Expense Report for September-October 2018

Happy Halloween!

This is the report that several people have requested, and which we had always planned to include on the blog. Today we’re going to talk about what it costs us to live this lifestyle.

First, a couple of 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.

Now, a quick recap of where we’ve been for the last two months, as this directly impacts how we spent our money.

On September 1, we pulled in to the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas, where we spent the entire month. The RV did not move except for one day when we had to drive it into town to get it inspected in order to have it registered in Texas. We paid the monthly rate of $340 for the RV site, rather than the nightly rate, plus a separate charge for electricity which was metered at the site.

Parked in site #60 at Escapees Rainbow’s End

We left Livingston on October 1 and headed to New Mexico, which meant we drove a lot more miles, using more fuel, in both the RV and the truck. Since we’ve been in New Mexico, we’ve moved around several times, mostly staying at state parks. We bought the annual pass for $225 which allows us to stay in any state park campsite for free, plus $4/night if we have electrical hookups which we always opt for if they are available.

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

Camping fees + Electricity

September: $439 (1 location for the entire month)

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

Staking our claim to Site #79, best site in the campground.

Fuel for the RV

September: $61 (Drove 302 miles, 7.5 MPG including 10-12 hours of generator use the night before we arrived in Livingston.)

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

Fuel for the Truck

September: $159 (20.1 MPG)

October: $245 (21.5 MPG)

groceries

September: $444

October: $499

Interesting note: We’re paying less for groceries on the road than we did in our sticks-and-bricks home for a couple of reasons. First, Mississippi charges sales tax on groceries where Texas and New Mexico do not, so that’s a 7.5% savings right off the bat. Second, since we have a lot less storage space, we are a lot more careful about planning our meals and avoiding waste. We primarily eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet so we buy a lot of fresh produce and whole grains, along with wine/beer. We buy very little processed foods in boxes and cans (although we do buy canned beans and tomatoes), and we’ve recently developed a dangerous addiction to the $.50 mini-pies at Walmart!

Typical lunch–homemade hummus with raw veggies for dipping

dining out

September: $217

October: $194

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

Black bean veggie burger at Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels

household / furnishings

September: $72

October: $52

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

petcare

September: $73

October: $45

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

September: $245

October: $245

These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them last fall. We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop and the Roku. We are on the unlimited data plan which gets throttled before we get through the month. Once the phones are paid off next fall, the monthly charge should drop significantly unless the plan rates go up.

mail forwarding

September: $0

October: $12

We did not need to have any mail forwarded to us in September because we were staying at the Escapees park in Livingston where our mail service is located, and we could just pick up our mail daily. In October we had one batch of mail forwarded to us in Albuquerque that also included our absentee ballots for the November election, for which there was an extra $10 handling charge.

Main post office in Albuquerque

Laundry

September: $25

October: $7

We had to do laundry more often in September due to the high humidity in Texas–our clothes got smellier faster, and so did the laundry bag. Here in the cooler, drier climate of New Mexico, we can go longer between laundry days.

attractions / entertainment

September: $80

October: $84

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

memberships

September: $0

October: $60 (annual renewal for Costco membership)

Equipment for RV

September: $77 (water hose/nozzle, roll of reflectix, 6-gallon fresh water jug)

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

Installing covers over our vents and fan

RV Maintenance & REpairs

September: $4

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

truck maintenance & repairs

September: $12 (plate holder for Texas tag on the front bumper)

October: $0

Vehicle insurance

September: $97

October: $97

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

September: $39

October $39

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 two months:

September Total: $2,043

October Total: $2,605

It obviously makes a huge difference whether you’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. We’re in the process of planning our itinerary for November, and it will likely include more time in New Mexico state parks at $4/night, and then our first forays into dry camping or boondocking as we head toward the warmer weather in the Arizona desert.

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.

 

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.

Naskila Gaming Casino, Free Breakfast Buffet

Yesterday (Wednesday) we decided to do something a little different. When searching TripAdvisor.com for things to do in the Livingston area, I found the Naskila Gaming Casino ranked at #2 for the area. We’re not big gamblers, but we do enjoy occasionally playing the penny slots purely for entertainment.

I did some checking into the casino online and found that they have a special promotion on Wednesday mornings, when seniors aged 55 and over can enjoy the breakfast buffet for free. Now, that was talking our language! Since yesterday was our final week to be in the area, we decided it was time to give them a visit.

