Wednesday, January 6, 2010

All alone with 100,000 other RVers

The first time we ever stopped at Quartzsite we swore that we’d never come back.  For those who don’t know, the town of Quartzsite isn’t much more than a crossroads in the middle of the desert more or less halfway between Phoenix and Los Angeles.  For most of the year it’s two off-ramps, a few fuel stations and a McDonalds.  I doubt there’s more than 500 year round residents of the dusty little town. 


But for 5 or 6 weeks in the winter, starting about now, Quartzsite comes alive.  Apparently for some reason rock and gem enthusiasts started gathering here to swap rocks.  Over time that rock swap turned into a flea market and RVers started making this a regular stop in late January and early February.  Eventually an RV trade show sprang up. 

The first time we came here the traffic was awful.  The roads were clearly set up to handle the 500 regular residents but there were

probably in excess of 100,000 RVs in and around town and the streets just couldn’t handle them all. It was quicker to walk anywhere in town, regardless of distance, at any time after about 11 A.M.  We had bicycles along that time so we used them to get
around because driving was nearly impossible.

For some reason we kept coming back and eventually it became a habit and something that we actually look forward to.  Over the years since we started coming here they have seriously upgraded the highways & roads through town.  That makes it a lot easier to get around now and I think the recession has reduced the crowds too. 

There’s not a whole lot to “do” at Quartzsite.  There’s the flea market of course, and an RV show but that isn’t really why most people end up here.  The show & flea market may be an excuse but most people end up at Quartzsite to visit with old friends, meet new ones and stay more or less for free on the desert.  The town obviously can’t have anywhere close to enough RV sites for all the short term winter visitors so they all just find a convenient cactus and park next to it somewhere in the desert.

RVers refer to desert parking like this as boondocking and there is a great variety of approaches to the activity.  You might say everything from the ridiculous to the sublime.  We’re pretty heavy power users and we don’t like altering our lifestyle just because we happen to be parked on the desert.  That makes living without a power pedestal pretty challenging.  We put some solar panels on the roof this summer, thank you very much Alison & Camiel.  We’ve also reduced our power consumption by changing our lighting over to LEDs and fluorescent.  Even so it still takes a lot of generator time to support our lifestyle. 

Marilyn likes to have the TV on pretty well every waking hour.  We both have our computers on most of the time.  Both the TV receiver and internet modem take significant amounts of power.  And all that is before we ever toast any toast, roast any roasts, curl anyone’s hair or make tea and coffee.  I spent most of today modifying the solar panel mounts so that I can tip them up to face the sun.  As the sun gets lower in the sky through the winter the output of the solar panels declines dramatically.  I did a little test this morning before I started – my panels were putting out just under 2 amps – I tipped them up temporarily and the output went to over 6 amps.  That’s still not a lot of amps but it’s 3 times what I was getting before.  Considering that I have 200 watts of panels the 6 amp output (at 12 volts) represents something like a 30% efficiency.  The best we did during the day was 9.5 amps or 47.5% efficient.  So that’s not great but it’s better than where I started.

The next step is to add two more panels.  When I put the ones I have on I deliberately put in a controller that can handle more panels so all I need to do now is bolt the panels to the roof and wire them to my collector box, also on the roof.  I had hoped that panels might be a bargain here because it is such an RV destination but apparently the exact opposite is true.  So we’ll end up making a run to Phoenix sometime next week to pick up a couple of panels and then I’ll have another day’s work mounting them.  At least now I have a design for the hinged brackets necessary to tip them up so that whole process should go a little faster.

1 comment:

Singing Land Cruiser said...

Hey Bro, we will be driving thru "The Q" later today, Thurs the 8th. we are doing a show in Brenda, Az. Mrs. Jones will not be with us this trip. Where are you parked? Maybe we can stop and see you for a minute. M&C