Another glorious southern California morning greeted us as we rose from our respective RVs. Spending winter in the cold and rainy northwest makes you appreciate a chance to enjoy the warm sunshine if you are lucky enough to do so. Retirement is great.
The previous day I spotted a stack of firewood in Lois and Anthony’s (Our Boondockers Welcome friends) back yard, during my rare and brief conversations with Anthony, I asked if he knew where we could purchase firewood?
I explained that we northerners thoroughly enjoy evening campfires, especially the women. My approach and explanation may have been a little devious and over the top, but Anthony took the bait and beckoned me to the wood pile.
We negotiated for a time and settled on a price of $50 for what he considered to be a cord (4x4x8ft). The wood was mostly branches and small logs. Beggers can’t be choosers was my thought besides I had no idea where we might score some firewood during the next day’s drive.
Our next destination is Cahuilla Lake in La Quinta just east of Palm Springs our route is mostly freeway traveling so the chance of coming across firewood is probably slim to none. The plan is to spend a week dry camping next to the lake, evening campfires would be fantastic.
The only problem was hauling our new-found treasure to our next destination. Thankfully Ralph was thinking ahead and brought along the materials to build a wood box on the deck of his truck behind his quad.
Ralph pre-cut the plywood sides so all that’s needed was to screw it together. Mike and I lent a hand, before long we had a 3’ x 7’ x 1’ high box built, loaded with firewood.
Meanwhile, the ladies were busy readying the rigs for travel, a diligent procedure that must be followed to the letter otherwise a disaster was sure to happen.
As most RVers can attest to, any door in an RV has the potential to fly open allowing the contents to hurl throughout the interior causing damage and destruction, not to mention a mess, driving the most gentle soul into a tirade of bad language.
I remember my first experience with an RV interior disaster, the fridge flew open spewing its contents throughout the RV, pickle juice and syrup was everywhere. Not what you want to find after driving late into the night to your camp spot.
We topped up our rigs with fresh water supply, did a thorough check of our loads and hitches before heading out. It is most important to check every door latch, tie down, coupling, tire, and light operation. A simple procedure that could avoid catastrophes.
A couple of walk arounds usually, does the trick.
It was 10 am by the time we pulled onto highway 14 heading south toward I-10. It will take us most of the day to reach our destination depending on traffic.
This route to Cahuilla Lake has caused Lynda and me many restless nights, and much misfortune over the years. The route takes us south to highway I-10 and then east through Palm Springs to La Quinta.
The last misfortune was a year and a half ago on a fall trip with our traveling group. A rear tire on our truck suddenly came off shearing the wheel lugs and slamming the rear of our truck into the pavement, hurling debris everywhere.
The accident was traumatic for Lynda and me, especially Lynda who clenched her teeth so hard she broke one causing an immediate tooth-ache.
It caused me a couple of restless nights, thankfully no one was badly injured.
The other time was several years before when our motor home broke down at the exact spot, the engine decided it only needed nine spark plugs and spit one out causing a horrific boom.
Fortunately, we were members of Good Sam Road Side Assistance so the towing was free, in both instances, saving us hundreds.
Many times, while planning this trip and after we left home I contemplated changing the route to avoid this spot, but in the end, I decided it was just a coincidence and we needed to overcome the apprehension.
The drive to Cahuilla Lake went smoothly, we made it through the dreaded section of highway without incident breaking the jinx.
We arrived at Cahuilla Lake Sate park around 5 pm under warm sunny skies, the outside temperature read 85 degrees, 30 celsius. Wow, the warmth felt so good.
Lynda and I have camped at Cahuilla Lake several times since retiring, the dry camping area is our preferred spot.
Our rigs are well equipped for dry camping with solar panels for recharging the deep cycle RV batteries, a bladder for transporting fresh water and a ‘blue boy’ to transport black and gray water.
Normally an RV’s holding tanks should last at least a week and probably longer, depending on the number of people and how conservative you can be. The fresh water tank is usually the first to need filling.
Our first chore after entering the park is to dump our tanks, we hadn’t dumped since we left the north a week ago. Our fresh water was full thanks to Lois and Anthony.
While dumping, Ralph discovered his new trailer’s black tank flush was on the passenger side of his trailer, not on the driver’s side where it is normally situated.
To flush his black tank, Ralph would need to pass a hose under or around his trailer?? A poor design was the unanimous opinion of the group.
Another problem with his new trailer was the fresh water holding tank. For some reason, two water lines protruded from the top of the tank dangling through the insulated undercarriage, and when he towed the trailer up a hill or through a corner water would poor from these two hoses.
As with any new vehicle, there’s always a few issues, Ralph will no doubt add these two items to his growing list.
Cahuilla Lake is an irrigation reservoir, similar to other reservoirs in the south, it is used to store water to be used for summer irrigation. Fishing is the only activity permitted on the lake, no swimming or water craft, of any kind are allowed.
The fee for dispersed dry camping is $75 per week which includes a central water source, an RV dump, and free limited use internet. I call it limited use because it is almost impossible to log on during peak periods such as mornings, evening or during bad weather.
Cahuilla lake also provides partial hook ups for another $100 a week. Your stay is limited to two weeks a year.
Once camp was set happy hour began, then dinner and bed. Even though the drive was relatively short, about 5 hours, it took us through many interchanges and heavy traffic which at times came to a grinding halt. The group was tired, an early bedtime was in order.
We rose to beautiful sunshine, another warm day. Finally, a destination with warm weather and a plan to put down roots for awhile. Everyone spent the morning setting up camp for a longer stay, the women were inside their rigs making house while the men readied the outside.
The first and the most important chore is solar panels, they need to be set facing the eastern morning sun and moved periodically through the day to absorb as much sunshine as possible.
I have 180 watts of panels which return my 2-6-volt deep cycle batteries to full charge after a full day of sun.
This trip is Ralph’s first time using his new suitcase style solar panels, a 100-watt unit, and a 200-watt unit. His setup should easily keep his batteries at full charge considering he and Lois consciously conserve power. They don’t use their TV or any other high drawing appliances.
Portable panels are a good way to begin using solar power, all that is needed is the panels, a controller to keep your batteries from overcharging and a way to connect the system to your batteries such as alligator clips.
The southwest is a great place for solar, the sun shines almost every day. On the days it doesn’t shine a generator and battery charger may be necessary to top up the batteries.
This year I brought another system to help keep my batteries charged, a wind turbine system. When the sun is not shining the wind usually blows.
My plan was to set up the wind turbine as soon as we set down roots for more than a few days, Cahuilla Lake.
The wind turbine was a great idea, I thought a solar charge controller was all I would need, wrong. I installed the wind turbine mast using the trailer spare tire bracket as support and ran wires to a solar charge controller.
Blustery winds developed the first night after the installation melting wires and not charging my batteries.
Apparently, after more investigation, I realized solar charge controllers and wind charge controllers are entirely different. I went in search of a wind turbine charge controller in the Palm Springs area, an area that probably has more wind turbines per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
After many phone calls, and many searches on the internet I gave up, no such animal was available, go figure. Even people who worked in the alternate energy business were puzzled by the fact.
I finally found one on Amazon, but we would not be in the area long enough to accept delivery. Besides I had no idea what address I could give for delivery.
After camp was set for the coming week the group took a well-deserved afternoon off relaxing and enjoying sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures.
Check back often for my continuing story of our Snowbird RV tour.