Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Boon Docking along American Girl

When we left Joshua Tree, we aimed our home-on-wheels back east along I-10, fueled up at Blyth and caught 95 south to Cibola National Wildlife Refugee.

Cibola NWR sits in Arizona and is a small yet valuable resource for native wildlife and plants.  We were hoping to spend a few days there, photographing the birds that frequent the ponds, marshes and washes but unfortunately the cell service was not conducive for Barbara’s work.  We took the self-guided auto tour the afternoon that we arrived and I managed to capture a few photos of cranes and even a burrowing owl, albeit a tad out of focus.

The next morning, we arose and fired up the vehicles and set off for Picacho BLM area just off of Olgilby Road, heading south from Cibola.  There is a huge area of free camping on the east side of Olgilby and that’s where we turned left onto American Girl Mine Road.  You pretty much have the run of the desert, just find an opening in the road that your vehicle can get across and drive on until you find the spot that seems to suit you best.  Or until you come upon a huge wash that prevents you from driving on.

We were amazed at the number of campers spread out across the landscape!  There was everything from van and truck campers to huge Class A Motor Coaches.  This area is used heavily for ATV activities so a number of the rigs were toy haulers.  That being said, there wasn’t an issue of space encroachment or even excessive noise.  We always had more than enough space from other RVers.  That’s important when you boon dock, and boon docking was exactly what we were there for.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, boon docking (or disperse camping) is simply staying in a place that does not offer any amenities; no water hookups, no electrical hookups and no bathroom or dumping facilities.  It’s kind of like remote backpacking for vehicle dwellers.  So as you can see, having lots of room between other campers is a must if you want to either; A) run your generator now and then without fear of disturbing others or B), not wanting to be disturbed by others who are running their generators. We had been dispersed camping at Joshua Tree as well and after our two week stay at American Girl have realized that we enjoy it quite a bit.

Our RV is fitted with two 80 watt solar panels, so during the day they kept our batteries charged very nicely, enabling us to use the computers, charge the cell phones and listen to music.  At night, we’d crank up the generator to watch some TV, use the microwave, have abundant lights and perhaps run the air conditioning to cool things off before bedtime. The generator also brings our batteries back up to full charge.

There’s really not a lot to see when parked out in the middle of nowhere and yet, it seems like every day we’d discover something new to enjoy.  The only wildlife I noticed were the occasional bird and a small lizard.  I enjoyed walking down in the deep washes that cut through the desert floor revealing sections of uncluttered sand, rocks and stones of all colors and sizes, and remnants (junk) of previous campers.  A huge bonus for me was coming across an area that held a handful of small meteorites…. I think.  If they are, from what I’ve read they are actually called “scattorites”, small pieces that are either remnants from a larger one or just small ones that fell into the atmosphere and didn’t burn completely up.  Of course, what I’ve found could also be small pieces of hematite or even slag ore but for right now, I’m happy convincing myself that they are meteorites.  At least until I check in with a friend who should know. Jury is still out.

We spent some time exploring the area as well. We came across this really cool bridge that was built prior to World War II.  It was decorated with what most call a “swastika”.  Native Americans used this “rolling log” design element (typically the legs went to the left, not the right) as a symbol for good luck and prosperity.  It can be found in all kinds of Americana; postcards, tokens, pottery, blankets, signage and of course, architecture.  Once Hitler, with his racist and hateful ideology, perverted this symbol Native Americans as well as most other Americans ceased using the design element.  Barbara and I also managed to take in a Rodeo which we enjoyed and went to a Date Orchard where we bought some Medjool Dates to send back to her parents.  We also tried a few ourselves and even a Date Milkshake.  Weren’t to our liking.  LOL  And of course, we found a local spot for some great Mexican food; Los Manjares De Pepe.  Muy Bein!

While in the Yuma area, we took advantage of being close to civilization to get some maintenance done on both vehicles (car and rv) and also managed to give our home a much needed bath and wax.  We also crossed over into Mexico for another look around.  I was really wanting to purchase some new eyewear from over there, but because of a few oddities in my prescription I wasn’t comfortable in doing so.  We ended up buying some more booze-filled chocolates to send to my daughter for her birthday.

