Monday, March 19, 2018

Back to Boulder City

March 12-18, 2018
Needles, California - Boulder City, Nevada

After the rally, we check back into Scenic Road RV Park in Quartzsite for one night. We spend the day cleaning and doing laundry. I wipe layers of dust off every surface - including the walls. Having hookups now seems like a lovely luxury.

Friends Mike and Rita meet us at Silly Al's Pizza where we also run into Steven and Linda and Bill and Kelly who have the same thought for Monday dinner. 

Tuesday we take Highway 95 north to Needles, CA. It's a beautiful drive through the desert. While it's straight and flat, the narrow two-lane road with lots of big rigs, zero passing lanes, and soft sand on both sides, it's not relaxing. 

I'm happy to pull into a waterfront Rainbo Beach RV Resort on the Colorado River. Unfortunately I park at the top of a slope and when Bill steps down he goes all the way down. He wrenches his shoulder which continues to hurt :-(

Like all of Needles, the park has seen better days. Sites are very tight with worn picnic tables and electric and water only along the water. Mostly seasonal or permanent residents, the office is closed the whole time we're here. There is a nice protected beach, launch ramp and boat dock - I'm sure this is a popular spot in the summer.

There's no real reason for our stopping in Needles other than it breaks up the drive to Boulder City, and a touch of nostalgia. When we lived in Joshua Tree, my boys and I used to come here several weekends every summer to ride our Seadoos. We stayed at the Best Western (which is still the nicest place in town), but always thought the motorhomes on the water looked like fun. Now that I've come back and seen, we don't need to stay here again :-)

Bill finds us a dirt road into the hills, and we spend Wednesday afternoon playing in the sand and rocks.

Not sure where we are, but it's nice to know we're welcome!

After a week of boondocking, she blends right in.

Textures and colors.

Smoke Trees were my mom's favorites, and we don't see many anymore.

Rich pink veins run through this outcropping.

We see very few cactus all day. These are the only living Chollas we see.

Broad views across the Colorado River.

I love watching the clouds decorate the sky and land.
Like many small, desert towns along Route 66, Needles is barely hanging on. While Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona, in the same area, are growing, this California community of less than 5,000 is deteriorating. Little more than a few colorful, but fading, murals give it any identity at all.

Bill played football, basketball and baseball against the Needles' Mustangs. The football field has changed little in 45 years.

Thursday we get a (relatively) early start to beat the expected winds in Boulder City, Nevada. We're at Canyon Trails RV Park for two weeks. One of only two parks in town, it's clean, quiet and dark. The sites are snug but level with 50 amp FHUs. And our friends are here for a couple days!

John and Pam (Oh the Places They Go) stop by to tell us about their new sticks-and-bricks they are closing on next week here in town, and Dave and Sue (Beluga's Excellent Adventure) stop by to say hi. Later we join them for dinner and getting caught up since our quick visit last month. We make plans for a Jeep run the next day.

Before we join the others on Friday, we follow John and Pam to see their new home. They'll get the keys later, but we get a tour of the outdoor space, including the huge covered RV parking with hookups!! It's a sweet place with everything they could want. We're so happy for them. And glad they aren't getting off the road :-)


So exciting :-)
We continue to be amazed at how many people in this RV community know each other. We're introduced to Steve and Joan who are volunteers at Lake Mead Recreation Area and are familiar with lots of Jeep trails in the area. We find we have other mutual friends - such a small world out here :-)

They suggest we drive "the spine" out to Kingman Wash. Spine? Sounds like narrow trails along the top of steep drop offs? I've been driving off road since I was 11 but I've never done well with heights. Still, what's life without getting our heart rates up now and then?? Let's go!

There's only a couple spots where my focus switches between driving and not peeing my pants. The views are well worth the adrenaline peaks. Mostly, it's just fun being out on the trail with no one but our group of eight.  

Pretty Jeeps all in a row....

Photos never show how steep things are.....

Piper at play - thanks Pam!

A quick stop to take in the view.
The Mike Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge with the nearly complete Highway 11 in the background.

Off the spine, we drop into Kingman Wash, below Fortification Hill.

The wash ends at a beautiful cove.

Who cares about water when you can hang out with Gramma Pamma?

Four eyes are better than two.

The wind is blowing hard enough to lift the water from the surface.

Sue and Dave on the trail above Lake Mead.

The gang stops for a final group gab.

Rich red rock and soft green grass color the landscape.

These pretties dot the sides of the trail.

