Monday, January 30, 2017

Hanging out in Quartzsite

We arrived in the Quartzsite area on January 16. We parked in the Plomosa road BLM area. We were amazed how many RV's there were parked out in the desert. Little did we know, that the number would increase steadily over the next few days. I think the number hit a peak the following weekend. We still had good spacing to the next rig, but there were large groups parked right next to each other all around us. There was the Montana owners group, the Outside the Bubble group and the Escapees Solo group to name just a few. Some of the groups had well over 100 rigs.

One cool thing is there are people out here that have some awesome hobbies. I am envious of the RC flyers and drone flyers. We also have ultra light flyers and a hot air balloon.

This guy landed right by us.

That is millions of dollars of Motor homes
We have stayed quite busy since we have been here. There are a number of projects that I wanted to accomplish while I was stationary for a few weeks. As I mentioned in my last post, we have a place to have packages sent, so I was ordering away. I had a few items on the truck to resolve and I needed to do some more work on the motorcycle. The good news is as of this writing, I have all but one of my projects completed.

Our good friends, Bob and Roxanne from Wisconsin came into town around the 21st. We really enjoyed seeing them again. We went to the big RV show together and were amazed by all of the strange things at the show. The funny thing is we both fell in love with the same trailer. The new Momentum by Grand A Designs is awesome and may be our next rig, in about 5 years.

Bob and Rox came over to our place for dinner one night and we went over to their place on Sunday to watch the NFL playoff games. They were of course rooting for the Green Bay Packers, but they sadly had a bad day. We still had an awesome day and a great meal.

We have been running our new solar system and it has been fantastic. We only ran the generator twice in two weeks. The only problem is we had one of our two inverters fail. I had been wanting to get a larger one that is a Pure Sine Inverter with a remote on/off switch, so that is what I ordered. We have decided to stick around the area for another week to wait for the arrival of that package. Come on Amazon, don't let me down.

I needed to refill my perscriptions and the closest Walgreens is in Lake Havasu about 70 miles away. We made the drive there and we are glad we did. The drive is mostly along the Colorado river that is heading down to the gulf of California from here. It is a beautiful oasis in the desert. This is also the home of the London Bridge.

The Colorado River on the way to Lake Havasu

The bridge was moved brick by brick from London. You can still see bullet holes from German strafing during WWII. 

After getting my motorcycle fixed, I went for a fun ride out in the desert. I was blasting along some two track and I am happy to report the DR is running better than ever. Here are a few shots of the awesome scenery.

Last Saturday, they had the 3rd annual Blogger Fest at La Posa South BLM area. We met a number of other bloggers. We really enjoyed meeting Jim and Barb of jimandbarbsrvadventure . I have been reading their blog for a while. They are also younger retired full timers. We got an invite for lunch today from them and had more time comparing notes and learning from them. We took some silly pictures in a large chair at the outdoor restaurant called Beer Belly's.

Today was moving day. We had stayed 14 days at the BLM area on Laposa road and that is the limit. I am not sure if they are enforcing the rule, but we decided we needed to dump tanks after 2 weeks anyway, so we took care of that at the Pit Stop in town. Then we went further out Laposa road and over near the little town of Bouse, Arizona. It is beautiful out here and very quiet. There are a few other rigs, but only about 10 in a very large area. We will hang out here and wait for that package. Camping for free in the desert is Awesome!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quartzsite, Arizona

We arrived in Quartzsite on Monday, January 16. We have never been here before and were not sure what to expect. I had read a bunch of other blogs of experienced Q people, but it never is what you have in your mind. They have plenty of RV parks in town that are not expensive, but also not our thing. They have lots of BLM camp areas that have a 14 day limit and are free. They also have some Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) that have a fee of $40 for 14 days or $180 for 7 months, but they have water and dump stations. We were contacted by a guy on RVillage that was looking to do a Dual Sport ride and he was staying in the Plomosa Road BLM area that is about 7 miles north of town. We decided to go out to Plomosa road and check it out. When we arrived we went to the check in area and were greeted by a very friendly camp host that gave us the information about the area. We filled out the form and got our free 14 day pass. We drove in a couple of miles and found an open spot along a small draw. The ground was dead level. We have been in plenty of improved campsites that were not this level. We have a great view of the surrounding mountains and although there are hundreds of RV's in this area, our closest neighbor is about 100 yards away.

It is really hard to get a shot of this area that really shows the size and the spacing of the rigs. I think a drone shot would be best.

While we were setting up, the main slide failed again. I knew it was the shear pin again and now knew exactly how to fix it. That took me about 20 minutes and I now know that some more adjustment is needed. I will just keep playing with it to get it perfect.

I went to town to pick up my package of my bike parts. As I said in my previous post, I found a small shop that accepts packages for $2 per package. I went in and the owner was a bit frazzled. She asked me if I knew anything about computers. I said well I actually do. That was what I did for 33 years. To make a long story short, I was able to fix her problem. She was grateful and would not let me pay for my package. I told her I was going to have a number of other things shipped in and would pay for them. She told me that my money was not good in her store and would not let me pay for any of them. How cool is that?

I took advantage of the quiet times in the desert to get a few things done on the bike, truck and trailer. That work pointed to some new parts I needed. I have ordered them and am now waiting for some of them to arrive.

Our first impression of Quartzsite has been very good. We like the laid back vibe of this place and will write more about it as we explore more and hit the big tent show. We have friends coming in and we are really looking forward to seeing them again. I will write more about our experiences in Quartzsite in my coming posts. As of this writing, it looks like we will stay here about 3 weeks.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Time in Tucson

We ended up spending 5 nights at Tucson Mountain Park. We really liked the park and would love to go back when we are in the area. We feel that we barely scratched the surface of the things to see and do in the area. When we decided to go to the Tucson area, we were thinking that we would do domestic things, but we also did a few things that were interesting a fun.

My first order of business was to go to Tucson and buy the parts I thought I needed to work on my motorcycle. I also got propane and some parts to do some maintenance on the truck. It was time for a new air filter and a few other things.

The fastest way to drive to Tucson from the park is through Gates pass. You can not drive on this road if you are over 12,000 lbs. When I drove it, I could see why. There are some overlooks up there that provide some nice views of the valley we are camped in, which is actually an ancient volcanic caldera. The mountains are interesting because of the forest of Saguaro cactus that goes all the way to the top.

I was able to find all that I needed and enjoyed the day in the city.

I worked on my bike and was very concerned when I pulled the oil drain plug and 3 gallons of fluid came out when there should have been about a half gallon. I determined that there was a problem with my carburetor, which overflowed with fuel and filled the crankcase. This became a very long process to get sorted out. The good news is once again I was able to use on-line forums to gain excellent information and was able to order what I needed. I had it all shipped to a little store in Quartzsite that accepts packages. How did I know that? I will tell that story in my next entry.

We decided to take a drive over to Saguaro National Park and go to the visitor center. They have an excellent slide show. We then took the driving loop and did a few short hikes.

We learned about how the native Americans in this area saw the Saguaro as their dead ancestors and they thought of them as people. Many of the cactus do look like a human form with arms.

We took a short hike to see some petroglyphs at Signal hill. That was cool to see, but we wanted to hike some more. Kim decided to take the cactus wren trail. After about a mile we determined that we were going out into the desert and to our certain death. I made the executive decision to turn around and saved our lives. Yeah, that is how it went.

It was actually a nice cool day and it was a fun walk out through the desert.

On Sunday, we decided to go to church at the Mission San Xavier Del Bac. This is an old Spanish mission dating back to 1691. The present church was built in the early 1800's. The church was renovated in the late 1990's. The alter piece is all hand carved and amazing.

There is a large square in front of the church and they have booths set up to purchase some food after church. The church is located on the Tohono O'odham San Xavier Indian reservation The church has a unique relationship with the local tribe. The booths are an opportunity for the tribal members to earn a few dollars and provide a lunch for the church goers. We tried the Indian taco and some Fry bread. They were both very tasty.

I love those very unique experiences.

On Monday, January 16 we left Tucson and made a long drive for us. We drove all the way to Quartzsite, Arizona. That was almost 250 miles. We did not know what to expect. I had read a great deal about the "Quartzsite experience", but we were a bit apprehensive. I will write all about this unique place and what we think in my next entry. It was much different than Kim or I expected.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tucson Mountain Park

On Wednesday, January 11 we left Kartchner Caverns SP and made the short drive over to Tucson. We went up to Tucson Mountain Park - Gilbert Ray Campground. As we drove up this road we were amazed by all of the Saguaro cactus. It is actually like a forest of tall cactus. This campground is a park run by Pima county. It is $20 per night for 30 amp electric. They do not have water at the sites, but there a a bunch of water outlets that are threaded for hose connection around the park. We parked right next to one and were able to fill our tank as we needed water. They have good 4G Verizon signal and only one channel on OTA TV. We really liked this park and decided to stay for 5 days to get through the weekend. One thing to note is this park has a 7 day stay limit.

