Currently at Pilot Knob BLM LTVA in Winterhaven, CA, just west of Yuma, AZ:
Yes, we have finally arrived at our winter destination in the Pilot Knob Long Term Visitor Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. When we left Tupelo, Mississippi on December 1, we had no idea it would take us two months to reach Yuma, but that’s what happens when you decide to trade rigs in the middle of your journey!
If you remember from our last blog post, we had finally arrived in Columbus, New Mexico at Pancho Villa State Park after a grueling day of driving. We had intended to only stay two or three nights in that park, but after getting settled in, we decided to extend our stay to an entire week. It was nice to have access to electricity and water, as well as nice bathrooms and showers in the park that allowed us to conserve our gray and black tank capacity.
While we were in the area, we made one trip across the border into Mexico at Puerto Palomas, just about three miles from where we were camped. It’s an easy border crossing–you can just park your vehicle for free on the U.S. side in front of the Duty Free store, and then just walk across the border through the Mexican customs office, no questions asked and no documents requested. When you get ready to come back, you just walk across the border through the U.S. Customs office where you present your passport, declare anything of value that you purchased, and then walk back to your vehicle. Easy peasy.
We went to Mexico for two reasons–to eat lunch at the Pink Store, and to pick up some pastries from the local panadería (bakery). Neither one took very long to accomplish, so we were only out of the U.S. for a couple of hours. But we always enjoy our little visits to the border towns. Later in the week we had breakfast at a little cafe in Columbus, Irma’s Kitchen, where we got a lot of information from Irma herself about places we should check out in Palomas. Next time we go back there, we’ll definitely take her advice, especially about the new panadería that she recommended.
The rest of our time at Pancho Villa SP was pretty laid back. We went to Deming one day to get groceries, but other than that we just rested up and de-stressed. By the time the week was over, we were ready to face our fears again, and move further west toward Yuma.
Of course, in RV life, there’s always something to freak you out at the last minute. The afternoon before we were due to leave, Andy drove the truck to the nearby gas station to top off the tank. When he started the engine back up, nothing in the dashboard instrument cluster was working–it was just dead. He turned off the key, then started it again, and said that he saw a little wrench icon on the display before it went out again. He moved away from the gas pumps, let the truck sit for a few minutes while he studied the owner’s manual to try and find out what the wrench icon meant (some kind of warning about the drive train, “call your service representative ASAP”). When he started the truck the third time, all the instruments came on and the wrench had disappeared.
When he got back to the rig, he contacted the service department at the closest Ford dealer in Deming. They said they could take a look at it in about two weeks. That wasn’t going to work for us. So Andy then called a Ford dealer in El Paso and spoke to their service department manager. He said that if the problem had gone away, there wasn’t much they could do to diagnose it. His guess was that the computer had “reset” itself, and that it should be fine. He said he could get us in for service on the following Monday (about 5 days away), but didn’t sound hopeful that they would be able to find anything if the problem wasn’t presenting itself at the moment.
So we decided to push on to Yuma.
On Wednesday morning we unhooked everything, hitched up the rig, stopped by the dump station, and then left Columbus heading north to Deming, where we got on I-10 West toward Tucson. We had decided to stretch our daily driving limit a little bit so we could get to Yuma in two days instead of three. Besides, there’s not a whole lot of choice in places to stay in that part of Arizona, unless you’re willing to pay a lot for a tight spot in a dingy RV park or else boondock in the desert.
We settled on dry-camping in a casino parking lot instead. Our stop on Wednesday was at the Desert Diamond Casino in southeast Tucson. It’s located about four miles west of I-10, so we had to drive through some mid-afternoon traffic to get there. Andy did a great job of handling the rig in town, and we arrived at the casino safely, if just a little bit edgy.
We found out about this place from several other RVers on YouTube who had stayed there recently. They allow free parking for up to seven nights in their south parking lot–no hookups, but great security. While we were there we signed up for their player’s card, so we each received a $10 voucher to be used in any of the restaurants. Of course, we hit the buffet so we could get a good salad bar, lots of veggie sides, and unlimited ice cream (for Andy). With the voucher, the buffet cost us $5.99 each, plus tax and tip.
There were quite a few RVs of every different size and type parked in the lot with us, but it was really quiet at night. The noise started about 7:30 AM the next morning. The casino is right next door to the Tucson airport as well as a military base, and 7:30 AM appears to be the time when the military jets take off for practice maneuvers. They were flying right over our heads and had the whole rig shaking–the kitties were a little freaked out. Each time a group took off, the noise lasted for about 90 seconds to two minutes, and it happened about three or four times before we left. Good thing we weren’t planning to sleep late!
Since we hadn’t unhitched the rig the night before, it didn’t take us long to get going yesterday morning. We waited until about 9:00 to pull out so the morning traffic could ease up a little. We only had to go about a mile west to get on I-19 North which took us back to I-10 West, and from there we were on our way to Yuma.
It was a beautiful day for travel yesterday, with clear skies and light winds. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest stop near Sentinel (I had packed refrigerator oats for both of us, an easy and filling meal to eat on the road), and for once we didn’t eat in the truck. Instead we sat at one of the picnic tables in the sun and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I left food and water in the truck for the kitties, but I think they snoozed the whole time we were there.
After lunch we made another stop in Dateland at the Dateland Travel Center, where we topped off the gas tank, and then bought one of their famous Date Shakes to share–so good!! And from there we made a straight shot to our current location in Southern California.
This is the same place we stayed last year from the end of December through mid-March, so we knew pretty much what to expect in terms of terrain. But finding a level spot for this bigger rig is more challenging than it was for our little 24′ Class C. The land out here is hard packed, but it’s little rolling dunes and washes with rises that look flat until you park a long trailer or Class A motorhome on it, and then when you see your rig tilting to one side, you know you have a challenge ahead.
After dragging the trailer around the place for a little while, we finally reluctantly settled on a spot that’s a little close to the road for our taste, but it looked pretty level. We got unhitched and went through the auto-leveling process, but when the system finished the auto-leveling, our left tires were just barely off the ground, and that’s not good.
So we wound up hitching the rig back up to the truck, and then pulled the rig forward a few inches so the left tires are now resting on a couple of leveling blocks. Then we went through the auto-leveling process again, and we seem to be good at this point. However, we’re going to spend some time in the next few days scouting out some different locations here in the LTVA, so that when we have to hitch up and dump the tanks in about a week, hopefully we can move the rig to a different spot a little further from the road.
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We made it to our winter hangout just west of Yuma, barely across the California state line. Looking forward to spending a few weeks here, applying the boondocking skills we learned in our last rig to this new setup. Everything is more complicated now, but we’ll get it figured out. . . . #rvlife #fulltimerv #lifeisgood #fifthwheelliving #homeiswhereyouparkit
The weather here is kind of unpredictable, although it doesn’t usually rain a lot. There’s usually some wind, some days pretty strong, so it gets dusty. And the forecasted high temperatures for the next week range from 81° on Sunday to 57° on Tuesday, before heading back up into the 70’s again. The nights are usually in the 30’s and 40’s, great sleeping weather.
One reason we’re back in Yuma is so Andy can pay a visit to the doctor he saw last year when he found out his blood pressure was too high to have his dental work done. He needs to go back for a checkup so he can get a new prescription for his meds. While we’re in the area, we’ll definitely make at least one trip across the border to Algodones, but not for the purposes of dental or medical care or to buy prescriptions. We just like to go to eat and drink, listen to the music, browse the shops and soak up the atmosphere. This border crossing is much busier than the one at Palomas, and there’s a lot more to see, so we’re looking forward to our return visit to Algodones.
This morning we picked up our Friday-morning ritual that we began the last time we were here, and that’s going to the breakfast buffet at the nearby Quechan Casino and Resort. They’ve raised their prices a bit since last year, but it’s still only $7.99 for the all-you-can-eat buffet that includes an omelet station, lots of fresh fruit, all the usual breakfast meats (which we skip) and proteins, pastries, oatmeal, pancakes and french toast, biscuits, chicken fried steak and gravy…and some of the best coffee around. It’s so good that we have to limit ourselves to once a week, otherwise we’d be shopping for bigger clothes.
We plan to stay here for four to six weeks, depending on how hot it gets. And after that, I have no idea where we’re going next. We’ll just have to wait and see what feels good at the time. But for now we have our solar panels hooked up, we have the generator available to run our built in appliances, we have our Kodiak solar generator to run our small appliances like the hair dryer. And as long as we manage our water and tanks effectively, we should be able to enjoy this boondocking experience in our much-larger living space.
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Testing out the new generator for the first time tonight. Honda 2200i, doesn’t seem to be any louder than the onboard Onan 4000 we had in our Class C. We were able to run the microwave with no problem. It’s not enough to power the main A/C, but maybe the smaller one in the bedroom?? . . . #rvlife #fulltimerv #lifeisgood #fifthwheelliving
One more thing I wanted to follow up on is the stress we were dealing with when it came to finding places to buy gas where Andy could be somewhat comfortable driving the rig in and out of. We’ve started doing a lot more research the day before each drive, using various apps and Google Maps satellite view. We’ve found that many of the Pilot/Flying J stations are “RV Friendly” meaning that they have at least two gas pumps (not diesel) that are located at some distance from the main gas island, and situated so that we can just pull straight through with the rig and not have to navigate through heavy traffic making tight turns. We’re also discovering that many gas stations out in the boonies are fairly easy to get in and out of simply because they aren’t as busy. So we’re getting a lot better about managing our fuel stops as well as our stress levels.
At this point, life is pretty good again!
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