Sunday, May 28, 2017

Crossing the Border

It was time for another day trip but first we entertained Jon and Kelly and the boys.  They drove out to our new campsite at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads which is near Chesapeake.  The Stewart Campground is a good find and we like it out here.

With the summer upon us, there are a lot more people out camping.  We were not able to extend our stay at Ocean Pines RV Campground (military) in Virginia Beach, so we came farther south to Stewart Campground.

Instead of the $50+ per night camping fees at commercial campgrounds in Virginia Beach, we pay $18 for this site.  It has a lot going for it.  Despite gravel roads at the campground, they are well maintained.  And the site is level.  We have room to park our car (though it is pictured at the next site while we got set up.)
The campground has 18 sites and all but one are full for the weekend.  We have 50 amp service and had no problem getting DirecTV satellite reception.  Cell phone service is OK and we are on our own for internet.   Our Verizon Jetpack works fine, though a little slow.

And we are out in the country!  It is a beautiful drive here and quiet and we can listen to the birds and frogs outside our bedroom window.  This campground is about 45 minutes away from Jon and Kelly but the roads to here are excellent and it is a beautiful drive out here.

On Saturday morning Kelly and Jon and the boys came to see us.  I went to escort them into the base (since I have a retired military ID card, I can sponsor them on base) and met them outside the gate in the parking lot.  Except I drove out there and left my wallet in the Roadrunner.  Yikes!  Now what to do...

The Security Police were nice enough to drive over to the campground five minutes away. Pam retrieved my ID card from my wallet and the Security Police drove out to meet me in the parking lot.  That was awful nice of them!  It was a slow Saturday morning for them I guess, but I really appreciated that!

Once at the campground we fields and played some.

Brooks had a snack and Harrison got fed and changed.  And we went over to a playground a while and they enjoyed their short stay with us.  They needed to get back by noon for naps.

We thought about taking a day trip across the North Carolina border and did just that.  We had a few hours and it was a beautiful day.  So off we went.  First stop was the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A and then on down Hiway 168
Before we knew it we were across the border and into North Carolina.  I'll bet it wasn't 15 minutes.  We found the Information Center and went in for some maps and such.

We find it is always useful to see what we can find out at these places, so if we often stop and check them out.  It was a good choice.  The friendly folks at the desk were full of good ideas and very helpful.  We met Debra who is going on an RV trip later this summer with her husband along the Eastern Coast into South Carolina, down to Florida and over to Louisiana.
 That was fun!  And she gave us some good tips of what to see in town.  We found the local Sports store and picked up a couple of hats and such.  Next door was Skip and his chain saw sculpture/woodworking business.
 He was the friendly sort and does some nice work.

 He also has some great looking rustic cabin tables and furniture which were beautiful.

Debra told us we needed to stop in and get some 12 layer chocolate cake at Kevin's down the road.  It was another place that normally wouldn't catch your eye but we were on a mission.
Cindy's kitchen is next door but she has a lot of shelves in the gas station convenience store dedicated to her cakes and desserts.  We say the cake but thought those layers were a little thin and opted for the massive chocolate fudge brownie.  We saved it for dinner last night and it hit the spot.

We continued our drive around the area to see what we could see and found Bells Island Campground on the water.  It was a crowded place but there were a lot of people there for the weekend.  Not sure we'd ever stay there but there were a lot of folks who did.  RVs and tents.

Not far from there is the Currituck Ferry Terminal that goes over to Knotts Island.  Might be another fun day trip some time.

On the way back to our campground we stopped at a produce market on the highway.  This was a real treat!  The Morris Farm Market has a lot of great fruits and vegetables.  And it is an attraction with more that just the produce.
 We looked around and listened to some music for a bit at the outdoor bar and also took a minute to go to the restrooms.
They know how to do restrooms right at Morris Farms.  They have six individual he/she rest rooms that are private.  Once in there, you do your business but I couldn't help but admire how they have done things.
 Each rest room is an experience and well decorated and clean and just a nice place.  And its the first place anywhere I have seen where they put paper towels under the urinal (that gets changed every day I assume)to collect males that can't hit the urinal.  Nothing more grungy than seeing that all over the floor.  It made an impression.  It was very clean.

Next we took the 20 minute drive and before we knew it we were back at the campground.
Another memorable 'day in the life of a full-timer'.  It was a beautiful day for a short drive and we saw and met some interesting people across the border in North Carolina  We are going to enjoy this place for a few weeks.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

More Things That Work for Us

I have done something like this previously, but I wanted to keep adding to it until I have "101 Things That Work for Us".  I have a long way to go to get to that number, but thought some of the items I've listed below might be of some value.

This is a listing of a lot of different gadgets and things that we have used over the last few years as Full-Time RVers.  Some things are carryovers from our earlier days as tent campers, and a few we ideas we have picked up from others.

After being on the road a two whole weeks I felt qualified to speak of some lessons we were learning. We were settling into our new lifestyle and learning lots.  Here are the first five items I listed:

Overnight bagWe packed for the trip to Virginia Beach to pick up the Allegro Bus and I saw a bag at Home Depot that looked like it would work well as an overnight bag. It has large straps and is a good size for carrying clothes, a shaving kit, some shoes and a towel. Instead of a $20 namebrand bag, I find the $1 version as useful and more vesatile. I use it daily to go to the campground showers.

