Apartment Living

Let me start by saying that we have spotty cell coverage in Utah, so these posts may end up being a bit delayed.  Last year AT&T unlimited let us use Verizon, but this year they are cracking down on out of network data usage, so we need to be careful with what we do and where.  I am also going to do a completely separate post on the repair work that we had done in Phoenix.  I am waiting on additional pictures from the repair shop in order to complete that.  Obviously it wasn’t a complete disaster as we are already back on the road, but I want to walk you through all of that separately.  That leaves explaining why the post is titled “apartment living”, which is a pretty interesting story in and of itself.

Right after Lee had his heart attack, I was contacted by Kathy who is a long time blog reader.  She and I had never met, but she has followed our travels since the beginning and wanted to help.  She is a regional manager for a property management company and they have facilities in the Phoenix area.  She talked to her boss, explained our situation, and received permission for us to stay in one of their model apartments.  Initially when she sent the email I was confused.  Not because she was unclear, it was a succinct and professional email, but because my brain couldn’t register the fact that someone had made this offer.  At the time we had no idea how long the repair would take and knew that at $100+ a day our bank account was going to take a major hit.  Not to mention the fact that we needed someplace dog friendly.

Out of nowhere a stranger stepped in with a solution to all of my problems, and it goes without saying that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day.  We exchanged emails and then phone calls and I realized she was completely sincere. When I realized the offer was real, I actually burst into tears.  I was overwhelmed by their kindness.  I learned later that they felt as if they knew us through the blog and because our budgets and honest posts had been so helpful to them when they were making the decision to start full timing they wanted to help.

So we had a destination when we rolled out of the Arizonian on Monday morning and Lee and I said goodbye to Sue and Guy knowing we might see them later in April. We had a noon appointment at Premier Coachworks which was across town.

Jack taking one last walk with Lee. I knew Jack would miss his puppy friends.

Because traffic was lighter than expected we ended up getting there around 10:30am.  It is a busy place, and when we pulled in we found that we were blocking their driveway.  That was OK and they welcomed us and eventually had us pull up close to their office.  Although we had sent pictures, it is next to impossible to diagnose what was happening over the phone, and we knew the problem could be anything from a minor skin issue to a complete frame repair.  I am going to write about this visit in detail in my next post, but for now will say we felt comfortable enough with the service manager and repair tech to leave our RV and authorize up to $500 worth of work to diagnose the problem.

That was not a foregone conclusion by the way. A couple of times we have dropped off our rig for service and felt like it was being held hostage.  That’s a huge deal when you full-time RV and we both agreed that if we weren’t “feeling it” we would go to a plan B.  As soon as I was sure we would be dropping it off, I called Ann, the property manager.  She knew there was a chance we wouldn’t need the apartment at all, but they had gotten it ready anyway.

We headed that way, which was luckily only 20 minutes from the repair shop, and stopped at Chipotle for a quick lunch. Once we had our food and were sitting down, we took a moment to talk.  We both agreed that we should proceed cautiously, but were optimistic.  The possibility of catastrophic rig failure was still in the back of our minds, bu we felt that was pretty unlikely.  We were both looking forward to being able to just sit for a minute and headed to the apartment complex.

Redhawk rentals owns several different apartment complexes, but we were staying at Sheely Farms.  The website had a nice video with the model walk through which turned out to be the same unit we were staying in.  When we arrived we introduced ourselves to Ann and she took us on a tour of the facility.  I was really impressed by how nice it was and we toured the pool, workout facility, business centers and then the apartment itself.  Maintenance had done a checkout on the apartment and was very sorry that the dishwasher wasn’t working, but they had the part on order.  I just laughed and explained we hadn’t had a dishwasher in four years, so I wouldn’t mind doing dishes by hand.

Master bedroom


Loved loved the huge tub,


Spare bathroom.


The walk in closest were crazy huge. Bigger than my kitchen


Living room


Great inner courtyard patio with a beautiful view

After the tour was done and we had the keys, we drove the truck around and brought Jack inside.  This was his first experience with apartment living and seemed a little overwhelmed by all the space.  He followed me from room to room not letting me out of his sight, which was a bit of a pain as we tried to unpack.  It was hard knowing what to bring since we didn’t know how long we were staying, so we had several suitcases. Eventually Jack settled down and started making himself at home.

Jack hopped right on the bed.


And got comfortable on the couch.


Eventually he and Lee took a nap.

