Moving Day – Change of Plans

As we told you in our last post, yesterday (Sunday) was moving day because we had hit our 14-day limit at Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs, NM. We had prepped the RV for boondocking, with plans to start heading west toward Arizona.

Well, the great thing about this lifestyle is that you can change plans on a dime, and do something completely different. The weather forecast here in New Mexico was calling for warmer temperatures over the next week or two, and it seemed a shame to leave just when the weather was going to be so perfect. And we also want to get as much value out of our annual camping pass as we possibly can.

We checked the website for New Mexico State Parks, looking for one with good weather that was between us and Arizona, and we found Pancho Villa State Park, right on the US/Mexico border in Columbus, NM. I checked the reservation website and there were no campsites available to reserve, but NM State Parks always set aside at least half their campsites as first come first serve, so we decided to take a chance on it. Since it was Sunday, we knew a lot of weekend campers would be pulling out, but the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday was a wildcard that could bring more vacationers into the campgrounds.

We left Leasburg Dam SP about 12:30 PM after dumping the tanks. Our propane meter was showing that we were down to about 1/3 full, so we planned to drive north first to go through Hatch to get propane. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, the propane place was closed. We thought we might find another place to fill up on the way, but we never did.

NOTE TO SELF: Fill up the propane tanks on a weekday.

Anyway, we drove south through Deming, NM, down to Columbus to the Pancho Villa State Park, arriving about 2:45 PM and found plenty of campsites available. We picked site #39 that’s on the south side of the campground on the outermost loop, so there’s no one on the back side of our campsite. Our dinette window faces west so we can watch the sunset over the desert mountains. The site has water and electricity (no sewer), and with our annual pass it’s $4/night. There is a dump station nearby in the park that we can use every 4-5 days as needed. Their bathroom and shower facilities are very nice and clean, and the park looks well-maintained. We have decent Verizon service, fluctuating between 2 and 3 bars of LTE.

Our new home – Site #39 at Pancho Villa State Park

After getting set up, we walked around the campground to get familiar with our surroundings. This park is located on the site of Camp Furlong, an old army site used during the pursuit of Pancho Villa in the early 1900’s. There’s a museum here in the park that we will explore while we’re here.

Brief overview of the park’s history

Also, the park is located about 3 miles from the US/Mexico border, and there’s a border crossing where you can walk across into the Mexican town of Puerto Palomas. We’ll definitely be crossing the border while we’re here to enjoy lunch and margaritas at the Pink Store!

I just can’t describe how happy we both are with this lifestyle so far. It’s so freeing to be able to just unhook your electric plug and your water hose and then drive a few miles to a new place to live for awhile. Every time we change locations, there’s something new to see and new people to meet (Hi, Richard!!). We’re able to dive into the history of our country, and challenge our preconceptions and prejudices by actually exploring places for ourselves. Additionally, I’m learning to be less attached to plans and schedules, and more relaxed about living in the moment.

Standing at the top of Cootes Hill in Pancho Villa SP

We just completed our 12th week living fulltime in Lizzy, after selling our house and almost everything we owned.

Regrets?

None!

So, we paid for two nights when we got here yesterday, just to give ourselves time to make sure this is where we wanted to stay for awhile. But as of this morning, it looks like we’ll be here for the full 14 days before we move on. There’s so much to explore in this area, so we have no chance of being bored.

We love New Mexico!!

Safe travels, everyone! And remember, if you have questions about our fulltime lifestyle or places we’re visiting, be sure to put them in the comments, and we’ll answer them in a future blog post!

BONUS

We’ve gotten questions from some readers, asking what we eat on the road. I’ve added a new page to the blog called “What We Eat“. It talks about our plant-based diet and gives you an idea of how we handle food prep and eating healthy on the road. You can find the link in the blog menu, and I’ll be updating that page as we find new recipes or food ideas on the road. Enjoy!

Exploring Las Cruces & Moving On

Our time in New Mexico is rapidly drawing to a close, and as much as I love Arizona, I have to say that New Mexico has stolen my heart. We will definitely be back when the weather warms up, especially since we have the annual pass to the state parks. But for now, it’s time to move on to lower elevations and warmer nights. We will spend one more night here in Leasburg Dam State Park before pulling out tomorrow, probably just after noon. We’ve met some wonderful people here, and we will be sad to leave!

We did some exploring in the Las Cruces area on Wednesday. Instead of taking I-25 from the park, we decided to travel the back roads, driving south on Doña Ana road which runs parallel to the interstate. This road took us by the cotton fields and pecan orchards which are so prevalent along the Rio Grande river in this area, and gave us a much closer view of everyday rural life in this area.

Cotton ready for harvest

St. Mary’s at Hill Anglican Church, founded in 1920

When we got into Las Cruces we first went to the local art-and-farmers market, which is held every Wednesday and Saturday on the Plaza. According to TripAdvisor.com, there are more than 300 vendors at the market. However, when we got there we found out that the really big crowds are there on Saturdays, and only a select few vendors come in on Wednesdays. We still enjoyed browsing the booths, talking to the vendors, and snacking on some delicious street tacos featuring those world-famous Hatch chilies.

Vendors on the plaza at the Wednesday market

Beautiful design of inlaid stone, with the Christmas tree in the background

Chile Ristras for sale at the market

Jake the Snake tacos from the Luchador food truck – amazing!

The next stop on our tour was the historic town of Mesilla, which has been swallowed up and surrounded by Las Cruces but still retains much of the original architecture and character from its origins. Mesilla’s history is tied to Billy the Kid, much as Tupelo’s history is tied to Elvis. In fact, the building that once housed the Doña Ana County Courthouse where Billy was tried and sentenced to hang is still standing. Unfortunately, instead of preserving its original interior, it is now a pretty tacky trinket shop, even though it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The old Doña Ana Courthouse where Billy the Kid was sentence to hang

The town is arranged around a central plaza which is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and the Basilica of San Albino, a beautiful Catholic church which was established in 1851 by order of the Mexican government. The present building was constructed in 1906, replacing the original adobe structure.

Basilica of San Albino on the Plaza in Mesilla NM

El Patio Cantina, operated continuously since 1932. although the adobe walls date back to at least 1858.

We ate lunch at one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Southwest, La Posta de Mesilla, located just off the Plaza in another original historic adobe building. Actually the restaurant started in one small adobe building, but as its popularity and customer base grew, the owners bought the adjoining adobe buildings, knocked out the walls, and now it’s a huge place with multiple rooms, each decorated differently. They already had their Christmas decorations up in all the rooms, so it was even more colorful. I had the Chile-Rita and Andy had a mango margarita. I ordered the sour cream enchiladas (served pancake style topped with a fried egg), and Andy had a combination plate that featured a chile relleno. The food was absolutely delicious, but it was way more than I could eat. We highly recommend this place if you’re ever in Las Cruces!

One of the entrances to La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant and Cantina

Sour cream enchiladas and the Chile-Rita

We were too full to order dessert, but that didn’t stop us from each purchasing a chocolate treat from the Chocolate Lady shop just down the street as we continued our tour. We also spent quite a bit of time in a shop called Silver Assets, where Andy found a kindred soul to discuss turquoise and silver jewelry-making for almost an hour.

We definitely recommend spending some time in Mesilla if you’re ever in the Las Cruces area. We’ll be back for sure!

Yesterday (Friday) was a day for chores. We dumped the tanks in the morning, and then I spent about an hour giving the rig a thorough cleaning inside. I love having such a small home–takes no time at all to finish my housework! Today we’ll be going back into Las Cruces to stock up on groceries and drinking water and get gas for the truck.

Last night we sat down with the laptop and our Arizona atlas and started planning where we want to head next. Our goal is to keep our expenses as low as possible, within reason, so we’re going to be doing a lot more boondocking or dry-camping, which means no hookups. Unfortunately Arizona doesn’t have the same awesome deal on their state park annual passes that New Mexico has, but they do have a lot more public land for boondocking.

We don’t want to travel more than two or three hours at a time, so our first stop will actually still be in New Mexico in a town called Lordsburg. They have free camping at their Veterans Park, so we’ll overnight there on Sunday night. On Monday we plan to head to some BLM land north of Tucson near Eloy. There’s a 14-day limit on BLM land, but I doubt we’ll stay the entire 14 days in that location. We’ll still need to dump our tanks every 4-5 days which means we’ll have to move the RV anyway. If we really like our campsite, we can return to it for up to 14 days, but if not we’ll just move on.

We’ve also scouted out some sites where we can stay in the Phoenix/Glendale area. We’re looking forward to visiting some of our old haunts and seeing some old friends while we’re passing through.

What about the holidays?

We’ll most likely be spending Thanksgiving parked in the desert on BLM land. We have a delicious meal planned, and will be giving thanks for the lifestyle that we are able to enjoy. Not sure at this point where we’ll be for Christmas, but wherever it is, we’ll be celebrating!

So be sure to subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on our travels. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to see what we’re up to between blog posts.

Safe travels, everyone!

Our First Sub-Freezing Night In Our RV

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Low this morning was 22.5° outside while it was 69.2° inside!

The cold arctic blast that is sweeping through the country made its way into south-central New Mexico yesterday (Monday), as forecasted. We made a trip into Las Cruces after lunch yesterday to pick up some groceries. When we left the campground, it was sunny to partly cloudy and in the mid-50’s. It was about 70° inside the RV just from the sunshine coming  in through the windows. But as we made the 20-minute drive south to Las Cruces, we could see dark clouds and precipitation over the mountaintops.

We stopped first at Sam’s Club, where we encountered a cold wind when we stepped out of the truck. Next, we went to Walmart and while we were checking out, Andy overheard someone talking about it snowing outside. When we went back to the truck, I did actually see one single snowflake fall, but it was definitely cold, cloudy and windy. We made a final stop at Sprouts, and then headed back to the campground.

When we got back in the RV, we found the temperature had dropped to 55° inside. Maggie had burrowed down under the comforter on the bed, and Molly was curled up in her fabric-and-foam “hidey-hole”. We turned on the electric heater to warm things up, put away the groceries and set about preparing the RV for the cold night ahead.

The arctic express on radar this morning. The blue dot is where we are.

The forecast was calling for a hard freeze with a low temperature around 23°. We had already dumped the black and grey tanks before we went to town, and Andy had also filled up our fresh water tank which holds 50 gallons. So to complete our preparations for the cold night ahead, we took the following steps:

  • Unhooked our water hose from the spigot at the site and drained it.
  • Turned on the water pump so we would use water directly from our fresh water tank.
  • Turned on the tank heaters for the black and grey tanks to keep them from freezing (these are small heating pads that are attached to the bottom of the tanks). The fresh water tank is actually under one of the dinette seats so it’s pretty safe from freezing.
  • Closed the privacy curtain to the attic space over the cab to avoid heating it.
  • Hung Andy’s t-shirt quilt over the opening to the cab area to keep the cold air out. Also placed our laundry bag and throw pillows on the floor where the blanket didn’t quite reach to block more cold air.
  • Left some of the cabinets and drawers slightly open to allow warm air to reach the plumbing lines.
  • Ran our small electric heater near the front of the RV.
  • Ran the onboard propane furnace, setting the thermostat to keep it between 60° and 65°.
  • I wore a pair of light flannel pajamas instead of my usual tank top, and we had plenty of blankets on the bed.

Using blankets, curtains, pillows and dirty laundry to keep out cold air

The only area that we need to work on in the future is the entry door. A lot of cold air gets in here around that door, so we need to come up with a way to hang a blanket or something over the door when we need it.

This morning when I got up about 5:45 AM, it was 23.9° outside and 62.7° inside the RV–perfect!! I cranked up the furnace a little higher, and over the next hour, the temperature outside continued to fall another degree or so, while the RV got pretty toasty, getting up to 74° before the furnace cycled off. The thermostat isn’t digital, it’s one of those old-school types with the sliding lever that goes from “cooler” to “warmer” and you have to just guess where to put it. I think we pretty much have it figured out now.

So we had plenty of heat, plenty of water, and we’re all snug and safe this morning!

As I mentioned in our last post, we didn’t move to warmer weather because we were waiting for Andy’s prescription to arrive in the mail. The tracking information on the USPS website said that it was due to arrive here in Radium Springs today (Tuesday), so we pre-paid our campsite through tonight. However, our mail actually arrived on Saturday, so technically we could have already been gone if we had chosen to move on. Since we’re only paying $4/night for this campsite, we wouldn’t have forfeited that much money. But since we’re allowed to stay here a total of 14 nights, and the forecast is for warmer temperatures later this week, we decided to stick it out and test out the cold-weather systems on the rig. We had never used the tank warmers and had not used the furnace much at all. It looks like everything passed with flying colors!

The forecast shows two more nights of sub-freezing temperatures with highs in the 50’s before warming to the 60’s on Saturday. The thing about being in the desert–when the temperature is in the 50’s and it’s sunny and there’s no wind, it’s totally comfortable if you’re hiking or sitting in the sun. So we’ll continue to enjoy the beautiful sunny days, and we’ll rely on our RV systems to keep us warm at night.

We’re already making plans for next week, as our 14 days will be up on Sunday.  We’ll be headed west to Arizona for warmer weather, but our plans are to spend a lot of time boondocking or dry-camping, which is something we have limited experience with. So stay tuned to see where we go next! You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Happy travels!!

Winter Is Coming So Why Aren’t We Moving?

So far our return visit to Leasburg Dam State Park has been nice. The afternoon temperatures have been in the low-to-mid 70s with clear blue skies and very low humidity. It gets pretty windy starting about lunchtime and stays that way until a couple of hours after sundown, but there’s not a lot of dust blowing around, so it’s okay.

I go hiking every day on the trails here in the park which lead down to the Rio Grande river and then to an overlook near the Leasburg Dam. Since we were here last month, a flock of ducks has moved in on the river, presumably on their migration route. We’ve also seen rabbits and roadrunners in our campsite.

On Wednesday we drove into Las Cruces to do some grocery shopping. We ate lunch at Chipotle, then we hit Walmart and Sprouts. While at Walmart we picked up a small runner rug for the RV to help insulate the floor a little bit on those cold mornings (keep reading to find out why!). After we finished shopping, we stopped at Starbucks to treat ourselves to some coffee and some wi-fi.

Wednesday night we finally had a campfire after more than two months on the road. We had bought a bag of marshmallows weeks ago and it had been taking up space in our pantry bin, so I was glad to finally get to open it. We like campfires but neither of us like the smell that gets into our clothes from the smoke. We had to close all the windows on the RV because the smoke was being drawn inside the rig. But it was still a nice touch of “atmosphere” for the campsite.

Our first campfire marshmallows since hitting the road

While we enjoyed the campfire, I set up my GoPro on a tripod in a nearby empty campsite and programmed it to record a timelapse of the stars. I’m still learning how to do timelapses with this camera, especially the night lapses of the stars. I attached a power stick to the camera so the battery would last longer. I started shooting at 6:45 PM, and when I went to retrieve the camera at about 12:30 AM, there was about 7% battery remaining. If you know anything about shooting timelapse at night, you’ll understand when I say that 5 hours and 45 minutes of shooting yielded a video that lasts just over 21 seconds. It didn’t turn out quite as well as I hoped it would but it’s okay. Here’s a look at the raw, unedited version–you have to watch it in full screen view on a larger screen to really see the stars.

Yesterday (Thursday) we drove to Hatch to pick up our mail which had been forwarded from our mail service in Livingston, Texas. Since Hatch is the chili capital of the world, we just had to make a quick stop at one of the local chili roasters to check out their wares. We got a jar of homemade salsa, and jar of pickled peppers, and a small bag of dried mango coated with chili spice (not made locally). We enjoyed chatting with the local folks while we were there–well worth the stop!

Checking out the goods at Hot Damn Chile in Hatch, NM

So life is pretty normal, just enjoying the sunshine and the surroundings.

But things are about to change.

Our plan has always been to follow the weather, chasing 70° as they say. But sometimes life throws you a curveball.

Andy has a several prescriptions that he takes, one of which he orders through Humana’s mail order service so he can get a 90-day supply at a time. When it came time to reorder, he went to their website and clicked on the button that said something like “one-click order”. He said he thought it would take him to a form he could fill out to give them an address–guess he’s not familiar with “one-click” ordering. And unfortunately, he had never given them our new Livingston address.

So as soon as he placed the order, he got confirmation that the prescription would be shipped, but it was going to our old address in Tupelo.

That wasn’t good.

He called Humana to see if he could get the address changed for the shipment. Well, of course that led to a two-hour conversation. Since the new address is in Texas, that means he’s in a different plan market, so they had to set him up on a new Medicare Part D plan. The monthly premium didn’t change, it just took a lot of time on the phone. At the end of the conversation, he asked them if they could change the address on the outgoing shipment, and they assured him that they would.

Yeah……right.

The shipment went to Tupelo first, and then it was forwarded to our address in Livingston. That took over a week. Once it got to Livingston, we had to put in a request to have it forwarded to the local post office here in Radium Springs, NM, general delivery. It was mailed out on Wednesday, and is expected to arrive here in Radium Springs sometime next Tuesday.

Fortunately he has plenty of medication to last until the new shipment arrives. But it does present us with a chilly dilemma.

Weather forecast is chilly!

There’s a cold front moving this way and the temperatures are going to drop significantly over the weekend. Nighttime temperatures will be well below freezing on Monday and Tuesday. Under normal circumstances, we would be pulling up stakes today and moving toward Arizona, but we need to stick around here and wait for Andy’s prescription to arrive.

We’ve never camped in the RV in temperatures below freezing, but we’re making preparations. The rig does have an onboard propane furnace. Since we’re hooked up to electricity here, we’ll also be using our electric heater. Yesterday, we unpacked some of our winter clothes from the storage bins in the Tacoma, and we’ve got plenty of blankets in the rig.

At night, we’ll unhook the water hose from the outside faucet and drain it so it doesn’t freeze and burst. We’ll use our onboard water tank instead. The rig also has tank heaters that should keep the black and gray tanks from freezing up overnight.

We’ll also see about hanging an extra blanket from the over-cab storage platform to block off the cab portion of the RV since a lot of cold air comes in that way.

Ironically, the temperatures are supposed to go back up into the 60’s once we get past Tuesday, so if we don’t freeze to death over the weekend, we may wind up staying here for the full two weeks, through the following Saturday night. The price is right ($4/night) and we save fuel by not moving, but that savings can be wiped out if we’re using a lot of propane to run the furnace.

We shall see!

Anyway, life is good! We’re happy, healthy and enjoying every day to the fullest!

Goodbye to the Best Campsite Ever (So Far)

Yesterday was moving day. We had stayed at Elephant Butte Lake State Park for 14 nights, which is the limit here in New Mexico. After 14 nights you have to leave the park for at least 6 nights before you can return for overnight camping.

We can understand why they have the 14 day limit, because if they didn’t, we would have stayed there indefinitely. There were so many things we loved about it:

Sunrise at Elephant Butte Lake SP from Site #79 at Lions Beach

  • We had the best campsite in the park. Not just our opinion, we were told that by multiple people who were hoping to snag the spot before we beat them to it. Site #79 in the Lions Beach campground is first come first serve and sits at the end of the loop on a bluff so there’s no one on your left side, giving you an unobstructed view of the lake. There’s a ramada with a picnic table as well as a fire ring.
  • The sunrises and sunsets were epic, especially since we had such an open vista to the east. Almost every morning I had to step outside in my PJs and slippers to gawk at the sky.
  • We had a covey of quail that came by to visit several times a day. There were cottontails and jackrabbits living in the bushes around us. We saw roadrunners and squirrels in the campground. The wildlife was so much fun to watch.
  • There was plenty of space to walk and hike, including both marked trails through the high desert as well as the beach and dry lake bed. The lake (actually a reservoir) is currently very low so there is a lot of exposed lake bed with other-worldly rock formations that makes very interesting hiking and photography opportunities.
  • The bathroom and shower facilities were a little dated, but they kept them clean and serviced. The water in the showers was always plenty warm, and on cold mornings they had the heat running in the buildings which made showering much more pleasant. They also have vault toilets scattered throughout the park, and by using those occasionally we were able to go longer between trips to the dump station to empty our black tank.
  • The nearby town of Truth or Consequences is convenient for grocery and supply shopping, and also has some interesting and quirky places to visit. The Walmart isn’t huge but it had just about everything we needed, and it also has covered parking with solar panels on the roof. McDonald’s is right across the street from Walmart, and they have super-fast wi-fi. We referred to it as an “adult” McDonald’s because there’s no PlayPlace, no garish colors, and we rarely saw a child in there. We enjoyed a visit to the Geronimo Springs Museum, followed by lunch at the Passion Pie Cafe, both in historic downtown T or C.
  • Although we were in a developed campsite, this park has an abundance of area for dispersed camping. We saw everything from tents to big Class A motorhomes parked off-road in desert clearings, on the beach or on the dry lake bed. Even without hookups, their campsites were awesome and made us want to try some boondocking for a few days.

Hiking over terrain that is normally under water

Just a word of caution if you’re ever considering staying here–the campsites in the Quail Run and Desert Cove loops are not very level, and some of them are on such a slant that they’re almost impossible to use. We had to cancel our original reservation in Quail Run for that reason. Stick to Lions Beach and you’ll be fine.

So to put it succinctly, we LOVED our stay at Elephant Butte Lake and were sad to leave. As we were breaking camp yesterday, a couple from Quebec, Canada stopped by to visit. They were so nice and interesting to talk to. And yes, they left their folding chairs in the campsite to stake their claim so that they could move their RV in there as soon as we pulled out. 🙂

We had to make a decision about where to go next. The weather forecast for this part of New Mexico is still showing mild temperatures for the next two weeks with highs in the 70’s this week and in the 60’s next week, and still nothing below freezing at night. So we decided to squeeze out even more value from our annual pass and stay in another state park.

We decided to go back south toward Las Cruces where it’s slightly lower in elevation and therefore slightly warmer. We considered Caballo Lake SP or returning to Percha Dam SP, but in the end decided to pay a return visit to Leasburg Dam SP in Radium Springs where we stayed in early October. I checked online and there were no sites available for reservation, so we decided to take a chance on getting a first come first serve site, preferably with electricity.

So yesterday we left Elephant Butte around 1:30 and made the 90-minute drive to Leasburg Dam after dumping the tanks and stopping for gas. And we must be living right because after entering the park, we found a beautiful spot with electricity within sight of the spot where we parked in October. It’s perfectly level, has a ramada with picnic table and fire ring, and is nice and quiet. We were set up by 4:00 PM and ready to enjoy the evening.

Setting up in site #11 at Leasburg Dam SP

You might ask, “What if there had not been a site available?”. We were prepared to turn around and go back north to Caballo Lake or Percha Dam where they have more capacity. We could have even spent the night boondocking at a rest stop on the side of I-25. But in our admittedly limited experience with the New Mexico state parks, we’re finding that there are always people checking out of their campsites on a daily basis, especially after the weekend is over. So there’s usually availability after 2:00 PM, even if it might not be the most desirable site in the park.

We paid for five nights here in Leasburg, and unless the weather takes a bad turn, we will probably extend our stay to the 14-day limit. This allows us to save money on camping fees since we’re only paying $4/night, but just as importantly, it saves us money on gas since we won’t be moving the rig so much.

It’s also nice to be closer to Las Cruces for awhile where the shopping is better. We need to make a run to Sprouts to pick up some bulk items like raw cashews and red lentils. Also, Andy is having a craving for Chipotle, so we’ll have lunch there one day.

One of the downsides to this lifestyle is, of course, being away from family for an extended length of time. This weekend my parents and all my brothers and their wives got together at Smith Lake, Alabama to enjoy some quality time together at a beautiful “cabin” (really a large, beautifully decorated house). We had planned to be there as well, thinking that our house would take a couple of months to sell, but as you know, it sold within 24 hours of putting it on the market, and we hit the road earlier than anticipated. My youngest brother posted a lot of pictures and videos from the weekend, and I was so happy to see everyone having a great time, especially my aging parents, but I sure did miss getting to be there myself.

It’s one of those trade-offs that you have to make to live this lifestyle.

So our plans for the next day or so include a grocery run to Las Cruces. We also need to drive to Hatch to pick up our mail which was forwarded from our mail service in Livingston, Texas over the weekend. I plan to do a lot of hiking around here, and we’ll also do some sightseeing–there are some old “ghost towns” and historical places that we want to see.

And that’s what’s going on with us right now. Still trying to adjust to the time change, and so are the cats–they still want to be fed on solar time, so for the past two days they’ve made me get up around 5:00. Bad cats!! 🙂

Kitties don’t know SQUAT about time changes. This was 5:15 AM.

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Expense Report for September-October 2018

Happy Halloween!

This is the report that several people have requested, and which we had always planned to include on the blog. Today we’re going to talk about what it costs us to live this lifestyle.

First, a couple of 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.

Now, a quick recap of where we’ve been for the last two months, as this directly impacts how we spent our money.

On September 1, we pulled in to the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas, where we spent the entire month. The RV did not move except for one day when we had to drive it into town to get it inspected in order to have it registered in Texas. We paid the monthly rate of $340 for the RV site, rather than the nightly rate, plus a separate charge for electricity which was metered at the site.

Parked in site #60 at Escapees Rainbow’s End

We left Livingston on October 1 and headed to New Mexico, which meant we drove a lot more miles, using more fuel, in both the RV and the truck. Since we’ve been in New Mexico, we’ve moved around several times, mostly staying at state parks. We bought the annual pass for $225 which allows us to stay in any state park campsite for free, plus $4/night if we have electrical hookups which we always opt for if they are available.

That said, here’s how the expenses stacked up.

Camping fees + Electricity

September: $439 (1 location for the entire month)

October: $323 (7 different locations, but primarily in state parks at $4/night.) We bought the $225 annual pass for the New Mexico State Parks which is actually good for 13 months. For purposes of this monthly expense report, we’re pro-rating that cost over 13 months.

Staking our claim to Site #79, best site in the campground.

Fuel for the RV

September: $61 (Drove 302 miles, 7.5 MPG including 10-12 hours of generator use the night before we arrived in Livingston.)

October: $452 (Drove 1,335 miles, 8.3 MPG)

Fuel for the Truck

September: $159 (20.1 MPG)

October: $245 (21.5 MPG)

groceries

September: $444

October: $499

Interesting note: We’re paying less for groceries on the road than we did in our sticks-and-bricks home for a couple of reasons. First, Mississippi charges sales tax on groceries where Texas and New Mexico do not, so that’s a 7.5% savings right off the bat. Second, since we have a lot less storage space, we are a lot more careful about planning our meals and avoiding waste. We primarily eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet so we buy a lot of fresh produce and whole grains, along with wine/beer. We buy very little processed foods in boxes and cans (although we do buy canned beans and tomatoes), and we’ve recently developed a dangerous addiction to the $.50 mini-pies at Walmart!

Typical lunch–homemade hummus with raw veggies for dipping

dining out

September: $217

October: $194

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

Black bean veggie burger at Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels

household / furnishings

September: $72

October: $52

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

petcare

September: $73

October: $45

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

September: $245

October: $245

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them last fall. 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 on the unlimited data plan which gets throttled before we get through the month. Once the phones are paid off next fall, the monthly charge should drop significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

September: $0

October: $12

We did not need to have any mail forwarded to us in September because we were staying at the Escapees park in Livingston where our mail service is located, and we could just pick up our mail daily. In October we had one batch of mail forwarded to us in Albuquerque that also included our absentee ballots for the November election, for which there was an extra $10 handling charge.

Main post office in Albuquerque

Laundry

September: $25

October: $7

We had to do laundry more often in September due to the high humidity in Texas–our clothes got smellier faster, and so did the laundry bag. Here in the cooler, drier climate of New Mexico, we can go longer between laundry days.

attractions / entertainment

September: $80

October: $84

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

memberships

September: $0

October: $60 (annual renewal for Costco membership)

Equipment for RV

September: $77 (water hose/nozzle, roll of reflectix, 6-gallon fresh water jug)

October: $207 (new surge protector to replace one that got fried in a thunderstorm, two vent covers for the roof, extra set of leveling blocks, and other miscellaneous items)

Installing covers over our vents and fan

RV Maintenance & REpairs

September: $4

October: $46 (kit to repair leaky toilet, new gasket seal for bathroom roof vent)

truck maintenance & repairs

September: $12 (plate holder for Texas tag on the front bumper)

October: $0

Vehicle insurance

September: $97

October: $97

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

September: $39

October $39

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 two months:

September Total: $2,043

October Total: $2,605

It obviously makes a huge difference whether you’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. We’re in the process of planning our itinerary for November, and it will likely include more time in New Mexico state parks at $4/night, and then our first forays into dry camping or boondocking as we head toward the warmer weather in the Arizona desert.

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.

 

Creativity On the Road

It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re living in a beautiful spot with free-spirited, like-minded people around you. Both Andy and I have hobbies and creative interests that we hope to actively pursue even while we’re living in a small space and moving from spot to spot.

Andy has been making silver and stone jewelry for over twenty years, selling it online and in local markets and festivals. When we were in our sticks-and-bricks home, he had a separate workshop that was his man-cave and sanctuary, and he had a large collection of tools and equipment to support his craft.

When we decided to downsize to the RV, the toughest decision he had to make was whether or not he could walk away from his workshop and his creative outlet. In the end, he figured out a way to bring his studio with him, albeit in a much scaled-down version. He decided to concentrate on filigree, a specific style of jewelry that he’s very good at making, and he kept only the tools and supplies needed for that type of work.

This past weekend was the first time he set up his portable studio in a campsite and started making a new jewelry piece. These first few attempts will be a lot of trial and error, figuring out if he can actually work outdoors with his pared-down collection of tools and equipment. He’s already figured out that he needs a larger torch head to get hotter temperatures, and he can’t find his copper tongs that he needs for the pickle process (he can explain this better than I can).

But it’s good to see him with his magnifier visor on again, doing what he loves and does so well.

My creative outlet is photography, and most of the time I’ve been content with shooting photos with my iPhone to share on social media and this blog. But I do have some serious photography equipment, including a Nikon D700 full-frame camera with some great lenses, and I enjoy doing some more serious shooting when I’m in an environment that inspires me. I also enjoy playing around with various photo-editing software to enhance the shots or to alter them creatively.

Yesterday at sundown, we went down to the beach and set up the camera with my large wide-angle lens to try and capture the sunset. There weren’t a lot of clouds, so there wasn’t much drama or vivid colors, but I was still able to concentrate on composition, as well as remembering how to adjust the settings on the camera.

I edited a few of the photos this morning and posted them on my Flickr page, and also updated my photography blog, The Zen of Zann, if you would like to check those out.

On Saturday we did some local sight-seeing. First we visited the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences. They have quite a collection of stuff for a small-town museum, including prehistoric mastodon and woolly mammoth skulls that were discovered in the area. They have one room dedicated to the story of how the town got its name (I’ll let you Google it if you’re interested), another dedicated to the Elephant Butte Dam, and they have a lot of Native American pottery and artifacts on display. We spent about an hour and a half enjoying learning about the area.

After we left the museum, we walked up the street to a local cafe we had read about online where it gets rave reviews. The place is called Passion Pie Cafe, and they are especially known for their desserts, some of which are vegan. It’s a small, eclectic place where the owner is the head cook. They have a lot of veggie options on the menu, so we enjoyed a healthy lunch–that is until we indulged in dessert! By the time we left, we were stuffed and happy!

Otherwise we’ve just been enjoying the scenery, the wildlife, the beautiful weather, our own cooking, and peaceful sleeping. We’ll be at this campsite through Saturday night, and then we’ll head to our next destination, wherever that may be.

I’ve received some more questions from readers of this blog and will be answering them in future posts. If you have questions about our full-time RV life, feel free to leave them in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

Question and Answer Time

We received some questions from one of our blog readers, my friend Sara, regarding our transition to full-time RV life. Thanks for the questions, Sara!

We’ll each provide our own thoughts and perspective on each of the questions so this blog post won’t be so slanted toward my own ideas! 🙂

Question: What do you guys miss about brick and mortar life?

Andy: Probably the biggest thing I miss is my shop, my man-cave, my jewelry studio. It was my sanctuary.

Suzanne: Being the geek that I am, I miss having 24/7 high-speed broadband internet connectivity. So far we’ve had very good Verizon service everywhere we’ve been, and we do have the “unlimited” data plan, but I always wind up being throttled before the month is over. We can use our phones as hotspots for just about everything we want to do (i.e. streaming YouTube videos to the Roku attached to our television), but some things still require wi-fi (i.e. downloading and applying updates to Windows 10 on my laptop). I miss having that ready access to fast internet whenever I want it!

Question: Anything you gave away that you regret?

Andy: I don’t regret getting rid of anything that we got rid of, but I wish we could have sold some of the stuff that we just wound up donating.

Suzanne: The only thing that I’ve been able to think of is a little fabric-covered dense foam cube-shaped footstool/ottoman. It would have been perfect to put at the foot of the bed at night to make it easier for the cats (and us!) to get in and out of that high bed. I don’t remember where I got the last one, and I’ll probably never see another like it again.

Question: Any plans to go overseas?

Andy: No, unless we take a cruise or something.

Suzanne: Not in the RV, but I would definitely like to visit Italy and Greece. It’s on my bucket list.

Question: What’s surprised you two the most about this whole process? What hasn’t?

Andy: I was most surprised at how tired I would get driving the RV for long distances, and how stressful it would be dealing with heavy traffic. I was not surprised at all at how much I enjoy being out in nature surrounded by the beautiful scenery.

Suzanne: The most surprising thing for me by far was how fast the house sold. We were expecting to be in Tupelo probably through Thanksgiving, but we had a contract on the house in less than 24 hours after listing, and the closing went off without a hitch. We really had to scramble to get everything ready to move into the RV before we closed. But I have not been surprised by how easy it is for the two of us and the two cats to coexist in such a small space. We had a year to test it out and develop our routines, so it’s been a very easy transition to small-space living.

Thanks again to Sara for the questions. If you have anything you want to ask us about our life on the road or our transition from sticks-and-bricks life, be sure to leave a comment and we’ll try to answer your question in a future post.

You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads.

Going There Vs. Being There

When we first announced our plans to sell everything we owned, live in an RV and travel full-time, the question most people asked first was “Where are you going?” And that’s a fair question, since we did say that we were going to travel.

But as we settle into this lifestyle, we’re finding that “going” somewhere isn’t nearly as important as simply “being” somewhere. When you find yourself in a place that nourishes your soul and satisfies your senses, you can feel yourself settling down and losing that urge to move on. It’s enough to just “be” there for awhile, until circumstances change and it’s time to “go”. The “going” part can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming; but the “being” part can settle the nerves and make the passage of time seem almost irrelevant.

That’s exactly how we feel about our current location in Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. After arriving on Sunday and spending the first 24 hours moving between campsites, we’ve spent the last three days falling in love with this place. And right now there’s no place we would rather “be”.

Maggie loves basking in the sun and watching the wildlife

And that is in spite of the rain that fell all day on Tuesday. I did manage to go for an hour-long walk on Tuesday morning while there was just a light mist, After my walk, we drove down to Hatch (the Chile Capital of the World) to do some banking at Wells Fargo. On the drive down there the rain really started to fall, and it continued throughout the afternoon and evening, limiting our activities to watching DVDs and cooking.

Wednesday morning’s sunrise was beautiful with low clouds hugging the mountaintops over the lake. After a leisurely morning, a hot shower and a good lunch, I unpacked my “real” camera, my Nikon 700 full-frame DSLR and my 28-300mm lens, and we set out for a hike down to the beach, which is actually the dry lake bed where the reservoir has receded due to the drought.

One of my goals for this whole lifestyle change was to have the time to renew my passion for photography. I’ve never found anything that inspires my creativity like the landscape and geography of the American Southwest. But first I have to reacquaint myself with the basic controls and functionalities of this camera. I’ve gotten so used to shooting only with my iPhone, just pointing and clicking the button, although I do try to be mindful of composition and exposure even when using the phone. It’s going to take a little while to remember how to use the DSLR which has an almost infinite combination of settings that control how the image is captured.

We hiked and walked for about an hour and a half, much of the time in loose sand, so we got quite a workout. After we returned to the RV, I spent some time editing a few of the images which I’ll be sharing on my newly revived photography blog, “the Zen of Zann“, as well as on my Flickr site. Feel free to  follow these links and subscribe to either or both of these sites if you’re interested in photography.

Shooting on the beach (photo credit goes to Andy)

Wednesday evening I tried a new Instant Pot recipe that I had stashed away in my Evernote recipe files. I’m always looking for ways to simplify cooking in the RV so we don’t use so many pots and so much water. I found this recipe for Instant Pot spaghetti where everything is cooked in one pot, it’s fast, and it uses a lot less water than is typically used to boil pasta. Here’s a link to the original recipe from the “I Heart Naptime” blog. Since we don’t eat meat, I substituted Gardein Meatless Crumbles and diced mushrooms for the ground beef, and I also added some green bell pepper. This recipe was super-easy, it was delicious, and there were plenty of leftovers for a couple more meals. It would make a great potluck dish as well!

Today was a beautiful, cloudless (mostly) day, so we spent a lot of time outdoors. I took a long walk this morning before lunch. After lunch we drove in to Truth or Consequences (“T or C”, as it’s known around here)  so we could hang out at McDonald’s for awhile to get some high-speed wi-fi. I needed to download and install some Windows 10 updates on my laptop and we both needed to install updates on our iPhones and Andy’s iPad. This McDonald’s has great wi-fi, and it was nice to be able to keep our devices safe and functioning well.

There is fall color even in the desert

As a side note, we’ve been getting excellent Verizon service everywhere we’ve been in New Mexico, so our hotspots on our phones have been more than sufficient for our typical video streaming and internet browsing needs. But sometimes you just need wi-fi to download those large files that OS updates require, so we’ll continue to seek out McDonald’s, Starbucks and local libraries when necessary.

Tomorrow (Friday) we’ll have to make a quick trip over to the dump station to empty our tanks, and then Andy is going to try doing a little silversmithing if it doesn’t suddenly turn windy. I’m going to spend some more time on my photography. I did shoot a timelapse of the eastern sky at sundown this evening, but the cloud cover to the west hid the setting sun most of the time so I didn’t get the drama I was hoping for. But I have nine more evenings to try it again!

So, as you can tell, we are just enjoying “being” here without worrying about where we’re “going” next. This will be our fifth night, and since we’re limited to a two-week stay by park regulations, we’ll try to make the most of the next nine days in this beautiful spot. The weather forecast couldn’t be better, we have the perfect campsite, and there’s no reason for us to be “going” anywhere.

Campsite Roulette in Elephant Butte Lake SP New Mexico

As I mentioned in our last post, we decided to leave Percha Dam State Park on Sunday because they did not have a dump station, and we made reservations for a 10-night stay in Elephant Butte Lake State Park. New Mexico uses an online reservation service, so in addition to the $4/night for the site, there was a $12 “transaction fee”, which made the total $52–still not bad for 10 nights. Based on the photo of the site alone, we selected site #42 which overlooked the reservoir.

Okay, so that was a rookie mistake.

The drive from Percha Dam SP to Elephant Butte Lake SP only took about 35 minutes, so it wasn’t a bad drive.  We arrived around 2:30 PM on Sunday afternoon and found our campsite in the Quail Run Loop of the park. It did indeed have a good view of the lake through the windshield. However, it also sloped downward at such at angle that there was no way we could get the RV level. We stacked the leveling blocks up to three-high under the front wheels, and it was still sloping downward.

Now, the nice thing about New Mexico state parks is that they set aside at least half of their campsites to be first-come first-served, and these campsites are every bit as nice as the reservation-only sites. We noticed that the campsite just across the road on the uphill side, site #32, was open and it was first-come first served. It appeared to be much more level than our reserved site. So we decided to move to #32 for at least one night until we could get our bearings.

View from Site #32. Just in front of us is Site #43, next to our original Ste #42.

The first-come first-served sites must be paid for by cash or check when you get to the campground. You pick up a pay envelope from the self-serve pay station located in the campground, fill out the triplicate form indicating how many nights you’ll be in the site, and provide your annual pass number if you have one (we do.) You tear off the white and yellow copies and stick those on the windshield of your vehicles, and the pink copy is actually the envelope where you insert your money. You insert the envelope in the pay station deposit box and you’re set. And they DO come around every morning to check to make sure you’ve paid.

So we paid $4 for site #32 and moved in. This site wasn’t quite as level as it appeared, but it was more a problem with the side-to-side leaning than the front-to-back incline. We made it work with the handy leveling blocks but decided that we would look around a little bit more to see if there was a site we liked better. We checked the Desert Cove Loop next door as well as the rest of Quail Run Loop and made note of several sites that looked promising, some of which required a reservation.

In the meantime, I went online and cancelled our original reservation for the downhill slide (Site #42). The cancellation cost us another $12 transaction fee, a $5 cancellation fee, and $4 forfeiture of the first night’s stay for a total of $21.

Cha-ching!

After getting a good night’s sleep in site #32, I had my breakfast and then went for a walk. I decided to check out another camping area just up the park road called Lions Beach. There are three loops in this area. Loops A and C are reservation only, and Loop B is first-come, first-served.  I walked through Loop B and found some amazing campsites. Lions Beach is on a hill that overlooks the reservoir, and the loops are terraced with A being the highest and C being the lowest in elevation. Because of the terracing, every site has a great view. All of the sites looked very level, and even though they are a little close together, each site has a ramada with a picnic table and a fire ring.

There were a couple of available sites in the middle of the loop, and campers in a few other sites were making preparations to leave. When I got back from my walk, Andy was just finishing his breakfast, so when he was done we got in the truck and drove back to Lions Beach so I could let him check out what I had found.

And that’s when it happened. The stars aligned, the Universe smiled, and all our collected good karma came home to roost.

At the very end of the loop, the corner site #79 was being vacated. The site sits on a bluff with over 180° of open viewing of the reservoir and surrounding park area, without having to look at another RV. The previous occupants of the site were in the process of hitching their huge fifth-wheel trailer to their truck and unhooking their utilities.

We knew we would have to move fast if we wanted to snag this spot. We couldn’t be the only ones interested in it. So we drove back to our campsite and waited a few minutes until we saw the fifth-wheel come driving up the road to the dump station, and then we pounced!

We grabbed our lawn chairs and put them in the truck and we drove back over to Lions Beach to site #79, where we found that no one else had yet claimed it. On the way, we had stopped at the pay station and picked up the permit envelope, so I filled it out and stuck the white copy on the truck window, hung the yellow copy on the site number post, and we left the truck and lawn chairs and walked back to our RV at site #32. However, I didn’t yet pay for the site until we were sure that the RV would be level and that the electric and water worked fine. But the important thing was that we had staked our claim.

Staking our claim to Site #79, best site in the campground.

We moved the RV to site #79 after making a stop at the dump station to empty one night’s worth of….well, you know. Andy backed the RV into our new site, and found that it was perfectly level with no leveling blocks needed. Hallelujah!! The utilities all checked out, and we quickly settled in. We decided to go ahead and pay for seven nights ($28), after which we’ll pay for another six. New Mexico state parks limit you to 14 days, after which you must leave the park for at least six days before you can return.

We could not believe our luck! Two people have already stopped by and told us they had been waiting for this site, and that it’s the best site in the park. We totally agree!! You can do all the research and preparation you want, but sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time and be willing to make changes on the fly.

We’ve learned our lesson about New Mexico State Parks. From now on we’ll plan to arrive on Sunday through Thursday and look for a first-come first-served site, rather than paying the transaction fees to make online reservations.

After we settled in and had lunch, we drove in to Truth or Consequences and dropped off our absentee ballots at the post office for the November election. Then we went to Walmart to pick up a few groceries. This Walmart has covered parking with solar panels on roofs, which we found interesting. While shopping in the store we met a very nice, talkative gentleman named Rick who gave us the scoop on things to see and some of the history of the area. We will definitely check out some of his suggestions while we’re here.

Moonrise over the reservoir as seen from our front porch

After dinner we sat outside and watched a beautiful sunset. This park is full of jackrabbits, quail, squirrels and doves, as well as many other bird species. The rabbits and quail are so cute, they come very close to the campsites and are easy to spot. The cats are enjoying watching them through the screens as well.

Sunset from our front porch

Today is supposed to be rainy and cooler so we’ll probably stay in. The rest of the week is supposed to be clear and warmer, which will be really nice.

We feel so fortunate and blessed to be on this journey, living this lifestyle!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between the blog posts!