Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Water Pump Mysteries, Trip Planning Tools

From Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico:

We pulled out of Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, New Mexico a week ago today and made the 278-mile drive to Elephant Butte Lake State Park. We arrived here without a reservation and found that all the first-come first-serve sites were occupied. However, there was a reservation site that was available for one night only in the same area with a great view of the lake, so we took that one for the first night. The next morning, as expected, one of the first-come first-serve sites opened up, so we moved just up the hill. The new site actually overlooks our original site, so it has the same great view of the lake. We went ahead and paid for an additional 8 nights at only $4/night for electricity since we have the annual pass.

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Changed campsites this morning. Last night we were in site #91. It’s a reservation site but since no one had it reserved we were allowed to stay there for one night. This morning it was my duty to go out scouting for a first-come first-serve site, and it just happened that site #76 had opened up this morning. In fact the camp host was in the process of tidying it up, and he held it long enough for me to go get the truck and drive it to the site. We’re moved in, and since we’re actually situated just up the hillside from the previous site, we have the same view of the lake, only now it’s in our back window. 😊 We plan to be here for 8 more nights, at least. . . . #rvlife #fulltimerv #lifeisgood #homeiswhereyouparkit

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Speaking of the lake, we were so pleased to see that the water level is up considerably since we were here a year ago. I checked online and found that the reservoir is currently at 21.6% full, which doesn’t sound that great, but when we were here a year ago, it was only 3.1% full (you can see all the stats here). The landscape looks so different this year with more of it under water. Many of the places I had hiked and photographed are no longer visible, and areas where RVers were boondocking last year are not accessible this year. That said, there are still a lot of RVs camped along the water’s edge on the new beaches, which is an awesome way to camp out here.

Last year the road went all the way to that island where I hiked and RVers boondocked. Not this year!

The area where we are camped is called Lion’s Beach. The sites have electricity and water, a covered picnic table and a fire ring. The sites are fairly close together in almost a parking lot arrangement, so there’s not a lot of privacy. It’s not our favorite camping situation, especially after spending so much time boondocking at a remote site in the forest all summer. But our neighbors have been pretty chill so it hasn’t been that bad, and we’re enjoying having access to electricity, water and a convenient dump station for a change.

We’re not doing a lot of sight-seeing around here, we’re just enjoying the view of the lake and doing some geocaching and people-watching. We did make a return visit to the Passion Pie Cafe, a local establishment that we discovered when we were here last year. In addition to being a top-notch bakery, they also serve breakfast and lunch, and their menu includes a lot of vegan and vegetarian options. The owner is the head chef, and she is generous with the samples of the baked goods. If you’re ever driving up I-25 through Truth or Consequences, it’s definitely worth your time to pop in here for lunch, but fair warning–they do close early sometimes when they have a large catering order, so you might want to call ahead.

Veggie croissant sandwich with side of pickled veggies at Passion Pie Cafe

It wouldn’t be RV life without some maintenance issues. On the Saturday night before we left Storrie Lake, we were getting ready to do the dishes when the water pump quit working. One minute there was water flowing, the next minute there wasn’t. It was 8:15 at night, not the best time for something like that to fail. Fortunately, we had an old water pump on board from when we replaced it back in January (read about it here), so Andy put the older pump (Pump #1) back online, and stuck the dead one (Pump #2) in a box and put it in the basement. Pump #1 seemed to be working fine when we left Storrie Lake, but we knew there was a pressure leak somewhere because every few minutes we would hear it activate for just a second (for those who aren’t familiar with RV water pumps, you should only hear the pump running when water is flowing through a faucet).

Since we’ve been hooked up to city water while here at Elephant Butte, we hadn’t thought much about the water pump until today because we weren’t using it. Andy was in the process of unhooking the electricity and water lines so he could drive over to the dump station when he noticed that we had water trickling out of the overflow valve on the side of the RV, meaning that our onboard water tanks were full. They weren’t full when we arrived, so the only thing we could deduce was that the city water coming in from the faucet was flowing back through the old water pump and filling the tanks. So that meant we had both a dead water pump and a leaky water pump on board and needed to get the problem resolved, most likely with a new pump.

I checked around and found an RV parts supplier here in Elephant Butte, so Andy grabbed the dead pump (pump #2) out of the basement and we drove over to O’Neill’s RV Supply, where we met Rick. Andy showed him the old pump and told him what had happened. Rick had the exact same model available for $110, but first he said he wanted to check our old one because he had never heard of one just quitting like that. He took it back to his shop and hooked it up to electricity, and immediately it came to life and spit out the water that was trapped inside it. So obviously, the pump wasn’t dead after all. After some discussion, we decided not to buy a new pump, but to try re-installing Pump #2 to replace the leaky Pump #1 (confused yet??).

So that’s what we did. Andy put Pump #2 back online, and after a couple of times flicking the switch on and off, the pump pressurized and started working again. So now, we have two things to keep an eye on: (1) Will Pump #2 stop the problem of the city water flow seeping into our onboard tanks and causing them to overflow, and (2) Will Pump #2 suddenly stop working again, and if so, is it a pump problem or an electrical switch problem?

Life is never boring in an RV.

Full moon rising over Elephant Butte Lake as seen from our campsite

We only have two more nights here in Elephant Butte, and then we’re going to head further south to Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, where we’ll close out the month of October. This is also a return visit as we were camped there last year over the Thanksgiving holidays. We’re really looking forward to walking across the border into Mexico on Thursday to celebrate my birthday at the Pink Store in Puerto Palomas, and also picking up some delicious Mexican pastries at the nearby panadería (bakery). Our New Mexico State Parks annual pass expires the end of October, and that will be our signal to start heading east to Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi for Thanksgiving.

We’ll have seventeen days of travel before we reach Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo, Mississippi where we’ll be staying over the Thanksgiving holiday. We have reservations that start on November 17, and this is the first time in over a year that we’ve had to plan our travels in order to be at a certain place on a certain date. I started looking around for some online tools to help plan the trip and settled on one called RV Trip Wizard.

RV Trip Wizard is a web-based application that lets you plan a route with a starting point, end point and stops in between. Some of the features that I really like are:

  • You can specify how far you want to drive each day (minimum, maximum and target), and the app will mark that distance on your route so you can see what city you’ll be near when you reach that limit.
  • You can specify what types of parks or campsites you want to see, based on what memberships you own (i.e. Passport America, Good Sam’s, state parks, etc), and exclude those you aren’t interested in (i.e. Thousand Trails, local parks). Then those parks show up along your route, and you can click on them to get all the details.
  • You can specify points of interest that you want to see along your route, such as museums, hospitals, hardware stores, beauty salons–you name it.
  • You can see fuel stops, dump stations, rest stops and overnight parking options along your route.
  • You enter the height and weight of your rig, and the application will show you any hazards along your route, such as low clearances or rickety bridges.
  • After you plan all the stops on your trip, you can export the trip to Google Maps, print out the step-by-step directions, or send the trip details to someone via email.

So, for instance, here’s a screenshot of the beginning stages of my trip plan for our Thanksgiving trip. I specified a target distance of 300 miles per driving day, with a minimum of 250 and a maximum of 350, so those are the circles on the map showing the mileage radius from a state park in Texas that I selected as one of our stops. By looking at the yellow circle, I can see that our target mileage would get us almost to Fort Worth on the next leg of our journey, so I can search that particular area for a campground for our next stop.

The beginnings of our trip plan for Thanksgiving

RV Trip Wizard offers a free demo of the software on their website. The annual subscription is $39 and it works on a laptop, smart phone or tablet, although it will look a little different on each device. So, for instance, you can create your trip plan on your computer and then log in on your smart phone to view it.

