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.

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.

Yosemite Revisited: More Tips, Less Snark

You may recall that I had less than charitable things to say about our visit to Yosemite last July. The park is spectacular; it’s our timing that was all wrong.

Emily “You Can Embroider That Shit on a Toss Pillow” Rohrer

But with summer travel planning season upon us, I thought it might be a good idea to offer up some information that campers might find a little more helpful than my pissy rant of 2016. So here ya go:

If you’ve got your RV pointed toward California this summer for a swing through Yosemite National Park, be aware of three things:

  1. You’ll never forget the scenery,
  2. Unless you’re a photography genius, you won’t be able to capture all that majesty in pixels, and
  3. It’s gonna be crowded — really, really distressingly and disproportionately crowded, to DisneyWorld-esque levels. 1200 square miles is not big enough for all the people, because every single one of them spent significant time, effort, and money to spend part of their summer vacation there, and they are going to have their Experience of a Lifetime, visiting the same top 5 park attractions as you are.

For information on RV camping at Yosemite, click on Visiting Yosemite With an RV, but be aware that even the folks in charge recommend staying outside the park, and shuttling in using public transportation.

From the NPS web site, “Since parking for RVs and trailers is limited in Yosemite, we strongly encourage you to park your RV outside Yosemite and use YARTS to travel into the park if you’re not staying the night in Yosemite.”

If you do want to try to stay in the park, first make sure your RV will fit, and that you can survive without hookups for the duration of your visit. There aren’t any. However, dump stations with fresh water are available at 3 of the 10 RV-accessible campgrounds, and generator use is allowed, but only at posted hours.

Yosemite campground map
(Source: NPS.gov)

It probably goes without saying that you’ll want to make your reservation as far in advance as possible, or, if you’re feeling lucky and adventurous, you can try for a first-come/first-served spot.

When we visited Yosemite last year, we set up The Toad in a private RV park in Lee Vining, CA, which is about 12 miles east of the westernmost entrance at Tioga Pass, and a nearly 2-hour drive to the main visitor’s center in Yosemite Valley. (Be aware that Tioga Pass/Hwy 120 closes from October-May due to snow, so using Lee Vining as your home base is not always a good option.)

Source: Google Maps

We had to visit in the summer because my husband and our younger son were hiking the John Muir Trail, and that’s something you want to accomplish when there’s little or no snow. And if you’re hiking the whole 211-mile thing, like my husband did, you have to go through Yosemite.

But now that we know what the Yosemite crowds are like in the summertime, we will never do that again. Our schedule is no longer bound by school calendars, and we will use that to our advantage by visiting the more popular national parks at off-peak times in the spring and fall.

How bad was it? Imagine crowds of tourists from all over the planet, hollering to each other in umpteen different languages, trying to enjoy the exact same spot you are, stopping to consult their maps right in your path, posing for selfies in front of everything, dealing with children who have obviously just had it, and/or driving slowly with one arm out the window to shoot video that nobody will ever want to view.

Lower Yosemite Falls, and a very small portion of the day’s tourists

By about 2:00 p.m., I was eyeballing the bear lockers in the parking lot. You’re supposed to put your food items in there, rather than leaving them in your car for bears to tear apart while you’re off exploring. But by mid-afternoon, I was ready to take all the food out, and put half the tourists in.

These are bear lockers. Big enough for tourists, yes?

That said, I found the park to be most enjoyable in the early morning hours. If you can get in and get some sight-seeing and hiking done before what seems to be the Witching Hour of 10:00 a.m., you’ll have a lot more space and breathing room to take in and truly appreciate some of the most eye-popping scenery in the country.

And hey, if you’ve only got one day to spend in the park, try this itinerary from Oh, Ranger!, one of my favorite resources. Be warned: everyone with one day to spend is going to be trying to see the same list of attractions as you are.

There will be crowds.

You will need patience.

Good luck!


Author’s note: Portions of this article appeared previously at OwnLessDoMore, and a version of this post is published at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.

Home is… where the cave is?

Two days before Christmas, we took a 30-mile road trip from our RV park in Pahrump, NV, to the old mining town of Shoshone, CA, established in 1910, and boasting a population of 31 people according to the 2010 census.

Shoshone is easy to visit if you’re touring the southern end of Death Valley National Park. If you’re coming from Nevada, it’s about an 80-minute drive west of Las Vegas; from CA it’s about a 2.5-hour drive northeast of the Barstow area.

The miners and prospectors who lived here back in the 1920’s didn’t have access to a lot of building materials, so they dug cave apartments into the surrounding clay hills. The guide we picked up at the local museum reports that this area, called Dublin Gulch, has been uninhabited since the 1970’s. It definitely felt a little spooky, and reminded me of my trip to California’s Bodie Ghost Town in July.

I’m gonna let my photos tell my story; if you’d like a little more history, go here.

Condos in the cliffs.
Hello, Fred Flintstone?

Close-ups of some of the doorways

This one had a little shrine outside, containing lots of objects that are full of sentimental value — and probably tetanus.

There was even a 1-car cave garage at the end of the row.

You can peer inside the abandoned dwellings. Several still contain old bed springs, rusted stove pipes, and other evidence of habitation.

The miners were messy. But I guess if you don’t have weekly trash pick-up, you create your own garbage dump by tossing your pork-n-beans cans out the door when you’re done with ’em.

Meanwhile, in downtown Shoshone…

Don’t blink because you’ll miss it, but do park your car and get out to explore. The museum is free (donations gratefully accepted), and the walking tour can be done in less than an hour, depending on how long you like to linger.

This old thing?
It sits in front of the Shoshone Museum, which served as the town’s general store and gas station back in the day.

This structure was built from adobe brick made on site, although the year is not given on the walking tour hand-out.
The original building, a restaurant, burned down in 1925, so it was sometime after that.
Now it’s used by the Inyo County sheriff and the BLM.

Heading east of town just half a mile, you’ll come to another canyon with a few more cave condos. Watch for the dirt pull-out on the north side of Hwy 178, and tread carefully, as the sandy-pebbly surfaces are a bit slippy.

This former home is called “Castle in Clay,” and boasts what appears to be two stories of living space. Potential real estate description: rustic 1BR, 0BA, EIK with sedimentary rock countertops, natural HVAC, no HOA, no need for lawn mower.

We thank our friends, Dan & Lisa, for alerting us to this place. They’ve got a blog too; check them out at Always On Liberty.

Looking into the canyon from the highway…

… and looking out toward the highway from the canyon

We were able to climb up the loose hillsides to peer into some of the caves.
That upright shrub below the cave is actually Tim on his way back down.

Of course our 19-year-old, who was visiting us on his winter break from UT-Austin, had to go to the tippy top. If you’re humming, “All by myself… don’t wanna be… all by myself, anymore…” I’m right there with ya.

To put it all in historical perspective, Fred Flintstone and his friends in Bedrock were out of production by 1966. Those caves in Dublin Gulch? Abandoned four years later. Guess it took a while for news to reach Shoshone that stone age living was no longer trendy.