Gut-Check Tour – Day 5

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 – Cajun RV Park, Biloxi, MS

Yes, I’m still happy!

I was sad, however, to say goodbye to Paul B. Johnson State Park. That place is just beautiful, it’s quiet, well-maintained and a bargain at only $16/night with the senior discount, for full hookups. You can’t find that kind of deal just anywhere.

We got everything packed up and ready to go just before 11:00 A.M. It was easier to pack because we were only moving campsites–just had to make sure everything was secured enough to keep it from sliding around and/or breaking. We let the kitties ride free on this trip as it was just a little over an hour (without stops) from camp to camp.

We stopped in Wiggins so Andy could put gas in the RV. He put in 36.713 gallons at $2.299/gallon, for a total of $84.40. The odometer reading was 13026.1, and when I did the calculations, we found that we got 8.969 MPG on this last tank. That also includes our recent trip to Trace State Park. It’s much better than the mileage on the last tank since we didn’t have to spend fuel running the generator like we did when she was stored in the cold weather for so long.

Gutcheck Map move to Biloxi

We got to our new campground around 12:45 PM, got checked in to site #42, and then got hooked up quickly. The sites at this campground are close together, but right now there’s no one parked around us, and we have the benefit of a large shade tree. We were able to put out our awning over our picnic table for lunch, and it was wonderful! There was a cool breeze blowing, and the humidity is very low–not what we expected for the Gulf Coast. Such a nice surprise.

After we got cleaned up from lunch, we took a walk around the campground to check out the facilities. They have a pool and a guest lounge where there is free coffee and pastries available. Someone had started a jigsaw puzzle, and Andy and I finished it. We found the fire pits, the hammock, the rocking chairs, the beanbag toss, and the other amenities that they offer. Then we set out on a long walk on the beach which is just across the four-lane street from the campground. It’s not the best part of the Biloxi beach, and there aren’t any sidewalks along the beach like there are in Gulfport. But it was still a nice walk, although my feet were hurting by the time we got back from digging into the sand while trying to walk.

Not a bad place for an afternoon walk. #rvlife #lifeisgood

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After we got back from our walk we rested up for a little bit and then we drove to WalMart Neighborhood Market to pick up some groceries for the next few days. That was the WORST self-checkout line I have ever been in. The machine was super slow and kept telling me that my avocados were “restricted”. But while we were there, we were able to refill our three empty water jugs for 87 cents. So that was worth the trip.

We had a glass of wine for happy hour on our front porch, and then had black bean burgers, baked beans and chips for dinner. The temperatures are very mild, should be some good sleeping weather although it is noisier here in this park. We’ve heard trains and police sirens, things that we haven’t heard in the past few nights in our quieter campground. Hopefully they won’t be too loud tonight.

I’m still loving this trip, and the longer it goes on, the harder I know it’s going to be to go back to work when it’s over. I’m ready to start doing this for real!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 4

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 – Paul B. Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg, MS

It’s been such a beautiful day!

I started out the day early this morning by setting up my GoPro to try and capture a time lapse of the sunrise. It was actually pretty non-eventful, but I did learn how to use the software to stitch almost 3000 photos together into a short video.

I did some research and located our first out-of-Mississippi destination. We have reservations at Rainbow Plantation near Summerdale, Alabama for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. It’s an Escapees park, so we got a rate of $21/night for full hookups, swimming pool, laundry, etc. While we’re in that area, we’re going to try and catch a performance by Kyle of Drivin’ and Vibin’ (YouTube favorites of ours), as he has gigs in the area each of those days.

After spending all that time on the computer, I took a long walk around the campground, and then came back and made homemade hummus for lunch. Andy cut up a bunch of raw veggies and we chowed down on a pretty healthy meal (except for the Nutter Butter cookies that I picked up a Walmart in Wiggins yesterday).

