Sunday, February 28, 2010

Boondocking: a wisp of a dream that emerged in Bishop, CA

Boondocking. It's one of our main goals once we get used to the whole RV/campground lifestyle. Boondocking means staying in an area with no water, electric and sewer hookups. I guess in spy novels or radical groups it's called being off the grid. For some, it just means a night or two at a Walmart or Costco while on the way to another campground. Technically speaking, that's called dry-camping since it's not out in the "boonies", but that's being picky.  We've done that a couple of times when we didn't want to pay for a campground for just one short night. But for many, it's a way of life, and they rarely stay at a campground or RV resort.
A true boondocking area might be a spot by a secluded lake or river that you've discovered or something like Quartzite, Arizona , a town of less than 4,000 people, that sees an influx of more than 75,000 RV's each year. A huge support service industry has developed in the Quartzite area to help the boondockers who flock to the desert area from December to March each year.
There is so much land in this country that allows the opportunity to boondock. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) and Forest Service land all offer space to camp with an RV of any size. The BLM alone manages more than 253 million acres of land. And it's all either free or at minimal cost ($180 for a 7 month pass).
This whole idea came to us long before we ever heard of "boondocking". Val, Emily and I were out in Bishop, California visiting Matt who was working and climbing there. We didn't have our RV yet, but as we spent some time in the Buttermilks bouldering area, it made us think about how wonderful it would be to just park an RV out there in an isolated open space between the Sierra (Val's picture) and White Mountain ranges (bottom pic) . It's an amazingly beautiful area and one that we plan to visit once we're outfitted for boondocking.
But there is one main project that we need to accomplish before we head out off the grid. We need a solar power system (many use a combination of solar and wind turbine power). It will be the most involved project to date for me; far harder then installing the inverter in the truck or the central vac or Sani-con system in the RV. We will be installing 3 or 4 solar panels on the roof, a solar controller, an inverter and then a bank of batteries which will power everything we need (yes, TV's and computers and microwave ovens included) except the air conditioners. For that, if needed, we will run our generator. The solar system will give us the freedom to go anywhere we want for at least a week at a time (before we need more water). (And for those who care about being "green", our energy footprint will be a tiny fraction of what it would be if we still lived in our Woodlake house.) I'll keep you updated on the project when we begin. I'm hoping it will be this summer which will allow us to boondock in the desert next winter!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


As soon as Val mentioned the weather we've been enjoying here in February, it turned cold and rainy. My guess is that some of you (okay, all of you) are secretly glad that we get some of the bad weather too. A high of 49 and rainy most of the day meant a lazy Saturday. Of course Val had to mention that she would really like a cinnamon bun on this chilly day. It gave me something to do, so out came the bread machine and the bread baking books and voila, some decadent cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing. They are the kind that I used to bake for our great friends Roy and Loral back in Woodlake when we played cards after dinner. Good times...
But right now, warm buns are waiting. Til tomorrow.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunglasses yes, bathing suit NO!

Hello all... Val here. As you can see, I finally gave in to Billy taking my picture today (sunglasses yes, bathing suit NO!)

Evening thunderstorms, mosquitos (just a few,) swimming outside, sunburn... in February? This is definitely a new, and much welcomed experience for us! Billy took this photo near the beautiful lake at the campground where we're staying. We have really been enjoying watching the wildlife native to this area. He posted the Crane picture, but I don't think Billy mentioned that we even saw a wild turkey wandering around the campground! Good thing for the turkey, it's not close to Thanksgiving...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Before I forget, it was brought to my attention that you could not leave a comment on our blog unless you logged in to a Google or AIM account. I have fixed that, and anyone is free to make a comment. And please do!

Well, there are no cute armadillo or bird pics or really anything interesting to show you today. We left on the bike for the 12,000 mile service at 8 this morning when it was an unusually low 40 degrees and windy, and after basically wasting 6 hours waiting for the bike, we made a quick grocery stop and returned home exhausted. I shoudn't say we actually wasted the 6 hours. We walked over six miles along a busy street in Orlando just to pass the time, got some breakfast (and lunch), wore a blister or two because we forgot our tennis shoes and only had our riding boots and bought some sunglasses for Val. She looks very chic now. She's very shy about having her picture taken, but I'll try to sneak one and post it here for everyone to see. Val in her bathing suit and new sunglasses. That'll be fun. Until she sees it of course...

And until then, here's a silhouette of my brother Franklin at the Trail Ridge overlook on our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park last May. It was at an elevation of over 12,000 feet and more than a little bit cold and windy. And the dogs are fierce too. If you get a chance, ask my brother about the one that attacked him up there.
And in case you were wondering, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous road in the US.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Val's Bird

On a walk this morning, Val spotted this Sandhill Crane. Her favorite bird is a Heron, but this beautiful Crane was almost 4 feet tall and only about 25 feet away.

After the walk, some horseshoes, a swim and a soak in the jacuzzi (I know, this retirement is tough...), the rain set in and so it's a lazy afternoon of reading. Here's Val reading a book on her Kindle. It really is the perfect way to read books and magazines in an RV since it holds about 1500 books and only takes up the space of one thin book. You can even have lots of newspapers like the New York Times delivered to the Kindle while you sleep so that it's ready to read in the morning. Very cool. I figure that I'll get one when I finish the two shelves of books that I've collected. Maybe next Christmas.. hint, hint.
Tomorrow it's off to Orlando to have the 12,000 mile service done on the bike.

And don't forget to check out our son Matt's website. He just got an internship with National Geographic in Washington DC. Very cool.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On a walk today we saw some folks playing a game I'd never seen before. It was pickle-ball which is played on a tennis court with extra lines to shorten the court. As we watched, a couple of people asked us to play. So I did, as Val took pictures. It was lots of fun and
seems like a combination of tennis and ping pong. The paddles are hard and the ball is like a dense wiffle ball. It's much slower than racquetball and really a lot of fun. And it's always doubles as far as I can tell. It took a game to get used to the paddles, but I managed to win the 2nd (and last) game that I played, and that being against better players who were surprised that we were down 9 to nothing and came back to win 12 to 10. I may be hooked!

And in honor of Jeff, I present my first ramen recipe, a salad made with cabbage, carrots, onions, mandarin oranges and sunflower seeds - with ramen of course -all mixed with a slightly sweet sauce with mustard and chives. It's from the cookbook he gave me for Christmas (Everyone Loves Ramen). It was great, Jeff. So there...

Monday, February 22, 2010

What a great change this has been. We slept with the windows open last night and opened up the whole RV today. While Val worked on a spreadsheet to finish up her mother's estate, I took a ride toward Orlando on the BMW to pick up some essentials (great, cheap wine) at Costco. Orlando is one big, sprawling place. And it doesn't look like we're in a recession as there is new development everywhere.
Once back at home, we took a long walk to explore the RV park and the lake. We were hoping to find an alligator, but instead were attacked by an enormous armadillo! Well almost. Well, not really at all. But we did see the this little creature who wasn't afraid of us at all. He was just interested in rooting around in the ground looking for food.
And no 'gators yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whew. Finally made it to Clermont, FL not far from Oralndo. It's a very large RV Park (over 900 sites, two pools, jacuzzi, tennis, etc.) and the picture is just me trying to figure out where we are on our walk.
But what a trying day. All issues were handled like retired people should. No shouting or cursing (a bit unusual for little ol' me, I will admit). First, when pulling in the living room slide, the top rubber gasket broke free and cost us about 30 minutes of work both when closing up and also when setting up again. Time to order a new gasket. No problem. I can do that.
Then when I opened an overhead compartment inside the truck, one hinge pin broke and the door came off. No biggie. But as we traveled down 95, a tire sensor alarm went off indicating that our right front tire was losing air. There was no place to pull over for almost 10 miles so I slowed down and just worried. But the truck wasn't pulling at all, so, as I suspected, it was a faulty signal being sent to the display. Man...
And finally (I hope), our large surge guard that plugs into the campground receptacle indicated that there was a short which would put about 211 volts through my RV. So we called the campground and they came right over and changed the plug which was slightly melted on one side. But it turned out that our surge guard is the problem. Go figure. Good thing it's under warranty. It's rather pricey.
But all in all, we're still retired and living the good life. We really can't complain too much now, can we.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It was our last day at Lake Harmony, and what a wonderful day it was. It was a sunny 65 degrees, the warmest day since late October. After a little bird-watching and photography, we rode the motorcycle to Brunswick where we finally saw Avatar (in 3D no less). Like our son Matt told us, it was a wonderful movie experience.
I did capture a pic of the Muscovy Duck that I mentioned yesterday. It's not the best picture since I had Val's compact camera and had to use the digital zoom. But I think that you can get the point about the duck.

Tomorrow it's off to Clermont, Florida near Orlando for a couple of weeks. Maybe Val and I will finally get to Disney World!

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's Friday evening and we're both pretty tired. We spent much of the day waxing a good part of our home, a rather daunting task since it's 40 feet long and 13 feet tall with 3 slide-outs. But all is good since we're staying at a beautiful campground about 10 miles from the coast in Townsend, GA. Our site overlooks the lake and the birds have kept us occupied when we weren't working. Although we are not official bird-watching enthusiasts, we probably could be with a little practice and knowledge. Today we identified the Yellow Rumped Warbler and the Muscovy Duck, a bird that I'm sure is known to the other birds as the ugly duckling only without the part where he turns into a swan. I'll try to get a picture, but Google it if you get a chance. I think you'll agree.
The pic here is the view from our site. The Spanish moss adds a softness to the southern oaks and can be seen hanging from a branch in the photo.

Tomorrow we''ll take the BMW R1200RT to Brunswick for a little sightseeing and we may even see Avatar in 3D. We've been retired for over 6 weeks and haven't been to the movies yet. We seem to be mighty busy for retired folks.

Below is a pic of our home after one of the three snowstorms that kept us in VA longer than planned. The other is from a trip last May to Estes Park in the Colorado Rockies. It gives a good idea of the size of our rig. All for now.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The long wait is over.

So what's this full-timing thing all about? Well, for us, it's a dream we've been working towards for 8 years. It took that long to buy our 5th wheel RV, modify a class 8 truck (it's a semi or what is commonly known as the tractor part of a tractor/trailer), rent our house and rid ourselves of most of our possessions. Oh yeah, and get enough years on the Richmond VA Police Department to retire.
And on December 31, 2009 all of this came to fruition and we were free! Well, almost. We were actually stuck in Amelia, VA for about 6 extra weeks due to the three major snow-storms that paralyzed the Mid-Atlantic region. But we're on the road now and enjoying life!
So come along with us on our journey. We'll share some of our philosophy with you and let you know where we are and what we're up to. In the next few days, we'll post some pictures of our truck and RV along with a couple more of our first stops in Dillon, SC and Townsend, GA. As you might have guessed, we're heading south to warmer weather.