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.

Move-In Day

The big day finally arrived! We moved out of our sticks-and-bricks home, and into our 24′ Class C RV where we will live and travel full time.
Of course, we aren’t totally free of the house just yet. The sale does not close until Wednesday (three days away), but almost all of our worldly possessions have been sold, donated, gifted or sent to the landfill. And I can’t tell you just how freeing that feels!
We got up around 5AM this morning to get started on the big day. My brother, Steve, came by around 6:30 when he got off his shift at the hospital. He picked up our television to replace his TV which got fried by a lightning strike a couple of weeks ago. We were so glad that we were able to help them out, especially since they have been so helpful to us in getting the workshop cleared out and ready for closing. He also brought over a dozen fresh doughnuts, which just sweetened the deal!
We picked up Lizzy (our RV) from the storage yard around 7:45, filled her up with gas (35 gallons @ $83.75), brought her home and parked her at the end of the driveway. Then we started the process of moving our stuff out of the house and into the RV.
While Andy was working on loading up the outside basement storage area, I started with clothes and wardrobe items since those went in the rear overhead bins above the bed. It’s hard to believe that all my clothes now fit into such a small space. We’re using packing cubes to help keep things organized, but it will still take some time to get used to finding specific t-shirts and shorts amongst all the different packing cubes.
Next I started loading the overhead/over-cab area at the front of the RV. This was fairly straight-forward since we had already planned out this storage arrangement on our dining room floor. It was just a matter of picking up bins, carrying them to the RV and placing them in the same arrangement that we had configured in the dining room.
Then it was time to start on the real challenge, loading the kitchen and dining area. This was especially challenging for a couple of reasons. First of all, Andy and I eat primarily a plant-based diet, and we eat very little processed food, sticking mainly to fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and grains. Because of that, we have a lot of kitchen utensils, spices and gadgets that we feel are essential to our diet. The RV has very limited storage space in the kitchen area, so we had to get very creative and put a lot of things in the overhead space.
Just to give you an idea, we have two Instant Pots (3 qt and 6 qt), a Crock Pot, a Vitamix blender, a full-size Cuisinart food processor, a mini Cuisinart food processor, and a Ninja blender. When we were considering what things were essential to our livestyle and what we needed to downsize, we both agreed that a healthy diet was of utmost importance to us, and was something that we were unwilling to compromise on. So our RV (and the truck) will be carrying a lot of kitchen equipment, along with a lot of fresh produce, beans and grains.
In the middle of loading up the RV, we had more people come by to pick up furniture items. One lady had reserved one of the recliners when she came to our yard sale several weeks ago, and she picked it up today. Our next door neighbors (the good ones!) got one of the beds, and our other neighbors up the street picked up a cabinet and a pair of sawhorses that they purchased at the yard sale. It was good to get more of the stuff moved out of the house even while we were loading up Lizzy.
And it was so HOT today! I think the high temperature was around 93°, and of course it was humid, so that made it just a litte more miserable. We opened all the windows in the RV and turned on all the fans, which was a great idea until wasps started flying around inside. They even started building a next on the awning supports, so Andy had to get out the wasp spray to get rid of them.
We worked ourselves pretty hard until around 2:45 when we decided it was time to start winding down. Andy started up the generator and turned on the A/C inside the RV to let it start cooling down while we loaded a few more items. Around 3:30 we were ready to start the drive over to Tombigbee State Park where we’re staying this week.
Of course, the cats, Maggie and Molly knew exactly what was going on and decided it was a good time to hide under the bed. I had to get the vacuum cleaner after them to chase them back out into the hallway where we were able to corral them and get them into their carriers for the trip.
We got to the campground a little after 4PM and got set up pretty quickly. Then we both got a good shower, had a cold brew and then relaxed for the evening. When it came time for dinner, we were too tired to really put too much effort into it. We had decided not to stock the refigerator and freezer today because the unit was not cold enough after sitting in the hot sun without air conditioning all day. The only food we had on board was some canned beans, canned tomatoes and lots of dried beans, rice and other grains. So we mixed a can of black beans with a can of diced tomatoes, threw in some Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning and some other spices, and enjoyed a quick bean soup.
Tomorrow we’ll go back to the house to continue cleaning out what’s left. We’ll have to take a load to Goodwill and possibly a load to the dump. I’m going to put a lot of stuff in the garage to see if the neighbors need any of it (toaster, printer, etc.) We’ll clear out the refrigerator and freezer and bring some of that stuff to the RV, and we’ll also hit the grocery store for some fresh produce. Our goal is to have the house empty by the end of the day tomorrow (Monday).
On Tuesday we’ll go back and concentrate on cleaning–sweeping, mopping, cleaning the shower, etc.
And then on Wednesday, we close on the sale!
Thursday we plan to just relax and maybe do a little more organizing.
And then on Friday, we’ll pull out of here and head west toward Texas.
But tonight is our first night in the RV as full-timers, and I am just giddy I’m so excited! This is a day we have dreamed of for so long and it’s finally here!
Life is good!!

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!).

Our First RV Rally – Sevierville, TN

Greetings from the River Plantation RV Park in Sevierville, Tennessee, at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Andy and I have been here since early Monday afternoon, attending the RV-Dreams Fall Educational Rally. So far it has been a wonderful experience, giving us the perfect opportunity to learn more about the fulltime RV lifestyle from those who are currently living it. It has also been a chance to learn more about our own RV by using it in ways we have not until this point.

We left Tupelo last Sunday afternoon just after 3PM, timing our departure so that we would arrive in Chattanooga, Tennessee just after sundown because we wanted to get our first boondocking experience under our belts. We parked the rig (and our Prius which I was driving as a chase vehicle) in the Walmart parking lot and settled in for the night. While it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten (we were near a train track), it was not bad at all. We ate our dinner in the rig, baking potatoes in the microwave while we ran the generator. The following morning we had overnight refrigerator oats that I prepared before we went to bed. We took our time and pulled out of Walmart just after 10am since we couldn’t check in at the RV park until noon.

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Settled in at Camp Walmart.

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The River Plantation RV park is also a new experience, it’s our first private park (as opposed to the state parks we’ve been using). They provide full hookups, including electricity, water, sewer, and cable TV. They have two swimming pools and a hot tub, a lazy river, pickleball courts, a video game arcade, an onsite RV/Bus wash facility, and other amenities, including the conference center.

We’ve had a couple of issues with the hookups:

  • The breaker on the hookup pedestal has tripped three times so far. One of those times was when we were away from the campground, and when we returned the power was off to the RV. Wouldn’t be a huge issue except that the kitties were in here and without A/C it was starting to get a little stuffy.
  • The park advertises that they have free wi-fi, but it was not working all week until just this afternoon (hopefully it continues to work).
  • The sewer connection is on a PVC pipe that sticks up out of the ground. Our RV’s outlet is pretty low, so there’s not much downhill slant between our outlet and the sewer drain. We would prefer a lower-to-the-ground outlet.

But overall, we are enjoying our stay here at River Plantation. We had our RV washed yesterday (they charge $2/foot, so it was $44 for our rig).

We’ve met so many interesting, helpful people, many of whom are just like us, in the early stages of getting their rigs and their lives ready for fulltiming.

Interestingly, we are the only ones at this conference who are in a Class C rig. Everyone else is in a Class A, a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. That just makes us feel special, not weird.

The cats have done well on this trip, with the exception of one little scare. When we were getting ready to move the rig to the RV wash facility yesterday, Andy opened the drivers side door and Molly fell out of the RV. She had been hiding on the floor between the door and the drivers seat, sensing that we were about to start moving. As soon as she hit the ground, she ran up under the RV and would not come out. I had to belly-crawl on the gravel, under the RV, to get hold of her so I could pass her out to Andy, who put her back in the RV. She immediately hid under the laundry bag on the bed and stayed there the entire time the RV was being washed (I stayed inside with the kitties while Andy stayed outside watching them complete the wash). But as soon as we got back to our campsite and settle back in, she was fine.

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#Molly says it’s bedtime. #forliz #rvcats

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Tonight we’re having a potluck at the rally, so I’m cooking spaghetti (vegan, of course). We have two more days of seminars and rig tours, and then we’ll head home on Sunday, driving straight through to Tupelo.

We’re having a blast this week!

Wall Doxey – Return of the Ants

We made our second trip to Wall Doxey State Park over the Labor Day weekend, and despite an “antsy” start, we enjoyed the weekend immensely.

We left home after I finished work on Friday afternoon, pulling out from home just after 5PM, and arriving at our campsite a little after 6PM. This time we were in site #36, which has a perfectly level concrete pad and lots of great shade.

We got set up pretty quickly, and then I cooked some pasta for dinner. The sauce was from a jar but I added sauteed onion, garlic and mushrooms, as well as some vegan Gardein meatless meatballs. Andy had made a big chopped salad for the weekend, which we topped with our favorite gourmet vinegars, and we also opened a bottle of wine. Great dinner!

