2017 Winter so far

We have spent most of January and now into February in Arizona.  Our internet has been sketchy at times, therefore the long pause between publishing the Blog.  I find it frustrating to spend time trying to upload photos when the internet will only handle short posts or emails.  I do some writing off-line in my word files and put it all together on-line once Phil gets the photos edited the way he likes them.  However, we have been busy playing in the good weather that finally arrived this past week.  The following several posts will hopefully catch us up on the past month’s activities.

We left Medina Lake Thousand Trail Park just north of San Antonio after the Holiday.   We enjoyed dancing the night away and watching fireworks there.  The fireworks display was spectacular!  I spent the time there finishing up a quilt for one of my granddaughter’s birthday.  It is a T-shirt quilt from her daddy’s (and uncles) youthful athletic days.  She loved it!

img_0108reduced_2230We surprised ourselves by staying at a Flying J Truck Stop two nights in a row.  Then we continued west arriving in Benson early January and caught up with friends at the Saguaro SKP Co-Op Resort.  We are on the list to lease into a spot and we are  getting close enough to bid one of these days.  We just are not ready to settle down for any length of time yet.  We want to slow down our travels and enjoy each place a bit more, but not for months at a time yet.

We only stayed a few days to regroup and then drove on up to Yuma for dental cleaning and new glasses.   We stayed at the KOFA SPK Co-Op again meeting up with buddies, Donna and Bob for lunch across the border.  They are experienced tour guides to the Algodones dentist office, the eyeglass store, pharmacy (never use the word “drugs”) and the liquor store where  we bought Mexican Vanilla. We usually have lunch and head back shortly after.  It is always a fun and colorful day.  I love the vendors and the food.  We were told that the border was crowded with folks trying to get their papers together to cross over before the inauguration.  We did not see that at all. Entrance and Exit times were as usual.

We joined the Escapees Boomer BOF group for the movie “Hidden Figures” with a lunch or dinner afterwards.  This is a winter weekly event and such a fun time to gather with fellow travelers.  Donna and I attended the Annual Ladies Lunch too.  It is another good time to visit with other ladies who travel full-time or who used to travel full-time, but settled in the area when they got off the road.  It is one of the few times that some of us get to gussy up a bit.

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Judy dressed up and showing off new eye glasses

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Donna Huffer and Friends at the Ladies Luncheon

After a few days we filled the pantry with a variety of foods and supplies and drove the 95 miles to Boomerville in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Quartzsite is a small quiet town in the summer near the California border that swells in population in January for the Annual Big Tent RV Show.  RV Dealers come in with all kinds new, used, old and different RVs for sale.  If you can’t find what you are looking for here, it probably was never made.

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Lady Bug Camper at our Geo-Cache Rally

The Tent Show is a massive assortment of RV and non-RV products on the market.  Some items are new to the market, while others are the standbys that new Rvers must have.   We have such fun strolling the aisles for interesting products.  We don’t buy a lot of stuff, but never miss the ice cream truck!  Patrons stand in one line to buy a ticket for scoops of ice cream, then stand in another line to order from a large selection of flavors.  It may take 30 minutes to an hour to get your ice cream, but you may meet a new friend while in line.   Rver’s are just different people.  They are friendly, polite and kind.  Even when problems arise, they look at it as an opportunity to find the silver lining.  Most never meet a stranger, just like us.

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Campfires and friends in the desert

We spent two weeks in Boomerville which is a swath of desert BLM land inland about 2 miles from I-10.  This is dry camping, so most folks have solar or a generator to keep the batteries charged.   We have a nice propane stove to stave off the cold in the mornings and evenings.  It was colder than expected so we dressed in layers trying to keep warm. Boomers are an Escapee Birds of a Feather group with no dues, no rules (except come and be nice), no age limits that meet up several times over the year at various places for what is called a Boomerang.  Boomerville in Quartzsite is a  large gathering and offers something for everyone.   We had walks, laughing yoga, zumba (cancelled due to the wind and cold), movies, talks on lots of subjects, pancakes and an auction to benefit CARE and a daily Happy Hour to meet up and share our day.  It is a special event.

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Lots of rigs and one lovely sunset

We joined a group to kayak the backwaters of the Colorado River near Blythe, California.  It was sunny, but very cool.

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Backwater kayak trip near Blythe, California

From Boomerville, we moved over to the GeoCaching Rally to hone our skills.  After the rally, we continued to stay with our two traveling buddies Bob and Donna and Bill and Esther.  We explored Quartzsite’s historical places while the guys went to the Parker 425 Races near Bouse.

Quartzsite City Museum

Quartzsite City Museum

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Parker 425 Desert route near Bouse, Arizona

 

We  practiced our newest geocaching skills with Esther, and went dancing several times.  From here, the six of us are going to Parker to pick up our General Delivery mail, get the Walmart supplies and then go to a location called The Steps where our friends  hope to watch the Big Blast.  The Big Blast is a four-day long, nightly fireworks display put on by the large suppliers for potential customers, like cities, parks and other enthusiasts. Weather permitting they will watch from the desert at a distance for free.

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Esther Goodchild geocaching

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Parker 425 Desert Race Cheap Seats!

Ladies Day Out

Ladies Day Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Road Expense Wrap-up

As we enjoy the last day of 2016 in Lakehill, Texas at another Thousand Trails Resort, I started contemplating the past year of travels.   I wondered about the best and the worst of the year and I wonder what others might want to know about our year.

Our blog covers the stops and highlights and most of the experiences that we had.  I do try to keep it pleasant and upbeat without omitting all of our learning experiences.  We are still considered new at this lifestyle of nearly three years.  There are folks who have been living this way for decades by choice.  We continue to learn by experience.

When we were considering going full-time after we had traveled a couple of years as part-timers, we scanned blogs, websites and read several books on the subject.  After our research, we felt that we would like to give it a cautious try.

We purchased a complete rig (fifth wheel and truck) from a friend in our RV Club who was retiring from the road after many years of happy travels.  We knew that our small travel trailer would not work us us as full-timers.  It was a cash purchase which kept us debt free.  That was a high priority for us.  Yes, we have put money into it for maintenance, repairs and upgrades. We balanced it out over the three years on the road, but this year we had a few major unexpected expenses.  After talking with many others on the road, it seems that road expenses are part of the lifestyle, no matter what type of RV one owns. Are we regretful, absolutely not!  We still like our rig.  We enjoy visiting family, seeing sites, learning non-book history and most of all we love meeting the eclectic group of people along the way.

So for details of our travels and sites, please read our blogs.  The following is more of a financial wrap-up of our cost to live on the road this past year.  These expenses are road related only and does not include our personal expenses since everyone’s situation and lifestyle is different.  I read once that you spend about the same for food, clothes and entertainment items when living in a “stix n’brix” home as in an RV.  I think that is true, except that the limiting factor is space available to store items that are not used regularly or are not consumable.  We go by the rule of “if something comes in, something goes out” as best we can.  We don’t bring in an item and then discard the other person’s items, which is a big no-no in RV couple compatibility!

I will stick to the expenses that we incurred for fuel, parking, maintenance and repairs. A dissertation first and a number summary at the end.

Fuel

We drove 23169 miles this year traveling from Arizona, through Texas, Mississippi, Florida and then up to Minnesota, Maine, Cape Cod, south to Tennessee, west to Oklahoma and finally Texas.  We spent $3986 on diesel, averaging about $332 a month. Fuel mileage varied whether we were towing or not and if we were ascending or descending hills and mountains, stuck in traffic or flying smoothly over the desert areas.  A tail wind can increase fuel mileage.  We were all over the country last year.  Highest price per gallon was $2.49 in Vermont and the lowest price per gallon was $1.63 in Yuma last January.  Our best MPG was 19.5 while touring Arizona without the rig in tow.  Our lowest MPG was 7.53 in Oklahoma near the Arkansas/Missouri boarder with hill and curves in the lakes area.  Average MPG overall was 12.2.

Our propane expense was $156 for the year.  I cook with propane and we heat with it when  our Big Buddy propane heater and furnace on cold nights on low to keep the storage area underneath above freezing.  Otherwise, we use our electric fireplace or the electric tower portable space heater. We try not to stay anywhere in extreme temperatures (cold or hot) for very long.   We say that we have a 10 degree comfort area with 70 degrees the midline. Needless to say, we have not always been successful.

We have a small generator and have only used it to start it up for maintenance and to vacuum the carpet and few times when off-grid. Therefore we had nominal gasoline expenses.

Parking

This year we put our solar system to good use in Arizona on BLM lands and an dsc_0202-2occasional dry-camping spot during high use areas when electric sites were booked or parks were full. We also used our Thousand Trails Elite membership for the Northeastern part of our travels this year.  We feel that without it, we could not have afforded the trip to the beautiful northeastern part of the USA.  We still used our Senior Pass discount card at various National Park and Corps of Engineers Facilities.  We did several State Parks and City/County parks, a few Passport America and Escapees Parks and one or two Independent RV Parks.  It was a great year!

Our parking expenses were $3971 for the year which averages about $331 a month.  This includes our membership dues for the year for all memberships, but not the initial expense to purchase the Thousand Trails.  However, we recovered that expense midyear and have enjoyed the savings the rest of the year.   This dollar amount also includes five nights in a hotel while having repairs done on the RV.

Some months were around $200 (which includes the dues) and other months were $500 to $700 while visiting family in areas where parking was scarce.  As a comparison, our 2015 parking expenses were $5200, averaging $433 a month and we camp hosted a month and a half that year!  It would have been about $500 a month for parking if we had not camp hosted.  The year before, which was out first year on the road was much more expensive, about $700 a month!  We stayed at touristy spots and insisted on full hook-ups and drive through sites whenever possible, even on one night stays.  We have learned a few ways to cut parking expenses since then. We only stayed at free spots like Cabela’s or Walmart parking lots a few times (3 nights) while traveling on a destination route.  Because we go in and shop, we don’t consider those free parking.

Maintenance Expenses

Maintenance expenses for the Fifth wheel (brakes after 50K miles, nut, bolts, slide grease, wash/wax and carpet cleaning, etc.) came to $1973, which averaged out to $164 a month.  One could argue that brake replacement is not a maintenance expense but a repair.  We had a lot of repairs and felt that after 50K miles, it was a maintenance.

Maintenance for the truck (front brakes, oil changes and engine checkups) were $667, averaging $57 a month.  Old Tires were replaced as well, not included in the above number.

Repair Expenses

This is the largest expense for the past year $16000.  The major expenses (roof, additional brakes, wiring and miscellaneous, about $11500) did not come out of the budget, but from our savings.  We had read that when one buys a used rig that is not under any warranty (new or aftermarket), put some savings back for repairs. We did and were thankful for it.

I will add a short side note here that we did purchase an aftermarket warranty, but quickly found that it would not work for us or our rig.  Our rig was just on the verge of allowable age and it did pass the inspection.  However, our first claim was denied and upon further discussion with several layers of management, we realized that nothing in our rig would likely be covered.  We ceased our relationship with the aftermarket warranty company with as little financial damage as possible.  We consider the losses involved as educational tuition in the school of hard knocks. I won’t even give them the publicity of naming them….

We started off in January purchasing a new toilet because the valve that we needed was shockingly no longer available. Why not? Then in February, we had a meeting with _dsc0353reduced_1335a concrete post at a dump station which put us in the shop for three weeks in March with end-cap repair.  Insurance covered the repairs (minus deductible) for that damage, but while we were there we discovered a few additional issues that needed to be repaired.  We reroofed the fiver and other items that needed some TLC.

We replaced all four (two year old) tires on the fiver due to being sold tires that were img_20160221_092257794not suitable for our rims.  We could not safely inflate them to the proper psi. See the huge bubble right by my hand? We were newbies when we bought them after a blowout in the depth of New Mexico.  We’ve learned a lot about tire safety since then.

We replaced the brakes on the fiver (again) after the emergency brake cable released itself at 60 mph on a two lane road with no shoulder to pull off, in the middle of nowhere.

The large slide again gave us some problems and the leveling jacks pooped out, so we img_20161006_150135106reduced_2145returned to the manufacturer to have these repaired. The jacks were replaced with an upgrade to dual lifting jacks.

While having the oil changed on the truck we learned that the suspension needed some work before we could do an alignment.  That was another big expense, but we like to keep our rig in tip top shape.

We feel that we are still ahead with the cost of the rig, repairs and maintenance versus purchasing a comparable quality fifth wheel new.  For one thing, NuWa Hitchhiker’s are no longer being built.  We have a sturdy good quality rig in which we feel secure on the road and have it just the way we want it.  To purchase new, we would still need to add the many upgrades that we have added to the rig for our style of RVing.

Upgrades added in 2016

We like upgrades. If something wears out, we try to upgrade.  Upgrades this year at $1500 are as follows:

  • Refrigerator fans and controller for fire safety
  • Countertop Convection Oven
  • Solar wiring upgrade
  • Three new fire extinguishers
  • Incoming water filters
  • Wifi booster
  • Rand McNally GPS System
  • Dual leveling jacks as mentioned before

We could have done it cheaper or we could have spent more.  If one is handy and more mechanical that we are, it likely would be cheaper.  We are not unhappy with this year’s expenses but do hope not to repeat it in the next couple of years.

A quick overall sum up is below:

RV Expenses 2016 Monthly Ave
Fuel 3386 332
Propane 156 13
Parking 3971 331
Maintenance 1973 164
Expected Repairs 4500 375
Upgrades 1500 125
Unexpected Major Repairs 11500 savings

Fuel, Parking and Maintenance ran us about $840 a month.  Someone else’s expenses will be different.  Most of the repairs that we did on the truck are items that need to be done after many miles on any vehicle if one keeps it past the warranty limits.  If one is handy or mechanical, many of these items could be DIY.  We chose to use professionals.

When these repair issues happened, it never crossed our minds to get off the road.  We only thought of how can we stay on the road and continue this lifestyle?  Being safe adds to our enjoyment.

What we plan to do different in 2017

Looking back is good as we reminisce about the past and some things look better than they did when they happened, like the end-cap mishap.  We had some great times visiting Mesa, Arizona with another RVing couple also getting repairs.

It was an ambitious year full of movement.  We plan to do less movement in 2017, by  staying longer in one place and getting to know it and by not doing as much cross country traveling in the rig.  That is hard on the truck and rig and on us.   We have learned that there is a lot to see and we will probably not see it all.  We don’t want to
see things so fast that the memories run together and we forget the details of special places.  We will see how that works this year. …

Weyghm3190 ended up our year at Media Lake 1000 Trails in Texas.  They had a great New Years eve party with party favors, music, dancing and a great spread of foods.  We all went over to the fishing dock on the lake for almost two hours of donated fire works show.

Here is our 2017 selfie.

Happy New Year to all!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special sites off the beaten path

The RV Life is full of surprises.  Every once in awhile we run across something different.  Such was the case recently when we came across this interesting home built with petrified wood.   It obviously has more history to share and I would love to hear it someday.  For now, all that I can share are the photos of a beautiful old home built with petrified wood!

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The grounds alone are worth the trip. It had a small apiary, a butterfly garden and was built on the shores of the local river.

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There must be a lot of family stories to tell under the lovely natural settings.

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A hidden gem!

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Maybe another house in the making…..

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Places like this are not in the tour guide or listed in a Visitor Center.  Places like this are dear to the heart of the local residents.  If we take the time to visit with people that we meet as we travel, they will share the most special of places of interest.  This home belonged to  a family group, probably handed down through generations.   It was a rare site for us and one that I doubt that I will ever see again.