Tag: boondocking

Goodbye to the Southwestern Desert, Hello Sedona, AZ!

As the spring heat closed in on the Arizona desert, it was time for me to move to higher elevations and cooler temperatures.  As I left Ehrenberg for the last time this season and headed north toward Sedona, I contemplated my route:  I could take the ‘easier’ Interstate route, or the windier, slower backroads.  Interstates bore me, so I decided the extra 26 minutes Google said it would take, would be well worth it. Plus, I’d get to explore real towns along the way, not overly engineered and architected Interstate truck stops and rest areas!

With a quick glance at the Google map, I noticed the yellow lines of highway 60 to Prescott and 89a from Prescott to Cottonwood were quite squiggly in the green areas marking National Forests. Oh well, I’ll have some mountains to climb! I’d spent my first several months as a full time RVer driving all over the Sierra Nevadas, I’d driven Hells Canyon in Eastern Oregon and many other mountain roads, those squiggly mountain passes looked unthreatening. How bad can they be? I’d heard from a friend that the length limit was 40 feet– I’m just 29 feet. Piece of cake!

“Piece of cake”, famous last words, right???

As my RV labored up the first pass, leaving the ninety-degree desert floor, germinal with the first delicate signs of super-bloom,  behind, I spotted the first real tree I’d seen in four months. I was so enraptured that I considered stopping to give it a giant bear hug.  I might have if it wasn’t in someone’s yard.  I thought twice and realized a tree-hugging Rver with a duct tape repair job and California plates may not fare well, trespassing in Arizona: I resisted my urge and moseyed on.

Driving out of Quartzsite, AZ toward Prescott, rte. 60

Matilda trudged up the windy mountain road through Prescott National Forest. 4000 feet. 5000 feet. 6000 feet. The Chaparral grew bushier and the Piñon Pines and Juniper taller. I was in the forest!!!  Ahh. Hello Forest, I’ve missed you!  I rolled down my window and inhaled the crisp winter air.  And as the musty aroma of conifers and damp forest permeated my senses I felt my face erupt in a spontaneous smile. I’m home!

As I ascended to 6000 feet, I felt a marked drop in temperature. It was at least 15 degrees cooler than the desert I’d left just an hour earlier.  I grew concerned that I’d jumped the gun on my “great desert escape’ as I eyed snow dusted peaks just above me. Maybe it is too early to go north. Maybe I’ll  get  stuck in a snow storm. Maybe I’ll freeze! The doubt only thickened as I passed dirty patches of snow stubbornly clinging to the sides of the road, desperately holding their place in the late winter landscape. Well, I’m not turning around to fry in the ninety+-degree heat in the desert. Forward…!
Eventually I reached the summit and slowly descended the narrow, curvy pass into Prescott. Yes, I’d driven on Sierra Nevada routes, but these were some narrow roads and deserved extra caution. Slooooow, I went…

I’d hoped to spend the night in Prescott, but it was Saturday and the historic city was busting at the seams with tourists.  In the outskirts of town, the Prescott National Forest was laden with California-like rules and regulations about where you can camp. Camping is only allowed in designated campgrounds; which were full.  One of the things I’ve learned in my first season as a snowbird is that winter in the south is treated like summer is, everywhere else. The summer months are too hot to leave the comfort of air conditioned homes, so people flock to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, when the temperatures are tolerable, making it impossible to avoid crowds at the popular tourist towns, hiking trails, parks and campgrounds during winter months.

Prescott, AZ served as the capital of the Arizona territory until 1867 and currently has a population just under 40,000. Its rich history (which includes a stay by Wyatt Earp’s older brother Virgil in 1879) and a quaint old-fashioned downtown, packed with touristy shops and cafes, attract visitors from all over the country.  If it wasn’t the height of tourist season and I wasn’t in a 29-foot RV, I might have gotten out and explored. Unfortunately, the narrow streets of old-west mountain towns are not conducive to driving- and especially parking –  giant RVs.

So, on l went; next stop Cottonwood! I’d heard of many fulltime RVers and VanDwellers going to Cottonwood. Surely there’s bound to be plenty of camping there!

Driving into Jerome, AZ

Up another narrow, squiggly pass and back down again. My new front brakes were emitting burned brake smell and smoke billowed out of the nose of Matilda. “That’s normal. Flash told me that would happen,” I told myself.  Down and down and down I went in my 12,000 pound steel box on wheels. My brake pedal  got spongier every time I pressed the brake. More smoke and more rank odor of burning break pad filled my cab.  I started to get nervous. Will my giant, heavy, barreling-downhill-RV stop when I need her to? I slid my new, still-to-be-tested-in-rough—conditions, transmission into low gear. Ok, that’s better, at least I feel like I have more control.

Just as the majestic red rock of Sedona came into view, thousands of feet below, the white smoke became even thicker. I was too nervous to go on. I pulled over, inspected underneath, and confirming that it was my brakes causing the smoke and not something else,  I thought it best to sit and let them cool off before proceeding down the second half of the 6000 foot mountain.  I pumped the brakes and noticed the sponginess was dissipating. “That’s a good sign”, I thought.

Driving through Jerome, AZ

Ok, this isn’t too bad. I was armed with the confidence that my whole brake system had just been inspected, my front brakes, rotors and calipers were brand new and my rear brakes were in good shape.  And, I was still able to slow down, it just took more pressure on the brake pedal to do so. I had no cell signal, so I couldn’t call someone for help or advice. I didn’t have much choice…

After sitting for about thirty minutes, I decided to press on. I slowly exited the turnout, and in low gear,  proceeded down the pass at 20-30 mph.  Being in low gear slowed me enough to not make the descent treacherous, but my heart pounded as my now-white-knuckled hands clutched the steering wheel.  One of the thoughts I had, as I glanced at Capone laying innocently in the passenger seat, is that I need doggy car seat so I can strap him in while we drive.  The thought of anything happening to my clueless copilot was too much..

As I spilled closer to Sedona, I drove through the tiny mountain micro-town of Jerome. If I wasn’t so stressed I might have actually enjoyed the historic town, etched into the side of the mountain. It reminded me of some of the hilltop towns I drove through on my trip to Greece a couple of years ago; tiny narrow streets carved into rock, framed by houses and tiny shops.  In Greece, I was in a small compact car, not a 29’ RV, which admittedly, made it more enjoyable!  I’m really thinking I need to downsize!

First views of Sedona on rte 89a from Prescott

As I gingerly maneuvered through the crowds of  tourists licking waffle cones and converging outside of historic taverns and eateries with names like the Haunted Hamburger, Mile High Grill and Asylum Restaurant,  I kept testing my brakes to be sure they weren’t giving out. They were spongy again, but were definitely slowing me down.

