Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Snowbird Debrief, Feb-May 2015

I've been back at my sticks-and-bricks home for 3 weeks now -- readjusting, catching up, and pondering the past four months of being a snowbird.   I got home a few days before John's birthday; and now we are getting ready to celebrate Father's Day, enjoy hometown baseball, and participate in our Fall City Day celebration.

Second day home, I went to Pike Place Farmer's Market in
Seattle.   For John's birthday dinner, I got some yummy
Beecher's famous Mac & Cheese at the market.   5/30/15 
I got to the market early and
enjoyed watching the vendors
set up their displays.  5/30/15 

Fall City is now home of a semi-pro baseball team,
the Northwest Honkers!  6/7/15
For those unfamiliar with the term, “snowbird” is used to designate someone who temporarily moves to warmer, more pleasant climes during the winter. As a snowbird, I started out in southwest Arizona in February until it got too warm, then moved northward and up in elevation to Prescott in mid-March. My third long-term location was in Moab, Utah in May.

To be fair, I did take 4 shorter excursions ranging from 3 days to 3 weeks to see other locations, camp alone, and visit friends and family.

One of the biggest benefits of being a snowbird was getting to know a place better, through various weather conditions -- temperatures, lighting, rain, sunshine, clouds -- and night time stars and moon phases.  I got to know the sounds and sights of the native animals and plants throughout days and weeks.  A place is more than a moment in time; rather, it's dynamic through time, similar yet different from day to day.

Our camp after a rain storm.  According to the locals, Moab
had more storms this year than usual.  5/16/15 
Similarly, I got to know some of my friends better, as well as make new friends.  I so appreciate when I'm able to spend time with others who enjoy being in nature while living out of their vehicles.   I'm grateful to be with people who get me, and I them.  I enjoyed visiting, laughing, sharing meals, and hiking with friends.  In addition to the camaraderie, I appreciated the additional sense of safety having other trusted folks around me.  I camped a couple of weeks alone and I prefer having the company of others.

By sharing a "campsite" with Bob, we individually paid half the cost
at Monument Valley.  Plus, it was a pleasure to experience this
amazing place with a friend.  4/28/15 
Another benefit of being a snowbird is the financial savings.  Except for the miles to get to and from the Pacific Northwest, I drove very little.  So, I both saved on wear and tear on the car, as well as fuel.  Plus, I boondocked on public land where there are no camping fees.  

To be honest, however, I missed the travel, driving the back roads, and exploring new places.  I got itchy feet.  I was near to some locations I wanted to go to, but didn't.  But, the bit of shunpiking and exploration I did do was thoroughly enjoyed.

Our 2001 Adventurer Class C gets 10 MPG.   9/12 
I could have taken our 20' Class C instead of my Prius.  Many questioned my decision not to. Certainly the rainy weather would have had less of an impact as I could have stood up, cooked, and visited with friends inside the RV.  But, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy some of the windy, narrow roads I drove (e.g., Arizona's 89-A), and fuel would have been more than 4 times the cost. Plus, I'm not sure I could have driven the RV on some of the narrow roads I took into my back-country camps.

Lots of standing, cooking and visiting room in our Class C.  9/12
The RV is 3' wider than the Prius and would have got badly scratched up on the brush, especially in the Prescott NF.  Plus, the overhang in the back of the RV may have bottomed-out at some of the dips in the road.

I suspect our Class C would have bottomed out at the
ditch on this road to my campsite in the Prescott NF.
It would have certainly got scratched up.  3/22/15 
Another benefit of driving the Prius instead of the RV is its ability to recharge my electronic devices while using very little fuel.  When the Prius is turned on and in park, the engine only runs to bring its batteries' state of charge up.  That means, the engine runs for about 5 minutes every half hour.  I would not have been able to do that with our Class C.  I am online a lot and would have needed much more solar to keep my electronics charged with the RV's house batteries.  And, when it was cloudy, I would have not been able to use my electronics very much.  Taking the Prius instead of the RV was the right decision for me.

When using the Prius, my kitchen and living spaces are outside.  3/28/15 
Would I want to be a snowbird again?  The short answer is "yes" and in the Prius.  However, I would let myself explore more than I did this year.  Yet, I know that I need to be cautious and stifle the need to always be on the move in order to let my back country locations unfold and reveal themselves over time.

On my next blog post, I'll do some product reviews for those items I found useful or disappointing during my 4 months as a snowbird.


  1. I love how yo see all sides, Suanne. Nice to be home, eh?

    1. Thanks Cyndi. Rarely are my life's experiences clearly black and white ... rather, lots of gray areas. A case in point: Although I love being home with John, I also miss being in the back country in the Prius. I think this may be my summer to do some dispersed camping in the local National Forests.

  2. Glad you are posting again. Nice read. Terry

    1. Thanks for checking it out Terry.

  3. I look forward to more insights on your experience. My plan is to snowbird in the southwest living in my mini Prius C for the coming winter. Last year I stayed in Florida. I am a newbie to all of this, so anything you post will be helpful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

  4. I hope our paths cross next winter in the southwest. Are you planning to go to the RTR in January? I much prefer the dry heat of the southwest to the humidity of the southeast, even in the winter.

    1. I'm not sure about the RTR yet. I'm not that good at planning! I just know I want to try and stay warm! I switched from living in a tent to living in my Prius C when fire ants invaded my tent in the middle of the night in Florida. Since then I have been doing less camping and more urban living. I'm not sure if I will switch back in the southwest. Maybe I will do a mix of urban / wilderness living. I plan to follow your blog, and if I am near you, I will get in touch so we can meet in person! :-)

  5. Thanks Suanne, I saw your youtube video and am truly inspired. I hope to do similar trips with my minivan. Looking forward to your product reviews.

    1. Thanks for checking out both the video and the blog. The best to you as you start planning your adventures in your minivan.

  6. I agree with your decision to take the Prius instead of the RV, Suanne. More than conserving fuel, it allows you to truly camp out and get a lot more out of the place, rather than bringing your home with you, like how RVs usually are. Anyway, I hope you’ve settled in quite nicely after your trip. Cheers!

    Andrea Wilkins @ Getaway Outdoors

    1. Thanks Andrea. Had I taken the RV, I agree that I would have spent more time inside. If nothing else, I'd have cooked my meals inside instead of outside.

  7. I am planning the conversion of a small van to use as a sleeping place when I drive to sea kayak venues around Scotland. Your Prius set up proved that a comfortable nights sleep can be managed in even a tiny space if a bit of planning goes into what equipment is carried.
    We have small biting insects called here too...midgies...and fine mesh screens for the windows will be essential.

    1. How exciting to go sea kayaking. I hope your vehicle works well for you. Safe travels!

  8. Hi Suanne,

    Have you looked into a Tail Veil to help with outdoor living space that's easy to attach and that would possibly keep pesky bugs out? I wrote them and asked if it would work on my wagon hatchback and they assured me, it would. I found that while researching if I could camp out of my Vibe comfortably, which is what led me to your blog. Great info on here, and I send a lot of people your way when interested in camping out of their cars. :) Cheers!!

  9. That Tail Veil is a cool attachment. I had something similar that allowed me to have my hatch open into a dome tent. Unfortunately, I just never used it. Thanks for reading my blog!


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