Getting Back into the Groove

We have completed our first week on the road and are starting to feel “at home” again.  It doesn’t matter which way that we are transitioning- to, or from, the RV,  it takes time to get used to the “house”.    Where are the light switches,  how to walk through the home,  the support of the mattress, getting adequate heat in the coach – all are starting to feel “normal” again.

We set out 5 March, with a detour through Sanford for lunch and a drive-by hugging  of Cheri’s mom and stepfather,  and then on to our first night on the road.   A short hop of less than 150 miles, an easy set-up and a relaxing evening.

We looked forward to another short day as we drove to the Freightliner Factory Service center in Gaffney, SC,  for a major annual service – oil and filter / fuel filters (yes, 2 of them)  / transmission fluid and filter / air filter / brake fluid replacement / axle oil changes / complete generator service with 3 filters and coolant / serpentine belt / new chassis batteries (yes,  2 of them) / and a touch of grease for the chassis!   We should be good to go for the year,  with fresh fluids and a substantially lighter wallet.  But they do let you camp for free in their parking lot.  😉

Time for a change in plans as we altered the routing to rendezvous with friends, Kat and Bert, as they return to Raleigh after almost 2 full years on the road.   In true RV fashion,  they drove miles out of their way, south from Little Rock, AR, to meet us at Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham, AL.   While the RV spots were a bit quirky, the park is quite nice with a golf course, archery range, BMX tracks, and even a ski run using a pulley system.

Kat and Bert shared their full-timing RV experiences with us over good food,  wine,  and a game of dominoes.    Our longest trip was 215 days and they had been roaming for over 700… so we really wanted to listen and learn from what they learned.  We are constantly evaluating how things are working out,  and making adjustments during the journey to reduce stress.

We tried to go to the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument but missed on the timing,  so we walked around Kelly Ingram Park, Ground Zero for the civil rights protest movement in 1963.   Across from the park is the historic 16th Street Baptist Church used as a headquarters for the protests, and the site of the bombing that killed 4 young girls.  Visiting these sites,  and events such as Charlottesville, remind us that racism still remains a challenge for our country.

And we had two surprises today that remind us that “things are different” now that we are back in the RV.  The first was easy – we noted a 15 PSI pressure difference in the tires on our tire monitor, so we stopped in Jackson, MS, to get it checked – they replaced a leaking valve stem and we were back on the road.

The second is slightly embarrassing – the washer was making sputtering sounds in the soap tray as Hope ran from the bedroom (she doesn’t like the dishwasher at home, either).  Before I could mentally work through the possible causes,  Cheri said “hey, this sink faucet is sputtering, too.”  The second clue solved the problem … we were out of water.   We normally keep mental track of how many showers we have taken, but I didn’t adjust for the washer loads which are substantial.   So we’re not quite back in the groove….yet.   We do have another 12,000 miles to practice!

The upcoming week will be in my hometown, visiting family and friends.  The 2018 journey will start slow but we will be in the back country before you know it!  By the end of the month, we’ll be in the Mountain Time Zone.  We timed this transition  perfectly as we arrived in the Central Time Zone the day before DST started,  so our body clocks were already set.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Starting Out for 2018

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”
— John A. Shedd

Tomorrow we leave for our 2018 adventures.  It will be our longest RV trip ever, and yet we are packed, relaxed,  and ready.   Our family often looks at these excursions with bemused confusion, wondering what pushes us down the road for months to these places.  And I think the answer lies in this blog – discovering and enjoying the beauty of our world while we still can travel.

My grandmother Elia loved to travel and would drive halfway across the US just to visit with us.   Then one day she stopped… as we will, too.  I still remember the day she said no to an offer to travel… my wandering grandmother loved cars and trains, and hated planes,  so that was part of the decision as travel had changed.   I think that life decision will be a harder transition than when I retired from working.

In the spirit of downsizing,  we are setting out with the least amount of “stuff” despite the length of the trip.  Trying to reduce what we carry yet be prepared for dealing with challenges.  Maybe the trips since 2011 are refining what is truly essential….  
Spouse ? Check.   Dog?  Check.   Let’s roll.

Something new that we did for the family last year was activate the location feature on Google Maps so that they could “track” where we are.   We may not call or post often enough, but if we have cellular connections,  they can spot us on the map.

Our first destination will the the Freightliner Factory Service Center in South Carolina for the annual preventative maintenance.   While we wait,  we will refine our travel plans from a general outline to more specific goals.    Roughly,  our path will follow this map,  or about 13,000 RV miles with an estimated return in late October.  About 7-8 months.

While visiting family in New York during February,  we passed through the city via Grand Central Terminal and on northward via rail.   There was a sense of flash back to when I used to work annually in NY for a retail show,  and the stress and discomfort of dealing with the city was returning.  We both know the perfect antidote… the miles ahead will put that congested memory far behind us!

Buckle your seat belt and we’ll start rolling.  Slowly.  Our preferred way to travel!

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Another Touch of Newfoundland

While in Rocky Harbour,  NL, last year,  we went to a “kitchen party”,  a concert with a traditional Newfoundland musician which became one of our top “cultural” experiences for the trip.  About midway through the evening after everyone had loosened up (the party WAS at a bar),  he passed out variations on the Newfie “Ugly Stick”.   Cheri and I both had the same idea – the grandkids!

The Ugly Stick was often a mop handle with bottle caps and roofing felt washers attached to the side,  with a mop head and a rubber boot “foot”.   They have evolved,  with colorful “heads” and “shoes”,  but the premise is the same… hold it near the top of the stick,  pounding it up and down to the beat of the music while striking the side with a second  stick to rattle the cymbals.

At the kitchen party,   we were handed a “slingshot” which seemed more portable and kid-friendly.   All I needed was some parts and the hardware store looked like the right place to start.   “I don’t know what to call it but I’m looking for some washer-like things with one side raised up… ”   at which point the man asked …. “Building an ugly stick ?”   I had a 1/4  pound of roofing felt washers in short order.    The bottle caps were not a worry with two sons who could provide me with an ample supply.

Arriving home,  I glued up some of the left-over hardwood flooring planks from our home, and started cutting out the basic shapes.  Surprise – we only had 2 traditional wire coat hangers in our house- fortunately I only needed one for the cause.  I had all the parts – all I needed was a manufacturing team and we would be assembling a Stradivarius with immense quality.  And what team with phenomenal concentration and dedication!

They took care and making sure all the parts were “just right”.  Some chose to build with washer, cap, cap, washer,   while others were equally creative,  tuning to their desired key.   

And with a final squeeze of the wire to seat it into the slingshot, the ugly slingshots were finished and ready to play.  Here’s a very lively version of  traditional NL music,  Joe Batt’s Arm Longliners, as performed by Jeff Quilty.    Click to open and listen  as it is perfect for an ugly stick or slingshot!  Your feet will start a-tapping and the ugly sticks will be a-shaking with a catchy chorus…

“and the girls are all excited, the longliners are comin’ in…”

Just in case you are wondering,  Joe Batt’s Arm is on the northern coast of Fogo Island which is north of the island of Newfoundland.   We didn’t make it there last summer because of ferry issues… one day.   

If your young’un wants to become a percussionist,  this is a good start!  Patterns are available upon request – send a SASE with a brown paper grocery bag and I’ll sketch it out for you… 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

About that To-Do List

We arrived home 8 October,  and backed into our “48th campsite” for 2017.   Plugged our power cord into the side of the house,  and we were off the road.  I’ll put the fence up later as we have one task that will require me to pull out into the driveway.

Then the work really begins as we are not “weekend campers”.  Time to unload so that we can start doing maintenance and upgrades.  We don’t like to just pile everything into the house but rather to try to sort most of it as it comes in through the door.   The more than ample storage in our RV means there’s more than ample stuff to shuffle.   Keeps reminding me to simplify, simplify, simplify our lives!  Most of our “stuff” is containerized and labeled so that it moves easily from RV to house and back.

Once the refrigerator contents are transported to the house frig,  we can power it down, defrost the freezer,  and dry it out thoroughly.   Cheri gathers the rugs, linens, towels, etc and heads for a marathon wash day.  I focus on getting the outside storage containers into the garage where the contents won’t freeze.   We will winterize later – for now, it’s protecting things that you normally don’t think about… ie, turn that coffee pot upside down to drain any residual water and placing our foam fire extinguishers indoors.

As we drive,  I’m usually thinking about what needs to be fixed or improved,  and Cheri writes down my random thoughts so that we have a “to-do” list waiting for us.    We know I have to replace the slide-out awning covers and that the rear furnace is not working.  And sometimes things fail after we get home,  as the water pump system just quit.   While we often say that a successful RVer has to be a “journey” person enjoying the experience of rolling down the back roads,  another critical success factor is the ability to solve issues and make repairs.

Off to the Internet,  I found a video link “You CAN replace your slide out covers”,  watched it,  was inspired, and placed an order for 3 covers.    I tackled the shortest one first,  and it looks like I may have succeeded.   I did discover that the roller cover screws were stripped, so I need to epoxy the holes and drill new pilot holes for stainless steel screws first.  (I really don’t like to use self-drilling screws – that’s what was wrong initially.)  And I learned I need another tool before I tackle the next slide-out.   You can see the new white cover vs the damaged gray cover from the aerial (aka attic) view.   But it’s easier to practice on a 7 foot span versus almost 13 feet.   I need help for that one !

For the water pump issue,  I started through a series of possible causes,  posted a question on the Tiffin RV network,  and researched other similar situations before deciding it was most probably the Low Side Water Pump Controller…now where is it ?    Again, the Tiffin forum helped me out, and I did a “little” disassembly and found it in the wiring below.    (I also found what was the probable cause of a water leak at our freshwater inlet.  A two-fer… working on one issue and solving another. )

The furnace probably needs a new control board or a sail switch.   Other tasks included replacing all the Air Admittance Valves (they are vacuum breakers but if they don’t seal, you get sewer gas smells),  securing the front dashboard which had torn loose from the side wall,  installing more LED strips in the overhead fluorescent fixture ( all tubes will be gone shortly),  new bathroom blinds,  strain reliefs for the electronics up front, loose screws,  cleaning out sink traps,  new umbilical cord to connect the tow car,  new sewer hose to ensure that “stuff flows downhill”,  and a variety of smaller tasks.    Almost daily deliveries from Amazon, Camping World, and other RV suppliers.
Sounds like a lot of issues – however, the reality is that we took our “home” and shook it hard for over 150 hours… really HARD!  Things happen,  screws loosen,  parts fail.   It’s just the price of admission for weeks of exciting adventures.   Hoping to get it all fixed up before we leave in March,  but fully aware that something else will need attention on the road.  It’s better to pre-emptively fix while I have all my tools at home.

Looks like we will have freezing temps tonight, so it’s time to fill the lines with RV antifreeze and put The Bay to bed for the winter.    In between the work tasks,  we get to enjoy the true benefit of being home… playing with the grands.

“Can’t wait to go to Alaska next year and see my grandparents!  Already have my warm hat…”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Winding Down through West Point

Our final “tourist” stop for 2017 was a return to West Point to visit with Travis’s family.  It’s somewhat of a Mayberry life experience from the 1950’s in the housing areas on post,  as the kids can play outside in a safe environment under the watchful eyes of the community.   “They own the road.”

We used a teacher workday to visit the Storm King Art Center, an outdoor 500 acre facility that was established in the 1960’s.    We took Wesley over Storm King Mountain on a narrow road along the Hudson River as we drove to the art center.

Ok,  we had already visited an art museum in St Johns,  so I should have stopped while I was already behind.  I’m just not into “modern” art.  But we do try to keep an open mind and look for beauty in different ways.   Frankly, this museum didn’t excite us, even if it was steel and girders.

I did like the suspension system for the I beams in the red sculpture.  Looked like quality material and well implemented.   Art?   Hmmmm… but some patrons were delighted.

We just didn’t feel the inspiration that these structures were supposed to bring.

However,  it was a beautiful day,  and Wesley wore himself out running up and down the hills as we enjoyed the beginning of the fall colors.  We had walked to the south end of the property and returned down the road shown below,  so we had a great day hike.

We said our goodbyes,  and prepared for an early AM departure towards North Carolina.  Fairly uneventful drive,   and the traffic moved smoothly on I-95 south of Washington DC, a normally chaotic area.   Once we cleared DC,  Cheri started calling for an RV spot for the night.  People ask if we make reservations far in advance for campgrounds… no, not normally on “transit” days.   But this time we hit an event and the desired locations were booked.   She found an alternative about 50 miles further down the road.  A long drive day, but closer to home as we were only 41 miles from the NC border.

Less than 150 miles to Apex, and we’re back in the physical house again.  And re-learning the landscape.   Ok,  which switch controls which light ?   And where do we store the dish towels?   A small inconvenience for all the fun that we have been having!  Time to unpack and get settled – we will reflect on the year in a future post.  The RV is parked…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Time to Roll South

When your GPS and Google Maps both tell you to backtrack 30 KM and take a certain road, what do you do ?  Many an RVer goes the other way,  covering new roads and enjoying new scenery along the journey.  We took the road not recommended.  An hour and a half later,  we merged with the recommended GPS route as we reached the Trans Canada Highway, heading west past the wind turbines at the head of the Bay of Fundy.

The drive seemed surreal at times after a summer in Newfoundland, with more bumps in the road than smooth sections,  as we were now driving 65 mph (maximum allowable when towing the car) on a modern divided highway as the miles melted away.    We reached St. Andrews, set up camp, and took long walks with Hope.   And then Mother Nature reminded us why we were pointed south as skies cleared and temperatures dropped to 28F/-2C in the morning… frozen waterlines, broken pressure gauge, and frost everywhere. The living room was a cool 52F for coffee.  Time for the furnace!

We hardly reached cruising speed in the morning before slowing for the Customs check point in Calais, Maine.  Very nice agent who didn’t flinch when Hope vocally guarded her spot as he came aboard for a quick review of the refrigerator.   Tomatoes, peppers, citrus – those were the forbidden items. Our apple, grapes, and carrots passed.

We made a quick stop at the fueling station where I had mangled their dispenser hose in July. Filling up in the US is SO much cheaper, as we were paying about $1.20/Liter, or nearly $4 US per gallon.  While we do joke that we pay more for milk than gasoline,  it is very true in Canada as my last “gallon” of skim was $6.75 CAD – the 1% was $7.75.   I cut back on cow juice this summer… 🙂

The trees are probably 2-3 weeks from peak color so we just enjoyed the occasional bright red or yellow specimen.    Not enough to pick up the camera yet.  But we didn’t stop in Freeport for leaves… you go to LL Bean.  Start with the outlet store for the best bargains…

then move over to the flagship store to procure the items you couldn’t find on sale.   I didn’t check but I think the flagship store is open 24 x 7 so no rush to get there.

Finally,  they also have satellite stores next door for specialty items, including food to sustain your pace.

But we took a time out to go to Linda Bean’s restaurant.  You know that anything with a Bean name is going to be good.   After enjoying the lobster bisque (with the option for added lobster chunks) and the clam chowder,  we splurged on their home-made desserts.

I inhaled a maple syrup infused cheescake with cranberry topping while Cheri savored a blueberry, blackberry and  raspberry sponge cake,  with berries between all the layers, just like Granny would make with strawberries.  Not our choice, but if you want a little lemon pie with your meringue,  this is the place. Oh,  that IS a normal size slice of lemon pie under the meringue… don’t think that this is a “petite” dessert!

Yes, we’re back in the US with overly generous servings of desserts and supermarkets with endless selections.  And cheap milk.   Mooo !

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cape d’Or

Cape of Gold,  the name given to these cliffs by explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1607 when he mistook gleaming deposits of copper as being “gold in them there hills!”

Geographically, the cape is located in an area of high velocity ocean currents,  which engage with an underwater basalt reef and burst to the surface in vertical waves, known as the Dory Rips.   If you look carefully, you can see Spencer’s Island where we camped.

The drive climbed up to the bluffs of the cape with panoramic views of the bay. Not shown in the next image are the cabins in the woods,  just above the beach.   What a view!

The parking area is high above the lighthouse and shore, with a steep dirt road leading to massive, highly eroded rocks below. While an attempt was made to mine the copper in the early 1900’s, the business venture failed without doing too much damage to the surrounding cape.

We drove through the small community of Advocate Harbour,  stopping for an excellent fish chowder and fresh rolls at the Wild Caraway cafe, one of the top places to eat in Nova Scotia.   A fitting place to reflect on a wonderful summer in the Canadian Maritimes! With a low tide in the harbor,  full stomachs, and fond memories of our travels,  we returned to Spencer’s Island to prepare to go to North Carolina.
We were heading to St. Andrews in the morning,  the location of our first RV night in New Brunswick.  Our gentle pace of 45-50 miles per day was about to be rudely changed as we shift to transit mode.   But for this night,   it’s one last day to enjoy and remember.

Then, we’re going home….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment