Trouble with the Dream

Whenever I hear the phrase ‘your living the dream’, I do a slight cringe. Dream? Hmm! Living full-time in a RV was never a dream of mine. Al and I decided to move into the RV full-time on a whim four years ago with the intent of traveling for a year or two before finding a home base. And here we are, into year five of full-time RV living and still rolling along. We haven’t found that home base just yet, but we’re still searching and getting closer every day in narrowing down our choices.

south rim Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park – south rim

I have to admit, full-time RVing is an adventurous lifestyle that is filled with highs as well as lows. And the highs are indeed like a dream …. gorgeous scenery, beautiful weather, birdingand the forging of new friendships makes this lifestyle somewhat addictive.

What’s not to love? Perhaps that’s why we haven’t looked too hard for that home base.

But those lows? Ah, yes …. those lows sure don’t feel like I’m living a dream. Feels more like a nightmare and not one where I’ll wake up thankfully realizing all is well.

Nope, no waking up from a bad travel day. Instead, we find ourselves digging deep for the energy and wherewithal to deal with life’s mishaps, and we try our best to keep a sense of humor about us …. remembering this too shall pass!

Let’s take a step back… We spent four months this past summer camped in Prescott, Arizona. It was a very enjoyable summer with very little vehicle or RV maintenance mishaps. Al did have an issue with the F-250 back in May, but after some service it pulling a fifth wheelworked great all summer long which included a bunch of trips back and forth to Phoenix in the excessive heat to visit our children.

Tidbit – there’s about a 3,000 foot elevation change between Prescott and Phoenix, Arizona, meaning there’s quite the hill climbing necessary heading north on Interstate 17 from Phoenix. When temperatures exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit, overheating vehicle engines are quite common. Thus, we were thrilled the Big Dog handled those drives without incident, but remember, we weren’t pulling the RV during those Phoenix excursions.

camping near the Grand Canyon
Our son joined us for a few days. Good times around a campfire!

Once the calendar flipped to September 1st, it was time to lift the jacks and get the wheels rolling. We moved up to the Kaibab National Forest located just south of the Grand Canyon and enjoyed a near perfect week camped in a pine forest surrounded by wildlife. Our son even drove up from Phoenix to spend a few days with us.

bull elk
one of our neighbors strolling by our campsite
Coyote
This neighbor serenaded us at two in the morning. Al and I were amused – son not so much!

Considering it was the Labor Day Weekend, we were pleasantly surprised with the lack of crowds (that is, in comparison to other times of the year) and we considered ourselves lucky to snag such a beautiful campsite.

If it hadn’t been for Al’s dental appointment back in Prescott, we would’ve stayed another week, that’s how much we loved our little spot in the Kaibab National Forest.

squirrel
Don’t be dissing one of my relatives!

But alas, Al needed a tooth dealt with. A week earlier, he woke up with an abscess which made him look like he was storing nuts for the winter. His name quickly changed from Al to Alvin … as in, Alvin and the chipmunks ūüėÜ

With a round of antibiotics completed, it was time for a root canal and crown … I’m sure you can imagine Al jumping for joy!

Medical emergencies of any kind while living a mobile lifestyle is always stressful. Will we find a Doctor or Dentist who can see us right away? What kind of care and follow-up can we expect, not to mention the cost? In my opinion, this is the biggest concern about full-time RVing. I can deal with the maintenance issues much easier than medical issues. And don’t even get me started on the problems with insurance!

Speaking of maintenance issues … so after our glorious week near the Grand Canyon, it was time to hitch up and take what should’ve been an easy non-eventful two and a half hour drive back to Prescott.

Grand Canyon camping

Travel day morning, I noticed a tire on my little red truck looked low. This was the perfect scenario for Al to try out his new air compressor – Viair 450P Automatic Function Portable Compressor. I bought this Viair compressor last spring for Al’s birthday. Fortunately, at the time Amazon was doing a Prime deal on it. This was the first time we took the compressor out of the package.

portable air compressor

We had a bit of a Frick and Frack moment when we failed to remove the red plug for air intake. Duh! But in our defense, the instructions made no mention of removing the plug. So what should’ve taken five minutes to add ten pounds of pressure to my low tire, took a tad over thirty minutes.

portable Viair air compressor

After a good laugh, it was time to hitch up the 5th wheel. Al positioned the truck and slowly backed toward the hitch. I flipped or rather tried to flip the switch to raise the front landing jacks. Hmm! The switch wouldn’t move. With my nifty little hand singles, I stopped Al from backing any further and walked up to the driver’s side door. I proceeded to tell Al the switch wouldn’t work.

Al begins to tell me how the switch works. SERIOUSLY, dude dear husband!!!  We’ve only owned this RV for the past seven years and hooked and unhooked this RV a few hundred times. I think by now, I know how the dang switch works. Not in a mood to argue, in my sweetest voice I ask, “I’m sorry honey, but I’m just not sure how it works. Could you please show me?” My man to the rescue. Al walks over to the RV and tries to move the switch. “Ugh, the switch won’t move”, he says in a rather perplexed tone. “Ya think”, I declared in a less than amused tone!

5th wheel landing jacks
Me getting in an upper body workout hand cranking the front landing jacks up!

Like a couple of RVing newbies, we stared at the switch then at the round hole in the side of the RV. “Isn’t there a hand crank that fits in that hole?”

Coyote
Hey, you guys need any help?

Kaibab National Forest

We were an hour and a half behind our self-imposed schedule, but still smiling as we waved goodbye to our neighbors and campsite. A few deep breaths and fifteen miles later, we had settled nicely into the drive heading south on route 64 toward the town of Williams. Since we were traveling with two vehicles, we used our walkie talkies to stay in regular communication. Midland GXT1000VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio (Pair) (Black/Silver)

Arizona state route 64

Just when I thought all our troubles were behind us, Al radios me and says the truck stalled and he’ll be coming to a stop ūüė® Let’s turn on our flashers/hazard lights!

Let me explain a little something about Arizona State Route 64. It’s a busy two-lane road with virtually no shoulder, and it’s the only route to or from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Thus, one can expect lots of RV’s, large tour buses, and plenty of traffic on this road.

sitting ducks
sitting ducks – stalled on Arizona State Route 64

Al pulled over as much as possible and I did the same, keeping a fair distance between the two of us. We were sitting ducks and I prayed traffic would see us sitting there and slow down.  The fear of being rear ended was a constant concern. We were also concerned about oncoming traffic knowing that southbound traffic would need to go around us and there wasn’t enough space for us and the two-way traffic. In essence, we had shut down the southbound lane.

coyoteA few days earlier while Al and Logan (son) were exploring some of the back roads in the Kaibab National Forest, the truck had stalled necessitating Al call our mechanic in Prescott.

After a few wire jiggles on an internal temperature sensor, the truck started up.

So there we were stalled on route 64 in a very precarious situation waiting for the truck engine to cool a tad all the while Al jiggled the wires. After 15 minutes, the Big Dog started up and kept running all the way to Prescott.

Suffice it to say, by the time we arrived at our destination, we were a bit frazzled but okay plus Al was not looking forward to the next day – a morning spent in the dental chair. Good news, Al had a positive experience with Highland Dental (Dr. Bennett) and his mouth is doing just fine these days… no more Alvin and we’ve found a dental office in Arizona that we like.

But ‘living the dream‘ didn’t end here. After Al’s dental appointment, we spent the rest of our week in Prescott doing a deep interior cleaning of the RV along with taking care of the necessary truck and RV maintenance.

RV mice
We eventually found a SOS pad to wrap around our electrical cord.

Along with Mr. Elk and Wiley Coyote stopping by our boondock campsite in the Kaibab National Forest, Mickey and Minnie Mouse decided to stop by and dine on some peanut butter.

Apparently, we left the door open (electrical cord opening) and the welcome mat out (interior electrical cover plate off) for Mickey and Minnie’s easy entry. Al normally wraps steel wool around our exterior electrical cord but he misplaced it and eventually we used a SOS pad. I also forgot about the interior electrical cover plate that had fallen off the wall (hiding behind my camera bag). Anyway, this combination provided the perfect entry for the little field mice.

Boondocking and mice are a pretty common occurrence and one we’ve come to expect, but once we get back to full hookups, it’s time for some deep cleaning and making sure our unwanted guests haven’t taken up residency.

Whew! It was an eventful and busy week which was anything but dream living. A week we’re glad is over. And now we’re onto a new location and working on living the dream. So far, so good!

south rim Grand Canyon

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Getting Wet

RVingThe gentle sound of rain hitting the RV is some how relaxing.  I stare out the window as the rain leaves a random pattern of water droplets on the pane.  I can almost sense the cacti smiling, arms stretched, rejoicing in the much-needed moisture.

We’ve been camped in the Phoenix area for about a month now.¬† This cold, rainy day allows Al and me to reflect on the past month of travel.Grand Canyon

In November we were exploring the Grand Canyon.  Wow, what an awe-inspiring place.  Did you know the canyon is about a mile deep and 277 miles long?  The north rim of the Grand Canyon sits at an average elevation of 8,000 feet, while the south rim sits at about 6,800 feet (2072 meters).Grand Canyon

The average distance between the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the south rim is about 10 miles with the greatest width measuring 18 miles and the nearest a mere 5 miles.  The diverse landscape and abundant wildlife, make the Grand Canyon a MUST SEE at least once.  I know Al and I will return.Bighorn SheepOur journey takes us from Grand Canyon National Park to Cottonwood, Arizona.  After a little research, Al and I decide on Dead Horse Ranch State Park as home for a few days.  This turned out to be the perfect campground for us to regroup.Dead Horse State Park

The weather is sunny and warm.¬† We have hiking trails literally in our backyard.¬† The restrooms have nice showers.¬† Ahhhh….after weeks of Navy showers, I’m able to bask in gallons and gallons of hot water.¬† Hey, with my long, thick, curly hair¬†a long hot shower¬†is indeed a treat.¬†Dead Horse State Park

Oh, but it doesn’t end there.¬† There’s a skylight perfectly positioned above the shower stall.¬† So as I tilt my head back and revel in the glory of tons of hot water streaming over my head, I watch the thin, white fluffy clouds slowly drift by against a gorgeous blue sky.Dead Horse State Park

The shower felt wonderful.¬† However, it was never my intent to resemble a raisin,¬†thus all things must come to an end.¬† After all, tomorrow is another day.¬† And speaking of tomorrow….we have some serious exploring to do….. Sedona here we come!

A Day at the Edge

This morning our day started by driving back to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park and SLOWLY working our way back to the Visitor Center, stopping at all the scenic overlooks.  The views were spectacular. Grand Canyon

After lunch, we work our way west.  I take in the architecture of the various lodges and attractions as well as the stunning canyon views.Grand CanyonGrand Canyongrand canyonGrand Canyon

The highlight of my day was hiking a short distance of the famous Bright Angel Trail.¬† This is the trail that one can hike or mule trip to the bottom of the canyon.¬† It’s late in the day.¬† Al and I are tired, but a short little walk on this trail provided me with the unique experience of seeing a Ram up close and personal.¬† We watch these magnificent animals traverse the challenging terrain with ease.¬† I was totally mesmerized.¬† After this special encounter, I can’t stop smiling.¬† I won’t complain about leaving tomorrow because I can’t imagine anything topping this moment.Grand CanyonGrand CanyonAngel Trail

I managed to carry out a fraction of my intended plans during this Grand Canyon National Park visit.¬† Al agrees we’ll return next year.¬† We’ll be sure to return earlier in the fall, before the temperatures start freezing.¬† I’d like to target September and visit the North Rim as well.¬† I hear it’s even prettier.Colorado River

Tomorrow we hit the road again……destination Sedona, Arizona.

The Canyon of all Canyons

Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon….wow, what can one really say about one of the Seven Wonders of the World?¬† We enter the National Park via the less traveled east entrance.¬† As the road bends bringing us closer to the canyons edge, we’re graced with spectacular views.¬† Then the road bends us back into the forest of pine trees.¬† The twists and turns¬†in the road continue to tease us with amazing scenery for approximately 27 miles before we arrive at The Village.

Grand Canyon
Desert View Watchtower

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is more popular and commercial than the North Rim.  The weather front that brought our little wind storm to Lake Powell brought the first major snow of the season to the North Rim, officially closing the North Rim until spring.

There are two campgrounds within the National Park boundary at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.¬† Mather’s Campground does not offer hook-ups and all information indicates a 30′ length restriction.¬† The next day without RV in tow, Al and I drive through this campground.¬† And oh boy, are we ever glad we did not explore with the rig attached.¬† The roads and the sites are fine, it’s the pine trees.¬† Mather’s Campground sits within a highly populated forest of pine trees.¬† A narrow road with a series of tight twists and turns¬†along with low hanging branches, makes it almost impossible for large rigs to navigate without sustaining some¬†sort of body damage.Grand Canyon

Grand CanyonPrior to physically seeing this campground, we actually considered trying to squeeze in.¬† However, generators are not allowed and with below freezing temperatures anticipated, Al and I seek electric¬†hook-up….heat baby, heat.¬† I need heat!¬† Thank goodness for the cold weather, (don’t expect me to say that too many times) we drive past Mather’s Campground and pull into Trailer Village.¬† The Trailer Village Campground is old, sites are unlevel, there is uneven pavement with large pot holes, but plenty of pull-thru’s with hook-ups and room for just about any length of RV.

