Sunday, November 16, 2014

Went to Quartzsite

I made a little day  trip the last week, headed over to Mecca. In the world of snowbirds, Mecca is Quartzsite AZ. A small town of about 3,500 year round, in the winter months well over 500,000 RVers make this dusty little town in the desert their primary destination.

Right now it's only the early birds arriving. Those who look to make the most of an inexpensive way of life for the winter months.

Not everyone has the financial backing to travel the country at will. For some, being able to save a few bucks by spending the harshest months of the winter here gives them the freedom to travel when the weather is a bit more accommodating. Not a bad trade-off when you think about it.

Vendors are starting to set up shop. Before long the tents will run from one end of town to the other. Hocking anything from RV parts, to haircuts or leather goods.

RV dealers will load their lots with the latest in bright shiny models. The RV parks in town will have rigs sandwiched in with hardly enough room between to open their slideouts.

The now almost deserted Long Term Visitor Areas will become a endless sea of humanity. Similar RV's grouping together, Social circles reuniting for another season together.

For now it's back to Phoenix for Max and I.
We've made some new friends there, Max in particular. His buddy the horse from Texas is a distant memory now, so it was time to branch  out. Gus the pig moved in just down the road, and Max has adopted him as his new best friend.

I don't know what goes through the little guys mind. He has no problem making friends with people and any off the wall animal that comes along.

His own kind, not so much. He is deathly afraid of other dogs, but can buddy up to a cat in a second. Yes, it is a wonder what goes through his mind.

Monday, November 10, 2014

This, That, and the Other Thing

One thing in abundance around here is motorcycles, predominantly Harley's. The RV Park is loaded with them. Good reason for it too, just a little ways down the hjighway is the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. This is a serious school, the campus takes up most of a block. Many of the students are staying in any one of a dozen RV parks nearby.

The next most predominant vehicle around here are Jeeps. Must be almost a dozen of them right
here too. It's hardly 10 miles down the road to more off road opportunities that you can shake a stick at. Must be every 3-4th car on the freeway is a Jeep of some sort.

Red, black, and of course mine is orange. There's quite a turn over around here. The carnival workers with they're over-sized bunk house 5th wheels are gone now. Every day, more rigs from up north arrive.

By January they say there will be no empty spaces to be found. Still plenty of room right now so the fact that I'm hogging two spaces isn't an issue. They parked me here this way, but I assured them I'd be happy to straighten things out if they need the space.

Max continues to make new friends. Now he is buddy-buddy with a pet pig named Gus. They say hi to each other at least once a day.

I finally got a few things done around here today. Made a good breakfast, 3 egg omelet, bacon, hash browns, and an English Muffin. Cleaned up the kitchen, made the bed, then went grocery shopping.

When I got back it was time to finish the rack on the rear of the motorhome. I didn't want to lose the rack that can fit right into the receiver hitch on the Jeep, so I just modified the support frame work and lag bolted it in place.

Now I can carry my gas cans and lawn chairs, just like I did on the back of the Jeep. That pretty much takes care of my cores for this week, and it's only Monday morning. I like the way retirement works.

Even supper is slow cooking on the counter already. Pot roast with veggies and mashed potatoes.

When I woke up this morning Max gave me all
indications he was in no hurry to do much of anything today.

Not being one to let sleeping dogs lay, I lit a fire under his ass, and well the rest is history.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Search For Materials Begins

Out of date stock
When your plan is to make use of as many recycled and close out components as possible, you jump when an opportunity presents itself. The luxury of not buying until the need is current just means you will lose out on some bargains.

Though There are no walls yet, a close out on end of stock windows made now the best time to be buy what was needed. When the building season closes, and manufacturers discontinue some styles, the store usually marks the remaining stock down drastically. It was a good day to score some real deals!

Kitchen Sink
The next greatest resource for building materials is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The inventory is ever changing so this will be a regular stop during coming days.

The first trip scored a nice deep farm house sink! Brand new, it must have been donated by some business changing over to new stock as well.
Habitat for Humanity
Installing floor joists
Back at the trailer, work is getting started. The frame has been stripped of old wood, cleaned and the paint touched up.
The first step is floor joists. Hoping to maximize interior space it was decided to set the joists low, inside the steel trailer frame. This will require some extra work to install the shorter outside the frame lengths of floor joists so that they are strong enough to carry the load.

This is a family project, everybody is involved. Kris and Wesley cut the pieces to fit, and Danni installs them.

In no time the floor is ready for sheeting. The next step is to locate some plywood for the sub-floor. Another trip to Habitat for Humanity scores a truck load of usable plywood sheets.

It won't be long now and things will start looking substantial. only thing slowing down progress is that as all young people must do, they have to work a job to afford their passion.
Wesley and Kris cut joists to length

Building a Tiny Home is a big project. It's the kind of effort that will have you working late into the night just to see the progress made at the end of the day.

It's hard to get in the car and go to work at a job, knowing you would rather spend the time working on your dream. Sometimes reality just gets in the way.

Progress is going remarkably fast, but not fast enough. Everyone wishes they had a little witch inside them.

Loading plywood for the sub-floor 
Twitching a nose, or blinking an eye would be so much easier. Of course anything worth having is worth working for. When this is done, there will be plenty of time to kick back and admire what was accomplished!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Home Is Where The Heart Is!

Kris & Danni
I've been very lucky in that recently I got invited to follow along as friends of a good friend of mine start their very own Tiny Home venture. Looking to simplify and downsize their lives, they have started construction on a Tiny Home of their own design.

Using a goose neck flatbed trailer as the substructure, they will build a home for three. The two of them and their young son. It's planned to be completely off grid, with hopes of eventually being set up somewhere in Tennessee.

The nice part of this opportunity for me is that I'm getting in on the absolute ground floor. Their thought process, how they made decisions, deciding which direction to go, all things that anyone contemplating a similar project will go through.

Hopefully I can do justice to their efforts, and I'm honored for the opportunity to share their experience so that others can visualize for them self all that is involved in creating a home designed to be mobile, self sufficient, and mortgage free.

The first plan
Danni and Kris have a dream, a plan, a direction they want to go. Their first thought was to convert a
retired school bus. After some months searching, they realized finding a suitable candidate was easier said than done. They did find an old U-Haul truck that might suffice, but a friend voiced concern that investing a serious amount of money into building their dream on an old truck might not be the best choice.

What happens if, upon completion of their remodel for living, mechanical issues make the truck portion unrepairable? Their investment could basically become a boat anchor. The plan changed, and a very solid and wise decision was made. With a trailer, the mechanics involved are limited to wheel bearings and brakes. Pretty simple stuff. Whatever they come up with for a tow vehicle, if it should give up the ghost, another can be substituted without affecting the value of their home.

The best part of their decision was the trailer that became available was a goose neck model. This is the absolute best choice for a number of reasons. Load capacity, and most of all towing characteristics. They can safely build what they want, and feel confident it will go down
The old U-Haul truck
the highway smoothly and worry free.

Because they intended to construct their Tiny Home completely from scratch, the condition of the decking was of little concern. Once they found a friend that was able to move the flatbed to their construction location, the first step was to strip it down to the bare metal frame.

Sanding and grinding prepared it for paint, then it was time to start the hunt for low cost construction materials.

When your dream is to live mortgage free, and totally off the grid, it just makes sense to be resourceful, and recycle second hand materials as much as you can.

That means every step of the way will be an adventure. With friends on the lookout for suitable materials, and special items to make it their own, it will take some time. This
The work begins!
won't be a project where everything is bought off the shelf at Home Depot.

It will be much more eclectic, individualistic, and very much showing the true nature of building your own nest to suit your own needs.

I wish them well on this venture. It's a grand adventure that will become a part of their life for the ages. Memories of what they experience will be passed on for generations, and give their son something to brag about as he grows.

My generation (the hippies of the 60's) can relate, and enjoy such a wonderful break from the usual and expected. I pass on my best wishes and excitement to both of you.

Life is to be lived on your own terms... This is one hell of a great way to start!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Road Trip! Prescott, Cottonwood, and Sedona!

7:30a.m. and all my morning chores were done. Nothing on the plate today, so what's a guy to do? Road Trip... Max and I loaded up some snacks into the Jeep and pointed the front bumper north!

The last time I had made the trip from northen AZ down to Tucson was about 96'. Surly a few things had changed in the past 18 years. Cities and towns, yes... The scenery was pretty much the same, go figure? It was spectacular way back when, and it didn't disappoint today either.

Retro Teardrop... $6,999.00
Phoenix really is in a great location. A nice circle trip for the day took me through much of the more well known scenic spots in the north part of the state. Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, but it was a full all be it relaxing day.

In years past this direction was taken in a motorhome. Sure it is scenic, but once you get into towns, finding a place to set for a spell for picture taking can be a bit tricky. Not to mention the 50' max length restriction going through Jerome. A small artist community built on the side of a mountain with sharp switch back corners. Narrow streets, and zero parking. Forcing you to just keep on driving.

Kitchen with spare tire storage at the bottom
Many beautiful photo ops were missed because I can't drive and take pictures at the same time. At least I got to see the sights, too bad for all of you!

