Monthly Expense Report – May 2019 – Full-time RV Living

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are our expenses for the past three months:

Camping fees + Electricity

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

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

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

Nine month average: $182

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

DUMPING FEEs

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

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

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

Nine month average: $31

Fuel for the RV

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

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

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

Nine month average: $150

Spring has sprung at Pumphouse Wash

Fuel for the Truck

March: $92 (36 gal, 18.9 MPG)

April: $130 (45 gal, 18.2 MPG)

May: $115 (37 gal, 19.6 MPG)

Nine month average: $132

PROPANE

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

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

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

Nine month average: $41

Snow-covered truck and rig

groceries

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

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

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

Nine month average: $504

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

dining out

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

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

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

Nine month average: $244

Pizza and Peroni in Tusayan – nice break from cabin fever

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

household / furnishings

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

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

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

Nine month average: $153

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

petcare

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

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

May: $24 – Just food and litter.

Nine month average: $62

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

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

verizon cellphone / internet

March: $276

April: $276

May: $276

Nine month average: $268

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

mail forwarding

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

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

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

Nine month average: $19

Laundry

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

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

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

Nine month average: $19

attractions / entertainment

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

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

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

Nine month average: $82

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

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

memberships

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

April: $0

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

Nine month average: $46

Equipment for RV

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

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

May: $0 – Hallelujah!!

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

RV Maintenance & REpairs

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

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

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

Nine month average: $89

Handy Andy doing some rig maintenance while the sun shines

truck maintenance & repairs

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

April: $0

May: $0

Nine month average: $9

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

Vehicle insurance

We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV. In March, the monthly cost for the truck increased from $40/mo to $49/mo.

VEhicle License and registration

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

Summary

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

March Total: $2,257

April Total: $2,495

May Total: $2,337

Nine month average: $2,498

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

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

Beautiful view of Humphrey’s Peak from our front yard

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

A Day at the Grand Canyon, Move to Higher Elevation Near Flagstaff

The last couple of days have been busy and fun, which was a nice change after being limited in our activities due to the unsettled weather.

We had been parked in the same spot on Forest Road 320 south of Tusayan for over two weeks, waiting for a day of perfect weather to spend inside Grand Canyon National Park. We finally got that perfect day on Wednesday. Andy even woke up at daybreak (and that’s almost unheard of!) so we could get an early start and beat the crowds.

We decided to stop for a quick breakfast at McDonald’s in Tusayan instead of making breakfast in the rig, in order to save a little time. Andy had the pancakes and I had the oatmeal, and we each had two hashbrowns plus coffee. The total bill came to $26.23. When did McDonald’s get so pricey?? Yeah, I know, these are tourist prices.

We arrived at the entrance to the park about 8:00 AM, at which time they only had two of the five gates open, but there was only one car in front of us. That was a good sign! We decided to park in Lot A, which is centrally located next to the Park Headquarters. At that time, probably 70-80% of the parking spaces were empty.

From the parking lot, we walked the short half-mile trail that leads directly to the Rim Trail. It’s always such a rush to walk out of the trees and suddenly be confronted with this unimaginably beautiful vista of stone and sky–layer upon layer of multi-colored rock, with a ribbon of green vegetation at the bottom and a clear blue sky with a few fluffy clouds above. We’ve been to this spot many times, and it never fails to leave us speechless.

View of the canyon from the Rim Trail near Park Headquarters

There was a time in my younger days when I would go to the very edge, sit down and dangle my legs while taking in the view. Now that I’m older and wiser, I stay at least a foot back from the edge–yeah, I know that’s not much better, but it’s the only way to really come close to grasping the magnitude of what you’re seeing.

Andy looks so tiny at the top of this chasm

We walked westward along the Rim Trail, taking in the view along the way. The Park has created an exhibit along the trail, called the “Trail of Time“, to help visitors get a grasp of the time scales involved in the formation of the different layers of rock in the canyon walls. There are brass markers embedded in the walkway about 1 meter apart, each representing 1 million years in geological time. At the point in “time” that each new layer appeared, they have a big sample chunk of that rock on display that you are encouraged to touch and examine. Of course, with Andy being a rock hound, we enjoyed that interactive display immensely.

When we arrived at the Village, we went into the El Tovar Hotel to take a little break from the walking. The inside of this historic building looks like an old hunting lodge, with taxidermied animal heads hanging all over the walls. We rested our feet in the lobby, used the facilities and then headed out to catch the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest.

