Leaving Little London

The Big Easy Peezy…….

Only took about 7 million times to get this right according to Z
The freak show that is Bourbon St.
The freak show that is Bourbon St.

8 Months in the Books

That’s right, 2/3 of our first year is already done.  Time is a funny thing.  It both stands still and flies at the same time it seems.  I mean it’s hard to believe that we have been on the road now for 8 months.  The other day, Z and I did a review of the pictures on our Instagram and talked about all of the fun times we have had.  We have managed to balance life and travel, work/school with fun, and adventure with down days.  We have learned a lot.  Both about full time RV life, and about our great country.  We have seen some very beautiful spots, some less desirable locations, some that we wish we could have spent more time in and some that could have been skipped.  I still struggle regularly about what is the “right” thing to or the “right way” to do it.  I keep telling myself that just doing it is the “right” way, but it’s hard not to wonder what you are missing, what you are wasting time on, and what is costing you more than it should.

Then there are the lessons.  The RV kind, like not leaving the vent fan (We lovingly call it the fart fan) on while you flush the commode.  This pulls all of those sweet smells right out of the black tank and places them lovingly in your nose.  Like making sure to empty all of your tanks prior to travel to avoid more odor displeasure when you stop.  In fact, it appears that many of our lessons revolve around odor.  Odd.  As I have mentioned in the past, the lessons about slowing down and paying attention are ever present.  And there are the lessons about how to work on an RV.  Especially if you have never done it.  These also include a PHD in learning how to relax.  Not in the “hey lets sit around the fire and chill” type of relax, but relaxing in terms of not letting everything stress you the hell out.  Because in this life, if you don’t relax, you will burn out quick.  We have learned, more than ever, to go with the flow and to understand that shit will indeed happen.  There’s not much that freaking out will do to stop that.

On the up side, we have settled into a flow.  A rhythm of sorts.  We all have our jobs when we pack up and unpack.  We have our internal check lists of what to do when we hook up and unhook.  We have been moving like a well oiled machine and I am proud of how we have been doing.  We are exploring our surroundings when we can, but also have been taking down days when we need.  Sometimes, like those at the beach, we do both at the same time.

Ahhhhhhhhhh
Ahhhhhhhhhh

This month has found us experiencing a number of firsts.   We made our way south near Mobile Alabama.  Although Mobile was less than a mind blowing site for us, being that close to the ocean really was nice.  I love the water and towns that are near them.  It just seems like everyone has a different personality when they live near the beach.  It is a life I miss for sure.  We went to a great little area called Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.  They are all very close, and remind me a little of Destin without the tourist stuff.  The beaches were nice and although it was windy, we had a good time and the water was a nice temp.  We found a great little spot called simply The Gulf in Orange Beach.  A great little bar/restaurant/beach hangout.  They had great fresh seafood, cold beverages, and a great view for sunset.  We really liked it.  In fact, I think it’s an area that we would consider living if we wanted to be near the ocean again.

Orange Beach
Orange Beach

We got to see the USS Alabama.  This was something that I REALLY wanted to do.  I love WWII history, and being a former US Marine, I love military history in general.  I wasn’t sure how Lisa and Z would like it, but both seemed to really enjoy the self guided tour.  We got to go all over the ship, then there is an air museum there as well as a submarine to walk through.  Well worth the money, and one of those moments I search for in this new life of ours.  I think Z decided that the ship life is not for her, but she grasped the historical significance, and that’s what I want.  It was funny, how both big and small the ship seemed at the same time.  When you drive up to it, you could almost miss it if you weren’t looking from the freeway.  From a distance, it seemed smaller to me for some reason.  But once on the deck, surrounded by the big guns, you get a sense for how massive and impressive these war ships are.  You also get a sense for how hard my Navy brothers have it on a ship like that.

Feeling small on a big ship in a bigger ocean.
Feeling small on a big ship in a bigger ocean.
USS Alabama
USS Alabama
The Oath that I, my daughters, my son in law, and most of our family and friends have taken.
The Oath that I, my daughters, my son in law, and most of our family and friends have taken.

Of course there was the biggest news of the day that night.  We witnessed a free election and were probably as blown away as anyone by the results.  Lisa and I screwed up this year and thought we had registered but turns out we hadn’t.  We didn’t get a voice, but being Texans it really wouldn’t have made a difference.  It did give us a great opportunity to discuss politics with Z and I was impressed with her desire to talk about it.  She is developing opinions, and as long as they are educated, I am fine if they aren’t the same as mine.  We went to bed before the final results were announced, and woke up BLOWN away.  I had no horse in this race, but even I thought that Hillary was going to walk away with it.  Regardless of how I felt, I am disappointed in how people have reacted on both sides.  That’s all I will say.  We need to come together as a country.  Period.  At least I had the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans day to take my mind off of it.

From here, things got a little dicey.  We moved to an RV Park near Biloxi.  When we pulled in, MAN it looked nice.  A big lake, some nice looking cabins, little ducks walking about, a huge play area for kids.  But as we pulled in, things got weird.  It was one of those parks that had a very weird balance of annual sites (people that live there full time), and people like us who come and go.  As we parked, Lisa and I decided to give it a shot.  Unfortunately, that shot had to happen at a time when I was leaving for a week to go visit my mother in Colorado.  When I would talk with Lisa, she would tell me that some kids would be up early and were being loud, but nothing really major to cause concern.  But when we got back, things went to hell it would see rather quickly.  One morning our neighbors asked if I had heard anything over night.  I hadn’t.  They said someone stole a nice cooler off of their patio and it was full of beer.  Your first thought went to kids.  Then our other neighbor had a cooler stolen as well.  Then, that night, we heard a loud “pop” on the side of the trailer.  Now we had a bird hit us once, so of course I thought it was that.  But when I went to look, I found that someone had thrown and shattered a light bulb on the side of our trailer just under our bedroom window.  Grabbed the gun and headed out to find out who in the hell would do such a thing.  Ran in to multiple people in the area that it came from (you could tell where it was thrown from).  All of them were older and drunk and surprised to hear what happened.  Then I saw some police down at the end of the walk way.  As I approached them, the local security guard, if you can call him that, was speaking to them about how they think there is a meth lab in the nearby woods.  You could almost hear the F word in my head.  At least I am fairly certain I didn’t say it out loud.  That was all I needed.  I returned to the RV, double checked that everything was locked, put up the side patio (for added security), loaded extra rounds in the gun, and informed Lisa that we would be leaving the next day, a full day early.  And we did.  I did stop in to tell the owner (who seemed very nice) about all of the issues.  She seemed taken back but did say that they were “trying to clean it up”.  Lesson learned, we will not be back there most likely.

Jackasses abound.
Jackasses abound.

We headed east to Pass Christian Mississippi.  It was the best move we had made yet.  The difference was palpable and we immediately felt better about how things had gone.  The RV park was very nice, well maintained, and they had some very nice staff.  So if you are in the area, check out the TLC Wolf River Resort.  We were 10 min from the beach, close to shopping and entertainment, and 1 hour from New Orleans.  Well played.

TLC Wolf River resort.  A haven from the idiots of the last place we stayed.
TLC Wolf River resort. A haven from the idiots of the last place we stayed.
A little river near our site.
A little river near our site.

We did manage to get to The Big Easy a few times, and all I can say is that although it was a good thing for Z to experience, I am glad we didn’t stay longer.  I think that some cities are better if you have someone that lives there in order to really get a good family experience.  I don’t know anyone in New Orleans, so we spent much of our time in the French Quarter.  We did the obligatory Cafe Du Monde, Bourbon St. took a horse carriage tour, listened to some great street performances and saw some great street shows, but in the end NOLA is not for kids.  At least not in my opinion.  We had our first major holiday (if you don’t count 4th of July and Halloween as major) in NOLA.  Out Thanksgiving dinner was at Red Fish Grill and we really REALLY had a good time.  One thing I will give NOLA, or at least the places we went, customer service is a thing with them still.  We saw people working so hard to feed us on Thanksgiving that we tipped everyone, from the hostess to the bartender, of course the waitress’s, but even the buss boy.  Z was so impressed with him that she went and gave him $10.  She also really has been tickling me lately with a new habit she has formed.  She pays several people throughout the day with a random compliment.  “I like your shirt” or “those are awesome pants”, or “you have really awesome eyes” have become normal for me to hear from her.  She told everyone at Thanksgiving dinner “thank you for working this holiday for us”.  It makes me really proud of her.  I always say, it’s how she acts with others, more than with me, that really counts.  We did make an effort to get in to Preservation Hall, but came up about 7 people short.  Bummer.  That’s one of those things I would have paid extra for.

NOLA street performer.  The grace that this art has is awe inspiring
NOLA street performer. The grace that this art has is awe inspiring
Thanksgiving Oysters.  Someone is getting lucky.......and that someone was me.  ha.
Thanksgiving Oysters. Someone is getting lucky…….and that someone was me. ha.
NOLA Thanksgiving dinner Red Fish Grill
NOLA Thanksgiving dinner Red Fish Grill
My dates for Thanksgiving dinner.
My dates for Thanksgiving dinner.
Preservation Hall.  Missed it by THAT MUCH
Preservation Hall. Missed it by THAT MUCH
Family Photo at random pizza place next to Preservation Hall
Family Photo at random pizza place next to Preservation Hall
Not a religious man but I can recognize the beauty of it and appreciate the moment.
Not a religious man but I can recognize the beauty of it and appreciate the moment.

With NOLA in our rear view we spent our last days in Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis.  Really enjoyed the little town of Bay St. Louis and was blown away by how affordable beach side living could be there.  I couldn’t live there, but it was neat to see.

The "Angel" tree in Bay St. Louis.  People clung to this for hours during hurricane Katrina
The “Angel” tree in Bay St. Louis. People clung to this for hours during hurricane Katrina
Lunch Bay St. Louis
Lunch Bay St. Louis
Sunsets are good for the soul
Sunsets are good for the soul
Yay beaches
Yay beaches
Only took about 7 million times to get this right according to Z
Only took about 7 million times to get this right according to Z

4 hours of driving on a Saturday landed us in Florida, which will be our home state for the next 4 months or so.  In fact, starting Wednesday, we will be in Orlando or within 1.5 hours of it for almost 2 months.  Our kids and Grandson will be coming to visit on the 7th and we will get to celebrate his first birthday with Mickey.  So far, Florida has been fun.  We will also be in eastern time zone starting tomorrow.  We did have some issues adjusting to that change when we were in Georgia, so I will be eager to see how long it takes for us to adapt.  Off to a Harvest host tomorrow, I think Z will really like this one.  More on that later.

I hope you all are living your dreams.  Remember, “we travel not to escape life, but for life to not escape us”.

Love,
The Nortons

We have officially “Fallen” and I don’t want to get up.

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Fall is treating us so well……

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I really can’t tell you how nice the weather has been.  I get it now.  I know why people “snowbird”.  This has been such a welcome change after the summer.  It’s been so nice to be outside, to not be running all 3 of our AC units constantly, to have clothes make it through the day, for a shower to actually get you clean.  It’s been so nice that I have been negligent in writing.  The whole point of this blog is to keep a journal of our travels, and now I have to try and recall the whole month of October.

Our last update had us landing in Natchez Trace Thousand Trails campground.  When we first got there, we were in our typical RV spot.  Butted up against many other RV’s and we had the grumpiest old man behind us.  But if there is something we loved about this lifestyle going in to it, if we didn’t like a spot or a neighbor, we can move.  Unlike with our jackass neighbors back in Colorado Springs that we were stuck next to, here, we can just go.  So we did.  Lisa and I got very lucky I think.  We went for a walk one day at the park we were at, and we found some sites right down by the water.  We found out that they had just opened them and that they were a small extra charge, but to us, it was a no brainer.  We literally ran back to the trailer, packed up, and moved.  We were SO rewarded.  We got a lake side spot and most of the time, we were on our own.

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Lake side camping is our style

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We LOVED the Nashville area.  We loved it so much that we drove the 1.5 hours to the city about 8 times in our 3 weeks there.  We went to the Nashville Farmers market 2 times, did a bus tour, went to a concert, got to see one of the American Pickers stores, ate some amazing food, met some great people, and were able to take in some great sites.  I really believe that Lisa and I could stop there if we wanted to for some time.  Now, I get it, it may be the time of year that we were there, but we really enjoyed it.  I hope to spend some longer stretches there at some point.

On top of all of that, we happened to be close enough to my brother from another mother to come visit us for a weekend.  He and his awesome family came and rented a cabin where we were.  We rented a boat, did some fishing, drank a few cold beers by the camp fire, ate some good grub, and Z got to play with kids her age.  His daughter in fact is only 1 year older and they really hit it off.  This guy and I have been friends for almost 25 years and it never gets old seeing he and his wife.  Lots of laughs and lots of trash talking.  I miss them and hope we can do that more often.  One of my favorite parts of all of this is getting to see people that we don’t see often.

Brother from another mother.
Brother from another mother.

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friends for life.

friends for life.

Our final week in the Nashville area had us going to the city to see some sites.  As mentioned, we did the bus tour.  But we also found a great tea shop that looked like it was straight out of a hobbit movie (Z loves her tea), and we went to Third Man Records, the home of Jack White, one of my favorite musicians.  Our bus tour took us by the Country Music hall of fame, Johnny Cash’s museum, the American Pickers store, a full size replica of the Parthenon that was quite impressive, music row, among many other stops.  I was blown away by music row.  You have an idea in your head that it’s a bunch of office type buildings or something, but it’s literally a row of houses a few miles long that are built in to recording studios.  Music city is an apt moniker for Nashville.  Aside from Country Music, it’s also home to many great rock bands, blues, jazz, etc.  I loved it and I can’t wait to go back some day.

Third Man Records Nashville
Third Man Records Nashville
Bus tour, American Pickers store stop.
Bus tour, American Pickers store stop.
Parthenon Nashville
Parthenon Nashville
Athena and her McDonalds flag pole for a spear. No joke.
Athena and her McDonalds flag pole for a spear. No joke.

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Downtown Nashville
Downtown Nashville
Ummmmmmmm Dicks Last Resort Nashville
Ummmmmmmm Dicks Last Resort Nashville

Alas, it was time to pack up.  We were blessed to be there for the entire change of color in the leaves and had been treated to a complete color palate of leaves before they fell.  As we headed southeast, we seemed to be following the changing colors again.  We had a very fun little stop near lake Guntersville near the town of the same name.  We stayed at the Little River Campground and met the nicest people there.  I get what people mean by southern hospitality.  We actually had a major scare on our first day there.  We pulled in plenty early, around 1pm.  When I dropped the landing gear for the trailer and lifted it off of the truck, I had just cleared the truck when one of the pins that holds the landing gear in place snapped.  It sent the whole trailer rocking forward and scared the crap out of both Lisa and I.  I didn’t know what to do. In the past, this was the type of thing that would have sent Lisa and I both in to a tailspin of stress.  I was so proud of us for remaining calm and we were in fact able to find a way to load the trailer on to the truck and get it to an RV store and buy the replacement parts.  Our nice neighbors held our spot for us and offered to help repair it when we returned.   It was stressful, but we got it taken care of, and now, it’s just another fun story to tell.

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Lake Guntersville
Lake Guntersville

One thing you learn, the further south you go, is that football takes on a whole new meaning.  First off, you must distinguish between pro and college ball.  People tend to think you are kind of funny if you only watch pro.  In fact, you find out quickly in Alabama, that you may root for ANY football team you want, as long as you choose between Alabama and Auburn.  EVERY golf cart, every car, every TShirt, everything (coolers, flags, etc.) signifies your allegiance to one of these two teams.  I would love to be there at the end of November when the two face off.  I can imagine that everything shuts down.

pumpkin decorating
pumpkin decorating
2nd place in the costume contest, Harley Quinn
2nd place in the costume contest, Harley Quinn

We actually extended an extra day in Guntersville.  They were having a fall festival with trick or treating included.  We had a similar experience at our park in Natchez Trace and it was fun.  You really get that “small town” feel at these events.  Where a hay ride and a small home made carnival are a huge draw.  This one was complete with pumpkin decorating, a costume contest, trunk or treating, a hay ride, a band, and dancing.  Z and I participated in most of these as Lisa was a little under the weather.  Instead of dancing, we went swimming.  It was a lot of fun.

The next day we made our way to Atlanta to see some family of ours there.  It was great to catch up with Ryan and his new fiance Jenn.  They made us a lovely dinner, took us to the Georgia Aquarium, took us to a nice little restaurant that served some wonderfully eclectic food.  On Halloween we had brains, liver pate, tongue and cheeks, heart tartar, and other and some great craft cocktails.  Jenn had to go back to Dallas, but we made our way to a wonderful Korean BBQ place too.  Atlanta was quick, but we made the most of it.  I even got to take Lisa shooting for the first time.  She did so good that I hope she never gets mad at me bad enough to need to shoot.  I feel for anyone that comes at her if she is packing.  She really took to it quickly and did such a great job.  It was a fun moment for her and I to do something like that.

Happy Halloween Harley Quinn
Happy Halloween Harley Quinn
Whale Sharks, 4 of them to be precise.  Impressive.
Whale Sharks, 4 of them to be precise. Impressive.
SHARK
SHARK
MMMMMMM Braiiiiinnnnsssssssss
MMMMMMM Braiiiiinnnnsssssssss

From Atlanta, we headed 5 hours south to our current stop in Robertsdale Alabama.  We are on the boarder of Florida/Alabama and made our way to the beach yesterday.  I love being this close to the ocean.  We will head to Biloxi from here, then Gulfport MS.  Our Thanksgiving will be spent in New Orleans before we head back to Florida and down into the Orlando area where our family will fly down for our grandson’s first birthday.  We are in the process of finalizing the rest of our plans, but we will be in central Florida through Jan 20.

 

Everyone is healthy on our end, and as I sit typing this, watching Sunday football (Pro) and it is a glorious 73 degrees, I am thinking to myself, in the immortal words of Louis Armstrong, “what a wonderful world”.

I look forward to the next few months and I will try to ensure I keep more on top of things.

Top 10 ways to be able to “afford” to go on the road full time.

top-10-tips

YAY!!!! Another top 10 list full of opinions.

top-10-tips

 

Just what you all wanted right?  Another top 10 list that will have all kinds of crap in it that you may or may not be able to use.  You are welcome.

Since having sold everything 6 months ago and leaving our beautiful Colorado behind, I hear one thing all of the time, and that is how “lucky” we are to do this.  Coincidentally the second most popular comment is that it’s crazy, and I guess it is and we are in fact a little nuts.  The most often asked question is how in fact do we do it?  Do we home school? (Answer by the way, no, if we home schooled, Z would be dumb.  But we do online school)  This will be my extensive list of the top ten ways that we make this life happen.

1. Thousand Trails

Thousand Trails Natchez Trace Tennessee.
Thousand Trails Natchez Trace Tennessee.

I have made mention of our campground memberships before, but haven’t felt qualified to write about them until now.  We invested in 3 memberships prior to launch back in March.  The first was Thousand Trails (www.thousandtrails.com) Thousand Trails is a long time established campground membership that has long been touted as excellent for full timers.  Thousand Trails is owned by Equity Lifestyles Properties and own several time share condos, cabins, etc.  Thousand Trails itself is a group of about 80 or so campgrounds across the US.  Mostly in a U shape from Washington state down to southern California, across the south, and up the east coast.  You can get a view of their locations on their map or on ours HERE just look for the lime green pins and you can get an idea of what I mean.  There are a few glaring gaps in the TT coverage, mostly the midwest and from Arkansas to Louisiana.  So how does it work?   Well, in our case, you buy a used membership for a fee, then pay an annual due ($550). We can then go in to any of our parks for up to 21 days at a time.  We can also go right from one park to another for another 21 days at a time.  Conceivably if we were to stay in TT parks all of the time, we would pay less than $2 per day to live.  It’s not all that easy though.  Most parks charge a small fee of $3 per day for 50 amp service, which we need, and several parks near the water have limited or no full hook ups.  This is a challenge because to stay 21 days, you really need full hook ups.  But, if you figure that the average RV campground is anywhere from $35-55 a night, the savings are definitely there.  Every time we are able to stay 3 weeks in the system, we save about $1,000.  We have stayed about 96 nights in the system already or roughly 1/2 of all of our nights so far.  At a rate of $45 a night, we would have saved OVER $4300 already.  There are MANY Thousand Trails memberships, and if you would like information on them all, I am happy to help.  You can ready about the type of membership we purchased at http://rvlove.com/2015/01/28/thousand-trails-membership-upgrades/

That is the MOST comprehensive write up on the types of memberships here that I can find.  We evaluated Coast to Coast, and others, but in the end TT made sense for us, and I feel that we have paid for our up front costs and more.

As far as the parks go, well they are all different.  Consistency is something I hear that TT is striving for, but for now, it’s just not there.  Some are like a full blown resort, and some are a little more in need of repair.  Of course, there are give and takes with both.  When people want to go camping to get away for the weekend, they don’t want all of the same things that those of us that do this full time want.  There is another group of members that is not discussed much, and those are the annual members.  They have purchased a site from their campground and can keep a trailer there year round.  Supposedly they can only stay 250 days out of the year, but I can’t see how they can really control that.  Some parks have many and some parks have few.  The great debate within the TT community is annuals vs. Elite/Platinum members vs. zone or regional members.  You can see on any TT discussion board that the battle rages on and we all want what is best for our particular lifestyle.

Thousand Trails Colorado River in Columbus Texas
Thousand Trails Colorado River in Columbus Texas

2. Resort Parks International (RPI)

RPI near Memphis
RPI near Memphis

To supplement our Thousand Trails, there is a membership called RPI.  We pay $120 a year for it plus a small booking fee (I pay annual booking fees of $50).  This gives us access to a whole list of other RV Campgrounds that we only pay $10 a night for.  Welllllllllllllll mostly we only pay $10 a night.  Again, the 50amp thing comes in to play and at many, we can have to pay a $3-5 a night uplift for power.  POWERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.  But we have had some GREAT RPI stops.  We had a really nice one in Utah in Mt. Pleasant.  A great one near Memphis, and really quaint one in Clinton Arkansas, and we are currently parked at one in Guntersville Alabama that is really nice.  The value is there as long as you use it, and we do.  In fact, most of the next month of travel for us will be in RPI parks.  Mostly in Mississippi and Alabama, and two in Florida.  It’s a great way to save some dough and there are a lot of parks that give us options outside of Thousand Trails.  They are affiliated with TT, so it probably benefits both.  Mostly, it benefits us.  The average RV campground is $45-55 a night, so $10-15 a night is a steal.  I have found the RPI’s to be in a little better shape than the Thousand Trails parks too in most cases.

Golden Pond RPI in Clinton Arkansas
Golden Pond RPI in Clinton Arkansas

3. Harvest Hosts

Our first ever Harvest Host  was also our first stop.  To this day, it's Z's favorite.
Our first ever Harvest Host was also our first stop. To this day, it’s Z’s favorite.

Harvest hosts has to be, hands down, the greatest value for the money.  It’s $40 or so dollars a year to have access to a list of wineries, breweries, farms, museums, and those types of places that are open to having an RV come stay a day or two with them.  In exchange for that hospitality, Harvest Hosts simply asks that you visit their tasting room, indulge in any activities, and have fun/be polite.  To this day, 2 of our favorite stops have been Harvest Host locations.  It’s a pain to stay for 1 night anywhere, so that tells you how much we like them.  We have taken the time to meet owners, spend some money, and have some fun.  It’s worth it.  And hell, let’s be honest, we were probably going to buy some wine or check out some of these places anyway.  For more info check out www.harvesthosts.com

A pioneer homestead Harvest Host.  Great educational stops.
A pioneer homestead Harvest Host. Great educational stops.

 

4. Escapees Mail Service

Ok, how does this save us money?  Easy, it’s easy, reliable, and inexpensive.  Escapees is one of the best resources for full time RV’ers.  Not only do they help with residency (domicile) issues, they are advocates for full timers when it comes to legislation, but for us, the biggest value is in the mail service.  Through Escapees, we have a physical address and I can call them any time to ask what mail I have, instruct them what mail to get rid of, scan and send me anything that is important, or just to send me my mail.  This has been HUGE for us and they have been great to work with.  I feel like I don’t use most of what Escapees offers, and I probably should.  For more info, see www.escapees.com .  They also have a group for the “younger folks” who are taking to the road to live, called Xscapers www.xscapers.com .  Here, you can find parks that allow you to work camp, tools for travel, and other handy tips for full timers.  Escapees is a great way to help you afford to full time because it keeps the bills paid, provides a great value for the money you do spend, and because they continue to advocate for full time RV families.

5. Workamping.

Yes, that’s a word, or at least it is in the RV community.  MANY RV parks need help.  What better pool of employee candidates can you get than people who will trade work for free stays?  Better yet, many will not only let you stay for free, but they will also pay you a little bit.  It’s not retirement money, but it will supplement some income and offset some costs.  It especially helpful if you are going to be in an area for a longer period of time.  No one wants to hire someone for 2 weeks.  Jobs could be anything from handyman type work, to office work, to being a camp host or a ranger.  I am pretty sure that if Lisa and I decide to stop anywhere for any length of time, that I will consider working at the place we stay.  It may also be a great first job opportunity for Z.

6. Have a job that lets you be mobile.

I am blessed to have a job that doesn’t require that I be in any one location.  I work from my phone and my PC, so no one cares where I am as long as I can also access an airport if I need to.  There are TONS of lists of mobile jobs.  From nursing, to internet sales/blogging, freelance photography, or just being part of the ever expanding work from home crowd.  The trick here is to make sure that you remember that, because you are not on vacation, you still need to work.  I won’t lie, working on the road comes with it’s challenges.  We need to have internet 100% of the time.  That’s more tricky than one would think in today’s ever more connected world.  We usually move on a week day to avoid competing with the weekenders for spots, so I tend to do some make up work at nights or on the weekends if necessary.  Taking calls while driving is also a bit tricky, but Lisa has proven herself to be a first class admin assistant to me while I am driving.  Often responding to emails per my dictation, or dialing me in for  a conference call.

7. Research free/cheap things to do at your locations.

Whether it’s the beach, a local wacky attraction, the Alamo, or some festival or farmers market, go find the things that are cheap or free to do.   This can save you money, but if you are like us, sometimes those things will in fact cost you a LOT.  A free Oktoberfest for instance cost us over $200.  A free farmers market can set me back a bill or two.  My sister in law got me a federal park pass.  This should come in handy to save us a few bucks for sure.  Find memberships that you will use that will allow you to do some things that you have always wanted to do.  Memberships are a great saving method if you use them.  Often times, museums, monuments, and parks can be cheap or free entertainment.  There may be a free music performance in a park nearby.  You don’t have to spend it all, all of the time.  You can save for the really important expenditures, like wine at a winery.

8.  TRACK GAS PRICES

running-on-empty meme

This is probably the biggest saver that we have outside of our TT membership.  Use apps like Gas Buddy or anything else at your disposal (we have a tool built in to our truck) that will show you where gas is cheap.  We have found a difference as great at .30 cents a gallon as few as 2 miles apart.  Given that we have already put 18k miles on Bruce since April, knowing what gas prices are can really save you some dough.  Also, I have been shocked at how much gas prices can change as you cross a state line.  Case in point, here in Alabama, I have had diesel readily available for between $2.19-2.29/gal.  Yesterday, we crossed in to Florida, it was closer to $2.50-2.60/gal.  In a 30 gallon truck that gets 8 mpg when towing, that matters a LOT.

9. Travel off season where possible.

Seems intuitive that you may want to travel to as many locations as possible when they are off season.  This can save TONS.  As an example, look at Florida RV Park pricing from Nov.-March vs the rest of the year.  Traveling off season will not only save you money, but it can also afford you some better experiences.  If it’s slow, a tour guide will focus more on you.  When it’s slow, you might be able to get water side parking.  In the off season, you may score some freebies or steep discounts to entice you to spend your money with that vendor.  It’s not always possible, but when you can, try to go when it’s less busy and see what I mean.  Even if you don’t travel off season, try visiting places during the week if you can.  Groupon and other similar sites offer some great pricing for you to do tours as long as it’s not on Friday or Saturday.  Being that our lifestyle offers us some flexibility, we will often take advantage of these savings.

10. Over Stay your welcome.

Nahhhhhhhh.......
Nahhhhhhhh…….

Well not really, but stay longer if you are staying at a park that you are paying for.  Nightly rates can reach $40-60 a night.  Often times, they will have weekly rate discounts, but the real savings come when you stay for a month.  Often times, it will be as cheap or cheaper to stay a month vs. 2 weeks.  Just pay attention.  Many parks will charge for utilities if you stay a full month.  So just know what you are getting in to, but check the prices.  If you are planning to stay in an area for a while, doing this will save you tons.

There are so many other resources, these are just our top 10.  As I mentioned, Groupon can be great.  Eating in can really save the money, same as it would in your normal house.  It’s easy to eat out, so trying to eat in often is a huge money saver.  Not buying a ton of memento’s is another saver.  You won’t have a lot of space anyway, so try to avoid buying a lot of stuff.  Take pics, write down your memories, and save the money on the shirt or over priced magnet.

Hopefully this is helpful to anyone thinking about this life.  Let me know if you have more that I am forgetting.  Enjoy this life.  It’s the only one we get.

 

Time flies when you are having fun.

From Beale St. to oblivion.

6 Months and no signs of slowing down.

Awe CRAP.
Awe CRAP.

Well we have officially passed our 6 month mark.  LOT’s of lessons learned, lots of headaches (Literally), but really, more memories in this 6 months than in the last 10 years.  Our fun has included time with our family in Seattle, spending a HOT summer in Texas with our middle daughter, 2 trucks, 1 month out of our trailer for repairs, 1 hot spring, 1 crawfish festival, a toilet seat museum, a house made of beer cans and bottles, 8 states, over 20 camp sites, many museums, shopping, and plenty of amazing views.

For the sake of everyone in our trailer as well as for myself, thank the LORD we are finally in to fall. If there ever was a thought of moving permanently to Texas, this summer ruined any shot of that.  Yes, maybe we will snowbird, but from May-Sept. you can have it.  We are thankful for the experiences we had (NASA with a Marine buddy, Time on the lake and camping with another, spending time with yet another in San Antonio, and the chance to spend some time in Austin, Waco, and Dallas.  We were able to meet up with some family that had a new baby in Tyler Texas, and to be there for a PHD graduation ceremony for some family.  We also got to see our own daughter graduate from AF Basic Training).  All GREAT experiences.  But I won’t lie, the best part of Texas was seeing it in the rear view mirror on our way to cooler temps.  We have been gifted with exactly that too.  Our average high over the last few weeks has been just over 80, and lows have reached down as low as the 40’s.  Our AC units didn’t know what to do when we actually shut them off.  I think I saw a touch of smoke coming out of them as they wound down for the first time in 3 months.  The sweat on my sweat has slowly dried up.  We have actually gone on walks.  LIKE OUTSIDE.  For the first time in MONTHS.  At least for the first time where I didn’t have to come home and take 2 showers.  It is amazing how much the attitude improves too.

When last we spoke, we were just about 2 hours east of Oklahoma City.  We had some major issues that were “resolved”, but we still are having intermittent problems with the slide.  We are working with Jayco on it, so more to come I am sure.  We were close enough for our family to come visit us one last time before we left for good.  It turned out to be a blessing too.  Lisa’s dad had a medical issue when they came out to see us.  We got him to a hospital and nurse Lisa was there to assist where she could.  It was a very long night (Lisa got home at 4am), but they have always been there for us in times of need, it was nice to return the favor for once.  He is fine now, so that too is great news.  We moved east (I keep saying west for some reason, this east thing is screwing me up), to a Harvest Host on the boarder of Oklahoma and Arkansas.  If you are not familiar with Harvest Host, check them out at www.harvesthosts.com.  To me, they have been one of the brightest aspects of our travel.  They have a list of farms, wineries, museums, etc. that will allow you to stay a night for free in exchange for doing whatever activity they have.  We have done a goat cheese farm, another farm where they were having a fall festival type set of activities, and then a Pioneer museum where they teach you about how things used to be.  They are all different and unique.  The fall festival farm was just a beautiful place.  We were going in right when they were starting their 3 weeks of their busy season.  Day 1 in fact.  So it probably wasn’t the best time for them to host us, but they were gracious and did find a big spot for Dory.  The next day we did all kinds of fun stuff.  We did a corn maze (well I should say we failed at a corn maze as we went back out of the entrance), we slid down a big hill, got to see some animals, and shot corn at targets using an air canon.  Z and I had a little competition.  I won’t say who won, but it was me.  We got to buy some nice home made apple butter, and tasted muscadine for the fist time.  YUMMMMM.

The view from our gracious harvest host. They look at that every night. WOW
The view from our gracious harvest host. They look at that every night. WOW
Finally, someone caught them and put them where they belong.
Finally, someone caught them and put them where they belong.
I will just leave this right here.
I will just leave this right here.

If you want to see the video of the corn canon greatest shot of all time, see Here.  Let’s just say that it was amazing.  A M A Z I N G.

From there we headed to a lovely little campground just outside of Clinton Arkansas.  It was a bit of a stress getting there because the roads were narrow and winding, and the trees were low (something I always worry about).  But we made it to the Golden Pond RV park.  It was quaint and quiet.  We had beautiful weather, the sites were HUGE and there weren’t a ton of them.  They even had a little BBQ food truck on site that we hit up and it was really good.  They had a little pond (DUH) and Z and I got to do a little bit of fishing.  Nova REALLY loved jumping in it too.  She was just sure she was gonna catch the duck that lived there.  Lisa and I got a few good walks in, and Clinton had some necessities that we like to have nearby (namely a Walmart).  There was also a really cool Natural Bridge there.  We stopped to check it out and it was amazingly beautiful.  The caretaker was a really nice guy who told us all about the history of the area, and we walked out and ran right in to our neighbors from the park.  A very sweet older couple that had been full timing for a LONG time now.  They loved to chat and we spoke to them for quite a while.  As I have said before, so far, I have met many full time RV’ers and no one does it the same way, which is great.  We all thought that the area was quite beautiful.  I suggest at least driving through if you get the chance.

Oh Golden Pond
Oh Golden Pond
The best road sign we have seen so far.
The best road sign we have seen so far.
Natural Bridge just outside of Clinton Arkansas.
Natural Bridge just outside of Clinton Arkansas.
Enjoying a hike with Z and beautiful weather.
Enjoying a hike with Z and beautiful weather.

We hit up another Harvest Host spot.  This one is south of Jonesboro Arkansas.  It’s a Pioneer Museum.  What a treat.  The owners were so nice and hospitable.  There was a TON of room for Dory.  The museum had a story all it’s own as to how it came to being.  And the owners really took a liking to us.  The cool thing about doing what we are doing is that people are interested in it.  There were going to be over 800 school kids at this place the day we went, and the owner regularly sought us out to give us some unique experiences.  She and her family enjoyed hearing our story about as much as we did theirs.  There were some great unique gifts to buy, fresh sorghum, hand made brooms (we got to learn how they are made and Z got to help make one), some fresh honey, corn flour, and Z even got to make herself a rope.  It’s these types of experiences that I want her to remember forever.  It was a ton of fun and we were a bit sad to bid farewell.  I would absolutely stop there again.

Pioneer Museum
Pioneer Museum
making her mom's Halloween costume. HA
making her mom’s Halloween costume. HA
Learning about old time cures.
Learning about old time cures.
Learning how ropes were made.
Learning how ropes were made.

 

We made our way down the road toward Memphis.  There are no Thousand Trails that can fit our rig anywhere near Memphis, so we stayed at one of our other membership campgrounds called Big Buck RV resort (click the name for their site if you want more information).  This is about 1.5 hours east of Memphis and was just a very nice park with nice open sites, not too many campers so that you feel like you are on top of one another, 2 lakes, 2 gun ranges, a driving range for golfers, and was owned by a very nice family.  We really liked it here, and again, Nova had a lake to play in, so she was extremely happy.  If you are in the area, I really suggest checking it out.  It’s close enough to go see Memphis, but far enough away to not be in Memphis.  We got in to town to do some chores that we had been putting off (mailing packages, picking up some needed items, etc.) and we went back the next day for a “tourist” day.  We hit up Gus’s famous fried chicken first.  YUMMMMMMMMM.  I won’t lie, it was as good as advertised.  Then, what stop in Memphis would be complete if you didn’t go see Graceland.  Now, I won’t lie, I am not the worlds biggest Elvis fan.  I did not grow up on him.  I went in to our Graceland trip prepared to hurry through the tour, check it off of the list, and move on.  I have to admit though, I not only left VERY impressed with the man himself, but just blown away by what he was able to achieve in his short life.  To see the number of gold and platinum records, hear him talk about his music, his fans, his life, and to see in person this iconic piece of Americana, was a real unexpected highlight.  The tour is self paced and done with Ipads and headphones.  I could have literally spent another hour there if we didn’t have other plans.  It really gave me an appreciation for why he is called the King of Rock and Roll.

Graceland
Graceland
No disputing his title as The King of Rock and Roll
No disputing his title as The King of Rock and Roll
The king says that there is no heat in this unit.
The king says that there is no heat in this unit.

 

We then headed over to where I really wanted to go, which was Beale St.  I love what Beale St. represents.  I love the blues.  I love live music.  I love having a beer while walking down the street.  And I love quirky shops and good food.  We all had a good time there and all was going fine, but then there were 2 instances that made us decide to head out.  If you haven’t been, Beale St. is like Bourbon St. in New Orleans, without everyone showing their boobs.  Much more suitable I think for a 12 year old to join us.  Z liked it.  That was until we happened upon a guy that had much more than a few too many drinks.  I think he was on something too.  He was going up to all of the people on the street and just acting weird is the best way I can describe it.  It was uncomfortable, so we moved on.  Down the way, there was a park that was setting up some live music.  Now this park also had a lot of homeless in it, but we don’t let that bother us.  Homeless people are just people, without a place to live and on hard times.  I think it’s good to show Z all kinds of experiences, and this was going to be a good one.  People of all races, of all economic backgrounds, just sitting down to listen to some music being played.  That was until another highly inebriated lady popped up and started acting all kinds of crazy.  She sat a few seats to our right and I could see that Z was immediately uncomfortable.  Thankfully, she is never afraid to tell me when it’s time to go, so we did.  Bummer too, Beale St. was so awesome other than those 2.  What a great vibe.  Lastly, it was off to Rendezvous for some famous ribs.  Lisa and I ate there when we were on a layover when we got married.  I wanted to share that with Z.  Plus, last time we went, Lisa was sick as a dog and really didn’t get to enjoy it.  So we did.  Love the ribs there and love the fact that it wasn’t outrageously priced or overly busy.  We got right in, ate, and got right out.

From Beale St. to oblivion.
From Beale St. to oblivion.
Rendezvous for dinner? OK.
Rendezvous for dinner? OK.

Memphis was fun, but aside from seeing a few more attractions, it was time to move on.  We hit the road to go 2 hours east to Natchez Trace.  This is a Thousand Trails site and we get to stay here for 3 weeks for FREE.  I still owe a write up about TT and our other memberships, but we are getting the most out of this one.  The trip in was funny.  We stopped at a little town along the way and pulled Bruce and Dory in for some gas.  Here is a funny story.  As you know, Dory is BIG.  we can’t just pull in to anywhere and not have her sticking out.  Well this particular station had us sticking out a bit, like always.  An older man decided he needed to go around us and pulled in to the angled gas pump next to us.  I heard a crunch.  I turned to notice that he had obviously hit the concrete barrier that protects the pumps.  You could see that he was pissed.  What I didn’t know is that he was pissed at me.  For some reason, he blamed his lack of driving skill on the fact that we were sticking out too far from our pump.  He proceeded to head in to the station and demand to speak to a manager.  Z and I overheard him telling them that he basically wanted them to pay for it.  The manager walked out and as calm as anyone could (I would be losing my shit here) told him that he chose to pull in to that pump, the wrong way, and she couldn’t help him.  To make it even funnier, he pulled in to a diesel pump and he wasn’t in a diesel car.  I don’t wish people ill will, in fact, we believe heavily in Karma.  But dear lord, how are you going to blame your lack of patience and driving skill on me or the gas station.  We shook our heads and pulled out.  When we got close to our new park, we noticed a sign on the road leading in “Bridge clearance 11′”  WHAT?  We are 13′ if not more.  We backed out as best we could and called the ranger station.  They informed us that there is a cut out to the left that gives 13′ 6″ of clearance.  That is about as close as I want to come to hurting ol Dory, but we made it through.  Not after a few tense moments with Lisa guiding us.  It was close.  But now, we are 1.5 hours south of Nashville and in some prime history land.  Between the trail of tears, the Civil War history, and the whiskey, this could prove to be a very fun few weeks.  Plus, we get to go to our first concert since hitting the road.  One of our favorite bands, Kings of Leon, is playing in Nashville tomorrow and I got us tickets for my birthday.  YAY.

Thank God that the dog days of summer are over.
Thank God that the dog days of summer are over.
Like a glove.
Like a glove.

As always, thanks for reading and if you have the chance, make sure to sign up for our Instagram and facebook pages.  There are always more photos and updates there.

The Leaving Little London Carnival (or Circus???)

Go to our happy place.  OUR HAPPY PLACE....
Go to our happy place.  OUR HAPPY PLACE....
Go to our happy place. OUR HAPPY PLACE….

I feel like a broken record saying WOW, what a long time it has been, and that I have been very busy, BLAH BLAH BLAH…….. But really, the last several weeks have been CRAZY.  Sometimes crazy good, sometimes…..welllllllll not so much.  Having said that, we know how blessed we are to be living this life, and I hope that we continue to take full advantage of it.  The benefits have been great and we already see a much closer relationship with Z.  Mainly because she hasn’t had the opportunity to make a lot of friends.  But hey, a win is a win.

So what has gone on?  I know you are probably yelling at your screen by now for me to quit tip toeing and just get to it.  So without further adieu, I present to you, THE LAST 3 WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKS.

As mentioned in our last post, we were at Lake Whitney in Texas.  We had a nice site, and although the heat was continuing to kick us in the junk, we had some time to do some fun things.  We headed to a science museum, but it turned out to be more for little kids and not our big 12 year old.  She made the most out of it and I appreciated her efforts.

Z bear posing at the science museum.
Z bear posing at the science museum.

I love her attitude and love watching her grow up.  We also got to go to a wood turning show and we were blown away by just how creative folks can be.  There were all kinds of awe inspiring creations and Lisa’s dad and family are very in to it.  It’s always GREAT to get to spend time with anyone who is extremely passionate about their craft, no matter the craft.  Z was soaking it in and asking great questions.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any good photos from that event.

We did meet some fellow full timers and bloggers from http://rvreboot.com/

A really nice younger couple who are spending the year really hitting a TON of states.  When I met them in Texas, they were headed toward Maine and planned to be there in a few weeks.  It’s always interesting to see how people approach this lifestyle, and it’s fun to share stories.

As we wrapped up our stay at Whitney, our plan had always been to head to the Texoma Thousand Trails, then up to Norman OK.  This is where the issues began.  We went to pull in our main slide and heard a few “pops”.  I crapped myself a little bit and we stopped pulling the slide in.  I reversed and put the slide back out and a very nice neighbor came over to see what was going on.  He pointed out that the slide was out further on one side than the other.  You could probably feel the stress radiating off of my gigantic head.  Questions began to swirl and concerns were flooding my way.  As we continued to work on it, all we could come up with was to push it in manually to get it all of the way in.  We were able to do that and we decided to move forward with the plan.  It was a very quiet drive.  When we landed at Texoma, we had to put out the slide in order to live for the night.  Of course it struggled, but with some pushing, we got it all of the way out.  Process repeated the next day as we headed to Norman.

Unfortunately, because we are on this extended trip, taking your home in for repairs is VERY difficult.  On top of that, we were heading to Mexico for a wedding and I just didn’t have the energy nor desire to start getting it looked at right before we left.  I didn’t want to leave any responsibility on my family, and we opted to just set it up and await our return.  Luckily, my father in law has a great friend who allowed us to park Dory on his land and he had a 50amp hook up which allowed our fridge to stay on, a HUGE plus that you probably know about if you know RV’s.

It was actually a great distraction and stress reduction to head to Mexico.  I doubt many know that I am an ordained minister (online) and have been asked by some family and friends to perform their weddings.  I was blessed to have the same happen here and I was lucky to perform the wedding for my awesome family.  Between that and 5 nights of tequila therapy, I didn’t even think about Dory.  It was all pool, party, and good times.

Upgraded to first class.  BOOM
Upgraded to first class. BOOM
The spa, we spent some great time here.
The spa, we spent some great time here.
Pool side drink delivery and meeting new people.
Pool side drink delivery and meeting new people.
What RV????
What RV????
Father Norton espousing words of wisdom or something like that.
Father Norton espousing words of wisdom or something like that.
She said yes......YAYYYY
She said yes……YAYYYY

The flight home began to add weight to my shoulders with every mile.  What were we going to do about Dory?  I feared that we were really starting to cause some additional damage, and I wasn’t sure how to address.  As we got closer to Oklahoma, Lisa and I decided to get Dory from her spot out west of Norman and pull her in to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman.  It’s the ONLY full hook up RV campground in the area.  You can stay at OU but it’s power and water only.  Great for a weekend football game, not so good for long term.

The debacle debacle

We pulled in to the “campground” (I put quotes because its more of a parking lot with several hook ups), and found that the Fair and Carnival were starting in 2 days.  A fair AND carnival?  YESSSSSSSSS.   What can go wrong with rides that are traveled around the US and have very little governance.  Sign us up.  Of course we bought the unlimited rides package.  We are on this trip for adventure aren’t we?  Well what spells adventure more than taking your life in your own hands at a pop up carnival?  Nothing I tell you, NOTHING.

Looks so safe.  SOOOOO SAFE...
Looks so safe. SOOOOO SAFE…

Many sites were blocked because of the need for parking, and we actually found the only spot remaining.  Again, I hate to sound uppity, but we ended up on a row of permanent tenants and the way they parked it made it VERY difficult to get Dory in.   I think they did it on purpose to try to dissuade people from parking there.  When we set up, getting the slide out was nearly impossible.  We decided enough was enough and we told Jayco we would be calling a mobile repair guy out.  After several calls, we got one we felt comfortable with.  They came and determined that our issue was that one of our motors had been torn up by an errant screw and had been pulled completely out of the housing.  WHAT??????  He was going to order a new motor, but felt sure that this would solve our problems.

052
I am no expert, but this looks wrong. You can actually see the screw on the lower left side of the opening and you can see where it was tearing up the motor.

Whew, maybe I am just an over reactor.  Maybe this isn’t so bad.  In a few days, he would come out and sprinkle his magical friggin pixie dust on our trailer and all would be back to normal.  So upon his return with our new motor, I was giddy, like it was Christmas.  He installed. and told me to go ahead and try to pull it in.  Wellllllllll……………………

Look at the top then bottom of the window and tell me if you see an issue.
Look at the top then bottom of the window and tell me if you see an issue.
I must be drinking, because this looks all off to me.
I must be drinking, because this looks all off to me.

Needless to say, Jayco got a call.  The bottom of our slide came in, but the top stayed.  We are stuck.  We really couldn’t even sit in the couch.  And because we were so close to our neighbors, we couldn’t lower the side patio, so we were really out of places to hang out.  A lot of time was spent at the in-laws.

One thing did occur to me.  Given how close we were to our neighbors, how would anyone work on lifting and repairing our slide?  We were also having some intermittent power issues.  After MUCH debate, Lisa and I decided to move Dory, with her slide open, over to a new site that had only recently come open after the fair.  There were several nicer units over there and if we were lucky, we would have plenty of room for repairs to be made.  It was a WHITE KNUCKLE event.  We loaded Dory up and pulled out at the blistering pace of 0-1mph.  Lisa walked along the outside, presumably to be able to scream at me that the whole slide had fallen out should that have occurred.  After about 20 minutes of sweating in an air conditioned truck, we successfully moved and it made our view, neighbors, and everything feel just a little better.  It’s amazing to me how the spot or the park can change your whole attitude.  Being away from the “mobile home” side of the grounds and with people like us to travel full time or were in for the game made it feel like things were getting better.

Jayco, for what it is worth, has done a very good job of working with us.  I don’t want this to become a Jayco bashing session, because really and genuinely, I feel that they are as frustrated as we are.  I have actually been very glad that we bought a Jayco after hearing some of the horror stories of our neighbors.  I just really feel like this entire industry is one that pumps out units and the quality control is nil.  I have had multiple people from within the industry tell me that one in like 5 units is actually even checked and that the assembly line often knows which ones (seems like a bad system), and that in the spring/summer busy months, that number can go down to as little as zero units inspected.  I can’t say for sure if this applies to Jayco or not, and I like to think they don’t do that.  I have been working with a gentleman from Jayco who has honestly worked very hard to help us out and has been very flexible with our needs.  So from that perspective, kudo’s to them.  I would have hated to own a different manufacturer who might not care.  I just wish there was more care put in to the product pre-release.  It seems at this point that Jayco is losing their asses on us.  Between new patio railings and a new toilet being shipped and installed, to 6 on site service calls, to shipping it back to Indiana for repairs for a month, I feel like they could put a little more effort in to pre-production quality to mitigate these types of costs.  I am beginning to think that part of the cost bakes in these types of repairs, but it seems silly.  We have owned this rig for 5.5 months and have only been able to travel for 4 of those months.  Given the length of the loan, this doesn’t bode well.  I have repeatedly told Jayco that either they make all of their units crappy (which I don’t believe), or I got a lemon.  I will say that I have asked to speak to someone about trading in to a new one given all of the challenges we have faced.  Also, Jayco did contact Lippert (the manufacturer of the slide out systems, frames, and leveling jacks) and they did send one of their best of not the best guy out that they could.  For that I applaud both companies.  Ron, our guy, was there bright and early and worked even in the rain.  In the end, he was able to complete the repair on site, but told us that something still isn’t working right and he fears this will happen again.  GREAT.   While I had him there, I explained that our “auto leveling” system has hardly ever worked right.  He took a look and it turns out that the “brain” of the system that says whether we are level or not was mounted to a soft underbelly portion of Dory.  He said it had to be attached to a rigid cross member of the frame and he did that work for us too.  I was so impressed with his work ethic that I called his boss to tell her what an asset he is to their company.

I am still working with Jayco on what we do next.  I can’t help but feel as though we got a bad unit.  We may have got a bad unit from a good company, but that doesn’t help the fact that we are trying to take our daughter cross country in a trailer that sells for over 120k list and we haven’t even had it on the road for 20% of the time we have owned it.  I am hopeful that we can come to a conclusion and so far Jayco hasn’t given me reason to doubt that we can.  I would rather have this issue with Jayco than any other similar manufacturer given the stories, but we will see.  I don’t want to include any lawyers or anything, I just want to get what I paid for.

All of that aside, we did leave Norman early Saturday morning.  There was a BIG OU football game that evening, and we were warned, repeatedly, that we would want to beat the traffic.  So we were up at 7 on a Saturday morning, loaded and on the road by 9.

Let the adventure really begin.

So the funny part of this all is that, as I believe I have mentioned previously, we are just actually starting our “adventure” portion of the trip.  Family commitments have kept us going in the opposite directions that we would have otherwise.  This week represents a few major milestones.  First, at the end of this week, we will have completed 6 months of this adventure.  It hardly seems like we have been doing this for half of a year already.   Second, our current stop at Terra Starr RV park at Lake Eufaula in eastern Oklahoma represents the first stop that we have no commitments and we can really go whatever way we want. stay as long or short as we want, see what we want, and really DO what we want.  We are headed toward Tennessee then will hopefully head toward Georgia and then to Florida.  We will get to see our kids and our grandson in December as we are flying them to come see us for our grandsons first birthday.  I will also get to see my Marine brother while near Nashville, and we will get to see other family down in Atlanta.  This next phase has already seen lower temperatures, which is nice.  We have actually sat on the deck for football games, and once everyone is healthy (a bug ripped through the RV), we will be out on the bikes and on walks.  Third, we are entering our first holiday season in the RV.  It will be very interesting to see how things like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas go.

We are so looking forward to the future.  If this has taught us anything, it’s that stressing out does little to solve problems.  I have been proud of our family for how everyone has handled our adversity.  It may not seem like it, but Karma has really shone on our family.  We have yet to have an issue that we couldn’t get resolved on the road, and although we continue to be plagued with problems, we have managed to be in places where we had a support network.  Norman was no different and Lisa’s folks and their family and friends came through huge for us.  It was the longest we had spent with them too, so that was nice.  This life has a lot of upsides and we are preferring to look at that.  Keep in perspective just what is important.

The important things in life.
The important things in life.

Until next time, thanks for reading.  I hope it is helpful.

Busy Busy Busy, Lazy Lazy Lazy.

Our newest airman and her Army sister.  Our family kicks some ass.

Texas Summer Coming to a Close

Wow, this has taken a long time to write.  No clue why, other than the fact that we have been very busy and I let the heat make me lazy.  Ok, I am just lazy.  But it really has been a busy several weeks, and now we are almost done with our Texas summer.  So I felt that it is the right time to catch up.

July was packed with tons of family, friends, and we ended our month there with some great times with a great friend of mine from the Marines and his wife coming out and camping with us.  They brought out their boat and we just had a blast hanging out with them.  I have been blessed with some great friends from back in the day and hanging out with Dave again took me back to our days in the barracks drinking beers and ironing uniforms.  He hasn’t changed a bit, which is great because he is a great guy.

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Dave and I, friends for over 25 years
Fun at the lake.
Fun at the lake.

We then got our beloved Dory back.  Not after some stressful moments though.  Jayco had some issues getting our unit on line to be repaired.  You see, we have a goose neck adapter for our trailer rather than the standard 5th wheel hitch setup.  I could get in to why, but it’s not that important.  Just know that if you do the same, it’s tough to get things done to your trailer because everyone is set up for the latter.  That said, for all of the issues, Jayco really did a great job of getting us our trailer back with 2 days to spare.  Something that turned out to really be a blessing, but I will get in to that in a few.

Upon her return, we gave her a thorough inspection.  Now I won’t lie, when we sent her to Jayco, there were a LOT of repairs needed.  Something that we are repeatedly told is expected with new units.  But I really felt as if it were A LOT.  That said, I was extremely pleased with the amount of repairs that Jayco completed.  I plan to do a video outlining our rig, so I will cover some of that then.

I am happy to say how nice it was to move back in.  It was wicked ass hot, humid, and hot.  But after a few sweaty hours, we were home.  We had a minor flap when one of our hoses had a small leak, but a quick call to a local mobile repair guy and we were fixed.  Having a Jayco has been great because at least if there is an issue, they have reimbursed us for any repairs.  I don’t need perfection, I do need a supportive company, and Jayco has been that.

There was the one other issue that was no fault of anyone, but was a major learning experience for us and may be for you too.  When we got back in to Dory for the first time, we opened the fridge to find a LOT of mold.  This was due to the fact that we emptied the fridge but never let it fully thaw and dry out.  Door closed, hot weather, equals bad mold.  Lisa, the OCD cleaner, spent several hours making it cleaner than when it was new.  Thank the lord, because we would have been living with mold if it were me.  That was gross.

Our time at Conroe wrapped and we headed back to Medina Lake outside of San Antonio.  We had scoped out some sites last time we were there and we were happy to have the one we wanted be open when we got there.  We actually met up with my mother in law and her hubby who also own a Jayco 5th wheel.  We got side by side sites and it was a lot of fun.  Lisa’s Aunt came out too.  We had quite the family gathering.  This was made even more awesome when our oldest daughter was granted last minute leave to come out for her sisters Air Force Basic Training graduation.  She and our grandson came out and stayed with us.  It made us all so happy to have our whole family together.

A Jayco family.
A Jayco family.
Grandma loves her little man.
Grandma loves her little man.
Grandpa got some love too.
Grandpa got some love too.

As mentioned, the reason for this was because our middle daughter graduated Air Force Basic training.  I am blessed to have strong, independent daughters who also have taken this opportunity to serve their country.  The AF has a full weekend of “graduation” activities, so we were in to San Antonio (45 min drive each time) every day from Thursday to Sunday.  It’s all worth it when you get to see this.

AF coining ceremony day
AF coining ceremony day
Getting together with our newest Airman.
Getting together with our newest Airman.
Graduation day. Congrats girl.
Graduation day. Congrats girl.
Our newest airman and her Army sister. Our family kicks some ass.
Our newest airman and her Army sister. Our family kicks some ass. Even if your eyes are closed and Nama is photo bombing.

I did put together a picture of each of my daughters and I all in our dress uniforms.  I love this picture.

A family of service members.
A family of service members.

With graduation complete, Lisa headed back to Seattle with our oldest and our grandson.  Z and I hung out with the in-laws and she even learned some new skills.

Guitar Lessons. She is on her way to the rock hall of fame
Guitar Lessons. She is on her way to the rock hall of fame

We had a few more opportunities to meet up with my man Derek and his wife before heading out.  It’s always good to get to spend time with these guys.

Me and D and 6 hours at top golf
Me and D and 6 hours at top golf
Saying goodbye to D and his lovely wife. Was a really fun night.
Saying goodbye to D and his lovely wife. Was a really fun night.

We then moved up to Lake Whitney just north of Waco.  We found a great site with good water pressure (we were missing that in Medina and you never know how nice it is until you don’t have it).  We will wrap up a week here with Lisa’s dad coming down for a wood working show.  We will then head up his way before Lisa and I depart for a hardly deserved Mexico vacation.  Our map is up to date up through Oklahoma if you would like to see where we have been.

Once complete, we will FINALLY be heading east without any real schedule.  After nearly 6 months of travel under our belt, we will actually be doing what we set out to do.  Can’t wait.

 

Building an empire and a community out of shiplap……

Good guys are finishing first in Waco TX.

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Last week Lisa and I took Z up to see Lisa’s favorite HGTV show’s shops in Waco.  If you haven’t heard about Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper, you are probably not married, live in a box, or dare I say missing out.  The show, and the couple, are a perfect example of the American success story.  An awesome mix of funny, hard working, selflessness,  and family oriented television, these guys have quickly built an empire on the back of Joanna’s creativity and Chips child like humor.  So say what you want, take my man card now, but I like them and I am glad we went.

I really didn’t know what to expect when we arrived.  To give you context, in case you don’t know, the show is in Waco Texas.  Yes, the same Waco that prior to this show was most known for the Branch Davidian compound.  For those too young to recall, here is the history that anyone of my age remembers about Waco.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege

waco_fire_wide-9203577b23bd582c55a3ac54d95e03ced5cd9573-s900-c85

But when we arrived in Waco, we were greeted by a simple Texas town.  Nothing fancy, certainly nothing like that.  But then you turn a corner toward Magnolia market, known now simply as the “Silos”, and you realize that something is different.  People, on a Wednesday afternoon, in sweltering heat, were flocking here as if it were a holy ground in Israel.  Now you might think I am kidding, but go for yourself and see.  What these guys have done, in a few short years, due to a home remodeling show is nothing short of a miracle.  They have transformed this town single handedly.  That’s not to say that it’s all them, but they have led a revolution and rebirth of a town that others only knew of as Wacko not Waco.

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The crazy thing is, you can’t help but fall in love with these two.  It’s impossible.  I dare you to try.  They are a pair that is showing the world that you don’t have to be a ruthless business person, a cut throat individual, a self absorbed show off, or an off the wall freak show in order to be a success both in life and on TV.  They consistently bring local businesses on to their show and incorporate them into the remodels and now in to their stores.  They have been remodeling old homes in the neighborhoods that need it most.  Raising property values and spirits of the people of Waco.  Then there is the store/Silo area.  Here you have a full store packed full of Fixer Upper products, home ideas, gifts, and even more local purveyors selling their wares.  There is a warehouse/barn area that holds a number of other items such as paint, parts, and even more trinkets to buy.  There is an awesome outdoor area where the Gaines’ have invited their guests to just come chill out, play with some yard toys (Giant Jenga, football, etc.), lounge in chairs, visit the many LOCAL food trucks invited, or just swing on the giant wooden porch swings.  It appears that they also have concerts and other events there.

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A Panorama around the Silos yard.

There is a small shop of just gardening products and seeds.  A full garden showing how these things can grow and to inspire you.

Then there is the bakery.  DAAAYYYYYUUUUUM.  I don’t know if it was the intoxication of the moment or what.  But I swear those were some of the best cup cakes I have had.  And if you know me, you know I can put down some cup cakes.

They have built this temple of home improvement and self improvement all in a town that no one would ever pick.  They are lifting up their neighbors and their neighborhoods.  They are religious without being pretentious.  Creative/hard working without being condescending.  They are doing what more people should……they are leading from the front.  Follow us and we will all go places, and that’s exactly what is happening.  What they have done is nothing short of amazing to me.  I can’t imagine how it is for them.  They employ tons of people, all seem to be super happy to work there.  They are talked about like one might a rock or movie star.  They apparently show up to sign autographs from time to time although I am not sure how as I could see it turning in to a scene reminiscent of a Beetles concert.  I literally got the sense that some people (ahem…..Lisa) would have passed out if they walked around the corner.  And yet all you hear is how down to earth and normal they are.  I will even say, people were not just spending money here, they were happily spending money.  But as I looked at the price of items, I was also impressed that they weren’t gouging with prices.  A bottle of water was $1.  Military discounts of 10%.  Prices that were very reasonable.  It was so surreal to see someone who could screw you but doesn’t and yet they are KILLING it.

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Just sunnin herself on the porch swings
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Fangirl Lisa

I applaud them.  They will have fans for life in me, not because of their show, but because they are showing the world that it doesn’t take the attributes usually found in a reality show to be successful.  I am not kidding when I say that these guys are printing money.  Everything they touch seems to turn to gold.  But you also get the sense that they work very hard for it, plan it meticulously, and they don’t screw people over.  In fact they seem to be lifting anyone up that is along for the ride. You will likely not see any drama from them in the news.  They appear to be the real deal.  The American dream built up on a wall of shiplap.

I am sure that this post makes me sound crazy (or many other things I can hear my Marine buddies calling me right now), but that was just how impressed I was with this place.  I see why people want to come here.  As long as there are people flocking to people doing good in this world, I am all for it.  It was a great teaching moment for Z too.  Nice guys can finish first too.  We also found a really fun little bar nearby, so take that buddies. Man card returned.

As for us, Dory is on her way back.  Should be here Friday.  Fingers crossed.  I will write more about that soon.

Thanks as always for following.  Let me know if there is something you would like to know about.

Ryan and Lisa and Z bear.

 

 

A first post from Z bear……

Z asked me to post this weeks ago and I just keep forgetting.  I asked her to write in her words some thoughts about our travel.  I will keep trying to do this so that you get a 12 year olds perspective

 

Hello everyone, it’s Z.  I know, I know, I haven’t been writing anything but let’s just say I’m lazy.  So I am going to tell you about some of my experience in the RV.  I am going to start with the second day because the first was just getting ready to go.  We went to a goat farm (my favorite spot so far) and we got to tour the whole thing.  I got to milk the goats and see little baby goats.  It was like being trampled by little cute clouds.  They were so gentle.  It was just an amazing experience!

Now I’m going to skip a few weeks ahead to the time my cat got lost.  If you are reading the blog, you have heard this, but here is my perspective.  So my mom and I were getting food and my dad was walking Nova and when he came back to the car he opened a window but a little too much.  My cat Aurora got out but he didn’t know it.  When we came back we asked if he had watched out for kitten?!?  Dad said yes, it’s fine, but I had a bad feeling and we thought she was just hiding in her normal spot.  So we kept driving for I would say 30 min and stopped at a gas station.  Dad went to fill us up and mom turns around and says there’s no way to put this…….(I thought I was in trouble so I got butterflies in my stomach)……and she says kitten got out and right then I started to bawl my eyes out because she is my baby and means so much to me.  Mom says it’s ok, someone is coming with her and I started bawling even more because I don’t know if they want to hurt her or something.  But when he came he was like a superhero to me because he said “I would have come all of the way to Salt Lake City”.  My mom said “I know my daughter thanks you so much but she is currently bawling her eyes out in her cat”.  That was probably the scariest moment of my life!

So then we went to Colorado then to San Antonio and that has been some of my fondest memories so far.

Here are some of my favorite pictures so far.

$75 in Candy?   Why not?
$75 in Candy? Why not?

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To Infinity…..And Beyond.

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Mid July, WOW.   We are almost done with our first 1/3 of a year and we technically haven’t even started yet.  We are still in Houston for 2 more weeks (hopefully).  I won’t lie, I am getting a little nervous about being on time out of here.  Jayco still has Dory, and we haven’t had any real timeline for getting her back other than that they know we need to be out of our “cabin” by the 30th (I told them the 28th to be safe).  So fingers crossed, all will go well and we will be making our way to our daughters Air Force basic training graduation on the 30th.

So what has been up?  Well, you know, it’s hot.  Like sweaty, swamp ass, hot.  Like who in the hell actually lives here all year HOT.  Oh, and if hot isn’t enough, it’s also humid.  To those of you from here you might be like DUHHHHH, but man alive it’s hot and humid.  I think I may have mentioned it before.  What I never realized is that the problem is not the heat or humidity, it’s actually the wind chill.  I learned this from reading the weather on my phone a few weeks ago.  Stunning.  025

That said, we have settled in to our new temporary home in Lake Conroe, about 45 min north of Houston, and it’s actually a cool (not the cold kind of cool though) spot.  We have amenities close by, which is huge, and because we have so many family and friends down here, we have been staying busy.  Whether it’s enjoying time with Lisa’s Aunt and her family, or hanging out with some of my Marine buddies, it’s been fun and is helping the time to go quickly.    Z has also made a new friend here.  She is a little younger than Z, but they both had mermaid tails and enjoyed swimming together so who cares about age.

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It’s actually a pretty funny story about this girl.  We had been here for a while, and as usual, Z isn’t too quick to try and make friends.  Not that she is shy, I just think she doesn’t always need them.  Of course, she has me to play with, so who needs friends.  But this girl and her family walk in to the pool and Z is immediately drawn to her because she has a mermaid tail.  Z loves hers, but rarely do we see others.  They quickly became friends and we found out that the fin that she was using actually was the fin we left at the Columbus Texas Thousand Trails.  Her family is a full time family too and they were there right after we were.  We left her old tail so that someone might enjoy it.  As luck would have it, someone did, and it was this little girl.  We have enjoyed seeing Z play with her and we have spent a TON of time at the pool lately.  Her family is very nice and we have enjoyed swapping stories about our adventures.  They have been at this for 2 years already, so we can learn a lot from them.  They travel with 4 children ranging from 12-4, 2 boys and 2 girls. It’s always neat to see how people do this life, and no 2 ways are the same really.

As mentioned, we got to spend some time with Lisa’s family too.  Her Aunt Martha is one of our favorite people and one of the nicest women you will ever meet.  She has a much larger family than ours and it’s always great to get to go see her and her kids/grand kids.  She has had us to dinner, bowling, and her daughter invited us to her little ones birthday party.  I really enjoy Alecia and her husband Michael.  They have a lovely family, a nice home, and they went out of their way to include us in their daughters day.  The highlight of the day came after we heard several family members chanting “bagpipe baby” over and over again.  We soon found out what that was, and I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.  This mask that Michael wears was like $500 and is AWESOME.  Adding the bagpipe was a classic idea.  I can’t upload the video here, but go to our facebook or instagram page to see.  I was in tears laughing.

We then got a very special treat.  Lisa’s long time childhood friends (really they are family to us) came to Tyler with their new baby.  Of course we would drive 3 hours to go meet this little angel.  We got a sweet baby fix and really love seeing these guys.  They are a great young family and we wish them the best in DC.  Becky has been an awesome role model for my girls, and JT is such a proud and sweet daddy.  We got to spend some time with JT’s dad and wife too, and it was great just to see them all.

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We had rather unique opportunity that we all really enjoyed.  I have been blessed with some great friends that I made from my time in the Marine Corps back in 92-96.  Being the guy that likes to keep everyone in touch, I have managed to maintain some great relationships.  One such is my friend Patrick Buzzard.  He and I have known each other since then and the last time I saw him was in 96.  But with the magic of social media, we stayed in touch.  Well he is an official at NASA here in Houston and invited us to take a back stage tour.  It has certainly been a highlight of our trip.  I always new Patrick (or as I call him Buzz) to be a sharp guy.  He was a locked on Marine, a college grad before he ever went in, but dear lord he blew me away with his knowledge of the space program.  I am sure that it helps that his family has worked for NASA since the 70’s.  We got an excellent behind the scenes look into what I consider to be the greatest achievement that our government has made since the Constitution.

Buzz showed us ALL around.  We got to climb into the trainer for the original space shuttle, got to walk all around a life size replica of the International Space Station, even got to see a shuttle door signed by none other that One Direction (Zoe lost her mind).  We went to Mission Control and got to see the ACTUAL room that the Apollo missions were controlled from.  Where the first landing by man on the moon was witnessed and where the Apollo 13 mission was saved.  We got to see and hear all about the current missions and science projects happening on the ISS, and about plans to continue to Mars.  A day like today took me back to my youth when my dad and I watched the Space Shuttle fly on the back of a 737 way back in the day.  Took me back to the tragic day in 1986 when the brave astronauts lost their lives on the Challenger and again in 2003 with Columbia.  I find it unfortunate that our govt has devalued the NASA program over the last several years, and we have stopped flying to space ourselves.  In fact, I was stunned to find that we pay Russia $72 Million per seat to fly our folks to the ISS and that the only US plans to further space exploration are coming from private investors.  I hope that future years will see an investment in our space program and give our young folks an opportunity to see great things that come when you explore beyond your boundaries.  It almost feels like the lives lost in the interest of space exploration were in vain if we don’t continue to invest in our space program.

We also got to meet a real Astronaut Joseph Acaba, and as you would expect, a very humble unassuming man. In fact, the meeting was so brief and casual, Buzz didn’t even tell us who he was until after he left.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_M._Acaba

Here are some pics from our awesome day.

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From NASA we got to meet his wonderful family and then go to the Buzzard Ranch.  Z got to play with chickens, sheep, and a Donkey.  All in all, it was a great reunion with an old friend.  I had no idea of what to expect, and this exceeded anything that I could have wished for.  Not only for myself but for my family.  These are the exact experiences that I want for Z and she has talked of it often since.

Back at the casa, we are communicating with Jayco regularly, praying for a fast return of Dory.  They don’t seem to think that there will be any issues, but I am not as confident.  We have less than 2 weeks to get her back, loaded, and checked out.  Fingers crossed.

Today, we opted to go Kayaking.  It was a nice Sunday and we enjoyed ourselves.  Z had never been and was very timid at first, but in no time, she was paddling like a pro.  She impresses me all of the time.

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Lisa being an excellent role model for Z
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Z enjoying the kayak adventure

We also got an unexpected surprise.  Our daughter Kailah that is in Air Force basic training called us.  It was so nice to hear her voice.  If you have never been to an intensive training like any military basic training, you don’t know the rush of emotions the first time you hear your parents voice.  She is doing very well and we are very proud of her.  Then, the other day I noticed that their facebook page had posted pictures of a 5k run that they did.  Her dimples are unmistakable.  I got a glimpse of her.  So proud.

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Next week, another great friend from the Marines will be out with his wife.  They are bringing a boat too, so it ought to be great to catch up and have some fun with them.  It really makes this time go by much quicker when you have such awesome family and friends around.

I hope that you all are taking time to find whatever it is that makes you happy.

Thanks for following,

The Nortons

Blessings in disguise/Ohhhhhhhh that smell. Can’t you smell that smell?

Blessings come in different forms.

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I don’t mean to get all spiritual on anyone or anything like that, but if there were ever a time that I realized that sometimes challenges are blessings, it was this last week.  As I have mentioned, we had some issues with Dory since we got her.  Some were small items that would probably be expected by most RV owners, but some, in my mind, were pretty big issues that shouldn’t have happened.  I have decided to be purposely vague right now as Jayco has agreed to take it back to Indiana and fix the issues and make her “good as new”.  If this happens, I will have much respect for them and if not, well let’s just say that I will be disappointed to say the least.  Apparently, anyone in the RV “lifestyle” will tell you that every new RV, no matter the cost, will have a long list of items to be repaired in the first year or two.  This is why most RV companies only have a 1 or 2 year warranty on them.  So buyer beware.  Deal with a reputable dealer and company should you be looking to go to a full time RV life.  So far, I have heard from many folks, we have been dealt with extremely respectably from Jayco.  That said, as a first time RV owner, it seems crazy to me that everyone just accepts this as fact.  We spent a lot of money on our trailer.  We did a TON of research too.  It just seems crazy to me that everyone just expects the kind of issues that we have had.  In fact, often times I hear how lucky we are that Jayco has been taking care of it in the manner that they have.  If we have needed repairs to this point, they have allowed us to hire an RV tech to do the work, pay him, and then they pay us back.  So far so good on that front.  But what I can’t figure out is how this is not only just the norm, but how RV companies don’t do everything in their power to prevent this.  I mean  at this point, Jayco is in to us for a new toilet, new back patio rails, and already over $400 in repairs, and now they just paid to have her shipped back to Indiana to be gone over and completely fixed.  That has to be several thousand dollars right there.  You would think that the old adage of just doing something right the first time would come in to play in order to maximize profits.  Not just for Jayco, but the entire industry.  I will say, so far, Jayco has stood by their word and treated us right, it is just frustrating that they even have to.

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So here is the blessing in disguise.  Last week we rolled in to Thousand Trails Lake Conroe.  It’s the flag ship TT location and it’s easy to see why.  It’s a nice park in my mind.  One that lends itself to our kind of camping (glamping).  It’s right on a lake, they have a nice pool, the sites are big but close enough to meet your neighbors, and so far, the biggest advantage, is that it is actually close to civilization.  Up until now, we have been driving 30-45 min any time we wanted to go to a good store, shopping, etc.  The parks have been lovely, but they are usually remote.  Not the case with Lake Conroe.  But I digress.  So we pulled in and after some confusion (probably because I was asking for keys to our “cabin” while pulling a trailer behind us), we got here.  Now I am not kidding, it had to be 95 but with a heat index of like 2000000000.  We only had a few hours of light, and my intelligent butt just pulled in at the hottest part of the day.  We began unloading Dory.  When we were done (and I had showered and burned the clothes I was wearing because they would never come clean), we stopped and looked at the PILES of crap we had.  We all agreed that although we did a good job of pairing down for our trip, we still have WAY too much crap.  We would have never seen this had we never had to unload her.  Mostly because Lisa is a wizard of the highest order when it comes to finding a spot for everything.  If you looked around Dory when she was loaded, you wouldn’t never known it.  She has a gift.  A gift that was exposed the minute we saw the absolutely massive amount of crap that came out of Dory.  So we have already begun round like 200 of downsizing.  Z has a bag already of clothes she is not going to take back.  We got rid of anything that we haven’t touched in the 3.5 months that we have been on the road.  I am not going to be stupid and say that we are down to the bare bones, but we have been given an opportunity to re-evaluate our stuff.  So had Dory not had all of these issues and had Jayco not offered to take her back to Indiana, we would’ve never seen the sheer amount of stuff that we have brought along.  It was a lot of work in very hot circumstances but it’s done.  And the wizard has been at it again and has made our small cabin already feel like home.

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As mentioned, this Thousand Trails is nice.  They say that it is the template for how they want all Thousand trails to be.  I doubt that will ever happen, but it’s a lofty goal.  They had a large crowd for the 4th of July weekend and did a nice fireworks show on Saturday.  They had activities all weekend, and we spent some good time at the pool, lake, and in our nicely air conditioned cabin.  I have been waiting to get some more locations under my belt before doing any kind of review on TT or our other locations, but I feel that I have a good enough handle on it and will follow with a report soon.  Needless to say, up to now, the TT membership has already paid for itself, but there are some other considerations for those that are thinking about joining.  I will share my thoughts on that soon.

Ohhhhhhh that smell…………..

I decided that the second part of today’s blog would be about an issue that I fear may plague more RV’ers than anyone else.  Hopefully, if you are reading this, the RV life is something you are interested in and this will be of use for you.  Ever since arriving at Medina Lake at the end of May, we have noticed off and on a smell in the cabin of Dory.  Not always, and nothing consistent.  At first I thought it was just the heat.

You see, all RV’s have to have a venting system for the black and grey tanks.  This vent is at the top of the trailer.  My theory was that the heat and humidity were permeating our black and grey tanks through that vent and the result was an off putting (to put it mildly) smell in various parts of the cabin.  However, as time progressed, other theories developed.  You see, smell was coming in to different rooms at different times.  It might be in our bedroom, or the main room.  It may happen in the AM or PM.  It would come from our washing machine area, or under the sink.  I began to explore other options.  I had heard that sometimes, the AC units (which are on full blast in this heat) will suck air in from the vents and draw it back in to the coach.  Made sense as we have been running our AC’s like they were the very lifeblood of our existence.  But that didn’t explain the smells that came from very pointed locations such as the ones mentioned above.  Now mind you, I had already cleared the black and grey tanks, I even flushed the black ones (there are hose attachments that you can flush water in to the tanks to clean them out).  Yet here we were, getting this odor that was less than pleasant to put it mildly.  We began to realize that it would happen mostly when we either did the dishes or ran a load of wash.  So we tried sanitizing the drains, added more chemicals to the black tanks, filled and flushed the grey tanks.  Nothing worked.  If I had hair, I would have been pulling it out.  So thanks to the mighty oracle known as Google, I think that I have figured out what is happening.

If you have an island with a sink in your house, or if you own an RV, your drains to your sink or your washer have what is called an AAV or Air Admittance Valve.

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This valve allows air to draw water from your faucets or drains, but shuts off before pulling all water our of your P trap, keeping unpleasant odors out of your life.  The problem comes when the AAV sticks open.  It’s not supposed to do that and if it does it will both pull the water our of your P trap, but also will allow air from the grey tanks to come back up.  I have also found that (surprise surprise), the grey tanks stink.  Sometimes worse than a black tank because of food particles that get stuck down there.  This AAV keeps those odors where they belong.  I am fairly confident now that we have not 1 but two failing AAV’s and have asked Jayco to replace them as part of our repair service.  I write all of this to tell you that if you are experiencing that gut wrenching smell of hell and you haven’t found any cause for it, check those valves.  They can be replaced fairly easily.  If I am right, we will have repaired an issue that has been bugging us now for over 2 months.  I will let you know how it goes.

 

As for us, well we had a very successful 2 weeks with our nephew, had a nice 4th of July weekend, and are just really looking forward to getting through this summer so that we can really begin our major adventures.  The Houston area will allow us to visit some family and friends, so that will be great.  Looking forward to seeing Dory come back.  I will let you know how that is going.

 

If you have any suggestions for topics, or would like to know anything about our current experiences, please feel free to leave a comment.  Hopefully this info is helpful.

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