Move-In Day

The big day finally arrived! We moved out of our sticks-and-bricks home, and into our 24′ Class C RV where we will live and travel full time.
Of course, we aren’t totally free of the house just yet. The sale does not close until Wednesday (three days away), but almost all of our worldly possessions have been sold, donated, gifted or sent to the landfill. And I can’t tell you just how freeing that feels!
We got up around 5AM this morning to get started on the big day. My brother, Steve, came by around 6:30 when he got off his shift at the hospital. He picked up our television to replace his TV which got fried by a lightning strike a couple of weeks ago. We were so glad that we were able to help them out, especially since they have been so helpful to us in getting the workshop cleared out and ready for closing. He also brought over a dozen fresh doughnuts, which just sweetened the deal!
We picked up Lizzy (our RV) from the storage yard around 7:45, filled her up with gas (35 gallons @ $83.75), brought her home and parked her at the end of the driveway. Then we started the process of moving our stuff out of the house and into the RV.
While Andy was working on loading up the outside basement storage area, I started with clothes and wardrobe items since those went in the rear overhead bins above the bed. It’s hard to believe that all my clothes now fit into such a small space. We’re using packing cubes to help keep things organized, but it will still take some time to get used to finding specific t-shirts and shorts amongst all the different packing cubes.
Next I started loading the overhead/over-cab area at the front of the RV. This was fairly straight-forward since we had already planned out this storage arrangement on our dining room floor. It was just a matter of picking up bins, carrying them to the RV and placing them in the same arrangement that we had configured in the dining room.
Then it was time to start on the real challenge, loading the kitchen and dining area. This was especially challenging for a couple of reasons. First of all, Andy and I eat primarily a plant-based diet, and we eat very little processed food, sticking mainly to fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and grains. Because of that, we have a lot of kitchen utensils, spices and gadgets that we feel are essential to our diet. The RV has very limited storage space in the kitchen area, so we had to get very creative and put a lot of things in the overhead space.
Just to give you an idea, we have two Instant Pots (3 qt and 6 qt), a Crock Pot, a Vitamix blender, a full-size Cuisinart food processor, a mini Cuisinart food processor, and a Ninja blender. When we were considering what things were essential to our livestyle and what we needed to downsize, we both agreed that a healthy diet was of utmost importance to us, and was something that we were unwilling to compromise on. So our RV (and the truck) will be carrying a lot of kitchen equipment, along with a lot of fresh produce, beans and grains.
In the middle of loading up the RV, we had more people come by to pick up furniture items. One lady had reserved one of the recliners when she came to our yard sale several weeks ago, and she picked it up today. Our next door neighbors (the good ones!) got one of the beds, and our other neighbors up the street picked up a cabinet and a pair of sawhorses that they purchased at the yard sale. It was good to get more of the stuff moved out of the house even while we were loading up Lizzy.
And it was so HOT today! I think the high temperature was around 93°, and of course it was humid, so that made it just a litte more miserable. We opened all the windows in the RV and turned on all the fans, which was a great idea until wasps started flying around inside. They even started building a next on the awning supports, so Andy had to get out the wasp spray to get rid of them.
We worked ourselves pretty hard until around 2:45 when we decided it was time to start winding down. Andy started up the generator and turned on the A/C inside the RV to let it start cooling down while we loaded a few more items. Around 3:30 we were ready to start the drive over to Tombigbee State Park where we’re staying this week.
Of course, the cats, Maggie and Molly knew exactly what was going on and decided it was a good time to hide under the bed. I had to get the vacuum cleaner after them to chase them back out into the hallway where we were able to corral them and get them into their carriers for the trip.
We got to the campground a little after 4PM and got set up pretty quickly. Then we both got a good shower, had a cold brew and then relaxed for the evening. When it came time for dinner, we were too tired to really put too much effort into it. We had decided not to stock the refigerator and freezer today because the unit was not cold enough after sitting in the hot sun without air conditioning all day. The only food we had on board was some canned beans, canned tomatoes and lots of dried beans, rice and other grains. So we mixed a can of black beans with a can of diced tomatoes, threw in some Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning and some other spices, and enjoyed a quick bean soup.
Tomorrow we’ll go back to the house to continue cleaning out what’s left. We’ll have to take a load to Goodwill and possibly a load to the dump. I’m going to put a lot of stuff in the garage to see if the neighbors need any of it (toaster, printer, etc.) We’ll clear out the refrigerator and freezer and bring some of that stuff to the RV, and we’ll also hit the grocery store for some fresh produce. Our goal is to have the house empty by the end of the day tomorrow (Monday).
On Tuesday we’ll go back and concentrate on cleaning–sweeping, mopping, cleaning the shower, etc.
And then on Wednesday, we close on the sale!
Thursday we plan to just relax and maybe do a little more organizing.
And then on Friday, we’ll pull out of here and head west toward Texas.
But tonight is our first night in the RV as full-timers, and I am just giddy I’m so excited! This is a day we have dreamed of for so long and it’s finally here!
Life is good!!

Gut-Check Tour – Let’s Review!

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.

I finally had a chance to sit down at the computer and review all of our data from our 16-day Gut-Check Tour, and thought I’d share some of the interesting statistics.

For those of you who are new to the blog, we travel in a 24′ Class C RV which Andy drives, and I follow behind in our 2004 Toyota Tacoma Prerunner with a camper shell. We also travel with two cats.

We left Tupelo on Saturday, April 7, and returned on Sunday, April 22. I don’t have the actual miles traveled on either vehicle, but according to Google maps, the route for our trip covered 933 miles. This would be the miles that the RV covered ONLY, and would not include the miles that we drove in the Tacoma for side trips.

