Q & A: Safety and Security While Hiking and Boondocking

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

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

Hiking is one of our favorite activities

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

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

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

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

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

Pete posted:

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

Great question, Pete!

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

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

Boondocking on Forest Road 151 in a designated dispersed campsite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe travels!

Blog Changes, Geocaching, Drive to Crown King, RV Mattress Upgrade

Welcome back to the blog! You may notice a slightly different look this week. I’ve made a few changes that I hope you’ll enjoy.

  • I’ve added a new page to the blog called “Where We’ve Been“, which is a chronological list of the places we’ve camped since we hit the road on September 1, 2018. The page is accessible from the menu.
  • I’ve added a tag cloud to the sidebar, along with a “Recently Posted” section that lists the five most recent posts in case you want to go back and catch up. NOTE: If you’re reading the blog on a small device like a smart phone, the sidebar is actually located at the very bottom of the page you’re viewing.
  • I’ve changed the header photo to show our campsite on Vulture Mine Road south of Wickenburg. We enjoyed it so much, I wanted to feature it more prominently on the blog.

We are currently parked on Bloody Basin Road BLM land just off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a beautiful area with lots of little pipeline roads which make great hiking trails through the hills. And there are plenty of geocaches hidden in the area, which makes it even more fun and interesting to explore. So far I’ve hunted for four and found three, but there are plenty more to be found. These have been good caches with lots of trade items stored inside. According to the logs, some of them haven’t been touched for well over a year. The ones I’ve found so far have been stored in Christmas tins, so the tops had almost rusted shut, but the contents were nice and dry.

Contents of a geocache off Bloody Basin Road in Arizona

While out exploring we’ve found some things that were not so nice. Someone dumped some old furniture by the road and the animals have pretty much torn it up so white stuffing is scattered everywhere. There was a tire lying in the middle of the road, still on the wheel. And believe it or not, there is actually a boat out here–it’s been stripped down and left on a downslope off the side of the road so that it’s only visible from one direction.

Old stripped-out boat someone dumped by the pipeline road

People who do this kind of thing are responsible for the BLM’s recent decisions to restrict all access to public lands in certain areas around Cottonwood. Those areas have become so trashed and overused by off-road vehicles that it will take several years to be restored. There have recently been several large groups of full-time RVers who have taken it upon themselves to hold large “clean-up” events where they go to a trashed-out area and spend several days hauling out debris, working directly with the BLM and local authorities to have the trash disposed of properly. Many times it’s the locals that are leaving their trash, but if RVers want to continue to have access to these free camping sites, we almost have no choice but to clean up the mess left by others.

Furniture dumped in the desert off the pipeline road

OK, rant over.

On Wednesday, we made the 23-mile drive on Bloody Basin Road from our campsite up to Crown King, an old mining town in the Bradshaw Mountains. The road is dirt and gravel, and most of it follows the old abandoned railroad bed. In some places the road is wash-boarded and bumpy, and there are plenty of one-lane stretches that go straight through the rock. But the scenery is spectacular as you climb about 1,400′ in altitude to get to Crown King.

Enjoying the view just outside Crown King, AZ

The town of Crown King is small and quaint, with a general store/post office, a fire station, saloon, a few restaurants, several cabins and AirBnB’s to rent, a church, and housing for the few permanent residents. The day we went it was pretty quiet, but the guy who runs the general store told us that they often get hundreds of visitors at a time on the weekends who ride up on their ATVs and 4×4 vehicles. It’s a beautiful setting in the pine trees, and we enjoyed just hanging out on the deck, snacking on chips and cream soda and homemade fudge.

Antique store and saloon in Crown King

The drive up to Crown King took us about two hours, and the drive back down took about an hour and a half. That includes stopping to look at scenery and take pictures. I put together some video clips and photos from our excursion and posted them to our YouTube channel–there was just no way that still photos could capture how bumpy the road was or how vast the landscape is. It is well worth the drive if you have a high-clearance, dependable vehicle, and you go on a sunny day. I would not try the drive in a passenger car, or on a rainy day.

In other news, we finally got around to making a major upgrade to our RV–we’ve ordered a new mattress. This RV was never designed for full-time living, and the mattress began to sag and compress pretty quickly after we moved in. It has become very uncomfortable to sleep on, and we desperately needed to replace it.

Unfortunately, it’s an odd size known as a “full XL”. Additionally, the bottom right corner is chopped off to allow easier access to the bathroom. Therefore, we couldn’t just buy a mattress off the shelf, but instead we had to order a custom-made one. We placed the order yesterday (Friday) from MattressInsider.com, and will have it shipped from their manufacturing facility in South Carolina to the Fedex hub in Prescott Valley where we will pick it up. The estimated production time is 7-10 business days, and the shipping time will be 3 days. That means we’ll be in this general area for at least another three weeks, which we had already planned on anyway. I can’t wait to get our new mattress!!

On Thursday we drove over to nearby Cordes Junction at Cordes Lakes to locate a dump station (for future reference) and a water dispensing machine. While there we stopped in McDonald’s to use their wi-fi so we could back up our iPhones and download the latest operating system update. The only two places we could find to dump our tanks near here are both small RV parks, and they charge $20 for the privilege. But you do what you have to do. We’ll need to dump the tanks on Monday.

And that’s what’s going on in our world. We need to make a run to the grocery store this weekend, so we’ll be driving up to Prescott Valley. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our stay here in this beautiful area.

View of the area where we’re currently parked on Bloody Basin Road

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

Safe travels!

Weekend in Yarnell, Almost Lost the Stinky Slinky, Bloody Basin Road BLM

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend parked on the property of our good friends John and Helen in Yarnell, Arizona. We weren’t actually “moochdocking” since we weren’t hooked up to electricity or water–we were simply “driveway-surfing”. And yes, these are highly technical terms used in the RVing community. 🙂

View of our driveway-surfing spot in Yarnell, AZ

Andy and John were part of the same church group when they were young kids, although John, being several years younger, didn’t really know Andy all that well and was more acquainted with Andy’s younger sister, Liz. However, through the power of Facebook and the Internet, they reconnected years later. John has been following this blog and our Facebook posts as we’ve been on the road, and reached out to us to offer us a place to park for a visit.

After we arrived on Friday evening, John and Helen stopped by to make sure we were settled in. John’s wife, Helen, is from England, and the two of them together are an absolute riot. We talked and laughed so much that my jaws were aching the next morning. Sometimes you meet people that you just “click” with, and this was one of those times.

On Saturday morning we met them at the local bakery/coffee shop, Cornerstone Bakery (featured in Arizona Highways magazine), where they sell some of the most delicious pastries we’ve ever eaten. Andy had a huge Apple Caramel Cinnamon Roll, and I had a pineapple cream cheese pastry that was to die for. The shop is small and cozy, and there was a constant stream of locals stopping in for breakfast. Another couple that John and Helen knew came and sat with us since all the tables were full–it’s the kind of place where you just scoot over and make room for everybody.

Hanging out with friends at Cornerstone Bakery in Yarnell

After getting our sugar and caffeine rush, we went back to the property where we were parked. John and Helen are in the process of building a new home on the site which looks out toward a mountain of huge boulders with a running creek at the bottom. Their property, as well as many of the surrounding lots, were victims of the 2013 wildfire that killed nineteen Hotshot firefighters that were defending the city. (John and Helen bought the property after the fire.) They gave us a tour of their construction site and the surrounding landscape, describing their vision for their dream home. I can’t wait to come back in a year or two and see how it turns out!

In the afternoon, they gave us a driving tour of Yarnell, pointing out the interesting businesses, the quirky artwork and the path that the fire took through the town. Yarnell is primarily a town of retirees and is not particularly well-to-do. There are a lot of antique stores and some artists’ shops, several restaurants, a hardware store, a Dollar General store, along with other various small businesses. After the drive around town, we went back to John and Helen’s house where they are living while they build their new home. Another friend of theirs, Jeanine (sp?) joined us, and Helen fixed a wonderful vegetarian meal for us to enjoy.

