Tuesday, December 31, 2013

RV having fun yet?

Driving down the Columbia Gorge

When we set out on our new lives as fulltime RVers, we knew we wanted to have adventures. Well, we are certainly having our share of adventures, though I don’t know how excellent they are. The question at this point that begs to be answered is: RV having fun yet? The answer depends on what your definition of fun is.

If you think skidding all over Kennewick streets the morning we left is fun, then we are having fun.

Waiting to be rescued
If you think running out of gas just before Rooster Rock on I-84 is fun and spending two hours in a cold rain on the freeway shoulder waiting to be rescued is fun, then we are having fun. (The gas gauge showed we had half a tank left.) Note: Good Sam Roadside Assistance promised us help within 55 minutes, then sent our rescuer miles beyond where we were to Multnomah Falls. Kevin had given up looking for us at Multnomah Falls and was headed back to Portland when he found us.

If you think spending four hours in a car repair waiting room while they try to figure out why you are only getting 3 mpg is fun, then we are having fun. Note: if your car ever breaks down in Lincoln City, Oregon, we can recommend Car Care Specialists. Though they had a shop full of vehicles in various stages of being worked on, they gave priority to our truck, and at very reasonable prices, too. While we were waiting for the repairs to be done, we had lunch at a sexist Subway. It’s sexist because it has two bathrooms: one labeled “men” and the other labeled “handicapped.”

If you think having the generator almost fall off the back of the trailer is fun, then we are having fun. The RV dealer where we bought the trailer said we could mount a platform that could hold 500 pounds to the rear trailer bumper. We had less than 300 pounds, and it broke the bumper; another few miles and we would  have been picking pieces of the generator off the highway. So we had “fun” for a couple of hours, taking the platform off the bumper, and getting the generator into the pickup bed which was already filled with two motor scooters, one motorcycle and tool boxes. We managed to get everything to fit, though we now have tool boxes in the bedroom and “living room.”

If you think getting ready to pull out only to find the trailer batteries are dead and you can’t put the slides in is fun, then we are having fun. Luckily, the security patrol at Spirit Mountain Casino where we were staying was able to jumpstart the trailer battery enough so Jon could raise the front jack up, unhook the truck and then swing it around for a major jumpstart so we could charge the batteries enough to get the slides in. Note: if you’re looking for free trailer parking, the casino is great. Every employee we encountered went out of their way to make sure things were going right for us.

If you think getting a frantic call from the young man who bought your house is fun, then we are having fun. He didn’t have any heat in the living room, and I told him we never had it either, and reminded him that we had told him about this before he bought it. This will probably be the last winter the house is like this. He works in HVAC and plans to put in central heat and air this summer. Other than this, he likes our house a lot.

And if you think me trying to sell Jon’s newly-restored vintage motorcycle is fun, you are correct. Jon doesn’t think so, however. We had been planning to spend two nights at one place, but after I told Jon someone was coming by after he got off work to make an offer, Jon decided we should hit the road.

And this is only how the first three days went.

Day 4 went well. "Day 5 was great until we blew the brakes coming down the steep grades between Arcata and Redding, California. We will welcome in the new year in Redding.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We're off! (sorta)

Our excellent RV adventure got off to an unexpected start: We're spending the first four days in a local motel.

Getting our of our house was a hassle. We were very rushed due to the fact the lender and buyer's agent kept pushing the closing date back, so we thought we had more time, which we desperately needed due to me having various health problems and ordered on bed rest. At the last minute, the title company reverted to the original closing date, and it was a mad rush to get out by Monday night. At 6 p.m. on Monday, we were ready to move the trailer out and into a local RV park until we could leave on Friday. One of the jacks broke. There was no way I was going to make Jon go buy a new jack, then take the old one off and put up the new one, and then set up the trailer at the park in the dark with a cold wind blowing, after all the 16-hour days he'd just put in

So we headed off to the Motel 6 in Richland. We like Motel 6 because they never hassle you if you're traveling with a dog. When we found out their rate was $10 a night less than the RV park's, we decided to stay here until our departure on Friday morning after my last doctor's appointment. We got a new jack yesterday and Jon hopes to install it later this afternoon. Tomorrow, we both have doctor's appointments and a few last minute details to take care of.

We'll take Interstate 84 to Portland and then decide there if we will go south along the Oregon Coast, pretty but rainy this time of year,or brave the snow over the mountains on Interstate 5.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday greetings!

We're in the final stages of packing up the house in anticipation of closing on the sale in a few days, and hope to leave for warmer climates shortly after that. While we won't be celebrating Christmas in the southwestern United States this year, unfortunately, it is something to look forward to next year. Yea! No more temps in the single digits at high noon. Double yea!Wherever you spend your Christmas journey on the road this year, we wish you a wonderful holiday season and the best for 2014.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saving money on RV repairs

Flea collars protect more than pets
As anyone who owns an RV knows, repairs are expensive. We found this out a couple of weeks ago, when we took our travel trailer in for what we thought were minor repairs. The bill was $2,300. Our cost was only $83.50. Luckily, we had bought a service contract when we got the trailer. At the time, we thought the $1,500 was expensive, but this visit more than paid for the contract.  We've still got another four years of service left on the service contract, so this is turning out to be a wise decision.
One way to cut down on the repair costs is to prevent breakdowns from happening in the first place. A flea collar that costs a couple of bucks can save hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars in repair costs. Why? A flea collar is good wasp prevention. Wasps love the smell of propane and will set ip housekeeping near an outlet. They don't like the smell of the chemicals used in flea collars, so they'll go elsewhere. My husband's nephew, who is a service writer for a large RV dealership, says they get a lot of rigs in for repair where the wasps -- and wiring -- were fried when the propane pilot light went on. Read more about this tip in an article I wrote for RVtravel.com's newsletter.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Motor scooters and RVs

Touring Yellowstone on scooters
We're planning to take our motor scooters with us when we set out on our RV journey. We'll use these for sightseeing instead of the truck. Our scooters get 100 mpg, the truck only 10 mpg, so it's a no-brainer.

A couple of years ago, we hauled them over to Yellowstone and spent a week touring the park on them. It was probably the best time I've ever had there. We also take our scooters on local camping trips.

Tips for taking your motor scooter along

Here are some tips if you're thinking about taking scooters rather than a towed vehicle:

Regulations vary from state to state on motor scooters. For example, some states require riders of all motor scooters to be licensed, while others only require licenses for scooters that are 50cc or more. Some states don’t require helmets or liability insurance, others do.

To be on the safe side, make sure you have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license, have at least liability insurance and wear a helmet at all times. This way you’re prepared for whatever regulations a state has.

Always be prepared
If your motor scooter’s tires are tubed, always carry spare tubes and know how to change a tire. If a motorcycle repair shop isn’t handy, an automotive tire store can change the tube. They may not have inner tubes that small, so the spare will come in handy. They also probably won’t change the tire on the scooter for you.

Your motor scooter probably came with some basic tools. Always have them with you, as well as some multi-purpose bolts in your scooter’s size in case you need to make quick repairs when a repair shop is tens of miles away. Not everyone is lucky enough to be married to a retired motorcycle mechanic, but even he was challenged when my scooter lost a couple of critical bolts and none were to be had in the small town we were staying at.  (He ended up taking them from a place where they were used for decoration more than for function.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tip for keeping dishes intact on the road

Our solution to keeping dishes safe
Accidents happen. Cupboard doors in RVs come open as you're driving down the road. Dishes fall out and shatter on the floor.
This happened to us a couple of times in our old trailer. What a mess!

When we got our new trailer, I wanted to avoid this from happening again. So I came up with the idea of securing a dish drainer to the cupboard floor, and my husband implemented it. It work great! It takes under an hour to do.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Which RV is best for me?

Camping in our trailer
The answer to that question is pretty much a personal decision. It all depends on what you want to do during your travels.
The main types of recreational vehicles are the motor home, the travel trailer and the fifth wheel.

We looked at - and considered - all three, before narrowing down our choice to a travel trailer.

At first we thought we wanted a motor home. There are some really super ones out there. We looked at one so luxurious, I commented to the salesman, it doesn't have a dish washer. He showed me where it was located. Our reasons for ruling out a motor home included price, cost of repairs and lack of flexibility in campgrounds. Motor homes are the most expensive. We couldn't afford a new one, and I didn't want a used one because we'd seen too many motor homes burned on the side of highways. My husband said this was because the owners didn't care for it properly. My husband is a retired mechanic, and we wanted a vehicle he could repair if it broke down far from help. I also thought I would be too afraid to drive one.  Some campgrounds, particularly public ones, have size limitations on the length of motor homes. If we got the size we liked, we couldn't stay in some of the campgrounds we wanted to.

My husband's first choice was a fifth wheel toy hauler. We plan to take our motor scooters with us when we hit the road, and need something to haul them in. Since a fifth wheel fits on the back of a pick-up, that meant we would have to have one with the toy hauler option. I was not particularly keen on having them smelling up our living quarters, nor was I happy we had to give up so much living space to accommodate them.

That left travel trailers, which come in all shapes and sizes. With a travel trailer, we could put our scooters in the pick-up bed. (We bought a wide enough ramp that my husband just rides the scooters up when it comes time to load them.) There are so many floor plans and sizes to choose from. I was really enamored with the Scamp, a small lightweight trailer that can be pulled with a four-cylinder vehicle. This would have been great if we were only going to be gone a week or two, but we needed something bigger since we plan to live in it full time during our travels around the United States.

Then it was a matter of finding a floor plan we liked. This is where we had problems making up our minds. We must have looked at hundreds over a couple of years, getting to be on a first-name basis with every RV salesman in our area. Just when we thought we found a trailer we liked, we'd go home to think about it. We'd have more questions, but when we went back to get them answered, we'd find another trailer we liked better. Everything came together one day last summer, and we have a trailer we really, really like. In fact, compared to our old trailer, we feel like we're living in the lap of luxury, though we only have a mid-range trailer that we purchased used. (Our old trailer, made in 1965, was 15 feet long, and no electricity, bathroom, heat or running water in the sink, not to mention a TV with DVD player and radio.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Saving on campground fees

Once we hit the road, I expect nightly campground fees to be our biggest expense, though towing our trailer with a truck that gets 7-10 mpg isn't going to be cheap. Actually, I've budgeted the same amount of money for both items. It remains to be seen how well my budget works out, but I'm optimistic the target can be met.

I've come up with a lot of ways to save money on nightly fees. The list starts with the federal recreation lands pass for senior citizens. Not only does it save 50 percent on nightly camping fees, it also gets us into any federal recreational facility, from national parks to historic sites, for free. You can't get any cheaper than that!

We used the pass on our trip to Yellowstone in September 2011. We paid $7 a night at Mammoth campground and $11 a night at Madison. If we'd stayed in a hotel, assuming we could find room at the inn, we would have been paying well over $100 a night.

Last summer, we used the pass for a double discount at a local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground on the Snake River. The nightly rate was $24, but they were having a weekday discount of 50 percent because highway construction was making it difficult to get into the campground. That brought the rate down to $12 per night. Not bad, but by using the pass, we got our site for $6, including electricity. Buying that pass is the best $10 I ever spent!

We also plan to stay anywhere from a week to a month or more if we find a place we like. Nightly rates drop significantly for long-term stays.

I discuss more ways to save money on site fees in an article I recently wrote for a website dedicated to the lifestyle of baby boomers.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

RV there yet?

No, we're not quite there yet, but soon we will be. "There" is anywhere in the United States that has warmer winters than we have in Eastern Washington. Right now it's freezing outside. Icy. Probably some more snow is in the forecast. Brrrrrrr.........

But we won't be snowbirds like so many retirees are, spending winter in the southern warmer climes and summers in their northern homes. Instead, we plan to live full time in our RV.  Address: anywhere it's warm in the winter. And we'll see the USA along the way. If we find a place we like, we'll stay for a few weeks or months or maybe even settle permanently.

Our plans are fluid. We're putting our house up for sale soon. As soon as it sells, we're outta here. Our new home will be a 28-foot travel trailer.

This blog will chronicle our experiences for family and friends, as well as anyone else who's interested. There's no set schedule right now for writing it, but it will be regular once we get on the road. Until then, I'll write sporadically about our preparations for this excellent adventure we plan to take.