3:10 to Yuma

Yuma? Yes, Yuma bound. But first, back in South Dakota, I’d just become a resident by getting a driver’s license and registering the 5th wheel. No luck with the truck.

Near Rapid City, Custer State Park is a 71,000 acre wildlife preserve in the Black Hills and a great place to see herds of Buffalo.

I was lucky to visit when I did. Tragically, the Lake Fire in South Dakota has Custer State Park closed right now (December 2017) and nine of the burros have suffered burns in the blaze. The fire is now 100% contained.

On through Lake De Smet, Alcova, and Rock Springs in Wyoming, Duchesne and the disappointing Crystal Geyser in Utah, we arrived at Green River, UT – base camp (at a truck stop) to see Arches National Park. This should be on everyone’s bucket list (the Arches, not the truck stop).


On to Sevier, Utah where I was stuck in a snow storm for 2 days, then Las Vegas where about six miles away the largest mass shooting in US History happened during my stay. So, yeah. Of course there’s nothing that could have been done to prevent that – who could have imagined that someone buying scores of automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo might want to use them. Really, he was an NRA hero, showing just how much you can accomplish when you buy a congress. We should get him a statue.

Hmm, I may have gotten off topic there.

OK, on to Needles, Quartzsite and finally Phoenix to end the Big Truck ClusterTr**k.

Finally 310 to Yuma

On the old RV I had a solar power system installed by Starlight Solar in Yuma and it’s just about time to do the same on the new RV. Just 310 miles to go – Phoenix to Gila Bend to Holtville CA to Yuma. Sort of a cinematic epic.

Starlight is only open from November 1st to May 1st each year, because, you know, who wants to work outside in Yuma the rest of the year. When I got the new RV I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal living without solar for 4 months or so, but really it was. I had a little generator, but having to run it every day, listening to the noise, smelling the fumes, running out for gas every other day, and having to run it to even charge up my laptop … well it really made me appreciate the solar power. Silent, clean, always there for anything I need short of air conditioning. When I pulled in on November 13th for installation I was almost giddy.


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The Big Truck ClusterTr**k

Don’t buy a vehicle out of state, but if you do, handle the registration yourself.

Back in July I bought a new 5th wheel RV and a 2012 Ford F350 diesel truck to tow it. I was in Bend Oregon and my legal residence at the time was Arizona, though I don’t really live anywhere in particular. Over the years I’ve bought, well I don’t even know how many vehicles, but I do know registration was never a thing I needed to worry about, until now.

Both the RV dealer and the Ford dealer told me they’d process the registration for me. Four weeks later I got a letter from each with a refund of my sales tax and registration fee and a note that said they decided not to do the registration. WTF!? I’m driving around with no registration.

At least the RV dealer sent me the title so I could register the 5th wheel. When I got to South Dakota I changed my residence and registered the 5th wheel.

Not so with the Ford. The dealer said they sent the title to the DMV. Looking back, that should have been a clue, since Arizona has a MVD not a DMV, but of course I didn’t pick up on that. I tried to register the truck in Arizona by mail (can’t do new registration online) and after 7 weeks, MVD sent me a letter saying they don’t have my title. It took the Ford dealer another 2 weeks to figure out that they’d sent the title to an auto title agency in Phoenix and I’d have to go there in person to get it. At this point I’ve driven through Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah and Nevada with no plates on the truck. 14 weeks stressing out over driving, thinking I’m going to wind up with the truck impounded.

Off to Phoenix. The title agency is only a block from the UPS store that handles my mail. They would have given me the title and I could have sent it in to South Dakota saving some money on sales tax and registration, but I couldn’t take it any more so I registered the truck in Arizona and walked out with a license plate. Now I get to tell the story of the vehicle registration clustertr**k to everyone who wanders up wondering why my plates are from different states :).

The Route to Graduation, Part 2

As I head north to Flagstaff, the RV goes south with troublesome repairs piling up.

Part 1 of the winter/spring route is here.

Trek North, Going South

Leda and I continued north with the WINs to Cottonwood and Prescott Valley. Meanwhile, the RV, Roamward Bound, was heading south. the hydraulic issue was back with a vengeance and the parts needed were nowhere to be found. The dash A/C went out, first with a freon leak, then the blower failed. The wipers stopped working. A short in a 12 volt power outlet killed my GPS. Well, you get the idea.

Vineyard grapes in neat rows
At the Alcantara Winery in Cottonwood
cows roaming around parked RVs
RV cows, it’s a thing!

It’s a Big Hole?

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon several times, but before this, never in it. We hiked down (OK, partway down) both Bright Angel Trail and Kaibab Trail well into the canyon for a whole different perspective. Can’t imagine I wouldn’t have needed a rescue service for these hikes two years ago.

A hawk flying close by 5 people posing for a picture on the rim of the Grand Canyon
A hawk flies by at just the right moment as we stop for a picture on the rim.

Mule train on Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon
A few miles down Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon we’re stopped for a little while while the mule train heading up takes a rest.

With Leda a few miles down the Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon

On to Graduation, But First

Finally time for Kylee’s graduation, but first it’s back to Prescott Valley for more repairs. I left the RV there and headed up to Flagstaff to watch Kylee’s Capstone Project presentation and then the graduation ceremony.

Graduate in cap and gown
My little Magna Cum Laude NAU Graduate, Kylee

Then I helped her pack up. With no place to live and no job, she’s off to Seattle to start post college life. Just gotta make it happen. And, make it happen she did. Great place to live, check! Starting a great job at a great company a month to the day after arriving in town, check! Best weather in Seattle history, OK, she didn’t do that, but what the hell, check!

A car loaded with personal belongings
And that’s everything crammed into her Kia Soul for the move to Seattle

Kylee getting into her car
And she’s off. Off to Seattle, Washington

Back to Prescott Valley

I’d really like to say this was a good result, to pick up the RV with everything working again. OK, let me try it. Everything was great!

Ahh, but not so. Nothing was finished and I was stuck there for weeks, again.

So when the repairs were finally “completed” and I could drive off, I’d really, really like to say it was a good job. Here, let me try it: it was a good job. And it was, for less than two weeks, and then each issue is back, only worse.

See how this turns out in the next post.


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The Route to Graduation, Part 1

Back in August of 2013 I dropped off my daughter Kylee at NAU to start her college adventure and started my own, taking off for full time travel in my RV. This winter and spring graduation was on my mind as I roamed not too far from Flagstaff.

went places, did stuff, RV upgrades, anticipating Kylee’s graduation.

Part 2 of the winter/spring route is here.

Southern, Man

Traveling with the WINs after Quartzsite it was on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the southern border of Arizona.

View of the Organ Pipe Cacti against a mountain backdrop
Out on a Hike at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Sunset with cacti in the foreground
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Sunset

It’s a beautiful place with good hiking (carry pliers for the inevitable cactus strike), but we were all looking ahead, farther south, to …

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Not my first time out of the country with the RV (I’ve been to Canada – Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec) but it was the first time in Mexico, not too far in Mexico, but Mexico just the same. There were 60 RVs in the caravan south and another 40 or so traveled independently to our boondocking location on the beach.

RVs line up for a caravan from Lukeville Arizona to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico
The caravan starts to form in Lukeville bound for Puerto Penasco, Mexico. I’m following Leda with the kayak on her bumper. Wound up with 60 RVs in the caravan. Some 40 WINs headed out separately.

Walking the dogs on the beach
The first dog walk at the beach, out with Leda, Diamond, Opal and of course Kiera. We found out a few minutes later that leashes weren’t required here.

RVs parked on the beach with a sunset in the background
As the first day draws to a close, there are 100 WINs in 100 RVs boondocking on the beach.

A board listing some of the activities and outings in Puerto Penasco
Some of the activities in Puerto Penasco

My ultralight flight in Puerto Penasco.
My ultralight flight in Puerto Penasco.

Leda grinning broadly in front of ultralight plane
Leda is All Smiles after Ultralight Flight
Workers painting RV
All the faded and cracked decals were removed and painted back in with a sparkly, color shifting, navy blue paint.
Driver side captain's chair in chocolate brown and tan leather
The captain’s chairs were recovered in two tone leather while in Puerto Penasco.

Not all fun and games, I also had the RV’s captains chairs recovered in a nice two tone leather and had the exterior decals removed and painted back in with sparkly color shifting navy blue paint.

Back to Arizona

Back in the states, well state, we continued traveling with the WINs to Wilcox, Safford and Theodore Roosevelt Lake. My drone finally arrived (that would have been nice to have in Mexico), a DJI Mavic Pro.

View of Roosevelt Lake from the Tonto National Monument
View of Roosevelt Lake from the Tonto National Monument

And …

Continues … Part 2 is here.

Driving in Circles

Yuma! No it’s not my favorite spot, but I’ve just made my fourth stop in Yuma in just over three months.

Solar System Issue

I first went to Yuma on 12/22 to talk with Starlight Solar Systems about installing a new system in the RV. I decided to go ahead with it, but the next available appointment wasn’t until 1/26. In the meantime I camped with the WINS (rvsingles.org) in Yuma, Parker and Quartzsite.

The second Yuma stop was for the big solar install on 1/26. The system was working perfectly and providing all the power I needed, but two weeks later the monitor/control panel inside the coach stopped working. I was still getting all the power I needed, but could no longer operate the system from inside and had no visibility to how well it was working (power production, battery charge levels, usage, etc.).

We spent a couple of weeks trying to diagnose this over the phone and email, then on 2/22 I went back to Yuma. They found that one of the components, the solar charge controller (Magnum PT-100, rated the best) was not talking to the inverter (they are ethernet connected) and blocking the inverter from talking to the remote. Starlight replaced the solar charge controller, everything worked fine and I headed back to Slab City.

Exactly four weeks later, on 3/21, while I was in Cottonwood, the same problem recurred. After another round of phone and email diagnosis I headed back to Yuma (from Flagstaff) on 4/4. Again, Starlight replaced the solar charge controller, everything is working fine. I’m on my way, just not real confident.

The Loop


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Here Comes the Sun

I’ve had my coach, Roamward Bound, for over three years now, but this by far is the largest upgrade.

After spending four of the last five weeks camping with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network – RVSingles.org), first in Yuma, then in Quartzsite, I’m back in Yuma …

WINs Campfire at Quartzsite
WINs around the campfire at Quartzsite

Quartzsite Sunset
Quartzsite Sunset

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right

… back in Yuma at Starlight Solar having a solar power system installed.

Roamward Bound getting 780 watts of solar power at Starlight Solar in Yuma, Arizona
Roamward Bound getting 780 watts of solar power at Starlight Solar in Yuma, Arizona

This will make dry camping / boondocking much more feasible. In theory I should almost never have to run the generator or worry about my electric use when I’m not on shore power. I’m going big with the project:

  • Magnum 3012 3Kw inverter
  • Magnum PT-100 Solar Charge Controller
  • Magnum Advanced Remote
  • Solar Charge Remote Display
  • 3 Solarworld 260 watt panels (780 watts total)
  • 400 Amp-Hours of GBS LiFeMnPO (lithium) batteries (5 kilowatt hours)

Lithium ion batteries are fairly rare in the RV world. Nearly everyone uses flooded lead acid deep cycle cells, with some opting for more expensive sealed AGM batteries, but lithium offers many advantages:

  • Lithium batteries are smaller and lighter.
  • Lithium batteries can be regularly discharged down to 20% of their rated capacity. Lead acid batteries should only be regularly discharged down to 80% and occasionally to 50%.
  • Heat tolerant. Lead acid batteries have only half the capacity at 95 degrees than they do at 77. Lithium has nearly the same capacity at 95 degrees.
  • Lithium takes 40% less time to charge. There’s no three phase charging cycle – they are always accepting a bulk charge.
  • Expected lifetime is 12-15 years.
  • No maintenance.

The only disadvantage is cost. The 400 amp hours of lithium batteries (equivelent to about 1200 AH of AGM batteries) alone cost over $2600.

While I’ve always wanted to, I’ve never had solar on any of my houses. The economics of putting solar electric in an RV are completely different than residential. For residential, the savings come from utility bills and can take up to 20 years to recoup the cost of the system. In an RV the savings come from campground fees ($20-$50 per night) and/or generator fuel ($2.50-$3.50 per hour to run my generator). I’m expecting to recoup the cost in 11-18 months.

Flagstaff to Bowling Green

Just a few snapshots on the trail from Flagstaff, Arizona to Bowling Green, Kentucky.


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Flagstaff, Arizona

Huck a 37 foot 165 lb telephone pole
At the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival in Flagstaff – Caber Toss: Huck a 19 foot 165 lb telephone pole

Amarillo, Texas

World famous Big Texan steakhouse in Amarillo
World famous Big Texan steakhouse in Amarillo. Eat the 72 oz rib eye in 60 minutes and it’s free.
Dinosaur in cowboy boots at Big Texas steak house.
Dinosaur in cowboy boots at Big Texan steak house.
Horns on cars
Yep, horns on cars, really a thing

Joplin, Missouri

Grand Falls in Joplin Missouri
Grand Falls in Joplin Missouri
Tortoise on the road in Joplin MO
Tortoise on the road in Joplin MO

St. Louis, Missouri

Construction and renovations in the park surrounding Gateway Arch
The park around the Gateway Arch is undergoing extensive renovation and construction.
Downtown St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch
Downtown St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch

Elkhart, Indiana

Elkhart is the RV capital of the world. I was here to look at new captains chairs and a new couch, but the delivery and installation times didn’t work on this trip. Went to the RV Hall of Fame and a Thor factory tour.

An early motorhome at the RV/MH Hall of Fame museum, Elkhart, Indiana.
An early motorhome at the RV/MH Hall of Fame museum, Elkhart, Indiana.
Mae West's "House Car"
Mae West’s “House Car”

St. Joseph, Michigan

A beach stop on beautiful Lake Michigan.

Not the ocean. Silver Beach in St. Joseph on Lake Michigan.
Not the ocean. Silver Beach in St. Joseph on Lake Michigan. Miles of soft sand and crystal clear water. No ice this time of year.

Bluffton, Indiana

Wabash River, downtown Bluffton, Indiana
Wabash River, downtown Bluffton, Indiana

Louisville, Kentucky

The Kentucky Derby Museum, Whiskey Distillery Tour and a day at the races at Churchill Downs and some crazy underground ziplines.

Entering the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs
Entering the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs
Kentucky Derby Museum - Secretariat in the Winner's Circle
Kentucky Derby Museum – Secretariat in the Winner’s Circle
The main gate at Churchill Downs
The main gate at Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs - Race 4 - On the Turf
Churchill Downs – Race 4 – On the Turf
Mint Julep - had to try one. I'll pass next time, bourbon doesn't need sugar and water.
Mint Julep – had to try one. I’ll pass next time, bourbon doesn’t need sugar and water.

Bowling Green, Kentucky

At the National Corvette Museum, now recovered from the sinkhole that swallowed 8 cars in February 2014.

National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
The outline of the sinkhole and cave that opened up in February 2014 is marked off in tape in the hall of fame / spire room at the National Corvette Museum.
The outline of the sinkhole and cave that opened up in February 2014 is marked off in tape in the hall of fame / spire room at the National Corvette Museum.
These cars were damaged beyond repair in the sinkhole collapse of 2014.  They are on display right were they were before the collapse.
These cars were damaged beyond repair in the sinkhole collapse of 2014. They are on display right were they were before the collapse.
Wrecked Corvettes on display.  These were recovered from the sink hole disaster and were beyond repair.  They are on display right where they were before the disaster.
Wrecked Corvettes on display. These were recovered from the sink hole disaster and were beyond repair. They are on display right where they were before the disaster.
Lost River Cave entrance, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Lost River Cave entrance, Bowling Green, Kentucky
On a boat tour in Lost River Cave, Bowling Green, Kentucky
On a boat tour in Lost River Cave, Bowling Green, Kentucky

Snowbird

At the end of October I went back to the valley for some crazy expensive dental work, a vet appointment, RV repairs (had an overheating issue and another oil leak), a poker game with the gang, and of course that all important smog test I need to keep the RV registered.

No stop in Phoenix is complete without Carolina's
No stop in Phoenix is complete without Carolina’s

Afterwards, while most of the country settled in for another crazy cold winter, I went full snowbird, starting with a stop in Quartzsite with a quarter million other RV’ers, then on to the Colorado River.

Couldn’t completely avoid the snow, we had flurries blowing around New Year’s Eve in Laughlin.

If only I had a Tesla, I’d know just where to charge it up.

No waiting for a spot to charge your Tesla in Gila Bend, Arizona
No waiting for a spot to charge your Tesla in Gila Bend, Arizona

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The Hole Enchilada

Glass Half Full

The stop in Scottsdale was a glass half full kind of thing. On the one hand Palacios installed new Pergo flooring in Roamward Bound and removed the parts of the window covers the dog had trashed. I really like the new floor and the windows look much better.

On the other hand, the German vehicles are getting me. Kylee’s Audi needed over $3,400 in repairs, tires and a battery. You may recall I dropped my BMW bike putting the side stand down in Flagstaff. When I came through Phoenix at the beginning of May I took it into the dealer for an estimate and they ordered the parts. Four weeks later, they are still not in from Germany. It looks like I’ll be riding with the scratches and crack until November or December when I get back.

The Hole Thing

No, not the hole in my wallet, these are even bigger.

While staying in Williams for a few days, I took the Railroad trip to the Grand Canyon. A little long, plenty of corny jokes (“what do you call a cow with two legs shorter than the others? Lean beef.”), but still fun. I liked standing out on the back platform as the train rumbled along.

The next day I went to Meteor Crater near Winslow. The campground was only about six miles from the crater. The ride out and back on nice two lane blacktop was one of the most challenging I’ve had – high cross wind, blowing dust and tumbleweeds. When I got back, my little weather station showed winds were 22-27 with gusts to 41 while I was out. Explains the sand in my teeth.

The Meteor Crater attraction itself was pretty good. I do like the single topic museums. Looking out over the crater, it looks deceptively small, not a mile across. They’ve put buildings and other objects in the center which you can’t even see with the naked eye. With the telescopes you see wow, that’s a house, that’s a 6′ wood man in front of a 10′ flag. Now you really get a sense of the size.

Onward

I’ll be traveling north through Colorado and Wyoming on my way to Mount Rushmore, then on to Minnesota to catch up with Duane and Janet at their famous Lake House.

Wahweap

I haven’t been to Lake Powell since my early days at Del Webb 27 years ago. A lot has changed. For one thing, there was a lot more water in the lake back then!  ARAmark also has money to maintain the facilities that seemed to need a lot of work in the Webb days.

I’m staying at the campground at Wahweap, which is pretty expensive, but I’m only here for five nights. The area is beautiful and silent like a painting.

I  won’t make it out to Rainbow Bridge – it’s an all day trip and I can’t leave Keira alone that long.