WheRVe we been? Our travels, 3rd quarter 2020

We put some miles on, y’all!

And thanks to friends in remote places, we were able to feel safe about where we stayed — a fair trade for making a big diamond around CO instead of spending time exploring it as we’d originally hoped to do this summer.

Just in time for fall, we drew you a leaf!
We went from TX to AZ to UT to MT to WY, and added our 40th RV state by spending a night in NB on our way back to TX.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 4338
(Map does not reflect exact routing.)

1st major stop: 45 miles outside Kanab, UT, on private land belonging to friends of friends, who are now our friends

When I wrote last quarter that we’d planned to head northward to cool off, but didn’t really have a specific itinerary, our friends, David & Cheryl Goldstein of Landmark Adventures said, “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going, why not stay with us on the way?”

It was impossible to argue with that kind of logic.

They’d set up housekeeping in southern UT, on land belonging to fellow Escapees, Cindi & Roger, who we’d somehow managed not to meet at the Escapees Baja Mexico Hangout that we all attended in February, but we quickly made up for that lost opportunity during our very private, 12-day “Socially Distanced Unofficial Hangout Limited to 6 Escapees.”

Getting to our secluded enclave involved a 45-minute drive out a dirt road, from a point that was a 30-minute drive from the nearest town. Now that’s remote!

Getting into our designated site was a challenge that required navigating tight turns, narrow pathways, tree branches, and the other two RVs.
Tim likes to call this video “How I performed a 187-point turn into a tight spot in only two minutes.”
(We were aiming for that yellow square.)
I like to call it, “Keep your eye on your wife, and you might get a fun little dance at the end.”
The view from the property was well worth the parking hassle.
Got a little warm inside the RV, though.
Usually means it’s time to head north when I shout, “Honey, the coconut oil has liquified!”
We did some hiking through mystical rock formations…
(Location: Lick Wash Trail)
Location: Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon
… and rented one of these so that all 6 of us could go on a “motor assisted hike”
(Cindi & Roger drove their own).
Seriously, though. Who wouldn’t have a good time with a group like this?

2nd major stop: Thompson Falls, MT, for a birthday celebration that was worth the travel

We’d decided months and months before we’d even heard the word “Coronavirus,” that one way or another, Tim was going to find a way to be with his parents for his father’s 80th birthday in August.

You think we’re moving targets? You should try keeping track of my in-laws!

As it turned out, we were able to meet in Montana to celebrate about two weeks early, with the added bonus of doing so with one of Tim’s sisters and her husband.

So many of us missed multiple milestone events with our families this year. We are exceptionally thankful that this one happened.

Tim and the Birthday Dad at Kootenai Falls
Tim, his mom, dad, brother-in-law, and sister shaking things up on the swinging bridge,
just downriver from the falls
We climbed all over Thompson Falls, and let the record show that Tim’s folks
went up even higher than I did.
Pretty little riverside town.
Visit Thompson Falls
From Thompson Falls, we made a long day trip to Glacier National Park.
The marmot wanted Tim’s dad to put down the camera and just let him into the rental car.
He clearly knew that cars and humans mean food, and he was not wrong.
We did indeed have a whole day’s worth of snacks onboard.
Now if this guy had asked?
I think we’d have let him have all the snacks, and probably the car too.
“Just take the keys, Mr. Grizzly, sir. It’s allllll yours.”

3rd major stop: Meeteetse, WY, on private land belonging to friends we’d met in January

Hey, remember when we helped clean Carlsbad Caverns by picking lint with teensy little paintbrushes? That’s where we met Debra & Larry, and learned that they own 20 acres of property about 30 miles south of Cody. But when we parted with, “Hey, we’ll let you know if we come your way in our travels,” we didn’t really know it would be so soon.

But summer safety this year meant avoiding crowds, and Wyoming makes it really easy to do that (population of the state of WY = 1/3 population of the city of San Antonio).

We thought we’d boondock on Debra & Larry’s little piece of paradise for about a week, but it turned into a whole month!

