Tuesday, September 15, 2015

4 years full-timing with 7 years of lessons, mods, & changes

Amazing to us (as well as most other people), Jeff, Kira, Boots, TK, & I have lived fulltime VERY comfortably in our 17’ molded fiberglass egg for over four years constant now. If we’ve met, you’ve heard me say that our bed has wheels so that we can follow the weather that fits our clothes. That way, it’s easy to live outside where there’s a lot more space for each of us. Unfortunately, we have occasionally been stuck in uncomfortable weather due to family or working situations. We’ve survived -3° overnight temps during an ice storm before Christmas in MO, four days of rain in Poudre Canyon CO when the Thompson River south of us flooded horribly, 100+° days in Missouri when the humidity was just about as high as the temp, 5” of snow with -1° overnight during Christmas camped east of Albuquerque, & numerous days of wailing wind out west. In over seven years of Casita ownership, we’ve rarely been disappointed with it’s quality, weather-worthiness, versatility, & agility. Since molded fiberglass mean no seams, all those bad weather situations (rain, hail, freezing, wind, snow, ice, heat, & humidity) just don’t have that much affect on us inside. In addition, we could probably manage an earthquake well also -- not much different than some dirt trails we’ve traveled down. If there’s a fire or a flood, we hook up & boogey. However, tornados are the one bit of weather that scares the dickens out of me, so at some point, we hope to stay out of the Plains states during the worst of tornado season. . .unless we find an Ozark cave to park in.

Over 7 years of Casita ownership, we’ve made a plethora of mods (modifications) that enhance our day-to-day existence. Here is a summary of how we manage & how configurations evolved:

Front door – First we put a house-type peep hole above the door window & put a 3-way switch on the porch light. We also added plexi-glass over the top & bottom screens on the screen door so it’s more of a storm door (plus keeps pets from scratching thru the scree).  We got the double step installed that is almost always needed since we not only got the original high axle option, but have additionally installed 15” tires/wheels, plus an additional 2” lift. All this lifting is due in part to fatally bending out of shape the original double step.

Bathroom – Our 2008 Liberty came with a wire rack above the galley sink as well as one next to the toilet. I moved the kitchen rack to two large Command hooks on the wall above the one by the toilet. I store cough medicine, antiseptic spray, etc on the top rack for quick access, & my cosmetics/toiletries in the original rack. I strung a small bungee cord thru a roll of toilet paper & hung it at the bottom of each wire rack. Has worked perfectly all theses years. We have a semi dry bath (or semi-wet?) because I replaced the original flimsy shower curtain with a regular, clear shower curtain (trimming only a few inched off the bottom) & hang it next to the closet wall (instead of the other side of the door). I use velcro to attach the shower curtain in front of the toilet so that everything behind the toilet (including the toilet paper) stays dry during a shower. This also has worked great for years. Since our 4-day old original awning got demolished in an Orlando FL July thunderstorm, I used part of the awning to velcro a little skirt under the bathroom sink lip – it hides the drain pipe. I have a walmart sack hidden against the wall to hold spare paper towels. And recently, I realized the gap between the black tank vent up the side of the wall & the bathroom window was a perfect spot to wedge in spare rolls of toilet paper. They don’t move & I can easily see when we need to buy more. Also, from the start, I have two (of the three) bars with suction cups on the wall next to the closet to hang wash cloths. I finally had Jeff move the bathroom light switch from the light at the back of the bathroom to the vent hood over the burners because I really hated reaching around in the dark to find that light switch. If I could just get the bathroom window turned upside-down, I wouldn’t be concerned with anyone looking in the open window when I sit down on the toilet (it’s a girl thing). I have yet to come up with a good occasional curtain idea tho.

Galley – The other bar with suction cup ends is in front of the sink to hang a towel on. Early on, I ordered little clips that stick to the wall behind the sink to hold spice bottles. They’ve functioned well thru the years. We also quickly moved the paper towel hanger from inside the cabinet door above the sink to the side of the range hood – close but not in the way. We also installed a coffee filter dispenser under the top cabinet that still works well there. For years, I used a cake-cooling rack over the sink, but this past winter got a small section of white wire rack to sit over the sink. Love having additional counter space while still being able to use the faucet. Someday, somehow, I’d like a wider counter top, preferably with some sort of bullnose or edge on it so eggs & such don’t roll off. Because of the serious lack of counter space, we first had a sliding shelf over the sink that has been removed, & now just have one of the little plastic patio tables I’ve used for various things now sitting at the end of the counter for the coffee maker & cat food dispenser. Works well, is easily moved, & also has storage underneath. We don’t use ice cubes much, but I like ice in a soda. Finding room in the little Casita freezer for a full ice cube tray continued to be a problem. Then I saw a sealed ice cube tray on Amazon but could never find it locally. Didn’t want to order one at the time since we were traveling too much. Then I realized using the small “portion” cups provided by many cafes & restaurants could be filled with water & individually stuck in whatever small spaces are available in the freezer. It fits perfectly in my favorite mug, plus being sealed, it doesn’t water down my drink as it melts. For a waste basket, I re-purposed a narrow, rectangular plastic container by hooking a bungee cord on the sides & hook it onto two cup hooks screwed in at the bottom of the bathroom door mirror. A Walmart plastic bag fits perfectly in that container & makes collecting/removing trash easy. I bought a $1 dish towel & sewed the long sides together & one end, put a safety pin in the open end & hung it on a curtain hook next to the top of the bathroom door to stash plastic bags. I put a couple of suction cups on the frig door to hook safety pins on dish towels. A couple of years ago, I got tired of the clutter on my precious little counter, so I crocheted some fishnet-style sacks to hang on the wall to hold coffee creamer, & a larger one for coffee & a plastic glass for flatware. I made a much bigger sack then to hang on the microwave swing-down door to store fruit. It swings down in front of the frig door when the shelf is down. Can you tell I hate to waste any vertical real estate?

Closet – We hung up most of our clothes initially, but it didn’t hold enough. I am convinced rolling clothes takes up less space & prevents winkles better than hanging (can’t explain why), but we didn’t want the extra weight or considerable hassle of making shelves for the closet. What to do? Finally I decided to macramé two shelves that would adjust to the compound corners of the closet & hang conveniently on a plethora of curtain hooks stuck around in the carpet. Shoes & a few other assorted things just live on the floor. This arrangement has also worked amazingly well thru the years. We have two heavy-duty coat hooks on the outside of the closet door (& a couple more beside the mirror on the bathroom door) for hanging the assortment of jackets thru the seasons. And I finally got some very inexpensive push-to-turn-on LED lights hanging on curtain hooks beside each shelf for additional light.

Floor – The one original option I wish we’d ordered but didn’t is vinyl flooring. The first few years of weekend camping required throw rugs over the carpet. Once going full time tho, these rugs created tons of annoying work keeping them clean. Finally, we got a clear plastic hall runner with teeth on the bottom from Lowe’s to help shield the carpet from spills & rain – with rugs on top. Then we used some stick-on tiles we never used in our house on top of the plastic. That did pretty well for several years until the tiles started breaking due to the flex in the underlying plastic runner. A couple of years ago, we bite the bullet & just got a solid sheet of vinyl that we both liked & laid it loosely over the carpet. Since the wood plank flooring many people install can be affected by moisture between the planks, we wanted a solid vinyl sheet (due to spills & tracked in rain). However, that vinyl tended to walk forward as we traveled around, so I got just 18” of that same clear plastic runner with teeth & taped it to the far back underneath of the vinyl to grip the carpet at the far back wall. It’s held pretty darn good for over two years now. Last winter in Quartzsite, we got one of the new microfiber rugs for the entry that has worked out excellent. Oh, in case anyone really wants to know – the cats’ litter box is on the floor partially pushed under the bed so 20# Boots (a Maine Coon cat) has enough room to use the box. For years, the box lived under the closet door, but I got tired of sharing that small space with it. It sort of “hides” now.

