When we set out on our nomadic quest, one big anchor seemed to weigh us down. That big question, “what happens if we need to vacate our RV to fly home for emergency, go on a non-RV vacation or meet a client in a different city for more than an overnight?” Since we’re not keen on boarding our nomad cats, we needed to think about the ‘what if’ and figure out how we’re going to find worthy person(s) to take care of our precious furry family members.
Who ya gonna call?
Since we started RVing, there have been a few times when we’ve come to rely on our RV family. Since we were already accustomed to leaning on our military family, it was a no-brainer that we continue relying on our birds of feather; those who are like minded and commiserate our lifestyle…(read more)
Our first time facing this dilemma was when we first arrived in Castroville, Texas in late fall of 2015. Our son’s Army Unit Family Readiness Group called us to let us know when their unit will be arriving home from Afghanistan. We wanted both of us to attend his homecoming at Fort Carson, Colorado but we were pretty sure only one of us were able to go because that looming issue was going to hold one of us down.
Once we parked Liberty at the Alsation RV Resort, unhooked and set up, we immediately met our neighbor. We discussed among ourselves if we even dare take a chance on asking someone we didn’t even know and giving them access to our RV to take care of our nomad cats and coach. Sounds pretty scary right?
We noticed our neighbors in the motorhome next to us had a cat sticker on their door which gave us that ‘hmmm, I wonder if…’ Well, we put it in God’s hands and trusted that he would guide us. The neighbors were nice and found that they too, were military veterans so that put us a bit more at ease. Still, it was a bit scary however, we packed our backpacks, fueled up Captain America, gave the key to them leaving precise written instructions on the counter. We patted our fuzzyheaded nomads on the noggins and kissed them goodbye hoping return to everything in tact and happy cats. Early morning, we drove a 900 miles from San Antonio, Texas to Fort Carson Army Post in Colorado.
After five days of welcoming our son home and helping him get settled, we drove back to San Antonio literally holding our breaths. As we drove back into the RV Resort, we were relieved to see our ‘then’ Cyclone Toyhauler still parked there looking the same as when we left. We unlocked our RV door only to be greeted by our two sleepy-eyed kitties who were seemingly glad to see us. We were thrilled that they had all of their fluffy hair and were still pudgy. Sighs of relief and smiles beamed on all of our faces. We were grateful that they AND our home on wheels were taken care so lovingly. It was then we learned that with this lifestyle, we CAN rely on our RV family should we ever we have to step away.
Fast forward to February 2017, we were at a slow crawl with no real set schedule from making our way to San Antonio, Texas from southern Arizona to get our annual medical appointments completed. However, we were stopped in our tracks in El Paso when we received a call from Dan’s mom to ‘come quick’ as Dan’s Dad was gravely ill back in his hometown in Pennsylvania.
Already stressed from finding boondocking spots on our way back to San Antonio, this just sped up the process and now the emotional aspect of Dan losing his Dad took a toll. Our reservations for Fort Sam Houston FamCamp were penned in for March 1st; practically a whole month away. We called to see if we could arrive earlier because of our family emergency. Unfortunately, we were told there was ‘no room at the inn’ so we were scampering for a place to park Liberty near San Antonio to get a rush flight home. We thought at that moment that we were going to ‘have to’ board the girls; something we were emphatically against.
But then our RV Family came to the rescue!
Our RV besties Timily (Tim & Emily) from Ownlessdomore who have crossed our paths several times in the past couple years of RVing helped us. They were already in San Antonio, Texas at Lackland AFB FamCamp for their own medical appointments. We connected with them instantly and in turn, they spoke to the staff to see if we could get a site in two days. Unfortunately, this Lackland’s FamCamp didn’t take reservations, so there was no way to know if we’d get in or not. So as we continued to make our way closer to San Antonio, Emily gave us an hour-by-hour assessment of what sites were coming open. The day we were to arrive, she kept an eye on any site opening up. Needless to say, her vigilance paid off. When we arrived at the commercial gate to the Air Force base, Tim even met us and escorted our tired and weary souls right to our site.
We immediately parked, set up our RV and shortly after made our flight reservations. Before we could even ask, Tim and Emily were right there waiting for directions on how to care for Krissie and Kandi. They even took us to the airport the next morning and picked us up when we returned. Our kitties fell in love with Emily even though she’s not a ‘cat person’ but it seemed they grew on Emily…even though she’s allergic to cats.
We’ve appreciate that our RV family understands and commiserates our nomadic lifestyle. And of course, we do the same for others. Earning each other’s trust isn’t taken lightly. We always try to be good people and render help when needed…
…we have to because who else are ya gonna call?
Don’t think that we hand the keys over to just anyone. Similarly, when we lived in our S&B (sticks and bricks), we have a mental checklist of how we pick our pet sitters and caretakers. To us, its extremely important that they not only ‘like’ cats but they must love ‘our’ cats because they are our furkids. We’d want them to treat our girls just the same as we do.
Finally and worth noting, an RV is not like a S&B in respect to the mechanics and engineering. Who knows better than our fellow RVers who know the electrical, HVAC, water and sewer systems. While there may be professional pet sitters wherever we park, if something goes awry with our RV, they won’t know what to do.
So, if you’re an RVer who needs to leave your RV and/or pets to tend to family events or even a vacation or cruise, look no further than your RV’s door. We’re not saying just throw caution to the wind. Trust your gut and seek someone who will keep your home on wheels and all that’s in it safe and sound.
In January of 2017, we boondocked in Quartzsite, Arizona with the Escapees Xscapers. Sadly, the weather was just plain snotty, cold, windy and rainy. It reminded us of pre-winter days in New England. Supposedly, we’ve heard that sort of weather is not typical that time of the year, but I digress.
So, what actually IS and WHERE is this place called “Quartzsite”?
Quartzsite is the Rock Capital of the World but to us RVers, its the Mecca west of the Mississippi where RVers make at least a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to. Quartzsite is located about 18 miles east of the Colorado River at the junction of US 95 and I 10 in southern Arizona.
For the first two months of each year, this town blows up with popularity. Its famous Rock/Gem Show and Swap Meet as well as the RV Show are the town’s claim to fame. Its notoriety has grown to epic proportions as does its population from 4000+ residents to an estimated million visitors… (I’m just quoting what we’ve heard from area residents). It has become known for the largest gathering of RV’s in the whole world. We equate this to a bike week for motorcycles but for longer and with more people.
Now, if you happened upon Quartzsite during these two months, you’d see hundreds…no…thousands…no…make that tens of thousands of every possible kind of camper and RV known peppering the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) desert land ‘boondocking’ everywhere.
You’d think we (RVers) had lost our marbles because, why would anyone buy a hundred(s) thousand dollar home-on-wheels with all the amenities to go live it up in the dry dirty desert? Well, that question remains; we all do it for different reasons.
Quartzsite is an annual meeting place for some and a pilgrimage for others. Some do it to get away from the daily grind to party it up while other more adventurous crowd goes hiking, dirt biking, or ATV riding. The usuals though, go rock shopping, RV shopping, and converge with big groups, etc.
One thing we’ve learned; there is no right or wrong at the Q.
|Captain America pulling our Landmark Liberty
to our boondocking site near Dome Rock at the Q
Okay then, what IS ‘boondocking’?
Also known as dispersed camping, dry camping or living off the grid, its when people, who live in homes on wheels or fabric houses go out and park in the middle of nowhere to live with limited or no amenities or hookups. That whole ‘let freedom ring’ thing. And, because its on BLM land, we really do it for free (up to 14 days per BLM). There are no campground or utility fees unless you opt for one of the local campgrounds or RV parks.
For us, our first Quartzsite experience was actually the perfect time to get away from the television because of the upcoming Presidential Innauguration. We had talked about trying this whole boondocking thing before and what better time than to start where there are amenities should we fail miserably at it.
