First Time in Somerset PA

As we were heading out of Columbus, our plan was to stop at a Discount Tire and get an upgrade to “H” rims and tires. They can carry more weight than our current “G” tires, to take full advantage of our Mor Ryde 8000lb axles, and they are an all around heavier duty commercial tire.  Lee had spent time on the phone and even driven to the location twice to make this as seamless as possible, but unfortunately the person he had been dealing with was off that day.  The tires were already on the new rims, but when we arrived there was confusion about who we were.  It took 30 minutes for them to get started and they immediately discovered we had the wrong lug nuts for the rims they had ordered for us.  Ours are conical, but the new rims were flat, and after waiting another 30 minutes we discovered it would take hours to get the new ones and an additional cost of nearly $500.

At this point we had a conversation and decided to walk away.  Even though we had prepaid for the tires and rims, we knew American Express would have our back on getting a refund, and thankfully the manager himself agreed they were at fault and refunded our money.  So we were on our way to see Kelly and Bill but with no new tires and no plan.  It was only a four hour drive to Somerset and thankfully we had no issues on the drive.

Kelly and Bill are staying in a seasonal site in Hickory Hollows campground because it is close to their daughter and granddaughter, and the owners are fine with Bill doing solar installs at their location.  It is surprising how many campground wont allow that type of work, but this one likes the extra business Bill brings in and the proximity to their granddaughter is a huge bonus.  It’s a really large piece of property with lots of sites, but during the time we were there it was very busy.  More people are camping even this late in the season this year which is definitely unusual.

The farmers who run the campground own hundreds of acres. Here is a view of the campground from the road bordering the property. Everything you see is their land.

Despite it’s remote location there is a ton of things to do in this area, and I took a day off so Kelly and I could explore. We went to a farmers market, a couple of great thrift stores, and also had lunch.  There are covered bridges in the area and in future posts I will talk about trips to the 911 memorial and Ohiopyle state park.  For this post though let me show you some pictures of what we did.

When we arrived Kelly made an excellent pot roast dinner, which is one of my favorites. It was exactly as good as it looks 🙂

 

There are numerous Mennonite families in the area. One location makes fresh pies on Friday and Saturday and we were first in line to get some!

The fields were right next to the store so you knew where the produce was coming from.

 

Neat and tidy with LOTS of great produce

 

And pies!! We got Lee a small one since he is trying to watch his sugar intake.

 

After visiting the farmers market we drove to see Kelly’s daughters house and were able to meet Freya.  I wore my mask since Maeve is 6 months pregnant, but it was still nice getting to see Freya their granddaughter.  She is 18 months old now and cute as a button,  Made me miss Oliver.

I love local thrift stores and this one was great. They were having a bag sale for $5. I filled up a bag for Oliver and another one for me. Can’t go wrong at those prices.

 

I also bought us lunch at a local cafe and my club sandwich was delicious. It was so big that I could only eat half of it.

 

It was a nice day and the only downside was only about half of the people we saw were wearing masks.  Coming from a larger city where it was more prevalent it was a bit of a shock.  We keep seeing this as soon as we hit the more rural areas, and always find it a bit jarring. Kelly has really been struggling with it because she is staying extra safe for her daughter and the lack of mask wearing has really stopped her from many activities.  She still hasn’t felt comfortable getting a hair cut for example and they are doing grocery pickups.

The best place for mask wearing Lee and I went the entire time was the Kings and Queens Restaurant.  It was this funky little castle shaped place Lee found for lunch one day and they strictly adhered to the best practices.  Also the food was amazing…I mean that I gave it five stars on YELP.  It was super kitchzy for sure, but there is a darn good chef in that kitchen and the service was phenomenal.

 

Appreciated the clarity of the sign. Everyone wore masks.

 

Old school decorations

 

With a country twist. This knight next to a stuffed wildcat was great

 

But the stuffed cows head on the wall was priceless

 

We started with this seafood dip (real pieces of shrimp and crab) and homemade bavarian pretzels…yummy!

 

Lee got the fish and chips for $9.99. The portion was huge and he said it was the best fish he had ever had.

While we were out seeing the countryside we also stumbled across a cool covered bridge.  Many of these are on private property, but the owners allow access.

 

 

 

 

Along with the exploring, I made dinner one night (air fryer chicken parmesan and fresh green beans) and we had a couple of fires.  One at Maeve’s house and the other at Kelly and Bill’s campsite.

 

And Lee worked on some repair projects including replacing a slide cable (post forthcoming) and putting up some K Cup holders for our new Keurig.

 

Another ingenious McGuyver hack by hubby. This was all his idea and it works great!

One last thing I wanted to mention (I am going to try to do this without in anyway being political), but I was surprised by how strong the support is for President Trump here.  What I mean by that is almost every house has a sign (and in some cases  many signs) out front and there is more fervent support than I have seen anywhere.  When we asked about it, we learned that this is the heart of coal country and the environmental policies of President Obama really hurt the area.  Large wind turbines did come to the area as an alternative fuel source, but the corresponding jobs did not.  The people who did most of the work came from outside the area and that did not sit well with folks here.

As always when we visit an area we like to meet and talk to people from that area.  Visiting Kelly, Bill and their family definitely gave us a chance to get an inside look to the area which was really nice.


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We Don’t Really Camp Anymore

I know that the title of the post may strike many people as odd, considering we mainly live in campgrounds, but this last week has really brought home to me the fact that we don’t “camp”.  Rather we are living our somewhat complicated lives while staying in a campground.  The distinction is important, and I am going to explain further, but before I start I should say that this post certainly does not reflect the experience of all full timers.  Rather it is simply our experience as we move through the world and our own lives, so please take it in the spirit that it is intended.

When we arrived at Alum Creek State Park, I was immediately struck by how unusual a place like this is for us.  Yes, we occasionally stay at State Parks, and largely I like them, but this one only had electric sites available (they have full hookujps, but very few, and they book quickly because there are so few places to camp near such a large city)  and the lack of water at the site really bugged me.  I am often willing to go without services for a great view and low price, but at $32 a night this place had neither, and 10 days is a long time to stay without water.  We filled up our tank of course upon entry, but neither one of us thought we could get through the whole 10 days without needing more.  Skipping showers and having stacks of dishes is OK when you are on vacation, but I have work Zoom calls almost every day and needed a clean body and space for that.

 

Nice deep site

 

The campground is also pretty typical for this area, with minimal usage during the week, but PACKED on the weekends.  The cell service also really suffered on Thursdays and Fridays as more people meant less bandwidth.  It wasn’t just me.  Some friends of ours stayed here and their daughter was trying to do online school stuff, and had to go home a few times to upload projects.  In my case this is my home, and having work calls disconnect adds unnecessary stress to my day.

We also carry a list of things that need to be done everywhere that we go, and that list doesn’t go away when we are staying in a campground.  The location, services, and the proximity of resources matters when we travel versus someone who is taking some vacation and puts their list off until they get back home.  Don’t get me wrong, good for them.  When we first started camping in our travel trailer many years ago we used camping as an escape from our regular lives, but for us there is no escape and putting off that list just makes for more to do at the next stop.

Plus there are certain things we absolutely had to do in Columbus.  Last year we changed our primary physician to my brother in Columbus, and took advantage of being here to get physicals, blood work, and my mammogram.  Those were all multiple trips to various doctors offices and they took priority over everything else. (As an aside, Ohio Health provides excellent care and having my brother to help navigate the system was wonderful!)   Our second priority was spending time with family, and we saw saw Lee’s Mom and Dad, my brother and his family, and I celebrated my Dad’s birthday with him.

DeDe, Denny, and Lee

 

De De’s garden was in full bloom, absolutely gorgeous

 

My niece Elise and sister-in-law Patricia

 

My nephew Lex, me, and Elise

 

Lex is five, almost six, and liked my RV and Jack way more than he liked me 🙂 Actually he liked me a little bit

 

Birthday dinner with dad. From Left: Eddie (my brother), me, Miriam (Dad’s girlfriend), and Dad

 

We also Face Time’d with Oliver and Kyrston some so they could see everyone and the super cute OSU Buckeye shirt that Eddie bought Oliver. LOVED this!!!

 

Our third priority was seeing friends, and despite COVID we were lucky enough to see several people.  Bryan (Noodle, to his closest friends) and his family camped two spots down for most of our visit and several other people stopped by including Cori and Greg who were passing through on their way to see Greg’s parents! It’s always fun when people from different parts of our life get to meet each other. We got to meet their new puppy Trip who was absolutely adorable.  Jack, however, was a bit jealous of all the attention the new puppy got and was a bit of a pain in the butt!

Bryan and his daughter Sydney. Her drama school is doing a virtual play and she was auditioning for one of the parts…hence the cape 🙂  I did give Lee some crap because Bryan hooked up their friendly lights within an hour of setting up.  Lee never sets mine up anymore.  See, not camping!

 

Jack and Trip did fine until they took out the toys. Then Jack got really possessive

 

Lee took this picture. Can you even stand how cute this little guy is. He is a mini doodle and so lively and fun.

 

Hanging out with friends at a campfire.  From Left:  Greg, Cori, Bil (one L is on purpose) , Evonne, Susan (Bryan’s wife) Sydney, and Lee.

Campfires are another great example of why I don’t consider what we do camping.  When we first started out we carried wood everywhere and I even cooked numerous meals over the fire.  Then we started running into issues with transferring wood across states lines and the quality and price of the wood we could find made a difference.  Ultimately we bought a propane fire pit as an alternative, but we rarely even use that now.  Since we don’t smoke anymore, we spend less time sitting outside and our setup is minimal at best.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a fire, but its just not part of our normal routine anymore.  As far as cooking on one, that is WAY more trouble than its worth in my mind, although I did cook a couple of hot dogs one night which were yummy.

Overall I think we did a decent job of balancing work, family, errands, and friends, but Lee definitely had the worst of it.  He ran around like a chicken with his head cut off most days, but managed to squeeze everything in.  Our freshwater (and grey) both lasted 6 days which was pretty good, and he decided to buy a 35 gallon fresh water tank, but then discovered our water transfer pump wasn’t working.  He loaned it out last summer in PGE and someone must have left it running dry and burned it up.  We went one evening with no water and then he was scrambling the next day to buy a replacement and get us filled up.  He also made arrangements for us to get new tires when we leave and took the truck in for an oil change and coolant change.  We even squeezed in a trip to my favorite restaurant place, Bob Evans!

Loved this sign

 

Their breakfast sausage links are my all time favorite!

Despite all that we had lots of friend time and we are especially grateful to Bryan and Susan for hanging out with us so much.  It was really nice being with people we care about, and Cori and Greg taking the time to stop by was also amazing.  Cori and I even explored the nearby dog park and Jack and Trip had a great time.

We were glad they had a large and small dog sides. They also had a dog beach but we didn’t use that

 

Hanging out with a new friend at the dog park

 

The small dog section was big. The large dog section was HUGE!

 

Finally some puppy smiles!!

Get him Trip!

Before I forget Cori introduced me to Thin addictives. They are 90 calories for three biscotti cookies and I am munching on them all the time. YUMMY

So in summary, it was a wonderful week and was chock full of really wonderful moments.  I definitely would not say it was relaxing though! I was able to grab a few minutes of peacefulness though in the week and am really looking forward to getting out in nature more over the next couple of months.

I saw this beautiful buck in the campground

 

And watched a couple of nice sunrises

 

 

 

 

 


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Weird Labor Day Weekend

Because our trip to the UP got so messed up as a result of being hit by another car, we decided to just head for Columbus a few days earlier than our reservation at Alum Creek State Park.  Unfortunately there are a limited amount of campgrounds in Columbus and none had availability for Labor Day weekend.  I decided to call my Dad and ask if we could park in his driveway, and he was nice enough to say yes.  Our plan was to stay in his house but we could park the rig there while we were inside.  This turned out to be pretty nice because we had all of the stuff from our place with the added conveniences of being in a house.   I even washed all my dishes in his dishwasher and did a ton of laundry.  I do miss some household conveniences!!

But, I am skipping ahead.  First we had to get there, and less than 5 miles from the fairgrounds in Minneapolis, we had a blow out on the RV.  Thankfully we had renewed our Good Sam towing that month so we were covered, but it still took about three hours to get someone to us and get the tire changed.  We had a spare to use, but Lee was pretty concerned, especially because our TPS system gave us no warning at all.  We are seriously looking at upgrading from G to H Tires at this point and will probably try to do that in Columbus.

Against my better judgement we bought Chinese made G rated tires about a year ago and have nothing but trouble with them.  Personally I am never buying a tire that isn’t made in the USA again.  Update:  My daughter felt this sentence might come across wrong so let me refine it.  We started with tires manufactured in China and had a huge blowout.  Upgraded to Goodyear G’s and had no issues until they had to be replaced from normal wear.  Went to G tires manufactured in China and had a flat and then a blow out.  Yes, this is a small sample size, but we have heard enough anecdotal evidence (along with our own experience) to say we will never buy Chinese manufactured TIRES again.  Obviously I buy many goods that are manufactured in China and like them just fine.  My comments are only related to RV tires. 

Lee did an excellent job of getting us quickly and safely off to the side of the road.

The rest of the trip went very well, with overnight stops near the highway and staying on major roads.  As Lee explained in the last post we saved lots of money with our new fuel card, and the trip was largely drama free.  We pulled into Dad’s and got set up and Jack checked it out.  He has only been in houses a few times and didn’t know what to make of the place.  Thankfully my Dad is a dog magnet and they became fast friends in no time.  I am not going to share pictures of the house to respect his privacy, but I did want to share his outdoor plants.  He bought them when they were small and they are so huge and beautiful.  Had no idea my Dad had such a green thumb!

It ended up being a weird weekend, mainly because of the sports.  My Dad loves sports and we watch them together, but this year we watched the Army football game, golf, and the Kentucky Derby.  That was exciting because Dad is really into the race and because it was delayed I actually got to see it with him.  I was also in Columbus for his birthday, which again is a rare treat.   We went out to eat together a few times to local places and he took us to see the Grove City historical park.  This is all brand new, and they have moved multiple buildings to an open field area.  My favorite was the bell from a local church and Dad shared that when he was a young boy he got to ring the bell which was really fun.

We ate at a diner which was my kind of place. Reasonably priced and yummy food.

Dad and I went to the Farmers Market

And ate outside at Planks one of his favorite downtown restaurants. REALLY good club sandwich.

The bell from the local church

While we were there come classic cars rolled in which was cool

The old train depot.  When I was a baby we lived in apartments near the railroad tracks. The “‘wrong side of the tracks” was an actual thing in my hometown.

On Sunday, my brother came down to visit with my 5 year old nephew and my Aunt and Uncle stopped by as well.  Seeing relatives with COVID is super tricky and I am always left feeling like I could have done more.  I am not hugging people, and in the case of seeing my grandfather sat outside with masks on, and more than six feet away, but not everyone feels the same way.  At this point I worry less about myself than them, and the thought of passing COVID to people I care about is terrifying.  Still many people just aren’t worried about it, so I did the best I could in the different situations I found myself in.

My brother cooked dinner.

My Uncle Don and Aunt Susie came over

Dad and my nephew Lex

I made this special desert for Lex. It was packed with calories but kind of yummy. Pudding and Swiss rolls!!

On Monday, we headed out to the State Park we had reservations at, but before that I took Dad to lunch.  We went to my favorite childhood Chinese place, Ding Ho’s, and it was just as good as I remembered.

Hands down the best won ton soup I have ever had.

This dish is called War Su Gai and is their specialty. It is not something I see often on the road, and it was delicious.

Next up: seeing Lee’s parents, Bryan and Susan, and a special appearance by Cory and Greg!  It was a busy week in C-Bus so stay tuned!


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can 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 Amazonor buy the Apple version on iTunes.

TSD Logistics Update

For those who read the recent post about the TSD logistics card, I promised to keep you updated regarding the price performance, and here’s the first update! The app update that they promised for the end of August has not yet been released, but that’s pretty normal. Things get delayed. (UPDATE: Right before this post was published, the new app was released. So once I’ve had a chance to use it I will write up a post about it!)

In the first week of September, we drove from Minneapolis, MN to Columbus, OH, and I carefully tracked the advertised “street” price per gallon for fuel at all of our stops. In ALL cases, the price we saw advertised was the same as other truck stops within a reasonable driving distance, so this is what we would have paid without the TSD card. Also in ALL cases, we used the app to locate the lowest price whenever we needed fuel, and we tend to fuel up with around 50 miles remaining in the tank. Here are the results of the stops, in the order they happened. The “fee” for the discount, as well as the per transaction fee are already calculated into the data.

$ 2.18 per gallon street price
$ 1.86 per gallon discounted
$ 12.51 (14%) saved


$ 2.18 per gallon street price
$ 2.01 per gallon discounted
$ 9.74 (7%) saved


$ 2.19 per gallon street price
$ 1.90 per gallon discounted
$ 6.54 (13%) saved


$ 2.34 per gallon street price
$ 1.99 per gallon discounted
$ 6.76 (15%) saved


$ 2.29 per gallon street price
$ 1.93 per gallon discounted
$ 8.92 (16%) saved


$ 2.55 per gallon street price
$ 2.33 per gallon discounted
$ 8.71 (9%) saved


$ 2.99 per gallon street price
$ 2.22 per gallon discounted
$ 8.71 (25%) saved

So for the entire trip we saved a whopping $ 61.89 on diesel fuel over 876 miles, averaging  14% savings over the street price, and that’s AFTER the fee for the discount and the transaction fees.

I’m impressed so far, and can’t wait to see how the numbers continue to add up. We will sitting here in Columbus until September 17th, and then hitting the road again, so there will be more data to report!

(If you decide to sign up for the card, you can mention us by name and we will get a nice small fuel credit after you purchase a certain amount of fuel!)


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can 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 Amazonor buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

 

 

August 2020 Budget and Data

We spent a bunch in August but since we were seeing one of our daughters I was happy to do so.  We spent $5,282 overall and the details are listed below.  Lee also entered some information on our travel below.

Campground Fees – Now that we are not work kamping we have to pay for campground fees.  Originally we were going to spend two weeks at Lebanon Park but we liked the fairgrounds campground so much we took advantage of their monthly rate and cancelled our other reservation.

E- Cigarettes – Turns out that the taxes vary wildly from state to state for E-Cigarettes.   Minnesota is one of the worst where the excise taxes almost double the cost.  Seriously it was $27 for three 1.5ml cartridges.  I decided to try buying the liquid in bulk and filling my own, to avoid the high taxes, but the new dispenser was $40.  Overall the whole month was frustrating from this perspective, but Lee found me a map and I was happy to see that Minnesota is absolutely the exception rather than the rule.  Going forward I will be much more careful about where I buy from.  On a personal note this really ticks me off.  I am using the e-cigarettes instead of smoking and although it is not the best choice it is certainly better than the alternative.  Paying 95% of the wholesale price in tax is nuts.  The following map came from taxfoundation.org. which has lots of really good tax information of all kinds.

Dining Out – We took our daughter out to eat several times and we ate out ourselves a few.  We blew our budget by over $400 in this category and our waistlines absolutely show it!

Gifts – I spent a ton of time this month looking for baby clothes for Oliver in thrift stores and garage sales.  We also bought Kat some shelves for her basement and spent other money on gifts as well.  I definitely see a rise in the budget for this category in our future.

Groceries – Not sure what happened in this category as we spent over $1K, except we were able to make a couple of Costco runs.  Groceries in Minnesota really aren’t that cheap especially in comparison to Texas.

Home Repair – Lee took advantage of being in one place for a while to take care of a few home items, and we also bought a dash cam as a result of the accident we had. He read a bunch of reviews and did a fair amount of research and settled on the Kenwood DRV-A301W.

Truck Fuel – The one area we did really well with was truck fuel coming in over $200 under budget.  We are using a combination of the TSD Logistics card and Gas Buddy to find the best prices and it is definitely making a difference.

Additional monthly data from Lee…

This month we used a total of 556 GB of data on our AT&T unlimited plan, across all of our devices. (Total for the year is 39 terrabytes)

For August we did not have a mixture of places we stayed, we spent every one of the 31 nights in a paid spot, water and electric (50 amp) at $14.47 per night on a monthly rate, for a total of $448.

We put a total of 1,143 miles on the truck, which was less than half of what we did last month, because we didn’t do any traveling. In fact the trailer never moved, so no miles for her.

Year to date we’ve traveled 8,550 miles, 2,747.6 of which was pulling the trailer, with year to date engine hours of 242 hrs, 47 mins, 32 secs.

