Mansfield Missouri Through the Ozarks to Corinth Mississippi

Image from RV Trip Wizard which is what I use for route planning. Mansfield Missouri is located 45 minutes east of Springfield, Missouri

We pointed our 35 foot escape pod eastbound on US 60 Highway heading for our next major stop in Corinth Mississippi. Along the way we stopped for a few nights at the Laura Ingalls RV Park in Mansfield Missouri. We have been here before and if you are in the area take any of the exits to the campsite that point you down business route 60 over to A Highway. Turns in Mansfield are easy to navigate. The Laura Ingalls Wilder (the Little House on the Prairie book author) homestead and museum is across the street from the RV park. Karen discovered a wonderful place nearby called the Baker Seed Company. Wow, no idea how we missed this place the last time we stopped in the area. It was a nice change compared to the average garden tour.

It’s a small example for sure, but this was another “why we do this” moment. Chickens at Laura Ingalls place that eat out of your hand if you let them. Bet Laura never had the faintest idea others would be living on her farm. Heck, she never drove the car her daughter gave her which is still in the barn today.
Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in view across street from our campsite.

The Baker Seed Company is located out in the country but there is a paved road if you come in from the right direction. The location rests upon a very old Missouri land grant where the company grew to ship hard to get seeds all around the country. The main garden is surrounded by an old town they built.

Sent some seeds to Karen’s sister up north. I don’t miss the work required to keep our own gardens in shape when we owned a house. I do miss our honey bee hives.

A favorite route of ours through the Missouri Ozarks is US 60 to Interstate 55 at Sikeston Missouri. This time we stayed at a quick in and out camping spot in Sikeston called Hinton RV Park. We stayed just two nights, which is a very quick stop for us, and booked the spot just two weeks prior to arrival. On the way south we would drive through the boot hill of Missouri. Had no idea there were cotton farms in Missouri which are seen for miles. I suppose the other times I went through the plants were not in bloom so I did not notice them. Found myself watching video on how cotton is farmed today and history behind it. Call me nuts but I’m fascinated over how farm equipment operates. Later, in Corinth Mississippi I learned more to include economic issues between the south and north regarding far competition. More on that later after we move from Corinth…

I’ve been studying up on the Missouri Ozarks where my family would eventually migrate to from Europe in the 1800’s. Found a college course on-line with about 13 lectures. The professor is interesting and I’m coming away with the opinion I did not know squat about the Ozarks. Karen and I talked and agree who cares that we have only been camping in 22 states. We want to go where we like to visit, knowing yes, we might miss out on equally fantastic places elsewhere. I can read about those in other’s blogs if we don’t get there ourselves. Right or wrong, I’m figuring the scenery in Maine is not that much different than the upper peninsula of Michigan. Some say I’m correct and others say Maine is worth the drive someday. We are planning to head north from Florida up the east coast and take a left at Washington DC for our Spring 2022 trip.

Back to the Ozarks. They are a region that is defined in different ways. Geologist can circle the area of the Ozarks on a map based on their criteria. Some locals might tell ya they don’t live in the Ozarks even if they live in the area geologist call the Ozarks. The Ozark region extends into Oklahoma as well. The Ozark region is a plateau, uplifted from underground similar to places in Kentucky. Springfield Missouri is on top of one of the plateaus and over time water and wind eroded the flat land mass into valleys. In much of the Ozarks those big hills we see are actually what’s left after the erosion occurred. So should the Ozark “Mountains” actually be called the Ozark Valleys? Branson Missouri elevation 774 feet, hillbilly capital of the world (in a Missourian’s opinion) is downhill from flat land Springfield, elevation 1309 feet. Lots of Protestants’ settled in the Ozarks and there might be some that think you ain’t from the Ozarks if you ain’t Protestant. The professor named off towns clearly in the eastern portion of the Ozarks, in once Catholic settlements, where he went as far as to interview locals as to if they lived in the Ozarks. He was told, nope, you have to drive 60 miles down the road to get there from here. You see, another definition of what is the Ozarks comes from the peoples opinions developed over generations and don’t necessarily have to do with geological standards.

There are two mountain chains in the Ozarks, one has eroded down into hills but is way older than the Rocky Mountains. I’ve experienced more mountain driving conditions in northern Arkansas so beware if your path takes you there. Recent upgrades along what will become major Interstate 49 are helping with navigation. US 65 passes through Branson and is no problem as you leave the “mountains” which start in Clinton Arkansas. Early next summer Karen and I will arrive back in the Ozarks where we intend to spend maybe a few months near Table Rock Lake (Branson). That summer time period for us is looking to be important as we continue to evolve into our style of travel. We have never stopped longer than two months and that was only during one winter occasion.

I’ll write later about our time here in Corinth Mississippi where we are now parked. This is an area heavily contested during the Civil War in the west. We have plans to tour places that were closed the last time we came through during the Covid virus thing. We really enjoy Mississippi in the fall and early winter. Good prices, people and places to see. We can take a left from here and head to Florida or a right back to our current home state of Texas.

