First Time with a Half a Million Hits

When I started this blog four years ago, I had the vague idea that it would be a place where I could document my travels and keep my friends and family updated on what I was doing.  I had no idea that it would become such an important part of my life, and I certainly didn’t expect so many people to be interested in my travels.  Don’t get me wrong, objectively I think it is a pretty interesting story, but I have met lots of people with interesting stories in my life, and mine is just one of the many.  So it is with extreme humility and no little awe, that I want to take a moment and recognize the fact that people found what I wrote interesting enough to click on this web page 500,000 times.  To me that’s extraordinary and in no small way helps me to remember that my life is different…and different in a good way.

So as the number grew closer, I tried to think of the best way to say thank you.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for the support.  Thank you for giving me external validation, which I know I shouldn’t need, but hey, I’m human.   For liking our pictures and our words.  For talking to us as people.  Mostly for sharing in the journey and being invested in it. As much time and effort as I have given this blog it has always given more back to me.  To illustrate I’d like to share one small story.

If you have been reading all along, you know that dental care has been a huge challenge for us on the road.  After RV repairs, it’s probably been my least favorite thing, so last year when we found a dentist that we liked in Oregon we were pretty excited. We started talking about our lifestyle with him to explain our particular challenges and it turned out he was very interested in what we were doing.  Sometimes, if it feels right, I’ll share the blog with people, but it’s always an awkward moment for me because it feels a little self-aggrandizing.  Still it’s the best way to really explain what it is we do, and sometimes, the person I am sharing it with takes a look and gets hooked.  We rarely know when that happens after the fact, but this year when I called to make Lee a dentist appointment the receptionist immediately knew who we were and said “We have been following your travels!”.

Even after five years, when that happens I am still surprised by it, and I was even more surprised when we went to see Ed yesterday and he spent a ton of time in between patients talking to me about what had happened to us in the last year.  He doesn’t just skim the blog, he reads it! And through it he knows me.  He cares about what happens to us, poked me a little bit because I haven’t written as much as I usually do, and in a very cool way gave me some career advice on what to do next.  The blog brought someone into my life who cares about us and not to sound too corny, but ultimately nothing is more important than that.  So thank you Ed, and all the other people who share this journey with us.  We are truly grateful.  And sorry Ed I know you wanted to stay in the background, but that story was just too good not to share 🙂

Faced with this, I wanted to find a cool way to say thank you.  Lots of ideas went through my mind, but ultimately I decided to go back and pick out pictures of some of our WOW! moments.  It’s easy to lose site of why we do this sometimes, especially when life becomes all about working, and the exercise helped clear my mind, refocus me on what is important, and was a ton of fun.  After all, we have done some pretty cool stuff.  I hope you like it!

This may seem like a silly place to start, but we came across this Giant Fork in the Road (July 2013) while we were still thinking about becoming full timers and it really felt like the universe was speaking to me.

 

Lee and I at Looking Glass Waterfall, which we stumbled across accidentally.  This was the moment I decided I wanted more waterfalls in my life.

 

Lee at Jekyll’s Island in late December 2014.  After going on the road in October and then spending the holidays with family, we were finally moving and Lee as you can see felt totally free.

 

Feburary 2015,  we took a sunset cruise with Jo, Ben, Kelly, and Bill and the dolphins swam along side our boat for most of the trip.  After enduring 15 winters in New Hampshire watching dolphins at the ocean while on a boat was particularly special.

 

April 2015 we spent a month with friends in the Outer Banks and one special day went to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers Memorial with Kelly and Bill. Walking the path where their airplane took off and landed felt very much like walking on hallowed ground and I absolutely loved the monument.  It is still one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

 

In June 2015, we went to Minneapolis to visit my daughter and visited the Star Trek exhibit at the Mall of America.  I have been a fan since I was a child, but never in my wildest dreams imagined I would ever get to sit in the captains chair.  I was completely giddy as I channeled my inner Kirk and pondered how to get us out of another jam.

 

And then there were the bears. Hands down my most amazing experience to date on the road was when we were 80 yards away from a mama and baby grizzly bear. The fact that we were Deb and Steve only added to the joy and this moment has yet to be beat by anything we have done.

