Navajo Bridge, Arizona — A Scenic Roadside Attraction in Red Rock Country

June 2022 – Our first stop on our summer RV travels this year was at Navajo Bridge in Arizona. We’d made it to red rock country. Woo hoo!

Navajo Bridge - Historical roadside attraction in northeastern Arizona

Navajo Bridge is a wonderful roadside stop for travelers in northeastern Arizona.

The parking area at this site is tiny, but we arrived early in the morning on a weekday so we were able to tuck in for 30 minutes before the parking lot got busy.

RV parked at Navajo Bridge Arizona

In our RV travels in northeastern Arizona we’ve enjoyed several visits to Navajo Bridge.

Navajo Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Colorado River near Lees Ferry. It is situated smack dab in the middle of some of the best red rock scenery on the very scenic Route 89A in northern Arizona.

Red Rock views around Navajo Bridge Arizona

The red rocks were resplendent in the morning light.

There’s a lovely stone picnic area, and as we walked around, our cameras started humming.

Picnic area at Navajo Bridge in Arizona

The picnic area is beautiful!

Navajo Bridge in Arizona is a good place for photography

Buddy checks out the view as Mark snaps a pic

The early June sun was strong and the shadows of the slatted roof in the picnic area were very cool.

Cool patterns at picnic area at Navajo Bridge in Arizona

We loved the shadows in the picnic area…!

Navajo Bridge Picnic Area

Peek-a-boo (that’s me walking by)

View of Navajo Bridge from picnic area

You can picnic with a view of the Navajo Bridge

Long before scenic US-89A was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye, the only way to cross the Colorado River on the eastern side of the Grand Canyon was by taking Lees Ferry. It was a cable ferry with a barge that moved across the fast moving water by way of a cable that spanned the river rather than by having someone row. The ferry, named for operator John Doyle Lee, began operation in 1871.

Lees Ferry historic photo

Lees Ferry was a cable ferry that crossed the Colorado River from 1871 to 1928

In 1929 Navajo Bridge was built between the canyon walls to replace the ferry. In 1995 a second bridge was built to support the weight of modern cars and trucks. Today, pedestrians can walk on the old bridge to view the new one — and to admire the spectacular views in every direction!

Navajo Bridge Construction historic photo

The two halves of the Navajo Bridge are almost ready to join in 1928

The original Navajo Bridge is now a pedestrian bridge next to the truck-friendly new one.

The original Navajo Bridge is now a pedestrian bridge next to the truck-friendly new one.

Navajo Bridge in Arizona

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All this was because the Grand Canyon made it impossible to cross this river! As W. C. Lefebvre said in 1926, “Nowhere in North America, and in very few localities in the world, are there any such barriers to road building as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.”

Now, our sweet pup Buddy was unaware any of this history. He’s not much of a history buff. He’s more into the here and now. And when he sees a trail, he likes to find out where it goes. So, he waited patiently ahead of us while we took lots of photos. He did look over the edge once, though.

Puppy on the pedestrian Navajo Bridge in Arizona

Our trail scout patiently waits for us slow-pokes with cameras.

Puppy explores Navajo Bridge in Arizona

“Are there any rabbits down there?”

It is astonishing how the bridge is anchored into the rock cliffs.

Navajo Bridge in Arizona anchored into the red rocks

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Navajo Bridge is anchored to the red rocks

The bridge is anchored into the cliff face.

But even more astonishing are the magnificent views.

Navajo Bridge North View Arizona

The stunning Colorado River is a vivid blue ribbon between the red rock cliff walls.

Colorado River view from Navajo Bridge in Arizona

The little beach and green oasis looked so inviting!

Another tourist looking out at these views and down at the river far below said to me, “Imagine floating down that river…I mean, being the first ones to do it.” It is astonishing to ponder. John Wesley Powell and all those early explorers were incredibly courageous and brave people.

Sandy Beach in the Colorado River below Navajo Bridge in Arizona

This beach is inviting too!

The Mighty Colorado River under Navajo Bridge in Arizona

Before Lees Ferry and, later, the Navajo Bridge were available, crossing the Colorado River to get between modern day Arizona and Utah was extremely difficult.

RV trailer drivers over Navajo Bridge in Arizona

A travel trailer goes over the Navajo Bridge

Colorado River seen from Navajo Bridge in Arizona

Gorgeous!

When we reached the other side of the bridge we turned and started back. The red rocks backing the bridge were beautifully lit by the morning sun.

North view across Pedestrian Navajo Bridge in Arizona

Turning back at the end, we faced a wall of red rocks.

Not every day is sunny here, though. On the trip back we noticed a sign warning about not staying out on the bridge in a lightning storm.

Watch out for lightning storms at Navajo Bridge in Arizona

Metal bridge railings and lightning don’t mix well with people.

And we also noticed a bunch of padlocks between the railings. Some were dated from just days or weeks before, in May, 2022. Others lower down looked to have been there a while.

Unusual padlocks at Navajo Bridge in Arizona

Interesting padlocks, many with dates and initials on them.

This little stop was a great place to stretch our legs and get our creative juices flowing. It felt so good to have our cameras in hand again and to be taking lots of photos of America’s beautiful places!

Happy Campers at Navajo Bridge Arizona

What a fun stop!

We got back in the truck and started singing On The Road Again!!

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2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler – Our Big RV Reveal!

Everybody loves celebrating “Big Reveals” announcing special surprises these days, so here is our Big RV Reveal: Our new rig for our summertime travel adventures is a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler!

My last post left off with a bit of a cliff-hanger after I described selling our Arctic Fox truck camper. I dropped a big hint about what was coming, though, with this final image:

The Journey Begins - Genesis Supreme Toy Hauler

It is the logo that appears on the back of all Genesis Supreme toy haulers!

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler ramp door

Back when we were full-timing, we struggled for several years with figuring out what to get to replace our 2007 Hitchhiker fifth wheel. We went on several factory tours in Elkhart, Indiana, and I even did a big research project that resulted in a feature article for Trailer Life Magazine about the larger toy haulers on the market at the time. It appeared in the September 2019 issue of Trailer Life.

However, we couldn’t find a toy hauler that was built as solidly as we wanted for full-time use. We also wanted a separate garage that was at least 12′ long, but that meant the whole trailer would be north of 40′ and even as long as 44′. That is a Really Long Trailer! And Mark was not enthused about towing such a huge beast.

Also, the longer trailers were often a bit skinny on Cargo Carrying Capacity for our RZR plus full tanks and all our stuff (you have all your worldly possessions with you when you’re full-time). We’d had enough trouble with failing axles and a failed suspension on our fifth wheel trailer (and it wasn’t even overloaded beyond the factory specifications) that we didn’t want to risk towing around a huge trailer that was at or near its load limit.

Basically, we wanted it all, but we wanted it to be fairly short and really stout too. But we couldn’t find such a rig.

While we were camping in our truck camper last summer, I realized we could make do with a tiny kitchen and tiny bedroom for a few months of travel but we needed a big open area inside the trailer to relax and stretch out — recliners, sofa, something! If we could convert that open area to be a garage for the RZR and bikes while we were in transit, I’d be thrilled!

It suddenly dawned on me that what we needed was an open box toy hauler!

These rigs have a big garage area that converts into a living space with moveable furniture. The advantage over a unit with a separate garage is that you can arrange the living room furniture any way you wish and the overall length can be quite modest. The disadvantage is that you have a stinky dirty toy in your living room when you travel. It’s a tough trade-off and one we’d never make if we were living in the rig full-time. But for a few summer months it holds a lot of promise.

We would be able to haul the RZR and bikes inside the rig rather than having the RZR outside on a trailer or the bikes collecting road grime on a hitch receiver mounted bike rack. It would also give us an onboard gas tank to fuel up the RZR rather than carrying jugs of gasoline and we’d have an on-board gas generator which would allow us to turn on the air conditioning at a moment’s notice. If we bought a modern open box toy hauler, the ramp door would convert into an 8′ x 8′ patio off the back of the rig. All huge pluses!

Here’s where we landed:

Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Floor Plan

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Floor Plan
Ours has the two slide-outs. The “power queen bed” is on an electric lift system.

But how did we end up here?

There aren’t a lot of open box toy haulers on the market. The big Indiana RV manufacturers are focused on building toy haulers with a separate garage because no one wants that stinky dirty toy in their living room.

However, a small builder in California, Genesis Supreme, is manufacturing them under the brand names Genesis Supreme, Vortex and Wanderer.

Ironically, while out camping last summer, we met a guy camping in a Genesis Supreme Vortex. It was a massive model — 42 feet long — and it was cavernous inside. He didn’t use it to bring any kind of toys with him, though. Instead, being a really outgoing and fun-loving type of guy, he’d set up the whole interior to be Party Central for him and his wife and his crowd of friends and family that he camped with regularly.

He could fit 18 people in his rig comfortably (he had several Euro Chairs and gravity syle reclining camping chairs for them all). He also had a fully stocked bar and a beautiful huge kitchen with tons of counter space. The bedroom had a king bed and the shower was a full size tub enclosure rather than a stall shower. He stored it 10 minutes from where he liked to camp and he’d just drive his truck from the house to the storage lot (an hour’s drive) and then hitch up and drive a few miles to go camping. An ideal situation for him.

We went back to our truck camper in awe and with fresh new ideas swimming around in our heads. We woudn’t want to tow that beast, but my oh my, the things you can do with an open floor plan and moveable furniture!

I began searching online for open box toy haulers and there were very few. Genesis Supreme makes open box toy haulers exclusively, however, and they had a really cool unit that would suit our needs: the Genesis Supreme 28CRT.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

The fresh water tankage was better than the Hitchhiker by 22 gallons and although the waste tanks were smaller than ideal they were manageable for shorter-term, on-the-go, frequently-moving travels. It also had a generous an on-board gas tank for the RZR and the on-baord generator:

  • Fresh Water: 100 gallons
  • Gray Tank: 40 gallons
  • Black Tank: 40 gallons
  • Propane: 14 gallons
  • Gasoline: 40 gallons

I used to wonder why toy haulers are so often built with huge fresh water tanks and totally inadequate gray tanks — where did the manufacturer expect all that water to go? Well, most have an outside shower or hose for cleaning off the toy before putting it away. So, the assumption is that much of the fresh water will be used that way and will end up on the ground and not in the gray tank. Needless to say, the manufacturers should provide an appropriately sized gray tank for people who won’t be pouring fresh water on the ground as they wash their toys.

The weights and carrying capacity were good too (CCC nearly 5,000 lbs) and could easily accommodate full propane/gas/fresh water tanks (which is how we typically travel) as well as the RZR and our gear, clothes, bedding, tools and food:

  • UVW: 15,000 lbs
  • GVWR: 10,110
  • CCC: 4,890 lbs

When looking for a rig, especially a toy hauler that will carry something heavy, it’s important to add up all the fluids in the tanks plus the toy and then estimate the weight of all the other stuff you’ll be carrying, including upgrades with hidden weights like extra solar panels and batteries.

Our RZR is 1,250 lbs, our two bikes are 50 lbs, a full 100 gallon water tank is 830 lbs, a full 40 gallon gas tank is 244 lbs, and 14 gallons of propane is 60 lbs. The total for all that is 2,434 lbs. That leaves a comfortable margin of 2,486 lbs for any upgrades we install, our kitchen gear, tools, spare parts, clothing and food.

We saw plenty of toy haulers that had just over 3,000 lbs of cargo carrying capacity, and some of those had a 160 gallon fresh water tank which weighs 1,328 lbs. We wouldn’t be able to use one of those rigs and bring any clothes or food.

The Genesis Supreme 28CRT is 3′ shorter than our Hitchhiker was, a foot taller and 6 inches wider:

  • Length: 33′
  • Width: 8′ 6″
  • Height 13′ 6″

Although we don’t have the measurement from the Hitchhiker, the Genesis Supreme appears to have less of an overhang behind the rear wheels, a plus when taking a tight turn which makes the back end swing out and potentially hit things. Years ago our Hitchhiker hit a guard rail which peeled the entire fiberglass endcap back about a foot, revealing all the insulation and wiring inside the wall. Ugh! The cost of the repair (covered by insurance) was 25% of the new purchase price of that 5th wheel.

It also appeared that the Genesis Supreme was higher off the ground than the Hitchhiker which is good when going through dips and washes.

There was a Genesis Supreme 28CRT for sale at a dealership an hour or so away, so I went there with a tape measure, notepad and camera in hand to see what it was like. Mark decided to stay home with Buddy and he just said, “If you like it, make an offer!”

I really liked it, but I wasn’t going to commit us to anything without him seeing it and liking it too! I came home and we went over all the photos and discussed it at length. He liked the looks of it but didn’t particularly want to go to the dealership to negotiate.

“I don’t want to buy anything unless it falls in my lap!” He said.

I agreed 100%. Fall-in-the-lap deals are the best. You set the stage, do your homework, and aim for success, but you can’t force the right thing to happen. I’ve come to realize that every seemingly “perfect” deal that tragically falls through does so because it is making way for a better deal to come along. I knew RVs were selling fast, though, and I was concerned we’d lose this one if we didn’t act soon.

I called Genesis Supreme to see how busy they were. It’s a small enough company that you can actually call and easily get through to someone knowledgeable who has real answers! They said they had several dealer orders for Vortex 2815V models in the coming months and that those units were identical to the Genesis Supreme 28CRT models inside but were painted a different color on the outside (battleship gray instead of white with black, blue and gray stripes). These units would be shipping with a higher MSRP, of course, but at least the unit at the dealership wasn’t the last one to be delivered for 12 months as I’d been told last summer about a Desert Fox model I liked and that was nowhere to be found west of the Mississippi.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

One night, I casually looked on Craigslist, and tucked in between all the dealership ads for 2022 Genesis Supremes there was a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT for sale by a private party. Huh?

I contacted the seller and he said he’d had it for 5 months and realized it didn’t work for his purposes. He’d bought it to visit his inlaws on weekends and travel a little on the side but decided it made more sense to buy a small second home near his inlaws and get a small motorhome for traveling.

That would all be much more money than a truck and trailer, but he was more concerned about getting the right solution than the cost. Plus, a second home is an investment that will generally appreciate whereas an RV is a asset that will generally depreciate in value. We were intrigued that he didn’t own a big motorized toy like a RZR and he used the trailer to haul two big tricycles for riding around his inlaws’ neighborhood.

I asked if we could see it and he said, “Yes, but unfortunately I’m storing it in a lot that’s 90 miles from where I live…”

It turned out his storage lot was right down the street from where we live! WOW!!

It seemed like a very cool opportunity was falling our laps!

We saw it, loved it, struck a deal that was way below what we would have paid at the dealership, and brought it home. The unit at the dealership didn’t have an onboard generator because of supply chain issues while this one had a generator and some other small upgrades already installed. It had been used so few times that the microwave and stereo still had plastic film protecting the display.

The furniture is black, which is not my first choice. The unit at the dealership had more appealing cream colored furniture and some lighter trim which lightened the interior significantly.

However, unlike a full-time rig where I’d be very fussy about the interior, we’ll be in this for just a few months at a time, and hopefully we’ll be outside doing and seeing exciting things most of that time. We don’t have to worry about the long dark months of winter when full-timers can wind up staying inside quite a bit.

Stepping inside, you are facing the kitchen, and the garage/living area is to the left.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Interior

The sofa is pretty comfy both for sitting and for napping (it’s a jackknife sofabed)

The length of the garage area is 15’11” from the ramp door to the refrigerator. Our RZR is 9′ long. There are two small 20″ deep slide-outs, one in the main area for a fold-up sofa/bed and one in the bedroom for some drawers and a closet.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler main living area

An open box floor plan allows you to arrange the interior however you like with moveable furniture!

The tiny L-shaped kitchen is workable although not optimal, but with some minor modifications we’ve made it more spacious (details coming in another post).

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Kitchen

The sofa and kitchen are on the driver’s side

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Kitchen closeup

The L-kitchen is small, but with some simple modifications (not shown here) we’ve made it more spacious

The interesting thing about open box toy haulers is that everything is geared towards making room for and bringing in that big ol’ toy. The jack-knife sofa can fold out into a full-size bed but it can also fold up against the wall to make room for a big toy.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler sofa side

The jackknife sofa in its “living room” position.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler sofa up in travel position

The sofa is folded up against the exterior wall in “travel position.”

The recliners are very light and can be moved easily. The official setup has a small removable table between them.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Recliners

The recliners are light and can be moved easily. The factory provides a removable pedestal table.

But they could also be set up in the rear. This is where the guy who towed around Party Central really had fun. He could arrange seating for all his friends and family in many different ways. For us, we’ll see how we end up using it. I like having options!

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Living room

The recliners can also be placed in the rear of the rig the way they are in many traditional fifth wheel trailers.

In the rear there is a queen size top bunk (60 x 80 inches) and two sets of “rollover” sofas that can face each other or be laid flat to form a full-size lower bunk bed (54 x 80 inches).

Both bunks can be raised and lowered. The sofas (lower bunk) are the ones that actually move up and down the track while the top bunk simply rides on top of them. There are stops placed a few feet down on the rails to force the top bunk to stop descending as the lower bunk is lowered. Once the top bunk has stopped, the sofas that make up the lower bunk can be lowered all the way down to be set up as either opposing sofas or as a single full-size bed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Happijac beds up

The bunk beds in the back are in the fully raised position so you can walk (or fit a RZR) underneath.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Happijac halfway down

The top bunk rides on top of the two opposing sofas which flatten out to make a full size bed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Happijac lowered

The top bunk stops descending at some stoppers placed midway down the track. The sofas (laid out as a lower bunk) descend down to traditional bed level.

