Fun in the Desert, Agua Fria National Monument, Back to the Forest

Wow, didn’t realize it had been ten days since my last post! Time to catch up!

Yesterday was moving day, and we’re in a new location now, but first I’ll share some of what we’ve been up to for the past ten days at our camp on Bloody Basin Road BLM land near Mayer, Arizona.

First of all, we got some maintenance items taken care of. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we almost lost our sewer hose (a.k.a. the “stinky slinky”) when the homemade storage pipe came loose from the underside of the rig while at the dump station. Andy decided to replace the old one with some PVC pipe which should hold up better to the rigors of travel. It took a little ingenuity, but he got it done (as he always does).

Handy Andy installs PVC pipe to hold our stinky slinky under the RV.

I did quite a bit of geocaching while we were at the Bloody Basin camp. There is a person or persons who go by the handle Cactusart Kids who have placed hundreds of caches in the area. The ones I found were all in tins of different shapes and sizes, most had swag for trading, a few were pretty rusty, but in every case it was a fun hunt and not too hard to locate. I’m still pretty new to geocaching, so I appreciate the ones that don’t totally stump me. I did have to be extremely cautious, though, as it’s rattlesnake season, and digging around in the rocks can be a little iffy. I saw one live rattler in the middle of the road as I was walking back from a hunt, and another rattler was run over by a vehicle at the entrance to our campsite. Just a little something to add a “thrill” to the hunt (sorry, Mom!!).

My very first time to see a rattler in the wild, and fortunately it was in the middle of the road.

On Saturday, we drove through a good portion of the Agua Fria National Monument, which is just across the interstate from where we were camped. The Monument is comprised of 70,900 acres, including the 55,200-acre “Perry Mesa Archaeological District”, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It takes its name from the Agua Fria River which flows through the Monument, and features one of the most significant systems of prehistoric sites in the American Southwest.

Agua Fria river flowing by Horseshoe Ranch in Agua Fria National Monument

Our goal was to reach the Pueblo la Plata archaeological site, located about eight miles from the entrance to the Monument. That was probably the roughest eight miles that our little Tacoma pickup truck has ever traveled. Not only did we have to go up and down steep inclines, but the road got progressively more “primitive” the further we drove.

Epic view on Road 9269 in the Agua Fria National Monument.

When we finally reached the turn-off to the pueblo site, we decided to just park the truck and hike in. It was about a mile-and-a-half to the archaeological site across the top of a mesa, so it was a fairly flat hike. The pueblo site itself was less impressive than I had hoped, as it’s pretty much just piles of rocks that at one time made up the walls of the homes and other structures where people lived. Over time, the dirt and clay “mortar” has washed away, and now there’s a lot of vegetation growing around the stones, so it’s a little harder to see the outline of the structure. But it’s there, you just have to use your imagination a little bit.

Remains of Pueblo la Plata. They had a beautiful view!

And about 20 yards away is the rim of the canyon where Silver Creek flows by, which was their major source of water at the time. The view from the top of the canyon was really stunning, and worth the hike.

Andy on the edge of Silver Creek Canyon near the Pueblo la Plata

We made several trips to civilization while we were camped at Bloody Basin. I drove to Mayer one day to pick up our mail, which contained some unexpected good news–the dentist office in Yuma that we visited is refunding almost half of what we paid them for Andy’s crown and my filling. Our dental insurance paid more than they expected, so we got a nice chunk of change back. Hooray!! We also had a laundry and grocery shopping day in Prescott Valley, so we took advantage of the trip to have lunch at Chipotle. And on Sunday, we drove south to Anthem to pick up a package from Amazon at the Amazon locker in the Chase bank lobby (we love Amazon lockers!!), and stopped by Starbucks for some free wi-fi and a treat.

So, yesterday (Monday), we hit the fourteen day limit at that particular BLM campsite. As you might remember from our previous post, we have ordered a new mattress (HALLELUJAH!!) for the RV, and it’s scheduled for delivery to the Prescott Valley Fedex facility this Thursday, so we need to stay in the area. We were considering just staying put for a few more days as the BLM doesn’t actively track how long you stay in most of these boondocking spots. After we had breakfast, we got on the computer and started looking at spots where we might want to move to later in the week, all around the Prescott Valley area. Since we also needed to dump the tanks yesterday, we finally decided that since we had to move the RV to go to the dump, we might as well just relocate at the same time.

