"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Northward Trek Begins Again

We don't think of ourselves as snowbirds, because we don't have a fixed pattern of returning to the same northern and southern destinations annually, like migrating birds. But we do travel up and down the country with the seasons. So now, after almost four months in Southern California, we are finally on the road again, heading north for a gradual three month trek to our ultimate summer destination in Montana. We are happy to be on the road again.

Our journey began with a one night stand at Cocopah RV and Golf Resort in Yuma, AZ. It's surrounded by the green farmland just east of Yuma, and away from the mass of RV resorts in town.

Cocopah on the right, farm on the left

Cocopah advertises itself as a luxury sort of resort, with golf course, landscaping and many amenities, which it certainly does have.  Our favorite amenity is a very large grassy dog park with some shade - very rare in this part of the country. Although it is not fenced in, leash requirements seem to be relaxed within that space. 

Golf course and landscaping

With all its fancy stuff, however, the sites are gravel, no picnic table, and pretty close together. The hookups are behind the rig, with the sewer drain being especially far away. We had to use three sewer hoses for the first time ever.

Next stop, River Island State Park, in Parker, AZ, right on the Colorado River.  I was very happy with this place.  There are lots of RV parks along the river in Parker, many of them huge and crowded. In contrast to the norm, River Island is small, with about 30 sites, nicely spaced.  We were blessed with a little shade from small trees on both sides. The red tree below is the largest and most beautiful bottle brush tree I have ever seen, in full bloom.

River Island State Park - Site 17

Bottle brush tree blossoms

The park is on a quiet cove in the river, nestled between two sets of cliffs, 
has a great little beach, and a nice boat ramp.

The doggie friendly beach

The people beach in a quiet, calm cove

View from Wedge Mountain Trail, adjacent to park

View the other way from a high point of Wedge Mountain Trail

Area surrounding River Island SP - note the other RV parks along the Colorado

While in Parker we did a little bit of exploring. The Parker Dam Scenic Byway is on the west side of the Colorado, starting from the town of Parker, running north to Parker Dam, and back across the River, where is rejoins 95 and continues up to Lake Havasu City. The high point of that drive was the wild donkeys. There are donkey warning signs lining the roads in this part of the state, but this was the first time we'd actually seen them. There seem to be quite a few donkeys living in some of the RV parks on the west side of the river, enjoying the green grass there, and harvesting what they can from passers-by. We would often hear them from River Island. Kinda cool.

Wild donkeys along Parker Dam Scenic Byway - Mom and baby

Parker Dam

South end of Lake Havasu - at Bill Williams Nature Preserve overlook

Along Rt. 95 near Bill Williams Nature Preserve
We mostly just enjoyed the park. It was a perfect place to help Honey get used the the water. We're still expecting her to turn into a water dog any time now. There was also a fenced in dog park there, which Honey loved because it was all dirt, some of it in big, fun piles. We did not love it for the same reason. : )

Now we are at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, in Maricopa County, north of Phoenix, AZ.  It is a much larger park, on the shores of Lake Pleasant, which is heavily used on the weekend by campers, picnickers and boaters.

Site 58, Roadrunner Campground

On a quieter day, we loaded Honey and the kayaks up in the truck and drove to a place where it was pretty easy to put in without getting in the way of the big boats.

Lake Pleasant is 93% full! Guess this road is for low water years.

While one of us kayaked, the other "swam" with Honey. (More tag-teaming.) If we carry her out into the deep water she has no trouble swimming back to shore, but isn't interested yet in going in on her own.

Got one of the new Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks on the water!

 Besides, she says, "That water is cold!" 

Honey warming up after a big swim.

On our last day here I took some alone time and drove to nearby Wickenburg to visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum.

Right now they are having their annual "Cowgirl Up: Art from the Other Half of the West" exhibit. It was a truly outstanding exhibit, with amazing talent - all contemporary women artists. I was so glad to find it. I really needed a little aesthetic holiday. 

A few works from the Desert Caballeros Western Museum's "Cowgirl Up" exhibit.

The theme boot for "Cowgirl Up."
Wickenburg and the museum really got me in the mood to "Cowgirl Up" for the rest of our Western USA adventure. I'm getting my cowgirl hat out right now. Montana, here we come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How a Puppy Changes Your Full-time RV Lifestyle

I realized our myopic vision of the last month or so may need some explanation...

So many people live with dogs (of all sizes) in their RVs (also of all sizes). We’ve seen folks unload their tiny Airstreams at campsites with three German shepherds, or their motor coaches with six chihuahuas! We even met a couple who took out their couch to put in two extra large crates for their malamute show dogs. Hard to imagine, but people love their dogs and they make it work. 

Living without a dog is definitely easier in so many ways, and cheaper. But living with a dog somehow makes us more human. Certainly more humane. The care we need to give her often makes us take better care of ourselves too. We can’t take excruciatingly long day trips without stopping to let her out and so we have to stretch our legs too. At home we can’t get too comfy in front of the TV or the computer for too long without going for a walk. The love and attention we give her gets reciprocated. What goes around, comes around. 

We’ve been living with Honey now for almost 2 months and I thought I’d share some experiences of how living with a puppy has effected our lives. 


When we lost our golden retriever Kona in 2013 we debated for quite awhile whether to get a dog her size again, or look for a smaller breed. One full sized golden, at about 70 lbs, takes up a sizable chunk of floor space when stretched out. But we love the breed, so we stuck with it. A smaller dog would really be easier.

Kona didn’t have a crate when she traveled with us, so we never had to consider where to put one before. Honey initially had a tiny crate that fit easily between Rick’s recliner and the dining table and chairs. 

Well, she outgrew that one in about 15 minutes and now has a larger one in its place. It’s a tight squeeze. We hope it will be the last one we need.  