On Sunday morning, Andy and I took care of a few things around the rig, took showers, and then after lunch we did some sightseeing on our own. First we visited a local landmark, the Shrine of St. Joseph of the Mountains. We’re not Catholic, but we did enjoy viewing the stations of the cross in such a beautiful setting.

The Crucifixion, one of the stations of the cross at the Shrine.

Next we drove down the mountain to the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, which is dedicated to the nineteen lost firefighters.  It’s located on Highway 89, right on the side of a mountain. There are thirteen parking spaces next to a small display which is actually a trailhead. From there, you must hike if you want to see the rest of the displays and the actual site where the guys made their last stand (description of trails here). It was late in the afternoon, and who are we kidding, neither of us are in the physical condition to do a seven mile mountain hike, so we only climbed up to the first marker and paid our respects there before hiking back down. But I have added this hike to my bucket list, and I’m determined to complete it someday.

The hiking trail at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

On the way back, we stopped and had a pizza at a new place in Yarnell called Gilligan’s that just opened four weeks ago. It was some of the best pizza we’ve ever had, and we enjoyed the outdoor setting even though it was a little cool. Later we went back over to John and Helen’s house for another visit before calling it a night.

Pizza and beer at Gilligan’s in Yarnell – highly recommended!

So, yesterday morning (Monday) it was time to move on. John and Helen stopped by to say goodbye, we got things stowed away, and pulled out around 9:30 AM. We headed down the mountain back into Wickenburg and made our first stop at Safeway to stock up on fresh produce and to also hit Starbucks in the store.

Next we stopped at the Fast Mart to get gas, top off the propane and fresh water, and dump the tanks. Of course, it was one of those days when something breaks. We do not keep our sewer hose (a.k.a. the “stinky slinky”) stored in the back bumper, which is actually designed as a hollow tube for that purpose. Instead, the previous owner of the RV mounted a length of dryer vent hose under the RV, and the sewer hose just slides into the dryer vent hose for storage. Why, you ask? Well, a lot of RVers do this type of hack so that the moisture from the sewer hose doesn’t rust out the bumper from the inside.

The dryer vent hose is secured under the rig with plastic cable ties, and yesterday was the day that those ties decided to break, so the hose was lying on the ground. Fortunately it happened while we were parked at the dump station and not while driving down the road. Andy had to crawl under the RV and get it re-secured enough to continue the drive, but now it’s another item on the project list to get the dryer vent hose (which is starting to crumble) replaced with PVC pipe. And for right now, the stinky slinky is stored in the bumper.

Reattaching the tube that holds our stinky slinky under the rig

When we got ready to leave Wickenburg and checked our Google Maps navigation, we found out that there was a one-and-a-half hour delay on I-17 north due to a traffic accident, so we decided to stop for lunch along the way. We found a little pullout on New River Road, north of Phoenix, and had our usual salad for lunch while we took a little break. By the time we finished eating, the app said that traffic was starting to clear, so we continued on.

Our route from Yarnell to Bloody Basin Road BLM land

Our destination was some BLM land on Bloody Basin Road just west of I-17. We scouted around a little bit and found a great spot that only required six leveling blocks. We’re surrounded by desert hills that are emerald green right now. Between two of the hills we can see all the way to Sunset Point (which you Arizonans will recognize as a rest area on I-17 at the top of a mesa). We can just faintly hear some highway noise, but otherwise it’s quiet. And we actually have four bars of Verizon LTE service–fast internet in the desert, you can’t beat it!

All set up at Camp Sunset, our new home on Bloody Basin Road.

We got all set up, I cooked a good veggie dinner, and we turned in pretty early. We were all tired from traveling. When we went to bed, there was no one within sight, but when I got up this morning, I noticed there is another rig parked across the road from us. Looks like a small Class B, which is about all that could fit in that small space.

