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!!

House of Pies, Leaving New Mexico, A Day of Challenges

After an amazing two months in New Mexico, it was finally time to move on to lower altitudes and higher temperatures.

New Mexico cactus in our campsite

We spent yesterday (Saturday) in Deming, running errands, stocking up on groceries and doing a little more sightseeing. First we went by the post office to pick up our mail, about three weeks’ worth, that had been forwarded from our home base in Livingston, Texas. Next we stopped by the bank to use the ATM machine to get a little traveling money.

By then it was lunchtime, and after checking the local reviews on Yelp, decided to try out Elisa’s House of Pies and Restaurant which just happened to be right next to the bank. This place is a little jewel that you would hardly notice from the outside, tucked away on a little alleyway. But once we stepped inside, met the owners and tasted the food, we were blown away.

Elisa’s House of Pies and Restaurant is a jewel!

Elisa and her husband are true Southerners–he’s from South Carolina and she’s from Pascagoula, Mississippi–and their hospitality and food reflect their heritage. Andy and I both had vegetable plates, and the collard greens were definitely the star of the show. They were amazing! And then there were six different pies from which to choose–Pecan, Buttermilk, Pineapple-Coconut Chess, Millionaire, Sweet Potato and Key Lime. Andy got the Millionaire and I got the Chess, and they were both to die for, tasted just like home.

Vegetable plate with the best collards ever!

We had such a good time talking to Elisa and her husband, as well as their daughter and son-in-law who showed up to help them with their Christmas decorations. We found out that they had also done some full-time RVing when they retired from their janitorial services business in Washington State, and that they have been in Deming for about nine years. They are such a sweet couple, great cooks, and we look forward to visiting them again the next time we come through Deming.

Elisa and her husband with me and Andy. Such sweet people!

After we finished lunch we went to Walmart to do our shopping, and then we stopped for an afternoon latte at the Copper Kettle coffee shop in downtown Deming before heading back to the campsite. We spent the rest of the evening having dinner and getting things set to leave this morning.

Time for a latte at the Copper Kettle in Deming.

So yesterday was a great day.

Today, not so much.

This morning I got up early and fed the cats as usual. We’ve noticed lately that Molly seems to be having some “potty difficulties” that come and go, but this morning she was really having problems. She went to the litter box at least 8-10 times and was obviously stressed. She finally seemed to get her business done and settled down, but it seems like we need to take her in for a check up. Both the cats got thorough checkups and blood work done before we went on the road and they were pronounced healthy, but Molly might need a second opinion.

We planned to pull out of Pancho Villa State Park around 10:30, drive west to Lordsburg where we would stop for lunch in Veterans Park, and then continue to Bowie, Arizona where we would boondock for the night in a large parking lot next to the Shell station.

Our last morning in New Mexico at Pancho Villa State Park

When we were breaking camp, Andy unplugged the RV from the electrical post as usual. But I noticed that the refrigerator did not switch over to propane as it usually does when we disconnect. I let him know that something seemed wrong, and when he started troubleshooting he found out that our house batteries were completely dead.

Well, that’s not good when you’re planning to boondock.

He cranked up the RV and turned on the generator, and after a little while the batteries recharged enough for us to feel comfortable moving forward with our original plan for the day. We finished packing up, dumped the tanks, and then pulled out of the state park, headed west. It was a beautiful drive west on Highway 9 to Hachita, NM, then north on Highway 146 to I-10 where we once again turned west toward Arizona.

Driving through southern New Mexico on Highway 146.

As planned, we stopped at Veterans Park in Lordsburg, New Mexico for lunch. It’s not much of a park, just a gravel drive with some covered picnic tables, and we were the only ones there, but it was a fine place to stop for lunch. The batteries had recovered enough on the drive that the meter showed them to be fully charged. We had our usual salad and beans for lunch, and then just relaxed for awhile before moving on. But we noticed that the batteries had already started to deplete after just a little while with the lights on…not good. So we’ll definitely have to have them seen about tomorrow.

Parked for lunch in Veterans Park in Lordsburg NM

We left Lordsburg about 3:00 and arrived at our destination a little before 4:00. Our plan was to fill up our gas tanks at the Shell station in exchange for boondocking on their lot (we knew they allowed overnight parking from the listing on FreeCampsites.net). However when we pulled up to the gas pumps, we found that their regular unleaded gas was $3.69 per gallon–totally outrageous!

We checked our Gas Buddy app and found that gas was anywhere from $2.69 – $2.83 in the vicinity, so we turned around and drove back east for 12 miles to San Simon where we bought gas at a Chevron station for $2.69/gallon.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

I filled up the truck with gas, using my usual credit card. Andy pulled the RV up to a gas pump but when he went to pump the gas, he found a sign on the pump that said he had to leave his credit card with the attendant before pumping. The same sign was on all the pumps except the one I had used. Weird.

So he went inside to see the attendant, and they kept his drivers license while he pumped the gas. The RV took $105 worth of gas. He went back inside to pay for it, using his credit card (both our cards are on the same account, but the cards have different numbers, and I’m the primary on the account). I was sitting in the truck while he went inside.

A few minutes later I got a text message from the credit card company, asking me to confirm a charge for $105 at a Chevron station. I texted back to confirm, but then Andy came out of the store and told me that his card had been denied three times. What the heck!

So I went back inside with him and we tried to use my card, the same one I had just used to fill up the truck, paying at the pump. This time my card was also denied, so I wound up using a different credit card to pay for the gas.

On the way out, Andy asked them if we could park overnight in their lot, and they said sure, no problem, as long as we didn’t block traffic. Andy had decided that he had rather stay at this location instead of driving back to the station with the high prices.

So that’s where we’ve wound up boondocking for the night, at the Chevron station in San Simon, Arizona, right off I-10. They have a large lot where a lot of 18-wheelers are also parked, but we found a spot far enough away from the large trucks that it shouldn’t be an issue.

Boondocking behind the Chevron station in San Simon, AZ

As soon as we got parked, I got on the phone with Capital One and spent a half-hour trying to make sure that our cards were not compromised. They said that we got the fraud alerts because this Chevron station doesn’t use chip readers (they still swipe cards) and because of the large dollar amount, not to mention we had two simultaneous transactions on the same account (one on my card and one on his)–all these issues combined to raise red flags. We’ve been on the road for three months, we regularly fill up both vehicles at the same station on our separate cards, and we’ve never had a problem. But, long story short, our cards are fine, and Capital One now has a voice recording of me being very irritable.

After we settled in, Andy fired up the generator and I cooked a pot of vegetable soup in the Instant Pot. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep before continuing our travels in the morning. Our first order of business will be to shop for new batteries for our coach, as we can’t really boondock without them. We’ll be stopping in Tucson to get that seen about tomorrow. But for tonight, we’ll just run the generator to make sure we have heat and light in the rig.

We’ll be keeping an eye on Molly to see how she’s feeling. If she still seems to be having issues in the morning, we’ll see about getting her to a veterinarian in Tucson. We also have a package from Amazon that we’ll need to pick up in Tucson on Tuesday or Wednesday, so obviously we’ll be spending some time in the area.

And that’s life on the road….some days are diamonds, some days are stone.

But it’s all an adventure, and we’re loving it.

RV Expense Report for November 2018

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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 third full month on the road. Starting with this post, I’ll be sharing the most recent three months’ expenses each time for comparison since line items can change drastically from month to month.

We spent the entire month of November in New Mexico state parks, taking advantage of the annual pass that we purchased in October which allowed us to camp for $4/night, paying for electricity only. We only changed campgrounds twice so we didn’t have to drive the rig a lot, saving on fuel. However, we did make a major investment in some solar equipment this month that will allow us to do some free boondocking.

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

Camping fees + Electricity

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

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

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.)

Setting up in site #11 at Leasburg Dam SP

Fuel for the RV

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

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

November: $79 (Drove 172 miles, 8.8 MPG)

Fuel for the Truck

September: $159 (20.1 MPG)

October: $245 (21.5 MPG)

November: $52 (17.7 MPG)

PROPANE

September: $0

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.

groceries

September: $444

October: $499

November: $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

September: $217

October: $194

November: $213

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

Sour cream enchiladas and the Chile-Rita

household / furnishings

September: $72

October: $52

November: $87

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

petcare

September: $73

October: $45

November: $5 (we were well stocked up from October)

These numbers include cat food, litter, treats and the occasional toy for our two kitties, Maggie and Molly. Will also include vet visits when needed.

verizon cellphone / internet

September: $245

October: $245

November: $254 – This month we upgraded to the next higher level for unlimited data so we won’t get throttled so much.

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them last fall. We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop and the Roku. We are on the unlimited data plan which gets throttled before we get through the month. Once the phones are paid off next fall, the monthly charge should drop significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

September: $0

October: $12

November: $16 – We had mail forwarded twice, but also requested one additional shipment when Andy’s mail-order prescription meds came in.

Laundry

September: $25

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.

attractions / entertainment

September: $80

October: $84

November: $56

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

memberships

September: $0

October: $60 (annual renewal for Costco membership)

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

Equipment for RV

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

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

November: $2,215 (ordered solar kit including three 100-watt solar panels and a Kodiak portable solar generator. Shipment should arrive in December, so stay tuned for our review! Here’s a link to the kit we purchased.)

Kodiak portable solar generator and panels

RV Maintenance & REpairs

September: $4

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

November: $22 (changed out the water filter)

truck maintenance & repairs

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

October: $0

November: $0

Vehicle insurance

September: $97

October: $97

November: $97

We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV and $40/mo for the truck.

