Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thank YOU, Followers

To those of you who are following this blog and / or leaving comments, a hearty Thank YOU.   Please accept this Orchid as my smiley face, my big, purple eyed, bearded smiley face.

I am still suffering from technical challenges with this blogging endeavor.  I have not figured out how to make comments myself!  I used to be able to do so.  Some setting or other thing is preventing me from commenting or replying.  Never the less, I hope to stay in touch with those wishing to do like wise, to be informative and interesting, and to not overload you with bottomless photos or diatribe.  Just keeping it simple.

Your comments go straight to my email.  I read them all.  It is just one more way to proof the process and make sure the blog is content managed.  Comments are not automatically rolled into the blog.  If it is of personal nature, I keep it to myself.

Happy December! 

Winter Haven

Arrived safely at our winter palace!  A quick shot from my phone.  Our concept is to have a piece of property and 'home' to be at during the winter.  Not that the RV is not 'home', but for the price of parking it between two other RV's for 6 months, we can have our own little place to garden and relax.

I also have to do some upkeep on the RV.  So while we may not be traveling and blogging about the sites, I will likely be writing about the roof project, awning project, electrical project...etc.  And there will be the day trips or other excursions in Florida this winter.  I even hope to meet some online blogger's and RVer's during the winter.

Safe travels...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mobile Minute

Sitting at a rest area in South Carolina.  Stopped for dinner, TV, computing, sleep and on the road again upon waking.  This is one of two travel days from VA to FL.  Got a late start this morning.  Seems the converter and related electronics are not charging the house battery nor controlling 12v in the house properly.  Could not get the slides in.  Between a 12 jump to the house battery and the generator, I finally got them in.  So after a departure about 1230p we made it not quite half way, something less than 400 miles.   Rode time went well.  Hope to arrive home tomorrow before sunset. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gloucester Point, VA (Now Yogi Bear)

Gloucester Point Family Campground, Virginia.  We stayed here after selling our house.  It was our first RV experience as a couple.

We owned the RV for a year, but due to unforeseen circumstances, never used it.  It just sat, waiting for the day to go into action.  Suddenly, with two weeks notice to move out by the home buyers, it was a life raft.  All has gone well.  We had to learn  on the fly.  We still are not bonafide RVers.  We have not traveled far, nor have we hooked up the toad.  So tomorrow begins the first real journey, the one to our next home.  An 800 mile trip in the RV with the toad should round out the experience nicely.  But we have learned we can live together in this small place and it feels like home!!!  All the systems work.  We were pounded by a few storms, all weather tight.  I have had some hiccups with some of the systems due to my lack of knowledge, but they were all adapted to.  I upgraded a few things -- shower, TV's, etc -- and learned the limits of other components.  All in all a positive experience. 

About the campground...I think it is average.  I need to go to one or two rating sites and give it a better defined set of qualities.  It is a large place; grave roads and RV sites; short term / long term and seasonal areas; some well wooded sites, some open; lots of mosquito's.   We were in the Pined Woods Section (long term) and I did not like the pine trees dropping stuff all over the place and RV.  The open sky section ( my preference) is not long term.   The campground is just across the York River from Historic Yorktown, giving it easy access to the historical area extending to Williamsburg and Jamestown via the Colonial Parkway.  /The campground has its own boat launch and dock, with a charter boat and kayaks for leasing.  Fishing is big here.  It has a nice bath house and pool area, if a bit small.  The laundry room has been torn down while here for a foundation up remodel.   Management is making some changes that prompted MANY seasonal users to leave.  A Yogi Bear has been erected, an apparent affiliation change coming.  Rates are low for the area... $500-$1300 being the range for a monthly rate.  Most campgrounds in the area are at least $250 weekly, minimum.  The staff has been very nice, what little contact we have had with them.  The area is very quiet.  It is off the main highway by 5 minutes and the back roads are narrow, a challenge with oncoming vehicles.  This campground would be considered lower budget for this area, but clean and well managed.  There are others in the area comparably priced and not as nice.  There are several moderate to high end facilities too, for a price. 

The KEY --  this area is worth seeing!  Plan on a two week stay -- minimum -- to enjoy all Hampton Roads has too offer.

Bump In The Night

Actually, I was up at 0150am.  BAM, something hit the bottom of the RV, or was it someone in a compartment?  Out of bed to check...what is that light doing on already??? How did the shade over the door window get messed up?  Hey, its early in the morning and all of this is hitting me at once and I would rather be sleeping.  Did I mention it is COLD.  YUK.

