Monday, May 15, 2006

At the hinges of hell

We are parked along the Verde Colorado River, at Buckskin Mountain State Park in Arizona (map), just downriver of Parker Dam. The dam, like it's brethren upstream, makes the river cold and green here, mocking its name. While the river might be a more inviting swim without the frigidity of the dam releases, we plunged in anyway, since the air temperature was well past the century mark when we arrived. Hotter, as they say, than the hinges of hell.

What a change from the cool and pleasant air of the California coast. After leaving Rincon Parkway, which we have now added to our "must return" list, we climbed inland on state route 126, crossing I-5 and joining state route 14 in Santa Clarita. We skirted north of the Angeles and San Bernardino national forests, which comprise the hills separating the LA basin from the rest of the state, thus avoiding same and its endless traffic and smog. A combination of highways 138, 18, and 247 took us due east out of Palmdale, then slightly south to deposit us in Yucca Valley, where we spent the night at the California State Visitor Center (map). There are no signs posted here about overnight parking one way or the other, but our directory suggested that one-night stays were permitted. There was also a Wal-Mart in town, with a number of rigs parked for the night, but we had the visitor's center all to ourselves -- it was quiet and pleasant.

While it was quite warm between Palmdale and Yucca Valley, by the time we parked for the night, the air was cooling down nicely, and we didn't need any A/C after we parked. Today, however, we moved into the hot zone. East of Yucca Valley, at Twentynine Palms, we turned off into Joshua Tree National Park and did a scenic drive through the north section of the park, where the interesting rock formations and, of course, the Joshua trees are. The scenic drive involves a good deal of climbing, and Odyssey, I am happy to report, is now handling the grades without losing her cool, so to speak, even in the temperatures that neared triple-digits. By the time we rejoined CA-62 and headed east for the river, though, the air conditioners were having a hard time keeping up.

As we descended into the Colorado valley, the temperature climbed past 100, and the alternator could no longer supply enough juice to run both A/C's. We fired up the generator, hoping to get the inside temperature under control. Unfortunately, an old problem that I thought we had licked came back to haunt us -- the generator shut down shortly afterwards due to overheating. Try as we might, we just could not keep the genny running in the heat. We had to go back to inverting from the alternator, and drop down to a single A/C unit, which didn't make much of a dent in the sweltering temperatures.

Thus we bypassed our usual free boondocking opportunity at the Bluewater Casino in Parker to come here, where, for $20, we have a 30-amp power outlet. On the 30-amp circuit we were able to run two roof units, at a very slight deficit against the batteries -- enough to at least keep Odyssey at a livable temperature. Now that it's well past sunset, the outside temperatures have dropped and we are down to running one unit, and the batteries are charging back up.

Tomorrow morning, before things start heating up again, I will check the genny coolant level. I also need to crawl under the drivers and re-connect the rear leveler actuator harness, which somehow came undone as we exited a driveway this afternoon. If the coolant looks good, then we are going to have to do some re-engineering of the generator cooling system. That means either a larger radiator, or ducting the intake air a different way. In either case, it's major work, and I am not looking forward to it.

If it is this hot again tomorrow afternoon, we will have to look for a camp site with 50-amp hookups. I expect to be in Phoenix then, which means: most likely we'll need the power.


  1. have you ever considered having 'visitors' for one of the legs of your journey?

    just a thought

  2. My folks are at Buckskin (I think) in a Foretravel. It is quite quite hot there, but they do have a nice swimming area.


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