Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hello, Friends! Welcome to No-G, off grid living.

January has become friend month for us and we are thankful that we have such an amazing group of people with whom to share this lifestyle.  After spending some time with Robb, we headed out to visit for a couple of days with friends, Lou and Dale.  They’ve been full-timing now for over a year so it was exciting to exchange stories with them, to see their fancy new rig and site at the RV Park they were staying at.  Our first night we pulled into a section of BLM land not far from them and settled in at our usual time of just around sunset.

IMG_0817We’re not supposed to grow tired of these, are we?
This particular location is a popular one for recreational shooters in the area and they liked to take their chances right up until dark.  So, a walk as the sun was setting seemed out of the question and we settled in for a wonderfully quiet night instead.  About 6:30 a.m. another RV decided, that out of the miles of un-occupied free land on which to camp, the one spot that we had chosen was ‘the one’ and parked bumper to bumper with us.  At some point we’ll go back and explore this area a bit more but for the next few nights that we visited with our friends we opted to stay at the local Casino.  We’d never stayed at one and it was closer to their location than the BLM land we were camping on. 
At the casino we found the last of about three flat spots in a dirt area after driving past a sign that read “For Your Safety, Do Not Park On Dirt’.  Apparently, there was some gambling involved in our choice to ignore this sign but, considering the nearly 30 degree slope of the rest of the lot compared to the flat area we were resting on, it seemed that the odds were somehow in our favor.  We were at a casino after all. 

Although we had heard that casinos were quite welcoming to the RV crowd, we were surprised at the relaxed almost RV-Park atmosphere here.  We had been under the impression that the key to staying at businesses whom allow you to spend the night free in their lots was to not look like you were actually staying in their lot.  Not at this casino.  Folks had their rigs jacked up on stands, chairs placed, solar panels set out and rotating, tv-antennae up, slide-outs extended and their towed vehicles were un-hitched and ready to rumble. 

We didn’t set up camp like the others but we stayed for two days and nights while enjoying some catching up time with Lou and Dale.  While in Parker, we continued receiving messages from friends, Annie and Roxanne, who were zooming over our way from the Texas coast.  They had told us that they wanted to get lost in the wide open spaces of the desert.  We’ve got some experience with this by now so we headed off in search of a good location to initiate them. 

IMG_0828  Pretty sure we succeeded!  Can you see our rig?  Put your hand on the orange road and follow that angle. Can you see our friends larger rig?  Same angle but out from the three cacti left of the road.

We succeeded so well at getting Roxi and Annie lost in the wide open spaces of the desert that phone service was unattainable where we were parked.  Internet?  Good luck on that one.  We were completely NO-G!  While we were happy with this, it wasn’t our intent to completely traumatize our (more ‘well connected’) guests.  So, prior to their arrival we confirmed that you could indeed get some phone service near by.  There was just one little catch.
IMG_0819You see that mountain WAY over there?  (Just kidding!)
Actually, it was this one.  (Not kidding!)
Or this one. (Again, not kidding!  We really did have to climb one or the other to get reception.) Sometimes you’ve just got to work for what you want.IMG_0938It’s not all bad.  Nicole watched a beautiful sunset while talking with her Mom one night. Can you see how we are not so far below the peaks of the opposing mountains?  This area of the Arizona desert was ripe with Saguaros.
The most we’ve seen to date in one location.  Actually, this area of the desert was more lush than any we have stayed at to date.  There was even some grass growing here or there.
Nicole, Roxanne and Darlene set off one day to explore an area we’d spotted from ‘Telephone Hill’ and labeled the Teddy Bear Nursery.  Hundreds of Teddy Bear cacti were growing and in bloom all over the hills just beyond our camp.  IMG_0977
Cute.  Innocent.  Fluffy looking.
Pretty while in bloom.
Even just after the bloom.
Don’t let ‘em fool ya though.  They grab on and don’t let go.
IMG_0982 IMG_1001
Two wild and crazy guys heading out for a night on the town.
Not only were the Cacti in bloom but there were small flowers peeking out all over the place.
The elusive miniature desert orchid (or so Darlene calls it).
In the desert, everything seems to have thorns.  Even the tiniest of plants. By the way, we used macro on these flowers.  Most of them are the size of a grain of rice.
IMG_0976 IMG_0963 
White, Yellow, Purple even a tiny plant with some green leaves and others bright red. We were surprised at the number of small plants and greenery in this area.  In one square foot of space Nicole counted at least six different plants growing.
We didn’t get so lost that Lou and Dale couldn’t find us.  They visited a bunch of times while we were still in the area.
They brought their ATV and took their dog Bonnie for rides to explore the local trails. We also spent a bunch of time talking solar with them and getting them ready to go off grid like us. They should be good to go in a week or so and are looking forward to having the freedom to roam.

