Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fun Times at Gold Manor - May 2018

Pam and I have been here in Virginia Beach for about three weeks now.  We are here to see daughter Kelly, son-in-law Jon and grandkids Brooks and Harrison.  We've been busy and have enjoyed every minute.  We are playing with the grandkids, doing projects around their house, seeing some friends from church.  We've generally making the most of our time here.

We also love doing projects around the house.  Some are more involved with others, but each project makes a dent in making their place (Gold Manor) an up-to-date home.  They purchased the property in November and have had some major renovations.
We've been concentrating on the smaller scale projects and helping out with the baby sitting and yard work.
This shows three projects underway:  Kelly is scraping the paint off the side door and garage door.  I power sprayed the garage door also and it is a long process.  Pam and I got an LED replacement light over the garage which she was putting up.  She finished that project quickly.  The rest will take a while.
I also power-washed the boat house and started with the back side.  It was a pretty nasty effort but it was a good start to getting the old paint off before we repair boards and put a new coat of paint on it. 
This tree/bush root was a particularly pesky one.  I had to dig and use the sawz-all to finally get it cut it off below ground.

I like mowing the lawn and it is a good way to get a workout!

Jon started laying some bricks for edging in the front yard and I continued the effort on the front walkway.

It is a fantastic piece of land with great neighbors and they are making it look great -- inside their house and outside on the grounds.  Can't believe they have only been here 6 months.  A lot of work but we they also are enjoying it.

In fact, we usually find ourselves outside in the back yard or down by the lake most days.

Last evening Jon, Pam and I took the boys out for a little excursion that lasted about 15-20 minutes.  Uncle Mike gave Jon a trolling motor that has replaced the oars so it is easier on all of us. Kelly stayed behind as we pulled away Kelly had cast off from the shore and was fishing.  Seeing that, Jon mentioned, "She gets prettier every day..." 😊 Jon managed to drop the hook a few times along the shore of the lake, but didn't snag one.  As we were pulling in,  Kelly said she caught one that got tangled up in the trees and weeds near shore as she was reeling him in.  He put up a fight until he broke free. Kelly was pretty relieved since she hadn't figured out how she was going to release him with out grabbing the slimy thing...

We've been here in VB a few weeks now.  It has not all been work work work.  Jon had a birthday 
and Kelly had a surprise birthday party for Jon.  He was truly surprised because it also dubbed as a Cinco de Mayo party that was 10 days before the real birthday.  Jon and the guys went on a short overnight camping trip and 30 or so guests were waiting went for him when we pulled into the driveway.
Everyone stayed for a few hours and we all had a good time.
 That's some of what we've been up to.  Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Roadrunner Reflections: Completing 9 Years of RV Living

Our 9th Year on the Road began in Virginia Beach and here we are again in Virginia Beach.  I still remember that back-porch conversation Pam and I had when we were considering full-timing.  I said, "If we are really going to do this, sell the house, buy and RV and all that, we should at least plan on doing it for 5 years."  Pam thought otherwise.  She said, "I was thinking more like 10."
And here we are.  Living the RV dream in year 10.  It has been quite an adventure.

The adventure has had so many facets to it, it is a little hard to explain.  But I am going to do my best.  I'm writing a book.  Writing a book almost like running a marathon. I've run four of those.  It took me a few years to decide I was actually going to run one and then commit to all the miles and hours preparing to go 26.2 miles.  Writing a book is a bit daunting.  Especially if you want to do a credible job.  I have the first draft under my belt and will probably have drafts two and three before I am ready to take the next step.  The halfway point of a marathon is about mile 20.  Seems as if the last 6.2 miles were as hard as the first 20.  I think the halfway point of writing a book is somewhere beyond draft two.  10 chapters, 50,000+ words, it is coming together.  We will see.  Stay tuned.  I'm shooting for a fall release.

So that is one major aspect of year nine - I became a 'writer'.  I have been a blogger for over 10 years now and have taken it seriously as various times.  Sometimes it seems like a lot of work to be a hobby.  Other times, the words and motivation are there and it comes fairly easy.  Somewhere along the line last year, I was reviewing a friend's manuscript (Wes), who had a collection of short stories he formed into a very readable book.  He has a masterful grip of storytelling.  Me, not so much.

