Oliver’s First Thanksgiving

We have spent our Thanksgivings in lots of places throughout the last several years, but I was particularly excited to spend Thanksgiving this year with Oliver.  We were all looking forward to getting the OK from the pediatrician to start solid foods, but unfortunately the newest studies recommend not starting until 6 months.  That was a real bummer for us (in particular Lee who loves to feed babies), but we definitely respected everyone’s decision.  As new grandparents we are being especially careful about respecting boundaries and always keeping in mind that it is not our child.  I know sometimes people get overly excited and cross those lines, but I personally have never seen that lead to anything good.

The meal was great  and Oliver sat on my lap through most of it.  He got to watch us all eat and we gave him a plastic spoon to chew on.  My son-in-law Jeremy cooked and did a fantastic job.  It was nice not having to worry about prep for once although I did wash the dishes.

 

The mashed potatoes were delicious!!! I had an extra helping of those although overall I think my portion control was pretty good.

 

I did make deviled eggs for Lee and there were several double yolkers in the dozen eggs. That was a first

 

The best part of the visit was we started a new tradition of a few Thanksgiving Day presents!!! Oliver opened his first one and he did pretty good with the paper.  Lee bought him a couple of outfits and I brought him a peekaboo toy.

Peekaboo elephant!! Check out the video!

 

Lee bought him a banana to chew on. I think we will be getting teeth really soon.

 

Turkey nap!!!

The weekend wasn’t over  because I got to babysit on Friday and Saturday!!! These were my first two times babysitting and to be honest I was a little nervous.  It helps that he is a sturdy 15 pounds at this point and a mild mannered kid.  Lee had some serious tendinitis in shoulder so he wasn’t feeling up to it, but I handled it pretty well solo.  Bath time in particular was awesome because Oliver loves taking baths.  I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to do it again.

 

I brought this super cool frog toy over. I HIGHLY recommend this toy for 3+ months he loved it.

 

Playing

 

Bath time!!

 

 

On Sunday my Mom came down and she and Kyrston and I went to get pedicures and lunch.  It was really great that Kyrston is getting out and I appreciated all the time we got to spend together.

Mom and Kyrston

 

Mom and Oliver

 

Oh once last thing to cap off a nice weekend.  For six years we have had this sign that we bought on our very first camping trip.  I was super bummed that it was falling apart, but Lee tracked down someone who made a sign that was almost identical.  Hopefully we get six more years out of this one!!!

Old one on the left and new one on the right

 


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First Time at a Tea Plantation

You probably know by now that I love seeing how things are made, so when I learned that the only tea plantation in North America was nearby I knew I wanted to go.  Since part of the tour was outside, I was a little worried about having a day nice enough, but Saturday was gorgeous with blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s.  Charleston Tea Plantation is on Wadmalaw Island and has a really interesting history.  The tour of the factory is free (along with an awesome gift shop), but the trolley tour of the fields is $14.  I found the tour very interesting and well worth the fee, but you can certainly skip it and just check out the free portions if you would like.  It’s definitely still worth the visit.

The oak trees were absolutely gorgeous. One of them was 250 years old.

 

The tea plants that you see when you drive in are the oldest on the plantation.

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1880s the Pinehurst plantation brought tea plants from China and grew them in South Carolina.  Eventually the plantation changed hands and the tea plants grew wild.  The weather here is  near perfect for the tea plants to grow, with lots of rain, heat, and sandy soil.  Tea is an evergreen plant and there are actually plants in China that are over 600 years old.  Since there are no insects or animals anywhere in the country that eat the leaves (they don’t like the caffeine) insecticides and fungacides are not needed.  The only reason tea didn’t completely take over like kudzu is that the root system is interconnected and it doesn’t like soggy roots.  Enough of the tea survived that in 1963 the Lipton Tea Company was able to grab some cuttings and transplant them to Wadmalaw Island.

The bush on the left shows what a tea plant looks like when left to grow in the wild. They get about 20 feet high.  I have been drinking tea my whole life and had no idea it was an evergreen or grew like a bush.

The Lipton Tea company bought the 127 acres as a research facility because the Cold War had them nervous.  They bought all of their tea from China and needed to know if they could grow it in the US if trade stopped between the two countries.   The tests were successful, but ultimately they didn’t need a US supply and once again the plantation was up for sale.  Canadian Bill Hall decided to buy the plantation and see if he could make a business out of it.  He is not a dabbler, but rather an expert in tea who went to school for four years in London to learn all about it.  I didn’t know they had school for tea but it makes sense, especially in England.

Bill

 

Aerial view of the plantation

 

They hand built the only mechanical tea harvester in the world.  That’s why the bushes look so even.

The tea leaves go in this hopper.

 

It’s a super cool piece of american ingenuity.  They harvest every 21 days from May to October which is usually 9 cuttings a year.  This year the bushes haven’t gone dormant yet because of all the rain and they got 11 cuttings.

Ultimately Bill realized he needed more investment to really make a go of it, so he merged with Bigelow Tea.  The small manufacturing area is really interesting and those tours are free. We visited on a weekend so the machines weren’t running, but they had a series of video screens that had excellent clips showing what each machine looks like when it is running.

The tea comes into the wire mesh withering bed where it sits for 18 hours.  They process 5,000 pounds of leaves at a time and 12% of the moisture content is removed in this process.

 

These giant blowers circulate the air.

 

Next it goes to the rotovane to rupture the cells. This releases more liquid.  Tea leave start out as 80% liquid and the multiple processing steps ultimately remove most of it.

 

The oxidation bed determines which type of tea is created . This is where the leaves turn from green to brown . Black tea is 50 minutes in oxidation bed. 14 minutes for Oolong tea. Green tea has zero time. It is steamed right from the field to stop oxidation.  I was fascinated by this.  Again, been drinking my tea my entire life and I always though it was different kinds of tea leaves.

 

The dryer seals the flavor.  When it is done the tea has lost 97 percent of moisture and 80 percent of weight. Every 5 pounds of leaves yields only one pound of tea.

 

Up until this point I was thinking how this process can be done manually.  Tea has existed for at least 4700 years.  The last step though was all 20th century.  They pass the leaves through a sieve to get rid of stalk and fiber and use static electricity to remove any stalk or fiber that is lighter than tea.  I have drank tea that was manually processed and it always was more gritty than processed tea.  Now I know why.  After touring the plant we went out to wait for our trolley tour.  There are some nice grounds where you can eat and view the tea and those are totally free.  Oh, and did I mention tea is free!!  They have multiple flavors of  iced and hot to try and you can take your tea anywhere on the plantation.

 

 

 

Who doesn’t love a giant frog who drinks tea 🙂

 

 

 

 

Worlds biggest sweet tea!!!

 

 

The trolley tour was really interesting and our tour guide Alan was great.  I will warn you that this is a non-climate controlled vehicle so I would definitely pay attention to the weather before going.  It got a little warm in the trolley as we were going on our tour and personally I would not like to do it in the summer heat.

 

Allen was very nice and knowledgeable.

 

One of our first stops was the greenhouse where they grow the cuttings.  They never grow from seeds because they want to keep the strain pure and instead make cuttings which they grow in a greenhouse.  It takes 3-5 years to grow the cuttings and they live in completely temperature controlled settings during that time.  Once they are ready they are transplanted into a new field.

All of the plants here are related because instead of using seeds the plantation only uses cuttings to make clones. So they know the genetic makeup of every plant. They don’t change the soil because that is what sets the flavor . In March they will fertilize if needed with hard dry pellets.

 

They use these plants to start a field a year unless there is a hurricane.  Most years the planting go fine, but occasionally there are issues such as ice storms. Each field holds roughly 25,000 plants.  The picture below shows seedlings that were impacted by an ice storm.  That’s why the growth is uneven.

 

 

One of the most interesting things to me was the fact that the root systems become interconnected in the hedge rows.  Despite their need for lots of rain the plants don’t like soggy roots, so they put drainage ditches in between the rows.  There is also an irrigation system for dryer years.

 

Mosquitoes can be a problem but they use natural ponds with fish and frogs who eat 85% of the mosquitoes.

 

Occasionally there is a dip in field and they get root rot in the middle.  That’s what the brown patch is in the middle of the field.

 

They can’t cut the bad section out because the roots are interconnected, so they just leave it for 2-3 years then cut the woody stems off.  Eventually a new shoot will usually start but this whole process takes several years.

 

Right before the plants go dormant they flower and the place fills with butterflies. It was a little late this year so we were just seeing the beginning of that. I’d love to say I planned this shot with the bee flying through it but it was sheer dumb luck 🙂

As much as I loved the tour the best part was the gift shop.  It was full of really great items and many of them were camper friendly.  I loved the plastic tea caddies and also the difference containers of tea.  They don’t have any decaffeinated tea BUT if you put the tea bag in hot water for 30-40 seconds it naturally removes 65% of the caffeine.  When I learned the decaffeinating process involves washing the leaves in acetone and formaldehyde I became VERY interested in the natural process.

 

 

 

I used to collect teapots that look like other things. Gave that collection up when we went on the road…but I still wanted to buy several of these. I controlled myself 🙂

 

One last thing.  Every year they have a festival when the “first flush” happens.  This is the first harvest after dormancy and from what was said makes the best tea.  I would like to try this at some point to see if I agree, so if you are in the area in May see if you are there during the festival.

 

After visiting the plantation we decided to eat lunch.  I am a huge fan of the small seafood shacks on the islands and I found one called the Roadside Seafood on nearby John’s Island.  It was a no-frills kind of place and the seafood was very fresh.   Lee got adventuresome and had a taco duo of gator tail and shark bite.  I had shrimp and I loved their coleslaw.

 

 

Great lunch special which we both got

 

 

The tablecloths were so cool with the Dr. Seuss characters

 

Lee’s lunch

 

and mine…the portion was perfect!

 

 


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  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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First Work Trip in Awhile

Unlike many people I used to really like work trips.  I loved the opportunity to get out into the field and help people in person, and I liked staying in hotels and eating restaurant food that I could put on an expense report.  Lee also likes my work trips, because he can eat whatever he wants and watch whatever he wants on TV.  The dog was a bit of a concern.  The only time I have been gone from him was the week I spent with Kyrston after Oliver was born and we expected that he would be displeased.  He definitely knew something was up while I was packing and when Lee came back from going to the airport this is what he found…

 

A chewed up box of cookies that I munch on at night and occasionally share with him. Bold statement.

 

Throughout the week I got lots of pictures that looked like this…Ennui puppy.

 

While the puppy was bummed, I was having a great time.  I had a little bit of trouble with my second flight and ultimately they had to move us to another plane.  This put me an hour late into the airport, but that gave me an opportunity to catch a ride with my boss’s boss and it was great getting to know him better.  Normally I rent my own car, but we were flying into Boston and I hate driving there.  Although I had plenty of rides all week, next time I will probably just rent my own in case of something like this.  Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather be delayed for mechanical issue than the alternative, but these things happen, and coordinating with other folks can be problematic in those situations.

Not driving did give me a chance to look around and being back in New England was strange.  It was exactly five years and three days since we rolled out of New England for our new life, and four since I accepted the buyout.  Things looked very similar (New England isn’t really about rapid change) and the closer we got to the office I had worked out of for 15 years the more I was hit by waves of nostalgia.  Going into the office the next morning was even weirder.  In this case the structure of the building was the same, but inside was very different.  Different groups, lots of new people, and folks moving to different positions was very disorienting.  On the plus side many, many people I knew were still there and over the next three days I got to see most of them.

It was more than gratifying that people remembered me, and when the front desk guard called me by name and welcomed me back I was more than gratified.  Apparently a list of people coming to the workshop had circulated and people recognized my name.  I was happy to see the manager of the cafeteria was the same person and the head of our cleaning staff remembered me as well.  My take on life is to be extra nice to the people who have the hardest jobs, and it was really sweet when they went out of their way to tell me they were glad I was back.

In addition, throughout the week I literally kept bumping into people I knew from before.  Several people came up and gave me big hugs and many others went out of their way to tell me they were happy I was back.  Again, super humbling in a good way, and honestly surprising.  Five years is a long time, and people’s memories are short.  It was nice to know I made a positive impression on some folks.  Throughout my career many people helped me and I tried as much as possible to help people younger than me. In particular,  I always encouraged young women to stretch themselves and take on difficult tasks,  Because I had started with the company as a secretary, I was a living example that with hard work you could climb the ranks and encouraged any who were interested to take those next steps.  Twice during that week, women walked up to me and in front of other people talked about how much I had taught them over the years and it really meant a lot to me.  They recounted specific moments I had an impact and honestly there isn’t much in life that is better than knowing you made a positive difference for someone.  It reinforced for me that I had absolutely made the right decision to return and the entire week was incredibly special.

Remembering things was a little odd as many, many times information that was pushed somewhere in deep storage in my brain came rearing to the front.  Fifteen years holds a ton of knowledge and it was all in there somewhere just not easily accessible.  We would be talking about something and wham! I would be hit with a series of images and information.  It would take me a moment to catch up (think pulling a file from an accessory drive on your computer) and then that info would be there.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t remember everything, but I remember enough which was a huge relief.  One of the main reasons they hired me was my historical knowledge, and it would have been a bit problematic if that was all gone.

I also was a little worried about my skills being rusty but thankfully that came back to me as well.  It helped that I was running a workshop, which is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  A Kaizen workshop is essentially pulling people into a room who actually do the work and talking to them about ways to make their process better. Even though every person in my group was new to me, we quickly got into the event and the team was fantastic.  I had several young women from Mexico in my group and they were terrific.  On occasion language was a bit of a barrier, but in those cases I let them work through difficult concepts in their native Spanish and then switch back to English to catch the rest of us up.  I didn’t care how we got to the big idea as long as we had them, and ultimately my team came up with 75 new ideas to improve the process.  It was a ton of fun for everyone and folks made work relationships that would last a long time.

Here’s some pictures of the event.  Because the information is proprietary I blurred some things out, but you get the idea.  I LOVE sticky notes and we got to use plenty of those lol.

We started with an AS IS process map and then called out the errors that were painful.

 

Then we took every pain point and “flipped it” to come up with possible solutions.

 

That left us with a list of 75 “big ideas” that we prioritized by how long they would take. Quick Hits, 60 days, Mid Term, and Long term.

 

Three main things I do as I lead these sessions and so far they have always made them successful:

  1.   Don’t let any one person take over the room.  Usually the quietest person has the best information so go out of your way to make sure everyone is heard.  Manage the “big personality” people by validating their contribution and have them help you encourage others to speak.
  2.  Encourage everyone to take a turn leading.  Nothing is more boring than sitting and watching one person speak for several days.  Plus, it’s not about what I know, it’s about discovering what they know.  After I get people comfortable I sit as much as possible or stand in the back to avoid pulling focus.  I will only jump in when things seem stalled or to move things along, but as much as possible I let the subject matter experts take the lead.
  3.  Pay attention to the small things.  Is it too hot? Are you having enough breaks? And make sure people eat regularly.   The environment matters and as much as possible encourage people to have fun.  Be passionate about the subject matter and be truly interested in what people have to say.  Get folks out of their chairs and up and moving especially in the afternoon when things always slow down.  Push the pace when it’s appropriate and back off when it’s not.  If you have a group of engaged people there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

Thankfully the team was making me look good, because during the three days we had lots of visitors. This is a high level project with lots of exposure and managers were in and out throughout the event.  Thankfully things seemed fine, because they usually would watch for awhile and then wander off.  I even had my fellow team members come in a few times and watch me work.  At first I was nervous because I felt rusty but by the second day I didn’t even notice.

Speaking of team mates our evening dinners were fantastic.  I met several of my peers for the first time in person and we had a great time eating at night.  I don’t mind talking about work some, but love when you can get to know people on a personal level as well, and our conversation flowed with lots of laughter.  The entire experience was fantastic and I was happier in a work situation than I have been in a really long time.

The only downside was there no Oliver.  I really missed him and was one of those obnoxious Grandmas who show pictures.  He turned four months while I was gone and I was sad I missed it, but didn’t regret being where I was.  This was the feeling that I had been missing.  I know working isn’t always like this, and I still don’t like the politics but these moments are really important to me.  I am so glad that I made the choice I did, and I am really happy to be back.  Yes, I love my puppy, my daughters, my grandson, and my husband (those are in no particular order by the way), but I also loved doing this and many of these people.  For some reason when we started full timing I felt it was an either or decision.  I know now that it is simply not the case.

I do NOT regret taking a break and getting some outside perspective, because I grew as a person and I appreciate these moments so much more now.  That being said I would encourage anyone thinking of quitting a job they love to become a full timer to really think that through.  If you are like me hopefully you can find a way to have both.  Yes, there are compromises, but there will always be compromises regardless of your situation.  I do not know one person who travels without thought of care of other things.  Whether it is family obligations, money restrictions,  or personal preferences of your travel partner no one I know travels the country with no constraints.  The trick is to balance those constraints with what you love and hopefully find a way to make it all work together.  The jury is still out on how this works long term for Lee and I, but for right now I will definitely be grateful for it!

 

Four months old!!!

 


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First Time Repairing The Kitchen Sink For The Second Time

Since Trace is busy with her new job, I’m catching up on some posts that I promised to write but never got around to. I’m going to do them in the order that they happened, and this first one is from waaay back in June, when I repaired our kitchen sink. This is actually the second time I’ve done this repair, the first time was in November of 2015 when we were in the Redwoods. It was a pretty big job, and has held up for 3 1/2 years, but I really hated doing it, so this time I decided to fix it a little differently in the hopes of not ever having to do it again.

Here you can see the sink and in this picture if you look in the upper right corner and the upper right side you can see what the problem is.

These next couple of pictures you can see even better, where the sink,  is separating from the counter top surface.

And here you can actually see how much separation there is. With the sink empty, there’s a half inch gap!

In the pictures below, you can see why this is happening. The sink is mounted by way of clips that hold the sink up from below, and those clips are screwed into a piece of plywood. In the first picture, you can see the edge of the plywood, along with a little adhesive near the center of the picture.

Here’s the underside. As you can see, one part of the clip pushes up against the edge of the sink, and the other part crosses over to the wood. The first problem is that there are nowhere near enough of these clips. There is just enough to barely do the job, just one per side, which is crazy.

But the real problem is that along the back edge of the sink the plywood is not part of the cabinetry, or attached to the wall, it’s just glued to the bottom of the counter surface.

 

Here you can see how the side plywood (on the right) is integrated into the cabinetry, but the rear (along the bottom of the image) is not. There is a plywood strip that’s part of the cabinetry, but for whatever reason they didn’t make that large enough to actually reach the edge. Instead they just glued two strips to the counter. That’s just far too much weight pushing down on a single load point, and because the counter material is not porous, there’s nothing for the adhesive to grip. Over time, it just drooped a little and once it drooped enough to break the seal, water slipped in and made it worse.

 

Below you can see where because the “drooping” broke the seal between the sink lip and the counter, water seeped in and ruined the plywood.

With everything removed from the cabinet shelves, and the trash can removed, this is what I’m left with.  To get in there and work it is not ideal to go in here headfirst and facing up.  With all of my weight on the cabinet work, it is really painful on the back. Also there’s nowhere to rest my head, so I was essentially holding my head up. Good workout.

In this picture you can see where water got in and caused a buildup of “gunk”.

Once the sink was removed, all of the silicone had to be removed from the sink lip, and the inside edge of the counter, and the underside of the edge.

Again you can see where the adhesive failed and the plywood strip dropped down.

and the water damage.

So we have two drop in sink covers, which we never use, so I decided to use one of those to experiment with and test my solution. The first time I did this repair I just used adhesive and clearly that didn’t work. I was looking for something that would be permanent. My first thought was that I could use screws to attach the plywood to the bottom of the counter. That was going to be tricky, because the counter is very thin, (1/2″) and I certainly didn’t want to do anything that would break the plane of the surface. I tried putting a self tapping screw directly into the counter material, and it cracked and broke almost immediately.

 

So clearly I would need to drill the largest pilot holes possible to the exact depth and then carefully put the screws in. So I made a drill bit that was exactly the length I needed, and clamped my test piece to a piece of plywood, drilled the holes and then put in the screws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly I don’t have a picture of it, but the next screw cracked the test piece and the experiment was over. So I had to come up with another plan. I decided to do the simplest thing I could, and started with using the highest grade adhesive I could.  Once I applied it, I clamped the plywood to the counter and let it dry for over 24 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of my new solution was to use many more clips, to spread out the weight load as much as possible. Unfortunately, an extensive search for these clips yielded no results. I couldn’t find anything even remotely like these clips anywhere. So I decided to just make them. I purchased some small “L” brackets, and compared them to the existing clips. The existing clips have elongated holes to allow for adjustment, and are longer on one side than the other. A few minutes with a vise and a hacksaw and then a file allowed to me to create all I needed.

 

 

An unmodified L bracket alongside an original clip.

 

The modified bracket with an original clip.

Once I had all the clips made and the adhesive was dried, I cut some dowel rods to the length from the bottom of the plywood to the floor, added 1/4″ for tension, and wedged them in to support the plywood. Between the rods and the adhesive, I don’t think those plywood strips will ever droop again.

 

 

On the shelf side, I need to make a few holes to allow for the rods.

 

I cleaned the sink so it was almost like new.

 

A bead of silicone and quite a few more clips to reinstall the sink.

 

 

 

 

The whole project took two full days, and now the sink is better than new!

 


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  • As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Search Amazon Here
  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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Fifth Year – By The Numbers

Numbers by Lee…..

This year we did a total of 7,334 travel miles on the trailer, and 18,874 miles on the truck!

For the first travel map, we started out at Cori & Greg’s and from there went to our first gate, near Encinal, TX. Then a brief few days off between gates and on to our second gate at Los Angeles, TX. That’s where I had my heart attack, and then we went back to Cori & Greg’s. From there we went to Phoenix, and then on to Surprise where we had a little work done on our rig. Once that was done we headed to Lone Rock Beach for a quick stay and then on to Bryce Canyon and Torrey, UT with Steve & Deb and Cori & Greg.

 

We also did Goblin Valley and then everyone went their separate ways and we headed up to Promontory Park and then to Timothy Lake for the summer. After that we came right back down the way we came up, until Salt Lake City where we headed east to head south!

We went through southern Wyoming and saw Jo, and then across a bit of Nebraska before heading down to Oklahoma to see Dan & Sharon, and then on down to Cori & Greg’s place again! And from there we headed east once again to Charleston and then up to Rock Hill and back down to Charleston.

Here’s the complete travel map-

Started in San Antonio. Went to Utah and up to Timothy Lake. Came back to San Antonio via Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma and then over to Charleston.

 

Other Numbers

Total number of days “workkamping” where our site was provided:                   195 (55%)
Total number of days “moochdocking” where we stayed with friends or family:  58 (17%)
Total number of days “boondocking” where we had no campground fee:           11 (  5%)
Total number of days of paid camping:                                                                 78 ( 23%)
Total amount spent on campground fees: $ 1,504

Total data used for the year: 3.64 Terabytes (3640 GB). Our total data costs for the year were $1,380, which works out to about $ 0.38 per GB, which is not too shabby. This is a fantastic value for us because we use that data for internet, obviously, as well as every TV show and movie we watch.

We took 16,505 pictures totaling 76 GB. Here’s how that compares to previous years:

2015 – 24,436
2016 – 28,929
2017 – 20,087
2018 – 15,246

Repairs, Upgrades and Major Expenses Five Year Summary

2015

  • Solar – $5,400 Whether or not solar is worth the expense is debatable to some. For example, if we spread this out over five years, it’s $1000 per year. If we go with an average of $30 per night for a campsite, we’d have to boondock for over 30 days each year to “get our money back” on the solar in that five years. My problem with that is that when we do boondock, it tends to be in places that either don’t have campgrounds or RV parks within what I would call a reasonable distance, or because they are in such demand, they would be worth WAY more than $30 per night.  Also, I think that the intangible value of a view or solitude also goes WELL beyond $30 per night. And finally, our AGM batteries have a life expectancy of 6-8 years, depending on how much the batteries are discharged, and how many times, and how fully they are recharged. I estimate that they will last even longer than that, but we’ll have to see. In any case, having solar and being able to boondock is more of a lifestlye choice than anything else, so it’s really impossible to calculate return on investment, but for us, I think it was worth every penny.
  • 4 New RV Tires & 2 Front Truck Tires and Installation – $1659 Trace commented at some point recently that it seems like we’re “always” getting new tires, but as you will see throughout this summary, we have actually only replaced all 10 of our tires twice. Remember the first trailer tire replacement was in November of 2015, and we were only replacing the junky “China Bombs” that came with the trailer at around 10,000 miles because we had already had a blowout. Those 4 tires lasted us until we replaced them this past April at 44,395 trailer miles, so we got 34,000 miles out of them. I’ll talk more about this later in the summary.
  • Surge Protector and Voltage Regulator – $1100
  • Sea Eagle Inflatable Kayak – $840
  • Camera and accessories – $499
  • TPMS – $490
  • Blue Boy” and Waste Pump Kit – $475
  • Dyson Slim Vacuum – $400
  • Magma Stackable Cookware – $400
  • WeBoost – $400
  • Electric Dump Valves – $300
  • Stenciling for the camper  – $300
  • Heated water hose – $ 163
  • Weber Q Grill – $200
  • Flagpole Buddy –  $205
  • Valve Extenders for Tires – $167

2016

  • Fresh Water Pump and Tank – $300
  • Replacement Surge Protector – $200
  • 4 Rear Truck Tires – $1,013 These were replaced at 41,000, of which around 15,000 were towing miles. I feel that this is a reasonable amount of wear for the tires.
  • Repair & Upgrade RV Suspension Shackles – $747 This is where the unusual wear and tire on our tires started, although we didn’t know it at the time.
  • Repair Truck AC – $448
  • Deductible to replace truck engine due to putting diesel fuel in tank.  We got off cheap on this one as the total cost was $15,000.  We only paid $1000 and insurance paid the rest.

2017

  • Front tires and alignment – $592 These were replaced at 60,000 miles and were last replaced at around 16,000 so we got a good 44,000 miles.
  • Kayak motor mount and trolling motor – $200
  • Mor Ryde Suspension and disc brakes for trailer – $5391 – which you can read about here.
  • First attempt to repair the furnace and repair fridge slide. –  $380. The mobile tech who worked on the issue was in a motorcycle accident and was unable to finish the repair before we moved on to our next job. The slide got fixed but the furnace did not. We still had to pay $380 in various fees even though it was all supposed to be covered by our extended warranty.

2018

  • Furnace repair $310 – After one full year of not having a furnace we finally got it fixed in Columbus, Ohio!  Just in time, because we definitely needed a working furnace for all the boondocking we did in Utah.
  • Underbelly Heat $150 – We dealt with frozen pipes in the rig for the first time and Lee added some insulation and a heat source to help with the problem.
  • Toilet $242 – We replaced our toilet with a standard sized one, which by the way I still really love, and is one of the best repairs we have ever made!
  • Valves $150 – Lee put in valves on the fresh water tank vents.  Seems like a little thing, but for him it made things a whole lot easier.
  • Slide Repairs $1200 – We also spent a few days having our slide floor replaced.  We found a great RV tech in Texas who had previously worked in Indiana at the Open Range factory and he did a terrific job.
  • Steps $160 – Lee (with Bill and Ben’s help) replaced our steps and did lots of other small repairs while we were at the reunion rally.
  • Landing Gear $1024 – We had one of our front jacks fail and Lee had to do an emergency repair.
  • Truck Bearing $435 – A front truck bearing seized up and we were stranded on a mountain road.  The whole thing turned out OK, but it was pretty stressful. We paid for the tow and a deductible.
  • Door $281 – Our entry door window glass broke in a wind storm in Utah and Lee replaced the window portion of the door in Texas.
  • Quilt $200 – Something a little more fun, we got a T-shirt quilt made from shirts we had collected in our travels.

2019

  • Bluebonnet $314
  • 2 Truck batteries $360
  • Living Room TV $400
  • Bedroom TV $140
  • Workstation for Tracy $350
  • Replacement WiFi Hotspot $216
  • Dog Platform $250
  • Convection Microwave $ 370
  • Cooktop $300
  • Exterior Wall Repair $1725
  • Trailer Tires $1556 – After the replacement of our shackle and hanger the tires started to wear in a really bad and unusual pattern. We finally replaced them but still managed to put a LOT of miles on those tires before we did. I’ll be very curious to see how long these new ones last.
  • Kitchen Vent and Cover $334
  • Rear Truck Tires $1120

Patterns I am Seeing- By Tracy

Five years ago we started out on the road with a large group of fellow travelers.  Over the years we have done a good job of staying in contact with one another which has allowed me to notice some general patterns as the years go by.  As always these are just impressions and not backed up by statistical data.  In year five I see two major trends emerging.  First, several people we know have bought a piece of land.  Some are using this land to winter or summer and others are staying in one place more often and traveling part-time.  Consequently several people we know have sold their larger rigs and are now traveling in a smaller setup.  Having a piece of property makes total sense to me, but we don’t have a place yet we want to settle.  If we could agree on a place I would 100% start looking for some land.

The second trend is several of us are becoming first time grandparents.  It makes sense as many of us had children around the same time and are kids are hitting 30 and deciding to have babies.  I know of five couples personally who are in the new grandparent situation and each one of us needs to decide how that will affect our travel long-term.  Where the babies are matter of course as RV’s don’t do great in winter locales and those of us who work have to factor that in as well so its a balancing act of family needs and the desire to keep traveling.  How that turns out long term I don’t know but I am extremely glad we have five full years of travel before we had a grandchild to balance things with.

Top 10 Things We Saw 

 

Hole in the Rock required several hours of rough driving down a dirt road but was totally worth it.

 

Bryce Canyon.  Some things absolutely live up to their press.

 

Giant land grab statue in Oklahoma City

 

Goblin Valley.  We wouldn’t even have known this place existed if it wasn’t for our friend Deb.

 

Arizona Desert in bloom.  Thanks to Guy for loaning us his buggy.  I’ve never seen the desert so green and it was beautiful.

 

Lunar eclipse in the middle of nowhere Texas.  In an oil field far away from any lights it was a spectacular sight.

 

Snake River where Evil Knievel attempted his jump.  An iconic moment and place for those of us who remember it.

 

Slot canyons in Utah…super cool love hiking those.

 

Zoomies in the desert, in the forest,  in the grasslands, and finally, at the ocean.  Jack’s zoomies are amazing everywhere!

 

The absolute best though was Oliver’s smile. Being a grandma rocks!

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Search Amazon Here
  • 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.

Fifth Year – The Emotional Arc

Before I go through what happened in our fifth year, I wanted to take a moment and recognize that we made the Five Year Milestone.  To be honest, I was pretty skeptical about the sustainability of the lifestyle when we first started and I would have given us less than a 50/50 chance to still be on the road five years in.  I was completely convinced that we would have run out of money by now, and I am more than pleasantly surprised that that hasn’t happened.  That being said, it’s fair to say this lifestyle is not exactly what Lee and I thought it would be.  We had a romanticized vision in our heads and the reality does not always match.  I wrote a post this year called Original Expectations Versus Reality to talk about some of these differences.

My friend Kelly started her fifth year summary by answering a few questions and I thought I would take a moment to do the same.  For those of you who haven’t read the whole blog this will give you a high level overview of where we are.

  1.  Do you regret your choice to go on the road?  Absolutely not.  At times I have regretted my decision to quit my job, but never to sell our house and go on the road. (Not even a tiny little bit. – Lee)
  2. What is your least favorite part? For me it has been the jobs we have had to work. I have been pretty honest about how much I have struggled with most of them. This year I have taken steps to solve that problem and I hope it is better going forward. (For me it’s that I thought we would have more time off. We’ve still done way better than before we hit the road with the work/play ration, but 50/50 was my goal. – Lee)
  3. What is your favorite part? I love, love when we are out in nature.  When I think back on the last 5 years it evokes a series of amazing images that no one can ever take away from me.  Plus Lee and I are at our best when we are exploring.  There is less of that than I would like, but more than I originally thought would be possible. (Seeing awesome things. Not just majestic vistas, but largest balls of twine. A close second is not being in any one place for too long. – Lee)
  4. Do you miss your old life?  For Lee that answer is not at all.  He felt confined in his old life and although this one is not perfect it suits him much better.  The answer for me is more complicated.  I miss parts of my old life.  I definitely miss the type of work I was able to do in my old life (although I do not miss the stress).  I miss seeing family, especially around the holidays.  I definitely miss having easy access to consistent medical and dental care.
  5. Is it a fair trade??  Again Lee would say absolutely.  My answer is most days.  I do get frustrated with the fact that I cannot have the things I mentioned above and still be a full time RVer, although I am continually striving to find a balance where that is possible.

I wrote a post called Compromises on November 26, 2104, two weeks after we went on the road. Five years later, I don’t think my (or Lee’s) perspective has changed all that much. Here’s an excerpt:

“One of the things about this lifestyle is it involves many compromises.  In our sticks and bricks we had created a life that really suited our day-to-day needs.  Obviously it wasn’t good enough or we would never have made the move, but we were comfortable. (I’m never actually comfortable, the best I can shoot for is minimally uncomfortable. – Lee)  Going out on the road is an exercise in getting out of your comfort zone and it seems every decision we make involves compromise of one sort or another.  Compromise is not bad in and of itself, (yes, it is – Lee.) but you really have to be honest with yourself and each other about what really matters to you.”

So let’s talk about this year.  It was a turbulent one and in many respects this year has caused us to go full circle.  We spent the beginning of this year in Texas with our friends Cori and Greg and this year it took over a month for us to find a gate guarding job.  We really weren’t expecting such a big delay and we took a hit to our financials as we waited.  On the plus side we celebrated our first “Friendsgiving” and we able to reconnect with Kelly and Bill.  We finally got a job in December and ended up spending Christmas working in the oil fields.  It wasn’t totally terrible, but certainly not the best Christmas we have ever had, but at that point we were happy to be working again.

On the plus side after Christmas I finally published my autobiography.  I had been working on it for a couple of years and after editing and re-editing I finally was ready to pull the trigger and put it out there.  It was much more nerve wracking than I thought it would be but the response was generally good.  In particular it was nice that my brother and dad both read it because neither of them read the blog.  I learned a lot through the experience, mainly that I love writing and hate editing.  Since I can’t afford a professional editor, I need to do that work myself and that process more than anything else would make me hesitate to do it again.  There is a higher standard for writing a book than writing a blog and my “stream of consciousness style” didn’t really serve me well in that format.  All in all, I’m super glad I did it, not sure if and when I will ever do it again.

Right after the holidays I started seriously thinking about Finding a Consultant Job that fits our lifestyle.  I knew I was unhappy with the status quo but wasn’t exactly sure what type of job would fit.  I knew I needed to loosen up on my criteria though, and started looking for something in the San Antonio area.  I got really far down the path with one company but unfortunately the job was pulled before they hired anyone.  They tried to find me something else in their company but I wasn’t the right fit for any of their openings.  The whole experience really bummed me out especially because I was interviewing while trying to work overnights and scheduling interviews was complicated.  It didn’t help that in the middle of all this we had our 30th anniversary and even though we luckily had a few days off work we didn’t do anything to celebrate it.  Milestones are important to me, but not so much for Lee, and generally we manage to find some middle ground on celebrating them.  This time though nothing we could do felt right and we ended up doing nothing which really bothered me.  I knew I was unhappy with the way things were going and it became obvious that Lee felt the same way.  I had been so focused on myself and my own feelings I didn’t see that he was also struggling.

We were still trying to dig ourselves out of a financial hole though from all that time off so after a few days we started at a new gate.  We were both happy that this one was farther away from the border and we quickly settled into a routine. I kept thinking that the best time to deal with what was happening with us was when we had our month off in April, so kicked the can down the road until then.  When you are gate guarding one of you is always working and its really not the best situation to have serious relationship conversations.  I did write a post, which I never published, called “Cracks in the Foundation.”  I don’t delete many posts without posting them, and when I do it’s definitely not a good commentary on my state of mind.  Here is some of that post:

 

“As the days drag on at the gate, I’ve found that I have lots of time to think.  It’s been hard to put those thoughts into a cohesive post of any kind, which is why I haven’t written in awhile…  I’ve always been a person who looks for patterns or themes in my life, in part to figure out what God/the universe is trying to tell me. But as I stated it’s been a bit chaotic and the only idea that keeps occurring is the concept of foundation… We each have building blocks, and we can assign a simple designation to each of them.  Mother, Wife, Christian, Employee, Traveler, Photographer, Writer are just a few of mine.  These designations make up the unique personality of who I am and form my foundation.  In theory, those foundation blocks should be completely portable… For me, however, it hasn’t been that simple…  There is something about this life, often lived at its most basic, that strips away the noise and shows the core…

When we are traveling there is lots of distraction.  In the beginning, in particular, there were so many pretty and shiny things to look at, that the foundation was largely ignored.  Eventually things slow down and the less pleasant realities of the lifestyle start to appear.  RV repairs, money concerns and family issues all bring a dose of reality to the fantasy, and in many cases impact the foundation… There have been other events that have shown me cracks I didn’t know existed.  Or to be honest I had some inkling, but really didn’t want to look to hard.  If the basement isn’t actually flooding, who cares about the occasional minor leak?  The last month a series of events has me taking a really hard look at several bricks in my foundation. I’m not going to get into the specifics, because they are deeply personal and for the purposes of this post don’t really matter. The point is that at times like these I wonder if those cracks could be addressed easier if I lived a different lifestyle…

In the past when I had difficulty with a portion of my life I would focus on something else.  Marriage issues…work more. Kid trouble…spend more time with husband,  Work problems…focus on home.  I am fully aware that playing hot potato with my problems wasn’t always the best choice, but it was effective.  Things pass, issues work themselves out over time, circumstances changes. All of those things are true. In this stripped down life, that doesn’t feel like an option.  The problems are front and center and in this incredibly small space it is hard to shuttle them to a corner.  There is no unoccupied place to put them…In a perfect world I would love to just fix the cracks and move on. Sometimes that’s not possible.  Sometimes it’s just too painful. Sometimes it’s too scary. Like I said,  I just don’t know. It’s tempting to blame it on the lifestyle, that would be the easy way out.  But I brought this foundation with me. The life is simply the basement stripped clean.”

 

That post was written on February 24th and on March 4th my life turned completely upside down.   Lee had a heart attack.  It wasn’t expected and we were absolutely not prepared.  The one purpose it served was to completely shift the focus and provide a warning shot that we needed to lead a healthier lifestyle.  We quit smoking, went on diets, and both of us started seriously reevaluating our lives.  I also experienced PTSD, although I didn’t recognize it for what it was and didn’t receive help until later in the summer.  It also put on hold any plans about looking for a job.  We needed the time off in April to relax and it made the most sense to return to our jobs in Oregon for the third year in a row.  Lee really wanted to go back and although I was dreading it, I wanted him to have whatever would make him the most comfortable.  So we scheduled our time in Utah and then made plans to head that way.

Utah was the absolute best part of the year.  This was our second month in the state, and we were able to finish seeing several areas we missed the year before.  We saw Bryce Canyon with our friends Deb and Steve and explored Goblin Valley with Deb & Steve and Cori, & Greg,  The absolute best thing that we did was go on a 10 mile hike in Little Wild Horse Canyon.  First, it was one of the best experiences we have had on the road, and just as importantly it showed Lee that he could still be physically active post heart attack.  He actually did better than I did and for both of us it was a big accomplishment.

Right after we arrived at Timothy Lake Jack turned one.  I can’t stress enough what a joy he has been through a very difficult year.  Even when Lee and I weren’t communicating very well with each other, talking about the dog gave us something to work on together.  Jack has taken to the RV life very well, but it has required some adjustment on our parts.  Overall I am so very glad that we got him, but it definitely has changed the way we do things a bit.  Timothy Lake itself was not great.  We met some really nice new people, but there was more of a barrier between seasonal workers and full time employees than ever before.  I thought this year I would be able to work on some special projects, but very little of that actually materialized.  I felt underutilized and once again started thinking about next steps. My daughter was also expecting our first grandchild and I really wanted a job that would enable me to spend more time with her and the baby.

I started looking for full time or long term jobs at the beginning of August and finally in mid August I flew out to see Kyrston and to meet Oliver.  My feelings towards the baby were so strong from the moment we met and I knew I was on the right track looking for a full time position with remote options.  When I went back to Timothy I was honest with my boss and Lee about what I was doing and I worked really hard at work to fully transition my job to a new person since I knew we wouldn’t be coming back the nest year.  I helped select the right person, trained them, and documented everything I could.  I also kept looking for work, although it was definitely more difficult than I initially thought it would be.  Right when I felt I was starting to make progress we got the word that they were letting some couples go from the Work Kamping job and we were one of them.  I was told that because I had trained my replacement I had “pretty much done it to myself,” and we were given a few days to pack up and move on.

Needless to say that experience was the low point of a really crappy year and we were both very angry at being treated that way after three very loyal years of service.  These things happen for a reason though and I firmly believed God had a plan so we headed back down to Texas to see if we could get a gate guarding job to tide us over until I found something permanent.   I should stop here and say Cori & Greg were an absolute lifesaver this year.  Not only did they give us a place to stay several times, they were also unfailingly supportive friends through all this craziness.  We both learned on them pretty heavily and I am incredibly grateful that they are in our lives.

Once we got down to Texas things started heating up.  I was interviewing with multiple companies and Lee was much less resistant to me having a full time position than he initially was. Between the delay in getting a gate, the heart attack medical bills, and getting let go early from PGE we definitely were in a hole and we needed something drastic to dig our way out of it.  He definitely still had his concerns, don’t get me wrong, but he was more open to me working full time again.  To be clear I think eventually we could have worked our way out of it with gate guarding, it just would have taken much longer and for me at least would have been much less rewarding.  Finally on October 7th I started a full-time position and I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Originally we were going to stay with Cori &  Greg until November 1st, but we had a Facetime with the baby and we both decided on a whim to leave earlier and head east.  We made the drive in three days, got settled in and then went to see the baby which was very special.  The next morning I received word that my nephew had committed suicide and we packed up and moved a few hours inland to be close to my sister near Charlotte.  Having a home on wheels was a blessing in this scenario and having a job even more so.  My new boss was very understanding about my need to be with my family and as a full time employee I got paid for bereavement time.  We stayed with my sister through the week and then came back to Charleston and into the same RV spot.  Our plan is to stay here through the holidays which will allow us to spend time with Oliver and be close in case my sister needs us. We are also working through what our life looks like now that I am working full time again and Lee is figuring out what he wants to do with his time.

Overall this was a year of extreme highs and extreme lows.  Things are by no means perfect and we are still working it out, and considering the year we have had things could definitely be worse.  At this point I am living very much in the here and now, and taking things day by day.  Thank you all for following along, and here are some of my favorite pictures from the year.

Jack helps Cori with her emails.  They are good buddies.

 

Celebrating Kelly’s birthday

 

Merry Christmas

 

We got the fantastic news that our daughter was expecting!!!

 

Jack stares down a herd of cattle in the oil fields

 

Greg fixing Lee’s oxygen. He kept all of us in good spirits.

 

Hobie keeping Jack company

 

Visiting the donkey sanctuary with Linda.

 

Dinner with our friends in Arizona from left: Deb, me, Steve, Guy, Sue, Harry, and Vicki

 

Guy let us borrow his four wheeler to take a ride.  What a terrific experience.  We both loved it.

 

Seeing Bill and Nancy at Lost Dutchman State Park

 

Deb and Hurley at Lone Rock Beach Campground.  It’s one of our favorite boondocking spots.

 

Deb, Steve, Lee and I at Bryce Canyon. It was just as amazing as people say it is.

 

Hurley and Jack playing in Goblin Valley

 

AMAZING boondocking spot outside of Goblin Valley

 

Cori in a super cool slot canyon in Little Wild Horse

 

Deb, Cori, and I at Calf’s Creek Falls

 

Greg, Cori, Lee and I at Devils Garden on our way to Hole in the Rock

 

Shoshone Falls in Idaho was an unexpected treat.

 

Jack goes to Good Manners Class

 

Lovely spot near Bagby Hot Springs

 

My daughter Kyrston and Oliver. I adore this picture

 

My sister Wendy, niece Bailey, daughter Kyrston and me

 

Mom’s first great grand child

 

Dad’s first great grandchild

 

Olivers first fancy dinner.  He was nice and slept as I had one of the best meals of my life with my son-in-law Jeremy, daughter Kyrston and my Dad.

 

Jack got to meet Peyton and Sammy when Jo came to visit!

 

Adding to the giant ball of twine. Bucket list check!!!

 

Seeing our friends Dan and Sharon in Oklahoma City…another state sticker!!!

 

Oliver hangs out in the blanket I cross stitched for him.

 

I adore this child!!!

 

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Search Amazon Here
  • 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.