23-24 January 2013
The Big Tent
One of the landmarks of Quartzite, during the show months of Jan-Feb, is the huge tent that is erected to house the main shows. This thing is one of the largest I’ve seen, about 100 feet wide and 700 feet long, with 4 full-length rows of booths and vendors.
Attendees are an eclectic bunch, to say the least. Lots of gray hair, but a bit of the unusual as well, with sprinklings of hippies, bikers, middle-aged vacationers, and the occasional odd/end such as girl-and-pink-poodle and grannie-walker-pekinese-desert combos.
For whatever reasons, the big tent has been housing less and less RV-specific stuff over the years. These days, real RV products are out-numbered 5:1 by fairly pedestrian fare. Non-stick cookware, magnetic health bands, magic cleaners, and endless assortments of blouses, hats, and jewelry, all take their place beside tow bars, power enhancement packages, ladder-mounted flagpoles, and guaranteed no-leak sewage dump hoses (yeah, sure).
Outside, the bazaar (flea market) gets even more diverse, covering acre after acre of outdoor shaded selling booths. Products and services range from wood carvings and dinosaur bones, through tools and hardware, more clothing, antique stuff, gem polishing equipment, gold mining equipment, a country singer selling CD’s while performing live Karaoke all day long, more magic health aids like patches and balms, a family singing/playing/dancing for donations – – it’s hard for one’s imagination to come up with something that’s not being hawked in winter Quartzite.
Flags and Poles
For years now, I’ve talked with Karin about flying the American flag over Howie when we’re parked/camped. It’s a little about patriotism, and also spotting our parking location from a drive/walk. Looks kinda cool, too. We bought a flagpole and flag, and it was poorly designed and tended to rattle a lot and fall out of its mount in even modest winds, so it’s just stored under the bed and not used.
Now, here, in the den of all RV gew-gaws, I found multiple vendors of exotic flags and flagpoles. Well (thought I), now’s the time to find the ideal solution. One caveat, though – – the traditional protocol for flying the Flag is such that, at night, the flag must either be lighted or taken down. Being a basically lazy sort and a power miser, I decided I needed a solution that didn’t involve so much regular maintenance. Yesterday, I bought a long, flexible flagpole which would support a “wind sock”. The sock is made up in the Flag’s colors: stars and stripes. I figure that the Flag could not be left out un-lit overnight, but a wind-sock would not be an official offense.
All went well until late, late evening. The pole was up, attached soundly to Howie’s roof ladder. The wind sock was flying from the 30-foot tip, proudly displaying our country’s colors. And I was gently drifting off to sleep in Howie’s comfy, warm queen bed. Then, the wind changed.
The pole began gently, but insistently, tapping on the ladder. Did I say insistently? Maybe I meant malevolently, or insidiously. Working toward viciously, with the inexorable result of a Chinese water-drip torture. There was NO WAY that I was going to sleep through this. After 15 minutes or so of rap-rap-rapping (I HATE rap), I got up, put on some sandals and pants, and scurried outside to take the flag/pole down. I was pretty chilly as I hurriedly yanked down the 30-foot flagpole and wind sock. Then, gratefully, back inside to warm, blissfully quiet sleep. Except, of course, for being wide awake. Oh well. Got it fixed for good the next day.
In California, highway regulations are strict and well enforced. Other states are a little different. Oregon, for example, allows trucks to tow THREE trailers (“trips”), as does Arizona. In California, you’d probably be convicted of a felony for the same action.
I noticed that Arizona seems to have some other lenient attitudes on truck and trailer rules.
When you make your RV lifestyle somewhat independent of RV parks, you commit to a self-sustained existence without “hookups” to water and power. This is called, variously, dry-camping, boondocking, free-camping. One of the things that all boondockers constantly grapple with (besides water) is battery capacity. Almost everything that we depend upon needs some contribution from our battery resources: water must be pumped, lights lit, and water/space heaters operated. All those electrons have to be replaced, or life-support disappears.
Running the engine or aux generator can re-charge batteries, but it’s noisy and they use up gas/diesel/propane. Solar works – – in the sunshine.
One useful battery-management tool is a stand-alone propane-fired heater. These units do not require fan/forced-air to operate. I bought one of these today, and I’m writing these words across from its cheery, warm glow, unaccompanied by the rushing roar of the battery-draining forced-air fan or the vibrating rumble of the generator.
So – – why the fuss over a silly heater? This is just a small example of self-reliance (plus of course the usual Tim Allen hairy tool-making ape perspective), RV-style. Making your resources last longer creates a very satisfying feeling of ability-to-prevail. Fiddling with the rig to make it work better, longer, cheaper, and more independently of the rest of the world – – that’s just plain cool. Or hot, as the case may be.
Our normal life in a frame-house, with PGE-lit, water-company supported “civilized” amenities is really comfortable and handy – – but we get insulated from life’s basic essentials, and we take for granted keeping fed, warm, and comfortable. The RV boondock lifestyle (plush as it is compared to something like tent camping, or – shudder – backpacking) still brings us closer to the basics of survival – – water, food, shelter. Taking care of these on one’s own is very satisfying. Quoting Thoreau, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Life is good.
25 January 2013
Siegi and Linda left today, and for the first time in a very long time, I am alone out in the desert. Admittedly, it would be possible to be much alone-er, what with thousands of RV-ers all around. But it still feels pretty alone.
Shifting gears is more difficult than I anticipated. I feel the vacuum of nobody to talk to, coordinate with, plan with, chat with, take walks with. In addition to the isolation, the desert is now in its third consecutive day of bleak, gray skies, slightly depressing in its own right – – I feel like I need some light-therapy. I’ll never understand how my friends in Oregon deal with this all the time. Different strokes.
Off to the fair and checking out the sights, people, and products. Out on the paved street, this stretch-pickup-limo presents itself (only $8000). Just the tool for taking the top executives out for a dirt-bike weekend.
I’ve got a few minor items to pick up today, and I spend some idle time wandering about the bazaar. As always, strange sights abound.
The rock-hound area has an enormous geode on display. A cooperative visitor snaps my picture standing next to it.
Down the street, back in the direction of camp, yet another bazaar is located, this one more for the gemstone bunch. There, a guy from Wyoming is selling 55-million-year-old fish fossils found in ancient sandstone. I pick up a few cool souvenirs for the grandkids.
The fish-fossil guy is right next to someone selling a marble floor polishing machine (6 tons of articulated-arm, base, and motor). Just a bit much to carry back home; grandkids would have less fun with this, so I leave it be.
One of my personal favorite candidates for a capable, affordable expedition vehicle is the Mitsubishi Fuso FG. This model is a cab-forward, diesel-fired, 4WD work truck with a 15,000GVW capacity. They are among the favorites of the continent-touring crowd; in fact, our Australian friends are working on their 5th or 6th continent in one variation.
However, they’re not commonplace, so I was pleased to find one tucked away in a sand wash west of the show grounds. This one has nearly stock tires (heavy cleats but still 16” wheels) and some kind of custom living box. Note the solar panels on the roof, diesel jugs over the cab, spare tires tucked in under the rear bevel. Pretty cool go-anywhere house-on-wheels.
At the other end of the spectrum, minimalist RV-ing: a ratty van and a rattier “trailer” composed of an old pickup-bed and very weathered plywood “shell”. The windows appeared to be plastic dropcloth sheets.
Skies darken still more as the day wanes, and the rain becomes steady (though still light) by dusk. It always sounds like more than it is, on Howie’s huge span of fiberglass roof. But the forecast is for only a quarter-inch. After hours of half-hearted drizzle, there’s still a distinct shadow of dry ground under the vehicles.
I stroll about the desert around camp, trying to figure out how the plants are going to benefit from any of this feeble watering. It seems to just lie on the ground for a short while until evaporation takes it away again. Even a quarter-inch doesn’t seem like it can get to any root systems – – but I’m an engineer, not a botanist. What do I know.
At least I don’t have to worry about getting stuck. Just can’t make much mud with 0.25” water.
Mud & Puddles
It rains all night and into the next day. It rains like Oregon, not Arizona. The limp wind sock hangs over Howie’s roof and drips madly with in irregular spat-spat-spat. Chinese water torture again. This time I’m successful in ignoring it.
The nice dry shadows under Howie and Ralph disappear in the onslaught, and the dusty flats become series of muddy rain puddles.
The mud’s not deep, and nobody is getting stuck – but you can feel how slick it is. Even a slight slope or grade results in hockey-puck traction.
Late in the day, the rain begins to abate. By sunset, the sky has turned to a beautiful scattered-cloud mix, the prettiest kind of heaven.
Within an hour or two, the desert has noticeably dried out, with puddles disappearing and only slightly damp earth remaining.
I take a long walk away from camp, out into the empty desert. The people and vehicles and humming generators are left behind, just murmuring dots on the horizon.
The sheer space of it all once again expands my own being. As always, the vastness, the quiet and solitude, find my soul, and they all join together in celebration of this very fine gift of – – existence.
Time to wrap up the blog and call it a night.