Fortification Hill reminds of us mine tailings - but much more beautiful!
We wrap up a great afternoon with an equally great dinner at Southwest Diner. All of our meals are exceptional.

The cold temps and high winds continue so another Jeep drive sounds fun for Saturday. Sue gave us her copies of the area's trails so we have plenty of options to explore over the next couple weeks.

We head into the Lake Mead National Recreational Area (love having our national park annual pass) to check the area along the north shore. 

Government Wash is just off the highway, has several boondockers, and a weird vibe. We drive out to one of the many small points then continue.

Hardy explorers check for treasures.

Lovely layers.

I find more shells here than on the beaches we've visited around the country.
A short tower stands out in distance. 
It takes a long time to travel short distances when there's so much to stop and see.

Another trail that takes us to the lake shore at Crawdad Cove.

The wind brings in rows of small waves.

This area was under water for decades.

Barnacles line the cliff behind the Jeep.

Clouds put on a show overhead.

So much to enjoy when you slow down and see.

What does this sound like when it falls?

Lake Mead is the largest man-made lake in the country. At 110 miles long, it held 9 billion gallons in the 1990's. After years of drought, it looks much smaller.

Monday, March 12, 2018

First Rally - First Boondocking

March 1-12, 2018
Quartzsite, Arizona

For five years I have been following the blog of Howard and Linda Payne - RV-Dreams. While preparing to hit the road I participated in their online forum, got to know a few fellow dreamers. When we launched in 2015 I continued to read the blog, but eventually moved away from the forum. 

We were signed up for a Spring rally in 2015 but had to cancel. When they came west this year I jumped at the opportunity to finally attend a rally - and a boondocking rally in Quartzsite was perfect for us!

Although we don't have solar, we do want to spend some time off grid. Both to save money, and to see places we couldn't otherwise visit. 

Let's spend a week in the desert with 39 other rigs - some who have been boondocking for years! We'll learn so much :-)))

Before heading out to the wilds, we arrive at the Scenic Road RV Park in Quartzsite for the weekend. We've stayed here before where we have a decent sized space with 50 amp FHUs, level dirt with cement patio and a little shade tree. The WiFi is fast most of the time, but we're limited to one unit per password at a time (probably why it's faster than most). The owner and staff are friendly, and the Passport America rate makes it a very reasonable option in a town full of RV parks.

My delayed meds arrive at our friends' place in Blythe so we take the short drive to pick them up on Friday, and enjoy a short visit at their lovely home. We'll get together again before we leave the area.

A bonus of the rally is that our good friends Linda and Steven (The Chouters) are also attending. We haven't seen them since Memphis in late 2016 and are looking forward to getting caught up with this wonderful couple.

Friday afternoon we meet up at their RV park, La Paz Valley, outside of town where Linda fixes us a delicious dinner. Having good friends who are also excellent cooks.....score!

Although high winds are in the forecast, we pick up Linda and Steven on Saturday to take them for their first visit to the famous Desert Bar. I think the road is even more rough now than it was last year. Despite the forecast, the place is packed!

Every time we come to this area in the winter we meet up with Paul and Kim who I met on the RV Dreams forum. I reach out and they agree to make the drive from Lake Havasu to join us. We forget there's zero cell service so the actual connection takes a while :-) It's fun to see them again and find out what they've been up to. 

Steven is the hero for standing in the food line - and the food is very good. The line finally thins out about the time we're leaving. We listen to some music and get photos before making the bumpy ride back to the highway. It's a fun and unique experience, but we all agree we probably don't need to do it again!

The variety of building materials is as interesting as the people watching.

Just a metal "front", the church has hosted many weddings over the years. An interesting choice to share the saloon's space.

This antique shell keeps watch over the parking lot - where you may not imbibe!

Steven, Linda, Jodee, Bill, Paul and Kim - thanks for the shot Steven :-)
I take no pics, but Sunday evening we return to La Paz to meet Kelly and Bill (Bill and Kelly's American Odyssey) , friends of our friends who we've heard about for years. It's another wonderful meal, and great fun getting to know new peeps. They'll also be at the rally!

Monday is the big day and I find I'm a little nervous. Just a seven mile drive to the rally site on Plomosa Road, we join about 18 rigs already getting set up. Howard meets me at the entrance. It's nice to get a recognizing smile when I introduce myself - "finally, after all these years!"

Eventually 40 rigs arrive, and our first evening we form an initial large circle for announcements, and then break into three smaller ones to get to know others better. Such a lot of great people living this life we love.

