Weather Report, More Geocaching, Saturday in Mexico

Pilot Knob BLM LTVA – Southern California, just west of Yuma, AZ

Happy Monday morning, everyone! I just watched a beautiful sunrise and realized once again just how fortunate Andy and I are to be able to leave the rat race behind and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Hope you are also living your dream, or at least taking steps to get there.

We’ve been keeping up with all the crazy weather around the country this past week. Yes, it did snow in California and Arizona, even in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson; and a lot of roads were closed in Northern Arizona due to icy conditions and heavy snow. We’ve also been watching reports of the heavy rain and flooding in my home state of Mississippi around Tupelo, as well as the tornado that touched down in Columbus, MS. It seems like this winter has been especially harsh in a lot of areas.

However, we chose to winter in Yuma precisely because of the weather. We’ve been here since December 27 and in that time there have only been three days where there was any significant amount of rainfall. The nighttime temperatures have never gone below about 38°, and the daytime temperatures are usually in the 60’s. Last week when it was snowing in Phoenix, the highs here did dip down into the 50’s with the winds averaging about 15 MPH, but that’s as bad as it got. Yesterday it warmed back up, and this week highs are going to move into the 70’s, possibly getting up to 80° by Thursday.

Rain moving toward our camp. It looked a lot more dramatic than it actually was.

In fact, it may start to get warm enough that we decide to pull out and head north to higher elevation. When it’s 80° outside, the inside of the RV can start to get pretty warm even with the awning out and the windows open. Our travel plan has always been to “chase 70°”, so we’ll let you know what we decide to do.

Not a bad forecast for the next couple of weeks.

That’s the beauty of this lifestyle. Don’t like the weather? Move your house somewhere else. 🙂

I took advantage of the nice weather to do some more geocaching last week. There are so many caches hidden in this area! I picked up three in about an hour, getting some good exercise along the way. Two of them were hidden in tree trunks, but one was located at this site that appears to be a place for meditation or a memorial of some sort. It’s a pile of white quartz stone (plentiful out here in the desert) with concentric rings made of dark rock and more quartz. There are statues of angels, Mary and Jesus  placed around the site, along with a walking path to get to the center. I’ve reached out to the local “About Yuma” Facebook page to see if anyone knows anything about it, but so far everyone seems stumped.

One of the most unusual sites where I’ve found a geocache–lots of quartz

On Saturday we made a return trip across the border to Los Algodones for lunch and a little shopping. I found a cross-body bag to replace my current one that is too small, and had a lot of fun bargaining with the shop owner. He asked $40 for the bag, I offered $20, and we settled at $22. Of course we hit the pastry shop to satisfy Andy’s sweet tooth.  We also visited the candy store to restock our supply of Damy candy. A 100-piece bag sells on Amazon for $12.90, but we buy it in Mexico for $4/bag. We bought three bags since we don’t know when we’ll be back in Algodones. This is the best candy ever (that isn’t chocolate).

The candy store in Los Algodones where we stock up on Damy

After shopping, we returned to Restaurant El Paraíso for lunch, where we enjoyed sitting on the patio in the sun, listening to the Mexican cover band playing Elvis and Jimmy Buffet, along with some south-of-the-border standards. I had the fish tacos and Andy had a combination plate with chile rellano. The margaritas were on point as usual, and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.

Another fun lunch in Los Algodones

After lunch we walked over to where they were having a taco street festival so we could get some freshly-made churros for dessert. So good!  We munched on our dessert while we stood in line for just over an hour and a half to get back across the border into the US. We spent most of that time chatting with a nice couple from Alberta, Canada who are also wintering here in the area. Fortunately it wasn’t too hot and the time passed quickly with the strolling musicians entertaining us while we waited.

No huge plans for this week. We have a mail shipment that arrived at the Yuma post office this morning which contains the last of the documents that I need to complete our tax return, so I should get that taken care of this week. We both have dental appointments tomorrow–I’m getting a filling replaced and Andy’s getting a crown (no, not in Mexico, but in Yuma using our COBRA dental insurance). I’m planning to do some housecleaning and purging in the rig…yes, we actually brought things with us that we don’t need, so I need to lighten the load a little bit.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep an eye on the weather forecast and see how the upcoming heat wave affects our plans. We may be pulling out of here in the not-too-distant future!

Stay tuned!

You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for up-to-the-minute news on where we are and what we’re doing.

 

All Is Well At Our Winter Camp, Prison Visit, Dental Checkups

It’s about time for another update, even though there’s nothing particularly exciting to report. And that’s a good thing! There have been no issues with the rig or the truck, we and the kitties are healthy and happy, and the weather has been great, especially compared to what the rest of the country is getting.

We are still camped in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) where we’ve been since December 27. If you remember, we paid $180 for a season pass which allows us to park here or at any of the other six winter LTVAs through April 15. It’s a great way to live cheaply where the weather is great while the rest of the country is freezing or being drenched.

We considered leaving Pilot Knob and moving to the Imperial Dam LTVA just for a change of scenery, so a couple of weeks ago we took a drive up there to check it out. It’s a much, much larger LTVA that mostly sits on a bluff above the reservoir. Of course the area with water views is already pretty jam packed with RVs, and even the rest of the LTVA is more crowded than where we currently are. The Imperial Dam LTVA is probably the most popular one in the system–it has its own dump stations and potable water at no charge, which is nice. Many of the residents return to this LTVA every winter, so they have communities established where they park together. This LTVA even has a community breakfast on the weekend along with other planned activities for campers.

View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA

However, after checking it out, we decided to stay where we are for now. For one thing, we are much closer to Yuma for groceries and supplies than we would be at Imperial Dam. Here at Pilot Knob we have the Chevron station right at the campground entrance that has one-stop shopping for the dump station, potable water, filtered drinking water and propane–at Imperial Dam we would have to drive the RV several miles offsite to get propane. Here at Pilot Knob we have access to the nearby Quechan Resort and Casino where we go to breakfast once a week–wouldn’t have that at Imperial Dam. Finally Imperial Dam LTVA is about 5° cooler than where we are currently parked, and we’re still waiting for the weather to warm up some more before we decide to start heading north or to higher elevations.

In short, we are just comfortable where we are and see no reason to move at the moment. And that’s the point of this lifestyle, to be able to live where you want to and move on when you don’t like where you are any more.

Last week we took a tour of the historical Yuma Territorial Prison, or what’s left of it. The prison was built in 1876 (well before Arizona was a State) and was in operation for 33 years before, due to overcrowding, the prisoners were transferred to a new prison in Florence, Arizona. The prisoners were packed six to a cell with two triple-bunks in each cell and only one toilet bucket. Of course there was no air-conditioning and the summers were brutally hot, so the prison became known as the “Hell Hole”.

Inside a cell at the Yuma Territorial Prison

One of the cell blocks. Originally this was enclosed with a roof overhead.

The guard tower was used as a civil defense lookout during WWII

Much of prison was demolished to make room for the Union Pacific railroad bridge over the Colorado River. The remaining structures have been preserved for tourism.

There is a gift shop (of course), along with a very nice museum which includes a film presentation of the history of the prison. You can also visit the prison cemetery where 111 prisoners were buried in graves marked only with heaps of stone.

If you’re in the Yuma area, it’s definitely worth a couple hours of your time to take the tour and get a taste of how justice was dispensed in territorial Arizona.

Last week it was time for our semi-annual dental exams and cleanings. Since I still have good dental insurance through my COBRA from my last job, we found a dentist in Yuma instead of going across the border to Mexico. From the list of approved providers on my insurance, we selected the Gila Ridge Dental clinic based on very positive reviews on social media.

Gila Ridge Dental in Yuma AZ

On Friday we both got our exams done, and I have to say this clinic does the most thorough dental exam I have ever had. They started with the usual x-rays, but then they also took actual photographs of our teeth from every possible angle using a mirror while we held these wire contraptions to hold our lips back. The dentist also did a cancer screening checking our necks, lymph nodes and the interior of our mouths for suspicious anomalies (never had that done by a dentist before).

Instead of the usual bright light overhead, there was a computer monitor which the dentist used to show us all the x-rays and explain what we were looking at (that was also new, and super-cool). Finally, I got my teeth cleaned (great hygienist!), but Andy had to reschedule his cleaning due to them being short-staffed and the type of cleaning that Andy needs to have done. He’s going back today for the cleaning.

Getting our semi-annual dental checkups

I have one filling that has needed to be replaced for years, so I’m going to have that done while we’re still insured. Andy is getting a crown on a tooth that has given him problems for years, but that our previous dentist pretty much ignored. Both of those appointments are scheduled for Tuesday of next week.

We feel very fortunate to have found great dental care in the Yuma area and highly recommend the Gila Ridge Dental Clinic.

Other than that, everything is pretty chill at the moment. And I mean that literally–we have a cold snap going on this week with highs in the 50’s, some occasional 25 MPH wind gusts, and even a little bit of rain in the forecast. But there is still plenty of sunlight for the solar panels, and it’s plenty comfortable in the RV. We have a good stash of DVDs, plenty of books on the Kindles, and lots of room for hiking and geocaching around us.

Interesting cloud formations over the campground

Life is good!!

You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts.

 

Expense Report for January 2019 Full-time RV Living

It’s time once again for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life.

First, a reminder of the caveats. 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 fifth 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.

We spent the entire month of January boondocking (camping without hookups) at the Pilot Knob LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It’s located in southern California, about seven miles west of Yuma, Arizona. When we arrived here in late December, we purchased the annual pass for the entire winter season for $180, which allows us to camp for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs through April 15, 2019. The only time we moved the RV all month was to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks.

Our new desert campsite by the mountains

Staying in one place for the entire month radically affected our expenses for the better. Here’s how our spending went for January.

Camping fees + Electricity

November: $137 (Nov 1-3 @ Elephant Butte SP, Nov 4-17 @ Leasburg Dam SP, Nov 18-30 @ Pancho Villa SP, all at $4/night on annual pass. Expense number also includes prorated cost of the annual pass.)

December: $166 (1 free night in a Chevron parking lot, 1 free night in Camping World parking lot, 16 free nights on BLM land in the cactus forest, 7 nights in RV park in Glendale at $19.50/night, 5 nights in our current location in the BLM LTVA where we paid $180 for the annual pass, good through April 15 which comes out to $1.89/night  which I’m pro-rating on this expense report.)

January: $68 – Entire month in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA. We actually did not spend any money at all this month for camping fees, but for monthly reporting purposes I am prorating the cost of our annual camping passes for New Mexico State Parks ($225 for 13 months) and BLM LTVAs ($180 for December through April).

Five month average: $227

Rainy days often result in gorgeous sunsets

DUMPING FEEs

November: $0

December: $16 (While boondocking we had to pay to dump our tanks at the Pilot/Flying J stations.)

January: $70 – It costs us $12 to dump our tanks and fill up our 50-gallon fresh water tank at the nearby Chevron station, although one time they only charged us $10 for some reason. We dump our tanks every 5-6 days depending on how often we shower.

Five month average: $17

Fuel for the RV

November: $79 (Drove 172 miles, 0 generator hours, 8.8 MPG)

December: $367 (Drove 767 miles, 91.5 generator hours, ~9.1 MPG net of generator use.) We started using the generator this month since we were boondocking without electrical hookups. The generator uses gas from the RV fuel tank.

January: $0 (Stayed in place all month, 21.9 generator hours and we still have almost 3/4 of a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.)

Five month average: $192

Fuel for the Truck

November: $52 (17.7 MPG)

December: $221 (20.0 MPG)

January: $59 (17.7 MPG)

Five month average: $147

PROPANE

November: $31 (12 gallons) – We use propane primarily for cooking. In November we began using the onboard propane furnace more as the temperatures got colder, running it for a little while in the early morning to supplement the small electric heater.

December: $32 (10 gallons)

January: $67 (19 gallons) – Propane was our sole source of heat in January since we were never connected to electricity, but we only used it early in the morning until the sun warmed up the rig. Right now propane is $3.49/gallon at the nearby Chevron.

Five month average: $26

groceries

November: $479

December: $492

January: $480

Five month average: $479

I’m really surprised at how consistent this number is every month. We do almost all our grocery shopping at Walmart, so I’m assuming that that explains the consistency from month to month. 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.

Andy selecting oranges in the produce section of Cardenas in El Centro

dining out

November: $213

December: $253 (mostly while we were staying in Glendale, running errands all over the place.)

January: $230

Five month average: $221

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

Lunch at The Garden Patio (El Pariso) in Los Algodones

household / furnishings

November: $87

December: $42

January: $35

Five month average: $58

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

petcare

November: $5 (we were well stocked up from October)

December: $246 – We took both the cats to the vet in Glendale after Maggie got sick on the drive and showed signs of having worms. Both have been treated and are doing fine.

January: $40 – Stocked up on cat food, treats and litter.

Five month average: $82

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

November: $254 – This month we upgraded to the next higher level for unlimited data so we won’t get throttled so much.

December: $286 – Charge increased as we’re now on the higher data plan.

January: $276

Five month average: $261

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 significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

November: $16 – We had mail forwarded twice, but also requested one additional shipment when Andy’s mail-order prescription meds came in.

December: $37 – We had mail forwarded once to Glendale AZ, but with the holidays and weekends, it did not arrive before we moved on, so that packet will get sent back to Livingston where it will be added to a future mail forwarding. Lesson learned: always specify “Priority Mail” with a tracking number when requesting mail forwarding. Also, we signed up to have our mail scanned for the next two months since it’s tax season. This way we can see what has arrived at our mailbox in Livingston, and we can pick and choose what we want to have sent to us and what can be shredded. If anything of a time-sensitive nature comes in, we’ll also know to have that forwarded to us right away. The scanning service is $10/month.

January: $7 – Had mail forwarded once early in the month, but with the new scanning service we were able to just check online to see what mail had arrived in Livingston throughout the rest of the month. There was nothing that was time-sensitive so we decided to wait until early February to have the next packet sent, which should include all the tax-related forms that arrived in January.

Five month average: $14

Laundry

November: $22 – We did laundry twice, first in Truth or Consequences where the machines were bad and expensive, and the second time in Deming where the facilities were much nicer and less costly.

December: $18 – We did laundry once in Glendale, but we also washed all the quilts and blankets from the bed. One of the kitties had a little accident after the stress from the vet visit.

January: $29 – We did our regular laundry once in Yuma, but then we had to make a second trip to the laundromat to wash the quilts and blankets again. Another little kitty accident (or are they just trying to punish us for something??). The laundromat here in Yuma is more expensive than any we’ve seen, but it’s also very well-maintained.

Five month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

November: $56

December: $137 – I’ve started a new hobby of geocaching, so I paid for a one-year subscription to the premium version of the geocaching app that shows ALL the caches in the area instead of just the very few that were shown in the free version. I also had to renew my annual “plus” subscription to my Evernote app, which is my online notebook for EVERYTHING.

January: $72 – We visited the “Center of the World” which cost us $10.

Five month average: $86

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

The “official” Center of the World inside the pyramid at Felicity, CA

memberships

November: $49 (annual renewal for Sam’s Club membership)

December: $0

January: $0

Five month average: $22

Equipment for RV

November: $2,215 (ordered solar kit including three 100-watt solar panels and a Kodiak portable solar generator. Here’s a link to the kit we purchased.)

December: $388 (Solar charge controller + cables and wiring supplies, black tank cleaning wand, 50amp dogbone, battery tester, moving blankets to protect solar panels when driving)

January: $0 -FINALLY, a month when we didn’t buy any new equipment for the rig!!

Five month average: $577

Our new solar charge controller lets us know how our batteries are doing

RV Maintenance & REpairs

November: $22 (changed out the water filter)

December: $472 (replaced both house batteries, replaced toilet when foot pedal flusher began to fail, replaced weather stripping over cab area)

January: $108 (replaced the water pump and strainer)

Five month average: $130

Crack in the back side of the strainer was allowing air to enter the plumbing lines

truck maintenance & repairs

November: $0

December: $0

January: $0

Five month average: $3

Vehicle insurance

We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV and $40/mo for the truck.

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:

November Total: $3,852 ($1,637 excluding the purchase of the solar kit)

December Total: $3,309

January Total: $1,677

Five month average: $2,697

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. Except for the huge hit on the solar kit that we purchased, November was a very good month in terms of expenses. We lived very well while spending very little. 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, we once again had an excellent month 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.

Since we purchased the annual pass to the BLM Long Term Visitor Area for $180, we are allowed to boondock for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs in Arizona and California through April 15. We’re starting to think about moving to a different LTVA just for a change of scenery, but have not made any specific plans. We’re very comfortable where we are right now, so we’ll see how itchy our feet get in February. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens.

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.