Sunday, March 29, 2015

Colorado River Adventures Part 3

Well, the dust has settled and I've had time to go over my paperwork.

The gas rebate has fine print on it that makes it impossible to redeem.  I have in writing that I would be giving a 'fuel cert', not a rebate, but I was fine with the rebate when she said I just had to collect four receipts and mail it in.

It's impossible to redeem the gas rebate they give you.

The receipts must be 60 days apart and the rebate expires 240 days from when it was issued.  So they're not actually giving you anything you could possibly use.  I got expensive Shell gas on the first day.  I would have to time three more purchases exactly 60 days apart to get receipts that are valid for their offer.  60, 120, 180, 240.  The day this expires is the day when I'm supposed to get my last receipt.  Unless I'm actually in Parker Arizona to both get the gas and turn the rebate in in person I can't redeem this.

The tablet is a piece of junk.

I've boxed it back up after struggling for two hours to try and download an app.  All their built in app programs can't connect, despite me being connected with four bars on wifi, and you also can't download Google Play or iTunes in order to use them to get your apps.  I get frustrated with crappy shit fast.  Maybe if I jump through 20 more hoops I can eventually get this piece of shit to work properly, but I'd rather get rid of it.  My time is more valuable than this.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Colorado River Adventures Part 2

UPDATE-Please be sure to read my Part 3 before you book a sales meeting.

Hello from Laughlin, NV!  We are spending the night here before heading back to Pahrump.  This morning we went to Lake Havasu to attend a sales presentation for Colorado River Adventures.

I was seriously dreading a high-pressure sales pitch.

But it turned out to be nothing like that.  Also, much of the negative stuff I've read online about didn't seem to apply.  It was a pleasant experience, and I'm glad I checked it out!  If I decide that camping memberships are the best thing for us (which is too early to tell right now) I will get the CRA membership rather than upgrade Thousand Trails.  Thousand Trails was a much easier decision since we have a 'teaser' membership that's super-cheap.  CRA is much more comprehensive and has a lump-sum buy-in required.

I read a great deal of negative stuff online about CRA.  I thought I had plenty of ammunition preloaded that would allow me to turn down the membership.  However, the stuff online is either no longer applicable, or do not apply to CRA memberships originating from Arizona.

Arizona has the strictest Time-Share regulations in the country.

This is what the nice sales manager told me.  He admitted that memberships that are made in other states, like California, have little to no regulations, so they're different.  I have a feeling that the negative things I heard about CRA are from these low regulation states like California, but who knows?  I can only talk about the experience I had at the Arizona Lake Havasu Springs Resort.  I do not believe he was lying in the things he told me because we would have had to sign something in the end, and I obviously would have read it with great scrutiny.  I believe he was being honest with me.  (The woman at the front desk was very nice, too!)

You probably want to get your membership in Arizona.

Again, I can't say if it's worth the drive if you're in California or elsewhere, but I'm telling you that the membership that was described to me was not this nightmare thing described on another web site.

You do have to go to a sales presentation at a resort and sign up in person.  I tried to get details over the phone with the main sales office, but they wouldn't budge on this.

The good thing about going in person is that you get some free gifts so long as you meet their criteria:
  1. You can't have attended a CRA presentation previously.
  2. You and your significant other must make at least $40,000 combined.
  3. Both decision makers have to attend the sales meeting.
The gifts I got were an android tablet, a $100 gas rebate (I will report later about whether or not they honor this), a one year free membership to the Lake Havasu resort (with caveats), and a free hotel stay at some vacation spot for 2 nights.  The choices were Bahamas, Denver, and a few other choice places.

The android tablet is awesome!  It was brand new in original sealed packaging and works fine.  The gas rebate is a bit of a hassle.  I need to collect receipts from Shell stations and mail it in.  I do plan on taking advantage of it.  I suggest that if you're driving down to the Havasu resort stop at Shell stations on the way to fill up.  Only fill up $25 at a time (you need four receipts of $25 or more and only $25 is reimbursed per receipt) and get your four receipts.  Maybe you can redeem this during your stay at the resort.

The free membership is good for one year at the Havasu Springs Resort.  It provides up to 20 days of camping.  A stay is 5 days maximum.  Only 5 stays are allowed.  One night constitutes a stay.  You can't stay on weekends.  Seven days out are required between visits.  These caveats are what I'd heard on a different site, and were expected.  I'll still get a 5 day stay sometime next winter.  I'm making a point to get back to the resort in our travels.

Lake Havasu Resort is GORGEOUS.  It's right on the water, and the water is turquoise with a beautiful mountain back drop.  I saw a nice pier that you can fish off of.  There were boats on the calm waters, hundreds of docks in the water, and a launching ramp.  There were 500 RV spaces with many pull-thrus.  Some looked a little small, but it was not as another site described.  I saw many Class As side by side with their slides out with reasonable space around them. There were loads of other amenities, like clubhouses, pools, and a restaurant. 

The camp attracted an affluent crowd.  I did not see the scuzzy long-term residents another site reviewing CRA mentioned.  There were a mix of all kinds of RVs.  There was also just boats parked in spots.  I'm not sure how it all works.

Bottomline:  Lake Havasu Springs is an AWESOME park, and we will be staying there in the future.

We will take advantage of that free membership we got next winter.  It's the end of March and it's already getting too hot to be down this south.  The weather has been unseasonably warm this year.

Okay, now I'd like to go over what I heard, and what the reality is.

1.  I heard that once you sign up it was like buying a time-share.  You were stuck with the quarterly maintenance fees forever until you managed to sell the thing.  FALSE:  You can cancel your membership with CRA at any time, but because there's a significant buy-in you probably want to try to sell your membership.  There are also different membership plans, the cheapest being a 6 year membership for a $7,000 initial buy-in.  After the six years it expires unless you put the $7,000 toward an upgraded life-time membership, which is $9,000 (only $2,000 when bought as an upgrade). 

