The Beauty Around Us – Grover Beach, California

I almost cried today.

Flowers

I feel like we’ve been traveling non-stop for days, though really it’s the planning that has me feeling so beat. At last, we arrived today at Grover Beach, California – a place where we will be for at least the next month.

After settling into the RV park, we took Frodo out for quick stroll and to explore. Grover Beach – the actual Beach – the actual Pacific Ocean – is less than a mile from where we will be sleeping.

As we approached the beach, I could smell the salt in the air. There is no smell better than that of the ocean.

Grover Beach Entrance

Grover Beach was *cold. Windy. And beautiful. I darn near cried. I mean, I really had to stop and take a deep breath.

It was easy to understand the excitement of those around us.

Excitement

Dave and I are a few days shy of our 10th wedding anniversary. We’ve only taken one vacation ever, and that was on our first anniversary. This year, though we aren’t on vacation, it will definitely seem like it! I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to get to celebrate our life together.

Happy Anniversary Dave! ❤️

Dave

About the cold… *This sunbird gets cold in temperatures under 70 degrees. After recently being in 90 degree temperatures with 15 percent humidity, 68 degrees on the beach with 12 mile an hour winds, and 60 percent humidity felt cold. That’s okay. I’ll adjust!

Impulse Shopping in Bakersfield, California

It’s not what you think, I promise. We were less than 5 miles from our designated stop for the night when the signs on the side of the road started taunting us. It wasn’t even out of our way, we were going to have to pass right BY it.

And it, is the California Fruit Depot. It’s really hard to pass up signs for fresh, locally grown Oranges and Medjool Dates! So of course, we stopped to check it out. We bought as much as we had space for in our kitchenette, and since we just got groceries yesterday, that wasn’t much. But we can always find room for more oranges and dates. And dried fruit. And nuts. Really, it’s awesome, you have to check it out.

California Fruit Depot

For any fellow travelers out there, they had signs declaring RVs & Trucks welcome, so be sure to add this place to your stop if you’re passing through Bakersfield, California!

Tonight we’re hanging our hats at the Desert Palms Mobile Home Park & RV Park, which like I mentioned, is just a few miles away from the California Fruit Depot. It’s a Passport America site which gives 50% off on weekdays (tonight is only $15 – for full hookups – sweet!), and, they sell propane onsite if you need a refill.

When we arrived and checked in I saw they mentioned on the site map they have a dog park. I laughed. Dog Runs or Dog Parks in RV Parks are usually a screened in fence that tends to be somewhere along the size of 6 feet by 6 feet. Well, this place DOES actually have a fenced in area, with grass, big enough where your dog can actually run!

Dog Park

See? I was standing so far away I have to show you a cropped view to see Frodo!

Frodo Close Up

And because we’re in California, this photo seemed appropriate!

Palm Trees

We’ve only been here for a few hours and we’ve gone through half the stash of oranges we just picked up. I wonder if we have time to go back tomorrow…

Just Passing Through: Barstow, California

We’ve been in Pahrump, Nevada for the last few days, mostly just as a resting point and time to plan. Before we left Lake Havasu City, Arizona, the temperatures were sky rocketing above 90 degrees, which was a bit difficult for us to handle. The AC in our coach definitely gets our van cooled off fast, but at those temperatures as soon as it turns off – it turns right back on again, so it basically has to run non-stop during the heat of the day.

I had a brief moment of panic after my camera wouldn’t turn on (which is stored in a heat sensitive place). Thankfully, all is well with my camera, it had just over heated. And with that, we knew it was time to leave. However, we still didn’t know where we were going! If you haven’t read the last post, it explains why our plans were still up in the air.

Today was a typical travel day for us. We got up before dawn, worked for several hours, walked the dog, disconnected from our spot in an RV Park, got fuel, got groceries, had lunch – and THEN hit the road to travel for several hours (and will work more once we get settled). I often fall asleep at some point during our travel time (obviously, Dave is driving) and I feel bad about it when this happens. For one thing, I feel like I’m abandoning Dave, and for another, I miss out on half the fun! But, with the way our travel days go, I can’t help it sometimes.

I’m starting to accept the idea that our method of travel doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. If I fall asleep, it’s okay. Well, mostly. Anyway, moving on…

We arrived at our overnight stop in Barstow, California and I took a few snapshots while we walked Frodo. I was so tired I didn’t think I’d take photos, so these were all taken with my iPhone. Note to self: ALWAYS bring camera. Always!

I love wide, open blue skies. I always have to stop and stare (and take photos).

Blue Sky

For some reason, I really dig overnight stops. Everyone is simply, “passing through,” and the owners we’ve encountered have always been really friendly. It almost feels like a step back in time to when people were always courteous and friendly, and stops like this just have a really good vibe to them. Small towns are awesome.

Shady Lane RV Park

This is the craziest tree I have ever seen…

Crazy Tree

All right, we’re all tucked in for the night, with another travel day ahead of us tomorrow.

Van Tucked In

G’night!

Secrets Full-time RV’ers Will Never Tell You

Sharon and Dave 2015Secret #1. Rv’ing can be super cheap, but it can also be incredibly expensive. Of course this seems obvious, but it’s being new to the road that will bite your finances. You will make mistakes with regard to planning, and most of them will be ones that cost you money.

Most people will say you don’t need to make reservations, and whether you do or not depends on your flexibility.

Secret #2. Your RV will limit your flexibility. Weather will limit your flexibility. Add your budget to the mix and you have the perfect storm. Ha! No really, so you want to go visit Anytown, USA? You will be limited by time of year, temperature, and costs. This is of course obvious, but the actual assembly of this 3D puzzle in real life with real constraints is incredibly difficult. It involves researching an area with regard to weather and elevation, potential places to stay, costs to stay there, and speed of getting there. Faster is more expensive, slower (using Weekly or Monthly rates) is cheaper. Sometimes you can’t opt to go the speed of your choice.

The different ways your RV limits you is the following: How much insulation do you have? Are your water tanks heated? How well does your AC work? Are you able to boondock and go offgrid if you want to (if so, for how long?). Even knowing the answers to these and having an idea of how things will play out, doesn’t fully prepare you for dealing with the actual limitation of say, choosing a city in an area to visit but knowing the surrounding areas are outside the temperature band of what you can reasonably pull off. This map gives you a general idea, but with planning, keeping an eye on elevation of your travel path is critical!

Secret #3. Planning for your budget doesn’t necessarily mean those options are available. If you aren’t interested in Boondocking (not everyone is!), sure, staying somewhere for a full month is the cheapest way to go. Daily rates are super expensive, Weekly rates are less so (but only likely affordable if you use this option sparingly), and Monthly rates are where the financial wiggle room is. But, to stay somewhere that meets your interest, temperature range, and time of year? Everyone else in an RV is doing the same thing – and they snagged all those Monthly rate spots A YEAR AGO.

Our plans A, B, C, and D have all been squished and gone splat. Spend a month in Utah? Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. The place we were interested in was booked a full year ago, and still has a waiting list.

Our idea of spending a month (or two!) in Boise, Idaho? Gone. Too many other folks had the same idea – LAST YEAR and there is a waiting list for the places we wanted to go.

A month in Portland? Nope.

We’ve spent the last several weeks planning, re-planning, pulling my hair out, and planning some more.

For a few days we are chilling out in Pahrump, Nevada to escape the heat of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and even getting a spot here was luck.

Spring is migration season, and as hard as it is to get a spot where you want in Winter, that difficulty remains all year round! I’m telling you this because no one else will. The easiest thing to do is travel off-season, but that again flips your 3D puzzle on it’s side and has you evaluating if you want to BE in those places off-season. Chances are, you don’t.

Sure, we CAN boondock, but we only want to occasionally. A day here, a day there. A small RV means small water tanks and we prefer having at least partial hookups.

Secret #4. It is incredibly time consuming to figure this stuff out. Before we set out, I began following several bloggers of folks like us who work for a living and travel by RV. I will tell you this, no matter how much time you think it will take to learn the ropes of the road, and plan travel paths, it will take you longer when you sit down to do it. Possibly two to three times longer than you expect. Doing this while working 7 days a week is beyond exhausting.

For non-retirees, personal time is different than neighboring retirees. Almost every day we are asked if we’ve seen (some nearby place) to say, “No.. um… we were working. We’re mostly just here for the weather and scenery!” I think people think we’re a little nuts…

Anyway, we had some great travel ideas in plan for the summer, in an affordable method (Monthly rates – yo!), but those plans are not actually doable in a way we can afford, at least not without having the full year mapped out and reserved ahead of time. We could still go to the places we want, if we traveled using overnights and Weekly rates, but that method is way, way outside our budget.

As luck would have it, we finally found a place where we can hang our hats for the next month. It’s in a beautiful part of the country, has great weather, and, holy cow, it’s even affordable! I never would have guessed we’d be able to stay on the Coast in Central California without making some blood sacrifice, but we can!

Grover Beach, California wasn’t part of the initial set of plans, but I’m very excited to head there and check it out! Based on the last several weeks of planning, I have no idea what to expect after next month. If we like it, we may stay there for a few more months (if they have spots available) – who knows? So to our friends and family who keep asking where we will be next so you can come visit us, I’m sorry to say – we’ll know when we get there!

It’s disappointing that our initial set(s) of plans didn’t work out, but our new plan looks pretty nice so far. I’m really shocked we found an affordable place in California, that was probably one of the last places I ever would have expected!

Secret #5. As crazy as all of this is, it’s still amazingly awesome. There is no place in this country I want to be for 12 consecutive months, so even with all of the above, living in an RV is still fully worth it to us!

It looks like the next year will be very interesting one way or another. To those of you following along, thank you for reading!

This post was written in Pahrump, Nevada.

Fun with Photography

Lately my camera has been resting much too often. It was time to take it out to play…

Because we chose to live in a 22′ van, we simply can’t have everything with us we want – like a tripod. This adds complexity to the fact that I really want more photos with BOTH of us in the actual photo. Challenge accepted.

I told Dave I could take a selfie with my 35mm lens, no problem at all. He had the nerve to doubt me.

Selfie of Sharon and Dave

Yes, I really did take this photo holding the camera backwards, composing it blindly.

Because I can’t just let things go, I wanted to further prove to Dave that I can focus where I want, such as in the foreground here:

Selfie Focus in Foreground

Or in the background here:

Selfie Focus in Background

For anyone curious, here is a behind the scenes photo taken by Dave (the boring way, with the camera facing frontwards).

Backwards Photography

And no photography outing is ever complete without a photo of Frodo. Though I think I prefer Arizona over California (so far), Frodo just can’t seem to hold still if there’s grass under his feet. He is really digging California for that reason. He must run and play!

Frodo likes to play like no one is watching… as he should!

Playtime

In all seriousness, it was great to get out today and play. I have my ups and downs with Gastroparesis and the last few days have been pretty rough and a bit painful. But today, today was a good day. And that makes me happy.

Today we are in San Dimas, California.

RV Water Heater Replacement – Girard vs. Truma, Tank vs. Tankless

For anyone else out there in RV-land stuck with a barely-working hot water heater, this post is for you!

Our hot water heater wasn’t functioning correctly from the very first day we had our Pleasure-Way Van. The first time we attempted to have it fixed we went back to our original dealer in Las Vegas where they replaced the Sail Switch. That got us by for a few days until it broke again, at which point we were in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

At some point in this process we realized our existing hot water heater wasn’t going to work well for us, even once it worked as-designed.

Here’s the quick scoop…

The Girard GSWH-1M tankless hot water heater has several issues with it’s design. The Gas Modulation Control dial that adjusts the flame (and temperature of the water) must be adjusted constantly. It is recommended to set it “at the beginning of your camping trip” but when the temperature swings 20-40 degrees in a given day, in reality, it must be adjusted all day long throughout the day.

With the Girard, the water will only begin to heat once the water is turned completely to full blast, with hot water running completely open. Adding any cold water will make the emergency cut off switch turn the hot water heater off – and – it’s back to square one. The only way to use our water was to attempt to ONLY use the hot water faucet and adjust the temperature from the kitchen wall, without ever using the cold faucet (we learned this from reading forums).

Showers took a kitchen-assistant to attempt to keep water at a decent temperature by adjusting the Gas Modulation Control dial upon request of the person in the shower. Girard definitely wins the Rube Goldberg award for hot water systems…

Okay, enough about the Girard. Actually, one last thing – most people spend about a year trying to make it work before finally getting something else. We skipped right to the end of the line and decided to get the “something else” immediately.

Here’s the process we went through when we realized it was time to figure out what to do next… The 2016 Pleasure-Way Plateau TS has no ability to hold a 6 gallon water heater, or even a 4 gallon water heater anywhere on the chassis. There’s simply no room within the existing floor plan. We did want a working hot water heater, but we did not want to do any remodeling.

After extensive research, we discovered the Truma AquaGo (Basic) tankless water heater would fit in the same spot as the Girard, with limited surgery required to the van. The Truma also sounded like a better designed product.

Once we made the decision to go with the Truma AquaGo we searched their website for AquaGo dealers located across the region of the country we were in, or planned to be in (California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas). We found several of interest, checked reviews online (Yelp was a huge help), and then called a few for estimates. Of the repair shops we contacted, only one was so familiar with the AquaGo that they were able to immediately give us a quote and talk knowledgeably about the product and installation required. They also provided the most reasonable quote!

McBride’s RV in Chino, California was our winner. And, they did a remarkable job!

The change from any factory-installed item to an aftermarket will likely cause a few snags here and there. For us, the main issue was the hot water heater door on the outside of the van that was designed for the Girard would not work with the Truma. We knew that was a possibility and we all hoped for the best, but – no luck. The venting needed by the Truma was in a different spot and it simply wasn’t going to work.

The downside of needing a new door meant a few new complications. The Truma door is white (our van is silver) and it has a frame around the door that if used, would stick out from the body of our van. It was unsightly at best, and possibly problematic.

Truma AquaGo

McBride’s tried several options beginning with altering the door we had, then adjusting the Truma door to be frame-less (after calling Truma to make sure that would not void our warranty). The frameless door turned out to be the best bet. If you look closely at the photo to the left, you can see the frame.

McBride’s included us every step of the way once there was a snag, giving us a choice and letting us participate actively in the outcome rather than be surprised or suffer from sticker-shock at the end.  Once everyone decided on a plan, the door needed some cosmetic adjustments. Namely, it needed to not be white!

McBride’s gave us a head’s up on the added cost of painting the door (got our approval), then got their onsite paint-matching guy to match the body paint we have. The added task of painting meant a little more time before we were ready to roll – but McBride’s had us covered. The let us stay on their lot (with water and electric hookups!) until the next day when the freshly painting door could be installed. They even gave us a walking tour of the shop and made sure we were totally comfortable before they departed for the night.

The next day, the newly-painted door was ready to be installed, and with that, we were ready to roll!

BEFORE Girard Water Heater

The photo on the left is the BEFORE picture from the body of the van, with our factory-installed Girard water heater.

It’s now been a few days and our water still gets hot when we turn the faucet to hot – something that feels like magic after a month without hot water.

For anyone in need of switching to a Truma AquaGo, though it’s only been a few days for us, I think I can safely recommend it. In a word, it works. You turn the water to hot, it heats the water. You can adjust the flow of water to be barely on and still get warm or hot water as desired (great for boondocking and those conserving water), and McBride’s is definitely a shop to consider. I’d happily have them do more work for using the future, it was definitely a 5-star repair experience!

AFTER Truma AquaGo Water HeaterThe photo on the right is the AFTER picture, with the Truma AquaGo, minus the frame – and – painted to match our van. McBride’s spent time giving attention to detail to make this work for us, and they did a great job.

And, now we have hot water. It’s very strange I tell you, strange indeed.

Chino California

Catching up in Cali

Sometimes when you travel, you just never know what you’re going to see. For example, you could just happen to look to your side and see a Dinosaur. True Story. Photo location: Cabazon, California

Roadside America Dinosaur

We’ve been in Chino, California for about a week now. The day we arrived I had planned to blog about our trip, knowing if I don’t write immediately – it won’t happen. Well, obviously, it didn’t happen. I took photos the moment we arrived, but the park where we were staying was, well… horrible. Sure, it looks pretty, but looks aren’t everything.

This is where we’ve been for the last few days, Prado Regional Park in Chino.

Prado Regional Park

What you can’t see in the photo is the experience, photos don’t tell you the whole story. The park is about a mile away from an outdoor olympic shooting range, and gunshots are heard from just prior to sunrise and continue past sunset every day. Three days a week the range is open for 12 hours and we were treated to gunfire sounds for more than 12 hours during those days. It was lovely. Frodo was usually able to be outside just long enough to do his business but he was quite the unhappy dog while we were there. Walks barely happened, he would get too freaked out (understandably so)!

In addition to the sounds, there was the smell. Have you ever been near a dairy farm? There are several in Chino, quite a few right near the Prado Regional Park. For most of the day the smell was so bad we were unable to use our fan or open our windows. In fact, you can smell cow manure as you drive around Chino. Feel free to knock this city right off your to-visit list.

Oh, but of course, we weren’t in Chino to sightsee, we were there to have our hot water heater system replaced – which we did. We have working hot water now! It’s a miracle! I have another RV Repair shop to recommend, thoughts to share about our experience of going a full month without any hot water, and tips about how to go about having your hot water system replaced – all… coming soon.

For a few more days we are kicking around near the shop where had our hot water system replaced, just to continue testing and make sure all is well before we depart. Currently we are in San Dimas, California and though the current place is well above our budget, it is well worth the change in venue. Even Frodo approves!

Frodo Living it Up

Hopefully the lack of gunshot sounds throughout the day will get me back into a writing mood so I can write more about the last week, and month.

San Dimas California

Until next time…

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!