I'm writing this two-page entry in May of 2012 to summarize what we did during much of the gap that currently
exists on this website from last September to early May. Once I get
caught up with all the individual entries I want to share --
hopefully in my lifetime! -- I'll either modify these pages or
eliminate them entirely.
The time period this entry covers is December
2, 2011, the date we left our house in Virginia, to April 1, 2012, the
date we returned there for a few weeks. That was a total of four months
or 121 nights "on the road."
This was our least expensive extended RV trip yet in terms of camping
All but two of those nights we slept in our camper at an average
cost per day of only $5.79. We spent two nights in motels (I'll
explain why in a minute). If you count those costs, our average cost per
night jumps to $6.78 for 121 nights. If we'd spent those two
nights in the camper (free at Walmart, in transit) the average would
have been a little less than $5.79/night.
Sunset from our campsite at the
Imperial Dam LTVA in southern California (1-24-12)
Not bad, eh? All of our other long RV winter and summer trips have been higher than that
even though we boon-dock (dry camp) at free or inexpensive places as
much as possible.
This trip may have been our most expensive one to date as far as fuel
costs are concerned, however.
Diesel prices were rather high historically during the
winter. Although the camper didn't travel as far as it usually does on our
long summer and winter trips -- because we didn't take it to
Virginia with us last fall -- we still drove the Cameo 4,408
miles and the truck 9,640 miles during those four months.
IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME . . .
Leaving the Cameo at Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City, SD last fall, I
mean. It was the first time we tried that. It may be the last!
We've talked about doing this several times -- storing the camper
somewhere out West for several weeks in the spring and fall when we
traditionally return to our house in Virginia between our four-to-five-month
"summer" and "winter" RV
trips. It would save wear and tear on both the Cameo and the truck, save
fuel costs, and save time because we can drive faster in just the truck.
There are downsides, of course, and we discovered even more than we'd
anticipated last fall. One of the bigger problems was the lousy weather we encountered on
the way back out to Ellsworth in early December to retrieve the Cameo.
One of several semis that slid
off icy I-70 in western Missouri on 12-3-11
weather was still quite warm in South Dakota in early October when we
left it there -- in the 70s and 80s F., which is above normal for
If we'd left Virginia in mid-November as originally planned we
wouldn't have had a problem with the weather. However, we weren't able
to leave until early December (long story) and snowstorms were already
blanketing New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas, and other
states through which we had to drive to reach our destination in Arizona.
Snow and ice cover the left northbound lane of I-29
near Sioux Falls, SD (12-4-11)
Even though we weren't hauling the camper behind us on the first leg
to South Dakota, it was a
hairy trip. We covered 1,695 miles in three days; only the first
day had good travel weather.
We did get to Ellsworth AFB all right, however, and the camper was fine. Staying in motels two
nights en route sucked. We really missed having the Cameo with us when we traveled to our house
in October and back out West in early December.
Full moon rising over Ellsworth
Our weather problems continued while we were at Ellsworth, where it was now much
colder than normal.
The temperatures were absolutely frigid the three days and nights we
spent there before it was safe to drive to Arizona (parts of I-25 in
Colorado and New Mexico were closed because of snow and ice). When we
arrived at the AFB on December 4 it was in the teens F., with winds of
30-35 MPH. It got down to zero F. and below at night.
At least it was sunny most of the time while we were there!
All ours! (12-6-11)
Needless to say, we were the only ones in the campground those three
The water was off but the electricity was on so we were able to
keep warm. We had to scrounge for water for our spare containers;
we couldn't put any water in the camper lines, which had to stay full of
anti-freeze until we got someplace warm enough to drain the anti-freeze.
Since the campground bathroom was also closed we took showers at the
fitness center on base.
Re-packing and stocking the Cameo and getting it ready to travel was about as much
fun as when we sold our house in Billings, MT in January, 2004 and began
this crazy lifestyle in a HitchHiker 5th-wheel! At least we didn't have
to dig the Cameo out of a snowdrift.
SECOND LEG: SOUTH DAKOTA TO ARIZONA
Fortunately, we arrived in Tucson on December 9 with no big problems
during three days of driving 1,341 miles from South Dakota to Arizona.
It was still very cold and most of SD, WY, CO, and NM had several
inches of snow but I-25 was clear:
Snow along I-25 between Denver
and Colorado Springs (12-8-11)
More snow on I-25 between
Colorado Springs and Santa Fe, NM (12-8-11)
In transit we feared we had a problem with our Norcold refrigerator/freezer.
it was simply a problem of being too cold outside for several
days after we turned it on . . . to keep the unit cold inside.
It fixed itself before we took it in for repairs.
Oh, and it was nice to be able to fill the camper tank with water
once we reached Tucson and knew it wouldn't freeze.
