Desert Boondocking, Amazon Locker, GoPro Timelapse

We’re starting to establish a boondocking routine after being off-grid for almost a week now. The first two nights were spent in parking lots, but we’ve been in the desert since Tuesday (today is Saturday).

I’m an early riser, usually getting up between 5:00-6:00 AM to feed the cats, take care of the bookkeeping, write my blog posts, etc. Andy doesn’t get up until sometime around 8:00 AM. When we’re hooked up to shore power, I typically make my coffee in my little 5-cup electric brewer. However, now that we don’t have an electrical hookup, I use a pour-over filter and heat my water on the propane stove for my coffee. I’m also cooking my morning oatmeal on the stove instead of in the microwave.

We run the generator for about an hour after Andy gets up to top off the batteries and recharge our electronic devices. Technically, I could use both my electric coffee maker and the microwave while the generator is running, but (a) it’s bad manners to run the generator before 7:00 AM when other campers are around, and (b) I don’t want to wait until Andy gets up before I have my coffee!

During the day, we operate solely on the batteries. The weather is mild enough that we don’t need air conditioning or heat, and we get plenty of light from the windows. The refrigerator operates on propane, and the water pump run off the batteries. The water heater runs on propane, but we only turn it on when we need to wash dishes or take a quick shower (more on that later).

We run the generator for another hour in the evening, usually while I prepare dinner, so we can use the Instant Pot or the microwave. While the generator is running, we have just about every electrical device we own plugged in to the wall outlets for charging–Kindles, iPhones, camera batteries, laptop, portable power banks, the Shark hand vacuum–you get the idea.

Taking advantage of generator time to charge our electronics

If the weather is really cool, we’ll take advantage of the generator time to run the small electric heater as well to warm up the inside of the RV. But once we turn the generator off, we rely on warm clothes and blankets to stay comfortable overnight. We have a deal that if either of us wakes up during the night to go to the bathroom, we check the inside temperature and if it’s below 50°, we turn on the propane furnace. I turn it on regardless when I get up to warm things up for me and the kitties.

So that’s how we’re handling our electrical needs while boondocking.

Sunshine in the cholla

When it comes to water, we’ve also made some adjustments.

Our RV has the following tank capacities:

  • Fresh water – 50 gallons
  • Gray water (kitchen sink and shower) – 37 gallons
  • Black water (toilet and bathroom sink) – 24.5 gallons
  • Hot water heater – 6 gallons

In addition, we carry four 1-gallon jugs of drinking water in the RV which we refill at Walmart while grocery shopping, as well as an extra 6 gallons of drinking water stored in the truck.

When we have water hookups in a campground, we don’t have to worry about the fresh water tank running dry. And when we have sewer hookups, we don’t have to worry about moving the RV to dump the waste tanks when they get full. But now that we’re boondocking, we need to be conservative with all that.

The black water tank is the most critical, at least to me. To avoid having it fill up too quickly, we both have found a nice secluded spot out in nature to pee during the daytime. My spot even has a perfect branch to serve as a toilet paper holder. Of course, Andy can use his spot even after dark, but there’s no way I’m going to get that close to the ground when I can’t see around me. So that means we only use our toilet for peeing during the night or for pooping during the day. (Sorry if that’s TMI, but everybody poops and pees.)

The gray water tank is larger, but we are still mindful of the amount of water we use for washing dishes and cleaning. We don’t shower every day (really, people, you don’t need to unless you have a dirty job or you’re working out). We use baby wipes or soap/water to stay clean between showers. We had originally planned to use the showers at the Pilot or Flying J stations on the interstate, but determined that we had enough gray tank capacity to do a “navy” or “military” shower, meaning that you turn off the water while you’re scrubbing your hair or body and then turn it on only to rinse off. Yesterday we both got a good shower in the rig–it felt awesome!!–and saved ourselves $12 that we would have spent at the truck stop.

The longest we’ve ever gone without dumping the tanks has been six nights. Our big challenge is that the meter on the black tank does not work properly. It always shows the tank to be full, even right after we dump. Most likely there is some dried debris on one of the sensors in the tank, so while we were at Camping World earlier this week, we bought a spray wand to clean the inside of the tank, and we’ll take care of that the next time we’re in a spot with full hookups. In the meantime, we have to just keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t overfill in the middle of the night!

We do plan to dump the tanks today or tomorrow whether they need it or not, for our own peace of mind. The nearest dump stations are north of us about 30 miles, and fees range from $10 to $15. We could go back south to the free dump station in Tucson and drive a little further, but then you’re paying for extra gasoline. It’s that balancing act again!

So we’re getting in our boondocking groove, loving the peace and serenity. The rig is very comfortable and the surroundings are beautiful. At this point we don’t plan to leave before our 14-day limit expires, unless weather or circumstances dictate that we move.

Maggie and I enjoying naptime

On Wednesday we drove back to Tucson to pick up a package from an Amazon locker at a Quik Trip convenience store. This was our first experience with the Amazon locker system, and it was awesome! There are more than 3000 Amazon locker locations with more being added all the time, and it’s a perfect solution for full-timers like ourselves, or anyone who doesn’t want their packages sitting on their front steps while they’re not home. When your package gets to the locker, they send you a code which you punch in to the locker display, and your locker just pops open and you take your package. Easy peasy!!

Amazon lockers at the Quik Trip convenience store

Yesterday (Friday) we went back toward Tucson to do some shopping. We hit Walmart first and then went to Fry’s (the Southwest version of Kroger). It was a nice area, but the traffic was horrible, and it reminded us of one of the things that we most enjoyed when we moved from Phoenix to Tupelo–almost no traffic congestion in Tupelo!

I’ve been playing with the GoPro camera a little bit since we’ve been parked here in the desert, shooting timelapses of the cloud movements over the desert landscape. Here’s one I shot from the roof of the RV.

It has been rainy and cloudy for the past couple of days, but should be clearing up nicely over the weekend so I can hopefully get my other camera equipment out for some practice shooting.

That’s about all we have going on here–might do a little sightseeing in the area, but generally we’re just enjoying life here in the beautiful state of Arizona.

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season! We will definitely miss being with family this year–that’s a big downside to this lifestyle–but we send everyone our warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas! Also, a huge congratulations to my nephew Adam and his wife Sarah Beth on the birth of their son, Mills Lawson Walker! He’s gorgeous, and we send our love and best wishes to them!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram as well to stay up to date on our latest doings between blog posts!

Safe travels!

Thanksgiving With Gary and His Guitars

We hope all of you had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day, wherever you are!

We spent our Thanksgiving parked at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, where we’ve been since this past Sunday. It was a cool, overcast day outside, but we managed to have a blast anyway!

For breakfast, we had some of the pastries that we picked up in the Mexican bakery on Monday. They were thick slices of their homemade bread, slathered in butter and sprinkled with sugar. I toasted them in the oven and they were amazing! I told Andy about how my brothers and I used to eat butter and sugar sandwiches when we were little kids–this reminded me of those days!

We invited our next-door neighbor here in the park, Gary Piazza, to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. Gary is a fellow nomad and has only been on the road for about six weeks, having traveled from Florida. He is a professional musician and plays several stringed instruments including the lute and guitar. We hit it off when we heard him practicing on his lute outside his RV when we first arrived–he plays beautifully, and also sings very well.

And as it turns out, he also doesn’t eat meat, so we invited him to share our Thanksgiving dinner of seitan pot roast with potatoes and carrots, along with green pean. Gary brought his homemade stewed cinnamon apples, as well as a Patti Labelle sweet potato pie. We shared a bottle of Apothic Inferno wine with dinner, around two o’clock in the afternoon.

Gary also brought over his lute and two different guitars, and then entertained us for several hours playing everything from renaissance classical music on the lute to Delta blues on the dobro guitar. He was kind enough to let me record a couple of his songs, so here’s the video that I put together for you:

This was truly a memorable Thanksgiving, not only because it’s our first holiday on the road, but because we made a new friend who shared his holiday with us in such a unique and inspiring way.

Andy and I both contacted our families by phone during the day. It was somewhat bittersweet to not be able to spend Thanksgiving with my parents for our yearly feast at the Summit Thanksgiving buffet in Tupelo–we certainly did miss that bread pudding that we look forward to every year, and we missed being with family. Chasing a dream means making compromises and sacrifices, especially when you first start out on the road. But I’m hoping that we’ll get to spend some time back in North Mississippi next year when the holidays roll around.

Today is Black Friday, and we haven’t shopped anywhere, we haven’t spent any money, and we’ve enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness of an almost-empty campground. Tomorrow we have to get groceries, do laundry, and take care of the little ordinary chores that all of us have to do. We’re already planning another trip back across the border–Andy really wants to return to that bakery for some more treats, and we’ll probably have lunch over there again. Better than eating the romaine here in the US, right?? 🙂

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to stay up to date on our comings and goings between blog posts.

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

New Video – RV Camping at Wall Doxey

I finally got my video published from our last camping trip to Wall Doxey. I’m just starting to learn how to use the GoPro, and how to edit videos into a coherent story, so I’m not totally satisfied with the quality of this one. I wound up buying a new laptop that has enough processing power to handle video editing (my older laptop just crashed every time I tried to edit). I’m using Corel VideoStudio Pro X10 as my editing software–not enough time to learn to use the Adobe product right now.

Anyway, if you have 20 minutes to spare, here’s a look at our last adventure. Enjoy and share!

More RV Maintenance, Outing #4

Since our last posting, we’ve sunk some more money into Lizzy to get her in prime shape for traveling.

First, we took her to a local tire store that specializes in truck tires. Andy was having some problems reading the tire pressure on one of the valve stems, and we wanted to have all the tires inspected, even though they have less that 12,000 miles on them. Turns out two of the tires had some dry rot and weren’t exactly safe, so we replaced those. All the other tires appeared to be fine, and we got the valve stem problem taken care of.

Secondly, the air conditioning in the cab wasn’t working properly since the day we picked her up from the seller (it worked fine during the test drive). The cold air would blow through the windshield defrost vents as well as the floor vents, but would not blow through the main dash vents. Andy took Lizzy over to the local Ford dealership, and for only $51, they solved the problem–squirrels or mice had chewed through some of the connections behind the dash. Easy fix, and not nearly as expensive as we were expecting.

So after that, we were excited to head out on our fourth outing. This time we went further from home, about an hour away, to Wall Doxey State Park near Holly Springs, Mississippi. This is an older state park, built by the CCC back in the day, and it’s really beautiful. The campground has just over 50 RV sites, and they’re mostly wooded, with lots of space between most of them. They have paved surfaces, most are very level, and they provide electricity and water (no sewer at the individual sites but there is a dump station).

There’s a beautiful lake in the park with a hiking trail that goes all the way around, and there are several pavilions and lots of picnic tables for day use.

We arrived there on a Thursday afternoon, so it wasn’t crowded at all. In fact, even over the weekend it never was more than about one-quarter occupied, which I find amazing considering the beauty of the park. The sites are $18/night, unless you get the senior discount like we do, then it’s $14/night. An absolute bargain.

We got some rain on the first night, but after that it was a beautiful weekend, although it was very humid and pretty warm. I did the hike by myself on Friday afternoon, but couldn’t talk Andy into going with me because of the heat.

The cats did very well on this trip. For the first time, we did not take the car with us, so I got to ride shotgun in the RV on the way over, while the cats stayed in their crates on the floor just behind our seats. On the way home, I actually drove the RV for the first time since we did the test drive.

We decided to let the cats stay out of their crates on the return trip–but it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. When we stopped at the dump station on the way out, I realized that the bathroom door was standing open, so I asked Andy to close it before he got out of the RV to dump the tanks. Later as we continued the drive home, Maggie tried to get in my lap a time or two while I was driving, so Andy was occupied trying to keep her corralled. We heard Molly in the background, but couldn’t spot her. When we got home, we found her–she had been locked in the bathroom for the whole hour-long drive home. We felt terrible, but she was actually probably better off in there without being exposed to the passing 18-wheelers going by the windows–that would have freaked her out a lot more!

Right now we’re planning to return to Wall Doxey on Friday afternoon for the Labor Day weekend, but we’re watching the weather closely to see how much rain we might be expecting from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, assuming he ever moves out of the Houston area. We can deal with a little rain, but don’t really want to expose ourselves to possible tornadoes and flash flooding if that kind of situation develops.

Finally, I just bought myself a new laptop to use for video editing. The laptop that I’m currently using just doesn’t have the graphics or processing hardware to handle the demands of video editing software, and I want to be able to share our adventures on my YouTube channel. The new laptop is supposed to be delivered today, and I’m hoping to get a new video posted by the end of the week, before we take off on our next adventure.

 

Swinging Bridge at Tishomingo State Park (Video)

We’re getting ready to go on our second camping trip in our new RV this weekend, and I’m just now getting around to editing more footage from our first trip two weeks ago. My work schedule has picked up significantly in June, and I’m already ready for a break in the woods!

As you remember, our first RVing trip was to Tishomingo State Park, one of my favorite spots from my childhood here in North Mississippi. Tishomingo has a beautiful swinging bridge which crosses Bear Creek. On the other side of the bridge are some gorgeous hiking trails with exposed rock outcroppings. We only walked down the beginning of the trail as Andy is still somewhat recovering from fracturing his leg last October and the surgery which followed. He did pretty well on the steps leading up the incline, but we didn’t want to push it on the rock climbing.

Enjoy the video, and stay tuned as we report back from our next destination, Tombigbee State Park. And this time, the CATS will be with us!!