Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quartzsite - Update

We are still here, keeping busy and relaxing. The weather has warmed up so it is a much more pleasant place to be now. We go for a long walk almost every day and we go to town every couple days for one reason or another. Either we need propane, water, groceries or just to visit one of the flea markets. Last week we made a trip into Parker, which is about 25 miles north of us, to do laundry, get our mail and do some grocery shopping.

The number of people here has increased dramatically since we first arrived. Here is a photo that shows what it looks like in many areas. Keep in mind that we are six miles north of Quartzsite and most of the visitors stay in the larger areas south of town where water and dump facilities are available.

We went to the Big Tent RV show on Tuesday. It is a huge tent with booths set up like you see at a state fair. All the vendors have things for RV'ers so there are lots of goodies to look at. We purchased a macerator but nothing else. It was fun to wander around and see what is available in the industry. The place was very crowded and we had to park some distance away.

Speaking of the macerator, I thought I would share how we manage to deal with servicing the rig while sitting in the middle of nowhere. Hooking up and towing the trailer into town to dump our tanks and fill with water would be a big hassle. Our trailer holds 70 gallons of fresh water and about 140 gallons of wastewater in the tanks. We have a collapsible bladder, similar to a small waterbed mattress, that we use to bring in water from a source in town. It holds about 45 gallons and sits on the bed of the truck. We have a 12 volt water pump that we use to transfer the water from the bladder to the tank on the trailer. We have our tanks pumped out by one of the honey wagons that cruise through the area. They are pretty convenient, but rather expensive as they charge about $25 each time. We have ordered a tank (which is being shipped to Daryl's) that we will use to haul our own waste water to a dump site. The tank will hold 105 gallons and will sit on the back of the truck as well. The macerator mentioned above is the device that hooks onto the dump valve of the trailer and pumps the waste into the external tank. You can think of the macerator as a portable garbage disposal that chops the waste into very small particles so it can be pumped through a garden hose. Sorry if that is too graphic for some, but that is the kind of thing we deal with all the time in the RV'ing world. After all, it's got to go somewhere!

Once we have the tank we will be completely self sufficient without having to move the trailer. We can just use the truck to go get water and propane and to haul the waste water away. Our solar system provides all the electricity we need, and we have two generators for backup if the sun does not shine. Our tripod mounted satellite system provides TV and internet access and our cell phones work in most places. That's how we do it.

I have also ordered a new tire for the scooter. The rear tire is pretty worn down and I don't want to take any chances with it. I am having that shipped to Daryl's also so we will be making a trip in to the Phoenix area sometime in the next couple weeks after the tire and tank arrive. We will only bring the truck so will either make the trip in one day or perhaps stay in the truck overnight. It is equipped with refrigerator, microwave, TV, porta-potty, double bunks and a dinette, so staying in it is quite comfortable.

That's about it for now from Quartzsite. It's tough to post about what we are doing when we are not doing much, but we don't want the blog police to issue us any citations.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Quartzsite - Day Brrrrrr

Wouldn't you know it. We come to the desert southwest to escape the cold and the whole area has the coldest weather in 20 years! No fair!

I have a thermometer that records the high and low temperatures and Saturday night's low was 18.5. Last night was warmer -- only 19.8! Fortunately, we are warm as long as we burn lots of propane. We went through a 9 gallon bottle in 2 days, but that's not really too bad. Even though the temperature has not been above 50 in the past 3 days, the furnace only runs in the early morning, late in the afternoon and during the evening. At night we set the thermostat down to 50 and the furnace does not come on until about 4:30 in the morning. It then cycles every half hour or so for a few minutes until it automatically sets up at 7:30. By 9 we are back up to 72 and the sun is shining brightly. We open all the shades and let the sun warm the inside of the trailer.

The solar system is working very well. I now have 4 of the 5 panels tilted toward the sun. The 5th panel is too close to one of the others so it would cast a shadow if I tilted it more than a few degrees. I have chosen to leave that one flat for the time being. We run the generator for about 45 minutes the first thing in the morning while we make coffee. We also run the electric space heater to try to get it warmed up a little faster. After that we let the solar do it's thing alone and it has fully charged the batteries by early afternoon, even though we are on the computer and/or watching TV as well. It is generating about 730 watts of power between 11 and 2, and more than we need until about 4PM. If it were not for the very cold weather and the desire to get it warmed up faster by running the electric heater, there would be no reason to run the generator at all.

So, the solar setup is working very well. It will provide all the electricity we need as long as the sun shines, and we have enough battery capacity to see us through at least one cloudy day. Since the sun is near the lowest it ever gets in the sky and the days are short, we should be all set. If we can make it off solar alone now the summer should be a cinch, especially in Alaska.

We have not been doing much because of the cold. We have been to town a couple times for propane, water and a few groceries, but have not visited any more of the shops. Next week the big RV show runs in the Big Tent, so we hope things have warmed up by then. We did go to Parker Saturday night for dinner. We ate at a Mexican restaurant that was OK.

That's about it from here. We are just staying warm, watching TV, playing on the computer, taking daily walks in the desert and working hard at being retired. Dianna has also rediscovered cross-stitch and is reading more when we don't have the computer on. Life is good.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Quartzsite - Day 3

We are settling in to boondocking in the desert. The weather has been really nice. The highs are in the low 70's and the overnight lows are about 40. The wind has blown a little but not too bad. In the mornings before any wind I have been working and walking outside in a sweatshirt when the temperature is still only in the low 50's. The sun is really warm and the dry climate feels so good.

This is what it looks like out here. There is a lot of nothing. That is our truck and trailer in the center of the photo. Opinions vary about whether or not the starkness has a beauty of its own.

We have been keeping busy with daily hikes and also have gone into town each day to wander through a different shopping area. Lots of the booths have the same stuff, but there is also some variety. It really feels like a big state fair or a huge swap meet. We had some of the best kettle corn we have ever eaten at one of the stands.

I purchased a tilt mount for one of the solar panels yesterday and installed it this morning. With just the one panel tilted it increased the wattage by about 20%. Previously the highest wattage output was 423. After tilting just one panel we achieved 506. This afternoon we went into town and purchased tilt mounts for the remaining 4 panels. It will take a couple days to get them all installed, but I am greatly encouraged. Today we ran the generator for only about half an hour during breakfast and by late afternoon the batteries were fully charged. I am confident that getting the rest of the panels tilted will provide us with enough charging capacity that we will rarely need to run the generator at all. About the only time it will be needed is when we run the convection oven for an extended period of time. Since we do not have a gas oven we have no other way to bake or roast except for the gas bar-b-que which has its limitations too.

Dianna is still not sure about this whole way of living. Even though the rig is set up for self contained living, it does have some limitations and things you need to remember. For example, the big overhead florescent light does not work unless we are plugged in or running the generator. She is not happy about the placement of the 12 volt florescent lights so I may have to add some to make her happy. She is also used to playing internet games on the computer for several hours every day and we don't have the electric power for her to do that yet. After the panels all get tilted we may, but I think she is going through Pogo withdrawal.

We may have to go get water tomorrow. The trailer holds 70 gallons and I have a water bladder that holds 45 gallons that I can take on the back of the truck to a water source. We can probably go for at least a couple weeks without dumping our holding tanks. I have been toying with the idea of finding a large tank I could mount on the truck that would be used to haul wastewater to a dump site as well. If I could find something like that we would not have to move the trailer at all. Only time will tell how it all works out.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Quartzsite - Day 1

We left Mesa yesterday and drove to Quartzsite, AZ. We parked in an area about 6 miles north of the town near Plomosa Road. There is no charge to stay here, but technically we can only stay for 14 days without moving. Talking with some of the regulars leads us to believe that no one really checks to see how long you are in one spot so it's really not an issue.

Our first day has not been without its adjustment challenges. We used far more power than I expected last night and our solar panels could not recharge the batteries without help from the generator. I have determined that a large part of the problem is the fact that the panels are laying flat on the roof with no way to tilt them toward the sun. The sun never gets more than about 45 degrees above the horizon this time of year so we are only getting about half the amount of power the panels are capable of producing. Tomorrow we will visit some of the solar dealers in town to see what mounting systems they have available. We really do not want to run the generator any more than necessary.

The other issue that really could become problematic is the lack of a gas oven. We have known this would be an issue, but it is really coming to the forefront. The only way for us to bake or roast is to start the generator and use the convection oven. Right now it is not too much of a problem since we need to run the generator to fully charge the batteries, but it will become an issue when we get the solar panels putting out more. We know how to fix the problem. All it takes is money!

While in town today we wandered through one of the sales areas. The town is full of what can best be described as swap meets. Lots of booths set up under tents, selling lots of stuff. Fun to browse anyway.