Naskila Gaming is located on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation about 15 minutes east of Livingston. It’s a small operation as far as Indian casinos go, but it’s located in a beautiful spot in the pine trees off Highway 190.

We got there just after 9:00 AM and found plenty of parking available. The casino has a rustic, log cabin design, and it looks like they are in the process of expanding one of the dining areas.

Naskila Gaming Casino near Livingston, Texas

We assumed that we would need to sign up for a players card to get the free breakfast, so we checked in at the front desk. We were told that we did not, in fact, need to have a players card for the breakfast, but if we wanted to sign up for one, we would get $5 in free play on the machines. Well, who would pass up a deal like that?

After getting our players cards, we went directly to the Patio Buffet. We were expecting something along the lines of a continental breakfast with pastries and juice, but they actually had a full breakfast buffet. There was hot oatmeal and grits. There was fresh fruit–canteloupe, honeydew melon, pineapple. There was biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, western scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes. There was yogurt and granola. There were muffins, and there was an assortment of breads that you could toast yourself. Coffee and juice were included.

Enjoying the free senior buffet at Naskila Gaming

The food was all good, as was the service. We both enjoyed our meal thoroughly, and of course we ate too much. Can’t say we didn’t get our money’s worth! We left a $5 tip for the staff and then headed out to try our luck on the machines.

We each allowed ourselves $10 to play on the machines, plus the $5 in free play that the casino provided. Since I’m the most comfortable with figuring out new technology, Andy let me go first while he watched over my shoulder as I figured out how to download the $5 free play to the players card. I chose a penny machine that had a 30¢ minimum bet (why do they even call them penny machines??), and it wasn’t kind to me at all. It didn’t take long for me to go through my $10 plus the $5 from the casino.

Andy found a penny machine that had a lower minimum bet (I think it was 25¢), and his machine was a lot more generous. He played for about 20 minutes until he was ahead by $5.05, and then he cashed out.

So, we wound up spending $9.95 for a huge breakfast and a fun morning of entertainment. One huge advantage of this casino is that they keep the smokers tucked away in a separate room, so we didn’t have to breathe second-hand smoke like at most other casinos (cruise ships are the worst!!). Also, this casino does not serve any kind of alcohol, but coffee and soft drinks are free at self-service stations located around the perimeter of the gaming area. The place is clean and spacious, and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Naskila Gaming in locked in a legal battle with the State of Texas over their right to operate their casino the same way as other Indian tribes in the country do. Here is a link to some background information on the issue, but as is usually the case, it’s all about the money. The article is pretty interesting, and explains that their slots are actually bingo machines. I did notice the little bingo display on the machines when I was playing yesterday, but didn’t pay any attention to it. Anyway, we hope that the little casino is allowed to continue operating and that the State of Texas backs off.

So if you’re in the area on a Wednesday morning and you’re 55 or older (and you don’t have a gambling addiction), you should definitely check out the Naskila Gaming Casino for their free breakfast buffet and a little entertainment.

On Tuesday we received the final document that we’ve been waiting for–the title to the RV. We’re in the process of planning our route to travel west across Texas and into New Mexico next week. It looks like it’s already starting to get pretty cold, at least at night, in the higher elevations, but we’re hoping to be able to spend some time around Santa Fe before it gets too chilly. We’ll see how it goes.

GHSADPBAS Reunion, Ice Cream & Hairstyles

We had another fun day on Sunday, visiting with old friends and enjoying some great food.

When Andy first moved to Houston many moons ago, he became involved with a group of wonderfully talented and fun-loving people who loved music. Many were singers and entertainers, but just as many simply enjoyed listening to the others perform. When I moved to Houston in 1989 and met Andy, I was adopted into the group. We spent many an evening at one venue or another, playing and singing showtunes and standards, laughing heartily and when necessary, supporting each other through times of trouble. The group called themselves the Greater Houston Sash and Door Piano Bar Appreciation Society, or GHSADPBAS for short(?).

One of the founders and driving forces of the group was Glennie Scott, a marvelous pianist, singer and entertainer, and also a great friend. This past Sunday she played the piano and sang at Unity of The Woodlands church, and we went to see and hear her. As it happened, one of our other friends from GHASADPBAS was in town from her home in Alabama, visiting Glennie, so we got to see Kay also!

We thoroughly enjoyed the service at Unity, the people were so friendly and welcoming, and the pastor’s sermon was uplifting and inspiring. It was wonderful to hear Glennie play and sing again, we just wish we could have heard more. At the end of the service, everyone joined hands in a circle and sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth (And Let It Begin With Me)”, which is the same way all our GHSADPBAS get-togethers ended. Literally brought tears to my eyes.

After the service we went to lunch with Glennie and Kay at The Republic Grill in The Woodlands. I had a portobello mushroom burger with sweet potato fries. Andy had portobello tacos with regular fries. Both were delicious. It was a wonderful meal with dear friends as we reminisced about old times and dear friends, many of whom are no longer with us.

Glennie, myself and Andy, and Kay after lunch at The Republic Grill

When I got out my wallet to pay for our lunch, I found that my Capital One Mastercard was missing. I guessed (correctly as it turned out) that I had left it at Mellow Mushroom where we had lunch on the previous day. When Glennie dropped us off back at our vehicle, I called Mellow Mushroom, and sure enough they had my card. We were able to swing by there and pick it up, although in Houston, you don’t just “swing by” anywhere. It was an hour out of our way, but at least we were in the general area and didn’t have to make a special trip from Livingston.

We got back to the RV about 4:30, fixed a light dinner and then we walked over to the Clubhouse for the Sunday evening ice cream social. Every Sunday evening the residents and guests of the park are invited to gather for ice cream (two scoops for $1) and to get acquainted with other Escapees who are staying here either permanently or temporarily. Those of us who were new to the group introduced ourselves, and it was interesting to hear the stories of others who are also full-time RVers.

Yesterday (Monday) was just a regular day. I did my morning walk and enjoyed some slightly cooler, drier weather. We were able to turn off the air conditioner and open the vents and windows, just using the fans to cool and air out the rig. I made some hummus and Andy cut up some veggies for lunch, then we cleaned up the dishes and made a trip to town for a few grocery items.

As many of you know, we’ve both been letting our hair grow longer. Andy’s hair is a full mane of beautiful white, and he gets complimented on it everywhere he goes. He’s working on getting it long enough for a ponytail to keep it out of his eyes. He made the decision to let it go long to avoid having to cut and style it (involving heavy use of hairspray) in the rig.

My hair, on the other hand, is gray and fine, and as it gets longer it inevitably starts to break off. Also the humidity causes it to frizz until it’s uncontrollable. So yesterday I decided enough was enough and I got it cut very short again, in my usual style. It felt so good to be free of the hair hassle again!

Yesterday’s mail call was a good one. We finally received our permanent Texas drivers licenses and were able to toss the temporary paper copies that were so bulky in our wallets. We also received the Texas title for the Tacoma pickup, so now the only thing we’re waiting for is the title to the RV. We’re still going through the process of contacting all our online accounts, credit cards, healthcare providers, etc. to give them our new address and banking information for direct deposits and bill paying. It’s a pain in the rear, but doing all this online is sure better than having to handle it by snail mail.

One bummer is that they have officially closed the pool for the season as of today, so no more cool swims after my morning walk. Just another sign that it’s time to move on. We have six more nights here before we pull out on Monday. Hard to believe that we’ve been living in the rig for a full month now!

We’ll see what else we can get into before we leave East Texas to head west, so stay tuned!

Polk County Museum, Pizza With Friends

We’re down to our last week here in the Livingston area, so we’re trying to make the most of it, checking out some more of the local points of interest and visiting with old friends.

On Friday we drove into town, primarily to refill our drinking water jugs that we had forgotten to take to the store with us the previous day. On our way there, we decided to stop and check out this old locomotive that we had seen on display:

Locomotive No. 5, used until 1952 in the development of the local timber industry

The locomotive is part of the Polk County Memorial Museum, which is housed, literally, in a neighborhood house that was donated by a former citizen of Livingston. We decided to tour the museum as well, and although it was small, it contained a lot of information that was nicely presented and well organized.

Old piano

Victorian Crazy Quilt

Mastodon tooth found near Lake Livingston

Pine needle basketry woven by women from the Alabama and Coushatta tribes

After touring the inside of the museum, we went outside to see the locomotive as well as this old settler’s home:

Old settler’s home from the period

However, when we came outside there were dark clouds rolling in and the wind was really picking up, so we only had time to take a few quick photos before hurrying back to the truck to beat the rain. We scurried over to Walmart to get the water containers refilled, and then drove back home to the RV. We were concerned about the wind possibly damaging the awning that we had left extended, but were happy to find it undamaged when we returned.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the weekly all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast at the Care Center ($5). The blueberry pancakes are delicious, and it only takes two of them to fill me up.