Somewhere along the line he suggested I write a book.  I don't even remember the conversation to well.  It reminded me of running a marathon.  It took me years, literally years to wrap my head around the idea and then actually take steps to get it accomplished.  About that time I enjoyed running and remember it being a fad.  Lots of people were 'jogging'.  For some reason the idea of 'jogging' never resonated with me.  I decided I was always going to be a 'runner'.  Pace or speed had nothing to do with it.  It was a mind set.  I was a runner.

Other personal challenges included getting my Master's degree.  I remember thinking about it, dabbling in it with a few night classes and then finally one day decided, "I'm going to get this done." It took me over two years and lots of studying on Sunday afternoons, but it paid off.

And I think becoming a writer and changing the mindset from dabbling it in putting together a credible effort will be rewarding as well.  I haven't got the interest in a novel and writing engaging stories, but I do have 10 years of thinking about RV living and writing about it.  I have thousands of pictures and memories to fill up 10 volumes.  (At this point I have plans for 10 volumes.)  Why not?  I like doing it, it is a challenge and we will see.  There is one change in Year 9.  I became a writer.

We have plenty of other reflections about that last nine years and the last year in particular.  The biggest events over the last couple of years are the arrival of our two grandsons:  Brooks and Harrison.  These two little guys are game changers!  Being away from them four or five months is a special kind of tug that we want to figure out.  Maybe the better way to travel and come back to Virginia Beach is to go on two or three month trips and come back to see them for a couple of months at a time.  They grow up quickly.

We are very fortunate to have a daughter and son-in-law that are insistent we be involved in the grandkids lives.  We are glad to do so and are figuring all that out.  It's been a real joy to be around them and help out and we surely will do more of that in the days and years ahead.  Their presence on the scene has caused us to reflect and consider the next step in our RV living...

We cannot say how long we will be full-timing.  But our thinking has definitely changed to where we are actively discussing other arrangements.  We have no timeline in mind and we have one more year before we hit the 10 year mark.  I remember asking the question on an RV forum before we hit the road, "What is your exit plan?".  Most people responded as if I was nuts and if I was already thinking about an exit plan, maybe full-timing was not for me.  What??

I think I wanted to see if there is something worth considering before we started, that would make it better when we moved to part-timing or some-timing.  The bottom line is that I decided just like we figured out how to transition to full-timing, we could figure it out when the time for us to change and 'settle' down.

Not sure what to call where we are now, but we are definitely in a different phase of RV Living - "No Man's Land".

It reminds me of deciding to leave my current job for another one and not telling anyone yet.  I was in that situation after I retired from the military.  I had decided to leave, was actively pursuing new employment, but I wasn't in a position yet to discuss it with anyone but Pam.  I continued to work hard at my current position and I determined the date I needed to offer my resignation.  It was "No Man's Land".

That term may be a bit overly dramatic but we are in a different phase of Living the Dream.  After 9 years of living this life, we know that our life is probably going to change in the next year or two.  We're not sure exactly what that is going to look like but it will probably be settling down here in Virginia Beach.  Our son and daughter in law live in Fairfax VA and work in the Northern VA/Washington DC area.  Our daughter and son in law and two grandkids live here in Virginia Beach.  It makes sense for us to be in Virginia if we want to be near them.

This phase is almost like starting out all over again.  At this stage, I want to do all I can to avoid a big financial mistake.  We are now at Social Security retirement age and on a fixed income. Unless my book(s) are wildly successful and we come financially independent.  😳  Like playing the lottery, I don't think that is a very sound financial retirement plan.

Thinking about getting off the road and brainstorming sets off a whole set of uncertainty, curiosity, changes, risks and research.  While we enjoy our time on the road, we will be working the next phase in the background/behind the scenes.  We will see what happens.  Meanwhile, part of reflecting on our ninth year is a recap of some of the travels we've had over the last 12 months.

We started out going to Ohio and up to Michigan before returning to Virginia Beach for the holidays. After the first of the year, we drove south on I-95 to Florida and then headed west on I-10 and into California.  We saw friends in the San Bernardino are and landed in Arizona for the winter.  It was mostly warm and a great time.  We love Arizona!

We found ourselves doing a lot of things this last year that we did in Year 1 of our adventures.

We saw museums and state capitols, worked for Habitat for Humanity on a couple of gigs, went to Canada, went to Mexico and spent a lot of time in the Tucson area:

  • Virginia Zoo (Norfolk)
  • National Historical Site at Kitty Hawk (Wright Brothers)
  • Columbus Zoo (Ohio)
  • Jack Nicklaus Museum (Ohio State campus)
  • Noah's Ark (full size display and museum near Cincinnati)
  • Creation Museum (Petersburg, KY not far from Cincinnati)
  • Red Bay Museum (Red Bay, AL)
  • Kentucky Horse Park (Lexington)
  • Cultural Heritage Center (Pierre, SD)
  • Pony Express Museum (Marysville, KS)
  • Loretto Memorial Chapel (Santa Fe)
  • National Museum of the American Indian (Washington DC)
  • Ford Theater (Washington DC)
  • Dodge City (KS)
  • Natural Bridge (Virginia)
State Capitols
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Lexington, KY
  • Pierre, South Dakota
  • Gold Manor (major renovations at daughter and son-in-law's/Virginia Beach
  • Habitat for Humanity/Care-A-Vanner, East Lansing, MI
  • Habitat for Humanity/Care-A-Vanner, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Solar Eclipse (An event Pam put on the calendar many months in advance so we could see a 100% coverage in Nebraska)
  • Golf in Arizona (Played more this year than I have in many years)
  • Hiking (Sabino Canyon and Catalina State Park -  Tucson)
  • 100,000 miles - we passed the 100,000 miles in the Roadrunner a few weeks ago.  
As we look back on our 9th year, a number of things have changed since we first got interested in RV living Full-Time:

  • Facebook - It seems to me Facebook is exploding with RV groups and information.  It is so easy to ask a question about RVing and one only has to wait minutes before a multitude of responses flash on the screen.  
  • YouTube - A close second to Facebook is YouTube that has about every kind of video you would want to see on the lifestyle, RVs and "How To" on all kinds of RV subjects.
  • Kindle - this device was fairly new 9 years ago and it was not nearly as common as it is today.  Most people (me included) read books on Kindle or the Kindle app on smartphones.
  • Travel Trailers - There seems to be a lot more travel trailers on the road.  New RVers are getting the less expensive models and it seem to be much more common to see them in the campgrounds.
  • Gas vs diesel Class A's - I would guess that the gas engine Class A is gaining
  • Price of fuel - Not nearly what I thought it would be after 9 years of RVing.  Diesel seems to be hovering around the $3.00/gal and I thought it would be over $5.00/gal.  Back in 2008/2009 it was making a steady climb and I expected it to stay at the high cost.  We paid over $4.00/gal years ago, but thankfully that did not last long.
Maintenance on The Roadrunner and tow car (Honda CRV)
  • New headlights
  • Replaced pitted/corroding air horns on top with aluminum air horns
  • New carpeting throughout
  • Repainted all bay doors
  • New tires 
  • Replaced Driver Side (DS) front window that took a rock 
  • Alternator in car
I am surprised we have not had to replace our front windshield.  It had a number of chips and small cracks that were repair after they occurred but I thought that it would only last a couple of years.  Not so.  Here we are, many years down the road and the windshield is still doing good.

Each year I pause and reflect and try to note where we are in the RV Living adventure.  We are still loving the lifestyle and yet know it is going to change in the next few years.  We will see what it looks like and embrace that stage of Living the Dream.

Meanwhile, you all, our loyal, frequent and interested readers.  Interaction with you has been one of the huge bonuses of this journey and I thank you. It has been amazing!

Thanks for checking in on this edition on the Roadrunner Chronicles. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An Afternoon at the Natural Bridge in Virginia

We have overlooked this place many times in our travels.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I figured it was “too far out of the way”, which is a curious reason for someone who has been full-timing for 9 years. I think we just didn’t really think about it until it was too late.  Maybe it was like talking about stopping at the next fuel stop and realizing we just passed the exit...

This was our second choice, really.  Our first choice to visit was the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library.  We looked at the map and we were only about five hours away from our starting point (Roadrunner RV Resort and Campground - Maynardville, TN) to the museum which is located in Lexington VA.  If we left between 7:00am - 8:00am we could still be at the museum in the early afternoon.

But there was only one problem:  The museum is closed on Mondays.  Ugh.  “Oh well”, I thought, we’ll just take it easy and get caught up on things.  I always have some writing to do (what blogger is every caught up on all the posts they intend to write?).

We got underway about 7:15 am and had a beautiful drive.  It was a sunny, warm and gorgeous spring day in East Tennessee.  We travelled up Highway 33 to Tazwell, then over to Highway 25 E through Morristown TN to I-81 north.  About 200 miles later, we took our exit for Buena Vista VA and the city campground at Glen Maury Park.  Some where along the way I was thinking about other things in the area that might be good opportunities to see.

The Virginian Military Institute (VMI) is located a few miles away in Lexington VA.  That was an option.  Another was the Natural Bridge of Virginia located about 12 miles away.  That sounded like a great choice so we drove over there.

What at great choice.  The entrance fee was $8.00 each and was a self-guided tour along an improved trail which was about a mile in each direction. In addition to being a well maintained site, it was a improved and updated.  I think the other time I visited here was back in 1977 or so.  I was stationed in Florida at the time (had not met Pam yet) and got to know Doug.  Doug was a VMI graduate and was getting married at the school and I was invited to the wedding.

Another friend and I drove here saw the Natural Bridge.  I thought it was an interesting place then, the bridge was cool, but I really don’t remember a lot about it.  I seem to remember the trail from the starting point was all dirt.  It is really a blur, but I know I have been here.

Fast forward 40+ later and it is an upgraded ‘very improved’ top notch park.  The gift shop and Visitor’s Center is big and well furnished.  It has an informative of historical charts and pictures along he walls for a good self-guided tour.
Visitor's Center
Starting Point for the hike on the Trail to the Bridge
Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek Trail
 The trial itself is a mix of stone steps and a flagstone 2’ flagstone wall along the river trail.  The trail itself is improved, flat and has some asphalt along some stretches.
The rest of it is hard packed crushed rock.  They are free of potholes and level and make the mile trail from the start to the end near Lace Falls, very easy.
Lace Falls at the end of the Trail
One thing that struck me was how ‘upgraded’ and expansive the maintenance was on the entire trail.  The entire Cedar Trail runs along side of Cedar Creek and it made me wonder if the Cedar Creek 5th wheel by Forest River was inspired by this famous area.  

We were interested to find out the State of Virginia got control of the park in 2016 when the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund (VCLF) had trouble making payments on the $9.1 million dollar mortgage. VCLF bought the park in 2013 but couldn't keep up with the payments and the state of Virginia took over and designated it as a State Park.

The main attraction - the Natural Bridge - is quite stunning.  
Natural Bridge
It is main of limestone rock and 215' with a span of nearly 90'.  Highway 11 runs right across the top of it. 
Natural Bridge
Thomas Jefferson bought the property and 157 acres which included the bridge in 1774.  It has been a notable place since 1742 when frontiersman John Howard came across the site.  Legend has it that George Washington was there as a young man as a surveyor. 
In the 1800's many famous guests viewed the bridge including:  James Monroe, Sam Houston, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, Calvin Coolidge, John C. Marshall -- the list is long.
It could not have been a more delightful day and we loved it.  We got to thinking about how much we miss hiking and getting out to the parks.   We will have to do more of it this summer!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Motorhomer's Day in Red Bay

If you've been a Chronicles reader for a while, you may know that we love Red Bay.  It is the home of the Tiffin Motor Home company and the mecca for Tiffin RV owners.  It is a small town with lots going on.

I realized many do not share our love for the town because it is a small town.  Years ago I responded to the notion, "There's nothing to do in Red Bay" with a post of "Nothing to Do in Red Bay?  Here's 101 Things to Do".
Not all the things listed are nearby and maybe not directly in Red Bay, but we love it here anyway.

We also love it here because we can get things fixed on our motor home.  The Roadrunner always senses when we head this direction and two days ago was no different.  We had a low air pressure gauge act up and the red light on the dash indicated an issue.  And the alarm was beeping!  So we have an appointment with Bay Diesel to get that fixed.

The issue presented itself in Oklahoma.  The red light and beeping and gauges would intermittently sound off.  Besides being a little unsettling, we wondered how serious the issue was and if there was some damage going on.  We took the Roadrunner over to the Cummins center in Oklahoma City and the tech assured us it was probably a loose wire or a controller issue and no imminent serious issue.  We continued on I-40 to Memphis, then down to Tupelo where we stopped in to see our friends at MCH Kenworth.

Their analysis matched those of the techs in Oklahoma City so we are looking forward to our appointment tomorrow at Bay Diesel.

Today we are scheduled into Custom Paint and Body to get new air horns on top of the coach.  Our current ones are pitted and rusting badly, so we are getting new aluminum ones.  Melody tracked some down for us at the Tiffin Parts Dept and Bruce or one his guys will install later this morning.

We also chipped/crack the corner piece (some call it an arrowhead) of trim on our DS front slide.  The trim piece is right above the bay door which can touch it if we are parked on an uneven site.  Most of the time I watch it carefully when I open that bay door next to the wet bay door, but a few months ago, the bay door 'touched' the corner piece and it cracked.  So Bruce will replace that and rivet it into place.  And give us an extra one in case it happens again.

Yesterday we had an appointment at Brannon's Custom RV in Vina, Al.  It was about a 20 minute drive from our campground (Red Bay RV Park at the edge of town) and Brannon and Jason went over our list.  We needed our Travl'r DirecTV satellite dish re-calibrated.  Our Winegard Rayzar Over-the-air TV antenna wasn't working, so we wanted them to check that out too.

We also had a problem with our Driver Side (DS) rope lights up near the ceiling.  A loose connection made them inoperable.  Our bathroom shower door was not closing correctly and we had a loose wire down below that we found in the bay area.  We wondered if that had anything to do with our low pressure issue.  We weren't sure but asked Brannon to check it out.

We also had a problem with the new/updated LED headlights.  We had those installed last fall but had a fail on the DS with one of the projector bulbs.  Brannon replaced that as well as the same bulb on the Passenger (PS).

Brannon is the best.  He gets the job down quickly and professionally.  He called about 10:30 said he had re-calibrated the DirecTV satellite dish and found the settings were not correct on the Razor.  He also repaired the rope light and was going to replace a couple of small braces on the inside of the shower door which was causing it to be a little uneven.

After lunch we picked up the coach at Custom RV.  Brannon confirmed the loose wire was an extra bay door wire and not related to our air pressure problem.  We left feeling great about that and the other things he fixed.  He always fixes things right and at a fair price.  We also asked about our AGM batteries.  They are about 6 1/2 years old and we wondered if they were nearing the end of their life.  Brannon said the rule thumb is 6-8 years of life for Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries and 4-6 years for regular batteries.

Yesterday after we dropped off the Roadrunner at Brannon's (at 7:00 AM), we went over to Belmont, MS, for breakfast at Sparks Restaurant.  It has the best breakfast in the area.  The ham and cheese omelet I ordered was larger than I expected so it was all I could do to eat it.  Pam had bacon and scrambled eggs and wheat toast.

Along with some coffee, we enjoyed the food and did some local people watching, The big table in the restaurant is where the daily locals come.  They had 8-10 good ole boys that obviously meet for breakfast and sit at their own table marked "SMART persons table".  ?  Not sure what that means but it is probably some private joke.  Or it means the things they talk about rise to the level of smart people.  I think they were probably solving most of the worlds issues.  It is a fun place.

Next we went over to the Tiffin Service Center.  We ran into Glenda and say hi to her.  She used to run the parts store but now does the cleaning with another lady.  Next I went back into the cabinet shop near bay 26 and said hi to Tanya.  She has been there 4-5 years and is liking the woodworking.  She and another fellow install the shades in the road runner back when she was doing that work.

We had time for the morning tour at the Tiffin Visitor Center.  Pam stayed in the car and took a little nap to help her get over her cold while I went on the tour.  I always love hearing the story and I learn something every time we walk through the many buildings on the tour.  The tour has improved over the years and is the best in the RV industry.  Bar none.  It is definitely worth the time and effort to come and see how these things are built.

After the Tiffin tour we went to the Piggly Wiggly market deli for lunch.  We had mashed potatoes, gravy and friend chicken with a small portion of cherry cobbler for dessert.  Next we went over to the Allegro Club at the Tiffin Service Center.  And we went over to the Parts store to find a few things.

Brannon finished up about 2:00 PM so we went back and picked up the Roadrunner and took it back to the campground.  Later I joined Gerri and Art for happy hour at their site where we talked with some neighbors and socialized for a bit.  Pam fixed a great dinner of fish and a baked potato with some steamed broccoli.

We watched the news and then some baseball before turning in.  It was a beautiful day in Red Bay.  We always enjoy coming here.  Not only for the people but also because we get things fixed which brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Monday, April 2, 2018

To Yuma for Dental Work in Mexico

While traveling back to Casa Grande from a Major League Baseball Spring Training game about a few days ago, I chipped a crown on my lower teeth.  Oops.  After considering the option, we decided to cut short our time at the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort and go to Yuma.

While in Yuma we went across the border to a Sani-Dental to get my tooth fixed and to get our teeth cleaned.  And to do some shopping which we were there in Los Algodones.
We parked on the U.S. side and walked the 300 yards across the border into town.  It seemed a lot more crowded than the last time we were there which was probably five years ago.  We had no trouble finding the dental office signed in.  Then we waited in the hallway before an assistant took Pam back to get her teeth cleaned.
At this facility the doctors do the teeth cleaning.  Pam was finished before I was called to go back to see my dentist.  I got some X-rays on this machine.
Then the dentist took off the old crown and put on a temporary.  We were done a couple of hours after we arrived.  There procedure is to come the next day to check the temporary crown so we scheduled our second appointment.

Then we enjoyed our time at the Fortuna De Oro RV Resort.  We parked near friends Gerri and Art.  We hung out at happy hour and had some fun.  This resort is not quite as fancy as Palm Creek, but then neither was the price.

We went back to Mexico the next day for a quick followup to the dentist and then back to our campsite and hung out.  While there we were able to schedule a wash and wax job for the Roadrunner and got that done.  $100 was well worth it.
There was also time for some pool and some golf at the campground.  
I originally was told the visit to the dentist would take 72 hours and that my last appointment was going to be Monday.  It actually got done on my third visit on Saturday.  I was pleased with the result and I also got my teeth cleaned.  Total bill for two teeth cleanings, consultation, X-ray and a crown - $310.

Saturday after the visit to the dentist we walked around and did some more shopping.  It takes a minute to get shopping game face on.  The shop owners don't give up on the first try.  We had some lunch, talked with a couple from Montana that had been going to Yuma for a number of years and had a nice time.
Saturday was also the town's annual party for the winter visitors.  They had free food and drink and 
entertainment which was a nice gesture.

Thankfully our three trips over the border we fun and uneventful.  The lines at the border crossing office were not too long.  None lasted more than 30 minutes so it gave us a few minutes to meet some more people and hear about their Mexico experiences.
On Sunday we went to the two flea market in town and got a few things and then worked on some stuff around the coach.  The weather was nice on Monday too and there was some time for another visit to the pool.  It was a little more crowded than the other days and their was a band who played for a couple of hours.  They were pretty good and a number of people got up and danced and enjoyed themselves.

We saw our friends some more and watched a number of winter visitors at the campground depart for the journey north back home.  Some said adios and took off, one couple spent two or three hours after they hooked up and pulled out of their space.  It was just too hard from them to say goodbye.  They had such a good time, leaving was something they really didn't want to go.

We on the other hand, had to get on with it and we departed early on Tuesday morning for the trip to Albuquerque.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!