I had arrived back from Hells Half Acre later than I had hoped. It now was time to start the process I had come to think of as “de-RVing”. That meant getting everything ready to return my RV, retaining only what was going to fit in a suitcase and carry on bag. A quick canned dinner, then I start in on the process.
My plan, actually formulated before I ever arrived in the desert, was to donate as much as possible to Goodwill. I knew there would be some unavoidable waste, such as opened partially used food packages, but I tried to minimize that at least.
I start throwing stuff into garbage bags of three types: Goodwill donations, recycling, and actual garbage. At least this campground has an aluminum can bin, so I’d recycle those. But no plastics, not even glass were allowed. Recycling sucks in this part of the world.
I am casting aside the lifestyle I have embraced for six weeks: no schedule, go where I please, do what I want. Now it is: be there by 3pm tomorrow, in Mesa, to return my emptied RV. I feel like my life is being disrupted, yet this has only been ‘my life’ for six weeks. It seems I had grown comfortable with living the travelling RV lifestyle.
I am not the best at throwing stuff out, better at giving stuff away. Throw out the used plastic containers. Throw out the 90% full salt container. Put dishes and assorted utensils all together. Some things I was donating I really wanted to keep. I really liked the little day pack I had gotten at Walmart, but unless I wanted to turn it into another check in bag, it wasn’t going to happen. The cost to bring back the pack and a few other things would be more than just buying it again at home. So, in the donation bags it went!
I decide I have way too many rocks by weight to take back. I setup a discard pile and make a nice stack outside, to add to the other stacks of pretty rocks others have left behind previously. I’ve only got a couple of pounds of rocks now – I’ll be able to handle that!
I sleep surprisingly well, but I am up before dawn anticipating a long day. This morning, I have a quick cold cereal breakfast and coffee to use up my remaining milk. Then I empty most of the drawers into Goodwill donate bags or garbage, along with the coffee pot and mug, after cleaning first! My one point of uncertainty today is that I have NO internet signal here. Fortunately, I learned from the Grand Canyon to try and research ahead a little. At my last stop, I had already looked up dump stations, laundry places, and propane for my trip back into Phoenix. This was cached on my phone, but that meant no deviation beyond what I’d looked up. I was hoping as soon as I got out of Burro Creek campground, there would be service on the highway again so I could fine tune my plans.
I need to do laundry today, so my dirty laundry pile goes into my suitcase. That has worked surprisingly well and gave me a use for a suitcase that is just collecting dust otherwise while I have been down here. My sleeping bag, blankets, sheets, pillows all go in garbage bags. They will be washed prior to donating. My clean clothing is left in the RV overhead bins for now, I’ll deal with that once I have all clean laundry. I know I’ll have a bit of time while waiting for laundry to clean up – I have a dust pan and broom to clean the hard floors of the RV.
It’s a nice sunrise. I enjoy the cool fresh morning air, taking a last look around as the sun rises.
I do one last RV inspection before driving away. Time to start up the RV and head home. I have to start thinking of the RV as NOT home. I take out my RV levelers, we will keep those and see if Cruise America can give those to the next person that rents the RV. I look over my site, sad that I have to leave. There are no new destinations left to go to, this time.
I drive through the campsite and stop for the one task I won’t really miss – dumping my tanks. It ends up being a bit of a messy job owing to things not being sloped right at dump station. Plus I have a guy pulling up behind me who wants to use the same station rather than going to the other side, because evidently the slope on that side is even worse. I’d like to take my time and clean things up a bit but he’s impatient, offers to clean up the remaining mess I’ve got. He can deal with my shit, literally. But I leave with tanks flushed out less than I’d like. I think the slope is also tilting the tanks away from the drain a little, but what do I know? I’m supposed to bring back the rig with the valves open, but a little crap keeps dribbling out. My RV is incontinent. I leave the valves open, but the cap on the end. They’ll just have to deal with it when they get the RV back.
I head out of the campground and up the hill back to highway 93. I’m expecting to hit a cell signal as soon as I get on the highway, but nothing. Perhaps there is a gap in the signal here? Driving down the road for a few miles I adjust my thinking to a big gap in the signal here. This is annoying. I was hoping to find a gas station with propane so I could save a stop on the way back, filling up just before I hit Phoenix. My current plan has me stopping for propane just south of Wickenburg, at an RV place called “Horspitality RV Park”. Yes, you can go camping with your horse and board it there for rides in the area.
I make one last tourist stop – this stretch of Highway 93 is known for having Joshua trees along it. I stop at a pull out, and walk a last little hike to see a few of these trees scattered around here. I was hoping for a few more trees, but at least I have seen them down here while driving into Wickenburg.
My other reason for stopping was to concentrate on the phone properly as I still have no cell signal. I had renewed my phone data plan to cover the last few days my trip. Sometimes, you need to power cycle the phone to make it pick up a new plan. I try this to no avail. I was beginning to think something had gone wrong with the plan renewal, as this time I had been able to add the plan online prior to my previous plan expiring. Worst case scenario, I would have no internet other than WiFi for the remainder of my trip.
I drive on, into Wickenburg, still no signal! My map has saved locations for the laundromat, and the propane place, but without an internet signal the googles won’t let me start a navigation to them – it needs to see current data to calculate a route. So I’m navigating semi-old school; have the map up on my phone which is clamped to the rear view mirror, following along the streets glancing at the map once in a while to monitor the up coming turns. Having googles tell you the turns is so much safer, no taking your eyes off the road, other than the occasional glance at the map for some auxiliary information. Highway 93 ends at a traffic circle junction with Highway 60, I follow the signs onto Highway 60, in the town of Wickenburg now. Good thing I picked the laundromat that is easy to find, this one is right on Highway 60 so I shouldn’t miss it. I had previously researched parking, so I know this one will have parking in the back for my RV. I see the laundromat on my left, turn in and park in the back.
Now it is a rush to get the laundry going – that is the part of my day that is going to take the longest. I have not used a large capacity laundry machine in forever, so I need to familiarize myself with the thing. Looking at the laundry soap dispenser, I see one immediate problem – it is set up for powdered soap, perhaps liquid – not the liquid tabs I have with me. I stuff in my sleeping bag, blankets, and as much else as I can fit in. I’m going to try just throwing a couple of tabs in there with it and see how it goes. I still have some remaining laundry, so that goes into a regular washing machine. Ten zillion quarters later, everything is washing.
Now that my wash is going, I can try and find some WiFi. I still have no cell signal here in Wickenburg. I was thinking as I was driving into town that I would like to not stop for propane separately, just find a gas station with both and do one less stop along the way today. But I need internet for that, not to mention it would be nice to look up gas prices and save a few bucks. So I make my way up the street. It doesn’t look promising at first – no coffee shops or such that might offer Wifi. I try the larger gas station – good setup for RVs but no Wifi. I’m at a major intersection here in town and see a Chase Bank across the street. Walking over, I see an open WiFi point, but would it let me into their WiFi? I give it a try and find success! Finally, I can see what is up and plan the rest of my day of de-RVing.
My first task is to find gas stations along the way. I am hoping to fill up as I get close to Phoenix, with propane fill at the same time. But if that doesn’t work out, I have a Flying J marked out in Phoenix that looks to be easy in and out for me as a Plan B. I decide to ditch the propane stop just south of Wickenburg, I’ll find propane with a gas station and save the extra stop. Next I check FreeRoam to see what is up with cell service. It turns out that I drove through some AT&T service on the way down, but Wickenburg has no service until I get out of town to the east. So I’m still not sure if my phone has service. I’ve restarted it now, so perhaps it will pick it up on the way into Phoenix. I load the Flying J gas station, Goodwill, and Cruise America into my stop list, knowing that the googles will cache the instructions / map for when I’m out of service. I’ll have no voice instructions, but it at least serves as a map on how to get there.
I head back to the laundromat, getting there just as my loads are finished with the wash part. Unloading the large capacity washer, I see my use of the liquid tablets was not a total success. The membrane is supposed to dissolve, letting the liquid out, but I see that instead it has mostly dissolved but left a bit of goop on the sleeping bag. I manage to scrap some of it off, but there is still a bit left. Oh well, this is as good as it is going to get – it’s clean, and it’s going into the drier like this.
