Drinking Water

I realize drinking water may seem like a boring subject to choose. However, finding water that is safe to drink is an extremely important topic and one that I couldn’t find any info on before we hit the road. After traveling more than a year and visiting about half the states in the country I feel we have enough experience to share our observations and opinions on the matter. And I wanted to share them in case anyone considering this lifestyle was interested.

When we started traveling I wondered if we would be able to reliably find good drinking water or whether we would have to buy it. We decided to start by trying to drink the local water and see what happened. I hated the idea of buying all our drinking water. The cost was one reason but, more importantly, consuming a product that requires that much packaging galled me. It certainly is not the most environmentally conscious thing to do.

We have a filter on the outside of our rig that we generally put all the water through that we use in camp or fill up our tank with.

We then have a separate spigot on our sink that runs the water we intend to drink through another filter. We discovered that if we ran water through both of these filters we rarely found the taste or smell to be objectionable. And it makes it even more palpable to us if we refrigerated it before drinking it.

The first month on the road went well. We didn’t have any issues with the local drinking water we encountered. Then we went to Big Bend National Park. A couple days in to our visit and we started experiencing some mild intestinal issues. We recognized that it was most likely the water but we were literally in the middle of nowhere so we couldn’t run to the grocery store for several gallons of water.

We completed our stay by drinking the individually bottled water we keep on hand. We also drank our supply of Gatorade and boiled some water for coffee and ice. We chalked this first experience up to being near the border and once our stomachs were back to normal we went back to drinking the local water with a few additional precautions.

We started buying several gallons of water for insurance any time we were heading out into the boonies. We also kept a close watch for symptoms and would switch to bottled water at the drop of a hat if we suspected a problem. And we made a point of trying to fill our tank with municipally treated water when available.

We continued on this way for most of the year drinking local water about 75% of the time. That is until we reached southern California. We got pretty sick while we were in Palm Springs and spent the better part of a week under the weather.

We thought maybe it was something else because we were pretty sure that the campground had treated water. We could see the municipal water tower from our site. But we switched to bottled water to be safe and started feeling somewhat better. Jim finally convinced me to use bottled water even to brush my teeth (like we do in Mexico!) and we finally got over it.

Before we left I went by the camp’s guard shack and asked if the campground’s water was treated water. It turns out that half the campground, the 50 amp side that I presume is newer, is on a municipal water source. The 30 amp side was on a well. The guard reassured me that it was tested regularly and safe to drink.

From my experience, just because a water source meets the minimal guidelines for safety, it doesn’t mean that everything in it is going to agree with your gut. There is also the issue that bacteria can live in the pipes. If the water is chlorinated then those pipes are constantly sanitized. With well water they are not! So they may have tested the water at its source but that does not mean that by the time it got to my campsite it was safe.

After that experience, we chose to buy bottled water for some time. We decided the cost just wasn’t worth losing a week to a stomach bug. I appeased my consumer’s guilt by buying gallon jugs and refilling them about three times at vending machines before being very particular about making sure they got to a recycling center.

In the southwest it seemed there was a bottle refilling station on practically every corner. I’m sure this is indicative of how big an issue they have getting safe water from their pipes. In the east it has been a little harder to find them but most every Walmart has one inside the store. I have paid from 25 up to 37 cents per gallon for refills.

I am on the lookout for a reusable container that would hold a gallon of water. But the gallon water jugs work really well in my little frig and I haven’t found another option that will fit, let alone hold up to travel. If you know of a better solution please share.

Now that we are on the east coast we have started cautiously trusting local water again and so far have not experienced any issues. When we do return to the southwest we won’t take any chances. We will likely buy all our water when we are in west Texas or southern Arizona and California.

Our motto is “better safe than sorry” when it comes to drinking water. We have to put our health first and our concerns about cost and the environment second.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs, CA – November 2015 Before we knew it we had spent a whole week in this area and hadn’t visited any of the spots we wanted to see. We had browsed new 5th wheels for two days, then we worked on our camper for a few days, and then the weather was outstanding so we had to hang out at the pool a couple days. We realized we better get our rears in gear or we were going to miss the Palm Springs experience altogether.

We decided to ride the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway which took us about 6000 feet from the desert floor to the Mt. San Jacinto State Park in around 20 minutes.

We spent about an hour wandering around at the top experiencing each of the view points from the mountain visitor station.

But the best views were during the ride up and down. On the way up the car was pretty packed but on the trip back there were only about 10 of us so you could move around and experience the views better.

Now a few downsides in case you are considering this yourself. The ticket price was a bit steep at $25 pp. I found the trip up rather terrifying but kept my mind off it on the way down by snapping about a hundred bad photos. We experienced a mild case of altitude sickness, mostly shortness of breath and heartburn. We had hoped to hike at the top but decided to enjoy the views then go back down and find a good hike. Finally, the views at the top are really just OK. The best views are during the ride. IF I considered doing this again I would go just before sunset so I could experience the mountains in the daylight, the sunset from the top, and views of city lights below.

A few miles from our campground was the Coachella Valley Preserve. It was a very convenient place to get a couple miles of hiking in so we visited it twice during our stay. The San Andreas Fault runs directly through it and disrupts the water table creating this oasis in the desert.

We planned to drive up in to the San Jacinto Mountains to the community of Idyllwild one morning. It’s just over 5000 feet in elevation so we expected a dusting of snow and some cooler temps. The views of the mountains on the drive up were outstanding. We were just a few miles away from the town when we came upon a line of cars stopped just before a curve. Turns out there was ice on the road and several cars were unable to move. One car had slid in to the oncoming lane. Others had tried to pass and gotten nowhere but in the way. Thankfully not a single collision had occurred but the road was blocked. We waited around about 20 minutes and they didn’t seem to be any closer to resolving the mess so we turned around and headed back down.

We had passed this idyllic lake on the way up so we stopped to check it out on the way back. Many of the trees around the lake were carved with names and figures as the tree in this picture is. I’m sure as a nature lover I am supposed to be appalled but it was quite charming.

The walk was freezing cold but we had brought our warmest layers. We enjoyed a beautiful walk and appreciated the warmer temperatures back in camp even more after that.

We ended up saving the one thing I most wanted to do in this area for our very last day. I had visited Joshua Tree National Park with my family when I was about 12 and it had made an impression so I couldn’t wait to share it with Jim. It was an hour’s drive from camp. The main attraction in this park is rocks, BIG rocks. There are amazing piles of large, very climbable boulders. We stopped at Jumbo Rock, which is actually a campground, and walked a while and climbed some of them. The texture of the rocks makes it easy to get a good grip and they are piled in such a way that it is generally possible to find a negotiable path to the top.

The drive through the park was fun and every parking lot had another great pile of rocks to view, explore, and possibly conquer.

Unfortunately I had not even consulted the weather report for the area and never imagined that there was actually a 4,000 foot rise in elevation from camp to there. It was already one of the chillier days we had experienced in the area and after arriving we realized it was going to do good to break 40 degrees in the park that day. So we didn’t do as much hiking as I’d hoped but agreed we would come back and camp here one day and scramble around the rocks to our hearts’ content.

We really enjoyed our stay at Palm Springs Thousand Trails RV Resort. It is actually about 15 miles from Palm Springs but was fairly convenient. The campground is very picturesque with rows and rows of huge palm trees and it has a great pool and hot tub. We were there over Thanksgiving so we signed up for their potluck dinner. I took a couple of cream pies and we had an incredible meal. We are still using up the 30 days of free camping we got when we joined Thousand Trails so we can justify our $545 annual fee. We have used 24 days to date.