Hope on the Horizon

Our previous post alluded to Hope on the Horizon. In fact Hope rode with us as we left Denver on Saturday, May 9, 2020 towards the Pacific Northwest. Our sights, dreams, and Plan C were counting on Hope! Thankfully Colorado lifted its shelter-in-place order that morning. This gave us increased confidence that we were okay to leave. What a relief. After 52 days of sheltering-in-place as part of Colorado’s Stay-Safe-at-Home measures, we were ready to get Plan C on the road with “AZ IF the Truck” towing “Tranquility the Trailer.” Yet, perhaps you are curious: “What was it like to hunker down in Colorado during the interim?”

Our Stay-Safe-At-Home Stage

Beginning on March 20, 2020, two days after arriving in Denver, we noted the number of novel coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19, cases were at 15,000 for the United States. Keeping tabs on the cases in Colorado, Idaho, and Washington were important to us over the next seven weeks. We felt reassured knowing that Tranquility the Trailer was safely stored and just chilling with a very full RV storage lot at Dove Valley Storage. Needing to keep our mental and physical health healthy, we walked dozens of miles on the sidewalks in the neighborhood where we were staying. Barb’s home provided more than ample space to hit the pause button. The views from her back windows and deck gave us solace with opportunities to watch different birds, snow falling on the landscape, gorgeous sunrises, rains followed by rainbows, and then spring blooms and green grass. With her large kitchen, we made more involved meals, unlike in the trailer, which limited more elaborate meals. Indeed, we were extremely thankful for Barb’s hospitality during her absence. In return, it was nice to be able to keep tabs on her home for her.

We loved being near an open space from Barb’s deck.
Another snow falls in the Denver area. We ended up with 8 inches.
A stormy sky with moisture to the east sported a full rainbow from the setting sun over the Rocky Mountains to the west behind us.
Near midnight with a full moon over the lake beside Barb’s house. Tomorrow we’ll leave for Idaho and Washington.

Our outings were few, dictated by the governor’s orders. We managed with bandanas and coffee filters, which we slid between the bandana layers for added protection. Thankfully we could shop during early shopping hours designated for 60+ of age or at-risk individuals. Whole Foods was within two blocks and our best place for groceries, with fewer shoppers and better protocols early in the game. In order for Steve’s Mom to stay safer, we shopped and delivered her groceries. For us, some dental care and lab work couldn’t be postponed, so we managed safely with our providers taking extraordinary measures. In April we had a socially-distanced sidewalk visit near Stephanie and Shane’s high-rise apartment building to get some of our mail from them and to have a brief conversation. The weekend before we left Denver, we had them over for a socially-distanced pre-birthday lunch for Stephanie with Shane, her, and us on the deck. On one of our last days in Denver, we ordered takeout from 5 Guys and had lunch with Steve’s Mom, socially-distanced on her driveway. For all of us, it was quite difficult to not have our usual hugs and not be inside one another’s homes. More than anything, we were all trying to keep each other healthy.

Without fabric and sewing machine, we resorted to bandanas and a coffee filter between layers.
We had a socially-distanced pre-birthday lunch for Stephanie on Barb’s deck. Our 2nd time to see them, but still no hugs.
We love you Mom! It’s hard to leave. Still no hugs. We had a meal on her driveway, socially-distanced.

We had numerous phone calls or Zoom sessions with family members and friends. Those were a boost for our psyches, sensing the feeling was mutual. It seemed that we were all needing those connections and time to anchor to loved ones, albeit virtually. We challenged ourselves with a couple of jigsaw puzzles. Projects included scanning family documents and photos. Devouring the news seemed to be an obsession, yet thankfully it wasn’t cable news. We tried to limit news watching until 5pm local news followed by national news and finally PBS NewsHour. Each morning we jumped onto our New York Times, NPR, or Guardian apps to get different news sources. The detriment of this pattern of news binging was the added anxiety as the reports of rising numbers of cases and deaths was relentless. 

We had a family Zoom meeting. Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman. Steph and Shane in Denver. We’re in Grant’s Ranch.
During our 52 days in Colorado, our daily cocktail hour included good chocolate and decaf coffee while watching the news.

Preparing for Plan C

Before we left Denver, we shopped ahead for groceries and other supplies. We weren’t planning to shop in Moscow, Idaho or Pullman, Washington upon arriving there as we were on a mission to diminish the amount of contact with others during these uncertain times. Surprised at that number of shortages of certain categories in the Denver area stores, we erred on the side of being as prepared as possible before leaving Denver because Moscow and Pullman had fewer stores.

Knowing that we would soon be leaving our beloved state of 10 years, we had one brief outing to higher elevation before we left Colorado. On May 4, we packed a picnic lunch and drove U.S. 285 into the mountains. Once at the summit of Kenosha Pass, we parked so we’d have a view over lunch. Kenosha Pass is where we’ve taken countless hikes and snowshoed. The gold aspen in the autumn and purple and white columbine in the spring are breathtaking. Whenever family or friends came from out-of-state, this was one of our favorite places to take them. It doesn’t take too much of a hike to achieve expansive views of South Park’s valley rimmed with beautiful mountains under sapphire skies.  Thank you Colorful Colorado for the memories!

A last hurrah! We ventured to Kenosha Pass for a truck picnic lunch at one of our favorite hiking and snowshoeing trailheads.

Besides, keeping close track of COVID cases in Colorado, we included Wyoming and Montana, through which we’d drive and stay; and Idaho and Washington, where we’d conclude this trip. Having Colorado plates and in the event that there were checkpoints where we’d need to provide proof of our destination, we had reservation details along with us.

While many campgrounds in those four states were either closed since it was still early in the season or closed due to the pandemic, we needed to plan ahead for our stays. Sometime in mid-March we received an email from KOA corporate that many KOA campgrounds across the U.S. were doing their best to remain open knowing that there were snowbirds on the move to northern states or Canada plus full-time RVers. Although many KOAs had limited service and all but the offices were closed, so no restrooms, laundry facilities, camp stores, pools, cabins. Some KOAs are open year-round, while others are seasonal. This communication from KOA provided a boost for us. We knew that our route would take us along interstates from Denver to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Being acquainted with several KOAs on the route through prior stays, certainly helped. We called ahead to verify that they were open. Then using our KOA app, we reserved for one-night, pull-through spaces in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Buffalo, Wyoming. In Cheyenne, our paperwork was taped to the office door. In Buffalo, Steve had to step into the office for less than two minutes. We knew that the KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana was open, but we planned to call them after our Buffalo stay in case the weather was unfavorable.

Pacific Northwest Bound

Friday, May 8: Last minute shopping, laundry, a trip to the storage unit to grab a few items, taking a load to the trailer (we had taken quite a bit to Barb’s for our extended stay), and top off AZ IF’s (the truck) diesel, made for a full day.

Saturday, May 9: We were up at 6 a.m. to make a final grocery run to Whole Foods, launder linens and towels, clean the house, water plants, and load the truck with the remainder of belongings. At RV storage, we hitched up Tranquility the Trailer and pulled out by 1pm for our 125-mile drive. Arriving at the KOA in Cheyenne, Wyoming with a pull-through site with full hookups was a good call. We opted for a shorter drive that day because we knew we would get a late start and the trailer needed some attention. First, we needed to de-winterize the trailer after having to winterize it when we arrived in Denver during a cold snap. Secondly, we needed to get the fridge and freezer turned on. Next, it was time to move items from the truck to the trailer yet again. Lastly, we were exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep!

It feels like a never-ending story of loading and unloading. Now we’re moving from Barb’s back into the trailer.
We are ready to leave Dove Outdoor Storage in Colorado bound for Idaho.
Leaving the KOA in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Sunday, May 10: Happy Mother’s Day calls came from Stephanie and Shane in Denver and Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman. We were treated to a 300-mile day with sunshine, NO WIND (this is atypical for Wyoming), and Sirius Radio over the many miles. We kept tabs with another full-time couple, Beth and Bruce, who we met just briefly the year prior at Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona. We follow one another on Instagram and Facebook plus have exchanged messages. Interestingly, they were spending a couple of nights at the KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming, our destination for the night. A few minutes after we pulled into our site and were situated with our hookups, they came over for a socially-distanced chat. It was great to see them even briefly. Knowing that we had two more big days of driving, we vegged on a movie that evening and hit the hay a bit early.

Happy Mother’s Day from Wyoming! Diane’s behind the wheel and taking calls via Bluetooth from our children.
We had a pull through site at the KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming. We’ve stayed here four different times.
We were very pleased to see fulltime RVers Bruce and Beth. We all follow each other on Instagram and Facebook.

Monday, May 11: We were up early.  We had 427 miles to cover to get to Deer Lodge, Montana. The forecast called for potential snow near Livingston, which we’ve experienced on the pass between Livingston and Bozeman before. No thank you. We kept our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed. Fortunately, there was just a dusting of snow. As we traveled along I-25 and then I-90, we called the KOA in Deer Lodge to request redeeming our KOA ValueKard points and that we didn’t see how to do this through the KOA app. It was then that we learned that redemption had to be done in person and the city of Deer Lodge was having water issues, so there would be no water hookup. Bummer! Because we opted not to add more water to our fresh water tank in Buffalo, we had to conserve water for one more night and morning. Gulp! Once we arrived in Deer Lodge late that afternoon, we were greeted by winds and gloomy skies. Only one other RV was in the campground. The KOA owner was cheerful, welcomed us, and apologized for the water issues.

Steve’s behind the wheel from Livingston, Montana.
As we travel I-90, it’s not uncommon in May to have snow on the pass between Livingston and Bozeman.
We spent the night at the KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana. There was only one other rig. It was a blustery night, so early to bed.

Tuesday, May 12: We were up early again. Although, without much water in the tank, there were no showers to take nor dishes to wash. Off to tackle another 330 miles on the last consecutive day of driving. Through the western part of Montana and across the panhandle of Idaho we appreciated the valleys, the open spaces, Clark Fork River, and the ranches. We traversed the mountain passes of the northern Rocky mountains and descended into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It was there that we exited I-90 to take route 95 south along the western Idaho border. The beauty of the forests thick with Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine, Engelmann Spruce, et al gave way to the rolling Palouse Hills the further south we drove. It was with great relief that we pulled into the Rambler RV Park near Moscow, Idaho. We could be here for an open-ended period of time based on our pre-arrangement with the owner. It was a fairly nondescript park with some sites serving as a longer-term situation for some RV owners. Unfortunately, the water quality of our water hookup was not the best. We paid a brief visit to see Jeremy and Michelle and to fill our water containers to add water to our fresh water tank.

We’re driving across the panhandle of Idaho. The clouds seem to cling and sift through the tall trees.
1,200 miles from Denver, we arrived at the Rambler RV Park in Moscow, Idaho. It’s only 10 miles from Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman, Washington.
The by-product of needing fresh water for our tank was seeing Jeremy and Michelle, socially-distanced and masked.

Wednesday, May 13: Over breakfast, Steve developed a Google maps route from the list of 15 rental properties that Diane created. In the afternoon, we set off for Pullman to drive the route, make notes, and take photos. En route to one of our final drive-bys, we noted a For Rent sign on a lawn. This address wasn’t on our list. We noted the contact number and Steve called it later. Bingo! We had an appointment for the next day for a walk-through with the owner.

We’re up early and can’t wait to drive past homes for rent in Pullman today.
View of Rambler RV Park and Tranquility the Trailer on the far side.
We noticed this place for rent, which actually wasn’t on our list yet.

Thursday, May 14: We met Jo, the owner, to walk through the condo. Within 15 minutes, we sensed that this would be a good fit for us. She had two other parties scheduled for a visit and noted that she would make a decision in the next day or two. We asked for an application. As soon as we were back at the trailer, we completed the application and sent it to her. We put out calls/texts to family and friends who would be references. Thankfully the application was easy to share via email, so no need to arrange another appointment. Plan C seemed to be unfolding at the speed of lightning…or was it the Speed of Sanity?

We just finished taking a tour of the condo that we noticed yesterday. We like it!
Feeling a cause to celebrate, Steve took us through Dutch Brothers Coffee drive-thru in Moscow. First coffee purchased since March 14!
The view was beautiful between Moscow and the RV park with the green crops on the Palouse and the stormy sky.

There WAS Hope on the Horizon! Plus, We Moved During a Pandemic!

In our next post, we will share what happened on May 15 and a bit of our journey on what it’s like to get situated into a new home and new community during a pandemic after full-time RVing for 22 months! It’s definitely been interesting! Stay tuned!

Stay healthy. Be well.

Diane and Steve

Living Life at the Speed of Sanity

 

Vanished…Yet Hope on the Horizon

These times during the COVID-19 Pandemic have up-ended our intention for adding new updates to our 12mph blog. Thanks for hanging with us!

On Friday, March 6, 2020 with a smidgin’ of phone service available at our campsite at Kartchner Caverns State Park, we placed a call to an RV park in Santa Fe, New Mexico to secure the final reservation as part of an upcoming 12-month, 56-stay, 31-state trip. What a huge relief! It had taken us months with dozens of hours in coffee shops or public libraries for WiFi in order to accomplish this immense task. Unbelievably, we began making some of our reservations in October and November 2019. 

Lovely March 6, 2020 enjoying our beautiful campsite in Kartchner Caverns State Park near Benson, Arizona. Sunshine. Mild tems. Blue sky. Arid climate. Tranquility the Nash Trailer. AZ IF the Ford F-350. Life is Good! The last reservation was made!

Why plan so far in advance? We learned during our first year of full-time RVing that it was necessary for us to plan nearly a year prior to reserve in private, state park, and national park campgrounds depending on their reservation window. Reminders were added to our Google calendar as to when the reservation needed to be secured. We devised a list of all 50 states and the earliest a reservation could be made in each state park campground. Another rule of thumb was national parks are typically six months in advance UNLESS they are managed by an outside vendor who can take reservations sooner i.e. Florida Everglades National Park. Another list indicated when to make reservations for private and national park campground stays. Then from these lists, we knew when to reserve. It was kind of bizarre to be making reservations in Texas for March at the same time we were making reservations for a campground in Georgia for a November visit. Plus, we reached out to family and friends months to a year in advance, mainly because of planning for an entire year for an extended trip not likely to be done of this depth or breadth again. Details, details!

On February 26, 2020, Bernard’s Coffee Station in Globe, Arizona had good WiFi. We spent one afternoon making more reservations. Globe was a 30-minute drive from Tonto National Forest where we had no cell phone service. Plus Globe had a pretty good laundromat where we did laundry before Bernard’s.
Bernard’s provided ample table space to sprawl. Plus their vegetable soup and sourdough bread, and of course coffee, oh my!

The evening before, we would review the campground website (namely county, state, or national parks where one selects a specific campsite) to see which sites would work for our situation using advanced search filters: hookups required, length of trailer, and having one slide. With the campground map that included site numbers juxtaposed with a Google map of the campground in satellite view, we’d look at each potential site. We often were able to discern which site provided the most direct sunlight. Sometimes this was desired and other times we’d be looking for shade. We also learned over time that if possible, a longer site really made it easier with our big pickup truck. A list of sites was created and kept handy for reserving bright and early the next morning.

The morning that we’d need to reserve, our alarm would be set 30 minutes prior to the time and time zone for the earliest a reservation could be made. (Sleepy-eyed in Arizona for the Florida reservations). Learning early in the reservation process that it takes roughly 10-15 additional seconds for the “I’m not a robot” CAPTCHA to complete before the reservation is submitted was a helpful caveat. Unbelievably we lost a couple of reservations to others making reservations early in the morning. Kind of crazy! Yet it worked fairly well and our year was planned! Whew!

This was a simple way to keep track of reservations in tandem with Google calendar and documents was to use a legal pad and make our own calendar. We couldnt locate a planning calendar when tucked away into more remote areas.

The trip was created with several goals in mind: visit family and friends; camp near the southern edge of each of the five Great Lakes; prefer county, state, or national park stays; conduct genealogy research; visit numerous cemeteries related to Diane’s heritage in OH, PA, NY, CT, WV, and MA; help Diane pick up VT, NY, MA, RI, and CT for her list of states visited; have Thanksgiving with cousins; spend December-March along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts; welcome Christmas and New Years in the Florida Everglades; take a couple of day-trips to the Florida Keys; spend a month in one place near Gulf Shores, Alabama; tour NASA near Houston; visit Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Barb’s home in Denver metro where we sheltered in place for 52 days.
Morning view from Barb’s back window. It was a drastically different view that what we were enjoying a week prior in the Benson, Arizona area.
On March 20, 2020, it was 23 degrees yet felt like 15. This wasn’t Arizona anymore!

Fast forward to March 19 in the midst of Plan B and the first three days of sheltering in place at our friend’s home in Colorado. We spent hours over those days emailing or calling all family and friends, campgrounds, state parks, and national parks to cancel our 56 stays. It took two weeks for the last of the credits to be applied to our credit card. It seemed absolutely surreal that everything was cancelled! Not one reservation remained on the books or in the works. The good news is that we were able to recover 89% of what we put down as deposits, some stays being completely pre-paid in-full. It’s still a loss, but it could have been worse.

Beginning March 19, we began keeping our list of reservation cancelations for 56 stays in 31 states over 12-months.

Vanished. Just like that 56 stays were off the calendar!

Yet, the good news was that there was hope building on the horizon! By Friday, March 20, we had a gut feeling that we needed to keep the engine moving and commit to the next plan, our Plan C. Knowing that we wanted to find a home base abode to rent in Pullman, Washington, we explored our camping options between our arrival in the Pullman area and actually finding a place to rent. Not only were we in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also knew that there may be other full-time RVers needing a longer term site or an influx of snowbird RVers heading north prematurely. We discovered several longer term RV park communities in the surrounding towns. The closest was in Moscow, Idaho, 10 miles from Pullman, placing us strategically with easy access to Jeremy and Michelle and looking for a home. We paid a month’s non-refundable deposit on March 23 in order to hold a spot for an open-ended time at the RV park with our arrival set for May 12. This was a huge relief. At least we had an anchor at the other end.

Throughout our 52-day stay at Barb’s home south of Denver, we kept tabs on the home rental market in Pullman. Thankfully between Trulia, Zillow, and Craigslist, we had a nice list of 15 rentals by the time we left Denver. Trying to imagine what a home-base would look like after having downsized as much as we could, we knew that we’d like ample space to resume projects once we were settled. A three-bedroom or 2 bedroom plus den would provide room to spread out. Having at least a one-car garage would be helpful for storing much of what was in the pickup bed, bicycles, etc. A yard that would require minimum upkeep would certainly make it conducive to hitch up Tranquility the Trailer and at least enjoy some camping trips in Washington, Idaho, or Oregon.

How did the hope on the horizon turn out? Stay tuned for the next post!

Diane & Steve

Living Life at the Speed of Sanity….even after full-time RVing!

 

 

 

Cattail Cove State Park, Arizona

After changing travel plans for part of November and December, 2019, we caught up with our original schedule on December 30 at Cattail Cove State Park south of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Last June we spent a day looking at January-April 2020 and made reservations at Arizona State Parks. Reservations can be made 12 months in advance. As it turned out, because we were behind on reserving, there were a few state parks into which we couldn’t book and a couple in which our stay isn’t as long as we hoped. Arizona continues to be a popular Winter Haven!

Cattail Cove State Park, Arizona.
The state park’s amphitheater area was decorated in a desert theme for Christmas.

Our 10-day stay at Cattail Cove State Park was lovely. The campground is tucked along a cove on Lake Havasu. Mature trees provided shade, which was especially welcomed during the afternoons. The first three days we were in a campground loop where many of the sites were close together. Our last week was scheduled for a site in another loop with more space to each site. The park staff were some of the most attentive who we’ve met over our various state and national park stays. The comfort stations a.k.a restroom and shower buildings were spotless. The grounds were immaculately kept. And, we were greeted by friendly smiles, hellos, and wonderful conversations.

Our 2nd campsite at Cattail Cove State Park with some welcomed shade for the warmer afternoons.

We arrived in the area a day after rainy weather. Beginning with our first day, each morning we were welcomed by prevailing sunshine and bluebird blue skies. Occasionally we would have clouds. Jet contrails criss-crossed the sky by the dozens each day. Often their lingering patterns created a more intense sunset. Overall the stunning colors of the sunset were mutually noteworthy to many fellow campers during evening strolls or hikes. The sunsets treated us to some of the most brilliant that we’ve witnessed since beginning our full-time RVing.

Cattail Coves white-sand beach complete with ramadas for shade and a few palm trees!
The colorful evening sky on our last night at Cattail Cove State Park.

One of the most appealing parts of our Cattail Cove stay were the numerous hiking trails. Getting back into our hiking groove was at the top of our list after an intense six weeks prior to arriving in Arizona. During our stay, we hiked 35 miles over the hilly terrain. Within a 2-5 minute walk we could access two trailheads. The trail nearest the lake had several stretches of sand, reminiscent of hikes along Lake Michigan dunes. The wind off of Lake Havasu could be stiff enough to create white caps.

The winds caused some small waves and white caps on Lake Havasu.

As for memorable hikes, we joined 43 other people for the state parks First Day Hike on January 1, 2020, led by rangers and park staff. We occasionally paused along the trails where they shared tidbits about the terrain, the habitats, and the history of the area. 

On January 1, 2020, First Day Hike at Cattail Cove State Park.

The trail that we hiked most often was Whytes Way, which ran closest to Lake Havasu with commanding views of the lake, mountains, and hilly landscape. Occasionally little whiptail lizards would zip across our path and scurry beneath vegetation or into a small hole leading to their homes. There were stretches of the trail that had us trekking through sand, so a good workout for our legs. The outer terminus of this trail was Whytes Retreat on BLM land, complete with a vault toilet and picnic table beneath a ramada for shade. The picnic table was near lake level, serving as a pleasant pause to hear the lapping water and watching waterfowl busily diving for lunch.

Whytes Retreat with its ramada, picnic table, and even a vault toilet along Lake Havasu.

Other hikes took us over and around some of the hills. Barrel cacti, saguaro, palo verde, mesquite trees, brittlebush, and buffalo grass were the most popular vegetation. 

The typical desert terrain and vegetation throughout the Cattail Cove area.

For a more interesting and lengthier hike, we took Ripley’s Run. We walked through some washes, up some stretches of jagged volcanic rock giving us views over the desert, and rock scrambling through skinnier spaces between walls of the washes. In the sunlight we quickly warmed up, yet once in the shadows of the rock faces we cooled easily.

On Ripley’s Run we encountered tighter areas or places to climb down some rocks.

Several days we also hiked McKinney Loop and Whytes Trail to add more mileage. It was fantastic to get into the fresh air, the stiff breezes off of the lake, and clear our minds of a busy stretch in November and December.

Overall, we will recall the contrasts between the desert and lake along Whytes Trail. The entire hiking system was pretty solitary and one can see why mountain lions might enjoy this area. Despite the solitude, we occasionally met fellow hikers, all of us commenting on the beauty. On one late afternoon hike with sunset quickly approaching, we came upon two hikers, who we sensed appreciated us buddying up with them to lend our assistance with one of our trekking poles and taking the remainder of the trail at their pace until all were back to the trailhead.

Yes, we had our share of “town days” in Lake Havasu City for laundry, truck/trailer wash, refilling L.P., taking our recycling to the Republic Services community recycling station, making new acquaintances at a local Starbucks, grocery shopping, and taking in London Bridge, to name a few.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.
We dropped off the recycling that we’d collected over a few weeks. Thank you Republic Services for providing a community recycling center in Lake Havasu City, Arizona! Many campgrounds have no recycling our very limited recycling.
We spent 45 minutes washing the truck and trailer in a large carwash bay that could accomodate the height and width of our trailer.

Thank you Cattail Cove State Park and Lake Havasu City for making such an enjoyable stay!