Part 3 covered the deep part of winter, when we stayed in the Southwest, primarily in Arizona. This post will cover the last segment of our initial season as fulltime RVers, when we left the desert on April 1 and arrived back at our home base in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on Memorial Day, 2019.

Milestones: Lonely Camp Site

The last week at Casita Verde in Casa Grande, AZ started to look a little lonely, with all my neighbors packed up and gone for the season already. I was surprised how attached I had become to these friends in such a brief time.

April 1-3, 2019 – Idgie and I say goodbye to our friends at the Casita Verde RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ, where we’ve stayed most of the last half of winter. They will also be leaving for the summer, before the wicked heat arrives. Many already have, and the park feels a little lonesome with so many gone. It’s already 97° the day I leave for the return leg of my journey back to PA, where I will spend the summer among friends in my home community. My send-off gift—if I needed a kick in the pants—is my first scorpion sighting—YIY! If we weren’t already leaving, we would be now!

We stay at Twin Buttes RV Park in Douglas, AZ for a few nights, so I can get some work done. I also spend a day touring Tombstone, AZ, which is fun and interesting—lots of history. I want to tour Bisbee, as well, but the day has already grown long and my feet hurt. That little artist town will have to wait for a tourist day of its own.

Milestones: Fanciful oil drum locomotive

I couldn’t always find a Thousand Trails free campground along my route home, so sometimes had to find other cheap camping options. My first night out of Casa Grande, I stayed in Twin Buttes campground outside Douglas, AZ. One of the annual residents there has a little metalworking shop where he creates fanciful items from castoffs. They decorate the whole park.

Milestones: Sleepygrass Picnic Area, Cloudcroft, NM

In other conditions, I would have stopped for a few hours to check out this adorable little town in the clouds. But I was so stressed out from hauling a too-heavy load with a vehicle that just wasn’t built for it that all I could do was nap awhile to stop my hands from shaking, and get back on my way.

April 4, 2019 – We overnight at Cracker Barrel in Las Cruces, NM. Our route into Texas takes us over a massively steep mountain with a summit of more than 9,500 ft., during which the Jeep’s transmission fluid overheats. At the summit, I rest at the appropriately named Sleepygrass Park in Cloudcroft, NM. I use the restroom from having scared the piss out of myself on the white-knuckle drive up, then take a brief catnap because I am exhausted already. It takes me almost three hours to get over this peak, because I stop at every single pull-off to cool the trans. It’s the beginning of the end for my poor little Jeep. I’m just asking too much of her engine and transmission. It’s not quite an equally stressful drive back down, but it’s no picnic for the brakes.

Milestones: White Dunes National Monument

The wind blows so constantly that the park keeps an earthmover busy most of the time scraping the white sand off the road and depositing it back onto the dunes.

April 5-6, 2019 – I’m rewarded for the previous day’s trials with a visit to White Sands National Monument, which looks like a blizzard happened in the middle of the desert. Late in the day, we pull into our next camp at Brantley Lake State Park, in Carlsbad, NM. We have to miss a planned visit to the famous Carlsbad Caverns due to work deadlines. We’ll have to wait till another time to see the bats swarm out of the cave at dusk, but we make good friends with two gals in the next campsite, who help me back in to my spot and invite me over for dinner. I love the kind hospitality of so many people on the road. And now those gals are my Facebook friends!

Milestones: Brantley Lake State Park

This was my beautiful view of Brantley Lake in New Mexico as the sun set. Farther east, in Texas—the opposite direction—we could see the tops of violent thunderstorms that dropped huge hail and caused massive wind damage. So glad to have missed THAT!

Milestones: Iraan Mountain

One of the idiosyncrasies I noticed in the Southwest, fairly consistently: If there’s a hill or butte or mountain near a small town, it will inevitably be claimed by the town with a large initial letter of that town’s name. I saw it all over in Arizona: Tucson, Jerome, Casa Grande; but here in New Mexico, the little hamlet of Iraan distinguished itself by lighting its letter.

