Chicken Soup For The Solar


Before Betty & I left Williams, Arizona this morning, on our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Betty assembled the ingredients for a hearty chicken soup. She added them to our crock pot, and through the marvels of our new solar power, the chicken soup cooked all day as I drove, and provided a tasty evening meal.  Yes, chicken soup for the soul(ar)! LOL

We have just finished that delicious offering, having hiked through the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona, another park covered by our America The Beautiful pass. We are camped – for free – at the Chrystal Forest RV Campground, thanks to our Harvest Host membership.


The Petrified Forest National Park contains a large assortment of petrified wood, which looks amazingly like both wood and granite, but would surely break any chainsaw attempting to cut it. Millions of years old, it sits in a large area of arid land, which was once a tropical forest.










In the same park is the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark. The many surrounding hills contain an amazing range of colours and shapes, as can been seen in the accompanying photos.


Originally, the choice for this stop was more about selecting a free campsite half way between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque, but the spectacular sights and the delicious chicken soup both turned out to be good for the soul, as well as the solar…


Grand Canyon Day Two

Today we decided to go back to the Grand Canyon to capture what we were told are amazing rock colourings as the sun goes down. Unfortunately, as Betty & I approached the park toward dusk, so did a big black cloud from the west. While we didn’t receive any rain, we also didn’t get the sunset light show we were anticipating.

In hopes that the sun would still appear, I set up the camera on a tripod facing one of the thousands of amazing vistas. In this post are a number of pictures taken from that single location.

Oh well, our current itinerary calls for us to visit the Grand Canyon again on April 30, 2020, and again November 3, 2020, so we’ll just have to hope for better sunsets then! LOL



One Frickken Big Hole!

As previously reported, Betty doesn’t swear. But today was another one of those occasions on our overlandish adventure when an exclamation was more than appropriate. We have just returned from the Grand Canyon and are trying to put words to what we have just seen. In an unusual turn of events, words escape us both! LOL

Of course everyone who has been raves about this one of seven natural wonders of the world. Ya, ya, can the reality live up to the hype? Well, yes it can! I limited myself to 87 pictures from the southern rim of the canyon, which stretches 446 river km long, up to 29 km wide, and 1.6 km deep. This post only includes seven pictures, but we’re not yet ready to delete the rest!

Even though we were looking into the same abyss every few feet, we seemed to be seeing it differently each time. The way the light changed throughout the day; the variations in rock formations; the changing colouring and striations on the cliffs, all affected our visual experience. It was one “wow” moment after another for the 20 km we hiked today. Ya, it was a great workout!

On return to our campsite at the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel RV Park in Williams, Arizona, we selected the pictures to add to this post, knowing that none of them fully capture the panoramic experience at the cliff face.

Millions of people from around the world visit the Grand Canyon every year. While some people take the train from Williams, others see the park via helicopter or mule ride down a steep path in the cliff. Some hire 4x4s to take them to the bottom, while others go white water rafting down the Colorado River at the base of the canyon. All of these are expensive propositions, and we have to admit to connecting to our thrifty Scottish roots and our fixed income.

We used the America the Beautiful pass purchased in New Mexico, so entry to this National Park didn’t cost us anything extra. We used our Passport America membership at the campground, so we received half off the regular price for accommodation. We left our motorhome in the campground and drove our Smart car through the park, so parking was always convenient, and when I topped up the tank at Pilot, I was able to use my Flying J card to get 6 or 8 cents off a gallon. A very economical visit!

Betty & I are visiting the Grand Canyon for another day and a half, before moving on to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, so don’t be surprised if you see more pics of this natural wonder. And don’t be surprised if you hear Bet exclaim again “That’s a frickken big hole!”


A special note from Betty: We are having a discussion on how to spell my word…is it frikken or frickin or frickken? What are you thoughts? 😛

Our First Harvest Host

When we were planning our grand adventure, I discovered a number of accommodation options for RVers. Tonight we are staying at our first Harvest Host location, a working 300 acre farm about half way between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. Other Harvest Host locations include wineries, historic properties and roadside cafés across North America.

We are essentially boondocking for free in the parking lot of Mortimer farms, which also has a bakery, café, kids play area and country store selling meat, preserves, wine, and seasonal vegetables. The staff couldn’t be more friendly and welcoming!

For lunch we had sandwiches on steaming freshly baked buns, and finished with fresh tasty pastries. I picked up both grass fed and grain finished rib eye steak, and am really looking forward to comparing them at our next official campsite in Williams, Arizona.

In fine-tuning our itinerary, we now ensure we consider Harvest Host locations, especially since plugging into shore power isn’t a requirement. Yeah solar!

Another great addition to our overlandish odyssey. Cheers!

Easter Weekend In Phoenix

Major holidays for us have always been times for family gatherings, so it was a bittersweet experience for Betty and me to be thousands of miles from our children and grandchildren during the Easter weekend. Despite how much we enjoy the hot weather and unique scenery, we miss our family, and were so relieved to be able to see them all together for Easter dinner through the marvels of FaceTime. There is no doubt it was the highlight of our weekend!

On arriving in Phoenix, we chased off the Quartzsite desert dust by treating our motorhome to a full service wash and hand dry, back to its sparkling full body paint job. Yeah! We then checked into the Phoenix Metro RV Park, in close proximity to all local attractions, and took advantage of the on-site laundromat and swimming pool to freshen up our clothes and ourselves.

Feeling refreshed we went on a tour of the town, although it was a very quick visit.  The attached downtown pictures were taken by Betty from a moving car in moderate traffic, so please excuse the shaky framing… As we exited a tunnel into the downtown, I was reminded of a Christian Worthington painting we have in Winnipeg, showing Lazarus transitioning from darkness to light – a very dramatic image. Because we were leaving Phoenix on Easter Sunday morning, Betty & I attended a Saturday evening service where we were again inspired by the recounting of Jesus’ transition from death to life. Hallelujah! He is risen!

Our next stop was the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, just north of Phoenix, where we found another picturesque campsite with more dramatic backyard sunsets over the surrounding mountains. You may tire of seeing so many sunset pictures, but we continue to be amazed at the beauty of the land and sky as the sun goes down each night! Being Easter Sunday, we ended the day with a fabulous feast of lamb (with mint sauce, of course), potatoes and asparagus, all cooked on our trusty barbie, and paired with a bottle of Mouton Cadet, a tasty Bordeaux.

It was such a treat to see our whole family together at Adam & Lisa’s new home when we called. A marvelous happy feast was being prepared, and it warmed our hearts to see everyone. While we are off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow, with many great adventures still to come, we look forward to sharing hugs and kisses in person next month on our return.

Much love and cheers!

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

By The Time I Get To Phoenix

The words of Glen Campbell’s sentimental, melancholy song roll through our heads, as Betty & I make the journey from the desert at Quartzsite to the booming metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona. The song is about leaving and going somewhere new, and that is what we are doing. While I had previously flown into Phoenix for a conference, I have never really been there – just from the airport to the hotel and back…

So this sentimental drive away got me thinking about this blog. It certainly wasn’t my idea to write a blog, and I didn’t think much about contributing to it. But once our son Andrew set it up, and Betty made the first post, I thought I’d experiment by adding something. Then something else, and by the time I get to Phoenix will have added over 40 posts! In some ways this surprises me, since I have added maybe only one post to my Facebook page in the past 10 years – I’m just not interested or experienced in sharing my life that way.

And it’s not that I’m unfamiliar with writing. I majored in English in university, but have almost exclusively written funding proposals and formal business correspondence in the past 40+ years. Journaling, or otherwise writing about myself, or our family life, has not been a consideration. (Yes, I was taught not to start a sentence – let alone a paragraph – with a conjunction like So, And, or But, but times have changed and grammar is a little looser now. BTW, if you ever watch a home reno show on TV, almost every sentence started by the architect, interior designer, etc. starts like: “So this is the look we were going for…” Whatever! I could write a whole blog post on how life is one continual conversation now, through a variety of media. Starting a sentence or paragraph with “So” just links what you are about to say to your ongoing life story, but I digress… LOL)

But this is different. My understanding is that the blog was established to help Betty & me keep in touch with our family and close friends during our travels. The content is not set up as “Google searchable”, so unless you know the exact address, you won’t find it. One of my goals is to improve my photography, and it turns out the blog is a good vehicle for adding and describing what we are seeing on the road. That provides a great amount of fodder for the mill.

I enjoy preparing these little vignettes, and hope that you also enjoy reading them. While it was not established as an interactive blog with an active comments section, any responses to Betty or my e-mail addresses are most appreciated. Hopefully it won’t be as sad as the note Glen Campbell left hanging on her door… LOL


A Desert Oasis

The Oxford dictionary defines an oasis as a fertile spot in a desert where water is found. It can also be described as a peaceful area in our everyday lives. That is where Betty & I find ourselves in Arizona this month.

Now that we have added a solar system to our motorhome, we are able to sustain our own little fertile spot in the desert, without the need of a noisy generator to power our equipment. When we arrived in Quartzsite, we chose to stay in one of the four large, long-term visitor areas, comprising thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM – the equivalent of Crown Land in Canada) open land with no assigned camp spots. There is a paved entrance to each of the four, and we paid $40. total for a 14 day stay, allowing us to dump our tanks and fill up with fresh water as often as we need. There are other BML lands where camping is free. However, then you have to pay to dump & add water, so we thought $2.86 a day to camp isn’t a bad deal! (BTW, I think they have seasonal rates that are even cheaper!)

Attached to this post are some pictures of our current surroundings. One is a panoramic 180 degree shot from the roof of our motorhome, and another shows the other 180. One shows Betty on our patio, with the seating area, BBQ stand, and fire pit on the dusty sand of our “yard”. As mentioned, there are no assigned campsites, so you can park as near to the road, or as far away as you wish. Because few of the paths through the desert lands are graded, only adventurous risk takers drive long motorhomes or trailers to the farther spots down the atv trails. Regardless, at this time of year the distance between units provides both privacy and quiet.

Apparently, January in Quartzsite is a different place, with the number of campers swelling into the hundreds of thousands. Many groups organize rallies during that time, to take advantage of all the added pop-up vendors. Lots of folk bike, hike, or ride ATVs in the area, and all are a friendly bunch. The atmosphere both in the desert and in the town of Quartzsite is very laid back, with more than a few hippies that never left the 1960s. LOL

To add to our adventure, yesterday Betty convinced Charlie & me to go with her on a day trip to see the London Bridge. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, these must be rich jet-setters who can fly to England and back the same day!” But no, we actually drove our little Smart car 60 miles up the road to Lake Havasu City, where Robert McCulloch (of McCulloch chain saws) bought 13,000 acres of land, and then for $2.5 million bought the London Bridge from the City of London, and relocated it to his desert oasis. The Colorado River is dammed south of the town, so it is a unique experience to see large palm trees, green grass, and beautiful green golf courses in the area, which is all surrounded by jagged mountain ranges.

The two oases described above are quite different from each other. One is a lush, commercial district, while the other is an uncommercial, undeveloped corner of God’s earth. Both have their appeal, and both provide fertile areas for renewal. Whichever direction you go, we hope you can find a peaceful area in your everyday life.Cheers!

Controlling The Sun

As we know from Greek mythology, in an attempt to escape imprisonment, Icarus met his demise by flying too close to the sun, melting his artificial wax wings and plummeting into the Aegean Sea.  While there is no risk of falling into the sea in the Arizona desert – we haven’t seen significant signs of water since we left Texas! — Betty & I do wonder if we risk being melted by the sun as we escape Winnipeg’s winter…

Of course we came to Quartzsite, Arizona for the sun. We are dry camping in the desert, and I do mean dry! The sun bakes down for more than 300 days a year (I could google the actual average number of days, but the sun is frying my brain just now. LOL) Dry camping, or boondocking, means that we are not hooked up to a water supply, and we do not have a sewer outlet, so we do our best to conserve our fresh, black & grey tanks. And of course there is nothing to plug an electrical cord into. There is evidence of former rivers and streams in the desert, but at this point they are bone dry. Needless to say, I haven’t seen car, truck, or RV washes for a long time, and everything gets a generous coating of desert dust/ sand.

Anyway, to the main focus of this post: the sun. Our little Smart car cover does a good job of reducing Shake-n-bake, and our Home Depot purchase of a 4’ x 10’ sheet of foil insulation greatly reduces sun heat gain through our motorhome’s large windshield (when parked, of course…LOL). But the big deal this week is our new solar system!

Everywhere we look on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties, RVs are covered in solar panels. We have been considering solar power for some time now, and what better time than in the sun-soaked desert! Unlike northern dealers who may install 1 or 2 systems a year, Solar Bill specializes in RV solar installation, installing up to 8 systems a day. Solar Bill’s our man!

We chose 2 250w solar panels for our roof, for a total of 500w of power. They are attached to a 2000w pure sine inverter-charger, an MPPT solar system controller, with remote digital meters for both, and 4 coach batteries. Tilt arms allow the panels to be adjusted to catch the most sun each day.

Of course yesterday Murphy’s Law took effect: It was the first day after our system was added, and while it didn’t really rain, we had the first overcast day since arriving in Arizona. Augghhh! Well the double rainbow was pretty anyway!

Even so, we had enough power to run my CPAP machine all night and grind & brew coffee in the morning. All of our interior and exterior plugs are now activated, and we can charge our phones, computers, ipad, digital camera batteries, gps. etc., etc., etc. all day, whether we are parked or driving. Yeah!!

The sun is a marvelous thing, and we continue to be amazed by the sky around us, particularly as the sun sets over the mountains. We now have literally dozens of sunset pictures, and while we are still extremely limited in our control over that big ball in the sky, a few more shots we have captured at our campsite this week are hereby attached. Unlike Icarus, we’ll try not to fly too close, but appreciate the warmth just the same…



Hi everyone. As you can see we have arrived in beautiful warm Quartzsite. I have to post two of Gavin’s pictures because I couldn’t fit the whole sign in and be able to identify that he was there! Take good care and hope you are all cozy in your nice homes.