Monthly Archives: August 2014

Oh, the Places we’ve Been and the Many we have yet to Go!

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

So much to do and even with all the time in a day there never seems to be enough time. That is why it never seems like we are re-visiting, it’s a new place each time.
A recap of our trip and campgrounds we have experienced in our two weeks and 4 days on the road:

* First stop was in Nebraska. A very nice, out of the way, State recreation area in North Platte, Lincoln County. We experienced a direct hit thunderstorm replete with hail and heavy rains. It was like being at a (not so great) drive-in movie, both of us sitting in the front seats watching the light show and rain. That’s when we discovered a leak that found its way into the lamp over our dining table. It was coming through the large slide side, with a built-in awning to prevent such a thing. Examination (the next day) showed a possible gap in the caulking where the awning meets the motorhome. Yes! We kept our caulking gun and it actually was still viable to use. Working in sync (an unusual happenstance, but required recipe for being in such close quarters with each other) we caulked and smoothed in hope of quelling any further leak with heavy rain. That didn’t give us much time to explore the North Platte River but I managed a bike ride through the wildlife and Crane viewing area, albeit no cranes this time of year. But it could remain a stop in the Springtime when we learned the cranes make a dramatic landing on their fascinating tour. We also didn’t really see the train buff roundabout that remains an active convergence of railroads today.
http://www.recreationparks.net/NE/lincoln/buffalo-bill-state-recreation-area-north-platte-west

Round-about Train Yard

Round-about Train Yard

North Platte River

North Platte RIver* Next stop was an equally lovely Nebraska State Park on Lake Conestoga http://www.recreation.gov/recreationalAreaDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&recAreaId=300&agencyCode=null

 

I got my fix of fresh cut corn straight from the field (actually it is late in the season I was told by a local). Our car transmission issue stifled any lake activities but we can always return.

* On to Ankany, Iowa and an especially lovely stay in Cherry Glen State Park Campground. A visit from a co-worker of Brian’s, a bottle of local Rye gifted and we had just enough time to catch a beautiful sunset over the Army Corps of Engineers well maintained lake. Next day was again preoccupied with fixing the jeep, but it gave us time to walk through much of the local streets and experience their new supermarket!

Hy-Vee Sausage display

Hy-Vee Sausage display

http://www.recreation.gov/camping/Cherry_Glen_Campground/r/campgroundBookingWindow.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=73120

Sunset over Cherryglen

Sunset over Cherryglen

* This lead us to Illinois and our quick stay in Starved Rock State Park. Every place we have stayed thus far, we would stay again. We have chosen well (we collaborate but I confess that Brian loves his travel agent role and investigates long into the night). http://www.stateparks.com/starved_rock_state_park_in_illinois.html

* Into Chicago we rolled. We missed the truck stop where we had planned to detach the jeep and went behind the court house, on a deserted enough street to perform the task. A Sheriff immediately pulled up and came over to our RV and asked our intentions, advising us it was not a safe enough area to be. Enough said, we moved on and went directly to the (very clever) McCormick Convention Center Marshalin Yard. It is the truck parking area for shows and they open their space to visiting RV’s for the (reasonable for a large city) fee of $30 per nite. 24 hour gated, manned surveillance (you can stay if you like) and friendly truckers. The best value in Chicago! http://aboutrving.com/pdfs/BoondockingChicago.pdf

We chose an Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com
condo for our stay.

Chicago Lakeshore Drive

Chicago Lakeshore Drive

Rooftop View Marina Bay Tower

Rooftop View Marina Bay Tower

* Following our city fun it was back on the road toward Michigan. First stop Indiana Sand Dunes State Park. Unfortunately the reservations we thought we had were never made and we had to move to plan B (a good tip, always have a plan B, ask for email confirmations and check that it has been received;). The National Lakeshore Campground was merely a bike-ride away from pristine beach on Lake Michigan rather than being at the dunes.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

There is always next time! http://www.npca.org/parks/indiana-dunes-national-lakeshore.html

* Our next stop was a squeeze into the small, private road our sister and her partner are fortunate to call their lake home. It is in Saugatuck on Lake Michigan and we had an amazing time, started to really relax. Sorry, not open to the public but gets rave reviews from us. We did have to trim trees to bring our massive home down their serene lane. Quite the spectacle!

Trimming to Fit!

Trimming to Fit!

Saugatuck

Saugatuck

Lake Huron

Lake House

Lake House

* Also wanting to see the week day house (it is somewhat new for them and we had never seen it) we booked a stop-over near Ann Arbor, half way between our sisters and a friends condo, in Ypsilanti. Detroit-Greenfield RV Park. It is a private resort campground and was well maintained, easy in and out sites, with a large lake, wildflowers and walking trails. Perfect for a one night stand.
http://www.detroitgreenfield.com

*Lakeport State Park on lake Huron was next on the agenda and as all the others, it did not disappoint although it was not our favorite. The park itself was quite nice but at the end of summer and on a beautiful beach, it was crowded. Good enough for a stop over. http://www.stateparks.com/lakeport.html

 

* Heading to Niagara Falls, American side, we went through Canada. They take entering very seriously, have all your ducks in a row and answer their questions honestly, as seriously as they are asked and you won’t have any issue. Driving the 3 hours through the outskirts of Ontario was uneventful and doesn’t do the country justice. We will be back to explore in ernest some day soon. Arrived at Four Mile Creek State Park in time for a spectacular sunset and to notice that NY keeps America beautiful. 3 Great Lakes in 3 days, the view over Lake Ontario had its own unique beauty.
http://www.reserveamerica.com/camping/four-mile-creek-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=336

* On to Ithaca, NY to visit my sister. Fairly sure it was too tight to park in their driveway, we were too late booking to snag a spot in the nearby Buttermilk Falls State Park (Cornell fall semester move-in weekend), we opted for going a bit over budget and staying in a resort campground with full hook up. It was quiet, well equipped and nicely laid out. Would still opt for the State Park but it was an easy going visit at Pinecreek Campground.
http://pinecreekcampground.com/

This brings us up to date, August 25, 2014. 11 Campgrounds in 18 days. When I put it that way, it seems ridiculous, and we know we will slow down eventually. We have a set date for a wedding in Connecticut, lots of people we want to touch base with after being away for so many years, and getting adjusted to life on the road.

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Every Day Is a Crisis!


  • Lessons Learned.

    There is no right way to do this. Transition is hard and experience is our friend!
    Mistakes are easy to make, staying calm is an art.
    Relearning to live with someone you have lived with for 37 years can seem like starting over, again!
    We CAN and WILL do this, do it well, and enjoy our new lifestyle.

All the planning in the world can’t get you ready enough for the multitude of mishaps that are waiting to happen in the course of the full-time, large rig with a toad (RV speak for flat towing our Jeep liberty) lifestyle. The best advice is to NEVER be in a hurry, work as a team and check each others work, regardless of how trivial the task. We didn’t do that when we dragged the toad 3 miles not properly set in neutral, messed the transmission up; but so far flushing it seems to be working ($195 vs $$$$2500. for new one), near-major catastrophe. A step-by-step checklist is now in place as well as a two person oversee system. We didn’t do that when we retracted the slide and a, yet to be hung, picture frame was in the way, crunching and breaking it into many pieces; as well as the bedroom door topper in the closed position that prevented the whole side slide from retracting and stopped it dead in its tracks. A rubber mallet to release the stuck wood, short little arm to retrieve the mangled picture frame (all but one picture in tact and rescued), the slide groaned loudly and slid back in. Another major dollar issue averted. Parked in the (very clever) Chicago McCormick Trade Center Marshaling Yard, ready to venture out on our two day city visit (airbnb condo rental), I decide to extend the slide a bit to get something I forgot in my closet. 4″ later, the slide comes to a dead stop and won’t budge. Sounds like only one motor is trying to work. Really?! Expletive. We have people to meet and places to go. We leave anyway and lament about it, in order not to disappoint. It will be there tomorrow (cutting into our visit, but so be it). Desperate emails and pictures later (to our guru MD RV John Godwin) the next day (sure we caused this) and my handy man (Brian) finds the motor wire came unplugged. Easy! Not a crisis after all and totally unrelated. Lesson Learned. Never assume and always look for the easy solution first.

So much stress, isn’t this supposed to be the stress-less choice? Not by a long-shot. Being together 24/7, dealing with one hit after another, takes a toll on even the best of friends. But because we are best friends, we will weather these bumps in the road, the low hanging limbs, and regroup.

This life is meant to be savored. Rushing to ensure we get to use our gifted Wrigley Field tickets put us off our game. Looking back, it was worth it, we feel we were lucky to come out of it somewhat unscathed, but the mistakes (maybe) could have been avoided were we not preoccupied with our schedule.
So many Lessons Learned and Lessons yet to Learn. I vote for a break in the action!Wrigley FieldMarina City Towers Condo

Navy Pier Fireworks from Millennium Condo, Chicago

Navy Pier Fireworks from Millennium Condo, Chicago

Downsizing and Transitioning to Full- time

Last Bash

Last Bash

Ready or Not

Time to Shed and Transition

The more we planned, the less we were seeming to follow it. RV purchased, storage lot found, make it a bit homier and cheerier for full timing and investigate ways Brian will be able to work via the internet, phone and email. Basically the same set-up he has been enjoying for years at ‘home’ wherever that was (NY, Colorado, Houston, Colorado). I retired from full-time work, taking spontaneous positions when they came available, very sporadic and basically, retired. Turning 62 last May, I decided to really reduce the stress and avail us of the hard-earned social security in our account. All part of the grab it while we can attitude we believe we are striving for. That was very appealing to Brian and without a second thought, turning 64 end of July, and he was retired too! Health insurance remains an important component for us and we agreed to pay for Cobra out of pocket for both of us until he turns 65. We will live on social security, continue to invest wisely and cut costs to make ends meet.

Now that we are free to go, we set our transition date to early August. I will never know for sure, but if I had to shed all of our belongings not coming with us, by myself, it may have been overwhelming. As it was, the emotional tear of leaving our recently married, only child, daughter regardless of the promise of returning to our beloved Colorado frequently, had me in flummox. Keep calm and carry on, this dream is worth following and everything good comes with a price, my mantra for months.

Happy Birthday Leo's!

Happy Birthday Leo’s!

I started going to Estate/Tag sales in the area to get a feel for how they are run and what might work for us. Mostly mayhem, but it certainly proved there is a market for just about anything you have, for a price, cheap price that is. Something is better than nothing as I tend to give everything away once complimented anyway! It did make me decide that I wanted arms length selling, worth the (rather large but worth it) percentage (35% in our case) you have to share with the estate sale company for their extremely hard and laborious work. As with anything, interview several people, ask lots of questions and then just go with your gut (best case scenario is a personal referral from someone you trust who had their own experience). Some things to ask: percentage charged, are there additional fees (credit card, tax) and who pays them, can we put a bottom line price on individual items, where and when do you advertise. Our estate sale company of choice was A Bluebird Estate Service. Lori and her son Johnny Angel were great people to work with and felt like friends in no time. Lori gave me a range of the value of all our items for sale and came in spot on at the top of the range!

Link to our sale (in the past)  http://estatesales.org/monument-co-estate-sales/monument-estate-being-liquidated-431445

Bluebirdand link to their information and phone contact:

http://estatesales.org/estate-sale-companies/5479

To be ready for the sale, all that we were taking (and, thankfully, able to gift to our newlyweds) had to be out of the house by the time they came (4 days prior to sale date) to tag and price everything. You must tag anything that is NOT for sale clearly. Better to just remove it altogether so there is no confusion. We had been sorting through the house for months, paring down, some rooms and things took several ‘passes’ in order to ‘let it go!’

We were able to park our monster motorhome in front of our house for several weeks (we lived on a cul-de-sac and our neighbors and otherwise rule crazy HOA kindly looked the other way) prior to leaving for the Camping resort a mile away, set to be our transition home base while we tied up loose ends and hugged our loved ones. The convenience of being able to cart things up and down our driveway was an unplanned windfall. Probably had us taking more than we will ever need, but better to shed than to repurchase!

Arrived and settled in our transition space up the road, we begin to experience our new chosen lifestyle. Brian hops out of the RV, goes over to thank our new neighbor for moving his car that was parked in our way, and two minutes into the conversation he calls me over to introduce a man I had worked with for years before his retirement in ’05. It IS a small world, after all.

 

Leaving with Jeep and I Following

Leaving, with Jeep and I Following

Last View from House

Last View from House

DIY RV Projects for full-time Living

Window Valance Pre DIY Project

Window Valance Pre DIY Project

Brian Stapling New Fabric onto Window Valances

Brian Stapling New Fabric onto Window Valances

Post DIY Window Project

Post DIY Window Project

And now the never ending Projects begin

We have never been really big on ‘decorating’ for decorating sake. It has always made more sense to be practical, clean, comfortable, and for me, uncluttered. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate nice and pleasant surroundings. So. what are the implications of full time RV living on our indoor surroundings? As I look at my first post I see I indicated a neutral decor as a criteria.
Who chooses the fabrics in these RV’s, they certainly don’t seem to have the full-timer in mind. Most of them look like a tropical or safari vacation. Not what I want to look at day after day. Where am I’m going with this is straight to our first DIY RV project, as the interior window treatments and dining chairs have a safari AND tropical palm tree effect, blended to a dark, dank atmosphere. Choose a fabric wisely, get a staple gun and medium staples, magnetic screw driver (preferably power driven) and off you go. The change, while not dramatic, gave me some sense that I have control over how our home is going to look day-to-day. The real challenge is coming; organizing and fitting it all in without being cluttered!