Pancho Villa

April 5th, 2019

Boot Hill

I stayed two days in Tempe while I got an emissions test on Minnie and waited for the winds to die down. Wind is probably the most dreaded condition for driving that I experience. Give me mountains, bad road, or rain to drive in and I will take them over high wind any day. Forecast for Wednesday looked good in the morning so I loaded up and headed for places east.

My first stop was near Tombstone, AZ on a forest road about 10 miles from town. The free campsite was quite nice, and I would probably spend a few days there if I was just wandering around, but I had a destination in New Mexico picked out to provide me with suitable temperatures for a few days. Tombstone is in high desert so the temperature got down quite chilly at night. The only other drawback to camping on this forest road was 8 miles of washboard dirt road. Anyone that has experienced washboard roads in an RV will know how cruel they can be.

The next day I headed for New Mexico after the obligatory stop to see Boot Hill Cemetery. The last time I was at the cemetery was when I was a kid and Mom and Dad took the family there for an outing. I tried to imagine what it was like to live in a wild western town where many of these men met violent death from a bullet or at the end of a rope, but I couldn’t really. I spent half an hour reading some of the headstones and comparing my pamphlet to the graves and then left before I was blocked in in the small parking lot.

Interstate 10 from Benson to Deming is generally boring, flat terrain of a lot of high desert. It seemed to take forever to drive the 200 miles to my destination of Pancho Villa State Park about 30 miles south of Deming New Mexico. My GPS wanted to go by way of a few southern roads but I overruled her and elected to stay on the interstate until Deming, adding a few miles to the trip but gaining better roads. I sometimes like to get off the interstate but traffic usually piles up behind me when I do.

Mexico just off in the distance.

I snagged the last non-electric site at the park and set up camp. Pancho Villa State Park is not very pretty. There is no lake or river or mountains or forest to speak of and the terrain is mostly flat desert. The main reason I’m here is to enjoy the weather. The park is at 3500’ and just about perfect this time of year. I have been exploring the park and visitors center and learning about the history of the Pancho Villa raid in 1916. The visitors center is very nicely done.

Visitors Center history displays.

What happened here

Winters End

March 30th, 2019

Squaw Lake

It has been a relaxing and fun time spent with Richard and Dianna at the LTVA near Yuma, but as the temperature builds and other commitments draw near, it is time to move once again. I’m headed back to Tempe to get my motorhome emissions tested and Richard and Dianna are headed up to Blue Ridge for there summer volunteering at the ranger station. I may go back over to New Mexico for a few weeks. I have time left on my state park pass and would like to take advantage of the perks it will provide.

We always seem to get a few projects processed while parked in the desert. I modified my electrical system, improved my water storage and supply connections, developed a washing machine of sorts, installed a braking system on my tow car, and thanks to Daryl, wired in a new backup camera. We also had to do emergency repair on Richard and Dianna’s awning when one day the wind tore it in two pieces. It was a task to remove the material from the mechanism and even more problematic to replace it. Luckily, he found a place in Yuma that could sew the material back together and fix it stronger than when it was new.

Washing machine

The winter weather here in southern Arizona has been colder and more windy than usual. There is a nice lake near the LTVA and it only warmed enough in the last couple weeks that I could put my kayak to use. The lake is one of many formed by dams on the Colorado River and I paddled out to the river several times. I think it would be fun to do an overnight kayak trip down the Colorado River.

Brake Buddy

Before I wrap up I wanted to tell the story of my braking system for Micro. Micro only weighs about 1800 pounds and is legal to tow without a brake system. Brake systems for tow cars typically cost over $1000 so I elected to go without for the time being. One day we were stopped at the dumpster to toss our trash and beside the dumpster was a box with a used Brake Buddy in it. People sometimes will set things beside a dumpster that are still good but they don’t want anymore. I decided to take it back to my rig and see if it still worked.

The next day I plugged it in and nothing happened. I removed the cover and discovered a loose wire, reattached the wire, closed it back up, and it worked perfectly normal. We downloaded the manual so we could get the settings right for my car and tested it several times with positive results. This little bit of serendipity saved me a thousand dollars!

More Power

February 2nd, 2019

Quartzsite LTVA

When I spend the winter in southern Arizona, I fall into a quiet routine of daily uneventful living. It is a lot easier to document when I’m traveling, visiting new and interesting places, and experiencing adventure as I explore the highways across our land. I was surprised at the length of time since my last post and decided to write something no matter how simple the story turned out.

The main reason I decided to update was to tell about a new addition to my rig. In the last episode I wrote about the little car I added to my lifestyle. The Smart car is working out well and I’m glad I made the jump from motorcycle to car. When you turn 70 years old, everything seems easier on four wheels instead of two. My only regret is that my little car only seats two, so when I’m hanging out with Richard and Dianna, whenever we all want to go someplace, they always have to drive.

After solving the situation of supplemental transportation, I started to ponder an upgrade to the electrical system in Minnie. For the last few years my batteries have slowly lost much of there power. It was getting so bad that I could hardly get through the night on a full charge. All batteries will degrade over time but I have to admit that I didn’t take the best of care with mine. I mixed types and capacities – which you are never supposed to do – and through the use of inadequate equipment, never charged them to a point that removes deposits and extends their life. After pondering the choice between buying new lead acid batteries or taking the plunge and going with newer technology, I decided to go with newer technology and switch to lithium.

