The How and Why

This post is in response to a few friends asking questions this winter about why we have chosen to spend our winters in Gold Canyon, and the mechanics and finances of our winter getaways. 

First though, I should let you know that the flooding that’s happening in the Okanagan Valley hasn’t affected us at all, but friends of ours have had issues, to the point of being evacuated. Colin and Contessa of 5C’s blog live right on Duck Lake and their yard is under water. They have moved into their RV and found the last available RV site in the city. Barry and Cindy from Canyon Vista live in the same complex, and are likely rather soggy. 

Maxx Trails are a couple we met this winter, and they are camp hosts at Bear Creek Park not far from our home, and while they are safe, there has been a lot of damage to campsites in the park from the creek overflowing and knocking down trees.

And to make matters much worse 😉 the Pickleball courts in Kelowna flooded on the weekend. This didn’t affect our courts here in West Kelowna, but it meant a LOT of people who normally play in town made their way across the bridge and played with us. The 6 courts we have were all full, and we had more than a dozen people waiting to play at any given time. It’s nice to be popular, but we all ended up sitting too long between games.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. You may recall that Sylvia and I purchased a Park Model this winter in Canyon Vistas, a park where we have spent the last 6 winters in our nine year old 5th Wheel trailer. One of the reasons for the purchase is that we were looking into getting a newer, larger trailer, and the new home was in the ballpark of the costs for a new trailer. We looked semi-seriously at a 38 foot 2015 Mobile Suites unit this winter. It was nice, but would be difficult to park at our Kelowna home, and was 10K more than the Park Model we bought. 

By the way, a Park Model (PM) is just a glorified trailer that has been skirted and secured to a concrete foundation. They are normally 12′ by 36′, and arrive onsite on wheels. Once located in place, the axles are unbolted from the PM, the wheels are removed from the axles, and the axles are left in place in case you ever want or need to move the unit. All the additional awnings, storage or living rooms added to the PM are built just like any house. Our contractor is going to remove the metal awning pictured below and replace it with a regular truss roof.

When we bought our trailer back in our working days, a co-worker nicknamed it the Taj Mahal, as it was larger than any of the weekend trailers or campers owned by people we worked with. It was and is a great size, and I am happy we weren’t hauling anything larger on our trip across Canada, but living in 250 square feet for almost 5 months a year was getting a bit wearisome. We have several friends who live in smaller spaces though, and as long as your trailer is 22 feet long it will be welcome in most RV parks.

The new place is about 400 sq ft now, and we are intending to add 380 sq ft plus a nice large deck to watch the Superstition Mountains from. And yes, we’ve both been to the top of these little hills.

I have never posted a detailed accounting of our costs for our winter escape, but you can find details from other bloggers here and here. Our experiences are that we always have more money in our Savings account at the end of the winter than we do when we leave in the fall. It costs us about $3500 (all figures in US $) to reserve an RV site for 5 months, and about $400 to stop in RV parks on the way down and back. On top of that, depending on the route we take, we spend between $800 and $1000 for fuel to get the trailer down and back. Other than those expenses everything else we spend is something we would likely be purchasing whether we were in Arizona or BC, and since pretty well all consumables are cheaper down South we’re far ahead of the game. And those hard costs of less than $5000 are likely less than it would cost for a 2 week vacation in Hawaii and we get 20 weeks of sunshine and fun for the investment. 

Phoenix is one of the sunniest places in the US, with 300 or more sunny days per year. The weather is a bit inconsistent year to year though. Most years the weather ranges from 75 to 85 Farenheit every day, with overnight temps in the high 30’s in January and Mid 50’s by late March. We have seen some snow in the past, although not this year, and we’ve also seen 100 degrees a few times. Some years have been warmer than this past winter, but I was surprised to learn that 2016 – 17 was one of the warmer average winters on record. This had more to do with very few really cold overnight temps than warm days. Most of our hiking days were very comfortable though, not too hot, and not that cold either. And no matter how cool we may have felt the winter to be, nobody in Western Canada felt the least bit sorry for us, did you?

We have latched onto Canyon Vistas (CV)for several good reasons. It is situated close to Phoenix so we can attend all sorts of Music, Cultural and Sports events, including Live Music Performances, Great Plays, Nascar races, Golf Tournaments, College Bowl games, NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB Spring Training games if we so wish. The quality of the music and theatre is first class, and the price is cheap in comparison to what we pay in Canada. We see about 4 plays a year for $22 a ticket, and over the years have gone to Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton and Joe Bonamassa concerts among several others.

As far as Sports, Football is expensive, Baseball is cheap, and Hockey is ridiculously cheap compared to Canada. Prime lower bowl tickets to see the Arizona Coyotes range from $60 to $125 depending on the opposition. Original 6 teams, or Canadian teams are expensive, but I recall paying $115 a ticket about 16 years ago for Nose-bleed Second balcony tickets to take my Dad to a Canucks game in Vancouver. I shudder to think what they would cost today. 

CV is also next to the Mountains and the Desert so we can explore to our heart’s content. We have made Great friends in the park, and every year we visit with Winter friends during the Summer. We are involved in Hiking, Pickleball and Softball all winter. We have gained the reputation in our corner of the park as ‘The Couple Who Are Never There’, as we’re always off doing something fun. Part of the reason for that is that we can’t do much entertaining in our trailers confined space.

There are also lots of activities organized by the RV park, many of which are free or very minimal cost. This is only a partial list from their website:

-Afternoon happy hours -Arts and crafts room -Ballroom -Billiards room-Bocce ball-Card room -Ceramics -China painting -Church service (Non-denominational) -Clubhouse- Computer lab -Computer classes -Dance classes -Educational and fitness classes -Fitness center -Geo-caching -Golfing -Hiking -Jam sessions -Ladder golf -Lapidary -Library -Line dancing and lessons Massage Therapy -Pickleball courts -Ping pong -Pitch & putt -Poker -Pottery/ceramics -Quilting and sewing room -Red hats -Scrapbooking -Shuffleboard courts -Softball -Stained glass -Swimming pools and spa -Tai Chi -Tennis courts -Travel agent -Walking paths -Water aerobics -Woodcarving room -Zumba

If you’re bored at any time during a winter in CV it’s your own fault. If you like peace and quiet that’s available too, in that the sites in our park are relatively large compared to many parks, and you can always find a spot to hide away out of sight. Mind you, one of the great things about RVing is that you can meet your neighbours pretty easily, and most RV’ers are pretty good people. For those of you who are easily bored, there’s always Golf, as there are an untold number of courses in the Phoenix area, and several RV parks and Mobile Home communities have courses built into their complexes.

There are a multitude of other ways to spend a Winter in Arizona though. In our park the purchase price of a Park Model ranges from $35K to $135K, and we have to lease the land for about $5500 a year plus around $700 in Property taxes. There are lots of parks where older units can be bought for as little as $6000, but in most cases you get what you pay for. The cheaper parks are usually much older and much closer quarters. You can also find older Mobile Homes parks where people are trying to give units away for next to nothing if you take over the lease payments. Again, you get what you pay for, but my buddy Croft has parked his Motorhome in one such park in Mesa the past few years, and they really seem to like it. It’s also cheap, leaving lots of money for Croft to spend on those things that are important to him. I believe that is seafood, booze and RV repairs, but I could be mistaken.

Another option is purchasing a RV Pad in a park that has sites for sale and placing an RV or Park Model on it. We’ve been in a few of these communities, and sites range from $50 – 70K in most places in Mesa/Apache Junction, although sites are cheaper further out of town. Some of them come complete with a trailer for these prices, but the trailers won’t be new, or nice. 

There are also many RV parks in the area that have lower site rental and purchase costs than ours, and we have visited several of them where friends were staying, or where I have played Softball. Some are nice, some are not, but all of them have residents who really enjoy what they have to offer. We run into people all the time who rave about their community, and wouldn’t think of moving somewhere else. 

Another option that we have seen is for people to purchase an RV and store it during the Off-Season in Arizona. There are lots of services (or friends with Pick-Ups and Hitches) that will move a trailer onto a site for you. Purchase costs in Arizona are cheap, especially in late Spring once the Snowbirds have gone home and the market has dried up. That same pricing structure applies to Homes and Park Models, as several sales happened in our park after we left in early April.

All the info I have provided is specific to RV living in the East end of the Valley, but there are many other communities which provide the same opportunities. These include Casa Grande, Coolidge, Surprise, Florence, Gilbert, Chandler and even Yuma and the Palm Springs area as well as many others. We have visited most of these, or have friends and acquaintances who swear they’re the best places to spend a winter. The bottom line is you really can’t go far wrong anywhere if you want to escape a Canadian Winter. 

Hopefully we have been able to answer some of your questions about the How and Why of our winters in Arizona, and if you have any specific questions, just post a comment, and we’ll try and answer them.


10 responses to “The How and Why

  1. Awesome post and great information 😊 We are looking forward to seeing pictures of your new home next winter. If the weather ever warms up around here you guys will have to come down for happy hour … or dress warm and we can sit around the fire!


  2. Dave Luce Smith

    Wow that is a lot of info, Congrats on your park model, you will love the life style, it will change your travel plans and packing for trips to and from the south,,,,enjoy..We will have to get up and see it

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds really good especially the comparison to a two week vacation anywhere else. What about crossing the border? Do you need more than a passport?


  4. Great post, it answered a few questions we had about your purchase Congratulations, we know how much you guys like it there and you will enjoy your second home for years to come. It is a beautiful park.

    Yes, we found an older park that has everything we need for a very reasonable price of $420 per month including 50 amp electric (!). It has a nice pool and hot tub which we use most days. It is close to all shopping and we have made a couple of friends there but other than that people tend to leave you alone which works well for us as we do not need activities every day.

    As Rod said, it is possible to get units there for very little money and sometimes even for free if you take over the annual fees. People age out and with the market for these units being non-existent, people just want out.and will give the units away or turn them over to the park which sells or rents them out.

    And thanks Rod for reminding me of the expensive repairs we had on the way down that used up a good portion of our “mad money” for the season! All is good now though. We hope!

    Stay dry in Kelowna! We have been following Contessa and Colin’s blog. It has been a rough year for them and we hope they will be back in their home quickly!


  5. Great post Rod. One day, if we ever tire of driving another 4 days south and staying on the beach in our RV every winter we will join you in Phoenix.

    Meanwhile we continue to shiver here in Kelowna in our RV in this very cool month of May as we await the verdict of Mother Nature and the melting snow pack. We sure miss our home.

    Thanking for offering to take us in should we not have been able to get our RV our of the Freightliner shop. Fortunately we have an RV site until June 1st and have all we need with us.


  6. Oops, meant to say stay in our RV every winter on the beach near Mazatlan, Mexico.


  7. Thanks Rod! I’m 3 years away from a full retirement pension and will most certainly, eventually, spend winters somewhere south (if I can tear Norma away from her much loved job sooner than later!). Your info has been helpful. David B

    Liked by 1 person

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