Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Last Day


It's December 31st. Another year is over. It's the time for media and people to look back and review what has happened to the world, their country, their family and themselves.

Out of my own perspective I have to say (unfortunately) it hasn't been a good year.

To begin with the term "world", we have come closer to a nuclear Armageddon. We have seen that a peaceful country in eastern Europe has been brutally assaulted by its aggressive neighbour, Russia. Millions of people have fled from the horrors of war. Cities are in shambles, infrastructure destroyed. Tens of thousands of people been killed, and the war is dragging on into the new year.

Meanwhile, our country, Canada, has done a lot to help the Ukrainian government to fight their enemies. Weaponry has been sent, soldiers have been trained. 

All of this happened while we saw the first recovery from Covid. From April 1. Canada removed the requirement for testing, later the vaccination requirement was removed. But make no mistake, Covid is still among us.

Family members got infected with Covid, and they recovered. A sign that the vaccinations they had received are working. Nobody got hospitalized.

What about ourselves? How was 2022 for us? We had a great warm spring, summer and fall. Yet, visitor numbers on our island were still down. People were still afraid, joining other people in a sightseeing vehicle. Inflation and fears of recession might have been another reason for holding back on travel.

But we stayed healthy and we built relations to good neighbours. Bea started her first butterfly nursery. She collected Monarch butterfly eggs off of milkweed plants and nursed them through developing stages into full-grown beautiful butterflies. It attracted a lot of local interest and we made a video of it. We hope that some of "our" butterflies made it to Mexico.

On November 4th we started our trip down south. We went along the east coast ending up temporarily on the Gulf of Mexico. But the weather turned bad and we moved on to the Rio Grande Valley. Alas, shortly after our arrival it got cold and rainy. Dixie had problems with thorny sticky seeds on the ground hurting her feet. Our deliberations of what to do ended with the decision to move on to California.

Once installed on our old site, we met wonderful neighbours from Saskatchewan. We celebrated Christmas with a get-together and will await the new year with them tonight.

May 2023 be the best year possible for YOU! Peace on Earth and good health to all of us!

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Magic Of Christmas

 "Alle Jahre wieder"..... that's how a known German Christmas song starts out and it means "Every year again".  

Yes, every year we can experience the magic of Christmas, that is if we are so inclined. And that is not necessary happening to everyone, for lots of people have lost the magic of the holidays. 

But what is the "Magic of Christmas"? What makes this 2000 year-old feast so special?

Looking back at childhood days, of course, there was the thing of Santa coming to the house with gifts. And everything around it was kinda cloaked in secrecy. For 2 weeks we had a locked up living room in the house, so Santa could do his thing in peace without getting disturbed. 

And for weeks prior to Christmas we walked in the festive decorated streets of town and pressed our noses to the glass of the toy stores. There could be a trainset making its rounds or there could be beautiful toy cars displayed. Would Santa get us something like this?

During the days mom got really busy in her kitchen producing the most delicious Christmas cookies, and I was hanging on the edge of the table watching, and inspecting the quality of the dough. Many afternoons were spent making Christmas crafts, often right there at the kitchen table. We had golden and silver paper, yes, some sheets were even metallic red and blue. We made stars and shiny balls which then were hung in the windows or from bouquets of granbar mom had in big floor vases.

It was magic for us.

And then Christmas Eve came, in Europe the day of getting presents, called "Bescherung". The living room door was opened and there it was: Glowing in the lights of real stearin lights emphasized by the hung glittery silver "lametta" strips" was the most beautiful Christmas tree. 

This very moment was the highlight of the Christmas magic. Mom seated herself at her Grand Piano and played "Alle Jahre wieder", and we all sang the carol. We also sang "O Tannenbaum" and "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" and then "Stille Nacht".

We also knew the story of baby Jesus being born in a crib in the town of Bethlehem. It just added to this magic time.

But magical it also was (and still is) if snow would fall before Christmas so the tree branches would be doused with loads of snow. We loved to venture out into the woods to find the magic of this beauty.

Magic it also was when we did our family visits to our grandparents. Grandma used to have all kind of chocolate ornaments hanging in the Christmas tree, and we were allowed to pick one off of the tree.

And all family members had gathered at grandma's house. There was lots of food and goodies. Everybody was so happy and laughter and fun filled grandma's house. I am sure for grandma it must have been one of her most cherished days.

I still remember every face from those days and that is still part of the magic of Christmas for me. And so, yes, Christmas is still holding it's magic for me. 

Of course, 60 years have passed since those wonderful happy days of my childhood, but every year again, I can feel it coming back to me.

Naturally, spending the winter in warm California we will have to do without the snow, but outside we have starry nights, which together with the sliver of the moon is making up for the lack of snowy winter days.

Wishing everyone a Merry Magic Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Not Too Much News But A Peek Into The Past

 It is more than a week ago that I discovered our axle problem and we have contacted 2 places to get a quote for axle replacement and an idea of the delivery time. After sending a couple of reminders to PITSTOP in Yuma, they called today with a quote. And it is not gonna be cheap. 500 Bucks just for labor and 750 for each axle. And then there is the freight.

We do have another inquiry running, but they must think that Christmas is already here and have started the holidays. But we are still hopeful. What is rather puzzling, is the fact that one outfit says 2 weeks delivery time and the other says 6 weeks. Both are Dexter dealers.  Very strange!

Meanwhile we try not to let this thing get in the way of enjoying the very nice California weather. Comparing to the place where we stayed in TX the difference in temps for Christmas is just about 20C or 68F with Texas being at the low end of the scale. You probably have heard about the approaching deepfreeze for the Midwest and parts of the north-western states. Even the center of British Columbia is currently experiencing -40C in the Okanagan area, which always has been considered to be the warmest Canadian place for winter stays.

So with Christmas approaching, plans have developed to join up with a few neighbours for Christmas dinner and get-togethers around a camp fire. 

We are looking forward to that.

Gas prices are still tumbling and even in California, gas can be found for near 3.40/gal. We hope it will stay that way until it is going-home-time in spring.

Our last 4 evenings have been spent in front of the TV where we could follow the episodes of the movie "1883". Not really a Western, but rather the attempt of a documentary as it could have played out back in the days.  I have distant relatives in the US myself, and they came to America in 1833 (50 years earlier than the people in the movie) At that time the west had barely been traveled and discovered, so they stayed in a place in south-west Illinois where they co-founded the town of St. Libory. They had started out as a group of 10 family members, but only 8 reached the shore at Baltimore, MD. Even though the journey wasn't as arduous as shown in "1883", they were pioneers nevertheless. Their spirit can best be described by what a few of them did to get their farm products sold. From St. Libory they went on a raft down the Kaskaskia river which eventually enters the Mississippi. They then continued down America's biggest river all the way to New Orleans, where they did their trades.

As the family where co-founders of the town, a street was named after them. It's not a glamourous avenue, but a short residential street. (see image)

Friday, December 16, 2022

OK, So We Are Having A Problem

 I know, I know, if you do a long trip problems may occur, but seriously, what happened here is a bit out of the ordinary.

At a routine air pressure control on the trailer tires, I discovered that all 4 tires are worn unevenly with the inside of the tires being without a tread.

What is the cause of this?

Obviously my wheels are bend outwards putting the inside of the tires to the test. Only, that resulted in my tires, which are only one year old, to be literally worthless.

"Pilot Knob"

Our trailer has Dexter Torvflex axles which are known for their comfortable ride, but they are also known for the torsion arms to degrade from the inside, thus changing the angle of the wheel to the road surface.

Of course I threw myself onto the internet to find out what can be done. And unfortunately, except replacing the entire axles, nothing else can be done. And like in a casino I heard dollars leaving my purse - lots of them actually.

But the worst was yet to come: Due to the crazy over production of RVs during the pandemic, Dexter has nothing in stock. Every order first need to be produced. The first dealer I contacted told me that I won't get new axles at all, cause the backlog is just sooo long.

Then I found another dealer - in Yuma,AZ. Pitstop Trailer Repair, seemed to be a reliable company and as Dexter dealers they were telling me that 4-6 weeks delivery time would have to be expected. 

Well, I can deal with 6 weeks, and we were not planning to go anywhere anyway.

I took some pictures of the axle, emailed them and a picture of the axle label with the serial number, and then we went to Yuma to make a personal appearance at the company.

We still have to hear back from them with a price, but we hope the best.

While being in town anyway, we did a few other errands including a visit at a laundromat, before heading back home.

Vegetable production around Yuma,AZ

As usual, Bea had her camera ready to shoot from the vehicle, and I think the result is not too bad, or what do you think?

The Imperial Sand Dunes

The All-American Canal bringing Colorado River water to the Imperial Valley

The I-8 towards San Diego

The Holtville Long Term Visitor Area LTVA

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Trip To Calexico

C A L E X I C O   (California - Mexico)

Visiting the border town for the first time might turn out to be quite the experience, especially when arriving at the wall. 

                                        Barbed wire hanging across the older (lower) part of the fence


I guess everyone would have different feelings, but for me, growing up in the divided Germany with border fences and a concrete wall crossing a huge city, the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico is a stark experience. Cars are driving alongside on the US side and cars are driving alongside on the Mexican side. Two worlds, two cultures, to different systems with different laws. Border Patrol trucks are posted within certain distance all along the fence. The only thing missing are watch towers, but electronic devices are keeping a watchful eye out for any illegal activities. My memories from Germany..... so disturbing. 

But we went there today with an agenda to use the dump station, which is right alongside the fence. 

I am minding my dumping business, but I feel uneasy. The officer in that truck only 30 yrds away is watching me. I know he is, cause it's his job. He might have to note every activity in his skift report. 

Parakeets are sitting in the palm trees. After finishing the dumping they came down to the water spigot to drink. They were monk parakeets. There are actually 11 different species of parakeets in California. Some have ventured north from central America, others have been smuggled into the country, others again have been "escapees" from cages. 

After dumping we continue to Walmart and ALDI. Next stop was Holtville to pick up propane and another load of water for the trailer.

Calexico is a city with a lot of Mexican Ambience. The buildings might as well been in Mexico. Every time I am down there I hear police/ambulance sirens. The population is overwhelmingly Hispanic and Spanish is the dominating language in town.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Moon Walk

The last piece of boiled carrot had just gone to Dixie, but her expectant face was still asking for more. Her own food was long gone, as that is merely a matter of less than one minute.

As soon as she understood that supper was over, she walked to the door. It was time for the After-Supper-Walk. I got my jacket, grabbed Dixie's leash and off we went. 

The moon was full and translucent behind a few thin clouds. It was only 5:30pm, and if it hadn't been for the moon, it would be pitch dark. But today, I wouldn't even need the little LED torch light, for walking down the desert trail through the campground towards the host station. It was like the darkness had swallowed all noise. People had moved into their rigs. Some would be having supper, others checking emails or making phone calls. Some places had elaborate Christmas lights around the RVs. Some rigs showed the flickering light of running TVs.

Others were almost completely dark. 

Fredo's place is the one with most outside lights, and he had already lit up his camp fire, but the chairs around it were still empty. His camp fire is a place where people meet each other and solve many problems this world is suffering from. I wondered what problems would be discussed today.

Dixie didn't care about all this, she just walked beside me, the leash loose on the ground between us. Eventually, we turned around. Now I noticed the big bright star, not too far from the moon. What a sight!

The day had been clear with lots of sunshine. Temps had been around 21C, warm enough for wearing shorts. The wind we'd had during the afternoon had died down. 

Approaching our own trailer, Dixie pulled ahead. She knows this area as if she had spent most of her life here. I marvel at her memory. Lately, she has found out about a shortcut when walking home from the canal road. Once in a while she sees a rabbit, she likes to scare it away but never follows it far away from us. This is the typical behaviour of a livestock guardian dog. They don't hunt, but just scare intruders away from their herd. For Dixie, we are her herd. She is taking this job very seriously. She usually wants to stay outside until around 8pm.

Desert nights are cool, so it was great to get back inside our warm trailer. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Have You Heard About "Van Life?"

 It's a craze. They dubbed it "Van Life". I am speaking of camping trips or (for some) living in a van. What began many, many years ago as some not-so-rich people got an old van,  put a bed, a cook stove and maybe an old couch into it and hit the road, some of which are still rolling, has now developed into a totally hip thing with people getting a new, or almost new, van, for tens of thousands of dollars with some fancy camping furniture like mostly also found in regular RVs. 

The top of the trend are now the 4x4 vans with roof ladders strutting down the side, overly big tires, and if it has a bull bar and a winch adorning the front - even better, as this indicates "I am on an expedition".

This has all developed beside of the more established style of "Class B RVs", which have always been around at least here in North America.

Promoted by the internet and countless videos on YouTube, it has attracted thousands of people who have been looking for that kind of "independent" life style. As housing costs have gone through the roof, many of those were tired of working for steep house rents and paying crazy utility bills every month. Now, one problem van-dwellers are facing is finding suitable overnight parking. And in order to avoid the problem of having a police officer knocking on your door in the middle of the night, some have avoided to get windows installed in their vehicles. It's called "Stealth Camping". The idea is that regular looking vehicles can park almost anywhere, as long as they don't look like a lived-in RV. 

46 years ago I invented "Van Life" for myself. In 1976 I bought a moss-green Volkswagen Transporter (brand-new with windows) 

Since I know how to handle a saw and a hammer (and a few other tools) I was able to build my own furniture. Once installed, I was on the move, at least during summer days. I never saw other van-lifers. I was the Lone Wolfe. And I was cool! The result was, that I never had anyone near me when pulling into a forest road for the night or staying in a public place. A closed campground was no reason to give up staying there overnight. Where there was a will, there was a way into it. A road turn-out at a scenic lake was enough to make me stay there. No TV station ever got interested in my green home on wheels. I felt free like a bird and I was going "rogue". 

Several generations later, the scene has changed. Van-lifers can be found just about anywhere as they populate Walmart parking lots and even residential streets. 

Prices for vans have doubled within the last 2-3 years. You are looking for something fancy fully equipped? Be prepared to fork over 80-110.000 hard-earned dollars, even used units seem unaffordable.

Naturally, for that kind of money, most people who have been around a while, would rather buy something more established, like a Class C or even Class A RV. 

And there IS already a new trend following the van-people: 

The "Tiny House" movement has sailed up not to be ignored anymore. We are now seeing young couples buying up old school buses, affectionately called "schoolies".

With love and deep devotion they paint and decorate their new homes on wheels. These vehicle's much bigger living space are also calling for much more sophisticated skills to convert these former people movers into a full-blown RV. Rust and decay may have settled in their old steel bones and besides of welding skills, one also need to be a carpenter, a plumber and not to underestimate, an electrician. Naturally, these much bigger vehicles do not offer stealth camping, but will have to be relegated to either private property of their owners or regular campgrounds. And while camping fees can be a burden to small budgets, the cost of moving these buses down the highway can be really worrisome. Repairs are not cheap either. 

For all those reasons, I think I will stick to a regular RV.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

One Week In Camp

Gosh, it is Saturday and one week has gone since our arrival here in the desert. And I have to admit, a certain laziness has taken possession of me. 

Sure, we had to tend to a few things, like f.e.x the repair of a cupboard door, which fell victim to the slide-out. And ultimately, it had been my own mistake that I hadn't looked before running out the big kitchen/couch slide-out. The problem, which I was well aware of, is that the doors can jump open under driving. When the slide moves outward, the door gets caught behind the front board of the slide, and in this case it simply broke. But this is nothing I cannot fix. I borrowed a clamp from the host station and glued it back together. We are now looking for better hatches. It is pitiful that RV-designers make such stupid mistakes by choosing the cheapest equipment, even though RV prices are through the roof.

Dumping waste water and getting groceries are also tasks for the camper. 

Yesterday, I took a trip to Calexico, which is about 20 miles from camp. The city has a public dump station right beside the "BIG WALL". It is not very well run, quite dirty around, but it is free. 

Combining the trip with a visit to the ALDI store and Walmart, which are literally side-by-side, I was lucky and found a decent lunch bread at ALDI. Being from Europe, we have a hard time finding decent bread with a certain density. Every German I know complains about the soft spongy bread style in North America. Back at home Bea is always baking her own bread. In an RV it is a bit inconvenient, though not impossible. Btw. Walmart has a special type of rolls, which come in a bag of 24 for around $4. These are great if baked up in the oven to make them crusty.

Even in California prices
are coming down
Watching gas prices, I have been delighted to see that the average national price of gas has come down to 3.42/gal (as of today). That will be a real relief if this trend will hold until our return home in March. It will also help with boosting tourism over the summer, but who knows, it might go up again.

Dixie is enjoying the change of scenery from TX to CA. She is one happy dog, loves to run and go for walks. Also she has taken the job of guarding our spot against intruders. The other evening she started barking loudly just outside the trailer, It was pitch dark already, so I was worried about her making too much of a racket for our neighbours. So I went outside to call her to the door. Immediately I heard the very loud howling of a bunch of coyotes, and they were very near our trailer, most likely right up in the dunes. I estimated at least 4 or 5 animals. I was glad that Dixie had warned us, as she could fall a victim to the coyotes. When a dog is on a leash it will limit his movement so coyotes can attack more easily. The fact that coyotes can be very dangerous is often ignored. However, just today the following news had a story about it: Coyote attacks 2-year old

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Laundry Tuesday

 It was sunny Tuesday with very little wind and clear blue skies and for us a day to go to town for a number of purposes. 

There was the need to pay a visit to a laundromat, but we also needed a refill of propane, groceries and 40gal of water for the trailer.

As an RVer you have a  choice of taking your RV to town or get everything home with your tow vehicle. We hardly ever move our RV out of camp. A propane tank can be moved by placing it into a milk crate, which keeps it from tumbling over, and for hauling of water we use a collapsible rubber bladder placed on top of our vehicle roof. Since 40 gal of water is quite a bit of weight, the bladder does not need to be secured with straps.

From the height of the van roof water can be filled into the trailer without having to use a pump

The next laundromat is in El Centro and we have used it over many winters when staying in camp at the Hot Springs.

Since 2021 we are frequenting a German ALDI market for groceries. 

And propane can be filled at the ACE Hardware stores either in Holtville or El Centro. Sadly, it appears that propane has also had a hefty jump in price, at least in California. 

Of course, a trip to town always takes hours before we are back at the trailer, so we always have Dixie with us as it can get quite hot inside.

We had set up a cloth line for drying our laundry. Why pay for something we can get done with the help of old sun?

A couple of new rigs have pulled in today, some of which we recognize from last year. We expect many more campers coming in until New Years, after which it usually stays steady for a while until people start to leave again from the beginning of March.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Lazy Monday Afternoon...

Now that we have started on the 1.week of Advent I feel entitled to dig into a collection of the fine German Christmas Goodies, which we received in a package sent to us by a German cousin. 

She knows that it is hard to find these goodies in Canada and U.S. so this is very thoughtful of her indeed.

Nevertheless, Christmas is not Christmas without having my favorite lard cookies, which I pride myself having made every year. 

The recipe is from northern Germany and I learned it from my mom. Lard, sugar, flour, vanilla are all the ingredients. They must be mixt until a solid lump of dough is produced. One rolls out small portions of the dough to sausages, then cut appropriate small portions of the "sausage" and form it to cookies. Bake at 180F for 15minutes and let cool. You can make them as white cookies or with cocoa/chocolate as dark cookies. Both are great with coffee.

So besides of baking cookies I encountered a sudden problem with charging our batteries. Looking at our charge controller I discovered a loose wire. As soon as that was corrected, our 600W solar panels delivered power again. Solar power is a true blessing for RVing. And while solar panels used to be very expensive back in 2005 when we started using them on our RV, my 2 300W panels cost just $70/piece. They actually came with an extra charge controller, which I did not use, as I already had one. An incredible deal, I found at And they were sent from a ware house in Vancouver, BC. Of course, they are made in China, but so are also much more expensive panels. They have already served us 3 years without the slightest problem.

The afternoon was spent chatting with a neighbour and undertaking a nice walk along the scenic water canal.
A little bit of a breeze kept temperatures at a comfortable level around 70F.
Dixie rewarded us for driving the extra miles from TX to CA by giving us a show of wild exuberant racing back and forth in the desert. While usually being a very calm measured minded dog, she sometimes gives us the "crazy-dog" performance. That's when we know she is overly happy. And nothing else could make us more happy than seeing Dixie playing "crazy-dog".

Today it was my turn to prepare dinner. And I must mention "Opa's Sausages" made in Fredericksburg,TX. Many years ago we were staying in Fredericksburg and I had the opportunity to visit the producer of "Opa's Products". Already back then I loved their sausage products. It is made after old German recipes, thus the name "Opa's".

Under our short stay in TX a week ago I discovered their product in a grocery store and grabbed it. Naturally, I should have bought a bunch of them, as they keep well in unopened packages in the fridge. They are smoked and they contain real meat. I have never tasted better ones in North America. So today I made dinner with them. Since they are ready cooked, I just warmed them in gravy and served with potatoes and carrots. Just extremely good!