Search This Blog

Friday, June 29, 2012

Busted In A Campground

One thing that we enjoy when we stay in military campgrounds is the security.  There are guards at the entrances and you can't get in without proper identification and authorization.  We're safe as a bug in a rug.  Nothing to worry about...except the time I was almost busted in a military campground.

A few years back, during my working career, I was on a several week long assignment doing some instructor duties at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA.  Even though I was authorized to stay in a hotel, I chose to drive my Journey motorhome down and stay in a nearby campground.  Aside from the fact that I was saving the government lots of money this way, it was much nicer to have my own bed, kitchen and TV instead of having to eat out every meal and sleep in a bed with who knows what was left behind by the previous customer.

I chose to stay at the military campground at the Kings Bay Navy Base, home to many of the Navy's submarines.  Eagle Hammock campground is one of the top rated military campgrounds and I was enjoying my stay.

It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, made even more comfortable by a wind that was blowing, keeping the heat to an acceptable level.  I was sitting in my lounge chair, reading a book when along came a young man, dripping wet, carrying a parachute.  He stopped and asked me which way was it to the main gate.

I asked him what happened, as it was a long way, several miles, to the main gate.  He said he had been making a parachute jump and got blown off course from his landing zone.  He said he was headed for some high tension wires and decided he'd better veer away from that direction and he landed instead in a swamp next to the campground.


I told him that was a smart choice and offered to drive him to the front gate.  Because we were on a military base, I assumed he was a reserve military member that was doing some training, he was young and clean cut.  But I was wrong.

He climbed gratefully into my Honda Element and we started towards the campground exit.  Before I knew it, a bunch of police cars, military police vehicles and base security cars came flying into the campground and surrounded my car.


I told the guy to put his hands on the dashboard and not to move.  In seconds the police were all around us and told us to get out of the car slowly.  We both did and were frisked for weapons.  I identified myself as a Coast Guard special agent and was allowed to pull my badge and credentials from my pocket to show them. 

After a couple of minutes and some radio calls, the tension eased.  The young parachutist was identified and found to be a student at FLETC going through a police course there and was taking a parachute jump as part of his hobby.

It became very funny because the police then told us that they had received a report of parachuting terrorists attacking the base and landing over by the campground.  In this day and age, they take things like that very seriously.

After a good round of laughs and some quick notes taken, we were let go and I drove the young man to the front gate where he was picked up by some friends.  I told him I was an instructor at FLETC and we had quite a chuckle over our meeting.

I didn't think anything more about it.  Until the following Friday.  There was a graduation for the latest police class that had completed their training.  All the FLETC member agencies send a representative to sit up on the stage and congratulate all the new graduates.  I lost the coin toss and was sitting up on the stage in one of my suits.  When the time came for the awarding of the diplomas, all the graduates filed up on stage, one by one, to receive their document and get a congratulatory handshake from all the agency reps. 

Along, up the steps to the stage, came my parachutist friend.  I shook his hand, we both chuckled to see each other and he went on his way.  Small world.  Later, I went back to the campground, knowing it was really (really) safe.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Other Ten

Now, the “dark side”.  The ten things that I’m not so fond of.  Some of them can’t be helped, or maybe I’m too picky.  Other things you just have to shake your head about the manufacturers and ask, “What were they thinking?”

Then sometimes, I have to admit that there is credible evidence that there are no women on the design teams.

So, in descending order, from the least to the most “Un-fond” items on the Journey:

Number Ten – Tiny Dresser Drawers

DSC03458

When we were shopping, one item was to get as many drawers in the motorhome as possible.  The Journey had a nice dresser with six drawers.  Using them became an adventure in itself.  The drawers are narrow and shallow, necessitating creative stowing of clothes, mostly by rolling them up.  Not the end of the world, but definitely something a woman designer would not have allowed.

Number Nine – Outside Entertainment Center

DSC03451

It was on the Journey when we bought it, something we hardly ever use, maybe twice in five years.  A CD/Radio with large speakers, just enough to ruin the beautiful sounds of nature or annoy your next door neighbor.  I would not have ordered this item.

Number Eight – Two Piece Ladder

DSC03452

This is another “What were they thinking?” item.  The ladder to the roof has the top half permanently attached and the bottom half that has to be hung on it to use it.  The bottom half, when not in use is stowed in a side compartment taking up valuable space.  I decided to remove the bottom half from the compartment and hang it on the top half, secured by several bungee cords.

I’ve heard the argument that this design is to keep kids from climbing on your roof.  It seems this is found mostly on diesel pusher motorhomes, but not on gas units or trailers.  It begs the question, “What is more attractive on diesel pusher roofs than gas motorhomes and trailers?”

Number Seven – Glued On Parts

This may be Winnebago specific, they use an aircraft adhesive glue to attach the front hood and rear engine hatch to their frames.  I’d hate to fly in a plane that uses this adhesive, because it wouldn’t be long before you’d watch your wings flutter away.

DSC03455 

I’ve had to reattach both the hood and the rear engine hatch with a strong, heavy duty epoxy.  Since I’ve done this, they have stayed in place rock solid.

DSC03456

Number Six – The “Undippable” Dip Stick

DSC03454

This is common on diesel pushers with Cat engines, the dip stick is about four feet long.  When checking the oil, the dipstick slides in fine until the last 3 or 4 inches, then it is a real fight to get it seated.  I have to twist and turn the dip stick while trying to lightly push it all the way in.  Eventually it goes in after a couple of minutes of battle.  This is just an example of a poor design and lousy quality control.

Number Five – Awning Lock Drains

DSC03453

Another “What were they thinking?” item, only found on Winnebagos.  The large slides on the Journey have locks that secure them when traveling.  In a moment of less than brilliance, Winnebago engineers designed a locking mechanism that extends through the top of the slide.  Then they had to create a drain system to remove water that can collect in the lock mechanism, so they put these tiny, quarter size drain holes near the top of the slide.  The holes are so small they get easily plugged up with dust and if not cleaned out with a toothpick or pipe cleaner on a regular basis, will allow water to drip down inside the motorhome.

Number Four – Basement Storage Compartment

`

And again, “What were they thinking?”  Winnebago engineers designed the basement storage compartments to come out attached to the slides.  I guess the idea was to enable easier access to the compartments by not having to crawl under an open slide.  Unfortunately this leads to no pass through basement compartments, limits the weight (300 lbs.) that can be put in these storage bins and makes them unable to accept large items like a lounge chairs.  Winnebago touted them as “Store More”.  I think they should be called “Store Less”. New model Winnebagos have gone back to the better pass through storage compartments. (Bummer!)

Number Three – Automatic Patio Awning/Door Awning.

DSC03447

I suppose it is nice to be able to push a button to open and close your patio awning.  On my Journey, the awning is placed over the top of the passenger slide and is positioned to come straight out to miss the slide.  I cannot adjust it and it provides very little shade.  It is supposed to do two things automatically, close if the wind gets too strong and self dip down to shed water.

The wind sensor on top of the Journey has been looked at again and again while under warranty and never was able to work.  I finally gave up on it and ensure that the awning is closed if it gets too windy. 

The back end of the slide is grooved to dip down and shed water if it collects too much in a rain storm.

DSC03457

The owner’s manual gives a big caveat that it is only for light rain.  I’ve read of many people having their awnings collapse and break, causing costly repairs when this shedding system failed.

I go by the rule that if I’m not sitting under my awning, it gets closed.

The door awning is another engineering “mis-marvel”.  It is a manual awning, cranked open with a hand crank rod (you can see the rod on the left side of the awning).

DSC03448

The “beauty” of this is when it starts raining, as you crank the  awning closed, the rain water runs off right on to your head.  Pass the shampoo!

Number Two – Interior Air Conditioner Vents.

In the main living room, there are rows of vents in the ceiling which provide cool air to the space.  There are ten of them and the work very well.

DSC03459

In the back bedroom, which is just about half the size of the living room, there are only two!  This makes for a stuffy bedroom, even if we shut all the living room vents, forcing the cool air to exit these vents, it is not the best solution.  We have to augment the air circulation with a portable fan.

DSC03461

Number One – Select Comfort Air Mattress

No picture here, everyone knows what a mattress looks like.  The mattress in our Journey is my biggest pet peeve.  We don’t like it at all, it is without a doubt the most uncomfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on, even all the cheesy ones on Coast Guard cutters.  We put an expensive mattress topper on it to try and make it better, but no luck.  The mattress has a “gully” in the middle, between the two adjustable air chambers.  You are rolling into that gully all night.  Plus if one person gets up the other’s side sinks down, or when a person gets in, it bounces the person already in bed.

I found out there are various levels of quality in these mattresses, from cheap ones to very expensive ones.  You guessed right, the cheapest version is what was installed in the Journey.

I’ve researched the mattress and found it comes with a 20 year warranty and have sent them an email to see what, if anything can be done to rectify the lousy performance of this much touted wonderful mattress.  If we get no satisfaction from them, we’ll replace this junker with a real, conventional mattress.

So there you have it, our good and bad items that we’ve found in out five years with our Journey.  Are any of these make or break items on a new motorhome?  No, but I’d certainly shy away from a motorhome with the storage compartments we have and would make a deal to remove an air mattress and replace it with a good, conventional mattress.

Hopefully, maybe these two posts will help a new RV buyer be a little more informed about what to look for.

The bottom line question:  Would we buy the Journey again just the way it is?  The answer is a resounding YES!  It has so many good points, the negatives are just minor issues that we’ve learned to deal with or work around.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

license_20110706205528_24375[1]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Killed My Kindle

I admit it, I am electronically challenged.  I suffer from CHDWS (Computer Hard Drive Wiping Syndrome).  When I was in my working career, I destroyed/lost/mutilated more computer files than every other person in my entire building (combined).

I was able to cause system wide server crashes just walking by the server room…and the door was closed and locked.  I had to keep the IT folks on speed dial.  Face it, there must be some kind of negative aura that surrounds me which obliterates all those little bits, bites, kilobytes, megabytes into outer space or someplace, never to be seen or recovered again.

I need to stay away from electronic devices with buttons.  Trust me.

So one day, my bonnie bride, Marti, talked me into buying a Kindle.  She has a nice fancy one and there was a plain Jane model that she thought would work well for me, it didn’t have much in the way of buttons at all.

I fought her on it, saying that I’ve been a life long book reader and couldn’t justify the need for one.  Then I listened to Marti…closely.

She reminded me about how I whine that we have no extra space in the Journey for anything.  By having a Kindle, I could do away with a load of paperbacks and use that space for more important things, like potato chips and Ring Dings.  So I took her wise advice and bought the $79 model.

Wow, was she ever right!  Not only did the Kindle save space, it opened up a whole new world of cheap and even free books.  Plus, it was so simple to use, I could easily read while eating potato chips and Ring Dings.

Then, the unthinkable happened.  My electronic curse kicked in.  I went to turn on the power button and this is what my Kindle screen looked like:

DSC03443

Half my screen went blank!  No amount of wailing, gnashing of teeth, laying on of hands or desperate prayers would get it to work.  After drying my tears, I handed it over to my IT guru, Marti to fix.

images[10]

A few minutes of looking at it and she came up empty.  Now what to do?  Marti checked on line at Amazon and found a phone number for customer service.  I called the number and got a real live person in just seconds.  This was weird.  Weirder still, the person spoke the King’s English!  Real help.

After a few questions, like: Did you drop it?  No.  Did you get it wet?  No. Did you happen to run it over with a car/truck/herd of buffalo?  No, no and no.  The service rep said it was unfixable and would have to be replaced. Oh no!  I saw dollar signs, how would I fit this in the budget?

imagesCA1O1D92

Then he said he’d send a new one out right away.  Free!  Wow!  I’d have it in two days, he’d e mail me a return address and postage, all I’d have to do is return it with in 30 days.

So the next two days were spent old tech.  Reading a real paperback.  Took me a few minutes to remember there is no button to turn a book on.  Then I proceeded to get potato chip crumbs and Ring Ding chocolate all over the pages.  It wasn’t pretty.

Today, the Kindle arrived, brand new in a box.  With the help of my lovely IT guru, I got all the books I previously downloaded placed on the new unit.   I am impressed with the customer service that Amazon provided me.

I guess that makes me a happy camper.  Or is it a happy bookworm?

images[3]

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

license_20110706205528_24375[1]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Items I Love On The Journey

RVs come in all shapes and sizes with features (or without) that fit a buyer’s lifestyle, budget and intended  use.  Sadly, there is no perfect RV, no matter how good they are, there are always compromises.

When we were shopping for a diesel pusher, there were a few ideas we had about what we wanted.  Of course, we were driven by price, wanting to get the most bang for our buck.  We we pleasantly surprised to find our Journey waiting for us on a dealer’s lot. 

Originally we wanted to “spec out” our diesel pusher, to get it built exactly as we wanted it.  We were ready to wait the eight to ten weeks it would take to manufacture it.

The Journey, however, caught our eye.  It had most everything we wanted, a couple of compromises were needed but overall it had almost everything we desired.  This was to be our full time rig.  The biggest plus for me was the engine, it was one of the very last Cat diesels built before all the strict emission controls required by the EPA and that alone saved us almost $20K over the next model year’s sticker price.

Now having lived with the Journey for five years and having driven it over 50 thousand miles, we have formed some pretty solid opinions on what we like (some we love) and a few other things that we are not as fond of.  So to help those that may be RV shopping, here is a list of the 10 things we love about the Journey and for us, would be must haves on another RV purchase.  In descending order:

Number 10 – Basement Air Conditioner

DSC03430

Winnebago’s basement air conditioner works really well for us, it is quiet, and doesn’t drip down from the roof like a roof top unit does.  We have used it in many types of heat and it has always kept us cool.  We have not used it in Arizona in the summertime, from what I’ve read, they don’t quite do the job in extreme temps, but that is why we don’t go to those places in the summer.

Number 9 – Air Compressor Manifold Connection

DSC03435

Under the hood is this connection where I can attach a hose and air chuck to inflate my tires, or other inflatable goodies.  I do have to run the diesel engine to power the compressor, but it is a minor issue and topping off a tire every once in a great while, it is better than carrying a portable compressor when storage space is limited.

Number 8 – Chrome, Heated, Electrically Adjustable Mirrors.

DSC03433 

You can’t have enough visibility all around your RV and having large mirrors on each side that not only are heated should the need arise but can be adjusted at the touch of a button is great.  Having them chromed is an added bonus, bugs splats and dirt wash off easily and there are no worries about chipped paint.

Number 7 – Rear and Side Cameras

DSC03431

DSC03432

Again, you can’t have enough rear and side views and the rear camera is a blessing.  Not only does it give me a view behind me and of the tow car, it has a microphone that I can turn on to hear Marti’s words when she directs me backing into a campsite.  It also has infra red capabilities so I can see in the dark.  The side cameras work when the turn signal is engaged on a side.  The dash screen automatically turns from the rear view to the side view and that picture remains as long as the turn signal is blinking.  When the turn signal clicks off, the picture returns to the rear camera.  I can also manually turn on a side camera should I need to keep a good view of a side backing or maneuvering in a tight spot.

It is nice to have the added safety of seeing the full side of the Journey with the side cameras, they enhance the somewhat limited view of the mirrors alone and eliminate blind spots.

Number 6 – Automatic Basement Door Locks

DSC03444

A little rocker switch by my entry door and I can lock and unlock all the basement doors.  I also have the ability to do that with my key fob.  What a time saving device this is.  A loud click and I know all is secure, or open, whenever I need it.

Number 5 – Automatic Leveling Jacks

DSC03436

Perfect for a lazy man like me that doesn’t like to use his brain or his back (putting leveling blocks under the wheels).  A push of a button and the computer takes over and levels the Journey.  A minute or two and we’re good to go.  When leaving, another button is pushed and the jacks automatically retract.  The brand of my jacks is HWH and they have been very reliable.  I check the oil level in the reservoir once in a while and give the cylinders a light coat of silicone spray about once a month.

Number 4 – Full Body Paint

DSC03440

This was something we were going to pass on if we had ordered a new motorhome, but the Journey already had an eye catching paint job.  Because we got such a good deal on the purchase price, we took it with the paint.  After five years, I’m glad we bought it because it looks as good as the day we bought it.  It seems to stay cleaner, too.  Our previous motorhome didn’t have full body paint and the white fiberglass yellowed with the exposure to sunlight, no amount of waxing and cleaning kept it looking like new.

Number 3 – Quiet Diesel Generator

DSC03434

We have the Onan 8 Kilowatt Diesel Generator and it is a real workhorse.  It provides all the power we need when we need it.  In the hot summer months, we run it driving down the road to power the basement air, when we boondock we run it, and it is so quiet, you can barely hear it.  It takes minimal maintenance to keep it running in perfect condition, the best thing you can do for it is to run it.  I change the oil (3 qts) and filter every 150 hours and the fuel and air filter annually.  At the three year mark the coolant was changed.  All’s well and it now has 1590 hours on it.

Number 2 – Splendide Washer/Dryer

DSC03445

I love this thing.  Insert a small load of clothes before you go out for the day and when you come back, they are done.  Sure, sometimes, they may be a little wrinkled, but if I need it, we have an iron.  Since I no longer dress in suits, I don’t worry if my t-shirt doesn’t look like it is military starched.  We can do an entire set of bed sheets in one load, or a couple of bath towels, face clothes and dishtowels in a load.  All in all, it is so handy, especially when you have grandkids staying with you.

Number 1 – Dual Fuel Fill Doors

DSC03437

DSC03438

This is so handy, having a fill on either side of the Journey.  It takes away issues of fuel pump accessibility, fuel stations are hard enough to get in and out of as it is. They have saved us lots of time, too, not having to wait for a particular pump.

So that’s my top ten really nice to have items on our Journey.  In a future post, I’ll list the ten no-so-fond-of items.  If this was too boring or technical, here’s a couple of pictures of our new lovely ladies to enjoy.

Anabelle,

DSC03351

and Rebekah.

DSC03372

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

license_20110706205528_24375[1]

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Other Half

It was a strange trip.  It actually felt kind 'a weird.  And to add insult to it, we had a strong tailwind, which did us absolutely no good.

Why, you ask?  Don’t you always wish for a tailwind.  Yes.  But this one was wasted because we were in our car.

We headed out from our New Jersey “Home” to Pottstown, PA where our son Ryan, DIL Amber and their three girls have landed now that Ryan has transferred to the CGC CAPSTAN, in Philadelphia.

We had not seen our two granddaughters, Taylor and Kierra since leaving them after Christmas in their old home in Astoria, Oregon.  Plus, we had not met their new little sister, Rebekah.  So it was a trip well worth taking.

When we arrived, the older girls were thrilled to see their Mimi Marti (and Pa, too).

DSC03366

We sure missed our two beauties.

DSC03367

Their little sister, Rebekah wasn’t too sure how to take these two new strangers hugging and kissing her.

DSC03365

With patience and tender loving, Mimi Marti won her over and they started to converse with each other.

DSC03404

DSC03406

We had to get a picture of all the girls together, the other half of our grandkids.

DSC03417

Of course, Mimi had to get into the picture with her girls, too.  She says being a grandma is the best job she’s ever had.

DSC03414

It was a wonderful weekend, it went by too fast.  After we left we checked out a nearby campground, French Creek State Park, to see if it would work for us.  It was about 15 miles away and has a relatively good price, ($27/night +tax) that will work for our budget. 

Next trip to see the girls will be in the Journey, hopefully, we’ll have that same tailwind as we had in the car.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

license_20110706205528_24375[1]

Friday, June 22, 2012

Budgets And Bills

We passed a milestone and then passed another one.  Six months on the road this month.  And we only covered about 12,000 miles.  It is amazing that in our new lifestyle we've seen so much and had so much fun, but we're really just getting started.

I've read that most people in their first year of full time RV living are in the "vacation" mode and it takes that year to learn to slow down.  Also, it takes that first year to slow down expenses to meet what you thought your budget would be.  It seems to be true for us, too.

We knew we were going to cover a lot of ground early on so we set aside extra money for the budget areas we knew we were going to exceed, some by a lot!  One area was diesel fuel.  Our monthly budget was set at $750, based on an average $4/gallon.  We blew by that mark pretty quickly and cringed as we watched the price of diesel rise and rise and rise again.  But the extra cost was worth every mile we drove to see our granddaughters in Oregon, my cousins in San Diego, the blogger friends we "met" (in person) in Quartzsite and Pensacola, Disney World with the grandsons and welcoming little Anabelle.

Now that there are Saudi oil sheiks building new mansions as a result of our travels, we hit a great milestone.  For the first time, this month, we've come in under our fuel budget, by two whole bucks!  I guess those oil sheiks will have to find someone else to pay for the finishing of their mansions.

One area we were hit hard with was car repairs, but thankfully we set money aside for that eventuality.  The bills for a starter replacement ($750) and a new radiator ($460) were surprising, but easily covered.  Once in a while I do something smart.

One area that is hard to control is food, we're eating much healthier, but fresh products of fruits and veggies are much more expensive than we anticipated.  Farmers markets and roadside stands offer much better produce at cheaper costs, but way too often, there is no place to pull in with a motorhome and toad.   We'll keep on trying to stop when we can.

Campgrounds have not been bad at all, we budgeted $750/month.  Between military campgrounds and Passport America, we've come in on or under budget every month, not counting our Disney Fort Wilderness stay or our Pirateland campground week.  The Pirateland week for Marti's conference is a professional expense and we can use that as a tax deduction, so I guess that doesn't count.  Being under budget in this area gives us the opportunity to splurge every once in a while to a fancy campground resort, especially ones with hot tubs!

Looking ahead for the next six months, we're going to limit our travels to the Eastern USA and do some "Moochdocking" in relative's driveways periodically.  We'd like to hit the Gypsy Journal Rally in September, we've never been to one and hear they are really fun as well as informative.  A little time in New England with Marti's family and maybe an October trip down to New Orleans, then back up to South Carolina for the "Carolina Clan"  November meet, finally all of December in our South Carolina "home base", Woodsmoke Family Campground.  Maybe we'll find some more surpluses in our budget.  :c)

Of course, there will be many more visits with the grandkids.  That's not to be missed.  For us, that is our main reason to travel.

Going from a large four bedroom house to a 400 square foot motorhome has been quite the challenge, but we've adapted well, we haven't killed each other yet and have learned to wait for the other to move before you move in those tight spaces, instead of "butt bumping" all the time. 

Has there been tense moments between us?  A few, but the vast majority of the time enjoying each others company as we roam where ever we, will has been priceless, no matter what the budget is.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Half

We arrived at the Naval Weapons Station Earle campground yesterday and got all set up, home again in our New Jersey “Home”.

DSC03346

We got the best site in the campground, it is away from most of the other campers.  The only problem is it is very close to thick trees and the satellite dome couldn’t get a signal.  Reluctantly, I had to drag out my old nemesis, the portable satellite dish.

I’ve struggled with it many times trying to get a signal and on more than one occasion, gave up in defeat.  Since we’re going to be here for three weeks, it was going to be worth whatever effort to get it up and running.

Even though it was morning, due to the heat wave hitting the East coast, I was sweating, somewhat due to the aggravation of setting it up and also due to the 90 degree temperature.

Finally I got a clear signal and locked on to the satellite, with the dish the farthest away from the Journey ever.

DSC03349

I anchored it down and just hope that the grounds men don’t cut my cable when they cut the grass.

Then it was off to see Anabelle.  In no time, she was in Mimi Marti’s arms.

DSC03295

I think she knows she is a cutie.

DSC03301

We had a special bonus, Heather and SIL Brian are up visiting Corey, DIL Amanda and little Anabelle.  That meant Andrew and Owie were there too!  We had to get a picture of all of them together.

DSC03326

That’s half of our six grandkids.  This weekend we’re going to Pennsylvania to see the other half, Taylor, Kierra and Rebekah.

Of course, Marti had to get in the picture.

DSC03329

Too much of a good thing, Anabelle got fed up with all my picture taking.  I guess I’ll have to be more selective in the amount of pictures I take.  ;c)

DSC03318

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

license_20110706205528_24375[1]