Yabba dabba do!

(Tuesday March 27, 2018)

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Back when I was in high school, my mother and I travelled to California to visit her friend and her friend’s family. They took us to all the attractions, including Joshua Tree National Park. I was very excited to go back; however, it was a little less enchanting than the first time I was here. It was the same time of year, but a different time of day. When I was first here, the rocks and trees were glowing in the early sunset. This time, we had the blazing sun. It gave it a different effect, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. However, this time it felt like I was in a Flintstones episode rather than Land of the Lost.

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Our lunch location

We camped on BLM land on the south part of the park, so we had to drive about 20-30 miles into the park before we saw our first Joshua tree. There are wonderful campgrounds inside the park, but they were all full.

The terrain is rugged, but the jumbo rocks are easy to climb because they are so rough.

Where are Fred and Wilma?

The first time I was here was before U2 released The Joshua Tree, so this time, I had to take a few black & white photographs in honor of one incredible album.

As with most US national parks, dogs aren’t allowed on the trails, so we didn’t do any long hikes where we would be away from them for too long. In general, the park is lacking in parking. The jumbo rocks are a jumbo attraction, but you have to park on the busy road. There are some lovely picnic grounds, but little parking. We eventually found a parking lot in a less interesting area and made our lunch.

In the future, I’d book a campsite in advance so that we could enjoy these views for a lot longer.

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Heading North, but going downhill

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Painted Rock Petroglyph Site (Bureau of Land Management)
(March 18-20, 2018)

We first tried to stop at a state park, but the cost was too dear, so we kept going and came across this park near Gila Bend. The petroglyph park is 12 miles off the highway, and I guess that is enough to keep people away, so it’s very quiet. It is a pilot BLM campground, which means there are actual sites with firepits, pit-toilets, and trash bins. The cost is $8/night.

The sites are large and well-spaced, so this is quite a deal. There are lots of hiking trails and as the name suggests, petroglyphs. There is no cell coverage, though. We needed to make a very important phone call on Monday (March 19), so we had to drive up a hill until we could get a connection. I’ll write a post about the important phone call later.

Here is Daisy under her picnic shelter. This screen is for keeping flies off food, but it works very well to keep flies off Shih Tzus.  You can see that fly on the outside by her tail.  No Daisy for you!

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The flies bite, and Paul’s skin reacted to the bites again.  He was covered in welts.

The petroglyphs are just a short stroll from the campground, and are easily accessible.

There was so much open space, so Poppy enjoyed her walks.  Lizards are fast, so she had lots of entertainment.

We also bumped into a couple we had met in Borrego Springs, Bob and Sandi, just like my parents!  We were so surprised when we saw Sandi zip by us on her bike.  They told us such interesting and funny stories about when they lived in Canada (Sandi is Canadian).  They should write a book!

After this park, we headed back to Yuma so that we could say good-bye to my aunt and uncle.  Yes, sadly, all the snowbirds have to head north now.  We start our journey north on Monday March 26, but we will go slowly.  Thirty centimetres of snow fell today in our town in Saskatchewan.  We want to give it some time to melt.  The Chinook is our little snow melter, but I don’t think it is a match for Saskatchewan right now.

BLM Camping and Ajo Mountain Drive

After crossing back into the USA, we camped on BLM land near Why, AZ.  It was rejuvenating.  We had a crackling campfire, saw the sun set, watched the moon rise, and listened to the coyotes yip.

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Look at this sweet little 20 footer.

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An ocotillo was in bloom.  They don’t really have a season, so when you see one blooming, it’s magnificent.

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The next day, we took the scenic Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe Cactus Monument.  I never get tired of seeing cacti.  We couldn’t take this drive with our Chinook when we were at the park in February, so Ted drove us.  The road is quite rough, and the Chinook was at the upper limit for vehicle length.

Natural arch:

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After packing up camp the next day, we traveled through Why and saw the coyotes waiting for food near the gas station again.  The mangy one was on the other side of the highway.  I don’t think these healthy ones wanted him begging with them.  He was bad for business.

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We took Highway 86, through Tohono O’odham Nation.  This drive was just as scenic as Ajo Mountain Drive.  I highly recommend it.

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Next stop: Tucson

Chinookery

We left Oasis Palms RV resort in Thermal and headed towards Borrego Springs.  We camped in a free site, but this time it wasn’t on BLM land.  It is land owned by the Avery family (Avery labels and office supplies).  They have lots of land out this way, but they have left some of it for the public.  There are signs where it is private, but the rest is open.  The property was very clean.  People are respectful and do not leave trash around.  There are some good hiking trails in the hills (but too precarious to carry a camera up there).

We met up with Yves and Boogaloo again.  Sadly, the Land Rover is out of commission.  Yves accidentally towed it in first gear, so the engine is dead.  He has put out an SOS, and hopefully someone in California will have a spare engine for him.

View from our window and door:

We went in to Borrego Springs to get wifi.  What a sweet town!  The public library has outside benches, free wifi, and charging stations.  There is a nearby post office where people have packages sent “general delivery.”

This is the little mall around the library: (I love the MCM light fixtures)

When we got to town, we saw a Chinook parked, so we parked beside it.  We had a clear view while we were at the library, so when the people returned, we went to talk to them. They asked if we were heading to the Chinook rally in Yuma.  What rally?  That got our wheels literally in motion.

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That evening, Yves wanted to have a potluck, so he invited some nearby campers, and we had a delicious Mexican meal, complete with French beignets.

Daisy loved it there, and she had many walkabouts:

Yves got busy and gave Boogaloo a shave.  Yves said, “I don’t do fantasy.”  Boogaloo just got a basic shave down.  He must have felt so much cooler.

We were hoping to stay another day, but we got talking and thought we should head back to Yuma to find the Chinookers.

Yuma truly is the centre of the universe!  We keep finding our way back!  We found the Chinook rally, and they welcomed us.  It turned out that another couple paid their fees but couldn’t make it and couldn’t get a refund.  We got their spot.  It was very exciting for us because the only Chinook we had ever seen was ours (and the one in Borrego Springs).

Find our Chinook:

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The oldest is the crowd was a 1999, so they all were pretty hard to tell apart.  We had an ID tag made for Poppy with our Chinook on it.  If she got lost, we had hoped someone would locate the RV from the picture.  Ha!  Not in this crowd!

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Bob and Debbie also have a Destiny.  It’s a 2001, and they’ve owned it since it was 2 years old.  They were a fun couple.  Bob collected all the brochures he could get his hands on while Chinook was still in business.  We got to pore over them one afternoon.  Delightful!

Karen and Kenny also arrived late like us, and they were not members either.  Karen is my trailer soul mate!  You should see the trailers that have followed her home!  She has renovated some serious machines.  She has even sold trailers that found their ways to RV parks to be used as rentals.  One trailer, a rare Aeroflyte, was listed on eBay, and a museum was bidding against a personal collector.  Check out this 1959 Spartan that she sold to Enchanted Trails.  Three of her former trailers are at this park.  We hope to stay in touch to see what projects they are working on.  Kenny built a “tiny house” 25 years ago, long before anyone had heard of them.  He built it to take to swap meets so that he had shelter and a washroom.

Tomorrow (Sunday February 11, 2018), we are heading into Mexico.  Our first stop will be Puerto Peñasco.  Six friends are flying in from Saskatoon and Calgary.  Ted and Dona are picking them up at the airport.  Then we are all driving over together.

Here is a local treat that we indulged in on the way.  They are sold everywhere in southern Arizona and California.  Try one when you are this way!

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Welcome to Slab City

Population: Unknown
Water: No
Power: No
Sewer: No
Garbage collection: No
Police service: No
Fire service: No
Mail service: No
Freedom: Yes — It’s considered the last free place in America

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Slab City was once known as Camp Dunlop, a US Marine Corps training centre. (Yes, marines in the desert).  It was decommissioned in the 1950s, and the buildings were removed, but the cement slabs remained.  These slabs are now used as the base for “homes” for people who have left society for one reason or another.  Most of the permanent residents live in travel trailers, but some live in tents or makeshift shanties.

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The slabs are in remarkably great shape, and the roads are not too bad either.  Honestly, the pavement is crumbling on the main roads, but it is in better shape than some Saskatchewan highways.  There are street names, and people do have numbers painted on their trailers.  Also, Google maps has the streets marked!