Lithium batteries last a lot longer than lead acid batteries, they have a greater usable capacity, they weigh much less than other batteries, and best of all, they require basically no maintenance. The only drawback, and this is a big one, they are way more expensive. I figured that a lithium battery would probably last as long as I’m physically able to live this lifestyle, so I took the plunge and bought one.

Big battery

The battery I bought is called Lifeblue. It gets its name from the chemical composition (LiFePo4) and the battery monitor system sent to your phone through Bluetooth. So far through testing I have used only a small amount of the 300 Amphours capacity. Through normal usage, the daily power I use would almost drain my old batteries. The new Lifeblue shows 75% of power still available.

Phone display

They could have put these all on one screen.

One problem I foresee is that I may not have enough solar to replace all the juice I use. Here in the desert southwest, the sun is low in the sky and we have had many cloudy overcast days. I tilted two of my panels on Minnie’s roof to help capture more sunlight, but the future forecast is for several days of cloudy weather. I way more prefer to use free sunlight to charge, but some generator time could be in our future.

I have been hanging out here at the LTVA with Richard and Dianna. Richard drove me all the way to Yuma to pick up my battery and helped me install it in Minnie. Both Richard and Dianna have done so much for me and I can’t thank them enough. It has been wonderful spending time with them here in Quartzsite.


November 27th, 2018

First trip.

For over a year now I have pondered the idea of getting a little car to pull behind Minnie. Honda has served me well over the last three years and I learned how to accomplish many chores using the bike, but somethings are just more convenient and easier with a car. It would be great to have both but I couldn’t see a scenario where traveling with a car and motorcycle would be very practical.

There are advantages to traveling with a motorcycle. It would take me places I wouldn’t think of going in an auto, I could carry it on the back of the RV and never have to worry about backing up, and best of all I could ride for hours on a tiny bit of gasoline. I devised ways to ride for groceries, water, propane, laundry, and parts. I even rigged a tow behind trailer to haul my kayak down to the lake. Honda has been my workhorse, my escape to backroad adventure, and my travel companion for many miles over the last few years.

The decision to change my mode of transportation came about by several factors. When I rode for a few hours the old body would complain about the bouncing, the hard seat, and the vibration. The weather was always a factor and long distance on a small motorcycle is just too tiring and dangerous. I finally made up my mind that a small car to pull behind Minnie was the way to go.

A couple weeks ago I was looking at Craigslist and saw a Smart Car for sale a few miles east of Apache Junction. I always thought that even used Smart Cars would be out of my price range but this car was something I could afford. I was 100 miles away from Phoenix at the time so I asked Daryl and Donna to go take a look at it for me. The next day they drove out and checked it out.

It’s a 2009 Smart for two convertible with 69,000 miles. Daryl and Donna checked it out and drove it around a bit and texted me that it seemed in good shape. I told them to put a deposit on it and I would head back to town in the morning. Two days later I was the proud owner of my own toad!

The car only cost me $3300. Getting it licensed, insured, and set up to be towed cost another $2000. I cleaned up Honda, put a new tire on the back, changed the oil, fixed the headlight, and advertised it on Craigslist Sunday morning. By 1:30 I had it sold for $2100. I guess I made the transition from motorcycle to car with very little pain.

It’s not very fast. 0 – 60 mph takes about 16 seconds. It’s made by Mercedes so probably parts and labor will be expensive. It only seats two and there is not much luggage space. It will have limits but I think I can grow to love it just the same. Thanks to Daryl and Donna for running me all over town and helping me get things set up. Donna has experience with towing and helped me with tips and tricks on how to hook and unhook. Thanks again guys!

I need a backup camera to tell when something happens.


November 8th, 2018

On the 7th of November, one day after the midterm elections, I left Tempe and drove to Quartzsite , AZ. and purchased an LTVA season pass. Even though I usually move around southern Arizona in the winter, I still like to buy the season pass for the Long Term Visitors Area. That way I have a home base so to speak.

Not as pretty as forest but nice sunshine.

Quartzsite is not awfully busy yet. The biggest migration of RV dwellers wait till after the holidays to descend here, consequently causing the population of the town and surrounding desert to swell to many times it’s normal size. I rode into town today and only a handful of booths were open. When the Big Tent Show is in swing, and rows of shops selling their wares are open and after your money, it is hard to find a parking spot within a quarter-mile of the main drag.

The temperature has been almost perfect. This next week is forecast to be in the mid 70’s everyday. The one thing that’s not pleasing in the open desert is wind and today is one of those days. You never want to leave for the day and forget to take down your awning. Wind can come up very quickly and rip away anything it can get a hold of.

I parked in the same place I did last year. It is across the wash from the nudist area. I like it because it is isolated from other campers. Other campers keep away for fear they will see something shocking.

Yeah I see… Last night I was setting up camp and there he comes…. walking down through the wash wearing nothing but a sombrero! I yelled, “Don’t look Ethel!” but it was too late. She’d already seen a desert bush.