Other than a little more sightseeing, that was pretty much the extent of our stay in the Yuma, AZ area.  We’ll probably go back again next winter as it was a nice place to stay and visit.  But here’s the kicker… the real deal… For the MONTH of February, we didn’t spend one red cent on camping fees.  We used a dump service at a Shell station in Yuma to empty our tanks and take on fresh water at a cost of $10.00  and we purchased propane while there as well (probably under $25).  Other than gasoline for the RV, that was it.  Friends, that’s pretty cheap living and that’s why Barbara and I are always looking for those out-of-the-way boon docking camping sites.  They’re FREE!

I must admit, that this has been a rough post for me to write. For some reason I just wasn’t feeling motivated.  That being said, I’m glad I finally wrote and promise that the next blog entry won’t be so long in coming. Thanks for being here for us and we look forward to your comments.  May your Spring be an enjoyable and healthy one!

Bud & Barbara

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lazy Daze Quartzite to Joshua Tree

After staying at the RTR meet for 9 days we moved west, on the other side of Route 95 to settle in with a large contingent of Lazy Daze owners.

At any one time, there were between 15 - 20 Lazy Dazes all parked together.  It was like an LD neighborhood with nightly campfires, fellowshipping and of course, food.  Barbara and I made several morning trips back over to the RTR Meet, just to catch a few more of the seminars but for the most part hung around with our fellow LDers.

On a couple of occasions someone within the group would light a paper bag balloon and send it up into the night sky.  These things are literally just big paper sacks on a light wire frame with a fuel source underneath the opening. The concept is similar to an actual hot air balloon.  It was pretty cool to see them lift off and where they fell (once the fuel burned out) was anyone’s guess.  Barbara and I did find one on our way back to our home one evening and scrunched it up for the trash.

We managed to get several things accomplished during our stay here.  First and foremost was to get a Camco Wave 6 Catalytic Heater installed into our rig for those chilly desert nights.  The Camco Dealer had a booth at “The Big Tent Event” and were purported to have a handful of factory reconditioned units at discounted prices, but those usually sold out really fast.  So, bright and early… as in  E-A-R-L-Y… we were standing at the tent entrance waiting for them to open.  Long story short; we were the first ones to the Camco booth and bought the very first heater.  Good deal!  (Yawn)  Later on, we found an RV Service guy who travels with the various events and had him install a propane quick-connect for us to plug the heater into.  We’ve used it a few times and it seems to be working just fine.  Probably won’t need it again until late next fall as the weather right now is warming up quite nicely.

We also stopped into a place to see about new batteries and adding another solar panel to the rig.  Bottom line to that was; Our batteries are still holding out just fine and we have a control panel that would allow us to add on another solar panel, which saves us some serious cash.  We’re still thinking about the new panel and I’ll let ya know when that happens, if it does.

I also got in some quality time with David, a fellow LD owner and artist.  He and I spent the day tooling around town looking for a new camp chair for him.  We had a nice pizza lunch and got to know each other just a bit better. Pleasant time!

Another cool thing that we did was to hook up with Bob Wells of www.CheapRvLiving.com who was hosting the RTR Meet and go over into Mexico for the first time.  Bob didn’t actually go over, he just took us to the parking lot, told us what to expect and went on his way.  He did film it for a You Tube piece and Barbara and I are in it!  We went on over but didn’t stay too long. Bought some prescription meds saving us about $125, looked around a bit and came back across.  We’re going back over later on to check out eyeglasses, food, etc.  It was fun!

Festive place for being noon time. Mariachi music going on.

As usual, the desert sunsets were spectacular and were (and still are) a real treat for us all!

After our 2 weeks with the LD Group at La Posa South we fired La Casita up and hit the road on westward to California.  Our stop was the Joshua Tree National Park and a date with our friends Will and Karen who were on their way to the California coast.  

Upon arriving at Joshua Tree, ahead of Will and Karen, Barbara and I drove up into the park to find a couple of suitable campsites.  Uh yeah… no way Jose.