VEhicle License and registration

September: $39

October: $39

November: $39

Of course we paid the annual license and registration up front in September but for expense tracking purposes, I’m prorating it across the year. It’s $22/mo for the RV and $17/mo for the truck.

Summary

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

September Total: $2,043

October Total: $2,605

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

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.

We’re in the process of planning our itinerary for December, and it will involve some big changes in our camping style. We’ll be boondocking a lot (that’s why we bought the solar kit), so our camping fees should reasonable as we’ll only opt for a paid campsite occasionally when we need hookups for some reason. However, we’ll be moving around more, so our fuel costs will be higher. It’s all a balancing act!

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.

Museum, Enchilada Fries and We Go Solar

We’re down to our last few days here in New Mexico and we’re trying to make the most of them before we pull up stakes and head to Arizona for the winter.

Another beautiful sunrise at Pancho Villa State Park

On Wednesday morning we visited the Columbus Depot Museum which is housed in the old train depot and operated by the Columbus Historical Society. The building itself is worth seeing with the old original floors and windows. They have one room dedicated to the Pancho Villa raid from March 9, 1916, including a diorama that shows how the town was laid out at the time, as well as one of Pancho’s sombreros, the door of the bank vault with a bullet hole in it, and lots of other memorabilia.

A second room is dedicated to railroad memorabilia, as Columbus was originally a railroad town where trains would move soldiers to/from Camp Furlong, ore from the mines in Arizona, and passengers headed west from El Paso. The third room contains a lot of antique household and business items from the early 1900’s.

Inside the Train Room in the Columbus Depot Museum

There’s a small gift shop just inside the entrance that sells trinkets and books. Outside the building there is an old fire engine, some more old farm equipment, and a gazebo that is a recreation of the reviewing stand where General Pershing stood to review the troops as they marched back into the US after chasing Villa’s army through northern Mexico after the raid.

The gentleman who was working in the museum that morning was quite a crusty character. He’s a volunteer, so he gets a free RV spot behind the museum (there’s a second volunteer and they trade shifts). He had his dog with him at his desk, and seeing as how we were the only ones that visited the museum that morning, he was ready to talk…and talk….and talk. He was pretty entertaining, especially later when we could overhear his phone conversation with someone regarding current events….let’s just say he was colorful. 🙂

After touring the museum, we walked across the street and had lunch at the Borderland Cafe so we could contribute to the local economy. This is a popular spot with the locals, as evidenced by the number of people that stopped in for lunch wearing construction vests or cowboy hats and boots. They offered a few veggie options–I got the veg-wich which was a sandwich made with hummus and veggies. Andy got the veggie pizza which was very good. One of their specialties is their enchilada fries–french fries covered with green Hatch chile sauce and Menonite cheese. We split an order of those.

Enchilada fries at the Borderland Cafe in Columbus NM

Yesterday (Thursday) we had to say “See you down the road!” to our new friend, fellow nomad and guitarist-extraordinaire Gary Piazza, who had reached the 14-day stay limit here in the park. He’s moving to nearby Rockhound State Park for a few days before heading to Payson, Arizona where he has a gig waiting. Safe travels, Gary!!

We spent yesterday afternoon hanging out at the local library/computer center, using their speedy wi-fi to do some research on boondocking spots in Arizona and planning our travels for the next week or so.

And speaking of boondocking….

We are about to embark on a whole new chapter in our RV living experience. To date, we have only boondocked twice that I remember. The first time was in a Walmart parking lot in Chattanooga, TN in September 2017 when we were on our way to our first RV rally in Sevierville, TN. The second time was the first night after we hit the road back in August, when we stayed at a Harvest Host location, Landry Vineyards in Monroe, LA.

In each of those cases we didn’t have to be too concerned about how much water, tank capacity or battery power we used because we were only off-grid for one night before getting back to hook-ups. But our plans for the next few months are to spend quite a bit of time off-grid, camping for free on BLM land primarily, so we’ll need to learn to camp differently and more conservatively.

For electric power, we do have a generator that uses gas from the fuel tank on the RV. The generator can charge the house batteries as well as provide power for energy hogs like the microwave and the air conditioner. But we would like to limit the use of the generator as much as possible to conserve gasoline and lower our fuel costs.

And since we are going to be spending a large portion of our time in the Southwest where the sun shines almost every day, it just made sense to invest in a solar system.

Kodiak portable solar generator and panels

After doing a lot of research over the past year, we settled on a solar kit that includes the Kodiak portable solar generator, three 100-watt solar panels, cables, and three outdoor lights. We ordered it yesterday from Earthtech Products and made arrangements to have it shipped to a friend’s house in Phoenix where we’ll pick it up when it arrives in a few weeks (thanks, Nicki and Avery!!).

The Kodiak is a 90 amp-hour lithium battery. The unit has multiple plugs which can be used to keep all our devices charged. In fact, there’s even a 30-amp plug where we could plug the RV directly into the unit to run small things like lights and fans if our house batteries should fail.

If you’re interested in the system, here’s a link Earthtech’s website where you can get the specs.

The cost? Total was $2215, including a car charger which will charge the Kodiak from the alternator while we’re driving the RV.

So yes, this is an investment, not just an expense. The solar panels will allow us to keep our house batteries charged so we can stay off-grid longer, and the Kodiak will provide a secondary power source when we need extra charging power for phones, laptop, Kindles, walkie-talkies, cameras…all that electronic gear.

We do have a couple of maintenance items in the RV that need to be addressed. The light fixture over the kitchen sink appears to have a faulty switch…it keeps dimming and brightening intermittently. Also we have some weather stripping on the passenger-side over-cab area that has come loose and needs to be replaced. Handy Andy will be taking care of these items soon.

Today we’re going to make one last trip across the border to have lunch in Palomas and, yes, visit the bakery again. Tomorrow we’ll drive to Deming to pick up our latest mail packet from our mail service in Livingston, TX, get some groceries, do a little sight-seeing and visit a local coffee shop that looks interesting.

And then on Sunday, we break camp and head west.

Life is good in the Borderlands!

We hope you’re enjoying the blog! Be sure to subscribe to get notifications of new posts when they are published. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to see what we’re doing between blog posts.

Stay safe, follow your dreams, and live every day as if it’s your last!!

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??

 

Thanksgiving With Gary and His Guitars

We hope all of you had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day, wherever you are!

We spent our Thanksgiving parked at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, where we’ve been since this past Sunday. It was a cool, overcast day outside, but we managed to have a blast anyway!

For breakfast, we had some of the pastries that we picked up in the Mexican bakery on Monday. They were thick slices of their homemade bread, slathered in butter and sprinkled with sugar. I toasted them in the oven and they were amazing! I told Andy about how my brothers and I used to eat butter and sugar sandwiches when we were little kids–this reminded me of those days!

We invited our next-door neighbor here in the park, Gary Piazza, to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. Gary is a fellow nomad and has only been on the road for about six weeks, having traveled from Florida. He is a professional musician and plays several stringed instruments including the lute and guitar. We hit it off when we heard him practicing on his lute outside his RV when we first arrived–he plays beautifully, and also sings very well.

And as it turns out, he also doesn’t eat meat, so we invited him to share our Thanksgiving dinner of seitan pot roast with potatoes and carrots, along with green pean. Gary brought his homemade stewed cinnamon apples, as well as a Patti Labelle sweet potato pie. We shared a bottle of Apothic Inferno wine with dinner, around two o’clock in the afternoon.

Gary also brought over his lute and two different guitars, and then entertained us for several hours playing everything from renaissance classical music on the lute to Delta blues on the dobro guitar. He was kind enough to let me record a couple of his songs, so here’s the video that I put together for you:

This was truly a memorable Thanksgiving, not only because it’s our first holiday on the road, but because we made a new friend who shared his holiday with us in such a unique and inspiring way.

Andy and I both contacted our families by phone during the day. It was somewhat bittersweet to not be able to spend Thanksgiving with my parents for our yearly feast at the Summit Thanksgiving buffet in Tupelo–we certainly did miss that bread pudding that we look forward to every year, and we missed being with family. Chasing a dream means making compromises and sacrifices, especially when you first start out on the road. But I’m hoping that we’ll get to spend some time back in North Mississippi next year when the holidays roll around.

Today is Black Friday, and we haven’t shopped anywhere, we haven’t spent any money, and we’ve enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness of an almost-empty campground. Tomorrow we have to get groceries, do laundry, and take care of the little ordinary chores that all of us have to do. We’re already planning another trip back across the border–Andy really wants to return to that bakery for some more treats, and we’ll probably have lunch over there again. Better than eating the romaine here in the US, right?? 🙂

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to stay up to date on our comings and goings between blog posts.

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

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.

 

 

Moving Day – Change of Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief overview of the park’s history

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

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

Standing at the top of Cootes Hill in Pancho Villa SP

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

Regrets?

None!

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

We love New Mexico!!

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

BONUS

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

Exploring Las Cruces & Moving On

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

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

Cotton ready for harvest

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

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

Vendors on the plaza at the Wednesday market

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

Chile Ristras for sale at the market

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

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

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

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

Basilica of San Albino on the Plaza in Mesilla NM

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

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

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

Sour cream enchiladas and the Chile-Rita

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the holidays?

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

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

Safe travels, everyone!

Our First Sub-Freezing Night In Our RV

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy travels!!