Time to Add Some Memories to Our Dash!

I decided to put together a quick post to introduce you all  to our newest addition … the 1975 Six-Pac truck camper you see in our new header and in the pick below. But then I realized I haven’t posted in close to a year! Yikes, WTH?? Time  truly does fly!

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Yes, we have catchy names for our rig, truck and camper. LoL

So, I will back to the introduction post about the truck camper and our summer plans, but first I think I should fill you in on some of the highlights from the past year.

First and foremost … I became a Memere last year at this time!! My son Nick and his fiance Bri brought this gorgeous little girl into the world on June 22, 2015. Sarah Annabelle Sautter is absolutely perfect in every way. Being on the road I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. But thankfully modern technology let’s us keep in touch and I get to keep up with her milestones. Love her!!!

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Then in September we decided to bring our own “baby” into our HOW … a fur baby that is! This is “Sterling’s Sherlock Holmes Estelle-Bialek”! We just call him Sherlock. LoL

September 2015

September 2015

And here he is now at 1 Year Old … and about 85 pounds! LoL

Ready for Graduation from Hightest Kennels Obedience Training June 2016

Ready for Graduation from Hightest Kennels Obedience Training June 2016

He has been such a wonderful addition to our little HOW! There’s just something magical about the unconditional love from a dog. So far he’s only traveled from Rio Vista, CA north to Anacortes, WA. But this summer this pup is going to get some miles in! 🙂

Unfortunately, we also had some tragic news over the past year. Joe’s Mom passed away unexpectedly in November of last year. I know we never really expect the loss of our loved ones, but getting the news and being 3,000 away was without a doubt the most stressful, emotionally draining event we’ve had to navigate through since we hit the road four and a half years ago. She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, wife and friend and she is missed by many.

July 2015

July 2015

Mom Bialek was always up for an adventure and always,always initiating conversations with perfect strangers wherever she went. So much so that during her funeral service the Navy Chaplain who officiated focused on “Living Your Dash” … the little ” – ” between the dates on headstone showing the year people were born and the year they passed away. The concept isn’t new, I’ve heard the phrase “living our dash” before. But this was the first time I actually reflected on what my dash has been so far and as a team, what we want our dash to look like for the rest of our time together.

With thoughts of making the most of whatever time we have left (hopefully it’s several decades! lol) we took two steps toward seeing even more of this amazing country of ours and filling up our dash. First, we decided in order  to do that  we’d need a little more disposable income. Rather than have Joe sell his left nut (which we joked about back when we thought maybe we’d like to live in a loft on Mulberry St in NYC) I’d try to get on a turn-around or two with him if there was an opportunity; thankfully, there was!

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And that brings us pretty much up to speed!

So here we are today, planning our summer excursion in The Cabin!! If there’s one thing that we’ve learned, or maybe just been reminded of over the past year, it’s that life is short and there are no gaurantees. We love our life and our lifestyle. But it’s been way too long since we’ve been on vacation. I know that probably sounds funny to some because we live in an RV (recreational vehicle). But the truth is, our life revolves around work, just like pretty much everyone else we know in this age bracket. The only difference is that we choose to work the grind in a nomadic fashion.

Anyway, the point is this – It looks like we’re going to have some down time and we plan to make the most of it by adding memories to our dash. Not in a flashy, swanky, once in a lifetime, secluded island resort (although a little beach camping might be in the plan!) type of vacation. But rather a once in a lifetime, coast to coast, low-rent, gypsy vacation!

Here’s a little peek at what our accommodations will be for our trip. Ummm … yes, rustic to say the least! LoL

Here’s the kitchen …

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The dining room …

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The bedroom … (Yes, the sleeping bags zip together to make one! 😉 )

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And that’s about it! So now it’s time to start planning out the next two months of Our-Time … of our Dash.

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We’re planning to be posting quite regularly, no really! LoL We’re also hoping to incorporate some videos into our routine. This is a fairly new media to us so we’ll be on a learning curve for a bit. I usually use my phone for all pics and what few videos I have done. But Joe has a GoPro he’s itching to put to use.

If you’re still here, thanks so much for sticking around! We’re glad to have you and we’d love to have you continue along with us on this next adventure!!