By the way, I’m not sponsored in any way by this company, I just think it’s a really cool tool to use. I’m a real geek, so I know I’m going to enjoy playing with this application as we plan our travels both to and from Mississippi for the holidays. I’ll be sure to check back with you in a later post to let you know how it worked out in “real life”. 🙂

So that’s life for us at the moment–all is well, everyone’s healthy and happy and looking forward to more adventures ahead.

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. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

Safe travels!!

 

Coyote Creek SP, Enchanted Circle, Geocache Trackable, Return to Storrie Lake SP, Dropping AAA

Currently at Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, New Mexico:

It’s a rainy, cool 50° Friday morning morning here at Storrie Lake State Park. We arrived back here on Wednesday after leaving Coyote Creek State Park. But let me back up and review the last week or so.

In our last blog update, we had just arrived at Coyote Creek State Park. Our primary reasons for moving to that location were the lower temperature as well as the proximity to Taos and the Enchanted Circle. We have great memories of our three-day weekend spent tent-camping in this area back in 1996, and we wanted to retrace some of our steps to see how things might have changed.

We made our first trip to Taos last Thursday, driving north from the park through Angel Fire and then west to Taos. We made a trip to Albertson’s to pick up a few groceries, but of course we spent most of our time in the historic downtown area, looking through some of the galleries and shops, and then having lunch at The Alley Cantina. This restaurant is housed in the oldest building in Taos, built in the 16th century by the Pueblo Indians. It was partially destroyed at one point, but rebuilt and occupied by the Spanish government from the 1600’s-1800’s. The south and the east walls of the kitchen, as well as the bathrooms, are the original structure. The food was really good–so good, in fact, that we visited it again several days later when we drove the Enchanted Circle.

Speaking of the Enchanted Circle, we made that drive five days later on Tuesday, entering the circle from the south at Angel Fire and then going in a counterclockwise direction.

The Enchanted Circle in northern New Mexico

The scenery was absolutely beautiful with the fall colors glowing against a bright blue sky. We saw a few things that looked familiar from our last visit in 1996, but by-and-large most of the drive seemed entirely new. We debated stopping in Red River to go through some of the shops there, but living in a small RV will totally change your affinity for shopping for souvenirs and “stuff”, so we decided to keep driving. Here’s a FAST overview of what we saw:

We timed our drive so that we arrived in Taos in time for lunch, and after looking at some menus at several lunch spots in old downtown, we wound up back at The Alley Cantina for another great lunch. And after lunch we treated ourselves to ice cream at the Rocky Mountain Candy Factory, enjoying our treats while sitting in the sun on the Plaza. We took that opportunity to take some new photos in the same position as some that we took back in 1996, just for fun:

Taos Plaza. 1996 on the left, 2019 on the right.

Besides making our scenic drives, we enjoyed several other events and activities while we were staying at Coyote Creek. It just so happened that we were in the park on the weekend they were celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the park, so they had a big fiesta and invited the surrounding community to attend and participate. They stocked the creek with more trout for fishing, provided live music for dancing, cooked hot dogs for everyone (they told us they ordered 800 hot dogs), and made a few speeches. There was a big cake that was really beautiful, and everyone had a great time. They also had a raffle, but we didn’t win anything (darn it, I was really hoping to win that annual pass!). Here’s a little sample of the day’s activities:

I went on several hikes while we were in the park. They weren’t very long trails, but they involved some climbing and provided a nice overview of the valley with the creek running through the park. I saw deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, a garter snake and a wide variety of birds.

I picked up two geocaches that were hidden in the park. The first one was hidden along one of the hiking trails on the hillside above the campground. It contained a lot of cool swag, including a mylar rescue blanket and some foot warmers. The second geocache I located a few days later was really exciting (to me!). The cache was put in place several years ago by the park staff in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the New Mexico State Park system. In that year, every state park hid a geocache within their park (although there doesn’t seem to be one in Storrie Lake??). The cache that they originally hid was in an ammo box, but at some point it disappeared. A geocacher replaced it with an Altoids tin, which also disappeared, and now it’s in an even smaller container, a pill bottle. I found the bottle, but the exciting thing was what was lying under the bottle. It was a geocaching tracking coin, the first one I have come across.

My first trackable coin!

A geocaching tracking coin, called a “trackable”, is an item that has a unique number stamped on it, which is entered in the Geocaching.com database. The owner of the coin hides it in a cache, and logs it in the system with instructions for how it should be handled by anyone who finds it. In most cases, they want you to take the coin and move it forward to a new cache, and record the new location in the system, allowing the owner to see how far the trackable has moved.

The trackable that I found originated in Slovakia in September 2017. When I checked the log, I found that it had moved from Slovakia to China, where it traveled around for quite some time. Then it was carried from China to Vancouver, BC, Canada, where it traveled around British Columbia for awhile. Then suddenly it moved from Canada to New Mexico in July 2019, where it was hidden in the cache where I found it. Now it’s my responsibility to move it forward to a new location where I’ll hide it for someone else to find. Since we’re going to be moving east soon, I have some ideas, so stay tuned to find out where I finally make the drop!

Campsite #23 at Coyote Creek State Park–shady in the morning, solar energy in the afternoon

We really enjoyed our stay at Coyote Creek State Park, even though we stayed in three different sites in the eight nights we were there. We started out site #23, a very shady, beautiful site that kept the rig cool well into the afternoon. However, the weather forecast called for some heavy winds and storms to move in on Monday, so we decided it might be safer to get out from under those big oak trees. So we moved to site #24 which was just up the hill and was out in the open. We stayed there very happily for two nights, but then we got a visit from the park director who informed us that they were going to be shutting down that entire section of the park for the winter on Monday morning and that we would need to move. He was very apologetic, saying that with all the work and preparation for the weekend fiesta, they had forgotten to put out the signs informing the public about the winter shutdown. In addition to closing down the entire south section of the park, they were closing the dump station, the Comfort Station (showers and flush toilets) and turning off all the water. So we dumped our tanks, filled our fresh water tank, and moved to our third site, #3E, where we had electricity for the last three nights we were there, which was nice.

Our third site in Coyote Creek SP, in the electric parking lot

The park itself is very well run and maintained. They actually pressure wash each of the vault toilets every day. The grounds are mowed and weed-eated (is that a word?), and the showers are kept clean. The downside is that there is only one shower for the women, and one for the men. However, we learned that they are about to begin a big expansion project which will last for about a year and a half. They will be adding more electric sites, and they will be spaced further apart than the current sites which are more like a parking lot. They will also be adding cabins for rent, more showers, and a better day-use area. We look forward to returning to this beautiful park in the future to see the improvements!

Since all the parks in the north part of the state are shutting down a lot of their services for the winter, it’s definitely time to start heading south. If you remember, about a month ago, just before we left Flagstaff, we sent in the paperwork to renew Andy’s passport. Last week we received notification that the new passport had arrived at our mail service in Livingston, Texas, so we put in an order to have our mail forwarded to Las Vegas. We needed to go to Las Vegas to stock up on groceries anyway, so we left Coyote Creek SP and returned to Storrie Lake SP on Wednesday (day before yesterday).

Our new campsite at Storrie Lake State Park, site #9S

We managed to snag a first-come first-serve site with electricity. It was kind of interesting to see how much the vibe of the park had changed in the eight days since we were last here. The weather is cooler, the park is much less crowded (hence the availability of the site with electricity), the flowers are mostly gone, and they too have shut down their Comfort Station. At least at this park they still have one water hydrant still working for filling our fresh water tank if we need it.

Yesterday was nice and sunny, although a little breezy, and we enjoyed walking around the park and visiting with our neighbors. This morning, however, it was pouring down rain when we got up, so we drove into Las Vegas and made a return trip to Charlie’s Spic & Span for breakfast, picking up some pastries to-go as usual. As it happened, our mail arrived at the Las Vegas post office early this morning so we were able to pick it up after breakfast, and we now have Andy’s new passport in hand.

Another thing that arrived in the mail was a 6-month free platinum membership in Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance program (we are already Good Sam’s members). You might remember that just before we left Flagstaff, one of our front tires on the RV started falling apart. We had roadside assistance through AAA and called them to get someone to come take off the bad tire and put on the spare. However, AAA wouldn’t cover the callout because we weren’t on a paved road. We were parked about two miles down a hard-packed gravel public road that is used every day by Fedex, UPS, school buses and all sorts of public traffic. Andy had to drive the rig two miles back down the mountain to the highway on a disintegrating tire to get AAA to cover it.

After driving two miles down the mountain, the tire was definitely gone.

So this morning, after reading over the material from Good Sam’s, I found that they WILL cover you if you’re on a hard-packed gravel public road. I called them to make sure that the cards they sent us were active. Then I called AAA and cancelled our membership with them, and explained why we were doing so. They are refunding us $70 for the prorated amount left for this year, and now we have a little more peace of mind. I’ve heard from a lot of RVers who swear by Good Sam’s roadside assistance, so I think we’ve made a good switch.

So what next?

We’re going to stay here through the weekend so we can stock up on groceries. Our next stop will be Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. We stayed there last October and loved it, so we’re looking forward to returning. We’ll try to get a first-come first-serve electric site (which is why we’re waiting until after the weekend to get there), and if there’s not one available we’ll just dry-camp down by the lake, which is not a bad option either. Because this park is further south, they still have all the facilities available, including showers, flush toilets, dump station and water.

After staying there for a bit, then we plan to head further south to Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, also a park that we visited last fall. The biggest reason we’re going back there is so we can go across the border into Mexico and have lunch at the Pink Store in Puerto Palomas for my birthday on the 17th!! Hooray!! And that’s why we were so anxious to get Andy’s passport!! 🙂

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. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

Safe travels!!

September 2019 Expense Report – 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°.

We just completed our 13th month as full-time RVers, so beginning with this post, we’ll be comparing our current month’s expenses to the same month one year ago, as well as looking at what our average expense has been for the past 12 months to see if we’re staying consistent from month to month.

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.

So let’s get started!

In September we finally pulled out of our free boondocking site in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, where we had spent the entire summer, and got back on the road. That means higher fuel costs, as well as higher camping fees since we are now staying in developed campgrounds. But we still managed to keep our costs reasonable as you’ll see below.

Camping fees + Electricity

September 2019: $93 – After leaving Flagstaff, we traveled to northern New Mexico where we took advantage of the time remaining on our annual pass to visit three different state parks. In Bluewater Lake State Park we stayed two weeks in a site with electricity ($4/night). Next we moved to Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, NM where we dry-camped on the lake shore for 7 nights (free). Finally we moved to Coyote Creek State Park near Mora, NM where we dry-camped for 6 nights (free) before we moved to a different site with electricity ($4) for the last night. This monthly amount also includes the prorated amount for our annual pass, as well as a $12 reservation fee we paid to use the online system (ReserveAmerica.com) for Bluewater Lake.

September 2018: $439 – Last year we spent the entire month of September in the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas while we took care of getting all our domicile paperwork done (mail service, TX drivers licenses and vehicle registrations, voter registration, bank account, etc). The charge included both the site rental as well as metered electricity usage.

Average for last 12 months: $112 – We kept our monthly expenses fairly low by (1) boondocking on public land, (2) buying the annual pass for the BLM LTVA for the winter in Yuma, AZ, and (3) buying the annual pass for the New Mexico State Parks where we spend the fall.

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

DUMPING FEEs

September 2019: $0 – Since we stayed in state parks that have dump stations, we didn’t have to pay to dump our tanks. That helped offset the money we paid for the campsite electricity.

September 2018: $0 – Last year, while staying at Escapees in Livingston, TX, we had full hookups, including sewer, so there were no dump fees.

Average for last 12 months: $34 – We boondocked on public land for a good portion of the year, which meant we had to drive somewhere and pay to dump the tanks.

Dumping tanks for the last time at Coyote Creek before the dump station was closed for the winter

Fuel for the RV

September 2019: $174 – Fuel costs went up this month since we started moving around again. We moved three different times, driving a total of 538 miles. We bought 68 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.57/gallon. We used approximately 3 gallons of gas to run the generator for 7 hours to operate things like the microwave/convection oven and Instant Pot while dry-camping. Our mileage after factoring in the generator usage was about 8.7 MPG.

September 2018: $61 – This was the charge for filling up the tank on the day we arrived at Escapees in Livingston and settled in for the month. The gas price at that time was $2.60/gallon.

Average for last 12 months: $136 – We were definitely over our monthly average this month ($174 vs $136) since we’re back out on the road again. That will likely be the case over the next few months as we make our way back to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, and then back to the Southwest for the winter. The yearly average includes a lot of weeks and months where we just settled in to a place and didn’t move around much, helping to keep fuel costs lower.

Fuel for the Truck

September 2019: $144 – This month we drove the truck 1,216 miles, including both the moves to new campsites as well as some sight-seeing and grocery shopping trips. We bought 56 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.59, and we got an average of 21.8 MPG.

September 2018: $159 – Even though the RV was parked in the same spot for the entire month, we did a lot of driving around in the truck, taking care of getting our domicile established, visiting friends in Houston, sight-seeing and doing our normal grocery and supplies shopping.

Average for last 12 months: $113 – The yearly average is lower because of all the months that we would stay in one spot without moving between locations. The average price that we paid over the last 12 months was $2.72/gallon.

Lunch break at the Kewa Gas station in Santa Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico

PROPANE

September 2019: $22 – We bought 8.3 gallons of propane at an average price (including taxes and fees) of $2.62/gallon. Propane is used for cooking on the stove, but when we aren’t hooked up to shore power, propane is also used for running the refrigerator, hot water heater, and for running the furnace for a short time each morning to take the chill off in the rig. Since we were plugged into electricity for two full weeks while at Bluewater Lake SP, all those items were done with electricity instead, reducing the amount of propane that we needed.

September 2018: $0 – During that month we were hooked up to electricity for the entire month and only needed propane for cooking on the stove. We had filled the tank before we arrived on September 1, and did not need to refill it again until after the month ended.

Average for last 12 months: $40 – Propane costs per gallon have been all over the board this year, depending on where we were staying. Over the winter in Yuma, it was $3.76/gallon. In May when we stayed just south of the Grand Canyon, it was $4.80/gallon in Tusayan since there was only one provider. Over the summer in Flagstaff, we paid $2.83/gallon at Tractor Supply, which was nice!

groceries

September 2019: $512

September 2018: $444

Average for last 12 months: $496

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, both salt-free. We do almost all our grocery shopping at Walmart because of the prices and because the selection is consistent across the area in which we travel.

We buy a LOT of produce when we go grocery shopping.

dining out

September 2019: $231 – We didn’t eat out as many times this month, but the places we visited were a little more expensive. We found the Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant in Gallup that was amazing, as well as The Alley Cantina in Taos which was so good that we already visited it again this month (October). But our favorite find was Charlie’s Spic & Span Bakery and Cafe in Las Vegas (NM) where we ate twice. Their breakfasts are off the chain, and not that expensive–but we always picked up several of their fresh-baked pastries to bring home with us for later, and that made it a little more pricey. Worth every penny, though!

Just one of the pastry cases at Charlie’s that keep us coming back

September 2018: $217 – While staying at Escapees in Livingston, we didn’t eat out that often, but we did attend the weekly all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast ($5/person) held in the Care Center at the RV Park. 🙂 We also met friends from Houston for lunch and dinner, so that was a little on the pricier side for us.

Average for last 12 months: $245 – We really don’t eat out as much as we used to when we lived in our sticks-and-bricks house. Much of the time we’re boondocking out in the middle of nowhere, so it’s just easier to cook our meals in the rig. But when we do decide to splurge, we try to pick places that have great meatless options, and then we become repeat customers.

NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂

household / furnishings

September 2019: $36 – This was just the usual paper products, kitchen supplies, etc. for the rig.

September 2018: $72 – In our first month of full-time RV living, we had to pick up a few items that we didn’t know we needed, like a whisk broom, chemical fresheners for the toilet, and a small room fan for the Texas heat. This was in addition to the usual paper and cleaning products.

Average for last 12 months: $123 –  This includes the purchase of a new memory foam mattress ($496) in April 2019 to replace the original mattress that came with the RV. That was one of the best decisions we made this year when it comes to comfort and relaxation.

After leaving the dust of Flagstaff, I had to pull everything out and clean the entire rig.

petcare

September 2019: $49 – food and litter (twice)

September 2018: $73 – Included purchase of flea treatment, needed in the hot and humid areas of Texas and the Southeast

Average for last 12 months: $53, which in addition to food and litter, includes checkups for both kitties at the Apollo Animal Hospital in Glendale, Arizona while we were there for the Christmas holidays.

verizon cellphone / internet

September 2019: $282 – This number 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 in October, the monthly charge should drop by about $30/month unless the plan rates go up.

September 2018: $245 – We were on a different plan at the time with a lower data limit. We soon found out that we needed a different plan. 🙂

Average for the last 12 months: $273

mail forwarding

September 2019: $0 – We did not have any mail forwarded to us in September (although we did put in a request on September 30 and it’s being delivered to the post office in Las Vegas on Friday, October 4).

September 2018: $0 – Since we were staying at the Escapees RV Park in Livingston for the entire month, we were able to pick up our mail daily at their mail processing headquarters right there in the park.

Average for the last 12 months: $28 – We typically have one, sometimes two, shipments of mail sent to us, although we’ve been going longer and longer between shipments as we handle almost everything electronically now.

Laundry

September 2019: $12 – We made one trip to the laundromat in Las Vegas where we did three loads of laundry.

September 2018: $25 – We did laundry at the Escapees RV park where the machines were reasonably priced, but we had to do it more often because of the high heat and humidity. We sweated through everything, and every piece of bedding and bath linen would get damp and musty, so we spent more on laundry than normal.

Monthly average: $21 – Since we’ve been on the road, we typically do laundry about every three weeks, unless there’s a cat pee emergency.

The laudromat in Las Vegas checks the boxes–clean, machines work, not overpriced, and not crowded

attractions / entertainment

September 2019: $74 – Just the monthly subscriptions to Hulu, Spotify, Audible, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, etc., but I also bought a new pair of Bluetooth earbuds. We visited the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, but got in free on Andy’s senior pass, only paying $2 for a printed guide.

September 2018: $80 – In addition to the monthly subscriptions listed above, we visited Lake Livingston State Park where they charge an entry fee just to drive through ($10), we visited the free breakfast buffet at the local casino and then spent $10 to play the machines, and one of us purchased a Kindle book on Amazon.

Average for last 12 months: $79 – We’ve kept this fairly low because of the Senior Lifetime Pass that Andy has for the National Parks, Monuments and Forests. We got free entry to the Grand Canyon (multiple times), White Sands National Monument, and several others, as well as half off the camping fee when we stayed near Prescott. And the pass only cost him $10–for life!! (It’s $80 now, but still a bargain!)

Touring the ruins at Chaco Culture National Historic Park

memberships

September 2019: $0

September 2018: $0

Average for the last 12 months: $34 – This includes things like AAA Roadside Assistance, Costco, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Amazon Prime. We are also members of Passport America which gets us discounts at RV parks, but we’re already paid several years in advance. We were also members of Harvest Hosts this year, but elected not to renew that membership since we only used it once.

Equipment for RV

September 2019: $17 – deep socket set, tent pegs to stake down the awning in windy conditions

September 2018: $77 – water hose and nozzle, roll of Reflectix to cover the windows and reduce the heat in the RV, 6-gallon water jug to hold extra drinking water when boondocking

Average for last 12 months: $387 – The majority of this figure is from the November 2018 purchase of our solar system, which is comprised of three 100-watt solar panels and a 100 amp hour Kodiak solar generator which we purchased as a kit, two 100 amp hour Battle Born lithium batteries, a Morningstar solar charge controller, and all the cables and wiring to connect everything. It was a big investment, but this system is what allows us to boondock and dry camp without hookups, saving us thousands of dollars in campground and RV park fees.

Enjoying a sunset by the water of Storrie Lake

RV Maintenance & REpairs

September 2019: $33 – Replaced the air admittance valve (and bought a spare) to get rid of the funky odor coming from the black tank.

September 2018: $4

Average for last 12 months: $143 – Includes higher-than-normal expenses in August 2019 for generator repair, two new tires on the front, and an oil change and air filter.

truck maintenance & repairs

September 2019: $12 – Had the truck washed after leaving our campsite in Flagstaff, which was constantly in a cloud of dust from passing traffic.

September 2018: $13 – Had to purchase a license plate holder for the front of the truck since Texas uses two plates instead of one.

Monthly average for last 12 months: $7

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 109K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.

Vehicle insurance

We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. For this past year, we paid $57/mo for the RV for full-timer’s insurance. That has increased to $60/mo beginning in September for the next year.

For the Tacoma, our insurance was $40/mo for the first six months, and then in March, it increased $49/mo. When it renewed this month, it went up to $51/mo for the next six months.

VEhicle License and registration

Our annual license and registration for the RV when we first registered it in September 2018 was $260 (prorated at $22/mo on our monthly reports). For the truck it was $201 ($17/mo). Since this was the first year we registered the vehicles in Texas, there was an extra $95 charge on each vehicle to transfer them from out-of-state. When we renewed the registrations in September 2019, the expenses for the next year came in at $134 ($11/mo) for the RV and $75 ($6/mo) for the truck.

Our second of three different sites at Coyote Creek State Park

Summary

So our RV Living expenses for September 2019 & 2018 and the past 12 months were:

September 2019: $1,820

September 2018: $2,043

Monthly average for the last 12 months: $2,462

Like I said, this does not include personal expenses like gifts, charitable contributions, grooming and haircuts, clothing, medical expenses or health insurance–things that really aren’t a function of our RV lifestyle, per se. Those types of expenses can vary wildly from person to person, so we don’t include them in this monthly report.

So we had pretty decent results last month, even though we did start moving around again. The increase in fuel and camping fees expense were somewhat offset by savings on propane and dumping fees. It will be interesting to see what happens to these numbers over the fall months, as we have a lot of travel ahead of us. We’ll be traveling between state parks in New Mexico during October, and then in November we’ll head east across Texas and Louisiana, into Mississippi to be with my family for Thanksgiving (hooray!!). And then we’ll turn right around on December 1 and head back out west to the BLM LTVA near Yuma, Arizona where we stayed last winter. So that’s a lot of driving (i.e. fuel + camping fees) coming up in November and December.

Currently we’re parked (again) at Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Our mail is due to be delivered on Friday, October 4, and then we’ll head out to Elephant Butte State Park near Truth or Consequences, NM on Monday. We’re staying here over the weekend because we don’t have reservations at Elephant Butte, and weekends are not the best times to show up at a state park without a reservation. We’re hoping to get a site with electricity when we get there, but if there’s not one available we will just dry-camp down by the lake. Either one is a great option!

If you’re interested in our monthly expense reports or just our daily adventures, 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. We also have a YouTube channel where we post occasional short videos of things we’ve seen or done–you can check it out by clicking here!

Safe travels!!

