Ramblings of a Techno-Viking

Blair Valley

Blair Valley, like Yaqui Pass, is in the Anza-Borrego State Park. Camping is allowed on any dry plant-free spot next to one of the dirt roads. Fires are only allowed in metal containers. There are a pair of vault toilets and many such spots just off of the county highway. I did not get any cellular reception. While the place I camped was dry when I parked there, it rained that night.

Marshal South and his family lived on "Ghost Mountain" for sixteen years starting in 1932. I took the hike to the ruins of his house. One of the photos is looking down on the valley from near this house, my motorhome can be seen in the parking area for the trail. There are also a couple of Indian sites with trails to them. The park visitors center has a film they will show about this family on request.

Note that I have added a link to Passport America on the sidebar. If you stay in RV parks, you can probably save money by joining, and I get a commission for each person that joins through the link.

Posted Thursday 01 March 2012 02:39 UTC
Last edited Monday 10 December 2012 04:16 UTC

Ramona Canyon RV Resort

Traveling to my next destination, I got rained on on county highway S2, and then traveled through snow on state highway 78, something I was not expecting to see up close. The road was freshly plowed (I saw three highway department trucks with plows on front), but there were a few chunks that had fallen from cars and even fresh light dusting in one place. I took a picture at the Banner store, but the snow was much deeper in Julian. (Over 4000 feet elevation.)

The Ramona Canyon RV Resort is where I used my coupon for three free nights stay for listening to a sales talk. This is a much nicer RV park than the others I have stayed at so far, with a small stream, pond with ducks (catch and release fishing allowed), clubhouse, unheated pool, hot tub, miniature golf course, hiking trail, laundry rooms, etc. While the sites are almost as close together as the other parks, there are more trees and gaps between sites are pretty common so it does not have the feel of being a parking lot with utilities. It does have full hookups including cable TV, the wifi works in the clubhouse but not throughout the park. Verizon worked well for internet, but I had problems with dropouts during a call on my T-Mobile cell phone. My site had the stream behind it, with an overgrown path to a bench. The highway was on the other side of the stream. The sales talk was for Resorts of Distinction, something that might make financial sense if you want to stay many nights at their associated parks.
Posted Friday 02 March 2012 04:48 UTC
Last edited Monday 10 December 2012 04:16 UTC

Condor and Santa Fe RV Park in San Diego

Condor is a nice little Science Fiction Convention in San Diego. This year was the first time I have gone in more than five years. I attended two concerts, one panel, all three parties, and mostly hung out in the Con Suite. It has migrated back to the Town and Country Hotel, a place I have bad memories of but I did not have any bad experiences this time. (It still has plenty of quirks and paintings of the creepy little girl in a blue dress.)

The Santa Fe RV Park was about eight miles away, with Passport America discount it was less than $30/night. I did not use most of their facilities, only plugged in at night and dumped tanks and filled with water Sunday morning.

Posted Tuesday 06 March 2012 00:11 UTC
Last edited Monday 10 December 2012 04:16 UTC

Plaster City OHV Area

Plaster City OHV Area does not seem to be as popular as Ocotillo Wells, I had the east staging area to myself for two days, other than a truck that removed the porta-potty. (The porta-potty may have been for a weekend event.) It has good Verizon signals and TV reception. (El Centro rebroadcasts the Yuma stations, so things are early.) The weather was nice and warm, but quite windy the second day. The train tracks on the far side of the lightly used County highway are not busy. Both the Plaster City industrial plants and Interstate 8 are visible from the staging area, as are the city lights of El Centro at night.

Posted Wednesday 07 March 2012 00:11 UTC
Last edited Tuesday 09 April 2013 01:11 UTC

Finney Lake Campground

Finney Lake Campground is run by the California Department of Fish and Game. Hunting is allowed from boats, so in-season it may be busier. Most of the time I had it to myself, with occasional pickups driving through. Many birds are in and around it, and they can be quite noisy at times. While you are supposed to register, the book to do so has been removed. There are trash barrels, but it still has trash scattered all over. There is a big pile of broken concrete behind the vault toilet. Street signs imply the roads to the campground are closed. Picket Road does not look in good shape west of Park Ave., I recommend entering from Williams Road just west of Smith Road which appears to be the main campground entrance. Be careful where you drive, there is crusted-over mud in many places. Verizon and TV signals are good. The lake is mostly surrounded by tall reeds, so most of the birds can be heard and not seen. Sometimes the smell from the feed lots is carried in by the breeze.

Posted Monday 12 March 2012 19:01 UTC
Last edited Monday 10 December 2012 04:16 UTC

Solar Power System -- part 1

This is a project I have been working on for a while, and it's been partly functional for over a month. It is still a work in progress, but it's mostly finished now. Thanks to Don (Linda of Raven's Roads husband) for advice and helping me get the pannels mounted on the roof of my RV at the RTR.

The panels and controller were purchased from AM Solar in November. I have one OM100N panel, two OM100W panels, one OM150 panel, and a Morningstar Tri-star 60 MPPT controlled. (Prices have changed, and they no longer list the OM100W or OM50 on their web page.) I purchased the mounting feet and tilt bars from AM Solar, but I felt their prices on wire and accessories was high and purchased that elsewhere. (Marine cable for the roof from Ebay, some other wire from a scrap metal dealer by the pound.) Parts of it will be redone when I get the correct cable.

The 60-amp controller is larger than I need, but it has an ethernet interface that the 45-amp version does not. This allows me to monitor the controller via a web page, and I plan on doing more in the future. Placing the controller was a bit of a problem, it needs to be mounted vertically with six inches of clearance top and bottom, near the battery bank but not in the same compartment, and should not be exposed to road grime. My compromise was to mount it low in the corner of the kitchen, cutting a cupboard door in half and using plywood to strengthen the thin wall it is mounted on. This makes the lower section of this cupboard unusable. The wires to the battery/generator compartment run through a hole drilled in the floor of this cupboard, coming out over the batteries. Other things may be mounted in the former cupboard space in the future. The 80-amp fuse holder is mounted under the controller.

My solar system is sized for a significantly larger battery bank than my pair of 6-volt golf-cart batteries. I have plans to put in a higher-capacity battery bank in the near future. As things stand now, I have plenty of power during the day and have to watch my power consumption at night.

Posted Saturday 17 March 2012 00:18 UTC
Last edited Saturday 17 March 2012 00:38 UTC

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Castle Dome Silver Mines Museum

East of US-95 between Yuma and Quartzsite Arizona is the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. I took the southernmost road to the refuge that goes northeast from US-95 and passes through the Yuma Proving Grounds. The road is paved for the first few miles, and turns to washboard dirt road for most of the way to the refuge. Free distributed camping is allowed for up to 14 days. The plant life is more varied and denser than most of the places in the desert I have camped. One evening I heard the braying of a donkey, but I did not see it. (Donkeys are a non-native species.) The refuge was established to protect the big-horn sheep and other native wildlife in the area. While there are several roads to the refuge, all the roads connecting them in the refuge are non-maintained four-wheel drive recommended. While no cross-country vehicular traffic is allowed, the area seems quite popular with the ATV crowd. Verizon and television signals were quite good. (Portions of the museum are visible in this picture.)

There was a large finned balloon near the border between the proving ground and the refuge. It was lowered at night, and tethered during the day. This may be a marker to show where not to aim artillery past.

The Castle Dome Silver Mines Museum is a collection of several dozen restored buildings with artifacts recovered from the nearby mines, surrounded by the wildlife refuge. Most of the buildings were rescued from destruction and moved. High grade silver-galena (as much as 45 ounces of silver per ton of ore) was mined here for over a hundred years, ending in 1979 when the price of silver dropped rather than the ore running out. In the early years the raw ore was shipped to San Francisco for processing. Occasional pockets of gold were found, but not enough to make mining worthwhile. During World War One and Two the ore was mined primarily for its lead content. It took me about four hours to go through the museum, and I did not read all the historical tidbits posted. Being seven miles from the nearest paved road, I was surprised at the number of people in the museum. (about two dozen at one time on a weekday) The $10 admission seems reasonable to me. There is a self-serve snack bar where you can get sodas from an old refrigerator, with payment on the honor system. The picnic tables by the main museum were quite popular, while the nicer ones in the park area on the mine section were unused. The artifacts are a mishmash from the hundred years the mines were active, and many are in need of restoration to make the exhibit make sense to the visitor.

Posted Friday 23 March 2012 21:32 UTC
Last edited Monday 10 December 2012 04:16 UTC

Hi Jolly

I tried a different BLM area near Quartzsite this time. Hi Jolly is about three miles north of Main Street on Arizona 95. (US 95 goes south from Quartzsite and north from Blythe, and joins with Interstate 10 between them. Arizona 95 continues north from Quartzsite.) Hi Jolly has about a mile of dirt road where camping is allowed on both sides, then there are day use area signs where the road turns rougher. There are more trees and less privacy than Dome Rock where you can get away from other campers by driving further from the paved road. TV signals are marginal, verizon signal was good.

Quartzsite is much less crowded at the end of March than in January and the flea-markets are gone.

Posted Saturday 31 March 2012 23:55 UTC
Last edited Monday 10 December 2012 04:16 UTC