2.  I heard that you only have 8 measly campgrounds with this membership.  FALSE:  CRA is now part of GoodSam's Coast to Coast program, which means you get Coast to Coast resorts too.  There were a shit-ton of them.  More than what Thousand Trails offers with their Encore Resort program.  You get free stays at 100+ campgrounds, plus other benefits through the comprehensive Coast to Coast program.  I kind of zoned-out during the video, but it includes discounted condo rentals in places like Maui, cheaper airline tickets, and...geez, I forget.  But basically there were so many benefits that even if you didn't have an RV they had a decent enough sales pitch to get you to sign up.  There are cabins at all the CRA resorts (the 8 core resorts) that you get a special discount rental rate.

The campground membership offered is similar to Thousand Trails in that it's 14 days in with 7 days out, however, for $95 you can buy your out days so that you can stay at the campground continuously for up to 6 months.  If I try to pull a stunt where I use my ReadyCampGo membership to buy my out days and stay at a Thousand Trails resort continuously it will be $20/night or $140 to pull this off.  CRA is cheaper in that respect, but also in the fact that I would have to pay a few hundred bucks for the additional ReadyCampGo membership each year.

Thousand Trails also charges $3/night for your 'in' nights and CRA doesn't.

3.  I heard that CRA has quarterly maintenance fees of $210.  FALSE:  In my Arizona originating campground membership it's an annual fee of under $600 (I forget the exact amount) which is comparable to what I pay for Thousand Trails.

4.  I heard you had to sign an agreement that said you wouldn't buy a CRA membership from anyone but them in order to get your free gifts.  FALSE.  The salesman came out with the android and certificates right from the start.  GOOD GOING!  I thought I was going to have to pitch a fit to get my gifts!  Seriously, the sales manager at the Havasu resort was awesome and never made me feel pressured.  When we said no they let us have our presents and leave.  No resells.  No locking us in a room until we agreed to sign up.  It was not like that!  This was a pleasant experience.

Now, I must say that we arrived early because we'd spent the night in Laughlin.  (Great city, btw.)  We asked if we could be in the earlier sales presentation, however it was still hours before that.  Rather than have us wait the sales manager helped us himself.  :)  That was seriously nice of him!  But he was the manager, not a commissioned sales-person.  From the nice experience he gave me and my mother I feel that he doesn't allow any shenanigans on his watch.

5.  I heard that if you wanted out of your CRA membership you had to sell it (not true) and that the company would make it as difficult as possible for you to do that, charging $1,000 transfer fees and the like.  FALSE.  The sales manager said he facilitated the sales of used memberships and the fee was 5% (possibly 6%, I'm not sure).  The fact that he said that he would call us if a used membership with a lower buy-in came for sale gave some credence to this.

Okay, at the end of the presentation there was one little shenanigan, where he said that if we didn't sign up today we would not be allowed to sign up for two years.  God bless them, they have to make sales, but we both know if I call him in a month and say we've decided we want the membership they're going to give it to us.  He respected us enough not to belabor the point.

I think if you're in the market for a campground membership that CRA is worth considering.  

I have a feeling your experience will be different in California, so as I say, you might want to trek to Arizona to buy.  I'm not getting paid anything for this referral.  When people treat me nice I don't have a problem spreading the word.  I also feel that some positive press is needed for CRA to balance the negative stuff I encountered that turned out not to be true.

I feel kind of bad right now because the salesman gave me his card but it must have slipped into a crumb crack in the SUV or something.  UGH.  I was going to post his information so you could contact him directly.  If I find his card in the future I will post this.  In the meantime, if you want to pursue a membership you can contact them through their site.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Colorado River Adventures

We decided to check out another campground membership program since Thousand Trails seems worth the money.

This Saturday 3/28/15 we will be going to a Colorado River Adventures sales pitch at Lake Havasu.

The lack of details beforehand make me think this is too expensive for us.  Thousand Trails was an easy sell, and didn't require the Time-Share like lures.  But, meh, we'll check it out.  We've agreed not to make any decisions that day no matter the pressure.  I should be getting a free Android Tablet out of the deal.

I will report here on what happens.  I have a feeling people sign a nondisclosure agreement or something because details online are hard to find! 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thinking About Workamping

Eight days until launch!  And I'm already getting some crazy getting a job!

I have been self-employed since 1999.

But part of the reason I want to get on the road is to meet people and have fun experiences in awesome places.  A nice workamping gig might just get me what I'm looking for.  It would also give us a stable place to park the RV for the summer. 

I'm thinking really hard about this prospect.  If I want to find work for the summer season I need to land a gig now.  However, I'm a woman of my word and I don't want to find myself in an unpleasant situation.  I'm the type who will tough it out for as long as I signed up for. 

I posted the following on two workamping sites that let people post 'work wanted' classifieds:

Milly and Maria    (Two Workers)
Position Wanted:   Desk, Housekeeping, or Waitstaff, and Something Light for Mom
Location Desired:   CA, OR, WA, ID, CO, WY, MT, UT, ND, SD, NE
Availability:   May 11th, 2015
Compensation Needed:   RV Space and the rest is negotiable

About us:
Hi! I'm Milly, I travel full-time in a 31' Travel Trailer with my 66 year old mother and two cats. My mother Maria is bilingual (Spanish/English) incredibly cheery, happy, kind, and has the type of personality people fall in love with. However, she's mobility impaired and uses a cane. I'm trying to find a position for her where she won't have to be on her feet all day, or doing anything too strenuous. She'd be a great laundry-room attendant or possibly a hostess.

If you can find a position suitable for my mother you get me included in the package! I'm able-bodied, also cheerful, and have a great attitude! I've been self-employed with online businesses for the last 16 years, but prior to that I worked as a waitress, a hotel housekeeper, a janitor, and I'm equally good for data-entry, clerk, or front of house jobs.

I am detail-oriented, meaning if I walk buy a trash can with the trash bag looking loose and messy I will go and fix it (even if no one is looking). I don't have an iPhone or any other device that I'm going to be stealing minutes from the job to check. I also can turn into that super-sweet Disney employee like my mom to make sure guests have the best experience possible. If someone is unhappy about something I'm going to be sympathetic and kind to resolve their issue. I'm not too proud to turn messy toilets into sparkling commodes of beauty, and I can make-up a hotel bed with military precision! You might want to utilize me more for front of house type stuff, because I will make guests happy and be a great addition to any dedicated team.

We need work for both of us where we can park our RV. We are set-up for Dry Camping, so we don't need hook-ups as long as a dump station is available. However, if your summer is hot we need electricity to run our AC! We would like a meal option if possible. Pay would be nice. We would also prefer not to work more than 24 hours per week.

Rig Description:
2015 31' Travel Trailer with Slide and Nissan Armada

I type 60 words per minute and have great computer skills (Word, Excel, HTML, and more). I can also clean hotel rooms, interact with the public, learn reservation and phone systems, wait tables, and provide awesome customer service.

My mom can work at a visitor information center, be a laundry room attendant, or do other light jobs. Her cheery personality brightens any room.

I've been self-employeed for the last 16 years, but prior to that: I worked the register at a college book store and managed my own branch of that book store. I was a chambermaid at a Days Inn for 5 years. I was a waitress at a family restaurant for 3 years. I was a Technical Writer a semiconductor company for two years. I currently make my living as a romance novelist.

My mother has been retired for 11 years but was previously a medical records coder for 37 years.

Smoker?   No
Drinker?   No
Pets?   Yes
Kids?   No

So that's the listing I put out.  I'm not sure if anyone looks at those listings, but who knows.  I guess if I really want a job I need to put out some inquiries.

The most important compensation for me is an RV space.  I want full hook-ups, but I can get by with just a dump station as long as I don't have to run the AC.  This is part of the reason I'm targeting northern states. 

My ideal situation is to do some work in exchange for getting to stay at an awesome place that I would never fork over the money to stay at normally.  Like Morro Bay or Pismo Beach or something.  I'd work 24 hours a week for a site in a kick-ass coastal park.  I'm looking at other options too, though.  We'll see!

If you're an experienced Workamper I'd love to hear from you.  I seriously have no idea what a Camp Host really does.  I don't actually want to be cleaning toilets...

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Here at Casa De Milly we have been working hard getting ready for our launch in ten short days!  We can't wait to pull up the anchor and set sail in the land yacht.

The problem with selling the house is that I lose a big security blanket.  As I said before, I bought this 20 yo manufactured home in horrible condition for $32,700 two years ago.  It was a short sale.  Me and my mother pooled our resources and paid cash for it.  We had to put in another $50,000 to get it liveable.

But it was paid for!

Staying in this house would have meant I would never have to worry about rent or a mortgage for the rest of my life.  Even if my income dwindled, I'd always have a place to live. 

Now I'm giving this up.  I have to, because I'm miserable here, but it comes with a price. 

The price of freedom is the loss of security.

Well, a little loss of security.  The RV we have is perfect for parking in one spot and just living there forever.  And yes, this would most likely mean rent at an RV park, but this is usually fairly cheap.  I like to think we have a bit of a back-up plan if I just can't handle moving the behemoth from place to place.

I also will not have an RV payment once the house is sold.  

My mother and I will have no debt whatsoever.  We are putting the proceeds of the house towards paying off the RV and will still have a tidy sum left over.

So...what do my financials look like once we're on the road?  Ideally I'd like to spend less than what I do now, but with gasoline and camping costs that might be tough.  I'm going to go through my budget, but first I'd like to discuss my income.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to live off of my writing.  My main income is what pays me for Kindle sales of my ebooks.  They deposit royalties into my bank account at the end of every month.  The payment I receive is for royalties earned 60 days ago, hence, my payment for December comes in February.  I always have a two month lead time for how much I will be getting paid. 

(Incidentally, if you ask me for more information on how to make a living writing and selling ebooks I will refer you to my ebook on how I do it.  I've been asked enough times that I just wrote it all down.  I can't mentor everyone who asks me or I would never have time to write.  Sorry!)

I also get a small amount each month from my Amazon Affiliate account, and a slightly larger amount each month from my Google Books / Google Play account.  And then, once a quarter, I get a sizable quarterly royalty payment from Smashwords.  Smashwords gets me on iTunes and Nook. 

I use my Smashwords payments for my quarterly tax payment.  It's pretty close to the amount I need to pay each quarter.  This is why you don't see an amount saved for taxes in the budget.  Smashwords conveniently takes care of that expense for me.  (Yay, Smashwords!)

Here's what my current budget looks like:

IRA Contribution -$458.00
Health Savings Account -$278.00
Investments -$250.00
Savings -$250.00
Direct TV -$88.36
RV Payment -$270.83
Health Insurance  -$210.22
SUV Insurance -$77.40
Other -$250.00
Verizon WiFi Hotspot -$130.00
Electric Bill -$80.00
Slack -$50.00
Editor & Cover Art -$350.00
Groceries -$600.00
SUV Gas  -$50.00

I never know what my income will be every month.  $3,500 is probably close to average.  Sometimes it's crazy high, like $4700.  Other times I dip below $3,000.  It depends if the ebook I put out that month was a success or not, or if I got lazy and didn't write anything for a month.  

I have a high deductible health insurance plan so I can have a health savings account.  It's an awesome tax deduction.  It's not so awesome if I have to use my health insurance (which is fairly useless) but I'm hoping I can skate on this plan for the year.

RV insurance isn't listed because we pay that yearly.  My Verizon plan is only 20 Gigabytes.  It's the only reliable mobile plan for me.  Gasoline is not that much because I work at home and my mom's retired. We don't drive much.  Slack is my buffer so I don't get overdrawn.  Other covers things like yearly subscriptions, prescriptions, clothes, gifts, and so forth.  

I don't have a cell phone.  We use my mother's cell as the 'house phone.' 

Here's what I expect for a budget once we hit the road:

IRA Contribution -$458.00
Health Savings Account -$278.00
Investments -$250.00
Savings -$250.00
Direct TV $0.00
RV Payment $0.00
Health Insurance  -$210.22
SUV Insurance -$77.40
Other -$250.00
Verizon WiFi Hotspot -$130.00
Electric Bill $0.00
Slack -$50.00
Editor & Cover Art -$350.00
Groceries -$600.00
SUV Gas  -$150.00
Camping -$250.00

I made the items that changed bold.  We're going to try to go without Direct TV.  The latest season of the Walking Dead ends right when we move out of the house, so we should be okay for a few months!  I think TV makes us fat.  If we end up using up the WiFi on downloading shows I will break down and get a cheapie satellite with an expensive Direct TV service for the RV.  For now we're going to try to go without.

RV payment is gone.  That's what the house sale is going to bless us with!  Electric bill is gone.  We have Solar panels on the RV.  If we stay at a campground for a full month I know we'll have to pay for electricity.  I don't have plans to do things that way for the near future.  I'm still playing things by ear to see how life goes.

Gas goes up by $100.  In prior months I budgeted much more for this, but gas prices have gone down.  They're creeping back up.  Hopefully it won't get too bad.

I'm budgeting $250 for camping.  If we stick with Thousand Trails for the most part we should stay under budget.  Our first month is going to be a lot more because I'm staying in town.  After that I'm hoping we can keep to this.  We're equipped to boondock.  I'll boondock if I have to!

You know what I really want, tho?

I want to know that I can survive on a much lower budget.  I want to work less and have less insecurity about dips in my income.  So here is my 'worse case scenario' budget.

IRA Contribution -$458.00
Health Savings Account -$278.00
Savings -$100.00
Health Insurance  -$210.22
SUV Insurance -$77.40
Other -$50.00
Verizon WiFi Hotspot -$130.00
Slack -$50.00
Editor & Photo Cover Art -$50.00
Groceries -$400.00
SUV Gas  -$100.00
Camping -$90.00

I would love to try a month of living on this budget and saving the excess.  I just don't want to make my mother suffer in the process.   

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Grand Tour

Today we emptied one shed (there's two at this house, one attached, one detached) and started moving stuff into the RV.

While we were there we had fun with the dinette!

As it turns out, our dining room also doubles as a spare bedroom.  Check it out!

(The woman in the corner is The Mom.)

It turns into a freaking full-sized bed!  I could lie down in it and stretch out without touching either end.  The cushions are thick and soft!  It's a really nice bed.  I bet all the other RVers out there are pretty jealous.

Our RV is the only RV ever made where you can turn the dinette into a bed.

I'm hoping that saying something outrageous like this will drive a little more traffic to this blog.  Fingers crossed!

Okay, on with the tour.

Here is my bedroom and office.  It used to be a bunk bed but I had the top bunk chopped off and made into a shelf.
This will be my office for work as well.  I work out of my bed where I live now.  I just switch from night mode to day mode by putting one of those pillows with the armrests you can sit against on it.  Then I have my laptop on my lap and do all my work. 

On the shelf up there I have a drawer for my undergarments and I will have a little file cabinet and the printer also.

I'm going to cover the window with a reflective shade thing.  There's blinds right now (pulled up all the way) but I can't be rolling over with my butt crashing into metal blinds all night.  I also don't want to be rolling around and nudge the blinds out of the way with my butt plastered against the window.  -_-

This door here is my en suite bath.  Let's go in, shall we?
Here's the shower/tub.  It's going to be where we keep the kitty litter when we're not bathing.  The bathroom has another entrance to the RV.  I guess this is for people to come in when they go swimming.  Amenities like these seem to be for people far wealthier and swankier than I.  (But I'll take them.)

 This toilet has not yet been christened.  I look forward to breaking it in.

There are four cupboards separating the bathroom from the kitchen.  I have a nice closet for hanging stuff in the top right one.  More of my belongings are in the lower right one.  The two left cupboards are the pantry.  This stainless steel fridge is so swanky, I don't even.

Here's more of our swanktastic kitchen.  Oh my, stainless steel microwave.  This is so important when you're roughing it. 
 Here's our entertainment center with flat screen TV.  (The TV in my house is still the kind with the big butt.)  We have so many strange remotes...I still don't even.
 This is the front door going around the side of the kitchen.  Nice cupboard for cleaning supplies.
 If you go left as you enter, behind the entertainment center, you go into my mom's bedroom.  It's an actual room.  She has sliding doors she can close.  It's hard to take pictures in this small space, but I tried.
 My mom has two hanging wardrobes.  One on each side of the bed.  Those polka-dotted things are wedge pillows so that the bed mimics her adjustable bed.  She needs to sleep sitting up a little.
If you have trouble picturing everything here's the floorplan again:

Buying Crap!

Well, not crap.  I'm buying stuff I need/want right now since I still have this mailing address.  Getting stuff from Amazon is going to get trickier in the future.  So here we go!  (These items are affiliate links from Amazon.  Turn off your add blocker to see them).

1.  A 3 Quart Crock Pot

I want an easy way to prepare meals in the RV.  It's great to have an oven, but it's tiny and appears to be annoying to light.  I don't want multiple pots and pans getting dirty because we're losing our dishwasher. 

I want to use the heck out of this nice 3 quart 'travel' crock pot so meals can be a little simpler.   My plan is to dump in all the ingredients the night before.  Let it go all night.  Then cook rice or quinoa at lunch to go with whatever I have cooking up.  I'm giving it a trail run tonight with healthy low-calorie chickpea curry.

2.  A Sun Pancho.

Okay.  FINE.  It's actually one of those capes they throw over you when you get your hair cut at a salon.  There is no such thing as a Sun Pancho.  I ought to make my own and pitch it on Shark Tank.

I am a very pale woman.  I have two shades:  pale and sunburned.  I don't tan.  Now, many activities I love, such as fishing, skating (um...what I call skating anyway), and exploring require exposure to the sun.  My face will always be slathered with heaping gobs of...well, this product:

My neckline, arms, and back of the neck will still be glowing white targets for the suns evil rays.  So, when I'm out on the lake or pond fishing I'm throwing this thing over me.  I'll also have a hat with a bandana under it to protect my neck.  (Actually, I wanted to get a full-on Muslim headscarf, but I don't want to insult anyone's religious beliefs.)

I want to actually get on the water to fish and relax.  My original plan was to get a big plastic dinghy that I could tie to the top of the SUV.  Then I remembered how incredibly lazy I am.  :/  So I got this:

3.  An Inflatable Raft.

Now, unless technology has vastly improved since I was a little kid, I accept that I'm probably going to use this a total of 3 times before it pops.  Meh, whatever.  It was cheap.

4.  A Curling Iron

A curling iron?  What does that have to do with RVing?  Squat.  That's what.  What this curling iron is really about is me starting to give a damn about my appearance again.

I am ready to rejoin society after two years in isolation.  I want to look cute, damn it!  I want to start actually putting an effort in.

If I may get a bit personal...  This last year of living in Pahrump I've been extremely depressed.  I came here to buy land to homestead and failed on a massive scale.  I found myself completely isolated from most people in dreary surroundings.  I lost all the external stimuli that had kept me going when I lived in Las Vegas.  What I had was time to be alone with my demons, and with illness, with failure, with weightgain--and I let myself go.

Depression is kind of like this:  You told yourself you would clean the house every Monday, but this Monday you just didn't want to.  And then another Monday has passed.  And you haven't showered in a few days.  And you actually went into a convenience store in your Hello Kitty pants because you needed something and no longer gave a damn how you looked.

I have not been giving a damn for the last year.

Well I am done with not giving a damn!  Today I went into a beauty salon and got a thick set of bangs.  I look so cute!  I was happy, and every time I looked in the mirror I felt happier.

The curling iron is so I can get the bangs in shape every morning, because my hair is a giant ball of friz.  I bought hairspray, too, something I haven't even thought of using for years.

5.  A New Mattress For My Mom

I am making her buy this with her own money (for once) so I don't have a link for what she got.  I bought her a new mattress for our old RV.  She's demanding another new one for this new RV.  Le sigh.

6.  A Fitbit

My mom and I are going to lose weight!  WE ARE.  I am determined!  I used to be relatively thin, but I gained 50 pounds while laid up with bone cancer in my leg.  I refuse to go back to being the fat girl I used to be anymore!

This is part of the reason we chose the Treasure Resort for our first month of full-timing.  They have an incredible fitness center!  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Using Thousand Trails with Ready Camp Go

The clock is ticking down for me, my mom, and our three cats.  We close on our house sale April 10th.  At that point we'll have no home except for our luxury palace on wheels.

It's Go Time!

I read a lot of blogs where the full-time RVers do tons of boondocking on free BLM lands and pay next to nothing for camping each year.  Some of these campgrounds look pretty sweet.  I'm surprised that there are so many lakes with free camping around them. 

Most, however, look like the vacant stretches of scrub brush I currently see stretching around my house.  I could probably manage to camp in such places sometimes...but I think it would be depressing long term.

I want some luxury and amenities!!

My best camping experience so far was last July when we went to Morro Bay to try out our old trailer.  It was by the ocean in a quaint little town with delicious oysters!  I had fun fishing off the pier and catching baby halibuts that got gently thrown back.  The other campers were so friendly! 

I would love to camp full-time on the California coast, but these places are expensive even off-season.  I'm too frugal for $1,100 worth of RV rent per month! 

$325 is well within my budget, however.  And that's how we're starting out.  We've booked a month at a very awesome RV park in town to tie off all the loose ends before wandering far afield.

What about after that?!

I just know I'm not resourceful enough to find free boondocks we actually will enjoy 365 days a year.  Also, part of the reason I'm getting out of Pahrump is because I'm too isolated here.  I want to occasionally be around other humans (preferably friendly ones).

So...last September we decided to buy a membership with Thousand Trails.  WAIT!  Don't rush out and buy yours yet.  This isn't quite a recommendation yet.  Read on!

Thousand Trails is a campground membership where you pay an annual fee in order to be able to camp at campgrounds in two of their 'zones.'  The zones we picked cover the whole southern half of the United States, from California to Florida.  Here's the skinny on Thousand Trails:

  1. For $600/year you gain access to campgrounds in two of their Zones.  They always seem to have the 'Two Zones for One Annual Fee' promotion going, so don't feel rushed to sign up.
  2. You can only stay 14 consecutive days at a Thousand Trails campground.  Then you must get out of their system for 7 days before starting a new stay. 
  3. The first 30 days you camp is no charge.  You then pay $3/night.
  4. If you stay four days or less and then move immediately to a different Thousand Trails campground you don't have to stay out of their system for 7 days.
  5. If you give them a hard sell when you are buying your membership they may sweeten the pot with a free gold membership to ReadyCampGo, which will give you 60 days at any Thousand Trails or Encore resort for $20/day.
If the 14 on 7 out caveat had been presented to me up front I probably wouldn't have bought the membership.  I thought this was solution to my full-time camping needs.  Alas, no.  The membership will require a lot of moves in and out with my unwieldy massive travel trailer. 

I figured I'd do 14 days at a Thousand Trails campground, boondock 7 days, and then check into another Thousand Trails campground.  Maybe?  I could probably put up with scrub brush for 7 days a month, right?  When I look closer at my Thousand Trails and Ready Camp Go memberships I'm hoping there's a better way to do things, which will require fewer moves.

I'm hoping I have a useable hack for Thousand Trails

Maybe I can stay my 14 days, and then book the next 7 days at the SAME CAMPGROUND with Ready Camp Go.  These could be my 7 days 'out'?  It would be $140 for 7 days, but that's within my campground budget (it would be $212/mo with the $3/day fee on the 'in' days).  Then I could go to a different Thousand Trails campground or perhaps even stay at the same campground for another 14 days.  This would cause me to only have to move every 35 days. 

I don't know if I could get away with this.  TT has lots of upgraded memberships they want to sell that give you longer times at the campgrounds.  I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

If this system works I would have 60 days a year to put towards 'out' days.  I think if I wanted to live at Thousand Trails resorts exclusively, and if my hack worked, I would probably need more 'out' days.  This means $299/year for a Platinum Ready Camp Go membership.  Plus $600 for Thousand Trails.  Plus the $20/mo for out days.  Plus $3/mo for in days.

I don't know...maybe I'd be better just doing monthly stays at campgrounds and boondocking occasionally?  I guess I just don't want to stay at shitty campgrounds, you know?  I didn't pick this life to save money.  The cheapest thing I could have done was stay in my house, which I'd already paid off in full.  I'm traveling for adventure, spirit reinvigoration, and to meet new people. 

On our way to Morro Bay we spent the night at a shitty campground for $20.  It had some creepy people, who obviously lived there forever, and one nice guy who seemed to like living there forever with the other creepy people.  (I was happy to meet him!)  Anyway, I would never want to live in such a campground forever, no matter how cheap it was.  It was in the middle of scrub brush desert, in an ass-crack of a little methville town with nothing but an overpriced gas station for miles.  P. U.!

On the other hand...we have stayed at one Thousand Trails campground and had a negative experience there also.  BUT WAIT!  It wasn't Thousand Trails fault!  The staff was nice.  The space we got was huge, in shade trees, and with a picnic table.  The problem was that it rained the whole time and we were stuck in our old tiny trailer being miserable.  My mother caught a nasty cold.

I picked this campground in Menifee California because there was supposedly fishing on site in the canals.  We stayed during the winter and the canals were empty of fish at the time.  It was still kind of fun to try.  But the days were short and sunny weather was sparse.  I was bummed.

Like I said, most of the problems with the Menifee Campground wasn't Thousand Trails Fault

...But I still wouldn't camp there again.  Well, maybe if we really got devoted to TT we'd end up there on the way to somewhere else, but I wouldn't make an effort to be there.  I had some problems which I seriously hope are the exception and not the rule.

People were not friendly.

Sorry.  It needed to be said.  By and large people stayed in their RVs watching TV and had no interest in socializing.  These were retired full-timers who seemed to resent having to live in crowded RV parks.  They wanted as much privacy as they could get in a place that smooshes you all together.  I got the cold shoulder a lot.  (I kind of worried that it was my old cheapie RV turning them off.  It was probably the cheapest RV in a sea of Class As and 5th Wheels and we might have been too poor for them to want to associate with?)

When I went to the 'adult' rec center the pool players found the interruption of my presence annoying and yelled at my mother to close the door.  @_@  Seriously people?  How rude!

In the 'all-ages' rec center we met a nicer older woman and also attended a really nice church service.  That was cool.  It was also not as beat up as the 'adult' center.

The other problem with Menifee--it's a puny town with only one good restaurant.  For most things you had to fight through traffic to get to Temecula and...TEMECULA SUCKS.  What a crowded, obnoxious place!!  The restaurants were terrible.  Grocery shopping was annoying.  Traffic traffic traffic!!  Plus it's expensive. 

If I never visit Temecula again it will be too soon!

If every Thousand Trails campground is as snooty, clannish, and poorly located as this one we will not be renewing our membership this coming September.  We're going to give it a solid chance, and I really hope it works out, but I'm not going to be married to it if it doesn't give me the life experience I'm looking for in this Full-Timing adventure.

So stay tuned to future posts to see how we end up rating our Thousand Trails membership!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Solar for our 31' Trailer With Costs

Today the guy from Four Seasons RV (in Pahrump, NV) worked all day getting my solar set-up installed.  Unfortunately it started raining hardcore at 4pm, so he had to quit early.  My RV is parked in a place that turns into sludge when it rains.  He just couldn't keep going, but he will finish tomorrow.

I had most of the materials, but he had to provide additional cable, connectors, and screws to mount stuff.

Here's a cost break down of the entire price of my solar set-up.  I AM CHEAP, and I think I did well.  I've linked to anything I bought through Amazon.  Everything else was from the W store.  I added shipping costs to the price for anything that I didn't get through Amazon Prime (which you should totally sign up for using my affiliate link right there).

Three 29DC 12V Batteries w/Cores @$98.83/ea  $269.49
Battery Storage Box (It was a clear plastic tub w/lid) $11.97
A vent hose to vent fumes out of the battery box $22.70
Renogy 30 Amp PWM Charge Controller $29.99
Two Unisolar 128 Watt Flexible Solar Panel @$139/ea $278.00
Extra Cable (wasn't enough) $26.78
Sunforce 11240 1000 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter $167.49
A Days Worth of Labor from Mobile RV Service $650.00


For a 256 Watt system I'd say we did pretty good.  

I get worried when I see how much more other people paid for a lot of stuff.  I think some RVers are using solar electricity businesses or RV Superstore places to get and install stuff.  I did it the cheapie way I do everything.  Hopefully it doesn't bite me in the butt.  The guy who was doing the installation approved everything I bought, so fingers crossed!

He had to use a spindle's worth of additional cable ($75, included in his labor price) and put copper connectors on the batteries.  (The black and red cable spindles are behind the ladder there).

He recommended I get 31DC batteries but the W store only went up to 29DC.  He said that was fine.

Those copper connecters at the end of the red and black cables were provided by the guy I hired.  I have a FOUR battery bank.  These three are also connected to the house battery which lives outside the RV on the hitch.  They are all 12 Volt.

The batteries will live in the RV basement.   He didn't vent the tub yet, but it's necessary to vent the battery fumes to the outside.  He will be drilling a hole in the tub, putting my hose in it, and putting the vent end of the house through another hole drilled to the outside.  This will keep the inside of the RV from getting damaged by battery acid fumes.

The tub was the right size to fit all three batteries *and* fit inside the basement.  It is a Sterlight 90 Quart 13.4"L x 19.1"W x 30.0"H.

By using stick-on solar panels I avoided causing any damage to the roof.

These were cheap and easy.  Reviews said that they stay on forever...but my guy seemed a little dubious.  He said he could peel them off to reposition them.  I'm concerned.  I may have to consider a roof-safe adhesive (he said there was one product safe for rubber roofs, Dicor or something).

Pictured below is my inverter.  As I said in the previous post, the only way we can use AC power (for stuff you plug in) is with an inverter.  The outlets in the RV will not work while we're dry camping.  Only DC power stuff, like the lights, will work without an inverter.

To use our laptops, TV, and wifi hotspot we're going to need to plug the stuff directly into the inverter.  

The inverter will live in our RV basement, but a power strip will be fed up into my mother's RV bedroom area inside.  Everything we need to plug in while dry camping will have to be off that power strip.  We'll be bringing extension cords!

Our inverter came with a remote control which will be mounted inside my mother's bedroom also.  This way we can turn it off and on without having to go into the RV basement.     

I won't be testing out this set-up for several weeks.  If I find problems I will post them in this blog under the solar label.  Be sure to follow and check back!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ghosts of Trailers Past

That spiffy looking 31' Evo Trailer is actually the second trailer we bought.  Like typical crumb-bums we did what everyone does and bought the wrong rig at first.

We used to have a KZ Sportsman Classic 240.

This was a 28' trailer with no slides.  This is an approximate picture from the KZ site.  Ours looked a little different.

Now when we decided to go full-time RVing we had a Chevy HHR which couldn't tow anything.  Seriously.  I had to use it for a big convention once and I needed a little U-Haul to fit all my stuff.  It could barely tow the smallest U-Haul!

I knew we needed to trade in our car for a tow vehicle.  My thinking was that we should get a truck so I could get a 5th Wheel.  A 5th Wheel would be easier to tow than a trailer (I believed...maybe I'm wrong?  We never found out).

We went to a car dealership to check out some trucks.

The first truck we looked at was a Nissan Titan that could tow up to 9,000 pounds!  

It was in our price range--meaning we could get it with our trade-in and the cash we had.  We hate financing anything!  I was ready to sign on the dotted line!  The only thing was, my mom needed to be able to drive it too.  This would be our tow vehicle and our every day vehicle.

My mom could not see over the steering wheel.

This was just too much truck for her.  She was not going to be able to drive it.  So we ended up with a Ford F150 instead.  I was so happy that she seemed able to drive this one that I went ahead and bought it.

Only later did I realize it could only tow 5,500 pounds.  This pretty much meant we couldn't get an 5th Wheel.  Yes, there were one or two brands back in 2012 that met our weight restrictions.  There's even more now.  However, all the 5th wheels available to me at the time did not have floor plans I could work with.

We need separate sleeping areas!

Not just separate beds, but separate bedrooms.  We both need space and privacy.  Our ideal floorplan has beds on opposite ends of the RV.

All the 5th wheels I saw in our weight range only had one permanent sleeping area over the hitch.  To get a second sleeping area required converting the dinette to a bed.  Where would we eat?  There was no way I was going to build and tear down my bed every day.

It looked like a travel trailer was the only thing that would work for us.

I liked the KZ Sportsman because it had the floorplan I wanted and was under 4,000 pounds.  We could safely tow it loaded up with our F150.


As you see, my 'bedroom' would be the bunks in the back.  My mom got the big bed in the front.  We had a dining room (the dinette) and a living room (the gaucho)! 

We took the RV for a test run in Morro Bay California and found it was difficult to live in.  When I got back I started my modifications:
  1. I cut the top bunk in half so I could sit up in bed and use my computer, and have a little shelf for my stuff.
  2. I replaced the toilet to a higher and bigger one so my mom would have less trouble using it.
  3. I put a rod across my top bunk area (now a shelf) so I could have enough room to hang my clothes.
  4. I replaced my mother's mattress with a nicer one.
  5. I installed a curtain in front of my bunk.
  6. I put three hanging things above and on the side of her bed so she would have room to hang her clothes.
  7. I padded the edge of the dinette so it wouldn't poke my mom when she slid in and out to sit.
  8. I installed a lip on my mom's side bed shelf so she could keep a big trunk there with more of her stuff.
  9. I put hanging stuff under the cupboards so we could hang pots and pans.
  10. I attached a spice rack on the side of the cupboard (above the gaucho).
  11. I took the door off the storage under the gaucho so my cats had a place to hide.
Then we got rid of our truck and got a Nissan Armada which could tow 9,000 pounds.  We bought this on a whim.  We really weren't looking to buy a new vehicle, and we stood fast to our numbers.  When they wouldn't give us the deal we wanted we shrugged and made to leave, but they chased us down and let us have the beautiful luxury SUV for our trade-in and a modest amount of cash.

Man do we love this SUV!  It's so much easier for my mom to drive than the truck was!

I felt that we were now ready to live here comfortably in our RV full-time.  We bought a campground membership with Thousand Trails and took the newly modified RV out for a second test run using our newish (it was used) SUV for a tow vehicle. 

At this time our house was already for sale and we had gotten rid of the bulk of our belongings.  

I moved us completely into the RV to make sure that we really could fit all our stuff.  It took some doing, but we were fully moved in!

This trip was pretty miserable.  It rained the whole time so we were trapped in our tiny tin-can which got very humid inside.  Even with the new toilet using the bathroom was still a pain in the you-know-what.  My mother has mobility issues and just didn't have enough room to do her business.  I hated it too because the door hit your knees when you closed it.  I'm not going to give a TMI, but we just hated that tiny bathroom.

I had a bone tumor in my leg that had laid me up and caused me to gain a lot of weight.  My tiny bunk was torture to sleep in.  Ugh!

We really were stepping over each other a lot while trapped in the RV.  You can't walk past each other without one moving out of the way of the other.  Cooking with all my hanging stuff dangling all over the place was a pain too.  Getting stuff out of the jam-packed cupboards and from the dinette storage was difficult.

This was just not going to be a good situation for us.

On the way back from California I saw a Giant RV Superstore sign from the highway and pulled in!  We weren't planning to buy anything, but we wanted to know what better options were out there for us now that we had much greater tow capacity.

I still had the same criteria:  Two separate sleeping areas, no slides, and something small and easy to tow.  They showed me just that!  A wonderful Forest River RV that would give us a better layout and still be relatively easy for me to tow.  Bigger bathroom.  Bigger bed for me.  I was ready to grab it!!

But then my mom asked to see this other one...


Well, it was longer than my 28' max and had a slide, which I really didn't want due to cats getting in them and possible mechanical problems.

My mom and I went to lunch to discuss things.  Were we really going to buy a new RV?  My mom put it to me this way:  "I'm not going to live full-time in our piece of $@#! camper."

Wow...don't hold back.  Tell me what you really think!

Seriously, though.  The KZ just wasn't going to work for us.  We were trying to make it into something it wasn't.  We really needed a bigger rig.  Either of the ones we saw would be a vast improvement to what we had.

I voted for the shorter RV without the slide, because I'm the driver!  It was hard enough to tow a 28' RV.  I didn't want to go even bigger!

My mom had already fallen in love with the 31' Evo with the slide.  ::sigh::  And that's the one we ended up buying.

This is my dream, not my mom's.  I have to make sure she's happy.

And so, we are getting ready to start our adventure in this sweet RV we have now.  It's so swanky!  Every time we go into it we fall in love.

Of course...I can barely get the thing from point A to point B without a panic attack, and it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to back it in to a spot in any way shape or form...but we're doing this by golly!!

And I got a secret weapon for my backing up problem, so we're going to be just fine.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Things are Humming Along!

Today I went to the store that shall not be named (starts with W) and purchased three huge batteries and a nice plastic tub to house them.

These are easily 75 pounds a piece.  The guy from Four Seasons RV said to get 31AH or higher.  The highest the W store had was 29AH.  I understand that the higher you go the bigger the battery.  I'm barely going to fit these three in the RV basement.

These hopefully will be good enough!


The plastic tub I got will fit all three batteries and will fit in the RV basement (yay!).  So with the vent thing I bought in the last post we should have a good house for them with a vent that will get the battery acid fumes out of the storage area.  Some holes will have to be drilled for the vent and the wires.  I'll leave that to the professional.

Sultan felt a cute cat picture was necessary at this point, so here he is!  


We've been trying to sell our house since January.  We got an great offer Monday and signed off on it!  We (the mother and I) were so relieved that we would be done with house showings. 


We got a call from the real estate agent asking if she could bring the buyers by to see the house.  What?  Didn't they already see it?  Weren't they the people who came last week?

Apparently the people who are buying our house bought it sight unseen!


Things have been crazy with the housing market in Pahrump Nevada for the last two weeks.  We used to be lucky to have a showing every two weeks or so.  Then suddenly we were getting two showings a week!  On Monday we had two offers!  We signed off on this one before the other was presented to us.  It was a good offer, but we would have been happy with the other offer too.  House sales just picked up like crazy lately!

I was glad to meet the nice retired couple who are buying our house.  They really seemed to like it.  We've had a sale fall through in the past which made me nervous the second time around.  I really think this sale is going to go through.  They were very determined to get our house!  We're selling it furnished and they liked our furniture, especially my mother's adjustable bed!  This is going to make it easy from them to move here from up North.

As you know I'm a novelist...

I make a very decent income, but it can fluctuate wildly.  I don't have the security of a predictable pay check.  Part of being able to do what I love full-time means I need to live very frugally.  Two years ago we bought the house we live in for $32,700.

Yes--it was that cheap!

Because it was a hoarder house with walls caved in, knee-high piles of trash, and a stench that would kill a house plant.  We filled a 16-wheeler with the trash we had to haul out of this place.  I spent a month cleaning and renovating before we were able to move in.  We put in new floors, new toilets, ceiling fans, new walls, new roof, new appliances, new central air, new vents--on and on!!  We made this house beautiful.  And now we're selling it for $70,000.

Yes, that's still very cheap.  It's a 20 year old manufactured home, but I still think it's wonderful now.  The new owners should be very happy with it.  It has an acre of land surrounded by a nice chain link fence.  :)

Beside the house in this picture is our old KZ Sportsman.  My mom said it was too small to live full time in.  I tried to convince her otherwise, but I want her to be happy.  We got our much bigger Forest River now.  I know for sure we'll live happily in there!  It's huge and so nice.  Even if we decide we don't want to travel any more we can park it somewhere and still live in it very happily.