A few months ago I remarked to one of my friends that I wondered when my adventure was going to begin. Sure, I’ve been on the road since last June. But it seems as though all my travels thus far were orchestrated – planned or not – to give me only the best of this vagabond lifestyle. I spent the summer of 2017 working at a job I really enjoyed and then was able to take autumn and part of the winter to connect with friends and family (some I hadn’t seen in years). But now I was faced with the reality of making my full-time RV life a reality.
With my cousin on the mend and no longer needing help, (story from the last post) and the van running at peak performance (well, almost… see note below about the refrigerator), I was anxious to hit the road. But where am I going now? What’s my new purpose? Do I need a different rig? Where is my tribe? Those and other thoughts whipped up an uneasy feeling in my stomach as I drove away in search of the meaning of being a full-time RVer.
I left my cousin’s cozy nest in Sedona bolstered by the idea that I would find my “tribe”, make fast friends, gain insights into the boondocking lifestyle (living free on BLM land), and finally be on the adventure!
Note: As I left Sedona I noticed the refrigerator was acting weird, so I stopped at French’s RV Repairs at the A-1 RV Center near Camp Verde for a diagnosis. Dan French took a quick look, made a phone call, ordered the part and told me to come back in a week so they could install the replacement thermostat. (These guys get a five-star rating!)
Since I got a late start in January because of the mechanical issues with the van, I missed the annual Bob Well’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (also known as the RTR) in Quartzsite. This year they hosted over 3,000 participants! Folks just like me showed up to meet each other, trade travel stories and gather tips and information from the experts.
I was sad to have missed the RTR, so I decided the next best thing to do was to go to the Quartzsite RV Show. There I was, cheek to elbow, with hundreds of visitors as we shuffled up and down the aisles looking at RV aftermarket gimmicks, crafts, cookware, jobs (yes! this is a great place to find a summer camp host job) and lots of shiny new RVs. An hour or so into the visit, I was trying to decide if I wanted the fry-bread taco or fried pickles. Thank goodness I came to my senses, opted out of the snacks, and headed to one of my favorite sites along the Colorado River. So much for finding the “tribe”!
Ahh! Peace and quiet – at least compared to Quartzsite.
My riverside camp was lovely and I stayed four nights, but as the weekend approached, my little hideaway started to change and I began feeling kind of icky. I wondered: “Was there too much dust and noise from the dirt bikes and ORVs? Was it too hot and dry? Was I getting lonely, even with all these people around (they didn’t seem to be my “tribe” either)? Or was I just coming down with a cold (the only thing I picked up from the Big Tent)?” Whatever it was, on day five I decided to skedaddle to another free campsite far away from the dust-loving crowd.
This place felt very remote even though it was close to the refuge.
After talking to the ranger at the wildlife refuge south of Blythe, CA. I found a spot in the middle of hundreds of acres of sand, creosote bush and cactus. It was so peaceful I could hear the Sandhill Cranes as they flew toward the reserve in the evening. I hate to admit this, but it was almost TOO quiet and isolated – I was the only one around for a few miles. (almost a grumble)
The Cibola National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1964 to mitigate the loss of fish and wildlife habitat due to the changes made in the Colorado River when the precious water was redirected for irrigation. This is one of several refuges in the area and contains 1,000 acres of farmland, over 700 acres of desert, and several hundred acres of revegetated wetlands.
When you go, be sure to check out the three-mile Canada Goose Drive which circles two lakes FULL of Snow Geese, Canada Geese and several varieties of ducks; and around some irrigated fields with Sandhill Cranes sunning themselves and picking at the bugs living in the alfalfa. (Note: There is a walking trail to one of the lakes, but otherwise, they ask you to stay in your car to lessen the impact on the feathered inhabitants.) So with binoculars in hand, I spent most of the afternoon and the next morning parked along the side of the road with the van door open watching thousands of birds taking a break in this desert oasis. It was mesmerizing!
After being out in the “wild” for a week, I figured it was time to make my way back to the Verde Valley to get the refrigerator fixed. My energy was kind of low, so I stopped at another BLM boondocking site known as Saddle Mountain (above) near Tonopah. These grounds are reputed to have some of the best rock hunting finds around. Unfortunately, by the time I got here, my cold had taken over and although I walked around a bit, there wasn’t one gem or rock that held my attention. In fact, for two more days, nothing but sleep held my interest. I was praying I didn’t have the dreaded “flu”, and hopeful that my faithful Wish Garden Kick-Ass Immune Activator, Alka-Selzer Plus, and lots of chicken noodle soup would cure me.
Here’s the grumbling part: Being sick is never fun, but I have to admit that this was one of the lowest times I’ve had so far. I had no energy, which in turn made me start to wonder if I was on the right track and question my reasons for being in the middle of nowhere, by myself, sick as a dog. Blah, blah, blah!
On the third day at Saddle Mountain, I woke up to this sunrise and felt much better. The early morning light, along with some coffee and breakfast helped lighten my mood and gave me the energy to get on the road again.
I made my way back to the blacktop and turned toward Tonopah when the van’s warning systems flashed the Low Tire Pressure sign. Now what??
At this point, I’m still not firing on all mental cylinders, but I knew enough to stop to see which tire was low and how bad. From where I was standing along the side of the road, they ALL looked flatter than they should. I chose the worst (to me) looking and attempted to put some air in it with my handy-dandy Black & Decker Portable Power Station. Either I was doing it wrong, or it didn’t have enough oomph (technical term) to put more than about 10 lbs. in.
Since that was getting me nowhere fast, I decided to go to Tonopah to see if I could find some help. Forget that…there were only two run-down filing stations and a tire repair place that was boarded up. (More grumbling!)
How do these things work, anyway? (Answer: not well!)
Undaunted, I pulled up to one of the air stations, plunked $1.50 into the machine (not sure if I was going to get air or water) and attempted to fill up the tire. Six pounds of pressure and an additional $1.50 later, I gave up and held my breath all the way to Buckeye, 20 miles away.
You can imagine my relief when I pulled into town and noticed this shop – empty bays and all – just waiting to help a little old lady! One of the mechanics quickly offered to check all my tires, and after a few minutes, he discovered a nail in the right rear tire. I had him repair it, rotate them (this was on my to-do list anyway) and make sure they were properly inflated. In less than a half hour, I was on the road again! Thank You, West Valley Tire!
It only took a couple more hours to get from Buckeye to my “home base” at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. I’ve stayed here a few times in the past year, but this time the Park personnel informed me that I could not park in the “Tents Only” section.
“However,” the Ranger said, “Lot #25 is open and it costs the same as the tent sites – $20 per night rather than $30 or $35”. Since I had an appointment in nearby Camp Verde early the next morning, I decided to take it. Besides… I was really looking forward to a shower and flush toilets after being out in the “wilderness” for the past ten days.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – Lot #25 is terrific!
During the warm afternoon, this handsome roadrunner stayed around camp in hopes I would throw him a morsel or two. Apparently, someone (not THIS camper) has taught him how to beg. That may be the case with the Gambel’s quail too (picture from Google). There were ten or so scampering around the campground just as the sun went down. Because I was still feeling kind of lousy, this campsite was just what I needed! (Another five-star experience!)
Early the next morning I was greeted by Dan French and the two resident kitties at French’s RV Repairs. Quicker than you could take a cat nap, the thermostat was replaced in my NorCold refrigerator (thanks to Karl!) and I was on my way having spent less time and money than I expected. I gave them five stars above, but they deserve another five just for being so honest, polite and professional!
To wrap up my time in this part of AZ, I mooched off my Sedona cousin again for a few days. By the time I got to her house, I was worn out, feeling yucky (again) and ready for a little family comfort and care. As always, that’s exactly what I found – along with a wonderful chili relleno casserole!
I am so lucky to have friends and relatives who live in healing places!
All systems on the van are running now, my cold is gone and I’m ready to depart for parts unknown. The saga of “where am I? who am I? what am I doing? and where is my tribe?” continues as I leave Sedona (again) to meet one of my camper friends from Colorado.
It’s hard to believe I started this blog about a year ago – long before I put tire to asphalt. Thanks for sticking around, and I hope you find it worthwhile to continue traveling down the road with me! You and this blog give me focus, a keener sense of observation and a purpose. I appreciate your company – no matter if the chips are up or down (or spilled in the salsa!).
May the spirit of Valentine’s Day bless you with good friends, a passion for living, a few bars of rich, dark chocolate; LOTS OF LOVE, and the TIME to enjoy each day!
See you again soon!