Showing posts from 2011

Dec 31 - Reflections on 2011

Well, 2011 is now history and I, for one, am sad to see it go. The passage of another year, while inevitable, isn't something I look upon fondly. It simply reminds me that yet another year is gone, that I'll be one more numerical year older, that I'm one year closer to the end. Perhaps I'd feel better if, instead of celebrating the passage of another year, I try to celebrate a new day every morning.

In looking back, however, here are a few statistics from our 2011 fulltiming experience:

Dollars spent on camping/parking fees for the bus-house:  $3,996

Average per day cost of camping/parking (all days): $10.95

Average per day cost of camping/parking (paid days): $16.58

Number of free nights: 124

Number of camping/parking locations: 34
   (normal 50 - 60)

Number of days per stop: 10.4
   (normal 6 - 7)

Miles driven with bus-house: 6,631
   (normal 8,000 to 10,000)

Diesel fuel for bus-house: $3,612
   average price: $3.86/gal
   mileage: 7.95mpg

We spent more time parked …

Dec 30 - San Antonio River Walk

Yesterday, Thursday, we drove into downtown San Antonio with the intention of re-visiting the famous San Antonio River Walk and surrounding area. We had visited here before... back in January of 2008. Despite my knee-jerk distaste for crowds and all-things "big city", we considered it one of the more memorable and enjoyable stops in Texas during that first year on the road. And now that almost 4 years have passed since that visit, and since we were camped so close (only 45 minutes away), and since our exploration muscles had started atrophying during the holidays and badly needed some exercise, and since we had nothing else on the agenda for this quiet Thursday between Christmas and New Years... we hopped in the car and made the run into the big city.

The air was cool, the skies bright and blue, and the traffic tolerable. Parking was easy to find but expensive... $15 for the day... posted as a "special event" price, which we didn't understand at first, but cha…

Dec 28 - We Found Utopia

For all you seekers of perfection, those looking for the ideal place in this world, heaven on earth, Xanadu, Utopia... we've found it. At least that's what the sign says...

That's right, Utopia actually exists and it was right under our noses here in Texas all along. Who'da thunk it? We can now add it to the list of one-of-a-kind places we've been... like Paradise, Tightwad, and Google.

On Tuesday we took a relaxed drive into the Hill Country of Texas. Our camp near Hondo, right along US-90, runs along the southern edge of the Hill Country, so today's exploring was all north of camp, mostly along roads we've not taken before. Bandera, the self-proclaimed "cowboy capital of the world" was one of our destinations and we stopped there for lunch. We stayed in Bandera back in 2009... enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner at the Pioneer RV Park. For a Tuesday, the town seemed busy... traffic, a crowd at the restaurant... busy.

Portions of our drive took us alon…

5 Years - A Home Base

This is the fifth in a series of posts about our lifestyle as we near the 5 year mark, and some thoughts we're having about making changes as we move into the future.

On A Home Base
After almost 5 years of living in our 300 sq. ft. motorhome we're talking more and more about establishing a home base somewhere.

There's an old saying that we've commandeered that goes something like this: The warm peaceful feeling that accompanies going home is exceeded only by the great anticipation and freedom that accompanies leaving home. In other words, there's nothing like the feeling of coming home... unless it's the feeling of leaving again. For us, we enjoy "coming home", whether it's an extended stay in an RV park near our kids in Washington, parking on our RV pad while visiting the rest of our family in Wisconsin, or an extended Winter refuge down south. There's really something special about coming home that we look forward to... time to work on the …

Dec 23 - Settled for the Holidays

Today, we've been here at SKP Lone Star Corral for a week and we're feeling quite settled in for the holidays. People in this park, like most of the SKP system, are very friendly and inclusive. It's a good place to be if you can't be with family for Christmas.

We're really not doing much... lazing around, reading, making dinner, doing a few chores. Today Dar made some Christmas candy which will be our contribution to the Christmas Eve party over at the clubhouse, and I'm making a big pot of chili. Each night we're watching another from our list of traditional Christmas movies. And next week we're planning a day (and evening) in downtown San Antonio checking out all the lights and holiday decorations around the Riverwalk.

The initial plan to move down to Rockport on the 3rd of January has now changed. Instead, we're moving on January 1st. The park members who "own" the lot we're on are coming back on the 1st. It's their lot... th…

5 Years - Size... It Matters

This is the fourth in a series of posts about our lifestyle as we near the 5 year mark, and some thoughts we're having about making changes as we move into the future.

On Size... It Matters
The earlier posts in this series addressed the topics of our travel pattern, family friends roots, and our preferred exploring mode. In this post I'd like to address the topic of our RV... also called "the camper" or the "bus-house" in most of my posts to the RV Sabbatical Journal.

We live fulltime in a "big rig" motorhome. Early in the process of investigating this lifestyle, prior to taking the plunge, most fulltimers we asked said the same thing:  get the largest RV we could afford. They said we'd always covet more space and "big" would always be better in the resale market. And that's what we did... bought a 40 foot long 16 ton diesel motorhome.

For the most part, we've been happy with it. But over these 5 years we've developed a …

Dec 18 - A Black Hole

Hondo Texas is a mere 45 miles from downtown San Antonio which, to me, means it's not exactly a remote wilderness or frontier out-back. But when it comes to cell phone and internet coverage, a wilderness back-water it is. Verizon has a significant hole in their signal, centered about 5 miles west of Hondo along US-90... almost at the precise location of Lone Star Corral. We had better service in far more remote campsites... near Yosemite, Joshua Tree, even out in the desert north of Quartzsite.

I've been told that if I'd go outside, climb on top the bus-house, hold a metal coat-hanger up in the air with one hand and hold the phone in the other... I may be able to get a short call to go through. I might have to try that later.

The SKP Lone Star Corral park has it's own park-wide wifi service... which costs nothing. And, at least this year so far, we're getting exactly what we're paying... nothing. It worked fine during our stay last year. But so far this year, …

Dec 17 - Trail Ends in Hondo

Our travels for 2011 ended, like last year, in Hondo Texas. We're at the Escapees Park -- Lone Star Corral -- for the Holidays and will be here, hopefully, until the 2nd or 3rd of January when we press on down to Rockport Texas. These Escapee Parks are membership parks, which means the lots all belong to members. When the members are not here they can opt to have their lot put in a rental pool for "guest" renters (like us), which helps offset their annual membership fees. There's also a "first in first out" rule for guests which only kicks in when all available lots are rented. This rule gives the longest visiting guests two days notice to vacate their rented lot if new guests are waiting for a site. Because there's a fairly long list of guests ahead of us, it's unlikely that we'll be affected. But there's always a chance... that we'll be evicted... on Christmas Eve. "Sorry... no room at the inn."

During the past two days we p…

Dec 14 - Across the Continental Divide

Tonight, we're doing a quick overnight at the SKP Dream Catchers RV Park in Deming, NM. Today's drive from Tucson was enjoyable, even though it was all Interstate Highway... amazing what a little sun and blue sky can do for the traveling spirits. Transiting southern New Mexico, there are few alternatives to I-10... at least that we're willing to encounter with the big old bus-house.

The storms that held us back the last two days also dumped an inch or two of rain on southwestern New Mexico. And while you might think the desert would soak up the rain like a dry sponge... it doesn't. Between mountain ranges, we drove through broad flat areas that were plastered with warning signs about blowing dust and sand, zero visibility, and such. These dust storms must be a common occurrence around here based on the number and quality of the signs involved. But blowing sand wasn't a problem today as everything was soaked from the recent rains. Ditches and desert floor on either…

Dec 13 - Desert Rain

For an area that averages about 10" of rain per year, we're being treated to a significant portion of that total in the past two days -- might be almost 2" in some parts by the time it's over. Today, it's rained all day so far... with only a couple short periods where it's eased up some. The weather guys are being stressed to the limit with this system, as they actually have to write new reports and forecasts... and not just re-read what they said the day before... and the day before that... which is what they do most of the time in Southern Arizona.

I'm happy to report, however, that "they're" still saying this is will all abate by tomorrow morning, and, with any luck at all, I should be getting the launch authorization codes (the keys to the camper) from the Safety Director by mid-morning tomorrow.

Apart from the somewhat steep fare for staying here, we've really enjoyed our longer than expected stay here at Lazydays in Tucson. Becaus…

5 Years - Exploring Modes

This is the third in a series of posts about our lifestyle as we near the 5 year mark, and some thoughts we're having about making changes as we move into the future.

On Exploring Modes
Those who live in RVs for extended periods of time fall into certain patterns or modes of existence. For some, the RV seems to become a purpose unto itself, and life becomes a series of rituals about the machinery, the systems, maximizing the comfort of living in a small space, and socializing with like-minded neighbors for extended periods of time. For others, the RV is just a tool that allows them to travel and explore... to go to and experience places on their own schedule... for any period of time they choose.

To set the tone of this post, allow me to state a few things first. Our definition of exploring is: to travel for the purpose of discovery. This could include experiencing new places, historic sites, museums, or unique geographies such as those offered by National or State Parks, National …

Dec 12 - Rain Delay

This morning we're still parked at the Lazydays RV Park on the south side of Tucson, and it looks like we'll be here yet another two days. During the past week I've been keeping an eye on the forecast and it consistently looked like we'd have no problems getting out of here today, as we had planned. But, of course, that all changed yesterday afternoon when the weather folks started predicting the worst rain storm for Tucson since the end of the monsoon last fall... and the two day dousing was going to start today, covering most of Arizona and New Mexico.

This morning we made the decision to just hunker down and wait it out. Even if we made a run for it this morning and got ahead of the worst of today's rain, we'd probably have to sit for an extra day in Deming, which is predicted to be in the middle of it tomorrow. We don't have to be anywhere yet, so what's the rush? We're here, comfortable... and we'll just wait it out.

For anyone wondering w…

5 Years - Family Friends and Roots

This is the second in a series of posts about our lifestyle as we near the 5 year mark, and some thoughts we're having about making changes as we move into the future.

On Family, Friends, and Roots
One of the things that fulltime RVers forfeit is roots. A few days ago a post by another blogger (Glen at To Simplify) got me pondering this. He wrote:

The lack of the kind of deep social intimacy that often typifies the mobile lifestyle is, after all, difficult to ignore, and while I have made great strides towards dealing with it, I still can't deny that it is one of the few (possibly the only) lingering rubs to living the way I do.
... the telephone, video chat, email, and this blog help to maintain some sense of community and connectedness, but I wonder if all of these methods combined even come close to duplicating the kind of friendships that only develop when one is "around" day after day after day. And as this quality of friendship may very well be an essential requir…

Dec 9 - Down for a Day

Yesterday afternoon, I was writing something on the PC, and... BAM... just like that, I knew I was coming down with some kind of bug. Remarkably, it was just that fast... felt fine one moment and feeling low the next. By bed time it was clear, even to Doctor Dar, that whatever I had it hit me bulls-eye dead center thereabouts the nasal passages.

After medicating up I was able to sleep OK... and I'm really thankful for that. I was up and about today... just not moving too fast or going too far. Was able to get my 2 mile power walk in... but there wasn't as much "power" in it as there usually is. I wrote and published a number of posts to the journal... one going back a few days about our visit to the Arizona State Capitol. Hope you'll catch it.

That's it for tonight. Think I'll retire early with my Kindle, an aspirin bottle, and about two fingers of Dr. Daniels Amber Restorative.  Ta-ta...

Disappearing RV Dreams?

I had a conversation recently with someone involved with the financing side of things in the RV world. When he heard that we were fulltimers he put his hands over his ears and said "No... don't say that word... don't tell me you're fulltiming!" What?

Apparently a number of large banks that still do loans on RVs made a decision about a year ago that they will no longer, under any circumstance, write loans to anyone who does not have a permanent physical address including a dwelling unit in which they reside (they apparently have even gone so far as to exclude the addresses of mail forwarding services, etc... they've also been known to visit the address and check it out). This person I talked with, who's acting as a representative of the banking institution, is bound by agreement to stop any loan transaction to anyone who, even inadvertently, mentions to him that they plan to fulltime in their new RV. They're that serious about it.

This is my understan…

Dec 8 - Repair Vibrations

We're back at Lazydays RV Park after having the slide repaired yesterday and the vibrations have pretty much stopped... I'm talking here about my vibrations.

Since the bracket on the slide broke I've been concerned (maybe consumed is a better word) by one thing... somebody's going to want to weld it back together. That doesn't sound so ominous... something to be consumed by. But it can be. You see, the electrical systems of a motorhome is a complicated thing. There are actually three completely independent systems: the 12 volt chassis system (like any car or truck, it's the alternator, battery, wiring that takes care of lights, electronics, etc.); the 12 volt "house" or coach system (everything 12 volt in the living area or coach part of the motorhome... lighting, inverter, furnace, electronic controls for refrigerator, etc.); and finally the 120 volt system that, when we're "plugged in" or running the generator, powers all the normal g…

Dec 6 - In Tucson for Repairs

I'm hoping this isn't habit forming or becomes some weird new way-of-life... but we're sitting around this afternoon waiting, once again, for a service appointment. I talked with Newmar first thing this morning and they helped with information and the name of a good (or so they say) service shop in Tucson... who I called next and set up an appointment for Wednesday (tomorrow) morning. They claim to be slide-out experts and are specifically trained in Newmar slides. It sounds good but we'll wait to see how this all goes before there's a ringing endorsement from me.

Newmar said we could retract the problematic slide and it'd be OK to travel with it... but that it needs to be fixed pronto! So we folded everything up and made the 130 mile drive through Phoenix and through most of Tucson before landing at the LazyDays RV Park (the old Beaudry joint) out near Davis Monthan Air Force Base. We got in about 1pm and we're running a few errands this afternoon, and get…

Dec 5 - Arizona State Capitol

After dropping off the bus-house at Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale, we took the toad and made the 20 minute drive over to the Arizona State Capitol. The time had finally come to add Arizona to our list of visited Capitol buildings... I think this one will be our 20th.

If you've house-shopped recently I may be able to elicit some sympathy from you... how after you've seen 5 or 10 (or 15! or 20!!) they all start to look alike. OK, maybe not exactly alike, but they do seem to fall into groups... and it's very hard to distinguish between members of a group. The great ones may stand out, but the average, the ho-hum, the pedestrian, they all start to look alike. Anyone still with me??

Arizona is the last State admitted to the union among the lower 48 States... in 1912. This fact, among other things, led to the factual and oft heard statement during the Reagan presidency that the President (born in 1911) was "older than Arizona". OK, chuckle if you will, but it…

Dec 5 - Genny OK... Now Slide Woes

Just a short note to update the journal tonight. We had an agreeable drive down US-60 from Wickenburg and arrived at Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale just a little after noon. They got us right in and checked out the genny this afternoon. The reason I wanted it looked at was the two unexplained genny shut-downs we've experienced in the past few weeks... apparently for fuel (or lack thereof??) reasons. I thought we'd try to catch any problems early, before things got worse. They gave it the once-over, ran it under load, put in a new fuel filter, and deemed it "up to specs and operating just fine". While they had the bus-house in the shop I also had them lube the chassis. Recent information informs us that it's especially important to make sure the drive-shaft on this model is fully lubed a couple times per year. Apart from severing a couple of C notes from our slush fund, it was a good stop... they were good people to work with... and we get a free night of camp…

Dec 4 - Brrrr Arizona

For all you folks who think it's easy to escape Winter by just heading south a few miles, consider this. We're about an hour northwest of Phoenix (yes, Arizona!) at an elevation of 2800 feet. The normal temps this time of year are 60's for a high and 40's for a low. Of course, "normal" or average temps are statistical deceptions, often, and it's prudent to use them with caution. Our high temp yesterday was 45f and the low this morning was 31f. Monday morning we should be in the 20s.

Yesterday, we had it all... sun, heavy clouds, rain, thunder, sleet, snow, and then more sun. So we huddled inside and I only got out for my two mile walk... between showers. Not what most people would expect... unless you're in, maybe, the Midwest??

This morning we ran into Wickenburg for breakfast and then explored around the town called Congress (as rough as it looks it's more popular with the public than the other one in Washington DC). From Congress, AZ-89 goes u…

5 Years - Our Travel Pattern

We're coming up on 5 years living this way. By the strict definition of the American Full-Time Rv'ers Lifestyle and Information Federation (AFTeRLIFe)  (no fixed home; live in a functioning RV 365 days per year), we are certified fulltime RVers. We've thoroughly enjoyed the lifestyle but have reached a point where we're pondering the future, questioning and critiquing how our current lifestyle has evolved -- what it's evolved into, and are considering changes we might make to enhance things a little in the future.

With all that setting the stage, I'll be writing a series of posts on topics relating to our lifestyle and future changes we're thinking about... in order to get them into the record.

On Our Travel Pattern:
Our fulltime RV lifestyle is NOT one of fulltime travel and I think our experience is typical of many who claim to be fulltimers. It's one thing to live in a little box on a fulltime basis; it's quite another to be on the move, traveling,…

Dec 1 -- Our "Friends" to the North?

You call this friendship?  We've always heard that Canadians are our best friends, internationally speaking. But are they really?

First, as reported here on this blog back in April of 2009, they're the ones responsible for the hoards of Canada Geese that terrorize and "fowl" much of the land-mass of the USA. It's clear my expose' of the time accomplished nothing as they've continued since, unabated, in this unfriendly behavior. Why just the other day I stepped in a pile...

And then, claiming they're not hardy enough for the cold and snow of Canadian winters... which I might add, they grew up with and, presumably, are acclimated to.... they swarm into the southern USA every November to "escape"... to find some warmth. What ever happened to the spirit of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon... the rough and tumble frontier toughness that we "softies" to the South always thought was in the blood of every true Canadian?  Poor babies. Let…

Nov 30 - On Coincidence

We've had a couple of weird coincidences occur around here recently. Going back a couple weeks...  Let me set the scene. We had just gotten settled at Camp Solitude in the desert near Quartzsite. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Brian Gore's first novel "A Matter of Honor" on my Kindle. On the afternoon of the day in question I was on the internet... on Amazon, and was writing a short review of his book. While on the "write your review here" page, in the middle of composing the review, Dar spotted a truck and fifth wheel rolling into our corner of the desert and announced "incoming" (a habit we've gotten into, as watching people park big rigs is better entertainment than almost anything on commercial TV). So I glance out and see the rig slowly moving in... and said "Hey, I know that guy! That's Brian Gore... the guy who wrote the book I just finished... the review I'm writing right now!". Literally, as I'm wri…

Nov 29 - Escapees North Ranch

Yesterday we made the 110 mile drive from our Plomosa Road camp near Quartzsite to the Escapees North Ranch park between Wickenburg and Congress AZ. The drive was a good one... no incidents and light traffic. When traveling east we generally prefer a late start (about 11am yesterday) to minimize the glare and squinting that accompanies driving into the sun. At the very least, it's a good excuse for sleeping in.

I topped off the two tires I wrote about in the last post and confirmed that the problem with the slow leak in the toad's tire was due to the Pressure Pro sensor. When I swapped the suspect sensor with one on another wheel, the new tire developed the slow leak. Hmmm. You know I'll be talking with my Pressure Pro supplier about this today. I now highly suspect the same issue with the front tire on the bus-house. I'm running without the sensor on that tire for a while to see if the leak stops.

North Ranch is an interesting community. There are about 100 rental R…

Nov 27 - Last Day at Camp Solitude

It's Sunday already, which means we've got to start packing up, stowing things, in preparation for moving tomorrow. Even if we wanted to stay longer (no argument from either of these two nomads), we're running a little low on some resources that require movement of the bus-house... things like fresh water and propane which are the two we'll run out of first. So since we've got to move anyway, and since we're still planning to be in Rockport by just after the first of the year, we're getting back on the road.

I've got two tires with slow leaks. The right rear tire on the toad has leaked since the day I had new tires put on last summer. It's very slow and it's been my denial of reality that's prevented me from having it fixed before this. But I added air just a couple weeks ago... even put in a little extra. But when I checked it yesterday, it was down to 26psi... a full 10 pounds from where it was. The other tire is the front right bus-house…

Nov 25 - The Nellie E Saloon

Well here's hoping we didn't lose any readers during all the Black Friday consumerist shopping riots earlier today. I'm hearing about folks being pepper sprayed, shot, stabbed, and worse... by other "shoppers" who feel they need something bad enough to set aside normal civil behavior and bring out the heavy artillery to gain some kind of advantage. I mean, what are they thinking? Do they sit up the night before and plan this? Never having been to a shopping riot I guess I should give folks the benefit of the doubt... that perhaps the store is really at fault for whipping people into a frenzy and all. I don't remember Christmas shopping being at all like this when I was a kid.

For our excitement we headed out to the Nellie E Saloon for lunch. This isn't as easy as it sounds though. First you've got to drive north of Parker some 5 miles on the main highway, AZ-95, and try to find the intersection with the old rocky dirt road that leads to the bar, anot…

Nov 24 - Thanksgiving Day Lunner

A small sliced ham, potato rolls, green bean casserole, cranberries, hobo veggies, and pun'kin pie... a small feast in the desert. We invited neighbor Brian Gore over for the mid-afternoon Thanksgiving Day "lunner" and then sat around the campfire telling stories and solving world problems.

Had a great time.