Living Two Weeks With Our Water Tanks

Currently we are parked at Wright Patman Lake, south or Texarkana, Texas Rocky Point Corp of Engineer (COE) Campground. We have 30 amp electrical service (fine for this time of year) and a freshwater hydrant. We are moving to a lakeview spot tomorrow in the same park.  With our America the Beautiful Park Pass the cost is $13 a night. Temperatures are in the upper 50’s and low 60’s during the day and moderate at night. We have had a couple 70 degree days. This post however is about our goal to make it 14 days on our freshwater and wastewater tanks.

Rocky Point COE – Texarkana, Texas

We enjoy longer stays at county, state and federal campgrounds. From our experience we find most of these campgrounds limit your stay to 14 days. Hence, our goal to live off our freshwater and waste tanks for two weeks. A quick summary of this blog post would be that on average we are using seven gallons of freshwater per day with only basic water conservation practices. Our grey/black wastewater tanks will handle that for two weeks, but we may not have enough freshwater capacity without resupply. Someday I may purchase a water bladder and transfer pump.

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Branson Missouri Visit

We uprooted and hauled our home the 100 miles from Carthage Missouri to the mountains of Branson Missouri, traveling I-44 to US 65 Highway southbound. Only a few taller hills along the way on this smooth patch of divided highway.

The drive was good practice in getting ready for the next leg of our journey which was continuing south on US 65 Highway through the Ozark Mountains into Little Rock Arkansas where we are now parked. While in Carthage Missouri talked with several people regarding our planned route into Texas, passing through Branson, Little Rock, Texarkana and finally Livingston Texas. I also referred to a spreadsheet I’ve kept now for about five years which has links back to other’s blogs for specific locations. I find it interesting to re-read posts about the actual stop as well as earlier and later posts showing how they arrived and departed the area. Us newbies appreciate it when folks outline the route they took. That’s one of the reasons I’ve concentrated on reading blogs where the owners pull larger trailers or drive big Class A motorhomes.

We stayed two weeks in Branson Missouri. The RV park manager where we stayed in Carthage used to live in Branson and highly recommended America’s Best Campground (ABC). Plenty of larger RV sites with full hookups atop a hilly lookout. And easy to get into from US 65 Highway having come nowhere near the busy main part of Branson which is 76 Country Highway. It’s been years since I had been to Branson and Karen had never visited Branson.

We won free show tickets (valued at $65)

Upon arrival at America’s Best Campground we were welcomed by a large sign at the entrance bearing our names in lights. Yup, we apparently had won two free tickets to a show. The office management knows how to run a park. We had mail delivered from Amazon and our mail service in Texas. A small detail but interesting is that the park has a white board in front of the office where they write your last name if you have mail or messages. Saves going in the office to check. Inside the two-story office was a game room and book exchange upstairs. Real homey place where we could also buy discounted show tickets for in town and a morning cup of decent free coffee.

Our spot among the hills at America’s Best Campground

From camp we can see the lights of Branson

Around the first of October the entire place turns into a Christmas wonderland. Lights everywhere with displays. Especially at Silver Doller City amusement park, which I understand was voted one of the top Christmas attractions in the country. The state has added a few highways since my last visit and label their routes by color codes so it’s easy to get around. America’s Best Campground was just minutes away from whatever we wanted to do to include all kinds of shopping and restaurants. The  camping fees are reasonable for a resort town. Had we been able to arrive earlier we might have considered a month-long stay. Karen liked the fact the clean laundry at the park had 10 washers and 10 dryers. I’ll be adding a post latter about how she is handling laundry without a machine in our RV. She has been thinking through the process as we prepare to decide if we will have a washer/dryer installed at the factory service center maybe, or not, in March or April of 2020.

We enjoyed the drive through the hillsides and took in a few shows and some free hiking. We used our free tickets to the Abba music tribute, spent time walking the beautiful lakeside trail in the state park, went to the Dolly Parton Stampede dinner show, toured a trout fish hatchery and spent a couple hours at the two-story Titanic Museum. (See more photos at bottom of page)

Sorry for the photo quality. I want to keep the file size down. This is Table Rock Lake along the three mile paved walking trail between the state park and visitors center.

Scenic overlook on the way from Branson to Table Rock Lake State Park

We spent an afternoon in an area by the lake known as the Landing. When I used to vacation on Lake Taneycomo, near the area called the Landing, was a campground and marina where I’d stop and ask the locals what the fish were biting on. That’s all gone now, having been replaced by this shopping district. They do have I think the most wonderful water fountain display which is equipped with high shooting water, lights and fire timed to music on the hour. We walked from the Landing to a fine store called Dick’s 5 and 10.

Shops at Branson’s Landing

Karen and my sister Mary at the Landing. My sister’s Lisa and Deanna with family would join us later during this trip.

Don’t miss walking to Dick’s 5 and 10 from the Landing as you pass the Scenic Railroad Depo

Had I not been there twice before, we would have absolutely gone to the Shepherd of the Hills to see the live outdoor play. At one time the Shepherd of the Hills was the second most read book just behind the Bible. John Wayne stared in a move about the Shepherd of the Hills which was nowhere near the story told in Branson nor in the book. So much to do in what some call the live music capital of America. I’ve been to Nashville three times and although its’ a wonderful city to tour, Branson offer more variety in my opinion especially if you consider the non-music venue.

We were visited by friends from Kansas City and my sisters arrived for a show and to see us off as we left Missouri. Karen and I really enjoyed our stay. She says Branson is a place she could live. The surrounding communities make for enjoyable drives and they have reasonably priced condos/apartments scattered in scenic areas.

At this point in our fulltime RV journey we both are preferring the longer stays of a week or more. And for sure moves of 200 miles or less are preferred especially if the route does not take us over interstate highways. But we are just three months into this lifestyle so there will be more to consider as we go along. The trip to Branson was more of a vacation for us. We enjoy just living in the moment at campgrounds and so far, don’t feel an overriding urge to see everything when we are in the area. We are thinking our campground selections will include the campground itself being the destination. Such as the one we are now parked at in Arkansas.

This is starting to feel like home. The emotional lows, which can be a part of a move to this lifestyle, are fewer for sure. I’ve got a lot to report back on such as our goal to make it two weeks on our fresh water and waste tanks, more RV maintenance stuff, how my part-time mobile office job is filling a need to be productive, living with no satellite television or cable TV bill, anticipating an updated budget, route planning tips and my research/final selection regarding healthcare insurance. For sure there is no lack of subject matter to write and learn about.

Yes – Southern Missouri has stocked trout fishing! Here is one trying to swim up a fall.

Two headed snake on display at the nature museum below Table Rock Damn at the Shephard of the Hills Fish Hathery

His two brothers call him Pork Chop – singing at the pre-show at the Dolly Parton Stampede. He caught Karen taking a photo.

Even a Christmas section at the Stampede

Dolly Parton Stampede. The show and food were out of this world worth it!

The Titanic Museum. Located in the main section of Branson. Takes two-three hours to go through

We are currently located at the Maumelle Corp. of Engineer Park on the Arkansas River outside Little Rock. We are moving to Texarkana on Tuesday 11/26/19 where we will stay over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Water Connection and Cold Weather

Currently we are located in Branson Missouri. On 11/18/19 we will be stopped outside Little Rock Arkansas, moving south to Texarkana and then eventually to Livingston Texas.

Here is a quick post regarding how we are handling our water connection during below freezing temperatures.  Any feedback or suggestions is appreciated.

We have been in our fifth wheel in temperatures as low as 12 degrees outside. It handled it well and we are impressed with the heating and insulation.  This campsite (America’s Best in Branson Missouri) had a note posted in the office. If you leave your water connected to the spigot in freezing temperatures and there is damage to the spigot the repair costs start at $250. I’ve heard other parks have the same warning.

We don’t have a heated hose so we disconnect our water hose during freezing weather. And as we do not expect to stay longer term in freezing weather I don’t intend to buy a heated hose which costs between $80 and $120.  If you do plan to buy a heated hose then I refer you to Bill and Kelley’s American Odyssey blog for an option to build your own as part of your research. I’ll be saving the storage space and skipping the heated hose for now.

I keep an eye on the expected low temperature and unhook our water hose, drain the hose and put it in the basement so it does not freeze. We have a fresh water holding tank that is 70 gallons plus the hot water tank at 10 gallons for a total of 80 fresh. Make sure your water heater tank is full before turning it on or it will be damaged by the way.

When temperatures are freezing I add water to our fresh tank to feed from while unhooked from the city water spigot. I turn on our 12 volt heat pad tank warmers. I’ve read that even if the tanks are dry the 12 volt heat pads will not hurt the tanks. We figure about 10 gallons of fresh water per day. I put at least that much in the fresh water tank for overnight when unhooked, maybe more if we are going to take showers and don’t want to run out. If it’s above freezing during the day we will reconnect to city water and take showers.

For now, I do not use our external charcoal water filter when I’m adding water to the fresh water tank. Seems to me if we remove the chlorine from the water then it would go bad over time in the fresh water tank.  Although on occasion I can drain the fresh water tank and sanitize it (another maintenance item I need to do).  Our trailer has an inside water filter which I understand will filter the water from the tank to the faucet.

