Friday, August 5, 2016

RV REPAIRS – IT’S GONNA HAPPEN


Luckily Marci found RV blogs (well, Facebook pages) and we’ve been reading them religiously since April.  So we knew – I MEAN KNEW – that things will go wrong on any RV eventually.  We paid close attention to things that seem common (like tires) and things that are preventable (like fires at gas stations due to leaving the propane refrigerators running or leaving the antenna extended).

Look – we are just not preachy or judgmental.  And we are quick to point out that we are not experts at anything in the RV world.  So don’t take offense, go ahead -run your fridge, don’t check your tires, don’t triple check that your slide will not be dragging something across your floor.  And I promise – some of this WILL happen to us (or anyone who drives thousands of miles with a small home on wheels).

This morning we woke up at the KOA in Wendover, NV (there is a free 24 hour shuttle to the Casino – located about 300 yards away – for the ‘gamin’ camper). After 550 miles the day before, we planned to head across the salt flats in the cool morning.  And then I saw the tire.

As I said above, I’ve been warned.  Not just by all of you, but by two 5th wheel owning co-workers I trust.  CHECK YOUR TIRES.

And I found the right rear (new at the start of the trip) was TOTALLY worn on the ‘outside’.  Remembering the photos of blow-outs on Facebook – I could see me changing a tire in the middle of 100 miles of flat salt and sun. I’ve changed a whole lot of tires in my life – I decided not to wait for Good Sam Road Service (doesn’t seem to be a prompt) and broke open my new ‘bottle jack’ to get ‘er done.


Right.

An hour later, covered in dirt, tire-blackened hands, and enough colorful language to hope that my neighbors’ hearing aide battery was dead – I got the spare on.  We quickly threw everything into the truck bed – (thankfully Marci insisted on a triple check – which prevented more RV repairs) and headed for The Tire Factory (whom I HIGHLY recommend http://www.tirefactory.com/gotirezonecom ) for a quick repair. They even moved us to the front of the line because our rig blocked their entire parking lot.

Anyway, I learned that the tire was faulty to begin with (nothing wrong with the axle etc), how to actually change an RV tire, and that we could persevere through our first RV repair issue.  I am sure there will be many more – but we choose to look at this as part of the adventure (and it will grow a life of its own as I tell the story over and over the years to come!)

PS This repair only cost $113 and a bit of worry in the 120 miles across the salt flats


Thursday, August 4, 2016

How far is too far?


Tomorrow we will get close to the end of our first BIG trip.  We will have traveled four thousand miles and  seven states.  All in two weeks.
Which begs the question (we have heard debated at several RV stops during the past two weeks); "How far is too far to drive?"

Today I spent twelve hours behind the wheel and drove 550 miles.  And I know that this mileage seems CRAZY to many (it was pretty crazy).  But for those of us who are still working full-time, it is how we can s-q-u-e-e-z-e
extra days into our trip by driving long hours.  
US 140 - between Klamath Falls and Winnemucca, NV
Today we drove US 140 from Crater Lake to Winnemucca and then I-80 to Wendover, NV.  
I am tired and this will be short.  But I am sure that many of you have an ideal distance for a travel day.  Go ahead - SHARE!



Sunday, July 31, 2016

REVIEW: Flowing Lake County Park, Snohomish, WA

Flowing Lake County Park, Snohomish, WA




We bought our new trailer in April and started planning a trip to visit our granddaughter Aniyah immediately.  She is fifteen months old and lives near Seattle, so we knew it was to the Northwest for our first big trip.  The plan was to pick her up and camp for a week.  Unfortunately, as you more seasoned campers know, the northwest is a popular summer destination and with Internet reservations (a blessing and a curse) it isn’t easy to find a spot for five days.  ENTER Flowing Lake County Park.

A small park with mostly tents and small RV’s, we winded our way through small and curvy green roads until we got to the park.  Tall trees, a clear lake, and smiling campers.  Our kind of place!
As this is our first trip, we are still pretty nervous about maneuvering our 36 & ½ foot beast of a home.  And IT WAS TIGHT!  But most of the spots are big and set far apart.  There is next to no noise, 50 amp service, and nice level gravel spots.

A trail winds around the exterior of the park and the lake (probably the real attraction) brings in LOTS of day-time visitors.  With lush green grass, good facilities, and picnic tables scattered about – I can see the attraction.

