April was all about getting ready to travel north – to Alaska! Our first task was to sell El Burro. Things between Greg and I went really well during our two months in Mexico so while we were there we decided we no longer needed the car. We were ready to get El Burro on the market as soon as we hit Tucson until we hit a snag. The title was supposed to have been mailed to my friend but when we arrived in town it wasn’t there. Can’t sell a car without the title! It took about 5 days but we eventually got it. We were at a ten-day house sit in Tucson and were hoping to start our journey north after that so the tardy title put us a little behind. But hey, it was just a little road bump, right? We hit a big road bump when the car started overheating. We were still using El Burro because we had the van torn apart while we working on projects. One night when we were driving to meet friends for dinner the thermostat went up and wouldn’t go down. Now we had a car with a problem and little time left to deal with it before we had to move back in the van in the potential heat of Arizona.
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Greg thought it was just the thermostat. He researched fixing it himself and having the work done at a shop. Either option delayed us and meant we were spending money we wouldn’t get back. We decided to donate El Burro to the local radio station and call our donations budget fulfilled for the next 20 years or so. But first, we thought maybe we could still recoup a few bucks. We slashed the price and rewrote the ad so that it was clear that the car had a problem. No bites.
In the meantime our house sit was great. We took care of a sweet elderly cat, Sucette. The house had a workshop and Greg made use of it finishing some of the van projects I had started that past fall. I spent my time taking care of business-type stuff like taxes and shopping for new things for our trip north – items to complete my van projects and a few luxuries to make our travels easier.
One night during happy hour while I was looking at Facebook I came across a post in one of my groups about a nomad who was looking for help for her friend who was moving from Quartzite, AZ into a new home in Yuma. The friend was dealing with an illness and she was dealing with a shoulder problem. They had a moving truck lined up but needed help setting the house up.
One of the things Greg and I have endeavored to do more of in the future is volunteer work. The moving date was on the last day of our house sit and Yuma wasn’t too far away. So we offered our services and drove to Yuma after a nice breakfast with Sucette’s peeps the morning after they returned from their trip.
We spent three days helping Swankie (yes, the co-star of the movie Nomadland) get her best friend Carl situated in his new home. It was a lot of work but we were rewarded with many tales of the making of Nomadland and left with a couple of new friends.
After many days of no responses to our ad about the car, we finally started getting inquiries on our last full day in Yuma. We had left the car at our friends’ house in Tucson. So when we were finished at Carl’s we raced back to Tucson hoping to meet a buyer. No one showed. It was Friday and a house sit popped up in Joshua Tree, California we were interested in – it started on Sunday. We had just set the car up for donation when another potential buyer messaged us. He lived in Phoenix but couldn’t come to look at the car until the next day. It was about noon on Saturday when he showed up. He gave us some money and we gave him the title. We left the keys with our friends (the guy would have the car towed later that week), canceled the donation, and hit the road to our next house sit.
The Joshua Tree house sit was perfect. The pets, a cat named Budgie, the dogs named Giz and Thomas were all sweet and fun. And, Dottie, the 150-pound pot-bellied pig seemed sweet too but we didn’t do any snuggling with her. The sit was also good in that it gave us a little more time to work on van projects before we really hit the road.
Our first stop after we left Joshua Tree was Santa Barbara where we converged with a van friend, Holly. We had met in 2020 when she asked to share our campsite with us in a national forest outside of Prescott, AZ. We had a great time hanging out with Holly and did a little urban camping in the city with a view of the Pacific Ocean.
From Santa Barbara, we made a detour south to take a boat trip to Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Island National Park and then headed back north to visit Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.
We finished up April inland a just bit in the wine country of Pasa Robles. There where we celebrated the end of another great month on the road with a bottle of local wine.
April Camping Stats:
We spent $0 camping in April.
16 – nights house sitting
5 – nights at Boondockers Welcome locations
1 – night moochdocking at the J&J Kitty Casita and RV Park (our friend’s house)
2 – nights on BLM land
1 – night in a National Forest
2 – nights urban Boondocking
1 – night lotdocking at a Cracker Barrel Restaraunt
2 – nights at Harvest Host locations
Here is where I complain about the price of gas. Yes, it is expensive but we aren’t letting it slow us down. We are relying heavily on our Gas Buddy app to find the best deals and so far haven’t paid over $5.29 in California. But those $100 plus fillups are still a little shocking.
Another extra expense this past month was for a Harvest Hosts subscription. A subscription to Harvest Hosts allows us to camp free at over 2500+ businesses (mostly wineries) across North America. Although it sounds like a good deal – it isn’t really free as they expect you to make purchases at these businesses. This is great if they sell something we would normally be buying. And now since we have decided to celebrate the end of every month with a bottle of wine we thought we might give it a try. The subscription also includes other places like museums and farms. We are especially looking forward to staying at farms – love those fresh eggs.
We also poured a little money into some van upgrades. We are absolutely loving our new faucet and our new built-in Bluetooth speakers.
It’s possible I may be reviving an actual expense report next month but until then you are interested in reading another great nomadic expense report check out our friends at Roaming About’s blog here.
Traveling in California is expensive. Free campgrounds along the coast are nearly impossible to find. Pay campgrounds can run $40 and up, way up. And sleeping in your vehicle outside of a campground is illegal in most places. This is another reason we opted to get a Harvest Host membership. We are using as many resources as we can to work our way up along the pacific ocean. iOverlander is our first go-to. But often times with iOverlander you really need to read the reviews and decide if a free location is really legal or if someone just happened to get away with it that one night. Boondockers Welcome has come in handy for us but the popular locations get booked up quickly. Since we left Joshua Tree we have been on the lookout for short house sits through Trusted House Sitters but none have come up at the right time in the right place. Since Greg turned 62 last year and bought a Senior America the Beautiful Pass we are now eligible for half-price camping at many federally operated campgrounds. This has really come in useful in saving a little money. Combining free options with cheap options we have been able to splurge a little on a few more-expensive options without breaking the nonexistent budget.
We are staying with family friends in Clear Lake Oaks, California. We have been sleeping inside. It’s been cold and rainy so it has been a nice break from the van. And spending time with our friends has been lots of fun.
We are still gearing up for our trip to Alaska – fixing a few broken things on the van, shopping, ordering things, and sending them on to our next friend stop in Oregon. As soon as our current hosts stop thinking of fun things to do while we visit them, we hit the road again and finish up our trip up the California coast.