Boondocking – From Asphalt to BLM

As you know, we spent the first three months of our full-time RV life connected to electricity and water hookups, with an occasional sewer connection. We stayed in state parks and private campgrounds where there were dump stations and showers, but also camping fees.

Well, we’ve changed things up considerably in our fourth month. We’ve now graduated to boondocking!

As I reported in our last post, after leaving New Mexico on Sunday, we spent the night in the back lot of a Chevron station in San Simon, Arizona, along with a lot of eighteen-wheelers. We actually got a pretty good night’s sleep in spite of the traffic noise from the interstate. We ran our generator all night in order to use the electric heater, so it all became white noise after awhile.

On Monday morning Andy made some phone calls to locate a source for new house batteries, and we decided to go to Camping World. They had the batteries that we needed, the warranty would be good at any Camping World in the country, and they would also allow us to park overnight in their parking lot until they could work us in on Tuesday morning.

So after having breakfast in the back lot of the Chevron station, we pulled out and drove across the street to the Shell station to top off the gas tank in the RV even though we had filled the tank the night before at Chevron. We just wanted to see how much gas the generator had used overnight. Turned out it used 6.4 gallons in 15.1 hours, so we’re getting about 2 hours and 20 minutes per gallon of gas. We were also going to top off our propane there, but they ran out when they were helping the customer in front of us.

We drove on into Tucson, arriving at Camping World around 11:00 AM. We went ahead and picked out the batteries that we wanted and set up our service appointment for 8:30 AM the following morning. They have a pretty small parking lot, but we got a good space and settled in, having a good lunch in the RV while we watched customers come and go.

Boondocking in the Camping World parking lot in Tucson

After lunch we decided to do a little exploring in Tucson, primarily to get some ice cream. We drove downtown and parked at Broadway and 6th Avenue. By the way, have you used the ParkMobile app yet to pay for your parking? We first used it in Santa Fe, but found that Tucson also uses it. Very convenient!

We got some delicious ice cream at The Screamery on Congress Street. I had the Sweet Cream Honeycomb and the Rough At Sea. I don’t remember what Andy had, but it was all very good, and the guy that waited on us was very friendly and professional. We highly recommend The Screamery!

Ice cream at The Screamery on Congress Street in Tucson

Afterwards we took a stroll down Congress Street to the Veinte de Agosto Park to see the statue of Pancho Villa. I never realized old Pancho was such a popular character in the area, but he seems to be everywhere! We walked back up Broadway to get back to our parking space, and found this area of Tucson to be full of restaurants, condos, small shops, even a downtown grocery store. If I were in the mood to live in a sticks-and-bricks again, I would definitely consider looking for a condo in this area of Tucson.

Statue of Pancho Villa in Tucson

We returned to Camping World and then spent about an hour looking through some of the RVs they have for sale on the lot. They mostly had travel trailers which didn’t interest us, but we did go through some Class A’s and fifth-wheels, just to check out some floor plans. We’re not planning to trade in Lizzy for awhile, but it doesn’t hurt to stay up to date on what’s out there.

Touring RVs on the sales lot at Camping World

Camping World closed at 6:00 PM so the parking lot cleared out except for us and a big Class A rig that was also spending the night. We cooked dinner, cleaned up the dishes and settled in for the night. Once again we were right off the interstate, and there was plenty of security lighting in the parking lot, so it was almost like napping during the daytime instead of sleeping. We still managed to get some good rest before rising early for our service appointment.

They had told us we could pull the rig around to the service area at 8:00 AM, and sure enough they knocked on our door at 7:55 to make sure we were ready. We verified that it was okay to leave the cats inside the rig while they were swapping out the batteries, and they even agreed to let one of us stay inside with them. So Andy stayed in the rig while I waited inside the store. They were finished with everything by 9:00 AM, to the tune of $285. We got two new deep-cycle, 150 amp-hour batteries, and also were told that the previous batteries had been hooked up incorrectly. That, combined with the fact that we rarely drew down the batteries at all since we were always hooked up to electricity, probably contributed to their early failure. Now we have our electrical system in good shape and ready to work with the new solar panels that we have ordered.

New batteries installed to make boondocking more comfortable

We weren’t ready to leave Tucson just yet because we were waiting on an Amazon delivery to a nearby locker. The item was scheduled to be delivered “before 9 PM”, and we were hoping for something on the earlier side. Since we needed to pick up a few groceries, we left Camping World after topping off the propane tank, and drove to Walmart, taking a spot on the far edge of the parking lot. We fixed a cup of hot tea and settled in with our books and iPhones. Around 11:00 AM we went inside and did our grocery shopping, then put the groceries away and had lunch.

