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. 


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.


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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