Monday, February 3, 2020

Wanderlodge Rally in the Desert

On January 8th Lucie flew out of San Diego airport to spend three and a half weeks in Vermont and Brooklyn.  You can't separate a Grandma from her Grandkids for too long.

The next day I stocked up on groceries, filled the fresh water tank, dumped the holding tanks and headed East from Oceanside across the California desert to Quartzsite AZ for the 14th Q gathering of Wanderlodges.  When I got there I purchased a 2 week pass  ($40) to the LaPosa South Long Term Visitors Area on BLM land just south of Quartzsite.  This area is a large flat piece of Sonoran Desert where self contained RVs can park for up to the whole winter.  There is a dumping station and water fill station and trash dumpsters but otherwise campers need to be able to stay with no hookups.

When I arrived at the site of the Wanderlodge rally in the LaPosa South LTVA there were piles of rocks marking the spaces for over 90 RVs to park in a huge circle.  I was early so I selected a spot that would allow my solar panels the best angle to collect the winter sun.  It was still several days before the two week long rally was to begin and there were only a few buses in attendance.

As I was waiting for the rally to begin I made friends with the people who were already there, some of whom I know from previous rallys and some who I know from the WOG (Wanderlodge Owners Group) online.  The first day there I had to repair the PT Cruiser I tow behind me, the speed sensor had some broken wires which threw off the fuel injection and made it run poorly.

The next day I went into Quartzsite and walked around the vendors at the exhibition.

I helped one of my neighbors who had "fuel in the valley" in a Wanderlodge like mine.  I don't think I was terribly helpful but I learned a lot.

Anytime someone opens their tool box and starts taking apart their RV at this rally it becomes a group project.  There are some people here with terrific mechanical skills.

The weather was nice during the days with the temperature dropping rapidly after dark.

I was pleased that my solar was able to charge the batteries every day by soon after noon, leaving excess power in the afternoon for charging computers and phones.  Wanderlodges are notorious power hogs and all around me there were generators running from 6AM to 10PM.  The sound didn't bother me though as I like staying in truck stops with the diesels running all night.

On Monday Jan 13 the rally started in earnest with the first potluck.  This was "appetizers" where everyone got to fill their plate and no one left hungry.  The circle still had plenty of empty spots, but people were arriving every day.

With the start of rally new routines began, the morning campfire with people standing around drinking coffee and discussing the upcoming day.  Then people move on to whatever activities will fill their day.  Every evening at sunset there is a fire where folks sit and stare at the flames and tell tall tales till the night gets cold and people return to their Wanderlodges.

During the first week of the rally I went into Quartzsite for the Gem and Mineral show with some of my neighbors.  I enjoy walking around looking at all the rocks, it takes me back to my childhood and my rock collection.  During this time of year the population of Quartzsite balloons from 2000 people to several hundred thousand people because of all the RVers who congregate here.  This brings a lot of vendors and activities like the Gem and Mineral show.

The potlucks continue every other day with chili on Wednesday and Italian on Friday.

Every day more buses would show up and the circle was filling up.  Eventually a second circle would form outside the first with over 100 Wanderlodges in attendance this year.

The second week of the rally has more structured activities during the day, and by then most of the people have arrived.  It begins Sunday morning with a potluck brunch then a potluck Stew/soup dinner in the evening.

Monday marks the first of the "Men's Tech Seminars".  Lucie is not alone in objecting to the title of these sessions, but Rick, who is the MC and one of the organizers insists on keeping it.  These sessions are one of the reasons I attend this rally.  It starts in the morning sitting around the fire with each person having a chance to introduce themselves and either ask a question or share something they've discovered about their Wanderlodge.  In the afternoon we all walk around the circle doing a show and tell with the owners about their projects and discoveries with their coach.

Tuesday I went into Quartzsite to see the "Big Tent" which is the RV exposition.  It was really crowded and I had no problem not spending any money.  I really wonder about people who live in RVs buying all these knick knacks and junk, where do they put it?

Tuesday evening is the famous Ray's Prime Rib.  Ray is one of the Wanderlodge owners and is a master chef.  Every year he cooks prime rib for everyone at the rally who wishes to attend.  He charges $10 to cover the cost of the beef and everyone brings a side.  Being a solo male this year I got a pass and didn't have to provide a side.  I kind of appreciated it because I had been spending a lot of time cooking for all the potlucks.  The prime rib dinner out in the desert was just amazing.

Wednesday there was a four wheel trip to a ghost town near Yuma.  I hung around as people were getting ready to go but no one invited me along.  I miss my Jeep!

So during the day I prepared the RV for the open house the next day.  I set up the 3D printer and the GlowForge laser cutter.  I figure that Bella isn't really unique as a Wanderlodge except for how Lucie and I have adapted it to our needs and interests.  I 3D printed some Wanderlodge logos and made some keychains on the Glowforge to hand out at the open house.  I had to run the generator to power the Glowforge.

Thursday started with a trip into Quartzsite to do laundry.  Then the open house from Noon till 3.  I ran the 3D printer during the open house powered by the solar panels.  The day finished with a Mexican potluck, another beautiful sunset and socializing around the campfire after dark.

Friday was another Tech Talk, this time the theme for the morning discussion was to bring your favorite tool.

