Friday, July 27, 2012

Random Act of RV'ing, V 10.0, in America's Dairyland

More "firsts" to us, but perhaps useless information to you, as we travel across Wisconsin. Sights and information seldom shared by those on a full time RV journey--attempt to enjoy.

Bucket list item--C H E C K. Blessed to be able to join our oldest son who drove up to join me at the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, WI. This airport becomes the world's busiest control tower during the gathering with about 15,000 aircraft arriving and over 1/2 million folks in attendance. And campers out the ying yang!

Our first Christmas in July. Since every campground in Wisconsin is buried in snow come December, why not celebrate mid-Summer. Of course, with temps hovering at 90 degrees and 70% humidity, I would conclude we had an underpaid Santa Claus.

I cherish when we come across a "new to us" campground rule. A mandate without a stated consequence---hummm. Perhaps the eco-police will send me to the Mattel Penitentiary where the Tin Man will be my guard and provide me with recycled toilet paper.

Our bike ride always lead us to an interesting sight. I have a feeling school property tax payers were not impressed with the downgrade.

 Sad to announce, this campground site did not win "RV Yard of the Month.

Hoping to see a phone number as I do believe we have a clothing piece to donate to the society.

Wow, my first sighting of a Black at a campground. Before you dispatch the Federal Bureau of Insensitivity, why is it that such few African-Americans join the RV lifestyle? It is nice to see them recognizing this themselves forming a website here discussing the issue and promoting the outdoors. Come join us!

As full-time RV'ers, my wife informed me she could not seem to find the time to hand-mix. You know---2 loads of laundry a week, cleaning 300 sq. feet of living, interneting, knitting, I-phone games, walking, cycling, swimming, reading, napping---yes, the time-thieves of this lifestyle. So, we broke down and dug deep into the wallet and handed over $2.11 picking up this 40 year old Hamilton Beach mixer at the local antique shop. If it doesn't work, I believe there is a historical society in town that will take it off our hands.
Well, after a smart-aleck comment about the electric mixer, I have been punished and assigned meal preparation 2 nights a week in the RV kitchen. I brought my "A-game" to the first meal. Hey, it' Wisconsin--had to go with cheesy. It does need a mixer, right? And based upon the reaction on my wife's face when I asked her what she thought, I believe my sentence to chef duties has been communed.

Day #111--this concludes our visit to the gorgeous state of Wisconsin. Off to an overnight in Illinois, as we have to drift south as we couldn't afford the $500 ferry fee across Lake Michigan. After one night there, due east to northern Indiana, Amish country.  I look forward to the visit and if you follow this blog you know I am not a book reader, but I do look forward to reviewing the 2 shortest books in the entire Library of Congress--"Trending Hairstyles of the Amish" and "Amish War Heroes". Ahh yes, the folks who all started camping! And never left.

Thanks for following along....

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A lil bit of Minnesota, some randomness, alot of heat!

The week in MinneHota is coming to a conclusion. In Summer 2010, there were no days above 90 in this part of Minnesota. Fast forward 2 years, 15 days above it and we are only mid-July, not to mention this is by  far the most humid area of our adventure. You know it is muggy when you are drinking your a.m. coffee and there are sweat particles building up in the concealed regions.

Plus, back by popular demand, more interesting, unique sightings from our my twisted view of the RV lifestyle.

You probably know you are in a small town when all you qualify for is a single wind turbine popping out of a cornfield--Welcome, MN., population: 686.

Lanesboro, Minnesota where we spent the past week—population 786. A “chopper-hopper” town, akin to a Golden, CO., Fredericksburg, TX, Williams, AZ., etc—a place where all the weekend motorcycle riders venture to on Sundays, saw 16 bikes parked in front of the local burger eatery on Sunday. Now, the weekdays, much different story, ghost-townish--more like Lamesboro.

