The Distance: 2,271 miles, or longest month yet, nearly twice as far as we drove in January. The differences between our January and February driving patterns are even more pronounced: we travel further between spots out here in the West, and we have not yet slowed our frequency of movement at all. If anything we increased our frantic pace after being stuck in Odessa for 11 days in February and March. Our total mileage since starting fulltime RVing at the beginning of the year: 5,402 miles.
The Places: Since we finally left Odessa on March 9 we have stayed in 12 different places, including three national parks (Guadalupe Mountains, Grand Canyon, Death Valley), a state park, a country park, three private parks, a BLM campground, a national recreation area, an unknown boondocking site, and a residential neighborhood. We also visited without camping in two other national parks, Carlsbad Caverns and Saguaro. Of the 23 days on the road since Odessa, we had hook up campgrounds 13 nights, dry camping sites 4 nights, and free boondocking 6 nights.
The Budget: Totally blew the budget, and I am not even counting the major bus repair cost in Odessa as that came out of our set aside bus upgrade funds. We went nearly 30% over our monthly allocation. Four main causes: Diesel fuel, Odessa hotel, unaccounted for bus repairs, and clothing. We spent $583 on diesel this month, $133 more than our estimate. Obviously those 2,271 miles of travel came at a cost. Though we were able to use points for the first seven nights of hotel stays in Odessa, I elected to shift to a government/military rate cash payment the last four as I could find no reasonable rate of return on the brand of hotel points we have after expending all the Marriott ones. Even if I average that hotel rate out over the entire eight day March stay, it comes out to way more, $260 more, than our average daily budget estimate for lodging would allow. The potable water system breaks that cost us $250 to repair while in Carlsbad where entirely avoidable and self-induced, so I am counting them against our monthly budget rather than taking them our of our dwindling bus improvement set aside. Lastly, and most significantly, we spent over $400 filling in our winter and outdoor active clothing, and this is not even a designated line item in our budget, simply falling under miscellaneous expenditures. The only bright spot is that aside from the Odessa hotel, we finally brought our average daily campsite cost down to $20/night, much closer to our hoped for budget estimate than we achieved in earlier months. The significant increase in dry camping and boondock sites interspersed allowed this, and we hope we can continue the trend in coming months.
The Drama: One would hope, after our ridiculous repair bill in Odessa, that we could go a couple of months without bus related drama, but no. We had the cold weather induced water breaks, easily repaired in two hours in Carlsbad, and our messy but basically free to fix sewage problem, but that is nothing compared to the new problems that developed at the very end of the month. We have a power steering leak, which I am still tracking down exactly where it is occurring, and even more significantly our two big bus starting batteries are no longer getting recharged while driving, which strongly suggests an alternator problem. Unfortunately, as we will reveal in an upcoming post, those are not the most significant problems; one more major issue hit us on April Fools Day as well.
The Improvements: Hmm, very little to say in this department. The water repairs in Carlsbad mean that my hose hook up is much easier and doesn’t leak like the old one. Our storage situation continues to improve as we get rid of unneeded items and find better ways to place our stuff, and we are getting better at finding free boondocking or affordable dry camping spots.