First Time at Minnehaha Regional Park

One of the most impressive things about Minneapolis is their city park system.  Every neighborhood has at least a small park, and there are several really nice parks within walking distance of my daughter’s house.  By far the most special though is Minnehaha Regional Park which contains a spectacular waterfall, access to the river, and the most amazing dog park (by far) we have ever seen.  We took a wonderful walk with Jack and our daughter one day and this oasis of peace within a big city was amazing.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

 

 

Ms. Kat

 

There is a handicap friendly path to see the falls but if you are looking to see more there are steps up and down to the water.

 

 

 

There was a long path along the stream which ultimately leads to the Mississippi river.  Despite the urban setting I wish I would have worn my hiking shoes as the path was a bit rough.

 

 

Along the way there were a couple of large swimming areas

 

Although there wasn’t much trash we did see lots of clothing in different spots which was a bummer. It’s obvious this area sees lots of use.

 

We have been lucky enough to see the Mississippi in several states and I was excited to see it near the beginning.  Unfortunately because of the dam it was just OK, but the walk was pleasant. 

 

The Mississippi

 

Jack had his first drink of it

 

It was deeper than it looked as this boat showed.

 

After going to the Mississippi we walked up some steps and went down to the dog park section.  It was already a longer walk than I was prepared for, but we wanted to see it and I am so glad we did.  This park was the most amazing dog park I have ever seen.  It was 7 acres with lots of fencing and access to a large riverfront area.  Seriously amazing and Jack did so great with all of the other dogs.  If you are ever in the area I HIGHLY recommend taking your dog here.  Simply spectacular. 

 

The entrance

 

I love when dog parks do stuff like this. There was also a basket of tennis balls

 

This path was fenced in on both sides and loong

 

 

It led down to the river, beachy area

 

 

Jack was a fan

 

So many dogs but all well behaved.  There was plenty of space for everyone.

 

Jack didn’t go into the water with the big ones

 

But he made friends with this little guy.

 

After playing in the park and walking back we were all hungry out so we went to Parkway pizza.  Jack has never eaten outside with us before but he did great and the server brought him ice water in a bowl and pepperoni.  Plus Lee had what he considers the best pizza of his life.  Seriously he loved it so much we went back two days later and he got it again.  

 

Look at Jack being a good boy. Minneapolis is a VERY pet friendly city

 

The pizza! The sausage, sauce, and dough are all made onsite.

 

I even treated myself to a craft beer. Minneapolis has some pretty spectacular local breweries

 

Loved the day with our daughter and the weather was fantastic.  We have certainly had our fair share of hot and humid but this particular day was absolutely perfect. 


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Finally Seeing my Daughter Kat

Over the last several years we have had plans to see my daughter Kat in Minneapolis quite a few times, but other things kept getting in the way.  Finally we were headed towards her and because Lee had left the job early we had an extra week to spend with her.  Part of the problem with Minneapolis is the campgrounds are very few, and fill up quick.  So I had trouble finding anything that had weekend openings for the extra time until I stumbled across the Dakota County Fairgrounds in Farmington, MN.  In a normal year this would not have been an option since the week we needed was the same week as the fair, but due to COVID there is no fair this year, and there were plenty of openings. For us, fairground camping has been a mixed bag, but we were both thrilled that there was tons of grass (they are often just gravel or dirt of even concrete parking lots) and there was a very clean dump station onsite. Fairgrounds typically have just electric, or electric and water, but no sewer. We settled in and got Jack acclimated, which took a little time since there were so many new smells!!

There are four campers to one pedestal, but since it wasn’t crowded only two share ours.

 

There is a VERY nice wooded area far far away from everything and everyone to walk Jack and even a big open field I can let him off leash a little and not interfere with anyone at all.

 

It’s not fancy, but incredibly clean and well kept, the power is solid and I have strong AT&T.

 

Jack was happy to meet new friends. The camper to the left has a 7 month lab and the one to the right has a two year old retriever. Both are very sweet with Jack

 

Once we got settled in we went up to visit with Kat and saw her and her partner Adrian’s apartment.  It was really cute, and lovingly decorated along with having some beautiful gardens outside.  Kat definitely got her green thumb from her Grandma Dede and her decorating style is similar as well.

 

Kat and Adrian showing us the garden

 

I bought Kat these trellises and I was happy they were working out so well

 

Awesome cucumber

 

She’s planting at the base as well which is urban gardening at its finest

 

Inside was equally nice with tons of plants

 

And a super cute, eclectic feel. Like I said DeDe would have felt right at home there. I particularly like the foot stool which had a place to put remotes.

 

What’s really neat about her decorating style is almost everything was purchased at second hand stores.  Another day she and I spent the morning checking out her favorite places and they were all pretty cool.  Masks are mandatory in Minneapolis, so I wasn’t so much worried about the closeness, but a couple of the places did feel pretty tight in a COVID world. Great to see her in her element though.

 

 

 

Hunt and Gather was super cool

 

They had tons of neon and sign letters for sale

 

And a fantastic outdoor section. Kat scored several used pots for really cheap.

 

The vintage clothes were amazing

 

I loved this pile of old slides

 

And this little guy was pretty cute

 

Her very favorite though was Es Emporium. The owner lives upstairs and Kat has been going here for years

 

Each room of the house was decorated with related items, which I really liked

 

Including the patio

 

And gardens. Fantastic use of a small space to hold a ton of merchandise

 

We also had a chance to go and eat at their favorite restaurant, Hi Lo Diner, just down the street within walking distance from their house.  Rigid restrictions are in place so it felt safe and the menu was fun.  They specialize in homemade donuts with meals on them.  I didn’t get one, but they looked fun.

 

 

The most interesting thing was they had a full bar. First time I have ever seen that in a diner.

 

It has been very nice seeing her and getting to know Adrian better, and we actually decided to stay in the fairground instead of going to Lebanon Hills as we had originally planned. The monthly rate here at the fairgrounds is $550 and by taking advantage of that we saved $300 and got an extra week within a very short drive of her house. Still getting used to having to pay top dollar for campsites, because mostly we have been getting our sites for free as a result of being employed wherever we are, but between working, COVID, and the summertime we are just glad when we can find a place that we like. It’s funny but since getting Jack my campground requirements have changed.   Well kept grassy areas matter more than most other things and when there are off leash areas I am a big fan.  We never liked being tight with the next door campers, but in this environment that matters more than area.  Under these conditions we are willing to accept less in services (ie: no full hookups required) and staying put rather than moving around is definitely optimal.  


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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 Amazonor buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

July 2020 Budget

July was not a cheap month, as we spent $5352.  Lee made $1,035 at the job though which helped offset some of the costs.  In all fairness July has always been an expensive month for us as we had three family birthdays in that month.  Now we have four as we celebrated Oliver’s first birthday as well, and that all adds up.  For more details see below.

 

                             

Campground Fees – We spent $364 in campground fees.  At this point we are focused more on safe places with cell coverage and availability than cost.  That may change after summer, but for right now many people are camping since travel is so difficult, which limits choices. (Overall I think we will be spending more on campgrounds than we have in the past, because we were almost always working and getting the space for free, which will be less the case now. – Lee)

E-Cigarettes – I wanted to mention that the excise tax in Minnesota is incredibly high for e-cigarettes.  This came as a complete surprise to me and has almost doubled the cost. If I would have known I would have stocked up in Texas.

Clothing – Lee bought a pair of Merrell’s and ended up getting the waterproof version by mistake.  He didn’t like them after wearing them and ended up getting a second pair.  Those aren’t cheap so we took the hit for two pairs this month.

Dining Out – We ended up spending $434 on dining out.  Part of this was how hot it was as we traveled so we ate fast food and part was the restaurants opened up a bit and we treated ourselves. We have also been having problems with our convection microwave and ultimately needed to replace it.  While we are trying to coordinate getting the new one installed (it’s a two man job and I can’t help), we are a bit limited in what we can cook.

Entertainment – Traveling again we paid for some modest entrance fees, bought some books, and a couple magnets.

Gifts – We spent $312 on all the birthdays.  That’s actually not bad, I used some serious restraint when buying for Oliver.

Groceries – When we were in a remote area in Minnesota the food costs were definitely higher than Texas.

Home Repair – We spent over $600 on home repair/replace items.  This was $363 for a new air compressor, $166 for a new door for the washing machine, and $76 for the replacement microwave (we got a partial credit because it was only six months old).   I have noticed that many of the items we have had for 5 years are kind of simultaneously breaking.  In all fairness anything made in today’s world that lasts five years is great, but its unfortunate these things are all going at once.

Personal Care – I finally got a hair cut and a pedicure for $99.  Totally worth it.

Pets – We went a little crazy buying $129 worth of stuff for Jack.  Hadn’t been in a pet store for months so I got a new collar, new leash, lots of treats etc. I am still grooming him myself so that’s some savings in money.

Truck Fuel – We spent $577 in gas which really is pretty good considering we went from Texas to Minnesota and explored in between. Partly this was due to extremely low gas prices and partly due to using our TSD Logistics Program. So we went a little crazy but again we had some income to offset. 

We have managed to put $11K in savings in the last six months so I feel OK about where we are. I can’t overstate how different this is with having a regular income versus relying on work kamping jobs.  I know not everyone is lucky enough to find a job that allows for travel, but if you can I highly recommend it.

(Here’s some more detail for those that like that sort of thing! – Lee)

This month we used a total of 491.74 GB of data on our AT&T unlimited plan, across all of our devices. (Total for the year is a whopping 38.47 terrabytes. That unlimited plan is worth every penny.) 

For July we had a mixture of places we stayed….

  6 days “moochdocking” or staying with friends – $0
12 days  work kamping where the site was provided – $ 0
13 days  paid campsites – Total of $ 364.47, averaged to $  11.76 per night for the month

We put a total of 2,734.4 miles on the truck, 1,458.9 of which included the trailer with total engine hours for the month of 73 hrs, 35 mins, 33 secs. 

Year to date we’ve traveled 7,406.6 miles, 2,747.6 of which was pulling the trailer, with year to date engine hours of 203hrs, 01 mins, 43 secs. 

We burned a total of 270.6 gallons of diesel, and averaged 10.1 mpg for all of our travel, with a year to date total of 640.9 gallons at 11.6 avg mpg.

Our travel map for the month of July…

 

and our travel map year to date starting from Charleston after Christmas….

 

 

 

 

 


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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First Time Work Kamping Filling Crop Duster Planes – Week 2

As you can see from our last post that Lee had the weekend off but it was worth mentioning that the owner wanted people on call all weekend.  Two of the other guys volunteered for each day, but Lee was pretty adamant that he wanted the weekend off.  It was clear at this point that the owner wanted to have folks waiting around for his call, but that meant we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere at all or do anything at all.  As you saw we had a great time and Lee got caught up on well needed rest.

Day 6 –  Lee started work again at 6am on Monday but he wasn’t sure what to expect.  He thought they would be on a split shift again, but with no discussion the day just kept going and he ended up working a 13 hour day.  This was much preferable to a split shift so Lee was OK with working all the way through although he would have preferred some kind of communication as the day progressed. (The lack of respect for people is definitely a problem for me. There’s absolutely no reason not to tell people what’s going on. – Lee)

Day 7 – Lee was told that he didn’t need to come in until 8am but he “might” be called at 6am.  Once again Lee wasn’t OK with having to get up early just to wait around but one of the other guys volunteered to get up and be on call.  To be clear we have worked weather dependent jobs before.  The beet harvest had a system where you called a number first thing in the morning and they gave you the start times.  Amazon did something similar as well, so at least in those cases you had a hard start and end time sometime during the day.  This is a small company though and it seems to largely be based on the owners whim.  There maybe more going into his decision process but since he doesn’t communicate that, we simply don’t know.  Lee was let go this day at 2pm which largely wiped out the OT he had made yesterday.   No matter what the reason at this point, being available morning to night is only worth it if you are making money. (There’s definitely a pattern emerging here. I can’t entirely blame it on the owner, part of the problem seems to be the farmers. They all want their fields sprayed at the same time, based on the weather and where the crops are in the process. I get that. But none of this is being communicated. So the idea of working a 16 hour day to squeeze as much in as possible makes sense, but then the next day is a very short day which negates all that extra time. And again, the problem is the not knowing up front. I would NOT have taken the job if I had known this is how the schedule would be. – Lee)

Day 8 – Today was a 15 hour day and a very unpleasant one and Lee decided he had enough.  He stayed late after everyone else left and had a discussion with the owner.  After talking about how difficult the schedule was, Lee told him we were leaving.  Thankfully the conversation went well.  Lee stressed the importance of being upfront about the more unpleasant aspects of the job in advance and they parted on decent terms.

This is the first time we have ever left a work kamping job.  In the past we would probably have stayed because we would have needed the money, but since I am working we have more flexibility.  I am glad we didn’t slip out in the night or make up a “family emergency” but instead Lee had the decency to be honest about why we were leaving so hopefully things could improve for the next work kamper.

(I shot a few seconds of videos here and there during the short time I was there to compile a representation of what the job entailed. It’s basically these steps over and over for each flight, of each aircraft, all day with just waiting between flights. Although short flights meant really fast turnarounds, and the owner did say that once things got busy it would be 5 aircraft at a time, 16 hour days for a few weeks straight. Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered about the process of mixing chemicals and prepping a crop duster, here you go! – Lee)

The one thing Jack and I will really miss is the campsite.  It was absolutely fantastic with a wonderful onsite owner who was very cool about dogs.  There were two HUGE fields I could walk Jack along with a dead end we could walk down.  There was a pretty loud train that wandered through but since we had the AC on most nights it wasn’t a big deal. Seriously it is one of my favorite places we have ever stayed.  The name is Prairie NW RV Park and if you ever find yourself near Appleton, MN I would definitely stop by, although you have to  Contact Jason at (320) 289-1202 or (320) 760-7710 (after hours)  for reservations, because they don’t have any kind of website presence 🙂

 

 

 

Because there are few people here they have us in every other spot which is great

Behind our RV

This field is largely fallow and he loves it

This road stops at some railroad tracks and Jack and I walk here several times a day

The owner lives on site

Jack even made a friend, Rex, an 8 week old dauchsund. Watching them play was a blast.

 

 


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 Time in Tracy

To be fair this isn’t the first time I have been to a city named Tracy.  It’s goofy, but if possible I like to stop in these cities and take a picture of me by the sign.  My first experience with this was many years ago when I was on a business trip to San Francisco area and my travel partner was driving on the freeway and we were lost.  Suddenly a sign said “Tracy, Turn Here”..so of course we did and found a super cute little town. We also eventually found the place we were supposed to be going to 🙂  In this case because Tracy was right next door to Walnut Grove I knew we had to stop and huge bonus it turned out they had a train museum in the small town.      

 

 

We are always amazed by the quality of local museums and this was absolutely no exception. The Wheels Around the Prairie museum was HUGE with multiple buildings and loads of exhibits which were obviously donated by locals.  Plus they had a full size train, which Lee loved, and although it was pretty hot we enjoyed wandering through the buildings.  Especially because hardly anyone was there. 

 

They had a local veteran exhibit as well which is always nice to see in a small town

 

Loved this picture with Tracy and the Train. Yes I know its goofy 🙂

 

It’s always nice when you can climb into the train

 

Huge engine. Way taller than I am

 

Although sometimes cheesy I always like when they set up little vignettes

 

 

This was unusual as it was the old city council layout. I don’t think I have ever seen this before but glad they did it.  Small town politics is an important part of small town life.

There was one HUGE warehouse that had tons of stuff in it

 

My favorite was the counter from the old local diner

 

The old barber shop

 

Because many Norwegians settled here they also had some beautiful pieces of handmade art that were donated. 

 

This children bed was gorgeous

Even had a train on the top

 

And this handmade clock was really special

The only downside to our visit was many of the buildings were not air conditioned and by this time of day it was really hot…especially with masks on.  It so was so lovely getting out and exploring though, so if you visit Walnut Grove we absolutely recommend you drive a few extra miles and visit Tracy as well. 

 


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.

On the Banks of Plum Creek

We found ourselves with the weekend off, and we definitely wanted to do something on our list.  When we are staying in a new area for awhile I make a list of all the places I would like to see, and when we have time we can choose from the list. During the research process I was really surprised to find that Walnut Grove (the town from Little House on the Prairie) was 1-1/2 hours away.  I had read the books as a child, but was much more into the TV show and I had a vague notion it was in Kansas.  It turns out it was in southern Minnesota and when I saw that the museum was reopening from COVID closure that weekend I knew we have to go.  Thankfully Lee, who is always a good sport about these kinds of things, was game so off we went. While we were driving I checked the Roadside America app and looked for places to stop along the way.  I have always been a huge fan of the app, but I was pleasantly surprised by how COVID friendly it is.  Most of the stops are outdoors and here are a few places we jumped out and took pictures of along the route.  This was very rural country by the way, and the app had plenty to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Giant bell

 

Cool fireman statue

 

Lovely mural

 

Giant wooden viking

 

And my personal favorite the “Worlds Oldest Rock”

 

 

Finally we made it to the site of the homestead and cheerfully paid our $5 to enter the property.  As we travel we have seen several places that are on private property that the owners make available to the public.  I never mind paying them a small maintenance fee and am always grateful that they allow folks to visit. Fair warning this place is not big rig friendly, so I would definitely recommend going with just your vehicle.

 

We turned down a long country road

 

Saw a beautiful little farm

 

And then saw this sign.  Bring a $5 bill. And even though it says “tour bus” it’s NOT big rig friendly.

I should probably stop at this point and give a little background.  If you have read the books you know there were major differences between them and the TV show.  On the banks of Plum Creek has most of the story we remember fondly and this was the land they owned during that time period.  They actually moved several times during her childhood as this map shows.

Although I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect I will admit I got goosebumps when we saw the creek.  It may have changed its path since she lived there, but it was still the same body of water.

The road ends in this small parking circle, with the creek to the right. As you can see, there’s plenty of parking, but all it takes is a few vehicles and suddenly there’s no room to turn a rig around.

 

Plum Creek

The signage isn’t great when you get there, but go to the right to see the creek and to the left is a bridge that takes you to the former dugout location.  Since the one other person went left, we went right and came upon what might have been the “big rock.”  In the book Laura talks a lot about the big rock and this was the only one they could find left on the property.  It probably isn’t the same one, but it was still fun and I definitely had to take a picture on it.

 

 

 

 

 

\

 

As you can see from the smile I felt like a little kid again. That in itself was worth the $5 🙂

 

To the left was a nice wooden bridge and the dugout site.  It was very common for farmers to live in a dugout until the first crop came in and they used the proceeds to build a house.  They had plenty of wood, but nails and other things cost money and they didn’t want to invest until they were sure the land would yield.

 

View of the creek from the bridge

 

 

They planted the area around the site with traditional plants that would have existed at that time and only cut a walking path which was pretty cool.  This view definitely made me think of Laura skipping through the meadow.

 

The homestead site itself I need to say is not particularly glamorous.  If you have no sentimental attachment to the books, save your money because all you will see is a hole in the ground.  I saw a little piece of history and was particularly impressed by how small it was. Of course this is what the dugout hole looks like after over 100 years of being flattened by rain and wind and time, which eventually erases everything. 

 

 

 

It was hard for me to picture though so I was glad when later we went to the museum and they had a recreation.  I’ll show that here, but remember this is only at the museum.

 

 

I had three girls also and I am trying to imagine raising them in this

 

Two of the interior walls looked like this

 

 

We didn’t spend long at the homestead site because it was so hot, but drove into town and saw the museum.  The gift shop is free, and it was a super nice one, and touring the museum area was only $2 a person.  The smaller buildings were closed because of COVID but it was still worth it especially the room where they had lots of memorabilia from the TV show.  Over the years many of the actors from the show have visited this small town and the pictures and stories really brought back a ton of memories.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awesome gift shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ma and Pa

 

 

Mary’s story was interesting because in the TV Show she got married but not in real life

 

 

Laura did not start writing these books until late in her life, which I didn’t know either

 

My favorite character was Nellie.  There was something about the spoiled brat turning into a nice woman that was really compelling.  The actress who played her has visited the area many times and is a local favorite.

 

 

 

 

I loved this buffalo coat

 

 

And an entire outfit worn by the Doc in the TV Show

 

 

But the absolute best was Pa’s fiddle from the TV show which gave me chills

 

After we walked around, we were both hungry and I was thrilled to see a sign for Nellie’s cafe in town.  We haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since COVID started, but since it was small and only held 23 people we felt it was worth the risk.  We ate at the counter and the owner was really great. The food was also yummy, Lee loved his Frisco burger, onion rings, and of course a piece of home made pie.

I even bought a $12 T-Shirt

 

Carol the owner runs a tight ship and we highly recommend stopping there is you are in the area.

 

 

 

One thing that really was interesting about this visit was when I posted it on Facebook I heard from so many people my age who were jealous!  Several people I knew also reached out and said they had been there which really surprised me because you have to go to some trouble to get to the town.  Again if you are not a fan I don’t know that it was worth it, but if you are it was more than worth the time and money spent.  For us as our first full day out exploring since Covid, it was darn near perfect. 

Next up we decided to stop in Tracy, Minnesota and stumbled across a really cool Train Museum!


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.

First Time Work Kamping With Crop Duster Planes – Week 1

When Lee started looking for a job in June, he wanted to find something that didn’t deal directly with the public and mostly had weekends off.  I did some research for him and gave him multiple options, but he selected working at a small airport mixing chemicals and fueling crop dusting planes.  The job was in Minnesota (near our daughter), did not involve the public at all, and paid $15 an hour.  It also had weekends off although during the “busy season” he knew he would be working long hours and some weekends.

It sounded fine to me and we headed that way, ultimately arriving in Appleton, MN.  We received several phone calls along the way to make sure we were en route, and when we finally arrived at the campground the owner of the company came right over to meet us.  We were thrilled with our site at the campground and happy to be in one place for awhile.  The owner of the company told us that in previous years he had always hired college students, but when he lost several to graduation this year he decided to try work kampers.

Dealing with adults rather than college kids is certainly different, but he seemed open to the concept of work kampers and Lee and I both got a really good vibe from him.  Lee and I spent the next day getting oriented to the area (grocery store, hardware store etc) and then Monday morning Lee started working. Below is an account of how the first few days went.  As always, keep in mind experiences vary from person to person, so I will try to state things as factually as possible.  Value judgement as presented are Lee’s alone and may not mirror someone else’s experiences.

An Air Tractor crop duster.

 

Day 1 –  The first day Lee went into work, he was pleased that the office was large and well kept and the kitchen/break area was well stocked.  Everything was pretty new and nice and clean and tidy. The airport is only 1-1/2 miles from our campground, but since the schedule is variable we knew Lee would not always get home at the same time.  Thankfully our neighbor was also work kamping along with Lee, and since he had access to an extra vehicle from the company he was able to give Lee a ride each morning so I could have use of our truck. The first day started at 8am and since it rained and the planes couldn’t run much, Lee and the other new guy mainly learned the mixing and pumping systems and practiced mixing chemicals using colored water.

The job is essentially to mix specific types of chemicals (based on individual farmers work orders) and then pump those chemicals into the planes when they came into the hangar.  The planes also need fueled and windshields cleaned, etc. Because this is a fast paced business, it is a little like NASCAR where the “pit crew” gets the plane out as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately the process is not simple and there was definitely stumbling the first day.  There was some pressure to go faster, even in a practice environment, but Lee held firm that accuracy was more important than speed that first day. (I believe that it’s better to teach muscle memory correctly then build to speed rather than force speed and learn bad habits. Efficiency is both an art and a science. And I’m also deeply suspicious of any environment that creates artificial urgency and stress, especially for new people, as it benefits nobody and nothing. – Lee)

The environment is also no joke as these planes have live propellers that don’t stop spinning when they come into the hangar, and the chemicals being mixed and pumped are pesticides and fungicides and are extremely toxic.  A mistake costs not only time and money, but could also result in a serious injury.  When Lee came home at 5pm that first day he really wasn’t sure what to think.  He found the work itself interesting, but was having a hard time getting the process.  This was partly due to haphazard training and inconsistent instructions, but it was also due to the level of complexity, and Lee hoped the next day would be better in a live environment. At the end of the day he was told to return the next day at 8am. (Again, I am always very concerned when there is no documentation or formal training for a job. That says a LOT about the environment immediately. People put time and money into what they care about, and the opposite is also true. Something this complex and dangerous should have ample safety and other training. “Don’t get that stuff on you” is not training. Being taught y someone who arrived two months before you who is ALSO a work-kamper just leads to middle-man syndrome. But I also chalked most of the chaos up to the fact that the owner was used to working with college kids instead of adults (not sure why I thought that mattered) – Lee)

 

Boom with spray nozzles

Day 2 –  The second day it stopped raining and Lee knew it would be for real.  It was a bit of a stumbling effort getting into the pattern of filling the planes for real, and there was definitely more pressure to do it quickly.  Around 5:30pm Lee was told the crew was working until dark and one of the employees gave him a ham and cheese sandwich.  Lee knew that they would eventually be going long days but didn’t expect it to start immediately, on his second day, so he didn’t bring lunch and dinner.  Plus he didn’t have any goggles and by the end of the day his eyes were burning.  Whether that was from jet fuel exhaust or chemicals he didn’t know but when he finally got home at 9:30pm he reeked of something and his eyes were red and watery.  As tired as he was I made him take a shower before he came to bed, mainly because I didn’t want that stuff on his skin.  He was told before he left that they were starting the next day at 6am and we scrambled to figure out what food he could take that would work for the whole day.  Again he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.  There was lots of down time in between planes, but the lack of a plan and the physical impact were getting to him. (For me, this level of ambiguity in scheduling is a problem. To go from “It will be M-F during the day” to “It will be any time between dawn and nightfall plus weekends” is a pretty big jump. the jet fuel fumes were definitely a problem, and I was really unhappy that no goggles or respirator mask were provided. Again, these small things tell a lot about how an organization is run and what the priorities are. Someone who has been doing something for 40 years already knows that people should have masks and goggles. They’re not missing because of oversight. I specifically asked if personal protective equipment would be available in the phone interview, and was told that it would all be provided. – Lee)  

 

“Cones” used for mixing chemicals

 

Day 3 – The third day he got up at 4:45 and was out the door at 5:45am.  On one of my breaks in the morning I went to the local hardware store and bought the last pair of goggles.  Lee needed something to completely cover his eyes and by the time I got him the goggles he already had an abrasion of some kind.  It could have been a piece of metal, or grit, or really anything and I was glad I was able to get him the goggles for future protection.  The work was much easier on the third day though and they were turning planes in 4-6 minutes, which seems pretty fast for brand new people. Because only two planes are running currently they generally had a 20 minute break between planes.  This will change as more pilots are added, but for now the pace was manageable.  Unfortunately today was the day we learned that he would normally be working split shifts when they sent the crew home around 1pm.  Turns out the wind kicks up almost every day between 1pm and 5pm so most days they leave and come back and work 5pm until dark.  The problem was Lee was expecting to work long days and because he would be making overtime it was worth it.  Now he learned that the long days would not all be paid and he was “on call” during his down time.  Personally I had a big problem with that because it was definitely not communicated to us prior to him taking the job and it left us both wondering what other piece of news would happen next.  Still he decided to continue to work it out and see what came next. (This is a really big deal to me. A split shift is unpleasant and is the sort of thing, again, that should have been clearly communicated on the phone. Starting a day at 6am and working until 9:30pm with a break of unknown length in the middle makes for a VERY long day and if you’re not the napping type, which I’m not, you get tired pretty fast. – Lee)

 

Mixing chemicals in another vat mixer.

 

Day 4 – Once again Lee got up early and was onsite by 6am but this time he was prepared.  He had lots of food, was prepared for a long day, and the break that would probably come early in the day.  By 8:30 though the wind was strong and there was thunder and some rain.  Based on what had happened the previous day I expected Lee to come home, but instead they kept working.  The “work” consisted of following the owner around for 2-1/2 hours and having him talk about his plans,  but nothing else really happened.  To be clear at this point the work itself was completely fine with Lee but the arbitrary nature of the schedule was tough.  He understood that the weather dictated what they could do but the work was also based on how the owner was feeling that day.  To be fair this is pretty common in most small businesses, but most employees also have set hours and some level of job description.  Different people have different levels of job flexibility, but I think most people appreciate some kind of structure to work in.  Again, your mileage may vary on that, but the lack of structure seems to be a common theme with these seasonal jobs. Lee ultimately had to go back in at 5:00 pm but was let go again at 8:00 pm.

 

Fueling and pumping in chemicals

 

Day 5 – Lee started the morning again and they worked until noon.  At that point Lee was trying to get a feel for what was happening over the weekend, but not surprisingly no one wanted to commit.  When they ran out of work orders at noon, Lee really pressed the issue.  Finally the owner said they weren’t working the weekend and Lee left for the day around 12:30.  For the entire week he ended up with 40 hours RT and 8 hours OT which seems great, but he was essentially on call from 6:00am to 9:00 pm for three of five days. Keep in mind on call means on call.  No driving far away, no drinking, and no getting into anything that you couldn’t easily get out of.  Lee did manage to go to Walmart one day, but that was only a 25 mile drive and it was raining when he left.

So what do we think so far? Well, the owner was definitely not transparent about the downsides of the job, but Lee also didn’t ask the right questions.  Since the owner has only had college kids in the past he may not have known the types of questions we would ask, but I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t think the split shifts would be a big deal.  From Lee’s perspective the long hours are fine (since he gets OT) but the stop and start nature of the work coupled with the long window he needs to be available is problematic.

He likes the work itself although there have been several potential safety issues.  To be fair the owner has largely addressed those as they were brought up, but since he has been doing this for a long time it is surprising they exist.  Again college kids might not notice or say anything, but an older person with grand kids and a wife would feel differently.  $830 gross per week is not a bad check, but there are limits to what we would do for that kind of money.

 

 


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TSD Logistics Fuel Card

(This post was written by Lee – Trace)

This is a pretty long post about not just the discount fuel program, but also about fueling at truck stops in general. There’s lots of information for people who love the details, like me. If you don’t want all that stuff, here’s the New York City version: I’m going to tell you how to save a TON of money buying fuel for your rig. A TON. So get a cup of coffee and enjoy.

This is only a matchbox type camper, and doesn’t really use fuel, but it’s a great picture, and some people like the blog just for the pictures. Later there will be pictures of pigs, for people who like bacon.

Since we recently started traveling again,  after sitting for six months, we started thinking about the costs normally associated with travel, such as campground fees, and fuel. Normally diesel is more expensive than gas, sometimes by quite a bit. We’re not the only ones who worry about this. Every rig burns fuel, whether you’re in a modified matchbox van or the largest and most expensive class A bus.

Look at all those stars. While you’re driving around living your life, you’re going to save money equal to the number of those stars. (If you burn enough fuel.)

Because fuel is one of the major costs in this lifestyle, we are always on the lookout for cheaper ways to fuel up when we travel. Normally this topic might be considered boring by most people, but what if I told you that you could be saving up to fifty cents per gallon, and sometimes even more, whenever you fuel up? Would that be boring?

Get ready to bring home the bacon!!! It might seem like a small amount of money, but just watch. It grows, trust me.

TSD Logistics offers RVrs access to their fuel program, and the savings are pretty spectacular. Before I go any further, I want to stress that this is NOT a credit card. It is NOT a membership program. It is NOT for gas. It is for diesel fuel ONLY, so if you do not purchase diesel, then you can stop reading here. Or, you can keep going so you can tell all your diesel buying friends about it! In addition to the savings on fuel, you can get up to $200 in cash per week (just like using an ATM) but there are no fees, so it’s cheaper than using most ATMs. And a further bonus, you can also use the card to purchase DEF in truck lanes that offer it, although there will be little or no discount for the DEF. Still a nice convenience for anyone who uses the DEF pump. (And if you don’t, you should try it, it’s much better than pouring the DEF in from a box or jug).

TSD Logistics is a bulk transport freight company that has been around since 1980, so they’re firmly established and stable, and will likely be around for a long time. Their primary work is as a carrier of the tire and rubber industry’s raw materials, including silica and carbon black. They invented some of the trailers and hoppers in common use today. Headquartered in Texarkana, TX, but operating throughout the US,  they are able to negotiate some pretty impressive discounts on diesel fuel. (To be clear we are in no way associated with this company and are not being directly compensated to write this post.  I should probably also state here that this is based solely on our experience and opinions.  We always try to give good advice, but as always your mileage may vary. – Tracy)

TSD Logistics, where the trucks are as sexy as the diesel discounts!

The discounts are then made available to anyone who wants to sign up for their fuel card, which is through the Wex EFS system.

Once you have applied for and received the card, using it is relatively simple, with a few minor caveats. I will talk about those, and go into more detail about each step, but here’s how easy it is:

  1. Pull your rig into a truck lane at a truck or fuel stop that is part of the discount program.
  2. Insert or swipe the card at the pump.
  3. Answer the questions on the screen like you would at any pump.
  4. Pump your fuel (and DEF if available and needed)
  5. Details regarding your transaction, including the discount and fees show up in the app usually within a few minutes.
  6. Within 2-5 business days the money is drafted from your bank account and you receive an email showing you the details of the transaction and the TSD fees.
  7. Rinse, and repeat, and let the savings pile up!

You’re gonna be rich! Well, not rich, but less poor than you are now.

I already mentioned this before, but it’s very important, so I will mention it again. This program is an extension of a trucking company, using their buying power to get you the “pro” price for diesel. So it’s not for gas. Diesel only. Look for green, although green doesn’t ALWAYS mean diesel. If you don’t see a sign that says DIESEL, or a diesel price, keep on going.

I would absolutely fuel here.

As I mentioned before, it’s NOT a credit card, it behaves more like a debit card. You use it instead of your debit card, but it’s connected to your checking or savings account.  Then any money you spend is deducted from your checking account in a day or so, just like a debit card. (Some people open a secondary checking or savings account only for use with this program, because they are concerned about giving out their checking account information. If that’s something you want to do, you certainly can. Just be sure there are funds in any account associated with the card; they charge a $15 fee for insufficient funds.) To start with, if you want to attach this card to a separate checking or savings account, you’ll need to open one. Then you can either click HERE, or go to this address to apply for the card:  https://tsdv.loadtracking.com:8443/im/fuelcardapp

“Apply” isn’t really the right word, you’re really just signing up. There’s no credit check, and I can’t think of a reason why they would reject anyone. They do ask for a social security number to protect them from people who sign up and buy fuel with an empty account. Here’s what the form you will fill out looks like:

 

As participants in the program, we get a small fuel credit for each person who signs up and uses the card, so if you do decide to get a card, please consider putting “Lee Perkins” in the Referred By field! Once you get the card, you can start using it immediately.  (Although we are not being paid to promote this company we would receive a one-time $25 fuel credit once a new customer spends buys 100 gallons of fuel.  Hopefully you know us well enough by now that we would NEVER recommend a company unless we believed in it. A little bit of free fuel is always a good thing though so we will certainly take it if you decide to use our names and use the program.  If you have concerns please skip referring us, but we still recommend you try it out.  There is no upfront cost, and if it doesn’t work for you we can’t think of any downsides to having the option. – Trace)

Since we started full timing, we have always preferred truck stops to gas stations, and truck lanes to car or RV lanes when we are hitched up. There are a lot of reasons for this. We got a Good Sam Pilot/Flying J credit card because that’s the brand I prefer, and we get a $0.08 discount off the cash price, which typically brings the Flying J/Pilot price down to match the rest of the chains. So I got to use the place I prefer, and not pay a premium for it. Truck stops are everywhere; they’re right at the exits, they are generally very easy to get in and out of and they generally have plenty of room to maneuver and park. Some of them are just massive places! They are designed for big rigs, all of which are bigger in every way than any RV.

 

Look at the size of this place!!

Plus, fresh diesel is better than stale diesel, and these places move a LOT of fuel. There’s also no transaction limit. Lots of gas stations have $100 per card or per day limits, and large class A motorhomes can easily take that much fuel. As can many large pickups with auxiliary tanks. Most of the major chains have locations that are sized based on how busy they are, so you can see centers with 20 or more truck lanes. The pumps are also high volume, so it doesn’t take long at all to fuel, usually less than half the time of a standard pump. The caveat to that is if you have a pickup truck, make sure it has the large nozzle hole. Not all of them do. And as mentioned before, most now have DEF pumps at the truck lanes. Most larger chains have pretty well stocked convenience stores, and food options. Of course, all of these benefits usually mean the cost of fuel is a little higher, but that’s why we only use them when traveling.

The slightly higher price is worth it to us to not have to hassle with going miles away from the interstate and negotiating in and out of a tiny and possibly busy or closed gas station. And now, we can get all of those benefits AND spend less in most cases than local gas stations. We use the Gas Buddy app to find fuel prices when we’re not hitched, and many times the TSD discount price is lower than places like Wal Mart and others. When we’re hitched we use a variety of apps to find truck stops, mostly Truck Stops Pro. When we last traveled any considerable distance, a few weeks ago from San Antonio to western Minnesota, without fail the TSD discounted price at every location was lower at every major chain, and at tiny “mom and pop” type truck stops the price was the same as the cash price at those locations.

An unscientific collection of data has shown us that generally speaking, those small private truck stops are usually a little more rough around the edges, and the price is usually the same as “in town” gas stations. No frills, no extra markup on diesel. This is important to remember when I get to how TSD makes their money on your purchases.  (For me this was the major downside of using the program.  Flying J’s and Pilots are pretty consistent, but we were exploring new territory by using smaller truck stops.  They were a real mixed bag.  Some were really nice and clean and others not so great.  This matters mostly for me because I try to walk the dog at every stop.  I will say that some Pilots and Flying J’s are not that clean either.  They are very consistent on the products they stock though. Mainly I am looking at this as a bit of an adventure and am trying to be more flexible.  If you are super routine oriented around your stops this might not be the best choice for you. – Trace)

Just look at all those nice big empty lanes!!!

So, if you already are used to using truck lanes at truck stops, saving a bunch of money is going to be yet another benefit for you. If you haven’t done it, there’s genuinely nothing to be afraid of. You should give it a try whether you get this card or not, or while you wait for the card. Here are some basics to be aware of before you decide to give it a try. This isn’t everything, and if anyone comments things I have left out, I will update the post with them.

You are absolutely allowed to use truck lanes in a truck stop to fuel any RV or a pickup with or without a trailer hitched. These places are businesses, who want to make money, and your money is just as good as anyone else’s. Don’t be shy. Get on in there and stimulate the economy. If anyone ever tells you otherwise, smile and nod and tell them you’re on vacation from the Northern Mariana Islands. That’s a US territory, so they won’t hassle you for being a “foreigner”. If they ask why you don’t have an island tan, tell them you just got out of prison. Pull out a map and ask them for directions to the Grand Canyon. They’ll leave you alone.

The entrance is almost always separate from the car entrance.  They are also usually HUGE entrances. Whenever possible, until you get the hang of them, try having your co-pilot look the location up on Google earth and spot the truck canopy. It’s usually in the back, and long and narrow. Then have them back track looking for the entrance. It’s usually like a service road, and in busier areas it can have it’s own traffic light. And usually, the car lanes and truck lanes are on opposite sides of the main building, and usually you cannot get from one to the other unless you go back out to the road and come back in. This is to keep cars from getting into the truck area.

Take your time. Go slow. Turn wide whenever you can. Pay attention to the layout and how trucks are parked and moving around. There’s almost always LOTS of space to maneuver, and if you are moving slowly you can see what others are doing and just copy them.

Don’t try to get the closest lane to the store. Usually that one is a dummy lane, and nonfunctional. When you can, take an empty lane rather than pull in behind someone. Truckers can take a long time to pull away, and backing up is tricky and dangerous. Impossible once someone pulls up behind you. Try to approach lanes as straight as you can so you don’t take up space you don’t need.

Stay put. If you have to wait in line, stay in the rig. The truck in front of you might pull forward within seconds or 15 minutes, but you don’t want to be the guy holding up the lane. Truck drivers aren’t shy about correcting your behavior.

Be prepared. Diesel is dirty disgusting filthy greasy stuff. It will be on the ground, so be careful, you don’t want to fall. It will be on the pump, the handle, the windshield cleaner, everything. Wear gloves, don’t lick anything.

Run inside. If you don’t have a card for that brand, or a fleet card (another reason to have a TSD EFS card!) you will likely have to go inside and lay down your card. Make a note of your lane number, otherwise you will have to go all the way back out to get it. And it can be a LOOOOONG walk.

Don’t wander. That fuel comes out of the pump FAST and HARD. If you wander, you will regret it. Ask me how I know. Don’t try to top off the tank, either. Ask me how I know.

Top off your DEF. I don’t care that it’s a little more money, I get DEF at the pump because it’s easier than using a box or a jug. Trust me.

Do your business and pull up. Once you’ve fueled up, cleaned you windows, checked your tire pressure (lots of truck stops have air hoses in the truck lanes!) and thrown our your trash, etc, get back in your rig and pull up; there’s often a line on the pavement showing you where to pull to. Trucks have MUCH larger tanks and take a while to fuel, so by clearing the lane, the guy behind you can do his thing while you run in to grab a snack and go to the bathroom. In most cases you will be back out before they are even done fueling. If you are doing anything else, like laundry (YES! Most truck stops have laundry facilities) or taking a shower, or having a sit down meal, whatever, then you really should go back out to your rig, park it in a parking space (if you’ve never done it before, it can be exciting to park your rig between two semi trucks, be sure and take a picture!) and go back inside. You might even decide to spend the night. It’s not as common as Wal Mart, but truck stops can be a safe and reasonable place to sleep at night. Just be sure to ask at the counter what the rules are. Some places charge a fee, some offer varying hookups, and some just want to be told that you are staying over.

Don’t weigh your rig. The one thing you don’t want to do at a truck stop is get weighed. (If you want to know how much something weighs, then weight yourself on the scale inside, although I don’t recommend that either.) RVs need to be weighed tire by tire to get any kind of accurate information, and weight and tire safety is too critical to do it badly. Don’t waste your money or the time of professionals who need to get weighed. 

Some Pilot and Flying J locations (and possibly other chains, I don’t know) have “RV” lanes. These are super convenient for some folks, because they are usually off to the side of the regular car canopy, and will often have long pole windshield cleaners, dump and fresh water fill stations, and propane refilling. Lots of people LOVE these RV lanes because they offer lots of amenities for the RVer. I’ve used them, and I’m not a fan, mainly because they don’t have high volume pumps, and they ALWAYS require that you go around the car canopy and right in front of the main building to get in or out, and there’s always a ton of foot and vehicle traffic. Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, the TSD discount does NOT apply at RV lanes. TRUCK. LANES. ONLY.

Stay away from these RV lanes, even if there are signs that say “RV HERE”. You won’t get the better price.

Here’s how TSD makes money from this program. When you use the card, in addition to paying the discounted price for fuel, you pay 10% of the discount to TSD. In most cases, there is also a $0.65 fee that is added that is charged by the truck stop. This means that there are some cases where the card is NOT the best option, and you will need to do some quick math to determine that. If you are going to save less than $0.65 on a fill up and they charge the $0.65 fee, then you are paying more. Maybe just one penny more, but math is math.

So, to keep this super super simple:

Retail Price:       $ 3.00 per gallon
Discount Price:  $ 2.50 per gallon
Fee to TSD:        $ 0.05 per gallon
Transaction Fee $ 0.65

Once you’ve got your shiny new EFS card, you’ll want to get the app. That’s very important, because you will want to use it to see what the prices are like, especially if you are going to be fueling near a city. TSD gets different discounts not just for each brand, but for each location, so the price can vary a LOT from truck stop to truck stop, especially around a city. On the open road it will be less so, but you still want to know what your options are. The app is not required. You will still get whatever discount is available if you use the card at a participating location, but you’re flying blind without the app and in some cases you will pay more than you need to, so I highly recommend the app.

Please be aware that while I was writing this I got an email from TSD telling about a MAJOR update coming soon to the app, so I will update this post once that happens with the new info and changes.

Right out of the gate I have to say that I am pretty unhappy with the app just as a spoiled user of technology. In this day and age it feels un-intuitive, and clunky. It works, but you will find it wanting. Download it, and to start with you will need to enter the entire ridiculously long card number. Your thumbs will get tired. Then the password. If you have the option, tell your phone you want to do the thumb scan or whatever other shortcut for logging in in the future. Sometimes when you launch the app after you’ve told it to remember all the info, the info isn’t there, and you have to close and reopen the app. And then it’s there. The first screen is just a list of your recent transactions. To see what’s available near you, you can look at the map,  which will show you locations and prices within a radius that you can preset in preferences. For the purposes of this example, I am showing nearby Minneapolis:

The lowest price will always show up as a green icon, which I think is a nice feature. Other locations show the price. Locations where there is no price usually means that there is no negotiated discount. They will still take the card, but you will pay the “street” or cash price. If that’s the case, you should NOT use the card, because in addition to the street price you will pay the $0.65 transaction fee. But in this example, you can see that $1.879 is the current lowest price.

TSD negotiates a discount on the per gallon price, so if the station changes a price, the TSD price changes accordingly. If I tap on that location, I see that it’s a TA (TA is usually the best price based on current negotiations between the chains and TSD.) You can also see the address and lat/lon of the truck stop, but that’s it.  (I really don’t like this.  I often pick truck stops based not only on gas prices but food options.  When its hot we tend to grab some fast food at these stops.  If you always use your RV bathroom and RV kitchen to eat this is less of an issue. -Trace)

I don’t know why, but they choose not to include other useful stuff. Here’s a screen shot of the same truck stop in the Truck Stops Pro app. As you can see, it tells me the same info, but also tells me the distance, how many parking spaces there are, how many lanes, how many DEF lanes, LOTS of useful info. And I can click “ROUTE” and it will dump the address into my maps app to take me there. ALL of this should be in the TSD app, in my opinion.

If I then look that same location up in another app, I see that the retail price is $ 2.199. So the discount is $ 0.32 per gallon. TSD Logistics will add a fee of 10% of that, which would be $ 0.032 per gallon, so the “adjusted” price per gallon is now $ 1.919. That means to fill my 35 gallon tank will cost $ 67.16 plus the $ 0.65 transaction fee, for a total of $ 67.81 instead of $ 76.96. I saved $ 9.15 on that fill-up. I know that seems like a small amount after all the buildup, but that’s about 11% savings. Based on that if we had used that card all last year, we would have saved $600. If someone were to say, here’s $600, do you know what you would do with it? (Trace would buy presents for our grandson.) (You bet I will – Trace)

Here’s $600. You’re welcome.

The app also allows you to do basic Point A to Point B route planning that shows truck stops along the way so you can plan to take advantage of the lowest prices.

But here’s another major failing in the app, for me. In order to do routing, you must have a city, state and zip code. That’s just stupid. So now while you’re bouncing down the road your copilot has to look up zip codes on the internet just to put in a “TO” location to get a green line to show you truck stops along the way. This NEEDS to be fixed. (Totally agree.  I was using two different apps just to make this work.  I would find the location on the EFS app and then look up the other info and routing.  It was pretty frustrating initially, but I ultimately got the hang of it.  I found it was MUCH easier if I did it way in advance so I wasn’t trying to find a place under pressure. – Trace)

As I mentioned, they are releasing a new version of the app in a few weeks, so hopefully some of this no-brainer stuff will be fixed. I will definitely be updating this post with the new information once the app is released. In the meantime, here’s the text of an email I received talking about various upgrades:

“We are releasing a beta test on our new TSD app this week.  We are estimating a public release by the end of August to all iOS users, with the Android release shortly after that.  It has some really great, new features including the ability to track multiple cards at one time, more details on each fueling station, the ability to send feedback to TSD on an individual station, and many more opportunities for savings. One of those opportunities will include access to new insurance options for you and your RV.  Soon, you will be able to request a no-obligation quote directly from the new app and take advantage of the collective buying power of our entire group. We are also making big investments in our billing system to allow you more visibility and accessibility to your account.  This will allow you to sign up for an online account where you can view all of your ACH statements, edit your bank account information, see your referral credits and monitor your account status in real time.  Look for an email within the next few weeks to sign up for this exciting, new service.  Simply follow the link, agree to the new terms and conditions and create an account.  From there, just enter all of your information including your bank account. You will not need to re-enter your social security number or the person who referred you. We are very excited about these new features and we hope this will make your experience with our program more user friendly.  We are continuing to improve our program every day and could not do this without the help of you, our loyal customers.  You have been instrumental in growing our program and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support.”

So here’s some details of our recent drive from San Antonio to western Minnesota, and what we saved:

Starting out from San Antonio, Gas Buddy showed me the cheapest diesel in the area was $2.39, and the retail price at the TA was a whopping $2.75. The TSD price was only $ 2.247. A difference of $ 0.51, which gave them a “commission” of $ 0.05 per gallon, making my price $ 2.29. At 32.5 gallons I paid $ 74.42 instead of $ 89.37. That’s $ 14.30 savings after the $ 0.65 transaction fee, on a not quite full tank.

And continuing on, here are two screen shots of the “settlement statements” they send to show you what you paid.

For the stop below we paid a 10% fee of $1.54, which means our savings with the 65¢ transaction fee was $14.70.

For the stop below we paid a 10% fee of $1.16, which means our savings with the 65¢ transaction fee was $10.95.

I will continue to talk about how much we save as we travel and data piles up, but clearly this is a fantastic deal. We am doing more or less the same thing we have been doing for six years, but now we are spending less money.

What did I tell you? Starts off small, pretty soon, serious money.

There is a little bad news. As recently as March 2020 you could use the TSD card at Pilot and Flying J locations, but that is no longer the case. Customers are getting the shaft because a couple of big businesses don’t know where their money comes from. Good Sam has an exclusive discount program with Pilot/Flying J. RVers are only to receive discounts on fuel at Pilot/Flying J IF they have a Good Sam membership card. Let me say that again, Pilot/Flying J has an agreement with Good Same that ONLY Good Same card users get a discount. I do NOT agree with this practice, for one very simple reason. The marketing for the Pilot/Flying J Good Sam card touts all the savings you can get EXCLUSIVELY with the card. We have that card, and while it does give us 8¢ off the cash price at Pilot/Flying J, that price is consistently AT LEAST 10¢ higher than all other truck stops, even the ones directly next door or across the street from Pilot/Flying J. So, no, I don’t think it’s smart of them at all to lock in customers and essentially give them nothing. TSD was not aware of this until they got a call from the management at Pilot/Flying J, who put out the following statement:

Pilot/Flying J is no longer in business with TSD Logistics (TSD). Unfortunately, it was recently brought to our attention that TSD was reselling our fuel by offering its discounts outside of the company.

We were unaware of this activity and did not agree to the resale of our fuel. Our contract was with TSD and its fleet of drivers only.

We aim to provide the best experience to all of our guests, including RV and auto travelers as well as professional drivers. We continue to offer discounts and rewards to RV customers through our partnership with Good Sam. This partnership had no influence on our decision to end our business relationship with TSD.”

From my perspective, there is now no reason whatsoever to do business with Pilot/Flying J, as they are always going to be the most expensive option. And Good Sam is unwilling to budge on their exclusive arrangement, so I am now no longer interested in doing business with them, either. Now we’re huge fans of TA, currently the leader in discounts on the TSD card. Everyone is winning but Good Sam and Pilot/Flying J.

I hope this post has been informative and helpful, and as always I am happy to answer any questions anyone has. I will also update the post as new information becomes available, and once I try out the new app. Don’t forget, if you decide to sign up we will get a little fuel credit down the road after you’ve bought 100 gallons of fuel, so consider putting Lee Perkins in the “referred by” field and then go right on out and drive around in circles for hours and hours. Here’s one more picture for you for sticking through all the way to the very end.

 


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.

First Time in Omaha, Nebraska

Although many of the museums were closed in Omaha, Lee was able to visit the Strategic Air Command Museum.  It was inside a huge building with hangers and since it was a Friday morning hardly anyone was there. He’s going to do a separate post on that. (No, really, I will. I promise. – Lee)  Since I had the day off I took the opportunity to get a haircut and a pedicure.  Lee said he was comfortable with it because there are so few cases in Nebraska, but even I was thrilled with all the precautions they took.  Everyone was masked, and at Great Clips the stylist cleaned the chair, work station, and all of her tools before I got my hair cut.  It felt absolutely wonderful to do something so normal again, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Strategic Air Command Museum

 

 

Yeah short hair!!!

We were planning on going to dinner with his friend Jane later in the evening, but since we had some time after lunch we ran downtown to see an outdoor sculpture called Pioneer Courage Park.  The downtown was deserted so we had the sculptures to ourselves.  The neat thing about them is they are in several places in the downtown and the overall scene is a wagon train departing for the west from Omaha, with hunters driving a herd of bison, which startles a flock of geese into flight.

The wagon train consists of four pioneer families and their covered wagons. Each wagon is 12′ high and more than 40′ long including the oxen, horses or mules.  Individual people range in height from 3′ to 7 1/2′.  As you approach it, it really doesn’t look like much.

 

But then when you get close, they are really amazing.

As you can see the wagon train sits right downtown with the skyline in the back

 

I loved how they artificially created the hoove marks in the ground

 

 

And the sculptures themselves were extremely well done. You can feel the oxen straining

 

 

 

(This guy reminds me of the young version of Ed Harris in West World. – Lee)

 

 

 

 

The cut a trench in the concrete where the wagon wheel would have been. Love these little details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little girl was probably my favorite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack thought the dog was real at first I think

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is also a Wagon Master that stands at 11′ tall and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. The Wagon Master served as a crucial element to wagon trains, guiding their members west and looking after the families and their supplies.

The Hunter Group portrays the constant need to provide additional nourishment and supplement the families’ meals with meat.

The wagon train is at 14th & Capitol St., along a dry creek bed, and the hunter group is driving a herd of five bison, scattering from the Pioneer Courage site and headed down 15th Street, traversing sidewalks, public planters and buildings…….

 

 

 

 

Eventually the bison before stampede onto the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Park on the Southeast corner of 16th & Dodge, startling a huge flock of geese into flight. In tandem with Pioneer Courage Park, this park features over 50 Canada geese, larger than life size, weighing approximately 200 lbs. each. The geese are cast in bronze and stainless steel – bronze alluding to Nebraska’s history and stainless steel (the metal of modernity) pointing to the future. The flight of these magnificent creatures represents the flight of geese from the industrial age to the information age.

 

(In the photo below, you can see how the thinner end of the “pond” is level with the ground, and the land slowly slopes away to nearly 6 feet at the other end. The effect of this is that as you walk from the small end to the large end, the geese that are fully in flight get higher and higher. It’s a great optical illusion.  – Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I absolutely loved how the sculptors placed little fountains at the wingtips of the geese to replicate the way the water sprays when they drag along the surface as they take off and to hide the supports holding up the geese already out of the water. Genius.

 

 

 

There are also geese on the closes light post to the water, which draws the eye, which further draws the eye across the street to other geese on other posts, and then to the ones going into and inside the atrium. It’s excellent theater. – Lee)

 

 

 

The flock continues across the street….

 

 

 

 

The geese take flight in and around the intersection of 16th and Dodge Streets, and the sculpture narrative concludes with them flying into and through the First National Tower Winter Garden Atrium.

 

 

(This is definitely in my top 5 things we’ve seen hitting the road. If it hadn’t been sooooo hot I think I would have wanted to spend a lot more time really looking at these sculptures. As it is, I would like to go back again and photograph them at night. – Lee)

Yes it was dog friendly and Jack had a great time!

(Before anyone gets upset, Jack was on leash the entire time, I just cleaned the leash out of some of the pictures because they look better that way. – Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the sculpture we headed over to Jane’s house and I absolutely loved it.  They are remodeling a really cool 1960’s house and it has so much potential.  It also has a LARGE fenced in yard and Jack and Gilligan (their labradoodle) really enjoyed it.  Gilligan wore Jack out which was really great.

 

 

 

We really enjoyed seeing Jane and John and their three daughters, and learning about Jane’s charity venture.  She was volunteering at the school to deliver meals and wanted to make sure their minds got fed as well.  Single-handledly she started a donation program where books can be picked up for kids along with the meals.  100% of the donations go to purchasing books, and she has had wonderful success with the program throughout the summer.  I know many of us wish we could do more to help during these troubled times, so please check out the Westside Foundation if you are interesting in helping. There’s a lot on that site to look at, but you can click here to go straight to the donation page. On that page, the very fist selection field is “SOLICIT CODE”. Select “Brook Brigade” and 100% of the money will go to buying books for kids.

We really appreciate seeing her and the dinner, and hope we get back that way soon when we can spend a little more time, and it’s not quite as hot and the virus is gone!

Jane, CeCe, Miranda, and Lee.

 


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.

New Mod – Air Conditioner Baffle Box

Written by Lee

For those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to be somewhere with a reasonable temperature and a comfortable humidity, an AC or two (or in some cases even three!) are a blessing. I know that for me they are an absolute requirement. They are also NOISY. I love the fact that the one in our bedroom is loud, because it makes excellent white noise which helps both of us sleep. In our rig, the bedroom is in the back and the AC is only 44″ from the bed, and when we run it with the AC blower set to “high”, which is always, the dB level is a whopping 68 dB. For reference, that’s about the equivalent of a food mixer. By comparison, when it’s NOT running, the room measures around 35, which is the same as a quiet library.

Our other AC is in the kitchen, but all the way at the end, so it’s right next to the living room. That puts it just a little off to the side of the chair I sit in to watch TV and movies, and it’s also pretty loud. It’s much higher, at 98″, and it measures at 68 dB as well. With the temperatures being 100° more or less every day in the San Antonio area for the the past month or so, I decided to do some poking around to see what I could do to help reduce the noise.

 

There are a variety of things that can contribute to why an AC is louder than it needs to be. Here are some things to check first:

Is it loose?
If the AC is not secured well, it can vibrate, and that can really make the noise louder. Check the mounting bolts to make sure they’re tight.

Are the seals/gaskets bad?
If it’s a much older unit, the rubber seal between your rig and the AC might be bad, and the rubber could have hardened, again causing vibration.

Is the fan out-of-balance?
An out-of-balance fan can make a ton of noise.

Is the airflow restricted?
Take off the inside cover and filter and look around inside the chamber. Anything that is in the way of the air flow can add noise as the air rushes past it. Try using zip ties to bundle wires together and secure them off to the side away from the air flow. You can also use furnace tape to secure anything and create a smooth surface for air to flow over.

If you’ve done all the inspecting and everything you can to make sure that it’s not making more noise than it’s supposed to, and you still want to it to be quieter, you can either buy an AC “silencer kit” or make one yourself. I took a look at the pre-made kit and decided that it was way too much money for a big piece of plastic, and decided to try making my own. For those with money to burn, who don’t want to, or can’t make one, here’s a link to the manufacturer:

Dometic RV A/C Silencer DA100

Before we go any further, I want to point out that both the commercial product above, and my version are designed to work with AC units that have the “standard” interior ceiling cover that  consists of a grill that has holes or slots for air intake, and in some cases a “dump” valve. A dump valve allows you to “dump” all of the cold air directly from the AC unit straight down and out into the room, as opposed to directing that cold air throughout your rig via ductwork.  I also want to mention that the “Wacko Products” version removes the option of using the dump valve, but my mod does not. You can still use the dump valve with my version.

The commercial version essentially works by offsetting the air intake to the side by about 50%, reducing the open area,  and adding some noise dampening material. It seems to look pretty nice and there are plenty of people out there who have made videos and reviewed it. I have not owned one or tested it, so I cannot endorse it. You should thoroughly research it before you spend the money. Do some Google searches and watch some videos and definitely read reviews. It’s a pretty good chunk of money to spend to not be happy with the end result.

(We started with the idea of buying one and when Lee showed me the video I personally didn’t think the noise reduction in the video was worth $189. Of course I don’t sit in that particular seat and the AC noise is much less of a problem where I do sit.  If Lee really wanted it of course we would have tried it, but I love when he puts his MacGyver skills in action.   – Trace)

If you’re comfortable tinkering and want to try making one of your own, here’s my frugal version. It really not at all complicated, and also relatively inexpensive.

Here’s a material list.  I measured the interior AC cover and added an inch or so on each side for the dimensions.

$ 14.88 – 8′ primed 1″x 4″
$   9.41 – 2′ x 4′ luan
$ 21.56 – 4′ x 8′ white polywall panel (in the paneling section, and matches most ceilings in rigs. It’s the most expensive part of the project, so you could just use the luan and paint or stain it)
$   4.69 – 2 2″ hinges
$   1.79 – magnetic catch
$   7.88 – furnace tape
$   8.98 – white gorilla tape (if you don’t have gaff tape. Why don’t you have gaff tape? I have been telling you to get some for years.)
$ 13.56 – 1″ x 1″ poly outside corner molding
$ 11.94 – 4′ x 8′ x 1/2″ foam insulation board (I used some leftover carpet padding, you can use almost any sound dampening material)

If you don’t have any of the materials, and you have to buy everything it will cost $95.  If you want to be more frugal, you can skip the metal tape/gorilla tape and use duct tape.  You can also skip the poly wall sheet and use some old rolled up t-shirts or other fabric as the sound insulation.  Those changes will lower the cost to less than $50.

I chose these materials after making a “proof of concept version” with what was lying around, and decided that instead of something that would need to be stained or painted and color match I would just go with white and hope that it would blend in.

(The “proof of concept” was heavy, clunky and pretty ugly.  As much as I appreciated the initiative, I really didn’t like the way it looked.  Lee quickly reassured me that the final version would be lighter and prettier which it was. – Trace)

The construction is very simple, it’s just three sides of the 1″ x 4″ assembled with finish nails and then I added a 1″ x 1 1/2″ piece which as you can see leaves an opening for air to enter.

 

 

Then I attached the sheet of luan, added the layer of textured plastic sheeting and miter cut the corner trim.

 

I flipped it over and added three layers of 1/2″ carpet padding. The white area you see at the bottom is the white Gaff tape. I wanted to use that instead of the metal furnace tape at the entrance because I wanted to see if the rough texture of the gaff will “catch” any airborne particles before they hit the grill and filter. I thought maybe the smoother furnace tape wouldn’t catch them. I don’t think it matters what you use, as long as it holds the material in place. You could also use pretty much any sound dampening material inside. I used carpet padding because I already had it, but you could use foam, towels, blankets, insulation, anything that will absorb and dampen sound. You can also see the metal magnetic catch in the lower right corner.

 

 

Once it was all set I added the hinges.

 

Then I hung it up. Most rigs will have some wood framing around the AC hole in the ceiling, but check to be sure, otherwise the screws will just fall out of the thin paneling of the ceiling. Also be sure to avoid hitting any wiring with the screws. Use the shortest screws you can, and make sure you’re going into wood and that will keep you out of trouble with the wiring.

 

 

 

Finally it was just a matter of attaching the metal plate to the ceiling for the magnetic catch, and swinging the box up on the hinges and letting the magnet hold it in place.

 

See pretty 🙂 – Trace

 

Although we drove 1200 miles with this in place, the magnet never pulled away from the metal plate. But even if it had, it would just swing harmlessly down. When it’s “closed” the bottom of the box is 92″ from the floor, which is plenty of clearance. In our rig, when it’s “open” it’s still 75″ from the ground. And because it can be opened, the “dump” valve is still available to us, which is nice.

Lee grabbed me last minute to do the demo. I am a bit of a mess 🙂 – Trace

After installation, it was time to check the sound level! From the same position as before, with all other factors being equal, the meter gave us a reading of 62 dB, for a net reduction of 6 dB!!! This might not seem like a lot, but it is a massive amount. The decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear. This simply means that for every 3 decibels you move up or down the scale from 0-194, you are adding or dropping 50% of your remaining sound pressure levels to your exposure. By dropping 6 decibels, for instance, you first move 3 dB, and then another 3 dB. For each 3 dB you drop, your sound pressure levels will drop another 50% of the remaining sound pressure.   The following table will help illustrate the order of magnitude associated with dB:

dB-Drop                       Survival Rate

1 dB Drop                     79% of your noise has survived
3 dB-Drop                    50% of your noise has survived
6 dB-Drop                    25% of your noise has survived
9 dB-Drop                    12.5% of your noise has survived
10 dB-Drop                  10% of your noise has survived
20 dB-Drop                   1% of your noise has survived
30 dB-Drop                 .01% of your noise has survived

So for our purposes here, we reduced the sound level 75%! That is a significant amount of improvement, especially considering I spent about two hours and $ 100 on it, and now I can watch TV without sitting in a pool of my own sweat and turning up the volume to absurd levels.

 

(For those non-techy, non-math geeks like me, essentially it was quieter when you stood directly beneath it.  In other areas of the room, it didn’t seem to make a huge difference but directly underneath absolutely.  Since the chair is almost directly underneath it, it will certainly make Lee’s life more pleasant.  From my perspective it was relatively cheap, Lee had lots of fun making it, and it looks like it came with the RV.  Those are my criteria for a good RV Mod! -Trace)


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.