So we picked out a US Forest Service campground located between Prescott and Prescott Valley where they have eleven campsites that are first-come, first-serve. We decided to take a chance on there being a spot available at the Hilltop Campground, and if not, we would just cross that bridge later. All the reservation sites were gone, as we expected.

So we packed everything up and pulled out of camp around 11:00 AM yesterday. We stopped in Cordes Junction to dump the tanks and fill up on propane, gas, and fresh water, and then made the short 35-mile drive to our new campground. And sure enough, there was one campsite available that we were JUST able to squeeze our rig onto–and this is just another example of why we decided to keep the small RV for now instead of trading up to a larger one.

Our newest home in Hilltop Campground (USFS) near Prescott AZ

The campground does not provide hookups, but they do have vault toilets as well as drinking water available. Each site has a picnic table and a fire-ring, and the sites are asphalt pads. There’s a camp host on duty to keep things clean and orderly. The sites are $18/night, but with Andy’s America the Beautiful lifetime senior pass, which cost us $10, we get half off the camping fee, so we’re paying $9/night.

The elevation here is 5,682′, about 2,000 feet higher than where we were, so the vegetation and climate are very different. We’re surrounded by Ponderosa pine and hardwood trees, and the temperatures are about ten degrees cooler. The humidity is still low, and the trees offer protection from the wind, making it very pleasant to be outside. The one downside to the trees is that it makes it harder for our solar panels to charge the batteries. We may wind up depending more upon the generator for a few days. We’re supposed to get a little rain today, but otherwise the weather looks to be beautiful while we’re here.

So our plans for the rest of the week include picking up our new mattress, finding a place to dispose of the old one, doing some hiking and geocaching, visiting downtown Prescott again, and generally enjoying this beautiful location. We have always loved the Prescott area–in fact, when we were living in Glendale we were considering buying property in Prescott or Prescott Valley, but wound up moving to Tupelo, Mississippi instead to be near family for awhile. We are still seriously considering making this area our final retirement destination once we get off the road, whenever that may be.

Sunset at our camp on Bloody Basin Road

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

Safe travels!

Expense Report – February 2019 – Full-time RV Living

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

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

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

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

Another beautiful sunrise this morning at Pilot Knob LTVA

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

Here are our expenses for February.

Camping fees + Electricity

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

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

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

Six month average: $199

DUMPING FEEs

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

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

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

Six month average: $22

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

Fuel for the RV

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

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

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

Six month average: $160

Fuel for the Truck

December: $221 (20.0 MPG)

January: $59 (17.7 MPG)

February: $113 (17.6 MPG)

Six month average: $141

PROPANE

December: $32 (10 gallons)

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

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

Six month average: $32

groceries

December: $492

January: $480

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

Six month average: $492

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

The pastry display at Cardena’s in El Centro

dining out

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

January: $230

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

Six month average: $215

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

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

household / furnishings

December: $42

January: $35

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

Six month average: $82

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

petcare

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

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

February: $7 – Kitties are doing very well!

Six month average: $69

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

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

verizon cellphone / internet

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

January: $276

February: $276

Six month average: $264

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

mail forwarding

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

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

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

Six month average: $20

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

Laundry

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

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

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

Six month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

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

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

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

Six month average: $88

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

Andy found himself behind bars at the Yuma Territorial Prison

memberships

December: $0

January: $0

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

Six month average: $25

Equipment for RV

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

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

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

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

RV Maintenance & REpairs

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

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

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

Six month average: $113

truck maintenance & repairs

December: $0

January: $0

February: $0

Six month average: $2

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

Vehicle insurance

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

VEhicle License and registration

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

Another fun lunch in Los Algodones

Summary

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

December Total: $3,309

January Total: $1,677

February Total: $1,904

Six month average: $2,565

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

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

View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA

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

Expense Report for January 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.

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

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

We spent the entire month of January boondocking (camping without hookups) 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 moved the RV all month was to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks.

Our new desert campsite by the mountains

Staying in one place for the entire month radically affected our expenses for the better. Here’s how our spending went for January.

Camping fees + Electricity

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

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

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).

