Custer South Dakota

We have spent the last three weeks in the Black Hills of Custer South Dakota. The campsite, Broken Arrow RV and Horse Campground, has been wonderful. The park is located about three miles outside Custer State Park and an easy mountain drive between the regions best tourist locations. We have traveled the 45 minutes to Rapid City twice (to Walmart).  Rapid City/Custer/Keystone/Hot Spring all have their pluses in terms of location. To us, Custer was more centrally located but we could see staying In Rapid City especially with younger kids as there are plenty of things do and if one wanted to travel to The Badlands or a little further out west on day trips. As we were staying a month, everything we wanted to see was possible, as we had time to drive. We have decided to skip the Badlands off Interstate 90 about 80 miles east of Rapid City. We expect to travel I-90 someday and will catch the Badlands and more as we later head west during a trip. For those looking to domicile (establish a legal address) in South Dakota; the popular Box Elder is located just east of Rapid City.

Our Rig at Broken Arrow Horse Camp. The park can be busy. In order to stay a full month at a reduced rate ($35 a night on full hookups) we had to move to another spot after two weeks. If you stay at Broken Arrow, in order to avoid  a gravel road, approach the location from the City of Custer. It is an easy drive to the park where there is plenty of space to navigate inside the park for the largest rigs. There is a Dollar General and Dakotamart in town for groceries. Management at Broken Arrow says due to the surrounding hills, bad storms do not make it into the area often.

The view out our back window. Upon arrival, those mountains were screened by the smoke from wild fires coming out of the west.

Plenty of wide open sky filled with stars. I liked this night view when I stepped out the door. Not a bad photo for a phone with the flash turned off.

Snowed one day on Sept 7th. Set a record for the earliest snowfall and amount of moisture for that date. Our campground is at an elevation of about 5,400 feet. As I recall the highest peak out here is around 7000 feet.

The Black Hills area of South Dakota is another one of those unique landscapes that we have not experienced in the past. Literally every turn in the road reveals an amazing view. I can see why people decide to live here! Everyone agreed, to include park management, September is the best month to be here. The temperatures have averaged 70’s in the day and 50’s at night. We did have six inches of snow on September 7th which was a record for this area. The snow was gone for the most part the next day. No big deal. We filled the fresh water tank the day before freezing temperatures, turned on the tank heaters and unhooked the water hose and filter, moving it to the basement so the hose would not freeze. Always make sure to remove those external filters at the hydrant as they crack when frozen.

Church Retreat and More

It will take two blog posts to describe our experiences here. There are several others in the park that have been here the entire season, a few are workcampers and even one is a school teacher who holds classes online for her students back home. We had met a couple at Fort Robinson in Nebraska who travel South Dakota as ministers. They provided a couple church names for us. Turned out the second day we were at this RV park we met the camp minister. They hold “cowboy churches” which are short half hour sermons followed by Christian fellowship. We attend bible study on Wednesdays and church on Sunday. I have to say this was the most beautiful church I have ever attended – outside in the middle of mother nature. Timing was perfect as we were invited to an annual church retreat located in a mountain valley. That was a special, healing, time. A large family from Montana held services one night and the property owner delivered the message on another night.  I’d like to say it was luck to meet the Campground Minister but after much thought, I’d say the meeting was not luck at all. More about our church friends in a later post where I’ll also describe a hike to a lookout point. Staying long-term at a campsite increases the chances of meeting up with others who have been here longer and either tell you about or take you to area attraction. A benefit of being a fulltimer and not racing home to return to a house or job.

Church in the middle of the Black Hills. I find no need to defend an argument regarding the virus thing. We were all safe and we knew it. Karen and I are healthy two weeks after the meeting!  The minister had a small wooden cross. If you felt the need, you could write a prayer on paper and nail it to the cross. The last night the cross was burned and the prayer was sent up in a group of prayers gathered over a long period of time and from places around the country. 

Church retreat parking lot. Some bring their RV’s and camp for three days.

Custer State Park

Twenty dollars will get you a one week state park pass that’s good for everyone in the vehicle. Custer State Park is 71,000 acres (110 square miles) of glory. There are camping spots inside the park but we found none that we wanted to stay at compared to where we were. Neighbors have stayed inside the park in the past and commented that one of the differences is there were few long-term residents (more than a week) so you don’t get to know anyone. That stated, I could see Custer State Park being interesting enough to be the only place you would visit for shorter stays and therefore would be worth camping inside it. There are two special highways to drive inside the park, some with tunnels. There is a wildlife loop where it pays off to check with someone before you leave to see where the buffalo are hanging out. Our RV park is located four miles outside a main gate of Custer State Park so it was easy to jump in the truck and go for a drive into the fantastic views. 

Plenty of views off the main highway. For even more views you can drive one or both of two special highways cut between the mountains inside Custer State Park. I decided to skip them although others say our dually tires will fit between the rocks of tunnels along the route. Needles Highway has an iconic view of Mt. Rushmore.

Wild donkeys inside Custer State Park. We got out of the truck as they are extremely friendly:) Apparently long ago donkeys and mules were used as pack animals in the area and when folks were finished with them they just set them loose where they breed in the wild and learned visitors have food to offer. I’m hoping to remember to upload a video with the donkeys during my next post.

Our dog Wyatt learned new vocabulary which includes Buffalo. We also experienced a first which were a couple buffalo road blocks. I watched a local as he drove his truck between them to continue down the road. At first you think they might attack your vehicle, then you learn this herd (numbering 1700 in the park) are used to visitors. We are leaving the area on September 23rd which is just days before the big buffalo roundup that marks the end of the season.

Click here for a short video of a buffalo road block.

Just outside the main entrance of Custer State Park, down the road from the City of Custer is an 1800’s stockade where you can see how the gold miners lived, trying to stay safe from Lakota Indian attacks. There are other great features to visit inside the state park to include mountain lakes and visitor centers. The park butts up to the larger Wind Cave National Park where there are many free to see activities.

Cute Puppy Pictures

A brief intermission away from our Black Hills story has to include cute puppy photos. Wyatt is four months old and a big part of our fulltime RV living. I’ll add many of the tourist locations are dog friendly which you will discover with just a little research. We can’t wait to show him off to his aunts (my sisters) once we return to Missouri the second week of October on our way to Texas by November 1st to vote.

He has moved to the big boy create as part of his training to stay behind and sleep in the RV. Karen and I have been reading up on, and trying to recall, all our puppy training skills as we have not had a puppy for 15 years. Sleeping alone in another room is a big part of it.

Wyatt is an athlete. He has a route he runs inside the RV which includes jumping to the recliner, walking across his create and climbing onto the table to look outside and smell everything from an open window.

We do our best to maintain social distancing when everyone wants to pet him, such as at Mt. Rushmore later. Dogs really are a good way to meet people. As he is just a puppy he goes everywhere with us. We don’t mind having to avoid inside eating at restaurants and find plenty of places to eat outside to include city parks with our take-out food.

Here is a funny series of three photos Karen took. As you may recall, I kept a part-time office job when we went on the road.  Wyatt likes to help me work. Karen happened to be standing in the area with her phones camera at the right time.

Obviously, among major decisions to go fulltime in an RV is pets. As we stay at home more often during the pandemic, it was a great time to get a puppy. We feel the few travel restrictions, such as how long to leave him at home without us, is worth it. I read you can expect their ability to hold their bladder is fine for one hour per month of age. So he goes outside about every four to six hours for a pee break. He did well house breaking and now stands at the door when it’s time. We let him fall asleep on his own and then place him in his create. Yes, we still loose sleep having to get up in the middle of the night to take him out. As he gets older he will be an friendly hiking partner. His stuff does take up storage room but again it’s worth it. I’d however recommend at first to not travel with a dog if you don’t have one yet. Then decide later, especially if you have been on the road for a couple years on your own. He only knows this lifestyle. And because we are with him all the time, the camper does not smell like pet urine, nothing has been destroyed and he knows it’s not okay to bark at the many strangers unless acting as a guard dog. He loves to travel in the truck, often falling asleep for hours or just sits and looks out the windows. Raising a puppy in an RV is a blog post of its own.

Much To Report About On the Next Post

I’ll end this with a few more photos of the area. Next up will be more tourist things such as Hot Springs SD and the Mammoth site, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, The City of Custer and a hike to Beecher Rock in the National Forrest. And for sure, just simple thoughts about living in an RV.

At every turn in the road is a wonderful view and facts about the areas history.

Ogallala to Fort Robinson Nebraska. RV Holding Tank Maintenance

Karen, Wyatt and I have moved off the Kansas Prairie and spent a few weeks in Nebraska on our way to South Dakota. The scenery just keeps getting better. We can only imagine what the rest of the country will look like once we get there during our journey of discovery. Near the end of this post I’ll discuss what I’m doing to maintain our waste water holding tanks and appreciate any comments regarding your own methods.

We traveled from US 36 Highway north on US 83 in Kansas. Both excellent roads. West on I-80 for about 60 miles to Ogallala Nebraska.  We then took US 385 all the way to Custer South Dakota with a side stop west of Crawford Nebraska at Fort Robinson State Park. Pulling our 15,000 pounds of  high-profile fifth wheel with a dually truck. In this part of the open country there can be random high winds. It was so nice to be away from the city traffic with changing views from prairie to big rocks known as buttes. Our return trip will include a drive through Nebraska’s scenic Route 2 between the sandhills beginning at Alliance Nebraska. I have already confirmed with Nebraska State Park staff that Route 2 will be no problem for us.

One might not think of Nebraska as being an RV destination spot. We did not see many RV’s heading north on US 385 from I-80 while the campground at Fort Robinson State Park was mostly full of locals. However, western Nebraska, especially Fort Robinson outside Crawford might very well be one to put on the list as a must see. I discovered it while route planning via US Highways and avoiding Interstates. When I went to my own list, compiled over six years of reading other’s blogs, this is what I found: Only notes to stop at the Strategic Air Command Museum and Omaha Nebraska. Both located in eastern Nebraska.

There is not much to see in Ogallala Nebraska which is a frontier town at the end of cattle drives out of Texas. We spent four nights at Country View Campground. Having just come out of the “wilderness” we wanted time to cleanup the rig and rest with full-hookups. Country View is definitely great for an overnight stop with quick access off I-80, large pull-through spots with little to no interstate road noise. We watched a YouTube video prior to arrival to make sure we did not miss anything in town. Downtown was a store front built to look like an old western town (closed for now due to the virus thing.) We toured Boot Hill Cemetery where the dead from gunfights filled the hill. There is a local lake which is popular but we skipped it. Notably is the underground history of the area. The Ogallala Aquifer covers 175,000 square miles under portions of eight states. It does not rain much in western Nebraska, receiving just 1/3 the annual rain totals of eastern Nebraska as not much rain makes it past the Rocky Mountains. Locals say the Aquifer is the main source of crop irrigation and in parts of the state the water is exposed at the surface in the form of springs.

Store front in Ogallala Nebraska. In the parking lot is a marker regarding the cattle drives from Texas.

They discovered graves down hill from the Boot Hill Cemetery while constructing roads. The hill itself is hard to remove for construction.

Next Stop –  Fort Robinson

I’ll not retype notes about the history of Fort Robinson listed on their website. The Fort was an active military post from the time of the Indian Wars and beyond World War 2. It housed the Red Cloud Indian Agency, holds the spot where Crazy Horse was killed, was the largest cavalry post for training with 30,000 horses. At one time half the war dogs used in WW1 were trained here and German POWs during WW2 were kept here. And it’s the location for the famous Buffalo Soldiers. The State of Nebraska bought the military post after it closed. The post is surrounded by rock formations known as buttes. It’s wide open with many of the original buildings still standing or reconstructed.

Currently, the officer’s homes and one enlisted barracks are used as a hotel or single family rental. It’s amazing and was well worth the one week stay. Fort Robinson is popular as a family reunion location because of the sleeping quarters you can rent. The indoor olympic size swimming pool is another good feature! There are added cost for some events, such as a pool pass or small fee for using the RV shower buildings. We camped in the Red Cloud Loop with full hookups. Found a great spot (#106) on a curve within the loop that is easy to back-in with no neighbors on one side.

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Most of the extra activities were shut-down due to the virus thing. Normally you can take a wagon or horse ride. Sit inside at the post theater for a live play. Museums are setup all over the post inside old buildings, most were open as was the post restaurant. This is no small Fort. Thousands of soldiers lived here and the buildings are spread-out down well kept paved roads. Bring your bike! There are day trips you can take from the post. We drove out to the Toadstool National Geological Park. Fort Robinson State Park covers 20,000 acres where we even found a nice creek for our dog Wyatt to swim in near the tent camping area.

1887 View of Fort Robinson

Yes, I took this photo but this one could be on a post card

Some areas of the State Park are identified with only markers, such as this area where military dogs were trained. I found this old photo on the Nebraska State Historical Society site.

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Soldiers Creek. No telling how many Indians and US Troops drank from here in the 1800’s.

About 30 miles down the road is Toadstool National Geological Park. It is located in the middle of nowhere. The first 2.5 miles of gravel road will get you thinking about turning around because it’s that rough to drive in a truck. We felt it was worth the trip. There are hiking trails within the park but not much shade. We only covered about a mile of the park. With our young dog we did not want him to overheat. I’ll describe the park as what the moon surface must look like.

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Trick I learned in the sun. Wear a cheap long-sleeved white T-Shirt.

While in western Nebraska we learned the area was formed by an ocean and volcanic activity. Lots of sand around here!

Now for some RV related business: Holding Tank Maintenance

We have finished our first year on the road. I’ll write about that later.  We traveled in this RV for six months prior to going fulltime. Waste water tanks and especially tank sensors, have been challenging to figure out.

Someone else already figured it out which is my preferred way of learning. I wish Lee over at the Camper Chronicles Blog had written this post earlier. He discusses tank treatments and much more. Click here for the article.

For the sake of keeping this short; I have two topics/challenges to discuss.  How to clean the tanks and how to get our tank sensors to work.  For those that do not have an RV –  waste water from the toilet and kitchen are stored in tanks until you dump them at a sewer connection. There are sensors in tanks that are supposed to indicate how much tank space remains. Our sensors are mounted outside the tanks in the form of pads. Our black tank, no matter how much I clean it, will not indicate below two-thirds full and the grey water tank sensor will not indicate below one-third full. In short, I give up on the sensors and have just learned how to know when they are approaching full.  No point in worrying about it.

My second point about the subject is I have learned the best way to clean a waste water storage tank is have clean water in it while traveling down the road in the RV. The water motion helps. I sometimes fill the black tank with fresh water after dumping and then drain it again. But be careful not to overfill it as water pressure varies by campground. I’ve learned to gauge how much water is going in the tank using an actual water gauge (counter) or just filling it for five to seven minutes. For now, every now and then I place about five gallons of a solution in each tank before traveling, preferring to use liquid dishwasher soap and Borax or Calgon when I can find it. I am still using Happy Camper for a black tank treatment as I do not have the nerve to not use a treatment.  So far, the only time our black tank smelled inside the camper was when it was nearly full.

We are currently living in the Black Hills of South Dakota for a month. We plan to be back in Texas by November 1st with stops along the way. I’ve been thinking about what will become our one year on the road blog post. I’m leaning away from – we did this we did that – and will most likely get real and tell ya what can happen that will make you consider leaving the road – not that we are.

Living in Kansas on the Way to South Dakota

We are stopped at Prairie Dog State Park just outside Norton Kansas in an area of the High Plains Region. During the drive out here and while “camping” I finally realized a point others talk about related to this traveling lifestyle. There have been moments over the past year where I wondered if this was just going to be about an endless search for points of interest inside and outside cities to tour. Or looking for places to park the rig for a nights sleep especially over the weekend when parks are full. Would this journey be about escaping the weather or spending more time with family and my wife. Yes, all that is true and important about the lifestyle.

However, I believe I have transcended to the next level. It is now apparent this lifestyle is not just about driving around! You can not experience these landscapes in a museum! Envision cresting a hill which opens to a landscape, painted by God, where you can see over what appears 10 miles in the distance. Imagine stepping outside your home to just sit in the lawn chair, surrounded by the same landscape but up close. Sitting on a hillside overlooking prairie grass, singing birds flanked by a gentle inland lake that stands out with a background of rolling hills. Just sit there and hear nothing but nature in a cool breeze under a massive blue sky. There is no time for worries because the mere experience of this takes your mind away with all your senses being occupied just to take in the beauty of the moment.

Plains of northern Kansas on US 36 Highway. This is nothing like I-70 to the south which is boring other than the Flint Hills and a quick view of the New Horizons fifth wheel plant/building.

Site 302 – Prairie Dog State Park outside Norton Kansas on scenic US 36 Highway. That’s our home to the left of a uniquely designed shelter house.

I should note that near the bottom of this blog post is information regarding RV stuff, not necessarily related to this trip. I always like to include information on general RV topics in each blog post for those not so much interested in trip descriptions. Now back to the story;

We left Platte City Missouri about two weeks ago, arriving in Kansas for a three week stay. Initially, route planning included possible travel over Interstates on the way through Nebraska and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Having traveled US 36 Highway through northern Missouri in the past I was aware the highway extends all the way west to Denver Colorado. US 36 through Missouri is a divided highway while the route through Kansas is over two lane roads with decent shoulders. Glad we skipped the Interstate (I-80 or I-90) routes and started on US 36 Highway at St. Joseph Missouri.  The short-lived Pony Express started in St. Joseph and in fact US 36 is called the Pony Express Highway.

Along the route one will pass several towns which display the history of the Pony Express. You will pass over the geographic center of the lower 48 US states near Lebanon Kansas. As well as the home of the “Home of the Range” in Smith County. Home on the Range being the Kansas State Anthem.

As our new puppy, Wyatt, is so young and an inexperienced traveler we decided the first two stops across US 36 would be over shorter distances. We stopped at Seneca Kansas, then on to Lovewell State Park and then on to Prairie Dog State Park. Several US Highways branch off south and north to I-70 or I-80 if one wants to take a fork in the road. We were so inspired with the views on US 36 and finding the two lane roadway well maintained and lightly traveled, we decided to take US 36 for extended miles. Dreading having to stop for stop lights within towns, as these rigs take some time to stop if the light turns yellow, I was delighted to find these smaller towns don’t have many stop lights and are as easy to pass through that one only has to slow down for a short distance with little to no curves in the road. We will be taking US 83 north into Nebraska at some point. US 83 happens to be the most direct route to take from Mexico to Canada as a side note.

Seneca Kansas was the first stop for riders on the Pony Express. The downtown is fantastic. We enjoyed how the town placed well worded plaques on buildings with history lessons.  I’m always on the lookout to see how other towns showcase or label their attractions or how a museum might use a unique way to display treasures and tell stories. Unfortunately, the Seneca Pony Express Museum was closed, presumably because of the virus thing. I was impressed to see how their city hall was built in the early 1900’s and is still used as a city hall.

Plaques all along downtown Seneca Kansas telling stories of history.

Historic Seneca Kansas – First rest stop for riders on the Pony Express

City Hall – Still in an early 1900’s building. Beautiful way to preserve buildings by keeping them occupied.

At first I was worried about Wyatt taking a drink from a downtown fountain. Then I read the plaque. With more cars and trains replacing horses, an organization actually built fountains for animals who remained. This was running water and Wyatt took a long drink.

So why do we see so many blogs with photos of quant downtown locations? I’m guessing that many of us don’t care to spend much time in large cities and find these smaller towns very hospitable with all the necessities if you look for them.  Frankly, Karen and I have discussed it and don’t have a goal to visit every state. Nor worry much when passing around a big city. I appreciated looking at the architecture of the Seneca Chiropractor’s Office rather than any tall glass monster building in downtown Houston Texas as we flew by it earlier this year.

I learned a new phrase in the past couple days known as “physiographic regions.” Basically the entire United States landmass is broken down into distinct and chartable areas. I’ve already mentioned we have been traveling in the High Plains Region. I suspect if one takes a look at the charts it would be easy to search out landscapes that are unfamiliar. We have spent a lot of time in the US Interior Highlands (Ozark Mountains for example) and therefore might seek out terrain that is less like the Ozarks for new experiences. I’m looking forward to the sandhills of Nebraska on our way to or from Fort Robinson after Kansas. My sister Lisa handed me a book about General Custer before we left on this trip. It has been wonderful  studying up on American Indian history as we cross territory they once roamed. I must say, seeing these places in real time and reading where tribes called home is way more impressive than any of the museums I toured as a child regarding plains Indians. Here in Kansas, later in Nebraska and South Dakota we will be near the final days where the American Indian’s way of life came to an end.

After Seneca we stayed at Lovewell State Park where we extended our stay one day as there was no reason to leave on a Sunday and compete with others at the dump station.  The park is located on what has to be one of the largest lakes in the state. Not much to do but enjoy water sports although there is a Pawnee Indian museum within driving distance where archaeologists are digging the ruins of a village. The dig is enclosed in a building.  Unfortunately we did not make it to the village. A highlight of the trip was meeting Don who frequents the park. Don operated a truck for years, traveling all over the country. We sat down one day with an atlas as he showed me great highways to take to include a route around Dallas/Fort Worth on Highway 281 out of Wichita Falls. And thank you Don for the wonderful evening cruise on your boat!  Karen and I agree this is a highlight of our trip. It was great to meet you and we will catch you again should we come through town.

Don takes us out on an evening boat tour. Thank you!!!!!

Wyatt loves the water. He went swimming for the first time earlier at the boat ramp. Karen stood in water to her knees and Wyatt swam out. Nice – We are hoping to make a kayaking dog out of him.

Below are a few additional photos of Prairie Dog State Park, our last stop in Kansas. The state attempted to transplant prairie dogs here but twice failed. A couple wild ones wondered into the place and now they have a fantastic colony with a viewing area. You can walk among the mounds as well. First time for us seeing prairie dogs. Also in the park is the only remaining historic Kansas abode house sitting on it’s original location.

Interesting rail line that runs through part of the park, between two hills and under a bridge. We have not once heard a train.

We extended our stay to nine days at Prairie Dog State Park. To preserve grey and black tank space, Karen does dishes outside and we use the public shower/toilet when reasonable. We have gone as long as 11 days this way. We are moving on to Ogallala Nebraska after this where I’ll remember to get my sister Mary some Nebraska vanilla bean beer.

We took a day trip into Norton Kansas (only three miles outside the campground 🙂 At Water Tower Park is a re-creation of stop #15 on the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Stage Line. Where folks could travel to the gold fields of Colorado for $125 .  The short visit included reading a marker inside the cabins clear glass viewing windows.  Apparently, Wild Bill Hickock worked for this stage line as did Billy the Kid whose parents operated one of the stops. Pat Garrison, the sheriff who later killed Billy the Kid also worked for the stage line which was later sold to the parent company of the Pony Express.

Stagecoach stops were positioned every 25 miles out to Colorado from Westport (a.k.a Kansas City)

And finally, a few notes about RV topics in general:

  • I like to use Google Earth during route planning. With all the hills we are about to come upon, I noted roads surrounded by obvious farm fields are appealing in that presumably there will be no cliffs to drive off as they are flat fields.
  • I think Vanleigh could do a better job insulating their front caps (front of the fifth wheel). When hit by direct sun we can open the bedroom closet door and feel the heat. During my research it seemed common for companies to just hang rolled insulation in the space and maybe include a material over that to reflect the heat outward. Wonder what it will be like when we hit a bird with the front cap up to 13′ tall when driving 65 mph?  Just barely missed a couple coming across Kansas.
  • We can run both air conditioners on 30 amps (at about 116 volts). We have to place the hot water tank over to propane to do it and sometimes cut the fridge over to propane if we need more power for other items.  Just set the temperatures of each AC unit a few degrees apart so the compressors don’t start up at the same time. Also remember to run them on high fan during very hot and humid days or they will ice up. Our surge protector mounted at the campground power post has an optional inside display where I can monitor amperage used.  We successfully handled upper 90 temps with partial shade on one side.  Glad the fifth wheel was parked facing sunrise where during the course of the day the roof took most of the direct sunlight.
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Voltage is 121 and amperage at 3 with just the fridge on electric. I keep a chart as to what each electrical items requires until we learn our system.

  • As a follow up to my last post regarding 50/50 decisions to make while equipping an RV; I was contacted by others after the post and want to add a couple items.  Regarding slide toppers. If you are fearful or have physical limitations that prevent you climbing onto the roof to clean debree from the top of slides then get slide toppers for sure.  I’d estimate I climb on the roof at 1/2 our stops to check for debree. Slider toppers would obviously cut out one more step in getting ready to move.  Seems like all the older rigs have sagging slide toppers.  Even some of the newer ones don’t look that tight. I’d not like to listen to them flap in the wind while trying to sleep. Maybe they would help insulate the top of slides from direct sun which would be nice. Wonder if they cut down on rain noise? Regarding RV extended warranties. I never buy extended warranties nor have I in this case. I was considering getting one after owning our new trailer for a year. RV’s lived in fulltime take some abuse. If there was ever a time to change my mind about extended warranties, using a recreational vehicle to live in would be it.  We have money set aside to repair stuff. I’m thinking I don’t want to be at the mercy of a warranty company as to where and when something is repaired. Many RV components have warranties beyond one year directly from the manufacturer.

Equipping an RV – 50/50 Decisions

We have lived in our current RV for about a year, having bought it several months prior to moving in fulltime. This should be a good time to provide feedback about several hard decisions we had to make while equipping our new home. For more detailed explanations please click on Our Choices Page (a must read) where you will find links to prior blog posts and more.

Karen and I will be leaving our current location north of Kansas City on 7/26/20. As usual we have booked our camping areas for destination spots. We will also book our first stop on the route and leave times between the first and final stops open for flexibility. We will be at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska on 8/16. We scheduled a month long stop at Broken Arrow Horse and RV Camp near Custer SD beginning 8/23. It’s so nice to be able to “live” in the Black Hills for a month.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included photos of our new Cocker Spaniel puppy Wyatt who is doing great. We are having a wonderful time training him to be an RV dog.  Slowing down travel because of the virus thing has presented an opportunity to spend time getting Wyatt used to his surroundings and allowing us to equip the RV with puppy stuff.

There were dozens of tough decision we made while equipping and purchasing our RV. I cut the list down to 10 for this blog post.  Hope it helps those making the same decisions. Of course our style of RV life may very from yours.

Refrigerator: Might as well start off with a topic I’m still not completely decided about. We went with a double door RV gas/electric. You will have to do your own research for this decision. So far a residential fridge would have worked for us. Our underlying idea when making all decisions was not to limit where we stay any more than necessary. Hence the 35′ trailer, small generator, very capable tow vehicle, RV gas/electric fridge and more.  We have lost power at four campgrounds which only required we run the generator to charge the batteries on one occasion. We have not camped without an electrical connection but plan to as yet another way of experiencing the journey. We turn off our propane when we travel which shuts down the fridge. I’ve left it running when traveling as well. The initial cool down of the fridge takes some time but is not an issue when it’s off a few hours. Personally, I would not own a residential fridge without four batteries, a generator or capable solar system. I’ve never had a residential fridge in an RV. Experience with a residential fridge in an RV might influence my feedback. I have several friends with one. We paid hundreds $$ for the RV gas/electric as an option when installed in the camper. Residential fridges are less expensive and require less framing and venting to place them in a camper. If RV gas/electric are not installed correctly to include framing the box around it for air flow then there will be problems. Ours is located in a hydraulic slide and there is no issue with the weight. We have an ice maker which I’d never want to do without. We had to disconnect the water line under the slide one time when in below freezing temperatures as a safety measure. The water line is braided metal and probably could have handled even lower temperatures. Others have figured out how to add a valve to drain the line which I might later do myself. We have replaced one plastic door handle as you have to learn how to open RV fridge gas/electric doors. The light fixture is out and a plastic hinge where the doors come together could use replacing. I’m convinced RV gas/electric fridges are harder to repair. I’m satisfied with our decision at this point but still wonder about the long-term as our type of travel evolves. It’s nice to click the fridge over to gas when we only have 30 amp electric service. Camping without electric service is not a concern.

Washer/Dryer: Would probably be a good idea to have Karen type this one out. I’ll do my best and change whatever she might not agree with after she reads the post. We decided not to have one installed but are glad to have the option with water and electric hook-ups in the closet. Also glad that if we ever installed a unit the door would face forward and not require we fish around in the master bedroom closet to gain access.  We figured out sources for $40 a month in quarters as we use campground facilities and sometimes travel to small town laundries (that don’t have security bars around the windows.) Like others said would happen, it seems Karen often does multiple loads at a time when a lot of machines are available, thereby knocking out the laundry once ever couple weeks. Sometimes she does smaller loads prior to taking off to the wilderness on a trip. We have lots of extra towels, perhaps clothing and bedding which I feel we would still have even if we could do laundry in the fifth wheel. Glad we don’t have the added weight of the unit. If I ever had a unit in the trailer then separate washer/dryer would be nice but at the least a combo unit would be vented to the outside for sure. Glad we don’t have to worry about having a sewer and water connection to do laundry. Glad we don’t have to listen to a tiny combo unit running and shaking. Glad we have two bars in the bathroom to hang clothes we don’t put in dryers anyway. As a side point, Karen still irons using an apartment sized board or at times, during longer campground stays, she uses ironing boards commonly left in the laundry room (Update – Karen wants a full size ironing board that will store behind our theater seating. Small things make this lifestyle more enjoyable) .  Personally, I wear shorts and shirts that don’t require ironing. We both still want our clothes to look clean and ironed just like we still live in a sticks and bricks house. This is our lifestyle and not a vacation. We want to feel “normal”. Karen dresses up more than I do and still likes to wear her shinny jewelry. I appreciate that!

Generator: Went with a 3500 watt gas portable inverter (quiet) unit that rides in the bed of the truck. Someday I’ll post how I finally figured out how to secure it in the truck where it does not move and exhaust out the back of the truck. Propane generators eat propane quickly and filling a gas can is way easier than hunting down propane. By the way, I use our extra 30 pounds propane tank that came with the trailer for our gas grill. Our 3500 watt unit provides a full 30 amps of power. If we had two of the smaller and lighter units then we could do the same. Ours weighs 75 pounds because I left off the option of remote starting or even push button starting which requires a battery that has to be maintained. We used the generator a lot when our trailer was in storage to power the RV and top off the batteries when needed. I even left off the generator prep option when we ordered our fifth wheel which freed up space in the storage area which we need as our 35′ trailer does not have the same basement space as a 40′ trailer. 100% satisfied with this decision even if so far we don’t use the generator much. The portability is nice as we can power stuff when away from home. Even used it to vacuum the truck once.

Batteries: All decisions regarding electric were made keeping in mind to start with the bare minimum and add on later once we figure out what we actually need. Decided to just have the dealership add a second 12 volt battery. The 50/50 decision was if to ditch the initial 12 volt battery and go with two or four 6 volt batteries. Wish we had the type of batteries that don’t require checking the water level. Glad we don’t have the space of four more batteries taken up. Maybe our next electric decision will be to purchase a folding portable solar panel which I’ve talked to others about. Again, we started small and will build upon our electrical needs as necessary. I also know if we change out a battery or both that it’s not good to mix older batteries with newer batteries. For our current style of travel two batteries has worked perfect.

Tire Monitoring: At this point in the learning curve I’ll have to agree most tire blowouts are caused by improper tire inflation which is another topic. Because it makes pulling the trailer less stressful I added tire monitoring. Our unit has an easy to read color display and monitors tire inflation and tire heat. Fun to watch the numbers change on warmer days or when I might purposely run the tires five pounds lighter in air. So far I trust the unit to check the tire pressure before I decide to get out the compressor. I check my tires before every move. And while I’m down there inspecting tires, I check the suspension before we leave and at every stop. Glad our tailor tires came with metal valve stems. I still think the nitrogen filed tires might be  B.S as I still have to add and lower air at times. I’m helping you big time by saying get a unit to start off with rather than taking a long time to decide which unit.  Does add yet another thing to the dashboard to be looked around. I take mine off the dash for longer stays but the portability is nice during move day when I can turn the unit on in the trailer to precheck the tires.

Electrical/Surge Protection: Took me months to decided on which unit. As fulltimers there will be more chances for electrical issues at a campground power pole compared to if we only used the trailer a few times a year. Because we use it all the time I decided to spend money on the best unit which is any that monitor low and high voltage. Especially on days when everyone is running their AC units. So we don’t leave the monitoring unit at a campground our rule is it goes in the box in trailer storage as soon as we disconnect. We don’t place it anywhere but in the box! I decided to purchase a 15′ cable to lock the unit to the trailer which adds yet another step for move day. At least all our locks are keyed alike or have a user set combination. I decided to get the optional wireless display that I placed in a cabinet inside the trailer. It’s handy to check when the power goes out and has a side benefit of displaying our power consumption which is informative. I was fine with delaying the decision until we figured it out. Months ago a nearby camper ended his trip when his wiring inside the camper was fried. I’m not sure if surge protection would have saved him or not as the surge was due to a lightening strike at a tree five feet from his class C camper.

Window Shades and Dual Pane or Not: Glad we have daytime shades in additional to the night shades. Makes a huge difference in hot weather. Provides added privacy when we want at least a little light coming through the windows. But dual window shades adds yet one more thing to adjust or fix.

Dual pane windows also make a difference and are worth the cost and weight to us. Last winter there was no frost on our windows inside the trailer. I think they make a difference in blocking some outside noise. The factory said most RV’s they built in our price point did not have them installed as an option which I was surprised by. We have plenty of cargo capacity for the added weight. Maybe other than cost/weight the biggest concern is if the rubber seal breaks between the panes then the windows will haze and need to be replaced or repaired.  Tiffin (Vanleigh brand) owns the windows company so I’m hoping if we have issues it’s a easier fix. Again, as we live fulltime in the trailer I felt comfortable with the decision to get dual pane. I’d not have them for a vacation unit or worry if resale would be better or not. Many of the would-be fulltime trailers we walked through at RV shows did not have dual pane windows which I’m thinking is the dealers attempt to keep the price down as many people do not consider the decision. It’s not the end of the world to skip dual pane windows. I’ve had both.

By the way, if you can get a second outside awning as an option then get one or have it installed later. Shading the entire side of a camper makes a massive difference in cooling inside during direct sunlight. Some trailers have very long single awnings that might be braced in the center when closed so they don’t bend the roller. We can also walk around 75% of our fifth wheel trailer in the rain and not get wet. Under the awnings, under the front overhang and under the bedroom slide with access to all the outside storage doors.  We prepare for storms by moving stuff under the fifth wheel overhang. If we are awake and at home where we can monitor the wind, it sure is nice to leave both awnings out to keep stuff dry.

Water Filtration: Still deciding on yet one more aspect or addition. So far we are fine with an external filter at the campground water connection. We also have a built-in single filter inside the trailer. Thinking about adding a filter for drinking water under the kitchen sink. Personally, so far I don’t see a need for a water softener or elaborate double filter outside but I’ve researched them.

Air Conditioners: Glad we have two 15,000 BTU units. In high humidity and heat they make a difference. I’d consider a third unit in a 40′ trailer. Some brands equip the front bedroom area with a 13,500 BTU unit. Our living room unit has a heat pump which we use down to 40′ degrees. We sometimes use the living room unit to cool the bedroom as our tailor AC system is ducted throughout the trailer (central air so to speak). That way it’s even quieter in the bedroom. We always use the front bedroom unit to help the rear living room unit, even partially closing the vents in the bedroom during hot days which forces more air into the living room. For full time living I don’t see how folks stay cool in lets say a 30 trailer with one AC.  The guy parked next to us says the single AC cannot keep up on hot days by noon.  Glad our trailer is 35′ with less space to heat and cool using the exact same furnace and ACs installed in a 40 and above trailer. On hot days with high humidity you should run the AC on high fan settings to avoid freezing up the unit with ice. If it does freeze up then turn off the cool setting and run the high fan which will thaw it quickly.  I had been using the auto fan setting until our rear unit iced up which you will know has happened because the air flow is dramatically reduced and there might not be any condensation dripping from the roof.

Storage Unit: Throwing this in among the topic because from the storage unit we move equipment stuff in and out of the trailer when we are near family back in Missouri. I view storage unit expenses just like insurance expenses. We have a 5×10 climate controlled storage unit and glad we made that decision. If for some reason we did not like full time RV travel the first year or so then we still have important stuff we did not dispose of in storage. I could have also seen us getting a larger storage unit with agreement we would downsize in a year or so. Our 5×10 is not full. We must have done some good planning as we are taking less than a small box back to storage and only retrieved a few items. Glad I can pick up my bike when in town and leave it behind or not. Glad we still had some dog stuff in storage for Wyatt.

Thanks for the toys Aunt Lisa. Wyatt loves his stuff.

The trip home from the breeder. Wyatt raised a hell of a fuss when he wanted to stop the truck for a pee break. Good sign? Or will route planning take on a new meaning?

Everything is new. Mom explains stuff to Wyatt. I laughed when he experienced rain the first time. He figures it out and is somewhat headstrong, wanting to do things his own way.

Thank you Aunt Mary for the puppy equipment. Wyatt figured out how to roll the portable play pen around so now we are using a wire fencing. He sleeps through the night in the pet carrier.

Wyatt does this all the time beginning at 9 weeks old. He tries to climb in the truck. Frankly, anywhere Karen might be heading or sitting he will do what it takes to get near her.

The puppy color matches our furniture 🙂

Wyatt is so smart and fearless!  Started using a leash the second day he came home. Loves to ride in the truck where thankfully he is also content to sleep for a couple hours at a time. Having pets on the road is a big decision. Getting a puppy is a way big decision. We will talk about it later. Thankfully he sleeps through the night in his kennel. The first two nights at home with Wyatt were sleepless nights.

Here are a couple videos if you enjoy them. I don’t bother with editing video so sorry they are less than professional.

 

 

 

 

Summer Trip Planning – Nebraska and South Dakota

We don’t seem to plan our trips more than a month or two in advance and generally only book camping spots at destination parks prior to leaving the last one. We prefer to get to a new spot and see if we want to stay longer before figuring out where to stay next. Last summer we learned how difficult getting into the preferred weekend campsites where when school was out. Over the past year of RV travel we have also learned that we prefer weekly stays and avoid overnighters.  Generally, our attitude is to move into a state and “live there” for awhile. It takes a few days to learn our way around at each stop, take time to slow down and enjoy the area as well as not get in a terrible hurry to plan our next move. Among the most enjoyable experiences has been staying long enough in an area to find the hidden gems. This is our life and not a race around the country.  We finally came up with a plan for the 2020 summer while keeping in mind the virus thing could cause us to react to any changes.

So we have decided Nebraska and South Dakota will be our families home over the summer. I’ll get it out of the way and also pass along that our Cocker Spaniel Huck passed away a few days ago. The cancer got him sooner than we had hoped for. At 15 years old he lived a good life and was loyal to us to the end. Karen and I knew when his time had come. Up to the last  day Huck did his best to act like the dog he always was.  As I type this sentence I’m up early as we are leaving today for an overnight visit with family in southern Missouri and pickup our puppy Wyatt. We are leaving the fifth wheel and taking an overnight road trip. I’m not good with the emotions of loosing family members. I’m one of those people who gets mad about death but firmly know the emotional process includes different stages ultimately ending in acceptance and moving on.

Getting Ready for Wyatt

Karen went shopping for puppy stuff. Wyatt comes with a list of suggested food and vitamins per the breeder. My sister Mary donated some puppy stuff such as a soft sided kennel and playpen. We have other items to pickup from our 10×5 storage unit. It’s awesome this puppy will grow up not knowing anything but the RV life. There will be rules he has to follow and we will have to do our best not to confuse him during training.

We came to an agreement that we prefer not to put much on our calendar because we want to be flexible in planning this part of life’s journey.  There will be times when something drops into the schedule which is out of our control such as in October I was to testify in a murder trial. I had hoped this would be the last trial for the cases where I was the lead detective. I received news the trial was moved again to May of 2021. I’ll not spend much time thinking about the trial screwing with next springs plans and just find a way to work it in.

Planning for our summer began with Karen and I agreeing where we wanted to travel. The Midwest is close to home and a good place to be in case the virus thing takes off again. We have never spent time in South Dakota and there are things yet to see in Nebraska. So we picked a couple destination spots which include the area of the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota. We also want to spend time at Fort Robinson in northwestern Nebraska. I suspect we will book our spots at the busier parks before we leave which in part will help set the timing of each visit. The dates will be centered around the three areas previously mentioned.

So I went to my spreadsheet to check what others had to say about their visits to the area. During the five years of planning for our future in an RV it was fun following other’s journeys and keeping notes. If anyone sees holes in our plans please let us know!

Snap 2020-06-28 at 06.57.16

I know it’s hard to read – Clip of my spreadsheet for South Dakota. Plenty of blogs to refer back to for information.  My notes included links back to postings. Once we arrive in the area there will be time to research tours of interest. Searching RV forums such as IRV2 helps find suggestions.

Right or wrong from what I understand there are a couple ways to experience western South Dakota? One can stay centrally located at Rapid City. Or you can get closer to the Badlands staying near the Wall SD area and Black Hills by staying in or near Custer State Park. So far we have decided to split up and not stay centrally located.  Next I dropped a what-if plan into RV Trip Wizard.

Snap 2020-06-28 at 07.05.51

Knowing we prefer to travel 200 mile or less a day, we also researched stops between main destinations. However, we generally book those minor stops once we have arrived at our main destinations. Route planning begins here. I’ll be okay with longer drives if they are on interstates.

The above roadmap shows a journey beginning 7/19/20 and ending 9/27/20 taking off and landing in Platte City Missouri where we are currently staying. I’ve done my best to consider what is going on in the area as the trip includes visits during the busy season. I would have preferred to travel on either side of the busy dates but things did not work out. I’m hoping to avoid the Sturgis motorcycle rally and figure if the parks have spots then we should be okay. I’ve been hearing a lack of international travelers is helping and so far even AAA is forecasting fewer travelers this year.

Our plans are subject to change and we appreciate your comments. I’ve already started to watch YouTube video where people recorded drives down specific highways. Especially on US 385 and around Custer State Park. This trip will be in elevations we have yet to travel. Many stops will be for a week or more.

  1. Omaha Nebraska 7/18/20.
  2. Sioux Falls 7/26/20
  3. Left Tailrace COE campground Fort Thompson SD 8/2/20
  4. Sleepy Hollow RV Park Wall SD 8/16/20 (to see the Badlands)
  5. Custer SD area 8/23/20 (to see the Black Hills area)
  6. Fort Robinson State Park Nebraska 9/6/20
  7. Travel back to Missouri beginning 9/13/20 with two or three stops along I-80 to south I-29.

I suppose there is a chance we will book a one month stay in Rapid City SD but others posted moving into the Custer State Park area would be a good thing.

Karen usually reviews my camping spot recommendations and checks areas to find even better locations. Our budget is $25 per night on average. We have the America the Beautiful pass which helps. We don’t go much out of our way to make use of our Escapees, Goodsam or Passport America discounts. Remarkably I’m finding veteran or senior discounts to be most used!  So far we don’t boondock and have little issue with 30 amp electric only sites. With the virus thing and chance of being confined to a park long-term, we had been booking sites with full utilities but are moving away from that rule. I’ll get around to posting something about our purchase of a 30 gallon water bladder and electric water transfer pump which now eliminates any concern for spots that don’t include a water spigot.

Are you believing this! Finally diesel cheaper than unleaded. Local sign in Platte City Missouri June 2020.

Note: After I wrote this blog post I met a local from Nebraska at the campground in Platte City Missouri. He suggests I should look at driving Nebraska Highway 2 through the sandhills area after leaving Fort Robinson State Park. The sandhills area runs between Alliance to Grand Island Nebraska. I read up and found the drive on highway 2 is said to be among the top 10 scenic US routes. We also decided to take a route that begins with the visit to Fort Robinson in Nebraska then on to an area south of Custer SD, most likely in the Hot Springs area.  That way we can take day trips up to places of interest to include the Badlands. This makes the trip more flexible for us as we can later decide if we want to move the rig further north or return to Missouri or Texas before heading to a winter spot.

Triumphant Return to Missouri

We pulled out of Alabama for our return to family in Missouri. The route from Tuscumbia Alabama would be west on US 72, north through Civil War ridden battlefields from Carthage Mississippi on US 45 to the intersection of north I-55. Then west on the wonderful US 60 Highway through the Ozark Mountains. Our final leg took us back to the Kansas City area from Missouri’s Pomme de Terre State Park via US 65 and US 13. We always take the I-435 loop around Kansas City although I-35 is bearable.  We all spend plenty of time route planning when you drag around a big rig. For the benefit of other travelers I try and report what route we took and if there were any difficult travel areas. This leg of the journey was nearly 100% over divided highways with decent shoulders.

We spent four nights west of Jackson Tennessee at Joy-O-RV Park although many would have decided to travel through Memphis. Then on to Poplar Bluff Missouri which is known as the gateway to the Ozark Mountains. One feature I love about RV Trip Wizard is the ability to display hill grades and elevations. Although the Ozarks are relatively tiny compared to other complex mountains, I wanted to practice up on route planning involving higher elevations for our someday trip over the Continental Divide out west. The Ozarks are nothing to worry about, especially if you have experience driving the Appalachian or Cumberland Mountains. We had taken US 65 Highway south out of Branson Missouri late last year which also proved to be of no concern.

The anxiety level of driving the big rig continues to decline with experience. Give it time and so should yours. But – if after months on the road your anxiety during the drive does not improve and especially if you experience physical issues from it, then consider getting a much smaller rig or leaving the road as a full-timer. This is a topic I’ve discussed with several we met during our travels. I’m so glad I selected a truck based on towing abilities rather than ease to get around town when not towing. The trucks abilities really has been a confidence builder. Setting up the truck for towing was among the most important advise I received years ago when planning to go fulltime. In my humble experience, thorough route planning is a key to safe and less stressful travel. I use one set of tools to route plan and another to navigate as the two actives are not the same.

We setup for two weeks at Camelot RV Campground in Poplar Bluff Missouri. With the virus thing we had been staying with full hookup spots. Park restrictions included no bath house nor laundry.  Not much to do in the area as tourist locations remained closed, although there are few places to see in Poplar Bluff. Wish we could have visited the national Stars and Stripes Newspaper museum. We did take a day trip to the Ozark Mountain Big Spring State Park which is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways area. For sure, our next trip in the area will be spent near Van Buren Missouri with access to the Ozark Mountains and plenty of kayaking opportunities. We decided not to float any of the rivers which were flooded and therefore more dangerous.

Our spot at Camelot RV Campground in Poplar Bluff. Plenty of shade. The route to our space within the park had a couple narrow turns but big rigs go through all the time. Management’s list of park rules were the most extensive we have encountered, especially for pets and children. To include dogs must try and make it to the dog park 100 yards away for potty breaks. But if they have an “accident” on the way you can pick up after them as done in normal parks. Karen was warned once to only allow the dog to use the designated pet area. However we had already decided this rule was ridicules and would be hard to stay within as the pet area was just to far for Huck who is old and ill. The pet area is nothing special and is an out of the way place for most guests. I suggest you read the campground reviews found on independent review sites.

Typical Ozark Mountain View

Big Spring –  288 million gallons a day coming out of the ground which is enough to fill Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 33 hours according to the park signs. The Spring removes 173 tons of dissolved dolomite bedrock each day. Over the course of a year, this would equate to a new single underground passage nearly 11 feet wide, 12 feet high and spanning 1 mile in length. Bet you did not know Missouri is not just the “Show Me State” – it’s also called the Cave State.

Next we continued along US 60 Highway to the Laura Ingalls-Wilder RV Park in Mansfield Missouri and took advantage of the weekly rate as we generally do.  Forty-Five minutes from family in Springfield Missouri and directly across from Laura’s farm home and museum.  Take time to read about Laura’s history (from the Little House on the Prairie book series) which adds to the enjoyment of the area. A small campground with some of the best open green space we have experienced. There is a trail to a cave and stream. If you stay at the park just come into town on one of the two US 60 Business routes where the roads are wide and the turns are easy.  According to plan, the park was located within an easy day drive of the dog kennel where Karen and I were able to visit our future dog – Wyatt. He will be old enough to come home at the end of June. When Karen is upset with me I just show her the photo of Wyatt which results in a big smile.

Our Spot and Laura Ingalls-Wilder. Long pull-through, again on full hookups.

Taking a walk in the wide open space of Laura Ingalls Park with my sister Mary and friend.

Ingalls-Wilder Home. A complex which includes a large museum and yet another home built for Laura by her daughter Rose. Was plenty of big RV space in the parking areas if needed.

Cuteness Warning –  If you are prone to wanting to get another dog – Then do not view the next photo. Turn your computer off and go outside. You might even want to remove this blog from your reading list as future posts will most assuredly include subjecting the reader to even more intense cute puppy imagery.

 

 

Wyatt at about five weeks old. We were not able to handle him yet. I asked the breeder who were his competitors for Cocker Spaniel pups to which he replied there are none. You can’t get any better than #1. First class operation we were happy to see. Reportedly, Wyatt does not get to far from the food bowl and his personality has not yet shown itself.

Speaking of cute photos – here is a video of our dog Huck. I jokingly call him the Wood Chipper because he’s not that gentle at taking food from between fingers. Huck is doing as good as can be expected. The doctor says his cancer will show with symptoms similar to rapid aging.  The tumor on his neck has grown considerably.

Located five miles from the Laura Ingalls-Wilder RV Park is the 750 acre Hardwood Hills Ranch consisting of world class off-road motocross bike trails and lodge. Shawn and Kim Hall of ktmissouri (shifting gears) blog happen to be co-owners of the amazing property laced among the Ozark Mountains. We follow each others blogs. I’m sure there are several readers who know the couple well.  Shawn and Kim – if you are reading this thank you again for the wonderful day and invitation to meetup. The tour of the property in your four wheeler and wonderful conversation in the club house is now part of Karen and my cherished memories. You guys are such wonderful hosts. Thank you for sharing your fulltime RV and sailboat experience with us. And thank you for asking questions and making sure we were okay on the road.  We will meet again.  By total chance we setup camp at our next spot which was at Pomme de Terra Lake near Hermitage Missouri. A gentleman from Kansas was parked next to us in a toy hauler. When visiting he said his dirt bike was inside. The story continued. Apparently Shawn is a little more famous among the motocross crowd. The guy from Kansas knew about the ranch and Shawn adding he is a great guy with much experience and runs with a lot of famous motocross champions.

Shawn and Kim of ktmissouri

Karen and me along side one of several streams on Shawn and Kim’s property located outside Mansfield Missouri in the Ozark Mountains

Our last stop before arriving in Kansas City was to the Pomme de Terre State Park – Hermitage camping area.  Annually for the past several years family has met up. I did not take as many photos compared to previous years as I was busy enjoying the family and catching up on what everyone has been up to. Sorry that a few were not able to make it to the campout – we missed you.  More than likely we will be back in the area later this year. And for the first time we have really considered volunteering in the area after another year of travel. With the virus crap we postponed a few trips and will get those done in the mean time. Karen and I always planned to workcamp/volunteer after the first year or so of travel. This would be a good park located between family members.

Lakeside view at Hermitage Camping area. Kayak on the beach was used as often as the heat would allow.

We are currently parked at Basswood Resort in Platte City Missouri, located on the north side of Kansas City.

Tuscumbia Alabama and Sad News Regarding Huck

We finished up what became a three week stay in Tuscumbia Alabama. After living in Mississippi for weeks and needing a new place to park we moved to Tuscumbia RV Park in an area called the Shoals on the boarder of Tennessee.

Our Spot at Tuscumbia RV Park – #413. Easy back in with shade but close to the road. Spots at the back of the park are quieter. The park is owned by a husband and wife  who RV and really know how to run a park. No pool but the laundry room is clean enough to sleep in.

Our preference would have been to stay at a nearby Mississippi Corp. of Engineer park but the virus thing had it shut down. We had driven around to find a new park and Tuscumbia turned out to be a great find. I would just warn any visitors the highway and train noise can be obnoxious. Now that I think of it, the motorcycle traffic down US 72 might be worse. This park is located at the Appalachian Mountain foothills and I supposed the area is popular for motorcycles. I’ve owned four bikes, some with loud exhaust. I know some even remove the exhaust baffles to get the sound. Now I feel sorry for everyone that had to listen to ours when we owned them.

We spent a lot of time at home. Thankfully our spot had a great outside area to enjoy. We also managed to find a few things in the area to safely visit. But missed out on a few closed attractions such as the music rich history of the area, Helen Keller’s home tour, a road trip to the Shiloh battlefield and more. We did manage to find a few outdoor spaces to enjoy and went to a local restaurant for the first time in weeks where their phone number was written on the side of the building, their menu was online and they carried our order out to the truck. Remember to tip those waitresses well so it’s worth being at work!

In my last post I commented about driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway which is a national park running over an area of 444 scenic miles. We drove about 40 miles of the Trace, making quick stops at various jump-off points along the way where the park has historic and other sites to visit. During this virus thing we found almost no one on the walking trails.

The Natchez Trace – we toured the area highlighted in yellow.

It was hard to get any photos that could take in the springtime beauty of the place. It’s rolling hills and sheer quietness of the surroundings are emotional. We stopped at the Tennessee River crossing where during the war of 1812 the local Indians charged the Hero of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson, more than $70,000 to cross his army on the river ferry. We toured an Indian mound, trading post sites, a casual hike to a lookout point and more. All of these places are spread out along the two lane highway drive at various intervals.

With the virus thing still being an issue, there was no one other than us in the parking lot. This is the access to a trail leading to a water spring. Note, the Natchez Trace roadway is in the distance. In the front of the photo is a box. Push a button and it tells the story of the area.

A short hike to a hilltop for a panoramic view.

Trying to keep up with Karen and our dog, Huck, while taking a photo during a short hike on the Trace.

Open fields of spring flowers, mowed lawns, beautiful old wood trees and a smooth road surface along our trip. No commercial vehicles allowed. We did not see any RVs but if I had a Class C or smaller I’d be on this road for sure

We got lucky when the Rattlesnake Saloon was able to reopen at reduced occupancy. This turned out to be more than a visit to an outdoor restaurant. The family friendly place is located in the deep woods. We were shocked to see dozen of RVs camped in the area, horse trailers everywhere, dirt bikes on trails and a very interesting “hotel”.  There was plenty of parking as again, the virus thing kept people away. The trip including riding in the back of a truck down a short but steep hill from the parking lot to the Saloon. During normal operations you can walk to the Saloon/Restaurant but many take the shuttle. Great views and okay food underneath the rock outcropping. Beer only is served after 5:00 pm and their is a live band at times.  Only three tables were occupied and the staff were all wearing protective masks.  We stopped at the gift shop for post cards which Karen sends to family and friends. Management asked about us and we told them we had been in nearby Mississippi for RV upgrades and repairs. Apparently this place is a popular hangout for the Tiffin family and as we own a Tiffin product a free post card was provided.  Karen found ANOTHER purse at a great value. One she can easily carry during outings. I suggested a t-shirt and was happy she did not buy any of the rocks or heavier stuff.  And no, we did not see any rattlesnakes.

These are single unit hotel rooms!

Truck ride down the hill to the restaurant and saloon.

Dogs while living in an RV are a wonderful thing. It’s a great way to meet other RVers who might not otherwise come out to visit. They are companions, enjoy forced marches for exercise, humorous with individual personalities and are flexible in that all they want to do is be with their family in an RV or elsewhere. So why not take a trip to the worlds only Coon Dog Cemetery! Located in the hills of Alabama, the cemetery was created in 1937 when the first loving dog owner needed a place to bury his dog named Troop. Coon dogs are a big thing in this area and as time went along others would meet the stringent requirements to also bury their special dogs in what became the unusual cemetery. Perhaps the most interesting part of the hour long visit, other than the drive through the countryside, were the individual headstones/markers. Some are very interesting and might include just a wood marker with an old dog collar hanging around it.

And now to the sad part. Months ago Huck, our black cocker spaniel dog had developed a sore on his lower lip that grew overtime. We had it removed. Later a lump had come up on the left side of his throat. We found a fantastic vet in Alabama who treated him for an ear infection, believing the new lump might be a lymph node responding to the infection.  With medications and all the lump is still growing. Back to the vet where bad teeth were removed and the lump was tested, finding it to be cancer.  Our boy is doing well at this point although sadly he is not expected to survive. He is happy although sleeping restless. We hope he will be with us for awhile and are glad he is still eating and walking. He smiles at times because he really likes this lifestyle. You can’t ask for a better RVing companion. He does not bark, even at nearly 15 years old has a 12 hour bladder and loves to meet people and their dogs.

Huck is on the left with his smile during an RV trip. Ringo is on the right and could take or leave RVing, only wanting to be around his mom. Ringo passed away at 18 years of age a year ago.

A couple months ago, when at the time Huck was his normal self with no signs of distress, Karen and I talked about getting another dog as we had lost Ringo last July. I was not for adding another dog as it’s just too much for a tiny space.  A miracle happened, which might be a common event if one pays attention during hard decisions. We camped near a family who was considering giving their young dog up for adoption. Karen really wanted that dog.  The family with the dog was going through an emotional decision and in the end decided it was best to keep the dog as their children, and parents I suspect, had grown attached.  I will never forget when the family’s mother came over to the camper to break the news to Karen they had decided to keep their dog. She was so worried about Karen’s emotions and that she might be overwhelmingly sad. The tears came out. The dog’s mom, what a special person she is, was upset having to break the news when we were actually very happy for the family. Had the decision to consider adopting the dog not come up I might not have seen the light that a dog will always be in our family. Karen decided at the time it was best to just let Huck enjoy having all the attention so things worked out. Although we started considering who might be our next pet. We both like cocker spaniels and were considering a cavalier king charles breed.

Fast forward only a matter of weeks and we received the bad news about Huck.  I suggested we should get another dog because, although it might be wishful thinking, I think Huck’s personality would be good for another puppy to learn from if there is still time. I also know Huck likes other dogs and a puppy might give him something to do. There are many other reasons, some of which I mentioned earlier.  I also recall how Huck helped us deal with the emotions of loosing Ringo as Huck had done with the dog before him.  Mushy stuff for sure but I don’t mind sharing a weakness with friends.

Well, I finally got Karen to go along with a second dog in our lives. What an ironic change of events. I came full circle in agreeing on that decision. I’ll post this now because for at the least Karen is sharing the news on Facebook. We will be picking up another puppy sometime in late June when he is old enough to be away from his mom.  The puppy is located in Miller Missouri which is a town in the county where some of my family lives. Turns out the well known breeder is world class when it comes to raising cocker spaniels. What a coincidence.

Both Huck and Ringo were named after scenes or characters in the movie Tombstone. The scene in particular is when Doc Holiday shows up to gunfight with Johnny Ringo, telling Ringo “I’ll be your Huckleberry”.  I’m trying to convince Karen to name the new pup Wyatt.  We will have a chance to meet him for the first time as we happen to be located in Missouri making a trip back to Kansas City.  Unfortunately the breeder does not allow young puppies to be handled for health reasons until they are ready to be weened from their mothers.

Our future dog and hopefully Huck’s new playmate – a four week old cocker spaniel. Sorry for the photo quality. Karen asked the breeder to send her a photo.  So far, I’m impressed with the breeder who has had cockers in his family life for 60 years.  I could go on about the breeders attributes and believe me this old police detective did his homework. At one time Karen rescued cockers. I know there are plenty of dogs in shelters to be adopted but we have our reasons to get this one from a breeder. Both Huck and Ringo were rescues.

Our dogs are not replaceable. Any loving pet owner will agree. We need them in our lives because there is less joy otherwise.

We are currently located in Poplar Bluff Missouri, making our way west to Springfield then north to Kansas City. And on this Memorial Day – God Bless our Veterans. And may all Americans demand those freedoms they died for to include our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

RV Maintenance Part 2 and Our Upcoming Travel Schedule

Last November I posted a wordy blog titled RV and Truck Maintenance – Part 1. In this next installment I’ll provide my to-do list in case it helps someone else come up with their own list.  Later I’ll dig out all the chemicals, grease and the like to point out what I’m using, although I’ve got plans to downsize, and will post that in part 3 in this maintenance series.

But first, our near-term travel plans so family and friends will know our travel plans. Currently we are nearing the end of a three week stay at Tuscumbia RV Park located at the extreme northwest corner of Alabama. For weeks we have been limiting our travel and holding up longer-term in campgrounds with full hookups waiting for states to open up. Historically speaking,  pandemics end more often when the public is ready to start returning to a normal way of life. I’m thinking we are better prepared to avoid or deal with an up-tick in contamination. Because at the very least we are now aware of the virus that was running around our country for maybe weeks before we knew it was a problem.

We decided on May 17 we are going to start our migration towards Missouri where a family campout is planned in June.  Our route is west to Corinth Mississippi, north towards Jackson Tennessee and on to the boot-hill of Missouri.  We will head west into southern Missouri at Sikeston and Poplar Bluff Missouri arriving at Mansfield Missouri on 6/4/20 where we are staying at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Campground. We will arrive at Pomme de Terre State Park in central Missouri on 6/11/20. Then we will head north to Kansas City, staying at the Basswood Resort beginning 6/18/20 where we have stayed in the past. I can’t remember the last time we booked our sites this far out in advance. We figured it was a good idea given the current status of the virus thing.  No worries, we will stay safe and have plenty of room in our schedule to react to any changes brought on by the virus thing. I’m also starting to think about travel ideas for this upcoming flu season beginning in October. Time will tell if we need to also consider longer stays or if we can return to the wild.

Our next series of moves. I’m liking RVTripwizard.com which includes features that show elevations and hill grades as you move the curser around. I pay around $40 a year for the service which has a reasonable number of campgrounds listed as well as options to show things such as low bridges.

The RV maintenance section of this blog post is short.  Below is a link to a file in both a Word and PDF format where I have all my maintenance items listed to include research notes.  I combined all the information from each manufacturer of materials/systems found in our RV as well as notes from friends/forums and straight out of the owners manuals.  Rather than discuss various elements I’ll just say I pay particular attention to any place water can get in and the suspension system. Over time I’ll be cutting my list down but for now I kept all the notes for the benefit of readers.  Most of these maintenance items are becoming second nature.

My RV Maintenance Schedule in a Microsoft Word Document

Same Maintenance Schedule as a PDF

Enjoy and any feedback is welcome.  Someday maybe we can figure out how to keep our tank sensors working properly. I’m nearing a conclusion on that and will report back.

Mississippi Vanleigh Service Center to Alabama

We finished a 33 day stay at the Archusa Creek Water Park in Quitman Mississippi as reported in my last blog post. With the state beginning to open up and stay-at-home orders expired we decided to make it to our appointment at the Vanleigh RV Service Center in northeastern Mississippi. From there we found a nearby Alabama campground to hunker down in for a couple weeks to further restrict our travels during the pandemic.

Karen and I believe it’s still a good idea to stop for longer periods while waiting for changes in the virus news as many states begin to open up. We are still reacting to the changes rather than planning for them. Our destination for mid-June is southern Missouri for a family campout. An example of reacting to the changes would be we had booked a two week stay at an Arkansas State Park which was due to reopen. Unfortunately the Governor of Arkansas decided out-of-state visitors at state parks are not welcome at this time, warning they would be checking license plates. I received a phone call from the campground with the bad news. We Texans may be a border state but there are no exceptions.

By the way, I really do think the word has gotten out to campgrounds, both commercial and public, that there are full-timers on the road and think about them. In the beginning we were kicked out of a public park with no consideration for our home status. A week later the bad news to leave came again but in this case the management let us stay, saying they were aware this was our stay-at-home place.  It gave me comfort to know also that a fellow blogger was even able to hold up in a Corp. of Engineer Park. I’ve been doing some serious reading about pandemic history which is a source of comfort regarding what is ahead of us. We are living in an amazingly technical time even compared to the last pandemic. In the mean time if you are asked to leave a campground don’t be shy when telling management if you are a fulltimer and need to stay. It worked for us at the last campground.

To wrap up our stay at Quitman Mississippi I had a few additional photos to pass along. The people of Mississippi are among the friendliest we have met. While reasonably practicing social destancing we met a couple who stopped by before we left. They passed along their contact information and want us to come out for a stay the next time we are in the area. Casey and Jennefer if you are reading this – thank you for the friendship! The family runs a cattle ranch and chicken farm. We got to talking about him having run out of masks he wears when tending the 25,000 chicken operation. When Karen and I sold off the contents of our home in Missouri to go fulltime Rving I kept a box of masks used to sand drywall. I checked my cargo and to my surprise the masks are the N-95’s talked about as being the best. I wondered if it was even legal to wear them or if I should donate them immediately to first-responders. Well I had eight masks so I gave two to the chicken operations.

Karen calling the tame ducks over for bread.

Jennefer and Karen building rock sculptures. She has left these in multiple states.

I have been watching press briefings and restrictions by Governors in all states we anticipated traveling through. Mississippi’s Governor recognized how employees travel into and out of the state around its boarders as well as the emotional stress of a pandemic. I did appreciate the Governor of Arkansas implementing a state-wide program prior to reopening parts of the state where by testing for the virus would be increased by 50%. At least on TV the Mississippi Governor did not seem, for lack of better words, as wishy-washing as the Governor of Arkansas. I’m now watching the actions in Missouri as that will be our end destination on this upcoming series of moves weeks from now.

Like many others, we find it sad we are not able to visit some of the great places along our route during the virus thing. We cancelled a stop at the Vicksburg Battlefield and may not make the day trip to Shiloh from the RV factory service center. However, we found plenty of safe actives despite this. We visited a local civil war cemetery. Access was down a dirt road and as suspected we would be the only living persons there.  During the war Texas built a hospital in Quitman Mississippi to make sure their troops could recover from battles such as Shiloh. Multiple states had soldiers cared for in the hospital which was burnt to the ground, along with all of Quitman, by US General Sherman’s army. For 70 years the cemetery was lost but later discovered and somewhat restored.

Displayed are flags from every state where 300 Confederate soldiers are buried in graves marked Unknown Soldier.

Now back to our Service Center appointment in northern Mississippi:

The Vanleigh RV Factory Service Center is actually owned by a separate company and not the Tiffin family with Vanleigh being a division of Tiffin. Although the Service Center owner is friends of the family. The facility sits in the wonderful countryside of Tishomingo Mississippi. Located in the extreme northeastern corner of Mississippi within short drives to Tennessee and Alabama. It’s a small county with the largest industry being timber. The area is picturesque and the drive north from central Mississippi over US 45 to US 25 was wonderfully relaxing over the smooth four lane roads. What a beautiful time it was watching the fields of wildflowers and forests. A high point of our stay would include a day trip over 20 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway which deserves, and will receive, a blog post of its own. The weather was finally wonderful which was a welcome thing as we had sat out three tornadic storms earlier in Quitman Mississippi to include two tornado touchdowns in our immediate area. Karen and I are used to spring tornados having lived amongst them in Missouri. We have developed our system for responding to them. At Quitman this included a couple trips to the shelter which is the concrete bathhouses.

Our dog Huck in his tornado shelter located in the womens bathroom in Quitman.

Getting back to the details of the Service Center visit I’ll summarize the experience as being everything that we expected. A quality operation where you leave feeling everything was fixed good as new and in a timely fashion. We spent a total of three days at the facility which provides full-hookup utilities in the parking lot along a row of trees. As instructed we arrived a day early. The next morning around 8:00 two RV technicians showed up with a camera and a list of repairs/upgrades which we had been asked to send in via email a month earlier. These were the two employees responsible for our repairs and met their promise not to miss a single item on this list, to include a couple I added at the last moment. Once they move your rig into one of their service bays you don’t leave until they are done with repairs. We stayed two nights inside the building, hooked to 50 amp electric and water, as there was cracked paint work on our front cap to be done. Their paint guy is an artist! All their front caps are painted at the facility prior to being installed at the factory. Nice to know they keep the painting process in-house. He tells me the Beacon models, which are fully painted fifth-wheels are originally painted at another location. The Tiffin family ended up purchasing the painting facility. I’m told it’s a common practice for Tiffin to buy up their service and material providers. For example they own the facility that makes their windows. Their 70,000 square foot cabinet shop mills their own lumber. Others at the Center said they come back yearly for annual service items such as repacking wheel bearings.

Unfortunately the virus thing closed the Vanleigh trailer factory located maybe 20 minutes away from the Service Center in Mississippi. The Tiffin Motorhome factory is located in nearby Red Bay Alabama. The shop foreman described to me some of their processes which includes finding innovative ways to get parts when manufactures are less than reliable.  A reason to send in our list of fixes a month early is that they want to have the parts waiting. Unfortunately as the cabinet factory is shut down by the virus thing two new cabinet doors will have to be sent to our daughter’s house in Missouri.  We ordered a custom wood finish when we purchased our Vilano 320GK. While at the Service Center the employees gladly installed additional modifications to include removal of the RV gas oven, as she uses the microwaves induction oven, and replacing it with two new shelves and doors I’ll install later after they are shipped. Karen had three other shelves added which look like they came with the trailer when new. Paying attention to details is among the Service Center’s talents. I had them mount our Togo internet receiver on the roof. They selected a great location, running the power wire directly to the fuse box on its own fuse and the switch is an attractive area. Total costs for the modifications – $306. I could not have even bought the hardware for the adjustable shelves for the price they installed them at.

Removed stove and added shelving. We will install the cabinet doors later. Our wood finish is a multiple step process and as the factory was closed they will ship them later.

Adjustable shelving – charged us $5 a shelf!

Switch connected directly to power panel for our Togo internet unit they mounted on roof.

Two areas for improvement at the Service Center would be quicker communications either by phone or email. And the building is extremely dusty for those living inside it while their rigs are being repaired. Somewhat minor issues for sure. If by chance you own a Vanleigh product and end up at the Service Center I’ll summarize what to expect; Just make the appointment, send your list of repairs a month before arrival, show up the day before your appointment and grab a camping spot outside the building. Go find something to eat or visit with others after checking in with the office. Enjoy your night and be prepared to be moved into a service bay early the next morning.

Here is a 12 minute unedited video. I shot it while posting back and forth with my sister on the Marco Polo phone application. This is the Service Center with comments. I might try adding video links in the future. Just beware I’ll not be taking the time to edit them. I touch my face from time to time which is a no-no during the virus thing. We keep handwipes in the truck and I wash my hands after being around anyone.

One comment that might apply to about every brand of trailer. We had been getting minor amounts of water inside our basement near the storage door during heavy rain. I did not suspect it was an issue with a seal. Well, they pulled the screws in the lower inside of the basement door frame, filling them with silicon and re-inserted the screws. Apparently water can hold up in the area and leach into the basement through the screw holes. Below is a photo of the area.

Remove these screws in the frame of the basement doors and fill them with silicon to block water. Put the screws back in.

Here is our list of fixes for the one year warranty. I repaired maybe half again as many items on my own which were quick fixes, one requiring a part which was over-nighted to me.

  • Piece of wood trim next to the theater seating. It was cracked and glued down at only one spot.
  • We have two drawers that open during travel with no luck adjusting them. These two come out regardless of rough roads or even on short trips.
  • Small outside access panel for shower mounted out of square and binds at the bottom when closed.
  • Not sure if Equi-flex rubber should look weather damaged. I’ve been looking at other newer trailers and some have the weather damage and others do not. (I checked other trailers and this is normal)
  • Hairline crack bathroom sink. Does not leak but is cosmetic.
  • Pigtail for truck to RV connections came apart first month of ownership.
  • Bottom left drawer in kitchen slide is hitting the bottom of slide trim when pulled out/opened. Also, cabinet door bottom right of stove top where we keep trash.
  • Passenger side basement door still leaks in heavy rain, not as much as before?
  • Black trim coming loose around fiberglass above pin. Poor job of caulking with the black caulk in that general area as well.
  • Fireplace makes a grinding sound, like something is turning, even when heat not on. Don’t recall hearing this when trailer newer. (turns out this is normal)
  • As you come up stairs to left of bedroom door wallpaper trim piece coming loose. Just needs to be tacked down
  • Fridge RM 1350 by Dometic. Door light not working. I already have the replacement part which I ordered from Dometic.
  • Big One – paint cracking in groove of front cap. When I took delivery there was also a very small indention in outer layer of cap which I temporarily filled with silicon.
  • Washer/Dryer access door outside trailer. Door came open on its own and small piece that covers hole is gone. I temporarily fixed with flex seal tape.
  • Replace night shades on driver’s and passenger side of sofa. Adjustments don’t stay and will not slow rise. When fully extended you can see the silver roller bar which may indicate somethings wrong.
  • Day shade over sofa needs adjusting. It rises to far. I may adjust this myself prior to arrival.

Hello from Quitman Mississippi and the Virus Thing

Back on March 26th, with developing news regarding the coronavirus thing, Karen and I decided it was best to locate an RV spot where we would want to stay for a longer visit. She found a park within a water protection district. These parks, sometimes referred to by names such as River Authority, are yet another source for beautiful camping locations. In our case we headed from Mandeville Louisiana to our current home at Archusa Creek Water Park.  The camping spot is located on the shore of a 450 acre lake surrounded on one side by woods and across from the small town of Quitman Mississippi where there is decent shopping for neccesities and a local hospital within this county seat. The location was also within the 200 miles we prefer to travel during a day.

We headed up I-59 North, east on US 84 and then north on US 45.  It is remarkable that US 45 in Mississippi, near the boarder of Alabama, will take us all the way to northern Mississippi for our next planned stop. I had checked the Mississippi Department of Transportation web page and noticed a bridge was closed if we approached Quitman from another direction. I called the campground office who confirmed I had the best route to travel. I sure enjoy four lane US or state highways most of all.  Although the shoulders to pull off the road are sometimes tight there are generally level grassy areas as part of the shoulder. I’m of the opinion US highways offer better views than the interstate while still providing reasonable refueling locations and rest stops. Our fifthwheel trailer tires are rated for 75 miles per hour. I prefer driving 65 or five miles under the speed limit. Four lane highways allow traffic to easily pass us and really cuts down the anxiety of moving these large rigs around the country. Although single lane roads with common speeds of 55 miles per hour are no big thing now that we have thousands of miles of driving practice.

Archusa Creek park is heavily wooded so checking for specific camping spots using Google Earth was no help in selecting the best spot for our size rig (34’11” long with a 21′ dually truck). Karen is getting good at calling ahead to book a spot while providing all our specific needs to include if there are any overhead obstructions our 13′ tall fifthwheel would have issues with. Management provided two alternative spots and we decided the longest and most level spot would be best. Although not on the lake shore we could see the lake from our windows. Often the lake side spots are windy and actually not always the preferred place.

Our spot at Archusa Water Park. Walking distance to the laundry room, on a flat paved drive surrounded by trees which even allow room for both our awnings! Full hookups are a plus for this monthly stay.

Of course like everyone else I had been watching the news and learned where some parks were shutting down for the virus thing, especially those managed by state government. The park we had just come from shut down the day we were leaving. What a terrible feeling it is to worry about having a place to live. Before arriving we talked to management at Archusa who had no information that they would be shutting down. Once we arrived I placed particular attention on how the governor of Mississippi was handling himself regarding virus related decisions and have been impressed.  State parks would be shut down eventually. Although Archusa is not a state park it is indirectly managed by the same authority. I called management the day I heard Mississippi had stay-at-home orders issued by the governor. I was not shy when I told management how this was our home and like all full-timers we worried about being kicked out. Park management was on our side and took steps early in the stay-at-home order to clarify that we are allowed to stay as this is our shelter in place home. I’m beating things will loosen up soon and less parks will shut down. And we are getting far better at handling the uncertainty. Even dare I say we can use our mobility to our advantage….

So here we sit for the duration of a month.  When I stop to think about all the positive stuff going our way for this part of the journey I have to smile. We are in wonderful camping spot, with walking distance to the laundry, on a full hookup paved pad, with views of the lake, trees and wildlife everywhere.  And there are only three other campers!  You could not buy this for a million dollars. We are really enjoying living in Mississippi. Yesterday, after weeks staying at home for the most part, we took a trip to Walmart. Using our mobility we found a store south of us where the virus thing is basically a non-issue in terms of cases and no deaths. What a wonderful 30 minute drive down US45 which is forested on both sides with no towns between us and our destination. I should add, among other precautions we wear gloves and masks when shopping which is limited to maybe a trip a week. We want to help keep the store clerks safe as well…

We are making use of the time with our hobbies. As a way of giving back we asked the campground manager for trash bags and volunteered to cleanup the campground. We are glad our internet connection is the best it has ever been. Streaming movies and shows through our Togo is a plus. I was able to watch a series on the Vicksburg Civil War campaign. The battle site had been a planned destination which was canceled by the virus thing. We are not much for planning travel stops to far out in the future, preferring maybe knowing where we want to be a month out.  So no big trip planning activities for us. We already know where we are going next which is good enough.

It’s a first for us but we discovered campground cats. Presumably with all the other campers being gone, the cats came out and one in particular has taken a shinning to us. Management named him Spot. He likes to come around when he is hungry or wants attention. Stays for a while and takes off to who knows where. Spot was a little pest when I was trying to work at the picnic table.  I gave him some attention then he took off. Karen goes outside yelling “here kitty kitty” sometimes he shows up. She does the same for the three ducks she feeds down by the lake. It’s funny watching ducks respond to “here kitty kitty.”

Campground cat – Spot. Likes attention when I’m trying to work.

So I’m getting all my annual maintenance done. We bought our fifthwheel a year ago and after eight months on the road there is a bit to do.  Eventually I’ll post the maintenance document I’m using to keep track. Our next stop is at the factory service center just 200 miles north of us. On April 20 the governor is to decide if the stay-at-home order is to be extended. We have decided if the order is extended then it’s probably best to stay in place rather than risk moving to a campground that’s not as nice as what we have right now. We booked our appointment at the factory service center four months in advance as there had been a three month waiting list. I suppose if we can’t move the appointment back a week or two there is a chance we will go ahead and make the move, knowing after the appointment we will be able to find a campground within 200 miles. If we don’t like it we would then move on.

That’s our story for now. Thanks for reading.

My sister Lisa arranged a family meeting for Easter using Zoom online. Karen and I had to leave early due to a tornado warning here in Mississippi. We are getting used to handling weather issues but sure hated leaving the family video meeting early.

Archusa has the best cabins for rent I’ve ever seen so far while on the road. We took a lot of photos because we like the floor plan. We sometimes find ourselves saying “we could live in this”. Just another idea for once we come off the road.