First Time at a Donkey Rescue

Volunteering is something we often talk about, but rarely have time for.  This unfortunately is very similar to our old life, but on occasion as we travel we have the opportunity to do something really special.  When Linda asked if I wanted to go the donkey rescue with her I happily agreed.  Linda has always loved donkeys, and initially visited this rescue back in 2008.  She decided to go back when they were in Benson for an extended period of time and soon found herself volunteering five days a week.  Today was her last day with the donkeys before they moved out of the park and we both knew it would be an emotional day.  I had been seeing pictures of her with the donkeys and Facebook and couldn’t wait to visit the Forever Home Donkey Rescue. 

The rescue is about 14 miles outside of Benson, AZ and is a very pretty drive.  The last part of the drive is on dirt roads and this sign lets you know that you are in the right place.

A couple of the donkeys are escape artists and can open the gates, so the sign is important.

Once we entered the gate I was struck by how beautiful the property was.  This was a retirement property for a couple who ultimately turned it into a donkey rescue.  An idea that builds from nowhere can end up looking haphazard, but their rescue looks as if the property was designed for it and is incredibly well-organized.  The shelters were absolutely beautiful, he property was clean, and I loved the landscaping.  They also have 20 acres of donkey roaming land, although the donkeys are obviously comfortable everywhere.

These sheds were really great.  Each one costs about $500 to build.

The surrounding land was beautiful and donkey friendly.

I loved her little patches of landscaping.


When we arrived just a few of the donkeys were let out, and the others were feeding.  Morning is the best time to visit, because the donkeys are fed individually in the morning and evening.  After they eat they are left to roam until they are called in for dinner with an old fashioned dinner bell.  They are fed individually because many are on special diets and it ensures that they all get enough to eat.  Their diet is closely monitored and with 29 donkeys on site, that in and of itself is no small feat.

Linda’s job has been to groom the donkeys and try to get them socialized.  Every donkey has its own unique story and since many of them were rescues, not surprisingly they can be skittish of people.  Some will never be adopted out, but many can be, and it is helpful if those donkeys in particular like being with people.  So Linda and her friend Suzanne came out every morning and spent a few hours grooming and talking to the donkeys.

Today Linda had myself and Jo (another newbie) and she walked us through her process.  We went to a stall and Linda walked in and showed us how to groom them.  She uses cookies (animal crackers) to treat their good behavior and most of them like being petted and brushed.  A few though would take the cookie, but didn’t want to be touched so we just talked to those in the hopes they would be less shy in the future.


Linda showing us how to groom.

I took a turn and it was really fun

The healthier they are the softer the coat.

So pretty and surprisingly very little smell.

Some of the donkeys have this cross on their backs which some people believe shows the favor of God.  A donkey carried  Mary to Bethlehem.

In between we washed each brush to make sure we didn’t pass anything from one animal to another.

As we took turns in the paddocks,  Linda told us the stories of each donkey.  Some were absolutely heartbreaking and on occasion I found myself getting emotional.  I have been around horses my entire life, but never donkeys and they are much sweeter than I was led to believe.  Each donkey has its own stall, with a placard that says his/her name and a little about them.  Once they were let out,  I did get super confused as to which donkey was which, but Linda knew them all by sight.

Penny was a wild donkey and even though she has been with them 14 years, she still will not let anyone touch her.

I tried. She would take a cookie , but definitely no petting.

Cisco was abused in his last home, but he is still so kind and loving. Broke my heart. He loves pets and treats.

Blackjack is the donkey who started it all. He’s an adorable fluff ball and super sweet.

This is one of the oldest donkeys . He has a cracked hoof and is really painful to walk, so when he is let out, he just lays on the ground in the sun.

The crack in the front middle doesn’t look like much but it is enough to almost cripple him.

So sad seeing him lay out in the sun, but I was amazed by how he blended in to that sand.

There are many different types of donkeys (who knew) and we got to see a couple of unique ones.

This is a mammoth donkey which are taller than Linda. This baby is only one year old and will continue to grow for the next five years. Had to be careful around him because he was all legs and big but still baby awkward.

And in comparison the miniatures, which I absolutely loved.

One of my favorites was called Pepsi. When he came in he was overweight (common problem with the miniatures) and until he lost the weight they called him Diet Pepsi, which cracked me up.

I also loved Casper who was the only mule in the refuge.  Mules are the offspring of male donkey and female horse and are sterile. He didn’t like being touched either but still loved his cookies.

Later I got some great pictures of Casper “in the wild”.

Normally each donkey is individually let out after he/she finished eating, but on the day we were there a couple showed up for an impromptu tour.  Because the rescue runs on donations, they provide tours.  As much as possible they try to accommodate drop-ins, but it can cause havoc with the schedule.  They prefer for the donkeys to not roam free when people are there, because as gentle as they are with people, they will kick each other on occasion and people can get in the way.

Suzanne giving a tour

Later in the day when they were let out, we saw this happen. So yes you need to be careful when they are all outside.

Speaking of Suzanne, she is relatively new to the full-time RVer lifestyle and she and Linda met at the RV park.  They became friends, started volunteering, and the owners asked her if she would  volunteer full-time.  Suzanne is blissfully happy and she and Linda have become wonderful friends.

Suzanne at the rainbow bridge.

One of my favorite places in the entire refuge is the graveyard.  Each donkey has its own headstone, with a little quote about their personality.  The graveyard is designed so the other donkeys can walk through it freely and there was something deeply moving about seeing that.

The rainbow bridge

Finally the tour was over and we were able to start letting out the donkeys.  It was past time when they are usually let out and they were restless.  There were a couple of slow eaters though, who stayed in until they were definitely finished with their food. That was a good thing, because as soon as we opened the door, the more aggressive ones were right there to eat the others scraps. On occasion, one of the donkey’s would wait outside for his friend to get finished.  Donkeys bond with one another and can have VERY strong reactions when separated. So the owners have to keep that in mind when housing the donkeys at night or even taking them to the vet.  One bonded pair always goes everywhere together or they can get very upset. As sweet as they are, they are also strong and you do not want an upset donkey on your hands.

Letting them out of the gate.

One donkey waiting for his buddy who is a slow eater.  He stood there patiently until he was done, which was really cute.

Donkeys were everyone once they were let out and each seemed to have a favorite spot.

Some days they even let them in the fenced area by the house for weed control.

This one parked himself by Linda’s car as if to say don’t leave.

Finally it was time to go and Linda went to say goodbye to Aquilla, her favorite donkey.  Aquilla is sway backed, old, and had been bitten by a blackjack rattlesnake at one point.  He was the sorriest looking donkey in the place, so of course Linda adored him.  They said their goodbyes, which really touched me.  Before I walked away to give them a few last moments together I took a short video of them saying goodbye.


If you are in the area, I highly recommend that you take some time and visit the donkey rescue. It is a great cause, they are great people, and the donkeys are amazing.   Try to call ahead though so they can be prepared to see you.  I am so grateful I got to have the experience, because it truly was very very special.

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Seeing H and L in Benson

When we were making our route to get to Phoenix we realized we would be going right past Howard and Linda who were staying in an RV Resort in Benson, AZ.  That opportunity was too good  to pass up, so we changed our route a liitle to stay in their park for two nights.  The timing was perfect, because they were leaving on Friday to go to Quartzsite for their boondocking rally. Once again we had a short travel day scheduled and since we lost an additional hour we could really take our time. We decided that we would stop at some of those old gas station/gift shops along the way.  You know the ones.  They have the signs posted for miles saying to stop at a historic trading post.  The main reason we wanted to stop is we were looking for a new cactus.  Lee has had a cactus on his antenna for over 20 years, and about three years ago (while in Tombstone) we replaced Cactus Jack with Cactus Joe.  Since we have only seen these in the southwest, and poor Joe was really beat up, we thought it was time to find a replacement.  We ended up having to stop a couple of places, but ultimately found a new one!

One of the many roadside gift shops


They have lots of cool stuff in them


See poor Joe’s arms are about to fall off.

Welcome Cactus Jess

Jack did well when we made the various stops, but likes to look out the window.  I got an idea to take his dog bed and put it on the center console which is more comfortable for him and us.  Lee didn’t mind when he was driving and actually could occasionally give a belly rub!

When he lays on my lap for long stretches it is uncomfortable. This is much better.


Lee likes it too!


And he can see better out the window when he sits up.


We also had a chance to stop at one of my favorite rest stops, Texas Canyon, when you cross into the Arizona border from New Mexico.  This whole area is really cool, because the landscape goes from flat and pretty dull to these amazing rock formations almost instantly.  It’s a pretty place to stop and although Jack still wouldn’t go to the bathroom, he did enjoy walking around a bit.

The only unpleasant part of the whole day was when we stopped for lunch.  I have been obsessively looking at the Calorie King app to try to find a healthy lunch place,  but all the fast food places seemed like a no-go.  Don’t get me wrong, we usually eat in the RV on travel days, but once in a while we do like to stop.  Since we often stop at Flying J’s and we had plenty of time I thought maybe we should give Denny’s a try.  I knew they would have nutritional info on the menu and thought maybe they would have some healthier choices.  It started off OK when I learned that you could now order Denny’s online for pickup (big time saver on a travel day) and we got a 15% discount with our AARP cards.  I also knew they had a Senior menu and thought the smaller portions would be a good choice.  Unfortunately the senior menu was pretty limited, and none of their low-calorie options were that appealing.  They did have a build-a-burger section with calorie counts for every single item you added to the burger, and Lee decided to go that route. He hasn’t had red meat since the heart attack, and it seemed a reasonable choice, until I saw the burger that came out.  It was huge, sloppy, and I winced as I saw him eat it.  I’m not super proud of that.  It’s not like one burger is going to cause another heart attack, but it was hard to watch.

The worst part was while he was eating the burger I decided to look up the sodium content.  The menu only had calories listed and obviously they don’t tell the complete story.  Long story short the burger was 100% of his daily sodium intake and once he realized that he said he would have made another menu choice.  It’s not super practical to look up sodium levels while in the restaurant though, and we both realized we should have researched in advance.  The entire experience frustrated me, not the least because what I ate.  The 55+ Tilapia meal with broccoli and red mashed potatoes with no gravy really wasn’t satisfying at all.  Plus at $10 not a bargain.  All in all not a great experience and made us both wish we had just eaten in the RV.  I’m not ready to give up though, I am going to keep researching.

The fish was flavorful but the rest was pretty bland.


The only decent thing out of this stop was we saw this carrier on the front of a truck exactly like ours. Kind of a cool idea.

After lunch it didn’t take long to arrive at the Butterfield RV Resort & Observatory and get settled in.  One of the coolest things about this park is it has its own small observatory and several years ago we watched the stars there and we all really enjoyed it. We had never stayed in the park itself though and weren’t quite sure what to expect.  This is one of those parks that have lots of seasonal folks and there are several permanent sites that people live in year round.  Our site was right across from Howard and Linda and initially was a bit difficult to get into.  There is always an audience when the sites are packed this tight and Lee hates when he has trouble backing in, in full view, but he totally rocked getting into the spot making it look a lot easier than it actually was.

Arrival at the park


Our site. I liked the mature trees at every site.


They were tight though and Lee was at a full 90 degree angle when he backed in.


Howard and Linda’s rig right across the street.

Our new “dog-friendly” routine when we arrive at a place is as soon as Lee is parked, I take the dog for a walk.  This park has by far the cleanest dog park I have ever seen and they were actually spraying it with a pet safe bleach compound while we were there.  I liked that because these parks get a little smelly and liked even more that they has tiny gravel rocks in it and kitty litter scooper to pick up the poop.

Jack getting used to it. It take a little time for him to settle in.


I had never seen this treating of a dog park before but I guess they do it every day. I’m a fan.


On our way back from the dog park we saw two streets full of permanent housing.


And a couple of them had really nice large sites.

Lee and I have talked about eventually moving into modular housing and after touring some of the newer models know we could definitely live in one.  The problem is where to put it.  If you own a piece of property, then you have the upkeep and possibly sense of isolation, but if you are in a community you generally lack personal space and there can be social problems with the wrong group of people.  This particular group of people seemed very nice, and Howard and Linda had become popular members in a short period of time, but sometimes there are cliques and can be downright unpleasant.  That’s one of the best parts of living in a home on wheels, just picking up and going, but I would love to be able to participate in activities in a good community.  Linda and Howard said they have been busy since the minute they got there and all of the activities sounded very fun.  We even saw one of the residents give Linda a bottle of wine on her last night to thank her for being such a great part of their community.  That seems really great to me.

From Left: Linda, Howard, and Lee


Cori gave us this puppy play place she doesn’t need anymore and it allows us to keep Jack outside but not worry about his lead getting tangled. I’m a big fan, not sure Jack is.

Speaking of Howard and Linda, they met up with us after we set up and we had a great time catching up with each other.  They got to meet Jack, who took an instant liking to both of them and abandoned me to hang out on their side of the picnic table.  Linda fixed a great dinner and their friends invited us to a campfire one night.  It was great being with them and catching up with each other.  We also kept a close eye on Jack because we didn’t want to have one of those barking dogs you hear in campgrounds.  By hanging out across the street, we could hear when he was barking and made it a point to ask our neighbors how he was doing.  We took lots of walks to the dog park and even met some other little dogs, which Jack is a little uncertain of. The cutest pup we met was a 9 month old toy Australian Shepherd, but Jack was such a chicken they didn’t really play.

We had garlic Parmesan chicken wings made in the Instant pot of course. Linda is the Instant pot queen! We talked about the benefits of Air Fryer versus Instant Pot and Linda said they have a new Ninja combination device that does both!! I think I talked her into getting it before they go to Alaska and trying it out so she can tell us all if it is worth it. Since they are in a small Class C a combination device would be a huge space saver.


Baked beans


And some amazing oriental slaw that we both loved. It’s Linda’s creation.

The best part was the box of Teddy Grahams she bought Lee to try for desert. She felt that what he was missing in his low cal deserts was some crunch and she was absolutely right!! He can eat 23 of these little guys for 110 calories and they are perfect to sprinkle on low fat pudding. Cookie problem solved. Thanks Linda!!


Jack was skittish around the puppy


Who was absolutely adorable. The owner said they always had Australian shepherds in their house and since they went full time wanted a small one. The puppy was nine months old and shouldn’t get bigger than this.


Finally they had a nose to nose meeting

It was a very nice couple of days and Lee even had a chance to wash the truck and RV.  The park requires a $15 permit to wash (and they monitor it closely), but it was nice to have that option.  Lee took it nice and slow and was pleased when he was able to finish with no physical issues.


I spent the day with Linda volunteering at a donkey rescue, which was such a great experience it deserves its own post.  We loved seeing them and being with them and we were sorry when we had to leave.  One more funny thing though before I end this post.  Jack has discovered that he can get on the dining room table.  Even if I leave the chairs squeezed in he can wriggle up.  Unfortunately one night he wriggled up, but could not get back down and was stuck up there for a while while we were out at the bonfire.  Coming home to this sight totally cracked me up.  Honestly it’s like having a two-year old again!


Oh one last last thing.  The RV park is near the railroad tracks and the train horn noises are loud.  We had both the AC and a fan on at night and on occasion it still woke me up.  It’s a shame because the train noise could be a deal breaker for some people and I wanted to be transparent about that.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Jack’s First Road Trip

It feels like Jack has been with us for forever, but the reality is he has never made more than a few hours trip in the truck, between the Center For Mental Wellness and two gates, and has only stayed at one RV park for a few days between gates. He went from the farm he was born on to the Center For Mental Wellness (Cori and Greg’s), to a gate, to an RV park, to another gate, and back to the Center For Mental Wellness.  None of those trips were more than an hour or so. He’s never made a multi-day road trip and I was a little worried about him as we started out.  We knew getting him to pee as we traveled would be an issue from our day trips, so we stopped at a very nice picnic area to give it a try.  Unfortunately there were just too many things to smell in that area and we were unable to get him to go at any rest stops along our drive. He has yet to ever pee at any stop.

You can tell by his body language he was pretty tense.


The flowers in bloom were really pretty.

Next up was Jack’s first ever truck stop, and that was pretty interesting as well.  At first he didn’t understand where Lee went when he pumped gas.  We both got a kick out of watching Jack as Lee washed the windows though.  He was riveted by the wiper, his little head bobbing back and forth tracking the window squeegee like it was a tennis match. We didn’t even try to take him for a walk here, because we would have had to pull into a parking space and there weren’t good places.  We actually found that picnic areas (without restrooms) were the best, and although he did walk around he wouldn’t go in any of them.  Lee and I were stopping every 1-1/2 to 2 hours though for both bathroom and smoke breaks.  For the first time in our marriage, neither one of us is smoking in the truck,  and I found it much more difficult than I anticipated.  It was fine while Lee was driving, but when I took my turn I found it hard.  Lee did great though. and we both got through the day, although between worrying about the dog and not smoking it wasn’t my favorite travel day ever.

Jack watching Lee clean the windows. His head kept whipping back and forth.

Lee had intentionally scheduled a short travel day and we stopped at the Hilltop RV Park in Fort Stockton. There is a $20 a night Passport America in Fort Stockton, but we had stayed in it recently and were not fans.  For $10 more a night, we could stay at what looked like a nice RV park with a dog run.  I didn’t call ahead, which I should have, and when we pulled in we got the last spot.  The sites were all pull-through, very level, and very clean, which was a good start.

The owners had obviously tried to spruce the place up a bit.


The sites were nice.


Every site had a little patio and nice table.

Unfortunately, when you looked a little closer, things weren’t so great.  The very small dog park was full of poop and cigarette butts, so I had to take the dog along the edges of the park.  That wasn’t easy either because there was tons of poop there as well.  Finally I found a small spot with relatively nothing in it and he peed. He was super jumpy though, and every dog bark or car door would get him distracted. I could have lived with all of that, he is a dog after all, and hopefully will get used to it soon, but when I went inside and turned on the water it was brown.  Not lightly tinted either, but pretty dark.  Even after double filtering it with the Camco filter at the faucet and with my Brita pitcher inside, I still didn’t trust it to drink. Despite hearing stories about bad water in places we have been super lucky and never really experienced it much.  I think this is only the third time in four years this has happened.  Thankfully we always carry bottled water so I had enough to drink that night or I would have been really upset.  It was just the last thing I wanted to deal with at the end of a travel day and for $30 a night I don’t expect frills, but I do expect the basics.

The puppy place would have been fine if people cleaned up after themselves.


I walked the edges but every time he heard a noise he would get distracted and go on alert.  This was a dog barking.


Told you the water was brown.  The color was actually darker than this picture.

We called it a pretty early night after dinner and watching some TV and both got a good night’s sleep.  We didn’t even wake up through the dog throwing up, which we discovered the next morning.  Not to be too gross, but there wasn’t much left, and I hand washed that part of the quilt that was impacted.  It was my Glacier Huckleberry shirt so I am glad the stain came out!  Other than that he seemed fine, and actually was full of energy in the morning.  He did his business right away for Lee first thing in the morning, and then walked around the campground like he owned the place, so much so that he really didn’t want to get in the truck to head out again.  The second day he seemed to do much better and slept most of it in his doggy bed in a patch of sun in the truck.  He still wouldn’t pee when we stopped, and I worried less about taking as many breaks.

This would have been a great scenic spot if it wasn’t for all the trash.  Jack tries to eat everything, which makes it a pain to walk him.

Thing were going so well we even talked about taking scenic drive 375 around El Paso, but ultimately decided against it.  Howard and Linda have done it, and Kelly and Bill, but it has some narrow roads and steep grades and Lee just didn’t want to deal with it.  So we went straight through El Paso, which I know people complain about, but we have done several times and it’s never that bad.  Yes, there is always construction of some kind,but as long as you don’t hit rush hour it’s fine.

In no time at all, we hit Las Cruces, and our stop for the night.  The Coachlight Motor Inn and RV Resort offers Passport America, and is not usually someplace I would stay.  Options were limited because Lee felt Deming was too far, and it was either this or a $41 per night “high end” resort.  I hate spending that for just one night, so we decided to give it a try.  It’s curb appeal is terrible with a very old hotel in front, but the RV park itself was actually pretty decent.  Yes, there were lot of older motor homes, but the people were nice and the area was really clean.  Plus there was a very nice place with trees for Jack to pee, and for once he went right away. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself quite a bit.  He was prancing around zooming here and there and really liked the shaded areas.

Not great from the road.


But the sites were fine for an overnight.


And this little area was really nice.


I’ve never seen an RV quite like this. Lee said it looked homemade from pieces and parts of a bunch of little trailers.


Told you he was strutting.


Glad to see his happy face!

Unfortunately, things weren’t going to stay good because as soon as I came back from our walk and I started doing the inside I started having problems.  First the computer was making a weird noise and when I tried to restart it I got a blue screen with lots of writing…never a good sign.  Then I started to put the couch slide out and heard a “pop”, again, not a good sign, and it turned out the outside cable for the slide had snapped.  Nothing I did, it just snapped from age and stress. Here’s the slide, half in and half out.

Lee came inside and I showed him what happened and then I just  got really angry.  I just walked out of the RV and sat in the truck for a while trying to sort through my emotions.  I was angry because even though I know this sort of thing happens, it is not something I would ever want to deal with on my own.  It brought back all my feelings from when he had his heart attack, but this time I didn’t have other stuff going on.  When I walked back inside to talk to him, he was in the process of cleaning out the computer.  It turned out it was just an auxiliary exhaust fan with a bearing that was going bad, and it booted up just fine. When he built that computer he definitely overbuilt it, because in addition to the fans for the power supply, the CPU and the video card, there are two fresh air intake fans, and two exhaust fans, so we can afford to lose one for a little while.


The slide was another story, but he contacted Danny who used to work for Open Range, and who fixed a slide for us last time, and also replaced our slide floor last spring. Lee had purchased two spares of the slide cable, and once he had chatted with Danny to make sure he was comfortable doing it he started to fix it. I’ll let him explain exactly what he did, but he was able to temporarily fix it.

(The cables terminate at brackets on the slides, one in each corner for both in and out, so 8 brackets in all. Here’s an example of what one looks like when it’s stressing and “getting ready to break”. You can see the crack in the termination and the cable starting to let go. This happens because the cables stretch over time and use and if they get too loose, the end can sort of get cockeyed instead of being straight and true. Then when you bring the slide in the tension is at an angle, and over time it just beats up the termination and eventually it fails. There is an improved bracket which dealers are supposed to treat like a recall, but of course we were never contacted about that. If you have cable slides, check these terminations from time to time, and make sure they are seated properly, and the tension is right, or have it adjusted by a tech. Or replace the brackets with the new style that helps prevent this condition. – Lee)

Of course, when the cable breaks…..

(This is what the cable looks like once it snaps. The good news is it is usually POSSIBLE to still run a slide in and out with just three cables, if you pull out the broken cable so it doesn’t get wrapped around the pulley. Just go slow and watch everything very carefully while running it in or out and STOP if you hear any unusual noise or see anything that looks wrong. The motor pulls the four corners in or out all at the same time, and unless another cable is seriously out of adjustment, it will work with three corners. If it starts to move at any angle it can bind up and get stuck and/or break the shear pin in the gear box, which is a MUCH more expensive and difficult fix. Ask me how I know. – Lee)

(And here’s what it looks like on the inside, where it comes through the wall, and wraps around the pulley. This is where it can get really ugly. The smaller strands can easily get wrapped around the small space between the pulley and the pulley housing, and can be very hard to remove. If you have a cable failure, STOP the motor IMMEDIATELY. That will almost guarantee you won’t have any wrapping. It’s MUCH easier to pull out the broken cable if it does’t wrap. Also, if the broken end is still accessible near the termination, it’s easier to trim away the loose strands to attach the new cable to “chase the old cable” back through the holes and pulleys. )

(This is what it looks like where the cables come together and bolt into the bracket for the chain. Each corner of the slide has a cable on the inside to pull it in, and a cable on the outside to pull it out. As you can see, each cable terminates in a threaded bolt that goes into the chain bracket, and allows for pretty fine adjustment on the tension. Each bracket also has adjustment where it bolts to the chain. )

(There are two of these trolley brackets on either side of the motor/gearbox, one for in and one for out. )

(So That’s eight cables total.  Total of 40 cables for all of the slides in our rig! (At $27 per repair kit, that’s over $1000 to replace them all!!!)  and at the motor there is a chain for each side, and it will either pull in or out depending on the direction the motor is turning. Everything is clearly labelled and color coded, and in the photo above just at the edge of the right frame there is a sticker with detailed instructions on how to adjust them.)

(Here’s the threaded trolley end of the broken cable, and the only thing I really don’t like about the repair kit is that in order to make one kit for all lengths, they’ve swapped out the threaded bolt for an eye bolt, which allows you to cut the cable, but it makes for a bulkier assembly and all of that stuff is pretty close together.)

(When you are opening and closing slides, those trolleys pass each other with just millimeters to spare. If the eye gets rotated so that it’s horizontal instead of vertical, it can catch on the other trolley, and that would immediately break the shear pin in the gear box. I travel with three of those shear pins, but swapping out the pin requires removing the upper fascia, loosening all of the cables, un-threading the chain from the sprockets, removing the gear box, then putting in the new pin, and putting everything back together. Several hours of work. And getting the tensions correct on all those cables can be a real bear. When the tension is correct, you can “pluck” them and they make a musical note, but I don’t know exactly which one. If you know it, though, you can use a tuning app on an iPhone to dial in the tension on each cable, which is pretty cool. But…I digress….)

Replacing a cable is actually pretty straightforward on this model. The repair kit comes with a cable that is long enough for any slide, an eye bolt to attach the cable to the chain system, a ferrule to secure the cable once it’s fed through the eye. There’s also a “finger trap” piece to attach the old cable to the new to help feed it through the pulleys (that’s the long black piece), a rubber keeper that’s supposed to prevent the termination from coming loose in the bracket (but doesn’t) and an adjustment nut where the eye bolt attaches to the chain bracket at the motor. 

(Unfortunately, when one breaks you often end up with the broken ends unraveling, and in every case where we’ve had one break, the cable gets wound up and tangled up at the pulley, so there’s no way to pull it back out towards the bracket to attach the “finger trap”. 

So I just pulled it out completely, and then removed the side fascia from interior slide wall so I could get to the pulley. Our slide fascia is held on the slide wall with screws, and the screw heads are covered by a small piece of trim molding which is just stapled on. Here’s one of the fascia pieces on the other slide, and you can see the trim pieces on the vertical fascia. Only the square piece with the star and the inside trim piece needs to come off. The star corner is also held in place with staples. )

And here’s the actual slide with the fascia removed. As you can see, by removing it I get that six inches or so of space between the slide and the cabinetry to work in. Without that this would be impossible. 

(Once I had access to the pulley and the hole in the wall, and had pulled out the old cable, I went outside. Outside, it’s just a matter of pushing the new cable through the hole in the wall and onto the pulley, then coming inside and pulling it a few inches farther and threading it up through the pulley and pulley bracket. If you look closely at the picture, just to the right of the cable, you can see the empty pulley. The cable you can see is the lower “OUT” cable, and the empty pulley is for the lower “IN” cable on that side of the slide. So I had to push the new cable in through the hole from the outside, and it came out through that small opening at the bottom of the housing next to the other cable. By pulling four or so inches of cable past the housing I was able to then push it back though the opening and up, and pull it tight.)

(Once you have it through the pulleys and up to the chain mechanism, you remove the old cable bolt, and put in the eye bolt. Then you crimp the ferrule and cut off the excess cable. A little bit of tightening and adjustment (think turnbuckles) to make sure the pull is balanced on all four corners, and you’re done.

I had a couple of “backup” repair kits, mainly because they don’t take up a lot of room, and when you need one, they’re not always a stock item, and can be a pain to get. It’s better to just have a spare or two. However, I do NOT have a set of bolt cutters for the cable, or a ferrule crimp, which is what is needed to clamp the cable loop around the eye bolt, which you can see in this picture. I was trying to decide if I could just muscle and cajole the ferrule closed, and worrying what might happen if it failed, and looking through some miscellaneous hardware when I came across the solution. Back in December when I bought a bunch of pieces parts to make a dog run, I got some nylon coated cable and in case I needed to shorten it and make a new end loop, I bought a set of screw-down wire rope clamps. So, I was able to use those to temporarily secure the eye bolt until I can get a ferrule crimper to do the job properly.)

(Those worked just fine, and I was able to connect the new cable and eye bolt to the bracket, and run the slide in and out with no problem.

Here’s the finished repair at the chain connection. I used a little tape to hold the loop in place while I tightened down the cable clamps so it wouldn’t slide around. I probably could have used just one clamp, but since they’re not quite as solid as a ferrule I decided to use both. Better safe than sorry. )

(I left the excess cable, because it’s REALLY hard to cut it without bolt cutters, and I left the fascia off so I won’t have to remove it when I finish up the job in a few days in Phoenix. 

(UPDATE 3/24/19: Finally, here’s my recommendation for anyone with cable drive slides: From time to time, inspect ALL of the cables and terminations. When all of the slides are OUT, walk around the outside of your rig and take a good close at where the cable goes into the bracket, same thing with the inside terminations when the slides are IN. Look at that termination and:  A) make the rubber stopper is in place to keep the termination from sliding to the side and popping out. B) check to see if the termination is properly seated in the hole. If it’s at an angle, try to wiggle it loose and seat it properly. C) See if the cables are tensioned. The cables on the OUTSIDE of the rig are the ones that pull the slide IN, so when they slides are OUT there should be just a tiny bit of slack on the cables. If you push down on the cable in the middle between the bracket and the sidewall, it should only deflect about an inch or less. Any more than that and they are probably too loose. If you aren’t completely comfortable adjusting the tension, pay someone to do it. The cables/terminations/brackets on the INSIDE of the rig are the ones that pull the slide OUT, check them too. D) Check the terminations to see if they are splitting or cracking, or if the cables are deforming or fraying anywhere. And E) keep a few sets of the repair kits in your rig, even if you aren’t going to do the work yourself, it’s a lot faster to get it repaired if you can call a tech and tell him you already have the kit!)

Back to Tracy….)

So I calmed down, realizing that I wasn’t doing it alone.  I’m still not crazy about how fragile these things are, but what are you going to do?  It’s part of the cost of living in a home on wheels, and I can either complain about it or accept it.  If things break and he can fix them…then I accept it.

One last thing.  I finally had a moment to go through my emails and blog comments and the support of this community is beyond anything I have ever experienced.  Someone reached out and offered us a place to stay while our rig was being worked on in Phoenix. Another person reached out and said they work in the insurance industry and could help navigate the medical bills when they start rolling in. A third researched RV dealerships and gave me information on car dealers in the Arizona area for some work we need to have done on the truck. I am literally crying while typing this.  I am not a person who asks for help much, and to receive such an outpouring of love and support is humbling.  Thank you all, it means more to me than I can say.

(Also, I wanted to thank everyone for all the kind comments, and generous thoughts about my heart attack and recovery. It’s genuinely nice to know there’s so much warmth and caring out there. -Lee) 

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.




What Else Has Been Going On – No Medical Stuff, I Promise!

The last two weeks we have been lucky enough to spend lots of time with Cori and Greg, and they have been the perfect friends.  They understand we need a lot of space right now because of the diet/nicotine withdrawal crankiness, but are also around if we want to hang out.  Plus Hobie has been great for Jack to have company although Jack is becoming quite the teenage punk.  Hobie loses patience with Jack’s shenanigans, and occasionally puts the smack-down on him, which is actually pretty funny to see.

I bought them this rope toy. Jack is faster but Hobie outweighs him!

Jack has also learned how to climb up on the back of couches (Aunt Cori taught him) and now he spends lots of time looking out our windows.  It doesn’t bother me, but I will say I am glad I decided to go with the cloth couch rather than the ultra leather because I am not sure how well that would have held up.

He learned this new trick at Aunt Cori’s!! I worry about him puncturing her leather. I tried to trim his toenails but it only went OK.

I was also able to go to Cori’s Dad’s 80th birthday party which was really fun.  Lee didn’t feel up to it, but it was good for me to get out and I really like Don who I have seen several times over the last few years. He is in a really nice independent living facility and we all really liked it.  The food was terrific and there are lots of activities which keep him busy.  About a week later, the four of us went up and had dinner with him and Lee really liked it.  The nice thing about eating there is portions are very reasonable and all of the food is reasonably good for you.  Plus the catfish was Dee-licious!



More mundane life still goes on, despite whatever else is happening, and of course that was the same for us.  In the midst of everything,  I was able to finish our taxes and was thrilled that we this year we should actually get around $1700 back.  Partly that was the new tax laws, but mainly it was that we found a new tax preparer who specializes in gate guards.  She pointed us to some deductions we were leaving on the table, which definitely helped.

What else?  Well, I also remembered Kyrston’s monthly baby present and this time I got a deer blankie. Reasonably priced and super cute.  Speaking of that I wanted to personally thank whoever bought their RV hitch through our site.  That purchase earned us $41, which was amazing.  Next month I will be able to get her a Woodland Friends wall decal for the nursery and some super cute rattle socks!  These are small things, but she loves getting the little presents and it was a really bright spot in a stressful time.


Speaking of money, Lee went and got the 100,000 mile Truck Service and finally our pre-paid maintenance package was expired.  It cost $300 for an oil change and coolant flush, but it really needed to be done.  Going forward, Lee is going to be doing those maintenance items himself, but before he started he wanted to make sure it had a professional checkout.  They did discover a tiny leak in the transmission, but this is still covered under our extgended warranty.  Unfortunately they couldn’t fit us in so I will need to take care of this when we are in Phoenix.  They also told us we needed tires, but we were aware of that.  Our plan was to cover the cost of both truck and trailer tires with our work this summer in Portland.  It’s unfortunate they all need replaced at the same time, but what can we do??  Definitely need them replaced prior to heading east in October.

Finally I need to mention a problem with our RV that I have held off talking about.  For a while, Lee has felt there might be a break in a weld in the front of our RV, and we were finally able to confirm that.  Our plan is to go get it worked on as soon as Lee’s work is finished in Phoenix because we have an entire month free, just in case it takes that long. The good news is after much research Lee found a welding shop that he feels comfortable with.  The bad news is they said they have problems getting extended warranty companies to pay for their work and we cannot stay in it while they work on it.  That means we will need to pay for a hotel or other option along with the repair possibly.  There is even a very small chance the entire rig will need to be totaled.  Obviously none of this was great news on top of everything else, but for once in my life I am not going to borrow trouble.  Whatever happens, happens and we will just deal with it.


In some respects, it is the perfect storm of events, but this is not an uncommon theme in my life.  Even before we went on the road, issues tended to pile up.  Remember when I quit my job and lost our truck engine all in the same week?  At this point, I am feeling pretty zen about everything because here’s the thing:  Lee’s alive.  If he wasn’t I would be dealing with all of this by myself.  That would be a true disaster.  As long as we are together, we will face whatever comes and figure it out.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.


Lifestyle Changes – Work and Exercise

Once again we want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support.  We have received tons of emails, links, and lots of great advice, all given in a kind and constructive manner. We are really grateful for this community of people and I am going to pass some of it along in this post in the hopes it can help others.  If this is a topic you are interested I also absolutely recommend going back and reading the comments on the last couple of posts.  There are some great tips in there.  I’m going to start with where I left off though.


We had two jobs lined up when Lee had his heart attack and the incident put both of those in jeopardy.  The first is a job working a live event at the end of March, and is a significant amount of money.  When Lee talked to the cardiologist about the job, the first question was “How physically demanding is it?”  The answer, unfortunately, is it depends.  They are long days and the work is part physically demanding and part not.  Our kids in particular felt strongly that Lee should not take the job, but since he will make enough to cover most of our March expenses it’s not that easy.  I completely left the decision up to Lee and ultimately he called and talked to the person he would be working for.  Lee has a long standing relationship with the company and they were very understanding about the situation.  They said that they wouldn’t ask anything more of him than he felt he could do and because they know his work ethic they had no problem at all saying that.  The cardiologist said he just needed to pay attention to what his body was telling him, so based on those two conversations Lee has decided to give it a try.  

One important note here is that if the heart attack had been more serious Lee would have received cardiac rehab. Basically they reintroduce people to activity under controlled conditions and if that would have been required we would have needed to stay in the area.  Thankfully because minimal damage was done, that isn’t necessary, BUT Lee has to self-monitor how he is feeling and if he has chest tightness/pains for more than 10 minutes needs to go the ER immediately.

Our second job is our third season in the Mt. Hood National Forest outside of Portland, Oregon, and again we have an established relationship with those folks.  We received texts from both of our bosses checking to make sure Lee was OK, and it was incredibly nice that they reached out.  We know they would never ask Lee to do more than he was physically capable of, but this year we do have to take a company physical.  Its a standard every other year requirement and is done by third party providers.  The physical is pretty basic.  Lift 40 pounds, touch your toes, listen to chest, stuff like that, but it’s possible there are triggers in the questions set that might set off red flags.  Unfortunately there is no way of knowing prior to taking the physical and we plan on scheduling it immediately after Lee’s work in Phoenix. If for some reason they won’t hire him, we will find a job where physicals are not required.  I honestly don’t expect that to happen, but understand that because it is a large company it is out of our supervisor’s hands.

That will get us through the summer and then we will see where we are financially.  I expect the medical bills to start rolling in soon and once that all shakes out, we will have a better understanding of what we will need to do work-wise going forward.


I wanted to start taking evening walks as soon as we got back from the cardiologist, but Lee had other ideas. Because we kind of threw everything into Greg’s truck when I packed up he knew he had to repack everything.  He wanted to ease into it and really pay attention to how he was feeling, so every day he is doing a little more.  Task based activity is still activity, and I am following Lee’s lead.  We both agree though we would like to incorporate regular walks into our routine at some point and we will see how that goes in the following weeks. Perfect world we would start moving right away, but with everything else we are handling I am OK on holding off on this a bit.


Which leads me to updates.  We are starting day 6 of Chantix, and it is going OK.  I am having a few headaches and waking up several times in the middle of the night but still feel rested in the morning.  Lee is feeling tired, but having no other side effects from any of the medicine and we don’t know if that’s from the heart, quitting smoking, or less food.  Hard to separate things out when its all happening at once.  The full dose of Chantix starts on Day 7 and we are waiting to see how we feel at that point to cut cigarettes back more.  Lee is at 11-13 a day, down from 40, and I am at 13 and we are both willing to push through if we have to.  Best case though the full dose makes it relatively painless and we are waiting to see.

The diet, for me at least, has been way more stressful.  I sent Lee to the grocery store alone and he spent a couple of hours checking out products he might want to try.  I had done some research and sent him with a list and here are a few of the things he thought might work for him. Keep in mind our stance on the new diet is improving on what we used to eat, which is a pretty low bar.  Still every substitution is a step in the right direction and a good starting point for us.  Lee has lost 10 pounds since the heart attack and I have lost 4.5 so we must be doing something right.  The most important thing for us is to keep the weight off so we are doing this slow but steady.

Lee loves cookies and spent a ton of time looking for a substitute. Ultimately he decided to try these.  Added bonus, figs increase good cholesterol.


Albacore tuna is another good cholesterol enhancer, Not sure if the canned version will help as much but we will see. It has no fat, which is a good thing.


He also loves ranch so decided to give this Greek yogurt version a try at Cori’s recommendation.


Again at Cori’s recommendation no sweetener added ketchup. It tastes the same to me and I am picky about my ketchup.


He grabbed multiple bottles of Mrs’ Dash’s no salt seasoning. Lee never wants to feel like he is being “punished” through food, so seasoning is super important.


Some recipes just call for butter so decided to give this a try. Had some on my toast today and it’s pretty darn close.


Lee is switching from white rice (which is mostly sugar) to brown. This is one substitute I am not willing to make because I really don’t like brown rice.


I am willing to try the carb balance tortillas though.


We always ate iceburg lettuce, but are trying Romaine for sandwiches and salads.


I found several dessert recipes that have pumpkin puree as a natural sweetener instead of sugar and oils. Going to give this a try and see how it works.


We both crave something sweet at the end of the evening and the unsweetened applesauce is relatively inexpensive and seems to do the trick.


When that’s not enough though we have sugar free pudding cups. Only 70 calories!

Like I said, our approach is to eat a little less, try substitutes where it makes sense, and make sure we have something low in sugar and fat for those sweet cravings.  We are also not comparing ourselves to anyone else but instead comparing ourselves to what we ate formerly.  It’s much easier to feel successful when you look at how you used to eat versus what you are eating now.  Of course we could always do better, but if that is what we focus on we probably won’t.  One good example is Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce.  Lee looked for a low-cal example but nothing appealed.  And we know Sweet Baby Rays is definitely not good for you.  But it’s also yummy delicious.  He thinks if he uses it sparingly it will be OK and I am fine with that. There are other places to cut back that are less unpleasant.  If we need to get more hard core in the future we will certainly do that, but for right now we are focusing on what is easy (or at least easier).


While I’m on the topic, I wanted to pass along some things friends and readers have sent to me via email.   I promise this blog isn’t going to turn into all health all the time, but since people seem interested, I want to keep sharing.  First off Kelly passed along that she is taking Krill to increase good cholesterol.  It’s a more powerful form of fish oil and they buy theirs at Costco.


Several people reached out to warn me that coconut oil might actually increase bad cholesterol so at the last minute I pulled it from the shopping list.  There is definitely conflicting info out there and at this point I am sticking with general consensus.  I did hear quite a bit from my friend Deb, who used to own an Olive Oil business, about the benefits of olive oil.  She sent me an article Coconut Oil versus Olive Oil, which was written by a cardiologist to back up her thoughts.

A reader Wendy,  reached out to me and recommended A Hackers Diet. The PDF is a free download and there is a database and excel spreadsheets for all you data junkies out there.  I’m not sure I want to track to this level at this point, but I know some people would love it.  she also wrote something really sweet and funny that I wanted to share with you. she made me laugh.

“I’ve always told everyone that a budget is way worse than a diet. Sticking to a budget and sticking to a diet are not the same. If you can master a budget, spending less than what you make, you have super powers. Now a diet – that is totally different. You can be at work and they say “treats in the break room!” Everyone swarms for free food. I never hear “20 dollar bills in the break room!” You can always get free food, but they don’t give away free money.”

I also got a really nice long email from Ed, who is a long time reader.  He said, ” We found that it was tough to go “cold turkey” and to quickly reduce our intake of meat (including processed meats).  Our American taste buds were trained to love the taste and mouth satisfaction from meat and sodium.  We found that to help us to reduce meats in our diets, we did it gradually through changing the relative proportions of the food on our plates over time.  So, for example, where carbs and meat might have been 1/2 or more of our plate at a meal, we started decreasing this in increments, in favor of vegetables.  After about 9 months, we were able to change our daily meals to 90-95% non-meat.  We do eat fish, but try to limit seafood (shrimp, crab, lobster – as these are high in cholesterol).  During our trips to the grocery stores we rarely come home with any meat.” 

He also said, “Over time, we learned to significantly reduce the amount of processed foods in our diets.  Someone told us that when you shop at a grocery store, it is better to spend more time shopping in the outside perimeter of a grocery store, as opposed to the inside aisles!   Prior to RVing, when we were working in our corporate careers, we often purchased and ate a lot of processed foods, because it was quick and easy.  As we adopted this new (to us) style of eating, we learned to read ingredient lists on all of the canned or bottled ingredients we use (including some spices which can be high in sodium).   We also now make our own sauces – for example spicy tomato sauce made with grape tomatoes, spices, wine, garlic, and nuts instead of buying pasta sauces from a jar or can.   Also, we often make salad dressings using hummus, roasted garlic, citrus, spices and vinegar, in place of cream based dressings. “

This made a ton of sense to me and seems to be a balanced approach.  In other countries, meat is not the star in most meals and with some minor modifications I think we could do the same thing.  Neither one of us feels ready to give up meat completely BUT we can certainly adjust the proportion and still get enough to eat.  I also was intriqued by the idea of making our own dressing and sauces so I could control the sodium levels. Maybe I can find a good BBQ sauce substitute this way.  Thanks for taking the time to write the email Ed, it was much appreciated, and I did tell Lee that you miss his chiming in.

And again thanks to everyone who has reached out.  The most meaningful have been the people who said what happened to Lee has encouraged them to make some changes in their own lives. I would never wish this to happen to anyone, but if one person gets something out of it, then on some level it served it’s purpose.  Certainly it has given us the motivation we need to change our lives.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Making Lifestyle Changes – Quitting Smoking and Going on a Diet

Before I begin, we wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who has taken the time to reach out in some way.  The love and support we have received has been amazing, and to a person everyone has been kind and supportive, which we truly appreciate.  Along with kind thoughts, many people have provided resources to help, which are great, and as I work through this post I am going to pass them along.  Lastly, I am humbled by how many people took the time to say how well they thought I did.  In the moment all I could see was what I could have done better, but those comments have gone a long way towards allowing me to give myself a break.  It wasn’t expected, but it was much appreciated.

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, there has been a bunch of concurrent changes.  Thankfully we have a safe and calm place to handle it, and we are being kind to each other.  As I walk through those changes, please keep in mind they happened concurrently, but for clarity’s sake I am going to tackle them one at a time.

Quitting Smoking 

This of course was a no-brainer and in some respects the most straightforward thing we need to do.  Not that it’s easy by any means, but it’s binary.  You either smoke or you don’t, versus diet changes, which are a little squishier.  Lee decided he wanted to try Chantix and I was able to get us started the day after he left the hospital.  The way it works is you gradually increase your dose over 7 days until you are at full strength.  For us, at least, it quiets the mental anguish that goes along with stopping smoking.  My best explanation is there is a screaming two year old in my head when I try and quit, and these pills make her rants much less effective.  There are all kind of side effects of course, the most common being very vivid dreams.  We have both had those, but since they are dreams and not nightmares, we both agree it is a small price to pay.  Even if they were nightmares, two months versus the rest of your life,I can live with the trade-off.  I have also been getting some headaches, but I think those are from the nicotine withdrawal.  We have both cut our intake in half while we are waiting for the 7th day.

At this point there are three different approaches.  You can quit all at once, quit sometime in the first month, or gradually quit over a three month period.  Lee wants to try the cold turkey on the 7th day, but I have stressed to him that any of the three is fine with me.  He has already gone from around 40 cigarettes to 11 a day and it is more important to me that this is a lasting cure than a short term fix.  When we went to the cardiologist today,  he stressed that it was the number one thing Lee needed to do, but also offered alternatives such as vaping, or nicotine gum.  This surprised both of us because we thought any level of nicotine was bad, but the cardiologist said that any improvement was better than none. Either way, Lee would rather just quit all together.  He thinks if he vapes he would go back to cigarettes eventually. I am not sure which method I want, but am going to follow the pill’s lead.  What I mean by that, is once the pill is active in my system I will naturally trickle down and only push hard if I have to. The tricky part will be keeping my smoking away from Lee.  We realize that we reinforce each others bad behavior and are disconnecting from each other (ie: not smoking at the same times or around each other).

In a perfect world we would both be one of those people who can turn it off like a light switch.  We know ourselves though, and without rationalizing we are selecting a path that we think will be successful long-term. It’s worth noting that we both thought we would smoke less with the full timing lifestyle, but we have both actually smoked more.  Working outside of an office environment allows for more frequent smoking and that has hurt rather than helped us.  No excuse, but we fully intended to have quit by now when we became full timers.  The one plus side of this life is we have much less stress.  Many people have to make serious changes in their lives to deal with that after a heart attack, but luckily that is much less of an issue for us.  Lee feels strongly it will be much easier for him to quit, without a ton of stress in his life.

One last thing.  A couple of people mentioned books that they found helpful in breaking habits and I wanted to mention them here.


I am way more stressed about this than the smoking.  I have been lucky enough in my life to never really diet and although I need to lose 20 pounds feel pretty healthy.  Lee needs to lose about 40 and struggles with food more than I do.  The last thing we want is for him to feel like he is “being punished” and Cori has been super helpful in that respect.  Because she has been eating healthy for over a year, she has tried many of the products and shared what she likes and doesn’t like.  She also has cooked a few meals for him which have proven he can eat well and still be health conscious.  We know fish for instance will be something we eat more of in the future and Greg taught Lee how to grill fish one night, which is something we never do.


My frustration stems from the fact that I am having to re-look at everyone of my recipes and my ingredients.  To give you an idea of the scope of the problem, I have been saving recipes for the last 4 years and went through and had to pitch 90% of them.  It is going to take me time to build up a new list of workable recipes and Cori has again been helpful there. She loaned me the hard copy of Hungry Girl Official Survival Guide that has some great suggestions on products for substitution.  Let me give you an example.  Lee loves sour cream.  Should we buy low-fat? What brand? Should we switch to yogurt?  There are tons of options out there, but rather than spend a ton of money trying things I would rather get some recommendations.

She also gave me several websites with recipes that she thought were good and numerous other people have sent me those as well.  If you diet you are probably aware of them but I am going to share them here.

  • This Old Gal – Specializes in recipes for Instant Pots and Air Fryers, both popular cooking methods for RVers. We now own both and the Air Fryer is awesome.
  • Mudhustler – Lots of low calorie sweet recipes. You can have something a little sweet every day you just need to be moderate about what you choose.
  • McDougall diet – Plant based diet that can have startling results.  Probably too extreme for Lee at this point but good to know about.
  • Drizzle Me Skinny – Good Sweet recipes and weight watchers friendly.  At this point we are not going to get on a specific program, but I don’t rule that out for the future.
  • Skinny Taste –  Healthy recipes made with real food.
  • Forks over Knives Video – Available on YouTube or Amazon for $2.99.
  • The China Study – by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D is written about the largest nutritional study ever conducted.  Lee is all about the data and loves facts and figures so I thought this would be particularly helpful for him.  Thanks for recommending it Nancy!

There have been other suggestions but these are a few to get us started.  I spent hours one day looking through recipes and writing them down, so this is definitely not going to happen overnight.  In the interim, we have been watching what we eat in particular the sodium intake.  Many diet foods are super high in sodium, so that is something to watch out for.  Lowering fat and sodium simultaneously is pretty tough but I think we are doing an OK job.

The Air Fryer has been really helpful here, and the best thing so far was the chicken wings. Cori thawed them, patted them dry, and using silicone tongs rolled them in potato starch.  She cooked them for about 20 minutes and then tossed them in a variety of sauces.  They were absolutely fantastic, and had a nice crunch. We also tried pizza on a cauliflower crust.  I was concerned about the sodium levels and not that crazy about the crust so Cori put together a kit for Lee to try and make personal pizzas.

They tasted as good as they looked


HEB thin pizza crust; half fat free mozzarella and half 2% mixed, organic pizza sauce, and turkey pepperoni. She puts the crust in a frying pan and crisps.  Flips it over and dressed the pizza.  Put it in microwave for 25 seconds to melt cheese, then put it back in pan and crisp other side.  DEE-Licious.


I even got into the act and made a little desert.  It’s called an upside down chocolate cream pie and only has 137 calories. 2 TBL Cool Whip lite on bottom of plate.  1 Low fat pudding cup spread out.  4 honey graham crackers crumbled and put on top.  It did taste a little like chocolate pie.

Not pretty but pretty good!

Eating Out

We don’t eat out much, but when we do we tend to treat ourselves and the last thing we worry about is calories or sodium.  As much as I would love to say no more eating out for a while I knew that wasn’t realistic.  After the cardiologist appointment, I suggested stopping at Souper Salad, but Lee really doesn’t like that restaurant.  He countered with Chipotle and I agreed, although I started to feel stressed out.  It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but the desire to protect him (and tell him what to do) was really strong. Thankfully we both recognized the situation was highly charged, although we didn’t know exactly why, and took a minute.  Lee ordered a Barbacoa bowl with brown rice, beans, lettuce, and pico.  He left off the sour cream and cheese. He also had a bottle of water instead of his mandatory eating out Coke, which was great.  I had my usual soft tacos but had two instead of three and we didn’t get chips or guacamole.

As we were eating I realized it didn’t bother me if he fully knew the nutritional choice he was making, but the thought he could make a really bad choice and not be aware of it really bothered me.  For all we knew there was 1,000+ grams of salt in that bowl, which was his choice but needed to be made consciously.  He understood that and I said I wanted to spend some time researching standard “eat out” meals and get a handle on their nutritional value.  I knew it probably wouldn’t be pretty, but again since we don’t eat out a ton it should be OK.

He got double meat which I didn’t realize at first

I should mention here that Lee’s cholesterol levels (at the time of the heart attack) weren’t that awful.  That really mattered to me because two years prior his results were in range and last year during our physicals we blew off getting bloodwork because we would have needed to make a second trip back to Portland.  The idea that we could have known from those test results last summer there was a problem really bothered me and I was glad that the results weren’t horrible because I would have had trouble living with that.  Here are the results.

  • His total cholesterol was 149; well below the 200 that is borderline.
  • His Triglycerides were 81; well below the 150 that is borderline.
  • His LDL was 101; which is near optimal although a little high.
  • The big problem was his HDL which was 32.  This is the good cholesterol that prevents against heart disease and anything less than 40 is high risk.  Greater than 60 is low risk and with his other factors where we need to be.

According to there are nine main ways to improve your HDL. We weren’t doing any of these things, but we certainly could have started last summer if we had known.  I understand that wouldn’t necessarily have stopped the heart attack, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt.

  1. Consume olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil may be more healthful than processed olive oils. (Yep. I was about 50% on this already)
  2. Follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet. I’ll be honest, cutting out carbs at this moment might be one thing too many.  Right now we are focused on eliminating oils.
  3. Exercise regularly.
  4. Add coconut oil to your diet. I took a look at this and think we should try to add it to coffee.  Apparently a couple of tablespoons a day makes a huge difference.
  5. Stop smoking.
  6. Lose weight.
  7. Choose purple produce:  Here are some I think we can make work: blueberries, figs, purple potatoes, red cabbage, purple cauliflower, purple asparagus
  8. Eat fatty fish often. This one is unfortunate because we really don’t like fatty fish. Instead we are eating North Atlantic Cod and Mahi Mahi.  I know it’s not as good, but it’s fish at least!

After the Chipotle experience I went looking for information online about what we had eaten.  I could of course go to every single restaurant individually, but luckily stumbled across a website called Calorie King, which has a database of many restaurants.  Obviously this information can’t possible be completely up to the minute, but it is certainly close enough to make good choices. It turns out Lee’s bowl was roughly 500 mg of sodium, which is high, but not the 1,000 I was worried it would be.  I am really excited about the database though, even more so because they have an app!!  Fantastic!!

All of that being said, it’s important that Lee owns his own health problems.  I am his friend and wife and want to be here to help and for support, but I am not going to start dictating his life choices to him.  No disrespect to anyone who has that kind of marriage, but it simply wouldn’t work for us. Not to say I won’t ever give him a look or make a comment ever again, but I need to keep those moments to a minimum and stay on my side of the line.  Just like with the smoking, he needs to try, but he needs time and space to find his own way.  It would be hypocritical for me to act any other way.  The situation could easily have been reversed and if he tried to “lay down the law” with me, that definitely would not have gone well.

Lots more to talk about regarding exercise, work, and travel, but I am going to stop here.  We need to take frequent breaks, because this is a lot to process and we want to get it right.  The response has been phenomenal though, so I want to keep pushing through.  If the experience can help anyone, it is totally worth it.  Thanks for listening, and thanks again for all the fantastic support.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

First Time Moving the RV without Lee

Despite everything that happened I did sleep OK, mainly because I took some Nyquil.  I woke up at 8am and saw Greg wasn’t going to be there until 10:30 and rolled over and slept until 9am.  When I woke up I had energy and purpose and started buttoning everything up.  Because I was way more comfortable with the inside of the rig I started there, and tried to move slowly and with great deliberation.  Lee always double checks my work so I wanted to be super careful I didn’t miss anything, and by the time Greg got there at 10am I was close to being done.  During the pack up process I kept going out and talking to the gate guard supervisor who was covering.  I made sure I transitioned all their equipment back to them and left their extension cords etc with the trailer they provide.

I want to be clear here I absolutely did NOT have to move the next day.  The gate guard company would have figured it and laid no expectations on me.  I wanted to move the RV for a few reasons.  First and foremost I wanted Lee to come home to the RV already moved.  He was lobbying for us to wait until he could come and help and I absolutely did not want him in a truck five hours round trip and then dealing with the move.  Second, I wanted my stuff near the hospital.  I had to get Jack back and needed the RV and cage etc to make that work.  I wanted my bed, my shower, my clothes etc, and since I was lucky enough to have a place to take it I wanted to make it happen sooner rather than later.  Third, I was trying to do right by the gate guard company.  There was a small area they could maybe squeeze a second rig and trailer in but it was not optimal.  By getting out before the relief came it made their lives easier.

The only reason I felt comfortable doing any of this at all was because Cori was with Lee.  She got up and went to the hospital and spent most of the day with him.  She kept him entertained, talked to doctors and basically made sure he got what he needed.  If I didn’t have her doing that no way would I have left him alone all day.  It would have had to wait.  If I didn’t have their help I probably would have needed to wait for him anyway.  Several gate guard friends were close by and they certainly would have come and helped, but having a place to go and a long time friend to help gave me the courage to tackle it immediately.

During this process Greg was absolutely amazing.  He doesn’t own a fifth wheel, but the basic mechanics of slides, power, water, and sewer aren’t that different.  He also had brought his truck down which was really great because instead of needing to neatly pack everything, we just threw most of the outside stuff into his truck.  That was super important because Lee is the pack master and I would have a hard time duplicating how he packs.  Left to my own devices I probably would have thrown everything on the bed, which would have been a mess.  Because we were both a little uncomfortable we took our time and talked through everything out loud.  He was extremely kind and patient and let me work through it at my own speed.

When we got to the hitching though we both paused.  Hitching is really important, and neither of us had ever done it ourselves.  We talked it through and it looked right but Greg wanted to make absolutely sure.  If the hitch was wrong we could have severely damaged the rig or the truck.  I appreciated the fact that he didn’t just barrel through and first we called Lee.  Unfortunately he was in the middle of a room change (from ICU to step down) and couldn’t talk so then we called Bill.  He wasn’t immediately available so next I called Steve.  Up until this point, I hadn’t told Steve and I didn’t handle that call very well.  Basically it was “Hi Steve, Lee had a heart attack, he’s OK, but can you help us with our hitch?”.  I wasn’t thinking to clearly at that point. Steve to his credit, after his initial shock took it in stride but unfortunately didn’t have the same hitch.  Lee called back and so did Bill and ultimately Greg felt comfortable it was hitched probably.

The only thing that made it really tough, was Lee had written about what happened on Facebook.  I was glad he told people, because word was starting to leak out, but that act opened the floodgates.  Tons of people reached out to me and the love and support was amazing. I was glad Lee was telling people he was OK, but I felt like I needed to stop and answer every single text.  In retrospect I should have made a general Facebook announcement and waited until I was done with everything. The kids wanted more information and now that he was OK, they had a lot to say. Everyone was worried and rightly so but I was just feeling overwhelmed.  Not the best head space to be in when trying to move the rig without Lee and I really needed to focus. No one knew that of course, which again is why I should have just made a general announcement so people would know why I couldn’t get right back to them.

We finally got it done and although Greg offered to drive I decided I was going to.  He’s never driven a fifth wheel and although I had every confidence in him, I felt this was one thing I could do for myself.  He did keep the dogs in his truck because I knew Jack would be all over me and didn’t want any distractions.  Pulling out was actually the hardest part because I had to go down the oilfield road and turn around.  In retrospect we should have driven it first, but it didn’t even occur to me because we never have a second vehicle.  I went down  to the spot where the helicopter had landed thinking that area would be big enough to turn around, but what I didn’t see was a HUGE rut in the middle of the road.  No way was I going through that so I started trying to back up which I am not very good at.

Hard to tell from the picture but it was bad

Thankfully Greg saw something was wrong and he pulled up. He walked it first and then said he could get it through.  He pull the truck as far to the right as he could and the RV tipped significantly as he was going through.  In that moment I was 100% sure it was going to flip on it’s side and I think my stress meter just overloaded. Emotionally at that point I just shut down although I did feel relief when he made it through both ways OK.

Going through the first time . It seemed way worse in person.


Coming back out.

I took back over driving at that point and Greg followed me.  Right before San Antonio I did stop at a rest area and told him I was feeling comfortable and he could go on ahead.  I took a few minutes and ate some pizza, went to the bathroom, and tried to talk to Lee.  Again, he was in the middle of talking to doctors but I exchanged texts with Cori and she said things were OK.  Lee was lobbying hard to be let out of the hospital, but they were having none of that.  He hated his room, his roommate was seriously ill, and he just wanted to go home.  The enzyme tests though weren’t as low as they would like and they needed to do an echo.  He was staying another night and was just going to have to deal with that.

I continued driving and followed my GPS which took me an unusual way.  Turns out there were accidents and construction on the normal route, which Greg took, and I actually beat him there.  Unfortunately as I was turning into his driveway I cut it to close and once again got stuck.  I needed to back up and was nervous because I was in loose gravel.  Thankfully Greg got there 5 minutes later and he got it in the driveway.  He had to make a super wide turn up into the grass to get it in but he managed just fine.

At least I stopped when I saw I was in trouble and didn’t make a bad situation worse.

The next part we both knew was going to be difficult.  Greg had never backed in a fifth wheel and I knew I wasn’t great at it.  The site we were getting into was extremely tight and Lee had trouble the last time we were there.  At this point I talked to Lee but he said it was not something he could talk someone through unless he was there.  Greg and I were on our own, but I felt pretty confident we would figure it out.  I knew that Lee had pulled onto the hill to get it lined up last time and I also understood that it took numerous tries in a situation like this and was a battle of inches.  Greg was really calm and patient and we talked the entire time.  Ultimately he had it lined up beautifully and I was super proud of him.

He had to pull pretty far onto the hill in front of him to make it work.

At this point we were both really tired but there was lots left to do.  He stayed with me and watched while I hooked up power and water and he was nice enough to hook up the sewer.  The dogs were going crazy at this point glad to be outside, but when I opened the door they both came in.  There isn’t much room in the RV when the slides are in, but Hobie managed to squeeze his chunky self in there anyway and went straight to the toys.  That made me smile for the first time in two days. And one more time I want to say how wonderful Greg was.  Many men would have just taken over in that situation.  Not to be mean but in the attempt to be helpful.  Greg made me feel supported but also let me feel in control which I desperately needed in that moment.  He was amazing and couldn’t have handled it any better.  I will always be grateful.

Puupies running in the grass.


Hobie squeezing in.

I takes a while to set everything up and even though I did the bare minimum it took a while because there were piles of things I hadn’t dealt with in the button up process.  I was exhausted when I was done, but also knew I needed to get to the hospital.  Cori had just left to head back so I called Lee and told him I was on my way, but he said I didn’t need to come.  He was really cranky and there was nothing I could do to make it better and he wanted me to rest.  I didn’t fight him too hard because I was wiped.  Cori brought home some Panda Express and after eating a quick dinner I went and laid down.  I was mentally too wound up to sleep right away but at least I could rest.  I took the phone in the bedroom with me and finally got to sleep.

At 4:30am the dog woke me up because he needed to go outside.  I had a hard time falling back to sleep but knew I needed to.  I woke up at 7:10am and saw a 6:40am text from Lee saying please come and get him because he wanted to leave as soon as they released him.  That threw me into a panic and I got the dog to pee real quick, grabbed him a shirt and coat, brushed my teeth and left. I knew I shouldn’t rush, but I couldn’t help myself.  I felt late and the guilt from not going the day before came flooding in. Once I got in the truck though a couple of things slowed me down.  First I didn’t have enough gas to get there.  I stopped at one gas station but the pumps weren’t working and then found another and filled completely up.  I had the presence of mind to make sure I put my finger on the diesel symbol on the pump though.  Never making that mistake again.  That gas station had a McDonald’s in it and I went through the drive through and got a sandwich to go.  I hated to lose the time, but I knew I needed a full stomach.

I was also slowed down by the accident on the freeway.  I don’t think I have ever driven on the freeway in San Antonio without either an accident or construction and this was a doozy.  It took me an hour and ten minutes to get to Lee but it turned out to be fine. The cardiologist had released him at 6:30 am but the internist still had to sign off.  He ate some breakfast and then wanted to get dressed, which he did.  We waited another hour and finally they let him leave.  He was coming out of his skin at this point, and couldn’t wait to get out of there.  After we left we needed to stop and get his prescriptions which was tricky as well.  It took a while to fill them, but thankfully my insurance plan has an RX benefit and all in it was only $38.  While we were waiting I had a long talk with my brother and went through the medicines and after care treatment.  The cardiologist talked to Lee but he was super groggy and I wanted to talk to someone I trusted.  Once again having medical people in the family really helped.

I learned that Lee was taking Plavix (to help with the heart plaque) and a cholesterol lowering medicine.  Both of those were for long term prevention though.  The low blood pressure medicine or Beta Blocker was actually my biggest concern but was the most important.  That medicine does two things, the most important was to slow the heart down so it doesn’t work so hard.  Since Lee’s blood pressure was good throughout the event I was concerned about it getting too low, but my brother suggested buying a blood pressure machine and checking it regularly.  If the blood pressure got too low he could cut them in half but it was extremely important in the short term that he take those pills.  We also talked about the short-term recuperation, again things I would have talked to the cardiologist about if I would have been there.

On our way home, Lee started talking about lifestyle changes.  I had made up my mind that in the short term I was going to allow him to decide the changes he wanted to make and I would be open to doing them with him.  Long term if he was unwilling to make any changes that would be a separate conversation, but I hoped the event scared him enough that wouldn’t be necessary. Thankfully the entire experience was unpleasant enough he wanted to make changes.  We both felt it was important to take this seriously but also take a moment as well.  I also made sure I didn’t put lots of demands on him, because ultimately it was his decision.

When we got back to the RV he felt pretty good, but needed to rest.  He also had lots of phone calls to make.  Cori said she would make dinner and then left to go to the store and brought us back a Ninja Air Fryer.  We had looked at these before but were on the fence, but now was a perfect time to get one.  We loved our little baby fry daddy but it was messy and of course not good for you.  Cori made fish, green beans, and salad for dinner and used the air fryer to make tater tots.  They turned out really crispy and everyone really liked them.  It was incredibly thoughtful of her.  In the last couple of years she had gone through the process of eating healthier and has been a wonderful resource.  Our friend who had a heart attack a year ago also reached out and told us about the McDougall diet. He has had dramatic results from adhering to it and has lost 40 pounds and is now off all medicine.


I particularly appreciate how they both approached me being helpful but also understanding about how difficult life changes are.  A few people had made comments telling us what to do that I found rude and a little hostile.  We both knew we had to make big changes and make them quickly, but we were also dealing with life as well and it was all overwhelming.  Our plans for the next six weeks involved Lee working in Arizona and then taking some time off before starting work in Portland.  Unfortunately the cardiologist was on vacation next week and couldn’t see us until after we had to leave.  We didn’t have enough medicine to get us through to Oregon where our family physician is and weren’t all that comfortable traveling without a check out.  Lee made several phone calls and finally got someone to understand our unusual situation. They found a cardiologist to see us on Monday of next week, but it was no easy thing.  She had to go to her managers to even make it happen.

I was finding that when we talked about how we traveled people were just glazing over.  Finally I just started telling people we lived in Oregon and were on vacation and that they seemed willing to deal with.  There was a very good chance at one point we were going to need to stay in San Antonio indefinitely.  That still could happen depending on the test results.  Sometimes they want to do a follow-up catheter in 3 months.  It would be extremely difficult if not impossible to transfer all of this to another doctor. And all of this might not matter except we have bills to pay.  The kids were pushing hard to have him not work the March job, but that will cover our months expenses.  We already had lost 2 weeks on pay in the oilfield and things since November have been tight.  Thankfully we had a place to stay for free indefinitely, but we needed income coming in.  I was resolved in the short-term not to even think about it, but it was on Lee’s mind.  We talked through the various scenarios but there were too many unknowns to make any decisions.  I steadfastly said we would figure it out no matter what and his health came first.  I was completely open to just getting a temporary job if we had to stay to bring some money in.

It’s not a complete disaster, because we have $16K in an contingency fund for just something like this, but Lee knows once that fund is gone we need to stop traveling for a while and build it back up.  We also have the medical bills looming of course, but again I was pushing that off to another day.  It didn’t help when I got a call from the helicopter company verifying insurance and letting me know they were going to bill $57K.  We will see how all of that plays out over time, and yes, I am as sticker shocked as you probably are.  Right now though we tried to focus on what was right in front of us and that was getting the cardiologist appointment, and making some decisions about lifestyle changes.

Lee woke up the next morning and said he wanted to try Chantrix.  I called my Dad and he called in a prescription for us immediately.  We also gave me some great information on what had just happened.  One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was to try and get a CD copy of the medical procedure.  They record them now and he thought it would be good to take to any other cardiologist.  I never even thought about that. After the call, I left to get us the Chantrix.  I had to go to two different pharmacies because they each only had one starter package , but it was 100% covered by insurance which was great.   Cori also fixed another really healthy meal of pork loin, salad, and she even made a yummy low calories desert.  She has found great alternatives for sweets which should really help quite a bit.  We can’t really replace every “bad” food item we have, but we can replace them with better alternatives over time and cook things in healthier ways in the meantime.  Cori also gave Lee some things to try including Kodiak Cakes, which he really liked and Stevia, which he is trying in some recipes.

She’s been amazing through all of this and her approach is just right.  She is providing information and encouragement and giving him someone neutral to talk to.  Which was a really good thing because at some point I just mentally shut down.  I needed a minute to catch my breath and as much as I appreciated his enthusiasm, it was all overwhelming.  Let me put it this way.  I woke up Monday morning and by Friday my husband had a serious medical incident, I had lost my job, moved my home, was quitting smoking, and changing my diet. The brute force tactics are certainly called for in this situation, but all things being equal I wouldn’t have chosen to take all this on at once.  What mattered both then and now was Lee.  He is a person who needs to make quick and dramatic changes and I get that about him.  The worst possible scenario would have been he didn’t take it seriously, and I will take all of this over that any day.

So that’s where we are right now. I will continue to walk you guys through this as it occurs and we will see where it all ends up. Right now, if at all possible, we want to continue with our life as planned.  Hopefully everything will be just fine and we will continue to be able to do that. I will say one thing, no matter what happens: I don’t regret being a full time RVer.  Obviously if this would have happened in a normal house things would have been simpler in some respects, but the things we have seen and done over the last four years were worth whatever comes our way.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.