All the sites were small, narrow and crowded and if our rig wouldn’t fit, no way was Will and Karen’s going to either.  So, we opted to camp just outside of the park entrance which meant lots of elbow room and…. as David the artist would say… it’s FREE!  Will and Karen showed up not long after us and we both settled in.

The next day the four of us jumped into our car and did a little sightseeing through the park. Even though the park is named after the Joshua Tree (which isn’t really a tree… more akin to the Yuccas) it’s the huge boulders and rocks that seem to be the main attraction.  Not only can you camp amongst them, if your rig will fit, but you can also climb all over them, if YOU’RE fit.  Take a look at the photos below. Sometimes it can be difficult to spy the rock climber!

Do you see the rock climber?

How about now?

We opted not to climb and instead found a spot for a picnic lunch.  It was all very nice and pleasant.  The next day Barbara and I had to make a run into town, Indio, to do some shopping and when we came back we had a nice dinner thanks to our friends. Will fixed his excellent Mexican Spaghetti and we devoured it like we’d not eaten in a week. Yummy!  About the time I was forcing myself to not have a second helping, we caught site of David pulling in to camp near us.  I went out, invited him over and Will and Karen gladly fed him the last helping of spaghetti.  We all sat around for quite some time sharing traveling adventures and the one point that kept coming us was.. “It’s FREE!”.  LOL  Thanks David, I’ll always hear your voice whenever I camp at a free spot from this point on!

Speaking of “free”, you really can do this lifestyle on a very lean budget.  For the month of January, Barbara and I spent $160 on camping fees.  That’s pretty cheap rent my friends.  And so far this month (February) we’ve not spent one dime on camping fees.  You’d be amazed how much free camping there is out here in Arizona and New Mexico! 

One morning we woke up to what we thought was a cool foggy day here in the desert but that wasn’t quite making sense to us. Later on, we found out that the “fog” was actually “Smog” that was being blown eastward from L.A..  Gross!

California Smog rolling in.  Sad.

Friday morning we saw our friends off after making plans to hook up again later on in February.

Barbara and I spent the next few days exploring the park, taking photos and enjoying a couple of hikes.

One of the more exhausting hikes was up at the north side of the park, near 29 Palms, CA.  It’s called “Fortynine Palms Oasis” and is an intermediate to strenuous hike back into the mountains to an actual oasis of palm trees.  It was a pleasant day to make the hike and it was quite amazing to crest the ridge and see tops of palm trees off into the distance.  We hung around there for awhile just relaxing and taking in the solitude.  For the most part, the ones who made the hike seemed pretty respectful of the area and kept noise down to a minimum.  Well, that or they were just out of breath from the hike. Hard to say.

Okay, but I'm still going!

We enjoyed our stay at the Joshua Tree National Park and enjoyed every aspect of it.  There were several things that we wanted to do but just didn’t make the time to do so. I guess that just means a return trip is in order on down the road.  Yep, life is real hard out here on the road…… but we’re adjusting to it just fine.

Hope you continue to tune in and see where we’re headed to next.  I’d go ahead and tell you, but in this lifestyle we often aren’t sure ourselves until we get there!

We were being watched!!

Looking forward to hearing from you all!
Bud and Barbara (somewhere in the southwest)


.....THE END!!  (Not really... lots more photos...but...I'm stopping anyway.)

Okay..... Okay.... just ONE MORE....

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous - Quartzite, AZ

On January 9th Barbara and I rolled into Quartzite, AZ looking to take in what is known as “The Big Tent Sale”, a very huge tent that has anything and everything an RVer could ever hope to own, and an event called “The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous”.  Once we arrived in Quartzite we looked for the RTR campsite and settled into a spot way out in the desert surrounded by cacti, rocks, mountains and nearly 400 other rigs of various sizes and conjectures.  We had finally made it to what is commonly called the RTR.  

Now, Quartzite is much more than just RTR… this small Arizona town swells each winter from a population of 3,600 to anywhere from 700,000 to 1 million as campers and RV people pour in just to camp, buy stuff, explore and socialize.  It mostly turns into a huge flea market/mid-way kind of thing with vendors hawking everything from elephant ears to new and used RVs.  Seriously, we’ve seen vendors selling cacti skeletons, rocks and gems, rusting bits of metal, antique tractors, and anything that one would need to update their camper; solar panels, L.E.D. lighting, air brakes, hitches, batteries, etc., etc., etc.