Me and my love

~Cheers~

Travel Days and Boondocking Stays

Seems hard to believe that just a couple weeks ago I was sitting poolside working on my tan in sublimely warm and sunny New Orleans. Now here we are in Ferndale, Washington 2,800 miles away and I’m working on my laptop bundled under the covers at 6:00 in the morning. No, I’m still not a morning person, but this is about the only time we get half-way decent internet service. Yes, that’s a big bummer. 🙁

But, I wanted to share a few pics from our whirlwind travel days. So before I lose my window of opportunity here, let me see how many I can download. 🙂

So long for now mighty Mississippi River … and humidity!

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We’re headed through the high dessert for a few days. 🙂

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve passed the Continental Divide signs. But this is the first time I’ve had my phone close enough to snap a picture. Not very good quality, but I got it! LoL

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There’s just something about freight trains rumbling along the tracks I just love.

Freight trains in New Mexico.

Freight trains in New Mexico.

Sunset in Shiprock, New Mexico

Sunset in Shiprock, New Mexico

Sunset Shiprock, NM

Sunset Shiprock, NM

We made a quick stop at the Four Corners Monument. I think I had built myself up a little too much for this stop. It was cool, no doubt. But it seemed a little run down and dirty. I’m guessing maybe it was due to being off season?

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4 Corners Monument

4 Corners Monument

It wasn’t very crowded, but I still wasn’t able to get a picture without people or random feet in it.

Four Corners Monument

Four Corners Monument

From there we went on to Moab, Utah. The scenery on the way was stunning as ever.

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Beehive Rock, Utah

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(For anyone keeping score on the time, it’s been 3.5 hours since I started this post. Uggg)

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We spent the night at Klondike Bluff, a BLM area about 16 miles north of Moab on Hwy 191. It’s a trail head parking area as well, so there was a bit a traffic around sunset. It’s a perfect spot for an overnight stay. Dinner with a view of the snowy mountains in the background. There are so many opportunities for outdoor activities there and it’s so gorgeous! We will definitely plan a trip when we can enjoy the area for a few days.

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When we headed out of Moab on Monday morning we started to get a little nervous about some of the steeper grades ahead. So, in an effort to minimize any serious damage to our beloved F150 (with nearly 260,000 miles on her) we rented a truck in Provo, UT to do the heavy hauling for the rest of the way.

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As you can, I got the light load. Nothing but the bikes left in our truck. Thankfully the trip went smoothly for the final 900 miles of our journey. 🙂 How about that Provo sky though, huh? So pretty there!

This is the first time I’ve ever been behind the camper so it was a different perspective for me. Now I have an entire album of the rear end of our rig.  LoL

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Finally, hitting Seattle was sort of like coming home … if there is such a thing for full-timers. It was a perfectly sunny day and traffic was a breeze.

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I know home is where we park it and technically South Dakota is “home” now. But I really love how the Pacific Northwest feels, if that makes any sense at all. It’s such an odd thing for me to wrap my head around because I’m a total beach lover. 🙂

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Well, this is the second day now that I’ve been working on this little post and I’m about out of patience so I’ll stop here. I think a little trip to see if we can find a park with better Verizon service may be in order on Sunday. I’m going crazy not being readily connected at all times! Yikes, I think I may be addicted. Ya think?!?

Thanks for stopping by.

~Cheers~

 

Oh by the way!

Here are the addresses for our  boondocking spots  – (With temps in the teens for our last two nights on the road we stayed in hotels 🙂 )

Night 1 – Camping World in Katy, Texas. Easy access to spaces,safe area, a bit of road noise but not too bad.  (27905 Katy Fwy, Katy, TX 77494)

Night 2 – Walmart, Clovis, New Mexico – Friendly manager, minimal parking lot traffic, just a few big rigs, safe area. (3728 N Prince St, Clovis, NM 88101)

Night 3 – Walmart, Farmington, New Mexico – The manager was very nice, no big rigs the night of our stay, just a handful of other RVs, safe area. With the exception of some kids riding through at about midnight blaring their horns for fun, it was very quiet. (4600 E. Main Street, 87402)

Night 4 – Klondike Bluffs North Parking Area – BLM Trail Head – 16 miles north of Moab on Hwy 191.