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Besides the permanent residents, there is a large group of snowbirds that converge on The Slabs too.  They usually stay in the Slab Low Lows.  That’s where we went.

Slab City has a seedy reputation.  We had been warned to put everything away at night or when we left camp because belongings grow legs.  We didn’t heed the warnings and nothing got stolen.  Instead, we discovered a vibrant (and generous) community.

On the night we arrived, there happened to be a free chili night with live music at the Oasis Club.  The next day, there was live music at the Viper Club from 3:30 until sundown.  We didn’t go to either event, but many in our encampment went and had a great time.  You might be wondering about these “clubs”.  Well, this is a community, and they do have places to go for entertainment (the Range, the Viper club, the Oasis club), a library, a church, art, etc.  And, they do their own “policing.”  In the last year or two, we heard of a trouble-maker.  The residents had had enough, and set his trailer on fire.  The burnt-out remains are still there.  In fact, anything that has ever entered Slab City is pretty much there.  Garbage is everywhere.

The Range
Everyone Saturday night people go to The Range to perform on the outdoor stage or watch the performances.  I don’t recommend sitting on the sofas out there.

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Our encampment:

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We were in Slab City during the lunar eclipse, full moon, blue moon, blood moon (a full blue blood eclipsed moon?)  We all set our alarms to be up at 3:30 am to witness it.  It was the most subdued party, as you can imagine, at that hour.  We sat quietly in our lawn chairs while we watched.  I didn’t bring out the camera, though.

We met many interesting people, and so many were Canadian.  Yves, from Quebec, drives a 1986 Wanderlodge (Bluebird Bus), his “toad” is a vintage Land Rover, and his companion, Bugaloo, is an Old English Sheepdog.  Yves said that he is virtually invisible — people always want to meet Bugaloo, see the Rover, or tour the Wanderlodge!  He drove the Rover over to where we had the campfire and made beignets for everyone!

Poppy really enjoyed herself that night.  All the dogs were out frolicking.  A brindle pit-bull from the Slabs came over to our encampment, and Poppy made her first friend out there.  He had her temperament — a little shy and submissive, but playful.  However, once it started to get dark, he went home.  When he came back (after dinner, I presume), the other dogs weren’t in a playful mood anymore, and Bugaloo basically told him to get lost, so he left.  Poor boy.

Do you recognize this boy?

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This is Jax from the YouTube channel Nomadic Fanatic.  We met Eric and Jax at our encampment.  Jax is huge!  He is about 25 lbs, and he’s such a ham.  As soon as he saw my camera he started to move towards it.

One couple even travelled with a chicken!

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She acted like a dog.  She was left as a chick on this couple’s driveway, so they raised her to travel with them.  The only difficulty is when she needs to lay her eggs.  She wants to find a bush, so they confine her to their RV when she needs to nest.  This keeps her safe.

I’ll end with a picture of Princess Daisy.  The flies are really bad here, so Donna Dee suggested hanging a mosquito net around Daisy to keep them away.  It did the trick.  Now, we need to find our own net for her:

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We had been warned to avoid Slab City, but I recommend it to anyone travelling in the area.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would have stayed longer if we hadn’t made plans to move to the other side of the Salton Sea with Ted and Dona.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

I have been following Bob Wells’ website “Cheap RV Living” for a few years, so I had been planning to attend the RTR some day.  He started the RTR back in 2010.  There were only 45 rigs at that first event.  It has grown exponentially.  This year, there were over 4500 rigs!  It is almost unfathomable to think that so many people have decided to ditch the usual path of life and live full-time on the road.  Because of the vast number of people, we didn’t get to meet too many personally, but we had a few chats.  One couple was down our loop.  They are work-campers at Glacier National Park in the summer and travel the rest of the year.  They also have a little old lady dog in tow.

Here’s Bob at our orientation. 
A glimpse of some of the attendees at the orientation.

There were many sessions to attend.  One of our favourites was a camping gadget show-and-tell.  Paul also attended a solar cooking methods session.  Many of these sessions were recorded and will be on YouTube on Bob Wells’ channel.  Because the event was so spread out, we didn’t attend nearly as many sessions as we would have liked.  The Bureau of Land Management kept track of our numbers, and took Bob out to see some larger sections of desert for us.  He was pleased to announce that next year, we will be in a new area without so many washes to walk through.  Yay!

There were about 5 Chinooks in attendance, but we had the only 24 footer.  The rest were 21 footers.

Here we are alone for about 1 night.  Then, it filled up. 
Other Chinooks:

    

Of course, there were some Airstreams:


  There were too many Airstreams to photograph.

And some other cool rigs:

      

Step Vans:

The fourth one in is Seven’s from the YouTube channel “Seven Wanders the World.”  He started his tea house and book exchange at the RTR, so we had a nice visit with him in his van and he made us tea. 
Joni has a new YouTube channel called The Galavan, and we got a tour of her rig: 

  

We met other YouTubers: Carolyn (Carolyn’s RV Life), Kevin & the woof pack (Campervan Kevin), and Brian (Adventure Van Man).  We also saw others, but didn’t chat with them like Eric (Nomadic Fanatic) and Elsa (Elsa Rhae).  Carolyn interviewed us briefly, so we may be in one of her videos.

My dad and I have often discussed how a bubble van would be a perfect camper, and someone brought one: 

It’s a Unicell fibreglass shell on a cutaway chassis.  I love the way the ceiling has an unfinished section so that sunshine can brighten the space.  They are made in Canada and the US.  The owner was shocked that I knew what it was.  Apparently, I was the only person who came by who knew.  I don’t know much, but when it comes to camping . . .

One of our neighbours had a 16-foot Casita and a passenger van that he converted to a campervan.  He did such a fantastic job.  It is like a sailboat inside.  He said he built out the van after his wife passed away because he needed a project.  He spoke so fondly of his wife and how she loved camping.  We enjoyed an evening campfire with him.  Here is Kevin and Blaze and the campervan:


      

Our good friends, Ted and Dona from Saskatoon, made it to the RTR for a couple of days.  We were so happy to see them, but Poppy was happiest!  She loves them.  Ted and Dona let us driveway-camp and provided us with hot showers, electricity, and meals in Saskatoon.  Also, Poppy loved stretching out in their house, so when they arrived, you can imagine her excitement. 

The RTR ends tomorrow (Sunday January 21), but we left on Thursday to join our Airstream club for a camp out.  Stay tuned for more fun in Quartzite.

Head for the Hills

Our neighbour, Mike, at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) had a side-by-side quad, and he took Paul up in the hills near our campsite in Quartzite.  A quad is pretty handy to use as a secondary vehicle.  They are even legal on roads in Arizona.


          These cholla may look cuddly, but beware!  

Here is our group down below. Can you count the rigs? More on that later.  

Peaceful Easy Feeling

We arrived at Quartzite in the late afternoon on Wednesday.  We are camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, which means that we can camp for 14 days for free, and then we have to move.  It is like Crown Land in Canada, but freer and more usable.

We had planned to leave Yuma on Tuesday, but we got a windstorm (sandstorm) followed by rain. Yes, rain!  It will probably be one of the few showers we will see down here.  As a result, we decided not to leave for Quartzite until Wednesday. The rain means the desert will bloom in a few days!


Saguaro and teddy bear cholla

The desert is spectacular!  I can’t get enough saguaro cacti. However, the desert is thorny. Everywhere. I’m always watching where the dogs step because there are prickers growing all over the ground. Not to mention all the thorns grabbing at your legs from the sides. The plant life has to protect itself some way. It’s a tough life waiting for rain a few times per year. Even with the thorns, needles, and pickers, the beauty is unmatched.

The desert floor is like pavement. The rocks are flat (Yes, there are some big sharp ones too. Remember everything is sharp here.).  However, the flat rocks have a smooth shiny patina from years of weathering. It is so smooth and flat that you don’t need to worry about finding a level site.  It’s almost as smooth as pavement.  Then, there are washes which are like gullies formed to carry away the rainwater.

After enjoying a glorious sunset, we were treated to a billion stars all around. Nature at its finest.

And the best sleep ever.

The wash behind our camp:
Flat level site:    

What are the poor people doing?


Enjoying the billion stars all around: 

The desert is cold for little old ladies

Tru, Reece, and Tonto: