Family Time in Another Wonderful Missouri Park

I has been a while since my last post. We got busy living life. Our family just completed a four-day campout which was wonderful. More on that later in this post.

Over the past few weeks we finally finished replacing appliances in our kitchen with installation of the new stove. It has a convection oven which is a first for us. Seems silly but Karen and I watched through the glass window as a pan of biscuits cooked evenly in half the time of our previous standard electric stove. She is looking forward to learning to cook in a convection microwave once we get our rig. I know from experience and having talked to contractors who restore homes for sale that fixing up a kitchen and bathrooms adds value to the home at the time of resale. We decided to remodel the kitchen a couple years before we sell the house so we could enjoy it. The appliances should still look good as new by the time we sell, perhaps as early as the spring of 2019. A friend’s family is in the real estate business and says around here they are having trouble getting enough listings to sell. Everything is selling quickly. Hope the market holds out for a while!

Wallace State Park – North of Kansas City Missouri

A couple weeks ago while looking for a day trip to take, we decided to head up the highway about 30 minutes from home to check out a potential RV parking spot for times we return “home” for a longer visit. Friends of ours who have been on the road fulltime for six years split their visits between a local county lake and a state park which we decided to tour. We continue to drive out to all the local RV spots in search of the perfect place to park for a few weeks or a couple of months. This is the 100th year of a special Missouri tax for conservation. We have wonderful state parks because of it. Wallace State Park could be a place we split our time when back home near Kansas City.

Our family got together at Pomme De Terre Lake/State Park in southern Missouri over the holiday. Much of the shoreline camping is flooded from recent heavy rains. So was the first choice for tenting camping. Fortunately, several family members live a short distance away and were able to recon a replacement spot (thanks Matt and Mary). We ended up near the dam at Damsite Campground. All I can say about the camp spot was thank you Mother Nature for flooding the lake. Turns out we had a point on the lake to ourselves in a little-known camp area. The spots were designed for shorter RVs so the tent campers don’t know about it. With the flooding, a circle drive became our beachhead from which we launched our kayaks or fished. Some just sat in chairs watching the skyline and enjoying the weather and I suspect wondering when someone would tip a boat. Karen, myself, sister, nieces and nephews gave our Sea Eagle Fast Track a workout. (Click to enlarge photos)

The girls came up with a menu for each day. Food was brought or purchased from a very reasonably priced, and nearby, store. As the family had booked all the spots that were not underwater in this area, we had one spot just for eating and meeting. Each arm of the family had a spot to themselves. Two family members had RVs while the rest of use enjoyed deluxe tent camping. There was not a dull moment. Games during the day, movies off the side of a RV at night or just sitting around the campfire listening to guitar music to name just a few of the events. A very special event was being witness to a nephew’s baptism in the lake by a minister.

Karen spent a day secretly dropping items around the camp area which were later to be found as an item in the scavenger hunt. But most of the items were provided by nature. I wanted her to put collection of a poisonous snake on the list but was overruled. My nephews would have found them, this I know for sure.

The entire family shared the feeling of reliving our yesteryears when family campouts were setup with our grandparents and parents. There are no words that can describe what the trip meant to each as it’s somewhat spiritual and individual. We all could agree, without talking much about it, that our parents were looking down from heaven. I’d like to think they had a part in pushing the bad thunderstorms around us that came up one night. Seems like we were inside about a mile stretch of a relatively calmer area.

Karen and I took 156 photos. That was not enough to capture the event and all the family. I mined out a few to show the family in this blog and would be happy to email the others. Love you guys. Thank you to the entire family for bringing their special personality and love to the mix. By the way, “look at the size of this snake” turned out to be a wonderful phrase to use in order to get someone to face the camera for a photo. Here are a few of the photos: (Click to enlarge photos)

 


Don’t want to forget to write about it. I spent considerable time researching battery operated lighting for the tent camping event. I highly recommend the Steamlight Siege 44931 LED lantern. I bought the one that operates on D size batteries because it’s the same battery size as my air mattress pump so I have extra batteries if needed. Works great for hanging inside a tent and lasts forever on one set of batteries. Here is a link to the model I bought through Amazon. (I don’t get a kick-back from Amazon, it’s just a good place to point people to the actual model.) The low setting will light a tent and is advertised to last 295 hours on one set of batteries. Glad I left the gas lantern at home because on the bright setting the Steamlight easily replaced it.

During my next post, I’d like to discuss a few changes in the RV industry, specifically for Forest River, that has a potential of causing an effect on the timeliness of RV repairs and certainly response to recall notices. I have also found a couple articles on RV size selection and depreciation schedules I’d like to share.

Truck Research and Snow in KC

Just when you think winter might have shown its face for the last time it snows in Kansas City.  Fortunately, it was beautiful to look at and gone later in the afternoon as the temperature went up.  I’m hoping our plumb trees bear fruit because they have already bloomed and there are a couple freezing nights ahead of us. The boys find a place to hang out when it’s bad outside.

Ringo found a pile of sheets to sleep on because Huck already took up a position on the dog bed.  We also have two cats.

Sylvester appears in the above photo in a typical position after he eats. Sylvester prefers moderate weather and often stays inside when its bad outside. We don’t plan to travel with all these animals in the future. The dogs are getting older so we will have to see who is with us in a couple years.  Sylvester came home with Karen from the veterinarian’s office as an adoption (two years ago). She is looking for a new home for Sylvester which I hope goes well. The dogs love to travel but the cats are used to roaming the acreage outside which is not going to work in an RV.

I spent time inside as well. Finally gathered up all the canning jars, pressure cooker and such to post on Craigslist.  I’m trying to sell off items in larger groups. Next might be the motorcycle, helmets and bike pack. The end of my vegetable growing hobby reminded me of my Uncle Don at about my own age. As I recall, we were standing in his backyard near the base of the stairs leading from his deck and noticed his garden plot was not planted. Don said he stopped planting because it was too much work.  I am like him in a lot of ways. His garden included a watering system therefore so did mine.  Life is a heck of a lot shorter when you think about others who have passed and what they were up to at your own age. No doubt Uncle Don figured out everything he wanted to know about gardening so he moved on to something else. That’s a family trait.

I’ve been hacking away at truck research, adding a new section on the blog to keep my notes. You can find the truck page here.  I stayed up late one night building trucks online to get the base prices. I know what our budget is and am working on finding out the price points each of these monsters come in at. That way it might narrow the search to a model or two from each truck manufacturer that is in line with our budget. These diesel suckers are expensive. I can remember when $10,000 would buy a new Cadillac.

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The starting prices shown include necessary options such as fifth wheel hitch preparation, on-the-fly electronic 4×4, minimum of cloth interior and running boards. The prices include rebates or incentives as of today at the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP).

It’s interesting to note additional options sometimes come in a package when selected. Such as Chevy/GMC requires you get a spray in bed liner if you select the fifth wheel hitch preparation.  I also found the base price between all the trucks are within about $500 to $720 of one another. Not much of a price difference to be concerned about.

I’m in the process of learning about what options influence the trucks weight capabilities. Hopefully learning what others mean by a “properly equipped truck can handle” a specific fifth wheel weight.  And along the lines of weight. There are a ton of places to consider such as gross cargo weight and rear axle weight where the front of the camper rides over the truck.  There are assumptions that might factor in such as what is the average cargo weight stored in the front of a fifth wheel. And people are posting in forums you can’t always trust the fifth wheel manufactures posted weights. Some are suggesting pin weight is 10 to 20% (update, a couple readers said their pin weight loaded is 19 and 21%) of the total fifth wheel weight. But then again cargo loaded in the rear of the fifth wheel will offset some of the weight in the front when it pushes down on the rear of the camper, like a teeter totter.  So much to learn. I may be sick in the head but I’m enjoying the research.  Those guys over on the truck forums really are proud of their trucks!  Someday I hope to know enough to ask intelligent questions. Give it a try. Go online and build a truck. Watch how the weight capacity changes when you select gear ratio, 4×4 and engine.

Once I get the spreadsheet done I may post a link to it so folks can look it over.  I’m off to start learning about all the optional equipment so I can build one of each truck online and get closer to the actual MSRP with the options we are interested in. What’s cool about building the truck online are the links to similar equipped trucks for sale in the area.

 

new flash  Here is an informative blog post by Hebard’s Travels titled How to Travel with Cats in an RV

Life in Kansas City – Spending Time at Home

We spent Christmas and New Years at home in Kansas City. Last year we donated our tree to charity. Karen kept her collectable ornaments that includes many hanging Santa Claus figures. She still has not decided to give them up before we hit the road. 

Although Karen did decorate a small tree!  It’s a stick with a broken bulb hanging from it. I lost the photo somewhere.

We got a big dose of Christmas spirit by visiting the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs. The facility was built in 1937 as a place to bottle and distribute the healing, medicinal mineral waters of Excelsior Springs. It now serves as our City Hall.  Per their website, the city was founded in 1880 on a site where 20 springs were discovered. There are four distinct varieties of water that gives Excelsior Springs the distinction of having the world’s greatest group of mineral waters. The springs include two of the world’s six known iron-manganese springs. We sure are going to miss our wonderful water once we hit the road!

Lined along the walls of the building during the Christmas season are decorated trees. Local businesses and organizations decorate their tree with various themes.

 

 

Karen and I both hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I’ve had a fun time reading about where each of the bloggers I follow spent their holidays. And thank you to my sister Lisa for hosting the family over at her house! That was very special.

Next week I should be posting about the basic fifth wheel floor plans Karen and I have been able to narrow down to during our search.  Our local RV show is next week! It’s like a holiday for me.

Aunt Tancy

Let me begin this blog post with a small amount of RV related material.  The remainder is dedicated to my family but might be interesting to you as well.

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I purchased the 2017 JR Consumer RV review eBooks on Thanksgiving Day because they were priced half off. I’d hoped their section on RV construction would be good because it’s hard to find one consolidated source of information covering construction. For the most part the construction section was okay. They also had some information about the 2017 trailer models. It might have been better to wait until the end of the year, about October, to purchase their guide for more reviews of 2017 models. If someone was not willing to do about a year of research these books would be of greater value.  I do think they are a good purchase at the discounted price even for those that have already done much research.  It’s a good way to compare your findings against their ratings and confirm other conclusions.  Now on to some family stuff….

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RV Factory Tour Planned and Visiting Family for the Holiday

This will most likely be my last blog post until after the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you all can spend the holiday with family or another special location. Karen and I are heading to Michigan to visit with her mother and family. To other family I miss you all. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be on-call for the Christmas holiday and must stay in town or if we can come see ya then. I’ve got no excuse for not visiting those in the Kansas City area.

On the way north we are stopping for our first RV factory tour which is already setup. It will be a one on one tour with a product specialist. I had been figuring the tour being held with a group of people but perhaps with the holiday others are not taking factory tours. I’ve got my list of questions and interest prepared and will report back what we see and learn while in Elkhart Indiana. The 2017 fifth wheel models are important to us. For the more expensive RVs I could see buying one from the 2017 models a couple of years from now. We also hope to see a few more floor plans to narrow that selection as well. We are heading to Augusta RV for our first tour!

On another topic, I took some photos of our pets, mostly to show off the fancy dog harnesses Karen bought months ago. Like so many other dog owners we have gone through about every available collar configuration.  The Unho Dog Body Harnesses are awesome.

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Here is a photo of the Unho Body Harness and our boys wearing them. Karen wanted a setup that would not put pressure on their necks to avoid restricting their breathing while still maintaining control of the boys. Both dogs tend to see something interesting and try and run off towards it. That might be the nature of Cocker Spaniels who are hunting dogs at heart. Years ago, I hunted game birds with my then English Setter. I took Karen’s Cocker Spaniel along a couple times. The dog had no training but instinctively pointed birds and searched for the dead ones.

Another important development for me is an opportunity to keep a current part-time job while traveling. In 2014 I sold a small construction contracting business to a key employee. I kept an office job that requires on average 10 hours of my time per week. The new owner has suggested I keep the job when we travel. I’ve not made the decision to do this yet but it sure opened an income option. Frankly, this job pays enough that we might not need a sessional workamping position to meet our budget. Although Karen and I would want to at least volunteer for a spot at times. So enters yet another planning opportunity. I would need to keep a computer, two smaller printers, have internet access for a few hours each week and most challenging would be mail service. I’ve been running through the options in my mind and know this is doable. I’ve got two years to make the decision so there is time for more thought. For sure if I decide to keep the job this would solidify my retirement date by greatly reducing what income we need to save up before hitting the road. Although I would of course keep saving whatever we could. I called my work’s pension company. A full year of work credit is based on having completed 1,000 hours for the year. With my usual overtime, I get to the 1,000-hour mark by July. Although in my final year on the job Karen and I plan to use up six to eight weeks of vacation while traveling in our then new RV. I’m not sure how the vacation time will affect the 1,000-hour requirement in 2019.

On the same topic, I read a job posting at the Workamper News site which is now free to join by the way. Historic Images.com: Hire people at .30 cents a photo to add text to photos. Says you can do 35 photos an hour ($10.50 per hour equivalent) and requires 150 photos a week to keep the job.  You need internet service and they will send you a 1099 for taxes.  From what I understand, Historic Images works with newspapers to help digitize their historic photos. The job requires you to enter data from the back of the photo. If you have the internet service I could see doing this while siting by a nice lake. They send your pay to a PayPal account. This might be a not so interesting job yet something you can start before hitting the road and then carry over the income to a mobile lifestyle. Contact is evelyn@historicimages.com. That’s all I know about it. You might surf the web for more details and reviews or call the company. I would post a link directly to the Workamping News listing but I’m not sure that’s possible or within their policy.

 

new flash  RV Factory Purchases Augusta RV, combining their operations. This will be interesting to watch as among other processes, the RV Factory uses laminated walls on their toy haulers while Augusta uses hung wall construction on their fifth wheels. More on this later.

Trip to Springfield Missouri

Work took me to Springfield Missouri for a few days. Figure I’d pass-on a little information about Springfield which is the third largest city in Missouri.

 

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Springfield Missouri – Big Town with a Small Town Atmosphere

 

I’d been traveling to Springfield for most of my life, having family that settled that area in the 1800’s. On this trip I met up with my niece Brooklyn who is a local resident. We had a hamburger at one of the popular joints and later she drove me through town pointing out some of the hangouts she prefers. She noted the town is home to six colleges or universities. I’d not spent much time in the downtown area in the past. It’s chucked full of interesting businesses and things to see. Brooklyn drove so I was able to watch the scenery. I thought back to when she was born and later when her folks moved to southern Missouri. She is all growed up was another thought I had. Time with her was the best part of the trip. By the way, for my English major daughter, I assume it’s okay to use Missouri slang when writing about this part of the state.

Located just 45 minutes north of Branson Missouri, Springfield is near the end of the Ozark Prairie with hills to the south. To me, Springfield is a fine example of small town attitude with the amenities of a larger city. You will find very few high-rise buildings as the town’s laid out flat with straight major roads. I read through their 2016 visitors guide and found 16 stops I’d still like to make. Even after years of visiting the area.

Missouri is not just the Show Me State. We are also the Cave State. And there are fine examples of this around Springfield. The area has major civil war battlefields, minor league baseball, a tiger sanctuary, is the home of Bass Pro and more. If you’re not from Missouri or a neighboring state you may not know about Springfield. I’d think a trip from Kansas City or St. Louis to Jefferson City, on to Springfield and then to Branson (or in similar order) would give one a good taste of the state. That is if your wanting to visit larger towns and tourist areas.

For us outdoor types it might also be important to note that beginning in 1937 with a special sales tax, Missouri has spent a lot of money on outdoor spaces through the Missouri Conservation Department.

 

For this trip I left a rural area north of Kansas City eventually traveling south on state highway 13 towards Springfield which was a three-hour drive.  In the Warrensburg area I came across several roundabouts which semi-trucks had no problem negotiating.  Once I got further south, near Truman Lake, there were plenty of RV campsite signs. I saw many rigs on highway 13 which led me to believe it is a popular highway for RVs.  You can also take highway 65 south from I-70. I’ve not been that way in a long time so can’t comment on the drive. At I-70 and highway 13 there are a couple RV parks as well.  Or for a quick run, Interstate 44 runs to Springfield from St. Louis. Stop and see the sites before you head to nearby Branson.

I didn’t take many photos, well at least of the landscape. I spent a lot of time at two Springfield RV dealerships and plan to report back on that soon.

I’ve passed one place on the trip up and down highway 13 several times and have been told I’d missed out. Well this time I stopped at Osceola Cheese. They have been around since the 1940s and have 275 varieties of cheese for sale. There are free samples for those who know little about cheese, which would be me.  They have two acres of parking to include RV spots. I saw a large class A with a toad stop with no problem. For those familiar to the area, I’d like to stop near Bartle Scout Reservation at Iconium near Osceola to relive a memory of my Boy Scout days and have a Peach Nehi float! Guess that will have to wait for the next trip. I also want to check for any civil war sites in or around Osceola. There was a famous confederate raid on Lawrence Kansas which was sparked by an earlier union raid of Osceola.


Thanks for reading. I’m trying to report back on various stops in Missouri for those who would normally “fly-over” the state. Let me know if you have any questions about “Missour-uh.”

 

PS – For those that have not fallen to sleep while reading the above:

During my last post I mentioned we were replacing our kitchen appliances in the sticks and bricks home. We bought the refrigerator from Home Depot after looking at a model in the store and then ordering it online from Home Depot. The delivery went perfect. A computer called my phone the day before and reminded me the deliver was the next day. The delivery driver called 30 minutes prior to arrival. I was gone out of town at the time. Karen was at home and said the guys that delivered the refrigerator were awesome. They hauled off the packing material, hooked up the water line and carted off the old refrigerator. The delivery and installation was free with the purchase. We paid an added charge of $15 to have the old unit removed.

 

 

new flash  News Flash – New DRV Aire coming fall 2017. Click here for the News Release

Visit with Family at the Local State Park

My sister rented a family lot at our local state park, Watkin’s Mill. I had reported about this park in a prior blog post. Several of us got together to enjoy the holiday. By the time we arrived Mary had already made friends with one of the camp hosts who came by when his shift ended on both Saturday and Sunday. The host, Tim, is a solo volunteer and I had a chance to pick his brain.

Although Karen and I elected not to camp in our tent with the group, we did spend some time around the campfire. The park is just five miles from our home. We dropped by for visits rather than braving the downpour of rain over the weekend. In usual fashion Mary, and her friend Russ, had setup camp with the best amenities available for tent camping. I wish the entire family could have been there. Years ago our father, his parents and the immediate family used to hold events where everyone camped out and enjoyed meals together. Our family camping trips still occupy my best memories.

I took a few photos with my cell phone at Watkin’s Mill:

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View of Park

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Mary uses this shower tent as a portable outhouse. And no, the wagon is not part of the outhouse operation.

 

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Well spaced lots with trees

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Cardboard for wet ground – Maybe buy some plastic stepping stones?

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Two room tent – nice

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The blue shelter is for cooking, the other is for eating

 

Tim, the camp host, has been on the road full time over six years. His mostly trouble free Dodge dually truck has over 250,000 miles on it and he says he has had little problems out of his 13-year-old Carriage Cameo fifth wheel. He was disabled in an auto accident. Sold his insurance business and hit the road. He volunteers exclusively at state and national parks, volunteering for his camping spot. He does not plan to come back to Watkin’s Mill because the park requires 40 hours of work in exchange for the lot. As a solo camper he works all 40 hours while couples split the time with 20 hours each. He commented the park is wonderful however. Several other workcampers are first timers and Tim has been trying to explain to management their 40 hour requirement is a bit excessive. We drove around as he pointed out a few spots they are able to get 40’ rigs into. We talked about his typical work day and general experience traveling around the country. He says once you work within an individual state park system, or the federal system, it’s not that hard to call around and find a job. Tim usually plans three months or more out when booking his next work assignment. Believe he is heading to Arkansas to work near Hot Springs which is an area he has been wanting to see. Tim says he lives on his disability payment only and plans to come off the road whenever his trailer or truck gives out. He is from New York, has a talent at finding four leaf clovers and found one for Mary.

The volunteers parked next to Tim had a newer Heartland Big Horn. Wish I would have had the opportunity to tour it. BUT, that opportunity has presented itself in another way. Next week Karen and I are getting together with Cheri and Dean of the Travels with Bentley blog. They are part timers and are heading through Kansas City on their way north. They travel in a Big Horn. So we will get a chance to learn how part timers travel, tour the Big Horn while making new friends.

On a more personal note, sitting around the campfire, looking at folks parked in their trailer amongst the trees caused me to reflect a bit on my own life.  Karen knows I spend a lot of time “dwelling” on going full time. For me, planning and checking things off the list in preparation for retirement is making it easier to cope with daily life and helps curtail my desire to hang it all up now and just leave.  Some execute their transition to full time on the road in a matter of months. We are taking five years to do it, with nearly two years already done. These “baby steps” towards the end goal really are making it easier to accept the negative parts of daily commitments. I thought to myself at the campfire how nice it was to be with others who for at least a moment, forgot about it all and enjoyed life.

So planning for retirement has also been a way for me to not have a “short timers” attitude at work. I love my job, for the most part. Suppose I’m nearing the top of my profession in experience and have really achieved all the goals I set out to obtain. I’m ready to move on which is something my father told me would happen when it’s time.  It’s amusing when I have to enter someone’s driver’s license expiration date on a report I think about if I’ll be retired or not by the next time they have to renew their license. I sit around at work and listen to dedicated coworkers talking about the job and what happened that day. I sure will miss them when the time comes. Karen and I started off with an eight-year plan, then figured out how to reduce it to five years.  Just three to go. Believe I’ll make it a point to spend a little more time enjoying life every day – like I’m sitting around a campfire.

 

new flash News Flash …..  Thor Industries has purchased the once family owned Jayco. I’ve also read Dutchman, a division of Keystone (Thor) bought the Lifestyles Luxury RV plant but not the brand. And Augusta RV is building a 34’ Ambition. A couple on the forums is picking up their 34’ in October.