However, it didn’t take long after we got there for the ants to find us! When we were at Wall Doxey two weeks earlier, we had a problem with ants getting in the cat food that we normally just leave on the floor for the girls to nibble on, so we knew we couldn’t leave the cat food out. But this time the ants found the chocolate chip cookies that we were storing in the overhead compartment. The cookies were in a clamshell package from the bakery, and the little buggers had no problem at all finding their way into the package. They were also trying to get into the Tupperware container that held the dry cat food, but fortunately they had not succeeded when we sighted them.

We wound up putting the cat food in the refrigerator, but the cookies were a lost cause as far as I was concerned. But my hubby, who can’t stand to watch a TV show where someone is drawing blood or throwing up, decided that a few ants would just add some protein to his cookies. He spent a good half hour going over each individual cookie, brushing off the ants he could see (they kept burrowing and hiding under the chocolate chunks), and then he put the cookies in zip-lock bags and put them in the refrigerator. And he’s still eating those cookies, even though an occasional ant still scurries across the surface.

Even after we hid everything that we thought the ants might be after, I was still seeing a line of them in the overhead storage area, as well as some others scattered around the RV (around the sink, near the dinette, in the shower). So I finally grabbed a can of Off! and sprayed the overhead. Dumb move….with the vent fans blowing, the bug spray quickly spread throughout the RV, and only then did I think about the cats breathing in that stuff (as well as myself since it blew back in my face).

Long story short, the ants pretty much disappeared and the cats survived, although one of them threw up a little bit right before bedtime. I felt terrible about possibly harming them with the spray, and won’t make that mistake again. Before our next trip, Andy is going to bomb or spray the RV thoroughly to get rid of any critters that might still be in there. We’ll also carry some ant baits with us in the future.

Otherwise, it was a very relaxing weekend. The weather was perfect, considering it is still late summer–the remnants of Hurricane Harvey had passed through here the day before we left and there had been a lot of rain, but the rest of the weekend was mostly sunny with lower temperatures and humidity.

We did a hike on Sunday morning around the lake after having our “traditional” Sunday-morning-in-the-RV breakfast of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. We cooked a foil-packet meal of onions, peppers, garlic, potatoes and Tofurkey kielbasa. We had our first campfire of the season on Saturday night, although the wood that Andy gathered was pretty damp from the Harvey rain so it didn’t burn very well.

One of my favorite parts of each camping trip is getting up early in the morning while Andy is still asleep and then going for a walk while it’s still peaceful and quiet outside. The temperatures each morning were in the low 60’s, and I enjoyed some peaceful walks around the campground and down to the lake.

We broke camp around noon on Monday (Labor  Day), and after a stop at the dump station we headed home. We let the cats ride free both coming and going on this trip, without being confined to their crates. I drove on the return trip, and Maggie eventually settled on the back of the dinette where she could look over my shoulder out the windshield. Molly, however, decided it was safer to stay under the seat, which was fine until we got home, and she refused to come out. It took me a good 15-20 minutes to finally drag her out without hurting her or pulling any of the under-seat wiring loose. While we don’t mind the kitties hiding under the seats while we’re in camp, we’re going to have to come up with a solution to keep them out of there while we’re in motion–another project for Andy before our next trip.

Since we’re planning to become full-timers, we try to learn or experience something new on each trip that will help us in the future. In addition to the above, some other new things this time were:

  • Tested and used the outside shower (just for rinsing dishes, not washing our bodies!)
  • Concluded after five trips that the coffee percolator is not a good fit for the RV life, even though it makes great coffee.  It’s just too messy to clean up all those coffee grounds. We have already purchased a small five-cup drip maker that uses a paper filter basket–much easier clean-up.
  • This was our first trip when we didn’t have to run the A/C 24/7. We were able to use just the fans quite a bit, which was nice but it also meant managing humidity levels differently in the RV.
  • The pasta meal was something new–and we learned that cooking pasta, sauteing veggies, simmering sauce, draining pasta and cleaning up splatters is quite challenging in a very tiny RV kitchen. The foil packet meals on the grill are much easier, but we wanted to practice options for when we can’t cook outdoors.
  • We took ice cream with us this time, and confirmed that the freezer works VERY well. That ice cream was rock-hard even with the freezer set on medium.

Last of all, we have a bit of a mystery going on. The RV has two bubble level indicators on the back to help when setting up. On our last trip we found that one of the indicators had lost the liquid from the little glass tube.  On this trip we found that the second indicator had also lost its liquid. No idea what’s happening to them, but we need to get those replaced.

