Starting Out With a Whimper
Before posting about the trip down here (which was notable), I’ll bring you up to speed on current info, which I’m sure you will find riveting. Sure. After running by the Lifestyle RV dealership in Quartzsite and making an appointment for the next day, I rolled into a nearby 14-day site for the overnight. BLM sites within Quartzsite are unusual in that they require sign-ins with volunteer camp hosts. That’s because they want to keep tabs on the crush of visitors that come in for the Winter gatherings. With the government out of action, the camp host was present but not authorized to do anything, so one can wander in and out as one pleases – for now.
The next day, Tuesday, I hauled the Enterprise in for repairs to the refrigerator. The fridge thought it was fine, but actually refused to cool, and left propane flowing even though the electronic pilot ignitor never sparked to fire things up. Fortunately for me, the issues turned out to be an aged and stuck propane control solenoid, which was freed up with a touch of oil. The gas jets were also a bit clogged with rust debris, which was blown out with compressed air. The repair guy said that the cloud of dust and crud coming out from the fridge’s roof vent was impressive, probably the result of the thing never having seen maintenance before. The costlier fix was a blown “reignitor” circuit board that controls restarting the fridge whenever the next round of cooling is needed. By mid-afternoon, all was well and the fridge has worked extremely well since. This is not something I would have been able to diagnose and fix myself, since a refrigerator is not much like a carburetor. With labor pegged at $100, I got out of there with $143 less than I went in with, but happily.
When leaving, I made another appointment for them to address the water heater, which had now quit completely. The fridge was important because it made it possible for me to return to my normal diet that’s heavy on fruits and raw veggies. The water heater was a priority because well, I needed a shower. Sponge baths or wet wipes just don’t float my boat, and let’s just say that it was time for a hot shower. I stayed in the BLM’s Long Term Visitor Area that night, staying in Full Travel Mode.
So I showed up at 7 AM the next day, Wednesday, and dropped it off. They noted that the existing water heater was likely the original 1994 Suburban unit, and its sheet metal front panel was bulging outward badly. That’s never good. My unit also produced a lot of black soot and blew out easily in the wind, which makes hygiene weather-dependent. The propane/air mix is only marginally adjustable, so replacement seemed to be the way to go. My unit had been the feature-laden dual electric/propane with electronic ignition, and I opted to stick with that in order to avoid having to use propane to keep a pilot flame going full-time. $422 for this relatively upscale unit. They needed full access inside and out, so before leaving, I had to unload the four big solar panels, break the office chair into two parts to get it out, and unload and remove the access panel over the heater. That’s what happens when you’re packing 5 pounds into a 3-pound bag.
I then took off to thoroughly scour two BLM Long Term Visitor Areas for the best spot to park in for the 5-6 months that I’ll squander here. Remember, this current time bracket is not about touring and enjoying nature’s bounty. It’s about minimizing travel costs in fuel, and in tire, bearing, brake and powertrain wear, and so on. Nature’s bounty will just have to wait awhile. I was tempted to choose one of the “good spots” nearest town, which makes walking or biking in easiest, and also provides much shorter access to trash dumpsters. There’s the engine and tire whine noise from I-10 and AZ 95 to contend with though, and the drone from I-10 never stops. It’s not actually loud, but it’s always there.
The more significant problem is the temporary RVers who tend to pack into these most-convenient areas at the height of the season. The issues can occur anywhere, but in the tightly-packed popular corners, two things are absolutely guaranteed: noise from both generators and dogs. In the end, a peaceful, restorative campsite wins the day for me, so I traded in some of my serious commitment to lazy-ass living for some peace and quiet. I’m parked pretty close to where I was last year on a slightly raised parcel of black gravel, about a half-mile in. Oh well, I’m supposed to get exercise anyway, and this will do it.
The trailer was done by noon, which allowed me to haul it to my chosen site and set up camp. I’ll register and pay my $180 seasonal fee as soon as the volunteer host here is given the keys to his check-in building and forms. The total for the new water heater came to a sobering $615 bucks, my only consolation being that there aren’t very many systems left in this trailer that have not now been taken care of in the last year. Naturally, these repairs don’t do my beleaguered budget any good, but wheel bearings, tires, water pump, and now the fridge and water heater are all addressed, and should last for quite awhile. With the solar panels out in a predicted full sun for days, it’s back to business as usual. Believe it or not, I’ve got a lot to catch up on and will need all the juice I can get.