Goodbye to the Forest, Hello New Mexico

Currently at Bluewater Lake State Park near Prewitt, New Mexico:

The time finally came to say goodbye to our summertime forest home in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. Altogether, we spent sixty-six days in that location, and we were both rather sad to leave it behind. But some things had changed since we first got there that made us a little more anxious to move on.

When we first arrived there in May, there was still snow on the peaks above us, and the temperatures were very mild during the day, even cold at night. There had been plenty of rain and snow over the winter and spring, so everything was green and lush. On our very first hike up the road we saw a whole herd of deer cross the road ahead of us. We loved it immediately!

Found the perfect camping spot on FR 151, with a view of Humphrey’s Peak

As the weeks went on, it got warmer during the daytime, so we repositioned the rig between some pine trees so that it got shade in the afternoon. The sun began to dry out the soil around us, and it soon became extremely dusty. Since we were parked fairly close to the road (gravel), we got a LOT of dust from traffic going by, especially on the weekends when people riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes zoomed by.

I grew to love hiking in the forest, and almost every time I did I would see at least one deer, and usually more than one. Some may have been elk, it was hard to tell from a distance. We saw a coyote, a skunk, lots of squirrels and chipmunks, and a few rabbits. The flowers that bloomed throughout the spring and early summer were stunning, blanketing the meadows and forest floor with the colors of the rainbow.

Springtime blossoms in the Coconino National Forest

As August rolled in, it was getting warmer and more dusty, as the usual monsoon rains failed to materialize. The temperatures were still tolerable to where it was even cool enough in the morning to run the furnace for a little bit to warm up the rig. About the second week in August, the local ranchers released a herd of cattle into the forest for summer grazing. They didn’t bother us too much around the rig, in fact we were very entertained by them. But often times I would encounter groups of them standing on the trail that I was hiking, and it was somewhat intimidating to have to walk past those mama cows who were determined to protect their calves standing beside them. They would snort loudly and stare at me as if daring me to come any closer. I would just try to walk quietly without making any sudden moves, all the while looking for the nearest tree in case I needed to put something substantial between me and a cow.

Our friendly neighborhood cows, as long as you don’t get too close to the little ones

So the cows kind of disturbed the peacefulness of my hikes, but nothing like what happened on August 13. Unknown to me, deer hunting season (archery) opened that morning. While on my hike, I noticed there were a lot more tent campers in the woods, as well as four-wheelers. But when I came across some people actually butchering a deer beside the trail, that just ruined any hiking for me from that point forward. For the next few weeks there was so much activity around us between the hunters and the cows, and with all the dust being stirred up, we just decided it was time to move on.

We absolutely loved most of our time this summer, and are already planning to return to that area, but next year we’ll know to anticipate the cows and the hunters, so we can move on a little earlier. And we will miss Flagstaff–I’ve always said that I’d like to live there someday, and this summer just reinforced that. It’s a wonderful small city with a great vibe.

So we decided to start moving east and return to New Mexico, where we still have a couple months left on our annual pass for the State Parks. I did some research to find a park at about the same altitude as Flagstaff that had the amenities that we wanted, namely electric hookups and a dump station. I came across Bluewater Lake State Park, about 40 miles east of Gallup off I-40. We were only able to reserve a site for three nights since all the reservable sites are booked for the weekends, but we were fine with that since we were unfamiliar with the park and didn’t want to lock ourselves in to a long reservation at a place that we might not like.

On Tuesday morning we loaded up the solar panels and the patio mat, double-checked the fluids and tire pressure, and then hit the road. We stopped in Flagstaff to top off the propane, fuel up the vehicles and take the Tacoma through the car wash (it was filthy!). Then we got on I-40 and headed east.

Travel Day! Loading up the solar panels in the truck.

It was a beautiful day for a drive, and the scenery through the Painted Desert was amazing. We stopped for lunch near Holbrook, Arizona, pulling in to a TA truck stop where we fired up the generator and turned on the air conditioner. We enjoyed Andy’s famous chopped salad for lunch, and let the kitties have a little break from the ride. After about an hour we got back on the road. We ran into a few little sprinkles after crossing into New Mexico, but nothing major.

Driving on I-40 east from Arizona to New Mexico

We stopped once more in Gallup to top off the tanks, and then rolled into the state park sometime around 4PM (we lost an hour when we left Arizona since they don’t observe daylight savings time). On the way into the park, Andy dumped the tanks at their dump station (VERY nice), and also filled up the fresh water tank. Then we located our campsite, #1 on the Upper Electric Loop, and got set up.

When I was doing my research to find our next campsite, one of the things that was mentioned in all the reviews of this park was that there are wild horses that roam through here. And sure enough, as soon as we got out of the rig, we spotted a group of four horses, three adults and a colt, grazing in the clearing near our rig. We’ve seen them several times, usually in the cooler parts of the day, and they are magnificent. They won’t let you touch them, but they’re not very spooked by people either.

