Q & A: Safety and Security While Hiking and Boondocking

Since all the excitement and drama that I shared with you in our last post, things have settled down quite nicely here in our camp.

We are still hiking regularly in the forest around us. If you haven’t read the previous post, then you don’t know that Andy got lost in the woods and had to be rescued by the sheriff’s department. Based on what we learned from that experience, we are super-careful now about following some basic rules when we go out hiking or geocaching.

Hiking is one of our favorite activities

We make sure that we carry plenty of water with us, that our cellphones are fully charged, and that we carry a backup power supply for the phone. Andy already had a good power pack, but mine would no longer hold a charge for very long, so I ordered a new one from Amazon. We both bought emergency whistles that also contain a compass, thermometer, and magnifying glass. We both carry butane lighters in case we need to start a campfire, and we both have pocketknives.

More importantly, we are careful to communicate with each other about where we’re going and when we plan to get back. When we’re on the trail, we leave markers along the way, especially at places where trails intersect so we know which way to turn on the way back. I often take photographs of road number markers or other landmarks in case I need to provide that information to rescue personnel.

And finally, we do more hiking together rather than separately now. Andy has stepped up his game and has gone on several longer hikes with me to look for geocaches. It definitely feels safer to have someone along with me when on my searches, not to mention that it’s just more fun.

Sometimes you get lucky and catch just the right light – San Francisco peaks from our campsite

Since we’re doing more hiking together now and leaving the rig unattended while we’re gone, that brings up another issue. I received this question from Pete, one of my blog subscribers, and thought it would be a good topic to address in this post:

Pete posted:

Thank you for sharing this part of your travels.
I’m thinking about security… when you park at an “un-official” camping spot without any knowledge of what goes on there how can you feel secure leaving your vehicle or panels there?

Great question, Pete!

First of all, when Pete refers to “un-official” camping spots, I assume he’s referring to the places where we boondock, which in this case means camping for free on public land, without hookups of any kind. In one sense, the sites we use (Bureau of Land Management, National Forest) are “un-official” since you can’t reserve them, there’s no site number, there’s no camp host checking up on you, and there’s no fee to be paid. But in actuality, it is still an “official” camping area–when you enter the area you are greeted by a sign that lists what the regulations are (14-day limit, how far from the main road you can set up camp, whether or not campfires are allowed, etc.). So there is still at least a sense that someone is actually in charge here, and is keeping tabs on what goes on.

Our first line of defense is location, location, location. When we are doing our research to select our next campsite, we use several apps that include reviews from campers who have stayed in that area before. Many times photos are also posted with the reviews. But even if the reviews are good, if we pull into the area and something feels “off”, we won’t stay there. If there’s a lot of trash or debris, if we hear a lot of ATVs or gunfire in the distance, or anything else makes us uncomfortable, we just simply move on.

Boondocking on Forest Road 151 in a designated dispersed campsite

One of the things we like most about boondocking on public lands is the amount of privacy you have. Right now our nearest neighbors are .3 miles away from us–a nice couple named Andy and Christine who are also full-timers in a Class C that’s just a little larger than ours. And that’s an important point–we get to know the people that are camping around us, stopping to chat as we hike by. RVers are known as a tight-knit group that look out for one another. If we see or hear of anything sketchy going on, we let each other know about it.

Statistically, thieves are much more likely to select targets in populated areas where they don’t have to work so hard. We are camped two miles down a dirt road where campers are spread out fairly thinly. Most thieves are not going to go driving down a little dirt road to find something to steal when it would be much easier to go to the mall in Flagstaff and break into someone’s car–lots more opportunity in the urban areas. Yes, occasionally RVs do get broken into, but most of the time those are in RV parks in urban areas, and not boondocking on public land in the middle of the forest or the desert.

That said, we do take sensible precautions. There are times when we both need or want to be away from the rig at the same time, to go sightseeing, hiking or grocery shopping. Here are some of the things we do to mitigate the risk:

  • Solar panels – If we’re still a little unsure about the area and if our batteries have a good charge, we have occasionally disconnected the panels and set them inside the RV while we’re gone. Generally, though, we just lay them flat on the ground rather than leaving them tilted, so that they are less obvious from the road.
  • The rig – Of course we lock the door to the rig, as well as the outside storage bay. Because we have two cats with us, their comfort and health are the most important consideration. Depending on the temperature, we can leave the overhead vents open and run the fans. We also have a couple of windows that we can leave open as they are too small to crawl through. The larger windows are left closed and locked. If it’s too hot to get enough ventilation this way, then we simply won’t leave the rig unattended.
  • The contents – I generally take my laptop with me whenever we leave the rig to go shopping or sightseeing. Otherwise there’s not much of value inside the rig, as we have our wallets with us as well. We have a very small rig, so we can’t carry much anyway. If someone breaks in, they’re going to be sorely disappointed.
  • Time of day – I don’t remember a time when we have ever left the rig unattended after dark when we’re boondocking (it’s different when we’re parked in an RV park). Of course that means we’re a little more limited in things we can do or see, like having a late dinner in town or going to a movie, but we’re old homebodies anyway and we like being at home when the sun goes down.
  • Insurance – Of course, we carry full-timers insurance on our rig and the contents just in case the statistically improbable event occurs, and that gives us enough peace of mind to allow us to enjoy some time away from the rig, taking care of chores or seeing more of the area.

The safety of Maggie and Molly is our first priority when we leave the rig unattended

Our last sticks-and-bricks home was in a subdivision of a small town (population 35,000), and in general it was a “safe” neighborhood. However, we had some next-door neighbors that, due to some changing family circumstances, became more and more of a threat to the neighborhood, with the police appearing frequently at their front door. Even though we had a real house, we still felt threatened and were constantly unsure about leaving the house unattended to go on vacation. But we were pretty much stuck with the problem, since the house was stationary.

But now, living in our RV gives us the freedom to quickly and easily escape any situation that makes us uncomfortable, whether it’s the neighbors, the weather, the dust or just because we’re getting bored. When we moved into the RV, we sold the house and almost everything we owned to make this lifestyle possible. And that process of “letting go” taught us a lot about how relatively unimportant all our “stuff” is.

Yes, there’s always a risk that someone might walk off with our solar panels. They might break into the rig and take the bag of quarters that we keep under the seat for laundry machines. But by taking a few sensible precautions, and by remembering that it’s just “stuff”, we can set our minds at ease enough to go about our business and enjoy our time on the road, boondocking in some of the most beautiful locations on God’s green earth.

Life is too short to worry about the “what ifs” all the time. Get out there and enjoy it while you can!!

Hope this answers your question, Pete, and anyone else who might have wondered the same thing! Do you also have questions about our lifestyle? Be sure to leave a comment and we’ll try to address it in a future post!

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

Safe travels!

Forest Boondocking, Moving to Williams, Watching the Weather

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

Arriving at our campsite on a rainy day

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

Pumphouse Wash is a beautiful stream flowing through Kaibab limestone cliffs

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

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

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

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

Iconic view of Sedona from the airport overlook

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

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

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

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

Handy Andy doing some rig maintenance while the sun shines

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome shower facilities at Grand Canyon Railroad RV Park

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

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

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

Beer-battered cod and fries at Grand Canyon Brewery

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

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

Andy and Elvis in the Twisters 50’s Diner

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

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

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

Safe travels!

New Boondocking Spot Near Flagstaff, Rain, Hail and Mud

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe travels!

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

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

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

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

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

Lynx Creek in Prescott National Forest

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

Lynx Lake in Prescott National Forest

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

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

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

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

The generator gets an oil and air filter change

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

Where to next?

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

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

Beautiful Sunday afternoon in Hilltop Campground, our last day here

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

Safe travels!

Mattress Upgrade, Campground Evacuation Due to Wildfire

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

Our little solar farm at our campsite in Hilltop Campground

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new mattress in place. Fits perfectly!

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

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

Saying goodbye to the old mattress at the city dump.

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

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

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

Andy packing up the outdoor gear for evacuation.

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

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

Our temporary boondocking spot in the Walmart parking lot

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

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

Almost dark, returning to a nearly-empty campground

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe travels!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunset at our camp on Bloody Basin Road

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

Safe travels!

Finally Preparing to Move On

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been camped in the same spot for almost three months now. We arrived here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (long term visitor area) on December 27 of last year. We have thoroughly enjoyed staying here in the Yuma area over the winter, and can now understand why so many snowbirds flock here every year. While the rest of the country has endured blizzards, floods, tornadoes and humidity, we have enjoyed sunshine and dry air, with only the occasional light rain to settle the dust. The most annoying weather here has been the wind which can get quite gusty from time to time, but most days the weather is gorgeous.

The wind makes some interesting cloud formations over the campground

However, it is starting to warm up now, and Yuma is NOT the place you want to be when winter is over and it begins to heat up. The temperatures next week are forecast to be in the high 80’s, which if you’re in a sticks and bricks home with air conditioning is not a problem. But if you’re in an RV sitting in the middle of the desert without an electrical hookup, it’s an issue. We do have a generator that we can use to run our air conditioner, but generators use fuel. So instead, we choose to chase 70° and move on down the road.

Spring has arrived in the desert, and the rain showers have brought flowers!

We had been considering moving to the Imperial Dam LTVA since we still have another month left on our annual pass, but when we checked the weather forecast we found that it was not going to be that much cooler at that location. We need to gain some altitude, so our plans are to head up to the Wickenburg, Arizona area to some BLM land where we can boondock for free. We have a spot picked out, and are keeping our fingers crossed that it isn’t too crowded with weekend warriors on ATVs, since we’re planning to arrive on Friday.

We’re getting all our ducks in a row to leave Yuma. Andy found a family doctor here in Yuma that he likes, and was able to get all his prescriptions renewed for another year.

Laundry day again. At least they have free wi-fi!

Yesterday we got the laundry done, picked up an extra moving pad from Harbor Freight to protect the solar panels during travel, and stopped at Home Depot to get a replacement part for the plumbing system. The part is called an “air admittance valve” or “mechanical plumbing valve”, and it fits under the bathroom sink to prevent stinky smells from the black tank from getting into the RV. The old one wasn’t working properly, so Andy installed the new one and it’s much better. It was an easy fix–just screw the old one off and screw the new one on. Thank goodness for YouTube–it’s our go-to source for DIY help on RV maintenance and repairs!

Andy has his last dental appointment this morning when he’ll be getting a new crown. This dentist office has one-day service for crowns since they make them in-house. So unless he needs to return to their office to get something adjusted, we should be done with the dentist today.

After that, we’re going to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma and pick up a few items at the grocery store. When we get back home, Andy will do a final check of all the fluids and tire pressures in preparation for travel. Tomorrow morning, we’ll make a final visit to the breakfast buffet at the casino, then we’ll stow everything away, stop by the dump station to empty the tanks and fill up on propane, and then we’ll be on our way!!

Unless something changes drastically over the next year, we definitely plan to return here next winter. There are a lot of geocaches around here that I purposely chose not to hunt, so that I can look for them in the future. And by next year my COBRA dental insurance will have run out so we’ll get to check out the teeth cleaning in Los Algodones, Mexico.

It’s time to be nomads again!!

Thanks for reading our blog! If you enjoy it, be sure to subscribe and share it with your friends who might be interested in fulltime RV life. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

 

 

Visiting the Center of the World, Plumbing Mystery Solved, Mountain Hiking, New RV Meal

We had a fun and productive weekend, enjoying some beautiful weather and exploring more of our surroundings. The only blight on an otherwise perfect three days was the inexplicable no-call on an obvious defensive pass interference in the NFC playoff game between the Saints and the Rams, which led to the Saints missing a trip to the Super Bowl. What is wrong with those officials???

Oh, well, now that I have that off my chest….

On Friday, we visited the “official” Center of the World, which just happens to be located just across I-8 from where we are camped, in a “town” called Felicity, California. From where we are parked, we can see a small white church perched on a hill overlooking some tan buildings and it looked interesting so we decided to check it out. I’m not sure I can even describe this place–it’s a little bit P. T. Barnum with just enough patriotism and religion thrown in to keep the donations coming (just my opinion).

Pyramid structure over the “official” Center of the World

The site was purchased and developed by a French immigrant, Jacques-Andres Istel, who was a U.S. Marine in the Korean War. With proceeds from his parachuting school business, he purchased the land and decided to develop it into something “entertaining”. He and his wife Felicia, who is Chinese-American, settled on the land and named it Felicity after his wife. He was elected mayor by a vote of 3-0 (not sure who the third person was).

He wrote a children’s book called “Coe The Good Dragon at the Center of the World”, and somehow he used that book to convince the Supervisors of Imperial County, California to pass a law officially designating Felicity, California as the Center of the World. Even more amazingly, he managed to get France to also recognize the geographical distinction….really, it’s so bizarre you need to just read about it here and here.

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

Even with the strange back-story, it’s still an interesting place to visit. There’s a $3 entry fee which will let you see everything except for the inside of the pyramid, which is where the official Center of the World marker is located–you have to pay an extra $2 for that. Well, why not? We paid $5 each for the full experience which includes getting to stand inside the pyramid with both feet on the marker, look toward the church, make a wish, and have it recorded on an official numbered certificate showing that you were actually at the center of the world.

I kid you not.

Andy stands at the Center of the World and makes his wish.

North of the pyramid are large granite slates which are being etched with information along different themes. One section is a memorial to Korean War veterans. Once section is about animals. One section is U.S. History. One section has the history of Arizona on one side and California on the other. One section is the History of the World. The panels are actually quite interesting and nicely done, but many of them are still blank, to be completed as funds become available.

Granite slabs record major events in history.

To the north of the granite slates is the small church that Mr. Istel had built on top of the hill that he also had created just for the church. It’s a nice peaceful place, with pre-recorded instrumental hymns playing in the background, and it’s currently used for special events like weddings.

Church on the Hill at Felicity, CA

The newest structure in the complex is the “Maze of Honor” where you can pay to have an etched granite tile installed in the maze to commemorate a special occasion or a loved one, or yourself if you’re so inclined. Prices vary.

The Maze of Honor has a lot of empty space to be filled.

There is also a good-sized gift shop, as well as a small cafe that is open several hours a day. Oh, and lest I forget, there is also a section of spiral staircase that came from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s a section that was deemed too dangerous for the public, so it was removed and auctioned off, and Mr. Istel bought it and installed it here on the property–a stairway to nowhere.

Giant checkerboard with the stairway to nowhere in the background

I admit, I’m a little cynical about the place, but you have to admit, it’s pure old American capitalism at work. Build it and they will come. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re driving by and have some time, just for the quirkiness of it.

On Saturday morning we took another crack at trying to resolve the issue with our plumbing–even after installing the new pump, it was still making a very loud vibrating noise and there was air in the line. We checked all the connections and found a couple that were slightly loose, and we could see some tiny droplets of water on the floor under the inlet side of the pump. It wasn’t until I got a makeup mirror and a flashlight so I could see the backside of the fittings that I saw the problem. The strainer on the inlet line had a crack in it on the side that faced the wall. When Andy turned off the water, as soon as everything stopped vibrating I saw a small drop of water ooze through the crack.

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

Fortunately we had a spare strainer that came with the new pump that we installed last week. Andy swapped out the bad one for the new one and we ran the water long enough to clear the air from the line, and it appears that everything is as it should be now. Everyone knows that RV water pumps make a little bit of noise, and ours seems to be back in the normal range now.

Saturday afternoon we decided to do some mountain hiking around Pilot Knob, the mountain feature that’s right next to our campground. We saw a trail that winds around the flank of the mountain so it’s more horizontal than vertical, and it was perfect for our fitness and skill levels. We gained about 100-150′ in altitude so we got a good view of the area in the distance, including Mexico. As we were climbing up and down the rocky slopes, Andy noted that this time two years ago he was still using a cane after fracturing his leg and having surgery to repair it. We’re thankful that he’s recovered completely and can still hike with me!

Hiking on the flank of Pilot Knob, getting a good view of the area

Yesterday (Sunday) was pretty much a lazy day, although we did take a 45-minute walk around the perimeter of the campground in the morning. After lunch we watched both of the NFL playoff games in the RV, then after dinner we sat outside and watched the lunar eclipse until the moon was completely in shadow. I couldn’t stay awake long enough to watch it come back out the other side.

Speaking of dinner, we added another new dish to our RV cooking repertoire. We’ve used soy chorizo before when we could find it in Walmart (Frieda’s Soyrizo), where it runs between $3-$4. Recently we found another brand of soy chorizo, Raynaldo’s, at the Mexican market Cardenas in El Centro, where it was $1.79 so we decided to try it. I sauteed it with some onion and some green and red bell peppers, and served it over spaghetti squash (cooked in the Instant Pot), and it was delicious! We will definitely be looking for this brand of soyrizo in other Mexican grocery stores in the Yuma area.

Raynaldo’s Soy Chorizo sauteed with onions and peppers, served over steamed spaghetti squash with a side of broccoli

Today (Monday) is a clear day but it’s very windy so there’s a lot of dust in the air. Not the best day for hiking or sitting outside. We’ll probably do a little grocery shopping this afternoon to replenish our fresh produce. We’re having to leave the solar panels lying flat on the ground to keep them from blowing over and getting damaged. There are a couple of rigs parked close to us that have wind turbines on their roofs to generate electricity–we’re a little envious on days like this!! Winds are supposed to be even higher tomorrow, so we’ll have to see what we can do to entertain ourselves.

Thanks for reading our blog, and be sure to share it with friends and family members who might be interested in full-time RVing. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Shopping in El Centro, Lunch With Friends, New Water Pump, Hiking On the Border

Wow, it’s been ten days since I last posted an update, but it’s been pretty quiet around here. Right now we’re just enjoying living our lives where the weather is mild and the neighbors aren’t crazy.

We are still trying to closely monitor our expenditures this month to offset the money we spent on the new solar system, batteries and toilet in November and December. So far we’re keeping our expenses low (knock on wood), thanks to our annual pass to the BLM LTVA and not moving the RV from spot to spot.

We’ve been doing our grocery shopping at Walmart in Yuma which is about seven miles east of us. Unfortunately we cannot bring oranges or other citrus fruit back into California from Arizona (there’s an agricultural inspection station on the way back to camp), and Andy eats an orange every morning for breakfast.

We checked the map for grocery stores west of us, and since there is nothing really close by, we decided to go to El Centro, California to get oranges. Based on Yelp! reviews of grocery stores in El Centro, we decided to go to Cardenas Mexican market, and it was a winner! They have amazing produce, baked goods, fresh tamales, a food court….just an awesome store. Of course we wound up buying more than just oranges. We each got a huge slice of their flan for $2.50 each, which gave us dessert for three meals. The flan was absolutely heavenly, some of the best we’ve ever had. We also bought almost two pounds of their flavored pistachios, some vegetable tamales and some assorted pastries. So even though we had to drive for almost an hour to get oranges, we considered it worth the trip.

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

We made a return trip to El Centro yesterday, thanks to an invitation from one of Andy’s Facebook friends, Grant Jones and his wife Cindy. Grant, like Andy, does lapidary work and makes beautiful handmade jewelry, and the two of them have been connected on Facebook for several years. They invited us to meet them in El Centro for lunch as they were on their way from San Diego to Quartzsite, and they let us pick the restaurant.

Since we aren’t that familiar with El Centro, once again I turned to Yelp! for reviews and found Antojitos  Como en Casa (“like at home”) Mexican restaurant. It’s a small place on the edge of a residential neighborhood, and when we pulled up, it was obvious that the food must be good because of the number of cars parked in the small lot and along the street. We enjoyed finally getting to meet Grant and Cindy, who treated us to some delicious traditional Mexican food and some great conversation. Thanks, you guys!

Lunch with Grant and Cindy in El Centro at Antojito Como en Casa

Of course, after we left the restaurant we made a return visit to Cardenas to get more oranges….and flan….and pistachios….and pastries. 🙂

One fact of life that all RVers have to accept is that there will always be some sort of repair or maintenance that needs to be done. This week it was the water pump. We were still getting water from the faucets, but ever since we’ve been in this campground, the pump had been making a really loud vibrating noise every time we ran the water. We noticed it after the first two times we dumped the tanks and refilled the fresh water tank. The noise would last for about 24 hours and then it would go back to normal (never silent, but a much quieter vibration when the water runs). But after the third time we dumped and refilled, the vibrations were loud again and stayed that way.

The water pump is located under the dinette seat. We pulled everything out of the dinette (table and cushions) and checked all the plumbing. We could see that there was a very small leak from the pump, and we could also see that when the pump vibrated, the vibration was carried along all the plumbing lines, in some cases causing them to vibrate against the wooden structure as well as the water tank itself, sort of like beating a drum.

Water pump located under the dinette, right next to the fresh water tank

Since there was a leak we decided to go ahead and replace the pump, so we called around Yuma and sourced a replacement unit for just under $100. We also wound up buying some foam rubber pipe insulation to wrap around the plumbing lines to help dampen the vibration. Handy Andy did a great job of installing the new pump, and although we still get a growling noise when the pump runs, it’s much quieter now. There does still seem to be some air in the lines that we can’t get rid of (possibly getting drawn into the line from a hairline crack in the input line?), but for the time being we’re living with it.

We’re still enjoying our hikes around the area. Last Sunday I took a look at Google satellite view of the area and noticed what looked like another quarry on the south side of the mountain we’re camped next to. I saw that the road that goes by our LTVA leads to a canal that runs along the US/Mexico border. The area looked interesting so we decided to hike it.

Satellite view of the area around Pilot Knob LTVA. The US/Mexico border is just to the south of the canal.

It was about a mile and a half from our RV to the canal, and then we hiked another half mile or so to the east along the canal. The area is beautiful in a rugged way with canyons and washes at the base of the mountain, and lush greenery and flocks of ducks along the irrigation canal. On the other side of the canal stands the steel-slat border fence, and on the other side of the fence is densely-populated Los Algodones and Pedregal. We could hear the sound of Spanish-language radio, roosters crowing, dogs barking, and people carrying on their day-to-day conversations. It was totally peaceful and serene.

Hiking along the All-American irrigation canal, beyond which is the border fence and then Mexico

The area that had looked like a quarry in the Google satellite view was actually an area on top of a mesa that had been scraped by something like a bulldozer. The dark areas in the picture are covered with rocks that most likely came to the surface from ancient volcanic activity (Pilot Knob is geologically a volcanic “plug”). We found all kinds of agate, jasper, quartz, and even a large chunk of petrified wood. Andy was drooling over all these amazing stone specimens, but of course he doesn’t have the lapidary equipment to make cabochons any more, so we left the rocks in place.

This is what we thought was a quarry, but turned out to be bulldozed areas on a mesa.

By the time we got back to camp we had covered a little over four miles on our very enjoyable hike.

Otherwise, we’ve just been living life. On Saturday and Sunday we watched some football (Go Saints!! Who-Dat!!). We had a good bit of rain on Monday night and Tuesday morning and things got pretty muddy, but by the next day it was almost all dried up. We took advantage of the rainy day to get the laundry done and do some grocery shopping, and treated ourselves to lunch at Olive Garden in Yuma. I’m also continuing to do some geocaching in the area, although I’ve found almost all the ones that are within hiking distance except for the ones that are at the top of the mountain–I’m not crazy enough to risk a fall to log a geocache.

So that’s what we’re up to! We’ve been here for three weeks now, and haven’t yet even considered where we might go next. For the moment we are happy right where we are. There’s still some sight-seeing that we want to do in the area, so we’re not bored yet!

Rainy days often result in gorgeous sunsets

Thanks for taking time to read our blog, and be sure to share it with others who might be interested in full-time RV life. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels, and GO SAINTS!! WHO DAT!! 🙂

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.