Storrie Lake Kite-Surfers, Old Flour Mills, Move to Coyote Creek State Park

Currently at Coyote Creek State Park near Guadalupita, New Mexico:

We thoroughly enjoyed our one-week stay at Storrie Lake State Park just outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico. If you remember from our last post, we had originally intended to only spend one night there, just to break up the drive from Bluewater Lake SP to Coyote Creek SP. But once we got there and wound up dry camping in the primitive section near the lake, we knew we wanted to stay at least a week.

The first few days were pretty laid back, just checking out the area and people-watching. There was no shade where we were parked; but even though the sun was pretty intense, there was always a good breeze blowing off the lake right through our RV. We even left a couple of windows open a bit at night, making ideal conditions for a good night’s sleep.

The only negative about the site were the swarms of little pale green flying insects that surrounded us whenever the wind wasn’t blowing. Somehow they would manage to get into the rig after dark, attracted by our interior lights, even though we have screens on all the openings. Fortunately they didn’t sting or bite, and they didn’t seem to be attracted to food. Once we turned off the lights to go to bed, they disappeared.

On Friday morning, several vehicles parked near the lakeshore, and the people in them began unpacking and setting up kite-surfing equipment. By lunchtime, there were four people outfitted in wetsuits, and they began hitting the water. The first two, a girl and a guy, seemed to be the least experienced, so they had some problems getting started. But the other two guys were obviously old hands at this sport, and we really enjoyed watching them zip across the water and take flight on the turns.

One of the group also brought out a sailboard and spent some time on the water zipping from one end of the lake to the other. They had picked a perfect day for it, as the winds were steady at about 16-17 MPH, gusting to 24-25 MPH.

I put together a few video clips of the show they provided that afternoon:

Most of the group wound up staying overnight on the beach, sleeping in their vehicles. The next day (Saturday) some more people joined them, and they spent another day on the water. We would have loved to watch some more, but we had different plans for the day–a day trip to see an old grinding mill.

I had checked TripAdvisor.com to find some things that we might want to see in the area, and they recommended the Cleveland Roller Mill Museum. The description sounded interesting so we made the 26-mile drive to the mill, just north of Mora, New Mexico. But when we got there we found out that they were closed for the season. We were still able to walk around the outside of the mill, and it was a beautiful, bucolic setting with the green grass, the blue sky, and the orange-red adobe of the mill building with its large water wheel. In the background we could hear the stream running behind the mill, and even though the water was not currently being directed to the water wheel, we could imagine what it must look like when the wheel is turning.

The Cleveland Roller Mill Museum, only open from Memorial Day through Labor Day

Since we couldn’t tour the museum we decided to drive back into Mora and visit a local diner we had passed on the way in. We love little local diners, and this one advertised ice cream, one of our shared weaknesses. So we drove to Rene’s 50’s Diner and Little Alaska Ice Cream Parlor for an afternoon snack. The inside was full of all sorts of 50’s memorabilia, and we found out that all of it was donated by their customers. They actually had one whole room totally devoted to Elvis. There was even a copy of the poster for the 2014 Elvis Festival in Tupelo, which matches the T-shirt that Andy received for volunteering at that very same festival. We each had an ice cream sundae, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting the locals who worked there.

Andy waiting for his custom sundae order at Rene’s 50’s Diner and Little Alaska Ice Cream Parlor in Mora, NM

As we were making our way back toward Storrie Lake, we decided to stop at another interesting-looking place we had passed by on our way to Cleveland. We had seen some large adobe structures at a curve in the road that was marked “La Cueva”, so we decided to check it out on the way back. Turned out it was another old mill with a water wheel (at one time a lot of wheat was produced in this area), and this one has been preserved as a sort of tourist attraction. While you cannot go inside the mill, they do have a cafe, some gardens and a store. The property is now a raspberry farm, so they sell fresh raspberries as well as things like raspberry salsa and preserves. We bought some of the salsa and can attest that it is delicious.

La Cueva Mill, located on what is now a raspberry farm

Even though we were really enjoying our stay at Storrie Lake–easy access to shopping in Las Vegas, beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the lake, hot showers and flush toilets–we still wanted to visit Coyote Creek. For one thing, the higher altitude would be cooler, but primarily we wanted to get closer to Taos and the Enchanted Circle so we could visit that area again.

So on Monday we spent a good portion of the day doing laundry at the Mills Plaza Laundromat, and then getting groceries and supplies at Walmart. Then yesterday morning, we made another visit to Charlie’s Spic and Span Bakery and Cafe, where we had a great breakfast and picked up a few pastries to bring home with us. Then we packed up the rig, drove it into town to get gas and top off the propane tank, and then we headed north to Coyote Creek State Park.

The drive north was so beautiful, passing through several small mountain communities that look like something from another time and place. There are tiny churches, abandoned adobe structures that are almost dissolved back into the earth, and pastures of cattle, horses and goats. The road twists and turns as it climbs higher into the mountains, and the scenery is just breathtaking.

We arrived at Coyote Creek State Park a little after lunchtime yesterday. We elected to forego parking in one of the electric hookup sites because it pretty much looks like a parking lot with RVs parked side-by-side with hoses and cords running everywhere. Instead we drove further back into the campground and found a first-come first-serve dry-camping spot where we could tuck the rig under some shade trees and hear the creek running at night. Since our annual pass is still active, we don’t have to pay anything for the spot, and we can stay here for up to 14 days.

Campsite #23 at Coyote Creek State Park–shady in the morning, solar energy in the afternoon

The campground has vault toilets throughout the area, but they also have flush toilets, hot showers and free wi-fi at the Comfort Station near the entrance. The only downside to our spot is that it’s fairly close to the dump station, and when the wind shifts we sometimes get a faint whiff of the “facilities”. But the staff and crew at this Park are some of the hardest working we’ve seen anywhere–they are constantly coming around to clean, mow, weed-eat, and check on everything. Kudos to them!

Nothing more relaxing than the sound of a mountain creek

Of course, we think one reason they’re keeping the place looking so spiffy right now is because this weekend they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this park. They’re going to have live music, hot dogs and cake, ranger talks, speeches from local dignitaries, etc. They’re even stocking the creek with more trout for fishing. So they’re working hard to get things ready for the festivities. The real test will be next week after everyone leaves–will it still be as well-maintained? Stay tuned to find out!!

So far we’ve seen squirrels, chipmunks and a garter snake, as well as trout and crawfish in the creek. There are cougars and bears in the area, so all the trash receptacles in the park are heavy-duty with locking mechanisms, and there are bear boxes for food in the tent-camping area. They say there are also raccoon, deer and elk that come through the campground, so we’re hoping we see a lot of wildlife while we’re here (although I’d rather not encounter a cougar or bear on the trails).

Coyote Creek runs close to our campsite, and seems to offer some good fishing, or so we’ve been told

This afternoon I went on a short hike on a trail that leads along the mountainside above the campground. Along the way, I picked up my 43rd geocache, which was a cool way to combine some exercise with my favorite hobby. The trail provided a beautiful overlook into the valley below, with the creek running through the middle of it.

Geocache #43 was a pretty easy find, once I found the right trail

I could definitely tell that I’ve lost some of my acclimitization to exercising in higher altitudes in the three weeks since we left Flagstaff. We’re currently at just under 7700′, not quite as high as we were in the Coconino National Forest, but closer than we were at our last two locations. So hopefully I can do this same trail several more times while we’re here and get some of my lung power back.

I remember when we last visited Taos back in 1996, we had flown into Albuquerque, rented a car, spent a night in a tent in a state park just northeast of Santa Fe, and then we took the “scenic route” to Taos because it was supposed to be so much prettier than the main highway. Of course, this was before the time of GPS navigation on cell phones–we were going strictly off of paper maps. Somehow we wound up getting lost on a dirt road that led us into a little mountain village where we had to stop and wait for a herd of sheep to cross the road.

I really think that we are somewhere in the same general area right now, but of course roads have been paved in the years since, and people are a little more connected and their lives have been modernized to some extent. But the scenery looks much the same, and I can’t wait to drive on into Taos, Angel Fire, Red River and other places along the Enchanted Circle in the next week or so while we’re here.

