Going There Vs. Being There

When we first announced our plans to sell everything we owned, live in an RV and travel full-time, the question most people asked first was “Where are you going?” And that’s a fair question, since we did say that we were going to travel.

But as we settle into this lifestyle, we’re finding that “going” somewhere isn’t nearly as important as simply “being” somewhere. When you find yourself in a place that nourishes your soul and satisfies your senses, you can feel yourself settling down and losing that urge to move on. It’s enough to just “be” there for awhile, until circumstances change and it’s time to “go”. The “going” part can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming; but the “being” part can settle the nerves and make the passage of time seem almost irrelevant.

That’s exactly how we feel about our current location in Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. After arriving on Sunday and spending the first 24 hours moving between campsites, we’ve spent the last three days falling in love with this place. And right now there’s no place we would rather “be”.

Maggie loves basking in the sun and watching the wildlife

And that is in spite of the rain that fell all day on Tuesday. I did manage to go for an hour-long walk on Tuesday morning while there was just a light mist, After my walk, we drove down to Hatch (the Chile Capital of the World) to do some banking at Wells Fargo. On the drive down there the rain really started to fall, and it continued throughout the afternoon and evening, limiting our activities to watching DVDs and cooking.

Wednesday morning’s sunrise was beautiful with low clouds hugging the mountaintops over the lake. After a leisurely morning, a hot shower and a good lunch, I unpacked my “real” camera, my Nikon 700 full-frame DSLR and my 28-300mm lens, and we set out for a hike down to the beach, which is actually the dry lake bed where the reservoir has receded due to the drought.

One of my goals for this whole lifestyle change was to have the time to renew my passion for photography. I’ve never found anything that inspires my creativity like the landscape and geography of the American Southwest. But first I have to reacquaint myself with the basic controls and functionalities of this camera. I’ve gotten so used to shooting only with my iPhone, just pointing and clicking the button, although I do try to be mindful of composition and exposure even when using the phone. It’s going to take a little while to remember how to use the DSLR which has an almost infinite combination of settings that control how the image is captured.

We hiked and walked for about an hour and a half, much of the time in loose sand, so we got quite a workout. After we returned to the RV, I spent some time editing a few of the images which I’ll be sharing on my newly revived photography blog, “the Zen of Zann“, as well as on my Flickr site. Feel free to  follow these links and subscribe to either or both of these sites if you’re interested in photography.

Shooting on the beach (photo credit goes to Andy)

Wednesday evening I tried a new Instant Pot recipe that I had stashed away in my Evernote recipe files. I’m always looking for ways to simplify cooking in the RV so we don’t use so many pots and so much water. I found this recipe for Instant Pot spaghetti where everything is cooked in one pot, it’s fast, and it uses a lot less water than is typically used to boil pasta. Here’s a link to the original recipe from the “I Heart Naptime” blog. Since we don’t eat meat, I substituted Gardein Meatless Crumbles and diced mushrooms for the ground beef, and I also added some green bell pepper. This recipe was super-easy, it was delicious, and there were plenty of leftovers for a couple more meals. It would make a great potluck dish as well!

Today was a beautiful, cloudless (mostly) day, so we spent a lot of time outdoors. I took a long walk this morning before lunch. After lunch we drove in to Truth or Consequences (“T or C”, as it’s known around here)  so we could hang out at McDonald’s for awhile to get some high-speed wi-fi. I needed to download and install some Windows 10 updates on my laptop and we both needed to install updates on our iPhones and Andy’s iPad. This McDonald’s has great wi-fi, and it was nice to be able to keep our devices safe and functioning well.

There is fall color even in the desert

As a side note, we’ve been getting excellent Verizon service everywhere we’ve been in New Mexico, so our hotspots on our phones have been more than sufficient for our typical video streaming and internet browsing needs. But sometimes you just need wi-fi to download those large files that OS updates require, so we’ll continue to seek out McDonald’s, Starbucks and local libraries when necessary.

Tomorrow (Friday) we’ll have to make a quick trip over to the dump station to empty our tanks, and then Andy is going to try doing a little silversmithing if it doesn’t suddenly turn windy. I’m going to spend some more time on my photography. I did shoot a timelapse of the eastern sky at sundown this evening, but the cloud cover to the west hid the setting sun most of the time so I didn’t get the drama I was hoping for. But I have nine more evenings to try it again!

So, as you can tell, we are just enjoying “being” here without worrying about where we’re “going” next. This will be our fifth night, and since we’re limited to a two-week stay by park regulations, we’ll try to make the most of the next nine days in this beautiful spot. The weather forecast couldn’t be better, we have the perfect campsite, and there’s no reason for us to be “going” anywhere.

