Football and Friends

It was a very busy week here in Largo, Florida and it was very interesting from a “what will our life look like?” perspective.  Lee started RV Tech school this week and I worked every day from the camper.  It was nice getting a break from each other all day and we also worked to get into some sort of a routine.  I should probably explain the break part.  As I have said before we have been married 25 years, have known each other since we were 14 and 16, and truly are best friends.  That being said I don’t think we have ever actually spent this much time together…certainly not in 400 square feet…and it’s a bit of an adjustment.  I keep running into feelings of being unsettled in my environment (mainly because everything hasn’t found its permanent home yet) and working through that is easier when it’s just me in the space.  So the break was good from that perspective and I actually had the chance to organize my side of the desk and get some housekeeping items done.

I also cooked every day this week and it’s been years since I cooked this much.  Lee had a great hot lunch every day (he said the other students were pretty jealous) and I found a couple more winners for my recipe list.  Really you can’t go wrong with cooking.  It’s cheaper, with two people there are plenty of leftovers for lunches, and it is fun when something you try for the first time goes completely right.  Don’t get me wrong I am not cooking every night forever, but I have tons of recipes I collected when we were waiting for the house to sell that I am dying to try. Plus while Lee’s in school it’s good if he is eating well.  If you’re curious, when meal planning I like to mix simple with the more complicated and new versus old recipes.  Here’s an example with next week’s menu plan although it may change without notice.

  • Saturday – Chili
  • Sunday – Sirloin Tips and Noodles, green beans, corn on the cob
  • Monday – Kentucky Fried Chicken, Cole Slaw, and Zippy Fries
  • Tuesday – Southern Fried Chicken Salad (using leftover chicken from Monday and making egg salad made for Lee’s lunch on Weds)
  • Weds – Pork Chops w/ Potato Casserole, baked beans
  • Thursday – Catfish, Stuffing, and frozen mixed vegetables

I also made a dentist appointment this week at Aspen Dental.  I am pretty crazy about clean teeth.  No matter how broke we were when I was a kid my mother always made sure I went to the dentist and as a consequence I have had zero adult cavities.  Plus, they have linked teeth problems to other issues such as cardiac problems later in life, so to me it is VERY important to get regular cleanings.   Bacteria can build up in your gums and it is a very short step to getting into your blood stream.  So when we decided to go on the road I was concerned about going to a dentist.  In the RV Dreams rally I asked the question, but no one really had a good answer and it has remained a concern of mine that is unresolved.  I tried going to my sister’s dentist in Rock Hill, but they wanted a first patient appt first and I realized I would have to get a first patient appointment every 6 month as I would always be in a different place.  Obviously that won’t work so my friend Cori asked if I had considered a national dental chain.  The cool thing about routine health care is even if you don’t have a local doctor you can go to an urgent care almost anywhere but there isn’t anything like that for dental.  Aspen Dental isn’t everywhere but they are a national chain and their computer systems are networked.  Their reps have said I would not need to get a new patient exam every time with them, just the first time so I am going to give them a shot while here in Largo.  I won’t really know how it works out until the second 6 months, but I am hoping they live up to the promise as this would be the perfect solution for those of us who travel a lot. My prescription is working just fine btw.  My doctor promised to prescribe for 2 years before I needed to come back to her and Walgreen’s has a great online app that allows me to order the prescription wherever I am.  So far no issues at all with that!!

So that’s what the week was like…work, school, errands…which is good.  Because this isn’t vacation, it is real life and those things all still need to be done.    A nice suprise early in the day is for the first time someone from RVillage reached out to me.  RVillage is a relatively new website that allows you to “check in” at your campsite and see if any other RVillagers are there. David and Kris reached out when they saw we had an Open Range because they are interested in buying one and wanted to hear about our experience. We love our open range and were happy to invite them over and give a little tour.  It also showed me that RVillage can work and it’s worth the time to keep checking into our sites.     As another surprise on Friday I got a call from a work friend of mine that she was in Tampa for work.  It was also Deb’s birthday and she invited me to meet two other work friends of ours and go out.  Lee was great about the last minute change in plans…I believe he was pleased with having some alone time in the rig…and I jumped in my car and went to Tampa.  We ended up meeting at this little pub called Mulligans Irish Pub and it was so great to see my friends in person.  Deb, Julie, and I worked a ton together up in New England two summers ago but Julie lives in Tampa and Deb in Fort Worth so we rarely get to see each other in person.  We had a great time talking and catching up although Deb has been reading my blog and knew much of what was happening.  They seemed really interested in the life and I had a great time talking about why it meant so much to me and what a great time I was having.  Also, the beer was great and they had a singer who was very good and was kind enough to sing Happy birthday for Deb. Julie’s husband was so funny.  I loved talking to him and because he worked in a video store his family owned for 8 years he is a walking movie encyclopedia.  Name any movie and he can tell you the year it was released, who starred in it, and the director.  I tested him with Fast Times at Ridgemont High and he completely got it right.  It was like a walking talking IMDB app!!   It was a really great night and when these serendipitous events happen I am truly grateful for what we are doing because there is a lot more chance running into people than I ever thought would happen.

Julie, me, Deb, and Denise

Julie, me, Deb, and Denise

 

 

 

 

 

 

I watched the Patriots game on Saturday (wow what a nail biter) and then Lee and I watched some Doctor Who in the evening.  Lee and I have this deal going where we trade a Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a Doctor Who.  I want him to watch Buffy and he’s trying to get me into Who.  Since I was watching so much football I declared it a Buffy free weekend and we watched a two-part Doctor Who instead.  You think you will be out running around all the time and never watch TV, but it does get dark pretty early and more importantly all that running around is tiring and sometimes you just want to sit and watch some TV.  I was starting to feel like a bit of a couch potato though and thankfully we had made lunch plans with our good Dreamer  friends Gene and Eileen who are staying about 1 hour south in Bradenton. Gene and Eileen were having a terrific time on the road (take a look at their blog Newhallin) and took a break to rent a condo and have Gene’s mother come and stay with them for a few months.  I decided on lunch because I like to eat out as much as the next person, but lunch is 30%-50% cheaper than a dinner  so you get the experience without the sticker shock.

