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Thursday, January 31, 2019

San Diego Vanlife Gathering

My friend David of San Diego, who was at the RTR, invited me to the VanLife gathering on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego on a Saturday after the RTR.

I had moved over to San Diego during the week after the RTR and Quartzfest in Quartzsite to visit my west coast son and family.

I was not aware of the vanlife group that uses to manage the gathering, until David mentioned it to me.

I arrived at 10 am, and before David arrived.  I soon met Dale, a woman living in San Diego half the year and lives in Ontario, Canada as her permanent residence.  She is interested in vandwelling, either a full-size van or minivan.

I was the only pickup / pop-up camper there.  I had a few viewers, but I didn’t man the truck to show it off.  I was there to see what others have done.

Dale and I checked out a few Sprinter style van conversations as it is one possible van she would like.

Above the man that own this one (above) uses the Sprinter as his daily commuter, as well as his camper.  He has two compressor fridges.  One for everyday under the counter and the other by the slider for long excursions.

He has a map of the USA on the ceiling that he draws on with eraceable markers to mark where he has been.  He also has lights lit for city’s too.

Another guy (above) in a van built his with store furniture, as he wishes to make changes as he wishes in the future.

Above is yet another Sprinter with some copious storage in the rear.  David caught up with Dale and I about this point.

Yes there are lot of Sprinter style vans and everyone was so gracious in inviting people in to check them out.

Here is another with a more fancy touch.  There were commercially built vans as well as homemade.

One woman, showing her van, picked up her van the night before from up by Los Angeles to show it this day.  She was a bit apologetic that vabinet handles and other small items still needed to be completed.

It was nice to see all the different interior styles and designs.  There are two woman that run the vanlife group and they have a business to build out vans too.  

It wouldn’t be California if there weren’t oldies but goody vans, like this brightly colored van, above.  

There were people in cars, minivans, as well as full-size vans.

The two woman who run the event, every other month, were excited by today’s turnout.  A few hundred people were estimated to have attended.  This was the largest gathering held yet.  They are on top of their van with a photographer on the right of the above picture.

They plan to soon release an app to assist others with vanlife.  You may be hearing of it soon.

At lunch there was a well attended pot luck lunch were all you needed to do is bring something.

It was great to visit with David again and he introduced me to a number of people there.  I stayed until 1:30 and headed back to my son’s house to meet up with the family and help my son with a project leftover from the last time I was here.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Solar Camp Lights Reviewed

I have two solar camp lights.  The square, Luminaid Packable Max, I bought for my travels this year (2019).  The round, Luci Light, was a Christmas present and my first year using it too.

After using both for a month I can share how they both work.  Note I have no affiliation with either company or their distribuors.  My judgements are my own and share for no financial interest.

First, both have advantages and disadvantages.  I did not compare lumens as they both have intensity settings and there was no issue regarding brightness settings.  I did not compare longevity of their batteries, as there are many variables and they lasted long enough each evening to suit my needs.

They both inflate and expand.  I used them flat and expanded.

With that out of the way I will share my experience.

The luminaid is a bit larger when flat, in that it is square, but also nearly a 1/2” larger side to sidetgan the Luci.  

The Luminaid has a bit larger solar panel also.  

The strap for the Luminaid is able to be connected on either side, when deflated. Making the strap reversible gets it out of the way of the solar panel, as it is colored and solar would be obstructed.  The Luci has straps and allows the sunlight through.  The Luci has two straps with the adjustable strap on the solar panel side.

The Luci has a clear plastic 

The Luminaid has a frosted inflatable chamber to defuse the light.  I had no preference between clear and frosted.

Above the Luminaid has an amber charging indicator light that I found interesting but it isn’t necessary and the Luci does not have a charging indicator.

The Luminaid also has consecutive green lights to indicate state of charge when button to the left is pushed.  

The Luci has state of charge lights but you can’t see them in daylight.  The above picture was taken inside my FWC to get out of the outside light.  If you look close you can see one LED dimly shining on the left of the state of charge button on the right. 

I have charged the Luci in direct sunlight for hours and only get 2 of the three state of charge lights to light up.  Although I only get 2 out of 3 indicator lights it does last as much as I seem to need.

When the two are expanded the Luminaid is a bit taller.

Above you can see the difference in the two handles.  I liked the Luminaid handle in that it’s larger and 3 position adjustable.  Trying to figure if your fully charging with the Luci is just hard to impossible in daylight..  The Luminaid uses the four green lights consecutively, meaning it will light up to including the four lights and then uses the same lights to indicate further charge rather than having 8 green LEDs

The Luminaid has the ability to charge from USB and the Luci doesn’t.  In the sunshine of the southwest there is generally sufficient sunlight and has not been an issue 

When I hiked into the Grand Canyon a couple years ago the Canyon, where I was, had so narrow canyons that there is insufficient sunlight.  I did not have the Luci at this time.

My Luminaid Order from The Clymb:

As you can see I paid $28.93 for my Luminaid.  This purchase is 1/3 more than the Luci below from Amazon, if you have Prime.

Conclusion: If the cost of buying one or the other is an issue then the Luci should meet your needs, provided you get to recharge it in the sun everyday.  Being a bit smaller and round it fits more easily into jacket pockets.  It was great to walk to and back to my camper from campfires at the RTR this year. 

If you don’t have the opportunity to get sufficient solar to charge every day the Luminaid is the answer as you can recharge from any USB.  It comes with a micro USB charging cable too.  You will have less frustration trying to find out if it is fully charged with better state of charge lights too. 

Both lights are designed for camping and they both got low marks from me on being able to turn on in the dark.  There are two raised push buttons on each light. One for charge status and one to turn light on and off.  You can run your finger tip around the surface but it takes a bit to find.  A more positive ability to locate the on/off push button would be a great improvement on both.

If I was to only be able to take one on my travels it would be the Luminaid.  



Tuesday, January 29, 2019

After The RTR - There Is Quartzfest

I decided to obtain my Ham Radio Technician License for emergency communication where there is no cell service, specifically in Utah.

I learned of Quartzfest prior to my arrival in Quartzsite, and since it started after the RTR, I decided to stop and check it out for one night.

The Quartzfest is held on BLM land off US 95, about 5 miles south of town.  I found a nice level spot to camp and in checking out the fire ring, I noticed it was littered with cigarette butt filters.  I took the time to clean the site.

There were two other Four Wheel Campers (FWC) near me.  One to my right towards the center of the event was a man from the RTR that I met.  The other, in the picture above, was from Alaska.  He stopped by to introduce himself.  He bought his truck and FWC in 1998.  Each year he drives down from Alaska for nearly 6 months.

Both men were pleasant to talk to and I got to learn about their travels.

The reason I came to Quartzfest was to learn the proper way to communicate using the ham radio.  This includes the frequency usage.

This group published the frequency they were using for the event.  I had plugged it into my portable radio at the end of the RTR and I could hear fold on it about 7 miles away.

There were general announcements and this served well for letting g folks in attendance what and when things were going on.  

After I set up camp, I heard on the radio that a guy at Quartzfest had set up a tv camera and was broadcasting it on a cable TV channel.  I scanned that channel with my TV and I was able to watch the area around where he was parked.

I learned of the evening campfire starting so I decided to head over.

At the campfire I met more folks there.  Two of which were at the RTR.  They said they met on 52.  I asked what was 52.  What a newbie statement, so I explained I was new and knew nothing.  They said you know channel 52.  I gathered that was the decimal 52 and needed the first 3 numbers.  They said 146.52 and it’s the national calling frequency.  Ok.  Now I’ve got it.  I told them I did not know that and thanked them.  They said it’s like channel 19 on CB Radio.  

Here is what a Google search delivered for my question.

“The simplex calling frequencies (146.520/446.000 Mhz) are intended for FM simplex communication, while the other pair (144.200/432.100) are for SSB. In general use, the term "simplex" implies FM modulation since FM is commonly used in both simplex and duplex operation.”

Yes I needed to learn the basics and was getting it.

After feeling a bit embarrassed, I headed back to my camper in full moon light.

I was leaving the next morning and it would have been nice to stay and learn more, but it was time to head to San Diego to see son and family, as I do each year.

From the posters above you can see there are others Ham gatherings in Arizona that you may want to attend if you are interested in Ham Radio.


Monday, January 28, 2019

FWC Cooking at 2019 RTR

My friends that park together at the RTR don’t cook much.  I do enjoy cooking for them from time to time.

I enjoy a balanced meal and I try to cook every few days for myself.  Above is sautéed shrimp.

There is the shrimp on a dinner salad.

This is grilled cut hotdogs to be served with beans.

Above is steak, rice medley and broccoli with salad.  I went to get steak at Walmart in Parker, north of Quartzsite and there were 3 peaces in a package so I invite my friends.

Another day I cooked inlets for 4 of us.  Yet another day I cooked a boneless pork dinner.

I even cooked angel hair pasta with tomato sauce with shrimp.

I do all my cooking on a single burner butane stove in my Four Wheel Camper (FWC). It’s a bit tough to plan the dinner based on each items cooking time and keeping things warm for more than two people.  Of course dishes like spaghetti are easier for more.  The steak dinner was my hardest this year for three of us.

Just because you may be in a small vehicle with a single burner stove, doesn’t mean that you can’t cook a well balanced meal.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Burning Van - 2019 RTR

For the past four years at the RTR there has been a burning van in the main campfire the last night of the gathering..  Tony and Karen, long time attendees of the RTR are credited for the concept, creating the first one, and a song to be sung during the event.

The first burning van was cardboard this year it is now plywood.  Each year attendees have the opportunity to sign the burning van too, as I have done each year.

This year I wrote on the top rear of the van.

The night of the burning van there were hundreds of folks in attendance, ready to take part in the festivities.

There was a videographer as you can see above, up front and close to burning van.  There was another back from the fire a bit next to me.

A few minutes after the now plywood burning van was placed in the fire was now fully involved.  

Bob Wells, the leader/founder of the RTR and CheapRVLiving shared his comments about burning van.  He stated that the BLM got wind that the group planned to burn a van.  With chuckles, the people that had passed this misconception along were tong and Bob needed to correct the information. 

The event didn’t last long and we all left as usual, a little melancholic about the event ending.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Big Tent 2019

The “Big Tent” Event is a yearly RV show attracting thousands of people a day, after the RTR.  Held in Quartzsite, AZ where the warm temperatures and sunshine attract snowbirds, and the town has already swelled into the hundreds of thousands of people from about 3,000, even more people arrive causing traffic delays to attend this show.

The opening day is a Saturday and even getting there at 9:00 am it was bumper to bumper people in the tent.  When I went back Sunday morning with another friend it was much easier to walk and talk to vendors.

Monday when I drove by where it’s held it was gridlocked, with the northbound US 95 lane backed up 4 miles.

I call this the all things RV Show asthete are all kinds of gadgets and information you didn’t even know to ask about.

The bicycle shown above, caught my eye and I was able to talk to the salesperson.  The bike is electric with the rear wheel the drive wheel and the battery is in the front wheel.  With non inflated tires this bike is suited for city riding.

It’s attraction is the weight and size.  As shown above folded the bike fits in a roller bag.  The bike sells for $799.00

Another booth was selling those mechanical siphons indifferent sizes.  You put the copper end in the container you want to obtain fluid from and you put the black valve below tothe container to receive the fluid.

By shaking the copper end up and down draws the liquid in each up and down cycle until the fluid gets over the top bend and flows by itself.

I bought one to transfer liquid from my 5 gal flexible tank that is hard to pour and fill 1 gallon containers.  I bought the 3/8” diameter per the suggestion of the salesperson for transfers 5 gallons and under.  I have used it twice and I am pleased with the purchase.  Two of my friends also bought one and rode my coattails getting a discount offered for multiple purchases.

Each year there are booths colocated for British Columbia, Yukon Provences and Alaska, providing information for you to plan your trip to Alaska and back.

I don’t know anyone in my RV world that wouldn’t want to do this adventure, including myself.

I have been to Alaska twice and since I live to drive, I would love to make the trip up and back.

I have also been to British Columbia and driven half way north through the Provence 

One day I would like to make this trip.


Friday, January 25, 2019

The 2019 Lunar Eclipse Was A Bust For Me

I had such fun last year when I took the following picture during the Blood Red Wolf Moon Eclipse.

Because of last year I was so looking forward to finding the right shot again this year.

At the RTR I went out searching for that right spot to take my photo for this years’s eclipse.  I found the following spot a couple days before this year’s eclipse.

I even found a backup photo spot the day before.

With my location set, I just needed clear skies.

The sky was cloudy most of the night, as the moon rose over the mountains to the east and well into the night.  I got down about it and went to bed at 10 pm to find friends sending texts after I gave up.

In the morning I did get a moon setting picture but it lacked the luster of my plan.

The next night the moon was bright as I headed back to my camper from the main campfire at the QuartzFest (Ham Radio Gathering)

Although I try to find that right picture with my IPhone, and I often get the shot, this year’s eclipse wasn’t meant to be.

Will try again in 2 years for the next Lunar Eclipse


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

2019 Stone House Hike & Petroglyphs

Each year while attending the RTR in Quartzsite, AZ I like to hike up to the Stone House in the Canyon in the mountains to the east.  It’s suffered mostly from vandalism over the years but still stately.

On the way to the Stone House we were stopped by a ATV with a man and woman, and the man was excited to tell us about some Petroglyphs not far from where we were.  I’m always into Petroglyphs so we walked over to check them out.

It was one panel with a portion of it removed by raiders of our history on this Federal Land.  It hurts me to see people damage our public lands and history.  

After the Petroglyphs viewing it was on to the Stone House.  There, it was time for water and snacks and saying high to others who also hiked and took motorcycle / ATV.

This is a look back down the road in and through the mountain pass just beyond the Stone House.  It was a long continuous hike up hill and that is the kind of hike I like.

On the way back down to the RTR gathering I decided to walk the wash to look for any additional Petroglyphs.  Alas, I didn’t find any but I enjoyed the yellow blooming flowers.  It’s been wet in the desert this winter and there is a green hue and flowers looking to bloom later.

There are no two saguaros alike and this grouping stood out to me.

Again off trail, I got this shot of Cholla Cactus in the foreground and it seemed to frame the hill behind.

Above is my hike as captured on the AllTrails App.

It’s a nice hike that part of it was through the desert off trail.  6.4 miles is a great workout with over 500 ft in elevation.