Saturday, March 27, 2021

A Review of Nomadland - The Book AND The Movie

 What started as an investigative news article for journalist Jessica Bruder blossomed into a widely read book and award-winning film.  As you have probably guessed, I’m referring to “Nomadland”.  I have read the book as well as viewed the movie.  And as part of the full-time RVing community for the past 9 years, I thought I’d share my personal take-aways.   Please remember that this blog represents this humble Rambling RV Rat’s personal opinions.  I am entitled to mine; you are entitled to disagree. I always encourage communication, conversation, and diversified perspectives.  I only ask that we all be respectful while expressing our views.  So here goes…

 

I did not take favorably to the book AT ALL.  Seemingly, the author’s agenda was to show the impact of the Great Recession of 2007/2008 on senior citizens.  She laments that the loss of retirement funds, jobs, and housing left seniors little choice but to take to the road as nomads, mostly in cargo vans, searching for employment.  She reported that they would end up working for The Man at jobs that required much physicality, but in her estimation, provided meager earnings.  


Over a 3-year period, Ms. Bruder attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) sponsored by Bob Wells and his Homes on Wheels Alliance (HOWA).  She even went undercover at the Sugar Beat Harvest and at various Amazon Fulfillment Centers (FC), including the FC at which my parents worked for two holiday seasons to offset some of the costs of our Alaskan trip (over $17K, as outlined here By The Numbers).  While my parents would agree the work is quite strenuous, Amazon is brutally honest about the job requirements before hiring, including the length of the workday, the constant walking/standing, and even the “completion rates” each function is assigned.  Amazon DOES NOT sugar-coat or do a bait-and-switch.   And since robots and trained monkeys can do the tasks required, my parents felt the compensation package was quite fair.   But then again they don’t hate Corporate America or Jeff Bezos like many folks do.   Heck, if nothing else, the daily workout proved to be a free weight loss program!

 

 

The stories of folks detailed in Ms. Bruder's book were extremely sad and quite bleak.  Divorce, bankruptcy, drug addiction, alcoholism, or illness of a spouse could indeed inflict great financial hardship, especially during a time of national economic downturn.  As my Grandma always said, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  But bad decisions during good economic times can affect folks gravely during bad economies.  Some people don’t save for a rainy day; some may live well beyond their means; some may never have the opportunity to reach financial security no matter how hard they work.   Regardless of the reason, folks do find themselves in dire financial situations and we empathize with their plights. 

 

HOWEVER, not everyone in the nomadic lifestyle is destitute, and/or living in a van, and/or pooping in a 5-gallon bucket, and/or eating beans every night (Hey, to each his/her/their own; there is no one size fits all in this life).  My point is that just like the diversity of the general population, the nomadic community is comprised of folks from EVERY age bracket AND socio-economic class AND utilize a variety of vehicles in which to travel.    Non-RVers unfamiliar with the lifestyle may not realize that many fifth wheel/truck combos cost just as much as homes in some parts of the country.  Or that people could spend a half million dollars (or more) on a new Class A diesel pusher bus!  So, my biggest gripe about the book is that it introduced the world to our nomadic lifestyle, but it revealed only one half of the equation.  The book focused only on senior citizens.  It failed to report that nomads come in all ages, not just those 60+ (look at how many young individuals and families are now RVing fulltime).  The book focused on financial hardship.  But many of us are just as or MORE financially sound than those living in sticks/bricks.  Many folks work as entrepreneurs or hold high paying corporate jobs that they perform remotely.  Or many folks worked hard and saved hard contributing regularly to their 401ks/savings/brokerage accounts (look at the FIRE movement [Financial Independence Retire Early].  Me thinks Ms. Bruder cherry-picked who to include in the book.   Even if the focus was only on the 60+ "senior" crowd, every senior citizen that she interviewed while working at Amazon CamperForce or at the Beat Harvest was NOT struggling financially NOR living in a van.

 

As for the film adaptation, I enjoyed it!  While the book emitted pessimism, the movie illustrated the positive aspects of the nomadic lifestyle, even for those with limited financial means.   One factor contributing to the more optimistic view is that many of the cast were the “real deal”, with Charlene Swankie and Linda May (whose stories Ms. Bruder included in the book) portraying themselves.  Frances McDormand gave an outstanding performance as Fern.  Her character was fictitious, though probably a composite of many people from Empire, Nevada.   Fern and her husband worked for Georgia Pacific in Empire.  The company built a mini-city for its employees, including subsidized housing, entertainment venues, churches, and schools.   According to Ms. Bruder’s reporting, employees were well compensated and could cover the monthly rent on their house with just a day or two of work.  But all good things must come to an end.  First, Fern’s husband passes away. Then Georgia Pacific gave employees 6-months-notice of the entire plant closing.  Fern found herself alone and despaired, losing her job, her home, her community, and the fiber of her being.  The movie was poignant.  Fern’s loss, grief, hardship, and struggle as she enters van-life were palpable.   But through meeting wonderful, caring, sharing people like “Swankie”, Linda May, Bob Wells, and the RTR, she learns she is not alone.  She is a part of a community, a “tribe”, with friends who look out for one another (which depicts the nomadic community perfectly.)  Fern is then determined to accept her new life, and even enjoys true contentment in its simplicity.  To me, the movie clearly differentiates being minimalistic from being destitute.  And in the end, Fern realizes she may no longer have all the material things she wants, but she certainly has everything she needs, including the emotional support of caring friends.

 

One very special aspect of the movie is that many scenes were filmed right in our beloved Quartzsite, Arizona (where we have boondocked for 2-3 months each of the last 7 years).  So seeing familiar places/people on the Big Screen (like Scadden Wash, Silly Al’s Restaurant, the Yacht Club, and a performance of boogie woogie by the now deceased Paul Winer) was super cool.


The cinematography had me marveling at the resplendence of our Mother Earth and reminiscing of all the wonderful places my family had visited over the last 9 years.  The majestic mountains, the calming waters, the crisp fresh air, the glorious rising and setting of our Sun, the twinkling of the night sky stars, the camaraderie of friends.  These priceless gifts are bestowed upon us by a Supreme Creator.  And this stuffed rat and his family feel blessed to be a part of the RVing community.  We enjoy and give thanks for our nomadic lifestyle each and every day. 

 

I highly recommend all RVers see the movie.  It earns one of my Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese awards. 


Thanks for reading this Rambling RV Rat Review.  I’ll return to my regular travel blog real soon!

 





Friday, March 26, 2021

Great Off-Roading in Quartzsite, AZ

We enjoy going by ourselves on short off-roading jaunts in Rat Patrol II, our Polaris 570 RZR.  This is usually in conjunction with finding new areas to hike and geocache.   We have all necessary tools and safety equipment (including winch, Slime, tow straps, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and satellite phone), but as newer off-roading enthusiasts we prefer not to venture out to parts unknown by ourselves.  So, we attended the February meeting of Quartzsite Off-Roaders held at the Quartzsite Improvement Authority.  It is there that we learned about the Arizona Sun Riders, a great group of fellow off-road enthusiasts.


 



The Arizona Sun Riders are an active group, venturing out several times per week.   Their shorter rides average about 65 miles, which is the perfect length for us.   (Since TX does not register/plate off-road units, Rat Patrol II does not meet Federal requirements for off highway vehicles (OHV) on some types of Federal land trails like King of Arizona National Wildlife Refuge (KOFA).   I was secretly relieved to learn this, 'cause I don’t think I could have handled participating in the Arizona Sun Riders' 10-hour, 130+ mile ride through KOFA.)


Some of the rides involve trailering to a start point.  We did not participate in any of those rides this year.  But we have adapted Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, to accommodate our swivel wheel for carrying Rat Patrol II for next year.

 


The Arizona Sun Riders are organized and safety conscious.  Most rides depart from the lot across from the Arco fuel center near Riggles Avenue.  Each ride has a leader and a tail gunner, and usually a canine mascot, too.  On average, each ride has about 14 participants.  They utilize a rotation system for keeping the group together at trail intersections, so one unit is not solely responsible for the task.  My only wish would be that they tell us the trail numbers on which we will be traversing, so we know routes for future visits.

 


They took us to unique places, not the standards like Dripping Springs, Deer Run, or Erdman Mine/Potty Garden.  So, without further ado, here’s some of our off-roading adventures with the Arizona Sun Riders.

 


Copperstone Mine (approx. 75 miles round trip).  With mascot Wilbur, we headed north towards Parker to view this mine that produced about a half million ounces of gold between 1987 and 1993.  Though shut down for some time, plans are underway to revive the mining operation later this year.  


Wilbur, our mascot for the Copperstone Mine ride





Ehrenberg Sand Bowl/Monument Hill/Cunningham Mountain (approx. 60 miles round trip).  We headed West and enjoyed very diversified terrains.  We played on the sand dunes in Ehrenberg, they went to the California border along the Colorado River to the area known as Monument Hill.  That’s where we saw the Tin Man (though there was no sign of Dorothy, Scarecrow, or Lion), and we all took turns on the teeter totter.  Coming back, the group split.  We took the less technical route through Cunningham Pass rather than the trail known as Good, Bad, Ugly (GBU).  GBU seemed to live up to its moniker—one of the riders broke the universal joint on her Wolverine’s axle.  Remember how I said we have all necessary tools and safety equipment?  Well, good old Dad was able to fix the problem temporarily so at least the rider could return safely to home base.  


Yours truly and Dad on the Monument Hill Teeter Totter



Colorado River separating AZ from CA

Tin Man sans Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Lion




Potty break--men to the left, women to the right.







Spanish Wall/Antenna Hill/Swimming Hole (approx. 65 miles round trip).  We headed East toward Mitchell Mine Road to see Spanish Wall, the remains of a prospector’s trail.  Then to Nugget Road up to Antenna Hill, where various telecommunication antennae reside.  Fantastic views but windy!!!    We proceeded North, viewing some novelties and oddities, like the grave marker “COVID 2020, ROT IN HELL” and an arrow shot through the center of a saguaro.  We saw a huge natural basin that would fill with water and be used by prospectors/settlers as a swimming hole.  We returned to home base via Sunkist Trail.



Spanish Wall to the left just above the side X sides

 

A resident at Antenna Hill


View from Antenna Hill



Another view from Antenna Hill



Arrow-pierced saguaro


Patton’s Cave/Shooter’s Wall/Tunnel to Nowhere (approx. 75 miles).  With mascot Maggie, we headed North to the cave where General Patton hid his communication systems for Camp Bouse, a secret military installation.  We spotted a big horn sheep eating along the perimeter of the trail.  My picture came out lousy (what else is new), but at least I got one, which is more than anyone else in the group could say.  Next up was Shooter’s Wall, part of an old stagecoach stop.   Folklore says those who tried to attack or rob the stage were lined up along the wall and shot.  You could see the Southern Cross Mine in the distance within the Plomosa Mountains.  We viewed a tunnel that was built to go nowhere.  It was a very windy and long day, but fun, fun, fun!

 



Maggie the Mascot



A rare desert bloom this season!





A poor quality photo of the long horn sheep grazing near the trail, but I was the only one of the group lucky enough to capture a picture at all!



Check out this gnarly saguaro!



Exterior of Patton's Cave 





The interior of the cave was much deeper than expected.




The view of the valley from the cave entrance

Shooter's Wall



Southern Cross Mine can be seen in the distance



Tunnel to Nowhere




Memorial to General Patton’s Tank Brigade/Rock Art/Fisherman Intaglia (approx. 65 miles).  We headed North on the Peace Trail to see various sights within the town of Bouse.  The cement tanks, part of remains of the 1889 homestead of Thomas Bouse, served as a town swimming hole for many years until the homestead was razed in the late 1940s.   We revisited the Fisherman Intaglio and Quartzsite rock art, something we have not done since 2015.  I added my own self portrait rock art not far from here.  We stopped at the Memorial to Patton’s Tank Brigade.  We hope our off-roading adventures next year take us to Patton’s actual camp.

 



Remains of Bouse Homestead



Do you see the fisherman?  I can see his raised leg and body clearly, but bubkus of the rest of the intaglio






I left my own art rock in Bouse


Patton Tank Brigade Memorial




Though we have been on several sections of the AZ Peace Trail through Bouse, Ehrenberg, Cibola, etc., it is on our bucket list to one day do the full ride.   So, we attended the meeting to learn more about the AZ Peace Trail.   This 675-mile trail that runs from Yuma to Bullhead City is the largest OHV loop trail in the whole USA!

 


This stuffed rat spent some cheese money supporting the Quartzsite VFW by participating in their Off-Road Poker Run.  It was to be about a 35-mile run throughout Quartzsite.  But they lost about ½ the participants at Checkpoint 4 due to unclear trail directions.  So folks were delayed in returning to the VFW for the festivities which were to start at noon.  No worries.  We all arrived safety, albeit an hour or so later than everyone anticipated.  But we enjoyed the music, door prizes, and 50/50 drawings, though I was not the lucky recipient of anything.






We learned recently that the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club does off-roading to various mines.  Non-members can attend a mine ride by paying a fee of $2/person.  We will look into joining them on their rides next year as well. 



There are literally hundreds of trails throughout the area, offering a variety of terrains, complexity, and views.  I can't wait for next year's adventures to begin!





Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Quartzsite Boondocking Snowbirds Season 7

We left Livingston by 9 a.m. on January 5 to start our trek to Southwest Arizona.  I-10 was fairly light, but all the road construction and lane closures created needless slowdowns.  We got on US-90 and arrived at Escapees Alamo Area Lone Star Corral about an hour before sundown, giving us time to walk the park.  We are #6 on their waiting list, so we wanted to check out potential sites that may meet our future needs.  The next morning, Mom and I took another quick spin.  As we passed the dog park, a little donkey brayed, trying to get my attention.  Of course, Mom and I always stop to chat with animals (people, not so much).  Anyway, as I complimented him on his handsomeness, a sheep popped around the corner and bleated at me.  Guess he wanted me to dole out a compliment to him as well.  I was happy to oblige.


Mr. Donkey doing his cuteness act 


We were back on US-90 shortly thereafter, with virtually no traffic.  I noticed small piles of white stuff on the ground—remnants of snowfall!  We drove into heavy winds, which really affects Big Boomer’s fuel mileage.  We journeyed about 300 miles that day, pulling into the parking lot at the Marfa Visitor Center, where we would stay for the night.  I was so excited, ‘cause I was hoping to see the famous paranormal phenomena known as the Marfa Lights.  I wasn’t quite sure what they would look like.  Would they resemble the orbs when Glinda the Good Witch Arrived at Munchkin Land?  I waited patiently, and then THERE THEY WERE!  I saw red and white spheres.  The white ones seemed to move more and hang around longer than the red ones.  They were not as prolific as some photos I’ve seen.  Now I know there are naysayers who think these are just the reflection of car lights.   But this Rambling RV Rat believes they are something supernatural, and I sure was glad I had the chance to witness them.


Those piles of white stuff behind me are remnants from recent snowfalls!


Would you believe temps registered at 16F degrees at 6 a.m. the next morning?  Holy, moly, that’s cold!  We had an easy drive along I-10 to Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, NM.  New Mexico still had some strict COVID restrictions in place, like prohibiting non-residents from utilizing New Mexico State Parks and requiring businesses like Dreamcatcher operate at only 40% capacity.  Hence, the park was fairly empty and very quiet.

 

We awoke at 5 a.m. to 29F degrees.  We decided to do a longer travel day to go straight to Quartzsite.  And with Mom doing half the driving, this was quite feasible.  That is until Mom completed one of her driving shifts and we stopped in Eloy, AZ for a “quick” lunch break.  Unfortunately, there was nothing quick about it because Mom took a nasty fall.  Now she would love to say that it occurred while hiking to the 3,374-foot summit of Picacho Peak.  But in reality she tripped over a 1-inch change in elevation as she transferred from blacktop to concrete pavement, hitting the side of her head on the cement walkway.  She had bloody knees and a fairly deep bleeding gash on the side of her forehead that resembled Herman Munster’s.  Fortunately, the bleeding stopped quickly, but Dad was certain she needed stitches.  Mom insisted there was no way, no how, she was going to an urgent care or hospital emergency room—they are COVID havens.  She opted instead to be like a pioneer.  So, I gave her a shot of whiskey while Dad fixed her up with liquid bandage and butterfly stitches that we always keep on hand because, truth be told, Mom tends to be a bit clumsy.  I watched over Mom to ensure she did not exhibit any signs of concussion, but she was no more dazed and confused than normal.  Therefore, we continued our journey with Dad at the wheel.         

 

The gash on Mom's forehead, pre-surgery by Dr. Dad


We arrived in Quartzsite by 3:30 and registered at the Bureau of Land Management’s office for Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs).  Then we took out Rat Patrol II, our Polaris RZR, to scout out potential sites for our “backyard” for the next 10 weeks.   Because many Canadian snowbirds, including lots of our friends, could not cross the border due to COVID restrictions, we expected Quartzsite to be less populated than in our prior 6 years.  Furthermore, friends who arrived in October reported that the area was extremely quiet through December.  So we were surprised to see so many rigs in the LTVAs (especially since we arrive the same time every year, between January 6-10).    In fact, the 3 different locations at which we set up in our prior 6 winters were already occupied.   But we ended up with a terrific site with an unencumbered view of the sunset.  The secluded lot and nearby trees made it a fine piece of desert real estate on which to settle.







January started out warm and pleasant, but later in the month we had some heavy rains (the first significant rainfall in several months we were told) and cold temperatures, bringing snow to the KOFA mountaintop.  Overall, it was a cooler and much windier season than usual in Quartzsite.  In fact, during our 2-month stay, we only had about a week’s worth of 80F+ degree days, which is fine since we prefer the more temperate 60-70F degrees.   It seemed at least 4 days a week were accompanied by high winds that lasted throughout the day, rather than just gusting intermittently.  If you are averse to dust or obsessed with cleaning, Quartzsite is probably not for you.  My parents have learned to control their obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) of constant cleaning.  After all, we must accept the negative aspects of the Sonoran Desert along with its beauty and serenity.  You can’t beat the Arizona desert sunsets!  And we were blessed with seeing a rainbow or two this year as well.

 





Due to lack of substantial rainfall throughout the year, there were limited desert blooms.   My annual visit to Celia’s Gardens was testimony to just how dry the season had been.  Several young trees that were planted recently were struggling to survive.   It wasn’t until late March that we saw a few flowering creosote bushes.  But the lack of rainfall sure kept the air arid.  The humidity in our rig registered at a mere 1%! 


A late season creosote bloom

We set up our seed and hummingbird feeders but had few avian customers this year compared to prior years.  I spotted a large bird nest between two intertwined saguaro cacti, but alas, no inhabitants in the nest.  But the saguaro shapes looked like two parents admiring the newborn baby they carried in their arms.

 

Glad we had a few customers at our hummingbird cafe


A nest built between two comingled cacti made my imagination run wild.


Spring sprung in early March: the lizards, ground squirrels, jackrabbits, and insects started to scurry across the earthen lands.  We discovered lots of coyote tracks on our explorations and heard them howl many a night, including during February’s  Snow Moon.  But we had no coyote sightings during this year’s stay as we did in years past. 



 


Sitting around the campfire, admiring the Snow Moon 

Quartzsite is usually like a homecoming.  People from all over the country gather to share hobbies, fellowship, food, and fun.  COVID canceled most group rallies, potlucks, and happy hours.  We rode Rat Patrol II to Plomosa Road, the 14 -day free access area run by the BLM.  We wanted to see what groups with whom we usually congregate might be hanging around “unofficially”.   The Montana Owners Group usually averages 50 rigs in their gathering circle.  This year, only 8 rigs were present, with only a half dozen more expected.  We stopped to chat with Drifty 1 and Connecticut Bob, folks that we knew from prior gatherings.  Then we headed over to Escapees Boomerville encampment, which consisted of a mere 18 rigs at the time of our visit.  Boy, I sure missed Norm setting up his screen and playing music videos, laying out the mats, and dancing with the Boomers under the desert’s dazzling star-filled sky.  Our DRV Suite Owners Group usually hosts a luncheon near Casa Grande.  But the organizers could not find a restaurant there that would allow a party of more than 12 people, so that, too, was canceled.  With so much NOT happening, we were thrilled to attend an RVillage get-together held at Road Runner 14-day BLM.  As would be expected, it was a smaller crowd than during our prior years of participation.  But we prefer more intimate gatherings, and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting and chatting with fellow RVers from all walks of life within all stages of RVing.  A special shout out to Thom and Anna for organizing the event.








We did get together with several friends on our own.  The best things about workcamping/volunteering while RVing is that you meet the most wonderful people and develop long-lasting friendships.

 

We were happy to have a visit from Claudia/Mike, whom we first met while workcamping in 2014.  Though we have kept in touch virtually, we had not seen them in nearly 5 years.  Boy, they looked terrific!

 


While in Phoenix to test ride and order our new Lectric brand e-bikes, we dined at the Vegan House with Bill/Sandy, friends we met at Amazon during 2015/2016 peak seasons and fellow plant-based eaters (Facebook’s Vegan Vagabond).  The Vegan House has an extensive menu, reasonable prices, attentive service, tasty food, and hefty-eater portions that satisfied even my family’s appetites.  Everyone ordered different entrees, and we all were highly satisfied with our selections. 

 



We were invited by Sylvia, whom we met as co-volunteers in Idaho last year, to stop in Yuma to see her new lot.  She, in turn, came to visit us at our desert abode twice, once while showing her friends around Quartzsite, and again to join us at dance and for lunch at Silly Al’s.

 



We also got together twice with Dean/Barbara, fellow DRV Mobile Suites owners.   They are new to full-timing and to boondocking, and we were happy to answer their questions regarding the lifestyle and our mutual DRV fifth wheel model.  We wish them well in their new endeavors and look forward to seeing them again down the road!

 



Linda/Matt, friends from the Grand Canyon Conservancy, asked if they could stop for a visit as they were traveling through Quartzsite.  Absolutely!  It was so good to see them again in person (rather than just through Facebook posts) and meet Linda’s sister Suzanne. 


 

RV Dreamers Steve/Debbie came down to Quartzsite for just a week or two.   We caught up with them and met some of their friends over dinner at Silly Al’s.  By the way, I must commend Silly Al’s for accommodating our half dozen requests this season to use our non-dairy plant-based cheese in lieu of mozzarella on our veggie supreme pizza orders.  Impressive customer service and darn good pizza to boot!


We enjoyed our annual visit with Marie/Bob down at Pueblo El Mirage, fellow full-timers from the Northeast whom we met at Crazy Horse Memorial in 2015.   We chatted and laughed the afternoon away, which is the norm for our get togethers.  (We usually pop over to say hi to Escapees friends Barbara/Al who also reside at Pueblo El Mirage, but we knew they were traveling in Texas while we were in their neighborhood.)




We left El Mirage and headed to Tempe.  Tempe is a college town with trendy, diverse-cuisine restaurants.  It has an array of modern office buildings with unique architecture/attractive facades, particularly along the Salt River.  It is also home to the Improv Comedy Club, where we had tickets to see Anthony Rodia.   Anthony is the comedic force behind the “Uncle Vinny/Tia Lucia” videos.    If you think those videos are funny, you must see Anthony’s stand-up show.  Anthony and his opener, Goumba Johnny, provided us with side-splitting laughter the entire night!  Taking material from real life experiences as a New Yorker and first-generation Italian, Anthony is hysterical!   By far, this was one of the most entertaining shows we have ever attended!   Of course, with all that laughing, patrons produced lots of air droplets with possible COVID-contamination.  Not to worry.  Masks were required inside the theater until we were seated.  There was reduced seating, and a 2-foot piece of plexiglass was installed between parties.  I am perplexed, however, by how air droplets know to go straight toward the 2-foot-high plexiglass and not travel ABOVE it?   Guess this mystery is too much for my uneducated, cotton-and-cheese-puff-stuffed brain to comprehend.

 

Great Show from Anthony Rodia and his opener Jimmy Goumba!

We built up quite an appetite from laughing so hard, so we topped off the evening with dinner at Guac Star, a plant-based restaurant right next door to the Improv.  Only in business a few months, this is a real gem.  All freshly made, tasty plant-based Mexican dishes, reasonable prices, and outstanding service by Krysta.  The smothered Burrito Grande that Dad devoured lived up to its moniker of being "Big-Ass".  Though still a carnivore, Mom was intrigued by several options, but I convinced her to go with the portabella burger with Southwest fries.  Trust me, it was awesome!  Add in the cool music video atmosphere, and Guac Star Rocks, earning it one of my coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese awards. 


 







In the days leading up to the Sports, Vacation, and RV Show, many more rigs arrived in Quartzsite.  This was one of the first large attendee events to be held nationwide.  The organizers followed CDC guidelines:  a smaller footprint which reduced vendor capacity, a mask mandate, directional control of traffic flow, hand soap throughout.  We walked the nearly 3 miles from our campsite and arrived by 2 pm on Sunday of opening weekend.  There was a good number of people present, but nothing like prior years.  There were several “no show” vendors who paid for their booths but had no representatives present at the Show.   And we were disappointed that two vendors from whom we usually make purchases (Aero Wash Wax and the shoe vendor that carries boots in small sizes for Mom) opted not to showcase at the Big Tent at all this year.  We checked out the latest models of Keystone Montanas and Grand Designs Solitudes.  Unlike the prior 2 years, there were two units that we liked and that would accommodate our needs.  We also inspected a few Class A buses.  But after purchasing our 2020 DRV Mobile Suites, my parents are in no hurry to make any changes.  It was no skin off the back of Paul Everett’s RV Country—the RV vendor was successful in finding homes for over 120 rigs during the 2-week RV show, a testament to how many people are turning to RVing as an escape from COVID lockdowns or as a nomadic alternative to a traditional sticks/bricks lifestyle.

 

Once the Show ended, the RV exodus began.  The population of winter snowbirds in Quartzsite reduced so dramatically, it looked more like March 1 than February 1.  By mid-February many of the vendors in Tyson Wash had vacated as well.  We were lucky that Windshield Wizard stayed most of the season, so Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, could get new “glasses”.  The truck's windshield had more chips than a bag of Lay’s.  It was time to bite the bullet and get a new windshield rather than just repair the latest set of rock chips.  Since Windshield Wizard did a fantastic job repairing chips we incurred during our 2016 Alaskan trek, we felt comfortable having him install an entirely new windshield.  We all were mighty glad to have an unencumbered view of the road again.

 


Quartzsite is this desert rat’s natural playground.  It has hundreds of trails to explore, whether by foot, by bicycle, or by off-road vehicle.  I love to join Mom (and Dad on occasion) on 5-mile hikes/walks, admiring the magnificence of God’s work.  I often hunt for rocks/gems (only found 1 crystal this year, but scored some red jasper), and create my own rock art, placing self-portraits throughout the desert.  I tooted around on Rat Patrol II to seek out geocaches and discover desert attractions (caves, mines, cabins).  But best of all, my family became members of the Arizona Sun Riders Off Roaders, joining them on about a half dozen 60+ mile trips through the desert trails.  They are a great group of folks, and we appreciated them taking us to so many interesting and diverse locations.  I’ll tell ya all about those experiences in a separate post.

 

One of my 2021 Rambling RV Rat rock art self portrait creations


I luv the new door detailing on Rat Patrol II!




Dad teed off with friends Gayle/Dave on two occasions while Mom and I walked from hole to hole at Blythe (CA) Municipal Golf Course, scoring us our 5-miles of steps each time (normally, walking is not allowed on the course.  However, there were so few patrons, our walking caused no interference).  Dad had his usual less-than-stellar games.  But he perked up on one occasion after seeing paratroopers drop from C-130 planes overhead.  They glided through the air, landing within the Santa Maria Mountains.  What a treat to watch!  He overcame his scoring disappointment on the second occasion when he filled his belly at Garcia’s, a Mexican Restaurant in Blythe, at which we dined with Gayle/Dave, topping off our day of fun and fellowship.

 





Joan, a friend from Level 2 Dance, invited us to play desert golf at a Quartzsite course.  We scoured the local swap meets and Salvation Army Thrift Store to find old clubs, bought the special tees required, and painted our balls red to find them easily in the desert.   Now Mom normally abhors golf in any form.  Conceptually, she finds it stressful and frustrating to get that stupid ball in that little hole.  But desert golf was right up her alley.  You use only 1 club throughout the course, so she is not burdened with thinking or strategizing requirements.  And to get a hole in 1, you only need to get your ball in the large berm area with a 10-foot diameter that surrounds the stupid little cup!  Thanks, Joan, for the instruction and laughs, and for having the patience of Mother Teresa to stick with us throughout the 18 holes!


Thanks, Joan, for showing us how it is done!


If you don’t enjoy being outdoors, the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) usually has lots of activities in which to participate like painting, yoga, dancing, and music events.  Unfortunately, there were fewer activities offered this year for COVID-related reasons.  (For example, we were planning to take Spanish lessons, then learned no lessons were offered this year because the Canadian instructor could not cross the border.)

 

We returned to line dance classes with our favorite, most patient, most fun instructor Vernine.  Our Level 2 class was much smaller than usual since some dancing buddies didn’t feel comfortable congregating (though masks were required and most of us complied) and others did not travel to Quartzsite at all.  But, as always, we had a blast with the gang who did participate, renewing friendships and establishing new ones.  We also hold the great distinction of attending Beginner/Level 1 classes for a record 5 years!  Mom always teases that we are remedial students.  But the real reason is that we don’t practice nor go places to dance with any frequency once we leave Quartzsite each year.  That is why we enjoy March Madness, Quartzsite Style so very much.  It is a 5-hour dance party held the first Monday of March each year and beckons line dancers from nearby areas (Parker, Brenda, Lake Havasu, etc.) and even folks from as far as Sun City and Ajo.  Although we had 50% fewer participants than usual, we all had a blast, and we are so grateful to Vernine for organizing this for us for another year!

 

The Quartzsite Dance Troupe



2021 March Madness Participants


My parents also started round dance lessons twice a week, which included waltzes and two-steps.    Dad is obsessed with all the changing hand motions, which throws off his foot moves.  Mom can’t remember half of the moves and can’t keep up with Dad’s giant steps on “two turning twos”.  She wishes she could just stand on his toes like a little girl dancing with her Dad.  Watching them dance as a couple is like watching a train wreck!  OK, that’s a bit mean-spirited of me, especially since one of their lessons was immediately following the aforementioned March Madness Dance Party and they were a bit pooped.  So let me just say they won't make it through auditions for "So You Think You Can Dance".

 

The grand finales for line and round dance lessons were luncheons in late March at Karen’s CafĂ© and Times 3 Family Restaurant.  

 

Quartzsite line dance finale luncheon at Karen's Cafe 

Our Round Dance group luncheon at Times 3 Family Restaurant


We teamed up with some of our dancing friends to put our lessons to good use by attending several concerts at the QIA by the Travelers Band (who, by the way, have now disbanded).    We met a group of gals from a local RV Park who taught us some new moves, too.  We hit it off so well, some of them started attended classes with us.

 








We purchased tickets to see Michael Culipher in concert.   He is a young singing artist who pays tribute to Elvis Presley.  But Michael’s show is not limited to just The King.  In fact, Michael is a talented songwriter as well, and includes several of his original compositions in his repertoire.  His dynamic personality is reflected throughout the performance.  I loved that his show was a family affair, including his Dad, young son, and two pre-teen daughters.  Too bad so few people came out to see him, ‘cause they missed a fantastic evening.         

 



My folks picked up another new hobby:  pickleball.  For those unfamiliar, it is a paddleball sport which combines tennis, badminton, and ping pong (though I just refer to it as “old fart tennis”).  Pickleball is hugely popular in CA, AZ, and FL.   And let me tell ya, people take this sport VERY seriously, holding competitions and tournaments.  My big-time-spender parents made their equipment purchase in Walmart—a starter set of 2 rackets and 2 balls for $25.  The first few weeks they played singles at the Municipal Park, where the basketball court is also lined for pickleball and there is a portable pickleball net to use. Surprisingly, Mom wasn’t half bad (maybe her body remembered some moves from her racquetball playing days).  She and Dad (who played both tennis and racquetball in his prime) had some good volleys during their games.  I acted as lineman, and a good thing, too, since we had interference during a game point.  It seems a neighborhood kitty wanted to partake of the action, too!  My parents were then invited to join a group of friends who played regularly.  Kudos to Holiday Palms RV Resort who let this group of non-Park residents utilize their pickleball courts free of charge!  Alas, my parents didn’t know what they got themselves into!   Lots of things to learn.  First, you must line your rackets up against the fence to determine who is up next to play doubles (singles are rarely played in pickleball).  Through this method, Mom and Dad never played on the same team during all the sessions in which they participated.  There are indoor balls and outdoor balls, differentiated by the number of holes on the ball (who knew?).  The rules state you must stay out of the kitchen.    Mom really loved this rule until she learned it had nothing to do with cooking.  Actually, the “kitchen” in pickleball is the first 7 feet off the net.  Scoring, serving—more rules to remember.  But my folks held their own during play and learned a lot from this group.  Thank you Charlie, Mike, Anna, Ron, Jane, Sandy, Joe, Tom, Paul, Dave and the rest of the gang for sharing your expertise and exhibiting your fortitude and patience with the new kids on the block!


Kitty interference!




 

We experienced a CAT-astrophe!  We ran out of our tabby cat’s prescription Science Diet T/D Dental Care food!  I don’t know what is in this stuff, but she is addicted; it is the equivalent of crack for cats!  Anyhow, we were forced to make a special trip to Novak Animal Care Center in Lake Havasu during President’s Day, just a few weeks before her scheduled annual appointment.  (If anyone is in need of veterinary services, we highly recommend Novak’s.  We have utilized their services for the last 5 years.  The office staff is courteous, caring, and efficient.  Our vet is thorough. She makes appropriate recommendations, but she is not pushy.)  Normally, Lake Havasu would be packed because of the Western Pyrotechnic Association’s annual Winter Blast.  However, the organization decided to make the fireworks display a “virtual” event, so it was quiet in the area.  The good news is that we are well stocked on cat-crack and it looks like our tabby cat will be around for her upcoming 17th birthday.

 




We received the long-awaited email stating that our e-bikes were delivered to the Lectric warehouse.  We high-tailed it to Phoenix, arriving just 45 minutes before closing time.  We can now move forward with our travel plans, which were on hold for several weeks awaiting bicycle delivery.  We celebrated our new “toy” purchase with a visit to Organ Stop Pizza.  It is only a cafeteria-style eatery, but its popularity stems from its Wurlitzer Organ.   It is ginormous compared to the one I have seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show!   In fact, it has 6,000 pipes, percussions, and even some dancing monkey puppets!  The organist’s repertoire included John Philip Sousa, Queen, and Phantom of the Opera.  Organ Stop offers a unique atmosphere, decent pizza, and by granting our request to use our vegan cheese, great customer service.

 




Yes, we missed the company of many friends who did not travel to Quartzsite this year.  But, as you can see, we filled the void, and had another busy, diversified, fun-filled season at our Southwest Arizona boondocking winter get-away!

 

Talk to you again soon!