Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Michigan's Casino Trail

Every year as I make my way from the hot Southwest to the cooler climate of Michigan's Upper Peninsula my monthly costs go up due to increased gas usage incurred by the long distance travel (the pickup/Mini combo only gets 10 mpg).  One way I stretch my budget during this period is by "casino camping" at the Indian casinos across the UP.  Most welcome RV'ers for a couple of nights and a few even provide free electrical hookups.  I reviewed one of the more popular casinos here:  Kewadin St. Ignace Review .  I'm actually at the Kewadin Manistique casino right now which offers free electrical hookups.

Free hookups and blackjack!

So if I can break even playing blackjack (yeah, right!) I can end up saving $15 or $20 a night I'd spend even at my Passport America discounted rates.  Sometimes I even leave the casino with more money than I came with!

The Mini's grassy site at Kewadin Manistique Casino.

Surprisingly, there aren't that many places in Michigan's UP that you can boondock in, at least that I've found, so utilizing the free casino camping is a good way to keep costs down.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Year Five of Road Life Completed

Today marks my fifth anniversary of full timing in an RV.  When I closed on the sale of my house in Texas on June 6, 2013 I told myself I would give RV living a full six months to see if I was going to embrace it or not.

2400 square feet down to 160, what could go wrong?

Although I was a complete RV newb I was able to avoid a lot of camping and RV pitfalls by reading as many of the many RV blogs on the Internet as I could and learning from other people's experiences.  I'm really grateful for that education, I probably couldn't have made it five years without it and I'd encourage anyone thinking of heading out to read RV blogs you'll never regret it.

What's next?  I don't have any plans to stop full timing, I just love traveling around our country and camping in new (and some repeat) locations.  I'll try to keep reviewing cool campsites when I find them, maybe that can be part of my paying the RV experience thing forward.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Summer Migration

I said goodbye to Colorado and began my annual move back to the upper Midwest, specifically Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Passing through Kansas I stopped off at the Lyons city park where the city thoughtfully provides free electricity and allows you to stay up to five days if you want.  I previously reviewed the park here:  Lyons Trailer Park Review .  If you visit Lyons you HAVE TO go to Scrambled Sams for breakfast (I did two days in a row!), the omelettes are so great!

And I'm not even a breakfast eater!

It's going to hit 96 today in Lyons which should make me grateful for the free electric hookups for running the Mini's AC.  There's another guy here with a tiny trailer without AC that I feel for, it's got to be like an oven in there.  Next up I'm heading north into Nebraska and hopefully at least slightly cooler temperatures.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Oh, Hail No!

In my last post I bragged on how nice the weather is at Antero Reservoir in mid-May.  Guess that tweaked the Weather Gods:

The hail was marble-sized and pretty heavy in duration.  I ran out through it to rescue my deployed solar panels (they ARE 95 % glass) fearing they couldn't take the constant hits and as my "rescue" proceeded I took a few hits to my ears that really smarted!  Today as I post this the weather has returned to sunny and crisp, but I'm NOT bragging about it!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Back to Antero

Readers of the blog know that I rated the camping experience at Antero Reservoir near Hartsel, CO as one of the best I've had in the years I've been wandering around.  I reviewed Antero Reservoir camping in 2013 here:  Antero Reservoir Review .  I tried to return to Antero in 2016 for another camping session only to find it closed (and drained) for maintenance and repairs on the dam that creates the reservoir.  Happily, the reservoir is "back in business" so that's where I'm spending the next ten days or so.

One of Denver's principle sources of drinking water.

Middle of the month of May is a great time to camp at the 8900 foot elevation, sunny days in the low seventies and nights in the low 40's....sleeping weather!

Great weather!  The views are OK too.

Even though the reservoir was drained and the trout removed, it was restocked after it was reopened and there are throngs of fishermen on and around the reservoir.

Fishermen trying their luck on the reservoir.

Even though it's the second half of May there are still areas with snow on the ground that hasn't melted yet.

A large patch of snow in a field near Antero.

I'm really looking forward to the next week or so of camping at Antero!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Escape to Rabbit Valley

Needing to get my mail forwarded to me from the excellent Escapee Mail Forwarding service I needed to hang out near Grand Junction, CO for four or five days until the General Delivery packet got forwarded from Livingston, TX to a Grand Junction Post Office.  Initially, I planned on staying on the BLM land just north of the city where I had camped previously but after one day there I wanted to relocate.  Unfortunately, the locals have absolutely trashed this once excellent camping spot, littering it with everything from broken washing machines to what appears to be the remains of a demolished house, let alone the tens of thousands of spent shotgun shells that litter almost everywhere.  I couldn't help but think of the great camping in Rabbit Valley twenty miles to the west in the McGinnis Canyons National Conservation Area I had enjoyed a couple years back so I returned to the Jouflas Campground which I previously reviewed here: Rabbit Valley Review .

Like seeing an old friend!

I lucked out and got my old camp site when I got there.

The only site at Jouflas with some vegetation.

The difference between the condition of the pristine land within the McGinnis Canyons Conservation Area and the now pathetic BLM land near Grand Junction couldn't be more stark, I'd made the right move to relocate.

One of the tons of rock formations along hiking trails.

There's an excellent series of hiking trails near Jouflas Campground and I did my daily hikes along them.

Trail 2, one of the main trails in the Jouflas system.

A service road that connects Jouflas to a campground about 5 miles south.

Heartbreak Hill:  the climb back up to Jouflas from the trails.

I usually carry a Walmart shopping bag in my pocket in case I see litter while on my walks.  There was virtually no litter in Rabbit Valley so I left the bags back at the Mini.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Tech-nically Homeless hit it's 100,000th page view today.  Wow, that's a lot of views!  When I started the blog five years ago I thought it would be a way to assure my daughter, who was very worried a newb like me would drive off a mountain road in the dark, that I was still alive and kicking, or at least I was whenever my last post occurred,  I honestly never thought I'd get more than one or two family views a day, given that my writing isn't the most scintillating.  Then I decided to include reviews of all the cool places I was finding to camp in with the hope that it would help other newbies like me starting out and I think that's what got the page views going.

I hope I've helped readers find destinations and learn good camping skills as much as the blogs I read have helped me through these last five years!  I'll keep after it!

The Happy Camper!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Campground Review: Disbursed Camping in the Moapa Valley, NV Along Sand Mine Road

Temperatures in Arizona continued to rise so I headed northwest up into Nevada's Moapa Valley to BLM land along Sand Mine Road seeking cooler climate.  Moapa Valley runs northwest to southeast and is situated in Clark County about 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas.  The valley was originally settled by the Anasazi people around 350 BC.  In the late-1860's the first white people, Mormon pioneers, immigrated into the valley. 

You don't need 4 wheel drive if you stay close to the road.

I did my now practiced routine of finding the first place along the road, parking the rig there and then proceeding on foot to find the best available site in the area.  I found a pretty good one about a half mile further along Sand Mine Road.

The Mini's desert site about 50 yards off Sand Mine Road.

Here's the Sand Mine Road data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None (Dry camping)                                                  
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      No (Pack in/Pack out)                                                
Toilets:                                                 No                                                                  
Showers:                                             No                                                                              
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                    No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                                      
Store:                                                   No                                                                              
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 No                                                      
Verizon reception:                               4G, 4 bars                                                       
Internet reception:                               4 bars
Cost:                                                    Free for up to 15 days

Initially, temperatures during the cloudless days were in the low to mid-80's and nights were in the mid-50's, pretty ideal!  I did my daily walking along Sand Mine Road which is mostly hard packed dirt and gravel.

Sand Mine "Road".

My site was pretty secluded even though it was out in the open desert, my nearest neighbor was a half mile away, then he left two days in and my next nearest was about a mile away.

This canyon separated my camp area from another further north.
Some of the cacti in the area were flowering.

One of the things I really appreciate about desert camping is the virtual absence of flying insects of any kind.  Often while camping in forests you have to hurry in and out of the trailer to avoid flys, or worse, mosquitoes flying in the open door, not so in the desert!

I called this area along my walk "The Badlands".

I got to Sand Mine Road around the middle of April and as I mentioned for the first week the weather was just ideal with the bonus of cloud-free days providing great sun for the Mini's solar setup.  I intended to stay the whole 15 day limit but unfortunately the second week the temperatures spiked into the mid to high 90's after extremely high winds blew in a warm front.

High winds blew over the solar suitcase so I had to lay it almost flat.

With Lin's Grocery, a full service grocery store, only seven miles away in Overton, NV it's very possible to complete the whole 15 day stay along Sand Mine Road without running out of supplies.  Next year I might come a couple weeks earlier in the season and avoid the heat and make the full 15 days, the peaceful uncrowded nature of the campsites coupled with the excellent cellular coverage make it worth it!

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Mistake Corrected

Readers of this blog know that I try to avoid staying in "pay-for" campgrounds like KOA etc. and instead try to stay on free camping land.  As I meander around the country free camping isn't always available sometimes due to the route I'm traveling or because I'm in a state that doesn't offer very much free camping (looking at you Minnesota!).  It seems at least once a month I'll bite the bullet and fork over the full cost of a one or two night stay at a commercial RV park....begrudgingly.

All those times I've paid full price (sometimes as much as $45/night) I could have paid half price instead!  How is that possible and why the heck wouldn't I take the half price instead?  The first answer is that there is a RV discount card you can use that gives 50% discounts at thousands of RV parks nation wide.  The second answer is ..... I dunno.

Passport America is the discount card I'm referencing and I'm embarrassed that I've been full-timing for almost five years and I just got mine last month.

50% off sound good?

Since early March I've used the card three times and have already saved MORE than the $44/year the card costs!  I'm kicking myself for not having gotten the card the day I set out to full-time in the Tank, I would have saved hundreds of dollars by now.  A couple of caveats:  not every RV park accepts the discount card  (go to their website:  Passport America Park Map ) The second is that many member parks put rules up on the usage, like limiting the number of discount nights you can get or the season you can use it in, like not during the busy season in Arizona from December to March.

Because I'm a member of the Escapees RV club Passport America adds an extra three months onto the subscription for a total of 15 months for $44 so if you get one check to see if any groups you belong too are eligible too.  The cool thing is the flexibility the card gives you on your travels -- instead of shying away from a $35/night park now you have the option of paying $17.50 for at least the first couple days.

I made a mistake as a newbie full-timer in not having this card with me the day I headed out and it cost me hundreds of dollars in full-priced stays, now you'll be able to avoid that mistake.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Campground Review: Disbursed Camping along Thumb Butte Loop, Prescott National Forest

The most prominent feature southwest of the town of Prescott, AZ (Pop: 42,513) within the Prescott National Forest is Thumb Butte, a mountaintop that kind of looks like a thumb I guess.  Thumb Butte Loop is a forest road that winds around the Butte in a large circle and there are 21 disbursed camping sites along it.

A distant view of Thumb Butte - Prescott National Forest

Driving up the Loop many of the sites were either occupied or had a "placeholder" tent or vehicle in them meant to reserve the site for future occupation and use.

A camper left in a campsite to reserve it.

Thumb Butte Loop's road quality varied from hard packed gravel/dirt to really pot holed barely drive able at more than 5 mph.

A "good" portion of Thumb Butte Loop

Because Prescott National Forest is a "Wildland-urban-interface" (WUI) campers are limited to only a seven day stay vs. the normal 14 day limit in most National Forest.  A ranger who stopped by my campsite said the WUI designation is because Prescott is a fairly large town compared to the small towns that usually abut National Forests.

Here's the data sheet on Thumb Butte Loop:

Hookups:                                             None (dry camping)                                                   
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     No                                                      
Fresh Water:                                        No                                          
Trash Service:                                      No (pack in / pack out)                                              
Toilets:                                                 No                                          
Showers:                                             No                                                      
Dump station:                                      No                                          
WiFi:                                                    No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                   No                                                                              
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 Yes                                         
Verizon reception:                               4G, 3 bars                                           
Internet reception:                               3 Bars                         
Cost:                                                    Free for up to 7 days

The sites along the Loop, which are designated by metal poles the Forest Service has put up, vary quite a bit in size and big rig accessibility.  Not that the Mini really qualifies as a "big rig" but the first two sites I tried to squeeze into didn't fit very well but I finally found a suitable campsite at pole 9.

Campsite 9 -- even among the tall pines solar was adequate.
Forest Service campsite marker pole.

On the way up the Loop you drive past what look like campsites that even contain stone fire rings but lack a campsite pole like the one in the above snap.  If you attempt to camp in them rangers will evict you and, depending on if it's the weekend or not, you may have a problem finding a legit unoccupied campsite so be forewarned.

I did most of my walking along the Loop as it's relatively traffic free at least during the weekdays.  There were some paths through the pine trees that in some cases were a little challenging, especially since you're at 6400 foot altitude.

Hiking path through the pines.

Unlike some of my recent Arizona camping experiences the section of Prescott National Forest that Thumb Butte Loop runs through was virtually litter-free.  As you can tell from the photos the weather was sunny and low-80's during the day and high-50's at night -- perfect camping weather!

By early April the temperatures in southern Arizona start hitting the 90's, making boondocking without AC challenging, at least during the day.  A good way to beat the heat is to gain altitude at camping areas like that along 6400 foot Thumb Butte Loop and I hope to be back again next April!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Battle of Thumb Butte

When you boondock for an extended period of time your RV, being stationary for a long period, can become the target of small gray furred hitchhikers.  Back when I was still in the Tank a field mouse had invaded it's interior spaces and it took me 4 days to trap it.  So, after I moved north from the BLM land I had been on for 14 days to the Prescott National Forest outside of Prescott, AZ (review coming) you can imagine my dismay when the first night camping I heard the pitter patter of little feet inside the Mini's lower cabinets.  I've unfortunately become adept at identifying the sound of a field mouse within an RV so I knew I had to get to Walmart and buy a mouse trap -- by now you'd think I'd be carrying a supply!

Mouse traps have changed in design since back in my day.  (Build a better mouse trap?)  The ones I got from Walmart looked roughly the same as the old days but had the addition of a yellow plastic pressure plate that, when depressed by the animal going for the bait, releases the spring loaded bar that zaps the mouse.

Put the bait on the back of the pressure plate, mouse steps on it, blamo!

I was successful using crunchy peanut butter as bait against the Tank's mouse so I went that route again and upped my game by pushing a half a walnut into the peanut butter to make it more irresistible.  Since I heard the mouse scampering all over in the Mini's lower cabinets I placed the baited trap into a bottom drawer and waited in anticipation to hear the tell tale snap that would announce my hitchhiker was no longer of this world.  I finally got tired and went to bed having not heard anything from the trap drawer however once in bed I heard the mouse running around for most of the night.

Getting up the next morning to silence (mice are nocturnal so I'm sure it was sleeping) I opened the trap drawer AND...

Licked clean!

the trap was completely clean of bait, including walnut, and was still set!  Round one to Mickey!  Having almost taken my finger off several times due to the hair trigger nature of the pressure plate the only thing I could theorize was that the mouse had approached from the side of the trap, completely missing the pressure plate and enjoying his free meal at my expense -- it didn't even leave a tip!

I re-baited the trap and put it back in the drawer thinking how lucky the mouse had been to unwittingly approach the trap from the side and assuring myself it couldn't do that twice.  About 3 am that morning I was awoken by the trap going off and thought my problem was taken care of.  I was too lazy to get up and check the trap figuring it'd wait until the morning but instead experiencing silence a bunch of thumping started coming from the trap drawer.  The mouse was still very much alive and seemingly dragging the trap around the drawer bumping into barbecue utensils I had stored in it.  I reluctantly got up, turned on the interior lights, armed myself with a steak knife and opened the drawer.  Instead of finding a partially trapped mouse it's fur was stuck in the trap and, upon seeing me it clanged the trap against a barbecue spatula got free and turned into a gray blur jumping out of the drawer into the back of the cabinets.  This guy was good!  Mickey takes round 2!

The next morning I re-baited the trap for the third time ( running low on walnuts) and, to speed up this story, Mickey's luck ran out.  This time he must have stepped squarely on the pressure plate and it looked like a very clean kill, ending things without too much suffering.  I have a picture of his demise but as this is a family blog I'll refrain from including it in this posting.

Thus the three day Battle of Thumb Butte (where the battle took place) came to a conclusion.  I'm now carrying a trap as part of the Mini's standard load out although I know I'll never be able to keep walnuts in stock because I'll eat them myself.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Campground Review: North Little Grand Canyon Road, BLM Land off Table Mesa Road New River, AZ

Trying to maintain my "Goldilocks" camping environment (not too hot, not too cold) I drifted about 30 miles north of Phoenix along I-17 to BLM land off of Table Mesa Road.  North Little Grand Canyon "Road" turns north off Table Mesa.  I put road in parenthesis because it's really a rock-strewn one lane clay path that leads past several obvious camping sites before it turns into a off-road vehicle only path.

There's a hiking trail called Black Canyon trail just to keep it confusing.

Having boondocked on BLM land for a number of years I've learned (the hard way) not to blindly drive down one lane dirt paths so I parked the pickup and Mini at a wide open area about a quarter of a mile into North Little Grand Canyon Road to search on foot for a good campsite.  Right before the spot where the road becomes too tough for bigger RV's was a really nice site with great views -- and it was vacant!  I almost ran back to the Mini fearing someone else would drive by me and take it, but I got there first.

The Mini's desert campsite.

Here's the data sheet on North Little Grand Canyon Road:

Hookups:                                             None (Dry camping)                                                  
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      No (Pack in, pack out)                                               
Toilets:                                                 No                                          
Showers:                                             No                                                                              
Dump station:                                      No                                          
WiFi:                                                    No                                          
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                                      
Store:                                                   No (Walmart 11 miles away)                                     
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 No                                          
Verizon reception:                               4G, 3 bars                               
Internet reception:                               3 bars
Cost:                                                    Free for up to 14 days

The temperatures were probably a little on the cool side for the second half of March, mid-70's in the day and high-40's at night, which meant pretty optimal.  My campsite had really great 360 degree vistas of the mountains and what I assume was North Little Grand Canyon.

The view from my lawn chair.  Note one of the few trees in the area.

While you can appreciate the natural beauty of the area from the photos, what you can't see is the litter that folks have decided to deposit in the area.  Every day when I did my walks I'd take a plastic Walmart bag and pick up beer cans and empty plastic water bottles until the bag was full but I'm afraid I didn't make much of a dent.  It's just really disheartening that people do this.  I don't know if it would help if Arizona instituted a 10 cent can deposit like in some other states but certain areas I've camped in this year are in real trouble.

There's an official shooting range about a mile and a half from where I camped so there is fairly steady gunfire on the weekends and occasionally during weekdays so if that would bother your camping experience be forewarned, it doesn't really bother me.  Also, on the other side of the canyon is a working mine but it hardly makes any sound at all although there is some truck traffic on Table Mesa Road during the day.

First time I've camped with a mine in the area.

Some one who had previously camped at my site had an artistic bent:

It's about 3 ft in diameter.  The green is beer bottle glass.

I've always enjoyed my times camping on BLM land and, to be honest, I liked my experience AT MY SITE along North Little Grand Canyon Road after I cleared my area of litter.  Whoever gets it after I leave will have the nicest campsite in the area, hopefully they'll read this review and fill some Walmart bags of their own.  As to returning I'll really have to think about it next year, the litter is kind of depressing and diminishes the camping experience.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March Madness

My college basketball team - Michigan State - qualified for the NCAA Tournament so with two possible games over the weekend to watch I elected to move 20 miles north of Gunsite Wash to a RV park in the small town of Ajo, AZ so I'd have hookups.  Shadow Ridge RV park is a nice little stop right along AZ Hwy 85 which runs through Ajo with about 120 closely packed sites.

Shadow Ridge RV Resort's office.

Here's the Shadow Ridge data sheet:
Hookups:                                             30, 50 amp, Water, sewer                                          
Fire ring:                                              No                                                                  
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                       Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                     Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes                                                     
Showers:                                             Yes                                                     
Dump station:                                     Yes                                         
WiFi:                                                   Yes                                         
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                             Yes                                                     
Store:                                                   No (Mini-mart next door)                                          
Pool:                                                    No                                          
Shade:                                                 No                                          
Verizon reception:                              4G, 5 bars                                           
Internet reception                                5 bars
Cost:                                                    $12/day 1, $24/day thereafter with Passport America

Passport America is a RV discount card that a lot of RV parks honor.  Arizona RV Parks accepting Passport America .  As a member of Escapees RV Club I qualified for an extra 3 months on the annual card cost of $44.  Using it at Shadow Ridge netted me back $24 on savings from my stay so you can see that if you spend any time at all at RV parks getting a Passport America card is a no-brainer.

I did a couple loads of laundry in their spotless laundry room.

The staff at Shadow Ridge were really friendly and helpful, the only ding I'd give the park is the smallish size of the sites.

The Mini with the pickup attached JUST fits into site 20.

I don't usually stay in RV parks, preferring to either boondock or stay at State and National parks but with my team's participation in Madness I jumped at the chance to get a good spot with hookups to watch.  Shadow Ridge was a lucky find.  I'd return.  Go Green!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

When you're camped out in Gunsite Wash you're about 20 miles north of the visitor center for the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I traveled to the center and the adjacent campground one day for a day trip.

Just 20 miles south on Hwy 85 from Gunsite Wash.

The Organ Pipe cactus, a distinct looking plant, only grows within the 570 square miles of the national monument, thus it's name.  That's one on the right side of the sign above.

The entrance to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center at Organ Pipe.

I really drove down to the visitor center because the campground is near it and I wanted to evaluate it as a possible site for staying at next year, but first I toured the visitor center and it's exhibits.

One of the cactus exhibits inside the visitor center.

It only takes a few minutes to walk thru the internal displays at the visitor center but there's a nice outdoor nature trail outside that is cool to walk.

One of the stops along the visitor center nature trail, the sign explains the view.

At the rear of the center the nature trail ends with a neat little pond housing some type of small endangered fish that is indigenous to the National Monument.  It was constructed by some middle school kids from nearby Ajo, AZ.

The pond housing tiny little endangered fish.

About a mile away from the visitor center is the Twin Peaks campground where you can dry camp (no hookups) for $9 a night if you have a US Senior Pass.

The Twin Peaks campground entrance.

The campground consists of 128 camp sites with four restroom facilities.  There are no hookups but I did notice a cell phone charging area up near the campground office.

Campsites among the Organ Pipe cactus (and Saguaro).

Not sure what type this one is but the flowers were pretty.

I spent an enjoyable and educational morning at the Organ Pipe National Monument.  Next year when I return to Gunsite Wash to camp I will probably add a few days at the Twin Peaks campground so I can hike the monument.  You really can't go wrong choosing where to camp in this part of Arizona!

Thanks for reading!