yesterday and was going to make a priority of installing it today on the FMCA Freethinkers website I have been developing until the activation of the Jetpack Site Management feature caused the admin panel (app) to crash.  We have had a problem for a while with one member who was unable (or unwilling) to interact appropriately online via our e-mail reflector.  The reflector does not require a login and does not have any way to moderate discussions or block/remove posts, so our options as a chapter were very limited.  A WordPress-based forum would give us all of those features.

I had an e-mail reply from support@ipower.com indicating that the Wordfence plugin had caused the problem.  They needed the answer to the security question in order to authenticate my support request and fix the problem. Bob Pelc provided me with that information which I supplied back to ipower.com.  Later in the day I got an e-mail indicating that the problem was resolved and I was, in fact, able to log in without any problems.  The e-mail said the Wordfence plugin had caused the crash and that they disabled it, but after I logged in it was still activated.  I did not, however, take the time to check if it was functioning correctly.  I also did not install the Simple:Press forum at this time.

For breakfast Linda improvised a potato tofu scramble with nutritional yeast, garlic, and other seasonings.  It was a hearty and flavorful start to the day.  After breakfast I called Jim A. back to discuss the FMCA seminar listing categorization document we have been working on.

I settled in to work at my computer on the consolidated blog post for November 10-16 while Linda settled in to work on accounting for the bakery.  She is also approaching the time of year when she has to pull tax returns together.  She uses Turbo Tax and needs an updated version each year.  The products she needed were on sale through Amazon Prime.  She purchased and download them, which also placed them in her Amazon software library, and they installed and opened without a hitch.

I got an e-mail from Harvey Carter (AC8NO), president of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC), asking me to update the officer listing on the club website.  I took care of that and also changed that contact form (Contact Us page) to e-mail him instead of former president Mike Sharpe (WX8H).

By 2:30 PM I was tired of sitting in front of my computer so I changed into my work clothes and spent an hour trying to clean and wax a couple of windows on the bus.  The passenger side, which faces south, was so hot I cloud not touch it for very long, so I worked on the north side in the shade.

Jim/Flo L. and Jim/Barb B. disassembled the Select Comfort air mattress we had put in the park model trailer and divided up the parts.  We were going to donate it to the Salvation Army but did not get it done fast enough.  Jim B. would like the pump and controllers but Butch and Fonda need them to replace the defective unit on the mattress in their guest bedroom.  Since that is where I sleep when I am there, it is in my best interest to give it to them.

We invited all of our neighbors to come over for happy hour at 4 PM.  Barb B. came over with a glass of wine at 4:20 PM, so I poured a glass for Linda and me.  Jim B. was taking a nap as were Butch and Fonda.  (Hey; retirement is hard work!).   Butch and Fonda eventually shook the cobwebs out and came over.  Jim and Flo L. arrived but busied themselves with dinner preparations.  They were joining Jim/Barb B. for a belated Christmas dinner.  Jim B. eventually awoke and Barb left to join the other three for dinner.  Fonda left just before 6 PM to go to church but returned a few minutes later.  Apparently the evening service had been cancelled because of the Super Bowl.  She and Butch visited as the sun set and eventually it got chilly enough that we all decided to go inside.

I e-mailed Chuck Spera and my long-time friend John (J. C.) Armbruster earlier in the day but had not gotten responses from either of them by bedtime.  During the evening I had e-mails going back and forth with Steve Willey regarding the upcoming informal FMCA Freethinker gathering at the Liar Peg Leg Smith Monument boondocking area in Borrego Springs, California.  I also e-mailed Jim Ellmore regarding the same event.

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona.

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona as seen from our campsite on the north end of town.

2015/02/02 (M) Market Day

The last 24 hours have brought into focus why we are here for the winter.  It will be sunny and 80 degrees F today.  Detroit got 16.7 inches of snow from the storm that hit over the weekend, with 12 inches in Ann Arbor and similar amounts in Dexter, Howell, and Brighton.  When we checked this morning it was 7 degrees at home and going up to a high of 14.  Yeah, we are not missing that.

Breakfast was the bland store-bought bulk granola we have had to eat since running out of Linda’s homemade granola some weeks ago.  I wish we could carry a five-month supply of her granola; it’s that good.  Right after breakfast Linda started putting together menu ideas and a shopping list while I reviewed the latest seminar listing from Jim A. and e-mailed it back to him.  He called later to discuss it briefly.  I started working on yet another consolidated blog post for 17-23 Nov 2014 and did that until I could not stand to sit any longer.  The antidote for was go outside and work on cleaning and waxing the rear cap of the bus.

Butch and Fonda left around 9 AM and drove to Parker to go shopping at Wal-Mart.  Back home they shop at the Wal-Mart in Logansport and are familiar with the items there.  Not long after they left Linda drove to Blythe, California to do our grocery shopping for the week.  Of the supermarkets available to us we prefer the Albertson’s in Blythe, followed by the Smart & Final Extra at the same intersection.

Butch and Fonda returned from shopping and so did Jim and Barb.  Butch asked if I had ordered the coil for the MAC solenoid air valve that controls the a-c shutters behind the front bumper.  I hadn’t, so I took a break from cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus and called MAC Valve to order a replacement coil for the 111B601BAAA solenoid valve.  (I still have the old valve but I do not think I have it with us in the bus.)

Jim L. stopped by with some very fresh grapefruit and we got to talking about automotive detailing.  He recommended Finesse from 3M for polishing paint without leaving marks.  He said it works so well that the paint looks “wet” when you are done.  Butch had also suggested that I look at the Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  Apparently this machine can finish paint with no swirl marks.

The FMCA Freethinker website /WP-admin/ panel was back up and running.  I logged in and checked the plugins.  They were all there but they had ALL been deactivated.  Tech support at ipower.com had indicated that they were going to disable the Wordfence plugin.  I re-activated most of them, but not all, and specifically did not re-activate the Jetpack plugin.  It is a large, feature rich plugin and the only thing I use is the Carousel feature to manage native WordPress image galleries.  Unfortunately I need that feature and have not found another plugin that does what I need.

I worked for most of the evening on the consolidated blog post.  By the time I finished it was too late to start selecting and editing photos, so I will do that tomorrow if I have time.

2015/03/03 (T) Wax On, Wax Off

I knew there was something else I was supposed to do yesterday, but I could not remember what it was.  I sometimes put “tasks” on my calendar, but that does not help if do not check it.  I remembered this morning what it was; I needed to call Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon, Michigan and follow up on an e-mail I sent last Thursday regarding our order for personalized SLAARC jackets.  I made that call and Pam took our credit card information.  Barb handles sales but had not made it in yet due to the snow.  Sunset Sportswear was closed yesterday because of the storm so if I had remembered to call them it would have been for naught.  Things often work out like that.

I also got an e-mail from the Escapees RV Club regarding the upcoming Escapade rally.  It indicated we could extend our stay until Sunday noon.  I called Lou Petkus, the head staff photographer for the Escapade, to let him know.  The rally ends on Thursday with normal departure on Friday and staff departure on Saturday.  Lou is trying to arrange a photography field trip for Saturday so the fact that anyone can stay until Sunday should help with participation.  I called the SKP headquarters and booked the extra night.

I confirmed which RV Park Lou and Val will be in on March 5th and I think we will try to get in there as well.  That location will position us close to the rally venue and allow us to caravan in together and park together.  (We have to be in by 11AM on the 6th.)  That, in turn, should make our staff photography work more convenient.  We plan to hang out (dry camp) with RVillage founder Curtis Coleman for a couple of nights before this at his rental home near Casa Grande, which will put us a lot closer to Tucson than we are here in Quartzsite.

We had also mentioned to Lou and Val at Quartzfest that we were thinking of heading to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument after the Escapade.  They had been discussing it and decided they would like to go there as well so we will probably caravan there with them.  After OPCNM we plan to head to Big Bend NP (BBNP) in Texas and Lou and Val would also like to go there.  That is a three day drive for us, and we may take six or seven days to get there depending on where we might stop and what there is to see long the way.  Whether we travel together or separate will be determined later.  Our friend, Mara, and another women from the WINs are also headed to BBNP sometime in March and we have tentatively agreed to meet up with them if we can work out the timing.

I checked my e-mail and had a reply from Jetpack tech support at WordPress.com. “Happiness Engineer” Jeremy said that Wordfence has been known to cause issues with the Jetpack plugin.  He acknowledged that Wordfence is a powerful and important plugin but can be very aggressive in protecting websites.  Given that Wordfence appears to have caused the crash of the FMCAA Freethinkers WordPress /WP-admin/ Jeremy said I probably did not need to reinstall the Jetpack plugin.  I filled out a support ticket yesterday for this issue on the Wordfence website as I have a premium (paid) membership.  They acknowledged the support ticket right away but an actual response will likely take longer.

I had all of these communications chores done by 11 AM and decided to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  I started with the rear, as it was still in the shade, and finished the lower half.  It was tedious as that is the engine hatch and it has numerous horizontal indentations that run the full width.  These indentations are open on the inside top for airflow and have screens to keep things from getting in (like fingers).

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

I continued on around to the driver side of the bus which faces north.  The temperature this afternoon got up to 80 degrees F, and it was very hot in the sun, but it was pleasantly cool in the shade of the bus.  It was near perfect conditions for the work I was doing.  I worked most of the afternoon and did not quite get the back half of the bus cleaned and waxed.  A couple of bay doors and I will be past the half way point on that side.

I am going to try to work on this at least a few hours every day, otherwise it will never get done and this is an ideal place to work on it as long as I am not working in the sun.  The south facing passenger side is going to be more of a challenge and I will have to limit my work to the morning before the body panels heat up.

UPS showed up today with my coil for the MAC valve which turned out to be an entire new valve.  Rather than try to remove the solenoid coil I may just install the whole valve.  UPS also brought Fonda’s new sewing machine.  It only weighs 13 pounds.

Butch got back from a rock hunting field trip late in the afternoon and we stood around chatting as an amazing sunset developed around us.  As I have mentioned before, sunsets here are often 360 degree events and this one surrounded us with color before finally fading into another starry night.

Linda made a wonderful dish for dinner last night and we had it again this evening.  She pan-grilled polenta and served it on a bed of dark leafy greens topped with puttanesca sauce made from scratch.

After dinner I selected photographs for my November 17 – 23, 2014 blog post and processed them.  I uploaded the text to our WordPress site and then uploaded, captioned, and integrated each photo in turn.  I also had to enter all of the tags, which I figure out as I read through the post.  If there is one thing I would like to have at this point it is the ability to highlight key words and phrases in my Word document and have them automatically become tags when the text is uploaded.

By the time I published the post and went to bed to finish this one it was midnight.  At eight minutes after midnight MST I was one hour into my 63rd year as I was born on this date at 00:08 in the Central Time Zone, where eight minutes past midnight happened an hour ago.

2015/02/04 (W) 63 and Counting

I finished my blog post for yesterday late last night and e-mailed it to myself at eight minutes after midnight, the hour and minute of my birth, or so I have always been told.  Linda and the cats were all asleep and I observed the moment in quiet solitude.  As I noted at the end of yesterday’s post I was actually an hour late in my observance as we are currently in the Mountain Time Zone and I was born in the Central Time Zone.  But it was the thought that counted.

Sixty-three is not a milestone birthday anniversary, other than making it that far.  On my 60th birthday I became eligible to retire, and did so four months later.  On my 62nd birthday I became eligible to start drawing social security, but didn’t.  On my 65th birthday I will become eligible for Medicare.  The year I turn 66 Linda will apply for Social Security benefits and immediately suspend them.  I will be eligible for my full Social Security benefit but will not apply for it.  I will apply for the spousal benefit instead.  Our monthly Social Security benefits continue to increase by 8% per year until age 70, a solid and guaranteed return, so Linda will start taking her benefits then and I will file for, and take, my benefits when I turn 70.

Having thought through the complexities of birthdays, we had breakfast and then I got to work cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  My plan was to finish the driver side but not spend all day at it.  As it turned out, I spent most of the day at it, taking breaks to check e-mail.  It is just slow work, especially since so much of it has to be done on a step ladder.  I have no idea how many trips I made up and down that ladder, but it was a lot.  It is only a seven foot step ladder so I have to stand near the top to reach the top of the sides which are over 12 feet from the ground.  I cannot reach very far to the side either, so I work from one side of the ladder then climb down and climb up the other side and work from there.  I then climb down and move the ladder about three feet and do it all again; over, and over, and over.  But as Long as I keep going it eventually gets done.  I am, however, seriously considering getting a Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  There is simply too much bus to do this by hand.  I am also considering getting a platform to put between two ladders and/or a four-wheel elevated work platform to use in the barn if/when we get it built.

I got a call from our daughter wishing me a happy birthday and had a nice chat with her.  I asked if Katie had made a final college selection but she is not done with interviews yet.  Perhaps we will know in a few weeks where she is headed in the fall.

Yesterday Linda invited all of our camping neighbors to come over today at 4 PM for happy hour to celebrate my birthday.  In preparation she spent part of the day making cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  When she wasn’t cooking she did accounting and tax return work for Butch and Fonda.  Around 3 PM she prepared bruschetta using what was left of a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread and the puttanesca sauce she made a couple of nights ago.  Larry/Sandy, Jim/Barb, and Butch/Fonda all brought chairs and beverages of their choice.  Butch and Fonda brought chips, salsa, and hummus and the peanut and dried fruit mix they make.  We sat around talking until the sun set at which point the air temperature cooled off and we all retreated to our rigs.

I got a call from our son during our happy hour and excused myself for a few minutes to chat with him.  It was 7:40 PM back in Ann Arbor and Madeline was getting ready for bed.  I got to “chat” with her and she wished me a happy birthday.  With encouragement from her mom she asked me “How is Arizona?”  I told her it was very nice here.

We skipped lunch today and did not have dinner because we filled up on happy hour snacks.  Linda played online word games while I started assembling the consolidated blog post for November 24 – 30.  She turned on the MiFi and trundled off to bed to watch an episode of Downton Abby on her iPad.  I finished editing the post and selected two photos to go with it.  When I checked I found that I did not have photos for most of the days covered by the post.  I thought about uploading it but decided against it as it still takes time to upload the text, upload and insert the pictures, and create all of the tags and I was too tired to maintain the needed concentration.  Somewhere in there I read through a reply from Chuck Spera and sent him the next volley in our e-mail conversation.

Overall it was a good 63rd birthday.  Given our winter travel lifestyle I face the interesting prospect of celebrating my birthday somewhere different every year for many years to come.

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour.  L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me.   Photo by Linda (not shown).

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour. L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me. Photo by Linda (not shown).

2015/02/05 (R) A Screwy Tire

The overnight lows are now dropping into the upper 40’s at night and the coach cools off just enough that I turn the heat on in the front of the bus while I make coffee in the morning.  Soon enough the sun starts heating up the coach and we are pulling the accordion shades down to keep it out and opening windows and turning on ceiling exhaust fans to draw cool air in.  A couple of days ago we finally put the awnings out on the south facing passenger side of the coach.  Between the patio awning and the bedroom awning they shade more than half of the upper portion of the coach and help keep the interior temperatures in check.  We have not had them out much, however, because of the somewhat persistent winds in the La Paz Valley.

After breakfast I wanted to setup the TireTraker TT-400C TPMS.  Once I started I would need to install the sensors on all 13 tires.  In order to install the sensor on the spare tire in the car I had to empty out the back so I could get to the tire.  Linda was helping me and noticed a screw in the passenger side rear tire.  It was right at the edge of the tread but not technically in the side wall.  The tire was holding pressure but when I started to back the screw out it started to hiss so I screwed it back in.  Nuts.

Linda got online to look for tire repair shops in Quartzsite.  The first three numbers we tried were out of service and the Love’s Truck Stop only repaired big tires, not small ones, so I called Jim Liebherr to see if he knew of some place in town.  Flo answered the phone and could not locate Jim so I asked for a return phone call.  Butch then offered to drive me downtown where he thought he remembered seeing a tire shop.  As we were pulling out of our camp it occurred to Butch that the RV Pit Stop, just south of us on Central Avenue, might do tire repairs.  Before we even got that far we saw the sign for Best Auto and Tires.  We have walked or driven past this place dozens of times but never paid any attention to the fact they sold and serviced tires.  At the time we did not care.

They said they would have to see the tire so we drove back to camp and I drove back in the car.  They said they could repair it properly with an internal patch and they would get right on it if I wanted to wait for it.  $14.  Deal.  I could easily have walked back to camp from there but I was back with the car within an hour.  If the tire had not been repairable we would have had to take it off the car and use Butch’s Chevy Suburban to drive it to Yuma or Lake Havasu City where there are Discount Tire Locations.

Jim L. returned my earlier phone call while I was waiting for the tire.  He and Flo use a dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico and are very satisfied with the service and price.  I have a tooth that is bothering me just a bit and was giving some serious consideration to making an appointment with someone in Los Algodones.

I installed the batteries in our new TT-400C sensors and programmed the baseline pressures into the monitor (receiver).  I then installed the sensors on the bus and car tires, linking each one to the monitor as I went.  Programming the baseline pressures first is the easier way to install the system.  In setup mode the monitor displays each tire position in turn.  While the position is displayed a sensor is screwed onto the valve stem.  The application of pressure to the sensor “wakes it up.”  When the sensor starts transmitting the monitor associates it with the displayed tire position.  After exiting setup mode only the programmed tire positions display on the monitor.

In addition to the overall setup procedure there are several things I like better about the TT-400C system compared to the PressurePro system we have had since the 2008 FMCA national rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.  A major one is that the baseline pressures are programmed into the monitor.  On the PP-TPMS the baseline pressures are determined by the pressure in the tire at the time the sensor is put on.  Another thing I like is that the TT-TPMS monitor is powered by rechargeable batteries and is not plugged in when in use.  That makes it much more convenient to move it between the bus and the car, but especially to carry it around while installing and associating the sensors to wheel positions.  Finally, I like the sensors, which are much smaller and only weigh 0.4 ounces each.

Linda helped me reload the back of the Element and sort through all of the “stuff” that was “stuffed” in the glove box and the passenger side dashboard trays.  (When was the last time someone actually stored gloves in an automotive glove box?).  With everything sorted out and repackaged in ZipLock bags I stored it back in the glove box and locked up the car.

Linda spent part the morning working on accounting and tax returns for Butch and Fonda and talking on the phone to Dave, the controller at Metropolitan Baking.  I got a call later from Jim Ammenheiser and then did a final proofreading of our Education Committee recommendation to FMCA staff for how to restructure the categorization and listing of seminars and activities in the national rally programs.

We took a break and had the last two cupcakes from yesterday with some vegan Mocha Almond Fudge coconut “ice cream.”  We were supposed to have these last night for my birthday but we were not hungry after snacking at the happy hour birthday gathering.  Linda then went for a walk.  Linda got me a birthday card and a towel with an elastic edged hole for my head.  I tend to get food on my shirts when I eat and the towel is basically an adult bib that can be easily laundered.

Our fresh water tank was a bottle cap shy of empty so I filled it.  It usually takes about 50 minutes to fill the tank starting from empty so I set the timer on my smartphone for 40 minutes.  When it signaled me to check on the progress the tank was already overflowing.  (It has a vent tube on top of the tank that runs through the floor of the bay.)  I don’t think I wasted more than a few gallons of soft water so it should not throw my water usage and softening calculations off by much.  The good news was that the post-fill hardness test showed the water coming out of the softener at 0.0 to 0.5 gpg total hardness (0 to 10 ppm.)  That was better than the reading I got right after I recharged the softener, so perhaps it still had some residual salt in it initially.

At 4 PM I was getting ready to upload a blog post when the UPS truck showed up and dropped off two boxes for me.  It was the Chemical Guys microfiber products I had ordered recently, including two microfiber auto detailing aprons.  Butch returned a few minutes later with a small package for me.  It was the lens hood I had ordered for my Sony zoom lens and it had been mailed USPS.  He also had eight (8) Full River 6V L16 AGM batteries.  I helped him unload them from the Suburban onto the concrete pad on the driver side of their bus.  Fonda emptied out the driver’s side of their battery bay and she and I then moved the batteries to the bay where Butch positioned them.  He left them in their boxes and will install them when they get back to Twelve Mile.

At 5:15 PM I finally got around to uploading the consolidated blog post for the last week of November (2014).  I then started thinking about what to do with my December 2014 posts.  As of today I am still 67 posts behind and putting up daily posts is not realistic.  In looking through my photos I was surprised to find that I took very few from the time we left the house until we arrived in Quartzsite.  I decided to do consolidated posts for Dec 1 – 4 (Twelve Mike, IN to Alvarado, TX), 5 – 8 (visit with Donn Barnes), and 9 – 12 (travel from Alvarado to Quartzsite, AZ).  I have more pictures for the rest of the month, so I will have to figure out what makes sense.  I compiled the posts for December 1 – 4, selected and processed one photo, uploaded it, selected the categories, and entered all of the tags.  I posted it and then realized I wanted to edit the URLs slightly so I logged back in and found that I was unable to type anything.

It took me a while to figure out that the problem was the built-in keyboard on my ASUS G750JM ROG notebook computer.  I got it at the end of April last year, so I have only had it for eight months.  I decided to run a full scan using ESET Smart Security since I could do that with just a mouse and the Bluetooth mouse was working just fine.  It found 18 threats and dealt with 16 of them.  I then ran CCleaner, after which I enabled the onscreen keyboard.  Although intended for use on touchscreen computers, at least I could type things into a search box using my mouse.

I found some references to similar problems on answers.microsoft.com with the suggestion to examine the keyboard device properties.  If it indicated the device was installed and working correctly it was probably not a Windows 8.1 problem.  The other suggestion was to try an external keyboard.  If that worked it would confirm a keyboard hardware problem.  I had already gotten my Gigaware wireless keyboard out so I plugged in the USB dongle, turned on the keyboard, and voilà, I could type again!

Another post on the Windows forum listed website links for ASUS support so I started following those.  One ASUS website wanted the serial number of my computer, which I had to get off of a tag on the bottom of the case with really small type.  Once I had that entered correctly I was able to go to a download page with 81 files available, including bios and chipset code.  There were two files that seemed to have something to do with the keyboard.  By 1:15 AM I had a half dozen tabs open in two different browsers with no definitive understanding of what had happened or what to do to fix it.  I then realized that the Shift Lock key on the keyboard was illuminated and I could toggle it on and off.  I could also toggle the Number Lock, so I tried typing and the keyboard was working once again.  That, however, did not give me any confidence that it would continue to do so.  I decided I was not going to shut the computer down for fear of not being able to log back in on startup.  I was not about to start downloading and installing anything at that hour so I went to bed tired, annoyed, and, frankly, a bit discouraged by this unwelcomed turn of events.

 

2015/01/27-31 (T-S) Q 2015 W5

2015/01/27 (T) Ahhh, Mexico

We packed quite a bit into today.  After having toast and coffee for breakfast we drove to Yuma through heavy cloud cover and fog.  It made for an interesting and beautiful drive, but we did not pull off the road to take pictures.  There is often a tension between the need to get somewhere and the desire to stop and take photographs.  Today the destination took precedence.

When we got to Yuma we drove around looking for the Main Street that led to the heart of downtown and Yuma Territorial Prison.  This was only the second time we had been in Yuma and the first time I had driven here and I did not quite remember how the streets ran, which is unusual for me.  Yuma is not that big of a town and I was able to get oriented fairly easily with the help of the GPS map.  I missed a turn, however, and we ended up driving over the single lane bridge on the Ocean to Ocean Highway.  We stopped at a Casino just short of the California border, turned around, and went back over the bridge.  Being single lane the traffic is controlled by stop lights on each end.

Main cell block, 1875 Yuma Territorial Prison.  Yuma, AZ.

Main cell block, 1875 Yuma Territorial Prison. Yuma, AZ.

I made the correct turns this time and got us to the parking lot for the 1875 Yuma Territorial Prison State Park.  Very little of the original prison remains, but there is enough of it to give a feeling for what it was like.  The small museum does a good job of telling the story, but a tour guide (from Canada) helped fill in details and answer questions.  Although part of the Arizona State Parks system, it is operated by a local organization staffed by volunteers.

The prison and the Quartermaster State Park are the two main tourist attractions in Yuma.  Beyond those two things it is the closest city to Quartzsite with a good selection of major retailers.  Yuma is also home to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the U. S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds are just 20 miles north of town.  But the thing that interested us is that Yuma is the wintertime lettuce bowl of North America.  The flat topography and rich soil, watered by an extensive irrigation system fed by the Colorado River and worked by Mexican laborers, spreads as far as the eye can see and supports a vast crop of a large variety of leafy green vegetables.

From the prison I drove west on I-8, almost immediately crossing the Colorado River into the extreme southeast corner of California.  Eight miles later we exited onto CA-186 and headed south through the Quechan Indian Reservation to the U.S./Mexican border crossing at Los Algodones.  We parked in the Indian owned/operated lot and walked across the border into Mexico; our first ever visit to our southern neighbor.  We found it interesting that no one checked us on entry.

Los Algodones is an interesting and unusual little town.  It exists because of tourists from north of the border and has been developed to serve some specific needs of those visitors.  It has the highest concentration (and number) of dentists and optical shops of any place on earth and quite a few pharmacies too.  Many American and Canadian RVers come to this area during the winter months not only for the warm, dry climate, but for annual dental work, eye exams, glasses, and both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.  The vast majority of them park on the U. S. side and walk across the border.

We walked the streets of Los Algodones for an hour or more and finally settled at the Pueblo Viejo restaurant for lunch.  Linda and Marilyn had bean burritos and bottled mineral water.  I made the riskier choice and had a green salad and deep fried peppers.  The peppers were thinly sliced jalapeños mixed with sliced onions.  Linda and Marilyn had some too, but between the three of us we did not finish them; too hot.  At least they were authentic!  Puerto Viejo was the #2 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor and everything we read said the town was safe, including the food.  (The #1 rated restaurant was a sushi bar.)

The restaurant was just across the street from the port of entry so we walked over there and got in line behind a couple of hundred other people.  It took 30 – 40 minutes to reach the customs agent, but the sidewalk was shaded by an overhanging sunscreen and lined with benches so it was comfortable enough.  When it was finally our turn we each cleared customs in less than a minute and were finally back the U.S.A.  We got to use our credit card size passport cards for the first time.

We drove back to Yuma and found the major outdoor shopping mall where I stopped at Best Buy to look for a lens hood and cap for my Sony alpha kit/zoom lens (DT 3.5-5.6/18-70mm) but they did not have any compatible products.

The drive home up US-95 was very different than the drive down.  The clouds and fog were gone and we had a clear view of the mountains to either side of the valley.  Once we were north of the U. S. Army Proving Grounds the land to the east of the highway was part of the KOFA a National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest in the country at over 650,000 acres.  (KOFA stands for “King OF Arizona, a large mine that once operated in this area.)  Between the Proving Grounds and the BLM land south of Quartzsite there are four roads that lead east into the refuge.  Overnight camping is permitted within 100 feet of the roads unless otherwise posted, but we saw very little evidence of anyone out there.  It is, however, a large, remote, area without any services so it only appeals to a certain kind of boondocker, such as those seeking solitude and a semi-wilderness experience.  I say “semi-” because if you can drive there in a 40′ motor home, or a pickup truck pulling a 35′ 5th wheel trailer, it is not wilderness by definition.

About 20 miles south of Q we turned off onto the KOFA NWR road leading to the Palm Canyon trailhead.  The canyon is a huge crevice in the 5,000 foot tall mountain and is home to the only indigenous Palm trees in Arizona.  The trailhead was another seven (7) miles in from the highway and the trail into the canyon was a half mile hike from there, so we will come back another time earlier in the day and do that.  The sun was getting lower in the western sky and the top of the very large mountain to our east was obscured by clouds so the situation was setting up for the possibility of good photographs.  We drove in about 3 miles (at 10 – 15 MPH) and then pulled off the road at a good vantage point to take photos.  We were rewarded for our decision as the sun bathed the mountains in glorious, warm light.

Although the road was generally good gravel and clearly defined we wanted to leave the refuge and get back to the coach while it was still daylight.  As often happens the sunset lingered and the colors deepened as we drove.  One of the challenges with shooting sunsets is that if you hang in there until it is over, you have to pack up your gear and extract yourself from the location in the dark.  Unless, of course, you are backpacking and have already pitched your tent right there.  The same goes for sunrise photography, only in reverse.

Back at the coach we had various snacks for dinner.  Butch brought the mail over and we chatted for a few minutes.  I worked on several e-mails from Gary at BCM, and Bob from our FMCA Freethinkers chapter.  I transferred photos from my camera to my computer and backed them up to the NAS.  I then used MS-ICE to create a couple of panoramas from today’s trip and used FIV to post-process them along with a photo of the mountain at sunset.  By the time I was done it had been a very long, but interesting, productive, and satisfying day.

View looking north from the 1875 Yuma Terriorial Prison State Park, Yuma, AZ.

View looking north from the 1875 Yuma Terriorial Prison State Park, Yuma, AZ.

2014/01/28 (W) Boomerville

After a light breakfast Linda and Marilyn drove to the local Farmers Market and also spent a little time looking around Desert Gardens.  Linda bought some asparagus and a Romanesco brocciflower, which is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.  It grows in a fractal manor based on a Fibonacci number sequence which makes it visually very interesting.

While they were gone I worked on survey items for the FMCA NEC member education survey and suggested a minor change to the seminar categorization spreadsheet that Jim A. had prepared.  I had planned to work on my blog posts for the third week of October (2014) but did not get to those before lunch.

After lunch Linda and I drove out to the BLM Scaddam 14-day area east of town and found the site where Boomerville was set up all last week.  Most of the rigs had pulled out.  Many of them were also geocachers and moved to the Roadrunner area south of town.  We were looking for Bill Stewart and Lynn Pearlmutter from our FMCA Freethinkers chapter and finally spotted their Tiffin Phaeton.  We sat and chatted for over an hour and then headed back to camp where Marilyn had been re-treating in our absence.  I think it has been a good visit for her.

I worked on consolidating seven blog posts from the third week of October while Linda started preparing dinner.  For Marilyn’s final dinner meal (dare I say ‘last supper’) Linda made her mock stroganoff.  No, she did make Marilyn mock her stroganoff, she made a vegan version of stroganoff and served it over white rice, the way I like it.   She also steamed the Romanesco brocciflower.  The taste and texture was mostly cauliflower-like so I seasoned my pieces with a little white vinegar, which is the way I like my cauliflower.

While the ladies played Scrabble online I worked on the blog post and got the pictures selected and edited.  I was up very late again but I got it posted before I went to bed.  I was also having trouble logging in to RVillage using the Google Chrome browser.  I tried Firefox and got in without difficulty and was able to navigate the site.  Remembering that Butch had a similar problem a couple of weeks ago with a different website, I cleared the browsing history (cache) for the last week and tried again.  That resolved the problem, at least for now.  RVillage support had indicated that they were having login issues with the site, so my browser may have cached a bad page.  I primarily use Chrome to browse, so the bad page had probably not been cached in Firefox.

I spent some time on e-mails dealing with an issue we have in our FMCA Freethinkers chapter.  I updated Piriform CCleaner on my computer and ran it.  I then opened Piriform Defraggler, checked for updates, and started it.  It said the remaining time was “> 1 day” so I let it run and went to bed.

Although it was late I worked on the draft of my blog post for yesterday as I had only had time to outline it on my iPad.  I then worked on this post.  Even though I am still way behind in uploading posts to our WordPress website I have to write them each day or I lose the details.  It also takes a fair amount of time, and if I get behind I risk not being able to catch up.  I don’t have to do this at all, of course, but it’s something I want to do and enjoy doing.  I just don’t like being so far behind.

One of the many covered sidewalk market areas in Los Algodones, Mexico.

One of the many covered sidewalk market areas in Los Algodones, Mexico.

2015/01/29 (R) The Flying Nun

We have had an excellent visit with Marilyn since she arrived on the 22nd with a nice mix of local activities, distant sight-seeing, and quiet time at home to visit and allow her to read, rest, and contemplate.  She flew back to St. Louis, Missouri this afternoon but before she left Linda made vegan blueberry pancakes for brunch.

Marilyn’s flight home was at 4 PM MST from the Phoenix airport, which is over 130 miles east of Quartzsite, so they left at noon to get her there in plenty of time.  I stayed home to work and decided to reconcile the financial statements for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter with the copies of the bank statements I received yesterday from the Treasurer, who lives in Chico, California.  While I was at it I updated my financial statements and dues analysis worksheets and the master roster.  Linda called at 2:30 PM to say she was starting back to Q but that traffic was very heavy and she might not be back until after 5 PM.  That proved to be a very accurate estimate.

We had an early dinner that that consisted of a large salad and an equally large glass of Sangria.  I continued to work after dinner dealing with e-mails and then editing together the blog posts for October 23 through 29 into a single post.  I got the post compiled but it was too late (I was too tired) to select and process photos, much less upload the whole thing to WordPress, so I went to bed.

2015/01/30 (F) Regen Aggravation

Rain was forecast for last night and into today and that forecast turned out to be accurate.  It started raining around 11 PM and rained through the night and into mid-late morning.  The precipitation rate was never very high but the rain was persistent.  Even after it quit raining heavy clouds filled the valley and obscured the mountain tops in all directions.  There was a lower chance of showers for this evening after which the system is then supposed to start clearing out.

Marilyn does care for breakfast cereals or things that look, taste, or feel like milk, so we tended to have toast for breakfast while she was here (except when we had vegan cinnamon rolls and vegan blueberry pancakes).  This morning we returned to our normal breakfast of granola, fruit juice, and coffee.  After breakfast we both had work to do and set both of our laptops up on the dinette table.

Linda got a package yesterday from the bakery via UPS with work papers related to the 12th accounting period of the 2014 fiscal year.  This was also the first accounting period in which the bakery was running only on the new software.  Linda did the software configuration and conversion in September, October, and November of 2014 and the 12th accounting period corresponds approximately to the month of November.

My “work” was completing my blog post for October 23 – 29, 2014.  I selected 10 photographs for the post that were representative of the work described in the narrative, visually interesting, and technically OK.  I uploaded the text to WordPress and then uploaded, captioned, and inserted each image.  I got finished about the same time Linda got tired of staring at numbers and made pocket pita sandwiches for lunch. She went for a long walk afterwards and I turned my attention to our fresh water system.

I knew we were below 1/3rd of a tank of fresh water based on the monitor in the house systems panel.  I checked after lunch and we were at ~1/6th of a tank (~20 gallons).  The last time I filled the tank I checked the hardness afterwards and it was higher (3.0 grains per gallon, or gpg) than it had been.  After the last regeneration (recharge) it measured 1.5 gpg and continued to give that reading after each of the next few fill ups.  (It should have measured 0 gpg but I was not able to get it recharged to that extent.)   We have been keeping a log of the dates, gallons, and hardness but I had not yet analyzed the data so I added 100 gallons to the tank.  Afterwards I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener and it measured 25 gpg, which is the low end of the very hard water range.  Oops.

Although Los Algodones, Mexico was crowded and bustling with tourists from north of the border there were many quiet places like this.

Although Los Algodones, Mexico was crowded and bustling with tourists from north of the border there were many quiet places like this.

I did not want to leave that water in the tank and run it through our plumbing and fixtures, but I had to regenerate the water softener before I could do anything else.  I removed the filter from the housing on the input of the water softener.  It was brown all the way through from the outer surface to the inside, so it needed to be replaced even though I had just installed it when I did the last regeneration.  Quartzsite city water is safe to drink but in addition to being very hard it has a lot of sediment in it.  Butch also thinks it is over-chlorinated and Jim L., who qualifies as a local, just doesn’t think it tastes good.  The water we drink and cook with in the coach goes through three filters and a softener before it reaches our lips so we do not have any issues with it.

I put the special recharge tube into the filter housing and filled the bottom half of the housing around the outside of the tube with solar salt.  I then poured half of a container of Morton table salt (non-iodized) on top of the solar salt.  I aligned the center tube with the center of the head and threaded the housing onto the head.  I ran water through the filter housing and then through the softener until I got a strong salty taste out of the softener.  The instructions that came with the unit say to run water through the filter housing and out the softener until the saltiness is gone, but it gives no indication of how strong or weak the flow should be or how long it should take.

[When salt (NaCl) dissolves in water (H2O) sodium ions become available.  The special media in a water softener has an affinity for dissolved ions.  Recharging the softener dislodges the calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) ions from the media and replaces them with sodium (Na) ions as a result of the supersaturated saltwater brine.  During normal operation the sodium (Na) ions in the softener are exchanged for the calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg) ions in the water.  “Soft” water is not demineralized water, but the sodium (Na) ions do not cause the scale and build up in plumbing systems that the harder calcium and magnesium ions do.]

This is where we ate lunch in Los Algodones, Mexico.

This is where we ate lunch in Los Algodones, Mexico.

When the water coming out of the softener was very salty I reduced the flow to a small amount and let run.  I lost track of exact time, but I eventually shut the flow off, shut off the incoming water, and unscrewed the housing.  It still had salt in it; not as much as when I started, but too much to be done.

[It takes a certain quantity of salt to produce enough sodium ions (Na) to completely recharge a softener of some given capacity.  Softeners do not treat a certain number of gallons of water before needing to be regenerated; they remove a certain number of grains of hardness based on the design.  The harder the water coming in the fewer gallons that can be processed.  Softer water in, more gallons processed.  When you understand the science involved, it is really quite simple.]

I stirred the salt in an attempt to dissolve it and put the housing and tube back on the head and ran more water through it.  One of the problems with this arrangement is that I am starting with very hard water while trying to regenerate a water softener, but there is no easy way around that.  The other problems is that I do not have a sediment filter ahead of the softener.  If particulates are allowed to enter the softener and accumulate they will reduce and eventually destroy the effectiveness of the ion exchange media.  This is a design flaw that is easily remedied by adding another filter housing between the sediment filter and the inlet of the softener.  I will probably rig up something like this when I redo the water bay and use a clear housing so I can see when the salt is gone.  Assuming, of course, that I do not replace the entire system with one like Butch’s.

After fooling around with this for a while I tested the water coming out of the softener and it was still up around 15 gpg.  It appeared that nothing I had done for the last two hours had made any difference.  I removed the housing yet again and added an entire 26 oz. container of Morton non-iodized table salt.  I ran the water until it came out of the softener very salty and then shut it off.

I set the timer on my phone for one hour and drove down to the Tyson Wells market area on Kuehn Street to buy a T40 GAC (granulated activated carbon) filter from the Water Filter guy.  While I was down there I stopped and bought a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread.  When I got back to the coach I ran the water for 30 seconds, shut it off, and set my timer for 20 minutes. I repeated this cycle for another hour and then set an outlet valve on the softener to emit a slow stream and let it continue to run.  I periodically tasted the water coming out and eventually it did not have any saltiness.  I checked it with a test strip, my third of the day, and it finally tested at 1.5 gpg.  Evening was approaching and I once again found myself in the position of having to finish this process in the dark, so I abandoned any hope of getting it fully recharged to zero (0) gpg, if the unit is even capable of that.

I opened the drain valve on the fresh water tank part way and let the entire 120 gallons drain out.  I did not like wasting that water, but I did not want it in our system.  I also do not like the amount of time and water it seems to take to regenerate our softener, but it’s what we have for now.  At least we are parked on gravel so all of the salty water can just soak in without harming anything.  In an RV resort with landscaping we would have to be careful not to discharge the brine onto the grass or plants.  The salt water is also not great for septic systems, but in sticks-n-bricks homes it usually ends up in one of those two places.

I installed a new 5 micron melt-blown polypropylene sediment filter in the pre-softener housing and screwed it back on to the head.  I let filtered water run through the softener and onto the ground to flush any remaining brine out of the tank.  While that process was taking place I turned my attention to the post-softener filter.

We have a filter housing built into the water bay of the coach.  Water enters the coach through a garden hose connection then (presumably) passes through a check valve before going through the filter.  From there it runs throughout the coach to all of the fixtures and the Aqua-Hot.  One of the fixtures is the fill valve for the fresh water tank.  When the onboard 12VDC water pump is used it simply takes water out of the fresh water tank and pressurizes the entire system the same way the shore line does.  The pump has a check valve to prevent the pressure from an external connection from forcing water backwards through the pump.

The filter housing is hidden behind a beauty panel that makes it awkward to access and service but I managed to get the housing loose and to remove it without spilling too much water.  The installed filter was just a pleated sediment cartridge but it was basically clean so either sediment was not getting this far or was small enough to pass through.  I installed the T40 GAC cartridge and put the housing back on the head.  I then turned off the water coming into the softener and connected the output to the hose from the fresh water inlet on the coach.  The directions said to flush out the T40 with at least five gallons of tap water before using the water so I filled the kitchen sink half full while running off of the shore line.

I started this process at 1 PM.  It was now 6PM and I was finally ready to fill the fresh water tank.  The T40 filter cartridge does not have a micron rating but it was a rather snug fit in the housing and the design looks like it could constrain flow rates.  I opened the fill valve for the fresh water tank and set my phone timer to 40 minutes.

While the tank was filling I started putting the dump and fill data we have been logging into a spreadsheet.  Our softener tank is the same size as Butch and Fonda’s, which is labeled as having a 10,000 grain capacity.  Our data indicated that the last 100 gallons we added took our total from 515 to 615 gallons.  We knew we had obviously run too much water through the softener based on the first hardness test today, but this data was confirming that we had, at most, a 10,000 grain capacity tank.  Given the 25 gpg city water coming out of the tap we will need to regenerate the softener somewhere between 400 and 500 gallons.  Given the aggravation involved in trying to recharge our unit I doubt that it will be a long-term solution for us.  It simply should not take that much time to do something so simple, especially when it has to be done so often.

At the end of 40 minutes the fresh water tank was 3/4s full so I set the timer for another 10 minutes.  With the current filter setup the flow rate into the tank appears to be about 2.5 gallons per minute.  The Shur-Flo 4048 pump has a 4 GPM maximum flow rate, so that is another reason we run off the tank rather than the shore line.

By the time the tank was full it was too late to actually cook dinner so Linda heated up an Amy’s Barley Vegetable soup and put out some crackers and peanut butter; easy but delicious.

I worked on this blog post after dinner, spent a little more time with my water usage spreadsheet, dealt with some critical e-mail, and went to bed way too late.  But then, I did not have to be up by any certain time and I can take a nap tomorrow if needed.

Palm Canyon at sunset.  KOFA National Wildlife Refuge about 20 miles south of Quartzsite, AZ.

Palm Canyon at sunset. KOFA National Wildlife Refuge about 20 miles south of Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/31 (S) January LTT

The last day of January dawned under cloudy skies.  We are well past the midpoint of our first winter in Quartzsite and continuing to enjoy our time here.  The “Big Tent” RV Show has been over for a week and the BLM STVAs (free, 14-day limit) have thinned out as the visitors who were here for two weeks surrounding the ‘show’ have moved on.  There are still lots of RVs in the BLM LTVAs (fee-based, up to 180 days) but those are longer-term visitors who, like us, are here for ‘the season.’  The commercial RV Parks in town still have healthy occupancy, but the ‘vacancy’ signs are out once again.  There are still plenty of vendors set up in the various markets along Kuehn Street and the flea markets along west Main Street are still operating.  There is still traffic but not the parade of RVs and gridlock of the previous couple of weeks.  There is still lots of activity but the frenzy appears to be over.  Experienced visitors have told us that we will notice a gradual slow down as we move through February into March.  We will also notice a general warming of temperatures.

A small bird of prey has been active around our campsite for the last few weeks, probably longer, and was finally successful in catching something to eat this morning; at least this was the first time that were aware of it.  It took a small bird down by the seed block that attracts various birds and rabbits to our ‘front yard’ and sat where we could see it while it ate.  WE identified it as an American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk) and the small bird it caught was indeed a sparrow.  The American Kestrel ranges from 4 to 10 ounces in weight and has a wingspan up to 24 inches with the larger birds being the mature females.  It is the only Kestrel native to North America and is the first one we have had a good look at in the wild.  It normally eats large insects, small mammals, and lizards, but will take smaller birds if it can, thus the name.  They also have the unusual ability to hover given a very slight amount of wind.

We planned to stick around camp this weekend and work on various tasks so after breakfast Linda started a load of laundry.  I like laundry day because I get to stay in my sweat clothes while my regular ones get laundered.  Between loads Linda continued working on accounting for Butch and Fonda and for the bakery.  I prepared a 4-day and a 7-day consolidated blog post and then worked on reformatting and expanding some more survey items for the FMCA national education committee.  I received a draft report/recommendation from Jim A. for the seminar classification work we have been doing so I went through it, made minor corrections, and added several comments for his consideration.

Linda can only sit for so long so around 2 PM she made mock deli meat sandwiches for lunch with vegan cheese slices, lettuce, vegan mayo, and honey mustard on Barry’s Basic Bread.  She then went for a long walk while I continued to work at computer-based tasks.  She made it to the market area at Kuehn Street and Central Avenue and bought another loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread as we worked our way through the one we bought yesterday fairly quickly.

Butch installed his new TireTraker TPMS sensors yesterday.  (I still need to install ours.)  In the process he discovered that his Chevy Suburban spare tire only had 14 PSI of air pressure in it.  Worse yet the valve stem on his bus spare was too damaged to get the sensor on.  But the real problem was that one of the two attachments for the front bus bumper broke off.  Four bolts had rusted through and snapped.  This morning he looked at what would be involved it drilling out the pieces that were stuck in the threaded holes and decided that was not a job he could do on the road.  He bought some metal strap and fashioned two loops around the front of the bumper and behind the mounting plate and bolted the ends of each to draw them in tight.  When he was done the bumper closed and opened just fine and aligned well with the body when closed.  I joked that this might be another “Long-Term Temporary” repair, or “LTT” for short, and suggested that we should coin the phrase.

Linda made a new dish for dinner, Savory Orange Roasted Tofu and Asparagus.  As the name indicates, it consisted of tofu cubes roasted in a mixture of miso, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil to which asparagus was added while roasting continued.  A sauce is made from miso, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and orange zest and mixed in to the roasted ingredients just before serving.  She also made Farro with a little oil, salt, and pepper and served it as a side.  It may be the first time we have had Farro all by itself rather than as an ingredient in a dish.  It really is a wonderful grain.  Clementine orange sections and Franzia Fruity Red Sangria completed the meal.

A Romanesco Boccliflower.

A Romanesco Boccliflower.

Towards the end of dinner I had a call from Neal Sunderland wanting to know if we knew of anyplace in Q where he and Nora could get prime rib (of beef) for dinner.  An odd request to make of a vegan, perhaps, but we only just met during the Eagles International bus rally and he did not remember how we eat.  Linda got on an iPad and did her best to find out what was in town.  The problem with Q is that a lot of the restaurants close at 8 PM, or sooner if they run out of food.  They were already driving when Neal called and he spotted a sign at the Stagecoach Restaurant on Main Street (B-10) for a prime rib special so they pulled in to the parking lot.  I heard the hostess in the background tell Neal that they were out of the special.  They had 37 of them available for dinner and they were all sold.  Yeah, Q is like that.

I have been reading up on the WordPress.com Jetpack: Site Administration feature.  It sounds very cool as it would allow me to manage multiple WordPress websites via my WordPress.com account.  This includes self-hosted sites, which all four of mine are, plus WordPress.com hosted sites.  I have the Jetpack installed on all four Websites but I have never activated the Site Management feature, which must be done from within the admin panel.  I decided to activate it tonight on the FMCA Freethinkers website, hosted by iPower.com.  The activation failed and took down the /WP-admin/control panel.  The site is still there (structure/functionality/content) but I cannot get to the dashboard to do anything.  I sent a support request to iPower and cc:d Bob Pelc, the President of the FMCA Freethinkers, who is the owner of the clubs iPower account.  I also sent a support request to Jetpack and an e-mail to Larry (K8UT) seeking his thoughts on the situation.  This was not how I wanted to end my day but there was little more I could do late on a Saturday evening, so I went to bed.

 

2015/01/22-26 (R-M) Q 2015 W4

2015/01/22 (R) Sister Marilyn

Marilyn & Linda in front of Beer Belly's "adult day care" outdoor bar.

Marilyn & Linda in front of Beer Belly’s “adult day care” outdoor bar.

The temperature dropped into the low 40’s last night in the wake of the cold front that brought strong winds to Quartzsite yesterday.  We were up at 6:30 AM to give us time to eat breakfast and enjoy our coffee before Linda left at 8 AM for the Phoenix airport to pick up her sister.  Marilyn was scheduled to arrive at 11 AM MST and the airport is a 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive from Quartzsite but Linda wanted to take her time getting there and be in the cell phone lot before the flight got in.  The plan was to go to lunch and then drive back to Q so she was going to be gone most of the day.

I had turned off the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot last night so this morning I turned on the three electric toe-kick heaters and the Broan cube heater to take the chill off of the interior.  With the coffee pot also turned on we were drawing 26 A at 115 VAC on leg 1 and 15 A at 118 VAC on leg 2.  That was more current than we were able to draw before Jim L. changed the shorepower connection from 30 A (120VAC) to 50 A (240VAC) and the first time we have had reasonable voltage levels since we arrived here.

I rode over to the RV show with Butch at 9 AM to look at tire pressure monitoring systems and we both ended up buying TireTraker TPM Systems from Darryl Lawrence.  We have both done business with Darryl in the past and trust him as a vendor.  I also bought three products from the Carnu-B booth.

Back at the coach I checked the coolant level in the Aqua-Hot expansion reservoir.  It was right at the maximum cold level so there was nothing else to do for the moment.  I needed to redo the overflow hose, but not today.  I then used two of the Carnu-B products on the driver-side side window and surrounding painted body surfaces.  It removed the hard water stains and polished everything up very nicely.  I then did a test patch on the front of Butch and Fonda’s bus and it appeared to clean the stainless steel nicely.  They later cleaned an adjacent patch with straight food-grade vinegar and it seemed to work just as well although it did not provide a wax finish.

While I was fiddling with the Aqua-Hot and the cleaning/waxing process Butch started reading the manual for the TT-TPMS and found information that indicated the system did not work the way we thought it did and needed it to.  The manual more than implied that the sensors were activated by motion and stated that readings would appear “… within 20 minutes of starting to drive.”  Say what?!  We both want to use the system to check our tire pressures BEFORE we start to drive, as would most RVers.

Although there are things we do not like about our current Pressure Pro TPM systems they certainly give us the current pressure in the tires without having to drive the vehicle.  They also allow us to monitor just the bus, just the car, or both.  Most systems do this, including the TireTraker, but the Truck Systems Technology (TST) does not.  That was Butch’s first choice system until he found that out.

At 12:45 PM I rode over to the Quartzsite Senior Center with Butch and Fonda for a 1 PM meet and greet with Chuck Woodbury of RV Travel and the Geeks On Tour.  It ran until 4 PM but we were anxious to get back to the RV Show tent and talk to Darryl.  We took our TT-TPMS units with us with the intent of returning them but Darryl assured us that they do work the way we need them to so we decided to keep them for another day or so to test them.

Fonda had not been to the RV Show yet so we walked the entire tent.  I spent a little time talking to the guy at John Carrillo Hydronic Heating.  He had a brand new, never been fired, Webasto DBW2010 burner (with the controller) for $1,800 (cash).  I have seen them online for $3,300, so I knew that was a good price.  I wish I needed one, but we already have a spare.  He also had a new combustion chamber for $200 and I may go back and get one of those.  They wanted $450 for an ignition coil, which I also need, but I can get one from Sure Marine Service for $303.  We spent a long time looking at flag poles at the Flag Pole Buddy booth and Butch bought a 22′ model with an extra set of mounts.

Linda was texting me her status on a regular basis and by the time we got back to camp she and Marilyn were already there and relaxing on the porch of Joe and Connie’s park model trailer.  We sat outside until the sun kissed the tops of the southwestern mountains and then moved inside to escape the chill.  While we were sitting in the coach visiting and cooking Butch installed one of the TT-TPMS sensors on the driver-side front tire of their Suburban, programmed it into the monitor, noted the readings, and went for a test drive.  He noted the readings when they got back and plans to check it again in the morning before moving the car.  That will be the real test.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a lovely mushroom kale risotto with Arborio rice.  We then went to the apartment so I could light the pilot flame on the wall-mounted propane heater.  I visited for a bit and then went back to the coach and Linda followed a bit later.  We were both tired and turned in early.

240 degree panorama from atop 'Q' Mountain, Quartzsite, AZ.

200 degree panorama from atop ‘Q’ Mountain, Quartzsite, AZ. Left edge is N, right edge is SSW.

2015/01/23 (F) Q Mountain

We were up by 7:30 AM and Marilyn eventually arose and joined us for coffee and toast.  The only bread we had was a package of whole wheat pitas, but they toasted just fine and were very good with orange marmalade.  I am not, however, thrilled with the Soy Delicious Almond milk coffee creamer.  It is not as ‘creamy’ as Silk soy creamer and it tends to separate into tiny bubbles in the coffee.  I do, however, like the Almond milk that we sometimes buy, especially on granola type cereals.

Butch called just after breakfast to let me know that the TireTraker TPMS works the way Darryl said it does.  That was welcome news as we both like the system, including the small sensors and the rechargeable monitor, and we both like Darryl.  He and Fonda had things to do today so I borrowed his hose crimper pliers before they left.

Linda and Marilyn left shortly after Butch and Fonda and drove to Blythe, California to do some grocery shopping and sight-seeing.  That left me with some alone time to concentrate on getting some things done that I have needed to work on for a week, such as categorizing FMCA seminars, and have just not found (made) the time.  I value and enjoy my work with the FMCA National Education Committee but we have a significant personal investment in our presence here in Quartzsite, and although we will likely return here again in the years to come that is not guaranteed, and this could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The FMCA work took about an hour to complete and e-mail too Jim A., with who has been the lead person on this.

I also needed to make a minor change to the Aqua-Hot expansion tank plumbing and turn the burner back on.  I removed the overflow hose, shortened it, re-routed it, and re-connected it to the drain tube on the tank.  I also tried to tighten the clamp on the middle zone pump hose.  I noted that the coolant level was at the ‘minimum cold’ mark on the expansion tank.  I will check everything again tomorrow.

With the Aqua-Hot project done I decided to replace the old Sentry turbo boost gauge with the new VDO gauge.  I removed the dashboard cover, disconnected the lightbulb connectors, removed the retaining bracket, and pulled the gauge out the front of the dashboard.  I removed the lightbulb socket to give me better access to the main air fitting and undid that, completely freeing the unit from the dashboard.  I pulled the light socket out of the new gauge to give me more room to put the air fitting on and to check the bulb type.  It was a miniature glass wedge base 12VDC 3W and will need to be replaced with a 24V, 3W bulb.  I then slipped the gauge into the dashboard from the front and secured it with the supplied bracket on the back side.  Linda and Marilyn returned at this point so I quit working on the gauge, put the cover back on the dashboard, and helped bring in the groceries.  I will have to get the 24V bulb and also rewire the leads to match the harness connectors.

We had a light lunch and then drove down to the market area and wandered through the big tent RV show.  We got new Ballisti-Tech screen protectors for our Samsung Galaxy S III smartphones.  We also strolled through a small part of the Tyson Wells and Prospectors Panorama areas.  When we left the RV show we headed south on US-95 to the BLM Roadrunner STVA so Marilyn could see the Quartzfest RVs in the desert.  We found Lou and Val Petkus at their 5th wheel and visited briefly before heading back to town.  The light was good and the sun was still high enough that I made an impromptu decision to climb Q Mountain and try to get pictures of the RVs spread across the desert around Quartzsite.

I got my pictures, and got off the mountain before it got dark, but missed the best color, which we saw while driving back to camp to close up the rig before going to dinner.  The Geeks were out viewing and photographing the sunset before walking to the Grubstake restaurant for dinner so and we chatted with them briefly and then drove to Crazy Jerry’s for our evening meal.  The very thin crust mushroom, onion, and tomato no-cheese pizza was excellent and the French fries were also good.  When we got back to our coach Linda prepared some fresh strawberries for desert.

After visiting with Jim and Chris on Wednesday we decided that we would join the Quartzsite Yacht Club, which claims to have the largest membership of any yacht club in the country (world?, universe?) at over 7,500., although we later heard that it was more than 9,000.  Membership is $30 which gets you a hat, T-shirt, membership card and certificate.  Apparently the membership is good at other (real) yacht clubs that honor reciprocal arrangements.  We had planned to join today but did not fit it in.  It may be Sunday or even a day next week at this point.

I spent some time transferring photos from my camera to my laptop computer and our NAS unit.  I processed three panoramas and three individual images taken on Q Mountain, checked my e-mail, and went to bed.

Sunset glow looking NE from 'Q' Mountain.

Sunset glow looking NE from ‘Q’ Mountain.

2015/01/24 (S) Lake Havasu City

We were up at 7:15 AM and I brewed a pot of coffee while Linda showered.  I took my turn and also trimmed up my beard a bit.  Marilyn came over around 8:25 AM and we all had coffee followed by breakfast.  Linda and I had granola while Marilyn had toast and jam.  She is not that found of breakfast and does not care for milk or milk substitutes.

I removed some of the parts boxes from the back of the Element to eliminate the rattling just in case we decided to drive in to the Desert Bar on the way back from Lake Havasu City (LHC).  We left around 9:15 AM and headed up AZ-95 towards Parker.  It was a cool morning with clear skies and the sun lit up the mountains to the west and north.  When we got to Parker we decided to cross the Colorado River into California and take the Parker Dam Road 17 miles up to Parker Dam, drive across back into Arizona, re-connect with AZ-95, and continue north to LHC.

We knew that the stretch of the River from the dam downstream to Parker had quite a few RV Parks, campgrounds, and mobile home communities because we caught glimpses of some of them from AZ-95, or saw signs for them, the last time we were in LHC.  The drive from Parker to LHC is very scenic but you do not have a view of the river most of the time.  Much of the drive from Parker to the dam on the California side, however, was close to water level so we were able to see the resorts on both sides of the river.  We had also heard that there were wild burros along the California route and indeed there were.  We saw five total, two of them just before the dam.  They appear to be docile animals, but they are wild, and you are not allowed to feed or harass them.

Once we got to LHC we followed the signs for the London Bridge and found the parking lot and visitor center.  We watched a video on the history of the London Bridge, which was actually the second most recent in a long succession of bridges across the River Thames dating back before Roman Times.  The Bridge was purchased, disassembled, moved, and reconstructed in LHC.  It was placed at the entrance to a peninsula and then a channel was dug out under it and connected to the Colorado River on either end, turning the peninsula into an island.  There is an “English Village” at the base of the bridge on the mainland side, which was not very special, but a wonderful pedestrian path winds along the channel all the way down to Rotary Park.  The air was cool and the wind was very strong, but the sun was very warm and we had a lovely stroll.

After walking the path we drove over the bridge and around the island, stopping at one of the reproduction 1/8 scale lighthouses.  The LHC Lighthouse Association has erected some two dozen scale replicas of U. S. Lighthouses.  The ones on the island are all replicas of lighthouses from the Great Lakes while the ones on the Arizona shore are east coast replicas and the ones on the California shore are west coast replicas.  While we were driving Linda researched places we might be able to eat lunch and settled on The Black Bear Diner.  She and Marilyn had garden burgers with French fries and I had the Sweet Garden Harvest Salad.  All of the food was very good, and I was particularly pleased with the salad, which had raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, fresh strawberries, and shredded coconut with a honey Dijon dressing.

The restaurant was in a corner of the parking lot for the Albertson’s grocery store so we went in looking for regular Silk soy creamer.  They did not have any so we started back to Quartzsite and stopped at the Basha’s market on the south end of town.  They had the Silk Vanilla Soy Creamer, not the regular, but I got some anyway.  They also had a nice selection of Daiya cheeses and vegan sausages.  We picked up some sourdough bread and preserves on our way to the checkout.  Of all the food stores we have been in Basha’s was the nicest so far.

