Monthly Expense Report – May 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 nine full months 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 started the month of May parked in a free dispersed camping spot in the Coconino National Forest on Forest Road 237 (also known as Pumphouse Wash) off Highway 89A southwest of Flagstaff, Arizona. We had planned to be there for two weeks, but at the end of the first week, the weather forecast began showing heavy rain and cold weather moving in, so we decided to leave the woods (and the mud) for a few days. We moved to Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park where we enjoyed full hook-ups as well as access to showers and laundry facilities for a week. This park is part of the Passport America program of which we are members, so we were able to stay there for half-price. At the end of the week, we went back to boondocking, moving to another National Forest free campsite on Forest Road 320 off Highway 64, south of Tusayan, Arizona. After seventeen nights in that location (yeah, we really liked it!), we moved back toward Flagstaff to our current free boondocking site in the Coconino National Forest on Forest Road 151 (also known as Hart Prairie Road), off Highway 180 northwest of Flagstaff.

All set up and ready to enjoy our new home for the next few weeks

We spent a lot of time this month in areas that are heavily dedicated to tourism. The town of Williams is located on Historic Route 66, Tusayan is the gateway to the Grand Canyon National Park, and we also spent a day in Sedona. We spent a lot more on eating out this month, due not only to the higher prices of restaurant meals in these tourist areas, but also because we ate out more often. The weather in May was cold and wet on many days, and we would get cabin fever and head to the restaurants just to get out of the rig. Oh, well, at least our grocery bill was down!

Here are our expenses for the past three months:

Camping fees + Electricity

March: $68 – No out-of-pocket camping fees for the LTVA, the BLM site on Vulture Mine Road, or driveway-surfing in Yarnell. This figure is just the prorated cost of our annual passes.

April: $168 – We boondocked for free on Bloody Basin Road (BLM land), as well as our current location in the National Forest. We paid $126 ($9/night for 14 nights) at Hilltop Campground, and the remainder is the prorated cost of our annual passes to New Mexico state parks and the BLM LTVAs (expired April 15).

May: $207 – We boondocked for free for 24 of the 31 nights. The seven nights we spent in the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams cost us $27/night which was a 50% discount on their normal rates with our Passport America membership, for a total of $189. The remainder is the prorated cost of our annual pass to New Mexico state parks (expires October 31).

Nine month average: $182

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

DUMPING FEEs

March: $56 – Dumped three times @$12/visit at the Chevron station by the LTVA, and then twice @$10/visit in Wickenburg while on BLM land on Vulture Mine Road.

April: $50 – Dumped once in Wickenburg ($10) on April 1 on our way to Bloody Basin Road, then twice while we were boondocked there. We had to dump at the local RV parks, which charged $20. While we were camped at Hilltop Campground, we dumped at Affinity RV Service in Prescott Valley where they offer free dumps and water.

May: $42 – We didn’t have to pay to dump while we had full hookups in Williams. While staying on FR 320, we dumped three times at an RV park in Tusayan for $14 per visit. Technically, we could have driven into the Grand Canyon National Park and dumped at their campground for free, but we still would have had to visit the Tusayan RV park to buy propane, and Andy decided it was easier to just get everything done at one location.

Nine month average: $31

Fuel for the RV

March: $141 – Filled up the rig twice. The first fill-up was in Yuma when we left the LTVA. It was the first time we had filled the tank since December 27, so almost all that fuel was used by the generator over three months’ time. The total generator time in that period was 56 hours. The second fill-up was later that same day, after the drive from Yuma to Wickenburg. It took us 23.4 gallons to drive 173 miles, averaging 7.4 MPG.

April: $141 – We moved three times, and filled up the rig each time we moved. We drove a total of 331 miles and used the generator a total of 20.7 hours. We bought 48 gallons of gas, and averaged approximately 8.5 MPG, net of generator use. Our average gas price in April was $2.94/gallon–it’s definitely going up.

May: $111 – We moved three times, but only filled up the rig twice. We drove a total of 239 miles and used the generator 22.2 hours. We bought 34 gallons of gas and averaged approximately 9.6 MPG, net of generator use. Our average gas price in May was $3.22/gallon–another effect of being in a high-tourism area.

Nine month average: $150

Spring has sprung at Pumphouse Wash

Fuel for the Truck

March: $92 (36 gal, 18.9 MPG)

April: $130 (45 gal, 18.2 MPG)

May: $115 (37 gal, 19.6 MPG)

Nine month average: $132

PROPANE

March: $56 (17.4 gallons) – The weather continued to warm up in March. We topped off the propane four times. The first two were at the Chevron by the LTVA at $3.49/gal, and the last two were in Wickenburg at $1.99/gal. That’s a great example of the difference in fuel prices and taxes between California and Arizona.

April: $43 (17.6 gallons) – Although our propane use was just slightly higher, our cost was lower due to buying it in Arizona instead of California. The highest we paid was $3.09, the lowest was $1.90.

May: $76 (15.9 gallons) – Most of our propane purchases in May were at the RV park in Tusayan, where the cost was $4.85/gallon + tax = $5.28/gallon. They were the only propane supplier within reasonable driving distance, and they knew it and admitted it. We had some very cold weather, including sleet and snow, so we ran the furnace a little more than we usually do. Fortunately we had one week with full hookups in Williams when we were able to use the electric space heater, which offset at least a portion of the propane cost for the month.

Nine month average: $41

Snow-covered truck and rig

groceries

March: $539 – There isn’t a Walmart store in Wickenburg, so we did our grocery shopping at Safeway and Basha’s (once). Grocery prices in those stores are at least 25% higher than they are at Walmart where we usually shop, and the quality was not any better on the produce.

April: $575 – In addition to our usual grocery shopping, we stocked up on some bulk goods at Sprouts and Sam’s Club.

May: $464 – We were a little surprised at this number being down so much, as grocery prices in Williams and Flagstaff are a little higher than we’ve been paying. But when we saw what we spent on dining out (see below), the grocery figure made sense. Many of our restaurant meals involved doggie bags that provided us with an extra meal at home. And usually, when we ate lunch at a restaurant, we were too full to eat dinner later.

Nine month average: $504

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.

dining out

March: $243 – While we were in Yuma we treated ourselves to the breakfast buffet at the nearby Quechan Casino every Friday morning ($5.95 plus tax). We also tried out several Mexican and Italian places in Yuma, Wickenburg and Yarnell. We did not eat at a single chain or fast-food restaurant. Eat local!!

April: $201 – We drove up to Yarnell last week and met our friends John and Helen at Gilligan’s Pizza for lunch–so yummy! We also tried out a Thai restaurant in Prescott that was pretty good. We also visited Starbucks for a treat, and after our purchases on our loyalty cards, the balance on both our cards was below our threshold for automatic replenishment; so $50 of this month’s dining expenditure was just cash being reloaded on our Starbucks cards for future visits.

May: $464 – We spent way more than usual on eating out in May. We had a nice lunch in Sedona ($76); ate three times at the Grand Canyon Brewing Company which was conveniently located right across the street from the RV park where we stayed in Williams (twice we only had drinks and appetizer, total for three visits was $103);  ice cream and coffee at Twisters on Route 66 in Williams ($19); dinner at El Corral Mexican Restaurant on Route 66 in Williams ($41); two visits to We Cook Pizza in Tusayan ($71); brunch at Toasted Owl Cafe in Flagstaff ($49); lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge Harvey House Cafe in the Grand Canyon National Park ($37); breakfast at McDonald’s on the way to the Canyon ($26 – highway robbery!); and a few other miscellaneous charges including reloading Andy’s Starbucks card for $25. When we dine out, we pretty much order what we want and don’t worry about the prices, especially if it’s an unusual place with high-quality food. But hopefully we can get back on track in June and get this line item back in budget. 🙂

Nine month average: $244

Pizza and Peroni in Tusayan – nice break from cabin fever

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

household / furnishings

March: $193 – Includes $99 annual subscription for 1TB of space on Dropbox, which we use for cloud storage of our files, including backups of important data.

April: $546 – Includes $496 for new mattress, and $11 to dispose of old one.

May: $149 – Includes $76 for a new Blu-ray player to replace our old one that quit working. We don’t play DVDs very often, but while we were camped on FR 320 we had very little cellular service and could not do our usual streaming of Hulu and YouTube, so we fell back on our DVD collection. When the old Blu-ray player wouldn’t play the discs without freezing and skipping, we replaced it with a newer, “smarter” version from Walmart.

Nine month average: $153

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

petcare

March: $46 – Replaced the litter box with a large storage tote, dumped all the old litter and started with fresh. We’ve switched to a more expensive litter that is dust-free and odor-free, and it seems to have helped Molly’s allergy problem.

April: $70 – Stocked up on the newer dust-free litter as well as their treats.

May: $24 – Just food and litter.

Nine month average: $62

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.

Maggie and Molly soaking up some sunshine after days of clouds and rain

verizon cellphone / internet

March: $276

April: $276

May: $276

Nine month average: $268

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

March: $10 – Paid the nearby Chevron station $3 to accept packages for us so Andy could order some maintenance items from Amazon. Had mail forwarded to us once in Wickenburg.

April: $14 – Had mail forwarded to us twice, once in Prescott and once in Flagstaff.

May: $30 – Renewed our mail scanning service for another three months. This service allows us to see the front of the envelope that is sent to our mailing address in Livingston, Texas, and then we can choose to have it shredded or added to our next mail forwarding. Because of this scanning, we were able to see that there was nothing urgent in our mail this month, so we did not have anything forwarded to us in May. It will instead be held until our next forwarding request, probably in early June.

Nine month average: $19

Laundry

March: $25 – Did the regular laundry once in Yuma. In Wickenburg we had to wash all the bedding once when one of the kitties had a little accident on the bed.

April: $15 – Did laundry once in Prescott Valley.

May: $15 – Did laundry once at the RV park where we stayed in Williams. I also had to wash the top quilt on our bed because Maggie puked on it (she’s not sick, I think she just gagged on a hair in her throat). Oh, well, at least they’ve stopped peeing on it!! 🙂

Nine month average: $19

attractions / entertainment

March: $103 – We spent $30 to visit the old Vulture Mine site (overpriced, IMO). I also purchased a new hiking pack with water bottle for desert hiking.

April: $51 – Just the monthly subscriptions listed below.

May: $58 – Just the monthly subscriptions listed below, plus a bag of assorted puzzle books that I picked up at the Goodwill store in Sedona. NOTE: We visited the Grand Canyon National Park several times for free with Andy’s “America the Beautiful” senior lifetime pass for which he paid $10, right before they increased the price to $80. But even at $80, it’s still a tremendous bargain if you visit any of the national parks or monuments, especially since it’s a lifetime pass. Can’t wait until I turn 62 so I can get mine!! 🙂

Nine month average: $82

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

Hanging out at the overlook at the Powell Memorial at the Grand Canyon

memberships

March: $136 – Annual membership fee for AAA Roadside assistance. We have the premium plan that also covers the RV.

April: $0

May: $127 – Annual renewal fee for Amazon Prime. Currently questioning whether or not we should drop this next year.

Nine month average: $46

Equipment for RV

March: $35 – Caulk removal tool, tubing for use in filling the fresh water tank, a turkey baster to use when filling the house batteries with distilled water, and a utility knife and blades.

April: $7 – Blind spot mirrors, drain pan and funnel for generator oil change.

May: $0 – Hallelujah!!

Nine month average: $329 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)

RV Maintenance & REpairs

March: $24 – Replaced the air admittance valve under the bathroom sink to remove odors coming from the black tank ($8). Also purchased some shop towels and mineral spirits for caulking work (that still hasn’t been done).

April: $63 – Bought PVC pipe to replace old dryer vent hose mounted under the rig to hold the “stinky slinky” (sewer drain hose), after the old dryer vent hose basically disintegrated. Also purchased air filters and oil to perform an oil change on the Onan generator.

May: $35 – Bought two replacement lights (the amber teardrop-shaped clearance lights) for the overhead cab area to try to prevent water leakage into the rig.

Nine month average: $89

Handy Andy doing some rig maintenance while the sun shines

truck maintenance & repairs

March: $70 – Oil change, filters replaced, got the truck washed

April: $0

May: $0

Nine month average: $9

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. In March, the monthly cost for the truck increased from $40/mo to $49/mo.

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:

March Total: $2,257

April Total: $2,495

May Total: $2,337

Nine month average: $2,498

The lesson we learned this month is that we have to be more conscious of the costs associated with staying near popular tourist destinations. While we’re not going to deny ourselves the occasional splurge, we can definitely do a better job of managing our spending in restaurants and even on our groceries. We do enjoy delicious plant-based food, but our goal for June is to try to be more mindful of what our indulgences cost us.

While May was unusually cold and wet, the forecast for June is looking more normal in terms of temperatures, and so we’ve already started moving to higher elevations. We’re currently at about 8,100′ just southwest of Flagstaff, and the high temperatures for the next two weeks are forecasted to remain in the 60’s and 70’s. We plan to stay in the Flagstaff area as long as we can (but we’ll have to move to a new campsite when our 14 days are up here), and we’re hoping that we can make it through the entire month of June in this area.

Beautiful view of Humphrey’s Peak from our front yard

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.

Towing vs Driving, Plans Change Again, Scouting Near the Grand Canyon

Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful maternal people out there! Today is one of those days that I really miss being near my family, especially my own amazing Mom. I hope you all have a beautiful day with all the happiness you so richly deserve!

Today is our last full day here at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams, Arizona. We’ve been parked here for a week while this freaky weather system moves through. We’re finally getting more hours of sunshine than rain and the temperatures are starting to warm up a little bit. It’s been nice to have the full hookups here with unlimited electricity, water and sewage dump. We hooked up to the TV cable, but haven’t used it at all–we just don’t watch TV anymore.

On Friday we decided to check out some other camping options in the Williams area. We first drove down a Forest Service Road to look for some free boondocking sites. We found a lot of people camped out there, but it was extremely muddy from all the rain. There were some large ruts in some of the empty campsites where it looked like folks had struggled to get their rigs out. It’s a beautiful area, and after the sun warms up and dries it out, it would be a nice camping option.

Next we drove through the Kaibab Lake Campground, which is also part of the National Forest. The lake is beautiful, and they have a lot of first-come, first-served campsites available, as well as sites that can be reserved. When we pulled up to the information kiosk, we were immediately met by the campground host. In our conversation, he told us that we would have to pay an extra fee for our pickup, since we aren’t towing it. The fee schedule for the campsites state that if you are in a motorhome towing a vehicle, you’re considered one vehicle for fee purposes. However, since we aren’t physically towing the pickup, we don’t get the same treatment.

We’ve run into this same rule before, both in New Mexico and in other campgrounds in Arizona, and in every case, they understood that the motorhome is where we live and it stays put, and the pickup is our daily driving vehicle. We have never been charged for an extra vehicle before. It makes absolutely no sense that a 40′ Class A motorhome towing a Jeep can camp for less than we can in our 24′ Class C, driving our pickup separately.

I called the local Forest Service supervisor’s office to try to get some clarification, and they said they would check into it for us. All they did was call the camp host (who is actually a concessionaire), who told them the same thing they told us. The person at the supervisor’s office agreed with me that it didn’t make sense, but said they didn’t make the rules.

We do get a 50% discount on the camping fees in National Forest campgrounds, but that isn’t the point. We shouldn’t have to pay anything extra for our truck just because we aren’t physically towing it. So, long story longer, we won’t be staying at that particular campground, even though it is beautiful.

After keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, we could see that it was going to be quite warm in Golden Valley, where we had already made reservations at an RV park for Monday through Wednesday (13th-15th). It’s also supposed to start warming up and getting more sunny here where we are, so yesterday we decided to drive up Highway 64 to check out some boondocking possibilities close to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Generally, you can do dispersed camping for free on National Forest land as long as you are at least 1/4 mile off the main road, and you don’t camp in any area that is specifically prohibited by signage. Once we got into the National Forest about 15 miles south of Tusayan, we started driving down the Forest Roads to see what was available. And there are a LOT of beautiful, empty campsites that are currently a little damp, but are fine for camping. They are generally large pull-outs on the side of the gravel road, and they have fire pits already built that indicate the best spots to camp. We were looking for a site that had some vegetation for privacy, but not so much shade that we can’t get plenty of solar power.

Each road we went down was a little different. The first one we explored was the least muddy, and we saw some elk along the way (and we also found a large skeleton of one in one of the campsites we looked at). We found a campsite that was absolutely perfect with a beautiful view of nearby Red Bluff, the only downside being that the cellphone signal was pretty weak.

Not sure if this is a good camp spot or not–looks like this elk wasn’t too lucky.

The second road we drove down was interesting with an old stone and adobe structure at the entrance, but the campsites were more muddy and there were power lines running down the side of the road. We didn’t see anything that really excited us on this road, although it would do in a pinch.

Not sure what this structure was meant for but it has a small room in the base.

The third road had some beautiful sites, but was even muddier still, and there was even some snow still on the ground in the shadier areas. Even so, there were more people already camped in this area, and it will be a great possibility after it warms up and dries out some.

The fourth road we checked was a complete bust. We found a large camping area right inside the entrance, but then we looked over and saw what looked like a dumping area. When we checked it out closer we found that it was a shooting range and the ground was covered in trash and empty shotgun shell casings. People, if you want to go out on public land and shoot your guns, that’s your right, but at least pick up your garbage, you lazy bums!!

Rant over.

After leaving there, we reached Tusayan, the small village at the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. We stopped at Starbucks for some coffee and to review what we had found. While there, we checked out the adjoining market to see what our options would be for groceries and supplies while camping in the area (very small selection of produce at high prices). We quickly determined that if we camp there, we’ll need to stock up well ahead of time and be prepared to drive at least 50 miles to Williams or Flagstaff for real grocery shopping.

After we left Starbucks, we checked out a couple more Forest Roads, found some more elk and some more beautiful camping areas. Of course since this was closer to the National Park, there were more people already camped in the area, despite the mud, but we decided that we might move there in a couple of weeks when things are drier.

We were lucky enough to see several elk on our explorations. These were not shy at all.

So after a long afternoon of exploration, we definitely decided that we are NOT moving to Golden Valley, and that we are going boondocking again. We’ll start out at the first campsite that we found on Forest Road 320, and then as things dry out we’ll probably move north, closer to the National Park.

Today (Sunday), we’re getting prepared to leave the amenities of this very nice RV park, and head back to the woods. Andy has already fixed one of our kitchen drawers this morning, as it wasn’t latching properly and we didn’t want it to fly open while we’re driving. After lunch we’re going to drive to Flagstaff to hit up Walmart for groceries and supplies for about the next 10 days. Tomorrow morning we’ll enjoy one last shower with unlimited hot water before we hit the road to go north.

We’ve definitely enjoyed our stay here, and certainly recommend this park to anyone who is traveling through the Williams area. But it will be nice to have some privacy and open space around us again for a change. And of course, we plan to visit the Grand Canyon at least once while we’re in this area. With Andy’s senior pass, we get free entrance to the park, so we’ll probably go more than once.

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!

Forest Boondocking, Moving to Williams, Watching the Weather

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

Arriving at our campsite on a rainy day

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

Pumphouse Wash is a beautiful stream flowing through Kaibab limestone cliffs

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

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

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

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

Iconic view of Sedona from the airport overlook

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

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

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

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

Handy Andy doing some rig maintenance while the sun shines

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome shower facilities at Grand Canyon Railroad RV Park

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

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

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

Beer-battered cod and fries at Grand Canyon Brewery

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

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

Andy and Elvis in the Twisters 50’s Diner

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

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

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Safe travels!

New Mexico – I’m In My Happy Place

Good Friday morning from Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs, New Mexico, about 15 miles north of Las Cruces. I just spent an hour sitting in my lawn chair in my pajamas and slippers, sipping my coffee and watching the sunrise. I’m in my happy place!

My view at sunrise

But getting here was a little bit stressful. We left the Alley Oop RV Park in Iraan on Wednesday morning about 11:00, on our way to Van Horn, Texas. Our route from the park back to I-10 took us through an active oil field where we could see the pumping units bobbing up and down. There was also a large wind farm with lines of huge wind turbines along the mountaintops. Most of them weren’t turning however, which we continue to puzzle about.

We got to Van Horn about 4:30 and checked in to the Desert Willow RV Park. With our Passport American membership, the nightly rate was $13.50, and that included electricity, water, sewer, fast wi-fi, and cable TV (which we did not use). The park also had laundry facilities and nice showers (we didn’t use either but they looked nice). The staff was friendly and laid back, and we were able to choose any open spot that we wanted.

Desert Willow RV Park in Van Horn, TX

It was pretty warm but it was breezy, so not too uncomfortable outside. Inside, we ran the air conditioner. As the sun was going down a small thunderstorm came through, and then later we got more rain. At one point there was a lot of lightning and our power went off for just a second and then came back on. Didn’t think anything about it.

Desert Willow campground–great for overnighting

The next morning (yesterday) when Andy was disconnecting all the hookups for us to leave, he found that the 30 amp electric plug from the RV had partially melted and stuck to the heavy duty surge protector that we use when connecting to shore power. He had to use a pry bar to get the plug out of the surge protector. We’re thinking that the electrical surge from the lightning strike caused the damage, and the surge protector did its job to keep the RV safe. The RV plug appeared to still be intact, with just a little of the rubber missing, but the surge protector seemed to be toasted, so we discarded it and decided to get a new one when we went through El Paso.

The drive through El Paso was extremely stressful for Andy in the RV as there was a lot–a LOT–of road construction and heavy traffic. He did a great job of keeping it between the lines. We stopped at Camping World on the north side of El Paso and picked up a new surge protector, along with two vent covers to allow us to have the roof vents open when it’s raining.

Camping World of El Paso

In Las Cruces we stopped at Walmart to pick up a few groceries and a New Mexico atlas by Delorme. The atlas has detailed maps showing where the public lands are, as well as elevations, so we can plan out our boondocking locations. Getting off the freeway and into Walmart was another stressful excursion, but we made it fine. While we were inside Walmart we left the generator running with the air conditioner on, so the kitties were comfortable.

We got to our current campsite in the Leasburg Dam State Park about 4:30 MDT and settled in to site #17. We have electric and water hookups, but no sewer (there is a dump station). The site is gravel with a level concrete pad for the RV, and there is a picnic table covered by a pavilion. The park has nice showers and restrooms, hiking trails and a visitors center. There’s also great cellphone coverage with 4 bars of Verizon LTE.

Parked at our site #17 with covered picnic table

I cooked some pasta and meatballs for dinner, then we took a sunset walk to an overlook where we could see the water. The dam doesn’t look too impressive right now as the water is pretty low. I’ll try to talk to the rangers today to see what the dam status is (LOL).

After our walk, we settled in to our lawn chairs to watch the stars come out. There were so many stars! It’s been years since we’ve been in a place where we could see the Milky Way, much less satellites traveling across the star field. The temperature was perfect, there were no bugs, the humidity was just over 20%–I had found my happy place!!

Our campsite at sundown

For the first time since we moved in here full-time, we were able to go to bed without the noisy air conditioner running, using only the vent fans. This morning when I woke up at 5AM (we changed time zones yesterday and my body thought it was 6AM), it was 57° outside and 59° inside the rig. It’s supposed to get up into the high 80’s today so eventually we’ll turn the A/C back on, but this morning is wonderful!

Today we’ll do some exploring around the park. I’m hoping to get my camera out and do some photography. It is supposed to get windy this afternoon, hopefully it won’t stir up so much dust that we can’t enjoy being outside.

Not sure where we’re going next, we’ll decide that today.

Stay tuned to find out!

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Alley Oop RV Park in Iraan, Texas

It’s our second day on the road, and we found a very quirky place to spend the night.

We had a restful night at the River Ranch RV Park in New Braunfels last night. We weren’t bothered at all by the freeway noise from the bridge overhead since we had the air conditioner running all night to fight the humidity. This morning it was foggy and overcast when we awoke, but the sun was trying to break through by the time we pulled out around 10:30.

We took I-35 south to San Antonio, then took the 1604 Loop west to get back on I-10 west. There was a lot of highway construction around north San Antonio, so the lanes were narrow and traffic was congested. There was also a little bit of light rain at times. It was pretty stressful driving for Andy in the RV, but we made it just fine. Once we got past the road work, we stopped and fueled up both vehicles at a Love’s Truck Stop, and then the plan was to travel about 8 miles further down I-10 to a rest stop to have lunch.

Route for October 2

By then we were well into the Texas Hill Country, and the rest stop was located at the top of a high mesa. Andy was so busy watching the RPMs on the dashboard while climbing the mesa that he drove right past the rest stop. No worries, we just pulled in to the Lowe’s in Kerrville, parked in their parking lot, and proceeded to have lunch.

Stopped for lunch in the Lowe’s parking lot in Kerrville, TX

Before we left New Braunfels this morning, Andy made a huge salad to last us for several days, and I made the dressing to go with it. So while we were in the parking lot, we just opened a can of black beans and heated them on the stove to go with the salad. We enjoyed our lunch, washed and dried the dishes, used the bathroom, cleaned the floor, and then we were ready to hit the road again. So nice to have our house with us!

We got into Iraan about 4:30 and found the Alley Oop RV park right next to the City Park. In the past, RVers were allowed to stay overnight in the City Park for free (no hookups), but it doesn’t look like they do that anymore because the sign says the park is closed from 10PM-7AM. The RV Park right next to the City Park used to be $10/night for full hookups, but now they’re $15. We got the last available spot in the RV Park, and considered ourselves fortunate. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a bargain.

Alley Oop RV Park, Iraan, TX

Site #4, pull-through, $15/night with full hookups

Iraan has a couple of interesting things going for it. First of all, it’s right in the middle of the oil patch, and most of the RV’s in this park belong to oil field workers who are staying here long-term. In 1926 a successful oil well was drilled  on a ranch belonging to Ira and Ann Yates. They donated the site for the town, which was named for them–a contraction of “Ira” and “Ann”, becoming Iraan. The Yates oilfield is still producing today.

Oilfield equipment display next to the RV park

Iraan is also the birthplace of the Alley Oop comic strip, hence the name of the RV park. There’s a small museum and an Alley Oop-themed “attraction” next to the RV park which we explored this afternoon. It was quirky but fun. We both had to climb up on the dinosaur for a photo op. Later we found out that a mama cat and her kittens have a home inside the dinosaur’s belly, via a square cutout on the underside.

Andy as Alley Oop

Dinny, the dinosaur, currently has a family of cats living in its belly.

There was a beautiful sunset this evening, so after we had dinner and cleaned up the dishes we went for a walk in the City Park. There’s a nice breeze blowing and the temperature is nice, and we didn’t see a single mosquito–that’s awesome!!

Sunset in Iraan, Texas

Tomorrow we won’t be driving quite as far, only about 180 miles to Van Horn. The little town of Van Horn has a special place in our hearts (and our nightmares)–we spent three nights there in 2000 when our fully-loaded U-Haul truck broke down while we were moving from Houston to Phoenix. We were towed in to Bud’s Diesel Shop in Van Horn, and we spent three nights in a little motel waiting for the parts to come in so they could replace the drive shaft which had broken. So this time we’re staying in Van Horn mostly for sentimental reasons.

Andy found the problem with the overhead vent in the bathroom that leaked water during yesterday’s rainstorm. The gasket around the vent had become unseated, so it was an easy fix to adjust it. However it should probably be replaced as it has gotten stiff and hard.

Otherwise, the vehicles and systems are working great (knock on wood!). We’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight before getting back on the road tomorrow. Still chasing 70° and low humidity–New Mexico, here we come!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 7

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

Friday, April 13, 2018 – Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park, Summerdale, Alabama

Today was another moving day as we left Biloxi and drove east on I-10, past Mobile, into rural south Alabama. We are staying for the next three nights at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation Park near Summerdale.

Gutcheck Map move to Rainbow Plantation

We didn’t leave the RV park in Biloxi until almost 11:00. Andy wanted to take a shower before leaving, and I took time to do a little house-cleaning. It’s only about a 70 mile drive between the locations, so there was no need to be in a hurry.

We stopped along the way at the Alabama Welcome Center where we parked in the lot with the semi trucks and had lunch of salad and black beans. I picked up some brochures of things to do in the area, mainly because the nice hostess just insisted that I take them. I haven’t even looked at them yet.

We got to Rainbow Plantation about 2:30 and checked in to site #59. The sites are large and pretty level, and they’re mostly grass and sand. We’re right next to a big oak tree that offers a lot of shade, but not directly over the RV. We have full hookups, but no picnic table or fire-ring. But we’re only paying $22/night, so that’s not bad. There are two bars of Verizon service, but it’s on the slow side.

They have a pool and a large clubhouse. There are two separate unisex showers, which seems a little skimpy for such a large campground. However, a lot of the units here are permanent or seasonal residents, and I doubt they have any use for those showers.

We got set up pretty quickly and then just relaxed under the awning with a beer. I fixed a brown rice salad and some baked tofu for dinner (tofu was a little salty), and then we just stayed in for the evening.

The weather is supposed to get pretty nasty with strong thunderstorms tomorrow evening, into Sunday morning. It’s supposed to be really windy all day tomorrow. There’s already a flash flood watch out for this area. We had talked about going in to town to listen to Kyle play, but we’ll have to see what the weather looks like.

Our First RV Rally – Sevierville, TN

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

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

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Settled in at Camp Walmart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re having a blast this week!