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Along the way to Quartzsite …

All is well. I am mumbling that to myself because my second day back on the road (since we became temporarily housebound) has been very funky.

Last night we pulled into an RV park in Tempe and visited with our friend Brent, who was staying there as well. Apache Blvd in Tempe is a hotspot for Middle Eastern restaurants and markets, and Brent took us to one of his favorites. We love Middle Eastern food (but then, we like almost everything edible). The portions were big enough that we each came home with leftovers. The leftovers reek of garlic and every time I open the refrigerator I am reminded of the meal, but that’s a good memory.

This morning I dropped E&E at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to fly back to Vermont for a family visit. Emma is going to visit with her grandparents and uncles and friends, while I take the Airstream out for my first-ever solo trip. In over two years of traveling in this Airstream I have never taken it camping by myself, so it’s sort of exciting. I’ve been alone in it while they’ve been traveling, but I’ve never gone anywhere.

So after dropping them at the airport, I swung back to the campground, hitched, and pulled out on I-10 heading west to Quartzsite AZ, which is about 100 miles from Phoenix, near Blythe, CA.

Along the road, a truck pulled into the highway and began to spew gravel. A big piece left a nice round 1/2″ divot in my windshield (down low near the wiper blades). I backed off immediately and called the insurance company. By the time I found my next gas stop, I had an appointment to get the glass repaired at our house next week. OK, so that was annoying, but not fatal.

At the gas station, I found myself in one of those tight spots where pulling away from the pump is unexpectedly difficult. This happens at gas stations. I’ve said it many times to friends, the most dangerous place to be with a 30 foot trailer is a gas station. I thought I was going to make it, when I heard a thump, and knew I was screwed.

Or in this case, unscrewed. The left edge of the bumper caught something, and it ripped off the bumper. I found it hanging from the back of the trailer, pivoted to a 45 degree angle rearward, and attached only by two screws at the right side which were acting as hinges.

Well, there’s another first. In over two years of towing this trailer I’ve never clipped anything … but the evidence of the hanging bumper was pretty conspicuous for all to see.


The steel screws stayed, the bumper didn’t.

But once again it was repairable. The bumper itself was undamaged. If you look at it from the top closely you can see it was slightly bent but I’m talking about maybe 1/8″ of an inch, hardly noticeable. The four steel screws holding it on were undamaged. They ripped through the softer aluminum of the bumper, so that essentially the bumper just popped off without anything else being seriously hurt.


The same thing happened to the aluminum cover for the bumper compartment. It is held shut by a pair of spring-loaded clips which are attached to the bumper. They ripped through the aluminum of the cover.

Among my emergency kit I carry a hammer, a wood tapping block, screwdrivers, and some rags. With this, I was able to back out the two screws that formerly held the bumper, tap the bumper back into position, and tighten the screws enough to hold the bumper in place. The top one (pictured) isn’t doing much, but the bottom one is holding it just fine. This will stay long enough for me to get a better repair next week.


There’s also a little narrow scrape along the lower left corner of the Airstream. It looks worse than it is because there’s some plastic embedded on it. This will probably be hard to see once I clean it. It didn’t even dent — just scraped off a little of the clearcoat. And the cable TV/telephone jack cover is cracked. That’s easily replaced. So, I’ll need three parts and a bit of welding on the bumper. Not too bad. As scrapes go, I got off easy.

The final episode of the day occurred upon arrival at Quartzsite. I went to the BLM (Bureau of Land Mgmt) Long Term Visitor Area called La Posa. These LTVAs are basically just spots in the desert with minimal services, administered by the BLM. For $40 I can stay two weeks, but when I went to get my permit I found that I might not be allowed because of the decals on our trailer. Apparently the Federal regulations prohibit vehicles with “advertising” or commercial references on them. This rule even extends to work trucks being used to tow recreational vehicles.

A 30-minute long process began as a result of this, which culminated in the head Ranger talking to me via cell phone and actually loading this weblog to ascertain whether I was “commercial” or not. It was concluded that I was, even though I promised I wasn’t here to sell anything. The solution was to cover up the spots on the trailer where “” appears, and also the decal that says “AIRSTREAM LIFE”. The rangers actually drove down to the hardware store and bought the necessary paper and tape to get this done, which was very nice. So now this is what my Airstream looks like:


I am “anonymous” now. You’ll never find me!

By the way, if you want to try the BLM LTVAs here at Quartzite (or other spots in the west), keep in mind it’s sort of the Wild West out here. You’ve got to come prepared. Some of the LTVAs have portable toilets, and all have dumpsters for trash. The dump station is down the street at La Posa South. Otherwise, it is just you and what you brought. In my case, that includes a ton of food, 39 gallons of fresh water, and all the comforts of home. I should be self-sufficient for a week easily, but if I need anything the town is not far.I’ll be here for at least a few days, exploring the seasonal RV phenomenon that occurs here every winter: thousands of RVs congregate and spend months here living cheap among the creosote bushes on Federal land. Half a mile away there is an enormous flea market area which is currently hosting the Tyson Wells Gem & Mineral Show. My plan is to explore the area and find a story for Airstream Life magazine. For the next week or so, you can come along.

5 Responses to “Along the way to Quartzsite …”

  1. terrie Says:

    those Rangers went beyond their job descriptions it sounds like…good for them…looking forward to your story and photos about this use of Federal lands…

  2. John Says:

    Look what I hit. It is funny how one can do so much damage at a slow speed.

  3. Bobby Says:

    Ouch! That is so frustrating! We are wary gas station goers due to your advice, Rich. It always seems like we have plenty of room around those little islands, but then they sneak up on you. We haven’t clipped anything yet. But man. Ugh.

  4. Tom Palesch Says:

    Hi Rich: I did the same to my bumper when I was putting the unit to bed for the winter. It’s a sickening feeling when you see the bumper swinging in the breeze.

    I did a little hammer work like you and then went to the NAPA Auto store and bought a two-part epoxy that works on stainless steel. I also bought two stainless steel flat washers (as in bolts and nuts) and cleaned the aluminum and stainless with acetone. I applied the epoxy (mixed) to the area around the hole in the bumper (after I leveled it and straightened the torn edge) and put the washer on it hole-to-hole.

    Aluminum and stainless will bond well with the epoxy (but it must be a special stainless steel epoxy), plus give the screw something with which to hold the bumper to the bracket, thus eliminating any need for welding, additional labor and seeking out a weld shop. It should hold together until the next encounter and will probably tear the same way, if ever again.

    Enjoy your bachelor holiday. You will appreciate your family all the more when you are together again.

    Best, Tom

  5. Dean Says:

    Oh boy, been there done that. The first time without the co-pilot too…I’d never hear the end of that one 🙂