Finally Preparing to Move On

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been camped in the same spot for almost three months now. We arrived here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (long term visitor area) on December 27 of last year. We have thoroughly enjoyed staying here in the Yuma area over the winter, and can now understand why so many snowbirds flock here every year. While the rest of the country has endured blizzards, floods, tornadoes and humidity, we have enjoyed sunshine and dry air, with only the occasional light rain to settle the dust. The most annoying weather here has been the wind which can get quite gusty from time to time, but most days the weather is gorgeous.

The wind makes some interesting cloud formations over the campground

However, it is starting to warm up now, and Yuma is NOT the place you want to be when winter is over and it begins to heat up. The temperatures next week are forecast to be in the high 80’s, which if you’re in a sticks and bricks home with air conditioning is not a problem. But if you’re in an RV sitting in the middle of the desert without an electrical hookup, it’s an issue. We do have a generator that we can use to run our air conditioner, but generators use fuel. So instead, we choose to chase 70° and move on down the road.

Spring has arrived in the desert, and the rain showers have brought flowers!

We had been considering moving to the Imperial Dam LTVA since we still have another month left on our annual pass, but when we checked the weather forecast we found that it was not going to be that much cooler at that location. We need to gain some altitude, so our plans are to head up to the Wickenburg, Arizona area to some BLM land where we can boondock for free. We have a spot picked out, and are keeping our fingers crossed that it isn’t too crowded with weekend warriors on ATVs, since we’re planning to arrive on Friday.

We’re getting all our ducks in a row to leave Yuma. Andy found a family doctor here in Yuma that he likes, and was able to get all his prescriptions renewed for another year.

Laundry day again. At least they have free wi-fi!

Yesterday we got the laundry done, picked up an extra moving pad from Harbor Freight to protect the solar panels during travel, and stopped at Home Depot to get a replacement part for the plumbing system. The part is called an “air admittance valve” or “mechanical plumbing valve”, and it fits under the bathroom sink to prevent stinky smells from the black tank from getting into the RV. The old one wasn’t working properly, so Andy installed the new one and it’s much better. It was an easy fix–just screw the old one off and screw the new one on. Thank goodness for YouTube–it’s our go-to source for DIY help on RV maintenance and repairs!

Andy has his last dental appointment this morning when he’ll be getting a new crown. This dentist office has one-day service for crowns since they make them in-house. So unless he needs to return to their office to get something adjusted, we should be done with the dentist today.

After that, we’re going to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma and pick up a few items at the grocery store. When we get back home, Andy will do a final check of all the fluids and tire pressures in preparation for travel. Tomorrow morning, we’ll make a final visit to the breakfast buffet at the casino, then we’ll stow everything away, stop by the dump station to empty the tanks and fill up on propane, and then we’ll be on our way!!

Unless something changes drastically over the next year, we definitely plan to return here next winter. There are a lot of geocaches around here that I purposely chose not to hunt, so that I can look for them in the future. And by next year my COBRA dental insurance will have run out so we’ll get to check out the teeth cleaning in Los Algodones, Mexico.

It’s time to be nomads again!!

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Safe travels!

 

 

Getting Itchy Feet

It’s another beautiful morning here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA in southern California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. We’ve been here for almost 10 weeks now, and while we’re still enjoying it, our time here is winding to a close.

Sunset at the homestead

This past week the afternoon temperatures hit 80° a couple of times, and it’s supposed to be even warmer today and tomorrow. However, it looks like things are going to cool off again for the remainder of the week, so we we still have some time before the heat chases us away from here.

Another reason we haven’t left already is that we’ve both had appointments for dental and medical checkups. We both got our teeth cleaned, and I got one of my fillings replaced at Gila Ridge Dental in Yuma. Andy has an appointment tomorrow with a doctor in Yuma so he can get one of his prescriptions renewed.

We were also waiting around to receive some packages that we had ordered from Amazon. The nearby Chevron station where we dump the tanks and get fresh water also allows campers in the area to have packages shipped to their address for a one-time charge of $3 for the season. People often ask how full-time RVers get their mail and packages on the road–it’s really quite simple, as there are plenty of people who are more than willing to take your money to provide that service.

So, the weather forecast for the next few days looks like this:

Weather forecast for the next week is still darn near perfect

After the heat of today and tomorrow, it’s back to that darn-near perfect weather again. Really, the only reason to leave our spot now is just for a change in scenery, but that’s enough reason for me. I think we’re both getting ready to see something new, and once we have all our business taken care of here in Yuma, we should be ready to roll.

We’re not planning to go far, just far enough to see something new. Our annual pass for the LTVA system is good through April 15, so our next stop will probably be the Imperial Dam LTVA about 50 miles north of us along the Colorado River.

For the past couple of weeks I’d been having a craving for pizza. We couldn’t even remember the last time we had pizza, so on Sunday we decided to splurge a little. We had lunch at Da Boyz Italian restaurant in Yuma, where we split a salad, a veggie pizza, and a slice of tiramisu. It was all delicious, and was so filling that I didn’t bother cooking dinner that evening (BONUS!).

Tiramisu at Da Boyz Italian Restaurant in historic downtown Yuma

So, that’s about all the news from our world right now. Low stress, great weather, good food…just the kind of boring life we were looking for! 🙂

If you enjoy reading this blog, be sure to subscribe to catch all our updates. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between our blog posts.

Safe travels!

Expense Report – February 2019 – Full-time RV Living

It’s time once again for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life. We live in a 24′ Thor Chateau 22E Class C RV with our two cats, Maggie and Molly. We do not have a sticks-and-bricks home base, but travel wherever the weather takes us as we chase 70°.

First, a reminder of the caveats related to our expenses. Every RVer is different–different rig, different diet, different interests–so our expenses are unique to us. Also, I’m not going to share every single personal expense that we incur each month, but only the ones that are directly related to our RV life in some way.

We’ve just completed our sixth full month on the road. In this post, I’ll be sharing the most recent three months’ expenses as well as our average-to-date for comparison, since line items can change drastically from month to month.

We have been boondocking (camping without hookups) since December 27 at the Pilot Knob LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It’s located in southern California, about seven miles west of Yuma, Arizona. When we arrived here in late December, we purchased the annual pass for the entire winter season for $180, which allows us to camp for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs through April 15, 2019. The only time we have moved the RV since we arrived is to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks. We do that about every six days.

Another beautiful sunrise this morning at Pilot Knob LTVA

Staying in one location for the entire month helps keep our expenses low to help offset travel costs later this year when the weather starts to warm up further north. It’s been really nice being able to hunker down in the sunshine and low humidity while the rest of the country is shoveling snow and fighting floods.

Here are our expenses for February.

Camping fees + Electricity

December: $166 (1 free night in a Chevron parking lot, 1 free night in Camping World parking lot, 16 free nights on BLM land in the cactus forest, 7 nights in RV park in Glendale at $19.50/night, 5 nights in our current location in the BLM LTVA where we paid $180 for the annual pass, good through April 15 which comes out to $1.89/night  which I’m pro-rating on this expense report.)

January: $68 – Entire month in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA. We actually did not spend any money at all this month for camping fees, but for monthly reporting purposes I am prorating the cost of our annual camping passes for New Mexico State Parks ($225 for 13 months) and BLM LTVAs ($180 for December through April).