Annie and Roxanne got in on the solar excitement, as well.  After much intense contemplating, extrapolating, formulating and delineating the who, what, where, when, why and how’s were all worked out. 
Solar AnnieWe then helped them get The Duck all kinds of wired including de- and re- and then mounted their panels.  Now they are officially amped, off grid and addicted to LED screens.  Oh yeah, and they also discovered that they could get cell phone and internet in their rig if they sat within a 1 square inch portion of the right side of their dashboard, after 3 pm but not before 9 am, on alternating weekdays that did not start with the letter ‘T’ or have two syllables.  Thus, happily bumping their location from No-G to Low-G and increasing their enjoyment of deserted desert life immensely.  It was good times all around!
If you’ve read our latest list of things we have learned, you saw that we’ve discovered just how dusty the desert is.  Darlene had an interesting experience with this one day as she sat in her chair working a crossword.  A strange noise caught her attention as a dust-devil (sand tornado) about three feet wide was coming at her.  She thought it was so neat to be experiencing such a thing as she sat and watched it drift and whirl.  In a matter of seconds though, the mini-storm made a turn and literally rolled right over her picking up the chair that Nicole had been sitting in, flipping it over and covering Darlene in sand.  What an experience!  She noted to herself that next time she shouldn’t enjoy it so much and laugh while it was happening because she wound up with a lot of sand in her mouth. 

Even without dust devils, a large majority of the deserts’ dust and sand seems to wind up inside the van on a regular basis so we’ve taken to regular shake-outs, beat-downs and sweep-outs.  The van is our home after all and there is a bit of maintaining to do now and then.
Nicole shows no mercy on 23 years of who knows what in our cushions!
Sheets and blankets look on in fear of the shake-out as Darlene has a little too much fun at the beat-down. Not much escapes the process.  If it isn’t tied down it gets shaken, beaten or swept during our regular cleaning.
One gets thirsty after a good cleaning so Darlene went out to get some water. We have not hooked up our sink yet so we use the emergency drain on our water tank which is up under the van. This can be quite a hoot when in a public parking lot as you get some interesting looks and the occasional “What are they doing Mommy?”.
The obvious answer, “Stealing water from ourselves.”
This guy could have used some water.  He was a bit dry and crusty when we found him. It was still cool though to finally see an actual Tarantula after hearing so much about them being out here. Perhaps he had a run in with one of these.  Surely nothing that size would survive a walk across this…
Nicole calls these Ant Territories instead of hills.  They take up a 4’ x 6’ area!

And now it is time for photos of a few of the other personalities we met at our latest location.
How do I look?  Do I look good?  I feel good.  A bit dry but otherwise, I’m good!
This guy looked more like he belonged in the city. 
He’s multi-tasking way too much to be a laid back desert dweller.
Aw, man.  How’d you find me?  I thought I was totally hidden behind this tree.
Yeah!  Go Team!  F.O.I.T.D. IMG_0822
Freaky gorilla face we stared at every day.  How could you not.  It just kept staring back in that eerie way. You sort of hesitated turning your back on it.
Not sure this rabbit was thinking clearly when it ran away from us and jumped into the mouth of the gorilla. (See the poor unsuspecting little guy in the right corner of the mouth?)
i heart rock you.
New Hampshire, we want you to know… the man in the mountain is not lost. 
He just moved to Arizona.  The weather is better here.
And that concludes yet another great two week adventure of traveling and living in a van named Annie.  The wind started blowing a few days ago and we’ve now run out of water.  It is time to mosey on down the road.