If you stay hooked-up to city water in freezing temperature, even with a heated hose, beware of the external water filters as they will freeze and the cheap plastic may rupture. I saw that at our last stop and turned the guys water off as he was away from his trailer. I notified management who said the external water filters (like the blue one’s at Walmart) are very likely to crack in freezing temperature. The below photo is an idea using a bucket to heat the spigot if you leave it on and it’s short enough to cover with a bucket:

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Bucket covers spigot

Our water pump is somewhat loud. I’m in the process of researching if I can get in the basement and maybe install some rubber under it to help with the vibration. I’ve also intended to buy a spare water pump in case ours goes out. I’d use the spare to pump water into our holding tanks from a water bladder someday.  If the spare pump is of better quality, I may install it in the camper and use the old one to transfer water from a bladder.

We are getting ready to travel in some hilly areas so I’ll be keeping our fresh water tank weight down. Before we leave I’ll be draining the remaining water from the tank and using my water counter (gauge) to add back maybe 10 gallons plus what’s in the hot water tank.

I’ll post more later about how we are heating our trailer. Just a quick reminder to run your furnace at times if your basement and utility bay is heated or the water lines inside the trailer may freeze.

RV and Truck Maintenance – Part One

We made it to Branson Missouri a week ago. It’s nice not to worry about when we have to leave to get back to work or home!

Again, I find myself typing a longer post than maybe readers care to read. I just want to get all this out before I forget. I tend to write for myself, like I’m the reader, and hope like-minded people can make use of it.

It’s raining this morning and it’s turning cold outside. So it’s time to do some indoors stuff. Like drinking flavored coffee my daughter gave me and catching up on a blog topic. We might also take off later to tour inside stuff here in Branson or catch a show. For now I wanted to catch up on how I’m handling the maintenance and repairs so far; especially as we just came from separate five week and three week stops which was a good time to tackle a few things.

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Carthage Missouri

Our time in Carthage Missouri is nearing it’s end for this trip.  Carthage is located in southern Missouri on the edge of Joplin Missouri. Our stay at Coachlight RV Park will have been three weeks before we leave this Monday. The weekly rate at the park is $200 total. The monthly is around $525 plus electric.  Had we known the stay would be this long I might have taken the monthly rate and “left early.”  We have booked a two week stay in Branson Missouri at  American’s Best Campgroup which is a highly recommended park, near town and with reasonable rates. The manager of our park here in Carthage lived in Branson and recommended America’s Best as well as a few friends who were on their way to Branson. I would have been happy to stay at Table Rock Lake State Park outside Branson where they even have full-hookup spots.

New friends we met while parked in Kansas City are a couple weeks ahead of us in their travels in the same direction. It is nice to get with them on route planning and more. My sister Mary is meeting us for a weekend in Branson where she is bringing an RV. We booked our spot for two weeks and then we are on to Hot Springs Arkansas.  This might be our first trip pulling the trailer in hilly country.  The trip through the Ozark Mountains and northern Arkansas is going to be beautiful this time of year with the changing fall colors. The drive alone is worth the trip.

Karen and I are both ready to get on with our life after the murder trial I testified at in Platte City Missouri turned into a seven day ordeal. Moving into an RV and continuing to live some parts of one’s past lifestyle – sucks!  Especially when one person (me) is busy working away from home and the spouse (Karen) is left behind. When I read in other’s blogs the term “hitch itch” I wonder if rather than meaning we are getting antsy to leave they are really meaning “it was terrible to have had to stay here so long and lets get on to something more interesting for God’s sake.”  Please don’t think Carthage is not worth a few days stop however.

There were some different moments when I made the trip back north of Kansas City for the trial. I stopped to enjoy the changing fall tree colors at the post office located atop a hilly area. And the last day I woke to snow on the truck. If my truck could talk it would ask what the hell is this cold stuff on my hood. It was built in Texas and I’ll bet that was the first time snow ever touched it. And I know for sure I never intended to see the white stuff for a long time.  No worries, I brought my rain jacket. I layer clothing underneath to include a fleece and wear a stocking cap. I ditched the winter coat thing years ago. Dressing in layers rules, especially as the same clothing can be worn in warmer environments and takes up little space in our RV closet.

Changing fall colors in Platte City Missouri

I briefly thought about lacing in a few RV tips as I continue in this blog post. We are learning a lot and could use advice at all times. I’ll get to those tips in the next post in a week or so. I’ve got plenty to write about to include; receiving mail, getting a hair cut, dealing with cold temperatures, RV maintenance, killing flies in the fifth wheel, new purchases and more.

When I think back we did do a few fun things in Carthage despite taking time out for a working trip. And for me at least, part of the fun stuff was finally getting a chance to not only tour the City of Carthage Missouri but also taking time for RV maintenance now that we have owned the rig for six months. Even cleaned the roof.

The short list for Carthage fun was; Karen’s first ever rodeo, visiting a civil war museum, eating Italian food outside the Precious Moments location, viewing fall colors at a large tree filled graveyard (on Halloween day) and touring the town square’s wonderful court house. And of course spending time with friends at the Escapees Ozark Chapter Campout which was the reason for the trip to Carthage located at the southwest corner of Missouri just off Interstate 44.

I have to appoligize for some of quality of my pictures. I’ve gotten lazy and forget the better camera at home. I most regret not getting better photos of the Jasper County Courthouse which is a marvel and includes a first floor museum to include displays about the historic route 66 which is a big thing around here.

It was fun watching Karen’s reaction to events at the rodeo although most of events were less then professional grade. An uncle to one of the bull riders was sitting next to us and the conversation was good. Unfortunately his nephew came off the bull in about two seconds.

The nighttime temperature was cool. It was nice the rodeo was inside a large building. It happens to be located along a road traveled by Union solders as they retreated from the Confederates during the battle at Carthage.

Carthage is the home of Presious Moments figurins that I understand to be collectable. I toured the grounds and chapel in the past.

Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage. Rebuilt in early 1900’s. The town was burnt to the ground and became lawless during the civil war.

I had no idea the outlaw Belle Starr was from Carthage Missouri. Late in the summer of 1964, before Carthage was burned, the family moved to Texas near present day Dallas. Among her friends were Frank and Jesse James. Around these parts of Missouri the initials G.T.T. were commonly used and sometimes painted on abandoned houses. It means Gone to Texas. The Union army as well as bushwackers made the place unlivable and those refusing to fight for the Union or having become refuges fled south.

Bet you did not know, and neither did I, that the Battle of Carthage was fought on July 5, 1861 and was the first full scale land battle of the Civil War, preceding First Bull Run by 16 days. At issue was if Missouri would stay in the Union or join the Confederacy. In the spring of 1865, more than three months after the surrendor at Appomattox, Confederate Major General Shelby led his entire “Iron Brigade” across the Rio Grande into Mexico on July 4th, 1865 — exactly four years from the day he joined the Missouri State Guard column north of Carthage. He planned to convince Emperor Maximilian to set aside a Mexican state as a new Confederate Nation and retake Texas from the Union. Within two years Shelby was home, setteling in Aullville Missouri. I’ve been to his grave in Kansas City Missouri.

But enough about the Civil War visit in Carthage. You must come to Missouri if you are a true war buff.

The courthouse on the square included a working old-time elevator. The operator was handing out candy to kids for Halloween and provided us with the location of the cemetery in town where we could see the wonderful fall tree colors.

Displays inside the court house included information about historic Route 66. Crossing three time zones and eight states, Route 66 linked communities from Chicago to the Southern California coast. Posted on the wall at the court house museum was a list of significant dates relative to Route 66. This includes in 1947 the hundred millionth motor vehicle was produced. In 1956 the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act signed by President Eisenhower, signaled the beginning of the end of Route 66 as modern highways were built. By the 1960’s most of Route 66 was too narrow to handle modern trucks and automobiles.  And a survey in 1950 found that half of Americans over the age of 30 acknowledged having had premarital sex in autos:)

Call us strange, but Karen and I enjoy visiting interesting cemeteries. So why not go see some pretty trees on Halloween day. An older lady we met from Oklahoma told us about the cemetery trees, adding a comment that she has never seen such a clean cemetery mausoleum.  Better check that out for ourselves says us. I’ll close this post with the photos:

 

Leaving the Job and Camping in Our Home State

For the most part the emotions of leaving the job and house are starting to slip away. We are settling into this lifestyle and learning new stuff all the time. The move has been a process that’s getting easier at times but certainly has it’s ups and downs at this point.

My last day on the job was October 4th. By then Karen and I had been camping in a long-term spot for a month or so. We left that spot in Platte City Missouri and moved on April 9th to southern Missouri. Before we left the immediate area of our hometown – for the winter – there were several things to finish up. If I had to do it again, I would have stayed an extra week in the area after retirement (or retired earlier) to allow more time to wrap things up. Oh well, flexibility is the name of the game now and we really need to get on with traveling to interesting places.

It’s best to break this blog post down into headlines so you can skip around to topics of interest.

Retiring from a Job

Law enforcement is more than a job; it’s a way of life. The phone can ring at any time calling you back for whatever. You go home thinking about it while awake and while asleep at times. In the end the hardest part for me was leaving the relationships with co-workers. The day before I left, I was asked if I was going home earlier on my last day? I said I’ll leave when I’m ready. By then I had purposely completed most of the process of turning in equipment and the paperwork. I’d parked our Ram 3500 dually truck at a co-worker’s house. He was to give me a ride to his house the last day as I had turned in the company car.

Leaving that last day was like pulling a Band-Aid off. You know when it’s the right time and then just jerk the Band-Aid off and feel the moment of pain. Early afternoon on the last day I suddenly told my co-worker it was time to leave. There were hugs out the door. I refused to have a large going away party. I’m just not good with goodbyes. Earlier I had walked around to different departments and told everyone goodbye and recalled stories of good times and jobs well done together. The night before my immediate workgroup had dinner with Karen and me.

Retirement photo with a few of the guys

Emotional moments came to include when deciding it was okay to send an email out to about 40 of the many people I’d met on the job. I wanted to let them know the day had finally come for me to leave, to pass the word around and provide a new contact person for our agency. I used my email contact list for some of the names. Over the years I made it a habit to keep business cards where I wrote on the back when and where I’d met the person. Those contacts came in handy over the years. Those who do a good job and are helpful also tend to meet others of like mind. That creates a tight group of friends and contacts. I’ve not wanted to delete email contacts or throw away business cards for friends who died over the years. Flipping through those business cards sure was emotional.

I want to pass along something very important about my co-workers. It will be a glimpse into our mindset. I don’t think I’m breaking any rules – as if it matters! I was sitting in our patrol area talking with the dayshift. It’s a recently remodeled area of the building that’s decorated with posters by the officers. The writings on the wall say it all. I took some photos which are as follows:

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

We always have each other

Setup Mail Service with Escapees in Texas – Insurance Companies Panicked.

One thing we had to finish up while in town was establishing our mail service with Escapees in Texas and then driving to the post office to fill out mail-forwarding to the new address. In those final days I also did the best I could to change our address online or by phone. Of course, going paperless as much as possible for bills. I was not aware the post office will send a notice to various places if you change your address. The post office notified our insurance companies which prompted the insurance companies to send a letter asking what was up. Also one of the pension companies received a notice and called asking what was up.  Our insurance agent knew what we were up to and that we had to first setup a PO Box to collect mail from our old sticks and bricks house and then on to Texas when our final mailing address was established. I had the agent handle the insurance companies who apparently get concerned that you might be living in another state while having insurance in another.  He told them we are leaving as snowbirds early and just want our bills sent to Texas.  He also set us up for paperless billing. Once we get to Texas maybe the first of December, we will be changing insurance companies. Sorry to be loosing my agent whom I’ve been with for more than 20 years.  I’m thinking we will find another agent in Texas who is an insurance broker rather than going directly to individual insurance companies. I’ve got a list of several brokers whom are frequently recommended by others in the area.

I’m extremely happy with the Escapees Club customer service! They even have a feature when you call and find the wait for an operator is too long. You can select an option to have them call you back.  When the computer calls you back and if you are not ready for the call there is an option to have them call back in 20 minutes.  For now we are paying the extra $10 a month for the option to have mail scanned and available online if needed.  You have to join Escapees first to enroll in the mail service. So far, we have saved about half our annual Escapee Club membership fees with campground discounts at none Escapee parks. And as I type this we are camped with a local Escapees Club chapter where experienced RV members are as helpful and friendly as can be. Friends from the chapter invited us to attend their monthly camping rally as their guests.

Saying Goodbyes to Family and Friends

I wrote in my last post that we are not leaving friends and family as part of this fulltime RV journey. We expect to see them more than before and spend quality time with them. Just after we purchased our RV we took an extended trip to Michigan to visit part of Karen’s family. We are in southern Missouri now and among other things we are getting with family. Before we left Kansas City we spent the day with our daughter. It’s good to see she has a good group of friends and modern methods of communications keeps her in touch with her mom. 

Karen has been shopping for post cards she says she will enjoy mailing out. In an RV there is not space to buy and store stuff. If you like shopping then post cards are a brilliant way to get that urge out of your system. Personally, I can’t wait to shop at farmers markets all over the country.

360 degree photo my sister Lisa took with her iPhone. On the phone you can pan around and see the interior of the camper.

After my retirement day in our hometown my sisters, friends, niece and nephew came from three directions to see us. My sister Mary was the first to sleep on our sofa bed and approved of its comfort (it’s an actual mattress and not an air bed). My sister Lisa rented an RV spot for her wonderful Class C. My sister Deanna brought us a big bag of Jelly Belly candy. I thought of her every time I get a cup full to enjoy. Karen and I are enjoying the new zero gravity chair the family got us as a retirement gift.  Glad we waited to replace our existing chairs. We have our eye on a rocker style as well.  There are plenty of examples of good chairs to sit in at other’s campfires.

When folks write about all the new friends they discover on the road it’s no lie. Karen gets text messages from some of them and is now added to her Facebook friends list. I’m thinking about adding a new column in my spreadsheet to include home addresses for new friends who want us to stop by if we are in the area. I can import the spreadsheet into Google Maps and add pins on the map for friends. We have new ones in North Carolina, Colorado and more. The last night we were in Kansas City at the RV park Karen dog sat for the neighbors until midnight while they were at a concert. Karen loves dogs. She gets five new dogs every day it seems as people move in and out of the parks. She meets all the dogs and their owners in short order.

The final step in leaving the park back home was to check to see if a package had arrived in the office. Outside I ran into Gary whom I worked with for a long time. He retired a year ago and it sure was nice having him and Connie camping at the same park as they are also fulltime RV travelers. See ya next time guys.

Living Together in Small Spaces

I’m probably going out on a limb to write about this topic as I’m clearly no expert but am willing to learn and change. We are a ways from having this done. We continue with our rule that the first person to a spot has the right of way in our tiny home.  Like everyone else, we both have our emotional moments. Just give the other person some time and space and it all works out.  Treat others as you would like to be treated for sure. All good advice or what I’m thinking will work in the long run. I love – love – love the time with my wife. I can now even leave that darn cell phone wherever and just enjoy the moment. 

Trips to the grocery store are perfect for rainy days when getting outside is less appealing.  As we get closer to wrapping up all the administrative tasks with becoming fulltimers there will be increasing time for touring the local sites. We both agree doing one thing a day is plenty for now. Today we met the Escapees Chapter group we are camped with for lunch and games. Now we are sitting typing a blog or reading a book under the canopy of our fifth wheel while sun shines around us.

There are opportunities to have our own space. RV and truck maintenance, walking the dog, watching TV in the bedroom, visiting with neighbors, walking to the laundry and just the daily tasks offer opportunity to do our own thing. I’m learning to cook on the grill as a hobby and eventually I’ll be learning to use the cast iron covered skillet Dave gave me as a gift at work.  I’m planning to master all forms of cooking outside. 

I’ll quickly add something else you have to work out is what kind of place you want to park your home. I’m not that particular at this point. Karen definitely has an interest in picking spots so she looks a few up in the area and then I get a pick with special attention to trip routing. We really do enjoy parking for days at a time and spreading out in the space a fifth wheel offers. The weekly camping rates are easier on the budget which so far, for us, is closer to $30 a day on average with discounts.

Electronics, Internet and TV Access

I left most of the electronic decisions for the year we went fulltime. Technology changes fast and the options are way different than years ago.  We increased Karen’s AT&T phone account to unlimited data with a hotspot to link her tablet or my laptop computer to.

I still have an unlimited data plan on a T-Mobile account which is provided to me with the part-time remote office job I took on the road. WIFI internet at campsites has been better than expected but there are periods of times when connection is lost or slow. If needed we may add a mobile cellular device on the Verizon network offered by my employer at the office job. Redundancy is the key.

I’m finding AT&T data will often work better than the Verizon phone (hotspot) I turned in when I left the Sheriff’s Office. Probably because so many people are on the Verizon network there are times it slows down.

I’ve read and researched where one best understand how adding antennas or signal boosters can effect cellular data if that’s an option you decide on. It might not always be the best thing to do. I’ve not added any boosters or external antenna for the time being. We are just using whatever signal we can pick up.

Togo Roadlink is a new device available with AT&T unlimited data for the cost of the roof mounted device and $360 a year for unlimited data. This looks interesting especially as you only have to run a 12 volt line to the box on the roof rather than a bunch of cable. We are fine with what we have for now.

I bought a Roku stick to add to the television. We kept our Amazon Prime account for fast delivery of packages while parked.  Prime video is something we use as we left the cost of satellite TV behind several years ago. If I was to add satellite TV I for sure would have a device that finds the satellites automatically. A guy parked nearby was adjusting his manual satellite and yelling to his wife inside the trailer to see if the picture was good. I understand you can get a handheld device to help point the satellite dish if needed. Automatic sounds better to me.  With the new digital television channels we find plenty to watch just using the trailers over the air antenna.

Beware – using campground WIFI internet can make you vulnerable to hackers seeing what you are doing. I use our cellular connections for confidential access. I’m no expert but understand setting up a virtual private network (VPN) is a security solution for campground WIFI. I’m still researching and for now, right or wrong, am using the free Hotspot Shield program for a VPN.  I’ve got more research to do on this so don’t have any good recommendations for a solution.  I know running the campground WIFI through a router device would also help with security. If you know more about campground WIFI security please comment so we can all learn from you.

How is Our 5th Wheel Holding Up

Our Vanleigh Vilano is holding up wonderfully. So far there has been nothing break that left us stranded or inconvenienced such as having something like a slide, air conditioner, furnace or whatever go out. I’ve called the factory service center twice now to have small parts shipped and they arrived the next day with zero hassle. I’ve got a list of minor stuff for Vanleigh to fix once we migrate to the service center in northern Mississippi probably next spring. We will probably have them install some upgrades at the same time. After living in the fifth wheel for awhile we will figure out where extra shelving might come in handy. And by spring we might have a list of other upgrades like suspension, washer/dryer and electronics. I suspect I’ll get them to do the annual mantainance items if needed.

Karen is having issue with the dry air as a result of the electric fireplace heat and gas furnace. We talked about getting a small room humidifier.  Any thoughts about that would be appreciated.

We really are happy to have ordered the rear living room air conditioner with the heat pump option. The front bedroom heats up a few degrees warmer as heat rises. I still don’t understand why anyone would put a heat pump on the front bedroom AC unless they figure the cost is minimal. We also appreciate the second awning that covers the large rear window on the passenger side. It’s a nice place to cook or eat at the picnic table in the rain. More importantly the second awning keeps the sun off that side of the trailer. I’m most likely being over cautious about leaving the awning out in any wind condition even if we are home.

We love our new home! But just like buying a new sticks and bricks house you will find minor flaws that have little to do with the important quality aspects. Tightening a screw, gluing something down is no big thing.  I’m still reading on the owner’s Facebook page about maintenance and developing my list. Watching others and talking with them about maintenance when we are parked is helping. I believe I now have most of the cleaning supplies, grease and more that is needed. 

Places We Have Been and Old Friends We Met Again

I figured this would be a good section to wrap up what our travels have been since going fulltime on 8/22/19.  As I’ve written before we first stayed at the local county park at Smithville Lake Missouri and got some practice with our waste water tanks.

Then we moved for five weeks to an RV resort near Platte City Missouri. I worked most of those five weeks. Karen and I developed several friendships which I’m thinking helped with the stress one might experience when you are new to this lifestyle. Our good friends Russ and Kay from the Destination Unknown blog travel through Kansas City from the east coast and this would have been I think the third time we have met up. They travel in a toy hauler pull behind trailer and frequently use their Harvest Host campsite membership. They rerouted to another overnight spot closer to us which turned out to be a church parking lot. It was a good visit.  Forgot to take photos as usual. While in Platte City we met several fulltimers and part-timers. Even met a couple who were from Canada, having immigrated there from Germany. That one campsite netted at least two other couples we got to know well over a week or two. Sure we will see them again someplace on the road.

From Platte City we moved for five days to a campsite near family at Mt. Vernon Missouri for a visit and to attend the usual annual Apple Butter Making Days festival. My sister Mary has given considerable thought to becoming a fulltimer someday and right now would go as a solo (meaning with no partner). I sent her a few resources regarding camping as a solo but if you have any good links send them our way in a comment. We stayed at Beagle Bay RV Haven in Sarcoxie Missouri. It was a spot in the trees and met our needs. If you are traveling down Interstate 44 between Springfield and Joplin in Missouri it’s a nice spot for a few days that includes all shaded areas with full hookup pull-throughs.

From Mt. Vernon/Sarcoxie we moved just 15 miles to Carthage Missouri for a week long Escapees Ozark Chapter campout. We are there currently for another week and staying at Coachlight RV Park. It’s right behind an RV dealership and way easy to get in and out of. Unfortunately I’ve got to travel back to Kansas City for a murder trial next week. Karen is going with me. We will leave the fifthwheel behind and just make the drive to a motel. While here at the rally we get time to spend with our wonderful friends Dean and Cheri of Travels with Bentley blog. Come November they will have been fulltimers for two years. They and others in this Escapees group are a wealth of information. I’m watching and listening to everything about the lifestyle the group has to offer. 

With the part-time office job I kept there are frequent chances to visit local post offices to mail work related stuff. I should have started a list of all the post offices I’ve visited. While here in Carthage I visited a unique older building. I did not take photos inside as I did not want to alarm anyone. Later we are going to visit some Civil War sites in town.

Carthage Missouri Post Office

Well that’s about it for now. Our immediate travel plans appear to be Branson Missouri for vacation.Then on to maybe Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Then on to Livingston Texas which is the headquarters for Escapees and where we will get our driver’s license and truck/trailer license plates. As our rig totals more than 26,000 gross max weight I’ll be taking a driving test which is the law in Texas.  We will most likely make a stop between Arkansas and Texas before arriving in Livingston. Between now and then I’m going to finalize our healthcare options and more.

First Month of Fulltiming – Domicile State Selection and More

As part of planning for our future in an RV we toured local RV parks over the past couple years. I’d still be working for weeks after we moved into our new fifth wheel home and needed a longer term parking spot for camping. Our first 11 days were spent at a county park which is on a local Corp. of Engineer Lake and then we moved to a “long term” spot at Basswood RV Resort for the next five weeks.

Basswood Resort – Platte City Missouri. We are parked at the extreme opposite of the main office which is good for exercise.

We had time to complete some of the more mundane processes of moving to the fulltime RV lifestyle. We have also decided where we would be for the month of October which is in Southern Missouri. Then maybe in November and December we will move to northern Arkansas over to Mississippi and then down into Texas.

I have to say it has been wonderful to be parked in one spot for a five week stay, even this early in our move to fulltiming. I recommend a longer stay for those new to the lifestyle even if you are not having to stay in an area, as we are, waiting for a final day at work. It really helps with adjusting to the change. There is plenty of time to get to know your rig and finish up the final administrative tasks required for fulltiming such as mail service and domicile.

The kitchen in our 35′ home. Longer stays not only saves campground fees but gives you a chance to spread out and enjoy the RV.

In the final days of the rush to sell the sticks and bricks home I completed task based on priority because there was just to much to do.  Many of those tasks remained to be done after we moved into the fifth wheel. It’s sooooo nice to have time to take my time in completing this. Before we moved out of our stick and bricks house I went to the local post office and setup a PO Box. I’m not changing our address to the new PO Box as we are domiciling in Texas and setting up mail service there. I just needed a place to temporarily forward our mail. Had there been time I would have setup mail service in Texas two months before we moved out of our sticks and bricks and then started changing our mailing address as needed. But the PO Box has come in handy as a quick fix.

We kept our space where the fifth wheel had been stored for a few additional weeks. For now we still have Karen’s car, my work car and the truck. So the storage space came in handy for juggling cars in and out as most campgrounds did not allow for more than two vehicles.  Eventually a friend offered a spot to park the truck at his place so the storage space is now gone.  Karen’s car is to be sold but has came in handy as she has not yet decided to drive the truck. I’m hoping she does because not having a vehicle takes away part of one’s freedom.

I forgot to cancel the homeowners insurance but the agent dated the cancelation as being the same day we sold the house.  Got a refund from the insurance company. Cancelled a lot of other bills and I have to say I’m noticing a change in our bank account in a positive way. Even if this long-term RV spot is $680 a month to include electric.

As part of setting up or mailing address in Texas we had to swing by the bank to have a form notarized. I was aware that Bank of America had acquired Merrill Lynch, an investment company. So we sat down and opened an investing account at the same time.  Our remaining sticks and bricks house money is going into a well protected place (not the stock market) that’s FDIC insured with the best interest rate I could find. We have other funds already in the market. I keep enough in the checking account for monthly expenses and our slush fund at the local credit union where I can easily move it electronically to the bank account. This is a secure and flexible setup I believe. I should define “slush fund.”  This is an account that has our emergency fund of three month’s expenses, an extra amount for our first year of travel and what money remains in our budget for equipping the RV and truck.

Now, regarding domicile!  For those non-rvers domicile is simple a legal address you call home. The three most popular states for fulltime rvers is Texas, Florida and South Dakota. Lots of reasons for that which I’ll not go into.  We wanted to stay in the Midwest which is close to family and generally an area we plan to spend a lot of time in.  South Dakota would have been way easy to setup a domicile in because other than showing up in the state to get a driver’s license everything else can be done through the mail.  Each state has mail services you can pay for. Those mail services are a physical building where your mail is sent and a unique number is assigned for your mailbox. That number becomes part of your legal address. The Escapees Club is perhaps the premiere mail service. They have service for all three states however any mail sent to the Florida address or South Dakota address is then sent on to their main facility in Texas.

For us the health insurance decision became the deciding factor between South Dakota and Texas.  Karen will be Medicare eligible in a year. I’ve got a few years to wait. This makes a difference in which state you select. I’ve been corresponding with Kyle at rverinsurance.com. This is what he wrote about South Dakota regarding health insurance:

“Hello Mark, I am sorry I was not able to get to this sooner so we could talk on Friday the 6th. I would definitely consider TX instead of SD…health insurance options in SD are horrible. To even get short term medical you have to have a gap in coverage of 64 days now. Nonsensical rules there and ACA carriers will not take RVers nor will they cover you outside of SD even if they did take you.” 

I’ll get into our healthcare selection once it’s setup.  For sure I’m not taking COBRA benefits at work which are very expensive unless we have to. I’m also leaving the job the first of the month because I’m still on their insurance for the remaining days of the month! Short-term nationwide coverage is available for those with no pre-existing conditions and in Texas that insurance can be extended for a longer period of time. Again, more on healthcare later.

So I sent off our application for mail service to Escapees in Texas which is our next big step. Then we will eventually make it to Texas for our driver’s license, vehicle registration and more.  Here in a couple weeks Karen and I are attending an Escapees Chapter rally in Southern Missouri for a week.  Plenty of time to pick everyone’s brains for more advise.