So.. this is my first real post. The introduction doesn’t count. I thought I would catch up on what I’ve been up to since quitting work and moving to the New Mexico park system in my motorhome. I apologize in advance for the length of this post. In the future, they should be more brief. Before starting in on my post-job activities, I will fill you in on some motorhome background.
The manufacturer of my motorhome is Lazy Daze, which is a small factory operation headquartered in Montclair, CA. They build in the neighborhood of 250 motorhomes per year, all by special order. The motorhomes are quite popular and the waiting list is typically a one year or so to get a new one. Lazy Daze invented the Class C (cab-over design) motorhome in the 50’s, starting with the truck inserts and then integrated truck/coach RV’s. They seem bent on maintaining a retro look from the original models. They pride themselves on their high quality and safe design that is typically the only class C model in the NADA catalog with a five star rating. Yet the cost for this quality is lower than other brands as there is little sales overhead due to the fact that all models are ordered straight from the factory directly. When you purchase a Lazy Daze, you become part of a community or club similar to Airstream trailers or Harley Davidson motorcycle owners that leads to friendly encounters by other owners across the country. Wherever you go, other Lazy Daze possessors go out of their way to introduce themselves and offer help and friendship. It’s a little startling at first having people walk up to you and introduce themselves only because they see you have a Lazy Daze motorhome (I’m quite suspicious of overly friendly people..). My favorite feature of the Lazy Daze brand are the almost excessive use of windows. A very large percentage of the wall space is taken up by windows, which provide panoramic views while inside looking out. The downside of so many windows is the lack of wall space for additional storage or places to hang photos, etc. I’ll take the windows over wall space…
Within the Lazy Daze community are generous folks who spend enormous amounts of personal time helping others with their motorhome related problems via the Yahoo group lifewithalazydazerv. This invaluable service makes the difference between a happy RV experience and a constantly challenging one. It’s no picnic stuffing your whole world into one 27 foot box and maintaining sanity over long periods of time. Of this community, one aficionado stands out above the rest; Andy Baird. He’s been full timing for over 12 years during which he has assembled a massive database of motorhome solutions and ideas, providing them free of cost via the Eureka! portion of his website. Eureka! along with the Skylarking blog provides the proof that you can full time in a Lazy Daze for under $25K/yr and live quite well. Andy’s blog convinced me that I can take this year off from work and afford to live in the New Mexico park system while preparing for my PCT hike. But more importantly, I now know I can retire at 62 and live on SSI in my motorhome and be happy with it. Prior to that I thought I would be working until 70, should the gods be so generous to keep me going that long in a highly stressful and unpleasant environment. I’ll be doing what I enjoy most in life, hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and staying mobile. I may even pick up a few more hobbies like Kayaking and shooting (I love things that go bang). If you ever decide to try out the RV life, read Andy’s site first. Returning to conventional living in a fixed home location (commonly referred to as “sticks and bricks” by the full timer community) now seems out of the question. If I ever pick up a copilot in my travels, she’ll have to accept living mobile if she’s to live with me.
I’m towing my 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman, which is quite convenient for running to town while the motorhome is hooked up at a park. I’m kinda tired of calling my motorhome “motorhome”. It needs a name, but I can’t seem to come up with one I like. I read about a name of an RV called “Cramalot Inn”. Cramalot seems so appropriate, I’m thinking of appropriating it as I’m not creative enough to beat this one. If anyone can think of a better name, please chime in, otherwise, Cramalot it is. I don’t feel as compelled to name my car as I don’t refer to it much. It’s just the “Mini”. By the way, tow cars are called dinghy or toad in RV parlance, though it seems the spelling should be tow’d or towed as that’s probably how they got the name initially. Now, on with the post-job activities…
Over seven weeks have expired since I left southern California. I’ve stayed at five New Mexico state parks. Here’s what I did there:
Rock Hound State Park – Spent two weeks here. This park is located on the west side of the Florida mountain range about 13 miles SE of Deming, NM. I found it to be peaceful and secluded with wonderful views of the Floridas and the valley below. Another interesting feature of this park is you can dig into the side of the mountains looking for gems and take home what you find. Evidently, lots of cool gems are found here and people are digging for them daily. I met two other very friendly Lazy Daze’rs while there.
The hiking was not great, but there was one trail called “Lover’s Leap”, that is a very steep climb and terminated in a saddle giving spectacular views on both sides of the mountains. There are other trails that you can walk, but you will only tally a couple of miles. I hiked these a few times but didn’t get much exercise. I was able to get one 20 mile bike ride in at this park.
