Saturday, February 21, 2015

Belt sander races dust up Fulton, Texas

Inspecting belt sanders before race. (Julianne G. Crane)
Prior to the beginning of the recent South Texas Belt Sander Race Association sanctioned Saturday afternoon races, hundreds of spectators milled around the 75-foot track behind the Legends Saloon in Fulton, Texas.

Cars, RVs, motorcycles and bicycles started packing the parking lot and side streets shortly after noon. Mostly Winter Texans filled the colorful bleachers, drank beer and rooted for every sander that managed to kick up a cloud of sawdust in the double-elimination races. The sun was out, a festive feel was in the air and everyone was there to have fun watching belt sanders drag races.

For the uninitiated, there are two classes of belt sanders: Stock and Modified.

First of all, however, all sanders must run on 120v power, use an unmodified factory-manufactured sanding belt (grit is driver's choice), be equipped with track guides and wheelie bars or 'outrigging' (to keep sanders centered in the 12-inch wide track), and be no more than 24 inches in length.

The "stock" class sander, says Tommie Giambernard of the South Texas BSRA, "is essentially fresh out of the box. You can make them pretty with a good paint job, but that's all."

'The belt sanders are off and racing.' (Julianne G. Crane)
The "modified" class, on the other hand, has no limits. Racers can do anything to them, as long as they stay within the general requirements (see above). Some racers have been known to spend several thousand dollars modifying the engines to go as fast as 20,000 RPMs. (The average off-the-shelf belt sander runs 1725-3450 RPMs.)

John Hillstrom, an RVer from Puyallup, Wash., wasn't doing anything fancy. "I'm just here to enjoy myself." This is his first season and he is running in the stock category. "I spent a total of $160," he said, "$80 for the sander, $20 for an extended warranty, $20 for sandpaper, $20 for outriggers and $20 for paint."

Legends Saloon (Julianne G. Crane)
If you go:
Legends Saloon
3720 N. Hwy. 35
Fulton, Texas
When: 1st and 3rd Saturday at 2 p.m., Oct.-March

Cost: Free

For more information:
South Texas Belt Sander Race Association

Orginally posted in February 2011, this article was updated with current information on Feb. 21, 2015. To read more about the RV Lifestyle click on

-- Julianne G. Crane

Photo: Top: Spectators inspecting the couple dozen belt sanders lined up near the raceway's starting point. Middle: (l) Tommie Giambernard's stock belt sander noses out John Hillstrom’s entry at a Saturday afternoon race.  Bottom: Sign outside Legends Saloon in Fulton, Texas. (Julianne G. Crane)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Quechan Tribal lands: Great boondocking close to Old Mex

Need your teeth worked on? How about a pair of glasses? Some inexpensive liquor? If you're an Arizona snowbird, one of the most popular border crossing spots into Mexico for prescription drugs, liquor, and shrimp tacos is at Los Algodones, just west of Yuma. The little town has more dentists per capita than there are lobbyists in D.C. But the hang up is, where do you stay with your RV? Yuma's tight-fisted city ordinances prohibit "blacktop boondocking." Yes, you can stay in one of the myriad of RV parks, but if you're a nature lover, or just want to camp for a little less, stick around.

Just north of the border crossing into Mexico the lands are under the control of the Quechan tribe, and those sandy dunes with their mesquite dotted shady spots are available for boondocking--although in some cases, for a price. If you've crossed the All American Canal, you've no doubt seen plenty of rigs up on the bluff overlooking that short stretch of highway that leads to Old Mex. Yep, that's Quechan land, and so is the road running along the south side of the All American Canal. On the canal side of the road, "No Parking" signs are there for a purpose--the American government who controls that side of the road doesn't want you there. Period.

On the south side of that road, particularly farther back on the west end, you'll find folks boondocking alongside the road, and down in the lowlands. Years back, if you decided to "put in," you could be sure to meet up with Rick, the Mayor of the All American Canal. His honor came by the title by right of longevity. Rick had been seasonally staying on here for seeming ages, hunkered down in a older, modest RV. On one visit, he stopped by our rig, ostensibly on his way to a meal-time gathering of other RVers, but in reality, to make sure we weren't--as he describes them--"riff-raff and drug users."

A tall, slender man, who traveled alone and espoused healthy diets and right living, Mayor Rick could easily talk your leg off. At a couple of points other "locals" stopped by to see if we needed rescuing. "Don't believe a word he says!" warned one man. Our "savior" and the mayor exchanged friendly barbs. The Mayor summered in the cooler climate afforded by New Mexico, but spent months down by the canal, in "walking distance" to Los Algodones. Walking distance? Perhaps this said something about Mayor Rick's health--it's a pretty long stroll to Old Mexico, even from here.

It's been a long spell since we've seen the Mayor – it may well be that he's off the scene. But you can still camp on the lands that the Mayor called his own. Here's a couple of notes though: The Quechan Tribe oversees their lands diligently and ask you pay for a permit to stay there. Short-timers, you'll pay $10 a day, per person. If you'd rather stay long-term, you can obtain a permit good for a fiscal year (which starts July 1) for $80, and not only allows camping, but also provides fishing rights. You can get a permit in nearby Winterhaven at the Hub Liquor store, or close to the Old Mex border at the Sleepy Hollow Campground.

Since a dump station and fresh water aren't available here, it may seem a bit steep a price, but as is said, it's one of the few boondocking places within striking distance of Yuma, and certainly handy to the less expensive medicine and dental services of Old Mexico. But if you're riff-raff or a into drugs, be aware: The Mayor doesn't want you here.

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