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The Florida Caverns State Park is one of those perfect half-a-day side trips, offering a guided tour of a fascinating geologic wonder, some nice hikes and an opportunity to kayak and explore a wilderness river that offers up a blue hole as a bonus.
And at the end of the exploring, there’s a nice campground available, too, if you’re in need of a place to overnight.
Located near the town of Marianna in Florida’s panhandle just off I-10, the underground tour offers inspiring vews of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies.
Formed about 38 million years ago when sea levels were much higher and the southeastern coastal plain of the United States was submerged. Shells, coral and sediments gradually accumulated on the sea floor. As sea levels fell, these materials hardened into limestone. During the last million years, acidic groundwater dissolved crevices just below the surface creating cave passages large enough to walk through.
You can still see some of those fossilized shells, as well as fish skeletons embedded in the limestone throughout the subterranean system . On the ceiling of one of the underground rooms our guide used his flashlight to show off what he says is an ancient shark’s tooth.
The tour lasts about 45 minutes and reminded us a lot of the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Developed in 1935 during the height of the depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Projects Administration. Both groups emerged from President Roosevelt’s New Deal, established in 1933 to provide jobs to men during the Great Depression.
Using not much more than pickaxes, shovels, wheelbarrows and a flatbed pickup truck, it took nearly a decade to carve out an underground path that wanders between “rooms” of the caverns. Most of the tunnels and caverns are about 25 feet beneath the surface, Subdued lighting runs throughout the system and, like any good cave tour, there will come a moment when the guide will turn off all lighting to show how totally dark it is underground.
Although the tour is not strenuous, there are places where the passages are very narrow and low, meaning you need to be flexible enough to be able to duck down and walk under spots that are no higher than four feet or so.
A welcome bonus in visiting the caverns during the hot and steamy Florida summer is the constant year-round temperature of 65 degrees in the caverns.
Hiking trails run throughout the 1,319-acre park and kayaks can be rented to paddle the Chipola River, which has a deep blue spring – named the Jackson Blue Spring to differentiate between the Florida’s Blue Springs State Park near Orlando – flows at an average rate of 76 million gallons of water a day. With five other smaller springs, it feeds Merritts Mill Pond, a major scenic and recreation area.
Click the image to enlarge:
You enter the caverns through a door that takes you 25 feet beneath the surface.
Some of the rooms are quite large.
A statue out front honors the nearly 10 years it took for CCC workers to excavate the path through the caverns.
They call this the “Wedding Cake.”
It requires you to stoop to navigate through some of the spots.
A ranger explains how caverns and caves are made.
More beautiful formations
For sixteen years we have returned to the Rio Grande Valley, in the southern tip of Texas, each fall. We enjoy the mild winters and the abundance of recreation, natural resources and wildlife in the area. The December issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine is dedicated entirely to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). This publication from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is an excellent resource for those looking for a spot to visit in the winter, perhaps like us, you'll find it to be just what you are looking for in a winter residence.
In commemoration of their 75th year in publication they decided to focus on a single area of Texas and the staff decided that focus had to be on the RGV. They sent the entire staff to the RGV, housing them at Estero Llano Grande State Park south of Weslaco. Every article in this issue of the magazine is about the RGV; its people, nature, history and recreation. A one year subscription (10 issues) costs just $18.00. There are regular offers in the magazine for $12 per year and 2 years for $20. You should be able to purchase this issue at any Texas State Park. You can read any or all articles in this issue at: https://tpwmagazine.com/
Diane and I have a saying that started after our grand boys came along. We used it on them (and they would use it back if necessary) if one of them or I (Diane has complaints but never whines about anything) mumbled and groused about something. “Whining is not attractive” Matters Of The Heart Blog Post
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When I became a long distance cyclist, spring became a favorite time to head south for a week-long biking vacation. Even though I was still working, each March I would head to Florida for a week-long bike ride with the Bike Florida group. I did those rides for 8 years and got to explore many areas of north and central Florida from the seat of my bike. It was these rides that gave me the notion for escaping the New England winter and spending that time in Florida
Areas of Florida
Securing a Place to Stay
Many RV parks offer seasonal discounted rates for month-long stays. The park where I stay in Fort Myers Beach offers seasonal rates for 3 month stays. Many snowbirds find a park they like and then keep returning year after year. Some parks cater to their returning customers and will let you keep the same site as long as you reserve it a year in advance. This is what we have started doing. Before we leave Fort Myers Beach in April, we'll book our reservations for the following year.
Renting a house or a condo, works almost the same as getting a campground or RV site. You need to book in advance. Many local realty companies offer rentals or you can try sites like vrbo.com and airbnb.com.
If you rent a house or condo, you may not get the social interactions that you can get at an RV park. I found this to be true when we rented at St. Augustine Beach and at New Smyrna Beach. The Villages is an exception to that statement. We spent one winter renting a house in The Villages and it was one of the most fun times we've had. I played golf all winter on the free golf courses, rented a golf cart to get around, took several dance lessons, and went to music events just about every night. It was a blast and I really got hooked on that lifestyle. When my RVing days come to an end, I may settle down in The Villages.
The Snowbird Lifestyle
You can see more or my journeys at my website: jdawgjourneys.com
Disclaimer: References to specific campgrounds, RV parks, or websites is for example only. These aren't listed as recommendations and I have no affiliation with any of the businesses or websites that are listed in this post. All rates and prices listed are approximate based current published rates at the time of this posting.
I have made a lot of mistakes while starting this hobby of RVing. One of which is trusting a little too much on what salesmen tell me. I hate to burst anyones bubble, but not all RV dealers are honest trustworthy individuals. I guess it is a flaw in my character that I assume people are telling the truth and doing thier best for the customer. Here is the latest chapter in a long history of bad service from one dealer who we will never do business with again. I don't know if it is breaking a rule to mention the dealers name but everything I am writing is the truth.
We have had a gob of trouble with Beckley’s camper sales. They are the ones who took severe advantage of us when we bought our motorhome last year. We ended up paying $4000 in repairs after we bought it before it was safe to camp in. So we do not like Beckley’s. Unfortunately, they are the only shop around who deals with generators. We have the warranty through them so we have to take it back to them if anything goes wrong with the on board generator.
The last day of a three day weekend the generator quit. I was hoping that it was broken beyond compare and Beckley’s would have to put in a new one. I called Beckley’s and told them I needed to get in there for service. The guy I talked to told me he could get us in on Tuesday. I told him I couldn’t do it on Tuesday so I would drop it off Saturday. He said that would be fine just drop it off between 8:30 and 12:00. So we hooked the car up to the motorhome and headed down. I had to put $70 worth of gas in it which was a good estimate of how much the trip down and back would take. It takes over an hour to get there because it is clear down toward Frederick MD.
We get there and start unhooking the car and some guy walks by and asks our name so he can get us checked in. I told him my name and that our appointment was on Tuesday. So I get the car all separated from the camper and head in the service office to pee.