Since our destination for the night was on BLM land in an unfamiliar area, we decided that we needed to leave Walmart by 1:00 PM to allow time for dumping the tanks and finding a camping spot, even if our Amazon package had not arrived by then. We located a free dump station using the Campendium app (yay!) on Flowing Wells Road in Tucson. A big thanks to Merrigans Arizona RoadRunner RV for providing free sewer dump and fresh water fill-ups to the RV community. I did spend a little money in the store to say “thank-you”.

Free dump station in Tucson

Our destination for the night was a BLM campsite commonly known as Cactus Forest Campground on Cattle Tank Road, just northeast of Red Rock, AZ. It was a good thing that we left Tucson when we did, because when we got off the interstate and started east on East Park Link Drive, we found the road was totally closed for construction. It’s out in a rural area, so there aren’t a huge number of alternate routes to get where we were going. We tried a road that looked promising and wound up on a small dirt road that led to someone’s ranch where we turned around. A friendly guy came out to the rig and directed us to an alternate route using Missile Base Road.

So we turned around and went back toward Tucson until we found Missile Base Road and turned east. This route would bring us into the campsite from the south instead of the north. Unfortunately, Google Maps didn’t know about the brand new paved extension of Cattle Tank Road. Instead, it directed us to another dirt road that was horrendous–we wound up turning around in someone’s driveway again (Andy’s getting really good at that).

We went back to the new paved extension, and even though it wasn’t on the map, we decided to go for it, and it brought us right to the campsite.

New paved extension on South Cattle Tank Road, not yet on Google maps

After living in developed campgrounds with hookups for the past 18 months since we bought the RV, we were in for quite a different experience. The only indication that we were in the right place was a brown metal post that had the BLM logo on it and said “No Dumping” and “Camping 14-Day Limit”. There is a good-sized lot at the entrance where a Class A was parked next to a primitive corral that contained a couple of watering tanks. The dirt and gravel road that leads further into the area is narrow with cactus on each side. Within the first 100 yards are several pull-outs where you can park your rig, and there are obvious signs (i.e. fire ring) that it’s meant for camping. We found a good spot and were set up very quickly since there are no hookups.

BLM sign marking the camping area

We fell in love immediately with our surroundings. It truly is a cactus forest with towering saguaro, jumping cholla, teddy bear cholla, barrel cactus, and prickly-pear, just to name a few. There are also palo verde trees. We took a sunset walk down the road in both directions and were so happy that we didn’t give up on finding this place. Besides us and and the Class A parked up at the entrance, only one other camper was in the area, a van-dweller that arrived after we did and parked further down the road. The campsites are so far apart from each other that you literally feel alone out here.

Our first BLM campsite is in a cactus forest. Beautiful!

After being in such noisy places for the previous two nights, it was such a relief to be here in the desert where it was almost totally quiet and dark. Every once it a while we would hear a car go by on the paved road, or a plane fly overhead toward the Tucson airport, but it was so peaceful, and the sunset was gorgeous, even though it was a little overcast. We waited until it was totally dark before starting the generator to run the Instant Pot, just so we could enjoy a quiet sunset.

Sunset out our front door. Glad to be back home in Arizona!

I wish I could say I got a good night’s sleep. I actually did until about 3:00 AM when the kitties decided it was time to eat–Maggie does that a lot. I held her off until about 5:15 but I was awake the entire time.

By the way, for those of you who were asking, Molly seems to be doing fine at the moment after that one bad day that she had on Sunday. We’ll continue to monitor her, but at the moment her plumbing doesn’t seem to be bothering her.

So here it is, Wednesday morning, and I’m watching the sun rise over a cactus forest in complete silence except for Andy’s snoring–he is impervious to the antics of the cats during the night. 🙂

We’ll need to drive back to Tucson today to pick up the Amazon package that finally made it to the locker about 8:00 PM last night. Have you ever used an Amazon locker? This will be our first time. It’s located at a Quik Trip store, so this should be interesting. It’s a great option for full-time RVers who need a place to have things shipped while not having a permanent home address.

Otherwise we’ll do a little hiking and just soak up the good vibes from our surroundings today. I feel like we’ve graduated from RV prep school to boondocking college!! There will be a new set of challenges to solve camping this way–conserving water so we don’t have to take the rig to a dump station as often, conserving our battery power–but being able to have our home in a place with this kind of view is definitely worth it!

If you have any questions about our RV life, be sure to leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future blog post. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between blog posts.

Happy holidays, everyone! Safe travels!!

Quick Notes from Pancho Villa SP in New Mexico

We’re still happily parked at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, just three miles north of the US/Mexico border and the Mexican town of Palomas. We haven’t done anything super-exciting, so I thought I’d just give you some quick notes from the past few days–this is real life for us.