Back at the RV, it is time finish cleaning up while waiting for the clothes to dry. I take a quick check of the septic drain. Yep, it’s still leaking shit and I now have a little stinky wet spot in the laundromat parking lot. This is very annoying, I don’t know why the thing keeps dribbling. Oh well, that shit will be Cruise America’s to deal with.
I start cleaning the inside of the RV. The hard floors are great, I just sweep up all the dirt into a pan, or out the door. The bathroom gets a good final wipe down. It never was that dirty – you want to keep a wet bath extra clean since you do all your business in there. I decide that I’m going to keep a few things in the RV for the next people and see if Cruise America will take them – obvious stuff like a lighter for the stove, can opener, and the small tool kit I bought to fix the mirror! I check on the laundry every 10 minutes – that is one quarter’s worth of drying, at least once I’ve done the first 30 minutes worth. It is hard to gauge how long things take to dry on these big drum driers with things I’m not used to drying like sleeping bags. But I manage to finish cleaning about the same time my stuff is dry, good timing!
I look at my suitcase and all the stuff I need to get into it. I had packed it coming down to almost the maximum – not a lot of extra room to bring back stuff. For the little bit of stuff I had brought with me that I was not bringing back, I had two times new stuff I was determined to cram in. I wasn’t leaving without my rocks. Okay, I wasn’t leaving without at least some of my rocks! Finally, I get suitcase packed again with clothes. I learned on this trip that I packed too many sweaters and perhaps not enough T-shirts. Layering is much more of a thing for me out here where I am outside more in the ever changing weather. I’d start the day with a hoodie and a T-shirt. Once the sun warmed things up, the sweater would be too warm. I’d sometimes have to add warm jacket for the evenings/early mornings that were really cold. My suitcase is bulging with sweaters I never wore.
Eventually, I manage to cram all my stuff into the suitcase, including the tripod that just fits in there. My carry on is ready to go too. Time head south to Phoenix – I’ll hit a gas station and fill up on the way I hope.
I am watching for any gas station that has propane advertised. I pass the first gas station – it is a small one and I do not see any propane. The second station is a larger Shell station with Propane. I pull up to a gas pump and head inside to query about the propane. I find out that their propane is temporarily out of service. Well, I’m not going to bother filling up with gas here – I’m still a ways out and I need to bring the RV back with what it had in gas when I started – about 7/8ths of a tank.
Down the road I go, hoping for another gas station before I hit Phoenix proper. As I approach the 303, a perimeter road around Phoenix, the googles suddenly wakes up and tells me about my turn ahead. I check the cell signal and I see I have service again! Better late than never, as having service results in much better road navigation. I now get instructions on which lanes coming up to a turn I need to be in. This is really useful on the freeways when I do not know if the turn is coming up to the left or right, and when there are many lanes on the road. Sometimes, you can have three lanes exiting and it is good know a couple of miles ahead so you can start moving over now. Without a data connection, I’m not even sure I’d get instructions to exit right or left, I’d have to rely on the signage, which is really good in Phoenix, just not quite the amount of notice ahead always that the googles can give.
I decide to try exiting one more time in the ‘burb of Surprise, following signs that say gas/propane. It’s not clear which way I have to turn for the propane, so I head west. A half a mile down the road I find a Circle K with gas, no propane. Circling around the block, I head back to the 303. No point in trying that again, we will stick to the planned Flying J stop.
But first, we have the Pebble Creek Goodwill to visit. I picked this location owing to it being right off the Interstate 10, with good in and out access. I find it no problem and head around the back to the drive through drop off spot. One thing about the USA, they have drive through service for a lot of things. I am met by a fellow who takes the larger stuff off my hands and brings a bin for the smaller stuff. It turns out they take opened food packages, just as long as the portion is a sealed unit. That allows me to give away a few more food items I had thought I might have to throw out, like cans of pop. But no go on the frozen items, so my remaining single serving pizza will have to be tossed. I did get caught with quite a bit more food than I should have – it’s easy to forget how soon one’s trip is ending, along with forgetting about the extra food in the cupboards. At least being able to give away almost brand new stuff means someone else will get good use out of it.
I pull back onto the Interstate 10, heading for my gas stop. I can see from the traffic indicator on the googles that the Flying J is busy – this is what I was trying to avoid filling up coming into town. I pull in and find the road traffic is pretty heavy, but the gas station is not bad. I try my credit card on the pump, expecting it to work like every other Flying J I’ve been to so far. Not this one! I proceed into the store one last time to let them swipe my card in person to allow me to fill. That has been a major annoyance in the States, they won’t let me fill without providing a card, and they won’t let me use my card at the pump. That means two trips inside for every fill, a long journey at some of these big truck stop stations.
I see the propane on the outside corner of the station, just past the dump stations. That is an inconvenient spot – I’m blocking the access to one of the spots being here for propane. I realize that this Flying J is actually on the small side for this kind of facility – things are crammed in a bit resulting in compromises like the propane location. I make another trip back in with my card for propane fill, then back to my RV to wait for the attendant. He shows up a couple of minutes later and hooks me up, after filling out some safety paper work and having me sign it. I’m happy to be done with it – the last pit stop on the de-RVing tour! But my relief is premature; after a few attempts to get the propane flowing the attendance says he’s having trouble getting the tank to fill, it might be my tank, it might be his filling equipment. I wait patiently as he fiddles with the equipment, but I’m losing hope as he starts trying the same things again. He did manage to fill the tank all of a quarter gallon – the gauge shows about half full so lots more should go in. I’m debating if I want to try another stop, or if I should just head to Cruise America and see if they’ll waive the filling fee. But finally the tank starts filling! That is one worry off my list at least when I drop off the RV. After yet another trip into the gas station to pay for my propane, I am off again down the Interstate 10.
This time, I have timed my arrival to be traveling through Phoenix in the middle of the day – I am hoping for less traffic on the Interstate. I’m also hoping the new 202 freeway that is now open will reduce the traffic somewhat too. I do hit some traffic along the way, but the googles tells me that the delays will be no more than 15 minutes – much better than on my arrival! But it was a close thing, I arrive at Cruise America just before the traffic starts to pickup in the mid afternoon. I had hoped to be there closer to lunch time.
My first priority is my late lunch. I make myself a quick ham and cheese sandwich, being generous with the portions as anything left is going into the garbage. Karin, the rental supervisor, comes over to take a look at the RV. Now is the time of reckoning for the damage done to the RV during my misadventures. Upon inspecting the damage, Karin remarks “Oh, that’s not that bad.” So I’m a little hopeful the bill won’t be that bad.
After my quick lunch, Karin and I go over the RV. I ask if they can use any of the stuff I have kept, she says that is fine, just leave it all in the RV, they can give stuff to the next people renting the RV. That makes me feel better, as I’d rather someone having a rental have some of the stuff obviously useful to a camper. I check everything over one last time. Did I go through every door pocket, bin and drawer? I haul my gear to the building, it is a heavy load including my winter jacket for which the weather is just too warm to wear, There is no room to put it in my bags – it will just have to drape over my carry on, which I’m leaning against my larger rolling luggage.
I head inside and get the final tally of the damage. It’s not as bad as I expected, they charged under US$200 for the damage, Karin stated they just charged the minimum amount. I was expecting more, considering the corner damage and the sewer hose storage pipe having been demolished. But I’m not going to complain – I sign my copy and get my refund. Refund, you ask? Yes, it’s a refund, because you pay ahead 100 miles per day of travel, so, 43 days equals 4300 miles. At the US$0.26 (discounted) rate, my mileage prepay equals US$1118. My actual travel was about 1500 miles, so I get the difference back, plus the remainder of my damage deposit. I’ll be talking more about my costs once I add everything up, but the RV cost me C$4100, or approximately US$3040 assuming a 0.74 USD to CAD exchange rate. That works out to US$70 per day, not bad at all considering that includes travel.
Done, I head out – everything is back in my rolling luggage and a carry on. I take a final look at the RV that was my home for six weeks. It really had started feeling like home. I had learned where everything was. I’d had to fix things. I’d learned the annoyances and the likes of the thing. But more on that later. It was time to walk down the road, for the last planned part of my trip, de-RVing is now complete!