Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Traveling Full Time by the Seat of our Pants!

It was impossible to keep the expenses of traveling where they needed to be with the amount of money we had been spending. From the time we left Edgewood, New Mexico, on June 14, to Williams, Arizona, on August 8, we had spent $2014 on gas and food. Gas expense alone was $1254.24, and grocery expense was $760.24, which did not include bottled water or pet food; fortunately we did not have any expenses for eating out. However, it did include other “sundry” expenses, but not everything.

This equates to over 4200 miles traveled in a period of 55 days, which averages out to 76 miles per day. However, at an estimated $2.25 per gallon for gas, this equates to 557.44 gallons of gas multiplied by 7.6 miles per gallon, which is the highest miles per gallon average calculated for this motorhome over a stretch of 2000 miles. We also used engine gas when running our generator on non-sunny days to keep our batteries charged, so 4200 miles might be a little high for miles traveled, but it is the best guesstimate I have. In those 55 days, we had boondocked several free nights in Walmart Parking Lots and the free night at the RV park in Nebraska. We paid $126 for a week (for FHU) at Escapees Rainbows End RV Park, paid $234.36 for camping 10 days (for FHU and Electric only sites) at America’s Mailbox campground, and $70 for 14 days (for FHU) at Blue Mesa Ranch.

Our expenses were exceeding our travel budget and the monies we could afford to pay per month. Adjustments would definitely need to be made or I could see us having to find a place to set while we play catch-up.

Why didn’t we Decrease the Number of Travel Days to meet our budget? 

That is a very good question, and we might have been able to enjoy more days with the beauty that surrounded us. Adjusting the distance we traveled might have helped, but…

Plans had already been made to meet another boondocker in the Flagstaff area to do some work of installing their solar panels and moving ours from the trailer to the RV. That is where we were headed with a deadline to get there. The route we took to get there had the least wear and tear on the brakes of the RV. While coming out of the Rocky Mountains back into Montrose, we became aware that a brake job was going to be inevitable. It was just a matter of time and how far out we could stretch before “needing it” advanced to  “metal to metal” and making it a “having to” priority, which did happen further down the road.

Forest Camping Site 

We grabbed a burger meal at the McDonald’s when we arrived at the agreed-upon meeting site. Then we were off to locate a site that would be convenient to perform the work.

On our way to locate a boondocking spot in the National Forest
We chose a clearing in the Pines with sufficient space near the base of Mount Humphrey.

The campsite we chose in a clearing
On sunny days, the sun would hit our solar panels. But no one checked to see if we could get internet and cell signal. As it turned out, the internet signal was terrible for accomplishing any of the listings for eBay. The Verizon cell signal was not the greatest, but could be found from strategic points. To get a decent TracFone signal, I had to walk the forest road for at least a half a mile and stand in one spot; walking three-quarters to one mile brought in a stronger signal, but either way, I had to walk back to the camping spot.

The forest road was dirt, but convenient for walking as long as we detoured around the holes that filled with water on rainy days. Angel loved the walks we took.

Angel and I enjoying our walks on the forest road
Making Friends is not always easy

There were only three of us, plus Angel. John had gone across the road to visit. After some time, maybe forty-five minutes, having no phone and no internet, I decided to wander over and join the conversation. What happened next I was totally unprepared for. The third party looked at me and very rudely said, ‘What are you doing over here?’ He insinuated that I was being nosey and just wanted to know what they were talking about!

This was not the only time he was rude. Another time a boondocker on his bike stopped by. Also another boondocking couple stopped and I thought we were all visiting. When I stood up to leave as the group seemed to be breaking up, I thanked him for his hospitality. His sarcastic comment was ‘Well, what was I supposed to do. You just came over and plopped your a__ down.’

This ended up being only the tip of the iceberg!  

The Elk

What a fantastic experience! It was late afternoon and off to the right of our motorhome was a herd of Elk grazing their way through the pines. They appeared on several different days. They minded their business, and so did we. I had never seen big Elk that close. We all remarked that these are the experiences that make our travel experiences worthwhile! What a day! Wow!

