Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pueblo Canyon Hike

"Hiking is the answer. Who cares what the question is." - Pacific Crest Trail Assoc.

Hiking in Pueblo Canyon

In Nov. 2013, we simplified our exercise regiment. We walk or hike for 1.5 hours per day. We track it with quarters (each one equals 15 min.). If we miss a day - we save the quarters and make it up on the next day or on the weekend. This simplified tracking has worked well for us.

Last Sunday, we went on a hike down into Pueblo Canyon and up the Hamilton Trail to the Los Alamos Co+op and back home. It was a beautiful day even with the cold weather. 

Hoodoos in Pueblo Canyon

We haven't had much snow this year

Fresh animal tracks in the snow

Los Alamos is made up of numerous mesas and canyons

After walking along the canyon floor, we head to the point to Greg's right up the Hamilton Trail

Beautiful Los Alamos looking toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 

Greg enjoying the beautiful vista

The cliff side sprinkled with snow is the road up the "main hill" to Los Alamos

We heard this bird gathering before we spotted them in the tree.

Happy New Year every one!
Wishing you an adventure filled 2015

Friday, December 19, 2014

20/20 Vision

Merry Christmas from the Sock Monkey Trekkers
The more we discover and explore the fulltime RV lifestyle through other blogs, the more we realize how many options are out there for living simply and saving money. You certainly don't have to fullltime to live simply. But, so many fulltimers have embraced this way of life and are great examples for us all.

The realization that we want to live in an RV fulltime has made us think about each and every thing we buy, especially for our house. Will it fit in the RV? If not - do we really need it for the next 6.7 years? It is amazing how you can cut your spending if you just stop and really consider - do I need this?

We cut the cord to our cable and satellite. Greg built a home-made antenna using a block of wood and coat hangers that allows us to capture over the air, local stations. We added a TIVO and Roku and were able to cut our monthly tv related bill to under $30 per month. I don't count our Amazon Prime (we paid $79, but it will go up to $99 when our annual renewal date rolls around) because I primarily see the fee as being for the 2 day shipping and the discounted or free books and music.

Greg's cool homemade antenna. Works GREAT!

Thanks to a post from Nina of Wheeling It - I discovered the DIY deodorant. We love the clean, fresh, hops-free deodorant. So, I thought I would go whole hog! I now am making our shampoo, cream rinse, hair gel and hair spray. It took me about 2 hours the first time to make everything because I had to read and re-read different recipes to decide on what worked for us. I love this new regime. It is much cheaper and healthier and cleaner (pun intended).

I saw a special years ago on 60 minutes dealing with the glasses manufacturing monopoly of Luxottica. Greg and I both have to wear glasses, specifically bifocals. Like everyone else, we have seen the prices skyrocket over the years. The last pair of bifocals I bought was over $500 out of pocket and I have insurance to help cover some of the costs. RIDICULOUS! I decided there had to be a solution.

I can see clearly with my new glasses!
I went on an internet search and looked into alternatives. I know many full-timers head down to Mexico - but I wanted a solution that could be achieved from anywhere. Then I found Zenni Optical. I was very intrigued. Zenni is a California company that built a lab in China where the lenses and frames are manufactured. This would have bothered me in the past. But, after watching the 60 minutues show and understanding more about frame manufacturers, I wasn't so bothered about glasses being made in China on European manufacturing equipment. Zenni was founded in 2003 by two scientists in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I went to the website. Uploaded my prescripton and my face on their Frame Fit program and started shopping. The Frame Fit program lets you see the glasses on your face. You can even compare and contrast a number of different frames and see multiple versions of yourself side by side. A little scary - but actually kinda fun. I found a frame that I thought would work and placed my order. It took about a couple of weeks to get that first pair of glasses because of a hold up in customs.  

But, I fell in love. I paid $112.85 for a no-line, progressive bifocal pair of glasses. They fit perfectly and the prescription was right on. Next, I bought a second pair of prescription sunglasses. I have always wanted a pair, but at the prior $400-$500 price tag was way too expensive. The no-line, progressive bifocal sunglasses cost me $151.85. What a deal! Two glasses for half of what I paid for one pair. The second pair arrived in about 10 days.

I spread the word at work and to friends. Doesn't everyone want to save money?  Greg recently purchased a pair of prescripton reading glasses for $25.85. Several friends have also bought glasses and all of us have had good experiences. If you need glasses - consider checking out Zenni.

My new prescription sunglasses from Zenni

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Let There be Power & Light

There are always improvements that can be made with a home made camper. Over the summer, Greg added a house battery and just this week an LED dome light connected to the house battery. Prior to the LED dome light, we used a work lamp connected to the house battery via an inverter.  Now we have power and light even when boondocking! Solar is next!

Greg added a deep cycle 100 amp hour battery and AC charger to Humphrey the Wayward NV Van. The charger plugs into the back AC outlet and charges the battery as we drive. The battery is in a plastic battery box. Greg ran wires up to the kitchen unit and attached a power strip. He runs a CPAP at night and often a DC fan.

The white dome light is the new one attached to the house battery.
The black light is connected to the starter battery. It has new LED bulbs

The newly installed LED dome light is dimmable and 1.9 watts. He ran wire from the house battery to the "kitchen" area. It's a fantastic and bright light. We are both pretty pleased with it.
This new dome light is low wattage, so we don't need to worry about how much energy it is using. Greg also replaced the van's normal dome lights with led lights that are also low wattage. These run off the normal starter battery so it's important that they not run down that battery!

On the 12v LED dome light, Greg had to use some popsicle sticks and hot glue to make a surface on the lamp that was flat enough that he could use 3M super strong double sided tape to stick the lamp light up to the roof. Here is a link to the light on Amazon: Dome Light Link
Green LongLife 9090101 LED Dome Light Fixture Single 921 Wedge 230 Lumens 12v or 24v Natural White.)

New power strip on the side of our "kitchen"
Greg also permanently attached a power strip to the kitchen unit. There is also a 12volt cigarette outlet for boondocking and if we have 120v that can come in here also.

Greg wrote:

I use a NOCO Genius G3500 6v/12v 3.5 Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer to charge my "house" battery in the van (see image below).  I purchased this charger because it uses low enough watts that I can plug it into the van's built-in stock electrical (alternator/inverter) system and I can charge the battery while we drive. (The van has a standard 120v outlet in the back-area.)  The charger has a computer in it that determines the best modes to charge the battery most efficiently.

It takes about 4-5 hours to charge my 50% used up 100 amp hour battery ... maybe less time.  (I try not to go under 50% used in order to reduce ware-and-tear on the battery.) I remember I was impressed at how fast I was able to charge the battery while driving.

I mounted the charger in the back of the van where I can see the little charging status lights if I look back while I am driving.  I can see if it is 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% charged.  When it is fully charged I can turn off the van's built in 400 watt max inverter.

Noco Genius G2500 Battery Charge.
You can get details on this charger from Amazon by clicking HERE.

I installed the charger's quick connector (the wires on the bottom left in the photo above) on the battery poles so it is easy to connect/disconnect the charger when needed.

When we are parked in a place (or at home) with standard 120v outlets available, I run a long large gauge yellow electrical extension out of the van to the outlet and charge the battery with that connection.

I didn't want to drill holes or mess with the van's stock electrical system in order to setup a house battery system and this setup is working perfectly. I am really happy with this battery/charger/wiring setup so far!

The battery we use with this setup is a VMAX Solar - Vmaxtanks VMAXSLR100 AGM Sealed deep cycle 12V 100AH.  You can find it at Amazon by clicking HERE.

Now we just need to head out on a road trip somewhere sometime soon! 

Update:  We switched to the G7200 Noco Genius battery charge after Greg realized that the Nissan NV's built in inverter could handle the wattage that the G7200 consumed (150 watts).  That should cut the time it takes to charge the battery in half.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

"Life sometimes gets in the way of writing." - Jean M Auel

Two months is too long to not have written a post. We've been busy and a lot has happened during our little hiatus. Tomorrow being Thanksgiving,  I want to pause for a moment and give thanks. I am grateful for the beauty around me, my friends and family, my new found RV online community and a wonderful plan for living simply and turning our love of camping and hiking into a full time adventure.

From Mary's Monkeys on Esty

Tim & Amanda on walk along one of Los Alamos' amazing mesas
We had a wonderful time visiting, eating and hiking with Amanda and Tim of Watsons Wander when they camped above Los Alamos in September. Yes, I know - long time - no write!

Saying hi to Oppenheimer & Groves outside Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos
After a great week socializing - we drove to Scottsdale, Arizona for a work conference. We debated taking our camper, but decided to stay in a hotel for easy access to the conference. We continued with our daily walks even though the temperatures were in the low 100's and high 90's. We saw a number of great campgrounds along our drive.

Greg hiked up Camelback Mountain 
Looking back down at Scottsdale
Looking back at Camelback Mountain
We had beautiful walks after my classes each day. Hot but beautiful
In late October, Greg's dad celebrated his 80th birthday. We hosted a small party for him and other folks who live in the Senior Condos where Greg's folks live. It was a fun couple of days.

Birthday King
Greg and two of his four sisters toasting
their Dad before the guests started arriving

Greg and our nephew Julian took time during the birthday
celebrations for a hike above the canyon in Los Alamos. 

We had a lot of fun watching the playoffs and World Series and were thrilled when our favorite team won! Go Giants! 

Giant Sock Monkey 
We have a number of years of part-timing before we get to hit the open road for good. But, while we are in our sticks and bricks home, we know we are very lucky to live in such an amazingly beautiful place. There are so many opportunities for daily hikes and exploration here in Northern New Mexico.  
Karen and our friend Nancy, at the Natural Arch above Los Alamos

Karen and Greg on fall hike above Los Alamos
Looking back to Los Alamos from the other side of the Natural Arch
Love our Los Alamos landscape
Last weekend, I flew on a nine seater plane from the Los Alamos airport to Albuquerque to catch a Southwest flight to Oakland to visit family and celebrate my niece's Quinceanera.   

Why yes, that is a bear on the plane
My beloved uncle and aunt on a relaxing camping trip this summer.
They raised me and I always love to go home to see my family.
It was a memorable weekend. My niece was so happy with her celebration and she is stunning! The picture below is of Eliana and her proud papa in their surprise dance. It started out very traditionally and then they broke loose. We all had a lot of fun dancing the night away. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hanging Out at Hanging Lake

Camping at Yosemite in our first summer married
In early August, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. How better to celebrate than a multi-day camping trip? We headed north to Colorado for dry camping, hiking and Shakespeare.

One of our first stops was a hike to Hanging Lake. This very popular hike is about seven miles east of Glenwood Springs in Glenwood Canyon, As we left Glenwood Springs heading east on I-70 we encountered three really large electronic highway warning signs that said "PARKING LOT FULL FOR HANGING LAKE! DO NOT EXIT! Uh oh! Luckily, Greg won't let a sign deter him when he is on a mission.

We were in our camper and decided to go for it and hoped someone was pulling out of a parking spot. The hassle with this section of I-70 is many exits don't allow you to get back on I-70 heading the same direction. Heading east on I-70 take the Hanging Lake Exit (125). The fact that a number of the exits can only be reached when heading a certain direction is is a big hassle but not impossible to navigate if you are prepared for the required maneuvering.  Luckily, Greg's confidence and willingness to take a risk paid off. There were four or five parking spots still available. I wonder how many people just kept going because of the highway warning signs.

Sign at start of hike
Trail begins along the Glenwood Canyon Bike and Pedestrian Path

The trail follows Dead Horse Creek for 1.2 miles and a 1,020 foot elevation gain. The trail is full of rocks and tree roots so it is necessary to step with care. We saw several people trip along the trail. I should also say - this is probably the busiest trail we have ever been on except maybe the hike to Half Dome in Yosemite.

I tend to be a clutz when I hike - so I was extra careful on this trail.
The trail is tree lined and follows a beautiful creek. There are many small waterfalls and greenery adjacent to the trail. Also the trail has many switchbacks and steps. It is relatively short trail, but fairly steep. You get to cross a number of small wooden bridges across the creek.

Oh yeah - you have to dodge people going up and down the trail. 

The views along the trail are beautiful.

Almost there!

Looking back down the canyon we hiked up before getting to Hanging Lake. Great start to our anniversary trip.

Our destination! Hanging Lake
When we were walking up the final stairway - a nice guy said Make sure you go up to Spouting Rock. You won't be disappointed." He was so right!

Once you have taken in the beauty of Hanging Lake and are heading back along the boardwalk, look for a sign on your right to Spouting Rock. At first I thought - wow another beautiful waterfall. Then I looked more closely and realized the water is falling from the middle of the cliff face. It is also super cool because you can walk behind the waterfall and the mist was especially nice on the rather hot August afternoon.

You can see that the water comes out of the middle of the cliff face. Really cool!

We were treated to an amazing, super full moon as we drove to a great rest stop in Edwards, Colorado

Edwards rest stop welcome wagon!
We stayed overnight in the rest area parking lot.  Near us were trucks overnighting.  Apparently it is allowed.  

Colorado says you are only suppose to "rest" in the rest areas, but what is rest?  To me it's sleeping. We made a nice breakfast on a picnic table there in the morning.  We slept great.  There was car / truck noise but it didn't bother us. Others were sleeping in cars and there was another RV. There is a dump station here.

Yummy breakfast with our Van in background.

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