We survived our first “tour”! The first 8 weeks we spent in the Southwest were a whirlwind of fun, learning, and discovering new places. Our most important discovery has been realizing that this RV thing is probably going to work and be amazing! We weren’t 100% certain before we started. It is hard to believe that 230 square feet now seems like a “reasonable amount of space.”
We started off east from Las Vegas in mid-March. We went through northern Arizona and New Mexico and then swung south through the same states and back to Las Vegas.
Here are some of our best and worst awards from the trip:
BIGGEST CANYON AWARD: Grand Canyon
This is obvious right? We were awed by the Grand Canyon (except for Lexi who was not impressed). It was our first experience with the new normal at national parks. It took almost 45 minutes to get in through the south gate and we had difficulty finding a parking spot. This is a place we would like to come back to when the kids are older and we can explore more hiking trails.
BEST SCENERY: Sedona, AZ
There is a reason Sedona is a top vacation destination. We were only there half a day and WOW – was it beautiful! The city is nestled between beautiful buttes of red rock that are other-worldly.
BEST COMPANY: Prescott, AZ
Prescott is an old western town tucked into a mountain valley of Arizona and it reminded us of a certain other Colorado town we’ve called home. We visited our long time family friends, Paul and Lanae (hi guys!), and had a great day catching up and exploring the area!
BEST CAMPSITE: Tucson Lazydays/KOA
This was our first experience at a real “resort” style RV park and we hardly ever left the campground. It had 2 pools, a playground, tons of amenities and activities. There was even a BBQ restaurant that would deliver to your campsite!
MOST UNIQUE LANDSCAPE: Carlsbad Caverns
If you are thinking about visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, JUST GO. It is one of the most amazing places on the planet. The size, scope, and scenery inside the cave are unbelievable.
WORST WI-FI: Tularosa, NM
I had to sit in the middle of a field for an hour just to get a movie to download for the kids. Enough said.
CUTEST ALPACAS: Bosque ABC Ranch
One highlight of our travels so far has been staying at Harvest Hosts, which are businesses including farms, wineries, and breweries that allow RVers to park overnight on their property. (We even stayed at one ghost town!). Bosque ABC Ranch was a great first experience using the service and the alpacas were adorable. Elliot especially loved it and got many alpaca kisses.
KID’S FAVORITE: White Sands NP
Both kids said their favorite place we visited on this trip was White Sands National Park. This is a new National Park added to the roster just a few years ago and features 150,000 acres of white sand dunes. The best part is the sand is made of silica and doesn’t get warmed up by the sun. It always feels cool. To add to the fun, you can sled down these dunes like they are snow.
ADULTS’ FAVORITE: Lescombes Winery
Ok this is partially a joke, but we got to enjoy a delicious wine tasting while our kids ate spaghetti O’s in our RV. They were a stone’s throw away so we could keep an eye on them but can you say “date night!?”
What We Learned
For those of you interested in the intricacies of RV life, here are some of the things we’ve learned in our first 8 weeks.
Our biggest challenge by far has been adjusting to our new internet situation. We have 4 devices that allow us “unlimited” data. When you’re on the road, you truly find out what they mean by “unlimited”. Our rude awakening came after 3 days when our main connection got throttled to a speed that is basically unusable. We’ve figured out some new rhythms of multiple connections, low-quality streaming like the good ole’ days, and downloading before hand on slow camp Wi-Fi. Overall, it’s been eye opening to realize how bandwidth-spoiled we actually are.
Moving too fast:
Having an enneagram 3 personality plan your travel schedule may not be the best thing… We quickly figured out that we were moving around way too fast. Our average campsite stay was about 3 nights, which meant we were spending a lot of time on the logistics of traveling and not enough time enjoying where we were at. Hmm… I feel like there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.
Driving too far:
Adding to the above problem, we were also driving about 3-4 hours each travel day. This also proved to be taxing. Before taking this trip we imagined we’d be driving no more than 2 hours a day, but it turns out a lot of the places we want to go aren’t that close together! We’re still mastering the art of one night stops to break up long drives.
Check the weather:
As it turns out, climate becomes pretty important when you’re in a rolling box of 2″ metal and fiberglass. We figured Arizona and New Mexico in March and April would be quite enjoyable. Wrong! The higher elevations in the northern parts of these states make for some cold overnight temps. We got to test out the furnace and A/C very early on our trip and happy to report that both are working well.
Our waste tank capacities:
I bet none of you know how much waste water you create in a week. It’s about 39 gallons for us. Monitoring our fresh water usage and waste tanks is obviously a challenging part of living off the permanent grid. But there’s also something strangely satisfying about dedicating brain power to the basic necessities of water, waste, and electricity – things we never had to worry about in a “sticks and bricks” house.
We are now hitching pros:
One benefit of moving around so much in the first 8 weeks is that we got a lot of experience tearing down and setting up our campsite. Both Ryan and I feel much more comfortable hitching, towing, and backing our trailer after all the practice.
Let it go:
I feel a song coming on… As someone who wants to see everything and check all the boxes on my to-do list, I have learned that I sometimes have to adjust my expectations for everyone’s sanity.
As of writing this in early May, we are taking a little break at my parents’ home in Las Vegas. Our trailer, Ranger Rick as we like to call him, will be getting a solar upgrade while we’re here. We are hoping this will allow us to do more “boondocking”, or dry camping without hookups, which is typically free and more remote. I can say that so far we are not sick of the small quarters or vagabonding yet and can foresee doing this for at least the next year.
As of posting this, we’re near Gypsum, Colorado parked for free overnight at Stoneyard Distillery. We have made our way through Utah and many of its amazing National Parks. Stay tuned for more updates in the future!