I finally made it through the crowds in Jerome and began my final descent into Cottonwood. A slow and tedious eight miles at 30mph with no turnouts to let the growing line of cars behind me pass. As I neared the edge of Cottonwood, one angry follower in a giant Ford pickup truck crossed the double yellow line to pass me, waving the middle finger salute as he passed. Excuse me for inconveniencing you in my pursuit to stay alive!

His action made me ponder my own impatience: I used to be that person! Always in a hurry, always cussing the slow people in front of me, “how dare you not consider ME! How dare you hold ME up!” Driving an RV has taught me, not only how to slow down and enjoy the journey, but in that moment, when that man aggressively raced  past, flipping me the bird, I realized it also showed me how easily we get  caught up in our own wants and needs and don’t stop to   consider what someone else may be going through. When I tailed an RV on a windy mountain road, I never considered their safety and comfort; all I cared about was getting to my destination five minutes sooner!

I’ve contemplated this before; in our fast, anonymous world, we encounter more strangers than at any time in history. Nameless bodies, we pass on the crowded streets, blurred drivers whizzing past us on the Freeway, or faceless people we flip off and fly by on a windy road without a thought to the person behind the wheel and what may be going on with them. My Bird Flipper hadn’t even considered that I was frightened for my safety, my dog’s safety and the safety of everyone else on the road. If he’d known that, would he have been more patient? Kinder? Waving, instead of gesturing profanity at me? I wonder.  (I realized, I probably should have turned on my hazard lights… lol).

By the time, I entered Cottonwood and the endless annoying traffic circles, the brake pedal sunk all the way to the floor and I was barely able to stop. After sliding into at least one circle a little too close to a passing car, I exited, pumped my brakes a few times and voila, they were back; firm, and strong. I pulled over anyway to let them cool off a bit.  They’d stopped smoking but the noxious fumes were still strong enough to give me a headache!

While I sat there waiting for my brakes to cool, I checked freecampsites.net for a place to camp. I wasn’t exactly feeling confident in my brakes so was looking for something easy and close by. (When I was back to the safety of flat ground I did some research on how to drive a Class A or Class C on mountain roads. Read what I learned here.)

Back on the road, with a firm brake pedal once again, I drove north on 89a exploring a couple of forest roads along the way for a campsite, to no avail.  I wasn’t in the desert with sprawling, flat, BLM land anymore! The off-road sites big enough for Class C RVs were few – and occupied.  So, I’d bumble back onto another rutted/wash-boarded dirt road, keeping my eye out for the next one, as the sun slid toward the western horizon. Now I was racing against the clock.

Finally, I pulled into Dear Pass Trailhead, one of the campsites.net recommendations. It was packed!  I followed the dirt road (Angel Valley Rd), deeper into the red-tinted mountains to see if I could find something away from the crowd. The rutted narrow dirt road coerced me further and further with the promise of open space in which I’d find a spot big enough for Matilda. There were a few campsites, but they were all full to the brim with trailers, vans and tents. Darn! 

Sedona View from the camp I ended up in

Angel Valley Road was harrowing, to put it mildly, and as I propelled down yet another steep and narrow road, I had to ask myself how I kept ending up in those situations; do I have a secret death wish? I just had brake issues and there I was on another steep downhill slope. I had to wonder…   But in all fairness, how could I have known? And it’s not like I can just turn all 29 feet of Matilda around anywhere. I was committed, so down I went.

I ended up at the entrance of what looked like a private community or commune of some sort. (I now know, it was Angel Valley Sedona, “a sacred retreat community for healing, transformation and empowerment.” If I’d know that at the time, I might have stopped. Looking at their website, it may have been the serenity and peace I needed at that moment! Check them out here). Some say there are no mistakes, maybe the universe sent me there for a reason!).  It was a dead end- but at least a place to turn around! So, back up the bumpy steep road (in low gear) and back to route 89a, I went.  Cottonwood was a bust. I guess I’m going to Sedona!

As I drove into Sedona, Mother Nature’s grand architecture rose from the earth before my awestruck eyes. Wow! Just wow! The sun had barely set and the full moon hovered over the rust-imbued landscape giving it an other-worldly glow.

Night was settling in quickly and the last thing I wanted to do was search the treacherous, narrow roads in the dark.  After exploring a couple of forest roads and nearly getting wedged into a narrow place, I finally settled on a large flat-ish spot on a forest road about 5 miles out of Sedona,  just off the busy 89a.  It was 7:30 pm. My 3 ½ hour drive had turned into 8 ½ hours. I was DONE.

I settled in, getting my rig as level as I could, leashed up Capone and went for a much-needed moonlit walk to exercise out some of the day’s stress.  It felt good to be back in the forest, among the trees and the brush. There’s so much life! The bats bobbed above as they dined on insects, the birds chirped and sang their last tunes of the day before settling into their safe nests for the night and critters scurried in the brush at my feet.  The moon cast enough light to see the ground without a flashlight; and I kept my eye out for rattlesnakes.

Back home in my RV, I made a quick salad of romaine lettuce, kale, tomatoes, red beans and vinegar and oil dressing, fed Capone and called it a night. Settling into my warm and comfy bed, it didn’t take long for sleep to win over the noise of the nearby highway…

As I drifted off a feeling of peace and gratitude warmed me;  it was a good day. I was content in knowing that every day I’m not rotting away in an apartment, passing the time on junk-tv and dreaming of freedom, is a good day! I felt happy to be alive – really alive!

I’m a Full-time RV Snowbird in Arizona and Nevada!

It’s almost February and I’ve been on the road for ten months.  When I try to create a timeline of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen over the last ten months, it’s but a blur. It’s true, the older I get, the faster time seems to go by.

I fondly remember the slow, lazy days of summer, exploring southern and eastern Oregon. Wintertime living in an RV is different; the days are short, the nights cold and I am spending much less time outdoors. Sure, some of that is because I’ve been consumed with work, but also, there are just fewer hours of daylight to take advantage of!

Since spending Thanksgiving in Medford with my good friend Bob and his family, I’ve frolicked in snowfall, high in the Nevada desert (and shot a video about it that went viral!),  woke up to a twenty-five degree rig in the outskirts of Carson City (where it was about 15 degrees outside),  survived RV-rocking 45 mile per hour wind gusts near a ghost town in Goffs, CA (video), explored Joshua Tree National Park (video) where I gazed  wondrously at the mysterious twisty-trees  and ambled through the rocky desert of southern Arizona (video).

My trek from Oregon to Arizona was adventure-filled, that’s for sure! I was excited to spend the winter in the desert- my first season as a genuine Snowbird!