After getting our fill of pancakes, we drove to Houston to meet our old friend Stan and his wife and daughter at Mellow Mushroom. The rains had moved in again overnight so it was a dreary drive, but we made it to MM just after noon. Stan and his late wife, Carson, were dear friends of ours from our days in Houston, having met at Second Baptist Church. Stan recently remarried, and he and his wife Jergen have a beautiful 18-month-old daughter, Katherine.

We enjoyed catching up and getting acquainted over some delicious pizza and salad while the rain poured down outside. Staying in touch through Facebook is all right, but nothing beats getting together in person to share good times!

Today (Sunday) we’re driving back to the Houston area to The Woodlands to visit with more friends. We’re not letting the rain stop us!

Last week we received our new checks for our new Wells Fargo bank account, so at this point we’re only waiting on two items in the mail–our permanent drivers licenses and the titles to our vehicles.

On Friday I went out for my usual morning walk and noticed that there were some workmen digging up the ground near a water spigot at one of the campsites on our street.  When I returned to the rig after my walk, one of the workmen told me that the water would be off for about a half hour. When I got inside, I found Andy watching YouTube videos on how to fix plumbing issues in the RV. He didn’t know they had turned off the water (there was no notice given), so he thought it was a problem with our plumbing system. He had tried everything–checking the water pump, dumping the tanks, checking the filter for clogs–and was referring to YouTube for advice on other things he could check. So it was a relief for him to find out that there was no problem with Lizzy’s plumbing.

The water was actually off for more than an hour, but since we already had fresh water stored in our holding tank, we were able to just switch on our water pump and use our stored water for flushing the toilet, hand-washing, etc. until the park water was restored.

Andy got a nice check from The Main Attraction, the boutique in Tupelo that carries his jewelry. It’s still selling, and he’ll continue to keep them stocked out of his inventory. We also received a refund check of $79 from the escrow account on our house that we sold. Always nice to get checks instead of bills in the mail!

So that’s life for now. We’ll spend this week visiting friends, checking out a few more local spots, and preparing to pull out of here on October 1. We are so anxious to escape the humidity and get to a drier climate!

Not How I Remember It

Yesterday (Tuesday) we decided to leave the campground and take a drive south toward Houston. We wanted to find the house that we built in Spring back in 1993, on a street called Plymouth Ridge. You would think that would be a fairly simple thing to do, right?

Not so much.

I used the Apple Maps app to look up the address because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive right to it, especially coming in from the north. I set the app to avoid toll roads, just because we’re cheapskates and didn’t want to pay tolls. The app calculated the route and it looked like it would take us right at 1:20 to get there.

Well, here’s the thing about Apple maps. If you deviate one little bit from the calculated route (i.e. pull off to get gas), it will re-calculate based on it’s own little algorithm, trying to do you a favor, supposedly. And you won’t even know it happened. You’ll just be driving along and suddenly realize that you’ve been directed to some part of town that’s entirely out of the way from where you were going.

And that’s what happened. Instead of leading us to our old house from the north, the app took us all the way down to Beltway 8, then west, then turned back north on some surface streets until we finally got to an area we were vaguely familiar with, Kuykendall and FM 1960 (now called Cypress Creek Parkway). Eventually we got to our old house, but it took much longer than originally planned. But we did avoid the toll roads.

The area around our old neighborhood was pretty much unrecognizable from when we lived there. When we built our house in 1993, it was mostly undeveloped in the area north of FM 1960, even more so north of Louetta. In the 25 years since then, of course it has changed tremendously, but it doesn’t look all that new. Mostly it looks worn out.

However, we were pleasantly surprised once we turned off of Kuykendall into our old neighborhood of Bridgestone West. The houses and yards all looked well-maintained and cared for, and the trees are now mature and shade the streets where we used to walk and ride our bikes.

We found our house at the end of the cul-de-sac on Plymouth Ridge, and it did bring back a flood of memories–the trees we planted, the neighbors we cooked out with, the little dramas that all neighborhoods have in common. There were several cars parked in the driveway and the garage door was up, so we didn’t stick around. But it was nice to see that the house was still in great shape and looking nice.

Our new house, built in 1993 on Plymouth Ridge, Spring TX

Our house, 25 years later, still looks great!

After leaving the neighborhood we decided to take a drive down FM 1960 for old times’ sake. Back when we lived there, FM 1960 was the place to go for restaurants, shopping, we even began our Starbucks addiction there. But it isn’t anything like we remember it.

In the years since we left the area (we sold the house in Spring to move into a condo in the Med Center area in 1996, then we sold the condo and moved to Phoenix in 2000), FM 1960 has gone downhill so much. We saw very little that we recognized–Willowbrook Mall, Pappadeaux and Pappasitos, our old Starbucks. Andy remembered the Champion Real Estate School where he took some classes. We remembered the street names, but the businesses were all different. Some of the architecture looked vaguely familiar, but if I had been blindfolded and dropped off on the side of the street, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where I was.

After stopping at a different Starbucks, we headed back home to Livingston, both slightly disappointed in what we had seen. I know there was some flooding in the area last year when Hurricane Harvey pounded Houston for days, so it’s possible that some of the depressed-looking real estate could be a result of that catastrophe. Not sure. But it sure wasn’t what we expected to see when we drove through.

Anyway, it was an interesting and emotional day trip.

So far this week we have received two of the five items that we’re expecting in the mail from establishing our domicile. On Monday we received our voter registration cards, and today we received our permanent debit cards for our new bank account. We’re still waiting on the vehicle titles, our drivers licenses, and our new checks for the bank account.

We have a couple of meet-ups scheduled for this weekend with old friends from the Houston area. More details on that to come.

In the meantime we’re just riding out the hot weather, looking forward to next week when the temperatures are supposed to drop considerably, especially at night. Of course, there will be some rain to go along with that, but they haven’t said anything about storms.

We’re starting to plan our exit route to leave Livingston on October 1, heading west toward New Mexico. More news on that as we get closer to our departure.

Just Hanging Out

It’s early Monday morning, and I’m sipping some Celestial Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea while I take care of a few online chores. Andy is still snoozing, the kitties have just been fed, and it’s the start of our fourth week as full-time RVers.

We’re still here in Livingston, Texas, at the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park, just biding our time as we wait for all our domicile paperwork to come in the mail. But we’re already getting restless and ready to move on, if for no other reason than to get out of the oppressive humidity. Yesterday was the first day since we’ve been here that there was zero precipitation for the entire day. Fortunately there have not been any storms, just lots of days with either drizzle or a few periods of very heavy downpours. Perfect conditions for the mosquitoes.

Sunset in the East Texas countryside.

We decided to check out some of the local color over the weekend, and so we visited the Livingston Trade Days at Pedigo Park on Saturday. This is a monthly flea market, for lack of a better term, with about 100 vendors, some in the typical pop-up canopies and some in indoor pavilions. There were a few interesting things to see, and some tasty barbecue sauces and pickles to sample, but nothing that even tempted me to pull out my camera to share with you. And or course we weren’t interested in yard art, antique kitchen gadgets or handmade Christmas tchotchkes. When you live in a 24′ RV, you quickly learn that you can’t collect things that don’t serve an important purpose. We walked away without buying anything.

Last Thursday we visited a local coffee shop, Java Quest, mainly to use their internet. I had a couple of apps on my laptop that needed to be updated and I didn’t want to use my Verizon data plan to download those big files. I had a pumpkin spice latte with almond milk and Andy had a regular latte, also with almond milk. Both were pretty good, a lot better than the internet service.

On Saturday morning we returned to the Care Center for the weekly pancake breakfast. This is rapidly becoming a highlight of our week! 🙂

Andy took care of a couple of maintenance chores this weekend. He cleaned the filters in the air conditioner again (we do live with two cats). Then he had to clean out the intake tube to the front burner on the stove. I had noticed that the flame on that burner had started burning yellow instead of blue. We did some online research and found out from, of course, YouTube, how to remedy the problem. He disassembled the burner and used his pocketknife to scrape out the black gunk from the tube–it was pretty hard and crusty like hard charcoal. After putting it all back together, we once again have a blue flame. Good job, Handy Andy! Here’s a link to the video we found that explained the process.

Other than that, nothing too exciting going on right now. I’m enjoying my morning walks and spending some time in the pool to cool off afterwards. We’re both doing a lot of reading, but now we’re starting to think about researching and planning our route for when we pull out of here on October 1, two weeks from today. I’m still spending some time each day updating our accounts with our new address (there are so many!!) and making sure that old accounts related to our home in Tupelo are properly closed out and all the final bills are paid. I really can’t imagine taking care of all this without a laptop and Internet access. God Bless Technology!!

We’re hoping to set up a meet-up or two with friends from the Houston area over the next couple of weeks. And I also have a video project that I want to work on this week.

Otherwise, it’s just a normal life. We cook our meals, do our laundry, chat with the neighbors, read, take walks, watch our favorite YouTubers. I did try to listen to the Ole Miss-Alabama football game on Saturday but it was too depressing so I turned it off before the first quarter was even over. Hotty Toddy Ugh.

Typical lunch–homemade hummus with raw veggies for dipping

Sorry we don’t have anything more exciting to share at the moment, but it’s coming!

 

We’re Domiciled Texans

It’s early morning and time for some coffee, even if it is decaf. When the kitties decide it’s time to eat, then that’s what time I get up.

Coffee time, even if it’s decaf

The first three days of this week have been a whirlwind, but we finally completed all the steps that we needed to take to get our Texas domicile established.

After getting the vehicles inspected and obtaining the license plates on Monday, Tuesday was the day for getting our drivers licenses. I will say this–Texas does not make it easy to get a license. First of all, their DPS offices are woefully understaffed. Just Google “Texas long lines at DPS office” and read all about it.

We went to the DPS office in Livingston, obviously because it was the closest one, and we were lucky that we got there as early as we did. The office only allowed 10 people at a time to go inside the doors, everyone else had to wait in line outside. Fortunately it was overcast but not raining, as we had to stand outside for about 20 minutes, and we were second and third in line when we got there.

After getting inside, we had to take a number and take a seat while waiting for the nine people in front of us to be processed by the single DPS official working in the office. While waiting, we filled out the application, played solitaire on my phone, and eavesdropped on the other people being processed.

After waiting almost 90 minutes, we were finally called back. We had to surrender our Mississippi licenses, and had to show them our passports, the vehicle registration/inspection reports, and our social security cards. We had to pass a vision test, then we got our mug shots, paid $25 per license, and were finally issued temporary paper permits. Our official licenses will be mailed to us in a couple of weeks. Also, as part of this process we applied for voter registration cards, which will also be sent to us.

By that time it was after 1:30 PM, so we decided to eat lunch in town. We returned to the Patron Grill (great Mexican restaurant) where we had a plate of cheese enchiladas, black beans and rice.

After lunch, Andy got the tags installed on the two vehicles and also installed the windshield stickers. Here in Texas, the stickers serve as validation of both the inspection and the registration. The hardest part of the process was peeling the old Mississippi inspection sticker off the window of the Tacoma. Mississippi stopped requiring inspection stickers several years ago (one of the smarter things they’ve done), so this sticker had had plenty of time to get baked onto the window.

Installing our new Texas tags on the RV and truck

So, with our drivers licenses in hand, we could move on to the next step in our domicile process, which was to set up a new bank account with a local bank. We decided to go with Wells Fargo because they have plenty of locations in the areas where we’ll be spending most of our time, plus we’ve done business with them in the past. They were our bank when we lived in Houston as well as Phoenix, and they also handled the mortgage on our house in Tupelo.

As it happens, however, they don’t have a branch here in Livingston, so yesterday (Wednesday) we made the 35-minute drive down Highway 59 to Cleveland, Texas. We spent about an hour there getting our account established. Since we were already in their system it didn’t take as long to do, we just had to update our contact information. We got our temporary debit cards and checks, ordered our permanent checks, and then we were out the door.

New checking account established with our old bank

So that was the last step in our process, but we’re still waiting on several things to come in the mail–drivers licenses, voter registration cards, permanent debit cards and checks, and the Texas titles for our vehicles. These are pretty important to us, and we would rather stay here until they come in the mail than risk having them forwarded to us somewhere down the road. So we’ll be enduring this heat and humidity for the rest of the month before we pull up stakes and head west.

At least we’ve gotten all the “business” chores taken care of, so now we can plan a few more fun excursions while we’re here. We still plan to head down to Houston at least once, probably Galveston as well. A lot will depend on the weather, as we don’t care to be sight-seeing in the rain.

We’re still getting accustomed to full-time life in such a small space. Andy is staying on top of the maintenance chores on the outside, while I tend to most of the “housework” on the inside. We split the cooking and dishwashing, as that’s the way we’ve always done it.

So that’s where we are on this Thursday morning. After breakfast I plan to take my morning walk, and then possibly hit the pool before it rains….again.

Speaking of rain, our thoughts are with the people facing Hurricane Florence tonight and over the next few days. Stay safe out there!