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

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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 🙂

Family Camping Trip, July Travel Plans and More

You can imagine how busy it has been around here as our plan is to put the house on the market during the week of July 15th.  Karen and I are heading towards Howell Michigan the same week.

A good time was had by all at our annual family campout, held again at one of Missouri’s wonderful State Parks. Since the early 1970’s there has been a special conservation sales tax in Missouri which helps fund our parks and keeps the user fees low.


This year nearly everyone had an RV so we took five spaces around an inside loop, leaving a large green space between the RVs for play areas, campfires or whatever.


Of interest to Karen and I, was getting used to our water holding tanks. The State Park had electric only so we filled our 70 gallon fresh water and 10 gallon hot water tanks as we entered the park. Our grey tank is 90 gallons and black is a typical 45 gallons. Nearly ran out of fresh water in three days but luckily there was a water hydrant 60 feet away so I was able to add another 35 gallons with no problem.

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Washing dishes outside

Karen did not know our utility bay water included hot water. We washed dishes outside when able to avoid using grey tank space as well as taking showers at the park shower area. Our trip to Michigan includes seven days without water and sewer hookups. However, we will not be spending as much time at the camper as we are visiting family. Someday, maybe or not, I’ll invest in a 30 or 35 gallon Aquatank fresh water bladder and pump where I can haul water in the truck to the camper. Of course, the grey tank capacity is usually the limiting factor.

On our trip to Michigan we will be stopping in Hannibal Missouri for a couple days. It’s the home of Mark Twain. From there we are heading north on Interstate 55 and are trying to find spots for two overnight stays that keep the trip 200 to 300 miles per day. Hard to find a good stop so far on the south side of the Chicago area before we hit I-80.

I finally bit the bullet and paid for a one year subscription to RV Trip Wizard. And we picked up a large text format road atlas at Walmart for $11. I copy all notes into my Google Calendar so there is one place to check after the planning is done. For navigation I’m still depending on my truck’s great GPS and phones.  I also write out a list of roads and turns on a piece of paper as a quick reference. We still have not got the rest stop thing figured out other than typically we (dogs) can go two hours without a break. Over time I’m sure we will get used to pulling the trailer and feel more comfortable with unplanned stops.

Finally went past the 600 miles towed mark. As expected, hauling the beast around is not as stressful as I thought it would be after a few miles, turns and stops.  Even backed-in twice on the first try each time. A friend was right I suppose when he said if I was used to backing a boat trailer, the fifth wheel would not be such a problem.  One thing still on the list is getting Karen out driving the dually truck. That might be something to do while we are in Michigan. Once we leave fulltime we will only have the one vehicle. When Karen is outside the RV as we park she uses a walkie talkie to communicate with me. For now there are only three words she is suppose to use to help keep me less confused. Stop is the most important word. And when she wants me to push the trailer to one side or the other she says driver or passenger which indicates which way to move the trailer. I think she is still getting used to the fact the trailer does not instantly turn. For me, I have her always stand where I can see her and for the most part, watch the direction the tires are heading for an indication of where the trailer will end up. Works for now.

We still want to get some photos posted of our new fifth wheel and I’ve started a list of items the factory support center will need to repair on the trailer. I’ll report back on both topics when I get a chance.

Lastly, my 20 year old pancake style air compressor would not handle the 110 pound pressure requirements on the RV tires. So, reluctantly I spent the money on the highly recommended Viair 12 volt portable.

Viair 400P RVS

Viair just came out with a new series of air compressor – the RVS – which as an improvement allows you to stand up while the tire is airing-up.  Bought it from Technorv.com. Really like shopping there as well as at etrailers.com. Both companies do a great job or narrowing the choices down to a few good models and brands for about every RV related product you can think of. Both also have instructional videos.

Life in Kansas City – D Day

I title posts “Life in Kansas City” which I’d consider more interesting to family members who read this blog. Of course you are welcome to read along to the end as the story comes together.  This post is about an ironic occurrence in my life.

June 6, 1944 marks the day of the invasion at Normandy. A family member was on Omaha beach that day and as destiny would have it, set an example that would effect my father’s decision to become a police officer. In turn that would influence my decision to follow their footsteps. 

Last Saturday Karen and I went to Home Depot to order carpeting for several areas in our home before it goes on the market. The sales clerk was very informative. So much that it was decided we would order carpet through her. She handed me a business card and I noticed the last name was Orr. I asked where her family was from and she said Orr is her husband’s last name and his family is mostly from Mt. Vernon Missouri. I let her know my grandmother is an Orr from Mt. Vernon and hence we are cousins.

Karen and I left the carpet section to pick up a few items. Maybe a half hour later a gentleman came down the lumber isle and asked if my name was Mark to which I said yes, and this is my wife Karen. The gentleman’s name is Ed Orr, son of Thomas Orr who landed on Omaha Beach, earning the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Tom was my grandmother’s brother.

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Well Ed was very excited to learn he had family living nearby for all these years. I told him I did not recall Uncle Tom had more than one son, with the other having passed away years ago. I said, Ed I want to pass along something about your father that is very important to me. I became a police officer indirectly because of your father. I used to swing by your father’s house while on-duty for a visit every now and then. I am very proud of my uncle. My father made sure I knew Tom’s story.

My father has passed away put left behind a 71 page document which summarizes his life in short descriptions. Dad was a cop for over 50 years. Among those stories is one about Uncle Tom Orr which reads as follows:

“I got to write a V-Mail letter to, I think, Uncle Tom in Europe. You wrote it on a special form which the government microfilmed and sent in rolls to Europe where they were blown up a little and printed like photographs of letters. We got them back the same way. This was something new, after the War had been going on for a couple of years, maybe ‟43 or ‟44.

Just a little about my Uncle Tom Orr, because I followed him into the Army Military Police and that pretty well set my life’s pattern. He was a platoon sergeant in an MP company in the Normandy invasion, Omaha Beach, 2nd wave. Bad place to be. They had the door blown off their landing barge, half the platoon, including the lieutenant, were killed right off the bat. When he got to shore he crawled into an 88 hole (shell crater of a German 88mm cannon). Another incoming shell blew him out of the hole but he crawled back in, The 88‟s had been zeroed-in before the invasion so they could hit any square yard on the beach at will.

If you saw any movies about Normandy, like The Longest Day, or D-Day, you know the Americans were pinned down on Omaha Beach and getting murdered. They had to get a hole punched in a wall before they could go in, which was done by some brave army engineer troops. As soon as a hole was opened the troops and tanks started pouring through. Problem was, it caused a big traffic jam, with every tank and other vehicle wanting through at once to get away from the incoming artillery on the beach. Uncle Tom looked over there from his shell hole and realized that traffic jams were something MPs should take care of. So he did. I think he stood there 24 hours without relief, exposed to fire, directing traffic. He was awarded the silver star and not too long after that was promoted to lieutenant.

So the army got off the beach, the invasion was a success after all, and we won the war. Thanks to my Uncle Tom and the Military Police Corps. Nine years later I was an MP too. It had to be.”

Now back to the irony in all of this. And I’ll preface this by saying in no way would I want someone to think I’m minimizing the event that took place on Omaha Beach; I just want to pass along how my great-uncle influenced events in my own life.

As stated early in the story, Karen and I ran into Uncle Tom’s son at Home Depot during which I passed along much of this story. My father became a Military Policeman because of Uncle Tom and then a police officer. I became a Military Policeman because of my father and then a police officer.

I was with a city police department which has a retirement plan through the state. I later moved to the Sheriff’s Office which has an additional retirement plan for county employees. This plan requires a minimum number of years before one is vested. And a year of credited service is based on having at least 1000 hours worked in a given year. 2019 became my retirement year as I want to be vested in the additional county employee retirement plan. I’ve been literally counting the hours on a board in my office.

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This is a board in my office where I’m counting the hours.

On the left of this board is the date 6/5/19 which is today, followed by 4 hours which is how many hours I have left before being vested in the county retirement plan. Tomorrow, June 6th, I’ll be vested in the plan – D Day! 

So this retirement event is far less important than the achievements of my Uncle on the beach with his dying friends. But, if you can hear me Tom – Thank You for your service and I want you to know how influential you are, generations later.  I’m working for myself now, tomorrow at noon, four hours into my work day – I’ll be telling my co-workers the goal is reached and how it all began. They will hear the story of my Great-Uncle Tom!

Equipping Mobile Office

I’ll be taking a part-time job along with us on the road. About 10 hours a week, sometimes more and sometimes less, I spend working as an office manager for a small construction contracting company I once owned. Sold it to the superintendent in 2010 but kept the job in the office since then. The job includes mostly QuickBooks accounting software for typical business needs such as taxes, account payable/receivable and payroll. With the addition of I usually bid all the work from construction drawings, typically received online in files. I’ll split the 23″ screen in half at times with QuickBooks on one side and a spreadsheet on the other.

The boss wants me to have the best setup possible for the road to make it as easy on me as possible. -Thank you Jeff!  I’m still thrifty and believe there are still things better done without extra expensive equipment. I also believe when you do buy electronics, then get something you can keep for years rather than trading it out more frequently. I also tend to take advantage of a slightly older technology when the prices are favorable. I know that once we are on the road there might be a need for additions such as internet connectivity or cellular signal improvement. I’ll save that topic for later.

I want to be able to work from the dinette table, living room sofa, picnic table, truck or down the road somewhere I can get a connection to the internet the couple of times each week it’s necessary.

I’ve used a 23″ all-in-one computer for many years, along with a larger multifunction laser printer and a larger printer for 11″ x 19″ printing. I’ve done a lot of thinking about my work processes and have come to the conclusion that a laptop with smaller laser printer, and possibly smaller external monitor will do the job. I’m also keeping the small  Epson Workforce DS560 sheet feed scanner. There are lower cost versions of the scanner which, by the way, has been wonderful for quickly scanning all our photos and documents. Although I may keep the scanner in storage and use a phone application or small handheld scanning wand when on the road.  

So here is my selection for a laptop, having looked at Dell and HP. As well as what I’m considering for a laser printer and maybe a mobile second monitor.

Dell Inspiron 15 – i5570 15.6″ screen

This computer comes with a DVD/CD player with 12 GB of RAM, the 8th generation Intel i5 processor (model 8250U), a 256 gig SSD drive and an additional installed 1 terabit hard drive. I’ve owned Dell computers in the past and know they offer excellent customer service and a good value for the dollar. If you are interested in discussing the details just post a comment to get the conversation started. I could have gotten by with 8 gigs of RAM and no DVD/CD player as I have a small portable unit. I found the best pricing on Ebay and found a deal on this one with better specs then what I was looking for within my self-imposed budget of $600.

Laser Printer

I cannot tolerate inkjet printers where the ink dries up faster than you can use it or the slow printing speeds.  Although if I had to have color, I’d consider the inkjet. A must have is wireless connectivity and I’d prefer having an option to hardwire the printer to the computer via a USB cable as well. I need to run stock bank checks through it and envelopes at times. So far the two smallest laser printers under consideration are the HP LaserJet Pro M15w Wireless Laser Printer and Samsung Xpress M2024W Wireless Monochrome Laser or something similar. Note, HP bought out the Samsung printer business in November of 2017 which are still sold under the Samsung name. (Update 6/3/19 I went with the HP)
HP Printer
Samsung laser

These printers have a small footprint at about 13.6″w x 7.5″d x 6.3″h with an initial cost of under $100.  I’ve always kept an extra toner cartridge around for the current larger laser printer and never once had it go bad before I could use it.

Mobile Monitor

I’m still undecided on adding a second monitor for the laptop. Given the way I use the current single 23″ screen, I like to split views and run more than one application at a time which is mostly the accounting software in one view and a spreadsheet on the other. At under $150 there are several options available. I’ve done some reading and understand with a Windows based machine the laptop screen and mobile monitor do not have to have the same resolution. I’m also looking at power consumption as these monitors get their power and data via a single USB hooked to the laptop rather than a separate plug. Although just having four hours or more battery life is all I’m interested in.

The two I’m considering so far are something like the ASUS MB168B 15.6″ WXGA 1366×768 USB Portable Monitor or AOC e1659Fwu 15.6-Inch Ultra Slim 1366×768 There are slightly more expensive models with full HD resolution but I’m not sure the higher resolution is necessary given the small screen size. (Update 6/3/19 I went with the ASUS 1366×768 resolution. The built in stand works perfect).

Karen and I are taking a longer trip to Michigan in a month or so and I’d like to get the mobile office in place by then.  I should add for now we have Verizon and AT&T hotspots on our phones for internet. Selling off the office furniture in my home and current equipment might very well cover the cost for the mobile office!

Equipping RV, Preparing Home for Sale and More

Well it was 10 days ago that I posted we had brought our new fifth wheel home and stuck it in storage. We are committed to spending this month preparing the house for sale and fiddling with the RV while it’s in storage.

I’ve come to grips with the house will not be 100% perfect before it goes on the market. We don’t want to miss the better window to sell it. When we moved in 17 years ago we were a family of three. The folks most likely to buy this house could be roughly the same age we were 17 years ago with one or two children or in other words at the same place in life we were when we moved in. That’s our best guess anyway. So selling while school is out for the summer is the most likely option for a quick sale.  And should it sell quickly then we have our new home on wheels to move into.

It really has helped to have kept a list of possible purchases for our RV. Karen and I are being very selective in how we equip our fifth wheel, knowing we will learn more on the road. Some items are essential and a few items are just fun to have.

We plan to load up the truck if it’s not raining tomorrow, taking a load to the camper. I turned off the main electrical disconnect to prevent draining of the two batteries but know there remains a small electrical draw according to what I’ve read on owner’s forums. So I’m taking the 3400 watt portable generator to juice up the batteries while we are there. For now the batteries are hard to get to as the battery box has a ton of screws to remove to open the cover. I’ll change that later when we might upgrade our batteries.

We had a couple issues develop during our maiden voyage and have the fixes ready to go. Our elderly dogs had trouble coming down the bottom two steps of the RV (Lippert Solid Steps) so we purchased 23″ x 18″ stair rugs for the bottom three stairs.  We are hoping they will give the dogs better footing. We went with the Campco brand with double ribbed texture. I read where others have bought less expense carpet runners and cut them up. They wrapped them around the stairs and used Velcro or wire ties to lock the ends together. Apparently you can purchase longer lengths of carpet runners off a roll at Home Depot but I’ve not confirmed that.

 

When we left the last campground I drained all the water out of the hot and cold water lines and discovered a low water point drain valve was malfunctioning. When we arrived home I sent an email to the Vanleigh RV Service Center where an operator emailed back 20 minutes later with a contact name and email. I emailed the technician who sent a reply 10 minutes later.  The next day a new valve showed up in the mail at home as did another email making sure I received the valve and phone number to call if I want any help installing it. I talked to a factory service technician on the phone and believe I can handle it on my own.

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New Low Water Point Drain Valve to Install

A few equipment related decisions have been harder to make then expected. Finally decided on a coffee pot! You may have read the earlier post regarding how important coffee is to us. Finally it struck me I was looking at the decision completely from the wrong view point. I’m not buying a coffee maker for a large house with all kinds of counter space nor at times infinite supply of electricity. We already have a smaller French press but wanted to replace the older large machine we have now.  I considered all the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) certified expensive brands. But after thinking like someone who is going to live out of an RV, decided on – believe it or not – an old fashioned electric Presto percolator.  Takes up 1/4 of the space compared to a machine, uses 1/2 the energy (think batteries at 800 watts) and makes good tasting hot coffee. Yes, it is slower than a automatic coffee maker. And does not have a digital clock that might cause one to have to reset the time when moving from camping spot to camping spot.

New Coffee Pot for RV (480x640)

Still can’t decide on a surge protector – size and hardwired or not.  And if I was to purchase a tire monitoring system, with heat and pressure detection, I’d go with the TST 507 model without flow-through valves for the trailer. Others say the valves with caps take no more time to remove when checking the air then standard valve stem covers.  The larger flow-through valves, which can remain in place when airing a tire, stick out from the sides of the tires and are easier to knock off if you hit a curb or whatever. The only thing stopping me from buying one is I’ve yet to figure out if our 2018 Ram truck’s system can handle add-on sensors rather than having to add yet another stand-alone monitoring device (update, the 2018 Ram does not allow for adding more wheels to the factory tire monitoring but the 2019 trucks have it as an option)

Also decided to skip the RV specific GPS for now. The trucks GPS is awesome and I’m getting a better paper atlas. Finally figured out there is a difference between trip planning and navigation in that it’s hard to find one thing that can handle both aspects. So after we use whatever to come up with a route I’ll just check it against the truck’s GPS. A friend added he has a phone app to check low bridge clearances. I like the Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ paper atlas but am having a hard time deciding between it and the large print standard atlas. Personally I prefer to look at a paper map for local highways when first starting to plan a route. Then use the digital stuff, like Google Earth Pro, Allstays and such.

Sometime in the next two weeks I’ve got to check my vehicle and insurance to see if they cover roadside assistance. And make sure it’s not covered under the factory warranty which is doubtful.  Also for safety I’m getting a pull-over reflective vest and some triangular roadside markers in case we break down in a busy area.

Lastly, knowing this may seem minor, I’m changing out the disposable 3.5 mil gloves I use when dumping the black tank. The ones I bought earlier tear easily. I got with our Evidence Technician at work regarding the brand and thickness we use for touching gross stuff and ordered the same. Adenna Shadow 6 mil are the ones to get!

We have a local camping trip planned for the first of June, then a couple weeks later we are off to central Missouri for a family campout. We are also considering another trip to Michigan and have booked a two week stay in Carthage Missouri in October for the local Escapee Chapter Rally and a festival in Mt. Vernon Missouri. There is a better than average chance come October 4th we will not be returning to “home” but setting a course elsewhere. Karen and I are leaning towards a trip to the Vanleigh Service Center the first of November in northern Mississippi, then on to Tennessee. From there we should be in Texas maybe by December to establish or domicile.  Here in a few months I’m going to setup our mail service so I can start changing the addresses. More on that later.

New camper (640x480)

Still looking to get some photos out of our new home when the time is right.