All posts by Ray

RV Drivers Training

Several folks have asked me about the RV drivers training that Daisy recently completed.  Since she is out visiting with family and I am here all alone, I figured I would do a quick write up on what we recently did with our drivers training course.

When we decided to go on the road, Daisy said she had to have drivers training, if for no other reason than to be able to get us somewhere if anything happened to me.  Some research on the web and I found RV Driving School (http://rvdrivingschool.com).  I sent an email requesting more information and in a day or so received a detailed response.  We were offered two options.  First was for both of use to take the training and the second was for one driver and the spouse could watch.  Since I had already had my trial by fire, we decided that Daisy would get the training and I would watch.

Ray Cassleberry was our trainer.  We chatted by phone prior to the training and got to know each other a little bit.  I explained to him what kind of background we had, what we were going to be doing and a little bit about our rig.  Ray did explain that he did not have experience in a Class A but he was an experienced tractor trailer driver and instructor for CDL.  He also told me about his experience with other companies.  After talking with him, I felt pretty confident that we could learn something from this.

We set up our training date, times and place for June 6, meeting at our campground.  Since we would be using our rig (this is a requirement), I made sure that we would be ready to go when Ray got here on the 6th.  All the hoses, electric, levelers etc where put away and slides in etc.  Ray arrived on time as promised and introductions were made.  Even some of the neighbors were introduced.  We had a safety briefing and went over the lesson plan.

Our first lesson was a walk around.  Ray showed us about the different parts of the rig to inspect prior to getting on the road.  First thing I learned was that our front wheels have an oil reservoir and how to check and fill it.  Ray when over everything from front to back and top to bottom.  Checking tires, pressure, thread, lug nuts, lights, stone guards, antennas etc.  Next we adjusted the mirrors.  Setting both the flat and convex mirrors.  Horn check and we were ready to talk about pulling out of the camping spot.  Ray explained the clearances needed and the fact that the tail end would swing around and that we had to drive both the front and back of the rig.  He stressed this many times over the two days of training.

Ok, part of that stressing was due to the minor problem we had pulling out.  Note, just because the rig sides make it, doesn’t mean the awning will.  Yep, we brushed a light pole while pulling out.  I heard it scrap and yelled to stop.  No damage, but I think Daisy’s nerves where on edge just a little bit more.  She wasn’t looking forward to pulling out to begin with, in fact she was pretty upset that Ray was making her drive from the get go instead of after we got to the ‘training’ ground.  But no damage was done and we managed to get on the road.  Next stop was pulling out of the campground into street traffic.  This was Daisy’s real concern.  Luckily, there was little traffic and we were on our way.

Ray was very good at keeping Daisy focused.  He reminded her to watch the mirrors, monitor, gauges.  Provided a tip on how to stay in the center of the lanes and in general had Daisy relaxing while we drove to York, PA for the training.  Once we arrived in York, Ray had Daisy making numerous turns down side streets, main roads both left and right turns.  She was getting pretty good at it.  Lots of stops and starts and turns and traffic.

Now back to the campground.  Next lesson was backing the rig up into the campsite.  Lots of stuff to watch for, including that light pole.  Believe it or not, she did a great job.  With Ray’s help she backed into the spot without any issues.  Even the neighbors were impressed.  I think they were getting ready for a Robin Williams RV moment.

I have driven the motor home a few times now and each time it has been a mentally draining experience.  I am mentally tired when we get to the campground or back home.  So, I wasn’t too surprised that when we got settled in that Daisy was tired.  So we went out to dinner and Ray went home for the evening.

Saturday morning was the start of Day 2.  Pre-trip inspection and we left the campground.  This trip was a short one only about 10 miles to a shopping center parking lot.  Today’s lesson was backing up.  Ray set up some cones about 1 and a half parking spots wide and taught Daisy how to back in on the driver side and passenger side.  He had me work as the spotter and then we switched places and Daisy was the spotter.  Again I was impressed at how well she did.  It is a 39 ft motor home and she was parking it like it was natural for her.

After the backing up training was done we headed back to the campground.  Here we practiced as a team, backing it into the campsite, pulling out and doing it again.  Once Ray was satisfied, we went over the post trip inspections and set up the site for our 2 week stay.

In my opinion the training was well worth it.  We both learned a lot about the inspections, driving, keeping the rig centered, parking, communications between the driver and spotter and safety.  I am confident that Daisy can take over for me any time.  In fact, I think she will be sharing the driving from now on.  Ray suggested that we split it with a couple hours for each of us every time we move.  I think that might be a good idea.

Kind of a quite weekend

After Daisy finished the drivers training on Saturday, we had kind of a quite weekend.  Misty (our Pekingese) has an ear infection so on Monday she was to the Vet. She is now on medicine for both an eye infection and she scratched herself raw.

Jigger Shop

We did drive around the Lancaster/Lebanon area of PA.  Found a great place for ice cream at Jigger Shop.  All the years we have been coming out to Lancaster area, never knew about this place.  Sits in a great wooded area on Rt 117 near the Pennsylvania Chautauqua Community Building. In 1892, the Pennsylvania Chautauqua was chartered and was devoted to “The advancement of literary and scientific attainment among the people, and the promotion of popular culture in the interest of Christianity.”  Their website is http://www.jiggershop.com

I did discover one modification I need to do to the motor home.  When we finished setting up on Saturday after the drivers training I did not open the grey tank like I usually do.  While doing dishes on Tuesday night, I told Daisy I needed to dump the tanks.  Went into the bathroom and wouldn’t you know it, the shower was full of water, the grey tank was full.  Need to have an alarm on the grey tank to warn you when it is full, rather than simply over flow into the shower. At least the black tank smells once it fills up 🙂  So being a good husband, I went to the laundromat with Daisy to wash cloths that were in the shower.  Actually found a closer laundromat than the one the guard told us about.  We were done in about an hour.

Daisy is at the graduation of one of our grand kids today.  She has a Stress test tomorrow, so I am solo until she get back from Norristown area sometime tomorrow afternoon.  Tomorrow night we are going to Shady Maple Smorgasbord for dinner.  Shady Maple features 200 feet of deliciously authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  It is a must stop when you are camping in this area.  Their website is http://www.shady-maple.com.

 

 

 

Daisy Completes Drivers Training

One of the requirements my wife set down was that she wanted drivers training prior to getting on the road.  Her thoughts were that if anything happened to me she needed to be able to take over and get us to where ever we were going.

So after some research I found RV Driving School (http://rvschools.com).  Signed up with and was assigned Ray Cassleberry.  Ray has been a commercial trucker and trainer for several companies and really understood how to maneuver our 39 ft motor home around the streets.

Ray Cassleberry was are trainer
Ray Cassleberry was are trainer

We met at the campground on Friday at 9 AM.  After some safety tips and briefing, he took us around the motor home and showed us what to inspect prior to getting on the road.  First thing I learned was that there is OIL in the front hubs of our tires.  He also told us about the PA Non-Commercial Class A Drivers Licenses.  Next we discussed the training for the day and informed Daisy she will be doing ALL of the driving.  She was kind of upset at that, she was hoping to  wait until we got to the area where he was going to have her train.  She was not looking forward to getting out of the campground.

Daisy driving the rig while Ray Cassleberry gives her some pointers
Daisy driving the rig while Ray Cassleberry gives her some pointers

Friday’s training was all road training.  Drove from Manhiem to York, PA.  Then spent a few hours driving around the various city blocks getting use to left and right hand turns. By lunch time Daisy was feeling much better about driving. After getting back to the campground we did our post trip inspections and called it a day.  Daisy now knows what I felt like coming through Washington DC, so we went out to dinner.

Saturday, was spent backing up and parking the rig, both sighted and blind side (left and right).  It was a much easier day for Daisy.  We did learn we need to work on hand signals, just so we both understand what they mean.  I think we did pretty good.

She knew mommy could do it and took a nap.
She knew mommy could do it and took a nap.
Misty was very nervous while Daisy was driving.
Misty was very nervous while Daisy was driving.

Day 4 of Our RV Adventures

PA Dutch Country B-10
PA Dutch Country B-10

Our first campsite.  PA Dutch Country (Outdoor World) in Manheim, PA just off the PA Turnpike.  We are about a mile from the PA Renaissance Faire.

Started the morning at a doughnut and coffee gathering.  Met some really nice folks and learned a little bit as well.  Learning is not hard, just listen to the stories.

Thar be windmills

Just went for a drive today.  Stopped into Circle M campground (part of Thousand Trails).  Looks like a pretty nice place.  Indoor and outdoor pools, indoor water park and a large game room.  The camping lots look pretty nice as well.

 

PA Dutch Country Side

Tomorrow starts Daisy’s driver training.  Ray  Casselberry from RV Driving School will be her trainer.  I think she is kind of nervous.   She is getting 8 hours of training on the motor home Friday and Saturday (four hours each day).

First full day of the rest of our lives

Well, the adventures begins.  On June 2 we started our retirement on the road.  Most of the day was spent in the repair shops 🙂  Seems the right front tire on the motor home had a slow leak.  Took it to Bergey’s Truck Tire Center in Hatfield.  They took a look at it and decided that the stem valve needed to be replaced.  They also showed me how to tell the age of the tires.  We have April 2009 tires.  A quick inspection showed they are also in good shape.  Then checked the pressure on all six and topped them off at 95 PSI.  Still have to have the rig weighed so we know what the pressure should be.

My son-in-law told me that the brake lights on the tow dolly didn’t work.  So called the dealer and they said stop on down and they look at it.  Turned out to be a bad 4 pin to 7 pin adapter.  Replaced it and got on the road around 3 PM.

Arrived at the campground (Outdoor World, PA Dutch Country) around 4 PM and got set up.   Ate grilled cheese and ham sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner.

Tuesday was our first full day on the road.  Was suppose to rain, but woke up to sun shine and nice temps.  Sat outside and read a little, then decided to get the running around done that we needed to do before it started raining.  First stop was the RV store for a lock and Silicone to take care of the sink leaking.

While driving around we found a huge flea market (Roots Farmers Market).  Spent a few hours there walking around and buying all kinds of stuff.  Will go back again next Tuesday (only open one day a week).

Dinner was another easy meal, Tomato sandwiches, no soup 🙂  We will eat better tomorrow, maybe tacos.

After dinner, we hit the pool.  Let’s just say that the water was not quite warm enough to stay in long.

Spent the night reading and catching up on Facebook.  I started to study the Bible.  Each night I am reading a little.  Daisy got me a King James Study Bible.  Have to say it is very interesting, but I have a lot of questions.

Well that is it for this update.  Will post some pictures tomorrow of the campsite, Roots and the swimming area here at PA Dutch Country.

 

 

How to travel full time on a limited budget.

We have been living full time in an RV of one type or another for over 10 years. One of the questions asked a lot is how much does it cost. Now everyone is different, but I thought I would provide some information on what we have found and how it works for us as a guide line to living in an RV.

Full Timers fall into 2 basic categories; Traveling and Stationary. One of these is more expensive than the other, can you guess which one J. For this article I am going to cover the information based on the category of full-timing.

Traveling Full-Timers. This group of RVers travels from place to place depending on many different circumstances. It could be job, adventure, seasons, commitments or any other personal reasons. They may travel hundreds or thousands of miles between stops. Their stays in any one place may be for days, weeks or months at a time. Titles for Traveling RVers include “snow birds”, “workkampers”, or just plain RVers.

Cost for traveling RVers generally are the same for other types of dwellers. You have rent, gas, fuel, insurance, food, clothing, entertainment, bills etc. One of the primary ways to reduce your expenses is by camping in a campground that has a reduced rate for campers. This could be a membership campground, discounts by associations such as Good Sam, AARP, Passport America, or some other organization. You can also reduce your cost by staying in a place for a month or more. Most campgrounds have monthly rates that are about the same as a 10 day stay. For example, if the daily rate is $35 per night and monthly rate might be $350. Another way to reduce your expenses (over time) is to belong to a campground membership. There are several out there, but it seems they are merging into bigger organizations. This is not a bad thing, at least at the moment. An organization that has hundreds of campgrounds, I think is a better deal than one with only 5 or 10 campgrounds, if you are going to be traveling. We belong to a membership organization that has quite a few campgrounds, mainly up and down the East and West Coast. Our stays in the campgrounds are free and include all the utilities. We are limited to 21 days per stay, but can move to another campground and start over again. We essentially live rent free as long as our wonderings allow us to use the campgrounds in the membership.

For those times that we cannot stay in a membership campground we have discount cards that allow us to stay at a reduced rate. The rate can be a percentage off or a flat rate. We have several different discount programs. Resort Park International (RPI) is a hybrid of membership and discount. You have to have a membership in another organization before you can purchase the RPI Discount. The rate of camping in an RPI campground is $10 a night. In our case we can camp for 14 days and then have to move on to another campground. Passport America is a discount club that does not require and memberships in other organizations. It offers a discount of up to 50% off the nightly rate at thousands of campgrounds around the country. Here you simply show your card and save. The Saving can be huge. A few days camping and you could save the price of the program. Save even more by becoming a lifetime member.

Next to campground fees, one of your biggest expenses will probably be fuel. Not much we can do about it other than keep the vehicles in good shape, tires at proper pressure, etc. But we can save a few cents per gallon and earn rewards to put some money back into our pockets. There are several programs out there to save a few cents per gallon. We have a diesel Class A. The tank is 80 gallons and we get about 7-8 MPG. Good Sam has a discount program with Pilot and Flying J that saves $.03 per gallon. It may not seem like much but if you travel full time going 20,000 miles a year, you could save up to $85 or so. Next our credit cards are reward cards as well. We earn 1.5% back on all purchases, even fuel. So that fill up of 60 gallons of diesel just paid back another $3.60. Again the 20,000 miles a year trip would return a little over $171.

Food is another expense for the RV that we all have. One difference for the RV family is that space is limited and the refrigerator is smaller as well. So shopping at the big clubs is not an option for savings. Fortunately, we tend to travel around the country where the weather is warmer. Which means fruits and vegetables are growing. Farmers markets are a great place to save money, get better quality foods and to meet and talk to people about the local area. You can search the web for local farmers markets or go to National Farmers Market Directory (http://nfmd.org) to find one near you.

Lets talk about utilities. Depending on the length of stay, campground and membership used your utilities may be free or you may have to pay for electric, cable and Internet. For us, because of our membership camping, most of our utilities are free. We get 30 Amp electric, water, sewer hookups free at the membership campground and discount campgrounds. We do have a satellite system which we pay for, but may campgrounds offer free cable and you can always use an antenna to capture the over the air local TV stations. Internet is another issue. While many campgrounds are beginning to offer free WIFI, the speed and connections leave a lot to be desired. Some still charge up to $7.50 per day for WIFI. There are solutions available including using your cell phones or dedicated cell phone plans to provide Internet access. They can be very expensive as well. Currently, I do not think there is one solution that meets everyone or even a majority of users requirements.

So what is the solution for us? Internet is important for us on the road. We keep in touch via email, search the web for things to do in the area, entertainment (Hulu, Netflix, etc.), download books, update our blogs and keep up with friends and family via Facebook. So what are the options? First, you cell phone plan will probably have data included. This is the most expensive option. Verizon for example can cost you easily over $150 a month if you stream video once a week along with heavy Internet usage. But for light users it may be the best option as most plans come with 10 GB of data monthly at ‘no additional charge’. Millenicom (www.millenicom.com) is another option for data users. They offer a plan for 20 GB a month for $89. They also use the Verizon Network so they have very good national coverage. Effective May 1, 2014, you can add increments of 20 GB per month to your account if you need more. This is much cheaper than Verizon for the same service. Still this is expensive for a lot of people. The next option would be to use the campground Internet, if it is available. Free is always the better option for those on a budget. But my experience is that campground Internet is usually poor. There are several reasons for this. First is that WIFI is a shared resource, meaning that the more people on it the slower the connection. Second it is distance intolerant. The further away from the antenna you are the worse the signal and your connection. There is not much you can do about the number of people on the network other than try to use it when others are not. Weekdays, early morning or late at night would be the best time. Weekends and evening are the worst time to try to use a shared network. There is something you can do about distance from the antenna. You could select a site close to the antenna. Ask at the office where you could park that would ensure a good signal. Or you could install an antenna and amplifier in your RV that would capture and boost the WIFI. There are several on the market. Word of advice, you want a unit that support 4G WIFI signals. These are new and just coming on the market as of 2014. Many changes in this area due to FCC regulations. The manufacturers have to have the units certified etc. and it is taking them some time. The advantage of having one of these systems installed is that you should be able to pull WIFI signals from up to 2 miles away for your use. The cost of the one we have is around $350 and includes a high gain antenna and amplifier.

The next area would be maintenance. We have full timed for over 10 years. We recently purchased a used Class A that we had to pick up from SC. Not knowing much about the rig, I decided to buy an aftermarket Extended Warranty Program. These programs cover repairs to the rigs when something goes wrong. Now let me say that the companies are in business to make money. In my case, I purchased a year program with a $1000 deductible. The cost of the insurance was about $1300. I will not be renewing it. I have had a change to go over the rig with our mechanic and RV technician. Both have given it a clean bill of health. What we will do is put money away for repairs.

Maintenance is very important for your rig. Annual cleaning and waxing is a must from top to bottom. A good car wash detergent with a liquid wax will do fine. Treating he roof with an appropriate cleaner and conditioner should be done at least once a year. Greasing or servicing the jack will keep them in working order for years to come. Depending on the type of rig (motorized) you may need to do oil changes, etc. just like on a car. I found that AMSOIL works well. 25,000 mile oil changes for full timers mean once a year oil change.

So there you have it, how to travel full time on a limited budget.  It can be done.  Those of you that are still working, can find work on the road.  I will write about it in another article.  Those that have a limited income, it can be done.

 

Final Maintenance Completed

Well, that is it! All the maintenance has been completed.  We have new slide toppers, new hot water heater and trickle charger for the coach batteries.  Will post some pictures of the completed rig tomorrow.  Daisy is at a XTU concert, so I get to do some packing and inventory.  Monday morning we depart Hatfield, PA for Lancaster, PA.  But first have to see if the truck tire place around the corner will take a look at the front tire (slow leak) as well as fill the tires to the proper pressure.  I can’t believe that it is here, retirement and our road trip.

For June we will be at PA Dutch Country in Lancaster, PA until the 17th.  Then we take a trip to Sea Pines near Avalon, NJ.

Daisy gets drivers training on the rig June 6 & 7 while we are at PA Dutch Country.  Watch for the pictures of that one 🙂

I am starting to re-learn the guitar.  Thanks to Dr Gerry Reinhardt (https://www.facebook.com/gerry.reinhardt.9) I have a great guitar to learn on.  It sounds great when others play it.  Maybe in a few months I will record a song and put it on here.  For now, I am the only one that hears me play.

I also want to thank a good friend, Jim Nugent for all of his hard work, making sure the rig is in good working order.  Jim owns Nugent RV and Mobile Home Repairs.  If you need something done anywhere in the Philadelphia area, contact him (610-213-1664).

Today was Daisy’s last day at work.  Fran and Lou took her out for lunch and presented her with a small gift for her hard work.  If you need a good lawyer for accident or injury, please contact Lou.  His contact information is:

1000 Germantown Pike Ste J6, Plymouth Meeting, PA, US, 19462 · (610) 239-7600.
Well all the thanks you are done.  Tomorrow will be picture day of the rig and packing up.  Sunday will be the inside of the rig, saying good byes and making sure we have everything we need.
I am so excited.

RVing on less than $1500 a month

My wife and I have lived in an RV full time for over 10 years. Starting in June 2014 we will begin our travels around the country. Many people have asked about the expenses of living in an RV full time, so I thought I would explain how we do it.

We recently purchased a used Class A (bus) RV and a campground membership. Total for both were a little over $50,000. Let me explain how this works. The campground membership was purchased used from a broker. It allows us to camp 21 days in a row before we have to leave. The campgrounds are mainly up and down the East and West coasts and within a few hundred miles of each other. The annual maintenance fee is $570 which works out to $48 a month for camping. This includes the water, electric and sewer.

I have not included the cost of getting started living full time in an RV as the cost will vary for everyone and some of it will be recovered in taxes and the sale of the assets. I also am not including any personal bills, just the cost of living while on the road.

I am going to start with an overview of the expenses. When you live full time in an RV your expenses vary depending on your lifestyle. For us, the expenses are fuel, repairs, food, medical, campground fees, miscellaneous and entertainment.

Our RV gets about 10 miles per gallon on average. We have serviced it using AMSOIL products so our maintenance is annual regardless of the miles (less than 25000 a year). The annual maintenance expenses are about $138.00 due to AMSOIL’s extended service interval. That works out to be about $12 a month. Because we only travel about 150 miles or so a month in the RV we spend about $60 in diesel fuel. The majority of our travels are with our car. Our 2007 Hyundai gets about 30 miles a gallon and we travel about 400 miles a month. The fuel costs are about $47 a month. The Hyundai is also using AMSOIL and its annual maintenance cost is about $60. Our total monthly transportation costs are about $124.

Food expenses will vary by family. It is just the wife and I and two small dogs. We spend about $300 a month on food and supplies.

Entertainment expenses can vary by family as well. For us, I have included satellite TV, books, videos, attractions etc. Our satellite TV is from DIRECTV and we have the basic package at about $30 a month. Both my wife and I like to read. We both have e-readers which we use with Amazon Prime ($80 a year) as well as other online services to download books, most of them are free. Our cell phone service is from Verizon and we spend about $80 a month on it. Being over 62 means we also get a discount at a lot of attractions. Total spending here varies each month, but on average we spend about $150 a month.

Maintenance expenses are a savings account that I put money into each month to cover the various costs of maintenance. I also have an extended warranty to help cover the cost of major repairs. This is the largest area of expense. The warranty is about $100 a month and I put another $150 a month into savings for a total of $250 a month.

Insurance will vary as well depending on your coverage, age and where you have the vehicles registered. We have found the cheapest place to register and insure vehicles is South Dakota. Our annual insurance for both the RV and the car is just under $1000 a year. Vehicle registrations cost about $400 a year and drivers licenses are good for 5 years (I recently heard they increased this to 10 years, but have not verified it). Our total vehicle insurance and registration costs work out to be about $120 a month.

Miscellaneous expenses are things like propane refills which may happen once or twice a year and other items that don’t fall under living or food expenses. I have yet had to fill our propane as we only use it for cooking. But it will be about $2.40 a gallon and we have a 30 gallon tank. So if we refill once a year our annual cost would be about $70 or $6 a month.

So there you have it, the costs of living full time in an RV and traveling around the country. We spend about $998 a month. Some months will be more and some months less. I am retired military and on early Social Security. More than enough to live on while traveling around the country.

I realize that every family is different. Some may not have the desire to live a simple lifestyle, will have more family members, higher start-up costs, more bills, etc. You may not have the level of income that we have. There are many ways to both reduce your costs as well as increase your income. That is up to you.

 

Trip Planning

Trip Planning.

Being retired military and having been responsible for many trip planning’s over the years, I figured that getting ready for a trip around the country would be easy to plan. Well, I have never worked so hard at something in my life. So I figured I would let you know what I found that works for me.

Whether you are taking a weekend trip or a several year jaunt around the country, you need to do a little planning before you go. We all have checklist for packing, food, pre-trip checks, setup checklist, tear down checklist etc. (either written or in our minds). But the road trip also needs to have it own plan, especially if you have a bigger RV. The last thing you want is to be traveling down a one lane road and come up on a bridge or overpass that you can’t fit.

I am going to walk you through a recent trip planning session. Our destination was South Dakota. No time frame for this one, but we did need to be home for October. We were leaving in July. As I was gathering information for the trip we also found out that there was a rally in July in OH that would be nice to attend.

Basic requirements. When traveling, 300 miles per day is about the maximum I want to travel. Unlike in a car and staying in hotels, you have to figure time for setting up at the end of the day, tearing down at the start of the day, meals, walking the pets, getting fuel etc. Plus I don’t speed when driving at 26,000 pound rig. That means I am spending about 6 hours driving per day. Because I am driving a bigger rig, I also want to avoid those side roads that could get me in trouble, but, I also want an alternate route if something comes up.

Now GPS is nice and some of the newer ones will take into account the size of your vehicle, get weather and traffic reports etc. But if you have ever used one, you know they are far from perfect. I don’t know how many times the GPS has told me to get off the major highway, take a service road only to get back on the highway at the next exchange. I have no idea why, but it has happened too many times for my liking. GPS is a tool but not fool proof.

So, to start planning, I like to begin with a list of places we want to visit. I use a spreadsheet that list the name, city and state (We have a bucket list also includes the time of year as well, since we want to see these places sooner or later). If there is a time-frame to be at a place that is added as well. Next I research campgrounds near the areas on my listing. For our trip we were leaving Denver, PA on the 7th of July. We wanted to be in Dayton OH on the 16th of July. From our bucket list I found that there was a Perogie Festival the weekend of the 24th of July and we wanted to visit Mall of America. These were all added to the list. Here is what I would have at this point:

State Location Season
PA Washington, PA 7/8/2014
OH Dayton, Safari Rally 7/14/2014
IL Chicago 7/20/2014
IN Pierogi Festival – Whiting IN 7/20/2014
MN Mall of America, Bloomington 8/1/2014
SD Drivers Licenses etc 8/6/2014
SD Mt Rushmore 8/10/2014

 

Next would be researching some campgrounds. We have four memberships that offer discounts for our camping (Thousand Trails, RPI, Good Sam and Passport America). Thousand Trails is basically free camping for us (we pay an annual maintenance fee), RPI is the next cheapest, then Passport American and Good Sam round out the preferences. I am also retired military so I can stay on military bases as well. Researching is different for each of these memberships. Basically, I log into the membership website and check to see where the campgrounds are at. I also have a database of about 8000 campgrounds that I can research. But since you won’t have access to that, I won’t use it here.

Next I get out Google Maps and determine the distances between where I am and where I want to go. Denver, PA to Dayton, OH is about 500 miles. Too far for a single day of driving. Besides I want to take it easy. Looking at my bucket list I have a week to get from Denver to Dayton. With a little eye balling, somewhere around Washington, PA would be good. So I check my membership websites to see what campgrounds are around there. Nothing for Thousand Trails, but RPI has two sites. One is preferred RPI so I selected that one. I continue on with each destination, determining the miles, intermediate stops and campgrounds in the area. This is what I have after this step:

PA Washington, PA 7/8/2014 Champion, PA Roaring Run Resort
OH Dayton, Safari Rally 7/14/2014 Dayton, OH Montgomery Fair Grounds
IL Chicago 7/20/2014 Belvidere, IL 61008 TT Pine Country, Belvidere, IL
IN Pierogi Festival – IN 7/20/2014 Belvidere, IL 61008 TT Pine Country, Belvidere, IL
MN Mall of America 8/1/2014 Bloomington, MN Pathfinder Village, Hinckley, Minnesota
SD Drivers Licenses etc 8/6/2014 Sioux Falls, SD Hills RV Park, Plankinton, SD
SD Mt Rushmore 8/10/2014 Rapid City, SD Hart Ranch Resort, Rapid City, SD

 

With the itinerary done, I can now start planning the routes. Google is pretty good at this and I can get a printed map for the navigator (wife) to follow. In addition, I can use this information for the GPS and use Google to double check what the GPS wants to do. Neither one are fool proof, but they do help check each other.

When I put the destinations into Google it shows the time and distances. Some of the trips are over 300 miles per day so I may add some intermediate stops. Granted this is a lot of work. Finding the destinations, distances, campgrounds, etc. can take some time. This trip took about an hour to work out online. But I know where I am going, know the roads will be good enough for the RV and can plan for extended stays.

There are some programs and websites out there that will help with your trip planning. Good Sam and AAA both offer trip planning services. In addition, I recently found a website (http://rvtripwizard.com/) that was designed by RVers for the RV travel planning crowd. It is a subscription based website that takes all of these steps into consideration. I will be using it soon for the return trip. Once I give it a try, I will let you know how it goes.

 

Picking up the Motor Home

Covered Wagon

Well we are home. We purchased our 2007 Safari Simba 38SDD from Vacations To Go RV via eBay and picked it up in Williamston, SC over the weekend. Allen (Daisy’s Brother), Daisy, Shirley (Daisy’s mom) and I rented a car and drove to Fuquay Varina NC to drop the ladies off to see our new Great Grandson while Allen and I continued onto SC for the RV.

No issues getting down there other than a LONG drive. Returned the rental car to the airport on Saturday Morning and got a shuttle back to the hotel. Michael picked us up around 11 AM. Allen and I did our inspection of the rig and only issue we found was the horn. It worked once and then quit. Some troubleshooting and still couldn’t get it to work. First item on the list for maintenance. Other than that we were ready to go. Paid the balance off and hit the road around 1 PM.

Things were messed up from the start, hehe. Our GPS decided we needed to go South in order to go to North Carolina. After about 20 miles, I decided to fire the GPS and return to North Carolina the way we came down. Turned around and headed north. We got maybe 80 miles when the RV started to buck and slow down to a crawl going uphill. We pulled off the exit and our guardian angel was sitting there working on another broken down vehicle. I asked him if he could take a look at the rig and he said NO. But he did have some friends that could and would escort us to the truck stop.

Called his friends and about 2 hours later they showed up. During that time we had discussed with them what happened and they felt it was a fuel filter. Brought one with them and did a little remove and replace. Oh BTW, by now it was raining, heavy. I kind of felt bad for the tech that had to crawl under the RV to change out the filter. He was soaked.   But $450 later and we were on the road again.

Heading up North and driving in the pouring rain. Started to get dark and decided to call it a night. Just as we decided that it was time to pull off… you guessed it Murphy shows up again. The bus started bucking and slowing down going up hills. So we pulled off into a Cracker Barrel for dinner and to calm down some. Upon leaving I asked the manager if we could leave the RV in the parking lot. Long story short, he said yes, kind of.

Spent the night in the rig and in the morning got on the phone with my son-in-law and decided we needed to get some diesel additive. Something called Diesel 911. No one knew what it was. But Allen found this stuff that was supposed to remove water from the fuel. Added it to the tank, started the engine and ran it for about 30 minutes. Then drove around the empty parking lot a few times and head on our way to NC, only 60 miles away.

We made it! Yes we were in NC. The sky was blue, temperature was in the 70s and life was good.

Murphy returns, just outside of Greenville NC, the RV starts bucking again going up hills. Pull off the side of the road and called the son-in-law. We checked the fuel filter no water in the line. Decided it was time to call Good Sam Roadside Assistance. They were great. It took several hours and being a Sunday, no repair centers were open, but they could get us towed to a shop to be looked at first thing Monday morning. We spent several hours waiting for a tow truck. I must say if you have to be broken down on the side of the road, a Class A is the way to go. While we were waiting, we checked out the TV, antennas, generator etc. Watched some McHale’s Navy and a football game. When the tow driver showed up, he was quick and very professional. Hooked us up and off we went. During the time we were waiting the wife and Mother in law drive out from the other side of the state with blankets, clothes and some food. We had a quick dinner and they returned to our granddaughter’s house. We spent a second night dry camping.

Monday morning, we awoke to people arriving to work. You would think that they never got to work on a Class A. Seriously we had like 5 mechanics going over the rig. Computers hooked up here and there, mechanics in, under and around the RV. Finally they say we have a bad fuel filter! I tell them it was just replaced and they said not that one, this one and show us a second fuel filter back by the fuel tank. Thirty minutes later and we take it for a test drive. It seems fixed. Return back to the shop and wait for the bill. Seriously, this guy is working on it for 30 minutes. I’m thinking 5 mechanics and computer diagnostic, this is going to be expensive. Finally, he is done. I ask him much? He starts by saying well the first number is a 1! Here it comes one thousand dollars. Next number is a 2, now we are at 1200 dollars. Third number is an 8. That will be $128 please. WHAT! This can’t be. One mechanic comes out and replaces a filter and it cost me $450. 5 mechanics come out and replace a filter and it only cost $128. I paid it quick before he changed his mind. We are on the road again.

Now we are going to pickup the wife and mother in law. The whole way I am waiting for the engine to bog down or something else to happen. Nothing! We get there and not one problem. After a quick meal with the baby and mommy, we hit the road.

Make it to just outside of Washington DC and pull into a campground, Americamp, for the night. First night with full hookups. Everything works! Took a little bit to get the sewer, water and electric hooked up, but no Robin Williams moments.

Ordered some pizza and took a walk around the park. Nice way to unwind from a very stressful day.

Morning comes and time to hit the road. Pull in the slides, disconnect the water, electric and sewer. Sit in the driver’s seat, start the engine, turn on the lights and go make my walk around inspection…. HONK! The damn horn works! Cool I think one more thing off the list of repairs. Walk outside and find out now the marker lights don’t work. I have headlights, turn signals and brake lights but no marker lights. Oh well, I won’t need them as the weather is great and we will be home before dark.

Onto Interstate 95 we go. Plans are to by-pass the major cities with 495 and 695. Well best laid plans of mice and men… we miss the 495 ramp. Then we miss the Interstate 95 and end up on 395 going into Washington DC. Having never been this way, I figured that 395 should be a major route. First sign of possible problem is a flashing sign that says our rig is over the height limit. I am thinking, what height limit? But before I can do anything here is a tunnel at 13 feet! The RV is listed at 12 ft. 8 inches. I ducked, but we made it. Not sure how much room we had. Before I could relax, we are dumped onto the city streets of Washington DC at 11 AM on a Tuesday morning. Bumper to bumper traffic at 30 miles an hour with cab drivers weaving in and out and EVERYONE wanting to be in front of me. My hands are sore from holding onto the wheel. Some fool cuts me off and I lay on the horn. Nothing! Add the horn back onto the list.

We make it through DC and back onto 95. BREAK TIME. Don’t you know the first two rest stops in Maryland are closed for repairs? Finally, get to pull over and all I want to do is collapse. I am a nervous wreck on the inside.

We have some lunch, walk around a little and then head back up 95. Thankfully, the rest of the trip is pretty uneventful. Only two more people decided they wanted to die and try to use me for that purpose. But I have watched the videos and keep my distance. Then Murphy returns. I find that I am having more and more problems seeing out the driver’s side mirror. It seems to keep moving off to the side. By the time we get to Wilmington, the mirror is resting alongside of the rig and totally useless. One more thing to the list. I am so thankful that this rig has cameras. We were able to stay out of any major issues and we made it home!

Maintenance has been performed. The lights work, the mirror is fixed and as soon as I can get an air horn release valve that will be fixed. Oh by the way, I am feeling a lot more at ease with driving the RV.