Thursday of this week, we went on a Guided Hike through the Painted Desert. Only hiked about five miles but it was a beautiful day and a beautiful place.
Archive for February, 2012
SOME IMPERIAL VALLEY CROPS–LOTS OF VEGGIES GROW HERE
These are some pictures we snapped of some of the crops we see driving along route 24 to the BLM land at Senator Wash. Some of the water from the Colorado River is used to irrigate these crops.
It ‘s nice to drive along and see just about every crop that can be grown profitably in this area. Sadly, there are no fresh vegetable stands near the Senator Wash campground but there is a “pick your own” farm nearby.
WE HAVE MOVED TO HURRICANE RIDGE
The camping at the shore of Senator Wash reservoir is limited to two weeks in/two weeks out so since our two weeks of shore camping was up we moved up the hill to Hurricane Ridge. At first we worried that a place with a name like Hurricane Ridge would be far too windy. Our fears were borne out by a few windy days. As it turns out it was windy in the whole area not just on Hurricane Ridge (though I think it was slightly more windy here) and now that the wind is gone except for a light breeze we are happy campers.
Jim, a fellow Lazy Daze camper, made some nice friends.
Some views of the reservoir from our Lazy Daze “living room” window. Also, the Chocolate Mountains are in the background.
The days here are beautiful and there’s usually a show of colors in the sky at sunset.
We have a solar set-up for our RV. In August of 2010, when we picked up our new Lazy Daze RV from the factory in Montclair, Ca., we loaded our stuff on board and soon headed to Springfield, Oregon to the AM Solar company. They have a good reputation for selling quality products and doing a good job with the installation and we wanted our system to work without hassle. Since we knew we would be living in the RV full time, we decided to “bite the bullet” and get enough energy to meet most of our needs.
What We Have to Meet Most of Our Energy Needs
The RV came with two, 220 amp hour, 6 volt AGM batteries and a 4000 watt Onan Generator. We did not order solar panels, etc. from the RV manufacturer as we heard it was better to get the whole package at once and choose AM Solar to supply the components and to do the installation. After two days of work, AM solar had installed three, 150 watt tiltable solar panels, a 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter/charger, two additional AGM batteries (300 watt, 6 volt), two controllers, a sub-panel box, #2, #4 and #6 wiring and various other components. We’re glad we had this done professionally even though it was very pricey as we did not want to take on this job ourselves (and likely could not have done it as well). This all came to $7500 ($2000 of that was labor) so it will take quite awhile to call the energy we get from the sun…free. Since we are full timers and almost always boon dock (so no or reduced camping fees in addition to no need for ”hook-ups”) we should make up the cost of our solar package in less than two years. We “plugged into the grid” only twice last year, one of those times was because we had a few inches of snow on the solar panels. With this system and lots of sunlight, we can use our toaster, microwave (just to reheat something), the hair dryer, etc. These energy hogs are short-time use items and we watch our battery voltage carefully so we don’t deplete the batteries.
Of course, we cannot run the Air Conditioner off the Solar. For energy hog appliances that require a large initial surge of power such as the compressor for the air conditioner or sustained, substantial use such as an electric heater, we have the option to use the generator. Use of a generator comes with complications. Going to a quiet area and turning on a noisy generator is one of the easiest ways to aggravate nearby people subjected to the noise and air pollution of the generator. But if that occasion comes along and we are where we can use the generator, won’t be bothering others, and need the energy we use it.
Another energy source for us is the motor home engine. It is inefficient but it helps charge the batteries.
Our motor home came with two AGM batteries. They are easy care and we were able to buy a different amp hour AGMs and not have to match amp hours to amp hours. They are in series and in parallel and do the job for us. What’s more, the AGMs can be inside the motor home (they don’t “gas”) so we have them in an inside cabinet. Also, most inside cabinet were not configured for batteries but these AGMs can be in any position, we have them in an inside cabinet upright but if we had to we could have positioned them on their side. The easy care comes in that we don’t have to check water level and add water to the batteries.
If our motor home came with something other than AGMs would we have replaced them? Not sure but not likely would we have incurred the additional expense. We probably would have figured out an outside cabinet to hold additional batteries.
EDIT–SOLAR… Now that we have had our Solar set-up for about 1 1/2 years, we realize that going with AGM batteries and starting out with the best solar set-up available that we could afford was an excellent choice for us. If we bought a new rig today, we would definately go with the latest, best solar set-up we could afford immediately after purchase of the rig.
Of course, as we did when we had snow on our solar panels, we can always find somewhere to plug into the grid when there is not enough solar power available. We’re lucky to live in a time when all these options are available. With time, solar panels and accessories will become more efficient and come down in price in the same way as computers, phones, tvs, etc. For now, this works for us. We mostly try to stay where and move our rig to places with lots of sunshine, preferring a lovely outside temperature of about 70 to 80 degrees, at least that is our goal.
