Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Quartzsite Continues

The above picture is our Montana Owner’s Circle taken from a powered hang glider. As you can see some people had left, but this was most of the group. (We are 4th from the right).

Quartzsite has changed since the weekend. We had serious rain for most of Sunday and high winds for all of Monday. Some of the group left on Sunday because they had schedules to keep and one couple left Monday in the wind. All around us similar groups are breaking up and although there are still plenty of RVs around, the desert does look less crowded. Seventeen of us (nine trailers) decided that we didn’t need to be anywhere so we are staying, waiting out the weather. These were good days to read, watch a move, take a nap and for Kathy to do some beading. We hadn’t driven anywhere since Saturday morning when I got more gas for the generators but Tuesday we drove to Blythe California to get groceries. Yesterday had beautiful weather but, there are wind advisories for today. Today it is laundry day and it looks like tomorrow our group is scattering in all directions.

Carl Youngren did a wonderful writeup for the Montana Owner’s forum of what the past week has been like here at Quartzsite so I have copied it here to give you an even better idea of life in Quartzsite.

“One of the major attractions of Quartzsite is the RV show (what – you thought it was the dirt and the wind?). They have the largest tent I have ever seen (look at the Quartzsite web site for an aerial photo of this puppy) which houses most of the vendor booths. Then there is the surrounding area outside where even more vendors have display booths. The show draws people from Phoenix, Yuma, San Diego, and Los Angeles besides all of the RV’ers camped in the desert. Needless to say, it can get crowded on the weekend when it opens. The experienced folks (that would be us) know to avoid the place until Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest unless you really enjoy “close” company. This picture was taken on Tuesday, and while still crowded, doesn’t even begin to compare to the weekend.

While waiting for the out-of-towners to depart, the group found other things to do. The ladies decided the provided lanyards for the badges were not up to their standards and they needed to do something about it. So after a trip into town to acquire supplies, they gathered to make beaded lanyards. The competition was hot heavy as everyone employed their own style and design in creating the “perfect” lanyard.

Here is a large sample (some folks had left before we got a picture) of the final results demonstrating the varied styles and designs.

This was the first ever boon docking experience for a number of the campers (SREIGLE, PARROTHEAD, JH Sechelt,
JJPARKER, David and Jo-Anna, BirdingRVer and maybe others). All of them seemed to enjoy the experience. But Grant and Kathy (BirdingRver) *REALLY* got into it. Grant had two brand new Honda 2000i’s and a Parallel Kit that had to be assembled (something about the microwave oven being integral to their survival necessitated the two Hondas).

Once Grant had power, he discovered he just had to have another survival necessity, Direct TV. Sure enough, in Quartzsite, the
vendor is very knowledgeable about installing in a RV (try getting the same results using the 800 number) and they come to you.

Apparently, Raider (the Golden Retriever) shakes the trailer when scratching and was disturbing their Honda powered Direct TV
experience. So the next step was to add a set of JT Stabilizers. Actually, a number of Montana owners besides Grant acquired stabilizers during the week. And like Direct TV, the JT installers would come to where you are in the desert.

This is BirdingRVers first time
boon docking and they figured they would stay for a day or two (at most according to Kathy). Well, it has been a week now, they are still here, and they may stay a while longer once they find the Laundromat in Q. I think they are having a good time. They even like the coyotes waking them up at 3:30 AM.

As you knew, or have figured out by now, this boon docking stuff is
basic survival mode. Always a topic of conversation and interest is food. What have I eaten, what will I eat next and what great meals have I had in other locations are popular topics. The restaurants in Q are mediocre to awful at best.

We are a sympathetic group who look out for each other. This includes ensuring everyone gets enough to eat. What better way to ensure everyone adds a few unneeded pounds than to have a potluck! So on Thursday, despite the threatening weather (which turned out to be sunny and warm), everyone pitched in to ensure the survival on the species.

The final organized adventure was the “Open House” for any Montana owners in the Quartzite area. There
are a surprising number of us out here in the desert and it was great to meet some of them. Did I mention there was food involved? But you knew that.

One attracti
on to camping is the evening campfire. And we had one every night. Normally, the first one to finish dinner would come out and start the fire. As the others finished, they too would grab a chair and sit around the fire. As the week progressed, it seemed the fire started earlier and earlier each night. Perhaps it became an extension of cocktail hour or folks were eating earlier. In any event, you can tell it isn’t dark yet (nor is it cold) in the picture. But there is the hard core crew tending the fire so the rest of us will have it to enjoy.

Unfortunately the time flew and it was Sunday – departure day for many. It is always sad to have to say goodbye, and the weather contributed to the mood. It had started raining just after midnight and it proceeded to spit and dribble all morning. Wet, grey, and ugly with a touch of brown mud made loading up no fun. Most got out without incident, but not Dennis (DENNIS AND CAROL). He had the unfortunate luck to find a prairie dog estate that looked solid until you placed seven tons of equipment on it. "

A Bird note: We were able to add Raven and Horned Lark to our Quartzsite list.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quartzsite Friday already!!

Quartzsite has been everything we had heard. There are parts of town where the traffic is so slow a little old lady in a walker could out walk it. There are areas where there is no parking, so everyone parks in a sandy river bed. The parked cars and trucks stretch for a couple of miles. The big RV show tent can be so crowded that you probably wouldn’t hit the ground if you fainted. It is true that if you are looking for something for your RV, if it isn’t here doesn’t exist. The entire town of Quartzsite is one giant Flea Market that goes on for miles and has at least a half dozen different “main” locations. There seems to be acres of Gem Stone Bead vendors. (Kathy and the other beaders from the Montana group have been having a field day looking for and buying stones for beading).

Every imaginable RV group has a rally site somewhere in the desert around Quartzsite during the week of the “Big RV show”. For a radius of 10 to 20 miles around Quartzsite, the desert is covered with RVs of every description. Having said that, Quartzsite is fun as long as you have the right frame of mind and aren’t in a hurry about anything. Out on the desert it is quiet during the day and there seems to be plenty of room for all of the RVs and no doubt thousands more. At night you hear the hum of the generators until about 10 PM.

We came to Quartzsite to experience the event that is ‘Quartzsite in January’, to meet in real time many of the Montana Owner’s that we have only “talked” with on the forum and to pick up a few of those RV items that you can only get in Quartzsite or a major RV show. It is surreal to be sitting out on the desert 10 miles from the nearest town or power pole and watch satellite TV while using the microwave. We have been very happy with our new stabilizers that take the movement out of the trailer when someone is walking through it.

The Montana Owner’s group has been a lot of fun. We have had a few people leave the circle each day and new people arrive each day so the circle has stayed about 22 trailers, but the actual number of attendees is about 60 people.

When we first talked of coming to Quartzsite we were going to come for a “couple of days” to try it out. Once Kathy heard about all of the beading vendors we were going to stay “a few days”. Now we will be staying at least 8 days and maybe longer. Talking to several people, we found some that arrive here in October and stay until mid-March. We are not ready for that, but now understand why people come back year after year and stay longer and longer.

One thing that Quartzsite seems to be lacking is birds. We have seen 6 birds in 5 days, 4 house finches at a feeder, 1 dove as a flyby and 1 American Kestrel on a wire.

We had some rain Thursday morning and the two pictures in today's blog entry were taken then.

Monday, January 21, 2008

We have arrived in Quartzsite!

This is boondocking decadence! We are sitting out on the desert about 6 miles from town and we still have a WIFI connection (love that Verizon Aircard) and TV. Boondocking is the closest we get to real camping. There are no hookups so we use all of the on board systems and our generators for electricity and the run the microwave. :-)

We met up today with other members of the Montana Owners.Com forum. Grant first joined the forum back in May of 2006 when we were still trying to decide which brand of 5th wheel to buy. Obviously, we chose a Montana and the people on the forum have been great about answering questions and passing alone tips for first time 5th wheel owners. This gathering is a chance to meet in real life with people that we talk to all of the time over the internet. We have Americans and Canadians, people from Alaska and all of the western states. We are expecting more people to arrive later in the week from back east. Currently we have about 20 Montana 5th wheels here and are expecting another 10 or so.

Grant is really excited to be here after reading about it for so many years. Our first impression is the actual town is much bigger than we had expected. As expected there are 1,000s of RV scattered across the desert. However, here up on Plomosa Rd. where we are staying it is really wide open, very level and beautiful desert vistas.

As soon as we got all settled in, Kathy was put to work assisting in the beading class. Several of the ladies had gone to the beading store in town with great buys on beads and were making the beaded lanyards for the name tags.

Raider is just glad to be outside without being hooked up to a leash! At first, he refused to go inside the trailer! Kathy had to convince him that Grant was already inside before he would go in! There was nowhere to sit outside in Yuma, so he was only outside for walks.

This evenings sunset.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yuma Weather Report

Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday, very windy and cold. Friday was less windy but, just as cold. The temperature didn’t reach 60 degrees on either day and we spent our time reading or getting ready for our move to Quartzsite on Monday. Mostly, we have been doing laundry and stocking up on food and water. Saturday and Sunday we have had lows in the 30’s, but the days have been mid-60s and sunny.

The birds seem to like the warmer weather and have been out and about.

The only birds we added to the year list was a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers.

Our current RV Park has been clearing out the past few days as more and more people head to Quartzsite. This next week we will be joining the wave of RVs heading that way to meet up with other members of Montana This will be our first time using the trailer without any hookups. We are planning to stay the week, but we will have to see how it goes.

We don’t know if we will have any access to the Internet so I may not be able to post during this coming week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Windy Yuma!

As they say “what a difference a day makes”.

We awoke to the sound of the wind blowing and the awnings on the trailer slides flapping. The wind has blown all day today and so far is continuing into the night. Today’s high was 10 degrees cooler than yesterday. The local weather report says more of the same tomorrow and this evening the local CBS channel went off of the air due to the wind.

We took Raider for a long walk through the West Wetlands Park next to the RV Park, but the wind got stronger the longer we were out. Consequently today was spent mostly reading. If you are interested in history Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe is a great read.

I haven’t written much about birding lately but, no matter where we are or what we are doing, we are always birding. While walking Raider along the river a few evenings ago we spooked a Green Heron which is a new year bird. We have also noticed that there seem to be plenty of Cooper’s Hawks in Yuma. We have seen them in several parts of Yuma.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Adjusting to Fulltiming and a Tourist Day

Since the Wishnies are no longer here to keep us in line we have become lazy. :-) We sleep for at least 9 hours every night (I have gotten over the habit of waking up a 5 AM every morning). Then we check email, have breakfast, etc. and finally are ready to face the world about 9:30 or 10.

Today was a day to be tourist. The weather remains lovely here in Yuma; it was low-70s and a light breeze today. Yuma is a much smaller town than I remembered it and apparently only has three tourist attractions.

The Yuma Prison Territorial Prison State Park, was in operation from 1876 until 1909. Although it is notorious from old western movies, in reality it was considered a model institution for its time.

The other two attractions are across the river from the prison. They are Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Park and the site of the Yuma Crossing. These are actually at the same site. Yuma Crossing had been the ferry site for crossing the Colorado River long before the first Spanish explorers came to the area. Over the years as more settlers came through the area and the Quechan Indians were driven out, the crossing became a commercial ferry service and the Supply Depot for the US Army in the west. Eventually, it would also become the site of the Southern Pacific railroad bridge, which was the first bridge across the Colorado River. This site was used as a Quartermaster Depot from about 1860 until 1877 when the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived and it was no longer necessary to bring supplies in by paddle wheel riverboats from the Gulf of Mexico. The Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Park has 6 of the original buildings but they are so “restored” the look new. It is a pretty park with wall after wall of photographs of the area over the years.

A truly unique experience of the day was during the 2 ½ hours we spent wandering around the park, we only saw 4 other people. It is almost eerie to have a State Historic Park to yourself.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Living cliché and windy days

Our friends Fred & Jo Wishnie moved on to Blythe California today, but Kathy and I are staying here in Yuma until we move up to Quartzsite at the beginning of next week. The weather here in Yuma has been mid-70’s during the day and low-50s at night. We wish Fred and Jo safe travels and look forward to meeting up with them again in a few weeks.

As sure as trailer parks attract tornados; Wal-Marts attract RVers. I am sure that both phenomenons are just unexplainable acts of nature. We had both received Starbucks gift cards for Christmas so, Sunday we went to Starbucks. While there we got to talking about the need for a non-electric coffee maker for our time boondocking at Quartzsite when we won’t have electricity. Next door to Starbucks was a Wal-mart and not just any Wal-Mart but a Super Wal-Mart. So, we went in. I felt like a living RV cliche. As we walked in we discussed do we need a cart and decided that we didn't. Fifteen feet inside the door Kathy said "while we are here". I then went and got us a cart; long story short we left with $100 worth of stuff and couldn't find any non-electric coffee makers. The wind started coming up Sunday morning and continued through Monday. Local weather said that the wind was 15 to 20 mph with gust 25 to 35 mph. Wind is horrible for birding; even rain is better than wind. So, not much happened on Sunday and even less on Monday.

Monday turned out to be a real “do nothing” day. We didn’t even move the truck. We slept late and except for Raider's walks, all we did to today was sit and read. It was our most relaxing day so far.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bird Watching can be harder than it looks!

Today was a birding day. We went to Betty's Kitchen and Mittry Lake, an area about 20 miles north of Yuma off of Highway 95. Our guide book said “Betty's Kitchen, Mittry Lake, and the surrounding area offer a wealth of bird-finding opportunities.” So we were at the right place. We arrived just as the sun was lighting up the top of the trees. That meant we had to get up in the dark to leave Yuma just at sunrise. So we were there at the right time. However, there were very few birds! In the 5+ plus hours we spent birding we saw less than a dozen species of birds and except for the ever present Coots very few actual birds.

The best birds of the day were a pair of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yuma, Arizona and Algodones, Mexico

Burrowing Owl

We arrived here in Yuma on Monday. On Tuesday we did a morning bird walk at the Yuma West Wetlands Park and saw a large number of birds,though not many species of birds. On Wednesday we did a serious day of birding, crossing back into California and birding the west side of the Colorado River up to the Imperial Dam. We have been trying to get to a 100 birds species for the New Year and we achieved that with a Spotted Sandpiper at the Imperial Dam Settling Pond.

Our most interesting bird of the day was a juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher.

We ended Wednesday with a Taco Crawl. Jo Wishnie had read an article about a street here in Yuma that has several taco vendor stalls. So, Fred, Jo, Kathy and I for dinner went from stand to stand trying 1 taco at each stand. These are small soft tacos made from pork, beef, or cow’s head. I think our final consensus was that the Tacos al Pastor (marinated pork) at the first stand were the best and none of us feel a real need to have cow’s head tacos again soon. The evening ended with us opening a bottle of French champagne to celebrate our first 100 birds of the year (JC thanks for the champagne).

Thursday was a non-birding, “do-nothing” day. In reality on the “do-nothing” days we go to the Laundromat, buy groceries, etc. It is truly amazing how fast the days go by.

Friday’s adventure was a trip to Algodones, Mexico. Algodones is 10 miles from Yuma and is a town that caters to Snowbirds. Which are mostly retired Americans and Canadians, that come to Mexico for cheap dentistry, eyeglasses and prescription medicines. It is a very small town where the Anglos outnumber the Mexicans about 10 to one. The streets are lined with Pharmacies, Dentist Offices, Optical stores and Liquor stores. All business in town is done in US dollars and in English. Algodones is very clean, has maybe two bars and about three restaurants. They say that 33,000 people cross the border PER DAY in the winter time! One of the other things about Algodones is that, except for the people working there, Kathy and I were the youngest people we saw all day by many years.

Algodones street and Jo and Kathy shopping

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

January Itinerary

Our January itinerary is coming a little more into focus.

January 1 – 6 El Centro, California
We stayed at the Sunbeam Lake Resort which is next to a county park. This was a nice park with large sites and complete amenities, about 6 miles outside of El Centro. We expect that we will return to Sunbeam next time we are in the area.

January 7 – 13 and maybe 14 - 22 Yuma, Arizona
River Front RV Park; we will be staying here at least a week but, may stay two weeks.

January 20 – 27 Montana Owners Circle at Quartzsite
We keep vacillating about how long we want to try boondocking at Quartzsite so; we don’t have a firm date as to when we are going to Quartzsite. “Boondocking” is staying in the trailer without any kind of hookups. At Quartzsite you just pull out into the desert and park where you want. Nick Russell wrote a piece called “Woodstock for RVers” that explains Quartzsite .

January 28 – 31 So many choices
We haven’t decided where to go after the Montana Owners Circle. We are considering Lake Havasu or maybe down to Organ Pipe National Monument. We will wait to see what the weather is like and what ideas we pickup from other RVers over the next few weeks.

More birding and eating

To really know what we have been up to and to see the pictures; check out our friends’, the Wishnie’s blog at We have pretty much continued the pattern of go birding one day and “do nothing” the next day but, we seem to find time to eat every day. :-) I need to find my camera (I know it is in the trailer somewhere) so that I can add some pictures to the blog and hopefully I will find it soon.

Yesterday was a travel day; we only moved about 70 miles but, we are now in Yuma, Arizona. We are currently at the River Front RV Park. This is an old RV park with little or no amenities. It does have full hookups but, no cable TV or WiFi. All of the sites are back-ins and I needed the guidance of three people to get into our spot which was probably the easiest in the park. I still can’t back the trailer into a site very well, after having “pull thru sites” at the other RV Parks. The sites are much smaller than we had in El Centro but, not as small as the RV Park in Acton. This Park is on the Colorado River and right next to the Yuma West Wetlands Park. Yesterday afternoon we walked Raider through part of the Wetlands Park and it was very birdy.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

BirdingRVers 2008 Itinerary

In the About Us section on the blog home page I wrote:
“Our hobbies are bird watching and astronomy so, if you know of a great birding spot or dark sky site in an area we are visiting please let us know.”

I thought it might be helpful if you knew where we’re planning to go so that you could make those suggestions.

Although this is the itinerary today it can change due to weather, whim, serendipity and suggestions from blog readers. As we expect changes, I will try to post a monthly itinerary at the beginning of each month.

· Early - Southern California desert – El Centro, Salton Sea and Yuma, AZ.
· Late - Montana Owners.Com circle at Quartzsite.

· Most southern part of California desert - Salton Sea, Anza-Borrego and Yuma area.
· Drift east maybe Organ Pipe National Monument, Tucson area.
· Maybe Gypsy Journal Rally in Casa Grande, AZ.

· Southeastern Arizona
· Tucson,
· Sierra Vista,
· Kartchner Caverns,
· Ramsey's Canyon and other birding spots

· Start heading north; stop at Sedona area
· Stop in Flagstaff to see: Grand Canyon, Lowell Observatory, Meteor Crater, and Petrified Forest.
· Monument Valley
· Utah desert National Parks – Arches, Canyonlands, etc.

· Continue north depending on the weather maybe stop in at Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
· Mid-May cross into Canada from Montana continue north on the east side of the Rockies. Depending on weather maybe stop in at Banff and Jasper.

· Arrive in Dawson Creek, BC (beginning of the Alaska Highway early June)
· Dawson Creek to Whitehorse, Yukon in whatever time it takes.
· Side trip to Skagway, Alaska
· Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon (center of 1898 Klondike gold rush)
· Dawson City, Yukon to Tok, Alaska, decision on taking the Top of the World Highway or back tracking to Whitehorse will depend on the weather.

June, July, August
· Central Alaska loop counter-clockwise
· Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Whittier, Homer, Seward or Seward, Homer, Anchorage, Valdez, Tok

· Tok to Hyder, Alaska via the Cassiar Hwy.
· Hyder to Prince George, BC

Late September –Early October
· Prince George, BC to Aurora, Illinois via Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba
Tim you have been warned, we are on our way to visit. :-)

· Aurora, Illinois to Livingston, Texas

November – December
· ???????

Along the way we plan to visit every wildlife refuge we can find, go birding every day, and do astronomy wherever there is a good night sky.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Where does the time go?

Yes, folks we survived our first week as fulltimers and the time has flown by!

Last weekend we visited our sisters that live near Magic Mountain\Valencia. The closest RV Park we could get was in Acton about 30 miles beyond where they live.

Hello Rob & Sue, Dan & Judy. Thanks for having us over; it was great seeing you again.

On Sunday afternoon, the wind started to come up and the wind got stronger and colder all night. I was wearing a down vest while getting the trailer ready to hookup at 9 AM on Monday morning. We left Acton about 10:30 AM and drove across the high desert before dropping in to San Bernardino. The wind was very strong and at one point the computer on our truck said that the mileage was down to 7.6 MPG! Once we got over the pass and down into San Bernardino the mileage improved but the winds were very strong. I just tucked in behind a semi and hoped that he would block the head wind.

Once we got past Palm Springs (about half way) the winds stopped and the temperature improved dramatically. Here in El Centro, we met up with our friends Fred & Jo Wishnie for New Year’s Eve. Fred is a master chef and had said that the next time we meet he would cook a Pasta Bolenasie that “you will remember the rest of your life”. YES, Fred’s Pasta Bolognaise is that good! We decided to watch the east coast feed of the ball dropping in New York and called it an evening, because we all had to get up early.

Every January 1st birder’s start a new Year List; a list of the birds you have seen in the current year. By tradition we always try to start the year with a Big Day to see 100 or so species to get the list started. New Year’s morning found the 4 of us starting out at 7:30 to bird the Salton Sea area. We finally stopped for lunch at 2 PM. We returned to our trailers exhausted and had seen about 40 species.

After our exhausting day on the first we all agreed to make the 2nd a “do nothing day”; we would just rest and relax. During our “do nothing day” Kathy did laundry, while Fred, Jo and I did so “casual” birding. We were gone about two hours. I am way behind in the blog and emails so I thought I would tackle that in the afternoon when our friends Carl and Susan from the Montana Owners forum dropped by to visit. We had first met them at the Montana Owners Rally back in March. Susan had lived here in El Centro when she was a child and had some real insights to the area. As it turns out Susan is also a beader like Kathy and they had all kinds of ideas to discuss. It was great to see Carl and Susan again and we will be meeting up with them later in the month at Quartzsite.

On the 3rd it was time for “serious” birding again so Fred, Jo, Kathy and I started out at 7 AM to go birding in the areas we ran out of time for on the first. This time we were better prepared and brought along lunch. We returned to the trailers about 4 PM with about 50 species of birds sighted but, there are some duplicates from the 1st.

The 4th was another “do nothing” day to buy groceries, propane, get the salty mud washed off of the truck from the Salton Sea area and then relax.

For the most part the weather here has been T-shirt weather during the day but, it gets cold quick after sundown. However, the overnight temperature has been higher than any we have experienced for the past month.