Friday, November 20, 2015

Afton Canyon-A Favorite Boondocking Spot in Southern California

Hi Kids!

Nothing like a little solitude in the desert to
wash away that Vegas taste in your mouth!
While this is not a "destination" it's a cool stopping spot that we wanted you to know about.

We have stayed here before, on our way to Southern California.

The first time we stayed here, we ventured in there looking simply for a place to sleep.
We had pulled off of the freeway in "Baker" California to have lunch, and Dad was perusing the map looking for a possible boondocking spot.

It's a nice, quiet spot. At night the stars
are so bright it's almost unbelievable.
As luck would have it, we were already there. Afton Canyon is a BLM campground that is way off the freeway just on the edge of the Mojave Preserve off of highway 15.

You drive down a dirt track road for what seems like further than it is, and wind your way into a canyon that is a stunning escape from civilization, and yet just civilized enough to get a truck back there.  It is a rough road, and I would not recommend travelling it with a light duty vehicle or a trailer.  Definitely not if the weather is bad. You can see where water has washed out the road in flash floods and they have had to come in a re-grade it.  There are some steep sections that made me a little nervous, but you know Dad, he just throws it in 4 wheel drive and keeps going.  I was ok, because I knew there would be wine at the end, thank GOD.

There is a lonely stretch of track that
runs through the park.
It's a favorite destination for off-road vehicles and has several small campsites that have tables, fire rings and a small sun shade roof over the tables.

With our discount from our Annual Pass, it cost us a whopping $3 to stay here.  After Vegas, this fit our budget perfectly!

Tomorrow we continue our trip heading to the Los Angeles area and you-know-where, but we will take our time.  We will make one more stop on the way, probably another very low-budget type place.

Our solar panels have been performing as we had hoped, and we are not wanting for anything.  Pretty awesome, not having to have hookups or anything, it opens up a whole other world of choices for places to stop over and we get to see some places that most people never get to see.

More soon! Love, Mom

Saturday, November 14, 2015

LOW LOW Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas

Hi Kids!
The Hoover Dam. Wanted to see this my whole life!
 As we headed west, it got warmer and warmer, especially at night, though it was still dipping down into the 30's.  Finally we got to Lake Mead and wow, what a sight.

We had been traveling along the Snake River for some time. The Snake is one of the nations biggest, most powerful rivers, and not surprisingly, one of the most exploited.  It provides the water and power to a large portion of the desert Southwest, and Las Vegas could not exist at all without it.

It is the Snake river that winds down from the north and cut it's way through the country, creating the Grand Canyon.  It's a tremendous river, it reminds me of the Columbia River at home.  Just like the Columbia, several hydroelectric dams have been built to harvest it's power.  The biggest of these, the Hoover Dam, created behind it the impressive Lake Mead.  It's a gigantic water resource for recreation and more importantly, a water source for millions of people and the cities they live in.

My fears confirmed, Lake Mead is at horrifically low levels.
You have heard me talk a lot about the terrifying reality that the level of Lake Mead is falling quite rapidly now. This has been due to the combination of over use and years of drought and low snow fall in the mountains in the surrounding area that supply water to the Snake River and it's tributaries.  There is much debate as to the root cause of all of this, but the result is the same: The lake is draining itself, and this has catastrophic implications.  There simply IS no other water source that can provide what this lake does to all of the surrounding cities.

As we approached Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, I was curious to see if all of the hype I had been following in the news was just that: HYPE, or reality.  Sadly, I must report that it appears to be at least as bad as I had read, and perhaps even worse.  I have no idea how the people in the area feel about it. Are they concerned? Are they actively trying to conserve water and power?  I hope so.  The clearly marked white "bathtub ring" around the lake is proof that cannot be refuted; The lake is draining.

Our excellent, inexpensive spot at Boulder Beach campground
Only $5 night with our America The Beautiful Pass!
We had planned to stay at a National Recreational Area near Lake Mead. These are great places to stop over, and are almost always near water and fun and are almost always very inexpensive to use and well kept.  This park was no exception! This park was adjacent to a privately managed RV park that was mostly fulltime RVers, and had excellent amenities.  Don't forget to check out these types of parks when you are traveling, we have never been disappointed.

The park wasn't crowded at all and we were able to select from many different spots.  There were no hookups, these parks almost never do have them, but as I always comment, we certainly don't need them with our Lance. We have the solar panels and the radiant Olympian heater, and big water and waste tanks... we just don't need anything!  It opens up a HUGE amount of resources for us to stay overnight just about anywhere.

This park had an RV dump station and a place to take on fresh water so this made it an extra cool spot. Next door, in the RV park with full hookups, they had a clean laundry facility so I was able to get in there and do our wash.  Just can't beat that!

Shipwrecked floating bathrooms, a common sight, really bad.
At left are two restrooms that used to be on the water attached to the dock area.  As the water recedes, they just keep dragging them out further and further. In the distance, you can see where the beach should be and it's like walking around on the moon.  Very unsettling for sure.

 We visited a local marina, actually a HUGE marina full of boat slips and businesses, there were a couple of cafe's there on the water and several boat servicing businesses.  We walked out the long ramp to get out there, just to check things out.

Too bad Carp aren't good to eat. They are THICK in the warm
lake around the docks. They beg for food and follow you around.
Wow, the water is warm in the lake, for obvious reasons, and you know what that means: CARP. I know we have a few carp at home here and there but NOTHING like we saw here!  It's pretty obvious that nobody or nothing eat carp because they are thriving unchecked.  It's hard to depict in a photo, but they follow you along the dock as you walk. They are everywhere, clearly people must feed them.  They come up out of the water, smacking their lips at you.  It's creepy!

 Well, off to Las Vegas after this.  We will be staying right on the strip at the RV park next to Circus Circus like we did last time.

More soon!! Love, Mom.
You can see how far you have to walk and then the long road
down to the water level. It's really obvious that something
has got to change or this lake will be no more.

Route 66-We DID Get Our Kicks!

Hi Kids!

Seligman, AZ on Route 66!
So we were headed toward Vegas and Lake Mead and all that as planned. It was late morning after having left the Grand Canyon and the sun was just shining all over the place, and all was right with the world.  We were traveling down I-40, which is the main East-West connection to Los Angeles from parts East, and we had been on it for a couple of days now. I-40 replaced much of old historic Route 66, which was the main through-fare in bygone days.  I had always wanted to see it.  There are many areas of the historic route that are still there and you can see much of the historic nostalgia that it contains.  The Disney movie "CARS" depicts characters and scenery directly from areas of this famous roadway, if that helps you visualize better!

It was like being in a movie set!
Anyway, so we are screaming down the freeway and we came upon a well-known piece of the old Route 66, so with guidebook in hand, Dad took the exit and we traveled along the old, 2-lane highway that led us into the famous town of Selligman.  I didn't have high expectations, because very little planning went into this little detour, but I have very fond memories of when I was very young, and traveling with Grammy and Grandpa in California to visit Grandpa George and in those days, that is how his town always looked.  He owned a Texaco gas station that looked every bit like the ones we saw today.  I remember big Grandpa George, a former boxer and self-proclaimed ladies' man, he would be there with his hair slicked back with Brilcream and his sleeves rolled up over arms as big as tree trunks. He would pick us up and I remember his hands were huge like a giant's hands and he always smelled of aftershave.

It was a step back in time, so cool.
So we drove in to the town of Seligman, and WOW.  It was SO COOL.  It had just enough real rust and destruction to lend it the authenticity that cannot be faked.  Lots of old-school neon signs and the old style motels that I remember from my early childhood where you drove right up to the door of your room.  I guess it's nostalgic to some of us, and just quirky to others, but the history and Americana here really resonated with me.  We had such a fun time because at this time of year there was a minimum of tour buses and people and we were able to take our time and soak it in.  I doubt very many people have pictures of themselves here without hoardes of people all around.

There was NO WAY we were missing this!
As we were leaving town, there it was: The Roadkill Cafe!  Well, there was no way were driving past that.  Dad parked the camper in the lot and we went inside and enjoyed a really delicious lunch in a very quiet cafe. The waitress actually apologized because it was so empty that time of day! Was she kidding? We were thrilled! We read the endless stuff on the walls and had a great lunch. They have thousands of dollar bills with names and things written on them stapled all over the walls and ceiling. Dad added ours to the collection. They told us where it would be mounted and so we will know where to look for it when we return again!

What a great little detour on our way to TACKY Las Vegas!  I filled up my tank with authentic Americana and will take that with me to the least authentic place on earth: Las Vegas.  I guess there is a certain originality to it's FAKENESS, and God, I love it!  We are having so much fun and talk endlessly about how much we wish we could travel here with all of you.  It would be a HOOT!  Miss you all! Love, Mom.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Grand Canyon NP, South Rim

At last! The Grand Canyon South Rim NP!
Grand Canyon NP, South Rim

Next morning we had our coffee as usual. It was very cold out all night and we had to use BOTH the furnace and the radiant heater to keep things above 60 in the camper.  Unusual, but I have noticed that if there is an icy wind, it stays much colder. Makes sense.  We got ourselves all ready and chose our route to the Grand Canyon.  There were patches of snow on the ground but the sky is brilliant blue and it should be a great day.  We were undecided about whether we would hike much or not.  Grand Canyon hiking is always very strenuous (for obvious reasons) but very rewarding.  Still, we have been going at it pretty hard every day and we were a little tired.

We arrived at the NP gate and showed them our ID and Annual Pass.  Best $80 you can spend if you are going to be visiting several National Parks in the year.  Just the entrance here at the Grand Canyon is $30.  We have been to 6 parks on this trip. Clearly a good investment! Plus, it's just good citizenship to support the National Parks.  They are worth supporting, and the Parks Service is doing a wonderful job keeping them amazing for us all to enjoy for our entire lives.  These passes will allow you free entrance to much more than just National Parks too, they are a bargain.

It was sunny and clear and beautiful, could not
have been more ideal to see one of the worlds wonders!
Long hikes were not on the agenda today.  Really the only hikes in park are grueling, into-the-canyon hikes or the 13 mile long rim trail.  We opted to start at one end and drive to the several viewing points and visit the exhibits there, taking time to enjoy the well-done displays the park offers, including the excellent movie shown in the beautiful theater at the Visitor's Center.

Before we began our tour, we paused in the parking lot for our brunch, and took our time as we always do. It's a great benefit to us not to have to try and find something healthful to eat at the expensive snack bars.  We are into day 11 of our trip and only one time have we purchased prepared food, and that was at a casino buffet.  (Exempt from the healthful eating rule!)  The upside to this (besides saving a ton of dough) is that we feel great during our travel.  Many people comment on a long trip that they have digestive upset or just don't feel their best, and they blame the trip, but I think it's more about the DIET. Works for us anyway.
it's the diet.  Never underestimate the impact of strange, low-quality food and drink on your body.

Inside the watchtower, built of rock from the canyon in
meticulous detail by a WOMAN no less!
As everyone always says about the Grand Canyon, it's impossible to describe, and I will have to agree.  It's just the most amazing, awe-inspiring sight, and every American should see it.  I would add that our choice to visit in the early winter was a great idea.  There were plenty of people there, but we had no problem with crowds or parking or annoying throngs of people in super-hot summer heat.  YUCK!  It was breezy and cool, requiring a coat and hat, but beautiful blue sky and blazing sun. The air was crystal clear and we could see for many miles. Ideal conditions for viewing the Grand Canyon!  Highly recommended. (This is early November).  We commented often on how miserable it would be with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and 100 degree temps.  NO WAY!!

Boondocking, our favorite, only 4 miles outside the park gate.
Forest Road #688

We use the "Allstays" app to help us (among other tools) navigate to various things.  Places to sleep is the main reason we use it. We like it because it gives you the option to filter in or out whatever categories suit you.  We always monitor the Forestry Departments campgrounds because they are always located in National Forests (which are almost always vast stretches of wilderness in our western travels).  Luckily, only a couple of miles outside of the Southrim Grand Canyon you are back into the Kaibab National Forest, and that means Forest Service roads and campgrounds!  Most are very cheap or free and almost never full.  They often don't have entrance signs, only a small "FR" (Forest Road) marker with a number on it. We have enjoyed some of our most memorable, scenic and FREE stays on these forest roads.  Often, it isn't even a "campground" but just a long, dirt road and you can boondock on these for no cost, nation wide.  PERFECT for us truck campers!

Butterscotch trees, I love them. Their bark smells of butterscotch.
The downside? Well, there isn't one really.  Sometimes we come across a mess left by some LOSER people who leave their garbage, but that's not the norm.  Last night we were awakened by a sizeable pack of coyotes literally right outside our camper yipping and carrying on and playing and arguing.  Not such a bad thing, right?  They were probably searching for where the BBQ chicken smell was coming from, but we know to pack everything up and put it away inside when we stay in these remote areas, the wildlife is no joke there and you don't want to encourage them, also it's illegal and causes them to form bad habits around people that end up getting them shot.  Always put away your food and cooking items at night!

It was more brilliant sun the next morning as we headed south toward Williams, and then to an as-yet-undecided stopping point.  We are leaning toward Lake Mead and Hoover Dam and Vegas.  Sounds good to me!  I am really interested in seeing the devastatingly low level of Lake Mead. I have seen pictures, but I want to see it in person.  Even though we have been all over this area before, I have never seen Hoover Dam.  Must rectify that! And Vegas? Vegas is always on the agenda!

Petrified Forest NP

Hi Kids!

Here we are at Petrified Forest NP!
 Petrified Forest is not actually a forest, well it IS, but not any more.  There isn't really any trees anywhere, it's the desert.  But what a crazy, amazing place it is.  As with several of the National Parks, this place, the "Painted Desert", started out as a tourist attraction. Rail was laid through park boundary and soon the railroad began promoting America's scenic wonders hoping to boost passenger service.  Luckily, John Muir, the greatest friend that our National Parks ever had, put a stop to all that and set in motion the process to preserve this national treasure for all generations to come.

Again, there are more than 600 ruins of the Puebloan cultures here, and they are still studying them to this day.  It's difficult to imagine, when you are there, how anyone could have even survived in such an arid, hostile environment, but then maybe it was a little more hospitable then.  It's a long drive through the park, and you can stop at several view points and attractions throughout.  There is some hiking, which is optional, and you can view the various geologically significant landmarks there.

The hike through Blue Mesa trail is easy and paved.
 We hiked the 1 mile "Blue Mesa" hike through huge hills of bentonite clay.  They are literally CLAY, you can reach out and pinch off a piece and squish it in your fingers.  All around you, scattered everywhere, are pieces of broken petrified trees. You are warned repeatedly when you enter the park not to touch or take any of the petrified wood.  In the old days, before it was protected, it's surprising to know that they used to haul trainloads of the stuff out of the park to grind the petrified wood into powder for industrial grit.  Shocking.  If you want to get your hands on some petrified wood, don't worry, there is loads of the stuff on the ground outside of the park and you can get it there!

It was cool to see the nostalgic "Painted Desert Hotel.
We stopped in at the "Painted Desert" hotel, where all kinds of people stayed to come and marvel at this wondrous place.  You can see photos of all of the people, motoring out in their Model A's and Studebakers.  Really interesting stuff.  It must have been insufferably hot in those days with no air conditioning and no shade.  I mean, there are rattle snakes and scorpions, this is bonafide desert!  I wouldn't want to visit here in the summer, it would be like being in hell.

Old Route 66 passes through this National Park.
As always, we were amazed at the scenery and history here.  We are so blessed to be able to tour this part of the country.  I spent most of my life unaware of some of the stunning resources America has, and I sincerely hope you all don't wait as long as we did to go and see it.  Truly inspiring.  Love, Mom

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mesa Verde NP

HI Kids!

Here We Are Kids!
Mesa Verde National Park!
We just left Mesa Verde NP.  We were only there for a few hours, because of the time of year that it is.  Just a few days ago they closed all of the tours of the cliff dwellings, which are the main attraction for this park.  You can still view them from overlooks, high up on the mesa plateau, but you cannot hike into them.  That's OK, we will do that next time, maybe on a trip here with you!  We usually leave any National Park with a list of things we want to do next time we go... I cannot wait to go back to Zion and hike more, or to Bryce and hike the Queens Garden loop because when we were there they had experienced a recent washout and it was closed. This happens frequently in the parks, because they are so susceptible to the weather.  That's ok, it's a good reason to return someday.  Mesa Verde is no different.

It's all about the Puebloan Cliff Dwellers here at
this park.  This is just one of many cliff dwellings they built in
the 1300's.  It may look like a toy model, but it's actually huge
I am just far away from it up above.
There was an older Park Ranger talking to a young couple who was sharing that their parents had been to this park in years past. The Ranger was saying that he had been working in this park and giving tours since 1976! That's a LONG time! He said he was visiting with a couple who had been in the park when he was a young ranger and he thought the should check their picture album because he thought he would be in the pictures. They couple went home and checked, and sure enough, there he was!  They emailed him 2 weeks later the photo. Isn't that cool?  There are some really awesome people who work the National Parks.

This park commemorates the Puebloan people who inhabited this area from about 900-1300 AD.  The park is huge, and you drive from one exhibit to another and see the different cliff dwellings they constructed.  These people farmed the mesa above and then lived in the villages they built into the cliff overhangs which gave them protection and shelter from animals, weather and each other.

Sometimes, you are literally right on the edge of a cliff! Dad is
OK with posing there, but it makes my knees weak!
There are more than 600 cliff dwellings in this vast area and more than 4500 archaeological sites.  You also have access to museums and other displays to help you understand how amazing this place is.  The history of the discovery, exploitation and then finally the preservation of this site is extremely interesting. What an incredible history exists within the boundaries of our Nation.

Mesa Verde is in Colorado, and it's my first time in Colorado!  Appropriately, the landscape has a light covering of snow, almost from the moment we got into the state, and that is just how I pictured it.  It's much colder now, too.  The low here at Mesa Verde NP tonight is 17 degrees!  Quite an adjustment from just a couple of days ago!  This is as far east as we are going to travel in the state, and now will turn our grill toward the south again for the next few days.  We will be stopping at the Towaoc Casino for the night.  As you know, we are avid users of boondocking opportunities!

Dad is out topping off the diesel before we head out of town. The sun is just starting to go down and it's very chilly outside.  I will be glad to be on well-traveled roads again because I don't want any part of icy, snowy roads!  Driving in Colorado in November would probably assure this, so I am glad that we will be back into warmer climates by tomorrow!  We will be traveling through New Mexico on our way to Arizona tomorrow, and of course stopping at "Four Corners" so dad can plant his feet in all 4 states at the same time. The next National Park we will visit is Petrified Forest NP, and it's not a forest, it's actually in the painted desert in Arizona, full of trees that are pretty darned old and dead. Miss you all to bits! Love, Mom.


Well, here's irony for you.
So last night, we stopped at a local tribal casino to sleep.  Naturally we patronized the casino.  That meant leaving whatever cash jangling in our pockets in the Willy Wonka slot machine, and in the Wizard of Oz slot machine.  We are getting really good at this by the way, if you got points for losing, we would be winners.  Anyway, so on the way to the Petrified Forest National Park today, we took the route that would allow Dad to visit the "Four Corners Monument", something he had his heart set on.  When we arrived, we were confronted with a sign stating that the "Navajo Nation Four Corners Monument" was upon us, though the sign was so covered in graffiti that we could barely make out what it said.  I had a bad feeling about it...

We turned in and drove up to the rusty gate, and there was a stop sign, and a notification that it would be $5 per person to get in.  Keep in mind, we just drove 20 miles off of our route to see this thing.  Big, tattered sign: "CASH ONLY".  Uh oh.  We didn't stop and get cash yet. I'll just cut to the final chapter here: Dad's not happy and he did NOT get to stand in four states at the same time.  Things can just go wrong sometimes, and this is one of those things.  We could try and explore the reasons why a "legitimate business" does not accept credit/debit cards at a very popular tourist attraction... but we still would come up with the same conclusion: a 40 mile side-trip that returned zilch.  Thankfully, we have an annual "America the Beautiful Pass" for the National Parks so that won't happen there.  But then, it wouldn't have anyway, would it?  Definitely will be stopping at the ATM in Gallup, NM!

Remember Kids, if you want to get notified every time I put up a new blog post, then subscribe to it! Love, Mom.

Twin Arrows Casino, 20 Miles East of Flagstaff, AZ

We decided to boondock at this casino for the night and then travel the next morning up to the South Rim Grand Canyon NP.  On our 2013 Big Trip we visited the North Rim Grand Canyon NP, and it was really amazing.  Lots of nature and trees and it was COLD!  So beautiful, and we said at the time, if we get the chance, we want to visit the South Rim (the most popular by far) in the OFF season when it is cooler and a lot less people.  This is the year!

It's always a gamble (haha, pun intended) when we go to a new casino for boondocking. But we really can't lose, because we are there to sleep.  If it meets our criteria for a fun place to play, then that is just a bonus.  Ok, I admit, our criteria for playing is pretty low... most casinos make the cut.

As we approached the big city of Flagstaff, it had gotten dark and we were definitely hungry and ready to get off the road.  It was a long stretch of highway cutting into the dark, and off in the distance we could see one of those huge led signs and a lot of lights spread out in the desert.  Wow, I thought this might be a bigger casino than I had thought.  Well, it was.  In fact, I would say that outside of Vegas and Reno and the like, this is the biggest, nicest tribal casino (Navajo in this case) we have been to.  WOW it was nice!  Really felt like we were in Vegas.  Huge, flat parking lot, NON-smokey interior (BIG plus for us, hate smokey casinos) and affordable, decent food.  They gave us a nice little present of $10 to start off with when we joined their players' club and off we went.  We didn't leave empty handed, though not big winners either, so in other words, we WON!  Haha! Love, Mom.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Arches NP

Hi Kids!  We are still alive and still trying to beat the weather! We plan to spend 2 days here, there is a lot to see.

Arches NP! We have been wanting
to visit this park for a long time!
We had high expectations of Arches National Park. We have seen all the photos and seen the Utah State License Plates with "Delicate Arch" on them.  With our weather window quickly closing, we headed into the park and secured a campsite in the VERY nice campground-still, no hookups of any kind and only water near the bathroom, no ability to fill up tanks with a hose. We part from our usual routine of staying in a campground when we are IN the National Parks simply because it saves tons of mileage if we are going to be there hiking and recreating.  MOST of the National Parks offer only primitive, small, though very nice campgrounds.

Normally, we do a good job of planning, but for some reason, we were a little absent minded about taking care of business before heading into the park.  Our holding tanks were on the full side, and our water was nearly gone.  Don't make that mistake!  Luckily, we brought along our handy portable water fill tank that usually rides, unused, in the rear of the truck cab.  We were darn glad we had it!  Dad was able to use it to add some much needed water to our holding tank.  A toilet that doesn't flush can quickly make Mom MOODY.  No worries, mission accomplished!  We got settled in and studied our guidebook to make sure we saw as much as we could of the park before the weather changed on us.

Arches Day 2:

Good Morning Kids!

It's so amazing hiking in this area.
Yesterday we did quite a bit of hiking.  Probably covered about five miles in total all day, but they were "Moderately Difficult" which meant rock scrambling and steep climbing involved, and boy, does that make a huge difference.  I am really feeling it today.  We hiked up and saw the famous "Delicate Arch", this is the one you see on the Utah State license plates.  I was shocked at the hike, I guess I was envisioning the arch being on a plateau and we would drive up and see it from a distance. Not at all.

We hiked up a mile and half at a very steep and (for me) hair-raising climb, around a cliff edge and then the arch itself was part of a large, slickrock bowl... very precarious, and terrifying for anyone (like me) afraid of heights.

There it is! Delicate Arch! Wow, what a hike.
I wouldn't want to do this hike in gusting winds like we have had the last couple of days... you could get blown right off the side with very little effort.  Of course I was forced to endure watching a group of very athletic 70-somethings clamoring around the bowl and posing in the arch... I could barely even LOOK at it, let alone run over there.  There are no "guard rails" or anything, and people must die here, I am convinced.

We left Arches this morning to head for Colorado. You know Dad, he wants to go to "Four Corners" so he can stand in 4 different states at the same time.  We will be going to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado as well.  The weather is not improving for us, and it is supposed to snow there today, so we are going to do the best we can.

Check out the slickrock in the far distance, upper left.
Those little specks are people,
on the wayto Delicate Arch.
The nights have been stormy and cold, but we have been very comfortable in the camper, as always.  We have been using the Olympic radiant heater every night.  Our batteries would never make it otherwise, because of lack of daylight hours, the solar would not be enough to keep us totally charged with the furnace running.  We have yet to plug in anywhere or use hookups.

We let ourselves get a little too depleted on water and full tanks and yesterday and we finally got into the town of Moab to "refresh" (empty tanks and fill up freshwater)  Luckily there is a local gas station and convenience store called "Maverik" that allows free RV dumping and fresh water filling. Super awesome of them to do this, and we are certainly grateful. We filled up our diesel there too.  We stopped at a small laundromat there and did our one load of clothes (first since we left a week ago) and while that did it's thing, we walked next door to a small grocery and bought some food.  I bought some salad, because I feel like we haven't any fresh veggies for a while and Dad looks like he might be getting scurvy.

Everything was nice and fresh after the stormy night.
Last night, right after we arrived back at the camper after the very satisfying day of hiking, we no sooner got in the camper than another squall blew in with cold air and rain.  It's so different when it rains in the dessert, the water rushes down the slick rock faces into "washes" which are like little flash-floods the appear almost immediately.  Then, it disappears almost as quickly as it arrived.  It made for a beautiful hike yesterday morning, with the red sand all wet, there was no blowing grit getting into our eyes and mouths and the colors against the blue sky were electric! Plus, there were tons of fresh animals tracks of all kinds as we traveled further away from people... deer, squirrels and all kinds of birds left clear markings all over the place.  The place must come alive at night with creatures everywhere!

Well, one thing I can tell you for sure, don't wait and visit all these parks when you are old and creaky like us. You will miss the very best parts, because you need to really hike out into the wilderness to fully experience the wonder they have to offer.  Our National Parks system has done an amazing job of making all of this available to us all in a very affordable, accessible way.  I have yet to go to any of them and not be absolutely slack-jawed at how amazing they are. They are all very different and unique and have their own special qualities, but they share the same quality in that they are just amazing-just like the four of you!

This morning it's on to Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park.  We took off early after morning coffee and pulled in the slides to head to new adventures.  We stopped at the Visitor's Center of the park because I had forgotten to get the obligatory T-shirt from Arches NP.  I chose a nice long sleeved one in honor of the colder place we were headed.  Todd's credit card was declined at the register so after reluctantly using our debit card to purchase my T-shirt (Debit cards are NOT a safe option these days kids) we got to the truck and I called our bank to find out what was going on.  Sure enough, our traveling gave them the heebeejeebees and they shut off our card.  I guess we are just too transient for them!  It's nice they make sure though, but it's a little bit embarrassing when your card gets declined!  Oh well. They apologized and turned the spigot back on, so we are off to CHARGE IT!

Literally took less than 30 minutes to get
the rock chip repaired!
Just as we were about to head out of Moab, I noticed a small but nasty looking rock chip on our windshield with the "star" effect starting already. Knowing we were headed for much colder climates tonight and tomorrow I dialed up USAA, with whom we have our auto insurance.  After a few minutes with a very polite and professional technician on the phone, they directed us to a glass repair shop only about 1/2 mile from us.  They called them and made arrangements, and with just a signature and 10 minutes of our time, we were back on the road with a repaired windshield! I don't see how it gets better than that! Thank you USAA!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Canyonlands NP Is COOL!

Here We Go! Canyonlands National Park!
Hi Kids! We sure miss you already. Dad told me to quit whining and being a weanie, he's worried I won't travel much, especially after the new granddaughter arrives. Hmmmm.  A good question, I admit.  We know why he is really worried, as you know, he only knows how to make pancakes. I am the chief chuck wagon chef.

We weren't sure what to expect at Canyonlands National Park.  If I had to sum it up, I would say: It's like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon, but it's much more than that.  Certainly worth the effort, and I am really glad we were able to include it in this trip.  You must go see it.

I told Dad, you can only take a photo if there is one of us IN IT.
The Utah National Parks have that surreal, prehistoric feel that elevates the whole experience into something really special.  I will not even attempt to describe it to you, I don't think it's possible.  We often feel as if we are playing inside of an episode of "The Flintstones".  It's amazing. Huge, colorful slickrock hills and canyons and red sand with the sagebrush and juniper growing where it can manage to.  Just beautiful, and so hostile.

The weather app on my phone told us that our unseasonably beautiful weather was not going to last, so inevitably our thoughts were turning to trying to maximize our hiking opportunities and planning accordingly.  The National Parks system has done an outstanding job of making most of the most stunning highlights of the parks accessible by car and only a short to moderate hike.  This was a blessing this trip as we were trying to cover a lot of ground while the sun was shining. The weather is usually great here, but the winters are not to be trifled with.  Powerful wind storms with rain and snow threatening kept us thinking of being efficient.

Yes, he really is standing on the edge of infinity... It was hair-raising
One of the standout features that will remain with me about Canyonlands (not in small part due to my uneasiness with heights) was the "Rim Trail" that is accessed from the "Grand View Overlook".  Absolutely stunning as you stroll, with NO guardrails, along the edge of a enormous precipice into eternity.  It was exciting, and scary and awe inspiring.  I shudder to think of anyone bringing small children or pets (pets are prohibited) because you are literally steps from certain death.  On this particular day, as foul weather was on it's way, the wind was gusting mightily.  It was scary to even be near the edge with the wind enticing you to fall over the edge. I have all kinds of demons inside of me, pulling me toward the edge, beckoning me to infinity.

Beautiful sites, but small, no hookups of any kind.
We continued to tour the park with an eye on the sky, ever thankful that we were afforded the good weather we have enjoyed so far.  We knew we were on borrowed time.  Our Lance camper has been performing flawlessly, keeping us fed, comfortable and clean while we played in this giant, wild playground.  There are a few very small campgrounds, but no hookups, not even water to be had.  It's strictly dry-camping and we know that we were some of the most comfortable people there.  We watched one poor campers tent flapping from the one brave remaining tent stake like a flag in the wind as we played "Farkle" and sipped our wine at our cozy dining table. The sites are all extremely small, not intended for much more than a vehicle, and not many can accommodate more than that.

Tomorrow we hit Arches National Park!

Here We Are Kids! Capitol Reef National Park

HI Kids! It's us, your vagabond parents;

Here We Are Kids!
Capitol Reef NP!
We are at Capitol Reef National Park

The weather is beautiful right now.  Low 70's and sunny, unseasonably nice.  We missed all of the fruit in the historic orchards of this park (park visitors are welcome to partake of the 2700 fruit trees) but other than that, we feel we hit this one just right.  We took advantage of the extremely clean and well-cared for RV park near Fruita Homestead, only $20/night.  There are no hookups, but as I say over and over, we don't need them at all.  There is a dump station and fresh water access so we will be able to "refresh ourselves" before moving on to the next stop, which will be Canyonlands National Park.

Hiking Cohab Canyon.
Yes, Dad ran like a thief
after he put the camera on a tripod.
After we arrived at the visitor's center, we got our passport cancellation and I bought a new T-shirt. I love having National Park T-shirts from parks that we visit.  It never fails I end up meeting great people who comment about it when I wear it: They have either been there, or want to go there and it's always fun sharing our stories.  Then we got settled in at the campground and decided to do the approximately 3.5 mile hike into Cohab Canyon which was right across the road from our site.  The first 1/3 mile of the hike, as our guidebook said, truly is grueling, especially if it is your first hike of the trip in new hiking boots!  Very much climbing up, up, up and then you get to the entrance to the beautiful canyon.  Well worth the effort.

It was quite eery to be so alone. Not another person did we see on the entire hike, and we could almost feel wild life eyes upon us.  It was a little disconcerting to see fresh tracks where we were walking-is that a coyote or a mountain lion??-we were unarmed (unusual for us).  A scary thought, but we would be completely helpless if something of that nature happened.

Don't try this with your "Big Rig"!!
We got back to the camper, and relaxed a bit and then Todd decided we needed to drive up the road and see some of the scenic drive.  So, up we jumped, put our hiking boots back on and pulled the slides back in on the Lance.  We drove down the road for several miles and enjoyed the views as the sun was beginning to get low in the sky.  The light playing off of the red, black and tan canyon walls and hills around us was breathtaking.  We got to the end of the road and a couple was grilling in a small shelter there in the parking area.  He shared that we could keep going down the dirt track and into the canyon, where there would be a small parking area and then we could hike even further into the canyon.  Well, Todd put the truck in 4 wheel drive, and down the track we went.

This is what is called a "wash" where flash floods
rage through after a storm.
Wow, it was gorgeous.  Clearly there had been torrential rain in the not-too-distant past, and the road had been re-graded.  The National Parks do a great job of making everything accessible. It made me shudder to think of being in the canyon during a rain storm and flash floods.  Clearly it would be perilous.  But on this evening is was gloriously beautiful and hardly anyone about.  We traveled deep into the canyon and got to the end of the dirt road.  We decided to hike in a ways and see some petroglyphs and whatever treasures the canyon might offer.  We walked for some time up what is obviously a dry river bed that probably flows in the winter.  We came to a sign indicating that "the tanks" were nearby, up the side of the canyon. It was quite a scramble getting up there, and somehow we got off of the trail.  We tried and tried but could not find the Tanks (large holes in the rock filled with water in which entire ecosystems exist).  We traversed the rocks and climbed, but to no avail.

Having A Blast!
Suddenly, we noticed that it had gotten quite late and that the sun had set some time before.  Todd said, "We better get outta here, it's getting dark!"  Yes, we were "those people" who got off the trail and then it started to get dark.  I commented that the park ranger was probably going to come back here and cuss us out for being on the trail after dark.  This was better than talking about what I was really thinking about, which was, once the sky goes dark, we will not be able to see anything and might get lost in this canyon!  There are mountain lions out here! But, you know how brave I am, so I just toughed it out.  So we hiked back at a brisk pace, expecting any moment for something to punish us for being out here in the wilderness as late as it was: either eaten by a mountain lion or berated by an annoyed park ranger.

Really, it was just gorgeous and surreal.
Neither happened, and we got safely back to the truck.  It was now completely inky dark outside and we had to drive back to the campground with the bright lights on.  It was such an adventure though, and we saw some jaw-dropping sights.  We were so tired that dinner only consisted of two grilled steaks and some potato chips!  I had a big, painful blister on my right heel. I know better than to head out in new hiking boots on such a strenuous hike, but hopefully, my supply of thick band-aids will hold out.  Our warm bed felt good, for sure!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hello Utah!

Thursday, October 30th

We just traveled today and arrived in Mountain Home, Idaho.  It was a given that we would be staying in one of our favorite boondocking spots (or dry camping, depending on your preference, we call it boondocking).  It turned out to be a Walmart, and we got settled in with a few other rigs in the rear of the lot and then did some shopping inside. We always need a few things, never fails.

On a fairly regular basis, we get comments from other people when we talk about stopping over at a Walmart, or a truck stop or some other spot, that "that doesn't seem very fun".  These comments always come from a person who either does not RV much, or if they do, they only go on quick family trips to a destination, like the beach or a campground.  This is all very well, and completely normal behavior.  We do that too, frequently.  We have 4 children who all grew up RVing a LOT, and it is still our favorite mode of recreation, and I think, always will be.

When we stay at a non-recreational spot, a Walmart for example, it is NOT for recreation.  It is a place to sleep on our way to recreation.  Like now, we are on the move. Truck camping is particularly well designed for this type of recreating.  We don't go to a campground, park, setup camp, put out chairs, awnings, washer-toss games and all that.  We are on an excursion.  Sleeping at night is not part of the excursion.  It is like when you stay in a hotel. The hotel is usually NOT the destination, rather, it is NEAR your destination.

The beauty of this kind of travel is that you never back-track. You see much more, for less money, in less time than in the traditional camp-ground type trip.  Those are great when the campground IS the destination, but we are moving always forward, and make a "loop trip" that allows us to see a LOT of places very efficiently. We usually move every single day, and that is not a problem when you have an RV that is road ready in less than 5 minutes. We are like turtles, if you will.

You see, the camper looks the same inside when the blinds are drawn for the night. We could be at Yosemite or in a parking lot, it doesn't matter to us, because we are SLEEPING.  In the morning we are up early and on the road again, headed for the next adventure, usually a national park or other treasure.  We park in the regular parking lot (yes, you can do that too with a truck camper!) and spend the day playing.  When it's getting late, most times, we climb in the truck and head for our "sleeping spot" which will be on the way to our next stop, sometimes a campground, sometimes BLM land, sometimes a parking lot, it just doesn't matter.

What's the downside?  We spend a lot in gas.  Fuel, when you drive nearly every day for 2-4 hours, is substantial.  But, on this trip, we will have visited 9 states and several national parks and countless other side-trips and attractions.  We love traveling this way, it is sort of an "immersion" experience, and it's something we look forward to all year.

This morning we left our parking lot sleeping spot and headed east again, toward Utah. We will sleep in Provo tonight and it will be our last "travel day". The fun starts after that as we are then within range of our chosen attractions!  We stopped at a very picturesque state park in Idaho simply to dump our tanks and take on fresh water, all for a very fair $5.  Now we are good for 3 days on the move!  You gotta love it!

Friday, October 31

We had a nice, uneventful travel day today and arrived in Provo as expected.  We had consulted our ALL STAYS app and learned that there was a Walmart AND a Cracker Barrel there just off the freeway that would allow us to boondock for the night.

We chose Cracker Barrel, because we love them, and we don't have them where we live, so it's a real treat to go there.  Since we are "Gluten Free" there unfortunately isn't very much on their menu that we will eat, but their food and their little Country Store are so cool!  Breakfast is so good at Cracker Barrel!

And while I am at it: A big THANK YOU to all the businesses on the road who offer up their parking lots for us transients.  We appreciate that you do this, and we hope others do too.  We always patronize your stores and restaurants, and we will always be respectful of the privilege and courtesy you extend to us by making as minimal a presence as we can, and leaving the spot cleaner than when we arrived. Thank you!  I know I speak for RVers across the country when I say that it is in great part due to your generosity that we are constantly inspired to HIT THE ROAD and keep on travelling!

Before leaving Idaho, I had thrown dinner into my Thermal Pot (LOVE this thing) and so dinner was waiting when we arrived.  We had a nice dinner and then decided to take a good long walk to get the travel kinks out.  The weather was awesome, which was a nice bonus.  Not even a sweatshirt needed.  Upon returning, we chose a DVD from a big collection that we always have in the camper and settled in for the night.  Tomorrow we hit our first adventure! Capitol Reef National Park!  Yay! I get to use my new hiking boots!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Big Trip 2015-Heading East, Stormy Weather, Cool Weather RVing In Comfort

If you aren't familiar with our style of "Truck Camping", I encourage you to read my blog post on that HERE.

Our brunch stop at a stormy rest area off of I-84 in Oregon.  
With a truck camper, you don't need to park in a "big rig" space,
 and if you take an "end space" you can put your slide out
 and dine in style!
We left bright and early in the morning from Camping World and got on I-84 Eastbound. Right now, we are in "travel mode" and our plan was to get to Pendleton, Oregon and stay at the Wild Horse Casino for the night.  Our usual driving routine on our Big Trip is to drive only a moderate amount each day to keep it enjoyable and comfortable.  Once in a while we will put in a "long haul" day to get ourselves somewhere, but what works for us is to only go about 3-4 hours, or about 200 miles.  We have found over the years that we seem to think a lot better of each other when we don't over-do-it on the driving portion.  It is amazingly fatiguing.

We are both not "breakfast eaters" so we always hit the road after we have coffee in the morning and then stop around 10:30 or 11 for "brunch".  This keeps us at right around 2 meals per day, which is just fine when you sit in the truck for 3-4 hours!  For a long time I would plan "Breakfast, lunch and dinner" and we never came close to eating all that food.  Since neither one of us is "underfed" this works just fine.

Upon arrival at the casino, we did what we always do, which is to check with security to verify that we are in the preferred area for RV's to park over night.  Just because there are several RV's parked, doesn't always mean that is where they would prefer you to park!  With the Lance, it really doesn't matter to us, and this is never stressful because we can fit pretty much anywhere with no fuss whatsoever. I don't think we have ever arrived anywhere and we couldn't stay because it was "full".  We can always fit somewhere!

When possible, we orient the truck so that we will gain the most sunlight on our solar panels, and then we visit the casino for some relaxation!  Now, this is the part where "free overnight parking" is - er - debatable.  Usually our casino stops are the MOST expensive stops of the trip! But we love to play, this is NOT a requirement at all, although a great many casino's now require you to join their "Players Club" to use their lot overnight.  There is never a charge for this, and often they will give you some "playing money" of about $5-$10 for joining.  We like to laugh about one where we arrived, joined the club, stuck their $10 in a poker machine and left with $110.  NOTE: This will never happen again, but that doesn't stop us from trying.  We have a HUGE stack of "Players Club" membership cards, and if someone ever raids our camper, they will assume we are gambling addicts!  Actually, we have a "casino jar" that has our "allowance" in it.  I admit, it leaves the jar faster than it goes in!

We always do observe the "RV Good Neighbor Policy" when parking anywhere there are others around, which means we do not run our generator between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM.  It is not always easy for people to do this, especially this time of year in the colder states when the air gets downright chilly at night and there isn't much sunlight to charge your batteries if you are lucky enough to have solar. (Ok, I know, LUCK has nothing to do with it.)  It seems like there are always people parked that either don't KNOW about the "RV Good Neighbor Policy" or have decided it doesn't apply to them.  I always try to be diplomatic and assume they DON'T KNOW about it...  This saves us stress, because otherwise I would probably do something I would regret, and it would ruin our trip if, for example, I was in jail.

While we are on the topic of "Boondocking" or "Dry Camping" in the colder seasons, it's a good time to talk about some of the tricks we use to make life more comfortable (and our neighbors happier) when we RV.  There is much more to consider besides just the obvious: heat and light.  MUCH more.  Eating, for one.

Now, when we got to the Wild Horse Casino in the late afternoon, it was getting dark, it was getting chilly out, and the wind was HOWLING outside.  Happily, our Lance is completely storm proof, and we stay nice and cozy inside.  Additionally, we have installed a radiant, propane-powered heater for almost FREE heat and we have a nice, warm flannel sleeping bag on our bed.  That's a good start.  Soon after getting set up (which takes about 3 minutes) our thoughts turn to EATING!  Of course, we could eat in the Casino, and sometimes we do, but usually not.  I mean, I would rather put that money through my favorite slot machine!!

Meal prep is a large part of RVing, especially when you take extended trips, because eating at restaurants can add up quickly to the point where you would have saved money by going on a world tour on a cruise ship.  We eat very simply, but we eat well.  We often use our little grill, but on days like this, with it raining, windy and cold, grilling was that LAST thing we wanted to do.  That means cooking indoors, and THAT means you need a method that is energy-friendly. It's all about meal planning, and there is SO much you can do here!  You can read my blog post about simple meal planning in more detail: CLICK HERE.

The microwave, while fast, requires the use of the generator. Not always possible, depending on where you are and what time it is.  I would never rely on the microwave, for example, to prepare my morning coffee, because we have our coffee MUCH earlier than the "RV Good Neighbor Policy" would allow us to.  I have a very sturdy, serviceable tea kettle that I use for boiling water on the propane cooktop.  It's fast, efficient and I can always create hot water in about 5 minutes. Another tool I love is my "Thermal Cooker".  Dinner is cooking literally while we travel.  That means, when we stop for the night, we enjoy a leisurely glass of wine or a cocktail and then dish up dinner.  No scrambling to cook! It's lovely.

Another consideration: Clean up.  Washing the dishes takes a LOT of water and holding tank real estate.  First of all, limit the number of entrees in your meal to only one or two at the most. One-dish-meals shine here. Think stews, casseroles, chili, stuff like that.  Take advantage of the bliss of paper plates and sturdy plastic silver wear.  Write the expense of them off as "maid service" and consider that the cost of heating all the water and the extra hassle (and sometimes expense) of more holding tank dumping quickly puts that argument to rest.  When you clean whatever cooking vessel you are using (and hopefully it is just one) then the first thing you do is completely empty it into the garbage and WIPE IT CLEAN with a paper towel. This keeps nasty food debris out of your sink drains and uses much less water.  Then, grab your tea kettle which might still have warm water in it, pour a bit in the vessel and a few drops of DAWN dish soap. This is the BEST dish washing soap out there, because it dissolves grease both in your pot AND in your sink drains and hoses.  If it's VERY difficult to clean, then put a lid on it and bring the dishwater to a boil and let it sit either while travelling (if you can) and agitate itself clean.  Every bit of water you DON'T use is going to make your trip that much better.

Put a bottle of hand sanitizer in the bathroom instead of using the sink every time.  Germs just need to be killed, not rinsed off!  This saves a HUGE amount of water and tank space all by itself.  We only drink bottled water when we are on extended travel because it's simply too risky, in our opinion, to assure that the water you are putting in your tank from who-knows-where is clean enough for safe consumption.  Don't risk it, if you ask me.  Bottled water is very inexpensive compared to the horrible illness you can get with just ONE bad fill up somewhere.  Consider that there could have been ANY kind of hose attached to the water bib you are connecting to, a black tank flush hose.... Eeek!

Well, that's all for today. Tune in for more as we head toward Idaho and then Utah!  Please subscribe to our blog or @RomanyLife twitter account so you won't miss anything!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

BIG TRIP 2015! We Launch!

Every year we go on a month long trek in our truck camper. We look forward to this all year and this year is no different. As we usually do, we left late last evening after work and got out of town. We dry camped in a Camping World parking lot and are up and out early this morning with a quick stop at a Travel America for some def fluid! Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Defining "Home"

This stencil is on our wall.
Isn't it perfect?
We learned something very interesting when we left our sticks and bricks house and became full-time RVers. We spent a lot of time worrying about the emotional transition after leaving our house. We were focused on the "things" in our life, and that is a very natural thing to do. I think everybody does that to some extent. 

But when we removed the "things" from our life what we discovered is that buried underneath was a wonderful treasure. I dare say, had we not made the move, we may never have discovered the richness of living life with less "stuff". We will forever be grateful of the discovery of this facet of our relationship that was obscured by the debris of a life filled with things. 

No matter what our future holds we will always take this wonderful discovery with us in our hearts forever. I think this is one of the secrets that full-timers have that draws us to each other and when we meet we have an unspoken connection through something wonderful that not everybody understands.

Simple Life, Simple Meals, Simply Wonderful!

We have 4 children.  While we lived in the "sticks and bricks" of 23 years, each of those 4 children had a large number of friends.  Life on our small farm was always - lively - to say the least.  Our kids were very socially active and for some reason, they liked to congregate at our house with their friends. Throwing down dinner for 10-15 people was usually a weekly occurrence for me, if not more often.  We had quite the grocery bill! I baked and I cooked... a LOT.

Fast forward a few years, life could not be more different.  The kids grew up and started their own lives and now have families of their own. Todd and I sometimes still feel the reverberations from having so many lives ricocheting around in our home.  It always makes us smile and laugh, such wonderful memories!  They would be surprised at how much we just sit and reminisce about our life as parents of 4 busy youngsters.  But now life is different.  It's simpler. More simple? However you say it, that's what we love about fulltiming. We have the white space in our lives to be able to "savor" life more as opposed to "getting through the day" as life often dictated when our house was so full.

Meal time has been an enormous transition for me.  I STILL find myself reaching for the "jumbo pack" of items because it is economical and easier, and have to restrain myself and remember I cannot FIT that package in my RV, let alone hope to consume it all!  Smaller is the ticket. Buy the tiny pack of chicken pieces with only 5 pieces of chicken in it!  Wow, what a concept!  One head of lettuce, the small jar of peanut butter (bonus: Your knuckles don't get peanut butter on the small jar when it's nearly gone! Ha!)  Obviously there is no "savings" if you end up throwing out a portion of the jumbo pack before using it all.

I decided that in order to keep my sanity about meal planning in the small confines of the RV kitchen (and they are all small, just some are smaller than others!) I needed to scale back my strategy somewhat.  We no longer have elaborate, multi-course dinners.  We only eat a main course and ONE side dish (like a veggie or a salad).  This has been a wonderful improvement to our over-indulgent eating habit, most Americans eat way too much, and it's much easier to eat healthy.

For example, last night we simply had two small grilled steaks and a generous helping of roasted brussels sprouts.  What our meals lack in variety, we make up in serving size.  You cannot eat too many veggies, this is healthy for you.  We are very conscious of what we eat these days.  We try to limit how often we ask our bodies to process unhealthy food that we do not get nutrition from.  This improved way of eating makes that SO much easier and more natural.

The other thing we have decided is that life is too short not to eat what you LOVE every day.  We have made a pact that we will NEVER AGAIN sit down to a dinner of something that we don't really like all that much because it was "on sale" or for any other reason.  So now when I meal plan I simply shop for a few pieces of meat that we love, and a heaping portions of fresh veggies that we love to go with it, and I'm done.

Becoming a Fulltimer means a lot of adjustment in ways that you might not have planned.  Think carefully about your lifestyle and your daily routine and make sure that you aren't trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  It might be a good plan to NOT try to fit your "house" lifestyle into your new "RV" lifestyle.  Sometimes the most helpful changes hide behind "old habits".  We continue to learn from others, and I like to share things that we have had success with in the same spirit. I would love to hear about any of your meal planning adjustments that you have discovered since hitting the road!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Go RVing More Often, Here Is How

One time, a friend said, "We only have three days off, so it's not worth it to get all packed up and ready just for that."  Think of HOW MANY three day opportunities to hit the road are missed in your life if you say that every time!

Todd thinks I am SO capable. He thinks I have a knack for managing the many details that need doing in order for us to hit the road and not forget anything at home.  Well, I have a confession: It's not so much a KNACK as it is a system that's evolved over many years. I'm going to share my system with you because I want you to go RVing more.  It makes you smile, and it makes your life longer.  It's easy, you can do it too. You'll be thanking me for YEARS.

Whenever we join others on any excursion or group-camping adventure, it's a given that almost everyone needs to "run to the store" shortly after arriving, and several times throughout the trip.  Why? Usually because they forgot toilet paper, or there is no toilet chemical, or there is no soap in the bathroom... whatever. I figure, why HAVE an RV if you have to go through what TENT campers go through when they go camping?

Our Good Friends Bre and Dennis Making My Point!
Tent Campers. You know who I mean, you see these people often on Memorial Day and Labor day in the greatest concentrations if you are camping in a state camping park on those weekends.  It's their once-a-year-camping-trip (probably because it takes them a year to recover) They drive up in their SUV, open the back hatch, and "KABOOOOM!" Out flies countless Rubbermaid totes, bags, boxes, awnings, tarps, rolled up items, kids toys, dogs, pots, pans, lanterns, chairs, axes, sleeping bags, pillows, cases of water, cases of beer, volleyballs, bikes, marshmallow forks, bug spray, firewood.... you get the picture. We are always deep into our patio chairs by then, icy beer in hand, feet up, smile on face, watching the menagerie. We always think, "They will never get all of that back in that car again."

Don't get me wrong: I think it's awesome and admirable that these families go to to all this trouble, usually for their young children.  It's the ultimate display of love because WHY ELSE would they do it? Certainly not for relaxation! We are exhausted just watching them. It takes them fully a day to unpack and set up, and another to break down and pack back up, leaving about 12 hours of actual "recreating", it's like watching the Olympics! But I digress...

If you have an RV, here's rule number one: Keep it packed, ready to go. You'll GO more often! That means keep it stocked with all the goodies: dishes, pots, pans, napkins, soap, toothbrushes: EVERYTHING. When we go on a trip, we simply drop the camper in the truck and GO! We stop at the grocery store for food for the trip (yes, I have a list for that too, I'm a "list girl"). I can say without reservation, that being stocked, ready to go is the KEY reason we go SO OFTEN. We even have "camping clothes" that stay in the RV. Things like socks and underwear and a couple of sweatshirts (4 days worth: if you go longer, you use the roll of quarters you have in the junk drawer to wash a load).  And one more thing about laundry: Take either a laundry bag or a laundry basket with you. Put the dirty clothes in it. If it's less than a 4 day trip or so, you should be ok. Then, when you get home, take the basket out, wash the contents and put them right back in the same basket, clean and folded, and back in the RV ready for the next trip! On extended trips, like I said, keep a small amount of laundry soap, dryer sheets and quarters in the RV. You won't have a problem with piles of dirty clothes any more. If the basket is full, stop at a laundry mat for an hour.  And one more tip: Put the laundry soap on the dirty clothes before you go, then you don't have to haul that in with you.

You can start small: Next time you pack for a trip, leave your stuff in the RV, and get a NEW one for the house! You need a new toothbrush anyway.

We mainly use plastic forks and paper plates these days. I used to haul all the hard stuff around in quantity, and then I would spend a half an hour after every meal at the tiny RV sink, trying to get it all washed while everyone else was doing fun things outside. I finally came to my senses on that one. I also keep a few canned items inside for those days (which actually happens pretty often) when we just look at each other on an otherwise quiet weekend and say, "Hey, let's just take off!". I usually have a couple of cans of good tuna, some Tuna Helper, some soup, some pancake mix, syrup, canned beans... just something to sustain us in case we take off really late in the day and don't feel like stopping at the store till tomorrow.

Obviously most condiments like Salt and Pepper, steak seasoning, garlic salt, Tabasco, sugar, all can reside in the RV full time, unless you go an extended period between uses. Once again, the less you have to "pack" each time you go, the better.  I have all of my toiletries duplicated in the RV, lotions, makeup, hair supplies, it's all in there.  It's the only way to go.

So, what else? Ah! The LIST! My "camping list" as it's called, has evolved over the years. It is the MOTHER of all LISTS! If it's not on the list, we don't need it. I check the list religiously before we go. If my house was on fire and I only had seconds to save what I wanted, my "camping list" would be one of those things (ok, that's silly, because my list is on GOOGLE so it would survive the fire).  My list has funny things on it, like:

***Make sure there is no wet laundry in the washing machine!***
***Kitchen Garbage OUT!***

Because some things are not so nice to come home to!

A good, comprehensive list will guarantee that you will have more fun and spend less money and get in fewer arguments with your spouse. Start your list, put down, "phone charger". See? I just saved you one argument and $23 at the store. Actually, if you are doing the system to it's fullest potential, you have a permanent RV Cell Phone Charger already packed.

Actually, I have TWO lists. One is the "camping list" and the other is the "camping shopping list". I know, I am really starting to sound anal here.  But, in my defense, we NEVER forget anything at home, and we only make ONE trip to the store. That means we have MORE time to go camping in our RV and sit in our chairs and smile at the TENT PEOPLE! My camping shopping list has things on it like, "toilet chemical, dish soap, shampoo, bug spray" all of  those things that are probably in the RV but maybe we ran out of. This keeps that from happening. This list will be in my hand as we swing by the store on our way out of town.

So make your list, keep perfecting it, and get that RV packed. Don't wait till you are actually GOING somewhere. Do it now, it will make you feel happy and look forward to when you can hit the road!