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A Journal About RV Travel Experiences

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Snowbirding in Florida

Over the past 16 years, I've done a considerable amount of travel in Florida.  I did some of this travel as a vacationing tourist, then as a cyclist, and more recently as a Florida snowbird. Living on the east coast, Florida has been an easy and warm place to get to.  It's also a diverse and fun place to visit.

I can't say I've been everywhere (like Johnny Cash) nor am I an expert on Florida.  But I've been to enough places that I felt I could share some of my Florida snowbird wisdom.  This post is not meant to be complete or exhaustive.  It's just my take on some areas and things to consider when snowbirding in Florida.  Let me start by telling you why I started going to Florida.

Discovering Florida

Growing up in Maine, I endured my share of harsh winters. As a kid and young adult, it was actually a fun time because I was an avid skier. But as I got older and couldn't handle the black diamond trails any more, winters became something that I had to tolerate and wait out.

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

When I retired 8 years ago, the winter escape notion became a reality.  It was so easy to hop in my car, drive south for three days, and be back in summer like weather.

At first, we started out going down to Florida for a month and renting a condo.  We began our stays near the northern east coast areas, which I was familiar with.  Then we tried extending our stays to two months.  We rented houses in The Villages and in New Smyrna Beach, condo's in St. Augustine Beach, and quickly got hooked on the snowbird lifestyle.

When I started RVing, I did the math and found out that renting a site at a Florida RV park for 2 months was much less expensive that renting a condo.  It was a no brainer to turn a two months stay into three months.  This year we'll be staying for four months.

We've spent our snowbird time at many places in Florida.  You can see the places we've stayed on the map below.  Some of these places have been for months at a time and others have been for a week or more.

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Areas of Florida

Some may think that once you cross the border into Florida winter weather disappears and summer time magically appears everywhere.  Based on my experience, that's not the case. Some areas can be down right chilly during the winter.  Here's how I separate Florida into climates zones.

  1. North Central - from the GA border down to Daytona, over to Ocala, and up to Lake City. Jacksonville, the east coastal areas, and Gainesville are the populated areas.  Everywhere else is pretty rural.  This area is more of as summer time destination and less of a snowbird destination.  Winters can be chilly with daytime temps getting up into the 60's.  Some days may hit the low 70's, but those are infrequent.  Other than Daytona, the coastal areas are not as developed with high rises as they are in the southern area. There are some nice coastal State Parks in this area.  Fort Clinch, Little Talbot Island, and Gamble Rogers all have camping near the water.  Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine is one of my favorites places to stay.
  2. The Panhandle - those areas west of Lake City to the Alabama border.  Other than Tallahassee and the coastal areas, it's very rural.  It's one of the most diverse and prettiest areas in Florida.  Also, it's my favorite area to visit.  The Emerald Coast with its white sand beaches and emerald colored water are beautiful.  The area from Panama City to Fort Walton Beach is densely populated and a very busy area.  Winter temps can be cold (in the 40's and 50's) and the weather can be wacky (e.g. snow, hurricanes). Like the North Central area it's more of a spring summer destination and winter is the off-season.  My favorite area in the panhandle is the Forgotten Coast near Apalachicola. There are several nice beach side coastal State Parks in the panhandle.  St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is my favorite.
  3. Central - those areas south of Daytona to Melbourne then over to Tampa and up to Ocala.  The big cities of Orlando, Tampa, and St. Pete dominate this area.  The large 55+ community of The Villages just south of Ocala is in this area.  There are lots of RV parks along the I-4 and I-75 corridor.  I did theme park trips when my kids were young so those aren't a draw for me but they are for many.  We have spent snowbird time in the Tampa area and found the winter temperatures to be moderate with lots of days in the low 70s.
  4. Southern - everything south of Melbourne to Tampa.  The winter weather in this area is more warm with daytime temps in the 70's and 80s.  Overnight freezes are rare.  The coastal area from West Palm down to Miami is very developed.  It can also be pricey. The gulf coast side is less developed and more laid back.  I don't know the reason but this area seems to attract folks from the Canada, Central and Mid-West states.  I like the gulf coast side the best.  To me, folks on the gulf coast side seem more friendly.  The winter weather is warm, it's doesn't have the high-rise sprawl like the Atlantic side, and the casual atmosphere is easy to take.

 

Securing a Place to Stay

If you want to spend some snowbird time in FL, I recommend that you reserve a place ahead of time.  Heading to FL during the key winter months of January thru March without any reservations is a recipe for major disappointment.  Most of the nicer RV parks and campgrounds in popular areas are booked months in advance

Florida's State Parks are popular places during the winter because of the price and their locations. But stays are limited to 14 days.  Sites can be reserved a year in advance and in some places like the Keys, they are booked within minutes of becoming available.  The demand for campsites seems to follow the weather.  State Parks in the southern area get booked up more quickly compared to the Northern areas.

For my winter stays at Florida State Parks, I've booked six months in advance and have always found a site. If you wait until October and November, the selection and duration will be limited.  Many state parks hold a certain number of sites for walk ins.  The popular municipal Fort Desoto Park near St. Petersburg gets booked up quickly.  Non-residents can reserve sites 6 months in advance and the good sites get taken quickly.

Private RV parks are popular places for snowbirds.  Many offer amenities like swimming pools, pickleball, tennis courts, and cable TV.  The social amenities like theme dinners, card nights, golf outings, and dances are also draws for the snowbirds.  Parking shoulder to shoulder for a few months in an RV park may not be for everyone.  But I have found that the social interactions and making new friends is an unexpected benefit of the RV park lifestyle.

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.

One strategy for finding a place is to select some different areas and do short stays to see how you like it.  Trying different areas for a week at a time is a great way to explore Florida and find out which areas appeal to you.

Cost

The cost to stay as a Florida snowbird is all over the place.  As I mentioned above, the coastal areas are more expensive than being inland.

The Florida State Parks are the best deal at around $28 per night for most parks (some are less and some are higher).  But you are limited to a 14 day stay.  You can move around to different sites within a park, but in many parks you must leave the park for 3 days before you can return.  The max number of days you can stay at a specific State Park is 56 days within 6 month window.  Moving to different parks is also an option.

Private RV park rates vary widely.  A beach front site at the Red Coconut RV Park in Fort Myers Beach will run you over $100 per night (no seasonal rate is offered).  The monthly winter rate at Bryn Mawr RV Resort at St. Augustine Beach is around $1,200 per month ($40/night).  A seasonal 3 month rate at Blueberry Hill RV Resort in Bushnell will cost around $600 per month ($20/day).

For a 4 month stay at Fort Myers Beach (just a mile from the beach), I pay a monthly winter rate that averages out to be around $37 per night.  The normal daily rate is $62 per day.

Boondocking opportunities in Florida are limited.  There is dispersed camping in the Ocala National Forest and in the Apalachicola National Forest but stays are limited to 14 days in a given month.  I've been through both of these forests and they are very remote.

Not all Wal-Mart in Florida allow overnight parking due to city and county ordinances. There are some truck stops along the key Interstates that allow overnight parking but these aren't intended for snowbird stays.  Boondocking may work in some places if you're doing a short stay or just passing thru but it's not a strategy I would recommend for an extended stay.

Condo and house renting prices also vary by location.  We rented an ocean view condo in St. Augustine Beach for around $2,900 per month.  A small house in The Villages will cost around $3,300 per month and higher during the winter months.

Snowbirding in Florida can be pricey,  If you are focused on reducing expenses, then look for places away from popular areas and try for places in the Northern and Panhandle areas.

The Snowbird Lifestyle

For me, I put lifestyle over cost.  It all about how I want to spend my days.  I prefer to spend my winter months in a warm climate near the ocean.  I like to spend my days being outside walking, biking, kite flying, or just sitting on the beach.  I also like not having to drive to get to places.  In the afternoon or evening, it's an easy walk to several places where I can enjoy some live music.

Also, I have grown to enjoy the RV park lifestyle where I get to socialize and spend time with my fellow snowbirds.  We attend the weekly Saturday morning breakfasts at the RV park and play in the weekly corn hole tournament.  Sunday afternoons are usually spent dancing at Doc Fords Rum Bar.

It's a great way to spend the winter.

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.

 

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When I think about RV travel, I envision places, destinations, camping, adventure, and the open road.  There's also lots of mechanical and how to stuff that comes to mind.

But RVing is also a people activity.  It can be done with groups, by couples, or solo.  I have yet to RV with a group, but I've done it with my wife, son, and solo.  I don't mind traveling solo.  But, having a partner along to share the fun and adventure with enhances the whole RV travel experience.

There are blogs and articles written about how to do solo RV travel.  But, I haven't seen much written about the interpersonal aspects of RV travel.  And, that got me thinking about this subject.

I was going to write a piece about how to enjoy RVing with your partner.  But, then I turned it around and thought, perhaps writing an antithesis piece on this subject would be more fun.

Being married for almost 40 years, my wife and I have quite a bit of experience in driving each other nuts.  In fact, I may be an expert at it.  My wife and I are polar opposites.  She's an extrovert and I'm an introvert.  She's left brain and I'm right brain.  She's a touchy feely socialite and I'm analytical loner.  But most of the time it works really good for us because we complement each other and fill in each others gaps.

Author Robert Fulghum said - "Where ever you go, there you are."  When we're RVing, our personalities and behaviors come with us.   I can attest that what drives us nuts in our normal life, also drives us nuts in our RV life.  Driving someone nuts is not all bad.  It's just part of normal life.  We are all capable of doing it.  When traveling with a partner it's good to know what some of the triggers and behaviors are so you can minimize the breakage and misery.

I know from my experiences that these nine things can drive your RV partner nuts!

1. Never Doing What Your Partner Wants

A trip plan / idea has to start with someone.  On many trips, I usually take the lead on the trip planning.  But, not soliciting input from my wife on the timing, schedule, places, or attractions is a sure recipe for a trip disaster.  Also, not listening to her ideas on things to do is just asking for fight and will easily lead to items #3, #6, and # 7.

I always review a trip idea and potential schedule with my wife before I book anything.  I know how she likes to travel so I plan accordingly - no long drive days and plenty of rest stops.  I also try not to over schedule so there's extra time for unexpected stuff that she might come up with.

2. Over Reacting to Little Annoying Stuff

I've been guilty of this.  Your partner cooks a meal and sets off the fire alarm in the RV.  How about flushing the toilet while you're flushing the black tanks.  Or, your partner doesn't understand conserving power while boondocking and drains the house batteries by leaving all the lights on for hours.

Some of this stuff can be maddening.  But I have to remind myself - it's all little stuff, it's all easily fixable, and not worth having a hissy fit over.

3. Holding a Grudge

The small confines of an RV are a bad place to hold a grudge.  Driving down the road with hours of the silent treatment takes the fun right out of a trip like a flat tire. When I sense that something is bothering my wife, I try to get the issue out and discuss it.  At least we're talking.  And I try to resolve the issue before nightfall so we don't ruin another day.  If it was something I did, I am quick to apologize and try to make amends.  And, I try to remember the adage - "Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?"

4. Not Sharing the Work

I don't expect my wife to do all the cooking and cleaning on a trip.  We share the chores.  I cook about half the time and do my own laundry.  When traveling we've worked out our routines.  I do the driving. She cleans out the RV when we stop, helps with the setup, and keeps me fed with snacks and treats when we're on the road.  We've found a good balance so no one person feels overburdened.

5. Constant Critiques

This rarely happens with me or my wife, but it is one I'm sensitive to.  I have certain codes of conduct that I live by.  One of those codes is to never ever criticize or make fun of your partner in public.  Also, if you feel you have to give a critique, then pick the right time, say what you need to, and be done with it.  Don't belabor a point or constantly relive a bad experience.  Constant critiques will lead to the next item.

6. Not Wanting to Be on the Trip

Traveling with someone who is miserable is no fun.  My wife doesn't enjoy traveling as much as I do.  So, when contemplating a trip, I always make the offer to my wife - "Is this something you want to do or do you want to pass?"   I don't want my wife to feel pressured to do something she won't enjoy.  It's no fun for her and no fun for me.  That's the main reason I travel solo at times.  My wife is fine with me going off on a solo trip.  She's not holding me back and I'm not imposing something on her.  If a trip isn't going well, it's best to turn around and head home.  RVing shouldn't be the source of misery.

7. Non Stop Texting & Talking on Your Cell Phone

This is sort of related to #6 above and a pet peeve of mine.  If you can't be present on a trip or can't stand to be away from your friends, then don't go on the trip.  It's fine to be sending pictures and messages to friends while on a trip and to stay in touch with family and friends.  And, if a real family or friend emergency comes up, then you need to deal with it.

But, ignoring your partner so you can be consumed with the daily minutiae of your friends lives or spending the day on the phone helping them deal with their child's latest bad behavior crisis, is bad behavior in my book.  It doesn't happen often but when it does, it drives me nuts.

8. Not Giving Your Partner Girl / Guy Down Time

RV travel can foster closeness with your partner.  But unlike being at home, when you're in the RV there may not be many opportunities to go off and have some girl time or do some male bonding.  I'm sensitive to this.  My wife needs her nap time, shopping time, Facebook time with friends, etc.  Every so often I need to go off and do some male bonding or zone out on TV sports.  Not respecting these needs will cause discord.  My wife and I are pretty good at respecting each others needs for down/alone time.

9. Driving Around Aimlessly

This one drives my wife nuts. Trying to find a place to park the RV when out shopping or dining can sometimes be a challenge.  I'm a little picky about where I leave my RV.  I want enough space to get in and out  and need a space that's fairly level.  My wife doesn't seem to fully appreciate this because she doesn't drive the RV.  So, when she catches me driving around searching for the right spot, it drives her nuts.  It's right up there with being lost and not asking directions.

I know this behavior can set her off.  So, I have to prep her, keep talking about what I'm trying to do, give assurances, and make fun of myself when I'm caught driving around aimlessly.  Otherwise, there's a risk of getting the silent treatment.

So that's my list.  My wife helped contributed to the list so it's really our list.  Such a list may make us look like a couple of psychos, but we're two lunatics who love each other and most of the time enjoy traveling together.  We've learned to be aware of each others crazy quirks and are doing our best to deal with them or make light of them.

Driving each other nuts has been part of our 40-year journey.  It's not all bad, because driving another person nuts is one of the key features of real true love!

Follow more of my travels athttp://jdawgjourneys.com

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This question is not a new one. Just do a Google search with the words - "the cost of rving" and you'll see lots of articles from RVer's detailing their costs. But, it's a question that seems to keep surfacing.

I recently got some emails asking about the cost of RVing. I also got an email from someone asking if I would write a blog post about how to travel frugally in an RV. I'm not into writing "how to" articles or into giving advice. Also, there's already bloggers who do a really good job covering the frugal RV travel subject.

But the emails got me thinking. There's probably folks who read travel blogs or articles and aspire to get into RVing. They probably have questions about what it costs. Not about the cost to buy a rig but what it typically costs to travel in an RV. The idea for what I could write began to jell. I could do a post to share my insights and info about what an RV lifestyle really costs. And, while writing it, I'd figure out what it's really costing me.

Before I spent any money on RVing, I first had to answer some questions.

Planning My RV Lifestyle

The first thing I had to figure out was what type of RVer I wanted to be when I grow up. Was I ready to sell the homestead and go full-time or just be a part-time RVer? Was this RV travel idea just a temporary itch that needed to be scratched (like a one time year-long trip around the United States) or a permanent part of how I wanted to live? Did I want to do road trips and always be on the road or do more stay put seasonal RVing?

