Friday, March 25, 2016

Even with the Best of Intentions, Stuff Happens...

Some times, even with the best of intentions, things do not go exactly as planned...

RV-ing is not new to us. However, traveling full time with a conversion van pulling a custom-built cargo trailer with sleeping quarters for two and my spinet piano in it does have its challenges. As we prepared for this adventure, I told my husband in the beginning, after he said we could take my spinet piano, that I would like to be able to have accommodations for a third person to feel free to come and join us during segments as we full-time traveled.

He said we would be able to do this; one of us could sleep in the van and the other two could sleep in the trailer. No problem, except we would need to purchase an extra porta-potty and possibly an extra heater for use on cooler nights. My excitement increased at the thought!

Stuff happened...

Well, first thing that happened was little did we realize we would be dragging an extra vehicle and an extra trailer with us. All were full of stuff, consisting of things we wanted with us, things we had not had time to sort through, plus photographs, slides, etc.  Our plan is to digitize what we want to keep after we sort through it. The amount of time required to accomplish all of this had not even entered my mind. Of course, with two vans full of stuff and an extra trailer full of stuff, it was impossible to use the bed in the van, plus, there was no place to put an extra porta-potty and extra heater.

Next, we had no way of knowing that we would have so much trouble keeping our batteries charged and our refrigerator cold due to lack of sun for our solar panels.

Like a domino effect, this adversely affected our being able to accomplish any of the digitizing we could have accomplished our first month of boondocking.

Where did we plan to be in January and February?

We were asked this question. With this adventure being new to us, we could not pinpoint specifically where we would be. Because we had never done this before, quite like this, we only knew we wanted to be some place warm and a general location.  But we figured, well, how hard could it be to just make reservations accordingly during the time a visitor would be with us!

Have you ever tried to make reservations during January, not to mention February, in a warm climate, when all of the rest of the country is in the midst of winter? 

While we were in the desert coping with lack of sun, charging our coach batteries, and keeping our refrigerator cold, we were also trying to find a place that would be suitable for us and a visitor for a couple of months. We used every mode and app available to us and were running out of possibilities. Every place we contacted was either already booked or they wanted to charge an extra fee for an extra person, an extra vehicle, and a pet.

My husband wanted me to tell our guest not to come, and I did not want to do that, so I didn’t.  I was looking forward to seeing them. I wanted them to be in the warmer climate, away from snowy, winter weather. Also, since we are now both retired, I wanted to be able to spend more time together than we were able to do in our working years. Even though our intent was to be set up so a third person could travel with us, in reality, we were not.

Sometime in the midst of all of this searching, we heard from someone we knew, who had relocated to Arizona.  When we told them what we were doing, they said they had an RV gate with connections for water, sewer, and electric, and also had room for our guest, so come on over.  So we did …

Moving From the Desert to Behind the RV Gate…

The day we left our parking spot on BLM land was rainy and cloudy. It was January 4th. The soft dirt, even with the rocky terrain, was beginning to get muddy. When I realized it was starting to rain, I quickly got Angel leashed and got him from the trailer to the van. He was very cooperative, and the rain had only just begun. However, it was next to impossible to walk him to the van without having to clean up a little mud, thankfully only a little, that got tracked into the van. It was a good day to move.

With John driving our van pulling the cargo trailer and me driving the Chrysler van, we headed to our new location. The smaller trailer had been put in a storage unit, along with what it had carried. As we drove out of the rain and into clearer skies, I wish I had taken more photos of the beautiful, cloud formations, but it was next to impossible while driving.

We arrived at our destination while it was still daylight.  Our hosts had the RV gate open for us so we backed in, got the trailer set up and then pulled the van back out in front of the gate, parked the mini-van next to it, and went inside the house to visit.

The next morning, we headed for Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix to pick up our guest.  We arrived an hour late. Not only had we miscalculated the amount of time needed for the drive due to traffic congestion, but we also missed our turn and ended up on Grand Avenue, a very busy street with stoplights at every intersection, which increased our travel time. Long story short, we finally got to the airport, picked up our guest, stopped to have lunch on our way out of town and returned after dark. It was a good 3-1/2 hour drive each way.

While at our new location, it became sort of a tradition that we all gather for a noon meal on Sundays. We all had a part in making a portion of the dinner.  Each tasted so good that we were always too full, so we would delay dessert to late afternoon or early evening after our noon meal had a chance to settle, and dessert would be our evening meal.

They had one cat and one dog. Our dog does not make friends easily, and was continually growling and being bad toward their animals.  We tried taking them on walks at the same time (with Angel and me following behind), and our dog seemed to tolerate their dog at a distance, but he never made friends. One day he would warm up and let our hosts pet him, but the next day he would go back to growling at them. We made a couple of other attempts to try to get ours used to theirs, but we could see that it was a situation where we would have to constantly monitor our dog. The best for everyone was to keep him on a leash constantly supervised, or in the trailer.

Reminiscing and Enjoying Good Times

Some mornings, especially when the weather was nice and sunny, our visitor and I took walks, sometimes to a nearby park where we could sit and visit, while taking in the warm sun on our backs. Several times I also took Angel. Once in a while if it was warm enough, we would set our small portable table up outside in the sun to eat lunch.  Other times we would run errands and take time to escape to a fast food entity to get a drink and just sit and visit.

Our hosts had a perfectly round table in their living room where we, mostly me, sat to work jigsaw puzzles. The smallest was 300 pieces; it was a picture of a house with lighted windows reflecting in a lake. One was 750 pieces with green grass and trees surrounding an older stately house with light reflecting through the windows and a horse and carriage out front where two bearded gentlemen were talking and children were playing. Several others were a thousand pieces.  All were very different scenes. Each one was challenging and so much fun.

1000 pieces -- Bird feeder surrounded by birds and butterflies
Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow follow
the yellow brick road on their journey to the Emerald City in the
Wizard of Oz -- 1000-piece puzzle
1000-piece popular Ravensburger Puzzle with Boats of many Colors


One evening, we all reminisced about songs popular in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and who recorded them. Whoever could remember the words and/or sing the tune would blurt it out. If you remember the group, Country Joe and the Fish, that will give you an idea. Another was Roy Rogers and Dale Evans "Happy Trails to You". That was a hoot!

Other evenings found us reminiscing about other topics.  Identifying the best commercials on TV was one. A lot of commercials came to mind, but specifically "See the USA in your Chevrolet" and "The Man with the Texaco Star".  Remember the tunes that accompanied them?

Naming old TV western cowboys, or branching out to naming old TV shows that played during the era when we were growing up made the wheels turn. We thought of Hopalong Cassidy, Cisco Kid and Pancho, and many others -- Clint Walker in Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, 77 Sunset Strip, Spin and Marty, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and variety shows such as "The Carol Burnett Show" and skits with Tim Conway and Harvey Corman, especially when they could hardly keep a straight face. A host of others were also great fun remembering. These and whatever topics we could think of always created cause for lots of laughter. It was great fun taking turns coming up with things from our past that we had nearly forgotten.

Last, but not least, was listening to more music. Recalling old familiar hymns, and finding them on youtube was another evening's entertainment. When we found one, after it played, other familiar tunes surfaced. Some we sang along with and others, we just enjoyed by listening.  

Side Trip to Hualapai Mountain Park

One day our host took us on a beautiful drive up to the scenic Hualapai (Hwa-la-pie) Mountain Park. There were a lot of pine trees on the snow-covered mountain. A variety of cabins and several teepees were available for rent in the park. We played in the snow, saw a lot of deer, and enjoyed a lot of beautiful scenery, including prickly pear cactus growing wild on the mountainside.

Pines and snow-covered peaks in Hualapai Mountain Park

One of many deer

I was going to insert a video here showing the beautiful photos of our visit
to Hualapai Mountain Park, using Windows Movie Maker, but on my third attempt
it locked up and would not move, so I decided to forego any more attempts. 

Temperatures

On January 30, it got very windy, with gusts up to 40 mph.  The next night, January 31st, we unhooked the water hose for four days because the temperature was going down to a low of 20 degrees with a prediction of possible snow and ice. We were not aware of any ice, but the roofs early in the morning had a dusting of snow.

February…

When the temperatures warmed up, John ran the necessary wiring from our trailer connection to our coach batteries. This will charge the coach batteries when the van is running, as long as the trailer is hooked up to the van, and will be in addition to any charge being put in by sun on the solar panels.

Starting the long process of sorting and digitizing also began.  First we worked on the slides we had with us. We completed about six of the 105 trays, throwing out about half of them and digitizing the remainder.  To minimize space, the individual trays had already been emptied and the slides wrapped in paper by groups before we left Arkansas. Getting started with the process was huge, but it will be an ongoing process for a while due to the size of the project.

Our house sold, and the closing date we were anxiously awaiting happened on February 8. We can now happily report that we are houseless, but not homeless.

Other things were accomplished as well. We found a repair facility, recommended by our insurance company, where we got the deer damage repaired on the Chevy van, all covered by insurance.  They also, for a small fee, repaired some damage near the front passenger door that was there when we got the van.  A local glass place came out and replaced the glass in the rear door window that had shattered near Van Horn, Texas. We also had the Chevy dealer check out the van, visually, as well as running diagnostics on it because we thought we may have a problem with it. Nothing on their list of recommendations required immediate attention.

On another note, we also got the Chrysler mini van waxed and listed for sale. Our goal was to have it sold by March 1st, but we got no serious offers. We put it in storage at the RV park we planned to go to upon returning from a short trip to Ehrenberg, and when we returned, one of the employees at the RV park already had money waiting for us! So we went with him to the license branch on March 2nd and transferred the title... the same day that a new ad for it came out in the local paper!

We also learned we could buy our senior passes locally, so we got one for each of us. For ten dollars each it is money well spent. These will get us into nearly all federal level parks, museums, Corp of Engineers parks and other places free of charge and often get us 50% off camping fees. We also applied for new passports, and received them in about three weeks. Now we are all set to go out of the country any time we choose.

Our guest had left to meet a friend and do some sightseeing in other parts of the state. Upon returning, we were now well into February, and they had already secured their ticket for departure on the train later in the month. In the meantime, our hosts had another visitor arrive, and were expecting more before the end of the month. They were going to have a very full house, so it was a good time for us to pack up and move on. Their hospitality was greatly appreciated, but the time had come when our departure time was way past due.

Onward and Much to do...

Having already made preparation to downsize our storage where we left the trailer, and load up more stuff in the van, we traveled to a camping area convenient to the storage facility,  It was a dry camping area with no facilities where we could give the charging system a good test. It passed with flying colors, so now we know that we will be able to keep the refrigerator running for extended periods when traveling across the country. After concentrating on sorting through as many boxes as time allowed, we donated empty photo albums and frames as well as a box of pre-recorded VHS tapes, many of them featuring Richard Simmons. Before we knew it, it was again time to travel on.


Stay tuned. Our journey while living and traveling full time in an RV will continue in the next post. We normally won't divulge our location until after we have left it, but we will have more photos of our travels after we move on to a new location.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Boondocking in the Desert...Part 3

We were blessed with many beautiful sunsets and panoramic views while camping on BLM lands. Sunsets were plentiful, and always unpredictable. The sky transformed from afternoon hues into colorful panoramas. Clouds were of all kinds, sometimes wispy, sometimes puffy, sometimes stormy, and sometimes none at all.

Following are a few more photos that I took during the 27 days we were camped in the desert.

Sunny desert with mountains in the background
Colorful panorama
Continuation of colorful panorama
Still another sunset
Shadows of clouds reflecting on the mountains
The House Sale

In case you are wondering about the sale of our house, we can finally report that it did sell. As soon as all of the paperwork is prepared, we expect to be notified of the closing date.

Christmas Potluck

Diane, one of the group of people camped nearby, invited everyone to a 2PM potluck on Christmas Eve afternoon. I will call it a Christmas Eve potluck, because that is what it was to me. Approximately 30 or more people attended, and each person brought a dish to share.  There was more than enough food and a lot of variety. My homemade potato salad was a hit. There was none left to take home.

On a personal note, I was very disappointed to hear that care was taken to not refer to it as anything but a potluck so as not to offend anyone who might think it had anything to do with a religious holiday. Interesting, but sad to see that even being in the desert does not change how the world has tried to compromise what should and should not be said for fear of hurting someone’s feelings! People will be still be people whether they are full-time travelers, camping in the desert, or whatever.

I especially appreciated a man who had introduced himself on an earlier day. Someone brought a couple boxes of Little Debbie, or similar, pre-packaged snack cakes.  This man opened up one from the box of snack cakes, shaped like Christmas trees with green frosting and sprinkles, placed it on a paper plate, and took it around, showing it to everyone, and saying, “This is the only Christmas tree you will see out here in the desert.”  After the potluck, as he was leaving, I called to him, “Merry Christmas, Rob”.

More Conversation 

We had a very nice conversation with a young man was from San Diego. When we told him I had my spinet piano with us, he shared his experience of playing a ukelele. He loved music and had an interest in technology. We visited and laughed and had a great time talking with him. I actually could not believe how much we laughed! It was wonderful to laugh! As we talked, I did observe many other smaller groups of people in conversation, but do not recall a lot of laughter.

The three of us talked about jamming with John’s guitar, my accordion, and a ukelele.  However, with the  temperature cooling down, we will have to wait until a future time. Hopefully, not too soon, though! It should be fun! Later that evening, I sat down and played Christmas carols on the piano.

A full moon on Christmas eve does not occur very often. From what I hear, the next one may not be in our lifetime.

Full Moon on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 2015
We did not see Santa anywhere in the night sky, but Christmas morning, Frosty delivered a package of Huggies Wipes to everyone. I heard later there was a group met for a potluck on Christmas Day, but we had no prior knowledge about it.

Not sure yet if this will turn into a tradition for us, but I made a fruit salad using one can of pineapple, drained, one small can of mandarin oranges, drained, and one jar of maraschino cherries, also drained, with one banana sliced in just before serving.  Along with that, we had potato salad and polish kielbasa. These were all very easy to prepare with the facilities available.

New Years’ Eve

There was talk of New Years’ Eve get-togethers.  We chose to celebrate by spending a quiet evening at home rather than wander around in unfamiliar territory looking for celebrations.  A post on Facebook about 10PM revealed some were enjoying a campfire down by the river. As far as New Years’ Eve as well as New Years’ Day, everyone we talked to only “thought” someone was doing something, but no one knew of anything for sure.

Anyway, New Year’s Day came and went and we hope this year of 2016 is a good year for everyone!

The past 27 days have been new territory for us, but there is more to come as we move out of the desert to continue our adventures!



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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Boondocking in the Desert...Part 2

Too many Cloudy Days

We boondocked in the desert for 27 days, four days short of a month.  Everyone said this season was cooler than normal. So far, on warm (40 at night and 70 by day) sunny days, our two solar panels seemed to be working very well. Cloudy days were a different story.

Lack of sunshine was very bad for us. The energy we used was not being replaced fast enough to keep our AGM deep-cycle batteries at 100 percent. We even tried shutting off the refrigerator at night when going to bed to see if that would help, but it was not enough.

We ordered a third solar panel. By the time it arrived and John installed it, we were hooking up jumper cables to the engine battery of the Chrysler van, but still could not get the coach batteries back to 100 percent charge. Of biggest concern was keeping our refrigerator running, our phones charged, and the batteries in the computers charged.  There were times when I charged my cell phone using the cord to plug it into the cigarette lighter in the van to keep it charged rather than take power away from charging the refrigerator.

Our initial space was very limited.  Running the jumper cables from the Chrysler engine battery through our entry door back to the closet where our coach batteries were located created even more cramped quarters.  We could still move around okay.  However, due to limited space, it was impossible to work on any projects that required unpacking boxes of things that needed sorting.

Lack of sunshine...
The week before Christmas brought more cloudy days. It was still challenging trying to keep our coach batteries charged without using the battery cables from the van battery, but we managed to keep all of our food from spoiling by carefully selecting what was the oldest and fixing what was warming up or thawing the quickest.

Because we were anxious to begin this new adventure of RV full-time living and traveling, we chose not to delay our departure another year.  However, this meant we would opt to bring things with us that needed sorting so we could digitize what we elected to keep during our journey. This problem with lack of sun and not being able to keep our coach batteries at capacity made it impossible to accomplish any digitizing tasks.    

Clouds, Clouds, and More Clouds…

Mid-morning skies filled with beautiful display of clouds…






Desert Winds

Winds in the desert were gusting up to 25 miles per hour; many gusts that really rocked the trailer actually felt like they were in excess of 40 miles per hour.  This kicked up a lot of dust hiding the mountains in the distance from view. In place of the sunset, the sky had dark clouds of dust streaming across the sky. From where we were, I took one photo to the front and left, one to the right, and one straight ahead, to show the skies around us.

Front and left
Photo to the right
Photo straight ahead
Rain in the Forecast

The path up to the door of our camper was turning into powder, a very fine powder.  I had noticed that the numerous small rocks in the walkway up to the doorstep at our trailer were disappearing, which made the walkway extremely dusty. As long as it was dry, we could tolerate it.  When rain was forecast, I could visualize having to walk a muddy path. Angel is all white and I knew if we got the rain that was predicted, I would need to try something or be prepared to clean his feet every time he entered our camper.  So I went in search of rocks, larger, flatter size rocks, that would be useful to make a type of cobblestone walkway of rock for us to enter the trailer. Fortunately, we got very little rain, but the path helped minimize the dirt.

Rocks used to create cobblestone path walkway to our trailer
Cooking...

The microwave was not an option. However, I could have cooked using our Coleman two-burner propane stove or charcoal in our small grill. In our situation I found the Coleman Butane Stove very easy to use even though it had only one burner. For me, it turned out to be the best alternative method of fixing food.

We especially liked the Knorr Rice Sides packets. They were extremely easy to fix. I added a can of chicken or beef, depending on the packet flavor, and it made a nice warm meal ready to eat in ten to fifteen minutes. Sometimes I would also add a vegetable in addition to the meat.

The Chicken Flavor Broccoli is a rice and pasta blend with Broccoli in a Chicken Favored Sauce with other natural flavor.  It was only one of the Knorr packets that I prepared in a pan on the Coleman Butane Stove.

A can of chicken, separated, and added to Knorr Rice Sides
packet of Chicken flavored Broccoli in this photo.
This is not meant to paint a bleak picture of boondocking in the desert.  As with anything new, sometimes life throws us a curve. Solving issues as they occur in an attempt to work through situations and stay positive creates memories.  On a more positive note, we had no problem keeping warm when the temperature dropped. Our Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater, which used two small propane canisters, kept us toasty warm.

Nothing like Cookies to Take our Mind off of Things…

John came across several no-bake cookie recipes on Facebook. One of my favorites is the “Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies” that my mother used to make. I think he was hinting that I whip up a batch.  Had to admit it did sound tasty. Here is the recipe if you are interested.

CHOCOLATE OATMEAL NO-BAKE COOKIES

Combine the following four ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute:
½ Cup Butter
2 Cups Sugar
½ Cup Milk
4 Tablespoons Cocoa

Stir in the following 3 ingredients and drop on to wax paper:
½ Cup Peanut Butter
3 ½ Cups Quick Cooking Oats
2 teaspoons Vanilla

Let cool until set.

Tasty Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Cookie treats!
These are still warm from the pan. The shine will disappear after they cool and are ready to eat.  I have seen several recipes for no-bake cookie treats.  They are great to make since they do not require an oven.  After I have a chance to try some of the other no-bake recipes, I will share the ones we like.



Keep up with our adventures in Part 3 of Boondocking in the Desert.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Boondocking in the Desert - Part 1

It was Tuesday, December 8.  Twenty days had passed since we left our house in Arkansas to begin our adventure of RV full-time living and traveling. The time had come to drop the 4x8 trailer that I was towing with the Chrysler van.  Next, we unloaded things that we did not need immediately from both of the vans, and headed out to boondock in the desert.

What is boondocking?

