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–Travel and Blog Hiatus–
We have decided to devote some time to family care and visits. Living the fulltime RV lifestyle allows us to be anywhere, anytime we are needed and still be “at home”. Being Grandparents to four wonderful grandkids, six years old and under, comes with a lot of perks and a few responsibilities.

We will be traveling in the tricycle lane for some time and will resume the fulltimeusa.com blog when we leave the tricycle lane and pull onto the highway to resume our fulltime RV travels.
In the meantime our wish for all of you is to Be Well and Travel Safely, Ann and Jerry, FULLTIMEUSA.COM

–Borrego Springs–
Some friends told us that Borrego Springs was a must see sending us photos of large sculptures of prehistoric creatures that had lived and left their fossil remains in the Borrego Springs area starting about seven million years ago when this area was a wet, jungle-like forest. So, unable to resist, we headed for Borrego Springs, California.

–The Story–
There is an interesting story about the large iron sculptures of Borrego Springs. The heir to the Avery Dennison label fortune, philanthropist Dennis S. Avery, bought a substantial amount of property in Borrego Springs, California during the savings and loan crisis period of the 1980s and 1990s when land values dropped precipitously. He kept almost all of this land undeveloped, unfenced and open to the public and named it Galleta Meadows.  During Spring each year, many folks would enjoy the annual flower bloom that can be seen there.
A man of many interests, Avery commissioned ‘Perris Jurassic Park’ Mexican owner/artist/welder Ricardo Breceda to create steel welded sculptures that would reflect the paleontological history of the area based on drawings from a book about fossils found in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  He dubbed these huge hammered iron sculptures “Sky Art” and the first of these amazing, intricate sculptures was installed in 2008 on the Galleta Meadows land.  There are three non-contiguous square miles of desert comprising the Galleta Meadows land that has these wonderful iron sculptures scattered about.  Folks are quite surprised and delighted  as they  drive along Borrego Springs Road or S78, etc., to see just off to the side of the road is a Sabertooth Cat or a Colombian Mammoth.
The fossils of these animals have been found nearby in some of the most extensive fossil sites in North America.
There are sculptures of creatures such as the giant bird Aiolornis, the Colombian Mammoth, camels, the elephant-like Gomphothere, and the Sabertooth Cat.
The project of iron sculptures apparently evolved over time. Most of the sculptures reflect the paleontological history of the area but some later sculptures of the 129 works are pure whimsy such as an amazing 350-foot sea serpent that appears to burrow under the road and emerge on the other side from under the desert sands having the head of a dragon and a tail like a rattlesnake.  Also, some of the sculptures reflect the more recent history of the area to include a few human figures such as a gold miner, a Spanish padre, a Native American, a farm worker and even an occupied Willys Jeep.
Much of the iron of these huge sculptures has weathered and rusted and has now taken on an almost life-like leathery patina.  The sculptures are strongly anchored in cement and steel but when the wind is blowing sometimes there is very slight movement and the sound of the wind adds to the experience.

–How to see the Sculptures–
Since the sculptures are along the roadways you will likely see them as you drive into Borrego Springs. The Rangers in the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center in Borrego Springs were very helpful in directing us to the various locations of these amazing iron-welded sculptures.   Also there is a location map at the website:  http://galletameadows.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=93.  You can park along the side of the road and walk right up to the sculptures to take pictures though some are quite a distance from each other. If you choose to walk, since it is the desert, watch for rattle snakes. You can also drive on the sandy desert roads that criss-cross the area to the various sculptures as many people do to get up close for photos.
One of the wonderful things we noticed about the sculptures is that we saw no evidence of vandalism and no “tagging”,  nice!
–Boondocking–
All of Galleta Meadows land is open to the public. Boondocking on the land is allowed for up to three days but, of course, there are no services such as trash pick-up, RV dump site, etc. so pack it out.
This is desert land so I would think that the heat of the summer would rule out summer boondocking. We have read that the temperature here gets as high as 124 degrees F. in the summer!
If you boondock here (and we did) know that Borrego Springs has been designated as an “International Dark Sky Community” so there are no street lights. If ever there was a chance to enjoy the night sky without light pollution this is the place.  Also, at night we could hear the  coyotes yipping and howling.

–Communication–

We were unable to get any English language TV channels with our TV antenna.  Our internet connection, however, was excellent.  Despite being surrounded by mountains,  our Verizon/Samsung/Millenicom  got a strong, excellent, fast wi fi signal and the  Verizon cell phone had a strong connection as well.

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BOONDOCK

-Introduction to Boondocking–

We are aggressive boodockers and have boondocked in the Northwest, Southwest,  Alaska, Canada, even in very urban areas such as Los Angeles.  Have had little to no hassle doing this and have been asked repeatedly to explain how it is that we have safely and successfully boondocked almost every day since we started RVing a few years and more than 40,000 miles ago.
Last summer while we were in Alaska, we met a lovely couple from the Netherlands.  They were excellent boondockers and shared some of their boondocking tips with us saying they never had any problems boondocking in the US, something they had  been doing every summer for years.
  -Why Boondock–
RVers boondock for many reasons and/or a combination of reasons.  Some of the reasons are:   …the freedom to stop along a lovely stream or near a meadow and enjoy the area, frequently being the only ones there.  …the price is right for the budget conscience hoi polloi.  …the convenience of just pulling off the road when we’re tired along with the feeling of no pressure to find a “campground”.   …the convenience of stopping in or near an area we want to explore.
In our case, we have more of a desire to travel than money so whatever we save by low cost or free boondocking we spend on supplies and gas in the local economy we are visiting.   Boondocking has turned out to be serendipitous for us as it has taken us to some beautiful, remote locations that we might never have seen had we been tied to staying only in campgrounds.
Today we are boondocked near the Mexico boarder crossing, nearby (closer to the boarder) is a campground that charges X amount of  $/night and lots of folks choose the campground over free boondocking.  Of course, at the campground there are numerous nice amenities but since we’re comfortable where we are, we are more drawn to directing the money toward this summers travel fund than we are to nice amenities.  When you travel as much as we do, even an inexpensive campground site say $20/night times 365 nights would put a big dent in our travel budget.  Perhaps, when we travel less often we might make some modifications to our boondocking practice.  For now though, this is quite workable.
  -Definition–
    Yikes!  There’s lots of controversy among RVers over the definition of boondocking.  Um, not too surprised are you?  We’re living in a time of an inability to agree on much of anything and many folks with absolute opinions on a definition for various ways of boondocking find that others also with an absolute opinion on a definition for various ways of boondocking, differ.  Actually we’re not too interested in this hair-splitting, we define boondocking for us as staying most anywhere with no hook-ups.  We use “boondock” as a generic term (though at times we have used other labels as well).  We came to our definition of boondocking early on in our RVing life the first time we stayed in an Escapees Campground long ago.  Where in the campground did we stay?  In the Boondock Section, of course. Yep, in a section of a campground with no hook-ups = “boondocking” to the Escapees Club Campgrounds.  Now we know of the hue and cry that can and most likely will be heard from of those saying that is “dry camping” or some other distinction but we’re not too interested in these definitions.  Let the “nattering nabobs of negativism” (remember him? V P Spiro Agnew?)  take umbrage.  If they want to describe boondocking differently, fine with us.  We’re mostly interested in staying in our RV where it is free or almost free and off the grid and that, to us, is boondocking.  A pretty place is our first choice but if that is not available we’re usually just looking for a place to stop driving for the evening/night.
-Safety–
  We’re fairly self-sufficient and we don’t feel so threatened that we feel a need to be armed.  The truth is, we don’t believe we could kill someone for taking something of ours and we refuse to get into a verbal sparing match with those folks who feel a need to be armed.  This is how we feel about it and if someone feels differently, that is their choice.  We try to be fully aware of our surroundings and avoid staying anywhere that seems dicey.   If we feel uneasy, as we did in the Slabs in California recently, we just drive to another place to boondock.
We live fulltime in our motor home that is fully self contained so when we stop somewhere…we are home.  We don’t have to leave the RV and use public facilities and we usually don’t.  Our windows are darkened so we can see outside and outside folks can not see in during the day except through the windshield which is immediately curtained upon stopping.  We close all the shades at night so we are not “on display” when the interior lights are on, back-lighting us.  Then, because we’re home where ever we are, we do our thing such as work on the internet, read a book, watch a TED talk, cook something interesting, etc.
Are we just lucky that we have never had a problem?  We also never had a problem all the years we lived in a “house”.  We don’t think we’re so brave or lucky and, of course, don’t think we’re so smart that nothing could ever happen to us.  Things happen to lots of folks in lots of places.  As for having terrible trouble in your RV, we know of NO ONE who actually has had folks trying to “do them in” while they were boondocking in their RV.  We’ve heard stories of “someone who heard something truly terrible” but they’re never specific and these have not been verifiable incidents so far.
We’ve found that almost everyone that says boondocking is too unsafe are the same folks that do not boondock.  Everyone has a comfort level they do not want to exceed, if you think it is too risky it is better not to do it.
-How to choose a boondock site–
In our many months of careful research prior to going fulltime, we came across some excellent advice about boondocking in Tioga George’s RVing blog.  His writings on boondocking were born out of actually boondocking almost every day for years.  His advice about boondocking seemed sensible and easy to follow.  He was very budget conscious and could not afford campgrounds nightly and still travel.  Though this was written years ago, we find most of his advice on the matter to be timeless and we draw on it to make our boondocking decisions.  http://vagabonders-supreme.net/BoondockingDayCamping.htm  We use the previous link when we want to stay somewhere for a while and explore the area during the day.  As for choosing an overnight spot the link that follows is very helpful;  http://vagabonders-supreme.net/BoondockingNiteCamping.htm .  Works for us every time.  If you are new to boondocking and want to be as successful as Tioga George was at boondocking, you will want to read and follow some of his sage advice at these two links.
NOTE:  the National Forrest Service is more restrictive on “dispersed camping” these days.   Stop at the local Forrest Service office for where it is OK to boondock.
-Essentials for boondocking–
Likely your RV is already set-up for some boondocking.  Most RVs have self-contained resources such as a fresh water tank (you will want it full), holding tanks for black and gray water (empty is better), a refrigerator that runs on propane, a full propane tank, a gas stove top or a grill if you want to prepare hot food and an energy source.  Your energy source can be batteries recharged by a generator (if the generator is freestanding and will need gas other than your RV gas tank…bring some gas) and/or solar panels for 12 volt current.  You can get 120 volts AC from your batteries if you have an inverter.  Being very frugal with all these resources will determine how many days in a row you can boondock somewhere.
To test to see how well and long your set-up will work off the grid, just disconnect from the grid while in a campground or in a “sticks and bricks” driveway and when the need to hook back up occurs, the grid is handy.  This method of being off the grid with nearby grid options is an easy, low stress way to see what you “need” for comfort while boondocking.  Really these are personal decisions based on your “needs” and how much time you are likely to want to spend boondocking.  An occasional free overnight boondocker requires one set-up, a frequent long-term boondocker requires a different set-up.  Before a lot of money is spent for boondocking preparation, it is a good idea to try it and see if you like it and whether you need more “stuff” to last longer, etc.
To boondock in tight or rough spots a smaller, more rugged RV is helpful though we have bounced down very rough roads and found rather large RVs (both motorhomes and 5th Wheels) in some of the most rugged, remote locations.  So a smaller, more rugged RV is handy but is not a requirement for the more adventurous boondocker.
-Boondocking site resources–
Your fellow RVers are frequently very good resources for boondocking sites.
One of the best and most complete resource is available from Days End and is organized by Guy Gibson.  You must be a member of the Escapees RV Club to join Days End but this inexpensive organization has a lot of merit.
There are many other resources for boondocking sites and a google search as well as reading RV forums and RV blogs on the internet will help with finding them.  We just did a quick Google search and got 10+ pages of information!
As for us, we occasionally use Days End but we’re frequently on the move and only have a general destination in mind.  So when we’re tired of driving we just find a convenient place to stop.

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Senators Wash–

Now in our third year Wintering in the Yuma/Senator Wash/Colorado River area (the land of good winter weather),  we find this part of the desert in Arizona very RV friendly and besides the beauty and obvious water sports, it offers many thing to do.  This BLM community is fairly self sufficient and the campers themselves provide services in addition to what is provided by BLM.  Many of the RVers that overwinter here are frequently from cold climes, spend 5 to 6 months here, and have made this winter stronghold a functional community.
  The “Liberry”–
  An RVer donated an Airstream Trailer to be used as a book exchange and it has lots of books to choose from.  We’ve heard that it is called a Liberry rather than a Library as there’s no Librarian.  Almost everything is done by volunteers.  As many RVers do, we frequently donate books.  Others spend time cleaning the space and some volunteers organize and categorize the books as they are donated or returned.
  Connections–
 The cell phone connections in this part of the desert are somewhat spotty but we have Verizon and usually have a good connection.  Internet…we are dependent on having a good internet connection as Jerry trades stock options daily.  Our Millenicom (Samsung) Wi-fi internet connection uses Verizon which is fairly strong in the area and in addition we have a Wilson Antenna and Booster so our internet connection is almost always good.
One RVer here has an “unlimited” internet connection and invites everyone to use it at no charge.
Classes and Entertainment–
 There are various classes offered at Senators Wash, all scheduled and led by volunteers.  For example, exercise classes are held each week and yoga classes are a popular offering.   Musical jam sessions are also held frequently.
  Hiking–
 Many of the folks staying at Senators Wash hike and we are part of that group.  For some, a hike is just a walk to stay fit and there are plenty of pretty places for that.  We like the hike around the reservoir that is about seven miles long and getting lost in the desert is unlikely with the reservoir as a touchstone.  Our favorite hikes by far are the organized hikes otherwise known as the “Thursday Hikes”.  These Thursday morning hikes are organized and led by volunteers.  The leaders of the hikes know the area very well and off we go out into the desert, trusting that they will keep us reasonably safe and find the way back within the time allotted.  Sometimes the hikes are out to old mines, Indian ruins, and geologically interesting places such as arched rock formations.  Mind you these leaders are all in their early 80’s so complaining that the hike is too arduous would be inappropriate.  All the “Thursday Hikes” we have taken have been fairly strenuous and being lulled into believing that they would be easy due to the age of the leaders would be a mistake as these folks move with great alacrity.
  Relaxing and enjoying fellow RVers company–
One of the true talents of RVers is relaxing and we admit to being card carrying members of that group.  Then, of course, there’s Happy Hour and small group campfire chats where yarns of travel are shared.

