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.