 

Another childhood dream of mine was to see the redwoods, and not only did we see them in November of 2015, but we lived in one of the groves when we spent a month volunteering in a campground along the Avenue of Giants. Although the constant rain did eventually get to us, those first moments with the trees were magical and completely lived up to my expectations.

 

When the constant rain in the grove drove us to the coast to explore in December of 2015, we followed the advice of a park ranger we had met and went to explore the Lost Coast. This was the most beautiful piece of of coast I have ever seen and I just laid in the grass and enjoyed the amazing view.

 

Ok I know this is a weird one, but in January 2016 I was able to dump our tanks all by myself in Quartzsite That was a major victory for me and the first time I felt like I was getting a handle on the mechanical aspects of of the lifestyle. It was a major “victory” and made me super happy.

 

In March 2016, we got to visit the site of one of Lee’s childhood dreams, The Very Large Array.  It’s out in the middle of nowhere, and not easy to get to, but completely amazing in it’s size and scope.

 

As we headed up to Alaska in May 2016, we had one day where we saw seven different large wild mammals. One of the most interesting sighting was watching a baby caribou attempt to cross the river and eventually we watched it scramble out.

 

At the end of the month Lee’s first moose sighting was also really special, mainly because he kept saying there are no moose…and then there was! I love it when I am right and he is wrong…although to be honest that doesn’t happen often 🙂

 

Alaska had so many jaw dropping moments I could make this entire post about them, but I’ll pick one of my favorites when we walked on an actual glacier and got to see an ice cave and a waterfall. Very special.

 

For Lee standing under the Alaskan pipeline was a really big deal.

 

But nothing beat finally seeing Denali.  I was giddy!

 

I completely geeked out when I finally got to Stand on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona. It is a quintessential RVer moment and totally lived up to what I thought it would be. Plus there was hands down the coolest giftshop I have ever been in next door.

 

In April of 2017, we fulfilled another childhood dream of mine and saw the Petrified Forest. What I didn’t know was there is also a section of absolutely gorgeous painted desert that truly blew me away.

 

Sharing all the waterfalls in Columbia Gorge with Lee in June 2017 was a very special moment for me, and hiking to bridal veil falls (one I had not seen before) was really wonderful.  You could swim at the base of this one and being in this picture, felt like I was in it.

 

This picture doesn’t really capture the experience, but we had a magical moment at night standing at the base of the Hecata Lighthouse with Rick, Jim, and Diana.  We could see so many stars through the beams of the lighthouse and it was really special.

 

Crater Lake, July 2017, with our friends Kat and Bert was amazing. Some things in life really do live up to their press and this was definitely one of them. Every picture was a good one and it was really special that we got to see the floating “Old Man of the Lake” log. After talking to some locals not everyone gets to see that when they visit, and we wouldn’t have even known if some folks didn’t point it out to us.

 

In August 2017, we saw the eclipse and being in the path of totality was well totally amazing. I thought it would be anti-climatic after all the fuss, but it really wasn’t. It was 5 minutes or so of pure magic.

 

In March 2017, we finally made it to Padre Island in Texas.  There were lots of great moments when we stayed on the ocean in one of our best camping sites ever, but nothing beat when we saw this pelican eat a huge fish.  It was definitely a mouth hanging open kind of moment.

 

And then there was our April in Utah, 2018. After Alaska, I didn’t think any landscape could impact me that way again, but the three weeks we spent in Utah had so many of those moments. Again it’s hard to just pick one (and maybe I won’t) but standing at the base of Grosvenor’s Arch and looking up was very special.

 

Ok I can’t pick just one. The photographer’s tour of monument valley.

 

This gorgeous view of Canyonlands brought tears to my eyes.

 

And Arches. For me this was a terrifying and exhilarating moment because it was a difficult climb to get up there and a drop to death behind me.  Not something I would have ever done in my old life.

 

And most recently in July 2018, standing in the cave behind North Falls. Waterfall kisses are the best!