Toilet Surgery, Rain and Birthday Shopping

I am pleased to report that our toilet repair project was successful! Andy had done a lot of research by watching YouTube videos and even contacting the manufacturer to make sure he was clear on how to go about removing the toilet, replacing the seals and then reattaching everything. And all that research paid off with a relatively painless process.

The one thing we were most worried about was how bad it would smell in the RV while the drain pipe was open. Actually there was little to no smell at all (we did dump the tanks first, and also added a deodorizing packet to the tank). The worst thing that happened was when we turned the water back on–we had a leak where the water line attached to the back of the toilet. The connection was supposed to be “finger tight”, but obviously that wasn’t tight enough and it required more tightening with pliers. We think that this connector was the source of our slow leak all along rather than the seals, but it was good to go ahead and do a complete maintenance job anyway on such an important piece of equipment.

If anyone is interested in seeing how the project went, we recorded most of it on the GoPro and posted it to our YouTube channel:

We had hoped to do some sight-seeing on Friday but it rained almost the entire day with only a slight pause in the afternoon, just enough time for a short walk to get some fresh air. We spent the day reading, editing the video above, housecleaning–all those normal little chores you do on a cool, rainy day.

A rainy, cloudy day at our campground

Yesterday (Saturday) it was time to go to town for groceries and supplies, as well as some birthday shopping. My 60th birthday is coming up next week, and I wanted (actually needed) a new pair of hiking shoes, as well as some long-sleeved pullover shirts for cooler weather. The forecast is calling for a big drop in temperatures on Monday, and I wanted to be ready.

So we drove into Las Cruces, and first went to Jason’s Deli for lunch. I like Jason’s because they have good meatless options on their menu, and Andy likes Jason’s because they have free ice cream for dessert. Next we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods where I picked out a pair of hiking shoes and some warm socks. Perhaps “picked out” is too strong a term–it was actually the only pair they had in my size. No problem, I liked them anyway.

Birthday gifts from the hubby–new warm clothes!

Next stop was Walmart where we did most of our grocery shopping. I also picked up three long-sleeve pullover shirts there to complete my birthday shopping. Last stop was Sprouts for some red lentils from their bulk bins. And to my delight, they also had just put out their stock of cinnamon gummy bears for the holidays–my favorite!

Even though we ate lunch at Jason’s, we still eat almost all our meals at home in the RV, and cook almost everything from scratch. Last night I used both of our Instant Pots to cook dinner, making brown rice in the 3-quart Mini Duo and red lentil curry in the 6-quart Duo. We had enough leftover for two more meals, so half went in the fridge for our next travel day, and half went in the freezer. Having leftovers in the refrigerator takes a lot of the pressure off when we pull into a new campground after a long day of driving.

Two Instant Pots for a rice and curry dinner

Today the weather is supposed to be pretty nice, so we’re hoping to do a little sightseeing. Tomorrow a cold front will arrive, dropping the temperatures by almost 25°.  The high today (Sunday) is forecast at 72°, by Tuesday the forecast high is 48°.

Now you know why I wanted those warmer shoes and shirts!

We only have two more nights here at Leasburg Dam State Park. Tuesday we will be driving north to Albuquerque where we will stay for three nights at the Enchanted Trails RV Park. While there, we will be able to pick up our mail which has been forwarded to us from our mailbox in Livingston, Texas. The mail pouch will include our absentee ballots so we can vote in the mid-term elections.

And that’s what’s going on in our lives right now. The kitties are doing fine, we’re healthy and happy, and we’re loving our new lifestyle on the road.

Stay tuned for more updates as we get ready to move to our next destination! You can also follow us on Instagram @JustCallUsNomads!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 3

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Monday, April 9 2018 – Paul B. Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

One day, this will be my full-time life.

We had the most awesome day today!

After having breakfast and using the campground showers, we left the kitties in the RV and drove down to Gulfport. We stopped in the downtown area which is a couple blocks north of Beach Boulevard, and we had lunch at Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzaria. We both ordered the lunch special which was two slices of cheese pizza and a side salad. The food was really good, but the service was very slow and inept (we weren’t the only ones that were unhappy about the wait).

After lunch we decided to walk around the downtown area for a little while. We explored Fishbone Alley, a tourist attraction made from an alleyway that has been paved with old bricks discovered after Hurricane Katrina destroyed downtown. We checked out the tile murals on the Hancock Bank. And then we found a great little authentic soda fountain and diner in the Triplett-Day Drug Store. It was so cool! Andy and I split a cherry sundae there.

From downtown Gulfport we drove east on Beach Boulevard, stopping at a lighthouse in Jones Park to check it out along with the marina. Next we pulled over on the side of the street and took a walk on the beach were we took what I believe is our best selfie ever.

We continued driving through Biloxi and found Cajun RV Park, which we decided on the spot would be our next destination. I called them to check availability for Wednesday and Thursday nights, and they said they could accommodate us.

We continued on to Ocean Springs and located the downtown area that has been turned into quaint little shops and restaurants, a full-fledged entertainment district. We looked around for a little bit but a lot of the shops were closed on Mondays. We were tempted by the pastry shop and the praline shop, but managed to avoid giving in.

We finally headed back north to the campground, stopping in Wiggins to pick up some toiletries that we needed, as well as a new box of wine. When we got here the kitties were fine, I don’t think they missed us at all.

For dinner I cooked a new dish, Spicy Jackfruit Tinga, in the Instant Pot. I added the leftover rice from our Saturday dinner, and we ate the dish in flour tortillas–pretty good, although not as thick and spicy as I had imagined it would be.

All day long, I just marveled at how nice it was to be so free and spontaneous. The walk on the beach in particular was one thing that just brought home to me the fact that by the end of this year, my life will be made up of days just like this one–exploring, taking our time, enjoying life with no time limits or restrictions–I can hardly wait!

What’s On The Menu

Only 24 hours left now until we take our first trip in our new RV, Lizzy. At lunchtime today, we went to the storage facility and removed her cover for the first time since we parked her there about five weeks ago. Now Andy is taking her out to get her filled up with gas, and is checking all the critical things like fluid levels and tire pressures.

I, on the other hand, am concentrating on the more important issues like, What are we going to eat?!

We learned from our tent camping days that it helps to come up with a menu for the trip and then take only the items needed to prepare those pre-planned meals. Not only does it ensure that you don’t forget critical ingredients, but it also helps avoid over-packing the cupboards and refrigerator with unneeded items, especially junk and snack foods.

Both Andy and I stick to a whole foods, plant-based diet, and we also avoid oils and salt. We both try to avoid refined sugars, and I also try to avoid bread and wheat products as much as possible. While we may occasionally slip up and have a small amount of dairy or eggs (desserts are my devil), we never, ever eat meat.

So our menu for camping will look a little different than what most people expect to see at a campsite, especially on Memorial Day weekend. But it’s the type of food that we enjoy and feel good about eating, and it helps keep us healthy and happy.

Here’s what we’ll be eating this weekend at Camp Lizzy:

Breakfast – We’ll start each day with refrigerator oats. This dish includes oats, chia seeds, raisins (Andy) or Craisins (me), sliced banana, fresh berries, walnuts and almond milk. I’ve already pre-made kits of the dry ingredients in ziplock bags, and each evening I’ll add mix the dry ingredients with the fruit and almond milk in a plastic container, mix it up and then store it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, it’s a sweet, filling, healthy treat to start the day, accompanied by a big mug of hot coffee. As a special treat, we’re going to have cinnamon rolls one morning.

Lunch – Lunch each day will be wraps made with hummus, shredded broccoli/carrot mix (pre-shredded from the produce section), cucumber and tomato slices and kalamata olives. We’ll have some salt-free blue corn chips and salsa on the side, and fresh fruit for dessert.

Dinner – Evening meals get more creative and varied:

  • Friday night – Grilled black bean burgers with BBQ sauce, avocado, tomato; vegetarian baked beans; corn on the cob (cooked on the grill)
  • Saturday night – Foil packets containing potatoes, onions, peppers and Tofurkey sausage links (cooked on the grill); green beans
  • Sunday night – Bomb Diggity Black Bean Rice (recipe from “Epic Vegan Instant Pot Cooking” by Derek & Hannah Howlett); broccoli

And yes, on Sunday night, we will be cooking in our Instant Pot, as all up-to-date RV’ers do. We’ve had our IP for a couple of years now, and totally love it!

Since we want to to test out all the appliances on the first trip, we’ll be using the microwave (for steamable bagged veggies), the convection oven (for cinnamon rolls), the propane stove (for heating canned baked beans), and of course the refrigerator/freezer. Woo-hoo, no ice chest!

We usually drink plain water with our meals, but we will have some beer and wine on hand as well.

Snacks will include fresh fruit (grapes, bananas, apples, tangerines), almonds, and possibly a little vegan dark chocolate.

My goal is to make it through this weekend without gaining more than one pound, preferably less. But it is a vacation after all, and we intend to enjoy ourselves, vegan-style.