The Random Numbers of a Year on the Road

Well, we’re sitting here in a chilly camper on a snowy, windy day in Amarillo, and now seems like a great time to review our past years trip statistics.  In some ways it hasn’t seemed like a whole year has passed since we left Raleigh on the 29th April 2016, but in other ways it seems like we’ve been doing this a while.  We’re used to having military showers (quick in and out, turn off water when soaping up), to having less toilets than the number of people (our Raleigh house has 3….), to staying out of each others way when we’re in the camper (it’s an intricate dance, similar to the tango but without the gracefulness), to packing everything up every few days and unpacking it again.  We’re a well oiled machine.

Here’s our wiggly, non linear route through the US – red dots are 2016, green dots are 2017:

So many more places to go!

These are some of the things we’ve been tracking on our trip:

Number of states visited = 20 (in order: NC, TN, KY, IN, IL, MO, KS, NE, CO, WY, MT, ND, SD, ID, UT, NV, CA, AZ, NM, TX)

Number of places stayed = 56 different campsites.

Average stay at a campsite = 5.47 days

How much we’ve spent on campsites since we left Raleigh = $7,233.13 (see all the other numbers below)

Most expensive campsite = $45 in Napa Valley during our ‘Month of Rain’ (actually it was more like 2 months…….. and it felt like forever).

Number of nights camped for free = 74.  The vast majority of those were nights with friends and relatives, the others were BLM, Harvest Hosts or National Recreation areas.  We’re going to do a better job of seeking out the free BLM campgrounds, now we know we can go for a while without hookups and now I’ve got the inverter hooked up.  We have a generator, but I’d really like to put solar on too……. it’s just a quite expensive accessory if we’re going to sell the camper in a year after we’ve finished our odyssey….. and like I said, we have a generator.  But solar is so much cleaner and quieter.

Number of friends visited = not enough!  We spent some good times with lots of people – stayed in friends driveways in Knoxville, Webster Groves, Berthoud and Lubbock, and had friends visit us at campsites in KY, SD, ND, WY, NV, CA and AZ.  We are truly blessed to have shared some great times with friends, and deepened our relationships with others.  But, if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen us on the road ………. there’s always this year! We welcome visitors.

State we stayed the longest in = California at 69 days (not including the time we parked the camper when we were in Europe).  Second longest was Arizona at 42 days.

Number of miles Fat Henry towed the Shady Lady = 8,110 miles

The average number of miles in transit between each campground = 135.16 miles

Number of miles we drove altogether = 20,248 miles

Average number of miles driven per day = 54.9

Number of gallons of diesel Fat Henry has drunk = 1495.36 gallons

Highest price we’ve paid for diesel per gallon = $3.499 in Cambria, CA.  What!  It was an emergency, so we put $15 and went 50 miles down the road and filled up with $2.759.

Hitchhikers = 2.  Then we exterminated them (as detailed here).  Just like the daleks.

Number of times we filled up a propane tank – 2.  We’re not too sure how much we had when we started, but we think they were quite full.  So we’ve probably used about 120lb propane since we’ve been on the road (each tank is 30lb).  We use propane for cooking inside, and also powering our fridge, water heater and furnace when we’re not on shore power.  In the summer we use less, in the winter we use more.  Simples.

Number of haircuts on the road = 3.  All Berts.  None of Kats head hairs have been harmed in the making of this road trip.  No comment on the other types of hair.

Camper modifications and repairs we have done:

Before we left, Katie (of the amazing 507Designs) did a fantastic job re-doing our crappy window coverings.  We had very dated waterfall window surroundings in a nice 70’s pattern.  The side bits got removed, the top bits got re-covered and sprayed and now it looks a lot better.  She also made a cute little curtain and covered the 70’s sofa (see the theme here – the camper was made in 2005, but the camper designers all live in the past.  They probably all listen to disco music, wear tye-dye and eat fondue when they have dinner parties).

Two new 30lb propane tanks – the old ones were over 10 years old and therefore nobody would fill them up.  We could either get them recertified for another 5 years (~$35) or buy new ones (~$55) that would be good for another 10 years.  We went with the new ones, because it’s easier to get a new one shipped to us rather than have to try to find somewhere that recertified the tanks when we were travelling…….. addendum……. Just a day after writing the last paragraph (but obviously before publishing this post) we went to get the new tank filled with propane.  The lady there told us she would have recertified the tank for $4.  Doh!  Just shows how much difference it is regionally – Napa Valley CA prices vs Amarillo TX prices.

Added 2x6v batteries to the battery bank, with a switch to swap between the two ‘sets’ of batteries (1x12V or 2x6V).

The battery compartment. The original battery is on the right, and the two 6v batteries that were added are on the left. The inverter (see below) is mounted on the plank in the middle, with a 100A fuse switch.

The switch that we can either disconnect batteries, use battery bank 1, or battery bank 2.

 

A 1000W inverter so we can run things like fans and charge computers when we’re on our house batteries.  We installed a dedicated outlet for it in the camper as we don’t really need to run everything when we’re not on shore power.

The dedicated inverter outlet installed in the camper, with the inverter on/off switch above. And the retro cassette player above that (original equipment)

Adding a little voltage readout in the camper, so we don’t need to go outside and put the voltmeter across the battery terminals every time we need to see how much battery we have left.

Small display showing the battery voltage

Replaced the front landing legs for the Shady Lady – less than a month into our trip they broke in Nashville

Added a shock that didn’t seem to be there anymore on the camper.  Oops.

New taps for the bathroom and the kitchen

Replaced the dining chairs with ottomans for more storage.  Then broke the dining table in the first couple of weeks of being on the road, so we’re now using a ‘temporary’ folding table, which actually is way more versatile.  ‘Temporary’ being an attitude and not an actual period of time.  Obviously.  As we still have it….

As you can see – the original dining room table that bit the dust. And the old ‘waterfall’ window accoutrements.

Restrung the blinds numerous times- thank goodness we bought 9 miles of nylon string!

Recaulked bits and pieces- still a lot to do now that it is washed and waxed.

Replaced the roof vent caps.  Repeatedly.  They shouldn’t really be treated as a disposable, but we are leery of replacing them and creating a leak in the roof.

 

 

Here’s the spending summary – I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for so you can live vicariously through our budget:

 Annual TotalAverage Per MonthAverage Per DayComment
Campsite$7,377.5$614.79$20.16Cheaper than a mortgage
Fuel$3,134.43$261.2$8.56Fat Henry drinks a lot. Not quite as much as twice our drinking line item, but close…….
Grocery$4,412.69$367.72$12.06We like eating……. Too much sometimes.
Restaurant$2,665.59$222.13$7.28See above.
Alcohol$1,891.07$157.59$5.17‘Nuff said.
Household$783.26$65.27$2.14Things like paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning materials, propane for the grill and other things like that.
Camper$2,118.8$176.57$5.79Repairs, upgrades and maintenance to the camper itself.
Equipment$331.58$27.63$0.91Things like camp chairs,
Truck$498.88$41.57$1.36Fat Henry is pretty cheap – no major repairs or expenses yet. But the big service will be upon us soon.
Parking$78$6.5$0.21Not enough of a category to be a category next year. You are the weakest link. Goodbye.
Entertainment$971.7$80.98$2.65Museums, National Park Pass, bourbon and wine tastings, firewood for camp files, rodeo, generally paying to enjoy ourselves.
Gifts$520.41$43.37$1.42Most of this was postcards and stamps. Money well spent.
Fixed Costs$2051$170.92$5.6Truck and camper taxes and insurance
Laundry$130.66$10.89$0.36Cleanliness is next to godliness. As we only spent 36 cents per day, we’re probably not close to either of those things.
Miscellaneous$1,433.4$119.45$3.92Some clothes, some transportation (ferrys, Uber, buses, trains etc) and a Shady Lady Wash N’ Wax (Ooh-Er Missus)
Membership/ club/education$708.9$59.08$1.94Good Sam, Passport America, Harvest Hosts, RV Dreams Rally (a lot of fun – maybe should have been in entertainment)
Health/Medical$6,150.73$512.56$16.81Cost of being self employed in the US
Phones$1,755.67$146.31$4.8Cricket and Verizon. It’s not till you don’t have WiFi at home that you realize how much you use…..
Total$37,014.27$3,084.52$101.13

When we first left, we wanted to try to keep it to $1500 per person per month ($18k per person per year, $36k per year total).  Looks like we’re around that mark, or a tiny bit above.  Next year, I’d like to keep it to the same amount, but as health insurance has gone up, something else has to go down.

Sidenote:  (Not to get into politics, but health insurance in the US is a non-negotiable expense for me – I have to have it.  The way I see it, I have worked too long and hard to risk it all being taken away if I get cancer or have an accident, or need an appendectomy or anything like that.  Coming from a country where having access to ‘free’ basic healthcare is a right (like ‘free’ basic education is) and not a privilege, the thought of having to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars if something untoward happened to me is unconscionable.  If anyone wants to discuss this further offline – I’d love to engage with you!)

So the biggest areas that we can make a difference are our campsite and our eating/consumption habits.  So now we have the inverter, we’re looking at doing a bit more free camping – we can run for a week-ish on our water tanks, and we have a generator that can top up the batteries every 3 – 5 days.  We’ve got a month in Oregon doing volunteer work lined up (Bert will tell you more about that), and we get our campsite free…… so that will bring it down a little.  And if we like it, we’ll do more of it.  If not, we’ll live in Walmart parking lots, and underneath underpasses.

I collected a LOT more statistics from our year on the road, but as this post is getting super long, I’ll leave it there.  If you have any other statistics that you would like to know, let us know in the comments!

And I’ll leave you with one other thought:

Your regular program of unicorns and rainbows will be resumed by Bert shortly.  Thank you for your patience.

Posted in Statistics | 9 Comments

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to our traveling adventure!
We officially left Raleigh on April 29th. Our last day and evening was spent cleaning the house and garage of all the last little things. Our neighbors all came over and joined us in the garage for a final farewell. The rain came down heavy for a short while and the neighborhood kids had a blast playing in the downpour. I admit that I may have instigated that a little, but that is the kind of neighbor I was. I hope to be again someday.
Settle in a comfortable spot and enjoy some of our favorite pictures from the places we have visited in  the last year. I did my best to choose as few as possible, but that was hard since we have so many.

We will be on the road for one more year, so we hope to share many more pictures and tales of places we visit. I’d like to say we have an absolute favorite place that we were able to go, but as Kat says “There is something good to be said about everywhere we have gone, sometimes it is totally unexpected.”  I agree, whether it has been the weather, the scenery, the people, the food or whatever, we have just made the most of everything and tried to be happy wherever we were.

Goodbye home and great neighbors….see you again!

Our first week was spent in Sevierville, TN at an RV rally.  Good start!

 

Visiting Cousins and The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

 

Louisville, KY

 

Kansas.

 

 

 

Bailey’s point, KY

 

St Louis.

Nebraska.

Omaha, NE

 

Indiana.

A quick stay in Illinois.

Sterling Lake, Colorado

Berthoud, Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

 

Great Salt Lake, Utah

 

North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Montana- site of Custer’s last battle.

Wyoming- Grand Tetons, Laramie, Yellowstone and Cody.

Devils Tower, WY

South Dakota

 

Idaho

 

 

Nevada

California (January and February)

 

 

Arizona

 

New Mexico

Texas

Texas

Thank you to everyone who we met up with on the road, old friends and new ones.  You really have added a lot of enjoyment to the trip for us.  We appreciate you taking the time to hang out, eat and drink, letting us park in your driveways (or pastures), allowing us to do laundry and shower and just enjoy each other’s company.

 

We will spend our 1 year Anniversary in Amarillo, TX and it will probably be rainy and cold.  Yeah, I know, but you have to take it as it comes, so we will make the most of our day and just have fun.  Hope you enjoy yours too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in States | 11 Comments

Hello New Mexico

There is nothing like traveling when at your destination you are really looking forward to seeing a friend or family. I felt really excited and driven to get to Phoenix to see my family and every stop was exciting because I was a bit closer. Right now we are headed through New Mexico to get to my college roomate’s house. We have that relationship where you can not talk for a long time, but then when you do it’s just like you saw each other last week. We had some good times and I am looking forward to reminiscing. We all have friends like that and Laura is one of mine. I also think Kat will have a really good time because they like to debate and get into good, deep, possibly intellectual discussions and I think Kat is ready to do that with someone other than me. And that’s ok, I am too. Really looking forward to this visit and I only hope we fit in the driveway.

We left Catalina State Park as our last stop in Arizona and headed to New Mexico on Thursday. We really wanted to stay at Big Rocks State Park about 30 miles outside of Deming and we could only get a one night reservation. We planned to stay longer, but took that reservation to ensure we had at least one night there. They have 45 unreservable sights and friends told us that we should just show up and trade for one of those if possible. I had called the ranger station and was told since it was Easter weekend they expected to be pretty full, but just to give it a shot anyway. Having no reservations always makes us a bit edgy because we like to know where we are going and not have to wing it after we arrive and nothing is available (hasn’t happened yet, but you never know). We got there about 1.30pm and things were looking pretty good except for the camper in front of us, I was really nervous he would get the very last spot for a camper of our size even though he was smaller. We got a great spot in the one right after his. It took some tricky leveling and back and forths, but we got it in the end without too much trouble. It was really worth it! We were parked right next to the rocks and on the other side we had a fantastic view of the wide open desert. We could see for miles.

I had a nice bike ride after we got setup and checked out the rest of the campground and a bit of the scenery while Kat had a short nap. The sunset was amazing and the views were incredible of both the rock formations all around and the desert. Later that night the stars felt so close it was almost like you could reach out and grab them. No light pollution anywhere close by will do that and I forgot that about New Mexico skies. It got down into the 30’s at night, but in the day the sun brought it up into the low 80’s. Perfect, except the late afternoon and evenings were windy after the first day, so we didn’t get to have a fire.

View of the campground from a close by hill.

Friday we headed up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings about 2 hours away. It is not that far in miles, but the roads up the mountain from Silver City are really curvy and steep. No problem for Fat Henry and there wasn’t much traffic. Even though I lived in NM for a long time when growing up I had never been there, so it was cool to finally go. The round trip walk is only about a mile and you get to go through 4 caves that have some really interesting structures that have been nicely preserved. The drive home was a bit easier because we took a different way through Mimbres, NM. It took us longer to get there and back than it did to walk through the caves, but it was worth it. When we got back we went down to the visitor center with our coffee grinder and some beans. We forgot to grind beans before we left AZ and needed some good coffee for in the morning, so we used an outside outlet to grind our beans. We weren’t the only ones who needed a bit of electricity because we had to wait for someone else to finish using the plug to blow up an air mattress.

 

We really enjoyed our walks around the camp and checking out what spots were taken and by whom. There was quite a bit of turnover, so if you wanted a spot you could most likely find something if you got there at the right time. All the campsites were named after constellations, planets and stars. We were staying in the site named Crab. During our walk we checked out the original spot we had reserved and it was Uranus. We were happy not to have stayed in Uranus. Jokes about Uranus are always funny and we had quite a few laughs about it during our stay. My nephew told me while we were visiting that he thinks Kat and I combined together have maybe the mental age of a 30 year old- I don’t take that as an insult because sometimes it seems kind of true. I won’t even go into how that age gets divided. lol (Kats note – Easy: I’m 20 and Bert’s 10……) 
Saturday we had planned just to take it easy and let Kat rest a bit, but we were on the fence about leaving Sunday and so decided to at least go into Deming and get fueled up. While in NM who can resist the opportunity to get good mexican food, so we decided that is what we would do for lunch while in town. Easter weekend and Irma’s is closed! Oh no. Ok, just walk around the corner and there is El Senors restaurant, which is packed. Either they were all going to Irma’s too, or it is just that good. We can’t compare, but we did really enjoy lunch and had leftovers to take home too! We made our obligatory NM state Walmart stop (Kats note – A Walmart in every state, baby!  That should go into the next stats page, in 2019), got gas and went home. That park has lots of locals coming out for picnics and camping, so we got a lot of traffic passing by. We were blocked by the camper, so it was not really a big deal. We had a good evening and had decided to head to Oliver Lee state park near Alamogordo. Again, we had no reservations-we have really been living on the edge! That park was nowhere near as full and once more we were in the beautiful desert in the middle of nothing except cactus and mountains.

We got setup and went back out to get Fat Henry filled up and go see White Sands National Park. I’ve been there many times while growing up and driving by, but Kat never had. We got to use our pass, so it was free! It was busy, but I guess that can be expected on a holiday. We saw the signs as we entered that No Alcohol was allowed from February 1st to May 31st. We didn’t have any, but why would those dates be important? So, we asked the ranger and he by the grin on his face he seemed to know what Kat was going to ask as soon as she told him she had a question. Spring Break! They don’t want people having spring break parties out there. Makes sense. We took a little walk down the boardwalk path and then started driving the rest of the loop, but it was so wash-boarded out and we were bouncing around and rattling so much in Fat Henry that we stopped about half way. I am so glad we didn’t bring the camper down through here too. I went out and walked on the dunes to get some pictures and Kat joined me after a few minutes. So, we were there, we saw, we left. It would have been nice to drive the whole things, but we did enjoy what we saw. Back to camp for us to relax because we are leaving again in the morning.

After dry camping for 3 nights it was nice to have power, but we could have done without. We did watch a couple of shows we had downloaded since it got really windy outside after the sun went down. When the wind was gusting we felt the camper rocking and realized we had forgotten to put down the stabilizers. Hmmm-first time for that, but we got distracted as we set up because our electric plug had water in it and also the surge protector was showing no ground? (Kats note – Well, one side of the surge protector was showing no ground and the other was, so we’re not too sure what was going on with that.  After we plugged it in, I checked the 120V outlets, and they were showing a ground, but I’m sure there’s probably some electrickery formula to work out whether it was a good idea or not……. I have no idea, but we didn’t explode or short out, so that’s good)  We used it anyway after drying it out and all seems ok. With power we also got to heat up our leftover Mexican food in the microwave and enjoy that for dinner! I love leftovers, especially mexican food.

Our next stop was Brantley Lake about 15 miles outside of Carlsbad, NM.  It is a pretty nice campground, but the Easter crowd left quite a mess.  I really don’t understand why people would just leave all their trash (plastic Easter eggs) laying around when they leave.  I guess the campground host hasn’t been through to clean up because it is a mess in some spaces. It is a pretty isolated and dry campground, but we enjoyed the quiet and views.  There are lots of rabbits and Jackrabbits around.  Did you know that a Jackrabbit and Hare are the same thing?

 

The wind didn’t let up all night, but the stars once again did not disappoint. One thing that did disappoint me and left me sleepless was my supposed Verizon unlimited data plan. While in Tucson we went to a Verizon store to find out about their unlimited data plan. I have a 16G plan and Kat has 12G and we have made do with that ok, but we have to go to Starbucks if we want to do some heavy duty downloading or it takes forever. Well, I specifically asked Zach at the Verizon store if the Jetpack was under the same rules as a Phone in terms of when you reach 10 Gigs using 4G it goes down to a 3G for the remainder. He said NO, it is only on phones that those rules apply. We were both super excited to not to have to worry about how much data we had used and we could now go online whenever for however long. You don’t really think about it when you live in a house and you have unlimited access. We always took it for granted too. Anyway, while I was getting the last of the Arizona blog done I got a text message from Verizon telling me I was about to hit my 10gb limit and get dropped from 4G to 3G. What? Yes, everything slowed down immensely after that. Did you know that 3G is 1/20th slower than 4G? That is a lot when trying to upload photos! When we researched it online the stories are all over the place with similar experiences and no resolution. I was really disappointed. Now, do I keep that plan and suffer through the slowness as much as I want or go back to fast speed internet and just be careful about how much we use? I called Verizon in the morning after going through it in my head all night and I was told: ‘”yes, that is the way the plan works with Jet-packs and if you tether a phone, sorry you were misinformed”. She gave me a 20$ credit because I told here I am paying $20 more for a lesser service. I am still unsure if I will keep this new plan, but maybe I can use my phone for another 10 and that would give us 20gb of 4G service and then it would get slow. All you Verizon users, don’t be fooled!

When I think of Carlsbad, I always think of Carlsbad Caverns and of course we had to go there and check it out. Carlsbad has a population of about 55, 000 and is known for potash mining, petroleum production and tourism. That means lots of trucks and hotels in town. I had been to the Caverns when I was young, but I wanted to go again and take Kat. We headed out early and were very happy to find it not very crowded. It is a 3.75 mile hike on a self guided tour if you take the natural entrance and go through the Big Room. There is also an 800 change in elevation. There are warnings all over that it is a strenuous hike. It was steep going down and of course back up, but the path is paved and really well done to keep people on the path. The walk down was pretty with all the formations, but when you get into the Big Room it is amazing. The formations made it seem like a cross between science fiction and fantasy, just amazing. I was thinking how nice it would be to listen to some good music to match the views.  If you lived locally it would be worth it to have a membership or annual pass so you could go there and get some exercise when it was hot out.  We really enjoyed it and it was really nice that it was not crowded and we had the path to ourselves in many areas. We have been to Mammoth cave in Kentucky and a couple others in South Dakota, but this was absolutely the best. If you have the chance to go, it is really worth it.

After the cave walk and listening to Kat’s stomach growl the whole time we went out to lunch at Blake’s Lotaburger. To me it seems like NM’s version of IN and OUT burger in CA and AZ. The burgers are freshly cooked and adding cheese and green chili really make the burgers extra delicious. I give it my vote for best green chili cheeseburgers! (Kats note – it was indeed delicious, however I went into the situation blind, not knowing what the options were and did not do the appropriate research beforehand.  There was a choice between an ITSAburger and a LOTAburger.  I naturally thought the LOTAburger was bigger, and thought it had two burgers in there, so I ordered that one.  The MOST important part of a burger is the Holy Ratio.  That would be the ratio between meat and bun.  Too much bun:meat, then it makes for an unsatisfying experience.   Too much meat:bun is not possible.  The LOTAburger was a bigger burger, but only one single patty.  So with the benefit of foresight, I would have gone for a smaller burger but double meat.  Or triple meat.  (side note – the best BigMac I ever had was the Double BigMac in Bangkok – 4 patties)  Apart from the Holy Ratio being a bit off though, the green chile in there made it Delicious, with a capital D).  A bit of relaxing, talking and watching the stars came while hanging out at the campground ended our evening. Another great stop in the desert. Beautiful, but very different desert from Arizona.

 

We leave this morning for Lubbock, Texas and are very exciting to visit Laura and Miriam since we have been talking about it and planning to be there for quite awhile. Wagons Ho! Texas here we come!

Posted in New Mexico, States | 12 Comments

Final stays in Arizona

After leaving Desert Shadows in Phoenix we headed only about an hour away to Usery Mountain Park in Apache Junction/Mesa area. What a difference to where we had been in the city. It was a great desert campground. Very rustic and natural with shrubs, tons of Chollo and Saguaro cactus and lots of open space. We really liked the area and the layout, but the views were icing on the cake. The mountain range close by was nice and the waxing moon made every night so enjoyable to be outside. The stars were fighting to be seen in the bright moonlight and were doing a good job of it. The park is part of the Arizona Maricopa county park system, which is the largest in the country with 120,000 acres. They have a top rated archery range, about 60 picnic areas, Camping (of course), horse trails, hiking trails and a really good activity schedule. We went to one talk by Ranger B on roadrunners which was interesting and fun and sure did come in handy later in the week. We also went on a moonlight walk with a group led by him. That was nice because we might not have gone into the desert on our own at night, but it was odd to hike with 50 other people.

The thing about being there was the people we met. When we first started our trip we met Lee and Tracy at a rally and we followed their blog ever since, but one night while we were in CA we talked with Tracy to see if we could help each other out with some questions. We found out we were going to be in the Phoenix area at the same time and it just all came together that we could actually meet up and even meet some of their friends. What a great group! We had a lot of laughs and shared experiences and now we can put faces with their blogs. It was really good to be around others who understand your lifestyle’s challenges- for me when I hear someone say they’ve got toget their blog done in the morning before they go out- I can relate! I don’t always do it, obviously or you would have read this a long time ago, but I do feel the nagging need to get it done. We picked up some good ideas on how to make our lives easier, like reading other people’s blogs to get ideas for campgrounds, look closer at google maps of campgrounds or maybe just reach out and ask. It was amazing how small of a world it seemed when we talked about where everyone had been and where they were going. It helped us immediately with our next stop. Thanks guys!

So, here are a few more blogs you can read if you are enjoying ours:
Tracy and Lee: Camper chronicles
Deb and Steve: Down the road with Steve and Debbie
Cori and Greg: The Restless Youngs

Along with great food, lots of drinks and fun times we also did some other things like we all went to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum together one morning and another morning we hiked up to Wind Cave in the park with Deb and Steve. The Arboretum/Botanical garden was nicely laid out.  It had different areas which showed vegetation that went with it and the surrounding rock formations really added to the scenery.  I liked the succulent garden section full of different types of cactus.  So many desert plant varieties and so little time!  The hike we went on was only 1 1/2 miles with an 800 foot increase in elevation. We left early to beat the heat and it really wasn’t too hard, plus the views were great. We actually met up with Deb and Steve on our next stop when we both left on Monday to head to Catalina State Park just outside of Tucson.

Yep, we are headed to the top right, where the wind cave is.

From up high you can see our campground.. the white spots in the middle way down there.

Almost there.

Well, here we are. Not too much of a cave, but the hike was fun.

Time to head back down.

Rock formations in the Botanical garden.

Hummingbird in its nest.

Fat, juicy lizard.

Sure grow them big out here.

 

We had a good weekend with the family before we left when we attended my nephew-Kyle and his wife Abbey’s gender reveal party. Food, drinks, games and the announcement of a baby girl to be added to the family! It was sad to say goodbye because it was so fun to spend time with them all, but we hope to be back later in the year and we are very happy we got to see them for as long as we did.

Ready, set…

GO!

Its going to be a girl!

Mystery is over.

The whole crew.

