Travelling Through the American Southwest & Mexico

Summer 2006 CSANews Issue 59  |  Posted date : May 28, 2007.Back to list

Q. What enticed you to spend your winters in the South?
A. The lack of snow and the warmer weather. Alberta winters can be long, cold and dreary. Skiing, snowshoeing and chipping ice off of the windshield don't hold the same appeal as they once did. We'd much rather live in more hospitable climes.

Q. Where do you spend your winters in the South?
A. We travel through Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico and sometimes into Mexico. We are not park people, so we seldom go into RV parks. We're boondockers – we're set up to live on solar power and with a 100-gallon fresh water tank, we can live in the desert for three or four weeks before we need to dump our grey-and-black water tanks and take on fresh water. Some people think that living in the desert must be a hardship...not us. It's probably our favourite place. Solar panels provide all of our power needs, from running the computer and the TV to operating the vacuum.

Q. Do you always go to the same destination?
A. One of the wonderful things about RV living is the ability to pick up and go. While we do have some favourite spots to which we return each year...the 49ers Encampment in Death Valley each November, the big RV show in Quartzsite in January, our Escapees chapter rally near Mesa in March...we also look for new places to explore. We love the desert areas, away from large towns and cities, away from crowds, traffic and lights...our version of "back to basics."

Q. How do you get there?
A. We travel in our Dodge diesel pickup, hauling our fifth wheel.

Q. In what kind of residence do you spend the winter?
A. Our fifth wheel. It's 36 feet long with three slides; a big unit to pull down the highway, but it lives very comfortably when we're parked.

Q. Do you own or do you rent?
A. We own our unit.

Q. Has it been a reasonable investment?
A. From the point of view that it works fairly well and gets us where we want to go, yes. But you don't get your money out of it when you sell it. from a strictly financial point of view, they're not a good investment. But we were buying a lifestyle...and for that purpose, it serves us well.

Q. What do you do for recreation down South?
A. We're active hikers and enjoy exploring the vast expanse of desert, especially the Sonoran Desert. And there's nothing like soaking in a natural hot spring after a long day of hoofing over the desert. Sally plays and sings guitar around the campfire and enjoys photography. Gerry does counted cross-stitch, can fix most anything and keeps the truck and rig in good shape. We enjoy pot luck dinners with friends in the desert. Last year, we served Trash Can Turkey to about 20 or 30 RVers for American Thanksgiving. And the desert is not just rock and sand. It's cactus and creosote, ocotillo and saguaro. It's tarantulas, scorpions and rattlesnakes under the rig. It's coyotes yipping under our window at night and javelinas resting under a mesquite tree. Down near the Mexican border, it's illegals crossing the desert by the light of a full moon. It's three amigos, foot-sore and weary, stopping at our rig asking for aqua (water) ... and the only English word they know is Phoenix.

When you're on the road and moving from place to place, it's sometimes hard to develop a sense of community. Volunteering can make you feel like part of a place and can add immeasurably to the lives of others. for example, for several years we've organized RV work parties at a little museum in a dusty desert town. Around 10 or 20 RVers arrive, bringing a wealth of skills (along with tools and a sense of humour), and we spend half a day fixing and cleaning. At Christmas, another group of RVers meets in another desert town to wrap and deliver presents to needy children. Volunteering at a wildlife refuge, we were part of a trash cleanup...mounds of clothing, backpacks, water bottles, empty tuna tins, broken bicycles and anything else which the illegals can't carry is left behind. Because of the danger of drug runners in the same area, we were accompanied by an armed guard carrying an M-13 rifle and a 9 mm Glock on his hip. Who said that life on the desert was boring!

Q. How much do the recreational activities cost?
A. Most of the things in which we're interested don't cost much money...we don't play golf or tennis, for example. We enjoy exploring small towns, and many of their offerings are free or cost only a few dollars to enjoy.

Q. What happens to your home in Canada?
A. We were very fortunate to find someone to rent our home. She needs accommodation for six months each year. Those six months correspond almost exactly with our time down south. A win-win situation for both of us. She takes great care of our home and so we have no worries. Unfortunately, we've heard some terrible stories from others who have rented their homes and returned to real problems.

Q. Do friends and/or family visit your "southern home"?
A. The "home" friends who visit us are also RVers...sometimes, we meet in prearranged locations, at a rally for example. Other times, we bump into them at truck stops, dump stations, restaurants or out in the desert.

Q. How often, and for how long?
A. Some friends may camp with us for a week or two. Others we see only briefly, perhaps for a couple of hours or for a day. The RV lifestyle has certainly taught us the importance of seizing the moment. RVers, at least the ones with whom we associate, are boondockers (like ourselves) and don't hold back or wait for an invitation to visit. They realize that if you don't make contact quickly, the opportunity may be lost.

Q. Do you have a social network at your "southern home"?
A. Definitely! This is one of the true pleasures of living in an RV. We don't sit in one spot for six months, but rather we travel from place to place, as do many of our southern friends. We have met such an amazing group of people, from those who live and travel in half-million-dollar motor homes to those who live in the front seat of old battered pickups...and everything in between.

Q. How did you come to meet people in the South?
A. We belong to an RV organization called Escapees, based in Texas. It is designed to appeal to full-time and serious part-time RVers. It has about 50 chapters, including six in Canada. We joined the Alberta chapter before we even bought our RV. One of the biggest attractions for us is the sense of family and friendship among Escapees members.

Q. Are most of the people whom you meet Canadian or American? Are they snowbirds/winter residents?
A. Most of our southern friends are American and almost all are RVers. Some are full-timers some are snowbirds from the northern states. We do have Canadian friends as well, but many of them are park people. Many American RVers travel to Alaska or Canada in the summer. We're fortunate to have space for them to park at our home. This is a great way for us to extend hospitality to our American friends who have welcomed us into their country.

Q. How do you keep up with Canadian news when you are down South?
A. Some comes via e-mail from friends back in Canada, but the bulk comes from satellite TV. We've had both Canadian and American systems the latter offers Newsworld International

Q. How much does your "snowbird lifestyle" cost?
A. We keep a daily record of our costs. We include fuel, propane, food, camping fees we hardly ever stay in parks laundry, etc. Last year, our daily average for six months was $33.71 US. That figure included everything we bought from the time we left home until we returned again.