Coloring the Void

living nomadically

Archive for the tag “prep”

Home Again Home Again, Jiggity Jig

After a couple of days relaxing in North Carolina, we were ready to head north to Wakefield, VA and the family farm. We had quite a bit to do – repairs, purging, cleaning – that we had put off in anticipation of our stop here.

For the three months we were in Florida, it rained maybe ten days. Once we crossed the state line heading north, we were hit by rain ten days out of twenty. We had noticed a slight leak in the bedroom slide back in Jonathan Dixon State Park. It wasn’t a bad leak, just a slightly damp carpet near the head of the bed. It happened in a driving downpour so we were pretty sure it was roof related. Of course, we checked the pipes first; the shower is right there, as are the water lines for the toilet. Nope. It must be the roof. We temporarily patched a few things and left it at that.

In the driving rains at EastBank, the leak got worse. So much worse. The rain was blowing hard and getting under the slide topper. The leak was in the roof of the slide. This was proved when we pulled in the slide during the next rain in Pine Mountain and had no leak. Upon further inspection, it looked as if the seams of the roof were failing. In one spot there was a gap between the seam and the roof we could stick our finger in. We ordered a collapsible ladder from Walmart to be picked up in North Carolina and eternabond from Amazon to meet us in Wakefield.

The eternabond application turned out to be really easy in spite of the fact we could not get the slide topper off. The ‘screws’ we intended to remove to peel back the slide topper turned out to be rivets and we couldn’t get them out without destroying them. So we worked around it. We cleaned the slide roof, sprayed the eternabond primer, then laid down the eternabond tape. We were pretty liberal with it, as we purchased a 50′ roll of 4″ tape in anticipation of future need. The only trick with eternabond seems to be to go slow and only pull down the backing as you need to to stick it to the roof. We won’t be able to see how well our patch holds until it rains again.

Our second repair was the hot water hose to the sink. In North Carolina, we hear a drip coming from the sink. ( I highly recommend sitting in and around your RV every once in a while in absolute silence. That is how this leak was discovered). It was just a ‘once a minute’ drip but it was new and noticeable. We started troubleshooting; we knew where it was leaking and how it was leaking, we just wanted to know why. And more importantly,  why now. We discovered that the fitting on the hot water hose only leaked when propane was used to heat the water. The pressure in the hot water tank is higher when on propane because it heats the water more than the electric side does. If the hot water to the sink is turned on, the pressure is released and the leak stops until the tank heats up again. We couldn’t access the pipe well enough by going at it from under the sink so, when we got to Wakefield we took the outside TV out. It was an easy fix from there, just a bit more plumber’s tape and no more leak.

Our third repair was the microwave light bulb. It wouldn’t even count as a repair except the stupid bulb broke when we removed it. Amazon sent us a new one in our care package and in ten minutes, with just a little cussing, it too was fixed.

We also tackled the general oiling, greasing,  tightening, and inspections needed periodically in a rolling house and found the bus to be in great condition in spite of what we demand of her.

While in Wakefield we also did some purging. Gone was the bike, which I had barely ridden over the last six months, partly due to the fact that Mike had strapped it to the Jeep so tightly that it took about an hour to get it off and partly because it developed a flat tire. Gone was the back seat of the jeep. We kept it as long as we did so we could take Belle with us on day trips. It has seat belts so we could secure her kennel. Belle and her kennel were gone so we didn’t need the seat anymore. This freed up quite a bit of room in the back. And sadly, our winter blanket is gone. It was a huge, fluffy, down and ‘sheep skin’ comforter that took up half a bin to store. I could put four blankets in the same space it required and so, we dumped it. Also, a bulky step ladder we needed back in Washington State when our steps broke. We hadn’t found a use for it since then and it took up the space needed for our new 15′ extendable ladder. All in all, the Jeep probably lost 100 lbs. while the Short Bus came out even.

We also cleaned, laundered, rearranged our bins for more efficiency, and did some planning for the rest of April and a bit of May. It was a very productive two and a half days.

 

 

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2015 – we had a blast!

(Yes, I know am way behind my blog posts. But my computer ate three before I published them and I just didn’t have the brain power to completely rewrite them. And then, we were kinda rushing around doing 100 things and nothing. But, they will be updated over the coming month, once I finally get the pictures edited. Again.) Anyway.

We started the blog in May and for quite a few months, updated it religiously. But, we did have plenty of adventures before May and we found some pretty amazing places that we want to return to in 2017.  In 2015, we didn’t make reservations anywhere, just moved and stopped when we felt like it, where we could find space. The results varied, from hell in Florida to bliss in Alaska and all the stages of both in between. So, here is part of our year in review, with highlights and pictures.

January found us in 18 different spots, from Maryland to Texas. Yes, we drove and moved that much. We were on a mission: to get to Alaska and, looking at January, we were hell bent on getting there as quickly as possible. By the end of January we realized we needed to slow down and wait for the weather to catch up with us – it was still REALLY COLD in most of the country. We did manage to find some great spots for a couple of days (our longest stay was three days) and took some great pictures.

In Florida, we got to see manatees up close in Blue Springs State Park, eat great oysters at Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar (now closed), watch amazing sunsets at St. George Island State Park and visit with quite a few  friends.

In Texas, we met up with more friends, ate amazing BBQ at Smitty’s Market in Lockhart, breezed through San Antonio, and set up camp in Big Bend.

manatees

Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

sunset

Sunset at St. George’s Island State Park

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Mission in San Antonio Texas

Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande near Big Bend, Tx

In February, we fell in love with the town of Terlingua then quickly made our way through New Mexico to stay awhile in Arizona. We browsed Arizona for a while, though we didn’t sit in one place for long. We had Marv Braun, of Precision RV fix the absolute clusterfu%k the dealer made when re-installing our solar system (he also added a panel and swapped our batteries for AGMs). We made a quick visit to Tombstone and Bisbee, got lost in the Dragoon Mountains, and wandered the back roads of Prescott. Our longest stay at a campground in February? Three days, if you don’t count the stop in Casa Grande to visit with Marv (six days). We were still in a hurry.

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument

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Lost in Arizona

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The backroad from Prescott to Jerome. Probably one of the funnest drives in the area.

In March, we ran the border at Organ Pipe National Monument, went to the Escapees Escapade, hung out with my brother in Gilbert, then raced to Desert Hot Springs, CA. We ended the month with a week in Coarsegold at the Escapees Co-Op just outside of Yosemite.

We fell in love with Organ Pipe and in Desert Hot Springs, we had the best sushi ever (and really good noodles) at Domo Sushi. We visited Joshua Tree National Park and found it completely packed with Spring Breakers so we beat a hasty retreat out a back road that had us testing the abilities of the Jeep (it passed). After browsing for a day in Yosemite, we cancelled our week of reservations at one of the Valley campgrounds – it was just entirely too crowded and most of the campgrounds hadn’t even opened yet!

border stop

The US border in Organ Pipe.

creek

Creek in the Superstition Mountains

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Joshua tree near Palm Springs, CA

Yosemite

Yosemite Valley in March

April had us pushing northward faster than we expected because of the crowds. We had no reservations and they were hard to come by. Many of the state parks had sites available but they were too short for our rig. So we made our way North to Oregon and then Washington.

We found a peaceful site in Klamath where we wandered around huge trees for a couple of days. We landed a last minute oceanview campsite in Harris State Park in Oregon and stayed put for a week – until the rain drove us out. We stopped at Newport (loved it) and Seaside (loved it more), then raced up to Chimicum, WA in need of some rig repairs. We then bummed around Washington and continued to do that the first two weeks of May as we waited for our departure to Alaska.

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In the Redwoods, the jeep is very tiny.

marina docks

Newport Marina Sunset

ocean

The Oregon Coastline

In May, we did last minute prepping and purchasing, including getting Belle’s shots before we took off for the Great White North. The border crossing was easy but the price shock wasn’t. Gas and many food items doubled in price. But, the scenery was amazing, the places to boondock beautiful and we were finally on our way to Alaska!

We were wowed by Fraser Canyon, enjoyed  Terrace and Stewart, got an oil change in Whitehorse, and finally settled for a breather in Haines. We got to see bears, moose, foxes, and glaciers and we were barely in Alaska.

June found us in Wrangell St. Elias Park finding McCarthy, then Valdez  watching eagles play, and left us on the Kenai Peninsula dodging forest fires.

While McCarthy didn’t live up to expectations, Valdez kept our attention and we managed to stay a week. It ended up being our favorite Alaska town (though Haines was a close second). Seward was beautiful, Homer was busy, and the Kenai River was crowded. June was more than sensory overload but if I had to relive one month of my life over and over, it would be this one.

In July we made back up to the heart of Alaska, visiting Anchorage and Fairbanks, then pushing north to the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately, while there, Belle had another stroke. We were tired and she was sick, so we began our push back south. It wasn’t really a direct path, as it took us through Chicken, Dawson City, Skagway, Toad River and down into Montana by the end of the month. There are many places we missed – we drove through the Canadian Rockies but didn’t have a chance to stop for long – but it gives us an excuse to go back.

The month of August was spent bouncing around Montana, with a brief ‘vacation’ down in Cody Wyoming. We found some beautiful places to stop and spend some time. We also found the best brisket in the country and the best biscuits and gravy in the country (sorry – it is a friend who is an amazing cook!). We found ghost towns, an endless number of backroads, and quiet, out of the way, places to hide.

The weather was finally turning so we headed south in September, spending a couple of weeks in Utah before ending up in Usery Park.  We finally followed the White Rim trail, nearly got car-jacked by wild horses and got to watch an amazing lunar eclipse before meeting up with family at the end of the month.

October was almost completely dominated with visiting family, though we did get a brief break at Balloon Fiesta. Another bucket list item done! Seriously, if you ever get the change to go to Balloon Fiesta, do it. And I highly recommend it in an RV.

The first half of November we chilled with family around Phoenix and then raced back to Virginia for Thanksgiving.  We managed to stop for some amazing meals and moments with both friends and family on our trip east (Did I mention the most amazing burgers that are worth a 200 mile detour in Roswell? Yeah, we are still reminiscing about those.)  and then settled in Wakefield, VA on the family farm.

December we holed up just outside DC at Cherry Hill RV park, where we caught up with dentists and doctors, more friends and family, and celebrated the holidays.

squirrel

We finished up the month in South Carolina, and started the new year there, too.

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If I had to do it all again, I would. And I probably would only change one or two things. Yes, we sped through many, many states when I would have preferred to linger. And yes, we acted like vacationers with a time limit rather than permanent travelers. But, now that we have done the trip once, we can do it again in 2017, but a little bit slower. There is still so much of the country to see…

Whitehorse, YT

To be honest, we didn’t plan on stopping in Whitehorse. Up until we turned left onto the Alaska Highway, we debated on whether or not we were going to Skagway. And Skagway lost. So we turned toward Whitehorse. We had a lot of maintenance to do, along with some long needed chilling out.

We chose the Pioneer RV Park. It was nothing pretty, as it seems the case of most RV Parks up here, but it had many things we really needed. Like a mechanic on duty that does oil changes (and has the needed parts on hand). It also has a pressure wash area for RVs and cars, a pet wash area, and a large laundry. In less than 36 hours, we washed the RV, washed the jeep, got an oil change, cleaned the inside of the RV, did three loads of laundry, and met a few more north bound travelers including a caravan of Aussies and Kiwis touring Alaska. Pioneer RV Park offers many other services but we didn’t find the time to use them.

We did manage to sneak into to town to eat, shop, and look around. Whitehorse, considering its small size, is a very crowded town. We ran into rush hour traffic that seemed to last most of the day. We drove by the Walmart but, it was so crowded with RVs (more than 50) that we didn’t bother to find a parking space. We shopped at the Superstore and picked up some staples but the prices and product selection (for an American) were abysmal ($36/lb. for New York Strip). The vegetables were okay but not the freshest.

We ate a meal at Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ. I had the fish and chips (halibut) which were really good. The salmon and chips are also supposed to be good but we were too full. Mike had the ribs. If you have been in Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, or many other southern states, you may find them lacking. But overall, it was a good meal and we enjoyed the dinner talk with our tablemates, a couple from Southern California on a tour (by plane, train, and cruiseship). An added bonus was the street fight outside. The police showed up about 20 minutes after it ended.

Whitehorse has a very pretty setting. But, because it is the largest town for a few hundred miles, a lot of traffic moving in and out. It wasn’t somewhere I would stay for any length of time but a great place to resupply and move on.

Things we got for the trip to Alaska

Let me start off by saying that Alaska is not a foreign country, though it may seem like it with the amount of prep and planning people do, us included. Canada is, which, unless you ferry it both ways, but it is similar enough to the US that one barely notices one is in a different country. The border crossing and the money are dead giveaways though.

We have been planning a trip to Alaska for years. No, really, YEARS.  Our first time up here was on a cruise in 2000. We fell in love with the place and vowed to return.  We did that in 2007, again on a cruise though we added a week of land time to the end of our trip. And it was then that our plan was hatched: we would buy a boat and drive ourselves to Alaska. From 2007 to 2010, I learned everything I could about boating, Alaskan waters,and places to go.  I bought navigation maps. We bought a boat. It was a Very Small Boat, a C-Dory 22, but we spent our weekends and vacations on the boat, learning everything we could and adjusting to life on water. We had a plan.

Then one day, a thought occurred, somewhere around 2011. If we had an RV, we could hike. It would be just like the boat only ‘bigger’ in that we would have all the land to wander on, too. Admittedly, anchoring out in a boat is much easier than boondocking in a land yacht, but the premise is the same. So we bought a small trailer. We loved it so much that we bought a bigger trailer to go to places farther away for longer times. And then we quit/retired from our jobs and went on the road, aiming for Alaska.

We knew we needed land navigation aids for the trip. Our first purchase was The Milepost. So far, it has been an invaluable tool on the various roads through Canada. And, it gave me something to do on the long days anticipating the trip. We are using the 2013 edition which, so far, has been pretty accurate. Some of the construction areas have moved and a few new places have popped up along the way but, for the most part, it is dead on. We have even spotted wildlife EXACTLY where it said to watch out for wildlife. Pretty cool!

When we last purchased cell phones, we made sure to get Global capable cell phones. Two days before we crossed into Canada, we added a Canada Plan to our Verizon plan which gives us our talk minutes, unlimited text, and 100mb of data per month for $15 per month. We have our data turned off right now, as we haven’t needed it, but the texts and minutes are great to have, especially when the bank cuts off your credit cards. We have been lucky enough to keep our Verizon unlimited data plan, which will get great use in Alaska when we find cell signal. If you are buying a cell phone, I highly recommend getting one that takes decent pictures. Mike’s phone takes wonderful daylight pictures; mine sucks no matter how much light there is. So, he takes all the facebook pictures, and I post to the blog.

Much of Canada and Alaska doesn’t have cell service. More places than you would think in the US don’t have cell service. As a ‘just in case of emergency’ measure, and to keep in touch with family, we got a DeLorme InReach. It is a two way satellite messenger, allowing us to send and receive text messages anywhere in the world we can access the satellites. It is also a tracker and an emergency beacon with an SOS button just in case the crap hits the fan. As long as we can push the button, help will eventually show up. If you are curious about where we are or where we have been, check out our DeLorme page: Mike and Courtenay’s Big Adventure. As you can see, we have been from the Florida Keys to almost Alaska in less than a year.

Honestly, for the trip to Alaska, you don’t need more than that, and could probably use less. The weather so far has been warm and dry, warmer and drier than Washington state, so we haven’t needed polar fleece, mukluks, or other foul weather gear. Of course, we have only been up here a little over a week, but weather reports show 80 in Fairbanks. And, they have plenty of food in Canada and Alaska, it just may cost a little more. We did buy a Sea Eagle inflatable kayak to test out on some of the lakes or slow moving rivers, to see how we like ‘boating’ in Alaska. But other than that, all you really need is a desire for adventure and a little flexibility.

The RV Life*

The RV life is similar to ‘regular’ life. We sleep, we eat, we do laundry, we pay bills – everything a ‘regular’ person does. In ‘regular’ life, people travel and go on vacations; for RV Life, these are part of day to day living.

We divide up our RV life into three categories: traveling, touristing, and living. Traveling are the days we are moving our house, typically from point A to point B, kind of like repositioning a ship. The reasons for moving could be location, people, or weather. Touristing are the days we spend looking at things and places. Living are the days we spend doing things required to keep traveling, touristing, and existing comfortably. This includes paying bills, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.

We typically travel one or two days per week. Now that we have been on the road for a year, our travel days are getting shorter and further apart. The frantic ‘see everything and go everywhere days’ are shrinking and we are getting to a much more relaxed pace.

We typically tourist two or three days per week. This mostly depends on the area, the weather, and how motivated we are. Touristing includes hiking, 4-wheeling, seeing sites (museums, historical points, etc), and wandering around. We used to do this about five days per week, but it got exhausting quickly.

Living takes up two to three days a week. Grocery shopping, laundry, being lazy, paying bills, sitting by the lake reading a book, all count as part of daily living. We had to do it before we RVed and so we do it now. They are a day to step back from what ever frantic pace we set for ourselves and take a breather.

Before we went full time in our RV, we would take two to three week vacations where we would race frantically from here to there, trying to see and do everything.  When we got home, we would always need a day to decompress, to vacation from our vacation, before we could slip back into the regular world. We made the same mistake when we first started full timing: wanting to see and do everything as quickly as possible just in case we had to go back.  It took us about six months (we don’t learn quickly) before we realized there was nothing to go back to, that this was it. Once that realization took hold, we slowed down, added quite a few more ‘Living’ days, and have been loving life ever since. Balance is important.

Right now, our days of going to Alaska more closely resemble our frantic first months of full timing. We have a far away goal and are traveling more than living. Part of this is due to the distance required to get there. Part of it is due to the years we have been anticipating the trip. But, a week into our 16 week journey, we finally took a Living day. I didn’t get the laundry done and I didn’t get any grocery shopping done, but I did get in a couple of levels of Pet Rescue and a chapter or two of a book. I have to admit though, it is way better than working.

* This is our RV Life. This is not meant to be the final word on how other RVers live their life.

Birch Bay, WA

We have been hanging out at the Thousand Trails RV Park in Birch Bay, Washington for a couple of days trying to get last minute things done before crossing the border into Canada. And, we really haven’t done much of it, though we plan on crossing tomorrow. We still have to fix the steps, get a rabies shot for the dog, grocery shop, get gas and propane, and print out a bunch of customs forms. I’ll be honest: we are procrastinators. But what fun is it if we aren’t rushing around getting things done at the last minute?

[one hour later]

The steps are finally fixed! Again. We were missing a pin, which must be a Very Important Pin. But the steps go up and the steps go down, and it is one less thing on “The List.” Also off “The List” is printing out the customs forms. But “The List” just got bigger. I need to drink a bottle of wine before we go, so we don’t have to pay Canada Duty for importing it. Depending on which website one views, the duty could be about $5 or about $36. For a $25 bottle of wine that I could buy in Canada for $30, I think $36 is a bit much.

It is 6PM, the Orioles game is on and I have to cook the chicken and fresh vegetables that I can’t take across the border tomorrow. The rest of “The List” will have to wait.

For those of you who may be traveling this way, I highly suggest not coming up to the Blaine/Birch Bay area without stopping first for fuel, food, propane, or anything else you might need. The prices here are 20-50% higher than they are 15 miles south, in Bellingham.

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