April 7, 2019 – Idgie and I boondock at Iraan City Park, in Iraan, TX. I can’t find a legit site in any of the small town’s three campgrounds. It’s getting late and I’m tired and don’t want to drive farther, so I just find a flat space at the end of the campground and drydock there for the night. I hope not to receive the dreaded 3 a.m. knock at the door from police telling me we have to move on. Thankfully, no one bothers us and we’re on our way early the next morning.

Milestones: Medina Lake Campground

This campsite was beautiful and the trees provided welcome shade from the Texas sun, which was already becoming intense.

April 8-11, 2019 – We land at Medina Lake RV Campground (Thousand Trails), in Lakehills, TX. It’s a lovely spot, where the deer are very tame and will come right up and lay down in your campsite. Their pool is closed for renovation, which is a shame, because it’s beginning to get uncomfortably warm during the day. For the first time, I use my RV air conditioning during the day. At night, it still cools off enough that I can turn off the air and just open the door and windows to let the cooler night air in through screens. Idgie likes this, because she can sit and listen to the night sounds. And no, I don’t worry about anyone breaking in or anything. There are campers within almost an arm’s reach in most directions. And they don’t have bears here, so I slept soundly even with just the screen door between us and the outside.

Milestones: Colorado River Campground

If you walked down past the first line of campsites, you could see the Colorado River, which was quite low.

April 12-15, 2019 – We camp at Colorado River RV Campground in Columbus, TX. At first I wish I would have gotten a site down by the river. But when I walk down there, I realize you can’t even see the water from any of them, and it’s very buggy, enough to make things unpleasant. I end up being glad I got a spot higher up where the cell service is better and I can work. I did get to enjoy a nice evening dip in the hot tub with four other campers, two couples who were camping together. I love the spontaneity of meeting random new people. It’s never boring!

Milestones: Galveston Hurricane of 1900 Memorial

This bronze memorial to the thousands who perished in a powerful hurricane on the night of September 8, 1900, is haunting. The beseeching arm raised to heaven, begging for mercy, will stay with me always. I believe it’s times like this when art can do the job like no amount of journalism can.

April 16-18, 2019 – We camp at Safari Mobile Home Community in League City, TX. It’s a cheap stop with hookups for me to get some work done on our way to visit our friends Jeanmarie and Dan, near New Orleans. I also run down to Galveston for a day to do some book research for my Storm Diaries book series.

April 19, 2019 – We overnight at Tsuph Apiary in Broussard, LA, a Boondockers Welcome host. I’m a little behind my schedule because having gone through several heavy storms, the last drive took longer than expected. I can’t visit the bees with their keeper, which disappoints me. But our hosts are nice and they let me play with their four big dogs.

Milestones: Royal Street Gallery

The wrought iron gallery on this Royal Street apartment building is classic New Orleans style.

April 20-22, 2019 – We finally make it to our friends’ place in Madisonville, LA. They treat me like a queen, taking me out to see the Crescent City. We do Royal Street the first night, then the Latin Quarter, French Market and Bourbon Street the next. The last day, Jeanmarie takes me to visit adorable local spots such as a café in her hometown for breakfast, this cute little town called Mandeville, where we tour its historic general store and I get to shop an art supply store across the street.

Milestones: Fort Gaines Sign

This interpretive sign stands at Fort Gaines, on Dauphin Island, AL.

April 23-25, 2019 – I visit and metal detect with my new friend Barbara Burgess in Mobile, AL. I’ve only known Barbara through the Women Diggers page on Facebook, and we really hit it off. I go with her and her sweet husband Mike to bingo that night. The next day, Barbara and I go beach hunting with metal detectors on Dauphin Island, and have an outdoor lunch just off the beach, until we get rained out and return to Mobile.

Milestones: Hidden Cover RV Resort

The little lake at Hidden cove was very picturesque and peaceful.

April 26-29, 2019 – We camp at Hidden Cove RV Resort (TT) in Arley, AL for a few days, so I can get some work done before going to visit another metal detecting friend. It’s a beautiful little resort, and I spent a good bit of my free time walking the grounds. I had planned on doing some more book research in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, but didn’t have time due to work deadlines.

Milestones: Anita Jackson & Mary Shafer metal detecting

Detecting a known Confederate camp with Anita Jackson in Huntsville, AL

April 30-May 3, 2019 – Idgie and I visit with my new friend, Anita Jackson, in Huntsville, AL. Anita is also someone I’ve only known through metal detecting pages on Facebook, but she welcomes us warmly. She introduces us to her kind friends, Karen and Christine, their extended family, and a few other gals. I have such a fantastic time hanging out, enjoying a barbecue and a few games of cornhole, metal detecting and going to a local music event with them. They all love Idgie and introduce me to their sweet critters. By the time we leave, I feel as though I’ve become part of a new family. Southern hospitality is truly a real thing.

April 4-5, 2019 – We camp at Natchez Trace RV Park in Hohenwald, TN. It’s a Thousand Trails park, and originally we had planned to stay a week. But the wifi there is nearly nonexistent, and it’s the first time I can’t even pick up a cell signal with my mono-directional antenna setup. So we need to leave early, which is a bummer because it’s a beautiful park and I’ve met some nice folks there. I don’t get any photos because it rains nearly the whole time I’m there.

Milestones: Stunning sunset

The last night in Pikeville, we’re treated to a spectacular sunset after a day-long storm.

April 6-12, 2019 – We relocate to Mountain Glen RV Park & Campground in Pikeville, TN for better internet. We end up staying a week, the last day of which it rains like the dickens, and produces a spectacular sunset that night. Due to the shift in our schedule, we have to skip our originally scheduled stay at Walden’s Creek campground, which I’ve already paid for and can’t get a refund. This means I won’t get to see Dollywood, and I’m pretty bummed. It’s beginning to feel like I have to skip all the fun parts of the journey. Plus I take the Jeep in to a mechanic, and he tells me it’s about to drop the transmission because it’s just not meant to tow the load I’ve had on it. Much as it breaks my heart, I get on the Internet to research the best truck to tow my rig. I get on Facebook and find a 2000 Toyota Tundra down in Canton, GA. Nervous that the Jeep may not make it, I drive down to look at it. I make the deal to come get it the next day, and make it back to Pikeville okay.

Milestones: Mary Shafer at a scenic overllok

The last big hill the Jeep has to negotiate is this beautiful Scenic Overlook in Tennessee. The rest of the trip to Georgia is relatively downhill, and the Jeep gets us through.

May 13-18, 2019 – My beloved BumbleBeep Jeep makes it one last trip to Sweetwater Creek Campground in Canton, GA, where I replace her with the truck. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because I absolutely love my beautiful yellow Jeep. I also have to again cancel nonrefundable reservations in Haymarket, VA to complete the truck purchase transaction. Sometimes adulting really sucks, but at least I have the reduced stress of no longer cringing every time I see a steep grade ahead. And the truck is actually getting better mileage than the Jeep!

Milestones: New truck & trailer

My “new” 2000 Toyota Tundra, whom I name “Press On Regardless.” She is fully capable of towing Wildheart without even breathing hard, here at our camp in Sweetwater Creek Corps of Engineers campground in Canton, GA.

May 19-23, 2019 – We stay at Forest Lake RV & Camping Resort (Thousand Trails) in Advance, NC to work. Since the truck transaction took longer than anticipated, I cancel a planned Gettysburg stay, but since it’s a TT campground, I’m not out any money.

Milestones: Welcome to Virginia sign

In the home stretch now, we cross the border into Virginia.

May 24, 2019 – We overnight at Cracker Barrel in Fredericksburg, VA, where I see when I take a photo of the new rig that I need to raise the trailer hitch to keep my tow bars from dragging. They make an awful racket the whole way to PA.


Milestones: Welcome to Pennsylvania sign

At the end of a long first season as a fulltimer, I’ll admit it’s good to get back to home base.

May 25-26, 2019 – We visit with our friends Rikki and Joe in East Fallowfield in Chester Co. for the Memorial Day weekend. Rikki feeds us wonderful things and Joe kindly takes care of raising the trailer hitch so I don’t have to pay to take it to a repair shop. Good friends are life’s most important blessing.

May 27, 2019 – We drive home to Upper Black Eddy, PA, pulling in on the afternoon of Memorial Day. It’s good to be home.