We Have Arrived in Michigan to Begin our Summer Trip – Campground Crowding

We are currently in northern Michigan’s Traverse City, having finished a 19 day stay near Howell Michigan, 50 miles west of Detroit. We had a wonderful time visiting Karen’s sister, brother-in-law and her mother. It was nice to go back to our own home, parked at two different state recreation areas during the course of the visit. Then just drive a few miles to visit family. Karen was able to spend quality time with her mom. What a benefit this lifestyle is when it comes to family time. Our daughter happened to schedule a trip in the area. She is a runner and participated in a race up north, having spent a few nights at her grandmother’s where we all sat around visiting and having meals together.

Our anticipated route for this years summer trip. 2800 miles beginning in central Michigan, across the upper peninsula and west to Montana. The final leg will be south through Wyoming, clipping the corner of Colorado and on to Kansas City Missouri where we have a spot booked beginning September 7th, just after labor day when the public’s camping season starts to wrap up.

My next blog post will cover our time touring Traverse City and getting with our friends, Ray and Charlotte whom we met last winter in St. Augustine Florida. They don’t want me to brag on the area too much as it’s already a Michigan vacation hotspot 🙂 I know another full-time RVer and blogger 30 miles up north but don’t want to invite myself to see the progress as they build their cabin. Hope they catch the post and comment 🙂 Settling down to a cabin or smaller home is one of many exit plans Karen and I have discussed after we finish roaming the earth. Unfortunately we narrowly missed Steve and Debbie of Down the Road Blog as they were weeks behind us on their way to Indiana. If there was a way to reschedule the many campgrounds ahead of our own trip, to allow time to turn around, we would have done it to meet up with the couple. They and others are amazing having really helped with our migration to fulltime RVing.

If you have been researching living in an RV and read about how you will meet new friends – believe it! The memories we have made beside our friends on this journey will forever be a highlight of our lives. Speaking for myself, these new friends have done wonders to help me leave the old life behind and heal the emotional scars after dealing with so many bad people in my past job. I’m so lucky to be able to live this lifestyle where the rough times are way overshadowed by the joyful experiences that jump out at every turn in the road.

We are approaching our two year anniversary on the road. Still learning lessons, making adjustments and looking forward to the future. Recently I read an article regarding the best days of the week to travel. In the past we have used Sunday as our preferred day to move between campgrounds, especially as the highway traffic through large cities was expected to be lighter. I’ll have to agree that now the preferred day may be Wednesday or secondly on a Tuesday. Especially in the summer when families are vacationing with their children whom are out of school. Seems like during the rest of the worlds summer vacations, they tend to move into campgrounds on a Thursday afternoon, when in the past we could expect them on a Friday after working hours. They tend to leave public campgrounds on a Monday. We want to avoid the herd. City traffic on a Sunday can no longer be counted on as being minimal. From my experience by the afternoon on Sunday the roads are packed – depending on what area of the country one happens to be in.

Yes, things are still changing with the pandemic coming to an end. I’m predicting that people will have to return to a normal life in terms of work schedules, even if they think working at home or hauling the kids around in a camper will be the norm. Employers, for the most part, are not going to allow people to work at home. There are reports of this across the country. So eventually they will put their kids in school, return to the office and get the heck out of our way:) Here in Michigan, things are way different than what we read about during the pandemic. I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes their Governor, often sighting her strict and unlawful tactics during the pandemic lockdowns. But we have been in rural areas for the most part. The city folks may think differently. For sure, everyone here are returning to the campgrounds in a big way and leaving their masks behind.

Both our campgrounds in the Howell Michigan area were public campgrounds. Folks around here call them state parks. I say if they knew what a real state park campground looks like they would not be that impressed with these two. But then again, they are on vacation and I can respect just getting out with family is important. Judging by the dealership stickers on cars and talking to campers, most everyone were locals with a few coming from northwestern Ohio around Toledo. My brother-in-law says area campgrounds are setup for locals to spend a weekend and not really geared towards travelers coming through the area. The rural roads, although paved, need much improvement such as the shoulders that are collapsing or the trees that are not trimmed until the big RVs or trucks break off the branches. No worries, we figured it out and are better off with the experience. That aside, I want to draw your attention to the topic of “campground etiquette”. I’m not complaining; just helping educate. And also doing my best to set realistic expectations for those who might be considering a life in an RV.

I’m of the mindset that assholes are assholes, both when living next to neighbors in a conventional home or parking next to someone in a small public campground. Seldom will they adjust to giving a crap about others. Most of us in the campground, I am certain, are just folks trying to leave the chaos of life behind and letting our hair down while enjoying the free time. Some are just not aware of certain etiquette because they lack experience. Just know if you decide to RV then you may have to live with a few inconsiderations be they intentional or not. It’s not worth the time in court should one decide to take a club to the neighbor’s body:)

Karen and I lived on a few acres in the country before this journey. Had someone entered our property and not been wanted, I could lawfully great them in a hostile way. That’s not the case in this lifestyle. You will give up a degree of privacy and at times, peaceful enjoyment of your surroundings. Frankly, these last couple of crowded campgrounds in Michigan have tasked my patients. None the less was the asshole who was upset at one of only two places at the campground (at the dump dump station) where you could fill your fresh water tank. I decided to let it go when he got out of his truck, walked briskly towards me and asked what was taking so long. I simply said unfortunately this was the only place to fill tanks with fresh water. I hope his day improved. I trust had we been parked next to each other we could have become friends over time. For some reason this was just a bad time for him and fortunately a good day for me. I suspect in the years to come, there will be more people who sense no danger when approaching others with a negative attitude because they lack discipline (from parents and someday from law enforcement if the public does not allow it). We can talk about this over a campfire someday but not on a blog.

Examples of poor campground etiquette are easy to find if you Google search the topic. Not to minimize the topic, but following is an example you will never find mentioned within those articles. Where one parks their truck or extra vehicle is important! Both our recent campgrounds incorporated tent sites within RV sites which included all those that decided to bring two vehicles or allow guests to park randomly. The places looked like an auto factory.

This is actually a more clear roadway than a few other areas in the park. The photo just depicts how busy the campground is. Michigan has a shorter camping season. I met two at the dump station who asked how to de-winterize their rigs. Several in the park had temporary tags on their RVs and new camping equipment to go with it. Although it’s possible they bought all new hoses with their replacement trailers. Talking to people around the campground revealed for sure many were new to the world of Rving, many having bought a rig during the pandemic but just now are taking them out for extended stays. Especially in Michigan where it snows nearly 450 days a year.

View out our front door. Three tents to the site and cars to match. Privately owned RV Parks are generally not as lenient as state parks. Don’t enter or leave state parks on a Saturday if you hope for the road to be clear, as this is the busiest day of the week.
A couple days during the week, sites were not packed with campers so I got this photo. Can you see the area circled in yellow. Those are tracks where RVs turn the corner and go off the pavement as they sometimes don’t make the corner. Don’t park in those tracks on the corners at any time unless you want your vehicle hit by an RV entering the campground at night.
Same corner as above. Those are heavy tire tracks. Over time the corners of the pavement have also been broken down. Everyone is willing to move their vehicle to allow trailers to park or drive through the campground. But what if you are the one with the car and are not at your site at the time? Park as far off the road, especially on corners, as you can. Even a foot makes a difference. This is not about RVs parking in tent areas. The campground reservation system clearly lists what sites are for RVs by size. Man, you would expect for $35 a night with 30 amp electric, no water and no sewer, these campgrounds would have sites spread out a little better:)

Enough of the negative. We did find time to enjoy time at the park. Especially our dog Wyatt catching his Frisbee when during two days of the week the park was nearly vacant. We tie a loose rope on his collar so he feels he cannot run off – that’s a dog training trick.. Although he has grown up around camping and does not wonder off. Yup, we broke the rules also by allowing him to run off leash, even the 30 feet it takes to catch his toy.

Takes an SLR camera to catch these action photos while the dog is in motion. I focus ahead of him and push the shutter button taking multiple photos in rapid succession. Then go back and save the photo that happened to catch the action.
His sun goggles. Karen thinks Wyatt stays in the shade during walks because his eyes are sensitive to sunlight. These goggles have a strap that goes over the head and under the chin. She had him wear it for short periods and then for longer periods of time. He hangs his head out the truck, feeling the wind while wearing them. He can even catch a Frisbee while wearing them. Guess we are officially crazy dog people.

We had to drive through Hell to get here. Howell/Pinckney Michigan is just outside an area of land called Hell Michigan. Not officially a town but a wide spot in the road.

One of two campgrounds. This one was further from family but more spread-out with designated camper and tent spaces. There are small lakes everywhere in this part of the country. Not sure why other than the landscape is scarred by glaciers and maybe these lakes were a by-product.

Michigan is actually two peninsulas with unique topography. This part of the trip is spent in lower Michigan. You drive over a five mile bridge to the upper peninsula or come in from the west via Wisconsin. The upper peninsula is 30% of the states landmass with 3% of the population. That is where we are eventually heading. I urge everyone to visit the northern parts of the state. The trees are amazing…. My brother-in-law took me north to mow his property. The next night it was in the upper 30’s while it was much warmer further south.

We stopped at Clare Michigan for doughnuts. I’d not be caught dead in the place while in my police uniform. Cops and Doughnuts now has four locations around the state. Wonderful donuts with inside dining. The building is home to a continuously operated bakery since 1896. Facing closure, the towns nine cops bought the building to preserve the historical business.

We are currently stopped at Northwestern Michigan Fair Grounds, outside Traverse City. We extended our stay to deal with a first time ever road emergency which is trailer brake related. More on that in the next post along with wonderful stories of friendship and most likely getting lucky to be here for two days of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Campers are arriving as I type this which are vendors going to the festival. The guy next door runs an ice cream tent. Got to go make friends with him.

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.

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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.

Leaving the Job and Camping in Our Home State

For the most part the emotions of leaving the job and house are starting to slip away. We are settling into this lifestyle and learning new stuff all the time. The move has been a process that’s getting easier at times but certainly has it’s ups and downs at this point.

My last day on the job was October 4th. By then Karen and I had been camping in a long-term spot for a month or so. We left that spot in Platte City Missouri and moved on April 9th to southern Missouri. Before we left the immediate area of our hometown – for the winter – there were several things to finish up. If I had to do it again, I would have stayed an extra week in the area after retirement (or retired earlier) to allow more time to wrap things up. Oh well, flexibility is the name of the game now and we really need to get on with traveling to interesting places.

It’s best to break this blog post down into headlines so you can skip around to topics of interest.

Retiring from a Job

Law enforcement is more than a job; it’s a way of life. The phone can ring at any time calling you back for whatever. You go home thinking about it while awake and while asleep at times. In the end the hardest part for me was leaving the relationships with co-workers. The day before I left, I was asked if I was going home earlier on my last day? I said I’ll leave when I’m ready. By then I had purposely completed most of the process of turning in equipment and the paperwork. I’d parked our Ram 3500 dually truck at a co-worker’s house. He was to give me a ride to his house the last day as I had turned in the company car.

Leaving that last day was like pulling a Band-Aid off. You know when it’s the right time and then just jerk the Band-Aid off and feel the moment of pain. Early afternoon on the last day I suddenly told my co-worker it was time to leave. There were hugs out the door. I refused to have a large going away party. I’m just not good with goodbyes. Earlier I had walked around to different departments and told everyone goodbye and recalled stories of good times and jobs well done together. The night before my immediate workgroup had dinner with Karen and me.

Retirement photo with a few of the guys

Emotional moments came to include when deciding it was okay to send an email out to about 40 of the many people I’d met on the job. I wanted to let them know the day had finally come for me to leave, to pass the word around and provide a new contact person for our agency. I used my email contact list for some of the names. Over the years I made it a habit to keep business cards where I wrote on the back when and where I’d met the person. Those contacts came in handy over the years. Those who do a good job and are helpful also tend to meet others of like mind. That creates a tight group of friends and contacts. I’ve not wanted to delete email contacts or throw away business cards for friends who died over the years. Flipping through those business cards sure was emotional.

I want to pass along something very important about my co-workers. It will be a glimpse into our mindset. I don’t think I’m breaking any rules – as if it matters! I was sitting in our patrol area talking with the dayshift. It’s a recently remodeled area of the building that’s decorated with posters by the officers. The writings on the wall say it all. I took some photos which are as follows:

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

We always have each other

Setup Mail Service with Escapees in Texas – Insurance Companies Panicked.

One thing we had to finish up while in town was establishing our mail service with Escapees in Texas and then driving to the post office to fill out mail-forwarding to the new address. In those final days I also did the best I could to change our address online or by phone. Of course, going paperless as much as possible for bills. I was not aware the post office will send a notice to various places if you change your address. The post office notified our insurance companies which prompted the insurance companies to send a letter asking what was up. Also one of the pension companies received a notice and called asking what was up.  Our insurance agent knew what we were up to and that we had to first setup a PO Box to collect mail from our old sticks and bricks house and then on to Texas when our final mailing address was established. I had the agent handle the insurance companies who apparently get concerned that you might be living in another state while having insurance in another.  He told them we are leaving as snowbirds early and just want our bills sent to Texas.  He also set us up for paperless billing. Once we get to Texas maybe the first of December, we will be changing insurance companies. Sorry to be loosing my agent whom I’ve been with for more than 20 years.  I’m thinking we will find another agent in Texas who is an insurance broker rather than going directly to individual insurance companies. I’ve got a list of several brokers whom are frequently recommended by others in the area.

I’m extremely happy with the Escapees Club customer service! They even have a feature when you call and find the wait for an operator is too long. You can select an option to have them call you back.  When the computer calls you back and if you are not ready for the call there is an option to have them call back in 20 minutes.  For now we are paying the extra $10 a month for the option to have mail scanned and available online if needed.  You have to join Escapees first to enroll in the mail service. So far, we have saved about half our annual Escapee Club membership fees with campground discounts at none Escapee parks. And as I type this we are camped with a local Escapees Club chapter where experienced RV members are as helpful and friendly as can be. Friends from the chapter invited us to attend their monthly camping rally as their guests.

Saying Goodbyes to Family and Friends

I wrote in my last post that we are not leaving friends and family as part of this fulltime RV journey. We expect to see them more than before and spend quality time with them. Just after we purchased our RV we took an extended trip to Michigan to visit part of Karen’s family. We are in southern Missouri now and among other things we are getting with family. Before we left Kansas City we spent the day with our daughter. It’s good to see she has a good group of friends and modern methods of communications keeps her in touch with her mom. 

Karen has been shopping for post cards she says she will enjoy mailing out. In an RV there is not space to buy and store stuff. If you like shopping then post cards are a brilliant way to get that urge out of your system. Personally, I can’t wait to shop at farmers markets all over the country.

360 degree photo my sister Lisa took with her iPhone. On the phone you can pan around and see the interior of the camper.

After my retirement day in our hometown my sisters, friends, niece and nephew came from three directions to see us. My sister Mary was the first to sleep on our sofa bed and approved of its comfort (it’s an actual mattress and not an air bed). My sister Lisa rented an RV spot for her wonderful Class C. My sister Deanna brought us a big bag of Jelly Belly candy. I thought of her every time I get a cup full to enjoy. Karen and I are enjoying the new zero gravity chair the family got us as a retirement gift.  Glad we waited to replace our existing chairs. We have our eye on a rocker style as well.  There are plenty of examples of good chairs to sit in at other’s campfires.

When folks write about all the new friends they discover on the road it’s no lie. Karen gets text messages from some of them and is now added to her Facebook friends list. I’m thinking about adding a new column in my spreadsheet to include home addresses for new friends who want us to stop by if we are in the area. I can import the spreadsheet into Google Maps and add pins on the map for friends. We have new ones in North Carolina, Colorado and more. The last night we were in Kansas City at the RV park Karen dog sat for the neighbors until midnight while they were at a concert. Karen loves dogs. She gets five new dogs every day it seems as people move in and out of the parks. She meets all the dogs and their owners in short order.

The final step in leaving the park back home was to check to see if a package had arrived in the office. Outside I ran into Gary whom I worked with for a long time. He retired a year ago and it sure was nice having him and Connie camping at the same park as they are also fulltime RV travelers. See ya next time guys.

Living Together in Small Spaces

I’m probably going out on a limb to write about this topic as I’m clearly no expert but am willing to learn and change. We are a ways from having this done. We continue with our rule that the first person to a spot has the right of way in our tiny home.  Like everyone else, we both have our emotional moments. Just give the other person some time and space and it all works out.  Treat others as you would like to be treated for sure. All good advice or what I’m thinking will work in the long run. I love – love – love the time with my wife. I can now even leave that darn cell phone wherever and just enjoy the moment. 

Trips to the grocery store are perfect for rainy days when getting outside is less appealing.  As we get closer to wrapping up all the administrative tasks with becoming fulltimers there will be increasing time for touring the local sites. We both agree doing one thing a day is plenty for now. Today we met the Escapees Chapter group we are camped with for lunch and games. Now we are sitting typing a blog or reading a book under the canopy of our fifth wheel while sun shines around us.

There are opportunities to have our own space. RV and truck maintenance, walking the dog, watching TV in the bedroom, visiting with neighbors, walking to the laundry and just the daily tasks offer opportunity to do our own thing. I’m learning to cook on the grill as a hobby and eventually I’ll be learning to use the cast iron covered skillet Dave gave me as a gift at work.  I’m planning to master all forms of cooking outside. 

I’ll quickly add something else you have to work out is what kind of place you want to park your home. I’m not that particular at this point. Karen definitely has an interest in picking spots so she looks a few up in the area and then I get a pick with special attention to trip routing. We really do enjoy parking for days at a time and spreading out in the space a fifth wheel offers. The weekly camping rates are easier on the budget which so far, for us, is closer to $30 a day on average with discounts.

Electronics, Internet and TV Access

I left most of the electronic decisions for the year we went fulltime. Technology changes fast and the options are way different than years ago.  We increased Karen’s AT&T phone account to unlimited data with a hotspot to link her tablet or my laptop computer to.

I still have an unlimited data plan on a T-Mobile account which is provided to me with the part-time remote office job I took on the road. WIFI internet at campsites has been better than expected but there are periods of times when connection is lost or slow. If needed we may add a mobile cellular device on the Verizon network offered by my employer at the office job. Redundancy is the key.

I’m finding AT&T data will often work better than the Verizon phone (hotspot) I turned in when I left the Sheriff’s Office. Probably because so many people are on the Verizon network there are times it slows down.

I’ve read and researched where one best understand how adding antennas or signal boosters can effect cellular data if that’s an option you decide on. It might not always be the best thing to do. I’ve not added any boosters or external antenna for the time being. We are just using whatever signal we can pick up.

Togo Roadlink is a new device available with AT&T unlimited data for the cost of the roof mounted device and $360 a year for unlimited data. This looks interesting especially as you only have to run a 12 volt line to the box on the roof rather than a bunch of cable. We are fine with what we have for now.

I bought a Roku stick to add to the television. We kept our Amazon Prime account for fast delivery of packages while parked.  Prime video is something we use as we left the cost of satellite TV behind several years ago. If I was to add satellite TV I for sure would have a device that finds the satellites automatically. A guy parked nearby was adjusting his manual satellite and yelling to his wife inside the trailer to see if the picture was good. I understand you can get a handheld device to help point the satellite dish if needed. Automatic sounds better to me.  With the new digital television channels we find plenty to watch just using the trailers over the air antenna.

Beware – using campground WIFI internet can make you vulnerable to hackers seeing what you are doing. I use our cellular connections for confidential access. I’m no expert but understand setting up a virtual private network (VPN) is a security solution for campground WIFI. I’m still researching and for now, right or wrong, am using the free Hotspot Shield program for a VPN.  I’ve got more research to do on this so don’t have any good recommendations for a solution.  I know running the campground WIFI through a router device would also help with security. If you know more about campground WIFI security please comment so we can all learn from you.

How is Our 5th Wheel Holding Up

Our Vanleigh Vilano is holding up wonderfully. So far there has been nothing break that left us stranded or inconvenienced such as having something like a slide, air conditioner, furnace or whatever go out. I’ve called the factory service center twice now to have small parts shipped and they arrived the next day with zero hassle. I’ve got a list of minor stuff for Vanleigh to fix once we migrate to the service center in northern Mississippi probably next spring. We will probably have them install some upgrades at the same time. After living in the fifth wheel for awhile we will figure out where extra shelving might come in handy. And by spring we might have a list of other upgrades like suspension, washer/dryer and electronics. I suspect I’ll get them to do the annual mantainance items if needed.

Karen is having issue with the dry air as a result of the electric fireplace heat and gas furnace. We talked about getting a small room humidifier.  Any thoughts about that would be appreciated.

We really are happy to have ordered the rear living room air conditioner with the heat pump option. The front bedroom heats up a few degrees warmer as heat rises. I still don’t understand why anyone would put a heat pump on the front bedroom AC unless they figure the cost is minimal. We also appreciate the second awning that covers the large rear window on the passenger side. It’s a nice place to cook or eat at the picnic table in the rain. More importantly the second awning keeps the sun off that side of the trailer. I’m most likely being over cautious about leaving the awning out in any wind condition even if we are home.

We love our new home! But just like buying a new sticks and bricks house you will find minor flaws that have little to do with the important quality aspects. Tightening a screw, gluing something down is no big thing.  I’m still reading on the owner’s Facebook page about maintenance and developing my list. Watching others and talking with them about maintenance when we are parked is helping. I believe I now have most of the cleaning supplies, grease and more that is needed. 

Places We Have Been and Old Friends We Met Again

I figured this would be a good section to wrap up what our travels have been since going fulltime on 8/22/19.  As I’ve written before we first stayed at the local county park at Smithville Lake Missouri and got some practice with our waste water tanks.

Then we moved for five weeks to an RV resort near Platte City Missouri. I worked most of those five weeks. Karen and I developed several friendships which I’m thinking helped with the stress one might experience when you are new to this lifestyle. Our good friends Russ and Kay from the Destination Unknown blog travel through Kansas City from the east coast and this would have been I think the third time we have met up. They travel in a toy hauler pull behind trailer and frequently use their Harvest Host campsite membership. They rerouted to another overnight spot closer to us which turned out to be a church parking lot. It was a good visit.  Forgot to take photos as usual. While in Platte City we met several fulltimers and part-timers. Even met a couple who were from Canada, having immigrated there from Germany. That one campsite netted at least two other couples we got to know well over a week or two. Sure we will see them again someplace on the road.

From Platte City we moved for five days to a campsite near family at Mt. Vernon Missouri for a visit and to attend the usual annual Apple Butter Making Days festival. My sister Mary has given considerable thought to becoming a fulltimer someday and right now would go as a solo (meaning with no partner). I sent her a few resources regarding camping as a solo but if you have any good links send them our way in a comment. We stayed at Beagle Bay RV Haven in Sarcoxie Missouri. It was a spot in the trees and met our needs. If you are traveling down Interstate 44 between Springfield and Joplin in Missouri it’s a nice spot for a few days that includes all shaded areas with full hookup pull-throughs.

From Mt. Vernon/Sarcoxie we moved just 15 miles to Carthage Missouri for a week long Escapees Ozark Chapter campout. We are there currently for another week and staying at Coachlight RV Park. It’s right behind an RV dealership and way easy to get in and out of. Unfortunately I’ve got to travel back to Kansas City for a murder trial next week. Karen is going with me. We will leave the fifthwheel behind and just make the drive to a motel. While here at the rally we get time to spend with our wonderful friends Dean and Cheri of Travels with Bentley blog. Come November they will have been fulltimers for two years. They and others in this Escapees group are a wealth of information. I’m watching and listening to everything about the lifestyle the group has to offer. 

With the part-time office job I kept there are frequent chances to visit local post offices to mail work related stuff. I should have started a list of all the post offices I’ve visited. While here in Carthage I visited a unique older building. I did not take photos inside as I did not want to alarm anyone. Later we are going to visit some Civil War sites in town.

Carthage Missouri Post Office

Well that’s about it for now. Our immediate travel plans appear to be Branson Missouri for vacation.Then on to maybe Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Then on to Livingston Texas which is the headquarters for Escapees and where we will get our driver’s license and truck/trailer license plates. As our rig totals more than 26,000 gross max weight I’ll be taking a driving test which is the law in Texas.  We will most likely make a stop between Arkansas and Texas before arriving in Livingston. Between now and then I’m going to finalize our healthcare options and more.

Evolution of Emotions

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

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

Continue reading

Howell Michigan Camping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snap 2019-07-26 at 09.15.54

 

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

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Current office arrangement

 

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Yesterday’s view from the “office”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark from Missouri

Family Camping Trip, July Travel Plans and More

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

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


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


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

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Washing dishes outside

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viair 400P RVS

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

Life in Kansas City – D Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad and Don at County (640x480)

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

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

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

Life in Kansas City – Downsizing and Family Time

May and June have been busy months as we occupied our time with family and getting the homestead ready to sell.  For those already on the road I’m sure this will bring back memories. For those thinking about, or in the clutches of preparing for a life on the road, my advise is get started as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this in less than a couple years.  Although the prize of freedom is quit large and certainly is a motivator.

Officially I’ve left our take off date as November 1, 2019. However we got to thinking; does it really make sense to leave as winter is starting? Especially as we want to see family in what would be colder climates before Karen and I crawl off into our winter hibernation in a deep southern state. That date of November 1 will more than likely be adjusted up a little.  Recently Karen and I have began talking at a very conceptual level about what we want to do the first couple months on the road. More on that later for sure.

For two years now, family has gotten together for a three night campout at Pomme de Terre State Park and Lake. Ninety degree weather each day was a bit hard to endure but we found ways to make it work. Such as building a tent city under the best shaded spots. I gave our tent to a nephew once the trip was over. No need for it next year as we will have our fifth wheel by then – and air conditioning!

Start of Tent City

Add on eating area. We also had three other spots full of tents and family.

Setting Jug Lines for Fishing

Ringo Likes the Water

Back at home I’ve been working to over-haul the front yard landscaping. Building curb appeal I’m hoping. Two years ago the front yard grass was re-seeded and this last spring I spent a lot of time controlling weeds to build the yard up.  I cut out all the overgrown bushes and tilled the planting beds. I’ve been driving by my favorite plant store waiting for plants to go on sale and finally scored a 50% off deal for a trunk load of replacement plants. We have 13 planting beds scattered through-out the property and along our wooded walking trail. Those are looking good as well. Most importantly, we have been spending time enjoying the place as much as possible.

I’ve also been painting on various sides of the house over the last couple years and have a contractor coming in to help with the two-story side. Karen has always taken photos around the property, especially when the flowers and trees are in bloom. A couple years ago I started adding to the collection in an attempt to capture the hills behind and in front of the home in photos. Our plan is to print off the best photos for an album which we are going to leave out for potential buyers to view. The scenery changes so much with each season that I’m thinking it would be a good idea to document it.

Hills out back with no leaves on trees.

Zoomed in view from the front yard.

And the purge continues. I gave myself a goal to complete four major tasks before purchasing our truck, preferably by around September. Well the first of four is done as the hot tub was carted off by it’s new owner last Friday.
We have a list of contractors to call, such as our alarm guy to move and repair some connections, carpet guys and such. Contractors should speed things up a bit.  The plan is to finish all the outside work before winter so we only have to spruce the yard up before the house goes on the market. Over this winter we are finishing up the inside stuff. Next month is our first of at least two garage sales and we have been selling off more expensive items on Craigslist.