Wicked Wanderers

Chronicling the full time RV lifestyle of a young family

Category: 2016 Page 1 of 2

Chapter 13: …and on your left you will see the Grand Canyon…

We headed East back into Arizona to check out the sights in the more northern/central part of the state while we waited for family to arrive in Phoenix. We did not stop at Grand Canyon National Park on this part of our journey because we were headed a little more south, towards warmer weather as it was already getting cold at night there. Also, a giant hole in the ground gives me anxiety and is not really toddler friendly. The girl walks into walls. Runs without thinking. Jumps off everything. We do plan to stop there in 2017 and I’m fully prepared to put her on a leash. Go ahead and judge. haha

Cottonwood, AZ

Our first stop was in Cottonwood, AZ at Verde Valley Thousand Trails where we stayed 2 nights before becoming fed up with crappy slow internet again and left. After being at Death Valley for two weeks with no bandwidth we were ready to have actual usable internet to watch shows and upload blog posts! So we moved 1/2 mile down the road from the campground to free BLM land where we dry camped for 5 nights. Honestly the view was better but missed the playground.

Playing with friends!

Kevin was buried in work so we didn’t get to do much exploring as a family (and took very few photos) but what we did do was run into another fulltime family that we had met over in Joshua Tree several weeks prior. I immediately recognized their rig and was happy Eloise was able to play with Evelyn and Jack for a few days. They had tea parties, dress up time, and fun with the purple sand. We even tried to sneak in a little adult time (sort of) by visiting Alcantara Vineyards where thankfully it was empty and the kids (not Eliza of course, she was sleeping) pretty much entertained themselves with the outdoor games on the lawn. (yes, lawn in Arizona).

When it was time for the Amators (http://theamators.com/) to leave we decided to leave as well and agreed to return to explore that area later down the road. We had started to rethink the layout of our home and felt ready to take the plunge so we packed up and headed south to Phoenix where we bought a new couch and a few other items at Ikea. The new couch sparked a home makeover with more to come on that…

Most expensive campsite yet…

Chapter 12: Death Valley

View from the top of Golden Canyon

Death valley national park is beautiful; probably the most beautiful park we have visited so far. Our pictures do not do it justice; there is a vast nothingness that is breathtakingly glorious. 11,049 foot mountains drop straight down to 282 feet below sea level. This park is almost a religious experience and I know we will return some day.

Hiking Golden Canyon

View from Aguereberry Point

Mountain Goat

There was also (almost) no internet or cell phone signal which was a total bummer. I could see staying weeks at Death Valley if one did not feel so cut off from the “real world”. While disconnecting from the internet is good to do it’s not good when you’re trying to work or get some things accomplished. We dry camped at Sunset Campground in Furnace Creek and Kevin was able to connect for work through the internet at the Furnace Creek Ranch across the street but it certainly wasn’t optimal, was costly, and everything was painfully slow.

Exploring Harmony Borax Works

Petroglyphs

Coyote

What did we do in Death Valley?

  • Scenic drives: Artistis drive, Titus Canyon, Aguereberry Point, Mustard Canyon
  • Hikes: Golden Canyon, Mosaic Canyon, Sidewinder Canyon, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
  • Ghost towns: Rhyolite and Leadfield
  • Swam in the hotel pool which was heated by a hot springs & played on the playground
  • Visited: Badwater basin (the lowest elevation in North America) where Eloise enjoyed ‘skating’ on the ‘ice’ (which was not ice but rather salt), Devil’s Cornfield, Stovepipe Wells Village, Eureka Mine, Harmony Borax Works, Furnace Creek Ranch

An excited hiker in Sidewinder Canyon (Video Below)

Snow or salt? 🙂

We celebrated Thanksgiving but were unable to get any video calls out to family. On the bright side we did meet another new Fulltime family friend that same day: 3 year old Evie from British Columbia who we were lucky enough to play with almost every day for a week. What fun!

Playing in the pool with friends

Pushing baby sister on the swing

Sidewinder Slot Canyon Cave Hike

Chapter 11: Joshua Tree

We crossed the border from Arizona into California and headed north towards Joshua Tree National Park once the solar was up and working. We were ready to be out of the hot desert for a while too. Neither Kevin or I have ever visited Joshua Tree before and were excited to check it out!

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We parked at the free Federal BLM land near the Northern Joshua Tree park entrance. (It is easier to gain access to the popular parts of the park from the North and camping on BLM was ‘free’ and we knew we could fit our not so small RV in there).

It was a dry lake bed that we boondocked in so there were no frills but our rig is self sufficient and we were able to utilize solar power. It was a new record for us and we were able to go two weeks straight boondocking without really even needing to conserve water use (we do have 160 gallons of fresh water on our rig which can last us a long time).

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the view from where we parked

The BLM land is an overflow camping area for Joshua Tree and there were a surprising number of other campers and tenters there despite cold night time temps down to the 40s.

There was also a pop up dust storm while we were there with wind gusts of 50 mph!

Kevins face and lips covered in dust after securing the solar panels mid dust storm

Kevins face covered in dust after securing the solar panels mid dust storm

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We enjoyed several hikes including Skull Rock, 49 palm oasis, and Ryan Mountain; Eloise set a new personal best for hiking 1100 vertical feet on her own! Go Eloise. Candy motivation was definitely involved but depending on her mood she really does enjoy the fresh air and hiking. Eliza always enjoys a nice long snooze in the baby carrier on each hike.

Eloise hiked up and sometimes Kevin would carry her down if she got too tired

Eloise hiked up and sometimes Kevin would carry her down if she got too tired

We were fortunate to able to align our stay at Joshua Tree with another fulltime family we met in Vermont many months prior. We were able to visit with them while Eloise played with their 3 year old son Elias and everyone had a fun time.

Playing with our friends

Playing with our friends

Coincidentally we met another young family on the BLM land at that same time and they joined in sharing a fire and pot luck dinner with us. All four kids enjoyed running wild together and it was quite the spectacle. It’s always really neat to meet up with other young families on the road as we seem to all have quite a bit in common.

The kids enjoying being pulled in the stroller by the golf cart in the desert

The kids enjoying being pulled in the stroller by the golf cart in the desert

We were all sad to leave our friends behind but after a few days it was time to move on to greater adventures north at Death Valley.

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Chapter 10: Solar panels

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Kevin, Brian, and Jerry on the roof

The main purpose of our current visit to Quartzsite AZ was to meet up with Brian Boone our solar installer. We parked our rig right near him and met with him to review the solar installation process, discuss necessary preparations, order parts, and complete the installation. The whole process took about one week (mostly waiting for parts to be ordered and arrive) with the installation taking only one day with three people working on it.

Brian and his installation assistant Jerry were very professional and quick. Brian was highly knowledgeable about solar and was able to answer all of Kevin’s technical questions and concerns. It’s obvious that Brian has many years of experience in this area. Since Kevin works during the day it was nice that Brian was available to answer his questions at all hours of the day.  Brian also took some amazing drone shots of the completed install that you can view here: Solar Install is Complete

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Our solar system consists of ten mono-crystalline panels with a maximum output capacity of 1600 W. We have had to make a couple of adjustments to our panel set up as we had one of our air-conditioners shadowing a panel causing the output to drop (fitting 10 panels on an RV roof with 3 ACs and 3 vents is no small feat). Even a small shadow can drop the amount of solar power harvested.

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Special thanks to Brian’s wife for receiving the materials for us at her work. We are so thankful to be able to harness the power of the sun and to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature without having to utilize our generator. Solar will allow us to park in places without ‘full hook ups’ and still enjoy almost all of the amenities of home.

For those of you following our page looking for the technical details here you go:

  • 4 Fullriver 400-6 batteries (830AH total @ 12 Volts)
  • Magnum Energy MSH3012 pure sign wave “hybrid” 3000 watt Inverter
  • Magnum Energy PT-100 MPPT solar controller
  • Magnum ARC50 (remote control panel), BMK (battery monitoring kit), AGS (automatic generator start kit)
  • 10 Hightec 160 watt mono-crystalline panels (with tilt mounts), running in two series strings of 5 at approximately 100 Volts
  • New 6 breaker AC subpanel with 5
  •  Heaps of blood sweat and tears…
  • LOTS of copper wiring/snaking

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Eloise begged to see the finished product so Kevin took her up on the roof in the baby hiking backpack!

Eloise begged to see the finished product so Kevin took her up on the roof in the baby hiking backpack!

Chapter 9: “Q”

It took a few days to recover from our cross-country drive out to Arizona and adjust to the new time zone. (Of course now its daylight savings time and we’ve had to adjust times again…)

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Kevin was able to catch up on some work and me and the girls were able to explore a little of what Quartzsite has to offer.  First of all you might be asking where is Quartzsite and why the heck are you out in the middle of the desert?! Quartzsite (or “Q”) is 125 miles west of Phoenix on the California border. It is a sonoran desert setting, just 879 feet above sea level with surrounding mountains and is known as the RV boon-docking capital of the world. (Note: Boon-docking is dry camping or camping without hook ups.)

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a photo of past years at Quartzsite in January

Quartzsite is an RV mecca where every January as many as 750,000 to 1,000,000 people converge to camp on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public land.

We arrived just in time for Halloween and enjoyed all the fun festivities at the local community center: games, costume contest, trick or treating, etc. Eloise won ‘first’ place in the princess division of the Halloween costume contest at the community center and ‘second’ place at the Halloween costume contest at our RV park where we were staying. (She won $30 and board game along with oodles of candy)

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tooth, tooth fairy in training, and tooth fairy

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the tooth fairy anxious to start trick or treating

We have enjoyed visiting the town playground, hiked out to Palm Canyon, and we explored several of the off road trails with our small dually truck.

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taking time to explore the town playground

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We also experienced our first dust storm (strange!) and will be in the area until the solar panel instillation on our home is complete.

Chapter 8: from Alabama to Arkansas to Arizona

Kevin’s great Aunt and Uncle live in Arley, AL and we were fortunate to be able to plan our trip to spend a few days exploring the area and visiting with them. I’d never been to Alabama before (Roll Tide!).  7-signWe had a relaxing time visiting and enjoying some Southern hospitality.

Eloise and Kevin tried their hand at fishing on Smith Lake (We saw tons of fish, no bites tho!).

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Eloise convinced the whole gang to play mini golf at the campground.

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Eloise and great “Uncle Jimmy”

After our time in Alabama we were headed west to Arizona. On the way we stopped in Arkansas to check out Hot Springs National Park. 7-hot-springsThe park is located in down town Hot Springs AR where a town was built around these ‘soothing thermal waters to heal and relax’. It was an interesting piece of American history.

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Fordyce Spring where you can see into the hot springs below

We saw several locals and tourists filling their own glass bottles with hot springs water (which was allowed and encouraged by the town) and wished we had thought to do the same! It was neat but it was a short stop. That afternoon we decided to leave and drive straight through to Arizona. (In retrospect that may have been a bad idea…Yawn!) We Left Hot Springs AR at 2pm and arrived in Quartzsite, AZ at 3pm. 1400 miles of driving in 25 hours. Around 11pm somewhere near the border of Oklahoma and Texas I had my first lesson in driving the rig. It was surprisingly easy  to drive forward however I won’t be backing it up any time soon! In total I drove about 4 out of the 25 hours of driving time and Kevin did all the rest like a champ.

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Thanks to Kevin for snapping this oh-so-flattering pic of me napping in the truck

Eloise and Eliza (and me??) slept most of the way and are professional road trip babies.  We were all glad to have arrived safely and were ready to soak up the beautiful Arizona sun and scenery.

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Chapter 7: No more hand-washing pans in the panhandle

After recovering from Disney World (boy, were we exhausted too) we traveled northwest for a beautiful week in Pensacola at Navarre Beach. The weather and the beach were amazing. We had reserved a spot where we could let our back toy hauler deck drop out overlooking the water. It was very nice. pensacola-camper

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Eloise had a fun time exploring the beach and the pool and met a new little friend Lea who was just exactly the same temperament as Eloise! They enjoyed their time yelling and fighting together haha (they had some sweet moments too)

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Pool baby and her big sister in the background

We visited the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.

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Commander Eloise coming in for a landing…

It was also here where I was able to test out my new dishwasher that Kevin installed. It’s amazing. It took him several days of planning, seven trips to Lowes, and a few curse words to get it installed but his efforts are greatly appreciated and our RV kitchen is officially amazing!

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Before/during the dishwasher installation

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All done! Now you see it…

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…now you don’t!

Chapter 6: M-i-c-k-e-y….M-o-u-s-e!

Once hurricane Matthew had left Florida we headed back to our campground in Orlando. Thankfully the campground appeared to have minimal storm damage and we were glad to hear that my Grandmother’s home in Edgewater Florida was also largely unharmed.

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Smiley princess

Knowing that I really wanted to bring Eloise to see Disney World Kevin decided to take time off from work and we enjoyed four very long, hot, but fun days exploring all the mouse had to offer. Eloise thoroughly enjoyed her time there and I do think she will remember it. Eliza slept the entire time but at least she was no cost for admission.

Did we spend hours waiting in line? Yes. Was it so hot that it felt like we were melting from the inside out? Yes. Was Eloise completely in awe when she met princess Elsa and Anna? Yes, and it was so precious. Not precious enough for us to go back any time soon tho.

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Waiting in line for the Frozen ride at Epcot

Some of Eloise’s favorites:

  • Favorite ride: the Tower of Terror
  • Favorite princess we met: Rapunzel
  • Favorite park: Magic Kingdom

A special thanks to baby sister for coming along so that Eloise could ride several of the ‘big girl’ rides twice in a row using Disney’s ‘baby swap’ where she can ride once with Daddy and then again with Mommy.

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Watching the parade (She waved ‘hi’ to everyone who walked by)

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Eloise meeting Elsa

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Eloise telling Rapunzel a story

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She was allowed to get two Disney toys to remember our fun time there (note she had not yet napped in this photo! haha)

Chapter 5: Adventures on our drive south

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Leaving Maine early in the morning

It’s hard to believe that it has already been two weeks since we left Maine! We’ve been busy and have already covered over 1,500 miles! The girls have had no issues riding for long periods in their car seats and Kevin’s been doing all the driving like a champ.

From Augusta, Maine we headed to Southborough, Massachusetts to visit with some of Emma’s college friends and had a nice relaxing weekend reminiscing and playing with the kids enjoying the warm fall weather. (Insert a photo of my friend Katie however we were too busy chasing kids to take photos!) We left there and drove 430 miles west to have a few items fixed on the 5th wheel at the Camping World in Buffalo, NY where we originally purchased it. While we were waiting in Buffalo Kevin heard that his good friend Brandon was going to be in Asheville, NC for the week and since we were headed south anyway we decided to head down to Asheville to see him. north-carolina

Thankfully Camping World was able to complete the warrantee work in one day and we were on our way again that evening and drove 260 miles and rested in West Virginia.  We stopped only to sleep and headed out again in the morning and drove the rest of the way to Asheville. It was a long, but beautiful drive and we were glad to take a long break enjoying Asheville. We visited the Botanical gardens, the Blue Ridge parkway, Chimney Rock state park, and met up with Brandon too.

Exclamation point at Chimney Rock State Park

Exclamation point at Chimney Rock State Park

Lego butterfly scuplture at the arboretum

Lego butterfly at the arboretum

Beautiful day at the arboretum

Beautiful day at the arboretum

The campgrounds in Asheville were quite full and expensive (apparently its their busy season there) so we decided to move along to South Carolina for 4 days to explore that region. On our drive over we stopped to explore the Conagree National Park where we walked the board walk and saw some huge (!) spiders. Ew.

Can you find the big spider?

Can you see the big spider?

We had a great (but very hot) time visiting Charleston and the USS Yorktown. Eloise loved exploring all the different parts of the aircraft carrier.

USS Yorktown

USS Yorktown

Exploring the USS Yorktown

Exploring the USS Yorktown

Unfortunately our visit was cut short by hurricane Matthew and we were evacuated from our campground in Yemasse, SC as it was within 100 miles of the coastline. We decided to head to Orlando (which was our ultimate destination before turning and heading west) a day earlier than planned.  We pulled into our campground in Clermont, FL and watched the local weather channels carefully for two days before deciding that the forecast was too unpredictable and it seemed hurricane Matthew was headed closer to Orlando than was originally thought. (What are the chances that the one time we are in Florida Disney World is closed, my grandmother is under mandatory evacuation from her home, and there is a major hurricane! Oye.)

hurricane

We packed up and moved further west to Tampa to ride out the storm. We anticipate returning to our campground later this weekend and plan to head north out of Florida later this month.

Maybe we should have let hurricane Matthew wash the truck and 5th wheel!

Maybe we should have let hurricane Matthew wash the truck and 5th wheel!

Chapter 4: Milestone: 4 months in our new home

We have officially lived in our new home for 4 full months now and things have been going well.  Sure there have been ups and downs and Kevin has had more than a few headaches investing a large amount of time fixing / repairing and getting warrantee work completed on the Voltage. But spending more time together has been nice. We frequently get many questions from family, friends, and people we meet on our travels about living full time in a 5th wheel so I thought we should reassess our thoughts on them every 4 months during our first year. Here are few of the common questions we get:

Aren’t you cramped living in tight quarters? No. Not yet at least. Our home isn’t jam packed with items as we have down sized.

Do you miss your old house? No! (Sometimes Eloise will reminisce about her old swing set and toys but then quickly moves on) We all enjoyed our time in our old house and have many fond memories to look back on but are excited to look forward to the future!

Do you find you are missing anything in your new home? No. We really have everything we would want to be comfortable. We have a bathroom complete with tub, full kitchen, our king sized mattress from our old house, plenty of living room space, etc. One thing I would change is a larger loft space for Eloise as it’s just the right size for her now but very tight for any adult.

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View into Eloise’s bunk

Are you doing this to save money? No. We do anticipate cost savings in the future however living in the 5th wheel has its own unique expenses.

How do you work? Kevin has converted the toy hauler area into an office and he is lucky to have a job that will allow him to work remotely.

What are your favorite parts about your new home so far? Time spent outdoors and increased family time with an emphasis on shared experiences, meeting new people, and reuniting with old friends.

Meeting up with college friends along the way

Meeting up with college friends along the way

What’s your least favorite part about your new home so far? Added stress from repair work.  Also ‘moving days’ can be stressful as we take down, drive, and set up with two small children. (However we have greatly increased our efficiency with this process and Kevin is a master at packing up quickly and efficiently)

What one piece of advice would you give to anyone else considering doing something like this? Take your time finding the right coach/trailer/5th wheel for you. Do the research. Layout and ‘livability’ are important and each family/person will have a configuration that works best for them. Once you think you’ve found the one for you talk to someone who owns one and ask questions (you can easily find someone on line!).

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