February: $63 – Still in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA, so no actual expenditures, just the prorated cost of our annual passes.

Six month average: $199

DUMPING FEEs

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

January: $70 – It costs us $12 to dump our tanks and fill up our 50-gallon fresh water tank at the nearby Chevron station, although one time they only charged us $10 for some reason. We dump our tanks every 5-6 days depending on how often we shower.

February: $48 – Dumped our tanks and filled up with fresh water every 6 days @ $12/visit at the nearby Chevron station.

Six month average: $22

Some next-level rock stacking along Sidewinder Road where I hike

Fuel for the RV

December: $367 (Drove 767 miles, 91.5 generator hours, ~9.1 MPG net of generator use.) We started using the generator this month since we were boondocking without electrical hookups. The generator uses gas from the RV fuel tank.

January: $0 (Stayed in place all month, 21.9 generator hours and we still have almost 3/4 of a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.) We also started using our solar panels which drastically cut down the number of hours we need to run the generator.

February: $0 (Stayed in place all month, 20.4 generator hours and we still have about half a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.)

Six month average: $160

Fuel for the Truck

December: $221 (20.0 MPG)

January: $59 (17.7 MPG)

February: $113 (17.6 MPG)

Six month average: $141

PROPANE

December: $32 (10 gallons)

January: $67 (19 gallons) – Propane was our sole source of heat in January since we were never connected to electricity, but we only used it early in the morning until the sun warmed up the rig. Right now propane is $3.49/gallon at the nearby Chevron.

February: $62 (17.7 gallons) – The weather got a little cooler in the middle of February, but then it really warmed up in the past week, so our heating costs remained about the same, as did our cooking usage. Propane is still $3.49/gallon at Chevron.

Six month average: $32

groceries

December: $492

January: $480

February: $558 – This month appears higher but it’s kind of a timing thing as we did a big Costco haul on February 1, and we also bought weekly groceries on February 28. We’re not eating or drinking any more than usual.

Six month average: $492

NOTE: We primarily eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet so we buy a lot of fresh produce and whole grains, along with some wine/beer. We buy very little processed foods in boxes and cans, although we do buy canned beans and tomatoes.

The pastry display at Cardena’s in El Centro

dining out

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

January: $230

February: $184 – We go to the nearby casino every Friday morning for their $5.95 breakfast buffet. We had lunch in Los Algodones (Mexico) once this month, and we also had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma called Chretins (family operated since 1946). We had our Valentine’s Day dinner at an Asian restaurant called Sesame’s Kitchen because our first two choices were overbooked.

Six month average: $215

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

On Friday mornings you’ll find us at the Quechan Resort and Casino for the $5.95 breakfast buffet

household / furnishings

December: $42

January: $35

February: $205 – Includes purchase of Turbotax software, an external hard drive for my laptop, a new chair for Andy to use when working on jewelry (someday), and a new vegan cookbook which was authored by some of our favorite full-time RVers.

Six month average: $82

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

petcare

December: $246 – We took both the cats to the vet in Glendale after Maggie got sick on the drive and showed signs of having worms. Both have been treated and are doing fine.

January: $40 – Stocked up on cat food, treats and litter.

February: $7 – Kitties are doing very well!

Six month average: $69

These numbers include cat food, litter, treats and the occasional toy for our two kitties, Maggie and Molly. Will also include vet visits when needed.

Molly and Maggie spend a lot of time soaking up the sun and enjoying the breeze by the window

verizon cellphone / internet

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

January: $276

February: $276

Six month average: $264

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them in the fall of 2017. We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop and the Roku. We are now on the AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled. Once the phones are paid off this fall, the monthly charge should drop by $66/month unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

December: $37 – We had mail forwarded once to Glendale AZ, but with the holidays and weekends, it did not arrive before we moved on, so that packet will get sent back to Livingston where it will be added to a future mail forwarding. Lesson learned: always specify “Priority Mail” with a tracking number when requesting mail forwarding. Also, we signed up to have our mail scanned for the next two months since it’s tax season. This way we can see what has arrived at our mailbox in Livingston, and we can pick and choose what we want to have sent to us and what can be shredded. If anything of a time-sensitive nature comes in, we’ll also know to have that forwarded to us right away. The scanning service is $10/month.

January: $7 – Had mail forwarded once early in the month, but with the new scanning service we were able to just check online to see what mail had arrived in Livingston throughout the rest of the month. There was nothing that was time-sensitive so we decided to wait until early February to have the next packet sent, which should include all the tax-related forms that arrived in January.

February: $45 – Had mail forwarded twice to get all the tax documentation. Also extended the scanning service for another three months at $10/month.

Six month average: $20

One month’s worth of mail, just in time for tax season

Laundry

December: $18 – We did laundry once in Glendale, but we also washed all the quilts and blankets from the bed. One of the kitties had a little accident after the stress from the vet visit.

January: $29 – We did our regular laundry once in Yuma, but then we had to make a second trip to the laundromat to wash the quilts and blankets again. Another little kitty accident (or are they just trying to punish us for something??). The laundromat here in Yuma is more expensive than any we’ve seen, but it’s also very well-maintained.

February: $17 – One trip to the Yuma laundromat, three large loads.

Six month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

December: $137 – I’ve started a new hobby of geocaching, so I paid for a one-year subscription to the premium version of the geocaching app that shows ALL the caches in the area instead of just the very few that were shown in the free version. I also had to renew my annual “plus” subscription to my Evernote app, which is my online notebook for EVERYTHING.

January: $72 – We visited the “Center of the World” which cost us $10.

February: $96 – We visited the Yuma Territorial Prison Historical Site, which cost us $14. Also includes parking fee and tips for musicians for our daytrip to Los Algodones, a puzzle book for me, and a Kindle book for Andy.

Six month average: $88

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

Andy found himself behind bars at the Yuma Territorial Prison

memberships

December: $0

January: $0

February: $40 – Annual membership dues for Escapees (they handle our mail service and we get discounted rates in their parks).

Six month average: $25

Equipment for RV

December: $388 (Solar charge controller + cables and wiring supplies, black tank cleaning wand, 50amp dogbone, battery tester, moving blankets to protect solar panels when driving)

January: $0 -FINALLY, a month when we didn’t buy any new equipment for the rig!!

February: $28 – Andy ordered a new high-tech caulking gun to take care of some maintenance on the rig.

Six month average: $486 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)

RV Maintenance & REpairs

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

January: $108 (replaced the water pump and strainer)

February: $28 – Hooray, nothing broke on the rig this month! We bought two tubes of Dicor lap sealant so Andy can do a little preventative maintenance on the rig.

Six month average: $113

truck maintenance & repairs

December: $0

January: $0

February: $0

Six month average: $2

NOTE: We drive a 2004 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner pickup with a camper shell on the back as our chase vehicle (not towed). It has just over 107K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.

Vehicle insurance

We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV and $40/mo for the truck.

VEhicle License and registration

Of course we paid the annual license and registration up front in September but for expense tracking purposes, I’m prorating it across the year. It’s $22/mo for the RV and $17/mo for the truck.

Another fun lunch in Los Algodones

Summary

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

December Total: $3,309

January Total: $1,677

February Total: $1,904

Six month average: $2,565

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. In December we drove more, continued putting together our solar system, and had some additional maintenance items to attend to, so our expenses were higher than we would have liked, even with the free boondocking. In January and February, we had much better months in terms of our pocketbooks while eating well, entertaining ourselves, staying warm and dry and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and interesting culture along the southern border.

