January 20, 2013
Every big endeavor deserves a test, and a trip to Alaska is a major endeavor. Last week I did a trial run by setting up Lizzie and taking her on a trip. We went to Quartzsite, Arizona, to an event called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. This is a gathering of a fairly large group of people who either live in their rigs full time, or spend extended amounts of time in them. They gather on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land where camping is free. There's no bathroom, no water, no trash pickup, but all that is manageable if you plan for it. For me it was an opportunity to meet these people, have a look at their rigs to get ideas for my own, hear about some of their challenges and solutions, and to test out my theories of how things would work.
I even got to hike a little -- these photos are of a place called Palm Canyon. It was the most beautiful desert view I have seen in a long time, and I even got up close and personal with Saguaro cacti. The ones shown below looked like they were protecting the tree.
I had planned on Quartzsite being temperate – nights in the 40's and days in the 60's and 70's. That's what is normal for that time of year, although they do get fronts moving through that throw normal out the window. That's what happened the week I was there. Night temps were in the 20's and daytimes were 40's and windy. It was COLD! Luckily, I had a good sleeping bag and a few blankets, so I was plenty warm at night (especially the nights I wore my hat and gloves to bed), but the daytimes were a problem. One of the days I was sitting in a seminar dressed in a turtleneck, a fleece vest, 2 hoodies, and a blanket (hat and gloves too) and I was still shivering. Someone asked me if I had a jacket. Yes, I did, but I couldn't get it on over all those other clothes! So I'm really hoping that Alaska in June is not as cold as that. But if it is, I'll find a way to deal with it --- maybe a larger jacket!
I learned several things. First, my mattress would not work. It wasn't thick enough, and it was like sleeping on a board. I found someone there who wanted it, so I sold it before I left, and will look for a new mattress. If I'm going to be driving 10,000 miles, I need to be comfortable at night.
Second, be very kind to your vehicle. I had been watching my tires. I had two new ones, and knew that I would probably need two more new ones before I left. But I managed to pick up a screw in one of the tires, and didn't realize that it was flat, so had to get a new one. That was a story in itself, because accessing the spare tire is a challenge on a Toyota Minivan. It lives under the car, and is released by unscrewing a bolt between the front and second row of seats. That's where my bed is. I was really afraid that I'd have to disassemble the whole thing to get to the bolt, but the repair guy was able to do it just by taking out the stuff under the bed. Whew! But he didn't have a tire to fit my car, so I had to go on to Lake Havasu City where they had a tire store that is part of the chain I always use. They fixed me up in about an hour, and since the tire was under warranty, it was free! Free is a good thing!
ON the way into Lake Havasu City, my brakes were making a funny sound, and since my mind was on CAR MAINTAINENCE today, I asked for a reliable place to check them out. Bad news, needed new brakes. Oh well, at least now they are ready to go to Alaska! I suppose I could rationalize it by saying that it would have had to be done anyway. But I should have had them checked before I left New Mexico. I'll be taking Lizzie to my mechanic about a month before I leave to have her totally checked out and put in top notch condition.
I was able to do some more organizing. When I set the bed up before I left, I realized that I would need something like a headboard to keep my pillow from sliding into the back of the van. I got some pegboard, painted it white, and attached it to the base of the bed with angle irons. It made a great place to organize some of my kitchen stuff. The photo shows the start of the organizing, but there will be much more that I can store there. And it will make it much easier to find things – rooting around in a plastic tub looking for a fork is very inconvenient, especially when your supper is getting cold!