Far from Home, Close to our Hearts

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View from our RV spot at Lakeside Resort, Provo, Utah

One of the great treats we enjoy as full-time travelers, is the opportunity to see our extended family who are spread all over the United States.  This past week, we spent time with two nieces who live near Provo, Utah.  Kirsten and Morgan are sisters, who grew up with our daughter in Indiana.  We love them dearly.

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Dennis, Morgan and Parker Webb

These young women are a long way from home, and more importantly, a long way from their mother Sharon and father Creed (Wendy’s brother).  So it was very meaningful to all of us to spend an afternoon together to catch up on their lives.  And give them some much needed hugs– we needed them probably more than they did!

Morgan married a wonderful man, Dennis, just a few short years ago and look at the results.  Little 11 month old Parker is now their whole world!  I adore this little one.  She likes to pat my back when I hold her.  Instant, unconditional love.  Wow, does that ever feel great.

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Parker and her Great Uncle Clay

This trio visited us not once, but twice in the week we were in Provo.  The first night, Wendy and I discovered that Dennis and Morgan were hungry to discuss how to make financial plans for their lives.  So we invited them back later in the week and we helped them build a timeline for their future and shared with them tools that will help them meet their goals.  What an amazing experience!  Wendy and I were so honored that they would trust us to lead.  And we were greatly impressed with the way this newlywed couple respected each other and supported each other in their goals and dreams.  Wow!

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Hanging out with Kirsten

 

And then we spent an evening with another one of our all-time favorite nieces, Kirsten. Kirsten, from the moment she was born, has been full of joy, love, fun and kindness.  And she hasn’t changed one bit.  Kirsten’s wife, Chelsey, was unfortunately out of town.  But we had a blast talking about what we are doing as we wandered all over the nation in our motorhome and discovering what her goals and plans are.

We love these women and their families and we’re so proud of them.  They know we will do anything we can to help them in their journey through life.

-Clay

 

 

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Post Flight Review – 1st Wild Camping

Can you imagine what a challenge it must be to take a submarine on its first voyage?  So many complex systems to manage; the nuclear, electrical, communications, fresh water, sewage, oxygen, warfare systems, etc.  I often think of our coach, Zane, as a simple submarine.  Only if we spring a leak, we’re not likely to sink.

All machines are created on paper (or software) by an engineer who divines how the machine should operate in order to meet its mission.   All machines have their idiosyncrasies.  So whether its a submarine, an airplane or a motorhome, you don’t just hop in and go for it.  You have to study the systems and test them step by step so that you and the machine become one as you use it to fulfill your mission.

Mission Type 1 – RV Resorts:

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KOA, DeForest, Wisconsin

For the first year we owned Zane we kept it parked at an RV resort in the mountains of north Georgia while we prepared to sell our business.  There we experienced temperatures ranging from 5 to 95 degrees.  So in the winter we learned to heat the water supply and the basement so our pipes would not freeze and in the summer we learned to manage our awnings, shades, fans and A/C to keep it cool.  Living in an RV resort allowed us to live on the cheap (as compared to a house) while enjoying a community with regular pickle-ball games, dinners, and the amenities of a pool, hot tub and exercise facilities.  What a wonderful lifestyle!

Mission Type 2 – Vacation Travel:

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French Quarter RV Resort, New Orleans- great place, walking distance to the quarter!

While we were anchored in north Georgia,  we used our motorhome for vacations.  We parked in the French Quarter of New Orleans

and at Gulf State Park near the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

 

How much fun it was to be a tourist who goes to their home each night instead of a hotel.  I cannot begin to express the comfort and convenience of that paradigm.  And traveling to/from locations is entertaining.  Our coach is powered by diesel and audio books.  Wendy and I always have an audio book downloaded from the library to her phone so we just plug it into our sound system and listen to stories as we roll on down the road.  So much fun!

 

Mission Type 3 – Wild Camping:

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Pick a road, any road

Now that we have sold our business and are full-time travelers, our primary residence is on wheels so we can move it anywhere in the country.  And one of the most enticing kind of place for us is on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.  This is property owned by the Federal Government whose purpose is to manage the property for the citizens of the United States.  As such, it is to be used by campers and leased for cattle grazing,  extraction of oil or gas, etc.  Dirt roads are cut to get access for these purposes.  And wide spots are created so that people can camp on them.  Vast areas in the western United States are managed by the BLM.

This month we had our first wild camping experience (also known as boon-docking or dry camping).  We were in Southwestern New Mexico within 10 miles of the Carlsbad Caverns, in the Chihuahuan Desert.

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Home Sweet Home- awnings fully deployed in the desert sun

 

The big question in our minds was whether our RV (and us) would function well in a wild camping situation.  Think about it.  Where do you get power for your lights, fans, PCs, fridge, and TVs?  What about your water?  What about your poo?  How long can you last on batteries without being tethered to the utility grid?  Did the engineer take into account that we have a SubZero residential refrigerator and satellite TV?

As it turns out, Zane is an awesome wild camping machine due to her 161 gallons of fresh water and six huge AGM batteries.  We are able to stay at our remote site for 14 days (the limit for camping at one BLM spot) with no trouble.  And in the process we determined that our stereo receivers gulp lots of wasted amps in standby modes, so we shut them down completely when not in use.  And, we tried with success a bathroom ritual to save water – ergo, if it’s yellow let it mellow….. if it’s brown, flush it down.  Plus, when showering we let the cold water collect in a gallon jug (to be used for washing dishes), then when it gets hot, we hop in, soap up, rinse down and get out. About a 90 second shower. We still had a quarter tank of water at the end of 14 days.

The house batteries lasted overnight and sometimes into the morning hours. When they got down to 12.0 volts we would turn on the diesel generator with the flip of a switch and let them recharge for a few hours, morning and night. During the generator time, we also used the electric cooktop and convection oven (which drain too much power to use on batteries alone) to fix our meals.  So we spent (0.4 gallons/generator hour x 5 hrs x $2.18/gal)= $4.36 a day.  How’s that for cost of living?

Whohoo! We love to wild camp. The privacy and scenery are wonderful. And it’s free!

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It is so great to have a machine that can meet all of our mission requirements.   Our plan is to do a spoke and wheel type program where we move the RV to a central location (preferably free BLM land) and do day trips to explore the area in our Jeep for a couple of weeks.  Then move to the next hub location.

The general plan is to stay in the desert southwest from November through April, then slowly work our way north through eastern California, Nevada, Utah or Colorado to the Northwest and Canada for the summer. Rinse, repeat.  We will spend most of the winters on BLM land for free so we can spend a little on rv resorts on occasion the rest of the year.  We also plan to work camp and volunteer during a month or two during the summer.

And, to add to the mix, Wendy plans to work 3 or 4 months each year as a temporary contract doctor (Locum Tenens).   So we will be arranging contracts here and there as the mood suits and the opportunity arises.

-Clay

Get Along, Little Dogies

Free at Last!

After 13 days in OKC, we finally got back on the road Tuesday, October 27. Whew! The last week was spent trying to fix a glitch caused by an engine computer update, which they didn’t charge us for.  But it does cost to live in a motel and eat out every meal. And yes the repair bill was a Zooiinng, but Zane is working great and starts up right away now.

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Farewell, Oklahoma! 

Then we drove south to Aledo, Texas (near Dallas/Ft. Worth) and the Cowtown RV Park for one night, so we could go to dinner at a cajun restaurant with my brother Mark Walton and his wife, Christy who live in nearby Saginaw. It was lovely to see them and to have our rig back!

Wednesday, we scooted down to Abilene, Texas and Wally-Docked (boondocked overnight in a WalMart parking lot). We realized that staying for free in truck stops and rest areas meant we were using our generator for the entire time (15 hours) and that added up in diesel fuel costs. Maybe WalMart would be quiet enough to just leave the generator off and open the windows. It worked out fine. Cheaper boondocking. Oh yeah, now the expenses are coming down.

