Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Is Good Sam Club worth it?

RV people ask all sorts of questions when they first set out, such as what RV Park discount cards are worth it.  Well, today proved (as has happened before) that Good Sam is a good card to have.   It only costs $25 per year and gives you money off at the fuel pump if you go to the Pilot or Flying J stations, you also get a discount at Camping World stores.  It gives you 10% off on some campgrounds - usually the expensive ones.  10% is not much money, but it helps. 

Today, I took off from Lake Mead Recreation Area where I'd been camping for 2 weeks.  Nice place, pretty area.  Before I got out of the park, I realized the brake controlled for the trailer was not working.  Not a good thing in this area, lots of hills!  I stopped at the visitor center and called around trying to find a mobile RV repair guy in Boulder City, Nevada.  I had to make about 3 phone calls before I got the number of one.  I called him and he told me to meet him in town and he would take a look at it.  Not bad, town was close and the only hills there were going up. 

He showed up and did some checking and found nothing that was obvious, but he had a previous appointment with an insurance adjuster that couldn't be delayed.  He suggested I go to an RV park and he would see me later in the day.  He said there was one up the road a bit and told me to call him with my site number.  His schedule didn't allow for me going back to Lake Mead campgrounds, unfortunately.

When I pulled in, I found that the nightly rate was $40 (over my usual limit!).  They did take the Good Sam card, so that knocked $4 off for the night.  There are some towns that just have high rates because they are in a tourist area and this happens to be one of them, just because Hoover Dam is close and Las Vegas isn't that far away.  It's not that the park is extraordinarily nice, or that I could get the wifi at my site (instead of sitting at their book swap room) - but I guess they figure if they have a pool, that justifies the cost. 

So, if anyone is wondering about the Good Sam card, it's cheap enough to renew each year and if you use the right fuel stations and purchase anything at Camping World or happen to need one of their RV Parks one day, it will come in handy.  You'll probably make your membership fee back within a year.  I have not kept track, but I think it justifies the cost.

Monday, April 27, 2015


For those of you who may have read my previous blog about the solar panels, I purchased a few months ago in Quartzite, I'd like to update my opinion about their performance. I have had the opportunity to boondock for multiple days at a time, most recently for about 2 weeks.

I purchased a set of 2, on a hinge, with the controller built in on the back. The controller tells me the battery level, what's being input and any power usage at that time. The two panels total 120 watts, although there are units available in different sizes, both smaller and larger. I have the largest marine heavy duty wet battery I could buy that would fit in my 5th wheel.

I just spent 12 days at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, with no hookups. The panels were out every day and kept the battery topped off each day. Well, all except for one day that was total overcast, so the panels didn't have a chance to get any sun at all. The day after that was mostly sunny, with a few clouds moving by, but the panels had the battery topped off by about 4 PM that day.

I am very happy with the performance of these panels, since they top off the battery every day unless there is total cloud cover. I do have LED lights for the most part, but I have been able to use the stereo, use my inverter to charge the computer, phone, camera batteries and my eReader. I have also been in other boondocking areas for several days where I was also able to watch TV, as well as doing all the other charging. I can do all this without worrying about my battery level. And all this is without the noise of a generator and the extra problem of carrying gas.

I am so extremely pleased with this setup that I am thinking of selling my Honda EU2000 generator. Meanwhile, I might hang onto it for a while longer. Of course, I'll have to put up with taking it out and starting it every so often.

Depending on how you boondock and what appliances and electric draw you have, results will vary. I don't have a blender, toaster or other small kitchen appliances to use my power.  I don't use a hair dryer or curler, which would require lots of power.  If you have lots of power-hungry equipment, you'll get different results and will need more than what I have. I have seen RVs with way more solar panels than I have, so they must have heavy usage. For the way I live, which is very comfortable for me, this is all I need.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hoover Dam Bridge Bypass

This is the main section of the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge, constructed in sections on each side, building toward the middle. After design, the bridge took from 2003 to 2010 to build, opening in October of that year. This single bridge is only part of the project that included other, smaller sections of bridges, about 2 miles worth. This section is about 900' over the Colorado River about 1500' south of the dam. There is a pedestrian walkway on the dam side of the bridge, of which I walked the entire length. I really do not like heights, but it was a wide walkway, with a high concrete barrier between the traffic and the walkway. On the outside, a very sturdy, high railing. I still was a bit nervous standing there at the edge looking down at the scenery. All the towers you see are cantilevered off the sides of the rock mountains, ensuring that the cables, some multiple inches thick, do not touch anything.

The Hoover Dam has 17 turbines, which are 45' tall, power generators capable of producing 4.5 billion kilowatts a year, generating at 180 RPM. During the tour we were told that the main reason for the dam is water dispersement, and that power is the by-product. We were told that not all of the generators run all the time, possibly only 7-8 would be run at once. I'm not sure if there is not that much demand for the power, or it would be overload. The turbines are shown below, if you look closely on the left side, you'll see a worker checking the gauges.
The dam supplies water to more than 20 million people in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and many other large cities and Indian communities in Arizona, Nevada and California. Power is also delivered from the dam to those areas. The sale of this power finances the operation and maintenance of the power generating equipment.
The are miles of tunnels underground for servicing the dam, all constructed back in the 1930s by blasting and the use of jackjammers.

This pipe is 50 in diameter and was part of the original diversion plan to divert the Colorado River from its normal course so the dam could be constructed. It is now used to bring water in to power the turbines for electricity.

This shiny steel pin is what held those sections of pipe together. They certainly didn't use cheap material, and the whole project was built to last.

I had a fun morning walking the bridge and then doing the tour. It sure was an amazing project, and it was built before more modern equipment could have made it easier.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hoover Dam, Nevada


Hoover Dam was a massive undertaking back in the 1930s. The areas south of the Nevada had been flooded extensively by the Colorado River and the water needed to be harnessed. A group of companies got together and put in a bid to construct a dam somewhere in the southern part of Nevada. They scouted the area and found what they thought was a perfect place.
They constructed a dam that is 45' wide on the top, 1244' across the canyon and 726' high. The base is 660' wide and the structure is the tallest dam in the western hemisphere. It is estimated that it weighs 6.6 million tons. It's so large, it's difficult to get it all into one photograph when you're on the dam property. When it was completed, it created the reservoir known today as Lake Mead.
As if this was not enough, there were 4 intake structures built to bring water in from the bottom of the lake, two of which are shown above. These towers are 395' tall. Multiple miles of tunnels 50' in diameter were built as well as giant spillway, that will divert the water in case of floods. The last time the spillway was used was during a flood in the 1980s. Power from the generators run by this water is sent all over the southwest, including Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The dam employed thousands of workers during the years of construction, many of them had traveled from the east looking for jobs.  The construction was during the depression, and the pay rates were anywhere from 50 cents to 87 cents per hour, depending on the job.  Since they worked 24 hour a day, the job was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.  Try getting that performance today!
Since the Colorado River divides Nevada and California from Arizona, the state border is in the middle of the river, more or less. There are clocks on two of the intake towers, one for Nevada time and the other for Arizona time.


Today, there are memorials near the visitor center for the men who lost their lives during the construction, about 96 of them, according to one sign in the museum. Apparently, there were some rumors about some being buried in the massive concrete structure, but the sign also states that it didn't happen.
There are two winged statues on each side of a flagpole that flies an American flag at a height of 142'. These statues are each 30' tall and contain 4 tons of bronze. Bronze was also used for elevator doors, memorial placques, state placques and other items around the plaza.
When I was towing my 5th wheel to Lake Mead about a week ago, there were some bridges going over the canyons. Because it was a bit windy that day, there were notices posted that all high profile vehicles had to use the left lane. They are very nice four lane bridges with dividers and although I knew it must be up high, I couldn't see the bottom of the canyon I was passing over. When I finally saw the bridge from the dam, I was glad that I had not known how very high it really was! At least it looks very sturdy, I will remind myself of that when I go back over it.

That was my first visit to the Hoover Dam, stay tuned for the next visit as well as a walk along that bridge in the photo above.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lake Mead Recreation Area - Boulder City, Nevada

Lake Meade is a huge lake, over 115 miles long.  Of course, since the water level is low, it's probably not that long anymore.  But, it's very impressive.  From up on the hills, it's a deep blue, a stark contrast with the multicolored hills and mountains surrounding it.  The National Recreation Area surrounding the lake is extensive, obviously, containing 7 campgrounds with over 1,000 sites.  There are a couple marinas with all sorts of boats, from sailboats to small boats with outboards and then lots of houseboats.
The lake was formed when the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s.  In order to get supplies to the dam site, a railroad was built connecting Boulder City to the construction site, about 30 miles long.  In order to get the train through the mountains, tunnels were blasted through.  These tunnels and the trail through them are on the Register of Historic Places.  None of the tracks exist, but the trail is a nice wide dirt path snaking around the mountains and through the tunnels.

While the dam was being built, the train hauled equipment and supplies to the dam site.  The tunnels were made extra wide to allow for huge equipment to be carried on the trains.  Most of the tunnels have been reinforced with huge wooden beams inside the tunnels and some have been sprayed with a concrete mix. 

The trail was easy walking and afforded great views of the lake and surrounding mountains.  I went in the early morning and there was a nice breeze, so it was a pleasant hike that wasn't strenuous.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Change in plans - again!

I was ready to leave Kingman Arizona, I'd been there about 10 days. We had a cold front come through and where I was going was higher elevation and it was predicted to be really cold for the next week.  I am a Florida/Caribbean person and I really don't like cold weather!
I got out my trusty little Road Atlas and started looking where I could go that wasn't cold. The only answer was to head kind of west.
Hoover Dam has been on my list of places to see and it was right next to Las Vegas, which I didn't want to go to, but  close to Lake Mead recreation area.  I checked the elevation and the predicted weather - it was going to be almost 80ish in the daytime and at night time about 60 ish.  Okay - I can deal with that kind of weather!
Most of the way here was the Mojave Desert mostly flat with mountains off in the distance.  Until I got really close to those mountains and then the scenery was awesome.  The road went through all those peaks.  There were a couple bridges going through some of the area and I didn't have the time to look around because I was towing.  There were a couple of pulloffs along the side of the road but they went up the hill and I didn't know if there would be a turnaround space for me or not.  As always, I bypass something that might get me into trouble.
The visitor center and camping area of the Lake Mead area is not very far from Hoover Dam so it's a perfect place to stay.  In the next day or so I'll drive down and tour the dam and get photos of that area.
As a bonus - the visitor center here has wifi!  So I was able to sit out on a bench in fresh air with beautiful scenery and get this post done on my phone.
Next time I'll bring my computer here!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Route 66 in Arizona - Kingman to Peach Springs

This part of Route 66 is mostly past Hackberry, just outside of Kingman, and goes to the Indian town of Peach Springs, named for the trees in the next photo.  Peach Springs and the surrounding land is part of the Hualapai Indian Reservation.  Compared to the areas on Route 66 near this town, it's quite a large community.
On the way into town, this billboard reminds us to put our trash in the proper place.
This RV park is now home to some permanent residents in the back of this motel.  Some of the old motel units are rented by area residents also.
There was a gas station along the road, with snacks and drinks, and a little burro in a fenced in area.  He got bored with me since I didn't have any food for him.
This gas station is still in business, although on a smaller scale than the one where the burro lives.
Not far from this gas station, I saw a truck by the side of the road with a sign stating the owner buys antlers.  As I walked by after I took this photo,  he made a comment about the antlers.  I asked him if there were lots of them around the area and he told me that since they are shed each year, there are quite a few laying around in the desert surrounding the road.  I had no idea that antlers were shed each year, it's amazing to me that they can grow this large within a year.  I'm learning all sorts of useless information on this adventure!

 There are a couple small old, closed motels along this stretch, this one had the biggest sign.

This old car and sign were in front of this motel, but the entire place was closed up and probably had been for years. 


Route 66 is fun to explore and there are a few more areas I'll hit as I travel east in Arizona.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chloride, Arizona, an old mining town.

I took a trip to Chloride today, an old mining town from the 1860s that has been kept alive by the residents.  There are old buildings that look like they're in great shape, the brown one is from 1928 and is now an antique store. 

The old gas station in town is in great shape and there is a sign on the front door announcing that someone has refurbished it into their home.

Another nice, newer home had a wonderful yard full of flowers and local plants, as well as a couple little buildings such as this gnome retirement home.
Most of the residents had all sorts of found objects and antiques in their yards, from old mining equipment to bottles.
This man had a small fenced in area in front of his workshop.  He had all sorts of things in there, including an outhouse and ducks that had their own wading pond.
On the signs along the road to town there were signs telling people that there were free restrooms in town.  This one was right out in front of the general store.
Another sign along the road offered homesteads and mail-order partners.  I'm not quite sure if this was going during the mining days, but it shows a sense of humor.  There are a couple homes and property for sale, so you could still get a homestead in this town.
The old railroad station was on a back street, closed down for years.
As I walked in back of the station, I saw a few of the tenants.  I think they were as surprised as I was.  I found out later that the residents feed them, but they still are leary of humans. 

There are a couple of these old water towers in town.   I don't know if they're replicas or if they've been refurbished but they're picturesque.

I enjoyed my tour of the town and had lunch at one of the restaurants.  It's a quiet, relaxing little town and I got really lazy sitting on one of the swing seats on the porch of the restaurant.  But then, I decided it was time to head home.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Route 66 - Kingman to Oatman, Arizona

Today, I had a fun trip to Oatman, the ghost town that wouldn't die.  In case you read my Oatman blog last month, it seems like I was just there.  So, you're probably wondering why I'd go again.  Well, it could be that I wanted to eat lunch at the other restaurant in town or maybe because I missed seeing the burros walking around town last time.  I had heard that the north road to the town was very interesting to drive with lots of curves, hairpin turns (122 in 8 miles) and long drop-offs on one side, so maybe that was it since I took the south road last time.  The scenery was different and very interesting also.  So, it was a combination of all of the above that I decided to go again.  After all, it was less than 30 miles away. 
Of course, as you can see from this sign, it was a bit slow going because of the conditions.  The first half of these 9 miles was uphill and the drop-offs were on the passenger side.  There were no guardrails and only on the severe hairpin turns were there any barriers - posts with a cable through them.  In a couple areas, there was a rock/concrete wall about a foot high along the edge.  And I would almost bet that the road was more narrow at those turns, it sure seemed like it.  The speed limit on most of the road was 10 - 15 MPH and on the downhill half I just put the truck in first gear to keep it slow.  They recommend no vehicles over 40 feet attempt this section of the road and I can see why.
This building is a little store but used to be a gas station with little cabins to rent, although I only saw one cabin type building that was falling down.  In another area, the Kactus Kafe was part of Ed's Camp, which was behind a fence and falling apart.

My GPS is showing how convoluted one section of the road was, some of the other sections looked worse.

There was an old mine in the area, and they do have tours.  The mine entrance is locked up and behind a shiny new fence with razor wire on top.

This is the top of the long hill and the beginning of the downhill.  I estimated that this elevation is roughly 1,000 feet higher than when I started the climb.
The burros were in town, looking for their food.  Carrots are outlawed, but you can buy little bags of alfalfa cubes to feed them.

And they do love their food!

They are very friendly and actually well behaved, although there are signs all over stating that they are wild and they may bite or kick.

They don't really pose for photos, and mostly refuse to look at the camera.

It was very hard to get good photos of the nature of the road since there are very few places to pull over and I certainly didn't want to walk along the road since it's so narrow.

I really do like this sign, although I didn't meet any snobs in town.  In this area, they call Route 66 the Oatman Highway.

Even though this was a repeat visit, I really enjoyed it as much, or more as the last time I was there.  I really enjoyed the burros interacting with everyone and the journey was just as important as the destination.