Hot Stuff, White Sands, Amazon Goodies, Turning Back the Sun

What a busy and exciting time the past few days have been! After dealing with the furnace issue yesterday morning, I drove to the town of Hatch, just a few miles up the road, to meet my brother-in-law David for breakfast. He lives in Alaska and is visiting friends in the area, so it was a real treat to meet up with him. David and I  had breakfast at a quaint little place called “Hot Stuff” that offered Mexican curios and food. David and I had a lovely visit then he headed north to Santa Fe to meet his friends. Thank you for breakfast David!

Hatch is renowned for its locally grown chile peppers! I poked around the town a bit and visited a few of the chile markets. At Grajeda Farms I met Sergio and purchased a Listra, a string of chiles. The chiles are strung this way so they will dry naturally and last for a very long time. My mother had one that she used for years, occasionally plucking peppers off and tossing them in a pot of beans!  Listra take the shape of a traditional long rope, circles similar to a wreath, or are sometimes fashioned into crosses. I enjoy seeing all the bright peppers hanging together!

I'm fairly close to the Mexican Border here so there are US Customs Checkpoints scattered around the landscape. I have passed through these checkpoints several times in recent days. There are cameras set up and as you approach, these cameras take photos of your license plate so the agents know all about you before you even get to the stop! At one stop, they asked if I was a US Citizen and then waved me on. At another, they just waved me without any questions. My Dad was a US Customs officer and two of my brothers as well. Thank you for your service!

 

Dexter was waiting for me back at Wild Thing and after packing a snack and water we headed down the road to see the White Sands National Monument. It was about an hour drive from the campground, up and over the mountains with breathtaking scenery. Once over the mountains, a vast expanse of the desert floor made it easy to see why missiles are tested here. We drove by the White Sands Missile Range and Museum but didn’t have time to stop on this trip. I’ll save that for when DH is with me!

The White Sands National Monument is a spectacular sight,. As we approached the area I could see white sand dunes with low vegetation very similar to the dunes I’d seen at Cape Cod, but there was no water in sight, this is the middle of the desert! In the Visitors Center I watched a short film and toured the exhibits before heading out to the dunes. A $5.00 fee bought me the 8-mile drive into the dunes area and the ticket is good for 6 days making it quite a bargain.  As we drove, the vegetation became more and more sparse and the dunes became larger and larger. Before long I felt like I had been transported to the Sahara! Dexter absolutely loved this place. He has always enjoyed the sand at the beach but was not thrilled with water, so this place was absolute heaven for him! He also seemed to just love the feel of the sand under his paws…and on his nose! I too thoroughly enjoyed this tour and hope to return again in the future.

On our drive back to the campground, I stopped in Las Cruces to pick up a package of trailer stuff I ordered from Amazon. My Escape Trailer Friends Charlie and Lucy gave me some great advice when I saw them last week. They recommended an electric heater that they use instead of the furnace when they have access to electric power, as a way to save propane. Charlie also told me about a wireless thermostat that makes regulating this little heater very accurate. I placed an order for these items as well as a new water hose and water filter that my friends and fellow Escape owners Fred and Dora recommended. The hose I’ve been using has been a real struggle to wind up if it’s at all cold, so I’m anxious to try this cloth hose. The water filter will help keep my fresh water holding tank clean. I also ordered a 30 amp power extension cord. I don’t want to get caught short again and have to re-hitch to reach the power source.  I placed the order on Amazon with a shipping address of a local UPS Store. The package arrived in just two days and the UPS store didn’t even charge me for the service. Nice!

Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat

Nashone Wireless Thermostat for Heater

Zero-G 5/8" Water Hose

Camco TastPure Water Filter

Camco 30 Amp Electric Extension Cord

This morning I tidied the camper and truck, then hitched up and moved to site 17…two sites down from where I was. It was worth it to be able to spend an additional night and enjoy the winter solstice program.  I'm going to stay hitched up tonight since I'm leaving tomorrow. This afternoon I enjoyed the “Turning Back the Sun” program sponsored by this state park. I ate buffalo stew (very yummy and spicy!) and pizza and bread baked in a Horno, a traditional adobe oven of the Pueblo People. I watched a presentation by Dr. Jawor about how animals adapt to the changing seasons and light and the Native Dances of the Pueblo People. I attended a presentation about the petroglyphs and the solstice, enjoyed traditional Navajo storytelling around the campfire, then gazed at the stars through powerful telescopes. It was a rich and rewarding day. I hope you enjoy the pictures and videos.  Tomorrow I will move on…somewhere down the road yet to be decided….

https://youtu.be/tjpgDuLgN98

https://youtu.be/putlXP27NNs

https://youtu.be/LV9zGvZxd5c

 

New Build Photos, Montana, Idaho, and Washington

I started this morning, day 8,  heading for the hills of Montana...

Montaña del Norte was the name given to the entire mountainous region of the west and the name Montana is derived from this Spanish phrase meaning Northern Mountains. This morning’s drive was through, around, and over some of these beautiful ranges.

Unfortunately, it was raining and foggy so the drive required much more focus and care than any other day of this trip. The steep grades and winding curves led me through Montana and across Idaho into Washington State.  Another time change at the Idaho border brings me to 3 hours behind the east coast. Not much wildlife out today, just a few hawks. The other animals must have been cozied up to stay out of the weather.

Once I came down out of the mountains, the landscape changed dramatically.

As I approached Ellensburg, Wa my destination for the night, I began to see the landscape change again, this time into rolling soft hills.

I found a scenic area that provided a great place to stretch my legs, enjoy the view, and snap a few photos.  A nice gentleman offered to take my photo so there are a few without the selfie stick today! Thank you!

I also want to give a shout out to Rich at ShowMeCables.com. I received word on Friday that the Cellular Booster Antenna I had provided Escape Trailer Industries to install on Wild Thing had not included the cable. Drat! Of course, it’s not just ANY cable. It’s an Ultra Low Loss Coaxial Cable with FME-Female and N-Male end connectors. Try to say that three times fast! Amazon had one but it was not listed with Prime service and I could not reach the vendor to expedite shipping.

ShowMeCables.com had the cable I need and their customer service rep Rich was most helpful. But where to ship it? I’m on the road and I didn’t want to pay to ship it to Escape Trailer Industries in Canada.  ShipHappens.com to the rescue! This mail service center in Sumas, Wa will receive the package on my behalf and I will pick it up from them on Wed afternoon. The service will cost me $4.00 but that’s a pretty small price to pay to get this job done.  Don’t you just love the internet?

I saw another Escape Trailer today on I90 in Washington at mile marker 217. An Escape 19 with blue graphics. Hi, fellow Escapee!

I stopped for a late lunch/early supper at a cute place called the Red Horse Diner. It was decorated with vintage signs from gas stations.  As I gazed out the window waiting for my food I saw a large bust of a Native American across the highway. He must be my Spirit Guide for today!

I received more photos today of the progress on Wild Thing! She has windows and doors, cabinets and kitchen countertops and her awning. I have dark blue screw covers for the kitchen countertop that I'll install when I get there instead of the tan ones you see there now. Details, Details, Details... It won't be long now until she's complete!

I can’t believe I’ve made it all the way to the West Coast! Tomorrow I have a short drive (4 hours/210 miles) to Sumas Mini Storage to drop off some of my stuff, then across the border and up to Chilliwack. Wednesday the hitch will be installed on the truck and I’ll scoot back to Sumas to get the cable. Thursday I will rest and clean up any remaining details, then Friday it’s time for Trailer Orientation and Delivery of the Wild Thing! I am one lucky (and very blessed) girl!

Final Paperwork

On Saturday, I received a packet of final documents from Escape Trailer Industries which included the Bill of Sale, HS-7 Importation Declaraton, NAFTA Certificate of Origin, Federal Certificate of Origin for a Trailer, Department of Homeland Security Entry Summary, Department of Homeland Security Importer ID Input Record, and the US Customs Invoice. Phew! Thankfully, Escape Trailer Industries is well versed in the process and are taking care of all these details well ahead of the completion date.

With paperwork in hand, I'll go to Amica tomorrow and finalize insurance for Wild Thing, then head to the DMV and get it registered. Once those practical matters are taken care of,  I'll have only a few items left on my to do list ... torque wrench, jumper cables, hair cut, computer battery, and packing up some food and clothes.

I'll be leaving a week from today!

Top 10 RV Resources for Newbies

There are many outstanding resources available for RV travelers to make planning and RV travel safer, easier, and more economical than ever before!  I've tried several in preparation for my travels in Wild Thing and thought I'd share my list of current favorites. Most offer both a website and a mobile app making it simple to get the information you need when you have access to your pc and when you don't. Some of these services offer similar benefits, but each one I've listed offers enough unique content to make it a worthwhile investment.

  1.  Good Sam Club and its sister company Camping World have been around since the 1960's and are a leading resource for RV owners. My parents were members of the club back in the 70's and I remember pouring over the phone book sized Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory looking for the perfect campground as we traveled across the USA.   Good Sam Club members have access to a comprehensive listing of campgrounds across the US and Canada with detailed descriptions and ratings. Members also enjoy a 10% discount off many of these campgrounds.  Good Sam still publishes the paper campground directory, but now also offer an online version and an app so it's easier than ever to research campgrounds where ever you are. Good Sam Club offers many services and benefits including new and used RV's for sale, RV financing, RV Insurance, Roadside Assistance, and Extended Warranty Services. Members also enjoy discounts at pet stores and information on traveling with pets, something Dexter is looking forward to! They are also a resource for current information for the RV industry like RV recall notices and RV Park reviews and offering an advocacy program to members. Camping World is a full-service RV supply store that also has RV Maintenance and Repair Services. Members of Good Sam's Club benefit from discounts and special pricing at Camping World. Good Sam Club members also save on gas when they use Pilot or Flying J truck stops and can take advantage of Free Dump Station Services across the country. Good Sam has an online trip planner that can help you map out your journey that is powered by Rand McNally. My membership has already saved me money on purchases of supplies at Camping World and will save me 10% off overnight fees at several campgrounds on my trip home with Wild Thing. I'll be using the Good Sam Roadside Assistance program which provides service to both my tow vehicle and my trailer giving me (and my DH!)  peace of mind as I travel solo across the country. AAA does not offer roadside assistance or insurance for trailers to Massachusetts residents (go figure...)  Memberships to Good Sam Club start at $27.00 a year.
  2. Passport America is a discount camping club that offers a whopping 50% off campground fees at nearly 1900 campgrounds across the US, Canada, and Mexico! Membership is $44.00/year and I will pay for my membership in the savings I will enjoy on the trip home with Wild Thing. Most campgrounds offering this discount have restrictions on the number of nights you can apply the discount and the times that the discounts are applicable, but all of this information is clearly stated up front. This service seems to work best when you are on the move, traveling from place to place since many restrict the discount to a night or two.  Some campgrounds, however, offer longer-stay discounts and some have no limits on the number of nights you can stay for half cost!  They have an app, a website, and publish a print guide to the campgrounds in their program making it easy to chart your course.
  3. AllStays is easily my favorite RV app to date. If I could only have one app...this would be it!  According to their website, they are "The #1 Selling, #1 Ranked, #1 Reviewed Camping App for over 85 Months". I can see why! This app lets you find Campgrounds, RV Parks and related services with or without internet service. Their extensive map filters let you view only what you want to see. In addition to campgrounds, you can also view RV dump stations, truck stops, services, supplies, low bridges, weather conditions, and various state laws. You can filter campgrounds by type: National, State, and Municipal Parks, BLM Land, Private, Army Corp, Tenting only, and more. AllStays offers a variety of apps tailored to the various needs of travelers: RV Camping, Rest Areas, Dump Stations, Military Camping, Tent Camping, Truck Stops and Travel Plazas and more. I paid $9.99 for the RV Camping app and it has been worth every penny. I recently invested in the Pro Version ($29.99 a year) that provides me with a web-based interface. I find using the AllStays Pro on my computer with larger maps, no ads, and more filters easier than on my phone when I have a large amount of research to do.  I still use the app on my phone and tablet when I need to access the information on the fly, so I think both the app and the web based Pro versions are worth the small investment!
  4. RV Parky is a free app that is an RV Park powerhouse planner. It has no ads,  was built by full-time RV'ers, and contains an impressive collection of RV Parks, Campgrounds, Rest Areas, Gas Stations, and RV friendly stores in North America. It provides great unbiased review and photos to help you choose the location that best suits your needs. All this for free!
  5.  It's fairly easy to find gas for your tow vehicle, water to fill your RV tanks, and Propane to fuel your journey,  but a place to dispose of your camper's waste water can be a bit more challenging. There are a few apps designed to "hook you up" with a place to get this job done. I use RV Dump Stations Locator for my Android. Here's a handy website RVDumps.com that lists dump stations by state. You will also find dump stations at some Cabela's and Travel Plaza's like Flying J or Love's.
  6. Have you ever followed those small iconic signs on the interstate promising food and fuel at the next exit only to find you don't know which way to turn once you exit the highway or you have to drive for miles before finding a gas station or a restaurant or sometimes find when you get there  that it's closed? I sure don't want to be in that situation while towing a trailer! IExit to the rescue! This app lists specifically what services are provided at each and every exit along major highways with detailed information on location, hours, and even gas prices!  When you open the app while on a highway, it will automatically find you and let you know what's coming up. This app will help keep me out of trouble and show me the best places along the way to stop and stretch my legs, fuel up, or find a safe place to park for a picnic! Since I'll be traveling alone, I will plan ahead exit stops every 2 hours or so along my route and know exactly the best places to stop with my rig. Genius!
  7. RV Park Reviews is an invaluable resource for unbiased, current, and detailed reviews of RV Parks across the country. Just like product reviews on popular e-commerce websites, these reviews are by actual users who have stayed at the parks and are reporting on their first-hand experience.   I have found this to be the most comprehensive listing of reviews and it has helped me make decisions about where I would like to stay along my route.  I hope to be a frequent contributor to this website in the coming months!
  8. RV Trip Wizard is a powerful Trip Planning Software. This software works on your computer, tablet, or phone and helps you plan your route, choose campgrounds, suggests points of interest, and tracks costs. You can customize this software by entering specific information about your rig (height, width, length, and weight) so it can help you avoid bridges and roads where RV's or vehicles carrying propane are restricted. It also helps you budget your travels by tracking fuel costs, camping costs, and meal costs. You can plan a full trip in the software then export it to a GPS device from your PC.  I started using this software months ago and found it to be easy to use and feature rich. It was a bit expensive with an annual subscription of $39.00 but worth the cost in my opinion.
  9. I have a GPS in my phone, and a GPS built into my truck, so why would I need another GPS? Well, navigating with a trailer in tow is much different than navigating without! Some roads restrict access to trailers and disallow any vehicle carrying flammables like propane. I will need to be aware of height restrictions as well since my travel trailer will be 9'7" tall. I don't want to get stuck in a bridge or have to attempt a 3 point (or likely many more points) turns to get me out of a tight spot. Rand McNally has engineered a GPS specifically for the needs of RV travelers. This device will take into account not only your preferences but also road conditions and restrictions that may be hazardous to RV's. This device will warn me of any RV road hazards well in advance so I can avoid them.  I chose the model RVND 7730 LM that comes with lifetime maps. There are more recent models on the market now but my DH taught me to always choose a device that is a version or two behind the latest model. Newly released versions of any software often have bugs that need to be worked out and you can avoid having to deal with them by choosing a model that has already had time to shake out the bugs! Isn't he clever?   Rand McNally , I discovered recently, offers free powerful trip planning software called Tripmaker. I have found this software to be nearly as powerful as RV Trip Wizard so I will likely not renew my subscription for that next year! Tripmaker allows you to plan your trip online, then download the trip to the GPS device and make changes on the fly. It has similar budgeting tools as well. The Rand McNally RV GPS will also allow me to import trip itineraries that have been created in the Good Sam Club software. Don't you just love modern technology?

So there you have it. My current top 10 RV resources for Newbies. I'm sure this list will change as I gain experience on the road, but it's a great place to start!

 

 

 

Travel Route to pick up Wild Thing!

I have received confirmation of the completion date for Wild Thing and all is on schedule for me to take possession on September 22 - just 31 days from today! I have been busy working on the details needed to get me across the country to BC and take possession of Wild Thing.

I plan to leave on September 11 and arrive in Chilliwack on September 19. That will give me a day to rest, a day to get the trailer hitch installed, and a day to take possession of the trailer. September 20th will be a day of rest after the cross country trek. I have scheduled for the hitch to be installed by Trademasters Automotive in Chilliwack BC on September 21. They work closely with Escape Trailer Industries to ensure the hitch set up on the truck will be just perfect for my trailer.

Escape Trailer will provide me with a thorough 2 hour Orientation to familiarize me with the operation and maintenance of my new tiny home on wheels. They will teach me how to safely hitch and unhitch,  and ensure I am ready to hit the road. They will also install any final touches I may bring along for the trailer like the TV and Cell Phone Booster. My orientation is scheduled for 8 o'clock am on Friday September 22. After my orientation, Escape will hook up and drive my trailer across the US Border. They will take care of all the necessary import paperwork at the border, so I will officially take possession of Wild Thing in Sumas, WA.

With those details settled, I have finalized my driving route for the trip from Ashland, MA to Chilliwack BC and have booked lodging along the way. I'll be leaving on Monday, September 11 and arriving in Chilliwack on Tuesday September 19. Trying to keep my costs low for this trip, I made reservations at motels along the way using Bookings.com. They offered some terrific rates on basic motels.  I was quite pleased to book 8 separate motels for 12 nights at a total cost of around $700.00. I will be making sight seeing stops at Niagara Falls and in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Steve and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Niagara Falls a few years ago and since it was somewhat on the way I thought an overnight there would be a great way to kick off this trip! I'll leave early in the morning on the 11th and have the afternoon and evening to enjoy the Falls.

Mackinac Island, MI has been on my bucket list for years. One of my all time favorite movies is Somewhere In Time (1980) staring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The movie is set at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. I'll take a day to walk the grounds and enjoy this beautiful island. The entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark and more than 80% of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park. It's a short 20 minute ferry ride from St Ignace, MI  to the island. Vehicular traffic is prohibited on Mackinac and folks get around by walking, bicycle, or horse and buggy. I look forward to stepping back "Somewhere In Time" on this visit to the island.

After Mackinac, I plan to point my big red truck toward Chilliwack and drive on!

Here's my full travel Itinerary:

Sept 11 Day 1 Drive 7 hours to Niagara Falls ON  Stay at Travelodge $46.00

Sept 12 Day 2 Drive 7 h 30 min to St Ignace MI  Stay at Aurora Borealis Motor Inn 2 nights for $111.98

Sept 13 Day 3 Take Ferry ($24.00) and Tour Mackinac Island

Sept 14 Day 4 Drive 7 hours 6 min to Eau Claire WI  Stay at Motel 6 $40.85

Sept 15 Day 5 Drive 7 hours 30 min to Bismarck ND   Stay at Days Inn $76.05

Sept 16 Day 6 Drive 5 hours 49 min Billings MT   Stay at Extended Stay America  $65.65

Sept 17 Day 7 Drive 5 hours Missoula, MT  Stay at Motel 6 $74.89

Sept 18 Day 8 Drive 5.5 hours to Ellensburg WA   Stay at Econolodge  57.19

Sept 19 Day 9 Drive 5 hours to arrive Chilliwack BC

Stay 3 nights at the Rainbow Motor Inn  $217.18 USD ($274.92 CAD exchange rate 0.79)

 

I estimate my fuel costs for this trip to be also about $700.00. Escape Trailer Industries would have delivered my trailer to me at a cost of $2.20 CAD/mile. This trip is about 3100 miles so even at today's exchange rate of 0.79 that would translate to $5387.80 USD. Ouch! So in addition to the savings, I will have the adventure of driving across the country, twice!

Since I will be staying in more modest motels, I did invest in a few additional supplies to help ensure I don't pick up any unwanted travel companions.

I've purchased from Amazon this set of Twin Bed Bag Sheets  and a bottle of  Harris Eco Natural Bed Bug Killer Spray

One of the biggest advantages to owning a travel trailer is that you get to sleep in your own bed and not worry about such things again! I don't want to inadvertently bring any critters into my new home, so hopefully these products will eliminate that risk.

Now I'm off to work on the itinerary for the trip home! Stay tuned...