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:


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.





Almost Time to Travel

Current Location: Fort Toulouse Campground, Wetumpka, Alabama

Malcolm finished a couple more weeks of work as of today, so we’re off the next two weeks. Instead of hauling the trailer somewhere (we had been thinking Kentucky), we decided to buy a pair of plane tickets to Seattle and fly out to see our daughter and family. We’re heading out Monday afternoon to spend the night in a hotel in Atlanta and catch an early morning flight on Tuesday. We’ll be out there 8 days, then flying back home.

The rest of the week has been pretty quiet after we got the new truck home. Malcolm listed the old truck for sale on a Ford truck forum but hasn’t gotten any bites yet. However, we’ve arranged to sell Val’s car to some friends of ours. We were going to sell the car around the time the house was sold, so we’re hanging onto the old truck for a bit longer.

It’s actually been a blessing still having the old truck around. For example, Malcolm was able to transfer the rolling cover off the bed of the old truck onto the new one. New rolling covers run around $1,300 or more, so that saved us some money. And of course, selling the truck ourselves, we can get a lot more money than what the dealer had offered us on trade.

We dropped the new truck off today with a local hitch and trailer company to get bed rails mounted in the bed of the new truck. Once it was home, Malcolm and David transferred the hitch to the new truck. It fit perfectly. The new bed rails are much beefier than the ones in the old truck. Malcolm moved the rolling cover over afterwards. We’ll need some weatherstripping, etc. to tidy up the installation, but otherwise the cover transferred right over.

Hitch mounted on new rails

Hitch mounted on new rails

One feature that our truck has on it is the tailgate step. Malcolm loves it. It does make it easier to climb up into the truck bed.

Tailgate step

Tailgate step

We were going to have a drop-in bedliner put in by the folks that installed the hitch rails, but they had gotten the wrong size. Malcolm was leaning towards a spray-in liner, instead, so that worked out and gives us time to decide which way we’ll go. The old truck had a drop-in liner. We may even just go with a mat on the floor.

Mods, Swimming Pool and Frozen Yogurt

Current Location: Gig Harbor RV Resort, Gig Harbor, Washington

This morning we were running a bit later than yesterday. While showers were taken and folks were getting ready, Malcolm was out putting the new rear bumper receiver on. This is a bolt-on affair that we will use to hold a receiver-mount bike carrier (as of yet unpurchased) for our bikes, instead of the aluminum deal we bought that hooks over the rear ladder.

Bolt-on receiver.

Bolt-on receiver.

We loaded up our laundry in the truck and headed over to Elizabeth’s house to do laundry and visit with the grandbabies. Once there, we had a couple of donuts for a late breakfast. Around 10:00, the place where Malcolm had ordered the hitch indicated that it was in and ready to pick up. After that, it was off to run errands.

We took a bunch of items that had been collecting both in our trailer and at Elizabeth’s house and dropped them off at Goodwill. From there, we swung by K-Mart to return an item that was the wrong size. Then it was on to Trackside Pizza for lunch. This is Violet’s favorite place to eat because you can watch the trains go by right next to the building.

At the end of lunch, Violet was having the “crankies” (and it was close to nap time), so Elizabeth took the two girls home. We dropped by to pick up the new hitch (it was in boxes) and then went on to the grocery store with two lists (ours and Elizabeth’s). We got home, put groceries away and worked more on laundry.

Malcolm opened up the hitch boxes and assembled the new hitch. He was pleased to find out that it mounted onto the existing rails in the truck bed with no problem. He put the old one up for sale on Craigslist. Not sure if we’ll get a bite or not, but worth a try.

New Reese R16 hitch.

New Reese R16 hitch.

After naps were complete, Malcolm and Val took Violet to find a swimming pool for the back yard. We drove up to WalMart and searched around the store for the hard-sided type with a slide. They only had the inflatable type, so Violet conceded that was better than nothing. To make up for a lack of slide, we also purchased a few pool toys to complement the pool.

New pool

New pool

Once home, we inflated the pool while Elizabeth started dinner. Cole got home and helped with the cooking. Malcolm filled the pool partway with water. Malcolm and Cole checked to see if Cole had an appropriate hex wrench to tighten down the bolts on the new hitch. He didn’t. Violet splashed in the pool while all this was going on.

After dinner, it was out to the back yard for a little more pool action. Violet found out it was funny to hug someone’s legs while wet with ice cold water. Better yet, Malcolm was a sitting duck as he laid on the grass to relax.



After a while, we decided to head out for frozen yogurt. Malcolm happened to be outside when the UPS man drove up carrying three boxes, two of which had Malcolm’s name written on them. He collected up the boxes and headed inside to see what had arrived. One was a box of items that Val had ordered from Amazon. The other two were parts that Heartland RVs had sent to Malcolm based on the items that were not fixed at the rally.

Slide electrical raceway parts.

Slide electrical raceway parts.

Roof cap repair items.

Roof cap repair items.

The corner piece in the roof repair items was incorrect. Malcolm will follow up with Heartland on that piece. In the meantime, he filled the hole in the existing piece with silicone sealant.

After frozen yogurt, we stopped by the house to load up the remainder of our stuff and headed back to the trailer. On the way, we stopped by a Harbor Freight Warehouse store to get some hex wrenches to tighten down the hitch. Once at the campground, we unloaded the laundry, groceries and various other items. Malcolm finished tightening down the hitch.

Tomorrow, everyone will start loading up to head out to Fox Island for the next few days. Malcolm found out officially that they want him to work in San Diego in a couple weeks, so we’ll be heading down the coast instead of cross-country to Texas. Since San Diego is half the distance, we’ll be staying here a few more days. Malcolm will be re-arranging the travel plans this evening and working out details with local campgrounds tomorrow.

Tire Pressure Monitor System

Malcolm is posting this from his iPad since he left his laptop at work today. After he got back to the trailer after work, he installed the new tire pressure monitor system on the truck and trailer. Everything was up and running great before dark.

After putting all the tools away, Malcolm decided to query the Internet and find out what settings would be best for pressure and temperature alarms. One thing that he found repeatedly is that people recommend using metal valve stems with the sensors, as the centrifugal force of the sensor will eventually cause the rubber stems to split. Malcolm is still upset with himself on not insisting the Goodyear place put metal stems on the trailer tires (the truck has them).

Now it is decision time just three days before we leave – take the pressure sensors back off, or somehow get the tires to our tire store to have the stems swapped out. Malcolm will call the local tire shop and ask them about doing the stem swap. He may just jack the trailer up on the spot and take one tire at a time over. The alternative is to see if they will do it in their lot early Saturday morning on our way out of town.

More Truck Stuff

Current Location: Fort Toulouse Campground, Wetumpka, Alabama

Malcolm, other than being busy working, found time yesterday to install some truck mods. First up is the license plate backup camera and interface to the new stereo. This camera is hard-wired (we used to have a cheap wireless one that was junk) and has infrared illumination for night-time backing up. The picture is super and shows up automatically on the stereo screen when you put the truck into reverse. The kids were going to buy the backup camera for their Dad for Fathers’ Day, so it’s an early gift.

License plate frame camera.

License plate frame camera.

Image on screen.

Image on screen.

The other modification was a set of Rock Tamers mud flaps. You assemble these and the center section clamps onto the bumper hitch receiver insert. Malcolm assembled it on our hitch ball instead of the hitch step since it was sturdier. When we hitch up next, we’ll have to see if Malcolm cut the flaps short enough to keep from dragging the ground. If not, it’s fairly simple to trim them down.

Rock Savers flap kit.

Rock Tamers flap kit.

Assembled and mounted.

Assembled and mounted.

We’re hoping these will help cut down on damage to the front of our trailer. It is already plastered with road tar and there are a couple holes in the molding trim around the edge of the front. When not pulling, we take the hitch and flap assembly out and lay it in the bed of the truck.

For those with single rear wheel trucks, the position of the flaps on the bars can be changed so they don’t stick out so far.