Seattle’s Pike Market is an hour away, as are the Snoqualmie Falls.  The Cascade Mountains loom to the east and nature trails abound (I did a twelve mile walk on the Centennial Trail one day). 
We spent a week here.  The rangers were lovely and the experience top notch. 

Not to mention – our fantastic granddaughter!







THE GOOD:
·       Large level spaces with big gathering areas around fire pits
·       Clean
·       FRIENDLY!
·       Well kept

THE BAD:
·       If you don’t like crowds, avoid the lake during the heat of the day

THE UGLY:
·       I know this will make me seem like a lush, but alcohol is “strictly prohibited” in the park.  P-L-E-A-S-E… I get that they don‘t want rowdies – but I say deal with those who cause a problem, don’t punish everyone else.  It would have been nice to sip a Washington Pinot by the campfire in the evening.

WORTH COMING BACK?  No question – we WILL BE BACK


RECOMMENDED?  Absolutely, come re-charge your self here!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

REVIEW: Tall Chief RV Park, Fall City, WA

Tall Chief RV Park, Fall City, WA

http://camp-tallchief.com/

Located just west of the Seattle/Tacoma area, at the base of the Cascade Mountains off I-90, this is a lush respite.  The entire landscape is a palette of greens – which change as the sun meanders lazily across the summer sky.

The park is situated behind a series of stunning homes – all gated.  And the entrance to Tall Chief is also protected (not sure from whom) by a guard shack and a gate.  Each guest is granted an access code for after-hours use.  I checked in (forgetting my Good Sam’s Discount until after the transaction was complete) and heard a phrase I would grow accustomed to, “I can’t help you, but they might be able to do something for you in the business office, during business hours”.  Who camps during business hours?

Then I learned that we were to drive around the park and pick out a site, write down the number, and come back to the guard shack.  We also had to list each guest who may be coming to visit (this was substantial as our daughter was bringing our granddaughter for the week and my wife’ sister, father, and family were also coming for the day).  Oh well….

We did get a shady spot and got everything settled before Aniyah (our 15 month old bundle of joy) arrived for dinner. Bliss…

One frustration was the appearance of a gaggle of kids who wanted to watch and insert themselves in every step of our set up.  They stayed about an hour (and many hours in the following days) with little oversight from their mom (who with a baby and another on the way was overwhelmed).  Did make us nervous though – not all campers have good intentions…

We grew to appreciate this little band of kiddos. We cooked them hot dogs and potato salad (which they devoured with big smiles and polite “thank-yous”). They live full-time in a small trailer – can’t be easy.

We stayed two days, swam in the gorgeous pool, washed in the clean laundry, and walked around the place a bit.  There were a few frustrations (listed below), but not a bad place overall…

THE GOOD:

  • GREEN!
  • Clean
  • Large and easy to navigate
  • Great Pool


THE BAD:

  • Now I know why some RV parks limit guests to rigs ten years old or less
  • Sites are muddy


THE UGLY:

  • The highest electrical is 30 AMP.  And it went out in the late afternoon (luckily we have an expensive surge protector – because all sorts of alarms went off and our electronics would have been fried).  When I asked about this at the guard shack – they apologized and said “Too many air conditioners – you can talk to the business office during business hours.”


WORTH COMING BACK?  There are better options nearby – but the pool is VERY nice


RECCOMENDED?  In a pinch or if you don’t need electrical in the summer

Friday, July 29, 2016

REVIEW: JIM AND MARY'S RV, MISSOULA, MT



JIM AND MARY'S RV, MISSOULA, MT (http://jimandmarys.com/)



First, and it may seem petty, but it can't have been a boon to business or a 'must read' by the local chamber of commerce when International Best Selling Author Jon Krakauer writes an expose about your town and the high number of rapes which occur there...(by the way, a very important book - Start by Believing)


But - trust me Jim and Mary's has nothing to do with all of that, and it is a great stopover.

The experience starts as you pull in.  FLOWERS everywhere!  These folks understand the term "oasis" and how nice it is to see beauty after a long drive.

The office is tidy and the clerk even greeted me by name (she said there was only one other reservation and mine was the only 36 footer left).  With a smile and speedy efficiency, I was checked in.

The sites are almost all shady (nice on the Montana plains) and easy to get in and out of.
We took a quick walk around the property and found it absolutely lovely.  The buildings are very clean and well-maintained.  Our neighbors were all quiet.  We had a great (but quick) stay.

Out before 7:00 am and on to the Tall Chief Campground in Fall City, WA.












THE GOOD:

  • Friendly
  • Clean
  • Flowers EVERYWHERE

THE BAD:

  • Will fill up fast
THE UGLY:

  • Nothing we saw...

WORTH COMING BACK?   yup


RECOMMENDED?  HEARTILY!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BOONDOCKING (Or, free camping in super-center parking lots)

We started our first serious long-distance trip a few days ago.  Because this is the 21st Century, and information is freely available to EVERYONE, we availed ourselves of free advice (and apps) to work our way to the Pacific Northwest from Colorado.

We were so anxious to leave (this is a reunion trip with our granddaughter) that we took off late Friday afternoon (like mid-rush hour).  Originally, we planned to take I-25 to I-90 and travel west to the Seattle area.  But because we left a day early, Marci suggested we detour through Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  WHY NOT!?!?!?!?

Our new goal was Riverton Wyoming (350 miles away). 

Those of you who travel all the time will smile – but we needed a quick alternate place to sleep for the night.  ENTER the “rvparky” app and WAL-MART!  Yup, we stayed free of charge in a large parking lot.

Actually, we stayed at Wal-Mart Riverton AND Wal-Mart Bozeman.  Kudos to Wal-Mart for welcoming weary travelers and making cross-country travel easier. (note: we were careful to shop at each store to ensure they continue to have a profit incentive to welcome other travelers)

We pulled into the Riverton Wal-Mart at 2:10 AM.  And there were at least ten other campers (some looked like they had been there a LONG time) and a few diesel trucks.  Please remember – this was not only our first night at Wal-Mart, but our first night BOONDOCKING anywhere.

We nervously picked out a “spot”, pushed out our bedroom slide, and went to sleep to the drone of a diesel tractor engine a few feet away.

WOW!  What a great experience!  We got a few hours of sleep, felt safe, and didn’t have to pay a dime.  If you haven’t tried it and are wondering…DO IT!

I hesitate to rate Wal-Marts (or Cabelas - or Cracker Barrel – who also allow free stop overs).  But – THERE IS A DIFFERENCE…

This is a BOONDOCKING SCALE (not to be compared with ratings of parks where we pay to stay):



WAL-MART RIVERTON WY:
4 Stars – Easy access, huge open parking lot, 24 hour store, “camper friendly”

WAL-MART BOZEMAN MT:
3 Stars – Tight parking lot, “urban lot” (many concrete “islands and dividers” – not wide open), many campers (close to Yellowstone?), and very clean.  Don’t use the Exxon near the Wal-Mart if you have a long rig (there are truck stops west of town, or east over the pass).

We are now totally comfortable using this method and will continue to do it!




Monday, July 25, 2016

The Butt of travel jokes

“Who would name a town Butt?”

“It is an odd name…”

And so, while travelling across Montana on I-90, we passed through this picturesque and surprisingly large town named after either a roast, the remainder of a smoked cigarette or at worst a derriere. Naturally, I was enthralled.

Perhaps the nexus for being the Butt of Montana, is that the area is home to the largest Superfund site in America (for those who don’t know – this directs government funding to help clean up toxic disaster areas).  This is due to the toxic wastes and heavy metals from copper mining.  Evidence of large scale mining is visible as you travel through town. There is even a relatively famous sludge pit with acid from a mining accident.

A second thought was that this unfortunate address was due to racial tensions (there is even a museum dedicated to the mistreatment of Chinese laborers) or even the organized labor unrest (check out the movie Butt, America).
 
I know that I was surprised to learn that the World Museum of Mining is in Butt – and that no town can be un-redeeming with a joint like the Silver Bow Brewery Malt House (a good place to tell Butt jokes, I’d bet).

We also noticed a massive white statue (which from a distance we were sure was a Storm Trooper from Star Wars).  Turns out, it is actually (no joke) Our Lady of the Rockies – the third largest statue in the United States.  People leave messages inside the Mother Mary replica – in hopes of miracles for their unfortunate loved ones.

Finally, there is a mountain with a large ‘M’ on it.  I guess that isn’t crazy Bozeman also has a mountain with a large M – and so does Golden, Colorado….).

Excuse me a sec – my wife is hollering something at me…

Yes, dear?

You don’t say.  How embarrassing…




Well, I guess the town in named Butte after all.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

GLAMPING, you say?


Glamping [glam-ping] – noun/informal… defined as the activity of ‘camping’ with the comforts and luxuries of home.


What?

I am a ‘tweener’ (Oh Lordie, Hank, I told you he is smokin’ Colorado Whacky Weed.) No, Irma, that just means I was born between the Baby-Boomer generation and the Generation-‘X’.

Anyway, I remember a time that ‘camping’ was evolving into an actual leisure activity.  Coleman made a stove that didn’t require ‘Ma’ scrubbing ¾” of fire-soot of the pan, Chevy Chase was starring in movie roles with a “mobile-home”, and gray-haired white folks were plastering “Good-Sam” stickers on their trailers and wearing matching embroidered satin coats - with an authentic looking Schnauzers and clever scripts above the pocket.  In other words, America was evolving from tents by a camp-fire – to a more congenial wilderness respite.

That being said, I think John Muir might be a little disconcerted about where America’s holiday retreats have taken the camping culture.

Before I let my mighty pen (ok, Bluetooth keyboard) excoriate the mass ‘glamping’ crowd- I must provide full-disclosure.  I am ‘penning’ this on my Microsoft Surface Pro 4, air-conditioning swirling around the dark-wood interior of my small luxury home-on-wheels.

This evening, as I took Bella (adventures of this neurotic canine Olympia Dukakis forthcoming – stay tuned) for our evening constitution, I smiled at the families gathered round the campfire…watching the 2016 NBA finals?!?!?!?  Yes, it’s true.  (Spoiler alert – Golden State will win game four…) Perhaps every third ‘camper’ I pass has the game on a large screen television in the living area.  Heck, my nearest neighbor has an “outside t.v.” playing the game to a crowd (also ‘throwing back’ to marshmallow roasting over an open fire).  Hmmmmm….
High tech tent camping

I will not judge!  Heck, there was a time when a quick form of travel was a “carriage with a brace of four” (read Charles Dickens if you need help with that reference).  America had blacksmiths in every town.  So, naturally, we continue to “move forward”.  But personally, I must admit, I am hoping my granddaughter and I ‘sneak’ back to camp after catching a jar full of fireflies.  Only to find ‘grandma Marci’ shushing us off to bed.  I don’t really want to take my home with me.  I am looking for an escape ‘out here’.

Do not fret – I hope you all enjoy your satellite television and microwave ovens, but allow me to reminisce and pine for another age.  Where Sunday morning returns home are filled with the washing of smoke smelling clothes and marshmallow sticky cheeks.

REVIEW: BOYD LAKE STATE PARK (Colorado)

You gotta love State Parks.  They are usually in good locations, have decent amenities, and charge only $24 a night (with 50 amp service)!

The park is billed as a “water sports haven”.  We wholeheartedly concur! Boating, water skiing, fishing, oh heck – skipping stones! This lake is a water lover’s paradise.  Just re-name it H2O State Park (except that Pueblo Reservoir may object) – and it’ll fit.
There are over 74 million square feet of lake to enjoy – so come ready to play.  I saw boaters, jet skis, fishermen (ok; fisher-people), and even a few rowing crews working out in the early morning. The only thing missing was wind-surfers (and I’ll bet they have a favorite launch as well).
Located approximately an hour north of Denver, Boyd Lake State Park is easy to find.  It has paved RV sites, with up to 50 AMP service.  There are no “full hook ups” – but bathrooms and water are near every site.  I cannot help but notice the plentiful overflow parking for extra vehicles (and of course boats) just beyond the camp sites.

This is a pretty clean place – but if you are not here to “get out on the water” you may be a bit overwhelmed by the mass of those who are.  There are 148 pull-through sites, and 95% will come to camp bright red sunburned at the end of the day.

 I found that the bike paths are extremely well maintained with a whole lotta miles and signage.  The trail actually goes over 18 miles (through the Colorado town of Loveland).  It is a loop – so EASY!
An hour in to my walk – and it is obvious that there are A LOT of people who come to enjoy this oasis. (Later in the day this is confirmed) The park boasts a beautiful sand beach, numerous boat launches, great fishing coves, and hundreds of miles of shoreline.  I notice specialty picnic areas, a marina, a store, and probably 1,000+ parking spots.  This place looks well used.

After walking to the northern end of trail (the east side of this state park is framed with private [think high $$$] housing), I turned around to see what the “Visitor’s Center” had to offer.  I sat on the (intentionally uncomfortable) bench outside the front door to await the 9:00 opening.  This small action (my sitting on the bench outside the front door fifteen minutes prior to opening) caused a flurry of activity.  Water-bound Americans of all stripes rushed to get into the physical line I’d created (which had shattered their illusionary and virtual queue - established by their timed arrival in the parking lot).  This was going to be fun!

When the door actually opened (an efficient 2 minutes ahead of schedule) I didn’t move a muscle.  This caused worried looks between the dozen folks who had been thusly resenting my taking a spot ahead of them “in line”.  I eased the tension by holding the door and allowing them all to transact their business ahead of me.  Hell, I was just coming to check the joint out (hoping for a corny display case or two) and avail myself of the free publications on the far wall.  I even looked at the maps adorning the unused space.  The short bit of advice – if you don’t need a boat permit – don’t bother stopping (however, I must note that there is a large fossil door-stop I would have loved to inspect if the act would not have caused a coronary by someone “ahead” of me in line).

INTERESTING NOTE: I am writing this as an afternoon storm drifts to the east.  A friendly neighbor issues a warning.  

"Hey pal?" 

“Yes?”

“I see you have a beer, there?” [Great – he wants one of my Heineken]

“Sure, do.” I smile…

“Well, last night the Ranger almost confiscated our bottle.  I guess you can’t have an open container outside…”

“Really?  Thanks!”

Welcome to the police state.  Apparently, my single bottle of Heineken is threatening the equilibrium of a facility of full-sloshed boaters (to be sure the average blood alcohol content would be pushing 3.0 after a day of imbibing on the water).  Oh well, I guess I’ll just go inside.  At least they’d need a warrant to seize my beer there…well, for now at least…

I can hear the indignant response from the President of the Benevolent State Park Ranger’s Association, “You have no idea the dangers we face…EVERY DAY.  Why, we stand between chaos, anarchy, and public order. [please pledge to support our pay raise in the upcoming state referendum]” The odd thing is, after nearly two full weeks in Colorado State Parks, the biggest complaint I have is with the moronic teens (and their equally moronic parents) who screeched at 6:30 this morning – a ½” spider perhaps?  Let’s save the tax-payers a boat-load of $$ and self-administer the campground? 
What a country.  [See our blog post "on freedom" from Nicaragua ]

RATING: ***

THE GOOD:

·       Boaters paradise
·       Easy in and out
·       Fantastic bike trail system
      Great Sand Beach
      Ample parking
·        

THE BAD:

·       Seriously packed campground– not really a place to enjoy solitude
·       
THE UGLY:

No ugly here

      WORTH COMING BACK?  You bet, especially if you feel like fishing or boating

RECOMMENDED?  Yup (if you want to play on the water)





Saturday, May 28, 2016

REVIEW: NORTH STERLING LAKE STATE PARK (Colorado)

NORTH STERLING LAKE STATE PARK – COLORADO


Marci and I are both Colorado natives-  so a State Park on the eastern plains does not motivate us to hasten packing the camper to get there as quick as we can. But we were able to cobble five days off and this was the only joint with availability for a long trip on short notice.

The park has an abundance of camp sites.  Loops with 50 amp service, and others leaning towards the more rustic. We are located in the “Inlet loop” (with 50 amps) and are about 20 yards from the lake.  All of the sites are drive through with curving gravel driveways.  They each have a picnic table (with wind shelter) and fire pit.  The sites are far apart with broad grassy fields surrounding laid back RV’ers. 


Nice.

During the weekend there were plenty of folks fishing along the water’s edge.  I only saw a few
caught – but there are teeming schools swimming among the submerged trees – I know this because they jump at a rate of 2-3 a minute in the evening.  And when I say jump – I’m talking Bruce Jenner (pre-Caitlin) style.  Well over a foot of fish coming out of the water and returning with a loud slap and splash.

Impressive.

There are also huge white birds (White Pelican) drifting by the shore in perfect concert – each move like a Fourth of July Regatta. 

Now, I think that you can tell a lot about a place by paying attention to the little things.  I notice that the informational boards outside the “camping center” are cracked from overexposure to the sun. The parking lots (designed to handle 700% more vehicles than actually visit) have weeds poking through the cracks. Marci and I are both wondering why more people don’t visit?



I walk the trail leading south from the lake and impressed by the vision some overachieving state planner had when laying out the extensive network.  Miles of level gravel walkway – winding around the inlets crated by an unnatural body of water. It strikes me that there are no signs of use.  The dirt is soft under my feet – each crackle a reminder that no one has walked this stretch for at least a year.  I see an occasional track from a government RTV – but even these look as if they were left months ago – perhaps during the obligatory annual fall inspection.

I relish museums!  They are like quaint collections of keepsakes that someone thought other people would find fascinating long enough to induce them to buy a custom t-shirt, or a highly polished cedar knick-knack.  North Sterling State Park boasts a Visitors Center and a Marina (only open on weekends and holidays during off season). The Visitor’s Center – attended by a pleasant woman who’d likely worked here seven years – but never once glanced in the two display cases, was a cute one-room
affair.  With large mounted Walleye and Carp, plastic framed amateure bird photos, and an instructive poster about snakes (apparently – round-pupiled snakes are not dangerous, slowly
retreat from those with a “cat-eye”), I was enthralled.   There were several (ok, two) fossils of undetermined age or species, three degrading rattles from a cat-eyed snake, and a piece of carved driftwood (it was definitely carved – but I’m not sure into what).  But the most impressive, was a homemade shadow box of used fishing lures.  The plexi-glass cover bore the marks of an unconventional (or perhaps unskilled) artist whom had probably been collecting rusty lures for a decade before an acquaintance suggested a display case 59 minutes into ‘Happy Hour’.  

Delightful.

It was also telling, on our third full day, when we first encountered the entrance station – “staffed”.

Welcome to North Sterling Lake State Park”, the cheerful, seasoned, round-cheeked attendant said, reciting the park’s entire formal name – as if she were a recent graduate of the new state park employee orientation.

Hi there.  We were wondering if we could get a copy of the park rules?”

Her brow furrowed, as if she was running through the possibilities of which mandate we were hoping to violate (or more likely already had).

Wryly, “Boating, or camping?”

Rules matter at this park.

Umm, camping.”

Fine”, she said, a little disappointment evident in her voice.

That was when I noticed the second employee (must be peak hours – though there was not another vehicle in sight for miles).  She lifted her head from the table in front of her. As if it was worth a gander at someone who actually asked for a copy of the rules.  Her seventeen-year-old hazel eyes perused our truck and each of us before she plopped her head back on her arms.  I noticed that her mascara was a little smeared – and traces of makeup remained from an earlier soiree.  Perhaps prom went late last night?

And while on the subject of rules, the camp host (a group- camp hosts I mean - I strongly recommend to an aspiring sociologist for field work or even a doctoral thesis) made his presence known early. I can only imagine the conversation in their trailer before he whipped his state issued golf cart around the bend to direct that we move the front left tire off the grass adjacent to our site.

That’s it. I’m gonna go issue a warning!”

Are you sure, dear?  It isn’t really that big a thing.”

Maude, there has to be order.  The State of Colorado has entrusted me to enforce the rules (glancing at his framed 8x10 certificate, signifying 2016 Camp Host Class completion).  I will not let them down.”

And after years of similar conversations, Maude answers, “Whatever you think is best, dear.”

RATING: *** (Three stars)

THE GOOD:
·       Beautiful views
·       Abundant spacious sites
·       Pay showers
·       Swim beach
·       Great trails
·       Sunset and stargazing areas
·       Plenty of facilities


THE BAD:
·       Camp site not filthy, but some small trash and the fire-pit a bit dirty
·       Bathrooms not nasty – but not clean either
·       Prairie dog holes (be cautious)
·       Snakes (watched one being removed from a neighbors camp site – just remember, they were here first!)





THE UGLY:
·       Officious Camp Host (c'mon, just be nice)
·       NEVER open your awning in a campground located a scant few miles from wind-farms!



WORTH COMING BACK?  Yes

RECCOMENDED? Yes

Thursday, May 26, 2016

5th Wheel Worries

It is five thirty in the morning.

I am smiling as I sit by the fireplace sipping freshly brewed coffee as I watch my “neighbors” stumbling to the port-a-pot with obvious aches from a cold night of sleeping on the ground.

“Suckers.” I say to no one, because Marci is still asleep and I am hidden behind smoked glass windows.

Vladimir Ashkenazy’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor mingles with the chirping of the morning birds.  

What a life.

Yesterday we embarked on our first “real” trip with the camper.  We drove two hours east to North Sterling Lake State Park (because we are just too damn scared to go over the mountains yet).  Naturally, I did not make a single left turn (ok, I did – but not before I made sure my adult diaper was secure).

Most of us have fond memories of road trips.  Hours of humming tires on smooth roads – with breaks for carbohydrate laden snacks and Mountain Dew. Pulling a fifteen thousand pound fifth wheel trailer does not provide the same experience.
(Courtesy www.motorhome.com)
“Is there room to change lanes?”

“I think so.”

“What do you mean, you think so?”

“Well, I can see the truck behind you and it looks pretty far back.”

Luckily, we are about the slowest vehicle on the road. (There was a purple haired lady with two fluffy dogs in an Oldsmobile I passed – but it was on an empty stretch so I can’t gloat).


(Courtesy www.danspapers.com)
And then there are bridges and overpasses.  

Your entire driving life you have probably never even bothered to look closely at one. When you pull an expensive thirteen foot high home under one you will notice dings and scrapes on the underside from being whacked by an unsuspecting driver just like me.

Supposedly, there are maps which will warn you about where these dangers lurk – but of course, we forgot to buy one.  Maybe that is why there are two air conditioners on top…?

Anyway, we made it.  And after setting up (likely forgetting 68% of what we learned in orientation) we put life on pause and settled in for five days of relaxation.

What a life.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Starting the Dream

“Slow down!”

“I am going slow.” I bark, reducing my speed from seven miles per hour to three.

“You’re making me nervous.”

“I’m doing the best I can, there are cars trying to get around me.”

“They can wait.”

“Stop yelling…”

“I’m not yelling, I’m nervous.”

And so it goes.

We are heading out for our first road trip since buying a 36 foot fifth wheel.  On the sales lot, the “coach” held the promise of serenity. Dark shiny polished wood, faux tile floors, luxurious leather recliners and a king sized pillow top mattress. Clearly this was designed to remedy whatever 21st Century malady ails you. Visions of quiet morning sunrises with freshly brewed coffee swim in your head as you sign the bundle of documents needed to take possession.  The week and a half needed to install a hitch capable of towing 20,000 pounds (and the propane generator I insisted on to “camp” in style when there are no 50 amp services available) seem to drag on forever.

And finally the day arrives. 

“Good afternoon sir, how may I help you?”

“I’m here to pick up my trailer.” I proudly beam, feeling this should impress the pudgy acne faced boy, who must have been told to expect us (we did receive our Good Sam Elite Membership cards just days before…)

“So, you have already completed orientation?” He asks, clearly more amused than impressed.
“Uh, no…” tumbles my sheepish response.

And for the next two hours we are guided through switches, control panels, gadgets, hoses, and “Never, do this - before you do that’s”.

“Can we still return this?”

The mechanic chuckles as if he has heard this many times before. “Ah, you’ll get used to it.  This stuff is easy.”

I swallow my plea to reconsider.

And before you know it, the truck is attached and we are heading out of the lot.  Which naturally has VERY wide driveways to accommodate idiots (like me) who have been driving 6 foot vehicles at high speeds for thirty years and suddenly believe they can manage the equivalent of a semi-truck.
My confidence does not increase when I look in my extended rear view mirrors and see two mechanic’s leaning into to one another and watching me.  I can only presume that they have placed a wager on how long it will be before they see me in the collision repair center.

I will NEVER forget my first left hand turn. Neither will the lady in the Honda I almost ran over.

But alas, we got our “rig” to its assigned spot in the storage lot and rush home to choke down a muscle relaxant with a shot of tequila.


And They're Off!


Aniyah at 1 year old
A few weeks ago - the nest finally emptied (fingers crossed).  Our youngest daughter, Kiana, and precious granddaughter, Aniyah, moved to Tacoma, Washington to start their own adventure.

"What are we going to do, Matt?" Marci asked, bottom lip in full quiver.

"Um, buy a fifth-wheel, what do you think?!?!"

And so we did.  A (very mildly) used 2013 Palomino Columbus - which although a screaming deal, is WAY fancier than we ever hoped to own.

We are too young to retire, but blessed to have good jobs and the ability to travel around a bit in preparation for hitting the road for months when we both pull the plug.  And so - here is our blog.  A bit about everything, from reviews, to interesting things we see and do - to just musings about things on our mind.

We called the blog "Two if by Land" and that is because we named our rig, "The Paul RV-er".

Hope you enjoy!

The maiden voyage of the Paul RV-er