Last Saturday was a day for chores. I cleaned up the inside of the rig, then we drove to Deming (about 40 minutes north) for laundry and grocery shopping. But before we started chores we treated ourselves to lunch at Marie’s Italian Grill. The restaurant is located in the old Deming National Bank building so it has some character to it. Business was slow, but the service was excellent and the food was pretty good, especially for a small town. I had the eggplant parmesan and Andy had spaghetti with marinara. We split some fried mushrooms, and for dessert we had spumoni ice cream, which we haven’t had since we last ate at Fred’s in Houston, Texas sometime in the 90’s.  We really liked Marie’s, and would definitely eat there again.

Interior of Marie’s Italian Grill still has the original tile flooring.

Exterior of Marie’s Italian Grill in the old Deming National Bank building

After a good lunch, it was time for chores, starting with laundry. On the road, we do laundry about once every two to three weeks, so there’s a lot to do, especially with towels and bed sheets. The large commercial machines make it quick and easy to get it all done.

We used the Pine Street Laundromat based on their Yelp reviews, and it wasn’t a bad experience. The place was clean, there was an attendant on-site, and most of the machines appeared to be in working order. We did three large loads of laundry for $8.75.

Laundry day in Deming NM

After the laundry was done, we headed to the local Walmart Supercenter to get groceries and water. Yes, we are hooked up to water at the campground, but we use filtered water for drinking, refilling our own containers from the Primo dispensers in Walmart for $.29/gallon. The Walmart in Deming is pretty nice as far as Walmarts go–their produce was fresh, and that’s what is most important to us when grocery shopping.

On Sunday we did a little exploring around the little town of Columbus. When Pancho Villa’s men raided the town in 1916, they burned four adjoining buildings including a hotel, a mercantile store and two residences. The foundations of those buildings are still visible in a vacant lot that’s pretty overgrown. There’s a small plaque nearby that has a picture of the hotel as it existed, and a picture of the owner who was killed in the raid along with some of the guests. Kind of spooky to be standing in a spot where so much violence occurred just over 100 years ago.

We drove up and down the streets of Columbus, many of which are not paved. We found the local elementary school on the outskirts of town, and it actually looks very modern, well-equipped and maintained.

Not far from the school, we found the local cemetery where we got out of the truck and strolled around (Andy has a real interest in cemeteries since he worked in the business when we lived in Phoenix).  This one was very interesting in that there is an obvious Hispanic area where the graves are colorfully decorated, some with elaborate structures built around them, and names like Gomez and Hernandez on the markers. Another section is obviously Anglo with simple, unadorned grave markers with Anglo names. There is also a separate section specifically for veterans with a US flag flying overhead. The cemetery appears to be undergoing an expansion with lots of new trees being planted and irrigation systems being installed.

Columbus has a few small restaurants but we haven’t tried any of them. They also have a small library/computer center that has kick-butt fast wi-fi, but you have to be seated in the right place to get a good signal. The library appears to function as the local hangout for a lot of folks in town, as we found on our last visit. In addition to supplying a few books and some wi-fi, they also have a lot of wired computer terminals that anyone can come in and use. Great service for this small, relatively poor community.

Front room of the local library / computer center.

On Monday Andy and I walked back across the border into Palomas to re-visit the bakery. This time we did a little more exploring on the main drag, checking out some of the local shops where they sell mostly shoes, belts and clothing items. We visited a local grocery store where we saw a lot of American items labeled in Spanish. There was a meat counter that was very busy, but only a small produce section.

We picked up a big bag of freshly-baked pastries for only $3.80. Next we stopped at a Del Rio convenience store and picked up a bottle of Cabernet from Chile for $5.50 (it was actually very good!).

Our latest pastry haul

Yesterday (Tuesday) I cooked a pot of spaghetti in the Instant Pot and we invited Gary (our next-door neighbor) to come over for dinner. He brought a cucumber salad along with his guitar, so after dinner we spent a fun couple of hours doing a sing-along. It was so much fun that Molly even came out of hiding to sit on the bed and listen.

Here are some other interesting things we’ve seen here in the campground and in Columbus:

  • There’s a family that appears to be living in an old school bus in the desert outside the campground. Every few days one of them brings some empty jugs, climbs over the fence, and gets water from a spigot in the campground. He’s always accompanied by his dog which has a limp. Sometimes the whole family comes with him to use the showers. Pretty sure the park rangers know about it since it’s a regular occurrence. The guy is nice, always says hello. Hope they’re staying warm out there.
  • A couple of nights ago around midnight, we saw the rangers come through the campground with bright flashlights, obviously looking for something. The next day they stopped by the RV to check on us, and said that someone’s First Alert alarm had been activated during the night and they were trying to find out who it was. They never found them during the night.
  • There is a small intentional-living community called City of the Sun on the outskirts of Columbus. It’s a private community with a population of 31 at the last census. Here’s a link to information about them.
  • Someone built a shrine to the Perfect Man some years ago. It’s been abandoned for years. I’m sure there’s a lesson here.

