Saturday, March 1, 2008

Inching toward the border

We are at the Wal-Mart in Calexico (map), a mere ten miles or so from where we began our day yesterday.

By the time we finished loading the scooters, topping off th water tanks, dumping, and getting our LP cylinders filled, it was 11:30, which put us here at noon. We've no idea how long it takes to cross the border here on the Baja side (the last time we did it, on the mainland with a group, we were there for three hours), and we wanted to give ourselves enough time to cross, fuel up, and drive all the way to San Felipe in the daylight if we needed to. So we decided to stop here for the night and cross today, well before noon. We also had a couple of last-minute items to pick up at Wal-Mart.

Speaking of filling the LP, our tanks have never been this empty. They took the entire four gallons (two apiece). Between that and detecting a slight LP odor occasionally when opening a bay, I think we have a slow leak someplace. Finding LP leaks can be a real challenge, since the pressure is not enough to use the soap-solution bubble method. We'll need to find someone with an LP leak detector, which is sort of an electronic sniffer device with its snout on a long probe.

When I went to pay, Wanda at the front desk was much more pleasant and civil than the day before. However, she still overcharged me for the LP. When I had called in the day before, I was quoted $2.75 per gallon. A sign in the office proclaimed that to be the "Park Resident" rate, whereas $3.00 was the "Motorhome and Walk-in" rate. The person I spoke to when I called clearly knew we were coming in a motorhome, yet she quoted me the lower rate. I wasn't going to argue over a dollar, so I just paid the higher rate, even though we (1) were quoted the lower rate, (2) were staying in the park and (3) walked up with what amounts to BBQ tanks, rather than a motorhome-type tank (which requires a different hose from the dispenser).

I'm just glad they didn't asses me the "10 gallon minimum" that was also listed on the walk-in sign. This kind of nonsense, charging an extra quarter a gallon for certain guests, was fully consistent with the nickle-and-dime mentality of the place: sending a fax was $3 for the first pge and a dollar for each additional page, receiving a fax was 50 cents per page, permission to wash your rig could be had for $5, etc.

Every space also had an electric meter, since electricity is extra and sold on consumption for weekly and monthly tenants. That gave me a good chance to see what our actual usage was, something that heretofore I have had to guess at or calculate from our battery meter, as we have no direct way to measure it. We used 39 kilowatt-hours between our arrival around 5pm Wednesday and our departure at 11am Friday. Based on our battery meter, I estimate that 13 kWh of that went to recharge the batteries, leaving a usage of 26 kWh in 42 hours, or an average usage of 620 watts, or just under 15 kWh per day. That's, of course, without air conditioning or significant heating, as the temperatures here have been quite comfortable. So this is just the water heater, refrigerator, lights, cooking, and so forth.

In a few minutes, we will be buttoning up and heading for the crossing. With any luck, tonight we will be somewhere on the Sea of Cortez.

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