Unexpected Occurrences

We have been on a two month hiatus from living in our RV.  And while we have been so graciously hosted in so many friends’ and families’ homes, we have really been looking forward to getting back into our RV and our own lives!  So, just when we were getting so close we could feel our own bed under us at night and see out our own window, at least in our minds’ eye, this happened Sunday….

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A low coolant light came on during the very last few miles to our friend Lenny’s house.  After a little research, Jeff determined that the water pump had failed.  This was confirmed by Spitzer Dodge and they are repairing it today.  This repair is covered under our 100,000 mile/powertrain warranty.  They are also looking into repairs on a recalled item.

And this…

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While Jeff was cleaning out the car he shut the door (not a slam, just a regular closing of the door) and heard a tinkling sound behind him, like ice breaking, he said.  When he turned around, the driver’s side door window had shattered!  This repair is not covered by anything!

While life on the road is often fun and exciting, sometimes it is just life!  Life is full of unexpected occurrences and instances which force us to slow down or stop, even when we don’t want to. It is a good lesson in making do, staying flexible and really just appreciating what is in the present moment.  For now, I am ever so grateful that we are in a warm, safe place surrounded by friends and family!  Today, we are working on our school work, taking a long walk and waiting on more information from Spitzer Dodge.

 

 

 

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Christmas Past and Present/RV Holidays

Our holiday celebrations over the last three years have varied.    We usually are surrounded by family and friends. But Christmas 2014, our first year in the RV, we were alone with ourselves at Ichetucknee Springs State Park.  We had to make our own fun, and figure out how to make a small space cheery for the holidays without becoming junky and cluttered. We started with the tree – not the conventional Christmas tree but one the kids fell in love with and were happy with – a small palm type.  Once decorated with a selection of our old favorite ornaments and lights, in the dark of the night, it created much the same mood as a traditional tree might…

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We had been collecting pinecones and greens, magnolia leaf clusters and cedar boughs. The kids made their own wreaths out of grapevine.  Here is what they turned into…

 

A movie on Christmas Eve and a canoe trip on Christmas Day. We still had fun, but it did not bring the kind of joy that being surrounded by loved ones and all your favorite foods and beverages can bring! And then, not all of our packages arrived on time, and so our experience really turned into a sort of spontaneous 12 days of Christmas experience. The kids didn’t care! The packages just kept trickling in from far away family members and Amazon! Maybe we started a new tradition!?

Our second Christmas on the road was spent at Kartchner Caverns State Park, in Arizona.  We volunteered there for two, two month gigs.  My mom came out to visit us and that made the Holiday much more cheery.  Although it wasn’t quite as warm as she had hoped! Our tree that year consisted of two agave flower stalks placed together and strung with lights.  We painted the seed pods with glitter glue and the ‘branches’ were more than strong enough to hold our favorite ornaments.  We loved how it filled our space height wise but wasn’t too fat for our small living room.   And the view outside was hard to beat, with a full moon rising over Cochise’s Stronghold.

 

Another thing I love about our RV is that I have enough counter space and an oven for baking.  This date cookie recipe was my great grandmothers, Effie Mae.  Always a nice snack after a holiday hike with Nanny Steph.

 

AND we were able to participate in the Sierra Vista Christmas Parade on the Kartchner Caverns float with other volunteers and rangers!

This year, we came back east for the holidays.  After a fun and rare cross country road trip without the RV (we left it in California), during which we saw several good friends and had our own adventures, we arrived back in familiar territory and were able to visit with a lot of our family members and friends.  Although it has been great, we are looking forward to being back in our own space and discovering new things.  First thing in the New Year we will begin our westward journey to rejoin our nomadic lifestyle!  We embrace the growth and exploration this new year is sure to bring to our family!

 

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Finding Nature in Children’s Books

This post is updated from a previous time.  Please check it out and add your comments with book lists of your own! I have been so absorbed in the novel I just finished that I have neglected to post…

Source: Finding Nature in Children’s Books

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Completion of our Solar Project

Well it has been a long road for our solar installation on our Excel Winslow Fifth Wheel Trailer. I am a little embarrassed at how long it took me to complete the project. I started off well enough, installing the two DM 158w Monocrystalline solar panels just after we left on our adventure of Full-Time living (April 2014).  It appeared I was making great progress. Several weeks later I had the combiner box in, 4 gauge wiring installed from the roof to the Morningstar TS-45 Tristar 45 Amp Charge Controller and our Trimetric TM-2025-RVBattery Monitor System installed and operational. (Check out: Phase One of our Solar Installation and Solar Power for our Rig) But then the project stalled.

I probably could come up with a long list of excuses why it took me so long to complete the Solar Project, but two things come to mind: one was cost and the other was we just did not need the electricity. The cost component was the steep price of the inverter (what turns our battery electricity from DC to AC so we can run anything that plugs in, and I was stuck on a Magnum MMS1012 1000W Inverter Charger with a hefty price of almost $1,000). But maybe more importantly, it was the fact that we just had not needed solar power. For most of our travels we were volunteering, in campgrounds, or in family or friends driveways, all places where we could plug-in. And when we were not plugged in, our Crown 260 AMP-Hour 6 Volt Deep Cycle Batteries, fully charged, could easily go a week off the grid: running our lights, hydraulics, and water pump. The downside when we were not plugged in was: no television, stereo, coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, or charging our electronic devices.

Okay, so enough with the excuses. On May 8th we left Arizona (after being plugged-in for six months) for a month and a half trip back east, with plans to do a lot of boondocking (camping off the grid: no hookups) and dispersed camping (staying in public lands), as we visited as many National Parks in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota as we could. For these travels we wanted to be able to plug things in and needed AC power to do it. It was time for the purchase of an inverter, and to finish-up our solar project!

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I did some more research and in the end decided to save significant money and purchased a Xantrex 806-1210 PROwatt 1000 SW Inverter, and so far the Xantrex has worked perfectly in our installation – I have no regrets. Besides the inverter there were many challenges to finishing the solar project, but in the end we are very pleased with the outcome.

The freedom of solar power is remarkable,  something we did not foresee. To be in a picturesque spot deep within a National Forest and able to run everything in our RV makes us feel very smart, and not having to run a generator to do it: doubly smart. And solar power is effortless, once it is up and running, no noise, no fuel to deal with: truly liberating.

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First test: grinding coffee with power from the sun!

During our travels east this past spring we were plugged-in only once (Moab, UT, when it was over 100 degrees and we needed air-conditioning), and we stayed unplugged all summer and during our two-month journey to the Northwest. Currently we are visiting good friends in Husum, WA and you know what? The sun does not shine so much in autumn here and our panels are struggling to keep the batteries charged. Add to this the latitude (45 degrees N, same as Montreal, Quebec!) and you have a sun problem for solar power. There are two solutions: one is to add a couple more panels, giving us double the Watts (624), the other is to head south! I think I like the heading south idea!

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Meeting up with June Bug Journeys

We recently met up with June Bug Journeys – friends we were first acquainted with when we were hosting at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. June Bug Journeys is Becky of The Fun Girls and her husband Bob, comedian, singer/songwriter and recently retired from the Bob and Tom Show, a syndicated radio program out of Indianapolis, IN.

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Bob and Becky with the June Bug at home in Indianapolis.

Bob and Becky now enjoy their retirement by traveling in their Airstream. We joined up with them at Big Arm State Park on Flathead Lake, Montana. It just so happened that we were both traveling west, on just about the same route, visiting almost all of the same parks at about the same time!

As we sat lakeside and by the campfire, they interviewed us for their podcast!  That interview can be found at www.junebugjourneys.com.   We talk about how we got started in full-time RV-ing, some of the challenges we face in this lifestyle, and joy of minimizing possessions, downsizing living space and exploring the country.

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Prairie Pothole Region

We recently traveled through the prairie pothole region of North America.  This region stretches from central Iowa, southern and western Minnesota, eastern North and South Dakotas and northern Montana northward into Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

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The potholes themselves are remnants of glacial depressions created over 10,000 years ago and are now filled with water, or are wetlands with surrounding grasslands that provide, food, water and shelter for nesting and migratory ducks and other birds. Many natural potholes have been drained to create agricultural land.  The prairie potholes that remain are critical habitat for nesting and migratory birds.  This is very productive breeding habitat that creates over one half of the waterfowl, such as blue-winged teals, found in North America.

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Migratory birds use this critical habitat as “rest stops”. Think about it, you wouldn’t drive from coastal Texas to northern Canada without stopping for fuel, to stretch your legs and have a good nights sleep!  Neither do birds such as whooping cranes.  They need places to rest and refuel just like we do!

National wildlife refuges help to preserve what is left of some of the region’s potholes. Working with landowners, US Fish and Wildlife strives to maintain some semblance of “natural” habitat for nesting and migrating waterfowl and other bird species, as well as the plants and mammals that thrive in this region.

Budget cuts have minimized visitor services within the National Wildlife Refuge System. We visited a beautiful visitor’s center at Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, complete with vast indoor and outdoor classroom space, with no staff to run programming! We were able to leave the 5th wheel at the parking lot and enjoy the auto tour. We also enjoyed a nice walk on the nature trail, where we found this magical shelter for the kids to play in.

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A Visit to Ramsey Canyon Preserve

So we usually write “epic” (I hear that word a lot now and my 7 year old loves to use it!) blog posts with big themes that take us days if not weeks to complete, if we ever do get them finished! I’ve decided to start keeping it simple for the sake of keeping up a bit more.

We are in the desert and, as everywhere, water is really important here. Animals of all kinds flock to it and people use up more than their fair share in more ways than one. Needless to say we have been enjoying the protected riparian areas we find. This week we visited three…Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area to see Arizona’s wintering sandhill cranes, Benson’s Waterfowl Viewing pond, and Ramsey Canyon Preserve.

The cranes at Whitewater Draw are cool birds and it is neat to see them in the desert, plus we saw many raptors, a female vermilion flycatcher and a black-headed grosbeak. In Benson there were a few ducks but it was largely underwhelming. On the other hand, Ramsey Canyon, managed by the Nature Conservancy, is a very special place.

The hiking trail there takes you up in elevation from 5500’ to 6200’ along the cold, clear, spring-fed creek.  Along the way we saw not only the old foundations and cabins left behind from settlements long past, but also the bridled titmouse, painted redstart, Hammond’s flycatcher and gould’s turkey and deer literally feet in front of us on the trail. It is hard to imagine what life might have been like in this canyon in the early 1900’s. The kids had a wonderful time playing in the creek and marking off their bingo cards provided by the friendly staff at the visitor’s center (upon their return they got to pick a prize for each “bingo”).  We will definitely visit Ramsey Canyon again!

 

 

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