Boondocking Ends, Back to Hookups and City Life, Worms?

Yesterday (Thursday) we left our campsite in the Cactus Forest on BLM land after spending 16 glorious days in the Arizona desert. Our very first true boondocking experience was everything that we had hoped it would be, even if there were some anxious moments learning to monitor and conserve our battery usage.

There was a lot to love about that campsite. The sunrises and sunsets were amazing almost every day, except the few days it was completely overcast. It was peaceful and quiet, except for the faint background noise of gunfire coming from a shooting range a couple of miles away, and the occasional helicopter from a nearby airbase flying overhead. There was a lot of privacy as there are only five or six spots to set up camp on the little road, and they are spaced well apart from each other.

I got my feet wet in my new hobby of geocaching while we were there, successfully locating five caches in some pretty interesting locations and containers. We did lots of hiking through the desert and along the dirt road. And we were close enough to Tucson that we could drive into town for supplies and groceries.

We got a lot better acquainted with our RV, Lizzy, as we learned to live without electrical and water hookups. While we didn’t have to pay for the campsite, it still wasn’t “free”. We had to pay for propane for heat and refrigeration, and we had to pay extra for gasoline to run the generator to keep the batteries charged. I’ll be doing some analysis of the numbers to find out what our average daily costs were while boondocking, and report those back to you when we do the month-end financial recap.

Leaving our campsite in the Cactus Forest on BLM land

But yesterday it was time to move on, so we packed up and drove to our new temporary home in the Triple T Mobile Home and RV Park in Glendale, Arizona. We chose this spot for two reasons–they are part of the Passport America discount program, and it’s near where we used to live so we’re familiar with the area.

With the Passport America discount, we’re paying half price for the site, or $19.50/night, for full hookups, which is a steal during snowbird season in Arizona. The park is rather old and is mostly filled with long-term mobile homes and RV’s. They didn’t have any RV sites available, but they had a long-term site that had just opened up, so they put us between two mobile homes. Not the best view we’ve ever had, but for six nights, we can handle it.

Our new temporary home in Glendale AZ

When Andy started to hookup the electricity, he found that the receptacle configuration didn’t match our plug, so he couldn’t connect. He thought that the receptacle might be 50-amp since this was a long-term spot, so we went to Walmart and bought a 50 amp to 30 amp adapter, commonly known as a “dog bone”, to make the connection. On the way back we stopped by the office to officially check in, and when we mentioned the receptacle, Wendy, the office manager, checked her records and said that it should be 30 amps, not 50.

Our 30-amp plug didn’t match their 30-amp receptacle

When we got back to the RV, Andy looked at it again and compared the receptacle to the 50-amp dog bone, and they didn’t match. He took photos of the receptacle and our RV plug and went back to the office to talk to Wendy. She immediately notified her onsite maintenance guy to change out the receptacle, and within an hour it was complete and we were connected to electricity. Hallelujah!!

Maintenance guy replaced the receptacle–great customer service!

We got the water hooked up, connected the sewer hose and dumped the tanks, and even got the TV set up to receive local channels. After all that, Andy decided he wanted to visit a local Thai place where we used to eat a lot, so we went to Siam Thai Restaurant on Northern at 51st Avenue and had a delicious meal while we unwound a little bit.

It was so strange last night, hearing all the planes, trains and automobiles, as well as the voices of children outside the RV, after being in such quiet surroundings for over two weeks. We were afraid we might not sleep well, but we both conked out pretty quickly.

We have a long checklist of things we need to do while we’re here in Glendale. Since Tuesday is Christmas and a lot of places will be closing early on Monday as well as being closed on Sunday, we’ll have to compress a lot into the next couple of days. The last few pieces of our solar kit have been delivered to our friend Nicki’s house, so we’ll pick that up today. We plan to also visit a solar system supplier to pick up a couple of other items that we need to hook the solar panels to our house batteries. Andy wants to run by the local Onan generator shop to pick up some filters and oil for the generator. We have mail being delivered to the post office here that we need to pick up, and then there’s the usual laundry, grocery shopping, haircut (for me, not Andy!).

We have an unexpected appointment that we had to make for this morning–a visit to our old veterinarian here in Glendale. Yesterday while we were driving, Maggie threw up, which she has never done before. And I noticed that there were what looked like tiny worms in her puke. So we immediately made an appointment to take her in for a checkup, and while we’re at it, we’re taking Molly as well. Both kitties are eating well and drinking plenty of water,  but they both have had some potty issues lately, so it’s time to get them checked. This morning I’m collecting stool samples–what fun. 😛

We’re scheduled to be here in this spot through Tuesday night, leaving on Wednesday, but if for some reason the vet needs to see the kitties for a follow-up, we might be here in the area a little longer. We’re hoping that’s not the case because we’re already getting anxious to get back out to the open spaces and relative quiet of the desert. We’re planning to be somewhere in the Quartzsite/Yuma/Ehrenberg area, although we are NOT planning to attend the RTR–way too congested for us!!

We’ll know more about our plans after this morning’s vet visit.

For updates between the blog posts, you can follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads.

Happy holidays and safe travels, everyone!

 

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

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

New Mexico cactus in our campsite

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

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

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

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

Vegetable plate with the best collards ever!

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

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

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

Time for a latte at the Copper Kettle in Deming.

So yesterday was a great day.

Today, not so much.

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

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

Our last morning in New Mexico at Pancho Villa State Park

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

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

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

Driving through southern New Mexico on Highway 146.

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

Parked for lunch in Veterans Park in Lordsburg NM

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

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

And here’s where it gets interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boondocking behind the Chevron station in San Simon, AZ

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

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

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

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

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

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!