Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Without Our Follow Car Again

So we’re in the LTVA (long term visitors area) in Winterhaven California.  We spent our first few days here in the lot of the solar place.  On Saturday they installed our new inverter.  It looks like our batteries are fine.  I think when we disconnected the fuse we screwed it up somehow, but now we have plenty of power to last us into the night.  The new inverter hook-up cost $80.  That was great.

What’s not so great is our Nissan Armada (the follow car).  We got a ‘Service Engine Soon’ light.  After ruling out a loose gas cap we went to Autozone to have them tell us the code and what the problem was (they do this for free, pretty sweet).  

We need a new catalytic converter.  Le sigh.  Fine.  We drove to the garage across the street to see about getting this done.  This is Alice Auto Repair in Yuma.  Can’t say I recommend them.  The guy made up some malarkey about us needing OEM parts and quoted $1,700.  When I claimed I didn’t have the money he suddenly decided we didn’t need OEM parts and went down to $1,200. 

I was pretty pissed.  You could see the dollar signs in his eyes.  And we expect to be ripped off at mechanics, but by one or two hundred bucks.  Not $500+.  I claimed I’d have to ask my brother for a loan, paid $35 for the quote and high-tailed it out of there.

Someone on Facebook said that I should go to an exhaust place for this kind of repair.  On Saturday I took the car to Meineke on 4th Ave in Yuma.  As I was driving there the car was not doing well.  I’d step on the gas and it would take a few seconds for it to actually go.  Every stop sign was a struggle for me to get moving again.  This was a 30 mile drive and I felt that if I couldn’t get the work done the same day I was going to be screwed.  I couldn’t manage another round trip. 

Meineke quoted me $350 over the phone, but my Nissan is a fancy expensive car and needed a fancy expensive catalytic converter.  I wasn’t surprised when they told me the part was going to cost more in the range of $600 and would take hours more labor than they anticipated.  This jived with what the last guy quoted me. 

What I didn’t expect was to walk under my car and see that my muffler was rusted out and clogged with carbon.  It’s supposed to be hollow, but when he knocked on it it sounded like it was stuffed full of crud.

So I need a new muffler too.  Yay.  I got quoted $1,400 for both repairs, labor, tax, etc.  Is that good?  I don’t know, but it’s still less than the first guy quoted me just for the catalytic converter.

More importantly, I barely got it there and I wasn’t about to start driving around trying to find another quote.  In fact—I wasn’t even going to drive it back to the campground.  That thing was staying there until it was fixed.

Since we’re going to Mexico I told her to do a full diagnostic and see if anything else needs to be repaired.  Then I installed Uber on my mom’s phone and got a ride back to the camp.  I’d never used it before.  I got a drive home with pleasant conversation and no complaint about making him go out to the middle of nowhere.  I’ll use this again if I need to in the future.

I explained to my mom that I had to leave the car there.  We agreed it was the best way to do it.  She had gotten our solar work done while I was gone and was happy to report it was only $80. 

Later on I hear the solar workers saying that the woman in the RV was waiting for her daughter to get back and couldn’t move the RV off their lot herself.  I yelled out the window that I was back.

“What?  How did you get home?”

“I took an Uber.”

“Wow!  You’re brave!”

What?  I didn’t feel brave.  I wasn’t sure if I was dealing with a technophobe or a sexist.

Anywho, I took the hint and moved the RV off their lot.  We dumped and got water, though before finding a spot to settle in.  No sense in moving it twice.  We’re parked a few hundred yards from the solar place because I wanted to be close in case anything they did for me wasn’t working.  This is also close to the Christian Service Center where we’re getting our mail forwarded.  It’s good to be in walking distance to stuff when you don’t have your follow car.

After the diagnostic, new tire rods, a leaky transmission line, an oil change, and a cracked power steering line added another $500 to our quote.  Ugh.  That’s $1,900.  But I don’t doubt the things they’re telling me.  It’s a ten year old SUV and the previous owners did not do routine upkeep.  Yes, we have to put money into it to keep it running well.  It’s better that than buying a new car.

Hopefully the work will be done by Thursday.  At that time I will see if this one guy who offered to give us a ride is still willing to do it, or I’ll call the guy who Ubered me the first time and see if we can work something out.  There’s no Uber in this remote area.

In the meantime, we’re stuck home.  We need groceries.  I’m stretching out the last of our food as best I can.  If we don’t have the car by Thursday we might have to go camp at a Walmart so we can get provisions while the work gets finished.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Back to Yuma

Today we left the Salton Sea to go back to a reliable boondock we wintered at last year.  It's the Imperial Dam LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) in Winterhaven, CA, right by Yuma, AZ and Algodones Mexico (where my mom got her teeth done last winter).

This is the area we want to be in with our current travel goals.  We also like it because this is a place made for people who live in there RVs.  For $40 we get a 2 week permit that lets us camp, dump, fill water tanks, and dispose of our trash.  (You can get a season long permit for $180 which would cover Sept 15 to April 15).  There's also a coin shower at the more expensive camping area on the water.  It has everything we need and is quiet, peaceful, and safe.  We stayed in this area all winter last year.  I'm sure we'll do it again in the future.

We came here because this is where we got our solar installed for the new motorhome.  As you know, we blew our inverter and I couldn't install the new one because we upgraded to a 2,000 watt inverter and the leads on our wires won't fit.  We also think we have a battery problem because we get more life from our engine battery than from our six battery bank.  As soon as the sun goes down the auxiliary batteries read empty. 

This may be because we damaged them by draining them to empty, but we followed the instructions originally given to us by the solar place to the T.  We never let our charge control display drop lower than 12.1.


The solar place is on vacation, but the workers live in RVs surrounding it so one of them greeted us and explained they'd take care of us Friday after the holiday.  In the meantime they let us set up camp on their lot and gave us an electrical hook-up.  This is the solar  place by the Christian Service Center.  I can't recommend them enough.  They have done great work for us and always treat us fantastic.

We are loving this because we've been limping along on a 410 watt cigarette lighter inverter for the last couple of weeks.  It doesn't allow us to watch TV and use the computers at the same time.  Every time we disconnect the TV and satellite receiver we have to go through a long riggamaroll to get it started again.  It takes about 10 minutes for the satellite to finish its tests and find a signal every time we want to watch TV.  It's been a pain in the butt.

We're settled in with power once again.  We bought a 2 week permit, since there is no shorter option so we'll be here until December 5th.  We dumped, got rid of trash, and took on water.  It's nice to be back in familiar territory.  :)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Salton Sea Stinks -- In More Ways Than One

We need to visit my brother and his family before escaping to Mexico.  This means taking the RV somewhere close to LA.  Last time we stayed in California City, in a blah area with some empty streets where subdivisions were never built as the local tourist attraction. 

This time we decided to go to the Salton Sea.  (Yes, I know it’s actually a lake.)  I’ve seen some amazing posts about this place from other RVers and decided it was my turn.

Here we are on BLM land somewhat far from the “sea”.  

The sea is between that ridge and the distant mountain range.  Our nearest neighbor is that little white thing over there on the right.  I KNOW.  So crowded. 

There are plenty of campgrounds directly on the beaches, but I heard you really don’t want to be the close.  It’s smelly.  Even this far away we’re suffering some serious allergies and noticing a funny taste in the air. 

I might chosen better than this site, however.  I researched online about where to find the ‘ruins’ and was told to go to Bombay Beach…which is 50 miles from me.  Or 19 if I could go straight across the water…and I can’t.  It’s a huge lake, 35 miles long.  We’re on the OHV side…4-wheeler area. 

Oh well, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to this area.  Tomorrow I’m visiting my brother and after that we’re leaving, so if I’m going to see the ‘ruins’ the time is now.   

I don’t think Bombay Beach is the spot I really wanted to go.   

 Where are the desiccated hot tubs?  

Where are the rotted out barber shop chairs?

 I’ve seen exciting relics like what I mentioned in other blogs, but I just couldn’t find them.  You’ll have to settle for my disappointing picture tour of Bombay Beach.

A local man on a bicycle showed me the path to get to the beach and warned me that there wasn’t much left.  “People been taking two-by-fours out of there for years.”  Of course he’s right.  

 Nothing that interesting.  If this is really the center of the Salton Sea’s majesty then it’s not worth the trip.

I really think I went to the wrong place.  I always do that.  It seems like I don’t get to see the fun stuff unless I pay for a tour, and there’s no tours here.  (Why would there be?)

 This is the abandoned home leading to the beach.  I liked the grafitti on it.

There’s a boat apparently set up for the tourists to take pictures of.

And an old hunk o’ machinery, melting in the salty air.

As you get closer to the water you start seeing pulverized fish bones, with a few larger pieces.

Then you see stuff like this.

Until finally…

Of course the smell hit me long before I got this close.  These are not 40 year old fish carcasses.  There are still fish spawning, living, and dying in this toxic lake. 

The water has receded a tremendous amount over the years.  The only thing refilling its water is the run off from the multiple farms around it.  Date farms, kale, alfalfa.  All sloping towards its waters.  

It’s a cataclysmic failure on man’s part.  Getting a beautiful lake from no where, and then destroying it.  But who am I to judge?  Did they know it would happen?  Did the farmer’s need to provide people food supercede the needs of wealthy jetsetters?  

Next to Bombay Beach is a small village filled with the very poor and the somewhat less poor.  They took over a lot of the abandoned buildings from the original beach-side village.  Trailers and RVs are on a lot of the lots.  One dwelling is a Mac Truck where a person is living out of the sleeper cabin.  I didn’t take pictures of places where people were actually living.

  After we left Bombay Beach we continued down to Mexicali, Mexico.  But as they say in The Neverending Story:  But that is another story and shall be told at another time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Camping at The Mad Greek in Baker CA

Today we left Pahrump after staying a month and a half.  We're on our way to Mexicali.  The goal today was to get to Barstow, where we were going to park at a steakhouse. 

Before we left Pahrump I had to get groceries and my mom needed to get a prescription filled.  This gave us a late start.  Around 3pm we were coming into Baker, CA.  The sun goes down around 4:30 lately due to the walls of mountains on all sides.  My mother can't drive at night due to a macula issue. 