Since we purchased the annual pass to the BLM Long Term Visitor Area for $180, we are allowed to boondock for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs in Arizona and California through April 15. It was pretty cool for most of February, but this past week it has started to warm up significantly, with highs in the low 80’s. It is supposed to cool off a little bit in mid-March, but we’re thinking it’s time to start moving north. We have some items on order from Amazon that are due to arrive in the next week, but as soon as those come in, we’ll probably be pulling up stakes and be on the move again. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens. Most likely our next destination will be the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA.

View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA

We’ll continue to closely monitor our expenses and will report them here on a monthly basis. So if you’re interested, be sure to subscribe to this blog so you get all our updates. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to stay up with us between blog posts.

Weather Report, More Geocaching, Saturday in Mexico

Pilot Knob BLM LTVA – Southern California, just west of Yuma, AZ

Happy Monday morning, everyone! I just watched a beautiful sunrise and realized once again just how fortunate Andy and I are to be able to leave the rat race behind and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Hope you are also living your dream, or at least taking steps to get there.

We’ve been keeping up with all the crazy weather around the country this past week. Yes, it did snow in California and Arizona, even in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson; and a lot of roads were closed in Northern Arizona due to icy conditions and heavy snow. We’ve also been watching reports of the heavy rain and flooding in my home state of Mississippi around Tupelo, as well as the tornado that touched down in Columbus, MS. It seems like this winter has been especially harsh in a lot of areas.

However, we chose to winter in Yuma precisely because of the weather. We’ve been here since December 27 and in that time there have only been three days where there was any significant amount of rainfall. The nighttime temperatures have never gone below about 38°, and the daytime temperatures are usually in the 60’s. Last week when it was snowing in Phoenix, the highs here did dip down into the 50’s with the winds averaging about 15 MPH, but that’s as bad as it got. Yesterday it warmed back up, and this week highs are going to move into the 70’s, possibly getting up to 80° by Thursday.

Rain moving toward our camp. It looked a lot more dramatic than it actually was.

In fact, it may start to get warm enough that we decide to pull out and head north to higher elevation. When it’s 80° outside, the inside of the RV can start to get pretty warm even with the awning out and the windows open. Our travel plan has always been to “chase 70°”, so we’ll let you know what we decide to do.

Not a bad forecast for the next couple of weeks.

That’s the beauty of this lifestyle. Don’t like the weather? Move your house somewhere else. 🙂

I took advantage of the nice weather to do some more geocaching last week. There are so many caches hidden in this area! I picked up three in about an hour, getting some good exercise along the way. Two of them were hidden in tree trunks, but one was located at this site that appears to be a place for meditation or a memorial of some sort. It’s a pile of white quartz stone (plentiful out here in the desert) with concentric rings made of dark rock and more quartz. There are statues of angels, Mary and Jesus  placed around the site, along with a walking path to get to the center. I’ve reached out to the local “About Yuma” Facebook page to see if anyone knows anything about it, but so far everyone seems stumped.

One of the most unusual sites where I’ve found a geocache–lots of quartz

On Saturday we made a return trip across the border to Los Algodones for lunch and a little shopping. I found a cross-body bag to replace my current one that is too small, and had a lot of fun bargaining with the shop owner. He asked $40 for the bag, I offered $20, and we settled at $22. Of course we hit the pastry shop to satisfy Andy’s sweet tooth.  We also visited the candy store to restock our supply of Damy candy. A 100-piece bag sells on Amazon for $12.90, but we buy it in Mexico for $4/bag. We bought three bags since we don’t know when we’ll be back in Algodones. This is the best candy ever (that isn’t chocolate).

The candy store in Los Algodones where we stock up on Damy

After shopping, we returned to Restaurant El Paraíso for lunch, where we enjoyed sitting on the patio in the sun, listening to the Mexican cover band playing Elvis and Jimmy Buffet, along with some south-of-the-border standards. I had the fish tacos and Andy had a combination plate with chile rellano. The margaritas were on point as usual, and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.

Another fun lunch in Los Algodones

After lunch we walked over to where they were having a taco street festival so we could get some freshly-made churros for dessert. So good!  We munched on our dessert while we stood in line for just over an hour and a half to get back across the border into the US. We spent most of that time chatting with a nice couple from Alberta, Canada who are also wintering here in the area. Fortunately it wasn’t too hot and the time passed quickly with the strolling musicians entertaining us while we waited.

No huge plans for this week. We have a mail shipment that arrived at the Yuma post office this morning which contains the last of the documents that I need to complete our tax return, so I should get that taken care of this week. We both have dental appointments tomorrow–I’m getting a filling replaced and Andy’s getting a crown (no, not in Mexico, but in Yuma using our COBRA dental insurance). I’m planning to do some housecleaning and purging in the rig…yes, we actually brought things with us that we don’t need, so I need to lighten the load a little bit.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep an eye on the weather forecast and see how the upcoming heat wave affects our plans. We may be pulling out of here in the not-too-distant future!

Stay tuned!

You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for up-to-the-minute news on where we are and what we’re doing.

 

Everyday Life, Wild Winds, Jury Summons, Penny Slots

Can you believe we just passed the five-month mark since we moved into our RV full time? Maybe it’s just because we’re getting older, but time seems to fly out here on the road. It just reinforces our belief that it’s so important to make every day count and not put off until “Someday” the things that will fulfill us and bring us joy. We only have a limited number of days on this third rock from the sun!

That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be zip-lining or bungee-cord jumping every day. In our case, we get our joy from being parked in a place where the weather is nice, watching the sunrise (me only!), cooking and eating healthy food together, hiking the beautiful landscape, and occasionally doing some sight-seeing in the area. And when the weather changes or we get bored, we just move our house somewhere else. That brings us joy!

Right now we’re still parked in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) in Southern California, just west of Yuma, Arizona. For the most part the weather has been beautiful with highs in the 60s and low 70s and mostly sunny skies. We’ve had one really rainy day in the month that we’ve been here, but mostly it’s been dry. Last week, however, it got extremely windy with gusts up to 50 mph, and we had to stay inside during a dust storm. I caught a few video clips through the windows and posted them to YouTube. You can hear the dust and tiny rocks hitting the side of the RV, which was definitely rocking with the wind!

But typically our days are not that exciting. I get up between 5:30 and 6:00, feed the cats, set the solar panels up to face the sunrise, and then make my coffee and have breakfast. I then get on the computer for awhile to take care of the bookkeeping or write a blog post until Andy gets up sometime around 8:00. While he’s eating breakfast, I make the bed and clean the litter box, and then we both take care of the breakfast dishes. Afterwards, we get cleaned up, and then we may go for a hike or do a little geocaching, or just sit outside on our porch to read a good book.

We use the pour-over method for coffee when we’re off-grid.

When lunchtime rolls around, we always have a big chopped salad with a cup of pinto or black beans. After the lunch dishes are done we may have errands and chores to take care of like grocery shopping or doing laundry. Every fifth or sixth day, we have to stow away all the loose items inside the RV so Andy can drive it to the nearby Chevron station to dump the waste tanks and refill our fresh water and propane. That process takes about 1-1/2 hours because there’s usually a line at the station.

On days that we don’t have chores or errands to take care of, we may do a little sightseeing or exploring in the area. We might walk across the border into Mexico for lunch. It just depends on what mood we’re in for the day.

Around 4:00 the sun starts getting a little lower in the sky and we settle down to watch the sunset. If it’s not too cold or windy we sit outside and watch, but otherwise I sit on the bed and watch it through our big back windows while Maggie (our cat) sits in my lap. It’s a nice close to the day.

After the sky fades to black, I cook dinner in the rig. It’s always vegan and it usually includes lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains, although we’ll occasionally throw in a processed black bean burger, some soy chorizo or some Tofurky Italian Sausage (so good!). After dinner, we clean the dishes and then do some reading or watch YouTube videos. We do have a television in the rig, but we very rarely use it.

We have a nightly ritual with the cats when we give them their treats–it has to be done the same way every night at about the same time. You know how cats are! Then I’m usually in bed and asleep around 9:30 while Andy stays up much later either reading or watching videos (and trying to suppress his laughter at whatever he’s watching!).

So that’s our typical day here at Pilot Knob. I know it sounds boring, but we never feel bored. There are always new rigs and new people showing up. Yesterday, some of our favorite YouTubers pulled into camp in their big Class A rigs, and we’re going to stop by and say hello to them today. The point is, we’re free to arrange our days however we want (unless of course the tanks need to be dumped!), and that freedom is what this lifestyle is all about.

But every so often, we get a reminder that we are still under some constraints that can’t be ignored. We get our mail at our address in Livingston, Texas, where the envelopes are scanned and uploaded to a website where we can view them and decide whether they can be destroyed or forwarded to us. When I checked the scans last week, I was thrilled (NOT!) to see that I had received a summons for jury duty back in Texas.

Jury summons, less than four months after establishing residency in Texas

There was a phone number on the envelope, so I called them and told them I was on the road and didn’t know when I would be back in Livingston. She told me to just write “Out of State, Return to Sender” on the envelope and send it back. I’m sure they are very accustomed to this situation since so many full time RVers register their rigs and establish their domicile in Livingston. So that was an easy-peasy resolution.

Last Friday we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at the nearby Quechan Resort and Casino. On Monday through Friday they have a breakfast buffet for $5.95. We had pancakes and French toast, oatmeal, roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and coffee, and ate until we were stuffed as this was both breakfast and lunch for us. Of course they had all the usual breakfast meats which we avoided, as well as pastries and muffins which we just skipped.

The Quechan Resort and Casino just west of Yuma, AZ

After our meal we signed up for the players card and got $5 in free play. We found some penny slot machines which actually allowed you to only bet a penny, and with the $5 in free play, I actually walked away with a couple extra dollars in my pocket. Score!

We went to Starbucks last week to use the wi-fi, but theirs was so horribly slow that we ended up going to the Yuma library instead. The main library is a very nice facility with lots of natural light and reasonably fast wi-fi. Unfortunately we got there about a half hour before they closed so we didn’t get to enjoy it for long. I’m sure we’ll visit again–after all, it’s tax season and in the next few weeks I’ll be spending at least a full day with Turbotax and I’ll need a good internet connection.

Inside the main library in Yuma AZ

Other than that, we’ve just been grocery shopping, doing a little laundry and reading a lot. No significant issues with the rig this week (knock on wood!). Life is good!!

Thanks for taking time to read our blog, and be sure to leave a comment if you have questions! You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels everyone! Find your freedom and make the most of every day!!

Visiting the Center of the World, Plumbing Mystery Solved, Mountain Hiking, New RV Meal

We had a fun and productive weekend, enjoying some beautiful weather and exploring more of our surroundings. The only blight on an otherwise perfect three days was the inexplicable no-call on an obvious defensive pass interference in the NFC playoff game between the Saints and the Rams, which led to the Saints missing a trip to the Super Bowl. What is wrong with those officials???

Oh, well, now that I have that off my chest….

On Friday, we visited the “official” Center of the World, which just happens to be located just across I-8 from where we are camped, in a “town” called Felicity, California. From where we are parked, we can see a small white church perched on a hill overlooking some tan buildings and it looked interesting so we decided to check it out. I’m not sure I can even describe this place–it’s a little bit P. T. Barnum with just enough patriotism and religion thrown in to keep the donations coming (just my opinion).

Pyramid structure over the “official” Center of the World

The site was purchased and developed by a French immigrant, Jacques-Andres Istel, who was a U.S. Marine in the Korean War. With proceeds from his parachuting school business, he purchased the land and decided to develop it into something “entertaining”. He and his wife Felicia, who is Chinese-American, settled on the land and named it Felicity after his wife. He was elected mayor by a vote of 3-0 (not sure who the third person was).

He wrote a children’s book called “Coe The Good Dragon at the Center of the World”, and somehow he used that book to convince the Supervisors of Imperial County, California to pass a law officially designating Felicity, California as the Center of the World. Even more amazingly, he managed to get France to also recognize the geographical distinction….really, it’s so bizarre you need to just read about it here and here.

The “official” Center of the World inside the pyramid at Felicity, CA

Even with the strange back-story, it’s still an interesting place to visit. There’s a $3 entry fee which will let you see everything except for the inside of the pyramid, which is where the official Center of the World marker is located–you have to pay an extra $2 for that. Well, why not? We paid $5 each for the full experience which includes getting to stand inside the pyramid with both feet on the marker, look toward the church, make a wish, and have it recorded on an official numbered certificate showing that you were actually at the center of the world.

I kid you not.

Andy stands at the Center of the World and makes his wish.

North of the pyramid are large granite slates which are being etched with information along different themes. One section is a memorial to Korean War veterans. Once section is about animals. One section is U.S. History. One section has the history of Arizona on one side and California on the other. One section is the History of the World. The panels are actually quite interesting and nicely done, but many of them are still blank, to be completed as funds become available.

Granite slabs record major events in history.

To the north of the granite slates is the small church that Mr. Istel had built on top of the hill that he also had created just for the church. It’s a nice peaceful place, with pre-recorded instrumental hymns playing in the background, and it’s currently used for special events like weddings.

Church on the Hill at Felicity, CA

The newest structure in the complex is the “Maze of Honor” where you can pay to have an etched granite tile installed in the maze to commemorate a special occasion or a loved one, or yourself if you’re so inclined. Prices vary.

The Maze of Honor has a lot of empty space to be filled.

There is also a good-sized gift shop, as well as a small cafe that is open several hours a day. Oh, and lest I forget, there is also a section of spiral staircase that came from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s a section that was deemed too dangerous for the public, so it was removed and auctioned off, and Mr. Istel bought it and installed it here on the property–a stairway to nowhere.

Giant checkerboard with the stairway to nowhere in the background

I admit, I’m a little cynical about the place, but you have to admit, it’s pure old American capitalism at work. Build it and they will come. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re driving by and have some time, just for the quirkiness of it.

On Saturday morning we took another crack at trying to resolve the issue with our plumbing–even after installing the new pump, it was still making a very loud vibrating noise and there was air in the line. We checked all the connections and found a couple that were slightly loose, and we could see some tiny droplets of water on the floor under the inlet side of the pump. It wasn’t until I got a makeup mirror and a flashlight so I could see the backside of the fittings that I saw the problem. The strainer on the inlet line had a crack in it on the side that faced the wall. When Andy turned off the water, as soon as everything stopped vibrating I saw a small drop of water ooze through the crack.

Crack in the back side of the strainer was allowing air to enter the plumbing lines

Fortunately we had a spare strainer that came with the new pump that we installed last week. Andy swapped out the bad one for the new one and we ran the water long enough to clear the air from the line, and it appears that everything is as it should be now. Everyone knows that RV water pumps make a little bit of noise, and ours seems to be back in the normal range now.

Saturday afternoon we decided to do some mountain hiking around Pilot Knob, the mountain feature that’s right next to our campground. We saw a trail that winds around the flank of the mountain so it’s more horizontal than vertical, and it was perfect for our fitness and skill levels. We gained about 100-150′ in altitude so we got a good view of the area in the distance, including Mexico. As we were climbing up and down the rocky slopes, Andy noted that this time two years ago he was still using a cane after fracturing his leg and having surgery to repair it. We’re thankful that he’s recovered completely and can still hike with me!

Hiking on the flank of Pilot Knob, getting a good view of the area

Yesterday (Sunday) was pretty much a lazy day, although we did take a 45-minute walk around the perimeter of the campground in the morning. After lunch we watched both of the NFL playoff games in the RV, then after dinner we sat outside and watched the lunar eclipse until the moon was completely in shadow. I couldn’t stay awake long enough to watch it come back out the other side.

Speaking of dinner, we added another new dish to our RV cooking repertoire. We’ve used soy chorizo before when we could find it in Walmart (Frieda’s Soyrizo), where it runs between $3-$4. Recently we found another brand of soy chorizo, Raynaldo’s, at the Mexican market Cardenas in El Centro, where it was $1.79 so we decided to try it. I sauteed it with some onion and some green and red bell peppers, and served it over spaghetti squash (cooked in the Instant Pot), and it was delicious! We will definitely be looking for this brand of soyrizo in other Mexican grocery stores in the Yuma area.

Raynaldo’s Soy Chorizo sauteed with onions and peppers, served over steamed spaghetti squash with a side of broccoli

Today (Monday) is a clear day but it’s very windy so there’s a lot of dust in the air. Not the best day for hiking or sitting outside. We’ll probably do a little grocery shopping this afternoon to replenish our fresh produce. We’re having to leave the solar panels lying flat on the ground to keep them from blowing over and getting damaged. There are a couple of rigs parked close to us that have wind turbines on their roofs to generate electricity–we’re a little envious on days like this!! Winds are supposed to be even higher tomorrow, so we’ll have to see what we can do to entertain ourselves.

Thanks for reading our blog, and be sure to share it with friends and family members who might be interested in full-time RVing. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels!

Shopping in El Centro, Lunch With Friends, New Water Pump, Hiking On the Border

Wow, it’s been ten days since I last posted an update, but it’s been pretty quiet around here. Right now we’re just enjoying living our lives where the weather is mild and the neighbors aren’t crazy.

We are still trying to closely monitor our expenditures this month to offset the money we spent on the new solar system, batteries and toilet in November and December. So far we’re keeping our expenses low (knock on wood), thanks to our annual pass to the BLM LTVA and not moving the RV from spot to spot.

We’ve been doing our grocery shopping at Walmart in Yuma which is about seven miles east of us. Unfortunately we cannot bring oranges or other citrus fruit back into California from Arizona (there’s an agricultural inspection station on the way back to camp), and Andy eats an orange every morning for breakfast.

We checked the map for grocery stores west of us, and since there is nothing really close by, we decided to go to El Centro, California to get oranges. Based on Yelp! reviews of grocery stores in El Centro, we decided to go to Cardenas Mexican market, and it was a winner! They have amazing produce, baked goods, fresh tamales, a food court….just an awesome store. Of course we wound up buying more than just oranges. We each got a huge slice of their flan for $2.50 each, which gave us dessert for three meals. The flan was absolutely heavenly, some of the best we’ve ever had. We also bought almost two pounds of their flavored pistachios, some vegetable tamales and some assorted pastries. So even though we had to drive for almost an hour to get oranges, we considered it worth the trip.

Andy selecting oranges in the produce section of Cardenas in El Centro

We made a return trip to El Centro yesterday, thanks to an invitation from one of Andy’s Facebook friends, Grant Jones and his wife Cindy. Grant, like Andy, does lapidary work and makes beautiful handmade jewelry, and the two of them have been connected on Facebook for several years. They invited us to meet them in El Centro for lunch as they were on their way from San Diego to Quartzsite, and they let us pick the restaurant.

Since we aren’t that familiar with El Centro, once again I turned to Yelp! for reviews and found Antojitos  Como en Casa (“like at home”) Mexican restaurant. It’s a small place on the edge of a residential neighborhood, and when we pulled up, it was obvious that the food must be good because of the number of cars parked in the small lot and along the street. We enjoyed finally getting to meet Grant and Cindy, who treated us to some delicious traditional Mexican food and some great conversation. Thanks, you guys!

Lunch with Grant and Cindy in El Centro at Antojito Como en Casa

Of course, after we left the restaurant we made a return visit to Cardenas to get more oranges….and flan….and pistachios….and pastries. 🙂

One fact of life that all RVers have to accept is that there will always be some sort of repair or maintenance that needs to be done. This week it was the water pump. We were still getting water from the faucets, but ever since we’ve been in this campground, the pump had been making a really loud vibrating noise every time we ran the water. We noticed it after the first two times we dumped the tanks and refilled the fresh water tank. The noise would last for about 24 hours and then it would go back to normal (never silent, but a much quieter vibration when the water runs). But after the third time we dumped and refilled, the vibrations were loud again and stayed that way.

The water pump is located under the dinette seat. We pulled everything out of the dinette (table and cushions) and checked all the plumbing. We could see that there was a very small leak from the pump, and we could also see that when the pump vibrated, the vibration was carried along all the plumbing lines, in some cases causing them to vibrate against the wooden structure as well as the water tank itself, sort of like beating a drum.

Water pump located under the dinette, right next to the fresh water tank

Since there was a leak we decided to go ahead and replace the pump, so we called around Yuma and sourced a replacement unit for just under $100. We also wound up buying some foam rubber pipe insulation to wrap around the plumbing lines to help dampen the vibration. Handy Andy did a great job of installing the new pump, and although we still get a growling noise when the pump runs, it’s much quieter now. There does still seem to be some air in the lines that we can’t get rid of (possibly getting drawn into the line from a hairline crack in the input line?), but for the time being we’re living with it.

We’re still enjoying our hikes around the area. Last Sunday I took a look at Google satellite view of the area and noticed what looked like another quarry on the south side of the mountain we’re camped next to. I saw that the road that goes by our LTVA leads to a canal that runs along the US/Mexico border. The area looked interesting so we decided to hike it.

Satellite view of the area around Pilot Knob LTVA. The US/Mexico border is just to the south of the canal.

It was about a mile and a half from our RV to the canal, and then we hiked another half mile or so to the east along the canal. The area is beautiful in a rugged way with canyons and washes at the base of the mountain, and lush greenery and flocks of ducks along the irrigation canal. On the other side of the canal stands the steel-slat border fence, and on the other side of the fence is densely-populated Los Algodones and Pedregal. We could hear the sound of Spanish-language radio, roosters crowing, dogs barking, and people carrying on their day-to-day conversations. It was totally peaceful and serene.

