Heading for a warm, sunny winter in AZ
December 11th, 2020
So after attaching our new South Dakota license plates, we began our drive south towards the state line. First stop was a weigh station as we wanted to know how much the trailer weighs loaded and if we had enough weight on the hitch.
The weigh station was just outside Boulder City and after figuring out we weren’t even in the recommended weight range on the hitch we spent some time moving some heavier items to the front of the trailer and weighed again. We were within limits, now but Doug preferred we increase some more so when we stop for the night, we’ll do some more rearranging to try and get it even better.
We made our way to a wild camp on an abandoned WW2 training site just inside California – nothing remains – and spent a quite night with a lovely sunset:
Next day we crossed the state line into Arizona and drove through the small city of Lake Havasu and parked on the other side of town on what we thought was public lands. Before getting there we pulled into a DQ to get a treat and Fran got out to order outside but they wouldn’t let her order at the drive thru and they were not open for walk in’s so Doug took a quick walk around and there were no height barriers like most drive thru’s and we were able to get the truck and trailer through – first time we’ve been able to do that in six and a half years!
Views on our drive:
There is a lot of BLM land in this area and where we parked there were about 8 other RV’s widely scattered. We could see the lake and it was quite pleasant. We even had sort of a lake view.
Sunday morning we were visited by the Sheriff who advised that we were on state lands not federal BLM and there was no overnight camping allowed! And for day use, there was a permit needed to be purchased online. So we had planned to stay a second or third night but instead we packed up and left. We saw the Sheriff drive around to the other RV’s as well and we saw two others leave and expect the others were packing up as well.
We continued south on the east side of the Colorado River (we crossed it a few times) and made our way to what was supposed to be a huge dirt lot outside a casino property where there were supposed to be a lot of RV’s. We got there and there were none; but iOverlander also mentioned that the casino allows dry camping but was closed due to COVID. Well we saw a couple of dozen RV’s in and around the lot and a sign that said “Dry Campers check in with The Club”. We drove into one of the lots, and Fran went in to get the scoop.
She was told that dry camping was again allowed as the casino was open again but you need a casino membership (free with ID) and a tag for your vehicle. She took care of all that and we found a place to park along the edge of the paved lot in order to be level. There are more than a dozen other RV spread around the parking area so we’re not alone but we’re not packed in like sardines by any means.
After brunch we walked about 2 km to the Wal-Mart to return something and get some steps. It’s definitely warmer here already compared to Vegas but we hope it will be warmer still in Yuma where we plan to be before Christmas. It’s still 19C / 66F during the afternoon with 5C / 41F lows at night. We’ll take that. We hung here another couple of days and generally relaxed just doing our day to day chores. The work on the trailer is mostly done and we are taking our time to get to Yuma.
So Wednesday we packed up again, first stopping at Wal-Mart to swap out our propane tank for a full one (so much easier than when we needed propane in South America – when we could find it!) and then went a whole 60 km / 40 mi south to Quartzite to check out all the BLM camping down there.
Quartzsite got its name from the quartz that was found in the area. The town was established on what used to be Fort Tyson, which was once used for protection against Indian raids. In the early years of the American gold rush, pan handlers began to arrive in Arizona searching for the precious metal.
This was also where the US army tried to engage the use of camels for transportation and is the burial place of Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali), an Ottoman citizen of Greek-Syrian parentage, who took part in this failed experiment as a camel driver.
There are a few BLM camps where you can stay up to 14 days free and four Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) where you can pay to stay much longer and the pass allows you to use any LTVA in the jurisdiction. The LTVA we went to first, La Posa South, has potable water and a dump station (hence the cost). We decided to pay $40 for two weeks (other option is $180 for six months) and this allows us to use the water and dump as many times as we want and to camp in one of four LTVA areas around town. We filled our tank and dumped and then opted to go to one of the other two LTVA’s which were closer to town so we could walk into town.
So we parked at La Posa West and settled in for a few days. The weather was a bit cooler than we thought but not terrible although Thursday was a mostly cloudy day, Friday dawned sunny and warmer reach 19C / 68 F. Our spot on the BLM lands:
As we’ve had no amenities the past few days and as we have such a large water tank now (52 gallons vs 33) and because we have a much larger shower, we have been using it and loving the ease of it; no more emptying the bathroom completely and then having to wipe it down after and allow it all to dry out. We still have to dry out the bathtub/shower but there’s not nearly as much effort involved and the shower head is better!
Friday we awoke to glorious sun and had a sighting seeing day – not had many of those lately. We drove northwest towards Bouse, AZ to visit the site of a geoglyph – this is drawing like the Nazca lines. This one is a fisherman. Unfortunately, there is no tower to get up above the site to get a better view.
The fisherman is an intaglio (geoglyph or earth figure), a large figure created in the soil by Indians many years ago. (think Nazca lines)
We did find this overhead image from Google:
You can’t quite make out the sun in the upper right or the fish in the lower portion but here are our shots of them:
Then we proceeded further northwest past Bouse to the ghost mining town of Swansea. Not really a must see place but a nice drive and interesting.
