Boondocking Again, Close Encounter With Goats, Grand Canyon Quickie

Last Monday we left the comforts of civilization when our seven days were up at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams. We unplugged the electrical cord, the water faucet, the sewer hose and the cable TV cord and pulled out of the park about 10:30 AM. While Andy drove Lizzy (the RV) over to the Love’s station to top off the propane tank, I took our empty drinking water jugs to the nearby Safeway to get them refilled. After that, we were on the road.

Topping off the propane at Love’s in Williams before heading out for more boondocking

Our new campsite is one that we found when we were scouting last week. We are located on Forest Road 320 off Highway 64, about 20 miles south of the entrance to the Grand Canyon. It’s one of several pull-offs on the gravel road, and it’s totally off-grid with no hook-ups, and not even a trash dumpster. The space is large enough to accommodate several RVs or campers, but in the five days that we’ve been there we’ve only had one other camper join us at this pull-out, and he was on a motorcycle.

Our campsite on Forest Road 320 near Tusayan AZ

The area is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors. The most prominent feature is nearby Red Butte, which is especially striking in the late afternoon when the setting sun lights up the red rocks at the top of the mountain. There is also a great view of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks from the road, although we can’t see them directly from our campsite.

The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff are visible from FR 320

Red Butte is a popular hiking destination. You can drive to the trailhead, and from there it’s about a 1.5 mile hike to the top where there is a fire lookout station. The trailhead is also the best spot in the area to get good Verizon cellular service. The worst thing about our camping site is the really poor Verizon signal–first thing in the morning I might get two bars of LTE, but by 8:00 AM it drops to one bar, and then it goes to one bar of 1x, essentially no connection. But at the trailhead, I can get two or three bars of LTE consistently.

Red Butte lives up to its name when the sun goes down

On Wednesday I drove up to the trailhead with my laptop because I needed to work on the bookkeeping and get some bills paid. When I pulled into the trailhead turnaround, I saw a guy standing there with two goats. I rolled down the window and introduced myself, and found out that his name is Bruce, and he is the guy that works at the fire lookout station at the top of the butte. The goats, Josephine and her billy kid (unnamed) showed up at his station about a year ago. He posted their pictures on social media trying to find the owner, but was not successful, so the goats have been with him ever since. However, he says he knows it’s just a matter of time before “regulations” catch up with him, so he decided to find a new home for them.

Josephine and her billy kid, who have been living at the fire lookout station with Bruce

Bruce located a woman in Williams who raises goats and also does animal rescues. When I met him on Wednesday, he had just hiked down the mountain with the goats to meet the woman who was coming to pick them up. You could tell that he was so attached to them, but thankfully he was able to find them a good home. As I was driving back to the campsite, I met the woman driving up the mountain in her truck. Later as we were in our campsite, I heard a goat bleating, and then I saw her truck go by with the two goats in large crates in the back. Josephine was saying goodbye to Bruce, and it was a little sad, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy their new surroundings with lots of other goats.

As a side note, Bruce told me he had been working at the lookout station for over twenty years, but that his job was gradually being phased out with the implementation of drones. He’s an artist (landscape painter), so the gig at the top of the mountain has been perfect for him. His wife is a singer and she’s on the road a lot. He said he gets about ten visitors a week in the spring and fall, hikers who brave the 1.5-mile trail to the station. He said he really enjoys getting visitors!

The weather has been very nice this week. We built a fire pit and gathered some of the plentiful deadwood in the area, so we were able to have a good campfire on Tuesday night. We even made s’mores!

We had a beautiful campfire and made s’mores

Besides the poor cellular reception, the only other drawback to this beautiful camping spot is the distance we are from groceries and services. We knew that there wouldn’t be many options for groceries and that they would be expensive, so we stocked up with extra food before we left Williams. But we still need to dump the tanks at least every seven days. The two closest options for doing that are an RV park in Tusayan, or the dump station at Mather Campground inside the National Park (about five miles further).

We did some research online and found that the dump station at the RV park in Tusayan does allow non-guests to pay to dump, but that they do not allow non-guests to refill their water tanks. However, they do sell propane. We also found out that the dump station in the National Park is free, and we could also refill the water tank AND get free drinking water. So we decided we would be using the facilities inside the park, especially since we can enter the park for free with Andy’s senior pass.

Yesterday we decided to drive into the National Park in the pickup truck to make sure Andy could find the dump station–when you’re driving an RV it helps to know the lay of the land ahead of time. We found it easily enough, and were immediately grossed out to find a guy with his RV parked there, dumping his black tank without the proper attachment to the ground receptacle, so the sewage was just flowing out onto the ground around the hole. Disgusting!! What is wrong with people?? Thankfully he had enough sense to hose down the area and wash everything down the sewer hole before he left.

We took the time to visit the Marketplace in the park and found that they have a lot more grocery options (even vegan groceries) than are available at the small market at Tusayan. Of course, they’re not cheap–a large avocado was $1.89, but those were over $2 each in Tusayan. I bought a new water bottle since my old one had broken that morning, and we bought a loaf of bread and two avocados (yes, we’re addicted to avocados).

After that, we dropped by the Park Headquarters and talked to a ranger about the camping options in the park. As we expected, they would charge us as two vehicles instead of one, simply because we are not physically towing the truck. If they were connected when we drove in the park, they would only charge us for one–this is a policy that really needs to be addressed. Anyway, she was nice about it and offered us some options for reducing the cost, mainly by getting an $80 annual pass for me until I turn 62 and can get my own lifetime $80 senior pass.

Next we decided to take a short hike from the Headquarters building to the rim of the canyon. We’ve been there many times before–in fact, we tent-camped in Mather Campground back in the day–but it never fails to leave me awestruck. We took a few photos and met some nice people from Pennsylvania, heard lots of different languages, and tried not to freak out when all the schoolkids were running around near the rim.

Beautiful day to be at the rim of the Grand Canyon

We didn’t stay too long, as we do plan to return next week and spend a longer day seeing more of the canyon. On the drive back to camp, we stopped in Tusayan for lunch at a local pizza place–had a veggie pizza and a Peroni. We brought half the pizza home with us for another lunch this weekend.

As we were leaving the pizza place, we decided to stop by the local RV park to find out what they charge for their propane and dump station. When Andy talked to them he found out that they actually DO allow non-guests to fill up their water tanks for $7, and that the dump fee is $7. They sell propane for $4.80/gallon (as she said, they’re the only game in town!!). Since they do provide all the services we need, Andy will probably just dump the tanks there instead of driving into the Park as we originally planned, even though it will cost us $14 extra.

Yesterday we had a cold front move through and it was extremely windy all day. Today (Friday) it’s about 15 degrees cooler, and it’s supposed to get even cooler next week, dipping below freezing each night. We actually considered leaving our camp and moving over to Kingman for a few days, but then decided we could deal with it, as long as we have propane in the tanks for the furnace. We’ll just have to be careful to make sure the water lines don’t freeze overnight.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying going for regular hikes each morning. The surroundings are beautiful with lots of flowers still blooming. We’ve had a large jackrabbit come through our camp several times, but we haven’t had any more sightings of elk around our camp since we were there on our original scouting expedition, even though there are elk tracks everywhere.

Some of the beautiful blooms in the Kaibab National Forest right now

So our immediate plans are to stay where we are for the full fourteen days we are allowed, and then we’ll move, most likely to a different free boondocking spot closer to the Grand Canyon entrance at Tusayan. In order to get one of the first-come, first-serve campsites inside the Park at Desert View Campground, we would need to be there by 8:00 AM, and one of us does not do mornings very well. But as usual, plans are subject to change, especially when it comes to the weather. We’ll also need to make a re-supply trip to Safeway in Williams when our fresh produce runs out, but otherwise we are pretty much committed to living in this area for the time being.

On a side note, this blog hit a milestone this week with our 100th subscriber! Thanks to everyone who is interested enough to follow along with our adventures by subscribing!

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Towing vs Driving, Plans Change Again, Scouting Near the Grand Canyon

Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful maternal people out there! Today is one of those days that I really miss being near my family, especially my own amazing Mom. I hope you all have a beautiful day with all the happiness you so richly deserve!

Today is our last full day here at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams, Arizona. We’ve been parked here for a week while this freaky weather system moves through. We’re finally getting more hours of sunshine than rain and the temperatures are starting to warm up a little bit. It’s been nice to have the full hookups here with unlimited electricity, water and sewage dump. We hooked up to the TV cable, but haven’t used it at all–we just don’t watch TV anymore.

On Friday we decided to check out some other camping options in the Williams area. We first drove down a Forest Service Road to look for some free boondocking sites. We found a lot of people camped out there, but it was extremely muddy from all the rain. There were some large ruts in some of the empty campsites where it looked like folks had struggled to get their rigs out. It’s a beautiful area, and after the sun warms up and dries it out, it would be a nice camping option.

Next we drove through the Kaibab Lake Campground, which is also part of the National Forest. The lake is beautiful, and they have a lot of first-come, first-served campsites available, as well as sites that can be reserved. When we pulled up to the information kiosk, we were immediately met by the campground host. In our conversation, he told us that we would have to pay an extra fee for our pickup, since we aren’t towing it. The fee schedule for the campsites state that if you are in a motorhome towing a vehicle, you’re considered one vehicle for fee purposes. However, since we aren’t physically towing the pickup, we don’t get the same treatment.

We’ve run into this same rule before, both in New Mexico and in other campgrounds in Arizona, and in every case, they understood that the motorhome is where we live and it stays put, and the pickup is our daily driving vehicle. We have never been charged for an extra vehicle before. It makes absolutely no sense that a 40′ Class A motorhome towing a Jeep can camp for less than we can in our 24′ Class C, driving our pickup separately.

I called the local Forest Service supervisor’s office to try to get some clarification, and they said they would check into it for us. All they did was call the camp host (who is actually a concessionaire), who told them the same thing they told us. The person at the supervisor’s office agreed with me that it didn’t make sense, but said they didn’t make the rules.

We do get a 50% discount on the camping fees in National Forest campgrounds, but that isn’t the point. We shouldn’t have to pay anything extra for our truck just because we aren’t physically towing it. So, long story longer, we won’t be staying at that particular campground, even though it is beautiful.

After keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, we could see that it was going to be quite warm in Golden Valley, where we had already made reservations at an RV park for Monday through Wednesday (13th-15th). It’s also supposed to start warming up and getting more sunny here where we are, so yesterday we decided to drive up Highway 64 to check out some boondocking possibilities close to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Generally, you can do dispersed camping for free on National Forest land as long as you are at least 1/4 mile off the main road, and you don’t camp in any area that is specifically prohibited by signage. Once we got into the National Forest about 15 miles south of Tusayan, we started driving down the Forest Roads to see what was available. And there are a LOT of beautiful, empty campsites that are currently a little damp, but are fine for camping. They are generally large pull-outs on the side of the gravel road, and they have fire pits already built that indicate the best spots to camp. We were looking for a site that had some vegetation for privacy, but not so much shade that we can’t get plenty of solar power.

Each road we went down was a little different. The first one we explored was the least muddy, and we saw some elk along the way (and we also found a large skeleton of one in one of the campsites we looked at). We found a campsite that was absolutely perfect with a beautiful view of nearby Red Bluff, the only downside being that the cellphone signal was pretty weak.

Not sure if this is a good camp spot or not–looks like this elk wasn’t too lucky.

The second road we drove down was interesting with an old stone and adobe structure at the entrance, but the campsites were more muddy and there were power lines running down the side of the road. We didn’t see anything that really excited us on this road, although it would do in a pinch.

Not sure what this structure was meant for but it has a small room in the base.

The third road had some beautiful sites, but was even muddier still, and there was even some snow still on the ground in the shadier areas. Even so, there were more people already camped in this area, and it will be a great possibility after it warms up and dries out some.

The fourth road we checked was a complete bust. We found a large camping area right inside the entrance, but then we looked over and saw what looked like a dumping area. When we checked it out closer we found that it was a shooting range and the ground was covered in trash and empty shotgun shell casings. People, if you want to go out on public land and shoot your guns, that’s your right, but at least pick up your garbage, you lazy bums!!

Rant over.

After leaving there, we reached Tusayan, the small village at the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. We stopped at Starbucks for some coffee and to review what we had found. While there, we checked out the adjoining market to see what our options would be for groceries and supplies while camping in the area (very small selection of produce at high prices). We quickly determined that if we camp there, we’ll need to stock up well ahead of time and be prepared to drive at least 50 miles to Williams or Flagstaff for real grocery shopping.

After we left Starbucks, we checked out a couple more Forest Roads, found some more elk and some more beautiful camping areas. Of course since this was closer to the National Park, there were more people already camped in the area, despite the mud, but we decided that we might move there in a couple of weeks when things are drier.

We were lucky enough to see several elk on our explorations. These were not shy at all.

So after a long afternoon of exploration, we definitely decided that we are NOT moving to Golden Valley, and that we are going boondocking again. We’ll start out at the first campsite that we found on Forest Road 320, and then as things dry out we’ll probably move north, closer to the National Park.

Today (Sunday), we’re getting prepared to leave the amenities of this very nice RV park, and head back to the woods. Andy has already fixed one of our kitchen drawers this morning, as it wasn’t latching properly and we didn’t want it to fly open while we’re driving. After lunch we’re going to drive to Flagstaff to hit up Walmart for groceries and supplies for about the next 10 days. Tomorrow morning we’ll enjoy one last shower with unlimited hot water before we hit the road to go north.

We’ve definitely enjoyed our stay here, and certainly recommend this park to anyone who is traveling through the Williams area. But it will be nice to have some privacy and open space around us again for a change. And of course, we plan to visit the Grand Canyon at least once while we’re in this area. With Andy’s senior pass, we get free entrance to the park, so we’ll probably go more than once.

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Forest Boondocking, Moving to Williams, Watching the Weather

In our last regular blog post, we had just arrived at our boondocking spot on Forest Road 237 in the Coconino National Forest just southwest of Flagstaff. The day we arrived (Monday, April 29) was rainy and cool, and we even had hail on our first night there. The next day was overcast but didn’t rain, and after that the sun came out and dried out the area pretty well for the rest of the week.

Arriving at our campsite on a rainy day

Our camp was in a beautiful setting of ponderosa pine and Kaibab limestone rock outcroppings. It was located on the rim of a good-sized canyon with a creek flowing at the bottom. I did several hikes through the forest along the creek (couldn’t talk Andy into going with me), and made my way down to the creek in several different locations.

Pumphouse Wash is a beautiful stream flowing through Kaibab limestone cliffs

My hikes weren’t very long, but I did a lot of climbing on the rocks, especially when I was searching for one particular geocache that I never did locate.

I saw several caves in the cliffs but wasn’t brave enough to explore them

On Thursday we took one of my favorite drives in the world, from our campsite down Oak Creek Canyon on Highway 89A to Sedona. The lower we went in elevation, the greener the vegetation became until it was so lush with spring growth that everything had an emerald glow. The contrast between the green of the trees, the red rocks towering above, and the blue sky was just as beautiful as I remembered.

We’ve visited Sedona as a couple many, many times since we married in 1991, but Andy, having been born and raised in Phoenix, remembers when Sedona was just a small crossroads with a few stores. I can totally understand why so many people want to visit or live there, but the unrelenting increase in traffic and tourists is gradually over-powering and hiding the natural beauty of the area. (And yes, I totally “get” that I’m a part of the problem whenever I visit there.)

Iconic view of Sedona from the airport overlook

So many of the places where we used to spend time hiking or just sitting on a rock enjoying the peace and solitude are now fenced off and regulated, and many require payment of a fee to visit or to park. The airport overlook next to the Sky Ranch Lodge where we always stayed when we visited Sedona now has a $3 parking fee. And when we tried to pull in at Slide Rock State Park simply to visit the market and buy some fresh apple cider, the entry fee was $20 just to drive through the gate, so we declined and left without our cider.

Walking around uptown Sedona on the hunt for the perfect t-shirt

We still love Sedona–we have so many good memories of our time spent there. But we much prefer to get out of the city limits and visit the red rocks or Oak Creek where it’s less congested. We knew about a popular boondocking area on Loy Butte Road about nine miles west of Sedona, so we drove out that way to check it out. It’s a long gravel road that gets pretty bumpy in places, but the further you go, the more beautiful the scenery becomes. Just as we decided we would be hesitant to bring Lizzy that far back on a bumpy road, we came upon a campsite where there were three very large, very nice Class A motorhomes camped together. If they can make it back there, I know we could too!

The rest of our week in camp was pretty quiet. We drove into Flagstaff a couple of times for groceries and supplies. Andy spent a couple of days doing some maintenance on the rig, sealing up some places where water was seeping in. He replaced one of the running lights on top of the cab, just to make sure it wasn’t the source of a leak.

Handy Andy doing some rig maintenance while the sun shines

Our original plan was to stay in that spot for the full 14-day limit, but as the weekend approached the weather forecast became wetter and wetter. We were parked at the lowest part of the campground, and we knew that if we got several days of rain in a row, it was just going to become a mud-pit. And perhaps the biggest discouragement was that there was almost no internet access in that spot–most of the time it was one bar of 3G on Verizon. If we were going to be stuck in the rig for several days of rain, thunderstorms and hail, we wanted to at least have good internet so we could entertain ourselves.

So we decided to cut our stay short in the forest, and head to civilization. We have a Passport American membership that allows us to stay at certain parks for half-price (subject to the usual black-out dates and other restrictions). I checked around and found us an RV park in Williams, Arizona, about 30 miles west of Flagstaff. So on Monday morning we packed up and moved west.

We’re now staying at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. With our discount, and after taxes and fees, we’re paying just over $28/day for our full-hookup site which includes electricity, water, sewer, cable TV, and surprisingly fast wi-fi. There’s a laundry room, along with very nice showers (unlimited hot water!!), and we have access to the fitness room at the hotel which is also part of the property. Technically we have access to the pool and hot tub also, but they just happened to be down for repairs this week. Just our luck.

Our campsite for the week while we wait for the nasty weather to blow through

We have a love/hate relationship with RV parks. One the one hand, we thoroughly enjoy the amenities. The showers are amazing (yes, we can shower in the rig, but our water pressure is lower, and plus, we have to move the big litter box out of the shower every time we want to use it, so why not use the park’s showers?). I was able to get our laundry done yesterday, and the cost of the machines is much lower than if we went to a typical laundromat. We’re saving money on propane since we can run the hot water heater and refrigerator on the electrical hookup, and we can use our small electric heater instead of the propane furnace to heat the rig. We’re not having to run the generator to power the microwave or convection oven, or to top off our batteries because of the clouds, so we’re saving on gas. Of course there’s much less privacy and a little more noise, although this park has been very quiet so far, except for the thunder, hail and the occasional train that goes by. It’s not nearly as scenic as our spot in the forest, but we’re within walking distance of all the restaurants and shops along Route 66 in Williams, as well as a nearby Safeway grocery store.

Awesome shower facilities at Grand Canyon Railroad RV Park

Since we’ve been here, the nasty weather has delivered as forecast. We’ve had thunderstorms with heavy lightning, along with a couple fairly heavy hailstorms. Fortunately the hailstones were small enough that I don’t think they’ve done any damage, but it’s awfully noisy inside the rig when they’re beating on the roof and especially the plastic vent covers. We’ll have to check those covers carefully for cracks after the rain stops.

Another hail storm, makes me so glad we’re not tent-camping!

On our first evening here, we walked to the nearby Grand Canyon Brewery for a happy hour beverage and some dinner. We started with an order of fried dill pickles, then Andy had the veggie burger and I had the fish and chips. The fries were excellent, but the battered cod was just so-so.

Beer-battered cod and fries at Grand Canyon Brewery

Yesterday there was a break in the weather during the afternoon, so we got out and explored downtown Williams. We started with ice cream and coffee at Twisters 50’s Diner, a super-cute soda fountain/bar/diner/souvenir shop on Route 66. Then we spent another hour or so just walking up and down the street checking out the various shops and restaurant menus. There are a surprising number of veggie options here in town, so we’ll probably take advantage of some of them before we leave.

This town has more Elvis memorabilia than any town we’ve seen since we left Tupelo. There are Elvis statues all over town, along with Elvis fortune-tellers and an animated Elvis sitting behind the wheel of a vintage automobile, waving at passers-by.

Andy and Elvis in the Twisters 50’s Diner

When we booked our stay in this park, we booked for four nights, expecting the weather to clear up by the weekend. However, the most recent forecasts show continued rain and cooler weather, so we contacted the office this morning and extended our stay through Sunday night, so we’ll spend a total of seven nights here (that’s the limit for our Passport America discount). Then we booked three nights (next Monday through Wednesday) at another Passport America park in Golden Valley, near Kingman, where the weather should be drier and warmer. By then, this freaky cold, wet system should be moved out of the area, and we plan to return to the Flagstaff area to spend more time before it warms up for the summer.

But, plans are just invitations for the gods to laugh at us, so they say. But that’s the advantage of having our home on wheels–we can move it when the weather changes, so we don’t have to stay in a place where we are uncomfortable or unhappy. Yes, we have rain and hail here, but we have all the utilities we need, we’re warm and dry, and between rain showers we have plenty of entertainment. And we have high-speed wi-fi, so what could be better? 🙂

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Monthly Full-time RV Living Expense Report – April 2019

It’s time once again for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life. We live in a 24′ Thor Chateau 22E Class C RV with our two cats, Maggie and Molly. We do not have a sticks-and-bricks home base, but travel wherever the weather takes us as we chase 70°.

First, a reminder of the caveats related to our expenses. Every RVer is different–different rig, different diet, different interests–so our expenses are unique to us. Also, I’m not going to share every single personal expense that we incur each month, but only the ones that are directly related to our RV life in some way.

We’ve just completed our eighth full month on the road. In this post, I’ll be sharing the most recent three months’ expenses as well as our average-to-date for comparison, since line items can change drastically from month to month.

In April we spent the first two weeks boondocking in the desert along Bloody Basin Road, just off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona. The next two weeks we treated ourselves to a little more “civilization” by staying at Hilltop Campground, a US Forest Service developed campground in the Prescott National Forest just outside Prescott, Arizona. There were no hookups there, but they did have a vault toilet as well as a dumpster for trash. The sites are normally $18/night, but with Andy’s senior pass, we paid half price. After reaching our 14-day limit there, we moved on to more free boondocking in the Coconino National Forest just outside of Flagstaff where we are currently located.

All set up at Camp Sunset, our new home on Bloody Basin Road.

We had one large RV-related expenditure this month–we bought a new mattress! We ordered a custom mattress from MattressInsider.com due to the irregular size and cut of the bed platform. The cost was $496, including shipping, and we are very happy with the mattress so far! On the other side of the ledger, we got an unexpected refund from the dentist in Yuma where we had our dental work done in March. Our insurance paid more than they expected, so they refunded us $428. Happy days!!

Here are our expenses for April:

Camping fees + Electricity

February: $63 – Still in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA, so no actual expenditures, just the prorated cost of our annual passes.

March: $68 – No out-of-pocket camping fees for the LTVA, the BLM site on Vulture Mine Road, or driveway-surfing in Yarnell. This figure is just the prorated cost of our annual passes.

April: $168 – We boondocked for free on Bloody Basin Road (BLM land), as well as our current location in the National Forest. We paid $126 ($9/night for 14 nights) at Hilltop Campground, and the remainder is the prorated cost of our annual passes to New Mexico state parks and the BLM LTVAs (expired April 15).

Eight month average: $179

Our little solar farm at our campsite in Hilltop Campground

DUMPING FEEs

February: $48 – Dumped our tanks and filled up with fresh water every 6 days @ $12/visit at the nearby Chevron station.

March: $56 – Dumped three times @$12/visit at the Chevron station by the LTVA, and then twice @$10/visit in Wickenburg while on BLM land on Vulture Mine Road.

April: $50 – Dumped once in Wickenburg ($10) on April 1 on our way to Bloody Basin Road, then twice while we were boondocked there. We had to dump at the local RV parks, which charged $20. While we were camped at Hilltop Campground, we dumped at Affinity RV Service in Prescott Valley where they offer free dumps and water.

Eight month average: $30

Fuel for the RV

February: $0 – Stayed in place all month, 20.4 generator hours and we still have about half a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.

March: $141 – Filled up the rig twice. The first fill-up was in Yuma when we left the LTVA. It was the first time we had filled the tank since December 27, so almost all that fuel was used by the generator over three months’ time. The total generator time in that period was 56 hours. The second fill-up was later that same day, after the drive from Yuma to Wickenburg. It took us 23.4 gallons to drive 173 miles, averaging 7.4 MPG.

April: $141 – We moved three times, and filled up the rig each time we moved. We drove a total of 331 miles and used the generator a total of 20.7 hours. We bought 48 gallons of gas, and averaged approximately 8.5 MPG, net of generator use. Our average gas price in April was $2.94/gallon–it’s definitely going up.

Eight month average: $155

Fuel for the Truck

February: $113 (49 gal, 17.6 MPG)

March: $92 (36 gal, 18.9 MPG)

April: $130 (45 gal, 18.2 MPG)

Eight month average: $155

Sunset at our camp on Bloody Basin Road

PROPANE

February: $62 (17.7 gallons) – The weather got a little cooler in the middle of February, but then it really warmed up in the past week, so our heating costs remained about the same, as did our cooking usage. Propane is still $3.49/gallon at Chevron.

March: $56 (17.4 gallons) – The weather continued to warm up in March. We topped off the propane four times. The first two were at the Chevron by the LTVA at $3.49/gal, and the last two were in Wickenburg at $1.99/gal. That’s a great example of the difference in fuel prices and taxes between California and Arizona.

April: $43 (17.6 gallons) – Although our propane use was just slightly higher, our cost was lower due to buying it in Arizona instead of California. The highest we paid was $3.09, the lowest was $1.90.

Eight month average: $36

groceries

February: $558 – This month appears higher but it’s kind of a timing thing as we did a big Costco haul on February 1, and we also bought weekly groceries on February 28. We’re not eating or drinking any more than usual.

March: $539 – There isn’t a Walmart store in Wickenburg, so we did our grocery shopping at Safeway and Basha’s (once). Grocery prices in those stores are at least 25% higher than they are at Walmart where we usually shop, and the quality was not any better on the produce.

April: $575 – In addition to our usual grocery shopping, we stocked up on some bulk goods at Sprouts and Sam’s Club.

Eight month average: $508

NOTE: We primarily eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet so we buy a lot of fresh produce and whole grains, along with some wine/beer. We buy very little processed foods in boxes and cans, although we do buy canned beans and tomatoes.

dining out

February: $184 – We go to the nearby casino every Friday morning for their $5.95 breakfast buffet. We had lunch in Los Algodones (Mexico) once this month, and we also had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma called Chretins (family operated since 1946). We had our Valentine’s Day dinner at an Asian restaurant called Sesame’s Kitchen because our first two choices were overbooked.

March: $243 – While we were in Yuma we treated ourselves to the breakfast buffet at the nearby Quechan Casino every Friday morning ($5.95 plus tax). We also tried out several Mexican and Italian places in Yuma, Wickenburg and Yarnell. We did not eat at a single chain or fast-food restaurant. Eat local!!

April: $201 – We drove up to Yarnell last week and met our friends John and Helen at Gilligan’s Pizza for lunch–so yummy! We also tried out a Thai restaurant in Prescott that was pretty good. We also visited Starbucks for a treat, and after our purchases on our loyalty cards, the balance on both our cards was below our threshold for automatic replenishment; so $50 of this month’s dining expenditure was just cash being reloaded on our Starbucks cards for future visits.

Eight month average: $217

NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂

household / furnishings

February: $205 – Includes purchase of Turbotax software, an external hard drive for my laptop, a new chair for Andy to use when working on jewelry (someday), and a new vegan cookbook which was authored by some of our favorite full-time RVers.

March: $193 – Includes $99 annual subscription for 1TB of space on Dropbox, which we use for cloud storage of our files, including backups of important data.

April: $546 – Includes $496 for new mattress, and $11 to dispose of old one.

The new mattress in place. Fits perfectly!

Eight month average: $154

These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.

petcare

February: $7 – Kitties are doing very well!

March: $46 – Replaced the litter box with a large storage tote, dumped all the old litter and started with fresh. We’ve switched to a more expensive litter that is dust-free and odor-free, and it seems to have helped Molly’s allergy problem.

April: $70 – Stocked up on the newer dust-free litter as well as their treats.

Eight month average: $67

These numbers include cat food, litter, treats and the occasional toy for our two kitties, Maggie and Molly. Will also include vet visits when needed.

verizon cellphone / internet

February: $276

March: $276

April: $276

Eight month average: $267

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them in the fall of 2017. We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop and the Roku. We are now on the AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled. Once the phones are paid off this fall, the monthly charge should drop by $66/month unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

February: $45 – Had mail forwarded twice to get all the tax documentation. Also extended the scanning service for another three months at $10/month.

March: $10 – Paid the nearby Chevron station $3 to accept packages for us so Andy could order some maintenance items from Amazon. Had mail forwarded to us once in Wickenburg.

April: $14 – Had mail forwarded to us twice, once in Prescott and once in Flagstaff.

Eight month average: $18

Laundry

February: $17 – One trip to the Yuma laundromat, three large loads.

March: $25 – Did the regular laundry once in Yuma. In Wickenburg we had to wash all the bedding once when one of the kitties had a little accident on the bed.

April: $15 – Did laundry once in Prescott Valley.

Eight month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

February: $96 – We visited the Yuma Territorial Prison Historical Site, which cost us $14. Also includes parking fee and tips for musicians for our daytrip to Los Algodones, a puzzle book for me, and a Kindle book for Andy.

March: $103 – We spent $30 to visit the old Vulture Mine site (overpriced, IMO). I also purchased a new hiking pack with water bottle for desert hiking.

April: $51 – Just the monthly subscriptions listed below.

Eight month average: $85

These numbers include our subscriptions to Netflix, Audible, Spotify, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.

Antique store and saloon in Crown King

memberships

February: $40 – Annual membership dues for Escapees (they handle our mail service and we get discounted rates in their parks).

March: $136 – Annual membership fee for AAA Roadside assistance. We have the premium plan that also covers the RV.

April: $0

Eight month average: $36

Equipment for RV

February: $28 – Andy ordered a new high-tech caulking gun to take care of some maintenance on the rig.

March: $35 – Caulk removal tool, tubing for use in filling the fresh water tank, a turkey baster to use when filling the house batteries with distilled water, and a utility knife and blades.

April: $7 – Blind spot mirrors, drain pan and funnel for generator oil change.

Eight month average: $370 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)

RV Maintenance & REpairs

February: $28 – Hooray, nothing broke on the rig this month! We bought two tubes of Dicor lap sealant so Andy can do a little preventative maintenance on the rig.

March: $24 – Replaced the air admittance valve under the bathroom sink to remove odors coming from the black tank ($8). Also purchased some shop towels and mineral spirits for caulking work (that still hasn’t been done).

April: $63 – Bought PVC pipe to replace old dryer vent hose mounted under the rig to hold the “stinky slinky” (sewer drain hose), after the old dryer vent hose basically disintegrated. Also purchased air filters and oil to perform an oil change on the Onan generator.

Eight month average: $96

The generator gets an oil and air filter change

truck maintenance & repairs

February: $0

March: $70 – Oil change, filters replaced, got the truck washed

April: $0

Eight month average: $10

NOTE: We drive a 2004 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner pickup with a camper shell on the back as our chase vehicle (not towed). It has just over 107K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.

Vehicle insurance

We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV. In March, the monthly cost for the truck increased from $40/mo to $49/mo.

VEhicle License and registration

Of course we paid the annual license and registration up front in September but for expense tracking purposes, I’m prorating it across the year. It’s $22/mo for the RV and $17/mo for the truck.

Summary

So those are our RV living expenses for the last three months:

February Total: $1,904

March Total: $2,257

April Total: $2,495

Eight month average: $2,518

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. In December we drove more, continued putting together our solar system, and had some additional maintenance items to attend to, so our expenses were higher than we would have liked, even with the free boondocking. In January,  February and early March, we had much better months in terms of our pocketbooks while eating well, entertaining ourselves, staying warm and dry and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and interesting culture along the southern border. In mid-March we started moving again, changing locations about every two weeks, so the fuel costs go up.

Now that springtime is here and the temperatures are finally starting to rise, we will continue to move as often as necessary to stay comfortable. Our goal is still to boondock on public lands, keeping our camping fees as low as possible. However, we still have about half a year left on our New Mexico annual pass, so we will most likely head in that direction where we can camp in the state parks with electricity for the air conditioner at $4/night. We’ll just follow the weather and go where we think there’s something beautiful and interesting to see outside our windows each day.

Enjoying the view just outside Crown King, AZ

We’ll continue to closely monitor our expenses and will report them here on a monthly basis. So if you’re interested, be sure to subscribe to this blog so you get all our updates. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to stay up with us between blog posts.

New Boondocking Spot Near Flagstaff, Rain, Hail and Mud

Note: We have a less-than-optimal cell signal at our new camp, so I’m not able to upload photos to the blog today.

Yesterday (Monday) was moving day, as we had reached the fourteen-day limit on our stay in the Hilltop Campground in the Prescott National Forest outside of Prescott, Arizona. We were a little sad to leave such a nice place, but it was time to move on.

We pulled out of camp about 9:30 AM. Our first stop was at the Arco station in Prescott to fill up both vehicles with gas. Since the station is located right across from Costco, they match Costco’s price at $2.89/gallon, the lowest in the area. Our next stop was in Prescott Valley at Affinity RV Service, where they sell propane and provide a dump station and potable water at no charge. There were a couple of rigs ahead of us in line, so it took us just over an hour to get finished up, but it was totally worth the time to save $20 on dumping the tanks. Thanks so much, Affinity, for taking care of RVers!!

Finally we were on the road north. We took Highway 169 from Dewey-Humbolt over to I-17, and it was such a beautiful drive through some country we hadn’t seen before. Once we got on I-17 North, we were in familiar territory, making the descent into Verde Valley and climbing back up the mountains toward the red rocks of Sedona.

 

We stopped at the rest stop near the Sedona exit to grab a sandwich for lunch and give the kitties a break. The weather on the drive had been fine until that point, but as we got ready to pull out we could see rain moving in from the south. The rain caught up with us about ten miles south of Flagstaff, and continued for much of the rest of the day.

We exited the freeway on Highway 89A, topped off the gas in the RV, and then took 89A south for seven miles to Forest Road 273, which is just inside the boundary of the Coconino National Forest. FR 273 (also known as Pumphouse Wash) is a dirt and gravel road; and since it was raining, it was just starting to get muddy. About a mile down the road, you come to the first of four loops of designated campsites. Andy pulled the RV over to the side of the road, and I drove on in the pickup to check out all four of the loops to see which might work best for us. We wound up staying in the first loop since there was only one other site occupied, and we didn’t see any need to drive further down the muddy road.

It took us a few tries to choose a site where we could get reasonably level. These are “primitive” sites that only have a fire ring–no other amenities. The sites are dirt, rock and grass. We had to put three leveling blocks under the right side of the rig to get her level. The whole time we were getting her set up, it was raining lightly, and by the time we got through, our boots were covered in mud.

We had a good dinner, and as we were starting to clean up the dishes, the rain started coming down heavily, and then it began to hail. Fortunately, the hail was small and it didn’t last long. Later, we got lots of lightning and more hail as some thunderstorms moved through. If you’ve ever been in a house with a tin roof in a thunderstorm, you might have some idea of what it sounds like inside an RV during a hailstorm. It was LOUD!

Unfortunately, we had some water get into the rig during all the rain. I first noticed it on the floor just inside the bathroom door. Andy got out the flashlight, pulled a panel off the wall under the wardrobe, and determined that it was most likely coming in through the outside vent to the hot water heater. Just another maintenance item to add to the list before the next rainstorm.

The rain finally stopped sometime around midnight. It was overcast and gloomy most of the morning today, but the clouds have been breaking up this afternoon, enough so that we were able to get a good charge on the batteries from our solar panels. It’s been quite chilly today, with temperatures in the 50’s and a good breeze blowing.

This afternoon we drove into Flagstaff to run a few errands–went by the post office to pick up our mail, stopped by the bank to deposit a check that came in the afore-mentioned mail, went to Sam’s Club to stock up on the dried herbs that we use in our salad dressing as well as meds for allergies (mine are getting better but Andy’s starting to have symptoms), and then we stopped by a local park to dispose of our trash.

Now that we have our errands out of the way, we can do some sight-seeing. Of course, we’re going to drive down to Sedona one day, and we also plan to go up to the Snowbowl to play in the snow a little bit. We couldn’t see the top of Humphrey’s Peak today because of the clouds, but we know the snow is up there!!

Today is the last day of April, so tomorrow I’ll be working on our monthly expense report which will be published here on the blog, so stay tuned. And today is also my Mom’s birthday–HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!! We love you!!

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Fighting Allergies, Lynx Lake, Back to Yarnell, Generator Maintenance

This is our last full day in the Hilltop Campground in the Prescott National Forest just south of Prescott, Arizona. It’s a really lovely campground ($9/night with the senior pass) and we have enjoyed our stay here, with the exception of my seasonal allergy flare-up. Ever since I first visited Arizona in 1991 when Andy brought me here on our honeymoon, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with springtime and early summer in the high country. I’m not sure if it’s the pines, the cottonwoods, or some other plants, but something indigenous to Arizona gets me every time I visit this area around this time of the year.

Our first week here, I had just a little dry cough, but by last weekend it was getting a lot worse with congestion starting to settle in my chest. I knew better than to try to wait it out, so on Monday I went to the local NextCare Urgent Care clinic in Prescott and got a couple of prescriptions to help control the cough and congestion. According to the staff, they’ve been swamped with people just like me who are fighting allergies this time of year, and we met quite a few of them in the waiting room. After taking the meds all week, I am feeling better but still not 100%.

Nothing like a visit to the urgent care to make your Monday special

It really made me sad because there’s so many beautiful hiking trails around here and I really wanted to explore more, but I just did not have the energy or the breathing capacity to do a lot of hiking and climbing. I did take a couple of short walks around the campground, and discovered a beautiful stream called Lynx Creek at the base of the hill where there is a small dam and waterfall.

Lynx Creek in Prescott National Forest

The creek empties out into nearby Lynx Lake which is a very popular destination for fishing and water sports. We drove over to the lake on Friday just to look around. There’s a small marina and store where you can rent boats and canoes. There are some very nice hiking trails all the way around the lake, although the trails on the east side of the lake are closed to foot traffic in the springtime because it’s breeding season for the bald eagles that nest on that side of the lake. (Also, that’s where the wildfire took place that caused us to be evacuated on our fifth day here.)

Lynx Lake in Prescott National Forest

Yesterday (Saturday) we drove a little over an hour to Yarnell, where we met our friends John and Helen for pizza at Gilligan’s. We took the scenic route along AZ Hwy 89 which is a twisty, winding road through the mountains that requires a driver’s full attention. Fortunately, Andy was driving so I got to look at the scenery along the way. It was absolutely stunning, and worth the white knuckles!

We really enjoyed getting to see John and Helen again (you might remember that we camped on their property about a month ago). After enjoying some tasty pizza, we followed them over to their construction site where they are building their new home among the beautiful Yarnell boulders. The project is moving along nicely with a lot of progress having been made since we were last there.

We’ve made a couple of visits to downtown Prescott while here. We found an ice cream shop that we really like, Frozen Frannies, that we sampled twice. When we went downtown on Friday everything was very crowded due to a big bike race that was taking place this weekend. We still really like Prescott, but it’s definitely out-growing a lot of the small Western-town charm that it used to have, and it’s becoming more and more commercialized. Rather sad in a lot of ways, but even smaller towns like Yarnell are starting to “benefit” from the desire of people to move further and further away from the larger cities. Now, if only we could read the future well enough to know where we should invest in real estate!!

We did get a little bit of rig maintenance done while we’ve been here. Our onboard Onan generator seemed to be running a little rough, so Andy changed the oil and the air filter in it. The generator also has an adjustment knob that can be changed according to the altitude, so he tweaked the setting on that as well since we’re currently at about 5,600′. It does seem to be running a little smoother since the maintenance was done.

The generator gets an oil and air filter change

So here it is, Sunday afternoon, and the campground is quiet again after all the weekenders have already cleared out. Tomorrow it will be our time to move on as we will have hit the 14-day limit.

Where to next?

We’re headed further north and higher up, chasing 70­°. We’ve done our research and have identified four potential boondocking spots in the Flagstaff area, ranking them in order of preference. We’ll head out tomorrow morning toward our first choice, and see what happens. If all goes according to plan, we should be about 1400′-1500′ higher in altitude, with about a -6° temperature differential. Tomorrow is supposed to be a little rainy, which doesn’t make for the best traveling weather, but after Tuesday the weather is supposed to be outstanding.

And supposedly the tree pollen isn’t as bad up there!!!

Beautiful Sunday afternoon in Hilltop Campground, our last day here

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Mattress Upgrade, Campground Evacuation Due to Wildfire

Well, our first five days in the Prescott National Forest at the Hilltop Campground have certainly been busy and eventful. After boondocking in the desert for so long with no close neighbors, it’s been a bit of an adjustment getting used to the sounds of people shouting at each other, dogs barking and generators running. But the setting is so pretty, it makes it worthwhile to put up with some minor annoyances. (Yeah, we’re just old and cranky!)

Our little solar farm at our campsite in Hilltop Campground

We arrived here on Monday, and on Tuesday it rained most of the afternoon and evening. I took a short hike on Wednesday morning, but otherwise we didn’t do much. I was just starting to come down with my usual springtime Arizona crud (sore throat and sinus drainage), so I haven’t felt all that great all week. About all I want to do in the afternoons right now is nap.

We met the campground mascot, a ginger tabby that we have named Rusty. He just showed up at our screen door on Wednesday morning, and then decided to climb all over our rig–trying to impress Maggie and Molly, I guess, but they weren’t having anything to do with him. The camp host, Warren, told me that the kitty wandered up to their camp out of the woods about four years ago, and they adopted each other. Rusty is allowed to roam free, so he visits all the campsites and is very friendly. However, I did chase him away one afternoon when he started stalking a baby rabbit in the brush next to our campsite. The poor little rabbit would run from bush to bush with Rusty hot on its heels. I was afraid I would be psychologically scarred for life if I witnessed Rusty catching that bunny rabbit, so I chased him off. Hopefully the little rabbit found its way home.

Rusty trying to convice Maggie to come out and play. She just hissed at him.

On Thursday morning, we received a call letting us know our new custom mattress had arrived at the Fedex facility in Prescott and was ready for pickup. Our first challenge was finding the facility. There is a lot of new construction going on in Prescott and the streets have been added to Google Maps, but many of them are closed to traffic as they really don’t go anywhere right now. But we finally managed to find the facility and load up our new mattress, which was compressed into a tight jellyroll and packed in a cardboard box.

Our new mattress in the cardboard box, sitting on the old mattress.

When we got back to the rig, we first had to get the old mattress outside where we laid it on the picnic table (so glad the weather was nice that day!). The next step was to unpack the new mattress and let it expand. We were told to unpack it directly onto the bed platform, but the space was too tight to maneuver that big jellyroll, so we took it back outside and unpacked it on top of the old mattress. It quickly expanded, and then we wrestled it back into the RV and got it squeezed between the walls and onto the platform.

The new mattress in place. Fits perfectly!

Our old mattress was about 5″ high at its highest point, which was around the edges. The middle of the old mattress had compressed to where it was maybe 3″ thick at most. The new mattress is 8″ thick and is SO comfortable. Since it’s only a full size instead of a queen, we need every inch of real estate available for Andy and myself and two cats. It’s nice to finally be able to sleep closer to the edge of the mattress without rolling back into a “bowl” in the middle.

After getting the new mattress set up, we loaded the old one into the back of the truck and hauled it over to the Prescott waste transfer station, where we paid $11 to dispose of it. I suppose we could have just thrown it into the dumpster here in the campground, but we didn’t want to be THAT kind of camper or RVer.

Saying goodbye to the old mattress at the city dump.

Afterwards, we drove into historic downtown Prescott and had lunch at a Thai restaurant, followed by some ice cream at Frannie’s. We figured out that it’s been over eight years since we’ve been to downtown Prescott–a lot has changed, but it still has a familiar vibe.

So yesterday (Friday), the campground had filled up completely with campers looking forward to a long holiday weekend. There was a large group that took at least three spaces across from us.  They had lots of kids and lots of dogs, including four beagles. It wasn’t exactly peaceful and quiet, but it was okay and everyone seemed to be having a good time and behaving themselves.

I still wasn’t feeling great, so I was taking an afternoon nap when Andy woke me up a little after 4:00 to let me know that the campground was being evacuated. A sheriff’s deputy had stopped by to let us know that there was a wildfire a few miles away at Lynx Lake, so they were evacuating all the campgrounds in the area as a precaution.

Andy packing up the outdoor gear for evacuation.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take us long to get things stowed away for moving. Within a half hour we were packed up and ready to go, and that wasn’t even rushing it. We decided to go to Walmart and stay overnight in their parking lot until things got sorted out and we could decide what to do next.

We found a level spot at Walmart among all the other RVs and campervans that were already parked there. I had posted the news to our Instagram and Facebook accounts, and we had received a kind offer of a place to stay from our friends John and Helen in Yarnell. But around 6:00, just as we were cooking dinner, a fellow RV evacuee stopped by our door to let us know that they were letting people back into the campgrounds.

Our temporary boondocking spot in the Walmart parking lot

We finished dinner, and then I drove the pickup back up to the campground (just over four miles away) to check out the situation. The route up to the campground, Walker Road, had been reopened, but I noticed that they still had a few of the entrances to the Lynx Lake campgrounds blocked off. There was quite a bit of smoke hanging in the air in the valleys along the way. When I reached the entrance to Hilltop Campground where we were staying, the entrance was open.

I drove back to our loop and found it almost totally abandoned. The camp host was still there, and I verified with him that it was all right to return. I called Andy and told him to bring the rig back to the campground. After I spoke to Andy, I met Lloyd who is a traveler from Florida who is camping out here without a tent or a vehicle. (From what we’re told, he flies into Phoenix every summer, takes the shuttle to Prescott and then just camps out in the mountains for the summer.) Nice guy, just a little eccentric I guess. Anyway, he didn’t evacuate, and we had a nice conversation while I waited for Andy to get back to camp.

Almost dark, returning to a nearly-empty campground

By the time he arrived, it was almost dark, so we did a minimal setup, not bothering with the solar panels. Our next door neighbors, Tom and Judy, showed up just after we got things set up. They had driven down to Phoenix for the day to pick up their grandkids for the weekend, so their camper and all their gear was still sitting right where they had left it. They weren’t aware of the evacuation, so they were quite surprised when they came driving back into an almost-empty campground after dark.

So last night it was just us, Tom and Judy, Lloyd, and the camp host/hostess here in the campground. It was so quiet!! But this morning it has been quite busy. Technically, the campground is “full” as all of the spaces have been paid for for the entire weekend. But people come driving through and see the empty spaces and think the space is available. A few more of the evacuees have returned this morning, but most have not. I’m not sure how long the camp host will hold these empty spaces before he starts letting new campers use them.

We had paid for five nights in our spot, which meant that our time was up this morning. But we decided we like it here enough to stay longer, so we went ahead and paid through the 29th (14 days total which is the limit). We are enjoying being camped so close to Prescott with all the shopping available–Costco, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, just to name a few–as well as all the sightseeing, geocaching and hiking opportunities. Now if I can just shake this crud and get to feeling like doing some of those things!

This morning we went to the local farmers’ market, looking for some local honey. I’ve found that it helps my allergies if I can take a spoonful each day, but it has to be local to the area. Surprisingly, we didn’t find any at the farmers’ market, but wound up getting some at Sprouts instead.

The latest update on the fire is that it is 80% contained. Hopefully the wind doesn’t pick up and drive it this way–we really don’t want to have to evacuate again.

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

 

Fun in the Desert, Agua Fria National Monument, Back to the Forest

Wow, didn’t realize it had been ten days since my last post! Time to catch up!

Yesterday was moving day, and we’re in a new location now, but first I’ll share some of what we’ve been up to for the past ten days at our camp on Bloody Basin Road BLM land near Mayer, Arizona.

First of all, we got some maintenance items taken care of. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we almost lost our sewer hose (a.k.a. the “stinky slinky”) when the homemade storage pipe came loose from the underside of the rig while at the dump station. Andy decided to replace the old one with some PVC pipe which should hold up better to the rigors of travel. It took a little ingenuity, but he got it done (as he always does).

Handy Andy installs PVC pipe to hold our stinky slinky under the RV.

I did quite a bit of geocaching while we were at the Bloody Basin camp. There is a person or persons who go by the handle Cactusart Kids who have placed hundreds of caches in the area. The ones I found were all in tins of different shapes and sizes, most had swag for trading, a few were pretty rusty, but in every case it was a fun hunt and not too hard to locate. I’m still pretty new to geocaching, so I appreciate the ones that don’t totally stump me. I did have to be extremely cautious, though, as it’s rattlesnake season, and digging around in the rocks can be a little iffy. I saw one live rattler in the middle of the road as I was walking back from a hunt, and another rattler was run over by a vehicle at the entrance to our campsite. Just a little something to add a “thrill” to the hunt (sorry, Mom!!).

My very first time to see a rattler in the wild, and fortunately it was in the middle of the road.

On Saturday, we drove through a good portion of the Agua Fria National Monument, which is just across the interstate from where we were camped. The Monument is comprised of 70,900 acres, including the 55,200-acre “Perry Mesa Archaeological District”, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It takes its name from the Agua Fria River which flows through the Monument, and features one of the most significant systems of prehistoric sites in the American Southwest.

Agua Fria river flowing by Horseshoe Ranch in Agua Fria National Monument

Our goal was to reach the Pueblo la Plata archaeological site, located about eight miles from the entrance to the Monument. That was probably the roughest eight miles that our little Tacoma pickup truck has ever traveled. Not only did we have to go up and down steep inclines, but the road got progressively more “primitive” the further we drove.

Epic view on Road 9269 in the Agua Fria National Monument.

When we finally reached the turn-off to the pueblo site, we decided to just park the truck and hike in. It was about a mile-and-a-half to the archaeological site across the top of a mesa, so it was a fairly flat hike. The pueblo site itself was less impressive than I had hoped, as it’s pretty much just piles of rocks that at one time made up the walls of the homes and other structures where people lived. Over time, the dirt and clay “mortar” has washed away, and now there’s a lot of vegetation growing around the stones, so it’s a little harder to see the outline of the structure. But it’s there, you just have to use your imagination a little bit.

Remains of Pueblo la Plata. They had a beautiful view!

And about 20 yards away is the rim of the canyon where Silver Creek flows by, which was their major source of water at the time. The view from the top of the canyon was really stunning, and worth the hike.

Andy on the edge of Silver Creek Canyon near the Pueblo la Plata

We made several trips to civilization while we were camped at Bloody Basin. I drove to Mayer one day to pick up our mail, which contained some unexpected good news–the dentist office in Yuma that we visited is refunding almost half of what we paid them for Andy’s crown and my filling. Our dental insurance paid more than they expected, so we got a nice chunk of change back. Hooray!! We also had a laundry and grocery shopping day in Prescott Valley, so we took advantage of the trip to have lunch at Chipotle. And on Sunday, we drove south to Anthem to pick up a package from Amazon at the Amazon locker in the Chase bank lobby (we love Amazon lockers!!), and stopped by Starbucks for some free wi-fi and a treat.

So, yesterday (Monday), we hit the fourteen day limit at that particular BLM campsite. As you might remember from our previous post, we have ordered a new mattress (HALLELUJAH!!) for the RV, and it’s scheduled for delivery to the Prescott Valley Fedex facility this Thursday, so we need to stay in the area. We were considering just staying put for a few more days as the BLM doesn’t actively track how long you stay in most of these boondocking spots. After we had breakfast, we got on the computer and started looking at spots where we might want to move to later in the week, all around the Prescott Valley area. Since we also needed to dump the tanks yesterday, we finally decided that since we had to move the RV to go to the dump, we might as well just relocate at the same time.

So we picked out a US Forest Service campground located between Prescott and Prescott Valley where they have eleven campsites that are first-come, first-serve. We decided to take a chance on there being a spot available at the Hilltop Campground, and if not, we would just cross that bridge later. All the reservation sites were gone, as we expected.

So we packed everything up and pulled out of camp around 11:00 AM yesterday. We stopped in Cordes Junction to dump the tanks and fill up on propane, gas, and fresh water, and then made the short 35-mile drive to our new campground. And sure enough, there was one campsite available that we were JUST able to squeeze our rig onto–and this is just another example of why we decided to keep the small RV for now instead of trading up to a larger one.

Our newest home in Hilltop Campground (USFS) near Prescott AZ

The campground does not provide hookups, but they do have vault toilets as well as drinking water available. Each site has a picnic table and a fire-ring, and the sites are asphalt pads. There’s a camp host on duty to keep things clean and orderly. The sites are $18/night, but with Andy’s America the Beautiful lifetime senior pass, which cost us $10, we get half off the camping fee, so we’re paying $9/night.

The elevation here is 5,682′, about 2,000 feet higher than where we were, so the vegetation and climate are very different. We’re surrounded by Ponderosa pine and hardwood trees, and the temperatures are about ten degrees cooler. The humidity is still low, and the trees offer protection from the wind, making it very pleasant to be outside. The one downside to the trees is that it makes it harder for our solar panels to charge the batteries. We may wind up depending more upon the generator for a few days. We’re supposed to get a little rain today, but otherwise the weather looks to be beautiful while we’re here.

So our plans for the rest of the week include picking up our new mattress, finding a place to dispose of the old one, doing some hiking and geocaching, visiting downtown Prescott again, and generally enjoying this beautiful location. We have always loved the Prescott area–in fact, when we were living in Glendale we were considering buying property in Prescott or Prescott Valley, but wound up moving to Tupelo, Mississippi instead to be near family for awhile. We are still seriously considering making this area our final retirement destination once we get off the road, whenever that may be.

Sunset at our camp on Bloody Basin Road

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Blog Changes, Geocaching, Drive to Crown King, RV Mattress Upgrade

Welcome back to the blog! You may notice a slightly different look this week. I’ve made a few changes that I hope you’ll enjoy.

  • I’ve added a new page to the blog called “Where We’ve Been“, which is a chronological list of the places we’ve camped since we hit the road on September 1, 2018. The page is accessible from the menu.
  • I’ve added a tag cloud to the sidebar, along with a “Recently Posted” section that lists the five most recent posts in case you want to go back and catch up. NOTE: If you’re reading the blog on a small device like a smart phone, the sidebar is actually located at the very bottom of the page you’re viewing.
  • I’ve changed the header photo to show our campsite on Vulture Mine Road south of Wickenburg. We enjoyed it so much, I wanted to feature it more prominently on the blog.

We are currently parked on Bloody Basin Road BLM land just off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a beautiful area with lots of little pipeline roads which make great hiking trails through the hills. And there are plenty of geocaches hidden in the area, which makes it even more fun and interesting to explore. So far I’ve hunted for four and found three, but there are plenty more to be found. These have been good caches with lots of trade items stored inside. According to the logs, some of them haven’t been touched for well over a year. The ones I’ve found so far have been stored in Christmas tins, so the tops had almost rusted shut, but the contents were nice and dry.

Contents of a geocache off Bloody Basin Road in Arizona

While out exploring we’ve found some things that were not so nice. Someone dumped some old furniture by the road and the animals have pretty much torn it up so white stuffing is scattered everywhere. There was a tire lying in the middle of the road, still on the wheel. And believe it or not, there is actually a boat out here–it’s been stripped down and left on a downslope off the side of the road so that it’s only visible from one direction.

Old stripped-out boat someone dumped by the pipeline road

People who do this kind of thing are responsible for the BLM’s recent decisions to restrict all access to public lands in certain areas around Cottonwood. Those areas have become so trashed and overused by off-road vehicles that it will take several years to be restored. There have recently been several large groups of full-time RVers who have taken it upon themselves to hold large “clean-up” events where they go to a trashed-out area and spend several days hauling out debris, working directly with the BLM and local authorities to have the trash disposed of properly. Many times it’s the locals that are leaving their trash, but if RVers want to continue to have access to these free camping sites, we almost have no choice but to clean up the mess left by others.

Furniture dumped in the desert off the pipeline road

OK, rant over.

On Wednesday, we made the 23-mile drive on Bloody Basin Road from our campsite up to Crown King, an old mining town in the Bradshaw Mountains. The road is dirt and gravel, and most of it follows the old abandoned railroad bed. In some places the road is wash-boarded and bumpy, and there are plenty of one-lane stretches that go straight through the rock. But the scenery is spectacular as you climb about 1,400′ in altitude to get to Crown King.

Enjoying the view just outside Crown King, AZ

The town of Crown King is small and quaint, with a general store/post office, a fire station, saloon, a few restaurants, several cabins and AirBnB’s to rent, a church, and housing for the few permanent residents. The day we went it was pretty quiet, but the guy who runs the general store told us that they often get hundreds of visitors at a time on the weekends who ride up on their ATVs and 4×4 vehicles. It’s a beautiful setting in the pine trees, and we enjoyed just hanging out on the deck, snacking on chips and cream soda and homemade fudge.

Antique store and saloon in Crown King

The drive up to Crown King took us about two hours, and the drive back down took about an hour and a half. That includes stopping to look at scenery and take pictures. I put together some video clips and photos from our excursion and posted them to our YouTube channel–there was just no way that still photos could capture how bumpy the road was or how vast the landscape is. It is well worth the drive if you have a high-clearance, dependable vehicle, and you go on a sunny day. I would not try the drive in a passenger car, or on a rainy day.

In other news, we finally got around to making a major upgrade to our RV–we’ve ordered a new mattress. This RV was never designed for full-time living, and the mattress began to sag and compress pretty quickly after we moved in. It has become very uncomfortable to sleep on, and we desperately needed to replace it.

Unfortunately, it’s an odd size known as a “full XL”. Additionally, the bottom right corner is chopped off to allow easier access to the bathroom. Therefore, we couldn’t just buy a mattress off the shelf, but instead we had to order a custom-made one. We placed the order yesterday (Friday) from MattressInsider.com, and will have it shipped from their manufacturing facility in South Carolina to the Fedex hub in Prescott Valley where we will pick it up. The estimated production time is 7-10 business days, and the shipping time will be 3 days. That means we’ll be in this general area for at least another three weeks, which we had already planned on anyway. I can’t wait to get our new mattress!!

On Thursday we drove over to nearby Cordes Junction at Cordes Lakes to locate a dump station (for future reference) and a water dispensing machine. While there we stopped in McDonald’s to use their wi-fi so we could back up our iPhones and download the latest operating system update. The only two places we could find to dump our tanks near here are both small RV parks, and they charge $20 for the privilege. But you do what you have to do. We’ll need to dump the tanks on Monday.

And that’s what’s going on in our world. We need to make a run to the grocery store this weekend, so we’ll be driving up to Prescott Valley. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our stay here in this beautiful area.

View of the area where we’re currently parked on Bloody Basin Road

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Weekend in Yarnell, Almost Lost the Stinky Slinky, Bloody Basin Road BLM

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend parked on the property of our good friends John and Helen in Yarnell, Arizona. We weren’t actually “moochdocking” since we weren’t hooked up to electricity or water–we were simply “driveway-surfing”. And yes, these are highly technical terms used in the RVing community. 🙂

View of our driveway-surfing spot in Yarnell, AZ

Andy and John were part of the same church group when they were young kids, although John, being several years younger, didn’t really know Andy all that well and was more acquainted with Andy’s younger sister, Liz. However, through the power of Facebook and the Internet, they reconnected years later. John has been following this blog and our Facebook posts as we’ve been on the road, and reached out to us to offer us a place to park for a visit.

After we arrived on Friday evening, John and Helen stopped by to make sure we were settled in. John’s wife, Helen, is from England, and the two of them together are an absolute riot. We talked and laughed so much that my jaws were aching the next morning. Sometimes you meet people that you just “click” with, and this was one of those times.

On Saturday morning we met them at the local bakery/coffee shop, Cornerstone Bakery (featured in Arizona Highways magazine), where they sell some of the most delicious pastries we’ve ever eaten. Andy had a huge Apple Caramel Cinnamon Roll, and I had a pineapple cream cheese pastry that was to die for. The shop is small and cozy, and there was a constant stream of locals stopping in for breakfast. Another couple that John and Helen knew came and sat with us since all the tables were full–it’s the kind of place where you just scoot over and make room for everybody.

Hanging out with friends at Cornerstone Bakery in Yarnell

After getting our sugar and caffeine rush, we went back to the property where we were parked. John and Helen are in the process of building a new home on the site which looks out toward a mountain of huge boulders with a running creek at the bottom. Their property, as well as many of the surrounding lots, were victims of the 2013 wildfire that killed nineteen Hotshot firefighters that were defending the city. (John and Helen bought the property after the fire.) They gave us a tour of their construction site and the surrounding landscape, describing their vision for their dream home. I can’t wait to come back in a year or two and see how it turns out!

In the afternoon, they gave us a driving tour of Yarnell, pointing out the interesting businesses, the quirky artwork and the path that the fire took through the town. Yarnell is primarily a town of retirees and is not particularly well-to-do. There are a lot of antique stores and some artists’ shops, several restaurants, a hardware store, a Dollar General store, along with other various small businesses. After the drive around town, we went back to John and Helen’s house where they are living while they build their new home. Another friend of theirs, Jeanine (sp?) joined us, and Helen fixed a wonderful vegetarian meal for us to enjoy.

On Sunday morning, Andy and I took care of a few things around the rig, took showers, and then after lunch we did some sightseeing on our own. First we visited a local landmark, the Shrine of St. Joseph of the Mountains. We’re not Catholic, but we did enjoy viewing the stations of the cross in such a beautiful setting.

The Crucifixion, one of the stations of the cross at the Shrine.

Next we drove down the mountain to the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, which is dedicated to the nineteen lost firefighters.  It’s located on Highway 89, right on the side of a mountain. There are thirteen parking spaces next to a small display which is actually a trailhead. From there, you must hike if you want to see the rest of the displays and the actual site where the guys made their last stand (description of trails here). It was late in the afternoon, and who are we kidding, neither of us are in the physical condition to do a seven mile mountain hike, so we only climbed up to the first marker and paid our respects there before hiking back down. But I have added this hike to my bucket list, and I’m determined to complete it someday.

The hiking trail at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

On the way back, we stopped and had a pizza at a new place in Yarnell called Gilligan’s that just opened four weeks ago. It was some of the best pizza we’ve ever had, and we enjoyed the outdoor setting even though it was a little cool. Later we went back over to John and Helen’s house for another visit before calling it a night.

Pizza and beer at Gilligan’s in Yarnell – highly recommended!

So, yesterday morning (Monday) it was time to move on. John and Helen stopped by to say goodbye, we got things stowed away, and pulled out around 9:30 AM. We headed down the mountain back into Wickenburg and made our first stop at Safeway to stock up on fresh produce and to also hit Starbucks in the store.

Next we stopped at the Fast Mart to get gas, top off the propane and fresh water, and dump the tanks. Of course, it was one of those days when something breaks. We do not keep our sewer hose (a.k.a. the “stinky slinky”) stored in the back bumper, which is actually designed as a hollow tube for that purpose. Instead, the previous owner of the RV mounted a length of dryer vent hose under the RV, and the sewer hose just slides into the dryer vent hose for storage. Why, you ask? Well, a lot of RVers do this type of hack so that the moisture from the sewer hose doesn’t rust out the bumper from the inside.

The dryer vent hose is secured under the rig with plastic cable ties, and yesterday was the day that those ties decided to break, so the hose was lying on the ground. Fortunately it happened while we were parked at the dump station and not while driving down the road. Andy had to crawl under the RV and get it re-secured enough to continue the drive, but now it’s another item on the project list to get the dryer vent hose (which is starting to crumble) replaced with PVC pipe. And for right now, the stinky slinky is stored in the bumper.

Reattaching the tube that holds our stinky slinky under the rig

When we got ready to leave Wickenburg and checked our Google Maps navigation, we found out that there was a one-and-a-half hour delay on I-17 north due to a traffic accident, so we decided to stop for lunch along the way. We found a little pullout on New River Road, north of Phoenix, and had our usual salad for lunch while we took a little break. By the time we finished eating, the app said that traffic was starting to clear, so we continued on.

Our route from Yarnell to Bloody Basin Road BLM land

Our destination was some BLM land on Bloody Basin Road just west of I-17. We scouted around a little bit and found a great spot that only required six leveling blocks. We’re surrounded by desert hills that are emerald green right now. Between two of the hills we can see all the way to Sunset Point (which you Arizonans will recognize as a rest area on I-17 at the top of a mesa). We can just faintly hear some highway noise, but otherwise it’s quiet. And we actually have four bars of Verizon LTE service–fast internet in the desert, you can’t beat it!

All set up at Camp Sunset, our new home on Bloody Basin Road.

We got all set up, I cooked a good veggie dinner, and we turned in pretty early. We were all tired from traveling. When we went to bed, there was no one within sight, but when I got up this morning, I noticed there is another rig parked across the road from us. Looks like a small Class B, which is about all that could fit in that small space.

And speaking of small spaces, we are definitely reaping the rewards of having a smaller RV. We were able to easily fit on John and Helen’s property, and we were nimble enough to get into our current site which involved driving over some pretty uneven ground. We love it out here!!

So the plan is to hang out here for a little while. There’s a fourteen day limit, and we may or may not use that entire time. Just depends on the weather, mostly. There are a lot of geocaches to hunt nearby, and a lot of trails to hike. Arcosanti is nearby (even though we’ve been there a couple of times before). The only downside to this spot is that it’s so far away from a decent grocery store. But that is a small price to pay for being able to have such an awe-inspiring yard!!

Our front yard. In the far distance is Sunset Point.

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

And if you’re interested in the costs associated with the full-time RV lifestyle, we do post a monthly expense report. You can find the most recent report here.

Safe travels!