Travel Day, Camp Vulture, Green Desert, Critters

Hooray! We have safely arrived at our new campsite!

We left the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA near Yuma on Friday morning after enjoying the breakfast buffet at the Quechan Resort and Casino. We’re definitely going to miss that particular Friday morning ritual! We certainly enjoyed our stay at Pilot Knob, but with the March winds blowing and the temperatures rising, it was time to move on.

Our route from Yuma to Wickenburg

Our first stop was at the nearby Sidewinder Chevron station to dump the tanks, fill up with fresh water, and top off the propane tank. We then drove into Yuma to refuel the RV and the pickup. Why not just get gas at the Chevron station while we were there? Because the Chevron station (and the LTVA where we were staying) are in California, and the price of gas at that Chevron station was $4.449/gallon. We stopped at the Chevron station in Yuma (Arizona) which was less than 10 miles away, and filled up the tanks for $2.499/gallon. Yes, the price of gasoline in California is much higher than it is in Arizona, but that particular Chevron station next to the LTVA is over-the-top even by California standards!

This was the first time we had put gas in the RV since our last move on December 27. For almost three months we only used gas for running the generator when we needed to power the microwave or the Instant Pots. It took a little over 32 gallons to fill the tank, so we figure about 28-29 gallons went to the generator over those three months. The solar panels did their job and kept the batteries charged, saving us on fuel costs. It was a great investment!

The drive to Wickenburg took us about 4-1/2 hours, including a stop for a bathroom break. The scenery was beautiful along the way! With the extra rainfall that the Southwest has received this winter, the desert is a beautiful green, with flowers blooming everywhere. It was all I could do to keep myself from pulling over to the side of the road and unpacking my camera gear to do some shooting. There were no issues on the drive, and since we had eaten such a large breakfast, we didn’t bother to stop for lunch anywhere.

When we got to Wickenburg  we stopped at the Union 76 station to top off the gas tanks in both vehicles where gas was $2.569. The RV took 23.4 gallons, which calculated to an average of 7.4 MPG on the drive from Yuma to Wickenburg. Since it was mostly uphill with an altitude gain of almost 2500 feet, and we were driving into a 20-25 mph  northerly headwind most of the time, we were pretty satisfied with that mileage.

Our destination was a set of GPS coordinates we found on Campendium.com for free BLM camping on Vulture Mine Road, south of Wickenburg. We found that particular site, but there were several other RVs already parked there, so we continued driving south to scout out other potential campsites. We found a really nice one that we liked a lot, but it wasn’t level enough. After a little more scouting, we found our new site, now known as Camp Vulture, just a little further down the road.

Our new front lawn at Camp Vulture

Like the other BLM sites on this road, it’s basically just a pullout on the side of the road. This one happens to be right next to a cattle guard, so we get a little extra road noise when cars go by, but it’s not a heavily traveled road so it isn’t a big issue. The view from our RV is absolutely stunning, with cactus-covered hills and mountains all around us. The green desert and the red rocks against the blue sky are so beautiful, and then when you get a few clouds at sunset as we did on our first evening here, it can almost take your breath away.

Sunset on our first evening at Camp Vulture

Not everything was beautiful at this site, however. Unfortunately there are people out there who evidently were never taught manners and responsibility by their parents, and who don’t mind just leaving their trash anywhere. The fire-rings at this site were full of trash and broken glass, so as we were getting set up, I filled up a garbage bag with as much trash as I could get out of the piles safely. I had to leave the glass for now until I can get a thick paper bag or a cardboard box to put it in.

Trash left by previous occupants

This is one of the hot issues in the RVing community right now–trash being left on public lands. Sometimes it’s RVers who are the problem, but many (most?) times it’s just local people who come out here to drink and party on the weekends. But if people continue to abuse these beautiful areas by dumping their trash, we’re all going to lose the privileges we currently enjoy to camp for free on OUR land. Therefore, when we find trash on public lands, we will take it upon ourselves to clean it up, while gritting our teeth and swearing under our breath the entire time.

We got a good night’s sleep our first night here. It was so QUIET! We didn’t realize just how much ambient noise there had been at the LTVA where we had stayed for three months–traffic on I-8, trains constantly going by, the wind blowing 20 MPH. Our new camp is far away from any major highways, and although there are some winds during the day, they completely died down at night. There was only the rare sound of a car going by, crossing the cattle guard to disturb the quiet. Oh, and also the howls from a pack of coyotes!

Yesterday we woke to a beautiful sunrise. We enjoyed our coffee on our patio, took care of a couple of small chores, and scouted out the area nearby. There are a huge variety of birds in the area, and we left the front door open (with the screen door closed) so the kitties could be entertained.

Molly watching the birds in the grass outside our front door

After lunch, Andy and I went on a hike along a rough BLM road that is only traversable by ATVs or maybe a 4WD Jeep or something similar. The road goes back into the cactus forest where there are huge saguaro, lots of cholla, and other various cacti.

Not the kind of tree you want to hug!

The entire area is covered in a blanket of green right now, dotted with all kinds of wildflowers. Stunning! We’re so fortunate to be here at this time of year, because once the temperatures warm up, the green grass and flowers will be gone, and it will be a different kind of beauty out here.

Beautiful area for desert hiking

We did see some wildlife on our hike. First we saw a cottontail rabbit hopping across the road in front of us. And then on our return, we came across a snake stretched across the road. From the shape of its head we decided it wasn’t poisonous, so we got a couple of pictures. He just lay there, flicking his tongue, but didn’t seem to be bothered by us at all. We figure he may have just come out of his cool hibernation and was just out to get warmed up by the sun, so he was probably still a little sluggish. When we got back, I did a little research, and I think this was a milk snake, based on the coloring and spot patterns.

Milk snake on our path while hiking

The rest of the day was relaxing and peaceful. The wind did pick up a little bit in the afternoon and it got a little too cool to sit outside, but with all the windows in the rig, we have beautiful views in every direction.

We can stay in this area for 14 days, and then if we want to stay on free BLM land, it has to be at least 25 miles away before we can return to this spot. But by then I expect we’ll be headed even further north as the temperatures start to rise. We have some friends in this area, and hope to be able to see some of them before we move on.

Spring in the desert is beautiful!

We plan to do some sightseeing in the area while we’re here. The old Vulture Mine is nearby, with the associated “ghost town”. The Vulture Mine was the largest gold producer in Arizona history. We’ll be doing our shopping in Wickenburg so we can check out that town while we’re here. There are plenty of hiking opportunities to keep us occupied as well. The Verizon service here is just OK–it varies from two bars of LTE to one bar of 1X–but we’ve been able to stream videos most of the time, so we can still entertain ourselves.

So that’s it from Camp Vulture! It’s great to be on the road again, seeing new places and having new adventures.

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

Safe travels!

 

RV Expense Report – December 2017

Happy New Year, everyone, from our campsite in the BLM Pilot Knob LTVA in Winterhaven, California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. We hope your 2018 was as exciting and fulfilling as ours was, and that this new year brings you nothing but great things! Get out there and make it happen!!

Now it’s time 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 fourth 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 majority of December boondocking (camping without hookups) in Arizona on BLM land. We spent the week leading up to Christmas in a mobile home/RV park in Glendale, AZ where we had full hookups, so we could take care of some maintenance items and also visit with some friends. We got our solar system set up and running and it’s already reducing the our boondocking expenses by cutting our generator hours way back, but it did require some additional expenditures for the month.

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

Camping fees + Electricity

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.)

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.)

Four month average: $266

Setting up camp at sunset at Pilot Knob LTVA

DUMPING FEES

October: $0

November: $0

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

Four month average: $4

Fuel for the RV

October: $452 (Drove 1,335 miles, 0 generator hours, 8.3 MPG)

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.

Four month average: $240

Fuel for the Truck

October: $245 (21.5 MPG)

November: $52 (17.7 MPG)

December $221 (20.0 MPG)

Four month average: $169

PROPANE

October: $0

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)

Four month average: $16

groceries

October: $499

November: $479

December: $492

Four month average: $479

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

dining out

October: $194

November: $213

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

Four month average: $219

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

Amazing vegan food at Seed Shack in Gilbert AZ

household / furnishings

October: $52

November: $87

December: $42

Four month average: $63

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

petcare

October: $45

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.

Four month average: $92

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

October: $245

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.

Four month average: $258

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 AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled. Once the phones are paid off next fall, the monthly charge should drop significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

October: $12

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.

Four month average: $16

Laundry

October: $7

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.

Four month average: $18

attractions / entertainment

October: $84

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.

Four month average: $89

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

October: $60 (annual renewal for Costco membership)

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

December: $0

Four month average: $27

Equipment for RV

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)

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)

Four month average: $722

Kodiak linked to one solar panel, tested successfully

RV Maintenance & REpairs

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

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)

Four month average: $136

Removing the old toilet

truck maintenance & repairs

October: $0

November: $0

December: $0

Four 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:

October Total: $2,605

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

December Total: $3,306

Four month average: $2,952

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. We’ll be monitoring our expenses closely in January to hopefully bring our average spending lower.

We purchased the annual pass to the BLM Long Term Visitor Area for $180, which allows us to boondock at any of the seven LTVAs in Arizona and California through April 15. We won’t be moving the RV around very much during this time until the weather gets too warm to stay this far south. Less fuel, less wear and tear on Lizzy, less stress on us and the kitties.

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.

Desert Boondocking, Amazon Locker, GoPro Timelapse

We’re starting to establish a boondocking routine after being off-grid for almost a week now. The first two nights were spent in parking lots, but we’ve been in the desert since Tuesday (today is Saturday).

I’m an early riser, usually getting up between 5:00-6:00 AM to feed the cats, take care of the bookkeeping, write my blog posts, etc. Andy doesn’t get up until sometime around 8:00 AM. When we’re hooked up to shore power, I typically make my coffee in my little 5-cup electric brewer. However, now that we don’t have an electrical hookup, I use a pour-over filter and heat my water on the propane stove for my coffee. I’m also cooking my morning oatmeal on the stove instead of in the microwave.

We run the generator for about an hour after Andy gets up to top off the batteries and recharge our electronic devices. Technically, I could use both my electric coffee maker and the microwave while the generator is running, but (a) it’s bad manners to run the generator before 7:00 AM when other campers are around, and (b) I don’t want to wait until Andy gets up before I have my coffee!

During the day, we operate solely on the batteries. The weather is mild enough that we don’t need air conditioning or heat, and we get plenty of light from the windows. The refrigerator operates on propane, and the water pump run off the batteries. The water heater runs on propane, but we only turn it on when we need to wash dishes or take a quick shower (more on that later).

We run the generator for another hour in the evening, usually while I prepare dinner, so we can use the Instant Pot or the microwave. While the generator is running, we have just about every electrical device we own plugged in to the wall outlets for charging–Kindles, iPhones, camera batteries, laptop, portable power banks, the Shark hand vacuum–you get the idea.

Taking advantage of generator time to charge our electronics

If the weather is really cool, we’ll take advantage of the generator time to run the small electric heater as well to warm up the inside of the RV. But once we turn the generator off, we rely on warm clothes and blankets to stay comfortable overnight. We have a deal that if either of us wakes up during the night to go to the bathroom, we check the inside temperature and if it’s below 50°, we turn on the propane furnace. I turn it on regardless when I get up to warm things up for me and the kitties.

So that’s how we’re handling our electrical needs while boondocking.

Sunshine in the cholla

When it comes to water, we’ve also made some adjustments.

Our RV has the following tank capacities:

  • Fresh water – 50 gallons
  • Gray water (kitchen sink and shower) – 37 gallons
  • Black water (toilet and bathroom sink) – 24.5 gallons
  • Hot water heater – 6 gallons

In addition, we carry four 1-gallon jugs of drinking water in the RV which we refill at Walmart while grocery shopping, as well as an extra 6 gallons of drinking water stored in the truck.

When we have water hookups in a campground, we don’t have to worry about the fresh water tank running dry. And when we have sewer hookups, we don’t have to worry about moving the RV to dump the waste tanks when they get full. But now that we’re boondocking, we need to be conservative with all that.

The black water tank is the most critical, at least to me. To avoid having it fill up too quickly, we both have found a nice secluded spot out in nature to pee during the daytime. My spot even has a perfect branch to serve as a toilet paper holder. Of course, Andy can use his spot even after dark, but there’s no way I’m going to get that close to the ground when I can’t see around me. So that means we only use our toilet for peeing during the night or for pooping during the day. (Sorry if that’s TMI, but everybody poops and pees.)

The gray water tank is larger, but we are still mindful of the amount of water we use for washing dishes and cleaning. We don’t shower every day (really, people, you don’t need to unless you have a dirty job or you’re working out). We use baby wipes or soap/water to stay clean between showers. We had originally planned to use the showers at the Pilot or Flying J stations on the interstate, but determined that we had enough gray tank capacity to do a “navy” or “military” shower, meaning that you turn off the water while you’re scrubbing your hair or body and then turn it on only to rinse off. Yesterday we both got a good shower in the rig–it felt awesome!!–and saved ourselves $12 that we would have spent at the truck stop.

The longest we’ve ever gone without dumping the tanks has been six nights. Our big challenge is that the meter on the black tank does not work properly. It always shows the tank to be full, even right after we dump. Most likely there is some dried debris on one of the sensors in the tank, so while we were at Camping World earlier this week, we bought a spray wand to clean the inside of the tank, and we’ll take care of that the next time we’re in a spot with full hookups. In the meantime, we have to just keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t overfill in the middle of the night!

We do plan to dump the tanks today or tomorrow whether they need it or not, for our own peace of mind. The nearest dump stations are north of us about 30 miles, and fees range from $10 to $15. We could go back south to the free dump station in Tucson and drive a little further, but then you’re paying for extra gasoline. It’s that balancing act again!

So we’re getting in our boondocking groove, loving the peace and serenity. The rig is very comfortable and the surroundings are beautiful. At this point we don’t plan to leave before our 14-day limit expires, unless weather or circumstances dictate that we move.

Maggie and I enjoying naptime

On Wednesday we drove back to Tucson to pick up a package from an Amazon locker at a Quik Trip convenience store. This was our first experience with the Amazon locker system, and it was awesome! There are more than 3000 Amazon locker locations with more being added all the time, and it’s a perfect solution for full-timers like ourselves, or anyone who doesn’t want their packages sitting on their front steps while they’re not home. When your package gets to the locker, they send you a code which you punch in to the locker display, and your locker just pops open and you take your package. Easy peasy!!

Amazon lockers at the Quik Trip convenience store

Yesterday (Friday) we went back toward Tucson to do some shopping. We hit Walmart first and then went to Fry’s (the Southwest version of Kroger). It was a nice area, but the traffic was horrible, and it reminded us of one of the things that we most enjoyed when we moved from Phoenix to Tupelo–almost no traffic congestion in Tupelo!

I’ve been playing with the GoPro camera a little bit since we’ve been parked here in the desert, shooting timelapses of the cloud movements over the desert landscape. Here’s one I shot from the roof of the RV.

It has been rainy and cloudy for the past couple of days, but should be clearing up nicely over the weekend so I can hopefully get my other camera equipment out for some practice shooting.

That’s about all we have going on here–might do a little sightseeing in the area, but generally we’re just enjoying life here in the beautiful state of Arizona.

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season! We will definitely miss being with family this year–that’s a big downside to this lifestyle–but we send everyone our warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas! Also, a huge congratulations to my nephew Adam and his wife Sarah Beth on the birth of their son, Mills Lawson Walker! He’s gorgeous, and we send our love and best wishes to them!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram as well to stay up to date on our latest doings between blog posts!

Safe travels!

Boondocking – From Asphalt to BLM

As you know, we spent the first three months of our full-time RV life connected to electricity and water hookups, with an occasional sewer connection. We stayed in state parks and private campgrounds where there were dump stations and showers, but also camping fees.

Well, we’ve changed things up considerably in our fourth month. We’ve now graduated to boondocking!

As I reported in our last post, after leaving New Mexico on Sunday, we spent the night in the back lot of a Chevron station in San Simon, Arizona, along with a lot of eighteen-wheelers. We actually got a pretty good night’s sleep in spite of the traffic noise from the interstate. We ran our generator all night in order to use the electric heater, so it all became white noise after awhile.

On Monday morning Andy made some phone calls to locate a source for new house batteries, and we decided to go to Camping World. They had the batteries that we needed, the warranty would be good at any Camping World in the country, and they would also allow us to park overnight in their parking lot until they could work us in on Tuesday morning.

So after having breakfast in the back lot of the Chevron station, we pulled out and drove across the street to the Shell station to top off the gas tank in the RV even though we had filled the tank the night before at Chevron. We just wanted to see how much gas the generator had used overnight. Turned out it used 6.4 gallons in 15.1 hours, so we’re getting about 2 hours and 20 minutes per gallon of gas. We were also going to top off our propane there, but they ran out when they were helping the customer in front of us.

We drove on into Tucson, arriving at Camping World around 11:00 AM. We went ahead and picked out the batteries that we wanted and set up our service appointment for 8:30 AM the following morning. They have a pretty small parking lot, but we got a good space and settled in, having a good lunch in the RV while we watched customers come and go.

Boondocking in the Camping World parking lot in Tucson

After lunch we decided to do a little exploring in Tucson, primarily to get some ice cream. We drove downtown and parked at Broadway and 6th Avenue. By the way, have you used the ParkMobile app yet to pay for your parking? We first used it in Santa Fe, but found that Tucson also uses it. Very convenient!

We got some delicious ice cream at The Screamery on Congress Street. I had the Sweet Cream Honeycomb and the Rough At Sea. I don’t remember what Andy had, but it was all very good, and the guy that waited on us was very friendly and professional. We highly recommend The Screamery!

Ice cream at The Screamery on Congress Street in Tucson

Afterwards we took a stroll down Congress Street to the Veinte de Agosto Park to see the statue of Pancho Villa. I never realized old Pancho was such a popular character in the area, but he seems to be everywhere! We walked back up Broadway to get back to our parking space, and found this area of Tucson to be full of restaurants, condos, small shops, even a downtown grocery store. If I were in the mood to live in a sticks-and-bricks again, I would definitely consider looking for a condo in this area of Tucson.

Statue of Pancho Villa in Tucson

We returned to Camping World and then spent about an hour looking through some of the RVs they have for sale on the lot. They mostly had travel trailers which didn’t interest us, but we did go through some Class A’s and fifth-wheels, just to check out some floor plans. We’re not planning to trade in Lizzy for awhile, but it doesn’t hurt to stay up to date on what’s out there.

Touring RVs on the sales lot at Camping World

Camping World closed at 6:00 PM so the parking lot cleared out except for us and a big Class A rig that was also spending the night. We cooked dinner, cleaned up the dishes and settled in for the night. Once again we were right off the interstate, and there was plenty of security lighting in the parking lot, so it was almost like napping during the daytime instead of sleeping. We still managed to get some good rest before rising early for our service appointment.

They had told us we could pull the rig around to the service area at 8:00 AM, and sure enough they knocked on our door at 7:55 to make sure we were ready. We verified that it was okay to leave the cats inside the rig while they were swapping out the batteries, and they even agreed to let one of us stay inside with them. So Andy stayed in the rig while I waited inside the store. They were finished with everything by 9:00 AM, to the tune of $285. We got two new deep-cycle, 150 amp-hour batteries, and also were told that the previous batteries had been hooked up incorrectly. That, combined with the fact that we rarely drew down the batteries at all since we were always hooked up to electricity, probably contributed to their early failure. Now we have our electrical system in good shape and ready to work with the new solar panels that we have ordered.

New batteries installed to make boondocking more comfortable

We weren’t ready to leave Tucson just yet because we were waiting on an Amazon delivery to a nearby locker. The item was scheduled to be delivered “before 9 PM”, and we were hoping for something on the earlier side. Since we needed to pick up a few groceries, we left Camping World after topping off the propane tank, and drove to Walmart, taking a spot on the far edge of the parking lot. We fixed a cup of hot tea and settled in with our books and iPhones. Around 11:00 AM we went inside and did our grocery shopping, then put the groceries away and had lunch.

Since our destination for the night was on BLM land in an unfamiliar area, we decided that we needed to leave Walmart by 1:00 PM to allow time for dumping the tanks and finding a camping spot, even if our Amazon package had not arrived by then. We located a free dump station using the Campendium app (yay!) on Flowing Wells Road in Tucson. A big thanks to Merrigans Arizona RoadRunner RV for providing free sewer dump and fresh water fill-ups to the RV community. I did spend a little money in the store to say “thank-you”.

Free dump station in Tucson

Our destination for the night was a BLM campsite commonly known as Cactus Forest Campground on Cattle Tank Road, just northeast of Red Rock, AZ. It was a good thing that we left Tucson when we did, because when we got off the interstate and started east on East Park Link Drive, we found the road was totally closed for construction. It’s out in a rural area, so there aren’t a huge number of alternate routes to get where we were going. We tried a road that looked promising and wound up on a small dirt road that led to someone’s ranch where we turned around. A friendly guy came out to the rig and directed us to an alternate route using Missile Base Road.

So we turned around and went back toward Tucson until we found Missile Base Road and turned east. This route would bring us into the campsite from the south instead of the north. Unfortunately, Google Maps didn’t know about the brand new paved extension of Cattle Tank Road. Instead, it directed us to another dirt road that was horrendous–we wound up turning around in someone’s driveway again (Andy’s getting really good at that).

We went back to the new paved extension, and even though it wasn’t on the map, we decided to go for it, and it brought us right to the campsite.

New paved extension on South Cattle Tank Road, not yet on Google maps

After living in developed campgrounds with hookups for the past 18 months since we bought the RV, we were in for quite a different experience. The only indication that we were in the right place was a brown metal post that had the BLM logo on it and said “No Dumping” and “Camping 14-Day Limit”. There is a good-sized lot at the entrance where a Class A was parked next to a primitive corral that contained a couple of watering tanks. The dirt and gravel road that leads further into the area is narrow with cactus on each side. Within the first 100 yards are several pull-outs where you can park your rig, and there are obvious signs (i.e. fire ring) that it’s meant for camping. We found a good spot and were set up very quickly since there are no hookups.

BLM sign marking the camping area

We fell in love immediately with our surroundings. It truly is a cactus forest with towering saguaro, jumping cholla, teddy bear cholla, barrel cactus, and prickly-pear, just to name a few. There are also palo verde trees. We took a sunset walk down the road in both directions and were so happy that we didn’t give up on finding this place. Besides us and and the Class A parked up at the entrance, only one other camper was in the area, a van-dweller that arrived after we did and parked further down the road. The campsites are so far apart from each other that you literally feel alone out here.

Our first BLM campsite is in a cactus forest. Beautiful!

After being in such noisy places for the previous two nights, it was such a relief to be here in the desert where it was almost totally quiet and dark. Every once it a while we would hear a car go by on the paved road, or a plane fly overhead toward the Tucson airport, but it was so peaceful, and the sunset was gorgeous, even though it was a little overcast. We waited until it was totally dark before starting the generator to run the Instant Pot, just so we could enjoy a quiet sunset.

Sunset out our front door. Glad to be back home in Arizona!

I wish I could say I got a good night’s sleep. I actually did until about 3:00 AM when the kitties decided it was time to eat–Maggie does that a lot. I held her off until about 5:15 but I was awake the entire time.

By the way, for those of you who were asking, Molly seems to be doing fine at the moment after that one bad day that she had on Sunday. We’ll continue to monitor her, but at the moment her plumbing doesn’t seem to be bothering her.

So here it is, Wednesday morning, and I’m watching the sun rise over a cactus forest in complete silence except for Andy’s snoring–he is impervious to the antics of the cats during the night. 🙂

We’ll need to drive back to Tucson today to pick up the Amazon package that finally made it to the locker about 8:00 PM last night. Have you ever used an Amazon locker? This will be our first time. It’s located at a Quik Trip store, so this should be interesting. It’s a great option for full-time RVers who need a place to have things shipped while not having a permanent home address.

Otherwise we’ll do a little hiking and just soak up the good vibes from our surroundings today. I feel like we’ve graduated from RV prep school to boondocking college!! There will be a new set of challenges to solve camping this way–conserving water so we don’t have to take the rig to a dump station as often, conserving our battery power–but being able to have our home in a place with this kind of view is definitely worth it!

If you have any questions about our RV life, be sure to leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future blog post. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between blog posts.

Happy holidays, everyone! Safe travels!!

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!!

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!

Percha Dam State Park – Almost Perfect

When selecting a camping spot, we have a few basic requirements. We want a spot that’s generally level. We want a spot where we’re not looking into our neighbor’s windows from our dining table. We want peace and quiet, with some interesting scenery and nice places to walk or hike. We want some shade when it’s warm outside. We want reliable 30-amp electrical service and clean water (although soon we’ll be trying some boondocking). And if we’re going to stay in the same spot for more than a night or two, we want either a sewer connection or an on-site dump station.

Percha Dam State Park checked all the boxes except for that last one.

We arrived here on Friday just after 4:00 PM and parked in campsite #15 which we reserved online. It is almost perfectly level so we only had to use one leveling block under each of our front tires.

Each of the campsites here are pull-throughs, so that the driver’s side of the RV is facing the road and the passenger side is facing your picnic table, which sits under a ramada. Therefore, you would have to look out your windshield to see the backside of the next RV. The campsites are a little close together, and if you had a big Class A or fifth wheel, it might be a tight fit. But our little 24′ Class C fits just fine.

Site #15 at Percha Dam State Park in New Mexico

For the most part, the campground has been very quiet and peaceful. The people next to us have several dogs, and occasionally one of them will bark, but they are good about calming the dog down so that the noise doesn’t last long.

Hiking along the Rio Grande river near the campground

The park is located on the Rio Grande river at the foot of the Percha Dam. There is a hiking trail that follows the river and leads past a pecan orchard. Right now the river is low, and you can actually walk out into the middle of it on exposed rocks and sand, right in front of the dam. There is a sign on the dam that cautions you to move out of the way quickly if the siren sounds, indicating that the floodgates are about to open.

Percha Dam on the Rio Grande river

Currently there is a huge flock of sandhill cranes in the area, feeding in the agricultural fields behind our campsite. At first we thought they were geese as they flew overhead in V-formation, but Andy checked with the park ranger and got the scoop. These birds migrate to this area every winter, especially to the nearby Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, in November there is an entire weekend festival dedicated to the cranes, and bird-watchers from around the world visit the area to study and enjoy these cranes and other wildlife in the area.

Since our campground is situated along the Rio Grande river, there are plenty of shade trees around. Each campsite has a picnic table under a ramada, but we also have several large trees which provide shade. The high yesterday was about 75° with sunny skies, so we never had to run the air conditioner.

Standing in the middle of the Rio Grande, watching cranes fly over

The electrical service and water here have been reliable and consistent.

But…..

and this is a big “but”……

This campsite does not include a sewer hookup, and there is no dump station in this park. The nearest dump station is at the nearby Caballo Lake State Park, about 3-4 miles away. Yesterday (Saturday) we took a quick drive over there in the truck to scope it out.

Since we have the annual pass to the NM State Parks, there would be no fee for us to use their dump station. We drove around the park and scoped out the campsites, and found several that were pretty good, some even with a view of the Caballo Lake from a bluff. We pretty much decided that since our reservation at Percha Dam SP was up today that we would just drive over to Caballo Lake SP, dump our tanks, and then just move into a first-come first-served site in that park.

However, last night I was checking availability at all the nearby state parks (there are a lot in this area), and found a nice one further north at Elephant Butte Lake State Park which happens to be available for reservation for the next ten days, through the end of the month. The reservation website has photos of the campsites, and if the photo is accurate, the lake is visible from the site. And there is a nearby dump station so we can dump our tanks as needed without driving miles out of the way. With our annual pass, we get the campsite with electricity and water for $4/night. Awesome!!

So we decided to go ahead and make a reservation for the Elephant Butte Lake State Park, and that’s where we’ll be for the next ten days. From what I understand, the water levels in the lake are very low due to the ongoing drought, but it’s still a large lake and I think we’ll enjoy it anyway. There are a lot of other things to do in the area as well, so we’ll be able to do some more sight-seeing.

We’re keeping an eye on the weather–right now it’s pretty much perfect with daytime highs in the 60’s and 70’s, and nighttime lows in the 50’s. We’re at about 4100′ altitude, so by the time November rolls around, it should start getting much cooler, especially at night. That’s when it will be time to start heading toward the Arizona desert for the winter.

So today is a travel day. Check-out time here is 2:00 PM, and it should take us just over an hour to get to our new location at Elephant Butte Lake SP. It’s near the town of Truth or Consequences (I love that name!) where there is a Walmart for grocery shopping, a McDonald’s for wi-fi, and a well-rated coffee shop that even serves vegan desserts. What more could you ask for?

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

Awesome Deal! New Mexico State Parks Annual Pass

When we decided to stay here at Leasburg Dam State Park, we only made reservations for two nights, intending to continue north toward Santa Fe, looking for free boondocking sites along the way.  The best way to offset fuel cost while traveling is to keep your camping fees as low as possible, preferably free.

But yesterday, after our first night in this park, we had a change of plans. First of all, we really, really like it here. It’s quiet, well-maintained and it’s beautiful in the way that the desert is beautiful. Secondly, the hot air balloon festival is going on in Albuquerque, so campsites are going to be a little harder to find in that area for the next couple of weeks. And thirdly, it’s already starting to get pretty cold in the Santa Fe area, at least at night, with forecasted low temperatures below freezing.

So we decided that we would like to stay in this general area for awhile, but needed a way to reduce the cost. When I made online reservations for this park for two nights, the site was $14/night, but then there was a $10/vehicle entrance fee, along with an $8 service fee for using the online system. It was a total of $56, or $28/night for a site with electricity and water. We don’t want to spend that much every night.

I knew from watching other RVers on YouTube that New Mexico has a great deal on an annual pass for their state parks, so we dropped by the office yesterday afternoon to check it out. For non-residents, you can buy an annual pass for $225 which allows you to bring your RV and your toad/chase vehicle into the park and dry-camp for free. If you want electricity, you pay $4/night, and if you also want sewer hookups at your site (where they are available), you pay another $4/night.  The pass expires on the last day of the 12th month after you purchase it, so if you buy it on October 1, 2018 it expires on October 31, 2019, so you actually get 13 months.

We know that we will be spending enough time in New Mexico to recoup the cost of the pass, so we decided we would go ahead and buy it.

The next issue was our campsite. We had reserved site #17 for only two nights because  (1) it was the only site available, and (2) it was only available for those two nights. The park is booked up for the weekend as far as reservations go. However, New Mexico’s State Parks only allow you to make reservations for about half their campsites–the other half are non-reservable, first-come, first-served. In this park there are 10 of these campsites on a separate loop called Greasewood, on the opposite side of the wash from our reserved campsite. That meant we could move out of our reserved site and onto a FC-FS site. Andy and I walked the Greasewood loop and found several sites that were available which would fit our rig, and so we selected site #10. It’s a dry-camping site (no electricity), but it would give us some practice at boondocking in a developed location.

We had a visitor!

We went back to the office to pay for the annual pass and to see if was okay for us to park our truck at site #10 overnight to hold it, since technically we still had site #17 reserved for a second night. They said it wouldn’t be a problem for us to just go ahead and move everything to site #10 since we had already paid for the night in the park anyway.

I took out my credit card to pay for the pass, and only then did they tell me that they only took cash or checks. I had enough cash on me to pay for it, but would have been left with only about $8, so Andy went back to the rig to get the checkbook. As we were winding up the transaction, a lady walked in to the office and told the guy at the desk, “Just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve moved from site #6 to site #10.”  Oh well, that’s what first-come, first-served means!

When she left, the desk guy, who is also the camp host for the Greasewood loop, recommended that we move into the lady’s original site #6. Even though it’s non-reservable, it does have electricity. We could just pay the $4 daily fee each morning for as many days as we decide to stay. Now that was a deal!

So we disconnected from site #17, stopped by the dump station to empty the tanks, and then set up on site #6. Easy-peasy, took us about 30 minutes total. We actually have a nicer site than our original one, with a better shelter over the picnic table and more privacy from our neighbors. We love it!

Our new campsite #6 is a first-come, first-served site

The other deal with New Mexico State Parks, whether you are an annual pass holder or not, is that you can only stay in any park for 14 days, and then you have to leave for at least 6 days before you can return to that park. But with 33 parks in the state, and plenty of first-come, first-served campsites, it shouldn’t be a problem to find a place to camp for $4/night or even free.

Our plan has always been to chase to 70°, to move with the weather. It’s been in the 90’s here for the past two days, but there’s a break in the weather coming tonight, and the temperatures will start to be much more pleasant during the day. The nighttime temps have already been very pleasant, but will get much cooler in the coming week. We may need to start unpacking some of our warmer clothes that are stored in the Tacoma.

So that’s where we are for the moment. I do still want to go to Santa Fe for my birthday on the 17th, but we’ll plan around the weather forecast as to whether we try to camp up there or just drive up for the day.

For now we are settled in and ready to enjoy this beautiful area. We’ll do our grocery shopping in Las Cruces, do some hiking and sightseeing, drag out the photography gear, and Andy’s even talking about setting up his equipment to work on some jewelry. Stay tuned to see what we’re up to!

The Cost of Comfort

One of our goals with living the full-time RV life is to get closer to nature. That thought includes images of clear mountain streams tumbling over boulders, strolling through meadows of wildflowers while elk graze in the distance, and lying on a blanket on a desert evening, far from the light pollution of the city, watching a meteor shower or the passage of the Milky Way.

But getting closer to nature also includes dealing with the temperatures and humidities from which our sticks-and-bricks homes have shielded us with their climate-control systems and blown-in foam insulation. Living in an RV, especially one like ours that is not rated for four seasons, quickly reminds us what it must have been like for our ancestors who settled and lived in this part of the country.

Right now we are parked in Livingston, Texas which is about 100 miles from the coast. Since we arrived on Saturday evening, we’ve had lots of rain, temperatures in the high 80’s, and the usual Southern summertime humidity levels up to 99%.

Our solution was to keep the RV closed up tight, run the air conditioner along with our dehumidifier, and avoid going outside unless it was necessary.

And that solution worked as far as keeping us comfortable. But there was a problem.

When we booked this site, we opted for the monthly rate since we planned to be here for several weeks getting our domicile established and catching up with friends in the Houston area. The monthly rate for this site is $340, or about $11/night, which is a bargain for a full hookup site. The kicker is, you have to pay extra for your electricity usage which is metered at the site. When we checked in on Saturday, they gave us a slip of paper that showed the starting meter reading, and when we check out, we will read the meter, fill in the form and turn it in to the office so we can pay for our usage.

Electric meter on our site

The rate for the electricity usage is 12.38 cents per kWh. Now, if you are like me, you have never really paid that much attention to what your electrical rates are at home–you just know about how much your total monthly bill should be. So we didn’t really think too much about how much electricity we were using to power our air conditioner in our RV after we parked here on Saturday.

Yesterday after lunch, I got curious about it, so I created a little spreadsheet (of course I did, that’s what I do), and then I went out and checked the meter.

Opening meter reading: 7693
Current meter reading: 8040
kWh used: 347
Charge per kWh: $.1238
Accrued charge to date: $42.96

Yep, you read that right. In three days we had run up an electric bill of almost $43. Obviously, we needed a new plan.

We immediately turned off the air conditioner even though it was the middle of the day. We opened all the windows and the door (they are all screened to keep out the bugs), and turned on the overhead fans. I even went to Walmart and bought a small Honeywell room fan, since someone who shall remain nameless talked me out of bringing one of our three fans that we had at home.

We agreed to still run the air conditioner at night, primarily because of the super-high humidity that the fans suck into the RV, but we’ll keep it set to about 74° instead of the 69° setting we were using before.

All of this is part of the learning curve. This is the first time we’ve camped anywhere that had a separate metered electricity charge. We normally did our summer camping in state parks where we paid $16 a night (senior discount) which included the electricity. But I’ve found that when you get the highly discounted monthy rate at just about any park, you will have to pay for your electricity separately, and I guess that’s understandable.

By the way, I went back and checked to see what our electricity rates were with Tupelo Water and Light at our house:
Energy Charge – per kWh $0.06930
FCA Charge – per kWh $0.01947
Total – per kWh $.08877

Our plan for this adventure is to follow the weather, and if it were not for the pesky issue of having to get our Texas domicile established, we certainly would not be camped here in East Texas in the summertime. We’ll see how it goes, but there’s always the possibility that we will speed up the process and pull out of here early if we start getting too cranky. Of course we also want to keep the kitties comfortable.

But I will say this–my hair has more body now than I’ve ever seen it have before! 😂

We’ll keep you posted!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 14

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Friday, April 20, 2018 – The Woods RV Park & Campground, Montgomery, Alabama

Today was just a day for staying around home, getting some chores done and taking care of some maintenance items.

I spent my early morning working on some bill-paying and bookkeeping, as well as blog entries. After Andy woke up I did some house-cleaning.

While I was making the bed this morning, I noticed that the vent cover on the fan over the bed had a lot of mildew on it. I told Andy that I would get up on the roof and clean it as soon as the wind settled down a little bit. He decided to tackle it himself, so he gathered the cleaning wipes and paper towels and headed to the roof. He did get it pretty clean, but of course the paper towels and wipes were blowing off the roof, so he had to walk around the park picking up his trash when he finished.

He also decided to try and fix the pantry drawer that wouldn’t shut all the way. He did get it to close but it’s still just a little bit wonky and he says he will probably just replace the slider hardware when we get back home. For now we’re leaving the drawer empty in case the extra weight might damage it further. We have what few grocery items we have left stored in bags.

We both did some walking around the campgrounds for some exercise, and were surprised to find a herd of cows grazing in the pasture right next to the campground. Such a bucolic scene!

Cows!

We also explored the small lake at the back of the campground, and it seems like it would be a perfect place for smaller rigs to boondock or for tent campers to set up.

Lake at The Woods RV Park

We had a big salad and some black beans for lunch, and then decided to go out for dinner. I did some research to find out what vegan options there are in Montgomery, and there aren’t many. I found a Thai restaurant, Noodle Cafe in northeast Montgomery that looked good, so we tried that. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the campground, mostly on freeway, and it’s located in a nice strip center.

I had the pad thai with tofu, and Andy had the fried rice with tofu/no egg/extra pineapple. Both dishes were very good. We planned to order mango sticky rice for dessert, but were told that they had run out–all too typical for Thai restaurants in our experience. Don’t put it on the menu if you aren’t going to have it!!

The campground really filled up last night with lots of big rigs pulling in. It seems like every rig parked near us has at least one dog, and so Maggie and Molly are spending a lot of time at the screen door and the windows making sure they know who’s in charge around here.

Tomorrow is our last full day on the road–so sad! I’m hoping to visit some of the important Civil Rights memorials here in Montgomery, depending on what’s open on Saturdays.