Linda and Scoopy welcome us to the rally.

Where there's RVers, there's doggies :-)

First night at the rally. Photo by Linda Davey.

Linda explains to Sue and Larry with enthusiasm.

The desert glows under the sunset.

Our first two days start with seminars on managing our tanks and power systems. Lots of good information that make a big difference in our understanding of what we have and how we can use it all efficiently. Still, we're not completely clear on batteries and what our information panel tells us, so we arrange for some one-on-one time with Howard at our rig. 

Linda and Howard share their insights on the all important topic of poop.

Cinn answers questions about her composting toilet.

Howard does a great job of helping me understand watts and amps and load and volts and all that power stuff.

Another fluffy lap dog - Yoggie the labradoodle.
Interpreting the manual. Thanks Howard!

So nice to really understand what all this means.
Ron and Wayne figuring stuff out.
One morning we take off for some Jeep time in the desert. A couple side tracks along the road to Bouse, and we end up in the East Cactus Plain Wilderness (not to be confused with the fancy wilderness). Another place we've never heard of, that is uniquely beautiful. The 14,630 acres includes the unusual crescent dune topography and dense dunescrub vegetation. For me, the biggest surprise is seeing saguaros in sand dunes.

So many off road trails to explore.

Climbing to find the view.

We're not disappointed.
Cholla catch the sunshine along the ridge.

I've never seen red leaf ocotillos - there are several here.

Tiny concretions scattered over the sand.

Another stunning sunset over our circle.
There are two dinner pot lucks followed by time around the fires. One night we tuck in between Scoopy (Linda and Steven's home), and Kelly and Bill's home for a more private party. We do so enjoy these friends!

Linda Payne is known for her braided t-shirts, and teaching the technique to rally-goers. I watch while others cut and braid and sew in the sunshine.

Friday is a tour of the Golden Eye Mine southwest of Quartzsite. Not Linda's thing, Steven rides with us. While the location and history is interesting, the owner/guide loses us with his 30 minute irrelevant medical history and ramblings about BLM and Camping World. It is very hot in the bright sun, with little shade for relief, and before the tour is over I've returned to the relative coolness of the Jeep. Bill and Steven are not far behind and we head home. 

The tour eventually begins from the original cabin, built in 1947

The original mine in the area was owned by the Kellogg (cereal) family.

Building pillars made by filling 50 gallon drums with concrete, then stacking.

Aged and weathered buildings always fascinate me.

Old knots of cable, rope and wire.
Learning about the history of the tower and the six miles of short tunnels below us.
The Tower

The elevator carried miners in and dirt out. 

Old dirt buckets.

Site of the claim owner's original find - until the BLM closed him down, he took over 4500 "nuggets" from his claim.
Bill (Kelly's Bill) is not only here for the rally, but is also doing a solar install. He finishes in time for us to all make a day trip to Mexico. Not something my Bill is interested in, so he and Tessa stay home. 

Bill making someone's solar dreams come true.
The five of us make the two hour drive to los Algadones, south of Yuma, Arizona - in the rain! What a nice surprise.

We stop at the "famous" Purple Pharmacy, next door to the Purple Liquor Store, then head for margaritas and a yummy lunch. We meander the narrow streets lined with dentists and vendors. I make my first prescription drug purchase across the border - very weird. After a couple hours we have everything we need and walk back into the US. I get to use my new passport, and we're all through the check point in minutes. 

Clay footballs and critters

Linda and Kelly checking out jewelry.

Decisions, decisions, decisions......only one liter per person :-(
Our last evening we have an impromptu Instant Pot demo which has me once again motivated to cook with mine. We sit around our final camp fire with old and new friends, enjoying the incredible starry skies overhead.

Pretty cool for the middle of the desert! Photo by Linda Davey.

Last night......
I had some idea what to expect from reading about past rallies, but our experience is even better. We made new friends, learned general information about boondocking, and most importantly we now understand how our specific systems work and how we can live off grid for at least a week.

We ran the generator for 25 hours total, using 12 gallons of diesel. Our flooded batteries did not stay sufficiently charged, and we will replace them with AGMs before we need them again. We only used 1/2 tank of fresh water, filling our gray tank to about 1/2 full. We have to guess how full our black tank is, but it looks like we were at 2/3 full. We want to get a battery meter so our usage is easier to track, and we'll do some capacity tests to determine our actual gray and black tank fills.

Thanks RV-Dreams, it was a great rally!