Five month average: $227

Rainy days often result in gorgeous sunsets

DUMPING FEEs

November: $0

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.

Five month average: $17

Fuel for the RV

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

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

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.)

Five month average: $192

Fuel for the Truck

November: $52 (17.7 MPG)

December: $221 (20.0 MPG)

January: $59 (17.7 MPG)

Five month average: $147

PROPANE

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

December: $32 (10 gallons)

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.

Five month average: $26

groceries

November: $479

December: $492

January: $480

Five month average: $479

I’m really surprised at how consistent this number is every month. We do almost all our grocery shopping at Walmart, so I’m assuming that that explains the consistency from month to month. 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.

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

dining out

November: $213

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

January: $230

Five month average: $221

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

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

household / furnishings

November: $87

December: $42

January: $35

Five month average: $58

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

petcare

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

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

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

Five month average: $82

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

verizon cellphone / internet

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

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

January: $276

Five month average: $261

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 significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

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

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

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.

Five month average: $14

Laundry

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

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

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.

Five month average: $20

attractions / entertainment

November: $56

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

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

Five month average: $86

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

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

memberships

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

December: $0

January: $0

Five month average: $22

Equipment for RV

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

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

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

Five month average: $577

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

RV Maintenance & REpairs

November: $22 (changed out the water filter)

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

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

Five month average: $130

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

truck maintenance & repairs

November: $0

December: $0

January: $0

Five month average: $3

Vehicle insurance

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

VEhicle License and registration

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

Summary

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

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

December Total: $3,309

January Total: $1,677

Five month average: $2,697

It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. Except for the huge hit on the solar kit that we purchased, November was a very good month in terms of expenses. We lived very well while spending very little. In December we drove more, continued putting together our solar system, and had some additional maintenance items to attend to, so our expenses were higher than we would have liked, even with the free boondocking. In January, we once again had an excellent month 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. We’re starting to think about moving to a different LTVA just for a change of scenery, but have not made any specific plans. We’re very comfortable where we are right now, so we’ll see how itchy our feet get in February. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens.

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.

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!

Follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for live updates on our adventures!

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!

Finally On The Road – Under The Bridge in New Braunfels TX

Today was the day we finally hit the road as nomads, meaning that our travel plans are not dictated by legal requirements or obligations to anyone. After spending a month in Livingston, Texas to fulfill all the conditions to establish our legal domicile (vehicle titles, inspection, tags and registration; drivers licenses; voter registration; new bank account), we are finally free to go where we want, when we want.

So now we are headed west toward New Mexico, where we plan to spend most of the month of October. It will take us almost four days to get across Texas, as we want to limit our daily driving to no more than 275 miles. That gives us time to see a little of the surrounding area when we get to a new campsite, and it’s also less tiring for us and for the kitties.

Today we left Livingston a little after 9AM, after stopping by the office to pay our electric bill for the month. You might remember that we had a little scare a couple of days after we arrived at the Escapees RV Park, when it looked like our electric bill was going to be astronomical. Fortunately we figured out that I had made a clerical error on my spreadsheet, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought. Our total bill for the month, including tax, was $98.85.

We did not take the most direct route from Livingston to New Braunfels. This was primarily to avoid the heavy traffic in Houston, as well as the toll roads. Since we left Texas in 2000, they have gone absolutely bonkers with their toll roads. I have no problem with paying tolls when I need to get somewhere in a hurry. But the Great Republic of Texas, in all their wisdom, saw fit to get rid of all their toll booth workers and replace them with cameras. If you live in Texas and want to use the toll roads, then you get yourself a sticker to put on your car, and link it to your bank account, and when you use the toll road you automatically get billed.

However, if you’re just passing through the Republic and you don’t have one of the magic stickers on your vehicle, and you happen to use the toll road either on purpose or by accident (it’s very easy to wind up on a toll road without meaning to), then a week or two later you get a letter from the Great Republic of Texas, with a nice photograph of you in your vehicle on the toll road, and an invoice for using said toll road. And if you decide to ignore the notice, you will suddenly find that you cannot renew your vehicle registration in your own state until you pay the bill and the fines that go with it.