Inside the El Tovar hotel in Grand Canyon Village

Before we got on the shuttle bus, however, we decided to hike a short ways down Bright Angel Trail, along with the hordes of other visitors. Keeping in mind that “what goes down must hike back up”, we didn’t descend too far, but we did get far enough to see the canyon from a different angle.

Checking out the scenery on Bright Angel Trail

View from our vantage point. You can see more of the trail below us.

The Red Line of the shuttle bus service connects the Village to Hermit’s Rest, with about nine stops along the way. It’s free, and it’s pretty much the only way besides hiking or biking to see the west end of the canyon, since that route is closed to vehicle traffic. You can hop off and on the bus at any of the stops, spending as much time as you like at each location before moving on.

Hanging out at the overlook at the Powell Memorial

The view from Hopi Point, with a glimpse of the Colorado River far below

We made it to Hermit’s Rest a little after 11:30 AM, where it was cool, overcast and windy. We visited the snack bar and got a cup of what was listed as “hot apple cider” (pretty sure it was an instant mix with boiling water poured in). The sandwiches and snacks were outrageously overpriced, so we passed on those. It took awhile to finish the “cider” since it was so hot, but we enjoyed a nice conversation with a woman from Iowa while we waited for it to cool.

Enjoying a hot drink at Hermit’s Rest

We arrived back at the Village around 12:30 and decided to have lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge. They had some nice vegan and vegetarian options on their menu. Andy had the veggie quesadilla and fries. I had the “protein bowl” which was a mix of quinoa, grains, shredded carrots and parsnips, blackened chickpeas, avocado and brussels sprouts, with a delicious lemon vinaigrette dressing. We finished the meal with their house-made bread pudding that was scrumptious!

The protein bowl at Bright Angel Lodge’s restaurant

After we finished lunch we caught the Blue Line shuttle that took us back to our parking lot after winding through the Village and giving us a view of some of the areas we hadn’t seen before, such as the train depot and the mule corral. It was almost 3:00 by then, and although we had planned to drive to the east end of the canyon, we decided it was too late in the day to do it justice, so we’ll save that adventure for another day.

It was a beautiful day, and a fitting finale to our stay on Forest Road 320. It’s been one of our favorite places to camp, and one that we plan to return to in the future.

The clouds at sunset over Red Butte

Yesterday (Thursday) it was time to leave this camp after 17 nights, and move on to higher altitudes as warmer temperatures are forecasted for the next couple of weeks. We wanted to get back to the North Flagstaff area, so we did some research on FreeCampsites.net and Campendium.com to identify some potential camping spots. We found two that sounded good–always nice to have a backup.

So we got everything packed up and stowed away, and pulled out of camp around 10:00 AM. Andy drove the rig back into Tusayan to dump the tanks and fill up on propane and fresh water, and then we headed toward Flagstaff on Highway 180. We ran into some rain along the way, and came through one area that had just had a hailstorm that had left hailstones in drifts on the road.

Our first potential campsite was just off Snowbowl Road, the road that goes from Hwy 180 up to the ski area. Because we weren’t sure what condition the road to the campsites would be in, we decided that Andy would park the rig at the base of the road in an empty parking lot and I would take the truck on a scouting expedition. It was a good call, because the forest road to the campsites was extremely rocky, rutted and wet. Additionally, the campsites were pretty much just small clearings tucked among the pine trees, and would have been hard to get the rig into, much less have any sun for our solar panels. I drove back and reported to Andy that we needed to keep looking, so I then drove to our second option.

The second choice that we had found on the apps was on a forest road accessed from Shultz Pass Road just inside the Flagstaff city limits. I found Shultz Pass Road, but when I got to the forest road, it was closed due to logging activity in the area. So that was a bust.

Fortunately we have learned the secret of Forest Roads–the entrances to the roads are well marked on the highway, and many of them are very well maintained, and they have dispersed camping spots cleared out all along the way. We had passed a few Forest Roads (a.k.a. “fire roads”) on our approach to Flagstaff, so I decided to head back north to explore some more.

The first Forest Road I came to was FR 151 and it looked to be in great shape in spite of the recent rains that had come through the area in the morning. I started driving down the road which turned into a climb up the mountain, passing several potential camping spots along the way. Finally, about two miles up the hill, I found it–the perfect spot!

Found the perfect camping spot on FR 151, with a view of Humphrey’s Peak

In fact, it was so perfect that I didn’t want to leave it and risk someone else taking it. So I texted a photo and the GPS coordinates to Andy for his approval, and he signed off. He then drove the rig to the nearest gas station to fill the tank (it was a short drive but we want plenty of fuel to run the generator if needed), and he finally arrived at our new campsite around 1:45 PM.