Hiking along the All-American irrigation canal, beyond which is the border fence and then Mexico

The area that had looked like a quarry in the Google satellite view was actually an area on top of a mesa that had been scraped by something like a bulldozer. The dark areas in the picture are covered with rocks that most likely came to the surface from ancient volcanic activity (Pilot Knob is geologically a volcanic “plug”). We found all kinds of agate, jasper, quartz, and even a large chunk of petrified wood. Andy was drooling over all these amazing stone specimens, but of course he doesn’t have the lapidary equipment to make cabochons any more, so we left the rocks in place.

This is what we thought was a quarry, but turned out to be bulldozed areas on a mesa.

By the time we got back to camp we had covered a little over four miles on our very enjoyable hike.

Otherwise, we’ve just been living life. On Saturday and Sunday we watched some football (Go Saints!! Who-Dat!!). We had a good bit of rain on Monday night and Tuesday morning and things got pretty muddy, but by the next day it was almost all dried up. We took advantage of the rainy day to get the laundry done and do some grocery shopping, and treated ourselves to lunch at Olive Garden in Yuma. I’m also continuing to do some geocaching in the area, although I’ve found almost all the ones that are within hiking distance except for the ones that are at the top of the mountain–I’m not crazy enough to risk a fall to log a geocache.

So that’s what we’re up to! We’ve been here for three weeks now, and haven’t yet even considered where we might go next. For the moment we are happy right where we are. There’s still some sight-seeing that we want to do in the area, so we’re not bored yet!

Rainy days often result in gorgeous sunsets

Thanks for taking time to read our blog, and be sure to share it with others who might be interested in full-time RV life. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Safe travels, and GO SAINTS!! WHO DAT!! 🙂

Pilot Knob LTVA, Solar Power, Geocaching, Los Algodones Mexico, Missing Family

We just spent our twelfth night boondocking here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (that’s Bureau of Land Management Long Term Visitor Area). So far we are really enjoying it, even though we haven’t spent a whole lot of time exploring the area.

The first few days we were here were spent getting our solar system up and running. Andy had to drill a hole in the floor just above the battery compartment in the entry steps so he could run the cables from the battery to the new charge controller which he mounted above the front door. He ran the cables through a length of PVC pipe conduit to make them less obvious. Now he just needs to fasten the conduit to the wall and then seal up the hole, and that project will be complete.

Our new solar charge controller lets us know how our batteries are doing

We are in love with our new solar system! It has drastically reduced the amount of time we need to run the generator–now we only run it when we need to use the microwave or the Instant Pot, or on a rare rainy day like we had on Saturday. Each morning before the sun even rises, the panels start charging a tiny bit as soon as there is light in the sky. Since I’m the early riser in the family, I go outside and turn the panels toward the east, and at about 7:15 AM when the sun finally rises over the nearby mountain, the panels start doing their magic. By watching the numbers on the charge controller, you can literally see the voltage flowing into the batteries as the sun rises. During the day, we turn the panels to the south and then to the west to follow the sun. On most days the batteries are fully charged by about 10:00 AM, and then the panels just keep them topped off until the sun goes down, by which time we have enough voltage to get us through the night.

Our solar kit also came with the Kodiak portable solar generator, which is basically a big lithium battery with an inverter which allows us to plug in any of our devices that need to be charged, as well as any of our small appliances that run on 110V like the television, Roku, hair dryer, etc. Without the Kodiak, we would have to run the generator to power those devices.

Our new Kodiak portable generator to be charged with solar panels

Since our campsite is free (after purchasing the $180 annual pass last month) and we’re not spending money on fuel to move from campground to campground this month, we’re hoping that the additional savings from not running the generator will all add up to make this a month of significant cost savings, which would be really nice after the last two months of solar investment, maintenance, and repair costs.

This is our first time to stay in a BLM LTVA, and it’s an interesting experience. The camp hosts are a couple named Roy and Joann, who basically collect the entrance fees and answer questions. There are no designated campsites, you just find an area that you like and park your rig there. There are a few rigs that are parked fairly close together since they are friends traveling together, but mostly everyone is pretty spread out and respectful of each other’s privacy. There are all types of rigs from big Class A motorhomes, truck campers, fifth wheels, travel trailers, vans, small Class B and C motorhomes like ours, and even skoolies. It is very quiet here, other than the sounds of the trains going by.

One of our neighbors barely visible through the Sunday morning fog

After having such an intense week in Glendale at Christmas time and then spending a couple of days working on the solar system, it was nice to finally just relax and hang out without having an agenda. Most of the time the weather has been nice, although there were a few days that were extremely windy and cool, and yesterday it rained most of the afternoon. It has never gone below freezing at night where we are, even though it has been colder just to the north of us in Quartzsite and Phoenix.

There are a lot of geocaches in the area, so I’ve gone out on several hunts. Andy went with me on one of my hunts, and I think he might be starting to get the bug! 🙂 Even though the desert looks flat when you look outward, once you start walking across it you find small dunes and washes that conceal all kinds of interesting things that make good hiding places for caches. So far I’ve found caches in an old squatters’ shack, a tree next to an old hot tub, an old paint can, and a pipe buried in the sand in the middle of an old tire. From a short distance away, none of these places are visible due to the slight undulations of the land.

Found a geocache in this abandoned squatters shack hidden between the dunes

There’s also a rock quarry in the side of the mountain (Pilot Knob) next to the campground. There are some geocaches hidden at the top of the quarry and the mountain. Andy and I made an attempt to go after them but the only trail we could find to the top was very steep and unstable, so we decided it wasn’t worth risking an injury. We’re know our limits! 🙂 But we did have a nice hike to a spot about a third of the way up the quarry where we got a great view of the area.

Hiking down from the rock quarry (photo cred: Andy)

So far we’ve gone into Yuma three times. Andy went once to pick up some wire he needed for the solar hookup, and then we went grocery shopping twice at Walmart (two different ones). Once interesting challenge with this location has to do with oranges. When we drive back to the campground (located in California) from grocery shopping in Yuma (Arizona), we have to go through an agricultural inspection station and tell them whether or not we have any fresh produce. If you remember from our previous post, when we first arrived, they actually came inside the RV to inspect, but let us keep our produce. It seems they are most interested in oranges. When we went grocery shopping last week, of course we loaded up on produce as we always do, and that included oranges. We were hoping that since we were in the pickup instead of the RV, they would just wave us through. But no, when we rolled up to the inspector, he specifically asked if we had oranges, and we couldn’t lie. He asked to see them, and then said that although technically he should confiscate them, he would let us keep them “this time”. Of course, yesterday when we went shopping we decided not to get any oranges, and when we pulled up to the inspector he just waved us through without stopping us. You never know. It’s a bummer because the closest grocery store to us on the California side of the border is about 37 miles away, so we’re going to see if we can find a farmer’s market stand or something a little closer that sells California oranges.

Last Friday we spent most of the day in Los Algodones, Mexico. The border crossing is about four miles from where we are….in fact, we can see the lights of Algodones from our campsite at night. Getting in to Mexico is no problem. The local Indian tribe has a parking lot next to the border where you pay $6 for a regular passenger vehicle, then you just walk down the sidewalk through a couple of small buildings with some un-manned metal detectors, and then you’re in Mexico.

Arriving in Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico

The place is crowded this time of year with American senior citizens who are there to get their prescriptions filled, their glasses replaced, and their dental work done, all at prices much lower than in the US. Many of them live in Arizona and Southern California and come here on a regular basis, others are full-time RVers who specifically stay in this area in the winter for this purpose.

We didn’t need any those services, we were just there for some Mexican food, a margarita, and some sightseeing. We had lunch at a popular spot called “El Pariso” or The Garden Place. It’s a large outdoor seating area surrounded by shops. While you are perusing the menu, a small army of vendors approach your table with all kinds of things for sale–jewelry, wall art, blankets, hats, ponchos, belts, t-shirts, you name it. But once your food arrives, they pretty much leave you alone. I bought a hat which actually came in handy because the sun got pretty intense even though the temperatures were very comfortable. The food was so-so, but the margarita was excellent!

Lunch at The Garden Patio (El Pariso) in Los Algodones

After lunch we did some shopping around for a particular kind of candy we found several months ago when we crossed the border from Columbus, NM to Palomas, Mexico. It’s called Damy Peanut Crunch, and it sells on Amazon for $12.95 for a 100-count bag. We get it in Mexico for about $3.50/bag. Luckily we found it in a small candy store in Algodones, and we found another brand that is similar (although the pieces are smaller) for about $2.05 in the liquor/pharmacy store.

When in Mexico we always look for a bakery, or panadería. We didn’t spot one immediately so we asked one of the vendors, and he said there wasn’t one currently open. Later we stopped to get some freshly made churros from a street vendor, and the guy that was helping him told us about a bakery that was close by, and he volunteered to walk us to it. His name was Victor, and he was such a nice guy. He told us about all the times he visited and lived in the US (which explains how he speaks such good English), but he has returned to Mexico to be with his family. Victor helped us find the Pan Superior bakery where we picked up some of our favorite Mexican sweet breads.

Shopping in the panadería for Mexican sweet breads

The worst part of going across the border in Algodones is the long line to get back into the US. We waited somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, and we’re told that it’s usually closer to two hours. They do provide shade and benches to sit on while waiting in line, and there are restrooms and vendors selling bottled water. Since a large portion of the people in the line are senior citizens, it’s good that they have some amenities to make the wait a little less uncomfortable. Once we got to the front of the line, we sailed right past the customs agent.

We’re already looking forward to our next visit to Algodones–there’s just something special about having easy access to visit a different country and culture, and meeting friendly people like Victor.

In other maintenance news, Andy was able to get the bat-wing TV antenna fixed so it raises and lowers from the ceiling crank on the inside. After we got it raised, we ran the channel scan on the TV and didn’t pick up a single over-the-air station, so we assumed we were either too far out in the desert or maybe we were being blocked by the nearby mountain. But then I noticed that other rigs had their bat-wing antennas up and it didn’t make sense that they would have them up if there was no reception. So I did some investigating a few days later and found a small push-button switch hidden in one of the overhead bins. There were no instructions or labels on the switch, except for the brand name Winegard, which is the brand of the antenna. I pushed the button and a green light came on, so I tried the channel scan again, and Voila!! We’ve got 19 digital channels coming in, about half of which are in Spanish, but we do get the major networks. The picture is crisp and clear, so chalk that up as a win. Of course, we rarely watch TV anyway, but it’s good to know we can see the next season of “The Voice” and maybe even the Super Bowl!

Other than that, we’ve just been hanging out and enjoying life. There are definitely more rigs here in the LTVA than there were when we first arrived, but there is still a lot of empty space around us. Now that we have our maintenance tasks done and we’re stocked up on groceries, we’re looking forward to doing some sightseeing in the area. There’s a lot of history here, and Yuma actually has a lot of cultural activities on their weekly calendar. We’ll let you know what we get into.

Oh yes, we learned one other thing yesterday when we picked up our mail which we had had forwarded to us via General Delivery in Winterhaven, CA. The postmaster there told me that you are only allowed to use General Delivery at a specific post office for 30 days out of a calendar year, and after that you need to rent a P.O. box. That’s interesting information, but when our thirty days are up and we need to have another packet of mail forwarded to us out here, we’ll just pick a different post office. Winner winner, tofu dinner!! 😀

Lastly, on a very personal note, you’ll notice that it’s been longer than usual since I posted to the blog. Last week we received word that my nephew and his wife lost their baby in the middle of her third trimester of pregnancy. We were devastated for them, and it was difficult knowing that we were so far away and could not be there to join the rest of the family for the memorial service. I just didn’t feel like blogging while going through such an emotional time. We send our love and prayers to Tyler and Allie and their two sons, Hudson and Westin, as they deal with the loss of baby Mackson. Our hearts are back in Mississippi with them, even while we are parked here in the California desert.

Thanks for reading the blog, and be sure to share it with your friends if they are interested in full-time RV living! You can also follow us on Instagram to see what we’re doing between blog posts.

Take care, safe travels, and live every day to the fullest!!

 

 

Christmas Remembrances, New Toilet Install, Tamales With Friends, Moving to California

We spent a fairly quiet Christmas Day in Glendale, Arizona after almost a week of hustle and bustle. I baked some cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and then around 11:00 AM I started a seitan pot roast in the crock pot for our vegan dinner. (If you’re not familiar with seitan, here a link to find out more.) While dinner was cooking, we took some time to visit the gravesites of Andy’s mom and dad and place some Christmas decorations on their markers.

A Christmas visit to the resting place of Andy’s parents

We also placed flowers on the marker for Andy’s aunt and uncle who are buried in the same cemetery. This was the first time in several years that we have been able to visit these memorials, and it was nice to be able to do so on Christmas Day.

The day after Christmas (Wednesday) was a whirlwind of activity as we were trying to get all our chores done before it was time to leave Glendale. In addition we had been invited to a Christmas party by one of Andy’s former co-workers, so we had to hustle.

The top priority of the day was to get the new toilet installed, but first we wanted to flush the black tank. If you’re not familiar with RV black tanks, they have sensors installed inside them that are connected to the control panel, and they are supposed to let you know how full your tank is getting. But over time, “debris” can accumulate on the sensors, and it can appear that your tank is more full than it is. We used a pressure wand made specifically for flushing black tanks, hooked it up to the water hose, stuck it down through the toilet valve, and cleaned the tank thoroughly.

After cleaning the tank, Andy removed the old toilet with the malfunctioning foot pedal (it would no longer consistently turn off the water flow after flushing, which could have potentially caused a flood in the RV), and then installed our new Thetford toilet. It was actually a pretty quick process, and since the black tank had been flushed, there was no problem with smell.

Removing the old toilet

Once again, we were thankful that the timing of this repair worked out like it did, with us being close to a Camping World store, plus having full hookups with water and sewer, along with a dumpster to dispose of the old toilet. Things really do just work out.

After the toilet installation, I did some more housekeeping in the RV, and then we made a run to the post office to check on our Escapees mail (still had not arrived), and then to the grocery store to stock up on fresh vegetables and fruit (which became a little bit of an issue as you’ll see shortly).