Okay, so with that said, we decided to stay far away from Houston and see some new country. Here’s the route that we took today:

Our route from Livingston to New Braunfels

We stopped in Conroe to get fuel for Lizzy (the RV), and we stopped for lunch in Hempstead where we just pulled into a big empty lot and fixed ourselves some sandwiches. Most of the trip was easy driving, with the exception of a quick thunderstorm just before we got to Hempstead which dumped a lot of rain on us. In fact, when we stopped for lunch and opened the bathroom door we found that some water had leaked in through the overhead vent fan. Never had that happen before, so we’ll have to check that in the morning.

We pulled into the River Ranch RV Resort around 3:45 this afternoon. We got a 50% discount on our site through our membership in Passport America. And since our rig is rather small, we got a prime site on the end, right next to the river as well as the wi-fi router! The site is costing us $22.50 for the night.

The unusual thing about this RV park is that it is located right under the I-35 overpass and the Business 35 overpass. There is traffic noise for sure, but when we’re inside the rig with the A/C running, we don’t notice the traffic at all.

Lizzy parked under the I-35 overpass, next to the river

The view outside our rig is the river with some beautiful cypress trees and lots of ducks. There’s a boat launch right next to the RV park where kayakers and recreational boaters can put in and take out of the river. And we even saw a snake swimming in the water as we were getting ready to head out to dinner. As long as he stays in the water, I’m OK with that.

The Guadalupe River that runs right past our campsite

After we got everything set up and *almost* leveled, we decided that instead of cooking dinner we would go out and enjoy some of the local color and cuisine. I checked some online menus and found a place that had some vegan options.

We went to the Phoenix Saloon in downtown New Braunfels, This place has been featured on the Food Network as well as the Travel Channel, so we knew it had be good. When we pulled up we weren’t sure they were open as the sidewalk was all torn up and taped off. But we saw their lights were on and we found a side door that they are using as a temporary entrance.

Side door to the Phoenix Saloon

The place was pretty empty as far as customers go, with just a few people sitting at the bar (we got there about 5:30 or so). We decided to sit at the bar as well, since that’s where you had to go to order your food anyway. We started out with a local craft beer. We asked the barkeep for a recommendation and she suggested Juicy Visions IPA from the Middleton Brewing Company in San Marcos, TX. It was perfect, had some nice citrusy notes which I always enjoy. Andy got a dark porter that he really liked.

We ordered fried green tomatoes for an appetizer, and then followed with their black bean veggie burger with mango salsa. It was a pretty standard black bean burger (the same brand that we get at Sams or Costco), but the mango salsa is a nice touch, and I also had mine on a jalapeno bun that gave it a nice kick. The potato wedge fries were nice and crispy, so all-in-all it was a great meal.

Black bean veggie burger at Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels

After we ate, we walked around downtown a little bit to check things out. We came across a railroad museum in the old depot–it wasn’t open but we got to check out the outdoor exhibit of an engine, container car, and caboose. We also found a gelato shop where we stopped for a little dessert.

New Braunfels Railroad Museum

So that has been our day. The kitties are pretty worn out after their exciting travel experience. They don’t freak out as much as they used to when the RV is moving, but it’s still somewhat stressful for them. They’ll sleep very well tonight, just like we will.

Tomorrow we will continue our westward trek across Texas. We plan to overnight in a little place called Iraan (pronounced Ira-Ann), in their city park. Stay tuned to see how that goes.

Happily Exhausted

What an exhausting weekend! But it was super-productive, and we also got to spend time with family members that we don’t get to see often enough, so it was worth the long hours, sweat and heavy lifting.

We had our yard sale yesterday (Saturday), and of course people were lined up in our driveway a good half hour before our advertised start time. What was the biggest draw? TOOLS!! I actually had people texting me from outside the house at 6:30 AM asking about what kind of tools we had for sale.

Andy had just gotten out of the shower when I told him that we had a crowd waiting to get in. He wasn’t very happy  about it, especially since he hadn’t had his coffee yet, but once the money started rolling in, his good humor came back and he enjoyed the process.

When we opened the garage doors it was like Walmart on Black Friday. There was a mad rush that lasted almost an hour, and then things settled down into a nice steady flow. Yes, we sold things cheap, and we even put a “free pile” in the driveway of things like half-empty bottles of cleaning supplies and half-rolls of shelf paper. We just wanted the stuff to be gone.

By about noon it was pretty much over and we broke for lunch. Andy’s nephew, Mike, had driven over from South Carolina the night before to pick up some family heirlooms and to help with the sale. My mom and sister-in-law, Kathy, also came over to help out, and we were glad to load them up with some things to take home with them as well. It was a lot of fun to hang out with them during the day, and in Mike’s case, for the entire weekend.

After we had lunch, we started packing up the remaining items which we’ll be donating to charity this week.

Items remaining after the yard sale ended on Saturday.

As we were getting the garage cleaned up, another person showed up to meet with Andy about possibly buying some of his lapidary equipment and supplies. He wound up buying the cabbing machine, almost (if not all) the rocks and stones, and some other supplies. It was tough for Andy to see all that stuff go, but it was for a good cause.

This morning, we loaded up Mike’s truck with not only the family heirlooms that he had come to retrieve, but also most of our old camping gear that he and his son should enjoy using (and hopefully his wife as well!).  He headed back to South Carolina after we promised to stay in touch so that we can all get together and do some camping in the future.

Mike loading his truck with family stuff and camping gear.

After having lunch and resting up a little bit, I finally completed the task that I have been dreading–I posted my Prius for sale in Facebook Marketplace.

My 2007 Prius is officially for sale.

Almost immediately I started getting inquiries about it, and I already have appointments for showings tomorrow and Tuesday, with others asking to be notified if it doesn’t sell to either of those. I’ve really enjoyed this little car, it’s been a workhorse and has had very, very few problems. I hate to part with her, but it’s part of the process.

I did some laundry today, mopped the kitchen floor and made sure the bookkeeping was up to date, but otherwise we just relaxed a little bit today. We’ll hit the ground running again tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. The plans for this week include showing (and hopefully selling) the car, applying for our mail forwarding service through Escapees, delivering the leftover yard sale stuff to charity, making a run or two to the landfill, continuing to scan and shred documents from the files, and wiping the files on my desktop computer so it can be sold.

We’re still trying to sell the dining room set and the microwave hutch. I’ll have some other furniture pieces to list soon (desks, bookcases, file cabinet, breakfast table/chairs). The bedroom furniture and recliners are semi-promised to certain individuals, and the television will be among the last things to go.

Oh, and we went ahead and made our reservation for Tombigbee State Park for the move-in process. We had originally thought we would stay at Barnes Crossing RV Park here in Tupelo, but after comparing rates, we saved over $150 by choosing the state park due to Andy’s senior discount as well as a credit on our Reserve America account from where we had to cancel a trip earlier in the year. Tombigbee is only about 15 minutes away, and we’ve always enjoyed staying there. It will be our home base while we move everything in and get it organized, and while we go through the closing process on the house sale.

Only three weeks until we move into the RV.

Wow.

Things That Keep Me Awake At Night

It’s 4:00 AM on Friday, and I’ve been awake for over an hour. Why can’t I go back to sleep? Because I’m trying to figure out the best place to store those blasted rolls of aluminum foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper in our little RV. There’s no good place!!

Only 26 more days until we close on the sale of our house and hit the road, and there is so much to do. We got the results of the appraisal yesterday, and everything looks good for a successful closing. The fencing guys finally came by to repair the chain link fence behind the workshop where the huge branch fell on it several weeks ago, so that was our last major repair expenditure. On Wednesday we took our two kitties, Maggie and Molly, to the vet for their annual checkups and vaccinations, and we also had them do a blood workup to check for any organ issues that we should be aware of–still waiting to get those results, but the vet said that they seemed healthy otherwise, although Maggie could stand to lose some weight (couldn’t we all!).

Our big push at the moment is getting ready for tomorrow’s yard sale. We’ve already started setting things up in the garage, but there is just so much STUFF that needs to be sold that we won’t be able to put it all out there at once. One of our neighbors was kind enough to offer the use of some more folding tables, and that will help tremendously. We’re keeping our fingers crossed on the weather forecast, hoping that the rain will hold off so we can put some things out on the driveway as well.

On Wednesday I visited Lizzy at the storage lot and brought home all the dishes, cookware and kitchen utensils that we had been using on our camping trips. Yesterday I went through everything in our kitchen cabinets and drawers, pulled out anything breakable to put in the yard sale and replaced it with the non-breakable items from the RV that we’ll be using going forward.

