Back at Lake Livingston Texas and a Day Trip to Nearby Huntsville.

We tried another route south out of Missouri to Livingston Texas which is located about 70 miles north of Houston. Last year we traveled south out of Branson Missouri down US 65 Highway. This year we gave US 69 a try through Oklahoma. I’ve got another route in mind but could use some advice regarding the best highways if anyone is familiar with the route. US 69 was a terrible highway for the most part. Other than over a toll road called the Indian Nations TPKE of Oklahoma which was scenic and relatively smooth.

Route from Missouri through Oklahoma to Livingston Texas down US69/259/59. One of the reasons we take US Highways is to avoid chances of low bridges although I have a trucker’s atlas that lists them all for most highways, as does my trip planning software.

We will be leaving Livingston Texas on 11/19/20 for a 13 day journey to Gulf Shores Alabama with stops in Alexandrea LA, Natchez MS for Thanksgiving and Hattiesburg MS. We are considering a trip to Florida after February 2nd.

Along the earlier trip south from Missouri we stayed at Belle Starr Corp. of Engineer Park in Stigler Oklahoma to take advantage of our 50% off camping rate using the America the Beautiful Pass. Awesome park with extra large full hookup pull throughs. The weather was rainy and caused us to extend the stay for a night to avoid heavier winds/rain. We spent all our time inside because of the weather. Our fifth wheel/truck does great in wind but I don’t like packing up in cold storms.

Belle Starr COE Site W26. Some shade without having branches overhead hitting the rig. Easy in but there were side roads within the park to avoid which had low branches. $11 a night on full hookups in a pull through spot using our America the Beautiful Pass.
Neat morning view across the lake at Belle Starr COE as the water was way warmer than the air.

We paid a little extra and stayed for three nights along the trip at Barefoot Bay RV Marina and Resort located in Pittsburg Texas. Nice park along the side of a lake. Notable was the booking process was confusing. This was the first time we had to pay for the spot plus a $100 refundable security deposit. I had not been told to check out at the office before we left in order to get the security deposit refund. No worries, I called them after the fact and all was taken care off. No need to get upset when parks have rules that are unusual. That’s part of fulltime RVing. I’ve got a decent system for keeping notes using Google Calendar. It might appear to be a lot of work to keep detailed notes, as well as all the trip planning, but it’s not. You come up with a system and use it over and over and over until it becomes second nature. I also use Google Calendar to keep track of our future locations. Sure feels good to know we are booked into spots through February 2nd.

This is an image of my Google Calendar app through the month of November. If I click on a date I can bring up my notes which include everything important to me about a campsite/reservation.

Below are the photos from Barefoot Bay Marina and Resort as well as some RV tips. I’ve got family who want the travel photos for sure – check them out so you don’t miss anything that might be important:)

Site 17 – away from all the “seasonal” campers. I’ll not say what spot the guy was from but his nightly routine was that of a drug dealer. I avoided the urge to follow him one night to make sure 🙂 Although that would have been fun to do. This park is okay to stay at, I just have a hipper awareness and genetic disposition to detect potential creeps.
First RV campground dog park ever for us that was located along a lake view. Wyatt loved it now that he is old enough and has his shots to be around dog parks. Picking up after your dog is a must do rule. Some had not in this dog run. Parvo is transmitted by direct contact with infected animal feces and can survive for months on a surface. A side note would be along the drive on this trip we took a break at a Love’s Truck Stop that had a dog park. Never knew those were out there.
First time seeing an actual towable tiny house in a spot. It’s hard to see, but that white dog skeleton Halloween decoration got Wyatt as it had a motion sensor that caused it to bark.
Wyatt was confused with the Halloween dog decoration barked at him when he tripped the motion sensor.
Compared BBQ tastes with the excellent cook across the street. I bought two bottles of Joe’s BBQ sauce before we left Kansas City!
Park decorated their short nature trail with spooky Halloween decorations.
Yup, we have a full size ironing board that is stored for travel behind our love seats. RVing is not just all about the travel. Life goes on and there is no way Karen will wear wrinkled clothes or allow me to. Those apartment size ironing boards, which we tried, are junk. Often campsite laundry rooms have a board but Karen enjoys ironing back home while watching TV and having a place to hang laundry. PS – there is a towel over our rug at the front door. When it’s rainy we put the towel down. Just another simple tip that you might already be aware of. Our camper still smells new when we walk through the door after a day outside. Yup, even with the new dog who has done outstanding with house training, presumably because he is with us 24/7. We will soon start to work up to leaving him alone inside. We hang our jackets over the dining room chairs unless wet then they go in the shower. No need for a coat closet if that’s on your must-haves when looking at RV’s to purchase.
Among other decorations in our camper is this card which Karen keeps in the kitchen window. Says a lot about the lifestyle.

And finally we arrive in Livingston Texas, home of our domicile. Lake Livingston State Park is our favorite in the area. We have also stayed at the Escapees Headquarters park with reason in the past. Lots of full-timers at Escapees to bounce ideas off. This state park is wonderful even compared against others we have stayed at. $16 a night on full hookups, on a concrete pad, with paved roads. The workcampers in the area have asked more than once if we were interested in a job. Karen and I would be leaning more towards a camp host job in Missouri near family, especially as the Texas summer heat will kill a person. We have another year or more of travel before any decision along that line. Our projected monthly budget is over our income by about $250 to $500 a month but we saved up $$$ to make up the difference for a years travel before we took off. With the virus thing going on, we have not been traveling like we planned so have not been using savings.

Before I forget to mention. While in Livingston Texas we handled our routine stuff like me having a doctors visit and getting the tags renewed on the truck and RV. Doctor says my overall cholesterol level has dropped 50 points in a year. No meds for me for now. Just keep doing what I’m doing. I had no idea reduced stress and anxiety lowers cholesterol. I still eat whatever but can say retirement from the job is helping with the stress. Doctor also advised to take vitamin D3 to help my immune system and Zinc which is good in case you get the virus thing. I went to the store after the doctor visit to find them sold out of Zinc. Karen had a bottle and said people have been buying stores out.

Also replaced the front tires on the truck with a commercial grade tire after a factory tire threw a belt, which Ram truck Nexen tires are known for. You can get about 20-25,000 miles out of the stock Nexen front tires on a dually pulling a heavy trailer. Maybe 40,000 on the back tires which is what the stock tires are warranted to achieve on a heavy duty truck. I’ll change the rear tires next year. Found Larry at Cook Tire and Service Center in Livingston Texas to be a valuable resource. Larry says changing shocks on the front of the truck would allow for longer wear on the tires. I decided to spend a couple hundred extra on better tires, especially as commercial truck tires are way less likely to blow out due to sidewall strength.

Site 3 at Lake Livingston Texas State Park. Easy driver’s side back-in with no overhead obstructions off a wide roadway. We pushed the trailer to the back of concrete pad to allow more room to park the truck and added an extra length of sewer hose to reach the hookup. Our 34’11” trailer and truck prefer 55′ spots but 50′ will work if I park the truck sideways. With no trees near the pad at the rear of the site, we can extend the back of the trailer over the grass for several feet. Did you know you can measure lengths in Google Earth? Lots of room between spots in the woods. There are excellent trails to walk or ride to include a one mile boardwalk. This is a huge lake. Have not seen a gator yet, even when our dog Wyatt goes swimming each day.
Still learning new stuff to cook with cast iron. This time it was spaghetti sauce. This is one serious fire pit. Adjustable cooking surface and a concrete base. Hmm… wonder if having good fire pits is a sure sign of a better managed park? So many have crappy fire pits.

Took a trip to nearby Huntsville Texas to spend the day with Sam Houston. There is lots to do in this town which might warrant a three day stay in the area. We decided to tour locations with outdoor amenities to stay safe from the virus and give Wyatt a place to walk.

Sam Houston was the first President of the Texas Republic and General of it’s army. His statue is 77′ tall and within view of Interstate 45.
The visitors center near the Sam Houston statue has a walking trail, a place for a picnic, gift shop and small museum. Might have RV parking if you take up extra spots on slow days. Easy to get to off a minor highway.
We found Sam’s grave. Huntsville is easy to get around in. The graveyard was huge with places for Wyatt to run. We enjoyed the many markers placed around the park telling about the people of the area who are buried here.
Found a village in the center of town full of old buildings. This one is known at the Steamboat House where Sam died. There is a museum on site and everything was free to see.
Weird – maybe – this is the mock up of Sam Houston’s waiting place after death inside the Steamboat House as seen through the glass viewing area outside.
A garden still in full bloom in November. Got to love Texas weather which in these parts might average 20 degrees warmer than what we were used to in Kansas City.
Sam’s office as a lawyer.
The Sam Houston Memorial Park has buildings scattered around it. Located across the Street from the Sam Houston State College. The huge complex has no entrance fee!

I know these posts can be long but I rarely post more than two a month. I’ve got one more idea to pass along. You will or have figured out a lot of this as Rver’s. If not I hope these tips help.

It’s quick to take a photo of the computer screen with a cell phone when researching park maps. To be referred to upon arrival for directions. For those with smaller rigs you have an advantage when navigating roads. Here are a couple recent examples.

Computer photo on my phone for our spot at Lake Livingston. No need to worry about if a map was available at check-in. Many park entrances are not maned because of the virus thing.
Our spot in Belle Starr COE. Notice the arrow from the entrance.
Barefoot Bay RV and Marina in Pittsburg Texas. I called them to find out where to park upon arrival to check-in as I could not see it on Google Earth nor listed on their website. Marked my map, saved to phone, before taking off on the trip.
It’s a crude drawing I know. A map of sites to visit in Huntsville Texas for our day touring Sam Houston locations. Took only a few minutes to draw it. We drove to town one direction and left in another after stopping at sites in a logical order.

Thanks for reading.

Mark

“The great misfortune is that a notion obtains with those in power that the world, or the people, require more governing than is necessary. To govern well is a great science, but no country is ever improved by too much governing… men think when they are elevated to position, that it requires an effort to discharge their duties, and they leave common sense out of the question.” – Sam Houston.

Goodbye South Dakota – Hello Missouri

We left Custer South Dakota in late September and have made our way through Nebraska and Missouri to visit family in three separate locations. Soon we are starting our migration to southeast Texas although we have not decided upon a winter home. We have discussed spending time in the Alabama Gulf Shores area, depending on recent hurricane damage, and maybe moving to Florida from there. Our plan is to repeat last years travel patterns which is moving from spot to spot with perhaps a monthly stay at times.

Continue reading

Custer South Dakota – Final Two Weeks

We finished our month long stay in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ya got to love not having to race back home or to work! We are currently staying along the sandhills of Nebraska on our way back to Missouri to see family. We will arrive in the Kansas City area on 10/4/20, then central Missouri the week after and finally near Joplin MO by 10/18/20 to visit more family along the way. Then on to Texas.

As usual I’ve got an RV topic to go along with the details of our trip.

(Update on Budget as of 10/26/20) I made some changes to the budget section of this report after further analysis. We completed our first full year on the road in August.  Someday I’ll get around to an interesting post regarding our first year. From a budgetary standpoint we are averaging about $3,558 in monthly expenses which includes income taxes, health insurance and everything else it takes to live.  Note that our truck and trailer are relatively new and have required less maintenance costs than one might expect from an older rig. As you know, there are many unique variables to consider when drafting a budget. I’ll write about the topic after the end of 2020. I’m putting this out now in case it will help in your research. Our budget does not include depreciation cost of the truck and fifth wheel. Included in the monthly average costs are; campsite expense $801 ($27 a night), grocery $966 and diesel fuel $226 a month on average. This has been a unique year with the virus thing. We are staying at more expensive parks with full hookups, groceries are way over budget (probably because we drink too much beer:) but we are saving a lot in truck fuel as the prices are very low and we are not moving around as much as expected.

During this summer trip, due to remote locations, we have had no over-the-air television reception for more than two months.  We canceled cable television a couple years before we went fulltime while living in our sticks and bricks, deciding to stream shows from Amazon Prime or YouTube or wherever. And in our RV we have no satellite and no plans to get one. We do have a Winegard Connect (Togo Roadlink) mounted on our roof which receives AT&T cellular data as well as WIFI signals from a campground system. And we have data plans on our phones (AT&T and T-Mobile) which we can use as hotspots to include linking the Winegard to the phone. Before we moved into the RV I took all our CD movies out of their bulky covers and placed just the discs in a book with sleeves.  We also enjoy reading and various hobbies at home. I purchased a Sony Playstation 4 about eight months ago.  Plenty to do without TV. 

On to the good stuff – Activities and photos from the Black Hills

Hiking to Beecher’s Rock

We got totally lucky to have met some new bestfriends at the campground who were familiar with the area. Also, the owners at Arrowhead Horse and RV Campground have established GPS maps of trails in the immediate area to include those on federal lands.

Karen and I want to again thank the campground minister and wife, Frank and Mila, for the church friendship and time we spent together hiking. If you are reading this please make sure to post your contact websites in the comment section. Small world that Frank and Mila will later be about a mile from our daughter in Kansas City. Hope to see you then.

Beecher’s rock is on national forest land where cattle free range. We found you could just drive in. Make sure to close the gate.

Hiking Six Miles to Heaven

I’m not sure if the below location is officially known as Heaven or not. But that’s what they called the place at our campground. There are plenty of horse trails in the Black Hills to follow and this is one of them. This was our four month puppy’s first ever hike, three miles of which seemed like going up hill. Had we not walked past the horse trail the hike would have been shorter.  At the top we enjoyed a sack lunch with friends.  At 6,100 feet in elevation this is one of the highest points in the area. You get the feeling of standing in Heaven as you spin around 360 degrees to a view in every direction from a large flat and rocky hilltop.

Wyatt did great. Look at those floppy ears as he ran off-leach for his first hike. Wyatt likes to run from shade tree to shade tree. For some reason he does not like sitting around in the sun waiting for us to catch up to him.

 

Campground Minister – Frank Bravo.

 

Campground Minister – Mila Bravo. Thank you for the photos you took. I might have stolen a few for this post.

 

We were following behind Frank and Mila in our truck. I noticed a deer running out in front of them and their break lights come on. Mila took this once in a lifetime photo from the cab of their truck.

 

Fall colors were just starting to come out in the trees. And we get to follow the fall colors all the way to Texas! Not that I’m bragging.

 

Top the mountain on Hike to Heaven

Very short hike along the stream in downtown Hot Springs SD

You can spend days just visiting the small mountain towns in the area. We decided to stop at Hot Springs because it is one of the several popular towns and Wyatt needed to take a swim in the creek.  It’s also near another stop at the Mammoth Site. Pay attention to the mud wall where the waterfall is located. I was fascinated with the contents of the wall which consisted of small rock and other sediments from the times the stream was located far above its current location. The entire Black Hills region is a walk back in time with all its geological features spanning an estimated 2.5 billion years. It truly is amazing.

This is the mud wall next to the waterfall where the stream has eroded to its current location, well below its original location at the top of the hill. Look at all the rocks and debree. It must have taken thousands of years to form these layers as part of a creek bed.

The Mammoth Site – Hot Springs SD

Outside at the Mammoth Site is a walkway where on display are examples and explanations of the regions 2.5 billion year geological history. Inside a large building is the working area where staff are systematically removing debree from a hill to reveal ancient bones of animals. This area was once an ocean which receded. Then a sinkhole occurred where animals were trapped because the sides were slippery and they could not climb out after getting a drink of water. Then the earth was pushed up by the process of plate tectonics which formed a hill. In the 1970’s bones were found while excavating the hill for a subdivision. I asked a worker who said they have core-drilled the bottom of the pit down to an additional 40′ where more bones are located. As a side note there is RV parking at this site off U 385.

Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse

The drive to Mount Rushmore was impressive.  We arrived early to avoid the crowds because of the virus thing. Nor did we go inside of any buildings. Dogs are not allowed past a certain point and we learned later there is a path behind the gift shop that leads to an open area for dogs.  Mount Rushmore is inspiring. There is RV parking at the site. The only cost is $10 to park. Although others said the Crazy Horse Indian Monuments is a better tour than Mount Rushmore, we decided just to stop on Highway 16 to take a photo. As you may recall we visited Crazy Horses’ place of death at Fort Robinson near Crawford Nebraska. 

Crazy Horse Monument as seen from Highway 16


Walking trail to an area closer to Mount Rushmore heads

Town of Custer South Dakota

During the pandemic it’s safe to get some take-out food and walk over to the city park in Custer SD. Lots to see along the street to include large buffalo sculptures. Grab a local brew and sit outside to watch the traffic. The place is surrounded by scenic views.

Karen and I began this trip west on July 26th. From the lands of the Pony Express across the high plains of Kansas, from Ogallala north into the hill country of beautiful western Nebraska and ending of course in the southern region of the Black Hills. I’ve never been closer to historic areas of American Indian history. Somehow being within the lands where events actually took place is more memorable than what I got from any book or museum as a child. I truly appreciate the opportunity to learn first hand about this part of the country. 

In case you are wondering what was my favorite place to visit in the Black Hills?  I gave this a lot of thought.  I’d say my favorite spot is at every turn in the road. Because, everywhere you turn in the Black Hills reveals yet another amazing landscape.  

Custer South Dakota – First Two Weeks

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.

(Update 10/6/20) After writing this post I found a survey conducted in a major RV newsletter. About 2,000 RVers responded to the survey which found 78% of people use an RV holding tank treatment while half the remaining people either don’t use a holding tank treatment or sometimes use one. I still use a treatment (Happy Camper) nearly always, however at times when we are only stopped for a few days I might just use a few squirts of dawn dish soap. You should dump the black tank when it is at least 2/3rds full. When I dump the tank when not nearly full, I spend extra time filling it partially with fresh water and then dumping it (back flushing). It is not proper to flush a black tank at a dump station when other Rvs are waiting in line. When that happens I use the grey tank water to quickly backflush the black tank.

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.