The tech talk finished just in time for me to go into Quartzsite to meet Dad.  He had just bought a new to him RV and he and Denise drove it down to Quartzsite for the weekend.  Denise has to have Kidney Dialysis so they left Cottonwood, where they live, after her Friday dialysis and had to return for her Monday morning dialysis.  It was so incredibly good to see them and again spend time with them in Quartzsite, which is where they met and started courting over 10 years ago.

On Saturday I went with Dad and Denise to breakfast in Quartzsite.  They had a campsite in town in an RV park with full hookups.  Then we walked from their place to the Big Tent where we braved the crowds until it was time to go back home and take a nap.  That afternoon Sal and Diann (Denise's daughter and son in law) drove down and stayed the night with Dad and Denise in their new RV.

I returned to the Wanderlodge Rally and indulged in the last potluck -- Barbeque.

The evening campfire was especially poignant as people were preparing to leave.

Sunday I went out to breakfast with Dad, Denise, Diann and Sal.  I then said goodbye to my Cottonwood family as they headed back north.

Back at the rally another 4 wheel adventure was being planned and this time I was able to hitch a ride.  Regrettably the leader's Jeep developed fuel system problems so we returned home sooner than planned.

I stayed at the rally site until Wednesday.  By then there were only a handful of Wanderlodges left.  I spent the time helping neighbors work on their RVs and I did a repair on my propane system.  There were sunsets and campfires to remember the desert by.

On Wednesday I hooked up the PT Cruiser and left the rally site.  I stopped in town and purchased propane and diesel before turning West and heading for Palm Springs California where Lucie would fly in on Saturday and we would continue our  winter adventure.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Escaping the cold

Lucie tells me that it is not good to run away from things, so I should probably rethink the title for this post.  Maybe it should be, "Finding warm weather"!

Our stay in the Denver area got colder as the month wore on.  Warren and Allison left for Hawaii and rather than Lucie and I leaving at the same time we stayed as a cold front moved through dumping snow.  I decided that making the run south through snow covered passes would not be wise, so we waited for a weather window. 

On November 23rd we grabbed a one day opening between snow storms and headed south to Santa Fe where we stayed at the rodeo grounds and went to dinner with our friend Jackie Gernstien.  We didn't stay beyond the one night because at 8,000' elevation it was cold.  The next day we headed further south to Deming NM where we were out of the freeze zone for the first time.

We spent the night at a Harvest Host site, a Winery just outside Deming with a large parking lot.  Although the camping was free, between the wine tasting and buying a couple of bottles we did leave a few dollars there.

The next day we drove to Tucson.  We had made reservations at Cactus Country RV park because they had a hot tub.  However when we got there we discovered the hot tub was closed for renovations and would remain closed for the duration of our stay.  We decided to move on to our other choice, Desert Trails RV Park and stayed there for 2 weeks.

We thawed out in Tucson, the weather was wonderful.  We shared thanksgiving with the other campers at a potluck in the Rec Hall.  In the middle of our time there we took the PT Cruiser and drove up to Cottonwood AZ where my Father lives.  There we met my sister Joy who flew in from San Diego.  We all celebrated Dad's 88th birthday.  After 2 nights in an Airbnb we returned to Tucson, visiting our friend Steve Jerrett on the way through Phoenix.

The remainder of our time in Tucson was spent working on the bus, hiking in the desert, going to music programs at the Rec Hall in the evening and Lucie working on a microprocessor enabled apron.  We even bought a sewing machine that now travels with us.  

On December 9th we left Tucson headed for Holtville Hot Springs BLM campground west of Yuma in California.  We didn't make it.  Just outside Yuma AZ we had a tire blow out on the RV.  We limped off the Interstate to an exit in Welton AZ where our road service, Coach Net had a truck deliver and mount a tire.  By the time we were back up and running the sun was going down so we spent the night behind the Chevron gas station and continued on to California the next day.
We spent 10 days in Holtville.  It was our first extended boondocking (camping without hookups) of this trip.  It was comfortable and quiet, with daily soaks in the hot springs.  During the first couple of days we drove to the border town of Los Algodones Mexico where we had some dental work done and I got new glasses.  

While we were at the hot springs I discovered that the 2 flexible solar panels I had mounted on the storage containers on the roof last year had both failed.  We still have enough solar to charge on a sunny day, but I'm missing the extra capacity.

On December 20th we drove the RV from Holtville to Oceanside CA.  This is a hard drive with a good 40 mile uphill climb over the coastal mountain range then So Cal interstate driving for the rest of the way (5 to 8 lanes each direction - crowded and moving fast).  We are currently at Guajome County Park, finishing our 3 week stay.  

We spent Christmas at Lucie's Sister's house in Temecula CA, it's always nice to spend the holidays with family.  

We were going to spend Boxing Day with my sister Joy in Encinitas CA but first Lucie then I came down with a bad head cold that kept us at home through New Years. 
We've now recovered and are enjoying this beautiful part of the country.  I've been working on some of the bus's issues.  I replaced the fittings on the used fuel filter I got in Iowa.  The fittings to the fuel lines the mobile mechanic had welded together to get me back up and running leaked.  I have also been chasing air leaks in an attempt to resolve all the issues with the air system cycling constantly.  I purchased an electric air compressor that was delivered to Joy's.  Our campsite here is paved so I've been able to jack up the bus, block it so it won't fall on me and squirm around under it hunting down air leaks.

In 2 days Lucie will fly out to spend 3 weeks back east working and visiting Grandchildren.  The following day I will leave Oceanside for Quartzsite AZ where I will attend the Wanderlodge Rally and wait for Lucie to return.