Shrine to the Perfect Man in Columbus NM

We still have four nights left here in this park before we leave on Sunday, so we’re going to try to see a few more things in the area, including one more trip to the Pink Store in Palomas for lunch and a visit to another local museum.

If all goes according to plan, we will be boondocking a lot more in the next few months. We’re discussing the possibility of getting a couple of solar panels and a Kodiak portable charger–we’ll see how that goes. We do have a generator onboard that can power our air conditioner and microwave, but it would be nice to have a quieter source of power when all we need to do is charge our electronic devices.

So, everything is well with us. We’re getting plenty of sunshine and exercise, eating healthy food (well, except for those pastries!), drinking plenty of filtered water, reading, singing, enjoying time with new friends, sleeping well, exploring, taking care of chores…..

Just living and loving life!

If you enjoy reading these updates, please let me know in the comments, and feel free to subscribe to see what we’re up to next. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between the blog posts.

Hope you’re following your dreams and living the life you always wanted! If not, what are you waiting for??

 

Campsite Roulette in Elephant Butte Lake SP New Mexico

As I mentioned in our last post, we decided to leave Percha Dam State Park on Sunday because they did not have a dump station, and we made reservations for a 10-night stay in Elephant Butte Lake State Park. New Mexico uses an online reservation service, so in addition to the $4/night for the site, there was a $12 “transaction fee”, which made the total $52–still not bad for 10 nights. Based on the photo of the site alone, we selected site #42 which overlooked the reservoir.

Okay, so that was a rookie mistake.

The drive from Percha Dam SP to Elephant Butte Lake SP only took about 35 minutes, so it wasn’t a bad drive.  We arrived around 2:30 PM on Sunday afternoon and found our campsite in the Quail Run Loop of the park. It did indeed have a good view of the lake through the windshield. However, it also sloped downward at such at angle that there was no way we could get the RV level. We stacked the leveling blocks up to three-high under the front wheels, and it was still sloping downward.

Now, the nice thing about New Mexico state parks is that they set aside at least half of their campsites to be first-come first-served, and these campsites are every bit as nice as the reservation-only sites. We noticed that the campsite just across the road on the uphill side, site #32, was open and it was first-come first served. It appeared to be much more level than our reserved site. So we decided to move to #32 for at least one night until we could get our bearings.

View from Site #32. Just in front of us is Site #43, next to our original Ste #42.

The first-come first-served sites must be paid for by cash or check when you get to the campground. You pick up a pay envelope from the self-serve pay station located in the campground, fill out the triplicate form indicating how many nights you’ll be in the site, and provide your annual pass number if you have one (we do.) You tear off the white and yellow copies and stick those on the windshield of your vehicles, and the pink copy is actually the envelope where you insert your money. You insert the envelope in the pay station deposit box and you’re set. And they DO come around every morning to check to make sure you’ve paid.

So we paid $4 for site #32 and moved in. This site wasn’t quite as level as it appeared, but it was more a problem with the side-to-side leaning than the front-to-back incline. We made it work with the handy leveling blocks but decided that we would look around a little bit more to see if there was a site we liked better. We checked the Desert Cove Loop next door as well as the rest of Quail Run Loop and made note of several sites that looked promising, some of which required a reservation.

In the meantime, I went online and cancelled our original reservation for the downhill slide (Site #42). The cancellation cost us another $12 transaction fee, a $5 cancellation fee, and $4 forfeiture of the first night’s stay for a total of $21.

Cha-ching!

After getting a good night’s sleep in site #32, I had my breakfast and then went for a walk. I decided to check out another camping area just up the park road called Lions Beach. There are three loops in this area. Loops A and C are reservation only, and Loop B is first-come, first-served.  I walked through Loop B and found some amazing campsites. Lions Beach is on a hill that overlooks the reservoir, and the loops are terraced with A being the highest and C being the lowest in elevation. Because of the terracing, every site has a great view. All of the sites looked very level, and even though they are a little close together, each site has a ramada with a picnic table and a fire ring.

There were a couple of available sites in the middle of the loop, and campers in a few other sites were making preparations to leave. When I got back from my walk, Andy was just finishing his breakfast, so when he was done we got in the truck and drove back to Lions Beach so I could let him check out what I had found.

