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9 years later… 5 months in…

Posted by msdesign21 | Posted in You trippin! | Posted on 18-01-2011

Tags: , , , ,


I must say, 2011 has started off just grand. Sitting today in 80° weather in the middle of the desert is exactly what I signed up for. Even better, I’m sitting among new friends all with laptops in hand as they live the dream, working from… wherever! I think Sunday night has been the most incredible sunset yet and I had the pleasure to complete my night being entertained, shocked, fooled and amazed by our new carnie friends Alex and Charon, the sword-swallowing, fire breathing, Airstream travelin’ duo. There are some things that you just don’t expect will happen when you do a trip like this, and this just happened to be one of those nights, except it felt so incredibly perfect as one of those “you were meant to be right here at this very moment” kind of times. Quartzsite is a very unique place and I am starting to feel this lifestyle soak deep into my veins, as if to say, there is no turning back!!

So let me tell you a little about Quartzsite, Arizona. It is located about 2 hours west of Phoenix off I-10, with about 3,000 residents year round. Winter however, is a whole different story. As you immerse yourself in this lifestyle you quickly learn terms to describe what is really going on in this “off the grid” “underground” culture, snowbirds is one of those terms, Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people that make the yearly trek south to avoid the deathly sub 0°C temps and the horrifying, dare i even speak the word… “snow!”. It is like a plague to these people (these including me) and we spend many hours chuckling the New England states predicament while soaking in hot tubs under the palm trees or cheers-ing the sunset in shorts and 60° temps. But back to Quartzsite, which I like to call tent city.

There are tons of designated areas to park around here, the Road-Runner (mile marker 99) BLM (Bureau of Land Management) area allows parking for 14 days for free, and LTVA (Long-Term Visitor Areas) land has a few permit options, we paid $40 for 14 days, there is also an option for a winter season pass for $180. This includes unlimited water and dump access. Because of the thousands of acres to park at such cheap prices or in some cases free, it attracts many RVers. Well, that and the massive tent city that erects itself every January. Next week officially marks the opening of the RVers show, one huge-ass tent filled with every little RV gadget you could ever want or need (which by the way, you hardly ever need and rarely ever want). The big-ass tent is surrounded by thousands of other smaller tents, selling everything from rope to battery cables to rocks, gems and crystals. Lots of rocks, lots of crystals. We roamed a little last Saturday but quickly found ourselves belly up at Beer Belly bar, with stellar $2.50 drafts or $3.50 bottles, and not just the crap domestics either. It was a much better way to spend $10 than on some junk I didn’t really need. It is fun to look though.

The best thing about this area though, are the people we’ve met. A few days before we left Cali I randomly did a search for “young rvers” and found the NuRvers.com website. I maybe spent all of about 10 minutes on the site, in which I found a map where members could mark their location, found Debbie and Bill in AZ and found a forum exchange between Debbie and Kev talking about Quartzsite. Perfect, exactly where we are going through. Well, it turns out Kev started the site back in 2006, and is a programmer that works from the road, couldn’t be more timely and perfect meet-up for Brian and I to learn more about the ways of the working nomad. We talk genny’s and network connectivity and can almost certainly be found sipping drinks at happy hour, any hour of the day. At night we sit by the campfire, exchanging stories from the road, remembering the people we’ve met and how incredibly lucky we are to be in this world, doing whatever the hell we want, whenever the heck we want. Most common phrase out here: “what are you doing tomorrow?” the answer always “who knows!”.

So after 5 months I am really starting to feel more like a professional at this, even though many people we’ve met have been on the road for years longer, I feel like we are moving out of our “adolescence RV stage” moving onto “young adulthood”. Our goal is to spend less than $1500 this month (including our RV insurance pre-paid for the next 6 months at $475) and only pay to plug-in 3x this month. This is a huge improvement to our first month, paying to park nearly 20x and spending close to $4000. If you haven’t noticed yet I am incredibly open with information, especially when it comes to expenses. For most of you that know me, you know that the more you shouldn’t talk about a topic, the more I will probably want to talk about it. If anyone ever asks, I have no problem talking about our expenses. In fact, that is probably our most asked question: how do you afford this? My answer: Well, to start, it can be incredibly cheap if you want it to be. The only bills we have are insurance, phone and internet, we are some of the lucky few that didn’t run up our credit before we realized what the hell that meant. So there is that, and Brian works part-time from the road as a software/web-designer for a few clients. I started the trip thinking I would use $10,000 in savings and finally tapped into that just last month. So from my calculations, I have at least 6 more months from now until the funds run out.

Another common question we get is where do you want to settle. When we started the trip we thought, there are so many places to see and we have a lot of friends from college all over, so let’s visit them and see what’s good. Now when someone asks where are we going to end up the thought just plain scares me. I don’t want to end up anywhere is what I think. Why would I want to stay in one place, when we have the ability to go wherever! One of my favorite sayings from the trip: “the fun runs out when the funds run out” although now we are trying to not let that happen.

Another common question is: “What did you do with all your stuff?”
That’s an easy answer. We tried to sell most anything we could. Brian is a bit of a pack rat when it comes to picking up concert flyers or whatever so we actually held on to more than I wanted. The feeling of actually getting rid of all these “things” was a breath of fresh air. If it was up to me I would have got rid of everything except my shoes and a few other boxes of personal stuff, but after talking with my Dad (who was against all of this from the beginning) I decided to let my friends “borrow” our TV and bedroom set. That, and Brian’s parents were extremely generous with their basement space.

FAQ #3: “How did the dogs adjust?”
A. That question is not as easily answered, if only they could talk, I really do wonder what they would say. Sometimes I wonder if they realize how incredibly lucky they are to get to travel all over with us. They certainly get more exercise than they ever have before (me too). But I quickly realize how simple a dogs life is, and how little they probably think about anything. It is actually something I envy. I think they like being a duo, Buddha has always loved the car, pretty much sleeps all the time and Ernie is the same, usually sketched out and nervous about anything. I love camping spots like where we are now, I rarely ever leash them and can just let Ernie wonder around at his leisure. That’s what he likes doing best, so I’d like to think they adjusted just fine.

Other questions are simple:
Q. How much is it to fill up your gas tank?
A. Gas stations usually cap us at $75 or $100 so we just stop there. If we were completely empty it would probably cost around $150 to fill. Right now we are looking at gas prices around $2.96/gallon. From a recent FB poll, it would appear to be similar in the midwest.

Q. Do you have power if you aren’t plugged in? or we get the surprised: “You can use water?”
A. The answer is Yes! Two batteries in the back allow us to light Stanley up at night, run the water pump, we fill the water tank (which I am guessing is around 40 gallons) and will need to dump 1-2x every two weeks, we even have hot water, with a flick of a switch our propane tank heats water, can run the fridge, and I can even cook up some delicious meals. If we need to plug something in, run the coffee maker or watch TV, we either need to be plugged in or run our generator. We have an Onan genny built in, runs off our gas tank, with a start up switch above the stove, which will also recharge our batteries in the back (aka house batteries). My next acquisition might be solar. I am currently researching and trying to learn about how it all works to decide if we should take the leap. We’ve met plenty of people out here running solar and most all are advocates of the setup, it looks to be at least a $1000 start-up investment, which would at least allow us to charge our laptops and phones and keep the batteries happy. Our fellow rubbertramp, Brenden, has excellent posts on his solar setup at BlimpyB.com. I’m told that the big-ass RV tent will have solar panels, so I am planning to learn more in the next week or so. Solar Mike from the Slabs is also a great resource, although I didn’t really get the chance to meet him over our New Years holiday weekend, I did manage to score a business card.

Q. Do you meet a lot of weird people?
A. What’s “normal”?! You’d be surprised what makes up an RV park, not really what you are thinking, natty light holdin, one tooth missing, dirty hands and clothes, rather picture grandma and grandpa with stuffed animals in the window and decorations for any holiday and probably planters setup, maybe even a little white fence, smiling ear to ear.

If you are a fellow RVer share your FAQ’s, if you aren’t give us a question and we would be happy to answer. Thanks again for following!

(Oh yea, and I say 9 years later because Brian and I just celebrated our 9th anniversary last week. I can’t really say it only feels like yesterday that we were hanging out in the dorms because we have too many incredible memories since then, it feels like a lifetime ago! One great lifetime though, excited to see where the next 9 years take us.)