Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Quartzsite - Leaving

The past few days have been pretty busy. Sunday afternoon we drove up to Lake Havasu again to do some shopping and then down to Parker and the Bluewater Casino and Hotel. We had planned to spend my birthday and Valentines day there, but we both had colds so we postponed it till now. We had a nice dinner at their best restaurant and played in their indoor pool. They even have an indoor waterslide. All the rooms had balconies that faced the river. It was a nice place.

Monday morning we drove back down to Quartzsite and filled up with fuel at Arizona prices since California is really proud of their diesel. While filling I got a call from the RV parts shop in Yuma that they had received the part I had been waiting for. So, we drove the truck back to our campsite and jumped on the scooter for a round trip to Yuma.

Tuesday I installed the new grey water waste valve. It was a tough job that had to be done while laying on my back under the trailer. There was not enough room to work and it was not a fun fix. To make it worse the weather turned on us. The biggest problem was wind and blowing sand. Laing on your back under a trailer in the middle of the desert in a sand storm is not the place you want to be. After installing the part I got the trailer ready to travel. That included lowering the solar panels and putting other things away.

The wind continued to blow hard all night and it turned colder as well. This morning, still in the wind, we hooked up and headed out with the trailer in tow. The winds continued to blow and sand drifted across the highway. We went south through Yuma and had planned to stop at another LTVA near Holtville. There is a natural hot springs there we wanted to check out. As we neared the area we decided we did not want to spend another night in these winds so we continued on, over the mountains and down into San Diego, then north to San Onofre.

We had called last week to confirm that they were expecting us the first of March, but I think someone got their signals crossed. The other camp hosts are still here in our favorite spot and will be until the end of March. Fortunately there are two host sites so we are in place, but not sure if we are supposed to be here. We will get together with the rangers tomorrow to see if they have something for us to do this month, or if they want us to go away and come back next month. I suspect they will find something for us to do, but if not we will go find a place to hang out.

It's nice to be back in familiar surroundings and nice to not have sand blowing everywhere, although it will take a few days to get used to the noise again. Since the park is only open for day use during the winter it is much more quiet in the park than when we were here before, but the highway, train and Marines are just as noisy as ever. And, of course, there is no one in the park at night except for the camp hosts and the occasional patrolling ranger. Best of all, the view out our living room window is really something special.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Quartzsite - Exploring

This week has been pretty quiet, but the weather has been very nice until today. Lots of wind today so we have just stayed in and caught up with reading, needlework and some naps.

Last Saturday we took a scooter ride down south toward Yuma. We turned off at the Yuma Proving Grounds toward Imperial Dam. We had planned to move down there a week or so ago but I have the bottom of the trailer opened up, waiting for a part we ordered to come in. I don't want to have to close it up until I install the new part, so we are going to stay right here until next week when we move to California. Anyway, we explored around the Imperial Dam area where there is another LTVA. We did not think it was as nice an area as it is here around Quartzsite, but the proximity to Yuma is a big draw. Next time we spend a winter in this area we may stay down there for a while. We needed fuel before we came back and were able to get on the Proving Grounds to use their gas station and PX. It was a nice ride of about 150 miles.

Monday we decided to do a major shopping so drove the truck down to Yuma. It was only a 15 miles further than the turn off to Imperial Dam where we had been on Saturday. Wow, has Yuma changed from the last time we were there! We went to the major shopping area where they have every store you can imagine. It reminded us a lot of the newer shopping areas in the Phoenix area. We had lunch at Cracker Barrel, then Dianna needed some craft stuff from Joanne's and I bought a new mouse for my laptop from Best Buy. Then we shopped at the Wal-Mart Super Center for groceries.

Wednesday we went exploring again. We rode the scooter east on I-10 to US60 and up toward Wickenburg to Salome. That was the way we used to go to Phoenix before they finished I-10. There are several RV parks along US60 that look like they would be good places to stay. It's amazing how many people spend the winter here in remote areas of the Arizona desert. We continued east on US60 to Wenden where we turned north on a road that goes to Alamo Lake State Park. The trip up there from Wenden was about 38 miles and we probably only saw 10 other vehicles the whole time. I was expecting a nice State Park but was disappointed. They built a dam on the Bill Williams river in 1968 that backs up a fairly decent sized lake. However, the area is not at all attractive. I don't know what I was expecting, but it is not a place I would enjoy spending much time.

The trip to Alamo Lake and back was about 180 miles. That is about the daily limit for my backside on the scooter. It sure is a fun way to explore though. We usually take a snack and some drinks with us to enjoy during our breaks. We travel at about 65 on the interstate and 55 to 60 on the other roads. When we filled up on the way home we found we had gotten 66 MPG. Inexpensive way to explore too.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Quartzsite - Batteries

I am going to ignore the fact that I just had my 60th birthday. I guess having one is better than not having one, but this one is not sitting well.

Dianna and I are about over the worst of our colds but still have some symptoms. Seems these things take a long time to go away completely. We have not been anywhere other than Quartzsite since our last post.

About a week ago we began noticing that the batteries were not holding a charge as well as they did earlier. Since we have eight fairly large deep cycle batteries, we should be able to go for at least two days without any charging and have all we need for daily living. By Tuesday the batteries were down to the recharge point after only one day. I exchanged some ideas with other boondocking full timers on an online forum I regularly read and participate in. Several people thought we might have one or more bad battery and others had other suggestions.

To really determine the condition of the battery I use a hydrometer. It is a device like a glass turkey baster that has a sealed glass tube floating inside it. You suck battery acid into the hydrometer and watch what level the tube inside floats to. That tells you the specific gravity of the battery acid. Even though the battery is charged to the proper voltage, it will not hold a good charge if sulphation exists on the battery plates. The specific gravity of the battery acid is an indication of how much sulphation exists.