And speaking of small spaces, we are definitely reaping the rewards of having a smaller RV. We were able to easily fit on John and Helen’s property, and we were nimble enough to get into our current site which involved driving over some pretty uneven ground. We love it out here!!

So the plan is to hang out here for a little while. There’s a fourteen day limit, and we may or may not use that entire time. Just depends on the weather, mostly. There are a lot of geocaches to hunt nearby, and a lot of trails to hike. Arcosanti is nearby (even though we’ve been there a couple of times before). The only downside to this spot is that it’s so far away from a decent grocery store. But that is a small price to pay for being able to have such an awe-inspiring yard!!

Our front yard. In the far distance is Sunset Point.

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

And if you’re interested in the costs associated with the full-time RV lifestyle, we do post a monthly expense report. You can find the most recent report here.

Safe travels!

 

 

The Blooming Desert, Hiking, Geocaching, Wickenburg, Vulture City

Good Monday morning, everyone!

We just spent our tenth night here at our campsite on Vulture Mine Road just south of Wickenburg, Arizona. This spot is on BLM land which means it’s free camping, and it has quickly become one of our most favorite places we have ever camped.

Birds-eye view of our campsite on Vulture Mine Road

The scenery around here is just stunning, especially since there was so much rain over the winter months, resulting in what’s known as a “superbloom” when there is an abundance of wildflowers and green grass in the desert. People flock to the desert  from miles around to enjoy the beauty that lasts for such a short time. In fact, in California, the crowds were so large in Lake Elsinore that city officials had to temporarily close the wildflower viewing area when local facilities and infrastructure became overwhelmed. We have been so fortunate to be able to camp here at this exact time of year to be able to hike though the flowers and enjoy the beauty in peace and solitude.

Poppies among the saguaros in the Sonoran desert near our camp

We’ve done a lot of hiking over the past week, exploring the area in the hills and mountains around us. From the main road, there are lots of small gravel roads leading back into the desert that are used mainly by off-road vehicles and hikers. Many are marked with BLM signs with road numbers so you can report your position if you run into any trouble. We usually hike about 30 minutes in and then 30 minutes out, which gives us a good workout since a lot of the route involves uphill climbing. We’ve encountered rabbits, ground squirrels, lizards, one snake (non-venomous), and lots of different bird species. Yesterday, we suddenly found ourselves right next to a swarm of bees in a creosote bush–not sure how we got out without getting stung, but that was much more intense than our encounter with the snake!

I’ve done one geocache hunt since we’ve been here, and it was a fun one. It was located about 1.3 miles from our camp, as the crow flies, so about 1.5 miles on foot by the road. I found the cache in a palo verde tree, in a metal yard-art sculpture of a vulture. On the back of the vulture was a metal box containing the log and a bag of tokens that geocachers swap. I left one of my mini-dominoes and took a little plastic frog.

Geocache on Vulture Mine Road is a sculpture of a vulture. How appropriate!

We haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Wickenburg yet. The day after we arrived here, we drove in to McDonald’s to meet some of our friends from Phoenix who were passing through on their way to Las Vegas–that was fun! We’ve been to the grocery store (Safeway) a couple of times, to the laundromat, the post office, and a local Mexican restaurant called Lydia’s La Canasta for lunch. All these places are located right next to each other so there was no exploration involved. We do plan to spend a day checking out Wickenburg this week to see more of the historic sites and possibly the museum.

On Saturday we visited Vulture City, which is the site of the old original Vulture Mine community. According to one of the plaques at the site,

In 1863 Austrian Henry Wickenburg discovered gold, legend has it, while retrieving a vulture he had shot. The Vulture Mine went on to become one of Arizona’s richest gold mines and sparked the development of Arizona and the city of Phoenix. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, Vulture City’s population grew to almost 5000 people and featured a large stone assay office, miners’ dormitories, houses for company officials, a mess hall, a school, a post office, and an 80-stamp mill. It is estimated that the Vulture Mine produced more than 200 million dollars worth of gold and silver. The exact amount is unknown due to theft or “highgrading” for which some 18 men were hanged.

The mine was closed in 1942 during WWII by executive order from President Roosevelt, as being non-essential to the war effort. However, it was re-opened in 2014 and is currently back in production, in a much more modern mining effort that is, of course, closed to the public.

Inside the small museum in Vulture City, called Vulture’s Roost

But many of the original buildings are still there and available for tours. This area was purchased by an English developer who has invested about $2 million so far into restoring the old buildings which had fallen into disrepair. You can see Henry Wickenburg’s little house, the Assay Office, the bunkhouse, kitchen, dining hall, vault, post office, a gas station, and of course, the brothel. There’s even the hanging tree where 18 men were hanged for various offenses. There’s also a small museum with various photographs and artifacts from the site.

Vulture City, site of the old Vulture Mine, is being restored and is open for tours.

They charge $15 for the self-guided tour, which I think is a little steep for what you get to see, but it is an interesting way to spend an hour or two, if only to chat with Gary and Joyce, the couple who manage the site. They are actually miners themselves and own a small copper mine not far from here, which they work by hand. Joyce makes jewelry from the copper and stones that they retrieve from their mine. We love meeting people who have stories to tell, like Gary and Joyce!

So, what’s next?

Technically, there’s a 14-day limit to camping on BLM land, but we haven’t seen any evidence of enforcement in this area. If the weather never changed, we could stay here indefinitely, we enjoy it that much. But there are other sights we want to see, and we can already tell that the flowers and grass are starting to wilt and turn brown, so we will most likely be moving on by next weekend. Our next destination will be north of here, and higher in elevation–we just don’t know exactly where that’s going to be yet.

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

Safe travels!

 

Travel Day, Camp Vulture, Green Desert, Critters

Hooray! We have safely arrived at our new campsite!

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

Our route from Yuma to Wickenburg

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

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

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

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

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

Our new front lawn at Camp Vulture

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

Sunset on our first evening at Camp Vulture

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

Trash left by previous occupants

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

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

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

Molly watching the birds in the grass outside our front door

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

Not the kind of tree you want to hug!

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

Beautiful area for desert hiking

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

Milk snake on our path while hiking

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

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

Spring in the desert is beautiful!

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

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

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

Safe travels!

 

Finally Preparing to Move On

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

The wind makes some interesting cloud formations over the campground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to be nomads again!!

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

Safe travels!

 

 

Getting Itchy Feet

It’s another beautiful morning here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA in southern California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. We’ve been here for almost 10 weeks now, and while we’re still enjoying it, our time here is winding to a close.

Sunset at the homestead

This past week the afternoon temperatures hit 80° a couple of times, and it’s supposed to be even warmer today and tomorrow. However, it looks like things are going to cool off again for the remainder of the week, so we we still have some time before the heat chases us away from here.

Another reason we haven’t left already is that we’ve both had appointments for dental and medical checkups. We both got our teeth cleaned, and I got one of my fillings replaced at Gila Ridge Dental in Yuma. Andy has an appointment tomorrow with a doctor in Yuma so he can get one of his prescriptions renewed.

We were also waiting around to receive some packages that we had ordered from Amazon. The nearby Chevron station where we dump the tanks and get fresh water also allows campers in the area to have packages shipped to their address for a one-time charge of $3 for the season. People often ask how full-time RVers get their mail and packages on the road–it’s really quite simple, as there are plenty of people who are more than willing to take your money to provide that service.

So, the weather forecast for the next few days looks like this:

Weather forecast for the next week is still darn near perfect

After the heat of today and tomorrow, it’s back to that darn-near perfect weather again. Really, the only reason to leave our spot now is just for a change in scenery, but that’s enough reason for me. I think we’re both getting ready to see something new, and once we have all our business taken care of here in Yuma, we should be ready to roll.

We’re not planning to go far, just far enough to see something new. Our annual pass for the LTVA system is good through April 15, so our next stop will probably be the Imperial Dam LTVA about 50 miles north of us along the Colorado River.

For the past couple of weeks I’d been having a craving for pizza. We couldn’t even remember the last time we had pizza, so on Sunday we decided to splurge a little. We had lunch at Da Boyz Italian restaurant in Yuma, where we split a salad, a veggie pizza, and a slice of tiramisu. It was all delicious, and was so filling that I didn’t bother cooking dinner that evening (BONUS!).

Tiramisu at Da Boyz Italian Restaurant in historic downtown Yuma

So, that’s about all the news from our world right now. Low stress, great weather, good food…just the kind of boring life we were looking for! 🙂

If you enjoy reading this blog, be sure to subscribe to catch all our updates. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between our blog posts.

Safe travels!

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.

Expense Report for January 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.

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 fifth full month on the road. In this post, I’ll be sharing the most recent three months’ expenses as well as our average-to-date for comparison, since line items can change drastically from month to month.

We spent the entire month of January boondocking (camping without hookups) 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 moved the RV all month was to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks.

Our new desert campsite by the mountains

Staying in one place for the entire month radically affected our expenses for the better. Here’s how our spending went for January.

Camping fees + Electricity

November: $137 (Nov 1-3 @ Elephant Butte SP, Nov 4-17 @ Leasburg Dam SP, Nov 18-30 @ Pancho Villa SP, all at $4/night on annual pass. Expense number also includes prorated cost of the annual pass.)

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

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).

Five month average: $227

Rainy days often result in gorgeous sunsets

DUMPING FEEs

November: $0

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.

Five month average: $17

Fuel for the RV

November: $79 (Drove 172 miles, 0 generator hours, 8.8 MPG)

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

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.)

Five month average: $192

Fuel for the Truck

November: $52 (17.7 MPG)

December: $221 (20.0 MPG)

January: $59 (17.7 MPG)

Five month average: $147

PROPANE

November: $31 (12 gallons) – We use propane primarily for cooking. In November we began using the onboard propane furnace more as the temperatures got colder, running it for a little while in the early morning to supplement the small electric heater.

December: $32 (10 gallons)

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.

Five month average: $26

groceries

November: $479

December: $492

January: $480

Five month average: $479

I’m really surprised at how consistent this number is every month. We do almost all our grocery shopping at Walmart, so I’m assuming that that explains the consistency from month to month. 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.

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

dining out

November: $213

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

January: $230

Five month average: $221

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

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

household / furnishings

November: $87

December: $42

January: $35

Five month average: $58

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

petcare

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

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

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

Five month average: $82

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

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

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

January: $276

Five month average: $261

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 significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

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

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

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.

Five month average: $14

Laundry

November: $22 – We did laundry twice, first in Truth or Consequences where the machines were bad and expensive, and the second time in Deming where the facilities were much nicer and less costly.

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

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.

Five month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

November: $56

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

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

Five month average: $86

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

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

memberships

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

December: $0

January: $0

Five month average: $22

Equipment for RV

November: $2,215 (ordered solar kit including three 100-watt solar panels and a Kodiak portable solar generator. Here’s a link to the kit we purchased.)

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

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

Five month average: $577

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

RV Maintenance & REpairs

November: $22 (changed out the water filter)

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

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

Five month average: $130

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

truck maintenance & repairs

November: $0

December: $0

January: $0

Five month average: $3

Vehicle insurance

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

VEhicle License and registration

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

Summary

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

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

December Total: $3,309

January Total: $1,677

Five month average: $2,697

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. Except for the huge hit on the solar kit that we purchased, November was a very good month in terms of expenses. We lived very well while spending very little. In December we drove more, continued putting together our solar system, and had some additional maintenance items to attend to, so our expenses were higher than we would have liked, even with the free boondocking. In January, we once again had an excellent month 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. We’re starting to think about moving to a different LTVA just for a change of scenery, but have not made any specific plans. We’re very comfortable where we are right now, so we’ll see how itchy our feet get in February. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens.

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.

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!!