Teri in front of the falls of Lanesboro, a bit more of a roar than Sioux Falls.  She was all decked out in her high-viz “bear on the trail please eat the big dude in front of me” green tank top for our 12 mile bike ride. No bears, but did have to yield to a snake, squirrel and a sizable doe on the trek into town-center. The Root River Trail is probably the most well known ride in all of Minnesota as it encompasses 60 miles of pavement and connects you with 6 different towns.

Heh—At the same campus, “Lanesboro Child Care Center” and “Lanesboro High School” sign on the left (brick)—that’s one creative way to solve the teen student pregnancy dilemma.

And transitioning to other sightings over the past week. In keeping with the theme of our blog--disgusting--I would say that fly trap works well! Of course it is merely an attractant that lures them in, then they die by malnutrition. This of course begs the question--do flies cannibalize? When I snapped the photo, the new victims of entrapment were still buzzing. A short time later, the owner exited the rig and took the container down to the dumpster. I swear I heard the top layer of survivors chanting in unison "We are home, we are home!"

"Hey Mildred, how about if we just set up our two wi-fi network boxes side-by-side in the screen window, ya think that will cover the 5 acre campground". Yes, I was a bit perplexed when I inquired with the campground owner as to the location of his network antennas as we repeatedly had low signal strength and connectivity issues from a 100 feet away. He pointed at the window and with all the indifference he could muster up and said "right there". And his face read "deal with it, goofball".

"Hey, let's set a 1 ton boulder six inches away from where the 40 foot rigs turn to exit the campground". I am not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but I am starting to lean that some campground owners are in cahoot with the local RV repair shop.

An RV'er once commented, "Your goal in rig maintenance should be to have 80% of your items functioning correctly 100% of the time". No truer words.

Revised priorities:
  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Work RV A/C


Out: Quilt. In: Truck windshield shades. Next, Reflectix, cut to size, when we trip over the next Home Depot town. Moving on up.

Day 105! Hey, one degree of temperature for every day traveled. Off to Wisconsin for a week on Friday morning where our oldest will be motoring up from Denver to meet up at the world’s largest air show in Oshkosh. The forecast there calls for: "Melted cheese".

The “We Have an All Time High Temperature for This Date In History” tour continues, thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Random Acts of RV'ing, V 8.0

Yes, a hybrid post--our experience in Sioux Falls, S.D. mixed with the mundane, the helpful, the humorous, seldom informative--all randomness in this journey we call full-time RV'ing. Nothing real captivating about this town of 150,000 mid-western folk and one we pretty much just "hung out" at. Not bad, not great, just sort of there--like a bout of constipation.

On our drive up to Sioux Falls on I-29--"Modern Rest Area"-- it's the little things that impress the folk of Iowa. I wonder what the state did with the "Cornfield Outhouse-12 miles" signs.

Working in the 911 world for two plus decades, I was a bit taken aback by this South Dakota signage. The other side reads "Think!". Since 1979, the state has posted the spot of each fatality with this marker. The "Think!" seems instructive and a bit presumptuous. How was the person who rolled their car due to their first grand-mal seizure suppose to THINK about preventing it? Or had a new tire freakishly blow out? Or swerving to miss the abundance of wildlife that roams these woods? I get the "contributing to your own demise" element (DUI, texting, speeding, etc), but I had a rare sentimental moment (wife to verify) and felt it was a bit out of bounds. Perhaps the fact the victim's family must approve of sign placement is enough of a caveat to OK the program? Now, on to cheerful news.

A tad too close at our S.D. campground-- these are the nights you hope your neighbors do not have beans or cabbage on the menu cause nothing spells aggravation more than rectal zephyrs drifting onto your dining room table. Seriously, the Sardine family even nixed their stay here.

This used to be the wife-trainer dog defender when we walked near our former country home. It is now our "slide-out yardstick"-- before we extend our living room slider, we measure this between the exterior wall of the rig and its nearest obstacle to make sure we aren't mowing down an electrical pedestal, pole, tree, etc. in its path. Cheap insurance.

Apparently the wife's BIKE t-shirt was in the dirty laundry. Sioux Falls does have an amazing bike trail system that loops the entire city paralleling the Big Sioux-age River--yes, it was green and stagnant, probably due to the drought. The 25 mile, all paved trail connects to a dozen parks, many with themes (soccer, softball, dog, volleyball,etc). Well done!

Standing in front of Sioux Falls--yeah, a tad smaller than Niagra. And woah, what's up with my crooked helmet, I think the wife gifted me the combination cycling-brain injury model.

When you have been married for 25+ years (to the same woman), there can be a lot of silence inside the cab of the Jr. Ark on the days we travel to a new RV park. So, the co-pilot fires up this app on her I-phone and researches the interesting facts of small town USA as we cruise through them. For example, our current town of Tea, S.D. was originally named Byron. When they wanted to become a postal community in 1906, USPS said "pick another name, Bryon already exists, and make it a short one". So, the local community of German influence who enjoyed their afternoon tea suggested--TEA.

Honesty in advertising, including the pitchfork--all about branding at this Sioux Falls bakery. And no, we were good Christians and did not succumb to temptation.

Our righteousness was short-lived as we became heathens and fell to temptation at the Phillips Avenue Diner. When in South Dakota, do as the Wisconsinites do-- fried cheese curds bathed in ranch dressing.

Either we are traveling with a stealth kitten or the Midwest's interstate roads are the worst we have experienced in 5,000+ miles.

Relaxed after a week's visit in eastern South Dakota enjoying sleeping with the windows open all night for the first time in amonth. We are ready for a 130 mile drive for a one night stay in Fairmont, Minnesota on Saturday and then coasting into Lanesboro, MN. for a week with another very mild travel day. We promised to slow it down in July and we hope to PARK IT for a month in August. I thought I would put that in writing for my wife's sake.

Day #98 of the journey continues....

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ogling at Ogallala, NE for a week!

Well, a week at Ogallala, NE. is nearing an end and very little to ogle at. While the plan was just a couple of nights, the weather forecast within 300 miles of here and our northeast destination was the same-- H O T! Since nothing was to be gained by traveling and we liked the Country View campground and its weekly rate, we decided to stay parked and go exploring the town's 5,000+ population. So, after those 30 minutes were up, we swam for 6+ days. Another week in the rays and the Border Patrol will be making inquiries of our immigration status.

Oh no you di--in't, oh yes I did! Left: bottle of vanilla syrup, right: dish soap. Unnoticed by me (no surprise look on my wife's face), my love had packed away the coffee syrup prior to an early morning departure for Ogallala. Well, in my pre-caffeinated morning stupor and in a haste to get on the road, I prepared my own thermos of coffee adding what I thought was the syrup. My first gulp as we cruised down the highway--uggghhh--the Palmolive latte' will not make it to the Starbucks menu.

You know you have arrived at the country-bumpkin' RV park when from your living room you can see the John Deere dealership and the Dairy Queen in one full swoop of the landscape.

Summer time priorities--shade and pool--accomplished. If I backed up 4 ft, I could belly flop from atop the Lady Eagle.

Pool rules--so what's the purpose of chlorine in the pool? I guess my puss-filled, gaping case of Infantigo is a no go. 

Consequence of shade-- that white glob sitting between the H and J keys is not Liquid Paper. Yes, a robin above me at the picnic table with a sense of humor air-mailed me a gift.

Lake Mccona-heh. It is considered Nebraska's playground, but it pretty much left us unimpressed, perhaps because we arrived only with a plastic float, you know the whole budget thingy. No shade, leg munching sand flies and a distant view of nothing. Much prefer our previous water stops of Monterey, CA., Chatfield Lake in CO. and Lake Shasta, CA.

When in Nebraska, do as the Nebraskans do-- Runza's, a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, pork, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, bacon-- you name it! And fortunately did not wake up with a case of the runzas the following morning.

Like fingerprints, no two sunsets are alike. Looking toward the western skies of Nebraska as smoke from a forest fire collides with a thunder cell moving thru the area at dusk. Oh, and you're welcome for the added element of power line and FedEx trucks in the background-- my photographic creativity is a bit eclectic.

What's not to love about a town that paints their water tower like a UFO spaceship!

Tower turns scary at night....or something..... 

Nothing symbolizes small-town USA ambiance more than being able to capture both the town's fireworks show and the Dairy Queen sign in the same photo from your campground 2 miles away...

Well, that concludes a week in western Nebraska. Off tomorrow to the state's eastern boundary for a single night, then pointing the rocking chairs toward the north, Sioux Falls, SD., on Saturday.
The journey is 3 months old today!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Full Time RV Budget, Our 1st Qtr

I know it is taboo for many to discuss issues of money, but not us, we see it as education for others who may want to explore our type of adventure. We were blessed by other RVers who had shared similar budget info on their blog sites, so we are just returning the favor and paying it forward, pun unintended, for others who may want to pursue the full-timing RV lifestyle.

Background: Married for a quarter century, no children with us, no pets, no smokes, non-drinkers (Yes, insert No Fun Couple comment here). Our 2002 Ford F250 diesel and 2008 Jayco fiver are both paid off. We are living off retirement investments and do not have a fixed pension payout. There has been 0 "other income" during this period, as planned. We left April 5th, so the April budget was not a full month. Since leaving Austin, TX, we have amassed 5,000 miles and stayed at 25 different locations and crossed through 11 different states. We sold it all and agreed to travel for one year or when the money runs out, whatever arrives first. The website is what we use to track our data.

The budget screen shot: The "Original" column was our forecasted line items along with anticipated expense next to the entry. The realities of each month are in the succeeding columns.

Yes, we only have 13 categories we track. "Incidentals" is more of a "catch all" and includes such items as laundry, LP gas, etc. "Aetna" is the wife's insurance plan ($5k deductible, 100% coverage) and I use a Christian health sharing ministry ("Samaritan") for my coverage. The "health" column is for other needs that arise (allergy meds, reading glasses, etc). "VSP" is our vision insurance carried through prior employer. "Cell phone" includes wife's I/phone+500 mb of data while I am still 'old-schooling' it with unlimited phone, but per item text and data cost, which is usually nil.

As for truck/RV insurance, we paid $810 up front to get the annual discount, which amounts to about $70 per mo., but since we aren't obliged each month, we removed it from the figures to simplify for us. So, in reality, budget is closer to $2900+ monthly.

Overview of 1st quarter: We had planned on $2,846 per mo., we are in at $2,768. Most would celebrate this result, but you know eventually "Truck-RV Maint" is gonna sneak up and yank on the testicles, see "June" entry (4 new RV tires + air filter/oil filter/fuel filter on the Junior Ark). Overall, having good fortunes with this column helped us with the overages on Groceries, Entertainment (mostly dining out), RV Parks and Entertainment.

Moving forward: I have predominantly been the one who takes care of the finances, but I let my wife suggest a July budget. Biggest change--STOP the 1-2 night RV park stops and convert them to weekly or monthly stops, thus reducing both the RV Park and Diesel spending. For example, at our current RV park in Ogallala, NE., the daily rate is $31, if you stay a week, it brings down the daily rate to $22, a 33% reduction. Yes, that doesn't change the 100 degree, corn field scenery in Ogallala, but there has to be a sacrifice. The savings there will help with the more difficult areas to reduce: rising grocery costs, fun money and miscellaneous/incidentals. And of course, the Ruffles and French Onion dip are non-negotiables. Oh, and the Diet Dr. Pepper. Oh yeah, the chocolate chip cookies, too. Let us not forget coffee and bacon either. Priorities.

Bottom line: We have met the bottom line for the 1st quarter of this adventure. If you have any questions, we are open for them.