After cleaning up the dishes we spent the afternoon reading and enjoying the outdoor patio. Today’s weather was the best we’ve had since we’ve been on this trip, with highs in the low 70’s and just enough breeze to keep it comfortable. There are still rigs arriving and leaving, but it’s not nearly as crowded as it was over the weekend.

Time for an afternoon nap. #rvlife #lifeisgood #vacation

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For dinner we had the leftover curry from Saturday night over a baked potato, and it was super yummy. And tonight we’re sitting here in the RV, listening to the geese and the crickets as the day draws to a close.

I’m going to hate leaving this place tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to spending a little time in Biloxi. We need to make a run to the grocery store for a few things (nothing urgent, but just to make sure we have what we need to fix the dishes I have on the menu). I think I’m still over-thinking the meal-planning, but I don’t get to cook very often and I like trying out new dishes with various spices. When Andy cooks for us at home, he keeps things very, very simple, and that’s fine; but I like to be a little more adventurous with my food when I have the opportunity.

So far this trip is only confirming that we definitely want to go full time in our RV, the sooner the better. Nothing has dissuaded us yet. 🙂

Gut-Check Tour – Day 3

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Monday, April 9 2018 – Paul B. Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

One day, this will be my full-time life.

We had the most awesome day today!

After having breakfast and using the campground showers, we left the kitties in the RV and drove down to Gulfport. We stopped in the downtown area which is a couple blocks north of Beach Boulevard, and we had lunch at Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzaria. We both ordered the lunch special which was two slices of cheese pizza and a side salad. The food was really good, but the service was very slow and inept (we weren’t the only ones that were unhappy about the wait).

After lunch we decided to walk around the downtown area for a little while. We explored Fishbone Alley, a tourist attraction made from an alleyway that has been paved with old bricks discovered after Hurricane Katrina destroyed downtown. We checked out the tile murals on the Hancock Bank. And then we found a great little authentic soda fountain and diner in the Triplett-Day Drug Store. It was so cool! Andy and I split a cherry sundae there.

From downtown Gulfport we drove east on Beach Boulevard, stopping at a lighthouse in Jones Park to check it out along with the marina. Next we pulled over on the side of the street and took a walk on the beach were we took what I believe is our best selfie ever.

We’re hanging out on the coast today. #lifeisgood #mississippi #gulfport

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We continued driving through Biloxi and found Cajun RV Park, which we decided on the spot would be our next destination. I called them to check availability for Wednesday and Thursday nights, and they said they could accommodate us.

We continued on to Ocean Springs and located the downtown area that has been turned into quaint little shops and restaurants, a full-fledged entertainment district. We looked around for a little bit but a lot of the shops were closed on Mondays. We were tempted by the pastry shop and the praline shop, but managed to avoid giving in.

We finally headed back north to the campground, stopping in Wiggins to pick up some toiletries that we needed, as well as a new box of wine. When we got here the kitties were fine, I don’t think they missed us at all.

For dinner I cooked a new dish, Spicy Jackfruit Tinga, in the Instant Pot. I added the leftover rice from our Saturday dinner, and we ate the dish in flour tortillas–pretty good, although not as thick and spicy as I had imagined it would be.

All day long, I just marveled at how nice it was to be so free and spontaneous. The walk on the beach in particular was one thing that just brought home to me the fact that by the end of this year, my life will be made up of days just like this one–exploring, taking our time, enjoying life with no time limits or restrictions–I can hardly wait!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 2

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Sunday, April 8, 2018, Paul B. Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

We had a nice relaxing day here at Paul B. Johnson State Park. Meals were oatmeal for breakfast; salad, black beans, an orange and an oatmeal banana cookie for lunch; dried fruit and nuts for snacks; and tofurkey hobo packs for dinner with a glass of wine.

We took a long walk through the park this morning, dodging all the disc golf players who were flinging frisbees everywhere. Lots of folks left today since the weekend’s over, so it’s not quite as crowded.

Good morning! #lifeisgood #rvlife

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This afternoon I set up the GoPro to do a time lapse, which turned out just OK.

We plan to drive down to Gulfport and Biloxi tomorrow to just look around. Maybe we’ll see an RV Park where we might want to move next.

I’m concerned about Molly’s right front paw. She still doesn’t want to put any weight on it. She slept most of the day, but she did take her treats this evening. If it doesn’t get better in the next day or so we may need to find a vet down here.

I reorganized all the groceries in the RV this morning since I couldn’t find things easily (Andy packed the groceries in here before we left.) I’m trying to train myself to keep things put away in their proper place…so important in this small living space.

No really deep thoughts right now, just grateful that I don’t have to report to work tomorrow.

@silverlap and the Bear #lifeisgood

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The Gut-Check Tour – Day 1

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Our vacation has officially started, and it has been a wonderful day!

Fortunately this morning the rain held off, so we were able to bring Lizzy to the house to load her up. We pulled away from the house around 9:45 A.M. and headed south. We had Maggie and Molly crated for the drive, and Andy said they did fine. He drove Lizzy and I followed behind in the truck (now named Vern).

We made it to Meridian about 12:30 and stopped for lunch at Bonita Reservoir Park. This is a city park, and I had researched it on Google when looking for a lunch destination. But Google Earth did not do it justice. The park is beautiful! There is a good-sized lake that is split by a levee that we drove across to get to the boat launch parking lot. There are hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, and lots of picnic tables and pavilions with restrooms. We saw lots of geese and ducks, as well as numerous other types of birds.

While parked in the parking lot we had our salad and pinto beans, as usual, for lunch, followed by some oatmeal banana cookies that I made yesterday. After lunch we walked around the area enjoying the sights, although the breeze was pretty cool, especially coming off the water. It was overcast so we didn’t get the best view of the park, but it was still beautiful, all lush and green with flowers blooming along the split-rail fence.

We stayed in the parking lot for almost two hours and then hit the road again traveling south. We made it to Paul B. Johnson State Park around 4:20 P.M. This park is large, I believe it’s even larger than Tishomingo SP (I know it has more camping sites than Tish does). There was a big disc golf tournament going on when we got here, so there was a lot of traffic. We checked in at the office to get the parking permit for the truck and then found our campsite, number 75.

I love, love, love this campsite. It’s on a straight stretch of road between two camping loops, right along the lakeshore. We’re on the side of the road across from the lake, but there are no campsites directly across the road from us, so there’s no one blocking our view of the lake through our front window. Behind us there are only trees. The campsites in this area are well-spaced so we’re not looking directly into our neighbors’ windows.

It was overcast when we got here, and right about the time Andy finished all the hookups outside, it started to pour down rain. Perfect timing! We settled in for the evening, both of us enjoying a glass of wine. I made a lentil curry dish in the Instant Pot (Curry In A F@cking Hurry) along with some brown rice cooked on the stovetop. I used the new 3-quart Instant Pot, but the recipe calls for more ingredients than this smaller unit can accomodate. I had to leave out about half of the water called for in the recipe, but that actually made the curry even better. It was thick and flavorful, especially over the rice. It looked like it was just starting to possibly stick and scorch on the bottom, but I got it out in time. We have plenty of the curry and rice leftover for other meals later this week.

While we were waiting for our dinner to cook, we sat and talked about the day. I realized that I am so happy!! It was such a perfect day! Well, almost perfect…there was a small problem with the window shade by the bed, but Andy fixed that. And Molly is limping on her right front paw, not sure what’s going on there. But otherwise, it was just a perfect day, the kind of day that I fantasized about when thinking about full-time RV travel.

We’ll be in this park for four nights, leaving on Wednesday morning for parts unknown. We have no plans, no agenda, no reservations. And it feels so freeing on the one hand, but on the other hand I can feel myself wanting–needing–to do something, plan something, clean something. I need to relax.

I used the GoPro and gimbel today and got some pretty good footage at Bonita Reservoir, along with a little bit from the road and from our campsite here at PBJ. That will give me something to play with as I try to hone my skills at creating video content.

Good times!!

Travels on Day 1 of the Gut-Check Tour

Spur of the Moment Camping at Trace State Park

After our last outing to Tombigbee State Park, we sort of assumed that the weather and our work schedules would prohibit us from taking Lizzy out for another getaway until our big trip in April. But last Tuesday we checked the weather forecast for the weekend and found that it actually looked decent, so we decided to make a run for it.

We intended to camp at Tombigbee again, but it was actually booked up for the weekend. Since we needed to be somewhere fairly close to home in case I got a last-minute work assignment, I checked availability at the next-closest state park, which is Trace State Park near Pontotoc, and found that they had plenty of sites available. We booked site #7 for three nights.

We had only been to this park once before, just driving through it last summer to check it out. I remembered thinking that it looked like a great place to camp, very wooded and green with nice bathrooms and showers, and full hookups at most sites. The park is known for the large lake on the property, Old Natchez Trace Lake, which usually draws a lot of folks for fishing and water sports. However, the lake was completely drained last year in order to make repairs on the dam, and it’s still empty. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason there were so many sites available for camping on a beautiful weekend.

Trace State Park, Deer Run Loop Site #7, was our home last weekend.

We arrived around 5:00 P.M. on Thursday afternoon and stayed until about 1:00 P.M. on Sunday. We got a few sprinkles on Friday evening, but mostly it was just overcast. It was pretty windy on Friday and Saturday, and it seemed to be worse where we were parked, as the wind was coming out of the south across the empty lake bed right into the rear of our rig. It was too windy to use the awning, and we didn’t feel comfortable lighting a campfire even though the temperatures were cool enough in the evening that it would have felt marvelous.

We had a very enjoyable time while we were there. I did some hiking on the Baker Trail, a 3-mile loop that winds through the forest and alongside the lake bed. As nice as it is now in late March, I’m sure it’s much more beautiful when the trees are leafed out in the summer, and even more so in the fall when the leaves are at their peak of color.

Here’s a little video that I put together showing our campsite and some of the hiking trail:

So now it’s time to really start planning our big trip in April. We already made reservations for our first stop, but I’ll hold off on revealing those details until we get on the road. So stay tuned, April will be EPIC (at least for us!).

Tombigbee Trip Report, Tire Pressure & More Decluttering

In my last post, we were preparing to head out on our first RV weekend of the year after a cold, wet winter. And we’re so glad we took advantage of the temporary break in the weather because it’s been messy and wet ever since we got back, at least on the weekends.

We drove to Tombigbee State Park on Thursday afternoon, March 1 and stayed in campsite #12 for three nights. This site has full hookups (electric, water and sewer) and is located on the back side of the loop, just across from the bathhouse.

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When we pulled the RV up on the leveling blocks, I noticed that the rear outside tire on the passenger side was low. This was concerning because we also found that the valve stem appeared to be bent to the side down inside the wheel itself, so there was no way to check the pressure with a gauge or to air it up.

When we put the RV up on the leveling blocks, we had only put the blocks under the outside tires on the rear, so we went back and put blocks under the inner tires as well. This appeared to help the low tire since it was no longer bearing all the weight by itself. But the whole time we were there, I was concerned about the low tire pressure (more on that later).

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Other than that problem, the rest of the weekend was perfect. Technically I was still on the clock for work on Friday, but since I work from home most of the time, I was able to bring my laptop and Blackberry with me, using my AT&T hotspot for data connectivity, and therefore enjoy my Friday workday from the campsite. As far as my job duties go, there was no difference between what I did in the RV and what I would have done sitting at my desk in my home office.

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Andy and I enjoyed a hike on Friday at lunchtime, but I couldn’t talk him into hiking with me on Saturday and Sunday, so I hiked alone. He said he was still sore from Friday! The weather was sunny and pleasant the entire time we were there with highs in the upper 60’s and low 70’s. We had campfires on two nights, and used both the charcoal grill and the Instant Pot for dinner preparation. Of course we had our usual Sunday morning cinnamon rolls from the convection oven–those are a MUST!

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Our two cats, Maggie and Molly did very well on this trip. We crated them for the short drive to the park (less than 20 minutes), and once we arrived and let them out of the crates, they settled right in with no complaints. I think they actually enjoy RV life since they get to be with us so much more in the tight quarters than they do at home.

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It did get down to the low 30’s at night. We had decided that since we were going to have shore power for this trip that we would use a small electric space heater rather than running the propane furnace. Why spend our own money when we’ve already paid for electricity, right? So I ordered the Sunpollo 1500W Ceramic Space Heater from Amazon, and it performed beautifully. We ran it on low during the night just to keep the chill off, and when I got up in the morning to make coffee I turned it on high to warm things up a bit more. We’re very pleased with this product so far!

I was so sad for the weekend to come to an end, but we have plenty to do to continue with our preparations for full-timing later this year.

But first of all, we had to resolve the issue with the low tire. Since this was a brand new tire that was just put on the RV last fall, Andy drove Lizzy back to the tire store where they were installed. The good news was that the valve stem is actually designed to bend, and it was no problem to straighten it out where we can access it for monitoring the pressure and airing up the tire. The not-so-good things we found out were (1) we still can’t reach the valve stems on the inside tires, and (2) our little air compressor was not powerful enough to fill up these big truck tires.

So, it’s back to Amazon. Andy did some online research and then ordered the Viair 40047 400P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit.  It comes with a nice case and all the necessary attachments to run it from the rig battery (house or engine).

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He was able to use the new compressor to get all our tires to the appropriate PSI, and now we don’t have to worry about being far away from a gas station when our tires need air. The old compressor will go into our next garage sale.

I’m still working on decluttering and downsizing, completing several projects over the last couple of weeks:

  • I finished scanning and digitizing all of my/our paper photos, saving them to JPG files which I’ve uploaded to my Dropbox account. Andy still needs to go through his old photo albums and decide what he wants to do with them.
  • Speaking of Dropbox, I went ahead and paid for a 1TB storage space since this will be our Cloud repository for documents and photos that we want to keep and have access to while on the road.
  • I bought three Case Logic hardshell DVD binders to store most of our DVD collection. Each case holds 70 discs, so there’s room for 210. We had already picked out which DVDs we planned to keep, so I transferred each of them from their individual cases into the new binders. I also printed out labels for each of the slots in the binder, as well as a list of all the titles in each binder so we can easily see which DVDs are stored where.

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It doesn’t look like we’ll have another chance to take Lizzy out before we do our two-week trip in April. Right now our plans are to spend two weeks meandering around southern Mississippi and Alabama, as well as northern Florida. However, we’re going to wait until the week before we leave to make any concrete plans, as we want to see what the weather looks like. If it seems like it will be too warm and muggy on the coast, we may possibly go north into Tennessee or even the Ozarks of Arkansas instead.

That pretty much brings you up to date with our RV life for the moment, at least the details that I can share publicly. When the time is right, we’ll talk a little more about our long-range plans, so stay tuned!

Let the 2018 RVing Season Begin!

This has been a miserably cold and wet winter, but wonder of wonders–this weekend is supposed to be beautiful here in Northeast Mississippi! So we have booked a reservation at Tombigbee State Park for the upcoming weekend, just about 18 minutes from our house, and we’re going to spend some quality time with Lizzy!

Got Lizzy uncovered for the year. Andy is inspecting the condition of the roof.