About 3 km / 2 mi past Bouse the road turns to gravel/dirt and it is about 43km / 27 mi to the site. Lots of scrub, sand, hills, stunted trees and various cacti.
Our truck was quite good on the last 11 k / 7 mi which were not difficult but certainly not a level dirt road; so much nice taking the washboard than heavy Tigger was. Disadvantage: no fridge or bathroom along for the ride!
Here’s a link to our photo gallery: Quartzite Photo Gallery
It’s been a while since we’ve made one as we’ve not been doing much sight seeing.
Saturday we had a nice call with Serena before pushing further south. We arrived at another BLM LTVA camping site (Imperial Dam) mid day and pushed on past to try and get to the Senator Wash section. This proved a little risky with our trailer; there was a somewhat rough section half way there and then 2km away from it, there was a deeply rutted uphill section we opted not to try and do.
Well, backing up was interesting and took many tries but Doug made it and we returned to the Imperial Dam section where we set up and both took walks. Unfortunately, cell reception is not good at all here – just one bar – so it’s hard to get online and do anything. This is disappointing as we had hoped to stay here until our hotel reservation in Yuma. It is definitely warmer but there is a good breeze off the water.
So Sunday we decide to try another BLM closer to Yuma in the hopes that the signal strength is better. First we took advantage of the services, dumped and got fresh water and drove to Fortuna Pond BLM camping and it was full (it’s a small place with maybe 30 spots) and we noted that most sites were not level as they tended to be beside the pond on the road and leaned that way so not great anyway but it did have a stronger cell signal.
So we reviewed our options in Yuma again (there aren’t many that are cheap) and decided to make our way to a casino that offers RV parking for $6 a night. Enroute we drove past our upcoming hotel and decided to stop in and pick up any parcels that may have arrived – there were a few: (some for our shopping, others Christmas gifts from the family)
Doug asked if we could street park behind the hotel and was told yes so we thought we’d try it for a night. The hotel claims to offer “truck parking” so we thought we’d have no issue with the trailer; it turns out the truck parking IS on the street! We pulled in near the end of the dead end street allowing enough room to get out again and spent the afternoon and night there to test it out to see if we’d stay until Wednesday. It was even warmer here and we loved it.
Sunday night was pretty quiet and no one bothered us so we’ll stay. It certainly isn’t somewhere we’d stay long term and it ain’t pretty but it’s free and we have enough water to last at least a week. We are parked great for the solar panels to charge and Monday Fran walked to the post office to pick up a few things that we had sent to General Delivery and Doug worked on installing some of the things we had received at the hotel. There is a much older motorhome parked behind us and it looks like it’s been there awhile so we shouldn’t have any trouble. A few big trucks come and go overnight but nothing unbearable.
Doug installed a couple more improvements to our home:
One being a fake flashing security camera:
And the other is an outside light – for some reason the trailer did not have one installed – just a string of LED lights that are not that bright for trying to see and unlock the door. This one is solar powered and has a motion sensor:
Thirdly, he installed a battery monitor in a plastic case for the trailer batteries:
One of the other packages we received that was not Christmas related, was some items to beef up the trailer’s suspension so Doug found a place to have it installed and has an appointment for Thursday morning. We are leaving the truck hitched up until then so no one can take our spot! There are lots of shops and restaurants within walking distance.
Monday and Tuesday were quite warm – up to 24C / 78F so we are super happy. As the COVID situation is worsening, we are thinking about maybe finding a long term RV park to spend the next couple of months in what is known as one of the sunniest and warmest places in the US during the winter. Fran’s dad used to “snowbird” here in the last few years of his young life.
Wednesday, the 23rd, we checked into our hotel around mid-day and this was our view: (there is a hot tub but it was out of order!)
and got settled and began using the hotel Wi-Fi as we’d been without for a couple of weeks – only using our data plan until now.
We set up our tree and by Christmas Eve it looked like this:
Christmas Eve day was cloudy and cooler. Doug took the trailer into the suspension place to have the suspension upgraded with the kit he’d purchased on Amazon – he had originally thought about doing it himself but after seeing how it was done, was very happy he had not; too many tools needed and you had to lift the entire trailer on both sides – we only have one jack.
Note this photo shows the kit installed and that the tires are chained up for security when it’s not hooked up to the truck and we are not in a campground.
After our big rearranging of storage items to get the hitch weight correct, we decided we didn’t need that rack on the back of the trailer as now both generators are inside the front pass through storage. Fran listed it on the FB Yuma Marketplace page and it was sold while Doug was still at the garage.