Met Mike and Danielle a few days ago when they set up tents near us. Here from their home in snowy Colorado. they are staying in Senator Wash for a few days before going on to visit family in San Diego. They’re interesting folks having recently sold their live-aboard-boat in Israel that they bought in Switzerland and spent the previous couple of years traveling the water ways of Europe and part of the Middle East. Now they plan to buy an RV and travel most of the year on the roads of the US and Canada. It was fun to talk with them, they have lived in such an interesting way. They said that right now they were torn between buying an RV in the US for a couple of years of travel or perhaps traveling to Greece and buying another boat to travel more in Europe as the price for boats should be quite low there due to all the financial problems going on in Greece. Ah, choices, choices.
Then there’s the “George and Margaret” couple here from snowy Idaho. They’ve been coming here every January for years after they spend the holidays with their family in Idaho. They camp in a newer, good size truck/camper. With their four wheel drive truck, they can easily traverse the rough dirt roads to the North side of Senator Wash Reservoir where they have that side of the reservoir almost completely to themselves. They tell us they rarely have anyone camping near them as the dirt road leading to the North side of Senator Wash Reservoir is very rough. These two 80+ yr. old adventurers had just hiked around the reservoir…impressive. No wonder they looked so good!
There are so many interesting folks to meet when you travel. It seems that people who hike or camp are a particularly friendly bunch. We love to hear their stories and imagine the choices they made in their lives to bring them to this point. When you’re young, you make so many choices that may lead you down a road that you never thought you would be on when you envisioned your life. We’ve met folks who dropped out of the corporate life to live in a commune and folks that chose the military or police work and did that for years and yet here we are all together traveling the country and our paths cross in the most interesting places. We have talked to fellow travelers and folks we meet in various towns and places we visit and each has taken different, interesting paths through life.
Saturday, another day for a good, long hike around the reservoir. Andrea opted to stay back and do some Tai Chi leaving Jim, Jerry and me to wander off and enjoy the stark desert scenery contrasted with the deep blue of the water on this journey. There’s a point, hiking around the reservoir, on one side of the trail is an inlet of the Colorado River with a marsh area well-known for good fishing and on the other side of the trail is the Senator Wash Reservoir and all this surrounded by the stark beige and brown desert hills. Quite a lovely area to walk.
Heard from the tenters nearby that the “guided” Thursday hikes are very informative and enjoyable so next Thursday we will join the organized hike. They leave this spot at 9 am and say “bring lots of water and your lunch” . Uh Oh, hope we can keep up with this group of experienced hikers and their guide for an entire day.
Went on our first and only “guided hike” last summer in a National Park so we’re a little skittish about “guided hikes”. It was Ranger led about six miles round trip but through Grizzly country. We showed up at the appointed time and the “well prepared” hikers gawked at us. Me with my Liz Claiborne back pack and Jerry with his sandaled feet the group just sighed when they looked at our old faces but we were unconcerned as we’re reasonably fit (for our age) and have hiked fairly long distances, up and down hills with no problem. The Ranger showed up and we were pleased to see that she looked almost as old as we. Ha! She started the hike like someone was shooting at her! Everyone, not just us, strained to keep up with her but no one wanted to be the one to complain. Of course, in grizzly country you have great motivation to keep up with the “expert” carrying the bear spray. She stopped occasionally to show and explain something, for example; where a grizzly had recently scratched the bark off a tree (you could see the deep claw marks). While she talked about a point of interest we could mostly hear the hikers, us included, trying to catch their breath. Finally, we reached the turn around point, a pretty water fall, stopped to have lunch, and let the few laggers in our group catch up. When I caught my breath and was able to talk I asked her about our “safety net” the bear spray. ”Oh”, she tells us, ”you have to wait until the charging bear is with-in 25 feet, the one-use canister only holds seven seconds of spray, and you can only use it if the charging bear is up-wind from you”. SAY WHAT!?! I asked, who could possibly stand their ground, think and assess the situation and get the bear spray out of its’ holster with a bear suddenly charging. Her answer was the best. ..she said she didn’t know if she could assess everything in the short time one would have in that situation and that she had never had the experience of having to use the bear spray. She said just remember not to run, play dead. The not running would likely be easy in my case, if I saw a bear charging me I am sure I would faint dead away. Well, we have been “townies” all our lives, hiking where animals that want to kill and eat you are rare. With her explanation out of the way, she announced that after lunch she was going to climb up the side of the waterfall and all hikers were invited to join her as a bonus. We demurred, and began the hike back albeit at a slower pace but on our own. While we didn’t have any bear spray with us (I am not so sure it would be all that helpful, in our case), we did have our voices. They say if the bear hears you coming he/she will move elsewhere. Well we took this bit of information as gospel and made so much noise shouting, clapping and stamping our feet on our way back we didn’t even see a butterfly.
Happy Hour at 4 pm daily
I love the tradition of a daily happy hour. Haven’t always attended but having the option of getting together with fellow travelers is nice. Saturday, I prepared some candied pecans, others brought various chips and dip. In the desert as the sun drops in the sky the wind picks up and the temperature drops just as quickly making happy hour not much longer than an hour. Good company and snacks, who would complain? Also, you learn a lot during these get-togethers as various places to visit, tips and ideas flow freely. Sunday, happy hour for us, was cancelled because Jerry felt “mildly ill”. Sure he will be fine, but don’t want to share his germs with others.
The Tech Challenged Blogger
Ha! Got some of our pictures posted. Will try to get better at this. Some thanks go to smart Jessie and our unswerving determination to do this even though we are quite tech challenged! To accomplish something is supposed to help you feel younger but we’re just glad it worked.
Hiking Around the Senator Wash Reservoir
Wednesday was a day of stock & options trading, a short walk, relaxation and a happy hour. Thursday, though, was much more ambitious. Three of us, Jim, Jerry and I hiked around the Senator Wash Reservoir in the morning. Walking about 3 miles/hr. and walked about 3 1/2 hrs. so we figure we walked about 10 miles (at least it felt like it!). Actually, even though it was up and down hills, we did it pretty easily. Mostly walked along the dirt road so we didn’t go down any dead-end trails and have to retrace our steps. I have to admit, when I get near the end of a long hike, I become “barn sour” and just want to get back to the RV and relax.
No Boating Thursday
The wind came up Thursday and while the breeze was nice during our hike it was too windy to safely be out on the water in our little boat. The electric motor did take the charge though and it works perfectly! Pretty good for a motor that hasn’t been started in a year. We’ll try it out Friday if the wind dies down. I noticed that none of the avid kayakers were on the water either so it wasn’t just that I’m overly cautious. We do wear life preservers out in the boat so my not being able to swim doesn’t stop me but a windy day does.
Big RVs Arriving With Lots Of Toys
Today, noticed more big RVs arriving at Senator Wash pulling trailers filled with lots of toys for enjoying the area. They are arriving with boats, ATVs, bicycles, and more. They might be here for the upcoming weekend or for the duration. We are told there will be many more for the coming Presidents Day extended weekend as Southern Californians head this way. Still, there is a lot of room here to spread out so it doesn’t feel particularly crowded.
The Night Sky
Want to feel how small and recognize what a tiny a part you and your problems play in the universe? Looking at the night sky where there is little light pollution and seeing the huge number of stars and knowing that there are so many large galaxies out there is humbling. Just viewing our Milky Way is such an amazing show we can see most every night is such a source of wonder that most of us missed because we got so busy working and raising our families. Over our bed in the motor home is a large hatch and most nights I open it and watch the night sky go by. The reduced light pollution here allows for quite a show!
We left Quartzsite, Az, on Super Bowl Sunday Feb.. 5th and drove the couple of hours to “beautiful” Yuma, Az. shopped for a few hours then headed to the Escapees Club campground to do some reorganizing of the motor home storage compartments. Spent many an hour Sunday and Monday reorganizing. It seems when you first move into a place (especially one this small) you put things where you think it’s best. As time goes on and you see/hear how others figure out space allocation, it is time to re-organize. Stopped working long enough for Jerry to swim laps in the Escapees Club pool and soak in the Jacuzzi. Will not stay here again though. They say they have WiFi…it doesn’t work, our cell phones here…no signal, our MiFi…no connection. The only saving grace of staying here is the low $5 cost for dry camping (off the grid), nice pool and the aerial picks up PBS .
Arrived in Imperial Dam area along the Colorado River in California Monday evening. Driving through this agricultural area from Yuma is quite interesting. The road twists around large swaths of planted land. Broccoli, heads of cauliflower, lettus (red and green), carrots, alfalfa, etc. can be seen in the fields being harvested. There are very also large tracts of citrus and date trees. We only see large numbers of Latinos working these fields for, we are told, close to minimum wage. If there are other groups represented in this work force, they were not seen this trip.