So, being this was our first ‘long term’ boondocking adventure (more than 2 days at a time), this was a genuine learning experience.
Owning our Landmark 365 fifth wheel with a residential refrigerator, convection oven, induction cooktop, keurig coffee maker, and other electricity suckers surely presented some huge power challenges. With a little ingenuity, patience and nerve, we got ourselves through.
We called our friends…
A couple days after our arrival, we contacted our Heartland RV friends, Emily and Tim of OwnLessDoMore, who weren’t very far away and asked them to join us. They too, were new boondockers, so we did this whole experimentation gig together. Tim and Captain Dan worked on figuring out our dry-camping electrical power while Emily and I either relaxed, blogged or attended an Xscaper member-presentation or two…or bitched about having no electrical power.
Oh, about that ‘electrical power’…
Our coach was equipped with a 1000 watt inverter (because we have a residential refrigerator). Our battery bank lasted only about six hours which meant we needed to run our generator a few times a day to charge two batteries to keep running off that inverter. As we’ve shared in a previous blog posting, our Wen Generators have been our saving grace to allow us to boondock and going off the grid.
But we also had to run the generator at meal times because, like I mentioned above, our coach is ‘all electric’ (convection oven and induction cooktop). We had to monitor our electric usage and not have it running all day or night.
We also needed to run one of the generators during the night to supply power to a CPAP machine that requires humidification for one of us so that presented a whole other added issue.
Since, Dan installed a 12volt DC outlet close to the bed so we could plug in the CPAP to feed off of the battery bank so we don’t have to run a genny during sleeping hours.
Sounds simple, right?
To do that though, meant we had to beef up our battery bank from two 12volt house batteries to four 6volt house batteries when we got back to Texas in the next months. We figured approximate cost for that mod would amount to a cool grand ($1000). We estimated that would enable us to run on battery power from 18-24 hours barring use of the convection oven, induction cooktop, and both AC’s. (Note: at the time of writing this, we don’t have solid data yet).
Though we enjoy owning a full electric coach, our issue of cooking while not tethered to an electrical source meant we needed to fire up at least one of the generators just to boil water. Seriously???
So, anytime I needed to use any appliance that produced heat or excessive power draw (i.e. Keurig, induction cooktop, convection oven, etc.), both generators needed to be paralleled to power the higher wattage appliances. *sigh*
Sooooooo, that beautiful and super-convenient Keurig coffee maker I loved so much became a huge inconvenient pain in the behind! In fact, as I have learned, Keurigs are the worst energy hogs! Additionally, anything that has a heating element of some sort replicates.
So, we had to look at plan B; pre-making our coffee when both generators were on and storing the hot coffee in our thermos.
So, those are just a few things we learned on how to survive out there in the Arizona desert in our ‘all electric luxury’ 5th wheel.
Now, about this whole DESERT living…
The desert around Quartzsite is not the pictoral desert of beautiful, rolling hills of sand dunes you’ve seen in magazines. The Arizona Desert is actually craggy and rocky with small mountains and ridges with tons of washes where torrential rain water collects in rocky trenches. What may look flat from a distance is actually deep trenches and troughs. Oh, and when it rains, you best not be anywhere near them as they flood quickly which is one of the reasons why ‘we’ parked up on high ground.
There are Saguaros Cactus, Chollas, Prickly Pear Cactus and Barrel Cactus along with small Mesquites and Junipers peppering the landscape. Its scruffy and quite ugly actually which leads to the question ‘why would anyone really want to go there?’
Well, as they say, ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’ and we did just that. We, as RVers, went to Quartzsite because it was just the thing RVers do…at least once.