All our camping kitchen-ware from the RV

For instance, my 43-piece set of Mikasa stoneware that we’ve had since we got married is now on the sale rack, replaced with a few non-breakable plates, saucers and bowls from the RV. All my glassware and stemware is gone, replaced by two clear plastic goblets from the RV. Making these changes now will give us several weeks to make sure we still have the items that we need to prepare and enjoy our food while still keeping our possessions to a minimum.

Andy’s nephew is driving over from South Carolina to pick up some family heirlooms that we’re passing along, so we’ll put Mike to work helping in the yard sale for as long as he’s here. 🙂

Yesterday we sold our wine rack and one of our Roku devices on Facebook Marketplace. We sold our patio furniture to the next door neighbor (same one who got our grill). We still haven’t sold the dining room set or the microwave hutch, but there’s been a lot of interest so we’re still hopeful. I’ve also already had a serious inquiry about my car, but I’m not planning to post it for sale until Sunday at the earliest.

Andy has been going through his wardrobe and has managed to weed it out pretty well. He was having a tough time trying to narrow down his t-shirt collection, so we decided to have a quilt made from some of his favorites. I have a friend from high school who specializes in making t-shirt quilts, so I’ve sent the shirts to her so she can work her magic. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Now that the appraisal is done and we’re 99.9% confident that the sale will go through, we’ll move forward with some important things like getting our new address set up in Texas, reserving a site in the RV park here in Tupelo for our move-in, and selling the car. We’ll have to deal with all the stuff that does not disappear in the yard sale, and we will have some final larger items to sell like the bedroom furniture and the television that we’re still using for the moment.

We follow a lot of full time RVers on YouTube and listen to their stories about how they made the transition from sticks-and-bricks to the RV, and they all talk about how hard it is to totally divest yourself of all your possessions–not necessarily because of the emotional attachment (although there’s a good bit of that when it comes to certain items), but just the sheer volume of “stuff” that we tend to accumulate when we live in one place for too long. We tell ourselves that our stuff is valuable (how else could we justify hanging on to it), but you find out just how worthless all this crap really is when you try to sell it to someone–anyone–else. And when you have a hard deadline, like a closing date, to meet, it becomes even more stressful.

But underneath that stress, there’s this feeling of freedom that’s starting to bubble up, knowing that there will be no more yard work, no more utility bills, no more being stuck with crazy neighbors fighting in the street.

I’ll have about 10 square feet to sweep and mop. That in itself makes me happy!

Now, I just need to figure out a good place to put those stupid rolls of aluminum foil and parchment paper.

 

Gut-Check Tour – Let’s Review!

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.

I finally had a chance to sit down at the computer and review all of our data from our 16-day Gut-Check Tour, and thought I’d share some of the interesting statistics.

For those of you who are new to the blog, we travel in a 24′ Class C RV which Andy drives, and I follow behind in our 2004 Toyota Tacoma Prerunner with a camper shell. We also travel with two cats.

We left Tupelo on Saturday, April 7, and returned on Sunday, April 22. I don’t have the actual miles traveled on either vehicle, but according to Google maps, the route for our trip covered 933 miles. This would be the miles that the RV covered ONLY, and would not include the miles that we drove in the Tacoma for side trips.

Here are some of the numbers for what we spent:

Campsite Fees (including taxes, miscellaneous fees)

We stayed at five different sites on our travels, and were able to get discounts at four of them. Our total campsite fees were $382.96, which were broken down as follows:

Gasoline

We started our trip with over three-quarters tank of gas in the RV, but we haven’t refilled the tank since we returned. Therefore, these figures don’t accurately reflect the amount of gas that we used for the trip, but only shows what we spent while traveling. The total amount spent was $316.42:

  • For the RV – Two stops, $184.40 for 74.6 gallons, average price $2.47/gallon. (On the second stop, the pump cut off at $100, so we didn’t actually completely fill the tank, and that has prevented me from calculating our MPG until the next fill-up.)
  • For the Tacoma – $132.02 for 51.97 gallons, average price $2.54/gallon