A couple of years ago, on my way back from a backpacking trip in Capital Reef National Park in Utah, I stopped for the night in Mojave National Preserve. I was tired from my long drive and pulled off on Zzyzx road (yes, that’s a real road) into the desert to sleep in my car. I awoke to a mauve-tinted sandy landscape alive with sun-glow creosote and crisp, layered hills of the high-desert mountains in the distance. I pulled my backpacking stove out of my pack, boiled hot water and made my morning coffee. I sipped it’s smooth, robust warmth into me as I leisurely drifted over the barren land.  As the coffee pushed away the morning fog, my soul became electrified with adventure and freedom.  As I devoured the serenity of my surroundings, I made a promise I would go back and backpack it someday.

Camping Winnemuccca in the snow
Boondocking near Winnemucca in the snow

Last year, determined to keep my promise to myself, I drove the eight hours to Mojave Preserve for a three-day backpacking trip. It turns out ninety-degrees in the desert is far different from ninety degrees in the mountains. By 11 am, after hiking five miles, carrying 16lbs of water (a 3-day supply, or so I thought) plus 15lbs of gear, I had to stop, set up my tent for shade and lie as still as possible. I think I nearly got heatstroke!  I literally could not move a muscle until the sun went down.

The next morning, I was up and packed before sunrise, hell-bent on getting back to the safety of my car before it got too hot.  I hiked five miles in less than two hours and was back in my car luxuriating in my powerful AC by 8 am. I had gone through all two gallons of water in 24 hours!

Despite my less-than-fun backpacking experience, I couldn’t wait to get back to the desert- this time with plenty of water and my home behind me. So, I in my new RV life, as a winter snow bird, I headed south, in early December.

My first stop in the “real” desert (low and warm!) was on some BLM Land (Bureau of Land Management) in Pahrump, Nevada. I found an idyllic spot, high upon a mountain, amid creosote, Cholla and Joshua trees overlooking the city. I had almost complete solitude the four or five days I was there, save for a few dune-buggiers (yes, I believe I just made up a word).  My camp wasn’t far from the edge of a wide and deep wash that lent for gorgeous walks each day (video). The weather was mild, with days in the sixties and nights in the forties. I enjoyed my stay there immensely, but it was time to move on. I had plans to meet a group of fellow nomads in Arizona, for Christmas and a few places to see along the way.

From Pahrump I went into Las Vegas to do some banking and stock up at Whole Foods. I found a wonderful dry lakebed just south of Vegas to boondock for a couple of nights before heading to my next destination: Joshua Tree.

Boondocking in Pahrump,Nevada

In 1996, my BFF and I took a 10,000-mile road trip zig-zagging our way from Berkeley to New York and back. We were young, adventurous –  and poor.  I’d been working my way through college as a waitress at Goat Hill Pizza in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, where Kristi and I met.  One night at our favorite dive bar, after downing a few shots of tequila to wash away the crazy-busy night of serving pizza to Potrero Hill hipsters, we hatched a plan to drive cross country together once I graduated from Berkeley in May.  For months, we stashed tip money into a locked piggy bank to save for our grand adventure.  My little 1981 bright yellow Toyota Corolla was reliable, so all we needed was gas money, food and a tent.

Nine months later, we were in Joshua Tree National Park; the first stop of our cross-country adventure!  I’d never been to the desert and I was struck with awe; the smooth reddish rocks, the weird deformed-looking cactus-trees and the quiet serenity of the lumpy landscape.  It left a lasting impression on me. For decades, I dreamed of going back.

Ehrenberg, AZ

Twenty years later, a week before Christmas, Matilda carried Capone and me back into the park that held such fond memories. It was cloudy, gloomy and crowded.  Nothing like the barren and secluded place, I remembered. Nevertheless, it was perfect! I drove the windy roads in renewed awe at what our planet offers a hungry adventurer. I wanted to park my RV, grab my backpack and immerse myself in its beauty. But Capone isn’t allowed on trails in National Parks, so I had to be content driving through, stopping at crowded scenic points and making short jaunts into the scenes before me.

After carefully exploring and maneuvering Matilda through a couple of cramped and narrow campgrounds and finding nothing suitable for giant Matilda, I pulled into Belle Campground around 4pm and got the last site;  which  happened to be just big enough to squeeze into.

The next day, tired of the crowds and the rules and restrictions of a National Park, I exited on the long and desolate Pinto Basin Road toward Cottonwood.  I wasn’t exactly sure where I was heading, but thought I’d explore some BLM dispersed camping near the south entrance to the park. Just as I passed the Cottonwood entry sign, I spotted a sandy road that led to the West, speckled with Fifth Wheels, Motorhomes and Vans: boondockers galore! Yay! Home! I pulled in, found a level spot within eyesight of four RVs and called it a day. I could see and hear Interstate 10 from my site, but it wasn’t too bad. I ended up staying a few nights.

BLM Camping near Parker, AZ

Next, I drove due east to Ehrenberg, AZ, where I met up with my friend Bob and fellow full time RVers and VanDwellers for Christmas. The camp off the East Frontage Road in Ehrenberg was a disappointment:  rocky and barren, with obvious signs of heavy use and not much greenery – just overall bland. I stayed for Christmas (video), enjoying community and a low-key Christmas day potluck and then moved to the Colorado River for a few days.

The river was low and down the bank from camp I had a sandy beach all to myself.  My camp was framed by desert trees and brush, which shield me from the other boondockers along the river road; back to peace and solitude!

For the past month, I’ve been exploring Arizona, with a quick trip into Los Algodones  Mexico for migraine medication (video). I’ve spent time in Yuma (where I experienced more RV trouble, videos here), Kofa Wildlife Refuge, Parker and Quartzsite where I attended the CheapRVLiving.com Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) and met so many wonderful people (video of our meet and greet).

I have plans to explore southern Arizona and California over the next month or so, before it’ll be time to head north or to higher ground when the temperatures get to hot here.

I will have lots of fun and adventure to share and will do my best to keep blogging about it.

How to Drive an RV on WashBoard Roads

Fun RV Living Fact of Life: How are Washboard Roads Formed?

We’ve all encountered them, and those of us who love to boondock on BLM land and National Forests drive on them a lot. Those ridged, bumpy, wall rattling, dish-clanking, drive shaft clunking, dirt or sand roads that are annoying as hell to drive on.  So where do they come from? How do those ridges get created?

I finally looked up what causes dirt roads to  washboard and ripple!

I figured you might be curious about this too!

There have actually been laboratory studies done and articles published in science journals about the phenomenon. And from what I’ve read, the science seems to be inconclusive.

Most road and physics experts believed washboarding (also called corrugation) is caused by a lot of traffic traveling on loose dirt, sand or gravel roads at speeds greater than 5 mph.  An automobile’s suspension causes the tires to bounce, putting pressure on certain parts of the road, pushing up the sand or gravel, thereby causing ripples.

Driving RV on washboard roadsHowever, laboratory studies have shown that  even when “springy suspension of the car and the rolling shape of the wheel are eliminated”, washboarding occurs (source: Science Daily article “Physics of Bumpy Roads: What Makes Roads Ripple Like a Washboard?”)

So, while heavy traffic and suspension may be part of the problem, it seems there may be other (currently unidentifiable) factors at play.

How to drive on washboard roads

The next question is: how the heck do we drive on those annoying washboard roads safely and efficiently? Is it better to slow down or speed up?

I went to one of my favorite sources for this answer: MythBusters.

According to MythBusters and their field test, with a 1970 Cutlass Supreme, driving at 5mmph and then at 70 mph, they found that yes, indeed, at 70,mph,  it is a smoother ride and the “high-speed camera footage revealed that the faster-moving wheels literally move across bumps in the road” (MythBusters, “Bumpy Ride“).

So, at higher speeds a vehicle can literally glide over the bumps whereas at 5 mph you feel every single one – and it prolongs the agony, right?

However, their test was with a  Cutlass Supreme, not a  29′ Class C RV with all kinds of stuff to rattle around and make noise. I’ll stick with 5 mph!

How about you? Do you prefer to fly over them or take it slow?

RV Life in Enterprise and Joseph Oregon

I loved this part of northeastern Oregon!  Enterprise and Joseph are just six miles apart but are quite different experiences.

I first drove into Joseph from the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and was spilled into a small town bustling with a pleasant mix of (mostly boomer-generation) tourists and old-time residents.  The idyllic scenery is the first thing you notice; with a quaint tree lined main street stretching toward the picturesque Wallowa mountains. One sign referred to the Wallowas as “The Little Alps” – and for good reason. As I drove out to Wallowa Lake on my second day, that is exactly what the small, but dramatic range reminded me of.

Bronze statues decorate the streets of Joseph, OR
Bronze statues decorate the streets of Joseph, OR

Joseph’s Main Street is the heart of the tiny town, speckled with restaurants “WELKoming hunters”, locals and tourists with names like: “Outlaw Restaurant”, “Old Town Cafe”, “Home Cooking Cafe” and “Stubborn Mule Saloon and Steakhouse” and a couple similarly themed hotels: “Indian Lodge” and “Bronze Antler B&B”. There’s also a “Cattle Country Quilt and Craft” store and art galleries full of rustic old-timey Cowboy and Indian inspired bronze sculptures, photographs and paintings of local scenery and western themes.

And then there’s the usual tourist fare: souvenir shops selling Enterprise, Oregon T-shirts, mugs, shot glasses and overpriced magnets and candy; an ice cream store; a gourmet chocolate shop; espresso cafes; and the obligatory small-town True-Value Ace Hardware that carries everything from souvenir t-shirts to washing machines to guns.Joseph Oregon WELKomes hunters and tourists alike!

Our first stop was food! We’d been driving for hours; it was past lunchtime and we were both starved.  We found the perfect spot, a diner brimming with locals and aptly named “Home Cooking Café”. After clearing a table for us in the full diner, the waitress handed us menus and giant plastic cups of ice-water. She seemed to know everyone by name and chatted them up as if she sees them every day, “Hey Joe, where’s Frank today? Did you get that part fixed on your car yesterday?”

As my friend Bob and I ate, discussing travel plans and the weather, the man next to us busted into our conversation and gave us his weather report. He was friendly and helpful, so I forgave his eavesdropping and crashing into our apparent, not-so-private conversation.

The walls were covered in old barn boards, adorned with burnt-in brands of local ranches, washed-out black and white photos of days-gone-by Joseph, and framed posters with funny sayings like, “Historical moment, an argument was won by the man of the house on this date….”. There was an old iron wood stove against the back wall that sat cold, even on that gloomy and rainy autumn day.

The meal was humongous – I ordered a veggie omelet and home fries and my plate came heaped high and overflowing . It literally took me 3 days to eat it all – and I don’t have a tiny appetite! (In my RV life, I’ve become “mostly-vegan” when I eat out. Unless I only want to eat salad and French fries, it’s nearly impossible to find vegan fare in most small towns).

Excellent diner with HUGE portions in Joseph, OR
Excellent diner with HUGE portions in Joseph, OR

After lunch, we walked the two blocks along Main Street to the post office to see if my general delivery mail had arrived from California. Along the way we peeked inside inviting storefronts and pined for ice cream and chocolates even with full tummies.  As suspected, my mail hadn’t arrived yet (it has just left California the day before) so we headed back to the RV parking lot, behind the local grocery store, to work for a couple hours before heading out to find home for the night.

We’d arrived in Joseph with two potential locations for boondocking, just a few miles from town in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. One was off of Hurricane Creek Road, which, according to Google maps, had a couple of forest roads that appeared to be worth exploring,  and the other was outside of Enterprise, on Lime Quarry Road. The question was- as always in this area – will there be cell service so we can work?

Before nightfall we headed out of town, past the tiny airport to Hurricane Creek Road. At the Joseph Grange Hall, Hurricane Creek Road turned toward the National Forest and within ¼ mile pavement turned to gravel. We passed several residences with big signs warning travelers to slow down. The forest road that Google Earth Maps showed, off to the right about two miles in was nowhere to be found (and now researching this blog, it shows a house there – that was not there a month ago!)– another Google maps mystery!

Hurricane Creek NF Campground, Joseph, OR
Hurricane Creek NF Campground, Joseph, OR

We’d passed a National Forest campground and decided to turn around and stay there for the night rather than drive to Enterprise and explore another forest road so late in the day. When I found a wide spot in the road, big enough for my RV to turn around in, we made our way back to the campground. As suspected there was no cell signal – so we had the night off of work! For $6/night, with all three spots that were big enough for my rig and Bob’s van open, we decided to call it home.  It’s a small campground with about 13 sites, resting right on Hurricane Creek, which even at this time of year was flowing freely, providing a nice backdrop to the already cool and misty evening.

The next day we drove back down to the RV parking lot in town to work for a couple of hours before Bob took off for Salt Lake City to meet up with his son who flew in from Alaska.  When Bob invited me to go, I debated, but in the end was looking forward to some time alone to finish exploring that part of Oregon.  We’d been planning to head to Seattle to see Bob’s friend Suanne and I thought I might still head there – or maybe the Columbia River. Or Maybe Couer d’Alene, Idaho. “Who knows?” I thought, “that’s the beauty of my new life. I can go anywhere I want and I can decide tomorrow!” But I couldn’t go anywhere until my mail arrived- I still have a couple clients who pay me by check – and they are on their way!

hydrant-in-josephAfter Bob left for Salt Lake City, I worked for a few hours and then headed toward Wallowa Lake to do some exploring. But first the post office… no mail – sigh. It was Friday. That meant I was stuck there through the weekend, which wasn’t the end of the world, but I hate feeling trapped! .

The drive to Wallowa Lake was scenic and I found a day use area with good 4G, a beach and a gorgeous view of the lake. I made a mental note and continued toward the State Park sprawled at the base of the Little Alps on the other end of the lake.   Once there I discovered a little touristy lake-side community with cafes, restaurants, hotels and the Wallowa Lake State Park.  I considered spending the $30 to stay there, but there was no cell signal.  I decided I’d rather stealth camp in town. I spent some time at the day use area, took Capone for a walk on the lakeshore and relaxed a bit before driving back to the RV parking lot in town to get some work done.

I ended up parking in front of Joseph Community Center  across from the Forest Service for the night. Other than a little bit of traffic and loud drunks passing by when the restaurants and bars closed, it wasn’t bad.

I woke up early and drove to the Wallowa Lake day use area and boat ramp, made coffee, turned on my generator and got to work.

another-lake-view-wallowa-joseph

Later I drove to the small neighboring town of Enterprise. A really cool, sleepy little town, with streets lined with buildings that used to house bustling businesses – now scarce with a consignment shop, a couple of restaurants and cafes and empty storefronts and offices.  Unlike the relative bustle of Joseph, Enterprise felt like a ghost town. It’s wide streets, empty and plenty of room for me to park my RV.  Which was convenient since I found Gypsy Café and couldn’t resist stopping in for an almond milk Cappuccino!

I also noticed ample opportunities for stealth camping around town both on the streets and near the small city park off the main drag. After hitting Safeway for a few groceries, I ended up at the little league field behind it. The parking lot was far enough away from homes, that I doubted anyone would even notice I was there. I spent the whole afternoon without seeing a single person visit the field – it was only near nightfall that a few people showed up to walk their dogs and play with their kids. I could see the curious looks as I peeked through my curtains, but I spent the night with no issue. The next morning, after coffee and a couple hours of writing, I moved on to another location to get a blog published and then back to Hurricane Creek Campground.

I spent a peaceful night in the dewy forest and headed out the next day to get my mail (it HAD to be there by now!) and hit the road to Coeur d’Alene!

As you know from my last blog that didn’t quite go as planned and I ended up staying an extra day to get some repairs done on the RV. But at last, on Wednesday I was on my way! Only I’d changed my plans:  instead of Coeur d’Alene I headed to Walla Walla, Washington!

 

rv life in umatilla national forest

Van or RV: What should you live in?

 

When I decided to become a full time RVer my first consideration was what should I buy? I wanted a mobile home comfortable enough to live and work in but not so comfortable that I never wanted to go outside. My intent, after all was to spend more time in nature.

Now that I’ve lived in my RV for 6 months, I have a much better idea of what my needs are. When I buy my next one, I think I’ll do things a little differently, so I thought I’d share what I’ve come to realize about the choice I made to live in a 29’ Class C RV and why I sometimes wish I’d chosen something smaller.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your van or RV to live in.

What’s your budget for your live-in RV or Van? –

Yep, of course it always comes down to how much you can spend.  The fact is, older Class C and Class A RVs are cheap. For under $10,000 you can buy something decent that will last you a couple years, at least (most likely a fixer-upper).   Class Bs like Sprinter Vans or even older MotorTreks cost a lot more (even older MotorTreks are $20-$30k), but are durable and dependable.   You may be able to get a box van, or truck with a camper for less, but you’ll have to search long and hard to find a good deal.

What I learned: don’t rush into buying your RV or van to live in. Think about how you want to live and what will make sense for your budget and comfort. If you don’t have a huge budget (and want to pay cash like I did), take your time. Deals are out there; you just have to be diligent and patient (2 qualities I lack!) to find the best vehicle and the best value for you.

 How important is gas mileage? 

The obvious fact here is, the bigger the rig the more horrible your gas mileage will be.  But this may not be a big deal to you. If you’re planning on living in an RV park 3-6 months at a time and not doing a lot of sight-seeing or traveling, or you’re going to primarily stay in one area, you may value comfort over gas mileage and go with a bigger RV. However, if you’re going to be traveling – MPGs will be a huge deal. Huge. (it costs me $100 to travel about 250 miles). You’ll need to figure out what your monthly living budget is and how much you can afford to spend on gas. Then decide if a big RV that gets  8 mpg or a van getting around 14+ mpg makes more sense for you.

WHERE are you going to live in your RV or Van?

This is another huge decision to make before buying your RV or Van to live in.  When you picture your new Nomadic or RV Life what comes to mind?  Do you see RV Parks and Campgrounds? Remote forests?  Desert? Or traveling across the country seeing all the sites and cities?

Here’s why this is so important:

  • RV Parks and Campgrounds: Any vehicle under 30’ can go in just about any RV park or campground (and most can take a larger RV) – so if you want to stick with RV Parks and developed campgrounds, any vehicle would be ideal, for the conditions.
  • Stealth Camping in cities and towns: Trust me there is nothing stealthy about a 29’ RV. While I like to kid myself, and think I can blend into a neighborhood, community college parking lot, country road or strip mall, there is no hiding a big RV. If you’re parked someplace you don’t normally see an RV overnight,  chances are, people will know you’re sleeping in it. A Van, Class B or even truck-camper is much stealthier and will allow you to fly under the radar better when you need to stealth camp. Not to say you can’t get away with sleeping in your RV in cities and towns- I’ve done it plenty – but it’s harder to find places that won’t raise red flags so  there’s always the worry you’ll be discovered and booted out (knocks on the door in the middle of the night are unnerving!).
  • Remote National Forest and BLM lands: This is where I have a lot of experience!  Have I mentioned that I didn’t quite get the fear gene?  Sure, common sense might tell some people not to take a 29’x10’x8’ home-on-wheels on rocky, rutted, narrow, overgrown, barely-roads in national forests, but, seriously, where’s the fun in that?  Instead, I’ve made it my personal mission to prove that having a 29’ Class C RV doesn’t have to stop you from going to remote National Forest lands.  (Ok, ok, we won’t talk about the bumper that’s no longer attached, the duct tape holding the corner panel together, the many crushed and shattered lights – oh and the hole in the back where a branch poked straight through – but hey, it’s my starter rig!).         Yes, I am still learning to drive it and yes, I am also learning its limitations, but I’m also realizing (much to my deep disappointment) RVs are not meant for off-roading!  In a truck or a van, you might have some lee-way on backing up and “feeling your way” when you can’t quite see everything, but RVs are flimsy and so cheaply made, you just can’t do that without damage. This is probably the #1 thing I regret – not knowing how cheaply built RVs truly are. The amount of damage to my rig already is ridiculous, seriously one little tap of a rock or a tree and shit just falls off. (check out this video of me getting stuck – and my friend pulling me out!)off-395

What I learned:  if you want get away from it all and travel on bumpy, rutted, bouncy, sandy and rocky barely-roads, a more rugged, smaller vehicle might be best for you. (I’ve decided I need a conversion military tank to go where I want to go!)

Nomad Living Comfort and Amenities

  • How much home-like comfort do you need? I’ve met people who live out of barely-converted box vans and they’re quite content; pooping in a bucket, cooking on a camp stove or hot plate and having everything they own within arm’s reach. When I decided to live in an RV I basically thought of it as downsizing to a tiny home that I could park in national forests and have the most amazing backyards ever – “home” being the operative word. I like having a toilet. I love to cook so a stove, oven and a refrigerator were must-haves (plus I wanted to be remote and limit my in-town visits, so the fridge is necessary for my fresh produce). Since I knew I’d be living and working in the RV I thought a separate bedroom was necessary (and because 55lb, 11-year-old Capone sleeps with me, I couldn’t use the cabover).   But now, I wish I’d done without the separate bedroom, I could have gone with a 25′ Class C and been just as happy. One thing I do love is all the windows the RV has, so even when I’m working inside I can feel close to nature. stealth camping in an RV
  • How much time will you spend inside? I wanted something big enough to have the comforts of home, yet not so big that I’d want to stay inside longer than I’d need to. I am learning I spend much more time in my RV than I thought I would. But I do work a lot. so, I wonder if I’d gotten something smaller – or a van – would I still be inside all the time and miserably claustrophobic? Or would that have forced me to find ways to get outside more? I don’t know. But my advice for you is to consider this when choosing your RV or van to live in. It’s not easy to break old habits. And the fact is there are insects, rain, wind and heat to consider when being outside. We’ve been in dwellings for millions of years – just because you decide to sell the house and buy the RV doesn’t mean that instinct to be comfy and cozy inside is going to go away. So, consider your RV or van home purchase with that in mind.

It’s hard to know what you’re going to need and be comfortable in until you get out there – and even then, you may not know exactly what’s right. Most full timers that I’ve met who’ve been doing it a while have gone through several different types of vehicles… trying new ones on for size very few years.

I have no doubts my next mobile home will be smaller, tougher and more agile. For those of you who’ve been doing this a while, what would you change about your RV or van home? And for those who are still planning, what are your questions or concerns?

Not Every Day is Dreamy Living in an RV

After boondocking for six weeks in the National Forests near Medford, Klamath Falls and Sisters Oregon, I decided it was time to move on.  I left a perfectly good camp in Deschutes National Forest to drive 275 miles to a new location near the tiny town of Richland in northeastern Oregon.  My inner Nomad was alive and kicking! Why stay in one spot when there’s a whole country to explore? The dent in my budget from the catalytic converter, a new cabin battery and the trip to Arizona has been recouped and now I have enough in reserve to afford to travel again .

I’d been happy there; nestled among new growth Lodgepole Pines, Mountain Hemlocks and Subalpine Fir. It was far away from people and noise, yet just 5 miles from the tiny tourist town of Sisters and 28 miles from the bigger city of Bend. However, the scenery was getting passé and the surrounding roads and trails had all been walked.  I was ready for a change of scenery: the open road beckoned.

Deschutes National Forest Boondocking
Deschutes National Forest Near Sisters

When I declared it was time to move on, my traveling buddy Bob and I carefully studied the Delorme and Benchmark Atlases, consulted the Public Lands Android app, Google Earthed various National Forest and BLM roads and referred to the Verizon coverage map to carefully select a camp that would give us everything we needed to live and work.   We finally found a spot that seemed perfect:  30 miles east of Baker City, near the tiny town of Richland. It looked far enough away to get the solitude we both enjoy, resting on the edge of the Powder River in the high desert – and according to the Verizon coverage map, a strong 4G signal. We’d found our next home!

On Wednesday morning, I headed east, excited to be getting further from my former home state of California, exploring new places and being on my own (even if just for a few days until Bob and our camp guest Cathleen met up with me again).  Within a few hours I was at the turnoff  to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Painted Hills.  I’d been hoping to find a place on the surrounding BLM land to camp for the night but I’d been in a cell phone dead zone since the small town of Prineville about 100 miles back. I had a project due for work; I needed a cell signal and had relied on the Verizon Map. There was supposed to be cell service along Route 26!

I drove the seven miles out to the Painted Hills site without so much as a peep out of my phone alerting me that my notifications had come to life. It was getting on in the day and I was ready to stop driving. The frustration and worry settled in like a heavy mass in my gut.  I didn’t want to have to turn all the back to Prineville but I had to get some work done! Damn the lying Verizon Map!

Painted Hills Near Mitchell, Oregon
Painted Hills near Mitchell, Oregon

Well, I’m here, I may as well enjoy the scenery! I leashed up Capone and walked the short trail to the lookout for the best views of the red streaked hills. The sign near the parking lot explained that the layers of yellow, red and gray painted onto the sandy hills represent different geological eras. The different layers were formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain. The black soil is lignite, a vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey coloring is mudstonesiltstone, and shale. The red coloring is laterite soil that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid. (Source: Wikipedia). I spent about an hour taking pictures, wandering around and enjoying the quiet remoteness before heading back on Route 26 in search of a cell signal and a place to spend the night.

I drove another 74 miles and ended up at Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site in Mt. Vernon, Oregon.  They have first-come-first serve tent and RV sites with full hook-ups (and a few Tee-pees that have to be reserved ahead of time), a good 4G signal – and hot showers! Sold!  It was about 5:00 pm on a Wednesday and there were only three sites available, which were filled by dark.

As I rolled in, I immediately noticed how clean and well landscaped it was, with willowy Cottonwood trees, plush green grass and enough shrubbery and trees that each site had some privacy. It rested between the gentle John Day River and Highway 26 (a surprisingly busy and loud highway).  For $24 I got to plug in and recharge my cabin battery, refill my fresh water, dump my tanks AND take a nice long hot shower in a roomy, clean stall with plenty of hot water. Well worth the investment!

Once I was set up, Capone and I went for a leisurely walk along the river as the sun set.  It had only been about five hours since I left camp in Sisters, but it already felt like I’d been on the road a long time.

Wallowa NF outside Baker City, Oregon
Wallowa NF outside Baker City, Oregon

The next day I left the campground around 11:00 am and traveled through lush green forests, along narrow roads hugging canyons sliced by the meandering Powder River and middle-of-no-where farmland, as I headed east on Route 26 toward Richland. I stopped along the way in John Day, parked Big Bertha just off the tiny main drag and lazily wandered the street of the quaint old-time town.   I even had a surprisingly delicious almond milk cappuccino at the John Day Corner Cup Café (I sure do miss my Peet’s Coffee!).

Back on the road, I headed toward Richland. I wasn’t sure where I was going exactly, as I have a habit of “winging-it” and relying on my memory. How hard will it be to find the dirt road next to the Powder River near a tiny town?. But I began to grow weary as windy road after windy road over forest and high desert and through valleys and canyons yielded not a second of cell phone service.  Most of highways 26 and 7 west of Baker City and all of Route 86 east of Baker City were virtual dead zones. How can that be? The Verizon maps…  Those damn lying Verizon maps!  I was starting to panic. I had a conference call with a client at 9 the next morning, I had to have a signal!  The last thing I wanted to do was stealth camp in Baker City.  I’d been in the forest too long to consider going back to the headache and stress of finding a place to sleep in a city!

I had a knot in my stomach and I was growing impatient as I navigated the narrow windy Route 86. I’d been driving two days and was feeling done. I just wanted to find a quiet place to camp, but there weren’t any BLM roads in sight —-CRUUUNCH!  What the —-??? Before I knew what hit me (literally), my driver side mirror disappeared into thin hair. What the hell??? It took a few minutes to realize the truck going the opposite direction grazed my mirror, smashing it to pieces.

Wallowa NF outside Baker City, Oregon
Wallowa NF outside Baker City, Oregon

The road was narrow with a sharp drop-off to the river on my right so I couldn’t  pull over to see if the truck was stopping.  Out of habit, I kept looking at the void where my mirror had been, to see if he was stopping or turning around.  But the black shell stared blankly back at me. I can’t drive like this! I can’t see behind me! I kept driving until I found a place, about a half mile down the road to pull over. Even pulling off to the right without my driver side mirror was unnerving.  Shit what am I going to do?

Now the weariness and frustration that had been simmering in me all day about the cell signal and lack of camping options boiled to the surface. Ok. Calm down. It’s going to be OK. I’ll get through this… Thinking quickly, I grabbed my hand mirror out of the bathroom, stuck it out the window toward my missing mirror and voila! I could see behind me. Ok it’s not great, but it’ll work!  And using my bright pink hand-held mirror, I pulled back onto the road, feeling relieved that at least I had a short-term solution to this problem.  I was just about 10 miles from Richland and the camp Bob and I had scouted. I found my optimism again and thought, “Ok, I’m almost there – and there will be a cell signal and a nice place right on the river to camp! I’m going to be OK.”

The road to Richland meandered along the Powder River and as I cautiously maneuvered my handicapped rig along the narrow roads, I searched for my turnoff, with one eye on my phone for a cell signal. No roads. No signal.  Ugghhh.

I drove through the itty bitty town of Richland which was surrounded on the east and the west by sprawling farms and old houses clumped together in tiny neighborhoods. Where’s the BLM land? And the remote spots to camp? I remembered the turnoff being right in town – but there’s no BLM here… At least I have cell service!

 I drove through the tiny town in a blink of my eye and immediately lost the cell signal again. NOOOOO…. My stubbornness wouldn’t allow me to turn around…

Richland Oregon, Source: Wikipedia
Richland Oregon, Source: Wikipedia

Fifteen miles later, atop a hill I found a 4G signal and a road that appeared to lead into BLM land. But it wasn’t the road on the River that Bob and I had scouted. Ok, enough is enough. I need to figure out where I’m supposed to be going.  Bob had emailed me the GPS coordinates, which were in my Outlook inbox, on my laptop. I parked and pulled out my laptop. Crap!  I’d overshot the turnoff by 25 miles! Grrrr.

Now I had a dilemma: do I explore the dirt road in front of me with a sign reading, “Campground 11 miles” and gamble that:  a) the 4G signal lasts, b) the road will be passable for my monstrous rig and/or c) that there might be a place to pull off and camp for the night? Or do I turn around and just go to the spot I was aiming for? I was feeling vulnerable to getting stuck or not being able to turn around in a tight spot without my driver side mirror. I am prone to getting into hairy situations and needing all my faculties for getting out of them. Not having that mirror put me at risk of getting into something I couldn’t get out of – or worse.  I decided to turn around.  I needed to go back to Baker City the next day to get my mirror fixed anyway.

About 40 minutes later, with the help of Google navigation and a wavering 3G signal, I pulled into the location Bob and I had scouted. I’d remembered driving right past it and wondering where it led on my way to Richland… If only I could learn to slow down and refer to maps!  But Nooooo, that would make life far too dull – I must do everything the hard way!!!

Google Earth BLM near Richland Oregon boondocking
Google Earth View of the camping spot

The spot that looked so perfect on Google Earth, turned out to be not-so-great in real life. What I failed to notice was that it’s a cattle wrangling/staging area and Google Earth didn’t show that it’s littered with dried up cow patties. There are giant mounds of sand and rock and it rests directly below Route 86 on a river I could hear, but not see through the thick brush. PLUS it had a weak 3G signal that lasted barely long enough to get me there. By the time I set up it was gone; I was in a dead zone. Oh well, I’ll just have to get out of here early and drive the 31 miles back to Baker City (on narrow windy roads) to make my 9 am conference call and shop for a new mirror!

 Oh well, what am I going to do? At least it’s not a town! I found a level place to park, pulled out my step, laid my carpet and unfolded my camp chair:  I was happy to be home.  I heated leftovers for dinner and ate outside, listening to the river I couldn’t see and ignoring the cow patties in favor of the barren high-desert hills. As darkness swiped the day, the traffic on the curvy road above, already light, became almost non-existent and I was left alone in a silent and magical world…

It didn’t take long for the stress of the day to melt away. The thing is, not every day of RV Life is peaches and cream…

Sometimes you forget you’re driving a 29’ monstrosity, drive too fast on narrow windy roads, and cross the yellow line, causing your mirror to get wiped out by a passing truck.

Sometimes you overshoot your destination and have to backtrack 25 miles when you’re already tired and cranky.

Sometimes the Verizon coverage map lies and you have no cell service when you need it to work.

Sometimes all the maps and apps and technology in the world can’t paint the whole picture.

And sometimes you leave a perfectly good camp and drive 300 miles, only to end up in a field of cow shit.

But when all the challenges and long days of driving are behind you and you’ve done all you can do for one day, you park your rig, set up camp and call it home for the night.   And as the crickets’ chorus and the babbling creek play you a private melody,  fresh desert sage wafts away the smell of cattle as the cool air settles,  the cow paddies disappear into the earth with the fading daylight and a gentle breeze brushes against your road-worn skin, you realize there is no place you’d rather be.

Living and working in an RV isn’t easy. Your rig will break, your maps will mislead you, your technology will fail and your best laid plans will go awry. It’s all part of the experience. But if you can roll with the punches, think on your feet and stay open to the possibilities, you’ll find that you end up in some of the most amazing places…. And exactly where you are meant to be.

 

14 Things I Learned in My First 4 Months of RV Living

This week was my 4-month anniversary living in an RV!

Last week, I posted a blog about the day I left the backyard of my suburban apartment and embarked on my new life. And today I’m sitting in my RV, writing and working,  while enjoying a warm breezy day, the sound of a gentle stream and views of Deschutes National Forest right outside my door. I have to admit; life is pretty damn good!

Four months ago, when I started this new chapter, I had a whole bunch of ideas about what this life would look like. Guess what? It looks nothing like that!  (What is that saying about the best laid plans??? ) All I know is that nothing every turns out like I plan – and it’s always better than I could have imagined.

RV Life is full of surprises!

  1. I thought I’d stay close to my home-base in the Bay Area and try to retain a small portion of my old professional life. The fact is, trying to live in an RV in such a densely populated area completely sucked. My goal had been to live in National Forests a couple hours away and commute back a couple times a month. This proved to be too expensive and stressful.
  2. Trying to find remote places to live with a cell signal was harder than I thought. I’m not retired, I have to work. Many of the places I’d planned on living had zero cell coverage. Which meant I had to spend more time in cities. I have to tell ya, trying to be invisible and fly under the radar living in a 29’ Class C RV, so people don’t think I’m a homeless vagrant got old pretty quick. (Read my blog, “How to Stealth Camp in a 29′ Class C RV” here).
  3. Saying goodbye to California! Oh my gosh, how uptight and mean California seems now that I’m living on the fringes of society! When I left California for Arizona two months ago, I knew I never wanted to go back; I fell in love with the open space, the tiny, uncrowded towns and the obvious absence of “Do Not Enter”, “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs.  Over the past two months, I’ve spent 2 weeks in California – and 6 of those days was a backpacking trip. I love California, but not as a full time RVer!
  4. I have a traveling companion! I’m independent and I like being alone.  Sure, I had some reservations about constantly being alone, living in remote areas of the National Forests, but I knew I’d be just fine.  The last thing I expected when I headed to Arizona for CheapRVLiving.com’s summer Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was to meet someone I’d develop a deep connection with and end up traveling with. Today Bob and I have been traveling together on and off  for 5 weeks. It’s nice to have a fellow nomad to be with when I want company and who understand when I need my alone time and need to take off for a few days – or few weeks! After-all, my new life s about freedom and living my life MY way: no exceptions.

    Bob and Cody at Crater Lake on my Birthday
    Bob and Cody at Crater Lake on my Birthday

Besides my RV Life looking quite different than I’d expected, I’ve learned a TON! (There is so much to learn!).

Here are the most practical things I’ve learned so far about living full time in an RV:

  1. I can boondock for 2 weeks before I need to dump my black and gray water tanks and fill  fresh water (F/W 33G + 6G H/W; B/W 33G; G/W 25G)
  2. Propane lasts me about 3 weeks (13.9G). I cook twice a day, it runs my refrigerator and I turn on the water heater maybe once a week. I  can also run the heat for about 30 minutes in the morning 4-5 days per week.
  3. All of the sensor lights for black and gray water, propane and battery levels on the range hood are useless. They either don’t work at all or are inaccurate. The only one that works is the fresh water light.
  4. My house battery needs to be filled with distilled water about once per month. (I fried my first battery).

    Great views - near Lake Tahoe
    Great views – near Lake Tahoe
  5. You have to own a voltmeter! Property house battery charging and maintenance is very important if you don’t want to keep frying batteries! (I’ve bought two already – but in all fairness, the first one came with the RV and was 5 years old).
  6. I will never ever ever be completely dirt-free again.  I live with dirt, eat wit dirt and even sleep with dirt. When you boondock in National Forests, dirt is a fact of life (especially with Capone).
  7. A daily sponge bath is just as good as a shower and uses about 1/10 of the water. (Speaking of bathing – baby wipes are your friend – stock up!)
  8. Canned goods can never be stored in overhead cabinets securely – no matter what, they shift and move around when I drive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had cans come crashing on my head after moving camp.  The other night, I almost killed Bob with a giant mason jar full of lentils!
  9. This lifestyle is NOT necessarily cheap. All that money I thought I’d save by not paying rent??? Yeah, it goes in the gas tank and repairs. I was at the gas station one day and the guy next to me looked over my rig and said,  “that thing  must really eat the gas!” I replied, “yeah, I call it ‘Rent’”.  I get somewhere between 8-9 MPG.
  10. 30 Gigs of data is barely enough – I started out with 10 – and now I barely get by with 30. I only stream about 3-4 hours of TV a month, the rest is work; email, social media, uploads and downloads, etc.
  11. “No Trespassing” means NO Trespassing. In my first four weeks, I was kicked out of 4 different spots. For some reason I thought “Full Time RVer” meant “Outlaw” and rules didn’t apply to me! I was quickly set straight by unamused property owners, security guards and police officers.  I’m now happy to say my outlaw days are over and I’m a law abiding Nomad (mostly). More about this in my blog about stealth camping in a Class C RV. 

    "Stealth" camping in Auburn, CA
    “Stealth” camping in Auburn, CA
  12. I really wish I’d gotten my rig inspected before I bought it. New issues pop up almost every day. Yesterday I turned on my water heater and the place flooded with the smell of propane. My fuse keeps blowing in my speedometer and odometer and the last time I tried to change it, it sparked… so it stays blown (find out why this was a huge deal!)  My ABS light has been on for two months. My engine stopped charging my house battery… the list just never ends. Learn from my mistakes: get your rig inspected before you buy it!!! (So,, at the very least, you know what needs work = peace of mind!).  (Read my future blogs about the transmission rebuild.. ughhh): 
  13. The only weapons I need are my common sense and my gut. But a bat, an ice ax, a hatchet, bear spray and sword don’t hurt for backup! Seriously, I was out in some remote places alone for a couple months and all I needed was my common sense. Read my blog about Solo RV Life Safety or watch the video.
  14. Living in an RV has ruined me. Already, I can’t imagine ever going back.  Even on my toughest days (and there have been a few – especially in the beginning), the thought of going back to my former life fills me with angst and dread. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.  I am exactly where I want to be!

I’m sure there are a million other things I’ve learned – and have yet to learn. I’ll be sharing them as they come up.

I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries on the road!

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a fulltime RVer? And if you’re still in the planning stages, what’s your biggest concern or fear?