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. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

 

 

Oasis in Gallup, High-Risk Geocaching, Move to Storrie Lake SP, Breakfast at Charlie’s

From Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, New Mexico:

We’ve had a busy few days since our last update. It began with a funky smell in the RV. If you remember from our last post, we had begun to notice that whenever the air conditioner ran we would get a bad odor that seemed to be coming from the black tank. So we decided to replace the air admittance valve under the bathroom sink, which usually solves the problem. The closest place to pick one up was Home Depot in Gallup, about 50 miles away, so we decided to make a day of it.

On Friday we drove to Gallup and hit the Home Depot first, where we picked up two air admittance valves, along with some miscellaneous hardware that Andy needed to secure the shroud on the A/C unit on the roof. Next, we decided to have lunch before going to Walmart for groceries. I had done a little research on Yelp.com and HappyCow.com to see what options there might be in Gallup for a couple of plant-based eaters, and I was surprised to see a Mediterranean restaurant listed–and it got great reviews. So we decided to check out Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant.

When we found it, we weren’t sure we were in the right place. The building appears to be an old drive-in, which is not surprising since it’s on old Route 66. Happily, this provides covered parking that kept our truck shaded while we ate lunch.

Entrance to Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant in Gallup NM

The interior of the restaurant is light and airy, very clean and inviting. We were seated at a table and given menus from which to order, along with a small plate of appetizers (olives, peppers and pickled radishes). We both ordered the Vegetarian Plate, which included hummos, baba ghanouj, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, salad, and unlimited pita bread. The food was absolutely delicious–probably the best Mediterranean food we’ve ever had, and we’ve had plenty.

The Vegetarian Plate at Oasis in Gallup NM

Next, we had to try their desserts. We decided to pass on the baklava in favor of something we had never tried before. I had the kunafa, which was shredded phyllo dough soaked in a sugar-syrup, layered over sweet cheese and served warm. It was delicious, but Andy had to help me finish it. He ordered the maamoul, which was a shortbread pastry filled with pistachios. He also ordered a Turkish coffee, which we haven’t had since we lived in Houston and frequented a Lebanese restaurant near Rice Village.

The kunafa dessert at Oasis in Gallup NM

I can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed our meal at Oasis, and judging by the number of customers they had both dining in and picking up to-go orders, the city of Gallup must appreciate them also. We can understand why they get such good reviews on Yelp!

After we finished lunch we went to Walmart to do our regular grocery shopping, and then headed back home. Andy got the new air admittance valve installed after a few choice words and a little sweat (the old valve didn’t want to come off), and it seems to have alleviated the odor problem for the most part (my nose is a little more sensitive than his).

I did a little more geocaching over the weekend, with limited success. I had already picked off the easier find, and the rest were all hidden somewhere in the nearby canyon. I started my search on Saturday with the one hidden closest to us, which, according to my app, was at the bottom of the canyon just below us. I had to make the short climb down the switchback trail on the side of the canyon , which wasn’t nearly as scary as it was the first time I did it. Once I reached the canyon floor next to the creek, it only took me about ten minutes to find the cache, sign the log and swap some swag.

The last cache I found at Bluewater Lake State Park

I was keeping an eye on the weather since it was getting cloudy, but since I found that first cache so quickly, I decided to go for a second one. The next closest one, according to the app, was less than a quarter mile away, but it involved hiking past it, crossing the creek, and then doubling back on the opposite side of the creek. When I got to the area where the app showed the cache was located, it was very brushy (an old beaver dam), and I had no luck finding anything. It didn’t help that the GPS on the app on my iPhone kept bouncing around, taking me from one spot to another, walking me in circles. The cache itself was listed as a “micro”, so it was going to be very small anyway. I decided that the most prudent thing to do since it was looking more and more like rain was to cut my losses and get back out of the canyon before the rain started. So I logged that one as a “Did Not Find”. 😦

Geocaches located near our campsite at Bluewater Lake State Park

It rained almost all day on Sunday, and we spent the day inside the rig reading on our Kindles, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube. On Monday I was ready to get out and do a little more exploring since it was our last full day at Bluewater Lake. I decided to hunt for a geocache that appeared in the app to be near the Dam Overlook trail where we had hiked before. The app did say that the cache should be approached from the bottom of the canyon and that it was a steep and rocky climb, but I had no intention of going back to the bottom of the canyon since it had rained so much the day before, and it was pretty wet and marshy down there. I was hoping I might be able to safely climb DOWN to it from above.

There’s a geocache hidden somewhere on the side of that cliff. I decided not to try to climb down to it from the top.

When I got to the spot on the trail where I was right above the cache, it became obvious that the climb down was not going to be an easy one. I actually started making my way down the side of the cliff, but then the part of my brain where intelligence and common sense reside began to drown out the part of my brain where competitiveness and the sense of adventure were talking me into doing something pretty risky. My “common sense” brain said “What will this do to your mama if you slide off the side of this cliff for no good reason?”. My “intelligent” brain said “You still haven’t made sure that Andy knows how to access all the login and password information for all our financial accounts.” So I turned around and got back onto the trail where I belonged. I’ll leave that particular cache to someone else to find. I finished up by hiking the trail around the top side of the cliff to a really nice overlook of the dam, and then headed back to the rig after getting some good exercise, which was my primary objective anyway.

This cliff-side trail provided a great overlook of the dam and the lake

And just like that, our two weeks at Bluewater Lake State Park came to an end. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there, but it was time to move on, even though I’m not sure they would enforce the 14-day maximum stay since the park had plenty of available sites. We were ready to see something new.

Our plan was to travel to Coyote Creek State Park, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, but to stop at Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas for an overnight stay to break up the drive a little bit. We also wanted to stock up on groceries and supplies in Las Vegas because Coyote Creek State Park is kind of in the middle of nowhere.

So yesterday was a travel day (which I love!). By the time we both got breakfast, cleaned up the dishes, got things stowed away and secured, dumped the tanks and refilled the fresh water, it was about 10:30 AM. It was a beautiful day for driving as we headed east on I-40 toward Albuquerque, and then turned north on I-25 toward Santa Fe.

We stopped for gas and a lunch break at a Phillips station on the Santo Domingo Pueblo northeast of Albuquerque. I love being able to pull the rig into an empty lot and then just have a normal lunch of fresh salad, beans and avocado. And then we can use our own bathroom, listen to our own music or watch whatever we want on YouTube while we relax before hitting the road again. It keeps us healthier and happier, and it’s easier on our wallets than eating out on the road!

Lunch break at the Kewa Gas station in Santa Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico

We arrived at Storrie Lake State Park around 3:30 PM yesterday. We were hoping to snag a first-come first-serve site with electricity, but they were all full. We could have gotten a site with a water hookup and a shelter with a picnic table for free with our annual pass, but we decided to do something different. They have a large open area next to the lake for Primitive Camping, which basically means you can park wherever you want, but there are no hookups or shelters. Since we already had a full water tank, a solar system and a generator, we opted to dry camp next to the lake. We found a nice level spot, parked the rig where we could see the lake from the large window over our dining table, and settled in for an overnight stay.

Dry camping on the shore of Storrie Lake near Las Vegas, NM

We were afraid that it might be too warm since there’s no shade (we’re at an altitude of 6600′), but there’s such a nice cool breeze coming off the lake that it wasn’t a problem. We just opened all the windows in the rig and enjoyed the afternoon. We ran the generator just long enough to make spaghetti in the Instant Pot for dinner. The sunset was beautiful, and by the time we went to bed we were starting to have second thoughts about our plan to move on to Coyote Creek today.