We met at a cool place right on the beach called Gulf Drive Cafe.  Amazing location it really is right on the beach and the menu was great with breakfast, lunch, and dinner items.  Eileen did the sweetest thing and gave us a present she had bought for all of our friends.  We were the last ones she had seen and I really appreciated the gift as it does more than one thing!!  We had a wonderful time catching up since we hadn’t seen each other since Pennsylvania and the conversation was easy and comfortable.  The only down side was the service in the restaurant.  Gene warned us the service wasn’t that great in this particular place but the view was amazing so people put up with it.  He was right the service was absolutely terrible and as a former server and restaurant manager it is very difficult for me to not say something in those situations.  But when your with friends you don’t want to make a fuss, but it was distracting to me and I found myself not enjoying the experience as much as I should have.  Lee says I just need to get over this and I know he’s right, but when the waitress brought Lee a cup of coffee with no sugar or cream and had an attitude when he asked for some that was the last straw for me.   So I did something I rarely do and left a 10% tip along with a note on the check.  It said, “I routinely tip 25% but  in this case I  could not do that.  A beautiful view does not make up for a job poorly done.”  Those who have worked in the restaurant industry will probably cheer the act and those who have not will deplore it, but as I stated I rarely tip less than 20% and if I was her I would have wanted to know why.  For the record it wasn’t that they were busy or disorganized it was that she never picked up the pace to compensate.  Made me nuts.  After the lunch though we walked right out onto the beach and it was beautiful then we went back to Eileen and Gene’s condo and got caught up with each other.  It was a wonderful visit and I loved every minute of it…bad service aside. 

Gulf Drive Cafe in Bradenton Beach

Gulf Drive Cafe in Bradenton Beach

Eileen and Gene

Eileen and Gene

Fishing line strung over the tables to stop seagulls from dive bombing the restaurant and stealing food

Fishing line strung over the tables to stop seagulls from dive bombing the restaurant and stealing food

Gift from Eileen ...it's does way more than one thing

Gift from Eileen …it’s does way more than one thing

Gene and Lee ignoring the beautiful view to compare phone apps...geez

Gene and Lee ignoring the beautiful view to compare phone apps…geez

 

 

 

We got home in time to watch the Denver/Colts game (not nearly as good as I expected) and the the Golden Globes.  It was a very full week,  but I am looking forward to checking some things off our Tampa list next Saturday.

Tomatoes Vinaigrette

This was delicious.  Even Lee who is not a huge tomato fan liked them

  • Italian Salad Dressing (I use Good Seasons)
  • 4 very thick tomato slices
  • Minced onion (instant, chopped red or yellow)
  • Parsley flakes
  1. Slice tomatoes and arrange in square pan
  2. Cover with salad dressing
  3. Sprinkle with onion and parsley
  4. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours basting occasionally (don’t go much beyond the 3 hours or tomatoes will be over ripe)
  5. Serve

 

Tomatoes Viniagrette

Tomatoes Viniagrette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy’s Sirloin Tips and Noodles

  • 2 # of any grilling steak (london broil to ribeye it all works)
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup butter
  • 1 12oz package wide egg noodles
  • garlic salt
  • 1 large can mushrooms
  1. Broil, grill, or pan fry steak to rare temperature
  2. Cut into bite size pieces and set aside
  3. Boil egg noodles using package description the drain and set aside
  4. Place mushrooms and 1/4 cup butter in pan, sprinkler with garlic salt, and cook on medium low heat until mushrooms are browned
  5. Place steak with browned mushrooms, add additional butter and garlic salt as desired.  Cook until steak  is desired doneness
  6. Combine noodles, steak, mushrooms and butter sauce in a pot and heat for a few minutes on medium low until all ingredients are hot
  7. Serve

Easy Peasy Green Beans

  • 2 cans french cut green beans
  • Butter
  • Garlic Salt
  1. Drain Green Beans from Can
  2. Place in skillet with 1/4 cup butter
  3. Sprinkler with garlic salt to taste
  4. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally 15-20 minutes
  5. Serve
Sirloin Tips and Noodles with Easy Peasy Green Beans

Sirloin Tips and Noodles with Easy Peasy Green Beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hanging with Deb and Steve

The very next day after we landed in Rock Hill, Steve and Deb came to visit!!  They had rerouted themselves to spend time with us, which was so sweet, and a wonderful way to start our adventure.  We made chili for them and once they got situated we went over and spent some time eating and getting caught up.  Steve works from his rig and we spent some time talking about how he makes that work for both of them.  It was a great conversation and it’s interesting to talk about the similarities and differences between what we are experiencing.

I promised some pictures of Ebenezer State Park in my last blog so here we are.   Our “back yard” looks out on the water and it is a very short walk down to the water’s edge. They have sites that can be reserved for two weeks as well as “drop in” sites that are day to day.  The campground is broken into two sections; a wooded area and an open area with lake views and the rangers are very nice. The price is right at $28 a day for full hookups, including city water, and fantastic water pressure.  They have free wifi which is on the weak side but we had no trouble getting cell signal here.

I was dying to try out my new camera a Canon Rebel T5 so I walked down to the water and took some pictures.  My one big splurge before going on the road was this camera.  I have been using a point and shoot for many years, but I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out on a great shot because I didn’t have the right lens.  It was pretty darn intimidating at first, but Lee hooked me up and set the settings at a simple point and shoot mode.  I will get more fancy later, but for right now I loved  how simple it was to use.  Plus I felt like a professional with my fancy camera and strap!!

Campsite in Ebenezer State Park

Campsite in Ebenezer State Park

 

 

Our Camper :)

Our Camper. (Comes complete with handsome and witty man.-Lee)

 

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View from our back window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer State Park

Lake Wylie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer State Park

Ebenezer State Park beach area

 

Lakw Wylie

Lake Wylie has beautiful houses across the shore

Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie has many small islands you can land a boat on

The next night Steve and Deb cooked.  They made chicken breasts wrapped with bacon, new potatoes, and salad, and it was amazing.  Here’s the thing about swapping meals…what’s normal to the people cooking is super good to the invitees.  We all tend to make the same meals over and over so it’s a great opportunity to eat something new and get some fresh ideas.   Deb’s potatoes in particular were awesome.  She medium boiled them in salt water to fork tender then drained them and added butter and a sprinkle of parsley.  So good.  The skins were super soft and it was easy.  I added the recipe below

Oh, and the funniest thing happened.  We have two pretty brazen squirrels hanging out at our site (Rocky and Adrian).  Lee put some birdseed on the ground and now they are our best friends.  Well Rocky did the craziest thing.  He jumped on our chair and then climbed up on the metal hand rail next to our door.  Then he sat there and swiped at the door with his paws as if he was trying to get in.  Crazy.  Couldn’t get a pic when he was on the rail, but he stayed there for a really long time before he jumped down and wandered away.  Never seen anything like that.

Rocky

Rocky  (picture taken by Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next night I made my Grandma Betty’s Meatloaf.  She passed not that long ago and throughout this process I really have felt she was watching out for me, so it was nice to make her signature dish and get to share it with our friends.  Steve and Debbie really liked it (I gave Steve the leftovers for a meatloaf sandwich the next day)  and I have posted the recipe below.   Then we played Cards against Humanity and Steve crushed it even though they have never played before.  I do want to warn you: the game is definitely for adults and can stray into the raunchy.  (That’s not true at all. It starts in the raunchy and quickly devolves into the downright offensive. I love it. – Lee) Luckily they definitely got it and there was a ton of laughter.   Who knew Deb had such a wicked sense of humor 🙂  Deb also showed us how she routes them.  She is the planning master and is an expert at finding campgrounds and routes.  She uses a website called Road Tripper (they also have an app) and Lee really liked it.

The next morning we went to this little hole in the wall breakfast place my sister recommended called Anna J’s.  I love the mom and pop places and luckily it’s what our new budget can afford.  I got silver dollar pancakes, bacon, and coffee for $5.  Can’t beat that.  Deb got the catfish and eggs because she had never seen it before.  I love her adventurous spirit.  The catfish was unbelievably good and the portion was so large we all had a piece.

Look at this piece of catfish...unbelievable and I think her breakfast was $6

Look at this piece of catfish…unbelievable and I think her breakfast was $6

Steve and Deb at Anna J's

Steve and Deb at Anna J’s…they are so cute

 

So what do you do after going to a diner for breakfast in South Carolina?  Well, you go to a gun range of course!!  Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of all of our amendments including the right to bear arms so I have no problem with gun ownership at all.  We never had guns (although Lee grew up with them) because of the kids, and for us personally the potential risk was not worth it.  However now that it is just the two of us we have been rethinking that strategy and since Steve and Deb have a gun in their rig we decided to go to a range and shoot it.  If you are a gun owner, I think it is incredibly important that both members of the couple are comfortable enough shooting it to use it in a dangerous situation.  That means being able to load, cock, and fire the weapon with some level of certainty.  In order to make that work for me (who has very limited experience) it would be important to find a handgun that I felt I could grow comfortable with over time.  Steve’s was not too bad but had a bit of a kick for me, so I rented (for $7) a Smith & Wesson 9MM.  I liked shooting it and found it reasonably easy to cock and load, but I am not ready to “pull the trigger” and buy one.  Sorry couldn’t help myself 🙂  It was fun though and only cost $18 for Deb and Steve who had their own gun and bullets and $57 for Lee and I who rented one and bought 100 rounds. Kind of pricey for an hour’s entertainment but it’s also research so I didn’t feel too bad about it.  Plus of course we got some great pictures and had a really good time.  Although Deb has been shooting since age four, she has never been to a gun range so it was a new experience for her.

Shot him right in the junk. I was not messing around :)

Shot him right in the junk. I was not messing around 🙂

Deb is one heck of a shot. She's been shooting since she was 4 years old. Don't mess with her.

Deb is one heck of a shot. She’s been shooting since she was 4 years old. Don’t mess with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve's a goofball

Steve’s a goofball.  He was simulating a man coming at me to get me in the shooting mood. It worked!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and Deb. Do you believe she's older than me?? What I wouldn't give for that Italian heritage

Me and Deb.

 

Lee was into it

Lee was into it

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went over to see my sister briefly after the gun range.  Needed to pick up our new heated fresh water hose. (Even though the daytime weather is quite nice, sometimes the nights can get down below freezing, and there’s no protection from the cold for the fresh water hose that goes from the campground’s water supply hydrant to the camper. It’s a pain to go out and turn it off every night, and then drain it, so it doesn’t freeze up. This hose has a built in heating element that runs the length of the hose, and a thermostat, and keeps the water above freezing, down to well below zero. One of the nicest features is that it is female on both ends, so you can use it whether the power source that you are plugging in to is at the supply end, or the demand end. It comes with a male-male adaptor to use that feature. – Lee) It’s nice to be able to send things to my sister while we are here and we are taking full advantage to get our last minute items from Amazon.  Then we took some relax time in the afternoon and just hung out in the beautiful sun. The weather has been beautiful all week…clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s.  As I watched my friends in Buffalo and other parts east deal with nasty weather, I felt so very grateful to be in a place where I could walk outside with just a light jacket.  One thing we hadn’t done yet was have a campfire, so we took advantage of our last night with Steve and Deb and made one.  It was great, and just what we needed to take off the night chill and the first campfire of our new life together.  So glad we had friends there to share it with us.

Our first fire of our new life. It was a good one

Our first fire of our new life. It was a good one

Deb and Steve bringing us Stew and biscuits...yummy

Deb and Steve bringing us stew and biscuits…yummy

Deb made stew and biscuits and we sat around the fire and talked until pretty late.  Even though we are going through similar things today, we took advantage of the time to learn a little about each others pasts and since Deb has 4 kids and I have 3 shared our childbirth stories…hey, it’s what parents do.  (No pictures, because….ewwww. – Lee) The best story of the night though goes to Debbie when she told us how Steve passed out in their Lamaze class.   He says it was the heat, but they were playing the C-section video at the time so you be the judge!!!  Steve is a big guy, and he passed out cold in the hallway and they had to carry him into one of the doctors’ offices and use smelling salts to revive him.  The picture of that is still making me smile and it was so nice to get to know each other better.

We had a great time this week and feel really blessed that Deb and Steve changed their travel plans to meet up with us.  They are headed to Charleston, Savannah, and all parts of Forida, but we hope to meet up with them again before they head out west.  I know I keep saying it but it bears repeating…you meet the nicest people in this lifestyle and we are truly grateful for it.

Recipes

Tracy’s Chili

  • 3 packages of chili seasoning (I like McCormick but any brand will do)
  • 3 lbs hamburger
  • 1 – (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 – (15 oz) cans dark red kidney beans (drained)
  • 3 –  (14oz) cans petite diced tomatoes (no flavoring and do not drain)
  1. Brown hamburger
  2. Add tomatoes, kidney beans, and seasoning packets to large pot
  3. Add cooked and drained hamburger
  4. Cook over medium heat until comes to a light boil
  5. Simmer (stir frequently so it does not burn)
  6. Let sit several hours on no heat or overnight
  7. Eat one or two meals then freeze the rest

 

Deb’s Tiny Potatoes

  • Small bag of white or red new potatoes
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  1. Boil potatoes in salt water until fork tender
  2. Drain
  3. Add 1/2 to 1 stick of butter (use generously)
  4. Season with parsley
  5. Serve

Grandma Betty’s Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds hamburger
  • 1 package Lipton’s onion soup mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup crumbled Saltine Crackers
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Glass or metal baking dish
  1. Place hamburger in a large mixing bowl and add soup mix, crackers, milk, and egg
  2. In a separate small bowl mix ketchup and BBQ sauce
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  4. Mix hamburger and ingredients VERY well using your hands (yes it’s messy but it’s the best way!!)
  5. Shape meatloaf into a loaf in a baking pan (I try to not make it too thick or the middle does not get done)
  6. Cover top and sides of meatloaf with sauce mixture (saving 1/2 for second basting)
  7. Cover pan with aluminum foil
  8. Cook 1/2 hour at 350 degrees then remove from oven
  9. Drain grease, baste with remaining sauce, cover with foil, place in oven
  10. Cook an additional 1/2 hour
  11. Remove from oven and check the middle to make sure it’s down
  12. Place in oven for an additional 10 minutes uncovered to lightly brown the sauce on top
  13. Serve

Y001

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Time Working from the Camper

This is a long one. ..so many things have been happening I really need to get us caught up.  There’s a hodge-podge of stuff in the beginning, but I promise to get to the experience of working in the camper by the end 🙂

As you may know, our daughter Kay graduated from high school a few weeks ago, and is heading to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training  August 12th.  Before she leaves, my mom is taking her on a grandmother/granddaughter vacation.   It’s a really neat thing mom has done with all of her kids (when they graduated from college) and the grand kids when they graduate from high school.  The vacations vary depending on the interests of the kid and mom’s financial situation at the time.  I went to Hawaii and it was amazing, my sister Wendy wanted a shorter flight and went on a Caribbean cruise, and my brother Eddie went to Europe.  Kyrston (my oldest) went on a cruise to Key West and Mexico, Katy (my middle daughter) went to NYC and they saw 5 Broadway plays, and now it’s Kay’s turn. Of all of the grandchildren Mom has spent the least amount of time with Kay.  She was only 5 when we moved from Ohio to New Hampshire and I knew Mom wanted to do something very special for her.  Because Kay is fluent in Spanish (she was accepted to the crypto-linguistic program in the Air Force because of her talent with learning languages), they decided on a trip to Barcelona and then a cruise along the coast of Spain and Italy.  Very very cool trip and on an international boat which means because Kay is 18 she gets to do all the adult things European kids get to do such as drink and gamble lol.  Needless to say she is super excited. (And who can blame her? I’d love to gamble and drink my way around Spain and Italy!  – Lee)

So what’s all that have to do with camping?  Well for the first time in 25 years we will be without a child in the house.  Lee and I were married very young and had our kids right away, so our lives have revolved around kids.  As of August 12th we will be empty-nesters and we are expecting camping to be a huge part of our life in this new kid-less future.   So Kay is gone for the next two weeks with Mom and we are going to take this opportunity to try living out of the camper for two weeks.  Well Lee is…I have to travel for work Weds and Thursday of this week and all next week, but he wants to see what it is like.  Partially because the house is so empty while we wait for it to sell, and partially I think to ease into the kid-less state.  I have been traveling a lot of the last several years and Lee (who works 5 minutes from the house) has been the primary caregiver.  He is an amazing parent, but this is definitely likely to hit him harder than me because he has spent so much more time with the girls in the last few years.