Attractions and Entertainment

We really enjoy our sight-seeing excursions, but we didn’t try to go somewhere or do something every day. We’re perfectly happy reading a good book, walking on the beach or taking hikes, which are free. But we also enjoy learning about new places and their history, so we allowed time and budget for exploring. In addition to the list below, we also spent $24 playing the penny slot machines in Biloxi, Mississippi, but we won more than we spent, plus we got free drinks, so that was more of an investment, right? The total for attractions and entertainment was $85:

Food and Drinks

One of the best things about RV life is having access to a full kitchen for all your meals. We eat a primarily whole-foods, plant-based  diet, which means a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, oats and other whole grains, big salads, beans and legumes, and nuts/seeds. We do splurge occasionally, especially on Sunday mornings when we have Pillsbury cinnamon rolls baked in our convection microwave oven, and we did eat out a few times when we were sight-seeing during the day, but most of our meals were in the RV.

Total food cost was $341.03, broken down as follows:

  • Groceries – $181.36, including stocking up on the day before we left.
  • Wine – $21.99
  • Dining out – $137.68, includes four meals plus two treats (Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream in Biloxi, and beignets and sno-balls in Panama City Beach)

Other Miscellaneous

We picked up a few new items for the RV, most of which will be used after this trip, but I’m throwing them on this report anyway:

  • Consumables (dishwashing liquid, cleaning supplies, toilet paper) – $9.92
  • Equipment (step-stool for accessing the over-cab area, windshield mount for iPhone) – $48.89
  • Furnishings (shoe organizer, matching towels to cover dinette cushions to protect from cat hair) – $23.65

Adding It All Up

And that brings our total spending on our trip to $1,207.87. I don’t think that’s too bad for a 16-day vacation for two people and two cats!

What We Learned

While this was a vacation, the main purpose of the trip was to give ourselves a gut-check, to make sure that we can be happy living in and out of a small RV for an extended amount of time, without having a concrete plan or schedule of where we’re going to be for the next week or two. We needed to see if we could function without getting on each others’ nerves too much, and if we could deal with the inevitable stress that comes when things don’t go exactly as planned–things break, campsites are not as advertised, weather gets nasty, cats want to be fed EVERY MORNING at 5AM. Just the little things in life.

And I think we came through with flying colors! This trip only reinforced our decision to follow our dream of twenty-five years and pursue full-time travel while living in an RV. We feel like we’ve done our homework and due diligence, and that we’re making an informed decision concerning how we want to live our golden years. We’ve saved money all our working lives, and we’ve invested in vehicles and equipment that will serve us well in the future. We’ve educated and tested ourselves, and now we’re both excited and anxious to get this show on the road, literally!

On this trip, we got lots of experience at finding enough wireless signal to enable us to use the internet to research campgrounds and parks where we wanted to stay. We got more experience at managing our gray and black tank capacity when staying at a site with no sewer hookups. (I wish we had done more dry camping, but we’ll save that for another day.)

We tried some new recipes for the Instant Pot, we found places to refill our drinking water jugs, we verified that we can stock enough fresh leafy green vegetables in our small refrigerator to make our huge salads, and we confirmed that we can easily stick to our WFPB diet while living on the road.

We also discovered that there are some gorgeous city parks (specifically Bonita Reservoir Park in Meridian, Mississippi and Johnny Henderson Family Park in Enterprise, Alabama) that make wonderful spots to stop for lunch on travel days, providing a place to rest and revitalize while getting a good home-prepared meal.

Finally, we confirmed what we expected, that once we go full-time we will want to stay put for more than just two-three days at a time. Not only are moving days more stressful for everyone, including the kitties, it’s also more expensive to move more often due to fuel costs. The beauty of full-time RV life is having the flexibility to park your house in a different place on a different day. In the future, when we find a spot we like, we intend to stay as long as we’re comfortable there, or until we hit the time limit for the site.

What’s Next?

We will definitely be moving forward with our plan to become full-time RVers. We’re not ready yet to publicly announce anything as concrete as a date, but we’re already in the process of downsizing and getting rid of our “stuff”. We’ll be ready to give more details in the next 60 days, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, we’ll be taking a few short trips locally, since that’s what fits into my work schedule for the time being. We have a few maintenance items to take care of on/in the RV – fixing the drawer that won’t close all the way, replacing the stabilizers that got bent up in Alabama, implementing some storage/organization solutions in the bathroom, etc.

But, yeah, we’ve definitely stirred up our nomad blood, so the rest of this year is going to be EPIC!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 16, Back to Sticks and Bricks

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.

Sunday, April 22, 2018 – Tupelo, Mississippi

Well, we’re back at our sticks and bricks home, and already I can feel the stress piling up. The difference is so stark.

We started off the morning at The Woods RV Park and Campground in Montgomery, Alabama after spending our third night there. We had our usual Sunday morning RV breakfast of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls and coffee, and then got busy preparing to hit the road.

As usual, I handled the inside of the RV, including putting fresh linens on the bed so it will be ready for our next trip. I really hate changing the sheets on that bed–it’s hard to do when you can’t walk around the sides of the mattress, and you’re trying to smooth out the sheets while you’re kneeling on top of them. Andy took care of things on the outside–dumping the tanks, unhooking the utilities, etc.

We pulled out of the campground just shortly after 10AM, and headed north toward Birmingham. The forecast had called for rain, but fortunately it was just overcast when we were preparing to break camp. The drive up I-65 was fine, and we only stopped once so I could put gas in the truck.

We drove straight through Birmingham and hit I-22 West toward Tupelo, and only then did it start raining. There is almost nowhere to stop and park on the side of the road on I-22, so we wound up pulling into a Love’s Truck Stop near Jasper for lunch. We parked in the back lot, in the middle of the big rigs, and had our chopped salad, chips and salsa, and other odds and ends that we wanted to nibble on. We used the restrooms in Love’s and I got a cup of coffee, and then we were on the road again.

It rained pretty heavily on us all the way in to Tupelo, and when we pulled up to the house it was still pouring down. We crated the kitties so make sure we got them in the house safely (didn’t want them to squirm away from us in the rain), and then we only unloaded things that we might need tonight or tomorrow morning. It was just raining too hard to totally unload Lizzy.

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We’re home, safe and sound! #rvlife #lifeisgood

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We took Lizzy back to the storage lot and plugged her in so the food in the fridge will be fine. Andy will drive her back to the house tomorrow since the rain should be ended by then, and  he’ll finish the unloading and do the final cleanup then.

The dreary, cold rain was a perfect metaphor for how I felt now that our trip was over.

I logged in to my work email and took a good look at my schedule for the next few days. I’m going to be driving all over North Mississippi from one small town to another, so I had to take care of getting a rental car reservation and getting my schedule organized. No such thing as easing back into work on this job. I can feel the stress in my neck and shoulders just thinking about it.

Since we didn’t have groceries in the house and it was so cold and rainy outside, we decided to just order a pizza for delivery. I ordered from Papa John’s using the iPhone app, and was told that it would take 29-39 minutes to arrive. An hour later it wasn’t here, and I had not received the usual email receipt from Papa John’s, although their app showed the order had been placed, and I had received an email from my credit card provider showing the charge. I called Papa Johns, and they said that it was on the way and should be here any minute. Fifteen minutes later, still no pizza, so I called again. This time, they asked if I wanted to speak to the GM, and I said “Sure”, and then they hung up on me. I called right back, and as I was speaking to the person who answered the phone, the pizza delivery gal showed up in the driveway.

I still had the GM on the phone when I answered the door, and I’m sure they could hear my conversation with the delivery gal. I asked her how long the pizza had been out of the oven and she said she didn’t know. I asked her if it was still hot, and she said yes, but said we could check it. Andy checked it and said it was only slightly warm. She offered to void the charge, and I said that was fine. Anyway, we warmed up the pizza in the microwave.

As depressing as this afternoon and evening have been, I have to say that this was the best two weeks of vacation that I’ve ever had.  And yes, I’m totally ready to move forward toward full-time RVing as quickly as possible. Andy agrees, so it’s a green light.

After a couple of days of getting back in our normal groove, we’ll sit down and map out the next steps. We have a few maintenance items to take care on Lizzy–replace the bent stabilizers, fix/replace the non-working taillight, fix the pantry drawer correctly, track down the source of the drip in the vent hood. Then there are really major things like selling the house and the car. But now that we’ve had a taste of the lifestyle that lies ahead of us, we can’t wait to get started!