On my lunch break today we went to the storage facility and removed the cover from Lizzy, exposing her to the sun for the first time since last fall. We found a couple of little things that weren’t perfect–there was a little bit of water on the bathroom floor below the overhead vent, and the vent fan over the bed had a tiny bit of water caught in its bug screen. Both vent covers were intact, so we’re thinking it was probably (hopefully) just condensation. We plugged Lizzy in to shore power so the refrigerator can start cooling down, and I left a dehumidifier running inside. It’s supposed to rain quite a bit over the next 48 hours, so we’ll check to make sure there are no leaks.

On the outside, we found that a section of the vinyl insert trim molding had come loose above the cab on the passenger side. We were able to re-insert it into its track to cover the screws, but it may not hold since it’s been stretched. We’ll need to keep an eye on it.

Vinyl insert trim molding came loose while in storage.

We’re still making upgrades and improvements to systems in the RV. For instance, the TV is located in the over-cab area, and we watch from our seats at the dinette. On our previous trips in the summertime, we found that it was really hard to hear the sound from the TV while the air conditioner is running right over our heads. To resolve the problem, I purchased a YanLitek Bluetooth transmitter that plugs into the back of the TV and transmits the audio to our Hex 808 Bluetooth speaker. We can set the speaker on the dinette ledge right next to our heads while we watch TV or movies. Unfortunately there is a slight lag between the audio on the TV speaker and the audio transmission via Bluetooth to the Hex 808, so we can’t use both audio sources simultaneously, but just having the Hex speaker close to our ears at the dinette will make a huge difference.

YanLitek Bluetooth Transmitter, Portable Wireless Audio Adapter with 3.5mm and RCA Cable Adapter

Transmitter plugged in to the back of the TV using the USB port and the audio out jacks.

Here’s a link to the product description on Amazon. It was $18 and change, and is well worth the small investment.

Since we’ll have shore power for this camping weekend, we’ve decided to use a small Sunpollo ceramic electric heater for nighttime warmth (supposed to be in the high 30’s at night). After all, why deplete our propane supplies when we’re already paying for electricity? We ordered this heater for our RV from Amazon for $38.

This past Sunday afternoon we took a drive over to the park to check out the available sites. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t reserve a site that had a lot of standing water, especially around the picnic table or fire pit. We decided on site #15 as our first choice, and site #12 as our backup. By the time I got around to making the reservation on Sunday evening, site #15 was already gone. Bummer! But it just tells me that there are a lot of other people who are itching to get outside once the sun comes out and the the temperatures rise a little!

Now it’s time to plan the menu for the weekend and get the packing list printed out. So excited!!

Sizing Up the RV

Andy and I spent some time in the RV this afternoon. Yeah, she’s actually parked in a storage lot with her cover over her, but we took advantage of some spare time on this cloudy, dreary day to start sizing her up for future organization ideas.

We took pictures of every drawer, cabinet and vertical space, and recorded the measurements of each. We even measured the inside of the refrigerator and freezer.

I’ve stored all the photos and measurements in my Evernote cloud account so I can access them from any of my devices. If I run across something that looks like it would be a good organizational option, I want to be able to refer to my notes to know right away if it will actually fit in its intended spot.

It was a good exercise to actually eyeball the insides of all our little cubbyholes, because we found where the wiring and plumbing might interfere with storage, but we also found places where we could reconfigure things a little bit to gain a few precious cubic inches.

I think I’ll just keep that tape measure in my purse from now on, in case something at the Dollar Tree catches my eye! And now I’ll start thinking of all my clothes and possessions in terms of cubic inches (not to mention weight, but that’s another subject).

New Fire Extinguisher

You may have heard about the huge recall that was issued last year on Kidde fire extinguishers. (If not you can check it out here.) The recall affected almost 38 million fire extinguishers, many of which were used in RV’s and motorhomes, including ours.

We received a recall notification from Thor last month informing us of the process we needed to follow to exchange our potentially-dangerous equipment. Andy called the recall hotline to arrange shipment of a new unit, and it arrived today!

The new unit has metal parts where the old one had plastic.

Now we just have to box up the old unit in the same shipping box and send it back. Easy peasy, and a little more peace of mind.