Sunday we headed back to the camper after spending the night with at my niece Alli’s house. We don’t need a lot of prep time to get ready for a move the next day, but just wanted to relax before we had to move again. I also needed a nap! Monday we left for Catalina State Park- 14 miles outside of Tucson. It was an easy drive and we were impressed by the number of RV’s on the roads. They all seemed to be headed to Phoenix and we were wondering what was going on. We don’t usually travel on Mondays so we were thinking it may be normal and we were happy we don’t usually do that. HAHA- joke was on us. As we got further down the road we saw signs for a special event causing delays. Well, it turned out to be the site for the Country Thunder concert that had been held over the weekend and where obviously they allowed RV’s. Traffic thinned out after that.

When we got to the campground and I was backing into the site we had a roadrunner as our audience (and an old guy across the road- not unusual). I took seeing that roadrunner as a good sign that this would be a nice campground. It was not as rustic as Usery, but you know for sure you are in the desert. The mountains around us again were beautiful. Not so many cactus as before, but more shrubs and trees. The camping areas were pretty spacious and we were happy with our decision to stay here. Very rarely have we ever regretted staying somewhere (once for sure somewhere in Missouri.)

Such different vegetation from Usery mountain.

Taking home a lizard.

Great views..

 

That night we met up with Deb and Steve for dinner and we all had plans the next day, so we made plans for a breakfast goodbye on Wednesday since they were leaving that day. We were leaving Thursday. Tuesday morning Deb and I ended up going for a bike ride around the campground. If you go down each road to the picnic, group area, equestrian area, both campging loop and to the trail head you can get in about 5 miles. I did do an extra loop after she went home to grt in a few more miles. Later that day Kat and I went into Tucson to check out the downtown and University area. It was hot and Kat wasn’t feeling great due to some stomach pains and so we just walked down 4th Avenue and drove around the downtown area. Seems like it could be fun to spend some time there in the evening for happy hour and dinner, but it will have to wait for next time for us. We had a nice dinner and took a walk around the campground while enjoying the sunset views.

Wednesday after breakfast we planned on either going to the museum of the living desert, which we heard was fantastic, or going to the Biosphere 2. Both sounded like we would enjoy them, but Kat just looked miserable and had no energy, so I was cool with hanging around. Maybe I could get caught up on my blogging—Haha, didn’t happen. But, I did have a very exciting nature day. I was sitting outside reading and the roadrunner and his partner kept running right by me and going out to find lizards. One would go out, be gone for a few minutes and then come racing back with a lizard. Then the other one would do the same. They did it like 5 times each. I was so excited to be seeing this. I knew lots about roadrunners after the talk by Ranger B at Usery. They mate for life and both take care of the babies. They eat lizard s and snakes, but will usually just walk around with them in their mouths nibbling until they are gone. The fact that they kept going to get more and more led me to believe they must have babies somewhere. I did see where I think they had their nest by watching the dad take a lizard home. I didn’t go check too closely because I didn’t want to cause problems.

Hello

I just spotted dinner, no time for a picture.

Holding sill for one good picture.

I’m busy fixing up my nest with this dried grass.

Action photo.

 

As I sat there I was also watching the little ground squirrels in between roadrunners. They are fun to watch and more than once I would look down and see one stretched out under the camper right next to me with his belly on the cool dirt. So cute and so much easier to get pictures of them. Those roadrunners are fast! After awhile the roadrunner activity stopped and I got hot, so i went inside and asked Kat if she felt up for a ride. She is a trooper and said yes, so we headed out to check out Saguaro National Forest. No hiking involved, you can just drive through on an 8 mile loop and check out the scenery. I am happy they are making the effort to preserve these cactus and the land that supports them, but we had seen a quite impressive growth of the Saguaro’s just outside of Phoenix on the way to Sedona. It was still worth it. It didn’t cost anything except gas money to get there, but that also allowed us to check out Tucson a little more as we drove to the park. We both agree that the National Parks Pass we bought in August of 2016 was the best purchase ever and we have definitely gotten our moneys worth out of it. When you enter a National park it can cost you 20 bucks to enter. Well, not us…after our inital investment of 80 dollars we can go in for free. We haven’t added it up, but we know we have made out by having it and have gone places we normally wouldn’t because it costs too much. So happy that Carol and Sue told us how good it was to have one!

 

And our day got even better when we got back to the campground. As we came into the park we saw coyotes! One caught my eye as it crossed the road and when we approached and looked where it went we saw two others. Ok, call me crazy, but I got excited because we hear them a lot in different campgrounds, sometimes quite close, but I have never seen them. We were in no danger being protected by Fat Henry and all, so Kat was able to get some pictures. What a nice day after all, except for Kat not feeling 100%. We had an early evening planned t so we could leave early in the morning to head into NM and try to get a good site at City of Rocks State Park just outside of Deming, NM. Goodbye Arizona! Until next time, thanks for good memories.

Posted in Arizona, States | 8 Comments

More in Phoenix

It’s weird but kind of nice at the same time being in the same place for so long. We have days when we are just antsy and don’t know what to do with ourselves. We have tried to be productive and get some of our jobs done around the camper. For example we finally put in the bathroom fan and got started on the inverter installation. Those took quite a few trips to Home Depot. There were also a lot of breaks to chat with people walking by and commenting on our work. It’s amazing how seeing a woman working on a camper with tools all around her brings so much attention. I think Kat enjoyed it and I teased her that she was just sitting out there looking productive.  We bought and put up our map showing the states we have traveled through and have done a lot of other little jobs. We have even done our taxes! I have never gotten too excited when I got a refund, but this year it makes a difference. I feel more relieved to get them done than I thought. Turbo Tax took barely an hour!


We did go out and do volunteering at St Mary’s foodbank. St Marys was the very first food bank in the world apparently. Who knew? It was a little more exciting than just sorting food items because we were working with female prison inmates. I almost made a joke when we first got there and a woman in her orange jumpsuit showed us where the sign in office was located, I am so happy I kept my mouth shut. The big letters ADC (Arizona Department of Corrections) was a tip off. It was probably and hopefully the closest I will ever get to Orange is the new Black. Everyone was really nice. We found a couple of other opportunities, but they were bad times for us because they were always on days we wanted to spend with the kids. We almost signed up to work at the Final Four basketball tournament, but even the orientation was a long commitment. I hate to think we are picky volunteers, but it was not really helping anyone in need, except us needing to go to the tournament.

Our herb garden is going well now that we have everything up on a table where the rabbits can’t eat everything. We have been able to enjoy cilantro, rosemary, basil and lettuce without a trip to the store. I miss having a big garden and a yard to go out to and putter around. No doubt we would be at the farmers market every weekend if we were home. Kat met one of the neighbors who lives here permanently and he told us we could pick as many of his grapefruit as we want. So, we had a second night with Alli and Logan where we enjoyed fresh squeezed grapefruit cocktails. We even got Alli to try some green curry. We think she liked it enough to at least eat it without making a face of disgust. The Asian market was the cleanest one we have ever been in and they had everything we needed, which is rare because those Kaffir lime leaves are hard to find. I am still searching for a Thai Basil plant or at least a pack of seeds to start growing my own.


We took a drive up to Sedona Wednesday and that was a pretty trip even though it was almost a two hour drive. Just outside of Phoenix there were so many Saguaro cactus it looked like a forest. I am looking forward to Saguaro national park outside of Tucson. The red rock formations around Sedona were amazing and I can see why it is famous for its views around the city. Our camera gave out and so I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to, but it was still nice. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle on the way there and at Tuzigoot monument and ruins on the way home. Both very cool to see. In Sedona we just went for a walk and had lunch. We hadn’t planned on a hike, but that would have been good to do and I bet it would have been really pretty.

Montezuma’s Castle

Tuzigoot ruins


Thursday night we all went out to dinner for steak at Lonestar steakhouse. It was nice to have everyone sit down together. We were able to put our gift cards to good use and enjoy them in a great way. We convert credit card points to restaurant gift cards and that way we kind of get a free meal. When we feel we need to go out we can do it guilt free with no worries about breaking the budget. Our budget the month of March was pretty much shot, but this didn’t affect it at all. It’s a great way to make use of money we had spent anyway. I used to get I-tunes cards to rent movies to watch when I traveled, but I like this much better. I like this life much better period!

At dinner my niece told us about a walk to raise money for Oral Cancer awareness on Saturday that she might attend and Kat thought it would be cool for us to volunteer at the event, so with a couple of emails to the coordinator we were in. We showed up at 5 am on Saturday morning and helped get the tables, banners and other displays set up. By 9 am everything was wrapped up and we were finished. The event was at the Zoo and we got free passes to go in along with a t-shirt. We walked around for a little bit, but were so tired we didn’t stay too long. The rest of the day included a nap and a whole lot of nothing.

It sounds as though we stayed busy and were having a good time and we kind of were, but we were also in funky moods for a few days late in the week. Luckily earlier in the week when I went out shooting with Kyle I was in a good mood.  We shot his AR-15, shotgun and 9 mm.  I am no sharpshooter, but it was fun to do that together.  I can’t pinpoint the exact cause for our moods, but I was a little restless and I think Kat is having to get used to not working. I went through that a long time ago and am usually pretty good with not having too much to do. When you live in such close quarters and spend almost every minute together 24/7 your moods feed off of each others. Think about it, if your spouse or a close co worker is in a bad or even good mood you pick up on it and it can affect your own mood. I like the good mood transfer much better and was done being in those moods, so on Sunday when I went out to Walmart on my own I decided to shape things up and get us back on track. I proposed a couple of activities and in the end we went out to Lake Pleasant for a picnic lunch. We packed up some leftover bratwurst and nibbles along with our postcards and headed out. Of course it was a sunny nice day because most days are in Phoenix. We checked out the campgrounds around the lake to see if they are somewhere we would stay when we return later in the year. Yes, we would stay out there even though it is a little far from family. It was really beautiful and I guess the 6 dollar fee was worth it. Later we bought a roasted chicken and had Kyle and his wife Abbey over with Alli too. Eric was busy with a friend of his who was in the hospital. It was a nice visit and by the end of the day we were feeling much happier. It does seem like whenever we get together we just eat and hang out, but it’s a good time to talk and I guess really that is what happens at family get-togethers. We really do need to get back on our simple little meals and feel fit and healthy again. Oh well, we will.


Our month stay here at Desert shadows is done today and we are moving a bit further away to Usery Mountain Park. We want to stay in the Phoenix area a little longer so we can attend my Nephew-Kyle and his wife Abbey’s gender reveal party. I had a few ideas on party games and although they provided a good laugh, they were nixed. A little nudity was involved and so I kind of understand, but I thought it was pretty funny and would do it if I were having a baby. ( Haha-not gonna happen.) We also have friends who we want to see that are going to stay there too. Tracy and Lee are couple who we met at the RV rally in Tennessee during our first week of our trip. They have a great blog that we follow: http://camperchronicles.com.  As Rv full timers they are full of good advice and we hope to learn some new tips and tricks from them about living on the road as well as having some good laughs. Although we are doing quite well it never hurts to learn from other people’s experiences. And it is so nice to see people you know when on the road who live the same lifestyle. I even feel connected just by sending postcards that let people know I am thinking of them. Dare I say I am getting a bit homesick? Maybe its just being stationary that has given me too much time to reflect. Geez, I am even thinking about getting my resume updated and about what I will do in my next life stage. I think I need to go for a walk and get these things out of my head!

Goodbye to Desert Shadows

Posted in Arizona, States, Volunteer | 3 Comments

Family fun in Phoenix

The campground we are at in Phoenix is called Desert Shadows. It’s a really big campground with about 600 spaces. However, there are some camper sites and a lot of permanent spaces. A lot of the permanent ones have nice porches and patios. No one really has much of a yard though. When I called originally to make the reservation we were given a spot right across from the office on a corner. The lady called me back and said it was getting booked as were speaking, so it was her mistake, but we couldn’t take that spot, but they had another one. The only problem was that the second spot was next to the gate, the dog park and the dumpster, so it could get loud and busy. We discussed it and said we would go ahead and give it a shot. We are pretty happy in our spot because we DO have a lovely little back yard off of our patio and throughout the day there is always a shady spot to sit. There are a group of quail that wander around and so cute to watch. We also get to chat with all the people at the dog park and it is super easy to take out the trash! The best part is that we are across the street from Costco and since we renewed our membership while in Simi Valley we can go over for free samples or cheap yogurt as often as we want! It does get busy sometimes with people going in and out and taking the trash, but it hasn’t bothered us really. We enjoy checking out everyones spaces as we go on walks and it’s fun to see groups of people having cocktails in the evening and I even saw a big breakfast gathering today.

There are quite a few amenities here to keep the snow birds busy during their winter stays: there is a hot tub and swimming pool ( it’s indoors, so kinda useless in the summer if you ask me), shuffleboard courts, bocci ball courts, a card room, a billiards room, a library, an exercise room and a very lame and useless computer room. We have each gone to the exercise room once and I used the rowing machine for 30 minutes and lifted some weights then couldn’t walk right for 3 days and that was it for me. I would rather walk outside and get my exercise that way. The best thing other than the library is all of the grapefruit trees! People leave out boxes of them and we get them that way or we just grab them off of trees (we usually ask first).

It was pretty nice for the first few days we were here and then it got HOT, HOT, HOT. After almost a week of temperatures in the 90’s we found the refrigerator wouldn’t keep things very cold, so we borrowed a blow dryer from Alli and defrosted it. Took about 1/2 hour, but helped a lot. Also bought a fan to put inside and keep the air circulating. The fridge is directly in the sun until late afternoon, so we are thinking of getting some sun protectant fabric. It’s just hard to figure how to attach it to the outside.

We need to wash and wax the camper, so we got two estimates from companies who come onsite here in the park. Both made us really regret not getting it done in Quartzsite. One was for 280.00 and the other was 850.00! When the guy said 25 bucks per foot, we almost broke out laughing, thinking he was joking. Nope, he was serious. We tossed around the idea of going to Yuma and getting it done, but that is going backwards quite a ways, so maybe we will look in Tuscon since we are headed there next. Or, we could wait to get to Texas and maybe if we stay with our friends Laura and Miriam they will be ok with us washing and waxing it in their driveway. That is cheapest, but a lot of work!

A few days after we first got here Kat told me she felt like she was truly on vacation. Haha- took almost a year for her to feel that way, but then again she has had periodic spurts of work. We haven’t done anything super exciting or amazing since we have gotten here. We do a lot of running around to visit everyone and run errands, buy things we need to fix little things around the camper. We have been hiking a couple of times early in the mornings and the desert blooms are beautiful. We were also lucky enough to get to see an Owl sitting on its nest. You definitely need to get out there early before it gets too hot and also wear sunscreen! One afternoon we played disc golf with Alli’s boyfriend, Logan. That was almost like hiking, but with a purpose. We really liked it and I could see us possibly even playing on our own. We do as much walking around the campsite as we can when we are home, but usually we either have company in the evening or are out.  The desert trails are really pretty right now and the sunsets are amazing too.

It has been terrific visiting with my niece and nephews and their dad. We have had tried to have some time alone with each of them and we have had really fun and delicious family meals too. I’ve always tried to visit when I was traveling for work and so have seen them pretty much at least once a year since they were little, but getting to know them as adults is really cool. I like learning more about them and their lives. Their happiness, troubles and worries are interesting to hear about and discuss. They are great young adults and I am very happy to be in Phoenix visiting with them. My heart is happy and my feet are warm. Life is good.

 

 

Posted in Arizona, States | 5 Comments

CA stops on the way to Phoenix

After leaving Lake Casitas we did get a good spot in Tapo Canyon of the Simi Valley. It was a pretty tiny campground, but really nice. It was almost at the end of a road up the canyon, so it was really quiet and the Canyons were beautiful and green. The weather was decent, but there was no convenient hiking or biking trails leaving directly from the campground. We had only planned on a couple of nights, but stayed two extra just because we liked it. One reason we stayed there was to go to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We had never been to one and don’t let the name fool you, it is really more of a museum or historical information center all about Ronald Reagan’s life and the things he did while in office. It was interesting and we got to go on Air Force One. Also, the views from the back window looking out at the valley were amazing. At the campground we were also really close to town and it was easy to go shopping. We found our favorite grocery store (Aldi) and we spent time at Home depot where we bought some herbs to start our potted herb garden of Basil, Rosemary, Cilantro and Thai basil. It was a nice stay, but nothing terribly eventful happened except for getting out of the rain. Well, we did have an unexpected visitor that just wouldn’t go away…7 O’clock Charlie. He was a little mouse who would pop out and run around the camper between 7 and 8 pm every night. He freaked Kat out because she was afraid he would run up her legs. He feasted on apples, tortillas and some chocolate biscuits (cookies). He traveled to Tapo Canyon from Lake Casitas and was with us for 3 days and then, well, you know what we had to do…Sorry Charlie!

From there we had two stops before we got to Phoenix. From Tapo we headed to La Quinta, California which is just past Palm Springs. We cruised past LA with no major traffic, but the roads were pretty messed up and bumpy. We also neglected to check the weather and about half way through it got super rainy and I could barely see. It was not a nice drive, but when we arrived it was just a sprinkle, so it turned out ok. We camped at Lake Cahuilla. Not much of a lake since it is a man made reservoir, but a good place to camp. There are 91 sites for RV’s and an equestrian camp area, along with a primitive camping area. The primitive area was really popular with tenters and RV’s too. In the primitive area you pull up right next to the water, but you have no hookups. They looked like nice spots for a few nights. I really like the desert and being next to a lake with mountains and palm trees all around you is just beautiful. There are some good hiking trails around and we did get in a nice 6 mile hike one morning. We got a little sunburned on that hike because we forgot what the sun was like and didn’t put on any sunscreen. It was a good hiking trail through the hills and desert and we saw a beautiful big horned sheep on the way back. We also took a day to go to Palm Springs and have lunch even though we had both been there for work trade shows in the past. Visiting nice places like that is much more fun when you don’t have to work! The campground was packed with Canadian campers who winter in the area or further south and we met a very nice couple who we enjoyed sharing stories with one evening. They pointed us to our next campground in Quartzsite, AZ.