Not only is Meeteetse small, but our location was on a gravel ranch road, about
4 miles from the heart of town.
A typical experience: evening drinks and shared dinners at the pole barn
The lifestyle common to our friends, both Wyoming natives, was not typical at all for us.
What a gift that they shared so many of their experiences with us.
These included a 7-mile hike with two humans on foot, two on horseback (I took this photo from the saddle, y’all!), three doggies, and a random herd of cows…
… fishing for our supper …
… canine assisted kayaking …
… stand-up paddle boarding …
… making chili using ground elk instead of ground beef or turkey …
… and making judicious use of an outhouse, which allowed us to save enough space in our black tank that we didn’t have to find a dump station until we were ready to leave,
which was 3 weeks later than planned…
… but was also just in time.
Debra texted us this pic of our “yard” just a few hours after we left on Labor Day.
We knew the storm was coming, and we made it eastward to Casper in time.
We woke up to about 4″ of snow there the next morning.
Debra & Larry got 4-6 feet, and couldn’t open their RV door!

Where to next?

Wellllllll, we’ve got medical appointments keeping us in San Antonio through the first week of November.

After that, we’re not sure. We’ve talked about moochdocking with friends in Pensacola, FL, for part of the winter, or boondocking in the southwest. The latter would put us in better position for a springtime run up to WA to visit family there, as we missed our older boy & his girl this year, along with Tim’s other sister and her family.

We’ll figure it out, and as ever, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.

“It certainly was not the summer we had planned, but it was the summer we needed.”
~ that wise friend mentioned above, David Goldstein

We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

5 years in: RV there yet?

Still no.

We were originally thinking it would be a one-year thing. Maybe two? We certainly didn’t imagine it would be a two-RV thing. But we were quite happily wrong, and we’ve now got enough events planned for Year 5 that there’s no way we’re giving this up yet! we’re now almost 3/4 through a year in which almost every planned event has been cancelled, so we’ve had to punt. A lot. And we’re too skittish at the moment to put much of anything on the calendar for Year 6.

We are grateful that we’ve managed to see as many friends and family members as we have — in very small groups, and mostly outdoors — in 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic has caused an indefinite delay on our biggest plan for this year, which was to begin an annual vacation tradition with both sons and their girlfriends. Sigh. Maybe next year.

We did get bonus time with one set of ’em, and yes, it now seems ridiculous that I was worried when Austin/Travis County was at 90 confirmed cases. They have since surpassed 22,000.

So to celebrate our nomad-versary, I shall regale you with our Amusing Tally of Miscellaneous Statistics, updated for 2020

In four five years, we’ve used, purchased, worn through, or replaced for any number of reasons ranging from the mundane, to the catastrophic, to just not getting the right thing the first time around (or second, or third…):

Our three configurations, in chronological order
BFT1 + RV1 (2014-2017)
BFT2 + RV1 (2017-2018)
BFT2 + RV2 (2018-present)

We’ve also held memberships/accounts with:

  • 3 RV insurance companies
  • 3 cellular service providers
  • 2 RV owners’ clubs
  • 4 RV travel/social organizations
  • 2 mail forwarding services
About a year ago, we switched from a UPS Store mailbox we’d already owned in San Antonio,
to the Escapees RV Club’s Mail Forwarding Service.
And when we were in Livingston, TX, earlier this year, we were able to pick up our mail at the headquarters building, in person.

And in addition, we’ve experienced: 

1st new workamping job:
Co-managing one of Pumpkin Station’s farm locations in the San Diego area
2nd new workamping job:
Volunteering at the Escapees CARE Center in Livingston, TX
Our preferred types of workamping jobs offer visible results.
Here’s how & why we use these opportunities to supplement Tim’s retirement pension.

I’ll spare you a full reprint of our prior annual reviews, which included answers to the 13 Questions We Hear All The Time, but I’ll update the three two that need it.

How many states have you visited in the RV, I mean like, for more than just a rest stop?

By my count, 37 39: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

My criteria for counting a state as visited are a bit fluid, which I know will drive some people a little nuts. Did we stay overnight? Long enough to do the weekly laundry? Go on a hike or visit a national park? All of those are valid to me. Just driving through on the way to elsewhere, with a potty break at a gas station? Not so much — otherwise, we’d have counted Mississippi about 8 times by now, instead of zero.

And the RV has to have stayed inside the state border too, not just us. Otherwise, we’d have been able to add Hawaii and Rhode Island last year.

Map created at amcharts.com

What’s next? (entire section updated)

After another week here in Montana, where we are happy with lower population density and temperatures than we were enduring in Texas, we’re going to spend some time in Wyoming and Colorado as we make our way back to Texas in September.

It wasn’t our original plan to go back this fall (am I the only one detecting a theme here?) but we’ve been able to schedule some non-critical yet important medical and dental appointments that were impossible to nail down when we were there in June/July.

So it’ll be San Antonio from mid-September until Halloween or so, and the course of the pandemic will determine where — or if — we go after that.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and/or Twitter for between-blogging updates.

So that’s it for the end of Year 5.
The time for smiling at you from behind our masks will eventually end…
… and then we can smile at you like this, looking back, having made it through.
(Photo: D. Goldstein)

Other updates: We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format for the where-we’ve-beens and what-we’ve-dones.

WheRVe we been? Our (lack of) travels, 2nd quarter 2020

I thought I’d be tapping out this quarterly update from the UP, at a rustic campground in Marquette, where we’d planned to spend this week with friends.

But… pandemic pause.

Every event we’d registered for between July and September, between Michigan and Washington, was canceled.

So we’re still in Texas, waiting to tie up a few loose ends, and trying to figure out what’s next.

I feel a few of you nodding your heads and smirking in solidarity, and I appreciate that we’re not alone in having our plans change, and change, and change again during this pandemic.

We are thankful that for us this endurance test has so far been only inconvenient and frustrating, not devastating.

We didn’t lose jobs, we didn’t watch the jobs we did have become an unrecognizable marathon of awkward teleconferences, and we didn’t have to monitor our children’s online schooling.

Hell, we didn’t even have to explain the pandemic to our kids. Every day. In a hundred different ways. To infinity. Some of you did, and probably still are, and you deserve all the top shelf margaritas.

And we’ve remained virus-free, as have our family members.

Those are all very precious gifts.

So now that all the gratitude’s been typed out loud, here’s my briefest quarterly update ever.

We went three places.
T.H.R.E.E.
From Kerrville, to Livingston, to San Antonio, which was less than 600 RV travel miles.
Last quarter? 3,236.

Here’s another telling image for ya. Below is a screen cap of my notes for our quarterly travels, recording each place we slept and approximate miles traveled.
1st quarter 2020: 17 stops
2nd quarter 2020: just the 3
For the past year, we’ve made between 11 and 18 stops per quarter. Ack.

April: We were supposed to be in San Antonio for all our routine annual medical and dental appointments, but every single one was canceled or switched to a phone consult (by our providers, not us), so we stayed on as camp hosts at Kerrville-Schreiner Park for a few more weeks — our third spring season there.

It’s pretty.

May: We were exactly where we were supposed to be! We’d signed up in July of 2019 to spend the month of May 2020 volunteering at Escapees CARE, a unique respite facility for RV’ers in Livingston, TX. We were worried that the pandemic quarantine would preclude our being able to serve, but we got the all-clear, and that resulted in one of the most gratifying workamping gigs we’ve ever experienced. Here’s where you’ll find my words and pics.

Unquantifiable, the rewards of devoting our time and energy to the people of CARE.
We’ll do it again.

June: We were supposed to be checking some middle states off our travel map as we made our way to a few scheduled stops in MI and WI, but instead, we re-booked almost all the appointments we’d had to skip (see April), and came back to our home base of San Antonio. It’s dog breath hot, and the city’s become a COVID-19 quagmire, but we got the most important pokes, prods, and scans done before things started shutting down again, and we’ve been able to see family and friends in small groups — good medicine, both.

We haven’t really gone out much since we’ve been in San Antonio,
so I don’t have a lot of photos from the month of June.
But we’ve been doing more outdoor cooking than usual,
so here. Here’s a picture of our dutch oven cobbler.

Where to next: We’ll probably try making our way north, to spend some time cooling off in the mountains of CO, MT, WY and/or UT. Following each state’s rules for COVID-19 prevention is a priority, and we will take great care to make sure we travel safely. Or we might just throw our hands in the air and forget about it, and give in to the universe’s persistent nagging that this summer we should probably just stay put. You’ll find out when I blog about this quarter in October.

Or you can follow us on FacebookInstagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go (or don’t).

Please stay well, y’all. Please.

Here’s hoping for this view from the passenger side, soon.

We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

Volunteering during the pandemic: our month at Escapees CARE

At a time when the world is quite literally ailing, we were able to experience a little healing by occupying our minds, hands and hearts in service to others.

The mental and emotional balm was invaluable, and that alone would have been compensation enough for our work, but we gained so. much. more.

Wait. Escapees what?

There’s this quite remarkable place in Livingston, TX, called the Escapees CARE Center, and if you’ve attended an Escapees or Xscapers event, you’ve probably heard of it, and maybe even thrown some money toward a fundraiser for it.

It’s not where old RV’ers go to die.

It’s where they go to live better, longer — in the comfort of their own RVs.

So maybe before I explain to you what we did at CARE, I should explain to you what CARE is.

It stands for Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees, and its mission, straight out of the employee/volunteer handbook, is “to provide a home for Escapees members who are no longer able to travel due to their age or disabilities. The purpose is to allow them to remain in their own RV home while receiving support services that will enable them to continue to live independently.”

And from the web site, “CARE is a place where you will receive professional help for the things you may no longer be able to do. It is not a nursing home. Its goal is to delay or eliminate the need for a nursing home, or assisted living.”

It’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that includes both residential and adult day care (ADC) programs, and it’s been in operation since 1995. (More FAQs)

During our time there, there were 52 residents in 40 RV sites (of an available 60), and although the ADC was closed during our first 3 weeks, we were able to help welcome back about 8 clients as quarantine restrictions eased.

How’d you get into it?

I must have seen a plea for volunteers in one of our RVing Facebook groups.

We were attracted by the opportunity to give back to the Escapees community (y’all, we get far more value out of our annual membership fee than the $40.00 we put in), as well as by the volunteer requirements and benefits.

Volunteer Row at CARE
We were provided a 50-amp full hookup RV site, three meals a day, and access to a free washer & dryer.

We knew we’d be serving on a team of about 8 volunteers, each putting in 24-32 hours a week, to help provide some of the benefits CARE offers its clients: assistance with daily tasks, meals, errands, and appointments.

We completed our applications in July 2019, and got on the roster for the month of May 2020, knowing that we could zip over to Livingston after our usual annual visit to San Antonio in April.

Little did we know then how unusual the spring of 2020 would be!

Were you worried about COVID-19?

Yes, for a few reasons.

  1. CARE residents are an at-risk population due to both advanced age and to underlying health issues. Contracting or inadvertently transmitting the virus were real concerns.
  2. Group activities and outings had been all but eliminated at CARE because of social distancing and sanitary protocols, and no visitors were allowed. This made us wonder if we’d even have enough to do to make it worth the risk of Item 1.
  3. What if the virus resurged while we were there, and quarantine orders were extended? Would we be able to shelter in place beyond our month-long commitment?

After lengthy email and phone discussions with the volunteer coordinator, we were assured that reasonable precautions were being taken to keep residents, staff, and volunteers safe.

We were also assured that although volunteer duties had been minimized, our assistance was indeed still needed and that there’d be space for us should we have to extend our stay.

Benefits outweighed risk, so we went.

How was your first week?

A little lonely.

We abided by the staff nurse’s request to self-quarantine for 7 days upon arrival.

On the 8th day, we were ready for training, and after that, it was daily temperature checks, social distancing, and judicious use of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for all.

A few crafty CARE residents had their own mask production line cranking away, and we were issued a set.
Yeah, mine’s on upside down. It was just for a quick selfie, OK?
(Top R photo credit: Escapees CARE, Inc.)

So what kinds of things did you do?

We rotated on a 4-team, 4-day roster that included Driver/Honey-Do Day, Backup Driver Day, On-Call Day (24 hours), and a day off.

Most of our duties revolved around meals. The dining hall was open only for a sparsely attended continental breakfast for our first ten days, so we helped take orders and deliver lunch and dinner to residents’ RVs.

When the facility reopened for noon and evening meals, at reduced capacity to enforce social distancing, we volunteers then juggled jobs as order takers, servers, deliverers (for those who weren’t yet comfortable dining in), and cleaner-uppers.

Photo credit: Escapees CARE, Inc.
When I say we “took orders,” what that really means is that we checked in with each resident every morning to find out whether they wanted the daily lunch and dinner offerings — or not.
The big meal of the day was served at noon; a light supper in the evening.
I did not cook all month.
Dessert twice a day? I’m in!
Oh, and one of our volunteers brought in dozens of fresh doughnuts at least once a week, and all this is my way of telling you that I am dieting now.

On driving days, we made use of the CARE minivan fleet to take residents to necessary appointments. Some days, because of quarantine closures and/or cautious residents, there were no outings at all. This was a big change from usual operations*, when we’re told all four minivans were in and out all day long.

*One of the residents, Ms. R, referred to the time before the pandemic as “back when things were cool.” Can’t begrudge her that! It was cool when we could get together at will with our friends for movies, shopping, potlucks, and game nights. Make no mistake that the aged among us feel the isolation deeply, and in ways we “whippersnappers” can’t even appreciate.

That big bus is for the center’s weekly group trip to Walmart, which was reinstated while we were there, but limited to half the usual number of residents.
Tim and one of the other volunteers had to spend some time convincing the chair lift to get its butt back in action, and I’m proud to say they were successful.

As for honey-do’s, those were tasks that tended to fall outside the realm of usual volunteer duties, and we were welcome to tackle them if we felt comfortable and/or skilled enough to do so.

After nearly 6 years of dealing with our own RV issues, Tim the Tool Man can — and did — tackle a wide range of repairs. Let’s see… he attacked roof damage, a window leak, a dead coach battery, a water hose leak, and a floor register clean-out, among other things.
This wobbly dining table didn’t stand a chance.
And now it stands firmly!

What about other memorable happenings?

Mother’s Day fell on our first weekend on duty.
There were flowers, hand made cards, enthusiastic chalk decorations, and a special lunch of barbecued ribs.
Since we were the couple on call (read: in charge) that day, and I wanted the residents to get to know us better, I put up photos of each of us with our mothers, plus the two boys who made me a mom.
Two of our volunteers brought karaoke (CARE-aoke?) to our Friday afternoons.
I sang!
I normally don’t.
But ummm… my audience included folks who don’t see well, hear well, or remember well, and that struck me as a pretty safe combination for my lack of talent.

So. Much. Gratitude.
They thanked us every day for our service to them — in person, in writing, and even in a couple of ginormous steaks (Tim wouldn’t accept money, and Mr. L wouldn’t accept that Tim wouldn’t accept money, so he gifted us with porterhouse steaks in appreciation for a roof patch-up).
And no, I have not left Tim for someone named Kevin.
There was a mix-up at the beginning of the month with another volunteer couple, Kevin stuck, and in a population that neither hears nor remembers terribly well, it was easier just to roll with it.
She Who Must Be Obeyed?
Look.
All I said was, “Maybe the volunteer in charge for the day should wear a special hat.”
I was thinking CARE ball cap.
But a fellow volunteer grabbed two pieces of scrap paper and fashioned me a crown in about 12 seconds.
It’s like she knew me or something.
This.
This is what it’s all about at CARE: the relationships.

We learned so much. We listened, we gave comfort, we cried, and we laughed. We made friends and shared stories. We were given a sense of purpose at a time when we needed to feel needed.

And we’ll do it again.

We haven’t chosen a month to commit yet, but we really want to go back and see how it feels during non-pandemic conditions — when things are cool again. (Hat tip to you, Ms. R!)


Interested in furthering CARE’s mission?

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 1st quarter 2020

I’m departing from the usual format for this update because… well, because we’ve all had to depart from our “usual formats” this spring, yes? Sheesus, this.

I’ll borrow words from our friend, Joodie, at Chasing Dirt, “There is no way to blog today without some talk of The Virus, but I don’t really want to talk about it in any appreciable way. I have nothing to tell you that you don’t already know or aren’t hearing and seeing in about a thousand other places a million times a day. I have been wrestling with whether or not to continue to blog right now at all, not because I don’t have anything to share, but because I don’t want to seem callous or naive about the current state of our world by sharing anything else.”

Same.

Joodie, like me, is a person who needs to write (and you’ll get to “meet” her if you stick with me and keep scrolling). What I don’t need, not always anyway, is for my writing to be seen. So with that in mind, I’ll start with my customary travel map, and after that, just one pic from each of our major stops along the way to this COVID-19 Spring.

We went back and forth and around and around a lot,
from AZ to NM to AZ to CA to Mexico to CA and then across AZ and NM again to TX.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3236
(Map does not reflect exact routing.)
Tucson, AZ, 12/20/2019 – 01/06/2020
A day at the Desert Museum with our friends, Andrea & Shawn of 40FootHouse
Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, AZ, 01/06 – 01/12
Quiet, secluded boondocking in the grasslands
Whiskey Mountain RV, Phoenix, AZ, 01/12 – 01/17
Had repair work done, and spent some time staring at this clock in the lobby.

Carlsbad Caverns, NM, 01/18 – 01/25
Service project! Cleaned the place with paint brushes. Read this post.

Alamogordo, NM, 01/25 – 02/02
Ranger-led sunset hike at White Sands National Park
Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area, AZ, 02/02 – 02/04
Boondocking and a hot tub
Phoenix, AZ, 02/04 – 02/11
Dinner meet-up with Kevin & Judy, who were our co-managers at the pumpkin patch in CA, back in October
Gila Bend, AZ, 02/11 – 02/13
That’s Joodie and her husband! There on the left!
We didn’t know they were staying at the Gila Bend Famcamp when we pulled in, and they didn’t know we were coming, but Joodie spotted us, and we were thus able to spend some quality time together.
She wrote it up here.
San Felipe, BC, Mexico, 02/14 – 02/24
Ten days of tequil-aaaahhhhh
(and lots of tacos, relaxation, and fun with friends, all of which you can read about here)
Borrego Springs, CA, 02/26 – 03/06
Boondocking in the desert, with PCT hiking for Tim, and recovery from the “San Felipe Flu” for me
Kerrville, TX, 03/08 – present
Our 3rd springtime gig as camp hosts is stretching quite a bit longer than the planned 3 weeks, so that we can continue to help contain the spread of COVID-19 by staying in place.
Also? We’ve doubled our occupancy by sheltering our younger son and his girlfriend with us.
Hooray for full hook-ups!
And when I look back on this season, what I want to remember is that when it felt like everything else in our world had stopped, the bluebonnets still showed up.
And bluebonnets don’t have to worry about social distancing.

Where to next: We’ll ride out April here in Kerrville, and we’re just going to have to wait and see which of our plans in May, June and July are still viable. Same as everybody else.

Please stay well, y’all. Please.


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.