We burned a total of 81.2 gallons of diesel, and averaged 14.1 mpg for all of our travel, with a year to date total of 722 gallons at 11.8 avg mpg.

There’s no travel map for the month of August, because we didn’t travel anywhere!

Starting in September when we start to travel again, and are using the TSD Logistics card, I will detail the savings from that card here as well, because DATA!!!


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can 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 buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

Minnesota Odds and Ends

Whenever we spend a long time in a place I always seem to end up with some pictures that I can’t fit into a regular post.  Here they are from our five week visit with Kat & Adrian.  We enjoyed spending so much time in her area and walked away with a new appreciation for the city. Personally I have never been to a large city with so many parks and green spaces and although big city life is not for me I can definitely see why she finds it so appealing. Since we have found a good campground to stay in the future we definitely will be spending more time there.  Here’s my random pics.

Jack got very shaggy while we were there

 

So we splurged and got a professional haircut. They did a great job.

 

Every Thursday Farmington had a really fantastic farmers market. It was right around the corner from us and I got some great vegetables, bacon flavored honey, and homemade cream soda.

 

I have a spreadsheet with restaurants I wants to try from Top Chef, Grill Dads, and other cooking shows but most are in large cities. We were thrilled that the Mason Jar was close to us and had excellent protcols in place

 

Eating at 5pm on a weekday didn’t hurt either. every table had an extra table no one sat at that they put the food on. Really cool process.

 

We went for the deconstructed chicken pot pie. The puff pastry is on top and its delicious.  My one recommendation would be to get it without cheese.  That was a bit overpowering.

 

We also had Vietnamese which is one of my favorites and it was pretty good. I found the fortune cookie fortune to be very topical.

 

Kat and I celebrated our birthdays with Mother/Daughter crab legs lunch at Red Lobster. Yummy!

 

Another great picture of Kat. Love her hair. She is very adventurous with color which I admire about her.

 

And a picture of her and her partner Adrian. Glad we got to know him a little better. We’re looking forward to visiting with them more often.

 

I found some Popsicle makers at the Dollar store and made Lee low calorie pudding pops which he loved.

 

We also rediscovered Aldi which was one of our favorite stores when the kids were young. They are very popular in Minnesota and we bought some great things there for reasonable prices.

 

I also found a new thrift store called Savers. Originally I thought this was a low price grocery store like in the west but they are huge thrift stores. Their prices are on the higher side but they have great selections, plus 40% off for 55 and older on Thursdays.  Can’t wait till next time we visit since I am turning 55 next year!!

Not every roadside attraction is great. Lee learned about these pies made by a local church and was so excited. You go to the door and ring and buy one. Unfortunately although it looked great it tasted pretty blank and not so good. What a bummer.

Finally I wanted to share with you a few pictures of Murphy.  We met a solo full timer (Matt) and his lovely golden retriever Murphy.  What a beautiful boy and Jack just adored him.  They would play almost every day and Murphy was super careful to never hurt him.  Matt, a photographer, was also nice to talk to and we were all super sad when we had to say goodbye to them.  Jack pouted for several days.

 

Jack was always jumping up and licking Murphy’s teeth which he was very tolerant of.

 

Even got some video!

 

 

 

Next up we headed to Columbus and spent Labor Day weekend with my dad.  Catching up on my posts, so look for that one soon.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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A Fun Afternoon At Hot Sam’s Foto Park

Written by Lee.  He went exploring on one of my work days and this was a solo trip.  Generally when we go to a new area we make a list of places we might like to see.  I’ll look at the list and decided which ones don’t matter to me much (Lee wants to see everything) and then Lee can do those on my work days. Occasionally if its really awesome he will even make a second trip so I can see it! – Trace

This post is going to be almost all pictures. I was poking around in the Roadside America app one day and saw this place Hot Sam’s was just a few miles away so I jumped in the truck and headed over. It was worth every minute and and every penny!

It’s part photo park, theme park, artist’s haven, junkyard, antique shop. It is undeniably unique. And how you perceive this place depends on your individual preferences. If you like the odd, unusual and quirky, you’ll appreciate Hot Sam’s.

There are quite a few great stories online about this place, but I think the pictures tell it all! I happily spent a few hours there and met with the owner and the resident sculpture artist, and just had a great time. There isn’t room to park an RV there, but there IS a restaurant just across the street with ample parking, so if you grab some lunch there I bet they wouldn’t mind if you left your rig there while you spent some time at Hot Sam’s. In the picture below you can see Hot Sam’s is just off Interstate 35, and just across the street from the Red Fox Tavern. This is what the entrance looks like, so it’s not hard to find at all. Right when you pull in you are greeted by the “shutter bug”, a massive (like bigger than a car) sculpture.     From that point I decided to drive all the way in and park and then walk back down to the entrance because there was just so much to take pictures of and I didn’t want to block the road.

This is the parking area, just on the other side of that head is I-35.

 

Off to the side of the parking area is a long low building that houses a lot of antiques. Looks and feels like a normal antique or “junk” shop.

       

Inside the long low building.

           

If you’ve ever wondered what the inside of an old gas pump looks like, this is it.

 

Love these bar stools.

       

Creepy Roger Rabbit and Jessica figures on the porch of the main building, which is a log cabin.

I am seeing these pics for the first time as I proof read the post and that is just weird and creepy. Looks like she is going to jump down on you. YIKES – Trace

  The back entrance of the main building is closest to the parking area. When I spoke to the owner he explained to me that this was originally a sales model of a log cabin company.                                  

Lady Liberty overlooks the parking lot.

 

Two stories of spiral staircase.

 

Walkway to the train car that serves as an art studio. With a rocket, because, why not??

That’s pretty cool – Trace

                               

I loved this two story sunflower, and you can also see the side of the log cabin and the back of a kid’s playhouse/treehouse built and painted to look like a giant birdhouse.

             

This is the front of the playhouse/treehouse/birdhouse.

             

Front of the log cabin.

                               

One of my favorite pieces, a tree growing up through and around an old rowboat.

      Working my way down the driveway from the parking and house area to the “lower grotto”.                  

There are several old circus wagons, which were just fascinating.

           

Another two stories of spiral staircase!!

    This might be one of the coolest things on the property. It’s an old boat that someone rebuilt to look like a land speeder from Star Wars. It was unclear by the way it was surrounded by dirt if it was retrofitted to drive on the ground like a car, or if it was meant to stay a boat, but it was well done, if a bit weathered. Ok  that’s  cool  – Trace                    

Featuring state of the art navigation via a label maker, and steering via a video game joystick.  Again very cool – Trace

 

and what speeder would be complete without a Radio Shack amplifier?

         

If you are willing to walk a little farther, you can see whatever the owner currently is displaying to the Interstate to entice folks off the highway, like this Finding Nemo car, and a rocket ship.  The ingenuity is impressive – Trace

       

Loved this sculpture. Everything on the property is for sale except the three buildings, and rumor has it that all prices are negotiable, and that the final price is based largely on what Jake thinks of the buyer.