Rainy upon arrival

So much nicer the next day.

Gotta love a lake in the desert.

That’s a big cactus!

Our campsite.

Yum, tasty.

 

We just had to go to Quartzsite before getting to Phoenix because not only was it perfect for our driving distance limit of about 120 miles, but it is known as an RV mecca. It wasn’t even peak season for Rvers, but I have never even imagined seeing so many RV’s! It was amazing. We were excited for being there even though we were showing up at the end of the season and also to get our first BLM camping experience under our belts. BLM lands are free camping with no organized sites, you just drive into the designated land area and park wherever. We stayed in the Scaddan Wash section. We really like that remote camping. It was very nice to just park in an open area and have no nearby neighbors. We could see other campers around, but not many and no one was very close. The desert was really beautiful after all the recent rain and the stars at night were incredible and so were the sunsets. I can’t say it was super quiet because we were about 1 1/2 miles from Interstate 10 and you can hear the hum of traffic all day and night. I still wonder why traffic noise always seems louder at night? There has to be a reason.

Hello little Quail.

We were only there two nights and the first was uneventful. The second day we went into town and did some shopping/looking around, got fueled up and went back to camp. There is a lot to buy at the flea market tents if you are into flea market stuff and there are lots of places to buy all types of rocks. It makes sense why it is named Quartzsite. After lunch I went for a bike ride on the trails into the desert and enjoyed the views and quiet of the desert then when I got back we decided to go to the bookstore, but instead I talked Kat into going to a little local outdoor bar…Beer Belly’s. We had gone by there earlier in the day and it looked interesting, but when we went back later it was jamming! The place was packed, there was a band and some interesting people dancing and flashing body parts. We showed up just in time.

The desert gets cold as soon as the sun goes down and we figured it would be a great time to use our firewood up so we don’t keep dragging it around with us. It was easy to gather up some sticks to get it started and we had a nice fire going for quite awhile. That all came to an end when I was sitting outside letting it burn out and a coyote started “talking” super close by. Well, that wasn’t the scariest part of our night because barely 10 minutes later someone was knocking on our door. We are in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors….what the heck? We had gotten good advice from our friends Breck and Cheri earlier on in our trip to NOT answer the door. This was some guy saying he was our neighbor, but was lost. I told him the road was just to the right of us and follow it to the highway. Then he asked for water and said he would back up 10 feet if I would give him some. I had turned the outside light on and Kat was looking out the window. She didn’t think he even had shoes on and had a beer bottle in his hand. The area is very rocky and you would be in a lot of pain walking with no shoes! I told him I would call the ranger and get him some help and they would bring water and at that he said he was leaving. Hmmmm…. very fishy and I am really glad we didn’t open the door. Who knows what could have happened. We did hear an ATV driving around after that, so maybe he found someone to help him find his camp? We hope he was ok in the end if he really was lost. Thanks Breck and Cheri for having that conversation and giving us that advice! I didn’t think I would sleep well that night, but I did and we woke up ok. Nothing was disturbed outside and no sign of our “neighbor”.

Next Stop Phoenix!!

Posted in Arizona, States | 6 Comments

Rainy Southern California

I remembered as we drove from Paso Robles to Lake Casitas how much I really enjoy driving, it was a beautiful day and a fantastic drive through green rolling hills. That drive brought back memories from my childhood/teenager years. In my younger years my dad was in the military and although I don’t remember why, we traveled a lot and it was always him carrying us to the car in the dark while we were asleep and then when we woke up in the car we would be ready to stop for breakfast. Yes, we had the wood paneled station wagon with the seats in the back. My youngest Melissa and I were always in those back seats. When we got older you could find me on the floor of the middle seats with my sister’s feet on me. I got carsick, so they drugged me with dramamine and then rolled me on the floor and used me as a footrest. I had no idea what was going on until we stopped and then I didn’t care because I was able to get out of the car and use the bathroom and get a drink and snack. I never even noticed the hump in the middle of the floor or how hot it really was down there. Later, when we were a little older and it was just Melissa and I at home my mom and Stepdad would take us for drives on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. We were sometimes annoyed we couldn’t stay at home, but for the most part we didn’t want to miss anything so we went along with minimal resistance. We also always got to get a drink and snacks at a convenience store before we left for whatever new place we were driving to explore and that was a bonus. Driving with a drink of soda or water with something to snack on always makes me feel less carsick. You can’t always have a window open, but living in New Mexico it was usually pretty good weather and a fresh breeze was nice. I don’t get carsick when I drive, but was too young at that point to be driving, but sometimes I did get to sit in the front seat. Later, when I was taking trips in the 12 passenger vans for Future Farmer of America or Basktetball trips I would either get to sit in front or just suck it up and dream while looking out the window. I loved those drives. What was I dreaming about? Mostly about how someday I could be driving anywhere I wanted. I recently realized that dream has come true. I wonder how many people can look back at childhood dreams and see that they have become real?

Now, that would be a dream come true for sure!

 

Back to current events. Monday we went ahead and left Anthony Chabot and headed to Paso Robles. We were tired from the weekend and didn’t really want to go at all, but we had used up our days there and it was time. Dumping the tanks took forever at our site, it kept backing up (but not overflowing) and so when we got the hose emptied after I finally got fed up with the back and forth of it all we went to the waste station near the park exit. There were signs telling us to only open the valves half way and it was so true! We almost always never want to leave a good place, but the next campground always holds the possibility of being as good or better. I like to go new places, If I stay too long I get lazy about leaving and we never do all the things we want to in any place we stay. I guess it could be a good reason to go back?

We arrived in Paso Robles on Monday afternoon and it was more beautiful than Napa. It is less touristy and more spread out and really just beautiful with the rolling green hills and the ocean only 30 minutes or so away. We stayed at Tobin James winery just about 6 miles West of downtown using our Harvest Host membership and they put us in the parking lot because of the recent rain instead of the little field they normally use. We were the only ones there the first night. Typically you only get to stay one night, but they had no problem with us being there two nights. We would have never asked to stay more than one night, but on the phone the lady asked how many nights, so I said two. There are no hookups, no water, power or anything, so two nights was enough. The tasting was free and they were super nice. We bought a bottle of Port because we felt that would be cheaper than us paying for a campground and we have been wanting one anyway. The owl who lived in the nearby tree made it seem like we were in the woods again.

Tobin James winery

Our spot in the lot.

 

Tuesday we had a trip planned to the coast since it was a sunny day and more rain was headed our way. It was only about 30 minutes away and I was really looking forward to some seafood on the beach. We had some good references from the people at the winery, so after a stop at Starbucks to research our next stop off we went. It was a beautiful drive through the wineries covering the hillsides. The coastal drive was amazing too. We were just so happy to see the sun and get out of the rain that it all just made it more amazing. We decided to go a little North to see Hearst Castle because the last time we drove down from San Francisco we didn’t go that far. It was a short drive, but we didn’t go all the way to the top because we just weren’t feeling touristy. Our goal was lunch on a restaurant on the beach. We hit the ultimate jackpot when we went to Morro Bay and had lunch of a shared platter of seafood at Dockside too. Oh man, it was great. We sat outside and shared the fried shrimp, oysters, scallops, fish and calamari. The huge dome was in view along with all the fishing boats and a large seal just floating around. After lunch we walked around and enjoyed the awesome views before heading back to the camper. We saw baby seals with their mothers! The drive back was great and we stopped at a J. Lohr winery before going to our winery for another tasting (both were free). Then a quick stop at Walmart and an easy dinner so we didn’t have to do any dishes. How can you spend a valentines day any better than going to Walmart in the evening?! xxoo We found we had neighbors in the parking lot whose truck had some issues and the owner just told them to feel free and stay until they got everything worked out. See, told you they were nice. Later we found out their truck computer just had a glitch and nothing was really wrong, so they would go pick it up and get on their way back home to Fresno.

Hearst Castle- someday we will actually go to the top.

I think he is wishing he could surf.

So cute!

Wake up momma.

 

Again, we hated to leave the area, but the weather wasn’t looking good on Thursday and we wanted to get moving away from the rain and closer to Phoenix. We had spent the morning at Starbucks, but came to no conclusions about where to stay because a lot of the places we wanted to go were first come first serve. Other places were showing full for the weekend and we figured it was because it was a long weekend for some with it being Presidents day on Monday. We pulled the trigger late that night for a reservation which showed as the last available spot at Lake Casitas just above Ventura, CA. That is a good spot for us because it does get us closer South to Phoenix and it is not far from the beach if the weather turns out nice. I have a lot of good memories of Ventura from days spent working close by in Thousand Oaks, so I am feeling good about the area. There seem to be good reviews of biking and hiking trails too.

