February 2020

We thoroughly enjoyed New Mexico in January and made our way to Cochise County in Arizona for February. We explored many places in SE Arizona while we were based out of Wilcox.

But first the drive out of New Mexico – we took a windy road through a chunk of Gila National Forest and had some great views. Driving up and down this road was pretty steep and lots of switchbacks, but we made it fine. There were lots of pull-offs to take pictures and see the amazing views.

Our next big adventure was heading down near the border to Coronado National Memorial and the Montezuma pass. We did some hiking once we got up to the pass and it was amazing views. We saw a road runner up at the pass, and we hiked up to the peak past the parking lot. The dirt road to get to the pass was nice, but so many switchbacks and the cliff edge was intense.

Next we had lunch in Bisbee; this town is a mining town turned art town. It was pretty cool to walk around because they had art everywhere, even nailed to the walls in alleyways. Drove through the touristy bits of Tombstone and did not really stop, it did not seem like our scene.

The following weekend we drove out to Chiricahua National Monument. This place was mind blowing, the pinnacles and rocks were nothing like I’ve ever seen before. We hiked 4 miles of very up and down trail through the pinnacles and it pushed us to our limit, but it was totally worth it.

We day tripped to Tucson Arizona to see the sights. Drove up most of Mount Lemmon, which was hair raising on the way up and down. There were bicyclists going up that road, which is definitely taking your life in your hands. Made our way to the Saguaro National Park, saw many cactus. Finally we visited the Fiesta de Los Vaqueros rodeo and watched many talented people do crazy things with horses and cows. Also we stopped by “The Thing” although we did not pay to see the exhibit, but they have a HUGE gift shop where you can buy every knickknack you can imagine.

We visited friends in Gold Canyon, and day tripped Estrella War. The event was very different than Pennsic, more like a very large normal SCA event but with food trucks. Another big different was that animals were everywhere, mostly dogs, a cat, and 2 llamas. Finally we stopped by Casa Grande National Monument on our way back from our visit.

February was a month of exploring South East Arizona, enjoying many glorious sunsets. We saw a super moon rise when we first arrived, and so many cactus.

January 2020

January we made our way out of Texas, and into New Mexico. We learned that colleges love to put a giant letter on the hillside above their town, and some towns get in on the action. West Texas is for the most part a desolate waste land. Inland CBP check points are in more places than you might think. New Mexico enraptured us with its landscapes.

San Antonio TX
Stayed over the new year, and had an amazing time with friends. The bike trail along the San Antonio river was the highlight of our stay.

Junction TX
We stayed one night at Pecan Valley RV Park. It was small, with an adjacent pecan tree farm. A nice place for a one night stop over. We drove through Junction TX, and checked out an overlook.

Fort Stockton TX
Stayed the week at Fort Stockton RV Park. Lots of long stay folks at this park, we assumed for the fracking and oil jobs. The town had the Paisano Pete statue, and a nice wine tasting bar at the Grey Mule Saloon. We feel like this town is probably a one night stop over at best.

Van Horn TX
Another one night stay at Southern Star RV Park. We stopped in Marfa TX between Fort Stockton and Van Horn. Marfa was a really artsy town, and on the way out we checked out the Prada Marfa installation, and also saw the Tethered Aerostat on our way out of town. Van Horn also a one night stop over at best.

Elephant Butte NM/Truth or Consequences NM

Stayed at the Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort, which was lovely. This park had an indoor pool/hot tub/exercise room. At this time of year was full of mostly longer term retirees or full timers. The views are amazing, not much going on in Elephant Butte commerce-wise but the earth dam and hydro dam are worth seeing. The town of Truth or Consequences has lots to check out, we went to the River Bend Hot Springs twice, the brewery a few times, and repeat visits to the Bigfoot and the Point Blanc Winery. While in the area and to get an oil change we visited Mesilla, Las Cruces, and White Sands National Monument. In another weekend headed north to see the Petroglyph National Monument, old town Albuquerque. The following weekend we headed into the “ghost town” of Chloride and with trepidation ventured up a dubious road/trail to make our way into the Gila National Forest, which, dubious roads aside, was great views and a 4 hour dirt “road” adventure.

In summary New Mexico was amazing, and we had a great time. We could not get enough of the mountains, the desert landscape, and the incredible environmental changes from driving an hour in any different direction.

2019 In Review

This was the year when all our plans for full time RV life became a reality. We sold the house, convinced our jobs we could still be rock stars on the road. Took our time at our home base getting used to full time RV living. Then began the life of a nomad.

RV Camping Sites in 2019

February

We started our full time life in the Spring of 2019, and began the year with a boon docking test run at FrostBurn. This is the only regional burn that we have attended, but its great fun, especially if you are ready to let nature test your mettle with potentially dangerous Winter weather. Luckily this year was quite mild, also sleeping in a 4-season RV with a generator pretty much made it a cake walk.

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Walking the cat at Lake Fairfax Park, a lot of chilly days. The shower house at this park is quite nice, only electric on the sites, but otherwise we enjoyed it. The drive from the RV spots to the park exit seemed to take forever. At this point we were finishing up selling the house, commuting into the office, and finalizing our status as remote employees.

April

We high-tailed it to Texas, sans trailer, to become Texans and visit the Livingston Escapees address that is our new domicile. Made a detour to Galveston, TX to see the sites.

A small detour to see Hot Springs, AR and looked around on our way back to West Virginia after becoming Texans.

We spent time off and on at our friends farm in West Virginia and visited lots of local locations. At this point we were making sure we had everything we needed to be full time RV’ers and getting used to living and working in a very small space.

Things we did while in the area:

May

A group camping outing with friends to Stonewall Resort in Roanoke WV. This park has a little bit of everything out in the middle of nowhere, and its beautiful in this part of West Virginia.

June

Another group camping outing in Bedford PA, stayed at the Friendship Village RV park. It does not take long to see all there is to see in Bedford, and hopefully you don’t mind the racing engines of dirt track racing on weekend evenings. But we did get to hook up again with Full-Timer friends and get tips for living on the road.

July

We stayed at Rose Point Park for a week before RV’ing Pennsic for the two week event. Stopped by McConnells Mill State Park, which is definitely worth an afternoon.

If your still in the Slippery Rock area, its worth checking out Moraine State Park. It has a great walking/bike trail that meanders along the lake. We saw a lot of wildlife while just biking the paved trail.

If you are into medieval history, combat, arts, classes, or just partying, then Pennsic is a great place to get your hobby on. We have been going off and on for many years, and made many friends and fond memories.

August

Something super weird happened in the region, dense swarms of dragonflies filled the air for several hours one afternoon. We had never seen anything quite like it. A video for your viewing pleasure, it does not quite catch the massive numbers of them, but all those swooping little black dots were EVERYWHERE. Apparently the swarms showed up on weather radar.

September

We went to Cowans Gap State Park for a weekend and it was quite nice, but zero cell phone reception. Hiked/biked around the lake and enjoyed a drizzly and quiet weekend.

October

We finally begin our trek south following the east coast, first stop near Colonial Beach VA at the Harbor View RV park because we had a credit from a prior cancelled trip where they got flooded.

Stayed a week in Virginia Beach at the Holiday Trav-L-Park. This place is MASSIVE, and on the weekends it fills up to capacity and is party central. The RV’ers at this park take Halloween VERY seriously. We had stayed at the KOA that is across the street a few years prior, and decided to give the Trav-L-Park a try, during the week its very quiet, but on the weekend it was like a dance club but with gulf carts everywhere.

Next up New Bern NC and the New Bern KOA. This was a lovely little park, and we arrived in New Bern just in time to see their MumFest, which was small town festival at its best.

If your looking for a quiet place in the middle of nowhere, but 45ish minutes away from Myrtle Beach, then checkout Carrollwoods RV campground and winery. Tasty local wine, friendly neighbors, and peace and quiet.

November

The next week we were at Mt Pleasant KOA near Charleston SC. We saw lots of sites, probably could have spent more time and seen more, but we were getting to like the one week at a place pace. The campground had a nice hiking/bike trail, a large lake, and of course you are within easy driving distance to all things Charleston SC.

The best thing by far, which I’d never seen before, was they gave us a wireless router that plugged into the power pole via a network cable and we got to enjoy blazing fast wired internet the whole week.

Next up Savannah GA and the CreekFire RV Resort. This campground was quite nice, but had a lot of construction going on to expand the amount of spots. They made up for it with the impressive hot tub and heated pool.

We really enjoyed Savannah, we also made a day trip to Tybee Island and biked down the strip. Savannah was our first non-New Orleans town where open carry alcohol was allowed, also an unlimited liquor/wine tasting is at the same time a great and terrible idea, FYI.

Met up with friends at the Tropical Palms RV Resort, and stayed for a month. Got to see lots of sites in and around Kissimmee FL, even became members of the Bok Tower Gardens which gives us reciprocal discounts at botanical gardens all over the US.

Took a non-RV detour weekend to St Augustine FL, and had a great time.

More day trip adventures in FL, this time to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

Made a couple pit-stops at Disney Springs for dinners and drinks.

December

Now heading west, and happy to be on the road again, we spent one night at a lovely little place outside of Tallahassee FL (Tallahassee RV park). Then finished the drive to spend a week at Topsail Hill State Park. Topsail was well worth it, lots of biking/hiking and the beach is amazing. Had a lunch and saw tons of alligators at Fudpuckers. (It’s as silly as it sounds, but… alligators.)

Enter the biggest hot tub I’ve ever seen at Reunion Lake RV Resort. Sadly the lazy river was not being heated or the pools, but we took full advantage of the hot tub. Also a day trip into New Orleans LA to see the French Quarter.

Back to Galveston TX, this time with the RV, for a week of exploring. Stayed effectively on the beach at the Dellanera RV Park. Not many extras, but the beach was right there. We biked, explored the island, and got to see some very impressive fog events, as well as several great sunrise/sunset events. Could do much worse than a Christmas Eve fire on the beach with friends.

Finally a week in San Antonio TX for New Years at the Travelers World. The park has a great game room and pool/hot tub, but by far the best thing is its right on the San Antonio River Walk trail. We got to bike to almost all the missions, explored downtown a bit. By car visited the San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden (free) and the San Antonio Botanical Garden (free, with our reciprocal garden membership). New Years fireworks were happening in every direction. San Antonio was our first taste of a drier climate, and we are feeling pretty great about winter in Texas so far.

January 2020

That is the whole of 2019. The plans for 2020 are pretty fluid but we plan to continue to head west and then loop back to the east coast. I feel this full time RV life definitely suits us and the adventure has been very satisfying. I’m thankful for the support we have received from work/friends/family. All our planning to make this life happen has paid off and I hope for many more years of wanderlust ahead.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

A pinned map with the places we have traveled in our RV’s.

Downsizing to a Tinier Home – how to become home-free in the Mid-Atlantic

Successful launch is successful! After over 2 years of planning, researching, watching, and waiting, we have done it. We have become full-time RV’ers in our 28 foot travel trailer. Our new normal has downsized from 1500 square feet to just over 190 square feet. How did we do it? Very easily, with only 254 steps, and you can too!

Full-time RV’ing?
After we spent our first night in our first camper (R-Pod, I love you), Jesse proclaimed, “we can do this.” Meaning, we can do this full-time (and I believe he also meant, we can do this forever).

I don’t know about the forever part, but we have now been full-time for 4 weeks. And so far, I don’t hate it. Which, I guess, is a super-positive thing to be able to say when we’ve blown up everything else to do it. And I really do mean that in a good way.

Preparing the House (and ourselves)
Last fall we started making minor fixes to our townhouse; drywall repairs, painting, hardware, etc. Thanks to the mother-in-law! With her help we were able to get things going. Her drive to be doing was kind  of inspiring for me because I generally… don’t. She made several trips up to our home to light a proverbial fire under us and helped get shit done.

Downsizing for Tiny Living
Then the downsizing began. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get people to take your stuff? After previous attempts with FB marketplace, Offer Up, etc. we weren’t really motivated to try and sell things. So let’s give it away. My stuff is nice enough, people should want to take it, right? Thank you to my friends, co-workers, and Goodwill associates for taking on my burdens. May they bring you joy; I’m done with them forever.

And, please note, that even when you feel like you’ve downsized so much and you have so few things left, you’ll still need to get rid of more things. Not much fits into 190 square feet. The kitchen, especially, has so many tools, appliances, and bits and pieces! I thought that I had done such a great job, but when the time actually came to box things up, I was staggered by how much was left. Not to worry though, everything fits in the RV kitchen space.

Selling a House for Fun and Proft
Unbelievably, selling the house was the easiest part. Seriously. We interviewed a couple of realtors and went with the cheaper option – assuming that given the timing and location, our house would sell without too much trouble. She proved to be a good match for our level of interest  and after hammering out a schedule to get things tidied, shiny, and photographed, she sold the house before it was ever listed for sale. Amazingly (to me) the first person who walked through made a full price offer. Full price? That means we can start this adventure debt-free! After making some minor adjustments needed after the buyer’s inspection, we were home-free.

Now literally home-free! Somehow that’s a preferable term to homeless. We chose to take this step and divest ourselves of property and the responsibility that goes with it. So I feel the need to differentiate our ourselves from those who don’t get a say in the choice of how to live.

Beautiful Downtown Lake Fairfax
The week before closing on the house we moved the rest of our things into our new camper with just a few extra bits going into storage. Still downsizing and purging – I think that’s going to be an ongoing process as we acclimate to this lifestyle. Luckily we were able to stay for almost 4 weeks at Lake Fairfax in Reston, VA. Having lived in this area for almost 10 years, it’s not a place I would want to visit on a camping adventure. But, it was damned convenient to the house and to our offices. And quiet? Wow. It’s amazing, but in late February – early March, no one wants to go camping in Northern Virginia where it’s below-freezing every night. What gives? Have they no sense of adventure?! Being in our trusty 4-season camper, we had no problems.

Having a few weeks with very low pressure to acclimate was very good for us. We were in our comfort zone with our surroundings; we were still going into the office each day; low impact intro to full-time RV life.

Becoming a Remote Worker
This part of the process started long, long ago. Over a year ago when we first started talking about the possibility of becoming full-time RVers, I stopped in to my HR Dept to ask some “what if” questions. Planting the seed early was key for my work. My management had the time to acclimate to the idea of me not being in the office.

Jesse’s company took a bit more work, a bit more back and forth. But, at the eleventh hour, they came through with a new policy to accommodate our plans. Literally the last minute though; papers signed on Friday, moved to WV on Saturday. Whew!

Homefree in WV
And here we sit. At our base camp on a friend’s lovely farm in West Virginia. We’ve been comfortable in our new space as winter turns into spring. The seasons feel a bit like a metaphor for  us as we are starting out on this new lifestyle. I can’t wait to get on the road and start meeting people and seeing new places and things.

Book Report – Nomadland

In an effort to learn more about the lifestyle we’re proposing to set out on, I read the book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder. I’ll admit, I mainly picked it up because of the cool Airstream on the cover. I thought it would be kind of lighthearted and newsy – and the title fit in with my perceived notions.

This was a heavy book. Mentally.

Very well written, it was a deep dive into the lives of certain full-time van dwellers as they worked on the road and tried to stay afloat. It was about scraping and scrimping, working hard labor for farm harvests, Amazon, and campgrounds. These are all jobs I’ve read about as we’ve been learning about full-timing, but this was a point of view I hadn’t yet experienced. Bruder gave a no-holds-barred commentary on how difficult the work can be.

Eyes opened.

While I don’t think I would recommend the book to people who are “just” into camping, I think it’s an important read for those who want to learn more about alternate walks of life in the US. It’s a lifestyle somewhere in between transient and almost homeless, full of people who are fiercely independent and willing to work hard long into retirement age, as long as they have their idea of freedom.

I give it a solid B-.

 

Book Report for Learning Basic CSS

Do you want to pick up some CSS and don’t know where to start? Have you asked yourself… [self] what is this CSS thing? Then the book CSS & CSS3: 20 Lessons to Successful Web Development by Robin Nixon could be for you.

I wanted to re-familiarize myself with CSS and the minutiae of its details, so I picked up this book at the library. Overall I would say it starts at a good pace for beginner’s, explaining an HTML document and how CSS can be used. The book gives good tips throughout for things to do and not do.

All of the examples were toy examples, which I feel was fine for the introduction of the topic. If you want to follow along, there is code available that could really help a person on the color and animation related sections.

The pace was good, and the topics were introduced in a very discrete and isolated way. If you are looking to get introduced to CSS styles in a bite size way without getting too many details then this book does the job. A person could easily skip around in the book without much trouble, if you were interested in a specific concept.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wishing to start from knowing nothing about CSS, and moving to a place where you can be comfortable creating, understanding and modifying CSS. This is a great primer for getting the basics, and it was easy reading.

What the book was not… I did wish there was a CSS troubleshooting section that gave tips on how to deal with interacting and resolving situations when using 3rd party CSS libraries. That might be an advanced topic for most, but once your in the weeds of that kind of situation it is good to know what to do to get the job done. The book did not promise advanced CSS, and it did not deliver that, but I can still wish it was practically perfect in every way.

For next time I need to find a book that covers the more advanced situations in which I find myself.

Installing home-assistant on a Raspberry Pi 2

Home automation is something I have been trying to pursue for many years. As a person that is technical but sometimes not very savvy I have tried other open source solutions and met with defeat. This is my successful attempt at installing Home Assistant on the Raspberry Pi 2. I also included the steps to install Z-Wave support because I have some Z-Wave devices, and the Aeotek Z-Stick which I wanted to integrate into this system. Continue reading “Installing home-assistant on a Raspberry Pi 2”