Some of the wild horses that make their home in Bluewater Lake State Park

One of the reasons I wanted to be somewhere with electricity and water was so I could give the rig a good cleaning after all the dust we collected. I got started on that yesterday by totally emptying out our attic (the space over the cab) where we store our food, linens, supplies, photography equipment, fireproof safe, etc. There is a vent right over the attic for air flow, and over the summer lots of dust came in that way and coated everything, no matter how I tried to keep up with it. Yesterday, I pulled everything down, cleaned everything and then put it back, including the screen over the vent. Big task, but glad it’s done.

I took several walks yesterday to explore the area, and found that the lake is bigger than I thought. The water definitely looked blue from the reflection of the sky, and the surrounding mountains were a beautiful backdrop. I found the dam that is responsible for the creation of the lake, and saw where the overflow from the dam is released into the nearby canyon forming a small river that draws birds and wildlife. Here’s a small video that I put together from my hike that shows all of the above:

Nothing more fun than defrosting the freezer first thing in the morning

By this time we had decided that three nights here was not going to be enough. With all the cleaning chores, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to explore the area. The park is very quiet (so far) and there are a lot of first come first serve sites available. We decided that if one of those with electricity opened up, we would grab it, even though we still have one more night on our reservation.

And lo and behold, this morning, several of the first come first serve sites opened up, including one that we had had our eyes on from the start. While I was busy with my chores, Andy was flapping his jaws with some of the other guys in the park, so he was down there when the site opened up. He came back home and drove the truck down there to hold it for us until we could move the rig, which took about fifteen minutes.

Our new site has a little more shade, which is nice. It’s a little closer to our neighbors, but that’s usually only an issue on the weekends. We’re close to the showers and the flush toilets (there are a lot of vault toilets throughout the park). We went ahead and paid for five nights in this spot, including tonight, which means we paid twice since we still had the first spot reserved. But we’re only paying $4 per night on our annual pass, which covers the electricity, so it’s no big deal. Unless something changes, we’ll probably wind up staying here the maximum time allowed, 14 days.

Our new site (#11) is first come first served with electricity and a little shade

There are some interesting-looking hiking trails here in the park that I want to explore, and there are several geocaches that I want to look for. The nearest town with a Walmart is Grants, which is about 25 miles away. That means we won’t be tempted to eat out or go shopping very much which should help offset some of the cost of fuel from driving this month. I’m sure we’ll do some sight-seeing outside the park while we’re in the area.

So that’s what we’re up to at the moment! We’re definitely enjoying having access to electricity, nice showers (so we don’t have to remove the litter box from the shower in our rig), and new scenery. Stay tuned for more adventures!

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

Forest Boondocking, Moving to Williams, Watching the Weather

In our last regular blog post, we had just arrived at our boondocking spot on Forest Road 237 in the Coconino National Forest just southwest of Flagstaff. The day we arrived (Monday, April 29) was rainy and cool, and we even had hail on our first night there. The next day was overcast but didn’t rain, and after that the sun came out and dried out the area pretty well for the rest of the week.

Arriving at our campsite on a rainy day

Our camp was in a beautiful setting of ponderosa pine and Kaibab limestone rock outcroppings. It was located on the rim of a good-sized canyon with a creek flowing at the bottom. I did several hikes through the forest along the creek (couldn’t talk Andy into going with me), and made my way down to the creek in several different locations.

Pumphouse Wash is a beautiful stream flowing through Kaibab limestone cliffs

My hikes weren’t very long, but I did a lot of climbing on the rocks, especially when I was searching for one particular geocache that I never did locate.

I saw several caves in the cliffs but wasn’t brave enough to explore them

On Thursday we took one of my favorite drives in the world, from our campsite down Oak Creek Canyon on Highway 89A to Sedona. The lower we went in elevation, the greener the vegetation became until it was so lush with spring growth that everything had an emerald glow. The contrast between the green of the trees, the red rocks towering above, and the blue sky was just as beautiful as I remembered.

We’ve visited Sedona as a couple many, many times since we married in 1991, but Andy, having been born and raised in Phoenix, remembers when Sedona was just a small crossroads with a few stores. I can totally understand why so many people want to visit or live there, but the unrelenting increase in traffic and tourists is gradually over-powering and hiding the natural beauty of the area. (And yes, I totally “get” that I’m a part of the problem whenever I visit there.)

Iconic view of Sedona from the airport overlook

So many of the places where we used to spend time hiking or just sitting on a rock enjoying the peace and solitude are now fenced off and regulated, and many require payment of a fee to visit or to park. The airport overlook next to the Sky Ranch Lodge where we always stayed when we visited Sedona now has a $3 parking fee. And when we tried to pull in at Slide Rock State Park simply to visit the market and buy some fresh apple cider, the entry fee was $20 just to drive through the gate, so we declined and left without our cider.

Walking around uptown Sedona on the hunt for the perfect t-shirt

We still love Sedona–we have so many good memories of our time spent there. But we much prefer to get out of the city limits and visit the red rocks or Oak Creek where it’s less congested. We knew about a popular boondocking area on Loy Butte Road about nine miles west of Sedona, so we drove out that way to check it out. It’s a long gravel road that gets pretty bumpy in places, but the further you go, the more beautiful the scenery becomes. Just as we decided we would be hesitant to bring Lizzy that far back on a bumpy road, we came upon a campsite where there were three very large, very nice Class A motorhomes camped together. If they can make it back there, I know we could too!

The rest of our week in camp was pretty quiet. We drove into Flagstaff a couple of times for groceries and supplies. Andy spent a couple of days doing some maintenance on the rig, sealing up some places where water was seeping in. He replaced one of the running lights on top of the cab, just to make sure it wasn’t the source of a leak.

Handy Andy doing some rig maintenance while the sun shines

Our original plan was to stay in that spot for the full 14-day limit, but as the weekend approached the weather forecast became wetter and wetter. We were parked at the lowest part of the campground, and we knew that if we got several days of rain in a row, it was just going to become a mud-pit. And perhaps the biggest discouragement was that there was almost no internet access in that spot–most of the time it was one bar of 3G on Verizon. If we were going to be stuck in the rig for several days of rain, thunderstorms and hail, we wanted to at least have good internet so we could entertain ourselves.

So we decided to cut our stay short in the forest, and head to civilization. We have a Passport American membership that allows us to stay at certain parks for half-price (subject to the usual black-out dates and other restrictions). I checked around and found us an RV park in Williams, Arizona, about 30 miles west of Flagstaff. So on Monday morning we packed up and moved west.

We’re now staying at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. With our discount, and after taxes and fees, we’re paying just over $28/day for our full-hookup site which includes electricity, water, sewer, cable TV, and surprisingly fast wi-fi. There’s a laundry room, along with very nice showers (unlimited hot water!!), and we have access to the fitness room at the hotel which is also part of the property. Technically we have access to the pool and hot tub also, but they just happened to be down for repairs this week. Just our luck.

Our campsite for the week while we wait for the nasty weather to blow through

We have a love/hate relationship with RV parks. One the one hand, we thoroughly enjoy the amenities. The showers are amazing (yes, we can shower in the rig, but our water pressure is lower, and plus, we have to move the big litter box out of the shower every time we want to use it, so why not use the park’s showers?). I was able to get our laundry done yesterday, and the cost of the machines is much lower than if we went to a typical laundromat. We’re saving money on propane since we can run the hot water heater and refrigerator on the electrical hookup, and we can use our small electric heater instead of the propane furnace to heat the rig. We’re not having to run the generator to power the microwave or convection oven, or to top off our batteries because of the clouds, so we’re saving on gas. Of course there’s much less privacy and a little more noise, although this park has been very quiet so far, except for the thunder, hail and the occasional train that goes by. It’s not nearly as scenic as our spot in the forest, but we’re within walking distance of all the restaurants and shops along Route 66 in Williams, as well as a nearby Safeway grocery store.

Awesome shower facilities at Grand Canyon Railroad RV Park

Since we’ve been here, the nasty weather has delivered as forecast. We’ve had thunderstorms with heavy lightning, along with a couple fairly heavy hailstorms. Fortunately the hailstones were small enough that I don’t think they’ve done any damage, but it’s awfully noisy inside the rig when they’re beating on the roof and especially the plastic vent covers. We’ll have to check those covers carefully for cracks after the rain stops.

Another hail storm, makes me so glad we’re not tent-camping!

On our first evening here, we walked to the nearby Grand Canyon Brewery for a happy hour beverage and some dinner. We started with an order of fried dill pickles, then Andy had the veggie burger and I had the fish and chips. The fries were excellent, but the battered cod was just so-so.

Beer-battered cod and fries at Grand Canyon Brewery

Yesterday there was a break in the weather during the afternoon, so we got out and explored downtown Williams. We started with ice cream and coffee at Twisters 50’s Diner, a super-cute soda fountain/bar/diner/souvenir shop on Route 66. Then we spent another hour or so just walking up and down the street checking out the various shops and restaurant menus. There are a surprising number of veggie options here in town, so we’ll probably take advantage of some of them before we leave.

This town has more Elvis memorabilia than any town we’ve seen since we left Tupelo. There are Elvis statues all over town, along with Elvis fortune-tellers and an animated Elvis sitting behind the wheel of a vintage automobile, waving at passers-by.

Andy and Elvis in the Twisters 50’s Diner

When we booked our stay in this park, we booked for four nights, expecting the weather to clear up by the weekend. However, the most recent forecasts show continued rain and cooler weather, so we contacted the office this morning and extended our stay through Sunday night, so we’ll spend a total of seven nights here (that’s the limit for our Passport America discount). Then we booked three nights (next Monday through Wednesday) at another Passport America park in Golden Valley, near Kingman, where the weather should be drier and warmer. By then, this freaky cold, wet system should be moved out of the area, and we plan to return to the Flagstaff area to spend more time before it warms up for the summer.

But, plans are just invitations for the gods to laugh at us, so they say. But that’s the advantage of having our home on wheels–we can move it when the weather changes, so we don’t have to stay in a place where we are uncomfortable or unhappy. Yes, we have rain and hail here, but we have all the utilities we need, we’re warm and dry, and between rain showers we have plenty of entertainment. And we have high-speed wi-fi, so what could be better? 🙂

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

Safe travels!

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.

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!

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!