We got everything set up and had a late lunch of leftover pizza, and then just relaxed for the rest of the day. There were a few very short light rain showers, typical in the mountains where we are, at about 8100′ elevation.

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

I got up on the roof of the RV and recorded a short video showing a 360° view of our surroundings. I posted it to YouTube, so you can catch it here:

We’re looking forward to spending more time here in Flagstaff. It’s funny, we always wanted to live in Northern Arizona, in the Flagstaff or Prescott area, but we knew it would probably be prohibitively expensive. And now, here we are, living in those very areas, but only at the time of year when the weather is the absolute best. How cool is that?? Today we’ll do some exploring of the area on foot (there are some geocaches nearby!!), and tomorrow we will most likely need to do some grocery shopping and other errands.

Speaking of tomorrow, it’s hard to believe that May is coming to an end and June starts tomorrow. And since it’s the end of the month, it’s time for our latest expense report on our full-timing life. Be sure to watch for that report in our next blog post if you’re interested in what it costs us to live on the 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!

Weekend Sunshine, Old Lady Climbs Red Butte, More Snow (Really??)

We’re still camped on Forest Road 320 about 20 miles south of the entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. After all the rainy and snowy weather we had last week, we finally caught a break. This past Saturday and Sunday were absolutely beautiful! The skies were clear and blue, and while it was a little cool and windy, it was still so nice to be able to spend some time outdoors for a change.

Finally able to catch a glimpse of the snow-cap on Humprey’s Peak

We were finally able to get a clear view of the San Francisco Peaks without them having a blanket of clouds over the top. We could clearly see the additional snowfall that the peaks received over the past week–the view was really stunning! We hope to get an even closer view of the peaks next week when we move closer to Flagstaff (spoiler alert!).

I was able to talk Andy into taking a walk with me along the Forest Road to see the retention pond that I had found earlier. It was an enjoyable walk in the sunshine to where the pond rests at the base of Red Butte. I was hoping for a good photograph of the reflection of the butte in the water, but the surface of the pond was so choppy due to the wind that the photo idea didn’t pan out. It was still a lovely scene!

Andy checks out the retention pond at the base of Red Butte

That evening the winds died down so we were able to once again have a campfire after dinner. There is an abundance of dry, dead wood lying around to use as fuel. It burns quickly, and it’s mostly cedar so it has a wonderful smell as it burns. We had the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars for s’mores, but we got lazy and just toasted the marshmallows instead. That’s the best part anyway! 🙂

Andy gets the fire going for some toasted marshmallows

On Sunday morning I woke up feeling especially energetic for some reason, even though I had not slept well the night before. I decided it was time to tackle the Red Butte Trail.

Trailhead for Red Butte Trail

The trail is an out-and-back climb up the west slope of Red Butte, a distance of about 2.4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 890 feet. The average time to complete the hike is 1.5-2 hours, and it’s rated as “Moderate” with steep switchbacks during the last 0.5 miles.

The prize for the climb, other than the amazing views, is reaching the Forest Service fire lookout station at the top of the butte. If you remember from one of my previous posts, I met Bruce, the lookout ranger, when he had hiked down from the station to deliver his pet goats to a lady from Williams who was adopting them. I was hoping to see Bruce at the top of the butte so I could find out more about how he handles life as a hermit in a station with no access other than by foot or helicopter.

I started the hike about 9:00 AM, climbing steadily along a well-marked path that was mostly open but which also passed plenty of trees that offered occasional shade. By about 30 minutes into the hike, I was really starting to feel the burn in my quads, but surprisingly I wasn’t as short of breath as I thought I might be. Fortunately we’ve been camping in this higher altitude long enough that I’ve become acclimated to the thinner air, so I wasn’t too bothered by oxygen deficiency. But I definitely felt challenged as I climbed higher and higher, and began to stop more often to enjoy the views, take a few photos and rest for a moment.

About halfway up, gorgeous view of the San Francisco Peaks from Red Butte

Just before 10:00 AM, I finished the last switchback and emerged at the very top of Red Butte–SUCCESS!! The trail continued across the level ground past some trees to the fire lookout station and the associated structures. As I approached the station, I shouted “Hello” several times to announce my presence, but it soon became apparent that no one was home.

