Agility and flexibility are facets of a small and simple life. As nomads, we move around, sometimes often, other times not. Karen works a job local to the Flagstaff area so that temporarily gives us a reason to stay in and around Flagstaff. Since the beginning of November, we have moved HaRVey more than six times, all still within driving distance of Karen’s job. I’m going to talk about the last few times and some of the reasons why.
Our story picks up off Cosnino Road, neat Walnut Canyon National Monument. This area is fairly well known and has quite a few campsites managed by the Forest Service. We like it because it’s near I 40, has good access and many of the sites are sunny which is good for solar. Since November, we have run without hooking up to shore power at all.
When people think of Arizona, mostly they visualize dry and hot desert. Yes, much of Arizona is desert and much of it is hot most of the year. We live in the part of Arizona that is not. Not desert and not hot. Flagstaff is home to the only ski resort in Arizona, Snow Bowl. Two different geological features contribute to this. We are on the southwest portion of the Colorado Plateau and Flagstaff is located at the base of San Francisco Mountain. One of its peaks is the highest point in Arizona. Flagstaff itself is between 6,600 and 7,000 feet in altitude.
In the summertime, Phoenix can have daily temperatures over 100, often over 110. During this same period, Flagstaff might be in the 80’s. Low temperatures are correspondingly low. In the winter, they are often in the teens. It’s ok though. It’s a dry cold. Wait, no it’s not ok.
We have 120 watts of solar. For our size rig that should be adequate. We were using the battery that came with HaRVey, a standard marine deep cycle. The solar panels seemed to have no trouble charging it up in a few hours, although the rudimentary indicator doesn’t say how much power that is. It was enough that we weren’t having problems drawing it down too far, that is, until it got colder. Then the mighty little furnace started coming on.
The mighty little furnace has a blower motor in it. Of all the things we have, blower motors take the most power. As the temperatures dropped, the furnace cycled on accordingly and drew down the battery to the point that we barely had any battery left in the morning. I thought maybe the outdoor battery was too cold to furnish enough power. I moved it inside. Still problematic. Because we had plenty of solar, we got a bigger battery to store more power.
Then a supplemental heater to reduce to reduce the amount of times the furnace would cycle. That produced its own problems. Too much moisture was in the air. It seemed like the only thing being produced in abundance was stress. A couple of cloudy days and we were using the car as a supplemental generator.
The solutions broke into two distinct directions. One was a serious solar and battery upgrade, a couple of lithium batteries and solar panels to raise our available power out of the worry zone. That was certainly a desirable solution but out of our reach financially probably till late spring.
Option two: do something about the weather. Remember what I said about Flagstaff being near the edge of the Colorado Plateau. About thirty-five miles to the south and west of Flagstaff is Sedona. Sedona is off the edge of the Plateau and around 3,000 feet lower in altitude. Because of this, Sedona trends warmer than Flagstaff around 15 degrees. We had boondocked in the area at Red Canyon Road before and found it quite good. The biggest difficulty with it was the windy climb up Oak Creek Canyon each day taking Karen to work and back. But we decided the change in temperature was worth the extra time traveling if only to relieve some of the stress and deal with the power management issues.
One Problem Solved
So at this point we are in Sedona. Gone were the lingering snow and the icy road conditions. Now we had bright and sunny vistas and daily highs in the 60’s. Yea! The Portable Buddy heater got packed up. There was less cycling of the furnace and the power issues were solved for the time being.
This was BLM and managed by the Forest Service meaning it had a 14 day limit. Winter was still 2 more months of cold Flagstaff so on day 10 we started figuring out what to do about staying in the warm temperatures. We needed at least one more place in the sun that was still a reasonable drive to and from Flagstaff. Also, that drive up and down Oak Creek Canyon was taxing.
While scouting some sites near I 17 we found more distributed camping in Rimrock with more scenic vistas and, importantly, a relatively easy drive to Flagstaff. We especially liked this little section that had 4 or 5 sites clustered together. However, since they were a mile from the highway, would they be available Thursday which was our next planned moving day?
Small And Simple But Nimble And Decisive Too!
We wanted the site in the back of the cluster. It was available then. One thing we have learned is being flexible and agile. Sometimes that means seizing an opportunity when it presents itself. In 2 1/2 hours we had packed HaRVey and moved to our new location. Lots of sun, beautiful scenery and a better drive, who could ask for more?
Ok, I will admit that a lot of places in Northern Arizona look like this. But I was exploring a little within a mile of here and I found some hidden gems. Looks like I’m going to get the chance to paint a few Plein Air paintings soon!
Being agile and flexible in a small and simple life occasionally means adapting on the fly but that doesn’t mean doing it thoughtlessly. Moving this winter in order to balance temperature, driving needs and accommodations has been and continues to be an ongoing process that continues in the background. We do a lot of “filing away for later” and “what if?” as we go along. In Taoism there is the idea that big problems are best handled by discovering them when they’re small. By being aware and continually contemplating various outcomes, most our problems can be solved in a small and simple fashion.