Saturday, November 12, 2011

Living full-time in a fifth-wheel RV. (Part Four)

I’m not an expert – just experienced

Hitch Hiker - notice insulation skirting around bottom
We recently purchased the second RV, a 2001 Hitch Hiker.  We intentionally purchased a smaller fifth-wheel (30’) because it would be easier and less expensive to tow to Texas.  Since we would be living in the Hitch Hiker (from now on referred to as HH) for only about four months of the year, it would not have to have all of the storage space that the RR had.  We did chuckle to ourselves that the trailer we bought to take to Texas is a full four season and the one we were leaving in Iowa was only a three season.  Little did we suspect the changes that were in store for us!
We purchased the HH and made arrangement to have the RR moved from our seasonal site at Cutty’s.  The RR was going into storage so that we could give the HH a good ‘break in’ period.  The plan was to live in the HH through another Iowa winter, spring, summer and fall before heading to Texas.  That would let us become accustomed to the trailer.  The reality of what happened was; the slideout on the RR refused to slide in.  Upon examination, it was discovered that a corner portion of the slideout had suffered water damage and ‘dropped’ several inches.  It may be repairable.  However, since the RV is twenty years old, the cost is likely more than the trailer is worth.  The Cutty’s maintenance staff was able to tow it (with the slideout still in the out position) to the on site storage area. 
The day after 3" of the first snow
Now we are left with the possibility of moveing all of our belongings from the RR to the HH when we had planned to only move a portion of them.  We now need to make plans to either tow the HH to Texas AND BACK or to purchase yet another new RV.   There are other options also such as renting a place to stay, abandoning the idea of moving with the seasons or …. ?  We’ll just have to see what God has in store for us.  For now we are settled in for another Iowa winter in our new home, the HH.  We have already had our first snow of the season.  One to five inches of very heavy, wet snow that took down trees and power lines as well as snarled traffic with accidents.         
(I will continue to post more articles about our experience as Fulltime RVers in my new blog

Living full-time in a fifth-wheel RV. (Part Three)

I’m not an expert – just experienced

Imagine downsizing from this to a 35' RV
      Cutty's Resort remains open during the winter so it was possible to go ‘full time’ in the RV.  That same year we sold our 1890 Victorian home and became full-timers.
Our dream had been to retire to a ‘mobile lifestyle’.  I envisioned it being something like, waking in the morning and flipping a coin to decide if we were to travel left or right, forward or back.  We were still several years from being able to retire but we were beginning to live a version of the dream.
Our friends and family were concerned for us to the point that when we said we were going to live in the RR during the winter they asked, “Won’t you be cold?”  To which we replied, “I don’t know, ask us again in the spring.”  Well, thanks to following the advice of other full-timers, we made it through that first winter with only minor difficulties.  And, “No” we were not cold.  We learned to use foil-backed foam insulation to skirt the trailer.  We also learned to use ‘trouble lights’ to provide just a little heat behind the RV refrigerator. (Unlike household refrigerators which use a compressor, RV refrigerators rely on evaporation and must have heat to work.)  We learned to use plastic film to cover the windows.  We learned how to depend on the fresh water tank for water and how to keep the water lines from freezing.  But most of all we learned how beautiful God’s world is in the winter.
We watched the leaves on the trees around the lake turn from green to bright fall colors and then to abandon the trees for the winter.  We watched the sunlight sparkle so brightly on the lake that it almost hurt your eyes.  We watched the geese and ducks invade and then leave as they passed through to warmer areas.  Gold finches changed to their drab green fall color.  Rabbits, raccoons, deer and hawks became the winter time entertainment replacing the song birds of summer.  We discovered that the winter sun shining on snow and ice mimicked the sunlight sparkle of the summer lake.  We discovered how little we needed to be happy.
For the next couple of years we made the resort our home base.  However, we also were able to volunteer as camp hosts at a couple of Corp of Engineer parks around Saylorville Lake.  We both were still working full time (though we were both doing temp work).  
In the years since then we have both retired.  Ella was tired of waiting for new temp jobs to open.  I had a heart attack that made me even more aware of how quickly things can change.  Since retiring, we have done more work camping and some part-time jobs. 
Now that we qualify for Medicare it will give us more freedom to travel without worrying about whether our insurance will be honored.  Our plan is to travel to the Austin Texas area for the winter of 2012-2013 and then return to Iowa for the summer months.  However, we’ll see how those plans work out.  They have already gone through some revision.  The original plan was to purchase another RV to take to Texas.  We would then leave that one in storage in the south and return to Iowa and live in the RR. (to be continued)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Living Fulltime in a Fifth-Wheel RV (Part Two)

