Update From the North Shore

Work dropped a big project on me this week. It’s a good thing because it’s something I’m knowledgeable about and enjoy, but it hasn’t left a lot of brain resources for writing outside of work. But that’s okay — it pays the bills. So here are a bunch of disconnected thoughts and stories about what I’ve been up to this week.

I met up with a couple of people from the local ham radio group (the Senator Wash Desert Ratt Pack) and went for a trail ride. It’s always better to do this as a group, just in case one rider runs into trouble. I’m more willing to boldly go where I haven’t gone before and take calculated risks on tricky trails if I know I’ll have help picking up my bike if I drop it. It’s also helpful to watch how a more experienced rider takes a tricky section of trail, then try to emulate what they do. In this case, Kieth, who led the three of us, has been coming here for years and knows all the trails. He’s a far more experienced dirt rider than me but kept our route to my intermediate skill level. I was certainly pushing my personal limits in places but got through them just fine. “No whammies,” which is how I say I didn’t drop the bike.

Among other places, Kieth took us to one of the nearby gold mines. He actually owns a share in it and comes out here to look for gold. Coming from New England, gold prospecting is far outside my experience, but I got a good lesson on the basics of it, as well as the history of the mine. It was a fun ride as well as educational. This is the sort of thing I’d been hoping to do all winter in Quartzsite, but I couldn’t find anyone to go riding with.

The other day I met up with Christina Coloradoan from Instagram. We haven’t been stalking each other, but we have been traveling to many of the same places at the same time, but just missing each other — Quartzsite, Adventure Van Man‘s camp, and now Imperial Dam. We realized we were camped just across the lake from each other and made plans to hang out. She followed me back to my lakeside camp one afternoon, and we talked and had a couple of beers. I didn’t get any pictures because we were just having fun. My first meeting with an Instagram follower turned out to not be a complete disaster, but a genuinely good time. Hopefully, we’ll meet up again somewhere down the road.

After all the dirt riding I’ve done around here, I needed to get gas. Normally I get at least 200 miles out of the KLR before I even think about gas, so when the trip odometer read 167 miles, it was time to head to the Arco (lowest prices in the area at $4.17/gallon) 25 miles away in Yuma. I was surprised when the engine began to sputter just a quarter mile after leaving camp, forcing me to switch the fuel valve to the reserve setting a full 40 miles or so earlier than usual. I know dirt riding is less fuel-efficient than street riding, since I’m often crawling in just first or second gear, but I didn’t think it would have that profound an effect on my range. All I could do was ride as smoothly and efficiently as possible and get as far as I could. Fortunately, I made it to the Arco with no problem. It took 4.5 gallons to fill my 5-gallon tank. I got lunch, then a few groceries to get me through the weekend before I have to do a full shopping trip in the van.

One huge advantage of Imperial Dam over Quartzsite is the showers available at the Squaw Lake Campground. Each of these tokens costs $1 and gets you seven minutes of high-pressure hot water. I splurged for two tokens and enjoyed my first shower in months where I haven’t felt pressured to get in and out as quickly as possible. If you’re quick, you can get away with a $1 shower here. That means you can shower every day and still not spend as much as you would for one shower a week at the Main Street Laundromat in Quartzsite. So if you’re a clean freak, Imperial Dam is the place for you. (Don’t worry, I do keep myself clean in between those occasional showers in Quartzsite. Wet wipes aren’t just for babies anymore.)

I’m thinking about checking out the Oxbow Recreation and Wildlife Area in Ehrenberg, Arizona next week. The season pass that allows me to stay here at the North Shore is also valid there, and the guy who sold me the pass highly recommended the place. He says many travelers rotate between Oxbow, Imperial Dam, and Quartzsite all winter. This $75 pass is far less expensive than the $180 LTVA season pass, yet still allows me to use the trash, water, and dump facilities at the LTVAs. I just can’t spend the night at the LTVA with this pass alone, so I’d have to follow the standard BLM limits of 14-days and move at least 25 miles. (I could certainly buy a 2023 LTVA season pass if I want to stay at LTVAs, and I might if people from this year’s camp reconvene next winter.)

I’m pondering this as an option for next year. Quartzsite was good to me, particularly with my internet connection, but I got bored there at times. I’m making friends here at Imperial Dam as well as in Quartzsite, so it could be fun to bounce around the area a bit now that I’ve had the full season Quartzsite experience. This pass is also a true season pass, and mine is good for a full calendar year through the end of March 2023. If I follow this plan, I may not have to pay anything more next winter!

So anyway, since my vague plan is to head north anyway, and I’ve spent plenty of time in Quartzsite, I’d like to check Oxbow out. Google says it’s 86 miles away, and I could spend up to another two weeks there before moving again. (I probably won’t, because we’re starting to see temperatures in the 80s regularly, and it’s only going to get warmer.) Ehrenberg is another popular place for nomads to stay, and I haven’t been there yet so I’d like to see it before I leave the area.

From there, I’m making this up as I go along. With the prices of everything, particularly gas, going through the stratosphere, I’ve decided to put my Pacific Northwest trip on hold for the time being. Now is the time I’d want to start heading that way, but it’s just too expensive right now. That’s not to say I can’t still go later if the Ukraine situation resolves quickly somehow and prices stabilize. Though at that point, the entire west coast might be on fire again, which seems to be the new normal these days.

I’m still interested in exploring the southwest, though, and there’s plenty to see — higher elevations of Arizona and New Mexico, plus Nevada, Utah, Colorado… It might not be the Big Lap (TM) I was hoping for this year, but it is what it is. I blame Putin and his 20th century Soviet way of thinking.

If you’re worried about me going broke because of gas prices, don’t be. I’m not hurting for money at all. I still pull down a full-time salary and stashed quite a bit in the bank this winter while stationary in Quartzsite for the winter. I just think there are better ways to spend my money than filling the oil companies’ already overstuffed pockets. I’ve already talked about how I’d like to do less moving, and more staying in an area and exploring it in-depth, so I’m just following through on that. It makes sense to do more exploring on a 50 mpg motorcycle than in a 15 mpg van.

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