Rather than chance getting into Barstow without a minute to spare, I pulled into the first RV/Truck lot I found in Baker, right on the highway coming in.  This is the Mad Greek, a place I know well.  I used to travel to California a lot for conventions related to one category of books I write (comic books, actually).  This is the road I always take.  Baker is the town you always go through.

I put the RV in a level-ish spot as far from the trucks as I could get.  Now, I wasn't sure if this was a legal place to stay overnight, so I was hesitant to open the slides.  But it's just too hard to get around in the RV with them closed.

We were worried.   I looked online to see if this was a legal boondock, because it got dark and my mom would be able to drive our follow car anywhere else (I drive the RV, she follows in our SUV). 

I went to get food at the Mad Greek and asked if we were okay.  Not only were we okay, we got 20% off our meal!  NICE!

So here we are tonight, comfortable an reassured.

We are waaaaaay in the back there.

Baker is famous for the world's largest thermometer.  Yay?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Broke Our Main Inverter (Again)

When you dry camp (camp without hookups) and rely on solar or a generator for your electricity the batteries do not give power to the outlets.  To use anything you have to plug in you need an inverter connected to your batteries.  The inverter has outlets on it, and you hook in power strips to run your computers, TV, satellite receiver, charge phones, and power a wi-fi hotspot.

We dry camp 80% of the time.  Like right now, when we're parked in someone's yard.  Anyway, on to the story...

We're still in Pahrump waiting for my mother's X-Ray results to come back.  We have a handyman friend, who we've known for years, come over yesterday to fix a bunch of stuff.  This is still a 'brand new' RV, but fulltime living for 8 months caused the following:

  • The bottom fell out of a bedroom drawer
  • The piston arm that opens the storage under my mom's bed snapped off where it was screwed in on the bottom.  (Probably a repair I could make myself, if not for having to hold a heavy bed open at the same time).
  • Three drawers no longer latched.
  • The thing I put on our shower to allow us to turn the flow on and off leaked.
  • The table I have in my 'office' kept sliding around and needed to be screwed in place.  (The original table attached to the wall broke within weeks of buying the RV).
I also had him fix my office chair buy cutting part of the armrest so I could get in and out of my office easier.  He used an electric saw for this.  Like an idiot I let him hook this to our inverter.  Our inverter is 1000 Watts and the thing was less than that.  I unhooked everything else.

He cut the armrest and then grinded down the sharp edges.  There were no problems.  Then an hour after he left it screamed with a continuous beep and the red light of death was on.  :Sigh:  I looked over the manual but fixing it is beyond me.  I keep checking it to see if it will magically work again.  Even with the batteries fully charged it's red and screaming.  There's no reset button.

This really annoys me because this was suppose to protect against a short of up to 2000 watts.  Whatever.  Inverters never work how they're supposed to.  They're fragile pains in the asses.  (Especially when I'm too cheap to splurge for a good one.)

I express ordered a 2000 watt inverter for Monday.  In the meantime I got a quickie back up 410 Watt inverter from Walmart.  Just laptops, phones, and wifi is hooked in.  We'll unhook everything to run the TV and satellite tomorrow for the Walking Dead.

Lesson:  Don't hook powertools to an inverter.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Journey to Mexico

It's a rough time for us right now.  Trump won the presidential election in the USA, and the House and Senate are his same party.  If you're happy for that I envy you.  You're not having to go through the chest pain and nausea I'm suffering right now. 

My mother and I are Hispanic.  My brother is a Muslim.  I rely on Obamacare to survive without a large intestine and with bone cancer.  For me, this election is horrifying.  It may affect me and my mother's lives in a terrible way.

Many people say 'if x candidate wins I'm moving to Canada/Mexico.'  They often don't do it, because to do it would me selling homes, tearing up roots, losing jobs, dealing with school issues for their children, and so on. 

For me, moving to Mexico means driving our house on wheels a few hundred miles. 

Of course, it's more complicated than that, but not anywhere near as complicated as it is for most people.  We've decided to go to San Felipe on the Baja Peninsula.  I've heard great things about this area from other RVers.  It will be nice to go there even if the country doesn't implode (and I really hope it doesn't) but if Trump decides to do some of the terrible things he described in his campaign I will be safely out of the USA, and I will be able to help others who are close to me make the journey also. 

Fortunately, I have a few months to get things settled for a long-term stay in Mexico. 

The bank that holds the lien for my RV will give me 6 months permission to travel to Mexico.  After that I have to come back to the USA and renew for another 6 months.  I will get that first letter in time to leave January 1st.

Before that I need Mexican liability and collision insurance on the RV.  (And car?)

My mother needs to get her passport card.

I need to see what the cats require to travel with me.

I need to apply to be a temporary resident, or at least get a 6 month tourist visa.

The RV and car need to be in tip-top shape.

I need to look into whatever else I have to do.

I'm scared, hurt, disappointed, but optimistic.  Maybe this will be what I've been searching for.  Either way, it's an adventure.