The top bunk is really cozy and comfy and you get a great view out the window at the beautiful outdoors. The lower bunk is surpisingly comfy too, and what we’re finding is it’s fun to have it set up as a kind of lounging area, great for napping, reading a book or for watching the Outdoor Channel (Buddy’s favorite station on his Window TV).

Heading upstairs, the spaciousness missing in the kitchen has been totally regained in the bathroom. It is big and roomy.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bathroom sink and shower

The bathroom is very spacious.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler shower

Fancy stall shower.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bathroom

What the kitchen lacks in space, the bathroom makes up for in spades!

The bedroom is very small and the bed is a short RV queen (60 x 74.5 versus 60 x 80) that runs “north-south,” i.e., parallel to the road. There are two hanging closets, four drawers, a lot of storage over the bed and a cubby for laundry as well as a bedside table. Plus there are windows on both sides of the bed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bedroom 1

The bedroom has good storage space but just a short RV queen bed (60 x 74.5 inches).

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bedroom 2

There is plenty of drawer and closet space in the bedroom.

Oh, look who just jumped up on the bed!

Buddy feels right at home here!

I think he wants to head outside, so let’s go.

Camping in a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

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One thing we love is that the windows are very large.

Camping in a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

The trailer is 13’6″ tall and you can see the height in this pic where Mark seems quite small next to it.

Another wonderful feature is the back patio. The ramp door opens up and hangs on cables from the frame to form a patio that can hold 3,000 lbs. A set of railings (by MorRyde) roll out and clip into place. Those rails will be handy for giving Buddy a way to be outdoors at times when we don’t want to let him run free.

Ramp door patio 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

The ramp door to the garage converts to a patio.

There’s a back gate you can open to get down to the ground.

Back patio of a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

It’s very cool to have an elevated outdoor space to hide out in!

Playing guitar on the patio of a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

Happy camper!

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler ramp patio

“What’s going on up there?”

Solar Power

Another bonus is that it came from the factory with a basic solar power setup. All the components are from Go Power. It’s a small system, but it may be enough for us to squeak by in the summer months when the days are long, the sun is high, and we use very little power because we go to bed at sunset and wake up at sunrise.

  • One 190 watt solar panel
  • Solar charge controller + Battery Monitor
  • 1500 watt pure sine wave inverter
  • Four 12-volt Group 24 wet cell batteries

We’ve never had a battery monitor before, so this is a new gizmo for us. We always kept an eye on the voltages reported on the solar charge controller to get a sense of how the batteries were doing. Now we can glance at the screen in the living room and it tells us the batteries are 100% charged, or whatever. How accurate it is, I have no idea!

As for all the other solar gear, we’ll do a summer with the factory installed setup and see how it goes. Down the road we might put more solar power on the roof and/or upgrade the batteries and/or upgrade the inverter. But for now, in 9 days of camping in mid-May, the system did just fine and the batteries were fully charged before nightfall. Of course, there’s always the onboard generator that has a switch in the kitchen and a switch by the bed so if you feel a need for power at 2:00 a.m., you can roll over, hit the switch, and snooze to the hum of the genny.

Sunset over a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

We really enjoyed our shakedown cruise and can’t wait to go on our bigger summer trip.

A few other big positives for us are:

Refrigerator

We didn’t want one of the huge 18 cubic foot four door refrigerators because they go through propane pretty quickly when boondocking and, over time, there have been more problems with them than with the smaller 6 to 10 foot double door refrigerators.

The double door 8 cubic foot refrigerator on this rig is the same size we lived with for all those years in our Hitchhiker, so we’re used to living with a small fridge. This particular one has a bigger freezer than our old one, so that’s a nice plus.

In our Hitchhiker, our 8 cubic foot fridge and our range used 7 gallons of propane every 3 weeks. If we had a refrigerator that was more than twice as big, we might be hunting for places to fill our propane tank every 7 to 10 days. It’s not always so easy to find propane, and it’s enough of a pain to unload the tank from the rig and into the truck and then chauffeur it to the propane store and load it back into the rig that we’d rather do it as infrequently as possible.

An electric fridge is fine if you have enough solar power to support it, but we’re just trying to have fun for a few months each year and we’re not looking for a long term full-time RVing type of solution.

Two Fresh Water Intakes and No All-In-One Compartment

Unlike most modern fifth wheels that have an all-in-one filling/dumping compartment on the side of the rig, this unit has all those things placed separately but near each other. We like having them all spaced out and operating independently of each other and not having to follow a chart for switches to be aligned different ways to go between dry camping, winterizing and full hookup camping.

Tank management on an RV

There are 2 separate fresh water intakes, one for filling the tank for dry camping and the other for a fresh water hookup.

The all-in-one sanitation compartments often have the fresh water intake recessed within the compartment which makes it impossible to add water to the tank with jerry jugs. It’s possible to rig up a pump to pump water out of a tank or jug and into that recessed intake, but we like the simplicity of hoisting a jug up and emptying it into the tank rather than getting out the pump and all that. Obviously, with some creativity, it is possible to make it very easy to use a pump and many people do.

Some rigs we’ve seen don’t even have a gravity fill fresh water intake which makes it difficult or impossible to add water to the tank from water jugs. The system uses switches instead to direct the water flow to the holding tank or to the interior of the rig.

This unit has one fresh water intake specifically for filling the fresh water holding tank that is located a little lower than the one on the Hitchhiker which will make it easier to access. It has another fresh water intake for a city connection for when we have fresh water available at our campsite (which is rare).

Electric Awning

Mark never thought he’d want or like an electric awning, but he’s loving this one. “As long as the motor keeps working!” he says. Hopefully it will because even I can open and close this awning in my sleep at 3 a.m. if I have to!

Keyless Door Lock

Again, we never thought we’d want or like having a keypad on the entry door that can be used in place of a key. But we love it! So often we approach the door and realize we don’t have the key with us. Now, we just punch in the magic code and Sesame opens for us!

There are keys for the door too, so you can use a key if you wish. There’s also a key fob with a remote so you can open or lock the door from a distance too!

RV keyless entry

Keyless entry is handy when you don’t have your keys on you.

Radio Reception and Outdoor Speakers

We could never get good radio reception on the radio in the Hitchhiker and that was something we noticed right away when we bought the Arctic Fox truck camper because it got great reception. It is so nice to listen to the radio and tune in to whatever is going on locally.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler outdoor speakers

Music outside – what fun!

We’ve enjoyed many a radio show consisting of call-in classified ads for farming and ranching equipment in the big rural western states, something we just don’t find elsewhere. The Genesis Supreme gets great radio reception and the outdoor speakers are an added bonus.

Shhhh — We promise to keep the outdoor volume down so we don’t bother the deer and the rabbits!

Sunset over a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

Hopefully we’ll enjoy many years of travel in this baby!

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Truck Camper Pros and Cons – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

Last year we jumped into the world of truck camper RVing as total newbies, and what a wild ride it has been! We learned a lot and want to share a few insights we picked up along the way plus give you some news about where this journey has taken us.

Truck Camper Pros and Cons

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Of course, our info about truck camper RVing is based on our limited experience with one particular truck camper, a 2005 Arctic Fox 860, and one particular truck, a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually. Other RVers with different truck/camper combos have different experiences.

A large part of why we decided to get a truck camper after living in a fifth wheel for 13 years is that good friends of ours spent 25 years wintering in a fifth wheel in Arizona and going on short jaunts around their home state of Montana in a truck camper in the summertime. They absolutely loved the various truck campers they had over the years, and hearing their stories inspired us.

Truck camper and RZR camping in the forest

What could be better than camping in the forest and riding the US Forest Service roads in a Polaris RZR?!

TRUCK CAMPER JOYS:

There are many great things about truck campers and they all stem from their small size. Unlike most other kinds of trailers and motorized RVs, you can park it in an ordinary parking space, whether on the street, at a store, at a National Park overlook, in a National Park campground, or at the hospital, as we found out.

You can load it onto a ferry boat where fees are charged by vehicle length, and it will cost you half as much (or even less) than if you were towing a trailer.

You never have to be concerned about whether your rig will fit into any kind of campsite, and you can even pull into a friend’s driveway for the night without knocking things over as you plow through their neighborhood (been there, done that, yikes!).

If you plan to tow a boat, or a side-by-side, or a Jeep or anything else, you can hitch it directly to the truck. Of course, if the camper sticks out beyond the back of the truck, you’ll need a hitch extension, but at least you won’t be towing your extra toy behind a truck and fifth wheel in a long train that isn’t even legal to drive in a lot of states.

In our case, the truck we had to work with is a diesel. So, we could take our camper up any steep mountain grade and the truck didn’t even break a sweat. This meant we could transform our powerful truck into a motorized RV worthy of mountain passes with the modest incremental cost of purchasing an older truck camper.

Camping with Arctic Fox 860 truck camper Dodge Ram dually truck Polaris RZR and flat bed trailer

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WHERE TRUCK CAMPERS & TRAILERS ARE MORE OR LESS EQUIVALENT:

We were surprised to discover that our truck got the same fuel mileage when we were carrying the truck camper as it did when we were towing the fifth wheel. The camper weighs around 3,500 lbs while the fifth wheel weighed 14,000 lbs, so you’d think the truck wouldn’t work as hard with the camper, but that’s what we saw.

Our truck gets anywhere from 15 to 21 mpg when it is not towing or carrying heavy weight. It got around 9 to 12 mpg towing the fifth wheel trailer and it got about the same carrying the camper.

TRUCK CAMPER CHALLENGES:

This is where our learning curve took off.

Swing-Out Landing Legs for Dually Trucks

Our first discovery was that the wide hips of our dually truck couldn’t fit between the front landing legs of the camper. We had to replace the two front factory-installed landing legs with a special type that can swing outward so the truck could fit between them as it backed in under the camper to load it up. Then they could be swung back inward for driving.

Happijac Truck Camper Adjustable Dually landing leg

The wide hips of the dually required front landing legs that could swing open to let the truck back in. In this pic, the leg is in the “out” position.

Happijac Truck Camper Adjustable Dually landing leg

The landing legs can be rotated outward for loading and unloading the camper and then rotated inward for driving. Shown here in the outward position.

The camper we bought didn’t come with swing out legs so we had to add them before we could bring the camper home. The seller delivered the camper to an RV repair shop where we had the work done.

Install a Tie Down System

Our next discovery was that the camper must be tied down to the truck so it doesn’t slide off (the tailgate of the truck gets removed so the truck camper can be loaded into the truck bed).

We chose to go with the top-of-the-line Torklift camper tie down system which consisted of Torklift’s bolt-on anchor points (the Talon Tie Downs for the truck and the Camper Anchor Relocation/Repair Kit for the camper.

Once these were bolted onto the truck frame and the camper frame, we used the Torklift FastGun Turnbuckles to tie the camper onto the truck. The FastGuns are super secure and they have a quick release mechanism that makes them very easy to put on and take off when loading and unloading the camper.

Torklift Talon Camper Tie Down system and FastGun Turnbuckles

The Torklift Tie Down system has three components in each corner: an anchor point on the camper (“Camper Anchor Repair/Relocation Kit”, an anchor point on the truck (“Torklift Talon Tie Down”) and a connection between the two (“Torklift FastGun Turnbuckle”).

As great as this system was, the installation was another step in the process that needed to happen before we could take the camper home.

These two upgrades — swing-out landing legs and camper tie downs — were modifications to the rig that were much like buying a hitch, a hitch receiver, tow mirrors and a brake controller (or buying a truck with a factory installed Tow Package) for a truck/trailer combo. They are add-ons that must be done and done right before you can go anywhere, and they not only take time but add to the overall cost of the rig.

Truck and Truck Camper Marriage – A Match Made in Heaven?

We hadn’t realized before we bought our beautiful truck camper that when you match a camper to a truck (or vice versa), you are setting the stage for them to get married. Hopefully, they fall in love and it is a match made in heaven.

In our case, it wasn’t. Our dually long bed truck was a bit big for the camper. Coming from the world of trailers, we couldn’t imagine that a truck could be too big for any kind of RV setup, but in the world of campers the pairing of the truck and camper is so precise that it is possible to have too big and ungainly a truck for a given camper.

Campers are designed with specific sizes of trucks in mind. Our particular camper was advertised back in the day (2005 era) as being compatible with either a short bed truck or a long bed truck. Since it was short bed compatible, I don’t think the designers intended it to be paired with a long bed dually.

Loading and Unloading the Truck Camper – A Unique Issue with the Arctic Fox 860 and Long Bed Trucks

Arctic Fox 860 getting ready to load onto tr6uck

The camper is standing on its own four legs so so the truck can slide in underneath.

Like all truck campers, the layout of the bottom of our camper was a rectangle designed to fit in the bed of a truck. However, it had an extra box sticking out on the left side of the rear entry door. This box held all the sewer valves and the outlet for the sewer hose as well as providing storage for the landing leg controller, so it was not something that could be removed.

Arctic Fox 860 sewer gear box

The right side of this compartment is the left edge of the bottom of the camper that fits into the truck bed. So, the whole sewer gear compartment sticks out beyond the profile of the bottom of the camper (illustration below).

This simplistic drawing shows the problem. The truck bed is in red and the camper floor is in black. The sewer gear box sticks out of the rear driver’s side of the camper which reduces the clearance for loading the camper into a long bed truck by several inches:

Truck camper and truck bed layout

The sewer gear box sticks out from the side of the camper, making it a tight fit width-wise in a long bed truck.

Unfortunately, as we backed the truck in under the camper, we had to make sure not to hit that box while also ensuring that the dually wheel wells didn’t catch on the sides of the camper either. All this had to be in perfect alignment while backing up the full 8′ distance of the truck bed. We had about an inch to spare in total, and we had to back the truck perfectly straight for the entire 8′ length of the truck bed.

Arctic Fox truck camper on landing lengs

Okay, now back the truck up perfectly straight…

Arctic Fox 860 sewer gear box

Looking up at the bottom of the camper as it slides into the truck bed, you can see the sewer gear box is going to hit on the left side of the bed.

Arctic Fox 860 tight clearance loading camper on truck

After adjusting the truck so the camper’s sewer box doesn’t hit on the left side, over on the right side the camper just clears the dually’s inner wheel well. Phew!

Needless to say, it was a white knuckle affair every time we loaded or unloaded the camper, and it usually required jockying the truck forward and backward a few times to get it aligned perfectly. Sometimes we lightly bumped the tall spindly camper landing legs in the process, making our hearts jump. With every bump and shudder of the top-heavy camper, I was grateful it didn’t fall over.

Also, our 2016 truck bed was a few inches higher than the 2005-era trucks our camper was designed for. So, we had to raise the camper a few inches higher on those spindly legs than was originally envisioned by the designers. The camper looked like a giant bug with very long legs, and one time when the wind suddenly picked up to 30+ mph, the whole very top-heavy contraption began to sway on those spindly legs. We both ran for our lives for fear it might topple over on us.

Ironically, we’ve done plenty of challenging things with RVs and boats together, but nothing was as difficult or frustrating as loading and unloading this camper. Down in Mexico, we anchored our large beautiful sailboat in lots of dicey places, sometimes spending the night listening to waves crashing on rocks right outside our windows.

One time, in the violently unpredictable Sea of Cortez, our boat dangled, twisted and turned at the end of our taught 300′ anchor chain in powerful onshore winds with huge waves pounding the beach just a few feet behind us. Unnerved, we decided to leave that frightening setting for a safer spot on the other side of the island only to have a mammoth wave promptly crash over the deck and bend the one inch diameter stainless steel Garhauer racks holding our 14′ kayak as if they were made of rubber. The kayak was saved from the raging sea by a few stout lines that now seemed like pieces of sewing thread.

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper on landing lengs

Due to the higher bed height of modern trucks, the camper has to be raised a few inches higher on its thin legs than was originally intended.

Yet none of those experiences matched the panic that we both felt when we loaded the camper on and off our truck. It was an ordeal.

Because we couldn’t load and unload the camper easily, we essentially lost the use of our truck by itself, not only when we were traveling but also when we were home. At home, we felt like we needed to get another truck for hauling jobs in our daily lives (how silly would that be?!). While traveling, we couldn’t leave the camper in our campsite and instead always had to take pack it up and take it with us no matter how short a distance we needed to go. We did have the RZR with us, and we happily drive it RZR on lightly traveled roads, but we don’t drive it on highways or roads with fast moving traffic.

Leaving a campsite with camping goodies in it like a patio mat and camp chairs without a rig present is asking for trouble. Someone arriving at the campsite could easily assume the goodies were abandoned (we have found tons of abandoned camping gear on public land that we’ve watched sit there day after day). Likewise, having to put everything away inside the rig in order to drive a few miles somewhere is inconvenient.

This all sounds a bit dire, but I believe the ease of loading and unloading–which makes it either possible or impossible to drive the truck without the camper on it–is 100% dependent on how well matched the truck is to the camper. If it’s a good match, getting the camper on and off the truck shouldn’t be difficult. That said, we haven’t seen many truck campers in campsites that have been unloaded from the truck they drove in on.

The bottom line for us is that our truck and camper were not a good match for each other and they ended up getting a divorce. Thankfully, the divorce was an amicable one.

In Contrast: A Good Truck/Camper Pairing

When we sold the camper, the perfect buyer snapped it up, and we saw the difference that a good pairing can make.

Arctic Fox truck camper moves from one truck to another

We took the camper off our truck and got ready to load it onto the buyer’s truck.

He has a 2002 Chevy shortbed truck, and the camper fits it like a glove. He slid his truck underneath with ease, never having loaded a truck camper before, and he looked like a pro as he backed in. FIrst, the camper didn’t need to be raised very high for the truck to slide underneath. Then, the camper fit into the bed without that awkward sewer box even getting involved. Because it was a shortbed truck, the sewer gear box hung off the back of the truck and didn’t have to get squeezed into the truck bed. Undoubtedly, the designers assumed that half or more of their buyers would be people with shortbed trucks.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 fits well on a shortbed truck

The camper sticks out beyond the short bed of the truck unlike on a long bed where the back end is flush.

Arctic Fox 860 fits well on a shortbed truck

The troublesome sewer gear box doesn’t have to be squeezed into the bed of the truck because it hangs off the back — perfect!

As we watched the buyer load the camper on his truck so easily, it was obvious his new truck/camper combo would be a match made in heaven. Perhaps a bigger camper would have given us a better overall experience, but by this time we were ready to try something completely different!

PERSONAL CAMPING STYLE – IS TRUCK CAMPING FOR YOU?

Flowers

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Besides the technical issues of pairing the truck and camper, there’s also a huge difference between living in a camper and living in a larger rig. Obviously, a truck camper is a small space. But there is more to it than that.

The space is quite vertical, especially if the camper door is on the back of the camper at the level of the truck bed. The bed of our truck — which is the floor level of the camper — is at chest height for me. So, we had to step up from ground level to chest height just to enter the camper.

Torklift makes a stair system called the Glow Step that folds down to the ground accordion style from the truck bumper. Some folks nickname the Glow Step the Stairway to Heaven because it is such a long staircase. I found portable plastic stairs that fit into the camper while we traveled. These were sturdy and easy to go up and down.

When the truck was unhitched from the utility trailer it was a straight shot into the camper: two steps on the plastic stairs and two steps on the camper’s stairs. If we left the trailer hitched up, we had a turn in the staircase.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper-2

A two-step staircase was a cheap solution for climbing up to the entry door where there are two more stairs before entering the camper.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper

With the flat bed trailer hitched up to the truck, we step up to the trailer tongue and then up into the camper.

Mark also made a very clever platform out of plywood to fit on the tongue of the RZR trailer. This made a staircase landing where we could pause to open the door when our hands were full. We usually kept the RZR trailer attached to the truck, so this platform was a really nifty upgrade and didn’t take him long to make. We kept it in the RZR when we were driving.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper towing utility trailer

Mark built a platform for the trailer tongue that gave us a landing midway up our staircase.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper

This stairway solution worked really well.

Because the buyer’s truck bed was much lower than ours, he didn’t need the plastic stairs and could get away with a 7 inch step stool, if even that. See? Match made in heaven.

Many truck campers have the entry door on the side of the camper rather than on the back. Because of the placement of this door, the truck camper hangs off the back end of the truck. The beauty of a side entry door is that it is substantially lower to the ground than a door placed on the back of the camper. This reduces the number of stairs needed to get up to the doorway and makes it much more like going into a trailer or motorhome.

The disadvantage of a side entry door is that if you plan to tow something behind the truck, you will need a hitch extension because the hitch receiver on the truck will now be recessed under the floor of the camper.

Once inside the camper, whether it is a rear entry or side entry door, you can sit at the dinette, stand in the kitchen or bathroom, or crawl into the bed. For one or two people this is fine — it’s just tight living. You’re out seeing the world anyway, so who cares? However, we found it is not so easy if you have pets.

Buddy had only one choice for where he could spend time comfortably in the camper: on the bed. He could sit at the dinette, but didn’t like to do that for longer than a few seconds.

Puppy at the camper dinette

Buddy joins us at the dinette.

Puppy at the truck camper dinette

“Hi, Mom.”

Pup at the dinette of Arctic Fox 860 2

“What’s for lunch?”

He could also be on the floor, but he was under foot and not comfortable standing there. So, in the end, his only place in the camper was on the bed. He loved it there, though. He could watch the world outside through the windows on either side of the bed and it was soft and comfy.

Pup lying on the bed in a truck camper RV

Buddy’s favorite place was up on the bed where he could stretch out and look out the windows.

However, he was kind of stuck there. He’s a good jumper, but it was a long jump down to the floor and we didn’t want him jumping up and down off the high bed for fear the pounding would be tough on his slender limbs or we’d get in his way accidentally and cause him to injure himself.

He could aso jump up into the camper from outside on the ground, but again, we weren’t keen on having him jumping around in case we accidentally stepped in his path while he was jumping and injured him.

A quiet spot for pup under a truck camper

Buddy loves the outdoors, but with the truck camper he had to wait for one of us to help him in or out.

Camping dog

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So, we ended up having to lift him in and out of the camper and also lift him on and off the bed. This meant he had no independence, and he was kind of stuck wherever he was, either outside in the campsite or inside on the bed, until we helped move him. In contrast, when we had the fifth wheel, he could come and go as he pleased.

SELLING AN RV IN TODAY’S CRAZY MARKET

Campsite with Arctic Fox 860 truck camper, dually truck, RZR and flat bed trailer

Everyone wants to get out into nature and leave Lockdown World far behind.

So, after our trip to Quartzsite we knew it was time to sell our Arctic Fox camper and buy something different (and exciting!).

We learned a lot in the selling process. If you are selling an RV these days, here are some things we learned when we sold our camper on Craigslist in February, 2022.

First, the market is moving really fast and NADA Guide is not keeping up. We priced our camper based on dealership asking prices for similar untils nationwide that we saw listed in RVTrader.com. The asking prices were through the roof and insane. They were essentially double the NADA Guide prices. But we went with the flow and asked an insane price that fit in with the others.

We’d had our eyes on the RV market for a while and had noticed that good quality used rigs in excellent condition were selling quickly. We’d see a cool rig one day and it would be gone two or three days later. That happened repeatedly.

Woods with flowers

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We put the ad up on a Tuesday and had some calls and made 3 appointments for showings on Saturday. None of the three who saw it on Saturday bit right away, but we had interest from five other people calling us from 200 to 1,000 miles away.

Saturday night I got a call from a serious buyer who put down a substantial deposit and promised to be out to pick it up on Tuesday. He lived 1,200 miles away and it would take him 2 days to drive to our place. Plus, he wanted to install new tires on his truck before making the trip. I changed the ad to “Sale Pending.”

On Sunday, all three people who had seen the camper the day before called to make offers. Meanwhile, four other people from 40, 180, 200 and 250 miles away respectively all made full cash offers, saying they could come with cash in hand the next day (Monday) to pick it up. I told them I had a deal pending that would take a few days to close and that I would call them if it fell through. Four of the prospective buyers kept in close touch during the next few days to see if the deal fell through.

Needless to say, the buyer was good to his word. Once he arrived, it took two days for him to complete the formal wedding ceremony between his truck and our camper. He got the tires he wanted before the trip and was able to find tie downs that fit his truck in a shop within an hour’s drive.

He was a smart shopper. He told us he had been looking for a camper like ours for over a year, and he had missed out on four previous deals because he didn’t move fast enough. That’s why he was willing to make the deposit sight-unseen and drive 1,200 miles to get the camper.

When I notified the other four prospective buyers that the deal had gone through, they were all sorely disappointed. Undoubtedly, they approached the next prospective deal they saw very differently.

Creative use of utility trailer while camping

The flatbed trailer was a fun place to hang out and get a slightly elevated view.

Of course, I have no idea if this kind of insanity in the RV market is ongoing out there three months later. A lot has happened in the world since then, and the inflation of both consumer goods, gas and diesel plus rising interest rates will surely put a damper on the enthusiasm people have for buying RVs. However, that is the RV sales experience we had just a short time ago.

It’s possible it could take a while for world events to affect the prices and availability of used RVs. Just prior to the financial crisis in September of 2008, we began shopping for a sailboat to go cruising. However, it wasn’t until January of 2010 that we began to see used boat prices finally begin to come down, due largely to marine loan foreclosures.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR RLT??

Lots!

We bought another rig, which I’ll introduce in the next post. Our RV buying story in this crazy market was just as wild as our truck camper selling story, and so far we think we made the right choice and totally love it.

When we went adventuring in the truck camper last year, each time we left we enthusiastically packed for 5 to 7 days. However, we invariably came home after only two or three! I don’t know if it was due to boredom or feeling fidgety or because we were living in such a confined space, but that was the pattern each time we took the camper out.

Two weeks ago we took our new rig out on its maiden voyage shakedown cruise. Cautiously, we packed for just 3 days only to find we had to run out and restock our essentials twice! To our great surprise, when we finally had to head home due to a prior engagement, we realized we’d been out for 9 happy days.

So, right now we’re buttoning up the homestead and packing up the new rig so we can head out and see the world for a few glorious summer months!

The Journey Begins

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Quartzsite Lite (2022)

Quartzsite, Arizona, has long been Party Central for RVers in midwinter, and this year — 2022 — we took our truck camper there to check out the action.

A Winter RV Trip to Quartzsite Arizona in 2022

In many ways, the RV scene out in the desert surrounding Quartzsite was not too different than in years gone by.

There were crazy rigs rolling through the desert, sandwich signs advertising everything from at-your-campsite RV holding tank emptying services to ultra pure firewood for sale to libations of both the morning and afternoon kind.

Rockin' the Boondockin' sign in Quartzsite Arizona

Quartzsite is known as boondocking heaven

Quartzsite Arizona crazy car and camper

We always see unusual rigs roaming around the desert here

Quartzsite Arizona RV Proctologist sign for cleaning out RV waste holding tanks

Time to dump your holding tanks? These guys come to you!

Coffee Wagon in Quartzsite Arizona

A welcome sight in the morning

Adult Day Care Quartzsite Arizona

A popular spot in the afternoon!

Firewood for sale in Quartzsite Arizona

These folks sell the healthiest firewood on the planet!

In town, vendors were selling all kinds of things that would appeal to anyone living in a rolling home…and then some!

RV gear shops in Quartzsite Arizona

Lots of goodies for sale

But there were some startling differences in Quartzsite this year too.

As we drove through the desert boondocking areas we know and love north of town, there were a lot fewer rigs than in past winters, perhaps just 10% to 20% of what we saw a few years ago.

We used to see huge RV rallies in the desert too.

In the past, we would always tuck ourselves in between the massive Montana fifth wheel rally, where dozens of Montana owners circled the wagons around a huge campfire, and the Alpine Coach rally where we sometimes saw members enjoying catered meals along with movies displayed on a big outdoor screen by their communal campfire. Across the road, we used to wander around the Safari motorhome rally, admiring the unique paintings of wild animals that adorned the back of each rig.

These informal gatherings were always held in the same place in the desert, but this year, we didn’t see any of those rallies.

However, we did find a much bigger Arctic Fox rally than we ever remember seeing before, and we hooked up with our friends at the intimate Hitchhiker rally next door to the Arctic Foxes. With our new-to-us Arctic Fox camper and our many fond memories of living in a Hitchhiker fifth wheel, we felt right at home parking between the two groups!

Just like the rather deserted desert boondocking areas outside of town, many RV parks in town had a lot of vacancies.

Vacant RV park in Quartzsite Arizona

An RV park on the main drag in town was empty

There wasn’t just a lack of RVers, though. The number and types of vendors was diminished too. In the past, RV dealerships from Arizona and California set up temporary lots on all the major roads through Quartzsite, and they were filled to the brim with new and used RVs.

This year we could find only three RV dealerships selling RVs from temporary lots, two in town and a third inside the RV show grounds.

All over town, the temporary RV dealership lots that used to be overflowing with rigs now stood vacant, many with locked gates and a sign indicating which dealership operated that lot.

World Wide RV Vacant Lot Quartzsite Arizona 2

Full of RVs in other years, the World Wide RV lot was empty in 2022

Despite the lack of RVs for sale as well the big reduction in the number of RVers staying in Quartzsite this year, we’ve seen reports that RV manufacturing has been absolutely booming. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), in 2021, a total of 600,240 new units were shipped, a 19% increase over the previous record of 504,599 units set back in 2017. After our visit to Quartzsite, we learned that RV shipments in January 2022 set a record too.

Apparently, despite that enormous increase in supply, the RV manufacturers aren’t keeping pace with demand.

Last summer, we visited an RV dealership selling Momentum toy haulers and were told they were not selling any units off the lot because they weren’t sure they could get replacement units to put on display for future customers. All new Momentum sales at that dealership were by pre-order only.

The same has been true with diesel truck dealerships. Most dealerships in our area have no diesel truck inventory on display and are selling new trucks by pre-order only. If a rare new one that isn’t already spoken for arrives at their lot, they price it at $5,000 over MSRP.

Of course, things change in the blink of an eye and the RV industry has always been cyclical. At the time we made this trip to Quartzsite in late January, we were paying around $3.69 a gallon for diesel fuel. Now, in late March, it is $4.99 a gallon. Although lots of people still want to get out and travel after having to stay home during the pandemic, this jump in fuel prices might discourage buyers from getting a new RV.

La Mesa RV Vacant Lot Quartzsite Arizona

It was a shock to see the La Mesa RV lot completely empty. We remember fun free pancake breakfasts in their lot in other years

Whatever the causes and ramifications of the small turnout in Quartzsite in 2022 might be, we started calling this year’s edition “Quartzsite Lite.”

There were certain advantages to attending Quartzsite Lite, however. For one thing, parking was a cinch. Unlike past years where traffic was heavy and parking was difficult, traffic this year was minimal and we were able to park with ease right next to the show grounds.

As always, the Quartzsite Gem Show was in full swing at the same time as the RV show, and we admired the many fabulous and enormous crystals and gem stones that were on display.

Amethysts on display at the Quartzsite Arizona Gem Show

There was a big table full of pretty amethyst crystals at the Gem Show

Herkimer Diamonds booth at Quartzsite Arizona Gem Show

Herkimer diamonds! There’s a great mine in New York where rockhounds hunt for these stones

Inside the RV show we saw many familiar vendors, including the homemade ice cream vendor. A little further on, we saw a booth selling New England lobster quesadillas!

Homemade ice cream booth at Quartzsite Arizona RV Show

Homemade ice cream – yum!

Lobster Quesadilla booth at Quartzsite Arizona RV trade show

Flown to the Sonoran Desert from the Atlantic Ocean.

Under the Big Tent we stopped by the Escapees booth to say hello and then chatted with some folks in a nearby booth promoting UTV trails in Utah. A salesman representing an RV resort in a northern state told me they came to Quartzsite looking for workcampers for the upcoming summer. He was thrilled that they filled all their positions by the third day of the RV Show! So, even with a lot fewer attendees and vendors, the companies looking to hire RVers and the RVers looking for work were still happily finding each other.

One unusual surprise was that several vendors advertised they were accepting payment in crypto currency.

Quartzsite Arizona Crypto currency accepted

Crypto currency has made it to Quartzsite!

Quartzsite Arizona Crypto Accepted

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One thing that we always love at the Quartzsite RV show is all the dogs being wheeled about in strollers, and there were quite a few!

Quartzsite Arizona Puppy in a stroller

Quartzsite is a magnet for pups in strollers!

Quartzsite Arizona Dogs in a stroller

Pampered pooch

Quartzsite Arizona Dogs in a stroller

Two-in-one!

The dogs that walk the show on their own four paws have to contend with a sea of knees and ankles, but Buddy was a trooper. While we and everyone else had all eyes on the vendors and their wares, the dogs had all eyes on each other!

Quartzsite Arizona RV trade show in the Big Tent

There were plenty of people, but we all had room to breathe as we shopped.

Fortunately, just like the light traffic in the streets, there was light traffic inside the Big Tent too. Unlike past years, we didn’t have to shuffle cheek-by-jowel at a snail’s pace and instead could walk easily up and down the aisles.

Even though the predominant hair colors you see on the people who hang around Quartzsite are white and gray (with a few dying their hair shades of blonde and brown), there was a very hip poodle in attendance whose fashion sense leaned towards much more showy colors. She sported a bright pink tail!

Poodle with a pink tail

The Quartzsite crowd prefers gray hair over pink, but this poodle dared to be different!

Each year it seems that many vendors at Quartzsite gravitate to one new product or another. In past years LED lights were all the rage. This year it was lithium batteries. It seemed there was a lithium battery vendor on every corner.

Quartzsite Arizona Lithium battery sales booth

A variety of lithium battery brands seemed to be everywhere.

We always get smitten by some product or another, and this year we fell for two products.

First was the Mr. Sticky pet fur roller (available here). It is a roller with a long handle that you dip in water to activate its stickiness. Once it is wet, you roll it on any fabric or carpet that has pet fur on it and magically the roller pulls all the fur off. We were fascinated, and even though the vendor insisted we had to buy all three styles of roller and not just one, we’ve ended up loving them all and we use them on our fluffy comforter all the time (it is one of Buddy’s favorite napping places).

Quartzsite Arizona Mr. Sticky pet fur cleaning roller

These rollers work GREAT! Her demo was good but the proof was in our fur filled comforter at home.

The other product that caught our eye was the Siberia Spirit wool socks. The vendor was from Russia and the socks were fluffy, soft and warm. The overnight temps at Quartzsite were in the low 40s during our stay and these socks were just the thing to keep our tootsies warm.

I bought a pair of goat hair socks and Mark held one out for Buddy to smell. He was enchanted. He rubbed his face all over the sock, sniffing it and brushing his snout and ears on it over and over!

Siberia Spirit socks booth at Quartzsite Arizona RV show

Siberia Spirit – warm wool socks sold with a Russian accent!

Puppy rubs his face on goat hair socks

Buddy absolutely loved the pair made of goat’s wool that had fox faces like his on them.

For the past few years RVing has been making a big splash in the media, and sure enough, there was a fenced off Media Tent right outside the show grounds. They were filming The RVers / Aviators.

A huge poster warned that if you entered the fenced area you irrevocably granted the Producer permission to film and record you and to use that material for commercial purposes indefinitely!

Gosh, and here we thought Quartzsite was just a bunch of RVers casually living it up in the desert.

Public Filming Notice in Quartzsite Arizona

If you don’t want your likeness used commercially, steer clear!

Getting back out into the desert ourselves, we headed out with a friend on a 4×4 loop trail up on Plomosa Road. This was the first time we’d ever brought our RZR to Quartzsite and what a wonderful change of pace it was.

RZR ride in Quartzsite Arizona

The 4×4 trails in the area are wonderful.

Quartzsite Arizona On the trail with a RZR and ATV

We had a great ride with our friend Roy from the Hitchhiker rally

A saguaro cactus in the desert near Quartzsite Arizona

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There are a ton of trails in the desert, some well worn and others seldom used. We had to consult the map to stay on track!

Quartzsite Arizona ATV trail

Some trails are small and others are very large and well traveled.

Quartzsite Arizona checking the map on an ATV ride

The guys had to check the map to see where the heck we were!

In one area there were plush sand dunes. The wind made wonderful patterns in the sand and Buddy loved romping around in it. We also found open mines all over the place. Lots of these old mines have been fenced off by the Bureau of Land Management so people don’t accidentally fall in, but this one was wide open.

Quartzsite Arizona sand dunes

The sand had beach-like wind patterns.

Open mine in the desert in Quartzsite Arizona

There were many open mine shafts. Mark dropped a rock into this one and it took a long time to land!

RZR UTV trail in Quartzsite Arizona

We saw a few other UTVs and ATVs on the trails and even crossed paths with a group from Salome.

One of the best things in Quartzsite is the vivid sunsets that fill the wide open sky, and we were lucky to catch a really vivid one.

Quartzsite Arizona sunset

A classic Arizona sunset!

We had a lot of fun going to Quartzsite this year, even though many things were dramatically different from past years. But that’s the unpredictable way of life.

Hopefully, when we drop by Quartzsite in the future, we’ll no longer call it Quartzsite Lite because it will be Quartzsite Full Strength once again!

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Buddy – A Journey in Sprit

The pages of this blog are full of travel tales from the lives we’ve lived on the road, at sea and abroad, but there are other kinds of journeys and adventures in life that don’t involve an RV, a sailboat or an airplane. This story is more profound than any we’ve shared with you in the past, and it has impacted our lives in the deepest ways imaginable.

Buddy - A Journey in Spirit

Our neighborhood has been inundated with mice and pack rats, and every neighbor keeps the hoods of their vehicles wide open in hopes of deterring these rodents from setting up housekeeping in the engine compartment. Not one neighbor has been spared from repairing the wiring in their car, truck or RV engine. And now, neither have we.

Rumor has it that the wire shielding is made with peanut oil which rodents love. Whether or not that’s true, in the space of a month, part of our truck engine’s main wiring harness was gnawed right through on two separate occasions. Of course, they chewed the wire to the nub, so it was nearly impossible to make the repaired connections hold. To make matters worse, the damaged part of the wiring harness was located beneath the fuse box in a spot that is extremely difficult to reach. Installing a new wiring harness would cost somewhere around $2,000, but by sheer determination and tenacity, Mark was able to make a successful repair.

Puppy at Glen Canyon

After all this, Mark was beside himself with frustration because the source of the problem was still out there. Over the course of a year he had purchased every rat deterrent and trap he could find, and in the process he’d disproven most of the old wives tales about the effectiveness of things like dryer sheets, Ivory soap and strobe lights that blink all night long. Each morning, many of his 20 or so peanut butter baited traps around the truck and the house would be tripped—and empty, licked clean and surrounded by fresh rodent droppings.

In a fit of pique, he bought some rat poison and put it under the truck. That would stop them, for sure!

The next day we took the truck to town and when we returned we parked it in different spot, our minds elsewhere. About 20 minutes later I noticed a green block on Buddy’s mat on the patio that looked like a dog treat. “What’s this?” I asked, holding it up for Mark to see. His eyes were saucers and his jaw dropped. “That’s the rat poison! What’s it doing there?!”

Buddy was bouncing around chasing lizards nearby.

Pup bouncing around

The poison stick appeared uneaten and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then I caught sight of a second one. A quarter of it had been chewed. My heart stopped.

The chew marks looked rodent-like, but how had these things gotten on the back patio? Mark had put them under the truck on the other side of the house!

As we scrambled to try and piece together what might have happened in the last 30 minutes, Buddy continued trotting around, tail high and spirits higher.

I immediately called Tomcat, the manufacturer of the poison. Their poison hotline told me that if a 25 lb. dog ate just 1/4 of a brick of the poison — bromethalin — it wouldn’t be a lethal dose. Phew!!

At that moment Mark came barreling into the house, his eyes wild. “The kit came with 8 bricks and I can find only 7, including the one that was chewed. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find that 8th brick”

As he ran outside again to continue searching for the missing brick, I called Tomcat back. The formerly calm and friendly gentleman at their poison info line had a sudden seriousness and urgency in his voice as he told me that a full brick and a quarter was a lethal dose and Buddy needed to go to the hospital immediately. He needed to be given activated charcoal to absorb as much of the poison as possible ASAP. He gave me a case number for the veterinarian to reference.

My world keeled over and crashed as I heard these words.

Buddy walked in and looked at me with a puzzled expression as if to say, “Why all the intense emotions around here all of a sudden?”

I called our veterinarian and his assistant urgently told us to get to the emergency animal hospital that’s nearly an hour away as fast as possible. “You need to go right now!” his assistant said, “but first induce vomiting by spraying hydrogen peroxide in his mouth.”

Mark did that and Buddy promptly threw up some very pale green phlegm. Our hearts sank. There was no doubt now that he had ingested the poison.

Puppy at sunset

We grabbed Buddy and drove like wildfire to the emergency animal hospital.

Murphy, of Murphy’s Law, was working overtime, though, and we arrived at the hospital right in the middle of a huge rush. One dog had heart failure on both sides of his heart, and another dog had swallowed something he shouldn’t have, and other crisis cases kept pouring in. We got in line.

I was less than patient waiting there, and I complained bitterly to anyone who would listen. The wonderful receptionist, Anne, and the lead veterinary technician, Angela, kindly listened to my complaints and apologized for the delay.

After an hour or more, Buddy was finally taken into the triage room.

He was bright eyed and bushy tailed and looked at us pleadingly as the vet techs took him away. Unfortunately, the team of doctors and nurses on duty was so busy it took another hour or so before they could administer the activated charcoal. Another hour after that he was finally brought out to us.

We learned that he’d thrown most of the charcoal back up. He had charcoal on his paws and his hips even though he’d been cleaned up.

Worse, he was totally panic stricken and his eyes were wild.

We looked at each other in shock. This was not the same dog we had handed over to them two hours before.

Beautiful patriotic dog

We whisked him away from the stress and trauma of the animal hospital towards home, and then decided to stop at a park near the hospital so he could stretch his legs and relax and start to regain his good spirits.

I put him down on the ground next to the car and he promptly laid down and wouldn’t get up.

Hmmm. I carried him to a quieter shady spot under a tree nearby and set him down again. He collapsed and wouldn’t budge.

Something was very wrong. Was it the trauma in the hospital or the charcoal and its after effects? Or was the poison beginning to take effect?

The veterinarian had told us that this particular poison causes brain swelling and seizures and if a dog has a seizure there’s no hope. He’s done. She had seen dogs die on the operating table.

There’s no antidote for bromethalin.

Puppy by the shore

I called the hospital, my voice shaking, and they said to return immediately.

As we drove, Buddy suddenly became a whole different animal in my arms. He was terrified. Not scared like I’ve seen him scared of things. He was constantly squirming in my arms now. His breath was shallow, his mouth agape, teeth showing, and his eyes were wide with terror.

He pinned his ears back and he strained to get out of my arms. His expression was like nothing I’ve ever seen. He wanted out of my arms and out of his body. Now!

His whole muzzle began shaking uncontrollably while I hugged him and consoled him and Mark drove 90 mph back to the hospital.

Puppy in a police car

The vet techs ran to us as we walked in the door and they whisked Buddy away into the triage room.

For the next hour Mark and I alternated clinging to each other and pacing the floor. At one point we heard barks, howls and wails coming from the emergency room that sounded like Buddy’s voice.

We were both beside ourselves. Mark was in tears and I couldn’t stop pacing and incessantly drinking water from the waiting room fridge as I tried to get rid of my dry mouth and panic.

Just a few hours earlier we had gone for a short hike with Buddy on one of his favorite trails. He’d been as charming as ever, trotting along ahead of us with his dear puppy prance, his whole sweet little body overflowing with joy at being alive.

Leaping for joy

The lead daytime veterinarian, Dr. Frost, finally came out of the emergency room and took us into a quiet room for a consultation. Her face was ashen as she leaned towards us to speak. “Buddy just had a grand mal seizure.”

I gasped and couldn’t breathe.

“I hate to be blunt, but I have to be honest with you.” She went on. “His situation is very grave. And you are going to have to make some very difficult decisions. If you want to continue, he needs the highest level of care that we offer. It costs about $5,000 a day.”

Mark broke down and put his head in his hands. “I can’t live without Buddy. If something happens to him, I don’t want to live.”

Dr. Frost rushed over to him and put her hands on his shoulders and looked him deep in the eyes. “Don’t say that!”

Puppy helps out with a photo shoot

We were all quiet for a moment and then someone appeared at my side while Dr. Frost slipped back into the triage room. The person was holding a formal quote for ICU care for the next 12 to 48 hours. The range was $6,000 to $18,000.

I glanced at the quote and the numbers didn’t even register in my mind. They didn’t matter. All that mattered right now was getting Buddy and our happy lives back to how they had been five hours before.

Beloved pink rope

Images of Buddy flitted through my mind: our happy-go-lucky little friend trotting around with his tail held high, and our dear cuddly pup playing under the blankets in bed.

Puppy on the rocks at dawn

Big puppy stretch

He was our sweet kindred spirit who loved adventure as much as we did. He would come alive when we were out exploring new trails.

Puppy on the hiking trail

Puppy dog running in the snow

I closed my eyes and vowed, “Buddy is fine. He’s fine.” He had to be. Come hell or high water, he had to make it. There was no other possible outcome, no other option. There was no other future for us except with Buddy living out his full life in our little family.

Mark sat on a bench with his head in his hands for a long time. The receptionist, Anne, came over to him and said quietly, “We can bring in a grief counselor for you…” He looked up, his face in agony, and said no, that wasn’t necessary.

Puppy love

I couldn’t stop pacing up and down the waiting room halls and drinking water.

Time stopped.

People were waiting patiently on the benches around the room, dogs and cats in their laps or at their feet, but I barely saw them.

Someone suddenly appeared asking for a credit card so we could make a preliminary payment of $7,800. That would cover Buddy’s care until 6 pm the next day. We gave him the card without a moment’s hesitation. We could sell things once we got home, if it came to that.

I went outside and paced all over the parking lot, out across a grassy field and around a distant building. I was half out of my mind, like a maniac, but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t sit still.

Puppy plays with a slipper

With all my heart, I wanted to beg God for a miracle right now. With every fiber of my soul I wanted to plead with God to save our beloved little friend.

But I knew deep inside that that wasn’t the right approach.

I’ve done a lot of reading about divine healing over the past few years, and we experienced a miracle healing ourselves a while back.

I’d learned that healers who seek divine intervention don’t beg for assistance. They command that the healing take place and they believe deep in their hearts that the healing has been completed successfully already. They even speak of it that way, as a done deal.

I kept repeating to myself — silently and then out loud once I was out of earshot — that Buddy was healed, as if it had already happened. I thanked God profusely for Buddy’s full recovery and for gifting the doctors and nurses with healing hands.

I visualized the whole hospital staff being astonished and overjoyed by Buddy’s recovery.

I imagined the scene of the veterinarian and vet techs glowing with wonder and happiness that Buddy was fully healed.

In the doghouse outhouse

As soon as I’d finish saying and visualizing those things, I’d do it again.

Sometimes I’d phrase it a different way, but each time was like a vivid, forceful statement that had the full impact of all my ragged, intense and frazzled emotions behind it.

I went back in the waiting room and Dr. Frost came out to speak to us again. “I know how much you love your dog,” she said. “I want to make sure that if Buddy needs CPR you want us to do it.”

Of course!!

Modeling in the director's chair

She went on to explain that right now Buddy needed medication to reduce the brain swelling caused by the poison, but they couldn’t administer those meds until the seizures stopped.

So, they were putting him in a medically induced coma to force the seizures to stop.

Once the seizures ceased, they were planning to give him the anti-brain swelling medication. Eventually, if he survived, they could bring him out of the coma. It might take a few days or a week.

The big hope was that if he made it to the point of regaining consciousness, the seizures wouldn’t resume.

Pup in the wildflowers

Dr. Frost sighed and looked me intently. “There’s not much you can do right now.” She said. “But you can pray.”

“Oh, we have been!” I said. “Nonstop!”

I had asked our friends to pray for Buddy, and Mark’s daughter put out a request for prayers on Facebook. The response was overwhelming. Many shed tears when they heard what was going on and ardently prayed with us for a miracle.

Best Friends Forever

Puppy makes friends big and small

Best friends forever

We realized that this was all going to take a while, so we decided to go home and get our truck camper and stay in the hospital parking lot overnight.

We were silent on the drive home.

Mark wanted to apologize and felt the deepest guilt, but I wouldn’t hear it for a second. Our only way was forward.

Any second guessing, guilty feelings, or wishing we’d done things differently were useless at this point. Every ounce of our energy had to go towards manifesting a 100% recovery, with vehemence. With exuberance!

Family portrait with the truck camper

I don’t even remember the drive back to the hospital with the camper. By then it was dark. We parked right around the corner from the front door of the hospital and quickly went inside. For a split second I worried we’d be greeted with bad news, but I banished that thought as soon as it came.

As I fought all negativity out of my mind and opened the door, the evening receptionist looked up with a big smile and said, “He’s doing well!”

Owners aren’t usually allowed into the triage room, but she said we might be able to go in late at night if things got quiet. So, we went out to the camper to wait. A few hours later it was quiet again and we were allowed to see him.

I have never been in an ICU before. The scene was straight out of a TV show or movie.

Puppy portrait black and white

Buddy was lying on his stomach, his front paws on either side of his head. He was intubated with a tube that went all the way down to his lungs. His long tongue was hanging out of his mouth on the table, totally limp.

He had a catheter for urine, an IV inserted into one leg, an automated blood pressure cuff on one paw and something inserted into his abdomen, and his fur had been shaved to accommodate all these things. Wires and tubes went from his tiny little body to display monitors next to the operating table, to an IV bag on a hook and to a urine bag on the floor.

His eyes were covered with a blindfold and ear buds had been placed deep in his ears to block out all the lights and noise of this busy room.

Puppy covers his eyes

But his sweet little ears were still recognizable amid all that technology. I leaned over the back of his neck, nuzzled my face into his familiar warm fur and talked to him.

I told him how much we loved him and how God was bringing him a miracle. How he was going to be cured and made healthy again.

I couldn’t stop talking to him. It was a stream of consciousness of constant encouragement.

Two of the graphs on the monitors were going haywire the whole time. His heart rate and blood pressure were steady (and not far different than ours would have been), but his breathing and some other waveform were totally erratic. They spiked all over the place and then would stop.

“Is he flatlining?” I asked at one point in a panic. Then the graph started spiking again.

As I spoke to him, he suddenly made a gagging noise on the tube in his throat. It seemed that he was responding to what I was saying to him.

Then he let out a very familiar big sigh that always signals his total contentment. I think he was grateful we were with him.

Puppy sleeping

Dr. Frost came around to talk to us. I straightened up from having my head buried in Buddy’s neck and without even thinking about what I was saying, I blurted out, “We’re expecting a miracle. We’ve seen miracles happen. And we’re going to witness a miracle here.”

She nodded and looked at me with the saddest expression in her eyes. Her heart was breaking for us.

“I think everything in life happens for a reason,” I went on. “And I think there’s a silver lining in every cloud. Sometimes it takes many years to see it, but when something terrible happens, it’s making way for something new and wonderful to happen later. Even a tragedy like this happens for a reason.”

I petted Buddy’s soft fur as I marveled at what I’d just said and wondered where it had come from.

