Year One Campground and Lodging Expense Summary

I promised in my early August blog post that the calculations would be forthcoming for the campground and lodging expenses for our first year as full-time RVers. Admittedly some of the information was entered into Google Calendar entries for each stay, but much of the information was lacking. I’ve spent roughly 20 hours gathering and entering data in the fields. Hopefully I’ve learned a lesson to keep the information current so I don’t have to hunt down credit card statements, go through a stack of papers (nearly all have now been purged since I nabbed the info needed), or search on Accuweather for the temp data and Google for the elevations.

I created a Google spreadsheet to track data in the following fields:

  • Name of Campground or Lodging
  • Address
  • Site #
  • Hookups (Electric, Water, Sewer)
  • Number of Nights Stayed
  • Fee Per Night
  • Total Cost of Stay
  • Elevation (over 9,500’ is where our frig/freezer won’t work with L.P. Gas)
  • Day/Night Temps (forecasted by Accuweather on day of check-in)
  • Notes

We now have all of this at our fingertips. Google Drive is even accessible from our phones. Now it’s easy to just review the spreadsheet when planning future stays. In the notes section, I have included some of the pros or cons of a stay, who we visited, what activities we enjoyed, etc.

Here is an example of a recent stay! The West Yellowstone KOA was just 10 minutes to Yellowstone National Park. The KOA had full-hookups and beautiful views!

Year-One Totals for Campground & Lodging Expenses

The grand total for Year One Campground & Lodging (includes seven budget hotel stays with truck-trailer combo in their parking lot) was $8,723.18. Our average nightly stay was $31.15, or $726.93 per month. In 95% of our campsites we’ve had electric, water, and sewer hookups or along with just an electric hookup there’s access to water fill stations and dump stations. We’ve paid roughly $25 during the year in dump station or fresh water fill station fees. Two gas stations provided a dump station for free. When we don’t have direct hookups for water or sewer, most city, county, state, and national park campgrounds have free water and dump stations. 

Most importantly, we SO appreciate the family members and friends who extended their hospitality whether enjoying their guest rooms or in two cases, staying in their homes during their absence. We were the recipients of 74 nights thanks to your generosity!!

Numerous times these stays included a space in the driveway or nearby parking for the trailer. In one instance, our trailer went to storage for nearly a month.

Future Data Capturing

If you think of a category that we could add to our data capturing, which may picque your interest, please provide your suggestion.

We are currently in the state of Washington enjoying areas for the first time! May Autumn continue gracing you with nature’s beauty!

Living Life at the Speed of Sanity with Steve by my side!

Diane

 

The Great Spare Tire Saga

The Great Spare Tire Saga started the day we replaced the truck tires on September 8, 2018. We decided to share this post nearly a year later as it seemed pretty epic in retrospect! Hopefully others will learn from our experiences. Thank you, Steve for putting all of the details together!

Buying truck tires was a new experience for us. The tires on the truck were nearing the end of their useful life, and with our planned travels we decided to replace all four. Since the truck, while still new to us, was now eight years old, we decided to err on the side of caution and replace the spare as well.

In the waiting room of Big O Tires, the tire technician came in and asked us for the spare tire key. I’m sure we looked confused as we confessed (an expression we have perfected as we continue our “learning experiences” with trucks, trailers, and diesel engines) the only key we had was the truck ignition key. 

This is the truck’s old spare tire that couldn’t be removed due to not having a spare tire key.

This is how we found out that most trucks and some cars have special locks to keep the spare tires safe from theft. The Ford documentation states to keep the spare tire key in the glove compartment. I wish we would have known that when we bought the truck! FYI, if you are not familiar with the Ford F250 spare tire lock, it is not visible from the outside of the truck. The key is attached to the end of the jack bars and inserted into a plastic guide tube. The lock is 20” or so down the tube.  And, the spare tire resides beneath the truck bed, not an easy place to necessarily access. Plus the spare is relatively heavy.

Since Big O Tires did not want to hold the spare tire replacement, we had to take the tire with us. (But first, there’s a caveat to the story. Just three days after the truck tires were purchased, we had to return our new truck topper to the topper dealer due to a manufacturing fault. The topper had to be freighted round-trip to California, taking nearly a month to be repaired. Therefore, we had to empty the truck bed since we didn’t have a topper.)

Back to storage we go to unload the truck bed so the topper can be returned for repairs.

To store the new, unmounted, spare tire, this is where it went, tucked in the front of the truck bed:

The truck’s new spare tire went into the truck bed sans the topper.

Research on the internet confirmed the need for the spare tire key. It also exposed much frustration with the spare tire lock and key system. There were many discussion threads on how to remove the lock and make the spare tire removal easier (and more prone to theft I suppose).

Rather than hacking the spare tire system, we pursued a solution that would restore Bessie (Yes, we name our vehicles!) to wholeness. Off to a nearby Ford dealer. By now we knew that there were a limited set of keys and we were hopeful that our Ford dealer could tell us which key we needed. They could not. Evidently, only a handful of dealers carry a full set of keys. Since there are less than two dozen keys, and given the amount of frustration I found on the internet regarding the spare tire key, I find it peculiar that every Ford dealer does not have a set of keys. 

O’Meara Ford in Bloomington, outside of Denver, had a full set of keys. We drove up there and they quickly matched the key to the lock and told us which key we needed to order. The keys are only available online from McGard. O’Meara Ford and McGard were both very helpful during this ordeal, but our saga is not yet finished.

Based on the key number from O’Meara, and that our truck is a 2011 Ford F250, we ordered a replacement key. 

Confident that we would soon have a solution, we continued our travels to several locations in the Colorado mountains. When we came back to the Denver area and picked up the spare tire key from our daughter where we had McGard send it, the key did not fit our spare tire lock! Back to O’Meara Ford to compare keys. Oddly, the key we ordered did not match the O’Meara Ford key. Since our solution did not work, we had O’Meara Ford lower the spare tire.

O’Meara Ford removed the truck’s spare tire for us

This time we took pictures of the keys to highlight the differences and sent the pictures to McGard. McGard responded quickly. We found out that they keys were changed between the 2010 and 2011 model years, but some “older” 2011 models still had the older version of the key. 

McGard sent out a new key to our daughter. In the meantime, we had more traveling to do, so with the old spare removed, we had Big O Tires mount the new spare tire.

Off to Mesa Verde National Park we went with the spare cabled and locked to the side of the truck. What a wonderful trip and we will return! When leaving Mesa Verde, we decided to stop in Mancos for breakfast. Walking to the restaurant, Diane looked down at our trailer tires and found part of a screw sticking out from the tread on one of the tires!

Diane notices a screw in the driver's rear tire of the trailer.
Diane noticed a screw in the driver’s rear tire of the trailer.

Rather than take chances and at the encouragement of Diane’s brother, Chuck, who she called for some feedback, we changed the trailer tire with the spare. Would you believe, the spare tire storage on the Nash does not fit the wheels that come with the trailer? The spare tire rim is different than the rest of the tires.

In Mancos, Colorado, Steve changed out the trailer tire for the spare.

Interestingly, we now had two tires in the bed of our truck in  a new spare tire configuration:

Our truck bed now carried two tires!
Our truck bed now carried two tires!

Meanwhile, in the wonderful world of the US Postal Service, our spare tire key replacement took a side trip and wandered around Zionville, Indiana, presumably waiting for an address resolution. A call to McGard confirmed the correct mailing address and McGard promptly sent out a replacement package to our daughter’s address.

The replacement spare tire key arrived soon after we were back in Denver. The trailer tire with the screw in the tread did not leak any air. So, the truck spare tire is now under the bed of the truck. I changed the trailer tire again and put the spare back on the bumper. All was well.

On October 13, 2018, with all tires in place we left for Utah, escaping a winter storm in Denver just in time.

All tires were on the truck and trailer as intended plus the topper.

IN SUMMARY

From start to finish, our spare tire saga took nearly four weeks. We are thankful that there were no emergencies during this time frame. We were very impressed with the service at O’Meara Ford. There were helpful over two separate visits and never considered charging us for their help. We are also very impressed with customer service at McGard. While we did not get the correct key the first time, which was not necessarily their fault, they were very responsive in sending out the new key, and when that was lost in Indiana, they were super responsive in sending out another replacement. The key that was wandering around Zionville, Indiana eventually showed up. Not a great showing by the USPS, but, hey, mistakes happen. Ford, in general, why did you make this spare tire key thing so complicated?

And then, there is the Ford dealer where we bought the truck. It seems like a functioning spare tire system is something that should have been on their checklist, However, I cannot discount our naivety in buying the truck. Lessons learned! Now if Northwood Manufacturing would consider designing spare tire storage and a spare tire wheel that would accomodate any of the trailer wheels, that would be helpful!

Happy Trails at Life at the Speed of Sanity!

Steve

 

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.