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!

 

 

 

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!

 

Gratitude on the Road

On Monday, November 18, 2019, we had a  unique overnight drycamping experience complete with a memorable story!

OUR STAY: Jorgensen Ford’s side lot, Richfield, Utah. No site #, no hookups, but amazing kindness and hospitality! 

Overnight Drycamping in Jorgensen Ford’s lot, Richfield, Utah

WHY JORGENSEN FORD? At 9:30am on November 18th under mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures, we were on I-70 eastbound just a few miles east of its junction with I-15 and beginning an ascent into the Tushar Mountain Range in Utah. Our 2011 Ford F-250 6.7l Turbo-Diesel truck’s engine suddenly put on a very impressive sound show and then majorly failed! Thankfully, Steve was able to pull us to the shoulder with both truck and our 2018 Nash 26N trailer clearly off the road only 120 feet past a guard rail. The engine was DONE. Kaput! 

It was a lonely looking stretch of highway!
The red marker is Beaver, Utah where we began.
The red marker is where we began in Beaver, Utah. The 31 min point is where the truck died.
Last photo as we departed the KOA Journey campground in Beaver, Utah.

From that point onward, we experienced several other amazing “gratitudes” (in bold print below):

1) Strong cellphone service. As soon as Steve had the truck and trailer pulled onto the shoulder, I looked down at my phone. Frequently in more remote areas or when entering a mountainous area, cell service is challenged or non-existent. Here we had one of the strongest signals!

2) Good Sam Roadside Assistance. Thankfully we have roadside assistance insurance through Good Sam Roadside Assistance for RVers. They were amazing for us! Steve called and within no time, was transferred to the right person to get us the assitance we needed. They called back to let us know who was on their way. Then Steve received updates on his phone.

Steve received updates from Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance as to which tow company to anticipate and its progress in traveling to rescue us.

3) Richard of Dearden Motor Company, arrived 45 minutes later. First he retrieved Bessie the Truck by tilting the flatbed of his truck, placing Bessie in neutral, and with chains and a special hoist, rolled her onto the flatbed. He leveled the flatbed. Next he extended a receiving hitch, changed out the existing ball to accommodate Tranquility the Trailer. The hitch was leveled to distribute the trailer’s weight. Then off Richard took us over the pass in the Tushar Mountain Range to Richfield, Utah, 35 miles east on I-70.

 

Loading Bessie
Tranquility is hitched and ready to be towed!
Off to Richfield, thanks to Richard of Dearden Motor Company.

4) Another gratitude was that there was a Ford dealer within 35 miles in Richfield, Utah. It’s not necessarily guaranteed by Good Sam Roadside Assistance as to where a stranded vehicle will be towed. Before Richard arrived, we did a quick Google search to find out where Ford dealers may be located in these more remote parts of Utah (again, thanks to strong cell service). Bingo! We noted one on the other side of the Tushar Range! PLEASE….we prayed, may this be where we’d be towed. When we asked Richard where we were going, he said, “Jorgensen Ford over in Richfield.” What a gratitude that this was exactly where Richard was taking us!

Richard was a Godsend as he safely transported Bessie, Tranquility, and us!!

5) We called ahead to let the service department know that we were being towed to their location. They instructed Richard to drop the trailer in the side lot and then bring the truck to the service area.  Dave & Val of Jorgensen Ford’s service department were able to work Bessie into the service schedule within two hours of our arrival.  We actually anticipated that Bessie wouldn’t be seen until the next day. We went next door for lunch awaiting a report. Over lunch we considered what might be our options, including the very real potential of having to replace Bessie if the damage was too extensive.  Unfortunately, the diagnostic report did conclude that the engine was damaged extensively, a dropped valve likely the culprit resulting in no compression in two of the cylinders. Gulp!

6) We knew that it was time to sit down with Camron (the General Manager) and Chip (Sales Associate) to explore options.

Option 1: Replace the engine for $20,000, which could potentially take several weeks or more. This option also meant that we had a trailer in the back lot with no way of getting anywhere. The KOA Campground in Richfield isn’t open year-round. We could pay to have someone transport the trailer, but to where? We would have to rent a car, possibly stay in a hotel if it would be necessary to store the trailer. We had 10 appointments scheduled for our two-week Denver area visit beginning on November 21, some of these appointments could not be rescheduled until January or beyond.

Option 2: Look for another used Ford F-250 6.7l Powerstroke Turbo-Diesel  truck that could accommodate towing our trailer. As they looked at their used inventory, they noted a red truck, a white truck, and then a shadow-black 2016 Ford F-350 6.7l Powerstroke Turbo-diesel with 33K miles that came in on a trade the day before. Hmmm….recently we had remarked about the amount of mileage added to Bessie just since March 2018. It was highly likely that within 2-3 years we’d need to trade it for our next truck. Of course, the 2016 came with some sticker shock, given that for obvious reasons, it was more than the $20,000 to replace Bessie’s engine.

6) Off we went for a test-drive on the interstate and around Richfield. With just 33K miles, it’s pretty much like new. Dave, the Service Manager, ran a report on the truck. It had a clean title, had been in for regular maintenance since its purchase from them, and actually considered gently used. Another amazing gratitude is that the 2016’s exterior color and truck bed dimensions were exactly those of our 2011. Why is this important? Our custom ordered Snugtop topper on Bessie’s truck bed would match and fit the 2016!

7) From our vantage point in Tranquility the Trailer that evening, one by one, the employees of Joregenson’s went home while we were comfortably situated in their back lot.  We sat over dinner trying to absorb what took place the prior 10 hours, from leavin)g the KOA Campground in Beaver, Utah, to staying in a Ford Dealer’s parking lot without a tow vehicle! We had very grateful hearts that first and foremost, we were safe.

8) The next day by mid-afternoon, with financing approved, topper moved, trailer hitched, off we rolled 30 hours after the sound show in our shadow black 2016 Ford F-350 6.7l Powerstroke Turbo Diesel!  

Indeed, we have hearts filled with immense gratitude and thank our Great Protector for watching over us. If you ever need to have a Ford product serviced while traveling through Utah, please reach out to Dave, Chip, or Camaron at Jorgensen Ford in Richfield. Kudos as well to Good Sam Roadside Assistance for getting us the help we needed and extraordinarily quick. And, Richard of Dearden Motor Company did an fantastic job of getting us safely to Jorgensen Ford! To our fellow RVers, be safe out there!

“Living Life and Seeing America at the Speed of Sanity”

Diane & Steve