So my brain slowly began clicking through the probabilities.  Wife went out earlier, left light on....over extended shade.  Take shade down.  Unroll and release broken end to re-attach.  Re-roll shade.  Re-install same.  Working good.  Light off.  Now what was that noise?  Must have been an animal, maybe looking for a warm place to nap.  Note to self...check in daylight.  WHOA, look at that!  FREEZING outside.  More notes to self -- propane low, water line unprotected -- time to GO!

Yes, I already made that note to myself.  Next year the arrival date for Florida is on or about November 1.  No more of this 30F night / 50F days stuff.  This RV will be where it is warm.  This year was a transition time; plans and goodbye's had to be accomplished.  However,  next year I hope  to start working the plan - year round warmth.  Only one more day of this cold and then the big pull out on Monday.

So it is after 5am now.  Nope, could not get back to sleep.  Still making notes to self in brain and sleep would not return for a while.  So I got up to read and blog.  Perhaps you have been there too...sleepless in Virginia.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving...my favorite holiday.  Why?  Well, first and foremost it is an opportunity for me to consider God's place in my life, and to exercise THANKFULNESS.  When my life looses it proper perspective, I can reflect on His unchanging nature, character and love.  Life brings change and challenge, sorrow and joy, setback and victory.  There is a truth in life, from generation to generation, that connects it all together -- now and in eternity.  Jesus.  In Him we have faith, hope and love...and a cause for thankfulness. 

It seems that at this time of year people stop and consider their blessings.  Family and friends reconnect.  People actually PRAY, and in a reflective moment experience the reality that 'the best things in life are free.'  I look forward to spending time with those I love today, sharing our spirit of thankfulness and the warmth of each others love. This is a special day is America.  Others may celebrate in different ways.  May we all discover ways to be thankful every day and treat others as we wish to be treated. 

As your mind and spirit ponder another sunrise on the ocean of life, may you find yourself thankful.  May you experience a truly blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

TV Upgrade Project

Out with the old, in with the new.  For images of the process of replacing the front and rear TV's, look at the photo album (password is shadow).  Step one, remove the old TV sets.  These are the old tube type, big and heavy.  Amazingly, just a few screws to remove and the old sets were loose and removable.  Your situation may be different :)  Then some rough opening and other sizing considerations.  I went to Walmart with the measurements.  As it turned out, Vizio had a set that fit each location pretty well.  These are not high end TV's, but they are a new generation of LED sets, very thin and light weight.  So I thought I would give them a try.  Some reviewers comment on poor sound quality, and I think it is just average.  But the picture is really very good. And at some point I may get a surround sound system as an add on.  But for the space I use them in....they are working out fine as is. 

The rear TV is now a 22" LED HDTV.  It fit really well INTO the old slot left to right.  It was plenty big for the viewing area of the bedroom, and I did not have to create an outside the cabinet mounting process.  I basically set it on top of the DVR box, secured by brackets to hold the top in place, and the weight of it to hold in onto a padded strip at the bottom.  The base strip establishes the viewing angle, recessed about an inch from the bottom of the cabinet frame.  I build a DVR box below it, and it now houses a DVD Recorder / VCR combo --- Direct TV seems to not want me to have Satellite service --- see my other post on the antenna servicing these TV's.  I was going to stain the box to match the oak cabinets, but decided a black box would look good with the electronics and be a better match. 

The front TV is now a 32" LED HDTV.  I debated the install options. The rear TV fit inside the cabinet nicely.  But because I wanted a larger unit up front, it would not fit inside the existing cabinet.  Rather than take the cabinet apart and perform carpentry resolutions beyond my skill level....I mounted it on a typical wall mount bracket.  The bracket is attached to a 1x10 board screwed into place, with mounting base attached.  The TV bracket is attached to the rear of the unit and they inter lock for mounting.  The DVR box fits below.  Again, I painted the box black to match the electronic devices.  The bracket allows pivoting for viewing angle.  The DVR box now houses a regular DVD player for movie watching.

