Basking in the Quiet at Craggy Wash in Arizona

Is the rest of Arizona as beautiful as Lake Havasu City? Throughout the day, I find myself staring at the sky, the mountains, and clouds.

Clouds and Mountains

Every few minutes the scenery changes and I wish I was better skilled at landscape photos, but, that’s Dave’s speciality. I usually take better photos of people or things. Like our van.

I took this photo shortly after we arrived at Craggy Wash, our home for the night.

Boondocking at Craggy Wash in Arizona

No, I do not miss having a house thank-you-very-much. I mean really, what is there to miss from a house?

In related news, over the past few days I learned I do not need Hot Water. Honestly, the fact that we don’t have hot water right now has been no big deal at all. I’m shocked that I feel that way, and I’m grateful for this little life-lesson. I thought hot water was a necessity. Apparently, it isn’t for us.

After dinner I sent Dave to grab some of his amazing sunset photos. He didn’t disappoint. Can you believe that sky? Thank you Arizona, you’re being an amazing and gracious host!

Craggy Wash Sunset Photo by Dave

 

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Chilling Out in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

It looks like we’ll be staying in Lake Havasu City for a little while longer. Though our Hot Water Heater was working a tiny bit, it is now completely dead. Poof. It lives no more. As of yesterday it had a little life left in it and the manufacturer was going to send some parts our way. By last night, the Hot Water Heater was totally dead, so we went back to the local shop we’ve been working with, and more parts are on the way.

Since Thanksgiving is this week and Girard is shipping us parts via slow travel, we’ll be without hot water for quite a bit longer.

I have to give a quick shout out to the local shop we’ve been working with, Canyon Country RV, Truck & Auto Service Center. They have done everything possible to try to get us up and running, balancing calls between Pleasure Way (maker of our van), and Girard (maker of our hot water heater), and have spent a lot of time working on this issue. I overheard one of their calls today and they were requesting on our behalf that Girard overnight the parts because this is our home – of which I definitely appreciate the request! Girard declined though, but wow, huge thumbs up to Canyon Country RV! They are clearly acting as advocates on our behalf, not something I’m accustomed to at repair shops!

After spending a good part of the day at the repair shop again today, Dave and I headed over to Lake Havasu State Park for the night, and I have to say, it’s beautiful here!
Lake Havasu State Park

Though one of the reasons we chose this park was because of the high reviews of their showers (because… no hot water… remember?), we still chose to use our own bathroom this evening for a shower!

We have a Class B Van, with a wet bath. From what I’ve read, many folks (possibly even most) who have wet baths never use their shower, instead opting for campground facilities. We chose this van knowing the pros and cons of a wet bath and fully intended to use it as it is part of our home. I think by opting to take a full, 100% cold water shower, over using a shower just a hundred feet away that fully works – marks as completely and totally crazy. But you know what? That’s okay!

It’s Been That Kind of Day

While shopping today, I learned that Walmart sells wine. 

I know nothing about wine. I have no place to store any wine bottles (because, I live in a van).

I am also trying to reduce dish-washing since today, we have had NO hot water. Zip. Zilch.

Walmart Wine

I may have possibly purchased a 4-pack of these itty bitty wine bottles. As single serving bottles, no dish-washing required.

Yes, I live in a van. Yes, I purchased wine at Walmart. I’m a little scared what this says about me…

Why We Are Counting Down: 3.5 Weeks to Go

Have you ever had to live without hot water? Most people I know were born and raised in the U.S. and have probably never given much thought to hot water. You turn on the hot tap, and a few seconds later, hot water rushes forth. It’s almost miraculous when you think about it.

I’m not sure if it’s worse not having any hot water at all, or having a water heater that only works on occasion. Flip a coin – are you feeling lucky?

We’ve had our hot water “fixed” once already, when it was working less often than it is now, but it’s still finicky, and even when it works “as designed” – it won’t work properly for us. It also isn’t always even working as designed, but I’ll get to that.

We have a Girard Tankless Hot Water Heater. For some reason, some RV manufacturers have decided to forgo traditional hot water tanks and use a tankless system. There are a lot of marketing claims involved such as: “instant hot water” and “endless hot water” (neither of which is actually true). You can spend hours reading all the complaints about Girard Tankless systems if you like, there is a lot of chatter out there.

When you have a hot water tank, the water is heated and stored in a tank for your use. If you run out of hot water, you need to wait for more to be heated. In a tankless system, the water is heated AS IT FLOWS through the pipes. This is a huge difference, and can be very problematic in an RV.

The way our hot water system works, I mean, the way it is designed to work, is you must turn the hot water on to it’s fullest setting, wait about 12 seconds, and then you should have hot water. However, if you turn off the faucet while you soap up dishes, or wash your hair, then turn the water back on, it will NOT be hot anymore. If you are only turning the water off for about 2 or 3 seconds it will be okay, but there is a short point of time where it isn’t. Instead, the water will often be lukewarm, then very cold again, then maybe it will start to get hot again. Or, you may need to turn the faucet off, wait until the system stops entirely (a few minutes), then turn it on and wait again. All the while, wasting quite a bit of water. Perhaps gallons.

In other words, the our tankless water heater gives us the worst shower experience possible. Sometimes there has been screaming involved. I also don’t mind hand-washing dishes in normal circumstances. I DO mind washing dishes with ice cold water.

Now, keep in mind, we have a 30 gallon fresh water tank. If we are connected to water service (and sewer service) at a campground then sure, we can take a long hot shower as long as we never turn the water off. Many campgrounds do not offer full hookups, so here is where the physical limitations begin.

Our shower head is rated for 2.5 gallons per minute. Due to the Girard design and high flow needs, we are unable to switch to an Oxygenics shower head with a lower flow rate. We are also unable to practice any water conservation methods, such as using the pause button on our shower head (pausing the water while soaping and shampooing can save several gallons of water).

Here’s what I’m trying to say…

  • Our water heater works only on occasion
  • The Girard tankless water heater encourages horrible water conservation practices (it prohibits them entirely)
  • The Girard tankless water heater makes bookdocking (dry camping) impossible. Want to get way from a campground? Better have huge water tanks!

Since our water heater only works on occasion, I’ve had my share of ice cold showers (I don’t recommend it, it’s excruciating), and washed dishes with cold water, making myself freezing in the process.

One of our main goals for getting the van we did was to dry camp in remote locations and go off grid. The way things are now, being at campsites with only partial hookups is stressful because we don’t have the tank sizes to allow “endless water!” It also takes a person near the water temperature dial in the kitchen to alter the hot water temperature as needed because if you alter the temp at the faucet and add cold water – you’re pretty much screwed and have to turn everything off again, wait, etc. These are not things you want to be doing while you are mid-shower. And yes, every single shower Dave or I have had in the van has included asking the other person standing in the kitchen to adjust the dial. Girard – what were you thinking when you designed this system?!

Obviously living with our current hot water system is not an option.

After much research, we have decided that switching to a water tank may be too much retrofitting (surgery) for our van. There is a different make and model of a tankless water heater that supposedly will continue to allow hot water even when pausing the water flow, or lowering the rate (using a water conserving shower head). Although we would much prefer a water TANK, switching to another tankless shouldn’t be too hard with our current van configuration.

Once we decided on the water heater to get, we then researched the available service centers that work with these water heaters – and found a highly rated center in Chino, California. We have an appointment in a few weeks and I am counting down the days! I can’t wait to take a hot shower the proper way – pausing water and all! Boondocking, here we come!

Frodo Playing in the Snow

There is a time and place to be cold – such as your dog playing in the Snow!

Lions Dog Park in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – 4 Paws Up

Our poor dog. In the last few weeks we have traveled through Arizona, Nevada, California, and now Arizona again – and in that time he has not set his paws-to-grass. Thankfully he’s fairly adaptable and was able to adjust to rock gardens but still… he’s a dog! He likes grass! We were also quite busy moving out of one RV into another, in a very tight timeframe. I think Frodo was feeling neglected. It was way past time to get this dog to a DOG PARK!

Thankfully, we discovered Lions Dog Park in Lake Havasu City, Arizona!

Lions Dog Park in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

The off-leash area was HUGE, and very well cared for – and – it has grass. In Arizona! Real grass in a dog park! Sadly we’ve seen too many parks recently labeled “dog park” that were sand pits – um – that doesn’t count!

It was really awesome to have such a large area where we were allowed to let Frodo just be himself. He’s very well behaved and loves socializing (in the photo below, he had just greeted the man on the bench, before running back to us).

Frodo Having Fun

And Frodo makes friends everywhere he goes, this was just one of his playmates today.

Frodo and a Friend

Since Frodo got to run and greet people and dogs, he was able to wear himself out from play. It’s a great thing to see him tired from playing! A tired dog is a happy dog!

A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog

We may stay in Lake Havasu City for a few days so I hope to have an opportunity to take him back to this park. If you are traveling with your dog, Lions Dog Park a must-visit park! Frodo gives it 4 paws up! For real, he’s sleeping on his back snoring right now, all paws in the air. It was really nice to give him a good play day!

Our Day Ended in Needles, California

Today was a busy day. We planned to leave Las Vegas and it’s windy, windy weather by heading just a few hours south – but had several errands to run first. We worked in the morning, then buttoned the van down and headed to Whole Foods, Home Depot, and a Gas Station for propane. It took us a long time to get everything done so we were glad our actual travel time would only be two hours. Errands still happen though, it’s just a fact of life!

We lunched at our propane-fill location but got kicked out by security because we were apparently in a (unmarked) commercial parking only lot. Okay then. It was at Home Depot then when Dave ran in to get some necessary supplies, that I finished up from lunch by washing dishes and brushing my teeth — yes — in the Home Depot parking lot. That felt odd, and hysterical at the same time.

Our Van

It was wonderful today to reach nicer weather in Needles. Last night in Vegas we experienced winds with gusts of 50mph, which, is WINDY. And chilly wind is COLD. And cold, windy weather makes me unhappy. A two hour drive straight South from Vegas gave us weather ten degrees warmer with less wind. Talk about a win-win!

Needles, California is just a small town on the Colorado River – so some folks who live here have a spectacular view!

Cool View

But it also has a lot of character.

Town with Character

And interesting plants.

Cactus

Some that look half alien. We didn’t get to look too close at this cactus/tree/thing, because it had things on the ground near it that were prickly, and Frodo appeared to get one up his nose. He didn’t like that (he’s okay), so we just kept on walking.

Alien Cactus

Tomorrow we need another trip to Home Depot so we plan to drive to a nearby larger town so we can get a few more household chores done. You can leave the house behind but not all the chores!

Over and out!

No. Oh no. What Have We Done? (The Unbelievable!)

Over the last week I’ve questioned my sanity thousands of times. Thousands. But I’m happy to say, I’m sure we did the right thing. I realize that this post may also make most folks who know us think we are crazy, but that’s okay!

Okay, let me back up. Oh where oh where do I start?!

We purchased a truck and travel trailer back in August, and soon there-after sold our house. All has been relatively great in regards to some of that, but not all. Sometimes, it simply takes true-life experience to evaluate goals and see how they really pan out. As it turns out, it isn’t that we weren’t meeting our goals, but in fact, our goals have changed.

Initially we simply wanted to be house-less, and at the same time, have a better work-life balance and see the country very slowly. We figured we would hop around from one place to another staying in places for long periods of time (a month to a full-time traveler is a long time!) – but that isn’t quite working out for us.

As we made the journey to South Dakota, and then back to warmer weather, we realized how much we were missing out on by our restricted travel method. Going from Point A-to-Point-B without an option to stop along the way to explore cool things that caught our attention was very frustrating. It felt like trying to hang glide with a cement block tied to our ankles.

With a truck and a 30-foot travel-trailer, there isn’t an option to go exploring without proper planning. The method of travel  with a travel-trailer is setup like a Hub and Spoke. You park the trailer somewhere (often at a campground, or bookdocking location if you’re lucky) as your hub – and then use your tow vehicle to explore in as many different directions you like, each time returning back to your hub location.

The Hub and Spoke method of travel feels like such a huge waste, and overly planned. Also, every single time we have a travel day to get to specific area (or time to explore), we have to “pack” for the day. With our rapid travel pace to South Dakota, we found ourselves “packing” EVERY DAY! With an average of at least four hours in the truck, we had to pack everything we wanted with us for the day – water (multiple bottles), snacks, cameras, you name it. Sure, we did stop at rest stops and switched over to eat lunch in the trailer, but each stop like that adds a large amount of time to an already long day of travel. Restroom breaks can be frustrating as well because sometimes there is a long break between rest stops – and our bathroom was behind us, but inaccessible. When we did have an opportunity to stop, we were usually limited to truck rest stops where there was enough room to drive through with our full rig (50 or so feet of vehicles).

What has surprised both of us is how our goals have changed since we first set out on this path.

We want to travel much more frequently than we originally planned. We want to drive from one area to another and see what we like in between – and simply see where that takes us. We want to have the freedom to go in any direction we choose and simply “go”. It seems silly when traveling with your house behind you that you need to pack for the day, but without any way to access our house from the road – that’s how it is. So, we wanted to change our travel method. It would appear that many full-time travelers change their RV setup on almost a yearly basis, though before now I couldn’t figure out why people make the change. Now I know! It takes living on the road to gain the experience of what it’s really like, and see what you think. We never would have predicted we would feel the way we do, or guess the direction we are headed.

After hours and hours and hours of research to determine our needs, and the options available, we have changed our setup!

Here’s the thing. In addition to traveling on a frequent basis, we also want the flexibility to go anywhere. If the downtown area we are near looks cool – we want to go walk around and take photographs! We also need to be able to run regular errands such as get groceries, which means fitting into a normal parking space (or close to it).

After exploring all the various RV options out there, our needs, and budget to make the change – We found something perfect. So…

We sold our Airstream. It’s gone. We have sold our truck. They’re both gone. I’m sad about the truck, I LOVED our truck! We are continuing on with our travels as planned, living full-time on the road only…

We are now living in a Class B RV. Not familiar with the term? It’s basically a van, with the various things we need such as a kitchen, bathroom, and a place to sleep. At 22’9″ it has everything we need to live comfortably, and travel spectacularly.

Yes We Live in a Van

My life will never be the same. Neither will Dave’s. I hope you continue to follow us along our journey as we continue to see this fantastic country of ours, and see just exactly how we are managing to live in a space so small. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say about tiny-house living!

We Are The Crazy People

It’s been over a week since my last update, and it isn’t because I haven’t had anything to say – but rather because I have no idea how to say it.

Sharon and Dave

We did something crazy. Seriously, out and out crazy – even for us! This blog (Drink More Decaf) is for me, and for us – so we can look back and see the things we’ve done and places we’ve been. However, friends and family read DMD as well, so I have been hesitant to write about our most recent change.

On one hand, I know people look at us and think we’re nuts from time to time (sometimes more often than not), as I’ve had people flat out tell me that! On the other hand, I also know better than to worry about what other people think.

Over the years the best things in my life have come about from doing the things that scared me, the moments that forced me to really step outside my comfort zone and go for the gold. And in the end, I’ve won big every-single-time. I can’t think of any major decision I’ve made in my life that has turned out to be a mistake. Sure, I’ve had some growing pains, learned some lessons, and grew as a person, but nothing has made me say – wow, that was awful.

So with all that in mind, knowing almost everyone who reads this will think that we are completely out of our minds… I’ll let you in on our latest update. Soon.

It’s a Beautiful Day in Tucson, Arizona!

We had a choice between struggling for warmth in Las Cruces, New Mexico – or getting to BE warm and comfortable in Tucson. It was an obvious choice really, and we are finally somewhere that will have good weather for a while so we don’t need to rush off anywhere.

Even though our race across the country has been at a much faster pace than we plan to travel for any length of time – it’s been an amazing journey. We have had a wonderful opportunity to preview areas where we would like to have extended time to explore. St. Louis, Missouri looks like a blast for urban photography, Columbia, Missouri will be a great place to relax, and New Mexico? Give me a month in New Mexico – or maybe two! There is so much to see and do and explore!

For now though, today we are in Arizona. And it’s gorgeous! I can understand why people spend their winters in Arizona. Who wouldn’t want to be here?

Palm Tree

Something screams H.P. Lovecraft about this plant. Maybe because it was larger than me!

HP Lovecraft Plant

The Tao of Dog says, a dirty dog is a happy dog. At least according to me. And Frodo. A dirty beard means lots of nose-to-ground time – heaven for a scent-driven dog!

Happy Dog Frodo

If an opportunity presents itself to reach out and grab something – do it.

Sharon Tucson Arizona Pull-up

But be careful around cacti, particularly when they are close to ten feet tall…

Southwest Architecture

Southwest landscaping is pretty nifty though, I’m quite drawn to it.

Southwest

And architects are smart to build in sun-shades where it is necessary.

Sun Shades

But one of the coolest things we saw today was the most unexpected!

Car Parade

Wait, are they slowing down for the camera? They are! See the wave?

Car Parade 2

This guy was awesome, he honked for us!

Car Parade 3

Reason #101 why you should always have your camera!

Car Parade 4