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Happy Thanksgiving from the Three Modern Nomads!

Took some time out to visit the big beaver in the sky… For those not familiar with the toothy critter, Bucee’s is a travel center with locations throughout Texas.

We left Padre Island (Texas) today and are starting another leg of the “big” journey. Although I think someone better clean those bugs off the windshield at the next stop! 😉

Sunday morning we were surprised to see three waterspouts forming in the Gulf of Mexico (Texas). By the time I went back to the RV to get my camera two of them had dissipated.

 Took a break to enjoy the amazing view as the sun rises over the Gulf of Mexico ~ Mustang Island (TX).

Fulton Mansion State Historical Site is located in Rockport (Texas). At the time of our visit the mansion was closed for renovation, but we enjoyed a walk through the gardens and around the grounds. The visitor center located behind the mansion consists of a small museum, gift shop and film area regarding the history of the mansion. During the renovation, admission to the site is free. Parking is limited so only take a tow vehicle.

If you find yourself in Corpus Christi (TX) and have already toured the USS Lexington, make sure to plan a trip to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. The museum is situated on the scenic waterfront and offers visitors a glimpse of everything from dinosaurs to coastal ecology.

The museum has several great exhibits. One worth noting is the mudéjar-style dome ceiling in the Cultural Encounters exhibit. It was originally in a building in Spain – around 1535. So don’t forget to look up! 😉

Parking in front of the museum is limited as well as the parking area across the street. So make sure you leave the rig parked in a local campground and just take the tow vehicle. Current admission is $9 for adults and $7 for seniors/children.

If you find yourself in Rockport (TX) make time to visit the Texas Maritime Museum. The museum’s permanent exhibits focus on maritime history, boat and ship building, commercial and sports fishing, as well as modern-day oil and gas exploration. The second floor also has an incredible display of artwork devoted to Texas lighthouses. And the third floor is actually an observation tower with a great view of historic Rockport and Rockport Beach. There are a few larger exhibits outside. The museum also has a small library and gift shop.

Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors. Parking is limited, so take your tow vehicle. And while you are there, don’t forget to visit the Rockport Aquarium (free) and Bay Education Center (free) – all within walking distance.

We ran out of road so the Chevy Silverado took to the High Seas! ARRR!

The Chevy Silverado on our recent visit to King Ranch.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The USS LEXINGTON

If you are in Corpus Christi (Texas), plan on visiting the USS Lexington. The Lexington, an Essex Class aircraft carrier, was commissioned in 1943. She was nicknamed the “Blue Ghost” by Tokyo Rose because of several reports of being sunk. At the time of her decommission in 1991, she was the oldest working carrier in the U.S. Navy.

There are five self-guided tours, each beginning and ending on the hangar deck. From aircraft, exhibits, movie theater, cafe and gift shop, be prepared to spend a day on board. One of the hidden gems we found was a ball cap (of the Lexington) worn by Commander Jerry Linenger on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994.

Admission is $14 for adults and $12 for seniors. Gated parking across the street is $3.50 and requires a token at exit (which you pay for at Admissions). There is no RV parking, so only take your tow vehicle. There is free shuttle service from the pier to the hangar deck.   The tour consists of a great deal of walking and climbing – sturdy shoes are recommended. And don’t forget your camera!

 

Who knew shopping for souvenirs could be so dangerous? 😉

If you find yourself near Corpus Christi (TX), plan to visit Padre Island National Seashore. The park consists of 70 miles of coastline, sand dunes and tidal flats. In addition to being the nesting grounds for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the park also boasts over 300 species of birds.

At the park you’ll find the Malaquite Visitor Center (consisting of small museum, gift shop, camp store, restrooms and pavilion), campgrounds, boat ramp, picnic shelters, nature trails and windsurfing/kayaking rentals. There is plenty to do – from beach-combing and birdwatching to bicycling and fishing.

It can be windy along the beach and can be buggy at times near the marshes. And don’t forget to watch out for Portuguese Man-O-War and jellyfish!

Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle (7 day pass) and an additional $5 if you want to use the Bird Island Basin area. Be forewarned, the park is not all paved. A short drive after the visitor center you will find yourself driving on the beach! And four-wheel drive is recommended for travel beyond the first couple of miles. However, we did see a handful of folks with their RVs along the first section. You might ask at the entrance gate about current road conditions before taking your own Big Rig beach driving though!

Finding new roads in Texas… although this one leads straight into the Gulf of Mexico!

If you find yourself traveling I-10 near the Louisiana/Texas State Line, make sure to stop at the Texas Travel Information Center in Orange (TX) to see Blue Elbow Swamp. The Center has a boardwalk that extends into Blue Elbow Swamp and you can view a variety of plants, trees and wildlife.

Blue Elbow Swamp is part of Tony Housman State Park and Wildlife Management Area. The area has a fascinating history that even includes cannibals. Yep! So take some time to forget about highway traffic and take a relaxing walk in the swamp. 😉

On this date three years ago…

We were in Texas, enjoying the beautiful Hill Country. We made a trip to Austin to visit the Texas Forces Military Museum. This museum is located inside Camp Mabry and has a variety of exhibits – from the history of the Alamo to a piece of the Berlin Wall to modern weaponry.

The fun thing about traveling the country is that you are bound to met people from an area you’ve visited. When we come across some Austinites we always joke about meeting Audie Murphy there. Usually confused by our encounter with this famous hero, we have to elaborate about posing with the Audie Murphy statue (across from the military museum).  Unfortunately we have yet to met one that has visited the museum!

Most military bases have some sort of museum and they are often free (but rely on donations) to the public. There is a great deal of history at these museums – and you will be surprised what you see! If there is a base in or near your area, look online to see if they have a museum. Because you just never know when you’ll run into the Three Modern Nomads – chances are we’ve already been there! 😉

If you don’t have any plans for today, don’t forget that entrance fees to U.S. National Park are waived on September 27, 2014 in honor of Public Lands Days. Or mark your calendar for the last fee-free date of the year – November 11, 2014 (Veterans Day). During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

You just never know what kind of history you are going to dig up (hmm… poor choice of words, perhaps!) at a cemetery. Like the time we were gold panning along the Yuba River (CA) and found a small trail leading to a cemetery. The small cemetery revealed to be the resting place of a Captain Thompson and his descendents – a ship’s captain until his crew abandoned ship for the promise of riches in California’s gold fields. And there are those with a voiceless past, like the Yuma Territorial Prison Cemetery (AZ) where there are no grave markers, just rows of rock mounds… It really is amazing what you can learn at these locations. So why not plot… uh, I mean plan, a trip to visit a historic one near you?

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Guadalupe River

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Guadalupe River

Looking back…

Spring Break 2010 was spent camping beside the scenic Guadalupe River (Texas). The weather was beautiful and the river was loaded with rafters, kayakers and toobers. Our camp site was located right by a small falls, so we spent the majority of the time sitting in lawn chairs watching folks either quickly navigate through the falls or take a tumble in the river!

If you find yourself in Texas Hill Country and want to get your feet wet, consider spending a day on the river. Just try to keep your head above water. 😉

More information on the Guadalupe River can be found at: http://guadaluperiver.com/ .

Since Hollywood still hasn’t picked up on the idea of using a campground as the basis for a reality TV show and I still get a few emails each month asking about a third installment… Well, here are a few more unusual events we’ve experienced Full-Timing.

This is one we have only shared a few times because it is rather odd to bring up in a conversation. We were staying at a campground in Washington. Little did we know at the time of our arrival that the campground was located beside a cemetery and that we would be camped next to it. (You can read more about this at Campground Living: Better than Reality TV .) It was at the tail end of October, so the campground was dead (okay, pun intended) and it was just us and the current hosts camped in the park. On the third night, we were asleep when we heard activity outside. Peering out the windows revealed a woman with a flashlight and shovel roaming the cemetery across the chain-link fence. Now our first thoughts were some crazy Halloween prank, but after opening a window and hearing the woman talking to herself about getting back “the ring”… well, we grew a bit concerned. Our cell phone didn’t work well in the area, so we weren’t sure what to do until there was a knock at the door!  Normally we don’t open the door at night, but a peak out the window revealed the duty host. She heard the woman’s vehicle and saw some sort of activity and wanted to know if we had any idea what was going on. Of course, we had no clue – why would someone be at a cemetery in the middle of an October night with a flashlight and shovel? Hmm… Anyway, it was decided to contact the park owner and ask her how to proceed.  Eventually the owners arrived with the local law. The short of the story is the woman wanted her mother’s ring – she had died several years earlier. The woman was roaming the cemetery looking for the plot to dig up the ring. So forget the walking dead, it’s the roaming heirs you need to watch out for!

Your neighbors are dead-quite when you camp by a cemetery!

This reminds me of the Full-Timers we met at a RV resort in Florida who can’t part with their dearly departed pets. They have their pet ashes in little urns under their bed. Having lost a pet, I understand, but that’s a little too creepy for me. And it also serves as a reminder that if you buy a used RV to check under the bed storage area!

A question I got emailed after posting the second “Campground Living” asked if we have seen other “trophies” at campgrounds. No we haven’t – thank goodness! But there was a funny episode involving a bear.

Bear or Big Foot fur? Next time I see a bear, I hope to have the camera handy!

We were staying in California at the time and a bear made its way across the road near the campground entrance. You would think most people would go running for cover… well, this poor bear had a parade of people following it!  No, I wasn’t one of them! I ran to get the camera. Meanwhile, the bear headed down the hill, toward the lake and then high-tailed it into the woods again. Unfortunately by the time I grabbed my camera, it was long gone. But I did get a photo of some fur left behind. Although, it could be from Big Foot for all I know! And no I didn’t keep it for a souvenir! 😉

That brings me to hairy men! We stayed a RV park in Texas and were getting settled in when our new “neighbors” moved in a site from us. They erected a garage-sized tent with sides! We were in a RV-only (no tents allowed) section of the park. We assumed they were having some sort of weekend outing and had permission…but imagine our surprise when a  flat-bed trailer arrived and unloaded a custom golf cart (with speakers), large-screen TV, stereo, sat dish, tables, chairs and a Tiki bar! All these items (except the golf cart) made their way into the tent. Then came a mini van which unloaded several boxes of bottles to stock the bar. And as the day went on, the lonely tree on the camp site became a sign post, which they decorated with beer signs and tacky outdoor lights. Oh, and who can forget the flags? Not one, not two, but five full-size flags were flying by the end of the day.  Of course they put a cheap metal spotlight on the flags so they could be seen a mile away at night.  After a night of loud music and unregistered cars pulling in all the vacant sites around us… we learned this was no weekend outing. These folks were calling the RV park “home” for a few months and that a handful of the “neighbors” were welcomed at the bar – at all hours. Now we have seen a great deal while living the RV lifestyle, but this was a little more than we could tolerate and we quickly moved on. I guess camping beside grave diggers and black bear routes have spoiled  us a bit! 🙂

So Hollywood is really missing out not using a campground as the basis for a reality TV show. But I guess if they did make one, no one would believe it was reality anyway! 😉

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©LBJ ENTRANCE
A driving permit is required, but free at the Vistor Center.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©LBJ birthplace

If you find yourself along Highway 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City (TX), make sure to stop at the LBJ National Historical Park’s LBJ Ranch.

Entrance to the park is free and just requires a stop at the State Park Visitor Center to obtain a driving permit and audio CD for the driving tour. Some sites to see include the old schoolhouse, LBJ’s birthplace (turned guest house), LBJ and Lady Bird’s burial site, the working cattle ranch, the hangar and the “Texas White House”. Oh… did I mention all the pecan trees, Texas Longhorns, bison and white-tailed deer?

A 25-30 minute tour of the Texas White House is only $2. If you have the time, I highly recommend the tour. You will be surprised to see how things were left exactly the way they were. From embroidery pillows to clothing in the closet to family photos on the dresser. No photos are allowed inside the house.

Before leaving the area, make sure to stop at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farmstead, just east of the visitor center. A tour of the early 1918 farmstead is free and you will literally step into living history – just watch out for cow and sheep patties! The folks dressed up as settlers actually grow and can the foods you see on display. Around lunchtime they actually prepare foods as they would during the period.  And all the food comes from the farmstead (including the meat).

There are actually two parks, the national and the state historic park. Part of the state park is located in Johnson City, so if you may want to venture the 14 or so miles to see that after touring the LBJ Ranch.

There is plenty of parking for Big Rigs at the visitor center, however, you probably wouldn’t want to drive around the whole loop of LBJ Ranch. When you obtain your driving permit, ask what they recommend. There is parking at the Sauer-Beckmann farm, yet is is reserved for smaller vehicles. Yet the farmstead is only a brief walk from the visitor center.

For additional information on these, please visit their websites:

http://www.nps.gov/lyjo/index.htm

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/lyndon_b_johnson/

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Lady Bird and LBJ’s resting place

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©LBJ Plane
Air Force “One and Half” as called by LBJ

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©TEXAS WHITE HOUSE
The “Texas White House” – well worth a tour!

Well, it’s been several weeks since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and post. The holiday season was a little more eventful than we had originally planned!

It started with having to move to a different RV park (that story is worthy of its own posting later on) in the middle of the season… and it continued as our rig needing some attention…

It started with the need for a new door handle. We went to do some holiday shopping and locked the door. Only the door didn’t really want to lock. So the holiday shopping got postponed and we headed for Camping World for a replacement kit.

Then there was the truck… the computer was alerting us that the trailer brakes needed serviced. So we scheduled an appointment with the closest Chevy dealer. Fortunately they got us in quickly and repaired the part which wasn’t “communicating” between the truck and fifth-wheel.

And what is a new year without a new tire? We were in the middle of Austin when we had a very large screw puncture our back inside dual-tire. Luckily we had a safe place to pull over and put on the spare tire. Although I will admit, we aren’t pit crew material when it comes to changing tires. I think it took us twenty minutes. Yet that speed will probably increase since now there is an impact wrench on board!

But no rest for these nomads… we found our lights flickering and although we replaced both RV batteries… well, it was another trip to Camping World for a new converter. 

Oh, and you would think that the “it comes in threes” principle would at least kick in on the sixth thing… yet it didn’t.

Chewed wires... they don't look appetizing to me!There was a problem with the radio in the truck… and some hungry little critter chewed through a handful of wires! So those had to be replaced and sprayed so the toothy critter wouldn’t return. Thankfully this wasn’t more of a problem!

And… that doesn’t include the email and login issues…. So if you have emailed at the previous address and didn’t receive a reply, I apologize as they were lost. Please note there is a new contact address. 

With all that aside, now it’s time to start planning for the next long haul… what other adventures await us in 2012? 😉

Those who have been following along in our travels recall last year we upgraded from a 3 ft. Christmas tree to a 6 ft. one in order to hold all our travel ornaments. Well… that was our excuse anyway. And no, we didn’t upgrade to a 7 ft. one this year! 😉

However… the overflow of ornaments did require a bigger tree… and well… I’ll let the photo say a thousand words! 😉

Yes - it's a two-tree Camper Christmas. 😉

If you find yourself in Austin (TX) don’t forget to take a trip to the Texas Forces Military Museum. This museum is located inside Camp Mabry and has a variety of exhibits – from the history of the Alamo to a piece of the Berlin Wall to modern weaponry.

The museum is open Wednesday – Sunday and is free. Since it is located inside Camp Mabry, all visiting adults must show a photo ID at the main gate. Ask for directions to the museum after entering.

Please note there is no parking for big rigs, so only take your tow vehicle. If you are riding a motorcycle, you will want to read the proper riding attire required to enter Camp Mabry.

More information and directions can be found at their website: http://texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/

Before we headed out on-the-road for our winter travels, our Suburban water heater went out. A trip to the local RV store (in Florida) for a new one and a quick (okay, maybe not that quick) installation left us thinking that was the end of our water heater woes.

Imagine our surprise when we get on-the-road and had no hot water! The thermostat on the new Suburban water heater was faulty. We called the RV store where we purchased the new water heater and they told us that since it was brand-new they would contact Suburban on our behalf. Later they called us back and told us Suburban said we would have to contact them directly regarding replacement parts/costs. The RV store gave us the information and we called Suburban.

Not only did Suburban deny our new one was faulty, they even questioned whether we had a bought one! Our conversation with Suburban left us boiling – all over a $40 thermostat.

We tracked down a replacement thermostat on our own and thanks to Camping World (in Texas) we managed to repair the brand-new $600 faulty Suburban water heater we just bought! No thanks to Suburban.

So be aware if you have to replace or repair a Suburban water heater – you’re on your own because Suburban only knows how to give their customers the cold-shoulder.

Silly RVers! Always playing with their hot water heater!

We are currently in Texas and a walk along the Guadalupe River today revealed some Fall colors. 🙂

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Gruene Hall


If you find yourself between Austin and San Antonio (Texas), consider taking a day trip to the historic town of Gruene (pronounced “Green”). Gruene has an interesting history and offers visitors a glimpse of the past.

Gruene Hall (photo above) may look familiar to you from the movie Michael (John Travolta). It is considered “the oldest continually run dance hall” in the state of Texas.

The town has several antique, craft and nostalgic shoppes to visit. And while you’re there, don’t forget to grab a bite at the Gristmill.

There are a few larger parking areas which could accommodate bigger rigs, although if you are staying close by, you would probably be better off taking your tow vehicle – especially if it is the weekend or the day of a special event. Everything is within walking distance.

Special events and festivals are held throughout the year – including the Tour de Gruene Bicycle Classic.

For more info and event schedule, visit: http://gruenetexas.com/

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Gruene General Store

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © Gruene Antique Company

Trailer of hay bales on fire in Houston.

Okay, again… not the best title…but it was really, really hard to resist that one!

We saw this trailer yesterday while we were headed westbound on I-10 in downtown Houston.  The trailer loaded with hay bales had actually passed us about thirty minutes prior to this.

Trailer fire on I-10 in downtown Houston yesterday.


Since I first posted “Campground Living: Better than Reality TV” , I have received a number of requests for other reality TV-worthy “episodes” we’ve experienced at campgrounds. And yes, like Hollywood… I can offer a sequel!

We were in a campground in Texas where Tenters camped along the river and RVers had full hook-up sites above. Imagine our surprise when we heard all sorts of commotion coming from below.  Further down in the tent area a Camper’s tent and all his gear had been thrown in the river. You could see some of it still floating (part of the tent, sleeping bags and coolers) as the river current was moving it too quickly to sink. He was running and shouting along the river, apparently hoping someone could save his gear. It turned out to be quite an ordeal, as the sheriff was called and began searching the campground for the culprits.

That reminds me of the RV resort we were staying at in Florida. A seasonal RVer with a fifth-wheel got his tow vehicle repossessed right before he was going to head northward. We moved on shortly after so I don’t know how that issue was resolved.

While staying at a campground in Virginia, we were surprised to see a travel trailer back in beside us with a mobile kennel of-sorts. Their pickup truck was filled with wire, dog cages (two with dogs) and a huge dog house. They unhooked the trailer and began erecting a fence with the dog house in the center. The caged dogs were placed inside, as well as the dogs already in the trailer and the one they had riding inside the pickup truck. They told us their dogs just loved going on vacation and being outdoors. That really surprised me considering they spent the weekend barking at everything they saw and heard outside! (I like dogs, but most campgrounds do have rules about leaving them outside for long periods, especially unattended or for constant barking.)

Several years ago I was riding my bike around at a campground in South Florida. After passing the pull-thru area I realized there were two tents set up beside a fifth-wheel. It is unusual to see tents in pull-thru sites but I didn’t think anymore of it until I made my next lap around and saw the little fences set up at the side of each tent. Inside the little fences were pot-bellied pigs. Again, I didn’t think much of it… okay, at first I was a little surprised… but pets like to travel too. 🙂 But the next day when I rode by and saw them dressed up… well, that had me wondering… did they pay the daily pet charge or extra person rate? 😉

I have to say that one of the most bizarre things we’ve seen happened at a family campground in Virginia. We didn’t know the folks who set up camp a few sites down from us were on a hunting trip. Imagine our surprise when we pulled up our dining room shades only to see a dead deer hanging from the tree on their campsite. Fortunately, that week’s free campground movie wasn’t “Bambi”.

Yes - that is exactly what you think it is! 😦

Honestly though, I’d miss seeing these things (well, not necessarily a freshly killed deer hanging from a tree) if we weren’t full-timing. Forget the TV, we just pull-up our window shade and see who or what pulls in beside us ~ now that’s entertainment! 😉

PLEASE NOTE: I originally posted this without the photo, but after receiving a few emails doubting a campground would allow that… well, I decided to go ahead and post the photo. I do apologize if it bothers you.

I took these photos while sitting in my lawn chair the other day… just goes to show you that sometimes it’s worth paying for a premium campsite! 😉

PHOTOS: The Guadalupe River (Texas) is a great recreation spot for toobers (that’s how they spell it here!), kayakers and rafters. As you can see from my photos – be prepared to see anything! 🙂

Rest Areas are a much needed break after several hours on the highway. They provide adequate parking, restrooms, and, well, a place to rest for an hour or two. And those which offer Welcome Centers can also save you time and money.

Freebies  – Most Welcome Centers offer free coffee, tea or juice. Some even offer in-season fruit or fresh popcorn.

Coupons  –  Many lodging and attractions will offer special discounts, special deals or even “free gift” coupons in  brochures, coupon booklets and travel magazines. Ask at the information desk for additional coupon books they may have behind the counter. If you are an RVer, ask if their state has a camping guide. For example, Texas offers a camping guide with discount card (Texas Saver  or “T.A.C.O.”card) which offers 10-15% off daily rates at many Texas and New Mexico campgrounds.

Maps – Not all of us depend on GPS – especially those who have had to back their RV down a mountain road. A road atlas is great, but doesn’t always provide enough detail. So ask at the information desk for a free map. Most Welcome Centers will ask that you sign the guest register or provide your home state and travel destination for a map.

Updates – A few minutes viewing the Welcome Center’s construction map can save you a great deal of time and aggravation. If the Center doesn’t have a construction map, they may have a wall chart or list of road work and delays posted. At the very least they should have a website, local radio station or a phone number you can call for updates. And if there is severe weather in the forecast, ask at the information desk for local updates. Many larger Welcome Centers have TVs in the lobby with the Weather Channel or CNN on. We have even hunkered down at them during severe storms (especially high winds and blinding rain) and changed our travel route around tropical storms.

Overnight Parking – Most have limited the parking time or banned overnight parking. However, those which haven’t can save you money on campground or dump station fees. Just remember to follow the RVer rules regarding Overnight Parking.  Do not put out your slides or awnings. You are parking, not camping. And if you Overnight, be alert and cautious. NEVER open your door. If someone knocks on your door, flip on your scare lights (if not already on) and open the closest window to the door. Ask the person at the door who they are and what they want. Even if they appear to be some sort of authority figure – ask them to hold up I.D.

And don’t forget to fill out a comment card or sign their guest book. Let them know what you thought of their facilities – especially if you appreciate it. Your comments may help keep it open for future travelers.

I’m still working on updating pages, photos, links and camp reviews… but wanted to share last Tuesday’s weather… freezing rain mixed with sleet and snow!

When we winter camped in Washington the standing weather forecast was “wait ten minutes and it’ll change.” In Texas the weather all comes down at once! 🙂

In all our years Full-Timing, I don’t think we’ve ever had to pack and re-pack as much as we’ve had to this winter. For instance, the last few days it has went from air-condition to furnace conditions – and oh yeah – throw in two days of sleet!

And just when you don’t think you need that winter jacket and place it under the bed storage area and dig out those souvenir tee-shirts again… well, Mother Nature pulls a fast-one. For those who live in a RV – you know how it is with the clothing storage situation!

So our winter in Texas has proven to keep us busy watching the Weather channel! 😉

Yet somehow I have managed to get all my camp reviews typed and photos organized and ready to post. I’ll be doing that soon… Updating some links and adding a few suggested by RVers. If you have some you’d like to share, feel free to comment here or email me with them.

And to those who have emailed or messaged me at RV groups – yes, I’m still alive! A little chilly now and then, but still going! 😉

I am still flooded with emails (an appropriate photo I just happened to take at the campground the other week 😉 ) and I will be catching up as soon as I can. I still have about 30 pages of campground reviews to type and 3 thumb drives of photos to sort through! I am happy to announce that I have started keeping record of all the truck and travel plazas we have visited. A growing number of us are overnight parking and relying  more and more on these stops. Unfortunately, some of these stops aren’t as Big-Rig friendly as you’d think! And you can’t rely on rest or parking areas, as many states have closed their facilities or restricted overnight parking. So I will be adding all this in the weeks ahead. My unofficial New Year’s resolution! 😉

 

I just received an email from some Full-Timing friends who announced that this was their last year of work-camping. And this is not the first notice we have received from friends in 2009.

What has happened to those “living the dream”? A variety of things have changed this last year – one of which is the economy.

Many folks who live the Full-Time (or Seasonal) RV lifestyle saw an increase in the number of work-camp opportunities available (in fact, many places were begging for help by offering fuel/travel incentives or end-of-season bonuses), yet with the economic situation workers either could not afford to work these jobs or get there (fuel costs). And by “not afford” I mean that some employers have reduced benefits for RVers or cut them out completely.

It was an affordable lifestyle – living at your workplace or nearby for free. Now many campgrounds and resorts want you to pay a reduced or “nominal” (which appears to be a favored word for employers) campsite fee, in addition to working for them at minimum wage. And most of these offer low hours, not even guaranteeing the money you make working will pay for your campsite, electricity and other expenses.

And there are those who have the “work-for-site, extra hours paid” offer. These employers require you to work a certain number of hours per week (usually between 20-30) for your campsite. Any hours worked over that time are paid. So if you were to work 24 hours a week for your site and you worked 30 hours, you would only get paid for 6 hours of work. The problem our friends have had with this is that if you figure out the value of the campsite and hours worked, you are getting very well below minimum wage.

I recently did the math on a job advertised in a work-camping site and you worked for $1 an hour. Of course, this amount was not from their ad. They had a completely different “camp site value” in their ad than the one from the price listed for monthly rentals on their updated website. It was actually cheaper not to work there and just pay for a campsite!

And some employers are offering crazy deals. I actually received an email last week from one in Montana that said they needed help and “might pay” if we were “up to haggling” with them.  Then there was the one that said if you put down a deposit your site and worked the required hours to pay for it in trade for the entire season, they would give you a seasonal bonus.  No mention of what became of your deposit, but ironically, the bonus amount was the same! My personal favorite is the theme park which requires you to pay for your campsite and then gives you a bonus at the completion of the season which they even tell you can be used to reimburse your campsite. Not a true bonus, just a refund of what you have been paying them over the summer.

Another change is those who employee work-campers. They seem to have forgotten that those who work-camp are not only workers, but potential guests.

Employers are sending vague emails or leaving generic phone messages. If they come across your email or phone number they want all your information without telling you anything about the position. In several cases, we have received emails that do not even mention the place or location! Just a name and “I need help. Send me your information. If I like what I see, I’ll contact you.” One didn’t even include a name!

Now work-camping is no different when it comes to applying for any other job. If you walk into the local grocery store and put in an application, you know where you are applying to. Some employers now want to be secretive, either that or they must be collecting people’s personal information. I would not send any personal information to anyone who does not identify themself, their position, the name of the company they work for, the job location and the position. Furthermore, I want to know what I am being considered for before I send personal information. If you are a computer person, why send information to someone who wants you to scrub toilets everyday? Not only are they wasting their time, they are wasting yours. Unfortunately, this type of employer response has increased the last year.

A friend of ours received an email from a potential employer in Florida and the information did not mention if the job included pay and/or full-hookups (FHUs). It was a high-end park so she politely emailed back that they were interested; however, wanted to be sure the job included FHUs at the very least. The employer emailed back that was something to be discussed after being hired and if they hired them, they would then be told if it included compensation and FHUs! Later she found out through another work-camp couple that it was a volunteer job (36 hours a week, each person) and that you received a site at a “nominal fee” and you were required to pay utilities, plus you had limited access to the facilities, even though you worked and paid to live there!

Fortunately, our friends have been good at circulating information about these so-called employers and their “opportunities”. If the business is a campground or RV resort, we cross them off our Woodall’s and Trailer Life books. Why bother doing business with people like that? With the power of the internet, let the world know how unprofessional these employers are!

Many folks are giving up the work-camp dream this year. I honestly can’t blame them. Even some of the sites devoted to work-camp jobs have added sections on work-at-home (or RV in our case!) and other money-making schemes. If they have given up on living the dream, then maybe the rest of us need to wake up from it.

 

Once again we found ourselves in the great state of Texas with a host of other winter migrants. Instead of being called “snowbirds” or seasonal travellers, we are referred to as “Winter Texans”.

However, this year I must emphasis the word “winter”. It has been the craziest winter for this area. From gray days with drizzling rain to forecasts of snow flurries and icy roadways!

We have literally dug into our winter camping clothes (worn only while staying outside Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, Washington) and are wondering if we will ever see the sun again. Okay, I am a bit overly dramatic – we have seen the sun… just not enough of it! 😉

Yet it is a great reminder to be prepared for anything and everything when travelling to another region.

So if you are travelling for the holidays or if you are a mid-season (January to April) snowbird, be mindful of unusual weather all over the country. Pack clothing you can layer for hot-to-cold temps and keep advised of weather conditions.

There is nothing worse than getting caught in miserable weather AND not being dressed for it. Speaking of which… I need another hot chocolate! 😉

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

 The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

 

 Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;

 Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

 Strong and content, I travel the open road…

 

— Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

 

 
A few photos of our last 1,500 mile journey from Virginia to Texas.  Road photos are a great  reminder that it is about the journey and not the destination. (Although bit of a rough one if you drive 1-10!) 😉

Well, it seems like only yesterday we pulled the rig into our winter home site… oh yes, it was only yesterday! 🙂

After a very very busy summer and a rather exciting haul to Texas, I find myself falling behind in everything from silly forwards clogging the inbox to posting here. I apologize to those who emailed me with “Where are you?” and “Did you give up RVing?” emails. It’s just been a rather busy year. Quite frankly, I’m surprised we are already headed for December and 2010!

So I promise to post more in the weeks ahead. After all, you need to know about our crazy search for RV tires, our disappointment in Camping World (the one in Roanoke), tropical storm Ida and all the latest campground news!

I also will try to get caught up on campground reviews and posting photos. And for those who wanted more “inside” information on workamping – I’ll be sure to post more pieces regarding the lifestyle.

Meanwhile, I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday! 🙂

The tire is completely shredded!
Shredded tire on our fifth-wheel

May Day! May Day!

On May 1st we were travelling I-35  in Texas when we saw some RVers driving in the middle lane with their door assist handle jutting out. We were behind them when a semi truck passed them from the right outside lane and it caught our attention. It appeared the truck was just inches from missing it.

We manuevered  into the outside left lane to tell them about their door. After getting their attention, they thanked us and we maneuvered back into the far right lane. They then pulled off at the nearby rest area.

Imagine our surprise when an hour later we have some motorists get our attention, saying we blew a tire! Our fifth-wheel is 8 tons and the pickup is a 1-ton with Duramax diesel and it weighs a couple tons… and we never felt a thing!

We got over as quickly as we could only to discover our tire wasn’t blown – it was shredded. In fact, it looked like an industrial-size rubber mop! A quick assessment reveal damage to the trim, undercarriage and back slide (where apparently tire chunks hit). We got the spare on and made our way to the nearest tire center about six miles away.

They had one tire for us and it was at another store. So while we waited we had our undercarriage repaired. When the tire arrived from the other store, we had it put on and all the other tires checked. The techs said they were fine and asked if we wanted help putting the spare back underneath. We decided to leave the spare in the back of the pickup truck bed…

And once we were on the road again… Imagine our surprise again when on I-30 in Arkansas when a tire on the other side went (luckily no damage). We decided to ease up on our Travel Angel and dry camped at a Flying J until we could get our rig to a tire dealership the next day.

Our tires are checked constantly – a lesson we learned while travelling during the summer months in hot regions (we’ve seen road temps close to 140 degrees). And the tires were checked prior to leaving and showed no signs of danger. The tire techs were even stunned! One trucker who was waiting on tires even said he’d never seen any type of tire separation like that.

So May 1st will now be a memorable day for us!

Cedar Creek SilverbackToday a health emergency was declared in the United States because of the recent spread of the swine flu. For Seasonal and Full-Time RVers on the move to their summer stays, this is an issue we don’t take likely.

Many Seasonals and Full-Timers winter along the Texas-Mexico or Arizona-Mexico border and either make shopping trips across the border or come in contact with those who have. And the winter RVers are a mix of American and Canadian citizens.

So not only is there a concern of being exposed to it crossing state lines, but from Mexico or the US into Canada. With cases reported in New York, many of our Canadian Seasonal friends who spend a month in New York before returning home for the summer are worried about it.

There are precautions you can take to prevent yourself from getting and spreading disease. My family and I actually became more conscious of the spread of diseases several years ago when I was undergoing cancer treatment. I couldn’t be around anyone sick or exposed to other diseases during that time. It changed how we viewed the “outside” world.

Here are some things you can do to protect your family from disease while you are on the road.

Have hand sanitizer in your vehicle. Make sure you have a small bottle for each person (put it in each person’s door or the center council and mark their name on it). The best kind to have is the ones that require no water. Each time people get into the vehicle, they should clean their hands. If the person handled other public items prior to getting in (such as touching a door or shopping cart), make sure he or she wipes off their door handle, door lock or window area (anywhere that is touched) with a handi-wipe.

They make convenient little containers and packages of handi-wipes. Some are even designed to fit inside your cup holder – talk about “handy”! Also make sure to have a liter bag in your vehicle to dispose of dirty handi-wipes and facial tissue. We dispose of our liter bag every stop and put in a new one.

Have individual handi-wipes in your purse, pocket or backpack and use them! Do not rely on public restrooms to have filled soap containers or even hot water. I am surprised when I do come across a fully-stocked public restroom.

If you are an RVer currently on the road, it’s best that you don’t rely on public restrooms. Use your own RV if you can get access to the bathroom. Some RVers don’t like using their own bathroom during transit because they don’t like carrying extra water or don’t want to have anything in their holding tanks.

You don’t have to have your water tank filled to use your toilet. You can use purchase hand sanitizer that requires no water to wash your hands and place a gallon (or two) jug of water in your bathroom sink to use to flush.

If you’re worried about “stuff” sitting in the bottom of your empty black water tank, place a bag of ice in it before you leave. This is a great way to clean your tank sensors – as the ice rocks back and forth it breaks up material and then melts leaving some water in the tank. This is not a great deal of water weight to be carrying either, but enough to have in the tank if you use your bathroom without having freshwater.

Another thing to avoid is eating out while you are on the road. We’re RVers – we’re self-contained! We shouldn’t rely on McDs or Flying J to feed us every hundred miles. Make some sandwiches before you leave and either place them in your refrigerator or in a cooler in your tow. Pull over at a rest area or find a parking spot wherever you fuel up and have a picnic. If you must stop to have that Whopper, then use sense. Make sure you have your handi-wipes and use them!

One thing that bothers us is the lack of sanitation in restaurants. Ever have a sickly cashier walk over to get your fries? Ever see the cook come out of the restroom wearing his or her apron? Keep your eyes posted for potential problems. And if you can, call them out on it. Let the manager know you saw the cook going into the restroom with an apron, let them know they aren’t washing their hands, etc… It could save someone’s life!

When I had to go out in public during my cancer treatment, I wore a surgical mask. Yes, they look geeky, but if you find yourself in an area where there is any type of sickness, you’ll be glad to have one. They can be found at most pharmacies or medical supplies. I bought my last box of disposable ones at a Harbor Freight store for under $3. We keep a handful in our vehicle and I always have one in my purse. You never know when they will come in handy. Last summer during the California wildfires, we found the smoke particulate levels very high (they gave daily reports on how bad it was) and if we had to be out in it, the masks worked great.

Something we recently started doing is when we stop for the night, we spray Lysol inside our truck. The next day or whenever we are ready to leave, we spray our fifth-wheel with Lysol before hooking it up.

Most RVers do have their own cell phones and computers; however, if you don’t and have to rely on a pay phone or visit a local library to log-on, remember to use handi-wipes over the phone and number pad and the computer keyboard and mouse.

These are just a few ways to protect your family while travelling. With the spread of disease and major health issues today, this is a concern you shouldn’t take lightly.

Bird perched on a Raptor (RV that is!)
Bird perched on a Raptor (RV that is!)

For several days I was amazed to see birds hit the windows of a nearby RV toy hauler. It wasn’t just one bird (or species for that matter) and no birds appeared harmed by it. They would simply fly up to the slide windows and somehow appear to cling to the glass for several seconds. Then the birds would fly off to a nearby tree or land on the top of the slide. It was rather curious behavior and no one seemed to know what was going on.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday morning a heard tapping on my bedroom slide. Before I could get the window shade up I heard tapping on the sofa slide! Yet again, before I could get the shade up, it stopped. At this point the sound moved to the living room slide and all of us were wondering what was going on.

One of the window bandits watches from a nearby tree!

One of the window bandits watches from a nearby tree!

Fortunately we managed to see what was going on – the birds were hitting our slide windows! And they began repeating the pattern, returning to my bedroom slide and continuing to the other slide windows. This continued for about thirty minutes.

By seeing the birds  from the inside, I could see they were actually hovering very close to the glass and actually tapping it with their bills or claws. The reason they were hitting the glass was to catch insects!

I’m not sure why it was just the slide windows, unless they were trapping the insect swarms in the slide corners. It was hard to tell. Whatever the case, the birds certainly knew what they were doing!

 

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

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