Direct TV?  Maybe some day.  I did some final wiring adjustments and now have very nice HDTV to both TV sets with my over the air via the crank up JACK antenna, and I am very pleased.  Do I miss some of my old stations --- ESPN, HGTV, BRAVO, and others --- yes.  On the other hand, free TV is good quality, and should foster extra time for other activities. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Williamsburg VA Day Trip

This is Thomas Jefferson...in bronze at the Williamsburg Virginia Historic District shopping area.  For additional photos visit our day trip photos (password is shadow) of Williamsburg Virginia.  We rode the colonial parkway, but the leaves are mostly gone or brown.  We walked the historic area where there was a farmers market.  We walked the College of William and Mary campus and the oldest academic building in continuous use in the USA.  As it turns out, the highlight of the day was a street side garden that we relaxed in for a while.

I have been a long time resident of this area, commonly referred to as Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Should you ever travel this way, plan on a month of activity time, or more.  If you like history, then you must visit.  Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown make up the historic triangle.  Much of early America began here.  But these early American places are the northern part of Hampton Roads.

This area, on the whole, is a major population center of Virginia.  There is SO MUCH to do here; April through December have weekly events throughout Hampton Roads..  In the immediate area is Bush Gardens and Water Country.  Virginia Beach and Nags Head are nice.  Many more cities and destinations exist in between.  There is a substantial military presence in this area, and a lot of military history and several museums.  Maritime history is also significant in this area --- ship building, seafood and the Navy --- as is water related recreation.  October and November would be a great time to visit Hampton Roads, Virginia.  If you are set up for colder weather and like Christmas, Williamsburg is beautiful.  The Grand Illumination during the first Sunday of December is wonderful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Notable Event - Reading About Gertie

Notable persons and events are a part of every life.  It has been my intention in this blog to occasionally highlight events or persons that have impacted me in some way.   On this day I wanted to give a nod to Andy Baird.  Why? His blog and the account of his full timer transition via Gertie (his first RV shown above) was the first RVing information that I really dug into.  I have not actually MET Andy, except through his writings.  I pulled this image from his site with his permission.  If you have time for some interesting reading, especially if you are new to RVing or trying to RV on a tighter budget or buy an older RV and update it, check out his site. 

As a new RV traveler and Blogger I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the crossroad I was at about 18 months ago.   I had an unidentified path to an unclear dream in my mind.  In reading Andy's blog I was able to begin to bridge the gaps in my mind.  I have since read many more blogs and gained additional insight.  The dream has begun to happen  This process is part of a new life learning paradigm that is steadily increasing in momentum.  But as I consider my RVer roots that are shallow and new, I cannot ignore the fact that Andy Baird inspired the concepts of my future lifestyle.

I am guessing that Andy is somewhere out in New Mexico living his dream.  He recently encountered a storm that impacted his RV.  He is raising funds for the repairs.  Check out his site and perhaps lend some support.  He has some really great ideas about RV maintenance, systems and living.

Best wishes Andy.  Stay safe and I hope our travels cross paths some day.  Regards from a fellow RVer.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shower Head Blues

You know the shower head performance is bad when your wife CHOOSES to go to the bath house for a shower when it is cold outside.  As a guy, I did not think the shower head was so bad.  Yes, there was not a great spray pattern but I got wet and the soap rinsed off.  Then I got an education...you don't have long hair.  The sales lady at the RV store told me the same thing.  Apparently, the spray pattern has to have sufficient force to deal with the needs of long hair.  There are a number of folks online that recommend the Oxygenics brand shower head.  No local store had one and mail order seemed necessary.  But I was at the RV store for other items and decided to try a different shower head they had in stock.  The parts lady even gave it a personal recommendation...again, it was the hair thing.  Amazingly, this $12 part did the trick. 
Original on the right, water flow cut off on the back.  You can see the new product on the left, water flow cut off below the head.  It is pretty clear that the holes of the two shower heads are pretty dramatically different.  It boils down to hydraulics.  Limited water pressure producing an ineffective spray pattern out of the one on the right, but spraying nicely out of the one on the left.  I really wondered if such small openings would produce an adequate spray pattern.  It does. 

One caution.  The cutoff shuts the flow off completely and tends to dispense hot water only on reopening.  Leave it trickling if needed.  I have not run out of hot water when leaving either of them on during the shower.

So, if you need a better shower experience, check out  the local RV store or shop online for a very simple way to address low shower head pressure and performance. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

U Haul, U Work

A week ago at this very moment we were tooling down the road at the beginning of a 14 hour transfer of our lives from Virginia to Florida.  In the back of this truck were the few possessions we had left.  During September and October we had finally been able to secure the sale of our previous home.  It was a wonderful home, a GREAT floor plan, nicely furnished and so comfy...for those who want to work the 8-5.  And the commute of 2 hours daily.  And the mortgage and utility bills.  And the upkeep.  And the same view out the same windows.  And the rare vacation to reward oneself.  The buyer wanted us out in 2 weeks!  Well, I must say, that was a rush.  So many 'things' we valued suddenly became a threshold of worry, loss and pain.  Worry because we did not know how we could possible shed these things in 10 days time so we could prep for the walk thru.  Loss because we knew how much consideration of time and money went into creating a previously warm and comfortable dwelling.  Pain, in that our bodies are older and the time sequence was tight.  Thankfully, family and friends pitched in wonderfully.  They helped us move the things we needed moved.  Many bought the nice things we had previously cherished, making the 'fire sale' prices more bearable in that the items went to family of friends.  The garage sale, Craigslist sales and family sales went well.  The rest went to temporary storage, the DAV Thrift Store or the dump.  In the end we had taken the severe steps of preparing for the NEW American dream, less stuff and traveling light.  Many people ask the question...'how do I get rid of all the stuff?'  In part is is emotional, just letting go of the attachment to things.  In part it is financial; at this moment in time you cannot get back what you paid for the items, many of which are in new condition having been so lovingly cared for.  In part, it is timing.  We just did not have time to dicker over how much or to whom something was transferred to.  The reality -- it was a God thing.  He watched over us and provided.  In just 10 days I was amazed at how a plan and resolution came together.  Earlier this year I lost a job, was in a car accident and hospitalized and then found a new job.  That was a tough 4 months, but also part of God's providence and a path of faith and trust.  I did not know why then; I understand more now, and I am thankful.

We left Florida after 4 days of hard work, prepping the house for our winter solace.  We are back 'home' now, in the Gray Whale (the RV).  It was nice to get back.  In a few weeks we will finish our transition to Florida.  We wanted to be here for Thanksgiving, to be with family and friends.  And then we will caravan down with all the vehicles and start living a new dream.  Warmer winters in Florida and summer travels in our great country.

Thanks for stopping in.  Best wishes with your dreams.  God bless you as you move forward with your life; we should all take time to consider His presence on our path to eternity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans, We Thank You

This is a photo I took of the Shanksville, PA - United Flight 93 crash site on 9/11.  It was a moving experience to stand there and consider what the citizens on that plane chose to do in service to our country.  That day's events helped to usher in a new era of commitment by our Armed Services.  To all of you who are serving now, to all of you who have served in the past, THANK YOU.  To those of you who have lost a loved one by virtue of their service to our country, we owe you OUR DEEPEST GRATITUDE.  To those of you who gave the ultimate sacrifice, YOU ARE NEVER FORGOTTEN. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Moving Tomorrow - Domicile Discussion

If you are like us, you spent considerable time figuring out this RV lifestyle perspective --- domicile.  It is a primary concern for full timers, those that live their life completely from an RV.  I wanted to pursue that lifestyle, a FULL TIMER, before I met my wife.  I would have been perfectly happy to have hauled a trailer around behind my Durango and see the country, no roots.  As it turns out, Jan shared my dream -- sort of.  She wanted to travel and see the country to, but she likes having a traditional house and could not make the leap to full timing.  As a compromise we have developed a PART TIMER concept for RVing.  I follow lots of blogs and forums.  There is such good insight and education there.  In the end we had to consider some traditional concepts.  Proximity to family, fair weather, fiances and a fixed structure.  For us, Florida fit the plan.  So we bought a little place to call home....our DOMICILE.  Texas was a close second.  The plan during the winter is to hang our hats at the little place above.  The reality is that, if full timers, we probably would have been parked for extended periods in Florida anyway.  We formalized it by buying a little place to part the RV with a house included.  I really think it will work out well.  We are beginning the move there tomorrow, arriving Sunday.  After depositing the small amount of stuff we have left within our new S&B, we will head back to the RV in Virginia as we finish up our careers by Thanksgiving.  Having spent most of my life in Virginia, Part Timing from Florida will be an interesting adventure!  On more step into the new American dream.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Daily Walk

Walking.  Healthy on so many levels.  I need to do more of it.  I have made it a point to walk every day now. Rain? No problem, carry an umbrella.  Cold? Put on a coat. Mental health, physical health and you even get to meet nice folks.  Today I met a fellow and had a nice chat in the roadway.  He is also named Mike, retired, has a nice F450 and 5th Wheel (That was my second option of RV).  Guess what?  He is recovering from OPEN HEART SURGERY of 3 weeks ago!  He is out for his walk.  He has located here to be close to the hospital.  The RvBurg is convenient!  Put the house near the hospital until you are recovered.  Easy access to your bed, fridge, TV, bathroom and exercise regimen.  So, go for a walk - for health sake.

