Monday, January 30, 2012

1/30/12 We are now in the parking lot at the Lone Butte Casino in Chandler, AZ. This is south of Phoenix and not very far from Gilbert, where we have an appointment at 8AM tomorrow to have our inverter/charger repaired. This casino has a very liberal parking policy for RVers, which we appreciate. It is conveniently located and they don't care how long anyone stays. Our friend, Marie von Minden, has been here off and on for months while she writes a book. So we have had her over for dinner the last 2 nights and I have enjoyed petting and walking her little cairn terrier named Kristi.
I promised to post some pictures from Boomerville at Quartzsite, where we spent most of January. The Boomers is a sub-group of the Escapees RV club which meets every January on the desert and besides all the Quartzsite shopping and RV shows, the Boomer group has lots of other activities. No one is in charge; each activity is suggested and coordinated by a volunteer. The other appeal is that so many of our friends attend this. So we have social events with friends as well.
The first night we were there we had this view:

The second day our Park Sierra friends, Glenda & Elleen, arrived and stayed overnight with us. They had planned to come in their own little Minnie Winnie, but just before they left, it had an engine problem and before they could get it fixed, it caught fire and their rig was totaled! So they stayed in with us and we had a great visit. The next day they went on to Phoenix and flew to Florida for a vacation.

Our friends David & Diane Wilson have cruised with us many times. We talked them into joining us for 10 days in their RV. Then we showed them all the charms of Quartzsite and Boomerville. Here they are in one of the many shopping venues in town:

There are always lots of gems and minerals for sale, including fossils like these from Morocco. When we were in Morocco we saw similar ones and I think they are cheaper here!

There is a small museum which has some wonderful displays of crystals such as this:

One of the first Boomer activities was a chili cookoff. I made some, and so did about 20 other people. Here are some of the judges tasting the entries:

There were also lots of good side dishes to go with the chili, and we ate with our friends, David & Diane:

One of the Boomer couples, Gretchen and Bob, made pancakes just about every other day for anyone who wanted to come and have some. This was quite a feat given that there were over 130 rigs at Boomerville. All they asked was for donations, which went to CARE. This is a place at Escapees headquarters in Texas where members can go when they need assistance due to a medical situation. Here is the pancake queen:

Down in our area, which Carole Schneider nicknamed "The Ghetto", we had a big 46th anniversary party for Anke & Herb. It was on the 21st and it was so windy out that Mike and Marilyn Harrison, the co-hosts with us, pulled their rig over near ours to make a windbreak. Here is the happy couple with their wedding picture in between:

Lots of the friends were having a great time, as you can tell by this picture of Judy & Paul, Ann sitting on Elaine's lap, Mick & Dona:

Betty & Duane, one of the sweetest couples, came to help celebrate. They are high school sweethearts themselves:

Elaine was partying with Dick & Carole Schneider while Mick took pictures:

Dona & Joe, new members, sit with Beth and Elaine:

Marilyn, her cousin Jeanne, and Diane:

Marilyn sits with old friends Sam & Bob, and the couple they brought along, Nu & Dana:

Herb & Anke with Mary & Elaine:

And with the other co-hosts, Marilyn & Mike:

Anke is a really good cook and baker and she gave Diane, Elaine and me a lesson in making rolls:

Herb & Anke had provided really expensive and delicious champagne for the party. The next day, while we were baking in our rig, Herb brought over a leftover bottle of chilled champagne and 4 glasses for us to share.

Another Boomer activity is the Geraldine contest/fashion show, where some of the men dress up like women in fancy outfits and with very funny explanations. Connie Farquar was the commentator, so she dressed in a man's suit. It is very entertaining and here are this years participants:

Larry and Joyce Space were with us when we drove down to Panama and back in 2004. They
attended Boomerville this year and here is Larry in his Geraldine outft:

Other good friends, Carol & Ron Leonard, sopped by for a few days. Here they are with the friends at Mike & Marilyn's campfire:

Morning coffee around the campfire helped everyone bond.
Sometimes someone would bring out special treats to serve, such as when Herb shared some crostinis:

Another evening we drove to the other side of the valley for a potluck with some Park Sierra friends. The food was delicious, and it was nice to reconnect with our "neighbors". Then we all enjoyed a campfire:

Our other favorite group is the RoVing Rods, and they were also meeting over on Plomosa Road. We joined them for a fish fry on the 27th. Ron and Barb Bonham are in charge of the group and coordinated the potluck/fish fry:

Betty had made several really delicious pies for Elaine's birthday. Here is Elaine with Betty:

And here are the pies:

Then there was another big campfire:

Besides socializing, other things get handled too. Tom Vineski took the time to investigate and troubleshoot our electrical problem and coordinate things with the Xantrex technician on the phone. In exchange, Doctor Elaine did some work on the foot of his wife, Nancy:

Every year we have to have a big party for Elaine's birthday, and this year she was 65 so Saturday night there was a celebration. Our very dear friends Lee & Susie drove over from the Boondocker gathering and here they are with the birthday girl:

Some of the other party animals were the Rayners, Jan, Joyce Space, and Dick & Carolyn Babione:

There were actually 3 birthday people this year, so here are Dick, Nu, and Elaine with the cake I made for them:

Life on the Arizona desert often involves some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Here is one of the sunrises (yes, I was actually up that early...)

And I will close with a sunset over Mike and Marilyn's rig. Goodnight.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hey Blog Readers, We have been camped in the desert outside of Quartzsite, AZ for several weeks with the Boomers. Things are winding down here, and most rigs will be gone by Sunday or Monday. Our cruise friends, David & Diane Wilson, came and parked in front of us for 10 days so we showed them around. They have now joined Escapees and Boomers, and they are a welcome addition. Other friends have stopped by for a day or two as well. There have been many activities, some of which we have enjoyed, and some that we missed because we were doing other things with other groups such as Park Sierra friends, and RoVing Rods. I have taken a few pictures and am planning to share them with you but loading them will take forever while we are still camped here because the signal isn't really good.
Sunday or Monday we have to drive back to Phoenix area to get our inverter/charger repaired. Tom Vineski, a Boomer friend who used to do solar installations and who is a very knowledgeable RV guy, helped us troubleshoot it yesterday and also talked to the Xantrex guy on the phone. It looks like we need a new mother board. Damn. So we will be in Phoenix next week and I will do a complete Quartzsite report with pictures at that time.
Today is Elaine's 65th birthday and we will be having a Happy Hour party at our campsite. If you read this today (1/28/12) and are in the area, please come! Party reports and pictures will be in the next post from Phoenix.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blog Update 1/12/12
Recently we spent some time in a couple of pretty interesting places where I took lots of pictures, so I thought I should share them with you. The first place was Anza Borrego State Park, where we boondocked near Pegleg and took the car out for a drive towards Borrego Springs. Our first goal was to find the fruit stand where we had bought some oranges and grapefruit in the past, because they were so sweet and juicy. We found it and it was a corner stand with bags of fruit in stacks, prices posted on the wall and the honor system for payment. We bought 2 bags, ate an orange immediately and were again pleased with the quality of the fruit.
The second goal was to find some of the metal sculptures which our friend Laurie Brown had posted about on her blog. (She writes an awesomely interesting blog called “Semi-true Tales of Our Life On The Road”. Google it and click on it and you will enjoy reading it a LOT.) Apparently there are 129 of them in total. When you see signs on plots of land both south and north of town that say: “Galleta Meadows Estates, you will see behind the signs, huge, rust-red, metal sculptures of prehistoric animals and birds, horses, giant tortoises, and mastodons, some set well off the main road on winding, sandy tracks.

The sculptures are crafted by Ricardo Breceda. Beginning in early 2008, Dennis Avery, who owns about three square miles of undeveloped property throughout the desert town, commissioned Breceda to create a menagerie of metal beasts. Most are life-size or larger sculptures of creatures that once roamed the Borrego Valley when it was a lush forest. Mammoths, camels, turtles, wild horses and giant sloths are some of the pieces that have been attracting the curious to town.

Early last year Breceda installed an awesome 350 foot long serpent, with a dragon-like head, which even spans Borrego Springs Road. It took 7 months to build and install and cost Avery $40,000.

We definitely agree with Laurie when she says: “As interesting as the sculptures are, I am equally amazed by the generosity of Mr. Avery. Each of the Galleta Meadows Estates signs say the same thing: “Hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, photographing, bicycling – no motorized cycles, camping limit three days. Privately owned desert estate.” When was the last time you saw a sign inviting you onto private property? Inviting you to camp for up to three days? To stick around, explore, enjoy the interesting sights he has commissioned and installed for your pleasure? In a world of liability fears and “No Trespassing” signs, it seems miraculous. Borrego Springs has a great benefactor in Dennis Avery.”
The second place we visited was The Slabs, or Slab City, near Niland, CA. Our across the street neighbors at Park Sierra, Mary & Rich Baughmann, usually spend their winters there, and they invited us to stop by. We had never been there before and were curious about it. It was quite an amazing place, once we saw everything that was there.
When you drive into the area, the first thing you pass is this old guard house, now painted with a welcoming message and if you look at this picture carefully, it says “the last free place”.

Yes, it is a free place – it is an area that is now owned by the state of California, but between 1942 and 1946 it was a marine base called Camp Dunlap. The marine base was for artillery training and there is still a very large and active artillery range nearby. After WWII the camp was deactivated, the buildings were removed, leaving just the concrete floors and thus giving this area the name, The Slabs. People in buses and RVs started coming here and using the slabs for patios, gathering areas, etc. Over the years, different areas have developed to meet the needs of the various people who come here for extended periods of time.
The second thing you notice upon entering this area is a huge, colorfully painted area on the side of a mesa called Salvation Mountain.

Leonard Knight started painting his Biblical messages on the sides of this “mountain” in 1985. He used to sleep in the Salvation Truck, a decorated vehicle with a house on the back. The truck, like the mountain, is lettered with biblical quotations and a large "REPENT" warning. In December, he had to relocate to a care facility as his health deteriorated.

There is a large area for members of the LOWS (Loners On Wheels). The area where year-round residents stay is called Poverty Flats.

Not very many people stay here all year because the temperature gets above 125 degrees in the summer. But it is very nice in the winter and lots of people stay here between Oct and April, thus saving a lot of money to use the rest of the year.
Driving into the area, this is a picture of a typical camper there:

It often gives a bad impression to middle-class RVers, and they turn around and leave. Mary & Rich have been coming here for years and love it! They have an area where friends from years past come and camp with them. When we arrived, there was plenty of room for us to park and not be too close to any regulars. Their nearest neighbor, Larry, was almost finished building his little unique home:

It is on a flat bed trailer and he hauled it down from Oregon! Mary had arranged a very nice Happy Hour so we could meet their friends.

One of their friends was Chili Bob, a guy who has been camping there in the winters for 6 years, and Mary arranged for him to take us on a tour the next day. By the way, lots of people we met had nicknames, such as Chili Bob, Half Pint, New York Larry, etc. No one’s last name is ever used, and lots of people do not want their picture taken. Perhaps there are a few who have outstanding warrants, etc???!!!
He has a 4 wheel drive car and we needed that feature often. There are paved roads near the slabs, and firm and level gravel roads in other parts where people camp. But if you get off the beaten track at all, the surface gets soft in parts. He started by taking us to the library:

A woman had built this wooden structure, maintained it and organized the books until her death. Now it is still functional but deteriorating. Chili Bob said there were 4 libraries in Slab City.
Then we drove to the Gopher Flats Golf Course, an 18 hole course complete with flag pins in the holes, and tee areas. Of course, there aren’t any water hazards!

Right near it was the aqueduct which runs along the edge of Slab City with the artillery range on the other side.

It is fenced off, but the residents find a way to get in there and go swimming, especially in summer. On Jan. 1 they had a Polar Bear Plunge here. The water is irrigation water for the many large agribusiness fields in the area.
There is an area set aside where residents who have lost their pets have established a pet cememtery:

Further on are 2 huge water tanks which used to store water for the Marine base, and which now have been painted by local artists. One of them has big business logos on it,

while the other one is completely covered with fornication poses such as you would find in the Kama Sutra.

From the hill where the tanks are you can look down on some people who choose not to park in the more congested area of the actual slabs:

Next we drove to the hot spring
The water looks a little cloudy in this picture but there was a guy enjoying it and it usually is between 104 to 108 degrees, depending on where you are in the spring. As you would expect, it is a clothing optional area.
Leaving the Slabs area, Chili Bob drove us south to a geothermal plant where there were many large grayish mounds sticking up in a field. Here is a picture of me standing next to one,

which shows how tall they were. We climbed up on the top of one where there was an opening and we could see a large, bubbling mud pot.

The very hot water just under the surface, pushes up through the soil and makes these mud mounds. Bob told us that there were 9 geothermal plants in this area which collect the 550 degree water from under the ground, run it through turbines to create electricity, and then pipe it back into the ground to be warmed up again.

On we went to the nearby Salton Sea. It was created in 1905 and here is an explanation about it:

The water is very far from the previous shore line now, so there is a huge expanse of salt from the evaporation as it receded.

Just off shore there was a little island that was covered with sea birds. And not too far off was a big pile of salt left over from the days when they used to mine salt here.

There is an obsidian mound around the bend from the road in, which shows the extensive volcanic activity here. And near the shore there is also a nice wildlife preserve and small interpretive center named after Sonny Bono who used to be the congressman for this area. The funny thing was that there were hardly any birds in the actual wildlife area, while the 2 fields just before we got to the wildlife area were loaded with snow geese:

On our way back to the Slabs, we went through the town of Calipatria, where we saw a VERY tall flagpole, and this sign:

Heading back to the Slabs, we passed a natural gas plant which has set aside an entire acre of land which it is in the process of covering with solar panels.

We were happy to see this because they get so much sunshine down here, it is a shame to keep relying on fossil fuels when solar energy can be easily obtained.
Back at the Slabs we visited the Sculpture Garden started by some artists in the past and which has workshops and tents for ongoing art projects, as well as a viewing yard for some completed works. Here are just a few of the displays we enjoyed: a wall made of bottles and cement:

an artistic house just a bit on a slant

an art car

the sign on the back of the art car says: "beer, 4 out of 5 people prefer it to prozac".
Our last stop was at the Oasis Club. Membership dues ($20) cover the whole year, and meals, twice a week,have different prices. There is a library

and a roomy lunchroom. Mary & Rich play cards here several times a week. There is a nice garden, and it seems to be an enjoyable place for people to gather and interact with other residents.
The last night we were there, Mary & Rich had us over for a very nice dinner. We ate outside and it was getting pretty cold because this is the desert and it gets cold as soon as the sun sets.

Every night they have a campfire, and all the people staying in Mary & Rich’s area come over to share and chat. On Saturday nights, there is also a large slab area called The Range that has been set aside for musical groups to play under some large lights, with lots of old chairs and couches scattered around for people to sit and enjoy. Dances are held there too.
We were very glad that we visited The Slabs while we had friends there because we had a whole different impression of it than we would have had if we had just driven in there. And we saw a whole lot more thanks to Chili Bob’s tour. THANKS Rich & Mary, and Chili Bob!