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!

 

February 29, 2020 = 19 Months as Full-Time RVers!

Say it isn’t so? And, especially on this Leap Day! Now where have those 19 months of full-time RVing gone? Certainly they are full of countless stories, of traveling highways and byways,  of spending nearly 24/7 time together, of experiencing sunny days and cloudy days, of soaking up time with family and friends along our Speed of Sanity travels, of visiting a different laundromat every 10-14 days, of relying on coffee shops, public libraries, or our Verizon Hot-Spot for Wi-Fi, of frustrating times with little to no cellphone service, of sharing silly moments, and of hugging away tearful grief when we’ve lost dear ones.

One of the dozens of laundromats! Wash N’ Fluff in Globe, Arizona has been one of the cleanest!

More than anything, we continue feeling deeply grateful for this time of our life when we can travel as we do. No, we don’t have the many comforts of a stick and brick home, yet we take extraordinary comfort in coming home to our little mobile abode after a day of adventuring or tending to the many tasks that full-time RVing requires of us. This IS home.

A priceless morning, million-dollar view just 60 feet from our campsite of Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest, Arizona, on February 29, 2020. (FYI: the campsite fee is $12.50/night thanks to our Lifetime Senior National Park Pass & 50% discount).

Part of our full-time RV lifestyle permits flexibility that we appreciate having. Yesterday we arrived at Tonto National Monument to hike up to the cliff dwelling only to find that two chartered busloads of enthusiastic 4th graders pulled into the parking lot behind us, were also taking the hike. Sensing that space in the cliff dwelling was limited, we opted to head back to our abode and then head back to Tonto NM a few hours later. When we returned to the park, we had the cliff dwelling to ourselves and one ranger! (Admittedly, we sure miss seeing kiddos after years of teaching and working with children. It would have been fun to join their field trip!)

Hiking to the Lower Cliff Dwelling at Tonto National Monument near Roosevelt, Arizona on February 28, 2020

Thank you to our family, friends, and many acquaintances made along our journey for your love and encouragement!

Here’s to many more “Happy Trails” to everyone!