Tombigbee State Park | Kitties Go Camping

It’s been a week and I’m just now getting around to reporting back on our camping experience at Tombigbee State Park on June 9-12, 2017 . It was awesome!

Tombigbee SP is located less than fifteen minutes from our house, and we chose that location because we were taking our two kitties, Maggie and Molly, along with us for their first ever camping experience. We wanted to be close to home in case there was a major freak-out in the RV and we needed to take them back to familiar surroundings. We needn’t have worried however; once we got to the location and let them out of their crates, Maggie made herself busy exploring her new environment inside the RV. She’s always been the more adventurous of the two. Molly, on the other hand, stayed inside her crate up in the overhead compartment until we went to bed, and then she came and got in bed with us. She was fine after that for the rest of the weekend.

Molly Ann – she liked the high space

Maggie Mae – The explorer

We parked our RV, Lizzy, in site #11, which turned out to be a perfect spot. It was very shady with lots of grassy space behind the RV. There was a nice picnic table along with a fire ring (which we did not use). The space was not quite level, but a few leveling blocks took care of that. The site had full hookups (30 amp electricity, water and sewer), and we paid $14/night using the senior discount available to those over 65 (hubby, not me!).  We were right across from the bathhouse, which was very nice and clean. In addition to toilets, it had free showers along with pay laundry machines. The sites in the campground were well-spaced, and the people camped there were all friendly and well-behaved.

There’s not a lot to do in the park as far as activities go. There’s a lake for fishing, and there are two disc golf courses that meander through the beautiful wooded hills. There’s a big playground for the kids, and several hiking trails. There are also cabins for rent, and they look decent. We were happy to spend our time reading, walking, shooting video with the GoPro, and cooking and eating some delicious food.

Sunset on the lake in Tombigbee State Park

Each morning I enjoyed taking a walk down the park road shortly after sunrise. It was quiet and peaceful with only the birds making noise. I saw a huge owl fly up into a tree not far from me–it turned and looked at me for a couple of seconds before flying on. So spectacular! I also came across this turtle that had just dug itself out of the rain-softened ground to get some morning sun.

Good morning, Mr. Turtle!

I saw beautiful flowers blooming, as well as wild blackberries on the side of the road.

Wild blackberries

Wildflowers in bloom

We stayed three nights in the park and enjoyed every minute of it. We did run the air conditioner the whole time we were there as the temperatures were in the mid-to-high 80’s. The humidity level on the first day was around 39%, but it got up into the 65-70% range on the last day. We brought along a large electric fan that we used when sitting outside under the awning in the afternoons and were very comfortable.

Our living room

We liked Tombigbee State Park so much that we have already reserved a space for July and August. It’s just so convenient to have such a beautiful park so close by as we continue to learn more about how the RV functions. It’s comforting to know that we’re close to home in case something goes haywire, at least for the next few trips. In fact, I had a dentist appointment scheduled for Monday morning, our last day there. So I just got up early, drove home to take a shower and put on my non-camping “face” and clothes, went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned, and then drove back to camp!

We did have one little issue with a leaky window on this trip, and I’ll be filling you in on the details in my next blog post, so stay tuned for that!

Foil Packet Vegan Cooking for RVing and Camping

One of our favorite methods of cooking while camping or RVing is using foil packets.

On our last trip I put together packets with red potatoes; yellow onion; red, yellow and green bell peppers; Tofurkey meat-free Italian sausage; and Mrs. Dash salt-free Southwest Chipotle seasoning. These were wrapped in heavy duty Reynolds aluminum foil that is specially made for the grill–it has a non-stick side that helps keep everything from getting messy. Then the packets just go on the grill for awhile–the cooking time depends on the quantity of food in your packets, the temperature of your coals, etc. It’s not rocket science, you can always unwrap one end and test the veggies with a fork, and throw it back on the grill if it’s not done. Ours usually take 35-45 minutes to cook.

Here’s how I put them together on our last trip–try this recipe out and let us know in the comments how you enjoyed it!

Swinging Bridge at Tishomingo State Park (Video)

We’re getting ready to go on our second camping trip in our new RV this weekend, and I’m just now getting around to editing more footage from our first trip two weeks ago. My work schedule has picked up significantly in June, and I’m already ready for a break in the woods!

As you remember, our first RVing trip was to Tishomingo State Park, one of my favorite spots from my childhood here in North Mississippi. Tishomingo has a beautiful swinging bridge which crosses Bear Creek. On the other side of the bridge are some gorgeous hiking trails with exposed rock outcroppings. We only walked down the beginning of the trail as Andy is still somewhat recovering from fracturing his leg last October and the surgery which followed. He did pretty well on the steps leading up the incline, but we didn’t want to push it on the rock climbing.

Enjoy the video, and stay tuned as we report back from our next destination, Tombigbee State Park. And this time, the CATS will be with us!!

When the Universe Speaks, Listen

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Have you ever been faced with making a life-changing decision, and found that circumstances and coincidences present the answers to your questions almost before you’ve asked them?

I’ve found this to be true more than once in my life–when changing jobs, moving across the country, marrying the love of my life. Every time I was faced with a huge opportunity to make my life better, I would start to ask those questions: How will this work? Can I do this? Is it worth the risk? What if I fail?

And every time, the answers to those questions just appeared at the right time. Sometimes it would be a book, sometimes a friend’s advice, sometimes a television documentary, sometimes just a passing comment from a stranger.  Those fleeting bits of advice or voices of experience would provide answers to my questions, along with the courage and confidence to make those leaps of faith into the unknown.

Andy and I have dreamed of becoming full-time RVers for almost twenty-five years, since right after we got married. Our original plan had been to wait until I hit full retirement age for Social Security, but this year we asked ourselves the question, “Can we do this earlier? Do we really need to wait eight more years?”

And suddenly we were being inundated with green lights from the Universe. We found a huge community of full-time RVers of all ages on YouTube, all documenting their travels and providing a wealth of information and advice on living the RV lifestyle.

I contacted my investment advisor only to talk about rebalancing my portfolio of retirement accounts, and he suggested doing some retirement planning. So Andy and I told him of our dream and asked whether it would be feasible to move up the schedule. He ran the numbers and said, absolutely it was possible, that it should not be a problem based on our lifestyle and ages. Another green light!

We had never actually met anyone who was a full-time RVer…..that is, until we made the decision to actually pull the trigger. And now in the past few weeks, they seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

First we met a couple from Buffalo, New York who stopped by our booth at the Oxford Makers Market where Andy sells his handmade silver jewelry. This wonderful couple regaled us with stories from their travels, and were so excited about the lifestyle they were living.

“Any regrets?”, we asked.

“Absolutely not!”, they both said. “Don’t put it off, just go for it!”

Then today, again at the Oxford Makers Market, we met a sweet older lady who just happened to mention that she had been a full-time RVer. Of course our ears perked up, and soon we were listening to her stories. She and her husband (who sadly passed away last December) spent thirteen years on the road, starting out in a Class C, and trading RVs six times for a total of seven rigs over their full-timing journey, including travel trailers, fifth wheels, and concluding with a Class A. She had us in stitches as she recounted the story of her husband getting drenched when the sewer hose wasn’t fastened securely when dumping the black tank. She gave us advice about what to look for in a rig, and she gave us confidence that we, too, can learn to tow a trailer behind a large pickup truck.

“Any regrets?”, we asked.

“Absolutely not!”, she said. “If I could find a rig I could afford, I would go out on my own right now!”

As with any dream, it’s easy to find excuses to just accept the status quo and stay put. But I’ve known or heard about too many people who put off their dreams for too long, and then passed away just weeks after “retiring”. When the Universe tells you it’s time to act, don’t wait! Open your heart, your ears, your eyes, and pay attention to those signposts leading you onward.

Of course there will be challenges to be overcome. Of course there will be new things to learn. Of course there will be times when you wonder if you’re on the right path.

But I’d rather face the end of my life with mind full of wonderful memories than a heart full of regret for all the chances I never took.

Our dream, our goal, our plan is to be full-time RVers by the end of 2018. To reach that goal, we have a lot to do, but we’re already on our way. And every time one of those voices from the Universe speaks up, we know we’re on the right path.

Our First Camping Trip in Lizzy | Tishomingo SP

Our first outing in Lizzy has been a rousing success!

We spent the past weekend at Tishomingo State Park in the northeast corner of Mississippi, about an hour from our home in Tupelo. It’s a place of scenic beauty, although the facilities are beginning to show the effects of budget cutbacks in the state’s financial priorities.

When we made our reservations for the campground, there were only two RV sites available, so we didn’t have a lot of choice about where we parked. Our site was #20 which was located on the side of a hill across the road from the lake. Like all the sites in the park, ours was very wooded and shady. On the downside, there was a lot of moisture seeping from natural springs in the hillside running alongside our concrete pad, making it continuously moist (and that was BEFORE the rain). The grill and picnic table were uphill behind the RV, and since the hill was so steep, the picnic table sat at an incline. The RV pad itself was just slightly off-level, so we used leveling blocks under the front wheels to correct the slant.

Since this was our first RV experience ever, we wanted to make sure we tried and tested every system and piece of equipment in Lizzy. We ran the air conditioner almost the entire time we were there since it was so warm and humid. We quickly adapted to the foot-flush toilet, and enjoyed our hot-water showers although we kept them short to avoid filling up the gray tank. And we enjoyed watching a couple of DVDs on the 32″ flat-screen TV when it was raining outside.

The refrigerator and freezer worked perfectly, keeping all our perishable foods fresh (very important for us since we eat a LOT of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables). The three-burner propane stove lit up with no problem. We quickly learned to work around the small, shallow kitchen sink by using a plastic basin to wash the dishes and then rinsing them in the sink. The highlight of our equipment “testing” was the combination microwave/convection oven. I steamed vegetables in the microwave, but I also baked cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast using the convection feature, a first for me. They came out AMAZING!

All the electrical systems worked correctly, as did the awning. There was plenty of power in the 30-amp system to power everything that we needed, including our electric coffee percolator and my Instant Pot, which we used to cook dinner on Sunday night.

We had no problems co-existing in the small space. The large windows make the space seem larger, and we also spent a lot of time outdoors. The bed is technically a full XL (you have no idea how hard it is to find fitted sheets for that mattress), but with the foam pad that we added on top of the RV mattress, it was very comfortable, even though it was cozy.

There was only one glitch that we noticed, and it happened on the drive over and then again on the last morning before we drove back. The RV has a dashboard system that includes the backup camera monitor, radio, auxiliary input, etc. For some reason, we could not get the display to work so Andy could not see directly behind him as he drove. For some reason, once we got to the campsite and hooked up to shore power, the display worked fine, at least until the last morning. Not only were we able to use the auxiliary input to play music from my iPhone, but we could also see behind the RV via the display coming from the backup camera. But then, mysteriously, it stopped working again on the last morning. It’s something we’ll have to figure out, but Andy just used the extended side mirrors during the drive with no problems.

There were some other minor things–no conveniently-located electric outlet for the electric percolator (it has a very short cord); the air conditioner is pretty loud which makes it hard to hear the TV; there was no rack in the convection oven to place the baking pan on, so I just jury-rigged one out of the included grilling rack which I knew we would never use for grilling since we don’t eat meat.

Our final initiation into RV life came as we were leaving when we had to dump the gray and black tanks for the first time. We had watched enough YouTube videos to feel pretty confident about the process, and we made it through without making a mess or gagging.

I shot lots of video with the GoPro, so stay tuned for some footage of our stay at Tishomingo. We had some excitement on our second night when a storm front moved through around 12:45 AM with near-continuous lightning and straight-line winds near 70 MPH. We were fine inside the RV, and it wasn’t until we took a drive through the park the next day that we saw all the downed trees and branches. So thankful that no one was hurt, as far as we know.

Now we’re looking forward to our next trip in less than two weeks, when we’ll be introducing our two fur-babies, our cats Maggie and Molly, to RV life. There’s no way we can plan to make this a full-time lifestyle if the fur-babies are not part of it, so their initiation begins soon. Wish us luck!

What’s On The Menu

Only 24 hours left now until we take our first trip in our new RV, Lizzy. At lunchtime today, we went to the storage facility and removed her cover for the first time since we parked her there about five weeks ago. Now Andy is taking her out to get her filled up with gas, and is checking all the critical things like fluid levels and tire pressures.

I, on the other hand, am concentrating on the more important issues like, What are we going to eat?!

We learned from our tent camping days that it helps to come up with a menu for the trip and then take only the items needed to prepare those pre-planned meals. Not only does it ensure that you don’t forget critical ingredients, but it also helps avoid over-packing the cupboards and refrigerator with unneeded items, especially junk and snack foods.

Both Andy and I stick to a whole foods, plant-based diet, and we also avoid oils and salt. We both try to avoid refined sugars, and I also try to avoid bread and wheat products as much as possible. While we may occasionally slip up and have a small amount of dairy or eggs (desserts are my devil), we never, ever eat meat.

So our menu for camping will look a little different than what most people expect to see at a campsite, especially on Memorial Day weekend. But it’s the type of food that we enjoy and feel good about eating, and it helps keep us healthy and happy.

Here’s what we’ll be eating this weekend at Camp Lizzy:

Breakfast – We’ll start each day with refrigerator oats. This dish includes oats, chia seeds, raisins (Andy) or Craisins (me), sliced banana, fresh berries, walnuts and almond milk. I’ve already pre-made kits of the dry ingredients in ziplock bags, and each evening I’ll add mix the dry ingredients with the fruit and almond milk in a plastic container, mix it up and then store it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, it’s a sweet, filling, healthy treat to start the day, accompanied by a big mug of hot coffee. As a special treat, we’re going to have cinnamon rolls one morning.

Lunch – Lunch each day will be wraps made with hummus, shredded broccoli/carrot mix (pre-shredded from the produce section), cucumber and tomato slices and kalamata olives. We’ll have some salt-free blue corn chips and salsa on the side, and fresh fruit for dessert.

Dinner – Evening meals get more creative and varied:

  • Friday night – Grilled black bean burgers with BBQ sauce, avocado, tomato; vegetarian baked beans; corn on the cob (cooked on the grill)
  • Saturday night – Foil packets containing potatoes, onions, peppers and Tofurkey sausage links (cooked on the grill); green beans
  • Sunday night – Bomb Diggity Black Bean Rice (recipe from “Epic Vegan Instant Pot Cooking” by Derek & Hannah Howlett); broccoli

And yes, on Sunday night, we will be cooking in our Instant Pot, as all up-to-date RV’ers do. We’ve had our IP for a couple of years now, and totally love it!

Since we want to to test out all the appliances on the first trip, we’ll be using the microwave (for steamable bagged veggies), the convection oven (for cinnamon rolls), the propane stove (for heating canned baked beans), and of course the refrigerator/freezer. Woo-hoo, no ice chest!

We usually drink plain water with our meals, but we will have some beer and wine on hand as well.

Snacks will include fresh fruit (grapes, bananas, apples, tangerines), almonds, and possibly a little vegan dark chocolate.

My goal is to make it through this weekend without gaining more than one pound, preferably less. But it is a vacation after all, and we intend to enjoy ourselves, vegan-style.

Introducing Our YouTube Channel

Today you can learn just about anything you want to know just by watching YouTube videos. And that includes finding out everything both good and bad, positive and negative, about the RV lifestyle.

I started searching for full-time RVers on YouTube a few months ago, and was amazed at the number of people that are actively sharing their lives and adventures on the Internet. There are men and women, both young and old, traveling solo in everything from small cars (Prius included) to tricked out motorhomes. There are young couples who are criss-crossing the country while working full-time via remote connection from their RV. There are families with children that are home-schooling their kids while exploring not only the U.S. but Canada and Mexico as well.

These people are documenting their experiences in vlogs and sharing them with the world, offering a wealth of knowledge and advice to people like us who are hoping to follow in their footsteps. Reading books about RV’s is fine, but seeing and hearing from real people, and being able to ask them questions through the comments section of the videos, is priceless!

I’ve listed my favorite RVing YouTube channels in the sidebar of this blog’s homepage, but here’s a shout-out to some of my absolute favorites:

  • CheapRVLiving – Bob Wells is the definitive source of information for those who are looking for a way to live off-grid in the most economical yet comfortable way possible. His interviews with solo car-and-van dwellers will amaze and inspire you. He also does a lot of equipment demonstrations that are very helpful.
  • Keep Your Daydream – This family of five from the Phoenix, Arizona area have been full-timing it for several years, and their travel videos are amazing. They recently did a whole series from Mexico, and now Mexico is definitely on our bucket list.
  • Long Long Honeymoon – Sean and Kristy are from Alabama. They tow a travel trailer all over the United States, and they are hilarious as well as informative. Their footage from Yellowstone National Park is beautiful.
  • Nomadic Fanatic – Eric is a solo traveler–well, not exactly solo since he answers to his traveling companion, a huge cat named Jax. Eric travels in a Class C motorhome, and as of this writing he is following Route 66 from west to east, and providing great commentary along the way.
  • Less Junk, More Journey – Nathan, Marissa and their young daughter Hensley are from Tennessee. They live in an Airstream trailer, traveling all over the country. They even took Marissa’s mom along with them on their most recent trip to the Grand Canyon and Utah.

I encourage you to check out the full list of YouTubers in sidebar to this blog–you’ll be hooked!

We’ve been so inspired by all the great content that these people provide that we’ve decided to launch our own YouTube channel to document our journey from being RV newbies to (hopefully) full-timers. We don’t have a great vlogging camera, microphones, stabilizers or drones, but we’re taking our cue from other RV vloggers who are creating great content using an iPhone and a selfie stick.

I’ve created a couple of vlog videos using our Samsung OIS Duo camcorder and my Nikon Coolpix P530. I’ve created videos of our past cruises using Microsoft Movie Maker on my PC, but for our new channel, I’m testing out Corel’s VideoStudio X10. It has so much more functionality, and so far I really like it.

Our new channel is called, of course, Just Call Us Nomads, and I hope you’ll visit it and subscribe! I also hope that one day I can look back at these first crappy videos and marvel at how much better I’ve gotten at producing the same quality content as my online mentors!

Here’s a link to our most recent post, where we are setting up housekeeping in Lizzy even while she’s under wraps at the storage facility. Enjoy!

Eight Days and Counting

Only eight days left until we take Lizzy out for our first camping trip since we purchased her on April 23. I can hardly wait!

Why so long, you ask? Good question.

Andy is a silversmith and lapidary artist, and he makes beautiful sterling silver and natural stone jewelry. He sells his work at various festivals and markets around North Mississippi (and sometimes Tennessee). At the time we purchased Lizzy, he already had shows booked for every weekend up until now, and of course I had to work during the week, so we’ve been waiting for an open date to hit the road.

And that open date is Memorial Day weekend…yes, it’s going to be crowded, but that’s OK.

And in the grand scheme of things, it has actually worked out better this way. Since this is our first RV, we needed to do some shopping for equipment and furnishings to get Lizzy outfitted properly. The UPS guys have made regular stops at our house with boxes from Amazon over the past several weeks, and we made our first trip to Camping World (over an hour away) to gather all the things we’ll need for both hook-up camping and boondocking.

Our dining room table is covered with the last of the purchases. We also pulled out some of our old dishes and cooking utensils from our tent-camping equipment to use as our starter set until we go full-time.  This weekend we’ll carry all this stuff over to the storage lot where Lizzy is patiently waiting, and we’ll get her set up and ready to go.

camping stuff on table

I’m looking forward to doing the homemaking things like making the bed, storing the bath linens, hanging the command hooks, putting the dishes away…all the homey stuff. Andy is looking forward to filling up the basement storage with all his “toys”–leveling blocks, wheel chocks, extra hoses, tools–the manly stuff.

Since neither of us have ever spent any time in an RV before, this is all a learning experience for us. We are total newbies, but we are both adventurous souls and we have had this dream for over twenty years. It’s time to make it happen.

This blog is intended to document our journey from the very beginning as we chase our ultimate goal of becoming full-time RVers, traveling around this beautiful, amazing country in which we live. We’re just getting started, and it’s going to be an amazing ride!!