He also has numerous camper projects that have been put on hold because when we were just coming out for the weekends and we’ve had lot of visitors it was tough to find time to get things done.  One of the first things he is working on is cleaning the outside of the camper.  We had tons of rain and various detritus from the trees is on top of the slideouts. He bought a product while we were in Tennessee called the Bon-Aire Ultimate Water Blaster.  It is this really cool expandable attachment that goes on a hose with a rotating head that can go straight up or down or side to side.  It was great to spray specific parts of the camper.  I think it’s incredibly neat and Lee says it works very well.  Here’s some pictures to show how he used it.

Spraying the awning

Spraying the awning

Spraying top of slide out

Spraying top of slide out

 

He also took some advice from Howard of RV-Dreams and bought a metal water manifold to hook up his separate hoses for (from left to right) hose to rinse off stuff outside, hose to flush sewer lines, fresh water hose.   Much better than the crappy plastic one he had previously bought. (I can’t say enough about this! It’s such a pain to have to attach and remove hoses. The manifold is awesome. Be sure to get a four port manifold, so you’ll always have an extra one, just in case. Also, invest in as many brass quick-connects as you need for every hose end and attachment. No more trying to loosen and tighten hose ends with slippery wet hands. They just pop on and off like magic. – Lee)

Water manifold

Water manifold

 

We also have been struggling a bit with smells in the camper.  Lee is not comfortable leaving the windows open when we are not in it, so little smells can quickly become big smells.  Some of the things we have done (which have all helped) are:

  • Used grey water tank chemicals to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waster is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping (don’t laugh, everybody poops! – Lee) turn the fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on your way out
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us. (Why would anyone PREFER to be in a small space a few feet away while someone else is pooping??? – Lee)

In particular I could smell something under the sink that was unpleasant.  Lee did some online research and discovered that the anti-siphon valve was probably bad.  The way it works is a P trap is under the sink (that’s the S curve part of the pipe) is supposed to be full of water to stop noxious gasses from coming back up.  The problem with a sealed system (like a camper) is the water pushes but the air can stop the water from moving.  Anti-siphon valves allow air to go down the pipe but NOT come back up, but they are plastic and cheaply made, and sometimes they can get stuck in the open position.  Lee bought a new one at Home Depot ($5) and replaced it. Smell gone.  See below for some pics.

 

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

P trap

P trap

 

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out...he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out…he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

We also did some mini purging…well mainly Lee did.  It’s amazing how many things we picked up a year ago that are no longer relevant.  And Lee wired up the computer to the TV so now we can watch downloaded movies that are on our computer on the TV screen.  He also took this mat we bought and cut off the outside because it interfered with his chair being pulled back.  See below for the before and after.  It’s great being married to a handy guy. Seriously, it’s like living with MacGyver. (I have a much better haircut than MacGyver. – Lee)

 

Computer wires to TV

Computer wires to TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mat down on the ground ...we still have

Mat down on the ground …we still have

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

 

Just in case you think I am a total slacker..I did put my books away.  I went from 450 books down to 30 and was really worried that my favorites wouldn’t fit in the camper, but I have to hand it to the designers of the open range; two cupboards are paperback height and two are hardback height!  I am so pleased with my Open Range.  Every time I turn around there is some little feature that makes being in the camper easier.  Really a great product so far.  Other than that and watching an excellent Wimbledon men’s final…I didn’t do much this weekend.  I’ve been traveling so much I really needed some chill time.  I loved cuddling up on my couch with the fake fireplace going this morning watching some Wimbledon.  Really relaxing.

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Hardback size

Hardback size

 

 

So while I was relaxing Lee was puttering.  It has taken years for us to get to the point where I can sit and he can putter.  But if you’re going to spend any amount of time in a camper…you need to learn how to do that.  It’s tough having two people work in the same small space, so one generally is sitting.  Plus with small square footage, really how much is there to do?  You can only clean and reorganize so much.  So here’s some more pictures of things Lee did.  Needless to say I am happy because his puttering makes my life easier 🙂

Hanging my clothesline

Hanging my clothesline

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes :)

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes 🙂

 

 

Basement door...no space left untouched

Basement door…no space left untouched

Lee's tool side of the basement

Lee’s tool side of the basement

 

 

The non tool side...will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

The non tool side…will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple more random things and then I think I am all caught up!  Seasonal sites are great on a holiday weekend.  No worrying about where you’ll stay or losing a day of a three-day weekend setting up and then tearing down right away again. The campground was packed, but people were well-behaved and we just stayed around our site to avoid the crowds.  Also, and completely unrelated,   I tested the “make a fire with chips” theory.  Fritos did NOT work but Tortilla chips worked great…see below

Did not stay lit

Fritos did not stay lit.  I heard later the scoops don’t work but regular ones do??  Not sure haven’t tested that

Ta Da ..much cheaper than a $1 fire starte

Tortilla chips stayed burning for much longer and a handful is much cheaper than a $1 fire starter

 

So finally to the working in the camper.  I work from home occasionally so it’s not a complete stretch to work from the camper but I was nervous about it.  Not sure why…Lee built me a great desk space and we have Time Warner internet at this campground so wifi is very fast and unlimited.  I just had some very important assignments due and wanted to make sure my work space was perfect for the next couple of days so I could focus.

Here's my desk

Here’s my desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The morning started a little rough.  I got up took a shower and was online by 7:30 so that was good, but a couple of neighbors were staying for the holiday week and they were a bit noisy.   It’s ironic because Lee was raving about how quiet it is here during the week, so the first time I stay there was noise.  The birdsong and trees rustling in the wind were great.  Kind of like having a forest sounds CD playing in the background but for real, but then the older couple across the way started talking.  They must be hard of hearing because their voices were really loud…and I could kind of ignore that but she kept spontaneously singing.  I like music, but it was a bit off-key and very distracting.  I was about ready to turn the fan on for some whit noise when they left the site.  Things were very nice after that.   There was some light campground noise, but nothing to loud and I quickly got focused on my work.  I managed to accomplish quit a bit in the morning and at 11:30 took a half hour for a light lunch.  That was nice, I sat outside in a patch of sun and decompressed a bit from a couple of stressful morning conference calls.  I also saw a toad when I walked out my front door, which was pretty cute and not something you get to see in your average work environment 🙂

The quiet did get to me about 1pm.  There was less bird noise so I turned on the overhead fan to get some air flow and white noise.  I also discovered sitting at the desk that a few ants have snuck into the camper so Lee will be getting some Bug Stop on the way home.  Nothing more distracting than an ant crawling up your leg 🙂  It sounds like I was distracted a lot but not really.  Certainly less than an office environment when people walk up to your desk all the time.  I got quite a bit accomplished.

 

Around 2:30 things started to get uncomfortable again.  I have only sat on this chair for short periods of time and it’s really not comfortable…my butt is hurting not comfortable and my neck is hurting from not being at the right level with the table for typing.  So good to know.  It also got to 82 degrees in the camper right before it started raining and cooled down.  I had the fan on high but it was definitely a bit to hot for comfort.  Air flow was not that great.  So new chair and next time turn on the AC earlier 🙂

Around 3:45 we got a pretty serious thunderstorm…I am getting all the weather today.  I made sure my files were backed up i case we lost power, but nothing..not even a flicker which was nice.  We have really good surge protection on the camper and another surge protector on the computers, so I wasn’t worried but it was loud.  Plus the temperature dropped from 81 to 73 outside so that was good 🙂  One of the best things was I had a 6 pm conference call and instead of needing to leave late or take it from the car I was where I needed to be.  so I didn’t lose my whole night.  So overall it was a mixed bag.  I definitely need to gt the chair problem solved and the temperature controlled.  But it was quiet and I got a lot of work done.  Have to try it again and see.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Buy a Bon-Aire water blaster 
  • Use grey water tank smell product to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waste is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping turn the FanTastic Fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us

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First Time Meeting People from the Internet

It’s a funny thing to meet people who you have only gotten to know on the internet and something neither Lee or I have ever done before.  I will say it has been an awesome experience, but you have to leave what you think you know about a person from what they right and get to really know them as n the flesh people.  Some folks are exactly the same as you pictured them and others are different…not bad just different.  We spent last night and today meeting so many people who I have been talking to in the forums and it has been really wonderful. Usually in every couple there is a one person who posts and another who gets told to read certain posts lol.  In our little group it’s been mostly women doing the posting but the guys that do post are extremely knowledgeable and active.  One of my favorites is Red and he and his wife got to come when they took the spot of a last-minute cancellation.  Red and Pam have been camping for years, but just started full-timing when they both retired.  Lee and I just immediately felt so comfortable with both of them.  They are very kind and helpful but are careful to say they don’t know everything….I think they do but appreciate the humbleness 🙂  One quick story to tell you what kind of people they are…we had told ourselves the very first thing we would buy was a surge protector…because we had heard horror stories about folks who didn’t have one and lost their entire electrical systems in a storm.  Did we buy a surge protector first…nope..why because they  are very expensive and there were more fun things to buy.  So we get to the campground and the mother of all storms is coming in…tornado warning, flood warning, and heavy thunderstorms.  It’s 7pm when we realized we had a serious problem and decided we would have to unplug everything all night…not the greatest prospect.  Red leaned over to Lee and quietly whispered “I have an extra one you can borrow.”  He didn’t make a big deal about it…as a matter of fact he went out of his way to say it quietly and then took Lee and gave him a rundown of what he recommended us buying and why.  Long story short the next morning we drove to camping world and bought exactly what Red told us to buy…and yes it was extremely expensive (around $800 with the Good Sam discount)  but replacing the electrical system can run $2500.  You have those moments in life when God/universe  puts the right person in front of you at just the right time…and I really believe this was one of those moments.  Ok so this is what Lee bought…one is a surge protector and the other is a voltage regulator.  The surge protector stops the electrical system from getting fried and the voltage regulator “boosts” the power you are getting from campsites with low voltage.  It’s really cool how it does it.  It takes in juice and holds it and then adds to it so you always have the correct amount of power.  Power drops can hurt your TV and computer and this stops that from happening.  Think tape delay when watching a live television event 🙂

IMG_1609 IMG_1610

 

We also met several other couples who are our age and who  just bought new 5th wheels or Class A’s.  I had been communicating with many of the wives online because we all were asking similar questions and going through the same things at the same time.  We totally bonded over the RV-Dream forum topics and meeting in person solidified that.        Some of my favorites so far are Kelly and Bill (screen name Jersey Girl),Jo and Ben (Jo and Ben)  Cori and Greg (bylandandsea), Linda and Scott (Liberty Linda), Jo and Craig (Mary Sunshine),  and Debbie and Steve (Debbie M).  In addition to folks I “knew” we have met several other been doing this a long time… couples such as Greg and Sue and Neil and Connie.  Plus when you meet people you get to see the insides of their rigs which is awesome for great ideas on how to maximize storage space.  Pam had put tension rods up high in her shower to hang towels on and we LOVED that idea and have already copied it in ours.  thanks Pam!!!

DSC01672

 

After spending the day meeting people on our own we finally registered for the actual educational rally.  The introduction was fantastic and Linda had everyone organized and having fun in no time.  Howard and Linda (RV-Dreams) have been traveling the country for the last 9 years and they host and teach at these rally’s.  Linda had everyone stand up in different categories…do you own a Class A, Do you own a Fifth Wheel, who came the farthest etc…which not only got everyone involved but allowed people in the group to see who they might want to talk to.  Many people haven’t bought an RV yet and are staying in a cabin or nearby hotel and Linda made a point to ask those of us who had RV’s to invite folks back during lunch to see our rigs.   She did a VERY good job getting people loosened up and then we all played a game where one representative at every table was a jockey in the Kentucky derby.  I have run a couple large training seminars and the logistics are crazy…Linda was awesome at corralling 150 head strong people in a fun way with a very personal touch.

Howard and Linda

Howard and Linda

 

 

 

 

Kentucky Derby Game

Kentucky Derby Game

We headed back to our site around 9 thinking it was time for a good nights sleep and then Bill and Kelly came by walking their dog and we all sat and talked until 11pm 🙂  We are usually in bed really early so for us that was a late night and we had such a wonderful conversation it was hard to go to bed.  Can’t wait for tomorrow when the classes start…yes I know I am a geek but can’t wait to post more lessons learned 🙂

Lessons Learned

  • No seriously buy the surge protector first
  • Invest in a voltage regulator
  • Go to a Rally you meet the nicest people
  • Meeting people from the internet can be really cool (yes I know we are late to this party but better late than never!!)

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First Time at an RV Show

Lee and I had read so much about RV shows on the various forum that we decided to take a weekend and drive to the Hershey, PA RV Show which is one of the biggest RV show in the northeast.   I travel quite a bit for work so had some free hotel points available and the drive was only 6 hours for us, so it seemed like a fun way to see what was out there.  We have been talking about 5th wheels as the next logical step in our adventure and this would be a great way to see most of the available new models in person, plus I had read the seminars were really great and you could find neat vendor items that weren’t easily available anywhere else.    We were pretty excited (you would have thought we were kids going to Disney World) and we ended up getting up and on the road by 4 am.  The drive was fine and put us down at the park by 10:30 which was really good timing.

We bought a 3 day pass for $30, which was well worth it since we didn’t have to stand in the long line as much on Saturday and off we went.  Our strategy was to walk the aisles and look at floor plans, then pop into anything that looked interesting.  This was pretty important as the grounds were absolutely huge and walking up and down into the steps into the RV repetitively can play havoc with the knees.  We are still pretty young and in good shape, but 10 hours walking in a day is not part of our normal routine 🙂  I also am a little claustrophobic, which can be an issue when dealing with some models.  So Lee was kind enough to pop in, and then stick his head out and give me the nod if he thought it was worth going into.  This really was incredibly generous as he must have saved me the steps on at least 100 models.   We really like the floor plan where the living room is raised and in the front and we looked at this type by all the manufacturers (hence the 10 hours per day of walking) and also liked one floor plan where the rear was a living room with a door.  As we walked we realized what criteria mattered the most to us.

  • Price – we are not independently wealthy so anything above $70k was rejected out of hand (This may sound as a lot of money and certainly is, but we are considering this our vacation home and it would be tough to buy a condo in Florida for that money)
  • Weight – we are resigned to buying a larger truck but any weight over 18,000 and you are constantly watching what you carry.  I don’t want to vacation like that where you can’t boon dock in a national park because the fresh water you need weighs too much.  The models we liked were around 16,000 lbs which gives us an extra 5,000 lbs for stuff.
  • Separation – we love each other, been married for 25 years, but at times frankly we need to go to our separate corners.  Since I know in those situations Lee will grab the premium space, that leave me with the “other” area.  Unfortunately in 90% of the models this is a very small bedroom which is in front and not a great place (for me) to hang out
  • The feeling of claustrophobia.  I never realized I had an issue with this until we started looking at campers, but many models I walked in and walked right back out.  Kitchen islands for example (which are all the rage now) enhance the feeling of claustrophobia so any model with a kitchen island was out.  Low ceilings same thing, so any models with particularly low ceilings not possible.
  • Bathroom shower you can easily turn around in.  Don’t need a tub but the little seats so you can easily shave your legs a big deal.
  • Cabinet space in the bathroom.  So many models have almost none and the ones we liked had lots which was a huge plus.
  • Cabinets with full depth drawers.  I can’t tell you how many models we saw where you would see these fancy drawers and you would open them up and they would be shallow.  Made me crazy.

In short walking around was a great way to determine what really mattered and significantly reduced the choices.  We narrowed it down to 5 then 2 then finally 1.  The winner is the Open Ranger Roamer 386FLR .  Incredibly excited!!!

     

 

IMG_0370

Two cubbies with couches that become full beds which will be great if the girls all come to visit

IMG_0368

The TV hides behind the fireplace and there is a front window very rare

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0556

 

 

 

 

IMG_0372

A standard queen mattress will fit rather than a short queen.  The problem with short queens is you are stuck getting a RV specific mattress which are really expensive.

On the outside Lee loves that the propane tanks are 4 – 20# and they are on slide-out trays, the hard sewer case permanently attached and did I mention TONS of STORAGE.   We plan on trying seasonal camping next summer (leave your camper on the same site all season long) and the extra storage will allow us to avoid schlepping stuff back and forth.

In addition to seeing darn near every 5th wheel on the grounds, we also went to see some seminars.  I really enjoyed listening to the wisdom of folks who have been camping since the 1960’s and learned tons which I have shared in the lessons learned section below.  Combine all that with excellent meals at Bob Evans and Texas Roadhouse and we were VERY happy campers!!!  The only downsides were I had made arrangements to meet a couple I had “met” on RVForum.net (something I have never done before, but since every talks about meeting when they are at events together I decided to give it a try.  Despite tons of texts we were unfortunately unable to meet up which was a bummer.  Also we stayed in a Residence Inn using free points I had and it was a pretty crappy.   Normally I like Residence Inn’s but this one was not up to their usual standards.  … I should have known what I was in for when the clerk gave us room 113 on Friday the 13th 🙂  One positive thing though was I realized how much nicer it is to vacation in our camper then in a hotel and it really went a long way towards solidifying out decision.  I suppose in a way the universe was watching out for us.

Lessons Learned

Matching your truck to your trailer – Presenter Walter Cannon (on of the founders of RV Safety & Education Foundation)

  • Pulling and towing are two totally different things.  You can pull many trailers with many trucks but can you safely stop it at 70 mph??
  • GCWR = Gross Combined Weight Ratio
  • GVWR = Gross Vehicle Weight Ratio  (for a diesel truck this info is found in the diesel supplement of the owner’s manual)
  • GAWR = Gross Axle Weight Rating
  • Payload = weight trailer resting on the truck bed or hitch
  • Truck GVWR = base weight + options (ie: 4×4 weighs extra) + hitch + weight of passengers, firewood, tools, bikes, etc
  • The way I understood it (and I am by no means an expert)  the weight of a 5th wheel is essentially divided into thirds.  One third on the rear axle, one-third on the front axle, and one-third on the hitch pin (payload).   Your towing safety can be fine in one single area but not fine in another.  Indeed according to RV Safety.com, over 50% of the vehicles weighed are over weight.
  • When assessing your safety you MUST look at the weakest link and make sure ALL areas are safely rated.    RV  Safety weighs vehicles using full -time RV’ers across the country and will help provide an assessment.  In addition, we spoke to Peter from Ford at the event and he is VERY helpful in educating us about towing safety.   We met him in the safety seminar (which he used his lunch break to attend) and then talked to him later and he was absolutely amazing.    He worked with us once we picked the trailer to help us determine what Ford truck will work.  That being said, everyone (including  Walter and Peter) stated salespeople lie about this issue all the time.  Whether they are truck salespeople or RV salespeople, they often tell you the towing ratios are fine to make the sale.  The only way to be sure is to an independent source weigh both truck and front and rear of trailer and do an assessment.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of fuel when weighing the truck
  • Make sure you take into account the weight of a full tank of waste water (8 # for every gallon of waste water) and/or fresh water especially if you are planning on boon docking.
  • Finally, don’t listen to me on this.  Visit RVSafety.com and research with the experts.

Extended Living in an RV – Bob and Cheryl Marx

I was really curious as to what a “snow bird” couple would say about spending extended periods of time in an RV.  Since we are going seasonal next summer and thinking about maybe taking a two-week cross-country trip I was dying to hear the wife’s perspective.  Unfortunately Cheryl didn’t speak at all, but she did answer one-on-one questions at the end.  Some of this doesn’t apply to us, but I found it fascinating anyways and there were some awesome tips.  Well worth the hour and a half plus it was nice to sit for a while and take a break for all that walking.    

  • Prescription emergency options
  1. Local Pharmacist can mail them if they are not narcotics
  2. National chain’s will fill them in a remote location (Walmart, Walgreen, etc) as long as they are not narcotics
  • Check with the campground to see where the closest medical facilities are in case of emergency
  • Carry hard copy medical records with you if going on an extended trip.  Medical facilities will NOT accept electronic copies on a flash drive due to virus issues
  • Mail forwarding
    1. Give prepaid envelopes to a family member or neighbor and have them forward mail (cost roughly $5.50 a week
    2. Post office has a snow bird mail forwarding service $25 to sign-up and $15 a week
    3. Escapees Club out of TX offers a mail forwarding service for those folks going on extended cross-country trips
  • Every year check your RV for weight and/or clutter.  You collect things in an RV just like in your home and in such a small space it can quickly get out of control.
  • Carry different credit cards than your spouse so if either the wallet or the purse are stolen you can cancel those cards and still have access to credit if away from home.  Great tip!!!
  • Check fuel prices from state to state as state taxes can make a big difference and fill up before leaving the cheaper states even if you are not on empty.   For those who smoke the same would go for cigarettes.  Gas and cigarettes were WAY cheaper in PA than in NY so we stocked up on both prior top leaving Hershey to come home.
  • RV specific GPS’s are great.  You can type in the type of vehicle you have and it will route you accordingly and show fuel and gas stops that are appropriate to your size along the way.  Lee was looking at one of these and did not buy one, but after listening to Bob rave about his we are going to get one.
  • Check local papers for restaurant coupons if you get tired of cooking, you can get some great deals
  • Agree to driving time up front and stick to it.  If you can only drive 5 hours a day, plan your route accordingly.
  • Many people  don’t make reservations at campgrounds in advance when in “traveling” mode because they don’t want to be held to a schedule.  We are going to try that for the first time on the way back from Minnesota in a couple of weeks.  Will let you know how it goes.
  • Try to finish traveling by 2pm every day if possible.  Not only do you have a better shot at getting a prime campsite, but you miss the rush hour traffic.
  • Only use encrypted wireless for any sensitive information (ie: banking websites).  This one seems obvious but honestly never really though about it much.
  • If you want to meet people put four chairs out at your campsite.  This was a great piece o advice because if someone comes up to chat you can invite them to sit down and I guess this is camper code for let’s chat!!!

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here