And that’s when it happened. The stars aligned, the Universe smiled, and all our collected good karma came home to roost.

At the very end of the loop, the corner site #79 was being vacated. The site sits on a bluff with over 180° of open viewing of the reservoir and surrounding park area, without having to look at another RV. The previous occupants of the site were in the process of hitching their huge fifth-wheel trailer to their truck and unhooking their utilities.

We knew we would have to move fast if we wanted to snag this spot. We couldn’t be the only ones interested in it. So we drove back to our campsite and waited a few minutes until we saw the fifth-wheel come driving up the road to the dump station, and then we pounced!

We grabbed our lawn chairs and put them in the truck and we drove back over to Lions Beach to site #79, where we found that no one else had yet claimed it. On the way, we had stopped at the pay station and picked up the permit envelope, so I filled it out and stuck the white copy on the truck window, hung the yellow copy on the site number post, and we left the truck and lawn chairs and walked back to our RV at site #32. However, I didn’t yet pay for the site until we were sure that the RV would be level and that the electric and water worked fine. But the important thing was that we had staked our claim.

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

We moved the RV to site #79 after making a stop at the dump station to empty one night’s worth of….well, you know. Andy backed the RV into our new site, and found that it was perfectly level with no leveling blocks needed. Hallelujah!! The utilities all checked out, and we quickly settled in. We decided to go ahead and pay for seven nights ($28), after which we’ll pay for another six. New Mexico state parks limit you to 14 days, after which you must leave the park for at least six days before you can return.

We could not believe our luck! Two people have already stopped by and told us they had been waiting for this site, and that it’s the best site in the park. We totally agree!! You can do all the research and preparation you want, but sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time and be willing to make changes on the fly.

We’ve learned our lesson about New Mexico State Parks. From now on we’ll plan to arrive on Sunday through Thursday and look for a first-come first-served site, rather than paying the transaction fees to make online reservations.

After we settled in and had lunch, we drove in to Truth or Consequences and dropped off our absentee ballots at the post office for the November election. Then we went to Walmart to pick up a few groceries. This Walmart has covered parking with solar panels on roofs, which we found interesting. While shopping in the store we met a very nice, talkative gentleman named Rick who gave us the scoop on things to see and some of the history of the area. We will definitely check out some of his suggestions while we’re here.

Moonrise over the reservoir as seen from our front porch

After dinner we sat outside and watched a beautiful sunset. This park is full of jackrabbits, quail, squirrels and doves, as well as many other bird species. The rabbits and quail are so cute, they come very close to the campsites and are easy to spot. The cats are enjoying watching them through the screens as well.

Sunset from our front porch

Today is supposed to be rainy and cooler so we’ll probably stay in. The rest of the week is supposed to be clear and warmer, which will be really nice.

We feel so fortunate and blessed to be on this journey, living this lifestyle!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between the blog posts!

Toilet Surgery, Rain and Birthday Shopping

I am pleased to report that our toilet repair project was successful! Andy had done a lot of research by watching YouTube videos and even contacting the manufacturer to make sure he was clear on how to go about removing the toilet, replacing the seals and then reattaching everything. And all that research paid off with a relatively painless process.

The one thing we were most worried about was how bad it would smell in the RV while the drain pipe was open. Actually there was little to no smell at all (we did dump the tanks first, and also added a deodorizing packet to the tank). The worst thing that happened was when we turned the water back on–we had a leak where the water line attached to the back of the toilet. The connection was supposed to be “finger tight”, but obviously that wasn’t tight enough and it required more tightening with pliers. We think that this connector was the source of our slow leak all along rather than the seals, but it was good to go ahead and do a complete maintenance job anyway on such an important piece of equipment.

If anyone is interested in seeing how the project went, we recorded most of it on the GoPro and posted it to our YouTube channel:

We had hoped to do some sight-seeing on Friday but it rained almost the entire day with only a slight pause in the afternoon, just enough time for a short walk to get some fresh air. We spent the day reading, editing the video above, housecleaning–all those normal little chores you do on a cool, rainy day.

A rainy, cloudy day at our campground

Yesterday (Saturday) it was time to go to town for groceries and supplies, as well as some birthday shopping. My 60th birthday is coming up next week, and I wanted (actually needed) a new pair of hiking shoes, as well as some long-sleeved pullover shirts for cooler weather. The forecast is calling for a big drop in temperatures on Monday, and I wanted to be ready.

So we drove into Las Cruces, and first went to Jason’s Deli for lunch. I like Jason’s because they have good meatless options on their menu, and Andy likes Jason’s because they have free ice cream for dessert. Next we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods where I picked out a pair of hiking shoes and some warm socks. Perhaps “picked out” is too strong a term–it was actually the only pair they had in my size. No problem, I liked them anyway.

