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.

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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.

Evolution of Emotions

I just found the time to sit down and put thoughts together regarding Karen and my effort to finish up with the house sale and move into our Vanleigh Vilano 320GK fifth wheel. As I begin writing this post, I’ve got no idea what to title it.

I’ve been trying to come up with a general outline which covers a few tips we have learned and the emotions of the past couple months. I don’t want this post to come out overly negative but many of the points will include the not so pleasant emotions of it all. In the end we have moved into our new home and are adjusting well.

Continue reading

Full-Timers as of 8/22/19

We moved out of the house last Thursday night. The folks moving into our old home had planned to stay in a motel the night of their arrival. Karen offered to turn the house over to them a day earlier instead.  We moved the fifth wheel into a wonderful local county park at Smithville Lake Missouri where we will remain until 9/2/19. Then we move to an RV resort nearby for about five weeks until retirement.

I have to say this final few months of getting ready was nearly overwhelming and sure is a badge of courage we now can share with those who have gone through it.

The actual closing on our home sale is 8/30/19. As you may recall we were held up by a delay in hooking our sewer line at the old house to the city system. The contractor arrived yesterday as the new homeowner was unloading. What a great guy the contactor is. Despite all the weeks of rain delays he is determined to meet the 8/26/19 deadline. As the new owners have kids to get in school we agreed to a brief buyers addendum which basically states they take the house as is and close once the sewer connection is finish but no later than 8/30/19.  They and their mortgage company had already completed all the inspections.

I moved my work vehicle and Karen’s car with us to the county park. The truck is in our RV storage space and moving to a friend’s house from there. The 10×5 climate controlled storage unit for our keepsakes and other possessions sure came in handy in the final moments of emptying the house. I moved a sturdy shelf and bought another one for the storage unit. All the boxes are stacked on them, taking advantage of the vertical space and not having to worry about weight crushing boxes below.  I also spent $50 on stackable plastic storage containers and the rest of the space is full of miscellaneous stuff. Turns out the RV resort we are moving to has a garage sale once a month so we may take a few items to that.  And we have a couple more boxes/totes of stuff we are not sure if we want to keep for the RV. Things really came together, even in the last moments when we had a few larger pieces of furniture to get rid of. Karen prayed on it the night before. The next morning there was a Facebook post where a lady was getting her life back together and needed a bed and more. Four ladies showed up with a trailer and off went the final larger items we had.

I’ll get back to everyone regarding this last couple month’s efforts in more detail. The past four years of planning really helped.

I have to say I walk around the park feeling a little different than our last time out. Frankly, I’m proud to be a full time RVer. It’s selfish I know, but it’s special to know most of the folks parked around us will go back to their daily grind on Sunday.  Of course I’ll also be going back to work until 10/4/19 but what a wonderful place I’ll have to come home to. Karen, the dog and this place on the lake.

Mark

Quick Update

I just wanted to give everyone a brief update on Karen and my nearing escape to fulltime RV living. I’m also looking forward to posting about the emotional aspects of this past month. Lots to pass along for sure.

Our home sale was to close on 8/26/19 but is moved up to 8/23/19.  There is one issue that is out of our control which could delay closing but there may be a plan B. The city installed a sewer line on our street and we are required to hookup to it before selling our home. Our current septic system (we live on four acres) is in top shape so we hate to hook up to the sewer at much expense. The buyer’s mortgage company (VA Loan) is requiring this be done prior to closing. A friend who builds, buys and sells a lot of houses suggests a work-around is to add an addendum to the closing document which allows the buyer to move in prior to closing but clearly states the closing is to be held as soon as the sewer connection is completed or they must vacate the premises. He suggests this is safer than allowing them to rent the home for a short period which would afford the buyer protection as a renter and require a long drawn out eviction process. The buyers are awesome folks moving here to Missouri from Illinois due to a work transfer. They have children who need to be in school ASAP. Their loan is 100% approved and ready to close otherwise. Of course there is a chance the sewer connection will be installed any day so there would be no issue. Our contractor is behind schedule due to rain. Of course there are risks in the addendum but they are mutual between the buyer and us. A remaining option is to force the buyer to make due elsewhere until they can close on the house with no stipulations or we move on to one of several other buyers. Right or wrong, we are leaning to just working with the current buyer. We are forecasting a possible delay in the sewer connection of no more than two weeks which is what the contractor warned us about a couple weeks ago.

Either way, on 8/23/19 we are moving into our fifth wheel full time. Everything is in place for the move to include a full hookup spot to park the RV in until I retire which is now formally announced as being on 10/4/19. I’ve turned my papers in at work and am nearly finished with the pension plan documents.

The house echoes with empty space. The remainder of this week and all of next week are going to be a challenging time. We have a to-do list and paying special attention to the items with deadlines. I’m taking most of next week off from work to finish our 10×5 storage space rental, moving items to the RV and getting a few things finished up around the house.

We decided to have our hometown post office forward our mail to a PO box in the same building. We know our mail carrier well and she will make sure it gets to the PO box.