Early morning scenes along I-25
in southern New Mexico: mist over a river (above)
and the shadow of our truck/camper
cast from the rising sun (below) (12-9-11)
That little foray from Virginia to Arizona via South Dakota totaled 3,036
miles of fun (NOT), plus some additional miles in the truck while we were in
It would have been about a thousand miles shorter if we'd gone
directly from VA to AZ. That negated any fuel savings we had by leaving
the camper so far north in the fall. CO or NM would have been better in
this case, although it was also snowy there when we returned . . .
Live and learn.
LET THE FUN BEGIN
Once we recovered from that journey we started enjoying ourselves
-- and the mostly warm, sunny weather -- in the desert
Date palms north of Yuma, AZ in
the Imperial Valley (1-10-12)
This winter trip was the most "fluid," least-planned extended trip we've
ever taken. It all worked out OK but we spent plenty of time discussing
various options of where, when, and how long we'd stay various places.
It was mostly fun because we explored a lot of places where we've
never been before -- and they turned out well.
Jim and Cody hike through
colorful hills on the Rainbow Trail at Imperial Wildlife Area. (1-16-11)
We learned about several of the places we visited for the first time from the
Dale and Gwen, a full-time RVing couple on the Carriage internet forum. Between
2009 and 2011 they described camping very inexpensively at Imperial Dam LTVA
in California, as well as Organ Pipe National Monument, Lake Roosevelt,
and Safford in Arizona. They also visited Tucson briefly but didn't stay
where we did.
We have thanked them for the good information. Hopefully, when I get
around to writing more details about each of these places the
information will be useful to others and not just self-indulgent.
DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, TUCSON, AZ: DEC. 9-29,
We have never spent any time in the Tucson area before. Although we
prefer staying near Phoenix for several reasons it was less expensive
for us to stay three weeds in Tucson than at our favorite campground
near Phoenix, McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
We're glad we gave Tucson a chance. We found lots of things to enjoy,
including the Agave Gulch Campground at Davis-Monthan. We liked it
enough to return in March for another week.
We had good neighbors and good
views from our site at Agave Gulch in December. (12-10-11)
Cactus decorated as Santa Claus
at a campground host's site at Agave Gulch (12-10-11)
Agave Gulch CG has both full hook-up sites and dry camping
(boon-docking) sites. If we'd realized how long we'd be staying in
December we would have moved into the overflow/dry camping area near our
site after a few days to get the camper organized and clean inside and
Still, $19/night for full hook-ups is a good price nowadays.
Part of the overflow camping area
at Davis-Monthan AFB (12-10-11)
The overflow area is only $8/night, so we'll consider it if we return
another winter for an extended stay. We met several folks who stayed all winter in
either the overflow or full hook-up area and were still there when we
returned in March.
We found some el primo places to hike and ride our bikes, including
Sabino and Bear Canyons in the Catalina Mountains north of town and an
extensive paved multi-use path along the Rillito River east-west through
Jim waits for me to catch up
along the Rillito River greenway in Tucson. (12-22-11)
We also had miles and miles of safe streets to ride and walk on post,
which is renowned for its extensive reliance on solar power. We were
impressed with all the solar panels everywhere.
We stayed long enough to explore most of the city in our truck --
local parks, the El Presidio Historic District, Spanish missions and
other old buildings, the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, and most of the
Cascades flow through striated
boulders in Sabino Canyon in northern metro Tucson. (12-20-11)
We also had to do some exploration of the mountains that lie in every
direction around Tucson:
- north to snowy 9,000+-foot Mt. Lemmon in the Catalinas
- south to Madera Canyon in the Coronado National Forest
- east to one of the units of Saguaro National Park
- west to the other unit of Saguaro NP, Tucson Mountain Park, and
Bighorn sheep at the Arizona-Sonoran
Desert Museum west of Tucson (12-28-11)
Eventually I'll get around to more details about all of these places,
accompanied by dozens of photos.
CAMELBACK RANCH, GLENDALE, AZ: DEC. 29- JAN.
We have run and/or volunteered at the Across the Years (ATY)
72-, 48-, and 24-hour runs held at the end of December for the
past several years.
Even though neither of us could participate as runners this time
we did decide to volunteer our services once again.
Three of our long-time ultra running
friends (L-R, Matt, Paul, and Anne)
are all smiles at the awards ceremony on
New Year's Day. (1-1-12)
It was a good chance to see many of our running friends from all
over the country and world and to check out the new venue for
the event at the first-class facility used for spring baseball
training by the LA Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
Multi-day running venues don't get much
better than this! (12-29-11)
Also appealing was the opportunity to park our camper free for
three nights right near the loop course in a huge parking area
at the ball park. Several other runners took advantage of that,
Bottom line: we had a good time volunteering and seeing
friends. More about this event later, too.
Continued on the next page: some "cool" new places
for us to camp in the CA and AZ desert -- Imperial
Dam, Organ Pipe, Safford, and Lake Roosevelt
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil