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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Arizona Highways and Revised RV Dreams

Camping here in the red rock boondocks of my youth stirs the coals of old fires. Some of my first memories are of coming up to Sedona from Phoenix with my parents in order to climb all over these iron bleeding monuments and play in Oak Creek's icy waters.  

A friend of my parents had a cabin in Sedona... this would have been around 1958... it was a different time. "Things have changed," as they say. Today, Sedona is overrun with camera toting, ice cream licking tourists. Pink Jeeps are everywhere... crawling around like mudusa-headed ant machines... through every crimson nook and cranny. If you dare make a pee stop you'll end up in someone's vacation photo; it's that bad. And still, I make pilgrimages to this formerly spiritual, now turned shopping Mecca for Phoenicians with fat wallets. Why? 

We had stacks and stacks of outdated Arizona Highways Magazines laying around our (trailer) house, some with photos taken around Sedona. My thrifty mom would never dream of paying for a subscription; purdy pictures are timeless. Instead she purchased "used" ones at garage sales for a nickel each. Once she found a grapefruit box full of A. H. magazines in the trash carried them home. She never threw them away, either, always found a way to "recycle" those beautiful magazines. Who knows, maybe that's where my fascination for purdy pictures originated.

I wish her thriftiness would have rubbed off on me a little bit more, it might have saved me thousands of dollars in trying on various RV's to see how they "fit." It is a boon for the RV industry that newbies have trouble getting it right the first two or three times. It seems like most RV'ers eventually spend their way up to a motorhome anyway. Is it just me, or is there not an increasing profusion of busses lately? 

Wow, if you think vehicles depreciate fast, take a look at motorhomes in your RV Bluebook. New motorhomes cost more than houses and suffer most unreasonable depreciation. A cursory look into their time/devaluation index had me wondering who in their right mind would agree to take such a "hit" to net worth/savings. I know a few people who retired and used proceeds from a house sale in order to buy their Dream Machine. I worry about how that might work out in the long run. For the filthy rich it doesn't matter; a new motorhome is a drop in their bucket and depreciation is not a game changer. 

There are exceptions, but generally speaking the mid-priced 200,000 dollar motorhome will lose 25 percent of it's value in the first year of use; Wow again... that's 50 grand! You can stay a long time in the finest National Park lodges for 50 grand and have enough money left over to fuel the Prius for it's lifetime. After the initial year's free fall in value, depreciation makes a slight correction and drops about 10 percent per year over the next eight years. Finally, valuation almost levels off around 10 percent of the motorhomes original purchase price.

Wow (#3), talk about putting a match to money. And yet I'm seeing more and more motorhomes on the road every year... nice ones. Aside from depreciation, there is also the cost of operation to consider... the six, or even eight, tires at 300 bucks a pop, the gas or diesel at 4 to 5 bucks a gallon, the broken doo hicky that only an RV shop can find and fix at 120 bucks per hour, or the insurance costs... it goes on and on. Then there are RV Resort costs that rival or exceed a decent motel and membership dues to various travel clubs.

Rational people do this... so of course they must rationalize it somehow. Maybe they think they'll make up for all those costs by preparing "home cooked" meals instead of eating out. Yeah, right... breakfast, maybe. How long does it take to pay for a motorhome by eating cereal for breakfast?

Look, I'm not bashing Motorhomers; I want one too. It must be the same defective gene that brings me back to Sedona in spite of what it has become. Unless you are so fortunate to be rich or live long enough to use a new motorhome "up," at least 40 years (I figure that's the "break even" point) it represents a mind numbing loss of wealth that you might need someday. 

Before you get all peed off, I'm preaching to the choir here, too, and thus what I'm about to say is going to shock some of you. See, I'm starting to look at used motorhomes with a lustful eye. But note, I said USED... as in a 90 percent depreciated ($15k), clean, low mileage, gasoline powered turn-of-the-century rig with one, maybe two slideouts, good rubber and only driven to the lake and back by a little old widow lady in west Kansas. No, I am not getting rid of the Chalet; it is our ultimate "go further" backcountry boondock machine for ever and ever... you can bury me in that A frame coffin (he says, wondering if he really means it given "history"). 

I guess I just want something bigger and more comfy for extended winter escapes to where weather better suits my clothes... something I can still boondock in, tho I realize the limitations that come with what is essentially a Greyhound Bus. 

Am I crazy? Is it selfish? Does it spit into the eye of "Simplicity" to want to get out of Tiny Chalet in order to be a little (lot) more comfortable from November to May? I don't even have a place to park a motorhome in the off season. 

Enough questions. Now back to our regularly scheduled programing.

A grunt of a bike ride up onto House Mountain

Contemplating Arizona's Big Sky

A typical Forest Service Road

From the top of House Mountain... Oak Creek is beneath the serpentine grey canopy of leafless Sycamores and Cottonwoods

Mingus Mountain in the far background... Jerome is halfway up, barely visible as Ghost Towns should be

A little "Flower" grows from Volcanic rock...

More "flowers"

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  1. Not to worry lil' buddy... In my mind, motorhomes, outside of the truth you laid out, have gotten a bad rap. (from me too!)

    Minimalist simplicity that requires the scars of self flagellation is a false economy! :) There's plenty to be said for being able to subsist in reasonable comfort and convenience.

    Now... Take that modest, properly chosen motorhome,say 34' or so and pull or trailer a lil' tracker or samurai... and you can "access" the most remote country accessible to vehicles which gives you a headstart for the Shanks Mare infiltration of the High Up and Lonesome... or ... pull the Mountain Bikes off the Samurai! :)

    It's something We've been pondering for some time... but... me being less minimal than some others... I MUST have my Motorcycle... and maybe a Spyder? for Miss Heidi ;) along with the Samurai... so, as always, I complicate the simple solution :)

    ... Since there are Joyous Adventures for such as I on the two lane asphalt that winds through all the country we both lust after...

    So... now... calculate the cost of fuel to get to the long camp boondock spots that such a rig can still access... which is a LOT if you're careful to keep an eye on the wheelbase and ground clearance height of the rigs you "Think" about... and you've got the best of both worlds!

    At minimum $10 bucks a night you don't pay for a camp (and often, twice that)... with that depreciated rig, a fella would make up the "Cost" and be back in the Black right quick! :) (if he makes "Long" camps)

    ...as well as having plenty of "Basement" storage for Miss Bobbies water color supplies!!!

    Hey! You could even stuff one bin with shorts and t-shirts and stretch the trips to laundromats out maybe 90 days! :)

    ... but now... I have to go self flagellate... 'cause SOMEBODY has bumped me off my 756th "Decision" I thought I'd made about the "Fresh" (as in solid used) rig we need to replace the aging/worn outfit we're hauling... :o))

  2. CowBoy Brian,
    I saw some happy campers loading up just such a used motorhome parked in front of their house... I'd say about a 2001 model, plus or minus. It was a clean unit probably 38 footer, maybe 40. It still had the price from the dealership in big letters on the front window;
    $13,950!!! I wanted to go offer them $14,000 :)) to take it off their hands.
    They're out there, just have to turn over rocks to find them.

  3. WOW- I feel better about my rv!! 35,000 grampa miles- rent resort lot for 215 month-for most of year-across from intercoastal waterway- pool and tennis court - big screen football- electric fireplace- one slideout-(all I need!) 34 feet of room- 90,000 new in 1996= bought for 12,000- has worked for me-I travel by airplane and hopefully soon motorcycle!

  4. Mark,

    Riding the trails around Sedona is one of my favorite trips. I've ridden Mingus mountain twice, what a thrill.
    I've also ridden Imogene Pass from Telluride down into Ouray a few times. Although I live in the Northeast, I long for the climbs and trails out your way. The climb over Red Moutain pass into Silverado is another one I'll not forget.

  5. Walden Steve,
    You did steal that rig... pretty shrewd deal. Did you have a gun in your hand? :)) Find ME such a deal and I'll give you a commission in Free Ouray Lodging.

    Wow, there must be something keeping you there in the northeast... you sure have found a few of the west's sweet, but extremely tough spots. Mingus is a tough, tough grunt... some real steep, loose sections for sure. Bobbie and I tackled that a few years ago on a hot day and it kicked our collective ass.

    Imogene... We've run the race from Ouray to Telluride several times, me as late as two an a half years ago, but biking it is harder than running it... don't know if we could pull that off now that we average 65 years of age (I'm younger :((). We did Red Mountain, Molas and Coalbank passes too... a very narrow short cut to heaven, as you know. You would LOVE Moab.
    Stay tuned for a video of a couple of recent rides here in the Sedona area and thanks for commenting. Don't let your "long(ings)" go too long :))

  6. Hi Mark,
    I am pushing 66 myself. I have raced mountain bikes and road bikes all over the northeast. I've ridden every available trail in Moab, including the dangerous Poison Spider Mesa, did the entire ride through Canyonlands on the White Rim Trail.
    A close friend owned a house in Crested Butte, so we have ridden all the trails out there as well.
    The last road ride out your way was the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, in which we rode almost 700 miles with 28,000 feet of climing in 6 days! That ride included riding from Ouray, over Red Mountain, into Silverton, Molas, and Coal Bank Pass into Durango.
    Oh yeah, it also included a stop at the Orvis Hot Springs, which was quite a surprise ;).


  7. Dick,
    Well my hat is off to you my senior brother! (but not by much) You definitely "got cahones."
    Some good single track around Crested Butte. We rode from McClure pass down to Marble... up over Schofield Pass to C. B., spent the night and rode back the next day. Schofield was a grunt and push but the down hills were sublime wildflower runs. I'd say your outdoor resume is in fine order!!!
    Come hike with us anytime.

  8. Mark,
    I'd love nothing more than to get back to your part of the world. I've always loved Ouray and the surrounding areas, and once considered settling out there. Several times we've ridden (in a jeep) over Engineer Pass to have lunch in Lake City.
    If you get back to Crested Butte, take the ride over Pearl Pass into Aspen, and do the hike to the top of Gothic Mountain.

  9. Thanks Mexico!,
    Sorry to see you shut down your blog...
    But your main reason, well, I have the same problem.


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