 

Our Two-Week Boondocking Vacation Cost Us How Much??

Save Money Highway Sign

I started thinking about how much it cost us to go on our two week vacation (which is really a stay-cation I guess seeing as we stay in our H.O.W.) and I must say, I got pretty excited. I mean excited in a good way. Not the Oh My God, we just dropped $5,000 on a seven-day, Disney, Universal, Sea World kind of way … like when the kids were little!

I know it seems obvious, but doing the boondocking thing and getting out into the open spaces isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the wallet too! I knew we were saving money but I was really surprised when I added up our expenses after our 13 day 1,444 mile journey.

As much as I’d love to say we didn’t spend a dime on overnight stays, I can’t. We did end up spending $10 to camp one night. We stayed at Big River Campground, which is part of the USDA Forest Service, located on the Deschutes River near Sunriver, Oregon. We were the only people in the campground so it was peaceful as well as picturesque, well worth the ten bucks.

Big River Campground, Sun River, OR

Big River Campground, Sunriver, OR

Big River Campground, Sunriver, OR

Big River Campground, Sunriver, OR

 

Big River Campground, Sunriver, OR

Big River Campground, Sunriver, OR

Other than the $10 spent for one night at Big River Campground, we didn’t spend anything on overnights for the rest of our adventure. Holy cow! How cool is that?!?  I’m sure I sound like a tight-wad but I’m not. I’m just really jazzed that we were able to travel so far without really spending any  a lot of money.

This past December we boondocked for a 14 day stretch in Quartzsite, AZ but that was different because we stayed in one place the entire time.

We did have other expenses I need to add into the equation. For instance, we used our generator pretty much every day to charge our laptops, phones, etc. while we were boondocking. Going through two small gas cans we spent $16.

We also used coolers for beverages instead of running our small electric refrigerator off the generator. The RV fridge/freezer works great on propane so we use it to keep our food at safe temperatures. Besides, I don’t mind wiping off a dripping soda can (okay, beer bottle) from the cooler, but I can’t stand pulling out sandwich meat, cheese, burgers, etc. dripping wet from a cooler. Yuck.

Our Grizzly 40 QT Heavy Duty Cooler (we have the 40 and 16 QT) work really well, so ice lasts at least four days. We bought ice three times during the trip. At an average of $2.00 a bag, and two bags per purchase, we spent $12 on ice.

The only other expense we had with regard to camper living was to dump and refill our black, gray and fresh water tanks. We only had to do this once during the trip at a cost of $10. (The sign said $6, but that’s another story.)

Other than gas, which I’ll address later, our biggest expense was groceries. I think one of the biggest perks of traveling with your RV is being able to make lunch on the fly as well as having a home-cooked meal when you arrive at your destination. Yes, going out to eat is nice once in a while, but we really like to cook together so when we boondocking we plan on eating in for the most part.

Living in the RV means our pantry is pretty much always stocked with staples, so the only purchases we needed to make were the usual stuff – milk, eggs, bread, sandwich meat, cheese, stuff for grilling/smoking, etc. Other than our shopping trip before we left ($147) we only went into town once to grab things to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we spent $97.

Also, while in Bend, Oregon we just had to take a few hours to check out the Bend Ale Trail to get a couple of stamps in our Beer Traveler Passport. 😉 We were being responsible and only stopped at two breweries in town. Two beers plus tip came to $11 at each place, $22. Even though we didn’t have the time to visit every brewery on the Ale Trail (there are 14!) and get our little Silipint memento cup, we did find the Oregon Store and picked up two grown-up sized silicone cups to remember our all too brief visit to Beer Town USA – $28.

Souvenirs from Oregon

Souvenirs from Oregon

So all together we spent $342 for two weeks of R&R … that’s $26.31 a day! I think that’s flipping awesome!! 🙂

The breakdown –

  • Camping Fees   $10
  • Ice                      $12
  • Gas for Gen       $16
  • Ale Trail              $22
  • Souvenirs           $28
  • RV Dump           $10
  • Groceries           $244
  • TOTAL               $342

Right about now I’m sure you’re asking, “What about those fuel costs Gypsy?”

Of course we do have a substantial fuel bill when traveling. For the most part everywhere we go we have the camper in tow which means our gas mileage is pretty bad (10 mpg). Because Mr. G usually gets paid mileage for travel to and from projects (It’s always from Connecticut to wherever the next job is, not where we happen to be, which is the biggest reason we haven’t changed our residency to S.D. yet.) we don’t usually add the fuel costs into our “vacation/travel” expenditures, like we do in our monthly expenses when we’re parked for work.

However, in the quest for full disclosure, I added up the gas receipts for the two weeks. $439.

Even with the fuel added to the other expenses the total cost was still only $781. I think that’s amazing!

I’ll say it again, doing the boondocking thing isn’t just about saving money. It’s about getting off the beaten path, seeing as much of this beautiful country as we can, and simply enjoying each other’s company in a stress-free back to basics way. Being able to do all that so inexpensively is certainly delicious icing on the cake!

~Cheers~

Giles French Park – A Boondocking Review

If you read the review I wrote on Rufus Landing you know we only traveled a short distance to our next boondocking spot – GIles French Park is another Recreation Area run by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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This park is a no fee, 14 day limit, dry camping environment open to RVs and tents located on the Columbia River, just down river of the John Day Dam. You can get to the park by Exit 109 off I-84.

We didn’t realize when we pulled into the Rufus Landing Recreation Area three days prior that Giles French Park was here, even though it was on the same road. Had we gone right instead of left at the fork in the road we probably would have ended up here for the entire time.

Most of the spots in Giles French are paved, although there are some gravel places to set up on as well. We moved our rig on a Saturday so we ended up in a gravel spot. But It was a perfect boondocking location right next to the Columbia River.

We spent four nights in this spot …

Giles French Park, Rufus Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus Oregon

The campsite was fairly flat and only needed a couple leveling blocks to get level.There aren’t any designated parking places, but for the most part campers are parked parallel to the river. This helps a great deal with the wind that usually whips through the area.

The park really emptied out by Monday. Here are a couple pics of more parking options …

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

Giles French Park, Rufus, Oregon

As you can see in the pic above, there are dumpsters in the park which is convenient. There is also a restroom building with running water at the very easterly end of the park. (Just before the gated off access to the John Day Dam.) It’s not new by any stretch of the imagination, but it was clean, heated and the water was very hot. There’s also an outlet located next to the hand dryer which might come in handy if you don’t have power in your rig or tent.

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The Giles French area was much quieter than Rufus Landing. We really couldn’t hear the traffic on I-84 at all. However, you can still hear the trains, so something to keep in mind if you’re a light sleeper.

I-84 above Giles French Park. The train tracks are raised and between the campsites and the highway.

I-84 above Giles French Park. The train tracks are raised and between the campsites and the highway.

One more look …

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This part of the river is a fishing mecca for anglers looking to get their quota of salmon and steelhead trout. While the leisure fishing boat traffic is much lower than down by Rufus Landing …

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Anglers off the shore at Rufus Landing, Oregon

There are more fisherman casting off from the shore in Giles French Park. There are several fishing platforms along the river’s edge. I believe you have to be a recognized tribal member in the area to use the platforms so check into that if you’re considering throwing in a line. 🙂

Fishing platforms along the Columbia River.

Fishing platforms along the Columbia River.

Seeing as we’re not Native American, or fishermen for that matter, we didn’t do any fishing from the platform in front of our campsite. But it did make for a picturesque view for our Cinco de Mayo celebration 🙂

Enjoying the early May sunshine along the Columbia River in Oregon.

Enjoying the early May sunshine along the Columbia River in Oregon.

