The Expected and the Unexpected

As I roam the country, I’m always encountering both the expected and the unexpected.

TL;DRthere are surprises everywhere you turn.

Omaha
Dodge City
Oklahoma City
Sayre
Tucumcari

Omaha

Big Red. Sure you expect everything to revolve around Cornhusker football. I watched a local 4pm newscast on a Tuesday and they managed to work “big red” into every story – traffic accident (won’t impact Saturday’s big game), robbery, back to school backpack drive, art fair, utility rate hike, and on and on.

The Old Market. But I was surprised to find The Old Market District, a hip downtown area of restored and preserved buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the buildings have been converted into chic lofts with restaurants, bars and retail on the ground level. Hipsters, cowboys and tourists mingle in the easily walkable downtown.

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The Missouri River runs by Haworth Park in Bellevue, NE. On the other side, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Missouri River runs by Haworth Park in Bellevue, NE. On the other side, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Dodge City

Boot Hill. Dodge City fully embraces its old west heritage. The Boot Hill Museum preserves a street that looks like it came right out of Gunsmoke. Throughout the city center preserved or period appropriate designs dominate.

Unexpected Service. While I was in Dodge City I placed an Amazon order. Amazon screwed up the shipping label (removed all spaces and line separators, WTF?) and UPS couldn’t deliver the package. After a few calls I was told I could pick up the package at the UPS depot. It was only about 12 miles away so I rode over there. The agent saw the size of the box (typical Amazon, the 3 ft x 18 in x 24 in was holding 90% air), and my bike, and offered to follow me back to camp in her personal vehicle and deliver the box. Now I was prepared to unpack the box and discard all the packing on site, riding home with just my purchases, but I accepted her gracious offer. Who does that? Extraordinary.

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Long Branch Saloon
Long Branch Saloon
General Store
Boot Hill Museum

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Grave marker at Boot Hill
Grave marker at Boot Hill
Boot Hill
Boot Hill

Oklahoma City

Tornados and Oil. Sure you expect three tornado warnings in ten days and to see oil wells everywhere.

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The National Memorial. Of course if you’re in Oklahoma City you go to the National Memorial honoring the victims of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. I wasn’t prepared, however, for just how big an emotional impact it would have. The site stuns with its beauty and tragedy. The museum walks you through the timeline from before the bombing to the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Near the beginning of the tour you sit in a recreation of a hearing room that was across the street from the Murrah building, where a water resources board was conducting a routine hearing. You listen to the actual audio tape of the hearing that started at 9am and ended with the sound of the blast.

169 empty chairs representing the men, women and children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
169 empty chairs representing the men, women and children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
One of the 169 chairs at the memorial. Each is engraved with the name of a victim.
One of the 169 chairs at the memorial. Each is engraved with the name of a victim.
Oklahoma City National Memorial - the reflecting pool with the mammoth field of empty chairs behind.
Oklahoma City National Memorial – the reflecting pool with the mammoth field of empty chairs behind.

The 9:01 Gate at the far end of the reflecting pool symbolizes the last moments of peace before the destruction.
The 9:01 Gate at the far end of the reflecting pool symbolizes the last moments of peace before the destruction.

Maybe the most disgusting thing at the museum. McVeigh was wearing this shirt when he was arrested. It translates to "thus always to tyrants".  In 1995 there were maybe 200 people in the country sick enough to do what McVeigh did.  Now there are probably that many at a typical Trump rally.
Maybe the most disgusting thing at the museum. McVeigh was wearing this shirt when he was arrested. It translates to “thus always to tyrants”. In 1995 there were maybe 200 people in the country sick enough to do what McVeigh did. Now there are probably that many at a typical Trump rally.

Sayre

Sleepy Town. Naturally, a small town of 4000 has very little going on.

Crazy big City Park. This little town has a beautiful, well maintained city park cover half a square mile. There’s a nine hole golf course, basketball, tennis, volleyball, a pool, rodeo grounds with seating for the entire population and even RV parking.

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Tucumcari

Route 66. Like every town along Rt 66, you have kitschy souvenir shops, themed diners, and murals of the glory days.

World Class Dinosaur Museum. Mesalands Community College has a well regarded paleontology program and operates a world class museum where you see the fossils they’ve recovered and see the scientists working on fossils.

Dinosaur Leg

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T-Rex Egg

Mesalands Dinosaur Museum

Three Years on the Road

Just over three years ago, on August 30, 2013, I set off to see the country living full time in my motorhome. On the journey I’ve covered 35,000+ miles, visited 210 places in 37 states and three Canadian provinces, and yet …

In this post
Off track and weary
The wait
Top of the 210
Up Next
Almost all the Stops – map
Almost all the Stops – list
States and Provinces Visited

Off Track and Weary

I had a coffee mug that said “Not all that wander are lost.” Sometime in June I lost the mug, probably left it behind somewhere in North Dakota. I have to say that since then I’ve felt like this wanderer is lost. Stops that are repeats or have no purpose.

There’s also been way to many stops this whole year. I’ve been to 57 places just in 2016 and it’s only the beginning of September. When I started this journey I thought most places I’d visit for 2-4 weeks. Going into 2016 I’d planned to hold the number of sites to 50 the year. Yet, 57 in September. Not working.

I’ve also had an aversion to planning more than the next location. That’s more or less fine, except in the summer. Summer vacationers and booked up camping locations have made it clear that I’ll need to plan the summer months well in advance.

Ready to quit? No, no, no. I definitely have to get my head in the game though.

The Wait

No, I mean “the weight.” From April 2015 through May 2016 I lost over 70 lbs. (and maintained that since). Besides feeling much better, I no longer have to take blood pressure or cholesterol medication (so no meds at all).

Top of the 210

Top spots on the journey, so far:

If I was trying to pick a place to live year round, I couldn’t do it. The best I could say now would be maybe Ashland, Gold Beach or South Haven in the summer, maybe Madeira Beach in the winter.

Up Next

As I write this I’m in Nebraska, just outside Omaha. Next week I’ll head out on a 1,500 mile journey back to Phoenix, arriving in the first half of November. I’ll find myself in Oklahoma City, Santa Fe and Flagstaff along the way. After that I’ll want to stay within about four or five hundred miles through May when Kylee graduates from NAU.

Almost all the Stops

I know I’ve missed a few, but this map has nearly all the overnight stops on the RoamwardBound journey, so far.


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States Visited

The states I’ve visited on the Roamward Bound journey – just those with an overnight stay.


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[ Map of states visited is not shown on this browser ]

Driving in Circles

Yuma! No it’s not my favorite spot, but I’ve just made my fourth stop in Yuma in just over three months.

Solar System Issue

I first went to Yuma on 12/22 to talk with Starlight Solar Systems about installing a new system in the RV. I decided to go ahead with it, but the next available appointment wasn’t until 1/26. In the meantime I camped with the WINS (rvsingles.org) in Yuma, Parker and Quartzsite.

The second Yuma stop was for the big solar install on 1/26. The system was working perfectly and providing all the power I needed, but two weeks later the monitor/control panel inside the coach stopped working. I was still getting all the power I needed, but could no longer operate the system from inside and had no visibility to how well it was working (power production, battery charge levels, usage, etc.).

We spent a couple of weeks trying to diagnose this over the phone and email, then on 2/22 I went back to Yuma. They found that one of the components, the solar charge controller (Magnum PT-100, rated the best) was not talking to the inverter (they are ethernet connected) and blocking the inverter from talking to the remote. Starlight replaced the solar charge controller, everything worked fine and I headed back to Slab City.

Exactly four weeks later, on 3/21, while I was in Cottonwood, the same problem recurred. After another round of phone and email diagnosis I headed back to Yuma (from Flagstaff) on 4/4. Again, Starlight replaced the solar charge controller, everything is working fine. I’m on my way, just not real confident.

The Loop


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Slab City

Slab City – end of the line for the down and out, snowbird haven, RVer right of passage, trash heap, an alternate way of life, eclectic arts and living, the last free place in America. Whatever. Maybe it’s all of that, maybe not.

Whatever Slab City is, it pulled me in. I’d planned to spend less than two weeks and wound up staying a month. Of course I was staying with a great group of people at the Slab LoWs encampment (LonersOnWheels.com, Slab Lows on Facebook). Whether it’s morning coffee by the campfire, afternoon happy hour or something in between, every day turned out to be a treat. Jenna, Seann, Shane, George and all the rest, I miss you already.

Maybe you’ve heard of Slab City through the movie Into the Wild, and thought they’re making it seem more weird, more cool, more whatever. Nope. If anything it’s the other way around.

Salvation Mountain

A three story high hill painted over two decades by the late Leonard Knight to express his love of God.

Salvation Mountain, Slab City, California
Salvation Mountain, Slab City, California

The Range

The Range is the world famous open air nightclub with a great show every week created by the one and only Builder Bill, but it’s not the only show in town – don’t miss Radio Mike’s, the VIP Lounge and the Oasis.

The Range nightclub a few hours before the show begins.
The Range nightclub a few hours before the show begins.
Band after band rocks the Range
Band after band rocks the Range


East Jesus

No religious connotation, just colloquial for “middle of nowhere.” East Jesus is an art collective with pieces created from discarded items and trash.

East Jesus

Giant Lizard Sculpture in Wire and Plastic Grocery Bags
Giant Lizard Sculpture in Wire and Plastic Grocery Bags
A mural in progress at East Jesus.
A mural in progress at East Jesus.
The TV wall at East Jesus
The TV wall at East Jesus

Sculpture at East Jesus

Sculpture at East Jesus

The Bottle Wall at East Jesus
The Bottle Wall at East Jesus

Time to Go

There’s a time for everything and for the Slabs, summer is not that time. I’m heading to Sedona where I’ll find a red rock just waiting for someone to sit and meditate on it…

Sunset at the slabs
Sunset at the slabs

…and the slabs? I’ll be back.

Here Comes the Sun

I’ve had my coach, Roamward Bound, for over three years now, but this by far is the largest upgrade.

After spending four of the last five weeks camping with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network – RVSingles.org), first in Yuma, then in Quartzsite, I’m back in Yuma …

WINs Campfire at Quartzsite
WINs around the campfire at Quartzsite

Quartzsite Sunset
Quartzsite Sunset

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right

… back in Yuma at Starlight Solar having a solar power system installed.

Roamward Bound getting 780 watts of solar power at Starlight Solar in Yuma, Arizona
Roamward Bound getting 780 watts of solar power at Starlight Solar in Yuma, Arizona

This will make dry camping / boondocking much more feasible. In theory I should almost never have to run the generator or worry about my electric use when I’m not on shore power. I’m going big with the project:

  • Magnum 3012 3Kw inverter
  • Magnum PT-100 Solar Charge Controller
  • Magnum Advanced Remote
  • Solar Charge Remote Display
  • 3 Solarworld 260 watt panels (780 watts total)
  • 400 Amp-Hours of GBS LiFeMnPO (lithium) batteries (5 kilowatt hours)

Lithium ion batteries are fairly rare in the RV world. Nearly everyone uses flooded lead acid deep cycle cells, with some opting for more expensive sealed AGM batteries, but lithium offers many advantages:

  • Lithium batteries are smaller and lighter.
  • Lithium batteries can be regularly discharged down to 20% of their rated capacity. Lead acid batteries should only be regularly discharged down to 80% and occasionally to 50%.
  • Heat tolerant. Lead acid batteries have only half the capacity at 95 degrees than they do at 77. Lithium has nearly the same capacity at 95 degrees.
  • Lithium takes 40% less time to charge. There’s no three phase charging cycle – they are always accepting a bulk charge.
  • Expected lifetime is 12-15 years.
  • No maintenance.

The only disadvantage is cost. The 400 amp hours of lithium batteries (equivelent to about 1200 AH of AGM batteries) alone cost over $2600.

While I’ve always wanted to, I’ve never had solar on any of my houses. The economics of putting solar electric in an RV are completely different than residential. For residential, the savings come from utility bills and can take up to 20 years to recoup the cost of the system. In an RV the savings come from campground fees ($20-$50 per night) and/or generator fuel ($2.50-$3.50 per hour to run my generator). I’m expecting to recoup the cost in 11-18 months.