“Not many people would feel that way, especially at a time like this,” she said quietly.

“I think talking to him helps,” I went on. “People have come out of surgery and they remember what the surgeons were saying.”

She nodded but looked so sad.

I finally stepped back and let Mark have a turn whispering in Buddy’s ear.

Mark talked to him about hiking and going on RZR rides and chomping on his bully stick, and suddenly his breathing increased and he gagged on the tube again.

Buddy with the RZR

Oh my! He was definitely responding and knew we were there.

In the ICU there was a vet tech stationed by his head every minute of every hour. They worked in shifts, and the first was Emma, a young woman with a warm smile.

She had a clipboard in her lap and was taking notes as she monitored the machines.

Occasionally, she swabbed his closed eyes with artificial tears and moistened his dry tongue.

He was on a dozen different medications, so she was continually swapping out the IV bag with different meds on a strict schedule. Electrolytes and fluids were added into the mix to keep him going.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. We each took turns talking to him some more, but we didn’t want to excite him or disturb him too much, so we gave him some gentle hugs and made our way out.

Chatting with a puppy dog on a hike

We went back to the truck camper and for two hours we lay side by side, wide awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling. Then we couldn’t wait any longer. We went back into the hospital to see if we could visit him again — and they let us right in. It was now after midnight.

This time we were prepared for seeing him wired up.

He was on his side now with a blanket over him. He looked much more comfortable.

Sleeping puppy

All of his graphs had stabilized. The crazy spikes and flatlines were gone now, replaced by steady patterns up and down. Most important, he’d finally become stable enough to receive the anti-brain swelling medication too.

We were overcome with relief. We hugged him tight, closed our eyes and whispered thank you a dozen times into his thick, warm fur.

After straightening up and wiping our eyes, the overnight veterinarian came over to us and took us aside.

“This all looks good, but I have to be frank with you. His situation is very grave. I don’t mean to be harsh, but we don’t know what will happen when we bring him out of the coma. The seizures might resume. He might not be able to lift his head. He might not be able to stand up. He might be deaf, or he might be blind. We just don’t know. He may require intensive care for another few days or for a week or more.”

Buddy bundled up on a recliner

I heard her words but couldn’t let them sink in. For a few seconds I pondered how I would help him learn to walk again if need be, but I rejected that thought too before it could take root. I was certain we were going to see a 100% recovery and nothing less.

Yet deep inside I knew exactly what the veterinarian was saying.

Years ago, a special friend had developed a malignant brain tumor, and its rapid development and treatment left her changed forever. Her once beautifully athletic body couldn’t move fluidly any more and her once robust and expansive personality became more withdrawn, quirky and detached.

For all of us, good health is not only precious but it is often fleeting as well.

Buddy watches the sunset

We returned to the camper and lay wide awake staring at the ceiling for a few more hours.

When we spoke, it was only to talk about how much we loved Buddy, reminding each other of his many special little traits that we cherish.

He is a unique dog, incredibly smart and surprisingly fastidious, and he has a gentle, respectful temperament.

We nodded off for a short spell to internal lullabies of nonstop prayers.

Around 5 a.m. we ventured back into the hospital and were invited into the triage room again.

This time Buddy was lying under a thick pile of blankets. The vet tech at his bedside explained that his temperature had dropped to 98 (normal is 101 to 102.5) and that they had heated up the table he was on and added blankets to keep him warm.

Pup Bundled up on a blanket

We each talked to him again, and as we nuzzled him we thanked God over and over for giving Buddy a total 100% recovery, cementing our own certainty that he would indeed recover as we gave thanks.

We were calmer now and the air in the room was calmer too, although his temperature drop was unnerving.

He was now the only urgent care animal lying on an operating table in the center of the room.

The walls of the room were lined with kennels that were full of dogs and cats resting, and they each had a front row seat to all the action. Some were snoozing, but some were awake and taking it all in. One puppy kept crying.

By the time we came out of the hospital, morning was dawning.

Pause in the Buddy trail for Sunrise-4

The evening before we had rushed home and grabbed the camper in a hurry, thinking no further than sleeping in it for the night. We had no food or anything else with us!

So, we drove back home to get some food, fill the camper with water for showers, and get set up to stay next to the hospital for as long as necessary.

When we got home, a flood of emotions hit us.

The footprints of Buddy’s spirit were all over the house and in every corner of the yard.

He is as important in our little family of three as the two of us are, and the thought that we might lose him forever suddenly hit us full force.

I thought about the sad couple we had seen leaving the animal hospital the previous morning when we’d first pulled up. They were carrying a collar and a leash but no dog, and they were crying.

I kept trying to push those kinds of thoughts out of my mind as best I could so I could keep functioning and gather what we needed from the fridge and pantry, but Mark was overcome.

Puppy in the water

Buddy has a favorite place to rest in each room and all the blankets and cuddly spots were still just as he’d left them.

His favorite toys were in the living room, and his water bowl was on the floor where it had been since before this nightmare struck.

His favorite kibble was in the pantry, his jackets and dog brush were in their drawer, and his favorite homemade chicken soup that I’d just cooked the day before disaster struck was still in the fridge, untouched.

There was no way we could come home from the hospital after this with just his leash and harness.

We finally got back to the hospital with the fully stocked camper, including the fresh chicken soup, around 9 in the morning and when we went in the hospital door we were greeted with wonderful smiles.

“He’s doing well!”

We breathed a massive sigh of relief.

We went in to see him and were astonished that his eyes were open.

Puppy relaxing

The team had begun reducing the coma-inducing meds (a 12 hour process), and he was out of the deepest stages of unconsciousness, although he was not fully conscious yet.

To everyone’s astonishment, the seizures hadn’t resumed.

We hugged him and felt a huge wave of happiness wash the stress away as we excitedly talked to him and fought back tears.

Puppy portrait, resting

Thankfully, the tube going to his lungs had been removed, so his tongue was now back in his mouth.

But a tiny pair of oxygen tubes now went around his head to his nostrils and he was still wired up with the automated blood pressure cuff, the IV, the urine catheter and other plugins.

The lead vet tech, Angela, was at his side now, and it turned out she was the mother of the young vet tech Emma who’d cared for him the previous afternoon.

Angela was overjoyed to see Buddy’s incredible recovery so far, but I noticed her eyes were red-rimmed and she looked tired. She said she hadn’t slept much the night before because she had been worrying about Buddy. She’d stayed on duty at the hospital for 4 extra hours the previous evening to make sure Buddy was receiving the best care possible before she went home.

She had just lost her own beloved, healthy six year old dog a month earlier to an unexpected and sudden 48 hour battle with meningitis. She knew our pain and fear too well.

She said when she woke up this morning, the first thing she did was get online to check on Buddy’s condition. She was so relieved that he was still alive.

Fast puppy in the snow

As we chatted, things began to get busy in the ER again. More sick and injured animals began to arrive.

When two vet techs ran past us pushing a gurney at full speed into the waiting room discussing lacerations and leg injuries as they ran, we knew it was time for us to go back to the camper.

We’d only been in the camper for an hour or so when we heard a knock on the door. It was the early shift veterinarian, Dr. Jackson, and she had the biggest grin on her face. “He’s fully awake!”

We lept out of the camper and ran into the triage room, and there was Buddy relaxing on the operating table looking at us.

His eyes were fully open, his head was erect, and his ears were as perky and as expressive as ever.

We melted on the spot and wrapped our arms around him in huge hugs and kisses.

Dog in the grass

“It’s so wonderful to have you back,” we kept saying into his fur as we hugged him. “Thank you, God!”

His eyes moved slowly around the room as he watched the action going on and we realized he hadn’t lost his vision.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang at the other end of the room and he turned his head to look in that direction. Oh my, he could hear!

I closed my eyes and kept repeating, “thank you thank you thank you” deep in my heart.

Dr. Frost was on duty again and she came over with a radiant smile on her face. Then I realized that everyone in the ER was grinning from ear to ear and was over-the-top happy for us.

Jumping and running puppy

After this first rush of joy I looked down on the ground and noticed that Buddy’s urine bag was a dark shade of brown, almost black.

I didn’t want to think about what that might mean, but Angela explained it was probably due to dead muscle cells being flushed out of his body. Apparently, when you have violent seizures it is extremely hard on the body and your muscle tissue breaks down rapidly.

Not only had he had the grand mal seizure — where his entire body was convulsing — but the seizures had gone on for a long time. They had started when we were in the car at the park and his muzzle had started shaking uncontrollably.

Angela also explained that Buddy had developed pneumonia in his lungs and they were monitoring that.

We went back to the camper for another hour or so and then returned for another visit. Activity in the triage room had surged again, so we couldn’t see Buddy that time, but a few hours later we were allowed in.

He looked up at us from the operating table with the sweetest expression on his face.

Adorable puppy

We brought him a small bowl of my fresh chicken soup, and once we got the okay, we held it out and he lapped it up with gusto. He was hungry!

Please, sir, may I have some more?

We were thrilled to see that he could now push himself up on his front legs but we noticed that his back legs weren’t working at all.

We were also disturbed that his urine bag was still the color of espresso, so we refocused our prayers on restoring all the strength and agility he’d always had in his hind legs and healing all of his organs inside.

Leaping in the grass

A few hours later we went in for another visit and before we entered the triage room, the receptionist, Anne, greeted us saying, “Did you know that an anonymous person paid $100 towards your bill?”

We were shocked.

It turned out that a couple had seen us at our lowest moments the day before, and they’d asked if they could contribute towards our vet bill anonymously. We were blown away by their unexpected kindness.

Puppy dog checks out a trailer in Utah

Then she told us that Buddy had graduated from being on the operating table to resting in a kennel on the floor.

When he saw us come around the corner to his kennel, he gave the tiniest thump of the tip of his tail on the floor.

He still couldn’t get up on his hind legs, but we hung onto the hope that his mini tail wag meant his hind end was healing and he would soon be able to stand up on all fours once again.

After nuzzling and talking to him for a while and giving him a few more slurps of chicken soup, we each stripped off a piece of clothing that had our scent on it and left it in his kennel with him and then we ran out to the camper and got a squeaky toy he’d had since he was a puppy.

He snuggled up in the shirts and put a paw over his lamb chop toy and closed his eyes as we tip-toed out of the room to let him sleep.

With his favorite toy lambchop

Out in the parking lot we noticed a mobile food van had parked next to our camper.

The owners of the hospital had hired the food truck to provide a free lunch and dinner to the hospital staff in appreciation of all their hard work over the last few months.

People in scrubs lined up at the food truck window all afternoon.

Puppy dog at the drive-through window

During a lull at the window, we started chatting with the husband and wife team that run the truck. Their little dog was lying patiently under a tree nearby.

In a back corner of the truck we’d noticed the words “We believe” painted next to a small cross.

We told them Buddy’s story, of the prayers, the visualizations and the stunningly deep conviction we’d both had that he would recover.

After exchanging some emotional hugs, they told us how their little pup had barely survived a pit bull attack a few months earlier. The good hospital staff at this very hospital had patched him back together again.

They insisted on giving us a free meal, and we felt truly jubilant as we sat down to eat. It was as if the world around us were glowing.

Buddy at sunset

Late that afternoon we came in to find Buddy happily sitting up and looking around the room from inside his kennel.

After another small serving of my chicken soup, we picked him up and cuddled him for a while and then set him down on the floor to see if he could stand.

He stood stock still on all four paws, without collapsing, and a collective sigh of relief and excitement swept the room. He took a few steps and cautiously wagged his tail. Hallelujah!

Several people stopped what they were doing to come over and talk to him, scratch his ears and kiss his forehead and congratulate him.

Puppy in Wyoming

After holding him and talking to him for a while, we put him back in the kennel and closed the wire door.

He put his paw up on the grate in the door and looked at us pleadingly as we left the room. Our hearts melted as we promised him we’d be back soon.

After the evening shift change of doctors and nurses was completed, we went into the hospital again and asked if we could take Buddy for a short walk. It felt so good to put his little harness on him and get him set for a brief outing.

We walked with him into the waiting room and then he led us outside.

He made his way behind a small bush to do his business. This was the first time he’d gone in two days. His poop was rock sold black charcoal. Literally, it was rock.

He sniffed around for a few minutes but then turned around and headed right back to the hospital door and waited for us to open it.

Then he led us over to the door of the triage room, and once inside the room, he led us over to his kennel.

He was ready for a nap, and this was where he planned to take it.

Beautiful pup

If that isn’t a testament to he quality of care he was receiving, I don’t know what could be. I’ve never known an animal that wanted to go into the vet’s office and that tugged on his leash to pull you in that direction!

But he was happy in his kennel and it was home to him for now and we knew he was in great hands.

We took off his harness and watched him get wired back up to the IV and catheters for another dose of meds.

Only days later did we realize that by visiting him and feeding him our own homemade soup, we were throwing their carefully timed medication and feeding schedule for a loop!

Dog in the snow

As we settled into bed in the camper that night, we felt awestruck and overwhelmed by the day’s events.

Without a doubt, we had just witnessed a miracle.

I had prayed that God’s hand would reach down and cradle Buddy to give him strength and help him recover, and it had happened.

However, there was still a long way to go.

The veterinary staff was worried about the condition of his liver and the coffee color of his urine, not to mention the pneumonia that still infected his lungs.

But he had come out of the coma without any visible brain damage and he was still the same sweet little personality he had always been.

Puppy under a rainbow

We visited again briefly around around midnight. We had to ring the doorbell to get in, but patients are admitted all night long and the nighttime staff was wide awake and ready for action. At the moment, though, things were quiet, and we had a chance to talk to the crew a little. What a dedicated group they are!

We also noticed the sign on Buddy’s kennel: “Severe toxicity (bromethalin).”

Next to that, the pre-printed letters CPR were circled and the letters DNR were crossed out.

A shudder went down my spine as I thought, “DNR – Do Not Resuscitate.” I remembered answering Dr. Frost’s question about whether they should administer CPR if Buddy needed it. It hadn’t dawned on me, though, that it was an either/or question and that the alternative to CPR was DNR.

Puppy on a bridge

We managed to sleep deeply for a few hours for the first time in two days, and at the crack of dawn we lept out of bed to see Buddy. He was in fine spirits.

“We’ve all been taking turns cuddling him,” one of the nurses told me. It showed.

He was as happy and well adjusted as is possible for being sick in a kennel in the middle of an emergency room, attached to a urine bag and an IV bag, and surrounded by antiseptic smells and a menagerie of dogs and cats in various stages of recovery.

Dog on the beach at Lake Powell Arizona

A few hours later we took Buddy outside for a longer walk.

We meandered down sidewalks and he sniffed the bushes and left messages for other dogs.

We realized it was such a privilege to be able to do this simple activity with our beloved pup.

He acted as though nothing had ever happened, yet we’d just had our lives turned upside down!

He was tired after about 20 minutes of walking and was happy to get back to his kennel for some rest.

Puppy at an RV window

By noontime, his urine bag began to be more yellow and less brown. Dr. Jackson was on duty, and she suddenly announced that he could be released from the hospital later that afternoon. We wanted to leap for joy!

But we weren’t about to rush home. We planned to stay in the parking lot for an extra 24 hours so we could monitor him and be right at the hospital if he suddenly took a turn for the worse.

Later that morning we took him into the truck camper for an hour of quiet togetherness.

He was excited to be in the camper and he made himself at home on the bed as he always does, master and commander of our tiny rolling home from his perch among the pillows in the middle of the bed.

Puppy resting in a truck camper

We all took a nap together, utterly elated to be able to do that as a little family once again.

At long last the hour came that Buddy’s catheter and other plugins were removed and he was completely disconnected from everything. He was a free dog now and was ready to go home.

Out in the waiting room I held him in my lap as a vet tech reviewed the four pages of single spaced typed documents that outlined the various treatments he had received.

He’d been administered well over a dozen different medications in varying doses throughout the day and night for three days.

I gulped when I realized he was being discharged into our care while still on 10 different medications!

Puppy dog on the trail by a lake

The vet tech explained each medication, what it was for, how much to give, the frequency, the duration, and whether it went with food or not.

I was dizzy listening and had her repeat several things that mystified me the first time around.

“And make sure he gets lots of rest,” she said. “He needs to be a Couch Potato,” she said firmly.

His total bill came to $12,643.

On a hike in Utah

Mark’s very kind and loving sister who couldn’t afford to do so had secretly called the hospital and paid $1,000 of our bill.

We hadn’t even talked to her or cried with her, but she had been riding the terrifying roller coaster ride with us in spirit throughout the ordeal as Mark’s daughter shared Buddy’s updates on Facebook.

The kindness from everyone was overwhelming, and we pondered it all as we quietly took walks together, read and rested together in and out of the truck camper next to the hospital over the next 24 hours.

At last, we felt confident that Buddy was going to be okay and we went into the hospital one final time to say goodbye.

We were astonished when we went inside to see the whole staff casually chatting with each other. For the first time in three days there were no crisis cases on the operating table or lines of animals and people out in the waiting room.

Every member of the staff took a moment to say goodbye to Buddy and to reiterate to us how surprised and happy they were that he’d survived.

Puppy at Bryce

The only person busy with a patient was Dr. Frost, so we wandered outside to wait until she was free.

Suddenly she came running out of the hospital, arms flung wide for hugs, a huge smile on her face.

“In 31 years of practice, I never thought I would learn anything new,” she said to us. “But I learned a few things from Buddy. His case was the most rewarding case of my career.”

We were speechless. We had all learned a few things!

Puppy dog in the wildflowers

When we first met Dr. Frost at the beginning, she’d told us she’d just finished a segment of Continuing Education on toxicology, “So I’m up to date on all the latest toxins.”

Throughout the ordeal she’d been consulting with toxicology experts that were advising her on strategies and treatments. I had assumed the experts were located downtown, but as we stood outside under the trees she told us she’d been speaking with the nation’s top toxicologists in two distant states!

She bent down to talk to Buddy and he looked up at her intently. “Now, I want you live to be 20, Buddy, and I don’t I want to see you in the ER again!”

She wiped away tears as she hugged him and said goodbye.

Elegant dog

When we got home we felt like we were floating on clouds.

Everything was exactly as we’d left it, but we’d made a huge turn in our lives.

“Now, where was I?” I joked when I finally sat down. Who knows what we had been doing or what had been the pressing issues of the day before all this. Our lives had been transformed.

As we lay in bed in the dark that first night home, we talked about the inner changes we had both decided to make. Neither of us had known that the other had made new plans with new intentions, but as we lay cloaked in darkness, we poured our hearts out to each other.

Puppy in glowing light

At the height of the drama, when I was praying for, commanding and visualizing Buddy’s miraculous recovery, I realized that I knew almost nothing about the Bible…or Jesus, for that matter.

I didn’t know Moses from Abraham or Isaiah, and the closest I’d gotten to the New Testament was, well, maybe, some music group called Peter, Paul and Mary.

However, as Buddy lay comatose in the ICU and I rode those powerful surges of emotion, I realized it was high time for me to find out what lay in the pages of that book.

It was also time for me to accept Jesus, something I’d never been interested in before.

Since those dark days last October, my thirst for knowledge and understanding of the Bible and divine healing has been unstoppable, and I keep coming back for more and more and more.

Buddy on a rock

We knew that Buddy’s sight and hearing had escaped unscathed, but it was our nightly game of hide-and-seek that confirmed his sense of smell was still 100% too.

Every night after dinner I grab a handful of treats, let Buddy sniff them, and then ask him to stay in the kitchen while I hide them all around the house.

Once they’re all hidden I tell him to Come, and he starts sniffing high and low to find each treat.

He absolutely loves this game, and if I forget it’s time to play it, he’ll start sniffing along the baseboards and in the corners as a pantomime to show me that it’s time for our game.

Our first night home we started playing and I was really relieved that he remembered how to Stay and how to Come (as well as to Shake, do Other Paw, go Down and Crawl). Better still, even with the lights off, he found every treat in every room, his little nose twitching excitedly the whole time.

Puppy dog playing

As I mentioned, Buddy was on 10 different medications when he got home, each with its own schedule and dosing, some requiring an empty stomach and some taken only with food.

It took me almost an hour to sort them all out and come up with a schedule that would work for us all. From 5:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. he got either a drug or a meal every hour for the first week.

The hospital sent us home with two cans of wet dog food that was ideal for hiding pills. Buddy loved that food, and Mark was very good at getting the pills-wrapped-in-food to the back of his throat so they’d go down.

Playing puppy tug

One of the meds was administered by spraying something in his throat that made Buddy sneeze, and the liver support pill was huge and required an empty stomach — no food for an hour before or after.

Mark had to shove that thing way way back behind Buddy’s teeth to get it to go down.

Buddy became adept at making it look like he’d swallowed the pill and then quietly spitting it out.

Soon, Liver Pill Time became a game between Buddy and Mark as the pill invariably wound up in his fur or on the floor.

But all the pills eventually went down and Mark got some belly laughs in the process and I suspect Buddy got some sly chuckles out of it too.

Fast puppy

About 10 days after he came home, we took Buddy to his regular veterinarian as requested by the hospital.

The kindly country doctor walked into the exam room holding a thick stack of doctor-to-doctor documents he’d received from the hospital about Buddy’s case. It looked like a book.

“This is incredible!” he said, waving the papers.

“We witnessed a true miracle from God,” I smiled.

“Yes, you did!”

He checked Buddy’s vitals and everything looked good. Most important, his lungs sounded clear. They hadn’t been clear when he left the hospital, but by now he’d finished the course of antibiotics for pneumonia and his lungs were well on the way back to full health.

Big puppy stretch

The veterinarian told us that his liver recovery was the final hurdle.

His liver had processed not only a lethal dose of poison but a boatload of medications round the clock for 10 days.

He held up the papers from the hospital and showed us that when he was discharged, the key indicator for his liver health was a number that should be under 100. It had been 1,500 at the hospital.

After drawing some blood, he called us the next day to let us know that the number was now down to 350. Phew!

He felt Buddy’s liver would be 100% healthy within a few months.

Taking a portrait shot of a puppy

Four months have now passed since all that drama, and we have cherished every minute we have with Buddy.

He was a well cared for dog before, but now we value his presence in our lives infinitely more.

It took him a while to get his stamina back. Even though he was perky and ready to run and chase right away, he would tire quickly and slink off to take a nap.

The first time we walked one of his favorite 1.5 mile loops, he faded in the last half mile, tongue lolling and head and tail down, so we carried him the rest of the way.

Two weeks later we did the same trail and he leaped and sprinted right to the end.

Dog running down a dirt road in the Utah red rocks

A few weeks after that he was able to trot a more challenging 4 mile hike, and a month later, after finishing that 4 mile hike, he wanted to do a little bit more before going home.

Looking at him now, you’d never guess what he went through.

I used to say thank you every night for Buddy coming into our lives. Now I give additional thanks for our lives being transformed and for us each being given a second chance and a new beginning.

Baby pic of a puppy

A WORD ABOUT RAT POISON

We learned some scary things about common rat poisons in all this that might be helpful to you if you own a pet or live with toddlers.

In the old days, rodent control manufacturers used a poison that had an antidote. It was an anticoagulant that made the rodent bleed to death. So, if a dog or cat ate the poison, a simple injection of high dose Vitamin K would thicken their blood and they would recover.

The poison used nowadays, bromethalin, has no antidote. It causes a horrifying death by brain swelling and seizure that occurs anywhere from 4 and 48 hours after ingestion. All the veterinary staff at the hospital and at our local veterinary office agreed that it should never have been allowed to be on the market.

But it’s there on store shelves everywhere.

Tomcat Rat and Mouse Poison

The insidious thing about rat poison is that it is designed to smell delicious and taste truly yummy.

It is bait, after all.

I’d always naively assumed that “poison” is something distasteful with a nasty chemical odor that you would recognize as poisonous and not want to eat. But it sure smelled good to me when I sniffed the piece Buddy had left intact on the patio.

After we got home from the hospital, Buddy went out to the patio and began sniffing around where he’d left the poison bricks. You could almost see him thinking, “Where did my tasty dog treats go?”

The packaging touts that the product is “kid resistant” and says to use it only indoors.

Ironically, we saw identical rat poison boxes in the bushes next to several buildings in the huge medical complex around the animal hospital.

In addition to being aromatic and flavorful, the poison bricks aren’t biodegradable. Once the poison is out there on the ground somewhere, it will be just as lethal 10 years from now as it is today.

I shudder to think how many toddlers, pets and wild animals have died from this stuff.

Even worse, the veterinarian said sometimes angry people put it out deliberately to kill their neighbor’s annoying animals.

Dog playing in the snow in utah

A WORD ABOUT OTHER POISONS

As we chatted with the hospital staff about all the different ways dogs can be poisoned, they told us one shocking story after another of unexpected poisonings they have treated.

They’ve seen dogs die of poisoning from grapes, from chocolate, from the fake sweetener Xylitol (some people cook with it and then share the dessert with their pup) and from lapping up antifreeze that dripped on the ground (it tastes sweet).

The heartbreak these hardworking doctors and nurses have seen in their careers is mind-boggling. I don’t know how they keep going, but they said a case like Buddy’s will keep them floating on Cloud 9 for a long time.

As for unusual pet poisons, there are plenty of lists available of things that are poisonous to our pets that are not poisonous to us, and some things, like those above, are very surprising.

Best buds on recliners in the fifth wheel

DIVINE GUIDANCE and NOT SO COINCIDENTAL COINCIDENCES

In my mind, this whole event unfolded in a very unusual way, as if the stage were being set deliberately.

  • I am still astonished that I saw the uneaten brick on Buddy’s mat. I have no idea why I went out on the patio at that moment. I wouldn’t have normally been out there at that time of day and I had no reason that I can remember for going out there just then. If I hadn’t realized that Buddy had eaten the poison when I did, we never would have made it to the hospital in time.
  • Equally surprising is that the poison had been placed 20 yards away on the other side of the house, yet for some reason, Buddy decided to carry three bricks around to the back patio rather than eating them where he found them. After moving them, he ate one in its entirety, ate a quarter of another and left the third one fully intact. He couldn’t have carried all three of them in his mouth at once, however. He must have gone back for each one individually which is highly unusual behavior and shows just how enticing he found them to be.
  • If we had driven all the way home instead of taking a 15 minute break at the park near the hospital where we were able to observe his increasingly weird behavior up close, we wouldn’t have noticed the beginning of his seizures until we got home and, when every second counted, we would have had a full hour’s drive to get back to the hospital.
  • By calling our local veterinarian first rather than doing as the Tomcat poison center had recommended and taking him straight to the animal hospital, and by having a very knowledgeable person answer the phone there, we were given important instructions for how to induce vomiting as well as getting another round of urgent advice to go to the animal hospital ASAP so he would be in the care of the right people with all the necessary equipment.
  • I had no idea that spraying hydrogen peroxide in the mouth would induce vomiting. How fortunate that we had some on hand! Even though only some phlegm came up, it was better than nothing, and the green tinge to it told us he’d definitely ingested the missing green poison block, something we weren’t 100% sure of until we saw the phlegm.
  • If we hadn’t recently bought a truck camper, we couldn’t have stayed right around the corner from the hospital door for easy midnight visits for three nights. Sure, there are motels in the area, but it was so convenient to be able to walk in at any time of day or night without driving anywhere. The fifth wheel might have worked, but we would have had to park in a distant parking lot where it would fit, and we might not have gotten permission to do so.
  • Likewise, what a blessing it was that the hospital staff allowed us to stay in the parking lot and also allowed us into the emergency room to see and encourage Buddy (and even feed him our chicken soup) so many times.
  • I bake a chicken about once a week and make broth from the bones. Buddy gets most of it throughout the week with chicken meat scraps thrown in. Ironically, I had just made a fresh batch the night before all this happened. The hospital has top quality commercial pet foods, of course, and they give recovering animals real meats too, but how wonderful it was to be able to feed him something we knew he loved to eat, that was nutritious, and that was a reminder of our simple home life. It was as therapeutic for us to feed him as it was for him to eat.
  • We pay off our credit card each month and the payment had just cleared the day we went to the hospital. What good fortune that we could put such an enormous bill on the card in one fell swoop without exceeding our credit limit and scrambling for another solution. Dr. Frost told us that nine out of ten pet owners would have put their pet down — an expensive procedure in itself — because they couldn’t justify or afford the cost given a zero percent chance of recovery.

In many ways, as tragic as this event could have been, the way it unfolded included many extraoridinary blessings that nudged us towards a most beautiful outcome.

A friend of mine suggested these not-so-coincidental coincidences were the “synchronicity of divine intervention” and I added that they constituted “guided movement towards a more fulfilling end.” Whatever name we give it, there’s no doubt in my mind that we were the recipients of divine intervention.

If you have a loved one who is in need of healing, wether a pet or a person, I hope that you carry our miracle with you and feel encouraged to pray for them, not by begging or pleading or bargaining with God, but by commanding it is done, visualizing the recovery with conviction and believing in your soul that it is being accomplished as a demonstration of a deeper truth.

Puppy dog on a dirt road at dawn

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Truck Camper and Small RV Storage Tips!

We’ve been taking our new-to-us truck camper on short jaunts this summer. These “shakedown” cruises are helping us figure out the ins and outs of traveling in a truly tiny home, and we’ve learned a lot about living large in a very small space.

In the process, we’ve come up with some storage ideas that we’d like to share.

Truck Camper and Small RV Storage Tips

Northwood Manufacturing did a great job with creating large storage spaces throughout our 2005 Arctic Fox 860 camper. There is a full height closet, two shirt closets, huge bins on either side of the bed that can hold lots of clothes and good sized storage spaces under the dinette seats, not to mention several cabinets and a sliding pantry.

However, creating storage spaces for small things like keys, glasses, flashlights, pocket knifes, pens, pads, small tools, etc., are projects they leave up to us RVers. And it’s been fun to get creative!

The first thing we noticed on our maiden voyage was that all our small stuff kept ending up in a huge pile on top of the dinette table. Nothing makes a small space feel really cluttered than having a single horizontal space piled high with stuff.

So, we mounted a few different types of storage spaces for small items on the walls.

As a reminder of what our camper looks like inside, here are pics of the interior so you can see the bigger picture of where each storage item wound up.

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper kitchen

The kitchen needed a few extra goodies to increase the storage sapce

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The dinette also got some simple upgrades to keep the dining table clutter-free.

For starters, we put a spice rack on the wall next to the range hood right below the microwave’s swinging door but high enough to be out of the heat of the flames on the range. This is handy for all those things I like to have “right there” for cooking.

Spice rack on RV camper wall

A spice rack near the range makes cooking essentials easy to reach.

There is very little counter space, and I found that a second spice rack under the window helped get things like dish soap up off the counter so other things could be tucked underneath as needed.

The towel rack was already in place, whether from the manufacturer or the previous owner, I don’t know. I added another towel rack for a dish cloth.

Spice rack on RV camper kitchen wall

Wire spice racks proved useful in the kitchen and elsewhere! A towel rack for the dish cloth helps it dry fast and keeps it off the faucet.

We like bananas and when we lived in our fifth wheel we had a banana hook for hanging banana bunches that we used a lot. So, we put a ceiling hook (also called a “swag hook” for hanging plants) in between the range hood and the kitchen light. It is screwed directly into the bottom of the cabinet. We may put a second one on the other side of the light too. In that position it would be further from the heat from the range burners.

We’ve found in both the fiver and the truck camper that the bananas actually stay on the hook while we’re in transit, even on bumpy dirt roads, and this helps keep them from bruising as we move from place to place.

Truck camper storage upgrades banana hook

Bananas bruise so easily we like to hang them up on a ceiling hook!

Although we rarely used a toaster in our fifth wheel, we’ve been enjoying having one in our sticks-and-bricks life and we wanted to have one in this camper too. Toasters and other small kitchen appliances are bulky and awkward, and I almost gave up on finding a home for it.

However, there’s a large cabinet over the sink that has just one shelf in it, and if I could get a second shelf in there it would be perfect for the toaster. After tossing a few ideas around for installing a shelf in that cabinet, I found a standalone shelf unit that fits perfectly. The dishware is stored underneath and the toaster fits on top. I take the toaster down and put it in the sink when we travel, but while we’re camping it is wonderful to store it out of the way and be able access it easily when we want to use it.

Standalone shelf for kitchen cabinet in truck camper

The big kitchen cabinet needed a second shelf. Building one in would be a good idea too, but I like this standalone shelf unit.

We’ve always had key hooks over our entry door, so we put two sets of four hooks over the door.

Key hooks on RV camper wall

Our many keys and glasses all need a home of their own and these key hooks work well.

After a few trips, we realized that these 8 hooks weren’t enough. Between the keys to the camper, the truck and the RZR plus multiple pairs of sunglasses (light ones and dark ones), multiple pairs of reading glasses (strong and weak) and various hats, we decided to add two more strips of 7 hooks each going right across the wall so there would be plenty of room for all those things.

There is almost no space between this rear wall of the camper and the slide-out wall as it slides in and out. So, all the things on the hooks have to be put elsewhere when we travel, but the hooks themselves fit just fine and it sure is convenient while we’re camping to have a home for all those items.

Key hooks inside RV camper

A long row of key hooks gives us lots of hanging options, and although we have to remove the items to move the slide-out, the strips of hooks themselves don’t interfere with the slide-out movement.

One of our earliest outings was a trip to visit our friends Ann and Phil who were camping nearby in the woods.

Phil and Ann have been living in RVs for over three decades and are a wealth of knowledge. They travel in both a “winter home” that is a beautifully appointed Alpenlite fifth wheel and a “summer home” which is a smaller, really well laid out and more maneuverable Class C. Phil spent his working years as diesel mechanic and mobile RV mechanic and he has an incredible shop built onto the back of his Freightliner that is a sight to behold. He and Ann ran an RV park for many years, and Ann is full of great ideas for ways to make life in an RV comfy and cozy.

During our visit they had two great suggestions for us. The first was to use a product called Alien Tape to mount lighter things on the walls of the RV. This is a double sided tape that has a stronger stickiness than any tape we’ve seen before, and it doesn’t ruin the walls when you remove it.

We used this tape to mount the key hooks and it was a snap. Later, when we mounted a clock and then decided we didn’t like the location, all it took was a good strong twist and the Alien Tape came off of the wall and also came off the clock and didn’t leave a mark or a stain behind.

Key hooks and Alien Tape for mountain inside RV camper

Alien Tape makes it a cinch to hang things on the walls — and remove them too!

We also wanted a bigger storage area for things like sunscreen, moisturizer, bug spray, wallets, flashlights, etc., right by the door. I found two cloth hanging baskets that fit perfectly in the space next to the bathroom sliding door — his and hers!

Hanging wall storage baskets on walls inside RV

These hanging baskets are good for slightly bigger items including wallets, moisturizer, sunscreen and flashlights that we want by the door.

You can also see the side-view of these baskets in the previous photos of the keyhooks.

The tricky thing with finding places to mount mini-shelves and storage areas on the walls is that we didn’t want to bump into them as we moved about and we didn’t want them to obstruct the movement of the slide-out as it went in and out.

The bare walls in the dinette were begging to be useful. Those walls aren’t near the slide-out movement, but we did have to worry about banging our heads on anything we put there if we leaned back in our seats.

Empty wall in RV dinette

This wall could definitely help increase our storage.

Empty wall inside RV truck camper dinette

So could this one!

They turned out to be the perfect places for more spice racks to hold things like our two-way radios, current book we’re reading, iPad, etc

We put one on each wall. Both were mounted high enough so if we threw our heads back they wouldn’t hit the racks.

Spice rack for storage in RV truck camper dinette

The spice rack can hold pocket knives, a book or two, an iPad and other goodes.

Spice rack doubles as a shelf for extra storage in a truck camper

The movement of the slide-out wouldn’t impact this space at all but we did have to place the spice rack high enough so we wouldn’t hit our heads on it if we leaned back in our seats.

We both enjoy reading magazines, especially if we’re camping in a place with no internet (which happened quite a bit this summer!).

There is a big open wall space next to the refrigerator that could definitely hold something. However, the slide-out comes in along this wall, so there is only about an inch of depth, just enough for a magazine or very thin book but not enough for a solid plastic wall filing system.

I found a fabric magazine rack designed to hold manila folders for school teachers, and it works perfectly. I put a manila folder in each pocket to keep the pockets from sagging. Mark used extra screws and washers on either side to hold the whole thing flat against the wall.

Hanging wall magazine storage in RV truck camper

We like to read magazines and this fabric magazine rack is nearly flush to the wall which makes it ideal for avoiding the slide-out wall as it moves in and out. It holds plenty of magazines!

We’ve always had a big struggle with shoe storage. We like to have a variety of shoes — a pair of running shoes, hiking boots, slippers and slip-on shoes/sandals for each of us — so the pile of footwear by the door is huge no matter where we live.

There is a tiny space between the step in front of the dinette and the back wall of the camper where I squeezed in a single tier shoe rack.

This shoe rack comes unassembled as a bunch of rods and shelf supports with holes in them for the rods. The smallest model I could find was a five tier unit, so I took the rods and shelf supports for just one level for the camper and built a separate four tier unit to use in our home.

Shoe rack inside RV truck camper doorway

Our shoe chaos was solved with one tier of a multi-tier shoe rack.

It doesn’t hold absolutely all our footwear, but the thin and flexible slippers and slip-ons can be shoved behind the dinette seat. The main thing was to get the clunky boots and shoes out of the way so we aren’t tripping over them each time we go in and out of the camper.

Shoe rack inside truck camper RV

Now the big clunky shoes and boots are out of the way.

There is just one drawer in the whole camper, right next to the range, and it is so narrow it has just a single divider inside. I use it for silverware on one side and cooking utensils on the other. I hadn’t really thought about how to get more drawers into the camper, but our friend Ann showed us an absolutely fabulous product that she is using in her Class C to hold her silverware. It is an “Under desk drawer.”

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

The Under desk drawer (or “add-a-drawer”) is a single unit that gets hung under the desk or table with double-sticky tape, Alien Tape or screws.

The whole sliding mechanism of the drawer is built into one unit, and you mount the drawer under the table using either the stick-on tabs they provide or Alien Tape (or screws if you wish). I bought two drawers that fit perfectly on either side of our dinette table — his and hers again! Surprisingly, they are shallow enough that our knees don’t hit when we slide on and off the settees getting in and out of the dinette.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

Two fit side by side just right and our knees don’t hit them!

Each drawer comes with a small sliding compartment so you can separate smaller and larger items if you wish (or you can remove it). These drawers are great for small tools and hardware as well as pads, pens, scissors and other office goodies.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

These can be used for paper, pens and other office items or for small tools and hardware or even for silverware or cooking utensils.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

I just love these — thank you, Annie, for your wonderful tip!

Well, that’s it for now. If you’ve got a small RV like ours, I hope these tips help you make the most of your space, and if you’ve got other cool space saving ideas please share them in the comments below!

Oh goodness, there’s Buddy under the covers. He took a nap throughout this whole post!

Puppy sleeps happily in truck camper RV bed

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After I took this pic, he opened one eye and said, “If you aren’t going to talk about Lizard Hunting or Rabbit Chasing then I’ll just keep snoozing under the covers.”

Happy campers

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More tips and anecdotes from our Life On The Road and At Sea:

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper – Grand Tour!

After 13 years of living on the road, first in a 2007 27′ Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer and then in a 2007 36′ Hitchhiker 34.5 RLTG fifth wheel, we switched gears and moved back into a sticks-and-bricks home.

But we didn’t want to give up the thrill of the open road completely! Since we still owned our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually pickup truck, we decided a truck camper would do the trick for shorter duration adventures.

A 2005 Arctic Fox truck camper turned up on Craigslist in excellent condition, garage kept and barely used. Counting our lucky stars, we took the plunge, bought it, and have been having fun setting it up and taking it on a few short trips.

Here’s a quickie tour of the camper that will be our new little home on wheels.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

Our new little buggy!

The Arctic Fox 860 has one slideout on the passenger side and is on the smaller size for a long bed truck camper. It is designed to be carried by a single rear wheel pickup truck so it is an easy load for our dually.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

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One of our goals was to be able to travel with our Polaris RZR in tow. We had triple towed the RZR on a small flat bed trailer behind our fifth wheel for two years. That worked, but it was cumbersome.

Having the RZR right behind the truck now rather than 40′ behind us makes it a lot easier to bring the RZR along on our travels. One thing that Mark has found, though, is that because our utility trailer is only 5′ wide, he can’t see it in the rear view mirrors when he’s driving unless he makes a very sharp turn. This makes it a bit tricky to back up!

Also, because our utility trailer is only 10′ long, it holds our Polaris 900 series UTV but can’t carry our bikes at the same time. I have a secret wish for a larger utility trailer which might solve both problems… we’ll see!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

We can tow the RZR easily with this new rig.

The Arctic Fox 860 does not extend beyond the back of the truck. Many larger truck campers hang out a foot or two beyond the back bumper of the truck. With those campers you need a hitch extension to tow anything behind. With this model, the RZR trailer hitches directly to the hitch receiver on the truck without an extension.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper towing Polaris RZR 900 XC

The camper doesn’t hang far off the back of the truck, so the RZR can be hitched directly to the ball mount in the truck’s hitch receiver.

FLOOR PLAN

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper Floor Plan

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper floor plan

CAPACITIES

Here are the tank and HVAC capacities for the Arctic Fox 860:

Fresh Water: 46 gallons, including 6 gal. hot water heater
Gray Water: 25 gallons
Black Water: 25 gallons
Propane: 14 gallons (60 lbs.)

Furnace: 20k BTU
Air Conditioner: 11k BTU

INTERIOR

Oh look, there’s Mark at the door. Let’s head inside!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

Come on in!

The interior is open and bright.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The slideout (right side of the pic) gives the interior an open feeling.

The dinette is on the passenger side as you walk in and it’s very comfortable for two. Since there are no recliners or sofa, we both like to turn sideways on the benches, lean against a cushion behind us and stretch out our legs!

The louvered window makes it possible to keep the window open even when it drizzles.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The dinette is comfortable and the window brings in lots of light.

The three-way 6 cubic foot refrigerator can run on 12 volt DC electricity, 110 volt AC or propane. The fridge is the same size as the one in our Lynx travel trailer that we lived in during our first year on the road. Our fifth wheel had an 8 cubic foot refrigerator.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The 6 cubic foot refrigerator is a 3-way (12v DC, 110v AC, or LP) .

The bathroom is on your left as you enter, behind a sliding door, and the kitchen is beyond that.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The bathroom and kitchen are on the left (the driver’s side) as you enter.

This camper has two showers, one in the bathroom and one outside. Back in our days of camping in our little popup tent trailer, we made good use of our outdoor shower and got a kick out of bathing in the fresh air (in remote places, of course!). Mark used to love showering on the back of the boat too!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Wet bath (ie., the toilet is your shower companion)

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Wet bath

The kitchen is small but very workable and I’ve found it easy to make good meals in it.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Sliding pantry rack

The cupboards and drawer space are sufficient.

Years ago, for the boat, I bought a stainless steel Magma nesting pots and pans set which has several sizes of pots, pans and tops that all stack into each other along with two removable handles. I’ve always said this high quality, handy dandy compact kit would be ideal for a truck camper, and it is! (I just noticed that Camco and Stansport make similar smaller sets that are much less expensive).

I’ve never used the plastic cutting board sink covers in our previous RVs, but I find I tend to cover one side of the double sink all the time in the camper to get a little more working area when cooking.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Small but functional kitchen

When we took the camper out for our first overnight, we quickly realized we needed a little trash can. Mark improvised and converted a Deschuttes Pale Ale 12-pack box. Ya gotta have a little whimsy in life, so we’re keeping it for now!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Mark’s Deschuttes Pale Ale trash can is working out well!

The bed is in the cabover part of the camper and is a queen size 60″ x 80″ mattress.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The bedroom 🙂

On either side of the bed there are two shirt length hanging closets with mirrored cabinet doors. There’s also an alcove with a window on each side. This makes the bed feel wider than a queen.

Each alcove has lift-up tops to access a deep storage area underneath. We can easily fit two week’s worth of summer clothing with plenty of room to spare.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Each of the window alcoves has a deep storage area beneath cabinet doors that lift up.

At the foot of the bed on the driver’s side there is a TV cabinet with a slide-out tray for the TV.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

There is a large cabinet for a TV at the foot of the bed on the driver’s side (kitchen side).

On the opposite side at the foot of the bed a small door opens to reveal a full-length hanging closet that goes deep below the level of the bed.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Behind this door is a full length hanging locker.

And that’s the tour!

I’m heading out — I think there’s a hammock under the trees waiting for me out there!!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

A sweet little home that fits right into the bed of our truck!

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Old 2004 brochure for the Arctic Fox 860 camper

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Greetings! Long Time No See!!

OMG, it has been a full year since I posted anything here.

In years past, I wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving this website untouched for more than a week, and now 85 weeks have gone by since I published articles here on a regular basis!

Don’t look too closely…I’m afraid cobwebs are growing on the edges of these pages. And I’m sure many of you who signed up for our newsletter during our silence are reading this wondering who we are and why you got an email linking to this post. I hope you’ll stick with us!

We are alive and well

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THANK YOU FOR REACHING OUT TO US

We’d like to say a most heartfelt “thank you” to the many kind people who have reached out to us during the past year to see if we are still “alive and well,” as I last reported. Your concern has touched us deeply and we really appreciated hearing from you.

Pink Rose blossom

Thank you!

The answer is still a resounding “YES!” We are indeed alive and well, and we feel blessed beyond belief to tell you that our life’s journey has taken us down a new and exciting path.

We are doing just fine even though we’ve been in hiding for a while!

As happens when choosing a new direction at any fork in the road, certain doors have closed behind us as we embark on this new trail, but other wonderful new doors are opening wide ahead of us.

WHAT ABOUT COVID?

Like everyone, our jaws dropped clear to the ground as world events began to unfold at the beginning of 2020, and like so many, our jaws are still that way a year and a half later.

We have been extremely fortunate to have spent the intervening time in a corner of the planet that has been relatively untouched by draconian rules. For the most part, life has been quite normal for us in terms of personal restrictions, personal freedoms and personal relations.

Masked Moon

Masked Moon

We haven’t been untouched by the disease, however. Although for the first 10 months we didn’t know anyone who caught the virus, we lost our beloved friend and first RVing mentor in Montana over Christmas.

At 86, he had the unfortunate underlying condition of Valley Fever lung disease when Covid caught up with him, battled him for his life, and eventually overtook him. We miss his good humor and his gentle, noble soul immensely.

Three other friends and family members around the country also got severe cases that ravaged them for two to four weeks or longer. They were all middle aged and in good shape beforehand, and thankfully, all have recovered.

To say that we feel blessed to have been spared so far is an understatement.

A FORK IN THE ROAD

So, what have we been doing, besides not blogging?

In a nutshell, we put down roots, sold the fifth wheel and bought a truck camper for summer travel.

Trail scout

Our little Trail Scout, Buddy, leads us down a new path

This wasn’t quite as surprising a turn of events as it may seem at first glance. A variation on this theme had been in the works for us since the Spring of 2019.

As you may know, we had leased out our previous home during our traveling years.

That home was a fabulous rental, but it was a home we never really liked living in ourselves. We knew when we pulled out of the driveway for the last time and ventured into our new traveling lifestyle in 2007 that we’d never move back in.

Rain clouds at sunset

Change in the air

So, we decided two years ago that it was time to sell the rental and buy a different rental that we liked enough to move into seasonally or perhaps permanently “someday.” Certainly we wouldn’t do that NOW, of course! We’d just lease it out and keep traveling until “that day” came, many years down the road.

We sold our old place a week before the disease hit our shores, and then, unexpectedly, the real estate market took off into the stratosphere in a parabolic upswing that has never let up! Holy smokes!

Suddenly, properties that had been affordable eight months earlier were now out of sight for us. How discouraging!

The last time that had happened, in 2005-07, we had thrown up our hands and jumped into an RV to start traveling full-time!

What kind of hat trick could we pull this time?

Lightning bolt across the sky horizontally

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Eventually, we gave up on the idea of finding anything in the areas where we wanted to buy, and we headed out for our usual summer travels in Cool North Country as the pandemic settled in for what became a very long stay.

At that moment, though, we figured we’d let some time pass and let the world and the real estate market get back to normal.

Columbine flower

This pretty columbine flower is oblivious to the foibles of human economies

Somewhere along the way, we stopped in a small town to do our laundry, looked around and said, “What a cool area!”

This has been one of our favorite sayings over the years as we have traveled from one cool place to the next.

As a lark, we checked for properties online, and lo and behold, there was our dream home staring at us. It had been on the market for two hours.

Puppy running

Weeeeeee!

NEW BEGINNINGS

We knew within a few days of putting it in escrow that we would not be renting it out to anyone. We loved it and we couldn’t imagine anyone living in it but ourselves. Neither of us had ever owned a home that we truly loved. What a heavenly feeling that was!

As with everything great in our lives, the most important detours and unexpected turns have come to us on their own, unplanned and uninvited and yet totally appropriate and natural when they appeared.

We knew that by saying “hello” to this home we would be saying “goodbye” to a lifestyle we had cherished.

We realized that finding our dream home meant the end of our nomadic lifestyle even though the timing was some 10 to 15 years earlier than we’d ever expected it to be. But it just felt right to make this change, dramatic as it was.

Desert oasis on the river

This huge decision involved a lot of inner reflection about our life’s dreams

On the practical side, to go from a furnished and fully equipped 350 square foot fifth wheel to an unfurnished home with gaping empty rooms was quite a shock.

The long long long hot showers were a blissful change from all those years of one gallon showers while boondocking or anchoring out. But, believe me, setting up housekeeping from scratch during a pandemic when absolutely everything from furniture to tools is out of stock is quite an experience.

Pink sunrise

Sunrise brings a new day

When we’d left to begin our full-timing travel adventures, we’d kept our memorabilia, photo albums and bicycles, and nothing else. Those few things had all fit easily into a 5′ x 11′ shed in a friend’s yard.

Now, in our new non-mobile lifestyle, we suddenly needed all those other things that go with living in a stick-built home…except for the simple kitchenware, clothes and tools that we already had in our fifth wheel.

Puppy in snowjacket in the snow

We had the clothes on our backs and the goodies in our trailer, but a stick-built home requires more than that!

After we moved in, a friend peeked in the walk-in closet that held two weeks’ worth of clothes on two shelves — our standard for the last 13 years — and he said with a smirk, “You don’t have many clothes!”

Truth was, we didn’t have much of anything!

Craigslist became our go-to resource for almost everything. Swap meets and yard sales rounded out our shopping destinations. As for anything new, if we could find what we wanted in stock anywhere, which was rare, it was only available in pea green with pink trim, or in a mustard yellow plaid pattern, or something along those lines.

But the thrill of starting a new chapter was deeply fulfilling. It felt so good in the midst of the world losing its mind to be able to gather ours together, shut everything out, and bury ourselves in fun new home projects.

Happy camper sitting by a creek

Finding peace in our own little world away from the world

Where our lives before had been one continuous sightseeing photography tour for 13 straight years (a shopkeeper in Mexico had told us we were “Professional Tourists”), suddenly our hands were dirty all day every day as we painted, nailed and sanded things and dug into the soil to nurture plants and flowers that held the promise of a stationary future.

Lantana flower

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Desert willow flower

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We slept on the floor for weeks waiting for a new mattress to arrive, and we sat in folding camping chairs or on pillows on the floors inside each room for months.

But we didn’t care. We felt like newlyweds just starting out! We were loving life and we were oh, so happy.

Playful puppy in the snow

Loving life!

SELLING AND BUYING RVs

One day a friend of a friend passed word to us that he was looking for a good quality fifth wheel to live in at his property. We hadn’t intended to sell ours just yet, but suddenly, our home of a dozen years was gone, headed towards the horizon to become home-sweet-home for someone else.

After a pang of sadness at seeing it go, we jumped online and began looking for truck campers. What a blast!!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 truck camper on 2016 Dodge Ram dually truck

Hmmm…this could be fun!!

All the anguish we had felt for the final few years of our travels as we’d weighed which kind of fifth wheel or toy hauler to buy to replace our aging rolling home completely evaporated as we dove into the idea of traveling in a nimble little truck camper with our RZR in tow right behind. No more triple-towing! No 44′ long toy hauler to haul around!

Mark soon found a truck camper on Craigslist that was just what we wanted. It is a 2005 Arctic Fox 860 (almost identical to the modern Arctic Fox 811 model but six inches shorter). It had been garage kept and rarely used since it was new. It looked great and all the systems worked.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 truck camper and Polaris RZR 900

Our 2005 Arctic Fox 860 truck camper is a breeze for our 2016 Ram dually to carry, and the 2017 Polaris RZR 900 is easy to tow behind on its little flatbed trailer

LOOKING BACK

Although our blog went dark for 19 months, I kept writing for the RV industry magazines. Seven of our photos appeared on RV magazine covers and another six appeared in artsy wall calendars (2020 and 2021).

With each article I wrote, our astonishing experiences came alive in my mind once again, and I marveled at what a fabulous adventure our wandering lifestyle had been.

Escapees Apr-May 2021 Cover copy

Stars swirl above us on the Escapees RV Club magazine cover for March/April 2021. During our blogging blackout we published many magazine articles, covers and commercial wall calendar photos

Mark and I find ourselves reminiscing all the time now.

Whenever we go back through our hundreds of thousands of photos to find a particular image for someone, we get lost in our recollections and take four times as long as necessary to find whatever we’re looking for because the photos tell a steady stream of vivid stories.

We thank God every single day for the life changing experiences we had and for the window of opportunity that appeared in our lives at just the right time in 2007.

Stellar's Jay on picnic table

In our traveling life we could land anywhere.

We were the right age, we were overflowing with curiosity, and we had limitless faith that our Big Adventure would prove to be the best years of our lives.

Every aspect of our lives up until the moment we departed had led us to and prepared us for the incredibly free-spirited years that unfolded before us on the road.

It was a beautiful life of total freedom and wonder that just isn’t possible when you are rooted in place by a stick-built home.

Ocotillo flowers in bloom

The sky was the limit

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – DREAMS FULFILLED

One thing that neither of us anticipated at all, though, was the sudden bittersweet feelings of sadness mixed with joy that overwhelmed us as we opened the door to this exciting new phase of life.

The heartache wasn’t due to ending our travels but was due to what was silently implied by having completed a lifelong dream and checked it off of our Big Life List.

With a shock we realized we’d had a huge dream, had chased it down for all we were worth, and had fulfilled it more brilliantly than we ever imagined we could, completing what we’d set out to do with more flair and greater depth and beadth than either of us had ever thought possible.

Puppy running in the snow

We had chased our dreams for all they were worth

Yet now our biggest dream to date has been completely fulfilled — and then some. It is behind us and can’t be called a “dream” any more.

Instead, we have transformed our greatest dream into a cherished memory and integrated it into the very fabric of our souls.

Most shocking, though, is admitting that now a big chunk of life is behind us. There’s a tangible wistfulness that goes with that.

Sunset

The sun sets in a glorious spray of color across the sky

Where all those years have gone is a mystery, but there is no denying that the wet-behind-the-ears 47 and 53 year olds who drove off into the sunset full of wide eyed anticipation in a 27 foot travel trailer are now a pair of travel-seasoned 61 and 67 year olds whose memories are brimming with fantastic travel stories and whose understanding of the world around them has been vastly enriched.

Purple cactus flowers

A prickly, thorny cactus welcomes Spring with big beautiful purple flowers

Recently, the new RV Magazine (which is a combination of the former Trailer Life and Motorhome magazines) asked me to write an article on the theme of “Life Advice from Seasoned RVers” for their August 2021 issue.

I’m certainly not comfortable dispensing Life Advice to the world at large, but I took the assignment as an opportunity to express how important it is to uncover your innermost dreams and then do all you can to make them come true.

In a world where we all find ourselves saying, “Who Moved My Cheese?” over and over, month after month, as things get crazier and crazier around us, it is more important than ever to keep our most cherished dreams in the front of our minds while holding faith deep in our hearts that we can make them come true somehow.

Ponderosa pine tree forest

It is easy to lose sight of the whole forest of Life for the abundance of individual trees unless you spend time with your dreams and envision yourself living them until you find a way to make them come true.

As Escapees RV Club co-founder Kay Peterson once wrote, “If you don’t fulfill your dreams now, when will you?”

And as Mike Mitchell, CEO of NuWa (the Hitchhiker fifth wheel manufacturer), once wrote on his company’s owners’ forum back in 2008 when the RV industry was starting a years-long nosedive into near oblivion (paraphrasing): People who have dreamed for years of traveling in an RV during retirement are not going to abandon that dream just because of a bad economy or faililng RV industry. They’ll adjust the dream so they can still live it.

Our dreams are still unfolding and we hope our little truck camper will bring us new pleasures that we can share with you. Our first few forays have been eventful and rewarding.

In the meantime, thank you for being a part of our journey. What a ride!

Rainbow over the landscape

A promise of beautiful things to come

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We’re Alive and Well and Camping in Arizona!

Life is good on Arizona’s hiking trails!

Hi there! Long time no see!!

And a warm welcome all of our new subscribers — we’re so glad you’re here!

I took a blogging vacation starting in early November, and over the winter it morphed into a full fledged Blogging Sabbatical.

Holy smokes! I had no idea when I signed off on my last post about vacationing in Hawaii that it would be June before I got back to my keyboard to put together a new blog post for you.

Another gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Many people have contacted me to find out if we had fallen off the planet and to ask if we were okay.

I can’t thank you all enough for the incredible warmth, affection and concern expressed in those emails and messages.

We were both blown away by how much this blog has meant to some of you, how much it has inspired you and how much you missed it.

Thank you!

Saguaro cactus at dawn.

The funny thing is I think the personality on our blog that everyone missed the most was Buddy.

He continues to be a true delight every single day, and one of the most common phrases we say to each other is, “What an amazing dog!”

While I relaxed and recharged and enjoyed my blogging vacation, I suspect Buddy missed his celebrity status. He kept nudging me when a really great photo of him turned up on our cameras. “Write something!” he’d say.

Actually, Mark began saying that a few months ago too. “You could write about this,” he’d say. Or “Your readers would love to hear about that,” or “Just write something short so they know we haven’t perished out here!”

Desert sunset

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He even threatened to start his own blog at one point. But blogging is a ton of work and he was having way too much fun processing his many beautiful photos (which takes many hours too!).

Morning reflections.

Every photo in this post is his, by the way, because I let my cameras gather dust while I took many long deep breaths and waited for inspiration to strike.

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We met some interesting folks during our time off. They came from all walks of life. And some walked on all fours.

Wild burros check us out.

We also did some fun sightseeing.

The fountain in Fountain Hills

But mostly we laid around and relaxed.

Nothing to do and all day to do it…!!!

I just LOVE that hammock, by the way, and I use these straps to hang it between any trees that are handy.

It’s a dog’s life.

We have been in various parts of Arizona since late October, and we’ve moved with the seasons as it got colder at first and then got warmer as the months rolled by.

On May 22nd we celebrated 13 years of traveling full-time. Wow! What a spectacular life and magnificent opportunity it has been!!

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Arizona has lots of boats and boaters!

Arizona is a very diverse state with several different major ecosystems ranging from low desert studded with saguaro cactus to high desert filled with ponderosa pine trees. And over the last eight months we’ve seen a lot of it.

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When the pandemic hit and everyone stayed home for a month or two, we did too.

Fortunately, Arizona was one of the least restrictive states. Employees were laid off or had to work from home, and all but “essential” businesses were shuttered for a month or so, but we weren’t prevented from going outside and no one was forced to wear a mask or risk a fine if they didn’t, as was the case in other places.

Life for us didn’t really change, and we lived pretty much as we always do.

Trail scout.

Buddy’s private digs (for naps with dad).

The major change we experienced was the shortage of goods at the store and the shock of seeing places like downtown Mesa completely devoid of people and all the storefronts closed.

Morning dew…

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However, once we got home to our trailer after running errands, life was the same as always.

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I gave Mark a macro lens for Christmas, and when the wildflowers began to bloom and the bees started to do their thing, he had a ball taking flower and insect shots with it. What fabulous photos he took of dew on the flower petals and pollen caked onto bees’ legs.

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Loaded with pollen!

I’ve seen many thoughts expressed online about RVing as it relates to pandemics and situations where you want to keep a little distance from your friends and neighbors for a while.

One couple who had been RVing full-time for three years decided that now was the time to buy some land rather than be forced to rely on campgrounds or dispersed campsites that might close. At one point Campendium.com had a notice on their home page that 42% of the RV campsites they have listed on their website were closed.

Other folks trapped at home seemed to feel that traveling in an RV would be the ideal way to have some fun while practicing social distancing. They seemed to long for a life on wheels.

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The leaders of the RV industry at Thor and Camping World have been reporting that they are seeing the RV market exploding lately.

How exciting that RV sales are up!

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For those that are curious about what we’ve witnessed as full-time boondockers living through a pandemic and an accompanying economic shutdown, our experience over the last few months falls somewhere in between “RVing is ideal for pandemics” and “An RV is not at all the place to be during a pandemic situation.”

Getting away from it all on public land was a little harder than normal because once all the RV parks and public campgrounds had closed, everyone who wanted to run off in an RV for a while ended up boondocking.

Boondocking campsites that might ordinarily support 3 RVs suddenly had 12.

People who ordinarily would have been going to work while their kids were in school suddenly took off in their RV to “work from home” with their kids and dogs in tow, and they headed out to the boondocks because that’s all that was available.

What a fabulous idea and great way to bond as a family.

However, it was not the isolated experience people usually think of with RV boondicking. At one point we were surrounded by a big group of families and friends from Gunnison, Colorado, as they escaped the more severe outbreak of the disease in Colorado to spend a few weeks in Arizona where there were far fewer cases.

Cactus flowers.

A heron rests by the shore

Also, since an RV has limited holding tank capacity and boondockers have to to remain on the move (there are 14 day stay limits in most places), we had to make periodic trips to some very busy RV dump stations. What a shock it was to find that some RV dump stations were closed!

In addition, in a world where other people’s bodily fluids had suddenly become absolutely terrifying, RV dump stations took on a whole new look.

But as I said, in most respects our lives over the last few months have been pretty much the same as they always have been. And when Spring arrived it was beautiful.

In one campsite we had a cardinal as a neighbor. He sang and sang, and even though he never attracted a mate during our stay, he did develop quite a relationship with his reflection in our truck mirror. For hours on end we would see him hanging on for dear life with his toes as he pecked away at the mirror.

This guy was a hoot. He pecked at his reflection in the mirror for hours!

Buddy worked on his hunting skills and blossomed from the last phases of puppyhood into A Very Responsible Adult Dog. Hunting lizards is now his all-day-long passion. He even catches one every so often!

In between hunting exploits, he guards our little rolling casa with the utmost vigilance.

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I hope you have stayed well and have navigated these recent months with spirit. As I’ve always said, there’s a beautiful world out there, and it is still beautiful and it is still out there today.

2020 has been epic for the entire world so far, and along with everyone else, our little family has had some extraordinary, life affirming and life altering experiences that I will write about someday.

It’s a beautiful world out there!

In the meantime, enjoy your travels and keep dreaming great dreams!

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A Hawaii Vacation!

October 2019 – Sometimes we get a little busy in our full-time traveling lives, and not all of our adventures make it onto the pages of this website. That’s how it was in the spring of 2017 when we were still posting our photos of our mind-blowing trip to Thailand and Cambodia even as we hopped on a plane to Hawaii.

Hawaii Vacation on Oahu

A wonderful tropical vacation on Oahu!

Once we got back to the mainland after reveling in the Hawaiian tropics for a week, we dashed off in our RV in such a flurry of excitement that we never even mentioned our Hawaii trip on this blog (although we did later publish an article about it in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of Escapees Magazine!).

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head Oahu Hawaii-min

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head on Oahu

So, this week, as we embark on a little blogging vacation, it seemed fitting to share our pics and stories from this classic vacation destination!

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head Oahu Hawaii-min

Waikiki

We stayed on Oahu right in the thick of it all next to Waikiki Beach. There is nothing like getting off of a long plane ride and moments later strolling along a tropical beach!

Waikiki Beach Oahu Hawaii-min

Waikiki Beach is a short trip from the airport!

Waikiki Beach Oahu Hawaii-min

Waikiki Beach.

Our hotel room at the Sheraton was just steps away from the beach, many stories up in the air, with a balcony that hung out over the inviting pool far below.

Swimming pool Waikiki Oahu Hawaii-min

A palm tree’s shadow fills the water in the pool below our balcony

Waikiki is a bustling tourist city of high rises. There is a special beauty along the waterfront at night, and we discovered wonderful pockets of tranquility tucked away in quiet corners during the day.

Waikiki at night

Night lights.

Palm trees at sunset in Waikiki

Palm trees and volleyball at sunset.

Hawaii palm trees-min

Relaxing.

On other parts of Oahu, away from the urban hustle and bustle, we found remote beaches that were pounded by wild seas. As we strolled along the water’s edge, the seething surf crashed so hard the ocean had dug deep valleys in the sand.

Surf on Oahu in Hawaii

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Surf's up in Hawaii

Surf’s up!

Beautiful beach north side of Oahu Hawaii-min

Vivid turquoise waves carved patterns in the sand.

Everything about Hawaii is tropical, from exotic flowers to familiar birds dressed in fabulously outrageous outfits.

Flower Oahu Hawaii-min

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Red crested cardinal Oahu Hawaii-min

A red crested cardinal

A hike up Diamond Head gave us incredible views of the city and a wonderful glimpse of Diamond Head Lighthouse far below.

Diamond Head Lighthouse Oahu Hawaii-min

Looking down on Diamond Head Lighthouse

Our favorite spot was Hanauma Bay State Park where a crescent bay embraced a vibrant reef system soaked in warm, shallow turquoise water.

Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

Hanauma Bay State Park

Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

The brown patches are a coral reef that’s teeming with tropical fish

We rented some snorkeling gear and waded in from the beach!

Snorkeling Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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We had done a lot of snorkeling on our sailing cruise of Mexico’s Pacific Coast and we’ve both snorkeled quite a bit in the Caribbean on various bareboat charters and commercial cruises. We also had a great snorkeling adventure in Thailand. But the variety of fish here at Hanauma Bay may have been the best of all!

Fish light Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Reef fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Tropical fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-2-min

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Colorful fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Spotted fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Tropical fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Many of the fish swam alone, but when we turned a corner around a coral head, we found ourselves in the middle of a huge school of fish!

Reef fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Years ago when we were sailing Mexico’s Costalegre (which cruisers have nicknamed the Gold Coast), we’d visited the aptly named (and little visited) Paraiso anchorage and seen a school of tiny fish that was so massive we thought it was some sort of rock or sea grass darkening the sandy bottom. At the time, we were scouting out spots to drop the anchor, so what a shock it was when this huge dark patch on the sand moved away!!

Back in Hanauma Bay, once the wall of fish parted and let us through, we saw a parrot fish hanging out with his pretty little orange buddy.

Hawaii Parrot fish and friend Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu-min

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Parrot fish and friend Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Parrot fish and friend Hawaii Hanauma State Park-min

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Hawaii is one of those “you can’t go wrong” types of destinations. This wasn’t our first trip and it won’t be our last, but every visit is utterly unique. A trip to any part of Hawaii is a wonderful way to spend a week immersed in tropical beauty.

Hawaii 2017

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This website has been home to our travel stories and the tips we’ve learned about the sailing and RV lifestyles since we first created it while camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon back in the summer of 2008. Not only was that some 165,000 truck miles (or so) ago, but it was also long before we bought a sailboat and cast off the lines to cruise the Pacific coast of Mexico!

Sailboat in Hawaii sunset-min

Hawaiian sunset.

We’ve had a lot of fun posting articles here ever since, producing new articles anywhere from 3 to 12 times a month. In the process we’ve created a travelogue and travel lifestyle resource for RVers and sailors of around 1,000 articles!

At long last we’ve decided to take a little blogging vacation. Among other things, during this time we’re going to revisit some of our older articles on here that are still read hundreds of times a day (even though they were first published as much as 10 years ago) to make sure they remain up to date.

If you’re on your way to the beautiful Sonoran Desert in Arizona with your RV for the winter, that’s where we’ll be. You’ll find dozens of articles on this site to give you ideas for places to go, things to do and sights to see in this rich desert landscape.

Click here for an index of all our Arizona travel articles.

Thanks for reading. Happy travels. Back soon!

RV under the Milky Way-min

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More info about these places:

Related articles:

Tropical and Subtropical Destinations in Mexico
Tropical cruising – What to expect! and How to plan!

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

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