Day 19: 01/14/2016 – Quartzsite, AZ

Destination: Quartzsite, AZ Day19Route

Route: I-10W

Mileage: 238

We are on the road again after a hospitality filled stop with Nils and Felicia! We are off to Quartzsite, AZ to meet Dave’s cousins Tom and Marilee at an RV rally for Toyota chassis RVs. We will be parking in the SOB (Some Other Brand) section of the Toyota group, which we can only hope is not next to portable toilets.

Quartzsite’s population, as determined by the 2010 census, was 3,677. The population swells during the winter months as RV, looking to escape the snow and cold, descend like locusts to enjoy average high temperatures in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Folks leave before the summer heat begins.  National Geographic Magazine sets the scene.

By mid-January the mechanical car counter at the Interstate 10 exit is ticking off 26,000 vehicles a day. Within weeks 175,000 RVs cram inches apart into 9 trailer parks, onto front yards, and spill out seven miles on either side of town. Every year more than a million people reset their internal navigation and drive from Everywhere, North America, to this western Arizona dot on the map. Luxury motor homes, fifth wheels, cab-over campers, trailers, and converted school buses plunk down on the same patch of land.

Abby hiding among the Toyotas

We arrive and are welcomed warmly by the group. Abby is a giant among the Toyotas and we tuck ourselves in at the end of the area roped off for the group. There is nary a porta-potty in sight. Marilee is still traveling from Pasadena, CA, so we settle in and decide to go exploring.

Driver side of the converted school bus.
Passenger side of the converted school bus.

The National Geographic description is spot on. RVs keep pouring into campsites in town as well as heading to the surrounding BLM land. And they are coming in various shapes and sizes. Our walk down down the main drag brings us across this converted school bus. Not the most luxurious vehicle out there, but it gets the job done. The artwork is rather impressive. We are thrilled when we discover a food truck with poutine! True poutine with cheese curds, it is not. But the fries are hand cut and the gravy is quite decent. It is topped with mozarella cheese, but we can’t be poutine purists in Arizona. It is a fantastic mid-afternoon snack and Alex approves.

Refreshed, we continue our wanderings. If you need to find something for your RV, there is likely a vendor here selling the part or can get the part for you. Crossing Central Boulevard, the swap meet expands to epic proportions. If you need some sort of mineral, you need to visit Quartzsite. We start browsing the display trailers at the RV show; no intent to replace Abby, just curious to see what is out there and we don’t make it past the fifth wheels. There are some appealing floor plans, like the one with a second bedroom. It might be nice sleeping more than 3 feet away from Alex.

Converted buses in Quartzsite, AZ

With the display trailers being locked up, we abandon exploring and head back to camp to chat with Marilee and get dinner going. The converted bus contingent has grown stronger in our absence.


Day 17 & 18: 01/12 & 01/13/2016 – Oro Valley, AZ

Destination: Oro Valley, AZ Day17Route

Route: US-60W, NM-12E, US-180E, AZ-78W, US-191S, I-10W

Mileage: 390 miles

New state: Arizona

We have a schedule to keep, and Guy and Sharon have commitments. We had a wonderful visit and hit the road around 9 am. Guy gave us some excellent advice on a scenic route to Oro Valley. Since we can’t achieve 65 mph anyway on the highway anyway, the scenic route fits right into our agenda.

Cell phone photo of the VLA.

The drive does not disappoint. We drive by the NRAO Very Large Array (VLA – think the movie ‘Contact’) and are surprised that it is so compact. We cross railroad tracks and discover, with a bit of research, that the tracks are for moving the arrays around the valley. There are beautiful high mountain meadows along the drive.


We see snow again the Gila National Forest, and, alas for Penny, do not stop. It should be noted that this part of the trip is pretty desolate and there are not many opportunities for gas and even fewer for diesel. We are glad for the topped of tank before leaving Socorro and stop in Safford, AZ to fill up and purchase Powerball tickets (did not win).

On I-10, it is very strange to see so much traffic after the isolation in West Texas and New Mexico. We arrive at our friends Nils and Felicia’s house around 7 to a delicious dinner. The dogs are thrilled to be allowed into the house; all our previous stops they stayed in the RV overnight. Alex is put to bed and laundry is done while catching up.

Dave hard at work at RestoCycle

The next day, Nils takes Dave to visit his business, RestoCycle, which does  vapor blasting and restores Japanese motorcycles. Jess, sensing that this trip could take awhile, opts to relax at the house with Alex and Felicia. This is a wise call because Dave is shanghaied into motorcycle repair. Although, one could argue, he seems awful happy about it. Another fantastic dinner and off for to sleep on a real mattress one last time before our final week in the RV. It was a great rejuvenation stop with Nils and Felicia.

February 18, 2016: Tasting Notes (Sunset Pale Ale, Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout)

First tasting of the beers was 2/13/2016. A second tasting was conducted on 2/18/2016. Of course we drank the beers between tastings! Check out this post for details for brew day and this post for details from kegging day.

Overall, we are pleased with the beers and continue to learn through the process.

Sunset Pale Ale:

2/13/2016 – Golden in appearance with a hint of red. Beer is cloudy. Excellent foam. Aroma was piney hop notes with underlying citrus. Drier finish that is bitter and slight astringent. Lingering bitterness, but not unpleasant. Paired well with food, especially foods with higher fat content (think cheese). Beer was tasted in the early afternoon.

2/18/2016 – Piney hop notes are diminished and there is now an oxidized character to the aroma. The chemical responsible for this character is trans-2-nonenal. Bitterness reduced and astringency increased. Tasting was done early evening.

Off aromas likely from oxidation due to a poor keg purge. There was also a significant amount of head space in the keg after beer was transferred in. Keg was also rinsed with chlorinated water instead of water passed through a charcoal filter. We will see if any aromas that could be attributed to 2,6-dichlorphenol. We also do not know what our water chemistry is at our rental; the chemistry could impact the flavor and stability of the beer, and may impact the pale ale style more significantly than others. It is fun operating in the blind.

Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout:

2/13/2016 – Dark brown, almost black in appearance. Excellent foam that was very stable. To borrow from wine tasting, the beer has ‘legs’ and coats the glass after swirling. Aroma contained roasted, chocolate and coffee characteristics. No noticeable hop character. Sweet and bitter characters with a silky mouth feel. Lingering bitterness, but not unpleasant. Beer is drinkable, and is filling. Gravity reading and %ABV need to be redone – it feels like it has and ABV higher than 5.5%. Beer was tasted in the early afternoon.

2/18/2016 – Aroma similar, perhaps with a hint of hop starting to come through. No major differences between tastings.

Day 15 & 16: 01/10 & 01/11/2016 – Socorro, NM

Destination: Socorro, NMDay15Route

Route: US-285N, US-380W, I-25N

Mileage: 236

Today we head to Socorro, NM to visit with Dave’s cousin Guy and Guy’s wife Sharon. They have horses so we have been working hard with Alex that horses are not cows and therefore say ‘neigh’ not ‘moo’. It doesn’t appear to be sticking.

We arrive to a warm welcome and settle in. We originally planned to stay in the RV, but after looking at the weather forecast, we opt for the guest house. The temperatures are supposed to drop into the high teens, too cold for us to stay in Abby.

Settlement on our house is coming up in a few days. We confirm we filled out the paperwork properly and fax the notarized documents back to Dave’s real estate office in Delaware.

After a relaxing dinner, we break out Horse Monopoly once Alex is down for the night. It is a game filled with shifting alliances, business deals gone bad, and a mega-merger. The conglomerate is successful in driving the smaller mom and pop shop out of business and the conversations are a bit testy by the end of the night. Best quote of the night is aimed at Guy by his daughter. ‘It is awful convenient that you decide to become a Democrat in order to win at Horse Monopoly.’

Alex hiking in a Canyon near Socorro, NM.
Alex hiking in a Canyon near Socorro, NM.

Monday we take the dogs and Alex for a hike on some BLM land with Guy and Sharon. The dogs are thrilled to run around and Penny even got to roll in snow that remained in the shady portions of the canyon. Alex is so tired, he falls asleep after 5 minutes in the car.

Later that day we go to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The sandhill cranes aren’t cooperating, but we see a blue heron, ducks (so many ducks), and a mule deer. On the bright side, Alex can clearly identify a horse and even clucked at the chickens.

We have a fabulous time, but need to hit the road again January 12 so Guy and Sharon can return to their regular schedule and to make sure we arrive on time in Davis.

February 12, 2016: Sunset Pale Ale and Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

This is a continuation of the home brew we started January 31, 2016.

Fermentation was finished by February 5, 2016. The couple days intended for the diacetyl rest stretched into about four. After sampling the green beer to obtain a gravity reading, we dropped the temperature to 2 degrees Celsius to facilitate chill haze formation and precipitation. After letting the beer rest a couple more days, we plopped Alex in front of the electronic babysitter while we sanitized and carbon dioxide purged our kegs and transferred the beer. All calculations were performed using the tools found on Brewer’s Friend.

Sunset Pale Ale Stats:

Original Gravity: 1.059

Final Gravity: 1.0265

%ABV: 4.33

IBU: 61

Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Original Gravity: 1.090

Final Gravity: 1.0484

%ABV: 5.51

IBU: 76

Quotes from Stairway to Heaven

‘. . . There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving . . . . Yes, there are two paths you can go by but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on . . .’

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

January 31, 2016: Sunset Pale Ale & Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

So, we decided to take a break from chronicling our move to California to start our home brew diary! So if you are reading this and wondering how we are brewing on the road, well, we are not. The chronicles of our westward journey are being provided after the fact. We arrived at our rental in Davis, CA on January 20, 2016. Perhaps we should have altered you, gentle reader, that this paragraph contained spoilers. Ah well. Check out our travel posts. At the minimum, there are some pretty pictures.

On our travels, we just happened to pass by Concord, CA, home of a More Beer! retail store. Of course we stopped. And bought two all grain kits: Sunset Pale Ale (#583) and Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (#800). The goal was to brew the beautiful weekend of January 23rd, but common sense prevailed. We decided to postpone until we got better settled into our new home and Dave reassembled the brew equipment.

What went right

  1. Strike water temperature to achieve the correct mash. Jess took the time to calculate the heat input required to raise the malt to mashing temperature (Q=m*Cp*(T2-T1); where Cp of the mash is estimated at 1680 J/kg*Celsius). This heat input was then used to calculate the temperature the strike water needed to be heated to in order to achieve the desired temperature at mash in.
  2. Alex enjoyed tasting the malted barley and helping wash and sanitize the hoses. As long what is being cleaned isn’t Alex’s face or hands, he is all for it. He was a good brewer’s assistant. Never fear, once the propane burners were lit, he was safely inside.

What went wrong

  1. The weather. A cooler day, the constant breeze illustrated the powers of convection. Throw in the fact that the wind blew out our burners a couple of times, it is no wonder it took so long to heat our liquids.
  2. Shaking the dust off. It was series of little things because we haven’t brewed in a couple of months. Finding the proper hose with the right couplings, a kettle that was leaking due to the gaskets, remembering that the pump needed to be primed. Those small things add up to some serious lost time.
  3. Chocolate nibs are an impressive clogging agent, especially coupled with a plate chiller. This only emphasizes how our process needs to be refined. We will get there. Nothing a little whirlpool action and some filtration won’t solve.
  4. The amount of water we needed to use to chill our wort. We definitely need to improve our water conservation. Or hide our usage from our neighbor. The target is conservation.

Sunset Pale Ale Recipe and Stats

Grain Bill: 8 lbs American Pale, 2 lbs Munich, 0.5 lbs Carastan, 0.5 lbs Carapils

Hops (Pellets): 1 oz Amarillo 8.5% AA 60′, 0.5 oz Northern Brewer 7.0% AA 30′, 0.5 oz Cascade 5.5% AA 10′, 1 oz Amarillo 8.5% AA 5′, 1 oz Tettnanger 4.6% AA dry hop

Yeast: White Labs Pure Pitch WLP001 California Ale

Original Gravity: 1.059

Final Gravity: TBD

Fermentation Temp: 20 Celsius


  1. Fermentation started by Monday morning.


Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Grain Bill: 15 lbs Two Row, 2 lbs Flaked Oats, 1.5 lbs Pale Chocolate Malt, 1 lb Black Patent, 1 lb Roasted Barley, 1 lb Crystal 15 L, 8 oz Carapils

Hops (Pellets): 4 oz Willamette

Additions: 4 oz Cacao Nibs added with 15′ left in boil

Yeast: White Labs PurePitch WLP001 California Ale

Original Gravity: 1.090

Final Gravity: TBD

Fermentation Temp: 20 Celsius


  1. After mash was finished, the air bubbles on top of the grain bed were multi-colored which is indicative of a good mash.
  2. A lot of trub at end. Clogged the plate chiller pretty quickly.
  3. This is going to be a dark, dark beer.
  4. Fermentation was going around midday Monday.