Sunday, December 13, 2015

Free to RV at Last!

I know it has been awhile since I posted, but many things have transpired since that last post, and I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag too soon, for security reasons.

As I write this, we are currently sitting in our trailer, on totally free BLM land outside of Ehrenberg, Arizona, for as long as we want. The house in Arkansas was actually contracted to an auctioneer/realtor, rather than just a realtor, and the auction was scheduled for December 11th. We left within a couple days of signing the contract, on November 19th, and have been on the road ever since, with little time to bring the blog up to date.

And with the house setting empty, we didn’t want to publicize the fact that we weren’t there, for security reasons. But as of yesterday, the house has been auctioned at an “absolute” auction, which means that it would sell regardless of price, so as of today, the house is totally empty, and we are out from under the mortgage, and the property is in someone else’s hands.

The only thing we do not know yet, is whether the auction brought enough to pay off the house, and all of the other selling expenses. The buyer has to pay the auctioneer his fee, but there could be prorated taxes, advertising expenses, the cost of the setup crew, and other minor things that will be disclosed on the settlement papers, which we have not received yet. This being Saturday, and the fact that the auctioneer has another sale scheduled for today, could mean that we won’t know anything until this next week, after they have time to put all the figures together and fill out the proper paperwork. And I still have to give them an address to send it to, so we don’t have to wait for mail forwarding delays.

At this time we are both feeling relieved that it is finally done, and we are out from under that money pit of a house, as well as anxious to know the results, so we know how to plan for the next few months, or the next year. But first, let us bring you up to date on what’s happened since then. We’ll keep it general for now, and then fill in the details in the next few posts, until we get caught up to the present day.

As stated, we left on November 19th. Our first target was getting to the Escapees RV Club headquarters at Livingston, Texas, as that is what we have decided to use for our mail forwarding service. It was getting too late in the year to try to go to South Dakota to use America’s Mailbox at Box Elder (a suburb of Rapid City), so we made a last minute decision to head south, to a warmer climate.

Getting that far in a day was not our goal, though. After all, we’re retired, with no particular short-term agenda, so what’s the rush? We meandered south from Hwy 167 at Beebe, AR, following state roads to avoid the traffic of Little Rock. Various roads took us down to Pine Bluff, and then southwest from there.

Our first night out was a Walmart parking lot at Fordyce, AR. From there, we intended to go southwest, but made a wrong turn and ended up coming northwest instead, but it was all beautiful country, and we were in no particular hurry. We got to Prescott, AR, just off 167, and then followed the parallel road to the interstate all the way to Texarkana.

When we stopped for gas on the south side of Texarkana, we discovered there was a nice RV park within a block of us, so we stopped there for the night. The next day we continued on to Livingston, and the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park.

We intended to stay until the next day after Thanksgiving, but that nasty storm front came through, and brought lots of rain to areas west of us, although Livingston itself saw only scattered drizzles. We extended our stay twice while there to avoid driving in the rain, and finally left the Monday after Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, we enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving dinner with about 100 other members at the Activity Center, and then a potluck the following night. We also enjoyed an ice cream social, picked up our mail while there, did laundry and took lots of walks. Angel really enjoyed the walks around the resort!

Our next stop was at a Harker Heights Walmart (an eastern suburb of Kileen) as we followed 190 westward. We were hoping to be done with rain, but still endured some occasional showers that day as the storm moved eastward. The sky was still overcast as we left Kileen, although no rain came down that day, but as we neared our next stop at Iraan, TX, just north of I-10, we saw the welcome sight of a strip of blue sky, and the sharp edge of the storm clouds moving east.

From there, we stopped at the really nice Mountain View RV Park in Van Horn, Texas. We knew we didn’t want to drive more than three or four hours a day, and get stopped before dark, so we tried to plan our trip accordingly. Also, we wanted to avoid driving through larger cities if possible, but across lower Texas there’s no good east/west state roads, so the best route was I-10 which took us through El Paso and on to Deming, NM the next day. We stopped at the very comfortable Escapees park there and felt right at home. It’s run much like our former home resort in Dowagiac, MI, and we would definitely make use of this park again.

The next stop was Benson, AZ at another Escapees RV Park. From there, we stopped at Casa Grande, AZ at another of the Escapees parks, but got delayed by bad tires on the trailer, and had to have both of them replaced at the Walmart in Casa Grande.

Yes, these were the same tires that I bought from Amazon, already mounted on rims for the trailer right before we left. We had only made the trip to Indiana and back (about 1400 miles total) and then from Arkansas to Casa Grande (maybe another 2000 miles) and the tires were already wearing very dangerously. That’s what I get for spending $54 apiece on tires AND rims, when just the decent tires (Goodyear Marathons) alone at Walmart are double that price! Anyway…

After Casa Grande, we headed west on I-8 toward Yuma, and then turned north on State Hwy 95 before getting into Yuma. Never having been to Quartzsite before (only passing through it on I-10) we had no idea where we should stop, although RV parks are everywhere out here. We finally chose a boondocking spot at Desert Gardens for the night, until we could get our bearings and figure out where we wanted to land.

I got in touch with another blogger that I knew was out here, and he invited us out to his camping area. With the help of Google Earth, I was able to view the roads getting out there, and figured out where he was. Many times, maps don’t give the entire picture, so having a smart phone with web access is essential to modern day navigating. And where we are parked isn't even shown on any of the free campsite apps! It definitely pays to stay well read and informed about what other people of like interests are doing! If I didn't read so many travel blogs, I would never have known about these little secret places, which is why I am not going to publicize its location!

We have been settled in here for several days now, in this remote BLM area where there are really no rules at all, including no time limit on how long anyone can stay. In other words it is quite literally, totally free…of cost, of rules. and of utilities. There are many others camped out here, all separated by several hundred feet or more, in all types of vehicles. There are at least two other cargo trailer campers within sight of us (actually, one left yesterday morning), some van campers, some tent campers, some travel trailers, some fifth wheels and some driveables , from pick-up campers to Class B’s and Class A’s. The road getting out here is gravel, but smooth enough and solid enough for our low-slung conversion van and cargo trailer, so just about any kind of RV can make it out here.

On weekends, the ATV’s and trail bikers from local areas come out to use the open desert space to ride, and sometimes kick up a lot of dust, but our acquaintance, a regular visitor here, helped clue us in to which way the prevailing winds blow, so most of the dust blows away from us. And they tend to stay away from the RVers, so some minor noise in the distance for a couple days is a minor inconvenience for having an entire midweek of solitude and peace and quiet. The open ground itself is covered with small rocks, but the roads are a fine dust that doesn’t take much to send it airborne.

So far, we are staying warm and cozy in our well-insulated trailer, despite the nights (so far) dipping into the upper 30s and low 40s. With our down-filled top covers, we haven't even been keeping any heat on at night, and the trailer stays at least 10 to 30 degrees above outside temperature. The Big Buddy catalytic heater warms it up in the mornings in about ten minutes, Then the butane stove comes on for coffee, adding more heat, and by then, the sun takes over.

The air was calm until night before last, when we started getting 20-30 MPH gusts of wind, caused by this new cold front that is moving in this week. That cold front promises to bring our night-time temps down to about 26 for a couple of days, but then we’ll have a gradual warm-up again. The day time-temps were actually in the upper 70s when we got here, but will remain in the 60s for the foreseeable future. We may decide to keep the pilot flame on the heater running during the "below 30" nights, but we also leave some ventilation, and we do have a carbon monoxide detector that gives a digital readout of the parts per million. So far, it has never come off zero.

We have all the things we need within ten miles, and the most needed services (restrooms, showers, dump station, convenience store, postal services, etc.) within three miles. Other things (the storage space we rented for our excess "stuff", major stores, restaurants, etc.) are in Blythe, California, just across the Colorado River.

At some point in the near future, we are going to go there, to the Chevy dealer (which reportedly has a great body shop) to see about getting some body repairs done on the van…some of which were there when we bought it (covered out of our pockets) and some from the deer we hit on the Saturday before we left home (covered by insurance). In addition to those, our left rear door window on the van suddenly exploded for no reason just after we got on I-10 in Texas! We were on a perfectly smooth road, going about 60 MPH, no other cars near us, and BOOM!

I thought at first it was our solar panels when I saw the black glass, but then realized it was the rear van door window that exploded! We had glass all over the bumper on the outside as well as down inside the privacy blinds and into the van!

At our next stop that day, at Van Horn, we just happened to be sitting beside a summer campground host at a RV park in Seward, Alaska, and he just happened to have a piece of foam core, plastic laminated sign board, like realtors use. We had our package taping gun that we use for eBay, so between his sign board and our tape, we got the window secured and weather proof. But that is yet another thing we have to turn into insurance and have repaired while it is in the shop.

The only thing we are waiting on right now, is to see how we came out with the house auction. If we end up having to make up some difference on our own, we may put off some of the van repairs for awhile, until we get caught up. If the auction went well, then we will be more likely to have “everything” done on the van, including some new wheels. We don’t want to talk to a shop until we know exactly where we stand on the finances, and what repairs to have done.

And if we don’t get the van repaired here at all, there will be other shops in other cities down the road. We have a year from the deer damage to get the repairs done, so we have plenty of time.

So that’s a rough idea of what has transpired since the last post, and as I said, we’ll fill in the details in the next few posts…which will come much closer together than this one has from the last one! And…we’ll have some pictures. Even though we will be around here for the better part of the winter, there are many things to see and do around here, so stick around, subscribe to new post notifications, and follow our new adventures!

As always, ask any questions, or feel free to comment. Participation is always welcome!


TrainmanCam said...

Hi John,
Sounds like you found the "Head of the Pack" in that group your with. He has great info and shares it with everybody. If your able to stick around till they move over to set up the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), you should go to that. You will learn the ins and outs of Boondocking, and meet many campers who love it.
Have fun.!!


Tinabeane said...


That is great news, very happy for you both. Looking forward to hearing about your travels.


John Abert said...

Thinking about it, but not very seriously. That was never our main goal in coming here, nor to learn to live like we were homeless. In fact, we will probably spend January and February at a resort. The answers we seek will never be found here. We get more definitive answers directly from the sources on the web, and from printed sources. Everyone has different ideas on how to do things, and different skill levels in doing them. Each has to figure out what works for themselves, and learning wrong or bad information serves no purpose other than to confuse. Everyone here seems more concerned with maintaining several hundred feet between their rigs for personal space than for creating a feeling of family, and I can understand that safety margin considering the mentality of some. But that's different than in resorts where everyone is a member that can has paid to be a part of the organization, and where people are more trusting and not so "stand offish". It really is a different mentality out here, and takes some getting used to...or not.

John Abert said...

Thanks, Tina! It's an adventure so far! That's for sure!

Bradford H. said...

Hi John, it sounds like you are having some fun times already. I agree - there are certain things (like tires) that it's really best to go to a bricks and mortar type store. That 30s and 40s stuff sounds kind of cold but in Iowa, I often camp without heat until the outside temp reaches 40. The pilot light on the Mr. Heater Buddy works fine to take the chill out of the air.

Congrats on getting rid of the house and liberating yourselves. I'm looking forward to reading about your continued adventures!

John Abert said...

Thanks, Brad! We don't mind the solitude for ourselves, as we always have something to keep us busy. And we have a good 3 - 4 bars of 4G signal here. But we may have to change locations and/or make some different arrangements for January and February. I'll give you more info by email, as I'm not sharing all the details with the public...yet. Thanks for commenting!

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Right on, John. Glad the house thing is over and hope it all turns out in your favor. I know just unloading it is the big albatross off your back, so you're already ahead, but if the numbers workout in your favor, then you're way ahead. As always, I'll keep tuned.


John Abert said...

Thanks, Ed! It's not quite over, but I'll email you on details.

John Abert said...

Thanks, Ed! It's not quite over, but I'll email you on details.