Wrapping it Up

We made the tough decision to sell our home.  Deciding to sell a home is always an emotional one.  Well, unless that home is a money pit, and even then they kept the place. At least I think they did…If I recall correctly.  Which is potentially questionable because I’m old enough to have actually seen this movie thereby making me also old enough to have less-than-perfect memory of it.

But our Discovery was not a money pit. Not only was our Discovery our home for the most fun and unique year of our lives, we drove her through some pretty intense times too. Crazy weather.  Traffic. Maintenance issues. Ice.

Bonding over good and bad.  And while we definitely had some startup MoHo maintenance issues, by the time we left the Fleetwood Factory Repair facility in Alvarado back in December 2016, everything was working perfectly and the Disco was dialed in.

Which was part of our reasoning.  RVs like this one are meant to be driven and used, not sitting in storage. We thought we would just hop in and take it for a weekend here and there, but Southern California is built more for roadsters than it is for RVs. Even with all the preventative maintenance we had completed, making sure tanks were dumped and cleaned, batteries were charged and then disconnected, etc. the likelihood of problems manifesting themselves after months in storage seemed high.

Cost was a factor too.  Insurance alone was over $3,000 a year.  Storage fees were over $5,000 a year and that’s for covered-but-still-outdoors storage. Getting California registration would be another $2,000. And depreciation was easily as much as all of those combined.  So overall, it was costing us at least $1500 a month just to have it parked. Actually USING it would cost even more!

So faced with the prospect of $20k/year for a couple of trips, we reluctantly decided that such a wonderful rig would make some great memories for new adventurers!

We thought about the right way to try and sell it. Basically, we had 3 options.

  1. Sell it ourselves, private party.
  2. Sell it via consignment using an RV dealership
  3. Sell it to an RV dealership directly

Each of these had pros/cons.

Selling it ourselves:

Selling it ourselves had the POTENTIAL for the biggest return to us.  We would expect a private party to pay more for the RV than a dealer would.  Maybe as much as $10,000 – $15,000  That’s not chump change.  On the other hand, this would be by far the most time-intensive and risky method.

First, the location of the RV meant that potential buyers would have to go way out of their way to see it.  We would have to setup a time to meet that works for them and works for us, drive over to meet them and show the RV.

With my schedule this meant either late evenings or weekends only.  Not ideal since the typical buyer is probably retired and wants to see it mid-day on a weekday.

Next, we would have to deal with the inevitable test drives. I had all sorts of visions of disaster happening from that.  “Sorry I crashed your MoHo on the test drive.  No, I don’t want it now. Oh, and I’m not paying for the damage.  Your mirrors were faulty.”

Then would come negotiations.  Followed by payment.  That last part – paying for the MoHo – made me very nervous.  On one hand, dealing with financing companies seemed like a real complication.  On the other, getting scammed or having a check not clear also seemed like a possibility.

We had no idea how fast the MoHo would sell. If we priced it low, it would sell fast but we would make less (and at that point why not just sell to a dealership directly?).  If we priced it too high, it might sit around all summer not selling. Used prices on RVTrader and on dealership web sites were all over the map – literally as much as $50k difference for the same MoHo!

Getting the right price would be important to balance between speed of sale and return.  Taking a couple of months seemed likely, and that meant thousands of dollars lost out of our pocket on storage fees, insurance, depreciation, and registration.

Selling on consignment:

Selling on consignment seemed interesting.  The MoHo would be at a dealership lot getting good visibility from potential buyers.  The dealership would have salespeople on staff who could show it and demo it during normal business hours.   We could cancel the storage costs. The dealership would sell it for a decent price and we would get most of that minus their consignment commission.

On the other hand, we were still at the mercy of how long a sale would take. Until it sold, we would have to carry insurance plus assume all the risk of it getting stolen or damaged. It could still take months.

In some ways consignment seemed like the best of both options (dealer sells it for us and handles the transaction) and in other ways the worst (we are still the owners with all the cost and risk attaching to that AND it would be subject to the million different things that could go wrong at the dealership). We would likely pocket less than we would with a private party but that is fair since we would be doing a lot less work.

Selling outright:

Selling directly to a dealership was by far the quickest, easiest, and least risky option. We would agree on a price, they would cut us a check, and we would turn over the title and keys.  Easy peasy. Of course, in exchange for the speed and lack of risk, we would get a lower amount.  How much lower would be the question.  To keep it fair, we would have to factor in a few months worth of ownership costs with the other options that we would not have to incur with an outright sale.

Basically, I assumed it would cost me $5,000 to consign or sell myself just due to the length of time those options would take (2 months) and how much I would loose during that time in storage, depreciation, insurance, etc.  Now, that was a guess.  I could have found a buyer in a few days maybe.  No way to know.

Still, dealerships usually pay 10% to 15% BELOW whatever the NADA wholesale price is. Oh, and unlike a private party, the dealership will give no credit for upgrades like the Winegard satellite dish.  So I expected their outright purchase offers to be pretty low.

Anyway, since the dealership route would be the one which resulted in the fastest price, and since I wanted to know what a dealer would pay, I started calling around.  There are several big RV dealers in SoCal, but none larger than Mike Thompsons.

They have an entire page dedicated to buying RVs outright. I thought “what can it hurt” and so I called.  I got a very friendly and helpful guy named Jordan Black.  Jordan explained the process to me and took some details about our Discovery. He promised to call me later when he had a chance to check with the dealerships.

I thought “oh brother, here we go.”  But, a few hours later I got a call from Jordan with an offer.

Now, before I talk about that offer, I had at least an idea in mind about what the number would be. MoHos, like any vehicle, have a “blue book” value.  Both KBB and NADA have prices.

RVs being purchased outright by a dealership often get offers at 10% to 15% below the wholesale price.  Why?  Because there are so many things that could be wrong with an RV the dealership takes extra risk buying used ones.  The floor could be rotted out under the shower.  The owners could have had animals pee that soaked into every nook and cranny and the smell will never leave. There could be broken appliances. Electrical issues. AC units that don’t function. An actual inspection that might find all these issues could easily take half a day or more and would still miss stuff.

So I expected Jordan’s offer to be 15% below what I had calculated the wholesale price to be. To my surprise, he was less than 10% below.  We did some haggling and eventually he got his offer up to wholesale.  Since we paid less than wholesale last year when we bought it because of that whole “it is pre-owned but never used” thing, that seemed more than fair. Of course, they would have to see it, but I knew ours was in tip top shape.

So, we made a bittersweet trip over to unpack everything that was still left and basically “move out.

Moving out

We took one last drive in the old girl.  Which of course took us thorough some crazy traffic and turns. Driving that giant beast through residential California streets was a reminder of some of the hairier moments on our trip!

We pulled into Mike Thompsons and waited for a sales manager to come out and inspect.  He did, and man did we ever feel stupid for making that thing spotless.  He literally took 60 seconds.  Didn’t put the slides out, didn’t turn the lights on, didn’t test anything. One quick lap around the outside and one quick lap halfway in the inside.

Never even looked in the storage compartments or the bedroom or the bathroom.

Pulling in for inspection – ha!

That was kind of anticlimactic, to be honest.  But I was pleased there was no attempt to  pull a “well, we can’t give you the number we promised because look at the wear on this couch” crap.  Nope, Mike Thompson’s made this just about the the most painless transaction I can imagine.  They even had all the paperwork pre-printed and ready for us to sign.

If you ever have to sell a MoHo, you can’t go wrong with Mike Thompson’s.

We took one last picture and that was that.

Someone else will have to Live Moho now.

Actually, turns out that wasn’t that.

We had the keys to the locking tow hitch, but we couldn’t get the little lock to release.  Which meant we couldn’t get our $900 Blue Ox tow bar released.  Not only did we want to keep our Blue Ox, the dealership is not legally allowed to sell it so they didn’t want it either.  Finally one of the mechanics was able to get it to pop off.

Tow bar in hand, we climbed back in the Jeep and drove out of Mike Thompson’s parking lot and back south toward our apartment.  It was a bittersweet moment.  We knew that keeping her was just not realistic, but letting go was hard.  Not just because of all the happy memories, but also because it means we really were settling down again.

Hanging up the keys

In my last blog post, I wrote “We had no idea where we would end up or what we would see along the way.  Our only commitment was to take at least a year.  What happened after the year we would figure out later.”

Well, it is later. And…we have figured out what happens.

As the end of the year closed in, an amazing opportunity presented itself.  An incredible company in Southern California  – and its talented founder Lane Rankin – reached out and we started discussing how I might join the team.

I knew of this company from my former life at PowerSchool and always thought they had a great story.  Great culture, great product, great leadership, and great location! These guys were truly changing education. I also knew Lane, and he is just the best. Solid gold.

The more I thought about joining them, the more excited I became!

What is the company?  Illuminate Education.

Not only have they won a ba-jillion industry awards, they’ve won some major recognition broadly from companies like Glassdoor (best employer) and Forbes (#3 best small company in the USA). Pretty impressive!

I start Monday 4/10.

Which meant we had to hurry up and find a new place to live!  I was used to just living wherever we parked our house!  Now we needed to get back to sticks and bricks!

Of course, we wanted something close to the office, preferably walkable to a variety of restaurants and shopping. Why spend hours in a car going everywhere?  Especially in SoCal.

Particularly in SoCal.

Traffic clogs the San Diego (405) Freeway, looking north from Palms Boulevard on June 15, 2012. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)

Using the time tested rule of SoCal real estate selection, we narrowed the search area.  What is that rule?  It is the “how far to Disneyland and how far to the beach” rule, of course!  Duh!

The beach/Disneyland metric

One thing the RV has taught us is that space is overrated. New York City taught us that walkability and walking to restaurants, shops, entertainment is a must-have. We have thoroughly enjoyed the RV resorts, so why not combine all 3 lessons learned?

Turns out, we can.

We grabbed an apartment at the brand-new Westview II complex. Onsite pool?  Check. Onsite athletic center? Check.  Right along bike trail? Check. Package service? Check. Restaurants that deliver? Check. Walk to shops, comedy club, restaurants, movies?  Check. Google Fiber? Check.

Westview apartment

We are literally the first people to move into the building.  Which means we’re being treated a lot more lavishly than the people who will move in next month.  And that’s fine with me 🙂

Our new apartment

Since we sold everything last year in preparation for just such a move, we have very little to actually “move.” We do however have a lot to buy.

We mail ordered a mattress from a made-in-the-USA company in LA that ships them in a box. (Lull) It is now on the floor. (If you decide you want one, let me know; they gave me $50 coupons to share with friends).

We are using camp chairs and a cardboard Macy’s box as a table.  We went to target and loaded two shopping carts to the brim with home stuff.  It feels just like college!

Well, just like college except this time we aren’t broke.

Our mid-life college crash pad

The apartment is just over 1,150 square feet.  It feels HUGE. I honestly can’t imagine what we are gonna do with all this space!

So what about the MoHo?

We found a great place nearby to store it.  We will keep it provisioned so we can use it on the weekends.  There are plenty of places in SoCal we can explore.  Vegas.  Palm Springs.  San Diego. Temecula. etc.

We got the beast all washed and waxed and ready to settle in for a nap.

Washed and waxed

Getting an RV ready to store takes some work.  First step was making sure the house batteries are topped off with distilled water and charged up. I do this monthly so they were in good shape.

Topping off the house batteries

Next up was prepping the water system.  I dumped the fresh tank and drained the water system. I filled the fresh tank up with about 40 gallons of water, and added 3 tablespoons of bleach.  I then refilled the water system, letting the water run until I could smell some bleach at each faucet.  This is enough bleach to prevent anything from growing but not so much that it will tear up my plumbing.

Prepping the water system

Black tank was drained and flushed.  Refilled with about 5 gallons of water and a bronopol packet.

We cleaned out the refrigerator and propped the doors open.

The last step was to disconnect the main power systems to prevent any battery drain.  When the master electric switch is set to off, its a very real sign the the RV is in shutdown mode.

Main electrical disconnect switch

We are fortunate to have found a covered spot at an RV-specific storage facility. They have dump station, RV wash bay, high-pressure air, filtered freshwater fillup, and 24×7 access.  They even have a repair center partner who will come pickup the MoHo, drive it to the shop for repairs, and return it when it is done.  Nice!

Parking spot

The last year has been an incredible adventure.  I am excited to start a new  year and new adventure with Illuminate!

Wrapping up a Journey – 1 Year update

We moved into our MoHo on March 28th, 2016.  One year ago.

We parked at CalExpo RV campground for 5 days and then we moved to Beals Point State Park alongside Folsom Lake.  90% of our possessions were sold or donated. 5% were in a small storage unit. 5% were in the RV.

We had massively downsized and were ready for a massively upsized adventure!

April 10, 2016

Those last days were full of endless trips, especially to Home Depot.  At one point, I swore I would go crazy if I had to go to Home Depot one more time.  And then I went again.

Leaving Folsom took another 2 weeks, mostly final work getting the house ready to sell. Those of you who have sold a home know what I mean.  I had lived there for 11 years, the longest I have lived any single place since I was a kid.  It went on the market just a few days before we rolled out of town for parts unknown.

April 9, 2016

We had no idea where we would end up or what we would see along the way.  Our only commitment was to take at least a year.  What happened after the year we would figure out later.

The trip took us through 26 states and two countries.  Well, Canada, so one-and-a-half countries. We have stayed in 60 campgrounds.  The longest by far was 2 months at Chula Vista RV Resort.

Q4 was the first time we really slowed our pace. Before this we were in full-on sightseeing mode and we covered a lot of ground (over 11,000 miles in the Moho and another 15,000 in the Jeep). Most people who have starting full-time RV living report the same thing – they slow their pace after a while.

Having data on a full year of costs is very helpful for planning.  Here are the totals for some of the biggest categories. Two things really stick out when comparing Q4 to Q3 – the drop in diesel costs and the drop in entertainment costs.  Moving more slowly means less miles (700 in Q4 vs. about 3,500 in Q3) and it also means less days have a “tourist” destination in their agenda.

Category Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Full Year
Nightly campground fees $42.88 $52.59 $47.93 $52.46 $48.62
Average daily cost of diesel $9.46 $8.40 $13.25 $2.62 $8.68
Daily “entertainment” $22.24 $34.79 $15.10 $10.27 $21.48
Supplies $6.74 $3.96 $5.08 $2.08 $4.52
Food $52.88 $64.58 $47.32 $49.67 $53.81
Vehicle (includes 6mo service in Q1 and 1year service in Q3) $36.38 $2.45 15.04 $6.15 $15.19

Speaking of money, the idea of making any via Google Ads and Amazon Marketplace links requires a LOT more traffic than I expected. According to WordPress Analytics, I have had:

Total Page Hits: 4311 / Total Unique Visitors : 2109

I started enabling Google Ads about midway through the trip.  Since then I have made – wait for it – $7.81 in advertising fees. Total.  To add insult to injury, Google won’t pay until the fees reach $10.  Basically, $10 a year is what I’d expect to make.  Considering that I have written 168 blog posts, each of which takes an average of 3 hours to write, that’s 504 hours of labor.  Which is low, and doesn’t count the total effort.  But let’s go with that.  My hourly earning rate is $0.02/hour.  That’s right. About 2 cents an hour.

I guess each blog really is my 2 cents worth.   hahahahaha

Our Fleetwood also seems to be settling in – no significant issues to report. The window leak which was fixed at the REV Factory Service Center in Alvarado TX remains fixed. I sometimes think one-year-old RVs are the best value.  Still new but all the big bugs are worked out.

It has seen days over 100 degrees and days at 15 degrees.  It has weathered severe winds, floods, dust storms, downpours, and even hail.  It tackled savagely bumpy roads, bad pavement, dips, construction zones, dirt roads, and potholes. And it kept right on rolling!

It has been a good home for us over the past year.  Never once have I felt constrained on space or comfort.

Our Favorite places on the trip:

  • Burlington and Vermont overall.  Beautiful scenery, great hiking, friendly people, local food, local beer and wine, and wonderful New England buildings.  RV campgrounds in several places including the one we used in Colchester.
  • Philadelphia.  So much history, incredibly museums, amazing architecture, good food scene, and proximity to so much.  RV campground in an old loading dock makes the entire city quickly accessible.
  • Portland ME.  Reminded me of a smaller-scale NYC.  Potato donuts are a must-try.  More microbreweries per capita than any other city.  Amazing views of the bay.  Killer food scene.  Overall good vibe.
  • Washington DC.  Same comments as Philly just amplified. RV campground at the end of the Green Line metro makes exploring the city painless.
  • Savannah GA.  Beautiful southern town with picturesque town squares, gorgeous buildings, good food, and nice beaches. Let down a bit by campground proximity (i.e. there aren’t any centrally located campgrounds)
  • Hill country Texas – delightful area of rolling hills, oak trees, wineries, white limestone buildings, and hill country cooking.  Kerrville and Fredericksburg.
  • Santa Fe NM.  Incredible architecture in one of America’s oldest cities.  Good food (not just New Mexican), art, and culture.
  • Pensacola – Navarre.  Best beaches we’ve ever seen (pure white fluffy sand), warm turquoise water, laid-back pace, one of our favorite campgrounds (Santa Rosa), pink sunsets, and frequent practice sessions of the Blue Angels.

Best Unexpected Gems:

  • Montpelier VT – home of the only state capitol without a McDonald’s and likely the only state capitol where anyone can just walk inside unimpeded.
  • Greensville SC – between the amazing downtown area and the equally amazing park next to downtown, this town really surprised us.
  • Navarre Beach – all of the Destin to Pensacola beaches are nice, but this beach is huge, pristine, and uncrowded.
  • Mansions of Newport – amazing Gilded Age mansions along the cliff in Newport RI.
  • Low Rider exhibit in Santa Fe – New museum opened in Santa Fe with much history of the area.  The special low rider exhibit really opened my eyes on this form of auto modification and gave me a new appreciation for the art.
  • Kennedy Space Center – Ok, this one we expected to be awesome, and it did not disappoint.
  • The Grand Ole Opry and Opryland hotel. I’m not a regular viewer of Opry but I have to admit this was really neat.
  • Carlsbad caverns – Way more impressive than I expected.  This might be the single top attraction of the entire trip.
  • The WWII Pacific museum in Fredericksburg TX.

Best food on the Trip

  • Pig and Swig – best BBQ of the entire trip.  Who knew Charleston would turn out such an impressive feat of BBQ?  Runner up, Terry Black’s BBQ in Austin.
  • The Real Pierre Maspero’s – New Orleans (shrimp and grits)
  • The Royal House Oyster Bar – Also New Orleans. Try the 3 bowl special (jambalaya, gumbo, and etoufee)
  • Billie Gene’s Hill Country Kitchen – Kerrville Texas.  Chicken fried chicken and okra? Yes please.
  • Grocery store lobster – Wells Beach Maine. Fresh off the lobster boats and only $6.99/lb.  We ate a LOT.
  • The Shed – REAL New Mexican cuisine in a 400 year old adobe building in Santa Fe.  Green Chile stew will haunt my dreams.

Biggest flops – there weren’t many

  • The homogenization of America.  It is remarkable how much every town increasingly looks like every other town with the same strip malls, same stores, and even same developments.
  • Massachusetts – sorry big MA, you aren’t the vacation paradise we hoped for. Sure Boston is full of neat things to see, but otherwise traffic is awful, drivers are rude, the geography isn’t very interesting, the weather is fickle, and everything looks worn out.
  • Driving from Bellingham MA to Philadelphia.  I don’t know how the long-haul truckers do it, but I have new respect for them. This stretch of mostly I-95 would be a handful in a car, but in a 57-foot RV+toad, it is terrifying.
  • West Texas and South eastern NM.  Desolate, dry, post-industrial wasteland.  Good only for making people feel better about where they live. Unless they live in West Texas.

Biggest Learnings

  • Managing temperatures with pets inside can be challenging. RVs are more like cars than houses and they get cooler in cold temps and hotter in the sun than a house. Many days we had to carefully switch from heat to air conditioning and back again.  This proved to be a lot more management than we expected.
  • Propane lasts a long time, unless it is really cold.  We used 3 gallons of propane a day when temps fell into the teens. Also, managing moisture inside the MoHo becomes a challenge as the temperatures fall.
  • Driving is mostly easy with a few moments of pure terror. And driving in the Northeast is as bad as everyone says.
  • Data remained a big challenge for us.  Campground wifi rarely works and when it does it is never fast. We were able to supplement with mobile internet from our cellular providers at very high cost.
  • The satellite dish was pretty useless as we got west of Louisiana.  By the time we were on the east coast, it rarely worked due to trees.
  • We didn’t miss a dishwasher, but we were sure happy to have a washer and a dryer on board!  As a full-timer, washer/dryer is one option I can wholeheartedly recommend.
  • Planning full-time RV travel, especially at a faster pace, requires a lot more planning than many people think. It is not the carefree “I’ll decide where to go when I get up tomorrow morning” kind of life.  Campground reservations, especially around holidays, are important. I suggest using a tool like rvtripwizard to help with planning.

We have seen so many incredible places, eaten many incredible meals, and seen so many friends (old and new) along the way. Overall, this has been an amazing year and we feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do what most people only dream of!

So now that we are at the one-year mark, what comes next?  Amazingly, the next step presented itself almost like magic!  You can read about that in the next post.

Borrego springs

We pulled into the Pechanga RV Resort.  It is an Indian casino and supposedly THE place to stay in Temecula.  We noticed a lot of construction detours as we entered the property, but this basket on the cheek in desk should have made us ask more questions than we did.

Free ear plugs

Now, normally RV campgrounds avoid giving ANYTHING away for free.  So seeing a basket of free….earplugs….

The sites are nice and big – wide, long, with easy interior roads and rounded corners.  Some trees, but nothing to interfere with our dish.  As soon as we setup in our spot, which was along the entry road, we realized this might not be the idyllic stay we imagined.

Large, loud, construction equipment drove past constantly.  A street sweeping machine drove up and down the entry road, passing us every 38 seconds.  Down. Back. Down. Back. Down. Back. Still I assumed they would wrap up around 4:00pm 5:00pm. At 8:00pm not only had the noise continued, it intensified!  Around 10:00pm noises like someone hammering a steel pipe mounted in concrete started. Around 2:00am, we finally started dozing off, only to be woken at 5:10am by loud and very profane voices practically out side our window.

Turns out that Pechanga has a massive construction project, and they are running 24 hours a day. Every time a shift changes, the noise level amps up even more.  It was a lot like trying to sleep while parked in the middle of a construction zone.  Actually, it was exactly like trying to sleep while parked in the middle of a construction zone.

I was waiting at the office at 7:55am.

Fortunately they had an interior site for us or we would have had to leave.

Like everyone else, we had heard of the desert “superbloom” happening and like everyone else, we wanted to see it for ourselves.  Word on the street was that Borrego Springs was one of the best places to see the superbloom.  Word on the street was also that trying to do it on the weekends was a bad idea because so many people were driving out there.

We were able to go on a Tuesday.  The visitor center parking and overflow were completely full, but we lucked into a spot. I can’t imagine trying to visit on the weekend.

Inside the visitor center, a very nice volunteer gave us a map of various areas to explore.  Since we had a 4×4, we had many more options.

“Do you have a real 4×4 like a Jeep, or just all-wheel drive?” she asked.

“We have a Wrangler,” I said.

“Oh good,” she said.  “We get a lot of people in all-wheel drive vehicles who sustain a lot of damage on some of the roads but you will be fine in a Jeep.”

A few hours later I would see what she meant as we encountered people in places they should never have been with the cars or soft-roaders they were driving.

The scenery on the valley floor was impressive.  Desert Palms dotted the landscape surrounded by flowers and scrub plants.

Desert Palms

Anyway, the flowers are spectacular. They say it is the best bloom in over 20 years.  I didn’t come 20 years ago so I can’t personally vouch for that statement, but it is hard to disagree.

Hillsides normally looking like little more than barren rockpiles are covered in various types of flowers and flowering cactus.

Yellow Hillside

Some of the cactus flowers are yellow and others are a light purple color.

Yellow cactus flower
Purple cactus flower

On the main road out to the desert preserve, a sculpture garden has been created by a local artist.  We couldn’t resist parking next to this fellow Jeeper.

Couple of Jeeps

The roads out to the desert area begin easily enough.  Paved roads turn to dirt roads.  After a mile or so the dirt begins to soften into sand but still nothing any car couldn’t handle.  Not long after though, rocks embedded in the road make their appearance and begin to grow in size. More adventurous car owners dodge the rocks and continue on. Eventually, the road takes on a form suited to high-clearance vehicles.

4×4 only

At this point, traffic has thinned significantly.

Road getting rougher

Eventually, the trail reaches the base of a very steep and rocky hill.  We drove up it in 4low in our stock Wrangler Sport with no issues. However, I’ve done off road driving before.  I could see someone with less experience being fairly intimidated.  In fact, as we came back down we passed a guy walking up the hill.  He told us he had a Wrangler Rubicon and was afraid to try this road.  Bet he felt stupid seeing us in our Sport.


Not the Rubicon trail, but still pretty sporty

Once we ventured beyond the steep hill, we mostly had the place to ourselves.  This gave us a good opportunity to see the Ocotillo which was blooming with bright red and pink flowers.

Ocotillo blooming behind the Jeep
Ocotillo up close

Temperatures were quite pleasant for the desert with highs around 80 degrees.  Beautiful.  We got our our boonie hats and did a little hiking.  Winds had picked up so we had to strap those hats on!

Boonie hat time

Heather drove back.  She did a great job!  There were several water fordings and she navigated the trail downhill that the Rubicon owner was afraid to try!

On the way back we saw the first of what would become a series of crazy auto mishaps.  This guy’s truck was engulfed in flames on the side of the road.  He and what appeared to be 2 firefighters were just standing helplessly watching it burn.

That will buff right out

Only in SoCal would we see this.  Cinderella’s Coach apparently broke down on the side of the road and was being towed.  No, not really.  It is a horse-drawn coach for winery tours.  Still, it looked like it should be heading to Disneyland.

Cinderella’s Coach being towed

A little further up the road we hit a bad traffic patch.  As we moved forward, we saw that somebody had actually attempted to mount the concrete barrier on the side of the road. The attempt had not gone especially well.

Needed a bigger lift kit on that pickup

Borrego Springs was a very interesting trip and we were pleased to have been in the area during a once in every 2 decades flower superbloom!
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San Diego 2

We continue to enjoy our view.  Our RV campground is right next to San Diego Bay.  Well, technically there is a small strip of park between us and the Bay, but close enough!  Out our left window, we see Tijuana.  Straight ahead we see the Silver Strand.  To the Right is Coronado.  Far right is downtown San Diego.

Not too shabby.

The only downside of this place is that those parking spots ahead of us seem to attract a surprising number of Californians enjoying their newly-legalized marijuana rights.  Only nobody told them it is still illegal to smoke in a public place.  At least twice a day we have to shut all the windows to avoid being choked by fumes.

They pull in, blaze up for 15 minutes, and then…..they drive off!!!!  I hope I don’t encounter them on the road!

Daytime view

Sunsets are even more spectacular.  The sun settles down for the night in its Westernly bed, putting on a show for us.  Well, not actually every night.  At least half of the nights a dense marine layer/fogbank settles in and we don’t get to see that sunset. But the nights we DO see make up for it.

Sunsets at Chula Vista

One big change we made was jumping on the T-Mobile bandwagon.  Anyone who reads this blog knows the constant challenge we have to get bandwidth. Campground WiFi rarely works and when it does, it is typically very slow. Only 3 campgrounds on the entire trip  – out of 57 – could claim to sustain WiFi speeds over 5mb/sec.

Our wireless options were barely sufficient, giving us a combined 50GB of bandwidth per month. We had enough for general use like app updates, photo backups, web surfing, e-mail, and the occasional Youtube, but not enough to stream movies. At a total cost of $315 per month!!

Enter T-Mobile.

T-Mobile has a new plan that gives us 2 lines with unlimited data for $100.  Including all the taxes and fees.  They even threw in a 3rd line completely free.  Each line has unlimited data but may get speed reduced after using 28 GB (they upped it to 30GB two weeks after we joined).  Each line also has 10gb to use as a mobile hotspot at full speed.  After 10gb the mobile hotspot WILL get slowed.

So that’s 90 gb of high-speed data plus 30GB of mobile high speed hotspot and unlimited after that.  For $100. That’s a game changer!

TMobile’s newest customers

This is huge for us!  Suddenly, we can actually stream media.  We rediscovered the joys of on-demand video from Amazon Prime and Netflix.  Amazon Prime offers a choice of quality levels, with its “good” level being 0.6gb/hour. That means we can watch 50 hours of video per line before we even have the chance of getting speed reduced!  We bought the Lightning-to-HDMI adapter and plugged it into our TV.  Presto!! Instant Streaming!

Of course the speed isn’t so great at our campground on either Verizon or T-Mobile so I wouldn’t say its a perfect test.  

However, Amazon Prime lets movies be downloaded and watched later!  Boom!  Download the entire series overnight, and binge watch over the next week!  PS. Schitt’s Creek is pretty funny!

Considering that we pay DirecTV $150/month and often can’t use it due to trees or wind, T-Mobile is a breath of fresh air!  Even if T-Mobile doesn’t work consistently, it is really not any worse than the dish.  I’m eager to see what our experience is as we move around.

In any case, we’re getting closer to being able to enjoy data like we used to when we weren’t living MoHo.

A friend tipped us off to a speakeasy in Little Italy.  Only this is not your typical speakeasy.  It is a full-throated no-small-things Tiki Bar!!

The entrance is through the freezer in Craft and Commerce, a gastropub with the best hamburger in the USA.  Sorry. Wait a minute. Let me say that again:


I’m not making that up.  I have never had a better burger. Anywhere.  And it is $13 with a huge side of fries. The fries are also delicious, but that burger is fricken amazing!

In addition to the burger, Craft and Commerce has reinvented restroom entertainment. Via the overhead speakers, the staff read one-star Yelp reviews in mocking tones and they are an absolute riot!

“What kind of place serves chicken wings but no ranch dressing’?  THIS place.  One star!”

Anyway, when it is our turn to enter the Tiki Room, the hostess takes us into the freezer.  Inside are crates of fruits and food for the restaurant, plus a few skulls in glass jars!  In the very back of the freezer is a second door, which leads to False Idol!

The door to False Idol

Inside is the most lavishly decorated Tiki bar I have ever seen.  Disney would be proud to call this their own.  It is like getting drinks in a cargo-cult bar in Polynesia!

False Idol specializes in high-end rum-based drinks that graced the menu of other beach bars in San Diego, Hawaii, and elsewhere. Each drink is super fresh and comes with a pedigree saying which bar used it as their signature.  Many of these bars have long since closed, so False Idol is now the only place the drink can be tasted.

You know its good when an entire page of the menu is dedicated to “potent” drinks.  Two of these and you’re done for the evening!

Heather at Tiki time

False Idol also features a thunderstorm every 30-45 minutes.  The lights flicker, the thunder rolls, and lightning crashes overhead.  Patrons seated in the benches along the perimeter are treated to a 4D shaking that has the unprepared jumping right out of their seats!

An entire wall is a waterfall.  Complete with skulls on bamboo pikes.  Because….well…Because!

Somehow this is cozy

I can’t think of many evenings more fun than Craft and Commerce for dinner – try the Man Hands or the Hoochie Mama cocktails – and then a few drinks at False Idol!  I don’t know how secret False Idol is, but I know a few San Diegan locals and THEY had not heard of it.  Or had heard of it but didn’t know where it was.

Pro Tip: if you want to get into the Tiki bar, make a reservation a few weeks early OR go at 6pm when they open. Otherwise, you won’t get in.  Consistent with its semi-secret nature, you cannot find it from OpenTable.  You have to go to the False Idol website and get referred to OpenTable.

San Diego is full of interesting places.  Balboa Park is certainly one.  Old Town San Diego is another. San Diego is one of the oldest towns in the US, and the original old town is still here and still mostly preserved.  Although I feel like the original town probably had a few less T-Shirt shops.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel

Old buildings are set around several squares.  The typical blacksmith shop, old bank, old dentist, etc. buildings are all here. It is a fun, but very touristy, way to spend an afternoon.

Old Town buildings

There are a number of Mexican restaurants in Old Town.  Most of them have similar menus and most of them get the same reviews on Yelp. A perennial favorite, Casa de Bandini has moved elsewhere but several others are here and ready to serve up a margarita and some street tacos.

Get yer street tacos here

Old town is just off the I-5 freeway, but it feels much further away.  Walking around the old squares with their trees and lush growth really makes a person think they are back in the 1800s in Old Mexico. Especially if one visits on a weekday.  Sure it is touristy, but somehow it manages to still hold onto a great deal of historic charm.

We headed back up to Balboa Park to check out more of the buildings.

We had heard of the Alcazar garden and set out to see it.  Frankly, it was not that impressive. I think it was partly due to the time of year, so not much was planted.  Still, the architecture around the garden was more impressive than the garden itself.

Outside the Alcazar Garden

Possibly the most picturesque is the building housing the California Museum of Man. It was build in 1915 as the showpiece to the worlds fair and has been well-preserved ever since.  Even though it is more than 100 years old, it still looks fantastic.  The museum itself is not exactly first rate, seeming a bit confused about its focus.  But the building is cool.

The tower, called the California Tower, just opened after 80 years of being closed to the public.  Climb the steps for a spectacular view!

California Tower

We walked back to this vantage point to check out the Old Globe, a replica of the original replica of the original Old Globe theater in London. Having been to the theatre in London, I can tell you the inside of the San Diego version is MUCH nicer.

The play being presented was “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” a play written by Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) and it explores the impact of science and art on the 20th century as viewed through the chance encounter of Picasso and Einstein at the Lapin Agile bar in Paris in the early 1900s before either of them had achieved their fame.

Only a few tickets were left, but we grabbed two of them and planned to return that night.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile playbook

When we returned, we felt the excitement building!  We hadn’t seen a play like this since our time in New York and we both realized we missed the theatre!

Guests arriving for the play

The cast was strong.  Justin Long (the Mac guy) played Einstein.  Donald Faison (Dr. Turk from Scrubs) played the Lapin Agile owner. Hal linden (Hill Street Blues) played an old guy.  It was a very entertaining production and nobody missed a line in 90 minutes of pure dialog!

The next day, we headed to Chipotle to enjoy our free chips and guac, courtesy of “T-Mobile Tuesday.”  Every Tuesday, T-Mobile gives away free stuff. This Tuesday was chips and guac.

Thanks T-Mobile!

Not every day is a winner.  At least not for this guy.  I’m not sure what happened, but when your MoHo has to be dragged out of the campground, your day is not going that well.


We decided to head north to Laguna Beach.  Stunning views of the beach along a mountainous shoreline!  Some of the beaches in Laguna are good for swimming while others are rocky.


Laguna Beach

Of course, no stop in Laguna Beach would be complete without a drink on the rooftop deck above K’ya.  It is a wonderful place to take in the sunset and the view!

K’ya rooftop

We returned from Laguna beach full of sun and sand. Our time in San Diego is starting to shorten, so we headed to downtown to walk around.

The first think I will say is that San Diego eclipses San Francisco as the city with the most homeless people I have ever seen. However, unlike San Francisco, San Diego’s homeless seem to be much less aggressive.

We walked around Horton Plaza, and at the upper end in the plaza across from the famous U.S. Grant Hotel, we saw this interesting fountain.  But something was odd…


The Plaza at Horton Plaza

Oh, right.  The homeless guy using the water feature as a washing machine.  Yep. That’s right.  He is doing his laundry in the fountain. I guess it is as good a place as any.

Outdoor laundry

On our last day in San Diego we decided to visit the Mission. Mission Basillica San Diego de Alcala was the first Spanish mission in Alta California.  Founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, the Mission marked the start of 21 missions up the Camino Real (King’s Road). Many of these became famous missions including Santa Barbara, San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Obispo, San Jose, San Francisco, and Carmel.

San Diego de Alcala mission

The whitewashed adobe structure was rescued from near ruin in the 1930s by a forward-thinking group of volunteers who sought to preserve these historic buildings.  Although much damage had occurred, the volunteers were able to reconstruct the mission using authentic materials and methods.

I thought the bell tower was especially nice, gleaming in the sun behind a field of native flowers.

Bell tower

The interior of the mission is not as impressive as other missions, like Carmel (Fr. Serra’s favorite).  It does have a nice fountain, but also has been made over with many asphalt parking spaces.

Interior of the mission

The main chapel in the mission has been painstakingly restored and is an active Catholic Church which offers regular services. The walls are made of adobe 3 to 5 feet thick.  Unlike the massive and ornate stone temples in Europe and larger US cities, this chapel is simple and reflects a very Spanish theme.

The main chapel

The chapel garden are equally modest. Not particularly large and not particularly scenic.  More appropriate for a working church, which the Mission de Alcala is to this day.  An hour here is enough time to see the grounds.  Make note, this is a bit of a drive from downtown San Diego and traffic is usually very thick.

We returned home to see the poppies starting to bloom along the oceanside trail.  We will definitely miss Chula Vista and the daily walks along the beach and marina, but are eager to head to our next destination.  Temecula!

Boats vs. RVs

When I started dreaming about a big travel adventure back in 2005 or so, it was not RV’s I dreamed about.  It was boats.  Specifically, I wanted to travel “the Great Loop!”

The Great Loop is the world’s longest inland waterway.  It has several permutations but the basic outline is the eastern US along the Intracoastal Waterway up to the Erie Canal, over to the Great Lakes, then down the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Great Loop

The Great Loop really seemed like a cool adventure. Many of America’s early towns (now major cities) were established along waterways. Back in the days before paved roads and automobiles, waterways were often the only reliable travel routes, particularly for cargo and commerce. Seeing these cities from the water seemed like a very unique experience.

There is even an organization dedicated to “loopers.”  It is called The Great Loop Cruiser’s Association.

The more I read about the Great Loop, the more excited I became.  I even bought a big poster of the Loop so I could stare at the route from home!

One little detail though – I had zero boating experience.  After years of dreaming about my Great Loop trip, I began to realize that learning something about boating might be a good idea!

My plan was:

1.Learn how to captain a boat in the San Francisco bay.

2. If I enjoyed the experience, I would get a boat and begin exploring the 1,100 miles of Delta in the San Francisco/San Joaquin system.  We could keep the boat at the Sacramento Marina and explore the entire area. Just the area called the “Sacramento” delta is huge!

Sacramento Delta

3. If we enjoyed the Sacramento delta, it would be time to get serious about the Great Loop.  As an added bonus, I reasoned that by this time I would know something about navigating inland waterways.

In 2013 Heather and I took a boating class in the San Francisco bay so we could start step 1.

The San Francisco bay is both a perfect and a terrible place to learn boating skills. It is perfect because it combines beautiful scenery, open water, easy access to marinas, and ample instructors. It also has currents, rough water, unpredictable currents, shallows and sandbars, military traffic, all manner of commercial traffic, tons of weekend sailors, and strong winds. It is a terrible place for all those same reasons. They say if you can learn in San Francisco bay, you are well prepared for anywhere.

Commercial traffic is heavy.  Our marina was in Alameda, near the Bay Bridge. We learned basic boating skills and dodged large ships at the same time!  As we did man-0verboard drills, we watched the cargo ships move with the shifting tides.

We learned about rough water (hint – its always rough in parts of the Bay).  We always watched our depth. In spite of its size, the average depth of the Bay is under 6 feet.  Or 14 feet.  Depends on who you ask.  But shallow. And easy to suddenly run aground.

Essentially, the bay has a canyon at its heart.

When the boat is over the canyon itself, depths can be significant – over 300 feet deep under the Golden Gate. But reach the edge of the canyon and the depth can change from 150 feet to 10 feet almost instantly.  This not only makes for some interesting navigation, it makes for some VERY weird waves.

We successfully completed the class without accident or injury!  We chartered a boat a few weeks later and went out into the Bay all on our own.  It was a lot of fun – we headed out from Alameda under the Bay Bridge.  Weather was beautiful and the Bay was fairly calm.

Between the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz, we rendezvoused with Captain John Steel and his merry band of Pirates (Mike Connolly and Chris Poulton).  That’s John acting like a millennial in the photo below – texting when he should be driving 🙂

Captain Steele on his rag hauler

A small craft advisory developed later that day, and we went straight out into the teeth of the waves near the Golden Gate.  Our friends Jeffrey and Beth Huffman were with us.  Jeffrey couldn’t resist recreating a scene from another famous boating movie.   I just hoped our voyage wouldn’t end like the people in that movie.

There was an onshore breeze coming in from the ocean through the Golden Gate.  An area boaters and meteorologists call “the slot.”  The tide was going out under the Golden Gate, so the incoming wind was pushing against the outflowing water.  Making even more waves. We weren’t in any real danger, it was just a typical SF day.

Typical SF Bay day

After getting pounded for a while, we turned back….and got pounded some more. At that point the tide was flowing directly opposite our desired direction at over 6 knots.  We put the hammer down and burned some diesel to get back.

That night Heather and I stayed on the boat.  It was a 35 foot Ranger Tug.  The same make and model I was considering for purchase.  This was my first night aboard a boat in a marina.

The Ranger Tug

The water is cold and so was the boat. Fortunately the stateroom was very small and we had an electric space heater which was just enough to keep us warm.  The boat didn’t rock too much, but the constant noise from loose equipment clanging takes some getting used to.  I learned that loose cable stays and the clanging are a big marina faux pas.  Boaters have been reported to take matters into their own hands if owners won’t stop the clanging.

To make a long story short, the boating class and the overnight charter was all I needed to realize my Great Loop adventure was probably not the adventure I was seeking. The realities of living aboard a boat were just too much for me.

Boaters have no real transportation from the marina. They have to worry about navigation hazards a lot worse than potholes. Waking up at night – especially in a storm – to make sure an anchor hadn’t pulled out did not sound like fun. Trying to navigate in a fog bank through commercial shipping lanes didn’t sound like fun. Beaching at low tide or on a shifting river sandbar didn’t sound like fun. And the cramped quarters of a boat became all too real.  Boats are lot more compact than RVs, I thought to myself.

The light bulb went off for me – an RV would give us all the same access to travel and see cool places, with far less of the drawbacks.  So the boating class was great, and also a good reminder that some research goes a long way when making a major life change.

You are probably wondering why I am rambling on about this in my RV blog?

The answer is because I was reminded of our choice in the last big storm.  We battened down our hatches in the rv and watched the storm roll through. By which I mean we lowered our Winegard satellite dish, roughing it with only DVR movies.  We were warm and dry and in no danger of anything.

The next day, we walked along the path on Coronado and saw the wind had beached a very nice sailboat that was anchored to a mooring ball.

The Sea Tow people were attaching a tow rope around the boat and preparing to pull it back into deeper water.

We watched for over an hour as the tow boat struggled to pull the sailboat free.  After an hour, we left.  But that boat didn’t.  It was still stuck firmly, having not budged one inch.

While we waited, we spoke to a woman who said her boat broke free during the same storm.  It seems her lines to the mooring ball held, but the mooring ball anchor to the seafloor actually broke free.  Her boat slammed into another boat before beaching itself.

I realized that boaters and RV’ers have a similar appetite for adventure and wanderlust. Kindred sprits in many ways.  But watching the recovery and listening to this story made me even more pleased we chose to live MoHo!


Arriving in California

Many of you have reached out to ask if we are still alive. Yes, we are still alive! Yes, I realize I am behind on the blog.  Thank you for pointing that out!  🙂

I’ve been helping a friend with a project, trying to collect all my information for tax season and checking out local sights.I have also started working on a book to help newbies thinking about jettisoning their old lives and hitting the road.  I have a lot of content from the blog that can go into that book, but a lot of material that I haven’t yet written down and I want to capture it before I forget it.

Sadly, amazingly, unbelievably we are dealing with the ridiculous reality that we can be outside one of the largest cities in the USA at a super-expensive RV resort and still can’t get working WiFi or cell data.

Sometimes the WiFi works, by which I mean it works for 20 seconds after toggling WiFi on and off.  But only in the very early morning or very late at night, and only when it feels like working.  Generally, it is completely nonfunctional. We get one bar of AT&T and Verizon works but is very slow. Geez.  You’d think we were still in the boonies in Vermont!

Of all the things that surprised me after setting out on this adventure, the near-contstant challenge of getting data access has been at or near the top of the list.  It is just something you take for granted when you live in a sticks-and-bricks residence and have your own dedicated data connection.

The other crazy thing is that changing addresses and residence states has completely screwed up a lot of the records for tax season. Apparently they were sent to my old residence but the mail forwarding for that has long expired. So I’m having to track down all the online sources to get the tax records.  Which would be easier if I had a master list of every company that wanted to send me financial information.

Turns out, there are always a few out there – like retirement funds – that send a tax document even though there isn’t any tax due on those funds.  I’m getting closer.

Anyway, the drive from Yuma to San Diego was relatively uneventful aside from the nearly 70 miles of road -construction-single-lane-travel and severe winds/high-profile vehicle warnings. We tried to make a mad dash between two storms. We thought we could time our departure for a break between wind blasts but instead we managed to set out into the worst of the wind.

That’s the hard part with trying to “time” the weather. We delayed our departure from Yuma a day already so we just decided to go for it. Driving in those single lanes with massive blasts of wind hitting us was a little hairy!

Fortunately, the wind was mostly a headwind which dropped our fuel economy but didn’t push us sideways much.  That wasn’t continually true though, and we fought some pretty severe sidewinds at times. Because I’m back on the iPhone I’m having the fricken image rotation issues with WordPress.  If this image looks sideways let me know.  The only fix is to delete the photo I uploaded and use the WordPress app on the iPhone to re-upload it.

#painintheass. #wordpresssucks When we got to San Diego, we had fine sand blown into every nook and cranny in our MoHo.Fortunately our MoHo has a plastic clear bra on the front or most of the paint would have LITERALLY been sandblasted right off the bus.

This section of the interstate runs right along the international border with Mexico in several places.  At closest approach the border is only a few hundred yards from the highway.  In this stretch a wall has already been built and it runs along the road for miles.  There isn’t much out here, just a lot of open and empty terrain. The drive from Yuma is pretty flat about 2/3 of the way and then BOOM – mountains!  The good news was that when we reached the mountains, the blowing sand stopped.

Believe it or not, SNOW was forecast on the high mountain passes near San Diego.  Now I have been to San Diego many times before and I never appreciated that there were tall mountains so close to the city!  Especially mountains that get snow!

This mountain crossing is tough. Every few miles is a pull out with a water spigot and a big sign about radiator water fillup.  Apparently, climbing from sea level to 8,000 feet in a short period of time in the summer when temperatures approach 120 degrees is tough on the vehicle cooling systems.

Fortunately we had no such issues with the temperature. I was sure happy to have our diesel on this stretch. We had adequate power on the way up, and used a lot of the engine brake on the way down the other side. Much of the mountain area looks like nothing I have seen before.  The mountains resemble huge piles of rubble with boulders and rocks just stacked upon each other. Driving through this area is really interesting but it sure creates a feeling that one gentle earth tremor would have thousands of those boulders shaking down onto the roadway!

It was kind of weird coming back into the state after being gone for so long, and visiting it now as tourists instead of residents. Heather and I spent so much time on the East Cost we still feel like that’s our home area!

As we closed in on San Diego, Southern California traffic welcomed us.  California traffic is both easier and harder to manage in the Moho than traffic in other places.  It is easier because drivers in California are more courteous than in other states and generally will let us change lanes or merge.  It is harder because California drivers drive FAST.

Speed limits on the Texas interstates may be 80mph, but nowhere outside Cali have I seen city traffic driving that fast.  And unfortunately, in California motor homes towing are limited to 55mph.  This means there is a 25-30mph speed differential between us and the rest of the traffic and that is difficult to deal with.

I would bet California 55mph speed limit for towing causes more accidents than it prevents. Somebody probably has that data.

We pulled into the campground which is located alongside a very nice marina.  After we parked, we did a quick walk around and enjoyed the view of all the boats!

San Diego

Our home for a while in San Diego is actually south of downtown in Chula Vista.  Specifically the Chula Vista RV Resort and Marina.  The marina is right next to the RV campground and is one of the nicer marinas we have seen.

Chula Vista Marina

San Diego has so many interesting things to do and see that it is almost overwhelming. Fortunately, we had been here many times before and so we set out to see new areas as well as older ones.

One place we had not seen was the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.  It is located high in the foothills with a commanding view of Otay Lake and the mountains beyond.  It also has a commanding view across the border into Mexico.

The entrance is definitely Olympic-themed.  Tall columns flank the main doors with flagpoles all around, ready to hoist the standards of their country.

Chula Vista Olympic Training Center entrance

The Center hosts “athletes in archer, beach volleyball, BMX, canoe/kayak, cycling, field hockey, rowing, rugby, soccer, tennis, track & field, triathlon, and cross training abilities for various winter sports…”

I did not realize that BMX was an Olympic event, but apparently it is. The training course was silent when we visited but we could imagine riders flying over these bumps and dips on their shiny bicycles, popping into the air and doing tricks for the judges.

BMX course

Inside the center was a small “museum” that housed the jerseys and bikes from some famous Olympic BMX’ers.  Well, famous to other BMX’ers, anyway.  I suspect the rest of us have never heard the names of these athletes.

BMX museum

We put our Olympic dreams aside and ventured over to Balboa Park. According to Wikipedia, Balboa Park was “named for the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the park hosted the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks.”

Balboa Park is a wonderful place and no visit to San Diego can be complete without a stop here.  Home to the worlds finest zoo, an aerospace museum, an auto museum, various art and photography museums, a natural history museum, a technology museum, Japanese tea gardens, a botanical garden, fountains, and of course even the model railroad museum.

The architectural style is very impressive.  I’m sure there is a name for it, but I don’t know that name. It looks like a combination of Spanish-inspired and art-deco.  Whatever it is called, it is very pleasing to my eye.

Balboa Park building

Balboa Park is home to a massive pipe organ – the Spreckles Organ Pavilion.  One cool factoid about performances here relate to the fact that Balboa park is almost directly under the landing path for aircraft arriving at Lindbergh Field.  There are lights visible to the performers which turn from green to yellow to red notifying the impending arrival of an aircraft. Just as the aircraft seems to come out of nowhere and is about to land on the audience, the performance pauses!  It picks right back up in 30 seconds or so like nothing happened.

Spreckles Organ Pavillion

Here is one of those famous San Diego landings viewed from the highway.  Balboa Park is ahead of us and to the left.

Time to buzz the tower, Goose

One of my personal favorites is the semi-outdoor botanical garden.  Given the temperate weather, plants grow year-round in this building which has a roof of wooden slats.  San Diego is generally acknowledged to have the best weather in the continental US and is routinely in the top 10 weather lists for the entire planet.

Botannical gardens

Inside the building lush greenery surrounds visitors, providing a lush oasis inside a busy city.  Orchids are on display everywhere.

Inside the Botanical garden

The picturesque building below houses several exhibit spaces.  The main and upper floors are a photography museum.  The lower floor is the model railroad museum.

Museum building

The model railroad museum is one of those “biggest ball of twine” type of attractions that we specifically wanted to see on this trip. It is wonderfully throwback and odd, stuffed into the basement of the museum and operated by volunteers.  Most of whom look about as old as the railroads themselves.

The museum itself is over 27,000 square feet.  Easily making it the largest of its kind in North America and arguably the largest in the world.  Model railroads first made their appearance in 1935 for the Pan American Exhibition but the current museum opened its doors in 1982.   since then over 3 million people have visited.

Displays are wonderfully handcrafted and full of details. At first glance, this street could be in a real town.  Only the tops of the walls give away the fact that it is just a model.

Many railroad and miniature museums have intricate small scenes.  Few have the expansive spaces that the California Model Railroad museum does.   This massive – yet tiny – trestle was painstakingly handbuilt over a period of years.

Another example was this canyon and smaller trestle.  Not only was the trestle handbuilt, the entire scene was handbuilt.  Someone hand-placed each and every pebble and grain of sand in this display!

Upstairs, new exhibit space is taking shape.  Slowly but surely the volunteers are building a replica of an actual location.

The building techniques haven’t changed, but the layout process sure has.  This area is using Google Earth images to help the models capture the details. I’m not sure how they did it in the past other than some old photos.

The Main Street in Balboa park is called the Prado and it has majestic fountains at both ends.

Architecture along the Prado is quite attractive.  Each building is unique but shares a common design language.

San Diego itself is often best viewed from across the narrow bay in Coronado. Coronado is home to an eclectic mix of retired military officers, millionaires, artists, and beach bums. All competing with the ever-present tourists who flock to Coronado.

Housing in Coronado is even more expensive than in San Diego.

I will have more about San Diego in the next blog entry.



Q3 report

January 15 – Quarter 3 update

I can’t believe another quarter has gone by!  This quarter marks the end our 9th month of life on the road.  I noted in quarter 2 that we were starting to settle into the new life, and I definitely feel that by the end of Q3 we are really starting to feel like we know what we are doing.

We have been through more of everything – good and bad.  Handling the unexpected is less, well, unexpected than it was before.  We have been through severe weather, hot weather, cold weather, and windy weather. We have stayed in all manner of campgrounds from resorts to dumps.

We encountered –by far – the worst driving conditions and now feel like anything else will be easier than what we have successfully navigated.  Q2 marked the high (low) point of our driving experience with the tough driving in the Northeast.  I wrote about this in my Q2 report, but I should have checked the calendar a bit better because that drive happened in Q3.

The Q2 report also highlighted our worst stay – Bellingham MA – and our least favorite area of the trip so far. Our time in Bellingham straddled Q2 and Q3, so I get to reminisce about it twice. Q3 trip started in Bellingham MA and ended in Tuscon AZ.

That’s a hell of a drive. According to the Google it is 3,250 miles.

Q3 Route

Our odometer says we actually drove over 3,500 (mostly due to detours, fuel stops, service appointments, and campground locations).

Q3 – the last 2 months of it anyway – saw a return to more “normal” driving as we turned south and then west away from New England and the Eastern Seaboard. In fact, once we cleared the Virginia state line headed south (one month into Q3), traffic quickly became much more MoHo-friendly.  There were some pockets of tough driving, like Dallas, Austin, and Phoenix that were a little more intense, but nothing like the non-stop onslaught in the Northeast.

Bumper to bumper in Austin

With more time under our belts comes better data about costs and finances. As expected the costs were a mixed bag with some up from Q2 and others down.  Campground fees began to drop as we escaped the most expensive part of the country and headed toward areas with more reasonable accommodations. Diesel costs were higher mainly because we drove more miles in Q3 than in Q2.  I find the price of diesel varies less state-to-state than the price of gasoline does.  We ate at home more in Q3, partially owing to the type of food in the regions we were travelling through (nothing compares to Southern cooking) and partially in an effort to save some money (and our waistlines).

Category Q1 Q2 Q3 Change From Q2
Nightly campground fees $42.88 $52.59 $47.93 8% decrease
Average daily cost of diesel $9.46 $8.40 $13.25 57% increase
Daily “entertainment” $22.24 $34.79 $15.10 56% decrease
Supplies $6.74 $3.96 $5.08 29% increase
Food.  We made a conscious decision to eat “at home” more often $52.88 $64.58 $47.32 27% decrease
Vehicle (1 year service in hit in Q3 vs. nothing in Q2).  Also, 36 gallons of propane in Q3 vs. 7 in Q2 $36.38 $2.45 15.04 614% increase

Back by popular demand is the top 10 update list.

  1. Campgrounds – we have stayed at a total of 55 campgrounds during the entire trip, 17 of them in Q3 itself. Q3 began with our least favorite campground  (Circle CG Farm in Bellingham MA) and ended with one of the nicest (Voyager in Tucson). We revisited some campgrounds for the first time, specifically Cherry Hill in Washington DC (Very nice) and Buckhorn Lake in Kerrville TX (Extremely nice).
Too narrow to even put the slides out

The range between the worst campground and the best campground was pretty big in Q3.  We also stayed at an abandoned commercial loading dock/warehouse in Philly that had been converted into an urban campground, the first and only time we’ve seen that.  The concept worked so well that I hope we see it more often!

I thought that we stayed more days at each campground this Quarter, but we didn’t. Our average stay in Q3 is 5.2 days (so 5 days), slightly higher than our average for the trip of 4.9 days (so 5 days). Some of the reason is that we had to head south in a big hurry to avoid cold weather which made us put the miles on once we left Massachusetts.


  1. We covered the following states in Q3: MA, NY, NJ, DE, PA, VA, NC, GA, TN, TX, NM, AZ and drove a total of approx. 3,500 miles, plus another 6,000 in the Jeep. We find that we generally drive 150% as many miles in the Jeep as in the MoHo, so if we drive 100 miles in the MoHo, we probably will drive about 150 miles in the Jeep.  Give or take.  For our friends on both coasts, here is how the size of California vs. the east coast compares.

The very worst, most challenging driving we have seen on the trip was in Q3, specifically the stretch from the Danbury CT area down the east coast through Newark and Philly to Washington DC.

The bit between NJ and Philly was the absolute toughest with low bridges, heavy traffic, constant lane changes, toll booths, and construction.  Compared to California, that is similar distance-wise to the stretch from Sacramento to Monterey.  It actually cost us more in tolls to drive from NJ to Philly than it did in diesel.


  1. Maintenance has been minor. Water began leaking from the joint between our glass-and-aluminum shower door and the bottom of the shower pan. All it needed was some silicone sealant but I had to remove one of the glass panels to reach the spot.

You may recall me mentioning that a couple of our LED lights started to fail.  Well, several more have failed.  I called Fleetwood, who told me to call the manufacturer.  The manufacturer really should be called the importer because the lights are made in China.  In any case, the manufacturer stepped up and sent me 5 replacement lights at no cost.  Normally they are plug-and-play, but the replacement lights came without any wiring connector so I’ve yet to put them in.

Our now-infamous window leak, the last remaining issue to fix and a constant annoyance on the trip, was finally corrected at the Fleetwood factory service center in Alvarado TX!  It turned out to be a fairly small issue but 3 different RV dealerships just couldn’t do the job.  One dealer in Florida outright lied about what they did.  Oh, they diagnosed the problem all right, but they didn’t fix it as they indicated.  It doesn’t give me much confidence in the quality of dealership work.

I was impressed that my makeshift repair of paper towels and blue painters tape survived a journey of over 4,000 miles in all manner of weather.  Hats off to the people at Brawny and Duck Tape!  Fortunately, that taped-on hack of a fix has now been removed and our window is holding up just fine.

BMacDonald Discovery leak[232825]

Overall, it is becoming clear that we’ve made it past the “startup” phase of the ownership experience and I’m looking forward to continued reliability.

  1. Very unlike Q2, most of the Q3 was spent in cool-to-cold weather. Meaning we ran the heat and not the air conditioning. We had quite a few days near or even below freezing. This gave me time to really explore the options for handling cold weather, which I wrote about here.

Our coldest snap was in Kerrville Texas where the overnight temperatures dropped to 15 degrees.   We used 8 gallons of propane in 3 days during that chilly period.  Water condensed on the windshield and dashboard and then actually froze solid!


Our heat pump doesn’t work below about 40 degrees, so we were running both propane furnaces,  two small electric space heaters in the cabin, and a tiny personal heater in the wet bay.  On the coldest 2 days we retracted 2 of our 4 slides.  The two that have water piping in them. I’m not sure we needed to do that to prevent freezing, but we also wanted to reduce the total space we were trying to keep warm AND that put the birds slide over the living room floor rather than over open air.  When we opened the slides again a few days later the place felt YUGE!

Other than using a lot of propane and a lot of electricity, the MoHo was fine and comfortable during that cold snap.  Well, except for the tile floor, which became very cold.  So cold that we had to keep shoes or slippers on at all times. The worst area was the front of the bus which is not directly warmed by propane heat. The propane furnaces warm the tile floors in the kitchen and bathroom, which almost paradoxically mean the floors in these areas are warmest on the coldest days.

We had a flood warning in Bellingham, hail warning in Atlanta, and in Nashville we were under a tornado watch….in November!

  1. We saw our last tollbooth in the Washington DC area (just south in Virginia actually)

Good riddance.

Tollbooths are just a huge pain the rear.  We have to exit the freeway all the way to the right, then pull to the far right of the toll plaza, thread the narrow needle through the toll booth, then pull all the way left in the toll plaza, and then get back on the highway.  Most toll plazas have the far right lane as the widest lane for oversize vehicles.  Not all do however, and we drove through more than a few toll lanes with mere inches on either side of our bus.

Even in the wide lanes, making those exits and entryies is hard in a 57’ vehicle.

Now, that doesn’t mean we saw our last toll in VA.  Nope, that was in Texas. The difference is that Texas has implemented the license plate automated system so there is no need to exit the road and go to a toll booth and pay a toll person.  MA was in the process of replacing their toll booths with these automated sytems, and was scheduled to so the week after we left.  That will make tollbooths a lot less painful for RV’ers.  And everybody, really.


  1. Washington DC was the first place we stayed twice. It continues to be a place with endless options for museums, dining, sightseeing, and other entertainment.

Being in DC for the election was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially with the upset that nobody saw coming. As it began to appear Donald Trump might win (but far from certain yet), we were in the Old Ebbitt across from the White House. The mood shift in that evening was palpable.  Mostly, I think, because Washington insiders really had no idea what to think and hadn’t planned on a Trump win.  But it was quite an experience to see the process unfold in real time.  Since the metro stops running at midnight in DC, we had to leave the Old Ebitt around 11:00pm and at that point it was anybody’s guess.




  1. On the tech side, we continued to have good and bad experiences. As we left the northeast, our access to technology began to improve. Cherry Hill in DC remains the gold standard for WiFi and our dish worked there too! Philly had very usable wifi and clear sky for the dish.

For the first time in months we had uninterrupted access to our DirecTV! We lost it a few times in North Carolina and Atlanta, but once we cleared the Atlanta area, we never had an issue with the dish again.  WiFi continued to be a mixed bag but our mobile hotspots worked well enough.  We continue to use 40gb – 50gb a month of mobile data.

I can’t say overall that AT&T or Verizon is the better provider.  I will say we did encounter a few places where Verizon had a signal and AT&T did not.  However, the Verizon data on that signal was not usable, so I don’t know what good it did us. If I had to pick only one I would give a slight edge to Verizon BUT when AT&T is at the top of its game it seems faster than Verizon at the top of its game.


I switched back to iPhone in Q3 after nearly 6 months with the Galaxy S7 Active. Turns out it is tough to be the only Android user among family and friends.  The Force is strong with iMessage and FaceTime.

Now that iPhone 7 is at least respectably water-resistant AND has an improved camera, I wasn’t as worried about using it as my primary camera in outdoor situations. There are a billion comparisons between iPhone and Galaxy, iOS and Android, so I won’t belabor this with my own “review.”  Suffice it to say that iMessage really is great, Apple Pay works a lot better than the equivalent on the Samsung (Google Pay rarely worked and I don’t have any credit cards compatible with Samsung Pay), and I appreciate getting timely software updates.  Having said that, the Galaxy S7 camera is better (and faster) than iPhone 7 AND it the Galaxy camera is much easier to launch.  I have an album of missed iPhone shots that I’ll post someday due to both the slow process of launching the camera and an annoying shutter lag on the camera app itself.

Here is one example. I was taking a photo of a sign in this storefront window.  With the several second shutter lag, I got a blurry photo of the bottom of the window area instead.

iPhone 7 Shutter lag
  1. We had our annual MoHo maintenance done in nearly the final day of Q3. If it had been a week later, it would have landed in Q4. The annual maintenance was $1100 and that included an upcharge for synthetic oils. That is about $500 cheaper than the 6 month service.

I think the reason for the price difference is that we went to an Oasis RV Freightliner shop in the Phoenix area which bundles the items together and gives a single “bundle price” price for the annual service. Our 6 month service was at a trucker Freightliner in Albuquerque that just itemized our 6 month list and used book labor rates for each item.


You may be wondering why we had the 1 year service done in Q3.  The reason is that our RV had 3500 miles on it and was already 3 months old when we bought it.  We had the 6 month service done in May, which meant the 12 month service really should have been done in January.  The good news is that we won’t need service again for a year!


  1. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has proven to be exceptionally reliable. We had the oil changed in Boerne (Bernie) TX – all Wranglers come with 4 free oil changes and tire rotations so it didn’t cost us anything. The dealer also took care of the airbag sensor wring recall which is the only mechanical issue that we’ve had in the year of our ownership.


So far, the Wrangler has been among the most reliable of cars I’ve owned. It is a primitive vehicle that doesn’t handle so well on the highway, but its great fun to drive in rural areas. Wheeling around Boston in a 4-door Wrangler was a great yin/yang. On one hand, it is big (long+wide+tall) and not a city car. On the other hand, it soaked up bad pavement quality like it wasn’t even there.

  1. Construction is EVERYWHERE. Don’t believe what anyone says about either the economy being terrible or that no infrastructure investments are underway. Just as one example, I have never seen so much road construction in my life.  Interstate highways are being widened, new overpasses being built, lanes are being repaved, entire roadway sections are being redone. Growth in the Southern states is particularly robust. NC, GA, TN, TX, and AZ are all in what seems to be a housing building boom.  Roads are being heavily improved but highrise cranes dot the downtown skyline while suburbs with strip malls are popping up all over. It is good to see the growth, but the sprawl being creating may come back to haunt these areas.


I’m looking forward to the Q4 report!



We have a date with San Diego.  Specifically the super-popular Chula Vista RV Resort.  This is one of the campgrounds on our trip that is a destination itself rather than just being a place for us to park and explore an area.  We made reservations back in September for a Jan 20 2017 arrival.

Now, the problem with making reservations 4 months in advance is that it pretty well locks us into a date and also a route with all sorts of possible trip interruptions in between.    It is hard enough to predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone months into the future.

Booking campgrounds is one of the delicate balances we strike with living MoHo – booking ahead enough to assure we have a place to sleep (that isn’t a truck stop parking lot) but not locking ourselves into a schedule that really limits our flexibility.  Normally, we don’t book this far in advance, but for this particular location we need to make reservations to avoid the “sorry, we’re full” conversation.

Yes, we could scrap the reservation if we wanted to lose our $400 deposit. But we don’t want to loose our $400 deposit. Plus, we really want to stay at this place.  Not only is is a cool spot but its one of the places where we cross paths with my full-time RV parents and it will be good to see them!

Fortunately, we planned our route pretty well and our location in Mesa AZ is just a short(ish) hop over to San Diego.

According to Google, the overall drive is about 5.5 hours.  Never believe the Google map time estimate when driving an RV.  Not only does traffic and construction heavily influence the real drive time – especially in California – once our wheels cross the CA state line our maximum speed is limited to 55mph.

It would be interesting to compare accident statistics from Texas where RVs towing can drive 80mph to California where they are limited to 55mph.  I bet there isn’t much difference in the accident rates.

Anyway, we decided it might be nice to break the trip into 2 parts.  According to the map there aren’t many options.  However, sitting right in the middle is Yuma Arizona.

Prior to this, I only knew of Yuma for two reasons.  First, it was the fictional city that Rusty used for his fake drivers license in the movie Vegas Vacation. Rusty – aka Nick Pappagiorgio from Yuma AZ – uses the fake license to hit the tables. Of course he wins big time.

The other reason was that our MoHo was in Yuma at the La Mesa dealer when we made the final decision to buy it.  I paid $2,300 to have someone drive it from Yuma to Davis so it could join us on this adventure!  The irony was that we had actually seen this exact Fleetwood Discovery in Davis a few months earlier and so it was just coming home!

RV dealerships in northern areas often send RVs to Arizona in the winter months. There is a better chance of selling them in AZ in January than in Davis CA.

In any case, our MoHo was going to revisit the spot where it came to join our little Moho family!

What I did not know is that 85,000 people, most of whom appear to be Canadian, call Yuma their winter home. We had some of the same challenges finding an under 55 campground that we had in Phoenix. Fortunately, we found what appeared to be a decent place just off the freeway where we could stay for a night.

When we arrived, we saw that the RV campground was 80% trailers and park models with a section up front for RVs.  The theme of beer drinking monkey yard art that we saw in Mesa was alive and well.

Weather was forecast to be nasty.  A series of storms coming off the Pacific were working their way through the area.

Particularly of concern was the high wind warning. Rain doesn’t bother me that much when driving, but high winds definitely create cause-for-pause.  After reviewing this alert from the National Weather System, we decided to stay an extra night in Yuma and “shelter in place,” then make a dash for San Diego in between storms.

Surprisingly, the Chula Vista RV resort moved our arrival date back one day without an penalty – yah!This gave us time to checkout Yuma.

The sign at the entrance to downtown Yuma was promising!

The promise fizzled pretty fast though. At least 1/3 of the shops were empty and abandoned.  I snapped a few pictures but there were plenty of these empty storefronts.

This photo was supposed to be of the empty window but the shutter lag on iPhone 7 turned it into a blurry shot of the sidewalk. This happens far too often on iPhone 7, and not just to me.  The Interwebs are full of people reporting the same issue.  I’m not sure what’s happening but it is very annoying.

iPhone 7 shutter lag

Empty storefronts are not that unusual in small towns we’ve seen.  Generally, the businesses that do move in are sort of “B” and “C” level independents.  Lots of junk shops, yoga studios, local art displays, holistic food/vitamin stores, etc.

That’s very true of Yuma.

A shop called “Treasures” had a sign in its window making it clear the junk inside was for sale.  I don’t know how “junk” and “treasures” became synonymous but here ya go.

A paint-your-own-painting-and-drink-wine shop had moved into one of the stores.  The name said it all.

A very modern and impressive building was located mid-strip, purporting to be an art gallery. We went inside and while the building IS very impressive – like ODDLY big and impressive -there isn’t any real art to speak of.  The multi-story exhibit hall was empty except for large colored poster boards mounted on the walls.

Upon closer inspection each poster board was setup for the public to use to draw or write something about art. It was an interesting idea, but really was something that would be seen at an elementary or middle school.

It was kind of sad to see all the abandoned businesses, like this restaurant which must have been quite a place to eat in its heyday. Now it waits for a new owner to revive it.

Very close to the art “museum” was the Mexican consulate. I bet they are having a field day with the new President. The Mexican border is very close to Yuma, and I think quite a few people cross the boarder to shop, get prescriptions, and have dental work done.

We had just about given up on downtown Yuma when we spotted a brewpub called Prison Hill Brewing Co.  It looked like a potential bright spot and we had nothing else to do so we went it. Good choice!

Prison Hill Brewing Company turned out to have great food and over 20 beers on tap, most of which were brewed on site.  We tried a couple of sample flights and enjoyed a few appetizers.  My favorite was a pineapple wheat beer (that really should have been called a shandy).  Delicious!

After the brewpub we walked back toward our Jeep.  A large mural on one of the buildings summed up downtown Yuma pretty well. Sleepy.

We headed back toward the RV campground.  Winds had started to really pickup and the air was turning a dusty shade of tan.  Gusts blew dirt across the road like snow in a blizzard.  Mountains in the distance were barely visible because of all the dirt.

The only positive I could find was that I now get to use the word “haboob” in a sentence.  Haboob.  Haboob!

I was glad that we decided not to drive in this intense wind, although I know we will be in for strong winds tomorrow when we head toward California. Hopefully they won’t be as bad as today.  Meanwhile, I was left wondering why people would come to Yuma for the winter?  It must be price related, because the Phoenix area seems to have a lot more to offer than Yuma.