Birthday gifts from the hubby–new warm clothes!

Next stop was Walmart where we did most of our grocery shopping. I also picked up three long-sleeve pullover shirts there to complete my birthday shopping. Last stop was Sprouts for some red lentils from their bulk bins. And to my delight, they also had just put out their stock of cinnamon gummy bears for the holidays–my favorite!

Even though we ate lunch at Jason’s, we still eat almost all our meals at home in the RV, and cook almost everything from scratch. Last night I used both of our Instant Pots to cook dinner, making brown rice in the 3-quart Mini Duo and red lentil curry in the 6-quart Duo. We had enough leftover for two more meals, so half went in the fridge for our next travel day, and half went in the freezer. Having leftovers in the refrigerator takes a lot of the pressure off when we pull into a new campground after a long day of driving.

Two Instant Pots for a rice and curry dinner

Today the weather is supposed to be pretty nice, so we’re hoping to do a little sightseeing. Tomorrow a cold front will arrive, dropping the temperatures by almost 25°.  The high today (Sunday) is forecast at 72°, by Tuesday the forecast high is 48°.

Now you know why I wanted those warmer shoes and shirts!

We only have two more nights here at Leasburg Dam State Park. Tuesday we will be driving north to Albuquerque where we will stay for three nights at the Enchanted Trails RV Park. While there, we will be able to pick up our mail which has been forwarded to us from our mailbox in Livingston, Texas. The mail pouch will include our absentee ballots so we can vote in the mid-term elections.

And that’s what’s going on in our lives right now. The kitties are doing fine, we’re healthy and happy, and we’re loving our new lifestyle on the road.

Stay tuned for more updates as we get ready to move to our next destination! You can also follow us on Instagram @JustCallUsNomads!

Welcome to Rainy Texas!

It’s Sunday afternoon and we’re snuggled in the RV with the kitties, having a cup of coffee while the rain pours down outside. Welcome to rainy Texas where we’re under a flash flood watch (so much for the Burn Ban signs we saw on the way in).

We left our Harvest Hosts location at Landry Vineyards around 10 AM yesterday morning after enjoying a peaceful morning overlooking the grapevines. Andy took a walk around the property and snapped some great photos.

Look closely to the left of the tan building and you can see Lizzy! Photo cred: Andy

From there we made our way through Shreveport, LA, and then turned southwest toward Livingston, TX. Along the way we stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop where we re-fueled the vehicles and also fixed lunch for ourselves.

We arrived at the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park yesterday just after 4:30, a bit later than expected, but safely nonetheless. We really need to have a talk with Apple about their maps/navigation app. The last five miles of the trip, Siri had us on a little tiny country lane with tiny wooden bridges over little streams. Needless to say, Andy was pretty stressed by the time we got here, and I was stressed from driving behind him, watching him maneuver those little bridges.

Ah well, we wanted adventure, right?

So we got checked in at the campground, got ourselves parked and hooked up, and then had a meal of heated-up, leftover spaghetti and some coleslaw. We were both pretty tired so we turned in early and slept like babies.

Parked in site #60 at Escapees Rainbow’s End

This morning we awoke to overcast skies and humid conditions (what else is new?). We had coffee and a light breakfast of fruit. I went for a long walk around the perimeter of the RV park–it took me almost an hour as it’s larger than it looks on the map. Many of the lots have permanent homes on them with RV garages. There is also a Care Center where full-time RVers can reside when they are too old or ill to travel or live on their own any longer, or even if they just need to stay temporarily to recover from a surgery, for instance. This is also the national headquarters of Escapees, and their mail forwarding service is located here. Any mail that is sent to our new address will come through the facility here and then be forwarded to us at whatever General Delivery location we provide to them.

After I returned from my walk, we both got showers. I used the shower in our rig, but Andy used the campground showers and said they were very nice and clean with plenty of hot water. I prefer to use our own shower just to avoid having to load up a bag with all my stuff to tote around, but since we keep the cats’ litter box in the shower, we always have to move the box and clean up any scattered litter before we can turn on the water. I think it’s worth it, though, as long as we’re in a spot with full hookups.

We decided to drive into Livingston to do some grocery shopping and to also have lunch at the top-rated (on Yelp!) Mexican restaurant in town, Patron Grill. The minute we walked in the place, we felt so at home and remembered why the “Mexican” restaurants in Tupelo just never satisfied us. There were the Christmas lights strung all over the place, the sizzle of the fajita skillets being delivered to the tables. The salsa was warm, not cold, and there was that delicious green sauce to go with it.

Oh, yeah, welcome back to Texas!!

Of course, we don’t eat meat anymore, but they were able to accommodate us with a bowl of delicious guacamole, veggie fajitas, bean burrito, and black beans and rice. There was even a self-serve ice cream machine on the way out. We left stuffed and happy.

From there we went to Walmart to fill up three of our one-gallon water jugs with filtered drinking water (we don’t like to take chances drinking the water at the campsites, although we cook and clean with it). Next we went grocery shopping at HEB, another Texas staple, since they were reputed to have better produce than Walmart. They didn’t disappoint on the produce, but they didn’t have a couple of items that we wanted, so we’ll have to go back to Walmart or possibly try a different grocery in the next few days.

Both Walmart and HEB were packed and busy, and we couldn’t figure out why, since it was a Sunday afternoon, and then we remembered that tomorrow is Labor Day. Everyone is prepping for those holiday cookouts, although it’s looking like they’re going to be a little soggy.

So, we’re enjoying a quiet afternoon at home. I’ve spent some time online submitting address changes to various accounts. Andy’s been watching videos, and the kitties have been sleeping. It’s almost time to get started on dinner–tonight the menu is collard greens, baked sweet potato and corn.

We don’t have any real plans for tomorrow since the weather is pretty iffy. But that’s the way we like it, playing it by ear from now on.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 11

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 – Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, Florida

Today was pretty laid-back. We didn’t do anything exciting, but that’s a nice kind of day as well.

I spent some time in the morning working on creating Google Maps of our route so I can start publishing these daily accounts as blog posts. Trying to figure out Google Maps is a challenge, so I felt good when I got the maps done.

I fixed us some oatmeal for breakfast, then we both got showers at the bathhouse. The facilities are certainly not five-star caliber, but the water was hot and plentiful, and the place was clean. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for a shower, as there was no one else in the bathroom.

Andy fixed us a big salad for lunch, and I made the cashew dressing and heated up some pinto beans to go with it.

After lunch we drove into the nearby town of Chipley to visit Walmart for groceries and to refill our four drinking water containers. Since we eat so many fresh fruits and vegetables, and our refrigerator is small, we need to restock fairly often.

I knew that most Walmarts have good complimentary wi-fi in their stores, so I had brought along my laptop. After we finished shopping, we pulled the truck around to the back of the store, parking close to the wall, accessed the wi-fi, and from there I was able to research and book us a place to stay after we leave our current location. I’ve learned a lot from watching various nomads’ YouTube channels! LOL

After we got back from town and put the groceries away, I decided to take a walk to the crown jewel of this state park, the waterfall. According to the information I could find online, it’s a 1.1 mile round trip hike (walk), so it didn’t seem that it would be too bad, but Andy didn’t feel like it was something he wanted to tackle. So I did the walk myself, and it was beautiful!

The trail starts from here in the campground, just a couple of sites away from ours. The first part is downhill on hard-packed sand with steps cut into the hill using landscape timbers. There’s a boardwalk section at the bottom of the hill that crosses a wet area full of ferns, and then you emerge from the trees onto the beach and swimming area of the small lake. There are some nice bathrooms there along with a picnic area. There’s also a sign saying that there are alligators in the area.

Crossing the beach, the trail continues on a concrete sidewalk, before turning into boardwalk for the remainder of the walk. And not just any boardwalk–it’s NICE boardwalk with railings and the occasional covered bench for rest and reflection. Along the way there’s a plugged oil well from when there was an unsuccessful drilling attempt (they seem to be inordinately proud of this failure), and not far past the oil well is the waterfall.

The boardwalk turns into steps that descend into a sinkhole, and the waterfall cascades over the lip of the sinkhole into a cave 75 feet below. We were lucky that we had all that rain come through on Saturday night because the waterfall only runs like this after there’s been a good rain. It’s not a huge amount of water, but it’s really beautiful, and the air is nice and cool standing on the observation point halfway down into the sinkhole.

I took some pictures and video and showed them to Andy when I got back, and I told him how easy the hike was, so he’s going to go with me to revisit it tomorrow.

We spent some time reading on our front porch, and then I prepared hobo packs for Andy to cook for dinner. I used onion, small yellow potatoes, peppers (red, yellow and green), garlic, and sliced Morningstar Farm Breakfast “Sausage” (veggie) links. (We usually use Tofurkey Italian Sausage, but Walmart didn’t have those.) I added a generous shake of Mrs. Dash Southwest seasoning and wrapped everything up into big foil packages, one for each of us. Andy cooked them on the grill for an hour and they were delicious! This was the first time we had used the Morningstar Farm sausages, but they weren’t bad, and it’s good to know they work as an alternative to the Tofurkey brand.

After cleaning up the dinner dishes (not many since we cooked in foil packets), we enjoyed the evening sounds of birdsong while reading and chatting, and turned in around 9:00 PM.

It’s interesting that we have not even attempted to use the television or watch a DVD the entire time we’ve been on this trip. We both prefer to read, and the television just seems like an invasion of chaos when you’re parked in such a beautiful peaceful space. I don’t miss the TV at all.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 8

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018 – Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park, Summerdale, Alabama

Today started out slow with coffee and oatmeal, along with a shower in the rig. This was the first time we’ve used our own shower since we’ve been on this trip, but the two shower rooms they have available here in this park weren’t all that inviting.

After getting all cleaned up and presentable, we drove into Fairhope to Walmart to do a little shopping for groceries and supplies. We bought a few things to furnish the rig:

  • Three light brown towels to cover the dinette benches, replacing the mismatched blankets
  • A shoe organizer to go over the bathroom door
  • Shower curtain hooks (Andy’s plan was to hang the laundry bag from the shower curtain rod where it connects to the wall. The hooks he bought were cheap and wouldn’t work.)
  • A step-stool to make it easier to move things around in the loft, especially on the side by the door. I’m concerned that if we continue to use the back of the dinette as a step-stool it will eventually loosen it from the wall.

We also bought some groceries and got gas for the truck while we were there.

We enjoyed the 15-minute-each-way drive to and from Walmart, although we didn’t really get into Fairhope. When we got back to the rig, we put away all the groceries and then had a lunch of leftovers–Wild Rodeo salad with quinoa, brown rice salad, and the last of the f@cking curry (that’s how it’s spelled in the cookbook, not my spelling!).

After cleaning up the dishes from lunch we loaded up the dirty laundry and drove over to the park clubhouse to the laundry facility. The machines were $1.25 each, so it cost us a total of $7.50 to do three loads. Fortunately no one was there when we got there so we were able to start all three loads at the same time. Other people arrived after we got started, and they had to wait for our loads to finish. But it was nice to be able to do all the laundry simultaneously rather than sequentially.

Before going to the laundry room, I started a pot of soup in the Instant Pot, using the slow cooker feature. I wasn’t sure the soup would be ready in time for dinner at 5:30, and sure enough, it wasn’t. I tried using the Saute function to just cook it normally, but that was too hot and the soup was boiling too fast. So in the end I wound up just pressure cooking it for four minutes and then using the quick release method. Next time, I’ll just skip the whole slow cooking method and go straight to pressure cooking. The soup was good though, we ate the whole pot.

The forecast for the evening was for severe storms, and we were under a tornado watch until 2:00 AM Sunday morning, as well as a flash flood watch. The radar looked ominous with a huge line of bright red moving from west to east. We sat at the dining table and watched the lightning in the west as it got closer and closer. The rain started about 9:15 PM and it came down hard, especially with the wind blowing 30-40 MPH.

Lizzy held up well and didn’t seem to rock with the wind. The only problem we found was a slow drip coming in from the vent hood over the stove. It was soaking the countertop behind the stove and sink. We put a plastic bowl under the drip to catch the water and went to bed.

The electricity blinked off and on, but there were no extended outages.

Maggie and Molly both handled the storm really well. There was one particularly loud clap of thunder that sounded very close by, and we all jumped, but the kitties seemed to shake it off just fine.

Not sure what we’re going to do tomorrow. We were planning to go hear Kyle Brady (Drivin’ and Vibin’) play at a local restaurant, but I checked the restaurant’s webpage to see what time he was playing and they don’t show him on the schedule for this weekend. So we may just do some sight-seeing, depending on what mood strikes us. 🙂

I’m still having a great time, and feel so glad we’re pursuing this lifestyle. I’m starting to understand how people like Caravan Carolyn can totally lose track of what day it is. If I didn’t have to be back to my job on the 23rd, I wouldn’t look at the calendar at all. We’re learning to compromise and deal with the small space, and we’re finding new ways to organize things. I’m trying to let go of my need to “do something”, but it’s hard.

I’m really struggling with whether or not to pursue all the photography and videography projects that I anticipated doing on the road. It just seems like such a hassle to pull out a camera, tripod, gimbal, etc., and try to record something when I ought to be just looking at it and experiencing it. And then there’s the editing that needs to be done.

I don’t want to give up on it yet, not until we actually go full-time and I don’t have these time constraints in the back of my mind. The scenery that I really want to record is all out west anyway. But right now I’m just not that motivated to become a YouTuber.

Our First RV Rally – Sevierville, TN

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

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

View this post on Instagram

Settled in at Camp Walmart.

A post shared by Suzanne Hight (@suzanne.hight) on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Suzanne Hight (@suzanne.hight) on

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

We’re having a blast this week!