 

As I am finishing this post up, I realize it comes woefully short of capturing the complexity and joy of the last five years. Yes, when I think about my life there are a series of images that flash through my mind, but the true story is in the details, the small moments, the day in and day out struggles and triumphs.  I know it’s presumptuous, but if you haven’t had a chance to read from the beginning I really wish you would.  It’s not about getting more hits (although a million would certainly be cool!), it’s about sharing the story arc with you.  We are in the middle of our story now, and I have absolutely no idea where all this will end, but I do promise that I will share it all the way through.  And once again…thank you!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Budget July 2018

It’s interesting that when we have a really good financial month it is almost always a month that we have very few experiences.  Despite the fact that we “live” in a gorgeous place and have all sorts of low-cost nature things we can do in the area, we have found that almost everything costs some money (gas, lunch, trinkets) and it turns out that the best way to save money is not do anything at all.  That shouldn’t be a huge surprise I suppose, since that is how it was in our old lives also, but I thought that surrounded by so much nature we would always find lots of cool things to do.  And in all fairness some people do.  They take their days off and hike or fish or kayak and explore, but all of that takes energy and one thing we have found is when you are working this hard, energy, for us at least,  is in short supply.  The good thing is we aren’t spending all the money we are making on fast food or Amazon purchases  and we were able to put $2500 back in our savings account, which was a much-needed event, but aside from the end of the month when our friends came to visit our lives were all about work and more work. So yes, it was a good month with only $2,151 in expenses, but not such a good month in the overall life category. You can see below for more details.

 

Groceries –  Well, we got our groceries expenses under control this month, but that’s mainly because we are eating lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We did have some fantastic meals when Deb and Steve came to visit, and I have been trying to use what we have lying around, but the freezer is getting pretty bare and we definitely need to restock in August.

Dining Out – The fact that we aren’t huge fans of any of the restaurants in the area (Huckleberry Inn aside) certainly helps in this category.  Plus we paid for Lee’s birthday escape room and then Deb and Steve paid us back in a couple of meals out so we were actually closer to breaking even in this category.

Entertainment – We ended up spending $180 on the escape room because Lee wanted the room all to ourselves.  Since it was his 50th I was happy to spend the extra money, but definitely next time we will use Groupon on and if we can’t find enough friends will have to try the room with other people.  I’m just glad Lee enjoyed it so much, because he’s a tough guy to buy presents for.

Truck Fuel – We only gassed the truck up once the entire month, which was a good thing because gas prices are kind of high right now.  We have to take our company trucks down to Estacada to fuel them up and are able to combine a grocery store trip with that which helps save us a ton of money in gas. Next month we will be doing some exploring in Washington so these costs will go back towards normal levels.

Home – Thankfully no repairs this month and the extra items we bought, like the propane campfire, we used Amazon points.  We just let our points build throughout the year until something camping related comes along that we want and then we cash them in.  So thanks for your support in both buying the recipe book and through our Amazon link.  I really like the propane campfire and we both wonder why we were so resistant to having one before.  If we didn’t have the points we probably wouldn’t have gotten it, so thanks again! 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Lee’s 50th Birthday

Lee is not a big birthday person, but since this is a landmark day, I felt like I really wanted to do something for him.  Months ago Deb had reached out with her travel plans and with a little tweaking we worked it out so she and Steve would be visiting on the big day. I was really excited about this because we spent my 50th in Alaska with Kelly, Bill, Jo, and Ben, and I wanted Lee to be with friends for his.  It’s really amazing how wonderful our RV family is and how often we manage to be with each other for those special days, despite traveling all around the country. And since we tend to do things big when we are all together, we had to have the pre-birthday dinner.  Deb made teriaki flank steak, rice, and green beans (which were yummy) and then  brought out a homemade cherry pie she bought at the fruit loop.  After tasting it Lee decided cherry pie with a crumble top was his new favorite, so all of you who are keeping pie score take a note 🙂

Afterwards we went down on the lake with the propane fire pit and watched the sun set.  It was our first evening down on the lake, and we really loved it.  There were tons of bats swooping along the lake surface and we had geese, ducks, and could see the fish jumping.  It was beautiful and serene and we all just chatted and chilled until a group of young kids came along with flashlights who were looking for crawdads in the water.  Since we have 7 kids between us, we really loved talking to them as well and it was a perfect pre-birthday celebration warming us up for the main event.

Hurley got in on the action

 

Geese

 

The kids were so cute

 

They all got excited when they found one

 

Oh and I keep forgetting to mention Steve bought me this cool present. It’s a solar powered jar with stones in it and turns lots of cool colors at night. I bought him some huckleberry preserves! For some reason we always buy each other little things and it’s always a real treat when we see each other.

 

On the morning of Lee’s birthday Deb and Steve invited us over for breakfast.  I took some signs, which long time readers may remember, and Lee got his presents from Steve and Deb.  They bought him alcohol because they think my alcohol budget is too stingy (just kidding) and we had a fantastic breakfast with some Portuguese sausage that tasted different than any sausage I have ever had.

These “50” signs have been used by Bill, Kelly, me, Greg, and finally Lee. I was thrilled they had seen so much use, but even more glad I didn’t need to carry them around anymore 🙂 Lee as you can see was thrilled with his Piehole , apple pie flavored whiskey

 

Steve cooking an awesome breakfast

 

Portuguese sausage…yum. It’s sweet with a bit of a kick

 

 

After breakfast we took a little break and then met up again at 2pm.  We headed into Portland for Lee’s birthday wish, which was to try an escape room.  Deb and Steve had tried a pirate themed one a few months back, but Lee chose an assassin themed room since he’s a major spy buff.  His one request was that we do it with just the four of us, and Steve called the company Hour to Midnight .  We paid for 6 (it normally holds 8 people) and they guaranteed us a private room, so although it was a little pricier than we would have liked it was worth it to have the room all to ourselves.  The outside of the building was pretty unassuming, but inside was neat as a pin and the room itself was fantastic.  There were multiple clues and multiples puzzles and the theme was to diffuse three different bombs.  We all loved it, and Lee said as soon as he was done he wanted to do another one.  High praise from him.  We solved it in an hour and 6 minutes (6 minutes grace over the hour because we were so close) and it was really thrilling.  I highly recommend trying an escape room if you haven’t and I especially recommend you do it with close friends.  It was really cool how each of the four of us brought something different to the party, and how many clues were only solved when we combined wits.  Big fan and we definitely plan on doing it again in other areas we visit. 

Lee, me, Steve, and Deb

After the escape room we drove across the state border to Vancouver, Washington, and had a Chinese buffet. It was nothing special, but the company was great and after the event we were all really hungry.  The day held one more cool moment though when we stopped on the way home at the very first geocache ever.  Deb and Steve are huge geocache fans, and have done at least one a day for over two years now.  The very first cache is a special place and even had a plaque to memorialize it.  Turns out the first cache is in the middle of nowhere, but also pretty close to where we worked last year, so it was fun to see it, especially because it meant so much to our friends and was a perfect way to cap off Lee’s birthday.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Planes and Pianos

You never know what you are going to get up here at Timothy Lake, especially when Deb and Steve come to visit, and this week was no exception.  On Monday, Lee saw on Facebook that Deb and Steve were having some trouble with their site at a nearby state park, and since their site here was open, invited them to come up early.  Deb is one of the most badass chicks I have met on the road, but she has a thing about bees/wasps/hornets, and the site they were given had a huge yellowjacket nest in it.  Given the option of staying in the site or driving the additional two hours to us, they chose the latter and arrived in the late afternoon.  It took us a while to get them settled into their site, so we ended up having their arrival dinner close to 9pm, but no one cared since it was so great to have them here.

Steve is staying in one of the few spots here that has Verizon service, since he was working during the week, and we had to work the next day, but we were excited that we would have two sets of days off with them.  We made tentative plans for dinner Tuesday night, but Tuesday morning bright and early I got thrown another curve ball.  With no warning we had large planes dipping water out of the middle of the lake, and Lee and I were scurrying around trying to determine what the protocol was.  Through sheer bad luck our most experienced veteran was off property and I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do.  There was a fire in the National Forest about 22 miles NE of us (as the crow flies), and it made sense that they would get water from the lake, and since it has been so dry they had 4 planes taking water to the fire.  The problem was I wasn’t initially sure who was supposed to clear the lake of small water craft and since the lake is pretty huge wasn’t quite sure how to do it.

Plane coming in with Mt. Hood in the background

 

You can see why having a kayak or sailboat in the planes path would be an issue

 

Despite the concerns over how to clear the lake it was amazing to watch

 

I spent time on the phone trying to get some answers, but Lee just jumped into action.  He got our bull horn, connected with some Fire Service rangers who arrived on scene, and ultimately helped them clear the lake.  He loves using the bullhorn and hasn’t gotten to use it all summer, so he was into it, but I was more concerned about what my responsibilities were.  This is a huge lake with 5 major points of entry and since we are low on staff (and equipment to clear the lake), it was a bit confusing for both us and our camp hosts.  Eventually we got it all sorted out and I did find some time to watch the spectacle a little, and I must say it was a really cool show for us and Deb and Steve.  The flights went on for several hours and most of our campers sat on the beach and watched, with the little kids in particular really enjoying themselves. That night was a long one for us, but Deb made a lovely pasta dish and she was kind enough to pack some up and Lee devoured it at 8:30pm.

The next day we had more planes but things were a little slower and we were able to make some steak dinner for Deb and Steve and enjoy time around their propane fire.  The fire ban for the National Forest was finally started and after some initial confusion, basically they settled on anything with a shut-off valve being OK.  I’ve seen the “campfire in a can” at Quartzsite and other places, but didn’t really like them because they didn’t generate much heat and I thought they smelled bad.  Steve’s was totally different and I absolutely loved it.  We often find that we want a little fire, but don’t want to mess with starting one and I could see the benefits right away.  I liked it so much by the end of the first night, that I asked Lee to order me one for an early birthday present, and we will soon be the proud owners of a Bond Mfg 66603 Aurora Portable Gas Steel Fire Bowl, 18.5″, Black

The next night Deb and Steve cooked, and they made a pork loin, smashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  As I have mentioned, Deb is a fantastic cook, and since Lee loves brussel sprouts I had to get the recipe.  Unfortunately with Deb (who cooks by feel), it’s a little tough to nail down exactly how she does things, but I have gotten better with deciphering her descriptions.  Basically she cuts the sprouts in half, tosses in olive oil, salt, pepper, and Tuscan spices, and the broils them in the oven until they start to turn crispy.  Then she uses a spatula to move them around on the pan and cook some more, until there are lots of brown, crunchy flakes which are the best part.  Totally Lee approved!

Lee, Steve, and Deb

 

Yummy brussel sprouts

 

I love watching Hurley with his “sticks” or really logs.  He’s being a good puppy and staying on leash while he is here since we have pretty strict leash rules.

 

Another night with a fire. I particularly like the holes in the sides, although ours actually has diamonds.

 

We knew we were going to have a busy weekend so we recommended a list of things for Steve and Deb to do and refocused ourselves on the jobs.  Being with good friends is great because they totally get that we are not on vacation, and Deb and Steve make their own fun wherever they go anyway.  They took several of our recommendations (and tried a few new things we haven’t done yet) and you can read all about it in her blog Down the Road. If you haven’t seen it you should definitely check it out, because it’s full of amazing hikes and lots of great restaurants.  Steve loves to eat (and drink) and Deb loves to hike, which works out to be a nice balance!

While they were doing the fun stuff, we had the hottest and busiest weekend to date.  Lee, in particular, is super busy with Day Use on the weekends and we were filled to the rafters Saturday and Sunday.  We also had an event scheduled for Saturday evening, which made for a long day for both of us but was a ton of fun.  Hunter Noack is a classical pianist, and for the past two years has done the In a Landscape concert series where he plays the piano out in nature.  The coolest part is they rent wireless headsets, so guests can wander in nature as they listen to music.  For us it was a bit of a challenge because our amphitheater is down near the lake and has a very narrow road to access it.  Hunter’s team needed to pull a trailer into the spot (with a grand piano mounted to it) and then they transform the trailer into a stage.  When I first got the email about the event, I was a bit perplexed, but then I remembered who I was married to.  Lee’s live event (and RVing experience) was perfect for this event, and he not only measured the entry but also personally directed the trailer in and out of the venue, which was no joke when they left in the dark,

 

It was a wonderful event with multiple musicians and since it was totally free (headsets were $10 but you didn’t have to rent them), our campers really enjoyed it.

The piano on the trailer which was converted to a stage

 

We had a nice crowd

Hunter

 

Cellist

 

I loved the classical guitar player

 

Although we were working the event, we were able to walk a bit with the headsets and the experience was very cool.  The combination of beautiful music in an amazing setting was really neat and if you ever have a chance to experience something like this I highly recommend it.  Here are some of the images I snapped while listening to Debussey’s Reflections in the Water.

 

I also loved that it was a family and dog friendly event, which with the headphones on really added to the experience.  The coordinator of the event brought her family and watching her two year old play while the music was in the distance was really lovely.  He had a wonderful time.

 

 

So, it was a very full weekend, but Lee’s 50th birthday is coming up, and thankfully Deb and Steve are here to celebrate with us.  Looking forward to doing some fun things with them on our days off!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Going Bat Crazy

It’s been 9 days since my last post, and the reason is things have been bat crazy.  I mean that literally, there have been actual bats, but I am jumping ahead, so let me catch you up a little.  First of all I went down to the fireworks display in Estacada and really enjoyed it.  Lee wasn’t feeling well so he stayed home, but it was a nice enough show that it was worth the long drive there and back.

Then Lee and I actually got to go out an eat a meal one night which was cool.  I had a wonderful Huckleberry shake at the Huckleberry Inn and Lee had a huge country fried steak.

Yummy!

 

And I took another day, again by myself, and went to the Fruit Loop and Hood River to get some of the first cherry crop.  Amazing.

 

So you are probably wondering, why so little activity?  Well the answer is we had some staff changes up here and have been working very hard to cross train people and redistribute workload.  Folks tended to own their own lane up here, so it’s critical with less people folks can work multiple positions if there is a need.  Since Lee and I had learned most of the positions, we were carrying a lot of that load initially, but things are smoothing out a bit and we are coming up for air.  Plus, aside from the staffing changes there have been a series of events. We had a film shoot at one of our locations that lasted a whole day.  Lee spent some time down there just watching and it was pretty cool.

Film crew, it was an ad for the Ipad and they had a vintage camper which was pretty neat. Although to be fair this is not a spot you can camp overnight so see you can’t always trust what you see on TV.

 

We also had a camper with a heart attack (they were life flighted and are fine), missing kids (we found them), a guy back his truck into the lake.  Yes I am not making that up..not really sure how that happened but here’s the picture.  Our head of security winched him out, and yes the entire bed of his truck (and the drivers seat) was full of water.

It hasn’t all been bad.  We managed to have a potluck/birthday party for one of our camp hosts, and I am trying as much as possible to give people extra breaks as our busy season gets in full swing.  It’s important to say that we are now filling up completely in all campgrounds by Thursday and every week that gets a little earlier.  Our day use is packed, which has put extra pressure on Lee, and I am covering shifts for folks at least once a week.  Still we feel pretty good overall, although we are both being careful about pacing ourselves.  Burn out at this pace is a real possibility.

Birthday cake!

Oddly one of the most stressful things has been the bats.  We have some interns staying in the duplex next to the office and on Friday and Saturday the girls side had bats flying around the room.  Both nights they ended up sleeping down in the living room and I was once again at a loss on how to handle the issue.  The head of security once again came to the rescue and shooed them out, but the same ones were either coming back or we were getting new ones and no one could figure out where they were coming in.  So I punted and on Saturday called the maintenance on call tech and they were kind enough to bring up a sonic device that we hoped would drive them away. It did work.  It drove them out of the girls room and into my office, but thankfully someone else was in there at night when the bat came out to play.  Now I am afraid to turn the lights off in there, and am just hoping that in a few days the bats will be gone forever.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like bats and think they perform an important function, but I want them in their little bat houses and not in my working/living space. One more thing that I wasn’t prepared for, but if nothing else this job is teaching me to be prepared for the unexpected.

The good news is Deb and Steve are coming up for 9 whole days and we are incredibly excited to see them!! Their being here will force me to start getting out of here on my days off so hopefully you will be seeing some pretty pictures soon.  And sorry it took me so long to get to this.  Most of the stuff that is happening I simply can’t talk about and when that’s the case I just don’t feel motivated to write.  It’s one of the downsides of having this job, but I am hoping that as things settle down that will get better.  It might not be until after August though, so don’t be surprised if my posts are a little sparse until then.   If you are Jonesing for a Camper Chronicles fix, go back and re-read about Utah 🙂 That was a fun month and packed full of awesome blog posts!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time Almost Getting Killed By A Failing Jack

Because this incident happened to Lee, I asked him to write this post.  He says it’s because I am a slacker, but I refuse to accept that premise 🙂  Enjoy!

For quite some time we’ve been having some trouble with our jacks. We have the Lippert Ground Control 3 system, and they’re electric, not hydraulic. The system has a pretty “picky” voltage requirement, so if voltage drops below the threshold, either from a low battery, or high amperage draw, it will cause an error message on that jack, and you have to clear the code to do anything at all. I consider this a pretty serious design flaw, because once you get an error code, you can’t see any information on the screen other than “ERROR” and whichever jack is causing the error. There are lots of things that can cause errors, and you can generally still run jacks up and down, you just can’t see information on anything at all. The clearing process is pretty simple, you lower all of the jacks at least 6 inches from their full up position, and then retract them all by pushing the retract button and holding it until they are all retracting. Again, not a big deal, except that once you’ve done that, you’re back to square one, trying to drop the landing gear, and take the weight off the hitch, and unhitch, then level. If you get an error code again, then you have to go through the process all over again. It can be maddening. And for us, there was no rhyme or reason as to which jack would “error out”. Over time I noticed it was the front left more than any other. More and more lately, during the clearing process, the front left jack would just stop moving after an inch or so of travel, and I would have to raise or lower it by repeatedly pushing the buttons while it traveled that inch or so.

At our current location, we’re on a very unlevel site. The front of the site is VERY low, and so in order to get level I had to raise the front of the rig up A LOT.

Here’s an idea of how much:

And since raising the nose is when most of this stuff happens, when we got here we were only able to get within about 2° of level. It would just extend the jack a few millimeters and then stop. 2° might not seem like much, but that’s a fair amount of unlevel, and takes some getting used to. After a month or so I started to get concerned that it might interfere with adequately draining the black tank, so I set out on a bright and fine morning to attempt to get it to go up a few more inches. I encountered the same problem, so I decided to start from scratch by lowering it, hitching up, and trying again. This time it was much worse. I was well beyond 4° when it stopped running. It would run a few millimeters and then quite. I called Lippert and after much discussion they decided it was a low voltage problem, and recommended changing my batteries. I have 4 AGM batteries that are in excellent shape, and my gut told me it was something else, but they insisted it was the batteries, so I let it go. Since I wasn’t about to buy new batteries, I asked them if there was a way to over-ride the error code to get the jacks to go up just a few more inches. They instructed me to pop off a rubber cap on the bottom of the jack motor and use a socket and a cordless drill to manually raise and lower the jacks. I was’t looking forward to that, because it involves either running two drills at the same time or moving it just a little and then going to the other side, and moving that one, back and forth, otherwise you can put too much torque on the rig. I lowered the tailgate and then opened the front generator compartment to get to the jacks, and put the drill on. It didn’t budge, so I turned up the torque a little on the drill. It rotated in my hand a little, so I turned up the torque a little more, and planted my feet, and wedged myself in really good and braced myself so the drill wouldn’t spin my wrist, and would transfer the torque to the jack motor. (Safety tip, when you’re using a high torque drill, and you think it might spin on you, be careful. You can break a bone with one of those things. And if you’re working in really close quarters, the lower half of that drill can spin right around and that big fat battery can smack you right in the face, hard. Ask me how I know.)

When I was ready for it, I squeezed the trigger very slowly and ramped up the speed. It fought a little, then I felt it spin freely, and thought everything was working as advertised, until I glanced at the jack and could it wasn’t moving at all. I was all half folded over and cramped, and getting frustrated so I decided to pull out, and stand up straight, and set down the drill so I could do some serious industrial grade swearing and maybe have a cigarette and think this over some more. The instant I was clear and stood upright the entire fifth wheel wheel dropped and fell the six inches between the hitch and the kingpin. If you’ve ever wondered how good your truck suspension is, drop a fifth wheel on it from six inches. The only thing that kept the front of the rig from hitting the ground was that I had left the truck under the kingpin because I just wasn’t entirely comfortable, and so I just rolled the truck forward enough to clear the locking jaws on hitch, so when it fell, it landed perfectly in the hole, right behind the jaws. But since the gate was down, and I was between the gate and the front of the rig, I would’ve been pretty seriously hurt when that thing came down because I was occupying the space the rig entered, and since you can’t have two things in the same place at the same time, and I’m significantly squishier than the rig….

So, after my heart started beating again, I double and triple checked that the pin was where it needed to be, and slowly backed the truck up so the jaws locked. Once it was secure, I was able to pull the spring pin on the front gear extensions and raise them up. I could get the right jack to come up under power, but the left one wouldn’t budge. I poked around inside to get a feel for how difficult it would be to remove the jack (not at all, it turns out) and had the jack out and on a bench within about 10 minutes. I removed the foot, and spring pin, and the inner sleeve extension, and pulled the motor off. I was left with just the outer tube and the outer sleeve, and once I removed the cotter pin holding them together, I had the screw, and the collar it threads into on the inner sleeve. The way these work is that the motor turns the gearbox, which turns a small ring which is attached the the end of the screw. As the screw turns in the collar, it pushes down on the sleeve and lifts or lowers. I put the screw and sleeve on a workbench and popped a screwdriver through the cotter pin hole to turn it. It turned pretty smoothly and when it got the end, out fell a bunch of little bits of metal, which turned out to be pieces of the collar thread.

So at some point there was some binding or something that caused the screw to cut about half of the threads from the collar, and that allowed the screw, with all of the weight of the front of the rig, to slip through the remaining threads. It is truly amazing to me that this is all there is there to this system, and that there’s no real safety feature to prevent this.

Installing the new jack was relatively simple. The replacements come with the motor, the outer tube, the inner sleeve, the extension, and the foot. The spring loaded pin bracket is sold separately, as is the pin that holds the foot to the extension.

The hardest part was getting it at the right angle to slide through the hole and then lifting it up into position. The jacks are really heavy, and they just barely fit, so the motor has to be removed to get the jack into position, then the motor has to be reattached, with the two rotating parts lined up so they slot together. This is the part of the motor that rotates:

and this is the part on the outer tube that it fits into.

They’re both shaped so they only fit together when they’re lined up correctly. When the jack is in place, there’s no way to see the ring, so I just used my phone to take a picture of the position the jack ring was in so I could rotate the motor spindle to that position.

Once the motor was reattached I could lift the jack up and bolt it in. It’s held in place just by the friction of two brackets, which, again, is amazing to me.

Once everything was put back together and tightened down and the wiring harnesses were reconnected, it all worked just like it’s supposed to, with 100% less falling down. It still bothers me how high the front of the rig has to be in order for us to be level at this location, but there’s nothing we can do about it this year, maybe next year.

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

June 2018 Budget

This month was really good with less than $3K in expenses!!!  $1,024 of that was for an emergency replacement of our front jacks so we really only spent $2,318 for the month, which is right up there with one of our best financial months ever.  Part of that is that we are working so hard we haven’t done much of anything, and the other part is the things we have done were mostly free.  As always for more details please see below.

 

Groceries – We went over again by over $200.  Going to local more expensive grocery stores, buying lots of pre-made food instead of cooking meals because of our schedule, and another Costco run are the culprit. On the other hand, we should be able to keep July much lower because now we’re pretty well stocked up. We’ll see. Pie is expensive.

Truck Fuel – This was really low because we aren’t really going anywhere.  Lee runs into town on our days off, but we haven’t taken any trips.  Again, good numbers because of crazy work schedule.

New Equipment – We had a catastrophic failure of our front jacks/landing gear (Lee is writing about it in the next post) and because our rig had to stay hitched with the nose down over 4° while we waited for the replacement jacks, Lee paid $200 for next day shipping, otherwise we would have been tilted down that far for a week or more instead of just two days. 4° is a lot of forward tilt to live with. These things happen, but it was a bummer, because we really wanted to put that money back into our bank account. But at least now we have brand new front jacks.

So, how do you hardly spend any money?  Work long 10+ hour days, 5-6 days a week, and don’t go anywhere! Just like we dreamed! Seriously, though, it’s beautiful here, the weather is spectacular, and we were lucky enough to have friends come and visit us, so we don’t feel like the month was a total waste, but it would be nice to have the time and energy to do more with our free time. Maybe it will start to get a little better after the middle of the season. Even if it doesn’t, by the time we get to the end of the season we will have been able to set aside enough to take a nice 4-6 week break before we start gate guarding for the winter. That’s progress over previous years for sure!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.