Saturday, April 30, 2016

We Became Florida Residents!

Some people buy new RVs every few years.  Or move on from full-timing in an RV to the adventures of living in a boat.

We don't do those things --- but over the past couple of years it seems as if we consider changing our domicile from South Dakota.  Last year we were convinced we were going become Texans -- but then decided against it when it became a little cumbersome.

The only practical possibilities for us (everyone's situation may be different) are South Dakota, Texas and Florida.  I did a cost comparison a few years ago and included estimated costs over three years.  South Dakota came out the cheapest.  But Texas and Florida were not too far behind...

We got to thinking about this again when our Mail Service Center in Sioux Falls had a change of ownership, expanded the facility, changed the name and the address.  The impact on us was that we had to change our address also.  I didn't really like that and only made a half hearted attempt to notify people over the year they gave us to to change.  But we had to do something -- either continue with our residency in South Dakota or change to Texas or Florida.

Meanwhile, last summer Pam and I decided Texas was going to be our new domicile.  The main issue there was getting a Class B license.  We weren't opposed to the idea (we figured we'd learn a lot which would be helpful) and began studying for the test.  The more we learned about the cost of getting the new license and the pain in the neck to go and do a test drive with our motorhome at a DMV facility -- the more we decided to forego that idea.

Then this past fall and winter we knew we were going to be in Florida for the winter months.  A fellow blogger mentioned that they had become Florida Residents with St. Brendan's Isle Mail Forwarding Service in Green Cove Springs, FL.

We mulled it over a while and talked again of becoming residents of FL.  (We married while in Florida and remained Florida residents until I retired from the Air Force in 1995. When I retired we became residents of Virginia.)

While we were at it, we checked out another mail service we heard about in Florida.  MyRVMail was not not too far from Fort Walton Beach.  We were there around Christmas time and decided to check it out.  We went and talked to the folks, looked at their operation and did a 'site survey'.  We decided that the facility was not the place for us and kept looking.

Next, we made it a point to go to Green Cove Springs (the county seat) and see what we thought of St. Brendan's Isle during our winter travels.  We found a campground not too far away in Palatka, FL and did the same thing.  We went to the business, took a look at the operation and talked with the nice people there.  We were very impressed and decided this was the place for us.

While there at St. Brendan's Isle, we picked up paperwork and talked about the process of setting up a mailbox and becoming Florida residences.  We were assured if our paperwork was together it would only take a couple of hours.

First thing we did was get a mailbox and start getting mail sent there to our new Florida address.

The web site at St Brendan's Isle is very thorough and has some detailed and information. Some of the things we needed to do were:

- File a declarations of domicile form with the Clay County Courthouse (conveniently located a couple of miles away) in Green Cove Springs
- Register to vote
- Get a Florida driver's license
- Turn in old drivers licence
- Show our passport or birth certificate (we had both)
- Have proof of Florida RV insurance

I think I spent the most time calling RV insurance companies for quotes.  It took three or four days to call and get hold of someone, talk it over and then get an actual quote.  Here are some of the ones I considered:

Of all the calls I made and emails I sent out - getting the RV insurance was the most time consuming.  We decided to go with National Interstate.  Next thing we did was to contact Dougherty and Associates in Sioux Falls and cancel our coverage with them.

Florida requires that the RV VIN number be verified by a police officer.  We were staying at the KOA in Starke FL which was about 35 miles from Green Cove Springs.  I called the local police department in Starke, told them that this was not an emergency and asked if they had a patrolman that might be able to swing by the campground and sign our form.  Not a problem.  In less that 15 minutes this young man showed up and signed the form and let me get a picture.

After getting our form signed, we drove into Green Cove Springs and over to St. Brendan's Isle.  We talked with the nice folks there and showed them our paper work.  They explained where we needed to go in the Clay County Courthouse a couple of miles away.
We went over there, waited in line for a few minutes then got all our paper work processed.  We picked a license plate type we wanted, got our picture taken and new drivers license and registered to vote -- all in one stop.  It was very convenient.  The first time cost to register our two vehicles in FL was $1,013.  The second year cost drops about just over $300 ($46+$250).  In South Dakota our registration for both vehicles cost us over $700 each year.

The whole process took a little over an hour and 1/2.  We were in a bit of a fog as we took off the old plates and put on the new ones (on our car for the time being since the Roadrunner was back at the campground.) It seemed like it should be a momentous occasion of sorts -- moving from South Dakota to Florida -- but it was really anti-climatic.

It was about lunch time so we found a local sandwich shop that was recommended.
Now after about six weeks of being Florida residents not much has really changed.  Except we need to find an appropriate front license plate for the Roadrunner.  Stay tuned for that...

That's how we became Florida residents.  We figure we will be in Florida more often than South Dakota in the coming years but we will see.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Places We Camped - April 2016

In April, we got to see more of Florida and it's great County Campgrounds.  Here's a brief run down of where we stayed:

North Fort Myers Habitat for Humanity (HFH)
We led a Care-A-Vanner team build at North Fort Myers, FL and got to camp in their lot behind the warehouse.  The affiliate provided power, sewer and water.  It was tight quarters for a little while.  One of the RVers brought his rig and vehicles.  
This is the biggest set up we have ever seen at a build!  

Phipps County Campground, Jupiter, FL
 After the build in North Fort Myers, we went to this campsite near Stuart, FL.  It was right on the Inter coastal Waterway and we got to see a couple of boats go through the locks.
I liked the spacious area and 50 amp service.

Pelican Roost Campground, Mayport Naval Station
Our next stop was an old favorite.  We have been here many times and were happy to score a first row campsite.  It was a bit breezy (some say it always is windy there) but we thoroughly enjoyed it.  One on the best military campgrounds in the network -- they run it well and not any homesteading going on.  They also had great wifi and free laundry.

RVacation Campground, Selma, NC
RVacation is an old KOA that has undergone significant continuous improvement over the years.  It is a perfect overnight stop for us along I-95, they are very friendly and accommodating.  We got a sight for our front mounted DirecTV Winegard dish and were very comfortable there.  Despite being close to the freeway - noise was not a problem.

Sea Mist Campground, Dam Neck (Oceana NAS Annex), Virginia Beach VA
We love Virginia Beach.  The closest campsite to Kelly and Jon's place (and grandson Brooks) also happens to be one that is not very well run, so decided on this one again.  
 It is adjacent to the beach and another well kept and beautiful military campground.  I love hearing the Navy and Marine students marching in formation to class in the morning.

That's a quick look at the campgrounds where we stay during the month.  (And it provides us a quick reference when we try to remember where we were...)

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Chamber Pot is OK But...

I rather have the toilet back.
Our toilet broke a few weeks ago.

I've thought a lot about what to name this and Pam decided maybe you could come up with a better title than I could....  so if you have an appropriate name/title that would fit this blog post --- please give it to us in the comments below!

We have a Dometic 4310 electric toilet.  I pushed the handle down like normal and it would not flush.  Thankfully I was just taking a leak so to speak and it all eventually drained down to the black tank.

This little episode has been full of twists and turns.  It really all started before July 2014.  That was the date of the purchase order when I got two seals to replace the ones that were shot in the toilet.  The seals are large rubber gaskets that keep water in the toilet after it flushes and fills up.  The toilet bowl was not retaining water after I flushed it so I knew I needed to replace to the seals.

But I lacked the courage.  I didn't want to make things worse.  Every felt like that?  Others I have known have jumped right in and fixed their toilets.  I wasn't too sure about it all.  I was really afraid, I'd unscrew the thing from the bathroom floor, pull it up and take it outside to look at it and break something.  Yikes!  Then what would I do.

The toilet was still functional and seemed to work fine.  Except that it no longer held water in the toilet bowl.  But that was OK.  Everything else worked fine.   Frankly, I was intimidated by it all.  So we let it set and let well enough alone.

Until last week.  When I pushed the handle down it wound up and whined and that released a big 'Crack!'.  I did that a couple of times before I decided something was terribly wrong and I might really break something.  It was then that I pulled out my paperwork, looked the model number up online and finally called Dometic.

Dometic diagnosed it and said yes, -- it is probably this part and that part.  I found the parts manual and schematic online and identified the part numbers he was talked about and ordered them.  In fact, I paid for overnight delivery so we wouldn't have to deal with a broken toilet any longer that we had to.

I expected them the next day, but didn't get both parts until 4 and 5 days later.  Each part was mailed separately.  I addressed them correctly but they went to the warehouse, floated around a few days until one ended up in the office (where it should have been delivered originally).  The second piece got picked up and landed in the construction manager's office.  Good thing I caught the right guy at 6:30 AM in the warehouse who helped me tracked down the second part.

Next thing we did was turn off the water, drain the tank, unscrew the bolts, clip the wires lift the porcelain toilet and carry it outside.  
I turned it over and it was fairly clean with no poop but a lot of water calcification and crusty toilet water with toilet paper.  Kind of like cemented paper mache.  This model had no wax seal and I was able to clean the downspout into the black tank pretty well with a long handle screwdriver and wire brush
 It took me only a few minutes to determine that I had no broken parts.
The two pieces I got were really not necessary.  It was over an hour to chip away and use the wire brush, a long screwdriver and plenty of elbow grease to get it all clean.  The gears and shafts and linkages that were bound up and 'frozen' were free again and working smoothly.
I took the toilet back inside the bathroom, Pam rewired the electric switch/handle, we hooked up the water and ......success!!

It  worked again and didn't make the frightening !Crack! sound and everything went smoothly.  The water in the bowl however, leaked out.  Even with the two new seals it still would not hold water in the bowl.  Hmm.

I called back the salesman (who obviously was also a very good technician).  He suggested I may have not put the seal gaskets on correctly.  Which way is 'Right Side Up' when you have the toilet upside down and are working on it that way....?  I turned one of them over, we got more wire, Pam did the rewiring again and we put it back, hooked up the water, etc etc.  This time the water held!

After a couple of years of thinking about it, and more recently a long week of using the Home Depot 5 gallon bucket sitting inside of a broken toilet during nighttime trips to the bathroom -- we got it fixed.

Over the course of the week, we found we could survive and do fine using our 'Chamber Pot'.
We didn't like the sharp edges of the top of the bucket and had to modify ours with some comfort pads.
 Worked much better.

So that is the saga of the broken toilet that got fixed.  There were many lessons learned on this one but a few were:
- Don't wait to fix something, it doesn't get better over time.
- Don't trouble shoot something over the phone without first trying to look at it yourself.
- If you pay for overnight shipping, it is no guarantee it will get there.
- Be thankful -- (If we hadn't been through this we'd never understand the notion of 'Chamber Pot'.  Now we can imagine how our forefathers lived.
- Remember -- It ALL an adventure and provides more fodder for those 'around the campfire stories in the live of an RVer.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Some More Things That Work for Us

I wanted to add to my collection of things that we do or products that we use might be of value or interest to our readers.  In the not too distant future, I intend to put a 'Page' tab on the blog that shows a collection of things.  I am not selling anything---just offering some ideas.

Last winter we camped in Virginia Beach beginning in December.  We departed in April after the arrival of our awesome grandson.  During those few months it got really cold and we learned to deal with ice and snow and temperatures down to 9 degrees.

One thing a friend had was a digital infrared thermometer.  He used it a couple times to help me determine where the pipes were frozen on the outside spigot.  I also thought it would be useful to do a quick check on the Roadrunner tires when we stop at Rest Stops on our traveling days.
Very handy and about $18 on Amazon.

Each time we stop I try to park on level ground.  Sometimes it is a matter of slight adjustments like a foot or two on a dirt, grass or gravel campsite.  Other times I don't have much options on asphalt or concrete spots.
We have an automatic HWH hydraulic leveling system but I really hate to be in places where wheels have to be off the ground to level things.  That doesn't happen often.  Even with our automatic system, sometimes it needs a small manual adjustment.  We use the 12" torpedo level and turn it north-south and then east-west between the driver and passenger seats.  I also take the same readings back on the floor by the bathroom.  Pam operates the leveling system while I call out the readings.  Quick and simple and something we have used for a long time.  Handy and stores better than the long 3' levels.
Surprisingly these things go for as little as $7 and can get pretty pricey.

We have iPhones and iPads and battery chargers and who knows what else...  We got tired of only being able to charge a couple of things at a time and opted for this 'charging station tower' which handles four cords.
 A little pricey at $20, but well worth it and something we use every day.

Now more on the business end of things.  Two things shown here:
- Camco Rhino flex system.  I have two fifteen footers incase we are a little bit away.  It works great except when you step on one of these babes.  The accordion hose doesn't do well when it has been stepped on because it creates a weak spot and eventually springs a leak from the internal wire that bents and breaks.
 But I am a big fan of this system.  15' sections go for about $20.  Thetford and others also make similar hoses.

Also - the collapsible support stand.  Some places require that the sewer hose be off the ground.  These go for about $30.  The support stand came with the Roadrunner when we bought it 7 years ago.
 Also in the wet bay  - something I use a lot is a collection of spray bottles and cleaners.  I also have a bottle waterless hand cleaner.  You never know when you have some spillage from hooking and unhooking the sewer hose, so I find it handy to have a few options right there.
I get the Dollar Tree bleach and 'Pinesol' to help and it works pretty well.

That's a few more of products and things we use around the 'house'.  If you have any ideas or questions, please get in contact.  One of the most fun things we do with this blog is meet others 'out there'.

Thanks for joining us today on Chronicles.

Monday, April 11, 2016

North Fort Myers Habitat Build

We spent two weeks in North Fort Myers as team leads for the Care-A-Vanner Habitat build.
The accommodations were a small field the affiliate turned into an RV campground with 30/50 amp service, sewer and water at no charge. I didn't get a good picture of our RV area until after Tom and Carol had left.  Barry's rig is at the end and the Roadrunner is in the foreground.
Mavis was on the other side of us in her Roadtrek.

After a few days in the corner of the 'yard' next to a large tree (and hence no satellite TV)  Roger and his 40' fifth wheel, Volvo Heavy Duty Truck and Smart car - moved out and found a commercial campground near the work site.

Our excellent volunteer coordinator at the Lee and Hendry Habitat for Humanity was Elisha.  She has only been in the job but has a lot of experience working with people in her previous jobs.  She met us on her day off (Monday) and had snacks and drinks for the Orientation Meeting.  We meet in the affiliate offices and got a tour of the facilities.  

This affiliate is one of the largest in the nation and builds over 50 homes a year!

Here's a photo of the group after devotions at the campsite before we headed out to the job site.
 Our build site was Majorca Palms and we worked on three single family houses and six duplexes.

Mavis worked on painting/getting the primer coat on one of the houses.  She also worked on shelving and worked quite a few days in the Habitat Restore near our RVs.  She has volunteered at Habitat for many years but this was her first Care-A-Vanner build.
 Barry did a lot of things.  He has spent over 8 weeks at the site participating in a number of builds as the Care-A-Vanners came and went after the normal two week stint.
 This was Carol's first Habitat build and she did a number of things including flooring and caulking.
Tom and I did a lot of re-hanging closet doors and putting in 'wire' shelving.  
 Roger is a former millworker and cabinet maker and he spent a lot of time putting in kitchen countertops and cabinets.
 Pam spent a lot of time with a putty knife and joint compound and a caulking gun.
The guy on site that kept us all moving and going in the right direction was Eduardo.  'Eddie' was one of the best guys we have worked with an a pure delight.  He has a heart of gold and has been doing Habitat for 17 years.  He also is very generous and bought us lunch from a food truck on Fridays.
 Elisha came out to the job site and brought lunch one day.  She is very good at what she does.  She and Eddie are two of the best we have worked with and real positive influences at the affiliate.
 We went out to eat as a group one night and ended up at Ford's Garage in downtown Fort Myers.
 It was a good two weeks in North Fort Myers and they have a lot of work going on with a very good system.  We didn't have to wait on supplies or wonder was was next after we finished up one task.  They kept us busy which we appreciate.

That's a recap of our time on the Care-A-Vanner build...Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Roadrunner Financials - March 2016

Roadrunner Recap
In March, we visited the following locations in Georgia and Florida:
  • A - Macon Area Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanner Campground, Macon GA
  • B - Starke/Gainesville KOA Campground, Stark FL
  • C- Word of Life RV Park, Hudson FL 
  • D - Savannas Recreation Area Campground, Fort Pierce FL
  • E - Phipps County Campground, Stuart FL
  • F - North Fort Myers Care-A-Vanner Campground, North Fort Myers FL
One main goal we had for the winter was to see more of Florida.  We were not too familiar with the interior (central) part of the state.  We also had not spent much time on the east coast north of Miami.  We were able to do that this winter and enjoyed county RV campgrounds which are among Florida's best kept secrets.

We started the month at a Habitat build in Macon GA and finished up with another build in North Fort Myers.  Each provided us opportunity to meet and work with some fabulous people.   

Good News Areas We Are Under Budget
One thing during the month we didn't spent a lot of money on was diesel fuel.  We began the month with a full tank and only had to fill it up once so we were a couple of hundred dollars better than our goal.
Once again, we did even better in the area of spending for campgrounds.  We also were well under budget in spending for groceries as well.

We had a very good month budget-wise.  Our biggest item was in the area of cell phones.  We converted all our phones, iPads and hotspot (Jet Pack) to Verizon.  At this point it might have been a mistake.  We'll just have to see if we end up getting more service and better coverage at the same or less on a monthly basis.

Biggest Expenses
Paying off our AT&T contract and then not getting our iPad data plan cancelled has proven to be a challenge.  We tried to get the old account paid off and submit it to Verizon for reimbursement. But our account was cancelled in the store so we had no way to access it.  Instead we had to wait until it was posted, go to a AT&T service center then take it back over to a Verizon Center for their payment.  It was a mess.  But we are working through it.  To be continued.

Large One Time Cost Item
see above.

Monthly Average
At $4500 for the month, we continue to spend well over our goal of $4100.  In fact, most of our months since the "Fiscal Year" began for us in May 2015, we have spent more than our monthly objective.

We continue to be on an 'overspending' trend so we will have to readjust our monthly income.  I have long resisted putting down what our income is and also will not reveal our charitable giving.  But our main sources of income continue to be:  Air Force retirement, EDS retirement, online work-for-pay with my former company: MITRE.  The online work has had a steady decline in the number of hours per month and is about 10% of what it has been.

Because of the increasing costs we are incurring, Pam and I looked into our Social Security benefit and what we would be getting if we decided to get that on a monthly basis.  We are 63.  My main goal at the moment is to avoid dipping into our 401k and savings.  We'll see what we need to do in the coming months.

As always, if you think this spreadsheet might be useful I'd be glad to pass it along at no cost.  Just let me know.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!