Category Archives: General Musings & Travel Tales

2013 “Big 5” RV Christmas Wish-List

The elves always invade our RV this time of year

The elves always invade our RV this time of year

FINALLY December has arrived and I can bask and swim in the glorious anticipation of Christmas!! I just can’t do it before December. I know shops these days put out Christmas stuff as ridiculously early as Oct and certainly most people can’t wait past Nov, but I have to see the beginning of the month before I can really let go. It may just be me, but once Dec 1st rolls around I finally feel free to play unlimited carols, bounce around with wild abandon in Santa hats and decorate the Christmas dickens out of RV….and of course that means it’s time for my yearly wish-list too. Yeah!!!

We’ve done a blog wish-list since our first year on the road (see past years at the bottom of this post), but this year will be a little different. In past posts I’ve focused on smaller gifts, mostly under $50. This year I decided to go BIG and share some of the pricier stuff that’s on our OWN list. Many of these items have been our out lists for years, and I know they’re solid RV favorites. So here you go….

1/ Garmin RV 760LMT GPS 

garmin

The lovely Garmin RV 760

Our current GPS dates back to 2008 and we are woefully old-fashioned when it comes to this stuff. So, I’ve been looking around for a newer GPS Navigator for a while. There are several RV-specific models on the market, but we’ve always been partial to Garmin and the RV 760LMT with lifetime maps & traffic at $400 seems to be the best of the lot. Nice, big screen….lots of cool settings…ability to program size & import POI. Pretty nifty little device and I know it would look awesome on our dashboard.

2/ Magnum MSH-3012M Pure Sine-Wave Inverter

Magnum

Oh, this inverter-charger is soooo sweeet!!

Inverters are super-useful for boondocking since they allow you to take the DC charge from your batteries and convert it to AC so you can plug-in all your regular AC electronics without running the generator. We’ve had a Modified Sine Wave (MSW) Inverter-Charger in our RV since we bought the coach and it’s really not the best thing. The power output from MSW Inverters is “blocky” and most of your sensitive electronics and even some of your bigger ones don’t really like it (in fact it’s burned out our microwave twice!!). So, we’ve been wanting a PSW Inverter for….like…years. But we also wanted it to be a charger, and we also wanted it to be fully programmable (for when we convert to Lithium batteries down the road) and it would be really cool if it were also load-support intelligent (i.e. you can combine AC & battery to power your rig off lower amp plugs) AND it would be just super if it were drop-in to our current Magnum. Well, say hello to the Magnum MSH3012M….sweeeeeet! Not cheap at $2,200, but that’s the one we want, baby.

3/ TST Tire Pressure Monitor

TST

That’s the system we want, baby!

I mentioned tire pressure monitors waaaay back when I wrote my very first post on tire care in 2010, and although we religiously check our tire pressure before every trip we’ve been drooling after an automated approach ever since. There is nothing like real-time input on all your tires (including your toad) for peace of mind on the road and there’s no doubt it could save you from a serious blow-out. There are many good tire-pressure systems (TireTraker, Doran, Pressure Pro) out there, but I’ve been partial to TST since I first read about them, plus they seem to get the most consistently positive reviews on the RV forums. They offer both flow-through sensors and regular cap versions (we’ll probably go for the latter with 10 sensors at around $500). Maybe this will be the year….

4/ See Level Tank Sensors

SeeLevel

Your tank levels in %%, oh my!!

Everyone knows how frustrating it is to have non-functioning tank sensors. It’s a common RV problem and it happens to everyone. We’ve managed to keep our sensors pretty functional over the past 4 years using the old GEO method, but it would be soooooo nice to have sensors that worked no matter what. The ones that get consistently the best reviews online are the digital See Level sensors.The model we like does tanks and % increments (709 model). Not cheap at around $200, but you can use existing wiring to install them, and the results are pretty neat. These guys usually show up for the big show at Quartzsite so we may give them another visit this Jan.

5/ More Solar Power….And Lithium???!!

See ma...NO shadows!

More power, more power….!!

They always say you can never have enough power, and that’s certainly true when it comes to living off the grid. We’ve been perfectly happy with our 600 Watt system ever since we installed it in Florida in 2010, but we’ve been thinking about upgrades. Somewhere down the line we’ll probably switch out to a residential (electric-only) fridge and that will mean we need more solar. Also we’d love (love) to install Lithium batteries especially since we’ve drooled over Technomadia’s installation and haven’t been able to stop talking about it. If money were no barrier what would we do? Well, we’d definitely go back to AM Solar (excellent team) and would probably add-on at least three of their GO160 panels, a second Morningstar 45-MPPT controller and 800AH of Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries which we might possibly build ourselves. Would that be just ridiculously cool or what???!! This is a high $$ upgrade and may not happen for a while, but it’s definitely in our “big 5”.

So, that’s it folks. I told you we were going big this year, and I think you can see why some of these items have been on our lists for years. For smaller $$ stuff and previous ideas have a look here:

So, what’s on your wish-list this year?

P.S. A few Amazon links in this post. If you love ‘em, feel free to use ‘em and we’ll get a few cents in gas. Share the love, baby :)

Thankful & Historic

Just a short one today. Paul is home, our family is once again whole and I am deeply thankful. It’s days like this that I realize how lucky I am…that I have family and friends who love me, that I have a hubby who is my soulmate, that I am able to live this amazing life on the road, that the people I meet (& those who read this blog!) enrich my life and become part of my nomadic tribe, that I am able to enjoy nature’s glory everyday, that I am healthy…oh, the list goes on.

I am truly thankful for it all!

C-20131112 Desert Hot Springs (6) (JPG)

As a little side-note it also happens to be my birthday today. Not that I really want to draw attention to my advancing age (after around the age of 25 that no longer holds quite the same allure for us gals), but because this day is rather historic. The next time Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and my B-Day coincide will be year 79811, a mere 77,798 years from now. By that time I will be long gone into the spiritual realm or well into many of my future lives, depending on what you believe, and I can’t even conceive of what the earth may or may not look like. Food for thought….

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful day. May you have many things to be thankful for!

A Few More Dog-Friendly Hikes – Desert Hot Springs, CA

Hiking alone with pooch is one of my very favorite things. We hike at the same pace, she’s infinitely patient whenever I pull out the camera and we never need to talk…the perfect partnership. When we launch into the wilds it’s just us, the wide, open trail and the mesmerizing deepness of nature. Polly will sniff and scout, while I meditate and ponder and lose myself in nature’s beauty. Simply wonderful…

Around Desert Hot Springs there are actually a lot of dedicated hiking trails, but only limited areas which are truly dog-friendly. We discovered Whitewater Creek Preserve last week and have enjoyed that park tremendously, but we decided to branch out into 2 other cool paw-happy spots over the past 5 days, all within short drives (or walks) of Sam’s Spa. Not only would this provide adequate blog-fodder, but it would give an unprecedented number of pics of yours truly which, as you blog readers well know, is a rare thing (alas with Paul gone, I’m forced to use myself as a picture-prop…ahhh, the tribulations of a photographer)

Mission Creek Preserve

Mission Creek Preserve is literally the other side of the mountain from Whitewater Creek and is managed by the same paw-friendly folks. It boasts yet another creek (not quite as dramatic as the one at Whitewater, but still very nice) and another 4,760 acres of doggie-friendly hiking. Plus it’s got the draw of some cool stone houses. If you’re feeling energetic and have 2 cars you can even do an 8-mile through-hike from one Preserve to the other over the Pacific Crest Trail. Polly and I decided to do a simple out-and-back the day after some heavy storms and enjoyed peaceful hiking with the backdrop of super-dark clouds. Coooool!

Directions// Mission Creek is around 35 mins from Sam’s west of Hwy 62. There is a lower gate which (apparently) can be opened if you call ahead to the Preserve and request it. Otherwise it’s an extra 1 mile to the trails. For more detailed directions click HERE and for trail-map click HERE.

Flag Mountain

Flag Mountain is a bit of a local “secret”. It’s an un-marked, un-advertized trail leading up to the mountains just northwest of Sam’s Family Spa. I “discovered” it my first year here thanks to some Canadian RV neighbors and, after bumbling around in the desert for several days finally found the trail. It’s a hard upward climb of several miles along the ridge line of the mountain which leads to the namesake (the Flags) and some simply stunning views. We picked a cool morning to tackle the trail and made it to the top around 9AM with the view all to ourselves. Perfection!

Directions// From Sam’s Family Spa turn left at the main exit and walk ~1/2 mile along the road to a raised dirt road on your right. Follow that road approximately straight back to the mountain (last 1/3 will be bush-whacking). Then trail ascends along the ridge and the beginning is marked by a cairn with 2 small flags. Approx start of the hike at 33.935785,-116.434275.

Thankfully hubby is coming home in a few days, so I will no longer have to subject myself to the lens and will (hopefully) have extra interesting stuff to write about. We’ll see…

In the meantime I’ll leave you with our latest sunset. Words are not necessary…

N-20131124 DHS Sunset (2) (JPG)

The Wonderfully Crazy Desert…

Having  churned your brains to mush with some heavy posts on health and medical, I figured I would allow you a reprieve with some light and easy stuff today. After all Paul is away, the mouse is all alone and you know what I’m like in these circumstances. Much to everyone’s disappointment (I’m sure) I’ve really been rather boring this past week. There have been no trips to the ER (despite this being one of my specialties when Paul is gone), no wardrobe malfunctions in the hot tub (in fact I’m not even on the radar. I’ve been rather outdone by a hot older lady with the body of a 25-year old who parades around in a bright pink bikini..even the local teenagers are riveted) and no crazy attempts to do weird RV repairs.

Nope, it’s just been me, the furry companions, twice-daily spa-time, running a bunch of errands, hiking and the wide open desert….the crazy wide, open desert. I use that particular adjective because it’s rather fitting. You see there’s something I can’t quite describe about the desert. In so many ways it’s completely alien,  so totally wacky. I mean WHO chooses to live in a spot where water is more precious than gold, cactus is considered greenery and temperatures & winds whiplash like a rodeo bull? You gotta be nuts, right?

