An Interlude Period, April 16-July 31, 2019

After we concluded our extensive Family & Friends Tour in mid-April, we reached for the Interlude button. As mentioned in a prior post, we were experiencing some travel fatigue and in retrospect kept our pace going at a fairly quick tempo. This Interlude coincided with an emotionally tough time as two of our dear friends, married nearly 51 years, passed away just nine weeks apart. John and Karen were frequent travel, camping, hiking, skiing/snowshoeing, and biking buddies over our 21-year friendship. In retrospect, our grief was compounded by the pace we were keeping. It seemed appropriate to collect ourselves and our thoughts. 

Our Interlude lasted through July. In May we spent nearly two weeks between Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Montana and Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho, which provided quiet time soaking up sunsets and looking at the starlit nights.

Dusk Advances at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Montana, May 11, 2019
Upward Trek, Bruneau Dunes State Park, May 15, 2019

From Idaho we had a lovely place to land at son Jeremy’s and daughter-in-love Michelle’s home in Pullman, Washington for two weeks in late May-early June. Our trailer fit perfectly on their driveway, but our stay was in their comfy guest quarters.

With Jeremy and Michelle, there was nothing quite like binging on TV series, sipping coffee, taking turns cooking, going on hikes or walks, sharing of our recent book reads, and partaking in ice cream bars.

Celebrating our 43rd Anniversary with Jeremy & Michelle in Washington, May 29, 2019

We hadn’t kept up with our usual activity level, so our bodies needed to get re-charged. The steep hills of Pullman were the place to do it. One can’t walk in Pullman without some inclines that really work the legs and joints. The locals earn their “Cougar calves!” It was quite refreshing, step-by-step, to kick into gear. We walked to coffee shops, Washington State University’s library, or the public library where we conducted our work. [Work for us is researching for future stays, how-to’s with the trailer, photo editing, writing, genealogy, record keeping, paying bills, dealing with virtual mail, etc.] After our time in Pullman, Jeremy and Michelle joined us for a weekend at our campsite at Heyburn State Park in Idaho. It was lovely! We count our blessings!

We had many conversations over our miles of hikes during a week’s stay at Heyburn State Park, Idaho and another week near Lolo, Montana. The Coeur d’Alene, Lolo, and Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests bathed us in peace and beauty. During this time, we agreed that our 2019-20 winter should focus on one main region. We have decided to stay in the Southwest, primarily Arizona. In retrospect, last winter and spring had us moving quickly across the Southern tier of states from California to Virginia. Our intention this year is to slow the pace! Thankfully we acquired most of the reservations in one planning session!

Magnificent views from a hike at Heyburn State Park, Idaho, June 1, 2019
Bicycling the Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes, Idaho, June 5, 2019

In early April, we recognized that we desperately needed to just park ourselves in home base territory near Denver for several weeks this summer. This approach gave us the time we desired with our daughter Stephanie, son-in-love, Shane, Steve’s mother, other family, and a few friends. Several months out we reserved campsites for three weeks. Staying at Chatfield State Park and Golden Gate Canyon State Park, we could schedule nine appointments: doctor, dental, eye, and truck in the Denver area plus enjoy full hookups! We also pined for recliners after having comfy ones in our home for years. Our birthday present to each other took care of our comfort!

Chillaxin’ in our new zero gravity recliners, June 28, 2019

Our bucket list for many years has included an extended stay in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in Colorado. We were thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to nab as many hikes as possible?” Yes! Watching the calendar, we scheduled six months in advance and scored two weeks in July. It’s VERY competitive to reserve campsites. Interestingly, we weren’t permitted to have both weeks in the same campsite or campground. What worked out nicely is having the first week in Moraine Campground and the second week in Glacier Basin Campground. We’ll share more details in another post about this truly memorable time in RMNP for it was one of our most enjoyed times together. The bonus was having Stephanie and Shane join us for two days over the Fourth of July. It was fantastic to cook over the campfire, hike, laugh, and express awe together over the stunning scenery! Again, we count our blessings!

Hiking with Stephanie & Shane, RMNP, July 4, 2019

From the Front Range, we launched into other parts of Colorado where in years’ past we have spent little to no time. Outside of Poncha Springs at Monarch Spur RV Park, we were situated for hikes on the Monarch Crest Trail and along the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area. We hit Salida for coffee shops, ice cream, and pizza. The trailer had regular maintenance done in Poncha Springs.

Monarch Pass Trailhead, Colorado, July 22, 2019

Then off we went to the Durango area with a two-night stay at Junction Creek Campground located in the San Juan National Forest, specifically to be positioned to meet up with our New York nephew. Lo and behold, he concluded one day early an immense goal of having summited all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers (peaks at least 14,000’ in elevation) that took him 13 years of carefully-planned summer vacations. Thankfully we could celebrate him and his accomplishment over breakfast at the Durango Diner.

Celebrating in Durango with nephew J.R., July 25, 2019

From Durango we took the San Juan Scenic Highway from Durango to Ouray with a stop for coffee in Silverton. The views were spectacular! We arrived in Grand Junction, another area with which we weren’t familiar. We stayed at Junction West RV Park out towards Fruita. Something that we love to do is go scouting for future places to camp on public lands. One day took us on the gorgeous Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. While Diane was there as a child with her family to camp and fish, it felt like new territory to both of us. We filed away on a list numerous campgrounds as well as dispersed campsites in the National Forest as future possibilities.

Molas Lake, Molas Pass Summit, San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, Colorado, July 26, 2019
Atop Grand Mesa with its many lakes and vistas, July 28, 2019

While in Grand Junction, we observed the end of our Year One and the beginning of Year Two of Life at the Speed of Sanity.

Dinner out on Day 365 of Year One, July 28, 2019
We begin Year Two with Palisade Peaches from Palisade, Colorado, July 29, 2019

From Grand Junction, we moved southeast to the Basalt area. Our stay was at Little Maud Campground in the White River National Forest near Ruedi Reservoir. Over the three days, we had several jaunts. One evening we took a scenic drive from Carbondale up to quaint Marble, known for its world-class marble that’s been used for such structures as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. A neighbor at the campground raved about the local hot spot for dinner in Marble. This was Slow Groovin’ BBQ and boy, it didn’t disappoint! Sitting at the bar, we had conversations with several locals. There’s nothing quite like getting acquainted with an area through the eyes of other folks.

Slow Groovin’ BBQ, Marble, Colorado, July 30, 2019

Besides having lunch and visits with Steve’s cousin and her family, we took in scenic drives and hiked to an overlook of the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness. Steve’s cousins took us to lunch at one of their favorite places in Woody Creek, the iconic Woody Creek Tavern, which Hunter S. Thompson (American journalist, author, and founder of the gonzo journalism movement) frequented (understatement). Actually, the Woody Creek Tavern is legendary because of him.

Iconic Woody Creek Tavern with Hunter S. Thompson’s Corner, July 31, 2019

Lastly, spending a serene evening at the Maroon Bells, 12 miles from Aspen, hiking the Scenic Loop Trail, watching a mama bear and cub, and witnessing a dramatic color scheme as the sky moved to dusk seemed to tie the knot on having concluded our Interlude.

44 years after our backpacking trip to the Maroon Bells Area, we return for an evening hike, July 31, 2019

We are counting our blessings for the Interlude that provided us some breathing room and achieving more clarity. This precious period of time launched us gently into a path that has taken us through parts of Utah, Idaho, Montana and now our annual Midwest trip to visit family.

 

One Year Anniversary, Speed of Sanity: July 29, 2019

Time did it again! The seconds, minutes, hours, days, months zipped and zoomed past over the past 365 days! Our trip around the sun here on Earth also had us on the move around the country. “Tranquility”, our 2018 Nash 26N trailer by Northwood Manufacturing has not disappointed us. As Steve recently remarked, “I am amazed. You build a house and every week or each time we move to the  next location, we put the house through an earthquake and it survives quite well.” Steve refers to the oft times bumpy ride where we seemingly shake, rattle, and roll along rough roads or with gusty winds. Indeed it is quite remarkable that despite a few small issues, our abode has remained solid.

Our 2011 Ford F-250 diesel pick-up has been an absolute workhorse. We have climbed many mountain passes, which “Bessie” the truck tackles with confidence. This also is quite reassuring to us as the drivers pulling the trailer to have a turbo-diesel engine ready to “get ‘er done!”

We have reviewed the year from various angles and decided to put it into a list of statistics. An expense that we still need to calculate is the cost of our campground stays. We will update the list below when we have that figure.

Year One Statistics

  • 220 square feet of living space in the 2018 Nash 26N
  • 33 storage spaces in the trailer
  • 1 large storage space in the pickup bed (it’s a bit like a garage on wheels)
    • Bicycling gear, snowshoeing gear, hiking gear, tent camping gear, step ladder, 2 recycling camp chairs, solar panel, portable/foldable grill, car/trailer washing/detailing “stuff”, and miscellaneous 
  • 3 bicycles (1 tandem and 2 singles) on trailer hitch
  • 18,000 pounds, combined weight of truck, trailer, and contents.
  • 53′ combined length of truck, trailer, and bike rack.
  • 32,759 miles Bessie the Truck drove
  • 17,000 miles Tranquility the Trailer followed safely hitched onto Bessie
  • 15,759 miles additional truck miles driven to meet up with family and friends, make day trips to visit national or state parks, various cities, and a roundtrip truck trip from Tucson-Denver-Tucson in January.
  • 89 locations where we stayed including campgrounds, RV parks, parking lots, budget hotels, homes of family or friends
  • 94 degrees Fahrenheit, highest outdoor temperature, Denver, Colorado, 9/13/2018
  • 19 degrees Fahrenheit, lowest outdoor temperature, White Rock, New Mexico, 12/20/2018
  • 9,700 feet above sea level, highest campsite, Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado along National Forest Road 390 near Tucker’s Pond
  • 196 feet below sea level, lowest campsite, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park, California
  • $2.439/gallon, lowest diesel price, Shell, Centennial, Colorado, 1/26/2019
  • $5.049/gallon, highest diesel price, Furnace Creek Gas Station, Furnace Creek, California (Death Valley National Park)
  • 2,721.009 gallons of diesel fuel have been consumed by Bessie the truck over 365 days
  • $8,533.04 USD has been spent on diesel fuel.
  • 12.04 is our average miles per gallon
  • 325+ family members or friends visited
  • 29 states in which we stayed or through which we traveled (some more than once)
  • 21 State Parks visited and/or in which we camped
  • 9 National Parks, Monuments, Preserves, Recreation Areas, Lakeshore, Seashore, Wildlife Refuge visited and/or camped (The government shut-down diverted our plans, so we switched to enjoying many state parks).
  • 22 National Forests through which we traveled or in which we camped
  • 6 truck service appointments (oil change, tire rotation, scheduled service)
  • 3 trailer service appointments (inspection, wheel bearing service)
  • 8 haircuts for Diane in 5 different states (Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Montana, Utah) this has been a supreme challenge for Diane after years with only a few stylists. Diane visits Aveda Institutes in Denver and Lakewood, Colorado and usually Ulta Salon’s elsewhere. One barber in Oregon when desperate!
  • 0 haircuts for Steve at a barber or salon. He’s been cutting his own for years! Diane is a bit envious, but keep those clippers away, buddy!
  • 32 laundromats, campground laundry facilities, family or friends laundry rooms
  • 8 public libraries in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Washington
  • 1 University library: Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
  • 1 Research library: Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
Dinner out on Day 365 of Year One in Grand Junction, Colorado!
We conclude Year One with a drive on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, which took us over Grand Mesa, Colorado.

We Have Signed Up for Year Two!

The best news is that we love this lifestyle! In fact, we have signed up for Year Two because we are living life to the fullest in our little abode on wheels! The two room layout of our floorplan really fits our needs. Having a large attached awning creates a relaxing patio space.  If we have room on our campsite and especially if we are in a buggy environment, we setup our screened gazebo. Two zero-gravity chairs make sitting outside and reading books or from our Kindles very relaxing.

We Begin Year Two with a Stay at Ruedi Reservoir, White River National Forest, Colorado.

We have no desire to settle down in one place for the foreseeable future. Of course this type of living is possible for a long as our health remains with us.

The even better news is that despite being together nearly 24/7, we still like each other quite a bit. Yes, we don’t always agree, but we work through our differences. 

We Begin Year Two with Palisade Peaches from Palisade, Colorado!

For our second year, we anticipate visiting family and friends along our travels. Spending additional time in National Parks remains towards the top of our list. And, trying to lower our diesel fuel expenses needs to be a budget priority. We have applied for a short-stint as campground hosts for a month next summer. Time will tell how that transpires.

44 years after our 1975 backpacking trip to the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado, we return for an evening hike.

Thank you for hanging with us as we keep you updated. Many of the updates actually take place on Instagram. You can follow us there as @speedofsanity.

Attempting to Live “Life at the Speed of Sanity!”

Diane & Steve

 

 

 

Our Planning Techniques

THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM A.K.A. PLAN AHEAD

A big takeaway since launching as full-timer RVers on July 29, 2018 is to plan ahead. The popularity of RVing continues to grow with retirees as well as for those in their 20s-50s. According to a November 12, 2018 Washington Post article https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/11/12/million-americans-live-rvs-meet-modern-nomads/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5034530e11aa, 1 million Americans live in RVs! Especially for those still working, our digital world makes it easier to work remotely as a “digital nomad”. Also, a growing number of families are home-schooling their children while RVing across the country. We met one family doing this and follow several other families on Instagram. As for the Early Bird, this past year we quickly discovered that to stay at the more popular national park and state park campgrounds, we needed to reserve several months to a year in advance!. With a 30’ trailer we don’t fit into just any spot! In fact, many state and national parks have a 30’ length restriction.

LAYING OUT A PLAN
This past year we traveled at a fast clip. We intentionally planned several trips within a year’s time based on a desire to see many family members and friends, to visit national parks and state parks, and to more fully embrace a full-time RV lifestyle. Laying out a plan depends on our goals, the amount of driving required, and our camping budget.

Our Goals
Our goals vary from long term goals (visit the 407 national parks and monuments) to short term goals. Last year we wanted to visit as many friends and family as we could. It involved driving many miles and having many shorter trips. This winter we will be exploring Arizona State Parks, which should be less driving and longer stays. Along the way we like to visit museums or local attractions, pause to enjoy quirky Americana, taste pies and ice cream, hike, and bike.

Ice Cream Sundae at Yesterday’s Soda Fountain & Restaurant, Ennis, Montana
California State Capitol, Sacramento California
Jebediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

Amount of Driving
After having driven 45,000 miles since March 2018 when we purchased our pick-up (that’s 15 months), the amount of driving required to attain our traveling goals translates into costs in fuel, tires, maintenance, and wear-and-tear. This is changing because we cannot keep up this pace. Longer driving days and multiple days in a row can be fatiguing when pulling a trailer.

Camping Budget
As retirees, budget considerations are key since we are attempting to live more frugally. RV resorts, while they have some lovely hotel-quality amenities, can be quite pricey. We stayed in a KOA resort in Tucson when there were no other options when planning last minute. We stayed at other KOA campgrounds across the country when state or national parks weren’t an option. For KOAs, there are budget, mid-range, and resort franchises, with the resorts often near larger cities. We have stayed at several privately owned RV parks. An even more budget-friendly approach has been to reserve in state park, national park, county or municipal campgrounds. A free or nearly-free option has been staying on Public Lands i.e. BLM (Bureau of Land Management), U.S. Forest, and National Recreation Areas. With public land stays, there are typically no hookups and even water may not be available. Beginning this summer we hope to explore more public land stays in Colorado. Over the winter, we will check out Utah, Nevada, and Arizona public lands.

Park pass discounts have made a difference. We both have a Senior Lifetime National Park Pass. Besides free admission into National Parks and Monuments, we also receive a 50% discount on campsite fees. When we anticipated staying in a state park longer than a night or two, we explored the cost savings if we would purchase an annual pass. Several state park passes have already paid for themselves thanks to the discounts on campsite fees. We also have a KOA Value Card membership which provides discounts.

TRIP PLANNING TOOLBOX
By early June, we had our goals for the remainder of 2019 and up to mid-June 2020 identified. We spent several hours planning through April 2020. To plan, we used resources from our trip planning toolbox, which are highlighted below:

Pad of Paper
A good old-fashioned pad of paper and pen or pencil works for us to jot down notes, ideas, and dates as we refine our plans.

Google Calendar
We have a Google Calendar that is just for travel. In fact, it is a shared calendar with our children so they can check on our upcoming travels and vice versa.

Facebook RV Groups & Instagram RV Travelers
We are on Facebook with several RV groups, which have been invaluable for ideas, trouble-shooting concerns with the trailer, and connecting with RVers. A main “go-to” for us is “Where’d You Stay RV” with over 20,000 members! Using the search feature, we search by city, state, state park, national park, and so on. Once we had a list of campgrounds that we liked, we wrote down the dates when people had stayed there.

With Instagram, we are following a growing number of other full-time RV travelers. Similar to the technique with Facebook, we revisited a handful of Instagram friends’ photos and posts. One couple in particular are also retirees and last year traveled with their RV through Arizona from West to East, lower elevation to higher elevation across the winter months. Their posts were extremely helpful for gleaning campgrounds, dates, and weather.

Weather Underground
Once we had the places and dates, we used Weather Underground’s website: https://www.wunderground.com/. For instance, I entered “Lake Havasu City, Arizona” and searched for January 16, 2018 (last year’s information). Of course, the weather changes from year to year, but we thought it would at least give us a base reading and avoid weather extremes.

Google Maps
When we’re at the campground’s website and have the campground map showing the campsites on our laptops, we also open Google maps in satellite view. On the laptop screen, we place the campground map and satellite view side by side. We may look for some shade in the warmer states or sunshine when we might not have an electrical hookup and rely on our solar panel. Orienting north-south and east-west, we can usually see “shade” or “sunshine” in the satellite view. We like to avoid being adjacent to the toilet facility, refuse area, and the RV dump station. We identify the primary road through the park or busy highways and railroads nearby. We select the campsite that we like based on the map, satellite view, and the information that is usually given about the particular campsite i.e. length, hookups, and if it’s a level site.

Your Thoughts?
Some of you camp in RVs or tents. What are some of your planning techniques? We’d love to hear from you and learn some additional tips.

We’re attempting to live “Life at the Speed of Sanity”!

~ Diane and Steve