Category Archives: RV Travel

HOT, HOT, HOT!!!!!

There’s a very good reason why you can have your pick of campsites in central to south Florida in the summertime. It’s so hot and humid that most people are heading north to camp. Due to family circumstances, I’m here for the summer, and possibly next summer also. So, how do I survive?

Well, it’s not as easy as previous summers down here. For 1 thing, I’m still looking for work. That means I can’t run my air conditioner all the time without cutting back in other places. I was doing pretty good until about the middle of July. As long I didn’t do anything strenuous in the RV I was OK with open windows and vent fans/ceiling fan running. I could even turn the fans off at night.

Then it started getting really hot and humid everyday, think 90s for both. I could last until about noon without the AC, then had to turn it on for my sake and the cat’s. She’s leaving furballs all over. It is still possible to keep the electric bill fairly level in these conditions. First, I only exercise in the morning when it’s at least a little bit cooler. But by the end of the workout, I’m still very hot and sweaty. Definitely time for a shower. Since the outside temps are rising and my body needs cooling down, I find cold showers very invigorating. Also, with my strange eating habits, I rarely generate any dishes that need to be washed. I can last about a week without turning on the water heater. It’s amazing how much energy that particular appliance uses (propane or electric) when it’s just keeping water hot. So, I’m saving some money there.

If I get down to the Laundromat early enough, I can save even more by line drying my clothes. The park has communal laundry lines right next to the Laundromat, not too useful in winter but almost as fast as the gas dryers during the summer. I do have to be careful and watch the sky though. It’s a real bummer to have a load of clothes almost dry, then have a fast moving rain shower come over to erase all that progress.

So far I’m surviving the 2 hottest, wettest months in Florida and really looking forward to October when there should be a noticeable cool down. And by February, I’ll be wishing that I could’ve saved some of this heat :-)

 

Just When You Think You Have a Handle on Things

I’m currently in central Florida in a combo mobile home/RV park. There is 1 street that has only RVs and that’s where I’m at. The sites aren’t huge but they’re not the smallest I’ve seen either. There’s probably about 20 feet between RVs and all the sites are full hook up (water, electric, sewer). We’re right on the edge of a metropolitan area with a fair-sized hospital only 2 blocks away. I say all this to provide the groundwork for the following story:

I was watching TV the other night and about 8:30 PM I took a book up to the bedroom so I would have something to read in a little while. The weather was absolutely gorgeous that day and one of my bedroom windows was open with the shade all the way up. I noticed that there was  a lot of light coming from the site next door and glanced out the window. What did I see? Some guy peeing on a tree about 10 feet from my bedroom window! I couldn’t believe it. After a few deep breaths and assuring myself that he couldn’t be doing anything else (he had his back to me but was talking to his buddy that next time he shouldn’t hold it so long) I had a few words for him through the window. After that, I called the park office to report the incident and request they talk to him the next day. I went back to watching TV and heard the neighbors putting things away for the night and at least one vehicle leaving.

The next morning I decided to share my experience with the fine folks on rv.net. I’ve been a regular reader/contributor on their forums for years and rants about campground/RV park/Walmart behavior are fairly common. Well, I made my post, then went on with my life. A few hours later I checked in and was dismayed. It seemed that many people were siding with the urinator!

I guess to allow the benefit of the doubt, it seemed like some folks thought I was in a forest campground but once they started in a mob mentality broke out and it was open season on poor Joe.   So, here’s what some of the responses were like.

“It’s natural for guys to pee on trees in the wilderness.” Absolutely right but this happened in an urban RV park.

“Dogs pee on trees all the time and you don’t get upset about that.” Right again but dogs also hump in the middle of the street at high noon and stick their noses in your crotch to say hello. Standards of behavior are different for humans and animals.

“It’s god’s will.” This guy probably shouldn’t be out of the house without a caregiver.

“It’s a common practice in Europe.” Last time I checked Florida was not a member of the European Union.

“That’s the way we always did it on the ranch/farm.” Again, not a crowded urban RV park.

There were also a few suggesting it was my own damn fault for looking out the window. 1 poster suggested that I shouldn’t get upset unless someone is peeing directly on my steps in broad daylight. One guy said it was my problem for being in a mobile home/RV park. I quickly put that snob on my block list.

