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  1. I just finished reading an article in the New York Times travel section. Titled: To Reduce Travel Stress, Plan Less, the article by Geoffrey Morrison highlights the advantages of making travel decisions on the run, as you travel. While it is based on travel by plane or automobile, stays in hotels or hostels, and meals in restaurants, many of the concepts are applicable to RV travel. In fact, in our travels, this has been our normal mode of travel. I know that some people have to have every RV park reserved for an entire trip. Activities are planned before leaving home. We seldom plan more than a destination and that is in general terms. As we travel we make decisions on where to stay each evening based on our location and the possible places to stay that are ahead. This usually happens about 3 or 4:00 p.m. If we're looking for a rest area or Walmart, we start looking for possible places within our desired travel distance. If it is an RV park that we want for the night, we'll call ahead to ensure a space is available. Traveling this way allows us to consider things like traffic, weather and our endurance in each day's travel. Traffic delay? No problem, we will travel less distance that day and stay some place within range before sunset. Bad weather ahead, we may stop and stay near our current location. Even if the weather is unavoidable, I'd rather be parked than on the road during a dangerous storm. If continuing to travel longer than usual will keep us ahead of a storm, we can stretch our travel for the day. With no reservations, we can alter our travel to fit conditions without worry about having to be a certain place at a certain time. As we travel, we are always looking for places of interest. Without a set schedule, we are able to spend a spontaneous moment or a day exploring a park, festival, visitors center or museum. In Wyoming there are many roadside historical or cultural sites. Each one is an opportunity to learn more about the state, it's history and people. I mention specifically Wyoming because almost all of these sites we've seen are RV friendly, well marked large pull outs with easy exit and re-entry to the highway. They make excellent lunch stops as well. They are perfect for relaxed travel. In the spring of 2016, we made a stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We imagined spending two nights and once assured of our arrival we reserved a site for two nights. Once there we started exploring Hot Springs National Park. After the first day, we added two more nights to our stay. There were more things to see and do than we had anticipated. We ended up reserving the full spa treatment at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, the one remaining original bathhouse in the park. Louise and I both had the full treatment then went to The Pancake House for breakfast! Well worth staying an extra day or two. In 2004, we left Texas with plans to travel the Lewis and Clark Trail. It was the 200th anniversary of their trip going westward. We made our way north and east to Louisville, Kentucky traveling another of our favorite routes, the Natchez Trace. At one of our stops we happened on the grave marker for Meriwether Lewis. We hadn't planned on finding grave sites for Lewis or Clark but ended up making that part of the trip. Anyway, that delayed our trip by a few hours, no problem, no reservations. It turns Clark's grave was in a cemetery we passed frequently when we lived in the St. Louis, Missouri area. We made that entire trip with few if any reservations. Each day Louise read an entry from Lewis' journal so we would appreciate the travel challenges faced by the expedition. We found many of the visitors centers and historic sites had RV parking and when necessary we could spend a night in a park to tour a museum. The relaxed nature of our travel made the trip a delight, one of the highlights of our 18 years of RV travel. We did have one serious interruption in the trip. Louise's mother's health had taken a turn for the worst. Her doctor told her she could no longer drive. This was the end of her stay in Lake Havasu, Arizona. We left Missouri, spent three weeks helping sell many of her belongings, and drove her to Arvada, Colorado where she would take up occupancy with her youngest daughter and her family. Following that two week delay, we headed north to the nearest portion of the trail in Western South Dakota. We spent several days in an RV park in Custer, SD then picked up Lewis and Clark in Pierre, SD. On the return to the midwest we would visit several of the sites we had missed including The Sargent Floyd Monument in Sioux City, Iowa. Sargent Floyd was the only casualty of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. His death is thought to be a result of a ruptured appendix. We were able to take on the unplanned event without worrying about reservations or staying to a schedule. Today we are at my daughter's home with no set date for departure and we are discussing where we will go as we head east to visit relatives. We'll work it out as we go. Do we ever make reservations? Yes! Some events attract a crowd, some events are scheduled for only a certain time. The FMCA Conventions are reservation events for us. We attend a pre-rally before the convention and that also is a reservation situation. In 2003, we attended the celebration of 100 years of flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. We had reservations in an RV park as soon as we had secured tickets for the event. Many people made long range plans and reserved a location for viewing the total eclipse last year. We chose to locate in northeast Colorado, near but not on the path of totality. As day of the eclipse approached we changed our plans several times based on the weather forecast. Two days before the eclipse we left our campsite in Colorado headed for Idaho. The day before the eclipse we woke up in the parking lot of Little America on I-80 in western Wyoming. The weather looked as good or better in Wyoming so we picked the general location where we would be for the eclipse. On the way to Riverton, Wyoming Louise called the Wind River RV Park. They had a cancellation, we got a site with full hook-ups for the eclipse. It turned out perfect, we saw the complete eclipse. Que sera sera, what will be will be.
  2. 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
  3. Getting 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/
  4. Yoda, the Jedi Master, once said, "Always pass on what you have learned." I've read a few RV blog articles that attempt to do this. They've got titles such as "Lessons From the Road," "Things I Learned Along the Way," and "RV Travel Tips." Some offer very practical how-to or what-to-do advice. I believe we can all learn something from each other. It is in that spirit that I share some of my learned RVing wisdom But it's not on what to do or how to do it, but instead on what not to do. These are things that help keep me from RVing's "dark side" (e.g., being in a hurry or being afraid). It's J. Dawg channeling my inner Yoda. Don't Plan the Destination, Plan the Journey When it comes to RV travel, rarely do I travel to get to a specific place. Yes, if it's for a weekend getaway, an event, or stay by the lake, my focus is to get to a place. But when I plan a major trip, its to usually to experience a general area or to have a certain experience, not to get to a destination. I learned this years ago when I was climbing mountains. Initially, I was bagging summits, but then I realized that the most enjoyment came from experiencing the hike up to the summit, not standing on the summit. The reward isn't at the destination, its what you experience along the way. When planning an RV trip I always plan loop routes; never to a specific point and never an out and back over the same roads. Don't Try to See It All A few years ago, when I first got into RVing, I read a book written by the ex-governor of Maine (Angus King). Upon leaving the Governors office, King took his family on a 5-1/2 month RV trip across the country. They did a big loop around the perimeter of the country stopping at all the major tourist areas. The book was great and for him and his family it was a trip of a lifetime. They saw a lot, but they missed so much. In starting my RVing journey, I decided to take my time and see the country over several years. No big 5-month trip for me, just lots of smaller journeys. I'm seeing and savoring it in numerous small bites, exploring the nooks and crannies. Staying away from the big cities, taking my time, staying extra days, not trying to see it all, just trying to see what intrigues me. J. Dawg on the Trail Ridge Road the day it opened Avoid the Popular Places During the Peak Season Seems like everyone wants to see the wildlife in Yellowstone in July or drive the Going to the Sun Road in August. Go to a popular National Park in the peak summer months and be prepared for a heavy dose of frustration from full campgrounds, full parking lots and clogged roads. I avoid the peak summer months for RV travel. I prefer to visit the popular spots in the shoulder seasons when the kids are in school and its not peak vacation time. Spring and Fall are my best times for RV travel. Yellowstone in early June can be cold but there's a lot less people. You can drive along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in April instead of having to take the shuttle. Don't Be Afraid to Change Your Plans Some of my best experiences happened when I asked myself - "I wonder what's down this road?" or "Hey, Lets check this out". Just last March, we were stopped overnight in Wilcox AZ (on our way to Tuscon) and saw a tourist map with a road route called the Golden Circle of Cochise. On a whim we decided to follow it. It diverted us for a 160 miles thru some beautiful country that we would have bypassed. The same thing happened when I was in South Dakota two years ago. Instead leaving the Black Hills and driving east on I90 like I planned, I decide to go south and spent a couple extra days driving the back roads thru the Sandhills of Nebraska. It was a worthwhile change of plans. These spur of the moment route changes can provide lots of unexpected pleasure and adventure. J. Dawg on the Golden Circle of Cochise Don't Be In a Hurry This one should be obvious. Sit on a rock and soak up the view for awhile. Stop at the scenic turnouts and get out of the vehicle. Wander down a path. Wait for the light to change for that photo. You don't have to drive 500 miles in a day. Don't be afraid to take a nap for a couple hours in a rest area. Stay an extra day or two. When you're retired, what's the hurry? These are just some of the wisdom's that I've learned while RVing. Its interesting that they are just the opposite of what I practiced when I was working. But as Yoda said - "You must unlearn what you have learned." If you've got some advise, wisdom, or Jedi wisdom you want to share, please leave me a comment because I'd like to hear them. And may The Force be with you! Follow more of my journeys at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/
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