Phoenix-LA-Santa Cruz

The weekend of the 3rd, John saw that the RV he’d been eyeing on eBay had not sold and was re-listed. It seemed like a lot of what we needed, with very little we didn’t want. It has the on-demand Aqua-hot water heater– John loves his showers, so unlimited hot water is a plus. It has a desk, which is crucial to me being able to work while we’re on the road. It even has a washer/dryer combination, which I’ve already discovered is very handy in a pinch.

It completely lacks all modern electronics, like satellite systems, or even DVD players, but we can put all of those in. We’d been concerned about the styling– the photos on eBay looked somewhat teal, but it turns out to be a nice hunter green color. It has two pages of small fix-its, as well as a couple of larger ones (like recharging the air conditioning). We need to do some of the scheduled maintenance tasks, just so it’ll be ready to go out on the road. But otherwise, it’s quite nice.

Stan the Stegosaurus, or Steggy Friday morning, we dorked around in Phoenix, getting the RV insurance coverage finalized, and generally making sure we had all our paperwork in order before heading out on the road. We checked out of the Best Western at 11 AM in the morning, and headed over to where we’d bought the RV. Yes, we bought it on eBay, but the person selling it is a used RV dealership that happens to sell online. So when we went there, we discovered a very well-run lot with several other rigs around. The salesman, Mike, had graciously let us leave the rig overnight in the lot. We picked it up at 11:30 and caravanned (me in the rental car, John in the RV) over to the rental car return section of the Phoenix airport.

As part of our car rental, we had rented a GPS, which was great. Except the GPS had a preset location for the car rental return, and that location was not the new Phoenix Airport Car Rental Return Area. Ah, well. We found the right place by following signs once we got close to the airport.

John drove all the first day, getting the feel for the rig and generally being “da man” for the day. We drove about 150 miles west to Quartzsite, where we stopped for the night just as the sun was hitting John’s eyes, around 4:30 PM. Johndrives
We stayed at the B-10 Campground, which is a flat lot with no trees (it’s the desert), full hookups, and not much else going on. It was about $20/night, with my AAA discount. Every other business in Quartzsite is an RV court, so we might have found a space for less. The B-10 is within walking distance of a general store, however, and we had nothing to eat for dinner.

I instantly regretted not taking my camera with me– these pictures are all shot with my cell phone, which has its limits. Quartzsite is a small town on the Phoenix-California border. Most of the year, it’s a desolate desert town, with very few permanent businesses. For a few months in the winter, however, it fills up with RVs, mainly full-timers or snowbirds passing through, and hundreds of little temporary tent businesses spring up to serve the needs of the temporary Quartzsite residents. Think Burning Man, but with less pot.

We watched an amazing sunset on Friday night, then turned up the music and danced around the RV. We made a quick dinner of pizza and beer, which we ate on paper towels. We have no dishes or pots and pans in the RV just now, so we made do.

We also didn’t have sheets. The bed is a queen size, but we couldn’t tell if an “RV queen” is actually a full size set. If it’s a full, then we would want to hold off on sheets, so we could just use the ones we currently have. Between Phoenix and Quartzsite, we didn’t find a Camping World or anywhere that we felt we’d be able to buy sheets for an RV bed. I wanted to stay true to the Compact, and suggested buying a set at a thrift store. John trumped me with the “health and safety” card, and we determined to buy sheets at our next opportunity.

We slept that first night, therefore, on a bare mattress with the ugly bedspread on top of us. It was fine. We woke at 4:30, too excited to stay asleep, and got up. We watched the sunrise from the front seat of our rig. The only thing that would have made it better is if we’d had some way to make coffee, and some cups to drink it out of– as it was, we had coffee and hotel-room filters, but no way to drink it!

We stopped on our way out of Quartzsite at Sweet Darlene’s, a little coffeeshop/breakfast place where we had eggs and pancakes and got very full very fast. After breakfast, I took the wheel, determined to drive the big rig, even if it was difficult.

I drove us across the border and into California, perhaps as much as 30 to 50 miles, before my nerves couldn’t take it. I wanted to drive us all the way to San Bernardino, across the big desert, past Joshua Tree, so John would be able to rest up before the Los Angeles traffic. But I chickened out. Our RV weighs 30,000 pounds, and I got too nervous to handle it safely. I’m going to take the RV driving safety class so I won’t be so freaked out next time.

Somewhere just before the LA basin, we passed a wind power farm, which was a good reminder of the importance of using every possible renewable resource. I know we can use a low grade of biodiesel in our RV, and I hope that we can find biodiesel stations throughout our travels.

John drove through the LA area. We stuck to 10, then 210, till we got to 101, hoping to stay out of the main LA traffic. It was Saturday, of course, so we didn’t really need to worry about rush hour, but there was still plenty of traffic on the road, a full hatbox full of crazy drivers, and the roughest roads we’ve been on so far. The LA area seems not to put any resources into fixing potholes and rough roads, and John had a very tiring day just trying to keep the rig going straight.

It was on this day, I think, that we finally agreed on a name for the RV. When I hopped into the rig on Friday and put on the iPod, the first song that came on was “Stan” by Eminem. This is a tremendously amusing song, as it’s about a fan writing more and more stalkerish letters to his idol, Slim Shady. Eventually, the fan cracks and drives his girlfriend and himself off a bridge. An auspicious start to a road trip, indeed, but it’s one of my favorite songs. Plus, my grandfather’s name (on my father’s side) was Stanley, so there’s like a family connection. Plus, there’s a South Park thing going on, which is cool.

But John was not so impressed with Stan, and we debated whether the rig should have a proper noun name (like “Stan”) or a noun name (like “the beast”). We discussed some noun names, and “the dinosaur” came quickly to mind. It’s an older rig, enormous, and runs on fossil fuels. Finally, the choice was obvious– Stan the Stegosaurus, or “Steggy” for short. Steggy is the name of a Live Stegosaurus artifact, a card in Chrononauts, one of our favorite card games (by Looney Labs, the makers of Fluxx).


At any rate, we made it past LA and started looking for likely spots to land near Santa Barbara. There was an awesome state camping area right along the shore– we identified it by the line of a hundred or so RVs parked along its length. Sadly, at 4:30 we were far too late to get a spot; all full! We continued on. Along the coastline in California, it is illegal to post billboards, so our efforts were hampered by the fact that we simply had no idea if there was an RV park nearby or not.

At the next town, we saw the little blue trailer icon and pulled off. The RV park was just off the freeway, but it was down a residential street. We took out a couple of lawn divots trying to get in, the manager wasn’t in the office, and the two open spots were too tight for us to turn. We then tried to leave, and needed three different people to move their cars so we could make the turn out of the lot without damaging anything. John is even more fatigued by the experience– he’s had a long day, driving, LA traffic, and now this very disappointing experience.

At this point, I call my lifeline. Moms are generally good for advice when setting up a new home, and mine just so happens to own a campground/RV park, which makes her something of an expert in how much turning radius a 40′ RV really has. She’s very helpful and starts looking through her books for a good spot. I tell her I’ll call her back in a few minutes to give her time to look.

We find signs for a place just past Santa Barbara. It’s a brand new park, called Ocean Mesa. It has pull-through sites, full hookup, wireless internet access, pool, hot tub– the works. It’s also, gasp $65 per night! No AAA discounts available. Holy moley! You can tell we’re in California again! We made dinner and chilled out to the radio all night. We read– John went through the manuals some more, and I tried to study Spanish. It’s easier to study when John isn’t interrupting me every five minutes to tell me something about the Aqua-hot system, or the batteries, or what-not.

On Sunday, we left a bit later than John had wanted to leave– 8:30 or so. I settled in with a notepad and jotted down all the things we had found so far that we wanted to fix or change, from decor to actual broken stuff. We took 101 north past Pismo, through San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Soledad, Salinas, Morgan Hill, San Jose. John dropped me off at the San Jose Airport, and I took the long term parking shuttle to my car– a trip that took about a half hour. As I was leaving the airport, John called to find out where the RV park was. We had only that morning arranged to park the RV in a campground in Scotts Valley. We’re moving it to a storage facility this weekend, but in the meantime, it’s nice to have it hooked up somewhere.

He had made it over Highway 17 without incident in record time, while I was trying to get from the airport terminal to my car. Life is unfair.

I arrived at the RV park at 5:30 and found the rig (it’s in spot #1– very easy to find!) Settled in to pack, check email, and get things ready so we could leave the rig overnight. We drove home, still thrumming from our trip and the experiences we’ve had.

1 thought on “Phoenix-LA-Santa Cruz

  1. Cool! I think what struck me the most about some of your pics is how much the scenery looks like Australia.

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