The next time you hear from me will be when we are living at the county park on the lake.

Mark

Howell Michigan Camping

We are stopped at a state park near Brighton Michigan for six nights to visit family. Running on electric only. Our tank sizes are 70 gallon fresh water, 10 hot water, 90 gray and 45 black. We are being more conservative on water usage than our last longer stay without hookups. So far it looks like we will have no problem spending a week off hookups. Paper plates and taking a shower at the public building is about all we are doing to preserve water and tank space.  Karen is being more careful when washing dishes as well.

We have finished 850 miles of a 1700 mile trip. I purchased a one year subscription to RV Trip Planning Wizard and really like it.  I also jump over to campground reviews.com for additional ideas for camping areas. Those years of planning are coming in handy as I’ve got an arsenal of ideas for trip planning provided by friends and readers.  Thanks for that!

One comment that makes since is trip planning and navigation are two separate concepts. Navigation might be using a GPS or map during the drive. Our 2018 Dodge navigation system is working great. As I’m still so new at hauling a monster fifth wheel, I still look at Google Earth for the entire route to check for tight areas. Used to even look over interstate’s on Google Earth as well but now feel comfortable with only checking lessor roads, especially if they are not divided highways. RV Trip Planning Wizard also contains a low bridge database so at this point I’ve not bothered to find a third party application to check for low bridges. At this point, I’ll not purposely take side routes that are not part of the original route planning. Tried that in Indianapolis to get around major highway backups. Was a fun trip to include my first time on a larger road in a residential area and a first time trip through a round-a-bout. That got my nerves sparking but keeping it slow and watching those back tires in the mirrors, along with reassurance from Karen I was going great, were big boosts to morale. Have I said I really, really love Ram’s tow mirrors!  They are awesome. Even if you get a 2500 to tow with, make sure you have the factory tow mirrors!

For now, when I book a camping spot I copy all my notes to Google Calendar. That way we can look things up quickly while traveling or upon arrival.  Click this link to see what my typical notes look like:  Calendar view

For now, because I’m so new at this, I print a campground map prior to arrival so I know how to get to our spot and where dump stations are located. Before we park I make sure I know how I’ll pull out assuming all the surrounding spots are taken and I’ll be maneuvering around cars and other campers. For that matter, when I park in a cramped grocery store lot in the dually truck, I make sure I can get out if someone parks on both sides of me and the travel lanes are narrow.  On the way into the current state park there were two low branches (ya have to look up to see them). It was like driving threw a serpentine course as I weaved in and out of other camping spots to avoid low branches. Just learned I’ll be keeping my tree trimmer with the extendable handles. And I hope not to go to jail for cutting a branch every now and then.

This lifestyle is really going to be healthy. I’m walking more and am generally more physically active. Karen and I are loving our time together. It’s nice to wake up in the morning in our new home then step outside to remember you are dead center in a wonderful state park. It would be hard to explain the wonder of it all in words. Just imagine if you are in your sticks and bricks house, unaware of what is outside, then open the door to amazement.

We are going to try out spending two nights at each stop on the way back to Kansas City. We had a couple overnight stops on the way here and tried to stay around 200 miles for each travel day. RV Trip Planning Wizard has an excellent system for showing travel distances between stops. Really helps with picking campgrounds along the way. So far we are booking our stops when we can. All this helps keep the stress level down for us new guys.  Finding less stressful ways to do things is important during this first year I’m sure.

One stop on the drive to Michigan was at a county campground which does not take reservations. We called and the lady at the county office said there would be spots. At $20 a night with 30 amps, within five miles from the highway in a secluded location, what a find that was. Get your notepad out and mark this one down.

Snap 2019-07-26 at 09.15.54

 

I’ve been using my make-shift office setup to get some work done. Right now I’m sitting at a chair outside the camper. But for more serious work I take five minutes to setup a more involved space at the dining table. Like most everything else, the way we do things seem to be evolving into something that works well.  I might add the process of evolution is also occurring for places we store things to include the basement space where for the most part we started off with containers we already owned. Yup, I’ve already discovered how you setup for the stay has a lot to do with how long you stay. For example, moving a storage containing out of the basement to under the camper to make room to pull other stuff out. I’d say don’t sweat over all the details such as how you arrange storage. Your unique system will just seem to happen on it’s own.

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Current office arrangement

 

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Yesterday’s view from the “office”

For the short-term you may notice a few changes in my writing style. There is a lot going on that I want to report on. I’ll just have to bang out the thoughts more quickly for now.

A sad note is that we lost our dog Johnny-Ringo to illness on this trip. I can’t write much about it. I live around death nearly every day on the job back home. Loosing a dog hurts just as much as when other loved-ones die. Seeing Karen sad hurts . Dogs have such unique personalities. He had a long-term breathing problem and it finally caught up to him. I can’t find the strength to even post my favorite photos of him. At least my mom now has another dog to play with in heaven; I like to think.

