Expense Report – February 2019 – Full-time RV Living

It’s time once again for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life. We live in a 24′ Thor Chateau 22E Class C RV with our two cats, Maggie and Molly. We do not have a sticks-and-bricks home base, but travel wherever the weather takes us as we chase 70°.

First, a reminder of the caveats related to our expenses. 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 sixth 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 have been boondocking (camping without hookups) since December 27 at the Pilot Knob LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It’s located in southern California, about seven miles west of Yuma, Arizona. When we arrived here in late December, we purchased the annual pass for the entire winter season for $180, which allows us to camp for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs through April 15, 2019. The only time we have moved the RV since we arrived is to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks. We do that about every six days.

Another beautiful sunrise this morning at Pilot Knob LTVA

Staying in one location for the entire month helps keep our expenses low to help offset travel costs later this year when the weather starts to warm up further north. It’s been really nice being able to hunker down in the sunshine and low humidity while the rest of the country is shoveling snow and fighting floods.

Here are our expenses for February.

Camping fees + Electricity

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

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

February: $63 – Still in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA, so no actual expenditures, just the prorated cost of our annual passes.

Six month average: $199

DUMPING FEEs

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

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

February: $48 – Dumped our tanks and filled up with fresh water every 6 days @ $12/visit at the nearby Chevron station.

Six month average: $22

Some next-level rock stacking along Sidewinder Road where I hike

Fuel for the RV

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

January: $0 (Stayed in place all month, 21.9 generator hours and we still have almost 3/4 of a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.) We also started using our solar panels which drastically cut down the number of hours we need to run the generator.

February: $0 (Stayed in place all month, 20.4 generator hours and we still have about half a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.)

Six month average: $160

Fuel for the Truck

December: $221 (20.0 MPG)

January: $59 (17.7 MPG)

February: $113 (17.6 MPG)

Six month average: $141

PROPANE

December: $32 (10 gallons)

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

February: $62 (17.7 gallons) – The weather got a little cooler in the middle of February, but then it really warmed up in the past week, so our heating costs remained about the same, as did our cooking usage. Propane is still $3.49/gallon at Chevron.

Six month average: $32

groceries

December: $492

January: $480

February: $558 – This month appears higher but it’s kind of a timing thing as we did a big Costco haul on February 1, and we also bought weekly groceries on February 28. We’re not eating or drinking any more than usual.

Six month average: $492

NOTE: 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.

The pastry display at Cardena’s in El Centro

dining out

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

January: $230

February: $184 – We go to the nearby casino every Friday morning for their $5.95 breakfast buffet. We had lunch in Los Algodones (Mexico) once this month, and we also had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma called Chretins (family operated since 1946). We had our Valentine’s Day dinner at an Asian restaurant called Sesame’s Kitchen because our first two choices were overbooked.

Six month average: $215

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

On Friday mornings you’ll find us at the Quechan Resort and Casino for the $5.95 breakfast buffet

household / furnishings

December: $42

January: $35

February: $205 – Includes purchase of Turbotax software, an external hard drive for my laptop, a new chair for Andy to use when working on jewelry (someday), and a new vegan cookbook which was authored by some of our favorite full-time RVers.

Six month average: $82

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

petcare

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

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

February: $7 – Kitties are doing very well!

Six month average: $69

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.

Molly and Maggie spend a lot of time soaking up the sun and enjoying the breeze by the window

verizon cellphone / internet

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

January: $276

February: $276

Six month average: $264

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them in the fall of 2017. We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop and the Roku. We are now on the AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled. Once the phones are paid off this fall, the monthly charge should drop by $66/month unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

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

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

February: $45 – Had mail forwarded twice to get all the tax documentation. Also extended the scanning service for another three months at $10/month.

Six month average: $20

One month’s worth of mail, just in time for tax season

Laundry

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

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

February: $17 – One trip to the Yuma laundromat, three large loads.

Six month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

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

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

February: $96 – We visited the Yuma Territorial Prison Historical Site, which cost us $14. Also includes parking fee and tips for musicians for our daytrip to Los Algodones, a puzzle book for me, and a Kindle book for Andy.

Six month average: $88

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

Andy found himself behind bars at the Yuma Territorial Prison

memberships

December: $0

January: $0

February: $40 – Annual membership dues for Escapees (they handle our mail service and we get discounted rates in their parks).

Six month average: $25

Equipment for RV

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

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

February: $28 – Andy ordered a new high-tech caulking gun to take care of some maintenance on the rig.

Six month average: $486 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)

RV Maintenance & REpairs

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

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

February: $28 – Hooray, nothing broke on the rig this month! We bought two tubes of Dicor lap sealant so Andy can do a little preventative maintenance on the rig.

Six month average: $113

truck maintenance & repairs

December: $0

January: $0

February: $0

Six month average: $2

NOTE: We drive a 2004 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner pickup with a camper shell on the back as our chase vehicle (not towed). It has just over 107K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.

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.

Another fun lunch in Los Algodones

Summary

So those are our RV living expenses for the last three months:

December Total: $3,309

January Total: $1,677

February Total: $1,904

Six month average: $2,565

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. In December we drove more, continued putting together our solar system, and had some additional maintenance items to attend to, so our expenses were higher than we would have liked, even with the free boondocking. In January and February, we had much better months in terms of our pocketbooks while eating well, entertaining ourselves, staying warm and dry and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and interesting culture along the southern border.

Since we purchased the annual pass to the BLM Long Term Visitor Area for $180, we are allowed to boondock for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs in Arizona and California through April 15. It was pretty cool for most of February, but this past week it has started to warm up significantly, with highs in the low 80’s. It is supposed to cool off a little bit in mid-March, but we’re thinking it’s time to start moving north. We have some items on order from Amazon that are due to arrive in the next week, but as soon as those come in, we’ll probably be pulling up stakes and be on the move again. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens. Most likely our next destination will be the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA.

View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA

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.

Weather Report, More Geocaching, Saturday in Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a bad forecast for the next couple of weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another fun lunch in Los Algodones

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

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

 

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

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

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

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

View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA

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

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

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

Inside a cell at the Yuma Territorial Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gila Ridge Dental in Yuma AZ

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

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

Getting our semi-annual dental checkups

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

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

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

Interesting cloud formations over the campground

Life is good!!

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

 

Everyday Life, Wild Winds, Jury Summons, Penny Slots

Can you believe we just passed the five-month mark since we moved into our RV full time? Maybe it’s just because we’re getting older, but time seems to fly out here on the road. It just reinforces our belief that it’s so important to make every day count and not put off until “Someday” the things that will fulfill us and bring us joy. We only have a limited number of days on this third rock from the sun!

That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be zip-lining or bungee-cord jumping every day. In our case, we get our joy from being parked in a place where the weather is nice, watching the sunrise (me only!), cooking and eating healthy food together, hiking the beautiful landscape, and occasionally doing some sight-seeing in the area. And when the weather changes or we get bored, we just move our house somewhere else. That brings us joy!

Right now we’re still parked in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) in Southern California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. For the most part the weather has been beautiful with highs in the 60s and low 70s and mostly sunny skies. We’ve had one really rainy day in the month that we’ve been here, but mostly it’s been dry. Last week, however, it got extremely windy with gusts up to 50 mph, and we had to stay inside during a dust storm. I caught a few video clips through the windows and posted them to YouTube. You can hear the dust and tiny rocks hitting the side of the RV, which was definitely rocking with the wind!

But typically our days are not that exciting. I get up between 5:30 and 6:00, feed the cats, set the solar panels up to face the sunrise, and then make my coffee and have breakfast. I then get on the computer for awhile to take care of the bookkeeping or write a blog post until Andy gets up sometime around 8:00. While he’s eating breakfast, I make the bed and clean the litter box, and then we both take care of the breakfast dishes. Afterwards, we get cleaned up, and then we may go for a hike or do a little geocaching, or just sit outside on our porch to read a good book.

We use the pour-over method for coffee when we’re off-grid.

When lunchtime rolls around, we always have a big chopped salad with a cup of pinto or black beans. After the lunch dishes are done we may have errands and chores to take care of like grocery shopping or doing laundry. Every fifth or sixth day, we have to stow away all the loose items inside the RV so Andy can drive it to the nearby Chevron station to dump the waste tanks and refill our fresh water and propane. That process takes about 1-1/2 hours because there’s usually a line at the station.

On days that we don’t have chores or errands to take care of, we may do a little sightseeing or exploring in the area. We might walk across the border into Mexico for lunch. It just depends on what mood we’re in for the day.

Around 4:00 the sun starts getting a little lower in the sky and we settle down to watch the sunset. If it’s not too cold or windy we sit outside and watch, but otherwise I sit on the bed and watch it through our big back windows while Maggie (our cat) sits in my lap. It’s a nice close to the day.

After the sky fades to black, I cook dinner in the rig. It’s always vegan and it usually includes lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains, although we’ll occasionally throw in a processed black bean burger, some soy chorizo or some Tofurky Italian Sausage (so good!). After dinner, we clean the dishes and then do some reading or watch YouTube videos. We do have a television in the rig, but we very rarely use it.

We have a nightly ritual with the cats when we give them their treats–it has to be done the same way every night at about the same time. You know how cats are! Then I’m usually in bed and asleep around 9:30 while Andy stays up much later either reading or watching videos (and trying to suppress his laughter at whatever he’s watching!).

So that’s our typical day here at Pilot Knob. I know it sounds boring, but we never feel bored. There are always new rigs and new people showing up. Yesterday, some of our favorite YouTubers pulled into camp in their big Class A rigs, and we’re going to stop by and say hello to them today. The point is, we’re free to arrange our days however we want (unless of course the tanks need to be dumped!), and that freedom is what this lifestyle is all about.

But every so often, we get a reminder that we are still under some constraints that can’t be ignored. We get our mail at our address in Livingston, Texas, where the envelopes are scanned and uploaded to a website where we can view them and decide whether they can be destroyed or forwarded to us. When I checked the scans last week, I was thrilled (NOT!) to see that I had received a summons for jury duty back in Texas.

Jury summons, less than four months after establishing residency in Texas

There was a phone number on the envelope, so I called them and told them I was on the road and didn’t know when I would be back in Livingston. She told me to just write “Out of State, Return to Sender” on the envelope and send it back. I’m sure they are very accustomed to this situation since so many full time RVers register their rigs and establish their domicile in Livingston. So that was an easy-peasy resolution.

Last Friday we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at the nearby Quechan Resort and Casino. On Monday through Friday they have a breakfast buffet for $5.95. We had pancakes and French toast, oatmeal, roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and coffee, and ate until we were stuffed as this was both breakfast and lunch for us. Of course they had all the usual breakfast meats which we avoided, as well as pastries and muffins which we just skipped.

The Quechan Resort and Casino just west of Yuma, AZ

After our meal we signed up for the players card and got $5 in free play. We found some penny slot machines which actually allowed you to only bet a penny, and with the $5 in free play, I actually walked away with a couple extra dollars in my pocket. Score!

We went to Starbucks last week to use the wi-fi, but theirs was so horribly slow that we ended up going to the Yuma library instead. The main library is a very nice facility with lots of natural light and reasonably fast wi-fi. Unfortunately we got there about a half hour before they closed so we didn’t get to enjoy it for long. I’m sure we’ll visit again–after all, it’s tax season and in the next few weeks I’ll be spending at least a full day with Turbotax and I’ll need a good internet connection.

Inside the main library in Yuma AZ

Other than that, we’ve just been grocery shopping, doing a little laundry and reading a lot. No significant issues with the rig this week (knock on wood!). Life is good!!

Thanks for taking time to read our blog, and be sure to leave a comment if you have questions! You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels everyone! Find your freedom and make the most of every day!!

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!

Pilot Knob LTVA, Solar Power, Geocaching, Los Algodones Mexico, Missing Family

We just spent our twelfth night boondocking here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (that’s Bureau of Land Management Long Term Visitor Area). So far we are really enjoying it, even though we haven’t spent a whole lot of time exploring the area.

The first few days we were here were spent getting our solar system up and running. Andy had to drill a hole in the floor just above the battery compartment in the entry steps so he could run the cables from the battery to the new charge controller which he mounted above the front door. He ran the cables through a length of PVC pipe conduit to make them less obvious. Now he just needs to fasten the conduit to the wall and then seal up the hole, and that project will be complete.

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

We are in love with our new solar system! It has drastically reduced the amount of time we need to run the generator–now we only run it when we need to use the microwave or the Instant Pot, or on a rare rainy day like we had on Saturday. Each morning before the sun even rises, the panels start charging a tiny bit as soon as there is light in the sky. Since I’m the early riser in the family, I go outside and turn the panels toward the east, and at about 7:15 AM when the sun finally rises over the nearby mountain, the panels start doing their magic. By watching the numbers on the charge controller, you can literally see the voltage flowing into the batteries as the sun rises. During the day, we turn the panels to the south and then to the west to follow the sun. On most days the batteries are fully charged by about 10:00 AM, and then the panels just keep them topped off until the sun goes down, by which time we have enough voltage to get us through the night.

Our solar kit also came with the Kodiak portable solar generator, which is basically a big lithium battery with an inverter which allows us to plug in any of our devices that need to be charged, as well as any of our small appliances that run on 110V like the television, Roku, hair dryer, etc. Without the Kodiak, we would have to run the generator to power those devices.

Our new Kodiak portable generator to be charged with solar panels

Since our campsite is free (after purchasing the $180 annual pass last month) and we’re not spending money on fuel to move from campground to campground this month, we’re hoping that the additional savings from not running the generator will all add up to make this a month of significant cost savings, which would be really nice after the last two months of solar investment, maintenance, and repair costs.

This is our first time to stay in a BLM LTVA, and it’s an interesting experience. The camp hosts are a couple named Roy and Joann, who basically collect the entrance fees and answer questions. There are no designated campsites, you just find an area that you like and park your rig there. There are a few rigs that are parked fairly close together since they are friends traveling together, but mostly everyone is pretty spread out and respectful of each other’s privacy. There are all types of rigs from big Class A motorhomes, truck campers, fifth wheels, travel trailers, vans, small Class B and C motorhomes like ours, and even skoolies. It is very quiet here, other than the sounds of the trains going by.

One of our neighbors barely visible through the Sunday morning fog

After having such an intense week in Glendale at Christmas time and then spending a couple of days working on the solar system, it was nice to finally just relax and hang out without having an agenda. Most of the time the weather has been nice, although there were a few days that were extremely windy and cool, and yesterday it rained most of the afternoon. It has never gone below freezing at night where we are, even though it has been colder just to the north of us in Quartzsite and Phoenix.

There are a lot of geocaches in the area, so I’ve gone out on several hunts. Andy went with me on one of my hunts, and I think he might be starting to get the bug! 🙂 Even though the desert looks flat when you look outward, once you start walking across it you find small dunes and washes that conceal all kinds of interesting things that make good hiding places for caches. So far I’ve found caches in an old squatters’ shack, a tree next to an old hot tub, an old paint can, and a pipe buried in the sand in the middle of an old tire. From a short distance away, none of these places are visible due to the slight undulations of the land.

Found a geocache in this abandoned squatters shack hidden between the dunes

There’s also a rock quarry in the side of the mountain (Pilot Knob) next to the campground. There are some geocaches hidden at the top of the quarry and the mountain. Andy and I made an attempt to go after them but the only trail we could find to the top was very steep and unstable, so we decided it wasn’t worth risking an injury. We’re know our limits! 🙂 But we did have a nice hike to a spot about a third of the way up the quarry where we got a great view of the area.

Hiking down from the rock quarry (photo cred: Andy)

So far we’ve gone into Yuma three times. Andy went once to pick up some wire he needed for the solar hookup, and then we went grocery shopping twice at Walmart (two different ones). Once interesting challenge with this location has to do with oranges. When we drive back to the campground (located in California) from grocery shopping in Yuma (Arizona), we have to go through an agricultural inspection station and tell them whether or not we have any fresh produce. If you remember from our previous post, when we first arrived, they actually came inside the RV to inspect, but let us keep our produce. It seems they are most interested in oranges. When we went grocery shopping last week, of course we loaded up on produce as we always do, and that included oranges. We were hoping that since we were in the pickup instead of the RV, they would just wave us through. But no, when we rolled up to the inspector, he specifically asked if we had oranges, and we couldn’t lie. He asked to see them, and then said that although technically he should confiscate them, he would let us keep them “this time”. Of course, yesterday when we went shopping we decided not to get any oranges, and when we pulled up to the inspector he just waved us through without stopping us. You never know. It’s a bummer because the closest grocery store to us on the California side of the border is about 37 miles away, so we’re going to see if we can find a farmer’s market stand or something a little closer that sells California oranges.

Last Friday we spent most of the day in Los Algodones, Mexico. The border crossing is about four miles from where we are….in fact, we can see the lights of Algodones from our campsite at night. Getting in to Mexico is no problem. The local Indian tribe has a parking lot next to the border where you pay $6 for a regular passenger vehicle, then you just walk down the sidewalk through a couple of small buildings with some un-manned metal detectors, and then you’re in Mexico.

Arriving in Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico

The place is crowded this time of year with American senior citizens who are there to get their prescriptions filled, their glasses replaced, and their dental work done, all at prices much lower than in the US. Many of them live in Arizona and Southern California and come here on a regular basis, others are full-time RVers who specifically stay in this area in the winter for this purpose.

We didn’t need any those services, we were just there for some Mexican food, a margarita, and some sightseeing. We had lunch at a popular spot called “El Pariso” or The Garden Place. It’s a large outdoor seating area surrounded by shops. While you are perusing the menu, a small army of vendors approach your table with all kinds of things for sale–jewelry, wall art, blankets, hats, ponchos, belts, t-shirts, you name it. But once your food arrives, they pretty much leave you alone. I bought a hat which actually came in handy because the sun got pretty intense even though the temperatures were very comfortable. The food was so-so, but the margarita was excellent!

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

After lunch we did some shopping around for a particular kind of candy we found several months ago when we crossed the border from Columbus, NM to Palomas, Mexico. It’s called Damy Peanut Crunch, and it sells on Amazon for $12.95 for a 100-count bag. We get it in Mexico for about $3.50/bag. Luckily we found it in a small candy store in Algodones, and we found another brand that is similar (although the pieces are smaller) for about $2.05 in the liquor/pharmacy store.

When in Mexico we always look for a bakery, or panadería. We didn’t spot one immediately so we asked one of the vendors, and he said there wasn’t one currently open. Later we stopped to get some freshly made churros from a street vendor, and the guy that was helping him told us about a bakery that was close by, and he volunteered to walk us to it. His name was Victor, and he was such a nice guy. He told us about all the times he visited and lived in the US (which explains how he speaks such good English), but he has returned to Mexico to be with his family. Victor helped us find the Pan Superior bakery where we picked up some of our favorite Mexican sweet breads.

Shopping in the panadería for Mexican sweet breads

The worst part of going across the border in Algodones is the long line to get back into the US. We waited somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, and we’re told that it’s usually closer to two hours. They do provide shade and benches to sit on while waiting in line, and there are restrooms and vendors selling bottled water. Since a large portion of the people in the line are senior citizens, it’s good that they have some amenities to make the wait a little less uncomfortable. Once we got to the front of the line, we sailed right past the customs agent.

We’re already looking forward to our next visit to Algodones–there’s just something special about having easy access to visit a different country and culture, and meeting friendly people like Victor.

In other maintenance news, Andy was able to get the bat-wing TV antenna fixed so it raises and lowers from the ceiling crank on the inside. After we got it raised, we ran the channel scan on the TV and didn’t pick up a single over-the-air station, so we assumed we were either too far out in the desert or maybe we were being blocked by the nearby mountain. But then I noticed that other rigs had their bat-wing antennas up and it didn’t make sense that they would have them up if there was no reception. So I did some investigating a few days later and found a small push-button switch hidden in one of the overhead bins. There were no instructions or labels on the switch, except for the brand name Winegard, which is the brand of the antenna. I pushed the button and a green light came on, so I tried the channel scan again, and Voila!! We’ve got 19 digital channels coming in, about half of which are in Spanish, but we do get the major networks. The picture is crisp and clear, so chalk that up as a win. Of course, we rarely watch TV anyway, but it’s good to know we can see the next season of “The Voice” and maybe even the Super Bowl!

Other than that, we’ve just been hanging out and enjoying life. There are definitely more rigs here in the LTVA than there were when we first arrived, but there is still a lot of empty space around us. Now that we have our maintenance tasks done and we’re stocked up on groceries, we’re looking forward to doing some sightseeing in the area. There’s a lot of history here, and Yuma actually has a lot of cultural activities on their weekly calendar. We’ll let you know what we get into.

Oh yes, we learned one other thing yesterday when we picked up our mail which we had had forwarded to us via General Delivery in Winterhaven, CA. The postmaster there told me that you are only allowed to use General Delivery at a specific post office for 30 days out of a calendar year, and after that you need to rent a P.O. box. That’s interesting information, but when our thirty days are up and we need to have another packet of mail forwarded to us out here, we’ll just pick a different post office. Winner winner, tofu dinner!! 😀

Lastly, on a very personal note, you’ll notice that it’s been longer than usual since I posted to the blog. Last week we received word that my nephew and his wife lost their baby in the middle of her third trimester of pregnancy. We were devastated for them, and it was difficult knowing that we were so far away and could not be there to join the rest of the family for the memorial service. I just didn’t feel like blogging while going through such an emotional time. We send our love and prayers to Tyler and Allie and their two sons, Hudson and Westin, as they deal with the loss of baby Mackson. Our hearts are back in Mississippi with them, even while we are parked here in the California desert.

Thanks for reading the blog, and be sure to share it with your friends if they are interested in full-time RV living! You can also follow us on Instagram to see what we’re doing between blog posts.

Take care, safe travels, and live every day to the fullest!!

 

 

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!!

Quick Notes from Pancho Villa SP in New Mexico

We’re still happily parked at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, just three miles north of the US/Mexico border and the Mexican town of Palomas. We haven’t done anything super-exciting, so I thought I’d just give you some quick notes from the past few days–this is real life for us.

Last Saturday was a day for chores. I cleaned up the inside of the rig, then we drove to Deming (about 40 minutes north) for laundry and grocery shopping. But before we started chores we treated ourselves to lunch at Marie’s Italian Grill. The restaurant is located in the old Deming National Bank building so it has some character to it. Business was slow, but the service was excellent and the food was pretty good, especially for a small town. I had the eggplant parmesan and Andy had spaghetti with marinara. We split some fried mushrooms, and for dessert we had spumoni ice cream, which we haven’t had since we last ate at Fred’s in Houston, Texas sometime in the 90’s.  We really liked Marie’s, and would definitely eat there again.

Interior of Marie’s Italian Grill still has the original tile flooring.

Exterior of Marie’s Italian Grill in the old Deming National Bank building

After a good lunch, it was time for chores, starting with laundry. On the road, we do laundry about once every two to three weeks, so there’s a lot to do, especially with towels and bed sheets. The large commercial machines make it quick and easy to get it all done.

We used the Pine Street Laundromat based on their Yelp reviews, and it wasn’t a bad experience. The place was clean, there was an attendant on-site, and most of the machines appeared to be in working order. We did three large loads of laundry for $8.75.

Laundry day in Deming NM

After the laundry was done, we headed to the local Walmart Supercenter to get groceries and water. Yes, we are hooked up to water at the campground, but we use filtered water for drinking, refilling our own containers from the Primo dispensers in Walmart for $.29/gallon. The Walmart in Deming is pretty nice as far as Walmarts go–their produce was fresh, and that’s what is most important to us when grocery shopping.

On Sunday we did a little exploring around the little town of Columbus. When Pancho Villa’s men raided the town in 1916, they burned four adjoining buildings including a hotel, a mercantile store and two residences. The foundations of those buildings are still visible in a vacant lot that’s pretty overgrown. There’s a small plaque nearby that has a picture of the hotel as it existed, and a picture of the owner who was killed in the raid along with some of the guests. Kind of spooky to be standing in a spot where so much violence occurred just over 100 years ago.

We drove up and down the streets of Columbus, many of which are not paved. We found the local elementary school on the outskirts of town, and it actually looks very modern, well-equipped and maintained.

Not far from the school, we found the local cemetery where we got out of the truck and strolled around (Andy has a real interest in cemeteries since he worked in the business when we lived in Phoenix).  This one was very interesting in that there is an obvious Hispanic area where the graves are colorfully decorated, some with elaborate structures built around them, and names like Gomez and Hernandez on the markers. Another section is obviously Anglo with simple, unadorned grave markers with Anglo names. There is also a separate section specifically for veterans with a US flag flying overhead. The cemetery appears to be undergoing an expansion with lots of new trees being planted and irrigation systems being installed.

Columbus has a few small restaurants but we haven’t tried any of them. They also have a small library/computer center that has kick-butt fast wi-fi, but you have to be seated in the right place to get a good signal. The library appears to function as the local hangout for a lot of folks in town, as we found on our last visit. In addition to supplying a few books and some wi-fi, they also have a lot of wired computer terminals that anyone can come in and use. Great service for this small, relatively poor community.

Front room of the local library / computer center.

On Monday Andy and I walked back across the border into Palomas to re-visit the bakery. This time we did a little more exploring on the main drag, checking out some of the local shops where they sell mostly shoes, belts and clothing items. We visited a local grocery store where we saw a lot of American items labeled in Spanish. There was a meat counter that was very busy, but only a small produce section.

We picked up a big bag of freshly-baked pastries for only $3.80. Next we stopped at a Del Rio convenience store and picked up a bottle of Cabernet from Chile for $5.50 (it was actually very good!).

Our latest pastry haul

Yesterday (Tuesday) I cooked a pot of spaghetti in the Instant Pot and we invited Gary (our next-door neighbor) to come over for dinner. He brought a cucumber salad along with his guitar, so after dinner we spent a fun couple of hours doing a sing-along. It was so much fun that Molly even came out of hiding to sit on the bed and listen.

Here are some other interesting things we’ve seen here in the campground and in Columbus:

  • There’s a family that appears to be living in an old school bus in the desert outside the campground. Every few days one of them brings some empty jugs, climbs over the fence, and gets water from a spigot in the campground. He’s always accompanied by his dog which has a limp. Sometimes the whole family comes with him to use the showers. Pretty sure the park rangers know about it since it’s a regular occurrence. The guy is nice, always says hello. Hope they’re staying warm out there.
  • A couple of nights ago around midnight, we saw the rangers come through the campground with bright flashlights, obviously looking for something. The next day they stopped by the RV to check on us, and said that someone’s First Alert alarm had been activated during the night and they were trying to find out who it was. They never found them during the night.
  • There is a small intentional-living community called City of the Sun on the outskirts of Columbus. It’s a private community with a population of 31 at the last census. Here’s a link to information about them.
  • Someone built a shrine to the Perfect Man some years ago. It’s been abandoned for years. I’m sure there’s a lesson here.

Shrine to the Perfect Man in Columbus NM

We still have four nights left here in this park before we leave on Sunday, so we’re going to try to see a few more things in the area, including one more trip to the Pink Store in Palomas for lunch and a visit to another local museum.

If all goes according to plan, we will be boondocking a lot more in the next few months. We’re discussing the possibility of getting a couple of solar panels and a Kodiak portable charger–we’ll see how that goes. We do have a generator onboard that can power our air conditioner and microwave, but it would be nice to have a quieter source of power when all we need to do is charge our electronic devices.

So, everything is well with us. We’re getting plenty of sunshine and exercise, eating healthy food (well, except for those pastries!), drinking plenty of filtered water, reading, singing, enjoying time with new friends, sleeping well, exploring, taking care of chores…..

Just living and loving life!

If you enjoy reading these updates, please let me know in the comments, and feel free to subscribe to see what we’re up to next. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between the blog posts.

Hope you’re following your dreams and living the life you always wanted! If not, what are you waiting for??

 

Lunch in Mexico and Learning About Pancho Villa

We’ve spent three nights here in Pancho Villa State Park so far, and it’s already moved to the top of our list of favorite places to hang out. There is just so much history, culture and character here, and it’s going to take us awhile to fully experience it.

We got settled into our campsite on Sunday, and then on Monday morning we walked over to the office/museum to talk to the ranger or camp host about finding a local source for propane. We met Terri, one of the camp hosts, and she was a wealth of information, pointing us to Columbus Gas for propane and also answering our questions about crossing the border to Mexico. Then, to top it off, she gave us a card good for a free round of drinks at the Pink Store in Palomas. Score!!

So we unhooked Lizzy and Andy drove her to Columbus Gas to get propane–the tank was almost empty so she took 12 gallons, just over $31. This is the first propane we’ve had to buy since we’ve been on the road, but we’re using more now since we’re running the furnace a little bit each day with the colder temperatures.

After getting Lizzy hooked back up we decided to cross the border into Palomas for lunch at the Pink Store. The border crossing is just three miles from the campground, and it’s currently a big construction zone as both the US and the Mexican facilities are being upgraded. We found the parking lot in front of the Duty Free store, and from there it was a short walk right through the middle of the construction zone to cross the border into Mexico, and then a couple blocks further to get to the Pink Store.

Border crossing into Mexico at Palomas

The Pink Store is actually a restaurant and a series of shops that sell all sorts of things from souvenirs and trinkets to furniture and artwork. The name of the restaurant is Tacos Hacienda Palomas, but everyone just refers to it as the Pink Store.

Andy outside one of the shops at the Pink Store

The restaurant was very colorful and lively, with a three-piece mariachi band that took requests (and tips). The bass player also performed some solo songs on the keyboard. They had some beautiful harmonies and were accomplished instrumentalists as well. Here’s a short clip of the song they sang at our table:

We each ordered margaritas, and we had a cheese quesadilla for an appetizer. For entrees, Andy had the cheese enchiladas, and I had the chicken tacos (first time I’ve had chicken in over five years, and it will probably be at least that long before I have it again.) For dessert, we split a slice of flan. All the food was very good–not the best we’ve ever had but the unique experience of being so close to the border made it memorable. And of course, there were a lot of other gringos from the USA doing the same thing we were doing.