The Saguaro National Park has two districts. We were within a mile from the Tucson Mountain District. This park has many miles of hiking and mountain bike trails. We were looking forward to visiting the national park and we also needed to go into Tucson to get some of the domestic kind of stuff done. I also wanted to sort out what was going on with my motorcycle.

The view out our back window
I took a short hike around the park and got a few nice pics of some cactus. The thorny plants are kind of growing on me.

The mountains in the distance in this shot separate this park from the greater Tucson area. It makes you feel like you are way out in the desert when it is a 20 minute drive to the city.

The weather was a bit unsettled while we were in the Tucson area. We had some warm afternoons with cool nights which we expected. We also had some rain which is rare for this area.

One thing we did like was the sunsets. We had some really nice ones.

One thing I wanted to mention was what we found in our site when we arrived. Another full time RVer and blogger had written their logo and web address on a small rock and left it on the picnic table. They had stayed in the same site a week or so before we had. I sent them a note and they responded. I have now added them to the list of blogs I follow. I won't publish their link without permission, but what a cool way to connect with fellow travelers.

We did a few fun things while we were in Tucson. I will write about that in my next entry. We are in the Quartzsite area now and are planning to attend a blogger fest on January 28. I hope to meet some of the other bloggers I follow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kartchner Caverns State Park

It has been a week since I last posted and it seems like a long time since we were at Hot Wells Dunes, which I wrote about in my last entry. I am writing this on January 17. Yesterday we arrived at Quartzsite, Arizona. Most RVers know of this place. We are camped here all by ourselves and totally surrounded by thousands of RV's. All at the same time. It is a very unique feeling, but I will explain in later entries. First, I need to get caught up.

We left Hot Wells Dunes on Sunday, January 8. We went about 90 miles to a Kartchner Caverns State Park. We were very impressed with the facilities when we arrived. Maybe it was just that we had been in the desert for the past two weeks without hookups, but this place is very nice. The visitor center is the nicest I have ever seen at a SP. We did not have reservations, but had looked on line and it looked like they had plenty of availability. When we arrived, the lack of a reservation was no issue at all and they quickly got us checked in. The cost of a Water and Electric site is $30 per night, which is a bit high, but there is no day use fee or anything else. The campground is very well maintained. Here is a shot of our site:

The view from the campground is some large hills/mountains.

It is funny how we act after plugging in to the sweet nectar of electricity. We use the toaster, we use the heat just because we can. We felt a bit crowded, but only in comparison to our desert camping spots. The sites are very well spaced.

On Monday, we decided to take a tour of the caverns. There are two tours and they are about an hour and a half each. The cost is $23 per person per tour. We went for the Big Room tour.

We have toured many caverns in our travels and this one is very different. This cave was only discovered about 40 years ago and was not open to the public until about 1990. The cave has been very well preserved. There are airlocks going in and out. You can not touch anything inside the cave. We really appreciate the effort to keep it as it was found. We saw what can happen to a cave if you let people do what they want when we visited Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana. That was just sad.

I have no pictures of the cave, because they will not let you take a camera inside. Maybe it is because we have seen so many other caves, but this cave was nice, but in my opinion not overly impressive. There are many intricate formations, but not the size and grandeur of Carlsbad. You are also on a very closely monitored guided tour, which felt a little regimented. The guide was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed the tour, but we decided that we did not need to do the second tour.

On Tuesday, we decided to take a driving tour of the area. We drove south through the town of Sierra Vista. We stopped and got a card mailed it to our grandson Will. Happy Birthday Will.

We then did some shopping and had lunch. I guess that is what you do when you are back in civilization. We then headed south to the town of Bisbee. We were told by our friends to check it out when we are in the area. Bisbee is an old mining town and we enjoyed walking around and looking in the shops that were open on this weekday. It was pretty quiet and there was not much going on. Here are a few shots:

The open pit mine at Bisbee

We have to admit, we are not very good tourists. We like history, but it needs to be told in a accurate and balanced way. We generally like to look around a town like Bisbee for an hour or two and we are ready to move on.

We then took a very interesting drive through the mountains and out to Tombstone, Arizona. If Bisbee was a tourist town, Tombstone was double that. We did the same two hour walk around and enjoyed walking through the buildings and shops. I really liked some of the Native American art. I guess part of the issue is that we are not going to buy anything, so shopping seems a bit pointless. Tombstone is of course home to the OK corral and the famous shootout. It kind of tuned me off when you had to pay to see the corral.

I really liked the old courthouse

I really don't want to sound negative. We had a great time on this tourist day. We want to take side trips like this and see all of the sites. You never know what will interest you. To some people, this is what they like. To us, we would rather see a bit older history and more natural beauty.

We made one more stop before we made it to Quartzsite. We decided to make a stop near the big town of Tucson. The good news is that we were in a great park right next to Saguaro National Park. I will write all about that in my next entry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hot Wells Dunes and some Problems

We arrived at Hot Wells Dunes on January 3. We got set up and took a look around. We liked the place immediately. We loved the hot tubs and I liked the sandy soil with almost no rocks. You may ask why I liked the soil?...Well, I knew I was going to spend some time laying on my back under the trailer working on the slide that had failed to retract correctly as we left City of Rocks. I have a carpet, but the sand would make it very comfortable, and it did!

The good news is that we had good 4G cell signal at this location in the middle of the desert of SE Arizona. I was able to access a forum that I use to gain information and advice about my Glendale Titanium trailer. The guys on that forum are awesome. You can just ask any question and get great responses within a few hours. I did not have to put a question on the board. I just did searches for main slide problems and a bunch of stuff popped up including a link to the service manual from Lippert (the manufacturer of the slide and frame). I was now armed with the information I needed to diagnose and hopefully fix the problem.

My trailer has 4 slides. Three on one side: Kitchen, Sofa and Bedroom. These are all smaller slides and are all working fairly well. The Bedroom slide is a Accuslide that is cable operated and works totally differently than the others. On the door side of the trailer is just one very large slide that goes from the door all the way to the back of the trailer. This is the one that had the problem. Which was: When I hit the button to retract just the back part of the slide would move the front seemed to be stuck. This would cause the slide to get cocked at an angle and then would get jammed and not move at all. I was able to move the front half if I carefully pushed from the outside while Kim used the button to retract the slide. I could not push the back half of the slide. Well, actually I did, and that made my problem worse. I did this because I did not understand how my slides work. The silver lining to this cloud is; now I do!

The slide sits on two steel square tube rails that ride on a gear box that makes the slide easier to move. On the smaller slides, there is only one. The main slide has two. These two are syncronized by a bar that connects the two gear boxes. So if you push on the slide it will move together, but you can't push it because the other part of the slide mechanism is a ram actuator. This is a electric motor on a long screw jack type ram. This is very similar to the landing gear on the front of the trailer. The actuator can not be retracted without turning it mechanically. I tried and I am big enough that I actually bent the mount for the actuator. I will never do that again.

I crawled under the trailer and used my electric drill to remove about 20 of the self tapping screws that hold on the plastic sheet on the belly of the trailer. This stuff is called Chloroplast. I was then able to see the two gear boxes and the shaft connecting them, or should have been connecting them. There is a shear pin and as soon as I pulled down the Chloroplast, it fell on the carpet. I got the slide positioned properly and found a bolt in my misc parts box and inserted it. You have to make sure the slide is square when you insert it. That should have fixed the problem with the slide, but now I had to fix the problem that I had created. I had to go to the other side and remove a bunch more self tapping screws and pull back the chloroplast to get to the actuator mounts. I took them out and used the grill, picnic table and every hammer I carry to get them as straight as possible. I would have given $100 for a vice.

When I put it back together the slide worked perfectly. And it cost me nothing other than about 4 hours of my time. And my time is pretty cheap these days. The best part is I now know a major part of my trailer much better and should be able to fix just about any issue that comes up in the future. I would like to do some alignment on the slides, but that can wait until I am back in Missouri with all of my tools at my disposal. I did go out today and bought some other replacement bolts in case the one I put in fails. Sorry for the long description, but I was asked to do that. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

To my friends that like to ride Off Road Vehicles - Let's talk about Hot Well Dunes a bit, because this place is special. There appears to be an endless amount of sandy trails that are mainly two track, but I found a few that are only used by motorcycles. There are also some rocky hills that have roads and trails that go to who knows where. This is all BLM land and it is ours to enjoy.