Elk grazing their way through the pines to the right of our RV
Worried Sick About Angel

One morning when we woke up, Angel was throwing up. We took him out and he went potty. When we brought him back in, he was ready to eat something. Before an hour, the process repeated itself, and it continued... I was very worried that he had somehow eaten mushrooms, been poisoned, and was going to die. I was so worried that I could not stop crying for fear we would lose him.

When his condition did not get any better, John located a vet, and we called to see if we could get him in. The vet looked at Angel, talked with us, and did some tests. The fact that he had a bit of diarrhea seemed to be a clue that he somehow had contacted a virus. We ended up with pills that John ended up having to shove down his throat to get him to swallow them for about ten days, but he improved, for which we were very thankful.

We would highly recommend the vet at the Westside Vet Clinic in the Flagstaff area. She knew how to make Angel feel comfortable and was able to work with him to get results, and knew what kinds of questions to ask us to get to the root of the problem in a reasonable amount of time. In addition, the next day, their office called to check on Angel. Our bill was $313.34.

Flippin’ Mountain Bikes can be dangerous 

It was a beautiful sunny day. John and I decided to open up the back of the trailer and take out the bicycles. The forest road called to us, so we hopped on our cycles and headed out to explore. We passed the big old dead tree and crossed over the iron cattle guard. At the fork in the forest road, we went left because it had rained and the fork to the right was nearly impassable due to water.

Beautiful sunny day for a bike ride
On one of our walks, Angel and I had passed the old dead tree and seen the cattle guard up ahead.
Up to this point, most of the terrain had been level, but up ahead was an uphill climb with some wash areas visible. The uphill climb was steeper than I felt comfortable trying to pedal up, so I stayed behind. John went on to the top. When I saw him start back down, I turned around so I’d be ready when he caught up to me.

Next thing I knew, he was not on his bike any more. He was pushing it toward me. I did not see what happened, but he found himself in danger when the back of the bike upended over him and threw him off. He was descending the hill over some, apparently slippery, rocks, and lost control when the back wheel came over his head. The bike was now impossible to ride as the back wheel turned in a squirrelly pattern left and right, so he had to push it back to our campsite. Thankfully, he did not break any bones, but he did get a bad sprain on his left wrist.

Solar Additions and Moves 

Up to now, the decisions that needed to be made before adding solar were still in limbo. After the bike incident, the sprained wrist made it unlikely that any solar would be worked on, including moving any of our own panels.

More Scenes in the Forest 

Sunset thru the pines


Flagstaff Area 

Even though it is a large area, we found it to be a fairly easy area in which to maneuver. We usually made a trip into the city every seven or eight days. Some of the Giant gas stations had dump stations and water to refresh our tanks. One day while at Walmart, there was a vendor set up across the street who was selling “Chicago-style hot dogs”. We had to satisfy our taste buds and they were very good. We found propane at the U-Haul, even though it was not the cheapest price. There was a separate turnoff for the post office, so it was fairly simple to navigate when we sent or picked up mail. In the opposite direction, they had a Camping World store.

Sedona and the beautiful red rocks is the site of our next post. That is beautiful country. While there, the "action" came to us and was another incredible experience!

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Thru Gorgeous Valleys and Spectacular Rock Formations...

More beautiful scenery lies ahead of us! We retrace our route from Montrose back through Delta to Grand Junction and continue through western Colorado! We pick up Interstate 70 in Grand Junction, Colorado. Our first stop is Fruita, the last rest park in Colorado. Just as the app on our Smart Phone said, we find a free dump station where we can refresh our tanks and fill with water. This is a service much appreciated by travelers.

It was hard to pick photos to post, so I got rid of the worst and put the rest in a youtube video you can view below.

Utah Welcome Center 

Our next stop is at the Utah Welcome Center. We take our time visiting the welcome center. We walked up a trail to an overlook and took pictures of the scenes below including our rig in the parking area, and the highway and surrounding area.

Welcome to Utah!
Highway 191, Arches, Canyonlands, Moab…

On today’s drive, we turn south on Highway 191 through the beautiful scenery that surrounds Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, through Moab. We pass the Hole in The Rock, see Wilson Arch, and more. As we arrive in Monticello, Utah, we see a gas station with a very large parking area that has plenty of overnight parking for trucks. Voila! Looks like a wonderful spot to boondock for the night.

Getting close to Wilson Arch
Valley of the Gods, Navajo Twin Rocks,  Mexican Hat, Monument Valley…

The next day, August 7th, we continue past Devil’s Canyon toward Blanding. Great views of the Valley of the Gods and Navajo Twin Rocks come into view as we near Bluff. At Bluff, we pick up another scenic route, 163, which takes us past Mexican Hat, across the Navajo Nation, and through Monument Valley into Arizona. A lot of John Wayne movies were filmed in Monument Valley. The rock formations are absolutely gorgeous!

Mexican Hat
Grand Canyon…

We pick up highway 160 at Kayenta. Highway 160 dead ends at 89, so we take 89 south toward Cameron. From the new bridge at Cameron, we get a glimpse of the big old iron bridge that we crossed 28 years ago when our friends from Germany were traveling with us. (I still remember having lunch with them at the little restaurant in Cameron.)

Immediately after that, we turn west on highway 64. It is 29 miles to the east entrance of the Grand Canyon. We travel through Kaibab National Forest and enter Grand Canyon National Park using our Senior Pass. We did not stop at any of the pull offs for the Grand Canyon, since we had been there before, but I did get a couple of photo opportunities before we got to Grand Canyon Village and headed south through Kaibab National Forest and saw elk on our way to Tuscayan.

Kaibab National Forest was our boondocking spot for the night. The next day we traveled south on 64 to Williams, Arizona, east on 40.

Click on the following youtube video if you would like to view photos from the places described in this post.


In the next post, I will show you our next boondocking spot in the National Forest near Flagstaff.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Seeing Colorado Beauty at 7700 feet...

After the mountain drive on U.S. 50 from Montrose to Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch RV Resort, we checked in and paid for a fourteen-day stay. It was nice to get settled in on a site. The entrance was near the highway, but in selecting a site, we discovered that every site was up hill from the entrance and clubhouse. Since we do not have a separate vehicle for daily driving, we chose a site close to the adult clubhouse and laundry facilities, because everywhere we went on the resort required walking, up hill and down hill.

We have always enjoyed the scenery in Colorado. Since this park was near Gunnison, which ended up being the home office for Western Horizons, we wanted to check it out. We initially joined White Oaks on the Lake in Monticello, IN, and eventually, it became part of the Western Horizons Group.

A few months before we started our adventure of full-time RV living and traveling, we got a letter telling us White Oaks was closed. That was bad for us because we had hoped to use our membership at White Oaks on the Lake during the summer months to visit family in Indiana. They did offer us an alternative in another system, but their parks were in a region we had no interest in visiting. Alternative to that was to check out Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch RV Resort in Colorado, We needed to get a feel whether we would feel comfortable returning there year after year.

Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch RV Resort

You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them and "x" out of them to return to the blog.

Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch Sign

Clubhouse at Blue Mesa Ranch RV Resort

Sitting/Resting with Angel outside of the clubhouse before starting back up the hill

One section of rentals at the Resort

ATV's for rent at the RV Resort

Looking towards highway in general direction toward Montrose on our daily walk around the park.

Storm moving through

Another view of storm moving through

Cloud formation reminds me of Angel, his tail curled over his back, flying with wings!
Views from our campsite

The only tree with leaves turning yellow was at our campsite.

Looking in the direction of Gunnison

Beautiful rainbow

Lake across the highway -- beautiful view!
The internet cost was $12 per week for one device, so we paid a total of $24 to have access for one device, our Samsung phone in case of an emergency, for the two weeks we were there. It was nearly impossible to get a Tracfone signal to use my phone. They said there were a couple of places (down by the clubhouse and at the gazebo by the lake) where I might get a signal, but neither worked for me. A couple of times I happened onto a signal, once by holding my phone above my head at arm’s length, and once by sitting in the non-driver’s captain’s seat and placing it against the front-side window, but neither were consistent. We drove 12 miles one way to Gunnison and parked in the Safeway parking lot where we could get an internet signal in order to accomplish anything on the internet.

I did enjoy working on a couple of puzzles at the adult clubhouse. It had a pool, pool table, and four tables for games and puzzles. One afternoon I returned after lunch and found the puzzle I had been working on before lunch had been moved from the table to the middle of the pool table so the card players would have a table for their snacks. Rather than leave or set up a fuss, I transferred the puzzle board over to lay on the arms of a chair while I sat in another chair to work the puzzle. I improvised, and it worked out okay. However, it would have been nice if they had offered me some of their snacks since I was the only other person in the room. Oh, well.

The laundry section was located at the adult club house, but there was no change machine. I ended up walking all the way down to the office to get quarters, and then walking all the way back. Then, to top things off, the clothes were not dry when they came out of the dryer. That was a bummer! Instead of walking all the way down to the office and back to get more quarters, I ended up drying them in the RV wherever they would fit until they got dry.

It was interesting to note a couple of the events at the clubhouse involving games. One said bring dollars to play. Another said to bring your jar of pennies to play. Every event called for money, not just having fun. When I was a child growing up, I loved to play games, but was always taught that we did not have to put money on the table to have fun.

One night they had a karaoki night, which I thought might be nice because of the music, but they made it sound like the person was an award-winning karaoki person and donations would be accepted. As it turned out, the person running the karaoki was the only maintenance person on duty and he had to leave in the middle of the event to take care of a maintenance problem. Someone else filled in while he was gone and tried to encourage others to bring their tape to the front and perform.

The scenery was beautiful. The park was really spread out. Miniature golf was located in the teen area. In still another section, there was horseback riding available. I was glad we could visit, but the welcome feeling that has been apparent at other facilities was missing. On a more positive note, though, we only paid $70 for those two weeks (not counting the annual maintenance fee and the internet fee), I did manage to get three blog posts written, and we started taking two walks per day.

Gunnison, Colorado

The drive to Gunnison was twelve miles and twelve miles back to the park. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, as you can see in the following pictures. Elevation topped 7700 feet at Gunnison. I have not added any captions,so just enjoy the beautiful scenery.

While in Gunnison, we made an appointment at Precision Auto to get the oil changed on the RV. The bill came to $82.66. We noticed a squeal sometimes when we run the AC, so we asked them to check the belt. As it turned out, they said it was due to power steering fluid leaking on the belt. They gave us a quote of nearly $600 to replace the power steering pump. (The price on a power steering pump itself is under a hundred dollars; we decided to put that on our list of things to be done later if the leak should require it.)

Safeway Grocery was a good spot to pick up needed supplies, including tasty sub sandwiches and tater wedges. It was also the only place to get on the internet and download posts and pictures to make progress on my blog. Nearly half of the days were spent in Gunnison where we could get on the internet. The Rocky Mountain scenery was so gorgeous! Unfortunately, however, you can probably feel my frustration of not being able to make greater progress while we should be enjoying a site with full hook-ups.

The majority of the intersections in Gunnison were designed with a dip. This meant crossing them at an angle to keep the back end of the motorhome scraping the pavement to a minimum.

The National Forest Ranger Station was a great place to pick up information. One of the things we learned was that boondocking spaces in their area were designed for smaller rigs than ours; roads were not designed to accommodate either our RV, much less one pulling a trailer.

Gunnison National Forest Ranger Station

Angel sitting in my RV seat waiting for us to return from the Ranger Station.

Little birdie sitting on the rail

Going down the mountain on our way back to Montrose
After we spend a night at the Walmart Parking Lot in Montrose and wait for the rain to stop, we get back on U.S. 50 and travel toward Grand Junction and even more beautiful scenery. The scenery is so beautiful that I may opt to insert another video in the next post.

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