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Friday, December 30, 2011

December Recap - Our First Month Fulltiming

I'm not going to use those cheesy cliches, like "Where did the time go?" or "Time flies when you're having fun!"  I'm thinking more along the lines of "Hang on for your life!"

At the beginning of December, we were spending our last night in Virginia at the Bull Run Regional Park Campground.  A bittersweet night, knowing that we wouldn't be returning any time soon, after many happy weekends and a few (rare) week long stays.  December 2 found me waiting impatiently for Marti to finish her last day of work.  After breaking camp, I drove over to the parking lot at her facility and waited for 2 pm, when she was supposed to leave, but the goodbyes to her great staff kept her until after 3 pm. 

Finally breaking away, we were off to New Jersey, with an overnight stop at the Harrisburg, PA Flying J.  I guess you can call that "Flocking", with a similar meaning like "Boondocking", "Wallydocking", aka Walmart, or "Moochdocking".

The next day we arrived at out son Corey's home in NJ and set up in his driveway, moochdocking.


That weekend was the 90th birthday party for my dad, a great time.


We finished the weekend visiting Corey and DIL Amanda and on Monday, 5 December, we headed West, destination: Astoria, OR.



We didn't get too far, the alternator failed and we detoured back to a Freightliner dealer in Harrisburg, PA for three days getting the offending part replaced and the billing sorted out.  8 December found us on our way once more with a little drizzle that we soon drove out of.  Out came the sun, which we enjoyed on almost the entire 3000+ miles trip.

Originally, we intended on heading to Sioux Falls, SD to register the Journey and Element toad, but we blew that off with the loss of time in Harrisburg.  Driving across the country, we saw some areas where it had snowed, but by the time we got there, the roads were clear and dry.  If we had not had the alternator breakdown, we would have been caught in much of that snowy weather.  A problem that turned into a blessing.



We ovenighted at some Walmarts and Flying Js, taking advantage of their generosity towards RVs, which enabled us to make good time and cover big driving distances most every day.  We enjoyed some pretty cold weather in some of the states, and were very glad that our furnace was working well.


We enjoyed the scenery, all kinds of variety from flat, farmlands,


to mountains and winding roads. 


 A couple of days in the Midwest, we fought headwinds (will I ever get a tailwind?) which cut our mpg quite a bit, but didn't affect the Journey too much.  Another plus of driving a big diesel pusher motor home.  On our previous motor home, a gas engined Winnebago Adventurer, winds were always a struggle.

The night before reaching our destination, we pulled in to a KOA and regrouped, reorganized and rested.  The campground was nice and clean, reasonably priced for a KOA and was just what we needed to catch our breath.  There were quite a few long term residents there, but all the RVs were late models in nice shape, no trash and junk stacked around the RVs like seen in many long term campgrounds.  Many of these RVs had put skirting down to help insulate them.


We arrived at our son, Ryan's house on 14 December and got set up in his driveway for some extended moochdocking.


And the best part, spending time with Taylor and Kierra.


We've had a whirlwind time, with Christmas,


Taylor's sixth birthday the day after Christmas,


and son Ryan's 30th (gasp, we're really getting old!) on 27 December.


Lastly, our DIL, Amber, who has been feeding us incredible meals found out she is going to have another girl this May, which will be our sixth grandchild (Corey and Amanda are expecting a girl in March) and our fourth granddaughter.  We're excited for them.


In a couple of days, our latest mail package should get here and then we're crossing over this bridge and heading out on Route 101 down the coast.  We're looking forward to our new year on the road and interesting adventures.  Quartzsite, here we come.  Stay tuned!


Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


Breath Taking Scenery, When It's Not Raining

The Oregon coast is just loaded with beautiful water, fog shrouded mountains and just plain incredible views.  We find ourselves driving around with our mouths hanging open.  Good thing there are no flys around. ;c)

Right down the street from our "Moochdocking" site are some incredible vistas.




Even some of the man made sights are amazing.  The Astoria bridge across the Columbia River.  You can almost get a nose bleed driving over it.


We'd have more great pictures, but for some strange reason, it keeps raining out here.  We're not complaining, the temps have been pretty mild and you don't have to shovel rain.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Marti's Musings: "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"

Wow, the winds here in Astoria are surely rocking the boat - er, RV.  Tonight the prediction is 60+ MPH winds.  Sooooo, the slides are still in... 

Today, we took a trip to Portland, so I could have a follow up eye appointment.  All is well, on that front.  By the way, I am going to put a shameless plug here.  The doc who did my vitrectomy back in November is quite impressive.  He is a retina specialist, and my recovery has been remarkable.  I highly recommend anyone needing any kind of retina treatment, and if you are in the DC/VA area - he is worth the trip!  He has a website for his patients and those interested in learning about eye diseases/disorders.  It is www.retinaeyedoctor.com  He firmly believes that medicine and docs should be accessible, and that docs shouldn't be afraid to get to know their patients and build relationships.  *gasp* *shock*   LOL  He is an awesome guy, and I can't say enough about him.  Ok, enough of the advertising, ha ha.

Anyway, the 2 hour trip from Astoria to Portland, despite the wind and rain, was still a beautiful trip.  Going to Portland, we took the more direct route, via route 5 and into Washington state, and back into Portland.  We did a quick trip, after the appointment looking for the Voodoo Doughnut shop in Portland.  We found it, and I will let Paul post about that.  Nope, we didn't get a donut - wind, rain, and long lines...  you get the picture.

Our GPS took us a different way home, down route 26 - through mountains and windy roads with HUGE trees - we half expected Big Foot to jump out...  but boy, was it amazing scenery.  One of our earlier posts was "you can't take a bad picture in Oregon" - well, I have to contest that, as rain certainly puts a damper on great photo taking... I got a few, that we will (hopefully) post later.

So, the wind and rain are supposed to continue for the next couple of days.....  we are staying cozy and dry in the RV...  close to the grandtreasures for our last days here....  we aren't sure how long the base will allow us to stay here, so we will stay flexible on that... there are lots of choices nearby, if we have to move...

Hard to believe that we have been retired now for 3 weeks, and have been here for 2 already...  life is good; God is great.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.   ~Marti

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fun With The Girls

Our rush to drive from Virginia to Oregon has been worth every second it took to get here.  We've been busy making up for all the months that passed since we last saw our granddaughters Taylor and Kierra.

Marti brought all kinds of things to do with them, along with the crafts they worked on, nothing was more important than...baking Christmas cookies!


Decorating the cookies was lots of fun, too.


Even Daddy Ryan had to try his hand at it.


The finished product.


Cookies were done just in time to leave some out for Santa.  Taylor has been learning about good nutrition in school.  She made sure that only four cookies were left out for Santa because she didn't want him to get sick from too many sweets and not be able to finish delivering toys to other kids.

Taylor was also concerned about Santa's reindeer, so she put out a bowl of water and some celery and carrots for them to snack on.


Christmas morning was enjoyable watching the girls open their presents.


Then it was off to church where we watched the girls sing in their kids choir.


The day after Christmas was also special.  It was Taylor's sixth birthday.  She got a keyboard.  She loves music.


She read all her birthday cards to Mimi.


The one thing the girls have enjoyed the most is sleep overs in Mimi and Pa's camper.


We are so thankful to be fulltimers now.  None of this would have been possible in our former working lives.  It is nice to have an extended visit with our kids and granddaughters.  It was worth every bit of work it took to get us here.  We sure are blessed.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Giant Christmas Stocking

I was on the verge of tears, I didn't know what to do.  It was the week before Christmas and we were out of money.  It was 1983, the country was in a recession and we had no way to put food on the table, let alone buy Christmas presents for our three little children, ages 4, 2 and 1 month.

I was in the Coast Guard Reserve at this time.  I had submitted application after application requesting transfer to active duty and all had been turned down, there were no openings.  My civilian job was in jeopardy, the company was in serious trouble, facing bankruptcy and as a result, my hours had been cut to just 15 to 20 a week.  My last paycheck had bounced.  Searching for other employment had been an exercise in futility.

At the fast food restaurant up the street, all decorated for Christmas, was the Giant Christmas Stocking, perched behind the counter.  It was eight feet tall and was filled with all kinds of toys and games.  A box was placed on the counter to put entries for the contest to win the stocking.

Marti and I looked longingly at that stocking, hoping beyond all hope that we could win it.  Then we'd have gifts for our kids for Christmas.  We carefully filled out our entry, stuffed it in the box and kept our fingers crossed that we'd get the good news that the stocking was ours.

It was not to be, someone else won the stocking.  Our Christmas hopes were dashed.

A few days before Christmas, our doorbell rang.  I opened the door to see the pastor of our church.  He knew that we were in a bad spot for Christmas.  In his arms was the Giant Christmas Stocking!  To our amazement, he told us that someone in our church had, on a whim, entered the contest to win the Giant Christmas Stocking and won it.  Because they had no children, they called the pastor and asked him if he knew of anyone that could use the stocking.  He said he did and brought us the stocking.  We had Christmas presents for our kids!

The story doesn't end there.  A couple of hours later, Santa Claus rolled up to our house on a firetruck and dropped off more toys for our kids and a bunch of gift coupons for food from the local food market down the street.  We didn't know that the fire department collected toys and gift coupons for families in need at Christmas time.  Someone told them about us.  Later that evening, one of my brothers showed up at my door and gave me a gift of $300, he knew we needed help.

The next day, we went to the market and bought food and the fixings for our Christmas dinner.  Using some money from my brother's gift, we put gas in our car and drove to the exchange at nearby West Point, buying wrapping paper, diapers, a few more age appropriate toys and some new clothes for the kids.

Christmas 1983, which appeared to be so hopeless for our family turned out to be the most wonderful Christmas we ever had.  The generosity of other people, some known to us, others we didn't know, reached out and helped us when we really needed it.  I still have to blink back tears just thinking about it.

I've told this story to our kids over and over again and this experience has turned into a mission for Marti and I.  We have been blessed over the years with good fortune, but we've never forgotten what it felt like to be in a seemingly helpless situation.  To this day, we keep our eyes and ears pealed for others that have hit a bump in the road of life and work out some way to help them, always anonymously.  It's a gift we give ourselves, the joy of helping others.

May this Christmas season bring much joy and happiness to you and your families as you gather together and exchange gifts, love and joy. 

Most importantly, never forget the real meaning of Christmas.


May every road you travel
bring you safely home
to the wonder of Christmas,
to the warmth of God's love

Friday, December 23, 2011

FAQs

I thought I'd do a post and answer some of the questions that have been asked by many of you in our comments section or at our email address.

How long have you been RVing?

We bought our first RV in 1993, it was a 1973 Travel Mate 21 foot RV.  You can read about how we started in our very first blog post here

How do you access Internet and Skype on the road?

We use a Sprint Aircard and we have it set into a Cradlepoint router making our own WiFi hotspot inside the Journey.  We have had very good luck with the aircard and have had very good coverage with it all across the US.  Once in a while it might be a little slow and on rare occasions, I have trouble posting pictures.  It costs us about $60 per month.

How do you get your mail on the road? 


We use Alternative Resources mailing service in Sioux Falls, SD.  They have given us a mailing address to have our mail sent to.  Twice a month, we contact them and have whatever mail that has come in sent to our location, wherever that might be.  Sometimes it is a family member's house, or a campground or a nearby post office that will accept general delivery mail.

What do you do for TV?

We subscribe to DirecTV and have an in motion satellite dome on the roof of the Journey.  For times when we are parked at a campground that is heavily treed, we have a portable satellite dish that we use to tune in the signal.  We also have an over the air antenna but since that system went from analog signals to digital we seldom use it.  We have installed the adapter box to change the digital signal so that our non digital TV can accept it, but it works poorly.  Seems we can get great coverage from Chinese and Russian TV stations but can't get local stations merely a few miles away to come in, even after doing multiple scans.

What do you use for phone service?

Marti has an i-Phone and I use a standard cell phone with service through AT&T.

What do you do for health insurance?

We have Tricare Standard medical insurance.  I am retired from the Coast Guard and this is one benefit I earned for my service.  It covers both Marti and me with a small deductible.

What do you do for dental care?

We looked into dental insurance and we don't see that it is cost effective for us.  We'll pay out of pocket as needed and we're going to look into dental checkups in Mexico.

How do you earn income on the road?

I have a pension income from my military service that meets our needs.  It isn't extravagant but it will allow us to enjoy our full time travels if we follow our budget carefully.  We are not opposed to work-kamping if the need arises or we want to try it sometime in a place we'd like to spend some extended time.  We have other investments for our future when we someday decide to buy another home.

How did you learn to fix your RV?

I've always been a tinkerer with mechanical things.  I went to technical school after high school and studied automotive and diesel technology.  I also had many technical courses in the Coast Guard where I served part of my career as a machinery technician working on all kinds of engines and equipment.  After a while, mechanical things seem easy to figure out and fix.

How do you find the cheapest price for propane?

I have a Flying J RV Real Value Card, which gives an additional 10 cent discount per gallon to their already reasonable propane price.  I like the availability of Flying Js and the ease of getting in and out of most locations.  Plus, you can get a 3 cent per gallon discount on diesel fuel, 2 cent per gallon discount on gasoline and half off their dump fee.

Now that you are fulltimers, why don't you change your header picture of your motorhome in front of your house?


The header picture was taken at the Tropical Palms Campground in Kissimee, FL in 2009.  It is my favorite picture of our Journey (so far).  We were on a trip to Disney World with our grandsons and we left a day early to beat a winter storm.  Arriving a day earlier than our reservations at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground, there was no room for us so we stayed at Tropical Palms CG for the one night.

Speaking of campgrounds, what is your favorite?

Hands down, Disney's Fort Wilderness is our favorite.  It isn't cheap, but we go during the Value Season (1January to 14 February) when prices are much more reasonable and crowds are much less.

What is your favorite state?


Relaxed in my recliner with a good book and a Diet Coke.  Actually, this is hard to answer because we haven't been to all the states yet.  So far I (Paul) like Utah the best because of the wide variety of scenery and things to do.  This could change as we travel more.

What does your budget look like?


We have a draft budget that we'll hone each month.  Some items we pad a bit for unexpected costs, others are pretty fixed.  We have money set aside for repairs, upgrades and unplanned costs so we don't have them in our budget.  Right now this is what we're thinking for our monthly expenses:

Campgrounds - $750 or $25/night  (This is a padded number which we can control using cheaper campgrounds, military Famcamps, Passport America, boondocking, moochdocking, etc.)

Fuel, Motorhome - $750 (This is a padded number which will vary depending on how far we travel.  Less travel will reduce this number.  If we spend it all, we can travel approximately 1500-1700 miles per month and we don't foresee that kind of travel every month.  The leftover money from short travel months will go into our savings account for months when we have to travel further or unexpected fuel price spikes).

Fuel, Car - $100

Propane - $25

Food - $400 (We hope to reduce this using military commissaries).

Entertainment - $100

Vehicle Insurance - $134

Phone - $150

TV - $95

Internet, Sprint aircard - $60

Clothing - $50

Hair care (Marti) - $25


Mail Service - $25

Gifts, donations - $100-200

Misc. - $ 200

Savings - $200

Again, this is a draft and we'll have to adjust it as we go along.

We'll update our FAQ's as we get them.  Feel free to keep asking questions, either in the comment section of our blog or at our email address:  rsanity.dahl@gmail.com.  If you forget our email, it is located at the very bottom of our blog page.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Marti's Musings: Mooch docking

Soooo - "Moochdocking" sure has it's ups and downs...so I thought I'd give a woman's point of view to this way of life...you've heard about the sewer, the leveling...so, sorry guys, but here's another view.

It goes without saying that being so very close to the grandtreasures outweighs any other inconveniences! 



But there have been some other adaptations to consider:

We need to conserve water for the obvious sewer issues - that includes showering, laundering, dish washing and general water usage.  We are always aware of water usage, particularly when we travel, but this puts us into hyper-awareness...

Although we typically run 50 amps, being plugged into a 20 amp household current makes us very aware of the electrical usage - ie:  I turn off the fridge to run my coffee pot, or the hairdryer - kind of a pain, but we certainly don't want to be popping their house circuit breakers.

Along the same line of the amperage, we have to conserve our propane so we don't have to un-decorate the rig, and go refill the tank.  We looked for an extend-a-stay hook up, but were unsuccessful.  So we are using a small electric heater to take the chill off in the evening, after we retire to our "home".  We also found that an electric blanket is a life saver at night, as it gets so cold, and we keep the Journey's temp rather low at night.  Personally, I like sleeping in a cold room - but on very cold nights, putting the blanket on low is heavenly!

Paul also mentioned the leveling issue - the drive way is far from level, and he did a great job with leveling the rig.  That just caused one problem, we have a portable step to help with gaps, but even with the portable step this gap is, well...HUGE!  The gap is a good 18" - yikes!  But, we've even gotten used to that - it's only temporary after all...  :c) 

Our day typically goes something like this:  We get the "Good morning, we are up" text, and so we head inside to have breakfast together.  If we have errands, we head out after breakfast, by the way, the scenery here is breathtaking.  The mornings are typically foggy, and the fog clouds clear up randomly - often times we are in the clouds, and when we head down the mountain (hill?) it is clear - or sometimes the reverse.  Looking across the water, and mountains, it is absolutely stunning!

Lunch is often out, and dinner is usually cooked by DIL Amber, who is a whiz at Southern style cooking.  We may not want to step on the scales 'til we are well clear of this visit!  ;-)  Of course, mingled in this is playing, crafting and hugging the grandtreasures!

After dinner, we enjoy family time (although we are certainly a family of the technical generation- as both the girls are asking if they can play games on my iPhone or iPad - along with their own gaming systems!)  We have been enjoying Christmas movies and TV this week.  Once the girls head to bed, we retire to our home - giving both couples time to themselves.  Amber is 5 months pregnant now, and is a trooper at having company!

I am enjoying the Christmas movies (yup, the ol' soppy ones) - often long into the night.  I figure my body clock is totally messed up by now, as I sleep at odd hours! (note the napping pictures from the last several posts).  While watching TV, I am diligently working on the hand made Christmas stockings for the two new grandbabies due in 2012.  They take me several months each to make, so I am getting a head start.

It is so nice to sit in the rig at night, listening to Christmas music, watching TV - smelling the candles burning, the Christmas lights giving such a nice ambiance.  It may take a while to get used to this style of living, but it sure is great learning it!

I admit, I have my moments of panic (the reality of walking away from a well paying job) - compounded by calls offering me jobs!  Yup, got another one of those today...but when I hear the spontaneous "I love you Mimi" comments, the screams of "MIMI!!!" when the girls see me in the morning.  Yeah, that outweighs any doubts, and confirms that we made the right decision.


In my line of work, I had the unfortunate opportunity to see folks at the end of their lives.  Never once did I hear any expressions of disappointment from anyone, saying they wish they had spent more time working, or at the office.  On the other hand, there was much regret over time NOT spent with family. 

Today, I also learned that another dear friend of mine has been diagnosed with cancer.  She is younger than I am.  My friend who was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year, still is struggling with that disease, and is under rigorous treatment.  Time is precious, and being able to spend it with family - whenever we want to?  Nothing beats that - and any inconveniences or adaptations we need to make are so worth it.  You only get one shot at life.  Make it worthwhile.

We are blessed immensely by God, and we are trying to make every day He has given us count.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment. ~ Marti

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Constipation

So here we are, Moochdocking in son Ryan's driveway.  Having a ball with the girls, doing all kinds of things.  Taylor and Kierra love to hangout with us in the Journey, they make a bed on the floor  and watch their favorite TV shows and Disney movies.  The shows are much more enjoyable in "Mimi's" camper.


Mimi brought all kinds of crafts and projects and the girls have enjoyed both making things and spending time with Mimi.


It shows on their faces how happy they are to have us here.



Astoria has a great indoor pool complex, we took the girls swimming there.  For a little town, the pool is quite impressive.


One wall has painted murals with scenes from life in Astoria.


Looking through the windows on the other side of the building you see this.


It's actually a retired Columbia River Bar Pilot boat, the most recent addition the the excellent Maritime Museum right across the street.


With all the swimming and fun,



even the girls joined Marti for a little down time.


We realized that Moochdocking in a driveway for an extended time has its own benefits (free) and problems (Oops!  No sewer hookup).

Normally, we can go almost two weeks if we're very careful of our water usage.  Using the bathroom and showers in Ryan's house should have extended our black and grey tank capacity.  But with the girls spending so much time with us, the bathroom got a lot of usage and the black tank filled up pretty quickly, the grey tank was nearing full, too.

Option one was to take down all the Christmas decorations, jack down the Journey and go to the free dump station two miles down the road.  Dump, they return, re-jack and re-level the Journey and re-apply all the Christmas decorations to their previous locations.  Not a good idea.

Option two was get a blue boy portable sewer tote and offload the tanks a little bit at a time, load the blue boy in the back of the Element and run down to the free dump station.  Looking at blue boys at the local RV supply store, the biggest they carried was 15 gallons.  Doing a little math, 15 gallons, liquid weighing about 8 lbs a gallon and two 50 gallons waste tanks, that would be a lot of weight to lift into the back of the Element and require many, many trips to the dump station.  Even worse idea.



Then the light bulb went off.  I called a sewer service and they sent over a truck to pump out the tanks.


It took all of two minutes to suck the tanks empty.  Then it took 40 minutes of polite "Uh Huhs" and head nods as the driver told me his life's story and every bit of sewer gossip in the whole greater Astoria area.  He should have paid me for listening...

The truck drove off but he didn't get far.


I did say the tanks were really full.  ;c)

Anyway, the Journey's tanks are empty, we'll be a little more careful monitoring the bathroom usage and hope we can last another ten days.  Then  the Christmas decorations will only have to come down once. (Phew!)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.