Check out this sandy berm. Reminds me of Southwick!
Trails up through that wash into those rocky hills. 
I took my big DR 650 out for a ride in the sand. It is just too heavy for that stuff and I was wishing for my 450 or better a 300 two stroke. I stopped to take pictures and the motor would not restart. I had to call Kim to meet me back at a road with the truck and we were able to jump start it and get it back to camp. A big down side of the 650 is no kick starter. I will replace the battery when I get to Tucson tomorrow.

So, my time at Hot Wells was a bit of a downer because of all of the repair issues. It really was not that bad because we just hung out and enjoyed the hot tubs every day. We did see a few people come out on the weekend, but not nearly as many as I was expecting. I met a couple driving this bug. They were great and gave me lots of local information for my coming stops. They had three large dogs in there with them.

The scenery around this location is also really beautiful. I really liked the sunsets and the lighting on the rocks.

Well that is about it for Hot Wells. On Sunday, we decided to move on to Kartchner Caverns SP near Benson, Arizona. It was nice to get back to electricity for a few days. We left Mustang Island on December 6. In the last 34 nights we have stayed in a spot with electricity 17 nights or half of the time. We spent and average of $12.47 per night. I am sure we won't be able to keep that up as we head into California. I will write all about our time in the Benson area and the caverns in my next entry. Onward to more adventure.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

City of Rocks Part 2 and Hot Wells, Arizona

January 2nd is a special day to me. I call it "Freedom Day". Three years ago, I called my then boss and told him that I was retiring. For many reasons, I had told very few people. I will never forget the feeling of suddenly becoming free. Freedom is amazing. I decided on this Freedom Day to take a hike.

We were still at City of Rocks in New Mexico. We had been there for 5 days and I had hiked every trail in the park except one. The Mesa to the north of the park is called Table Mountain. It is clearly visible in this picture.

The trail is 1.58 miles from the edge of the property. I hiked a mile or so to get to the sign below..

The mountain has two rock ridges. One about 3/4 up and the other at the top. The trail swings all the way to the left around the edge of the mountain and then goes up and over the first ridge. Then, it becomes fairly flat and traverses the mountain to almost directly above the sign and then goes up for the final pitch. The trail is steep at times and the views are certainly worth the effort. It was a nice blue sky day with a stiff west wind making it a bit cold, but not bad.

The view straight up the wash.
Now on top of the first ridge, looking across the ridge.
The view of City of Rocks from the top
The view of Signal Mountain in the distance. It had not been visible most of our stay due to cloud cover.
I ended up hiking a total of 5.6 miles. When I got back to the trailer I was tired, but happy that I had done it. I now felt it was time to move on. We had many impressive sunsets while we were at COR. Here is one of my favorites:

On January 3rd, we got hitched up and ready to go. I was bringing in the slides when we had our main slide just stop. I tried everything I could think of to get it in. I finally got on the outside and Kim hit the control and kind of forced it to come in.

We drove back to Deming and then took I 10 into Arizona. We turned at the small town of Bowie and headed north. We were shocked to see miles and miles of Pecan orchards. Many had been planted in the last few years. The road quickly turned to dirt, but had recently been graded and was quite smooth. We drove about 9 miles and then took a left on a paved road. That was a welcome surprise. I thought we were good to go and then we saw a spot where the road had been washed out.

Would you take your 22,500 lb. rig into that?
 Kim put on her muck boots and waded through. The bottom was solid and only about calf deep. We decided to go for it and had no issue getting through.

When we arrived at Hot Well Dunes, we were happy we went for it. This is a great place. It is an ORV riding area with lots of dispersed sites. They do not have water, but there is good 4G signal on Verizon. The cost is $3 per night. And here is the cool part, they have hot tubs! Kim loves hot tubs and it is the biggest thing she misses from our old house. They drilled wells here looking for oil back in the 1920's, but all they found was hot water. They use solar powered pumps to bring the water to the surface and continually fill the two tubs. As soon as the sun goes down, no more water.

We found a site that was very isolated and quiet. We got set up, but the main slide would not come out. I spent the evening reading all that I could find about our Lippert slides. I would tackle that problem the next day. Here is a shot of our site:

We had some fun while we were here, but I spent much of my time working on the trailer and my motorcycle. I will give you all of the details in my next entry. The good news, there is a silver lining to every cloud. This situation was no different.