On a good note, despite the cold, wet and windy weather we experienced, Quartzsite boasts awesome scrappy terrain full of single track and double track trails; the perfect playground for Jeeps, dirt bikes, ATVs & RZRs. Being ADV riders, we took full advantage and rode through the washes and trails; as solos or with other fellow adventure riding Xscapers.
|Lisa being her rebel self|
|Captain Dan at the base of Dome Rock|
|Our Xscaper ADVer group is ready to roll|
So, there you have it. Now you know what Quartzsite or ‘the Q’ is all about and our ‘First Quartzsite Experience’. We learned a lot. We failed at some and succeeded at others but we came out alive knowing what we need to do to prepare ourselves for next year.
And there we were “Standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see”…and all this time, we thought this was a fictional place in a popular 1972 Eagles classic rock song. Oh, but we were wrong! It is very real.
Once I got down to the Sunshine state, I started our search a couple days before the RV show with that price range in mind. I went to the big dog RV stores; the ones that sell both, new and pre-owned. Boy, if I wasn’t flustered before I got there, I certainly was after I left. No…it was more like a reality slap-in-the-face wake up call! Now, I’m not saying they aren’t out there but certainly, not where I was looking! $35-40 for a pre-owned motorhome was completely unrealistic for our standards. After viewing approximately twenty-five coaches, I sadly called the Captain telling him of my disappointments…”smelled like dog piss, very worn and dated cabinetry and furniture, weather etched headlights, oxydized chrome, broken this, smelly that”…you get the picture. We agreed to sit on this a few days and to just go enjoy my vacation until the RV show in Tampa.
Let that sink in a moment…
|Mothership of RV’s Motorhome|
A couple days later, our friends Al and Kat accompanied me to the RV show. The first mistake I made was upon arrival was, which is I guess, by strategic marketing design, going inside the big MOTHERSHIPS of RV’s in the main entrance hangar. You know, the ones with perfectly laid red carpets leading to their doors, live mini palm trees with VIP bar height tables and signs at the doors ‘please remove your shoes before entering’. They’re the ones with the flashy million or more dollar price tags! Anyway, I went in only one; it was all I could take…marble tile floors, granite countertops, high end this and that with more lights than the Las Vegas strip. Our laughingly skinny budget just wasn’t going to do here; time to move on. All I kept thinking is ‘this is how the beautiful people play’. Al and Kat decided to split off to go on their own shopping venture; looking at 5th wheels (they were same age as us looking for weekend or week vacation RV’s with the grandkids) as I was more interested in looking at affordable Motorhomes.
In every marriage, each must meet in the middle to compromise. He raised the bar on understanding I wasn’t going to live in a yard-sale rig of unknowns (happy wife, happy life), so I guess I needed to knock myself down a notch or two. So, we collectively again, agreed a Toyhauler 5th wheel was the end-all answer. I get the ‘new RV smell’ and he gets the mechanics part that he was comfortable dealing with. Oh, and that he gets a big big truck to pull it with. Win win? I still didn’t get my big windshield but oh well. *shrugs shoulders*
|Class A Motorhome Toyhauler|
|Not quite our idea of our stateroom aka master bedroom.
Notice the floor to ceiling height
So, our new plan was to trade our car in for a new big truck to pull a 5th wheel toyhauler removed all of those issues and made more sense to us. Our decision was made. We ordered a 2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100, and weeks later, purchased our truck. NOTE: Taking advise from several BTDT’s on those Facebook groups, it’s important to buy your towable RV BEFORE your truck/pull vehicle. Your pull vehicle must be fully capable to do the job; weight, engine size, and pulling and stopping what it tows sufficiently. Our truck would double as the work horse as well as be our transportation after disconnecting (we call it ‘mooring’) so, we opted for a 2014 Ram 3500 Cummins Diesel DRW (dual rear wheel) aka a ‘Dually’. Upon selling our everything by Thanksgiving (11 months, from the first day of shopping for our RV until the day we rolled out of Kentucky), we finally hit the road looking like this:
|Captain America pulling our 2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100|
|Captain America pulling our 2016 Heartland Landmark 365 “Liberty”|