I love this campground so far. When we first arrived I was a bit skeptical because of the size (400 sites) and when we first arrived it seemed pretty impersonal with the huge check in gate. It may get crazy with locals camping this weekend, but it is pretty quiet tonight and I don’t really think it will because it is supposed to rain like crazy starting Thursday all the way thru Saturday night. The frogs are super loud, but there is no traffic to be heard, no airplanes, nothing but nature. We went for a walk after dinner and it is really dark which means the stars are really bright. I am feeling happy after my bike ride through the campground and looking forward to another one tomorrow before the rain. Kat went with me for a bike ride in the evening too, so I got in two rides! I was also still a bit thrilled with myself that I had backed the camper into our site with no issues. I went right in on the first try! It always bothers me that I am not very good at it, so I really want to feel confident and the only way is just to keep trying and getting it done.

Front gate at Lake Casitas.

 

We got in another bike ride on Thursday before the rain started and i was hoping it would help my mood, but nope. I was blah all day, but luckily (for Kat) not grumpy. I don’t know why, maybe I was starting to get down about the upcoming rain. I really need some sunshine. I know I keep mentioning rain, but it is surrounding us constantly! Friday we went down to Ventura for some sushi at lunch and then to the Starbucks so we could figure out our next stops. We could have done that at home, but it rained all night and was supposed to all day- (which it did!), so we thought it might be good to get out for awhile. The sushi was good, but Starbucks was like being in a homeless shelter. I have nothing against homeless people and they need to get out of the rain too, but I didn’t expect that. One couple had all their stuff piled on the table and their dog sleeping underneath. That was a new one for me. They all had computers and phones and stuff too. Hey, we use Starbucks for the free wifi and power too, so whatever.

Friday was rain all day so we went down to Ventura for a Sushi lunch and to run a few errands. We didn’t run any errands, we just came home. But, on the way home we wanted to see what damage had been done in the area and what the town up the hill , Ojai, CA looked like. We never made it because after getting through one mudslide the road was blocked with down trees. Oh well. Saturday it wasn’t too bad, the rain stopped in the morning so we went for a walk and checked out the creek, which had definitely overflowed. We hung out around the camper and made a plan to go out on Sunday to Ojai and check out the farmers market and a great looking little outdoor bookstore (Bart’s books). The campground was getting much more full.

The farmers market was almost exclusively organic and I don’t really care about that from a buying perspective, I am not into that. It was also expensive. I like cheap farmers markets or fairly priced items that help farmers sell their produce. It was fun anyway. The bookstore was awesome! It is really pretty much all outdoors. The bookshelves are covered, but there are nice little open air outdoor spaces. The books are all mostly used books and priced ok. Most were 3-6$. A huge variety of subjects too and so we spent quite a bit of time browsing, but didn’t buy anything. We don’t have the storage space and we read mostly Ebooks that we borrow from our library or get from various sites online. We could read all day everyday if there weren’t other things to see and do. I only wish I could read faster to get through all the amazing books out there to learn more and experience more. For now, I will just read and enjoy it and travel to experience everything I can in real life. I hope the rain stops soon, but whatever. We move on tomorrow and are one step forward in our trek to Phoenix. I hope the new campground hasn’t washed away, no one here in the offices seems to know. We will just go see what’s up and there is a KOA down the road if it is unavailable. Once again we are winging it…fingers crossed.

Posted in California | 6 Comments

Exiting Napa and Anthony Chabot

I didn’t really finish my blogging about Napa and there were a few so a few things I need to go back and mention before I return to Anthony Chabot. As always when it wasn’t raining we had a nice time exploring and just enjoying the sun. On one of our walks we stopped and picked some oranges and then in the campground I was able to get some grapefruit and lemons right off the trees. I had permission from the camp host, so it wasn’t stealing. There are so many trees around with fruit that people don’t seem to pick that I would have had no problem asking someone if we could pick our own anyway. I guess if you get so much fresh fruit like that all the time you just get sick of it, or sell it. I loved it and think it is awesome to have your own fruit right outside your door. I do miss my garden and being able to just go outside and pick green beans and things for dinner.

 

I also wanted to mention my volunteering in Napa. Napa has a great bike trail – The Napa Vine trail. When Kat was away on MLK day I went and helped plant Red Oaks along the trail. There were about 65 volunteers and we had over 35 trees to plant. We broke into groups and planted all of the trees in about 2 hours. It was really well organized with the holes already being dug by the city and all the trees and tools laid out. It was a really nice day and a lot of super nice people to work with. It was followed by a delicious free burrito lunch too. Bonus!

 

Back to Anthony Chabot:

Wow, the other night, weds- at about 4am I woke up and heard crazy animal noises, the kind you hear on the animal planet or a nature show. I thought it would be coyotes or wolves because of the barking, but the screeching and scream like noises were really freaking me out. It was like the sounds while watching a zombie movie- haha, I think? I haven’t watched many. I have been thinking about it a lot though. When we went for a walk the other day we saw a lot of animal poop (scat for nature or science people) and I wondered what animals were out in these woods. One of the piles of poop had a lot of little bones in it so I am pretty sure it wasn’t someone’s dog. It’s quite remote and a refuge for animals even though just about 6 miles away there are plenty of houses. We have seen turkeys right out the back window, heard them from a distance, and seen them around the campground. I like hearing them, but it is all exciting to sit and watch them while they are unaware of us. I was able to do that this morning. As for other animal sightings there have been none. We hear owls and see lots of poop on the trails, but that and the noise are the only evidence.

 

I told Kat if I heard the wolf/coyote, whatever noises again, I would wake her up so she could hear it and she said “Why?” She doesn’t want me too, but I already had her skip the owls because she didn’t want me to wake her up. Ok, but I hate for her to miss out. I think she should hear it and I bet she could go back to sleep ( no guarantees on the quality of the dreams though). I will let you know how this works out, but if you don’t hear from me…find Fat Henry!

The rain was relentless and we got out a few times so we didn’t go crazy. We went down to Alameda to meet one of Kat’s coworkers from Switzerland for sushi (Thomas). The drive back that night was treacherous. It was super foggy and I missed the turn, so we had to go quite a way down the road to find a decent place to turn around. It is a very windy, hilly road. And it sure gets dark out there!

Thursday we went down to West Oakland to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity Playhouse workshop. The job was to help build playhouses for donation to community services for children with Blue Star Moms (mothers with children whose fathers are serving overseas in the military). The shop was really well organized and had the wonderful smell of fresh sawdust. It was noisy with the other two volunteers using saws and other tools to build all the pieces that go into a playhouse. We were assigned to painting the sides and some of the roofing. After all the pieces are ready they get put together by other volunteers. A lot of corporations come in and use the opportunity as team building or just to help out raising money. The houses also sometimes get sold and the revenue goes for houses to be built by the Habitat organization. It was a good day of work and the shop manager, Gus, was super nice and super nice to look at as well. We both agreed on that!

 

After all the rain the weekend was beautiful so we had some friends over to eat and drink. It was fun meeting new people. I can see why Kat likes coming out here to work. Well, there are also lots of good places to eat too. As usual we didn’t really want to leave, but wanted to get moving a little further south and we had used up our allotted time in that campground.

 

Posted in California, Volunteer | 3 Comments

2016 Summary – all the numbers you ever wanted!

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for – only slightly less rare than the “Guest Post by Melissa” spot – it’s an unusual sighting of the Lesser Spotted Statistics edition.

So we have lots and lots of numbers.  In fact, it is veritable numbers porn.  If you like that sort of stuff.  If not, look away now…..

Number of places we’ve camped – 40 campsites, ranging from State Parks, to KOAs, to National Parks, to a casino, to an Indian reservation, to the US Forest Service land, to driveways, to a wine lodge carpark.  Actually, by far the thing I dislike about the lifestyle is the research into working out where to stay all the time…… its tedious, time consuming and a little stressful.  But we’ve found some fantastic places to stay, and in those 40, there’s really only one place that we wouldn’t go back to.  Not a bad hit rate!

Number of states we’ve stopped in:  17 – NC, TN, KY, IN, IL, MO, KS, NE, CO, WY, MT, ND, SD, ID, UT, NV, CA.   And as a follow on – our shortest stay in a state is our foray into Illinois with 1 night, and the longest time we’ve spent in a state is 36 nights – Tennessee.  And – as a bonus – we visited a Walmart in every one of those 17 states.

