Monday, March 12, 2018

First Rally - First Boondocking

March 1-12, 2018
Quartzsite, Arizona

For five years I have been following the blog of Howard and Linda Payne - RV-Dreams. While preparing to hit the road I participated in their online forum, got to know a few fellow dreamers. When we launched in 2015 I continued to read the blog, but eventually moved away from the forum. 

We were signed up for a Spring rally in 2015 but had to cancel. When they came west this year I jumped at the opportunity to finally attend a rally - and a boondocking rally in Quartzsite was perfect for us!

Although we don't have solar, we do want to spend some time off grid. Both to save money, and to see places we couldn't otherwise visit. 

Let's spend a week in the desert with 39 other rigs - some who have been boondocking for years! We'll learn so much :-)))

Before heading out to the wilds, we arrive at the Scenic Road RV Park in Quartzsite for the weekend. We've stayed here before where we have a decent sized space with 50 amp FHUs, level dirt with cement patio and a little shade tree. The WiFi is fast most of the time, but we're limited to one unit per password at a time (probably why it's faster than most). The owner and staff are friendly, and the Passport America rate makes it a very reasonable option in a town full of RV parks.

My delayed meds arrive at our friends' place in Blythe so we take the short drive to pick them up on Friday, and enjoy a short visit at their lovely home. We'll get together again before we leave the area.

A bonus of the rally is that our good friends Linda and Steven (The Chouters) are also attending. We haven't seen them since Memphis in late 2016 and are looking forward to getting caught up with this wonderful couple.

Friday afternoon we meet up at their RV park, La Paz Valley, outside of town where Linda fixes us a delicious dinner. Having good friends who are also excellent cooks.....score!

Although high winds are in the forecast, we pick up Linda and Steven on Saturday to take them for their first visit to the famous Desert Bar. I think the road is even more rough now than it was last year. Despite the forecast, the place is packed!

Every time we come to this area in the winter we meet up with Paul and Kim who I met on the RV Dreams forum. I reach out and they agree to make the drive from Lake Havasu to join us. We forget there's zero cell service so the actual connection takes a while :-) It's fun to see them again and find out what they've been up to. 

Steven is the hero for standing in the food line - and the food is very good. The line finally thins out about the time we're leaving. We listen to some music and get photos before making the bumpy ride back to the highway. It's a fun and unique experience, but we all agree we probably don't need to do it again!

The variety of building materials is as interesting as the people watching.

Just a metal "front", the church has hosted many weddings over the years. An interesting choice to share the saloon's space.

This antique shell keeps watch over the parking lot - where you may not imbibe!

Steven, Linda, Jodee, Bill, Paul and Kim - thanks for the shot Steven :-)
I take no pics, but Sunday evening we return to La Paz to meet Kelly and Bill (Bill and Kelly's American Odyssey) , friends of our friends who we've heard about for years. It's another wonderful meal, and great fun getting to know new peeps. They'll also be at the rally!

Monday is the big day and I find I'm a little nervous. Just a seven mile drive to the rally site on Plomosa Road, we join about 18 rigs already getting set up. Howard meets me at the entrance. It's nice to get a recognizing smile when I introduce myself - "finally, after all these years!"

Eventually 40 rigs arrive, and our first evening we form an initial large circle for announcements, and then break into three smaller ones to get to know others better. Such a lot of great people living this life we love.

Linda and Scoopy welcome us to the rally.

Where there's RVers, there's doggies :-)

First night at the rally. Photo by Linda Davey.

Linda explains to Sue and Larry with enthusiasm.

The desert glows under the sunset.

Our first two days start with seminars on managing our tanks and power systems. Lots of good information that make a big difference in our understanding of what we have and how we can use it all efficiently. Still, we're not completely clear on batteries and what our information panel tells us, so we arrange for some one-on-one time with Howard at our rig. 

Linda and Howard share their insights on the all important topic of poop.

Cinn answers questions about her composting toilet.

Howard does a great job of helping me understand watts and amps and load and volts and all that power stuff.

Another fluffy lap dog - Yoggie the labradoodle.
Interpreting the manual. Thanks Howard!

So nice to really understand what all this means.
Ron and Wayne figuring stuff out.
One morning we take off for some Jeep time in the desert. A couple side tracks along the road to Bouse, and we end up in the East Cactus Plain Wilderness (not to be confused with the fancy wilderness). Another place we've never heard of, that is uniquely beautiful. The 14,630 acres includes the unusual crescent dune topography and dense dunescrub vegetation. For me, the biggest surprise is seeing saguaros in sand dunes.

So many off road trails to explore.

Climbing to find the view.

We're not disappointed.
Cholla catch the sunshine along the ridge.

I've never seen red leaf ocotillos - there are several here.

Tiny concretions scattered over the sand.

Another stunning sunset over our circle.
There are two dinner pot lucks followed by time around the fires. One night we tuck in between Scoopy (Linda and Steven's home), and Kelly and Bill's home for a more private party. We do so enjoy these friends!

Linda Payne is known for her braided t-shirts, and teaching the technique to rally-goers. I watch while others cut and braid and sew in the sunshine.

Friday is a tour of the Golden Eye Mine southwest of Quartzsite. Not Linda's thing, Steven rides with us. While the location and history is interesting, the owner/guide loses us with his 30 minute irrelevant medical history and ramblings about BLM and Camping World. It is very hot in the bright sun, with little shade for relief, and before the tour is over I've returned to the relative coolness of the Jeep. Bill and Steven are not far behind and we head home. 

The tour eventually begins from the original cabin, built in 1947

The original mine in the area was owned by the Kellogg (cereal) family.

Building pillars made by filling 50 gallon drums with concrete, then stacking.

Aged and weathered buildings always fascinate me.

Old knots of cable, rope and wire.
Learning about the history of the tower and the six miles of short tunnels below us.
The Tower

The elevator carried miners in and dirt out. 

Old dirt buckets.

Site of the claim owner's original find - until the BLM closed him down, he took over 4500 "nuggets" from his claim.
Bill (Kelly's Bill) is not only here for the rally, but is also doing a solar install. He finishes in time for us to all make a day trip to Mexico. Not something my Bill is interested in, so he and Tessa stay home. 

Bill making someone's solar dreams come true.
The five of us make the two hour drive to los Algadones, south of Yuma, Arizona - in the rain! What a nice surprise.

We stop at the "famous" Purple Pharmacy, next door to the Purple Liquor Store, then head for margaritas and a yummy lunch. We meander the narrow streets lined with dentists and vendors. I make my first prescription drug purchase across the border - very weird. After a couple hours we have everything we need and walk back into the US. I get to use my new passport, and we're all through the check point in minutes. 

Clay footballs and critters

Linda and Kelly checking out jewelry.

Decisions, decisions, decisions......only one liter per person :-(
Our last evening we have an impromptu Instant Pot demo which has me once again motivated to cook with mine. We sit around our final camp fire with old and new friends, enjoying the incredible starry skies overhead.

Pretty cool for the middle of the desert! Photo by Linda Davey.

Last night......
I had some idea what to expect from reading about past rallies, but our experience is even better. We made new friends, learned general information about boondocking, and most importantly we now understand how our specific systems work and how we can live off grid for at least a week.

We ran the generator for 25 hours total, using 12 gallons of diesel. Our flooded batteries did not stay sufficiently charged, and we will replace them with AGMs before we need them again. We only used 1/2 tank of fresh water, filling our gray tank to about 1/2 full. We have to guess how full our black tank is, but it looks like we were at 2/3 full. We want to get a battery meter so our usage is easier to track, and we'll do some capacity tests to determine our actual gray and black tank fills.

Thanks RV-Dreams, it was a great rally!


  1. Nice recap of your time there. And even better to learn about your specific systems from a knowledgeable group.

    1. Everyone was so anxious to help and answer questions from those of us who were new to boondocking. I highly recommend attending if you decide to do that type of camping down the road!

    2. Good deal :-) We already know we'd like to try boondocking one day. Years ago I signed up for their forum but never really participated much. I did think of another question for you. How do you handle your residential fridge? Doesn't it need shore power?

  2. Glad you guys enjoyed the rally! We've never attended a rally I don't think!

    1. Being an outdoor rally I think it was more something we're comfortable with than the big ones held in resorts where there are more structured activities. This one was really fun!

  3. Sounds like just what you needed to get ready for some off grind living:) While we've never attended one of their rallies, we have spent time camping and going on a 10 day cruise with Howard and Linda. They are wonderful people. Glad you had a good time. See you Thursday!!

    1. We're looking forward to applying what we learned and adding a few dry camping spots into our itineraries! Linda said to tell you guys hi :-)))

  4. Rallies are the best places to learn real answers. I'm glad you got to experience that.

  5. Boondocking is definitely different than being hooked up. There are benefits to being off grid and also benefits to being on. It's good that we can enjoy both.

  6. Not sure how in the world you keep up with all these people. You have an amazing number of friends everywhere you go. We did the Eastcoast boondocking rally with Howard and Linda and signed up to have solar installed as RV Solar Solutions first customer. WOW 39 other rigs. That is huge! Better hold on to that knowledge of watts, amps, volts, load. I learned it to and have totally forgotten it. Love your dune hike and sunsets. Great place for a boondocking rally. If you guys can manage to get reads on your gray and black tanks, let me know how. Having solar, tanks are our issue. We can go two weeks but we’re never “absolutely” sure. I lOVE boondocking and it's one of the things I hate the very most about being east of the Mississippi, that there are so few places to get away from all these people.

    1. For people who had zero social life before we hit the road, it's been a huge surprise! There is a system called See-Level Monitor that several people at the rally swear gives them the more accurate tank readings. We could have done some dry camping in the east if we'd had this knowledge, but I've heard there's very little boondocking :-(

  7. I haven't been getting notifications of your posts. :-( But I checked in on you and see that you've been having a grand time! I can imagine how much fun you had with Steven and Linda. And now you're all set for boondocking adventures. So which bottle did you choose as your souvenier from Mexico, haha?

    1. Oh no, not again! Glad you checked in.

      The tequila with the ridges in the bottle - recommended by our liquor specialist Bill who was with us. Can't confirm the taste yet. Soon though :-)))

  8. Great rally full of info. This is a huge group but thankfully this late in the season the BLM was as busy as January. Guess I should have been there to learn about watts, amps, and volts. Algadones is always a fun time.

    1. March is definitely the time to go without the crowds!

  9. Finally catching up on blog reading! We need to be done with rallies so we can get back to having a life! It was great fun spending time with you guys and being neighbors in the desert. We always look forward to our paths crossing and glad we have another opportunity in the fall. Stay safe and happy travels! Lurvs to the Fluffy One!

    1. It really was great fun!! Even better getting to share more great times with guys.

      Hers missing you already :-)

  10. So fun, Jodee! Glad you were able to finally meet Kelly and Bill!

    We just did our longest boondocking stint yet...4 days. Our flooded battery didn't make it, but our new Honda stepped up and helped us through.

    1. They're great peeps!

      Until we get out of the hotter temps we'll probably wait to boondock again. And we're saving up for those AGMs to make sure we're successful on our own! Glad to know your Honda works well for backup!!