Now we have just under three weeks to get ready for our next adventure, which will be a 381-mile trip to Sevierville, TN for our first RV rally! 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!

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.

Leaky Window | No Battery Power

Anyone with an RV will tell you that there are always things that need fixing or maintaining–after all, you’re driving around with your house on wheels, rocking and rolling through potholes and bad weather. And as RV newbies, we know just enough about our Thor Chateau Class C to be dangerous.

The first issue we encountered was a leaky window. When we went on our last camping trip, I climbed up into the overhead compartment to retrieve the privacy curtain which was folded up and stored in a little nook under the overhead side window. I found the curtain to be wet, but couldn’t determine where the moisture was coming from. Nothing else was wet, so we decided that water must have dripped in through the window and landed on the folded curtain.

After the trip was over and we returned Lizzy to the storage lot, Andy did some testing. In the space where she’s parked, she leans just a little to the left. Andy was running the air conditioning, and as the condensation from the A/C unit pooled on the roof, it eventually ran over the side of the RV, right down onto the leaky window.

Andy called an RV service shop here in Tupelo to see if they could take a look at it, but they said it would be about a week, due to the holiday weekend. In the meantime, we turned to YouTube to get some ideas for temporary fixes–saw a lot of suggestions for duct tape. And that’s what we were about to use until we saw a video where an RV owner was showing how to clean the tracks and weep-holes on RV sliding windows.

Andy decided to check the tracks on our problem window, so he headed back to the storage lot with a shop vac, air compressor, cleaning supplies and tools. He got on a ladder and looked for the weep-holes on the problem window, but didn’t see any. He checked all the other windows–they all had weep-holes. So he went back to the problem window and looked more closely.

And there it was–someone had put dark adhesive tape over the weep-holes. It blended in so well with the frame of the window that it was almost invisible. He pulled the tape off, and immediately water drained out of the tracks. He tested it thoroughly, and it has stayed dry ever since.

Problem #1 – SOLVED!

The second issue has been more challenging. Our RV has a battery disconnect switch just inside the door that is labeled Store / Use. We were told by the previous owner to put the switch in Store mode when we were storing the RV, and to put it in Use mode when we were actually using her. He didn’t specify whether or not it made a difference if we had her plugged in to shore power while being stored, and we are such newbies that we didn’t make the connection.

So when we put her in storage, we plugged her in and put the the switch on Store.

BAD!

We didn’t notice anything particularly wrong except that the audio system/backup camera display wouldn’t work consistently. But on the last day of our last camping trip, we tried turning on the overhead lights after we had unplugged from shore power, and nothing worked. The battery monitor said the house batteries were fully charged, but we were getting nothing. Nada.

So when we got home we started researching, reading the pitiful excuse for an owners manual that Thor puts out, searching Google and YouTube, and posting in the online RV forums. Andy even called Thor’s support line, and the guy told him to crawl under the RV and look for a 50-amp breaker under the chassis, which would need to be removed and replaced. Andy did as he was told, but there was no such breaker there.

So I got back on the user forums this afternoon, and finally found a post from 2015 where someone with our same unit had the same problem. He stated that he found the reset switch–but to get to it you have to pull out the bottom kitchen drawer that is under the stovetop, and the breaker reset switch is bolted to the floor under/behind the drawer.

I showed the post to Andy who had just started cooking dinner. We dropped everything, got in the car, drove to the storage lot and started working on Lizzy. We finally figured out how to remove the drawer from the suspension tracks so that we could get into the space under the counter, and sure enough, there was the breaker and relay we were looking for. There was a tiny, tiny little black button on the side, and when Andy pushed it we heard a click. We unplugged the shore power, pushed the button again, tested the overhead lights and they finally worked!

The lights were significantly dimmer than they are with shore power, so we’re thinking the batteries may be drained, or may even need to be replaced. But now we know several things we didn’t know before:

  • If the RV is plugged in to shore power, the battery disconnect switch should be in “USE” mode, even if it’s technically in storage. It should only be in “STORE” mode if it’s unplugged.
  • We now know the location of the reset switch.
  • We now know that we actually have a bottom drawer under the stove–we had been told that was just a decorative panel on the cabinet face.
  • We now know how to remove the drawers from the suspension tracks.

This is exactly why we wanted to spend some time in a smaller “practice” RV before we pull the trigger to buy a larger unit and go full-time. We need these kinds of learning experiences to build our confidence and skill set so that we can take care of ourselves and our future home on wheels. Every time we’re able to troubleshoot and resolve a problem, we gather information and gain experience that will serve us well in the future!

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!

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!