Weekend Update

Well, we had a great weekend and I hope everyone else did as well.  Saturday we went to a hot air balloon festival.  It was too windy for them to launch so we didn’t get to see that.  They had live music and sitting in the grass watching the clouds go by while listening to it was extremely relaxing and enjoyable.  Couple of kids were flying kites, some playing ball with their dads.  Daisy entered a contest for a 16 x 20 picture of a hot air balloon.  I told her that we were guaranteed to win as we have no place to put it.  You guessed it, we won!  It is a signed and numbered framed photograph.  Not sure what we will do with it.  Having it shipped to my daughter’s place.  Here are some pictures of the balloon festival.

Spy in the sky

Spy in the Sky

Filling a balloon

Filling a balloon

Balloon Festival

Balloon Festival

Father / Son time

Father / Son Time

Band

The Band

 

Green Dragon

Green Dragon

When we were living and working full time we didn’t get much of a chance to visit Green Dragon.  It is only open on Fridays.  Since this is the last time we will be here for a while and we had a break in the weather (no rain until late afternoon was forecast), we decided to take the trip and pickup some fruits and veggies.

Green Dragon is basically in Ephrata, PA a few miles from the PA Turnpike exit off of Rt 272.  It is a combination of buildings large and small and an outside flea market.  They have a couple of auctions as well.  Kind of like Roots that we visited earlier in our trip.

There are a couple of places at Green Dragon that you have to visit, one is a little stand outside that makes Apple  Fritters and Corn Fritters.  These 2 inch balls of greatness are a must have.  Today they were 3 for $3.50.  The other place is inside one of the building (#6 I think) and they sell Monkey Bread (some people call it Monkey Brains).  It is basically small pieces of Cinnamon Rolls all stuck together.  Both go great with coffee or tea.

Green Dragon 1

Weather kept a lot of the people away.

Green dragon 2

Main outside area.  This is where you get the Apple or Corn Fritters

Green Dragon 3

Inside part of one of the 6 buildings

Green Dragon Donuts

Fresh Hot Donuts.  These are Apple Donuts

Shady Maple

There is one place that we can not seem to skip when we go camping in the Lancaster area and that is Shady Maple.  We have been camping in this area for many years and this naturally was the kick off spot for our 5 year adventure.  So what better way to kick it off than with a trip to Shady Maple!

For those that haven’t been lucky enough to experience this great dinning experience, Shady Maple is a smorgasbord with about 200 ft, yes FEET of food.  But that isn’t all, it has a huge gift shop down stairs that will keep the women happy for a couple of hours.  On the main floor they have added some fantastic 3-d artwork.

For years they have had some 3-d art hanging on the walls and I was always amazed at the scenes.  Lately they have added many more.  They also place a plaque about the artist which was really interesting.  Here are two of the new displays.

Shady Maple Art 1 Shady Maple Art 2

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.

Adventures of Daisy and Ray