But that’s also part of the charm. Desert dwellers are a little, shall we say, different which also makes them so very interesting. You get all types out here from the LA vacationers to the hard-core locals that claim a corner of god-forsaken sand, build their own concrete homes and sweat out the summer like a second breeze. Plus there’s the changing moods of the desert itself. It might wake you with pale colors and cool temps, easing you into the beauty, teasing you with it’s softness. Oh, the peacefulness of it all! Then the sun rises and the landscape changes. Within a mere 20 minutes the surface is baked by the desert oven and swept with winds that howl mercilessly across the barren sand. It becomes bleak and uninhabitable Oh, the horror, the horror! Then sunset arrives and the magic begins. All the barren air and wind-swept clouds combine to the perfect color storm, the ultimate sunset theater. You’re riveted by unimaginably deep reds, fluorescent pinks and mind-blowing oranges and you loose yourself completely in the show. Oh, the indescribable wonder, the overwhelming awe!

And that, finally, is when you understand the desert….crazy and all.

We’ve been basking in this perfect nuttiness for the past 2 weeks. I’ve been exploring the desert around the spa, but have also taken Polly for a longer outings in nearby Whitewater Preserve. This is a gem of a place with miles of hiking trails and a gorgeous, cool river running through the middle (a desert rarity!!). Plus it’s totally dog friendly. The last time we went we hiked for over 3 hours and never saw a single soul, starting at the desert floor (after a good splash in the river) and ascending 1,000 feet to the top of a portion of the PCT trail for some breath-taking views. Wow! My kinda place!

So that’s the story from me, my friends. We have forecasts of thunderstorms and rain coming our way, but this being the desert you just never know what you’ll get. It’s a little crazy out here, after all….

P.S. Turns out I’m not the only nut who likes it here. Rick and JoAnne are actually parked just across the way (we’ve already had a get-together) and the folks next to us are blog readers too. Who could imagine it?

Spa, Spa, Spa….And RV Buddies! Desert Hot Springs, CA

We’re settled into a monthly spot at one of our favorite lay-your-head-back-and-soak-yourself-to-a-jellyblob-of-happiness RV campgrounds. It’s one of the very few private campgrounds we frequent on a regular basis, so much so that we’ve been here every year since we discovered it. It’s quirky, the decor is gaudy and it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but Sam’s Family Spa had us hooked the very first time we slipped our bodies into the palm-lined, oh-so-relaxing mineral pools. Ahhhhhhh! For only $540/mo with unlimited spa access it’s a total deal and it’s the perfect compliment to a month of boondocking in the wilds.

But the spa is not the only thing on our minds here. By planned coincidence our good buddies Technomadia decided the lure of spa-time could not be resisted and joined us after their epic storage-purge for a week of social fun. Yeah!! We soul-melded with these techno-geeks at Cape Blanco this summer, so we were super-excited to see them again and paint nearby Palm Springs red with margarita-tasting and street fairs.

Our buddies even threw a creative wrench into the bucket when they invited their friend Sean to the park for dinner and a night-time photo shoot yesterday evening. Sean is a rather masterful night photographer, so it was a total treat to spend the night learning and playing with cameras and lights out in the desert next-door to our site. I’ve got a looong way to go before I reach anything close to Sean’s level, but the evening gave me a bunch of cool tips which I’m hoping to develop into better night-time photos down the road.

And we’ve been busy in other ways too. As you might recall my computer hard drive crashed and died in glorious fashion a few weeks ago. We finally managed to procure all the necessary bits and pieces through Amazon Prime here at the RV park and I plunged into a rather terrifying, but ultimately easy swap-out of the hard disc yesterday afternoon. I can proudly say that, once again, my beloved HP 8740w is back up and running, color spectrum has been restored and I no longer have to guess what my pics look like. Whoo hooo!

Lastly we’ve plunged into our yearly medical checks. Now we’re probably different from the vast majority of folks out there in that we don’t have a primary care doctor and have been self-paying our way through health checks for years. We started this when we signed our catastrophic health-care plan in 2010 and will very likely continue this way through the implementation of ACA (Obamacare) next year. I’ve actually got a series of posts planned on self-medical & cash-pay health care, but suffice to say that we self-selected and self-paid for several comprehensive blood tests earlier this week and have (once again) given ourselves a clean bill of health. All this despite the fact that my blood pumps at the rate of a zombie and I’m terrified of blood draws (seriously most nurses tell me my blood pressure is barely above the level of living dead). I’ve got a few more health checks planned (including my yearly dermatologist visit), but that should take care of us until we get back to Mexico for our annual dentals early next year.

That’s about it for now. Paul is flying off next week for a few days with family while I’ll hang around here and spa (I know, woe be me). Given the fun stuff that happened last year while I was flying solo, who knows what trouble I might get into this time around. ‘Tis the mystery and magic of RV life….always unpredictably jello!