Thursday, the next morning, I was anxious to see the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Museum, which Clay so graciously found on TripAdvisor.com (things to do in Abilene, Texas)- wasn’t that sweet of him?  I love, love, love children’s book art. So we found the museum, walked up to the door, and discovered it was closed due to ceiling repairs. Drats and disappointment.

The consolation prize was the Frontier Texas! Museum. Neat displays and hologram images of characters from the old west and the conflicts between the buffalo hunters who wiped out the herds and the Comanche horse culture that depended on the buffalo for their way of life.  We learned some things and had fun doing it.

On we rolled in the afternoon.  We passed endless fields of ripe cotton and bales the size of huge trucks, oil rigs and windmill farms on our way to Hobbs, New Mexico for another Wally-Dock.  Because we have a big fridge and great food, we never eat out for any meal. And the Hello Fresh recipes are amazing.  The grilled chicken breast with peach and spinach leaf salad and garlic/olive oil toasted baguette croutons was so tasty and refreshing after a long day.

Carlsbad For Now

Friday we arrived in Carlsbad, New Mexico, our stay put destination for the next few weeks to a month. So tickled to be out West!  I keep clapping my hands like a little kid.

We had looked on the ALLSTAYS app for BLM (Bureau of Land Management) places to boondock without fees or hook ups of any kind. Our goals for this first extended boondocking experience are to:

  1. Spend no money.
  2. See how long we can live on our 161 gallon water and dump tanks before we have to refill and dump.
  3. See how long we can live on our 6 massive AGM Lifeline batteries before we need to crank up our generator to replenish them.
  4. Be completely alone.

(We’ll let you know how it turns out in a later post.)

Being new to this BLM dispersed camping routine, we drove 20 miles down the road to the first option as it appeared on the app, unhooked our toad (Jeep) to investigate the road condition and any potential problems. These are not official campsites– just pull off areas alongside dirt roads people have used for years and then told others about.  Although it looked like the perfect camping spot on the satellite views, the Dark Canyon area had piles of gravel blocking every entrance. Curses, foiled again.

Plan B: Go to the BLM office in Carlsbad and see where else we could camp.  Mr. Goodbar of the BLM graciously spent time with us, marking a survey map with potential spots we could try.  He was very enthusiastic and helpful.  With some hope, but not much confidence, we set out again in our Jeep, 25 miles out of town, off the main road and over a cow guard onto an unmarked two track hard pack dirt road.  About a mile or so driving through the desert over a rise and down again, we found a parallel pull off that would work great, and then drove further until we found a well head (natural gas?) with a cleared out areas for large trucks to turn around. Should work for Zane!

We drove back to get the RV and a heavy duty brush clipper from the hardware store. I got into my long sleeve work shirt, pants, boots and gloves and drove the toad up the dirt track, with Clay following in Zane, stopping every thirty feet to cut back thorn bushes with 1 1/2 inch long wicked thorns that might stick to the tires or scratch the paint until we got to our site.  It took about five hours to get this all done from the time we arrived in Carlsbad.

This is a good spot!  The coach cockpit faces South, with sun rising at the East-facing head of our bed and the sun setting at the foot of our bed over the low ridge of Guadalupe Mountains out the West-facing living room window.  We placed our lawn chairs on a mat and sat down in the hot sunshine. Home Sweet Desert.

You cannot see the rig from the highway, which we like, and we are surrounded by low desert scrub and cacti as far as you can see in all directions.

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Zane in her native habitat

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No neighbors

 

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There is no noise, no wind, no sound except the other night, about 3 in the morning, cool air through the open windows carried the spooky call of a coyote very close to the RV. Aaawwwwoooooooooooooo.

Next up: Carlsbad Caverns and Bats!

Wendy