As our first winter south draws to a close, our conversations have naturally turned to what we’ve learned, what we felt we did correctly and what needs to be changed. As we knew it would be, the year has been a long learning curve. While we were pretty sure we were suited to the lifestyle, there were many variables we wouldn’t know for sure until we’d actually experienced them for ourselves. For example:
Lesson 1: It’s Always More Work Than You Expect
I mostly write about the places we’ve seen and the experiences we’ve had because that’s what I like to read about on other’s blogs I follow. I don’t want to read about the boring minutiae of the day-to-day grind. Who wants to know that we spent the day dumping holding tanks, emptying trash, hunting for fresh water and what we had for lunch. Not exactly riveting stuff. Then there’s the constant adjusting of the solar panels, the daily ritual of folding the bed up into a couch (or the reverse chore at bedtime), and the grocery trips every couple of days because we don’t have room to store more food than that.
At first blush, waking up in a new spot every morning sounds like a dream. And it was. For about the first week. But setting up or breaking down camp is a major undertaking, and eats a huge bite out of the day. The shine wore off it quickly. Storing, packing, securing, loading, hitching. Planning routes, gas fills, and hunting for the next campsite. And falling back onto Plan B when the new campsite doesn’t live up to reviews (or no longer exists at all). We generally don’t do much exploring on travel days. There’s just not much energy left.
We’re not complaining, far from it. We know we’re living our dream. But the reality is that no matter what you’re doing or how much you love it, there’s going to be serious effort involved. Be ready for it.
Lesson 2: You’re Never Done Downsizing
For one reason or another, we’ve been downsizing for about 4 years now. It started out by deciding to sell the house to move to another city for a job opportunity, and then over time evolved to our “Grand Adventure.” Each time we went through our belongings, we were sure that we’d gotten to the bottom of the things we could and could not live without. And then we’d go through everything again. We sold the house and moved into the trailer. Another pile of stuff went. At last we hit the road, thinking we were finally ready.
Since then we’ve left a trail behind us like a couple of slugs. Donation piles, other campers we’ve met, Goodwill bins, you name it. We’ve dropped off a small barbecue we never used, a cooler that was taking up too much room, clothing we no longer wore, utensils, bowls, lights, the list goes on and on. And we’ve already have an extensive list of things that will be left behind on our next trip south. It’s a constant battle for space.
Lesson 3: Everything In The Desert Is Trying To Kill You
OK, well maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s become a running gag between the two of us. Someone mentioned it not long after we arrived in Arizona, and it sort of stuck. Now every time one of us stumbles, or gets scraped or poked, or some other mishap, we laugh and say it’s because the desert is trying to kill us.
I suppose most people who haven’t been here would immediately jump into the conversation mentioning rattlesnakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Actually we haven’t seen any of these critters, although I’d like to (from a safe distance, of course). Fact of the matter is, while we find the weather quite agreeable, it’s still too cold for these guys, and they’re staying well out of sight. In the meantime, we’re enjoying being startled by the sudden appearance of a tiny desert lizard or a fast-moving roadrunner. Hummingbirds have been our constant companions. And there’s no shortage of one of my favorite sights: birds of prey. Eagles, falcons, hawks, even vultures. There’s always something soaring overhead.
But as with most myths and legends, they start with a grain of truth. The desert is an absolutely beautiful place. But you’ve got to be tough to stay here. The ground is either loose, gravelly rock that tries to sink you to your knees, or hard-pack ground, almost concrete-like, that is absolutely impossible to dig into. (Think tent stakes. Nope.) There is far more vegetation than you might first expect, but get close to it and you’ll find thorns and spikes and pokey things that just love the taste of you. I’ve had to take cactus thorns out of the bottom of my hikers with a pair of needle nose pliers. Brush against a soft-looking Cholla, and find out just how hard it is to get rid of.
Even water can kill you in the desert. And it’s not the lack of it. There is evidence everywhere in the shape of washes and ravines, where a sudden storm or downpour has sculpted the landscape. Signs are everywhere warning campers and motorists alike that areas are flash flood zones. Almost every Arizonan we’ve spoken to have a harrowing story of a near miss with a rushing wall of water.
So that’s what we’ve learned. What are we going to change? Well, a couple of things to start.
Change 1: Lonestar
Spending most of the last year in our little trailer has been a wonderful experience, but not without it’s problems, mostly of the spacial kind. Therefore we’ve decided we’d like to upgrade to something a bit bigger. Mainly the reason is that we cannot put the bed down to go to sleep until the bike has been unloaded. Big pain in the neck, and can feel a little sketchy if you’re not sure of the neighborhood you’ve stopped in. So Lonestar will get his very own “For Sale” sign once we’ve arrived back home and have found a suitable replacement.
Lonestar is a 7’ x 16’ 2003 Haulmark Cargo Customized Toy Hauler, completely self-contained and ready to boondock/dry camp for several days at a time. Included with Lonestar will be a 300W solar panel system, 3 burner propane stove/oven, mid-sized refrigerator, Vortex exhaust fan, 2 20lb propane tanks, weight distribution hitch and several more upgrades. Those interested can contact us here.
Change 2: Buddy
Our motorcycle Buddy will not be returning south with us next winter. We’ve found that for several reasons, we’re just not enjoying him the way we thought we would. His size and weight make it very difficult to get around with him, especially since we mostly boondock away from towns. He’s definitely not a dirt bike, and doesn’t move well in the loose gravel. And we seem to always be on loose gravel.
And since we’re not using him that much, he’s become more of a liability than an asset, having to be loaded and unloaded into the trailer each time we move. When we traveled to Missouri to spend Christmas, we put Buddy and a few other non-essential items in storage in Yuma until we returned. Traveling lighter with just the trailer was much easier.
Basically, he’s just taking up more space than he’s worth. Mike has decided he’d like to search for a lighter bike once we get back home for the summer. Something in a street/dirt style, easier to transport, and possibly able to be loaded on a rear-bumper carrier, which would help widen our search for a replacement trailer, as we wouldn’t have to have a toy hauler.
So that’s as far as we’ve decided for now, with more changes possible down the road. In the meantime, we’re slowly starting our trek northward, hoping that Old Man Winter will get the hint and move on before we catch up to him. Not holding our breath, but you never can tell.
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Your ideas, your questions, your thoughts, your suggestions. What topics would you like to see us post about? C’mon guys, I know we’re not alone out here. Let your voice be heard!! Comment below or message us here!