I figured out that I wanted to be a traveler and spend much of my retirement years exploring the United States. My wife wasn't into doing all the travel but she was fine with me traveling solo. We weren't ready to uproot and sell our house, so I'd be traveling part-time. I also wanted to do a little seasonal stay put RVing (e.g. wintering in Florida, vacationing in Maine).

My RV lifestyle also needed to support my regular lifestyle. I'm a minimalist and somewhat frugal person. I like to keep things simple. I also needed to travel within my means. Figuring this out was key to determining the type of RV I wanted and it was a driver in what my RV lifestyle would cost.

The Costs are All Relative

For me, my RV lifestyle is an added expense to my current living expenses. It hasn't displaced too many costs. I look at it as all relative to my current living expenses. Many things like food, health insurance, medical bills, taxes, car maintenance, property maintenance, other insurances, utilities, clothing, cell phones, and entertainment have all stayed pretty much the same since I started traveling.

Some have gone down slightly. I don't drive my car as much anymore, especially when I'm in FL, so I am saving some of fuel. Also, my electric bill goes down when I'm traveling and in Florida. I also got rid of the newspaper delivery, all subscriptions, cut my cable TV, and got rid to my land line. I did some of these things before I started traveling and even more after because I saw less value in them.

But, my RV lifestyle did add new expenses and those are the ones I'll discuss - the ones that are directly related to my RV travel. I won't get into minutia with spreadsheets of costs. I'll keep it simple and put them into three categories - RV Related, Fuel, and Lodging.

RV Related Expense

The upfront cost of an RV can be the biggest expense in an RV lifestyle. Which one you buy is all related to what type of RVer you want to be. Towable versus motorhome. Class A bus versus Class B van. Gas versus Diesel. New vs Used. And the costs for RV's are all over the place. You can buy a used towable for $5,000 or spend $500,000 on an upscale diesel pusher. Which one a person buys is all based on that person's needs and budget. I won't try to answer the question of which one is the right one to buy. The only right answer is the one that's right for you at the moment.

But, the type of RV will be a factor in the ongoing RV maintenance and related expenses. I wanted an RV to support road trip type travel. I wanted something I could drive anywhere. I wanted something that would be efficient and not be costly to maintain. I wanted something I could live comfortably in for weeks or months at a time.

My first RV was a Class B Roadtrek van. That RV fit all my needs except the "live comfortably in for weeks or months at a time". After two years, I traded the Roadtrek for a Class C Winnebago View Profile. The View provided just the right amount of added space and was still small enough to be able to go anywhere.

I wrote about my experience with the View in this post - My Winnebago View - A Two Year Summary. My ongoing annual RV related expense for the View over the past two years have been as follows:

  • RV Maintenance: $1,800
  • RV Vehicle Insurance: $763
  • RV Excise Tax: $1,081
  • RV Registration & Inspection: $79
  • Incidental Expenses: $375

Total $4,098

The RV Excise Tax expense is a value related tax that applies to my domicile state. Not all states have this tax or they may call it a license tax. Some have personal property taxes instead. Some states don't have this type of tax.

There are some incidental expenses that come up like replacing a sewer hose each year or replacing RV parts that break. This might total around $200 each year. Also, there's memberships (FMCA, Coach-Net, Good Sam) that total $175 each year.

These expenses are specific to my RV and they're some what static. The Excise Tax reduces as the value of the RV goes down. I do some of the routine maintenance on the RV (oil and filters) to save a few bucks.

Fuel

This expense is driven by how many miles I travel, the fuel efficiency of my RV, and the price of fuel. I drive all over the country each year and log about 20,000 miles per year. Some drive more and some drive less. If you stay in a certain geographic area, then it's easy to limit the miles you drive and save money on fuel.

My RV is a very fuel-efficient vehicle. I average 16.5 miles per gallon. Some days I get 18 mpg and some days I get 14 mpg. At 16.5 mpg, driving 20,000 miles per year, I burn about 1,212 gallons of fuel per year.

My RV uses diesel fuel. This year the price of fuel has been falling, which has been great. Using an average of $2.30 per gallon (It's lower now), my cost for fuel last year was about $2,800. Last year, when diesel was close $3.80 per gallon, my cost was $4,600.

Price is a big factor as is efficiency. If I had a similar sized gas RV that got 8-9 mpg, my fuel cost would almost double. The fuel efficiency of my a rig was a big factor in selecting my specific RV because I planned to drive a lot each year. If you don't drive a lot then fuel efficiency will be less important.

Lodging

By far, the largest RV lifestyle expense can be for parking the RV overnight. It's also the one that can be controlled the most by where and how often you travel.

Campgrounds and RV parks all charge fees for overnight stays. The rates can be all over the place based on type and location. National and State Parks usually have rates lower than private campgrounds. I've seen fees typically in the range of $20-30 per night. Some places with minimal facilities can be as low as $12 per night. These places may be lower in cost but they're also at some of the most beautiful places.

Private campgrounds or RV parks are usually slightly higher in cost. These usually can be in the range of $30-$45 per night, but it can go a lot higher. I've seen some high-end RV parks in Florida with water front sites charging over $100 per night. Prices at private campgrounds can also vary by season or special event. Campgrounds near Daytona all raise their rates for Speedweek and Bike Week. RV parks tend to have more amenities like full hookups, wi-fi, swimming pools, and cable TV. And some offer discounts for weekly or monthly stays.

But there's also some places where you can stay for free. Many federal lands such as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or US Forest Service areas allow free camping for a certain limited time period. These areas are usually undeveloped (undeveloped = no hookups or facilities) and many are in the western states. A good resource to find these areas can be found at this website : Ultimate Campgrounds.

It's also possible to park overnight for free at many Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel Restaurants, and truck stops. The OvernightRVParking website is a great resource to find these locations. It cost $25 per year to use this website, but it pays for itself with just one overnight stay. The key to staying at these places is to always ask permission to see if overnight parking is allowed.

When I travel across country, I try to stay at truck stops or Wal-Mart while I'm going to or from a destination. Once at a destination, I usually stay at public or private campgrounds.

When on a road trip, I try to use free overnight stays about 15-20% of the time to save some money. When I'm in Florida or on a stay put vacation, I'll stay at a campground of RV park because I want water and electricity hook ups. I don't track my detail expenses in this area. I'm usually in FL for at least 12 weeks each year and stay at an RV park. That's my largest lodging expense at around $4,200. There's another 12 weeks of road trip and vacation travel that I do each year. Looking at the number of days and an average rate, I probably spend another $2,100 for that lodging. That adds up to around $6,300 for lodging for about 6 months of travel.

Many probably pay much less for lodging. You can boondock in Quartzsite, Arizona for the whole winter for less than $200. You can find RV parks in California, Arizona, or Florida that have monthly winter rates for around $500. If you're don't care so much about location and don't want to pay a lot there are many opportunities to save money on lodging expenses. And there's some who do all their road trips staying at truck stops or Wal-Mart.

Summary

So, I figured out what it's costing me for my RV lifestyle. It adds up to around $13,198 per year for me to be part-time RVer. I didn't include food as an RV travel expense because I pretty much eat the same or more simply on the road as I would at home. There are also some incidental expenses like tolls and propane for the RV that are minimal (maybe $250 per year).

I buy a National Park pass each year for $80 which gets me into all National Parks / Monuments for free. I'm not much of a shopper so I don't tend to buy souvenirs. I may take a tour sometimes, but that's part of normal entertainment expenses.

When I plan a trip, I use an average daily expense of about $100 per day to plan the budget for a trip. That figure includes food, fuel, and lodging but it's what I use to figure out the cost. Some do it for less, but it's good have this type of figure for planning a trip.

When I retired and before I started RVing, I budgeted around $6,000 for a two month Florida condo rental each year and still had a vacation condo that cost me $6,000 per year in fees and taxes. I sold the condo to buy an RV and use the RV now for Florida so my savings close to what it costs me to be a part-time RVer.

For me, that $13,000 is money well spent. Some spend that much keeping a vacation home or taking a couple of week-long cruises each year. That amount would probably only pay for one day stay in a hospital. But for me, it's buying some priceless experiences and memories. I'm traveling 6 months of the year, seeing some great sights, and having a ball.

You can read more about my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.com.

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My Essential RV Gear

Over the last few years, I've acquired some things that I feel are pretty essential to my safe and successful RV travel. These are not household items, camp site bling, or basic RV items like sewer hoses, water hoses, or electrical cords, but more in the tool and gadget category. This is not a complete or recommended list for other RVers. It's a list of the essential RV gear that I tend to use frequently and key items that I figure might save my bacon.

I'm publishing this list in the spirit of sharing the information on what I use. I purchased and use all of these items listed. I make no warranty as to how well they work, only that they work for me

Safety

  • First Aid Kit - I made up my own kit. It's got band aids, gauze bandages, alcohol swipes, pain meds, cold meds, ointments, antacids, etc. I can get sick on the road just like I do at home. I keep it handy near the driver seat in case I need it if there's an accident.
  • Fire Extinguisher - A no brainer, every coach should have at least one.
  • Flashlights - I have a bag with at least 4-5 small led flashlights. This KJL LED Flashlight is super bright and can be used as a spot light. This one - Mini Cree LED flashlight is also bright and easily fits in a pocket. I keep a small mini Cree LED above my visor so its handy. I also keep one in my back pack/bug out bag and keep one in my bike bag to use at night on my bike. I just can't have enough of these things.
  • Emergency Beacon Lights - I carry a set of Emergency Beacon Lights just in case I break down on the road at night.


Electrical

  • Non-contact voltage tester - This is an essential item for checking for hot skin conditions, testing for current, and testing outlets. I use it every time I plug in the RV.
  • Surge Guard - I use the Technology Research 34730 30 amp Surge Guard. It protects my rig for open grounds, open neutral, low voltage, and voltage spikes. Electrical pedestals get lots of use and the outlets get worn. I've had it work on electrical pedestals that have worn or broken outlets or a faulty breaker where its easy to have loose ground wires or poor connections.
  • 50 amp to 30 amp adapter - I've used this quite a bit when the 30 amp plug on an electrical pedestal is bad or worn. I've also used it when a site only has 50 amp service. For me, it's a good back up item to have.
  • 30 amp to 15 amp adapter - I use this when a 30 amp outlet isn't available.
  • Electrical Connectors - I carry an electrical connector kit with a wire cutter / crimper tool. This comes in handy if I need to replace a DC appliance or fixture (alarm, water pump, light).
  • Spare Fuses - I carry a selection of spare fuses for the coach and the RV. I haven't blown a fuse yet but have used these to help out other RV'ers who have blown a fuse.


Plumbing

  • Water pressure regulator - I carry a couple of these items. Many campgrounds have high water pressure and I need these to protect the plumbing in my RV.
  • Water Container - I carry a 3 gallon container to fill my water tank when a threaded spigot isn't handy. It comes in handy when boondocking or camping at festivals.
  • Spare Water Pump - The water pump is one of the RV's most critical mechanical components. It's fairly easy to replace but may not be easy to find one for my specific rig if it breaks while on the road. A spare one is pretty inexpensive to carry.


Miscellaneous

  • Temperature Sensor - I just got a Non-contact digital temp sensor. It's inexpensive, small, and easy to use to check the temperature of items like tires, hubs, and electrical components that can overheat.
  • Tire Pressure Gauge - My RV doesn't have a TPMS. I carry long stem dial tire pressure gauge that can reach the stems of my dual tires.
  • Portable Air Compressor - I carry a 12V portable air compressor that will inflate a truck tire. It's good to have if I notice an under inflated tire while on the road.
  • Leveling Blocks - I carry a set of Lynx Levers and Lynx Caps for leveling my RV.
  • Waste Cap - I've gone through a couple of these so far when the plastic tongs have broken. Another inexpensive spare item that I carry.
  • Tool Kit - I carry a bag of basic tools with an assortment of screw drivers, pliers, nut drivers, teflon plumbing tape, and socket set.


To see a list of my technology gear, see the Tech Stuff page on my blog at http://jdawgjourneys.com.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. I earn a small commission if you use any of the Amazon links to buy a product. It doesn't cost you any more for the product.



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It's been about two years, since I traded my 2012 Roadtrek 190 for a new 2014 Winnebago View Profile. In those two years, I've logged about 40,000 miles and spent over 300 days traveling in the View.

The View has worked out to be a great motorhome for my travel lifestyle. It's small enough to be a nimble traveling vehicle. And it's just large enough for me and my wife to stay put for months at an RV park for the winter.

I've had good luck with my View. Lots of people ask me how I Iike it so I figured I'd write about my experience with it over the past two years. I wasn't asked to write this, I'm not getting any compensation for writing this, and I don't have any affiliation with Winnebago or any dealer. I'm just writing this in the spirit of sharing my experience with others.

What I Like Best

Two things. First, I like that it's efficient. My fuel mileage averages right around 16.5 mpg. I travel about 20,000 miles per year. At my fuel mileage, that translates into about 1,212 gallons of diesel fuel. Using an average price of $2.40 per gallon, I spend about $2,900 on fuel per year. If I had a comparable sized gas motorhome, my fuel mileage would be about 8.5 mpg and I'd be spending almost double what I currently spend on fuel.

Second, I like that it's nimble. The motorhome is small enough so I can pretty much go everywhere and stay everywhere. Because of this, I don't tow a car. When I stay put in Florida for 3 months, I travel around by bike, trolley, or rent a car for a day at a time, when needed. It's also easy to unhook the RV and drive to a store.

What I Like Least

I really don't have much to complain about. There are two things I can think of that would be nice to have.

I have a model 24V with two twins beds that turn into a king size sleeping area. The bed is comfortable and I sleep fine on it. But, It would be nice to have a walk around bed with a regular queen size mattress.

The second would be having a little more counter space for cooking preparation. It's tough to cook a big meal in the kitchen.

The diesel engine does require some extra steps to resupply the DEF fluid every few hundred miles, but it's an easy DIY task.

Problems

My motorhome has been very reliable and I've had very few problems. When I took delivery, the refrigerator did not get cold enough and was replaced before I drove off the dealers lot. Some drawers also had to be adjusted.

In the past two years, I've only had two failures within the motorhome. One was the spring on the refrigerator catch latch broke. I was able to replace this myself and the cost was a couple of bucks. The second was a pressure relay switch in the AC unit failed necessitating the whole AC unit being replaced. This was replaced under warranty.

On the chassis side, I had some issues with the Check Engine Light (CEL) and the exhaust treatment system. I had several check engine light incidents which we believe were caused by bad fuel. I wrote about one of these problems here - The RV Breakdown Blues. One incident was caused by the DEF tank sensor being out of calibration. One other was caused by a bad NOX sensor, which was replaced under warranty. None of these problems caused any performance issues or caused the engine to stop working.

I also had an issue where the Mercedes Benz key fob stopped working for the coach and passenger side doors. Winnebago replaced a wiring harness to fix a short in the wiring. This was covered under warranty. I need to have a Mercedes Benz dealer reset or replace the door SAM unit to resolve the problem.

Maintenance

I'm a firm believer in having all the scheduled maintenance performed. Every year, I take it back to the dealer to have all the appliances checked, burners cleaned, the AC unit checked, and have the propane system tested for leaks. This service usually costs me $250 each year.

I replace the under the sick water filter every year, sanitize the water system twice a year, and flush out the hot water heater each year. I also do the winterization my self.

I replaced the original two 12V dual propose batteries with two 12V true deep cycle batteries after two years. I got the replacements at Sam's Club for $80 each and installed them myself. The original batteries where working fine, but they were starting to discharge faster. I could have tried to get one more year from them, but decided to replace them before I went to Florida.