Easy Move in the RvBurg

So where else in America can you move your WHOLE HOUSE in one hour? The RvBurg! I got up yesterday morning and had my coffee, watched the TODAY show, and enjoyed the peace and quiet.  I noticed some rapid activity out my window.  We are staying in the 'extended stay' or long term section of the Campground.  My neighbor told me he might move; several 'long term' site holders had departed and he had previewed a new campsite.  Around the corner is a site with an already built deck.  Guess what?  It is easier to move the HOUSE than the deck.  So within an hour my neighbor had relocated; backed the RV right in next to his new deck.  Then moved the shed, grill, etc.  How easy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Verizon MIFI Internet Access

MIFI - I have to give this device 2 Thumbs UP. I used it in our 2800sf house before moving into the RV, any room, 4 people, no problem. I have used it on the road and used it on the battery mode. It provides essential access to the internet, staying in touch with family and friends, blogging, etc. Connection speeds have been completely adequate. For sure, a land based cable internet connection is great; no data limit and cheaper. But for portability and ease of use, I am satisfied.

Yet to be determined, functionality on fringe or remote areas related to Verizon cellular coverage.

Heating Discussion

We are in Hampton Roads VA right now. The temperature at night has been between 39F and 51F for the past weeks (43F now - 9am). I like it cooler at night for sleeping. We turn the thermostat down on the gas heater and let it run. Propane use seems to have been light at these temps. I have a 28 gal. tank and very little used so far and that includes cooking use. When we get up or get back to the house we bump the heat up just to take off the chill. Then we use 2 of these heaters.

During evening and morning leisure time around the house we have been using two ceramic heaters to keep the place more 'toasty'. They are set on low (750 watt mode). Having a small fan built in they are quiet and distribute heat surprisingly well. They keep the bathroom warmer. They keep the gas unit from kicking on. They are portable and can be place nearby for instant warmth. The electric bill so far is about $10 week for all electric use @ .14 kwh. This did include some record temps where we had the AC running rather than heat.

Overall, this seems to be a good option for specific use heating.

TV Antenna Issues

Out of frustration I had to try some options with the crank up antenna. I tried on two occasions to sign up with Direct TV. The first installer refused to put a HD dish on a tripod. I then (after some months) called back and wanted to get SD using a tripod. This tech, after standing me up during the '8am - 12pm' arrival, showed up at 1pm. He said there were too many trees. I think he was tired of being late and did not want to commit the time for tuning it in. Some stuff about a 2 year guarantee and the trees would fill in and block the signal. What a bunch of horse hockey. My neighbor is having no problem receiving the signal through the tree line. He calls his supervisor...sorry, no can do. I have gotten somewhat disappointed with Direct TV already. My neighbor said she had to call 3 time and complain to get it done. I am not hear long enough to fight that battle right now.

So, I went and bought this addition to my antenna for $30 at a local RV store...it was their only item available. I asked 'how have folks liked it' and they say 'have not had any returned'. Well, it is a really cheap piece of plastic, easy enough to install, but wow, can it possible do anything? My opinion? Waste of money. I apparently am in a fringe area and I am dealing with the wooded tree line adjacent to the campground. I was not able to improve my reception. I still was getting only CBS and a few other not too useful channels. CBS was not reliable and would break up. Gee, all I wanted was some morning and evening news and some occasional other programing.(Updated note: this was a non amplified Winegard product, a KEY issue)

I then went to a different local RV store. I saw and asked about this antenna. Same thing...'never had one returned'. Ut oh. Could it be that is is not worth the gas to bring it back? Well, for $50 I decided to give it a try. It was equally easy to install. It has a separate power supply for a signal booster. Guess what? NICE. 2 thumbs up. I now have clear and uninterrupted programing from all 4 major networks, and 14 additional channels. Plus it is smaller and lighter than the equipment replaced.

So, if you do not want to invest in Satellite right now, or if you want to have an effective back up for programing, give the Jack TV Antenna a shot. For me, it worked. I have been watching NBC all morning, not available from my site before, and uninterrupted all morning. Happy camper.