Puppies also love to be underfoot, all the time. It only takes one or two close calls to increase one’s spatial awareness to include the floor all around your feet, all the time.  Eventually, dogs find their places and become a little less unpredictable that way. But a puppy wants to be everywhere you are.

During waking hours, we are very fortunate to have a small living space to keep our eyes on. At first we kept our bedroom door closed so that at least one of us and Honey were in the living room at all times, except overnight when she slept in her crate. This makes it so much easier to monitor her explorations and it made house training faster too I think. Because we were always with her we learned her signals faster and she got a sense that everywhere inside was her home, and not a place to go potty. 

Now that she’s house trained she has the run of all of the RV, (all two rooms of it) except the bathroom and the closets. One of the benefits of full-time traveling is that we don’t have a lot of stuff lying around for her to get into. Basically everything is put away in safety-latched cupboards, closets and drawers. We don’t have to worry about her getting into dangerous things or places. The puppy rule - "what’s on the floor is hers" - works well in our house.


Puppies need to be attended to almost 24/7 for the first few months, maybe longer. At first they don’t sleep through the night, so sleep is disturbed for awhile and nighttime potty breaks are usually a necessity.  In an RV park you’ll never be able to just let the her out in the nice fenced in backyard and tell her to go potty. It always requires a leashed walk. Many times a day at first. Because we can’t leave her home alone yet, everything we do is tag-teamed. We take turns doing everything. Parents will recall this from the days of young children. We were very fortunate to have puppy-godparents who puppy-sat for Honey occasionally during the first few exhausting weeks she was with us. As much as we love her, what a blessing it was to get away for an afternoon together without Honey!

Every day we try to fit in some kind of training experience, whether it’s practicing simple commands like Come, Sit, Stay, Lie Down, Touch or Heal, or just learning how to take a civilized, comfortable walk. This definitely takes time but is SO valuable in the long run. You need a well trained dog to live in a small space together, and enjoy the RV community and recreational opportunities traveling provides. 


Because our lives involve a lot of driving, we need our puppy to be a happy traveler. 

We started taking Honey for rides right away, and now she loves to be in the car or truck, and needs almost no attention once she’s in the back seat. She sleeps much of the time. If your dog does not adjust to riding in the car, you’ll have a hard time. Imagine if you had one of those dogs that has to have his head out the window, or barks at every motorcycle that goes by, or worse yet, gets car sick. 

One limitation that we deal with often is the hot car. We can't just stop at the store or any restaurant for lunch because we can't leave Honey in the car during the day. At night, it's possible. So we do more tag-teaming, or we use an app like Bring Fido to help us find dog friendly restaurants (and dog parks).

Puppies need to adjust to RV parks too. They need to be comfortable with people living and walking close by, and sharing community space with other dogs. They need to not be barkers when alone in the RV.  You’ll have unhappy neighbors if your puppy can’t settle down once you start leaving her home alone.

In 4 years we have found only one RV park that did not welcome pets of any sort.  99% of them say explicitly that dogs must be on a leash at all times, and must be picked up after (of course) and many request that you not tie them up unattended outside of the RV.  But I think it’s safe to say that traveling with a puppy will not significantly change the choices you can make about where to park your RV.  (I do think that RV park websites should make a bigger deal about advertising if they have a fenced in dog park. So many RVers would appreciate it. I'd think it would be a great selling point.)


Yes, food, occasional dog care, grooming, vaccinations and other veterinarian bills are no small financial matter. They do add up. Puppies eat a tremendous amount for being such little guys. Well, maybe little breeds don’t eat so much, but Honey sure does. Since we don’t have a regular vet, due to traveling, we often look for vet clinics at Petco or Petsmart for vaccinations, which saves a good deal.  Just watch out for those toy and treat aisles while you’re in the store. (Geez, puppy toys are expensive!)  The good news is that if you are a full-timer, you don't need to get your pet licensed for any particular location. We plan on having Honey microchipped so that in case she gets lost she may be easier to locate.


With a dog you spend a certain amount of recreational time attending to their interests and needs. With our last golden, who loved to swim, we did our best to find her water she could enjoy wherever we went, and that is easier in some locations than others.

So far, with Honey,  the focus has been on finding dog parks. (Again, Bring Fido has been a big help finding those.) She needs lots of play time with other dogs to learn good manners and burn off some of that puppy energy.  We've even found a couple of RV parks with great fenced in dog parks, but those are hard to locate.

The flip side of this is the change a puppy may make in your own recreational pursuits, be they reading, couch surfing or more vigorous styles of exercise like hiking, biking or kayaking. We’ve had to put some of our favorite pastimes on hold for the moment. We’re not going to be able to fit her in one of our new inflatable kayaks for very long. But she's eager to come with us, no matter where we go.

Honey is not a great walker just yet either. She’s learning, but it will be awhile before she goes on any hikes longer than 100 yards or so.  We know that when she's older she’ll be a great hiking companion. 

Note: Hiking with dogs is not possible in US National Parks, so looking for doggie daycare near any Park you want to visit becomes essential, and sometimes costly.


Walking a dog, especially a puppy, in the RV park is one of the easiest ways to meet people. Everyone wants to meet the puppy! People with dogs usually like other peoples’ dogs too and are happy to meet and greet on the street. Same with dog parks. Sitting or standing around with other dog owners, watching the happy doggies do their thing is one of the most relaxing social experiences ever. 

...and this has a flip side too. Sometimes the attention can be a little overwhelming, and we've needed to find quiet alternative locations to take her for walks to do her business.

Bottom line...having a puppy in the RV is definitely doable, and takes patience and flexibility. But when things get tough, remember they are not puppies for very long and it's worth all the effort because they will be fun, loving traveling companions for the rest of their lives.