Welcome to our Blog!

We are Mike and Carmen Hopkins and as of May 2017 we stepped into the fulltime RV lifestyle. Here, you will find posts about our adventures, or misadventures, as we navigate along this fantastic path. This is Big Country Livin!

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Bathroom Remodel Before & After

4B56385E-02DE-4626-990E-928CDD8283AEWe have been project doin’ banshees since arriving at Mike’s parent’s house in Illinois about three weeks ago! I decided that there are too many changes to include in a single post, so I’ll give it to you in small bites. The picture up top is a reminder of what the bathroom looked like when we purchased the airstream. We didn’t like the oiled brass hardware and fixtures, and the super heavy glass shower door was broken beyond repair. You had to lift it to get it open. While that was a minor pain while outside of the shower, at least it was possible. Once you finished showering, getting back out required all hands on deck – No Thank You! I wasn’t certain that I wanted to paint the cabinets, but the finish was not in as good of shape as the rest of the camper, so I decided to take a risk. 6B398E3F-D5FE-4075-9185-7A57D753D404It’s difficult to tell from the photos, but the cabinets are a very light gray and the walls are green. Valspar makes a cabinet paint that requires little to no prep-work! I’m happy with the results so far. I’ll keep you posted on the wear and tear. We also added brushed nickel hardware and fixtures, as well as some Wall Pops sticky tile from Wayfair. I think it added some style to the tiny space for only $28!25263251-C1FF-4F95-8D4C-A0B77C029E5DThis picture gives you a look at the new shower screen. It rolls away into a vertical canister on the left that squeegees the water away. Best of all, more getting trapped in the shower! 988929D1-8002-447F-9E25-0E725FFDF09E

This picture allows you a peek at our biggest change – new flooring! I can only take credit for choosing the flooring. Mike installed it. I’ll give more detail about the flooring when I post about the kitchen/living room.


Finding Gold In The Junkyard

2D280AEF-2A13-4F5B-A2E0-97D1F98044BAWhen your home is a six year old Airstream and something needs repaired, typically you can’t just go to the manufacture or an RV store to get what you need. If it’s a part that Airstream has been using on its models continuously over the years, like a Zip-Dee awning, then you’ll be able to buy it. At a super premium price, of course! However, if it’s an interior, wooden, sliding door in light oak that the previous owners discarded, then your out of luck. What to do you ask? Well, there are some online forums, like airstreamclassified.com, and there is Colaw RV salvage in Carthage, Missouri. They are the largest RV salvage yard in the nation! Is it wrong to say that we were excited to crawl around in wrecked, flooded, burned, and in other various ways, destroyed RV’s to look for junkyard gold? We did end up finding a door and some other treasures, like kitchen drawer slides. They seat the drawer so it doesn’t fly open when your going down the road and throw your silverware drawer onto the floor.😬 For future repairs, we will definitely check with Colaw’s first!


Palatki Cliff Dwellings


Like Montezuma Castle, the Palatki cliff dwellings are in the Verde Valley of Arizona. Palatki (meaning red house) was named by the Smithsonian archeologist who discovered the ruins. Although the Hopi people once lived here, they have no name for this place.

5A17BFF6-ECF7-4776-B3A3-4976CA34DE76Mike’s parents, Ron and Hazel joined us in Williams, Arizona and on this particular day we bounced down six miles of primitive road to reach the serene red-rocked cliffs that house the Palatki Heritage Site. Birds chirped in the quiet sunshine as we made the short hike up a red dirt path and then natural stone steps to a Forrest ranger and the ruins of a series of small rooms. 806F2150-02B6-4096-B31C-E77BB00821E7Not much is known about the people who inhabited these pueblos. Some pottery and trash were left behind for archeologists to speculate about. 8FE58F19-6803-48CE-B74F-72821568AF3CMore intriguing, are the pictographs littering the walls of a large alcove about a football field away. Here, cave drawings are layered one upon another. The styles and layering are clues that many different cultures of people used this place over a long period of time. Archeologists believe it was used for religious ceremonies, and some cultures marked out the beliefs of others. There are some clues that help to determine what drawings belonged to which tribe. For example, the white figure with fan-like objects protruding from the sides of its head is believed to belong to the Hopi. The figure is of a woman with a traditional hairdo.

Other drawings help to determine when a picture was placed on the wall. The faint black depiction of a man on a horse next to a ladder structure suggests the image was drawn shortly after the Spanish visited the area, because horses weren’t in North America before that time.


The primitive location of these ruins and their difficulty to access added to the experience. Few tourists were there, so we were able to have a more personal visit. We left with far more questions than answers about the people who once called this place home. Although, the opportunity to experience this place together will be one we won’t forget! 4B109AC3-12FD-4BCC-A770-49031A7C9137FC7FCA75-6AA2-4999-A1BF-28BE3B09E1E1


The Grand Canyon & A Bit More

56FC5146-2F35-45B8-A149-3BCB58553CF3There literally aren’t enough adjectives to express the physical impact of stepping up to the rim of the Grand Canyon. You absolutely must experience its grandeur for yourself. I will, however, throw some facts your way that might help your mind put the vastness of this natural heavyweight into perspective.

– The Canyon stretches 277 miles from Lees Ferry to Grand Wash Cliffs

– The Canyon is about 1 mile deep and approximately 10 miles across!

– The Colorado River, running through the Canyon, averages 300 feet across.

– 2,600 square miles makes the Canyon slightly larger than the state of Delaware.

I’d heard Mike’s father, Ron mention more than a few times that he’d like to go back to the Grand Canyon. See, he’d been there before, as a child with his father. They made the journey along Route 66 in a white 1966 Ford Galaxy 500. Sadly, his father passed away suddenly when he was seventeen, and he was so young he didn’t really remember much from his visit to the Canyon. “I’d just like to go back one more time,” he’d say. So, in early December, before Mike and I left for Tucson we said that we would be going to the Grand Canyon in April. “How about you pack your camper and meet us there?” We asked. So the planning and anticipation began.

We visited the south rim of the Canyon. The north rim is higher in elevation, thus gets more snow, and doesn’t open until around May 15th.

7326084C-F52F-4E7D-AF26-98435D3DF86FIn 1893, if you wanted to visit the Canyon people had been talking about, you had to take a jarring 12 hour wagon ride from Flagstaff to a rugged log cabin along the south rim called Grandview. There, a miner turned hotel manager named Pete Berry was ready to greet you and guide you on trails into the Canyon. Pete and his wife are pictured to the right.

By 1897 Pete built a two-story log hotel and was the most popular tourist stop in the Canyon. In 1901, however, the Santa Fe Railway reached the village only 11 miles from his location, so tourists no longer saw a need to take the wagon ride to his hotel. BFDEA7E4-4BF4-40BD-AF6A-DCCE7BFD04426824D0F0-BEE8-47CC-BE5D-185CB2F7B5BC

Not surprisingly, we learned that native people lived along the rim and in the Canyon. A35B5B60-2495-4AA5-BD87-6410943E0F77More than 4,000 archeological sites have been recorded within Grand Canyon National Park. We toured the Tusayan ruins built by the Puebloan culture around A.D. 1185. The picture above is what archeologists believe this settlement of 15-20 people would have looked like. You will see in the photographs that ceilings and most of the walls of the structures are missing.


This section of connected rooms, accessed from the roof, would have housed the inhabitants of the village.


In the foreground of this picture (along the bottom of the image) is a series of smaller rooms that were used to store food and containers of water. 353D1A6D-F6A5-4E22-987B-170D0E852103

This structure is called a kiva. It would have had walls, a roof, and would have been accessed through an opening in the roof. It was used for religious ceremonies.

Though it took an entire day, we visited only a small portion of the south rim of the Canyon. I kept hoping that before leaving the park we would see some elk that road signs kept warning us about. And just as we were leaving, guess who made an appearance?!

D4C92391-E1AA-44D7-A626-BFAA3B5AF5FB C732EEF1-4E4F-4149-91C4-D6E83002F1C4


Montezuma Castle

027EE06C-EFE1-43EC-BD24-6073C1F68BB5Montezuma never visited this place, nor is it a castle. In the 1860’s, when European-Americans first looked upon the long abandoned ruins, they jumped to the conclusion that the Aztec leader had something to do with its construction. Not true. The twenty-room high rise community tucked into a limestone cliff was built by the Sinagua people about 800 years ago, and was inhabited for about 400 years. It isn’t the only Pueblo on the site either. Less noticeable dwellings were discovered at ground level. Archeologists were able to disover, explore, and protect these homes before looters destroyed them.


As Mike and I took the short stroll from the small parking area to the base of the crescent-shaped cliff, I had no idea just how impressed I was going to be by the ingenuity of the native people who once inhabited this place.

E6396235-976F-4484-827F-42435B6CC714The structure was placed high above the ground to allow for a clear view of the land below. Here, natives could keep watch over their crops and watch for intruders. The placement of the structure also enabled the sun’s warmth to reach it in the winter, but not in the summer. Also, most weather came from behind the dwelling, so the cliff itself protected the inhabitants during the monsoon season. Standing at the bottom looking up begs the question, “How did they get up there?” Wooden ladders used to stretch up to the castle, connecting the inhabitants with the land below. That land was extremely important to their survival. BB28E79D-AB35-42E0-B8FD-521242C1CDB8Though water was scarce in the surrounding area, a bend in Beaver Creek ran about 150 feet in front of the castle. In the fertile space between the cliff and the creek the natives grew crops such as corn, cotton, and beans. They also used the native plants right in their front yard. Enormous cottonwood trees shade the small area from the scorching summer sun, and their timbers were used as support beams for the castle’s floors and ceilings. The leaves of the blue yucca were used as needle and thread for sewing, and the roots for shampoo, soap, and medicine. The desert willow could be used as roofing material and for weaving baskets. Each native plant had an important purpose. The natives had pharmacy, grocery, and hardware stores right in their front yard!AD857DDD-A63C-442C-97B9-B8D8FE140992

If we had been alive prior to 1951 we would have been allowed to climb the wooden ladders and tour the inside of the castle. Amazing right? But also very destructive. Theodore Roosevelt helped make the site a national monument in 1906, but visitors were encouraged to take a piece of the dwelling home as a souvenir! With the building of the interstate system in the 1930’s came hoards of tourists. The park service knew that the site was going to be completely destroyed if they didn’t do something. So, the ladders were taken down and visitors were kept at a distance. Thank goodness our views about how to care for and appreciate these ancient sites have changed. If not, Mike and I would have visited nothing but a hallowed our cliff where a dwelling used to be. BA5F08A5-283F-44A2-B5D6-B4D8D8D988F8


Meeting a Childhood Friend in the Mojave and a Dormant Volcano


One of the best aspects of our lifestyle is when a childhood friend, who lives 6 1/2 hours away in California says, “I can absolutely throw the kids in the car and meet you half way!” We can hit the road at a moments notice.

Newberry Mountain RV Park was our meeting place. Don’t let the name fool you, this was an 18 site gravel lot in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert. The only amenity was a small, shallow pond with theme-park blue water. Yes, Esther had to give it a taste test. 🤢Needless to say that our drive there was pretty barren until we came upon a large flat-topped hill that rose out of the desert floor. It was inky black and surrounded by a field of rock just as dark. The contrast of this geological feature compared to the flat, light sand of the desert made us ask, “What is that?” We soon discovered that it was Amboy Crater & Lava Field. This extinct volcano is about 6,000 years old and last erupted 500 years ago! 2093D941-0D8C-40F6-A70B-E7E50C2F15E1

9339DB77-7479-4D88-BCF7-4E299F015F7COnce camp was set up, our guests arrived! Marty Eisen grew up two houses down from Mike’s family from kindergarten through highschool. Ron and Hazel Hopkins lovingly refer to him as their third son. He attended church with them and ate meals with them. Mike explains it this way, “Basically, he lived at our house. He just didn’t have a bed at our place.”

Ron and Hazel have kept in touch with Marty since he left Illinois for California after his senior year of high school, but they haven’t seen each other until yesterday. We had a wonderfully nostalgic visit with Marty and three of his four children. We met his daughter, Summer and two sons Caleb and Braedon. His third son, Dillon wasn’t feeling well and stayed home with his mom. Stories of horrific hairdos, cars, and first jobs were woven together with smiles and laughter. Our evening in the desert ended with a photo, hugs, and promises to keep in touch.


A Dinette, DirecTV Box, & All Those Cords!

D61A5550-FD4D-4BEC-9043-BBCB48ED945C7285F7AF-3F8D-4590-B710-7E2152A49E3EWe completed a big first step in making the airstream our own. I listed the dinette on Craig’s List yesterday and sold it today! With that bulky, largely unused piece out of here we will have more room. For a while now I have been doing mental jumping jacks, visualizing how to best utilize the space. This includes making up for the very large storage drawers that were in each bench of the dinette. I have everything worked out, except where to put the DirecTV and satellite receiver boxes and ALL THOSE CORDS😳! We have talked about every kind of organization possible. From a tilt-out trashcan cabinet that they could sit on top of, to mounting them flush to the wall. But none of our choices neatly delt with the boxes and ALL THOSE CORDS! That’s when Mike looked at the drawer under our refrigerator (that happens to share a wall with the T.V. )and said, “I wonder if we could put everything in that drawer?”

There were already holes in the wall behind the T.V. for existing cables, so we just ran the cables to the drawer and voila! Problem solved!02324725-7612-4848-B1A5-85698C3F5610

The rest of our renovation will happen in May when we are at Mike’s parents house in Illinois. We decided to head back early because the majority of Mike’s tools are there, Esther and Hazel can hang out in his parents house while we work on the trailer, and we just plain miss family and friends😊.  I’m not going to tell what the rest of the changes will be, but I’ll give some hints. They involve the bathroom, a purchase  from Joss&Main, and hiring a professional to do a job we don’t want to do.


Farewell Tucson

93F27E78-62A0-4B9C-8409-D75D0BBB5426Our time is up in Tucson! Man, those three months flew by. Our next stop is about an hour outside of Phoenix so we can see more ancient ruins like Montezuma Castle!027EE06C-EFE1-43EC-BD24-6073C1F68BB5


Oh Solar Panels!

E9523A47-F091-4498-BF2E-2EC679BD2C48So, when you live in a tiny space and your husband knows that the readings on the solar panel system aren’t right, but he isn’t sure what’s wrong, and the batteries and inverter are under the couch…. this is what your living-kitchen-dining room looks like. Four times! I have to give him major credit though. He didn’t know much of anything about our solar panel set up, but for the past week and a half he has been educating himself and testing theories. I’m pretty sure Mike has sighed, “I just don’t get it,” no less than 5,382 times, while madly pressing buttons on the solar charge and inverter panels. For days, a myriad of tools have been strewn about the dinette table. They were not going to be put away until the problem was corrected. It was an ordinary Tuesday when his eureka moment struck. His tenacity had paid off.

Not to be boastful, but I consider myself a person of above average intelligence. However, when Mike began to explain what the problem was he instantly turned into the teacher from a Charlie Brown cartoon. Wah, Wah, Wah, Wah. I felt that if I let on how dumbstruck I was, then it would take away from his moment of solar electrician glory. So, I did my best to follow along. For now, the couch stays in place. There are no sockets, or screw drivers, or wrenches taking up residency at the dinette. Mike still stands at the charge control and inverter panels pressing buttons, but now he says, “Come look at how many amps we’re bringing in!” 55C15797-0BFF-4A48-82D7-144647A1C1EF


Sabino Canyon

4DBFC365-20C0-412F-A7EF-9DF4D67B6362Each time I take a hike I can’t help but ask, I wonder what native people lived on this land? Did any of them step in the exact spot where my feet are now? What was surviving each day like living with less than the contents of my pack? My thoughts were much the same as we trekked through Sabino Canyon National Forrest last Sunday. A creek flows through the area, and we learned that indeed the ancient Clovis people did inhabit the area. They hunted big game such as mammoth and bison about 12,000-15,000 years ago when the climate in the area was much different.

C92F57D5-9722-4EDE-B483-774C290FB2F9During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the government put people to work in  Sabino Canyon through its Emergency Relief Administration; building roads, picnic areas, bridges, and a damn. Other agencies involved were the Works Progress Administration and the Civil Conservation Corps. The grand plan was to damn the creek and create a lake large enough to support boating and fishing. Funding only supported a small damn, and so a lake was not possible. Today, Sabino Lake Trail takes visitors passed the  sturdy stone picnic areas and damn that were built 84 years ago. However, many of the foot bridges have since been washed away. It’s interesting to think that all these years later we are benefiting from the results of programs that employed people who were in such desperate need.