After finishing lunch we then walked a couple of blocks west to  Panaderia La Favorita, a local bakery. We were blown away by the variety of freshly baked pastries and breads they had for sale, and enjoyed talking to the owner about his recipes. We walked away with five large pastries for the grand sum of $1.80.

Just a few of the pastries available for sale

Monday night we spent several hours hanging out at our next-door neighbor’s campfire. We met Gary when we first arrived in camp when we heard him playing his lute (similar to a guitar) and singing. Turns out he’s a retired dean of music from Florida School of the Arts, and he’s a very accomplished musician. After having a heart attack, he decided not to waste any more time waiting to “retire”, so he bought a cargo trailer and built it out as a camper/toy hauler. He pulls it behind his pickup truck, and it contains his living space as well as his motorcycle. We had some wonderful conversation around the campfire, and he’s going to join us for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday since he’s also a vegetarian!

Yesterday (Tuesday) we both took long walks to get some exercise, then Andy prepared one of his famous gigantic chopped salads. Of course, we didn’t find out about the big e coli scare with romaine until after we had already eaten lunch. So if we wind up at the local urgent care facility in the next few days, we’ll know why.

After lunch we spent a couple of hours touring the museum here in the state park. Of course, we had heard of Pancho Villa and knew that the US military had tried to track him down, but we didn’t know the details. We learned that on March 9, 1916 Villa’s forces launched an early morning raid into the town of Columbus and the adjoining Camp Furlong (where the park is currently located). Several townspeople and soldiers were killed, along with some of Villa’s men, and part of the town was burned.

Vehicle with bullet holes, driven by family trying to escape from Villa’s raid

The result of the raid was that General Pershing put together a punitive response force to track down Villa. About 10,000 troops were brought into the area and went south into Mexico in an unsuccessful attempt to bring Villa to justice. Interestingly, this was the first time that motorized vehicles were used to replace horses for the military, and the first military airfield was established here to launch reconnaissance flights over Mexico.

One reason I’m so interested in this story comes from my childhood. We grew up living next door to Mr. Clyde and Mrs. Lela Green on Dry Creek in north Mississippi. Mr. Clyde was quite a character and had a lot of tales to tell, but he always talked about how he had ridden into Mexico to chase Pancho Villa as a young man. One of the park museum exhibits is a collection of different state medals from the men who served here, and there is a Mississippi Magnolia medal in the collection. There is another museum here in town that we are told has rosters with names of some of the soldiers who were stationed here for the expedition, and we’re going to see if we can find Mr. Clyde’s name on any of the lists. Wouldn’t that be cool if we could!

Last night the sunset was especially beautiful, so I got my “real” camera out of the bag, set it up on the tripod, and shot a bunch of bracketed photos to put together into HDR images. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so it was fun to sharpen up some rusty skills.

HDR image from last night’s sunset. No photo can do it justice.

Today we are hanging out in the Columbus Village Library, using the wi-fi and getting our devices updated. A couple of the locals stopped by our table to greet us, offer us coffee and tea, and give us the scoop on the local area. Everyone here is so friendly and knowledgeable, we can’t help but be drawn in to the folklore and tradition that just oozes from this place.

Tomorrow, of course, is Thanksgiving, and I’ll be preparing my “beefy” seitan pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions, which we’ll be sharing with Gary. And if for some reason, the meal doesn’t work out, a local cafe is having a Thanksgiving buffet for $12 and it sounds like most of the people in the campground are probably planning to eat there, from the conversation we’ve overheard here in the library.

So that’s what’s going on with us at the moment. We’re still loving New Mexico, and the weather is still moderate enough that we don’t feel any great impulse to move to Arizona yet. That time will come, but for now we’re very happy where we are.

We hope you all have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving and holiday season!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads as well to keep up with us between blog posts.

 

 

Exploring Las Cruces & Moving On

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

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

Cotton ready for harvest

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

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

Vendors on the plaza at the Wednesday market

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

Chile Ristras for sale at the market

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

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

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

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

Basilica of San Albino on the Plaza in Mesilla NM

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

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

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

Sour cream enchiladas and the Chile-Rita

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the holidays?

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

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Safe travels, everyone!