Wicked Wanderers

Chronicling the full time RV lifestyle of a young family

Chapter 45: Maine!

They were long days but we finally made it back up to Maine. One final road in Massachusetts  just before we got back onto I-95 was bumpy. Really bumpy. We had been on rough roads before but this was bad. Our newly upgraded trailer suspension had been giving us amazingly smooth rides so we shocked how bouncy both the truck and trailer felt all of a sudden.  We shrugged it off.  We kept going. Finally, we made it. We were happy and unpacking so of course it was time for something to go wrong. I was opening our final slide and it just wouldn’t go out. I summoned Kevin. He wasn’t happy.  After much deliberation it was decided that something had fallen and was preventing the slide from opening. It was the kids room. We could barely get the door to their room open (it opens about 8 inches with that slide in) so we couldn’t see what it was that was stopping it from opening. Kevin took the door and frame off and noticed it just wide enough to maybe get a kid in there. Eloise was volunteered. She was boosted up on top of the slide and with a cell phone and took a photo of what was in the way. She was able to push the junk that had fallen out of the way enough so we could get the slide open. Turns out that on a big bump one of our cabinet doors had opened spilling toys down. The half-open door got caught as the slide was opening and broke in two. Fun. At least it was open and we didn’t have to break a window to get in!

We settled in our moochdocking spot and were glad to be visiting with family in Maine. Kevin and his Dad started working on home improvement projects (including fixing all the broken pieces from the broken cabinet door).  Then he had several work commitments that required him to go into the office. Needless to say he was crazy busy and we didn’t see much of him. The girls and I focused on school homework and visiting family. Also somewhere along our trip North we had picked up a nasty respiratory virus which I had for over a month! (I’m sure working nights didn’t help my recovery tho)

We stayed in Maine from June to October. We moved around the state every 2 weeks visiting all of our family from both sides. Some highlights: the girls’ joint birthday party at a state park, my brother’s wedding in New York to Auntie Caitlin, music concert and activities at the KOA with Grammie Carol and Grampie Greg, playing with Memere and Bompah at Moms camp, mini golf with Uncle Bub and Auntie Caitlin, playing toys with Grampie Kevin and Grammie Verla, canoeing down the Saco river like Pirates, sleep over with Nanny Sherry and friends, visiting our  stationary friends Chase, Cayleigh, Connor, Grant, Lydia, Lucas, and our fulltime family friend Caellum. Our time always goes fast when we’re in Maine!

Birthday Time!

We were scheduled to leave Maine in September, before the cool weather hit. Just then Kevin found just what he was looking for: our new tow vehicle!

 

Chapter 44: Killing Time

We had a few stops on our way up to Maine. We had an appointment at MORryde to have our 5th wheel suspension upgraded on our very heavy camper but even though we called 6+ months ago they couldn’t fit us in until the end of June so we had a little time to kill.

There were some places we’d never seen before in this neck of the woods and the first stop was Mammoth Caves National Park just outside Bowling Green Kentucky. The cool cave air was refreshing against the moist hot and humid spring air. We met up with another Fulltime Family, Irina and Giedrius,  here and went on a National Park cave tour with them.

We also enjoyed hanging out with them by the pool and playing. Kevin toured the National Corvette Museum (we didn’t want to waste the money by bringing the girls who not only wouldn’t have cared to be there but there’s also no touching cars…) and we popped over the state line to Tennessee for a highly entertaining “AyerWaves Music Festival” at “Possum Trot” in Winfield, TN.

Festival friends

 The lineup was great (Keller Williams) and it was right nearby where we were. The people were friendly, there were kids, and we stayed one night camping in our tent at the festival. Our 2 man tent was a bit tight with 2 adults and 2 little kids. Turns out that attendance was quite low (lower than what they had expected) and we ended up with a concert we could see from our tent. Almost a private concert! We had fun. 

 

Our second stop on our way to Maine was up to Morryde for a 3 day independent suspension install on our home. Me and the girls terrorized their small waiting room for 3 full days while they worked on our trailer. The weather in Indiana was pouring rain so we made it out to the playground only once. While we were there we also toured the DRV factory and met up with some fellow Xscapers David and Cheryl for a yummy meal out.

Our next stop was Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

Looking for turtles in the National Park

We have wanted to check this National Park off on our list for a while as we have circled around that area several times and had yet to stop. It was interesting learning about the history of the Ohio and Erie canals in this area. It was beautifully lush and green (looked similar to Maine we thought) and during the short time we were there we saw quite a bit of wildlife. The girls enjoyed playing ‘spot the turtle’ in the canal. We went on a small hike and a picnic lunch (with amazing local ice cream) at the park before continuing on. 

Over the next several days we made our way steadily up to Massachusetts which was our final stop before Maine.  Kevin had a work meeting in Worcester, MA. We also met up with Kevin’s grandparents Ralph and Lorraine who happened to be traveling in their RV back to Maine from Florida at the same time. It was nice to see them again and we all enjoyed the familiar dry crisp New England air!

Long drives are great for naps!

Chapter 43: Those “Middle” States

We left Moab around noon; waved good bye to our friends and headed for Colorado. It was the end  of April but there was still the chance of snow in the mountains. Kevin said there was a chance of flurries for that day; I didn’t pay much attention. We were hoping to make it to Denver in one shot but unfortunately the Eisenhower tunnel shut down due to snow related accidents. Oops. We had to ditch our plan and pulled over in a Walmart in Vail for the night. Both of us had to work that night and the kids were dead tired so it was a good stopping point.

We carried on the next day to Goodland Kansas where we were the only people at the KOA mid week. It was an interesting place…ancient tall swing set from the 70s, no other people, stiff spring breeze. We stayed long enough to do laundry, stock up at WalMart and then headed down the road to our destination: Little Sahara State Park in Oklahoma where we were meeting up with friends. 

Little Sahara was neat. Most of Kansas and Oklahoma looked so flat as far as you could see. Little Sahara was just as the name implies and had an impressive 1600 acres of sand dunes. They are open to the public for recreation, especially off roading. We don’t have a 4×4 vehicle but our friends the Kvacik’s do and they were kind enough to take us out to see the dunes. We had a fun weekend hanging out with them and meeting their other friends. There were several kids there and they all had fun playing together. 

Releasing our butterflies we grew!

After a fun weekend it was back to business and we had an appointment to have our RV slides adjusted and a few other things looked over at Rolling Retreats in Elk City, OK. Thankfully that went smoothly and was uneventful.  After that we hit the road East toward an RV family rally. Unfortunately along the way our 5th wheel hitch developed a large crack and we pulled over urgently and Kevin scrambled to figure it out. After much discussion with the manufacturer and others it was determined the pinbox was ‘drive-able’ but Kevin did not have confidence in it with all the cracks. He decided to replace it ASAP instead of risk it. (He was going to replace it soon anyway but this just sped things up) It delayed us by 3-4 days but we had some buffer time built into our schedule before the rally started anyway. 

This rally was the “Fulltime Families Show Biz Rally” in Branson, Missouri. Several of our friends were there and Eloise was excited for the kid events.  What did we do? I honestly can’t really remember; it was a whirl wind of events. We swam in the pool, we had a Broadway themed costume party (Eliza and Eloise both went as Belle), Eliza won a giant water gun in a raffle, we went on a hike, we went to an indoor adventure park, and we had a moms night out and a dads night out. We met many new friends and the time went by very fast!

After the main rally ended several families moved over to another RV park across town (us included) where we enjoyed each others company and the kids continued hanging out. Unfortunately it was here that we received the unfortunate news about Kevin’s sisters death and he flew home to be with his family while us girls sent our condolences remotely and held down the fort. Kevin flew back a week later with his other sister Michelle who visited with us for a few days. 

Mini golf in 100 degree heat!

To continue our ‘Rally palooza” we moved over to an Xscapers rally for two days in Blue Springs Lake near Kansas City Missouri.  It was starting to get hot.  Like really steamy and hot. If you didn’t have AC is was miserably hot and humid.  We played in our kiddie pool with Auntie Michelle and tried to stay in the shade. Our next rally was the Escapade rally in Sedalia, MO. We parked with the other families as part of the ‘kids-capade” and enjoyed our time. They had a glow stick party, campfires, a talent show, and fireworks. We also celebrated Eloise’s 6th birthday here with all her friends. We stayed for about a week and then on to our final rally of the Season: the FtF Boondockers Anonymous hangout at a casino parking lot in St. Louis.

Camping at a casino parking lot sounds sketchy doesn’t it? It was fine; it was even fun. The hot heat broke just in time since we were camping without hookups. We visited the St. Louis City Museum, the St. Louis Arch, and the St. Louis Zoo (which had free admission). We found the zoo to be crazy crowded on a Sunday and walked across town to enjoy the science museum instead. City Museum was amazing but Eliza was a little too young for it. Eloise and Kevin had a blast; its an indoor ‘playground’ which is really more like giant artsy-industrial climbing structures. We toasted farewell to our friends and parted ways at the Casino. We shall meet again some day!

Rest in Peace Auntie Angela.  (Second from the left) You will be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 42: Mommy goes back to work & We go back to Moab

In the Hurricane Simulator!

Once safely back on US soil Kevin and Verla headed off to the San Diego airport; I think they were pretty happy to be headed back home to the cold frozen tundra of Maine. We took two days to explore San Diego with them before they left and enjoyed some yummy food, we walked across town to the Fleet science center, and we even had a date night out on the town just the two of us! 

We stayed another few days in San Diego after they left to explore the area and wait for RV parts to come in. There was quite a bit of damage to our rig (from driving on Mexican roads) that needed to be repaired before we took it back on the road again safely. We got new airbags, new leaf springs etc. The girls and I had a playdate with another fulltime family in the area, we visited the local parks, and we enjoyed riding our new scooter around the smooth pavement at the Elks Lodge RV Park in San Diego where we were staying. (Because she donated her bike to the impoverished Mexican family we met at the tire shop Grandpa Kevin wanted to buy her a replacement bike. Eloise wasn’t keen on bike riding so at the bike shop she picked out a scooter and fell in love with it.)

I want a scooter too!!!

We stayed only a week in San Diego before we had to hit the road to Phoenix.  It’s about 350 miles and we did it in 2 days. I had made arrangements to meet up with my new employer for training and orientation and to get my badge made so we had no wiggle room in our schedule. I was starting a new job working from home as a pharmacist processing inpatient and outpatient prescriptions nights and weekends. Everything went smoothly and after a few days of training I was nervous but was  ready to go. In total I took about 18 months off from working and it was good to get back into it. I started immediately working anywhere from 18-32 hours a week and it was definitely tough to manage that plus kids, plus homeschooling, plus Kevin being busy working a fulltime job and doing all the RV driving.  The days are long and we are still figuring it out. (<–This right here is why our blog is so far behind haha!)

We had another rally in Moab, UT we were headed towards. It was a long 450 mile drive up from Phoenix to Moab; we stopped for  a long weekend in Flagstaff at the KOA and explored around the town; visiting the town indoor pool complex a few times. It was a chilly rainy weekend and we were ready to be out of the rain.  

It was nice going back to Moab given that we had spent so much time there last year. We knew where everything was; it was familiar and comfortable. Kevin was excited to do mountain biking and the girls were ready to enjoy the parks and town pool. I signed Eloise up for 6 weeks of one on one swim lessons. We bought a pass to the pool and both of the girls really improved in their swimming during this time period. It was great.

This rally was part of the Xscapers and it was their Moab Convergence. It was held at an old abandoned airport airstrip in Moab which made for nice level parking; there were about 50 rigs there and we had a great time. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with them, had numerous fires, pot lucks, and socials and made great friendships. Kevin went on several mountain bike rides with that crew and we joined in for a few hikes too. 

The days turned into weeks and all totaled we were in Moab for about 6 weeks. After the main rally was over us and several others stuck around to hang out and explore the area together. We enjoyed the famous Moab Easter Jeep week. We had friends visit (Eloise’s friend Hayden) and made new friends (too many new friends to count!). In fact here we were in Moab, UT in March/April camping with no hookups and met up (unplanned) with 5 other fulltime families who also happened to be in the area that same time as well. We parked near each other and enjoyed visiting while the kids played. We rented a jeep to ride the trails with friends twice. We did an Easter egg hunt at Swanney City Park. We hiked several arches. We enjoyed the sunset at Dead Horse Point State park.  Kevin’s friend Nate flew in from Maine to go mountain biking on the amazing Moab trails.

Nate biking in Moab

We met up with our friends from the Mexican rally Lynne and Michael and hung out with them for ten days; Kevin even helped them install a solar system. It was a fun time but eventually it was time to head East. 

We love you Moab and you’ll always have a special place in our heart!

Chapter 41: Our 3 week journey with the Unicorns *Warning this is a looonnngg story!*

Escapees Chapter 8

Our crossing back into the U.S. was uneventful from our trip with the Xscapers. We went early and we went alone. It was easy breezy. We had a lot of ground to cover as we were due to meet up with another rally to drive back to Mexico. Say what?! This time we were headed to Mexico with “Chapter 8: the Mexican Connection.” The parent group to the Xscapers is called the Escapees. They are traditionally more mature folks who are retired. Their organization has different groups you can join called “Chapters.” Each Chapter has a different function/role/place they travel to. Chapter 8 travels to Mexico. We went with them last year to San Felipe with Kevin’s grandparents Ralph and Lorraine and had a great time. This year we were going with Kevin’s Dad and Step Mom Verla. This year it was a rolling caravan with several different stops along the way. This year promised to be more adventurous and interesting. This years trip did not disappoint

 

The plan: 

Total length: 21 days.
Total miles: 476.5 (762.4 km) Potrero Park to Mario’s. Roundtrip: 953
miles/1524.8 km.

We all met at a county park outside San Diego: Potrero Park. Kevin and Verla met us there by Uber (they CAN use a smart phone after all!). We parked and tried to get organized. It’s tricky to simultaneously clean the beach sand out of your camper from one trip to Mexico while prepping for another one! We stocked up at Walmart. We did laundry. We watched the Superbowl game. We met Lynn and Michael. 

*Lynn & Michael*–Lynn and Michael are Australians who are visiting the US  traveling around in their Class A RV they call ‘the bus.’ Before we had even unhitched our RV at Potrero Park Lynn approached us to introduce herself and told us ‘she loved children and had requested to be in our group.’ (We were the only RV on this trip with kids).  We didn’t know her but she seemed nice. Because we were in the middle of unpacking we didn’t get a chance to chat with her so she stopped back later with her husband Michael to re-introduce herself.  Turns out they are such funny, kind people who genuinely love playing with kids. They were in our group and every chance we got we parked right next to them. Both Eloise and Eliza loved playing in their ‘bus’. (Michael nicknamed Eloise Unicorn #1 and Eliza Unicorn #2 because he kept mixing up their names haha)

Part of Chapter 2’s mission is make you comfortable to travel to Mexico on your own if you’ve never been before. We attended numerous pre-travel meetings detailing road conditions, expectations, and the travel itinerary. The group of about 43 rigs was divided into smaller travel groups 1-6. We were in group 4 and Eloise picked the name for our group: the Unicorns. Our camper was Group 4 Unicorn #5. Dividing everyone up helps keep caravan sizes manageable. For this rally we used CB radios for communication and had a “nobody left behind” policy (unlike our other rally ha-ha). (If you couldn’t see the person behind you in your mirrors then you were to slow down and use the radio to reach out to the them and radio ahead for the group to adjust its speed.) We took a day trip to the border to get our tourist visa and exchange money the day before we left and enjoyed some tacos and ice cream too in Tecate. Finally we were all ready to go.  

The border crossing was smooth and quick. For this caravan there was no police escort waiting for us at the border. We all had maps/GPS/everyone’s cell phone/contact info and a plan to all meet at our first stop. 

Destination #1:  Zoologico Parque del Nino Jersey, Guadalupe valley, MX. This area is known as the heart of the mexican wine country and we were here for 2 nights. This place was amazing. It was a huge zoo/children’s park that was closed to the public on the days we were there. We were free to explore it at our leisure. So cool. The animals were active.  The playground was huge and amazing. The staff was friendly and helpful. It was our first stop but still now even after the trip was over it was one of my favorites and certainly little Eliza’s favorite as well. We could hear the lion roaring from our RV. While were were there we took a day trip over to L.A. Cetto Winery where we toured the winery and enjoyed a wine tasting with tapas. We also check out a much smaller winery nearby with beautiful views of the valley were we all relaxed just the 6 of us. 

Destination #2: La Jolla Beach Camp, Punta Banda (near Ensenada). We were here for 8 nights. Amazing beach camping. We were right on the beach. This was a  great location for exploring the area. We went to Carnival with Lynn and Michale, we visited La Boufadora (The blow hole), we celebrated Valentine’s Day with a nice dinner and all the caravan members gave Eloise and Eliza Valentine’s on Valentine’s Day (organized by Lynn) .  We also played Just Dance on Nintendo in our RV with Lynn and Michael and we haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. So much fun. Its also here Chapter 2 held its annual Charity Auction where they raised +$10,000 for various charities. One really neat and interesting point here was the La Jolla Beach was a thermal beach so as you dug into the sand you could see and feel warm hot geothermal water bubble up. Kevin and his dad dug several beach ‘hot tubs’ for us to sit and relax in.  It was very neat. You had to be careful tho: the water was so hot in some spots on the beach that you could easily burn yourself!

Destination #3: Molino Viejo, San Quintin. We were here for 3 nights, we dry camped in the parking lot of the restaurant Molino Viejo. It was  right on the bay and Kevin, Verla and Eloise went out in the Kayak while Kevin’s Dad tried his hand at fly fishing from the shore (he wasn’t able to catch anything tho!) We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Molino Viejo with some hilarious Chapter 2 karaoke and celebrated Kevin’s Birthday! 🙂 We had an interesting breakfast as the restaurant next door: Don Eddie’s where the main waiter was certainly a character and we waited over an hour for breakfast?? haha we were on Mexican time. We also had the chance to visit San Quintin and take in the local culture, enjoy a delicious lunch, and stock up on groceries. 

*Topes* –Topes are speed bumps. Its important that if you ever drive  in Mexico that you are aware that topes are all throughout Mexico: on both small town roads and major state highways. They come in varying heights, from minuscule to mountainous and are both marked and unmarked. Yes, that’s right there are giant UNMARKED speed bumps in Mexico. They are typically when entering and when leaving a town/city but not always!

 

Destination #4: El Pabellon Beach RV Park. We were here for 1 night and we all parked right on the ocean dunes camping. On our way here we hit an unmarked tope going 40+ miles per hour. We launched off of that thing and hit hard. We shattered the kids back closet shelving. Once we parked and saw what a mess had been made Kevin and his dad went right to work repairing it which of course meant driving a few towns over for wood and other supplies. Meanwhile Verla and the girls and I walked around the sand dunes and dipped our toes in the ocean. We enjoyed a yummy dinner of tamales here as well but the ocean breeze kept things slightly chilly. 

Destination #5: Rancho Santa Ynez. We were here for 2 nights. We hiked out to an ancient Mexican heritage site. We enjoyed a traditional Mexican meal and enjoyed the company of our new Aussie friends. 

Looks like roads in Maine? ha-ha

*Roads* –Let me interject right here that we had been warned ahead of time that the roads in the Baja in some places were highly questionable with big potholes but if we went slow they were ‘fine.’ We were told by the leaders of this trip that the roads were in the worst condition between Santa Ynez and Guerrero Negro. One of the descriptions we received from the group leaders was this: “Allow 6 hours for driving, slow, narrow road, no shoulder, some potholes, can be a demanding drive.” If you go by that description you think: Oh cool, totally do-able. Well let me tell you it was a nightmare of a drive that we never should have taken our camper on. The roads were quite narrow, no shoulder, winding, HUGE potholes and there is no room to maneuver around them because there are giant tractor trailer trucks coming right at you from the other direction. (One RV from our group went off the road (no one was hurt) and another persons side view mirror was shattered when it was struck by a tractor trailer truck.) 

Destination #6: Mario’s in Guerrero Negro. We were here for 3 nights. When we arrived and unhitched it was immediately clear to Kevin that there was RV damage. One of our hydraulic hoses had come loose and fluid was leaking everywhere. And upon further inspection we also broke an airbag and a leafspring. Our camper is big. Its heavy. And the roads were like a wash board with giant potholes every 100 feet. Again Kevin and his dad went right to work trying to assess the damage and figure out what needed to be done. Mario’s campground called their local repairmen and within an hour we had a new leafspring. It was a hand pressed leafspring that Kevin did not have much confidence in but it was our only option. The next day was our long awaited whale tour day and it did not disappoint.

Thankfully Eliza slept almost the entire trip and didn’t flail about in the tiny boat which held about 12-15 people. Eloise loved it and had fun “calling” for the whales to come near our boat with Lynn. Everyone on our boat was able to touch a whale. What an amazing experience!

We enjoyed a nice dinner at Mario’s and had a farewell visit with Lynn and Michael; parting is such sweet sorrow. Kevin made the decision that we were to leave the caravan a full day early because we had to get Kevins Dad and Verla back on time to catch their flight back to Maine, we had a long journey back up to the border, and he knew the roads were rough and that we might need additional repairs. 

Unplanned destination #1: Side of the road tire shop. Just short of half way back up to the border disaster struck. The camper started leaning drastically to one side and Kevin knew that the ‘new’ leafspring that we had just put on at Marios  was broken. We happened to be within a mile of a roadside tire shop / mechanic who spoke English. Coincidentally we knew friends who had used this shop in the past so we were hopeful. The mechanic did not have  a new leafspring however he gave Kevin detailed directions on where to get one. It was a 6 hour round trip journey which Kevin did alone. Kevins Dad, Verla, the girls and I stayed behind in the RV to wait. He returned right on time and the RV was fixed again in no time. While Kevin was gone we made friends with a little 5 year old Mexican girl who came over to play. She did not speak English but we did out best. We shared toys, we all had mac and cheese, and we rode bikes. She was very sweet. Eloise has never been keen on bike riding and before we left we gave her family the bike, some clothes and money and they were very appreciative. 

The little girl who lives at the tire shop

We continued along in an uneventful manner until….

Not quite this bad thank goodness!

Unplanned destination #2: Stuck at the border. There are many options on where to cross the border back to the US. Kevin had done the research and had decided to cross at Otay Mesa. It reportedly wasn’t that busy of a crossing and other RVs had done it. We made it, it was congested but we also had the bad luck of hitting it right around 5pm. After an hour in line we finally make it up to the border agent. All of our paperwork was in order and were cleared to drive through. Slight problem: we were stuck. Our camper was too tall to make it under the overhead roof and too long to make it though their normal exit. For the next 2 hours we totally blocked that lane of the border crossing with our camper while Kevin and his dad unbolted roof ACs, aired the tires down on the trailer, and inched the camper out of this booth. What a mess! When our RV had finally cleared the overhead roof, the border agents helped us exit through a side maintenance exit. The girls were frustrated, tired, and hungry and thankfully fell asleep. 

14+  glorious hours later we had finally made it to the RV park and were parked. It was a very adventurous 3 week journey through the Baja but we were glad to be back! 🙂

Chapter 40: Good Times Traveling with the Xscapers

We enjoy RV rallies. Its a great  chance to meet new people for adults and kids and we often alter our travel schedule to go to rallies with people we like to hang out with. 

Look Dad! My head is in a bucket!

The Xscapers market themselves as the ‘new generation of Rv-ers’. https://www.xscapers.com/xscapers-community/convergences/  (Click on the link and see if you can spot Eloise and Eliza in the group photo!)

Their meet ups or rallies are called ‘convergences’. We’ve met up with them on several occasions in the past and enjoyed our time meeting other young working people from all backgrounds. The Xscapers had 3 events planned this past winter and went to all 3!

Event #1: The Annual Bash–The annual bash was again in Quartzsite AZ this year. We arrived 2 days late due to the full-time family rally we were attending just prior to this one. Arriving ‘late’ is no big deal as this rally was boondocking/dry camping on BLM land in a free-for-all style. We enjoyed catching up with some old friends and hosted the kids over for a movie and popcorn night. We played at the local playground and enjoyed the evening campfires. 

Event #2: The American Girl Mine Convergence–This was another week long event down the road near Yuma, AZ. Again there were several kids who attended and Eloise had a blast playing with them. The format was the same: we went on a group hike, attended informational lectures, Kevin went on a group mountain bike ride, campfires, group games, and had fun sharing our tales from the road. 

Look closely to see all the campers behind us!

Event #3: San Felipe Convergence–This event we had been looking forward to for a while. It was a rally to Mexico and its didn’t disappoint. The rally was caravaning (driving all together) across the border and down to San Felipe. We met at a mall parking lot the morning of and were assigned a spot to line up to drive. We didn’t have any directions but the plan was to ‘follow the leader’ which seemed reasonable at the time. Once we crossed the border the Mexican tourist bureau from San Felipe had arranged for a police escort for our group through Mexicali. How exciting! We were all ready to go and didn’t even thinking about it at the time. Turns out that was a mistake. There were stop lights along our route and guess who hit the light first: us. We stopped at the light and with a quarter of the group ahead of us and three-quarters behind us we were lost. We could no longer visualize the person in front of us. We had no idea what exit they took. We had no idea which border crossing in Mexicali (there were 2) that the Mexican police escort was meeting us at. Shoot. We took a wrong exit. (Thanks Google) We had to pull at U-turn leading 20+ Rvs behind us who were maximally confused, had no idea we were going the wrong direction, and wondering why we were turning around. (Sorry guys). Anyway, we finally met up the the main group and the police escort through Mexicali was amazing VIP treatment. All intersections were blocked. We stopped for no traffic lights. We flew through the city and made it down to San Felipe in record time. We squeezed our RV into this tiny spot at Victor’s RV Park and were glad to finally be there. We had been to San Felipe the year before (at a different campground) and enjoyed our time there so we knew the loved the area. This RV park was within walking distance to downtown San Felipe which was nice. We enjoyed the food, the girls loved playing on the beach every day, twice a day. We took our kayak out on the sea of Cortez and sipped margaritas around a beach campfire. We visited the valley of the Giant Cactus. Kevin and another Xscaper treated us to a fireworks show and the live music was a nice touch one night. Kevin had a great time 4 wheeling. We had a great time soaking up the sun with our Xscaper friends!

Chapter 39: the Holi-daze

To be honest most of December and January were a blur. We were busy hopping around to different parts of California and Arizona meeting all kids of new friends along the way. 

Our first stop: Sedona, AZ. We left Phoenix and headed North. We had plans to meet up with a new family, the Kvacik’s, we’d never met before that Kevin had ‘met’ on Facebook. They had a little boy who was 4. They also had a super cool 5th wheel set up with a heavy duty truck with a jeep on the back of it Kevin was jealous of. We were excited. It was cold and a little windy in Sedona but we had a great time getting to know them.

The Thomas’ came up for the weekend too and we all went hiking, out to dinner, and enjoyed each others company. When it was time to leave we were headed to Joshua Tree and the Kvacik’s decided to follow us too and its a good thing they did! As we were turning the corner in Cottonwood, AZ our sliding storage tray flew out from our camper right into the middle of the busy intersection! They signaled us immediately and we both pulled over. By the time we made it back to the intersection someone had stolen most of Kevin’s power tools. Bummer. But the storage trey was intact. Our grill was still there. We cleaned up the mess and continued on to Quartzsite, AZ where we spent the night. We ended up staying the weekend so we could repair the tray and they could check out Quartzsite. 

Second stop: Joshua Tree. We had been to Joshua Tree last year but this time we boondocked (free camped) at a new spot for us on South Joshua Tree BLM land. We parked without issue but the Kvacik’s rig had trouble with their jacks which took hours to resolve. Always something! Eloise and Hayden and Eliza had fun playing together. It was here we made a very short stop to the Salton Sea (an abandoned community thats worth a Google). 

Third Stop: We parted ways with the Kvaciks and headed into an RV Park: Palm Springs RV Resort for the holidays. The weather was great and we knew several other families would be there. Eloise ran herself tired playing with all the kids each day especially her friend Caellum. Christmas was quiet and low key as was New Years. For my birthday Eloise invited a family over to share cake with me and they very sweetly agreed. It was fun. Kevin was busy working but we did get to check out the city of Palm Springs and enjoyed a Christmas street market. 

Fourth Stop: After Palm Springs we headed over to Menifee, CA which was about an hour away. Menifee was the site of the “Game On” Fulltime Family Rally. The ‘theme’ of the rally was games. There were over 30 families there and the hosts we had met just a few months prior up in Oregon. We were excited and it turned out to be a great event. Eloise and Eliza enjoyed all the kids activities and playing in the pool. During this time Kevin’s grandparents Ralph and Lorraine flew out from Maine to visit us and they enjoyed 5 days with the girls as well. We played mini golf, swam in the pool, and Kevin and I even went out to dinner alone (gasp!) one night haha. 

Chapter 38: Friends are the best for moving all your $h!t

We were boondocking (free dry camping) in Buckeye, AZ when we moved into our new camper. We parked our toyhauler right next to our new (to us) 5th wehel. Kevin had to get right back to work since he had been gone for days and days looking at the rusty 5th wheel in Wisconsin and then driving up to Oklahoma and bringing the nicer 5th wheel down to Arizona. I was tasked with packing up and orchestrating moving the majority of all our junk over. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit in a 42 foot camper!

Last day in the Voltage

Our friends the Thomas’ (Erica and Johnnie) have 6 kids living with them from age 15 to 5 (translation: they can all move and lift things). It was just want we needed. It took us about 7 to 10 days to pack everything up and move it over. All our things had a carefully selected spot in our toyhauler and needed a carefully selected spot in the 5th wheel too. You can’t just throw it in; you’ll never find it when you need it. 

 

 

Kevin and Johnnie moved our solar system over to the new camper including all 10 panels and 4 batteries. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to the dishwasher and bathtub: two things we will really miss in our new home. Of course my good friends washer and dryer were coming. Our tiny electric golf cart was sold. The camper came with an empty  bedroom so Kevin custom cut Ikea bunk beds to fit the girls room. Our days and nights were busy.  There were only a handful of things that we decided to part with and everything else was loaded in. 

Kevin, Chris, and Nate at a Bruins game (Side note: also during this time period Kevin flew to San Francisco to hang out with a few college buddies for a long weekend!)

Friends at the Phoenix Zoo

All told we stayed with the Thomas’ for 6 weeks. That’s the longest we had ever stayed in one spot and the longest we’d ever traveled with another family. We had glow stick dance parties with them. We fought off the Africanized bees in Arizona with them. We shared our Thanksgiving meal with them. We watched them get pulled over by the cops. (lol) We went to the Phoenix zoo and to see Santa at the mall with them. We went to a drive through Christmas light display with them. Eloise and Eliza played with them every day, all day and really enjoyed their company. 

In the middle of all of this both of our families traveled about 45 minutes away to Tonopah, AZ for the fulltime families boondocking rally. It just so happened that Erica and Johnnie were hosting the official event (i.e. volunteered to put the schedule together, do all the planning and prep, and then pull it off!–suckers). There were about 10 families who attended and we all had a great time. 

The kids did compass readings, geocaching, a glow stick party, an outdoor movie night, celebrated a birthday, took a day hike, made dream catchers, we had potlucks, and enjoyed each others company around the campfire each night. Its so great to meet up with and connect with other fulltime families on the road. As a side trip after the rally 14 of us (4 adults and 10 kids) hiked up Saddle Mountain where a tarantula hawk nearly made me jump off a cliff! (I hate bees and this is one mother of a stinger!) The trail is so steep and crumbly that at one point Kevin had 2 kids strapped to him! haha!

Double duty. Seems right. haha

Before October, we had first met the Thomas’ at another family rally in Tuscon a year ago. We enjoyed their humor and stories. It was there that they noted they were headed to Poland, Maine that summer so we knew we had to meet up with them there. When we were deciding what to do about our broken toyhauler we knew that Arizona was the best place to sell it and move due to the temperate weather. How lucky that they were in Buckeye (right outside of Phoenix) and were going to be there for several months! We asked if we could camp with them and they welcomed us in. They have been such a blessing to meet on the road and their friendship will not be forgotten. This is getting a little sappy for the daily sarcasm Erica and I shared but bottom line is that we had a fabulous time with them and parting was such sweet sorrow. 

We’ve found little kids hike best with other little kids (and candy…)

Desert sunset

Chapter 37: Yes, we’re still alive

Our last blog update was Dec 17th. It has been a VERY busy 3 months for us. Our goal is to catch everyone up with a series of quick blog posts.

That weekend that it rained for 3 straight days …

Lets start with what happened right after we left off…So what were we to do? Keystone denied our replacement unit. Things got hot and heavy with them; they were confident they could repair everything (for real this time?) at their facility in Oregon.  They needed 4-8 weeks depending on parts.  But after having just been at their Indiana factory in August were we willing to again be truly homeless for up to 2+ months?  Did Kevin’s mind explode brainy bits all over our walls in a fit of rage and exasperation? In a word: yes.

Our one Pacific Coast family beach day

We had already been down this road before with this toyhauler, with several of the same issues as before, and now they were planning the same ‘fixes.’ We were done. It was clear we would either have to get a new camper to keep traveling or find a house and be done with it all. We had been traveling for a year and a half and much of our time during that period we had to change our plans to fit our RVs repair schedule and not living as we had intended. We weren’t done yet; we wanted to continue to travel. We reluctantly agreed to yet another round of repairs. 

We went on a 3 week nationwide search for one of the best, well-made 5th wheels we could tow with our current truck: a “DRV” (that’s the brand). They don’t make many units. Brand new they are pricey and heavy. They have several models but we needed one of their 2 models that had bunk beds. Turns out those are rare; very rare. We decided we wanted a used unit: not something new that hasn’t been broken in yet. We needed something that has been road tested and was ready to go. We found a handful of RVs that met our criteria however when we called we learned that all of them had been sold except one (red flag #1).

Real scorpion as seen under a black light right near our camper. Arizona is full of ‘fun’ wildlife!

This RV we were interested in was a private sale in Wisconsin. We had several phone calls with the seller who was friendly and seemed forthright with information about the camper. We scheduled a Skype call to view the RV but the video call quality was quite poor (red flag #2). Kevin noted rust on the camper but the owner said it wasn’t rust it was just the poor video quality. Deals were discussed. Arrangements were made. We were still in Oregon and winter was fast approaching.

We decided that first we would move our current toyhauler to sunny Phoenix AZ for 3 reasons: 1) we had friends there who could help us move, 2) it’s a great area to sell a toyhauler in, 3) it rarely rains in Phoenix so being in an RV with a leaky roof & wall was not an issue. It was not ideal that we had to abandon our plans of traveling slowly down the coast of California but getting into a new RV was now our #1 priority (again changing our plans for this toyhauler! Grr!)

Are we there yet?

Kevin fixing the brakes

We set out to drive straight through the night all the way from Oregon to Phoenix.  Snack were packed, kids were ready to go. Unfortunately right away we had an issue. One of the failures we forgot to mention was that while in Oregon we almost lost a rear axle after the factory refused to repair the attachments for this axle (they said ‘the welds looked fine’). We called in a mobile welder to our campground in Oregon earlier in October and he fixed us up. Well….unbeknownst to us he also nicked our hydraulic brake line with his welding torch! Gah. As we started our long trek Kevin notice right away that ‘something was wrong with the brakes.” We pulled over, discovered all the hydraulic fluid had leaked out (and had probably been empty for weeks) and in the middle of a grocery store parking lot he sat for 2 hours fixing the brakes. THEN we got right back on the road and drove the remaining 20 hours to Phoenix. Man were we glad to finally have arrived. We set up and Kevin immediately drove the 40+ hours up to Wisconsin solo with the intent of buying this DRV.

Not an actual photo but pretty close…

He arrived and the RV was not what we had been told; it had been heavily used in salt conditions with so much rust. Kevin left within 10 minutes and drove straight back to Phoenix. He was not happy and we were feeling like we were running out of time and options.

Within one day of returning from his long solo drive up to Wisconsin Kevin got a tip on a new consignment DRV with a bunkbed in Oklahoma. He called and made a deposit to hold it immediately–finally we had a new solidly build place to call home.

First photo of our new home!

Up next: Making your friends move all your stuff from one RV to another

Making slime with our friends while waiting for Daddy to arrive back with the new RV!

Chapter 36: Oregon: where it all goes to hell in a handbasket

We left Washington state and drove right past Mt. Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Winter was approaching. The campgrounds were starting to close for the season and Eliza (who still hates riding in her car seat) was ready to slow down and take a long break so we headed into Oregon. We’ll come back some day Washington!

Can you spot the giant slug?

I was corrected several times: Its Ore-gon not Oreg-in. Whoops. Either way its a beautiful state. Our first stop was right outside Mt. Hood. We stayed at Mt. Hood RV Village Resort. We arrived at a weird time when the area was between seasons and a lot of things were closed but would re-open when winter/snow came. At least the campground had a pool. We also had the good fortune to meet up with 2 other fulltime families. We enjoyed a barbecue dinner and some fun social time. Eloise even made a fast friend with another little 5 year old who we will meet again at a rally in a few months. We explored the famous Timberline Lodge and Kevin mountain biked down part of Mt. Hood. 

Our second stop was Portland. We stayed at Portland Fairview RV park  right outside Portland. We enjoyed using it as a home base for exploring Portland. The weather was typical Oregon rain for half of our stay so we planned to tour around Portland on the weekend when the sun was coming out. Unfortunately Eloise came down with some viral illness and our plans were put on hold until she felt better. We were able to visit the Portland Zoo, shopped at Ikea (of course), took a family bike ride, and dined at a few family friendly restaurants (there were a few with dedicated play areas which was an interesting idea).  We had fun in Portland; it was relaxed and we’ll have to go back again some day. 

Our third stop was Florence. It’s a little town on the coast and it was quite picturesque.  We were there just  about 3 weeks and really got to make friends with other families and explore the area.  We visited the coast several times and it was beautiful and very different from the rocky coast of Maine. Brown sand beaches with steep wooded cliffs. We were finally taking time to smell the roses and enjoy family time. Things in our camper were working well and we had detailed plans for exploring down the coast of California over the coming weeks. We were comfortable. So of course it all goes to hell in a handbasket. First the rain came. We figured it was no big deal.  We’d been in rain before. Then the slide seal started to leak. It had leaked before several times; repaired twice. This time was worse. Much more water; much larger area. Fun. Still no big deal; we could get over that. Then water started dripping from the ceiling in our bathroom. That was new and not cool. Kevin heads to the roof: finds 2 sections where water has puddled under the rubber membrane. This was bad. Very bad. The icing on the cake was the water damage we found the next day de-laminating the side of the camper near the roof. Adding all of these issues to our known cracked frame and we were in a panic. Kevin contacted his liaison at Keystone and they agreed that the camper was in rough shape and verbally agreed to a replacement unit. Then the back pedaling came and they decided to send a technician out to check the camper. The technician took photos in an attempt by the manufacturer to claim we had altered the rig so to cause all of these issues.  Crazy talk. 

What happened next? Did Kevin’s mind explode brainy bits all over our walls in a fit of rage and exasperation? I’ll fill you in on the next chapter!

Moana and her little Hawaiian pineapple

 

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