I come out from the bathroom and the service people are searching through the books looking for our appointment which they can’t find. They finally look in the computer and print out a work order. Well it turns out my appointment was made for Tuesday Aug 7th! The guy behind the counter told me that I must have misunderstood the date. I told him that Aug 7th is the middle of our vacation and I wouldn’t have agreed to bring the camper down the Saturday that we are at the ocean. I was told “Tuesday” not “Tuesday Aug 7th”. I told the guy that I hoped he have room to store it now that it is here and he says, “Oh no sir, that is one thing I do not have”. Kristin busted out the door at this point. I stuck around and argued with the guy for about 30 more seconds before I turned around and hit the door with all intentions to take it off its hinges.
So I jump in the camper and turn it around. I hook the car up with all kinds of attitude. The guy behind the desk rode by on a golf cart and gave us dirty looks. We finally get on the road to make the hour plus trip back home.
After about ten minutes of driving I call the service department. I apologized for losing my temper. I told the guy that it was not my intention to ruin anyone’s day but that we have a history with Beckley’s and should have expected to receive crappy service and not be surprised. He assured me it was a miscommunication and I assured him that, if it was, it was number 10 or 12 on the list of times Beckley’s has said one thing and done another. Also following the same MO which is “Oh you must have misunderstood”, or “That is not what we said”, or “This is not our fault”. I told him that I will find another dealer to take my camper for warranty work even if it is in Ohio or New Jersey. I just pissed away $70 worth of gas and a whole Saturday morning for nothing and they will not have the opportunity to do it to me again. It is not worth the heart attack. I don’t care if I have to pay $1000 in gas to get work done on my camper, they will never get my business again. I will be telling everyone I know and everyone I have yet to meet not to go to their business for sales or service.
So true to my word, if you find yourself at beckley's remember that they do not have you best interest at heart. They are the biggest game around and they have enough customers that they do not care about losing you.
As we near the end of our winter get away we decided to spend a few days unwinding. Yesterday we took a drive over the mountain to Culpepper VA. It was another beautiful blue sky day. The views from the mountain were spectacular. The balance of the day was spent at our CG enjoying the 70 degree weather.
Today we traveled over the mountain again to have lunch with another Bradford neighbors. The Marshall's were in Virginia visiting Judy's sister Karen and her husband Mike. When we found that out we just had to have a get together. After a few stops at restaurants that were still closed for the season, we managed to find a Pub in Sperryville. All had a light lunch and 2 hours of nonstop conversation.
Tomorrow will be spent getting Gracie ready for a 4 week rest in PA until we return for a wedding and finally bring her back to NH for the summer.
Did anyone find the deer in the pictures with my last Blog?
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Wow! Can’t believe it is almost August! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! Since my last blog entry we have traveled from Kartchner Caverns, Bensen, AZ to Phippsburg, Maine. Had a pretty good trip across country even though we took a dog leg route to Forest City, Iowa to Winnebago Industries to have a few things checked out on the new to us motor home and a had few items worked on. The Horizon had a dishwasher which we really didn’t need so we had it removed and had two more kitchen drawers installed to take its place. Being full-timers having extra storage is always welcome. We also had the roof inspected and all the sealants checked and replaced where needed. One does not need leaks and Maine is not like AZ it actually rains here in Maine a lot.
We sold our house here in Maine to our son and daughter-in-law so we are staying at a campgrounds right down the street from the old homestead. Really nice to visit family and see how fast our little grand daughter is going. Also we came to see our son off as he is deploying with the Maine National Guard so we will be nervous parents for the next year until he returns. It is hard to see your son leave for a war zone and I know how hard it was for him to leave his family. I spent 21 years in the Navy so I know how hard it is to deploy and leave your family behind. We got to go on family day that his guard group put on and got to meet a lot of his comrades in arms, a great bunch of dedicated people who are very proud to serve their country. We are really proud of them all.
We are really enjoying being back in Maine again and so far the weather has been really good. Some days are very humid though sure different than the hot dry weather of AZ and TX where we spent the winter. Have been really scoffing up the Maine seafood especially the lobster and clams! Yum! We are loving the Horizon more than ever as it is so roomy and homey. The dogs love it too as they have plenty of room to spread out and sack out as well. LOL! The campgrounds we are staying at are really nice with quite a few summer residents that are really friendly and lots of fun to be around. Lots of fisherman here as well and I have been enjoying fishing along the coast as well. The stripers aren’t running too well as yet but it is still fun to get out there and enjoy the coast. It is really hard to beat the coast of Maine in the summer and early fall; however, I do not want to be here in the winter anymore. Winters seem to drag on forever here so being full-timers and traveling to the south in the winter is really the way to go. The summers just seem to go by so fast here but I am going to enjoy every minute of it while we are here. Hope all is well with everyone out there and you all are enjoying the summer!
Sorry it has taken so long to put another entry on this blog. I must confess that I (Gloria) have been writing Charlie's blog and will continue to write it. As you know, I am traveling with the "Prez."
We left home on December 26 and went to Kennedale, Texas, to visit with Sheri Brewer and Gene Miller. We spent New Year's with them along with Rod and Ethel Sartwell who were also at Sheri's house. On January 2 we left Kennedale in Sheri's coach along with Sheri headed for Indio, Calif., and the Western Area Rally. Sheri needed worked done on her awnings and it could only be done at the factory in California.
The weather out to California was good and we were ahead of schedule. We stopped in Arizona to visit Sherry and George Tomaszewski. They took us to a car show and it was fun seeing all the cars that brought back memories of days gone by. We also visited with Lloyd and Wendy Holloway and Steve and Beverly Martin in Havasu City. We did not plan on stopping by and they were surprised when we called and told them to look out the window.
We arrived in Indio, Calif., and the Western Area Rally with lots of hellos and hugs. We have met so many people we feel we have family all over the country. We were invited to a BBQ with the Overland Trailblazers and had a good time. They are experts at BBQing and trimmings. We even signed up to go to their post rally on the Columbia River after the Redmond Homecoming.
The Apollo Amigos also had us for breakfast on Saturday morning. We enjoyed the breakfast and especially meeting and visiting members of the chapter. They have a real "rally in a rally." They set up their own kitchen and have meals together throughout the Rally. What great fellowship we had with them.
There were lots of vendors and seminars, and the ladies tea was really entertaining. They had Sarah Getto perform several songs; a fashion show; and Debbie Reynolds' daughter-in- law demonstrated her makeup by doing two make-overs.
After the Western Area Rally Charlie went to Pomona, Calif., for a sight visit for the 2015 Winter FMCA Homecoming. I went to Las Vegas with Sheri, Wendy and Beverly. We relaxed, shopped, walked through the hotels, shopped, had good food, shopped, and just had fun laughing and being silly. After eight days in Vegas, Sheri and I met Charlie in Kingman, Ariz., and headed by to Texas. It was quite a sightseeing all the shopping bags and luggage going into the coach.
We left Sheri's and went to Bella Terra in Foley, Ala. Tom and Lorna Eller hosted a Wine and Cheese reception for us and Charlie promoted FMCA. Attendance was good.
