What I’ll miss most about St. Augustine Florida were the friendships we developed within the snowbird community where folks are parked for the winter. Plenty of fulltime travelers have come off the road after a few years because the positives did not outweigh the loss of community. Above is a photo of Karen learning a new skill which is weaving pine needles using basic supplies we carry in the RV along with what she finds on the ground. Dental floss is used for the string and Elmers’s Glue is rubbed on the backside for water proofing and smooth finish.
It has taken three years to finally see what I had somewhat been missing. Not the “got to live in a community thing” but all the great people we are meeting are an essential part of this if one intends to stay on the road long-term. I’ve read other’s blogs when they wrote about friendships. The power behind those experiences was not easily understood within their written words. One has to experience it first-hand.
Mike and Norma are from the west side of Michigan’s upper peninsula in the Iron Mountain area. We met through their dog Axle who is the most friendly and obedient dog I’ve ever seen come out of a shelter. We have an open invitation to camp near them someday in Michigan.
The Canadians are back! Met no fewer than three couples at Stagecoach RV Park. Paul and his wife Pat (Patricia I’m guessing) are from Washago Onterio. Where 80% of Canadians live 100 miles from the US border, they don’t. I enjoyed the conversation about life in Canada and their national history. We had a meal together and I tagged along with them to Jacksonville for a big outdoor RV show. They have owned property in the US and traveled extensively. The couple wants to downsize from their 40′ Grand Design Solitude to the same floor plan we have which is 34′ 11″ in our Vilano. They had a large motorhome before and passed along the pros and cons. Glad to have his number as he would be a good source for motorhome construction. He immediately told me to never buy a certain chassis in a motorhome and what would be the best. Sorry, can’t recall the chassis brand but apparently in a motorhome that part of the foundation is super important and might help one reduce the motorhomes to select from during your search.
We were at the Jacksonville RV show the first day when unfortunately, the factory representatives had not shown up yet. So, I asked the salesman why the Grand Design lacked 1000 pounds of gross weight capacity compared to three other companies who build the same floor plan. He said because they want to keep it towable with a three-quarter ton (2500) series truck. I refined my question and asked what exactly is built with less capacity where you would lose the important 1,000 pounds of cargo space? I got the dumb stare answer. So, I crawled under the trailer and believe the answer is now frame construction. Beyond that I was completely impressed with the Grand Design. But then again some don’t need 3,000 pounds of cargo. I checked construction areas others might not know to look at and found 99% of the time everything looked excellent. Congratulations to Grand Design for keeping up with uniform construction in a time it’s hard to find skilled labor! I’d buy one. The salesman uttered the couples current Grand Design is maintaining value. I can see that to be true as Grand Design is popular which helps resale. He shot them a quick price on the new unit. I did some math on my phone and showed it to the salesman adding I’d thinking he would be closer to my number (32% off MSRP delivered). He said I was close but just a little low. I thought back and maybe I was a little low as the best off MSRP is found in more expensive rigs. I came away believing one can still get 30% off true MSRP and yesterday, 3/6/22 I read where shipments of new RVs have finally begun to decline.
Below is an interesting new floor plan at 32’7″. Yes, two feet shorter makes a difference when backing into a tight camping spot off a narrow road. However, the height of a big RV is equally concerning.
Replaced Westlake G Rated Tires with Sailun S637 G Rated Tires
Westlakes are still a popular brand tire for new RVs. Because the cost and their load capacity are impressive. Decided I wanted tires built in Vietnam rather than South Korea. Just kidding. Actually, after 15,000 miles two of our Westlakes were showing uneven wear. It would take a full blog post to pass along what I learned as possible reasons. In our case one tire on each axle, at opposite corners, were showing more inside wear than the other two tires. I had them rotated 1000 miles ago and still believe they are safe to run on. However, because I have no idea what could be going on inside the tread, I decided to replace them rather than to risk a blowout. I compared the Goodyears, Westlake and Sailun. I’ll watch for uneven tread wear on the new tires which I ordered from Simpletire.com and highly recommend as a vendor. Justification, other than safety, to replace tires early is that damage from a blowout to the RV will be more expensive and inconvenient than the cost of new tires.
My tires arrived in a UPS truck at the office within three days of the order which I tracked via text messages. I caught the driver and asked him to drop them at our site. I was worried about availability as Sailun had a recall on tires dated in 2020 and they would be low on stock. A neighbor who was in the tire business looked at my Westlakes and confirmed some of the fine rubber dust on the tread surface of our existing tires was caused by unbalancing. As the trailer goes down the road ever so slightly the tire skips on the ground. Again, I could write an entire post on balance vs not balancing trailer tires. Most don’t balance them. I took two tires off at a time and had Discount Tire mount them as their shop was two blocks away from our camping spot. I used our spare tire to temporarily replace one that was missing during the install along with support from our hydraulic jacks. Good thing I did as the spare tire was down to 65 PSI from 80 even when filled with nitrogen after three years. This was a good opportunity to confirm the contraption that lowers the spare tire under the trailer was in working order. I’ll need to remove and paint some of the rust on the spare tire wheel which is steal rather than a higher rated aluminum rim. Our spare was rated E which is below what is needed for anything other than slow temporary usage in our case.
Wow, how many can say they lived in St. Augustine Florida for a total of three months! I was here a few days back in the 1980’s on vacation. There is no comparison when one is able to dig in and get to know the place.
As mentioned in my last post, we stayed here last winter for a month as well and toured many places in town. There are excellent dog friendly beaches here. The parking garage in historic downtown is $10 a day and worth it. No problem finding a spot for our dully truck on the third level. For shorter RVs or trailers there is a large vehicle parking area across the street. This was a walled city in the 1500’s and if you look closely, you will find the reconstructed city entrance through the gates as well as old retaining walls and buildings still standing inside.
Common places to tour are the old fort, St. George Street and the lighthouse. We had a “why moment” as in why we are traveling, when enjoying a local beer in a courtyard off ancient St. George Street surrounded by Florida vegetation. I turned to a lady near us and said, “you know we are probably going to hell for enjoying this so much.” She laughed and said, ya, there is two feet of snow back home where she is from.
Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe it or Not wanted to buy a mansion here, which was converted to a hotel, in order to display odd items he had collected during his world travels. He died before family bought the place which became their first of 25 museums. This is where the original TV show was filmed. Can’t see that anywhere else so it was on my list. Odd place for sure. The Red Train tour of town leaves from here and your dog is welcome to ride with you. The Trolly Tour in town does not allow dogs but you can get off and back on at stops compared to the Red Train which is a continual tour. The Trolly will send a van to get you at Stagecoach RV Park, and perhaps other parks. According to friends the one day Trolly pass is worth the money.
We ate out more often than usual. My favorite on this trip was Pizza Time located on the oldest street in America, St. George. This is the second highest rated pizza restaurant in the nation on Trip Advisor. The thin crust melts in your mouth. Many of the ingredients are imported. An employee suggested we take a tray outside with us so we could enjoy the meal wherever, just remember to take the tray back.
Lance Travel Trailer Tour Owned by Our Friend Michael
From the road one morning came the cry “oh my is that Wyatt!” Our friend from last years visit, Michael was walking his Cocker Spaniel Toby and recognized Wyatt now nearly full grown when he last saw him as a puppy. Michael and his mom have traveled all over this area and had great ideas where to camp. He said they replaced their Rockwood travel trailer (more budget friendly brand) with a 28′ Lance. Wow, I had to see that. I’ve noticed the famous builder of truck campers had begun building travel trailers a few years ago. They are pricey and something to consider if you are looking closer to Air Stream price points. As expected, I was impressed with the construction details on the Lance.
In conclusion I’ll say that folks in RV parks are for the most part respectful of your privacy. More common than one might think is the helpfulness of other RVers which in no way a bother if you think about it. Specifically, it is true that if you break out the tools and start fixing something there is a chance a neighbor will come over to inquire what’s up. I usually do this by asking if they have all the tools they need which leads to getting into the project with them. When you are away from home base when a repair is needed it goes so much easier with an extra set of hands and mind to think through the fix. More than once I’ve handed out spare parts, screws, wire or whatever and was glad to do it. I’ve received more help than I’ve been able to give. Snowbird parks (where folks go for the winter) are by far the best place to find extremely experienced RV owners who are happy to show you the modifications and upgrades they have made to their rigs. Goodby Covid! Hello to more friendships yet to be discovered.
We are currently parked northwest of Jacksonville Florida.