Currently at Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas:
We hope you are all having a happy and healthy holiday season! From the looks of the weather map for the country, it appears that we lucked out by being held up here in Livingston instead of being in Arizona in December. From all the reports coming in from the YouTubers we follow, the desert has been cold and wet so far this winter! Here at our domicile base, the temperatures have been pleasant, with just a few drizzly days here and there. We’re hoping the nice weather holds until we can get out of here.
We started last week by saying goodbye to our trusty 2014 Thor Chateau 22E Class C RV, our beloved Lizzy. We spent several days giving her a thorough cleaning inside and out, and then on Monday (December 23) we drove her down to Houston to deliver her to PPL Motor Homes where she will be listed for sale on consignment.
Isn’t it strange how we can grow emotionally attached to machines? I was talking to my Mom about it, and she said she always got attached to her cars, especially her Volkswagen Beetles. Saying good-bye to Lizzy was hard. She was our very first RV, the one that we lived in as we learned how to manage and dump the waste tanks; how to change a water pump and a toilet; how to live without a Keurig or a Vitamix; how to use solar power to charge our electronics and run our small appliances; and that we could, in fact, sleep all four of us (two humans and two cats) in a tiny bed while parked between two eighteen-wheelers at a Pilot Travel Center on an interstate highway.
The appraiser at PPL said she was in great condition, and with her low mileage and our price point, she should sell quickly. We had a coupon from them for a free detailing, so they will deep-clean the inside, and then wash and wax the outside before putting her on the lot. We had another coupon from them that entitled us to $300 in Amex gift cards for listing our RV before the end of the year, so we walked away with a little money to use on the things that we need in our new rig.
So, other than that, it’s been a quiet holiday season for us. We are thoroughly enjoying our new rig, a 2017 Grand Design Reflection 303RLS 5th wheel trailer. We’re learning where all the light switches are, how to set the thermostat for the furnace, how to work the electric fireplace and light the gas oven. Yesterday I figured out how to get the TV in the bedroom to auto-program the over-the-air channels, and I managed to get the remote to work (it wasn’t working when we had the inspection done). We love having all the extra space in the kitchen and living area, as well as the larger bed.
As far as storage goes, we’re fine on the inside but the outside is still a work in progress. We did go back to Liberty on Tuesday (Christmas Eve) and emptied out the storage locker where we had left all the stuff that we had been storing in the bed of the Tacoma before we traded trucks. Andy got a lot of that stuff sorted and we’ve purged some things, but until we have the hitch installed in the new truck tomorrow morning and then have the bed cover put on, we can’t really complete that organization process.
So in the meantime we’re taking advantage of having a local shipping address and doing a lot of Amazon shopping to outfit Lizzy Too. We ordered some furniture covers to protect the sofa and recliners from kitty claws. We got a good fit on the sofa, but the one we got for the recliners didn’t work out so we sent it back and ordered something different (should be here tomorrow).
We’ve also been busy installing Command Hooks in strategic places, and I finally got a rack specifically to hold those rolls of aluminum foil and plastic wrap. We’ve also ordered a magnetic knife strip like the one we had in Lizzy, which should also be here tomorrow.
We do still have a big hurdle ahead of us: we have to learn to get this thing hitched up and tow it down the road. We should have at least two chances to practice before we leave Livingston–we’ll need to tow the rig to the inspection station before we can get her registered, and then we’ll also make an appointment to have the entire rig (truck and trailer) weighed here in the park at their official Smart Weigh station. Once we get the results of the weigh-in, we’ll know whether or not we need to jettison more of our stuff before we leave here.
Otherwise, we’re just hanging out here in Texas, waiting for the titles for the RV and the truck to arrive so we can complete our registration process. We would love to get out of here as soon as possible, but we honestly expect that it will be the end of January before we get on the road again.
So, I thought this might be a good time to recap what we’ve done and where we’ve been in 2019. It’s been a very exciting year for us, and we’re loving what we’re doing. Here’s a look back at the last twelve months:
January – March 2019
We spent most of the winter boondocking at the Pilot Knob BLM Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA) just west of Yuma, Arizona, but on the California side of the state line. We learned to use our solar setup while there, and it worked out great with all the desert sunshine. While in the area we visited the historic Yuma Territorial Prison, as well as Center of the World in nearby Felicity, CA.
In mid-March as the weather began to warm up we headed for higher elevations, spending two weeks boondocking on BLM land on Vulture Mine Road near Wickenburg, AZ, where we did a lot of hiking and exploring, including a visit to the local mining museum. We ended March by spending three days mooch-docking on the property of our great friends John and Helen in Yarnell, AZ., and hanging out with them.
On April 1, we moved to a new BLM boondocking spot on Bloody Basin/Crown King Road near Mayer, Arizona. It wasn’t far off of I-17 so we got a little traffic noise, but it still provided some beautiful views and sunsets, along with a lot of geocaching opportunities.
While there we made the scenic but bumpy drive up to Crown King, definitely worth having our bones rattled.
When our two weeks were up at Bloody Basin on April 15, we moved to the US Forest Service’s Hilltop Campground near Prescott, AZ (still going higher in altitude as the weather warmed up). We managed to snag the last available level campsite, thanks to Lizzy being only 24′ long. It was nice to be back in the trees for a change after being in the desert all winter. There were no hookups here, but they did have vault toilets which helped us conserve our black tank space.
While staying at this campground, we got rid of our terrible RV mattress and replaced it with an 8″ memory foam custom model. We got evacuated one afternoon because of a nearby wildfire, and a few days later I wound up at a local urgent care facility because of some nasty seasonal allergies. But we really enjoyed this park.
After reaching our two week limit here, on April 29 we moved to another National Forest spot on Forest Road 273 off Highway 89A near Flagstaff in an area known as Pumphouse Wash. This is a free boondocking area, and while it’s pretty quiet during the week, but it can get busy on the weekends. We had a great spot and intended to stay for two weeks, but plans can change.
Our campsite at Pumphouse Wash was located at the bottom of a hill. When we arrived there it was a little rainy so we could see that the road could get messy, but during the week the sun came out and all was fine. However at the end of the first week, the weather forecast was calling for several days of heavy rain moving in, and got concerned that we wouldn’t be able to leave our site to dump the tanks or in case of an emergency if the roads got too messy.
So we decided to ride out the rainy weather at a site with full hookups. On May 6 we moved to Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. This was a beautiful facility where we had a level, paved site with electricity, water, sewer, cable TV and fast Wi-fi. We also had access to laundry facilities and nice, clean hot showers. We were within walking distance of a Kroger grocery, as well as all the touristy area of Route 66 in Williams. So even though there was a lot of rain, and even some hail, we really enjoyed our one-week stay in this campground, especially since we got a 50% discount on the fee through our Passport America membership.
While we stayed there, we did some exploring to find our next campsite, and we discovered more free boondocking on forest roads just south of the Grand Canyon. So on May 13, we moved to Forest Road 320 in the Kaibab National Forest, about 15 miles south of the entrance to Grand Canyon, at an elevation of about 6200′. We boondocked there for 17 days, and it wound up being one of our favorite sites for the whole year. We made a couple of trips to Grand Canyon, enjoying perfect weather while we were there. And speaking of weather, we actually got snow a couple of mornings, although it melted off pretty fast.
We would have loved to stay longer at this location but we had already exceeded the 14-day limit, plus it was a long drive to get to a decent grocery store, so we decided to move on. On May 30 we made the move to Flagstaff, AZ., where, after doing some scouting, we located the perfect spot on Forest Road 151 in the Coconino National Forest, about 9 miles north of Flagstaff. This would become our home for the summer.
June – august 2019
Yes, technically there is a 14-day limit for camping in the National Forest. However, it was not being enforced locally, and there were plenty of vacant campsites available in the area, so we never felt a need to leave. We met others in the area who had camped here in years past without a problem, so we decided that we would stay put unless we were invited to leave by the rangers.
By being in the same area for the entire summer, we were able to see how the landscape and vegetation changed. Since there was so much rain and snowfall over the preceding winter and spring, the area was blanketed by wildflowers for almost the entire summer. The grass around us grew tall and lush, which drew the deer right into our campsite.
The spider web of forest roads throughout the area provided excellent hiking opportunities, although Andy did get lost and had to be rescued by the local sheriff’s department. I started most mornings with a hike while Andy slept in, and by the end of the summer I could pretty much find my way all through the surrounding forest.
We spent one day riding the ski lift at the nearby Snowbowl Ski Resort, where there was still enough snow to make it pretty.
We spent one Saturday at the Flagstaff Folk Festival, another Saturday at the Art Festival, and quite a few lunchtimes at our new favorite pizza joint, Fratelli’s. There was some excitement in the area when a wildfire broke out just north of Flagstaff, dubbed the Museum Fire, so we got to see an all-out effort by hot shot teams and local firefighters as they put their lives on the line for weeks to protect the city from the nearby fire. While we were never in direct danger, we were close enough that we had to remain vigilant in case there was an evacuation order.
While we were in Flagstaff, we upgraded our rig with new Battle Born lithium batteries, which gave us so much more power to run our 12-volt system after sunset.
Around August, things started to change as the summer started winding down. The first big change was when cows started showing up. Local ranchers are allowed to turn their cattle into the forest for grazing in August, and they pretty much roam wherever they want up and down the mountain. We got a kick out of hearing them munching grass right outside our window, and bellowing to each other at sunrise and sunset.
But when bow-hunting season opened in late August, I knew it was time to leave. On one of my morning hikes, I came across a couple butchering a deer on the side of the road, and it pretty much ruined my mood for a week. There were a lot of ATVs and loud trucks riding up and down the road, stirring up a lot of dust which coated our rig inside and out. So, it was time to move on.
Because it was still pretty warm, we wanted to stay as high in elevation as possible. But I also wanted to get the rig to a place where we would have electricity and water so we could do a thorough cleaning of all the accumulated dust. So we decided to take advantage of our annual pass to New Mexico state parks, and we headed east.
Our first stop was Bluewater Lake State Park near Prewitt, NM, between Gallup and Albuquerque. We made a reservation for a couple of nights to see if we liked it–and we did, so we wound up staying the full two weeks, although we did move to a first come, first serve site when our reservation was up ($4/night with annual pass).
We liked this park a lot–they had a brand new, very clean dump station, and for the most part the park was well-maintained. There was some interesting hiking in the nearby canyon that led to the dam. And there was a small herd of wild horses that visited the park from time to time.
When our two weeks were up here, on September 17 we moved to Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, NM. We didn’t have reservations, and there were no first come, first serve sites available with hookups, but they have awesome boondocking available right next to the lake ($0/night with the annual pass), so that’s where we set up camp.
The park had showers and flush toilets, but the best thing was what we discovered for breakfast. In nearby Las Vegas, we found Charlie’s Spic and Span, a local diner and bakery that not only serves freshly made tortillas and breakfast skillets, but they have the most delicious doughnuts and pastries. We were hooked!
On September 24 we decided to move on further north to Coyote Creek State Park, to get higher in elevation for cooler weather, and also because we wanted to visit Taos and drive the Enchanted Circle again. So we made the move to Coyote Creek without a reservation, and although we couldn’t get a site with hookups, we got a beautiful shaded spot to dry camp ($0/night with annual pass).
We wound up changing sites after a couple of days, however, because (1) we weren’t getting enough solar power with all the shade, and (2) the forecast was calling for high winds and I wasn’t comfortable with all those large branches possibly falling on the rig. Fortunately there was a great site available right next door, so we moved. A few days later, we moved again when they closed the entire dry camping area for the winter season, but that time we were able to get a spot with hookups ($4/night with annual pass) for a couple of nights before we moved on.
While staying at Coyote Creek we did a lot of sight-seeing in Taos and the surrounding area. We found a cool diner that had an entire room devoted to Elvis, and we saw several old flour mills that are occasionally open for tours. The park celebrated its 50th birthday while we were there, so we got to attend the fiesta and hear some good live music. And I found my first tracking bug while geocaching in the park!
On October 2, we left Coyote Creek State Park, but only because they were closing the bathrooms and showers, and turning off the water for the winter season. We decided to head back to Storrie Lake SP for a few more days (but mostly because Andy wanted to go back to Charlie’s Spic and Span for more pastries! LOL). We were able to get a first come first serve site with electricity ($4/night with annual pass) this time, so we stayed for five nights before moving on.
On October 7, we moved to Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, NM. This was our second time at this park, as we had stayed here in the fall of 2018. Once again with no reservation, our first night was in a site that was only available for one night. But the next morning, a first come first serve site with hookups ($4/night with annual pass) opened up and we quickly made the move, snagging a site with a fantastic view of the lake.
We were pleased to see that the reservoir was up considerably from the year before, and there was plenty of boating activity as a result. We enjoyed a couple of great meals in TorC (as Truth or Consequences is known locally) at Passion Pie Cafe and Latitude 33. But once Andy’s new passport arrived in the mail, it was time to head south of the border for my birthday!
On October 16, we moved to Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, NM, just three miles north of the US/Mexico border. This was another return visit to a park we first visited in November 2018. We got a great first come first serve site with electricity and water ($4/night on our annual pass), and the next day we walked across the border into Mexico to celebrate my birthday with lunch at the Pink Store in Puerto Palomas.
We really like Pancho Villa State Park. They have nice bathroom and shower facilities that are kept very clean. They have a very interesting museum onsite, and the town of Columbus also has a museum that celebrates (is that the right term?) the history of the Pancho Villa raid and the subsequent military response by General Pershing and his troops. We actually made a couple of trips across the border while we were there–why not, it’s so close and the food is so good!
When our 14 days were up, we moved just a few miles north to Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM. Once again, we got a first come, first serve site with electricity and water for $4/night on our annual pass. This park is a little smaller, but it’s in a beautiful location on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley looking toward the north and west. There’s some decent hiking in the area, and the proximity to Deming makes it easy to get supplies and groceries. Their shower and bathroom facilities were also very nice and well-maintained. We will definitely return to this park in the future.
We stayed at Rockhound SP for 12 nights through November 10, and then it was time to begin our pilgrimage back to my home town of Tupelo, Mississippi for Thanksgiving with my family. For the drive eastward, I used our Passport America membership to book half-price reservations at several RV parks across Texas and Arkansas.
- Nov. 11 – Oasis RV Park in Van Horn, Texas: Very quirky, not at all scenic, but OK for an overnight stop. It was COLD and windy that night.
- Nov. 12 – Ms. G’s RV Park in Loraine, Texas: Small family run park that caters to oilfield workers. Friendly owner, but sites are somewhat cluttered with trash.
- Nov. 13-14 – Cactus Rose RV Park in Mingus, Texas: Nice little park with decent facilities. We stayed here two nights to take a break from driving.
- Nov. 15 – Stinson RV Park in Campbell, Texas: New park just getting established, nice showers, friendly staff (once they got back from lunch to get us checked in).
- Nov. 16 – Downtown Riverside RV Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas: Wish we could have stayed here longer, just because of the proximity to some cool things to do in Little Rock. The park is right on the river with a great view of downtown, especially when lit up at night. We were able to have dinner with my niece and her hubby while we were there, which was a treat!
Finally on November 17, we arrived at our destination, Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo, Mississippi. This is the same park (and the same site, #11) that we occupied for the first five days of our full-timing life while we closed on the sale of our house in Tupelo.
We were busy for our two weeks there. Both Andy and I made visits to our former dentist for teeth cleaning. We took the cats to their old veterinarian for their annual checkups and vaccinations. We got the oil changed in the Tacoma. And we spent a lot of quality time with my parents and other family members, celebrating Thanksgiving and decorating their house for Christmas. It was definitely worth the drive to be able to see Mom and Dad again after being on the road for 15 months!
While we were in Tupelo, Andy and I made the decision that it was finally time to upgrade to a larger rig, and we felt like it made sense to try to get it done while we were on our return trip through Texas, since that’s where we’re domiciled. So we spent a lot of time doing online research, and the results of that research led us to our December destination.
We left Tupelo on December 1, headed toward Livingston, Texas. We planned to spend one night in a Walmart parking lot in Monroe, LA on the way, but that Walmart no longer allows overnight parking, so instead, we stayed at the Pilot Travel Center just up the highway.
The next day we arrived at our current location at Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas. As we have reported in our previous blog posts, we found our new rig parked in this very park, just waiting for us to arrive. We found our new truck in nearby Liberty, TX.
And that brings us up to the present day, where we currently reside, waiting for the New Year and all the excitement and adventure that it will bring!
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