Boondocking is a very simple way of life. It means different things to different people. Even though I always thought we lived very simply, nothing compared to this new experience. The first thing that I noticed is that boondocking is the absence of any facilities.  In other words, it is when people camp with no facilities, specifically electricity, water, and sewer, provided by a third party.  

By a third party is the key. For many, the sun’s rays generate electric power through solar panels. Normally they are mounted on top of the roof. Occasionally you see a solar suitcase setup that opens up flat, facing the sun when in use, and folded up like a suitcase when stored. Others may have an on-board generator run with gasoline or diesel from their vehicle tanks.  Depending on the size of the rig, their water source and facilities may vary. Some units have on-board holding tanks and some carry extra water with them.  Some have an actual bathroom with shower facilities and others have a porta-potty and a shower tent or they find paid showers.  

Boondocking 

We were excited!  We had arrived!  We spent almost a full month boondocking. Rather than make an extremely long post, this will be the first of a series of posts covering our adventures.     

Angel and our rig boondocking in the desert.
As far as rigs and RVs went, there were a lot of vans, including a few with cargo trailers.  There were a couple SUV’s camping with tents.  Although not as many, there were also a combination of trailers, fifth wheels, motorhomes, and toy haulers.  One fifth wheel had three slides.  The motorhomes and toy haulers ranged from a Class B Roadtrek to a variety of Class A’s and C’s in various lengths and types. Units dotted the large landscape, many individually, and others by groups, but there was plenty of room for everyone  because the area was so vast.  We were on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Some BLM lands have restrictions and vary as to cost, facilities provided, and length of stay.  This section was free and had no restrictions on how long one could stay.  

After we got parked and settled in, we set our portable table and two chairs outside facing the western sky to take in the sunset. We had a snack of chips dipped in salsa I had made using a blend of spices and one can of diced petite tomatoes. We and Angel were on our own.  

We enjoyed many sunsets while in the desert.






The day temperature high was 76 degrees. After the sun went down, it began to get a little chilly, going to a night low of around 40 degrees, a good night for a bowl of soup.  Tonight we used our Coleman Butane stove to heat a can of Campbell’s tasty Philly-Style Cheesesteak Soup. It was one of the new varieties we purchased at the Walmart in Casa Grande, Arizona, when we were having our trailer tires replaced. We always enjoy trying new flavors. 

Around us, there were mountains in the distance. There was a lot of desert, and it had a lot of rocks. People could camp close within 200 to 500 feet of each other, farther away and appear as a speck in the landscape, or be totally out of sight of one another. We could see the city lights at night. Occasionally, we would be blessed with night rain showers, but nothing serious.  

Mountains to the South

Mountains to the North
The roads were not paved.  A few places were nice and smooth, but most had rocks, little, big, jagged, and plentiful coming up in the roadway.  They seemed to rise above the dirt, when, in fact, the loose dirt blew away from them giving the appearance of rocks growing up out of the ground. This area was a great place for four-wheelers, who crept upon the landscape every weekend, bringing the rumble of engines with dirt trailing behind them as they kicked up the dust. 

This quartz-like rock was fairly close to our camping area.
Every four or five days, we would go to town.  Ehrenberg had a small convenience store if we needed something and didn’t want to make a trip to the supermarket across the state line in Blythe, California. We could fill water jugs and dump our port-a-potty for $5.  Clean showers and laundry facilities were also available. Washers were $1.25 per load, with large dryers where I could put in two loads of washed clothes and get 10 minutes of drying time for 25 cents. 

Beautiful sunsets were plentiful and every night was different.   




On one afternoon, one of the people that camped here in the desert had an afternoon get-together and served a variety of pizzas…pepperoni, vegetarian, pineapple, and bread sticks.  We heard about it from one of the van dwellers when he came by and introduced himself as Rob. We felt a little awkward about going because we were not sure if we were included, but everyone strolling past on their way to the get-together said to come and bring a chair, so we did.  Around twenty-five people attended. Many people already knew each other from previous get-togethers.  We met and talked with a few of the people attending.    

Stay tuned for more pictures and experiences while living full-time and traveling in an RV in Part 2 of Boondocking in the Desert.


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