Soap dish
Our seller conveyed the shower soap dish. It has a suction grip which folds down and adheres to the shower wall. It is handy at the campground when their is no place to put the soap. I think you can get it for a few bucks at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Rain boots
Kelly has seen us wash the car in the driveway many times over the years and thought we'd need to have these to wash the RV. We have yet to wash the RV but have been caught in two weeks of heavy rain showers. We use them all the time to walk back and forth through the wet grass from the showers to the Roadrunner. No more wets shoes. Nice.

ShamWoW chamois
I wish we didn't need this but we have a mysterious leak in the Driver Side slide out near the window.  Twice we have left the window open during the rain and have had to soak up the floor. Last night the window was closed but the water seeped in anyway. Yikes! We have to solve this one. Meanwhile, the ShamWow (from WalMart) soaks up the water better than towels.

Hub tool
While we were at Lake Fairfax Park campground last week I met Frank who invented the Hub Tool. He said he has had three blown tires over the years and mechanics had mangled the hub cap on his Freightliner chassis each time. While repairing his trimmer, he saw a plastic wrench and got the idea to create one for his motorhome hub caps. I was fascinated with his story and told him I'd but it on my blog.

Drain Baskets
I read somewhere that one didn't want to have a lot of things going down the kitchen sink drain.  At the time I didn't realize how much food particles smell.  Not to mention they clog up drains.  We learned our lesson early and have been buying 'sink baskets' at the Dollar Store and flea markets.
We use them on the kitchen sink and the shower drain.  It collects a lot of gunk that otherwise would blog things up.  After we started using them on the sink, we rarely have any smell issues.

iPad for GPS
For years I have missed out on really knowing where we are going.  I could do more pre-travel route study, but I often don't.  Once I made a holder for my iPad I can plug in the route and see details or the entire route as we travel each day.
This has been a game changer for me.  I don't have to fool with my iPhone while traveling and Pam (Chief Navigator) and I are much more in synch as to where we are and if we need to make changes in the route.  We found Google maps goes out of its way to make us go to toll roads.  Sometimes that is not a bad idea, other times we don't like to do that.

Solar Panel on Roof
Although I don't understand the technology too well, I like the fact we have a solar panel on top of the Roadrunner.  At worst, it allows us to keep a good charge (trickle charge) on the batteries when we dry camp.
I haven't figured out how many panels it would take us to depend on solar 100% but I believe what I've read that indicates it would take a LOT of dry camping to save money with solar to pay for those panels.  Having said that, I'm glad we have it and can always add more.

Hooks for Jackets and such
The Roadrunner obviously is a small space to live in, so we don't want to hang things all over the place and make it seem even smaller.  In cooler and cold or rainy weather, we need more coat hooks than what came installed on the Roadrunner.

I believe only one coat hook came with the coach.  When we were at Red Bay, we found another one and hung it near the bathroom door.  They are sturdy enough to hang a sweater shirt and jacket or two each.  
Another dilemma we had was what to do with rainy and wet coats.  Our 'mud room' is essentially the first step inside the front door.  I found a couple of innocuous clear plastic hooks that work great for wet raincoats.
Two coats can hang here and drip dry and be out of the way unless we need to go out again.
Inside the living area we have a couple of other places we can hang a coat or two if we need to.  Or a hat. Or whatever.
In the back outside the shower, we have three of these over the door hooks.  Good for a couple of towels.
Often I turn them inside the shower and can hang things that are dripping, wet like swimsuits.

In the bedroom, there are a couple of more places I've put hooks.  Good for a belt,
or a jacket you don't want to put in the closet.

Space Heaters
It's important to efficiently heat the Roadrunner and these two items are indispensable.  The electric heaters take the stress off the heat pump and gas heater we have onboard.   Cold floors are a real wake up in the morning in the winter, so we use these to augment our main heater.
These two units are pretty inexpensive and do a good job.  We have used more rugs in the past to cover most of the living room and down the hall and into the bathroom area.  But we have opted for less rugs because we like to see the tile floor throughout the coach.  And it is easier to clean with out a lot of rugs. A couple of throw rugs are the right balance for us.

Entry door mat 
Every home has a front door mat and ours is no different.  We go with this industrial type that I think we bought at Cosco.  It usually lasts a couple of years and does a good job of helping us keep our entry way clean.  

One thing I learned a while back is that if I fold over the end of the mat and then roll it up -- both ends lay down.  I hate it when one end kind of sticks up in the air and dares me to get tripped on it...
Another item we couldn't do without is the broom.  

Small broom
With ceramic tile floors this thing is indispensable.  Nothing fancy -- just a standard broom to sweep with.
Since we are on outside stuff -- here's something we use often.

$3 tripod chair
I use to when I am wiping down the bay doors and cleaning the Roadrunner.  It comes in handy to take to the job site for break time when we are doing a Habitat project.  I usually leave it in the back of the car with another one to use as a 'just in case' chair.
5 Gallon Bucket
When I am cleaning the Roadrunner, I have a couple of rags and a spray bottle. I always need a place to put things and I find this size bucket with a wire handle works well. I stretch the handle to go over the top side of the ladder and it sits there well.
I love this four-way fold ladder.  I used it for cleaning the coach but also for getting up the to bottom the fixed ladder on the back of the coach.  Someone told me early on that they never use the detachable hang down ladder off the back of the coach because it would scratch the paint.

By using this ladder, I don't scratch the paint.  It fits nicely into the section of gutter I have in my 'tool storage' bay.  I put the rolled up mat on top of the ladder and slide the broom down through the center of the mat when we pack up.
You can see how nicely the ladder folds into the compartment.
The key to making the ladder work is the looking feet once you spread out the ladder one in one direction.

 The cross members on the ladder straighten out and lock into place and then the final pull separating the bottom makes it look and act like a regular ladder.

We've camped in Virginia Beach in the winter and it got really cold and we learned to deal with ice and snow and temperatures down to 9 degrees.  

Digital Thermometer
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. 

Torpedo Level
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.  

Charging Station
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.

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.

Collapsible Sewer Hose 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.

Spray bottles
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 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'.

Baskets in the Refrigerator 
Dortha bought some of these baskets for the refrigerator and Pam has used them ever since our first few months on the road.

Small Bungee cords
Pam also uses baskets to keep things in the freezer.  Bungee cords help keep everything from moving around too much when we roll down the road.

Foot/boot scraper 
In Florida this past winter it was hard to keep from tracking sand into the Roadrunner and messing up the floors.  We looked a number of times at Home Depot and Lowes but did not find one.  We saw one back in December but for some reason it is a seasonal item.
While in Virginia Beach, I used our Amazon Prime account and ordered this scraper that sits outside by our steps.  It works well.

Dish tub in the sink /Suds down the toilet
When Pam and I first started tent camping, she always took along a dish tub to clean things up after dinner.  I don't know whether by habit or ingenuity, she continued that practice.
One thing that enables us to do is pour soapy water down the black tank regularly.  We have a hose rinse set up that is useful also, but this puts 'good use' to the used dish water and also cleans our black tank.

Smell Management - strike matches in the bathroom
After we had used a jar candle, Pam kept it and we place it on the heat duct ledge in the bathroom near a box of strike matches.
Matches are considerable cheaper than bathroom fragrances.  We light the match, let it burn down and blow it out and it does the job well.  We've been doing this for years now, ever since we visited 'Bradley on the Rocks' - Marg and Bill's cottage in Ontario on Lake Huron.

Weber Grill
We have had a couple of grills and this Weber Q series seems to work the best for us.  It is pretty sturdy and does the job for our grilling needs.  It packs up quickly and is not that large.
During one quick storm that came out of nowhere, a gust of wind took the grill launched it into the side of the coach.  It broke the handle but Pam found the part online and ordered a new one.  That's another benefit we like - easy part replacement.

Grill Guard
This baby is worth its weight in gold!  I love this.  It was $100 a few years ago, not sure what it goes for now.  A camper next to us had one and I was looking for something to block the wind.  This is the perfect answer.  No more grilling between to open bay doors to get out of the wind.  This works really well and folds flat.  I kept the large cardbord wrap that it came in so it is protected when we stow it underneath in the basement.

Pull out storage tray
This is not something we paid for but it is very handy.  In effect, this is my 'gargage'.  I can pull it through on the Driver Side and get access to the items on that side of the tray.  Very handy and worth it.  Don't know that I would put it two sliding trays, but one works very well for us.
Hose extension
I don't know when I got this but it has come in handy more that once.  Especially at tight faucets or those waterlines that have the housing around them in a hole in the ground.  Here I didn't really need it but have gotten into the habit of using it.
Y - Splitter/Shut off valve
I have tried brass, aluminum and plastic splitters like this.  The plastic seems to be a better fit most times and leaks less for some reason.

Gas gloves.  I use these every time I fill up with diesel.  You wouldn't know it but the pumps and handles can get pretty grimy.  Using these helps a lot.
Vinyl gloves
I was given a pair of these when we bought the Roadrunner.  The owner conveyed the gloves and a few other things.  They have really come in handy and I use them all the time.  It saves me from having to wash my hands after I pack up the hoses and cords and stow everything when we leave a campsite.  I also use them when I hitch up the toad and attach the cables and lights for towing.
One 8' section of vinyl gutter can be used for sewer hose channeling.  I cut the whole piece into a 3' and 5' section which fits inside of each other for stowing.  When I need a long extension of sewer hose or I need to raise it for proper draining, the gutter(s) help do the trick.
Collapsible hoses
I have two 25' collapsible hoses that work great when I wash the RV.  I have enough hose to go completely around the Roadrunner to spray and wash it off.  When I'm on top of the roof cleaning it, I have enough hose to wind around a ceiling fan cover to keep the hose from slipping back down to the ground.

That's not 101 items yet but hopefully there are a few ideas in there that you might find useful.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles.