Friday, March 19, 2021

3/19 Elephant Butte SP, Truth or Consquences, NM

This place is certainly a long way from anywhere, but I wanted to give this place another try.  I had been to this state park way back in 2014, but I was in the Lions Beach Campground.  This time I am camped in South Monticello Campground, which is about eight miles north of the Lions Beach.  It is also considerably newer and sites are much more spread out.  There is electric and water at each site, and I am lucky to have a view of the lake and river--the Rio Grand. 

It has been warm and windy and cold and windy since I got here four days ago, but today turned out to be about 73 degrees and hardly any wind, so I got out and went for a walk today.  Much better than two days ago when it was so windy, I had to close one of my slides to keep the slide awning from tearing.  Was really rocking and rolling!  Did not even go out the entire day because the sand was blowing so badly. 

First photo is a typical road in this part of southwestern New Mexico.  Basically, it is straight and without a lot of traffic. 

This is a very, very dry desert, so there is little that is green, other than the millions of creosote bushes.  There are dead-looking trees without leaves, but those will get leaves after they get some rain here.  It has been a difficult drought for animals and plants.   This is a road within Elephant Butte SP, but still a long way from my campground.

Nice big site with a covered picnic table.  However, in spite of this being a desert, it does not get horribly hot here, even in summer, because the elevation is about 5,200' above sea level.  The elevation is tricky in New Mexico because it is a lot higher than Arizona or Nevada, and thus colder year round.  Highs since I have been in this area have been from 48 to today's 73.

View from the front.  Notice the nice, clean gravel and the paved area under the picnic table roof.

View of Elephant Butte Lake, and a very long walk to get there!!!  In fact, there is a boat launch next to the campground, but it does not make it all the way to the lake--has a big drop off at the end, hence it is closed until the lake gets more water.  There are several campers with boats, so they must get down there at another boat launch in this very long lake.



I took some telephoto pictures of these five white pelicans. 


The campground is full because this is a Friday, but you can see how widely spread out RVs are.  Mine is hidden behind the white trailer on the right.

And here it is!  Back home after long walk. 



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

3/9 All the Comforts of Home

I’ve had a couple of people lately ask me what it’s like to be living full time in my motorhome, so I decided to write down some of the things I have that make this a comfortable place to live.  First, the utilities:

Electricity

I like electricity.  It provides me with a lot of basics and a few luxuries.  The important thing to know is that my motorhome has two electrical systems.  First, it has a 12-volt system where power comes from two 6-volt batteries hidden under the entrance step on the side of my rig.  They get recharged in one of two ways: from my motorhome being plugged in at a campsite or from running my built-in generator.  Since both of these systems are 110 volts, the current has to go through a converter hidden in a compartment under my bed. 

My 12-volt system runs all of my electrical lights, the furnace blower motor, the water pump that takes water from my storage tanks and puts it under pressure so it will come out of the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom and the shower in my bathroom.  When I am driving or “dry camping” in a campground without hookups, I still have lights and power to run the furnace, so I can stay warm.  I also have two 12-volt receptables that I can use to charge stuff up when I have no 110-volt power.  I learned the hard way that I need to use these receptables, NOT the “cigarette” lighter plug in my vehicle dash because it will drain the vehicle battery very quickly!  I even have a 12-volt charger for my laptop and an extension cord so I can work on my computer.   

My batteries will easily last all day and night, and sometimes a couple of days before I have to turn on the generator to recharge them.  Turning on the generator, by the way, involves just pushing a button because it is built into my motorhome. However, it is noisy, and most campgrounds have limited generator hours or don’t allow them at all.  One neat thing to know is that because my generator is built into my rig, it can act as a battery charger for my vehicle battery.  If my vehicle battery gets dead, I just turn on the generator, let it run for a few minutes, and then turn the vehicle key while holding down a vehicle emergency start button.  No jumper cables needed. 

I also have a 110-volt system that works whenever I am plugged into a 30 amp receptable at a campground or running my generator.  It runs my air conditioning unit, my three televisions, several plugs around the place, and my microwave.  I choose campground sites with electricity 98% of the time because I like my TV and AC, and often like to just heat things up with the microwave. 

My refrigerator is amazing.  It runs on 110 volts while I am plugged in and propane while driving.  The best part is that it switches over automatically so I don’t have to even think about it. I have left my motorhome parked at an airport for 5-8 days and came back to all my food cold or frozen.  It does use a tiny bit of electricity while running on propane, but my batteries were still almost fully charged, and I had only used a quarter of a tank of propane! 

Once every few months, I take the cover off my battery compartment and make sure the batteries have adequate distilled water in them. 

Water

I can get water into my motorhome in two different ways.  The first, and the one most people use, is to just run a special water hose from the campsite faucet to the receptable on the driver’s side of my rig, towards the back and near the utility cabinet, and leave it there with the water turned on. 

The second method is to fill my 60-gallon fresh water tank.  On my rig, the water fill receptacle is located on the passenger’s side, near the entrance door.  The cover is locked so no one can contaminate your tanks. So, you unlock the compartment and then unscrew the hose cover.  I use a hose with a thin nozzle on it, but somehow, I always get my shoes wet when I fill my tanks.  About once every 4-5 months, I add a couple of cups of bleach to my fresh water tanks and run it through all the pipes to disinfect them so I can safely drink the water that comes out of my tanks.  No bottled water at all! 

I prefer campsites that have potable water faucets at them so I can fill my tanks as full or less full, as needed.  Water adds a lot of weight, so if I am going to drive somewhere the next day, I prefer to just add as much water I need for that night. I’d guess that maybe half of the state and federal campgrounds I stay at have water at each site.  Otherwise, I will have to go to a central faucet and completely fill my tanks up.

And I say “tanks” because I really have two 30-gallon fresh water tanks that are connected.  Once one fills, it overflows into the second tank, spitting the built-up water and air pressure at me through a small outlet and getting my feet wet.  Believe it or not, 60 gallons of fresh water will last me about 4 days, assuming I take one short “navy” shower each day and wash dishes only once per day.  So, basically, I use only 15 gallons of water per day!!  And that is for everything except laundry and truck washes, which I do not do in my motorhome.  That is compared to the 100-150 gallons the average person uses in a home. 

One other important thing is that my RV has a built-in “whole-house” water filter.  This means all water that goes into my rig gets filtered before it goes to a faucet.  I often also use an exterior filter that attached to the potable water fill faucet outside, so it gets filtered before it goes into my tanks as well.  I usually trust water from campgrounds owned and run by governmental units, but I am less trustful of commercial campgrounds because I am not sure how often their water is tested, but at least with my double filtering, the water will end up pretty good tasting and clean. I change the whole house filter about every 3 months.

Also, one last thing I have learned—the worst water in the country is in Florida, anywhere in Florida!  The best water in the country is at Grand Canyon because it comes from Roaring Springs down in the canyon on the north rim.  They pipe it to the South Rim and store it in big tanks.  Tastes wonderful! 

Now, what goes in, must come out, so I also have a 35-gallon grey water tank and a 35-gallon black water tank.  Grey water is the stuff that comes from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower.  Black water is sewage from the toilet.  Because the grey water tank fills up first, I wash dishes in a dishpan, and dump that water in the toilet.  I am really careful about how much water I use to wash dishes and even rinse the dishes while holding them over the dishpan. 

RV toilets, by the way, use very little water.  Instead of using the typical 1.6 gallons a regular “low flow” home toilet uses, mine uses maybe 1-2 cups of water per flush.  I also have a special shower head that adds air to the water, so it comes out feeling like a regular shower, even though I am using very little water.   

I usually dump my tanks every three days, so I don’t have to skimp so much on water.  On days when I cook or bake, I use a lot more water doing dishes, and driving to the dump station every three days instead of four means I don’t have to worry about standing in the shower late at night, all soaped up, with no water to rinse off.  Not fun.

Dumping my tanks, by the way, can be a 5-minute or a 20-minute task.  This depends on how many people, if any, are lined up behind me, and if the dump station has a hose that I can attach to my black tank rinse or not.  I like to rinse this tank at least once a week so “stuff” does not build up.     

Propane

Occasionally, when I am at a gas station filling up my 55-gallon gas tank on my RV, someone will comment on how much gas I am burning driving around the country. (I get only 8-9 gallons of gas per mile—pretty bad compared to a car, but not so bad considering I am hauling around a 14,500 pound home.)   

My response is to ask them how much they spend each month on natural gas or propane to heat their home?  I use propane to heat water, heat my home, and cook food on the stove.  In 2018, I spent a total of $291 for propane.  In 2019, I spent over a month in freezing Ohio, so spent $473, and in 2020, I spent $263.  That is for an entire year, not per month!   

Admittedly, I do occasionally use a very small electric heater to take the chill off at night, but I don’t pay for electric at campgrounds.  I also do this because I want to save on propane, however, it is not the cost of the propane that bothers me.  It is finding it and getting the tank filled.  My tank is permanently built into my motorhome, so I can’t just take it out to fill it or switch tanks as you can do with smaller and more portable tanks.  I have to find someplace to fill it in place and hope that the trained person who is allowed to do this is working that day.  Mostly, I rely on Tractor Supply, ACE Hardware stores, and U-Haul, although some of the bigger truck stop type gas stations will fill my tank.  It is also sometimes tricky to pull up to the proper place so the hose can reach.  Depending on the weather, a full tank of propane (10 gallons) will last me from 2-8 weeks. 

Monitoring

Unlike a house, where you can count on always having enough electricity, water, and heating fuel coming into your home, those of us who live in RVs have to get used to constantly monitoring these necessities.  There is a control panel that shows me how much of these things I have available.  Or at least it is supposed to show me all those things, but these monitors are notoriously unreliable, so I kind of keep a mental scorecard on how much water I have used in the last three days.  (Tomorrow is dump day.)  Wish me luck! 

For example, I know that right now, I have full tank of propane, so no need to be skimpy with it.  I should have gone out before dark tonight and added a bit of water to my fresh water tank, but I am pretty sure I have enough for a shower tonight.  I also have been watching my grey water tank, and I am pretty sure I have enough space for the waste water from my shower.  (If my grey water tank gets too full, it fills up the shower floor!)  And, I am plugged into 110 volts, so lots of electricity available. 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

3/6 City of Rocks, Deming, NM

This state park is kind of a strange place.  Visualize a volcano 30 million years ago, with "bubbles" of molten lava pushing their way up through the erupting mass, but not quite making it to the top.  As the volcano cooled, they solidified and over the eons, the covering rocks wore away, leaving these rounded rocks as the only indication of the ancient eruption. 

I had planned to spend more time here in New Mexico in 2018, but ended up having to cancel my winter plans that year.  This year, I had made plans to stay at various state and federal campgrounds for the months of February, March, and April, except because of COVID-19, my February reservations were cancelled.  Finally, they have opened the state parks for March and April, so I am here at last.  I'll be moving roughly once a week to a new campground.

 Mostly, the land around here is very flat, with mountains far in the distance.  There are a few of these rock formations in the area of the state park, but they are not common in the rest of the area or the rest of the country, for that matter.   The cluster of cars on the right, by the way, are camp hosts checking in the few campers that have been allowed.  I made my reservations several months ago, so I am one of the lucky ones, but they are still limiting numbers because of the virus.   

There are only a few electric sites, and they are all clustered in this area to the right.  The non-electric sites are tucked into the rocks so they have lots of privacy.  On the other hand, I much prefer electricity and water hookups over privacy!! 


My rather large campsite.  My only complaint about this place is that the roads are gravel, which means when a vehicle goes past, there are huge clouds of dust.  Luckily, the wind is blowing away from my freshly washed motorhome, but it has somehow managed to get covered with dust and sand anyway.  (I stopped at a Blue Beacon Truck Wash on the way here, which I would not have done had I known about the gravel roads.)  When no one was looking, i did cheat a bit and sprayed some water on it and got most of it off. 

This is the view across from my campsite.

Yucca plants and Joshua trees look very similar, but the flower spikes are very different.  I found these two types, but need to look them up to get more info on which is which.

Here is a campsite across from me.  No power or water, but very private.

Today, March 6th, I went for a long walk on a marked trail through the rocks.  It turned out to be longer than i had planned on, and it was sometimes tricky walking on the rocks, but at least there were some other people out walking if I had fallen. 


A view of my motorhome and a mountain in the distance.  I used my telephoto lens, so this was farther away than it looks.


I was waiting for an earthquake or some boy scout leaders to knock this over.


You can see how the path was marked here.  I could not take a shortcut and get off of it because the path was about 50 feet above the campsites and over very rocky terrain so I had to keep going to the end. 




Whew!  I walked for a full hour and finally made it back to my campsite!