When he returned to the hotel with the trailer, he unhitched and we went to check out an RV park just outside the main part of Yuma that we were considering staying at for a good long while. It’s called Windhaven that advertised $283 a month rent plus electricity. It is located in the eastern suburb of Araby. It has Wi-Fi, a pool (heated to 88F!) and a hot tub that is 102F. There is a laundry, with outside clothes lines if you want, a few outdoor activity venues like horseshoes and shuffleboard (although we are not sure they are open), a huge book library/common room and we’re very close to a canal with walking paths on both sides that goes for miles. There is a Wal-Mart less than 3 km / 2 mi away with a strip mall that offers many things and it’s only about 5 miles from Yuma itself. We thought it would suit us just fine and “Big Ben” the manager said the rent for the rest of this month would be no additional cost.
Back at the hotel, Fran did some laundry and we did our usual daily stuff. As Serena and Kurt were working Christmas Day we did a Christmas Eve zoom call together with Joshua and opened a few gifts. Not quite the same but at least we got to see each other and open a gift each early. Joshua does not have the kids for Christmas this year so we are making a point of calling him every day. When he gets them next weekend for New Year’s, we’ll do a second gift opening with them and when we finally get to Canada in the spring (ojala – “hopefully” in Spanish) we’ll do a third albeit late Christmas.
Before dinner, we took a drive to see Christmas lights; it was not spectacular but there were some good ones:
We had read that several restaurants were open late today but as it turns out most weren’t which was really not surprising; one drive through hot dog joint was open so we got combos with yummy peppermint shakes.
Due to COVID despite many churches being open, we opted to pass this year – felt very strange for Fran but it was the safe thing to do. The Catholic Church actually offered two afternoon outdoor masses but she was still concerned distancing would not be practiced. So many Arizonians are far too Republican to abide by the rules.
Christmas morning broke with full sunshine and warmer although there was still a light breeze. We opened gifts over the morning and were truly grateful and thankful for each other and our families despite the separation. Fran skyped with her mom and sisters; Doug managed to reach almost all his family by phone and after afternoon walks we ordered dinner in from Denny’s and ate too much chocolate!
Boxing Day is not celebrated in the US (nor do we usually partake) but we did need to go grocery shopping. After a video chat with our friends, Joe & Josée who are currently in Turkey, we checked out of the hotel and moved on to our new temporary home until at least the end of February,
We drove to Windhaven, got the trailer parked and then drove to the nearby Wal-Mart to stock up.
We think we’ll be happy here for at least the next two months:
Our site 157
The improvements on the trailer are winding down but like any home, there’s always something. Monday, Doug creatively made some “straps” for the medicine chest out of clear Gorilla tape to stop things from falling out after we’ve driven:
And we are always trying to beef up security; Doug’s brother told us on Christmas day that one of his buddie’s had their propane tanks stolen right off their trailer so:
He’s drilled a hole to lock them in when (one is out right now as it needs to be filled). We’ve ordered cable locks to secure the batteries as well which should arrive by the weekend.
So we’re settling in a routine with our usual daily chores/exercise/Spanish practice/reading and now we can add a daily soak on the hot tub! We love that about this place. The park is not nearly full, mostly full timers and a few snowbirds. There are a total of 163 sites which in comparison to some of those that have 700, it is on the small side. The manager was telling us that normally in the winter Yuma’s population swells from 100,000 to 400,000 but this year it’s maybe 125,000 so COVID has really hit hard. The number of cases in the state has now passed 500,000 which is nearly as much as the number of all of Canada at this point in time! (The population of AZ is just of 7M.) The campground offers mail boxes to all sites and there is propane delivery once a week. We were told the price and found it nearly a $1 a gallon cheaper down the road a bit so we do it ourselves. We’ve discussed getting larger propane tanks (30lbs) but for now in the US/Canada, since propane is easy to get, we’ll stick with our 20lb bottles.
While our dinette looks quite nice and is functional, the seats are a bit low, a bit wide and a bit uncomfy so we’ve beefed up our seating by adding cushions; here’s Fran’s (this gives her a narrower taller seat):
Here’s Doug’s (he only needs a bit more comfort and height):
Shortly after we bought our trailer, Fran purchased one black out panel curtain from Walmart and made a “cover” over the window in the trailer door. This door is right at our bedroom and lets in a great deal of light – no more. Then using the same panel she cut out a second piece for our bedroom window to cover the mini blinds.
As we want to get rid of all the mini blinds, she decide to use the remaining piece for the kitchen window but make it a little fancier by purchasing some ribbon trim. She made it so it could be rolled up out of the way of the faucet and sink:
So then having some left over ribbon trim, she added that to the first two window coverings as well.
Keep in mind that we do not have a sewing machine with us. All this was done without sewing – just scissors and glue!
Now all the windows in the front half of the trailer are the same. Next is to find a fabric or another curtain panels to do the three windows at the back of the trailer around the dining/living area. Project for next year!
New Year’s Eve was not exciting at all – we tried to stay up to watch the ball drop but didn’t have the enthusiasm to do so, we went to bed at our regular bedtime at ten.
Happy 2021 and may be all be able to hug each other before the end of it!
IF anyone is interested, here’s a video of a walk thru of our trailer: