Desert Life

I’ve been continuing to settle into Quartzsite. As you might have guessed from the sudden proliferation of posts once again, I’ve figured out my internet situation. It’s good enough to enable me to stay here all winter if I choose to. In contrast to how much I’ve been on the move since first hitting the road, that actually sounds quite appealing right about now. If I get bored with my view, I can simply move to another location in one of the local LTVAs. I can stay close to Quartzsite as a home base for winter, or move to Imperial Dam or Mule Mountain if I want to get out of town.

My campsite looks a bit like an antenna farm now, but what do you expect from a ham radio operator? Ironically, it’s the short one that’s my ham antenna — exactly the same setup I used at the top of Mount Washington. The tall one is a fiberglass flagpole with my FastNet antenna on top. I tried putting the ham antenna on there as well, but all that weight up top made the mast lean quite a bit in even a light breeze, so I took it down and went double-fisted instead. As a result, I can only reach the repeater in Parker, 35 miles to the north, and not the one in Yuma, 53 miles to the south, like I used to. I can handle that. I can still hit all of the local Quartzsite area repeaters on low power with no problem.

I’ve been heading into town daily on the bike for this, that, and the other thing while getting myself set up. I also took a ride in with Kendrick, who has a skoolie parked near me and is also into computers and ham radio and such. He introduced me to the local ham group, a couple of whom I’d already met on the air. I hope to infiltrate them and get into the loop of the monthly license classes and exam sessions they hold. I’m a certified Volunteer Examiner, and can help administer the tests.

This KLR650 is the absolute perfect vehicle for my current situation. Route 95, the main road into town, is paved and 55 mph, while all of the roads around the BLM land are dirt. It handles both of these quite well, even when the “road” bounces across a bumpy desert wash. It’s great not only for bouncing around different camps around the LTVA, but it also allows me to leave my van parked, with the canopy and antenna masts deployed, rather than having to break down camp every time I need to run into town.

Unfortunately, I need to break down camp and take the van into town tomorrow anyway. It got a little chilly last night, and I thought it would be nice to run the heater a little bit before bed to get it nice and warm inside, as well as less chilly in the morning. As soon as I opened the valve on my propane tank, I heard the hiss of a leak. The tank I just exchanged in Los Angeles is defective. I’m not happy, and I’m not driving four hours back to LA to swap it.

I didn’t need the heater last night, so it was no big deal, but I do need to get this fixed before it gets cold. Fortunately, Quartzsite caters specifically to RVs and campers, and people on the Meet In Q Facebook group recommended a place to get it fixed or replaced. I’m not transporting a propane tank on my motorcycle, so I’ll have to pack up and drive into town to deal with it.

It’s annoying, but it’s also a good test. While I can stay parked in the same spot for the next several months if I want, I suspect I’ll want a change of scenery at some point. This will teach me how much of a pain it is, or isn’t, to pack my current camp up and drive away. Plus I can leave the bike here, since there are other people around and I’m not actually leaving camp.

I’ve been making new friends outside of our camp, too. I checked out a campfire at the Lit Cactus the other night, about a quarter mile down the road from me. (It’s on Google Maps, so it must be true.) It was a good time, with good music, good conversation, and making new friends. They invited me back last night, then sent me back to my van to get my small djembe drum to join the musicians. I haven’t had a chance to play it at all since this journey began until now. I missed it. It was fun to join in, and many told me how much they enjoyed it, including the other musicians. They’ve accepted me as one of their own, and I suspect I’ll be back there regularly.

Today I rode into town to scout the area to deal with my propane problem, but found nothing on my own (except lunch). After taking the long way back to camp, I decided to take the rest of the day off. I’ll break down camp and drive into town to deal with the propane tomorrow. (The valve doesn’t leak if it’s shut, so it’s safe if I don’t use it.) I did do some writing, including these posts, and I finally caught up on some dirty dishes I’ve been neglecting, so I won’t say I was entirely unproductive. Every day since I arrived in Quartzsite I’ve been making significant improvements to my camp situation, until now. The camp is good enough now, and I’ve earned a day of rest. Lister appreciates having my lap available to sit on.

Don’t worry — for all this talk of staying put for a while, my adventures on the road aren’t over. Far from it. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing to hang around here for a while. A lot of events are coming up in January, from an RV show (where I can try to learn more about camper trailers for that potential plan), to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (the huge gathering that Bob Wells started, featured in Nomadland), to Quartzfest, a ham radio convention.

More than any of that, though, I’m in a place where I’m surrounded by many other nomads like myself. When I’ve attended big annual camping events before, what I’ve enjoyed most is the community aspect of it. The atmosphere here is kind of like Pennsic, except with camper vans and RVs instead of medieval tents, and no armored combat. Traveling is great, and I’m not finished yet. If I stay here through the winter, my next destination will be the Pacific Northwest, the one corner of the US I haven’t visited yet. But until winter is over, I want to hang out with my people, now that I’ve finally found them.

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