For about three years prior to the cancer incident, we had begun looking at travel trailers, motor-homes, and fifth-wheels.  We had pretty good ideas about what we wanted for when we retired.  It had to be a full four season RV with a decent kitchen area and lots of closet space.  The type of RV was something on which we had not come to agreement. 
I liked the idea of a Class A motor home – you know – those big busses – not fancy van conversions.  Ella hated the idea of a motor home.  “I don’t want a steering wheel in my living room,” was one of her frequent remarks.
We owned two conversion vans and therefore began looking primarily at travel trailers that could be pulled by the vans.  We received confusing and conflicting advice from sales people when we asked what size trailer we could pull with the van.  Some said we could pull any thing on the lot and some said it had to be towable by a ¼ ton vehicle.  I finally went to the GMC dealer (since the one we planned to use was a GMC) and asked for his expert advice.  The advice was, “Both are correct.”  As long as we were staying local with the unit we could handle any trailer that could be pulled by a ¾ ton truck.   However, since it was a conversion van, the transmission was geared differently and would not work for long hauls with a heavy unit. 
I remarked to the GMC salesman that eventually I would probably upgrade to a ¾ ton truck which would solve my problem.  “Funny you should mention that,” he said. “Come look at this truck that I just took in on trade.”  Yes, I bought it! It was a ¾ ton extended cab with both a fifth-wheel receiver and a bumper hitch. Since the pick up already had a fifth-wheel receiver, it opened us up to looking at fifth-wheels.
Road Ranger and Sierra 2500HD
The same weekend that we bought the truck we also bought a used 1991 Road Ranger 35Y fifth-wheel manufactured by K.I.T.  Nearly 37 feet long with an ample galley kitchen and lots of storage space, it was very nearly what we had been envisioning.  It was not a full four season trailer.  However, this was only to be our ‘first’ trailer and not the one we retired into.
We picked the Road Ranger (RR for short) up on a Wednesday in the middle of April and took it home.  That Friday night we took it out for a weekend of camping.  We returned home only to pick up more ‘stuff’ until the Corp of Engineers Parks closed on October 30th
Keep in mind that we were still working so we had to stick fairly close to home – just like we had done when tent camping.  We had adult kids living at home with us and they kept the ‘sticks and bricks’ house going while we camped.
Cutty's Clubhouse and lake
The next year we bought a membership with Cutty’s Des Moines Camping Club which is a members' owned resort in the Des Moines area.   The campground is over eighty acres of gently rolling sparsely forested hills with an eleven acre fishing lake in the middle. The resort has amenities such as; two outdoor pools, wading pool, eighteen hole miniature golf, western play village, giant slide, playgrounds, basket ball courts, horseshoe pitching areas, sand volley ball, shuffle board and tennis courts.  It is much like the small towns in which Ella and I grew up. There is a general store, cafĂ©, laundry facilities, RV parts store, repair shop and a large “main street” meeting area where there are all types of entertainment every weekend during the camping season. One of the biggest attractions for us was the large clubhouse which remains open year around.  The clubhouse has in indoor pool, sauna, hot tub, exercise room, showers, and laundry.
 (to be continued)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living Fulltime in a Fifth-Wheel RV (Part One)

The genesis of this story goes back a long time.  I’m not sure of the exact year when it happened but I know that it was at least a decade ago, maybe closer to two.  The company, for which I was then working, added a new benefit to our package.  The new benefit was the chance to purchase Cancer Insurance at a discount.  It was set up so that my wife and I would both be covered.  It was for a one-time payout if either of us was ever diagnosed with cancer.  Because cancer has eaten away at both sides of our family, it seemed like a good idea to take the policy.
In 2004 Ella’s mammogram came back showing a spot.  It was as tiny as a grain of salt.  They performed a biopsy and found it was indeed breast cancer.  The good news was that the biopsy had removed it all.   However, to be double sure, she had a lumpectomy and radiation treatments in January 2005.  The cancer is gone, thank God. 
We sent the paperwork to the insurance company and received a check with which we paid the doctor.  There was money left over. What to do?
With a new perspective of our own mortality, we resolved to start doing some of those things that were planned for our retirement.  We loved camping and so determined to get away more often.  We had been tent campers since early in our marriage.  We would often spend two week stints several times a year living in our tents even while going to work every day. 
Now to understand us, it helps to understand ‘how’ we tent camped.  First there was the tent.  It was 12’x17’ and had 3 rooms with 2 ‘pop out’ closets.  Then we had a screen room which was 15’x20’ which was butted up to the front door of the tent. Then there was the shower tent that butted up to the back door of the tent.  Over the entire layout was a 20’x30’ silver, sun-blocking tarp.  The tarp sat on a home-made frame.  We also had a tarp as a water barrier under the entire set up.  We then had a carpet scrap that covered the tent floor.  We stacked two queen-size air mattresses for our bed. 
In the screen room, we had a plywood counter top laid across a series of plastic stacking drawers in the kitchen area.  Two of the drawers also acted as sinks for washing and rinsing dishes.  We used a propane stove that had two burners, a grill, and a tiny oven about 4”x6”x10”. Folding tables and chairs sat in the dining area and camp chairs in the sitting room area.  Both tents were well illuminated by Coleman lanterns powered by a couple of 20 pound LP tanks.
I mentioned the shower tent, well; we had a battery powered submersible pump that connected to a hand held shower wand.  On the floor of the tent was a very small inflatable ‘kiddy’ pool.
If we camped where there was electricity, you might also find a mini-fridge and a microwave.
With nearly 600 square feet of living space, we were far from ‘roughing it’.  As a matter of fact we often pitied the people in their travel trailers and motor homes for having to live such ‘cramped’ lives.
We lived very well when we tent camped.  However, as all good things do, there came a time when the set up, tear down and put away part of camping became too much for us.  After you’ve rolled up all of that canvas and find yourself on your knees looking for something to help pull you back to your feet, which is when you begin to think about travel trailers.   (to be continued)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2011 November 9

First snow of the season has descended upon us.
First snow of the season, November 9, 2011. 1-3" in our area.

          The snow was very wet and heavy.  Parts of Des Moines were/are without power because of dropped power lines and trees.  Lots of accidents early (4-5) this morning when the snow began to accumulate.
Strange how the first snow or even the first rain after a dry spell, brings out the worst drivers.  Or maybe it is just the drivers with the shortest memory, who have forgotten how to drive when the streets become wet.
          The sun is out now and the temps are to be in the mid 40’s so this snow will not last.  It should have a chance to soak in before the temps drop into the 20’s tomorrow morning.
          We had an abbreviated number of men at our Bible study this morning.  I am assuming the snow was the cause of people not choosing to drive in from the suburbs. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 8 2011

Yesterday, Monday, was a payday for Ella.  After sleeping in and having breakfast, we took her check to the bank.  On the way home we stopped at WalMart and picked up a few groceries. 
Since the Road Ranger is in storage and has become a storage trailer, we stopped brought some of our winter clothes and odds and ends from there.  We also scattered Bounce dryer sheets around throughout the trailer, as they are supposed to repel mice.
Monday started out Sunny but turned cloudy.  Late afternoon and into the evening it rained.  It was the kind of day that chills the soul. This morning I checked the rain gauge and it only showed about a half an inch.  Funny, it seemed like it should have been more than that.
Today, Tuesday, the day has started off dreary. It is cold and windy.  Also, looking at the radar, we are in for more rain and possibly some snow before the day is done.
I had posted a couple days ago that I needed to bake some more bread.  Well, one of the items brought over from the storage trailer was the bread machine.  This morning I mixed up some potato bread (without a recipe – so I hope it turns out alright) and put it in the machine to bake.  It is easier and less messy to make bread in the machine.  However, it is not as much fun.  I don’t really like the way the loaf looks when it is made in the machine.  So, usually, even if I use the machine to mix and knead the bread, I’ll shape and bake the loaf in the oven.
I saw a Facebook post by the mother of our former exchange student.  He goes by the stage name of Freddy Farzadi.  I used a translator program to change it from German to English and this is what it says:
Farzadi is the "Bad Boy of Comedy" 01.11.2011
As a bouncer on the Reeperbahn, he gathered many funny stories
Freddy Farzadi (35) from Berlin,

Freddy is a man of extremes. The "Bad Boy of Comedy" plays on the stage a Hamburger bouncer. Freddy is originally from Hamburg. He was one of four bouncers on the Reeperbahn, but has also successfully completed a law degree. In his bouncer job he enjoyed so many funny things that he began to tell about it. The stories were well received and so slowly but surely developed his passion for comedy. Freddy Farzadi has regular appearances at the Open Stage in "Apparently Vaudeville" in Berlin and the "Kookaburra Club" in Berlin. Since 2010 he is a stand up comedian on stage.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7 2011

I'm trying something different here.  This is a question I posted on Facebook and the responses I received today.  How would you answer this question.

Here is a question I’d like everyone to comment on. It’s kind of my own survey.
“Which is better; to do the right thing for the wrong reason, or to do the wrong thing for the right reason”?
 ·  ·  ·  · 10 hours ago
    • Morgan Hart Yikes! That's tough...
      10 hours ago · 
    • Adam Williams I don't quite understand. I would like an example of each.
      10 hours ago ·  ·  1
    • Jennifer Williams I agree with Adam
      10 hours ago · 
    • Mischa Prochaska Hoffman Both
      9 hours ago · 
    • Tom Williams 
      Okay, let me see if I can give examples. Buying a gift for someone because you feel obligated rather than because you want to, would be and example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Giving your dog chocolate because you love...See More
      7 hours ago · 
    • Jennifer Williams Based on those, I'd say the first: doing the right thing for the wrong reason....always to the right thing.
      7 hours ago · 
    • Adam Williams 
      It might seem like a copout, but I would say that it is somewhere in the middle. When the kids are trying to help and they mess something up, it is frustrating but I can't get too mad at them. Then there is ignorance, as in your dog example...See More
      3 hours ago · 
    • Melanie Glenn I would have to say doing the wrong thing for the right reason. I do have to add in that is provided you don't know what the right thing is, in example a child's ignorance. At the same time as an adult it is important to do the right thing for the right reasons and not let society dictate what you do. .... I just reread that. I am definitely my fathers daughter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011 November 06

            Yesterday I said that we had planned to go for ice cream with some friends.  Well, we did go yesterday afternoon.  Only it was not for ice cream.  A frozen yogurt place called Orange Leaf just opened in a strip mall near us.  I had the butter pecan and it was good.  The store is all bright orange and white with strange little chairs that make be feel like I’m back in kindergarten. (For those who don’t know me, I’m 6’1” and just short of 300 pounds.) So, I don’t care much for those little plastic chairs.  The other choice for seating was on tall swiveling chairs with form fitting seats.  Well, they may be form fitting for some butts, but not for mine.
            Today, Sunday, Ella works from 8 to 5.  I dropped her off at the clubhouse and then went to Kum & Go for gasoline and a free newspaper.  I generally only buy gas on Sunday and an occasional Wednesday.  With a purchase of $20 or more at Kum & Go you receive a free newspaper. 
            After filling my gas tank (You don’t know how hard it is for me to call it a ‘gas’ tank when I know it holds gasoline not gas.  Okay, now back to the narrative.) After filling my gas tank I headed to church.  Our Sunday school class was another good lesson.  After class, we discussed plans for a class Christmas party.  Then it was time for church. 
Today is All Saints Day and we remember our members who have died in the last year by their name, ringing a bell and saying, “Absent from us, present with the Lord”.  We lost nine members since our last All Saints Day.  We also listed the items around the church that have been paid for by Memorial Funds given in honor of deceased members.
Following the service we had a meal of pulled port sandwiches, baked potato and carrot and celery sticks.  I purchased two to-go boxes and went to the clubhouse to have lunch with Ella.  As we ate we sat and watched the bright sunlight sparkle on the lake.  It is a very pretty looking day.  If it weren’t for the 10-20 mph winds with gust almost to 40, it would be a perfect Fall day with temps in the lower 60’s.
The bread I baked the other day is about gone.  I guess I'd better quit loafing around and bake some more.  And since the temperature is due to take a nose dive, it is a good time to light the oven.  I've also been asked to bake some potato bread for Thanksgiving.  This would be a good time to do that also, I'll just freeze it until the day before.
What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?
Do you have a special way of preparing it?