There were a number of people who agreed with me and came to my defense and I thank them. Hopefully all the ‘pro public urinators’ will stay in their own campgrounds.

For the record I’ve peed on trees from the Everglades to southeast Alaska and in woods all over West Germany. I’ve even peed on the side of the highway during emergencies. In all of those cases, there were no other options. This guy could have taken 2 steps in the other direction and used the facilities inside his RV.

Traveling Days – October 2013

Due to my foot injury I left Stephen MN sooner than planned, but not by much. As I was prepping the RV on 10/17 I got a phone call from the city manager saying that they would be shutting off water in the campground sometime on 10/18 due to low temperatures. So, even without the broken foot, I would have only lasted a few more days in the campground with my freshwater tank. Due to the injury, the biggest change in my traveling plans was final destination. Instead of heading due south to Kansas to work for Amazon, I drove southeast to Florida.

Departure on the morning of 10/18 was predictably cold, temps in the low 30s. I really should have put away the sewer and water hoses the night before but just couldn’t stand limping down to the bath house the night before. Other than that, the final preparations went smoothly, got the RV hitched up and headed out about 8 AM for my 2100 mile trip. I expected it would take a full 4 days but my main concern was getting into warmer weather as soon as possible since I would be boondocking in rest areas or truck stops at night.

I stopped in Grand Forks ND just long enough to finish some paperwork with Express Employment Professionals for my worker’s comp claim. Then it was back on the road heading south. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to fight headwinds getting out of the state and made it as far as Sioux City Iowa that first day. I can’t even remember if I boondocked at a rest area or Flying J that first night so I must have been tired. I do remember that it was still very cold. Between the cold, my foot, and Dakota craving attention, it was not a very good night for sleeping. I was back on the road before 5 AM.

My next planned stop was in southern Illinois. That meant I would have to finish crossing Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and part of Illinois. Traveling on a Saturday made it easy to get through Kansas City and St. Louis although there seemed to be a college football game in Missouri that contributed to traffic on the interstate. I had already checked out a rest area in southern Illinois in The Next Exit book. Just a few miles north of that rest area I noticed a lot of bright lights off to the side and thought it might be a sports stadium or industrial complex. Not even close. It was a prison, complete with lots of shiny concertina wire, and only 2 miles north of my rest area. I started reconsidering spending the night there but the decision was taken out of my hands. The rest area was closed and had a barricade across the entrance. No problem, my backup location was a Pilot truck stop a few miles further down the road.

I get to that exit well after dark and find a construction zone. Fortunately, I made it to the truck stop without getting lost or stuck on a 1 lane road. Unfortunately, the truck stop was totally full. 18 wheelers were packed in there like sardines. Even if there was an empty spot I might have still passed due to my inability to back into a tight spot, in the dark, after a long day driving. So, back on the interstate heading south to the next rest area. What a surprise! All the truck and RV spots full there also. But, trucks were parking on the shoulder in the rest area so I figured it was OK for me also. I drove head first into a large spot between trucks but the end of the 5er was still very close to the roadway. The trucker parked just ahead of me offered his advice and assistance. I pulled forward into the road again and parallel parked that RV! Many thanks to that trucker for spotting me so I could get a decent nights sleep.

The next day I hoped to make it at least to south Georgia, maybe north Florida. It was good weather and clear sailing through Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta. Knock on wood, I’d only had one small problem with my brake controller and was trying not to think about any more mechanical problems. The exhaust brake worked just great in the mountains as I cruised by the truck runaway lanes. That Sunday evening I pulled into the Florida welcome center on I-75, looking forward to a shower and a good nights sleep. I found a level spot so using the water pump on my freshwater tank was not a problem.

I turned on the water heater (on propane) for the shower, made a phone call, then reached in the freezer for a Klondike bar. After taking the first bite and seeing liquid ice cream run out, I realized I had a problem. In north Georgia, I had a propane cylinder refilled. Apparently, I left both propane cylinders turned off when departing the Flying J so the refrigerator/freezer couldn’t run at all the entire day. My water heater also wasn’t heating any water for my shower. Oh well, I stepped outside to open one of the cylinders, came back inside and verified the water heater and frig were working again. Made another phone call while waiting for hot water. Finally got my shower and slept with one vent open since the temps were very comfortable.

Got another early start on Monday morning. After some quick calculations, I figured I would be in Malabar FL by lunchtime. Turns out my biggest ‘big city’ hassle of the entire trip would be Jacksonville FL. I hit it right at morning rush hour and even though I took the bypass, there were several spots when all traffic came to a complete halt on the interstate. After that I stopped at the Flying J outside St Augustine. Wasn’t sure if I had enough diesel to finish the trip, so better safe than sorry. You’ve heard about ‘the ugly American’ overseas? Well, I saw ‘the ugly RVer’ in that parking lot. Someone in a 5th wheel had pulled in, taking up 2 RV spaces, had all 4 slides out and a spare gas tank under the 5er feeding the generator. It’s folks like these that give RVers a bad name. Anyway, I got in line to fill my tank and waited, and waited, and waited. The RVer ahead of me in line was attempting to get a propane cylinder filled but they were obviously having problems. When I questioned them they had no idea how long it would take so I asked the RVer to spot me in back so I could back up and take the other (empty) lane. Mission accomplished and back on the road.

I had called the RV park while waiting for diesel to let them know I would be there early. The manager advised that she would call me back only if my spot was NOT available. No callback, so life was good. I’d stayed at this park before so I knew exactly where I was going. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell me that it was lawn care day. That means that people park their cars and trucks in the street so the lawn mowers have access to the grass. After weaving through parked cars, I get to my spot and check it out. On the street in front of my spot, in my planned maneuvering area, is a pickup truck. The local manager cruises up in a golf cart, then a workamper, and they determine that the owner is off the premises. So, I look very closely and figure I can still make it in. With the workamper spotting my blindside I had the RV positioned in under 5 minutes. Get the electric hooked up and life is good. Temps are in the 80s so everything else can wait until I rest up some more.

The Intricacies of Medical Care on the Road

Many RVers, whether full-time, most-time, or part-time, have a home base where they return on a regular basis to recharge, update legal documents and take care of routine medical or dental care. They have doctors and dentists who maintain their records and are familiar with their history.  And then there are the full-timers with no home base. I’m in that last category. I always considered myself lucky in this regard for a couple of reasons.

First, I earned very low cost health insurance by serving in the Air Force for 20 years. Everywhere I’ve traveled in my RV, I’ve been able to find a doctor or hospital who accepted my Tricare insurance when necessary. Second, despite some very bad habits during my younger years, I’m still pretty healthy. At the ripe old age of 57 I don’t take any prescription medications. When I remember, I’ll take a multivitamin in the morning. According to the health professionals I’ve talked to, that’s uncommon. So, on the medical side, I’m pretty lucky.

On the dental side, not so much. I’ve had periodontal disease for a number of years. There’s really no cure for it. I follow a very strict home heath care regimen but that’s not enough. My last ‘regular’ dentists strongly advised that I should also get professional cleanings 4 times a year. Great! Again, because of my military service, I qualify for low cost dental insurance. Unfortunately, it’s like most other insurances. They’d rather pay after a problem occurs rather than spend a little more on preventative measures. They’ll only pay for 2 cleanings a year despite the diagnosis of periodontal disease.

That leaves 2 hurdles while traveling. The first is finding a dentist who accepts my insurance and is willing to take a new, one-time patient. That task is made a lot easier because of the Internet and Delta Dental’s website where I can look up the nearest dentist. The second problem is actually scheduling the appointment. Some offices schedule their cleaning appointments 6 months or more in advance. Others require you to make an initial exam appointment before they’ll do a cleaning. I carry my own X-rays with me so each office doesn’t have to shoot new images (which would come out of my pocket).

The last point is not so much a problem as an interesting side note. You just never know what kind of dentist/hygienist you’ll get until you actually show up. Every place I’ve been has fallen into the ‘satisfactory’ to ‘excellent’ category. I just needed to relate my latest visit since it was so out of the ordinary. I visited a dentist in Drayton ND today, maybe the only dentist in the town. The office was only open 3 days a week. OK. I’ve seen a lot of offices that only worked 4 days. I drove through the town about a week before my appointment just to see where it was. I didn’t have the exact address written down but knew it was on Main St so it couldn’t be too hard to find, right? Wrong! Drayton is a very small town and driving the entire length of Main St only takes about 2 minutes.

So, the next time I was in the RV, I checked the exact address, went back to Drayton and looked again. I found the addresses on either side of the office but in between those was a door and window with absolutely no numbering or signage. Hmmm. The receptionist called me 2 days before the appointment and she confirmed that I should indeed come to the unmarked door. The practice was so small they didn’t have a hygienist. The dentist cleaned my teeth, which was a first for me. After the procedure, I mentioned to him that it was the first time I’d seen a stealth dentist’s office. He explained that he’d been there forever and everybody knew where he was. Since he was getting ready to retire, he had no desire to spend money putting his name on the window.

Exercising on the Road

This subject comes up occasionally on various internet forums, especially for fulltime travelers. It can be difficult to maintain a physical exercise routine. Two of the most popular exercises among RVers are walking and bicycling. I really had to think twice before that last sentence because I’m not really sure that it counts as exercise if you’re just strolling during your walk or peddling your bicycle at walking speed. OK, it’s better than sitting on the couch but probably doesn’t do much for weight loss.

If you need to exercise for weight loss or building muscle tone, your options can be tricky. Personally, I’ve always been a big believer in jogging for weight loss. But as I get older (and maybe lazier) I can’t run far enough or fast enough to make a difference. I also have to consider deteriorating knee joints and foot problems. I certainly don’t want to carry my own home gym with me due to space and weight requirements.

Finally, a light bulb lit up over my head. I’ve heard about the benefits of yoga and decided that it fit the bill for an RV. No equipment other than a mat. No jumping up and down or other high impact moves. So the last time I was in town I went into Best Buy looking for a yoga DVD. The only 1 they had on the shelf was by Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser. Naturally I had misgivings but decided to buy it since it had 2 different level workouts. After playing the DVD, I found out that even Level 1 had 2 different levels within it for beginners and advanced. My biggest concerns were balance and flexibility. The next morning I gave it a try. She started out with a short warmup of yoga poses and that had me breathing hard. The entire workout is supposed to be about 30 minutes. I think I lasted about 5 minutes after the warmup. The next day I made it 15 minutes.

So, something that looked very easy was turning out to be very difficult, at least for me. Maybe I should’ve looked online for ‘Yoga for Seniors’ or something similar :-) Anyway, I’ll keep trying and hopefully I’ll be able to finish the full 30 minutes without calling 911.

Travel days are never the same!

So, yesterday I left the campground I’d been working at in Wisconsin. But I almost didn’t. The entrance to the campground is a dirt road on an incline. During the few months I was there, I would routinely go up that hill in my truck idling in 2nd or 3rd gear with no problem. Now I knew I couldn’t get away with that once I hooked up the 5er to leave so I got a running start at it but didn’t want to overdo it because of the slight curve at the bottom of the hill. So, I get almost to the top of the hill and the engine starts lugging. Couldn’t drop to second quick enough and started spinning the wheels. (Note to self: next time get a 4WD automatic!) Had to back all the way down the hill and almost screwed the pooch on that one. Overcorrected at one point and had to stop to remove a post before I hit it.

I had no intention of failing on the second attempt so I just barreled through that curve and made the top with plenty of room to spare. The rest of the drive was pretty boring, thankfully. Still a lot of construction around Minneapolis/St. Paul. Ran into headwinds again starting in the western half of MN. I knew when the winds picked up because I could see my computer-generated MPG dropping. But it never got as bad as it did the first time I drove to Stephen.

Got to the campground with plenty of daylight left, backed in, got leveled, hooked up electric, cable and water and started to relax. There’s something strange about my television because the first time I hook up to new cable many of the stations come in fuzzy. It always clears up within a day or 2 but last night I got to watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory (just a little on the fuzzy side).

Dakota was initially leery of heading for the open door, probably since I haven’t let her out in a long time, but eventually she got the idea and she spent the night outside last night. She didn’t do any hunting cuz she headed straight for the food bowl when I let her in this morning. We’ll see what happens tonight.

Traveling Days – May 2013

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Getting hot and sticky in Florida and a campground job was waiting in Wisconsin. I wasn’t getting any warm fuzzies by watching the weather channel just before leaving Patrick AFB. There was supposed to be heavy rain along most of my route through FL, GA, TN and KY. Well, we all know weather guessers can be wrong frequently so I was hoping that would be the case here.

I left on a Saturday morning with overcast skies but no rain. That was good for a couple of reasons. First, it kept the temps down on my engine and tires. Second, there were no love bugs in the air so the front cap of the 5th wheel stayed clean. My good luck with the weather lasted until partway through GA. Then the rain started, not real heavy but steady. I made it around Atlanta without any trouble and spent the night in a truck stop north of there.

The next day was more of the same, lots of steady rain all the way into Indiana. The interstate in IN also left a lot to be desired. I went over a small bridge south of Indianapolis and thought for sure that something was going to break since the front of the RV was bouncing like a bucking bronco. About 30 miles up the road I decided to exit and during my mirror check I noticed something strange on the driver’s side. I’d been watching water get thrown off my tires for the last 2 days but this looked different. After a second I realized that there was a tremendous amount of smoke coming off one of my RV tires. I quickly pulled to the shoulder and stopped. Fortunately, this was at the exit ramp so I had plenty of room to walk around. Damn, looked like an axle problem. It had skewed so that one of the tires was rubbing against a suspension component. The tire still had air in it so I turned on the hazard flashers and limped into the Flying J truck stop. I went directly to the truck parking in the back and it’s a good thing there were plenty of open spaces since maneuvering the RV was a  little challenging with one of the axles off center.

It was still raining so I didn’t even try to crawl underneath the rig for further inspection. Instead, I started looking for a local RV dealer for repairs and posted some inquiries on RV.net. Then I headed into the restaurant for all you can eat spaghetti.

The next morning I called an RV dealer just across the interstate. He showed up in about 10 minutes, took a quick look at the problem, and gave me a card with the number of a tire shop on it. Then he gave me a ride to the shop, which was directly across the street from the truck stop. Talk about lucky! They had a mechanic available. He drove across the street with some tools and got the axle straightened out enough for me to drive it to the shop. After further inspection, they just needed to replace a pin in the leaf spring assemble and replace the tire that got smoked. I was back on the road about lunchtime.

I spent a few more days in IN visiting family, then continued my trip to WI. The rest of the trip was uneventful. Arrived at the campground and got set up  fairly quickly. Just in time to experience low temperatures below freezing at night. Hopefully, that’s the last I’ll see of those temps until the sugar beet harvest.

The Black River is running high and strong right now, a little too much for my kayak, but it should settle down soon and let me get some playtime in.

Here are the Lost Falls, the campground namesake.

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3/19/13 Update from Patrick AFB

Sometimes things just work out right. I took the 3G Stepper out for a ride this evening. It was a little windy but otherwise very nice weather – sunny and low 70s. On the way back I decided to use the exercise trail that runs along the Banana River. This brackish river is home to a multitude of sea life, including the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. I used the full, formal name just so nobody gets it confused with the delicious dolphin (mahi-mahi) that you get in restaurants. Just past the halfway point my phone rang with a call that I was half expecting – the billing department for the hospital where I had my knee surgery last summer. After hanging up, I continued on my ride and spotted a dolphin swimming very close in. I slowed down a little to see what he would do and the next time his dorsal fin broke the surface he was still behind me. I stopped completely and noticed a large moving shadow right next to the seawall. The dolphin was almost directly below me. Not knowing what else to do, I leaned over and slapped the seawall a few times. Well, Mr. Dolphin rolled over on his side and eyeballed me for a few seconds before continuing on his swim. How neat is that?

Entertainment at Patrick AFB

Well, the past week here has been entertaining, although not very happy for a couple of people. Late last week a 35 or 40 ft Class A pulled into the campground and proceeded to the office to register. After talking to the driver (husband) much later, he said he was following his wife’s instructions, which turned out to be a big mistake. Next to the new office is a large sandy field (for lack of a better word) that used to be the base firing range. They tore it down sometime in the last 2 yrs and haven’t done anything other than remove all the rubble.

Oops, I stand corrected. They did have a fabric fence around the area to keep the sand from blowing all over. That was removed when some office worker decided it would be a great idea for all overflow vehicles (mostly tow dollies and box trailers, but some trucks and cars) to park on this soft, sandy ground instead of a nearby paved parking lot. That decision was rescinded within 24 hrs as people tried to get into the new parking area and started sinking into the sand. The fabric fence was never put back into its original location. That turned out to be a big mistake as the Class A from the previous paragraph pulled in.

The wife suggested to the husband that they pull off the pavement so they wouldn’t block the road. Unfortunately, hubby followed this advice. After registering, they went back out to the RV and attempted to pull out, only to dig the rear wheels in, down to the axle. Even though a case could be made that it was the military’s fault and they probably had a suitable vehicle in the motor pool to pull him out, this poor guy had to use his emergency roadside service. So, 2 hrs later, the tow truck shows up. At this point, we find out how starved RVers are for entertainment. They (including me) started coming out of the woodwork to watch the festivities. There must have been 40 or 50 people just sitting in lawn chairs or on picnic tables. The tow truck driver did a very good job and had that RV out of the sand in about 20 minutes, with no further damage.

The following day was my turn to move again. Everything was going well since there were some empty spots in overflow so I didn’t have to wait for somebody else to move first. There was one moment, however, when my stomach did a few flips and my heart was racing. When I kicked the last wheel chock out from between my 5th wheel tires, the RV started rolling. Fortunately, it was already hitched to the truck so nothing dropped. It only rolled a couple of inches but I was already racing for the truck to jump in and stand on the brakes. The rest of the move was nowhere near as exciting.

Now fast forward a few days and I’m looking at the opposite row of overflow parking and see something that looks out of place. I mentioned in my last post that they put the power pedestals forward on some of the sites. Well, it was just a matter of time before somebody hit one. This pedestal was leaning over at a 45 degree angle, completely exposing the cement base that was probably meant to keep it in place. A little later I found the RV that caused that damage. It was another Class A and they hit the pedestal while pulling out of the spot. The tail swung out to make contact and you could see the gouge starting about 8 ft from the back of the RV. So, a couple of storage bay doors will need to be replaced and the rear cap will require some fiberglass work. It all brought back some sad memories of my accident in Nebraska when I pulled a similar stunt at a truck stop. The big difference here though is that this guy had a spotter available. I know that because I saw his wife spotting as he backed into his new site. Now, if only she had been spotting as he pulled out of the old spot, they wouldn’t have to get their RV repaired.

Back to overflow at Patrick AFB

Ahhh, another lovely moving day here in sunny Florida. They have a rotation policy here in this military campground. If you’re on a partial or full hookup site and there are other people on a waiting list, you can only stay on that site for 30 days. My 30 on a partial hookup site was up this morning so I got to swap spots with someone in the improved overflow. So, the morning started with gathering up the outside stuff (bike, kayak, racks, etc) and tossing it all in the back of the truck to put on the new site. Then back to the RV, finish securing stuff inside, disconnect utilities, bring in slides, hook up and head for the dump station. Wish I’d had more time at the dump station to flush the black tank real good but it was good enough for a few weeks in overflow.

I said ‘improved’ overflow because they’ve added electricity since my last visit. My new site was very narrow, just barely long enough for the RV, the power pedestal was too far forward and there was an electric panel on the door side of the RV. Oh, and it was angled so I had to back in from the blind side. With the help of a couple of neighbors, I got situated OK in about 15 minutes. I had to make several adjustments so that I could still open one of my storage compartment doors and the big slide would have room to clear the electric panel. When all was said and done, my RV door opened on to fairly new sod instead of the concrete patio but I can live with that. Dakota is happy that it was such a short move.

I’m back on the waiting list, this time for a full hookup site. That will really be nice to have sewer again. I’ll probably be here in overflow for 2-3 weeks. After my move to a FHU site, some of the other RVers should start traveling again so I may be able to sit there until I head back north. I’m also much farther away from the bath house in my new site so I’ll be getting more exercise walking back and forth.