My first stop was in a little town of Dewey AZ. From the highway I noticed a couple teardrop trailers in an RV dealer's lot and just had to stop take a look see. Max needed to stretch his legs, so I had an excuse for stopping for a bit.

The owner, I presume, was just arriving, and like the consummate salesman I assumed him to be, was on me before I had put my foot on the ground getting out of the Jeep. I clearly stated I was
just a looker, passing through for a day of sightseeing.

With no pressure to make a sale, he was the most obliging host, showing me his wares, and chatting about the area. He highly recommended being just far enough away from Phoenix, and at a higher elevation, to have cooler summers, and barely noticeable winters.

A little further up the highway I ran across my first official Art Van.  Covered from top to bottom with everything Eagle, it was easy to spot while
driving. I had to turn around and go snap a picture. I have no idea if it was a customer's van at the restaurant, or just a clever way to draw customers off the highway.

Either way it was doing the job. I had to almost stand in line to get a clear shot of it. A couple of ladies were spending some time giving a a close inspection.

I turned NW toward Prescott and looked for more natural sights to see. I wasn't disappointed.

On the way to Jerome out of Prescott
Prescott is a nice area. More of a summer retreat for those with money to spend. Prescott Valley is more accessible for the average man. Still at a high enough elevation to be comfortable in the summer, but not as exclusive and pricey as Prescott proper.

For the most part the real scenery started when I turned north on 89A, towards Cottonwood, and Sedona. It didn't take long to realize you were in Grand Canyon country, some of the vista's were long and spectacular.

Whenever there is an "A" after a road number you can be assured it will be worth taking it slower, and pulling over often.

The camera got a workout, and every time I got out of the Jeep Max acted like I was abandoning him
A burger at Mickey Dee's alongside a classic VW
on the side of the road. Talk about separation anxiety!

The one thing that stood out along the ride was the improvements to the highway system. I drove through more roundabouts today than ever before. They kept the traffic flowing, but because of the huge number of them, speeds remained reduced too.

I grabbed a burger in Cottonwood, and let Max inhale a small bowl of water. Having a large diet Coke with me when I drive, I have to make a point not to forget the little guy. He gets parched too.

Heading toward Sedona brought me into red rock country. The quantity of huge red formations is overpowering, sadly traffic meant I could only
look and keep on moving for much of it.

The one thing I remembered from my last drive through Sedona was the narrow two lane road through the center of town with cars all parked at an angle. Being in a motorhome the idea of stopping for a closer look see was impossible.

Things have changed a bit. For most of the drive through town it is 4 lanes of open roadway with traffic moving right along.

Just as I approached the northern end of town, it dropped down to that well remember two lanes with rustic store fronts and tourists wandering everywhere. The world renowned Pink Jeep tour rigs were ambling every which way hopping to
drum up business.  There was one orange rig giving tours as well... A full  sized Hummer decked out with plenty of extra seats.

 I felt making the last leg of the run to Flagstaff was more than I wanted to tackle today. Instead I cut cross country on Hwy 179 heading over to I-17. I think it was a good choice because the views of the red rock formations were even more grand.

Once on 17, it was south again and back to Phoenix. It had been a full day, clicking off most of 250 miles in the process.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, with Phoenix being in the middle of many great sites, I will have a
hard time choosing which direction to go next.

For sure it will be somewhere new for me, this is all uncharted territory from here on out.

I'm going to make a stop at the nearest Highway Patrol office. I'm curious if I can tow a lightweight Teardrop trailer behind my Jeep when I am flat towing it behind my motorhome.

It would be nice to have a small teardrop for short excursions when I'm settle in for a few months with the motorhome.

The problem is when I move everything to a new location, it all has to come in one trip.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Saturday Morning Great Wonderful Adventure!

A total of 8 balloons where taking off
Back almost 20 years ago, the last time I was down this way, I had a short taste of what the path less followed looked like. Driving a Ford Festiva, a taste was about all I could manage at the time. I hoped I would get another chance sometime in the future with a vehicle better suited for the task.

Today was the day! Though my expected guest bailed on me earlier in the week, I brought along someone from my past who is way more important to me, and continues to be my very best friend.

Through the magic of the internet, the fact that she is 2200 miles east of here made little difference.
A popular theme, there were 3-4 like this one
Through the whole morning we were in almost constant contact, and I relayed what I was seeing through pictures and descriptions.

All this effort went beyond just including someone on my journey, I was going into uncharted (for me at least) territory in +95 degree heat. It was prudent to keep someone posted of my whereabouts as much as possible.

As I headed north away from where I call home at the moment, I shortly passed a squadron, covey, or maybe it's a flock of hot air balloons just taking to the skies. Talk about being in the right spot at the right time! Of course I
Clearing the hill and headed west
had to stop and take pictures.

Within minutes of continuing I also passed two para-gliders floating along about 500' off the ground. Just a little ways east, an ultra-light aircraft was buzzing by as well. The skies were alive with activity this morning, a perfect blue sky with practically no wind. The temps were nice and comfortable right then too. It got hotter as I progressed through the morning though.

I continued west to the Morgan City Wash Road. The map indicated it was blacktop for about a mile then becoming an "Improved/ Irregularly
Morgan City Wash
Maintained" road. I was quick to learn that means passable for Jeeps and such, but forget taking the family sedan.

As I entered the area it had all makings of a combat zone. I had checked with authorities before hand, so I was armed with a single small 9mm pistol purely for safety purposes. The quantity of high powered gun fire in rapid succession all around me was a little disconcerting.

There were groups of people surrounding me on all sides of the trail. Shot guns, military grade weaponry, and many semiautomatic handguns can create quite a racket. It was easy to see, all were observing safety precautions and were directing their fire into close by dirt banks. It
Pretty easy driving
all sounded way worse than it really was. Arizona is one of the few states that allow it's citizens to carry concealed arms with no specific permit. Any one can and will be armed at any given time. That explains why 20 years ago I saw a man with a handgun tucked into his belt at the small of his back in Kmart. This is still the wild west, only safer. If everyone carries, the odds of someone attacking you are less.

The Morgan City Wash  trail is just what it says. A run off path for flash flood waters. It's drive-able with little effort, except for the steep and rugged decline down into the river bed.

I followed the river bed for abut 5 miles, with  my hand held GPS marking a trail on it's screen, showing the way back to where I came from. It's hard
Castle Hot Springs Road
to get lost following a river bed, but missing the point where you came down into the river could be an issue, I was soon to find out about.

Not having much of a clue about where I was, after 5 miles I turned around to come back the same way I went in. Sure enough, I rolled right past that small opening in the brush where I came down onto the river bed, but within about 200 ft I recognized my error on the GPS. A quick turn around and I  was climbing back up into the previous war zone. Yep, they all were still there. Pumping all manners of lead into the soft banks.

I headed west on highway 74, thinking I was going to go to Wickenburg. I came upon the Castle Hot Springs Road and pulled over to check the
map. I had already passed the same road name, so I verified it was a loop of sorts. Seemed like the 30 or so miles would be a good scenic drive back toward Phoenix.

It all started well enough, nicely maintained dirt road going past a whole slew of Santa Fe style adobe homes. The further I got in, the more narrow the road became. I hadn't seen any sign of life until SURPRISE...Here comes a gravel hauling semi truck around the corner.

I quickly returned to my proper position on the right side of the road, and vowed to stay there. It was a few more miles up the road I came across the entrance to some sort of mine. Apparently where the rock truck originated from.

Right from that point on, the road because strictly Jeep and off road vehicle only material. For the next two hours it was up and down steep inclines, switchbacks and narrow trails skirting along the sides of mountains. Nothing that felt the least bit unnerving, just enough where taking a car through this would likely turn it into a rattle trap in no time.

I rolled along in 1st and 2nd gear enjoying some wonderful views. I wish I had a 3D camera to better show the dept and dramatic changes in topographical texture.

Cactus of every shape and description were
Never think the desert is deserted. It is very alive in so many different shades of green.

As I was creeping along, able to stay in 2 wheel drive most the time, I was amazed by one fact. Though houses... ranches were spaced often 5 miles apart, there were mailboxes at the end of every driveway.
I wonder how often they get their mail, and does it come in by pack mule? There is no way to make speed beyond about 10 miles per hour here. If this is a regular mail route, I'm sure the carrier doesn't have much of a load each day.

I drove on, just hoping the trail didn't peter out. In places it got pretty narrow, and irregularly
maintained means in  reality no one has been through since the original dozer broke trail maybe 75 years ago. I was in far enough, the idea of a break down forcing me to walk back to the main highway was cause for concern. I had enough supplies with me to be comfortable, but having seen no traffic for hours, I wondered just how isolated I was.

Thinking it was better to go forward, I kept on keeping on.

At no time did I feel the road was impassible, it was just secluded. The heat of the day had come, so I kept an eye on the water temperature too.
These Jeeps are a pretty amazing vehicle. Rumbling along on washboard trails all morning, in air
conditioned comfort, listening to music from the 60's on my satellite supplied commercial free radio station.
I can imagine the old miners and their burro's back in the day... Not a good idea as I see it.

All the time relaying as much as I could all the way to the east coast by way of Facebook on my hand held telephone.

I'm a ham radio operator. Yes, not active in the hobby right now, but I've been licensed for about 35 years.
I got into the hobby for the luxury of being able to make phone calls via a 2 meter radio through a phone patch. Cell phones were the size of suit cases, and only the rich had reason to have one.

Now with a device smaller than most pocket calculators I can send pictures, relate stories, and send data most anywhere in the world at a cost that is affordable to almost everyone. How things have changed.

I spent the whole morning away from the big city. This is the Arizona I've always wanted to see. It was a grand ride, just breaking the surface of what's available in these parts to see.

Finally I crested a hill and saw Lake Pleasant in the distance. I knew my time on the trail was winding down.
There was hope, even my highway only GPS was telling me the trail I was on in actuality was a real road. Could of fooled me. Signs said I was entering private roads, there was a state park that required fees to enter, I had no real idea if I was still on the Castle Hot Springs Road at all.

I still found it hard to believe people actually live out here. One rather large and fancy house had a toy hauler 5th wheel parked in the side yard. That thing must be a wreck, being drug over these Jeep trails.

In due time, yes indeed the road came back out on Hwy 74 just like the map  said. I was glad the trip was over, but for the 20 mile ride back to my roving home.  In short order I was home, and the BBQ was lit. Call it a late lunch, or early supper, The thick cut pork chops I picked up a couple days ago were sounding pretty good.  With some fresh squash, and a nice salad, I finished off my day with a good meal. Now it's time to rest, and ponder about what's on the agenda for the week ahead.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Making Plans For A Jeep Adventure!

Today I explored my new suburb and saw where things are around here. The big difference being it was broad daylight. What a difference having the sun out and being able to make sense of where you are.

I spotted the BLM regional office. Lucky find! This weekend my first trip out into the wilderness is planned. I will take the Jeep off the beaten path for the first time. I won't get too  brave, it will just be Max and I so I will stay on the main trail areas.This is a big part of what I was looking forward to in Arizona. Getting away from
civilization, and enjoying the many muted shades of green that the desert offers. It was a good plan to find out where we can go without wandering into an area that may be restricted from off road use.  Turns out most of it is open to all.

Since I've been here it has been an endless line of smaller aircraft coming in for a landing right over this park. Turns out there is good reason, the airport is less than a mile to the east. I'm directly inline with the runway.

Max and I Stopped in and took a few pictures. Just as I walked up to the fence a couple WWII
airplanes were just taking off. Sadly the camera was in my pocket. Private planes were secured under canopies all over the tarmac. There was even an early jet fighter tucked in and protected from the elements. I bet it costs a pretty penny to get that old bird airborne.

Now I've got a day to get some survival gear assembled in the Jeep. I'm a newbie to this kind of thing, it's always best to prepare for the worst, and be happy when it doesn't happen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Look Out Phoenix, I've arrived!

Mountains are close by where I'm staying
Okay, I admit it. The past few days it's been more about the miles than where I spent the night. This morning I'm waking in another RV park, this time in Phoenix. All plugged in, with the TV playing and the A/C on standby for later this afternoon.

The night before last was spent at a TA truck stop somewhere west of Deming NM. I lucked out because it was cooler that night and most of the trucks didn't run their motors all night. And yes, I parked way off to the side of the parking lot where it was unlikely a semi would snuggle up close enough to disturb me.

Lots of neighbors
I've never been in Phoenix, and am looking forward to spending
 the next month exploring the area. This park is good sized with a goodly amount of people around during the day. It should give more opportunity to get to know some of them.

Right now there is a carnival about 10 miles away, and there are a bunch of carnies staying here. They have bunk house trailers, with many entrance doors to each person's own little cubical space. Emphasis on little space, can't be much more than room for a bunk for privacy. Not the kind of life I would care for.

One of many carnival bunkhouse trailers
I spent last night in conversation with a new friend, she is a Phoenix local. Then it was off to bed early. Suffering jet lag from going through 3 time zones, and not sleeping very well due to mouth pain from the tooth extraction a few days back. It's mending well, and last night was the first time I slept almost the night through uninterrupted. Only one bathroom call broke it up.

Today it is off to find a car wash, the Jeep is filthy from following too close to a motorhome through rain. Then it's grocery shopping and
This is home for a month
getting acquainted with my new neighborhood. Then maybe a dip in the pool... or a relaxing rest in the Jacuzzi. Though I look forward to Quartzsite, and like the economy side of staying at Walmarts when on the road, when I choose to park for a month, I do appreciate the amenities.