Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A weighty issue

I'm finding a lot out about how much LPG it takes to heat the trailer. Fortunately, I have figured out that we have a four-season trailer as I didn't winterize and its kept up just fine, even with the single digit temps we ran into with all that Canadian Air. I am finding that it is a little expensive, but my hope is to winterize at some point soon - I keep thinking next weekend we'll go out, next weekend we'll go out, next week.... so far - nothing.

Anyhow - one thing I learned, and wanted to share, is the formula for weight-scale filling the LPG tanks that aren't your usual Barbque tanks. I have tanks that are a little larger, and since I go to a place that has a limited knowledge of RV's, he shared this with me. The formula is WC x .42 + TW = scale setting. For my tanks, that equals 55 lbs, which is the max my tanks should weigh when full. I did not write the formula - I can spepll :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Launch Date in Five Months

Jill's Journal: Our preparation continues as we start wrapping up the year. We are a mere five months, give or take a few days, from launch date. There is still so much to do. It seems so far away in that we cannot wait to get on the road, but so close in what needs to be done before we can leave. I’m still purging like crazy – selling items on Craig’s List, eBay, etc. until I’m blue in the face. The more I get rid of, the more I want to get rid of – it’s kind of addicting!

Rob is completely moved out of his office now, which includes the massive storage room that held many truckloads worth of stuff. Our garage is packed to the gills as Rob sorts through the last of what was there. And we still have some farm equipment in outbuildings at Rob’s mother’s place that needs to be dealt with and sold. However, the inside of our house is truly down to pretty much what we use on a regular basis and that feels pretty awesome.

Obviously, much, much more will go when the house does. We plan to put the house on the market in February or March since spring is the supposedly the best time to sell out here. That date is speedily approaching!

Rob is in the midst of finishing up his massive fifth wheel projects – building bed rails and ladders for the girls’ bunks, modifying a closest to hold a washer/dryer, and building a permanent desk for his workspace.

I’m in the throes of my biggest project to date…I’ve always been the family photographer (for extended family too) and have literally thousands upon thousands of photographs from over the years. They’re extremely important to me and are my most precious possessions. I’m scanning each and every one of them in so I can eliminate the hard copy and have it all digitally instead. We must travel light, you know! It’s such a monumental task that I honestly don’t know if I can physically have it done before we leave, but I’m giving it my best shot and will possibly outsource some of it soon.

Whew! The beat goes on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

“House on Wheels”

Jill's Journal: On this Christmas Day, I’m struck by the fact that this is the last Christmas we might spend with extended family for a few years and certainly the last one we’ll have in our beloved little house. As sentimental as I am, I’m not sad about this. We have some beautiful memories and the anticipation of what the future holds. Can’t beat that.

Our girls have full knowledge of “the plan” and are excited. That’s a blessing in itself. Erika brought home the CUTEST thing ever from Kindergarten recently. For an assignment in her “writing workshop,” she drew a picture of an RV with the words, “I want to live in a house on wheels so I can see the world.”

Yes, I melted.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reservations Required

Jill's Journal: We just made the funnest reservation online!! My friends Heather and Eryn, along with their husbands and kids and us, are all going to go camping together in April! Three couples, nine kids…what a blast! Heather has a tent, Eryn has a pop-up trailer (I believe), and of course we have the fifth wheel. Both of them have been camping before (albeit separately) at Levi Jackson State Park near London, KY, and highly recommend it as a family-friendly, fun place.

They’re the pros at this camping thing. It may very well be our first official trip before we truly venture out into the camping world full-time, so what fun to do it with friends. We have camping sites reserved all practically right next to each other for the whole weekend. I invited my sister too, who is camper extraordinaire and loves kids, but we’ll see how interested she is in camping with that many kids!

Several months ago, I also made reservations for this coming July at Assateague State Park (with the wild ponies!!) in Maryland. And on New Year’s Day, reservations open at the place I want to stay on Chincoteague Island in Virginia for the annual pony swim (also in July). I’ve only been wanting to go to that since I was about eight years old and first read the wonderful Misty of Chincoteague. (I’m pretty certain I wore out my school library’s copy, as I checked it out repeatedly over the years and surely read it dozens of times). I’ll be reading that to my girls before we go. We’re living the dream!

Making all these reservations is making our upcoming adventure seem very real and very close! And we’re also piecing together a very loose itinerary. We’re going to follow the seasons, starting on the East Coast and gradually moving our way west over a three-year span. Spending our first fall on the road in New England with all the beautiful colors is a no-brainer. Next Christmas though? Who knows where we’ll be! I love that bold freedom.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pediatrician Visits on the Road?

Jill's Journal: Our sweet Madelyn had her 4-year-old well-child checkup today (along with four shots – poor thing!) and I took the opportunity (before the shots!) to discuss with our muy fantastico pediatrician how we would handle annual well-child doctor appointments while on the road. He knows us and knows our three kids and said very bluntly that we simply shouldn’t worry about it. The kids are in the best of health, are all far beyond the average developmental milestones, and are simply thriving. The good doctor simply recommended taking along each of their immunization histories, as well as staying on track with vaccines. We’ll do that by going to a clinic or a local pediatrician wherever we might be when they’re due. Sounds easy enough!

He also gave us a huge vote of affirmation, saying he thought this would be the best education any kid could ever experience. We heart Dr. I, the world’s greatest pediatrician. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A VERY busy day.

So overall today was quite successful in the RV mod world. I was up early which, if you know me, is quite an accomplishment in itself. But, I knew there was work to be done. On the schedule was the new cam locks I got, a desk to fabricate (the Steel Part anyhow) and battery wiring to do. The desk was the main focus, with other items filling in the cracks while I couldn't help.

Cam Locks

So I decided that the last thing I want is to need keys to get into the belly of beast, not to mention that there are really probably 2 key types in the RV world (CH751 and CR128 or something). So I'd wandered around the net (maybe I found them at the RV show?) and found combi-cam locks. I wasn't sure they'd fit (measure carefully) and the offset that my manufacturer used was different than I could buy - but go for it, right? Installation wasn't too bad (just take the old one's out and push the new ones into the same space) but like I said, the offset was a little short. I'd come this far, so I just thought I'd bend em a bit. I couldn't use the manufacturer offsets because the square on the back was too large - wouldn't turn. Anyway - the bending worked great. I don't need keys, the compartments are more secure and in my opinion actually easier to operate. I'm interested to see how they do when we're actually on the road, but I'm feeling pretty good about it...


Time to finish up the wiring for the batteries and put the tops on the boxes. Turns out this was much tougher than I thought. I ended up needing to go get 2 gauge cable at Lowe's because the auto cables I could get were too short to be run right. It amazes me how much cable was required for my battery setup. The bending and the placing also turned out to be a little difficult - that house 2 gauge copper is much bigger than the auto stuff (the wires inside the cable, not the nominal ID) I think the House that I had used 12 ga. and the auto stuff, along with having a more flexible casing, uses 18 or 20.

Building the Desk

What a task, but I was confident that Adam could get all that worked out. He seemed so happy to be welding, and since its something I know nothing about, I was happy for the help - very happy. I built the top of the desk out of foamboard so that we could measure and make it all work right. Turns out that may have been the most important thing I did in this project. Building the top allowed us to lay out the desk right on it, so that we were absolutely sure the structure would work.

The top was offset back from the sides and front 2 inches, with the top being cut very creatively. Pictures (right) tell a lot about the build. We had a little trouble with the measurements at one point (How did that extra 1/4 inch get in there?) but with the top we were able to figure out the problem.

The legs were a little more of a problem - how do you know what height is right? We put it at a couple of different levels, and finally came up with something that works pretty well. On the bottom we welded extra pieces under to support the legs a bit better - and it seems to work very well.

After Adam finished the frame (endcaps and all) came time to clean and paint. I hate underestimating what that takes, and had to run to the store in the middle of the paintjob. Adam painted wheels at the same time, and it had a whole paint-booth feel to it. After the primer (2 coats) I went with the textured paint that I so very much like (a brown speckle). I think the final result came out very nice.

Next Steps

I still need to install the desk and put a top on it. I know that it seems pretty easy and straight-forward, but my guess is that, as usual, it'll be much more work than I was expecting. I'm hopeful to finish it in the next week or so, and we'll see how those pictures look :)

I also need to put in the battery manager and double check the fluid levels in the batteries. All work still to be done. I need a couple of extra days a week :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sometimes its ok to be a dinghy..(well, not really dinghy..)

So sometimes it must feel good to be a dinghy... I jest, as its pretty clear with our setup we don't have a true dinghy, but I'll still call it that and treat it as such. Our van will really be a supplemental vehicle that will allow us to travel from the site to points of interest. That being said, I'm happy to report that we took care of our dinghy friend.

We knew for a little while now that new tires would be a need, and I tried to put off brakes as long as I could. Unfortunately, events and actions recently didn't let the 'put-off' happen, and screamed for attention.

One full set of Michelin Energy LX4 tires, a new right front rotor (warped - ugly) and a resurfaced left front (what a difference) makes all the difference. Glad to have the dinghy safe and sound, knowing I won't have to worry about those aspects for at least the first leg of the trip - hopefully for longer than that!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Advice to the American family setting out on the road

William Least Heat-Moon, best-selling author of "Blue Highways," "River-Horse," and most recently "Roads to Quoz," shared his insights on the American road with CNN. I found this last part quite interesting.

CNN: What advice do you have to the American family setting out on the road?

  • Go with a loose sense of destination.

  • Don't go farther than your time easily allows, and try to move reasonably slowly.

  • We're a nation of speeders: speeders in all sorts of things; we invented fast food.

  • But speed and good travel aren't comfortable or useful companions.

  • Speed is anathema to deep travel.

  • If you want to learn the territory between your place of departure and where you end up, you have to have time and use it wisely.

  • Speed corrupts travel far more than bad Chinese food.

Second Garage Sale in the Books

Jill's Journal: Another garage sale; another success. What a great feeling! This time it was very spontaneous with zero preparation. My parents were here visiting and were up for the adventure, so we had lots of help (Kristi and Adam were back for round two as well) and lots of fun on an unseasonably warm day. We had less traffic and sold fewer things, but bigger things. I parted with my china, Rob parted with a ton of old electronics, and we all said a happy goodbye to various and sundry other items. We netted a lovely $457. Once again, this was just stuff we weren’t using anyway…fantastic!

I’m told there is a season for garage sales here and we are definitely outside of that. With winter fast approaching, it’ll be spring before we get to have another. Darn…just as I was getting the hang of it!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Truck all happy and purring now...

So - I've waited weeks to get the truck fixed - knowing it was going to cost me so much that I'd cringe at the bill... And then, after I finally took it in - I got good news and bad news....

The bad news - its an injector - from what I hear one of the scariest and maybe costliest fixes aside from an entirely new engine. They told me it basically imploded, broke in half leaving pieces inside the engine. They say they got is all out - I'm hopeful.

The good news - it was covered entirely under waranty - DOH... What was I wating for?

I got in my head that it must be the EGR valve because its been replaced on that truck so much, and everyone I mentioned something to had agreed. I've since read that this 6.0 engine is notorious vor EGR (as many Fords seem to be) and injectors. I'm very hopeful that's my last problem with one. We'll see.

Happily the truck seems to be running just fine again. I've put on a bunch of miles just running around and it hasn't skipped a beat. I'll need to let it idle and see if that changes anything, but the fuel mileage seems to be what it was before the break, and I've been trying to push it a little to see if it'd chug - so far no problems... Yay!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Garage Sale!

Jill's Journal: Last week we had our first official garage sale. Naturally, it was the coldest day of the season…we went from a delightfully sunny autumn to arctic conditions overnight, but it was a resounding success nonetheless. We bundled up against the cold and, with the wonderful help of Kristi and Adam, parted with hundreds of small items and a few bigger ones. It took hours to put everything out – I had been cleaning out closets and drawers and old boxes for a few weeks and the pile in the garage was daunting. And absolutely nothing was valuable! But we had great fun, made $487 from a bunch of junk we hadn’t used in ages anyway (and won’t miss), and it felt FANTASTIC to get some things out of the house.

One might think our house might be feeling a bit sparse, but that’s not the case at all. The drawers and cupboards and closets are all a bit lighter, but nothing big is gone yet. We're still planning to live here for approximately six more months, so I can’t do anything too drastic yet!

At the end of the garage sale, I threw most of the smaller stuff still left into big garbage bags and both Kristi and I made a trip to Goodwill. And some of the big stuff that really wasn't sellable afterward -- like old lights, an old dining room table that Rob used for poker at the office, a beat-up Christmas tree stand, etc. -- we put at the end of our driveway with a "Free" sign on it. It was all gone in no time! It amazes me what people are willing to take.

I also found a home this week for more than 1,000 issues of The Blood-Horse magazine that I had been saving for a future home library. That was hard for me to do -- I'd written in a few hundred of them, but I couldn't keep them. They took up 17 big, heavy boxes and had to go. That was bittersweet.

I still have a lot of work to do. This was just a dent, but a good dent. :-) We’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Project #1 is a success - on to project 2

Well, The first project (make room for a stackable washer/dryer is completed. We'll still need to vent it once I get the product, but at least the closet is done. I'm actually pretty happy with how everything turned out, and I think, for having to reuse pieces and canabalize the scrap, it turned out quite well.

The only thing that happened which I failed to realize is that the cabinet door will now need to be open to use the remote with the DVD player. While that's inconvenient, it isn't the end of the world, and if this setup works out ok I may just cut a hole in the cabinet door to make it work. OOF - I also forgot about the satellite receiver... hmm. More mods to be made :)

So - on to planning the next - Bed Rails. I found an example of what I want to base what we're doing (left). This is out of a Class A (a really expensive one - notice the granite end table for the lower bed...). I am hoping we can do something similar, but I'm not entirely sure how the ladder will work. Sound I use heavy closet rod (found one at Lowe's) or should I order something higher end? I think I'll use red oak stained to match as close as possible - its really all I can do. I sketched out the idea, and I think it'll be a pretty straightforward design.

I was planning on doing the desk next, but I realized that I can vacation without the desk - I can't put the girls in bed without the rails.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On the path....

I finally got some construction done, so the back of the cabinet is now in place. There is still a lot of finish work to do (top shelf, back board, wiring re-run, trim in), but progress is progress. My goal tonight was to get the shelves even, put the back of the cabinet on with screws and plan out the rest of the steps to finish that overwhelming cabinet...

Check, Check, and checkish... ;) And yes, that's all screwed in and flush...


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The first cut is the deepest...

So, in the spirit of posting constantly - here I am. You might think the title is strange, but I assure you, it isn't. I'm referring to the first MOD (modification) to the RV. It was tough at first, but it has picked up steam and its going to be great.

Project #1 started simply as a couple of guys wondering what the first project was, then... how can we take that apart, then... get me the prybar just to see how that's built, then - poof - project. :) Soon there was panelling all around and nails on the floor and exposed wiring... Woohoo!

I knew we needed a stackable washer / dryer in the RV, and while they'd prepped it well for a single, I knew we could modify it to handle the stackable in the closet they set aside. I understand Glendale's thought behind what they are doing, but I wish they offered this setup straight from the factory. The modifications are pretty straightforward, and would have been easier to do at the factory level (in fact it would have been easier to build than what they put in there...) Hopefully what I have to do will work out right :)

So the first day Adam and I tore apart the back of the TV cabinet, seeing how things were put in, and how they could be altered. turns out that for the most part it looked like a pretty easy task - shorten the shelves, move the back of the cabinet forward, reposition a couple of electronics and poof - Stackable W/D with vents...

Tonight I went down to take the next couple of steps. First we had to remove the shelf from the closet. That turned out to be a pretty simple task. Everything is built pretty simply. Framed out of 1x1 pine, luan stapled to both sides and edged with either moulding or trim tape. The major intersections where strength is needed is done with some 2 to 3 inch screws. I wanted to do this right, so I'm taking my time in deconstruction. The thing to me is to try to keep the front of the cabinet untouched. Adam would like to rip into it and make some replacements, which I agree would be easier, but I want to see if I can keep everything together and 'redo' as little as possible.

Second step was to cut the shelves. This turned out to be quite difficult even with the new dremel toy that I bought. I really though it would be easy, but with the angles and space that I had to work in, it just got a little mangled. Well, I guess that's what they make trim pieces for. I'll be trim tacking away when I finally finish!

Third step was to cut away the back where I need to put the shelf for the electronics. That did happen pretty nicely and once cut, the board now hangs freely and allows movement into position. All told I'm thinking we probably moved that back up by about 8 inches.

The last thing I did last night was to dry fit it and take some pictures. I think its going to line up pretty nicely and unless you knew what it looked like before, it'll be tough to tell that I've made any modifications.

So far: Casualty count - people: 1 (Adam stepped on a pin nail in bare feet and proceeded to bleed on my linoleum - how dare he :) ) Casualty count - tools: 1(Adam stripped a square bit) Is it just me or is there a theme here? ;)

Tomorrow: Off to lowes to pick up some items and then hopefully make some progress in the 'construction' phase of things. I have other things to do down there tonight, but I'm hopeful that I'll have at least a little time to get something done.


...It's been awhile.... since I ...

... blogged about anything at all. The reason is pretty simple, I got distracted, busy, bored, and discouraged. I'm going to try to keep up since things will start moving along quite quickly now. I'm also going to try to take my notes and go back in case any should actually want to know how all this worked through.

I've missed some of the most major parts of the pre-experience - researching, choosing, buying, and picking up. All of that was so significant that I'm sad I burned out in the middle. Too much to do, and then too easy not to do it. I'm going to vow to write a little everyday, just to get into the habit - because this blog is productive, and it is progress.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

And the Purging Marches On

Jill's Journal: It seems not too many days go by without me purging items, whether that means selling, donating, or destroying them. Last week I sold a saddle to a lady in Tennessee and donated a mountain of old tack to Central Kentucky Riding for the Handicapped. And a few days ago, Adam and Kristi had a massive burn pile and I burned 11 – yes, 11! – file boxes of old papers. Electric bills from 15 years ago, performance reviews from old jobs, etc. just don’t seem so important to keep! Seeing all that paper – records of life’s details – go up in flames was remarkably freeing.

We actually had a pretty uncluttered and tidy life compared to the average American family before this whole process started, but it’s amazing how much stuff one really doesn’t need.

Occasionally I glance at a site called and a recent post struck close to home. In brief:

“Even if you live to be 100, life is short… There are only 24 hours in a day, and I want to spend those hours focused on what is important to me… Uncluttering is about clearing the distractions that get in the way of your remarkable life. Once the distractions are gone, you can pursue your priorities and make the most of your life. My life’s motto is to Carpe Vitam — Seize Life.”

It sort of sums up why we’re seeking this adventure. We want to focus on what matters most to us – our little family – and the fabulous purging we’re doing now will help remove all the distractions. Bring it on!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lead Us Not into Temptation…

Jill's Journal: Rob’s been back for about 10 days now from his 5,000-mile journey to pick up our fifth wheel. It’s wonderful to have him home and wonderful to finally have seen our “house on wheels,” as the girls call it. It’s not fancy, but it’s perfect for us. It’s incredibly spacious when all four slide-outs are used and so full of cupboards and drawers that I’m not one bit worried about storage. In fact, if we were just using it as the average family does – for vacations or weekends – I would truly feel it is excessive! But we’re not; we’re going to live in this thing full-time and it feels just right. I love it. And the girls are enamored with it! They want to move in right now. So do I. SO DO I. Waiting another nine months to hit the road is going to be even harder with it just sitting out there, tempting me…

Monday, August 24, 2009

Epiphany City…or Maybe Just a Bitch Fest

Jill's Journal: We’re going on day #11 now since Rob left to pick up the fifth wheel. Even though I’m not the one on the road with the hours of silence and nothing to do but think, I’ve still had a few minor epiphanies (or maybe complaints?!) here.

*I love being a parent, but doing it all alone day in and day out is not the easiest thing in the world. Worse still is that Rob was gone in Vegas for a week of poker in July and will leave again in early September for another eight or nine consecutive days. That makes more than a month of “gone time” in a span of 2 1/2 months. It’s going to wear on me at some point. The very fact that I’m writing this down may prove it already is! I’m so looking forward to our family being on the road together.

*Here’s a very personal one: A year ago, I was at a wonderful weight. Thin and feeling fabulous about my body. But I’ve gained close to 20 pounds since then and no matter how hard I’ve tried, it doesn’t want to come off. Some major things have happened during that time – I stopped breastfeeding, I went on birth control for the first time in several years, and yes, I’m getting older. All that combined means inevitable weight gain. I’ve clearly known this for a while, but this week brought a realization as I’ve felt some serious sadness about an old family friend who had part of a lung removed in a second fight with cancer. I realized after she is gone, no one is going to remember that she was always a little plump. People will remember her warm, welcoming spirit instead. So here’s my epiphany: I can continue to fight my weight and be miserable or I can embrace myself the way I am and be happy. I choose happiness. I don’t have the time right now to battle weight. And, I want to be the kind of Mom who bakes cookies with her kids and enjoys the moment; not the kind who eats like a bird and makes her children weight-conscious at way too young of an age. We eat healthy and should enjoy some of the good stuff too. So, a couple of days ago, I finally bit the bullet and purchased some new clothes that actually fit. Yes, they’re two sizes bigger than my fabulous post-baby body. But this body of mine has given birth to three amazing children and I’m grateful for it. This is me. Today I will be purging my skinny clothes. Seeing them in my closet just makes me sad, so there’s no point in keeping them. I’m closer in size to where I was before children and that’s okay. I embrace me! This positive attitude is right in line with what we hope to teach our girls through the grand RV adventure.

*And the final epiphany of the week: I cannot wait to homeschool. Driving 4 1/2 miles one way through heavy traffic twice a day (and past nine other schools until we get to the one we were assigned) is killing me! I know people do it every day and I used to too; in fact, I used to commute 90 minutes each way in the brutal Southern California traffic daily. However, I long for the simple things these days. Having to get three kids out the door at the crack of daylight and fight traffic under a time clock (since three tardies in a school year is considered truancy) in order to get one child to kindergarten causes me great stress! We’re only two weeks in and I’m miserable. I thrive on routine and schedule, but this is not the good kind! Thank heaven Erika is loving kindergarten. That makes it all worth it, but I still cannot wait to homeschool!

Day 8 | a little late...

So I'm posting this on Monday from my notes, just like I'll be doing for Sunday's blog. My goal was to drive while I wasn't sleeping and sleep while I could. I've done that reasonably well.

I stayed in Northridge on Friday, having driven up after work to see my Grandmother and whoever else was around. It took longer than I thought it would, with LA traffic and all, but overall not a bad trip. I stopped at Camping World in San Bernadino (what a pit), and strangely became a rockstar there... The techs were coming out to check out the rig - never seen anyone gooseneck it before, never seen a fiver that came over the top of the rig - both things I was extremely happy to do with our rig. Then I talked with a guy that had looked at Glendale's before and went with a juiced up something or other instead (weight issue for his 250 I think). He did talk to me about Banks and how much better it was than stock. I can't imagine what this truck would be like with a full Banks setup on it. I'd probably be able to eat Ferarri's for lunch at that point - if I went the whole route. But, do I want to do that. I'd probably like to put a better air system on it (Banks or K&N), maybe juice the chip a little, but I've always thought that the factory did stuff the safe way - the don't-break-it way. Why mess with that? I'll be out of warranty for the powertrain soon though, so, who knows... Its just money right? ;)

Friday night I slept in the rig. Not entirely by choice - I guess that'll teach me to make a joke about towing around my house. "Great, I won't have to make a bed... doh!" Oh well, looking at the positive it was a good way to break everything in and force myself to get a good night ssleep in a comfortable bed. No TV to distract, so all ended well.

I started Saturday morning a little late - about an hour behind what I wanted, but that's really not too bad. I had a stop to make in Phoenix to see a long-time friend and I wanted to spend a little time, but I also wanted to put some distance on. My plan was to make Flagstaff that night up the 17. I did that and then some... More on that later.


Kevin and Bean on the World Famous KROQ - it was great listening to an old friend. it was better when I turned it on and heard a song from the past... "I'll give you candy, give you pearls, I'll give you anything you want - hundred dollar bills..." Ah, my youth! They were funny and it was a good reminder of my time in LA.

Truck - Man what a rig. I still hate the freeways in CA for what they do to me. I think it'll take me a week to sort out the damage that all the bouncing does, but its only for awhile and then I'm out into the regular freeway world. I think they should make the guys that make the decisions ride in a truck like mine to see how it feels. I've been watching how much work it is to drive a rig this big. I'm not sure if those guys in 350s see the same kind of stuff I see, or if the motorhomes that aren't mansions see it worse than I do (the mansions have wheels and wheels and wheels... so they aren't affected as much on that platform). Its especially hard and busy in the slow lanes that have been around for awhile and have a bit of a groove in them. Low spots and valleys just want to grab the wheel and make the truck go in their own direction. Its a constant fight to keep it in-line. AND speaking of that - why is it that the slow lanes, with the biggest trucks, the most cargo, and the highest volume of dollars to pass over it are always the most neglected, hideous stretch of road in the area? I know that its a circle (heavy stuff rips up roads, more travel rips roads, spot fix so that we don't inconvenience anyone, then they get bad, blah blah blah) but I can't imagine what that costs anyone in terms of real dollars at the grocery store, in driver fees, in maintenance. Back to the truck - I'm still happy with it. So far I've seen the temp needle crawl twice - once over Cajelco Pass and once in the mountains up to Flag. It moved about a quarter of an inch, so not too bad, and you know me - I wasn't going easy in either spot. I've been happy that thus far on the trip I'm averageing about 8 MPG towing. I expect it to get better through the flats, but we'll see - I'll do a full write up on the truck when I get back. Should be interesting.

Phoenix... WOW is all I can say. What a difference 10 years makes. There were malls and houses and schools arther out than I thought possible. The freeways are all connecting so well that I didn't even have to go anywhere close to downtown to get up North. Places that I knew are no longer what they were, so it'll be fun to spend a little time there on our trip. Now, all that new stuff looked just like all the new stuff when we were there did - that hasn't changed, but PHX is PHX, they do know how to plan and execute growth.

Two last things - In-n-out and Quartzsite. I'm sad to see my beloved in-n-out go, but I know I'll see it again sometime soon. It really is a good burger, and one of my goals on the trip is to try to make one that's close. I plan on working on it A LOT! Quartzsite is a town I never understood before. It looked like this desolate, ugly, utter wasteland everytime I went through it. Now, knowing that it takes on an enitrely different persona in the winter, I now know what I'm seeing. Acres of parking, with power hookups - they look like drive-in movie boxes - and just weeds in the pavement. But that's now, in the summer, not wintertime when you travel to meet your oldest friends after being away on summer vacation. Its the same as school kids - they fill up with stories while they are out wandering the country in their full-time RV and then gather around the lunch table the same way we used to write that paper the first week of school - what I did on my summer vacation... Some things - never change, and that's probably a good thing.

Some day maybe we'll be part of that crowd, part of that scene. For now I'm content to leave the kids the stories, and to be the vessel that allows them to have stories to tell :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 7 | Really, 7 days? I can't keep up.

So, day 7 of my trip, and I'm starting to burn out a little. Its nice that I'm taking my time but the last day and next two are going to be long. I could be to Amarillo in the amount of time its cost me, but - it is what it is. Sometimes, there are things you just should do, so you do them - or, at least I do them. I know some others that wouldn't (no names of course).

Today was good. I got an oil change at a place I would never go back to and will go out of my way to de-recommend (EZ Lube). What a racket - everything is upsell, upsell, upsell. Promise, don't deliver (was told I'd get a discount over the phone, 6 apologies later, still no discount). Take you out of your car so that we can look busy, but not really do much. From what my in-laws tell me, they really are all about the racket - glad I spotted it early. If you have a choice, DON'T USE EZ LUBE. I hope that gets crawled by google, and someone learns from my experience. HOWEVER, its done (4 gallons of oil later) and I learned about the filter (EZ change). So, overall - done.

Facebook went well, I think. A lot of support, a little envy, but no negatives. People took it well and I didn't hear one "that's it, that's your big news...pashaw.." or "Weren't you talking about being on the road full-time? What happened to that..." WHEW. I'm not entirely ready to let that Tiger out of the bag quite yet. Soon, but I wanna ease into it, not make it a slam-dunk on those that don't yet know.

I got to spend some time with the in-laws. Went to dinner, which was nice. I always enjoy that because they are enjoying each other's company. Its a nice time. Dinner was good, and its a good sendoff - plus, I found goodies for the girls there - perfect little presents, all the same. :)

I torqued the wheels on the trailer tonight. Its nice to have that piece of equipment to be sure I'm doing things right. Yes, its expensive to make sure your lug nuts are doing what they are supposed to be doing (at 120 ft/lb), but peace of mind is good too. I don't think I've ever worried so much about the little stuff. Now I feel its good to wrry about this little stuff. Maybe its all the thinking on the trip :)

Tomorrow will be a tough day. I'm here until 1 because they have things to do and won't be back until then, but that's ok - it forces me to be responsible and do work. Always a good thing. I'm hopeful that I'll get out of here by 2 and be up in Northridge by 6, but Friday can be brutal out here (I'd rant about CA, but I'm too tired) - just glad I have an automatic. I'm not worried about driving the trailer so much, just the time it'll take. I'd love to stop by the old haunting grounds and see what that is like now (Sav-on, Chino Hills, CPSUP, Mission, etc.) but its just going to be too tough towing all this. It'll just have to wait until I can show it to everyone from the Van windows. :)

More tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 6 | Impressions from a first time RV driver

I bought the right truck. I totally bought the right truck. I'm also very glad with the way that I've come about this process, since if I'd flown in and bought the truck here, I'd have been very worried about every aspect of things. If anyone reading this is wondering about how to do what we did - and you have no experience with some aspects of things (never driven a trailer, never driven a big truck, etc.) then I recommend taking it one step at a time. I've done very well with all this, and while I've always felt like I could drive anything (and pretty much have driven a great deal of different autos), if I hadn't had 2000 miles of time in the truck getting it figured out, getting the new off the tires, getting the feeling of what the truck is capable of, I feel like I would have been lost. Anyway - practice, practice and practice some more. Take it one piece at a time. If I'd had the chance, I'd probably have driven the truck around with my 18' trailer for a couple of days before hooking up the fiver, but regardless - I did get to know the truck well before adding the fifth-wheel.

Anyhow - I know I bought the right truck because, as I said, picking up the unit was trial-by-fire. Two turns and you're out on the mail thoroughfare with no back-way or other outs. There is traffic, there are lights, there are HilLS, and its right out of the box! I fortunately timed it so that I ended up following a fedex truck out to the freeway, so I knew my stopping distances, acceleration didn't feel pushed so I could go slow with it, and I got to watch the line he drove so I could follow it.

The truck handled everything so well - I actually had to watch my speed so that I didn't exceed the speed limit (occasionally even uphill!). If you've never driven the 15 North of San Diego - its basically vertical grades up and down of 4-6% with almost no flat time. I never dropped under 50, and the guages never moved a tick. Putting the Ford in Tow/Haul mode makes such a difference since it knows now to downshift when you apply the brakes rather than just drift. I have the trailer set at 7.5 gain, and while I played with that when I left the dealership (moving it to 8.5, smoking the tires on my second ever stop :) ) it seems to like where its at right now. I'll probably play with it a bit when I get on the road.

ALSO - putting the trailer on the hitch moved the bed like an inch. It is lighter than I thought it would be, and there is definitely some stiffness still in the truck, but it is much better. Its not smooth yet, but I think some of that will go away when I get an air-hitch (fifth wheel hitch) after I get back. This will do fine for the trip home since a)I won't be going as fast, and b) it was cheap in comparrison ($500 for an adapter plus only waiting next day VS $4000 for an air-ride and waiting better than a week. Plus, it'll give me some time to do some research rather than just saying - yes, that's fine. The trip home tonight did bounce the drawers out of the front dresser, but that also could have been done on that emergency stop I had to do on the way to the freeway (which the truck handled well).

I had no trouble handling the truck and trailer, and by the time I'd done the 63 miles back to the house I'd bet I'd classify me as 'comfortable'. I was a little nervous about backing in. There is a pretty good drop going into the driveway, but it worked out. I put it in place first shot, which I didn't expect. Backing is easier than I thought probably because I've driven quite a few trailers, but never one this long. They really are right that it is easier than a full 45' behind the truck would have been. I never once felt out of touch with how it was going to react.

Anyhow - I parked it, stabilized it, and opened it up for the in-laws. I think they were surprised at how nice it really was. I like having it here so that I can play a little before running around again.

Tonight Johanne gets to show it off to the neighborhood :)

Day 5 1/2 | RV attained, lessons on picking up in the afternoon learned

Well, its dark, its late, and I spent the better part of my day just waiting around because they didn't do all the inspecting they probably should have. But it is attached to the truck, in the driveway and everything seems to work.

Let's start at the beginning for the day... I really don't like California anymore. I'm sure I could get used to it again, but wow - what a hassle. Traffic, is a nightmare. It is stop and go, ofr no reason other than that there are too many people to fit on roads that were designed and built just last year even. The freeway is worse (we stop-and-go'd around a corner on the freeway just because it was a corner - no accident, no stall, CORNER. sigh. Then, I needed diesel, so I got off the freeway where a station should be, but no diesel. drove down the street, no diesel... ugh. Took me what seemed like forever to get everything done and then get down to Norm's...

Then: Well, you'd think it was going to be easy - they knew I was coming two weeks out, they knew I was leaving with the RV that night, and they KNEW I was from far away and wasn't going to bring it back in for a due bill... sigh. We did some shopping - with the deal I got a $50 gift cert. Because I bought from them I get 10% off. This still brought the price down to HIGH retail, so I didn't buy anything more than I absolutely needed. She tried to upsell me on everything, and I'm sure her information is good and she just wanted me to be happy, but I can cut about 20% off those prices by waiting a couple of days, so I did. I used the cert to get: cheap sewer hose and connector, egg crate (I needed another $5 thing), RV shaped like the Glendale for the girls, a 15 to 30 adapter, and a 25' water hose (longer primary, then a 15' can be an extension). They gave me some nice 'getting started' books, including a Woodall's guide, an atlas, and a nice "one tank trips" book for the far west of the US... In addition (and because they matched Camping World's president price) I bought the 50 amp portable surge protector and lock (aside: The Glendale's wiring thus far seems to be behind the panel, and I can't easily get to it. I want to hard wire one in instead, but I'll have to wait to see if that's possible. I probably won't plug in until our first trip - not on the way home... AND if I did, it'll probably be to the Honda i2000 I plan to buy.) Anyhow, I also had to buy the gooseneck adapter you see, and they came close to CW's price, but I didn't have to go get it, lug it around, etc. so that was worth it to me. I'll call it a convenience fee. :) I'm excited to see what the girls do with the toy.

So we finish that deal, and i go out for the walkthrough - but wait, the GN adapter isn't put on yet. They are afraid to do it with the pinbox my trailer comes with, and 'have been trying to call me all day'. Anyhow - the decision is made to replace my pinbox 'for free' to a solid box from a past unit and then attach the GN to that. OK, sounds reasonable, but they had several ways to get ahold of me (including the email address Norm had emailed me at just days before...) well, no harm, no foul - just an annoyance, and a telling sign of things to come.

I get a silly guy that likes to joke for my technician in the walkthrough. He likes to talk, likes to kid, and jokes. I'm not really in the mood for it, but I go along with it for now. It turns out that I'll be glad i did, but we'll leave that for later. :) We went through all the systems in the coach, and find several odd things. It seems to me that they are used to having someone come in that just wants to know how the systems work, but don't go any further than that. I fine-tooth-combed the unit. Every light, every drawer, everything - and found several faults, INCLUDING one's I'd brought up the day before...sigh. We find about 10 things that are kinda minor, but still should be addresses if they are delivering a brand new coach. Then we did something I don't think they were used to... we went to the roof. You see, I know that there's a lot of stuff up there and I want to know about it - AND I knew that the unit has been sitting in the sun and elements for probably a year... So up we go, and he says that I'm supposed to check this stuff about every 6 months, and clearly they haven't - the sealant around things is supposed to be white - it isn't. It is supposed to be pretty smooth without pitting, it isn't. Nobody seems to have looked at that - and the fact is that they should have. My advice to anyone buying/looking. If the units spent anytime outdoors, get up on the roof and inspect it. Ask questions, complain if it doesn't look right and don't let them blow you off. Earlier I said I got lucky, and I did, because I think if I'd been up there with any other tech, they would have told me that's how it was supposed to look, and I might have been ok with that. Steve was honest, and took ownership of the process and the product. While that probably costs his employers in the short term, it probably is minor in comparison to what they gain in customer loyalty/repurchase/etc.

Steve even looked at one of the doors that seemed a little to largely gapped in the back, and while Kim (mgr) and I discussed that it did in fact seal, and that its just the way the coach is built, Steve at least was willing to write it down and take it to her, rather than just blow past it. That is something I can truly appreciate.

Anyhow- because of the roof fiasco I missed dinner (they should have probably offered to buy since my truck was hooked up by that point), and didn't get out of there until 8. BUT at least they were willing to stay and let me get out of there tonight, rather than have to burn 4 hours doing it tomorrow. I'll take it. Norm's RV is behind me, I've got my unit in the driveway, and things work fine now :)

More blogging on Day 6 after I mess around a bit with it. More photos too (now I need to open a flickr account... darnit!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 5 | Today's the day...

Well, today's the day I take delivery of the trailer. Its been a very long trip, but I know once I'm pulling it off the lot I'll feel a great sense of accomplishment. Right now its just something I want to get over with. Show me around, teach me about the systems and let me get this over with already :) I'm ready to start making my own schedules.

Last night was great for my ankles. I still can't believe that they got so big, but resting in a horizontal position for a full night of sleep brought them down to normal finally (well, almost). I'm hopefule that sleeping horizontal the rest of the trip will get the job done.

To do last night's blog:

Truck: So the thing has power. I'm finding that no matter what it can still pull, and that if it didn't have the limiter on it, it'd really move. We'll see how it acts under the trailer, but I have no doubts I'll find that hills won't be any problem for it, nor will slowing on those hills. I'll find out right away of course because Poway is in the middle of mountain central, so trial by fire it is!

One thing I have found interesting and annoying is the freeways in California and how they are made. Its very strange - not as bad as that run in MO, and NM had its moments, but all the freeways in CA have that grooved, poured structure. The truck runs fine on it slow, not bad at 55/60, ok at 80 - but at 72-77 its the worst ride of the world. I can't describe it as anything other than bone-jarring, teeth-clapping bounds, and unless you've been in it, you can't understand. I'm glad that trailering will limit me to 55, thought with the weight of the trailer than all might be moot at 72 anyhow. I hope to never deal with that again!

PINK - so theme of the trip right? Guess what was the first song on the station this morning. Crazy!

Economic Stimulus Package - It is working. There is no doubt as I've seen the proof. On my journey I must have passed 10 different brand new busses for difference municipalities. Shows that the money given to communities is going to help people - in other communities. Why a city would get ES money and then spend it to build a bis in another state rather than give it to their own people is beyond me, but clearly government at its finest. I'm sure that some bus building union has friends inside the circle of people that wrote the stimulus package and that they made sure that you got money for new busses, knowing that there are only 5 places in the US to build/buy/paint those busses. I mean, I guess its jobs no matter how you look at it, but giving Springfield, Missouri money so they can buy busses built in Downey, California (all locations, etc. made up with no fact behind them) shows that you're not out to help your own people, just to spend free money. Get 20 local, out-of-work people to work on the busses you already have in service and pay them that money...

Cost of Living - This is something that's become a very interesting focus of mine of late. K & A had been talking about CO for awhile until A came back from CA. One thing he specifically said was that the cost of living wasn't that much different. I can't say I agree. In looking at all the things I've had to deal with in CA I'm not planning on ever moving back, unless money no longer means anything to me. I was buying diesel on the trip out here pretty consistently at 2.70ish a gallon, even as close as kingman (@2.73), but when I came over the border it jumped to 3.69. Granted, Needles is a 'resort' town, but still. That's a pretty hefty jump. Then I went to the local fast food restaurant when drinks now run me 2.19. State tax is higher, vehicle registrations are higher (don't I know it), the cost of living in general is probably 30% higher (not taking into account, health factors in smog/pollution, traffic & time, lifestyle of people (I hadn't seen one bum until CA), or general overcrowdedness of the world out here. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to say, no matter how much more you make in CA, the true cost of living is higher. Period.

and Finally... Yesterday I signed the final papers and did the preliminary walkthrough. I'm hopeful that they'll catch all the things that need to be caught and not be sloppy, but I'm trying to keep good notes about what I see and what they say. So far things have made sense, and all seems on the up and up, but I'm afraid a little about how much I have to learn and how expensive it can be if I don't get something right. I'm confident in my abilities, but there are sure a lot of systems to screw up :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 4 | end of the trek West.

So after a good night's sleep (finally), I'm ready to head off to trailer world. I got an unexpected gift from the boss today when she took the day off for her birthday, freeing my day up and pushing my workday into the evening. whew.
To continue last night's blog... actually, to do last night's blog :)

First, the truck - I finally totally settled in, I'm driving it very comfortably now, as long as the road doesn't have an attitude grabbing it about. I'm happy to have that confidence in driving something so big, and having the tires act like they should helps too. I can still get them to be squiggy, I just have to make it happen now rather than making it keep from happening. :)

Red Highway - I forgot what red Highway looked like. For those of you that don't know, I'm not referring to that crash tape they make you watch in driver's ed, I'm talking about those parts of the southwest that use native rock to pave the highway. it always seems to compliment the surrounding area so much, and I just like the way it looks. If I remember correctly the color is derived from the rain rusting the iron in the soil, giving it that reddish appearance. you can see it in the plateaus of NM and AZ, possibly NV. Its just a neat highway to drive.

Empty Billboards - a few hours in this morning there were these little towns in NM that do all kinds of tourist-trappy Indian stuff, and before each of them is usually a ton of billboards proclaiming all their specials and why you should stop in - and I mean a ton. i think I counted 25 before this one place (there were three that I remember). Anyway, I wish I had my camera ready because a sign of the times could not have been more clear. At the last stretch, they were empty. Just the hulking 16' by 40' empty spaces, 25' apart from each other with nothing on them. Waiting, perhaps, for when the establishment either reopened or when they could finally afford it again. it wa bleak - if I go back that way I'll definitely stop to photograph it. it really spoke volumes about the times many people are living in...

Scrabble - I came up with an idea for a new game. Travel Scrabble, and we may play it at our next family get together. Standard scrabble rules and board, except - you can only use locations. Two letter, valid North American States are OK. Valid three letter country codes are ok, but any words longer must be somewhere that can be put in the phrase 'Last summer I went (to) (the)'. It'll be interesting to see how it plays :)

Classic Rock - I came to an interesting realization today. The reason our uncles and aunts listened to 'classic rock' when we were younger is because that's the musice they heard when they were in HS, and learning about music. I came to this realization as 97X (not the LA variety, but ALBQ or such) tagged itself as THE classic rock station, and then played Sunday, Bloody Sunday by U2. Man, I'm getting old, aren't I.

PINK is the official music of this trip. Right now, all I know is that she is getting PAID! I've heard her latest song at least 3 times a day, with it at its peak Friday night (13 times in 8 ours). Flipping radio stations is interestin, and hearing what's popular is fun. I like the song (which is probably good for my sanity) and the only reason I probably haven't heard it more is because Woodstock's anniversary was Saturday (and I listened to it on public Radio for awhile. aside - its always interesting to hear swear words on an FCC licensed station, even if it is public radio...). I also think that if you mentioned PINK in Oklahoma and the north of Texas it doesn't have the meaning of the songstress. I don't think i heard one pop station on that tretch of the trip, or the pink count might be 3 times what it is. :)

Finally - and maybe sadly for Jill - I'm finding out that I may need to live in the mountains. Driving through Flagstaff told me alot about my state of mind. I calmed down and felt I could truly take a deep breath for the first time in awhile. The town is a little screwy for sure, but I felt a little at home there. And the views - mountains and pine trees and small roads and little wood buildings... I wonder why it is that city people always take vacations into the mountains (or beach) and mountain/beach people always take vacations into other mountains/beach? Somthing to be said for that...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 3 | Needles.

Finally settled into a hotel room. My ankles are the size of my knees from all that sitting and bouncing and no exercize at all. I'm going to enjoy sleeping in a bed tonight (Motel 6). I'd like to blog about everything and post my pictures, but I'm just too wiped out. I'm getting up early and will get working on things until checkout. Then the plan is to try to get down to Poway before 6 and Camping World by 7 To pick everything up I need. I'm hopeful it'll all work out. If not, then Plan B. Not sure what Plan B is yet, but I'll make it work.

Day 3 | How far today? Tucumcari to...

Good night's rest I must say considering the cicumstances. Woke up to a bit of rain in the cab - from the sprinklers, but nothing too bad. I must say I do like the rain-guard things on the windows. Its opened my eyes as to why people use them, and I'll put them on every truck I own from now on. They just have so many convinieces to them.

E-mail is stuck because of that monster report Gregg runs every night for the loader. I need to figure out some way to deal with all this huge archival email I get. Its going to be too cumbersome on the road. Figure maybe to pop those accounts only when I have a good connection or a solid power base where I can just let the thing sit and sit and sit. More to ponder about work...

Flying J is back to being OK in the realm of places to stop. The bathrooms are clean, the store well stocked. I just ran into a bad one earlier in the trip I guess. Maybe I'll give Love's another chance at love...?

I'm figuring that I'll make CA today, but just not the whole way. It'll depend on how far I push myself and how much work I feel I need to accomplish. I still have a list of things for that project, and I'd like to have it done on Monday so we'll see what that takes.

This morning routine is good. rather than what I used to do which was wake up, rub eyes, turn on car, go - taking a little time - an hour even - is worth the wasted road time because I'm more focused and more together out there. That's always a good thing.

OK - off West. Blog soon :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 2 | Tucumcari.

What a long day. After not a whole lot of sleep, but feeling ok I left MO and travelled, and for the most part it was a standard long drive trip, but I'm getting as far as I want as fast as I want, and I think I'm going to have to refigure it based on having to work Early Monday and have some things done on Sunday Night. So, with that, I may not make CA until Monday Eve/late Afternoon. We'll see, I'll plan more on it tomorrow.

I could have gone further tonight, but I needed to break a little, not just be a butt in the seat. I'm finding that its very helpful to take some time before and after - waking up, winding down. I'm going to do plenty of that on the way back - which will take quite some time I'm afraid. 55/65 everywhere is not going to be quick.
I had a bunch of notes on things I wanted to blog about. I'm hoping that I can read them... Tires - they are finally getting comfortable. There are still some times when things are a little splashy, but its getting better. I think by the time I put some weight on the back that they'll be splashed out. I want to post a bunch on this when I get back as I think this tire experience would be helpful to others, with what I've learned, what I've been told and why I picked what I did. Overall I'm happy with the Michelin's and can very much put up with the only two problems I've run across - they are noisy, as would any block tire be, and they were expensive, but I think I'll get what I paid for. More on all that later...

Joke: I saw a pile of cut wood (cords and cords of it) in front of a log home building place. Is that how they repossess?

I saw a Jack in the Box in Missouri, but didn't stop - now I can't find one. Kinda funny actually, I'm not sure why they chose that state to stop and why they only go North, but it is what it is. I just hadn't seen one in a long time.

I can't read he rest and its time to get some sleep. I'll blog more on all this tomorrow.

Day 2 | To the Rig - Pacific, MO to ?

I swear when I woke up this morning that I saw a bank of cameras in my head - like a tv station's control room - and some of them just would not come into focus... :) However, its now been about 30 minutes and all systems check out.

If I were doing this at all regularly I'd need a couple of things. 1) They did not build this bench seat for comfort. Foam Pad would be a very good thing, but I'll pass because I'm only doing this a couple of times (maybe even only one). 2) in the Fall, probably not an issue, but right now its just too hot not to have ventilation, and I'm not rolling the windows down while I sleep. I cracked them, but a nice 12v circ fan would be a huge benefit. I'll try to pick one up in one of the truck stops today. 3) I'll take the big pillow. Next time, take two. I'm too big a guy in too smal a space. Oh well, again, if i were doing it every day, that'd be something else.

I'm off to the West. I haven't had an Egg McMuffin in quite awhile, so I'll probably go grab one of those. Then call the kids and Jill. Should be a good day - I hope to make at least Albequerque today, but my goal is PHX. Maybe too aggressive ;)

Day 1 | To the Rig - Lex to Pacific, MO

Well, what a haul. After working all day, I gathered everything up, had dinner with the family, put the girls to bed, kissed the wife and headed West. I left Lexington at 9 and hit a good omen right away. The light at the end of the street which is never green turned green just for me as I approached... I took it as a sign, and have ben relaxed about the trip since.

The road construction was unexpected, but I just took it as what it was. It put me behind a good hour and a half - nothing like crawling out at 10MPH for like 30 miles. Once that passed I got on a good clip, but learned that at night now, not every exit has diesel and even if they do, it might be closed. I got into Indiana and almost didn't make it out. Stop at 1/4 tank. Period.

It took me about 200 miles to settle into the truck. It really is a beast and it really does ride tough. Hard to drink water in at full speed on a sectioned highway, impossible to text while moving :) The tires are getting a little easier to predict, but that could also be because I'm adjusting to the truck itself. During the road construction there were several spots there was just one lane with a concrete barrier. You MUST be paying attention in this rig. There is no autopilot, which is fine.

I'm stopped for the night and have a nice little office setup in here. The back seat is big enough to make a good seat desk, I've got the truck locked up, windows just cracked (and because of the window protectors noone can tell), and the inverter plugged in charging the computer.

Quick Sleep now, Tomorrow will be a long day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Huge Strides

Jill's Journal: Ridiculous strides have been made and at lightning speed lately. Rob has been the driving force behind it all. He promises to fill in the blanks, but for now, a quick synopsis...

*We pulled the trigger and bought a fifth wheel! It's absolutely everything we had been looking for, with the grand exception that it's currently located about 2200 miles away in Poway, California. We absolutely cannot wait to get our hands on it.

*We bought a truck. A big truck. A really big truck meant to pull said fifth wheel. A Ford 550. See photo.

*Rob literally just left a few minutes ago in said truck to pick up said fifth wheel. Long journey for him and although I know he is more than completely capable, I still worry about him. Erika started kindergarten this week (another big step in our lives!), which means the girls and I are tied down here and couldn't go with him. I nearly pulled her out and started homeschooling a year early!

*And in other news, Rob told his mother and sister our plans. It did not go well, as we expected. It's the only negative blip in what so far has been (and will be!) an incredibly positive life experience for our whole little family.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

So much to talk about...

I have so many things to talk about, and no mind to do it. Tomorrow I promise, tomorrow.

Topics include:
  • How fast things move when you pull the trigger
  • Timelines change when things move fast
  • How to grab the only trailer in inventory, while trying to sneak that you're doing it
  • How many things have come about in the last several hours that might set aside the entire schedule.

More to come soon, but first, a little rest. :)


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mayo, Golf Balls and Beer

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the jar, balls, pebbles, sand and the 2 Beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.. 'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
  • The golf balls are the important things --- your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions --- and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

  • The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.The sand is everything else---the small stuff.'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18 holes of golf. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first --- the things that really matter.Set your priorities.

  • The rest is just sand.

  • One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked. 'The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Interesting conversion for a desk

I saw this when looking at used trailers today, and thought it a very elegant solution to not having workspace. I could do this with any chest of drawers using mostly materials that already exist in the RV. The slides and platform for the pullout could be easy to get from Lowe's/HD, and the drawer facia could be cut down to remanufacture smaller drawers on the top level. Everything could then be laid out on the chest, with the pull out left for the laptop.

Since just about every one of the units we've looked at has a chest of drawers like this in some format, I think my problem of workspace is pretty much solved in that fashion. then, if I ever did have to work late, and Jill were asleep I could take the laptop out into the LR without problem, as long as I don't always have to be out there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

God’s Country

Jill's Journal: The realization that our days in Kentucky are limited has me feeling a bit melancholy lately. I love this great state and will miss it. Regardless of how excited I am for our adventure, knowing we may not ever live in the Commonwealth again is sad – this has been a great home, full of wonderful memories.

I’m making a list of all the things I want to do and places I want to visit before our launch date. In the last two weeks alone, we’ve gone to Fort Boonesborough, the Kentucky Horse Park, and now today, the Salato Wildlife Center. Before that, it was Daniel Boone’s grave and the Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory (home of bourbon balls!). There’s already another 20 or so things I think we need to see before we leave.

I’m seeing this beautiful state with fresh eyes and that’s a gift. The stunning drive to Frankfort today struck me anew and reminded me why we moved here in the first place. The rolling green hills dotted with grazing Thoroughbreds and manicured fencelines are eye candy in its highest form. There’s nothing like it. I’ve been lucky enough to see some exquisite places around the world and this ranks right up there with the very best. Kentucky is truly God’s country.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

They Know!

Jill's Journal: My parents came from California to Kentucky to visit us last week and other than enjoying their visit, my focus was in telling them about our RV plans. Truth be told, I was terrified! Here I am a responsible, grown woman with kids of my own, and I was afraid to tell my parents for fear of their disapproval. Crazy, right?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. To my great and wonderful surprise, they took the news FABULOUSLY. Astoundingly well. Kristi thought my presentation helped: I told them how we never dreamed we’d leave Kentucky, but we’ve learned the only way to be competitive in the Thoroughbred industry here as breeders is to have far deeper pockets than we do. I told them we want a farm again someday, but we can see the benefits of a regional market as opposed to the top Kentucky market. I told them how our trip to the Central Coast of California last year opened our eyes to the realization that we could possibly live somewhere else. I reminded them how Rob already telecommutes and can work from anywhere. And I told them how places like Montana were considerations as a future home, but we very well might still stick with Kentucky – we honestly don’t know what the future holds. They’ve been hoping we’d move back West since we headed East 12 years ago and got very excited at all the above…

And then I told them that we had thought it would be so neat to “live” in various places for a few weeks at a time, kind of as a trial or test of future hometowns for us. I said that idea had morphed even farther and melded with our desire to travel the country. And then I broke the big news: we’d finally arrived at a plan of buying an RV and spending the next few years traveling before settling down again.

I waited for any sign of disapproval, but there was none. NONE! They took it amazingly well. In fact, to my great surprise, they were extremely positive about it! They were surprised at the plan as it is out of the conventional world they’re accustomed to, but they almost thought it was kind of neat and said it’s the kind of thing we need to do now while we can. You could have knocked me over with a feather at their reaction! It made me very, very happy and I don’t think I will ever underestimate them again. :-)

My parents' fabulous response surprised me so pleasantly that the next morning I worried if perhaps the margaritas and bourbon consumed during our “talk” had impacted their judgment. I asked them about it again just to make sure and the reaction stayed the same. It was like Christmas in July for me! As a few days passed, they thought of new questions to ask and had fun little realizations like wondering what would happen to my marvelous Dyson vacuum during our downsizing. (Side note: My Mom wants to volunteer to babysit it!!)

They took it so great!! I love my parents.

Next hurdles: telling Rob’s Mom and his employers. Yikes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Article: Things every traveler should do

I ran across an article out of Real Simple, and thought I'd post it here to keep it in mind for when we hit the road. Though I've taken out a few that didn't make sense for our particular US trip, I thought it entirely appropriate:

Things every traveler should do

Visiting a new town is like having a conversation. Places ask questions of you just as searchingly as you question them. And, as in any conversation, it helps to listen with an open mind, so you can be led somewhere unexpected. The more you leave assumptions at home, I've found, the better you can hear whatever it is that a destination is trying to say to you.

Savor every moment of your first few hours

First impressions really are worth a thousand others. I often scribble a hundred pages of notes when I visit somewhere new. But then, when I get home, it's always the first page or two -- the taxi ride in from the airport, my first foray out onto the streets -- that captures something vivid and essential before my ideas and prejudices begin to harden.

So stay away from e-mail, the news and anything that reminds you of home and just soak the place in.

Embrace the prospect of being a tourist

Some snooty types will tell you that they're "travelers," not tourists. But if being a tourist means wanting to see all the attractions that make a town unique, then what's so bad about that?

Take the three-hour city tour on your first day in Atlanta so you know where things are and what you wish to return to. When traveling abroad, visit the shops recommended by tour guides, if only to see what's available from people who speak English. Don't be shy about asking a local stranger how to find the national museum; she may just offer you a guided tour along the way.

Run an errand for a friend

She's asked you to get, say, macadamia popcorn on Maui or to track down that wise monk she once met in Phnom Penh. The very search for what someone else wants or values (and it doesn't really matter what it is) will lead you to places you would otherwise never see.

Take in a performance or a sporting event

A ball game or a symphony is transporting and doesn't require you to speak the language. And watching opera in Beijing or soccer in Rio will be nothing like seeing opera or soccer at home. It would take a mighty effort to get me to "Swan Lake" in Santa Barbara. But put me in Beirut and I know it will be a night to remember.

Check out a bookstore

It's a great way to learn about the interests of the locals. On almost any street in New Delhi, for example, a bookshop is bulging with works on palaces, textiles, spirituality and the Kama Sutra; in Salt Lake City, the offerings are somewhat different.

And in a store like the independent-minded Elliott Bay Book Company, a local institution in Seattle, you'll find a universe so compendious that it seems to be an anthology of the city's distinctive grace notes. Poking into even the smallest of these places not only opens a new door to a city but also offers the promise of a good read to keep you company at night.

Ride a bus to the end of the line

It isn't wise to do this everywhere, but riding the bus to even the next six stops can be useful. At the very least, you'll see something of the city, get a front-seat view (literally) of what the Romans do in Rome and end up in surprising destinations. I did this in Miami once and found myself in a spicy part of Little Havana that nobody would have mistaken for South Beach, and yet it seemed to capture the essence of the city.

Read the daily newspaper

Almost every big city anywhere has an English-language paper, and even papers you can't read will startle you with their pictures and their different types of tiny print. Whether it's pages of "matrimonial" ads in The Times of India or headlines in the Key West Citizen (300-POUND MAN SMASHES HEAD IN WALL), newspapers always tell you much more about a place than they think they're telling.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our First Homeschool Fair

Jill's Journal: We went to our first homeschooling fair today. The homeschooling crowd is certainly…different (for lack of a better word) from the rest of society, but after getting past the initial “culture shock,” I think it’s in a good way. It’s a more wholesome crowd and everyone just seems more polite and open and well, nice. Yes, there were several females wearing long skirts and long hair and looking like that large and unusual Duggar family from Arkansas, but that’s not a bad thing. I’d take them for neighbors and friends and classmates for my children any day over most of the rest of society, that’s for sure. The whole place and all the attendees just seemed like a lovely community, not afraid to march to the beat of their own drummers, and it makes me all the more pleased with our decision.

Sonlight Curriculum was there, as was A Beka and several others. I’ve done so much research already that I didn’t learn much new. However, the highlight was getting to talk to several Moms who already homeschool, especially one who uses Sonlight and another who uses Calvert! That was very exciting and getting their insights was helpful and wonderful.

The best part of the day was hearing the Sonlight Mom tell me that she uses completely individual curriculums for each of her three children (who were all about two years apart, just like ours). That’s been one of my biggest concerns – everyone (including Sonlight) advises you to combine the programs and teach all your kids the same thing. I've never felt comfortable with that. I figure they’re all individuals and will be (and should be) at different stages of learning. I don’t want to hold Erika back so she can be on the same page as Madelyn, nor do I want to push Madelyn too hard so she can be on the same page as Erika. And that doesn’t even take into account Victoria, who is 3 1/2 years behind Erika.

This particular mother I spoke to does what I want to do – separates each child’s schooling – and it was so incredibly nice and encouraging to hear that she does it and loves it and recommends it. She is seriously the first one I’ve ever heard of doing that! She had the same reasons that I do and says that it simply makes it a little harder on the Mom. Well, I can handle that! I just want what’s best for my kids. If it takes a little extra work from me, so be it.

It was also wonderful for Rob to be able to be there and get a little glimpse into all this homeschooling stuff. It opened a few nice little opportunities for discussion.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ditch the Stuff; Focus on Family

Jill's Journal: I’ll admit it: I love reading blogs. And today I found something so profound on Simple Mom. It fit our trip and our philospophy so beautifully that I had to share it. It’s a guest post from Nicole at Burning Bridges and this is the part that I simply had to include:

"Be Rich in FREEDOM.
"When I loosen my grip on money and things in order to give to others, my things and my money loosen their grip on me. Letting go of something I
think I need reveals that my need is not as deep as I thought. Letting go of some portion of my money or some thing I’m keeping as a safety net or luxury — if I can finally let it go — helps me redefine my needs. Am I dead? Am I freezing? Am I hungry? Am I bleeding? Most probably not. When we hold tightly to things, we start to fear the day of their release. And yet, ironically, it’s often our holding them so tightly that binds us up with fear in the first place.

"If you’re like me, then the more stuff you have, the more you’re consumed with managing it all. Cleaning, sorting, organizing, and analyzing. Things have mass and the more mass we own, the more we are weighed down with it all. When we use our things and our assets to bless others, we remind ourselves that people are of primary importance and that relationships will outlast everything else."

Isn’t that profound? That’s what is at the heart of our trip: the simplifying of our lives to focus on our family. Because in the end, that’s what matters the most.

Continuing Research

Jill's Journal: We went to an RV show at the Horse Park a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow we're heading to car lots to see some of the possibilities for trucks to pull our future fifth wheel. Our research marches on!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Where do you Thrive...

Jill found a note that I wanted to publish here to show it to the world, and to give a little insight as to our trip and the many reasons behind it. I like what he has to say, and I think that's going to be a large part of what we are doing. I've seen this first hand over the last year or so, and I'm even more keen to watch for it in others now. There is something about being happy where you are bringing a sense of happiness to other aspects of your life.

So, without further ado and no more gilding of the lily...

Today, June 08, 2009 • Michael Davis

Comedian Patton Oswalt gave a commencement speech to his former High School where he told the story of man who told him about the 'Five Environments'. The story resonated with me. I grew up in San Diego, a lovely city that most people would feel lucky to live in.. I hope it makes sense to you too.

"There are Five Environments you can live in on this planet. There's The City. The Desert. The Mountains. The Plains. And The Beach. You can live in combinations of them. Maybe a city in the desert, or in the mountains by the ocean. Or you could choose just one. Out in the plains somewhere, perhaps.

"But you need to get out there and travel, and figure out where you thrive. Some places you'll go to and you'll feel yourself wither. Your brain will fog up, your body won't respond to your thoughts and desires, and you'll feel sad and angry.

"You need to find out which of the Five Environments are yours. If you belong by the ocean, then the mountains will ruin you. If you're suited for the blue solitude of the plains, then the city will be a tight, roaring prison cell that'll eat you alive.

"He was right. I've traveled and tested his theory and he was absolutely right. There are Five Environments. If you find the right combination, or the perfect singularity, your life will click... into... place. You will click into place."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Craig’s List, eBay, and Purging…Oh My

Jill's Journal: No one can say I’m not taking downsizing seriously. A little more than two months ago, I started cutting down on stuff. Probably 99.9% of people in this country have more things than they could ever need and we’re no exception. I’ve always hated clutter and always liked living minimalistically, but that doesn’t mean we’re down to the bare bones, by any means. Not yet, anyway.

My first big foray into cleansing the “stuff” palate was finding new homes for all my horse racing videos. We’re talking videotapes of every Breeders’ Cup race since its inception (1984), all Triple Crown races from the last 20 years, and literally thousands of other races and racing industry events.

This was a big step. This collection of videos held a very special place in my heart. For Pete’s sake, we moved to Kentucky for horse racing and this wonderful game puts food on our table and is our sole source of income. To say we’d be lost without racing is an understatement. It’s more than a passion…it’s a way of life and a major love.

I knew after saying goodbye to these videos that everything else would be relatively easy, so that’s why I started with them. I’m pleased to say I found good racing homes for all of them and they promise to be loved and cherished. :-) It was bittersweet to part with them, but I did it.

And then I delved into Craig’s List. It’s not my favorite thing, as I hate having to meet people to exchange an item for money, but it’s working out well. I’ve already sold several larger items – mostly baby stuff – and gotten cold, hard cash in exchange for them. It feels good!

And now tonight, I just closed on my first eBay sale – it was just a few dollars for some scrapbooking scissors, but it was a start. I had dabbled in eBay 10 years ago and I certainly had to jump through a few hoops to reactive my seller’s account, but I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a thrill to start parting with things and get some money for them! Every item sold represents another step closer to our adventure of a lifetime.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lightbulb at the Library

Jill's Journal: My girls are voracious readers, but strangely, we’ve spent very little time at the library. We’ve always bought them books, mostly because then they are available to be enjoyed over and over (and over) again. And, with three kids so close in age, it made sense to build a children’s library. It never dawned on me to borrow books, which is strange as I spent many, many hours at the library as a child with my own mother. But, I’ve recently rediscovered this wonderful resource and in the last month, I got the first library card I’ve held in probably close to 25 years.

We checked out four books in our first visit and the girls thought it was pretty much the neatest thing they’d ever seen. We returned them today and left with another 19. When I told the girls we were heading to the library, there was much celebrating in the land. I cannot even express how excited they were – literally bouncing off the walls and acting like we were going someplace so supremely special, like Disneyland or the zoo!

And then we checked out the books and the girls could not wait to be strapped into their car seats so they could delve into the titles on the ride home…and they could not even bear the wait to start reading together at home.

Their reaction pleased me greatly. (It also made me smack myself on the forehead for not utilizing the library earlier in my parenting years!) And it gave me an epiphany. The Sonlight homeschool program is based so heavily in reading, something they love so deeply, that it gave me even more of an assurance it’s the right program for us. I’m so excited about it! Rob still needs to be convinced, however…