Yesterday I finally decided on a course of action to get to the bottom of the issue. I decided to remove four of the batteries and run an equalization cycle on the remaining four. Normal battery charging applies current until the voltage reaches about 14.4 volts and holds it there for three or so hours. Equalization is a process of raising the charging voltage to about 16 volts and holding it there for about eight hours. That creates a lot of hydrogen gas bubbles and causes the battery plates to shed the sulphates that have attached to them. It also tends to stir the battery acid and make the batteries quite warm. I started by charging the batteries as much as they would accept normally, then began an equalization cycle using the solar charger. When the sun got low in the sky I fired up the generator and continued equalizing with the built in battery charger. By the time I turned off the generator at 9 PM last night the batteries were showing a very significant improvement. Those four batteries worked very well and held a good charge for the rest of the night. Today I repeated the same process on the other four batteries.

Before I began the equalization process, the battery chargers stopped charging when the voltage got to the proper level, but the hydrometer said they were not charged. After the equalization, the hydrometer reads correctly, the batteries hold a charge, and we are happy campers!

See the things you learn when you read our blog?

Lest anyone think we just lay around all day, I though I would share my list of chores today. In addition to installing, removing, reinstalling and hauling around eight heavy batteries all day, I had to pump our grey water into the portable tank on the truck, take it to the dump station to dump, get out the fresh water tank, fill it with water and pump it into the RV. Then I had to remove the empty propane tank from the RV, take it to town to be filled, stop at the gas station and get five gallons of gas in a portable jerry can for the generator, remount the 75 pound propane tank in the RV, and then pour the gasoline into the tank on the RV. Do you know how many times I climbed into and out of the truck, and up and down the steps to the the deck? Then, using the scooter this time so it wasn't really work, I had to make a trip into town to get drinking water (the water from the tap here is horrible) and pick up our mail. I read somewhere that RV'ers are more healthy and typically live longer than the general population. I think all the exercise one gets living this lifestyle is the most likely reason! Now, if I would just lose some weight.....

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Quartzsite - London Bridge

Things have been pretty quiet here lately. I came down with a bad cold about a week ago and Dianna came down with it about 3 days later. We have not felt up to much so until today we had been sticking to home, just getting water and dumping when needed. Otherwise we have been watching TV, surfing the net and sleeping a lot.

Today we both felt enough better that we decided to take a little trip. We drove up to Lake Havasu City to do a little shopping at Walmart. It was a nice drive along the river and lake. I remember when Lake Havasu City was first built by the McCullough Company (yes, the chainsaw makers) and no one could figure out why anyone would want to live out there. As part of the advertising campaign they purchased the old London Bridge which was being replaced in London, and moved it to Lake Havasu. It's still there and looks kind of neat.

There was also a Bob's Big Boy restaurant there. They used to be our hang out when we were in college. They still have many of the same things we used to eat on the menu, but the prices have sure changed. We had burgers, fries, onion rings and drinks. With tip the total came to over $26!

We still plan to move down toward Yuma in a couple days so we will update with our new location when that happens.

Here is a link that will tell you about the LTVA's.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Quartzsite - Where the smell was coming from

For the past couple weeks we have been smelling grey water occasionally. For those of you who are not RV savy, that is what we call the stuff that goes down the kitchen sink, bathroom sink and shower. It is not the black water which is what goes down the toilet. Almost all RV's have separate tanks for these two kinds of water.

Tonight I finally figured out where the smell was coming from. Our kitchen sink is in the slide out. This means that there is a flexible hose that connects it to the main part of the trailer where the grey water tank is located. I discovered that the flexible vinyl hose had several splits in it. It obviously should not have been used for this purpose.

I had to ride the scooter into Blythe to get a radiator hose to replace it. This should never deteriorate like the vinyl did so it should be a permanent fix. Sorry I did not take photos to post. I know how everyone would enjoy them. I think I will wait until I have a leak in the black water tank for a full photo essay. That will compliment the macerator photo essay I am planning.

By the way, now that I have a new tire on the scooter I was not hesitant to run the 20 miles to Blythe at 75-80 MPH. Sure is a lot different from the scooter I had when I was 14!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Quartzsite - We've Moved

We made a trip to Tempe and Mesa on Tuesday and Wednesday to pick up the parts that we had shipped to Daryl's house. I had taken the rear wheel off the scooter to take with us and had the new tire installed and balanced. I also purchased all the plumbing parts at Camping World and Home Depot to equip the new tank for our use.

While I was out shopping, Dianna began embroidering a new top for Mom. Mom had wanted to see how the embroidery machine worked so she got to see the whole process. The pattern was an old mill house and it came out really nice.

We spent the night in the truck, parked in Daryl's cul-de-sac. Sleeping in the truck is actually quite comfortable and we did not even need the heater until morning when we warmed it up a little while we got dressed. We returned to Mom's so Dianna could finish the top and then we drove back to Quartzsite.

Yesterday I put the tank together and tested everything out. It worked great. We took the waste water down to the La Posa South LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) south of Quartzsite to dump it and also decided to pay the camping fee of $30 so we could dump and get water for the next two weeks. We also decided to move to the area as well so that was done today. First I rode the scooter to Parker to pick up our mail and get a few groceries while Dianna stayed home and did our laundry. When I returned, we packed up and moved down to where we are now. We will probably stay here until the 15th and then move again, most likely to Imperial Dam near Yuma.

I know it's not exciting, but it's what we are doing. And, unlike some of our relatives, at least we post!