We finally received the call around 4pm that the problem had been diagnosed.  W drove back up, so we could see the damage in person, received our quote and approved the work.  The estimate was roughly 3 days work, so I grabbed some snacks out of the fridge and we headed back to the apartment.  By this time it was late and it was either peanut butter sandwiches or take out so we decided on Pizza.  I went and picked it up, but unfortunately the order was wrong, so I had to wait while another pizza was made.  They did give me the mistake though and finally we were eating dinner around 7:15pm.

Amazing to have a full size refrigerator again. Three pizza boxes fit inside, which is crazy to me.

In anticipation of cooking some meals, I had brought some canned items with me, but we discovered at this point there were no pots and pans.  We could certainly go back up and get ours from the RV, but Lee said since it was only a few days we should try to not make ourselves crazy.  Actually that was his common theme throughout the three days.  He had completely quit smoking the Thursday before and was super zen about the whole thing.  The last thing I wanted to do was make his life more difficult but I was definitely struggling more.  I was still stuck on 10 cigarettes a day and having a hard time getting over the hump.  I was seriously thinking about going to e-cigarettes at that point and really just trying to work it all out.

The next morning we woke up and headed to our drug test/physicals.  We had scheduled these for our summer job weeks before and again were thrilled that the location was so close to the apartment.  Unfortunately despite our having appointments, it took two hours to complete and I was really annoyed by the whole thing.  Popping in to do a quick drug test is one thing, but losing two hours of my life, unpaid, really ticked me off.  Afterwards I was looking for a place for us to eat lunch and stumbled across the fact that there was a Sweet Tomatoes nearby.  This was one of my favorite places in Oregon and I had no idea they were in Phoenix.  Best of all I knew everything was pretty healthy in that restaurant and I didn’t need to worry about taking Lee there.

Every menu item has nutrition information. The only thing I was missing was sodium. I actually called the company headquarters, thanked them for their restaurant, but requested that additional info after we had lunch.

That lunch really cheered me up, especially since we were on our way to see Bill and Nancy.  We met them at our very first RV-Dreams rally and had been lucky enough to see them a few times since.  We had always really liked them and since they had been on the road a long time really looked up to them.  When we heard they were coming out west wanted to meet up.  Once again the timing was perfect and our paths crossed while we were in Phoenix.  Plus they were staying at Lost Dutchman State Park, which has a beautiful view of the Superstition Mountains.  We happily paid our $7 day use fee and headed to their site.

The beautiful Superstition Mountains were right across from their site


From Left: Lee, Nancy, me, and Bill


We talked for hours.


And Jack sat in his pen until…


He decided to try to find a way out


And eventually actually put his feet in the bars and climbed right out. Escape dog!!


It was sad saying goodbye but we know we will see them again!

Seeing them was exactly what we both needed and really helped reconnect us to why we had started his lifestyle to begin with.  We both decided we needed to just rest the next day and ended up hanging out at the apartment.  This gave me the time to really reflect on the differences between apartment and RV living and I was surprised by how many there were.  We often tell non-rvers we live in an apartment on wheels, but in retrospect that isn’t really the case.  Since we haven’t actually lived in an apartment since 1990, I suppose its understandable that we forgot what it is like. When I realized how many differences there were, I started to make a list.  Big shock right?

  1.  An apartment is solid.  You can move from room to room without shaking anything.  Consequently I didn’t always know where Lee was.  I can feel him moving around the RV but at one point I actually “lost him” when he was in the spare bedroom and that never happens in the Open Range.
  2. Along the same lines, an apartment is more sound proof.  Lee could be in the bedroom reading with the door open and not hear the TV.  Thick walls made this possible, which was again very different.
  3. As I mentioned earlier the closet space was HUGE.  That being said there was limited storage for “outside stuff” which we have in abundance in the belly of our RV.
  4. There were two bathrooms.  I know many RV’s have 1-1/2 baths but two full bathrooms and two tubs was nice for the early mornings.  Those of you who share a bathroom know what I mean :).
  5. Speaking of bathtubs, I thought I had gotten over missing one, but apparently not.  I took 5 baths in three days in the apartment and it was lovely being able to just go soak and read a book.  This was a major stress reliever for me back in the day, and was a nice alternative to smoking a cigarette.
  6. Although we weren’t out in the open spaces, having a fenced in patio for the puppy was great.  I still had to walk him though, and I will say that wasn’t nearly as fun.  There were lots of distractions in the apartment complex and getting him to focus was tough.
  7. Speaking of which it was weird having people coming and going at all hours.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a very quiet complex, but some people worked nights and cars were coming and going at all hours, which is pretty rare in campgrounds.
  8. It was also different that in general people couldn’t have cared less who we were.  In RV parks, folks are always curious when new people come and go, and even if they don’t talk to you they check our your rig, your dog, etc.  Apartment living is much more anonymous.  That might be different in a 55 plus community, but these were working folks and in general there was a lack of interest.  That’t not necessarily a bad thing, but I was really struck by the difference.  I have grown so used to the subtle interactions in the RVing community I was largely oblivious to them.

Really the entire experience was very interesting.  Neither Lee or I are particularly interested in owning another sticks and bricks house so when we get off the road we will probably end up in an apartment, condo, or manufactured home.  It’s nice to know there are some fundamental trade-off advantages, since we will be giving up so much when the time comes. I really appreciated the opportunity, not only because it was free, but also because it gave us a small window into what that would look like.

Thankfully that evening I was able to express my gratitude in person because Kathy and her husband Jim were back in town.  They both work remotely and are able to travel, and we were all happy to be able to meet them in person.  I wanted to buy them dinner as a thank you, but she absolutely insisted and since they were still making “corporate money” I reluctantly agreed. She did have me pick the place though and I ultimately settled on Claim Jumper.

Finding a place with healthy menu options, reasonable prices, and a nice ambiance was pretty challenging.  I spent a ton of time googling and looking on Yelp until I stumbled across a free app called Healthy Out. This app shows all restaurants in your area and then gives the healthy menu choices.  Some restaurants may only have a couple of salads, but others, including Claim Jumper have many more.  Unfortunately the specifics are not included, but I was able to use my Calorie King App to get the specifics for the menu items.

Really, I am spending way to much time obsessing about all of this.  Even Bill and Nancy said they eat healthy at home and let it go when dining out, but the lack of readily available information is driving me nuts.  It’s hard to make good choices without the data and since the info exists and is intentionally being suppressed I find that very annoying. Taking Nancy’s advice, I was able to let that go once we got to the restaurant.

First of all, Kathy and Jim are just lovely people.  We instantly connected and could have stayed talking for hours.  We also really liked the ambiance in the restaurant. The booths were large and the high ceilings meant the noise level wasn’t too high.  Most importantly the service was excellent.  It has been a long time since we have had service that good in a restaurant and it really added to the experience.  We spent the time getting to know each other and learning their story and walked away feeling as if we had made friends for life.  It wasn’t just the generosity of their offer, it was the fact that we all just clicked.  It’s always special when that happens.

The restaurant was really nice on the inside


I am trying not to get involved in Lee’s food choices, but I definitely vetoed this burger.


I ended up getting small portions which were both cheaper and better in calories.


From Left: Jim, Kathy, me and Lee

Kathy, since I know you are reading this, once again I wanted to say THANK YOU!  It really was one of the nicest things that has happened to us since we have been on the road, and I am humbled (in a good way) by the entire experience.  We really did walk away feeling as if we have known you guys forever, and hope to see you this summer in Oregon. Next time dinner is on us!!!

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First Time at Lost Dutchman State Park

Our relief didn’t show up until 2:40pm, so we got a late start getting out, and weren’t on the road until 3pm.  Originally we had planned on a six hour drive and were going to push through but when we stopped for gas in Junction I called it because we were both too tired.  Lee is still waking up at 4am, and the thought of me driving in the dark to get to the next available campground just didn’t seem like a good idea.  So I found a Good Sam park close by called North Llano River RV resort and we drove a few miles down the road until we were there.  Lee wasn’t thrilled about the $37 Good Sam price, but I pointed out that we were going to grab some fast food to keep driving and the cost would roughly be the same if we ate in the rig. (It’s amazing how after a long period of not having to pay for a site, any price seems steep. – Lee)

It turned out to be a good call.  The office was closed when we pulled up but they had maps all ready with the available sites marked.  We chose site 33 and right when we were going to drive back one of the staff came up and helped us pull in.  It was a great site.  On the edge of the park, with it’s own patio and grill and so very quiet.  Plus it was blessedly dark when night came and we were able to open the windows, enjoy the breeze and not have to worry about  generator noise and lights for the first time in months.  Lee was also able to rinse our black tank out repeatedly which it really needed since we haven’t been able to do that for the last couple of months either.  It was well worth the money and we really liked it.  The only weird thing was we seem to have picked up several hitchhiker crickets.  We had two in the bathroom and one bouncing around the living room and they really wanted to get out.  We didn’t have any of them in the house the whole time we were at the gate, but Lee thought they might have come in through the slides.  Either way it did make me a little jumpy, because they grow bugs big in Texas.

Out site had a really nice patio

And was on a corner so we had a great view

The second day of driving was a long one.  We left at 9am and didn’t reach our campground until 8pm (it was 7pm local time because we lost an hour).  Part of that was due to trying to make up time from yesterday, part of it was due to high winds and dust storms, and part was because we hit El Paso at 4pm on a Friday.  Sometimes things just happen like that, and we decided to go ahead and hopefully beat the worst of the traffic (which we did) and because Lee was just coming off a two hour shift I drove. Oh, and as we were entering town we passed an RV that looked fine from the back, but when we went around it, the front half of it was completely burned up and it was actually being towed.  I managed to get a couple of pictures. Pretty crazy, we’ve never seen anything like that.

The back of the RV looked totally fine and was on it’s wheels. You can see where the fire stopped here. Not sure how that was even possible

The front and middle was totally gone.  Not that safe driving down the highway with this as stuff was falling off

Generally I don’t mind driving in cities, even in traffic.  All I need to do is stay in my lane and keep enough distance between the car in front of me but this was a tough one.  There was major construction and I got behind an oversized vehicle in the middle lane.  The right side break down lane was gone and no trucks were allowed in the left lane so I was going 45 mph for about 15 miles, with lots of people passing on the right and then getting stuck because of the narrow clearance of the wide load in front of me. The winds were not helping,and visibility was not great so I really had to pay attention.  When we got through the city it was getting close to 5pm (6pm in the time zone we came from) so I asked Lee how he felt about stopping at Cracker Barrel.

It used to be every Cracker Barrel we saw had huge RV and bus parking but that is not always the case now so Lee checked it out and saw it had a big enough parking lot.  Unfortunately someone parked lengthwise in one row and was taking up four of the long spaces.  Wow, I really hate that, and although there were two left they were on the short side so it took awhile for me to get the rig properly lined up. (If you’re in a pickup, or a car, PLEASE don’t park in the RV/bus lanes. – Lee) We did enjoy dinner, despite the restaurant being full it came out within 15 minutes so we ate and were back on the road.  Lee took the wheel this time and we were about 40 minutes away from our campground.  At least that what we thought.

We decided to stop at El Rancho Lobo which is Passport America, only $11 for the night, and right off I-10.  All those things were true, but I didn’t read the fine print.  The direct road leading to the campground was closed, so we had to travel 9 miles down a side road and then 2-1/2 miles down a gravel road to get to the campground.  It added an additional 20 minutes to our drive.  When we arrived, someone did come up immediately and were very nice, but they informed me it was $11 plus electric.  OK, no problem, but then I was told I couldn’t pay until the morning because they had to calculate the electric unless we paid a $4 flat fee.  I knew we would probably be up and out before the office opened at 9am, but I was pretty irritated by the whole thing.  It didn’t help that the sites face the highway, are very close to each other, and had none of last night’s experience.  It’s true, you often get what you pay for, but I was disappointed.  I will mention though that they have a mail service at the campground which looks pretty well formed, so if you were thinking about getting a mail service in New Mexico you might want to check them out.

The highway was right past the sign and the campground was on this corner

I was pretty excited because the next day we had an opportunity to go on a road less traveled.  I have kept track of our routes using a paper trucker’s atlas, and have each year marked in a different color highlighter.  It’s cool because I have access to it when we travel, and sometimes we can go on a side road that we have never been on, and it takes less time.  We have to be careful though because not every road has easy to access gas stations and sometimes the road is more challenging, but it is almost always worth it so we decided to take Route 70 and then Route 60 to get to Apache Junction, rather than I-10 through Tuscon, which we had already been on.  The scenery was really great as we traveled, and we passed through several small towns that seemed like they would be worth a second look when we had more time.  We also traveled through the Apache Reservation and part of the Tonto National Forest.  The road through the National Forest was great, but it was narrow and curvy and there were two steep downgrades that even Lee found challenging.  It was fun though and we still ended up at Apache Junction by 12:30pm (Mountain time, but since it’s AZ, it’s the same as Pacfific).

Beautiful drive

I’ve heard quite a bit about Apache Junction from friends and other people’s blogs, but you never know until you get to a place how you will like it.  We pulled in.  The people at the check-in were very friendly and the place was just beautiful.  The Superstition Mountains are very close and you know it’s a nice park when the view from the dump station is amazing!

Views from the dumpstation

The campground

Superstition Mountains

Our site

Our view

We were in site 103, which was the only site available when we booked, and turned out to be one of the best spots in the loop.  There was a bit of concern though when we pulled in and caution tape was blocking the site.  There was also some chalk on the pavement and my immediate thought was, “Crap.  Someone hit the water line.”  So I got out and walked over and then I heard a growling noise from the bushes. Turns out it was an April Fool’s joke from Cori/Greg/Deb/Steve.  So there were lots of hugs all around.  We saw Cori and Greg in Texas over the holidays but it had been a year since we have seen Deb and Steve and it was awesome being with everyone.

Couldn’t see the specifics of the drawings until we got out.

When I saw the bear I knew something was up

They laid on the ground for the chalk drawings and Greg added some extra booty to Cori. Goofballs

They were hiding behind the bush, but I didn’t see them and then Steve growled.

And Deb pops out

The motley crew of hooligans Steve (in red), Greg, Deb, and Cori

Plus as a bonus as soon as things settled down the cactus wren jumped up on our tires (and on our front grill) and started eating the smooshed bugs. Never saw that before

They let us get set up, which was fast since we weren’t planning on unhitching.  We couldn’t get over our view from our front door.  We’ve been to many places, but I don’t think we have ever had a better view right from our front door.  Amazing. The sites are really nice too, and the campground hosts are amazing.  This campground is spotless.

Our view

As soon as people vacate camp hosts come clean and rake the site

So happy the flowers are in bloom

After setting up we went down and hung out with everyone.  I took Hurley (Deb’s dog) and Hobie (Greg’s dog) their dog toys and they made fast work of chewing them to pieces.  Still, what’s the fun of being Aunt Tracy if I can’t bring them stuff to rip apart? Cori made a shrimp boil for dinner for everyone since it was our travel day, and then we had a great campfire, had some adult beverages, and caught up.

From left: Greg, Deb, Steve, Lee, and Cori


The next morning we all decided to take a hike.  Now, if you are going to hang out with Deb, hiking is definitely in the itinerary, and although she is a very considerate hiking partner, she tends to downplay the level of difficulty for us newbies.  Her heart is in the right place.  She loves to hike and wants to get everyone moving, but I have learned from past experience to gear up for these adventures.  So we put on our Outdoor Hydration packs, took some snacks, and I grabbed my hiking poles just in case. (We also made out a will, and scheduled a rescue helo and had EMTs standing by for the “moderate” hike. Deb’s nickname should be “Just A Little Farther. – Lee) I’m glad I did.  The hike was beautiful, but it had a steady incline and the path was loose gravel, which are two things I found challenging.  The poles help me in particular on the way down, providing a steadiness I need and taking some stress off my knees.

There are trails in the park itself, but it also abuts Tonto National forest and that’s where the more serious trails are.  Deb and Steve had hiked to Flatiron earlier in the week, which is an intense hike that at least once a week someone needs to get helicopter rescue from, but we just did the base of the trail to the beginning of the canyon.  Deb’s plan is to hike the highest peak in every state as they travel, and Steve is going along with the plan.  I love that they have a specific thing to do in each state, but I’ll never love hiking for the sake of hiking the way she does.  We hiked Siphon Draw #53 but stopped about halfway up to Flatiron.   Keeping in mind I an not an experienced hiker, I found the trail to that point moderately difficult, but it was definitely doable. Just watch your footing. If you keep going to Flatiron that is extremely difficult and took Deb and Steve about 8 hours to do round trip. (In the second picture, you can see a small triangular shaped rock almost right in the center. When you get to it, that rock is probably 40 feet tall. That was about the halfway point for our hike, and the first two pictures were right after we left the campground. – Lee)


Deb and Steve hiked up to flat iron which is the rock in the upper right which has a white line in the middle

There were lots of side trails. We saw some people hiking up in this canyon

The views looking backwards were great. Houses right up to the edge of the National Forest

Loved this one and it had an amazing view

Lots of flowers in bloom

So pretty

Deb loves this dead cactus because it points to flatiron

We finally made it to thumb rock. This is about the halfway point.

And a nice cool place we could take a rest

Hurley was with me it was too hot


At this point everyone wanted to keep walking up and see the basin, but I was done.  I learned a while ago that it’s OK to cry uncle, so I walked down by my self, and the group went on another 15-20 minutes up a steep winding trail.  I normally wouldn’t walk back alone but there were lots of people on the trail and I enjoyed taking my time and taking some pictures.

Steep winding trail they went up

I went back down

That night Steve and Deb treated us all with some beautiful bone-in ribeyes and we had another fire.  I skipped the adult beverages because I was worried about dehydration, but overall I felt really good.  4 1/2 miles round trip isn’t bad for someone who hasn’t hiked in a while and I was tired, but not super sore.  Tomorrow we all head to Usery Mountain and we are looking forward to meeting up with Kat and Bert who we met at the last rally we went to about a year ago.  They’ve been on the road for close to a year, but haven’t met that many other Dreamers while on the road, so I hope we don’t traumatize them!  Actually knowing Kat’s wicked sense of humor, she may traumatize us lol.

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