We are staying on BLM land near Squaw Lake and are parked next to the Senator Wash Reservoir. As reservoirs are wont to do, the water level is quite low for now but that can change rapidly as they let some Colorado River water flow in. So we’re careful not to park in the “wet zone” no mater how enticing it is to be close to the water. Excellent fishing, boating and bird watching are major attractions as well as rock collecting, fossil hunting, and traveling the dirt back roads in off highway vehicles. During this time of year this is another “land of RVs”. There’s every type, value, age and size of RV here from close to million dollar RVs to sad-looking oldies but, of course, the views, sunsets and night sky are the same for all to enjoy. These mostly annual, temporary (sometimes for 6-7 months/year) residents are frequently here to escape the cold weather of home and have developed quite an active community. Many Canadians come here for the “season” since most Canadians and many others still don’t feel safe traveling in Mexico where the weather is also warm. Various types of entertainment, classes, religious observances, book exchanges, organized hikes, etc. are available. Folks generally do their own “thing” but neighbors do watch out for each other. It is interesting that all of these folks, and there are MANY, stay out here completely off the grid, conserve water, keep the area clean and always recycle resulting in close to the smallest footprint possible.
Even though we were here for only two weeks last year we’ve already run into a number of folks we met then. The retired engineers staying near us at the reservoir again this year are from British Columbia. They’re very friendly and clearly enjoying the warm climate instead of the snow they used to have to shovel. Here with their wives and kayaks they’ve been plying the waterways most days and are looking tanned and fit.
We noticed a tear in the bag holding our inflatable boat so when it held air we were relieved. The boat is like a Zodiac and is fun to use but a lot more work to set up than we were led to belive. Oh, the video the boat came with shows two people setting it up in 20 min. We spent four hours setting it up the first time and that did not include attaching the engine to the back! So now we have an electric compressor rather than a foot pump…much faster/easier. Also, even though the instructions for set-up are unfathomable we are now experienced in reading these obfuscated directions. In addition, the video about the boat set-up shows a guy picking up the boat in the carrying bag, slipping the bag strap over his shoulder and walking a far distance down to the water with it. Ha! Our neighbor says the guy in the video carrying the boat over his shoulder was a Champion Weight Lifter! Now, if the electric engines’ battery will take a charge and work, we can putter around on the water and quietly get close enough to the birds to take some quick pictures and not frighten them away. The battery gets charged with solar energy and the electric engine doesn’t pollute so, if everything works, it’s an all around good thing.
Here is something you wouldn’t expect. There are numerous wild Burros wandering this area. Apparently wild burros have been here for hundreds of years and are thriving. Though it is common to hear coyotes yipping near by, it is still startling to hear braying outside your window at two in the morning!
The weather is balmy here most of the late fall, winter, early spring though today was overcast. Well there was a full moon tonight anyway so the sky was too bright to see the stars clearly even if the clouds weren’t in the way.
The wind in the desert is an amazing thing. We were told by an “old-timer” that the desert winds were known as Devil Winds. This morning started out sunny and still. Before lunch the wind arrived not as strong an it blew on Thursday but you definitely can hear it outside the windows. It’s not hurricane force winds but strong enough to gently rock the motor home from side to side. Finally the wind was down and happy hour could be enjoyed on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the desert.
This is a lazy Saturday for us. A fix your own breakfast and enjoy warm, roasted veggies just out of the oven for lunch kind of day. (Roasted veggies are so tasty I’m afraid I’ll soon be reading in the news that roasted veggies are bad for you.) Chicken quesadilas for happy hour and leftover minestrone soup with chicken for dinner. Ah, life is good for a fulltime rver, boondocking on BLM land.
Thursday was also quite windy in Quartzsite. We did go for a walk despite the winds but had to hold onto our hats. As a matter of fact, the wind was blowing so hard Thursday it became necessary to cancel our daily, outside happy hour. Oh, no!!! The desert floor here clearly has seen lots of wind as it is scoured fairly clean down to the hard-pan. When the strong winds kick up, little sand blows now. The winds of the past probably blew most of the sand and dust from here down to the Yuma area to the I 8 corridor where you can see large sand dunes along the Arizona/California border area. Got little exercise today…just a short walk to get the blood moving. We always invite our fellow boondockers to walk with us and Jim is usually up for it, but another nearby boondocker, not so much. He appears to be somewhat allergic to exercise.
Tomorrow is a travel day for us. The solar panels are down, things that could fly around in the motor home while we drive are put where they cannot cause damage and the outdoor furniture is stowed.
Yesterday, Friday, the weather was sunny and calm. With one of our fellow boondockers (Jim), Jerry and I walked to the local vegetable stand in town. On the way, we stopped at the Car Show. This was the first day of the show and though they had a lot of beautifully restored old cars, attendance was fairly light. Some of the cars were older than we are but viewing most of the cars was a walk down memory lane. The Chevy’s’ from the 1950′s were well represented. The car show goes on for more than a week, is rather interesting and attendance/parking is free. Later got the fresh vegetables and, of course, a delicious ice cream cone to eat on the walk back to our rv site. For happy hour, Jim served warm, baked Jalapeno Poppers stuffed with a cheese filling…yum!