That night, we finally got to have some fun, as we attended a Christmas party in the home of one of Andy’s former co-workers, Angelica, and her son, Devon. Angelica has a tradition of hosting a get-together for her family and friends on the night AFTER Christmas, which I think is brilliant. She served a traditional meal of tamales (both spinach/cheese and red with meat), along with pozole (soup or stew made with pork), rice and beans. Although we don’t usually eat meat, we decided not long ago to make an exception when someone invites us into their home–we eat what they prepare. And the food was all delicious. We enjoyed getting to meet Angelica’s family and friends, catching up on work-related gossip, participating in the Dirty Santa gift exchange, and then being presented with a to-go bag of tamales and homemade fudge. Thanks again, Angelica and Devon, for sharing your Christmas holiday gathering with us. We love you!

Good food, good friends Angelica and Devon

After we got back from the Christmas party, we finally sat down at the computer to figure out where we wanted to go next. We knew we wanted to move toward southwestern Arizona where the weather is warmer for the winter, but the area can get quite crowded with all the snowbirds. (Haha, when we lived in Glendale we used to complain about all the snowbirds tying up traffic and crowding the restaurants, and now we’re part of the “problem”!!) We knew we wanted to boondock to save money, but we are not familiar with the area and didn’t want to risk trying to find an offgrid site on some random gravel road after dark.

We finally decided to take advantage of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs), located in Arizona and California. The BLM has seven winter LTVAs where you can set up camp for an extended length of time by paying one fee. For $180, you can get a permit to use the LTVA from September through the following April, and that includes being able to move from one LTVA to another. Unfortunately, they do NOT prorate the cost of the permit, so even though it’s now the end of December, the permit is still $180. If you’re interested in learning more about LTVA’s here’s a link to a great summary on FreeCampsites.net. Unfortunately, the BLM website is down right now due to the government shut-down, so I can’t direct you to their official information.

We elected to head to the Pilot Knob LTVA which is located just west of Yuma, right across the California state line. We chose this location because of its proximity to good grocery shopping in Yuma as well as a popular border crossing into Mexico at Los Algodones. We love walking across the border for good Mexican food, and Los Agodones is known for its pharmacies, dentists and eye doctors who cater especially to Americans who are tired of paying exorbitant prices for healthcare in the U.S.

So yesterday (Thursday), we broke camp in Glendale, leaving the mobile home park where we had stayed for a week. While Andy drove the RV to Costco to top off the propane, I made one more trip to the post office to check on our mail from Escapees, and unfortunately it still had not arrived. As far as I know, there is nothing urgent or time-sensitive in the packet, so it will eventually be returned to Livingston where our mail service can add it to a future shipment. This was the first time we didn’t use Priority Mail when requesting our mail packet, and with the holidays, it just took too long to arrive. Lesson learned: we will always request Priority Mail on future mail forwarding requests.

Our route from Glendale AZ to Pilot Knob LTVA in Winterhaven, CA

We had a nice drive on our travels, stopping for lunch in Gila Bend in the large parking lot of a Shell station. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of this lifestyle are our lunches in random parking lots–it’s so cool to have our refrigerator, stove, dining table, and kitchen sink right there with us in climate-controlled comfort while we watch the big trucks and other travelers come and go. We prepared our normal lunch, washed the dishes, and then hit the road again.

We made a final stop for gasoline at a Love’s station in Yuma, knowing that the gas prices would be much higher once we crossed the state line into California. We paid $2.54/gallon at Love’s, and the price at the Chevron station just outside our new campsite in California is $4.79/gallon. We will definitely be driving the seven miles back into Yuma when we need to fill up the gas tank.

The next tricky part of the trip was going through the agricultural inspection station right before we got to our campground. When arriving in California, your vehicle can be inspected for fresh fruits and vegetables that might be carrying diseases or pests that can contaminate and possibly cause financial loss to the California farming areas. As I mentioned above, we had just bought groceries before leaving Glendale, and we had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in the RV. We didn’t want to toss them out without at least trying to see if they would let us keep them.

When we got to the inspection station, they were pretty much just waving the passenger cars through. But when Andy pulled the RV up to the inspector, the guy asked him if he was carrying any fruits or vegetables, and hey, we’re not gonna lie. Andy told him what we had and told him he was welcome to come inside the RV to check it out, which he did. The inspector was especially interested in the oranges, which we had purchased at Walmart and did not have stickers on them showing the origin. However, I guess he didn’t think it was worth the hassle, because he said “Those look like California oranges to me”, and let us go through. Whew!!

The Pilot Knob BLM site is just about a mile past the inspection station, and we pulled in about 3:30 PM PST (we also changed time zones and gained an hour when we hit California). We met the camp host, a nice lady named Joann, who told us that even though the BLM is shut down, they had contacted her and told her that they should still collect the fees. The LTVA is all dispersed camping, meaning there are no designated campsites, you just look for a level area of open space and park your RV. It helps if you can find an area where the previous occupant might have left a fire ring of rocks, indicating that it’s probably a good level place to camp. We found a nice spot, although it took us a little time to position the RV where it was as level as possible, then went back to the entrance to pay our annual $180 fee and get our permit stickers for the vehicles.

Setting up camp at sunset at Pilot Knob LTVA

We can see I-8 from our campsite, but there’s really not a lot of traffic noise. There is also a train track running along the interstate, and we can definitely hear the train horns but after awhile you don’t notice them. Finally, there is a military base near here, so we get some flyovers of helicopters from time to time.

We were afraid the LTVA would be crowded already with snowbirds, but Joann told us that it hasn’t been nearly as crowded this year as it has been in the past. She said that the younger people aren’t coming here like the older ones did. Fine with me, more space for us! There are some beautiful big rigs parked here, as well as some older, smaller trailers and vans. We love the variety of neighbors, especially since there’s plenty of space and privacy around us.

Our new desert campsite by the mountains

So that’s where we are this morning, in the BLM Pilot Knob LTVA located in Winterhaven, California. We have no idea how long we will stay in this one location. We are paid up through April, but will most likely move up closer to Quartzsite, Arizona to the La Posa LTVA once the huge crowds leave at the end of January. One drawback to our current location is that there is no dump station or water spigots in the campground, although there are facilities fairly close by with those amenities, sometimes for a fee. If we move to the LTVA in Quartzsite, they do have those amenities available in the campground itself, included in the permit that we’ve already purchased.

Today we’re going to relax and enjoy our new surroundings. Andy is going to work on getting our solar system up and running now that we’re back in the sunshine.

I want to send a special shout-out to my Dad. Yesterday as we were driving into Yuma, I briefly caught a glimpse of a text message notification that popped up momentarily on my iPhone which was, at the time, being used for navigation. All I saw in that quick glance was “am at the ER in Tupelo with your dad“. As soon as we got stopped at the Love’s station, I checked the text and found that my 82-year-old Daddy was in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. I managed to get in touch with Mom to get details, and long story short, he had a successful surgery and this morning he’s on his way home with very minimal pain or discomfort. Hooray! Love you, Daddy!

This is the one regret I have about this lifestyle–not being close to family for events like this. When we lived in Tupelo, we were able to quickly drive to the hospital to be with family members when they were sick. Fortunately that doesn’t happen very often, and none of us should put our lives on hold just waiting for some catastrophe to happen. But know this–if anyone in either of our families has an emergency and needs us, we will be on the next flight out to get back to them. We will figure it out. We will make it happen. We both love our families and miss them while we’re on the road!

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