Red Butte fire lookout station

Fortunately, the metal deck on the second floor of the station was unlocked, so I was able to climb the stairs and get a look at the view that Bruce gets when he’s on duty. The station is on the north side of the butte, so he has a direct view of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. From the southeast corner, he can also see those beautiful San Francisco Peaks. And he can see for miles and miles in every direction, especially on a clear day such as it was on that day.

View of the top of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from the lookout station

The second floor of the station has big glass windows facing in every direction, and although I didn’t get to talk to the ranger, I was able to snap a photo of the inside of the station:

Inside the fire lookout station (photo taken through the window)

I spent almost a half hour at the top of the butte, just enjoying the scenery while re-energizing myself with a Clif Bar and some water. I also took a little time to look for a geocache that is supposedly hidden in the area, but according to the navigation on my app, it was located on a rocky ledge, and I just wasn’t comfortable getting that close to the edge when I was up there by myself. Oh, well, you win some, you lose some.

View of the San Francisco Peaks from the lookout station deck

It took me about 35 minutes to make the descent from the top of the butte to the trailhead. Going down was definitely easier on my lungs, but it took a toll on my left knee and my right foot, which have always bothered me on tougher hikes. Regardless of the discomfort, I had an immense sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after completing this hike–it’s the toughest one I’ve attempted in some time, and at the age of 60, it’s good to know that I can still complete challenges like this to see sights that most people will never experience. Besides, that’s what ibuprofen is for, right??

So that was Sunday. A beautiful, clear day in the outdoors.

Monday morning — different story.

As usual, I woke up early in the morning while Andy slept late. It was partly cloudy as the sun rose, but in the west I could see some dark clouds building. I knew the forecast called for some off-and-on light rain for the day, so I wasn’t surprised.

I fed the cats, and settled in at the dinette to enjoy my coffee and my breakfast while Andy snored away. The only sound was the occasional hum of the furnace fan as the heater kicked on.

All of a sudden, it sounded like a dump truck was depositing a load of gravel on our roof. Andy shot straight up in bed, the cats scattered, and I nearly spit out my coffee. A sudden hailstorm had started without warning, and when you live in an RV with plastic vent covers on your roof, it can scare the bejesus out of you. Fortunately the hailstones weren’t too large, but there were a lot of them, and we held our breath that they wouldn’t get any larger before the hail turned to rain.

That was Round 1.

Round 2 of the weird weather started about 30 minutes later after Andy had gone back to sleep. I started hearing little tapping noises on the roof again, and noticed that the rain was now mixed with sleet. What the heck?? It wasn’t supposed to be that cold! But sure enough, I could see it starting to accumulate under the trees and bushes.

“Well, that’s interesting!”, I thought.

Another half hour or so went by, and by then Andy had gotten up and was in the bathroom when I noticed another change.

Round 3 – Snow! Big, fluffy, wet flakes of snow were falling, and it was getting heavier by the minute. With the winds blowing about 25 MPH, it was quite impressive. And even though the temperatures were slightly above freezing, the snow had no problem sticking to all the vegetation and anything elevated off the ground. Before long we had another Winter Wonderland, the second one in a week.

The second snowfall in a week–this one totally unexpected

And just in case you’re reading this at some time in the future, please note the date that this happened: May 27, 2019, on Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. That’s just wrong!

Anyway, just like the previous snowfall, this one didn’t last long. It was completely melted away an hour after it had appeared, and all that was left was mud. By the middle of the afternoon, the clouds broke up enough to let the sun shine through a little bit to start drying things up. Today (Tuesday) it’s going to be cloudy for most of the day, though, so we still have a little drying to do.

So right now, we’re sitting in Starbucks in Tusayan, enjoying some free wi-fi with our coffee (the cellular service at our campsite is poor, so I come here to take care of our online life, doing the bookkeeping, and downloading books to our Kindles). Earlier we drove into the National Park to refill our drinking water jugs. We get free entrance to the Park with Andy’s senior pass, and once inside, the drinking water is free. We enjoyed lunch in Tusayan at a local pizza place we’ve visited before. In fact, they gave us the “local’s discount” of 20% since we were return customers–score!!

Pizza and Peroni in Tusayan – nice break from cabin fever

We’re winding down our stay in this area now. At this point we’re just waiting for a day with great weather so we can do a full day inside the Grand Canyon National Park, and after that we’ll be moving on, most likely to the Flagstaff area. The weather forecast is calling for temperatures to start moving into the more normal, warmer range over the next week, so we’re starting to think a little further into the future when temps start rising into the 80° and 90° range in this area. Our two most likely options are:

  • Go to New Mexico for awhile, using our annual pass to stay in state parks where we can get electrical hookups and run our air conditioner, or
  • Head to Colorado to higher elevations where the temperatures are cooler even in the summertime, assuming that we don’t run into problems with altitude sickness

We’ll probably do some combination of those two things, or maybe something totally different, who knows??