Ahhhh…. but I regress.  I want to tell you about the event known as the RTR.  Bob Wells, of CheapRVLiving.com, started this winter meet 7 years ago with the purpose of helping others learn how to live out of their vans or cars, thus the name Rubber Tramp (think; tires).

Bob Wells of RTR & CheapRVLiving.com

Each year the event has steadily grown and last year Bob was somewhat taken aback with the fact that about 170 units pulled in to experience what he and a handful of others had learned over the years. Well, this year the RTR SWELLED to an unbelievable 369+ permits!  Thats a permit for each rig whether it was a Class A or a 5th Wheel, or a person who sleeps in their car.  A good average is 1.5 people per permit so the total population of just the RTR event was approximately 450 people.  Think about that… 450 human beings living together out in the desert with no amenities, learning how to survive living on the road.

Our Lazy Daze is @ 5th one up, right side of main drag. (Photo Matt Kochel)

Each day started with announcements and Bob would stress very clearly that we were all there to get along, to be kind to one another, to learn and to take care of the desert. And you know what?  It actually worked out just like that.  We all were friendly with one another and if anyone needed help with some issue, someone there would volunteer to give that person a hand.  It reminded us of a hippie commune of days past.  I found it very cool.

After the announcements, people would raise their hands, stand and voice anything that they might have for sale or to offer a service of some type or to ask for help with something.  When that was finished a seminar of some type would be given.  The seminars ranged from topics such as First Aid Kits & Health, Favorite Gadget Show & Tell, Solar Seminar, Lithium Batteries, How to Establish a State of Residency & Get Mail, Cooking Methods, etc., all aimed pretty much toward Van/Truck/Car dwellers.

This would all be repeated during the evening as well; Announcements from Bob, Requests/Services from the group and a Seminar.  Barbara and I both really enjoyed these times.

While learning about different ways to do things while out on the road was interesting, so was meeting new and interesting people.  We met Matt Kochel who is a professional Canine Photographer.  He was nice enough to hand over a Canon 1.4x F/4 Teleconverter for me to try out while we were there. He also provided the aerial drone shot of the meet. Very nice guy, as well as his service dog J.J.. 

Matt Kochel & J.J.

I also hooked up with Martin, a young man who is just 3 years into his van dweller life.  He even has a blog documenting what he has done thus far to make his van a home on wheels.  If you’re thinking of converting a van, you might want to follow along with Martin as he progresses through the various stages of change and adaptations as he continues to learn the ins and outs of living on the road. Check out VanLifeCrisis.com.  He’s only been out on the road since December so bear with him. I’m sure you’ll learn what to do as well as the what-not-to dos!  Of course, you’ll certainly want to get into Bob’s CheapRVLiving.com as well!

Martin of VanLifeCrisis.com

There were several well-known bloggers there as well, some that Barbara has been following for several years and she enjoyed meeting a couple of them in person.  And if you like to people watch, this was the place to do it.  Married couples  and single women and single men living in cars, vans, truck campers and big rigs.

And their dogs. So many dogs!  You pet lovers would have a high ol’ time at the RTR meeting and greeting everyone’s pup. 

Ah yes. It was a dog's life at the RTR!

Speaking of rigs, as mentioned above there were every type that one could imagine.  The photos below are just a small handful of the ones that I found interesting.  Almost everyone was willing to show their camper to anyone who asked to see it.

One of the highlights of our stay with the RTR groups was hooking up with Bob and a few others to experience our first trip over the border into Los Algodones, Mexico.  We didn’t stay long, just enough time to see what it was like, pick up some inexpensive prescription drugs and have a quick look around.  Now that we’ve done it, we won’t be so nervous about going back down on our own and spending more time there. Looking forward to that!

After staying at the RTR meet for 9 days we moved west, on the other side of I-95 to settle in with a large contingent of Lazy Daze owners.  I’ll be giving a follow-up posting on that in about a week.  Don’t want to overload you with too much information!  :-)

Thanks for reading and hope to hear from each of you soon.
Bud & Barbara