Sunday, March 18, 2018

March Madness - Quartzsite Style!

Hope everyone enjoyed Leprechaun Day yesterday!  I didn’t find any blarney stones, but I did see a rainbow!

We all are a little Irish on March 17th, and everyone dons their green attire.  In my case, however, I did not wear green.  Instead I turned green, trying to eat Mom’s concoction of stuffed peppers with tempeh!  This plant-based good-for-you madness is killing me, although Dad seems to enjoy Mom’s creations.

Most people associate March Madness with college basketball.  But in Quartzsite and surrounding areas, March Madness refers to a huge line-dancing party organized by our Quartzsite Improvement Authority (QIA) dance instructor Vernine Adkins.  Women and men (and one stuffed rat, of course) of all ages (we even have teenage participants), from Parker, Salome, Blythe, even from as far as Sun City, Ajo, and Lake Havasu City, come to Quartzsite just to participate in this fun-filled, inexpensive ($1 donation to QIA) full day of dance!

March Madness, Quartzsite Style

It’s a small world, too.   Ronda, one of our work associates from Grand Canyon Association who winters in Brenda, was at the party and reconnected with us!

Ronda, our work associate at Grand Canyon Association

For those of us who attend dance classes at the QIA (a bargain at $4/person/day), March Madness presents an opportunity to showcase what we have learned!  Many of our classmates are like us and attend multiple levels of dance.  Some attend Level II and Level III dance classes, while we attend Beginner and Level II classes.  We are remedial students, having attended Beginner classes four years in a row!  (In fairness though, we never put to practical use anything we learn.  We go to Beginner class once a week for 8 weeks max, leave Quartzsite, forget everything, and relearn it the next year.   I’m happy to report though that as we complete Year 4, we think we can actually graduate out of Beginner permanently!)  We had some terrific new folks as classmates (like Beth and Dottie who was a real hoot), and had the chance to renew acquaintances with people from prior years like Gayle, Pam, and Gretchen.  Our instructor Vernine and her assistant Maggie are the absolute best, always so kind, caring, and nurturing.  And they have the patience of Mother Teresa!  Vernine’s only classroom rule is “have fun”, and we all comply!  We’ve tried to participate in dance lessons at other places, but the instructors just didn’t measure up, and no one made us feel quite as welcome and as comfortable as here at the QIA.  If your future includes a visit to Quartzsite, consider participating in these line dance lessons. Even if your two left feet preclude you from dancing, you can always participate in Spanish lessons, yoga classes, Zumba classes, or a variety of other fun, low-cost activities offered by the QIA.

Beginner Class (for the 4th time for us, 2nd and third time for some of our classmates, too!)

Level II Dance Class - Island Day

THE BEST dance instructors a stuffed rat could have, Maggie and Vernine!

March has finally brought seasonal temperatures our way, and has offered some dramatic sunsets, making our evening dinner parties with friends at our desert abode even more enjoyable.

Rodger and Susan, wonderful friends with whom we worked  and resided as neighbors in the same campground for two peak seasons with Amazon, came up from Yuma to spend a few days in Q before they headed to Texas.  We cooked up some salmon and scallops, which we knew they would enjoy.  Always so great to shoot the breeze with them.  Mom loves to pick their brains, too—they are a wealth of tax law knowledge, having work-camped in a variety of positions within multiple states over a 10+ year period.  You see, my Mom is very analytical.  She investigates and considers ALL aspects of an employment opportunity, including travel costs to the job location and tax ramifications.  We have found that accepting less compensation in a state with no income tax can be more cost effective than earning a higher wage in a state in which you must pay income tax.  We don’t mind working hard, but we don’t like to work stupid.  So our goal until my parents are old enough to claim their 401(k)/IRAs without incurring early withdrawal penalties is to net the most to supplement our savings accounts, preferably earning wages and incurring a reduction in expenses (getting a free or minimal cost RV site), all accomplished in the shortest period of time.  Amazon is a great example of what we call a “trifecta”:  Yes, you do work very, very hard.  But you earn $3-$4 over minimum wage, get a free RV site, including all electric costs, and work a mere 10 weeks.  A completion bonus of $1/hour worked and built in gym/weight loss program are just icing on an already sweet cake.

Rodger and Susan

Jack and Jerry, also from our days at Amazon, invited us over for a visit to Sunflower Resort in Surprise, where they are work-camping for a second season (and are trying to recruit my parents to join them next year).  It was so wonderful to see them again and to meet Miss Finley Ann, an adogable lass that they adopted this past year. I brought her some doggie biscuits, hoping to secure her friendship.  She snubbed my dog cookies and took a shine to Dad instead!  Not one to accept rejection, I took back my biscuits and set out to win over Charlie, the King Charles Cavalier, who lived next door.  Mission accomplished!  He liked me AND my doggie treats! Sunflower is an absolutely gorgeous resort, with nicely-sized RV spots, beautiful landscaping, and every amenity you can possibly imagine.  And unlike Roberts Pueblo El Mirage, no jets flying overhead every 5 minutes.  They have loads of activities and special events (like the Oscar Party they were holding later that evening), and drinks are only $1/each from 2-4 pm in the Tiki Bar!  We enjoyed some grub, the sounds of the band (who covered Buddy Holly, Elvis, and other 50's artists), and the companionship of these terrific folks.  While in the Surprise area, we did some healthy-eating shopping, too.  Our first stop was Sprouts, which we discovered in Flagstaff has good quality, reasonable-priced traditional and organic produce.  We also visited Trader Joe’s for the first time.  Although we did not like their produce, they had some unique things like canned jack fruit (it is a fruit grown in India that is used as a meat substitute) for Mom to use in her petri-dish experiments.  

The Pierces with The Parents

See the turtles sunning themselves in the right foreground?

Ms. Finley Ann, taking a shine to my Dad

Charlie, the King Charles Cavalier that I befriended

After their participation in the RV Dreams Boondocking Rally, we planned a dinner party to reconnect with Kelly/Bill and Linda/Steve, who, like us, were part of RVillage Class of 2016 North to Alaska.  The affair grew from a party of 6 to a party of 13 to include RV Dreamers Steve/Dianne, Harry/Vickie, Pam/Red and Stan, a friend of theirs they asked to bring along. This might present a problem for many people, but not for Mom.  Being of Italian descent, the quantity of food Mom cooks for 6 people can feed more than 16 anyway.  (It is a disease.  She knows nothing about portion control!).   We served the last of the carnivore delights from our freezer:  sausage and peppers, roast beef, and pork roast, which were accompanied by stuffing, potatoes, veggies, salad, sourdough bread, and artichoke/spinach/cheese dip.  Needless to say, no one left hungry.  And so Dad did not feel deprived, she adapted one of her chicken recipes to plant-based, sauteéing cubes of tempeh in garlic and other spices, then covering it with spinach, tomato sauce, and melted vegan mozzarella cheese (fake cheese is better than no cheese in this rat's book.  So IMHO Tempeh Florentine is hands down the winner in tastiness among all these plant-based dishes I've eaten thus far.)  The blazing campfire, fabulous sunset, and great companionship made a wonderful evening and the perfect end-of-season gathering.

Hey, who cut me out of the photo!

Mom's Italian Tempeh Florentine

Even a little hummingbird enjoys Mom's dinner party and a table with a view!

The Monsons meandered over to our place recently.  They were only in Q for one night, passing through from California to Benson, but wanted to stop to give Mom a present, an absolutely beautiful hand-made quilt!  Mom was so touched!  You see, Mom is usually the giver, not the receiver!  And as someone who cannot even sew on a button, she is keenly aware of the time, effort and skill that is required in quilting.  It is such a labor of love.   We all will treasure the gift, just as we treasure Carol and David’s genuineness and friendship!

We all needed some new clothes, especially Dad because of his weight loss, so we visited Yuma for the first time this season.  I noticed as we passed the vast farmlands that some farmers have not fully harvested their winter crops, while others are tilling their fields already for spring plantings.  I am always amazed at the contrast of the barren, earthen lands to the lush, fertile fields of green.  We stopped at “Pause, Rest, Worship”, a teeny-tiny (especially next to Big Boomer), non-denominational chapel, complete with stained glass windows and pews, nestled in a field off of Highway 95.  It was built originally in 1995 by a farmer in loving memory of his deceased wife.  Reconstruction was required in 2011, after sustaining severe damage from a microburst.    I felt so peaceful and serene, taking a minute to thank the Creator for giving us all such a beautiful day.  We also saw the “Bridge to No Where” in the background, but since we had somewhere to go, we didn’t pursue this route.

The towers of the "Bridge to No Where" are in the right background.  And can you see the little bird on the rooftop who joined me to pause, rest, and worship?

After doing some shopping, we researched options for a late lunch.  Unfortunately, by this time we were on the opposite side of town from the Thai restaurant where we know we could find plant-based meals.  We decided Black Bear Diner might be the best alternate, since it touts having super salads and vegetarian options.  Unfortunately, all their salads included meat, cheese, or dairy.  They did have a small side salad for $4.99.  Mom asked could it be made into an entrée size salad and was refused this request.  What?  What kind of diner is this?  In the Northeast, there is NOTHING you can’t get at a diner!  And usually there is no customization that they can’t or won’t accommodate, especially something as simplistic as using all the same ingredients, just giving us more of them and charging us more accordingly.  Geez, Louise!  While the place was cute with lots of bear statues on the ground, don’t bother going if you are looking for plant-based foods.    We ate our puny bowls of rabbit food and continued with the last of our errands.  

Before heading home, we stopped at Mittry Lake, an absolutely wonderful boondocking find, albeit with a 10-day limit.  Most of the RV sites were spacious enough to fit our set-up.  The sites along the waterfront offered both privacy AND spectacular views.  And we timed it perfectly—seeing sunset on the Lake.  Homeward bound, just ¼ mile from the entrance to La Posa South, we spotted a 10-point buck eating alongside Highway 95!  He wasn’t very big, but that doesn’t surprise me, based on what little vegetation is available to eat.  (Hope he’s not looking for the antler I picked up in the wash last week!)

We took one last UTV ride and hike before putting Rat Patrol into "transport" position.  We witnessed another magnificent sunrise, caught a lizard lounging, and found a few creosote bushes and one lone cactus in bloom (amazing what a contrast to last year, when we experienced a super bloom!)  And I made yet another rock art self portrait in these desert lands.    That evening, I even spotted my first scorpion!  By the way, Dad uploaded my video (finally!) of our UTV adventures onto my youtube channel. 

Mom is thrilled with Dad’s completed paint job on her motorcycle.  What do you think?  Speaking of motorcycles, catch my video which shows how we transport them.

Transition complete, from boring, blend-me-in black to you-can't-miss-me yellow

Well, our time at Quartzsite has come to an end—we hit the road tomorrow morning!  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last day in Q than by visiting Celia’s Rainbow Garden and attending the 23rd Annual Garden Party, where there is music, food, and fellowship, all in remembrance of Celia, the only child of Joanne and Paul Winer (AKA the Naked Bookseller).  Celia, who died at age 8 1/2, would have celebrated her 32nd birthday on March 28.  As evidenced by the outpouring of love, shared laughter, and cherished memories I witnessed today, Celia is still very much alive—in the hearts, minds, and souls of her family, friends, and neighbors.

Paul Winer performing a tribute song to Celia

We would like to thank some amazing organizations for all they do for the RVing community:

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Side X Side, Stride X Stride - Dripping Springs, Quartzsite, AZ

So sorry to fall behind on our chats, but I’ve been busy, busy, busy!

What an adventure we are having with the side X side!  We go out twice a week exploring, taking different trails, testing just what we can and can’t do.  We know we have clearance limitations, but when all is said and done, having a small UTV is better than having no UTV at all!

So now that we have some experience with tire articulation and maneuvering, we set out to visit Dripping Springs, a popular Quartzsite destination among UTV/ATVers.  We fared well heading along Trail 0059 to 0061.

Then we began going through a deep wash surrounded by high rock walls.  Pretty cool—until we encountered a very rocky section of the trail within the wash, with big boulders over which we needed to climb.   Thankfully, we cleared these boulders, taking our time.  

We cleared these boulders.

But when we scouted the path ahead of us, we found two more rock sections that would prove very difficult to clear.  Dad has some smoke coming out of his head, so I knew he was assessing the situation and trying to devise a plan to negotiate these rock obstacles.  However, Mom, always the pragmatic one, reminded him that we would need to achieve success in navigating these same obstacles on our way back to camp, too.  Rats!  We came so far, I didn’t want to turn back!  She noted that we were only 1.25 miles from our destination, so why not hike the rest of the way.   Great idea!  First though, Dad negotiated the return trip over that first set of boulders.  He added some smaller rocks to make the trail more level and evaluated where he would place his tires.  I ran my video camera to capture the endeavor (It will be on my youtube channel shortly).  Meanwhile, Mom was saying her prayers that Dad did not get injured, that Rat Patrol would incur no damage, and that we didn’t get stranded 8 miles from where we are camped.  Touchdown successful!  Dad's body parts inventoried, everything intact.   Rat Patrol evaluated, no problems found.  Collective sigh of relief from the three of us.  Onward ho!   Stride by stride we followed the trail.

We were greeted by a forest of chollas, all lined up like the firs at a Christmas tree farm.  We ascended a hill and came upon an old stone cabin.  (Had we taken Rat Patrol, this is where we would have parked to access the Spring).   We were intrigued by the Indian petroglyphs on nearby boulders.  We saw a juvenile chuckwalla sunning himself on a rock. ( And for once, I got a decent photo!)   We admired the scenery, noting that all the trees, cacti, and flora were so much greener and healthier than those in other parts of the desert.   Hooray, we arrived at our destination!  We dipped our feet in the Spring and marveled at the fact that this little piece of paradise exists in the middle of arid lands.

An army of chollas

Remnants of an old cabin


Juvenile Chuckwalla

Creosote blooming!

Me and my Dad dipping our feet in the Spring!

As we hiked back to Rat Patrol, we checked to see if any geocaches were along the route, but the only one in the area had been “disabled”.  So I had a brilliant idea—why not plant my own geocache for others to find!  After enjoying a picnic lunch that Mom prepared, I got busy hiding my geocache while Dad submitted it to  Would you believe they rejected my submission!  Apparently, they wanted a “plan of action” for maintaining the geocache.  Not one to tell lies, Dad said we visited the area for several months each winter.  Well apparently, that maintenance plan was not good enough.  They expect you to check up on the geocache on a “regular basis” throughout the year.  What?  Who in their right mind comes to the desert of Quartzsite during monsoon season just to check on their planted geocaches?    And I find it hard to believe that anyone who claims to maintain their geocache on a “regular basis” within these desert lands actually does it, since most of the population are snowbirds!  Disappointed and quite disenchanted with, I decided who needs them anyway.  If you are ever in Quartzsite geocaching, go find my hidden treasure at:  33.6026930, -114.0866010!  I left my art rock self portrait as a clue for you!  We continued on our way and arrived home safely.  It was an exhilarating day!

I left a rock art self portrait as a marker for you to find my cache!

We discovered several “finds” when off-roading at Q Mountain and the hills at Tyson Wells LTVA recently.  While Dad unearthed the geocache “Turn on the Sprinkler”, Mom spotted a nest in a nearby Saguaro, and I found an antler in a neighboring wash!  We spotted a jackrabbit, who sprinted and hopped like he was jumping hurdles in a cross country meet.  We climbed Q Mountain and explored the nearby abandoned mine, something we hadn’t done since our first year out here in Q.

Dad and I coming down the hill near Tyson Wells LTVA! Photo courtesy of Nervous Nelly Mom, who waited at the bottom for us.

Just a few of the hundreds of trails in the Quartzsite area.  View from top of Q Mountain.

Mom forgot quickly about geocaching when she spotted this nest in a saguaro.  Much to her disappointment, it was unoccupied.

Dad strikes a pose at the top of Q Mountain.

Yours truly blogging, surrounded by some of my treasures from Q:  antlers, crystals, and a new hat!

So how do you like my new hat as displayed in the above picture!  Pretty cool, huh?  And I got it as a FREE gift.  All my parents had to do was replace the old awning on our rig where the motor crapped out with a new awning purchased from Shade Pro at a cost of $1,012.  That's a lot of cheese!  And the replacement awning isn't even a motorized one, it is a manual!  But we were very happy with Shade Pro’s service—their representative was punctual, reliable, and a very experienced installer.  From the time we phoned to schedule an appointment for a quote to completed installation took only one week.

While doing a grocery run to Blythe, CA, we decided to check out some of the other Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs) which are covered by our seasonal permit.  Midland is a lovely, panoramic area, overlooking the Maria Mountains.  Supposedly, it has a dump station (although we didn’t see it), but no water source is available on site. The place is peaceful and secluded, with few inhabitants.  If Mom had her way, we would have been packed up and moved there within an hour!  

Spectacular views of Maria Mountains from Midland LTVA, Blythe, CA

Not the case with Wiley and Coon Hollow, the two LTVA campgrounds near Mule Mountain.  The access road is reached via the Wiley Road exit off of Route 10.  You must travel 6 miles down a poorly maintained sandy road to access Wiley Campground, and Coon Hollow Campground is still another 3 miles beyond Wiley.  There is a dump station centrally located right between both campgrounds, but no water source on site.  The washboard road was such a nightmare, none of us could imagine having to travel on it to get groceries and/or water every week.  Not to mention the campgrounds’ proximity to a state penitentiary did not make this a prime camping location in our minds.

We attended the free screening of the film “Haci Ali” at the Quartzsite Improvement Authority (QIA).   The place was packed!  Everyone was relieved the fire marshal didn’t show up—it was standing room only.  The cooperative efforts of the Quartzsite Historical Society, Town Council, and independent movie makers from Turkey, has resulted in the anticipated release of this documentary within 15 cities later this year.  Known locally as “Hi Jolly” (an “Americanized” pronunciation and spelling of his name), Hadji Ali came to the Southwest in 1856 as one of the first camel drivers hired by Jefferson Davis for the U.S. Army’s experiment of using camels to transport cargo across the desert lands.  The experiment went south for a variety of reasons, the most pressing that with the Civil War brewing, funding was cut off.  Truth be told, the movie lacks substance (it is only an hour long), mainly because very little information is really known about this Quartzsite legend.  I applaud the town Fathers (and Mothers) though.  They have done a magnificent job of attracting tourism utilizing “Hi Jolly” as their poster boy and promoting visitation of his burial site.  Their efforts have resulted in town of Quartzsite being the third largest tourist attraction in all of Arizona (at least according to the Mayor)!   I wish Quirky Quartzsite much success in its marketing and branding endeavors. 

They even had a cake (camel/triangle logo to replicate the insignia on Hi Jolly's grave) to celebrate the premiere!

Steve and Dianne hosted another Happy Hour, the last of the season since so many folks were leaving Quartzsite already.  In fact, many of them are now attending an RV Dreams Boondocking Rally.  Since we had other social engagements during the Rally timeframe, we opted instead to host a dinner party with Linda and Howard, the founders of RV Dreams, Ruth and Dale (Dreamers who also are not attending the Rally), and newbie RVers Beth (with whom we line dance) and Ron, who want to learn more about boondocking.  We all had a fun, informative evening, and I made two new canine friends, George and Gidget!

Me and some of my RV Dreams peeps!

Gidget and George, my newest canine friends.

We were blessed with a gorgeous sunset as well!

Well the Equifax hacking debacle has hit home.  Dad had two fraudulent phone purchases charged to his credit card recently.  Thanks to the alerts we have set up, we were able to cancel the card immediately after the fraudulent activity transpired.  We were supposed to get a new card shipped to us overnight via FedEx to Quiet Times.  Long story short, it took a full week and four phone calls to get the “overnighted” replacement card from the bank.    Why does every problem with the bank take multiple calls to fix?  No one there knows the concept of true customer service!  Sorry, the Rambling RV Rat is now done with his rant.     

Tabby was a bit perturbed last week.  We took her on a road trip to Lake Havasu City to visit the veterinarian for her rabies vaccine.  I was perturbed, too, having to spend time driving and sitting in a vet’s office when that day was the best weather we have had in a LONG time.  (At least I got a few nice photos as we stopped at lookout points.)  We enjoyed bright sunshine, no winds, and temps in the comfortable mid 70s.   Generally, this season has been much cooler than usual, and I have the proof:  Mom has not used her battery operated fan at all this year.


Friends Susan and Rodger from Amazon are due to arrive for a visit within the hour, so I’ll sign off now.  Talk to you again soon!

We would like to thank some amazing organizations for all they do for the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club

Escapees RV Club

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