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.

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 3rd quarter 2019

We don’t always make plans without consulting our calendar or a map first, but when we do, we end up having to drive from Maine to southern California!

Luckily, we had almost a month between events. And hey, maybe next year, we’ll try the Washington-Florida diagonal to make things even.

Here’s the summary of our 3rd quarter travels, mapped with a little help from Google.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 5512

The briefest possible description: we went from PA to IN to MA to VT to NY to ME, then spent about 3 weeks rolling to CA.

Erie, PA, June 30 – July 7: As I mentioned in our 2nd quarter wrap-up, we spent 4th of July week moochdocking in a cousin’s driveway, and hanging out with Tim’s cousins and auntie.

Knowing that pie crust is one of my culinary challenges, Tim’s aunt invited me over for Pie Camp, and walked me step by step through her no-fail process. I had my own pie tin, and did all the measuring and mixing my own self. Look at that thing!
(She also taught me her method of hard boiling eggs, and I think I’ve finally got it now. Yes, I can make bread in the shape of a perfect frigging lobster, but I regularly fail at eggs.)
We also did some kayaking on Lake Erie, ate our weight in gyros at the Greek Festival, and just enjoyed a relaxing time with family.

Howe, IN, July 7-11: We went back to the DRV factory for Round 2 (ding ding!) of warranty repair work. The punch list had grown after our first visit in February, and since we were already in the general area, we had the repair team attack it.

We know that things go wrong with all RVs, even new ones, and ours has been no exception. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing, and we are both of the opinion that our unit must have missed Quality Control Check Day before it left the factory.

This article explains a lot of the weak points and outright failures in the RV industry, and provides ample evidence that we are not alone.

But misery loves company!
While in IN, we finally got to meet Andrea & Shawn of 40foothouse, and reconnected with friends Michael & Kelly of Performance Trailer Braking — all full-time RVers.
And speaking of performances, we watched some Amish mommies leave the park with their kiddos. They made it look just as easy as piling everyone into a minivan and backing out.
But then, they do learn early.

Massachusetts, July 12-30: We’ve been to Boston before, so this time we focused our sightseeing efforts on some of the outlying areas, like Bedford, Lexington, Concord, and Salem.

We saw Minute Men monuments, Walden Pond, and several cemeteries containing the remains of people who were around to witness the birth of our nation.
Oh, and I got a little witchy in Salem.
I bet brooms don’t break down nearly as often as RVs do. Hmmmm.
We also celebrated our anniversary by taking a ride back in time.
One of the stops on our honeymoon in 1992 was the historic carousel in Fall River, MA, so we recreated the photo 27 years later.
Grayer hair, wider ass, but by golly, that is the same horse.

Waterbury, VT, July 30 – Aug 1: Remember our partners in crime, Chip & Penni from our Amazon Camperforce days? We really have stayed friends! Waterbury is their home, and when we said we’d like to come visit, they offered up boondocking space at their summer location.

Ice cream played a big role in our time together.
We went out for maple creemees, and of course made the pilgrimage to Ben & Jerry’s.
To Chip, it’s a former employer. To me? The holy land, and a visit I’ve been waiting to make for 30+ years!

Albany, NY, Aug 1-11: The good news is that my Auntie Judith turns 85 this year, and a big big surprise party was planned for her in her home town of Albany. The bad news is that I jumped the gun on making a campground reservation, and had to hide for ten days so as not to spoil a surprise that took a year to plan, and involved family members arriving under top secret conditions from locations across the country!

And how do you hide a 41-foot 5th wheel? You can’t.
So even though we were at an exceptionally lovely state park that whole time, I kept my mouth shut and my social media posts vague.
And it worked.
That was one utterly gobsmacked aunt/sister/mother/grandmother/great grandmother, and we hope to surprise her again at 90. Or maybe 88, just to keep her guessing.
(She’ll read this, so please take a moment to face NY and shout, “Happy birthday, Judith!”)

Maine, Aug. 12-19: I’ve already written about this adventure in detail, so here are two photos I haven’t posted yet.

The lobster “roll” I made for a potluck vs. an actual ready-to-eat lobster on my plate.
They could be twins. Right?
(Click for my bread recipe)
Between Tim’s naval career and our RV travels, we’ve admired a lot of coastlines.
Maine’s gets an A+.

The long diagonal from Maine to California, Aug. 19 – Sept. 10: For the first 11 days, we stopped for only one or two nights at a time, before spending the next 11 just south of Tucson. Tim has an aunt & uncle there, so we were able to visit with them and make ample use of their garage for building our solar panel frames.

We are joining the “cult” of RV solar power.
Tim may eventually write up the nitty gritty on that, because all I’ve really learned from this process is that I’m good at metal grinding.
Who knew?
I will instead heap praise upon two friends who assisted with some of the physical labor.
My childhood pal, Mark (who went to the Mexican dentist with us a while back), gave us a hand under sweltering conditions in Tucson, and Ted did the same in Escondido.
Love those guys!
As part of the solar power system installation, we have also joined the Cult of the Battle Born. These batteries get a lot of hype in the RV world — so much that I fully expected to hear a choir of angels when I opened each box.
But I did not, so I’ve added glowy starbursty things to the photo.
We’ll see what happens once we’ve actually got them all wired up and working.
Along the way: more meals with RV friends!
Remember Andrea & Shawn from our stop in Indiana, just a few inches up above? Hung out again in New Mexico.
Then, we met up in Tucson with Julie & Sean of Chickery’s Travels, who we’d met in Texas last year.
And finally, we reconnected with Ted & Jan of the Wandering Kolbs, for the first time since we met in Arizona, in January of 2017.
We’re all neighbors. We just rarely meet up in the same neighborhood twice.

Right now: We’re parked on site at the pumpkin patch for our seasonal jobs in Escondido. We’ll work 7 days a week for the entire month of October, co-managing all the fun things with another couple: hay rides, corn maze, school field trips, petting zoo, sunflower field, and of course pumpkins!

It was Ted & Jan who got us into this job.
They’ve returned for their third season at a Pumpkin Station location, and we figured that if they like it that much, it’s worth giving it a try.
Here we go!

Where to next? Uhhh… I guess we’d better figure that out by Halloween, eh? We might go visit family in WA, or we might hide out in the desert for a while, to get some use of that solar power system. Or both!

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.


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.

2018 Grand Canyon Hike

Tim

A couple months ago, I was presented with an opportunity to join a group of five guys in a hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in early May.

Who could pass that up?

The story in photos:

(Hint: Click on the first photo, and navigate through)

Sedona, Montezuma, Riordan, volcano, Wupatki. Ummm… gesundheit?

No, we didn’t sneeze. We did get out and see a heck of a lot of stuff in the Flagstaff area though, and a lot of it has names that are difficult to pronounce.

We started with repair work, in the form of undercarriage welding to stabilize the hangers and springs and equalizers and such. They’d taken a beating, likely because of the whole tire falling off thing back in January.

Aah, the sight of legs sticking out from under the RV. My favorite thing. Tim can do a lot of maintenance on his own, but he knows when it's time to pay a professional. Welding is not in his skill set, so we left The Toad with Buddy for the day.

Aah, the sight of legs sticking out from under the RV.
My least favorite thing.
Tim can do a lot of maintenance on his own, but he knows when it’s time to pay a professional. Welding is not in his skill set, so we left The Toad with Buddy for the day.

After that, we took our bicycles to a local shop, because they too were in need of some attention. Primarily, my bike needed new handle bars and grips after an unfortunate highway dragging incident in August. The shop cat matched my outfit. And cats do make me sneeze, so achoo!

After that, we took our bicycles to a local shop, because they too were in need of some attention.
Primarily, my bike needed new handle bars and grips after an unfortunate highway dragging incident in August.
The shop cat matched my outfit, so I took a picture. And cats do make me sneeze, so achoo!

We had the rest of the day to kill while our home was up on jacks, so southward we went, down the “back way” through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona.

Warning: when you look at a map of 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona, you're not going to see this unless you zoom in way far. I had to put on my magic bracelets.

Warning: when you look at a map of 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona, you’re not going to see this unless you zoom in way far. It’s narrow and canyon-y and twisty.
I had to put on my magic bracelets.

We didn't do any shopping in Sedona. Just went on a nature walk and looked at the rocks.

We didn’t do any shopping in Sedona. Just went on a nature walk and looked at the rocks.

Well they are impressive. Not sure about all that energy vortex stuff, though. I didn't feel any different.

Well, they are impressive.
Not sure about all that energy vortex stuff, though. I didn’t feel any different.

On the way back from Sedona, we made thrifty use of our National Parks Pass, and spent about an hour exploring Montezuma Castle National Monument

On the way back from Sedona, we made thrifty use of our America the Beautiful Pass, and took in the Sinagua Indian ruins at Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Here in the heart of Flagstaff, we visited the Riordan Mansion, which sat on 54 acres back in the day of its wealthy lumber mill owners, but is now tucked into a corner of the campus of Northern Arizona University.

I got only a third of the place in my shot. The house is 13,000 square feet with 40 rooms. It was built in 1904 for two brothers (who married sisters) and their families.

I got only a third of the place in my shot, being unable to step back toward… uh… the next county. The house is 13,000 square feet of Arts & Crafts style architecture, with 40 rooms. It was built in 1904 for the Riordan brothers (who married sisters) and their families. Many of its features reminded us of a certain 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow we’ve lived in…

Yesterday, we drove just northeast of the city and took advantage of our America the Beautiful Pass once more, to visit both the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments.

Landscape: creepy These four white trees brought to mind horses of the apocalypse.

Landscape: creepy

Cinders, ash, and... life

900 years ago: cinders, lava, fire, and ash. Today: life

Moonscape

Moonscape

Color amongst the cinders

Color amongst the cinders

The ruins in Wupatki date back to the 1100s, and it was both warming and chilling to stand inside their walls, trying to imagine what it was like to live here. Then. This is the Wukoki Pueblo.

The ruins in Wupatki date back to the 1100’s, and it was both warming and chilling to stand inside their walls, trying to imagine what it was like to live here. Then.
This is the Wukoki Pueblo.

The Wupatki Pueblo is the largest set of ruins. According to the park brochure, "Once a regional center for trade, this 104-room pueblo features a billboard and unique geologic blowhole."

The Wupatki Pueblo is the largest set of ruins. According to the park brochure, “Once a regional center for trade, this 104-room pueblo features a ball court and unique geologic blowhole.”

And we found the blowhole. Air was rushing upward, and I regretted not wearing a white halter dress to make this a true Marilyn Monroe impression.

And we found the blowhole. Air was rushing upward, making my shirt pouf out, and I immediately regretted not wearing a white halter dress instead, a la Marilyn Monroe.

img_8734

Looking out from the ruins, we could just make out the Painted Desert in the distance. It’s that light pink strip in the center, just below the sky.

img_8733 img_8737

And tomorrow, we roll. It gets cold and snowy up here in northern Arizona, and well, we just don’t have to put up with that kind of negativity.

We’ll spend the next month or so in the Tucson area, joining Tim’s aunt & uncle for Turkey Day. It’ll be our first Thanksgiving since 1995 without either one of our sons, and that’s kind of weird and a little depressing, but I am a strong believer in the medicinal properties of ridiculous quantities of pie, so I know I’ll make it through the day.

Then we’ll figure out what we’re doing for Christmas.

Grand Canyon hike: Check! And nobody fell in. Or got pushed.

We timed our adventure well. The weather, sunny with a high of 61 degrees and a light breeze, was perfect. The scenery was spectacular, and changed in color and intensity as the sun shifted throughout the day, and — best of all — crowds were low.  We crossed paths with only about 75 other hikers and a couple dozen mules on this early November Sunday.

Mule train! See 'em coming up the trail?

Mule train! See ’em coming up the trail?

Step aside, human. Step aside.

Step aside, human. Step aside. We gots work to do.

There were other critters on the trail too. This guy wanted food, and took a hopeful taste of Tim's hiking pole, but skittered off looking more than a little disappointed.

There were other critters on the trail too. This guy wanted food, and took a hopeful taste of Tim’s proffered hiking pole, but skittered off looking more than a little disappointed, and like he might have been planning our untimely demise.

I was apprehensive about attempting a hike in which the up comes after the down, and rightfully so. It’s a tough way to end a hike! All the tips we read said to plan twice as much time to ascend as to descend, but at my slow and steady pace, I spent the same amount of time on each.

We started at the South Kaibab Trailhead, hiked down about 2000 feet in elevation over 3 miles to Skeleton Point, and then back up -- which I'm pretty sure was 5,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles. Took us 2 hours each way.

We started at the South Kaibab Trailhead, hiked down about 2000 feet in elevation over 3 miles to Skeleton Point, and then back up — which felt more like 5,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles.
Took us 2 hours each way.

We laughed mighty hard at the "Puking Guy" sign near the start of our descent. On the way back up? Not funny. Not funny at all.

We laughed mighty hard at the “Puking Guy” sign near the start of our descent.
On the way back up? Not funny. Not funny at all.

We always look so happy and clean at the start of a hike. By the time we're finished, we're both filthy, soaking wet, stinky, and I'm crabby as hell because my body doesn't handle depletion well. You've heard of a mean drunk? Well I'm a mean hiker. When I growl, "Stop talking to me," Tim knows that's his cue to put about half a mile between us.

We always look so happy and clean at the start of a hike.
By the time we’re finished, we’re both filthy, soaking wet and stinky, plus I’m crabby as hell because my body doesn’t handle depletion well.
You’ve heard of a mean drunk? Well I’m a mean hiker. When I growl, “Stop talking to me,” Tim knows that’s his cue to put about half a mile between us.

We started out just after 10 a.m., and watched the sun come over the canyon walls on our way down.

We started out just after 10 a.m., and watched the sun come over the canyon walls on our way down.

We looked down at this set of switchbacks, wondering just how much they were gonna hurt on the way back up. Answer: lots. Sore knees, achy hips, trembling legs, and one torn calf muscle (Tim's) are now on the mend.

We looked down at this set of switchbacks, wondering just how much they were gonna hurt on the way back up.
Answer: lots. Sore knees, achy hips, trembling legs, and one torn calf muscle (Tim’s) are now on the mend.

One mile down: Ooooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

One mile down: Ooooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Three miles down: time to eat lunch before we turn into skeletons!

Three miles down: time to eat lunch before we turn into skeletons! I bet that’s why they named it that.

Picnic lunch for two, with a view

Picnic lunch for two, with a view

img_1426Glad I did it, but wow, once was enough for me. Tim, meanwhile, got the itch to add a rim-to-rim hike to his bucket list. Guess I’ll serve as the support chick when the time comes, and pick him up when he gets to the other side!