 

Also loved this alien car, as well as the HUGE UFO suspended on a cable strung across the pond.

Again super impressive that a regular person did this – Trace

                       

Unfortunately there was nothing to use for scale, but the handlebars on this oversized motorcycle were WAY over my head.

 

To give you an idea of the size, the “sidecar” is actually the front of a boat.

Wow a tug boat – Trace

For our hippie camper friends – Trace

                                                                               

Back at the driveway, this Superman is suspended over head.

I don’t even know what to say about this one – Trace

GUMBY!!!! – Trace

                                    I also for some reason really got a kick out of this elaborate display of Avon perfume and cologne bottles.                                                                                

At the end of the driveway, or the beginning, depending on your perspective, there is a phone. Not plugged into anything, just hanging there. In case someone wants to buy it. (Again you gotta wonder what was going on in this guys mind- Trace)

 

The entrance/exit is guarded by another one of those GIANT metal sunflowers. Those things are easily 10 feet across.

 

And here’s the end!

 


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Minneapolis Waterfall Loop

Once we knew our trip was extended, I decided I wanted to take a drive and try the Minneapolis Waterfall loop.  All in it is a six hour drive with 8 waterfalls, but since we had already seen two of the falls, we decided to head due south and see where the day took us.  Since it was a Saturday we knew it might be crowded and we wanted to get as early a start as possible.  We downloaded the google maps directions from the website and headed out!

Our first stop was Caron Falls County Park and Jack was excited and ready to go.  I was really glad I wore my hiking shoes as the path was slick and longer than expected, but I was sorry we forgot our bug spray.  Still, it was worth it when the path ended at a beautiful little falls which I thought would be perfect for senior pictures. 



 

There are actually two falls. This was the smaller of the two

 

Our brave Jack climbed right up

 

This was the larger one

 

You could climb all around it and Jack cooperated long enough to let us get a picture.

My only complaint was one young couple staked out the best spot and refused to move to let us take a few pictures.  That was sort of the theme for the day unfortunately.  Next up was Hidden Falls in Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park. The website stated the parking lot was often full by 10am on the weekends and that was absolutely true.  Thankfully, we were able to find a spot and after buying a day permit headed down to the falls.  Minnesota State Parks cost $7 for day use, but the pass does work for all the state parks.  In this case since we planned on hitting at least two state parks it was well worth the fee, especially since the state is maintaining port-a-johns at the locations.  

One interesting thing about COVID is they have closed the public restrooms, but most places have replaced them with rental units.  This is important to me, especially if we are going on a longish hike, and this location had a ton of them.  There were also lots of large groups picnicking and the playgrounds were seeing lots of use.  People were sort of trying to social distance, but it wasn’t that easy when larger groups passed buy.

The path was mostly wooden, which was kind of slick, and once again I was glad I had my hiking shoes on.  The path came out at the top of a really cool waterfall that you could walk across and take pictures on top of.  Lee loved this one the best and once again Jack was cooperative in the picture taking.  I think he likes waterfalls too!

One thing I have to say is the signage was not that great. Note the sign right in the middle between the two paths. It’s hard to see in the wide shot, but in the closer on you can see it better.

 

This sort of thing is a pet peeve of Lee’s and he wanted me to mention it.  The path we needed to take was actually to the left.

 

There was a cool sign showing all the different types of forests in Minnesota.  Personally I love areas of the country  where the glaciers stopped. Usually great rock formations and waterfalls.

It was a longish walk in some pretty cool woods and then we came out at the top of a waterfall.  We walked down a few narrow stairs and what a treasure.  The best thing about it was you could walk on top of it and take pictures, and people were pretty cool about taking turns. 

 

Jack and I walked up to the top so Lee could take a picture

I like the ones you can get really close to

And there were some rock “stairs” in the front we could climb up

Next we had an hour long drive to the next two location which were very close to each other.  The first stop was Minnemishinona Falls which had a very small parking lot and a decent picnic table.  This is my least favorite type of falls, because you can’t get close, the water was muddy, and it was surprisingly crowded.  

Picnic area

Jack hated the bridge it freaked him out. It’s funny how much his experience impacts my experience now.

 

I had to take picture through the metal railing which was tough with the phone

 

Lastly we went to Minneopa Falls in Minneopa State Park.  Later when people asked me what falls we saw I couldn’t really say because all the names seemed so similar to me.  This State Park had a packed Day Use area and tons of people on the walk to the falls.  The upper portion was pretty cool because it was paved and you could see both the falls and the rushing river that led to it.  That is more rare than you would think because most falls don’t have a strong water source above ground leading to them that you can see. 

 

Really interesting picture of this fall

 

Jack seemed intimidated by the noise. This was a loud one. I loved the power of it.

We probably should had stopped at the top of the falls but we wanted to see where the narrow stairs went. 

Social distancing was impossible but once we were in it no way out, because it led to a dead end.

 

We did see lots of people walking along the bank though and decided to give it a try. IT was rough but doable for us

At the end was a big rock where people were waiting to take a picture.  Some folks were swimming out and hanging out right in the falls, but I wasn’t brave enough for that. Unfortunately people were back to aggressively not taking turns and getting close to each other and I started to feel really uncomfortable.  I actually said something to a guy who pushed right by us and his response of “The falls aren’t going anywhere” enraged me.  I realized that we really shouldn’t have walked down into such a congested area, and this was probably the riskiest behavior we had exhibited since COVID began.  We took a couple of pictures and then headed out, but I was really regretting that we had pushed things. 

Overall it was an OK day, but probably the worst waterfall day we have ever had.  Of course the worst waterfall day is still better than most days so there’s that.  COVID is definitely making things more difficult and even outside we have trouble relaxing when there are crowds.

 


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We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can 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 buy the Apple version on iTunes.

Travel Interruptions – Anomaly or Pattern?

If you read our last post, you know that once again our travel plans were interrupted, which got me thinking about whether travel interruptions are actually part of the full time pattern rather than anomalies.  When we first went on the road six years ago, we knew the occasional interruption would happen, but neither of us had any idea how frequently that would happen.  There is a common phrase in the FT world, “Our plans are written in mud,” which we use in these cases, but again we always thought that these interruptions were the exception rather than the rule.  Since I am a process analyst by profession, I thought I would take a moment and look at our history to see if that is actually true.  “Special cause variation”, as we call it in my field, ceases to special cause when there are enough instances that it is part of the norm.  Let’s take a minute and look back and find out. (YAY! Science! Math – Lee)   

The timeline is as follows.  Please keep in mind that some of these dates are estimated as the blog posts don’t say the exact dates.  For the purposes of this post its close enough, though.  Also in almost every single case things could have been so much worse.  This is not a litany of complaints about what has happened so much as an exploration about whether these types of travel interruptions should be expected.   Certainly we had issues other times in our six years on the road, but they happened when we were sitting still and because there was no impact on travel I have not included them here. This is only to examine the frequency and severity with which things interrupted planned travel.

11/15/2014 – We started on the road. (And it was all downhill from there….-Lee) Four months later……

3/29/2015 – Our first interruption came when we were establishing residency in Florida. We thought it would take two days, but due to a weird quirk with how car titles are handled in New Hampshire it took around 10 days to complete the process.  We were able to find a place to stay, but we ended up skipping our trip to Savannah and it took us 5 more years to get a chance to visit the city!  Six months later……

10/19/2015 – Our second interruption came when Lee put regular fuel in our diesel tank.  In a nutshell this destroyed our engine and it took three weeks to replace.  I think it is important to note here that many of these incidents would likely not have happened if we were not traveling so much.  I can’t imagine Lee making that mistake if he had been fueling at our neighborhood station. The constant unfamiliarity of being in new places increases the risk of error. I say that because the additional pressure of travel can make mistakes much more common, and I have seen this played out with ourselves and our friends many times.  Feel free to disagree, but I think that is an important point.  We were able to stay at our volunteer job until it was done, but it was very stressful as we were very concerned we might get snowed in.   In this case we ended up missing a trip to Yosemite and we have still not had a chance to go there. Five months later…

4/29/2016 – A few days after our RV turned two and lost its manufacturers warranty we had a broken shackle.  This meant we couldn’t move it for four days and although we were able to get the repair done pretty quickly we missed a trip to see my daughter’s new apartment in Charleston right when she moved there with her boyfriend, who is now her husband.  We were lucky that the campground we were leaving extended our reservation, and the two of them were able to drive up and see us for one day. This was also really stressful because Lee had a commitment to work at a rally, but thankfully we were able to make that commitment on time. Nine months later….

1/9/2017 – After several work kamping jobs (including a trip to Alaska) Lee noticed one of our tires was more or less out of tread, and our furnace had also stopped working.  Because we thought the tire might be a bent frame we had to take it to a service bay for the first time.  The furnace work was started by a mobile RV tech but not finished because he got in an accident so we decided to take it to Camping World.  Long story short we changed our plans and lost staying on Padre Island.  More importantly we later learned Camping World didn’t actually fix either of our problems.  Because we were under pressure to start another job, we ended up kicking those cans down the road.  We did get to see Padre the following year. Nine months later…..

10/13/2017 – After finishing our work kamping job in Oregon, Lee was concerned enough about the frame that we headed to Indiana to get our Mor -Ryde suspension upgraded.  In all fairness this was something we had talked about doing from the beginning, but instead of scheduling it out it became a must-do and once again we were sort of racing the weather clock. The upgrade itself only cost us a few days, and we managed to take a few days along the way to see Deb and Steve, but it was not the break either of us had hoped for after several months of consecutively working.

10/27/2017 – We had been carrying a storage unit at this point for over two years and felt some pressure to get it cleaned out.  Because it was in New England, time of year was a factor so when my Mom was looking to relocate to Myrtle Beach, Lee and I split up and he went north and I went south.  I am including this activity in this list because it did stop us from using that time for something fun.  I think our rationale at the time was our schedule was already screwed up by the Mor-Ryde upgrade so we might as well get that out of the way too. All in it was about a week. (We also were pretty sure we wouldn’t be back in the New England or Ohio area for a few years. – Lee) Four months later…..

3/21/2018 – For quite some time, Lee was concerned about our slide floor where the washing machine was.  I had spilled a bottle of fabric softener on the floor which soaked into the floor and never dried, and over time the plywood in the slide floor started to swell and bulge.  Finally Lee was concerned that we would no longer be able to close the slide if we didn’t get it fixed and made arrangements for us to meet a repair tech who had previously worked at Open Range.  We also needed our slides adjusted and again Danny’s Open Range experience was critical.  All in we lost ten days to the repairs (Danny could only work on us around his FT job), but at least we were both happy with the experience.  We were supposed to go to Big Bend National Park during this time period, which we have still never gone to.

3/26/2018 – As we were leaving getting the repairs done and finally were on our way to meet some friends the truck brakes started grinding.  Lee had an oil change and brake check not so long before this happened and was immediately concerned we might have lost a brake pad. Because we pull our fifth wheel with our truck we needed to stop pretty quickly and luckily got an appointment had a service dealer to fix the problem.  It was covered by warranty, but caused another delay and the time we had free before our next rally was getting shorter.  We also received an error code on our jacks and were unable to unhitch.  We decided to stay hitched until we got to the rally so we wouldn’t lose anymore time.    I let loose in a blog post called My Least Favorite Part of Full-timing.  This was the first I stopped treating these incidents as one-off and acknowledged it might be the cost of doing business.  Thankfully we got looking and only lost one day with our friends, but as usual it could have been much worse. Seven months later….

10/20/2018 – We were heading to Texas to get a gate after leaving Vegas and Lee got sick.  He has been super healthy most of the time on the road, but he was really ill.  First we talked about stopping in Joshua Tree, but Lee didn’t want to drive those extra miles, then we talked about stopping in Big Bend for a few days, but the rain and lack of cell signal were both a concern.  Ultimately we headed straight to Greg and Cori’s so we could get on a list for a gate as soon as possible.  Money was absolutely a factor in this decision, but what started it all was Lee not feeling well.  I can and do drive part of most days, but Lee handles most of the driving and he had a serious case of the flu.  We lost roughly 10 days of “fun time” due to these factors and since we had so little time between jobs it was definitely a bummer. Four months later…

3/1/2019 – While working at a gate and trying to recoup the money we had lost due to getting a late start, Lee had a heart attack.  We had to immediately leave that job and ended up with several thousand dollars worth of medical bills.  Our original plan had been to stop gate guarding around the 15th and start heading west, but he needed time to recuperate. As it was we probably should have waited longer, but Lee had a paying gig lined up and we really needed the money.  The final outcome was that we drove straight to Phoenix with only a brief stop to see our friends Howard and Linda.  There is a campground I have been wanting to stop at along the way, but we couldn’t afford the extra days. Five months later….

8/30/2019 – After losing some wages and having medical bills money was tight, but we made good money at our summer gig on Mt. Hood outside of Portland, and felt we could get back on track and take a much needed month off.  Our plan was to head east and see our daughter Kat in Minnesota for a couple of weeks and then make our way down to Texas stopping in Arkansas along the way.  Unfortunately we were downsized from our work kamping job due to budget cuts and we had to go straight to Texas and get in line for gate guarding jobs.  I was also actively interviewing for corporate jobs as well, but we knew if nothing came from that search we were going to need money as soon as possible.  Thankfully I was able to start working a corporate job October 7th, but we still lost seeing our daughter Kat. Seven months later….

3/1/2020 – About the time we were planning on starting to travel again, COVID hit.  Like so many other people we were completely grateful that we could shelter in place, and although we had lots of discussions since I was lucky enough to have a job we didn’t have to travel.  This would have been very different if I didn’t have an income, because at the same time fuel prices dropped off a cliff, and many gate guard jobs were eliminated.  Again, like so many other we were happy we had a place to stay, but we had to cancel trips to see Kat (AGAIN), our youngest daughter Kay, in D.C. before she left the air Force, our Grandson’s first birthday party (along with Kyrston and Jeremy), and our parents.  All in we lost a full four months of travel due to the pandemic, but like I said, it could have been so much worse. Five months later….

8/16/2020 – We were lucky enough to spend a month with Kat and her boyfriend, in Minneapolis, but we planned a special two weeks of travel and sightseeing in the Upper Penninsula of MI,  where we have never been.  Unfortunately the day before we were planning on heading out we got hit by another vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot.  Once again it could have been much worse but by the time we got the truck back our plans were in shambles. We lost the entire two weeks.  Plus we were facing where we would stay Labor Day weekend, so ultimately we will save UP for another time, and just head straight to Columbus.  This two weeks stung, because we have done so little this year and really wanted to explore traveling while I have my new job.

Here is a summary:

Obviously Covid is an outlier, but I still think there is a definite pattern.  We have had an average of greater than two instances a year for six years, and 12% downtime in days.  If you think that is an overstatement because of Covid, that’s fair.  Let’s take this year out of the equation and look at it another way.  Below is a rough estimate of how many days we worked or volunteered in one location.  I am not including the time I spent working my corporate jobs as working days but are showing them as location free days, because theoretically I could do it anywhere.

 

As you can see from above we worked in fixed locations 1018 days over the course of 5 years.  This meant that 56% of the time we were in one place for work.  Obviously we were in fixed locations for longer than that, but for the purposes of this lets just talk about the work stays.  That left 807 location free days.  Removing COVID from the equation in that five year period we had 106 interruption days which was roughly 13%.  Pretty close to to the 12 % above.

Based on these two slices of the data I think it is a fair projection that at least 10% of our time will be taken up by these types of incidents.  Certainly some of these would happen whatever lifestyle we were living, but  I cannot stress enough how extra complicated those things can be when you are traveling.  I would love to say that there are great technicians, auto mechanics, and doctors everywhere, but that has not been our experience.

For us so far it has been largely worth the cost, but it is also important to start being honest about the trend.  It would be much easier on our relationship if we quit treating these as anomalies and instead viewed them as a normal cost of living this lifestyle.  (I think that sentence might be one of the most important things she has ever written, so I am going to repeat if to make sure nobody missed it. I know everyone just scans through these posts looking for the stuff in italics, anyway. – Lee)

It would be much easier on our relationship if we quit treating these as anomalies and instead viewed them as a normal cost of living this lifestyle.

I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from trying the full timing lifestyle out but as always I believe accurate information helps people to make better decisions and be more realistic.

I know it would have done that for us.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can 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 Accident on the Road

(From Trace: As you can see from the title, my birthday did not end up so great.  After we left the sculpture garden we decided to go around downtown and see a bunch of other small things from the Roadside America app. We headed to the first one, and started to get hungry. Since we had the dog with us, our meal options were limited.  I love taking the puppy with us when we visit places, but lunch can be problematic, especially in a COVID environment. From this point, the writing is Lee)

As we were heading to our next site seeing location,  I noticed a McDonald’s right across the street and I made a left into the parking lot. 

As I  was pulling into the parking lot, there was a man in a Cadillac Escalade who was exiting.  Instead of stopping before he turned, he kept moving and turned directly into the left side of our truck, between the back half-door and the driver’s side rear wheel fender. He wasn’t going very fast, and neither were we, and we didn’t really feel the impact but more felt and heard the scraping.

 

This is the basic diagram I made for the insurance company to illustrate what happened.

 

We both stopped and separated the cars and then pulled into parking spaces to deal with it. (Initially I thought it was no big deal and wanted Lee to not make a big deal about it.  It is worth saying here that the gentleman was African-american and we were very close to the part of Minneapolis where the riots had occurred.  I kept thinking I didn’t want this simple accident to turn into anything else and kept feeling the need to apologize.  Luckily Lee told me quietly and firmly to be very careful about what I said.  It is common for people to say things and apologize after an accident that could be used as an admission of liability if there is a court case.  My major concern was not wanting to call the police.  I know it wasn’t very rational in that moment, but I just didn’t want to call them.- Trace

 It’s worth mentioning at this point that neither of us has ever been in an accident where there was an insurance claim. We weren’t really sure what to do so we were reading our insurance cards looking for directions.  While we were reading a young woman came up to us and said she witnessed what happened.  She gave us each her name and phone number and we both felt relieved there was an independent witness.  The driver of the other car was very polite, but obviously he was upset as well.  His paper insurance card was expired, but he said the policy was current and showed me on his phone that it was active and seemed very concerned that we would think he didn’t have active insurance. I understood completely, because I had both the most recent AND expired cards in my truck, and I almost NEVER have the current one.

Since we both have Progressive, Tracy called them and asked if we had to call the police.  They told us there was no need for a police report,  since there were no injuries and the cars were operable, but took some basic information.  I didn’t want to continue the claim in that moment (it was hot, we were in the handicap spots of a busy parking lot, and we were both hungry), but they reassured us I could finish the claim later.   We took some pictures of the damage to both cars, his license plate, driver’s license and insurance info.   I was worried about the fuel lines and brake lines, but they were well away from the outside panels, so we were fine to drive, it just looked terrible. 

This is the damage to his car. Not too bad, and you can see the points of impact and where it scraped along our truck.

 

This is the damage to our truck. Much worse.

 

Here are a few more pictures taken later in the day once we got home. In this first shot you can clearly see the dimple on the left, which is the point of impact, on the front left corner of the other car, and then in the other pictures you can see where it just slid back along the truck, pushing in as it went. 

 

 

 

After we got some McDonald’s, we went to our daughter’s house to calm down and file the claim on her computer.  Then we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with her. We were actually supposed to leave the next day and spend two weeks touring the Upper Peninsula, but I  decided I  wanted to deal with the truck here instead of later in Columbus, our stop after the UP. That turned out to be a good idea!

The next day, Monday, there was some confusion because the claim was handed off to a Florida adjuster, which is where we are insured, but the accident happened in Minnesota.  The claim needed to be processed in Minnesota, and as it turns out, the repairs had to be done in Minnesota or Florida. If we had moved on Monday morning as scheduled, we would have eventually had to go back, or go on to Florida, which was not in our plans. The MN adjuster also wasn’t completely sure if they would have been willing to hold the claim open for several weeks,  so we really needed to stay.  Once I resubmitted the claim with her, she said she would let me know the next day who was at fault, which would determine whether or not it would go on our insurance record, and whether we would pay our deductible. I honestly didn’t give it a lot of thought at that point,  because basic geometry and physics more or less guaranteed it was not my fault, plus there was a witness.

Tuesday, she called me back and wanted to start the process of getting the repair done, but told me I would have to pay the deductible and if I were found to be not at fault it would be returned to me. That made me a little nervous, because it can be very hard to get money back once it’s gone,  and our $1K deductible is not an insignificant amount of money.  I pushed back a little and asked what the hold up was with the determination. She said it was my word against his and she was waiting to hear back from the manager of McDonald’s to see the security camera footage. I asked her why they couldn’t just make a decision based on the pictures, and the statements of the two parties and the witness. She replied she didn’t have any pictures of the other car, and she didn’t know there was a witness.

At that point, I gave her the name and phone number of the witness again, and told her I would send her pictures of the other car. I had already sent  a bunch of my own car at her request.   I’m not sure why she didn’t ask the other guy to do the same. Later in the day she called back and said the witness statement supported the other party’s statement, so it was now my word against the word of two other people. I got pretty irritated and told her that she needed to get the security footage, or be willing to bring us all to an empty parking lot for a re-creation with an expert from the insurance company.  There was no way I was going to pay a $1000 deductible, plus have my rates skyrocket, as the result of a decision that weighted the statement of a person with a vested interest in the outcome over the laws of physics. I felt like kind of a jerk, but I also felt like I was being railroaded for being from out of town.  (At this point I just wanted the truck to go into the shop.  Since I wasn’t paying close attention when it happened, I honestly didn’t know whose fault it was, and thought maybe Lee was mistaken.  My one thought though was the witness didn’t necessarily have a good view and I was concerned with how haphazard the whole process was.  I encouraged Lee to just pay the deductible so we could get the process started but he was adamant and ultimately I just went with it.  UP was looking less and less probable as time passed and I mentally just let go of the idea we would get to go there.  – Trace)

Later that same say the adjuster called me back to tell me that she had seen the security camera footage. Lo and behold, the statements of the other party and the witness were, in her words, “less than accurate”. She said they determined I had no liability, and that my deductible would be waived and the incident would not be reflected in my rates in any way. Here’s the video, and it’s really, really bad. She shot it vertically with her phone on the monitor in the McDonald’s office, but you can pretty clearly see in the first pass that the red SUV turned left and never stopped or straightened his wheel, and just continued to turn right into me. It looks like I am also turning left, but that’s an optical illusion from the shadow of the truck. My wheels were straight the entire time, that’s how they determined I wasn’t at fault even partially. This is a concept I had never heard of, by the way, that they can assign a percentage of blame to each party.  If my wheels hadn’t been straight, she might have assigned as much as 50% of the blame to me.  I think maybe the witness was in the blue car, and if she was, it’s very possible that from her angle, with the truck being in the shadow, that it might have looked to her like the dually fender, which sticks out pretty far was my truck hitting the SUV. (Here’s my advice, if you are in an accident, BEFORE you leave the scene, look around for security cameras, and try to make arrangements then and there to obtain the footage later. Some systems only keep the footage for a certain period of time. It honestly didn’t even occur to me and this was totally critical to proving our case. – Trace

One of the first things the adjuster asked me was if I had a dashcam, and she mentioned several times that they were highly recommended in the insurance industry. After what I consider a “close call” with almost having to pay that deductible, or even half of it, I would have been better off having spent $100 on a dashcam and that would have been the end of it. I did some research and found a highly rated one so I am picking it up today, so I will write a post about it after I’ve used it for a few weeks.  (Our friend Bill bought one awhile ago and we should have followed his lead.  In general, Bill knows best 🙂 – Trace)

I selected a local body shop based on the fact that they were “in network” with Progressive, which would mean the work would be warrantied for the life of the vehicle, and they were very highly rated locally. They also have a dedicated location just for Progressive work, which really impressed me. I dropped it off and Progressive had a rental vehicle delivered to the shop so it was ready when I got there. I was really happy that it worked out that I was able to get a pickup truck, because the campground we are staying at doesn’t have sewer hookups, so I am using the Blue Boy and macerator pump  to manage the tanks. I wasn’t really interested in using a little subcompact car to do that. Our policy includes a rental for up to $50 per day for up to 30 days, and that pickup was under the $50 limit. (It’s worth mentioning here that a few months ago I was toying with dropping our premium coverage and going with liability only.  Lee was 100% against that because the truck is our only vehicle and was I glad I hadn’t done it.  Yes, it would have been covered under the other guy’s insurance but the whole situation would have been so much more stressful if we hadn’t had full coverage as a backup.  Plus knowing we had a rental car for 30 days really made the whole thing OK in my mind. It occurs to me at this point that I was wrong a whole bunch in this series of events, but hey, no one is perfect! – Trace) 

Personally I don’t think Trace was wrong on all these counts, we just have different points of focus, and we compliment each other. There are lots of times her advice covers gaps in my view as well. My particular mindset just happened to be useful here.

I dropped the truck off and they told me that the job was pretty extensive. They would need to remove the entire pickup box, and disassemble it, replace the entire left side (inner and outer and fender) and then put it back on and paint the left side of the vehicle. They also needed to replace the left running board and pull the dent from the column behind the door. They didn’t know how long it would take because they needed to find out how far away the body panels were, but they estimated 80 hours (!!!!!) of labor, all in. 

This was on Friday the 21st, and they had told me to check with them on Wednesday the 26th to get a better idea when it would be done. We were both pretty bummed about that, and we had to cancel all of our UP plans and rearrange our plans for arriving in Columbus, because we didn’t want to be traveling without reservations Labor Day weekend. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we were in a campground that we could extend and we didn’t have to worry about having to leave because someone had a reservation after us.   And while we lost our “vacation” time, we didn’t lose any money, and nobody was injured. Not as bad as it could have been overall. 

When Weds rolled around there was a few things that I needed to get out of the truck so I just drove over to check on the status instead of calling. When I got there the truck was nowhere to be seen, but the old left side was leaning against a dumpster with all the instructions written on it. I looked everywhere and could not find my truck anywhere inside or outside.

 

I started to really get upset when a guy came out and said he was really sorry someone had called me to tell me to pick it up because it wasn’t ready yet. It was close, but not quite. I told him I didn’t understand what he was talking about, my truck wasn’t even there. He took me over to a big garage door inside the garage, and showed me my truck, which was almost completely covered in plastic. It was a painting “booth”! And in the next “booth” was the bed, and the fender.

 

So it was finished, it just needed to be reassembled. He thought I had been mistakenly called to come get it, and I was completely floored that it was more or less done. I was fully expecting to hear that the parts were on their way and it would be two more weeks once the parts arrived. So the next day I was able to go pick it up and it looked great. 

 

For those who would be interested in such things, I did ask what the cost would have been if I had just brought it in and paid for the work to be done, and it was $8000. Really glad it all turned out the way it did.  As a side note,  I also asked them when I dropped it off what it would cost to repair the damage to the other side where the 5th wheel fell off the hitch and hit it way back in March 2015, and he said because of the type of damage around $2300.  Yikes!  I elected to leave it the way it was and it continues to be a reminder of why it’s important to do a bump test with the brakes.  (I had reservations about fixing it anyway because I like the reminder. -Trace)

(I was going to add some thoughts about how these type of incidents seem to continually happen and how they interrupt travel plans, but I have decided to do a separate post on that.  I am working on that now and it will be the next one we post.  -Trace)


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