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.

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?

¡Vámonos! Our RV caravan to Mexico

What was our biggest fear about taking our RV across the border for the Escapees Baja Mexico Hangout in San Felipe in February?

(screen cap: Apple Maps)

Welp, as two people who quite happily roll by the seats of our pants, often departing for the day’s drive rather giddy with the notion that we have no idea where we’ll be sleeping that night, it was the massive level of planning required.

Dios mío, the paperwork! Some was new, and some we just had to ensure was accurate and up-to-date, but the list was impressive: passports, Mexican tourism cards, Mexican liability insurance, driver’s licenses, registration, and US insurance.

Our group members also had to figure out what to do about weapons, alcohol, and other items that are prohibited/restricted in Mexico; about drinking water; about pets; about cell service, fuel, and groceries. As with any type of foreign travel, the more you prepare, the fewer unpleasant surprises you may have to deal with in a country whose customs and language are not your own.

Luckily, our Escapees Hangouts directors rose to the occasion as they have for prior gatherings, and made sure — via social media, email, an event web page, and even a live webinar Q&A — that very little was left to chance.

I won’t fill this post with all the decisions we made and actions we took for every little aspect of the trip. It’ll take forfreakineverrr, and I’d rather get to the good part: the pictures.

However, if you’re considering an RV trip to Mexico, and you’ve got specific questions, first read the FAQ on our event’s web page, and then feel free to ask how we personally handled that issue by posting a comment below. If I’ve got an answer, I’ll tell ya. If I don’t, I’ll shout, “Hey look at that giant margarita over there!” to distract you, and then we’ll laugh and laugh because I am so hilarious.

And now, the photos. ¡Ándale!

We gathered in a mall parking lot in El Centro, CA, on the day before our border crossing, for a brief orientation with our directors, a radio check, and decal distribution. All of us dry camped in the mall lot that night (by previous arrangement with management) to be ready for our 0800 departure the next morning.
We used the radios to relay messages along our 46-rig caravan during the 140-mile trip, and the decals were used to keep us in numerical order for parking in the right spots at our destination, Victor’s RV Park in San Felipe. Tim and I brought up the rear, hence the ULTIMO decal. It also helped our police escorts in Mexicali and San Felipe tell when our group was done passing through the intersections they’d kindly blocked off to ease our passage through their congested cities (another pre-arranged perk).
And that fourth shot is our view from the tail end, as everyone waited along the Mexico side of the border wall for the last of us to pass through customs and immigration, a process that took about 2 1/2 hours from primero to ultimo.
Like the other Hangouts we’ve attended (Maine and Carlsbad Caverns), this one offered scheduled group events.
1. Day trip to Valle de Los Gigantes, home to a forest of cardón, the tallest growing cactus in the world.
2. Service project planting 30 trees our group donated to our host town as a gesture of goodwill.
3. Margarita Throwdown, a $1/vote contest that served as a fundraiser for Escapees CARE.
4. Guacamole Throwdown, a $1/vote contest that raised all the money for those trees. (photo by V. Fillmore)
We also took a trip to the San Felipe Brewing Company, where one of our members was sporting the best RVing shirt ever, and I drank a hibiscus ale and a couple of other varieties that I no longer recall, but it was enough to make me kick off my sandals and dance to the live band. A lot. Looks like I also threw my arms up and shouted “wooooo” maybe a little more often than usual.
Ahem.
The great part of it all is that we went by bus, so none of us had to drive home.
And the hilarious part of that, given our tipsy-chummy state, was that they were school buses. Ha!
Unlike our other two Hangouts, this one offered several large blocks of unscheduled time so that we could get out and explore on our own.
Which we did!
We carpooled with a small group to these natural seaside hot springs
(photo by D. Lupton)
… we rode our bikes to the lighthouse…
… walked into town for tacos several times, because at these prices, it was cheaper to eat out than cook at home (70 pesos = about $3.70 USD, for not one, but four fish tacos)…
… and I spent some time in a bathing suit, with my ass in the sand and my margarita green toesies in the Sea of Cortez.

It was easy to love the colors of our little town on the Baja. Check these out:

I know at least a few of you are wondering if there were any “incidents”?

Ugh. Yeahhhhh, unfortunately there were two, and I didn’t want to mention them at all, because they did not detract from our fun, nor have they turned us off from future visits to Mexico.

But not mentioning them feels dishonest. So…

At a Mexican military checkpoint on our way back to the US, two members of our caravan had items stolen from their RVs during the inspection. And a few of the trees we planted were vandalized after we left, but later replaced by the volunteer organization we’d been working with.

We don’t blame Mexican culture for these incidences any more than we blame Boston culture for the time my friends had cash stolen from their hotel room, or San Antonio culture for the time my brother had the contents of his car stolen, or Austin culture for the three times our son has had his bike stolen.

Crimes of opportunity happen everywhere. If you already harbor fears of foreign travel, and assumptions about certain peoples, I know I’ve done nothing to dispel them. But hiding this part of the trip would feel like a crime on my part. So take reasonable precautions when you travel outside our borders, yes? Just like you would on more familiar soil.

This.
This is what we’ll remember about our trip to San Felipe: that we felt so welcomed by its people, and most especially by its small businesses and restaurants.
We were the third and final large group of Escapees RV Club members to stay in this seaside town over the course of a month, and it was clear that our presence was very much appreciated.

We’d go back!

Surprise! We worked as pickers again.

No, not for Amazon, like we did in 2017.

Better.

Way, way better.

This time we were picking lint out of Carlsbad Caverns.

Yes, actual lint.

Like dryer vent lint, but 800 feet under ground, embedded in what you might think of as Mother Nature’s navel, for four days, with 30 other RVing volunteers who paid for a week-long excursion to get the job done.

It went like this.

And sometimes like this.

Like picking merchandise for Amazon, our task was tedious and repetitive, and it left us with surprisingly sore muscles, but this time? We earned far more reward. Our team was helping — really helping — one of our treasured national parks look better, and maybe even survive longer.

Are you still stuck on the lint thing? Fine.

How does the lint get there?

About half a million visitors walk through the caverns each year (that, and other cool facts about the park are here). The clothing fibers, hair, and skin cells that naturally fall off of their bodies end up collecting as wads of lint along the walkways, and also trapped on the sides and in crevices of nearby rock formations.

The lint makes the formations look grubby, and also causes them to break down over time, as it collects moisture and blocks air from their surfaces.

This problem was discovered about 30 years ago, and volunteers have been arduously and carefully removing lint ever since, at a rate of about 19 pounds a year. (Remember that number. There’s a quiz later.)

This poster in the Visitor Center explains it.
(Photo: D. Goldstein)
We looked just like the poster!
(Photo: D. Goldstein)
Sort of?

Fascinating. Now how did you get there?

We signed up to join the Escapees Carlsbad Caverns Cleanup Hangout as soon as registration opened back in October, knowing that 1) this Hangout’s mission was to spend a week in service to a national park, and 2) that we are already big fans of this particular program after having such a blast at the Downeast Maine Hangout last year.

Our Hangout directors made sure we always knew where to be, when to be there, and what to do, and they also coordinated some group events and meals outside of work time, so that we could all have fun getting to know each other.

Our welcome gathering on the first night, with directors David & Cheryl Goldstein (standing) describing the mission we were about to accept.
We went on a group hike to nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and…
… ate out at few locally owned restaurants.
And of course, as RVers do wherever they gather, we overindulged at more than a couple of potlucks at the campground.
(Photo: C. Goldstein)
We all stayed at White’s City RV Park, a quick 7-mile drive from the caverns.
No frills, but quiet and convenient, with access to a 3.6 mile hiking trail to the park, for those who might want a more strenuous way to get back and forth.
I climbed only the first 1/4 mile to get this photo of the campground from above.

Did you need special equipment?

Yes, and the park can provide all of it, but our group arrived prepared with a lot of our own gear. Our yellow vests with the Escapees logo were included in our event fee; the park has a stash of their own logo vests for other volunteers to borrow.

For safety: reflective vests, knee pads, head lamps, helmets, rubber gloves

For lint collecting: paint brushes in various sizes, plastic baggies

Who you gonna call? Lint Busters!
(Someday, I will forgive Hangout Director David Goldstein for implanting that ear worm. But not yet.)
Orientation, training, and gear issue took up most of our first morning.
After a lunch break, we were ready to get to work!

What were your work hours and conditions?

Expectations were clear from the start. We weren’t scared.

This screen cap is from our Hangout description page.
Click here for a more thorough document.

Our work hours in the cavern were from 10-12 and 1-3, Monday through Thursday, with lunch on site (brown bag or park concession).

At 9:30 a.m., we’d gather in our meeting room with our ranger (Jo Ann Garcia or David Tise, depending on the day), learn about our work location while gathering our equipment and putting on our gear, and then descend together to the cleaning area. At noon, we’d stop work, head back up to the meeting room to drop off our equipment and gear, and take our lunch break. Repeat the 9:30 routine at 1:00, and the noon routine at 3:00, only we’d go home instead of to lunch.

On Day 1, we descended through the natural entrance into the Bat Cave, and in just over 2 hours…
… this was what only half of our collection looked like. I took this picture before everyone had returned to our meeting room with their haul.
Daily amounts varied by individual, and by the areas in which we were picking. My bags weighed right around 2.5 ounces — after four hours of very diligent work.
Annotated map showing where we worked each day
(Credit: D. Goldstein)
Here’s our crew of triumphant lint pickers, with all the gunk we collected in that black garbage bag in front of us.
No, we’re not flashing gang signs. The Hawaiian shaka, meaning “hang loose,” is the official Hangouts symbol, greeting, and goofy pose of choice.
(Photo: random guy with a real camera and a lot of patience)

Did anything unexpected happen?

Well, one thing we were not prepared for was the number of cavern visitors who stopped to ask us what we were doing. We’d explain as briefly as we could, since we had work to do and they had exploring to do, and it was such a kick to watch their reactions.

They were astounded — and a bit grossed out — to learn that lint is such a big issue, and every person I spoke to expressed sincere gratitude for our efforts. I even got a few laughs when I’d joke in my best mom voice, “Don’t walk there. I just cleaned that!”

Get to the good part, Emily. How much lint did y’all get???

Remember the annual average I told you way up there?

I’ll save you the scroll.

It was 19 pounds.

Our crew of 32, putting in seven roughly 2-hour shifts over four days, right here at the beginning of 2020, collected …

… drum roll please …

28 pounds.

Twenty. Eight. Pounds.

Eeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Were you compensated for your efforts?

As volunteers, the only compensation we wanted or needed was the satisfaction of providing a much needed service, and we got plenty.

The park also thanked us with some nice material goodies, including certificates of appreciation, logo pencils, water bottles, and bandanas.

They also gifted us on our last day with a complimentary guided tour of the King’s Palace, a section of the cave that not many visitors get to see, as it requires an advance reservation and an additional fee.

Now that’s my kind of reward: a unique and memorable experience.

I’m not an RV’er or an Escapee. Can I pick lint too?

Yes. According to our rangers, the park welcomes scouts and other service groups, as well as individuals and families (ages 10 and up). Contact the volunteer coordinator to make arrangements, and you too can fill a baggie (or 2 or 6 or 30) with icky gray cave lint!


For further reading:

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 4th quarter 2019

‘Twas a rolling feast!

We pureed pumpkins near the Mexican border, got stuffed with turkey near the Canadian border, and baked cookies for Santa after a return trip south.

But that’s what happens when ya roll from a SoCal Halloween, to a PNW Thanksgiving, to a desert Christmas.

Yes, it would have made far more sense to just stay in the southwest for the duration, but then we would have missed out on Thanksgiving with family (hadn’t seen our older boy and his girl for more than a year), and that was important enough to us to make the schlep back and forth through the brrrrr.

Here’s the summary of our 4th quarter travels, from Escondido to Port Townsend to Tucson, thanks to a little help from Google.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3512
(Map does not reflect our exact routing, hence the mileage discrepancy.)

Escondido, CA, Oct 1 – Nov 4: What an orange blur October was. Our workamping experience at Pumpkin Station really deserved a blog post of its own, but I just didn’t get there. The quick facts:

  • We worked 10-11 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire month.
  • Service industry employment was basically new territory, since neither of us had worked directly with customers since college days. Quite a learning curve, that.
  • Although our job title was Assistant Managers, we really had our hands in all kinds of tasks necessary to keep the business running: hay rides, tours, petting zoo, sales, stocking, cleaning, decorating, phone calls, hiring, scheduling and more.
  • Our compensation included a salary and W/E hookups on-site with regularly scheduled tank pump-outs.
  • Errands like laundry and grocery shopping meant late nights out after the work day was done, since we didn’t have weekends off.
  • And that meant we used very little fuel and spent very little money during the month we were bound to the farm. Another bonus? Free home grown pumpkins after we closed for the season. I didn’t have to buy a single can of Libby’s for my holiday baking!
  • It was both exhausting and rewarding, and we haven’t ruled out a return in 2020.
– The pumpkin patch as viewed from the upper fields
– A hungry goat (they’re always hungry)
– One of many school field trip groups
– Our site management team
Tim can now add toddler entertainment, hayride driving, tent re-stabilization, and goat-proofing to his list of marketable skills.
I get to add sunflower gathering, cashiering, petting zoo maintenance, and price gun wielding to mine.

Las Vegas, NV, and Savannah, GA, Nov 4 -12: So what did we do to decompress after a month of working together day in and day out? We took separate vacations!

Tim held down the fort in the Las Vegas area (and even moved the fort successfully from one site to another without me) while I flew to Savannah, GA, to join the girls for our 25th annual gathering, which we call FriendFest.

The ten of us met when our husbands were serving as naval officers aboard the same ship in the 1990’s, and we’ve gone on our own “deployment” every year since 1995. We eat until our pants are tight, drink until we stumble, laugh until we pee, and we’re gonna keep doing it until we can’t keep doing it anymore.

– Tim’s boondocking site in the desert, near Lake Meade
– Front and back of custom made FriendFest t-shirts, and perfect party napkins for our crew of retired Navy wives

Port Townsend, WA, Nov 14 – Dec 2: Although heading north in the winter is not our favorite thing, we do it to spend time with people who are some of our favorites. Fun fact: This trip made it so that we hit all four corner states in a single calendar year. Bam!

We stayed on the Olympic Peninsula to be closer to our son and his girlfriend, which meant taking an early ferry across the sound to spend Thanksgiving with Tim’s sisters and their families, who live north of Seattle.
I used my challah dough recipe to make a turkey to go with the turkey!
Oh. And on the way north, I learned a good lesson about using other vehicles to judge back-up distance.
Spoiler alert: I got it wrong.

Southern AZ, Dec 7-31: We had no specific destination in mind upon leaving WA, so our goal was to head south until we could stand outside without coats on.

First stop: Ontario, OR
Nope.
Second stop: Hill Air Force Base, UT
Still no.
Third stop: Page, AZ
There was no snow at Horseshoe Bend, but we still needed coats.
And hats.
Success!
In southern Arizona, they know how to put the mmm in warm.
We stayed at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend, and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Famcamp in Tucson.
We celebrated Christmas by baking cookies like we thought our boys were still at home to help eat them, and by setting out our few decorative items.
And when I opened our blinds on Christmas morning, I realized I’d just missed Santa’s takeoff!

Where to next? Our experience at the August Escapees Hangout in Maine was so rewarding that we’ve signed up for two more in early 2020.

In mid-January, we’ll join a team of RVing volunteers in New Mexico at the Escapees Carlsbad Caverns Cleanup Hangout. Per the event description, we will “help the National Park Service preserve the wondrous formations of Carlsbad Caverns. On Monday through Friday of this Hangout, we will spend 4-5 hours each day underground, deep inside the heavily-visited parts of the caverns, cleaning lint and other debris from the formations.”

And to keep life in balance after our work time, we will then go spend part of February at play, at the Escapees Baja Mexico Hangout, with toes in sand, margaritas and tacos in hand.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.

¡Con sueños de la playa, hasta la próxima!


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.