After Rock Hound, I spent a few days fooling around in Texas trying to get my residency changed from California to Texas. Texas is motorhome friendly leading to tens of thousands of full time RV’rs to choose Texas as their domicile. There are no state taxes and it’s very easy to establish and maintain residency, even if you spend little or no time there. The only requirement is to have your vehicles inspected in Texas once a year as a part of renewing your registrations. This can be done right at the Texas/New Mexico border. Also, the Escapee’s mail forwarding service is located there, giving you an official Texas address. I’m not a big fan of Texas politics but they do have the freedom thing going for them (and check out those gas prices!). So far, I’ve yet to get my cars registered. I’m hoping to find the registrations in the mail this week. I’m more motivated than usual as I have been called for jury duty in CA and don’t wish to have to make that trip at the end of December. They won’t excuse me from service until I can prove that I have changed my residency to Texas. I’m hoping the vehicle registrations will do the trick.
I stayed at an RV park for several days while in Texas and while getting my tow brakes installed on my Mini Cooper and Cramalot. It took several very frustrating days to get the brakes installed, and in the end, I’m not using them. Out of ignorance, Camping World wired the tow brake power to the car battery rather than running a 12V line from the Cramalot battery back to the car. So after a couple hours of driving, the Mini battery runs all the way down. I plan to finish the job but have yet to get to it.
While waiting for Camping World, I did a couple hikes, off/on trail toward some nearby mountains. These were longish (>5 hrs) challenging hikes, but interesting and fun. I wish I had more time to explore the mountains but it was such a long walk to get to them, I had to turn around before climbing too far up the side. I’m not sure what the stats are as I had not yet started to log my hikes.
Leasburg Dam State Park – I only stayed here one night. I don’t have much to say about it except that it was quite crowded for being off season. I couldn’t get a campsite for more than one night so I moved on.
Elephant Butte State Park – On Nov 15th I arrived here. It’s located in the lower half of NM along and fed by the Rio Grande river. This is NM largest lake, and it’s a biggie. Due to several drought years in a row, the water level is quite low but it is still a large lake. This seems to be the place to be during the winter. The temperature highs are a balmy 50-60 deg F and there is a nice camping section that has great views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Also, few campers stay at this part of the expansive campgrounds, making a relaxed, quiet environment. There’s a small group of Lazy Daze folks that spend their winters here and I have joined them.
Over the two week visit, I have completed an off-trail, bushwhacking hike along the side of the lake (? miles), 13 and 16 mile hikes along a very flat walking path. After the 16 miler, my knee pain increased substantially and has not subsided. I fear I may need to back off and start physical therapy to repair the damage. We had seasonally unusual cold and snowy weather while I was there which limited the hiking and prevented any cycling.
Navajo Lake State Park – Located in northern NM by the Colorado border. It’s NM’s second largest lake and quite a beauty. The lake is fed by the San Juan river. We should all be proud of the fact that the construction of the dam and flooding of the valley destroyed one of the Navajos’ most sacred sites. The closest town is Aztec. At the end of November, I moved up there to visit my good friend Jim Smith. He is currently living in Aztec and we haven’t seen much of each other for years so it seemed a good opportunity to reunite. Jim is heavily involved in a solar energy project that keeps him quite busy. He’s also remodeling the home he’s renting, adding to his busy schedule. We connected twice for dinner and drinks. The second time we met, I had to walk a couple of miles to meet him at the bottom of the Navajo Dam, as the road is steep and quite icy. He attempted an assent but wound up having to drive backwards back down the hill, very slowly. After dinner, we decided I would need to stay at his place for the night to avoid that treacherous drive again. The next day, the road cleared and he was able to take me back to the park. The weather forecasted 0 deg F lows for the night. My water/sewage tanks are already frozen, which means no water, showers, etc. I hightailed it south for Elephant Butte Lake where the weather is more sane.
Caballo Lake State Park – After a day at Elephant butte, my LD comrades said they had to leave as they had been at the park for two weeks already which is the limit. You can stay for two weeks in any park, then move to another park for 6 days, then you can move back for another two weeks. This is the game that’s played by all full timers living in the park system. So, I moved with them to remain synchronized.
Caballo Lake is located about 38 miles south of Elephant Butte Lake along the Rio Grande river. It’s a very pretty lake surrounded on one side by mountains that look like they’ve been left undisturbed for far too long. I look forward to cresting a few of the peaks once I’m healed. I have not done any hiking at this lake, hence no photos, but I did get two 30 mile bike rides in. One hilly route going north and the other flat going south (today). I’ve decided to ride every other day for a while, increasing by 10 miles per week. On the alternate days, I’ll do very slow gentle day hikes, while my knee recovers.
When I arrived at Caballo Lake, I discovered that my Mini had a flat tire while pulling it. I don’t know how long it was flat but it tore the tire off the rim and dragged the rim on the ground, destroying it. I’m now searching for a replacement rim to be shipped here. There is a tire pressure monitoring system that you can buy that will provide tire pressures for 10 tires, 4 on the tow car and 6 on the motorhome. The downside is the cost, $784. Ouch!
So much for the catch up. My next post will be my proposed equipment list followed by my preliminary PCT route and resupply schedule. Stay tuned.