Anyway, this has been a lot of fun staying in this area, and we’ll definitely return here at some point. The boondocking options are plentiful, and being close to the National Park offers a lot of things to see and do, even if it means that we have to drive further to shop for groceries or do laundry (which is really starting to pile up now!!). 🙂

Red Butte. Yeah. I climbed to the top of that!!

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!

Day Trip to Flagstaff, Bizarre Weather, Why Stay Here?

It’s been eight days since our last update here on the blog. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything exciting to talk about, but we have such poor cellular reception here that it’s hard to get an internet connection for most of the day. For some reason it’s better on the weekend, so I’m able to get an update posted today.

The last time I posted (8 days ago) we were sitting in McDonald’s in Tusayan trying to get some decent internet so we could check the forecast. We knew that this past week was going to have some cooler and wetter weather, but at that time the forecast didn’t look so intimidating that we would consider moving. We just knew that there was going to be a good chance of rain on Thursday and that the temperatures were going to be about 20° lower than normal.

Unfortunately, it must be really hard to accurately predict the weather on the Coconino Plateau where we are camped. It seems to have its own little micro-climate that can change on a dime.

Last Saturday (a week ago) it was a beautiful day. Andy drove the RV into Tusayan to dump the tanks and get refills on propane and fresh water. The only source of propane around here is an RV Park in Tusayan where they charge $4.85/gallon + tax, or $5.282/gallon. As they told Andy, they are the only game in town so they can charge what they want. They also charge $14 to dump the tanks and take on fresh water which is pretty much in the ballpark for what we’ve paid in other places.

Hanging out in camp, guarding the solar panels, while Andy’s gone to dump the tanks

On Sunday, it started to get cloudy and cooler. I did some hiking along the road where we’re camped and came across a retention pond that serves as a watering hole for the local wildlife. The mud and dirt around the pond was filled with the tracks of animals that visit the pond, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to spot any. It was very tempting to hang out for awhile behind a tree to see if anything showed up, but it was cloudy and the wind was cold, so I didn’t stick around long.

Local retention pond with reflection of Red Butte on a cloudy, windy day

On Monday, we started to get a little taste of how the weather was going to change this week. When I got up on Monday morning, I found that we had had some sleet during the night, with a nice coating on the truck. Later that day, we had several more sleet storms as dark, heavy clouds rolled in from the southwest. We stayed in the RV most of the day since it was so wet and cold.

Accumulation of sleet on the ground around our camp

On Tuesday we had a little bit of sunshine in the morning, so I was able to get a good hike. But by the afternoon it was starting to cloud up again, so we decided to drive into Tusayan to Starbucks just to alleviate some of the cabin fever we were getting. While there, we had good internet access so we checked the forecast again and saw that they were predicting a little snow for Thursday. They said the heaviest snow would be above 6,500′ (we’re camped at 6,200′), but there were no watches or warnings issued.

We weren’t too worried about it since it sounded like we might just get a few flurries. Our main concern was that the ground around our campsite might become too wet and muddy to move the vehicles. Since it was time to re-supply our fresh produce anyway, and I really needed a haircut, we decided to make the 75-minute drive to Flagstaff on Wednesday to run some errands and have lunch.

So on Wednesday morning we left camp and headed south on Highway 64 toward Williams. Along the way, we found that some areas had already received some snow, and it was still on the ground. It was cold and rainy as we drove, with the occasional sleet hitting the windshield, but we made it to Flagstaff with no problem.

Our first stop was lunch at a little place called the Toasted Owl (my niece, Bailey, would LOVE this place!). We found it on the Happy Cow app which lists local restaurants that serve vegan and vegetarian dishes. This place only serves breakfast and lunch, and it gets great reviews, so we decided to check it out. Andy had their veggie burger and fries, followed by a huge cinnamon roll. I had their Spanish omelet, substituting the pork chorizo with their plant-based chorizo, served with a side of roasted potatoes and sourdough toast. I also treated myself to their $3 mimosa. The food was outstanding, as was the service.

More of the Toasted Owl–the checkout stand and the decor for sale

The decor was delightfully eclectic. Their motto is “Everything Is For Sale”, including all the decorative items, lighting fixtures and furniture. The ceiling is covered with quirky lighting fixtures, all the tables and chairs are different, and there are owls everywhere, including on the t-shirts and caps they sell.

Just a glimpse of the eclectic decor in the Toasted Owl in Flagstaff

After lunch we drove to Great Clips where I got a long-overdue haircut. From there, we went to Walmart and stocked up on groceries, especially produce. We also bought a new Blu-ray player to replace the one we brought with us from our old house. The television in the RV has a built-in DVD player, but it doesn’t play Blu-ray discs, so that’s why we had brought along our old player. We had never used it in the RV until this past week when the weather was so bad, but when we tried to play three different discs, the picture would freeze and skip badly. So we bit the bullet and bought a new player–they’re so much smaller now and the technology is much better. It’s nice to be able to have another entertainment option when it’s too messy to go outside.

After Walmart, we went to Sprouts to stock up on some bulk items that we use–nutritional yeast, raw cashews, pistachios and almonds. I love Sprouts!!

So Wednesday night, we had some leftover soup for dinner, watched a movie, and settled in for the evening, thinking that there might be a little snow the next morning. On Thursday when I woke up about 5:30 and looked out the window, this is what I saw:

Our first experience camping in the snow

Now, you have to understand that I was born and raised a Southern girl, so to this day, anytime I see snow, I get excited. So of course I was outside playing in it, taking photos, while Andy snored away as usual inside the warm RV.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Life Is Good!

It was still coming down heavily three hours later as it continued to accumulate. I took several video clips with my iPhone and used my Splice app to put them together into a short video for our YouTube channel:

But as they say here in Arizona, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few hours and it will change. By about 10:00 AM the snow had stopped falling and the clouds were starting to lift enough that we could finally see Red Butte from our camp.

Red Butte is finally visible after the snow stopped falling and the clouds began to lift

By noon, most of the snow was melted away, leaving plenty of mud puddles. And by mid-afternoon, the sun was out and there was no evidence of any snow at all. Red Butte was totally clear, the sky was blue, the flowers were in bloom and it was almost as if we had imagined the entire thing, except for the photo and video evidence I had recorded that morning.

Just a few hours after being covered in snow, everything is green again

Our biggest concern with all the precipitation and snow melt was that we would be stuck in the mud when it came time to dump the tanks. Fortunately, the sun has done its job and dried things out nicely after the snow melted, so Andy was able to take the RV back to Tusayan yesterday (Friday) to dump the tanks and fill up on propane. In the six days since the last propane fill-up we used 5.8 gallons, about twice our average weekly amount, mostly because we were running the furnace much more than usual to keep the rig warm. Normally we only run it a little bit in the morning, but the temperatures here at this site have been the coldest we’ve ever camped in, and we’ve needed to use the furnace even in the daytime once or twice.

The last two days have been beautiful, with plenty of sunshine and not as much wind, although it’s starting to pick up some this afternoon (Saturday). The current forecast calls for some more rain and cooler temperatures on Monday, and then a warming trend.

So all this discussion about the weather raises some questions. We have several guiding principles when it comes to our travel style. One is “Chase 70°” and another is “Don’t get caught in the snow”. So it sounds like we’re not doing a very good job right now at following our own rules.

But here’s the thing–we really like where we’re camping right now, and we know that this bizarre weather pattern that came through Arizona last week is only temporary. We still want to spend at least a day in the Grand Canyon National Park, and we want to pick a day when the weather is really nice. We could have left the area, and in fact we talked about moving to Kingman for a few days and then coming back here. But in the end, we decided that we were comfortable staying here given what we knew about the weather forecast. The rig is warm and dry, we were well-stocked with supplies and entertainment options, and honestly, I freaking love it when it snows!!

Desert blooms in our campsite

So we plan to stay in this area for probably another week or so as the temperatures warm up and the rain moves out. Technically there is a 14-day limit on camping here, but we have seen a total of two other campers since we’ve been here, and they only stayed one night each. There are multiple camping spots with no one on them, so we’re not too worried about anyone asking us to move on. We could have gone into the National Park today, but since it’s Memorial Day weekend the park will be crowded, and we’d rather wait until next week when there are fewer people and less traffic to contend with.

So, that’s life in Northern Arizona this week. It’s funny, we follow a lot of full-time RVers on YouTube and Instagram, and several of them are camping in the Flagstaff area right now. In fact, we ran into one of them, Bex Cat-herder, in Walmart on Wednesday, and just missed another couple, VeganRV, with whom we compared notes via Instagram comments on vegan options in Flagstaff. They all had the same reaction as I did to the snow–surprise, wonder, excitement. And just like us, they have the option to stay in the area or move to someplace different, and that’s the reason we live this lifestyle right now. It’s about having options and freedom, about seeing things differently and seeing different things. It’s about facing challenges and discomfort and finding ways to overcome them. It’s about peeing in the woods so you don’t have to dump the tanks as often. 🙂

My outdoor “facility” comes complete with a toilet paper roll and a trash bag hanger.

Right now, I have no idea where we’ll be going after we leave here. It’s too soon to say. Another one of our favorite full-time RVers on YouTube, Mike of “Living Free”, has a motto that we like–“My plan is to not have a plan”.

Sounds like a great idea to us!

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

Safe travels!

 

Boondocking Again, Close Encounter With Goats, Grand Canyon Quickie

Last Monday we left the comforts of civilization when our seven days were up at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams. We unplugged the electrical cord, the water faucet, the sewer hose and the cable TV cord and pulled out of the park about 10:30 AM. While Andy drove Lizzy (the RV) over to the Love’s station to top off the propane tank, I took our empty drinking water jugs to the nearby Safeway to get them refilled. After that, we were on the road.

Topping off the propane at Love’s in Williams before heading out for more boondocking

Our new campsite is one that we found when we were scouting last week. We are located on Forest Road 320 off Highway 64, about 20 miles south of the entrance to the Grand Canyon. It’s one of several pull-offs on the gravel road, and it’s totally off-grid with no hook-ups, and not even a trash dumpster. The space is large enough to accommodate several RVs or campers, but in the five days that we’ve been there we’ve only had one other camper join us at this pull-out, and he was on a motorcycle.

Our campsite on Forest Road 320 near Tusayan AZ

The area is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors. The most prominent feature is nearby Red Butte, which is especially striking in the late afternoon when the setting sun lights up the red rocks at the top of the mountain. There is also a great view of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks from the road, although we can’t see them directly from our campsite.

The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff are visible from FR 320

Red Butte is a popular hiking destination. You can drive to the trailhead, and from there it’s about a 1.5 mile hike to the top where there is a fire lookout station. The trailhead is also the best spot in the area to get good Verizon cellular service. The worst thing about our camping site is the really poor Verizon signal–first thing in the morning I might get two bars of LTE, but by 8:00 AM it drops to one bar, and then it goes to one bar of 1x, essentially no connection. But at the trailhead, I can get two or three bars of LTE consistently.

Red Butte lives up to its name when the sun goes down

On Wednesday I drove up to the trailhead with my laptop because I needed to work on the bookkeeping and get some bills paid. When I pulled into the trailhead turnaround, I saw a guy standing there with two goats. I rolled down the window and introduced myself, and found out that his name is Bruce, and he is the guy that works at the fire lookout station at the top of the butte. The goats, Josephine and her billy kid (unnamed) showed up at his station about a year ago. He posted their pictures on social media trying to find the owner, but was not successful, so the goats have been with him ever since. However, he says he knows it’s just a matter of time before “regulations” catch up with him, so he decided to find a new home for them.

Josephine and her billy kid, who have been living at the fire lookout station with Bruce

Bruce located a woman in Williams who raises goats and also does animal rescues. When I met him on Wednesday, he had just hiked down the mountain with the goats to meet the woman who was coming to pick them up. You could tell that he was so attached to them, but thankfully he was able to find them a good home. As I was driving back to the campsite, I met the woman driving up the mountain in her truck. Later as we were in our campsite, I heard a goat bleating, and then I saw her truck go by with the two goats in large crates in the back. Josephine was saying goodbye to Bruce, and it was a little sad, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy their new surroundings with lots of other goats.

As a side note, Bruce told me he had been working at the lookout station for over twenty years, but that his job was gradually being phased out with the implementation of drones. He’s an artist (landscape painter), so the gig at the top of the mountain has been perfect for him. His wife is a singer and she’s on the road a lot. He said he gets about ten visitors a week in the spring and fall, hikers who brave the 1.5-mile trail to the station. He said he really enjoys getting visitors!

The weather has been very nice this week. We built a fire pit and gathered some of the plentiful deadwood in the area, so we were able to have a good campfire on Tuesday night. We even made s’mores!

We had a beautiful campfire and made s’mores

Besides the poor cellular reception, the only other drawback to this beautiful camping spot is the distance we are from groceries and services. We knew that there wouldn’t be many options for groceries and that they would be expensive, so we stocked up with extra food before we left Williams. But we still need to dump the tanks at least every seven days. The two closest options for doing that are an RV park in Tusayan, or the dump station at Mather Campground inside the National Park (about five miles further).

We did some research online and found that the dump station at the RV park in Tusayan does allow non-guests to pay to dump, but that they do not allow non-guests to refill their water tanks. However, they do sell propane. We also found out that the dump station in the National Park is free, and we could also refill the water tank AND get free drinking water. So we decided we would be using the facilities inside the park, especially since we can enter the park for free with Andy’s senior pass.

Yesterday we decided to drive into the National Park in the pickup truck to make sure Andy could find the dump station–when you’re driving an RV it helps to know the lay of the land ahead of time. We found it easily enough, and were immediately grossed out to find a guy with his RV parked there, dumping his black tank without the proper attachment to the ground receptacle, so the sewage was just flowing out onto the ground around the hole. Disgusting!! What is wrong with people?? Thankfully he had enough sense to hose down the area and wash everything down the sewer hole before he left.

We took the time to visit the Marketplace in the park and found that they have a lot more grocery options (even vegan groceries) than are available at the small market at Tusayan. Of course, they’re not cheap–a large avocado was $1.89, but those were over $2 each in Tusayan. I bought a new water bottle since my old one had broken that morning, and we bought a loaf of bread and two avocados (yes, we’re addicted to avocados).

After that, we dropped by the Park Headquarters and talked to a ranger about the camping options in the park. As we expected, they would charge us as two vehicles instead of one, simply because we are not physically towing the truck. If they were connected when we drove in the park, they would only charge us for one–this is a policy that really needs to be addressed. Anyway, she was nice about it and offered us some options for reducing the cost, mainly by getting an $80 annual pass for me until I turn 62 and can get my own lifetime $80 senior pass.

Next we decided to take a short hike from the Headquarters building to the rim of the canyon. We’ve been there many times before–in fact, we tent-camped in Mather Campground back in the day–but it never fails to leave me awestruck. We took a few photos and met some nice people from Pennsylvania, heard lots of different languages, and tried not to freak out when all the schoolkids were running around near the rim.

Beautiful day to be at the rim of the Grand Canyon

We didn’t stay too long, as we do plan to return next week and spend a longer day seeing more of the canyon. On the drive back to camp, we stopped in Tusayan for lunch at a local pizza place–had a veggie pizza and a Peroni. We brought half the pizza home with us for another lunch this weekend.

As we were leaving the pizza place, we decided to stop by the local RV park to find out what they charge for their propane and dump station. When Andy talked to them he found out that they actually DO allow non-guests to fill up their water tanks for $7, and that the dump fee is $7. They sell propane for $4.80/gallon (as she said, they’re the only game in town!!). Since they do provide all the services we need, Andy will probably just dump the tanks there instead of driving into the Park as we originally planned, even though it will cost us $14 extra.

Yesterday we had a cold front move through and it was extremely windy all day. Today (Friday) it’s about 15 degrees cooler, and it’s supposed to get even cooler next week, dipping below freezing each night. We actually considered leaving our camp and moving over to Kingman for a few days, but then decided we could deal with it, as long as we have propane in the tanks for the furnace. We’ll just have to be careful to make sure the water lines don’t freeze overnight.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying going for regular hikes each morning. The surroundings are beautiful with lots of flowers still blooming. We’ve had a large jackrabbit come through our camp several times, but we haven’t had any more sightings of elk around our camp since we were there on our original scouting expedition, even though there are elk tracks everywhere.

Some of the beautiful blooms in the Kaibab National Forest right now

So our immediate plans are to stay where we are for the full fourteen days we are allowed, and then we’ll move, most likely to a different free boondocking spot closer to the Grand Canyon entrance at Tusayan. In order to get one of the first-come, first-serve campsites inside the Park at Desert View Campground, we would need to be there by 8:00 AM, and one of us does not do mornings very well. But as usual, plans are subject to change, especially when it comes to the weather. We’ll also need to make a re-supply trip to Safeway in Williams when our fresh produce runs out, but otherwise we are pretty much committed to living in this area for the time being.

On a side note, this blog hit a milestone this week with our 100th subscriber! Thanks to everyone who is interested enough to follow along with our adventures by subscribing!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rant over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Safe travels!