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Senator Wash

Just a little over 20 miles north of Yuma, Az. off state route 24 is the popular “snowbird” area of Senator Wash Recreation Area in Imperial County, Ca.  Traveling along S 24 is interesting as there is acre after acre of green vegetables and date trees growing there for as far as the eye can see.  Senator Wash is a BLM controlled area and was established to provide a watershed reservoir along the Colorado River for agricultural irrigation purposes.  It has the additional benefit of providing a desert oasis recreational area.  Located on the California side of the Colorado River, Senator Wash area uses Arizona time.  Cell phone coverage is spotty as is internet access.  We get 13 local channels on the TV with just our RV antenna and a simple “wingman” attachment.  We have a Wilson Antenna booster on the roof of our RV so we have excellent Verizon cell phone coverage and our Millenicom internet connection is usually  very strong.  There is much to do here: camping, fishing, boating, water skiing, hiking (organized and spontaneous), swimming, wildlife observing, exploring in an ATV, star-gazing, etc., and of course there is “just relaxing”.  The weather has been mostly in the 60’s and lows at night in the 40’s.  Some windy days but some of the days have been in the 70’s with no wind.  Some days the wind kicks the water up into a froth and some days the water is like glass.
Squaw Lake Campground and Boat Ramp–
This is a paved area that allows camping with its own adjacent boat ramp.  The area actually appears to be an inlet to the Colorado River resulting in a small lake and easy access from Squaw Lake out on to the Colorado River and many a fisherman uses this access for fishing.  The “campground” (looks, for all the world, like a parking lot) has restrooms with flush toilets, pay hot showers, potable water, trash disposal, and picnic tables.
Senator Wash Reservoir Boat Ramp and Day Use Area–
There are two boat ramps at the Senator Wash Recreation Area.  One is located in The Squaw Lake Campground area and one is located just passed the Senator Wash South Shore entrance, before the entrance to Squaw Lake.  This is a large boat ramp and day use area with flush toilets, a pay phone, potable water, picnic tables, trash disposal and no overnight camping.  Though small boats are easily launched from the reservoir shore, large boats fair far better at the designated boat ramps.  The two boat ramps lead to two different bodies of water.  The Squaw Lake Boat Ramp allows access to both Squaw Lake and the Colorado River but not the Reservoir.  The Senator Wash Reservoir Boat Ramp allows access only to the Reservoir with its miles of beaches along the perimeter as well as its island beaches.
Senator Wash South Shore–
The easy to access Senator Wash South Shore (South Mesa) includes a large swath of desert parking/camping above the Reservoir.  There is also camping along the water of the South Shore of the Reservoir.  A well maintained dirt road leads down to the reservoir shore where camping is allowed and as long as one parks above the high water mark, there’s no worry about flooding (just park the way the other RVs are parked).   The price points are different as are the time restrictions for camping up on the desert and camping down along the reservoir shore so check-in with the very helpful campground host or ranger when you arrive.
Senator Wash North Shore–
The North Shore of Senator Wash has some beautiful campsites right on the beach of the reservoir.  The somewhat difficult access keeps it crowd free and peaceful.  The only “developed” part of the North Shore are the pit toilets, otherwise there are no services.  The access features rock strewn, rough,  dirt roads and is not recommended for RVs with low clearance though we are quick to point out that every year we have seen an occasional Class A as well as 5th wheels parked on the North Shore.  We have explored (on foot) some beautiful campsites on the North Shore and are tempted every winter but know our Emergency Road Service would to be of no help in this remote location should they be needed.  Directions are available at the BLM office or from the helpful campground host.

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MAKING OUR RV HOME

Introduction–
When we decided to write about some of the changes we’ve made to our RV to personalize it, we thought there would be just a few things to address.  After wandering around the RV, we realized we had tweaked numerous components to make this living area work for us.  Some things we will not address in this blog but despite that there is much to review.

Many of the changes we made we copied from other RVers.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, we cherry picked changes that would make our life easier.
Most of the changes/improvements we made came from a blog we have followed for years;  http://www.andybaird.com/travels/   Andy is very inventive and his blog is full of good ideas.  He’s very generous with information and many RVers have used his blog as a resource.
Solar panels, batteries, etc.–
One of the best thing we did soon after buying our RV was to have a very good solar system installed professionally.  The RV came with two, 220 amp. hours, 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 amp. hours, 6 volt), two controllers, a sub-panel box,  #2, #4 and #6 wiring and various other components.  Two of the AGM batteries are in a cabinet in our kitchen.  As you know, AGMs can be inside the RV as they do not “gas off”.  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).  At the time, this all came to $7500 ($2000 of that was labor) and took almost two years of boondocking to make up financially for this expenditure.  If we had the same system installed today, the price would be substantially lower as solar prices are coming down.  Now we can call the energy we get from the sun…free.  We’re full timers and almost always boon dock (so no or reduced camping fees in addition to no need for  “hook-ups”).   We’ve been completely off the grid for over a year now.  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.

Tank Monitors–
Our RV came with a read-out that is supposed to tell us how full our various tanks are.  Problem was if the tank level, for example, was over the 2/3 level and  almost but not quite full it would still read 2/3 full.  Also, these “original equipment in-the-tank” sensors were easily fouled and would give false readings.  This can prove to be a problem if you are boondocking far off the beaten path.  In the case of suddenly having a full gray or black water tank or even an empty fresh water tank while in the middle of nowhere it is…um, well let’s leave it at “inconvenient”.  So we got this “more accurate” read out set-up called “SeeLevel Gauges” and had it installed professionally last year.  We are told they can be installed by any handy RV owner but it took a professional almost four hours to install ours and he had done many installations of these in the past on the same type RV we own.  Crawling under the RV appealed to neither of us (we’re trying to be retired) and when we saw what it took to have it installed we were glad we did not try the “do it yourself” method.  There are electrical strips that go on the outside of each tank and can read the level through the wall of the tank.  That strip needs to then be wired to a read-out inside the vehicle.   Our SeeLevel read-out was placed on the inside wall of a cabinet after a hole was cut in the cabinet wall and the screen was attached.  The wires from the tank electrical strips were run to the cabinet wall that holds the new read-out screen.  We did not detach or disassemble the original equipment read-out system.  When the two read-out sets of numbers are compared, it is amazing to us we didn’t have more problems with having suddenly full tanks.  Well, come to think of it, we didn’t have many problems because we just dumped the tanks as soon as the original equipment read-out had been 2/3 full for a day or so likely cutting into some of our time in beautiful, quiet, off the beaten path, boondocking spots.  Now, our new read-out system for the black, gray and fresh water tanks are more exact as well as accurate and we can boondock knowing that we won’t have to leave a great boondock spot we’ve found any sooner than necessary.  We’re frugal with resources (“navy showers”,  etc.) so we can last for about 8 days before it is time to dump and refill with fresh water.
Showering in the RV–
Our hot water tank is in a space below our clothes closet.  We bought an aquarium thermometer with a sensor at the end of a long wire and Jerry ran the wire through the closet wall, down the inside of the closet, through the closet floor and placed the sensor between the water heater tank wall and the water heater insulation.  He then attached the sensor wire to the digital thermometer readout and hung that on the outside wall of the closet.
Now when we turn on the hot water heater, we let the temperature go up to a level that is “shower warm” for us and turn off the hot water heater.  With the hot water at perfect shower temperature we can take our showers with just the hot water tap on and not have to be fiddling with the hot/cold water to adjust the temperature.  Saves lots of water we used to use in the past trying to get the water to just the “right” temperature for a shower.
Also bought a “water saving” shower head that mixes water and air making a forceful shower water stream and decreases the water use.  This is the shower head we bought;  http://www.oxygenics.com/About-Oxygenics/
Pantry–
Jerry built a floor to ceiling pantry on a blank wall in the RV.  He did it very simply and it is in constant use.  Helps keep us organized.
Kitchen Bits–
Needed a wall protector next to the stove top (think spattering spaghetti sauce) and found a very pretty panel at Home Depot that could be attached to the wall.  It’s easy to clean and looks good.
Was going to throw out the metal stove top but decided to use it for a shelf above the stove top.  Jerry just held it up with some light-weight chain.  This shelf turned out to be far more useful than I thought it would be and now I can’t imagine doing without it.
Wanted the knives contained and found a “knife safe” at Camping World.  Hung it on the inside of the “under sink cabinet” door where the knives are easily accessible.
It’s the small things–
A small, easy to find flashlight is more useful that it would seem.  It hangs on a wall and is held in place by a metal broom holder.
We used to hang family/friends pictures on the refrigerator door but that always looked messy and the pictures tended to fall off the door.  Walmart sells inexpensive poster frames that we now use for our pictures.  Much neater and more organized.
The hooks installed under the skylight in the shower are great for bulky jackets, especially when it rains and our jackets get wet.  A good place to drip dry.
We found it very hard to find a trash can that was small enough to fit in our small RV bathroom.  Now we use a large, plastic, cereal storage container.  It has a good size snap open lid and a handle so it can be slid in and out of its narrow space for ease of emptying.
We use cup hooks on either side of the kitchen trash can and attached an elasticized eyeglass leash to them and now our kitchen trash can does not wander and spill when we’re driving.
Camping World had a long, shallow draw we could attach under the dinette table.  The screws that came with the drawer would have come right up through the dinette table top so Jerry bought some shorter screws.  The drawer is very convenient as we do a lot of our computer work at the dinette.

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Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and Campground–
This BLM site previously known as Painted Rock State Park is located 11 miles north of I 8 via Exit 102 and west of Gila Bend, Arizona.  This is an amazing ancient archaeological site containing hundreds of pre-historic petroglyphs.   The rocks also show evidence of more recent etchings of visitors to the area and a small amount of human caused damage.
We were quite amazed at the number of petroglyphs easily seen at this site and spent quite a bit of time there.
There’s a primitive campground at the site and when we were there we saw a few other RVs camping there.

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40,000 miles of fulltiming–

Sometime last week our odometer rolled over and passed 40,000 miles.  We’ve been fultiming for about two and a half years, ever since we took delivery on our (Lazy Daze) RV in August of 2010 and we’ve been traveling ever since.  I believe 40,000 miles of RV travel is substantial in any ones book, so we were excited to realize just how much we have been traveling and how many beautiful places we have been lucky enough to see.
   RV size—
We’re glad we’ve made the trade-offs that were right for us and chose an RV that is considered “too small” for fulltiming.  Living fulltime in an 27 foot RV comes with pros and cons, not the least of which is lack of space.  When you travel so much, a smaller RV is easier to drive, park, etc..  RVs are not gas efficient and ours is no exception.  At only about 10 miles to the gallon, we feel we can somewhat justify it since we use precious few other resources.  Most of our needs are met by our self contained vehicle.
   Boondocking–
We started this adventure knowing we were far from rich but wanted to see many of the beautiful and interesting places in North America.  If we were going to have to spend a substantial amount of money on fuel to travel, our other expenses had to be  minimized.  Since we usually don’t much care for campgrounds and knew the West was rife with boondock sites we became aggressive boondockers and rarely ever hooked-up to the grid.  Did make an early-on substantial investment in solar but the “return on equity” was realized in less than two years while affording us the ability to use our electric appliances   So, when we stop driving in the evening, we choose a boondock site and park.  The couch batteries are usually charged enough to allow the use of the microwave for a short time and to be able to use the computers and/or watch TV.  If we find we’re in a place and for whatever reason don’t want to be there, well that’s why RVs have wheels.
   Shopping–
Shopping in a town that is new to us has not been a problem.  Our GPS has a store locator and we just select one we would like to try and park in the back of the parking lot.  Just as we would at “home” we pick up the sales flyer at the door and adjust our meal plan shopping list as appropriate.  A perk of having the RV in the grocery store parking lot is that the perishable food can be put directly into the refrigerator and freezer.
   Connectivity–
We use the 20 G Millencom Hotspot for Verizon Wi-fi for our Internet connection and pay all our bills, do all our banking and Jerry trades stock options on line.  Our cell phones are “not-smart”, older phones but they work and meet our needs.  Both the internet and the cell phone connection benefit from the increased signal strength due to the Wilson Antenna/booster we bought last summer.
We’re not much for TV watching so we’re quite satisfied with our wind-up RV aerial with an inexpensive “Wingman” aerial booster attached and just use the local tv channels when we’re interested in the programing.

Sonoran Desert National Monument–
This fairly new (Since Jan. 2000) National Monument is located just north of I 8 off  route 85.  There are 487,000 protected acres that are part of one of North Americas most  biologically diverse deserts.  It has three mountain ranges contained in the park in addition to multiple wilderness areas, archaeological and historic sites, including rock art sites, rock quarries used to make tools,etc., and remnants of several important historic trails.  There are both hiking and equestrian trails to enjoy in a beautiful quite, peaceful remote environment.  While we were preparing to go hiking we saw folks with their horses preparing to go on a ride on one of the trails.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument–
This National Monument is a UNESCO designated International Biosphere Reserve and as you learn about the park you quickly understand why it was selected.  The Organ Pipe Cactus is pretty self explanatory and the name describes its appearance.  It does not grow north of this park and it is interesting to see it growing among the many other types of cactus.  One of the most common cactus is the Saguaro and we are told there is more Saguaro Cactus in Organ Pipe National Monument than are found in Saguaro National Park itself.

Camping–
There are two campgrounds within the park.  One is primitive for tent camping and requires a permit.  The other campground is for tents and RVs.    It is a no reservation, first come-first served campground with a few  amenities.  Each site has a cement pad, a picnic table and a barbecue grill.  Senior discount with a Golden Age Pass/Senior Pass making the cost $6/night to camp for seniors.

Hiking, etc.–
There are numerous hiking trails in the park.   There’s lots of opportunity for photography and due to little light pollution the night-skies are amazing.  Also there are frequent ranger programs at the campground amphitheater and some ranger led walks.  Biking is allowed on all the roads in the park during daylight hours.

Scenic drives—
There are two designated scenic drives in the park:
One is the Ajo Mountain Drive. It is a 21 mile loop on a mostly rough, gravel road usually passable by normal passenger car with the restriction of no vehicle on the road that is over 24 feet.  The park offers a free Ranger-guided van tour of this drive and we registered for and took this tour.  Our guide was a retired professor of geology and was very knowledgeable about the park.  All of us on the tour agreed it was excellent and we learned a lot about the park.  We were all quite glad we were in a park vehicle for this ride as the road was very rough.
The second designated scenic drive is the Puerto Blanco Drive. It is a five mile turn around, self drive that is said to give access to the Pinkley Peak Picnic Area and haa several stops along the way with great views and information on the ecology and culture.  It, too, is a rough, gravel road with vehicle length restrictions.

Safety–
Due to its location on the Mexican boarder the park is frequently traversed by people traveling from Mexico into the US.  The danger and concern comes from the fact that some of the folks are running drugs and are dangerous so awareness of your surroundings is essential.  The major cause of injuries in the park are from car accidents.  Desert heat and dehydration are threats to safety as well especially in the warmer months.  Last but not least is the safety issue of the parks flora and fauna (think rattle snakes, etc.).
Senoran Desert National Monument

Senoran Desert National Monument

Beautiful Organ Pipe National Monument.

Beautiful Organ Pipe National Monument.

Beautiful Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

A Saguaro Cactus "forest" in Organ Pipe National Monument. There are more Saguaro Cactus in Organ Pipe National Monument than in the Saguaro National Park.

A Saguaro Cactus “forest” in Organ Pipe National Monument. There are more Saguaro Cactus in Organ Pipe National Monument than in the Saguaro National Park.

The largest Organ Pipe Cactus in Organ Pipe National Monument.

The largest Organ Pipe Cactus in Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

Our tour guide. Organ Pipe National Monument.

Our tour guide. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

One of many hiking trails.

One of many hiking trails. Organ Pipe National Monument.

One of many hiking trails. Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor Center

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor Center

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Ready to ride through the Senoran Desert National Monument under beautiful blue skies.

Ready to ride through the Senoran Desert National Monument under beautiful blue skies.

Senoran Desert National Monument

Senoran Desert National Monument

BLM land–

There’s much BLM land available in and around the small town of Quartzsite, Az. where the big RV show is held.  A good deal of the land is free for RVers to use for boondocking especially along Route 95 just north of Quartzsite.  There are many groups that get together to boondock on this land, as well as individual RVers.    The free land is time limited for RV camping to 14 days and many folks just stay there for a short amount of time before, during and after the RV show.

There’s a large amount of BLM land that requires a permit purchase that can be done at numerous venues including at the LTVAs (Long Term Visitor Area) small office stations near the entrances

such as at The La Posa West area located closest to the big tent of the RV show just off route 95 in Quartzsite.  http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/LTVA/laposa.html
We stayed on the LTVA BLM land fairly close to the big tent of the RV show.
There are quite a few full hook-up campgrounds in Quartzsite, as well, so there are plenty of choices for every needs.
RV Stuff–
The RV show in Quartzsite is the land of STUFF.  Just about anything you might need for the RV and then some is available.  No matter how vaguely related to the RV lifestyle, there are plenty things available to purchase.  Also the streets around the RV show are filled with flea market venues.  Usually visitors to the RV show buy something they may not have purchased otherwise and we were no exception but successfully kept it to a minimum as we simply didn’t need much.
RV Show–
The RV show is held every January in Quartzsite, Az.  The first day of the RV show is usually so crowded it is difficult to walk around to see the items offered.  So if you come, try to resist going on the first day.  Also, going first thing in the morning is least crowded on most days.
Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.  When the sun goes down in the desert in Quartzsite, Az. it starts to get cold.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent. When the sun goes down in the desert in Quartzsite, Az. it starts to get cold.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.  We saw so many different types of RVs!

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent. We saw so many different types of RVs!

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.

Lots of places to boondock on BLM land within walking distance to the tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show, in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show, in the big tent.

The Quartzsite, Az. RV show, in the big tent.  A wee bit crowded during the day.  First thing in the morning is best.

The Quartzsite, Az. RV show, in the big tent. A wee bit crowded during the day. First thing in the morning is best.

The Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

The 2013 Quartzsite, Az. RV show in the big tent.

Outside the big tent at the Quartzsite, Az. RV show, 2013.

Outside the big tent at the Quartzsite, Az. RV show, 2013.

Outside the big tent at the Quartzsite, Az. RV show, 2013.

Outside the big tent at the Quartzsite, Az. RV show, 2013.

Outside the big tent at the Quartzsite, Az. RV show, 2013.

Outside the big tent at the Quartzsite, Az. RV show, 2013.

The Quartzsite Temporary Population Boom–

Quartzsite, Az. is a small desert town that swells from under 3500 people to more than a million folks each year in January and February.  Quartzsite hosts a big RV show in January and the show is located close to large swaths of BLM land making it a very popular RV camping area.   In addition to the major attraction, the RV show,  there are multiple mineral and gem shows, various swap meets plus an antique car show.   All these shows combined are popular enough to draw a huge number of RVers.  The first day of the RV show (this year it is next Saturday) is always a mad house.  Usually on the first day of the RV show each year, the aisles in the tent are packed so tight it is hard to move but over the next days the show it is much less crowded making it easier to spot that special something you just must have.
Boondocking RVers are scattered across the desert land, either in the free sections or the “small fee for camping sections” of BLM land but some folks stay in the full hook-up, fairly inexpensive campgrounds around the town.  Where ever you look, one can find very expensive RV rigs as well as rigs that have seen better days and everything in between.  The RVers in Quartzsite are here for various reasons.  From some that are parked together in groups that have been meeting here and have known each other for years to individual RVers just stopping by for the first time to see what all the fuss is about.
This is the third year we have come to Quartzsite, Az. to see a group of friends.  Each year we tell ourselves that we don’t need anything being sold at the RV show and other venues and each year we discover something we absolutely must have and didn’t even know we needed it until we saw it.  Since most of the “stuff” sold in the Quartzsite area relates to the RV lifestyle it is easy to find something that, if purchased, just might enhance the RV experience.   When the RV show starts, we walk to the BIG TENT where the RV show is held and have a look around.  When we return to the group from the RV show it is “Just like Christmas, everyone is excited to see what goodies each person bought!” according to Jim of “Jimbos journeys” http://jimbosjourneys.com/2013/01/16/warming-up/.  He’s right, of course.  Then the work comes of figuring out how to use or install the newly purchased item and that is when the more experienced ones in the group are a great resource.
Besides the camaraderie that is always enjoyable, it is fun and educational to listen to travel stories of where people have visited and great places to see.  Also, it is wise for RVers to listen to troubles and problems folks have run into along the way and how the problem was managed.  Makes you aware of what could go awry so you’re forewarned of the possibilities and give you ideas of how you might handle the situation if should arise. Communication —
Just using the aerial  we are able to get about 15 TV channels, three of which are PBS.  We don’t watch much TV but like to have PBS available.  Our internet connection using our Millenicom (Verizon) gives us an excellent signal so Jerry can easily check on the stock market and trade stocks online without problems.
Tow car —
We have decided to purchase a car to pull along behind the RV.  We are limited in our selection as we need something fairly lightweight that is not too low to the ground as we frequently travel on very bumpy dirt roads.  So we’re considering a used Honda CRV, Jeep, Subaru, Suzuki, or perhaps a Geo  perhaps we can find an all wheel drive and are just starting our search.  Luckily we can both drive a stick shift as many cars can only be towed if they have a manual transmission.
Next time —
Next time we’ll report on the Quartzsite RV show as well as some of the other shows and perhaps our tow car search progress.

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