Thursday, August 30, 2012

Random Acts, V 13.0

The trip meter eclipsed the 8,000 mile mark today! Now 20 states. And with the colors starting to coat the leaves of the northeast, we are approaching our 3rd season and Teri's favorite, Fall. Speaking of, she has an educational and insightful approach to our RV'ing at her blogsite. However, if you just want the usual rant, useless drivel and seldom beneficial full-timing RV post, you have arrived at the correct location. I have learned if you expect very little, you are never disappointed. Welcome to a new post and don't expect much.

Some pix and happs of the past few days.

I am thinking a better name for our campground in Sandusky, OH. would have been "Tuff Shed Resort".

This is about as close as I will ever get the wife to a roller coaster. The steel roller coaster (blue) at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. has the 2nd longest drop (400feet) in the world. Teri starts shaking when she gets on the 3rd step of the fifth wheeler.  But, it was a gorgeous day for a bike ride of 10 miles along Lake Erie.

You know you are not in a very remote area when you can walk to breakfast and enjoy this.

Looks like this little 6 week old feller came over to console me. Must have been a blog reader knowing I was suffering from a massive case of pet withdrawal. And yes, he got a 1/2 cup of milk which will now tilt the grocery budget.

Lead me not into temptation, I have no problem on my own. I am so grateful neither of us are diabetic. Toft's Dairy ice cream----that was a SMALL--4 scoops,  2 different flavors, $3. And sharing is overrated,so we didn't.

Someone amongst us thinks it's fun to play Jenga with the dish drainer we bought at Toys R Us.

 In my past 8 days on the walking/running/cycling trail, I have found coinage. At this pace, Workkamping may no longer be needed.

Alex, I will take "Repair Work That RV Wives Rate Unsatisfactory" for $200.Another great RV invention--a plastic crank handle for a mast that has to torque up an antenna that weighs about 20 pounds. Acceptable solution pending, functional solution in place.

We are in search of a 12-step program.

Here we sit, nestled in our shady slice of heaven amongst 70 acres of campground in Conneaut, Ohio, about 2 miles from the south shore of Lake Erie. We are hunkered down here as the final onslaught of Summer campers march in for Labor Day weekend. Here's praying the remnants of Isaac spoils someone else's weekend.

Day 145, the journey continues.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random Acts of RV'ing, V 12.0, in Amish-ville

Ahh Bristol, Indiana, you were as charming as my wife. It is now time to separate (from Bristol) and continue the adventure in search of another host as delightful as you. We express much gratitude for your cooler than usual August that saw us running our furnace on several mornings and seldom reaching for the AC switch. The charm of your Dutch folk and its sleepy, but yet lush countryside, will be carved in our memory.

Enjoy a few photos of the area as well as some RVing whackyness while in one of America's best kept secrets--the Michiana area.

In front of Touchdown Jesus on the 2nd day of Fall semester at the University of Notre Dame. I couldn't understand why all the students were whispering "Devil Incarnate" as they meandered by me-- guess wearing my University of Texas shirt wasn't well received.

Win One For The Gipper Hula-Hooper! The Fighting Irish campus has about 15,000 student on any given day. We sat on a bench for over 30 minutes and I noticed what I believe is one of the strangest observations ever amongst a group of today's youth--NOT ONE tattoo. Is there discounted tuition if you are sans flesh ink? It was weird enough for me to go home and do some research to see if they had some kind of catechism--nothing I could find on-line. Weigh-in my Catholic followers.

Hey, anytime I can thrust my hips in public without the police being called, I am all in. When Teri and I first met, I weighed about 60 pounds less and used a Cheerio as my Hula Hoop. And no, I did not lose a bet.

While on the topic of physical activity, the plumping of America includes the RV community. Since arriving into the Midwest, we are seeing golf carts as part of the campground landscape. While they serve a role in transporting the seniors around these mega-sized parks, it seems like the majority resemble the Bertha family going down to the campground store to load up on a super-sized Slurpee. Foot power and bikes seems to be lost as a commuting option.

More plumping. We are one of the few RV'ers who shun for our routing source. We opt instead for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  What a find at the South Side Soda Shop in Goshen, Indiana. Time to get gyrating some more Hula Hoop, probably have to throw a hip out to offset that beast.

This is what happens when you mix an RV engineer background with alcohol. Yes, a 1976 Cadillac El Dorado chassis converted to a pimp motorhome, now safely stored in the corner of the RV Museum.

We drove 5 miles from our campground in northern Indiana, saw the "Welcome to Michigan" sign, went to a driveway 100 yards beyond, made a U-turn and returned to the Hoosier State. Yes, we have VERY LOW STANDARDS for adding a new entry to our Visited States map. I love it when I set the rules. The 2nd cheesiest entry--Washington--where we crossed the Columbia River and had lunch. I am thinking if I dream of Hawaii......

While it appears you are staring at something that is part of the next space shuttle, those my friends are RV toilets on the factory line during our tour of the Jayco RV manufacturing facility. Yes, a litter of shi-----, woops, Family Blog censor alert.

The burning question--why does it take only 1 match to start a forest fire but yet it takes me a whole box to start a camp fire?

Flare-up. Eczema or marital? Looks like my wedding finger is a bit stressed out for some reason, perhaps RV'ing in tight quarters approaching 5 months. And WOAH, maybe my organ donor card has an option on the back that reads "Skin to crocodiles". Good golly.

Commenting approval technology---shouldn't it read, "Please prove you can see bullets flying through the air"? As an RV blogger who often comments on the travels of others, I am tired of Dr. Captcha the redneck optometrist stumping me repeatedly. Can I get an AMEN ?

A hat tip for the start of the Teri's blog over at the Zen of Sweeping. Personally, I am more fond of the zen of sleeping. But, if you want her perspective on this vagabond lifestyle and something much less shallow than this site that promises to be free of men with bellies spinning hula-hoops, go pay her a visit. You may never come back here. I wouldn't blame you as sometimes I don't feel like returning either.

That about does it as we wrap up our first one month stay at a single location. On Tuesday morning, we will dust off our "hitching up" instructions and point the rig to the east as we head to Sandusky, Ohio for a brief stop then a week's hiatus near Buffalo, N.Y., something about some water falls thing-a-majig in the area. We will report back to you, or perhaps my wife will.

As the Amish say, it's time to Giddy Up! Thanks for following, day 142, the journey continues.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Random Acts of RV'ing V. 11.0

Being parked for a month is just what the RV psychologist ordered. We are 2/3 of the way done in this stationary mode and are totally enjoying the Amish area on the Michigan-Indiana border. I  believe we have run the AC twice in 19 days and the heater the same amount of time. Yes, Fall is beginning to tease the area. With the comfortable temps, we have taken on some home-like projects with a start of interior remodeling along with washing and hand-waxing both the Jr. Ark and the Lady Eagle. Today, an RV tech arrived to go through a systems check to keep the folks at our extended warranty company happy.

Enjoy the random photos of our past 2 weeks here in Bristol, In....

 How awesome is this-- a canned ham as a neighbor!

A 2-burner grill, a set of new patio lights and a new programmable coffee-maker---what the better half gets when she goes RV supply shopping.

What the male half gets when RV supply shopping.

The good--fresh flour and corn meal from a still operational Bonneyville old-school flour mill in Bristol, Indiana. The bad-- reading instructions "Items should be refrigerated". Dohhhh--they haven't seen the size of our RV fridge.

We have started the RV remodel program beginning with painting the bathroom first. This lightswitch was Day One's effort--yes, I am totally serious. Did I mention before we are slowing down the pace? Projected completion date: 2018.

This canopy of trees is about 200 yards from us and inspired us to tackle another 5K training program before the fat tackles us. Training is easy to do when you are stationary, but once we commence travel again here in the next 10 days, check back with us on the progress, or lack of.

This is about as risky as RV life gets--hand waxing the rig at about 12 feet. On the other hand, as is noted by the reflection, Carnauba California Gold wax on our aluminum sided rig was an excellent choice.

"Yes, do you have a land-thru spot for me tonight? We will be arriving in our Winnebago chopper." Fun times at the RV/MH Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. Eight of these beasts were produced, 2 still exist.

And thus the birth of flame-retardant curtains was born. 

Speaking of retardanted, that is what my brain would have been if not for the black tape dangling from the awning arm to warn my cantaloupe that it is about to be impaled if I don't duck. Yeah, a white arm, a white awning and mostly white exterior makes the aluminum elbow hard to see when you are 6'2". RV'ing, very dangerous, do not attempt at home.

Amish at a car show? Is there a violations bureau I need to contact? I was at a distance, but I believe I heard her ask her husband "Do ya think our horse can pull it?"

One of our favorite parts of this journey is meeting up with folks who have launched a similar course and are now blogging about it. Jerry and Kim at CR8ING THE LIFE who hail from Phoenix were in Elkhart, In. to pick up their factory fresh, palatial palace on wheels and invited us over to take a peek at the beauty. After taking a tour and enjoying dinner out with them, we returned to our Section 8 fifth-wheeler. They are a bit more work ambitious than us and are headed over to Coffeyville, KS. for 4 months of seasonal employment at the Amazon distribution center. On the other hand, our labor will be deciding on what to order for Christmas from Amazon. Like I said, they have a "similar" adventure, not exact.

We bid you adios with our 7 day forecast. Enjoy my Texas friends and family, we'll leave a light on.

We thank ya for following 131, the journey continues is stationary..

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Four Month Learning Curve

Slow learners-R-Us. We were somewhat of a rare breed as we truly became "RV'ers" and "Full-timers" at the same time, not taking the usual route of starting with a pop-up and working ourselves toward the major leagues. We spent 5 days two years ago in a Class C rental and that was our experience level. So, the leap can be made.

I thought we would contrast the Perceptions vs. Reality battle of the full-timing RV'er to potentially help out those considering the wheel estate culture. Reality is always the victor. So, we will tackle the surprises, rewards, likes, dislikes, tips and other "how we do it" aspects of touring this great country in our dual-axle turtle.

Our rig: 31.5 feet 2008 Jayco Super-Lite fifth wheeler, 1 living room slide--sans kids or pets, has been adequate for us. In comparing us to modern society, we would probably be considered "minimalists"--since embarking on this adventure with all of our possessions in-tow, we actually have made several drop-offs at the Thrift Store. But, the hidden secret--my wife and I get along, most moments, although there has been a time or two I was concerned one of the donations at the Goodwill store was going to be me. But, when she did present the question to me of "If you could name one thing you would have in a replacement rig, what would it be", I did answer "bedroom slider with a king size bed"--this body needs mattress acreage.

Its marriage partner-- 2002 F-250 4x4 Powerstroke Diesel oft-loved 7.3 engine and 4R100 automatic transmission. We bought both units off Craigslist from the same owner which made it ready to go when we were. After-market offerings include a turbo temp gauge, transmission gauge, transmission cooler, brake assist, tuner and performance exhaust. Right under 13 mpg towing all conditions and terrain, and about 20 mpg unhitched. Very satisfied with the Jr. Ark.Oh, and  because we are a "full disclosure" RV'er, we paid $32,000 for the combination truck and RV.

We are Texans by heart, but South Dakota is the state we chose to domicile in. Three main reasons: 3% sales tax, affordable vehicle/RV registration by mail and no annual emissions/inspection required.

How we are paying for it--more disclosure--savings! Yup, no pension, no retirement (we are sub 59 1/2 years old). We took some proceeds from our home sale to buy the truck and RV, but otherwise we are living on 25 years of below-means living,  22+ years of overtime, side businesses, etc. We do have a $$ on the Road tab on this blog which discusses other ways we could make money, you know, if we had to. But, this piggy bank does not refill itself, so we will have to eventually get off the couch and do something.

 Budget killers: Fuel and RV parks' fees. Both can be reduced by applying a simple rule-- stay at least one week per park. And, if you are curious as to the costs of this lifestyle and missed our post at the 3 month mark, here is the link. We are currently parked at our first one month stop in Amish Country, Indiana.

Max travel miles: Ideal is no more than 200 miles in a day, all be it we have done 400+ twice, in our first month, where we learned. It is not a a sedan road trip with the cruise on 75 mph, a Big Gulp in one hand, I-phone in the other and the station playing a little George Strait.

Pacing: Traversing 10 states and 4,000 miles in the first 2 months about killed us was overly ambitious. It may have been precipitated by a "vacation" mindset versus "staycation". Again, this is advice for full-timers and I understand part-timers have work schedules to get back to. Realistically, about 800 miles in a month has been a much better fit. 

Best tip--Unhitching: a) make sure your last transmission move is "Reverse" which moves your kingpin forward into the hitch, (to accomplish, back into a wheel chock and set your emergency brake b) make sure you are level side-to-side. That advice almost guarantees you will come off your hitch nice and easy. I learned in Albuquerque when I experienced an ugly unhitching moment and went to the office to see if anyone in the park could lend a hand and got the response "Well, Danny over in site #16 is usually good, but he is probably drunk today". No thanks to Danny, but thanks to

Shade: It is not as prevalent as one might think, more so in state parks, less so in RV parks. But, the consequence, less amenities in state and national campgrounds. Google maps is your friend and shade saves on energy use and degrading of your rig's exterior, roof and tires. Huge benefit. And, as a backup for those parks that planted concrete instead of trees, get a roll of Reflectix and cut some shade inserts out for your windows that face the sun, it makes a huge difference!

Our map displays the 18 states visited in our first 4 months on the road. Top 3 favorite cities: Boise, ID., Monterey Bay, CA., Portland, OR. Top 3 favorite small towns: Shipshewana, IN., Montello, WI., Williams, AZ.

I would score campground Wi-Fi service a B+. Teri and I both are moderate internet users averaging about 4-5 hours per day on-line when not motoring to the next destination. Weighing going with our own hotspot with, no contracts, $70 per mo. gives you 20 gig of data on the Verizon network. Certainly, if you are dependent on the Net (ie, to work), then your own hot spot is probably a must. And from my research, Verizon has the top overall coverage with AT&T taking second.

Our Go To sites and where I spend much of my Internet time: 

Flat-lander versus mountains: I prefer the temperatures of higher elevation, but driving the less inclined. Again, attention is elevated (pun intended) when ascending as you're having to monitor transmission status as well as turbo temperature. And when you reach the summit, now focusing on braking the wheeled house as you point downhill. Really, rolling terrain of the Midwest is probably my ideal. But, there is a consequence to pay--just how many cornstalks and cows can one driver count? Looking forward to the northeast, perhaps a happy landing. 
Campground memberships we belong to and their annual cost: Good Sam ($25) , Passport America ($49) and KOA ($24). All paid for themselves in the first 3 months. Favorite, but often the most restrictive, PA. A part-time RV'er would have to assess use frequency to determine value, but pretty much a no-brainer for full-timers.
Safety: RV parks have a very peaceful feel to them and is one of the specific areas that Teri commented about. In over 120+ nights, one mother-daughter "cuss-a-thon" on our very 1st night that would have embarrassed an entire Navy fleet and then one drunk who decided he wanted to pretend to be a bear and poop in a not-so-woody area about 30 feet from our rig early one morning were the only two disconcerting things we have experienced. 

RV necessities. What we feel would make this experience even better that we did not bring with us- 1) Outdoor propane grill. Yes, cooking on a gas top oven in your aluminum can on wheels in the Summer time requires you coat yourself with sun screen. We have since purchased one a few days ago. 2) A Fantastic fan--similar to an attic fan in a home, draws in cooler air from the outside in the evenings to replace the interior's warm air. On the list, but at $300+ plus and Summer beginning to soften its edge, not sure if a good value.

What do we miss about our sticks and bricks home (besides friends and family--shout out to Cameron, Austin, Rachel, Harry, Marilyn, LPD folks, etc)? 1.BBQ 2.Mexican food. 3. Big dog. The other bothersome aspect is the feeling I am not "serving" or "volunteering". I have contacted the local Habitat for Humanity to see if there are any current opportunities. Anyone know of any online sights looking for volunteers? I posed the same question to Teri and her responses--1.Sometimes, more space in general 2. Our chicken flock. 3.Outdoor privacy (the expectation you have to converse with your RV neighbors). As you can see, no real obstacles. And yes, that image is the house on 2.4 acres we sold in March.

What has been the most disappointing part of the journey? Well, from our 1st world perspective, I would lean toward the deterioration of our nation's interstate highway system, especially in areas you are paying a $15.00 toll for 45 miles of travel and expect it to be of higher quality. I have become empathetic to the challenge RV manufacturers have in trying to produce rigs that can enure 3.0 seismic conditions on a regular basis. Also, but beyond our control, the Summer heat of 2012 seems inescapable. When wifey was presented with the same inquiry regarding disappointments and given a couple days to answer, she could not think of anything, not even "my husband". Solid.

  1. Total budgeted: $11,517
  2. Actual spent: $11,056
  3. Total states traveled: 18
  4. Total different camping locations: 31
  5. Total miles logged:  7,448 
Most who follow us know this vagabond lifestyle on wheels will last at least a year or whenever the money runs out, whatever arrives first. Now, with that qualifier, the most popular question we hear is "What will happen after that?" The response vacillates between:
  • Quad-season in the RV--live in 4 different U.S. states by season
  • Bi-seasonal in the RV--warm and cooler months, 2 different locations
  • Bi-seasonal in two quaint cabins, probably rural CO. and one walking distance to town in TX.
  • Move to Costa Rica or similar international locale
  • Rent for a year in a big city sans automobile
  • Buy a bungalow in Smalltown, USA close enough to walk most places as we did when we resided in olde town Arvada, CO.
  • Country property, fairly similar to what we sold a few months back......
If I had to give you only ONE response at the time of this writing, I would say a return to our country lifestyle--5 acres, less than 1,000 square foot home, with access to bike/running trails and walking distance to town would be ideal. Now, ask me tomorrow, and odds are in your favor the answer would differ. Yes, it remains a big unknown, but I feel remarkably blessed those options are all reasonable for our future. When I asked Teri, she simply said "wherever my husband goes"--must have been Suck Up Day.

Amongst the readers who are considering an exit to the RV life, which would you pick? Or, do you have a different backup plan?

Thanks for reading over the first 1/3 of our journey and we hope you found at least one valuable tidbit in this post that will smoothen your RV travels!