On January 26 we arrived in Brooksville, Fla., for the SEA Rally. It started raining and did not stop until Saturday evening in time for the parade. The rain and chilly temperature did not deter anyone from seeing the vendors, attending the seminars, playing games, and going to entertainment.
I enjoyed the vendors, too. They had different types of vendors that I don't usually see at rallies and money was spent. The ladies tea was well attended. The entertainment was a lady who collects vintage clothing. She had several models who wore the clothing well. Clothing from the Victorian era through the 1960s was shown.
Over the years, I have done a lot of camping with my family, kids, dog and friends. With the kids, we have enjoyed a lot of under the tent camping, all seasons, including winter camping in the snow.
As the years have gone by, we also tried, Rental RVing, in class A, in a class C, with a folding camper, but at years pass by, definitely nothing is more comfortable than a motor-home, I consider it at high end camping, even if it comes with some interesting experiences. In 2010, I finally decided to take it a step further, as I was looking for a five weeks rental for business purposes, I looked at the cost and when I realized that between the rental and the millage billing it would cost me approximately $10,000 leaving nothing after except probably a similar bill the following year for my round trip of out of town customers and shows, I started looking at second hand motor-homes. The first one I made an offer on was a 30 footer on a Ford base, fitted my budget, and I figured that with some minor work, it would to the job. Unfortunately, the dealers financial officer apparently forgot to transmit my financing request, and after a while, I learned that they had sold it to someone else and that their financial officer being gone, they had no answer for me.
They offered me another unit, a Condor 29 that I eventually purchased under the condition that I would be able to have it inspected as soon as it had past the local authorities inspection to go on the road (it was a unit imported from the States to Canada). Things being what they are, by the time I was due to leave, the unit wasn't ready, and they had to lend me another one for the first week of my trip, and I was supposed to pick up my unit on the way back from West to East without having the time for a professional inspection. We were able to do so a week later and had a crash course on the various parts of the RV, at night, done by people that as we later discovered barely new this unit better than we did. The agreement was that in lieu of an inspection, if we had problems during our trip (approximately 6,000 miles planed), we would list them as we went and they would solve the issues after we were back in town. Trust me we discovered quite a few issues, to be precise, about two full pages typed, with small spaces and font size 11.
As we were back, we then brought them the unit to have these problems fixed. What a mistake! It took them another month and a half if not two month to "fix" the problems, and once again, we got the vehicule back at the last minute, just as they were closing for winter, and about two week before we had planned to leave for a private trip this time. So once again, they convinced us that everything was in order, told me that despite my intimate conviction that the wheels needed an alignment, on this type of vehicule it wasn't usually done...
So we left two week later for a trip that was actually very interesting and during which despite some technical difficulties, we really had fun. The objective was to meet some friends/clients in Atlanta where they have now lived for the past 7 or 8 years. As my first trip starting on the snow out of Montreal at night, and under the snow until Atlanta with an RV which after a few hundred miles revealed windshield wipers strange behavior, and a fairly bumpy ride on highway (as I had noticed already and mentioned to the dealer), I learned a lot about handling a more than 7 tonnes box on wheels that catches the wind very easily. We did the trip in two and a half days, with a couple of stops, once in a Walmart for the night and once at a 7/11 that accepted us on their parking for the night. In both cases, great places to stop as we were able to complete our daily shopping needs in both cases before we left the next morning.
We spent the next two and half days in Atlanta where we had arrived at our friends to directly go to a Christmas neighbors party where every body had someone they new with RVing experience. Before we left, we went for a visit to the new Coca Cola Museum downtown Atlanta, and after a bit a challenge to park our house on wheel in the area, we had a great tour (even if I liked it less than the old museum).
Next day, next stop at a friends winter residence in Florida, for a Christmas Turkey on the 27th of December (he had kindly been waiting for us with his fabulous turkey supper). After a fantastic evening, as we could not stay for the night in the park where our friend has his house, we went on for a stop at a nearby Wallmart and discovered on of the most gigantic Wallmart we had ever seen, open 24 hours a day (unknown to us in Canada). Again, this allowed some shopping the next morning in order to return to our friends place to offer him our morning brunch. I also had the opportunity to appreciate the kindness of the Wallmart staff as around 5h30 in the morning I discovered that the battery on my watch had died, went inside and they very kindly, replaced it; the first clerk that attended me could not do it but she made sure to find someone that helped me on the spot.
As we were leaving that same day, I wanted to get an oil change done as we were due, after trying a few places, that couldn't take vehicles as big as ours, we finally ended up at an RV dealer. And this is where we started discovering interesting things...
As they where doing the oil change and checking a few other items including tire pressure, and other items, they discovered that most of the bolts holding up the from part of the vehicule were either missing or broken and as they were asking me how far we had been coming from they were surprised that we didn't end up off the road. They didn't have the exact right parts but kindly repaired with available parts they had and recommended that we check with a dealer upon our return home.
Our next stop was to take some gas at Kenwood CITGO in St-Petersburg where apparently the gas seemed to be cheaper than other places around, as it was already late in the day, and as the day had already been a long day, I didn't realize that it was written in small characters that the mentioned price was only for cash purchases or CITGO credit cards. As I am not a US resident, and therefor I don't have a valid postal code in the US, I went inside got a $150.00 pre-approved purchase for gas and went to fill up; I was in for a big surprise... Paying with a visa card made it considerably higher to fill up there than any other place I had seen on the road, and definitely more expensive than at the Shell across the street. I therefore went back inside and asked for a refund. It's only once back home that I realized that the amount had been taken off my account, never refunded, and as I looked at the receipt, I realized that the cashier had made it like a cash refund and never given me the money. I called the gas station manager right away and got hung up on. I contacted CITGO, and after many month of back and forth emails withe their customer service manager, was finally offered a small coupon to still be received (the original problem goes back to more than a year ago) and recommendation to ask my credit card company to cancel the transaction (indirect answer from the station manager) when it is not possible more than 90 days after the fact.
Conclusion: I don't fill up at any CITGO anymore, I recommend to any one not to fill up at CITGO or to be very careful when they do so, and now, when I ask for a refund, I definitely check twice what's on the refund coupon before I move from the cashier, even if this means a delay for the line up behind me.
So we went on with our trip to the keys. A bit shortened as by now we where already more than 3 days late on our trip. We unfortunately couldn't stop in the Everglades and will have to return for a special trip for this. We were able to go to Key-west, but unfortunately because my son had to go back to school and myself to work, we were not able to stay more than a few hours. But, this is beautiful, the Carabians attached to the continent. Another place that deserve a special trip.
