Archive for March, 2017

My Favorite Things

Mesa 2017

Arizona is in full spring bloom!

Jeff and I have been bouncing around the Phoenix area for the last month working multiple RV Shows. We love the mountains and desert here and never lack great trail running or magnificent sunsets. Since the weather is still a bit unpredictable further north, it’s not a bad place to be!

So far in our travels, Arizona and Utah have been our top two favorite states. Both have wide-open space with plenty of BLM to free camp. And both have mountains and rock formations that will knock your socks off.

The beauty is like nothing I’ve seen growing up in the mid-west and there is so much still to see. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to linger here, just to take it all in.

Speaking of favorites, I thought I would write a post on my favorite things that make our RV life easier and more enjoyable on our journeys to some of our favorite places. Living in an RV is an amazing lifestyle, but as always we are challenged on space. So the things we have with us are either multifunctional or compact.

Here are some favorites by category.

Technology

I must confess. I don’t know anything about technology. When Jeff says he wants to go to the Apple Store or Best Buy I want to stick a pencil in my eyeball. (I suspect he feels the same when I want to watch another re-run of Property Brothers).

Wifi boosters, an unlimited data plan, tire monitoring and RV specific GPS. They all make staying safe and connected much more reliable. But for my area of influence, there are three things that help in my day-to-day life as the bookkeeper and CFO in the family.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Portable Scanner

I’ve had this little gem since 2011 and it has worked consistently for 6 years now. I use it to scan receipts for expense reports, legal docs that need to be emailed and just general paperwork that needs to be saved. Its super compact and fits in my office tote and keeps us paperless on the road.

Favorite Things

Fujitsu ScanSnap…isn’t it cute?

Favorite Things

Paper goes in the top and spits it out on the bottom

Canon Pixma iP110 Portable Printer

I just picked up this printer last fall out of frustration. Any time we needed to print something we would make a trip to a local Office Max or Staples, and pay a fee to do it. So I bit the bullet and bought this printer. This guy is compact, wireless and will print in black & white and color. I wish I had bought this sooner to make life a bit easier.

Favorite Things

Portable Canon Printer

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Organization

Office Tote

When we lived in our sticks & bricks home, I had a whole room dedicated to my office. File cabinets, paper shredder, fax, printer, pencil drawer with various paperclips, post-its and rubber bands. I had everything I needed…in abundance. Now I have our lives condensed down to a 15” X 11” X 6” tote. I keep a few files folders, a tray for pens, postage, paperclips and checks. And my scanner tucks neatly into this box. I stuff the box into an overhead cabinet, stack my little printer on it’s lid and pull it out on accounting day.

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My 15″ X 11″ x 6″ Office

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Office Caddy

Last fall I started a little side hustle doing direct sales for Monat. Thankfully, this line of hair care products (which are amazing by-the-way) does not require me to carry any inventory. But I do keep samples to mail out to potential customers. It doesn’t take up a ton of space, but can be a challenge to keep organized and contained.

I bought this cute metal stand at Home Goods for $29.99. I use the top tray for remotes, pens, fingernail files and such. Then I use the two bottom levels to hold my samples, brochures and mailing supplies. I absolutely love it and it’s adorable too!

DebSpencer.mymonat.com or check out @Monathairtestimonies on Facebook. I love sending out samples.

Mesa 2017

Pretty Office Caddy

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Shoe Rack

Like most RVers, we struggle with what to do with our daily shoes. Specifically our managery of running shoes. After seeing this idea on Pinterest we mounted 2 metal coat hooks from Lowes to the wall just inside our door. With the two racks we can hang 5 pairs of shoes. It worked so well we added another higher up the wall for jackets, hats and running hydration belts.

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Three pairs of shoes for Jeff; One pair for me…HMMMM!

Shower Caddy

In an RV, anytime you pull up stakes every item in our home has to be put somewhere to prevent it from moving. Including shower supplies. And with my Monat business, I have a lot of products taking up space in my shower. I have two very small shallow shelves that are only capable of holding one bottle of shampoo. We have to remember to put it on the floor when we move.

Another Pinterest idea has worked perfectly. I wedged a shower rod between my shower wall and the vanity medicine cabinet and hung a metal basket via two shower curtain hooks.

Its super sturdy and holds ALL of our shower products. I don’t even have to take it down when we travel.

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Mesa 2017

Happy shower bottles

Catch-all Box

This little box sits on our kitchen counter just inside the door. We throw our sunglasses; spare change, Chap Stick and dog poo bags (empty of course) in it. It keeps our countertop clear and we know just where our things are as we head out the door.

Favorite things

The stuff box

Home

Infinity Woven Vinyl Flooring

During our RV renovation in 2015 we pulled out all the carpeting and replaced it with thick vinyl tile flooring. But on our slide we used Infinity Woven Vinyl Flooring. This product got its start in marine as wall and floor covering and has worked its way into the RV community. It comes in one big sheet and is installed like carpeting. I can mop it and spills come right up. Love the product and its style fit our modern décor.

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Nothing stains this stuff

Fabric Curtains & MCD Shades

RV’s do not have much in the way of modern interior detail. So when we bought our new to us Carriage Domani, we remove the old smelly accordion blinds and replaced them with custom fabric curtains (thanks Mom!) and MCD Shades. Our MCD’s are a dual roller type that has a black solar shade as one roller and a cream-colored blackout shade as the other. MCD’s are EXPENSIVE running about $300/window. I would have never spent $3,000 on ten windows.

Fortunately, I found 9 out of 10 window dimensions at an RV surplus store in White Pigeon, MI…for $25 each. I have one window that I still do not have a MCD shade for, so I just keep the curtains closed on that window. I continue to look for a shade on eBay, but haven’t found one yet.

The reason I love these is that you can block the sun with the solar shade while still seeing out your window. And when we are parked in an urban location with lots of RV Parking lot lights, the black out shades block the light COMPLETELY.

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Custom curtains & valances to give a homey look

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Solar Shades to block the sun while still offering a view

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Black out shades for ultimate privacy

Berkey Water Filter

Jeff and I are not fond of drinking water straight from our holding tanks on the RV. We had a Reverse Osmosis System at home to filter our water. But RO systems are not very conducive to dispersed camping, because they discharge A LOT of water in the process of filtering.

We used to run to Walmart or another drinking water dispensary every other day to fill our two 3 gallon water bottles.

Last year we bought a Berkey gravity fed water filter tank. It’s stainless steel and looks so much more attractive than blue water bottles. We still fill our blue water jugs, but from any tap or from our holding tank. Just pore the water in the top section of the Berkey and let gravity filter the water into the bottom section. It has its own spigot so everything is compact and ready to use.

Filters last for up to two years and the unit requires a good cleaning a couple times a year. We just have to be sure to time our pore so that we don’t overfill the night before we travel so that water doesn’t slosh around and spill.

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Baby Berkey

Dometic CFX-35 portable refrigerator freezer

Full disclosure! Jeff and I work with Dometic. But this CFX portable refrigerator/freezer is awesome. You can set the temperature anywhere from 50F to -7F and it runs off 12V or 110.

We keep ours in the slide trey in the bay of our 5th-wheel. Most of the time it holds sports drinks, water bottles or extra almond milk to free up more space within our RV refrigerator.

It’s also portable, so we can plug it into the back of our truck and store smoothies to drink after a long hike or use it to transport cold groceries on a hot day.

Favorite things

Dometic CFX-35 for extra frig or freezer space

There are lots of other items that we find very useful to our RV lifestyle, but these are just some of my favorites. Everything in an RV has to have a purpose and a place. If something is not useful or used, then we don’t keep them around.

Do you have a favorite item that you can’t live without? Enquiring minds would like to hear about it in the comments below!

Until next time!

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If we move the sofa over a bit I think it will fit!

 

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More Arizona Love

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After leaving Yuma Jeff and I headed to Quartzsite Arizona for the big RV, Rock and Gem show held every January.

Quartzsite is a sleepy little town that explodes in population in the month of January as RV’ers from all over North American swallows it up. The draw is the largest gathering of RV’ers in the world (so the legend goes).

The city of Quartzsite embraces us as best it can, but the town struggles during the weeks leading up to and after the big show.

It’s a sight to behold and one you need to experience at least once. I wrote about the show highlights here from last year. Nothing about the show changes much from one year to the next, so I’m going to focus on other things this time.

We showed up at the big tent a few days early to check on the shipped items for the Dometic booth that we would be working for nine days. We wanted to make our way to Dome Rock where our RV’ing group, the Xscapers, were having events for two weeks. We made it for a dog hike one morning with the group and then stopped to say hi to our friends John & Becky and Kurt & Toni.

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Xscapers Dog Walk…its a hairy bunch!

Xscapers is a sub-group of the Escapees RV Club, but focused on full time RV’ers who are still working full time. Whenever there is a “converge”, events are planned for late afternoon or evenings so not to interfere with our workday. It’s a fun group and we have such a wonderful network of fellow RV’ers. We support, offer advice and just plain hang out with each other as our travels ebb, flow and intertwine.

When Jeff and I started FT RV’ing we would have never dreamed that it would be so social. But thanks to social media we all stay tightly connected despite being miles apart.

We had hoped to join the group in the evenings during the show, but after working the booth all day in a very cold tent we just wanted to isolate ourselves to our warm RV. As an introvert, I only have so many words for the day. By nighttime, I’ve got nothing left.

We never did make it back to Dome Rock.

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Booth setup at Q

While at the show, we manage to get in some trail runs. There are lots of jeeping roads up, over and around Q-Mountain. We managed 5-11 miles just by taking any number of intertwining trails. One got the best of me and I tripped over a rock and fell hard. Skinned knees and palms, bruised hips, elbows and shoulders are all a part of the trail running experience. The trick is to not break something in the process.

Wind is always a factor here so expect a good coating of dust in and on everything you own. And expect to catch the “Quartzsite Crud” while you are here…everyone does.

Besides visiting the laundromat, the only other highlight was getting Silly Al’s Pizza. It is one of just a few restaurants in Q and actually had really good pizza.  If you want to go to dinner any time during the week of Q, be sure to get there before 5pm to avoid long lines for a table.

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Q Trails

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Sam checks out the views

After Q we made our way back to Mesa for a couple of weeks. Jeff had to fly to South Bend, IN for business while I tried to vacuum dirt that had coated every surface in the RV.

The weather was amazing in Mesa. Mid-70’s during the day, mid-50’s at night. We stayed in our friend’s driveway again just a ½ miles walk from the canal system. It’s so nice to run on gravel right in town. Since we are training for the Bentonville Half Marathon we got right back into the routine.

While in Mesa we had a sales conference to attend. We pulled our rig to the Westin Resort in Scottsdale. We didn’t bring the RV to stay in it, but to make a quick departure for the Black Canyon after the conference. This is a very nice pet friendly hotel. Sam got the special pet treatment with dog bowls and special bed just for himself.

The Black Canyon is just 40-miles north of Scottsdale on the way to Flagstaff. We have never stopped here, so we wanted to get to some solitude before we had to be back in Phoenix for the Good Sam Rally. That and the Black Canyon Ultra Trail Run was scheduled the same weekend we were there.

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Black Canyon Views

We pulled off Hwy 17 at Table Mesa Rd, just south of Black Canyon City. We set up the RV on BLM land at the Black Canyon Trailhead. This area is STUNNING! Gorgeous mountains, lush green foliage and miles of rugged trails and jeep roads. The only downfall to this area is that it is a mecca for gun enthusiasts who come here to shoot. All. Day. Long!

Thankfully shooting is only allowed in specific areas, so we had a couple of hills between the ranges and us. We still heard the gunfire, but at least it wasn’t right next door.

Jeff and I did not sign up for the Black Canyon Ultra, but we did want to run on the coarse. So we set off the day before the projected rain to get our long training runs in. I had 10 miles to run while Jeff thought he would try for a 50K.

We drove north about 20-miles to the starting line and followed the very well marked route that the race crew had already put out. It started as maintained hard packed dirt road, turned onto a cattle road then to a very rocky rugged single track. It was a test for the sturdiest of ankles, but we both managed to stay upright!

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Scenes from the trail

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Black Canyon Trail Ultra Route

We got a late start so Jeff ended up running in the dark to mile 27 before calling me to pick him up. He was getting cold and hungry. I on the other hand got my 10 miles out and back in, drove back to the RV, took a hot shower, made an early dinner then had coffee and dessert.

Ultimately the racecourse had to be altered due to the forecasted flash flooding. There were numerous river crossing that became virtually impassable with the rising waters. This is one race I am so glad we were not a part of. After mudageddon in Zion last spring, I’ve had enough of terrible weather conditions on race day.

It was a weekend of the most rain we have ever seen in Arizona, which made access roads to this area pretty soupy. We were becoming a bit concerned about our departure, especially since ATV’s and 4-wheel drive trucks decided the mud was the perfect consistency for donuts. But we had two full days of sunshine to dry out the road just enough to get us back to the highway.

It really was a beautiful area. But between the endless gunshots and ATV’s rolling by, we have crossed Black Canyon off our list of places to return to.

We hitched up and headed back to Phoenix for our next show.

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A date with Good Sam

On a sad note, we got a call from one of our Xscaper friends that let us know that another Xscaper had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away right here in Phoenix. She was in her 50’s and full of life. One of those ladies who made you feel welcome from the moment you met her. We met Kurt and Toni at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta over a year ago and developed an instant friendship.

We went to Toni’s funeral and as family talked about her, it was evident that full time RV’ing was the best time of her life! They spoke of her deliberate choice to have experiences over stuff as she and Kurt sold everything to move in and travel full time in their RV.

We left feeling privileged having made that same choice ourselves. You never know how long we have on this earth before we are called home. Our time here is but a brief moment on a spectrum of time. Toni reminded us to make the most of it!

We will miss you around the campfire Toni!

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Remembering Toni!

 

 

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2017! A New Year to Travel

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A hardy cactus hello!

Jeff and I spent Christmas and New Years in Why, Arizona. After being in the big city of Mesa for 6 weeks it was time to get to some desolation, isolation and motivation of the desert.

Why Why, Arizona?

It was supposed to be our launch site to travel to Rocky Point, Mexico just 80 miles to the south. Beachside living, endless shrimp dining and the sound of waves lulling us to sleep. It would be our first Mexico crossing in the RV and we had our dog health certificate and passports ready.

But when we went online to get our insurance, we were shocked to say the least! $600 for a two-week stay in Mexico! OUCH!!!

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Why go to Mexico when you can have the international experience here in Why?

As much as we were looking forward to spending New Years in Mexico, the $600 spend was just too much for us to justify. The waves. The sand. The shrimp. They would all have to wait for another time. We were spending NYE in Why, Arizona.

Don’t feel bad though. Once we got over our visions of beachside grandeur we settled in nicely to our new surroundings while free camping on Bureau of Land Management property.

This is our third winter in the desert southwest and we love it here.

Not many years ago, I would be on a flight over the Southwest and think, “Why would anyone want to live there”? Brown. Dull. Dusty. Void of any green. It always seemed to lack any beauty or color.

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There is something special about the desert

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Good night

But what I’ve learned the last three winters is if you spend a little time in the desert she will show you her true colors.

You see. The beauty of the desert is cast low in those few minutes of sunrise and sunset. When the sun is making itself known and when it finishes its day. It casts a glowing spell on the desert, turning it into the beautiful creature that she is. Texture. Dimension. Color. It’s all there if you are patient!

Our BLM spot is just north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Organ Pipe is a UNESCO biosphere reserve that stretches 517 square miles along the boarder of Mexico. It is the only place in the US where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild. It got its name due to its shape that looks similar to the pipes of an organ.

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Right at the perimeter of the reserve there is a distinct change in the landscape.

What’s flat, barren and brown suddenly turns to rolling hills, black volcanic rock and a lush green. Well…as “lush” as a desert can be. But it is beautiful and very different than the mid-west landscape that I grew up seeing.

Our camping area is in a hotbed of illegal border crossings, drug trade and human trafficking. For the most part, they leave us campers alone. Unless you happen to leave out a water bottle or leave bicycles unlocked. You may wake up to some things missing. The dessert is scattered with rusty bike skeletons that didn’t hold up the rigors of a rugged desert crossing.

There are endless ATV roads scattered all over this place that are under the watchful eye of the Border Patrol via helicopters, trucks and 4-wheelers. Their presence is felt, seen and heard at all times. I had a helicopter swoop down over my head while out on a run…just to say, “I know you are there”.

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Endless ATV trails under the watchful eye of border patrol

The trail running was great and Jeff decided to ride his bike 27-miles to the Mexico border on Christmas Day where I picked him up in the truck. Then he had to outdo himself by running from the border to our campsite on New Years Day. His run was a bit eventful. Four drug smugglers darting across the road mere steps from him in broad daylight. All five of them were startled! Jeff later looked at his Strava from his run and saw the spike in his heart rate at that moment. Everyone went their own ways and we called the incident into the border patrol.

The community of Why has a Christmas day potluck at the local community center. For $5 each, the town provided the turkey and ham, while the attendees brought in the side dishes. It was a great deal, super food and a lot of fun visiting with the winter locals of this tiny community.

Though the desert here was nice, we never quite felt settled. We would check and double check if things were locked and we turned on a few more lights to take the dog out after dark. Even Sam was on edge since coyotes would run right through our campsite.

After two weeks we finally pulled up stakes and made our way to Yuma.

We stayed in Yuma 2 years ago and didn’t particularly enjoy our stay at Mitrey Lake. Between mosquitoes and mice we weren’t sure we would ever come back. But cooler heads prevailed and we decided to give it another go.

This time we headed to BLM at American Girl Mine off of Olgilby and boy were we so glad we gave this town another go. That location turned into one of our favorite campsites ever!

It might be a bit barren for some folks, but for us it was boondocking perfection. Full exposure to sun for solar charging. Well-groomed wide roads. As much or as little privacy as you want. ENDLESS and I mean ENDLESS trails to run. No worry about coyotes for Sam or drug runners for us. Lightening fast Internet. And those sunsets!

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We just could not get enough of this place!

Yuma is the closest city to the Los Algodones border crossings. We crossed the border two years ago and found a delightful restaurant that we wanted to go back to. And since we didn’t make it to Rocky Point the previous week we decided to walk to Los Algodones for a dental cleaning and some lunch.

This was our first experience with Mexico dental. I say “our”, but Jeff was the guinea pig.

It was an AMAZING experience, and we will not longer be hesitant at taking the plunge. We picked a dentist that was highly recommended by other FT RV’ers that we personally know and decided to walk to the office a couple days before his appointment to make sure we knew where she was. And if you have any hesitation about walking there yourself, the dental office will send someone to meet you at the border to escort you to their door.

One thing you have to be prepared for when crossing the border is the bombardment of sales folks trying to sell you the exact same thing the guy right across the street is selling. Pharmaceuticals, dentists, eyeglasses and your typical assortments of trinkets, jewelry, blankets and cowboy hats are about it for this small town. A polite “no thank you” is enough to put a stop to it, until you hit the next booth.

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A special anniversary lunch

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Plentiful Viagra and…ah…pinatas

While at lunch one day a nice lady from a local “spa” stopped by and gave me a free 1-minute shoulder massage while I drank my margarita. Her skills were impressive, and we actually went to her shop a couple days’ later and got $13 pedicures.

Our original intent was to stay in Yuma for a week before heading to Quartzsite, where our fellow Xscapers RV club was having a convergence. But Olgilby Road was just too perfect a spot to breeze through and we stayed for two weeks.

We did get to see our RV buddies Flying the Koop, Mike and Donna. It had been a while and they were blowing through town on their way from San Diego to Phoenix. Our time was short, but oh so sweet. We will get to see them a bit more after Q.

Well, onward to Q for the largest gathering RV’ers on earth!

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This is why I love the desert! (Zero filters)

 

 

 

 

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