Number of states we’ve volunteered in: 15 – we missed 2, IL and ND.  IL we were only in for a night and couldn’t organize something in time.  ND we just messed up and didn’t get our act together.  So of course we have to go back.  And yes, we have a spreadsheet of this (of course!), so here’s the quick run-down:

Oakland, CA Habitat for Humanity Building playhouses
Napa, CA Napa Valley Wine Trail Planting Trees
Denver, CO Rocky Mountain Food Bank Packing individual boxes for distribution
Idaho Falls, ID ReStore Dusting, Vacuuming, Mopping, Pricing
Idaho Falls, ID Idaho Falls Food Bank Stocking shelves and making food bags
Corydon, IN O’Bannon State Park Trail scouting
Topeka, KS Habitat for Humanity Help building a house – siding, caulking
St Louis, MO Campus Kitchen Cooking bulk meals for people
Billings, MT Billings Food Bank Distributing food to people who come in
Omaha, NE Open Door Mission Christmas in July, distributing donated goods
Omaha, NE Keep Omaha Beautiful Picked up trash around the lake
McCarran, NV Northern Nevada Food Bank Filling boxes with donated food
Rapid City, SD ReStore Mixing and disposing of paint
Rapid City, SD Habitat for Humanity Replacing windows – Brush with Kindness
Salt Lake City, UT Salvation Army Food pantry handout

 

Volunteering is one of those things that takes a lot of time to find an opportunity in the specific area that fits in with our dates and with our limitations (as we’re not around for too long we can’t do anything that needs a weekly commitment, or needs clearance or training (for example, can’t usually volunteer with children (need police vetting (which is different than police petting – that’s another website entirely)) or hospice (need training and a commitment to be around)).  But it’s also one of those things that we’re so glad we managed to each time we do it.

Number of miles Fat Henry has towed The Shady Lady around the country –   and the total number of miles we’ve driven – 13221.  Here’s a little map of where we went on our trip in 2016.  I didn’t add in the practice trip down to see Diane and Frank in Florida, but that’s because it was just a practice!

The number of times we’ve been glad for Fat Henrys heated seats – too many to count.  Even when it’s not cold out, it’s nice to have a hot bottom.  It’s sort of like a slow release warm fart, but less smelly.

Number of gallons of diesel Fat Henry has drunk – 1012 gallons, at an average cost per gallon of $2.323.  That sounds super cheap now, as diesel has gone up – not too sure if its because we’re over on the West Coast, or if it’s gone up everywhere.

The cheapest diesel we got was in Sevierville, TN at $1.779 (which was incredibly cheap even for that area), and the most expensive in 2016 was in Wells, NV at $2.709.  We use the app Gas Buddy, which has saved us a lot of money and driving around (but also caused more driving around, seeking the holy grail of low fuel prices).  Now we’re in CA, it’s gone up even more, but you’ll find that out in February 2018 when I publish the 2017 stats.

Number of blinds mended/rethreaded – 5.  Number of blinds broken that have to be mended – 1.  Number left to break – 5.  We finally gave in and instead of buying the blind repair kits, we just bought 100m of nylon cord to use to restring the blinds.  So if there’s anyone else in the area who needs some 1.4mm nylon cord – we have 98.2m left.

Number of times Berts mended the bathroom sink – 4.  And I think this time it’s actually worked!  We had a slow drip from when Bert put a new mixer tap in in TN way back when (May, I think), and luckily we have a couple of plastic bins under the sink to store things in/catch any drips that might happen.

Number of repair/upgrade projects to do – again, too many.  It’s a never ending list of things to do – rather like owning a house, but most things can’t be procrastinated for as long as when you own a house.  Apart from the bathroom fan – that bad boy has been waiting for me to repair him since June.  Oops.

Here’s the final financial numbers tally from the end of April (when we got on the road) to the end of the year

Total 2016 Monthly Average
Campsite $4,099 $512.40
Gas $1,998 $249.74
Grocery $2,584 $323.02
Restaurant $1,562 $195.26
Alcohol $953 $119.15
Household $308 $38.50
Camper $1,436 $179.52
Equipment $236 $29.51
Truck $350 $43.76
Parking $42 $5.21
Entertainment $637 $79.65
Gifts $302 $37.81
Fixed Costs $356 $44.56
Laundry $106 $13.24
Miscellaneous $930 $116.22
Membership/ club/ education $430 $53.75
Total $16,330 $2,041

 

As I look at this, the one number that jumps out at me is $106 doing laundry.  What!  The other number that I didn’t track is how long we spent in laundromats/launderettes (depending on your nationality and propensity to talk funny).  Maybe that’ll be the next thing tracked.

So, although we were ‘on the road’ for 247 days in 2016, 47 of those we were away from the camper and did not have any campsite expenses.  We had other expenses though – vacation isn’t cheap – but I tracked those separately (of course -why not put another tab in the spreadsheet!).  We spent about $2800 for those 47 days, including food, flights to/from Europe, across the US and between countries in Europe, groceries, gifts, food, train travel, restaurants, rental car, food, hotels, snacks and did I mention – food?

As you can see from the list above, I didn’t include either health insurance or phones (we pay for those individually) and also truck/camper/umbrella insurance, which is an annual thing and we paid for before we got on the road.  But in case any of you out there are interested in doing this full time, this is how much we paid for Health and Phones since we got on the road, and the insurance is for the whole year, not just 247 days.  (Health includes insurance and medications, but no psych counselling over our inability to reverse in less than 38 minutes and 127 back and forth movements):

Health $3,801
Phones $1,191
Insurance $1,542

 

And here’s a pretty little pie chart that shows the above data in picture form, for you more visually oriented folks:

 

Of course, none of this includes the costs of buying the Shady Lady and Fat Henry in the first place, or the costs of getting kitted out to go on the road or getting our home ready to rent.  But it gives us a good idea of how much it should cost in 2017 (extrapolating 8 months to 12 months) for us to live, if we keep doing the things we’re doing and without any major work needing to be done on the equipment.  However, the one thing to note is that we have more control over our costs than often possible in a sticks and brick house.  We can choose to stay stationary more (lower fuel costs).  We can try to stay in more free campsites (email me if you have a long driveway………).  We can eat rice and beans more (and that will give the added benefit of heating up the camper too!).  We can drink less (Ha!).  Or if we come into a small windfall we can choose to spend more money which means that we’ll be able to stay at nicer places (or even in San Francisco), and eat out more (and then have to join a gym to counteract that) or be able to visit Hawaii and Alaska (to finish off Berts 50 states).

 

In the flavor of Berts more ruminative posts, I will endeavour to add some personal feelings to go along with the Spock-like statistics.  It’s been a great year, with a lot of ups and a couple of downs.  Did I get out of my comfort zone this year – yes, definitely.  Did the magic happen – yes to that one too.

This lifestyle is definitely not for everybody, but I’ve been surprised on how easy it has been for me/us to adapt.  At first there was so much new information to know, and things to learn (what to do to avoid the ‘Pyramid of Poo’, for example – something you don’t get in a house with a proper toilet) that it seemed……. well, not overwhelming as such, but daunting.  As a typical overthinker, there was so much to process, so many ways that so many things could go wrong or different things happen.  But, as with a lot of things that seem ‘big’ when you first look at them, when broken down into bite sized chunks they’re a lot more digestible (like a brownie) and not really a big deal at all.  Something that needed 30 or 40 written step by step instructions becomes second nature in no time at all.  Experiences like this reinforce the notion that most things really aren’t that difficult if you dissect them into manageable chunks and spend time doing it.  Even quantum physics – just break it down into quark sized bits (nerd joke alert).

But its funny – no matter whether we’re in a house or a trailer, life is just life.  We still have to do all the same things – wash, do laundry, cook food, go food shopping etc..  Don’t have to mow the grass, but then in a house we don’t have to empty the crapper either….

I love going around the country spending longer with friends and family than we would have otherwise, and getting to know them a bit better.  I was very thankful for the time we spent in TN, MO, CO, NV and CA.  However, on that note, it also means that we didn’t spend any time with our friends in NC since being on the road (apart from a guest appearance from Tracy, which made South Dakota more special), and that’s the part of the lifestyle I suppose.  We have fleeting conversations and meetings with a lot of different new people, but no depth of conversation that you get with well-established friends (note I didn’t say ‘old’ friends), so it can be somewhat isolating after a time.  Usually the times we get into ‘meaningful’ conversation the most with new people is when we’re doing volunteer work, and we’ve met some lovely people, but we still have no roots in a community like we did in NC.  Not meaning to sound morose – it’s been an amazing trip.  But for me, that’s the one drawback of a nomadic lifestyle.  It’s good for a season, and for this time in our lives, but if we were to do this permanently I’d have to make way more effort in keeping up with friendships remotely than I have done……… and I know how crap I am at that.  Sorry everyone for my lack of communication skills.

That said – we’re not done exploring yet – like Bert has said before, it’s the trip of a lifetime and we’re going to make the most of it.  There’s still more places to go, friends and family to meet up with and new friends to make.  And a lot more food to eat.  We are very grateful for the support from everyone, and love you all. xxx

Posted in Statistics | 8 Comments