New Emotions

With any new adventure there are bound to be new experiences that happen that you didn’t expect. Most are good and create long term memories; some leave you in a melancholy mood. That was the case this past week; two situations provided a bit of reality.

About a week and a half ago, a camper across the road from us had a brain aneurysm. The prognosis did not look good. Yesterday Bill had to make the tough decision to remove Barb, at 68 years old, from life support. While we all know that death is our last act on earth, it still causes me to reflect, to take inventory of how I am living each day. Beyond our camper neighbor passing, I had an uncle pass and we have friends back home that have lost family members the past couple of months. What I take away from this is to tell those I love, that I “love them” and to continually chip away at (and add to) my bucket list.

The second event that pulled at us emotionally was the number of folks we’ve gotten to know who on March 1 headed for home or moved to another location. Right away I was reminded of the song with the line that said “got to say goodbye for the summer”, only this was more of “got to say goodbye for the spring, summer and fall”. The connections we have made with people makes coming here richer than just avoiding cold and snow. Also is the reality that some will not come back here next year or we may not be back next year. So saying good-bye may be more permanent than temporary.

On a positive note, spring is in the air; birds are singing, things are turning green. Thanks for reading our little blog and good luck with your bucket list.

An Update from 2 Cats

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing and I am typing (or is it keyboarding). We have been talking about what to write and if there are any new things we have learned in our adventure with cats in a travel trailer. As we go along, there are fewer major “ah ha” learnings, but we do continue to learn and refine how to live in a small space that has wheels under it.  Here are a few thoughts.

Washing the trailer: 

It is a good idea to regularly wash the RV. First, it keeps it looking good and protects the exterior for the long haul. But a second benefit equally important is you can check for cracks in seals or around trim that would allow water to get into the trailer. When I washed the trailer this last time I found a small gap around our antenna on the roof. The gap was small, a piece of gum could fill the gap, but big enough to let rain into the roof substructure.  Per the recommendation of a veteran RVer, I did not seal the hole with normal silicone caulk, but got a tube of Dicor roofing sealant from Camping World. This product is the same as the original installation.

Regular maintenance:

While washing the trailer, I climbed onto the roof to lubricate the mechanism that raises and lowers the antenna. It was the stiffness when putting the antenna up or down that led me to the manual on routine maintenance of the antenna. A couple of squirts of silicone spray and the mechanism works much better. By the way, the manual suggests lubing twice per year. It was the first time for me, and I suspect the first time for the trailer (we bought it used).

Adding hooks/hanging devises to the trailer:

One thing that seems to be in short supply in all types and sizes of RVs is space to hang coats, sweatshirts, towels and even keys. We prefer not to put holes in the walls to permanently attach any hanging gadget so we have added a couple of hooks that are made under the brand name of “Command”. So far they have stayed in place and are advertised to remove easily without a trace on the wall. In addition, we put up a key holder using a Velcro strip that is also made by “Command”. I expect to add more as we go along. A tension rod in the shower also provides more hanging space as does an over-the-door hanger with hooks.

Wi-Fi:

Internet access is nice to have for email, Facebook and reading the hometown newspaper. The park provides wi-fi at the activity center or we can go to the library in town, but both are not secure. Thus for secure banking and the convenience of using it in our trailer, we added a pre-paid “hot spot” this winter. We have mixed reviews of the hot spot. We have learned that uploading photos or downloading videos eats through data quickly so we save that for free wi-fi . The speed while doing email or Facebook on the hot spot is ok, but heavy duty searching is slower. The cost for the initial device was about $79 (we got ours ½ price though because we bought a refurbished device) and our data is $10/GB. It provides us with options and secure internet, and that is what is important.  We also use our phone’s unlimited data plan but typing on the phone is not the most convenient, at least for us, but we keep learning more about what our phone can do. We are not able to tether to our phone for internet service as some people are able to do because we have the pre-paid Straight Talk plan and they don’t allow tethering. For us the $45 monthly unlimited phone/data plan through Straight Talk and the Straight Talk hot spot seem to be working well, although we miss the ease of unlimited quick wi-fi service we have at home. That said, having it be inconvenient to use the internet, gets us off the computer/phone more quickly.  Interestingly, from some of the ads on TV, I think the trend is toward unlimited data plans on phones/tablets at increasingly cheaper pricing so by next year it will be interesting to see what we might be using.

New chairs:

Our trailer came with a “jack-knife” sofa, basically a fancy futon bed. Last year we found that the sofa function was not the most comfortable for sitting on for long periods of time so we decided to replace it with two chairs. Because of the structure we had to work around, we ended up with two patio chairs with s-shaped frames so they would fit under the framework left when we removed the “jack-knife” sofa.  Sitting is better, not ideal, but better, but the chairs have a ways to go to make it to the “Lazy Boy” I have at home.

RV Oven:

We have learned that in order to remotely bake anything evenly in the oven you need to add a pizza stone first and put any pan or item on the stone. This was a tip we learned this year from seasoned campers and it works great. I wonder why the manufacturer’s information doesn’t suggest it as without the stone cooking/baking is impossible because ½ the item burns and the other ½ is raw.

That’s it for now. Thank you for reading our little blog. Please let us know if you have any questions.  We may not have an answer, but we will certainly ask around.

Easier the Second Time

Last winter we became “snowbirds” for the first time. Part of the adventure was to determine if we would like the lifestyle and part of the adventure was the unknown of where our travels would take us.  A side component to our new adventure was a fairly large (surprisingly large) amount of friends and family were interested in what our travels would bring; hence this little blog.

In this entry, I will throw out some observations from our first year to this second year in no particular order, just as they come to my finger tips.

Pulling out: Last year we left home after the really cold temps had set in. That made hitching up and loading clothes, litter boxes, food and what have you an unpleasant chore. Warmer temps made loading much nicer.

Pulling the trailer: This year was so much less stressful. Last year, due to how long it took us to get the tow vehicle, I only did a test pull of the trailer of about a dozen miles. To say I was apprehensive about making a nearly 1300 mile trek would be an understatement. Would the van have enough power, how fast should I drive, how difficult would it be to maneuver in traffic (the van and trailer are 50’ plus). This year, knowing what to expect made that part of the trip less stressful.

Overnight camping: Last year we knew our first overnight would be in Benton, Illinois, the first winter camping we found on the internet for that far north. That was the same overnight for this year’s travels. The second night’s stay offered more flexibility as we got further south; more campgrounds stay open year-round.

Gas prices: Wow, what a difference a year makes! We used about the same amount of gas, but spent about $200 less for the trip this year.

Cruise control: Last year, I did not use cruise control at all. I was concerned about the engine and transmission getting overloaded with excess shifting and RPMs. This year I used cruise extensively except while in cities. After reading in Trailer Life that cruise control is viable and a good practice, I became a believer and would recommend it.

Traveling with pets: Not any pets, cats. Most RVers say their dogs travel well. The same cannot to be said by cat owners. Some cats are OK traveling but many aren’t. This part did not change for us the second year. Kurt prefers to hide and keeps quiet while Max sings to us for about the first 3½ hours each day, until he exhausts himself. Ear plugs help and expecting that this was just the way it would be, also helped. We tried giving Max valium the first day, but besides being mellow for the first hour (maybe), after that we feel he was more agitated and cried even more, even continuing into the trailer once we stopped for the night. Our cats are now drug free!

Familiar faces: We are staying at the same state park we were at last year. The big plusses are obvious almost immediately. First, driving through town, we knew our way to the park. Last year we missed signs and a couple of turns. After an additional hour seeing sights that we didn’t need to see while pulling our trailer, we pulled into the park. And more heartwarming was seeing people we met last year again. At registration, someone recognized us and like the proverbial small town, word spread that we had pulled in. It is nice to be welcomed back.

This year’s first newbie experience, tornado: Four nights into our stay, we awoke to our cell phone’s tornado warning alert. By the time we turned the TV on to a local weather station, the tornado cell was maybe less than a mile from us. The good thing was that its path was moving away from us, but the warning was still in effect for another half hour. So we debated staying put (travel trailer or RVs are not much match to big winds) or catching the cats and heading to a park restroom. In hind sight, we should have headed for a cement block building rather than “riding the storm out”. In the end, we get to “live and learn” from this one.

So our family has settled in; two cats with two people (cat people understand this order). Thank you for reading and your interest. Blessings on your day.

“On the Road Again”

Jenny and I, along with our trusty four-legged pals, Kurt and Max have been away from the blog-a-sphere (is this a word?) since getting home from our January/February adventure to Gulf Shores Alabama. We are preparing for our second year of escaping the winter (or taking the easier way out as many of our friends are thinking under their breath) in exchange for milder temps. Last year’s travels were filled with a list of seeminglesss “firsts” from pulling a travel trailer 1250 miles to figuring out what is needed to travel compared to what is nice to have all fit in a space that is at best 8 foot wide and 29 foot long, to setting it up for the first time once we got to Gulf Shores, to getting mail (or not) and getting the snow shoveled from a distance. Jenny loves adventure, so any new thing that popped up was “just something to work through”. To me, the king of “he who dislikes change”, it was added stress (while on an extended vacation). My worst fears were never realized…we never had to revert to plan B or plan C or plan D to resolve a problem. In the end, the traveling went fine, we were welcomed with arms spread wide by seasoned snow birds, made new friends, and none of my fears came true (like the house burning down!).

As for the past few months, it has been a mostly good year. Being away reaffirmed that we are blessed with many good friends and family, the “will support you through thick and thin” kind. Besides work, we did some of our normal life things. For me, it was playing music and going to music festivals. For Jenny, it was hanging with her gal pals, riding their trusty bikes on extended (my view) rides of 40 – 60 miles. We also had a nice visit from Tom and Marcia, a couple we met in Gulf Shores.

I mentioned earlier that the year was mostly good, the “mostly” was side tracked by the phrase “breast cancer”. In the end, Jenny kicked its butt, but it reminded us that life is not something you can plan for, that the “golden years” are “right now”, not somewhere in the future. This was the time when we were able to lean on our families and friends….a blessing that cannot be measured.

So today we continue to pack and get ready to leave in a few days. We thank you for being part of our “adventure”.

Till we meet again, savor each moment, tell and hug the ones you love, and keep a song in your heart.

Heading Home – Take 2

Opps, we had trouble with out last post where we tried to upload some photos from our time in Gulf Shores. We’ll try this again, but if the photos don’t come through, we’ll be home soon anyway. That will be nice even though we are not excited to be going back to snow and ice. If all goes according to plan you should be able to click through the photos.

Random Thoughts

We have about a week before we hitch up trailer and begin migrating north.  As I take a few moments to reflect, a variety of thoughts come to mind. 

 Time

First is how “time” has changed. For the first seven to ten days, it seemed like we had time which begged for a response to “what should we do now”. Four or five weeks later, it seems we have very little extra time. Some is because we have met a lot of nice folks and whenever we are out walking conversations arise or we are invited to do something. Or we are playing volleyball or wallyball with an occasional bike ride thrown in (Jenny does more riding than I do) or I have the opportunity to play music with others and or on my own. But mostly I think our interaction with time has changed and we are more relaxed towards it and don’t feel like we have to fill every moment like we did when we were working. We have often heard retirees say they are busier now than when they were working and I understand now what they mean, time is different now. 

ImageFamiliarity

We are getting to know the towns surrounding our park and what each have to offer. While it is an adventure to seek out where to get a haircut or oil change or find a hardware store or an infusion of dairy fat from an ice cream cone, it is also a bit “settling” to know where to go without thinking about it (like at home). We also are getting to know our trailer. When your living room is your kitchen and your kitchen is your dining room, simplicity is a must and you realize how little “stuff” you need. There is a need for tolerance of your spouse and kitties (and them of you). Having a private spot all your own is not an option. Striving for a “go with the flow” attitude is helpful.

 ImageLessons Learned

Some of our lessons learned won’t be realized until we are back in our routines at home and have some time to reflect on our life in the trailer. But I think there are a couple “for sure ones” to share. Being “newbies” at RVing, we have had “how to” and “what is best” and “where have you stayed” questions. Every time we have posed a question, anyone within hearing distance is willing to offer help or insight. That is community! Another observation is how people approach life. It is amazing to see folks who I would guess are in their mid-60’s and find out they are in their upper 70’s or older. Either they were blessed with good health and a positive attitude or they are healthy because of their positive outlook and ongoing physical and mental activities. I think it is more the latter than the first after meeting them. Jenny and I hope we can model them as we age.

 So as our time here draws to a close, we reflect on how well this first year of venturing out into the unknown of leaving year-round jobs for a couple of months down south has gone. Now we have to see how the rest of the year in Wisconsin goes with finding seasonal work for Jenny and being reconnected with my interior painting business. For sure more changes, reflections and lessons learned are coming.

Kurt and Max are Travelin’

Kurt and Max are Travelin’

One of my goals of our “snowbird experience” was to work on music. With what I perceived as having lots of unstructured time, I was planning on exploring some new styles, practicing what I haven’t mastered and write some new songs.  In each case I have come up a short. How our day disappears is somewhat mystical. Each day we try to get some extended exercise which is good for the waistline (I haven’t given up eating ice cream) and invariably, we get into conversations with folks in the park (visualize sitting on the porch in rocking chairs and sipping tea). I participate in a music jam on Friday nights and there is a couple in the park that I have played with in their RV, but all in all, I haven’t made the grade on my main goal. That said, I did write a new song, one that has no social redeeming value, no hidden message if played backwards, but it does speak to traveling in an RV with Kurt and Max, our two cats. I have attached a “very”, and I mean “very” rough recording of the song for listening. Hopefully it will give you a bit of the flavor of what Jenny and I have experienced. To listen, click on the title, “Kurt and Max are Travelin” and  when it links to SoundCloud press the start tab.   If I did it right, it should (fingers crossed) play.

Note from Jenny: I have found that this tune sticks in my head as an ear worm.