Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Blog Issues

Sigh. I received some nice comments and finally carved out some time to moderate them and respond. Blogger did not make this easy. It took multiple attempts to log in to my own blog because it didn't recognize the computer I was using to log in. It is the same computer I've been using for several years, dang it.

However, because we move around - duh, we're full-time RVers - this is a constant problem with signing in to accounts. Even though I followed the instructions to confirm my log in attempt on my phone, it still wouldn't let me in. I'm not sure what I did different to finally get into my own account, but here I am.

Now, however, it doesn't seem to recognize that I'm logged in when I go to view my blog so that I can respond to the comments. My responses have evaporated into thin air multiple times. They don't show up on the page - my own freakin' page! - or in comments awaiting moderation. Heavy sigh. It's pretty ridiculous to have to write a post to respond to comments.

But, I did want to thank dc for the suggestion of a great place to visit and Candace for the nice words. I did not keep the long bike because the logistics of fitting it on or in the towed car were too complicated. It now belongs to a Tucson bike commuter who hauls her two young children around on the snap deck while doing errands. Sadly, I have not been riding the bike I kept all that often. As the weather warms up here, perhaps that will change.

We're up in Idaho early in the season for several reasons. Southern Nevada was already getting warm. By early April, highs were hitting the mid-80s! The volunteer position here started in mid-April so that the park could get the place spruced up for their busy season. That is coming up fast since school will let it soon. We actually put off heading up here for an extra week because of snow. Idaho had an exceptionally snowy winter and it took the passes a while to clear. Many of the back road mountain passes are still closed!

Speaking of snow, it is still doing that here occasionally even though it is mid-May. I was out all day Saturday for a big bird count and was snowed on much of the time. While it was beautiful, it was also cold and sometimes made visibility so limited that it was hard to see the birds.

Regarding the future of this blog, I'd like to be able to occasionally post but if the above issues continue, I will probably just stick to Instagram. I'm having a lot of fun posting photos and am shocked and amazed that people are actually following me. I'm rarely able to get really clear photos with sharp focus because my camera is not a super-duper expensive one, nor do I have the patience to try to get the perfect shot, but I share what interests me.

So again, I invite anyone who has enjoyed my blogging to check out the photo version at instagram/birdingbyrv. It's takes less time than reading my wordy blog posts.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Why We RV

While there are some advantages, which I will share later, I have to tell you upfront that I am not all that thrilled about living in an RV, or at least not in our RV.

Due to our proclivity for dropping our daily detritus on any flat surface available, it is always cluttered. Even one day after a dedicated cleaning effort, it will have fallen back into disarray. We talk about how we need to be better about putting things in their place but it just doesn't happen. This is generally manageable in a larger house but in a small RV, it makes it look messy all the time.

Living with a large dog in an RV is more challenging. We love our dog but he is definitely more of a handful now than he was in our house with a fenced yard. He is constantly under foot, not because he is a pest but because there simply isn't much floor space. Our schedule is dominated by making sure he gets out when he needs to get out and, as an older dog, that is more frequently than in the past. In a small space, his loose fur accumulates rapidly and seems to coat everything. And he had taken over the couch. He was not initially allowed on the couch but we felt sorry for him as the weather turned colder and his arthritis began to act up more. Now, however, he wants on the couch all the time and it is not big enough for the three of us if he stretches out as preferred.

Cooking from scratch is becoming a rare event because the small kitchen makes it frustrating rather than enjoyable. During the summer when we had a camp stove set up outside, it wasn't bad. I had plenty of work space for meal prep inside before we cooked the food outside. Now, however, I'm trying to work with extremely limited counter space, crowded burners, and an oven that heats unevenly. (We're looking for pizza tiles to line the oven bottom to even out the heat.) Most of our meals are very basic and include more frozen and/or prepared ingredients. I miss the meals I used to enjoy preparing. I miss composting, too.

The driving part stinks. It's a pain to pack up the RV for being on the road. Anything breakable needs to be protected and secured. Everything loose has to be secured.  It'd be lovely to have a diesel pusher with air bag suspension and steering stabilizers that handles better on rough roads and in high winds, but that was out of our price range. That means we have to keep our rig weight down. The pantry must be pared down before going on the road and anything extra that accumulated while parked for a few weeks or months must be ditched. Finding an easy-access gas station is hard enough that we tend to fill up more often to avoid being stuck with a low tank. This is another example where having a diesel pusher would be nice as gas stations on the road cater to truckers.

So, with these downsides, why am I living in an RV?

There are some definite advantages to RV living, namely that it is mobile. It is easier to visit more places, see more birds, meet more people, and have more fun with a home that moves from place to place than with brief vacations. Because we have no desire to travel rapidly from one location to the next, we have the opportunity to get to know an area over the course of several weeks or months. There is not sufficient time during a vacation to do that, especially since flying or driving long distances can be expensive and most people then try to cram in as much sightseeing as possible into the limited time available. Been there, done that, and found it exhausting as well as unsatisfying.

It takes time to get into the rhythms of an area. We've been in the current area for four months. It's been an adventure learning about the weather, the community, the bird life and overall natural history. We've had time to make friends that we expect to keep in touch with long after we leave. It took me weeks to get familiar with where the birds hang out, how they behave, and recognize their songs. Having the time to do so, however, has paid off with wonderful experiences (and photos) and a bird list of 135 species in this area.

Spending enough time in new places to get to know the community, people, and culture also broadens our horizons. By being open to learning how other people see the world, we can get a glimpse into understanding what may initially seem like baffling behavior or beliefs. It doesn't necessarily change our beliefs, but it does increase our tolerance for those who have different ones.

These benefits, so far, have made me willing to deal with the disadvantages of RV living. You can check out our new Instagram page to see some photos of our adventures: There is no need to sign up for Instagram just to check out the photos, although you do have to have an account to like a photo or leave comments there.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Long Overdue Update

We have been full-timing for over 10 weeks now. For the first two months, we stayed at an RV park a few miles from our house so that we could keep the yard looking nice while it was on the market. Honestly, I don't think we would have stayed there otherwise; it did not have many amenities and was in a fairly noisy location. The next closest RV park had more amenities (a pool!) for the same cost but was just too far away for the twice-daily trips to the house.

Adjusting to the RV lifestyle has not been without its challenges. Heavy summer thunderstorms revealed more leaks in the bedroom slide and high winds tried to rip off our awning a few times. Dealing with these issues, the lack of space compared to a house, and the stressful process of selling a house had me seriously questioning why I thought this was a good idea.

The past two weeks, however, have reminded me why we made the choice to downsize to an RV. We are camped at Catalina State Park just north of Tucson. This is a park we visited often to hike, bike, walk the dog, and go birding. I remember being envious of the folks camped here when I'd see them slowly biking up the road, obviously enjoying themselves. Well, we are those happy campers on bikes now!

We ride our bikes around the campground, to the Ranger Station to report sightings, and to go birding. We even tried looking for snakes on the road one night by bike. We can step out of our RV and be on a trail almost immediately. We can pause while washing dishes at the campground's dish-washing station and look around to see if any hawks are soaring over the cliffs. When I wake up at 4 in the morning, I can listen for owls right outside my home.

RV life will not always be like this, but we are enjoying ourselves right now. We do have to take care of minor issues like earning money at some point. This week, we'll be pulling out of here and heading to Texas to establish residency there. It is likely to be an interesting trip, full of surprises for us as newbie full-timers.

I have  been thinking of features I'd like to include on this blog, such as RV and campground reviews, product reviews of items we are happy with in our RV (and perhaps Amazon sponsor links), a tour of the RV, what we're finding works well in the RV and what we're struggling with, and so on. If I can drag myself away from the great birds (and snakes! and mammals! and butterflies!) outside, I will share more with you. For now, enjoy this gopher snake we saw on the road last week.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Having Fun Where You Can

I know I haven't written in the month since moving into the RV. It's been a rough transition, which I promise to write about soon. Tonight, however, we've made plans to have some fun.

For the first time ever, we get to watch a Sharknado movie on the original air date! The office building has satellite TV and they get the SyFy channel. Woohoo!

Before you judge us for considering this fun, remember our choices at present. It's almost 100 degrees outside, muggy, and the mosquitoes have taken over. Inside the RV, it's muggy, crowded, messy, and the mosquitoes are trying to invade. We have DVDs but no satellite dish.

And sometimes you just need to revel in complete silliness to make the rest or your life seem a little better. I have learned to appreciate 'B' movies and we find the Sharknado series to be so ridiculous that it's fun. Sharknado 4 is exactly what we need  right now to counteract the stress of selling our house. (Appraisal is tomorrow.)

To make our 'movie-going' experience complete this evening, I'm going to make a big ol' mess of fancy nachos, starting with a bag of organic blue corn tortilla chips. I've dug out my recipe* for nacho "cheese" sauce, using soymilk and Daiya cheddar cheese shreds. There's salsa and guacamole to go on top and I think I'm going to chop up some of my own cured black olives to sprinkle over it all.

The only question now is whether I kept a big enough pan to put all this in. It was such a harried rush there at the end to load up and move into the RV that I still am not entirely sure what we kept and what we donated in the end.

Hope you have a fun evening planned, too. Watch out for sharknadoes!

*ETA: Here is the requested recipe for vegan nacho cheese.

Vegan Nacho Cheese  
1 tbs Earth Balance (vegan butter)
1 tbs flour (I use whole white wheat flour for everything.)
1 cup soy or other non-dairy milk
1 ¼ cups shredded vegan pepper jack or cheddar cheese (I prefer Daiya brand.)

In a medium sauce pot, melt the Earth Balance.
Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes over moderate heat.
Whisk in the soymilk, stirring well to smooth out any lumps.
When the sauce comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese (not with the whisk unless you want an annoying clean-up job!)
Remove sauce from heat and pour over tortilla chips.

Sprinkle with any of these foods for even more flavor: sliced green onion, chopped fire-roasted green chiles, chopped fresh or canned jalapenos (remove seeds for less heat), chopped fresh cilantro, and/or chopped black olives.

Note: this can easily be made with dairy ingredients instead of the vegan versions.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Moving In to the RV

Before I tell you about the moving in process, I must warn you that I will not be providing a falsely cheery version of the facts. What you get is the real, and sometimes bitter, situation without any sugarcoating to make it easier to swallow. Some may call me negative but I prefer to think of myself as a realist.

It seems like we have been moving in to the RV for weeks but we'd really just been taking a few things out here and there to see how they fit and to start to clear out the house. The moving in process began in earnest this week, right in the middle of another heat wave. Temperatures in the Tucson area this month are the highest they have been in 20 years. Moving from a house, albeit a manufactured house, into an uninsulated RV has had me seriously questioning my sanity!

To avoid spending too much time outside during the hot part of the day - and for good reason considering that several people died from the heat here this week - we transferred our stuff from the house to the RV during the cooler morning hours. During the day, I worked on figuring out where to put it in the RV while my husband worked on the house getting it ready to sell. At the end of the day, we went through the house, gathering and sorting whatever would get moved the following day.

While I already understood that space was at a premium in the RV, I quickly discovered exactly what that means. It means that I don't get to keep everything I want to keep. As I sorted through load after load, many items got tossed into the donate pile. I've been by the local charity shop every day this week with donations.

Here is what the RV looked like last night. After taking the photos, I worked for several hours to clean up the mess but I want you to see what the real moving in process looks like.

I'm not actually a slob or a hoarder. It's just a difficult process getting moved in to a tiny space.

This is the view that greeted me when I came in the door. (I almost turned tail and ran!)

How is all this going to fit?!

Even the refrigerator is ridiculously crowded.

The freezer, too.  That black ice pack on the top shelf goes on my twisted ankle every night.

Someday I'll show you some 'after' photos. Right now, I'm too tired and it's time for ice cream.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Chile in a Hot Tin Can

Oh my gosh, people, it is so incredibly hot here right now! I just met some folks for craigslist sales and my car's thermometer read 107 degrees. There are heat warnings in place through Monday. Thank goodness we decided not to hold our final moving sale this weekend. We had planned it but had to postpone because the tow dolly for the car was delivered yesterday by a large freight truck that would not have been able to get to our driveway with a bunch of yard-salers parked in the way.

So, I keep hearing the same questions over and over: "When are you leaving?" One variation often seems to be "You're still here?!"

Yes, we're still here. Contrary to what some RV bloggers may imply, the transition process takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r! We bought the RV in August of last year and honestly thought we'd be out of here by late winter. What a fantasy that was. With all of the repairs and cleaning we had to do, we're lucky it's ready now. The condition of the RV was misrepresented, to put it nicely. Many, many repairs were necessary, including replacing a dry-rotted bathroom floor that had been subject to long-term leakage. Even the steel frame underneath had rusted out.

The cleaning has been just as time-consuming and infinitely more frustrating. Somehow, the sellers were able to disguise the fact that they had smoked in the RV. I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke but did not detect it when we went to look at it. The sellers did not smoke in our presence, either. It did not even occur to us to ask whether they were smokers. After we'd purchased it and driven it home, it sat closed up overnight. The next day when we sat inside, the smoke smell was overwhelming. Within 10 minutes, I was wheezing!

We have spent hundreds of hours cleaning the entire interior from top to bottom. With our new carpet cleaner, my husband went over the carpeted ceiling (carpet helps with condensation issues) multiple times to not only remove the smoke smell but to clean the grime. You can see the before and after in this photo with the yellowish square the last bit he had left to clean.

He removed and cleaned all of the blinds, which was a good step because they had to be restrung anyway. We replaced the bed. I have cleaned every hard surface inside the RV at least once, many of them twice (or more) as I worked out what solutions I needed to use to remove the odor. We ended up replacing the convection microwave because the smoke smell had permeated it so badly that it was not salvageable.

Visitors do not detect the tiny bit of lingering smell that is left and my husband thinks it's in my imagination at this point. I mostly do okay inside as long as there are exhaust fans running. Before we move in, we'll need to toss the pans of charcoal and baking soda sitting in every room, as well as in a few cabinets.

The exhaust fans are not an option today because of the heat. We'll have to run the generator in order to run the air conditioning units to keep it cool inside. Thank goodness we are not yet living in it, although if we were, we would be parked where we could plug into an outlet and run the A/C without the generator.

I did plan to continue loading the RV today but the heat changed my plans. Opening and closing the door frequently would let out too much of the cool air, just like for a refrigerator, so I am continuing to do final sorting in the house. More than half of the kitchen has been moved into the RV, a challenging process during which I had to let go of many items I wanted to take with us. We will not have the joy of grinding our coffee beans by hand or making pasta from scratch with the manual pasta machine. If I take those, I can't take food. What good do kitchen gadgets do if you have no food to prepare?!

The house is looking sparse. Today I literally sold the chairs out from under our rears so we are left only with the folding chairs purchased for the RV. The table holding the TV went last week and the totes that served as our temporary TV stand are going tomorrow. There is very little furniture left. What is left are piles of stuff to be sold or donated and piles of stuff to go in the RV. And, sadly, in the office, there are piles and piles of paper files that I still need to deal with. For every piece of paper I'm able to ditch, it seems like half a dozen more come to take its place. I suppose the next few days will force me to deal with this because it's just too hot to do much else.

If you are thinking about downsizing to the RV lifestyle, be sure to give yourself adequate time to get rid of just about everything you own. Most blogs devote a single post to the downsizing process. Perhaps those full-timers did not go through the angst that I have in giving up a houseful of possessions. I know it is all just "stuff" but it is MY stuff that I have spent years enjoying. Some of it is stuff that I made or my husband made, making it just a little bit harder to see go away. Just this week, we decided we really don't have room to take the long bike that he built for me.

He BUILT this bike for me from a pile of tubes ordered in the mail. It was gut-wrenching for me to decide not to keep it but the reality is that the RV lifestyle means limiting your possessions. Hard choices are necessary. Hopefully the pay-off will be worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crunch Time

I really wish that "crunch time" meant that it was time to sit and eat a bunch of crunchy chocolate chip cookies, but that is not the case. Crunch time means that we have finally set a target date for getting into the RV: end of May.

Holy guacamole, that is only a few weeks away! Most of the repairs and remodeling have been completed in the RV, we have a realtor, and the house is almost ready to go on the market. All that's left to do on the RV is get new tires and have the windshield gasket repaired. Once those are complete, we will park it in a nearby RV park and start moving into it.

We hope to stay in the area for a little while to keep the property looking really nice while it is on the market. Eventually, though, we will have to head out for work. It's hard to think about that right now because we're having lots of fun with the birds of spring migration. If you want to read more about that, I've started a new blog focused just on birding.

Now I just need to get rid of everything in the house that won't fit in the RV!