RHYMES WITH TRUCK

Friday, April 10, 2020

OVERLANDERS. Chapter 5.


    
    The Englishman and the American stood staring at the cling-film wrapped bundles of dollar bills that filled the oil drum. 

    “Cartel drug money,” muttered Rufus.

    “Fill your boots,” grinned Kevin.

    The guys went back to the trucks and returned with the women and as many empty bags as they could muster; back-packs, sports bags, bicycle panniers all quickly filled with cash that seemed to be all in the $20 denomination. They re-buried the drum; pulled up a pair of sage bushes, pulling them behind as they tried to mask their footprints as they went back to the vehicles. A quick count revealed about $3,000,000, stashing that amount in the trucks proved more difficult. Kevin was anxious to get going, his military training reminded him of his vulnerability; wide open position in enemy territory, they needed a safe haven and quickly.

    The Brits fancied Belize while the Americans preferred to return to the US; reasoning that home turf would be safer than a tropical jungle state. It was the parting of the ways for the foursome; after struggling up the loose surfaced track, they hit the newly paved Highway 5; the Mack turned north, the Leyland Daf headed south. They hadn’t noticed anybody watching them, the whole time they had been off-road, but crucially, they had not noticed the game camera attached to a Saguaro cactus that overlooked the burial site.

    The Americans didn’t reach home soil that day; they pulled into Pete’s Camp and parked well away from the other campers. Rufus was keen to hide the $1,500,000 before the border and fortunately the fire rescue truck had plenty of storage compartments; even so he finished off by stuffing wads of notes through the recessed ceiling lights into the cavity between the roof and headlining. Customs officers often ask if you have more than $10,000 in cash when you cross the border; Rufus would just have to lie. There would be an inspection at the military checkpoint just north of San Felipe and possibly again at Mexicali but the truck was so different from everything else that most inspections were guided tours rather than some over-enthusiastic contraband search.

    When it came to hiding the cash in the Leyland Daf; Kevin chose the classic, tried and tested hiding place: inside the spare wheel. The overland expedition truck carried two spares, mounted on a purpose built rack across the back of the living quarters and they were raised and lowered by their own electric winch. One tyre full on banknotes still left a usable one full of air. The Brits headed south and searched for an isolated spot away from Highway 1; a beach at the end of a rough dirt road where they could work in peace.

    If you have a flat tyre on a busy highway; no one stops to help. Start messing about with a spare wheel in the middle of nowhere and somebody will rock-up and offer to help. Kevin had dropped down one of his spares and deflated the tyre when a German registered MAN TGM13-290 appeared over the horizon and made a bee-line for the Leyland Daf. Gunther jumped down, offered his hand and free advice on tyre inflation.

    “All fixed, just need to air it up,” lied Kevin, “ Gabby, fetch a couple of beers for our European friends.”

    “ You have air-line? No. I have air-line.”  gushed Gunther.

    Kevin had met this sort before; ultra friendly, ultra helpful and they always assumed you knew nothing. He had learned the hard way; don’t argue, let them have free rein and don’t make it into a competition. Kevin let Gunther pump-up the tyre and helped him re-install it on the back of the Leyland Daf. After an evening of German hospitality; Gabby and Kevin knew the life story and all about the world-tour of Petra and Gunther. It was past midnight before they were in bed, alone together for the first time since the Germans arrived.

    “What the hell are we going to do with the money now?” asked Gabby.

    “ Christ knows. Just wait until they bugger off and try again, I suppose.”

    “But they know we are heading for the ferry at La Paz and so are they. What if they want to buddy-up?”

    “That could be to our advantage; let them lead the way. Safety in numbers and all that. Just got to find another place for the money.”

    Gabby and Kevin spent most of the night stuffing the mattress with banknotes after carefully cutting out sections of memory foam. They soon found out they would never again have a comfortable nights rest.

    Meanwhile back at Coco’s Corner, an all-black Cadillac Escalade turned off Highway 5 and descended the dirt road; it was the fortnightly visit to the game camera. The third stop on a six stop tour.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

OVERLANDERS. Chapter 4.


       Rufus delayed smashing a window and climbing onto the roof of the truck. A wise move as the water didn’t come up to the top of the dining table before if slowly receded. By dawn there was just a thin coating of silt and slime on the surfaces that had been underwater. Outside the flow of water had nearly stopped with just a trickle from puddle to puddle.

    Kevin ventured out to find no damage to the Leyland Daf. He quickly fired-up the motor and eased the truck onto higher ground. It wasn’t so simple with the Mack; it was half buried on one side with a lot of sizable rocks that needed moving before it could be extracted. Luckily they had four shovels with them. They would level the ground behind the truck, dig away the soil at each side and reverse out, with the help of the Leyland Daf if necessary. Gabby cooked breakfast while the others washed out the interior of the Mack and after the meal they all got down to digging. It was a morning of slipping and sliding, getting down and getting dirty and barefoot was the way to go.

    “Is this what we’ve been looking for?” said Missy casually holding a shark tooth that completely covered her hand.

    “Well bugger me, two days looking and now we get one when we’re not!” exclaimed Kevin just as Gabby reached down and picked up an even bigger one.

   Megalodon’s had 276 teeth that fell out and replaced themselves on a regular basis. Finding two so close together gave the diggers hope that they might have stumbled on the remains of a dead meg that had been unearthed by the flash flood. They dug with renewed vigour but only found two more before Kevin ran out his winch cable to the back of the Mack. The ground was still sticky but the managed to pull the Mack onto an even keel. It would be days before the river-bed had dried enough for the trucks to retrace their steps back to Coco’s corner. But the sun shone and spirits were high; no damage was done. The stainless steel bodywork of the old fire truck was top quality engineering. Silt was everywhere but nothing a high pressure washer couldn’t return to pristine.

    Two days of searching the newly eroded deposits around the mesas brought a steady stream of megalodon teeth; some broken, some of excellent condition and size. Enough to make the expedition a success; well into double figures and a four figure payday, each. The last night was party night. Rufus brought out a bottle of Patron Silver, the salt and the lemon. It didn’t last long as they drank while laying out the complete collection of teeth. Rufus tossed a coin for first choice and they alternately picked their share. Biggest and best down to smallest and roughest.

    The guys decided to walk the course before tackling the road out. A good choice as there had been plenty of erosion by the storm. They handballed rocks into the worst of the ruts; taking all morning to get it all level as the women packed up the vehicles in their absence. On the way back down, Kevin saw the bright blue corner of a plastic oil drum laying on the riverbed. Always one to leave a place cleaner than he found it, Kevin went over and kicked at the plastic; bending over he found it was more than a broken piece, it was a whole drum. He jabbed the shovel through the lid, shattering the brittle plastic. Kevin dropped to his knees.

    “Look at this, Rufus, come here and look at this.” 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

OVERLANDERS. Chapter 3.



    A track led East from Coco’s Corner; Coco the US Army veteran who had established the dusty rest area/ campsite/ snack bar said that several customers had been lucky fossil hunting at the foot of local “mesas.”  Mesa means table in Spanish. A mesa was an outcrop of rock shaped like a mushroom; formed by erosion caused by wind and rain. If there was evidence of seashells surrounding a mesa then it was reasonable to assume that it was once under the ocean. Find sea shells- find shark teeth.

   The single lane track wound among the hills before dropping into a gorge. It was dry but obviously a water course when it rained. There were no tyre tracks to follow as the two trucks picked their way from side to side; trying to keep out of soft sand and the ruts caused by descending streams of water. Easier for the Leyland Daf than the Mack with its lower ground clearance and long rear overhang. In fact Kevin drove with a smile on his face; the 4x4 was now doing what it was built to do. Rufus was muttering an endless stream of expletives as the back end of the Mack constantly grounded on the stony track. Missy’s white-knuckled grip kept the dashboard in place while Gabby nonchalantly checked her cellphone for a signal.

    Eventually the gorge widened into a flat dry riverbed, several more gorges entered the main watershed at the same spot. The Sea of Cortez was still out of sight but looking downstream; there were several mesas and they were in logical places to start digging. The women wanted to set-up camp first; level the trucks, open the awnings, bring out chairs and tables. The men grabbed their shovels and attacked a mesa without even bothering to close the driver’s door of their trucks. By evening they were hot, sweaty with blistered hands and toothless. Twenty-four hours later it was the same story except everyone had worn gloves. The four had spread out; a mesa each. They found plenty of regular sized shark teeth and shards of whale bone but megaladon teeth had proved elusive.  

    It wasn’t as easy as picking-up banknotes from the pavement. Maybe they were in the wrong place. Conversation over dinner centred on whether to move on or dig deeper where they were. They decided to break camp in the morning and head for the Pacific coast. They were unaware of the storm coming in from the ocean.

    A distant thunder roll was the first indication, then the white light flashes reflecting in the open roof hatch over the bed in the Leyland Daf. It was well past midnight when the first raindrops forced Kevin to close it. Within an hour, there was no time-lag between lightning flash and thunderclap. In such a deluge, all campers in vehicles feel sorry for campers in tents and celebrate their choice of accommodation and the safety it affords with a dry comfortable bed.

    All that changed as a flash flood roared down the canyons and gorges; uniting in the riverbed. There was a sharp jolt in the Leyland Daf as the stony soil beneath the back wheels of the vehicle was washed away. Kevin dressed quickly, climbed through the small hatch into the cab of the truck and fired-up the motor. The wipers did little to clear the relentless rain; the headlights just showed a raging torrent rushing past but the lightning lit up the scene just long enough for him to see a path to safety. The truck had started drifting sideways by the time Kevin had engaged the differential locks and low ratio in the gearbox. He turned upstream, edging over to higher ground and the cover behind one of the mesas; rocks and debris clunking against the front bumper. It was impossible to get completely out of the water and the current still swirled around them but they were on firmer ground and felt safe.

    The same could not be said about Missy and Rufus. The Mack had no pass-through from the living area into the cab. Water was beating against the back door with such pressure that it was impossible to open. They had no skylight or roof hatch; they were imprisoned and at the mercy of the wall of water that began moving them downstream. At nearly twelve tonnes, the Mack was too heavy to go with the flow but turned sideways and listed heavily; resting against a large boulder as the dirty brown water washed over it and slowly found every crack and gap. Slowly filling the interior.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

OVERLANDERS: Chapter 2.


    There was a little bit of paper work to do before entry into Mexico but it was all available on the Internet. Tourist visas cost 500 pesos and lasted for 6 months. Vehicle insurance was mandatory but turned out to be cheap; $120 for thirty days, $125 for 6 months. Just how good the insurance was and what it covered was debatable. Gabby and Kevin went for the 180 days. They planned to continue on to Belize and had to also complete the formalities for a TIP, Temporary Importation Permit; a $200 re-fundable deposit to discourage travelers from selling their vehicle and leaving Mexico without it. Rufus and Melissa purchased 30 days insurance but did not need the TIP as Baja California enjoyed an exemption from the bureaucracy.

    There were several options for crossing the border; none promised a quick easy passage but Calexico, crossing to Mexicali, looked simplest. Kevin and Missy led the way in the Mack, westbound on Interstate 8 from Yuma after south on Highway 95, then south on Highway 7. The Leyland Daf struggled to keep-up but was only a few cars behind as they joined the end of the line-up for the border. RVs filtered right and each took a lot longer and the cars in the other lines. The vehicle examination was more of a guided tour for the Mexican customs agent, every cabinet inside and every storage box opened but not rummaged through with any thoroughness. An hour later the pair of trucks were heading south on Mex Hwy 5 heading for San Felipe and Pete’s Camp, the iconic first night halt for first-time new arrivals.

    Parking just yards from the Sea of Cortez, palapas by their side the four set up camp and retire to the restaurant for a discussion about the final plans with a couple of wood-fired pizzas and some Tecate Light.

    “We can dump and refill with fresh water here, there are a couple of supermarkets in town. How long can you guys stay off-grid in the Leyland Daf?”

    “About seven days. Are we going to need any tools for this digging? We got a shovel.”

    “ Yeah, we need a shovel each. So let’s say we leave tomorrow and expect to stay out there for a week.”

    Lunch was at Cow Patty’s loncheria with an interesting conversation about shark jaws with proprietor and his customer. Random memorabilia and an old school bus were incorporated into a structure held together by the stickers of numerous Baja 1000 racing teams. Next stop was Coco’s Corner, overnight stop and confirmation of nearby fossils of interest. 
Coco's Corner
    

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

OVERLANDERS . Chapter 1.



“It’s as easy as walking round, picking up $100 bills.”

“Never had much luck with get-rich-quick schemes,” replied Kevin, “what kind of a dinosaur is a megalodon anyway?”

“Big dead shark, teeth the size of your hand, biggest fish the World has ever seen.”

    Kevin should have felt safe; Arizona had no coastline. They were camped in the Sonoran desert but Rufus was a little bit sketchy and his proposition was bordering on illegal. The big problem was that funds were running low, they had under estimated the cost of touring the World in an ex-British Army 4x4 truck; they needed an income more than their online t-shirt shop and their Youtube channel could provide.

    Gabby and Kevin were nearly six months into the adventure of a lifetime. That’s if you don’t count the two years building their overland expedition truck from a 1993 Leyland Daf T244 four tonner. The chassis cab had been cheap enough but building the living area and equipping the vehicle had eaten into their savings. The cost of shipping it to North America was reasonable but driving from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Fairbanks, Alaska, and then South to the Mexican border had made a huge dent in the running money.

    The vast distances and expensive diesel fuel of Canada had been underestimated. The permanent four-wheel drive of the Leyland Daf gave horrific fuel mileage. Wild camping where ever they could had helped. They tried to avoid tourist traps and admission fees; paying out for just fuel and food but now the trip was stalled in the desert. They were at the crossroads of the trip. Central America and then South America lay ahead but the money was running out.

    The BLM [Bureau of Land Management] land around the town of Quartzsite has been a magnet for recreational vehicles for a long time. Snowbirds from Canada, nomads from all over the States flock to Quartzsite in their thousands. For little or no charge the desert becomes the winter base for motor homes, travel trailers, 5th wheelers even tents. A community practicing economical living, that suited Gabby and Kevin just fine. They may have had the only UK registered Leyland Daf in the county but they had a lot in common with their neighbours.

    Missy and Rufus had also built their own RV. A thirty year old re-purposed fire rescue truck; lime green and white with chrome. Not a 4x4 overland expedition vehicle but one big and tough truck all the same. They were from Idaho, just wintering in the South-West, their second year of working just the summer. Missy would go back to waiting tables at her family’s restaurant; Rufus would try get back to dry-walling with his brother. Rufus didn’t relish the return to hard manual labour. Selling megalodon teeth on E-bay for a hundred bucks each was something he awaited with pleasure.

    As the four travelers sat around a ring of stones, a small pallet wood fire flickered enough light to see the passing joint. Conversation was about the finer details of tooth extraction from Mexico.

    “Technically it is illegal. Yes. But they turn a blind eye; they’re more interested in whole dinosaur skeletons and ancient man-made artifacts than old shark teeth that once were on the Pacific Ocean floor.”

    “But how did these teeth end up in the Baja?”

    “San Andreas fault, earthquakes and the clash of continents. What was seabed millions of years ago is now high and dry.”

    “Who buys the damn things? Where’s the market?”

   “Kids worldwide. Awesome thing to have when you are ten years old. A sixty million year old shark tooth that is massive.”

    Gabby was reluctant to commit to the scheme but Kevin persuaded her with a few more relevant points.

    “ We have to get out of the US soon. Our B2 visas only give us six months. I know Baja California is not really on the way to Belize but I think it would be good to get some spending money together while we have the chance. We can sell on E-bay. We got Pay-pal. A little bit of poking around in the desert can’t do much harm?”

  Next morning, the four cycled into town and wandered around the endless gem and mineral stalls that are an ever present feature of Quartzsite. They found a vendor with shark teeth for sale; they bought a small megalodon chomper so they would know what they were searching for down in Mexico.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Pandemic Drive Home.

Depart Yuma Wednesday Midday-Arrive Winnipeg Sunday Midday.
____ Sitting in the desert as the World reeled from the relentless spread of Covid 19; we felt we were in a good place. The snowbirds had thinned; neighbours had left throughout the previous two weeks and we were surrounded by wide open wilderness. Our only close interaction with crowded areas was at the launderette and Fry's supermarket in the Foothills, near Yuma. A once a week, fifty mile round trip.

____ The original plan was to be back on Canadian soil by April 14; the determining factor being our health insurance. After last years tragedy; when Gilles from Montreal collapsed against the side of the truck with a stroke, health and fitness has been of elevated importance. Good coverage for over 65s is expensive for long-term visits to the US but totally essential. However, once the coronavirus situation had been designated as a "Pandemic"; all health insurance policies refused to pay for treatment. Then the Canadian government issued a "No Travel" advisory for the USA which gave the insurance companies the excuse to cancel all travel and health cover to people in the States. We were given ten days to get back to Canada.

___ The Mack had developed a few problems since the start of the trip, nothing too serious and stuff that could wait until the return to Manitoba. But coming North in the tension of a country on the verge of shut-down was stressful. The fuel pump was leaking, a drip, drip, drip at idle; the 11 litre motor marking its territory at every truckstop, rest area and car park. The diesel fuel at the front was now being complimented by a oil seal leak at the differential. The fuel level gauge in the diesel tank abruptly stopped working. One of the battery isolating solenoids gave up the ghost; so the truck now just had the one operable 12 volt battery in the front bumper. Somewhere, unknown, a parasitic draw resulted in a flat battery every morning; luckily a 3500 watt generator easily over came that problem.

___ But Macks are built tough, they get the job done. A bottle of gear oil in the rear axle every morning and a lot of concentration; we brought it home. Many Canadian snowbirds on the same roads; playing leap-frog with Manitoba plated travel trailers, 5th wheel and motorhomes all the way from Tucumcari. The final two nights were cold, drumming in the fact we had returned too early, but a strong tail-wind gave us good fuel mileage and the price of a gallon was way less than the outbound journey.

____ The border at Pembina/Emerson was the last stressful obstacle. There were plenty of warnings on the Internet that the border was closed with chaotic advice about who would be let into Canada. At the end of Interstate 29, the line-up was short and we were across with just a few questions answered. However we  did have agree to a 14 day period of isolation at home. Go home, straight home and don't stop a Tim Hortons for coffee at Morris. So, the Mack is back in same spot where it was re-purposed; the snow is still two feet  deep on the deck. The groceries are delivered and I have conditioned myself to sit and watch TV for 16 hours a day. The Mack needs a lot of TLC but with such an uncertain future, there is no time-line; just a quiet determination to get through the unforeseen darkness that has enveloped everyone's lives.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Whale Watching At Guerroro Negro, Baja California.

____ Some more of Cheryl's wonderful photographs from her Mario's Whale Watching Tour.




Monday, March 2, 2020

Mexico 2020


____ The days before Mexico were spent at Mittry Lake and at Quartzsite. Mittry Lake for the access to good easy kayaking. We parked by the boat ramp and paddled every day on the mirror smooth waters. Seeking out the hidden places as we pushed through the reed beds and corralled the cootes. A fully stocked larder lasted a week and as we passed the New Year at our lakeside campsite, We replenished the food  with a trip into Yuma and stayed another seven days; hiking in the hills that formed the edge of the desert as it came down to the fertile valley of the Colorado River.

____ The departure to Quartzsite corresponded with the need for more supplies and the need to empty the waste tanks. Seventy miles north on Highway 95 where RVs out-number cars and trucks through the Sonoran Desert. A few days before the big RV show with enough time to do laundry, buy food and settle in before the massive influx of every imaginable recreational vehicle to a small town on Interstate 10. We cycled into town everyday; taking the dirt tracks through the vast camping area on the southern edge of town known as South Posa. Busy, busy, busy with sold out food shops and gridlocked traffic in and around the Big Tent showground.


____ Two days of looking around everthing RV and a whole lot more; electric bikes seemed to be the new “must-have” for motorhomes with multiple vendors on site. I came away with a couple of roof-light covers and a couple of sore feet from all the walking. We signed up for membership of the Quartzsite library; a busy place with its free Wi-Fi and vast free-to-borrow DVD collection. It was handy to have a place to print copies of stuff from the Internet; we bought our Mexican vehicle insurance on-line and registered for our FMM, Mexican tourist visas.

____ The show lasted for a week but we shipped out after three days and headed back down Highway 95, straight through Yuma and onto St.Luis de Colorado; stopping overnight just north of the border. Not much RV traffic but plenty of locals crossing both ways as we lined-up and got through in about an hour. That left plenty of time to get down to San Felipe, restock the fridge and fruit bowl and set up  for the night at Pete’s Camp. Just the one night before five nights at Gonzaga Bay and a chance to kayak on the Sea of Cortez where early starts were a must as the wind chopped up the water later in the day.

____ High-light of the kayaking was a long paddle to Punta Final when we came across a group of grey whales. Laying on their sides with one fin waving in the air; about six whales were so close we could hear them breathing. Close enough to feel vulnerable, sitting on top of a plastic kayak. We quietly drifted away as the wind started; taking photographs that somehow turned out crap.

____ Mulege, pronounced “Mule-ah-hay,” had been the long held destination of this Winter’s roadtrip. Gaining a mystical-like presence to me as people had been asking about our plans. Some knew of it and recommended it; others had never heard of it and expressed surprise that we should go into Mexico with a thirty year-old vehicle at all. But finally we were less than one day away and on our way to Mulege. Highway 5 had just been finished being paved all the way through to Highway1, south of Gonzaga Bay. So new that the asphalt laying machine was still parked at the roadside and they hadn’t finished the white lines. A great piece of road that put to shame Highway 1, a narrow, shoulder-less black ribbon that ran through the undulating Baja Californian desert from Tijuana to Cabo San Luca.

____ After all the talk of Mulege, the town was a disappointment, nothing outstanding, nowhere to park the rig and before we knew it, we were out the other side of town. Now heading for one of the beaches on the Bahia Concepcion; we pulled up at Playa Santispac, blasted the air-horns at the gawking customers at Armando’s bar and grabbed a palapa at the water’s edge. The start of two weeks in paradise; sunshine and sheltered calm seas with a dozen yachts moored offshore among islands. Two restaurant/bars, Armando’s and Ana’s, a regular supply of fresh fruit and veg, fish and shrimp, pastries and cakes, even drinking water and propane, all brought to your vehicle by local vendors. The usual tourist tat of blankets and jewellery as well; but nobody was pushy and all very friendly. A great place, except for a couple of things; the toilets were disgusting and the beach lay at the bottom of a steep hill which was Jake-Brake alley for every Ken-Mex Dubya 9 with straight-through pipes as Mexican truck drivers played “Wake-up-a-camper” with their engine brakes.

____ Kayaking around the islands on clear, calm water as pelicans dived for fish, hiking the shore line trails or dipping into the natural hot-springs filled our days. It was a popular spot, being the easiest of the beaches to access. For some it was a long-term stay, for some just an overnight halt on the road to La Paz and the southern tip of Baja California. We contemplated moving on but couldn’t envision anything better; so we stayed until the peso count got low. It was 200 pesos a night, not exceptionally good value but that was a typical price for all the places we stayed. Mexico is not as cheap as it is made out to be. Sure, beer and groceries are cheap but expensive diesel and paying for campsites eats into your funds. Boon-docking is possible but didn’t seem practical to us in the Mack, maybe in a Jeep with a tent you could hide away every night but we went for the easy option.

____ Coming back North, we overnighted at Guerrero Negro on the Pacific coast. Number one spot in the World to watch whales. Cheryl went with Mario’s Tours and was not disappointed. At Gonzaga Bay, we came across a P-reg VW camper. Lee and Willow touring North America with Subaru power and a cat called Aimee. Great couple on a great roadtrip; check them out onhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UC19-hATcDPEGCYj92PccfgA/featured?disable_polymer=1…. Finally we rolled back into the US and set up camp, back at Imperial Dam.

680 miles, North to South and hardly touched on what is possible in Mexico.

Cow Patty. Lunch stop between San Felipe and Gonzaga Bay.

The smooth waters of Gonzaga Bay

Dawn at Gonzaga Bay.

Kayaking around the islands of Bahia de Concepcion.

On the Playa de Santispac, South of Mulege.

The yachts offshore were mostly from Canada
Lee and Willow with their VW Camper at Gonzaga Bay.

One of Cheryl's photos from Guerrero Negro.




Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Christmas Day In The Gravel Pit.


____ Christmas Day in the gravel pit; just like any other day parked in the desert. The only noticeable Christmas festivities had been the parade of the side-by-sides; all festooned in coloured LED light strips. Five nights with a dozen rigs criss-crossing the tracks that make up the Imperial Dam Long Term Visitor Area. We had stocked up with goodies on the previous Saturday and had a bulging fridge and two cooler boxes full with food and drink.
____ Percolated coffee to start the day with fresh fruit. Bags of oranges and grapefruits from the back of a truck parked at the Cloud museum. Local produce at $2.00 a bag. Great, not to start the day by firing up the truck; just lazing around wondering what to do with day. A hike, a bike ride, kayaking on the lake or some little maintenance job, like oiling squeaking doors. Or if Les came over for a chat; then that the morning done and dusted. With limited day-light, the evenings are the longest part of the day but we worked our way through the DVD collection at the library, read and played cards. Weather stayed dry, wind in the afternoons and clear starlit nights that made it chilly enough for two blankets.
____ A change of scenery before New Year, when we went into Yuma for supplies and went to Mittry Lake on the way back. Within sight of Imperial Dam LTVA but across the Colorado River. Free camping for 10 days in a calendar year, lake side parking, toilets and easy access to the water for kayaking. Mostly Canadian campers but with lots of locals bringing speedboats for fishing trips on the lake.
____ So, looking back on ten years of blogging. A lot has happened but not much happening now. Maybe time to knock it on the head and give up trying to think of interesting things to write about when I’m not doing any thing interesting. But I’ll keep it going; if something does happen worth writing about or I get a chance to take some decent photographs then I’ll post’em.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Imperial Dam And Life In The Desert.

Imperial Dam LTVA in Summer; not an RV in site.
____ Born and brought-up in England, the freedom of wide-open spaces was not part of my life in an over-crowded island where my roaming was always thwarted by the bellowing of “Oi you. Get off of my land.” Rambling on unfenced land and wild-camping, apart from during a couple of Summers in the South of France, eluded me until I retired. Then it became “Boondocking.” Living free, self-contained and un-troubled in an easy-going climate where economy meets relaxation meets contentment. In Arizona, in the United States; a place with such strict immigration and border controls that you would think the place had such a bulging population that it could not possibly take one more person. During my years as a long-haul truck driver, I never ceased to be amazed by the vast emptiness that is much of North America. The States of Wyoming and Montana with no houses for miles on grassland that stretched over the horizon in all directions. Arizona and New Mexico with arid scrubland and rocky out-crops on land that could profit no-one. Then there is Canada; where flying across country shows so much forest, lake, mountain and plain without road, house and human being.

____ Any area of un-usable land in the UK is fenced and probably owned by an aristocrat who has been handed-down the estate for centuries. The enjoyment of the people is denied on the pretext that a threatened species rare butterfly is breeding near-by. Although that doesn’t stop the annual pheasant shoot for the Lord of the Manor and his cronies. Imagine how surprised and delighted I was to find that this selfishness does not apply in Arizona. Apart from a few square miles that are set aside for military use, the State of Arizona positively encourages the population to go out and enjoy the wilderness that will not sustain agriculture. Living off the grid in a recreational vehicle in the desert is totally possible and under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management it has become simple. The usual back-country rules apply; pack-out what you pack-in and leave no trace. You can be as far away from civilization as you can get or you can opt for a place such as the Imperial Dam Long Term Visitor Area.

____ The LTVA is not free but at $180 for seven months, it is very good value. Access to potable water, a place to dump waste water and garbage and a community of fellow like-minded people. How much you have to do with your neighbours is entirely up to you; moving you vehicle to another camping area is always an option as is yoga, going to church and visiting the library. Safety in numbers is reassuring in the potentially hostile desert environment  and a friendly daily wave to everyone you meet means you can be pretty sure that they will keep an eye-out for you. Some neighbours are chatty some are very reclusive, some interesting life-stories with many returning year after year to Imperial Dam and Arizona. Some expensive rigs on show with all the toys in attendance; some people on very tight budgets with even a few tents but an economic lifestyle at the fore front of most people’s way of life.

____ To be continued.


December Sunset.