2014 – Adventure Mesa Verde

As we were driving back the 20 miles to the highway we stopped at Park Point Overlook which is at an altitude of 8,572 feet. We walked up the winding path to the fire lookout. There’s a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. We especially liked seeing Shiprock Mountain in New Mexico off in the distance.

Overall it was a strenuous day due to the altitude and ladder climbing but was fun and well worth the time and effort.

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2014 – In And Around Albuquerque, NM

We’ve been in the Albuquerque, NM area a little longer than we intended to be but the weather was cold and very windy so we stayed put.  While here we’ve enjoyed seeing some of the area.

Monday was our last day in the area and we went to Old Town Albuquerque and enjoyed seeing the many shops with Native pottery, artwork, and jewelry.  There are shops that will fit all tastes and budgets as well as a variety of restaurants, candy shops and bakery.  The San Felipe de Neri church completed in 1793 is the center surrounded by a lovely courtyard and shops.  We parked by the Art Museum and enjoyed all the sculptures in the area surrounding it.

We have enjoyed our stay here with a view of the Sandia Mountains out our back window.

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Shortstop: Coronado Campground – Bernalillo, NM

Fifteen miles north of Albuquerque, NM and just off of I25 on highway 550 is Coronado Campground, which is operated by the city of Bernalillo. For us, it’s a great stop because our journey will take us north on 550 once we leave.

We really like this campground. The sites are long, there are shelters on each campsite, and even AstroTurf carpeting. Hookups are water and electric with both 30 and 50 amp sites available. The water hookups, for some reason, are on the wrong side of the camper, so you’ll need a longer water hose for water.

We didn’t find the lack of sewer hookups to be a big of a deal because we were allowed to water the trees and plants around our campsite with our gray water.

This campground serves as a good center of operations for exploring Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It is probably a bit far off of I40 for those traveling that route (It’s about 17 miles from I40 to the campground).

For history buffs, the campground is adjacent to the Coronado Historic Site. Also, there are many restaurants and other businesses within minutes of the campground. Our Verizon 4G signal is quite good.

Due to high winds we extended our stay by an extra day.  The campground was a great place to be while we waited for better weather.  We give this place a thumbs up and will likely return.

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Shortstop: Sumner Lake State Park, NM

We did a couple of 300+ mile days getting out of Texas. The reason we pushed so hard was that Lubbock and vicinity was supposed to have winds with gusts of 40 mph the next day. You really don’t want to tow a RV this big in winds like that. So we pushed hard and then settled in for a couple of nights at Lake Sumner State Park near Fort Sumner, NM.

Out here on the high plains a lake is an unusual and welcome sight. The park is about 6 miles east of highway 84. You travel over some hills and then, as you approach the park there are some twists and turns that take you up and over the dam and spillway to the entrance of the park. The route in had my attention but it was doable and I wouldn’t let it keep me from returning. Pecos Campground is the campground with water and 30 amp electric hookups. Just about every site has a view of the lake. There’s good Verizon cell service in the park, yielding a good 4G data flow.

So, we’ve had a couple of days at a very quiet state park. A small but intense thunderstorm got our attention for awhile last night, but we didn’t even get any rain from it as it brushed just past us to the north. Also, the wind has made itself known (but at least it’s not up in the 40’s). Tomorrow we head for Albuquerque.

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Shortstop: Windmill RV Park – Merkel, TX

After a drive of 350 miles we were ready for an overnight stop. We arrived at Windmill RV Park, just west of Abilene, in Merkel, Texas. The park is just a short distance north of I20. The gravel sites are long and level and WiFi is good. There are also restrooms and a laundry. My Verizon signal couldn’t have been stronger. The cell tower overlooks the campground! Overnight there was a few minutes of concern. There’s some kind of heavy equipment yard next door. About 4:30 a.m. we were treated to what sounded like someone banging on a big metal drum. It only lasted about 5 minutes, but it certainly brought us up out of a sound sleep.

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RV Park Review – Green Caye – Dickinson, TX

I don’t think this area qualifies as a draw for Winter Texans.  During January the weather was especially cold with ice storms and school closings.  At the same time, people visiting the Galveston side of Houston but not wanting to pay Galveston RV Park prices might want to keep Green Caye in mind.

Other reviews are here.

And if you happen to have two precious grandchildren in the area, well, then this is a terrific place to spend a few winter months.

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My motorhome versus 5th wheel story

The sure-fired, guaranteed, spirited discussion topic among fulltiming RVers is, well you know what it is: which is best for fulltiming, motorhome or 5th wheel.  The obvious thing is that both are quite suitable.  After all, there are thousands upon thousands of people happily and enthusiastically traveling and living in both.

Note: after 6 years in the 5th wheel we did make the move to the motorhome. Here’s my article comparing the two.

Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  Just for fun, here are my comparisons (note: I’ll update this list when I come across more “pros” either way):

Motorhome

  1. Easier to park and set up – important for people who move often or are challenged by such things. One thing that helps is that the driver is sitting right up front over the wheels – and the steering on a mothorhome lets the driver turn the rig very sharply
  2. Lends itself to the famous “in motion passenger pit stop” and it’s less famous cousin, the “honey grab me a soda from the fridge” in motion request
  3. Better for “bugging out” from a rest area or Walmart parking lot if things sound a bit strange outside
  4. If you tow a car you have a small, economical daily driver – also nice for scouting out the campground for sites upon arrival
  5. Most comfortable travel vehicle
  6. It provides the famous, “we don’t have to even go outside if it’s raining when we arrive” advantage
  7. While there are more steps to get inside, once inside it is all one level

5th Wheel

  1. More room inside – important for people who stay in one place longer
  2. The “house” and the vehicle are separate – really important when the vehicle has to go in the shop – you don’t have to get a motel room for, say, a transmission rebuild
  3. Cost of maintenance on tow vehicle is generally less – doesn’t require “big rig” service oil changes, and camper tires are less expensive
  4. Depending on your taste, startup costs are generally less
  5. Greater variety of floor plans
  6. More stable when driving in windy conditions (assuming a well matched tow vehicle and 5th wheel)
  7. Propane tanks can be removed and taken to a refill station
  8. When you want to upgrade you can upgrade the tow vehicle and 5th wheel separetly rather than having to greater expense of trading motorhomes
  9. A 5th wheel is easier to level on sites that are unlevel front to back – you don’t have to worry about putting the front tires up on blocks or having them dangling in the air if using an automatic leveling system
  10. Here’s a real biggie: a husband towing a 5th wheel is somewhat less likely to drive off without the wife aboard. 🙂

Here’s our story: when we began our search we set a budget for our fulltiming rig.  We started off looking mostly at diesel motorhomes but soon became discouraged that the nice ones were over our budget.  We began pricing bigger pickups and 5th wheels.  It became apparent to us that we had a better chance of staying under our budget while getting something we liked if we went the 5th wheel route – and we did.

A big influence on us was the living space available in the 5th wheels as well as the better floor plans.  We wanted a normal living room set up, including a more natural location of the television.  Most motorhomes we looked at didn’t offer such a floor plan.  A lot of 5th wheels didn’t either, but some did.

Now that we’re fulltiming, I admit that there have been times when I wished for a motorhome/towed vehicle.  The truck uses a lot of fuel, towing or not.  When we arrive at a campground, I really dislike driving around with the 5th wheel in tow while I cruise up and down narrow roads trying to pick out a campsite.

Most of the time, though, I’m convinced we made a good choice.  We like the living space the 5th wheel provides.  We think some of the advantages of the motorhome are minor at best.  After all, we would have to stop motorhome or 5th wheel for the driver to make a pit stop – not to mention that walking around in a motorhome in motion is somewhat dangerous and likely illegal.  We haven’t had to set up in any downpours, and if we did, we’d just get a little wet moving from the pickup to the camper where we’d wait it out.  Also, we don’t do camp Walmart or stay in rest areas so the possibility of needing to make a run for it from some undesirable situation really isn’t that great.

Then, we’ve had the pickup in the shop three times now, once overnight.  It was nice not having to take our whole house in to the shop and vacate it just for new radiator hoses!

Maybe, someday, we’ll join the motorhome crowd.  When we do, we’ll enjoy some of the advantages of living and traveling in a motorhome.  At the same time, though, I think we’ll miss some of the pluses of our 5th wheel.

Winter projects 2013-1014 wrap up

We’re winding down our first winter as fulltimers and looking forward to several months of travel; exploring new places.  We divided our winter between Dickinson and Rockport, Texas.  Dickinson is close to family and friends (and doctors) and Rockport is a nice Winter Texan destination.  Obviously, there are advantages to being in both places.

During these months we’ve taken on several projects: including the maintenance, repair, and upgrade varieties.  Here’s a wrap up of those projects.

Maintenance:

  • Washed camper, waxed front cap
  • Flushed the water heater
  • Sanitized the fresh water tank
  • Replaced the reverse osmosis water filters
  • Had the pickup transmission and rear end serviced
  • Had the pickup tires rotated
  • Refreshed and repaired some of the camper caulking
  • Checked roof and applied fresh Dicor caulking where needed
  • Repacked the wheel bearings

Repairs:

  • A biggie: had to replace a bent axle (I know exactly where the damage was done)
  • A few light switches that were getting quite stiff to operate were replaced
  • Camper floor reinforced where factory had under-engineered it
  • Recaulked the floor around shower stall where there were some leaks
  • Pulled the toilet to replace a leaky valve
  • Changed pin height on camper (needed a bit more space between camper and PU rails)
  • Fantastic Vent repaired (now opens and closes with thermostat – and rain sensor works)
  • The two camper 12V batteries replaced
  • Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors replaced

Upgrades:

Yet to come: the F350 goes in the shop to find a small coolant leak

As you can see, there’s been a lot to do! Special thanks to my friend Ron who is the brains behind many of these operations – I couldn’t do the mechanical stuff without him.

We love being touring fulltimers, but we’re learning that these rigs need more upkeep than a “sticks and bricks” house does. As you can see, most of the time and effort went into routine maintenance that needs to be done on a regular basis.

Now, with Spring upon us, we’re getting excited about our 2014 Adventure!  Stay tuned, good times are ahead!