Almost forgot: Here are a couple videos during our drive in Missouri to include leading up to the Baker Seed Company and eastbound on US 60 Highway through the Big Springs area where folks canoe the rivers.

RV Tips, Info and Rant

I’ll start with something simple. This is a chart I got from a recent RV Travel addition. If you want a one stop place for all RV news and info, just read rvtravel.com. Taken at face value it would appear RV sales are increasing rather than decreasing after the pandemic generated free for all where everyone bought RVs and got in our way 🙂 I phoned a big dealership I know in Oklahoma who says what’s actually going on is dealerships are replenishing depleted stocks after the factories finally started to open.
Never knew some states are closing toll booths. Wondered what that sign on a toll road in Kentucky meant when it said we could pay online. Then I got a bill in the mail to include a late fee. We only get our mail about once a month. Then in the Interstate 80 area south of Chicago I was thankful the toll booths were gone because it can be confusing to make sure you are in the correct lane for cash payments. Then noticed a sign again that we could pay online. They have cameras that read license plates. I setup an account in Illinois attached to a credit card. They deducted the $4 toll about a month later.
I’ve mentioned in the past we are now setup to stay a full two weeks or longer n state parks and Corp of Engineer parks in electric only sites – and not have to move our rig when the tanks are full or water is empty. This is how I use our 30 gallon water bladder and below pictured electric pump to refill the fresh water. Our blue boy portable waste tank fits in the bed of the truck, tucked behind the hitch for traveling rather than attached to the rear ladder sucking in wind as we drive. Really glad I got the model with nomadic rubber tires. If the dump station is within say 100 yards, I can wheel our portable tank there, otherwise even at 10 miles per hour the tank is no problem being attached to the hitch behind the truck for the journey. Turd Wagon some call it – that’s funny.
Hose from full water bladder in truck that folds up to about a 10″ x 10″ square when not in use. Hose runs to a small $25 electric pump then up to the fresh water intact. Our rigs takes on water that is under pressure, some use gravity to feed in. I’d think a pump is best for both methods.

And now the rant and me trying to be humorous about it. Warning – some say my sense of humor is different and on the edge of acceptability. I usually go back and remove much of the text after thinking it over before posting. Not this time.. Put your seatbelt on and enjoy the ride….

Hopefully I’m halfway through getting a needed suspension repair finished on the RV while on the road. The process is a learning curve for sure. It’s actually a big shit sandwich and all that travel fulltime will have to take a bite someday. I’ll write about the surely positive outcome later. For now I want to pass along good help can be found in RV industry employees who work for actual RV manufactures and handle parts. They are logistic experts and often capable of thinking outside the box. They can be excellent problem solvers.

I used to train new police officers. For example, they would stop a car for a minor traffic violation, hand the ticket to the driver and say – “thank you, have a pleasant day.” I’d let the new officer know they are still an idiot but that’s okay, I’ll teach them. That person they just stopped may have just had the only face to face experience with a police officer they will ever have. The officer will forget about the traffic stop in the next couple hours. The driver will remember it the remainder of their life. “Thank you -have a pleasant day?” Are you really thankful and do you really think they will have a pleasant day? How about just leave it at drive safely and you are free to go. The Police Academy teaches them what to say at the end of a vehicle stop. Some of the training just does not show up in the application of said training.

Okay customer service representatives. It’s your turn to learn. Someday I got to let it go and just let them stay stupid… There are plenty of folks traveling in their 35 foot or whatever escape pods. The folks working in customer service, especially as it effects RVing, have a very important job. You are helping us to experience the joys of life, sometimes after we had difficult careers. What you do, especially when you get a call from someone stranded or away from home with a broken RV is very essential. Yes, you might be telling me there is nothing you or your company can do that is within your normal business practices. I understand and think that’s a canned answer and stupid. But after you say you can’t help me – stop ending the conversation with “thank you, call me if I can do anything for you.” When I want some stress relief I sometimes say – what, now I have to tell you how to do your job? You are asking me to call you if I need anything. Okay, I’ll tell you now what I need which is exactly the same reason I called you for in the first place. Over the last 15 seconds do you have any new ideas, such as who I might be able to call for guidance or if I even understand the process enough to be calling the correct person? Or have a word of advice concerning how the system works from warranty to the repair?

I was a hostage negotiator and spent years working homicides and interviewing killers. I know how to build report and be a friend, I have listening skills, ability to manipulate people, work in dangerous and stressful situations, get a point across to someone for good or bad, or channel stress into whatever path it needs to go down. I’m proud to say no one ever killed themselves with me on the phone nor was there a single incident where a subject was killed by the police when I was at the stand-off. I don’t use the skills everyday now, but at times its been interesting to go after an idiot who thought at first I was a nice guy. I do have compassion but I’m no bleeding heart or one to not try and understand the root causes before criticizing someone. Sometimes, but I believe rarely, I forget about using methods for constructive criticism. Some call this just blowing off steam which can be a healthy thing at times. Others might say, calm down, give the customer service person a break, times are hard. Hmmm,, that’s another two page blog I’d like to go off about but best not. Especially after one does a background check (using only publicly available resources) on the person telling you to calm down and find out they, for lack of a better description, live in their parents basement with little responsibility.

One agent at E Trailer went the extra mile and called Roadmaster to make sure my order was received and to pressure them to speed up the parts delivery if at all possible after it was learned the parts were out of stock at the moment. I had a great conversation with that agent to include how it’s been for her to work from home during the virus thing. Too bad four weeks later I found out the order had been mistakenly canceled. Part of that error came from me being informed the parts were delayed the day after the original order was placed and asked did I want to continue with the order. I had ordered the parts for delivery to the repair center way in advance of my arrival, allowing more than twice the time needed for advertised deliver dates. I initially told customer service at E Trailer to put it on hold until I talk to my installer. Then called back an hour later and said keep the parts coming. My credit card was charged $1,700 at the time of the order so I felt comfortable all was well. Three weeks later I had received no promised email notice regarding shipping. So I called a customer service agent to check on the order. “Sorry” they said, “glad ya called so we can refund the money” or do I want to reorder and get added on the list to receive the parts in maybe four to six weeks. For the record, this is the first time I ever had a complaint with E Trailer.

I believe what happened is there was a lag in the paperwork (email) process and somehow after I took the order off hold the folks at Roadmaster received a notice to cancel it. The final agent I talked with at E Trailer told me how the process works to include I pay E Trailer and they take their cut before sending the order on to Roadmaster. This occurs when parts are not in the warehouse. I checked the E Trailer website and found my parts, which had been advertised as delivery within 10 days, now have a deliver date weeks from now. Long story but I think the background is important and honest. The final agent made the mistake of asking me to call him if he could do anything for me 🙂 He also asked me to call him after I called Roadmaster to try and work this out. Nope, I don’t have time to train you any further…. I know your asshole was sucking up the chair you were sitting in when I hung up the phone. I’d think you would not want to ever hear from a jerk like me unless you are into those kind of things…. That’s it, the guy is a sick person and went out of his way to make me upset 🙂

Right or wrong I am of the opinion I owe it to readers to point out some of the bad parts of this journey in case you are relying on me for information. I’m actually dealing with the stress of it better than I would have years ago, especially after getting a call from the Technical Support Manager at Vanleigh who says I’ll not be left behind on my own, he will help me through the process. Thank you Shawn Cole, your reputation proceeds you. You sir have earned every one of the dozens of complements I’ve heard about. You are the face of Tiffon’s model to be the best in customer service. No excuses, lets get this fixed. I like hearing that. Smart move when the company decided your position was important and hired you! Glad you were in the military and don’t know how to fail.

The parts employees at Lippert and Vanleigh have been outstanding. But – looking back in my old working life, I wish I would have known a few others I may have stopped as a police officer were RV industry employees. I would have made sure to tell them to press hard when signing the ticket as there are multiple copies. And end the conversation with “it’s okay if you don’t come to court I’ll come give ya a ride with handcuffs.” Have a nice day. Or, so that’s your dead relative laying in the next room. Wow, they were young. Should have taken better care of themselves. Call me if I can ever do anything for ya.

I know my sense of humor is different. And of course knew it was my job to act professionally. It was also my job to do whatever I could to improve the quality of life for those I served. I trained new officers who, among other calls for service, hated responding to barking dog calls in the middle of the night. That dog barking is causing the neighbor to loose sleep at night. That neighbor might have a meeting at work and getting sleep is very important. The caller may have also tried to talk to the neighbor but that did not work out, as the dog owner is a drunken asshole. I tell officers, when you talk to the owner of the barking dog, be prepared to offer advise that could include dog training ideas or moving the dog inside for the night.

Then I’d tell the officer a few cop jokes about barking dogs to lighten the moment. I’ll not be passing along those jokes to the general public. Darn it, I can’t hold back. I have to tell them, I liked animal calls for service. I can handle any of them in 10 minutes as long as I don’t have to find a black trash bag first. Come on, you know I love animals if you have been reading this blog so give me a break if that last joke was in poor taste.

The best cop joke I know would make a priest throw up or at least throw holy water on me. It’s a sick one and even I will not put it in print. Tell ya at a campfire someday.. Best excuses I ever heard after personally stopping someone for a traffic violation is tied for first place. Sir – I stopped you because you were going the wrong way on a one way street. The older gentleman says, but officer I’m only going one way. Or mam, I stopped you because you were exceeding the posted spend limit of 55 miles per hour. But officer, I had to get a grasshopper off the hood of my car.

Enjoy the ride we call a journey… I’m trying too.

Visiting Family in Missouri – New Dash Camera and Upgrading RV Suspension

We stopped in Kansas City Missouri for a month to visit our daughter and ended up taking a two week trip without the RV to Howell Michigan to visit Karen’s elderly mom. The RV park in Kansas City, Basswood Resort, gave us a good deal on a monthly spot. One of the employees we know kept an eye on our trailer. I always let management know if we are going to be gone longer than overnight. We have placed the RV in storage in the past while taking an extended trip without it. If the price is right, compared to the storage lot cost, I prefer to leave it in the campground.

We then traveled to central Missouri for a wonderful campout with family on Lake Pomme De Terre outside Hermitage Missouri. Site H413 is one of the best in the loop which I reserved about two months earlier. My sister Mary setup her vintage camper next to ours and family came from miles around as they pleased. We celebrated everyone’s birthday at once, enjoyed the conversations and lake front fun. Missouri passed a special tax in 1976 for conservation which has resulted in some of the best, and affordable, state parks in the nation. It’s 7:00 am here at the campground as I type this. There was a storm overnight. Everything is peaceful now. The dog and I just came inside after an early morning walk. There are only six campers in the park, the lake is smooth with early morning sun reflections. Can’t live anywhere better for $20 a night.

Site H413 Hermitage Campground Pomme De Terre State Park Missouri. 50 amp only. We used our 30 gallon water bladder and portable “blue boy” waste tank in order to extend our stay. All worked wonderfully.
Wyatt is now 17 months old. His swimming skills are much improved.

Installed a Dash Camera in the Truck

After more than two years of travel, I decided to install a dash camera for two reason. Of course to capture images of anyone who cuts us off on the highway that could result in a crash. Secondly, after our trip out west in Montana and Wyoming we really wish we had better video of the landscape. Karen can record on her phone but who wants to ride around holding a phone out the window just in case you see a once in a lifetime view.

I began researching cameras under $50 but found I’d need to spend closer to $100 for the options I wanted. This includes a camera that does not have lithium batteries that get hot in the sun. I wanted one that fits behind the rearview mirror, out of the driver’s view. All dash cameras will save video in the event of a crash. This one also has a button to push should you want to save a video such as the scenery. Karen pushes the button from the passenger seat or, as our camera is expandable, I can order a $20 remote button that links the camera via bluetooth. The camera has a WIFI feature where I can change settings or review video using my cell phone. A long USB cord came with the package so the camera is hardwired to an outlet. The power cord was easily cancelled behind the trucks interior trim. I purchased the VIOFO A129 without the rear camera option. I did not purchase the add on power cable that allows for a parking feature whereby if the camera senses something touches the truck the recorder will start.

The camera attaches to a small clip on the windshield and can easily be removed to check video using a cord and laptop or from a memory card. I can remove the camera in order to use a front windshield shade screen when parked in the sun without the camera being in the way. The base of camera has a GPS feature that records the location of videos. For now, I’ve disabled the interior microphone feature.

Here is an RV tip: While planning a route and wondering about the condition of roadways, driving through cities, elevations or whatever, go online and watch other’s video while they drive down specific highways. I’m amazed by the volume of videos out there.

Camera lens is on the other side and is adjustable up and down.
Baseplate where I slide the camera on. I take the camera off if I want to use a solar shade or I suppose to stop someone from stealing the camera. Although my truck has an alarm system and you can barely see the camera from the outside.
Karen saved a video of cloud formations by pressing a button. The camera saves those videos in a separate directory so they are not overwritten by other video.
Location on Google Earth based on camera GPS coordinates where Karen saved the video of cloud formations.

I’ll Be Upgrading our Fifthwheel RV Suspension

If you don’t have 12 things to fix, change or upgrade on an RV then you are not using it enough! If planning for a future traveling fulltime in an RV don’t be fooled thinking buying a rig is a one time expenditure. You will be replacing parts more often than you planned for.

Back in the 1980’s there was a recession and RV sales plummeted with many companies going out of business. Lippert bought up 80 percent of the patents so now every RV trailer on the road has plenty of parts in common all provided by Lippert. Each RV brand manufacturer adds their own construction parts based on their capabilities and buys the remainder to install on their rigs. For example, many buy a single chassis consisting of the frame, tires, suspension, brakes and more. Then the RV manufacturer bolts on their walls, slides, water tanks and more. Televisions, air conditioners, microwaves or whatever are purchased and installed. There are several different companies you might have to contact for warranty work, especially after the first year of ownership. Joining an owner’s forum online for whatever brand of camper you have is a must. Others who own your particular RV brand are the best source for help! When you are researching to buy an RV and can’t find a decent online owner’s forum, for example on Facebook, then don’t buy that brand!

RV repair and maintenance is just as concerning as finding all the RV parks reserved during a holiday. Many have stopped long-term RV travel because of broken rigs which can be safety issues. You better be mechanically inclined if traveling fulltime. We lost our brakes this past year on our fifthwheel while on a trip. I called around and no one could help us within three weeks. We were stuck but fixed it ourselves in order to continue the trip. It’s a hollow feeling to be stuck in a strange place with a busted rig. Getting used to thinking outside the box and going with the flow will be required to survive the lifestyle. Beware however if you become a knowledge junkie and want to know everything that could potentially break on an RV because it’s downright scary. Sometimes I think it would be better to drag this trailer around totally unware that a single suspension part could fail, breaking a spring, losing one side of an axle or worse. I’ll write more about our suspension upgrade after it’s completed hopefully later this month. For now I’ll pass along what I know to date.

Below are a few photos and explanations about what suspension parts to keep an eye on. I took some time to narrow this down. I’ll also mention improper tire inflation is the leading cause of tire blow outs. Get a pump, check your tires before every move.

On a fifth wheel or travel trailer are hangers that extend down on both sides of the RV undercarriage. Use your fingers and eyes to check the welds. There are heavy forces put on these hangers for example when backing into a camping spot. As the trailer turns the suspension pushes on these hangers, side to side. There are add-on components to improve their durability and safety.
These are U-bolt nuts. It is absolutely important to know the torque values and keep these bolts tight. If they loosen at all then the trailer axle will move. If you ever remove the U-bolts they should be replaced with new ones as over time the bolts, for lack of better words, reshape themselves when tightened. It is imperative to check the bolts with a torque wrench when new and after a few hundred miles of travel. I visually check everything at every stop.
These are shackles, and in my case they are the thin ones. Reputable RV manufacturers are now installing thicker shackles, which now includes our brand of RV. In our case, there are bolts that hold all this together that must be lubed. Sometimes you have to take the weight off the trailer to get any grease in. There is lots of discussion on what type of bolts to use, specifically about the type of bushings. I trust Morryde engineers and have to think bronze is best. They all fail over time. Lippert offers a “Never Fail” bushing that requires no maintenance. Well, at least they used to but now have stopped selling them. Their technical support folks tell me they are not sure why they stopped selling them but suggested it might have been a falling out between Lippert and the company that built the Never Fail bushings. Believe me when I say if you are a full time traveler all these parts have a chance of failing because we haul and drive our rigs 6,000 miles a year.
This is a photo where two of our tires make occasional contact with the underside of the RV, probably when going over pumps. Our clearance when the trailer is under load (not stopped and leveled on a site) is down to 2.5 inches on one side. Probably our springs are flattening out. Lippert springs use inferior steel in the opinion of far more knowledgably repair techs who don’t sell springs. All the suspension parts work together in spreading the energy of bumps in the road to various places on the trailer.
This photo is for Debbie and Steve. Some companies are welding cross members inside the spring hangers to reinforce them from side to side. Some who own heavier rigs are buying bolt on beams that run under the trailer from one side to the other between the hangers. Those upgrades have been proven not to interfere with the normal operation of the suspension systems.

I’m doing away with the shackles, bolts and bushings for the most part by having our factory service center install the Roadmaster Comfort Ride System with Slipper Springs and Shocks. Several others who own our brand trailer have done the same over the past two years. I’ve yet to find a negative review. Roadmaster has been building parts for a long time and bought the patent to the system. Some have suggested money would be better spent upgrading to disc brakes but I’m fine with what we have and our trucks ability to help stop the trailer. The Roadmaster system is as close to an independent suspension as I can afford. I’m not wanting to add the better and highly praised Morryde Independent suspension which add a lot of weight to the trailer.

Lippert will want to send out a new set of the same springs to replace the old ones under warranty. Maybe going to 4,000 pound springs from 3,500 would help as well but the ride would be worse. All this after just 13,000 miles of usage. Not to get technical but our trailer brand had a recall where they replaced shorter shackles with longer ones. I suspect that might have allowed for more travel distance between the top of the tires and the bottom of the trailer when going over bumps. I’d also not want longer spring hangers to allow for more clearance as longer hangers might be less durable. Vanleigh has been good to work with and Lippert answers the phone when called. They are a huge company and so far I like their customer service. We can discuss all this in the comments section if you are interested.

Roadmaster Comfort Ride with Slipper Springs and Shocks – Everyone is having trouble getting parts so order well in advance of installation date. We have to double back 200 miles to the Mississippi factory service center once our parts arrive – which includes new U-bolts as we are removing the old ones and you should not reuse them per E-Trailer and others. I also liked the Morryde 4000 equalizers with heavy duty shackles which are shorter than what we have now.

Here is a video with two guys actually riding in the back of a fifthwheel comparing basic equalizers against the Roadmaster Comfort System (previously called the Liberty Rider). I noted there are better equalizers than the stock one of this trailer such as the Morryde 4000 and some say the newer Lippert Road Armor. Here is an E-Trailer video review. Additional E-Trailer information can be found at this link.

One word of caution if you decide to start replacing suspension components when the trailer is still under the Lippert three year frame warranty. They may deny a warranty claim if Lippert parts were not installed. We will have four months left on our frame warranty when we start changing suspension components.

I can see why dealerships have trouble getting parts which delays RV repairs, sometimes for months. It was a nightmare to negotiate the process of identifying what parts I’m having delivered to the repair center in advance. I suggest if you order parts that you compare them against images of what is already on the trailer as there are slight, but important differences. In my case Lippert suggested I order a kit to replace the U-bolts which I noted have flanged nuts. I was worried flanged nuts require a different torque value than what we have now which is nuts with washers. Vanleigh has a parts person one can call who knows everything about what’s on our particular rig and told me what to buy.

In my humble opinion, no one builds an RV for fulltime travel. Some just build better rigs than the others with parts that hold up better with extreme usage. That’s why they are called recreational vehicles, built to stay together through the one year warranty period and good enough to keep the government from regulating their business. And also for what people are willing to spend. I’ll bet a lot of rigs are sold because of floor plan and what the customer can see when they walk in. I can tell you, for sure with less expensive toy haulers, not many get underneath and look at the suspension in detail. As a new customer I knew very little myself. Costs money to go to college! Paying for trailer repairs and upgrades sure has taught me a few things. As well as good neighbors who don’t think it’s strange when I ask to climb under their rigs to see if anyone is using better suspension parts compared to even 2019 when we bought ours.

We are currently parked in southern Missouri and will be heading to Laura Ingles Campground east of Springfield Missouri.

We Left the RV in Nashville Tennessee to Take a Two Week Side Trip

Vacation – defined as an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling. Wow, stop and think about that sentence from the perspective of a fulltime RVer. The original title of this article began with We are Taking a Vacation. I decided to change the title after further review. The intent is to describe the process we went through when leaving the RV behind and taking a quick out of town trip. Also, offer a suggestion should you need a break from RVing.

Do your best not to find, infer, or attribute some additional meaning or different interpretation based on what is presented. I’m in a good mood and feel like having some fun when writing. We have no plans to leave the road.

At this point in the blog post, I should insert a “read more line.” You would have to click on the words to continue. That way I can can come back later and check for errors before some have a chance to read them. I just figured that trick out a few months ago. I might also delete half of what I’ve written but you will never know.

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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.

RV Maintenance Part 2 and Our Upcoming Travel Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

My RV Maintenance Schedule in a Microsoft Word Document

Same Maintenance Schedule as a PDF

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

Branson Missouri Visit

We uprooted and hauled our home the 100 miles from Carthage Missouri to the mountains of Branson Missouri, traveling I-44 to US 65 Highway southbound. Only a few taller hills along the way on this smooth patch of divided highway.

The drive was good practice in getting ready for the next leg of our journey which was continuing south on US 65 Highway through the Ozark Mountains into Little Rock Arkansas where we are now parked. While in Carthage Missouri talked with several people regarding our planned route into Texas, passing through Branson, Little Rock, Texarkana and finally Livingston Texas. I also referred to a spreadsheet I’ve kept now for about five years which has links back to other’s blogs for specific locations. I find it interesting to re-read posts about the actual stop as well as earlier and later posts showing how they arrived and departed the area. Us newbies appreciate it when folks outline the route they took. That’s one of the reasons I’ve concentrated on reading blogs where the owners pull larger trailers or drive big Class A motorhomes.

We stayed two weeks in Branson Missouri. The RV park manager where we stayed in Carthage used to live in Branson and highly recommended America’s Best Campground (ABC). Plenty of larger RV sites with full hookups atop a hilly lookout. And easy to get into from US 65 Highway having come nowhere near the busy main part of Branson which is 76 Country Highway. It’s been years since I had been to Branson and Karen had never visited Branson.

We won free show tickets (valued at $65)

Upon arrival at America’s Best Campground we were welcomed by a large sign at the entrance bearing our names in lights. Yup, we apparently had won two free tickets to a show. The office management knows how to run a park. We had mail delivered from Amazon and our mail service in Texas. A small detail but interesting is that the park has a white board in front of the office where they write your last name if you have mail or messages. Saves going in the office to check. Inside the two-story office was a game room and book exchange upstairs. Real homey place where we could also buy discounted show tickets for in town and a morning cup of decent free coffee.

Our spot among the hills at America’s Best Campground

From camp we can see the lights of Branson

Around the first of October the entire place turns into a Christmas wonderland. Lights everywhere with displays. Especially at Silver Doller City amusement park, which I understand was voted one of the top Christmas attractions in the country. The state has added a few highways since my last visit and label their routes by color codes so it’s easy to get around. America’s Best Campground was just minutes away from whatever we wanted to do to include all kinds of shopping and restaurants. The  camping fees are reasonable for a resort town. Had we been able to arrive earlier we might have considered a month-long stay. Karen liked the fact the clean laundry at the park had 10 washers and 10 dryers. I’ll be adding a post latter about how she is handling laundry without a machine in our RV. She has been thinking through the process as we prepare to decide if we will have a washer/dryer installed at the factory service center maybe, or not, in March or April of 2020.

We enjoyed the drive through the hillsides and took in a few shows and some free hiking. We used our free tickets to the Abba music tribute, spent time walking the beautiful lakeside trail in the state park, went to the Dolly Parton Stampede dinner show, toured a trout fish hatchery and spent a couple hours at the two-story Titanic Museum. (See more photos at bottom of page)

Sorry for the photo quality. I want to keep the file size down. This is Table Rock Lake along the three mile paved walking trail between the state park and visitors center.

Scenic overlook on the way from Branson to Table Rock Lake State Park

We spent an afternoon in an area by the lake known as the Landing. When I used to vacation on Lake Taneycomo, near the area called the Landing, was a campground and marina where I’d stop and ask the locals what the fish were biting on. That’s all gone now, having been replaced by this shopping district. They do have I think the most wonderful water fountain display which is equipped with high shooting water, lights and fire timed to music on the hour. We walked from the Landing to a fine store called Dick’s 5 and 10.

Shops at Branson’s Landing

Karen and my sister Mary at the Landing. My sister’s Lisa and Deanna with family would join us later during this trip.

Don’t miss walking to Dick’s 5 and 10 from the Landing as you pass the Scenic Railroad Depo

Had I not been there twice before, we would have absolutely gone to the Shepherd of the Hills to see the live outdoor play. At one time the Shepherd of the Hills was the second most read book just behind the Bible. John Wayne stared in a move about the Shepherd of the Hills which was nowhere near the story told in Branson nor in the book. So much to do in what some call the live music capital of America. I’ve been to Nashville three times and although its’ a wonderful city to tour, Branson offer more variety in my opinion especially if you consider the non-music venue.

We were visited by friends from Kansas City and my sisters arrived for a show and to see us off as we left Missouri. Karen and I really enjoyed our stay. She says Branson is a place she could live. The surrounding communities make for enjoyable drives and they have reasonably priced condos/apartments scattered in scenic areas.

At this point in our fulltime RV journey we both are preferring the longer stays of a week or more. And for sure moves of 200 miles or less are preferred especially if the route does not take us over interstate highways. But we are just three months into this lifestyle so there will be more to consider as we go along. The trip to Branson was more of a vacation for us. We enjoy just living in the moment at campgrounds and so far, don’t feel an overriding urge to see everything when we are in the area. We are thinking our campground selections will include the campground itself being the destination. Such as the one we are now parked at in Arkansas.

This is starting to feel like home. The emotional lows, which can be a part of a move to this lifestyle, are fewer for sure. I’ve got a lot to report back on such as our goal to make it two weeks on our fresh water and waste tanks, more RV maintenance stuff, how my part-time mobile office job is filling a need to be productive, living with no satellite television or cable TV bill, anticipating an updated budget, route planning tips and my research/final selection regarding healthcare insurance. For sure there is no lack of subject matter to write and learn about.

Yes – Southern Missouri has stocked trout fishing! Here is one trying to swim up a fall.

Two headed snake on display at the nature museum below Table Rock Damn at the Shephard of the Hills Fish Hathery

His two brothers call him Pork Chop – singing at the pre-show at the Dolly Parton Stampede. He caught Karen taking a photo.

Even a Christmas section at the Stampede

Dolly Parton Stampede. The show and food were out of this world worth it!

The Titanic Museum. Located in the main section of Branson. Takes two-three hours to go through

We are currently located at the Maumelle Corp. of Engineer Park on the Arkansas River outside Little Rock. We are moving to Texarkana on Tuesday 11/26/19 where we will stay over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Carthage Missouri

Our time in Carthage Missouri is nearing it’s end for this trip.  Carthage is located in southern Missouri on the edge of Joplin Missouri. Our stay at Coachlight RV Park will have been three weeks before we leave this Monday. The weekly rate at the park is $200 total. The monthly is around $525 plus electric.  Had we known the stay would be this long I might have taken the monthly rate and “left early.”  We have booked a two week stay in Branson Missouri at  American’s Best Campgroup which is a highly recommended park, near town and with reasonable rates. The manager of our park here in Carthage lived in Branson and recommended America’s Best as well as a few friends who were on their way to Branson. I would have been happy to stay at Table Rock Lake State Park outside Branson where they even have full-hookup spots.

New friends we met while parked in Kansas City are a couple weeks ahead of us in their travels in the same direction. It is nice to get with them on route planning and more. My sister Mary is meeting us for a weekend in Branson where she is bringing an RV. We booked our spot for two weeks and then we are on to Hot Springs Arkansas.  This might be our first trip pulling the trailer in hilly country.  The trip through the Ozark Mountains and northern Arkansas is going to be beautiful this time of year with the changing fall colors. The drive alone is worth the trip.

Karen and I are both ready to get on with our life after the murder trial I testified at in Platte City Missouri turned into a seven day ordeal. Moving into an RV and continuing to live some parts of one’s past lifestyle – sucks!  Especially when one person (me) is busy working away from home and the spouse (Karen) is left behind. When I read in other’s blogs the term “hitch itch” I wonder if rather than meaning we are getting antsy to leave they are really meaning “it was terrible to have had to stay here so long and lets get on to something more interesting for God’s sake.”  Please don’t think Carthage is not worth a few days stop however.

There were some different moments when I made the trip back north of Kansas City for the trial. I stopped to enjoy the changing fall tree colors at the post office located atop a hilly area. And the last day I woke to snow on the truck. If my truck could talk it would ask what the hell is this cold stuff on my hood. It was built in Texas and I’ll bet that was the first time snow ever touched it. And I know for sure I never intended to see the white stuff for a long time.  No worries, I brought my rain jacket. I layer clothing underneath to include a fleece and wear a stocking cap. I ditched the winter coat thing years ago. Dressing in layers rules, especially as the same clothing can be worn in warmer environments and takes up little space in our RV closet.

Changing fall colors in Platte City Missouri

I briefly thought about lacing in a few RV tips as I continue in this blog post. We are learning a lot and could use advice at all times. I’ll get to those tips in the next post in a week or so. I’ve got plenty to write about to include; receiving mail, getting a hair cut, dealing with cold temperatures, RV maintenance, killing flies in the fifth wheel, new purchases and more.

When I think back we did do a few fun things in Carthage despite taking time out for a working trip. And for me at least, part of the fun stuff was finally getting a chance to not only tour the City of Carthage Missouri but also taking time for RV maintenance now that we have owned the rig for six months. Even cleaned the roof.

The short list for Carthage fun was; Karen’s first ever rodeo, visiting a civil war museum, eating Italian food outside the Precious Moments location, viewing fall colors at a large tree filled graveyard (on Halloween day) and touring the town square’s wonderful court house. And of course spending time with friends at the Escapees Ozark Chapter Campout which was the reason for the trip to Carthage located at the southwest corner of Missouri just off Interstate 44.

I have to appoligize for some of quality of my pictures. I’ve gotten lazy and forget the better camera at home. I most regret not getting better photos of the Jasper County Courthouse which is a marvel and includes a first floor museum to include displays about the historic route 66 which is a big thing around here.

It was fun watching Karen’s reaction to events at the rodeo although most of events were less then professional grade. An uncle to one of the bull riders was sitting next to us and the conversation was good. Unfortunately his nephew came off the bull in about two seconds.

The nighttime temperature was cool. It was nice the rodeo was inside a large building. It happens to be located along a road traveled by Union solders as they retreated from the Confederates during the battle at Carthage.

Carthage is the home of Presious Moments figurins that I understand to be collectable. I toured the grounds and chapel in the past.

Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage. Rebuilt in early 1900’s. The town was burnt to the ground and became lawless during the civil war.

I had no idea the outlaw Belle Starr was from Carthage Missouri. Late in the summer of 1964, before Carthage was burned, the family moved to Texas near present day Dallas. Among her friends were Frank and Jesse James. Around these parts of Missouri the initials G.T.T. were commonly used and sometimes painted on abandoned houses. It means Gone to Texas. The Union army as well as bushwackers made the place unlivable and those refusing to fight for the Union or having become refuges fled south.

Bet you did not know, and neither did I, that the Battle of Carthage was fought on July 5, 1861 and was the first full scale land battle of the Civil War, preceding First Bull Run by 16 days. At issue was if Missouri would stay in the Union or join the Confederacy. In the spring of 1865, more than three months after the surrendor at Appomattox, Confederate Major General Shelby led his entire “Iron Brigade” across the Rio Grande into Mexico on July 4th, 1865 — exactly four years from the day he joined the Missouri State Guard column north of Carthage. He planned to convince Emperor Maximilian to set aside a Mexican state as a new Confederate Nation and retake Texas from the Union. Within two years Shelby was home, setteling in Aullville Missouri. I’ve been to his grave in Kansas City Missouri.

But enough about the Civil War visit in Carthage. You must come to Missouri if you are a true war buff.

The courthouse on the square included a working old-time elevator. The operator was handing out candy to kids for Halloween and provided us with the location of the cemetery in town where we could see the wonderful fall tree colors.

Displays inside the court house included information about historic Route 66. Crossing three time zones and eight states, Route 66 linked communities from Chicago to the Southern California coast. Posted on the wall at the court house museum was a list of significant dates relative to Route 66. This includes in 1947 the hundred millionth motor vehicle was produced. In 1956 the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act signed by President Eisenhower, signaled the beginning of the end of Route 66 as modern highways were built. By the 1960’s most of Route 66 was too narrow to handle modern trucks and automobiles.  And a survey in 1950 found that half of Americans over the age of 30 acknowledged having had premarital sex in autos:)

Call us strange, but Karen and I enjoy visiting interesting cemeteries. So why not go see some pretty trees on Halloween day. An older lady we met from Oklahoma told us about the cemetery trees, adding a comment that she has never seen such a clean cemetery mausoleum.  Better check that out for ourselves says us. I’ll close this post with the photos:

 

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.

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.