Trip Out West – Day 1

Location: Panama City, Florida

We took our time leaving this morning, as Val needed to stop by Michael’s Arts and Crafts to pick up some yarn for a project she’s working on as we travel. They opened at 9 am, so we planned our morning accordingly.

We stopped at Wawa to pick up some breakfast burritos and to top off the tank on the truck, then drove across the highway to Michael’s. Then it was on the road.

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We headed up Florida 429 to the Florida Turnpike, then on to I-75. We stopped to fix lunch at a rest stop just south of Lake City, Florida.

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We rolled into Panama City around 3:30 PM. We made a stop at Target as Malcolm needed a different pair of sunglasses. He had broken his favorite ones a couple weeks ago and had been wearing a cheap backup pair he bought at some point. Those glasses were really tight on his head and were giving him a headache. We also picked up a half-gallon of milk to put in the fridge.

On the way to our son’s house, Malcolm spotted a really low price on diesel and pulled into the Murphy Oil station at the WalMart to top off the tank. $2.039 is a really good price in Florida for diesel (we paid $2.359 at home on the way out of town). Turns out there was a little price war going on through that stretch of road.

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We got to our son’s house not long after he left for his overnight shift at work for the Air Force. We’re staying in his guest room overnight and will see him when he gets home in the morning. Tomorrow’s trip is fairly short (about 3 hours), so we can hang around for a while in the morning and visit.

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By the way, here’s what the bed of the truck looks like when the tent is collapsed. We found it is easy to just drop the tent with the mattress and luggage inside and pull the rolling bed cover closed. When we get to our destination and need the tent, we open the rolling cover and tailgate, set up the tent and it’s ready to sleep in. Takes all of about 5-7 minutes.

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The test a couple nights ago running the refrigerator on the inverter was a success. When Malcolm plugged the refrigerator into the inverter at 5:00PM, the inverter indicated the truck’s battery voltage was 12.4 volts. At 7:00PM, it said 12.2 volts, which was slightly concerning. However, at midnight it still said 12.2 volts, as it did in the morning about 7:30 AM. The truck started up no problem.

 

Trip Out West Pre-Planning

As referenced in our last post, we’re planning on traveling cross-country from Florida to Washington state to visit our grandchildren. We mentioned that we aren’t taking the RV nor are we flying. There are many reasons why we’ve chosen to travel as we are going to.

First, the RV roof needs a more permanent repair before I would feel comfortable taking it for a long, cross-country trip. So far, we haven’t been inclined to do that. We have taken the RV on a couple local camping trips this year – one to Fort Wilderness in February and another to the Cape Canaveral area on the east coast of Florida (more on those trips later).

We don’t feel comfortable flying cross-country during this pandemic, either. It doesn’t bother us wearing masks as we’ve been wearing them since they were first mentioned by the CDC early in the summer. Sitting in an enclosed aircraft for several hours just doesn’t sit well with either of us. Travel by train (a guess by one of our readers) would be another no for us right now.

That leaves driving cross-country. We first thought we could just hop in the car and stop at hotels along the way. Then we thought that since we have a lot of extra camp gear, maybe we could stop at KOAs and use their camping cabins. That thought evolved into our final selection for method of travel cross-country. Meet our new truck bed tent:

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Val found this on Amazon after I had previously mentioned tents that mount on a rack at roof level on the truck (or her SUV). Not wanting to have to climb six feet up to a tent in the air, this tent fits the bill perfectly.

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There is plenty of room in the bed for a full size air mattress, which we picked up off Amazon, as well. We also put a memory foam mattress topper on the mattress for additional comfort.

We’ve practiced taking the tent down and putting it back up. We can do either operation in 5-7 minutes. We only have to take the tent down far enough to fit in the bed so that we can close the tailgate and pull our rolling bed cover closed over top of the whole assembly. There’s plenty of room to pack our chairs, pillows, clothes and a few other items in or on the tent before we pull the cover closed.

To keep our food cold going down the road, we bought a 1000W inverter that Malcolm wired up in the truck to power a mid-sized “dorm” refrigerator we bought at Lowe’s. Malcolm built a platform for the refrigerator that bolts down to the seat frame. Remove four bolts and lift the refrigerator out of the truck. The seats will fold down just fine.

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We rigged up a pool noodle to be able to slip over the top of the window on the rear passenger side door so we can run a power cord in the window when we stop at places that have electricity available. Otherwise, we’ll run the refrigerator on the inverter overnight.

We are just now testing that capability tonight. Malcolm will check the truck battery in the morning to see how it held up running the refrigerator for about 14 hours. The inverter indicates that the refrigerator only uses about 30W of power once running. We’re hoping that means minimal drain on the batteries overnight.

To test all this out, we initially were going to sleep overnight in the tent at home under the RV port. However, with low crowds at Disney’s campground, Malcolm was able to grab a two-night stay at Fort Wilderness over the past weekend. That would be a better test, as we are close to home and would let us see if we packed enough items to cook, sleep and otherwise make it through the night.

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With few exceptions, it went great. We came home with a short list of “oops, we forgot this”. We had our popup screen porch with us, which was very handy for both shade and to keep the bugs down.

While at Fort Wilderness, we had a special visitor to our site. This juvenile barred owl (hoot owl) was hunting around the side of our site one evening. He was literally just feet from our pad. We saw him hunting around again the next evening and he was settling into the tree above our site the morning that we were leaving.

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We’ve been spending this week packing, re-packing and paring down items to just what we need to get cross-country. Val has precooked or prepared ingredients for most of our meals along the way. We’ll keep breakfasts simple for ease of getting on the road each day. Lunches will be sandwiches along the way, as well.

We are leaving this Friday morning and plan to be in Washington state the following Friday evening. The first stop is our son’s home in Panama City, Florida. We’ll check in again once we get there.

 

 

 

OK, We’re Still Around

So it’s been a while. It’s been almost a year since we arrived home from our yearly westward trip in the RV. The end of that trip was pretty much the end of what we considered full-time RV travel for us. It was a fun 7-ish years hauling around the country, but we were wanting to settle down.

Last fall, we still lived in the RV on our lot in Florida. We flew out to Washington state over Christmas to visit the grandchildren. Funny thing about that trip was that we hadn’t planned on Christmas out there because they were planning on flying in to Florida for Spring Break this year. Turns out us flying out there was rather fortunate, given the pandemic arriving in early 2020 and turning everything upside down.

We made our exodus from full-time RV-ing a little more permanent early this year by buying the park model (mobile home) next door to our RV lot and moving into it. It can be seen on the right in this picture. Our existing RV lot is on the left.

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In Florida, at least, a Park Model is essentially a mobile home that is permanently anchored to the ground and the axles removed. To further distinguish it from a Mobile Home (which really it is), a Park Model is limited to 499 square feet of living space. Ours is right around that, being 12′ wide by 40′ long.

As can be seen in the photo, we have a 45′ long RV port (that the truck is parked underneath in the photo). Previous owners have also had a stick-built shed added onto the front of the park model (the doors to it are behind the palm tree in the photo). They also had a four-seasons room added to the back of the RV port with a second story bonus room above.

We still own the RV lot next door. We had debated on selling it after we moved over to the “house”, but the pandemic kinda ruined that plan for now. As it turns out, we’re making some money on it by renting it out. We have a couple that will be wintering on the lot starting in late October or early November of this year on into next spring.

We’ve been keeping our RV on the lot when it is not rented. When we have renters coming in, we move the RV under the RV port on the new lot.

As mentioned earlier, our grandchildren didn’t get to fly to Florida to visit us this spring, so we haven’t seen them since the end of last year. With some travel restrictions easing late this summer, we’ve hatched a plan to go visit them here very soon. It doesn’t involve taking the RV or flying out there. We’ll update you on our plan in the next post, so stay tuned.

 

The Long Road Home

Still catching up on our travels. This post will bring us from Washington state all the way to our home base in Florida, with a couple changes of plans along the way.

We had a pretty quiet trip all the way from Washington state to Kentucky. Here are pictures of most every stop along the way.

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Night 1 – Aug. 18 – Spokane KOA, Spokane, WA

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Night 2 – Aug. 19 – Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, MT

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Night 3 – Aug. 20 – Hardin KOA, Hardin, MT

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Night 4 – Aug. 21 – Douglas KOA, Douglas, WY

On night 5, Aug. 22, we stayed in the Strasburg/East Denver KOA in Strasburg, Colorado. We failed to take a picture of that site, but you can insert whatever generic picture of an RV in a crowded campground with gravel sites and barely any vegetation.

Also, starting in Wyoming and continuing through Colorado and Kansas, we had a lot of windy travel. It wasn’t terrible (in other words, not too gusty), but it was fairly strong and will play a part later in our story.

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Night 6 – Aug. 23 – Wakeeney KOA, Wakeeney, Kansas

Note the water puddles in the above photo. We just missed the rain, chasing it across eastern Colorado and western Kansas.

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Night 7 – Aug. 24 – Country Gardens RV Park, Odessa, Missouri

We started catching up with the rain by our stop in Odessa, but it wasn’t too bad. It had moved on by the time we got there and it was a pretty dry night.

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Night 8 – Aug. 25 – Shawnee Forest Campground, Vienna, Illinois

We drove in pouring rain most all day on our way through Missouri. St. Louis was the worst – driving through downtown on I-70 through pouring rain. We were fortunate that it was Sunday and not too much traffic. Still, it made for a rather tiring driving day. We were glad that the rain stopped long enough for us to set up the trailer without it raining on us.

We rolled into Kentucky on Monday the 26th. We had a two-night stay booked in Lexington at the Kentucky Horse Park. There were a limited number of spaces available. We later found out that there were two different horse shows and a dog show all happening there both during and towards the end of the week.

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Our truck was due for an oil change so we called ahead to a dealer in Frankfort, Kentucky (about 25 miles away) and set up an appointment to have that done on Tuesday morning.

On Monday night (after another rainy day), we were getting ready to go out and see Malcolm’s brother playing with a band in Lexington after meeting him for dinner. Val pulled out a box with shoes that she was going to wear for the evening and found that the box had a little water on top of it. The box was in a cubby built into the closet in the front cap of our trailer.

We felt around and didn’t really feel much else in the way of water, so Malcolm decided there wasn’t much we could do at the moment but he would climb up on the roof in the morning and check it out. Fortunately, the rain was almost done (just spotty showers here and there). We headed on out to enjoy our evening.

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Big Band Music by Al DiMartino and his DOJO band.

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Visiting with Al DiMartino (left) and Malcolm’s brother David (middle – holding sax)

After we got back to the trailer, Val heard a funny noise in the bedroom and found that water was dripping from the ceiling wall outlet for the bedroom TV onto a hat she had sitting on the dresser. Malcolm pulled the outlet cover and some water dripped out and then quit. We left the outlet hanging out for the night. A trip up top was definitely needed the next morning.

The appointment for getting the oil changed was at 9:00 and we needed to leave about 8:30 to get there, so Malcolm climbed up on the roof before that to assess what our problem was. That’s when he found that our roof membrane had come loose and lifted while we were traveling – most likely helped along with the strong wind across the mid-western portion of our trip.

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The roof material pulled back from the center of the front cap, leaving a big gap for water to enter the front cap from above. That explained the water in the closet (directly below this seam).

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The air needed somewhere to escape, so it managed to pull the roof material out from under the front air conditioner and proceed to tear some flaps in the material (one flap was completely gone). This is where the water probably entered to travel in our ceiling to the electrical outlet. The plan now became a trip to an RV dealer for appropriate materials to repair the roof after the oil change.

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The forecast called for a chance of showers late in the afternoon (which, fortunately, did not happen), so time was of the essence to fix the pulled seam and the hole in the roof material. We stopped by an RV dealer and picked up a roll of Eternabond seam tape and a tube of self-leveling sealant. Malcolm patched up the hole in the roof material in front of the air conditioner with several strips of overlapped Eternabond tape and sealed the front cap seam with the self-leveling sealant.

We wanted to give the repair a good chance to set before we hit the road, so we managed to book two more days in a different spot at the Horse Park campground (there were literally about seven spots left).

Overnight on Tuesday, Malcolm realized that he had patched the roof and it shouldn’t leak if it rained. However, the roof material was still loose and stretched. If we hit the road with it fixed as it was, the roof material would probably lift and tear up what he had fixed already. Therefore, we needed some way to keep the roof material from billowing up on the way home (a two day trip).

The initial though was to wrap a couple ratchet straps around the front of the trailer and tighten them down. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would get us home. As Malcolm looked on the internet for alternative ways to hold down the roof material for travel, he ran across someone in a forum post that mentioned that they had a dealer screw down some stiff material across their roof in several strips to at least get them home. The also mentioned that temporary fix worked for several more years before they sold their trailer.

Malcolm had an idea, so the next morning while we waited for check-out time to move our rig from one spot to another (giving whoever was there time to leave), we went back to the RV dealer to get some more Eternabond tape and self-leveling sealant. We also went to Lowe’s and picked up some metal pipe strap and some wood screws and washers.

Malcolm screwed down several strips across the roof and covered each one with Eternabond tape. It isn’t pretty and really wasn’t well sealed (yet) as Malcolm doubled over the “flaps” on the roof material and pinned it down with the strips, but it worked well enough to get us on down the road. Malcolm checked on it several times during the trip to make sure it wasn’t pulling up. We were also blessed with dry weather.

The following photos may make you shake your head and maybe there were better ways to do this, but hey, sometimes you gotta do what you can to get home.

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To make up for our extra day in Kentucky (we cancelled the second day of our second spot – feeling comfortable enough with the repair to continue on) we planned only one stop on the way back to Florida – in Cordele, Georgia.

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Cordele KOA – Cordele, Georgia

We were hoping our roof patch would hold tight so we could just head on home and it did. But, we didn’t quite head on home. We made it to Cordele just fine. However, there was this matter of hurricane Dorian.

The evening we stopped in Cordele, Dorian was still heading west and strengthening into a category 4 hurricane. The track at that time was indicating it would cut straight through Florida as a category 4 or 5 hurricane, putting our home right in the center of the action. We made the decision that evening to head over to our son’s house in Panama City, Florida, and wait out the hurricane. There was still a possibility that the hurricane might even hit that area, so we were all on alert.

We parked next to David’s house to wait out the storm and see what was going to happen. We brought a bunch of stuff inside to sleep in the guest room, ironically enough on the couch bed that we had taken out of our trailer and donated to our son. We plugged the trailer into an outside outlet on David’s house to keep the refrigerator running.

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While we were at David’s, we celebrated Malcolm’s 60th birthday. Originally, we were going to be home for the birthday and had a couple nights booked at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. We cancelled that reservation when we decided to avoid the area due to the hurricane.

We had a nice dinner out at a pizza place with David and one of his roommates and later had birthday cake at home.

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While we were at David’s house, his next door neighbor offered to let us use his 50 amp electrical hookup that he had run for his own RV (but wasn’t ready to use himself just yet). We hooked up the last couple nights were were there and ran the air conditioner to keep the rig cool. We also stayed in the trailer the last night we were there as the couch bed was making Malcolm’s back hurt.

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With hurricane Dorian now heading up the east coast and Florida being out of danger, we said our goodbyes and headed on home on Thursday, September 5th.

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Forgot to mention that while we were at David’s house, Malcolm went out and bought another tube of sealant to seal the areas of the roof where the roof material was doubled over under the tape to keep water from finding its way in those areas. For now, the roof seems well sealed.

We contacted a company that comes out and rolls on new rubber roof sealant and got an estimate of $6,500 to fix it. We’re waiting to decide on how to go about having it repaired long term, but for now the temporary fix is holding fine and we don’t plan on going anywhere with the trailer the rest of the year (unless another hurricane heads this way).

 

April Through June

Another long delayed update to the blog. Mostly just stuff going on around home, so we’ll summarize here.

April 8th through the 10th, we utilized our Disney Vacation Club membership to reserve a room at Copper Creek (part of Wilderness Lodge). We mainly spent a relaxing two days lounging around the pool, stopping at the outdoor lounge a couple times and making tie-dye t-shirts (a relative bargain at $16 each).

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Lounging by the pool

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Our room

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View from our balcony

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Our building

After our stay at Copper Creek, Malcolm set about doing some modifications to the entertainment center of our RV. First up was to remove the glass inserts in the upper cabinet doors and cover the door frames with vintage looking speaker material.

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Before

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After

Next up was to remove all the cabinetry below the countertop.

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Before

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After

The de-construction was to make way for a new entertainment center unit that we ordered through Wayfair. They delivered it to the trailer (in a box). The delivery guys were initially pretty skeptical about delivering a big box to an RV.

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Though we measured twice, the unit was actually wider than advertised. Fortunately, it was just narrow enough to squeeze into the empty space. Malcolm moved the stereo equipment to the middle of the cabinet. He also made a slide out shelf for the turntable.

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On April 25th, our son David came down to visit for the weekend. He also brought our two grand-kitties along.

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Maui

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Siren

Our daughter Elizabeth flew in on the morning of the 26th. We all spent the weekend at Disney World for Dapper Days. With Elizabeth primarily dressing in vintage style on a daily basis, this event was right up her alley.

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Elizabeth at Animal Kingdom (Friday Morning)

On Friday, we went to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Though it wasn’t officially Dapper Days until the next day, we pretty much dressed up in various outfits.

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Hollywood Studios (Friday afternoon)

Saturday was Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom park, we off we went for the day.

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Gift Shop Picture

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Holding the Balloons

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Brother and Sister riding the Carousel

Sunday was Dapper Day at Epcot. We all wore somewhat matching outfits.

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It was a fun weekend and was the first time the whole family got together to go to Disney World. We were especially excited that Elizabeth got to come down. She flew out Monday morning. Sunday evening was kinda sad.

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Drama Llamas

On May 2, we headed over to Epcot first thing in the morning to see the Blue Angels fly over. We took a bunch of pictures then headed back home so Malcolm could work.

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June 9th through the 15th, a friend of ours, Michael, from Pennsylvania came down with his three teenage daughters to camp out at our place. The three girls bunked in our guest house and Michael slept on a cot in our trailer. We had a great time visiting. We all went to Disney World one day of their visit. They also did a lot of local sightseeing the other days they were here. Micheal used to live in the area years ago.

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The Whole Crew at Magic Kingdom

Other than those highlights, we’ve mainly just been doing normal day to day stuff. Val’s been working on various projects. Malcolm has been working pretty regular hours for his job (29.5 hours a week to keep his part-time status).

As we post this, it is July 2nd. We’re hitting the road on the 4th for our annual trip out west to visit Elizabeth, Cole and the granddaughters (and other family) in Washington state. We’ve been preparing everything over the last couple days and will do some final pack up tomorrow before heading over to Magic Kingdom for the 4th of July fireworks (they have them on the 3rd and the 4th).

We’ll get up early on the 4th and head up the road to Alabama for our first stop. We’ll try to post a little more frequently during our trip out, our visit out there and our trip back (we should be back in Florida the last week of August).