Then on the way back to the north and the snow. As we were on our way, enjoying the east coast of Florida, going to Savanna (we made a special stop to be able to spend part of the next day in the beautiful city) we slowly made our way back to the cold. One morning, in North Carolina, as I was doing my routine visual inspection before leaving Flying J, I noticed some metal on my front wheels. Oups! It didn't seem quite normal. As I am an RV member of the CAA/AAA, I called them and got the worst one of the two tires changed for the spare and directions to the nearest garage open that could put two new tires in the front. After all, I wasn't apparently so stupid thinking that something was wrong with the alignment of the vehicule. As this garage didn't do alignment, they kindly referred me and booked for me an appointment with a place downtown specializing in suspension and alignment. I was on for another surprise...
We were welcome by a pretty nice guy that seemed to know what he was doing. They aligned the front wheels and the back wheels, obviously taking us between two regular clients, offered us coffee, while we were waiting in their garage as they had no waiting room, and afterwords gave us a good explanation of the problems. First of all, yes our vehicule should have an alignment from time to time, and apparently it hadn't been done for ages, also, he made me realize that we were supposed to have an air suspension in the front for a smoother ride, but the air bags were completely dried out and deflated therefore causing some if not most of the problems we had had with the front of the truck. He unfortunately could not get the bags in less that a week (we were fresh in the new year), but he recommended that I get if fixed back in Montreal, of if it wasn't possible that on my next trip down I call him a week ahead of time for him to order them and intall them the same day we pass by. He also mentioned that I was getting the same type of air bags installed on the back of the RV, the comfort would be greatly improved. Trust me, now that the front air bags have been changed in Montreal, I will make sure that on my next trip next to this place I'll ask him to install air bags in the back of the vehicule. Every word of what he has told me has proven to be true.
Last but not least, as this RV seems to like a lot of TLC, our next adventure happened in the neighborhood of Baltimore. Locked inside, by the only door, on with the only lock on the vehicule....
AAA was once again able to help us after understanding that we were in no danger, parked properly at a shopping center where we had intended to purchase the necessary minimum to enjoy a nice supper aboard our vehicule. Good to have monkeys as kids, my son was able to get out through the window, get us some food, and by the time the locksmith came in, laughing because this was his first case of attending anyone locked into an RV, we were having supper, and were able to offer him a fresh coffee.
Luckily enough, at least for that trip, this was the end of our surprises.
What I learned so far from this experience, and this is why I finally decided to write about it:
- Never buy a second hand RV without getting it professionally inspected, even if this means changing completely your agenda;
- When you buy a second hand RV from a dealer, try to find out if you can get reference on them, good or bad, at least you'll have a better idea of what you're dealing with;
- Never trust a dealership to be honest in anything, and if they pretend to have done extensive work on a vehicule that they have sold to you, get it checked again afterwords;
- Make sure that your AAA/CAA RV'ers membership is always up to date (they have always been fantastic in helping out an full of resources);
- When you think something is abnormal with a vehicle that you have purchased recently, trust your guts, you're probably right;
- When you're supposed to get a refund anywhere, don't trust the cashier or even the store to be honest, make sure every word is correct on the reimbursement form, and as soon as you can, if you are dealing with a credit card reimbursement, call you bank to cancel the original transaction yourself (at least it will be a warning);
- There are some great people out there willing to help when you need it, particularly in placed like Wallmart, 7/11, MacDonald and many other places that if you ask will gladly let you park on their property, or go the extra mile to help you;
- RVing is a great way to travel and in the end, (even if sometimes you have some technical problems, probably due in our case to the fact that we didn't take the proper steps in purchasing a second hand unit);
- I'm still convinced that if we had done the same trips as we have done so far (and we have done more that I will relate at a later date in continuation of this one), we would not have seen as much, the cost would have been at least the same if not more as we would still have had to pay for the gas and use of a vehicule, for hotel or motel rooms as in many places, the tent would not have been fast enough, use many more restaurants for meals... And for the comfort, is is so great to just stop when your tired and relax as if you were at home which in fact you are...
I recon that this is a long text, and probably, quite a few of you have lived similar experiences, but some might not, as much as I am eager to learn from others' experiences, I believe that this might help someone some day.
(I will write more at a later date as even if we have had less problems and great experiences after this second trip with our Condor, I would like to share some of these)
- Never buy a second hand RV without getting it professionally inspected, even if this means changing completely your agenda;
I'd noticed that the plumbing manifold had some rusty hardware, and was dripping.
Actually, the first impression was that the Aqua Hot on the opposite side of the coach was dripping; but, good detective work and a drop light led me back to the true source: the Manabloc manifold.
I'll spare you all the trials of rebuilding the manifold, replacing connectors, etc. and skip to the end: someone had not properly winterized the rig, and there are tiny cracks from freezing in the top of the stack.
To the rescue came Louise Stout at Viega, who now owns the Manabloc name. She can be reached at 800-976-9819 Ext 220 and is one of those rare treasures we in the RV community love to have working on our side.
Foremost, she told me that creativity on my part to undo the damage done by RV technicians' cross-threading the cold water supply line would parallel their own level of poor methods: it turns out that the threads atop Manabloc manifolds are NOT the standard plumbing variety, that they are a proprietary pitch. She referred me to Pex Supply equpping me with a part number (46414) for the correct 1" female connector that joins up to 3/4" Pex.
Then, she looked up my manifold model number in their computer, pronounced it a rarity no longer in production -- heck, my RV is only a 2007 model -- and put in a work order for their shop to custom-build me its replacement. For $140, I get a new manifold and all outlet connections.
Checking the plumbing manifold should be part of your monthly inspection routine.
- Open up the plumbing bay and inspect the floor for water. If power has been off the rig, rusty hardware might be the sole indication of leakage.
- Check under the rig for signs of long term leakage. Painted garage floors will have a telltale halo that indicates a leak/evaporation cycle.
- Touch the top of the manifold to ensure the recessed aren't harboring water.
- Check outlet fittings for security and leakage.
- Inspect manifold hardware for signs of moisture, eg rust.
- Open up the plumbing bay and inspect the floor for water. If power has been off the rig, rusty hardware might be the sole indication of leakage.
Our 1998 Southwind was overdue for a roof rehab - see photos 1 and 2. The original top layer was almost gone in places and we were having a lot of trouble with chalking and grey streaks forming on our windshield, windows and side panels.
I researched various treatments in forums, ads and websites. I wanted something long-lasting and relatively easy to apply, since this would be a do-it-yourself venture. I was tempted by an expensive two-part liquid roof system, but the cost would have been over $1,000. Following up on an ad in one of the magazines, I found Ultimate Roof, from RV & Marine Technologies. Theirs is a one-part acrylic laytex rubber that is applied with brushes and rollers. They use a fabric reinforcing strip over joints and seams. You apply two heavy coats of this material. It is supposed to last 10 years or more. Because you put it over all your existing caulking, they say you don't have to caulk again. Their website is www.rvroofing.com. They sell the materials and application kits, or you can hire them to do the job for you. The materials and application kit for my 33 ft coach cost approximately $650.
I got started late last fall on this project, which turned out to be a problem. I was trying to do this in early October in Maine. I didn't get enough warm weather and sunshine to cure the material before the dew started. We also got frost, then a heavy rain that washed off much of the uncured rubber from my edging job. I cleaned up and recoated the damaged areas, but I could tell that I was fighting a losing battle. We called our warehouse and made arrangements to get the MH inside immediately for winter storage.
This spring, I was doing another project at home in my "spare" time, so I was a bit late getting back to the MH roof rehab. Today, we finally finished it. Yea! I think it came out well. Check out the photos.
Now, I can give the coach a good thorough outside cleaning and it should stay much cleaner than it used to. Our coach has never had water damage on the inside. I think we can keep it that way for a good while yet!
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My wife & I were looking forward to retirement in our new RV. We aren't experienced in the RV atmosphere, but wanted to do it right. So, we bought a brand new 2014 big rig. My wife retired in December and we were planning to leave right after the holidays. But our trip was delayed with RV tweaks and troubles.
It all started with a bad window, stained furniture, a faulty side awning and remote generator hour meter that wasn't working. Our dealership worked well with us to get most of these things taken care of. But, the generator hour meter wasn't so easy.
We were told by Thor through our dealership service department that the problem was Freightliner's responsibility to fix. So, we picked up our new rig at the dealership and drove it to the nearest Freightliner service center. After a couple days, Freightliner determined that it wasn't there responsibility, but the manufacturer's (Thor). So, we picked it up (paying Freightliner $87 for their time) and drove it back to our dealer.
We believe that Thor and Freightliner are be partners in the endeavor of putting these rigs together. We saw these two companies pointing fingers at each other with us stuck in the middle!
Our service department was also stuck in the middle! Our service manager 'Jim' was on the phone between Thor & Freightliner trying hard to get our new rig fixed. Thor wanted the rig to go back to Freightliner. Well, we weren't going to take it... so our service department had to transport it. Freightliner had it for 3 weeks before finally fixing it. But, they determined that it was a Thor issue after all! Our dealer got it back and we were able to pick it up. But, our fuel gauge was down 1/4 tank (150 gallon tank).
All we know is that we want to travel in our new rig. We haven't hit the road yet, but are getting close. We are very disappointed with our experience with Thor's customer service and quality control of the new rigs coming out of their factory. And, they still owe us $287... $87 for the warranty work done and $200 for the diesel fuel used to get it fixed. Quality control at Thor is poor. In our opinion, they really have trouble taking responsibility for their short comings!
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I joined the FMCA this summer and truly enjoyed reading the blogs, so thought I'd share another newcomers adventures! I'm sure that the veterans will laugh and hopefully say "been there done that"!
After much tire kicking over a few years I purchased my first motor home, a 2005 Tiffin Phaeton, this past summer. The dealer agreed to replace a foggy drivers side window. A surprise to both of us, it took 8 weeks to get this accomplished. I finally took possession of the Tiffin in August, only to find the batteries were not functioning, but an easy fix. Next I put some water in the tank and started the pump, only to have the faucets leak everywhere. Appears the previous owner didn't winterize her correctly. The dealer agreed to fix everything so I decided to take our first trip up to Maine to visit family, waterless, so that I could get a feel for things and find any other issues. On the whole it was a nice trip, relatively event free regarding the motor home. We did get to see a moose in front of my sisters place and a bear near my brothers.Neither my sister or brother had seen the wildlife in there yards before!
Upon return the dealer picked up the home and had everything repaired. I thought getting an extended warrantee was in order so I did a search and followed the FMCA blogs to make a decision on the best company and coverage. I also took out a road service agreement. I of course hope I need neither, but if its needed I hope I made the right My truck mechanic went through the chassis and got everything up to date, so I made a reservation for the Catskill Mountains for Halloween weekend and billed it the official shakedown cruise. I loaded up, hitched up the tow dolly and car and off we went. We arrived at the camping area and were directed to a nice pull through site and proceeded to get situated. For some reason I could not get the slides to open. I tried everything I knew, called my brother who is pretty knowledgeable about such things, and even had the park manager try but we were unsuccessful. My brother looked online for inherent problems with Tiffin slides but still no extension. As we know, everything is still functional inside so I was not going to let the slides ruin my weekend! We also had an issue when extending the leveling 'pods'. There was an apparent air leak seemingly from the air bag, rear drivers side, when the home was up on the levelers. I never noticed this before so was concerned. Next the way the utilities were setup on the site, we could either have water and no sewer or the other way around as we didn't have long enough hoses to do both. we decided on water naturally. The first night went well except for climbing over each other all the time. Functional the home may be without the slides, but life is better with the walls out! The next morning we were made aware of a storm coming. Who would have thought we would get a Nor'easter in October! I decided staying put was our best option so we went to Walmart to get a few necessities and came back to reorganize. I moved the motor home to take advantage of all the utilities with the extra hoses from Walmart. We got all hooked up and were content. I decided to retry the slides and out they went! WHAT! With the snow starting to fall I didn't want to leave them out so back in they came and we hunkered down! The park had been busy most of the day as campers winterized their sites, but now we were alone! We watched videos, read and used the combo micro/bake oven, a new thing for me, to fix dinner. I made an apple pie as an oven test item and was very successful. Then I turned to grab something from the fridge and noticed "no AC" flashing on the panel. We had lost power from the land line due to the storm. No problem, I turned on the generator and felt comfortable... until I noticed the electrical/inverter panel is not showing the batteries charging. Another reason to panic. Out in the boonies, and maybe no power.... Not much I can do so we retire for the evening and hope all will be well tomorrow. I'm up around my usual 4am. and turn on the faucet for coffee water.... no water, it has frozen at the tap, and I emptied the storage tank earlier afraid that would freeze! I scoop snow to make the coffee and get out the numerous manuals to try and figure out what is going on with the power panel... a lot of information but no solutions. As it gets light out the scene is beautiful, but we have at least 8 inches of snow, and I have sneakers and sandals! I find a couple of store plastic bags, tie them over my sneakers and venture out to look over the situation. I get all our "tethers" picked up and stored and we decide to head home. The 'air leak I was concerned about is not now affecting the coach air brakes. Another fluke???I'm ready, but unfortunately, I could not find a sole around to plow a path! Trudging thru the snow in my plastic bags wasn't fun, and it was then I realized we were in the most remote sites in the park. On the third walk out, I see a plow truck plowing the pool area (go figure!) so head back to get ready to go. An hour later we are still waiting. Patience depleted, I decide to see if Tiffin can plow through the snow, assuming any movement towards the park exit was good,we take off. No problem, she cuts right through like it was bear ground. Relieved, as I drive truck and would have never tried this in my box truck, we get to the plowed area, by the pool!!!! and regroup for the trip home. As we know now, the north east was devastated by the early nor'easter and we saw much of it going thru Connecticut and Massachusetts. As I write this 5 days later many of my neighbors are still powerless!
So that was the shake down outing! I was very happy to be home! I am still confused as too why the slides didn't work, what the apparent air leak was about and why the electric panel didn't seem to register a charge from the generator. If anyone has any suggestions I'd be thrilled to get your thoughts. My mechanic will check the air and, as he is a motor homer, look the other things over too.
My next trip will be Florida in December/January. My brother tells me every trip will be an adventure. UGH! I need to know more than I do now about the motor home as I'm not fond of the stress. I have had 3 knowledgeable individuals take me through the motor home and its many functions, but I still find things that were not explained or not explained to cover specific events!
Hopefully I'll have more to follow and thank you in advance for sharing any of your expertise regarding this post. Every motor homer I talked to said collectively we are a friendly lot, and my newbie experiences would back that up... see you along the way!
Boy, I tell ya, this camping stuff ain't for sissies! We've been at our campsite in Thompson Creek, Washington, where we have been Gate Attendants, since May 19.
This is our first time full-timing and mostly it's been okay ... if you consider that literally half the time we've been here it's rained! Man! We left the high desert of northern Nevada and will be boondocking in the mountains in Washington for the next five months and this rain is something else! I guess folks around here are used to it raining for three or four days and nights straight, but I'm not! LOL! It's beautiful and green here, though.
We had a deer grazing right across the creek the other morning, not 30 feet from the RV. I tried to take a picture of it through the window but just got a reflection of the flash LOL! When the weather's nicer, maybe I'll sit outside and wait for it. I DID get a pic of bear poop, though! LOL! LOL! We went exploring up to the top of the mountain on our day off and found it. It was pretty fresh looking (and hairy) probably from the last camper it ate, ha ha! The ride was nice until I realized that what goes up must come down .. eeek! I'm definitely a "flatlander"! LOL!
Hubby saw either an elk or small moose by the gate about 5 a.m. the other morning. He didn't have his glasses on and about the time he reached for his binoculars, I flopped over in bed, causing the windchimes to ring and scared it off (sad face).
We also have a little squirrel that comes bopping down the dirt road in front of us every day about 10 a.m. I don't know where it's going, but it doesn't pay attention to us at all, just goes on it's merry way.
The local folk keep telling us that we'll have moose walking right into our camp. Apparently, moose are pretty thick around here. We've also had some folks tell us that when hunting season starts, they'll be giving us some meat. You can bet I'm excited about that! I LOVE deer and elk. I'm thinking I'll probably like moose, too!
We had a few issues when first we got here. For starters there was a propane leak. Hubby kept arguing with me that nothing could be leaking, but I didn't give up until I found it and got it taken care of four days later (thank You, Jesus)! Turns out it was in the hose that connects the 100-gallon tank to our RV. (Hmmph! I KNEW I was right!!)
We also had an issue with the generator. We'd bought a brand-new gen as a backup, just in case, and sure enough, we got up here and the onboard gennie wouldn't power the coach for some reason. It worked fine before we came up here. Hubby flipped switches and breakers and messed with wires ... couldn't find ANYthing wrong. It would start fine, but just wouldn't power the coach or charge the batteries. Finally Tim opened up the new generator, put gas and oil in it and fired it up. Plugged the coach in and had the same problem; not getting any power! So he unplugged the coach and plugged in a power drill. The gennie would barely run it ... ugh! Something was wrong with the brand-new backup!! (are you kidding me???!!!).
Tim was at his wits end, had no idea what to do because he had no idea what the problem was. So, being Christians, we decided to pray about it. We know that with God all things are possible ... and I want you to know that the onboard generator worked just like it should the next time Tim tried it!! We were preparing to return the new gennie to the store and hubby decided to try it one more time. Well, guess what? Yep! It works fine too! God is good!
Come to find out, Tim had promised God that if he would give us a generator miracle, he would not hook up the TV. It would appear that the Lord didn't want us sitting in front of the TV watching movies while we are here. Instead, we spend most of our time reading the bible and other Christian books, studying, and learning to play guitar. I've learned about five songs that we can play in church when we get back to civilization at the end of October.
The Lord knew that He had to take us away from all the distractions of work, television, computers, etc. and bring us to a place of peace and quiet where we can spend time with Him and learn. I don't know what His plans are for us, but I know He has something!
Almost since the day we left Maine, Michelle and I have been thinking about getting a dog......We had a beautiful guy that we fostered a little over three years ago. His name was Sparky and he was 8 or 9 when we got him. We had gone down to the local SPCA to get a puppy, and while we were touring the kennels, we happened to see him. He was very forlorn, just lying quietly in his cage in the midst of all the chaos. We kept coming back to him and finally our guide told us his story. They were not sure of his age but estimated him to be about 8-9 years old. 105 lbs worth of Mixed Labrador and they were treating him for heartworm and an ear infection. We immediately agreed to "foster" him for 90 days so that he could get better in a quiet comfortable environment. You might guess the rest....90 days came and went and we kept Sparky......for 3 more years. One of the best dogs I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Sadly, he left us a few months ago.
So we have been keeping our eyes out and trying to decide what was the best pup for us. Lots of research here and other places about just what makes a good rv dog. Not too big but not too small. just right for us.
They say everything happens for a reason. About 5 days ago, I woke up to see that some new campers had showed up, right next to us.
960 Sites here at Ocean lakes and they pull in with 8 fresh little Labrador mixed pups. Just 4 weeks old and had been taken from their mother when they were only a week old. The wonderful lady that was caring for them already had 4 dogs of her own but couldn't bear to walk away so she had fostered them in hopes of finding good homes for them. Bottle feeding all of them 4 times a day, God Bless her.
She had brought them to Ocean Lakes in hopes that there would be good homes waiting. She found three.
What a great dog. Sleeps through the night (so far) and has yet to make a mistake in the coach. We had her checked out by the local vet and of course she had worms but we treated her for it. She is healthy. We are looking forward to many years with
Miss South Carolina Sadie.
You can follow Sadie and Michelle and I too as we motor around the Country Full TIme in our Coach. Like us at
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I started in 2007, no sense pretending my memory is that sharp....so, I'll begin with the most recent..my Labor Day trip to the northeast Georgia mountains to visit an old elementary school friend and her husband. For this venture I invited another school friend to join me. Can you imagine three girls who have known each other since kindergarten! This immediately changes the category to family, not just friends....I knew it would be crazy fun.
Her husband is a peach and emailed me a new route. He starts, "I know you are a seasoned traveler, but here are some suggestions". Listen, if you can't take some good advice, then you deserve to be stuck in traffic in Atlanta, bogged down with construction or anything else that you might have encountered.
Route 75 N to 285 W around Atlanta (avoid 675), on to 575 (branches right) and becomes 515. Takes you nicely into Blairsville, Georgia. Good road all the way. About a 10 hr drive for a normal person. Hey, what's the rush.....it takes me almost that long to get bread and milk!
Rivers Edge RV Park.....privately owned lots......it is a slice of heaven in the mountains. I was greeted with crepe myrtles,hummingbirds and a babbling brook! What more could you ask for. Check it out....better yet, take a trip up there.
The laughing began.....and one of us doesn't even drink! The challenge was to name every nun we had from K-8. So many stories...turns out the one lay teacher that I emulated, my friends hated! Who knew....
Ever hear of Brasstown Bald? Booger Hollow? You gotta luv NE Georgia......
Now for the best part.....the Appalachian Trail - all 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine. First thought, we should all put this experience on our bucket list...........but wait, first read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. My side hurts from laughing...
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It was once suggested to me that celebrating Thanksgiving in our RV was an utterly ridiculous notion. “HOW can you prepare such a grand meal in such a small space?!” “WHAT on earth could you serve without access to a full kitchen?!” “WHO would ever want to join you on such an adventure?!”
Never one to back away from a challenge, I am here to break it all down for you. Hopefully, by the end, you will be convinced that you, too, can have your own epic campout for your next Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving and eating go hand in hand. Good eating, that is. So if you are going to eat well, then you need to prepare it well. RVs are not known for their spacious kitchens, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make magic happen. You just need to be creative!
- The turkey fryer – The first time that I heard about this method, I was completely repulsed. Turns out that this way of preparing a turkey is DELICIOUS! The outside is crispy and the insides are super moist. But it's important that you take precautions. Do not do what anyone did
. Or. If, after seeing these, you would still like to try frying your turkey, then you can use an indoor fryer or an outdoor fryer.
- The toaster oven – Everyone should have a toaster oven. I have a full-size oven in my home, and my toaster oven is used far more. It just makes so much more sense when considering heat and energy output. Some toaster ovens offer fancy options while others are quite simple. These compact ovens are perfect for a batch of mashed potatoes, stuffing or baking a pie.
- The slow cooker – This kitchen wonder saves my life every holiday season. Slow cookers come in all shapes and sizes, large and small. They can handle casseroles, ciders, breads, dips and so much more. One year we even used ours to cook our holiday ham.
- The barbecue – No RVing adventure would be complete without the ol' trusty Bbq. There is something so wonderful and comforting about cooking outside over an open flame, and to do so on a holiday makes it that much more special. Have you tried barbecued turkey breast or grilled root vegetables? Divine!
I don’t know about you, but I like a Thanksgiving dinner that offers a lot of options. A few main dishes, a lot of sides and a generous array of desserts is the perfect ticket. The joy of holiday campouts is that you get to eat all of this amazing food for at least a few days. Meal planning is an important part of RVing, even more so on holiday weekends. I have thrown together a sample of what one of our Thanksgiving plans would look like:
- Turkey breast – to be roasted in heavy duty foil in barbecue.
- Many types of sausages – to be cooked on barbecue.
- Onions, carrots and celery – to be roasted with turkey breast on barbecue.
- Stuffing – Prepare before trip and store in zip-top bag. When ready, empty contents into 9X13 pan and bake in toaster oven. When finished, remove and cover in foil.
Green bean casserole – Prepare and bake while stuffing is cooling.
Sweet potato casserole – Thanks to my slowcooker and Pillsbury. Works every single time.
- Mashed potatoes – Make these ahead and freeze. When ready, pop in the microwave and serve hot.
- Gravy – Heinz Home Style with some beef bouillon added for depth. Microwave and serve.
Cranberry sauce – Okay, the child in me still can’t get enough of the cranberry in a can action. You can have your fancy cranberries because mine are so awesome, they don’t even need chewing.
- Buttered peas – Microwave the frozen peas. Top with a pat of melted butter.
- Black olives – Again, canned. No Thanksgiving is complete without 10 olives on 10 fingers.
- Pickles – Every year these make a showing on our table. They are small, they pack a punch and they have just always been there.
- Cheese platter – This doesn’t need to be fancy. We like sharp cheddar, swiss, a soft goat cheese, nuts, fruit (dried and/or fresh) and some crackers.
Hawaiian Rolls – Always buy more than you think you’ll need. They go really fast.
- Banana Cream Pie Jars – Banana pudding, Cool Whip and crushed Nilla wafers layered in a mason jar. YUMMM!!
- S'mores – We kick these up by including peanut butter cups, Starburst (yes, Starburst), pretzels and caramel filled chocolate squares.
- Spirits – wine, beer, Kahlua, Bailey's and bourbon. For sharing of course.
Speaking of sharing, this is really what Thanksgiving is all about. The camping community is made up of wonderfully adventurous, kind and lovely people who just want to have a good time. Mix that with a four-day holiday dedicated to food and fun and you have the recipe for epic memories. It is a beautiful experience to see how campers come together to share and care. The drinks flow freely, the food is never-ending and you are surrounded by people that become lifelong friends. I know a group of people who met for the first time at a campground’s Thanksgiving party in 2007 and have gotten together every year since. After all, tradition is what Thanksgiving is all about, right?
So there you have it -- the how, what and who explanation as to why you should spend your next Thanksgiving in your RV. You don’t need an enormous space to create an unforgettable meal for your friends and family. While planning and patience are critical, gratitude truly is the most important ingredient for your ultimate Thanksgiving campout.
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We all had fun at Stone Mountain park Ga. We got there Thursday and stayed til Monday. The park was at capacity(60,00) at 5:30 on Sunday. If you have not been in years or never been it should be put on your todo list. Laser show and fireworks are awesome.
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Getting in the right frame of mind to start putting the three-week-long summer trip together. We are still in debate over location and are in the process of pouring over pages and pages of travel guides. With the price of gas so high, we may be staying a little closer to home than usual, but our adventurous spirit is aching to get going. We loved Tennessee last summer and really enjoyed Kentucky's Mammoth Caves the year before. Weren't too thrilled with Arkansas, but then again, we didn't travel much into the Ozarks. We are thinking maybe a lingering journey toward New England and over to Niagra Falls or up into Nova Scotia, but then we are looking at logging a lot more miles than initially thought.
The excitement is in our bones and school is almost out for the summer. Tom has to take vacation days and we will be set to go around mid-June.
Anyone have suggestions on location? We know it's always about location, location, location.
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I hear this question often, and the answers vary…
“Motorhome or Towable … Which is best for me?”
The simple answer is “It Depends…”
But…that’s probably not what you want to hear.
Honestly it depends on how you answer this 1 simple question…
“What’s your intentions?”
Do you intent to ‘camp’ or ‘travel’?
There’s a difference…
If life is busy and weekends are your primary escape.
If your plan or desire is to visit campgrounds for long weekends and the occasional week long getaways or vacations you fit into the ‘camping’ category.
If your desire is to travel longer distances, visit sites along the way and move frequently then you fit into the ‘traveler’ category.
Towable RV’s are great for short term stays, infrequent use and are low cost entry points for camping.
Motorhomes excel at comfort on the road often granting quick and easy access to supplies and facilities.
Setting up and breaking camp is often less time consuming when compared to a towable RV.
I’ve owned, traveled and camped in pop ups, travel trailers, fifth wheels, pickup campers, class C, Class A, bus conversions and diesel pushers.
When traveling and discovering a beautiful beach, hiking trail or roadside attraction - having all supplies on board are often the difference between, ‘maybe next time’ and ‘let’s do it!’.
The comfort, convenience and mobility of traveling in a motorhome is my current choice.
What’s your choice and why?
It must first be said it was my yard, my tree, and my motorhome, so I do not know what the big problem was. I was not going to sue myself or call my insurance company to file a claim...
But when I took Minnie out to have her house batteries checked for the second time in two months (they kept going out due to yet another case of operator error, I learned..), lo and behold, a huge tree branch became attached to her rear ladder. Woven between the rungs, it was. I was not completely surprised, because I had backed her near a tree in the front yard to turn around before exiting the driveway. But, still. It was huge. It was leafy. It was standing straight up, as if I had planted it on the second rung, and then purposefully threaded it upward. I kinda liked it. I was as if Minnie decided she needed to make her own shade.
I didn't look as if it had scratched anything much on the coach. I thought, She is here for repair, so they can just remove the greenery whilst they are at it. So while I waited for the repair folks to drive her away, the jokes began. One FMCA member couple drove up in a gorgeous, huge Type A and remarked about how much I must like trees. A man who worked at the facility strolled by, giggled, and told me it was "SOME decor!" I laughed with them all. Another even echoed what I had thought: "Decided to make your own shade, did ya??!!"
Then I got home and realized that while Minnie and the tree were getting acquainted, a huge piece of plastic covering one of her vents had snapped off. I picked it up, ran to the car, drove back to the repair shop, and left it at the pickup counter.
They tell me they reattached it, and all's well. And I don't leave the house batteries on all the time, anymore, while the coach is just sitting in the driveway. And I almost miss that big 'ol branch.
PREPARE FOR LANDING!
Hard or soft? Sooner or later? Where? When Cor and I opted for a life on the open road; we envisioned roaming the US at a leisurely pace, pausing long enough to savor the essence of north woods, prairie mountain, mesa, and bayou. Arrival at new campgrounds was exhilarating: so much to learn about the area. There were chutes in Ontario, fossils in Wisconsin. The first sight of the Rockiesâ€™ ridgeline at sunset was breathtaking. We had loved meandering by boat; so why not by RV. At least we wonâ€™t sink.
Marina life buzzed with excitement, meeting new people, learning of their ports and sometimes storms. So it was with our early campgrounds; neighbors gathering by the fire, singing songs, exchanging stories. Keep moving, keep learning. Reality set in when the stock market dove. Weekly, even monthly rates were not going to be sustainable. We decided to try the season in Venice, FL, our old hometown. Camp Venice was delightful, under the shade of live oak trees, along a shoot of the Myakka River.
Visits to our former doctors kind of alerted us to what lay ahead. Mine sent me off with the admonition that falls are the biggest bugaboo to the elderly. (Iâ€™m beginning to accept that term.) Corâ€™s doctor wanted him to return for balance problems, but Cor forgot the appointment.
We began to write our customary lists of â€œPros and Cons.â€ We love our very comfortable National Dolphin, but it takes dexterity, stamina, and strength to set up, take down, maintain, and maneuver -- especially when you realize you arenâ€™t 60 anymore. As Cor has often said, â€œIf others knew some 90-year-old geezer were tooling down the highway at 70 miles an hour in this beast, theyâ€™d probably head for a ditch.â€
What are the criteria for a landing site? First -- friends, but they, like you, are getting older and canâ€™t be â€œforever.â€ Family: We have two families (his and hers.) The majority live in New England -- CT and MA. Another lives in FL and the one we thought weâ€™d be settling near, moved to CO. Somewhere along I-95 would be good for most. Climate: We tolerate cold (in front of the fire) better than heat. Access to medical facilities: Face it! We need them now and will need them more in the future. A town where we could get around without a car. A town with some action, be it music, library, senior gatherings, or just plain sitting in a park to watch the squirrels and listen to the birdies sing.
Now to find this town of our dreams. Where do we start? Since all our furniture has been stored in Lebanon, New Hampshire, (to be accessible to the daughter who promptly moved to Colorado) and our car and motorhome are registered there, we looked for a campground to take us for the summer while we searched. Ever-reliable Google turned up Exeter Elms, nestled along the banks of the Exeter river, a heavenly mix of hardwoods, evergreens, ferns, chipmunks, and songbirds. Even in this Spring of rain and cold, it provided a serene haven in which to once again â€œget organized.â€
Within a week, we began to appreciate what this town has to offer: exquisite architecture (my college major,) a first class hospital, central â€œdowntown,â€ new library with large print books, senior center (never thought Iâ€™d need one,) good supermarkets, walk to many parks as well as the riverfront, an active bandstand, theater groups, concerts, farmerâ€™s market -- you name it! Everybody smiles here. Amazing!
Again online, we found an apartment plunk in the center of town on the main street overlooking all the action (weâ€™re great watchers now.) We even enjoy the weekends with a steady stream of motorcycles cruising through town on Rt. 27 -- who would have thought?
If thereâ€™s a message here, I guess it is to THINK AHEAD. While you are enjoying your rambling (especially full-timers who have given up a home) keep your eyes open for a good place to land. Make a list of your presumed priorities (they may change with time.) When you are in a town or city, take note of the shopkeepers and people on the street -- are they smiling and helpful? Are drivers pushy, or do they signal for you to enter? You will be calling this â€œhome,â€ so make it happy.
We still have the rest of the season at the campsite, but our apartment lease started July 1, so weâ€™ve moved our stored â€œstuffâ€ down from Lebanon to Exeter. We are taking our time emptying the cavernous bays that carried more "stuff" -- will we ever learn? Now to do the final cleanup here. If anyone is interested in the perfect full-time motorhome, and a prepaid site on the banks of the Exeter River through leaf-peeping season, take a look at our website. Never underestimate the power of the Internet! We found our apartment on Rent.com; found the campsite on Google searches once weâ€™d picked a state to live in; checked out all the tax consequences and medical facilities on various state sites; and still keep in touch with friends and family on Facebook. Call me a wired junkie, all thanks to my Verizon Air Card. It has allowed me to get online almost everywhere. No more eating a hamburger just to get a few free minutes of access at MacDonaldâ€™s.
LIFE IS AMAZING, ISN'T IT?
I have been very silent here for the last several months, primarily because my wife and I have not had our motorhome out of the driveway since before Thanksgiving. The reason for this very unusual hiatus has been, we have been renovating our primary house. I have often heard that if your marriage can survive such a project, it can survive almost anything, and now I know what they mean.
This has been one of the most stressful, depressing, maddening experiences of my life. Those of you who have done a major renovation to your stationary home can understand. Those of you who have not had this experience, let me just say that a root canal without anesthesia is a more pleasurable option. We are still having struggles with our heat pump ( I don't know if I can mention the brand name here, but it's a major brand), so I don't know when we will get to go out again. Last weekend, we had the factory rep from the manufacturer out here. Still doesn't work as it should. I don't know what this next weekend will bring, but it probably won't be what I long for most -- a trip into the woods to gather my sanity after more than two months of excursion into insanity.
Hopefully, though, soon Donna and I will be back on the road, and we'll have lots more to write about. I look forward to that in more ways than one.