It took 5 years of full-timing, but we can finally say our wheels traveled through and came to a stop for at least one night’s stay in all of the lower 48 states of the union! And in all but 3 states we actually stayed in at least 1 RV campground/park. Kansas, Nebraska, and West Virginia were our park-less stops, but stops nonetheless with the help of some of the many options available for free, overnight stays. In these 5 years we have learned of several no-cost options for overnight stays during our travels, including but not limited to Walmart, Cracker Barrel, truck stops, some rest stops, Cabelas, Bass Pro, public lands such as BLM and National Forest lands, and occasional open field/private property that allows overnighters. Now, in that time and during these travels, we have seen a lot of beautiful sights nationwide, however we have only scratched the surface and there remains still much more to experience. How much more, on our part, remains to be seen, since we are starting to get the “settle down itch”. What that means – total “get off the road” to maybe becoming part-timers to remaining status quo, we just haven’t sorted the cards we have been dealt yet. But for now I’ll get back to current events.
Finished in Maine, it was time to head back west for some kids and grandkids time. It was not without some minor detours. When Jeanne’s sister Denise left us we told her we were gonna swing by on our way west to check on her in Branson, MO, (she recently lost her husband, Don.) So instead of a northern crossing we headed south. We did an overnighter at the Sturbridge, MA Walmart, then to an overnighter at a place called Aspen Family Campground in Candor, NY. Holy-Total-Pit Batman! This place was off a skinny road, with a skinny, back angled driveway which I BARELY made with the toad, then terrible rutted gravel uphill driveway. We were tired and did not feel like driving more, so we buckled and stayed here. The grass field we were put in was accessed through a tunnel of trees, then was not even close to level, and the sites were not delineated so you park any which way you like near the W/E post. The grass/mud was moist enough that when I tried to use my jacks, they just sunk into the grass/mud. So it was an unlevel, unrestful night’s sleep for us, never to return here again.
Next stop was the Luray KOA in Virginia. While here we took a drive along the Skyline Dr. in Shenandoah National Park and used this stop to take care of some business, car insurance business that is. Texas is a terrible state to have to insure your vehicles through if you are a full time RVer with the Escapees RV Club mailing address in Livingston. Our Jeep insurer, Nationwide, just notified us that the Jeep was going up $1,000 more this year, no tickets, accidents, nothing. After clearing the smoke out of our motorhome from what billowed out of my ears, Jeanne set off on yet ANOTHER insurance search. We ended up at Hartford through AARP (sometimes it’s nice to be an old fart) and got a $100 discount by just taking an online AARP Driver’s Safety course. The hunt continues for a break in our motorhome insurance, currently costing us $4,000 per year (just let that one soak in for a second, don’t say a word!)
Another Walmart overnighter in Hurricane, West Virginia, then it was on to Frankfort, KY and the Elkhorn Campground. While there Jeanne and I were able to finish out the Kentucky Brewgrass Trail (craft breweries in the area) and earned our official Brewgrass Trail T-shirts (sorry, no pic, they had to mail them to us and we haven’t gotten our mail yet.) We also made a visit to the Buffalo Trace Distillery this time around. It is not included in the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail or the Craft Distillery Trail, but it is on the trail. The distillery gives free tours and tastings and is quite picturesque. Also while here we started seeing these small painted rocks hidden around the park, we found 3. It seems there is a Facebook group called RVers Rock! who are the responsible culprits. The tops of the rocks are painted with anything the artist desires, then the backs have instructions printed to keep or rehide the rock, post pictures on the group’s FB feed, and frequently have the location/park of origin or state also included. This caught Jeanne’s curiosity/interest, so it looks like we will become artists now. Our 3 found rocks will also find new homes somewhere along our westward trail to California. You never know where you may find one, they can be anywhere. We will be sticking with hiding them in or around RV parks.
Gotta love the RV lifestyle. For the couple of weeks prior to our Elkhorn stop we have been having more issues with our water heater. Our water only heated to tepid at best. We were putting off looking for a service center until I just blew a gasket (metaphorically speaking). I called Precision Temp and one of their people in the know helped me troubleshoot the issue, discovering the propane regulator was bad. Gasket #2 just went (another one of them there metaphors) since we had just replaced the piece of $h!t regulator last January. It seems somebody imported a buttload of bad regulators, probably from our friend China, this according to the Precision Temp guys. Anyways, on moving day our first stop was at Bluegrass RV in Lexington to get another regulator. The saving grace for the day was that on our way in for service we got treated to an nice sunrise, Kentucky style.