We went to bible study with Karen’s mom the other day. It was wonderful. The minister is so educated and smart about the bible. We are looking forward to stopping in at other churches on this journey. Tonight the minister is coming out for a campfire. His wife appears to be equally knowledgably. There were several older folks at the bible study and I got a lot from listening to their wisdom.

To my sister Mary – We saw an R Pod camper across the street from us being pulled with a full size SUV. Most of the campers of that size in this campground are the hybrid travel trailers with hard sides and the pop-out beds at the end. During this week I’ve noticed what appears to be moms with kids coming out during the week presumably when dad is at work. I’ll bet you see the same in your trips.

By the way, we have a contract on the house. Closes August 26th if all goes well. I’ve got to hook-up to the city sewer system and there might be a delay in getting that done as the contractor is backed-up. With the help of the real estate agent, who knows how the city and contractors work, we have a plan B should the sewer connection be delayed. We gave the new residence permission to store personal items in the basement. They are staying with relatives but had to get the kids registered in school. I’m thinking we are going to have a good relationship during the process with the new owners who are over the top excited about the house. They already finished their inspections and I’m waiting for the results. The realtor has us sign everything on-line and I can tell is making sure to allow us to enjoy our vacation time.

A final thought for sure is that I’m thankful to all our new RVer friends and readers of this blog for the last four years or so of planning. So much of what we learned and are now applying will ensure we make it through the curves in the road that pop up in this lifestyle.

Mark from Missouri

House is For Sale and First Long Trip

Last Monday afternoon our sticks and bricks house went on the market. We have two offers on it with the best of the two contingent that they sell their house first. Of course it remains on the market looking for that cash buyer. There are no shortage of those looking to buy – thankfully. Should be three families touring the house today. But we will not know because we took off on a two week vacation, heading towards Michigan.

Our first stop was two overnighters at the Mark Twain Cave Campground in Hannibal Missouri. Plenty to do in this town. Thankfully it’s located just of Missouri 36 Highway which is one of my favorite routes from northern Kansas City eastward. Here at the park there is a large cave to tour and is on a trolley stop for town. I’m on the campsite WIFI which works awesome. Thankfully as Verizon does not.  Karen has a hot spot with AT&T so that’s a third way to connect. 

We are in a pull thru full hookup spot (D5) with no shade. D7 would be a shady spot for those of us with no satellite needs.

We just passed the 800 mile mark towing the 35′ fifth wheel. As expected, it now seems more natural and my stress level is near zero.  Driving 65 miles per hour is wonderful, wind and trucks have little effect on the dually truck. We had a first which was stopping at two unplanned locations. Once on the side of the road to let Ringo pee and the second a truck stop. We had been thinking about a rest stop. The truck in front signaled he was taking the exit towards the truck stop so that was a good opportunity to follow him in so there was not mistake which entrance to take into the parking lot. I even backed into a spot near the rear of the lot, away from trucks which was a good place to let the stairs down to use the restroom and let the dogs out on the grass.  I’ve practiced backing twice now in large truck stop parking lots.

For the first time I watched an obviously experienced Class A Rver hook-up his rig and toad to leave. Yup, took him just as much time as a fifth wheel setup. I’m learning a lot by watching other campers such as how the overnighters setup and then leave. 

I’ve got so much I’d like to report back on but we are busy enjoying the trip. We will be in the Brighten Michigan area on Monday 6/22 for six days in one spot. Kind of dreading our first long-stay with 30 amp and no sewer but we will work through it. The trailer options we wanted included the ability to handle stays like this. There is a heat waive heading that way I understand. Fortunately we are visiting family during the daytime hours.

Perfect Office Location

For those looking to work from your rig I wanted to give a quick update on how my mobile office is working. So far – perfectly. The laptop and small printer are performing beautifully. And working from the picnic table when I can is a great bonus. I’ll report back in other posts regarding how several of our plans are working out and how the truck, hitch and more are performing.

Once we finish this 1600 mile trip the next planning objective will be to start setting up our domicile state beginning with mail service. If the house closes sooner than October, we can live in the fifth wheel while I finish up at work. It’s looking like Texas will become our new home state.

As we pulled into the Mark Twain Cave Campground we saw our very first Vanleigh fifth wheel trailer in the wild.  It was a Beacon model and I’ll bet the owners noticed us last night as we are two spots from them. It’s a big thing in the Facebook owners group to see another camper. Nice to have small things become exciting. 

At work back home things are winding down for sure. Without getting into the details I was even able to stay off the team for a homicide investigation. First time since 2003 for that one. Still landed another death investigation while on call but it’s manageable. I intentionally do not write about work related specifics because that would not be proper. I just wanted to point out another milestone in this process of change. I can already feel my brain is healing if you know what I mean.

I’m also planning to write in detail about getting the house ready for sale. That was a four year process beginning with – stop buying stuff! There were times I did not handle the process very well as my mind flooded in overload. More to come on that.

I’m taking the dogs for a walk. Huck went with me to take the trash out and now Ringo is ready 🙂