Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mar 19 - End of Winter; Journal on Hiatus

We're in Vancouver Washington. The 180 mile drive up from Sutherlin yesterday, Monday, was good, but we always marvel at the amount of traffic on I-5... even on a Monday when it's presumed many folks are at work. We took on 73 gallons of #2 diesel between Salem and Portland where we found it for $3.999/gallon. I'm told it's good to have the tank as full as possible when parking for a longer period of time in order to keep condensation from forming in the tank. And in a wet climate like the Pacific Northwest, especially in the Spring, they don't get much wetter than this.

The plan is to be here for the next 6 weeks or so. The project jar is full so there won't be much lounging around. We'd like to get a start on outfitting our apartment at our daughter and son-in-laws house... one of the early steps in moving on to Sabbatical II. (My son, the engineer, thinks we really ought to call it "Sabbatical 2.0") We have child care responsibilities on the calendar, including a few overnight (full-time) stints. And there's a number of projects that we'd like to get a start on up in Seattle at our son and daughter-in-laws house too.

And on top of all that we experienced problems with the levelers (the jacks) on the bus-house when we parked in the RV park yesterday. Other than mentioning it, I won't go into detail on this one as it could take up more time and space than I'm willing to give it right now. I will say that we're sorta' level at the current time and there's no emergency that has to be dealt with immediately, but I've got to talk to the manufacturer and some experts before I know how I'm going to proceed. The one good thing is that we're here, in a land with a lot of those resources close-by, instead of out in the middle of the desert and hundreds of miles from anyone who even knows what a leveler does.

Our life in the bus-house consists of alternating periods of travel and "sitting" (being parked in one place for extended periods of time). This post represents the end of our Fall/Winter 2012-2013 travel leg, which started on November 5 when we left our Summer/Fall camp in Wisconsin. If my math is correct, this was the longest period of travel that we've done since we started fulltiming. During those 134 days, we put on a hair more than 5,300 miles, bought 675 gallons of diesel for which we paid about $2,600 (an average of 3.86/gallon), spent about $2,100 for camping and RV parking (an average of about $16/night). So, for fuel and camping, ($4,700/134) we averaged $35 per day. I don't know how that stacks up compared to other folks doing the same thing, but it seems reasonable to us.

During our stay here in Washington, I'm going to put this Journal on hiatus. Don't look for any updates... although I reserve the right to pump out something if I'm motivated. We plan to start the next leg of our travels about May 1 and our regular updates will resume at that time.

Thanks for following along.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mar 15 - Into Oregon

Trees, mountains... gotta love the Northwest.
A brief update on our status.

We're in Sutherlin Oregon tonight, and will be here until Monday or Tuesday.  Our camp is at the Escapee (SKP) Timber Valley Co-op Park. The drive up from Red Bluff California was great... lots of scenery, relatively light traffic, about five mountain passes to climb and descend. We and the bus-house handled it with ease.

More tomorrow...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mar 14 - In Northern California

My last post to the journal (this past Sunday night) had us in Bakersfield California, on the southern end of the big Central Valley. Tonight, Thursday, we're in Red Bluff California, at the northern end of that same valley and some 400 miles north of Bakersfield. We're here for a night of rest before tackling some mountain passes tomorrow on our way into Oregon. Weather looks like it'll cooperate for that trip so, with any luck, we'll be just a long stone-throw from the Willamette Valley tomorrow night. And then it's supposed to start raining.

This past Monday we made our planned drive from Bakersfield to the SKP Park Sierra near Coarsegold California. Along our way on that 150 mile drive we stopped at Sportsmobile of California in Fresno to check out what they do and see them in action. One of the vehicles we're considering for our next phase... Sabbatical II... is a Sprinter Van converted into a camper. I'd characterize our visit as productive and educational... as we've certainly got a lot more to consider and talk about. The Sportsmobile representative spent well over an hour with us as we toured the plant, looked over both finished and "in-process" units, and talked about what we were thinking. His focus was on how we would actually use the van versus just pushing flashy "bells and whistles". If we ever get to the point of putting one of them together (for the most-part every one is a custom unit), I sense it'll be easy to work with this group of people. It was a good visit.

About mid-afternoon we arrived at SKP Park Sierra and landed a site smack next to our friends Jimmy and Julianne. The next three days are a blur. Both Monday and Tuesday nights we got together and hung out around a blazing campfire... always good for stimulating conversation and fun. Additionally we used said campfire for a cooking fire Tuesday night... doing something I've heard about and always wanted to try... but hadn't until that point.  And that is cooking a fine steak directly on a bed of hot glowing oak coals... no grill... just throw the steak directly on the coals. About three or four minutes per side (depending on your preferred "doneness") and we all agreed it was one of the better steak dinners we've ever had.  Exceptional.

Who needs a stinkin' propane grill?
Our three days at Park Sierra just flew by and, after some warm goodbyes, we hit the road again this morning. Our drive today was 310 miles of mostly CA-99 and I-5. Along the way (and thanks to Gas Buddy...) we found diesel for 3.959/gallon, loaded up with 80 gallons, and almost felt like thieves. But it sounds like diesel might be slowly rolling down in price right now and we could see even better prices in the near future.

That's it for tonight.

Fruit trees in bloom along CA-99 in the Central Valley of California

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mar 10 - Bakersfield 'til Morning

A very short update tonight. This morning we were up early... engine warmed, sh-lumped slowly through two rutted washes, hooked on the toad, and were rolling down the paved road by 8:10am. Good-bye Quartzsite for another year.

Our route took us up to Parker Arizona on AZ-95 where we topped off the diesel tank at 3.959/gallon (thanks to Gas Buddy), probably the cheapest dino-juice we'll see for a while. From there it was across the Colorado River into California on CA-62 to Vidal Junction where we picked up US-93 north towards Needles. Through this stretch high gusty winds prevented my mind from wandering too far from the task at hand.

At Needles we picked up I-40 west which we took to it's termination at Barstow. After a short stint on I-15 we grabbed onto CA-58 westbound and followed it all the way to Bakersfield, where we decided to drop anchor for the night. We're at an RV park just a block off the CA-58 freeway... "A Country RV Park" (yes, that's it's name... despite NOT being in the country.)

The most dramatic scenery of the day was during our crossing of the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and dropping into the southern end of California's large 450 mile long Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the United States.

Off in the distance... California's Central Valley
As time is growing short to meet our plan of being in the Portland Oregon area by the 20th or so, we're planning to put in some longer days as we drive north. We've also got to watch the weather and sneak through some mountain passes on the way to Portland while it's not storming.

But first, we're going to spend a few days at the SKP Park of the Sierras to re-connect with Jimmy and Julianne. We're also going to run down to Fresno to visit a Sportsmobile facility to learn more about what they could offer us in our quest to downsize.

So, after today's long drive of 365 miles, we have a shorter drive tomorrow of only 140 miles or so. Unfortunately most of those miles will be on the dreaded and congested CA-99... which has been know to give even calm drivers a bad case of the Yips.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mar 9 - No-Change Time Change

Rainy spell is over. Wind has calmed. Sun is re-emerging. Temps aren't too bad for this time of the year... low of 48 last night... high in the 60s today. Our last day at "The Quartz" is turning into a nice day.

The main project today is preparing for moving tomorrow.  Depending on how things go early, it might be a longer day than we've gotten used to lately.  Could be over 300 miles. So I'm pushing for an early start.

Daylight Savings Time starts tomorrow... officially at 2am I believe. But we're in a unique situation for this one because we won't have to change any clocks. Why? Well, this gets a little confusing so try to stay with me. Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Time, so it'll be the same time here tomorrow as it is today (relative to the sun). And on any other day we'd be gaining an hour (clock turned back) by crossing the border with California and moving into the Pacific Time Zone. But not tomorrow. You see, people in the Pacific Time Zone will be moving their clocks ahead tomorrow which puts them on the same time Arizona will be for the summer... the same time we're on here today. And that means that instead of gaining an hour like we normally would by crossing into California, those west coast folks have helped us out by turning their clocks forward... to the time we're already on. I know...  a little confusing. Let me just summarize it by saying we'll be among a small group that won't have to do anything with our clocks... and those clocks will be correct... at least for a while.

Oh, I heard on the radio this morning that we shouldn't forget to put new batteries in our battery powered devices... or something like that.

Next stop... that land of high taxes, high gas prices, and cheap booze.  California here we come.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Mar 8 - Screens and Journaling

In my last post I forgot to include a link to the post from November 2011 about creating our intaglio... so here's that link.

After reading that old post again, and after checking a dictionary source for assistance, I think the use of the word "intaglio" is really not appropriate for the rock art thing we created out in the desert. It looks like it might better be termed a "geoglyph". The dictionary says a "geoglyph" is a drawing on the ground made by arranging natural materials (stones, rocks, etc.) and the shade variations of the underlying ground. Hmm. But whether it's an intaglio, a geoglyph, just some crude desert graffiti, or something else... I'm impressed that it's still there.

I also discovered that it's visible on Google Maps. Link. (may have to zoom in) If any of the readers of this journal are ever in Q, feeling bored, and/or ambling around aimlessly in the desert... and you happen to stumble on this thing... whatever it is, take a photo and let us know how it's doing. For every report (with photo) we receive we'll credit your account with an additional year of free access to The RV Sabbatical Journal. How can you go wrong with a deal like that?

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We're having a cloudy stormy blustery day here at "The Quartz". A rare good day for nomads to work on inside jobs... or to at least sit inside without feeling guilty about it.

Have you noticed that screens tend to keep people inside? TV screens, computer screens, tablet screens, even smartphone screens... none of them are really usable in bright daylight or even bright cloudy days. Sure, if you really turn up the brightness, and you hunker-down deep into the shadows, swivel the device so as to minimize reflections, or sit in a chair and cover yourself, head and all, with a blanket (???)... and you squint and force the old eyes to work harder... you might be able to get something done. But it's clearly not ideal. And it's clearly not a long term solution. No, screens are a chain that keep us inside.

Sitting under a blanket?? Yes, I've recently seen a photo of someone doing just that. In the old days if you ran across someone laying there, completely covered with a sheet or blanket, you assumed the worst and started digging a hole. But not these days. No sir, not with our modern technology. These days it's a fashion statement. My-Oh-my... we've come a long way haven't we?.

Besides this blog, for years, I've tried to keep up another journal of sorts... one meant for my eyes only. I use it in the traditional way that people over the ages have recorded their personal thoughts, emotions, feelings, opinions, and other things they didn't want others to read. I use it as a place to develop topics for the blog, to record the events of the day, as well as those private thoughts and ideas. Over the years I've found this personal private journal beneficial, especially during high-stress and difficult times. It helps me straighten myself out, organize my jumbled thoughts, and can provide some much needed perspective. Googling "benefits of journaling" brings up dozens of articles on the subject.

In the past, I've kept my personal journal as a simple text file on my computer. The idea was that I can type much faster than I talk (and probably think too) and by using the keyboard I won't slow down the process of getting thoughts on "paper". At least that's what I thought. And besides, I'm a computer guy... I like PCs and all the other electric thing-ama-jigs... and keeping my personal journal on the computer just seemed to made sense.

But not so much anymore.

Back to screens. Besides keeping myself sequestered and confined while writing the blog, writing in my personal journal was, at times, keeping me "in the dark" for even more of my precious little remaining time. It had been until recently when I changed course and went back to the old tried and true medium of the past... pen and ink on paper. I bought one of those old-fashioned bound "composition books" (about 7" by 10", less than a single dollar on sale), a new pen, and started to write. Now I can sit outside, on a rock along a trail, at the edge of a grand canyon, on the top of a mountain... and spill my thoughts onto those pages with abandon. No more screen problems for me... well, at least when I'm in my personal journal.

I've also found that the act of putting thoughts on paper with ink doesn't hinder the process like I thought it would. In fact, in some ways, writing with pen and ink enhances it... organizes it. I find that instead of just punching keys as fast as I think, I'm actually composing the sentence, the thought, before I put it down. That alone was a remarkable discovery for me. And both my pen and ink writing, and my penmanship, have improved since I started.

I'm finding real enjoyment in keeping this personal journal. I look forward to sitting outside, perhaps with a delicious bitter IPA or other adult beverage, and guiding that pen over the smooth clean paper. How quaint. How satisfying.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mar 5 - First Few Days at "The Quartz"

This past Sunday, March 3, we departed the SKP North Ranch Park and headed for a boondocking spot in Quartzsite. The chosen route took us a few miles north to the booming metropolis of Congress where we picked up AZ-71 westbound. At Aguila AZ-71 ends so we turned west on US-60 which set us up for an hour drive to Brenda, where we caught I-10 for about 10 miles before exiting at Quartzsite. We've been to "Q" a bunch of times in the past and have developed a liking for the area around Plomosa Road, north of town. In short order we were out there and found an agreeable spot a short distance from where we camped the last time we were here.

First things first... as soon as we were settled I suggested a hike out to our rock intaglio. Long time readers may remember that during our stay here during Thanksgiving week 2011, we constructed our own intaglio (a design on the desert floor made by utilizing the varying shades and colors of rocks and the underlying dirt on which they rest). The reason we did so is to have a place to hike back to once in a while and to see how long it lasts while enduring the natural elements of erosion and the even more severe elements of human vandalism.

From camp it was a walk of about a mile, through washes and over flats, to our destination. Even at our leisurely pace, it didn't take long and we found it... with a little help from our GPS. And I was pleasantly surprised that it's still perfectly intact. No 4-wheeler damage, no vandalism, it was just as we left it almost a year and a half ago. A pleasant surprise.


The weather was agreeable for the following few days... lows around 50; highs in the 70s. Some wind, but not enough to cause any problems. Our first full day, Monday, we made a run into town for a few supplies and a little firewood. There's no cutting or collecting of any wood, downed or not, dead or not... no getting wood from the desert BLM land at all. Don't even think about it. I suppose the reason is that some desert plants appear to be dried up and dead when they're still completely alive. And since plant life struggles so hard to exist in the desert, it certainly doesn't need people making things even more difficult. Let it be.

We did find some rather unconventional firewood, determined it'd do the job for our purposes, drove a hard bargain with the proprietor of the establishment, and were on our way with five bundles.

Back at camp we were growing concerned. Just a short distance from the bus-house, an area that had but one lonely fifth wheel camping trailer when we arrived, had five rigs by Monday morning, and about a dozen by the time we got back from town... with more arriving every hour. This didn't look good for our solitude. We found out from some folks that happened by that it's a gathering of Blue Grass musicians and even more hangers-on... Blue Grass Groupies... that had been to an event in Lake Havasu City this past weekend and were re-convening to keep the good times rolling for a few more days.

We like blue grass music, but we're not fond of crowds when we're at "The Quartz". It's not the music we object to... it's the generators, the traffic, the general commotion that naturally comes with crowds of people. So Monday afternoon we decided we're moving first thing Tuesday.

And move we did... about a mile and on the opposite side of the road from the gathering. This time of the year there's no shortage of excellent desert camps around Quartzsite... there's plenty of space for everyone... and plenty of solitude for those seeking it.