The entire area is actually very picturesque. Whether you’re looking toward the dam …

John Day Dam, Rufus, Oregon

John Day Dam, Rufus, Oregon

Or looking toward the interstate and train tracks …

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Or watching the sun set on another relaxing day …

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If you are in the Rufus, Oregon area (about 48 miles east of Hood River, OR)  and you’re looking for a place to spend one night (or two weeks!), Giles French Park, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers is a great option. Take Exit 109 off I-84, head toward the river and go right at the fork. 🙂

*Side Note* – The park does not have a dump station or water available. However, there is a Shell Gas station/convenience store located at Exit 109 that is set up for dumping and water refilling. The price listed on the sign indicates the fee is $6, but when I went in to pay they charged me $10. Still not a bad price I guess. They refill propane tanks as well.

That’s all for now. 🙂

~Cheers~

Rufus Landing Recreation Area – A Boondocking Review

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If you’re traveling along Interstate 84, about 48 miles east of Hood River, Oregon, there’s a great boondocking option if you’re looking for one. The Army Corps of Engineers has a nice little Recreation Area just off Exit 109  for stays of up to 14 days.

The scenery was certainly a change from the lush San Juan Islands we had just left, but it beautiful just the same. Not a bad view from my desk …

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We set up at the very end of the recreation area, staying to left once the paved road ends. We had intended to only spend one night but ended up staying for three. (We only moved a bit, but I’ll write more about that in a different review.)

20140430_174612There weren’t very many other campers during the week, but a few more rolled in on the weekend. Parking is pretty much haphazard as long as you stay in the designated areas.

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And there were rigs of every shape and size …

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On a side note, we did encounter a great deal of wind coming out of the west. That would explain why there’s a wind farm on the Washington side! 🙂  One day was really windy and had the camper rocking a bit. (Steady 25 mph with gusts up to 35 mph) Since we didn’t have our slide out anyway we just rode it out. We probably would have been a little better off if our rig had been parked parallel to the river as opposed to perpendicular. But it all worked out fine.

There is horseshoe-shaped island called Gerking Canyon not too far off shore. The easterly tip of it seems to be a good spot for fishing as there were always a few boats anchored out there with lines in the water.

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In addition to the anglers, there’s a  decent amount of barge traffic on the river as well.

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The barge traffic was very quiet. We could just barely hear the hum of the tug engines as they made their way up and down the river.

On the other hand, I-84 does run along Rufus Landing, and yes you can hear the traffic quite clearly. It didn’t bother us at all and seemed to really ease up during the nighttime hours.

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That’s I-84 to give you an idea of how far away it was from out spot. We were probably about as close to the highway as you can get in this area. lol No, that wasn’t our intention but it was the most secluded spot we could find that was so close to the water.

That large pile of stones did a great job of buffering the road noise.

This pic may give you a better idea …

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That’s the pile of stones in the background working as a buffer … and that’s Mr. G. working as a buffer. (Better a buffer than a fluffer, Ha! I’ll be here all week folks. Don’t forget to tip your server!) Anyhooo … He waxed the entire H.O.W. by hand. He was a little sore that night!

The only negative I think you might find if you’re looking for someplace really quiet is the locomotive noise – and by that I mean T-R-A-I-N-S. I know there are some people out there that really get cranky when they get all settled in and realize there are tracks nearby. Heads up – there are tracks on both sides of the river here and the trains seem to pass about every 30 minutes to an hour.

Trains to the south of us …

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Trains to the north of us…

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Honestly, we’re used to hearing trains so the tracks didn’t bother us. Truth be told we think a train whistle in the distance is kind of romantic. But, there are no crossings nearby so they aren’t sounding their horns at all here. Like I said though, you can certainly hear them rumbling by – frequently. So if you’re someone who wakes up at the sound coming from the tracks and says “F@%&*ng Trains!” you might want to pass this place over. Just sayin’.;-)

In our opinion, sunsets like these trump the minor transportation noise – hands down.

20140430_19162420140430_202215 Here’s a satellite view via Google maps. The red arrow is the location of our rig and the direction we were facing.

Google Maps image

Google Maps image

The area is open to tent camping as well as RVs and there is a pit toilet building located on the grounds should you need one. They were pretty clean and well maintained.

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If you decide to check out this boondocking spot, Rufus Landing Recreation Area is off Exit 109 on I-84. Follow Rockbeach Lane west all the way to the end, then keep going until you reach the water Oh and hey, say “Hello” to the geese for us!

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~Cheers~