Travel day comes to an end at Storrie Lake near Las Vegas, NM

Before we turned in for the night, I asked Andy if he might want to go out somewhere in Las Vegas for breakfast before doing our grocery shopping. He didn’t sound very enthusiastic, but told me to find a place. We do that a lot–go out for a big brunch before grocery shopping so we’re not hungry again until dinnertime, and I thought it might work out well since we were supposedly going to be on the road to Coyote Creek SP around lunchtime.

I checked online (Yelp and TripAdvisor) for a good recommendation for breakfast with some vegetarian/vegan options, and the number one-rated place was Charlie’s Spic & Span Bakery and Cafe. I looked at their menu and it looked pretty good, so that’s where I took Andy for breakfast.

Breakfast at Charlie’s Spic & Span in Las Vegas, NM

When he woke up this morning, he was a little grumpy and still a little wiped out from the drive yesterday. But when we walked in to Charlie’s, his whole demeanor changed in a heartbeat, thanks to a big display case of some of the best-looking doughnuts, eclairs, apple fritters, cinnamon rolls, and various kinds of pastries that we’ve ever seen.

Andy discussing the pastries with the staff at Charlie’s

Charlie’s is one of the coolest places we’ve ever eaten on any of our travels. It has a retro feel to it (back to Route 66), with colorful chairs and booths for seating and lots of quirky art and murals on the walls. They brew Starbucks coffee, and they make their tortillas fresh right where you can watch them as they bake.

Andy ordered a the Douglas Avenue omelet (veggie) which came with potatoes. I ordered the Spanish Skillet, which was potatoes and two eggs with diced green chiles, onion and tomatoes, topped with cheese. Both came with fresh tortillas. The food was absolutely delicious, and we were both stuffed when we went to the check-out counter–but we still picked out some doughnuts to bring home with us for a treat later.

The Spanish skillet at Charlie’s Spic & Span

And while we were enjoying our meal at Charlie’s, we decided that really liked our camping spot and wanted to have more time to explore this area, especially if there are more places like Charlie’s!! So we went ahead and got our groceries, came home to the rig and settled in for a longer stay.

We’re not sure if we’ll stay here for the maximum 14 days. The peak season in this park ends on September 30, and then they’ll shut down the Comfort Station (where the showers and flush toilets are located), so that only the vault toilets will be available. Also, the dump station here is out of service “until further notice”, so if we stay here longer than six or seven days, we’ll need to leave the park anyway to dump the tanks. There’s a dump station at the nearby Love’s Truck Stop that we can use, or we might just move on up to Coyote Creek for a few days. We would like to visit Taos while we’re up in this area–the last time we were there was in September 1996 when we were still tent camping. Ah, to be that young again! 😉

Tent-camping in New Mexico in late September 1996–it was COLD!

But that’s the great thing about this lifestyle–we can change our plans on a dime when dictated by the weather, rig issues, or even a good doughnut shop. It’s why we rarely make reservations anywhere anymore. As long as we have our solar panels and the generator, we can find a place to spend the night, assuming we don’t venture into a large city which is something we have no intention of doing.

So for now, we’re enjoying another day of sunshine and cool breezes on the shore of Storrie Lake near Las Vegas, New Mexico, where we’re happy, healthy and full of doughnuts–yeah, we’ve already eaten the ones we brought home from Charlie’s this morning. 🙂

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. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

 

 

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

From Bluewater Lake State Park near Prewitt, New Mexico:

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

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

View of the dam from the opposite side of the lake

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

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

Beginning of the Canyonside Trail in Bluewater Lake SP

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

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

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

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

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

Lush foliage along the Dam Trail and Bluewater Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in full-time RV living. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. And you can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

Safe travels!!

 

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.

The Wedding Cache, End of Hiking, September Travel Plans Made

From Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona:

It’s still definitely summer here at 8,100′, although the daytime temperatures rarely exceed 81° or 82°. There hasn’t been any rain for several weeks, ever since the very-timely week of moisture that came through the area just in time to help battle the Museum Fire back in late July. Everything is covered in dust again, both inside and outside the rig and it’s a constant battle to keep things wiped down and swept up. But when we look at the weather in other parts of the U.S., we feel blessed to have been here this summer where temperatures have been moderate and the skies have been blue.

Andy’s still hiking from time to time, as long as it’s downhill both ways! 🙂

It had been awhile since I had gone geocaching. According to the geocaching app, there were only three caches that were located within what for me is walking distance from our campsite, and I’ve already found all three of those. There are many more that are hidden in places that are just a short drive away. I saw an interesting-looking one on the app that was located not far from the trailhead on Snowbowl Road, just about a ten minute drive from our campsite, and I talked Andy into going with me to look for it.

According to the notes in the app, the cache was hidden by a couple near the location where they had been married a year earlier, in celebration of their first wedding anniversary. It was a .3-mile walk from the trailhead, and then a left turn up into the trees and rocks. The GPS coordinates got us to the general area but then we had to search high and low among all the boulders and fallen trees. I finally found it hidden among the roots of a huge downed pine tree, covered with some smaller pieces of wood.

Hard to see, but there’s an ammo box geocache hidden in there.

The cache was an ammo box (one of my favorite containers to find because they have lots of room for swag), and it was in great condition. I signed the log and left a plastic bunny that I had found at another geocache when we first arrived here (I know this bunny has some pop-culture significance, but I don’t know what it is). In return, I took a crocheted heart from the cache.

I left the bunny and took the crocheted heart from the Wedding Cache.

When I got back home I read the tag on the heart and found that it was one of thousands that are being scattered around the world by an organization called The Peyton Heart Project (peytonheartproject.net). The hearts each have an uplifting, encouraging message written on the attached tag, and are intended to be a morale booster to anyone who might be considering suicide or self-harm. The organization was founded in memory of a kid named Peyton who took his own life after being bullied. They are always looking for volunteers both to crochet the hearts and also to distribute them. If you’re good with a crochet needle, check them out. NOTE: For those who don’t know how to crochet, they also make the hearts by just wrapping yarn around a cardboard heart-shaped template.

After we found the geocache, we did some more hiking on the Viet Springs trail, looking for an old cabin that was supposed to be down there. We found the memorial boulder at the fork in the trail, but we didn’t go far enough to get to the cabin since it would have been even more of a strenuous uphill return climb, and the hubby isn’t as used to hiking as I am.

I was still enjoying my daily morning hikes through the forest around here–that is, until my last hike on Friday morning. I chose one of my favorite routes that should have been quiet and peaceful with a good chance to spot some deer (along with the cows that are now scattered throughout the woods). But as I hiked along, I noticed that there were more campers and four-wheelers than usual along the trail, even for a Friday morning. I  also came across a guy cutting up firewood with a chainsaw. Not exactly the peaceful, quiet hike that I was anticipating.

Summer thistles are starting to fade now, but still colorful.

But things got a lot less “serene” when I was about a half-mile from our rig on my return. I saw a red pickup truck in a small clearing off the trail, and there was a young couple kneeling on the ground next to a tree, and at first I thought they were setting up a tent because it looked like he was pounding in tent stakes. But as I drew nearer, I saw that they had a deer carcass strung up by its hoof to a tree, and they were butchering it on the ground.

Hike ruined.

Now, I know that people have hunted wildlife for ages in order to feed their families. I don’t eat meat anymore, but I get it. I have brothers who are avid hunters, and I grew up in a culture where hunting was celebrated. What I failed to realize was that the archery hunting season had opened Friday morning, and that’s why there were so many people in the woods that day. All I could think about was that deer, strung up to a tree, being eviscerated right on my hiking path. It was probably one of the deer that I had seen so often on my walks, possibly one that had visited our campsite on multiple occasions.

I see deer in the woods on almost every hike, and they occasionally visit our campsite.

So now, I’ve lost all my desire to hike through the forest here. I feel like we’re camped in the middle of a hunting ground–which we are. Hopefully most of the hunters are only here for the weekend and they’ll head home today. But there will be some who will remain here, and then next weekend is Labor Day weekend, which I’m sure will bring even larger crowds into this area, riding their four-wheelers with their weapons, looking to bag one of “my” deer. The whole thing has left me depressed and unsettled.

We were already planning to start traveling again in September, but the opening of hunting season has set the wheels in motion, even though the weather is still nicer here than it will be anywhere else we go. But yesterday we did some research and made some travel plans.

We’ll be pulling out of here on September 3, the day after Labor Day, and heading to New Mexico. We’ve made reservations for three nights at Bluewater Lake State Park, located off I-40 near Prewitt, New Mexico at an elevation of 7,554′. We chose this location for several reasons: (1) we’ll have electrical hookups so we can run the air conditioner if needed, (2) there are showers and a dump station onsite, (3) there’s a lake, and (4) we’ll only have to pay $4/day for the electricity since we still have an active New Mexico State Parks annual pass. I wanted a site with access to electricity and water so that I can spend one day giving the rig a deep cleaning after being in this dust for so long. Only 14 of the 149 sites in this park have electricity, so reservations were essential even if there was a $12 fee just to make the reservation on the online system, ReserveAmerica (such a ripoff!).

After our three nights are up there, depending on the weather, we will most likely head up to the Durango, Colorado area to do a little boondocking in the San Juan National Forest. Or we might decide to just snag a first-come first-serve site at the same state park where we’ll already be. No need to plan TOO far ahead! 🙂

September travel plans, subject to change according to the weather.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here in the Flagstaff area this summer, and are already talking about coming back here next year. But who knows, a lot of things can change between now and then, including weather patterns. This year there was an above-average amount of snow and rain in the winter and spring here in the Southwest which made everything very lush. That could be very different next year, and temperatures could be much warmer. We shall see!

Tomorrow is our official 1-year anniversary of our full-time RV lifestyle! One year ago tomorrow, we moved out of our sticks-and-bricks house and into our RV, and then parked it at nearby Tombigbee State Park just outside of Tupelo while we finished emptying the house for the closing three days later.

This year has flown by like a rocket! We have absolutely no regrets about our decision to downsize and live on the road, and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us!

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!

 

RV Expense Report – December 2017

Happy New Year, everyone, from our campsite in the BLM Pilot Knob LTVA in Winterhaven, California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. We hope your 2018 was as exciting and fulfilling as ours was, and that this new year brings you nothing but great things! Get out there and make it happen!!

Now it’s time for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life.

First, a reminder of the caveats. 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 fourth 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 spent the majority of December boondocking (camping without hookups) in Arizona on BLM land. We spent the week leading up to Christmas in a mobile home/RV park in Glendale, AZ where we had full hookups, so we could take care of some maintenance items and also visit with some friends. We got our solar system set up and running and it’s already reducing the our boondocking expenses by cutting our generator hours way back, but it did require some additional expenditures for the month.

That said, here’s how the expenses stacked up.

Camping fees + Electricity

October: $323 (7 different locations, but primarily in state parks at $4/night.) We bought the $225 annual pass for the New Mexico State Parks which is actually good for 13 months. For purposes of this monthly expense report, we’re pro-rating that cost over 13 months.)

November: $137 (Nov 1-3 @ Elephant Butte SP, Nov 4-17 @ Leasburg Dam SP, Nov 18-30 @ Pancho Villa SP, all at $4/night on annual pass. Expense number also includes prorated cost of the annual pass.)

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.)

Four month average: $266

Setting up camp at sunset at Pilot Knob LTVA

DUMPING FEES

October: $0

November: $0

December: $16 (While boondocking we had to pay to dump our tanks at the Pilot/Flying J stations.)

Four month average: $4

Fuel for the RV

October: $452 (Drove 1,335 miles, 0 generator hours, 8.3 MPG)

November: $79 (Drove 172 miles, 0 generator hours, 8.8 MPG)

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.

Four month average: $240

Fuel for the Truck

October: $245 (21.5 MPG)

November: $52 (17.7 MPG)

December $221 (20.0 MPG)

Four month average: $169

PROPANE

October: $0

November: $31 (12 gallons) – We use propane primarily for cooking. In November we began using the onboard propane furnace more as the temperatures got colder, running it for a little while in the early morning to supplement the small electric heater.

December: $32 (10 gallons)

Four month average: $16

groceries

October: $499

November: $479

December: $492

Four month average: $479

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.

dining out

October: $194

November: $213

December: $253 (mostly while we were staying in Glendale, running errands all over the place.)

Four month average: $219

These numbers include coffees and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂

Amazing vegan food at Seed Shack in Gilbert AZ

household / furnishings

October: $52

November: $87

December: $42

Four month average: $63

These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.

petcare

October: $45

November: $5 (we were well stocked up from October)

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.

Four month average: $92

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.

verizon cellphone / internet

October: $245

November: $254 – This month we upgraded to the next higher level for unlimited data so we won’t get throttled so much.

December: $286 – Charge increased as we’re now on the higher data plan.

Four month average: $258

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them last fall. 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 on the AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled. Once the phones are paid off next fall, the monthly charge should drop significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

October: $12

November: $16 – We had mail forwarded twice, but also requested one additional shipment when Andy’s mail-order prescription meds came in.

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.

Four month average: $16

Laundry

October: $7

November: $22 – We did laundry twice, first in Truth or Consequences where the machines were bad and expensive, and the second time in Deming where the facilities were much nicer and less costly.

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.

Four month average: $18

attractions / entertainment

October: $84

November: $56

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.

Four month average: $89

These numbers include our subscriptions to Netflix, Audible, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.

memberships

October: $60 (annual renewal for Costco membership)

November: $49 (annual renewal for Sam’s Club membership)

December: $0

Four month average: $27

Equipment for RV

October: $207 (new surge protector to replace one that got fried in a thunderstorm, two vent covers for the roof, extra set of leveling blocks, and other miscellaneous items)

November: $2,215 (ordered solar kit including three 100-watt solar panels and a Kodiak portable solar generator. Here’s a link to the kit we purchased.)

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)

Four month average: $722

Kodiak linked to one solar panel, tested successfully

RV Maintenance & REpairs

October: $46 (kit to repair leaky toilet, new gasket seal for bathroom roof vent)

November: $22 (changed out the water filter)

December: $472 (replaced both house batteries, replaced toilet when foot pedal flusher began to fail, replaced weather stripping over cab area)

Four month average: $136

Removing the old toilet

truck maintenance & repairs

October: $0

November: $0

December: $0

Four month average: $3

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.

Summary

So those are our RV living expenses for the last three months:

October Total: $2,605

November Total: $3,852 ($1,637 excluding the purchase of the solar kit)

December Total: $3,306

Four month average: $2,952

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. Except for the huge hit on the solar kit that we purchased, November was a very good month in terms of expenses. We lived very well while spending very little. 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. We’ll be monitoring our expenses closely in January to hopefully bring our average spending lower.

We purchased the annual pass to the BLM Long Term Visitor Area for $180, which allows us to boondock at any of the seven LTVAs in Arizona and California through April 15. We won’t be moving the RV around very much during this time until the weather gets too warm to stay this far south. Less fuel, less wear and tear on Lizzy, less stress on us and the kitties.

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.

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

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

New Mexico cactus in our campsite

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

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

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

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

Vegetable plate with the best collards ever!

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

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

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

Time for a latte at the Copper Kettle in Deming.

So yesterday was a great day.

Today, not so much.

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

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

Our last morning in New Mexico at Pancho Villa State Park

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

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

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

Driving through southern New Mexico on Highway 146.

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

Parked for lunch in Veterans Park in Lordsburg NM

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

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

And here’s where it gets interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boondocking behind the Chevron station in San Simon, AZ

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

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

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

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

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