Storage – When we first got the Casita, I folded two strips of denim in half & sewed “pockets” & button holes in to hang on curtain hooks on the soffit (that thin piece of real estate between the upper cabinets & the ceiling) to store medications, supplements, & vitamins (plus hang Jeff’s multiple pairs of cheater glasses). We hang a calendar above the microwave cabinet from hooks on the soffit. We use the soffit over the galley for a pair of scissors, can opener, & long-handled lighter, with the back cabinet soffits for a red glitter snowflake Christmas ornament, & a couple of dream catchers. I have a magazine display from Staples attached next to the upper cabinet over the sink to hold an assortment of stuff that otherwise just laid around. I have a plethora of clear or white plastic containers in cabinets, next to the toilet, & under the bed to corral lots more stuff. Since we have cats & end up with numerous cat little buckets, we’ve used them hold hoses/cords, canned food, & out-of-season clothing. We have three narrow stacking drawers next to the galley (under the patio table) for extra juice & soda (handy to place in the frig when one cold drink is removed). Before going full time, we traveled to Virginia to attend a wedding, so to keep our dress clothes from getting wrinkled hanging in the closet, I put an expanding curtain rod from side to side over the bed to hang them on. It was so handy, the rod has stayed all these years. It’s a good place to hang a wet bath towel to dry in the breeze thru the windows, or park my t-shirt & socks overnight. Early on, we also hung a wire rack above the back window from the upper cabinet to park laptops, coffee cup, cell phone, glasses, etc that I wouldn’t ever want to do without.

Art work – The first years of weekend camping, I taped enlargements of some of my  favorite photos on the upper cabinet doors, but that didn’t last too long. Now I’ve simply used a brown Sharpy to simulate Craftsman-style grooves on the doors. Cheap, easy, & better than plain. Decades ago, I learned to make stained glass projects, & would love to have something in our door. But not finding something I wanted to live with indefinitely, I played with using colored Sharpies on the inside of the glass. I created a design from a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows that I continue to enjoy. Unfortunately, the ink fades & I have to fill in the colors periodically.

Windows – It didn’t take too many camping weekends to become dis-enchanted with the original blinds. I wanted full nighttime coverage of the windows, so I customized some Wal-mart curtains that worked well for years. After getting locked out of the trailer (thankfully in our own driveway after a 2-week trip), we had to cut a screen to get in an unlocked window. We replaced screens after first installing window tinting. One of the best things we’ve done. It really helps keep out heat build up & provides quite a bit of privacy. We also installed the louvers at the back of both side windows that has been a lifesaver during hot, muggy rain storms. Then three years ago tho while strolling thru Home Depot, we noticed a sale on vertical shades. Hmmm, pretty expensive, so we checked at Lowe’s which gives a 10% discount to veterans. Same sale on the same shades. . .so we got an early Christmas present. Cherry colored double cellular vertical shades which are excellent at shutting out any outside light & insulating against cold & wind overnight (next best thing to double-pane windows). During our first winter visit to Quartzsite three years ago, we checked out having awnings installed on our windows. Because of the curve of the back of the Casita tho, awning brackets will not fit. While strolling around the RV tent later, we noticed large sun screens with suction cups meant for the front inside windows of Class A motorhomes. Ah-hah, with a little trimming to fit, those suction cups work perfect on the outside of the driver’s side & back windows. I even had enough left over to cover the bathroom window (remember that issue with the windows opening from the bottom right behind the toilet)! Between the tinting & screens, we keep out a lot of sunlight & heat plus doubles the privacy.

Walls – I know some people don’t like the Casita’s carpeted walls (affectionately called rat fur), but they really do a lot of insulating against sound & cold. Unfortunately, seems that once it gets warm in the trailer, it’s more difficult to cool it down than warming it up. Anyway, I put a roll of Reflectix along the walls from the windows to the top of the seats from the frig, all around the back, & to the end of the galley. I had enough left over then to put in both corners. I covered it with the best portions of previous favorite sheets – pinned into the carpeting with “T” pins. This extra layer of insulation probably contributes to our being cozy during freezing temperatures. Plus, we like the colors!

Bed – Ah, nearly half of our little 14’ studio cabin is taken up with the bed because the Liberty layout can be made up with either a King bed in the whole back half, a regular full bed side to side with room for two seats (& a table set up in the aisle) next to the galley & frig, or as twin bunks on either side with combination aisle & table between at the back. First, we slept side to side on a queen-sized air mattress (to replicate our house Sleep Number mattress) but the “seats” soon accumulated stuff. We also tried the other side to side, but it didn’t make any different. Finally we settled on the back to front on cushions & added foam padding for many years, putting our little plastic patio tables along one side to hide things under & give the cats a “shelf” to lay on. The problem with back to front tho was lack of even more floor space. So, it was back to using Queen space, driver’s side to passenger side finally. Although climbing over Jeff to get out of bed was good strength & flexibility exercise for me & more floor space than back to front sleeping, it was a major nuisance for him & his back problems. So I finally set up twin beds for each of us to sleep, nap, recline, or set whenever we wanted without disturbing the over person. I use an air mattress (& foam pad) while Jeff prefers the firmness of the original cushions. We have the original big table top still between the beds with pillows for Kira to sleep on at night & the cats to use during the day. When I’m under the covers, I’m in bed. If above the covers, I’m reclining – and a happy camper.

I don’t miss a table in this small space (just one large area for me to park more stuff so we couldn’t eat there anyway), & if I had more storage, I’d just FILL IT UP. This small space keeps me disciplined.

Television – Until we went full time in the Casita, we didn’t carry a TV. However, since we live in the trailer now & are not just getting away from life, we (mainly me) want a television available all the time. Our house in the country north of Kansas City MO did not have access to either cable TV nor DSL internet, so we had a satellite dish on the roof for each service for years. We replaced DISH with DirecTV within a few years & when the Hughes Internet modem finally died, we got a Verizon mi-fi. We’ve been outrageously happy with DirecTV & Verizon services for years now. Since we originally slept with our heads against the back wall for years,we couldn’t see the TV hanging in the back corner so we set up a single shelf (on three legs) against the frig to hold the DVR & then hung the TV from an articulating arm attached to the side of the frig cabinet. We extended the cables thru the upper cabinets from the back corner above the bed to next to the frig to hook up everything. This arrangement has worked perfectly for four years now, with no needs to change anything.

So this is how we manage in our “small space”. I’m afraid some people would call it cluttered though since there is very little unused wall space. But, it’s terribly efficient, easy to clean, cozy but open with the three big windows, & has a space for everything we need & use. We won’t have any overnight guests, & only “entertain” outside. I don’t think we could stay for long in a house if someone gave us one. We love escaping the worst of seasons, meeting new neighbors, & seeing jaw-dropping landscapes. Plus this full time RV lifestyle has no lawn maintenance, property taxes, or permanent annoying neighbors. 

We’ve mostly stayed at Compton Ridge Campground in Branson all summer & haven’t done any sightseeing nor even much visiting since returning to Missouri. in April I’m SO loving my new little Acer Aspire Switch 10 2-in-1 computer although I don’t turn it on too much. It’s like our Casita – little, cute, lightweight, & versatile. I’ll post a summary of our unexciting summer when we head back to Arizona for the winter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Making it back to Missouri

We finally officially left the Southwest by going east in New Mexico all of 16 miles to Texas & Central TimIMG_5425e, ending up at Roaring Springs Camping Club (a private golf & camping club in the Coast to Coast network), somewhere east of Plainview TX. There were six or seven different camping areas, some up on a butte, some along a stream, some in a canyon, & some next to the golf course clubhouse (which is where we parked). I could pick up a screaming fast wifi from the clubhouse, but had to walk up near it to make a phone call (standing in one spot, facing a specific direction). There was lots & lots of green grass (Kira loved that) & lots of mesquite trees & blooming redbud trees, while still allowing for a satellite signal. Really nice campground . . .except for that no cell phone signal.











While hanging out in the golf course, we drove north an hour or so to visit Caprock State Park, the southern end of the same geologic feature that created Palo Duro Canyon to the north (which we stopped to visit last spring on our eastern migration). It has some spectacular red cliffs & rocks for Texas, but once you’ve seen southern UT, it takes a lot to beat those big red rocks. The park also has a huge herd of bison.

2015-04-02 15.12.50

2015-04-02 14.46.32



We got a phone call on the day we left from a chiropractor’s office which the VA in Branson referred Jeff to. Great, fantastic — except they wanted to see him Monday. . .4 days before we were planning on getting back to Branson. So, we stirred the jello & traveled for three days straight (something we’ve learned gets real uncomfortable) instead of hanging out for several days of recuperation.

We stopped for the night at the campground in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton OK & Ft Sill. And there really were mountains there in the OK plains. It must be really pretty when all the trees get leafed out. The refuge has a large herd of bison, plus wild turkeys & longhorn cattle.



The next we morning, we hustled off to another Coast to Coast campground near Eufaula Lake OK, also a private campground connected to C2C. A huge storm area was heading toward us, so we actually pulled out of camp at 5:37am the next morning so we could stay ahead of the rain. Every time we stopped that morning, sprinkles caught up to us. Once we got to Ft Smith AR tho, the rain continued east & we headed north. We pulled into Compton Ridge Campground in Branson at 11am — nicely ahead of the rain that arrived early evening. Yeah — we’re home!!

That was 3 weeks ago & since then Jeff’s had several chiropractic treatments that are helpful & Kira had surgery to remove the worry wart from her side (a fatty cyst diagnosed last summer). That place annoyed her all winter & she was continually chewing it raw. Turns out it had become cancerous, & since dogs can smell cancer, she knew it didn’t belong on her side. She handled the surgery, stitches, huge area shaved on her side, & the cone around her neck extremely well for two weeks. I continue to be so in awe of how well animals cope with unexpected events — mainly since they don’t have the kind of expectations that we humans have. However, that first evening, she was definitely working on giving us poor puppy-dog eyes.

The only significant thing to happen besides Jeff’s chiropractic treatments & Kira’s surgery since returning to Branson is that I finally decided to replace my Windows 7 heavy, hot, bulky laptop that has a new keyboard that has once again developed keys that don’t work. Makes for very difficult typing. And as much as I LOVE my Samsung Galaxy S5 smart phone, typing, viewing, & editing photos on it just doesn’t work well for me. After much research & sleeping on it, I finally selected an Asus Aspire Switch 10, a 10” screen 2-&-1 Windows 8.1 computer that has a decent enough keyboard with a detachable screen making it a handy little tablet. Besides the learning curve getting used to Win8.1, I’m really happy with this inexpensive, not terribly fast or powerful but lightweight, versatile, & runs cool computer. I can once again create blog posts using Windows Live & view/edit photos using Picasa (the main things I want a Windows computer for). Haven’t gotten back to spreadsheets yet, but they are my original passion on computers. I still prefer reading email & playing solitaire & Sudoku on my phone, but using an external USB 500G hard drive attached to the keyboard, I can back up every & anything & keep the zip-drive-style 64G hard drive in my computer’s screen from filling up. And I really, really like the touch screen even when the keyboard is attached.

Seems April has been cooler, cloudier, & windier than usual, but that’s what jackets are for. I’m just hoping we can escape the hot, humid muggies of summer in the Ozarks by going somewhere cool & dry (north and/or up in elevation).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary & Pie Town NM

Location: Roaring Springs, United States

We had wanted to visit Pie Town NM back in January on our way to AZ, but after the frigid, snowy experience near Albuquerque over Christmas, we didn't make it until March - a much nicer time for northern NM & AZ.

There are now THREE pie bakeries in Pie Town. The original Pie-O-Neer is only open Friday thru Sunday. The 2nd bakery is open Sunday thru Wednesday. And we arrived on a Thursday. Thankfully, the latest bakery - Danc-Syn Windmills - on the north side of the highway, at the east end of "town", had just opened for business the day before. An old, 2-room log cabin is the pie & curio shop. Six to eight old windmills, some intact, some wooden, are in the front area along Hwy 60.

And the little pot-pie sized pies were FABULOUS. I got a pecan & a berry supreme (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, & strawberries), & Jeff got apple & another berry supreme. OH MY - so worth the wait!

The other NM stop on my bucket list was a visit to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, north of Pie Town a couple of hours. I know some people think wild wolves should all be exterminated (mainly big-money ranchers & hunters with political clout), but wolves (& hawks) touch my soul. Plus I distrust anyone who is so ignorant, arrogant, damaged, and/or greedy to think they have a right to kill or torture any animal, wild or domestic. It’s the worst of human nature if they can't feel compassion, respect, & kindness towards all animals.

So I had an hour & a half walking tour of the huge wolf pens, each containing a male & a female - all neutered. The sanctuary also had coyotes, singing dogs, hybrid wolf-dogs, dingos, a red fox, & a few regular dogs (up for adoption).

The best part was hearing the entire hillside of wolves HOWLING. Even the coyotes tried to howl (they can only yip.) The whole valley vibrated with the howls.

We spent the night dry camping, & left early the next morning for the 2 hr drive back to Hidden Valley RV Campground, east of Albuquerque where we experienced our week of winter weather during Christmas.

We passed right by El Morro National Monument on Hwy 53. Mighty big chunk of white rocks.

When we got to Hidden Valley, I just HAD to mention the half dozen issues we had previously, & since I had my arguments & logic all planned, the office staff was as nice as could be. He returned the money the washing machine ate that I couldn't get because we left before the office opened, & didn't charge us the $3/day extra since we left 3 days early before which we had paid for. We even got to pick the site we wanted, & chose one of the few back in sites so we didn't have traffic driving past us all around. And the weather was definitely much nicer this time. It’s the only Coast to Coast campground in all of New Mexico, so chances are good we'll return.

From Albuquerque, we returned to Oasis State Park near Clovis NM (16 miles from the TX border) to use our NM Park Pass one last time. It expired the end of March 2015. Last year when we got it March 1st, we spent all month in NM, & again all of December 2015, so it definitely paid for itself. There's nothing hard about  $4/night for electric & water hookups. And nearly every site at every park has shelters over picnic tables.

After 3 months of Mountain Time in NM & AZ, (with a week in CA on Pacific time), then 3 weeks of Pacific Time in AZ when Daylight Saving Time started (AZ changes time zones, not time), then four nights in Mountain Time back in NM, we finally returned to Central Time in TX. It’s SO nice having my cell phone keep track of the local time (& time zones), but Kira's "feed me" time doesn't adjust as easily when changing time zones tho. Hard to explain it to a dog!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Congress AZ BLM

Well, catch-up time again. We left Quartzsite for a 4 - night stay in another Coast to Coast campground near Salome AZ. We really are trying hard to get as much benefit from this rather expensive camping club. And since cloudy days & rain have dogged us & our solar panels all winter, we keep needing to plug in.

The KOA campground was nice enough - for a gravel parking lot, but all the winter residents drove ATVs or UTVs around daily. Not a lot of peaceful time.

We're waiting for winter to finally end in MO, so decided to check out the BLM camping north of Congress AZ instead of heading to NM yet. We also stopped in to say "Hi" to AL & Kelly of The Bayfield Bunch blog on our way up Ghost Town Road. They came out to visit with us a few days later. And that Phoebe dog is so precious.

We made a couple of trips into Wickenburg, & although we've been thru it before, we're really feeling comfortable in the area. Phoenix  (Walmart, Lowes, Trader Joe's, PetSmart, & a few other toy stores) is just an hour away, & yet Wickenburg has a comfortable, western town feel. There are realistic statues around town depicting its history. And learning about the mainly mining history of the area is becoming more interesting to me than anywhere else. Yet it's a real western town with lots of cowboys & girls & horses.

Overall, we were very happy & content with this camping area, & especially our spot next to a couple of palo verde trees. And the young but big saguaro right in front of our door was always a pleasant view. Mountains ring the canyon around us, & all the campers are spread out. A live rattlesnake was spotted in front of another RV the other afternoon tho, so these higher than normal temps this month have the snakes stirring earlier than usual.

There are two cemeteries nearby: a modern one & an old pioneer cemetery. The old one was intense.

We took a drive up to Yarnell where the Hotshots were killed. Didn't see too much evidence of the fire, but lots of new houses. Huge boulders litter the area west of town with houses backed right up to them. Amazing.

The divided road up/down the side of the mountain is fantastic - & the views of the valley are awesome.

Also trekked down a dirt road to another BLM area near Stanton, but not as big, flat, or easy to get in & out of. Lots of big, mature saguaros I couldn't resist photographing.

Oh, & there's the big rock along Hwy 89 painted green because it resembles a giant frog.

Of couse, the AZ sunsets continued to be awe inspiring!!

Unfortunately, Jeff's back was hurting extremely during a rainy weekend, & he finally decided to try chiropractic treatments. After four adjustments from a Wickenburg chiropractor, he was feeling much better. Seems last year's bulging disc is caused by both vertebrae above & below it twisting & squishing the disc out to touch his sciatic nerve. Made a lot of sense (finally) since he's had a history of this causing one leg to be shorter & backaches.

Because of his back, I got (was forced) to learn how to handle dumping our tanks (with our macerator pump & a hose down a gopher hole in the sand, filling our fresh water tank from the water bladder on top of the pickup cab, charging our batteries with the pickup during rainy/cloudy days (we're looking at maybe getting a small, quiet, lightweight generator for those cloudy spells), switching propane tanks, & moving/stowing our solar panels. What a way to get exercise (& needed experience)!! We hope the VA will authorize chiropractic treatments for Jeff when we get back to Branson in April.

Since the SW heated up earlier than normal, we decided it was time to head north, & eventually east. After 5 weeks at this lush, quiet, unattended BLM spot, we reluctantly moseied off to Phoenix for a couple of nights parked on the street in front of my cousin's house. The cacti are bursting with blooms in Phoenix.

Finally we headed north on I-17 to spend a couple on nights boondocking on Crown King Rd before getting into Camp Verde RV Campground  (another Coast to Coast campground) for a few days to refresh our tanks, water, & batteries.

Before reluctantly leaving AZ, we spent a few days parked next to my cousin's cabin near Heber, way up on top of the Mogollon Rim. It’s usually 25-30° cooler up there than in Phoenix. Gorgeous country!!! but the elevation over 7,000' is slightly uncomfortable.

So finally we headed east to NM, nearly a month later than previous years. We've really fallen in love with AZ this winter & are not looking forward to Spring in MO with the humidity, bugs, & tornado risks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valley of Fire SP, NV

Location: Surprise, United States

After seeing Hoover Dam, we drove north toward Valley of Fire SP, just south of Overton, NV, & right next to the northern edge of the Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation Area. About 2 miles beyond the Park entrance is a free boondocking area. I don't think it's actually BLM, just no one's cares. It’s called Snowbird Mesa & is a couple of fingers of land (flat, gravelly  mesas) above Overton, NV & the Virgin River just before it becomes Lake Mead (the same river cutting thru Zion NP). The highway dips down sharply past the entrance to the area, so the edges of this area are pretty high. Nighttime viewing of Overton's lights was fabulous. It wasn't crowded & everyone was spaced out. Didn't talk to any neighbors & only saw a couple of campers to wave at.

We spent about 3 hours mostly driving thru Valley of Fire SP. There is a $10 self-pay station near the entrance, but the highway comes out on the west side at I-15.

This place is amazing to see & intriguing from a geological point of view. The red Aztec sandstone formations (old sand dunes turned to stone) are younger than the grey, limestone tops of some areas. Very strange. The wind erosion has created awesome formations, including lots & lots of arches (tho none as big as at Arches NP).

We had a pleasant, sunny 2 - night stay here, & Jeff got to watch the Super Bowl as well. We drove into Overton also to the only grocery store in the area. Nice selection & prices weren't bad.

On the way back to Quartszite for the Fiberglass Rally, we took the AZ route into Kingman. South of Hoover Dam is a scenic view where the Colorado River makes a sharp cut west thru the mountains. Pretty spectacular. There's a road down to the River & some kind of recreation area we didn't go see.

We stopped at Walmart on the north edge of Lake Havasu City & spent the night at another Coast to Coast campground in Earp, CA (across the Colorado at Parker AZ). I wanted to do some laundry but the campground was working on the plumbing so the laundry was closed. At least the sunset was awesome.

We made it back to Quartszite on Wednesday & the Rally officially started Friday. Got laundry done finally on Thursday. Met old friends & made a few new ones. Officially had 104 fiberglass rigs show up. Nice weather finally for good solar. We didn't leave until Tuesday cause that 10-day trip up to Death Valley & Hoover Dam & back had us needing to vegetate for awhile. I guess leaving Q means we're now on our way east to MO finally. Boy, the winter everywhere north & east of AZ has just been brutal at times, so once again, we are OUTRAGEOUSLY grateful for the chance to enjoy this winter in the SW. I just love having wheels on my bed!

Hoover Dam & Lake Mead

Location: Surprise, United States

We left Death Valley in the rain & low clouds over the mountains, drove thru Red Rock Canyon in the gloom, & decided to stay at the commercial side of Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation Area (the other side of the camping area with a senior pass discount is dry camping) to replenish our batteries with electricity, fill up with water, & dump our tanks. Plus it's located on the west side of Lake Mead with a good view of the main body of the Lake, & only a few highway miles actually from Hoover Dam.

Although walking along Hoover Dam is free, parking in the multi-story parking garage is $10. Not a bad overall charge for the visit, I guess, & we didn't want to walk all the way down hill (& then back up) from the free area on the east side of yhe Dam. The visitor center charged to just go in (like the one at Gettysburg), & I don't think that's right - so I didn’t go in!

The road to the Dam has gorgeous views of the Bypass Bridge south of the Dam, but the sides on the Bridge are too high to get even a glance at the Dam driving over it. The red rock walls are very tall above the very narrow canyon cut by the Colorado River, so it was a perfect location for the Dam.

There are several nice statues & plagues on the west side of the actual dam. And it was fascinating to see how the concrete edge of the Dam meshed with the sides of the canyon.

And the view from the Dam looking DOWN to the Colorado River nearly gave me vertigo!

The water intake towers are massive, & even more so with the lake so low.

The kewlest part almost was the plague & marker for the Arizona - California border. Jeff has a foot in each state.

We're really glad we made the effort to see Hoover Dam. We've watched numerous documentaries thru the years on the building, dangers, & struggles of building this dam, so now we know up close what a triumph it was.

The Lake must have been even more beautiful when it was fuller. That bathtub ring is rather distracting. The National Recreation Area is on both sides (both states) of the Lake & runs north beyond the Lake area, plus along both sides of the Colorado River until just north of Bullhead City, NV, almost to the southern edge of NV.