On the chassis side, my 2014 Mercedes Benz 3.0L turbo diesel engine has a very long service interval - 15,000 miles for oil changes, 30,000 miles for a fuel filter, 40,000 for air filters, and 60,000 for transmission fluid.

Some of these seem excessively long and being an old shade tree mechanic, I do the oil changes myself about every 10,000 miles. I can do an oil change for about $130. The dealer charges about $290 for this service. The fuel filter can go for 30,000 miles, but I have it done at 20,000 miles. It's easy to access but can be tricky to disconnect and reconnect cable and hoses. It's a $60 part, but I have the dealer to this for $300 parts and labor. The cabin and engine air filters are easy to change. They cost $20-30 each. I do these myself and save the extra labor that the dealer would charge.

I also replaced the original tires at 36,000 miles. The original Continental tires had some tread life left and I probably could have driven on them for a few more thousand miles, but I wanted to replace them before going to Florida. I replaced the Continentals with Michelin LTX M/S2 tires.

Here's a summary of my maintenance cost for the past two years;

  • RV Appliance and AC Tests $396
  • RV Propane Tests $120
  • Water filters $120
  • Coach Batteries $160
  • DEF Fluid $150
  • Oil Changes (4) $631
  • Fuel Filters (2) $632
  • Air Filters $45
  • Tires (6) $1355

Total $3,609

So, for the first two years, all my repairs were covered under warranty at no cost to me. Routine maintenance was typical for the annual mileage that I drive (20,000 per year). I could have saved some (maybe $430) if I had stuck to the recommended service schedule. And, I could have saved some money by going with less expensive tires.

Looking at these expenses caused me the question what my maintenance costs might have been for a similar size gas engine model RV. If I had a gas engine motorhome, I may have done twice the number of oil changes, but they would have required half the amount of oil that my diesel engine requires. So, my guess is that the oil change expense would have been about the same. I would have avoided the Fuel Filter expense and the DEF Fluid expense, but all the other expenses would have been incurred had I bought a gas engine motorhome.

Summary

Overall, I've had good luck with my Winnebago View Profile. I didn't have any breakdowns but I did have a few unscheduled trips to Mercedes Benz dealers to diagnose some CEL incidents. The coach part has been pretty good other than the AC unit failing. I think my experience has been typical of other View owners.

Also, the dealers I've dealt with (both Winnebago and Mercedes Benz) have all been very accomodating and helpful.

I like that I'm saving a lot on fuel expenses having a small motorhome with a diesel engine. Over two years, that savings is almost $6,000 compared to a similar sized gas engine model. That savings is substantial to me.

Given the efficiency, nimbleness, quality, and reliability of my View, it's been a good choice for my travel lifestyle.

You can read more about my travels at: jdawgjourneys.com

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My Low-Cost RV Solar Install

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I just got back from eight days of dry camping and got lots of comments and questions from people about my RV solar setup. I installed the system last year and wrote a blog post about my DIY Solar Install. It was something that I researched, designed, and installed myself. I added a second 100W flexible panel this spring and have used the full setup a few times this summer. Thought I'd do an update on how it's all working.

As a "sometime" RVer, most of my overnight RV stays happen at establish campgrounds. I'll boondock at trucks stops and camp Wal-Mart when on the road for quick overnight stays. And, I do a little bit of stay put dry camping in the summer -- usually at music festivals or beach/lake-side camping. So, my needs for off-the grid power tend to happen infrequently. This is one of the reasons I decided to go with a portable solar setup. Something I could use when I wanted and needed. I wanted it to be low-cost. I also wanted to have something I could take with me when I trade RVs. So, my install is pretty simple, small, and inexpensive.

My electrical needs are also small. My 25-foot Winnebago View is pretty efficient with all LED lights and DC radios and TVs. My basic needs for power are for lights, monitors, and the water pump. (my frig runs on propane, AC, and DC). The biggest draw I tend to have is for charging battery operated electronic gadgets (phones, laptop, cameras). I have a 1,000-watt inverter (that powers half the coach outlets) which I use mostly for charging this stuff. I have two 12-volt group 24 wet cell batteries in my RV (they came with the RV) which gives me about 170 amp-hours of electricity. There are probably better battery setups, but these work for me.

Here's a link to a vlog that I did on my solar setup:

I'm very pleased with the setup. With the two 100W panels, I can avoid having to run the generator to charge my batteries. I camped for a week at a festival this summer and didn't use the generator at all. Just two weeks ago, I dry camped for eight days and only ran the generator two to three times for short bursts when I needed to use the microwave (luckily I didn't need to use the A/C). The solar panels kept my batteries fully charged each day. I did all my electronic charging during the day, watched a little TV, and listened to my satellite radio every morning.

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The portable setup is pretty quick to put in place. It takes about five to seven minutes to hook everything up. The downside is that I have to unhook it all and put it away if I move the rig. With the portable set up, I get pretty good efficiency being able to move and tilt the panels towards the sun. They even work good on cloudy days putting out 2 to 3 amps.

The two panels can fit in my storage compartment under the right rear bed. The rigid panel is a tight fit and I only carry it when I know I'm going to do some stay put dry camping. I really like the flexible panel for weight and ease of storage. It only weighs 4 lbs vs 16 lbs for the rigid glass panel. I carry it with me on all trips just in case I stay as a stop that doesn't have electricity or allow generators. I've read that Renogy has put a temporary hold on selling the flexible panels due to some reported problems with the panels. You can read about one persons experience here Winnie Views RV Updates. I've had no problems with my panel so far.

As I said above, I like my setup and it works just fine for me. Total cost was about $600. Considerably less than having a professional company do a permanent install on my roof. The list of materials and suppliers is listed in my prior post (DIY Solar Install). So far, I've been pleased with the Renogy panels.

The portable install was easy for me to do because I'm familiar with wiring and working with electricity. When I have it setup (i.e., on display) I get lots of comments and curious people stop by asking me how it all works. Hopefully this write-up and vlog will help some others.

Let me know if you have any questions. You can follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.com

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Disclaimer: I received no compensation from any of the suppliers or manufacturers of the equipment that are discussed in the article or video. I purchased or made all of the equipment discussed in the article and video. I make no warranty or claims as to how this equipment will work, only that it works for me.

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Several of the travel blogs that I follow are written by people living full-time in their RV. I'm not talking about trailer park living. These are folks who, as part of a plan (not necessity), sold their house and most of their possessions and live a life of what seems like perpetual travel. Their RV is their home and many say Home is where they happened to be parked.

It's fun following their adventures because many times they're moving around, having new experiences, and seeing different parts of the country. Some of these bloggers have large followings. I guess lots of folks may like to follow people who are living a different or unique lifestyle - one that appears to be filled with constant adventure.
I've been a traveling RVer now for 4+ years. Along the way, I found my RV / travel lifestyle. I'm what I call a "sometime" RVer. I'm different from the full-timers. I still have a stick and bricks home, a permanent residence, and I'm not always on the move. But I'm away traveling in my RV for what equates to about 1/2 the year. Sometime RVing is more that just taking short RV vacations now and then. It involves being gone for weeks or months at a time. Its a way to live two different lives - the at-home life and the travel life. Same person, but changing my habitat when I want.

BeforeAfter-2014-1024x416.jpg At Home in the Winter, In Florida three days later

I like my sometime RV lifestyle. I get as much adventure and go to the same places that the full-timers go. I may not stay as long or travel as often, but I figure I'm having just as much fun. And I don't aspire to change it or be a full-timer. I'm very happy doing just what I'm doing.

Many of the full-timers blog about their travels and lifestyle, but I don't see as many sometimers doing the same. I think there are some advantages to my sometime RV lifestyle so, I figured I'd write a post about the joys of being a sometime RVer.

1. I Still Have a Place Called Home
As a kid, I moved a lot - about every 2-3 years. It was because of my Dads job working for the Federal government. When I got married and had kids, I didn't want that for my family. I wanted to find a place and job where I could put down roots. I was lucky with the job, found the perfect small town, a nice chuck of land, and I built just the house I wanted. I hammered many of the nails and cut many of the boards. My wife and I planted several of the trees and bushes, did the landscaping, and made it our Home. Its become our Tara.

Owning a place can be a lot of work but having a Home is important to me. It's mine, I built it, and its the place I'm most comfortable being at. Its a place where I can rest, recuperate, and recharge. I know I'll have to trade it someday soon for a smaller place, but It's not something I could ever give up for a 5th wheel trailer of a Class A bus.

2. I Get to Live Multiple Lives
As I mentioned above, I get to live different lives. Part of the year, I live in rural New England. Its bucolic. My neighbors are cows, corn, and trees. The nearest store is 3 miles away. There's one yellow blinking light in my town. It's life in the slow lane and I live as a country gentleman. When I travel, I get to leave it behind for a time and go live a different life.

When in Florida, I stay in a busy beach side town, where tee shits, shorts, and flip-flops are the normal daily attire. I can live the life of a beach bum where I'm constantly surrounded by people and all the convenience of eateries, shops, and night spots. It's a nice change of pace.

When I take a road trip, I can be gone for a week of a couple of months. I can be a wanderer or explorer going from place to place and staying in places with beautiful scenery. When I've had enough or need a change, I don't need to find a new place. I just go Home.

3. I Get to Go When I Want, Come Back When I Want
Full-timers get to do part of this. Vacationers, not so much. If I'm home and there's a few days of good weather, if I feel like taking a road trip, or if I just get bored, I can easily take off and hit the road. My RV stays parked in my yard and is kept fueled up, packed, and ready to roll. It works the same in the other direction. If the weather turns bad, the RV is acting up, I get sick or bored, I can just head Home. I don't have to worry about where to head or making a new reservation. Just select the Home choice on my RV's GPS and drive.

4. I Have a Less to Worry About
I like to focus on the positives and try to tune out the negatives. Think about all the good that will happen and not worry about the bad. I am an old Boy Scout and follow the Be Prepared motto. When I'm RVing, I'm prudent and try to be prepared for the small stuff and don't worry about the big things that are out of my control. Like what will happened if the RV had a catastrophic failure (engine, tranny) or what if it's damaged by weather or an accident. As a sometimer, my RV is just another vehicle, something replaceable. It's not my home and it doesn't hold any treasured possessions. If something bad happens to it that can't be fixed on the road, I'll call for a flatbed and just head Home.

5. Its Easy to Take A Break from Traveling
When I was really sick in 2011, I didn't go to Florida for the winter or travel at all. I was pretty ill and just didn't feel like going anywhere. Going to doctor appointments was the only travel I did. Luckily, I got better and when I felt confident and good enough, I started traveling again. Bad **** can happen to anyone and at anytime. I'm not sure what I would have done that year if I was a full-timer. That's one thing I like about being a sometimer. I don't have to travel. I can park my self at Home and take a break anytime and for as long as I want.

6. I Can Stay Married
My wife is also a sometime RVer, but she's more in the once-and-awhile category (like a vacationers). She likes going to Florida for the winter and maybe will join me on a beach stay-put vacation. But that's it. Her type of adventure is a girl's game night or a day shopping at a new outlet mall. She needs to be rooted somewhere, have friends / family around, and doesn't like wandering or always moving. And that's ok. It's no fun traveling with someone who's not happy.

We've been married for 38 years and she's fine with me going off and doing my traveling thing. I just have to keep coming back to her and keep checking in with her. Behave myself while on the road and leave her the check book. She's happy, I'm happy.

7. I Have a Place to Go When It's All Over
I see my RV lifestyle as temporary. Maybe it's not a joy but it's something I'm at peace with and comfortable knowing it will have an ending. RVing is something I'm doing now, I'm really enjoying it now, but it ain't gonna last. Some may not agree or look that far out and that's ok. I'm not a fatalist, just a realist. At some point, I know that I will either lose interest in traveling, lose my confidence, or just lose the physical ability.

Some times I joke that we're all one doctor's appointment away from a calamity. One bad test result can change your life. I'm not at all focused on that and I'm taking each day as it comes. But when it does happen or if I get sick, I want to know I've got a place to go and deal with it. I've got doctors and specialists who know me and I know the good places to get care. And I can just park the RV and forget about it. I don't have to worry about finding a place to park or a place to find care.

And for me, that is what's good about being a sometime RVer. It's not better than anyone else's RV lifestyle. Just what I like about mine. I get to go when I want, come back when I want, stay put when I want, and I can easily give it up when I want. And I've still got a wonderful place called Home.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.com



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Earlier this year, I wrote an entry about Ten Great Smartphone Apps for RVers. It was a popular article with my readers. My smartphone has become a vital tool for me when I travel. In the past few months, I’ve added some more apps that have come in very handy while I’m traveling. So, in this post, I’ll share info on eight more smartphone apps.

I've got an Android phone (LG G2) and all of these apps were free from the Google Play store. I didn't check, but most likely most of these have iPhone versions. Also, I don't receive any compensation or benefits for writing about these apps or for posting links to the apps.

Weather Underground
Previously, I used The Weather Channel app as my main weather app. But, with the latest update, I noticed that my battery life was dramatically shortened. When I checked my battery usage, this app was always running and I could not force it to stop. So I searched for an alternative that wouldn't be running all the time. I found one with Weather Underground. It doesn't suck the life out of my battery and the weather forecasts are very good.

RV Parky
I use this to help find camprounds. I like the interface and built in reviews. It doesn't have as much content as Allstays but I find it much easier to use.

Stitcher
I like listening to podcasts. This app lets me setup a station of favorite podcasts and it will list the latest episodes. When I want to listen (it does require either wifi or a mobile data connection), I just open my favorites and select an episode. The entertainment system in my RV has bluetooth capabilities, so when I'm parked I can pair my phone with the system and listen to a podcast on the speakers inside my RV.

Feedly
I also like reading blog posts from other bloggers. There's about 14 travel blogs that I follow. Feedly is an RSS reader app. With Feedly, I can search for blogs or any publications and then select to follow the blog on Feedly. When I open Feedly, it will show me a list of new entries from the blogs that I follow and let me read them from my smart phone. Easy peasy. No more subscription emails from bloggers, no more bookmarks, or having to get on a browser to look up the blogs. It works great for blogs that are mobile friendly.

Flipboard
Flipboard is a social network, news portal, blog, magazine content aggregator app. The content is organized into magazines and you can select magazines to follow in your profile or build your our. Its an interesting way to select news content that you want to see versus reading the mainstream media news sites. I use Flipboard to follow headline news, sports, travel tech, camera news, and blogging magazines. I follow a few custom RV magazines like RV Lifestyle, RV Camping, and RV Full Time Living. The RV magazines are put together by people who aggregate travel blog content into a magazine. I created my own Flipboard magazine called RV Journeys where I list my blog posts and posts from other bloggers that fit into the RV Journey category. It's another way to promote my blog and other blogs that I like.

WordPress
I recently moved my blog from Google's Blogger platform to a self hosted WordPress site. The WordPress app makes it very easy to access the admin parts of my blog from my smart phone so I can approve and reply to comments, check my stats and even create new blog posts. It makes managing my blog super easy right from my smartphone. I only have to use a laptop when I want to compose and publish a post.

OOKLA Speedtest
This app is useful to me as a blogger and the other 50M users who have downloaded it. If I'm using campground wi-fi or my mobile data, it lets me test the speed of the connection. This is helpful to see if I'm going to be able to upload photo's or videos. A good connection will have at least a 4-10 Mbps download and a 2-3 Mbps upload. Most internet traffic is download (e.g web surfing, email) so the ISP's pay more attention to their download speed. But upload is important to me. Uploads speeds below 1 Mbps are almost unusable for uploading pictures.

I also use OpenSignal to test for cell or wi-fi signal direction and strength. It helps when I'm using my wi-fi booster or using an external cell antenna. With OpenSignal, I'll know where to place my external equipment to get the best signal.

That's it. If you have questions, please leave me a comment. You can see all my apps at J. Dawg's Tech Stuff page.

And follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.com

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blog-0049216001431439399.jpgblog-0049216001431439399.jpgblog-0049216001431439399.jpgblog-0049216001431439399.jpgI've owned my 2014 Winnebago View Profile now for over a year. Its a 26 ft class C with a small diesel engine (3.0L V6 Turbo diesel). I bought it new, have driven over 28,000 miles, and have been very pleased with it. For me, Its got just the right amount of living space and and just the right size for driving around.

This has been my first vehicle with a diesel engine and prior to getting this RV, I had no experience with diesel engines. I thought the only change would just be going to a different pump at the gas stations. But I've found it's a little more involved than that.

So, I thought I'd share some of what I've learned about diesels (more specifically my diesel) in the post.

1. Diesel Fuel has More Stored Energy that Gasoline

A gallon of diesel has about 13% more stored energy energy than a gallon of gasoline (based on BTU ratings). Basically, you get a more powerful explosion in the engine cylinder with diesel than you do with gasoline. A bigger explosion means more power. That's why most big trucks and the big RV's have diesel engines. And that's why my 11,000 lb RV can get along with a small 3.0L V6 engine vs the 4.8L V8 that was in my 9,600 lb class B. My Winnebago with the 3.0L diesel has more than enough power for going up big hills, towing, and for passing.

Its also why diesel engines are more fuel efficient than many gas engines. Because of the higher stored energy, you need less diesel fuel to accomplish the same amount of work (e.g. horsepower) as gasoline.

2. Diesel Fuel is More Expensive

I'm not sure of all the reasons why this is so. I read that the Federal tax on diesel is 6 cents higher than gasoline. The introduction of ultra low sulfur diesel added costs to the refining and transportation process and accounts for about a 10 cent premium over gasoline. And the final reason appears to be demand. Demand for gas is falling and demand for diesel (which powers most commercial vehicles) is increasing.

If you own a diesel powered RV, you're going to pay more for fuel, but depending on your RV size, you may save some money based on fuel efficiency. My Winnebago View averages about 16.5 mpg. A similar sized gas Class C would get around 10-12 mpg. So, for me it works to my advantage. Diesel fuel is currently about 20% more expensive that gasoline, but I'm using about 30-40% less fuel per mile.

3. Not all Diesel Fuel is the Same.

With gasoline, regular unleaded gas is regular unleaded gas. The octane ratings may vary slight from supplier to supplier, but you can pretty much count on regular gas at any pump working fine in most gas engines. Some engines may have minimum octane requirements that require a premium gas grade. With gasoline, there are higher octane grades. In the US, most gas is labeled as E10 which means it has a 10% ethanol content. There's also E15 in some places. And, gas will go bad if it sits for a few months but, for every day use in standard engines, most regular grade gas works fine. Not so with diesel.

First, there's #1 diesel and #2 diesel. Most of the diesel in the US is #2 regular diesel, which is similar to home heating oil. Then there's #1 diesel, which is a lighter thinner weight diesel (more like kerosene) used in cold climates. Sometimes you will see places with pumps labeled #1 or #2. Most diesel in North America and Europe is Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), but sometimes you'll see a pump labeled for off-road or tractor diesel which is not ULSD.

Then, there's this thing call biodiesel, which is regular diesel that is mixed with vegetable oil or animal fat. Biodiesel has less energy (about 10% less) than regular diesel and not all engines will run ok with it. Biodiesel has designations. B5 means 5% biodiesel (5% vegetable oil content). There's B10 and B20 meaning 10% and 20% biodiesel). Biodiesel is less expensive and you will see it at many truck stops or no name fuel stations. Sometimes the pumps are labeled and sometimes they're not. States like Minnesota and Washington mandate that all diesel be at least B2 (2% biodiesel). Minnesota also mandates B10 during the summer months and is going to B20 by 2018. My engine can only handle up to B5. If you own a diesel, you should know what your engine can handle and look at the pumps to see if they're labeled with Biodiesel stickers. I've seen that many truck stops, like Pilot, Flying J, and Love's sell diesel with up to a B20 content. Because of my engine's requirements, I avoid fueling at these places.

Lastly, diesel fuel can get contaminated with water and certain microbes. Most diesel engines have fuel filters to trap this stuff and keep it out of the engine, but fuel filters can also become contaminated. Contaminated fuel or fuel filter can cause poor engine performance and /or an engine fault code to set off the Check Engine Light (CEL). I know this because I've had it happen a few times. Dirty fuel can affect the burn temperature, O2 content, and fuel pressure. My last CEL episode was caused by filling up at a small no name fuel stop and later necessitated a stop at the MB dealer to clear the fault codes for high fuel rail pressure. The tech who worked on my engine said that 80% of the time, high or low fuel rail pressure is caused by bad fuel or a dirty fuel filter. He gave me some good advice which I'll share. Always fill up at a high volume brand name fuel station near a highway. Places like Sunoco, BP, Shell, and Exxon. The high volume places go through a lot of diesel so it doesn't sit in the ground for long and collect water. Also, he said with a Mercedes diesel to avoid using biodiesel. I've followed his advice for the past 6 months and have had no CEL episodes.

4. DEF and All that Entails

Most all diesel engines built after 2010 require the exhaust to be treated to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. This is done by having a separate system that spays a mixture of water and urea into the exhaust to reduce the nitrous oxide that gets emitted out the tail pipe. The water urea mixture is called DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) or also called Ad Blue. Its a consumable that you have to remember to fill up every so often. My RV can go about 3,500 on my small 3.2 gallon DEF tank, but I keep it topped off every 500 miles. How much DEF you'll use is based on driving conditions, weight, terrain, etc. In my RV, the exhaust treatment system is a complicated system of sensors, tank, spray nozzles, heater, pump, level sensors and a computer system to monitor it all. If something doesn't go right with exhaust system, I get a fault code and CEL light that may inhibit the engine function. Too much nitrous oxide comes out the tail pipe, I'll get a CEL. My DEF runs low, I'll get a warning light. A sensors voltage goes out of range, I'll get a CEL. It's a whole other area for faults or maintenance that doesn't exist in a gas engine. You can get DEF at most Walmarts or trucks stop, I always carry a 2.5 gallon jug with me.

5. There's Less Maintenance, But Maintenance Can Cost More

My engine can go 15,000 between oil changes and service intervals. That's a long time. But the engine takes 13 quarts of a special oil that costs $8 a quart. An oil change on my RV can cost about $130 if I do it myself. Double that if I bring it to the dealer. The only other regular maintenance for the engine are filters that need changing at specific intervals. The key one being a fuel filter. My engine has one, but some larger RV's have 2 or 3. It important to know your service schedule and not to skip the regular maintenance. On gas engines, the service interval is usually around 5,000 or 7,500 miles. Gas engines use about 1/2 the oil and it cost 1/2 as much. An oil change might run $50-$60 but you do it more often with a gas engine.

6. There's less Places that Can Work on My Engine

My Class B with a Chevy 4.8L gas engine could be serviced just about anywhere. My Mercedes Benz can only be serviced at a MB dealer that services Sprinter vans. It seems like these are few and far between. Its because of the computer system. The MB engine has its own proprietary codes and system for diagnostics. Luckily, I live about 20 miles away from a MB Sprinter Dealer, but it can sometimes take up to 3 weeks to get an appointment. Its key to know where the closest engine service is when you're buy an RV. Luckily, engines today are pretty reliable but there have been times where I needed to drive 150 miles out of my way to get a CEL diagnosed while on a trip. Just something to be aware of.

That's what I've learned so far. One of the big questions for many when buying an motorhome is the gas versus diesel question. The gas motorhomes tend to be less expensive a because they're built on a standard medium or heavy duty truck chassis. They also may be a little less fuel efficient. If you don't drive a lot and have a limited budget, a gas model may make sense. If you want a bigger coach or drive a lot of miles, a diesel may make more sense for the fuel efficiency and power.

I'm glad I went with a diesel. I drive a lot each year (over 25,000 miles) and I figure I'm saving about $1,800 per year in fuel. Yes, I paid more for my RV than a comparable gas model, but I was after a rig that was a certain size, had a certain level of quality, and had a high resale value. Time will tell if it was less expensive.

Let me know if you have some more interesting facts or lessons you've learned about diesel engines.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.com

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If you have an RV, you probably spend a fair amount of time behind the windshield seeing beautiful places or driving on scenic roads.  It's part of the fun of RVing, seeing landscapes and vistas that take our breath away.  Taking pictures of these places is great for creating a memory, but I also like to capture what it's like driving in scenic places.  I want to remember what is was like so I can relive and share my experiences.  Using video is a great way to do this.  I always try to shoot some video of places I visit, but it's not that easy to do when I'm driving.  Early this year, I happened to read a tech blog about dashcams and decided to try one out.

 

Dashcam is an abbreviated name for a dashboard video camera.  These are very small digital video cameras that have a wide angle lens and record high definition 1080p video to a SD card.  They easily attach to a vehicle windshield and use a 12V outlet for power.  They're easy to operate and can start or stop by pressing a single button.

 

There's no big name favorite model or brand for dashcams.  Companies like Sony, Panasonic, Canon, JVC, and Nikon don't sell them.  Some may use a GoPro as a dashcam, but, in my opinion, can be a bit pricey.  All types of dashcams are readily available on the internet at places like Amazon and prices are all over the place.  You can buy one for a little as $40 or pay as much as $400.  A good place to get info and compare models is the Dash Cam Talk website.

 

I used the Dash Cam Talk website and Amazon reviews to do my research and then bought the Panorama G (GPS) - DashCamir?t=jdawjou-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00SWKQIYC from Amazon.  It has a 154 degree wide angle lens and records HD 1080p video at 30fps.  It has a built in GPS to record location and speed.  I bought a 32GB Class 10 SD card separately.  The camera came with everything I needed to mount it on my windshield (suction cup mounts) and a power cable that I fished around my windshield and ran to a 12V outlet on my dash.  However, It didn't come with a manual, but I was able to find one on the Pier28 (the supplier who supplies the camera to Amazon) website.  The operation is very basic.  I can record video, take still pictures, playback video, and turn the microphone on or off.  It has a menu button for set up. Here are some pictures of my installed dashcam.

 

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Inside view

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Outside view

 

When powered up, the camera automatically starts recording.  It will record video in either 3 or 5 minute segments.  I have mine set up for 5 minute segments, so when it records it will record a video for 5 minutes, store that in a file, and immediately start recording another 5 minute long file.  It will keep doing this until it fills up the SD card, then it will loop back and start recording over the oldest file.   A 32GB SD card can hold about 4.5 hrs of video.  To get the files on my computer, I just take out the SD card, put it in the SD reader on my PC, and open the video file folder on the SD card. The files are all MP4 format and can be read by Quicktime or Windows Media Player. 

 

Some use their dashcams for traffic safety or for accident / theft protection.  These folks usually leave them on recording all the time.  I keep the camera powered up but in pause mode and only press the record button when there's something I want to record.  When I see something interesting, its real easy to reach over and press the record button.  I usually record segments that are less than 30 secs but sometimes will let it run if I'm on a very scenic road.  During recording, the screen will turn off after about a minute, but I can reactivate it by pressing the record button once.  Also, there's a blue LED on the back that flashes to let me know I'm recording.  I can stop recording by pressing the record button again.

 

I like to piece together several short segments to make a video of a scenic road or area, which gets me to the next key thing about dashcams.  To make the best use of the video files, it helps to have and know how to use some video editing software.  This software lets me view, edit, and piece together various video segments from my dashcam to make a full video of my experience.  I can also add title slides, text, still photos, and add audio commentary with this software.  I use Cyberlink PowerDirector to build my video's.  I find it pretty easy to use - just drag and drop segments, add start and end fades, and add text overlays.

 

Below is a video of Florida's Route A1A that I made with PowerDirector using several dashcam segments that I recorded with my Panorama G.  You can see the quality of the video.  The date and time from the dashcam are on the video header.  The heading, speed, and GPS coordinates from the dashcam are on the footer.

 

 

I really like using my dashcam and its been a good addition to my RV.  I like being able to record small segments of the best and most scenic parts of an area and then piece them together into a short video.  I've been able to record some nice campgrounds, national parks, and scenic roads that I can relive whenever I want.  Its a great way to preserve those RVing memories and it's enhanced my ability to create a record and share my journeys.

 

I've been recently adding videos that I made from my dashcam to my YouTube channel.  You can see more of my videos at my J Dawg YouTube Channel

 

Feel free to send me a comment if you have any questions about how I use my dashcam or video software.

 

You can follow more of my journeys at:  http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

 

Footnotes:

  1. 1. I received no compensation of any kind from the manufacturer or supplier of the Panorama dashcam for this write up.  I participate in Amazon's Associates Affiliate Marketing Program and will receive a small commission from Amazon if you use the link I provided to purchase this camera.  The link does not add anything to the price you pay from Amazon.  
  2. 2. The information in this write up is about my experience and should not be consider as an endorsement or expert advice for any products.
  3. 3. It's recommended that you use a high speed SD card to record on.  A class 10 SD card is recommended for use with most dashcams.
  4. 4. When recording with the dashcam, remember to turnoff your radio, CD player, or MP3 player or have the dashcam microphone off when recording.  If there's a song playing in the vehicle, even if its faint, it will get recorded with the video.  If you then upload the video to Youtube, it will detect and identify the song (even if its a faint short clip).  Based on the songs copyright, YouTube may flag your video for copyright infringement or place an unwanted add in your video. I know this because it happened on a few of my videos.  A faint 15 seconds of a song put an ad for vitamins smack in the middle of my video. I had to go back and edit out the audio and redo the video.
italo

blog-0062157001428761041.jpgblog-0062157001428761041.jpgblog-0062157001428761041.jpgblog-0062157001428761041.jpgblog-0062157001428761041.jpgI just returned home from almost four months of living in my RV. It was a first. I took the RV south in December and spent a wonderful 2 1/2 months at an RV park in Fort Myers Beach, FL escaping the cold New England winter. From there, we hung around St. Augustine for a couple more weeks and then headed west for a month on the road exploring west Texas. I had a great time. The Fort Myers stay was the first time I had stayed parked in an RV for such an extended time and it worked out just fine. And the roadtrip was paced with several multi-day stop overs. I was gone 111 days and drove over 7,000 miles. It was a long time to be away, but I grew very accustomed to living in the RV.

My sons did a fine job of taking care of my house while I was gone, but there was still a lot of work to do upon my return. The RV needed to be unpacked, washed, and re-winterized. Piles of mail had to be culled and gone through. I had to fix a broken dryer, broken screen door closer, a malfunctioning electrical outlet, and get my VOIP phone system working again. Then the cars needed to be washed and cleaned, garage swept out, and two truck loads of trash taken to the dump. Then the taxes needed to get done. I was going non-stop for a week and hadn't even contemplated the yard work.

As I was laying in bed one morning thinking about my to do list for the upcoming day, a stark thought entered my headed. When I was living in the RV I didn't have this much work to do. It gave me a pause. Having just worked my butt off for the past 5 days, I began to ponder the simplicity of RV living.

I've been RVing for almost 4+ years now. It took a couple years, a couple of RV's, and several major trips to find my groove in how I like to travel. I'm now spending about 6 months out of the year in the RV and have grown accustomed to living in a small mobile space. For me, living in the RV is pretty simple. Here as some comparisons of my home living versus my RV living.

Less Space Means Less Stuff

At home, I have a closet full of clothes and a bureau full of more clothes. All this stuff needs to be washed and cleaned. With all the space in the house, its easy to accumulate stuff. There are books, DVD's, electronic gadgets, tools, art work, do dads, heirlooms, and toys. Then there's the stuff you don't want to get rid of because you might use it someday like the tennis racket, cross country skis, extra bicycles, camping gear, and spare stuff.

With the RV, there's only room for a couple change of clothes and a weeks worth of underwear. I travel with two hats, two coats, a couple pairs of shoes, and two vests. I might travel with a couple books but those get recycled when I'm done and a couple new ones get picked up. There are a few DVD's for rainy days. There's just a few electronic gadgets (laptop, tablet, cameras) and there's no room for art work, heirlooms, or the spare stuff. Just the basic stuff I need to live. There's less clutter and no daunting cleaning chores.

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The inside of my RV home

Less Stuff Means Less Stuff Needs to be Maintained

Maintaining my property can sometimes feel like a full time job. It seems like something always needs to be fixed or cleaned. With a house, there's always something that needs painting, a cracked or rotted board that needs replacing, and a gap that needs caulking. There's carpets that need cleaning, floors that need sweeping, windows that need washing, and rooms to be dusted. There's always cars to wash and maintain. And then there's the chests and racks of tools to maintain it all.

With the RV, much of this goes away. Cleaning the RV can be done in less than 20 minutes. The single bathroom can be swabbed out in about 3 minutes. I usually use the RV park shower and there's no washer or dryer to worry about. The RV maintenance is pretty easy - checking batteries, flushing tanks, lubing the steps and seals, checking the roof, etc. I carry a simple tool bag because it something major breaks in the RV, I'm not equipped or skilled to fix it and need to bring it to a dealer to get serviced. The RV is much simpler and easy.

No Yard Means No Yard Work

When living in an RV at an RV park or on road, there's no yard work to be done and no yard machines to maintain. There's no weeding to be done and no leaves to rake. There's no pool to clean and chemicals to check. There's no lawn and patio furniture to clean and have place to store

With the RV, all this stuff is provided and maintained by the RV park. Its included in the "rent" and frees up a lot of time.

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My RV "yard" - no maintenance!

Less Work Means More Time for Enjoyment

What I found while living in my RV for 4 months, was that I had much more time for creative pursuits and enjoyment. At home, my routine on many days is driven by what I'm going to fix or clean or what project I'm going to start. When I'm in the RV, my routine is more driven by where I want to go for lunch, where to go for a bike ride or hike, is it nice enough to hang out at a beach, is there a activity I'm scheduled for, what happy hour am I going to, or where to go for some picture taking. While I like fixing things, it can become daunting when it piles up. And as I've got older, I'm becoming more interested in enjoyment and less interested in fixing things.

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J. Dawg kite flying

Which brings me to what I've concluded. My RV lifestyle is a much simpler lifestyle and one that I enjoy. It has shown me that my days of owning my big country home are numbered. I'm not ready to chuck it all and go live full time in a RV. I like having a home base with family and my support mechanisms. But, I'm going to want something a lot smaller, with much less maintenance, and something I don't have to worry about while I'm out RVing.

Because right now, this Dawg likes being out traveling to different parts of the country and enjoying what they have to offer.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0742779001426083671.jpgblog-0742779001426083671.jpgblog-0742779001426083671.jpgblog-0742779001426083671.jpgblog-0742779001426083671.jpgLast year, we did a brief one day stop over while passing through the Texas Hill Country. This is a pretty area about 70 miles west of Austin. In my opinion, it one of Texas's nicest areas. Its a rural area of rolling hills, sparse trees, small towns, cattle ranches, and wineries. You can read my blog post about last years visit here - Texas Hill Country. Last year, we agreed that one day was not enough and planned for a return visit. This year we did a three day stop over so we could explore and see all the things we missed.

The base for our stay over was the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal RV park in the town of Fredericksburg. This is a reasonably priced RV park. It's 3 miles out from the town center, but for $30 per day, you get nicely spaced paved sites with full hookups, cable TV, and free wifi. Its not fancy, but does a good job providing the basics for a place to park an RV.

Fredericksburg is a nice small town with lots of trendy shops, art galleries, restaurants, and historic buildings lining its Main Street. Its a popular destination stop for vacationers and weekend getaways. There's also a lot of unique culture and history in Fredericksburg. The area was settled by German immigrants in the mid 1800's. German people emigrated to this area seeking land and political / religious freedom. In the early 1840's, a group of Germans acquired land grants in the area when Texas was The Republic of Texas and it was promoting colonization. Their purpose was to establish a new Germany in central Texas. The land was smack in the middle of Comanche land, but Baron von Muesebach secured a formal treaty with the Penateka Comanche. It gave the Germans an advantage for settling the area, because much of central Texas wasn't settled until 1870 when the remaining Comanches were finally defeated. Muesebach established settlements in New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.

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Happy wife at the Auslander

One the things that makes Fredericksburg special is that it retains a lot of its German heritage. There are several German restaurants serving authentic food. We ate a meal at the Auslander Its a popular tourist place in the middle of town with lots of German decor. We had German potato skins (potato skins stuffed with sausage, sauerkraut, red cabbage, and cheese) and reuben rolls (think small reuben sand which egg rolls). It was all delicious as was the local beer.

Last year, I had spent a couple hours at the Museum of the Pacific War, which is a major attraction on Main Street. This is a huge museum focused on the WWII pacific war. Last year, I had only made it half way thru so this year I spent two more hours and finished touring the exhibits. It is an extensive museum and does a great job explaining the events leading up to the war and then has numerous exhibits of each battle. If you're into history, its a must see stop while in Fredericksburg. The admission is $14 and good for 48 hours.

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Freshman Mtn from Summit Trail

Another must see stop is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This is a popular state park which has large pink granite rock outcroppings. Its 18 miles north of Fredericksburg on a twisty turny road. You get to see where the hill country got its name from driving on this road. The park is very popular and gets a lot of visitors. It offers hiking, camping, rock climbing, and picnicing. On the weekday we visited, the parking lot was just about full. The key draw is hiking up to the top on Enchanted Rock, which got its name from the Apache and Comanche who felt the rock had magical and spiritual powers. The climb up is short, relatively easy, and offers good views of the surrounding area. My 60 yr old legs, lungs, and knees made it up with ease. Admission to the park is $7 per person.

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View towards Fredericksburg from Enchanted Rock

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Enchanted Rock

While there, I got to meet another blogger who I follow. Becky Schade from Interstellar Orchard and her friend Julie were working at the park this spring. They happened to be helping with traffic so I got a chance to introduce myself as we parked the RV. Both are super nice people. Becky is a full time RVer living, blogging, and traveling in her Casita travel trailer. She is by far the best writer of all the bloggers I follow. I wish I could write half as good as she does. It was a treat to meet her in person.

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Becky Schade and J. Dawg

While is Fredericksburg, we visited the Wildseed Farm. Its a huge farm and retail operation dedicated to growing and selling wild flowers. With all the cold weather, the flowers had yet to bloom so we didn't get to see a lot of color. But its a nice place to visit. It has a retail store, wine shop, gourmet food shop, and food concession. Its just the type of place the wife likes to visit. Admission is free, but beware, you'll probably end up buying something.

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The last place we visited was the Pioneer Museum. Its a small living history museum dedicate to the early settlers of the region. There are several historical buildings showing how the early settlers lived. There are also volunteers in period attire who will anxiously tell you stories about the history of the area. For $5, its a worthwhile visit.

Last year, we visited the LBJ Ranch, which is just a few miles east of town. It is a very worthwhile stop to see LBJ's Ranch and "Texas White House".

Other than eating more German food and the "retail therapy" my wife undertook on Main Street, that's pretty much what we did while in Fredericksburg. It was all the popular tourist stops, but it was all the stuff that makes Fredericksburg appealing and it was fun. There are hundreds of Fredericksburg type towns in this country that have their own unique appealing attractions. And that's why I'm out in my RV, seeing and experiencing as many as I can.

On our last day, we got resupplied for our next destination - Big Bend National Park.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0960740001425912545.jpgblog-0960740001425912545.jpgblog-0960740001425912545.jpgblog-0960740001425912545.jpgblog-0960740001425912545.jpgAfter enjoying four relaxing days of beautiful ocean side setting on St. Joseph Peninsula, it was time to move on and continue our westward trek. We left the sparsely developed Forgotten Coast in our mirrors and continued on Route 98 into the heavily developed condo land that seems to typify the Emerald Coast. I’ve driven through this area a couple of times. There's not much here that I find interesting other than Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island and some attractions near Pensacola. This time it was just to pass through on our way to Louisiana. But, I wasn’t in a rush and there were couple of new places that I wanted to check out along the way.

The first was Grayton Beach State Park. I had read some blog articles that were very positive about this Emerald Coast state park, so we selected it for a over night stop so we could check it out. The State Park is right off scenic Route 30A that follows the shore line past Panama City Beach. This area of the Emerald Coast is not as heavily developed as the Panama City Beach, Destin, and Fort Walton Beach areas. Here there are the small funky beach side communities of Rosemary Beach, Seagrove Beach, Seaside, and Grayton Beach.

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Grayton Beach State Park lagoon

The state park is tucked in between Seaside and Grayton Beach. It’s a 2,000 acre oasis of white beach, dunes, and lagoons. The campground sits back from the beach and faces the lagoon. A mile of white sand beach (which was totally fogged in while we were there) is about a ¾ mile walk or easy bike ride from the campground. There are 39 sites that have electricity and water hook ups. There’s a newer section with 20 sites that have full hookups. There’s no wifi but it does have very good cell service and on air TV reception. We had a site in the older section bordering the lagoon. The sites are large and well spaced so you don’t really see your neighbors. It’s a nice campground and reminded me of Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine. I’d stay there again if passing thru, but for and extended stay on the Gulf, I prefer the larger more remote and wilderness setting of St. Joseph Peninsula. Here's a review of the state park by the bloggers WatsonWander that has some better pictures.

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Site 24 - Grayton Beach State Park

Just a short bike ride out the park road and about a mile down the road (or you can walk to it from the beach) is the little village of Grayton Beach. I biked over to find and check out The Red Bar. The Red Bar is a renowned funky bar, restaurant, and live music venue. It’s housed in an old general store building near the beach. Being covered with vegetation, it sort of looks like something you’d see in The Shire from Lord of the Rings. The bar is very unique with dark red painted walls that are covered with old concert and movie posters and kitschy decor. I’d call the decor “Late 60’s Yard Sale”. The posters, light fixtures, chairs, and tables seem to be what you’d find at a yard sale. No two chairs are alike. It’s nice enough but may not be for everyone. The restaurant gets good reviews, but I didn’t try the food.

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The Red Bar

From Grayton Beach, we continued west on Route 98 and made our way to I-10 near Navarre. The next place I wanted to see on The Emerald Coast was the Mississippi coast from Pascagoula to Biloxi. After crossing the state border, we got off I-10 and onto Route 90. This part of Mississippi looks a lot like the Florida parts of the Emerald Coast that I had just driven through - pretty well developed. Our destination on the second day was the Davis Bayou section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Ocean Springs.

The Mississippi District of the National Seashore has a nice small campground with hook ups. It’s about 7 miles off I-10 and has 51 sites. For $22, you get a nice paved site with water and electricity. There’s a dump station, a new bath house, and you get to visit the Davis Bayou in the National Seashore. There’s good cell reception and on air TV reception. Although small, its one of the nicest National Park campground I've stayed in. It's a nice spot to stay for a one night pass through or for an extended stay if you're exploring the area.

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Campsite at Davis Bayou Campground

The next day, we drove through Biloxi to gander at the big casino’s. It's only a short 6 miles down the road from Davis Bayou. It seems like a nicely developed area and easy to drive through. There's 3-4 big casino's on the water and a couple that are set back. The billboards were advertising lots of big names who were scheduled to perform. It seems like a nice destination it you're into gaming and entertainment.

Overall, we got through the Emerald Coast in a couple of days and got to check out some new places for potential future stays. It was cold during the two days we spent here. Day time temps didn't get much above 50 and night time was down to freezing. The furnace in the RV was running all night. Not really the spring time weather I had hoped for. At Biloxi, we got back onto I-10 and headed for Louisiana for a short overnight visit to the Cajun Prairie.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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Here are some smartphone apps that I use that really come in handy while traveling in my RV. I've got lots of apps on my phone for news, music, photos, videos, notes, banking, etc. But, these are the ones I use most frequently while traveling. These are all Android apps that most likely have iPhone versions. Thought I share what they are so others could also enjoy them.

Bubble Level

A great app for leveling your RV. It has a 360 degree bubble level or a spirit level. No internet access needed. Just start the app and lay your phone on your RV floor or counter top. Has over 10 million downloads. I use it every time I park the RV.

Flame On

Want to have a campfire and stare into the flames? Don't have any wood or don't like the smoke? This app is for you. The app will let you select a campfire or fireplace scene and play it on your smartphone or tablet. I like the relaxing campfire and log cabin fireplace videos. Its a bit fool hardy but good for a laugh when you're out for an evening or stuck in the RV on a boring night.

GasBuddy

A very popular app for finding fuel. I have mine set up for diesel. It comes in handy when trying to find a fuel station or the best price. It has 10 million users.

Radar Now!

A great weather app. Open the app and it instantly shows you the current weather radar for your location and any emergency alerts. No ads. Great for checking if rain or bad weather is in the area. It has 5 million users.

Touchnote

This is a very cool smartphone app for sending postcards from your smartphone. The app lets you use a picture from your smartphone and turn it into a postcard. It also lets you add a 500 word message to the back of the postcard. Once you create the card, the app "sends it" to Touchnote and they print it and mail it via regular old USPS snail mail. The app is free. With the app you have to create an account at Touchnote and purchase credits for mailing your post cards. The post card cost $1.99 and that includes the postage. You can buy credits in packages and that lowers the unit cost down from $1.99. Sending post cards is old school but its nice to be able to create a custom one and send it with just a few clicks. It has 1 million users.

Waze

The best traffic app! Its a real time crowd sourced traffic app. Once you start the app, Waze tracks your speed and location. Users report slow downs, accidents, speed traps, construction slowdowns. When ever I come to a traffic slow down, I open the app and can see a map with the traffic speed and any reported incidents that other users are reporting. It has 50 million users.

Where Am I?

This is a GPS based app that will show you the local address, GPS coordinates, and temperature of where you are. Very handy when traveling. Its great for emergency or 911 calls to report your location.

If you have some good apps that you use, please share them in a comment.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.com

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blog-0501896001424459994.jpgblog-0501896001424459994.jpgblog-0501896001424459994.jpgblog-0501896001424459994.jpgblog-0501896001424459994.jpgOne of my favorite roads in Florida is Route A1A along the northern Atlantic coast. This two lane road hugs the coast for 72 miles from Daytona to Ponte Vedra Beach. For many of those miles, the ocean is in your windshield and just a stones throw from your RV's side window. Much of Florida's Atlantic coastline is heavy developed, but along A1A, you can experience many miles of undeveloped coastline. On a recent stay in northern Florida, I got a chance to re-experience A1A.

I first encountered A1A about 15 years ago while on a week long bicycle trip. The major part of our route was biking along the coast from Titusville to St. Augustine. Much of the route had us biking on A1A. A few years later, I biked the northern section from Ponte Vedra to St. Augustine. Here's a map that shows the route that A1A follows.

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I like this road because its very scenic with miles and miles of unobstructed ocean and beach views. There's also much to do and experience along A1A. Starting in Daytona Beach, you drive past miles of high rise condo's that seem to typify Florida's coastline. But just north of Ormond Beach, the condos start to disappear and are replaced by barren hummock dunes.

Along the route, there's small beach towns, several state parks, and nature preserves. Gamble Rogers State Park has some of the best beach side camping in Florida. Strolling through the gardens at Washington Oaks State Park is a favorite stop. Flagler Beach is a small funky beach side town that begs you to stop for lunch and walk on its long pier. Marineland is marine mammal park that lets you get up close and experience dolphins.

Matanzas Inlet has parking areas allowing you to enjoy both ocean and bayside beaches. Nearby, at Fort Matanzas National Monument you can tour and experience a colonial Spanish fort built in the early 1700's.

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St. Augustine Beach

As you approach St. Augustine, you go thru the small beach communities of Painters Hill, Beverly Beach, Butler Beach, Crescent Beach, and St. Augustine Beach. Anastasia State Park has some great camping and access to miles of unspoiled barrier island beach just outside of St. Augustine. The St. Augustine Lighthouse, which is near the state park entrance, is open for climbing and gives you spectacular views of the surrounding area. In St. Augustine Beach, you can also access several beach ramps that allow vehicle access to the beach. From here, you can experience driving on the beach for 9 miles south to Matanzas Inlet. St. Augustine Beach is one of my favorite beaches due to its lack of high rises, low key atmosphere, and miles of wide flat sandy beach.

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St. Augustine is one of Florida's most historic cities. Its a small city and very easy to experience either by walking or on a bike. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument dominates the city water front. There's numerous historic sites to see within the city. Some of my favorites include the Lightner Museum, Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, The Bridge of Lions, and St George Street.

North of St.Augustine, A1A continues thru the small beach side town of Vilano. North of Vilano, A1A continues north through numerous miles of undeveloped coast line thru the Guana Tolomato Matansas Reserve. There are several access points to the beach along this section of the road.

This is just a sample of what there is to experience along A1A. There's plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view and to grab some food. Here's a blog article I wrote about Historic St. Augustine that gives some additional information. Also, here's a web site link with info about the route Florida Scenic Highway - A1A

We enjoy this area and have spent several winters in St. Augustine Beach. This year, we spent two weeks at the Bryn Mawr Ocean Resort in our RV. The RV park is right on the ocean in St. Augustine Beach. We've also camped at Anastasia State Park and would highly recommend both places.

On our recent drive to St. Augustine Beach, I used my new Panorama DashCamhttp://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=jdawjou-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00LXRR7L4 to record our drive along several sections of A1A. The dashcam makes it so easy to capture the experience of driving on a scenic road. Here's a link to a video I made with some of these clips so you can see and experience a little bit of what A1A is like -

You can follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0838630001423663032.jpgblog-0838630001423663032.jpgblog-0838630001423663032.jpgblog-0838630001423663032.jpgblog-0838630001423663032.jpgOur two months of being parked in our small RV is up and we're moving on to the travel phase of our winter sojourn. We had a very good stay in Fort Myers Beach and it was so nice to avoid the cold winter weather in a nice warm climate. Living in our small RV worked out pretty good. I wrote about my observations after the first month in this post - Living in a Smal RV - Parked for the First Month. Not much changed in the second month. Here are some final conclusions.

  • The small space in our 26 ft motorhome was workable. I can't image doing what we did in anything smaller. One of the key reasons it was able to work was where we were - in a warm tropical climate that allowed us to spend a lot of time outside. We were able to sit outside on most days, cook outside when we wanted, and spend time walking and riding our bikes to places. Had we been in Northern Florida or on the Panhandle with cool temps, staying cooped up in a small RV for 2 months would have probably caused some mental health issues (e.g, stir crazy, severe cabin fever).
  • As I said above the small space was workable, but not ideal. It would have been nice to have more sitting space and a larger cooking area. To get that, I'd have to get a larger motorhome or trailer. Both of these options would make our 2 months of stay put RVing more comfortable but it would drastically change our RV travel lifestyle that we have in the rest of the year. Our Winnebago View is about as large as I want to go in a motorhome. But having a trailer that we'd keep and use just for our FL stays is a viable option. Many of the snowbirds who stayed at the RV park, keep a trailer or 5th wheel in FL and have it put in storage during the summer months. Storing a trailer runs about $40 month and having it moved to and from the RV park runs about $40 each trip. Total storage and moving costs run about $500 and it eliminates the need for a towing vehicle. This is something we'll consider for the future.
  • All the appliances in the RV were very sufficient. The 5.3 cu ft frig with a freezer held enough food. The ducted heat pump / AC kept us evenly warm and cool. The two small flat panel TV's were fine and TV reception was sufficient. We used the RV park free wifi for basic web surfing. I love having satellite radio in the RV. I listened to it every morning.
  • Two months with no car also worked out. "Runaround Annie" missed driving around but she made do. We unhooked the RV about once per week. We also rented a car a few times. Most other travel was on bikes or on foot. Our physical shape made this work and the location made this work. The beach and several restaurants were 1 mile away. The grocery store and bank were 2+ miles away. There was also a trolley stop at the RV park and that made it easy to go the the movies and go the the grocery when we needed to lug more food. Again, I believe the location made it work. If we were in a more remote spot (like Quartzsite) we would have had to unhook the RV more and would have felt isolated. I'm not inclined to tow a vehicle so location is key to making it work.
  • The added unplanned benefit of not having a car is that we saved a lot on gas that we would have normally been spending back home. Both of us would easily spend $35 each on gas per week. That's over $500 we saved by not having a car. We also got in a lot of exercise that probably won't have happened if we had a car.
  • While we saved money on gas, we spent more on food. There was no big box store shopping or buying in large quantity of stuff on sale. With the small RV, there's no space for storing large quantities of food so we bought what we needed for the upcoming week (e.g., paper towels by the two pack, toilet paper by the 4 pack.) We also ate out a little more than we would have at home. I didn't track this but my guess is we probably spent $20-$50 more per week on food.
  • The close quarters and fairly constant contact with my spouse was a very good thing. When at home, we sometimes go our separate ways. I spend a lot of time in my office or dubbing around outside and "Runaround Annie" is usually earning her nick name - running around. But with the RV, she and I went everywhere together, ate at the table together, usually watched TV together, and most times where an arms length away. The close quarters would have made it real easy for her to deliver a "dope slap" if I earned one, but we had no fights or disagreements and didn't get on each others nerves
  • The social contact at the RV park was great. We went to many activities and events in the park. There were breakfasts, lunches, a Super Bowl party, and a dance. We met all our neighbors and had chats just about every day. We also made some new friends. You don't get this type contact with a short stay. And, we didn't get this type of social contact when we rented condo's. Its one the key things I like about staying in an RV park.

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J. Dawg playing in the weekly Corn Hole tournament

So that's about it. Living in a small RV worked out and we'll be back in the same spot next year. Let me know if you have any questions.

Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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What is the RV Lifestyle?

As a blogger and blog reader, I read some blogs that write about the RV Lifestyle. Most of these bloggers tend to write about their travels, what they're doing, or what they've learned. And they all write really good stuff. But its mostly practical and not philosophical. Few actually put a definition on what the RV Lifestyle is. One talks about getting out there, seeing the country. Some seem to infer that's its constant traveling in an RV. Some write about how they live full time in a RV. But not many actually write about what the RV Lifestyle actually is.

I'm spending the winter in an RV park and I'm surrounded by all types of RVer's. I've got to meet many of these RVer's and see how they are all different. So, I guess this set me up for pondering the question one night, while I sat on the commode, what is the RV Lifestyle? It actually posed itself in the form of a few questions. How would I define the RV Lifestyle? What's my RV Lifestyle? Can someone have an RV Lifestyle and a regular lifestyle? To some, it may be obvious. Once you own and use an RV you automatically have an RV lifestyle. But I think there maybe more to it than that or maybe not. So, it this post, I'll explore what the RV Lifestyle is to me.

Let's start with the word lifestyle. It can denote an individuals interests, attitudes, behaviors, and values. It can also denote how you live. So, if you live in an RV you must have an RV Lifestyle? One blogger I read travels in a Class B and he writes a good blog about the small motorhome lifestyle. Perhaps there are different RV Lifestyles based on the type of RV. I have a Class C motorhome, so does that mean I have a medium motorhome lifestyle? I'm not sure my interests, attitudes, behavior, and values are driven by the size of my RV.

Some may think the RV Lifestyle entails constant travel and seeing new places with jaw dropping scenery. Is constant travel and adventure a lifestyle? It seems to work for nomads. And, I can see how it could be for some and if you do it in an RV. If that's what you like to do, then constant travel in a RV may be your RV Lifestyle.

For some, an RV Lifestyle might be sitting around a crackling campfire boondocking out in a wilderness setting with no other people around. That may work for people who want an escape and need to recharge. But unless you're a hermit, a permanent escape is not much of a lifestyle. But if its temporary or something you do for a vacation or a few times a year, then perhaps that's your RV Lifestyle.

Many of the RVer's in the RV park I'm staying at live in their RVs for a few months during the winter and then go back to their sticks and bricks homes. They're not "getting out there and seeing the country". They're just parked. Some may say they don't have much of a RV Lifestyle. But they seem as happy and full filled as people who travel constantly around the country. Perhaps they just have a sedentary RV Lifestyle.

The answers to my questions came to me as I observed my wife over the past two months. My wife has traveled with me in our RV but she can only do it for a short time. She likes traveling and seeing new things, but she's not happy always moving from place to place every few days. That's why there are many times I travel alone. Her values and interests are friends, family, routines, familiar things, relationships, religion, and lots of people contact. These things are not always there for her on on a cross country road trip.

But while living in our RV for two months in the RV park, she had all these things and was very happy. And that's when it hit me. The answer to my mystery. I once read something that said a person (more specifically, a sane person) can't be two people at the same time. You can't have two personalities or two behaviors. You can't have two sets of values, likes, interests, and attitudes. It takes too much energy for a sane person to project multiple personalities.

My wife was happy living in the RV because she didn't leave or change her lifestyle. She took it with her to the RV park in Florida. My wife doesn't have an RV Lifestyle. She just has here regular lifestyle that she brought with her and re-established in another location.

And for me, my lifestyle happens to include being a "sometime" RVer. I like to travel and take long trips. I can go for a couple months at a time, but I need to follow my regular routines, eat my regular diet, and do my regular hobbies. I like exploring, but I need to have familiar things and return to my home base to reconnect, recharge, and get grounded.

And I guess that's the answer to my question. For me, there is no RV Lifestyle. There's isn't separate way of living that has a separate set of values, interests, rules, or behaviors. All I have is my regular lifestyle that happens to entail traveling in an RV from time to time. For some, constant travel is their lifestyle, for others boondocking out in the wildness from time to time is part of their lifestyle, and for others going to Florida and parking for the winter is part of their lifestyle.

And I think this is key. Your interests, hobbies, routines, habits, diets, family/ friend interaction need to be supported in your RV. You can put your lifestyle on hold if all you want to do is vacation type road trips. But, if you're serious about spending a significant amount of time in an RV, then you need to bring your lifestyle with you in the RV. Which means you need to find an RV that fits your lifestyle not vice versa. If your lifestyle includes cooking big meals, staying put for weeks, and you want lots of comfort, a Class B or small towable may not fit your lifestyle. I guess that may be why lots of folks like big RVs. Its just not for the comfort. Its so they can bring their lifestyle with them. This is exactly what I saw in the RV park. Many had brought their homes and lifestyles with them and set them up in the RV park.

And that's J. Dawg's take on the RV Lifestyle. I don't have an RV Lifestyle. I just have my regular lifestyle that happens to include RVing.

Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0120705001421858427.jpgblog-0120705001421858427.jpgblog-0120705001421858427.jpgblog-0120705001421858427.jpgblog-0120705001421858427.jpgWe're at San Carlos RV Park in Fort Myers Beach and have just about completed the first month of stay put living in our small RV. Its the longest we've ever stayed parked in one place. In a nut shell, so far so good. We're still married, still mostly sane, still talking, nobody's been hurt, and we're having a pretty good time. It took a little time to find our groove, but we've settled in and developed our routines. I think it's working out. Here's some observations.

  • We are joined by all types of rigs in our RV park - big class A's, class C's, trailers, 5-th wheels, and a couple small class B's. All nice rigs parked like us for the winter. We're all packed in tight and the park is now mostly full. The people are pretty quiet but you can hear your neighbors sneeze and smell what they're cooking.
  • Most everyone is a retired snowbird (like us) from somewhere north. All are super nice folks. I've found this to be a fairly common trait among retired snow birds. They're all happy to be retired, happy to have made it this far in life, and happy to be living their dreams.
  • So far, not having a car is working out ok. We're situated close (1-2 miles) to the beach, restaurants, and stores. I'm biking to most places. I'm usually on the bike a couple times a day. While I haven't done a lot of biking in the past 2-3 years, it all came back easy for this former long distance road biker who used to ride a 100 miles a week. I'm a little unique in this regard. Someone who is out of shape or who can't bike would probably need a vehicle for mobility. When we need to run errands or go sightseeing, we just unhook the RV. It takes 5 mins to unhook and our Winnebago View is small enough to go anywhere.
  • "Runaround Annie" is also making do. She's walking more than biking. She's also linked up with some new friends from a local congregation and is getting rides to her regular meetings.
  • Stay put RVing is a lot different than RV traveling. After the first 10 days, the vacation feel was mostly gone. There's no itinerary or places we have to get to. We do some exploring each week when we unhook the RV, but mostly the RV stays parked for several days at a time. Stay put RVing is not camping. There's no sitting around the campfire singing Cumbaya. There's not the daily adventures and constant new experiences that comes with traditional RV travel. Its RV living and its more like living at home - just on a much smaller simpler scale and the view is different.
  • We're far from bored. There's still plenty to do and see in the area. The summer like weather makes us want to be outside and venture out. When we unhook the RV, we do some exploring like visiting a state park, going to Sanibel Island for the day, visiting a new town, or taking in a movie.
  • "Runaround Annie" had some adjustments to make. She's a self proclaimed socialite and was missing face time with her girl friends. A brief period of loneliness set in. But, once she started connecting with some other females she quickly got her groove back. Texting, email, and Facebook are keeping her connected with friends. She also had friends send her selfies so she could have some pictures.
  • With a small RV, there's not much opportunity for puttering and dubbing around. These are critical guy activities. Dubbing around and puttering fills a good part of some days back home. In the RV park, there's no grass to mow, no yard to clean, no weeds to wack, no pool to clean, no cars to maintain, and no machines to fix. Also, nothings broke that I've had to fix. Its good that's nothing's broke but bad for a Mr. Fixit who likes doing fixit tasks. So, I've had to find things to fill the void left by the lack of dubbing and puttering. I've been doing a lot of writing and photography, shooting video clips, and building a new web site. I guess I'm still dubbing around and puttering, just doing it on the computer and with the cameras.
  • Living in the RV is much more simple than living at home. Like I said above, there's a lot less work to do and you have a lot less stuff. Cleaning up is much quicker in the RV. Its really small so there's not much that can get dirty or cluttered. Also, there's no travel itinerary or travel plans to execute. The simple living has allowed me to pursue more creative pursuits. This has been an unexpected finding and its been a good thing.
  • I've sort of got used to living in the small space. We've got all the creature comforts. The slide out gives us a nice comfortable seating / eating area. The ducted AC has kept the RV nice and evenly cool on hot days and nights. The on- air TV reception has been very good. I love having my satellite radio which gives me all the news, music, and sports that I want. So, its been livable. And when the four small walls get to me, I just go outside for a walk or bike ride.
  • The biggest downside has been the limited cooking space. Breakfast and lunches are easy to do. But, without good counter space, its difficult to cook a full meal (something I normally don't do when traveling). I like to cook from scratch (vs using processed food), so this has been a challenge. I also wish I had a bigger bathroom and a bed with a real mattress. These are things I "make do with" when traveling but have become a desire while staying put. It sort of makes me long for a little larger RV or to buy a good sized travel trailer that I would leave in FL. More on this in the next post.
  • The fairly constant togetherness with my wife has been good. We get along well and like each others company. The small space fosters a stronger bond and I think it amplifies the strengths of our relationship. It could just as easily work the other way for someone who has some bad habits or may have issues with their partner.

That's it for now. Before we leave, I'll post some final thoughts on living in a small RV. I'd like to hear from others who have done this to see what you may have learned.

Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0437008001420989874.jpgblog-0437008001420989874.jpgblog-0437008001420989874.jpgblog-0437008001420989874.jpgblog-0437008001420989874.jpgI'm in the process of trying something new - staying put for an extended time living in my small RV. Living in an RV is not something new or novel. Lots of folks do it. Full timers do it all the time. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in RV’s. Over the past few years, I've spent the equivalent of several months away from home living on the road in my RV. But its been living on the road, which involves a lot of traveling, sightseeing, and moving to a new campsite every few days.

This winter will be a new experience for me and my wife. We're spending 10+ weeks in Florida parked in one spot and living in our small 25 ft Winnebago View motorhome, which has less than 200 sq ft of living space. We’re doing this in lieu of renting a condo for part of the winter, which has been our usual wintering roosting method for the past several years. We bought a new RV last year and one of the reasons we bought this particular unit (see J. Dawg's RV ) was to use it for our winter stay. So, this winter will be the test to see how my best laid plan works out.

Undoubtedly, staying parked and living in such a small space for several weeks will present us with a new set of challenges. Obviously, we won’t have all the conveniences we have at home and we'll be living in very close quarters. I figure it will be somewhat like living on the road (see Living on the Road) but without all the movement and exploring. Here’s some of the things we’ll have to deal with.

  • The only vehicle we’ll have is the RV – there’s no car for 10+ weeks. My wife’s nick name is “Runaround Annie” because of her constant bebopping around in her car to visit friends and shopping. We’ll see how “Runaround” does being grounded with just a bike and an occasional untethering of the RV.
  • We brought bikes so we’re planning to use them, walking, and public transit for much of our getting around. This will be a change for a couple of 60 yr olds used to driving to most places. It should be a good thing for our exercise regime.
  • The RV has all the cooking essentials (stove, microwave) but it doesn’t have an oven or big cooking area. Meals will have to stay simple and hopefully we can do some cooking outside.
  • TV reception will be on air and limited to the basic networks. There’s no cable, no Netflix, and the internet at the RV park can less than high speed. We brought lots of DVD’s and reading material. I figure we made it thru the 70’s and 80’s without a lot of these things so we’ll see how we do going back in time.
  • We could only bring about a week’s worth of clothes. We’ll see how we do wearing the same sets of clothes for weeks on end. At least it will easy to recognize each other.
  • The only “toys” I brought are camera’s, a laptop, a bike, and a mandolin. I can easily entertain myself taking pictures, shooting videos, writing, biking, and learning new songs. Not sure what my wife brought, though non-stop texting, listening to her iPod, playing Farmville, playing Candy Crush and Words with Friends keeps her entertained at home and these should still work while we’re in FL.
  • We need to remember to take some solo downtime. I love my wife, but sometimes I need some male bonding.

The good thing about our location is that we’re in the tropical zone and near the ocean. Hopefully, we have warm weather and can spend a lot of time outside. We'll also have lots of neighbors close by to visit with. I’m also hoping we enjoy the closeness and frequent togetherness. Otherwise, I could end up writing a post like "The War of the Roses”. So, stay tuned. I’ll post updates to let you know how it goes and what we learn.

Follow more of my journeys at http://jdawgjourneys.com

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blog-0578722001420333324.jpgblog-0578722001420333324.jpgblog-0578722001420333324.jpgblog-0578722001420333324.jpgblog-0578722001420333324.jpgI'm not a camper, I'm and RVer. I heard this phrase recently while listening to a podcast and it struck a chord with me. The person who said it, (Nick Russell of the Gypsy Journal) was talking about what he does while living full time in his motorhome. According to Nick, RVer's don't sit around the camp fire and sing Cumbaya. RVer's are in their motorhomes or trailers cooking, using the internet, and watching TV. I write this article as I sit in my air conditioned RV, listening to satellite radio, and bogging on the internet.

Many years ago, I used to be a camper. I started out as a camper spending my vacations living in a tent, enjoying the outside, sitting by a fire, and cooking outside. I owned several tents over the years. But, I'm not a camper anymore. Maybe its the passage of time. Maybe its all the conveniences. Maybe I just got lazy. But, now I'm an RVer. And I'm not alone. More people are buying RV's (sales of these vehicles are increasing) and doing what I'm doing. So, what distinguished me as an RVer? Here's my list.

  • I don't sleep on the ground under the stars. I sleep in a bed under the AC.
  • I don't cook on an open fire. I cook on a stove or in the microwave.
  • I don't watch the stars. I watch TV.
  • I don't set up camp. I park the RV and plug in.
  • I don't bathe in a river or take a cold bucket show. I wash in my shower.
  • I don't look at the sky for the weather. I check my smartphone.
  • I don't swat flies. I surf the web.
  • I don't sit on a log. I sit on a leather couch or recliner.

I still get to see many of the same great natural views and see many beautiful places. I still take hikes, sit by lakes, and enjoy the outside. I just do it with an RV near by.

Is this all bad? I don't think so. I've been in both worlds. I liked camping and I like RVing. Its just a different way of doing the same thing. I suppose you could be both. But for me, things changed and now I'm an RVer.

How about you? Are you a camper or an RVer?

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0399684001417964159.jpgblog-0399684001417964159.jpgblog-0399684001417964159.jpgblog-0399684001417964159.jpgblog-0399684001417964159.jpgGetting mail, paying bills, banking, and getting cash - just some of the tasks of modern life. They're simple enough if you're at home, but if you travel a lot, getting paper mail, paying bills, and getting cash can become an added complexity. But thanks to the Internet and mobile communications, these tasks can be transformed to be less dependent on being at your home location. In this post, I'll share what I've done to turn these tasks into paperless and electronic tasks.

Let me first say, that while I have a background working in technology, it took awhile for me to embrace the paperless and electronic / mobile payment technology. It was a big change for this old Dawg. I still liked the security of holding a paper statement and writing a physical check when I wanted.

But, over the past 2 years, to make it easier to travel, I slowly migrated to a more paperless and electronic payment process. I did it slowly so I could build my trust, get used to using the tools / services, and establish a workflow process that allowed me to maintain the control and security that I wanted. And now, I much prefer it to what I was doing before. So here's a summary of what I've done.

Electronic Statements

One of the first things I did was find out what the businesses I use for recurring services like utilities, banking, credit cards, and investments, offered for paperless services. Most offer some form of electronic delivery of statements and bills via email. I signed up for electronic delivery for a select few to see how I liked it. Then I migrated all that I could to electronic delivery. It works great. I get an email or txt message when a bill or statement is ready. Its easy to view the statements or bills on line or from my smartphone. Most vendors store several months of statements so I can go back and review them if I want. This eliminated a lot of paper mail. The only downside it that I had to set up usernames and passwords for each business and had to figure out a way to keep track of and remember them.

Electronic Bill Payment

Once I went to electronic statements and bills, the next step was setting up electronic payments. My strategy for this was to have my recurring bills, the ones that tend to be the same each month, set up to auto pay on a single credit card. Most businesses offer this as an option and its easy to set up on the businesses web site. This reduces the number of payments I have to physically perform. I just need to pay the credit card bill once per month (which I pay electronically from my bank). The added benefit is that I use a cash back credit card that gives me 1% back on all purchases. Last year, I got back about $250. It sure beats buying stamps and envelopes.

You can set up this type of payment process with your bank. If the business can present an ebill to your bank, you can usually send an electronic payment from your bank, but I found the credit card process much easier and it gives me money back. There are a couple businesses that don't take credit card so I set them up with a ACH authorization on a checking account.

Mobile Banking and Electronic Payments

I maintain bank accounts at two institutions - a local community bank and a nationwide bank. Most of my bill paying (that doesn't go to a credit card) is done from the local bank. Both banks offer mobile and online access to all my accounts. I can check balances and transfer money between accounts all from my smartphone.

I have two checking accounts set up for bill paying - one for writing paper checks and debit purchases (for incidentals and food) and one for electronic payments. I wanted to closely manage the funding of the electronic payment account. Each month, when I get emails about bills that are due, I review them, and tally up all the bills, There's only about 3-4 that don't go on a credit card. I electronically transfer just enough money into the electronic payment checking account and then make the payments from that account. Its a once a month process and the account usually only holds money for about a week while payments are being made. I did it this so that in case one of the businesses gets hacked with my bank account info, my account only has a limited amount of funds in it for a brief amount of time. Call me overly paranoid, but this is the only account that I have set up for electronic payments.

If I need cash while traveling, I use an ATM or I find a branch office of the nationwide bank where I have an account. I can move money into this account from my smartphone and just walk in and cash a check or use one of their ATM's.

Documents

There are certain documents that I may need to access while traveling or that I want to maintain a duplicate copy of. Examples of these are things like insurance policies, vehicle titles, vehicle registrations, health care proxy, power of attorney, and copies of credit cards. I also like to keep copies of travel plans and itineraries on line. For paper documents, I use my all-in-one laser printer to scan copies of these documents and upload them to Google Drive. There are several choices for this type of service but I've chosen Google Drive as my electronic file cabinet. If you already have a Google account for Gmail, its easy to set up folders in Drive just like you have on your computer and upload documents to these folders. To keep the info private, make sure you don't set them up as shared. Google offers the first 15GB of storage for free (the equivalent of a typical thumb drive). I have the Google Drive App on my smartphone which keeps everything is sync and lets me access everything from my smartphone.

I use Evernote as my electronic tackboard. This is where checklists, to-do lists, shopping lists, idea lists, and reminders go. I also use it for recipes. When I see something that I want to retain (something in print or in a store) it so easy to take a picture of it with my smartphone and upload it to Evernote. I have access to all my notebooks from my desktop, laptop, and smartphone. This is a free service and very handy, once you get in the habit of using it.

All this effort has really cut down on my paper mail, the paper I handle, and check writing. I like what I've done and found very good services and capabilities that I can stay with. I can get most of my important mail electronically and pay my bills from anywhere. I think this is key - find out what works for you and then stick with it. For me, going paperless is not about using scanners and equipment to get rid of all the old paper documents. Its about selecting and setting up services and then using these services to get rid of the new paper. Going paperless can make traveling (and your life) so much easier.

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/

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If you are healthy, living pain free and disease free, you are one lucky person. I just read a statistic that almost 50% of adults in the US have at least one chronic illness and it gets worse for older adults. Over 70% of us over age 50 have at least one chronic illness. A chronic illness is one for which there's usually no cure and requires constant treatment. These illnesses are things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pulmonary conditions, diabetes, autoimmune illness, chronic pain, heart disease, depression, etc. The good news is that, due to new treatments and therapies, these illnesses aren't killing us like they used to. The bad news, more of us are getting afflicted with them.

Having a chronic illness can put a real dent into a RV travel lifestyle. I know because I have one of these. My chronic illness is ulcerative colitis. I won't go into to the details, but having colitis means I go #2 more often than the average cowboy and sometimes when I don't want to. Having this illness requires me to cope and deal with my symptoms when they're active. It can affect how and when I travel and it places some limits on what I feel I can do. It also means having to be treated which involves taking prescribed drugs and supplements for the rest if my life and having to be monitored a few times a year by my doctors.

Based on the statistics I mentioned above, I'm guessing there's a lot of RVer's dealing with one or more of these. And while a chronic illness can have some impacts on your lifestyle, it may not mean that you have to stop everything. It may just mean making changes, putting limits of yourself, adjusting how and when you do things, and adding in new procedures and logistics. So, I thought I'd share some of the things I've changed, things I do, and how its affected my RV travel.

How I Travel

I find the RV mode of travel can be very accommodating for someone with a chronic illness. There are things we need that an RV supports very well, like having a bathroom, a place to change, room to store supplies, a frig, and a place to rest. My illness can sometimes make it necessary to be near a bathroom. In my RV, there's one right behind my drivers seat. I also think choosing the right RV is important if you have a chronic illness. A small nimble motor home is best for me because I want my bathroom with me at all times. A travel trailer might not be right for a person with chronic pain and back problems. Having a frig to keep medications might be necessary. And some may need reliable constant power for medical devices.

When I Travel

I need to see my doctors at least 2-3 times per year. This is one reason I keep a permanent residence and do "sometiming" RV travel versus "full timing". I schedule most of my appointments for the late fall (right before I go to FL) and for the early spring. I like to get checked out before I leave on big trips. This leaves winter, summer, and fall for when I do most of my RVing. I also tend to limit trip durations to 2-3 months at the most and not try to do big extended trips. I can see a lot in several 2 month trips.

Also, I know when (during the day) that my symptoms tend to be more active and I plan my day and activities accordingly.

Maintain Contact With My Doctors

I'm very fortunate. I near Boston and have access to some of the best medical care in the world. I have some great doctors who have treated me for several years. Its important for me to maintain contact with them because they know me, they know I travel, and they know my disease. I let them know when I'm traveling and I have access to them via email and phone. This has been very handy when I'm having a problem and need advice. Also, my doctors and I know what's needed when I have flare up and what drugs I need to settle things down. This is such an important thing. I don't want to have to deal with an unknown doctor at an urgent care clinic or emergency room in some city that doesn't know my condition or treatments, unless its an emergency.

Know What I Need to Take with Me

Some one once asked me if I wear briefs or boxers. My answer used to be briefs. But now my answer is - It Depends. Thats right folks. Its rare, but sometimes this old cowboy might have an "accident". I travel with a supply of Depends and use them if things flare up. I always travel with a good supply of anti diarrhea pills and always have some on me along with some tissue. I also carry a small knapsack with me when I venture out that has a change of clothes, extra underwear, paper towels, baby wipes, and plastic trash bag. I've learned that "ya gotta do what ya gotta do". It took me awhile to get my head around this. But, I decided that I didn't want to worry about what might happen. Instead, I just stay prepared, have what I need handy, venture out, and deal with it when and if it happens.

Ensure I Can Get My Prescriptions

My doctors can electronically send prescriptions pretty much any where in the country. They can also fax them if needed. My health insurance drug plan supports a nationwide network of pharmacies (CVS). So when I need a refill, I email my doctor and give him/her the pharmacy name and address. I've had my doctors send prescription refills to places like FL and TX and I can pick them up the next day and pay my normal insurance copays just like I do at home. This has worked great for normal oral medications. I don't need to get infusions so I don't know how that would work.

Know What I Can Do / Know What I Can't Do / Reduce Stress

I don't feel comfortable doing major multi-mile hikes or big bike rides anymore. But I can do short ones. I can do the scenic drives. I can get out and sit by a lake or scenic spot. Long days take their toll on me. I can't do late nights anymore. And I need downtime. I've taken up some new things, like writing and photography. I've hiked lots of big mountains, ridden a bike all over this country, seen most of the big cities, and sunned myself on the best beaches. I don't feel I'm missing out on too much. Now, I know what I can do and don't fret about what I can't do.

Eat Properly

When traveling, its so easy to go off a diet and start eating fast food or lots of processed foods. Its important for me to stay on a diet with foods that I know I do best with. I've got a frig and kitchen in my RV, so there's no excuse not to each right. I might eat out more when traveling, but I try to eat healthy.

I think travel and the RV lifestyle can be pretty good therapy for someone with a chronic illness. I wrote a blog article about it this summer called The RV Lifestyle - A Chronic Disease Therapy. It can give you purpose and be a source of happiness. When you've got a chronic illness, there can be days when there are no wine and roses. But it won't always be that way. Living and traveling with one of these means having to make adjustments, accepting what you can and cannot do, and finding joy in things you can do. Also know, you're not alone.

Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/

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My RV Travel Checklist

blog-0051125001414591671.gifblog-0051125001414591671.gifblog-0051125001414591671.gifblog-0051125001414591671.gifblog-0051125001414591671.gifGetting an RV ready for a trip. I'm sure everyone has their own routine that they follow to get an RV ready to roll. Some may have a very detailed and documented list and others might just wing it. I'm in between with some repetitive actions that are now built into my memory based on years of practice. But, I'm also an old Boy Scout and the "Be Prepared" motto has stuck with me, so my RV travel prep is broad based. I figured it might to be good to write this down and share it so others might benefit from it. So, here it is. Its in the sequence that I do them.

1. Get the RV Ready to Roll.

There's some obvious things we all do to get our rigs ready to roll. We start the frig, charge the batteries, check the tire pressure, check the water level, and check the propane level. But I like to keep my rig ready to roll. So, to make the pre-trip work easier, there are some regular things I do at the end of every trip.

When I come back from a trip,

  • I flush the holding tanks on the last day so I can start the next trip with empty tanks.
  • I refuel a few miles before I get home so the rig is full with fuel for the next trip.
  • I wash all the towels, face clothes, and linens.
  • I re-supply any consumable like toilet paper, trash bags, plastic cups, bottled water, and paper towels.
  • I make sure the personal hygiene supplies (tooth paste, soap, mouth wash, dental floss, shampoo) are all sufficient for the next trip.
  • I empty all the trash, sweep and vacuum out the rig, and clean the frig.

This end of the trip work makes it so much easier to take off at a moments notice.

2. Buy Food for the First 3-4 Days

I usually make a menu plan for the first 3-4 days of a trip and buy that food a day before departure. I usually take some food that's easy to cook and sometimes may actually cook the first couple of dinners and freeze them so all I have to do is heat something up for the first couple of days on the road.

3. Take Copies of all Reservations, Tickets, and the Itinerary

I print out copies of any reservations I've made, make sure I've go the tickets to any events, and print a copy of my itinerary. I also put a copy of the itinerary on Google Drive so I can access it from my smart phone. All paper copies get stored in a portfolio folder that I keep in the RV. This portfolio also has copies of my RV insurance declaration page, my vehicle title, and a printed copy of all my IDs and credit cards.

4. Put Travel Notices on the Credit Cards

This is so easy to forget, but so important. To avoid having my cards rejected out of state, I put travel notices on all the cards before I leave. It easy to do with a phone call to the credit card company to let them know the dates of your travel and places you stay.

5. Program the GPS

I plug in the first couple of destinations into the GPS before I leave. My GPS has an address book to store destinations so its easy to put them in ahead of time and call them up on the day of departure.

6. Charge all the Batteries / Take All the Chargers

Its amazing all the electronic gizmo's that we travel with and all the gizmo's have batteries and chargers. I make sure the cell phone, tablet, laptop, and three camera's are all charged up the night before. I have a yellow canvas zipper bag that all the chargers go into. That bag stays in the house when I'm home and it goes in the RV when I travel.

7. Take the Extra Key and the Extra Wallet

I always travel with an extra key to the RV and an extra wallet. They're never kept in the RV when its home, but they go in the day before I leave. Loosing your keys or locking them in the rig can make for small disaster. The extra wallet has an extra ID, extra credit card and and extra cash just in case I loose my wallet or if it gets stolen.

8. Pack the Cloths

This one of the last things I do and its the quickest. My wife can sometimes can take several days to pack clothes for a trip (mostly deciding what to take). But, I'm a typical guy and I can pack for a lunar expedition or an African safari in 10 minutes. All my clothes fit into 2-3 large eBags. I already keep extra shoes, some shirts, hats, a coat, and a rain coat in the RV so packing for me is easy.

9. Get the House Ready

On the morning of departure, I get all the home security stuff (e.g. FakeTV Burglar Deterrent and 7-Day On/Off Plug In Digital Light Timers) set up, lock up any valuables in the safe, cancel the newspaper, and give any last minute instructions to my sons who are watching the house. I also leave a copy my itinerary at home so my sons will know where I'll be and email a copy to my folks.

10. Do the Pre-Take Off Walk Arounds

Before I sit in the driver seat and buckle up, here's the list of my final actions.

  • Get out and do a walk around to make sure all storage compartments are closed, all cords are unplugged and put away, the awning is secured, all leveling blocks are stored, the wheel chocks are put away, the step is in, the door is closed tight, and nothings is in front or under the RV.
  • Do a walk around inside the RV to make sure all windows are closed, all vents are closed, appliances like the A/C, water pump, and water heater are off, propane is off, the TV power and antenna booster is off, all cabinets and drawers are closed.
  • Start the RV and check to make sure the frig is running on DC.

And lastly, before I take off, I say a prayer and ask for a safe trip.

That's my checklist. It looks like a lot, but it's become somethings that's pretty easy to perform and its become a routine. In fact, I do item 10 every time I move the RV.

For those looking for more detailed checklists, Good Sam has a page of travel check lists that you can see at this link: Good Sam Travel Check Lists. FMCA also has some motorhome checklists that you can see here: http://www.fmca.com/motorhome/basics/156-motorhome-checklist.html

Let me know if you have some check list items that you'd like to share.

You can follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/

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blog-0932212001413925338.jpgIf you're in New England and want to get south or if you're in the south and want to get to New England, you most likely have to pass somewhere near the New York City area. If you have an RV, it's inevitable that someday you'll have to drive through this area on some journey. Its a congested and confusing area to drive through with a maze of highways that crisscross each other. It can be very stressful and intimidating for someone driving for the first time through this area.

Living in New England, I've been driving through this area for a several years now and developed my preferred routes and driving routines. I'm sure everyone has their own thoughts and routes about the New York City (NYC) area and there's no right or wrong answers here. So, in this post I'll share some of what I do when I drive through the NYC area.

Drive on the Weekend

Traffic is lighter on the weekend but this a relative statement. On the weekdays, traffic can be horrendous with lots of delays. On the weekends, it's just plain heavy with maybe one or two delays, if you're lucky. I always plan to leave on a Saturday so I can get thru the whole NYC and DC areas over a weekend and time my returns for the same time.

Drive During Daylight / Drive in the Middle Lane

With all the route changes, exits, interchanges, and lane shifts / merges it's so much easier to see where you're going during the day. Also, on these roads there's lots of exits and off ramps with traffic entering and exiting from the right. While I normally drive in the far right hand lane, I find driving in the middle lane thru the NYC area avoids dodging some of the incoming traffic and getting stuck in a exit-only lane. Also, some of the highways around NYC are 4 lanes wide. Crossing lanes with an RV isn't a quick move and these highways are not always easy for making quick lane changes.

Don't Rely Totally on the GPS

Your GPS will give you the fastest or shortest route based on distance or roads and probably route you onto congested highways like I-95. I turn off my GPS off when I get near NYC. I don't want to listen to Helga (my GPS) telling me to take exits or to go on roads that I don't want to take. Its confusing enough and I don't need to hear Helga jabbering away as I try to stay on my route. Also, have a map handy and study it ahead of time to known which routes you will take.

Avoid I-95

I-95 through southern Conn and into NYC is a very very busy road. Back ups at the George Washington Bridge (GWB) can be nightmarish. Also, the lower levels of the GWB has propane restrictions. I avoid I-95 at all costs. My preferred route going south (on a weekend) is I-84 thru CT. I go south of Hartford (to avoid driving thru the city) on the Charter Oak Bridge and then get on I-91 south. At Meridan, I get on I-691 west to get back on I-84. I follow I-84 west to I-684 south to I-287 west (what I call the 8 Lanes of Craziness) over the Tappan Zee Bridge (no toll going west) and then follow I-287 around the city until it intersects with the NJ Turnpike well south of the city. Some folks take the Garden State Parkway south off I-287 but it can get bogged down with all the toll booths and traffic is heavier than I-287.

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Going north, I'll take the NJ Turnpike north to I-287,then north on I-87 to I-84 east, then cross the Hudson River at Newburgh, NY and follow I-84 east thru CT. This avoids the whole I-287 craziness around the Tappan Zee and the bridge toll. If its a weekday, I'll take I-287 and then go north on the NY Thruway (I-87) north up to I-90 and then follow the Mass Pike (I-90) thru Mass and avoid all of Conn. On a weekday, traffic can be heavy around Danbury, Waterbury, and Hartford and is best avoided. The I-87 to I-90 route is a little longer but its a much easier drive with little to no congestion.

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Some avoid this whole area (and the tolls) by going I-84 to I-81into PA and down to MD and VA. I've done this route when heading out west or to the the VA or NC area. Its longer this way and at some point you've got to log some miles getting back to I-95 at either either Baltimore, DC, or Richmond. But it does avoid all the craziness and stress around NYC and that's worth something.

Avoid the Parkways North of the City

The Hutchinson, Saw Mill, and Merritt Parkways north of NYC all have low bridges (to low for RV's). The Taconic State Parkway and the Palisades Parkway don't allow RV's.

The Garden State Parkway (GSP) does allow RV's. There might be a couple low bridges on the northern section. I've never had a problem on the GSP with my RV at 11' 3". Be prepared for lots of toll booths on the GSP. The NJ turnpike is fine for RV's and its a good road now that most of the construction is finished. It also has quite a few rest areas with fuel and food.

Be Prepared for Tolls

You'll hit tolls in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. It can run close to $20-$30 in tolls going thru this area or more depending on which bridge you go over. Its so much easier to use an EZ-Pass transponder thru this area. All the states on the eastern seaboard (except FL) accept EZ-Pass. You can get a transponder in your home state or apply in a New England state. Some states charge for them, some don't. Be sure to set it up with enough money. If you go thru the NYC area and then back within three days you could easily run out of money in your EZ-Pass account. I set mine up to maintain a $100 balance so I never run out of money.

Avoid Buying Buy Fuel in CT and NY

Fuel is almost $.30-$.40 cents higher in theses states due to fuel taxes. I tend to fuel up in MA and then again in NJ and vice versa on the return trip north. Also, be aware in NJ you can't pump your own (state law) but it does have low fuel prices due to a very low fuel tax.

Limited Stop Overs

Around NYC there's few if any campgrounds or places to boon dock for the night. You sort of have to plan to get thru the area before you stop for the night. On the northern edge, there's places to stay up around Newburgh, NY. On the southern end, there's a state park in Delaware (Lums Pond SP) that's open all year and is just a few miles from the highway. It got nice sites around a large field but only 5 have electricity. I've stayed at Lums Pond a few times en route through the area.

That's my wisdom and info on how I drive through the NYC area. I'm always glad when its behind me. If you've got some advice or input on this, please leave me a comment.

You can follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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blog-0153360001413375900.jpgAssateague Island is a barrier island on Maryland's eastern sea shore. Its one of 10 protected National Seashores. Its got miles and miles of unspoiled beaches. Its also known for its wild feral horses that roam the island. The horses have their origins back to colonial times when colonists released horses for grazing on the island.

The 37 mile long island is a large undeveloped barrier island off the Delmarva peninsula. Its protected on the northern end by Assateague State Park. The state park has a large campground (350 sites) and provides beach and bay access. The lower part is protected by the Assateague Island National Seashore and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The National Seashore has two camping areas with a total of about 100 sites. If you're into rustic beachside camping and love the ocean, it doesn't get much better than Assateague Island.

Assateague Island is about 10 miles south from Ocean City. Along this short distance you experience a dramatic landscape change going from over developed condo / retail land to rural countryside to barren island. On our way there, we stopped at the National Seashore Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is on the mainland before you cross over to the island. It has good information about the island, some exhibits, and a short movie about the wild horses that is worth watching.

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Assateague Island is undeveloped, which is what makes it so special. There's no stores, no houses, no gas stations, no ATM's. On our first day, we spent a couple of hours exploring the National Seashore. There’s some hiking trails, a picnic area, and a boat launch area on the bay side. The bay side is popular for kayaking. There are two main beaches on the ocean side with large parking areas. The beach is much like the Outer Banks with endless miles of beaches, high dunes, heavy surf, and lots of salt spray. There’s a nice bike path that starts at the Visitor Center, goes over its own bridge, and follows the paved road on the island until it terminus. To drive beyond the paved road onto the beach requires and off road permit and a four wheel drive vehicle.

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J. Dawg's campsite in the H Loop

We stayed at the State Park campground because the facilities are better (hot showers vs cold) than the National Seashore campground and it has a section with electrical hookups. The campground borders the beach and the water is just steps away. It’s a very open camping setting with little to no protection from sun and wind. The campsites and roads are all paved and well spaced. There are bath houses with showers in each camping loop. There's one dump station for the entire campground. Camping at Assateague Island is very popular. The campgrounds recommend reservations during the peak summer and fall months. I had made my original reservations 10 months in advance for a spot in the State Park section that has electrical hookups (H Loop).

There’s evidence of the wild horses everywhere (i.e. horse droppings) and they are readily seen. On the Maryland section of the island the herd of wild horses numbers about 100. The horses run wild foraging on grasses, tree bark, and plants. They group themselves into bands consisting of about 5-6 horses. Each band is led by a male stallion who protects his harem of mares and folds. The horses are all over the place – in roads, parking lots, beach, and campgrounds. The horses aren’t tame but they are unafraid of humans and do not appear aggressive. But they will bite and kick. The Park Service manages the size of the herd by vaccinating the mares to limit their ability to reproduce. They do this with dart guns to inject the horses from a distance. The Virginia section has a herd of about 140 horses. This herd runs wild but is owned and managed by a local firefighters group. There’s an annual round up of these horses and a certain number of folds are sold off each year as a fund raiser.

On our first day we saw horses in the National Seashore and right in the State Park campground. They were right near the campers grazing, joining in on camp fires, and seemingly begging for a handout. Here are some pictures.

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During our stay over Columbus Day weekend, it was warm (mid 70's) and partially sunny. We have some beautiful beach weather on our second day. The wind blew constantly at 15-20 mph and surf was heavy. Our loop in the campground was full but elsewhere it was pretty empty. The State Park campground is open until the end of October.

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A popular activity on Assateague Island

Assateague Island is great RV destination. Camping here reminded me of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cumberland Island in Georgia, and St. Josephs Peninsula in Florida. All barrier islands, remote, and unspoiled. They’re all harsh places beaten by weather. The air is moist with salt spray and it quickly covers everything. The wind blows constantly. The roar of the ocean is ever present. All are beautiful places.

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Sunset over the bay

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Sunrise over the ocean

Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com

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