By the time we got to Parker I was getting tired so I pulled into the casino parking lot.  I switched places with Linda and she drove the rest of the way to Q.  Back at camp she and Marilyn went to the apartment and started assembling a 500 piece puzzle on the dining table.  As I do on any day that I have taken a lot of pictures I transferred them from my camera to my computer and backed them up to the NAS unit.  I used the Microsoft Image Composite Editor to create two panoramic images of the California mountains just south of LHC.

None of us were hungry enough to warrant fixing dinner so we snacked on hummus and chips (vegan junk food).  Marilyn went back to the apartment at 9 PM and we went to bed shortly thereafter.  A long day of fresh air and sunshine had once again worn us out.

2025/01/25 (N) Visitors

Linda& Marilyn at the London Bridge English village.  It's a real London phone booth, but no phone.

Linda& Marilyn at the London Bridge English village. It’s a real London phone booth, but no phone.

Today was basically a stay at home day.  Marilyn is officially “on retreat” and spent part of the day by herself reading and contemplating.  I made coffee for breakfast, as usual, and Linda made her amazing vegan cinnamon rolls for brunch.  They were brunch because they take hours to make and she did not feel like getting up early enough to have them ready by breakfast and we did not expect her to.

Butch dropped Fonda at church and then came back to get me on his way to the Big Tent RV Show.  Today was the last day of the show so I bought a 2″ wide roll of rescue tape and got three smaller rolls in the deal.  I bought more of the Carnu-B wax but the vendor was out of the Metal Shine cleaner.  That’s the risk one takes waiting until the end of a rally or show.  I also bought two small LEDs that looked like the might work in our spotter/downlights.  We then stopped by Mac McCoy’s booth to chat.  He was busy with customers but Charles Martin was there so we chatted with him instead.

We got back to camp just after 11 AM as Linda was putting the finishing touches on the cinnamon rolls and Marilyn joined us for brunch.  I tried one of the new LED bulbs but it would not fit in our fixtures.  I dealt with some e-mail and thought about spending the rest of the day writing but decided to work outside instead.  My outside task today was cleaning some of the bus windows using the Carnu-B Metal Shine to remove hard water stains.

Chris and Jim of Geeks On Tour did their weekly live broadcast from their rig and then started making preparations to leave.  We had two cinnamon rolls left so Linda took them over as a going away gift.  Charles and Connie Martin dropped in and a short time later Mara and her friend Michael arrived.  Marilyn came over followed by Butch and Fonda so we circled the chairs and had quite a gabfest.

Eventually everyone left and I returned to my window cleaning while Linda and her sister started preparing dinner.  Linda made her wonderful warm Farro dish with kale and dried cranberries while Marilyn made a shredded Brussels sprout dish with pistachios and dried cranberries.  Both dishes were excellent and the use of dried cranberries in each one tied them together nicely.

Linda and Marilyn went to the apartment to watch Downton Abbey but the satellite receiver was not activated so they worked on the jigsaw puzzle instead.  I stayed in the coach and took a call from Lou Petkus who had questions about RVillage.  I then consolidated my blog posts from the first seven days of October (2014) into a single post, selected five photos to go with it, and uploaded it to our WordPress site, the first post I have done since September 30, 2014.  If I do one consolidated post each evening I should be caught up to our arrival in Quartzite on December 12, 2014 in about two weeks.  After that I may go back to daily posts or continue to consolidate three or four days at a time.  I would like to be caught up and making current/daily posts by the time we pull out of here on March 1st.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (LHC), AZ.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (LHC), AZ.

2015/01/26 (M) A Plethora of Jims

We had toast and jam (strawberry preserves and orange marmalade) for breakfast along with our usual coffee and juice.  Jim A. called just after breakfast to update me on work we are doing for FMCA HQ.  Jim G. (&  Chris) pulled out yesterday.  Jim B. (& Barb) are here for the winter.  Jim L. (The brother of owner Joe L.) manages this place and stops by almost every day.  I think we have met several other Jims along the way.  When we meet someone new I just assume their name is Jim until I learn otherwise.  This winter has truly seen a plethora of Jims.

Jim and Barb let me know they were headed to Blythe, California to go grocery shopping and offered to pick up anything we might need.  Butch and Fonda also left but Larry and Sandy did not, which was unusual for them.  Linda and Marilyn wanted to walk around Tyson Wells so I drove them down to Kuehn Street and Central Avenue, stopping at the Post Office on the way.  I stopped on the way back at Herb’s Hardware store to get some 000 steel wool and then topped off my fuel tank at the Union 76 station.

Connie Martin visiting us at the Camp Liebherrvile / Brocker.

Connie Martin visiting us at the Camp Liebherrvile / Brocker.

Back at our coach I started assembling my blog posts from October 8 through 15 into a single post and selecting photos to go with it.  I do not like to sit and do this kind of work for long stretches of time so I got out my cleaning supplies and worked on the outside of some of the bus windows.  I tried using straight vinegar to clean them followed by rubbing with the steel wool, and tried it in the opposite order.  I decided to stick with steel wool first figuring the vinegar would help clean it off.  I did not apply wax to the outsides of the windows as I want them as clean as possible before I wax them.  Rain was forecast for today and it eventually started so I moved indoors and cleaned the insides of several windows on the passenger side of the coach.  These were clean enough that I used the Carnu-B spay wax that I bought yesterday on them.  The rain let up so I moved back outside and worked on the upper windshields.  I got both of them steel wooled and wiped down with vinegar and got a coat of wax on the driver side glass before it started drizzling again.  I put my supplies away again and headed back inside.  Linda called and asked to be retrieved so I drove back down to Kuehn and Central to pick them up.

Linda put out some hummus, chips, and grapes for lunch and we heated up the leftover Farro dish and divided it up between us.  Marilyn went back to the apartment to take a nap and Linda laid down to read and snooze while I continued working on e-mails and blog posts.  Gary Hatt, publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, sent me several photos of himself standing in front of his Eagle.  I selected the one I thought would work best to go with his “Publisher’s Letter” in the January 2015 issue, post-processed it several different ways, and sent it back with an explanation of what did and why.  I also got the blog post for the second seven days of October completed and uploaded before dinner.

Mara Culp and Charles Martin visiting us at Camp Liebherrville / Brockner.

Mara Culp and Charles Martin visiting us at Camp Liebherrville / Brockner.

As the afternoon progressed the rain settled in.  Although not heavy, like a thunderstorm, it was steady well into the evening.  Jim and Barb returned and Marilyn eventually came back over to the coach.  That got Linda out of bed and working on dinner.  She made a dish that has become a standard; pasta with onions, garlic, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes lightly sautéed in olive oil.  Instead of wheat noodles, however, she used “zoodles.”  Zoodles are long slender pieces of zucchini made with a hand operated SpiraLife spiral slicer.  They get added to the sauté just before serving and are simply heated rather than cooked.  We had a green salad with Ken’s Steak House Asian Sesame dressing, dried cranberries and pistachios.  We had slices of a sourdough baguette with pepper spiced olive oil for dipping and Linda and I had a glass of Franzia sangria.  Fresh strawberries for desert completed a nice meal.

Marilyn helped with the dishes after which she and Linda checked on the developing storm out east and then played Scrabble and other games while I stayed out of their way and worked on this post.  Hey, it’s a small kitchen.

The rain stopped at 7:38 PM but started again in earnest around 8:30 PM.  It was still raining at 9:15 PM when Marilyn went back to the apartment and the forecast said we could have rain overnight until 5 AM tomorrow.  We have had very little rain here this winter so I am sure this is welcomed.  It will be interesting to see if the precipitation triggers any sort of desert bloom tomorrow on our drive to Yuma or perhaps the following day.

Linda’s iPad battery was down to about 10% at 9:45 PM so she retired to the bedroom, where the charger is located, and continued to read for a bit longer.  I am usually very sleepy an hour after dinner but get my second wind a couple of hours after that.  I had an e-mail from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine regarding the use of soft water in the Webasto-based Aqua-Hot in his Eagle and sent him a reply.  I then went through the article on Butch’s main engine air-compressor failure, finalized all of the changes, and uploaded it to our Dropbox along with the photo files.  I updated my BCM Article Status Sheet and uploaded it to the BCM folder in our Dropbox.  I then e-mailed Gary and editor Mike Sullivan to let them know that the new material was ready and available.  By the time I finished it was going on midnight.

 

2015/01/21 (W) Quartzfest

Quartzfest 2015 at the Road Runner BLM area south of Quartzsite, AZ.

Quartzfest 2015 at the Road Runner BLM area south of Quartzsite, AZ.

There are so many things going on this week it’s hard to decide what to do.  Linda decided to do laundry right after breakfast because her sister is arriving tomorrow and she doesn’t want to have to do it while Marilyn is here.  The short list included:

  • SKPs Chapter 6 Loose Gathering at Plomosa Road BLM north of town (we are members of Chapter 6).
  • Quartzfest at US-95 MM 99 south of town on BLM land (we are both amateur radio operators).
  • Bluebird Wanderlodge Rally south of town at BLM La Posa South (Bus Conversion Magazine would love to have photos of this gathering).
  • The “Big Tent” RV Show (there are a couple of things we are looking to buy).
Quartfest is where RVing Hams meet up.  There were almost 300 rigs, all with radios and antenna.

Quartfest is where RVing Hams meet up. There were almost 300 rigs, all with radios and antenna.

While Linda was doing laundry I finished up yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  A large APS (Arizona Power System) truck pulled into our camp around 10 AM.  Jim L. had contacted them and succeeded in getting them to send someone over to check the power.  They happened to have someone in town already, so he got here, diagnosed and fixed the problem, and was gone before Jim arrived on his bicycle.  We knew the voltage was high and the linesman confirmed that.  The transformer had several tap positions and he was able to change it to provide more windings and reduce the voltage.  We were consistently seeing 127 to 131 VAC (to neutral) on each leg (258 VAC across the legs) and we know it was rising above 132 because it was causing all of our power protection devices to trip, cutting off the shore power.  We are now seeing 118 to 122 VAC (240 VAC across the legs), which is near perfect.

A Crank-IR antenna from Stepp-IR.

A Crank-IR antenna from Stepp-IR.

Butch, Fonda, Jim, and Barb were all gone but I walked over to let Jim and Chris know that the power would be off for about 10 minutes.  I was too late.  The power had already been cut and restored and Jim was outside checking their connection.  Linda was on her way back from the laundry room and we ended up chatting with Jim and Chris for a while.  Chris and Linda went back to what they were doing and Jim L. showed up on his bicycle so we filled him in on the morning’s events.  We agreed to get-together at 4 PM for happy hour and went back to our various chores.

The wind had come up so we decided to use the ratcheting tie-down straps I bought a few weeks ago.  We rigged up two of them between the ends of the patio awning and the anchors we found weeks ago with Butch’s metal detector.  We watched the wind for a while and decided to just put the awning up.  Better safe than sorry.  Been there, done that, bought the new awning fabric (in our previous motorhome).

The Crank-IR fully deployed.

The Crank-IR fully deployed.

With the laundry done and the awnings secured we headed for the southern desert to find the Quartzfest and Bluebird/Wanderlodge encampments.  I set the 2 meter radio in the car to 146.55 MHz simplex mode.  Quartzfest (and RV hams generally) use that frequency for talk-in, info nets, and general contact purposes.  Quartzfest was at the Road Runner BLM Short Term Visitor Area (STVA) just south of Mile Marker 99 on the west side of US-95.  As we were driving down someone called on frequency requesting assistance.  They had just exited I-10 at exit 19 and did not know how to get to Quartzfest from there, so I gave them directions.

When we got there we checked in with the camp host to confirm that we did not need entry permits for a daytime visit.  He directed us to the area where Quartzfest was taking place and we eventually found the check-in station after Gordon West (Gordy), WB6NOA gave us directions over the air.  We met him going out of the sheltered area as we were going in.  We walked around looking at, and photographing, antenna setups and stopped to talk to a few people.  Part way through our stroll I thought I heard someone calling my name, albeit somewhat indistinctly.  I looked back over my right shoulder and realized we had just walked past the Montana 5th wheel trailer and pickup truck belonging to Lou and Val Petkus.  We had a short visit with them and then continued on our walkabout.

That is a Hi-Q HF antenna, just like the one we have but with a different capacitance hat.

That is a Hi-Q HF antenna, just like the one we have but with a different capacitance hat.

With the wind came dust and we decided to drive around the area and then leave to find the Bluebirds.  We headed back towards town as far as the BLM La Paz Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) and turned east into La Paz North.  The other side of the road was the La Paz Tyson Wells LTVA but we recalled Jim Guld telling us that the Bluebird Motor Coach / Wanderlodge group was at La Paz North.

We drove in quite a ways and eventually found the BMC/Wanderlodge buses.  There were very few people around, and those that were there stayed in their coaches.  One guy came out, probably to see who we were and what we were doing, so we introduced ourselves and explained why were there.  He directed us to the rally organizer’s bus, but he wasn’t there.  There were 28 buses formed into a circle, noses pointed in towards the center, and I shot a full 360 degree panorama from the fire circle at the center.  I then shot at least two photos of each bus from just off either side of the front.  More buses were arranged in a second, incomplete circle outside the main one, but those rigs were more difficult to photograph.

We saw some fairly sophisticated portable ham setups at Quartzfest.

We saw some fairly sophisticated portable ham setups at Quartzfest.  It reminded us of Field Day.

A classic older Bluebird Wanderlodge outfitted for serious desert boondocking.

A classic older Bluebird Wanderlodge outfitted for serious desert boondocking.

Linda was keeping an eye on the time and at 3 PM we started working our way towards our camp.  We were back before 4 PM and I made sure Butch/Fonda and Jim/Barb were invited to join the happy hour.  We all gathered at the appointed hour in front of our coach.  Everyone brought a chair, a snack to share, and a beverage of their choice.  The bus provided some shelter from the strong northeast winds and the very warm late afternoon sun balanced out the chilly air until it set, at which point our happy hour gathering ended.

The Bluebird/Wanderlodge logo done in rocks on the desert floor.  These folks were serious about their gathering.

The Bluebird/Wanderlodge logo done in rocks on the desert floor. These folks were serious about their gathering.

Jim and Chris stuck around to see our coach and we looked at a few videos on YouTube that he made with his Quadcopter mounted Go-Pro camera.  We also introduced them to the music videos of the group “OK Go.”  The groups’ most recent video was shot entirely with a Quadcopter mounted video camera.  We moved over to their rig, which we had not been in before, and ended up talking for another hour.  Some of that conversation was about diet and health.  They still had work to do this evening, and we had not had dinner, so we returned to our coach a little after 7 PM.

While Linda prepared two of the Thai Kitchen noodle soup bowls we keep on hand for such occasions I checked the level of the coolant in the expansion reservoir for the Aqua-Hot.  I had turned the unit off two days ago to let it cool down and most of the coolant in the reservoir had been drawn back in as it did.  There was only about a half inch of coolant in the reservoir so I added some of the 50/50 premix that we carry with us, bringing the level halfway between the “Minimum Cold” and “Maximum Cold” marks.  I turned the burner on, let it run through a full cycle while we ate our soup, and then checked the reservoir as soon as it shut off.  The level was less than an inch below the bottom of the fill cap, so I had guessed correctly how much to add.  I am going to let it cool off again and see where the level ends up.

Happy hour at Camp Lieberville.  (L-2-R): LInda (hidden), the Gulds, Williams, and Brockners.

Happy hour at Camp Lieberville. (L-2-R): LInda (hidden), the Gulds, Williams, and Brockners.

After working on this blog post while my camera battery charged I transferred today’s photographs to my computer, organized them, and backed them up to our NAS unit.  It was yet another long but very satisfying day.

 

2015/01/20 (T) Buses, A-C’s, and a Get-Together

Today was another day of variety.  After our usual coffee and granola I drove over to the Quartzsite Market Place dry-camping area where the Western GM Bus Rally was still taking place.  I met with Larry and Carol Hall and spent over an hour photographing their GM PD4106 bus conversion.  It was very nicely done and they had straightened it up so that there wasn’t anything extraneous lying around inside.  Larry was also kind enough to move the bus several times to allow me to get an angle of view with a good background and lighting.  An article on this bus conversion will appear in a future issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.

Larry & Carol Hall's GM PD4106 bus conversion at the Quarzsite Market Place.

Larry & Carol Hall’s GM PD4106 bus conversion at the Quarzsite Market Place.

When I was done with the photo shoot I returned to our coach to transfer the image files from my camera to my computer, organize them, and back up them up to our NAS device.  For lunch we had tofu hotdogs wrapped in tortillas with mustard, onions, and pickle relish.  I then talked to Butch briefly about the TPMS vendor Linda and I spoke to yesterday in the “Big Tent” and discovered that we had talked to different vendors about different products.  I also let him know that I was going to work on our air-conditioners.

The three house air-conditioners (A-C) in are bus are Cruise-air split units and are initially controlled by three 12 VDC switches on the lower right dashboard.  Those switches get their power from a single 2 Amp fuse in the low voltage distribution panel.  The A-C’s did not work the last time I tried to use them (at Martin Diesel) and I found that this fuse was blown (open) so that was the place to start.

I pulled the old 2 A blade style fuse out of the distribution block and checked for voltage on the supply side and no voltage on the load side, and that is what I found.  I then checked for resistance from the load side of the fuse holder to ground with all three switches off and with each switch turned on, one at a time.  The resistance was infinite (open circuit) with all three switches off (as expected), ~45 Ohms for A-C switches 1 and 3, and ~450 ohms for A-C switch number 2.  All three switches control relays in the DS rear corner of the bus that switch on AC power from the breakers in the AC distribution panel.  Two of the switches also control the solenoid air-valve that controls the air-powered shutters for the two condenser units in the front spare tire bay.  So it was reasonable that one of the switches might show a different resistance from the other two when closed, but at this point I did not know if any of these measured values were correct or even reasonable.

I borrowed a 6 Amp auto-resettable circuit breaker from Butch and inserted it into the fuse slot.  Our testing revealed that switches 1 and 3 caused the breaker to trip but switch 2 did not, and it did not matter whether the 120 VAC power for each unit was turned on at the circuit breaker.  The evaporator units and control panels in the house, however, did not come on unless the 120 VAC power was on along with the 12 VDC corresponding dashboard switch.  That confirmed that the dashboard switches are controlling AC power relays.  I knew from previous work that those relays were in the driver’s side rear corner of the bus/bedroom but our testing indicated that they were probably not the problem.

The common element for switches 1 and 3 was the MAC solenoid air valve on the air panel in the bay under the driver’s seat.  This valve controls air-powered shutters at the front of the spare tire bay where the living room and kitchen A-C condenser/compressor units are installed.  The shutters are held closed by air pressure and held open by a spring in the absence of air pressure.  I keep the air supply valved off when we are parked to minimize air leaks and reduce how often the auxiliary air-compressor runs, but when compressed air is applied to the valve, which is ‘normally open’ when the front A-C units are off, the air pressure closes the shutters.  If either front-located A-C unit is enabled at the dashboard the MAC valve closes off the air supply and vents the pressure on the shutter actuator, allowing the spring to pull them open.

I disconnected the wires from the solenoid and confirmed which wire was the +12 VDC supply to the terminal strip.  I checked the resistance of the solenoid coil and it appeared to be shorted, so I left it disconnected.  We rechecked the A-C units and the two located in the front bay would still not turn on.  Butch figured that there was probably a limit switch on the shutters to prevent power from being applied to those two A-C’s unless the shutters were open.  I loosened the fitting at the valve to relieve the pressure and the shutters opened up.

With the shutters open and the solenoid disconnected we finally got all three A-C’s working, so we have fixed the problem for now but not permanently as the system not does function as designed.  As a side note, it appears the three control switches are incorrectly wired.  Switch 1 is the front A-C, switch 2 is the center unit, and switch 3 is the bedroom.  Switches 1 and 3 are wired to control the shutters for the spare tire bay but the compressor/condenser units for the front and middle A-C’s (1 & 2) are located there.  My guess is that this has been miswired since the coach was built.  The wiring needs to be corrected and I added it to my project list.  Until then, the “fix” is to just make sure all three switches are ‘ON’ anytime we are going to use any of the air-conditioners, ensuring that the shutters are open and the units will operate.

Camp Lieberville in Quartzsite, AZ (our coach is not shown).

Camp Lieberville in Quartzsite, AZ (our coach is not shown).

We left around 3:40 PM and drove over to the Quartzsite Yacht Club for the 4 PM RVillage get-together that founder/CEO Curtis Coleman had scheduled.  Curtis was already there with Patti (the Village Tart) as were Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard (Technomadia), Jim and Chris Guld (Geeks On Tour), and our friends Butch and Fonda Williams (MCI MC-9 NJT and W9MCI and K9MCI respectively).  Lots of other folks showed up including Forrest and Mary Clark, the first two RVillage Ambassadors.

We left a little after 6 PM and drove out to the WINs area on Plomosa Road to deliver a birthday card to Mara.  Her sister and brother-in-law were there but left shortly after we arrived so we stayed until after 8 PM visiting with Mara.  When we got back to our coach Linda heated up the leftover root vegetables for dinner.  She read while I updated my BCM article status spreadsheet, checked e-mail and RVillage, and worked on this blog post.

 

2015/01/19 (M) The Big Tent

I got up at 7 AM, made coffee, and had some while Linda slept in.  I left at 8:15 AM and drove to Lloyd and Verda DeGerald’s motorhome on East Kuehn Street.  Lloyd was still there so I was finally able to purchase the Webasto flame sensor (photocell) I needed for our second/spare Webasto DBW2010.75 burner.  I then drove the short distance west on East Kuehn Street to the entrance of the Quartzsite Market Place camping area and drove in to the Eagles International rally.

This GM bus conversion tows a VW bus with matching paint.  I wonder if they use the VW to pull the bus out when it gets stuck?

This GM bus conversion tows a VW bus with matching paint. I wonder if they use the VW to pull the bus out when it gets stuck?

I grabbed some general purpose bus photos while Byron Pigg cleaned up the area around his bus so I could photograph the exterior for Bus Conversion Magazine.  While I was working Butch called to let me know he was almost back from Blythe and wanted to meet Gary, the owner/publisher of BCM.  Before Butch arrived Neal Sunderland, VE6NL drove up and looked over Gary’s MCI MC-9 Moose Creek Motor Cabin.  Gary was over talking to the GM bus owners but came back and had a long chat with Neal.  I exchanged contact information with Neal and we agreed to meet later at our coach so he and his wife could see it.

Eagle buses certainly make very nice motorhome conversions. This one was pulling out of the Eagles International rally at Quartzsite.

Eagle buses certainly make very nice motorhome conversions. This one was pulling out of the Eagles International rally at Quartzsite.

When I was done “working” I returned to camp and had a bite to eat.  I then transferred the photos I had just taken to my computer, organized them according to subject, and backed them up to our NAS device.  By the time I was done Linda was ready to go to the market area.

Quartzsite is a place with a sense of humor.  Central Ave I-10 overpass.

Quartzsite is a place with a sense of humor. Central Ave I-10 overpass.

Quartzsite is, metaphorically, a “big tent” but there is literally a Big Tent set up here that houses the Big Tent Sports, Vacation, and RV Show.  The Show started this past Saturday but today was our first chance to go.  Besides, our RV insurance agents (Charles and Chris Yust of C&C Marketing) had advised us at the SKP Happy Hour to avoid the weekends and come during the week in the afternoon.  Because traffic was so congested on Central Avenue heading south from Main Street to Kuehn Street we decided to walk the 1.4 miles from our coach to market area.  Along the way we ran into Mark and Emily Fagan.  They are photographers and writers and I recognized them immediately from Escapees Magazine and their blog.  We introduced ourselves and had a nice chat before continuing our separate ways.

At least they are in agreement about the size.

At least they are in agreement about the size.

We walked through the Big Tent, stopping at a few booths and quickly passing by many others.  There was a much higher percentage of non-RV vendors than we normally see at RV rallies, and significant duplication of others.  There were at least 18 vendors selling some kind of miracle pain reliever and a dozen vendors selling LEDs.  We did, however, spend some time with the TST TPMS vendor who was from the factory and will probably go back and buy a complete system from him.  We also stopped at the FMCA booth and chatted with FMCA President Charlie Adcock and ran into RVillage founder/CEO Curtis Coleman there.  We lingered awhile at the Carnu-B booth watching a demonstration of products for cleaning, polishing, and waxing the exterior of a motorhome.  We spent a few minutes at the Escapees RV Club booth and talked at length with the folks at European Motorhome Tours and The Ultimate Road Trip (Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Alaska).  If money were no object we would do the European Tours.  They are typically 30 days and sometimes more than 40 and include the motorhome rental, all of the overnight stops, admission to key attractions, and some of the meals.  The main added cost, besides flying there and back, are groceries and fuel.

Charlie Addcock, FMCA National President, in the Big Tent at Quartzsite, AZ.

Charlie Adcock, FMCA National President, in the Big Tent at Quartzsite, AZ.

Neal Sunderland called while we were still at the Tent and we agreed to meet him and Nora at our coach at 4 PM to see it and chat.  Lou called while we were visiting and we agreed to meet for dinner at 5:30 PM at Crazy Jerry’s.  We had vegan pizza and sat until almost 8 PM talking.  While we were there I got a call from Curtis Coleman of RVillage inviting us to drinks at the Quartzsite Yacht Club.  He was there with Patti and the Gulds (Chris and Jim).  The QYC is across the street from Crazy Jerry’s, so that was easy.  The Amber Bock on tap was very tasty and we were there until 9:45 PM.

 

2015/01/18 (N) The Desert Bar

Today was divided into several distinct pieces.  At 8:30 AM we connected Linda’s iPad to our Verizon MiFi and Facetimed with our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter.  At 25 months her vocabulary is developing quickly and she recognizes us on the iPad as Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.

The Nellie E. Saloon at The Desert Bar outside Parker, AZ.

The Nellie E. Saloon at The Desert Bar outside Parker, AZ.

When we concluded the call I made a quick run over to the Quartzsite Market Place to touch base with Gary Hatt and the folks at the Eagles International bus rally and the FMCA Western GM Bus Chapter rally.  I returned to pick up Linda and we chatted briefly with Jim Guld of Geeks On Tour.  He and Chris are staying at our encampment for at least this week.

Linda at The Desert Bar.

Linda at The Desert Bar, upper level.

We headed up AZ-95 to Plomosa Road and headed east into the BLM camping area to pick up Mara.  She is camped with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) but we drove past their camp and she flagged us down on the return.  We got a brief tour of her Fleetwood Bounder and then headed for the Desert Bar.  It was over 40 miles to get there with the last five on a primitive road that is not regularly maintained.  It was very rough in places but our Honda Element had enough ground clearance to handle it and 4-wheel drive was not needed.  It was, however, a slow drive.  There is also a network of rougher trails that ATVs use to get to the bar.

The lower level of The Desert Bar.  Lots of people for a Sunday afternoon.

The lower level of The Desert Bar. Lots of people for a Sunday afternoon.

One of the buildings that makes up The Desert Bar is the Nellie E. Saloon.  It is named after the mine that operated there at one time.  The bar began very humbly in 1983 and has grown considerably since that time.  It is the quintessential “let’s build it and see if they come” venture.  And come they did.  It is completely off-grid and powered mostly by solar energy, although we did see a propane tank which we presumed fuels the cooking grills.  Hours are weekends (Sat and Sun) noon to 6 PM from the first weekend in October to the last weekend in April.  We got there a little before it opened but there were already people there and by 1 PM there were at least 200 people milling around and eating and the live band started playing.  It was an older but active crowd, reflective of what we generally see around Quartzsite.  The Desert Bar has moved beyond famous and is now legendary.

Linda with our friend, Mara, at The Desert Bar.

Linda with our friend, Mara, at The Desert Bar.

The beer was canned but cold and fairly priced, especially considering the location.  We had veggie burgers that were tasty and cost $3.50 each.  We shared an order of garlic fries with Mara and they were excellent.  There were lots of other choices on the menu as well, so of which we could have had.  As we were getting ready to leave we spotted riders on horseback coming up the road so we stuck around long enough to photograph their arrival.  These were the original, 1 HP, ATVs of the American west.  We had a great time there and it was certainly a unique place and experience for us.

The dance floor at The Desert Bar.

The dance floor at The Desert Bar.

We left at 2 PM, stopped at the Wal-Mart in Parker, and got back to our rig at 3:30 PM. I dropped Linda off and headed over to Lloyd DeGerald’s place.  Verda was there but Lloyd had their credit card machine with him so I said I would come back tomorrow morning to buy the Webasto flame detector photocell.  I then headed back to the Eagles International and Western GM bus rallies to grab some general bus photos.

Linda and Mara enjoying the vibe at The Desert Bar.

Linda and Mara enjoying the vibe at The Desert Bar.

Gary and I touched base with Buck Bolding to get squared away with arrangements to photograph his Eagle later in the week.  We also walked over to the Western GM rally and made arrangements with Larry Hall to photograph his bus on Tuesday morning.

Byron Pigg and his wife Betty had straightened up their 1985 model 15 Eagle so I spent some time photographing the interior.  The rally was having a pot luck (carry in) meal at 4:30 PM and invited me to stay so I had some plain spaghetti and green salad.  While I was there I met Rico and Monica, a couple from Europe that have spent four months each winter for the last 15 years traveling around the world in a decommissioned Swiss military truck with a large trailer behind it.  Rico drives buses in Europe for a living and works enough hours in eight months to earn his full year’s pay, which gets paid out to him once a month all year long and making it convenient to fund their annual travels.  Gary and I chatted with folks until it was dark and I finally left to go back to my coach.

Patrons arrive at The Desert Bar on the original, 1 HP, ATV.

Patrons arrive at The Desert Bar on the original, 1 HP, ATV.

BCM publisher Gary Hatt (L) at the Eagles International bus rally at the Quartzsite Market Place drycamp area.

BCM publisher Gary Hatt (L) at the Eagles International bus rally at the Quartzsite Market Place drycamp area.

I spent the rest of the evening copying photographs from my camera to my computer and working on this blog post.  Somewhere in all of that I got a phone call from Lou Petkus of the SKP photographers BOF and we figured out a time/place to meet.

Sunset over 'Q' Mountain from the Eagles International bus rally site.

Sunset over ‘Q’ Mountain from the Eagles International bus rally site.

 

2015/01/17 (S) Lake Havasu City

We set multiple alarms last night to make sure we woke up at 5:00 AM this morning.  We skipped coffee and breakfast and were on the road to Lake Havasu City at 5:40 AM.  We were headed there to attend the Balloon Festival and wanted to be in position for the first balloon launch at 7:45 AM.  The program said it would be a “mass ascension.”  We presumed that meant 80+ balloons launching at the same time but that was not exactly what happened.

Lake Havasu City Balloon Festival kicks off with the National Anthem as the Flag goes airborn.

Lake Havasu City Balloon Festival kicks off with the National Anthem as the Flag goes airborn.

We were early enough that the $10 we paid for “preferred parking” actually got us a decent parking space.  We were in position at the “balloon field” by 7:15 AM and watched the process of inflating a dozen “shaped” balloons that included a Wells Fargo stagecoach, Smokey the Bear head, Hello Kitty, and Yoda head.  A trio of restored WW1 Fokker bi-planes roamed the skies overhead but we did not see any sign of any other balloons and there certainly wasn’t room for any more on the balloon field.

 

 

Fantasy balloons inflated to provide photo ops.

Fantasy balloons inflated to provide photo ops.

7:45 AM came and went and a couple of balloons launched but most remained on the ground.  We then noticed a regular hot air balloon lift off from somewhere north of the festival site, and then another, and another.  It was still not a mass ascension, but eventually there were a few dozen balloons in the air and drifting our way.  We waited a while longer and then the various teams started deflating most of the shaped balloons. We learned later that most of the shaped balloons were inflated to provide photo opportunities and were never intended to take to the air.

Tethered balloon rides were available.

Tethered balloon rides were available.

With the morning balloon launches concluded we sought out food.  The balloon field was surrounded by a double/concentric ring of vendors with most of the food purveyors concentrated in one area.  It was a chilly morning so we found a vendor selling coffee and got in line.  After warming up we found something to eat for breakfast.  We then strolled through the vendor ring but did not find anything we couldn’t live without.

There were quite a few classic cars on display and some were for sale.  There was also an interesting pair of ultralight aircraft, boats, and ATVs on display and for sale.  After seeing all of that we watched a dog agility demonstration.  We returned to our car and had some snacks for lunch and then walked through the carnival area and bought snow cones.  We were waiting for the Fokker bi-planes to do a demonstration when I got a call from our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi.  He filled me in on what he has been doing and where he is headed over the next few months.

This balloon was no longer airworthy so we were allowed to go inside it.

This balloon was no longer airworthy so we were allowed to go inside it.

By the time I was done talking to Joe we decided we had experienced enough balloon festival for one day.  We returned to our car and I called Frank Griswold from our FMCA Great Lakes a Converted Coaches chapter.  Frank and Sandy own a site at a very nice RV Resort on the north end of Lake Havasu City so we drove up there and visited with them for a while.  LHC has grown dramatically in the last 25 years and is now a very modern, upscale place with a population of 55,000.  We drove over the London Bridge to get to/from the balloon festival venue, which was at a resort on an island, but we did not get a good look at it.

We wrapped up our visit in time to get back to Parker in the daylight and see the amazing scenery we had missed on the drive up in the dark.  We stopped for gas in Parker and filled up for $2.28/gallon.  On the drive from Parker to Quartzsite we watched a long, lingering sunset that finally faded to darkness.  It was another long but satisfying day.

 

Linda was skeptical about being photographed while eating a snow cone.  :-)

Linda was skeptical about being photographed while eating a snow cone. 🙂

2015/01/16 (F) Making Contact

The Aqua-Hot came on a couple times last night for a few minutes and it was nice to hear that old familiar roar and know that it was working the way it is supposed to.  I need to see if I can put a new clamp on the hose that comes out of the middle zone pump.  I also need to shorten and re-route the tube to the expansion tank, but the burner/combustion process is finally working correctly for the first time in 3-1/2 months.  At some point Butch and I will try to figure out what is wrong with the other burner and fix it if we can.  I also need to make the same wiring/connector modifications to the second burner so it is plug-n-play interchangeable with the installed one.

Butch and Fonda decided to make a run to Yuma today.  He needed parts from Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Tractor Supply Company that he figured he could not get in Quartzsite, Blythe, or Parker, although Blythe has a good sized NAPA Auto Parts store.  We chose not to go this time for various reasons, not the least of which was that Linda’s sister is arriving on Thursday and Yuma, along with Los Algodones, Mexico is one of the places we want to take her.  But more immediately we wanted to meet up with Gary Hatt from Bus Conversion Magazine today and attend a get-together that Technomadia scheduled at Beer Belly’s for 1 PM.  I also received an e-mail yesterday that Lou and Val Petkus had arrived in Quartzsite so we are trying to arrange to meet up with them.  Lou is the head staff photographer for the SKPs Escapade in March and I am the assistant staff photographer.

Our out-and-about day, however, did not start until late morning so that left the morning open to get other things done.  As usual, Linda went for a walk while I started writing an article for BCM on the work we did yesterday on our Aqua-Hot.  Linda and I took lots of pictures and I think it will be a solid technical article when I am done.

We left at 11:15 AM and drove to the Quartzsite Market Place dry-camping area.  The entrance is on the north side of Kuehn Street east of Central Avenue (US-95) but is not easy to spot.  We stopped at the Too Crazy Ladies trailer and picked up our engraved SKP Ham BOF call sign tags and Rescue Our Cats sign.  We then took the back entrance into the RV parking area, which is just to the left of the TCL trailer.  It did not take us long to find Gary Hatt back with the Eagles International Bus Rally group.

Gary Hatt, publisher of Bs Conversion Magazine, recently acquired this Eagle bus conversion.

Gary Hatt, publisher of Bs Conversion Magazine, recently acquired this Eagle bus conversion.  We met him for the first time at this Eagles International Bus Conversion Rally in Quartzsite, AZ.  Linda is talking to Aqua-Hot service technician Lloyd DeGerald (left).

When we arrived Lloyd DeGerald was there with his assistant working on the Aqua-Hot in Gary’s recently purchased Eagle bus conversion.  Gary’s friend John was working on other projects on both the Eagle and the MC-9 Moose Creek Motor Cabin.  Lloyd determined that the Webasto controller was not functional and needed to be replaced.  He had a new one for $800 and a used one for $400.  Gary went with the used one and had Lloyd do a full service on the unit as well.  While the technicians were working on the Aqua-Hot Gary gave us a tour of both coaches.  By the time he was done with the tours Lloyd had the Aqua-Hot running very nicely.  Before he left I chatted with him about the photocell flame detector and he said he had one for me at a discounted price.

We walked around the market area visiting the vendor booths by the street to kill a little time and found a particular vendor open who had been closed the last few times Linda checked.  They had organic dried apple slices as well as organic dried veggie chips.  We bought a bag of the cinnamon apple chips and a bag of the veggie chips and had a few of each while we strolled.  We worked our way back to Gary’s buses by 12:45 PM, gathered him up, and walked over to Beer Belly’s “Adult Day Care” (outdoor bar) for the Technomadia RVillage get-together at 1 PM.  It took us a few minutes to spot Chris Dunphy’s signature black hat, as Beer Belly’s was crowded, but we finally did and joined the group that was gathered there.  They have also written articles for BCM but like us had never met Gary in person so I made the necessary introductions.

Beer Belly’s had Amber Bock on tap so Linda and I each had one.  We don’t normally drink at 1 in the afternoon, and beer is not normally my first choice if I am going to drink, but the sun was warm and the beer was cold and it was all good.  We stayed about an hour, chatted with some of the other folks that showed up, and then walked back to Gary’s buses.  We agreed to come back and pick him up at 5:30 PM and drive him to our campsite so he could see our bus and get away from the crowd for a little while.

L-to-R: Gary Hatt's Eagle, his MC-9 Moose Creek Motorcabin, and some of the other Eagle bus conversions at the Eagles International rally.

L-to-R: Gary Hatt’s Eagle, his MC-9 Moose Creek Motorcabin, and some of the other Eagle bus conversions at the Eagles International rally.

Given the timing of our social encounters we decided to have an early dinner.  I was using my iPad when the FedEx truck pulled in.  I went out to meet the truck but Barb beat me to it.  There was one package addressed to Butch so I figured it was the gauges from PartDeal.com but we left the box on a chair by the front door of their bus.  Barb indicated that someone named Jim was supposed to come work on something on Butch and Fonda’s bus and was going to park his motorhome onsite for a few days.  The generator bay door was open so I wondered if Butch was having a problem with the genset.  If so, he had not mentioned it to me.

For dinner Linda made white rice with greens and things and heated up some mock orange chicken she has had in the freezer for a while.  It was a relatively quick and easy meal to prepare but very tasty.  We were just starting to eat when a familiar looking SUV pulled in with two kayaks on top.  It was Chris and Jim Guld of Geeks On Tour.  I knew Jim wasn’t here to fix a generator but was pleased to find out that they were checking out of the Scenic Road RV Park tomorrow and moving in with us for the next week.  We have known them for a few years but never really had a chance to just socialize in a relaxed setting so we are looking forward to a little quiet social time with them.

I left a little after 5 PM to fetch Gary and John and drove by the DeGerald’s motorhome first to buy the photocell flame detector but they were not there.  We were back at the coach before it got dark and I had just enough time to give them a tour of the bays.  It was chilly so we went inside and gave them a tour of the interior.  We had a little wine or beer, as suited individual tastes, and just sat and visited.  All too soon I had to drive them back.

Butch and Fonda pulled in around 8 PM.  We were getting concerned about their dogs only to discover that the dogs had traveled to Yuma with them.  I chatted briefly with Butch and a little while later he brought over our turbo boost gauge.  We turned in early as we are headed to Lake Havasu City very early tomorrow morning.

 

2015/01/8-14 (R-W) Q 2015 W2

2015/01/08 (R) Up On The Rooftop 

A panorama from the roof of our bus.  Left edge is NE, center is S, right edge is NW.

A panorama from the roof of our bus. Left edge is NE, center is S, right edge is NW.

As forecast, we woke up to cloudy skies and milder temperatures.  The clouds to the southwest looked like they might produce rain but the winds were blowing gently from the southeast so the rain would not be for us.  This was the day we’ve been waiting for, the perfect kind of weather for washing a bus.  But not first thing in the morning.  Coffee and breakfast come first while we wait for slightly warmer temperatures.

The waste water tank level sensors are not accurate but our fresh water tank sensors are OK.  The fresh water level gauge was showing less than 1/3 tank and the grey water tank gauge was showing full so it was probably time to dump and fill.  When I checked the fresh water level visually we were at 1/6th tank.  I dumped the black water tank and then the grey water tank, both of which were fairly full, and then filled the fresh water tank.  I have the city water regulated to ~50 PSI (static) which drops to ~30 PSI when the fill valve is fully opened.  At that pressure it takes about 40 minutes to fill the tank.

I last dumped the waste tanks on December 30th and added 25 gallons of (hard) fresh water.  On December 31st I added another 30 gallons of (hard) fresh water.  On January 2nd I recharged our water softener, drained about 1/6 tank (~20 gallons) of (hard) fresh water and filled the tank with 120 gallons of soft water.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after that fill and it was 1.5 grains/gallon (25 ppm).  I checked it again after today’s fill and it was still 1.5 gpg.  Since we are keeping a log of the dumps and fills I plan to check the hardness after each fill so can regenerate the water softener before it gets depleted and we end up with really hard water in our tank and system.

Butch happened to be at the Post Office Annex today checking the P. O. Box at exactly the same moment a postal worker was about to put something in the box and then stopped because of the forwarding tag.  The “something” was our package of water hardness test strips from Bristol, Indiana and the worker was kind enough to give it to Butch to give to us.  He also learned that they still have P. O. Boxes available so he went to the main post office to find out more about that.  He came back with a form to fill out and it had room for all of our names so the six of us are going to share the box and the cost, which is $56 for six months, or just under $20 per couple.

While the fresh water tank was filling I started getting ready to clean the roof by getting out our Little Giant step/extension ladder and various cleaning supplies.  The dump and fill was done by 11 AM and it was warm enough by then to start working.  Swim trunks, a white T-shirt, and Kean sandals was the uniform of the day.  I carried the hose sprayer up the ladder with me and then lowered it down to use as a hook and lift wash water bucket, scrub brush, and other paraphernalia up to the roof.

It turned out to be sunnier than I had hoped but I worked for about four hours, not including a lunch break, and scrubbed the entire roof.  I used McGuire’s red automotive soap and rinsed thoroughly.  I had already washed the roof once using Dawn dish soap (a big ‘no no’, apparently) and a long-handle soft brush.  That washing had removed surface dirt and revealed the full extent of the dark “spotting” that gave the entire roof a mottled appearance.  The roof looked a lot better after I scrubbed it but a lot of the spotting remained.

We are anxious to clean the sides of the bus but there is no point doing that until we are done with the roof.  We want the roof “like new” clean so dirt doesn’t run off it onto the sides, but we also want it clean because we are seriously considering having Discount Solar (here in Quartzsite) install solar panels and a charge controller and do all the wiring.  As long as we had the hose, brushes, and soap out we decided to wash the car.  It was even filthier than the bus, if that’s possible, and it was nice to finally have it clean.

After cleaning up our equipment I got cleaned up and then sat and visited with Butch for a while.  Linda came over and announced that she wanted me to take her to dinner.  Butch and Fonda decided to go too so we went to Crazy Jerry’s, which is not to be confused with Silly Al’s.  Silly Al’s is supposedly the #1 eatery in Q, at least for pizza, but they have karaoke every night starting at 7 PM.  Thank you, no.  Crazy Jerry’s also has pizza and we tried the vegetarian, hold the cheese.  Very thin crust (the way we like it) and lots of topping.  A couple of side salads and a side order of French fries.  FWIW, we did not eat the entire pizza and brought home the leftovers.

Linda split a pair of Scrabble games with her brother, the first one he has won in quite some time.  She had an e-mail reply from Mara.  She is camped about 70 miles south of Q and is headed here in the near future and is going to camp with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network).  I checked e-mail, updated my BCM article spreadsheet with two more story ideas, played a few games, and worked on this post before turning in for the night.  We will have been here a month as of Sunday.

The Hi Jolly Daze Parade.  Quartzsite, AZ

The Hi Jolly Daze Parade. Quartzsite, AZ

2015/01/09 (F) The P. O. Box

I left the ladder setup yesterday so I could check the roof again this morning and determine what additional cleaning measures, if any, I might want to take.  I also wanted to get back up on the roof and measure the space we have available for solar panels.  I was expecting two packages via UPS; one from B&H Photo (Manfrotto nodal panoramic tripod head) and one from Sure Marine Service (Webasto repair parts).  I had a nice view of the mountains surrounding Quartzsite from the roof of our bus and wanted to shoot some panoramas with the new head when it arrived.

Butch, Fonda, Jim, Barb, Linda, and I all went to the U. S. Post Office in Quartzsite this morning to sign up for our very own P. O. Box which means we finally have a way to receive USPS mail while we are here.  Just in time, too, as Q has really filled up in the past week and there is more to come.  I have an FMCA national education committee meeting on Monday and need to write a few items for a member survey and review other materials.  Gary (from BCM) is also due to arrive on Monday, and both Curtis (from RVillage) and Mara Culp (HFH build acquaintance) may be headed this way as well.  I believe Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia are already in the area.  The big RV tent is up and those vendors are arriving and setting up.

Once we were done at the post office I went to Discount Solar to discuss a possible installation on our coach.  The Kyocera panels are 26.5″ W x 59.0″ L.  They are “12 V panels” but are rated at 140 Watts putting out 7.9 Amps.  They cost $350 each.  Those numbers compute to an output voltage of 17.5 VDC and $2.50/W.  (If a 140 Watt panel was operating at 13.8 Volts it would produce just over 10 Amps.)  Because we have a 24V battery system we would need to install the panels in series-connected pairs.  The preferred installation for the rectangular panels is to have the long dimension lined up fore-n-aft to either side of the centerline of the roof.  Tilt mounts are available ($45/panel) but we would probably not install them due to the difficulty of getting onto our roof to use them.

“12 volt” batteries typically charge at around 13.8 to 14.1 volts.  Our “24V” system charges at 27.6 to 28.2 volts and a series-connected pair of panels produces 7.9 A at 35V (full sun) for 276.5 volt-amps, which is essentially “watts.”  Two pairs would produce 15.8 A (553 V-A), and three pairs would produce 23.7 A (829.5 V-A).  The higher voltage output of the panels is reduced and regulated by a solar charge controller before getting to the batteries.  Discount Solar carries Blue Sky and Trimetric maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers and the Blue Sky Solar Boost 50 would handle three series-connected pairs for about $550.  The MPPT controllers are DC-to-DC converters so they convert the excess voltage into additional current.  With full sun this six panel system could supply up to 30 A of charging current at the proper voltage, which is why we would need an MPPT controller that can handle more than 30 A of charging current.  We would also want room for expansion or replacement with higher wattage panels if they were available at some point in the future.  One of the nice things about the solar system is that it would always be on and would “play nice” with our other charging systems. Another nice feature is that they are silent when operating.  Ahhhh.

Because of the size of our house battery bank (400 A-Hr at 24 VDC) and the fact that we have a residential refrigerator, auxiliary air-compressor, and other AC loads, we would need/want at least six panels.  (I have not included the four Group 31 wet cell batteries that are used to start the engine and power the chassis as part of the solar system.)  If the batteries were discharged 50% (200A-Hr) it appears that it would take just under seven hours to bring them back to full charge based on the 30A charging current.  In actuality it would take longer in a boondocking situation as the sky is not always clear, the sun is rarely directly overhead (perpendicular to the panels), there would be devices using some of the energy, and the amount of current the batteries can accept falls off as they get closer to being fully charged.

Installation is $90/hour plus mounts ($15/panel), wire, connecting blocks, and other parts, and would take 4 – 5 hours to complete.  The owner assured me they would have it in and out in one day so we could be back in our parking spot before dark.  The last three weeks of January are the busiest time of year for Discount Solar and since we are plugged-in to shorepower we do not need the solar system right away.  If we have it installed in early February we would have a month to make sure it works and resolve any problems.  The system would cost about $3,300 installed.  We have at least a month to think about it.

When I returned to our coach Linda was out walking.  When she got back I went up on the roof with a tape measure to see if/how the solar panels might fit.  With a four-n-aft orientation we could put two towards the front outside edges, one just aft of the kitchen skylights on the driver side, and one aft of the hall skylight on the passenger side.  We could put two more somewhere in the rear.  The options for the rear appeared to be inline (almost touching) on the driver side starting just behind the bathroom skylight or putting one there and the other one sideways across the back just ahead of the dropped portion of the roof and aft of the bedroom vent fan.  Placing the panels in these locations would leave the center of the roof open so I could climb up on the driver side front and walk all the way to the back.

Barb stopped by to let us know there was a mattress in the house (park model trailer) if we wanted to try it out.  It had been in their rig for about two years until they removed it yesterday and replaced it with a thicker one they got from Connie.   It is a regular queen size mattress about 6″ thick, so not one of the oversized behemoths that have become the norm.  They also had a 1.5″ thick memory foam pad to go on top of it.  We took a look at it and decided to give it a try.

We have been using our old Select Comfort adjustable air mattress in the RV since summer 2013.  One side (mine) has a slow leak so I have to adjust it every other night.  I could live with that indefinitely but what we really dislike about it, and have for a long time, is that we tend to roll into the center or off the edge.  It also takes up valuable storage space under the bed for the pump, has wires and hoses to deal with, and has a controller for each side.  We were definitely ready to try something else so we stripped the bed, disconnected the two air hoses, and carried the mattress out of the bus.  It was surprisingly heavy and bulky for an air mattress and lacking in self-supporting structure, but that also made it easier to bend it around the front passenger seat, down the entry stairs, and out the door.  We stored it in the bedroom of the house trailer pending a final decision about the replacement mattress.

We carried the new mattress in, which was definitely easier than getting the old one out, and got it positioned on the plywood bed platform.  We put the memory foam pad on top and put our mattress topper over that which added another inch.  We put our electric heating pad on and then the sheets and the blanket.  We will try it out for a while and if we like it we will see if the Salvation Army wants the old one.  If not, it may end up at the Quartzsite dump as we really do not have any way to get it home or a reason to do so.  We will leave the pump, hoses, and controllers under the bed until we decide on its final disposition.

The suspension on the bus had settled slightly in the driver side rear since we parked and leveled it almost a month ago.  It would not have been enough to require an adjustment except that our bed sits crosswise with the head on that side and I find that sleeping with my head even slightly downhill is not comfortable.  Rather than start up the main engine we got the Dewalt portable air-compressor out of the car and connected it into the brake system fill port in the passenger side engine bay.  I had to connect the chassis batteries and turn the ignition on (without starting the engine) in order to activate the leveling controls, but that allowed me to raise that corner up and get the coach level side-to-side.  At some point we will re-position the bus, but not until I have completed some work on the turbo boost sensor mounting plate and hose and the level low system components for the front end.

We put the air-compressor back in its special storage divider in the car and decided to rearrange a few things so we could put the rear seat down.  Starting next week we will need to be able to carry a passenger.  We thought about heading down to the market area but remembered that we were expecting UPS deliveries.  I started working on two more articles for BCM instead while Linda went for a walk.  It was warmer today and so it was warmer in the coach and I ended up taking a nap.

Our UPS and FedEx shipments usually arrive late in the afternoon or early evening but had not shown up by dinner time.  I had planned to disassemble the Aqua-Hot burner and replace the bearings, nozzle, and perhaps a few other small parts tomorrow but it now appears that will have to wait until Tuesday, assuming our shipments arrive on Monday.  I will likely need to clean the unit as well, given that it has been running so rich, and that may include pulling the combustion chamber.

Linda made two cold salads for dinner; chickpea and wild rice Waldorf.  Both are favorites of ours, especially in warmer weather.  We had some Barry’s Basic Bread with our meal and another glass of Lamb’s Valley organic sweet white wine was a most agreeable accompaniment.

Yup, that's a real, live camel in the Hi Jolly Daze Parade. These animals are strongly linked to the 19th century history of Quartzsite, AZ.

Yup, that’s a real, live camel in the Hi Jolly Daze Parade. These animals are strongly linked to the 19th century history of Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/10 (S) Hi Jolly Daze Parade

Today was the annual Hi Jolly Daze Parade.  As first time winter visitors to Quartzsite there was no way we were going to miss this event.  I was up at 7 AM to make coffee and we were done with breakfast by 8 AM.  We checked the parade route online and figured we would go to the Quartzsite Improvement Association grounds as the parade ended in the parking lot there.  It was scheduled to start at 10 AM so we snagged Fonda about 9:40 and headed that way in the car.

When we got to Central Avenue and Main Street the police had Main Street closed so we could not turn left to get to the QIA.  I stayed on Central down to Kuehn Street and took it east over to the exit 19 overpass and back to Main Street.  On the way we saw Lloyd DeGerald’s motorhome parked along Kuehn with a big banner advertising his Aqua-Hot technician services.  I am hopeful that I will be able to repair both of our burners myself but if not Lloyd is the guy I would call, so I was glad to see that he is in town.  But back to the parade.

The police had Main Street closed on that end too.  We knew the parade started at Plymouth Avenue and Quail Trail so we headed in that direction and parked at the Quartzsite Library.  We were surprised that no one else was parked there as it was a short walk from there to the start of the parade route which turned out to be an excellent spot from which to view the parade.  What we realized after we got there was that the west side of Plymouth Avenue was lined with cars from the starting point all the way to Main Street.  I suspect that Main Street was similarly lined with people, most likely in cars, but we were not able to observe that directly.

We had a few drops of rain leading up to the start of the parade.  There were plenty of grey clouds around, but the sun was also shining and the parade did not get rained out.  In fact, a full 160 degree rainbow formed behind the parade and lingered until most of the participants had passed us.  The highlight of the parade was a live camel.

“Hi Jolly” was the Americanized pronunciation given to Hadji Ali, who came here in 1856 as part of an experiment by the U. S. Army in the use of camels.  There are conflicting accounts of his exact place of origin but it seems clear that he came to the U. S. from the Middle East as one of the first, and the lead, camel driver.  For a more complete account check the entry in Wikipedia for “Hi Jolly.”

The experiment did not work out as the Army’s horses, mules, and burrows were apparently terrified of the giant animals and would panic in their presence, but Hadji Ali remained in the U. S. and eventually ended up in Quartzsite where he died in 1902 and was buried in the local cemetery.  We got the impression that he was something of a living legend in his own time and in the 1930’s the governor of Arizona had a monument erected at Hi Jolly’s gravesite.  It is a small pyramid made of local stone with a metal plaque on one side and a metal profile of a camel on top.  According to Wikipedia the monument is allegedly the most visited location in Q.

When the parade was over we returned to our coaches.  Linda went for a walk and I wrote another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  This was another short one, less than two pages and only 11 photos, on the installation of the new speedometer in our bus.  When Linda returned from her walk she made a broccoli-potato mash.  In addition to the broccoli and the potato it had soy milk, vegan butter, salt, and pepper.  The potatoes were not completely mashed and the dish was both tasty and had a nice mouth feel.

After lunch Linda made a shopping list.  We headed to the Kuehn Street market area and stopped at Barry’s Breads but our timing was bad, again.  We drove south on Central and found the entrance to the parking lot for “the big tent.”  This is where the RV vendors will be in another week or so, but nothing was open yet, so we went over to the Tyson Wells area west of Central Avenue and found some miscellaneous items and a pair of Crocs for me.  For all the shoes I brought I did not have something that was easy on, easy off.  We are parked on gravel and I needed something I could slip on quickly and easily to step outside the coach.

Most of Linda’s list was groceries so we drove to Blythe, California to do our shopping.  To vary our trip and see some new sights we stayed on Kuehn Street heading west past the edge of town where it became West Dome Rock Road.  The road parallels I-10 on the south side for a long way through BLM land and eventually ends at an interchange with the Interstate.  We saw lots of RVs, and a few tents, spread out on either side of the road, but not nearly as many as we thought we would.  There are probably a lot more RVs here than we realize, but the desert is a vast place.

When we got to Blythe we took a few minutes to drive through town and get a feel for the place.  It had a more developed, modern, and prosperous business district than Quartzsite and more houses, as opposed to park model trailers and mobile homes. The houses were not fancy but they were in decent condition.  Schools and municipal buildings were also nice, and there is nothing in Q to compare to the two supermarkets and name brand stores like Auto Zone, NAPA Auto Parts, and K-Mart.  We started at Albertson’s and got most of the items on our list.  We then went across the street to Smart and Final Express and picked up a few things there.  Once again we were not able to find the Silk brand Soy Coffee Creamer, which has us wondering if we last bought it at Wal-Mart in Parker.

When we got back to camp I unloaded the car and Linda put the food away.  I wandered over to say high to Butch and Fonda and play with their dogs, Daffy and Rascal, for a few minutes.  I then went over to say high to Jim and Barb’s dog, Roho, which brought them out of their motorhome and got me invited in.  Linda eventually wandered over looking for me and the four of us had a nice chat.  It was the first time since they got here that I had been inside their rig, a Country Coach Intrigue, and it was very nice.  It has one slide on the front half of the driver’s side, and there is no doubt that it really opens up the interior.  Before we bought our bus we were looking seriously at Country Coach motorhomes (but not their Prevost bus conversions) and the Tiffin Allegro Bus (which is a purpose-built motorhome, not a true bus).  But in the end we were bitten by bus fever and we still have it.

We stopped to visit briefly with Butch and Fonda on the way back to our rig.  Butch has always had an interest in metal detecting and has developed an interest in rocks since arriving in Quartzsite.  If you had the slightest inclination towards rocks, gems, and minerals then being in Quartzsite during the winter would likely push you over the edge into a full-blown hobbyist.  Sometime in the last couple of days Butch bought a used contraption that consists of a table saw, two grinding wheels with a water delivery system, and an electric motor.  He and Fonda acquired a bucket of rocks, including a piece of petrified wood, and they are setting up an area outside their bus to work on their new hobby.

For dinner Linda made pan-grilled tofu slices with caramelized onions and bar-b-cue sauce, but with a twist.  Instead of hamburger buns or slices of bread she heated 12″ tortillas and made wraps.  Of the various ways she has served this simple, but delicious, dish this was definitely my favorite so far.  As much as I like a nice, fresh bun the tortilla wrap kept all of the ingredients contained so that I got onion and BBQ sauce with each bite, and they did not end up all over my plate and all over me.

As we do most evenings, we relaxed, played games, worked puzzles, read, and wrote. We are always a bit surprised at how tired we are after dinner, but we are up and about during the day and the fresh air and sunshine just seem to wear us out.

The roof of our bus after cleaning looking SW as viewed from the driver side front corner.  Quartzsite, AZ.

The roof of our bus after cleaning looking SW as viewed from the driver side front corner. Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/11 (N) Swimsuit In January

I turned the lights off last night at 11 AM and was up at 7 AM this morning which seems to have become my current routine.  Because of the new (to us) mattress I was able to get up without waking Linda up.  I turned up the heat in the front of the coach but not the back as Linda does not sleep well in a warm room.  I started getting the coffee ready but did not grind the beans because of the noise it makes.  I worked at my computer on organizational tasks such as copying files to the NAS, copying blog posts from e-mail to Word, and backing up website and photo files to the NAS.

Linda got up around 8:30 AM and set the microwave convection oven to preheat in convection only mode.  When it was ready she heated up the leftover cinnamon raisin rolls she took out of the freezer yesterday and put in the refrigerator.  While the rolls were heating I finished making the coffee.  Although they are not gigantic, one of these rolls would probably be plenty of calories for breakfast.  Two rolls, however, made for a very satisfying meal.  Still, they take about four hours to make fresh and about 25 minutes to reheat.  She makes a batch of eight, so if we each had one for breakfast her efforts would cover four meals instead of two.

Today was another bus cleaning day, but first Linda went for her morning walk while I continued to organize photo files on our network attached storage device.  It was forecast to be a cloudy but mild day and by late morning the clouds had moved in, so when Linda got back we got busy.  Even with the cloud cover it was warm enough that I was able to wear my swimsuit and a T-shirt, my preferred outfit for working with water.  We bought some CLR Mold & Mildew remover yesterday and I tried using it on the lower rear roof.  It did not appear to have any effect so I abandoned any further roof cleaning and we got started on the sides.

The upper sides of our bus are not easy to clean.  Even with our Little Giant extension/step ladder set up as a step ladder at its maximum height I cannot quite reach the top curve of the side walls.  Knowing that was the case I cleaned all the way around the edge of the roof, where it meets the side walls and the front and rear caps, from the roof.  Once I was done with that we took the Little Giant extension/step ladder and converted it from extension configuration to step ladder configuration.

We worked all afternoon until after 5 PM and managed to clean the front and the passenger side.  We wanted to get the passenger side done because it faces south and we wanted to do this on a cloudy day.  Working a section at a time we used McGuire’s red automotive soap, scrubbed with an automotive microfiber sponge, rinsed thoroughly (with Q’s incredibly hard water), and dried with microfiber clothes.  We could not get all of the hard water stains off but it was a lot cleaner, and looked a lot better, than when we started.

The weather forecast for tonight was for heavy rain sometime between 9 and 11 PM with accumulations of up to 1/2″.  For a place that typically only gets 4″ of rain a year that would be a lot of rain for one storm.  We put our lawn chairs, mats, and other outdoor items in the carport for the night just to be safe.  Shortly after 6 PM we had our first sprinkles.

For dinner we had chickpea salad and wild rice vegan Waldorf salad with strawberries and peach slices and some Barry’s Basic Bread with a small glass of Franzia Fruity Red Sangria.  I responded to some e-mails after dinner and deferred work on possible survey questions for the FMCA national education committee until tomorrow.

Linda makes her selections at the Quartzsite Farmers Market.

Linda makes her selections at the Quartzsite Farmers Market.

2015/01/12 (M) E-mail Groups

It has stayed warm enough the last few nights that I have not needed the electric heating pad and we have been able to leave windows slightly open.  We both sleep better in a cool room with fresh air.  The deluge of rain that was forecast for last night did not develop but it was still mostly cloudy when we got up this morning.  After breakfast, coffee, morning puzzles, and checking in with the world we got on with our chores.

My major tasks for the day revolved around preparations for, and participation in, a 2 PM FMCA National Education Committee work session.  While I worked on that stuff Linda went for her morning walk, made an appointment to get her hair cut tomorrow, and made garlic naan (Indian bread) from scratch.  When the phone meeting was over I transferred photographs from my camera to my computer and then joined Linda over at Butch and Fonda’s coach for a late afternoon visit.

Jim L. showed up while we were chatting, read the electric sub-meters, and figured out our bills.  Linda had to write four separate checks to cover our site fee, electricity usage, laundry, and the rental for the apartment, which Jim gave to Barb to cover the cleaning before and after Marilyn’s upcoming visit.  Butch placed an order with PartDeal.com for a VDO speedometer so I had him order a VDO Cockpit Series 0-30 PSI Boost Gauge for me.  The UPS truck also showed up and had the two packages I have been waiting for.  All too soon the sun dropped below the western mountains and it turned chilly so we retreated to our coach.

Linda made curried red lentils for dinner and served it along with the garlic naan bread she made earlier in the day.  Warmed and energized by this fabulous meal I launched into my second major task of the day; the creation of an e-mail group in Microsoft Outlook for our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter.  I got the latest roster from Linda, who is the treasurer, and was able to rearrange it, save it as a CSV file, import it into Outlook, and map it to the standard contact fields.  It was then easy to create a Contact Group and select all of my new entries to go in it.  Once I got the group set up I wrote an e-mail to the members, my first since being elected President of the chapter back in October.  I was up much later than usual, but I got it done.

Escapees RV Club happy hour SE of Q in one of the BLM STVAs.

Escapees RV Club happy hour SE of Q in one of the BLM STVAs.

2015/01/13 (T) Geekiness

Today was a day for Geeks and geekiness.  Chris and Jim Guld, AKA The Geeks On Tour, arrived in Quartzsite yesterday and are staying at an RV Park not far from our encampment.  Butch knew they were headed this way and after he and I were unable to get EchoLink working on his computer yesterday he contacted Jim to see if he would be willing to stop by and take a look.  Jim is a former network administrator and knows a lot more about stuff like networking, protocols, ports, port forwarding, and proxy servers than we do.  But before he came over Linda and I had breakfast after which she walked over to the beauty parlor and got her hair cut while I worked on a seminar classification task for the FMCA National Education a Committee.

Jim G. arrived on his bicycle around 10:30 AM and stayed for a couple of hours.  He re-checked the things Butch and I had already tried and tried some things we had not, but we could not get Butch’s system to let the EchoLink program connect successfully to the EchoLink servers.  For the record, Butch’s system consists of a Windows Vista laptop that connects to the Internet one of two ways:  1) through a Verizon MiFi or,  2) through a WiFiRanger Go2 into a WiFiRanger Mobile into a DSL WiFi gateway of unknown make and model.  Jim also tried connecting through the WiFi hotspot on his Android-based smartphone.  Same result.  Mixed in with work we had a great visit with Jim and hope to meet up with he and Chris at least once while they are in Q.

After Jim left Linda and I were headed in to have a bite of lunch when an unfamiliar car pulled into the lot.  Barb was by the road and pointed the driver in our direction.  We quickly realized that it was Mara.  She had called Linda first but Linda did not hear the phone ring so it was a wonderful surprise when she showed up.  We visited for a couple of hours while we snacked on hummus, pretzels, and red grapes.

Mara is camped on BLM land north of town with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) and has been traveling off and on with groups of WINs since we last saw her in Gillette, Wyoming in July 2013.  Since that time she has also gotten a different motorhome, a 35′ Fleetwood Bounder, with which she is very pleased.  She invited us to join a group of WINs on Sunday to go to The Desert Bar and I think we will.  Linda checked it out online and it is a completely solar-powered, off-the-grid, place.  You have to take dirt roads or ATVs to get there.

It appears that things are finally going to get busy for us.  Gary, from BCM, is supposed to arrive tomorrow and Curtis, from RVillage, is supposed to arrive on Saturday.  Forrest and Mary are already here as are Chris and Cherie of Technomadia.  The Escapees RV Club has happy hours scheduled tomorrow and Thursday at one of the BLM areas east of town.  Blythe, California has a bluegrass festival starting Friday and running through Sunday.  We will probably go on Friday as there is also a Balloon Festival in Lake Havasu the same three days which we will probably attend on Saturday.  Somewhere in there I need to repair our Aqua-Hot and I am thinking that it will probably be Thursday.  The “Big Tent” Sports, Vacation, and RV Show starts on Saturday (17th) and runs through the Sunday the 25th.  Marilyn arrives on the Thursday the 22nd and leaves on the Thursday the 29th.  The last full week of January really is the peak of the winter season in Q.

After Mara left I used my macro lens to photograph the front and back of both of our amateur radio operator licenses.  I post-processed the images to improve the readability and reduce the file size.  Once I had the photos ready I downloaded and installed the EchoLink software on my Asus laptop.  I went through the initial configuration for my license and tried the server connection test.  As with Butch’s installation, two of the four UDP port tests failed.  I ignored that for the moment and went ahead with the validation procedure for my ham license.

Anyone can download and install the EchoLink software but only licensed hams can legally use it.  That is because it can, and often does, connect a computer to a ham radio repeater that is “on the air” and only licensed hams are allowed to transmit on those frequencies.  Validation was a multi-step process.  When first starting EchoLink I had to supply my FCC callsign, name, and (base station) location.  That information was transmitted to a database on the EchoLink servers but the EchoLink organization needed to validate that I was actually the person to whom that callsign was issued.  Through a separate process on the EchoLink.org website I had to upload JPEG image files of the front and back of my wallet license.  Once someone examined the images and made sure the call was active in the FCC database they “flipped the switch” on the server side and I was finally able to connect to stations if I wanted to.  I repeated the process later for Linda’s license.

While I was waiting to have my license validated I started trying to figure out how to get the EchoLink program to connect successfully to the EchoLink servers.  When the communications test with the servers runs it identifies the IP address assigned to the computer.  I went into the WiFiRanger Mobile and enabled UDB port forwarding for ports 5198 and 5199.  The TCP test was successful so I did not set up TCP port forwarding for port 5200.  Enabling port forwarding, however, was necessary but not sufficient.

What I ended up doing was switching the operating mode on the ESET Smart Security program from “Automatic” to “Interactive.”  With that change, the program would pop up a message box every time another program had outbound or inbound traffic through a port and ask if I wanted to allow the communication and optionally create a rule for it.  Several of those messages had to do with EchoLink and after clicking “Allow” to all of them the server/router tests were finally all successful and the program was fully functional except for the license validation.

Sometime in the late afternoon another motorhome showed up and backed in to the property with Jim L.’s help.  It was Larry and Sandy, who normally stay at Jim L.’s RV Park near the QIA.  Jim’s park is full so he put them over here in the spot by the laundry where Jack and Maria parked for a couple of nights a week or so ago.

We had leftover red lentil potato curry (thick soup) for dinner with the rest of the garlic naan and a glass of sangria and it was very good, again.  I finished up my FMCA education committee task and e-mailed it off.  I received an e-mail that my ham license had been validated so we played with the EchoLink program and User’s Guide for a while but did not try to connect to any stations.

While I was working on all of this I noticed that nine updates were pending for Windows 8.1 and there were four optional ones as well.  Installing updates is often an iterative process and so it was again this evening.  One of the optional updates was a roll up from November 2014 that was 723.9 MB.  That’s a big update.  I started downloading it at 23:52 MST and then went to bed.  My hope was that fewer people would be trying to use the local DSL system to get online at that hour and the update might actually load and install successfully.  But I would have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out.

L-to-R: Travis & Melanie Carr from the Escapees RV Club and Cherie Ve Ard & Chris Dunphy of Technomadia.

L-to-R: Travis & Melanie Carr from the Escapees RV Club and Cherie Ve Ard & Chris Dunphy of Technomadia.

2015/01/14 (W) SKP Happy Hour

As soon as I got up this morning I checked the huge Windows 8.1 optional rollup update that I started last night.  It had completed successfully except for restarting the computer, so that’s what I did.  While the update finished installing I made coffee and got the juice ready and Linda prepared our cereal.

Once the update finished I checked e-mail and websites.  Linda made white bean hummus to take to the SKP Happy Hour later today.  She then remembered that the Farmers Market at Desert Gardens was this morning from 8 AM to noon so we drove over there.  There was only one stand selling produce, but they were from Blythe, California only (20 miles away) so the produce was very local and very fresh.  Linda bought an assortment of veggies and a grapefruit.

We had parked at the south end of the western parking area and from there we could see a road going back towards “Q” Mountain and a well-defined trail going up the western side.  We drove back there and determined that we could park there when we decide to climb the mountain and do some panoramic photography.

We drove to Barry’s Breads and bought a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread and then continued east on Kuehn Street to confirm Lloyd DeGerald’s location.  We took Riggles Avenue back over I-10 to Main Street and headed back towards Central Avenue, stopping at the Road Runner Market for a few things.  When we got back Jim and Barb were aggressively trimming the Palo Verde trees in the cactus garden.

As we often do most mornings, Linda went for a walk and I worked at my computer, installing three more optional updates and taking care of some e-mail.  We gathered up chairs, food, and beverages at 12:45 PM and drove over to the SKP Happy Hour on East Dome Rock Road.  There was already quite a crowd when we arrived and everyone was in a good mood.  And why not.  The sun was shining, the air temperature was pleasant, there were tables arrayed with food, people had beverages of their choice, Johnny Cockrum was performing, and lots of folks were meeting old and new friends.  We had a thoroughly pleasant time, but we always do when we are with groups of Escapees.

On the way back to camp we spotted Lloyd DeGerald and his wife out walking their dog and stopped briefly to chat about our Aqua-Hot.  We then stopped at the trailer for the Two Crazy Ladies and ordered engraved hang tags with our call signs and a sign asking emergency responders to rescue our cats.

When we got back to camp Linda went for another (short) walk and I sat down to work at my computer.  We lost our Internet connection while we were away and the DSL gateway would not re-associate with our WiFiRanger Mobile so I had Barb open the house and I power cycled the gateway.  I was then able reestablish the connection to our WFR-M.  That is the second time this has happened since we arrived here but so far has not caused us any real difficulty.

Butch has been having problems with their Progressive Industries EMS cutting off their shorepower due to high voltage.  We noticed during dinner that our PI-EMS was also showing a PE-3 (previous error – high voltage).  I do not know if our Magnum inverter switches on “instantly” when outside power is lost or if there is a delay but I am now wondering if we lost our Internet connection due to loss of power to the WiFi Ranger Mobile after which it was not able to reconnect with the gateway.  The next time this happens I may try powering the WFR-M off for 60 seconds and restarting it.  It’s also possible that the high voltage is wreaking havoc on the DSL gateway.

After dinner I sent a TXT message to Gary at BCM inquiring if he had arrived in Q as planned.  He called back and said they had just cleared Indio, California.  I suggested they find someplace to stop and rest and finish the trip tomorrow morning in the daylight.  They are headed to the Quartzsite Market Place dry camp area for the Eagles International bus gathering.  I spent the rest of the evening working on five different articles for Bus Conversion Magazine before finally turning in around midnight.

 

2015/01/01-07 (R-W) Q 2015 W1

2015/01/01 (R) Hola 2015

The salt restraining tube for the water filter housing.  The slotted end (R) goes down and the o-rings sit in the other end.

The salt restraining tube for the water filter housing. The slotted end (R) goes down and the o-rings sit in the other end.

Having stayed up later than usual last night to see the old year out and welcome the new year in we were in no hurry to get up this morning, especially given that the temperature outside was in the upper 20s.  But Linda said she would make her yummy vegan cinnamon rolls for breakfast so I felt obligated to get up and eat them.  Besides, it’s my job to make the coffee.  The rolls took quite a while to make and we ended up having them for brunch, but they were worth the wait.

I spent much of the morning looking for new games in the iStore.  I downloaded a dozen free ones and then started trying them in turn.  Most of them immediately tried to sell me a full version or ran a full-screen advertisement each time I tried to start a new round of play.  If they did that I immediately deleted the app.  I cannot imagine what makes a game developer think someone with tolerate that more than once.  At some point I realized that my AppleID was still associated with an old e-mail address so I initiated the process of changing it.  The process was not as seamless as I thought it could/would/should be, but I eventually got it sorted out.  Or as they say or Doc Martin, “sorted.”  As it turned out my credit card information was also out of date so I updated that as well.  Obviously I do not make iStore purchases very often.

I needed to regenerate our portable water softener even though it was 48 degrees F outside in the shade.  It was, however, comfortable enough in the sun to be able to work.  I started at noon cutting the plastic drain pipe that I bought at Herb’s Hardware the other day to a length of 10″ which is the length of a standard water filter.  I cut eight 3/8″ slots in the bottom end of the tube and got an O-ring from Butch to fit in the swaged upper end.  The purpose of the tube is to hold salt so that incoming water is required to pass through it to get to the softener but the salt crystals cannot actually wash into the softener.

Linda helped me transfer the contents of a 40 pound bag of solar salt to several two-gallon zip lock bags.  I then put a small quantity of salt in a one-quart zip lock bag and gently smashed it with a two-pound sledgehammer, although as I write that it seems to be something of an oxymoron.  I inserted the tube into the removable filter housing, slotted side down, and poured the salt around the outside of the tube.  I smashed a second bag of salt and added it to the housing.  I put the housing back on the filter head and slowly ran water through the softener for almost two hours.  I got a water hardness test strip from Butch and tested the output of the softener.  It was still showing 7 grains of hardness, exactly the same as two days ago.  It appeared that the regeneration process had not had any effect.  Bummer.

I discussed the situation with Butch and he suggested I back flush the softener.  To do that I needed a hose with female hose fittings on each end.  This is the kind of hose used to hook up a washing machine but neither one of us had one with us.  Butch, however, had a female-female adapter which allowed me to connect a male hose end to a male fitting on the outlet of the water softener.  (Backflushing literally means running water through the softener in the reverse direction to flush out any debris that may after gotten in through the normal inlet.)

The salt retaining tube in the filter housing with salt around the bottom outside and the o-ring visible at the top.

The salt retaining tube in the filter housing with salt around the bottom outside and the o-ring visible at the top.

After backflushing the softener I tried regenerating it again.  This time I used a 26 ounces of fine grain non-iodized table salt.  With my homemade diverter tube still in place I added the salt around the outside and screwed the housing back on.  I let the salt sit in the housing for 20 minutes to start to make a brine and then ran water through the softener until I got a very salty taste at the output.  I then shut the outlet valve and let it sit for 20 minutes.  When the time elapsed I ran water through the softener for another 15 seconds, checked it for saltiness, and shut the outlet valve.  At the end of another 20 minutes I ran water through it at a very slow rate for 20 minutes and then checked it again for salty taste.  It was still slightly salty and as it was getting close to sunset I decided to let it sit overnight.  I will finish flushing it tomorrow and check the hardness again.

While I was fussing with our water softener Butch recharged theirs in about 30 minutes.  When he tested the water at the end it indicated zero (0) grains of hardness; completely softened.  Their softener is different from ours and the regeneration procedure is very straightforward and apparently works.  For now I need to figure out a guaranteed procedure for regenerating ours, but long-term I need to figure out some other arrangement of just get a different softener.

The arrangement I am considering would be in conjunction with redoing the water bay. With a different arrangement of tanks I could create space in the bay for the softener, multiple filter housings, and associated plumbing.  I could set up an arrangement that would divert the incoming water (after the first/sediment filter) through a clear filter housing into which I could put the salt.  That clear housing/head would be permanently modified to force water through the salt and allow me to see when the salt was gone.  It would also eliminate the need to remove and reinstall the filter the way I have to now.  Alternatively I could put a tank between the filter housing and the softener (instead of the clear housing) and use it as a brine tank.  If the tank was big enough to hold a 40 pound bag of solar salt it would work just like a home softening system.  Water would sit in the tank with the salt for days so that the brine was ready to use when it was time to regenerate the softener.  I could even rig up a separate pump just for pumping the brine into the softener.  I’m going to give this a lot of thought before I start changing things around, but last winter in Florida and this winter in Quartzsite have made it very clear that hard water is a problem and we need a very effective and efficient way to deal with it.

While I worked with the water softener Linda began preparing a Tex-Mex bean soup for dinner and then went for a long walk.  She finished making the soup when she got back while I took a short nap.  It cooled off quickly as the sun set and nothing is quite as satisfying on a cool evening as hearty, hot soup.  It also had a bit of red pepper heat which was a nice bonus.  It was really good soup.

I had a few e-mails from Gary at BCM and a nice follow-up e-mail from Kathy at the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  She attached a copy of their holiday letter so I attached a copy of ours in reply.  I spent a little time browsing websites for OTA TV antennas and turbo boost gauges and finally went to bed without resolving what to do about either thing.  I have a lot of nights that end like that.

2015/01/02 (F) Crazy Days In Q

Contact is established with our cat, Jasper.

Contact is established with our cat, Jasper.

The “show” at Desert Gardens officially opened yesterday and runs through the end of February, so Quartzsite is quickly be transformed into a crazy place.  We were chatting with Butch, Fonda, Jim, and Barb after breakfast and Barb reminded us that starting now driving and parking “downtown”, and especially along Kuehn Street south of I-10, during the day will be difficult to impossible.  She offered to drive us down in the golf cart and come pick us up if we did not want to walk.  She also told us that many vendors will hold purchases for pickup at the end of the day.  We exchanged cell phone numbers, which we had not yet done since they arrived.  She suggested that if we wanted to eat out we should go early or right before closing as we might not be able to get seated/served otherwise.  There’s no doubt that we have lucked out on our arrangements this winter, and the situation just keeps getting better.

Linda was browsing on her iPad and discovered an all vegan grocery store in Rancho Cucamonga, California; the largest all-vegan grocery store in the world.  I looked up Rancho Cucamonga on Google Maps and it is located about half way between Los Angeles and San Bernardino.  Based on the speeds I like to drive (often just below the speed limit or 68 MPH, whichever is less) it looks like a four hour drive one-way from Q.  That’s obviously too far for a regular grocery run, but we might make a day trip in that direction sometime this winter and find the store while we are over there.

One of the things I did after climbing in bed last night was spend a little time looking at the Sure Marine Service website.  SMS is a major supplier of repair parts for Webasto diesel-fired hydronic systems headquartered in Seattle, Washington.  After studying their parts diagrams I became unclear (and concerned) as to whether the burner we removed from Butch’s old unit was a DBW2010 or a DBW2020.  They are very similar but not identical.  I am almost certain that our original burner is a DBW2010, but our AHU-xxx Aqua-Hot is so old that the model number is no longer referenced on the website and model specific documentation, like a service manual, is not available for download.

The reason I was looking at the parts diagrams was to identify the bearing kit for the blower as I wanted to order two of them today.  What I could tell from the website was that the 2020 is a higher BTU output burner and so one of the differences is that the 2010 uses a 0.35 GPH nozzle while the 2020 uses a 0.60 GPH nozzle.  That alone might account for why we seem to have poor combustion, although even money is still on bad bearings.  The unresolved issues and the inability to investigate at midnight did not make for a good night’s sleep.

I have the Aqua-Hot service/repair manual for the unit I bought from Butch, both on paper and on my iPad, so I spent some time this morning looking at the iPad version.  I could not tell if they used the same bearing parts so I did not order anything today and won’t until I can determine model numbers.  I asked Butch if he knew which burner was in the Aqua-Hot I bought from him, but he did not.  The service manual shows a Webasto label that identifies the burner model, but does not show where the label is located.  More investigation was needed.

After I got dressed I e-mailed Bill Gerrie (RetiredBusNut) in Ontario, Canada with questions about gauges and sending units for our bus engine and transmission.  I then started dealing with the water softener.  Linda returned from her walk and started preparing lunch, so I emptied the filter housing of the little bit of salt that was still in the bottom, rinsed it clean, re-installed the filter, and let it run for 20 minutes to fully flush out any residual salt water.

Linda made a warm garbanzo bean and kale salad for lunch with lemon juice and garlic.  It was the first time she had tried this recipe and we both agreed it was a keeper. After lunch I tested the hardness of the water coming out of the softener and it registered on the test strip between zero (completely soft) and 1.5 (definitely soft) so I dumped the remaining (hard) water in the fresh water tank and refilled it with 120 gallons of nice, soft water.  After the tank was full I retested the water coming out of the softener and got the same reading as before.  Finally, some good news on the water softener front.

With water softening taken care of (for now) I did an online search for a panoramic camera tripod head.  I really like shooting panoramas and the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS-ICE) does a remarkable job stitching images together.  Most of my panoramas have been handheld, which makes the performance of MS-ICE all the more impressive.  I have shot a few panoramas using a tripod but without a nodal point (spherical) pan head, so that is what I was searching for online.  B&H Photo had a Manfrotto on sale for $280, marked down from $600, but their order desk was closing for the day and I did not want to be rushed making this decision so I did not order it.  They will reopen tomorrow, so I will think about it overnight and do some more research.

I got our old Webasto burner out of the front bay and found the label.  It is, indeed, a DBW2010, specifically a DBW2010.75 with a 0.35 GPH nozzle rated at 45,000 BTU.  Linda recorded the details, including the serial number, and then helped me rewrap it in bubble wrap so I could put back in its storage pail.

Linda then went to Parker, Arizona with Butch and Fonda to check out the Safeway grocery store and look for some things at Walmart.  The Parker Safeway was supposed to carry Daiya vegan cheese products but they were nowhere to be found.  It appears that our closest source will be Whole Foods.  There are five of them in the greater Phoenix area but that is a two hour drive one way.

While the three amigos were gone I removed the cover from the Aqua-Hot in our coach and found its label.  Much to my relief it is also a Webasto DBW2010.75, 45,000 BTU.  It should also have a 0.35 GPH nozzle, and probably does, but I did not pull the burner out to check.  I noticed some soot on the final fuel filter inside the housing and in other places so that gave me something new to be concerned about.  I was pondering the situation when Jim and Barb and Roho came over to visit and we had a good long chat.  When they went back to their motorhome I put the cover back on the Aqua-Hot and put all of my tools away.

My plan for tomorrow is to turn the Aqua-Hot off, let it cool down, and pull the burner to check the nozzle.  It’s possible, though not likely, that I do not have the burner seated quite right and there’s a chance, though very small, that reinstalling it will fix, or least improve the performance.  My money (literally) is still on the blower bearings.  Hopefully it does not also need a new motor as everything on a Webasto is more expensive than seems reasonable. It’s another fine example of precision German engineering and manufacturing.

Even though I have quite a few e-mail addresses that I use to segregate electronic correspondence into manageable categories my inboxes still end up flooded with e-mails.  Very few of them are spam—we have good spam filtering on all of the accounts—but some of the highest volume inbound traffic is notifications of things like failed login attempts on WordPress websites.  Those e-mails do not get replies and often do not require any specific action on my part, but they sometimes obscure the presence of other e-mails that do require my attention.

Microsoft Outlook is able to deal with incoming (and outgoing) e-mails based on user-defined “rules” but I had never played with that feature until today.  I used the online help system to read about the whys and wherefores of e-mail rules and then tried creating some.  Once I understood what I was trying to accomplish it was mostly point and click to get it done, with a little typing thrown in.  What I ended up doing was creating sender/subject subfolders under the inbox of certain accounts and then creating a rule for each subfolder that directs incoming e-mails matching the criteria to the correct folder.  By keeping the sub folders under the inbox folder it will be clear to me that these are e-mails that I have received but not yet dealt with.

For dinner Linda made a cooked shredded Brussels’ Sprouts dish with tomatoes, dried cranberries, and pistachios and served it alongside the leftover Mexican rice with a glass of sangria.  Ole!  We agreed that both of these dishes were keepers and went well with the fruity wine.  The rest of the evening was quiet.  Linda read and played her online games while I finished up working on this post.  I finally went to bed and started reading the service and repair manuals for the Aqua-Hot system and the Webasto burner.  According to the long-term weather forecast tonight should be our last night with an overnight low temperature below freezing.

 

A few of the vendors at Desert Gardens, Quartzsite, AZ.

A few of the vendors at Desert Gardens, Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/03 (S) Hammer Stahl

I got up at 6:30 AM today.  I had been awake for a while before that and had some things I needed/wanted to do on my computer.  These were quiet tasks that I could do in the front of the coach, with the heat turned up, without disturbing Linda.

I always check my e-mail first.  There was a group message from Hillary at RVillage to all of the Ambassadors regarding a new feature they will be rolling out soon and seeking our assistance.  I mentioned this to Linda when she got up and we watched the two YouTube videos.  We did not have time today but will work on it tomorrow in advance of a 5 PM (4 PM PST) web meeting.

My first project today was updating the spreadsheet I maintain for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter, which I started working on last night.  The chapter treasurer maintains our checking account but as the secretary I maintain the records including the roster and who has paid their dues for what years.  Because I have all of those details I also generate the quarterly and annual financial statements.  I entered the information for dues payments that had been received between November 1 and December 31.  I then added the five worksheets for 2015 (four quarters and year), which tie together and link back to the 2014 statement, and updated the cumulative financial statement.

Linda got up so I put my work aside to make coffee while she made breakfast.  We had a few bananas that were ripe so she made green smoothies for breakfast.  We happen to like kale but if we didn’t, green smoothies would be an excellent way to get our daily dose along with several other healthy ingredients.

We talked about visiting the market area today and decided to go later when it was a bit warmer.  The temperature a 9AM was still only 40 degrees F so Linda bundled up and went for her morning walk while I continued to work on my spreadsheet.

Once I finished the spreadsheet I worked outside for a bit.  I removed the cover from the burner end of the Aqua-Hot while it was running to check for an exhaust leak (sight, smell, touch) but I could not detect one.  When the cycle finished I turned the burner off.  My plan was to let the unit cool off and then remove the burner to check the nozzle size and do a general inspection of the combustion chamber and visible parts, but that did not happen today.

What I did instead was return to my computer and start putting Webasto repair parts in my shopping cart on the Sure Marine Service website.  The bearings on the installed burner are definitely whining and need to be replaced.  They are supposed to be replaced regularly anyway, so I put two sets in the cart.  It is very likely that they are causing the motor to run slow which means insufficient combustion air, and possibly lower fuel pressure, leading to the dark smoky exhaust.  I also put a fuel solenoid valve in the cart.  There is a good chance that the valve and/or the solenoid are not working on the other burner.  There’s also a chance that the ignition coil has failed, but the solenoid valve costs 1/2 as much as the coil, so I’m hoping it’s the valve.  I got the order submitted with UPS ground shipping and used PayPal to make the payment.

Once I completed the SMS order I loaded the B&H Photo app onto my iPad and spent quite a bit of time going between their website and the Sony online store trying to figure out if I should order a panoramic tripod head and/or new camera, possibly with a lens and flash unit.  Sony has the Alpha 99 FF body marked down from $2,800 to $1,900 with the vertical grip and an extra battery thrown into the deal, an additional $500+ value.  They will also bundle in the SAM 28-75mm f/2.8 lens for $400.  The lens by itself is normally $900, so that’s another $500 savings.

So for $2,500 I could get $4,200 worth of Sony’s top-of-the-line “flagship” DSLR (DSLT, actually) equipment, except for one thing; it was all on back order with an ESTIMATED ship date of February 4, 2015.  That’s my birthday, so if it actually shipped on that date it would be quite the birthday present, but if it was delayed very much there would be the very real possibility of it arriving at our location in Q after we had left.  Not good.

So what about B&H Photo?  It turns out that they (claim to) have all of these pieces in stock and they are selling the body with the added pieces for the same price as Sony, but they are not offering the lens at the bundled price.  That was the deal breaker that saved me spending a lot of money today.  Besides, I have been waiting a long time for Sony to officially announce and the ship the new (rumored) flagship alpha a99-II with its 36MP FF 35mm sensor and long list of awesome features.  To decide now to by prior generation technology it would have to be a very attractive deal, much better than what I was seeing online.

I ended up ordering a Manfrotto Nodal Point Pro panoramic tripod mount from B&H.  It should be here by the end of the week.  When it arrives I think we will hike up to the top of “Q Mountain” and try to capture the true essence of Quartzsite in the winter, which is RVs from horizon to horizon.

We headed down to the market area on Kuehn Street with Butch and Fonda and walked around for a couple of hours in the Tyson Wells Show grounds north of Kuehn Street and west of Central Avenue (US-95).  This particular market area had really filled up with vendors in the last few days.  Linda bought a nice white apron and really nice Hammer Stahl 5.5″ Santoku knife.  She checked online when we got back and she paid about 55% of the MSRP on the HS website.  She bought it from Cutlery by LeClaire, which also has a website, and has it on sale for $20 more than the price on the HS website, marked down $20 from their “regular” price.  The point is, she got it for what appears to be a good price of $59 and it came in a nice box with a ceramic sharpener thrown into the deal.

We drove farther west on Kuehn Street and pulled into the Desert Gardens show grounds.  It was getting near sunset, so we did not stay long, but Linda and I walked enough of it to get a feeling for the place.  It was a “rougher” setup than Tyson Wells and many of the booths were selling large, rough rocks and gemstones.  The vendors also had a lot more equipment set up and were using it to process materials.  We’ll be back, probably more than once, and earlier in the day so we can spend more time.

When we got back to our motorcoaches Fonda came over and worked with Linda for a little while on their business records.  We then had a nice salad and some of the spicy bean and pasta soup (that Linda made the other day) with crackers and sangria.  I spent more time after dinner researching stuff on my iPad and working on this post.

We appear to be in one of the few places in the country that is not getting clobbered by bad weather. The temperature is not even supposed to drop below freezing overnight. It will still be cool tomorrow, however, and we did make specific plans before going to bed.

 

A view of "Q" Mountain from the Desert Gardens Show area.

A view of “Q” Mountain from the Desert Gardens Show area.

2015/01/04 (N) Our Village

We had vegan pancakes for breakfast which prompted me to suggest that Linda invent some recipes, even if they are interesting and successful variations on existing ones, and feed them to our grand-daughter.  Linda could put them on our website using the WP Ultimate Recipe plug-in and, if they met with her approval, name they after “Bitty” (youngest grand-daughter’s latest nickname, although I think I will always prefer “Schmoo”).  Perhaps Pancakes Madeline; Sautéed greens a la Madeline; Pasta Madeline; or Madeline’s vegan mac and cheese.  Being retired gives me a lot of time to think.

Joe’s brother, Jim L., finally returned from Nevada today and was able to get the park model trailer unlocked.  Barb has been wanting to get in and clean it since she and Jim (different Jim) arrived.  Barb is a keep busy kind of gal.  She is responsible for maintaining the apartment and laundry room while she is here and told Connie she would also do some deep cleaning on their house trailer, so it’s been bugging her that she could not get in to do it.  As for my part, all I did was lock the door on the trailer the way Connie asked me to.  Barb and Jim (husband) had lots of keys but could not get any of them to work.

 

Today was shower day.  This is always more of a production than we would like because we keep the cats’ litter tray in the shower.  Most of the time that works really well—it is out of the way and contains any mess they might make—but it is inconvenient when we want to use the shower for its intended purpose.  Besides pulling the tray out into the hall by the bathroom door we have to clean up any stray litter in the shower to make sure it does not end up in the gray water waste tank.  Litter tray or not we still have to spray the shower walls when we are done, squeegee off the glass door, let everything dry, and then reassemble it as a giant cat litter box.  But it works and it’s one of the compromises we willingly make to live with our cats in so few square feet.

 

Once I was dressed I went outside to chat with Jim L. (Joe’s brother) and we discussed the possibility of upgrading the electrical service at our site to “50 Amp” (240VAC, 50A, 4-wire, the equivalent of a 120VAC, 100A residential service).  It’s not an issue for us right now as the cool weather has us burning diesel fuel to make space heat, but once the weather turns warm we may need our air-conditioners.  We have three but can only run one on a “30A” service and still have enough power to run other things.  A 30A service is just what it says; 30A of current at 120VAC.  A “50A” RV service is slightly more than three times that amount of power.

 

The electrical hookups here are very interesting.  Perhaps all RV park power pedestals work the same way, but I have never looked inside one so I don’t know.  The meter is at the top and the area below it has a top-hinged cover.  Under the cover are three panels about 3″ wide and 15″ tall.  The panels have an outlet towards the bottom and a circuit breaker near the midpoint.  Behind the panels are busses for the hot, neutral and ground with male blade connectors.  The panels have female blade connectors that engage their male counterparts when the panel is slipped and then hinged into place.  It is secured with a single screw.  If Jim L. can find a 50A panel all we will have to do is unscrew and remove the 30A panel and plug in the new one, once we verify that 240 VAC (L1& L2) are present in the box and wired to the distribution busses.

 

Instead of her usual morning walk Linda setup her laptop on the dinette table and worked on accounting and tax issues for Butch and Fonda.  I set my laptop there as well to work on the roster for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter and Jasper got in between us, so we had a nice, cozy computing session.  When I placed my order with B&H Photo yesterday I checked a box to receive shipping status information via TXT message.  I got one this morning letting me know that my package had shipped from NYC.  Cool.

 

With accounting chores done for now Linda prepared vegan hot dogs with mustard, onion, and relish for lunch.  She then went for a long walk while I stayed at the coach and worked with a new feature on the RVillage website.  I was posting a lot of suggestions to the topic thread on the Ambassador forum and got a phone call from Curtis, the founder/CEO of RVillage.   We had a long chat and I was still on the phone with him when Linda got back.  I worked with the website some more and at 5:00 PM we connected to an Ambassador meeting using GoToMeeting on my computer.  This is a very exciting new feature and I think RVillagers and RV-related businesses are really going to like it once they know about it and see how it works.

 

Linda made mock (vegan) stroganoff for dinner.  She normally uses Basmati but the only rice she had enough of was Texmati so she used that.  Although I did not care for the texture of the Texmati in this dish (a bit crunchy), the taste was still very good.  This dish requires real cooking, which means it makes a real mess.  By the time everything was cleaned up and put away it was 8 PM and we were both tired.  I continued to research engine and transmission gauges while Linda read and played word games.  I also revisited the SonyAlphaRumors website but there was absolutely NO new information on the a99-II.  I went to bed wondering if this camera will ever actually exist.  Based on the comments I see online I am not the only one wondering if this camera will ever be a reality.

One of the hundreds of vendors at the Tyson Wells market area in Q.

One of the hundreds of vendors at the Tyson Wells market area in Q.

 

2015/01/05 (M) VSWR 1.0

Yesterday we finished up the coffees we have been using since we left Michigan at the end of November so this morning I had to open new bags and transfer the contents from their vacuum sealed bags to our metal storage canisters.  I had Teeko’s roast Ethiopian Yirgacheffe regular and decaffeinated separately, so I opened 1/2 pound bags of each.  I also opened a 1/2 pound bag of our special Sweet Seattle Dreams, which is 1/2 Sweet Dreams (decaf) and 1/2 Seattle Blend (regular).  I then made a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe 1/2-n-1/2 while Linda prepared our granola with fresh bananas and fresh blueberries.

 

Linda went for her morning walk while I continued to do online research regarding the enigma known as the Sony a99-II DSLT camera and the supposedly discontinued, but apparently still very much available, Sony alpha a99.  If I did not already have a nice assortment of compatible Minolta A-mount lenses and flash equipment I think I would stop wasting my time with Sony cameras.  But I do, and so I continue to wait and be frustrated along with thousands of other “enthusiast” (sub-professional) photographers.  Because Sony builds the image stabilization (anti-shake) feature into the alpha bodies instead of the A-mount lenses the feature is available even with older Minolta lenses and the new lenses are slightly less complicated and less expensive than the Nikon and Canon lenses, which have the image stabilization built into each lens.  I think this was one of Sony’s best innovations.

 

I also continued to look at automotive gauges and sending units and decided to call Bill Gerrie (in Ontario, Canada) to follow up on his reply to an e-mail I sent a few days ago.  We had a great chat and he was able to clarify some things and add quite a bit of specificity to his written reply.  As a result I have a pretty good idea of what I am looking for; now it’s just a matter of finding it and deciding to place the order.

 

I was starting to work at my computer when Linda returned from her walk.  She eventually fixed a couple of vegan hot dogs wrapped up in tortillas with mustard, onions, and relish.   As I was finishing my meal I got a call from Gary Hatt at BCM.  He recently acquired an Eagle bus conversion and had some questions about the air-conditioners and the Aqua-Hot.  He plans to be in Quartzsite next to week and we are looking forward to finally meeting in person since I have been writing articles for the magazine for almost two years.

 

Linda has been having a problem with the brightness (or lack thereof) of the touch screen on her 19 month old Windows 8.1 Samsung laptop.  It will go very dim for no apparent reason and cannot be adjusted.  There was a driver update available for the Intel HD Graphics processor so we downloaded it, installed it, and re-started her computer.  The screen was now bright, which was more useful than dim, but still not adjustable.  That could be a coincidence or a fix, we will have to wait and see.  Even though it was working (for now) I drove to the local Family Dollar and bought an HDMI cable and some lightly carbonated water.  (The water had nothing to do with Linda’s laptop computer display, we were just low on sparkling water.)  The cable will allow us to connect her computer to one of our two flat panel LCD (LED) TV/monitors if needed.  (We did that after dinner and it worked, mirroring the built-in display to the monitor and setting the resolution to match the monitor’s 1900x1080p native mode.  But it also caused the built-in monitor to dim, although not as much as before.  When we turned off the monitor and unplugged it the built-in display did not return to full brightness.)

 

Mid-afternoon I saw Butch working on his Tarheel screwdriver antenna so I inquired as to what he was doing.  He had connected his MFJ VSWR meter to it through a six foot length of coax.  He had also unplugged the control harness for the tuning motor and rigged up a temporary switch to extend and retract the antenna.  He had done this because he was getting meter readings when con