Hiking and Geocaching, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, How To Get Kicked Out of a State Park

From Bluewater Lake State Park near Prewitt, New Mexico:

Today is our tenth day day here at Bluewater Lake SP, and we’re still very happy with our location. After paying for our first week, we decided to go ahead and max out our stay (14 days), so we’re paid up through Monday night and we’ll be pulling out of here on Tuesday, September 17. We think we’ve decided on our next destination, but plans can always change, so stay tuned.

There’s not a huge amount of developed hiking trails in this park, but the ones that exist are pretty scenic, in a different sort of way. First of all, there’s a short trail that leads from the area overlooking the dam, traversing along the rim of the canyon right next to the campground. In our last post, I included a link to a video that I created from that hike.

View of the dam from the opposite side of the lake

The more interesting and challenging hike is the Canyonside Trail and the Dam Trail. I did this hike last Friday, not really knowing what I was getting into. The Canyonside Trail starts at the top of the canyon, and you have to climb down some rock switchbacks to get to the bottom, next to the Bluewater Creek that runs through the canyon. The creek is fed by the overflow coming through the dam, so the water levels can change.

I was a little leery of climbing down the side of the canyon because of the possibility of rattlesnakes among the rocks, but fortunately I didn’t see anything but stone and foliage. Once I reached the canyon floor, I started following the trail alongside the water which was mostly hidden by tall grass and cattails.

Beginning of the Canyonside Trail in Bluewater Lake SP

Almost immediately the trail led into a grassy area that was a little marshy in places, but not too wet to navigate. I was really starting to wish that I had worn jeans instead of shorts as the grass was starting to make my legs itch.

The trail gets a little wet so stay on the stepping stones.

I had to cross the creek at about the .3 mile mark by stepping on stones that had been placed in the water. The trail continued to meander alongside the water, and at about the .67 mile mark, there was an intersection. You could choose to either cross back over the creek and climb up the canyon wall to the main road (.27 miles), or you could continue on the same trail which now became the Dam Trail, and follow it for .44 miles to view the dam (and then hike .44 miles back to the intersection). I chose to do the Dam Trail, just to see what it was like.

Trail marker at the intersection of the Canyonside Trail and the Dam Trail

The closer I got to the dam, the more marshy the trail became. In some areas the trail led up the slope a little bit, into the trees where it was drier, but in other areas, there were stepping stones set into the trail where it obviously stayed marshy most of the time. The plant life was amazing, and there was a huge variety of birds along the trail.

Lush foliage along the Dam Trail and Bluewater Creek

I was able to get pretty close to the dam before the ground just got too wet and soggy to continue, at least in the shoes I was wearing.

My turnaround point on the Dam Trail, where it was getting pretty marshy

I turned around and hiked back to the intersection, crossed over the stream on a large (and slippery) log that was placed there for that purpose, and then climbed out of the canyon on the switchback trail that really wasn’t that difficult at all.

Altogether it was a great hike–probably not one of my favorites because of the itchy legs, but it was definitely beautiful down there on the canyon floor with the sound of the water rippling over the rocks making it seem peaceful and serene.

View from the top after climbing out of the canyon, looking down at the trail along the creek

I found out later that there are 3-4 geocaches hidden down in the canyon, so I’ll probably try to make the hike again to look for them before we leave, if it doesn’t rain too much. I’ve already located one geocache that was hidden near the canyon rim just up the hill from our campsite, a pretty easy find, but I’d like to pick up another one or two if possible.

We’ve continued taking advantage of the conveniences of our location to get some more chores done. I finally got to clean the convection oven and give the floors a good scrubbing (so much dust!!). We rolled out our new area rug to replace the old one that was full of Flagstaff dirt, and I also cleaned all the window screens.

We’ve only run the air conditioner a couple of times since we’ve been here, and each time we were getting a bad odor in the rig. Andy climbed up on the roof and checked the A/C unit to make sure that the drains weren’t stopped up, and everything up there seemed to be fine. We think we’ve isolated the problem, and it’s the air admittance valve under the bathroom sink. We’ve had to replace this valve before back in the winter, but evidently it’s failing again. When the air conditioner is running and the windows are closed, the air pressure is causing air from the black tank (toilet) to leak through that valve back into the rig, causing the bad smell. We’re going to drive into Gallup tomorrow to Home Depot to pick up a replacement valve and hopefully resolve this issue. It’s not expensive, and it’s easy to install. This gives us a good excuse to have a lunch date, and we’ll also hit the grocery store while we’re there.

Yesterday we decided to take a day trip to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, on the recommendation of our campground neighbors, Joe and Cathy (more about them later). The Park is located about 70 miles north of here, but it’s out in the middle of nowhere. Most of the route is paved highway, but the last 22 miles are on a dirt road that becomes increasingly washboarded and rutted as you approach the Park.

The dirt road leading to Chaco Culture National Historic Park will rattle your teeth!

There’s a $25/vehicle entrance fee, but we were able to get in free with Andy’s lifetime senior “America the Beautiful” pass. The Park is the site of several very large and well-preserved Native American pueblos, the largest of which is Pueblo Bonito. The structures were constructed between 800-1150 A.D. There are also quite a few petroglyphs and pictographs which can be viewed if you’re willing to do some hiking and/or climbing.

I won’t go into the history of the Chaco Canyon culture–you can read about it on Wikipedia or on the National Park Service website if you’re interested–but we learned a lot about the area and the people from the tour guide who showed us around Pueblo Bonito and from the film we watched in the Visitors Center. It was nice to visit a site where you’re actually allowed to walk inside the ruins, even if they do discourage you from touching the walls (body oils eventually leave dark stains on the stone).

Our tour guide, Snow, was a wealth of information about Pueblo Bonito and the Chacoan people

There were several other pueblos that could also be explored, but after spending an hour at the largest, most impressive one, we thought our time would be better spent watching the film about the history of the area. However, we did take a short hike to one of the smaller sets of ruins about half a mile from the Visitors Center before watching the film, and were rewarded with an amazing view of the valley.

Ruins of Una Vida overlooking Chaco Canyon, a million-dollar view

The Park is very isolated. There is no cell service, no food for sale, no gas station or repair services. We packed a picnic lunch of our usual chopped salads with some sweet cornbread and some fruit, and enjoyed eating outside the Visitors Center at a nearby picnic table where we were visited by a covey of quail during our meal.

We left the Park around 2:30 PM to make the two-hour drive back to the campground. We got some rain while we were on the dirt road, so our pickup is pretty grungy-looking now. But we had a great time, and highly recommend that you visit the Chaco Culture National Historic Park if you’re ever in this part of New Mexico. They do have a campground that’s available for tent camping or small travel trailer-type RVs, but nothing over 35′ long is allowed. In fact, they actively discourage you from driving your RV to the Park because of the rough dirt road which can become impassable in inclement weather, and we totally agree with that position. But I wouldn’t mind taking a truck camper or even a tent and staying in the Park for several days to have more time to see and learn about everything. This weekend they’ll be doing a night program under the full moon at Pueblo Bonito–I would LOVE to be able to participate in that!! Oh, well….

They had a warning sign when leaving the park, but by that time we were already there! 😉

I put together a little video (< 5 minutes) with some clips and pictures from our visit that I think you’ll enjoy:

I mentioned that our campground neighbors, Joe and Cathy, turned us on to this particular National Park. When we moved into our current site #11 on our third day here, they were parked next to us in their Casita travel trailer. They are from Tucson, and have been on the road all summer and will be heading home in November. They do this every year. They were a very nice couple and we enjoyed getting to know them, but they had to leave under some interesting circumstances.

They had some friends who were also staying here at Bluewater Lake SP in an adjoining area. They would get together with their friends to have meals or go sight-seeing, and sometimes got a little drunk (or high). Nothing serious, just doing what folks do.

Well, last weekend they got together and went on a day trip, which turned into a late night, and because they decided to stop at Walmart on the way back, they were late getting back to the park, and the entrance gate was locked (they lock it at 9:00 PM).

Now, you can LEAVE the park anytime, but to do so, you have to drive over those traffic spikes (DON’T BACK UP) right next to the entrance gate. So these guys, being in whatever state of mind they were in, decided it would be a good idea for one or two of them to step on the spikes to lower them so that their spouses could then drive their two pickup trucks the wrong way over the lowered spikes and thus enter the park.

So that’s what they proceeded to do. And as soon as they did, they were lit up by the headlights of a Park law enforcement vehicle, and a park ranger confronted them. One of the guys got a little belligerent with the ranger, so both the drivers were told to immediately go and pack up their rigs and leave the park. (Joe and Cathy were actually passengers in one of the vehicles, and per Joe, they were not specifically told by the ranger that they were being evicted.)