On the road with HOT water (!!!!Yippee!!!!), another Walmart, and into Branson, MO we rode. Denise hooked us up with a site at her camping club, Treasure Lake RV Resort, in downtown Branson. We had a nice stay visiting with Denise, Cedric, Savonna, Robert, Cooper, Brody, and Khloey (I probably mangled the spelling, sorry kid!). And we had HOT water the whole time!
Oh the joys of the RV lifestyle, volume 2. We have been having nothing but problems with our satellite reception since we switched DISH receivers to the Wally version up in Maine. Trying to figure out the cable and over-the-air reception has also been a disaster for quite some time. With (4) massive TV’s scattered throughout the motorhome, they never acquire the same channels from one TV to the other at any given stop. And to make matters worse, the jumble of wiring jammed into the small cabinet area is a nightmare trying to decipher. To add insult to injury, Woodrow Wilson (our K9 travel companion) has had one too many accidents on our small piece of carpet in the rig. It was becoming stained from all the shampooing Jeanne has had to do to clean up Woody’s indiscretions. So since we was in Missouri, another detour seemed in order, back to the east to our very favorite and happiest place on Earth…Red Bay, Alabama! (Insert mega-sarcasm here!) Home of Tiffin Motorhomes and the world famous Tiffin Service Center.
And the joys of the RV lifestyle are the gifts that keep on giving. So we are southbound out of Branson, heading for I-40 East. No sooner do we get out of town when my yellow check engine light starts going on and off, with the accompanying “ding, ding, ding” and the red “brake air” warning light flashing, the same time my gauges for the two air tanks go to zero. This goes on, intermittently, for about the next hour and a half. I have had issues with my warning lights and gauges since I got the motorhome 3 years ago. We have been to several Freightliner/Cummins shops, every time it occurs. It has gone unresolved from day one, but the audible alarms that go off drive me crazy. So this new occurrence was not surprising, but 90 minutes is a long time to worry if the bus would shut down at any time. The drivability during these episodes has never been affected. Add this problem to my Tiffin list, since Bay Diesel is just down the street.
We stayed at one of the off-campus campgrounds this time around (the service center was jam packed full). We got hooked up with Daniel Humphries, one of the “after-hours” techs who work on Tiffin products, to get new carpet (his specialty). While waiting we tried yet again to obtain full satellite reception. Our big gripe was we have never received high definition channels from the hi-def satellite, #129, since we switched to Wally. Still no hi-def, I did my usual call to DISH to try to resolve it. Gasket #3 went after another hour-long phone debate with the DISH techs and troubleshooting attempt. I hung up on DISH and we put a call into another after-hours tech for Tiffin products, Nick Brewer who specializes in the satellite/TV/electronics stuff. Nick took all of 1 minute and had me go into diagnostics, click one stinking button, and BOOM! I got satellite #129 and all the hi-def I could want. I guess the DISH techs were playing hooky the day they taught that in tech school.
While waiting/dealing with the cable/over-the-air issues, as well as a try to get in at Bay Diesel, we decided to poke our heads in and say howdy to Marion who is the tech in Bay #2, he has done work for us in the past. We also stopped in at the Tiffin parts store for a couple of things and Jeanne blurts out “Dave & Diane!” In the flesh, we see Dave and Diane (Dave writes his blog “Dave & Diane throwing caution to the wind”). Theirs was one of the first full timer blogs Jeanne started following way back in the beginning. And in the small world of RV traveling, we have run into them 3 times now; at the SKP park Jojoba Hills, CA, in the desert boondocking in Quartzsite, AZ, and now at the “real” happiest place on Earth in Red Bay. We chatted briefly and vowed to get together to swap stories, but regretfully we were not there long enough to make it happen.
Well, we got the carpet and hi-def issues resolved during this run to Red Bay. The diesel shop could not get us in for the dash light issue and Daniel tightened up some connections but it did not resolve the cable/air issues for TV. So it was back to the road, westward ho again. We had been watching weather and noticed the North and Northwest were starting to take on snow. That made the decision on routes easy, I-40 it was. A plus with this decision was there are numerous Freightliner shops along I-40 and I was intent on getting my dash light issue fixed once and for all. I settled on the Premier Truck Group Freightliner Service Center in Amarillo, TX. Last December I had been to the same company at their Dallas, TX shop for the same issue. The overall experience, especially this current one, has eroded any faith or trust in Freightliner as a company. Besides having to waste 3 full days, getting NO resolution, and having to pay out of my pocket for the issue which should have been fully covered under the original warranty, I got to listen to numerous truckers bad-mouth and complain about Freightliner’s terrible customer service practices. I was so full of piss and vinegar that I wrote a lengthy letter to Freightliner, with a copy to Bob Tiffin.
Anger set aside, breathing deeply, chanting in a meditative state, we continue our trek westbound, a couple of days out of California. And soon, well, take a look for yourself…
Until next post…