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The Travels of Bucket List Bessie

John & Pat go fulltime in an RV

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retirement

Summer 2017 to Summer 2018

Pat has been busy brainstorming,  planning our itinerary (I just drive the bus and dump the poop tank while contributing to the contents along the way), making reservations, etc.  after Denver.  The plan includes two weeks at Yellowstone, a brief stop to view the eclipse (without spending a lot of time for a 3-hour event), a dash (as much as we dash anywhere) across North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York, and a visit with our kids in Baltimore for Thanksgiving.   Each of the balloons below represents between a few days to three weeks in one spot.

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Courtesy of  Good Sam’s Trip Planner

Since we’re all about warm temperatures, we have to get out of Baltimore before things get chilly, so our next phase for winter 2017-18 is to head down I-95 to Florida where we’ll meet up with my brother Jerry and his wife Beth for a month in an RV resort down the road from Disney World in Orlando.  We plan on spending the entire month of December there, and then moving up to the Florida Panhandle for another month along the gulf coast.  We’re also hoping that close proximity to Disney World will act as a kid magnet, and get our two busy kids to drop things for a bit and spend a week or so with us.

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We’ve got a lot of relatives to visit after that so we’re going to meet up with friends for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and then cut North to ultimately wind up in Maine at the height of Summer 2018.

Those northern states get cold pretty early, so we’ll have to do what we can do to visit and then scoot south before the winter winds start to blow.

But for Now, Thanks a Lot, Hiram.

We left Denver after the wedding festivities wound down, and headed up to our operating base of Rapid City, South Dakota.  It’s too much for one day’s travel, so we split it up by staying for three nights at Scottsbluff, Nebraska (#2 on the map above).   People think of Nebraska as plains, and the eastern half is just that.   But Western Nebraska has some hills rising up out of the plains, and they acted as landmarks for settlers moving westward along the Oregon Trail in the middle 1800’s.   The town is named for Hiram Scott, a Rocky Mountain fur trapper who didn’t do anything remarkable except die in the area after taking sick while travelling and making his way into the area – one historian said by crawling and swimming courtesy of the North Platte River that runs through town – after his fellows got tired of dragging him around.  His body was never found but the area eventually bore his name.

The town of Scottsbluff is like many plains towns in the area, focused on agro and the other businesses that keep the state moving, but there is a national park here called, appropriately, the Scotts Bluff National Monument. The NPS took the actual topographic feature known as Scotts Bluff and built a road to the top of the hill.  From that point it’s possible to view the path of the Oregon Trail, and see what the settlers saw as they stopped for provisions on their way west.   The pass through Scotts Bluff is known as Robidoux Pass, named after the family who operated a trading post at the site.   The story was related to me by a local American Indian scholar I met that Antoine and Joseph Robidoux so disliked the settlers, who were not very friendly – many of them were early Mormons who were not known for their bonhomie except amongst themselves – and haggled incessantly for everything they wanted to buy as they passed through the area, that they eventually moved their trading post south off the trail so that their only customers would be the local Indian tribes.  These folks paid the asking price for whatever they bought and got along just fine with the Robidoux family when they weren’t on the war path.

It’s unlikely that those settlers would have been able to do what we did, go to the top of the bluff and have a look at the country to the west of Scotts Bluff, since they didn’t have the luxury of stopping for a breather.  They had to keep moving in order to get through the Rockies before the snow flew.   But since we had the time, we drove to the top of the bluff, had a good look at the area, and Pat walked the trail back down to the park headquarters while I drove down to meet her.

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Scotts Bluff.  I took this picture while standing on the Oregon Trail (Robidoux Pass) and looking North.  The settlers would have moved through here with this feature to their North.
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View from the top of the bluff to the north, towards the town of Scotts Bluff.  Pat decided to take the walking trail down (just visible to the left through a man-sized tunnel from the other side of the bluff.
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Typical settler’s wagon.  This is NOT a “Conestoga,” which was out of the price range of most settlers as they cost about $1000.  This one ran about $200, much less sturdy but affordable.  And it had the luxury of being much lighter for fording creeks and hauling up and down mountains.  This particular wagon was built and owned by the Studebaker family, who moved west along with the other settlers, and later transferred their blacksmithing knowledge into making cars.
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A true Conestoga heavy freight wagon.  Took 6-8 oxen to pull one of these (that’s on top of the grand you had to pay to own one).
On Friday, July 28th, we got back on the road and made the final leg up to Rapid City, SD, where we’ll have just short of a week to take care of financial and medical business before moving northward to visit the national parks and heading East.

 

 

 

Kansas City, Missouri to Wakeeney, KS

We spent the holiday week at Blue Springs Lake Campground, just east of Kansas City. Blue Springs is arguably the nicest county-run CG we’ve ever seen, located in a resort area to the southeast of KC. It was sort of a combination of low-key, staying inside and reading while it rained, and amped-up touring of the local sights when it didn’t. 20170701_PowellGardens_BoomsAndBloomsFestival_99994We started with a bang by attending “Blooms & Booms,” an outdoor lawn concert by the local symphony held at Powell Gardens, a beautiful public-accessible garden near the lake, and watching a pretty good fireworks show set to the usual Sousa marches and 1812 Overture.

On Monday we went swimming in Blue Springs lake, one of two man-made recreational lakes that encircle the campground, and then the rain moved in and we spent the evening reading and watching TV.  Since we’re here, right next to Independence, MO, it seemed appropriate to pull out the film How the West Was Won from our hard drive.

Then came the actual 4th holiday.  We used up a large chunk of the day by visiting a county-run re-creation of an 1855 Missouri town, which turned out to be a lot more interesting than it sounds. 21WZP0~T I spent a couple of hours chatting with the town’s tinsmith about various metallurgical factoids (my dad was a spring maker so I picked it up at an early age) and a couple older denizens of the town who really knew their history.   Then things got really loud at the campground. It sort of reminded me of Baghdad on the start of Shock & Awe night.  Missourians love their fireworks and have no limits on what can be bought at the temporary tents set up around town prior to the holiday, so there were some big-caliber things going on.  Pat and I went up to the highest point of the campground and watched for a couple of hours as fireworks went off in a 360-degree circle all around the campground.  The rumble of fireworks went on and on until 11 or so. Needless to say Mac the Cat was terrified, found a passage up inside the RV dashboard and refused, wide-eyed, to come out for anything but her most treasured cat treats.

Wednesday we went into KC and spent the entire day at the National World War One Museum, which was a sobering experience and a good counterpoint to the nationalism of the 4th of July. 20170703_KansasCityMissouri_WorldWar1Museum_96The museum did a good job of pointing out the root causes of the War to End All Wars, and it was interesting to note that World War Two was fought for many of the same ultra-nationalist and economic reasons. I guess 9 million dead didn’t teach them very much.

Thursday we took advantage of a couple local shops to do preventive maintenance on the RV.  Our Onan 7kW generator was up to 115 hours – we use it on the road a lot to run our roof A/C, hot water, microwave and residential fridge –  so we packed up the RV and took it over to a Cummins/Onan service center for an oil and filter change while we ate breakfast at a nearby Waffle House.  Then we drove around the corner to a Ford truck center for the RV engine’s first oil change and lube.  This took longer than I thought because I insisted on Mobil One full synthetic oil and the shop had to send out for it.  We topped off the RV’s gas tank, got back to the campground about 3 PM, and had an hour’s nap before running some evening errands and hitting a pizzeria for dinner.

Tomorrow (Friday) we’re leaving KC behind and continuing our I-70 journey* to a KOA in Wakeeney, Kansas for a couple days before driving further on in the general direction of Colorado.  There’s nothing much going on in Wakeeney, a town of about 1800 souls, so there might not be much to write about until we get to Colorado.  wakeeney  We’ll leave I-70 at Limon, Colorado, after 2 days there, and take a detour down to Colorado Springs.  We leaned on our DOD retiree cards to get a campsite at the Air Force Academy’s RV park (military RV parks are known as “FamCamps”) for 14-18 July, so we might get to tour the school grounds and take some pictures while we hang with the USAF homies. For a couple of ex-zoomies (airmen) that would be another box checked off in our bucket list.  Bye now!

*Interesting note about I-70. Our house in Maryland was within earshot of I-70 and U.S. route 40, which runs either parallel or together with 70.  Now here we are approaching the western end of those routes, and they’re still running together and parallel all the way to Cove Fort, Colorado.  The CG is just down the road from them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Merely Inconvenient

Pat and I hang out on several sites populated by people who are either contemplating RVing full-time or are already doing it.  The questions are endless and there seems to be no threshold for what is considered too unimportant:  Gas vs. Diesel, how do you do your wash on the road, how do you deal with pets, what does it cost, what can I afford, how this, how that, etc.   I thought I’d do this blog entry that touches upon a number of questions I’ve been asked, and even though I’m not an expert yet, at least I’ve been through the retirement -> house sale -> domicile -> rig purchase process and I’ve got some insights from having done it.  This one is about our coach and our thoughts on what we thought we needed to hit the road and make it stick.

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We’ve been driving and living in our 2017 Fleetwood Bounder 35K for a month now, so let’s do a gut check on our satisfaction level.  Depending on the price point, every RV has things we love about it, and things we don’t.  When Pat and I went shopping for our full-time RV, the one we’d live in for the foreseeable future, we had done about 3 years of Internet research, and didn’t have much practical experience.  In the words of one RV tech I talked to along the way, when I told him I was a rookie RV’er who decided to go full-time, “Man, you’re sure not afraid to dive into the pool without finding out how deep it is, are you?”

What we thought…

Well it wasn’t just a dive.  More like walking down the pool stairs instead of doing a cannonball from the pool edge.  We researched the hell out of this (Internet is your friend here), went to RV shows, asked people – both who were trying to sell us coaches and those who owned them with no dog in the fight – what they thought and what they’d do over again.  In effect, we were the people on the introductory paragraph above.  After much argument we came up with a list of criteria that our RV had to satisfy:

It had to be a Class A coach.  I got lots of advice on this from wonks on the Internet. The most popular types of RV are 5th-wheel trailers (towed by a $70K beefy diesel pickup truck that we didn’t have), Class C coaches, built on a van base, Class A coaches like the one we ended up with, and “travel trailers” that are towed behind a pickup truck in a typical bumper-hitch configuration.  Every type has its fans and supporters who think it’s the bomb, and we heard arguments from all of them.

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Typical class C coach. We rented one for a week-long trip and thought it was too small for full-time life.

Pat didn’t like the idea of driving a big pickup all over the place to do our sightseeing once we reached the RV park and unhitch, so 5th wheels and travel trailers were out, and we found that full-time living space was a problem in all but the largest Class C’s, so that left a Class A coach as the obvious choice.

It had to be 35-38 feet long.  This was for ease of driving, and because many RV parks out there are older ones from the bygone days of shorter RVs, and it’s hard to fit a 45-footer into one of their sites.  And, really, no way do I want to drive one of those down a secondary road and tow another 20 feet of car behind me.  We thought anything smaller than 35 feet just wouldn’t be big enough to allow for gracious living for the length of time we were contemplating doing this.

It had to be a gasser.  Class A’s come in two flavors: diesel (known as a Diesel Pusher or DP, because the engine’s in the back) and gasoline.   I was unfamiliar with diesels, plus they cost more to maintain and cost about $30-50K more than gas rigs of the same basic amenities.  I was told by diesel wonks, well yeah, but you can get a 7-8-year-old used one with plenty of miles left for about the cost of a new gasser.  Well, maybe next time.

It had to have a washer and dryer.  These rigs don’t feature a lot of closet space, so our downsized wardrobe demanded a lot of washing.  We could use the campground laundry at a cost of about $3 per load, but we figured it would work out cheaper to have our own facility in the coach, which is only really useful if we are in a park with water and sewer supplied.

We had to have a King-size bed – It was what we were used to at home, so why not?  The model of RV we ended up with had a queen bed, but there’s more to the story.

We need a big shower.   This might not be a big deal to others, but we’re not small people, so it made no sense at all to buy a coach with a shower too small for Superman to change his clothes in.   The shower is built into the design of the coach layout, so it was not negotiable or fixable after the sale.  We walked around the RV dealership with a tape measure just to be sure.  Ours is 30″ x 40″, about the minimum that we considered acceptable.

We didn’t need four TVs in a 35-foot coach.  Since this was two TVs more than we had in our house, we were amused when we’d tour RVs that had TVs all over the place.  Bedroom, Living Room, above the dashboard, and even one accessed through a hatch on the outside of the coach. Some high-end coaches even have one in the bathroom.   RV manufacturers seem to think that their chances of selling the coach is proportionate to thenumber of TVs it has.  We really only wanted two – bedroom and living room.

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The mostly useless (at least down south in 90-degree temps) TV in the coach, in my opinion is the exterior one on the patio side of RV.  Maybe it’ll show its worth later when we get up into a milder climate or don’t have to swat bugs so much.
We wanted a kitchen table and chairs rather than a dinette booth like you would get in a fast-food restaurant.  This one was harder to find, since we were bucking the buyers’ trend.  And, although we could have swapped out a booth for this setup at great expense later, we really wanted it from the get-go.

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The table pulls out and accepts a drop-in leaf that stores normally under our bed, along with two more folding chairs.

The Good:

After sifting through all those criteria, we settled on a 2017 Fleetwood Bounder 35K.  It had all of the stuff we wanted and, as this coach has begun to educate us in what it can do, we realized that we got a winner.

The Gasser – while a diesel pusher can do a bit better going up and down hills, our recent trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains convinced me that our coach is no slouch in the mountains, either, even when dragging our car behind it.  Yes, there are times when we have to pull into the truck lane and put on our 4-ways while going up steep grades, but on the whole it does pretty well.  In 2016 Ford introduced a new, 6-speed transmission that is night-and-day better than the previous 5-speed, and we’re very happy with it.  The length is 36 feet (including the rear ladder) and that fell into our desired range.  It would take a lot to convince me that we would need to go any larger, and in fact there’s a lot to suggest that we could do with a smaller coach a few years down the line if we decide to buy a new one.

Washer & Dryer –  I really like our Splendide combo wash/dryer, and I didn’t think I’d like it as much as the other alternative – an over/under dryer/washer combo.   With this model, we just put our clothes in and start it up, go do something fun, and when we return they’re clean and dry.  It tends to wrinkle cotton, but liquid fabric softener takes some of that away.

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Our Samsung residential fridge requires that we run the generator while we’re on the road for 5 hours or more, but on shorter hops we just keep it closed and it doesn’t lose any cool inside without 120v power.  Samsung is not a brand I think of when it comes to RVs, but it works well.  Somebody – probably Fleetwood – tried to add a little lever to lock the doors when the coach is bouncing down the road.  It sucked and made it harder to open the door and get stuff, so I drilled out the lever and Pat found a better lock (those two little white squares on either side of the freezer, plus a bungie cord wrapped around the door handles on top) on the Internet and we’re much happier.

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We thought we needed a King Size Bed – Wrong.  Fleetwood (and other makers) found out lately through their marketing data that people really like King beds, so within the last 5 years or so they began pushing them either as an option, or as a primary choice on medium-priced rigs like ours.  Pat and I are big people, so we figured that only a king-size bed would make us happy.  We were wrong about that, and it only took a couple of nights sleeping in our coach for that to sink in.   Ours came with only a queen bed, and we had overlooked the advantages of this size.  First off, whether you have a queen or a king, the width of the slide is the same, so what you gain in bed width, you lose in nightstand width as they shrink the nightstand on either side to accommodate the wider bed.  We kind of like a wide flat place to charge our phones, place our glasses at night, and hold my CPAP machine, and we wouldn’t get anything that wide with a king bed.   Second, the narrower queen gives us more space to stand on the side of the bed in the morning to make it or to get up for something.

The Bad

Cargo capacity –  If I were to think of the worst thing about the coach, it’s that it’s built on a 22,000 lb. chassis.  This means that it can’t take more than that weight on the axles or risk a tire blowout or chassis failure, leading to an accident.   This leaves us about 2200 pounds for two people, groceries, clothes, plus the liquid capacities of the various fuel and holding tanks, and the weight of our towbar assembly.   The first thing we did after we loaded up the coach with all the stuff we brought down from South Dakota or bought in Florida,  is run over to a truck stop and weigh the coach with us inside, and we learned that we only had about 260 lb. left for additional cargo or passengers.

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One of the best things an RVer can do is to occasionally weigh their coach to make sure where they stand in terms of maximum weight.  Should be done a couple times a year and only costs about $10 per weigh.

Why a 22,000 lb. chassis instead of, say, a 24K or 26K chassis?   To save Fleetwood a few bucks and help them meet their price point by cheapening things up.   It’s one reason that the interior walls in the coach are made of thin, wobbly fiberboard and stapled to very lightweight studs.   Walls in a gasser tend to be very flimsy and easy to break, but to put in sturdier walls would mean beefing up the chassis, or dialing down the cargo capacity even further.   One thing Pat and I are learning is to be very aware of what goes into the coach and what goes out, and that we can’t have one without the other.   The gross weight above (21740 lb.) tells us that even just the weight of one of our kids on the road would be enough to put us over the max cargo capacity.

Handling – Another baddie is that this coach is hard to handle on the road.  This has more to do with the fact that the heavy engine is in front, unlike a diesel pusher, and there is a lot of “tail” (the house that sticks out behind the rear axle).   Trucks push us around on the road, and I’ve found that I cannot relax my attention for even a second, leading us to only drive 4-5 hours without pulling off the road due to driver exhaustion.  In addition to the tail, which can “wag the dog” if I’m not careful, the height of the rig causes some alarming sway.   Also unlike a diesel pusher (which has airbag suspension) our coach has a leaf-spring suspension, and this contributes to the alarming swaying and “float” when taking some turns.

One thing  we can do to reduce the sway and improve the steering stability is to install an aftermarket sway bar to harden up the suspension, and also install an aftermarket steering damper – sort of a shock absorber for the steering gear.   Pat and I are certainly going to do this within the next 6 months.  These two generally run about $3500 for both, so it’s a major expense but worth it in terms of peace of mind while driving.  Here’s a video done by a couple of full-time RV vloggers about the process performed on a bounder a  year older than ours, but basically the same suspension.   It also shows the realities of driving a 35-foot motorhome.

Another option is to install Sumo Springs, which sort of mimic the action of airbags on the leaf suspension.  They run about $600 and can have a dramatic effect on sway.  These vloggers drive a Tiffen Allegro rig about the size of ours, and it uses the same Ford chassis and suspension as our Bounder.

The Merely Inconvenient

The thing that falls into this category is POOP!   And how we deal with it.  We have to empty the black tank (what comes from the two toilets only) every four days or so, because our black tank only has a capacity of 42 gallons.  Our habit is to always find an RV park with a sewer at the site, hook up a very high-capacity hose (known as the “stinky slinky”) to the sewer dump, and open the dump valve when the tank reaches 2/3 full. Then we use a separate water hose to shoot water into the tank via a special fitting through the tank wall to flush it and clean it out – takes 2 or 3  repeats of this before the water draining from the tank appears clear.

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Red toilet – no flush. Green toilet – go for it.

The toilet system our RV uses is called a Sealand Vacuflush system – used in many RVs and yachts, and it’s got some quirks.  If you’ve ever used the head on an airliner, you’re familiar with the roar that our toilets produce when we flush them.   Then a quite loud vacuum pump kicks on and recharges the vacuum in the entire system for the next flush.   Nobody can use the system until the vacuum gets restored by the pump, and this can take a minute or so.  There’s even an indicator on the wall that tells you when it’s OK to flush, if the person in the other bathroom has beat you to the punch and flushed first.  The trick to the black tank and when to empty it is to keep an eye on a tank volume indicator above our front door.  If I forget and ignore it, some very bad things – like some very nasty stuff working up the vent pipe to the roof and giving everyone a poop shower – can happen if the tank gets too full, so it’s something you just have to accept that’s different about the mobile lifestyle.

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Crossville, Home of the Old and Retired

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We rolled into Crossville on Friday night.  Crossville is home to a retirement community known as Fairfield Glade, of about 8000 people that seems to have affected the demographics and economy of this part of town in a big way.   The community is the snowbird destination for people from the north, particularly Michigan, who can’t stand the heat of Florida and move up here instead.  The locals call these people “Halfbacks.”  Even the RV park we’re staying at, Spring Lake RV Resort (the “resort” part is sort of a stretch as they don’t really have amenities), is a “55+ park,”  meaning that kids can come visit their ancestors for a day but can’t register to camp here unless they’re over 55.   In place of the swingsets, pool and play areas that you find at normal parks, they have adirondack chairs set strategically around the central, small lake so we old fellers can sit and stare at the plastic swans anchored in the middle.   But it’s clean, close to the people we want to visit, has good utilities, and will serve us very well for our week here.   The lake is also stocked with largemouth bass, and I’d be fishing if my poles weren’t in storage back in Maryland, waiting for us to come get them.

The old-age thing hereabouts wasn’t apparent until Pat and I went to Mass on Sunday.  We looked around and didn’t see many young people unless they were attached to an older person or persons who were obvious grandparents.  The average age of the people at the service had to be near 50.  Like everywhere else we go, we don’t know a lot of these local facts until we arrive and start asking around.

Our biggest reason for coming here was to visit dear relatives on both sides of our family.  My cousin Jim and his wife Leath, both Ohio natives, have a vacation place right down the road from us in Fairfield Glade.   We visited with them later in the week and, thank God, it had nothing to do with a family funeral, which is the only other time, it seems, that we get to see them.  On Sunday we drove up to meet Pat’s niece Sherry and her family – some of them for the first time since we hadn’t seen them since she was remarried – who live near Oak Ridge an hour away, for a visit and had a great time getting to know each other.

As far as fun things to do, we’re still looking.  We went to nearby Cumberland Mountain State Park on Sunday and had a fine time due to its un-state-parklike amenities.   For one thing it has an olympic-sized swimming pool, which seemed to be the main attraction of a hundred or so young folks in the area on a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon.  We swam for a couple hours until the place started clearing out about 4:30, then went over to the park’s very nice restaurant for a good buffet dinner of ribs & chicken.

So we’re trying to find things to do and see.  Over the past couple days, we’ve been driven around the local area by Jim and Leath, taking in the sights, hiking to local waterfalls, visiting the world’s tallest tree house (abandoned), hanging out at their vacation condo a mile or two down the road from us and fishing on their pontoon boat.  We had a great time catching up on family gossip and reconnecting with both of our families that we’ve missed by living in Maryland for the past 30 years.  That last is a big reason why we chose this mobile lifestyle and the past couple days’ activities, IMHO, have validated that choice.

Of the two major housekeeping things we had to accomplish this week, as of Friday the 23rd one of them got done and the other is still, annoyingly, pending.  The finished item was that we got the plastic bubble skylight – broken by a low-hanging branch on our last leg up here – over our shower replaced by a local repair guy, who talked my arm off with advice once I told him I was a rookie RVer.  The unfinished one – our permanent South Dakota license plates – is still in License Plate Limbo.   We got a call from our South Dakota mail forwarder, who was doing the legwork of registering our RV, and they were waiting on one little tax document that needed to be faxed from the Florida dealer where we bought the RV.   So our Friday departure time has come and gone, and it looks like we’ll be here, unexpectedly, over at least the weekend.  Fortunately the RV park office is okay with us staying put in our current site, at the normal daily rate.

This morning (Friday the 23rd) Jim and Leath left for Myrtle Beach for their own family vacation, so we’re here by ourselves.  Last night we got a reciprocal visit from Pat’s niece Sherry and her husband, so we had a repeat reconnection with them as well, took them out to dinner and went on a Tennessee backroad snipe hunt trying to get back to our RV, since they unexpectedly and temporarily closed the main road leading back to our park for construction while we were eating dinner.  I kept hearing banjo music as we tried to find our way back here down back-country roads, but that might have been my imagination.

The weather turned rainy yesterday and continued that way into today, so it looks like we’ll just be hanging around the RV doing some reading and low-key entertainment.  I suspect that this is going to be the pattern for the next couple of days, and my task this morning is to call our dealer to light a fire under them and get the mail forwarder the document he needs to get us our plates. We’ve had to cancel two follow-on reservations so far due to the delay, and every time we do that we pay a cancellation fee so the frustration is mounting.

 

 

 

The Time Has Come…

…to leave Maryland and begin our journey.  We settled the house sale this week and, flush with equity from the sale, we went looking for our next home-on-wheels.  I think we found it at Lazydays RV in Seffner, Florida:  It’s a used 2017 Fleetwood Bounder 35K that has 3000 miles on it, and it has most of the options we wanted with the exception of an HD satellite dish.  So we settled on a price and asked the RV dealership to install a Winegard Slimline HD Trav’ler antenna, and we’d pay for it when we get there on May 12th or so.

ourbounder

So we’re down to our last 2 days in Maryland.  We’re loading the car and separating out everything that doesn’t have to ride with us, beginning on April 30, to South Dakota.  Once we get there in 3-4 days, we’ll set up our domicile in Pennington County (near Rapid City), and then run on down to Tampa to pick up the RV.  I am conflicted about leaving our home in Maryland – I mean, we’ve lived here for 30 years and are familiar with all of the nooks and crannies.  And we’re expanding our horizons so far that it will be impossible to know everything about the places we’ll go – we’ll just end up touching a few high spots before moving on.   I imagine myself as a 21st Century Charles Kuralt with On the Road, passing through small towns and sampling all of the sometimes weird and wacky things they have to offer, all in the name of bringing in tourist dollars.  There’s the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, which commemorates Elvis Presley’s first haircut.  Or how about the International Banana Museum in California, dedicated to everybody’s favorite pasty fruit.  Or the aptly named, “Museum of Odd” in Kansas?  Or (seriously) the Moist Towelette Museum in Michigan?

OK, so most folk are going to say, “but aren’t you going to go to Las Vegas and gamble?” Well, no.  I’m as awestruck by spectacular light shows as the next guy, but our journey isn’t really about what everybody else does, it’s about what we do.  Picture Dave Barry coming up with material for his blog, and that’s us during our journey.   I can’t wait.

The last couple of days have been a hodgepodge of loose ends.  I had cataract surgery on one eye earlier in the month, and during the surgery the docs saw something on my EKG that they didn’t like so I had to run the chart past my primary doctor to see if something needed to be done.  I had an EKG done by him as part of the pre-op stuff that turned out normal, and so I didn’t suspect that this was anything serious.  So I visited my primary doctor this week and he ran another EKG, which also turned out normal.  So apparently I am good to go for the launch of the Great RV Adventure.

The person who bought our house turned out to be one of the kids’ teachers from River Hill High School, and even though it’s no longer my home I didn’t want to just take off without making sure that she was happy with the place, since she reported a couple situations of lights not working, problems with hot water, etc.  One of the plastic parts of a DIY water irrigation system for the raised garden beds didn’t survive the winter and needed to be replaced, so that’s on my list of things to do for Saturday the 29th, our last full day in Maryland.

We’ve seen more of John and Katie, our two kids, more this month than in all of the previous 6 months combined.  They’re busy building their own independent lives and working way more hours per week than I consider healthy, so it was with surprise when they started indicating that they wanted to spend a lot of time with us.  I think they realize that we’re not going to be around for awhile and are getting in some last minute parent time before we take off on our adventure.  At some point I’d like to see if we can hook up with them and share our adventure, maybe get them to fly out west to stay with us for a few days, so we’re building in some time during the holidays for us to stay a spell in Maryland before heading south for the winter.  The “rules” of domiciling in South Dakota sort of make staying around in Maryland expensive, since if we stay a total of 6 months here we become eligible to pay Maryland income tax for the entire year.  With that fact in our minds – and the fact that we’ve already been here in Maryland for four months of the year – we might have to cut things short this year.  Next calendar year we can devote more time to hanging with the kids.

We’re leaving town on Sunday the 30th, and our planned overnights include Elyria, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin and Sioux Falls, SD until we reach our destination of Rapid City, SD.  Each leg includes 6-7 hours of driving, and because Mac the Cat is our backseat road buddy, we’re choosing to stay in Red Roof Inns, which welcome pets with no extra charge.  We plan to roll into Rapid City on the 3rd of May.

 

 

 

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