The next day, Joe was outside when the ranger came by. The ranger said “Didn’t you get evicted last night?”. Joe replied that he was not specifically told to leave, that the ranger had pointed to the other two guys. The ranger just looked at him and walked away, but from that point forward, Joe and Cathy were pretty sure they were in the cross-hairs.

So they spent a day getting their laundry done and getting things packed up, and the next day they pulled out, headed to a different park where their friends had moved to. We miss having them around, and hope they have a safe journey back to Tucson. And we hope they never again try to drive the wrong way across traffic spikes when a ranger is watching from the shadows! 🙂

Since then we’ve had a couple of new neighbors who only stayed one night, so we didn’t get acquainted with them. Today, a big Class A has pulled in beside us, and the owner has spent all afternoon setting up his satellite dish, his outdoor portable ice maker, his solar lights, and various other “necessities” for camping, so I think they’ll be here for a few days. 🙂

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 we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

Safe travels!!

 

Quick Update on the Museum Fire

As I’ve mentioned before, I follow several accounts on Twitter that provide updates on wildfires in Arizona, so that we can stay informed in the event that a fire breaks out near us. Yesterday just before noon a tweet came across my feed regarding a 1-acre fire just north of Flagstaff. The tweet said that firefighters were responding.

The fire was named the Museum Fire, due to its proximity to the Museum of Northern Arizona.

Our camp in relation to the Museum Fire.

Within an hour the fire had grown to 200 acres, and there was a Type 2 response team on the scene with almost 200 crew and tons of equipment, including water tanker helicopters and large planes dropping fire retardant.

Around 2:00 both Andy and I received loud alarms on our phones indicating that evacuation and pre-evacuation orders had been issued near the fire zone. We checked the map and verified that we were not being ordered to evacuate. In fact the fire was moving toward the north and east, away from us.

From where we are camping we can see the smoke rising over the pine trees. By early evening the fire had grown to about 400 acres. As night fell, the moon rose through the smoke, appearing blood red–kind of spooky.

Smoke is visible from our campsite

During the night, the firefighters concentrated on “burnout” operations, which involves intentionally setting small, closely controlled fires ahead of the main fire to deprive it of fuel and protect property. The fire is close to the hill where the TV, radio and cell towers are located, as well as some neighborhoods in the northeast Flagstaff city limits.

This morning, the latest estimate of the fire is 1,000 acres. There will be a “heavy air attack” component of the firefight today. The skies are overcast but the forecast calls for little chance of rain in our area today, although chances increase on Tuesday and Wednesday. The monsoon season has been a bust around here so far, but hopefully it’s about to arrive in the nick of time. Of course, it can be a double-edged sword, as monsoon storms typical bring wind and lightning which can just make things worse.

Unless something drastically changes, we are safe where we are. We are actively monitoring the situation via our Twitter feed (yes, Twitter is an excellent tool for getting the most current notices and announcements from the proper authorities). We were already stocked up on groceries, fuel and water, so we don’t have any immediate need to drive into Flagstaff where things are pretty busy right now.

If this fire (or any other fire) should approach our area, we can be packed up and on the road in 10-15 minutes with everything we own. That’s one advantage of living in a RV–we can move our house away from a wildfire.

Even if the fire doesn’t move our way, it’s still possible that the Forest Service will close off this area from recreational use as a precaution and we’ll have to leave (especially if we don’t get some rain soon). Hoping that doesn’t happen, of course, but could totally understand if they make that decision. We love it here, and hope to stay longer.

If you would like to get the latest updates on the fire, just do a search on Twitter for #museumfire for the chatter, or follow Coconino National Forest (@coconinonf) or InciWeb (@inciweb) for more official announcements.

Otherwise, we’re doing fine, just enjoying the great weather while the rest of the country was sweltering. Doing a lot of hiking on some new trails–there are so many to choose from!

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. Be sure to subscribe to keep up with our travels. You can also follow us on Instagram for updates between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Spur of the Moment Camping at Trace State Park

After our last outing to Tombigbee State Park, we sort of assumed that the weather and our work schedules would prohibit us from taking Lizzy out for another getaway until our big trip in April. But last Tuesday we checked the weather forecast for the weekend and found that it actually looked decent, so we decided to make a run for it.

We intended to camp at Tombigbee again, but it was actually booked up for the weekend. Since we needed to be somewhere fairly close to home in case I got a last-minute work assignment, I checked availability at the next-closest state park, which is Trace State Park near Pontotoc, and found that they had plenty of sites available. We booked site #7 for three nights.

We had only been to this park once before, just driving through it last summer to check it out. I remembered thinking that it looked like a great place to camp, very wooded and green with nice bathrooms and showers, and full hookups at most sites. The park is known for the large lake on the property, Old Natchez Trace Lake, which usually draws a lot of folks for fishing and water sports. However, the lake was completely drained last year in order to make repairs on the dam, and it’s still empty. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason there were so many sites available for camping on a beautiful weekend.

Trace State Park, Deer Run Loop Site #7, was our home last weekend.

We arrived around 5:00 P.M. on Thursday afternoon and stayed until about 1:00 P.M. on Sunday. We got a few sprinkles on Friday evening, but mostly it was just overcast. It was pretty windy on Friday and Saturday, and it seemed to be worse where we were parked, as the wind was coming out of the south across the empty lake bed right into the rear of our rig. It was too windy to use the awning, and we didn’t feel comfortable lighting a campfire even though the temperatures were cool enough in the evening that it would have felt marvelous.

We had a very enjoyable time while we were there. I did some hiking on the Baker Trail, a 3-mile loop that winds through the forest and alongside the lake bed. As nice as it is now in late March, I’m sure it’s much more beautiful when the trees are leafed out in the summer, and even more so in the fall when the leaves are at their peak of color.

Here’s a little video that I put together showing our campsite and some of the hiking trail:

So now it’s time to really start planning our big trip in April. We already made reservations for our first stop, but I’ll hold off on revealing those details until we get on the road. So stay tuned, April will be EPIC (at least for us!).

Tombigbee Trip Report, Tire Pressure & More Decluttering

In my last post, we were preparing to head out on our first RV weekend of the year after a cold, wet winter. And we’re so glad we took advantage of the temporary break in the weather because it’s been messy and wet ever since we got back, at least on the weekends.

We drove to Tombigbee State Park on Thursday afternoon, March 1 and stayed in campsite #12 for three nights. This site has full hookups (electric, water and sewer) and is located on the back side of the loop, just across from the bathhouse.

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When we pulled the RV up on the leveling blocks, I noticed that the rear outside tire on the passenger side was low. This was concerning because we also found that the valve stem appeared to be bent to the side down inside the wheel itself, so there was no way to check the pressure with a gauge or to air it up.

When we put the RV up on the leveling blocks, we had only put the blocks under the outside tires on the rear, so we went back and put blocks under the inner tires as well. This appeared to help the low tire since it was no longer bearing all the weight by itself. But the whole time we were there, I was concerned about the low tire pressure (more on that later).

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Other than that problem, the rest of the weekend was perfect. Technically I was still on the clock for work on Friday, but since I work from home most of the time, I was able to bring my laptop and Blackberry with me, using my AT&T hotspot for data connectivity, and therefore enjoy my Friday workday from the campsite. As far as my job duties go, there was no difference between what I did in the RV and what I would have done sitting at my desk in my home office.

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Andy and I enjoyed a hike on Friday at lunchtime, but I couldn’t talk him into hiking with me on Saturday and Sunday, so I hiked alone. He said he was still sore from Friday! The weather was sunny and pleasant the entire time we were there with highs in the upper 60’s and low 70’s. We had campfires on two nights, and used both the charcoal grill and the Instant Pot for dinner preparation. Of course we had our usual Sunday morning cinnamon rolls from the convection oven–those are a MUST!

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Our two cats, Maggie and Molly did very well on this trip. We crated them for the short drive to the park (less than 20 minutes), and once we arrived and let them out of the crates, they settled right in with no complaints. I think they actually enjoy RV life since they get to be with us so much more in the tight quarters than they do at home.

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It did get down to the low 30’s at night. We had decided that since we were going to have shore power for this trip that we would use a small electric space heater rather than running the propane furnace. Why spend our own money when we’ve already paid for electricity, right? So I ordered the Sunpollo 1500W Ceramic Space Heater from Amazon, and it performed beautifully. We ran it on low during the night just to keep the chill off, and when I got up in the morning to make coffee I turned it on high to warm things up a bit more. We’re very pleased with this product so far!

I was so sad for the weekend to come to an end, but we have plenty to do to continue with our preparations for full-timing later this year.

But first of all, we had to resolve the issue with the low tire. Since this was a brand new tire that was just put on the RV last fall, Andy drove Lizzy back to the tire store where they were installed. The good news was that the valve stem is actually designed to bend, and it was no problem to straighten it out where we can access it for monitoring the pressure and airing up the tire. The not-so-good things we found out were (1) we still can’t reach the valve stems on the inside tires, and (2) our little air compressor was not powerful enough to fill up these big truck tires.

So, it’s back to Amazon. Andy did some online research and then ordered the Viair 40047 400P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit.  It comes with a nice case and all the necessary attachments to run it from the rig battery (house or engine).

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He was able to use the new compressor to get all our tires to the appropriate PSI, and now we don’t have to worry about being far away from a gas station when our tires need air. The old compressor will go into our next garage sale.

I’m still working on decluttering and downsizing, completing several projects over the last couple of weeks:

  • I finished scanning and digitizing all of my/our paper photos, saving them to JPG files which I’ve uploaded to my Dropbox account. Andy still needs to go through his old photo albums and decide what he wants to do with them.
  • Speaking of Dropbox, I went ahead and paid for a 1TB storage space since this will be our Cloud repository for documents and photos that we want to keep and have access to while on the road.
  • I bought three Case Logic hardshell DVD binders to store most of our DVD collection. Each case holds 70 discs, so there’s room for 210. We had already picked out which DVDs we planned to keep, so I transferred each of them from their individual cases into the new binders. I also printed out labels for each of the slots in the binder, as well as a list of all the titles in each binder so we can easily see which DVDs are stored where.

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It doesn’t look like we’ll have another chance to take Lizzy out before we do our two-week trip in April. Right now our plans are to spend two weeks meandering around southern Mississippi and Alabama, as well as northern Florida. However, we’re going to wait until the week before we leave to make any concrete plans, as we want to see what the weather looks like. If it seems like it will be too warm and muggy on the coast, we may possibly go north into Tennessee or even the Ozarks of Arkansas instead.

That pretty much brings you up to date with our RV life for the moment, at least the details that I can share publicly. When the time is right, we’ll talk a little more about our long-range plans, so stay tuned!

New Video – RV Camping at Wall Doxey

I finally got my video published from our last camping trip to Wall Doxey. I’m just starting to learn how to use the GoPro, and how to edit videos into a coherent story, so I’m not totally satisfied with the quality of this one. I wound up buying a new laptop that has enough processing power to handle video editing (my older laptop just crashed every time I tried to edit). I’m using Corel VideoStudio Pro X10 as my editing software–not enough time to learn to use the Adobe product right now.

Anyway, if you have 20 minutes to spare, here’s a look at our last adventure. Enjoy and share!

More RV Maintenance, Outing #4

Since our last posting, we’ve sunk some more money into Lizzy to get her in prime shape for traveling.

First, we took her to a local tire store that specializes in truck tires. Andy was having some problems reading the tire pressure on one of the valve stems, and we wanted to have all the tires inspected, even though they have less that 12,000 miles on them. Turns out two of the tires had some dry rot and weren’t exactly safe, so we replaced those. All the other tires appeared to be fine, and we got the valve stem problem taken care of.

Secondly, the air conditioning in the cab wasn’t working properly since the day we picked her up from the seller (it worked fine during the test drive). The cold air would blow through the windshield defrost vents as well as the floor vents, but would not blow through the main dash vents. Andy took Lizzy over to the local Ford dealership, and for only $51, they solved the problem–squirrels or mice had chewed through some of the connections behind the dash. Easy fix, and not nearly as expensive as we were expecting.

So after that, we were excited to head out on our fourth outing. This time we went further from home, about an hour away, to Wall Doxey State Park near Holly Springs, Mississippi. This is an older state park, built by the CCC back in the day, and it’s really beautiful. The campground has just over 50 RV sites, and they’re mostly wooded, with lots of space between most of them. They have paved surfaces, most are very level, and they provide electricity and water (no sewer at the individual sites but there is a dump station).

There’s a beautiful lake in the park with a hiking trail that goes all the way around, and there are several pavilions and lots of picnic tables for day use.

We arrived there on a Thursday afternoon, so it wasn’t crowded at all. In fact, even over the weekend it never was more than about one-quarter occupied, which I find amazing considering the beauty of the park. The sites are $18/night, unless you get the senior discount like we do, then it’s $14/night. An absolute bargain.

We got some rain on the first night, but after that it was a beautiful weekend, although it was very humid and pretty warm. I did the hike by myself on Friday afternoon, but couldn’t talk Andy into going with me because of the heat.

The cats did very well on this trip. For the first time, we did not take the car with us, so I got to ride shotgun in the RV on the way over, while the cats stayed in their crates on the floor just behind our seats. On the way home, I actually drove the RV for the first time since we did the test drive.

We decided to let the cats stay out of their crates on the return trip–but it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. When we stopped at the dump station on the way out, I realized that the bathroom door was standing open, so I asked Andy to close it before he got out of the RV to dump the tanks. Later as we continued the drive home, Maggie tried to get in my lap a time or two while I was driving, so Andy was occupied trying to keep her corralled. We heard Molly in the background, but couldn’t spot her. When we got home, we found her–she had been locked in the bathroom for the whole hour-long drive home. We felt terrible, but she was actually probably better off in there without being exposed to the passing 18-wheelers going by the windows–that would have freaked her out a lot more!

Right now we’re planning to return to Wall Doxey on Friday afternoon for the Labor Day weekend, but we’re watching the weather closely to see how much rain we might be expecting from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, assuming he ever moves out of the Houston area. We can deal with a little rain, but don’t really want to expose ourselves to possible tornadoes and flash flooding if that kind of situation develops.

Finally, I just bought myself a new laptop to use for video editing. The laptop that I’m currently using just doesn’t have the graphics or processing hardware to handle the demands of video editing software, and I want to be able to share our adventures on my YouTube channel. The new laptop is supposed to be delivered today, and I’m hoping to get a new video posted by the end of the week, before we take off on our next adventure.

 

RV Trip #3 – Continuing to Learn

We just wrapped up our third outing since buying our RV, a 23′ Class C Thor Chateau 23E. We returned to Tombigbee State Park for a quick, two-night getaway, only 15 minutes from our house. And like the two previous trips, we gained experience and made modifications that will help us be more comfortable and confident when we finally embark on our full-time RV adventure.

First, we finally got around to trying out the TV. We had used it on our first trip to play some DVDs, but we had never used it for watching regular television. The previous owner lived in the Nashville area, so all the TV channels had been programmed accordingly, and we couldn’t pick up anything around here.

On Saturday I finally got around to running the setup menu and scanned for local channels, and we actually got about nine or ten digital channels here in the area. We got the local NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and CW affiliates, along with a few other random things. While scrolling through the channels, we caught a short clip of an African American lady preacher who gave some great advice–“This is the day that the Lord has made. Don’t mess it up.”

Since it was raining on the second night, it was kind of nice to have some entertainment in the RV, although we typically don’t watch much television. But it’s definitely nice to know that we will have a source of information in case of severe weather.

This being the South, it was hot and humid over the weekend. We finally remembered to bring batteries so we were able to get our weather station setup. We used it mostly to monitor the humidity inside the RV. It was very high, especially in the morning. For instance, on Sunday at 7:29 AM, the inside temperature was 70.8°  (with A/C running) and the humidity was fluctuating between 84% and 94%.  The outside conditions were 73.4° and 98% humidity at the time. It did feel damp inside the RV, but I’m not sure what more we can do besides possibly purchasing and running a dehumidifier. Something to think about.

On this trip we added a new dish to our camping repertoire–veggie kabobs. I found a great recipe for oil-free balsamic marinade, which I prepared and added to the cut-up veggies before we left home. Andy cooked them on the grill and they were scrumptious! That was on Friday night. On Sunday, we cancelled out that healthy meal with our new tradition, Sunday morning cinnamon rolls. Oh, well!!

 

Right now we’re pretty sure that we’re going to actually start our full-time RV life in Lizzy, rather than trading up to a larger unit. A couple of weeks ago we looked at some fifth wheels, and of course we fell in love with one. But when we looked at the numbers, we decided that it made sense financially to stick with what we’ve got for the first few years, even though the living space will be tight. Our primary goal is to travel and see as much as we can see, and there are many places where a larger rig just cannot go. We decided it will be worth some inconvenience of living in the smaller RV in order to be able to get into some of those smaller boondocking spots, primarily in the forests of the western U.S.

So on this trip we started concentrating on how we might organize and store things as full-timers. It will be tight, but we’re confident that we can make it work.

This weekend was the second time that the two kitties, Maggie and Molly, have gone camping with us. On their first excursion a month ago, Molly would not come out of her crate until we went to bed on the first night. This time, she came right out as soon as I opened her door. They have both adjusted very well to RV life. I brought along some toys for them and spent some time playing with them to give them some exercise. But we know we need to consider how living in a confined space might impact them when we go full-time. We’re looking into halters and leashes so that we would have the option to take them outside. Since they were both de-clawed as kittens, we are not comfortable just letting them roam around a campsite. They have always been strictly indoor kitties. Still something we have to work on.

 

I know it sounds like we should have already figured out some of this stuff. But since we aren’t able to keep Lizzy at our house (we keep her in a storage facility several miles away), we don’t have ready access to spend much time in her between camping trips. It’s just easier to wait until we get to a full-hookup site and then just move in for a few days and see what happens.

Tombigbee State Park | Kitties Go Camping

It’s been a week and I’m just now getting around to reporting back on our camping experience at Tombigbee State Park on June 9-12, 2017 . It was awesome!

Tombigbee SP is located less than fifteen minutes from our house, and we chose that location because we were taking our two kitties, Maggie and Molly, along with us for their first ever camping experience. We wanted to be close to home in case there was a major freak-out in the RV and we needed to take them back to familiar surroundings. We needn’t have worried however; once we got to the location and let them out of their crates, Maggie made herself busy exploring her new environment inside the RV. She’s always been the more adventurous of the two. Molly, on the other hand, stayed inside her crate up in the overhead compartment until we went to bed, and then she came and got in bed with us. She was fine after that for the rest of the weekend.

Molly Ann – she liked the high space

Maggie Mae – The explorer

We parked our RV, Lizzy, in site #11, which turned out to be a perfect spot. It was very shady with lots of grassy space behind the RV. There was a nice picnic table along with a fire ring (which we did not use). The space was not quite level, but a few leveling blocks took care of that. The site had full hookups (30 amp electricity, water and sewer), and we paid $14/night using the senior discount available to those over 65 (hubby, not me!).  We were right across from the bathhouse, which was very nice and clean. In addition to toilets, it had free showers along with pay laundry machines. The sites in the campground were well-spaced, and the people camped there were all friendly and well-behaved.

There’s not a lot to do in the park as far as activities go. There’s a lake for fishing, and there are two disc golf courses that meander through the beautiful wooded hills. There’s a big playground for the kids, and several hiking trails. There are also cabins for rent, and they look decent. We were happy to spend our time reading, walking, shooting video with the GoPro, and cooking and eating some delicious food.

Sunset on the lake in Tombigbee State Park

Each morning I enjoyed taking a walk down the park road shortly after sunrise. It was quiet and peaceful with only the birds making noise. I saw a huge owl fly up into a tree not far from me–it turned and looked at me for a couple of seconds before flying on. So spectacular! I also came across this turtle that had just dug itself out of the rain-softened ground to get some morning sun.

Good morning, Mr. Turtle!

I saw beautiful flowers blooming, as well as wild blackberries on the side of the road.

Wild blackberries

Wildflowers in bloom

We stayed three nights in the park and enjoyed every minute of it. We did run the air conditioner the whole time we were there as the temperatures were in the mid-to-high 80’s. The humidity level on the first day was around 39%, but it got up into the 65-70% range on the last day. We brought along a large electric fan that we used when sitting outside under the awning in the afternoons and were very comfortable.

Our living room

We liked Tombigbee State Park so much that we have already reserved a space for July and August. It’s just so convenient to have such a beautiful park so close by as we continue to learn more about how the RV functions. It’s comforting to know that we’re close to home in case something goes haywire, at least for the next few trips. In fact, I had a dentist appointment scheduled for Monday morning, our last day there. So I just got up early, drove home to take a shower and put on my non-camping “face” and clothes, went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned, and then drove back to camp!

We did have one little issue with a leaky window on this trip, and I’ll be filling you in on the details in my next blog post, so stay tuned for that!

Foil Packet Vegan Cooking for RVing and Camping

One of our favorite methods of cooking while camping or RVing is using foil packets.

On our last trip I put together packets with red potatoes; yellow onion; red, yellow and green bell peppers; Tofurkey meat-free Italian sausage; and Mrs. Dash salt-free Southwest Chipotle seasoning. These were wrapped in heavy duty Reynolds aluminum foil that is specially made for the grill–it has a non-stick side that helps keep everything from getting messy. Then the packets just go on the grill for awhile–the cooking time depends on the quantity of food in your packets, the temperature of your coals, etc. It’s not rocket science, you can always unwrap one end and test the veggies with a fork, and throw it back on the grill if it’s not done. Ours usually take 35-45 minutes to cook.

Here’s how I put them together on our last trip–try this recipe out and let us know in the comments how you enjoyed it!

Our First Camping Trip in Lizzy | Tishomingo SP

Our first outing in Lizzy has been a rousing success!

We spent the past weekend at Tishomingo State Park in the northeast corner of Mississippi, about an hour from our home in Tupelo. It’s a place of scenic beauty, although the facilities are beginning to show the effects of budget cutbacks in the state’s financial priorities.

When we made our reservations for the campground, there were only two RV sites available, so we didn’t have a lot of choice about where we parked. Our site was #20 which was located on the side of a hill across the road from the lake. Like all the sites in the park, ours was very wooded and shady. On the downside, there was a lot of moisture seeping from natural springs in the hillside running alongside our concrete pad, making it continuously moist (and that was BEFORE the rain). The grill and picnic table were uphill behind the RV, and since the hill was so steep, the picnic table sat at an incline. The RV pad itself was just slightly off-level, so we used leveling blocks under the front wheels to correct the slant.

Since this was our first RV experience ever, we wanted to make sure we tried and tested every system and piece of equipment in Lizzy. We ran the air conditioner almost the entire time we were there since it was so warm and humid. We quickly adapted to the foot-flush toilet, and enjoyed our hot-water showers although we kept them short to avoid filling up the gray tank. And we enjoyed watching a couple of DVDs on the 32″ flat-screen TV when it was raining outside.

The refrigerator and freezer worked perfectly, keeping all our perishable foods fresh (very important for us since we eat a LOT of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables). The three-burner propane stove lit up with no problem. We quickly learned to work around the small, shallow kitchen sink by using a plastic basin to wash the dishes and then rinsing them in the sink. The highlight of our equipment “testing” was the combination microwave/convection oven. I steamed vegetables in the microwave, but I also baked cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast using the convection feature, a first for me. They came out AMAZING!

All the electrical systems worked correctly, as did the awning. There was plenty of power in the 30-amp system to power everything that we needed, including our electric coffee percolator and my Instant Pot, which we used to cook dinner on Sunday night.

We had no problems co-existing in the small space. The large windows make the space seem larger, and we also spent a lot of time outdoors. The bed is technically a full XL (you have no idea how hard it is to find fitted sheets for that mattress), but with the foam pad that we added on top of the RV mattress, it was very comfortable, even though it was cozy.

There was only one glitch that we noticed, and it happened on the drive over and then again on the last morning before we drove back. The RV has a dashboard system that includes the backup camera monitor, radio, auxiliary input, etc. For some reason, we could not get the display to work so Andy could not see directly behind him as he drove. For some reason, once we got to the campsite and hooked up to shore power, the display worked fine, at least until the last morning. Not only were we able to use the auxiliary input to play music from my iPhone, but we could also see behind the RV via the display coming from the backup camera. But then, mysteriously, it stopped working again on the last morning. It’s something we’ll have to figure out, but Andy just used the extended side mirrors during the drive with no problems.

There were some other minor things–no conveniently-located electric outlet for the electric percolator (it has a very short cord); the air conditioner is pretty loud which makes it hard to hear the TV; there was no rack in the convection oven to place the baking pan on, so I just jury-rigged one out of the included grilling rack which I knew we would never use for grilling since we don’t eat meat.

Our final initiation into RV life came as we were leaving when we had to dump the gray and black tanks for the first time. We had watched enough YouTube videos to feel pretty confident about the process, and we made it through without making a mess or gagging.

I shot lots of video with the GoPro, so stay tuned for some footage of our stay at Tishomingo. We had some excitement on our second night when a storm front moved through around 12:45 AM with near-continuous lightning and straight-line winds near 70 MPH. We were fine inside the RV, and it wasn’t until we took a drive through the park the next day that we saw all the downed trees and branches. So thankful that no one was hurt, as far as we know.

Now we’re looking forward to our next trip in less than two weeks, when we’ll be introducing our two fur-babies, our cats Maggie and Molly, to RV life. There’s no way we can plan to make this a full-time lifestyle if the fur-babies are not part of it, so their initiation begins soon. Wish us luck!