Tiny Shiny Home Blog 2018-02-23T22:05:57+00:00 https://tinyshinyhome.com/feed Tiny Shiny Home hello@tinyshinyhome.com https://tinyshinyhome.com/charming-ajo-az Charming Ajo, AZ 2018-02-19T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-20T18:30:40+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while now. Not quite knowing how to describe our time spent in Ajo. We were just trying to escape the cold evenings in Sierra Vista, but what originated as a one week stay quickly turned into three. 

If you have driven through Ajo, you probably didn’t even think twice about staying there. But as with most small towns, if you take some time to really explore the community, you may be surprised at what a gem these places can be

We found a sweet little boondocking spot in the Sonoran Desert just a few miles from downtown Ajo. 

Airstream parked in desert outside Ajo, AZ

Thankfully we had friends in the area that scouted us a great spot. Thank you Kate and Matt from @wheeledandfree!

We were surrounded by the most beautiful desert scenery and each night the sky was lit with incredible pink and purple pastels as the coyotes sang their evening songs. It was simply magical.

Airstream with solar panels raised at sunset in Sonoran Desert near Ajo, AZ

So, let’s talk about the town of Ajo.

First of all, it has a weird name. It means garlic in Spanish. It sounds like a sneeze. But it's so cute and has so much potential. There were so many cool looking buildings, but not a whole lot else...Or perhaps, we just didn't find them? Either way, we loved the town square and went there nearly everyday. 

Church in downtown Ajo, AZ

Being so close to town, we frequented the local coffee shop (Harris & Smith Co) and it was so good. We were hooked on the Churro Frappe but also loved the Chai Frappe and the Caramel Frappe. It’s a must visit when you’re in Ajo or even just driving through. They even have a cute little shop filled with local artist items like pottery, cactus pillows, cactus shaped tea light candles, and handmade signs for your home. It was a challenge to keep my money in my pocket and not walk out with all the things!

We loved the murals downtown in "Artist' Alley," and made sure to let the kids pick their favorite one for pictures.

Ada standing in front of mural in downtown Ajo, AZ Kids standing in front of mural for humanitarian aid in Ajo, AZ.

We also spent a few days at the library letting the kids read and put puzzles together while we got some work done. Bonus: It’s right across the street from the coffee shop!

While there are basically three options of restaurants to choose from, I’d only recommend Marcela’s Cafe & Bakery. But don’t let the name fool you. It’s not a bakery…at all. Evidently it used to be about 17 years ago, but no one bothered to change the name. HA! Small towns… They served some pretty great Mexican dishes, though. 

If you love nachos, visit the Agave Grill! Woah, those were top notch.

For water, we ended up going to Shadow Ridge RV to fill up our water bladder and jugs (40 gallons total) for just $3.00!! Score! Adali and I even took showers there one day for $3 each. After being in the dust for 3 weeks, we needed that! 

Honestly, we filled up our bladder and jugs more than usual because of the convenience and low cost, but I’m not mad about it - this place was dusty! It was nice to get quick 'regular' showers at home. Plus, in those 3 weeks we only ate out 3 times so there were lots of dishes to wash.

When we got to Ajo, we searched for a grocery store. Turns out, the grocery is also the hardware store! Again…got to love small towns! We choose to look at the bright side. The produce section was really good, and we had lots of food in our Airstream that we needed to use up. Random meals it is! We saved so much of our grocery, eat out, and gas budgets while here. Everything was close, and cheap! That’s my kind of town!

For food we only grabbed what we needed and left with mostly empty cabinets. Oh, and a countdown until we could find the closest Trader Joe’s!

Hiking

It was fantastic. We had many walks in the washes behind our house and around the area.

Kids hiking in desert wash near Ajo, AZ.

Our first night there we picked out a huge rock in the distance and decided to walk to it. There was no trail but we weaved our way through the cactuses, (Yes, that is the right term because there were several different varieties of cactuses. Cacti is only used when referring to a bunch of cactus of one variety) and made it without too many chollas jumping on us!

Cholla stuck in shoe.

The view from the top of the rock was something everyone should see. The Sonoran Desert is so beautiful. Especially when you can climb up high to see it near sunset.

Organ Pipe Desert Sunset

It’s hard to explain how incredible this place is. 

The kids dubbed this 'butt rock' and they had so much fun climbing it. 

Kids in front of rock in Sonoran Desert outside of Ajo, AZ.

I, on the other hand, was about to have a panic attack at the top. I'm glad they take after Jonathan with their love of climbing on all the things. My heart just can't handle it sometimes. 

On our way back, I spotted a deer antler! We were so excited about our find and the kids insisted on keeping it. 

Our last night we decided to hike back to the rock. Unfortunately I hurt my foot, and after the first half mile I had to turn around and come back while the others went on. 

Dad and Kids selfie at the top of butt rock.

But as luck would have it, in the distance, I spotted something very big and very white! I found an entire deer skull with antlers still attached! I walked back to the Airstream with that piece in my hand and I just knew that the kids would flip out about it! 

And they did.

Little girl holding deer skull.

They insisted on keeping that one too, but with no place to put it (and honestly, it still has some deer on it which is kinda gross), we tied it to our propane tanks. Adali wants to keep it for when she builds her tiny house!

Deer skull attached to Airstream

We hiked sooo much here. One hike we discovered several odd items in the trees located in the wash behind our site.

Creepy doll head on metal spring Metal work hanging in tree outside of Ajo, AZ.

And another hike we found lots of black water jugs which are signs of immigrants passing through. While we never felt unsafe, I refused to hike alone.

Being that Ajo is an old mining town, we camped really close to one of the old mines. We accidentally ended up at the top of one of the mines on one of our hikes.

Jon and kids at top of mine overlooking the Ajo valley.

From where we entered, there were no gates so we explored the area. It wasn’t until we were leaving that we came across the NO TRESPASSING sign. Oops! We got out of there quickly!

Organ Pipe National Monument

Since we were so close to OPNM, we decided we just HAD to go! I'm so glad we did, too. 

First we went to the Visitors Center to pick up some Junior Ranger Booklets and a map of the trails. Jonathan always has to find some of the most difficult trails in the parks we visit. Kinda drives me nuts, but makes me proud at the same time. I wouldn't have seen so many amazing sites if it wasn't for him insisting that we at least try to "make it to the top." 

Rock at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

He chose one crazy trail there and I had a mild panic attack near the top. I just can't handle being on the edge of mountains. I imagine every possible worst case scenario and just panic. Jett stayed back with me and Jonathan took the others the rest of the way up. Although, they didn't even make it all the way due to the crazy terrain. If he thinks it's not safe, that's saying something. 

It was so steep at the end, they were butt scooting their way down!

Three kids scooting down a steep rocky trail

Afterwards we found a great little picnic area to have our lunch, finish up their Junior Ranger Booklets, and make our way back to the Visitors Center where the kids were sworn in as the newest Junior Rangers.

Kids being sworn in at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

It was a great visit and I'm so glad we decided to go. Organ pipe cactus are so freaking cool!

Kids standing in front of Organ Pipe Cactus

Other fun things from Ajo

Our next to last day the kids decided they just had to tent camp here! It was the perfect evening for it. We made a fire, played the uke, and enjoyed listening to the coyotes sing their nightly songs in the near distance. 

Two Tents in desert at sunset Girl playing ukulele in tent

They slept so well - until one spilled half a bottle of water in his sleeping bag :) 

The kids and I made Indian Fry Bread since we kept reading about how it was a food that would have been made a long time ago in this area. 

Indian Fry Bread on Plate

Our favorite way to eat it was with cinnamon and sugar on top!

Ada lost her top front tooth here. She was so nervous about it. Jonathan tried to pull it twice but she ended up loosing it in a Fig Newton! She was pretty upset for a while cause she was embarrassed about how it looked. 

Dad holding daughter after she lost her tooth

But she's so stinking cute without it - and that lisp....adorable.. 

Little girl showing off missing tooth in Airstream

Our last day in Ajo we decided we should clean out the bed of the truck. It was layered with so much dust, everything was completely covered. I had the brilliant idea of using our air compressor to blow it out! 

Jonathan hooked it up to the batteries and turned on the truck. Turns out it just wasn't powerful enough to blow anything out so we just swept it out and called it good enough. HOWEVER...somehow (we're still not sure how), we managed to lock the keys in the truck while it was still running! 

I had left my purse and keys on my seat the night before. And Jonathan's were in the ignition. I mean, what are the chances? After a bit of research of how to break into a truck, we remembered that we had roadside assistance so we called them up. With in 2 hours, they sent out a nice guy who cussed a lot out to help us!

Man helping unlock car.

He wasn't there 5 minutes and we were saved! Thank you!!!

What a way to end our last day in this awesome town. It's always something, right?

I'll leave you with our last pictures of our time here in Ajo. If you get the chance to visit, please go! We hope you'll love it as much as we did.

Flower in desert near Ajo, AZ Dad and kids hiking in desert Sunset and cactus out Airstream Door Airstream boondocking among cactus near mine at sunset in Ajo, AZ Kids walking with lights at night Airstream at sunset in desert with awning out. Airstream up on hill at sunset near cactus bird on top of cactus Sunset and cactus out Airstream door

Until next time, Ajo....

Girl jumping high five outside of Airstream

Locations in this post

1

Darby Well Road

Darby Well Rd
Ajo, AZ 85321

2

Harris & Smith Coffe Co

28 Plaza
Ajo, AZ 85321

3

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

10 Organ Pipe Dr
Ajo, AZ 85321

4

Marcela’s Cafe & Bakery

1117 W Dorsey St
Ajo, AZ 85321

5

Agave Grill

1051 Solana Ave
Ajo, AZ 85321

6

Shadow Ridge RV Resort

431 N 2nd Ave
Ajo, AZ 85321

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/hereford-az-take-two Hereford, AZ: Take Two 2018-02-09T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-12T15:11:02+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

When we left Kartchner Caverns State Park, we were just not ready to leave southern Arizona. With a quick look at temperatures, we decided to head back down towards Hereford (just a little south of Sierra Vista) and check out another boondocking spot that a local had told us about. 

Hunter Canyon was just 2 miles south of Miller Canyon and while our site was not nearly as secluded, we did enjoy a full week here. We were able to park behind a shade tree that kept us cool in the day, but solar panels were still in full sun. The perfect spot! 

We were very close to the Highway (noise was not an issue) which made getting anywhere a breeze. We were close to a water supply, trash service, and the weather was just perfect...for a while.

Just to the back side of our site, there was a nice trail that lead up to Hunter Canyon. We had daily walks around the area and have really loved being in Southern Arizona. It has everything going for it. The weather, the hikes, the plants. If there was a way to have a desert landscape AND green grass…we’d be sold. 

Hiking near Hunter Canyon

While we were in the area, I was able to find a good co-op grocery with good meat and fresh veggies and these awesome Bees Wraps.

Bees Wrap

I saw them in the store and just HAD to have them. They are so great for so many things. We have a large size that we use to wrap up our cheese so we aren't using extra ziplock bags. We use the medium size for covering left overs if I'm out of containers with lids. And the small size works as a lid on my ball jar since I have no idea where that lid went! I could literally think of at least 20 more uses for them! It's an item everyone should have, in my opinion. 

I feel like since we started traveling nearly 3 years ago, we have really become very conscious about our consumption as a family. Having a 40 gallon water tank really teaches you how to conserve water. And not having a trash service, you really see how much trash you’re generating which is appalling.

When living in a house, it’s not something that you think about because you have endless water and you know trash pick up is once a week. Heck, you even have a huge trash can to put it all in. While on the road, you don’t have that. Sometimes it’s really difficult to find a place to throw trash so this year, I’m really going to try to focus on buying from bulk bins and keeping our food in reusable containers to generate less trash. 

Like everything else, it’s a journey and you won’t know how to make things better if you’re not examining your situation regularly.

Anyway, off the soap box and back to Hereford. 

Airstream boondocking in Hereford, AZ

While we were camped at Hunter Canyon, we kept seeing this very brightly lit 'something' on the hill down the road a bit. With a little research, we found it was called Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine. We dove to it one afternoon and climbed the steep steps to the top. (Be ready for your legs to be sore the next day!) 

Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine

It was really a neat place and worth a visit. 

Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine

Locations in this post

1

Hunter Canyon Road

E Hunter Canyon Rd
Hereford, AZ 85615

2

Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine

10310 S Twin Oaks Rd
Hereford, AZ 85615

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/kartchner-caverns-state-park Kartchner Caverns State Park 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-09T00:39:31+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Since we stayed our 14 day limit at Miller Canyon we needed to move, but loved the area so much we didn’t want to go too far. The weather and hiking made us want to stay in the area as long as we could. Someone had told us about Kartchner Caverns State Park so we decided to give that a shot for a week. Luckily, we were able to find a site for 6 nights despite being such short notice. That rarely happens in the winter in Arizona.

When we’re not boondocking (camping off grid/ no hookups) you’ll probably find us at a state park. If we have to be at a campground, they’re our top pic. Why state parks? Well, if we're going to pay for camping, we want clean bathrooms/showers, great hiking, spaced out camping spots, friendly staff, and programs for the kids. State parks usually have it all, and Kartchner Caverns was no exception. 

Camping at Kartchner Caverns State Park

We were very pleased with our stay there. The weather was the only issue. Our first couple of days and nights were amazing, but then came the rain along with a cold front. We were so thankful to have had hookups that week because when it’s cold, we’re able to heat our whole house with this little space heater. I love when we’re able to use it and save on propane. It’s been a big player in keeping us warm this winter, but we can only use it when we have electrical hookups. It’s just too powerful to use with our solar setup.

Before the weather turned, we were able to get several great hikes in. 

Kids Hiking at Kartchner Caverns State Park

This place is beautiful! Arizona is really growing on us. We have spent more time in this state than any other and there's good reason. WE LOVE IT! We don't want to leave. There is so much to do, but seriously, the hiking keeps us coming back.

Sunset at Kartchner Caverns State Park

If you haven’t visited Kartchner Caverns, it’s actually really neat. They have a few different cave tours to choose from and we signed up for the Big Room Tour. The kids loved it. We were in a small group which was really fun. They were the only kids and were able to answer nearly all the guide’s questions about the formations. We have been to several caves so it was really awesome to see how much information they remembered over the last couple of years. 

It was, however, the only cave we have been in where they’re super strict about what can be brought into the cave. Absolutely no photography (unless you’re on a photography tour), no cell phones, no bottles of water, no jackets, no bags, purses or backpacks. Jeez!

You even go through misters before you enter so that if you have anything on you (like lint or a loose hair) it will hopefully stay stuck to you and not fall off in the cave. There are guides in front of you and behind you to make sure nothing is touched. One of our kids accidentally sat in a place he thought was a bench (but it wasn’t) and they had to flag the place and at the end of the day, they go through and clean anything that was touched. It’s supposedly the most well preserved cave in the US. 

Thankfully they were all really nice about the incident and didn’t make a big deal out of it at all. That really made my momma heart happy. Accidents happen and it's so nice when the kid's sprits don't get broken over silly little things.

We met a couple of really sweet families while we were there. Sometimes it’s nice to come out of our little bubble and meet new people :) We're trying to do that more often. It's a big deal for our little family of introverts.

The kids worked on their Arizona State Park Ranger booklets while we were there and they earned another badge!

Ada with Arizona State Park Junior Ranger Badge

I’ve lost count of how many they have but…it’s a lot! I’m just thankful that they still like doing it. 

Oh yes, remember that NEW TRUCK we just got? SOMEONE (okay, it was me) backed into the tongue of the Airstream one night and got our first dent in the bumper! Not even a month old and leave it to me to run into our HOUSE! I guess it was bound to happen at some point. Darn back up camera failed me!

Despite our little accident, we had a great week at Kartchner Caverns and would recommend you visit if you’re in the area. Make sure you spend time at their Visitor’s Center. Our kids loved that place. They have a great gift shop and cafe, too! You must try their Prickly Pear Lemonade! Delicious. 

Ada Hiking at Kartchner Caverns State Park

What about you? Do you love state parks as much as we do? What are your favorite Arizona State Parks?

Locations in this post

1

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park
2980 Arizona 90
Benson, AZ 85602

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/exploring-hereford-arizona Exploring Hereford, Arizona 2018-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-07T19:28:43+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

When we left Patagonia, we decided to just drive around the mountain and find a place to stay near Sierra Vista. We ended up in a small town called Hereford just south of Sierra Vista. We drove down a rugged dirt road and dropped the Airstream at a nearby parking lot so that we could scout for a good campsite. At this point it was nearing sunset and we were trying to get set up before dark. Rule #1 - never get to a campsite that you don’t know when it’s dark!

We found a really cool spot off the road far enough so we could have a bit of seclusion and we were pretty sure that we could fit in if we were really careful. Sometimes we just love the challenge of getting our rig into small spaces!

We quickly went back to hook up the Airstream and drove back to the spot only to find a Jeep had parked in 'our spot'! What the heck?! We were only gone like 5 minutes. 

Jonathan got out and asked them if they were going to stay the night there. We were already off the main road and this site was the only place we could turn around. It was not an option to back up. Luckily, they said they were just going to do a fire for a few hours and they’d leave after sunset. There was literally another site just 20 feet up the road that would have been perfect for a jeep to hang out in but they weren’t moving. 

Well, maybe we can go up to the next spot and finagle our way in?? We tried...but NOPE! It took us a good 45 minutes to back up the rocky road, trying to avoid boulders and trying not to smash our stabilizers on the crazy rocks that were sticking out of the middle of the road. It was a very stressful 45 minutes and now the sun was beginning to set. 

We barely made it out and most definitely added some new scratches to the side of our rig, but we made our way back to the lot where we had previously dropped the Airstream to scout just an hour before. We sat there and just waited to see if the Jeep was going to leave. An hour later we were so excited to see them pass by and we drove back to 'our spot' and set up camp in the dark, breaking our #1 rule.

Anyway, this spot was great! 

Airstream at Miller Canyon

We were far enough off the road to enjoy some peace and quiet but close enough to town that it was a breeze to get groceries and supplies. Plus the hiking was beautiful. 

It's not often that we have ruins in our backyard to explore...

Ruins in Miller Canyon

We took many hikes through our backyard along the stream. One day we even took our hammocks to enjoy relaxing with the sounds of the stream nearby. 

kids building fairy houses

The kids loved building fairy houses along the banks and I loved watching their imaginations fun wild and free. 

fairy houses

This was one of the kids' favorite spots. You can always tell when they like a place because of the amount of time spent outside. This was a good one. 

Kids in cardboard armor they made out of cereal boxes

Before we left Jonathan just HAD to climb one of the huge mountains behind our site.

Miller Peak Wilderness Sign - Coronado National Forest

I dropped him off at the trail head around 7:30 am and waited patiently to hear from him. He had signal at the top of the mountain and was able to let me know he was okay and I made plans to pick him up around 4:30. I don't love when he goes on long hikes alone but I love that he loves it, so I try not to worry. Here are a few highlights from his 12.5 mile hike that day.

Miller Canyon, Crest Trail Signs View out over the valley on the Crest Trail near Miller Peak Peeking through the pine trees overlooking the valley on the way up to Miller Peak Snow on the Arizona Crest Trail View from the top of Miller Peak Top of Miller Peak Jon at the top of Miller Peak

He loved the change of scenery up the mountain. At one point he was even hiking through snow in a pine forest! I wouldn't have expected that this close to the boarder of Mexico!

He came back sore and tired but happy, so I'm glad he loves going on crazy hikes. 

Since we were so close to Coronado National Memorial, we decided to take a day and go explore. The more we visit the National Memorials/Monuments, the more we like them better than National Parks. There are way less people and a more clear vision of what we’re learning about and looking at. 

This visitors center was probably the best one we've been to. It had such great information and the Rangers working were so helpful and nice. They had such fun stuff for the kids to explore. Everyone loved it. 

Ada in spanish armor at Coronado National Memorial

After talking to the ranger, we grabbed a map and went to explore the cave nearby.

Hiking to the Cave at Coronado National Memorial

It was a .6 mile hike up a fairly steep mountain but when we got to the cave everyone was super stoked. There's just something about exploring a cave on your own when no one else is around that just brings out the kid in you. 

Kids Going in the Cave at Coronado National Memorial

Luckily we had headlamps and flashlights! This cave was SUPER dusty. Almost to the point of choking you at times, but man it was so worth it. We went back in the cave as far as we could, turned off our lights and just listened to the silence. I love doing that, but then Jax quickly turns on his light because he 'just can’t handle it'. He’s adorable. 

While in the cave, we were careful not to touch any of the stalagmites and stalactites but we did enjoy watching water drip.

It’s crazy to think that these formations took hundreds of years to look like this and we got to watch a few of those drips happen. I mean, have you ever watched a stalagmite grow? 

We grabbed the Junior Ranger booklets at the visitors center (as well as some other goodies such as a Mesquite Mini Cutting Board and a Puebleo House Kit) and took them home so that we could take our time learning about the area. It was only a 30 minute drive from our campsite so we’d just come back once we completed the lessons. 

I love getting to help the kids with their Junior Ranger booklets like this. 

Building a Pueblo House

Not having to rush through them at the park. If you can camp close by and be able to visit the park more than once, it really is the way to go. No rushing, no fights, just taking your time to really learn what the park is all about. 

When we returned to the visitors center a few days later and the kids received their Cave Scientist badges!

Coronado National Memorial Junior Rangers Cave Scientist Badge

Our first 'scientist' badge and man did they have to work hard for it. That was seriously the LONGEST Junior Ranger booklet we have ever gone through. 

We drove up the crazy road to the lookout and man, if you’re afraid of heights or the possibility of driving off a cliff, close your eyes until you reach the top! But seriously, it’s worth the drive up.

View Point at Coronado National Memorial

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do the hike up there but next time we’re in the area, we’re totally going back for it.

Hereford was one of those places we didn’t want to leave until we had to. We stayed the full 14 days that were allowed and loved every bit of it. We would absolutely recommend staying in Hereford and exploring Miller Canyon, Carr Canyon and for sure Coronado National Memorial. 

As always, if you have any questions about the area, we would be happy to help answer them the best we can! 

Happy travels!

Locations in this post

1

Coronado National Memorial

Coronado National Memorial
4101 W Montezuma Canyon Rd
Hereford, AZ 85615

2

Miller Canyon Recreation Area

Miller Canyon Recreation Area
2173 E Miller Canyon Rd
Hereford, AZ 85615

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/getting-water-while-camping-off-grid Getting Water While Camping Off Grid 2018-02-05T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-05T18:20:12+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

We are getting asked more and more questions these days so it’s time I start addressing some of them! Some of the most common questions we get asked have to do with water. 

  • Where do we get it? 
  • Do we filter it? 
  • Is it safe to drink from your tank? 

Well, I hope this gives you a better idea of how we get water to our rig while living off grid.

Where do we get water?

Since we are primarily boondocking (camping without hookups or off the grid) we have to really search out where to get water. Luckily, we have great resources like Campendium that include reviews where people share places they filled up their water tanks or dumped their black/gray tanks. That is super helpful information for those of us who enjoy spending time in nature and not in RV parks. 

When we find a place we want to visit, our next step is to search out water. If it wasn’t mentioned in a review or if we’re somewhere not many people know about, we try calling a few gas stations to see if they have potable water or nearby RV parks to see if we can fill up there. Most RV Parks will let you fill up your tanks for a fee. Typically for our 40 gallons, we are charged anywhere between $3-$10. 

First, it is very important that you invest in a good hose. You want one that is plenty long because there will be situations where you will not be super close to the water source. We didn't want one of those bulky hard hoses because they take up a lot of room and are a pain to coil up.

Zero G Water Hose

We use a zero-G flexible hose because it's 50' long, but collapses down to a fraction of it's size. The connectors are high quality and the the outer weave keeps it from getting snagged on things. We love it! 

How do you get water in your rig?

We don't haul with our tanks full. Some folks do that (and that's totally fine), but our rig is 46 years old and with all that extra weight going down (usually) super crazy roads, it’s just not a risk we want to take. So we bring in the water after we get to our spot.

We have a 30 gallon AQUATANK2 water bladder that has been worth every penny spent on it. It's rugged, has solid connectors and folds up when it’s not in use. It takes up very little room in our fresh water box of supplies! (I can't say supplies without saying it like Justin Timberlake now...thanks, JT!)

aquatank2 folded up

Here it is full...

aquatank2 water bladder

We also have two 5.5 gallon Rhino water jugs that we fill up at the same time as the water bladder getting us just over 40 gallons to fill our fresh tank.

Rhino Jugs

Having an on/off switch and adding a bit of length with a flexible hose protector makes it easy for one person to switch between filling the bladder and Rhino Jugs without making a mess. It saves a bunch of time not having to turn the water off and on at the source, too.

filling rhino jug

Sometimes if we’re getting low on water, we’ll just go fill these up at one of the water stations nearby where we usually pay $1 (sometimes $1.25) to fill up with 5 gallons. Then we just top it off.

Once we have our 40 gallons of water, there are a couple of ways to get it in the fresh tank. 

The first option is to back the truck up near the water inlet and just run a short hose from the water bladder to the inlet and let gravity do it’s thing. Sometimes the lay of the land doesn’t allow for that so we’ll just empty the Rhino jugs into the tank and refill those by putting the bladder on the edge of the tailgate and refill the Rhino jugs one at a time. 

Img 0509

Yes, it takes awhile, but it’s really not a big deal. Having this on/off switch on a short flexible hose protector really helps with this process, too. 

There are several small water pumps that you can invest in to transfer the water quicker. Jonathan just ordered this Milescraft Drill Pump so we'll let you know how that works out once we get it and put it to use!

The water bladder is the real game changer here. I’m not sure how anyone boondocks for long periods of time without one. We have no place to store more than 2 of the Rhino jugs so the bladder has been one of our best purchases for living off grid!

Do you filter your water?

If we are parked at a campground, we will typically use one of our blue water filters, but honestly, I’m not sure they do that much. 

blue water filter hooked up

They do slow the water pressure down which in some cases is super helpful. If you don’t have a water pressure regulator, you really need one.

water pressure regulator

Some campgrounds have crazy water pressure that can really damage your rig. 

We ALWAYS filter our drinking water. ALWAYS! We use a Big Berkey Water Filter that we have had for years and we will never be without one!

Berkey Water Filter

It literally removes 99.9999999% of pathogenic bacteria and 99.999% of viruses. Say whaaaat?? You can read more about all the crazy things it filters out of your water here.

If you don’t have $300 to drop on a Berkey I’d suggest you invest in some kind of filter you’re comfortable with but please, please don’t buy cases of water bottles!  There is really no excuse for that! It’s such a waste of plastic and you know it’s bad for the environment. Filter you water and get reusable water bottles. There are so many good options now.

We use Hydro Flask water bottles to keep our water ice cold all day and they are our favorite!

hydroflask bottles

I love that they come in so many great colors. The kids pick their favorite color and no more arguing over who’s bottle is who’s? Plus, I think they drink more water when they have their OWN special cup! I’m strongly considering getting rid of all our other cups that we rarely ever use. 

How long can we last on our 40 gallons of fresh water?

Well, that’s a complicated question. There are many factors that go into it. 

  • Are we in high humidity where we may need showers more often than if we’re in the desert? (We like to hike which means we sweat a lot) 
  • Are we going to be around people and need to smell fairly clean? (That’s a serious question)
  • Do we have complicated meals planned that use more dishes than our typical meals? Or will be be eating out more than usual?

If we are very careful with our dish washing and if we don’t require too many showers for the week, than we can typically make our 40 gallons last us a whole week. Keep in mind, we are a family of 6! Long gone are the days of standing in the shower in a home using a whole water tank of hot water.

If we are really trying to conserve our water, we love to use these Epic Wipes in-between 'real' showers. 

epic wipes

They smell great, easy on our skin, and saves us a bunch of water. What I love most about them is their size. THEY'RE HUGE! We actually use one cut into four pieces for the kids to wipe down. Jonathan and I also cut one in half for us to share. We all get clean with just 2 Epic Wipes! They have been super great to have in times where we need to clean up but don't want to use our water for showers.

When working on our renovation, we made sure to invested in a really great water saving shower head. We went with the Ecocamel Jetstream and it has really helped us cut down our shower time.

ecocamel shower head

It uses Aircore Technology to inject air directly into the water stream so we use less water but still get great pressure! Love that thing!

You can also add Aerators to your bathroom and kitchen sinks, too. If you have kids that sometimes forget about saving water, this can really help!

Get a Shower Somewhere Else

We go to a state park around once a month so we can all get really good showers and not worry too much about the amount of water needed to wash our hair (#dreadlife). It’s always a happy day when we are all showered and smelling fresh. Add in freshly washed sheets and we're living the dream!

We have been in a situation where we got showers at a travel stop, but those can be pretty expensive for a family of 6. Typically around $12 per person but sometimes they reluctantly let us all take turns in there before they go to clean them. It’s not our top choice, but sometimes it’s necessary. 

Some campgrounds let you pay a small fee for showers, too. This is a better choice unless you end up in a campground that doesn’t keep their showers clean. (Always ask to see the showers before you pay or at least read reviews!!)

Do you sanitize your tanks?

Absolutely! We try to do this at least twice a year. Some people use bleach, but we are not those people! 

What we do is get a gallon of white vinegar and we dump the whole thing into a half full fresh tank. Then we will drive to our next destination which needs to be a place with full hookups (bonus points if it's a bumpy road and a long drive) so that the water and vinegar and jostle around and clean the inside of the tank. 

Once we arrive to the park and get set up, we will run the vinegar water through all our lines in the RV. We'll run the shower some, and the bathroom sink and the kitchen faucet. We'll do that until our fresh tank is empty. Then, we'll fill up the fresh tank again with fresh water and use that up by taking showers, washing dishes, cleaning the floors, cleaning the fantastic fan vents, and anything else that needs a good scrub!

Then we know our water lines are clean as well as our fresh tank. While we are still at the RV park with full hookups, we take that time to also sanitize our Rhino jugs and our 30 gallon water bladder, too. 

Hopefully this helps you understand our water situation a bit better. If I’ve left anything out or if you have other questions, please comment below so I can do my best to answer them!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/patagonia-az Patagonia, AZ 2018-02-01T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-07T18:33:26+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Seeing that we’re a family of introverts, it was time to find a secluded place where we could recharge, and enjoy some outdoor hiking. We were in need of warm weather and sunshine so we packed up and headed south to Patagonia.

We found a nice little spot off of a quiet road to call home for the week. 

Airstream in Patagonia, AZ

It didn't take too long to get used to the neighborhood.

bovine neighbors in Patagonia

After we had a few days to rest and reset, we visited the nearby Patagonia State Park for a day trip. We hoped to find a cool trail to hike and burn off some energy. 

Patagonia Lake State Park Creek

While it would seem that this is an incredibly beautiful trail, the reality is we were dodging huge cow patties every couple steps. It was actually pretty gross.

Hiking in Patagonia Lake State Park

There is a creek that meanders through the cow field which is laden with cow crap and that stream is what feeds into the man made lake. If you visit this park, I HIGHLY suggest you not get in the water. After seeing the stream and the field…there is no way I would let the kids get close to that water. 

We left a little disappointed but hey, at least we weren’t camped there! 

After some quick research, we decided to head into Mexico for the day.

Visiting Mexico

We were just a short drive to the twin towns of Nogales where we could park and walk across to spend a few hours exploring. 

We had heard that there was a good restaurant within walking distance so we decided to give it a try. We got there so early we were the only tourists. When we asked to see the menu we were brought over a HUGE chalk board menu. HA!

visiting nogales Mexico

It felt like they sat us in the middle of some family reunion thing and we felt so awkward being the only ones who didn’t speak Spanish. We ordered just a couple dishes to split between all of us and left with a $60 bill! WHAT

We walked around the town and visited a couple shops just because we were practically dragged into some with promises of “everything on sale!” HA. 

We picked out a tiny metal bird and the guy wanted to charge us $10! Umm, “How about $2?” And then the bartering began… I knew this little tin bird wasn’t worth even the $2 I offered but we gave him $5 and went on our way. 

Thankfully the day was redeemed when we stuffed our faces with THE BEST FISH TACOS.

Cocina La Lay Fish Tacos

Thanks to Kevin and Mandy from 188 sq ft for leaving such a great review of the area and suggesting we visit Cocina La Ley if you love tacos. HOLY COW! I’m still dreaming about them.

We came back home to find that our quiet little spot had been turned into a shooting range. We drove up to a bunch of big dogs freaking out and lots of really loud guns. 

Ugh.

We packed up quickly and headed out in search of a quieter place, preferably near a big town so we could stock up on some much needed groceries. 

So long Patagonia… 

Locations in this post

1

Patagonia, AZ

Patagonia
AZ 85624

2

Cocina La Lay

226 W 3rd St
Nogales, AZ 85621

3

Nogales, Sonora, Mexico

Nogales
Sonora
Mexico

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/christmas-with-friends-in-phoenix Christmas With Friends In Phoenix 2018-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-30T23:03:30+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

We have made some pretty great friends while on the road. Sometimes it can feel a little lonely out here, especially around big holidays. This year we were getting a little down about not being close to home for Christmas, but our friends invited us to celebrate with them and what a treat that was. 

And you know you're having a blast when you don't take time to take many pictures. 

We made our way back to Phoenix after a lovely week at Catalina State Park. We tagged along to Michelle and Juan’s church for a beautiful Christmas Eve Service and later that night we had the best Mexican feast with their extended family. Of course their family is just as sweet as they are and they welcomed us with open arms and the best bean burritos I've ever had! The kids had a blast playing outside in the leaves and we all went home with happy hearts.

The next morning we made our way into our friend’s home and had our very first sticky buns experience! Oh, and bacon.

Sidenote: I need more sticky buns in my life! 

We exchanged a few small gifts and had an epic Nerf Gun war! But, like mom always said, it’s all fun and games until someone gets shot in the eye…

While the Trujillo's went to do Christmas with their families, we stayed in the house to catch up on laundry and enjoy having a house to spread out in. Although, we never spread out very far...

Christmas Morning 2017

We were all so excited about Christmas Dinner at Michelle’s parents’ home with all of their family. A traditional English Christmas Dinner complete with figgy pudding and Christmas Crackers and the fanciest dinner dishes I have ever seen. 

The food was amazing but what I remember most was how at home we felt. Everyone was so warm and welcoming to our family. You would think that walking into a complete stranger’s home for a major holiday would be a little awkward, but their sweet hearts welcomed us like one of their own and it was just the warm hug our hearts needed at that very moment. 

Christmas with the Trujillo's

I believe that people are put into our lives for a reason and this time was no exception. Because of their kindness, our kids missed 'home' a little less and had the best time drinking in fancy glasses, opening Christmas Crackers, and trying figgy pudding for the first time. We left a little teary-eyed because their love reached our family at just the right time. It’s a Christmas that will be treasured for years to come. 

Thank you, Michelle and Juan (and all of your families) for opening your home to us and for making this the best Christmas on the Road yet!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/catalina-state-park Catalina State Park 2018-01-29T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-07T18:32:22+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

After getting our truck all fixed up with the new accessories in Phoenix, we were ready to get back on the road. We didn’t want to go far since we had been invited to spend Christmas with our friends, Michelle and Juan Trujillo! We’ve been seeing a lot of them this year, and were really looking forward to spending Christmas with their family.

We were able to find a spot at one of our favorite state parks in Arizona: Catalina State Park. It’s such a weird place because as you’re coming down the 77 you’re passing by every big shop you could possibly need and then you turn right at the entrance to the state park and you’re instantly transported into a desert wonderland. 

Saguaro Cactus at Catalina State Park

You would never know that all of suburbia is just across the street.

We had a great week there in Tuscon. The mountains, the hikes, and let’s be honest…THE SHOWERS! If we’re not boondocking, you’ll most likely find us at a state park. 

WE LOVE STATE PARKS! 

We love the convenient hiking, the programs for kids, but mostly…we love the showers. Getting a shower is a luxury now days. Yes, we use our shower but while we are boondocking, we don’t get regular showers and when we do clean up, its really quick navy showers and forget washing our dreads. If Adali and I can wash our hair once a month at a clean state park, we’re happy! If we wash it twice a month, we’re living the dream!

Catalina is seriously one of our favorite parks of all time. The campground is very well kept, the bathrooms are always clean - but what makes this place stand out is the incredible hiking

Hiking at Catalina State Park Kids hiking at Catalina State Park

Every hike promises incredible views and if you wait to hike closer to sunset, you'll never want to leave this place. 

Giant Saguaro at Catalina State Park

While we were close to town, we took the opportunity to spoil ourselves. I dropped Jonathan and the kids off at the movie theater across the street to see the new Star Wars movie and I enjoyed a nice quiet stroll around my favorite store…World Market. Then I went grocery shopping…alone! It was a magical night that filled everyone’s love tank.

While at the campground, we even met 2 great families who also travel full time. We are loving seeing the boom in families on the road these last 2 years. It’s been so great getting to know many of them, too.

We left Tuscon to headed back up to Phoenix to spend Christmas with our dear friends, the Trujilo’s. They mentioned a Mexican feast and a traditional English Christmas Dinner complete with figgy pudding and Christmas Crackers. I think this will be a very epic Christmas, indeed.

Locations in this post

1

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park
11570 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85737

2

World Market

11975 N Oracle Rd
Oro Valley, AZ 85737

3

Century Theatres at the Oro Valley Marketplace

12155 N Oracle Rd
Oro Valley, AZ 85737

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/accessories-for-our-2017-ford-f250-fx4 Accessories For Our 2017 Ford F250 FX4 2018-01-23T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-29T16:23:27+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Now that we have a new truck that starts (praise the Lord), we had to get it road worthy. Since our tow vehicle doubles as our garage, we needed a way to keep our stuff secured and protect the bed and body. Also, this new truck is taller than our old one which meant we had to figure out a different hitch situation. That boils down to:

  • New Bedliner
  • New Locking Bed Cover
  • New Mud Flaps
  • New All-Weather Interior Mats
  • New Drop Hitch

So many things to get done so we can get back on the road!

Luckily, we have some great friends in Phoenix that were willing to let us get shipments there so we could get it all set up.

We ordered all the things, and once we knew the shipping schedule we made the necessary appointments and started planning. 

Also, fair warning! Lots of these photos show a very dirty brand new truck. Because we basically live in the desert off unpaved roads. It'll be ok, I promise :).

Spray-In Bed Liner

We knew we needed some sort of bed liner so as not to scratch up the bed or have things sliding around back there. We went back and forth on a drop-in versus a spray liner. We even visited a couple places in town to see if we thought the spray liner would be worth the investment.

The 2017 Super Duty has a new body style that wasn't compatible with the tons of drop-in options out there. So it helped us narrow down our choice to a spray-in liner.

2017 Ford F250 Aluminum Truck Bed Empty

We were very impressed with Inyati. They talked us through the whole process and let us know it would take about 2 hours. They really know what they are doing. There were no traces of overspray on the truck (which is what I was afraid of). I love the look of the spray liner and I think it will be a really good investment. 

2017 Ford F250 with Inyati Spray In Bedliner 2017 Ford F250 Close Up Detail of Spray In Liner

We let the bed dry for the full 24 hours then loaded up all of our belongings in the back of the truck and pulled the Airstream to our friend’s house where we planned to put on the mud flaps, Retrax cover, and get the new hitch figured out.

Thankfully, their neighbors didn’t mind us parking in front of their home for a couple of nights!

Airstream parked at friends house

Tonneau Bed Cover

On our last truck we had with a Retrax OneMX bed cover and were so pleased with it we decided to get another one. It's easy to open and close and locks tight in any position. Since we had installed the last one, we knew we could do it again.

We were so excited to get started when we got there, we quickly unloaded the back of the truck and got out the Retrax box.

Retrax Box On Tailgate

But…we quickly realized that we only got half of our shipment from Tonneau Covers World and of course, it’s Friday evening and they’re now closed. Missing the main rail system, we quickly called Truck Accessories Plus in town to see if they had the parts in stock that we were missing. But…they’re closed, too!

Luckily they were open on Saturday so we called first thing in the morning and they had the parts we needed! Plus, Tonneau Covers World was willing to refund us for the parts we didn’t get in the first shipment so it all worked out in the end. 

Since the shop was a good 40 minutes away, we just let them install the whole thing for us. They did it much faster than we would have and it only cost us like $100. Had we bought the whole Retrax from them it would have been free, but hey, it’s one less thing that we had to do, so…thank you, Truck Accessories Plus!

Retrax Cover on Truck in front of Truck Accessories Plus Building Retrax Mxone Bed Cover Open Logo Retrax Mxone Bed Cover Closed Retrax Mxone Bed Cover Open

Mud Flaps 

We also wanted mud flaps to reduce the amount of rocks and debris we throw at the Airstream while towing. Turns out the 2017 Ford Trucks have a new aluminum body style that made finding some that would fit difficult. After much research we settled on some incognito gunmetal Gatorback flaps that we could install ourselves. After all, how hard could it be to put mud flaps on? (Spoiler alert, they were the most difficult things we had to install!)

Jonathan and Juan (thank you so much, Juan) worked so hard getting these things on. I assumed it would be a quick job but then I saw all the parts and pieces...

Gatorback Mudflap Bracket Parts Gatorback mudflap brackets

In order to attach them to the aluminum body and not cause corrosion an elaborate bracket system was needed. Plus the flaps themselves didn’t have predrilled holes so we had to be really careful we didn’t screw them up. Luckily, Jonathan and Juan are both perfectionists and got them on and man, they look good. 

Gatorback mudflap installed on 2017 F250

All Weather Interior Mats

The carpet mats that came with the truck just weren't going to fly. We're constantly in dirty, dusty, muddy conditions since we boondock so much - and rough, rubberized mats were exactly what we needed.

We negotiated those during the truck purchase so it was just a matter of picking them up at the dealership and setting them in place. Ah, much better!

Ford All Weather Floor Mat Front Passenger Side Ford All Weather Floor Mat Rear Seat

New Drop Hitch + Accessories

Next we just had to figure out this hitch. Since our weight distribution system is the original one (read: 46 years old Reese) it can be hard to find a head and shank that will work with the distribution bars. Thankfully, ETrailer has saved us not once, but twice! We called them up and they helped research a new shank that had enough drop, but would still work with existing head and distribution system. 

This 5.75" drop shank is a beast. But it's longer so that meant new chains, new hooks and more work. 

Reese 5.75" Drop Shank

Thankfully Juan had all the right tools to get the job done right. The Airstream is finally level when we're towing which means less bottoming out at the back end. Though we traded that off with a little less clearance on the hitch side. But overall we're really happy with it, and as always, ETrailer was awesome to work with. 

If you ever have any questions or concerns about what product you should get, they have so many great instruction videos and tutorials, you should really check them out before you make a decision on anything trailer/RV related. 

It was a crazy couple of days dealing with getting the truck ready but we were so thankful to have these great friends in Phoenix that are always willing to help us get things done. Michelle and Juan, we can't thank you enough. Now, get that bus done and come travel with us!

And now...back to our regularly scheduled travel! 

2017 Ford F250 At Sunset With Mountain And Cacti ]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/introducing-shredder-our-2017-f250-gas Introducing...Shredder! Our 2017 F250 Gas Truck 2018-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-22T21:10:56+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

We were super bummed to leave Lake Mead but we just had to get this truck figured out. The plan was to get to the Phoenix area, settle down and figure out if we’re making an appointment with Bulletproof Diesel or going truck shopping. We both were leaning towards bulletproofing it and crossing our fingers that it would last another 5 years. 

We found a sweet spot in Buckeye just a little southwest of Phoenix where we set up camp and planned to stay the week. 

buckeye

We had a nice quite day or two and even went into town one evening ‘just to look’ at trucks to see what our options were. The kids loved checking out all the new trucks, but we weren’t sold on having a car payment. It’s been YEARS since we had any debt and we weren’t excited about the idea.

Laundry day came and the kids and I went into town. The truck had been starting for us just fine since we left Lake Mead so we were leaning towards bulletproofing the old truck. While the laundry was washing I called my dad to ask his advice about what we should do. Fix the old truck or just get another one. At this point there were equal amounts of pros and cons for both choices and we were just stuck. Either way we’re stuck with some sort of payment. With all the repairs we had the last few months (that never fixed the issue) we were already in the hole abound 6K. Add another 11-12K to bulletproof it and hope it lasts us another 5 years…that’s about half of what a brand new F250 would cost us.

Dad tried his best to stay out of it, as there was really no right choice in this matter. I said goodbye to dad and went to get the clothes out of the dryer. The kids and I got back in the truck to come home and wouldn’t you know….the CHECK ENGINE light came on. 

I backed up and then put it in drive and got out of the parking lot onto the main road and pushed the gas, but something’s not right. I can’t go over 30 MPH and I’ve got to get on the interstate to get home. I call Jonathan and we’re just both super stressed out at this point with the whole truck issue. I’m 12 minutes from home and 10 minutes from the Ford dealership we visited last night. I decide to pull over and run a test to see what the code is. Of course it was what we thought, something related to the EGR which is what would have been fixed had we gotten it bulletproofed.

I drove to the dealership to see what they thought and they said they’re at least 3 weeks out before they could even look at it. I drove home and Jonathan and I just started unloading the truck. It was time. We had to get this taken care of. 

Within 45 minutes we had called the Ford dealership we visited the night before and told them Jonathan was on his way. This truck has been a heavy weight on our shoulders for the last 4 months so we were more than ready for a change. 

In the rush of things, Jonathan forgot his wallet (luckily we could text images of licenses and documents) AND we couldn't find the title to the old truck. I looked everywhere.

looking for truck title

Then realized that it was back in Knoxville with Jonathan's parents. We were able to get that overnighted and it wasn't an issue for the dealership, thankfully. 

We finally came to the realization that we are going to have some sort of a payment either way. We are either paying for a new truck or we’re paying a ‘maintenance payment’. As much as we drive, we need something that is reliable and doesn’t give us an ulcer every time we try to start it. 

While a new truck payment does suck, it’s so nice to not be stressed out about this anymore. We can now be camped in the middle of nowhere with much less anxiety about the truck.

So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Shredder! (Yeah, still on the TMNT kick)

F250

He’s a 2017 F250 STX FX4 with tow package.

Why did we switch to gas? Because the maintenance on our last 2 diesel trucks was through the roof! Like, crazy expensive. We just couldn’t do it anymore. This truck is more than capable of towing our 7200lb home and we love it. Ada insisted on a ‘black truck with black wheels and jacked up really high’ but… those modifications will have to wait. 

ada driving

We got as close as we could get to black. It’s a metallic gray and we’re super happy with our choice. 

The back seat has much more leg room for the kids so that’s a bonus.

back seat

I was worried we would loose storage since the seats go all the way to the back. (our last truck we were able to keep quite a bit of stuff behind the seat). However, we actually have much more storage with this truck. The seats flip up easily and have lots of room for our tools. We were able to fit more stuff under the seats which means we now have more room in the bed of the truck. 

back seat storage

Ignore the dust and dirt, that's just part of living on the road. Especially when we're winter desert dwellers. It's just never going to stay clean...

The only complaints we have is...cloth seats instead of leather, and the lack of usable cup holders up front. While there are cupholders under the middle seat, we have to have a kid sitting up there and his feet are right where the cups would go. I do miss the easy clean up of the leather but we’ll get used to cloth, I guess. Honestly, I’m just thrilled to have a truck that starts on the first try!

Next up, some much needed accessories to get us back on the road...

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/ecocamel-jetstorm-shower-head-giveaway Ecocamel Jetstorm Shower Head Giveaway! 2018-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-24T15:01:00+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Let’s talk shower heads for a minute. Those of you who live in an RV know that water conservation is super important (and it should be in a home as well). Standard shower heads just won’t cut it if you’re trying to get a quick shower AND save water at the same time. 

For RVers, there are several companies that offer great water saving shower heads. Most of them mix air into the waterline so that you have greater pressure while using less water. 

In our 5th wheel we used an Oxygenics shower head. While the water pressure was great, it had it's faults, too. It had a shut off valve on the wand that I both loved and hated. It was nice to shut off the water while holding the shower head, but once you started the water again you were blasted by scalding water for a second. Plus, ours broke within a few months, so we bought another one and the shut off valve broke on the second one within a few months as well. Also, the hose it came with was awkwardly stiff and didn't allow it to hang up quite right. 

When building out the Airstream, we wanted to try something different. We decided to try out the Jetstorm Handheld by Ecocamel.

ecocamel

So far we have nothing negative to say about it. We opted out of the shutoff valve since we have a tankless water heater and those don't work well together. Besides, it's not really a big deal to just turn off the water at the source in an RV. You're literally 4-6 inches from the faucet anyways! Ha! Tiny living guys...

our ecocamel

The water pressure is great and it has a much wider spray compared to the Oxygenics shower head. PLUS, we have used it over 10 months and it has not broken! The hose is far superior to that of the Oxyegenics, too. 

ecocamel shower head

So, we would like to do a little giveaway for you! If you’re building out your rig or are just looking to change to a water saving shower head, here’s what you need to do to be entered to win this new SHOWER HEAD..

  1. Leave a comment and tell us why you’d like to get a new shower head.
  2. Share this post!
  3. Follow us on Instagram.
  4. Give a stranger a compliment and smile today.

Winner will be chosen Monday, January 22!

Good luck and happy showering!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/the-2018-tiny-shiny-home-travel-route The 2018 Tiny Shiny Home Travel Route 2018-01-13T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-12T15:09:55+00:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Below you'll find a map showing our travel route in 2018. Click on a marker to get a link to any articles we've written about that area. We'll keep this post updated so you can follow along with us. Enjoy!

Locations in this post

1

Sierra Vista, AZ

Started out 2018 staying in several areas around Sierra Vista hiking, planning and getting ready for 2018!
Read More

2

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Spent a lovely week here grilling, hiking, chilling and went on a cave tour. Highly recommended!

3

Ajo, AZ

Hunkered down here chasing warm temperatures and enjoyed the cacti and mountain wilderness.

4

Picacho, AZ

Spent a week here enjoying civilization after 3 weeks in the desert, picking up some supplies, and making some changes to our setup.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/lake-mead-recreation-area Lake Mead Recreation Area 2018-01-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-12T21:57:04+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

We were in need of some rest after our time in Death Valley, so we headed to a familiar place. Lake Mead National Recreation Area. If you’ve been following us for awhile, you may remember this crazy incident!

We knew there was plenty of great places to boondock out there so we picked a less crowded area and intended to stay a full 2 weeks! With plenty of great hiking in the area, water close by, dumpsters down the road, and anything we could possibly need in the nearby cities of Henderson and Las Vegas, we had no plans to leave until we had to. Plus, we were ready to downsize (again) and simplify our setup a bit. 

We found a great spot far away from the crowds and look who met us there! Our friends @upintherooftop! Yay! 

friends at lake mead tent

We had a big week planned with Adali’s birthday and Thanksgiving. But first…downsizing our setup a bit more.

As soon as we got set up at Lake Mead, we listed our bikes for sale. We had already donated the kid’s bikes several months back but had yet to sell ours. This must be the place to do it because we got rid of both of them in the first 2 days there! Sweet! 

Why are we selling the bikes? Well, we just weren’t using them as much, but the biggest reason is we just want to SIMPLIFY. We all prefer to hike over bike so we’re just going to simplify the setup and be hikers, not bikers.

With that job done, it was time to start focusing on Adali’s birthday! We’re keeping it a bit low key this year with so many unexpected truck expenses. She requested Cinnamon Scones for breakfast (SO GOOD)! 

adali's 12 bday

We spent the day doing things she wanted to do. She saw that there was a Cheesecake Factory close by and asked if we could go for lunch since they’ve never been. Umm...of course! Who doesn’t love the Cheesecake Factory? We stuffed ourselves on appetizers and their yummy bread and we all shared a piece of cheesecake and the famous strawberry shortcake (which is our favorite)

adali at cheesecake factory

We went to REI where she got some really nice pants and then went to see the movie Wonder. Guys, if you haven’t seen that movie, take a box of Kleenex when you go! She had read the book so knew what it was all about but I didn’t know it was going to be such a tear jerker! 

We loved getting to celebrate Adali’s 12 trip around the sun! She’s such a great young lady and we are so proud to be her parents. Happy Birthday, Adali.

adali's 12

The next day was Thanksgiving and the first of what I hope to be many Friendsgivings.

Friendsgiving at lake mead

It was so low key with just some buffalo chicken dip, spinach artichoke dip, and some homemade rolls and soft pretzels with beer cheese dip! And cookies of course, but most importantly...friends! I love that we are able to celebrate but do it our own way. No huge, fancy, time consuming meals. Just some friends getting together to celebrate what really matters. 

friends at lake mead

With so many great hikes close by and our friends across the way from us, we all loaded up and decided to #optoutside on Black Friday so we went hiking at White Owl Canyon.

kids hiking with Ford's

It was an easy hike through a little slot canyon where we saw owl nests and searched for pellets but only found half of one with some tiny bones still in it. It was a beautiful day for a hike with friends. I don’t know if we have ever done that before. Usually it’s just us! This may have to be a thing every now and then!

A few days later we said 'see you later' to our friends and planned to have a quiet week to rest and get some much needed work done. 

ada's ready to relax

With the Hoover Dam being so close, we decided we should probably go visit. But a quick search to see how much tours cost quickly changed our plans! $10/per person just to get in the visitors center? No thanks!! With the tours being even more expensive, we opted to watch a documentary online, then we just drove over it and stopped on the Arizona side for a quick look and press pennies!

Jax at the hoover dam dam press pennies

It was rather underwhelming. I guess I thought it would be bigger, or more majestic. Maybe it’s just because I’m not huge into the construction of dams, but we were rather unimpressed so we made a few dam jokes and headed back to Lake Mead. 

If you’ve not camped at Lake Mead, I highly suggest you do so! The sunsets here are just incredible. The water is so blue, and being surrounded by the red rocks just never gets old.

lake mead walk around kids at lake mead

We made it out to the Lake Mead Visitors Center and the kids and I watched their show about the lake, learned a bit and did their Junior Ranger booklets. I just love that we are able to learn about all these new places together. Such a blessing to be with them everyday.

lake mead jr ranger

We had almost made it an uneventful week but alas, more truck problems. We took it to the shop in town and they kept it overnight to figure out why sometimes it just wouldn’t start. And what do you know…it started EVERY TIME for them! It just some how doesn’t start for me when I have to run into town to do laundry or go to the grocery! Figures…

We had to make a decision. Do we go ahead and get this baby bulletproofed and HOPE we get another 4-5 years to of it?? OR do we sell it and get a new truck? After talking to the guys at Bulletprooff Diesel in Phoenix, we were leaning that way!

We decided to pack up while the truck was deciding to start that day and we drove over to Phoenix. We knew we had to get this problem fixed, once and for all and NO ONE seemed to know what was wrong with it.

We left beautiful Lake Mead behind and had no idea what would happen in Phoenix, but we knew there was big changes on the horizon! 

Spoiler Alert: Things didn’t go as planned, as per usual :)

Locations in this post

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Lake Mead Recreation Area

Lake Mead Recreation Area
10 Lakeshore Rd
Boulder City, NV 89005

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/death-valley-national-park-jonathans-birthday Death Valley National Park & Jonathan's Birthday 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-04T18:12:26+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Death Valley has been on our radar for a long time. It’s one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Being one of the lowest, hottest and driest National Parks, we knew we had to go see it.

The drive from Trona to Death Valley was absolutely stunning. 

Death Valley national park

We choose to stay at a boondocking spot just outside of the south entrance known as 'The Pads.' Evidently someone started building a RV Campground but never finished. It’s laid out well and all the cement pads are still in place. Some of the sites are not accessible to due to the plants that have grown up at the entrances, but there are still several options and we had no problem finding a place to call home for a few days.

the pads

We knew we would have zero cell signal so we ended up taking a long weekend to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday in Death Valley. The only plans we had were to hike, relax and take in as much of this place as possible.

Jonathan is always the first to get the hiking plans together and we knew it was going to be a weekend full of epic adventures.

The first hike was called Harmony Borax Works and it was a bore or a trail, unless you’re really into learning about how Borax is produced, skip it! It was only .4 mi and we just weren’t that interested in Borax. 

Borax

Okay, babe. Time to step it up. We headed over to Salt Creek Loop next. It was only .5 mi loop on a boardwalk trail. While it was beautiful, it was HOT. And this was mid November. I can’t imagine why anyone would visit this place in the summer months.

salt creek loop

The sun was brutal, thankfully we found a bit of shade on the path. We’re going to have to get up a lot earlier to get our hiking done before the afternoon sun bakes us!

It was a pretty trail and we were still a little shocked that there was actually water in the creek

salt creek

With the heat already pretty intense, we decided to drive the Twenty Mule Team Canyon. It’s a 2.7 mi one way drive through these incredible Badlands.

20 mule team drive 20 multe team canyon

Jonathan and the kids decided they had to get out and get a better view from the top. 

20 mule 1 20 mule

It was a really awesome drive and should totally be on your list to visit if in Death Valley. 

Next we headed over to Dante’s Ridge. Holy Smokes! What a view. 

dantes view

We were up at 5,475 ft and looking down at the Badwater Basin, which is at the lowest point is -282 ft BELOW SEA LEVEL. Just incredible. 

dantes peak

We spent quite a while up there taking it all in. 

That evening, we really wanted to make it to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, but there was a rare event happening. We were in the middle of what they call a 'brown out'.

brown out

The winds were so crazy they kicked up the sand and it covered the sky. We couldn’t even see the sand dunes from the road. It did make for a pretty epic sunset though. 

We decided to keep driving and we ended up on a evening hike into the Mosaic Canyon. Wow! If you do any hike in Death Valley, let it be this one!

mosaic canyon group

You can still see the effects of the brown out, even though were drove quite a ways past the worst of it. The haze made the canyon look even more amazing.

mosaic canon kids

If you have yet to be in a slot canyon, find one near you and go. They are so fun for the kids (and us). They are one of our favorite kind of hikes!

mosaic canyon slots

We came prepared with headlamps and flash lights that we had planned to use at the dunes. I was so thankful that we had them because once the sun went down, it got very dark, very quick.

mosaic canyon evening

We didn’t do the entire hike because someone…(cough, Jonathan, cough) decided that he wanted to take an alternate route.

mosaic canyon

He and Jax went a different way around and we planned to meet up on the other side of this smaller canyon, but…signals were crossed. We couldn’t find them for awhile, we tried yelling for them. Eventually we heard Jax say…”Dad’s stuck!” 

So we had a mild panic attack and retraced their steps and still couldn’t find them. At this point, the sun was already down and we were using flashlights. Ada was really worried and was upset at the thought of loosing dad. Thankfully, in just a few more minutes they emerged from the canyon and we had a ‘discussion’ about how we will never, ever separate again on a evening hike! 

It was a really cool hike though, just wish we could have finished it. Maybe next time we get there a bit earlier! I have to say, evening/night hikes are a bit scary. I thought it would be fun, but it was so incredibly dark there. I kept imagining sounds and tried really hard not to be freaked out so the kid’s wouldn’t freak out, too.  If it had been a full moon, that hike would have been incredible lit with the moonlight. 

We headed back, exhausted but excited for more exploration the next day. 

We woke earlier this time and headed out towards Furnace Creek. This was Jonathan’s birthday and we were so excited to be able to celebrate with him doing what he loves…exploring new places, climbing rocks, and being together. 

The Natural Bridge Canyon is only a 1 mi out and back. A very easy hike.

natural bridge DVNP

I love that this guy always likes to find little perches on our hikes.

Jax perch

Jonathan always finds a way to give me panic attacks on the hikes. Hiking is supposed to be good for your health, but most of the time I feel like I'm just taking years off my life worrying about everyone. Of course he had to find a way to get on top of the bridge.

jon on natural bridge

Someone wasn't happy that she wasn't allowed to go up. Sorry Ada, but if Dad says it's too dangerous, I know it is!

natural bridge

I think our kids are getting to the point were they’re not so impressed with 'natural bridges'. We’ve seen several and it’s just not exciting when you’re on your 5th or 6th natural bridge hike. Plus, after Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, nothing compares…

One thing we hadn’t quite prepared ourselves for was how much driving we were going to have to do, and we had no idea that diesel fuel would be $5.01 a gallon! Whaaaat??? It was over $85 for us to fill up half of our tank! So, if you’re planning a trip to Death Valley, make sure you factor in enough gas money in the budget(or buy some beforehand) and have a good plan to execute all the places you want to go ad find the shortest routes each day! 

With DVNP being the largest National Park south of Alaska, at 3.4 million acres, you’ll be doing a lot of driving. 

Next we headed to Badwater Basin

badwater basin 1

The lowest point in North America at 282 ft below sea level.

ada jumps badwater

If it rains enough, a temporary lake can form. That would be an amazing sight to see. Even without the water, it was incredible.

badwater basin

Being down in the salt flats was so cool, especially after seeing it from Dante’s View. It makes for a great place to take some fun pictures and a perfect place to gross your kids out!

badwater basin mom and dad

Happy Birthday, Jonathan. Thanks for choosing to go to Death Valley!

The kids finished up their Junior Ranger booklets and we took them back to the Visitor’s Center were they were officially sworn in as the newest Junior Rangers for Death Valley National Park. 

dvnp junior ranger

We had an incredible time being here and being completely off grid with zero cell signal (unless we were at the Visitor’s Center). It was a refreshing change to just be together without the distractions of today’s technology. Perhaps we will turn off our internet connections more often :)

We found November was a great time to enjoy Death Valley, and if you’re out that far already…I highly suggests you also visit Trona Pinnacles, too!

See you down the road!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/review-andersen-levelers Review: Andersen Levelers 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-20T17:59:00+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

When we began traveling full-time in 2015, we knew we needed to invest in some leveling blocks. Everyone told us we would be using them often, and they were right. We use them nearly every time we set up, but recently we began having problems with them. Now that we are primarily boondocking in the middle of nowhere, we have found it incredibly hard to level our Airstream using these square blocks. 

Being that they are only capable of one inch increments, we have been growing increasingly irritated at not being able to get the Airstream perfectly level. With two little ones sleeping on top bunks, we want to make sure they aren't going to roll out of their beds. 

One of our rescent trips had us visiting friends in Boise, ID where we parked on the street in front of their home. We attempted to level up one side with the square blocks but they just scooted along the pavement as we tried to roll up onto them. 

I was getting quite frustrated but then our friends were like, “Use our Andersen Levelers!” The clouds parted. The sun shone bright. Birds flew overhead singing praises. Okay, not really...but we rolled up on those suckers SO easily. 

Andersen Levelers2

We just kept rolling back until we were perfectly level. Plus, they double as wheel chocks!

Where have these been all of my life? 

That week we called up our friends at ETrailer. They sent us our very own Andersen Levelers to try out and review, and holy smokes! Why didn’t we get these sooner?

There’s no more guessing how many blocks will get the job done. We just put these in front of our tires (or behind them) and roll onto them until our level tells us to stop! It took a good 5-10 minutes off of our setup time (sometimes more if we’re in a really crazy place)

My favorite part about the Andersen Levelers is that you aren’t limited to one inch increments. You can literally go anywhere from 1/2” to 4”. Game changer!

They’re so easy to use, even the kids have learned how to do it!

These Andersen Levelers are definitely making the list of 'must haves' when we talk to people who are new to RVing. 

We’ve got to give a huge THANK YOU to ETrailer for hooking us up! If you’re looking for a better (and easier) solution to leveling up your trailer...look no further! 

Buy a Set of Anderson Levelers Now!

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