We quickly get the rig set up at Trailer Village and get the heat running before heading to the “Rim”.¬† Al does not hook up water to the spigot due to night time temps.¬† We have water in our holding tank and with the forced air heat running, it’ll keep water in our RV system from freezing.Grand Canyon

It quickly becomes obvious, Grand Canyon National Park¬†operates like a well-oiled machine.¬† We walk to the campground entrance and hop on one of many buses transporting tourists efficiently from one place to another.¬† The ‘blue’ bus line operates within The Village; hotels/lodges, campgrounds, stores, visitor center.¬† The ‘orange’ bus line operates mainly east of the visitor center from Yavapai Point to Yaki¬†Point, making stops at some of the scenic overlooks.¬† The ‘red’ line¬†takes a visitor from west of the lodges to Hermits Rest.¬† The buses are free and frequent AND very convenient.Grand Canyon

Grand CanyonOur first night at the Grand Canyon we go to bed early.¬† This click happy camera operator wants to get going before sunrise the next morning.¬† Al and I sleep great in our toasty warm RV.¬† By 5:45 a.m. the coffee is brewing and I’m out walking Bear.¬† It’s fricken a*s cold at 17 degrees Fahrenheit.¬† When Bear and I return to the Rig, Al and an RV neighbor are visiting.

It turns out all the water spigots in the campground are frozen.¬† The neighbor used something to warm up his spigot and offered to help Al thaw ours.¬† Al politely declines and was able to¬†take a shower from the holding tank water….smart move.¬† A short time later we notice water spewing out from the rear of the neighbors rig.¬† That can’t be good!Elk

With kid like exuberance, I rush Al this morning.¬† We have to get to the Rim while the sun is still low.¬† Al leaves our sewer line attached.¬† Normally this is not a problem, but there are warnings posted that the Raven’s will peck away at the plastic piping if left connected.¬† Sure enough, we return later in the day to a destroyed sewer line.¬† I know, it’s all my fault for pushing Al to get going.¬† I accept responsiblity and bake brownies to make amends……….Grand Canyon

But I don’t wanna go!!!

RVingWe ended up staying at our little slice of paradise at the shore of Lake Powell for four nights.¬† The snow lasted all of about five minutes and felt like crumbles of styrofoam.¬† There was almost no moisture to the flakes.¬† It didn’t even make the ground wet….very strange.

The inclement weather kept us from exploring some of the truly unique sites in the area such as Antelope Canyon.  Rick over at The Great American Landscape highly recommended Antelope Canyon as well as Mesa Verde NP in Colorado.  I sincerely appreciate the time Rick took to send me an email highlighting these special places.  Al and I will need to return when the weather is more amenable.  Thank you, Rick.Lake Powell

If the weather had been warmer…..and less windy, I could have stayed here a month and been a very happy camper.¬† There is quite a bit to see and explore.¬† Unfortunately reality sets in – winter is coming and we need to keep moving.¬† So move we must…..but I don’t want to!Lake PowellRVing

We make the scenic drive from Lake Powell to the Grand Canyon.  We are so thankful we did not attempt this drive during questionable weather.  There is a section of road south of Page with a 7% grade, super tight curves, and built against a canyon wall.  The sun is virtually blocked by the cliffs.  Definitely a road to be traveled in nice weather.

Grand CanyonWe enter Grand Canyon National Park¬†via the east entrance, not the main entrance.¬† I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once before and that was three years ago.¬† It was our son’s¬†first Thanksgiving living in Phoenix.¬† We drove down from Colorado to Phoenix for a visit and then went to the Grand Canyon for Thanksgiving Day.¬† I packed us a picnic of turkey sandwiches with all the fixings.¬† We hung around the canyon for a couple of hours before taking the three-hour plus drive back to Phoenix.¬† It was a long day, but a memorable one.

This visit, I really want to savor the National Park and learn my way around.¬† Unfortunately it’s cold and windy.¬† Night time lows dip to a balmy 17 degrees farhenheit….burrrr.¬† Daytime highs are in the upper 40’s.¬† I was really hoping for warmer weather.¬† Guess we’ll just need to bundle up.Grand Canyon