Here are some of the numbers for what we spent:

Campsite Fees (including taxes, miscellaneous fees)

We stayed at five different sites on our travels, and were able to get discounts at four of them. Our total campsite fees were $382.96, which were broken down as follows:

Gasoline

We started our trip with over three-quarters tank of gas in the RV, but we haven’t refilled the tank since we returned. Therefore, these figures don’t accurately reflect the amount of gas that we used for the trip, but only shows what we spent while traveling. The total amount spent was $316.42:

  • For the RV – Two stops, $184.40 for 74.6 gallons, average price $2.47/gallon. (On the second stop, the pump cut off at $100, so we didn’t actually completely fill the tank, and that has prevented me from calculating our MPG until the next fill-up.)
  • For the Tacoma – $132.02 for 51.97 gallons, average price $2.54/gallon

Attractions and Entertainment

We really enjoy our sight-seeing excursions, but we didn’t try to go somewhere or do something every day. We’re perfectly happy reading a good book, walking on the beach or taking hikes, which are free. But we also enjoy learning about new places and their history, so we allowed time and budget for exploring. In addition to the list below, we also spent $24 playing the penny slot machines in Biloxi, Mississippi, but we won more than we spent, plus we got free drinks, so that was more of an investment, right? The total for attractions and entertainment was $85:

Food and Drinks

One of the best things about RV life is having access to a full kitchen for all your meals. We eat a primarily whole-foods, plant-based  diet, which means a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, oats and other whole grains, big salads, beans and legumes, and nuts/seeds. We do splurge occasionally, especially on Sunday mornings when we have Pillsbury cinnamon rolls baked in our convection microwave oven, and we did eat out a few times when we were sight-seeing during the day, but most of our meals were in the RV.

Total food cost was $341.03, broken down as follows:

  • Groceries – $181.36, including stocking up on the day before we left.
  • Wine – $21.99
  • Dining out – $137.68, includes four meals plus two treats (Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream in Biloxi, and beignets and sno-balls in Panama City Beach)

Other Miscellaneous

We picked up a few new items for the RV, most of which will be used after this trip, but I’m throwing them on this report anyway:

  • Consumables (dishwashing liquid, cleaning supplies, toilet paper) – $9.92
  • Equipment (step-stool for accessing the over-cab area, windshield mount for iPhone) – $48.89
  • Furnishings (shoe organizer, matching towels to cover dinette cushions to protect from cat hair) – $23.65

Adding It All Up

And that brings our total spending on our trip to $1,207.87. I don’t think that’s too bad for a 16-day vacation for two people and two cats!

What We Learned

While this was a vacation, the main purpose of the trip was to give ourselves a gut-check, to make sure that we can be happy living in and out of a small RV for an extended amount of time, without having a concrete plan or schedule of where we’re going to be for the next week or two. We needed to see if we could function without getting on each others’ nerves too much, and if we could deal with the inevitable stress that comes when things don’t go exactly as planned–things break, campsites are not as advertised, weather gets nasty, cats want to be fed EVERY MORNING at 5AM. Just the little things in life.

And I think we came through with flying colors! This trip only reinforced our decision to follow our dream of twenty-five years and pursue full-time travel while living in an RV. We feel like we’ve done our homework and due diligence, and that we’re making an informed decision concerning how we want to live our golden years. We’ve saved money all our working lives, and we’ve invested in vehicles and equipment that will serve us well in the future. We’ve educated and tested ourselves, and now we’re both excited and anxious to get this show on the road, literally!

On this trip, we got lots of experience at finding enough wireless signal to enable us to use the internet to research campgrounds and parks where we wanted to stay. We got more experience at managing our gray and black tank capacity when staying at a site with no sewer hookups. (I wish we had done more dry camping, but we’ll save that for another day.)

We tried some new recipes for the Instant Pot, we found places to refill our drinking water jugs, we verified that we can stock enough fresh leafy green vegetables in our small refrigerator to make our huge salads, and we confirmed that we can easily stick to our WFPB diet while living on the road.

We also discovered that there are some gorgeous city parks (specifically Bonita Reservoir Park in Meridian, Mississippi and Johnny Henderson Family Park in Enterprise, Alabama) that make wonderful spots to stop for lunch on travel days, providing a place to rest and revitalize while getting a good home-prepared meal.

Finally, we confirmed what we expected, that once we go full-time we will want to stay put for more than just two-three days at a time. Not only are moving days more stressful for everyone, including the kitties, it’s also more expensive to move more often due to fuel costs. The beauty of full-time RV life is having the flexibility to park your house in a different place on a different day. In the future, when we find a spot we like, we intend to stay as long as we’re comfortable there, or until we hit the time limit for the site.

What’s Next?

We will definitely be moving forward with our plan to become full-time RVers. We’re not ready yet to publicly announce anything as concrete as a date, but we’re already in the process of downsizing and getting rid of our “stuff”. We’ll be ready to give more details in the next 60 days, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, we’ll be taking a few short trips locally, since that’s what fits into my work schedule for the time being. We have a few maintenance items to take care of on/in the RV – fixing the drawer that won’t close all the way, replacing the stabilizers that got bent up in Alabama, implementing some storage/organization solutions in the bathroom, etc.

But, yeah, we’ve definitely stirred up our nomad blood, so the rest of this year is going to be EPIC!

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.

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.

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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 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.

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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.

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@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!

Wall Doxey – Return of the Ants

We made our second trip to Wall Doxey State Park over the Labor Day weekend, and despite an “antsy” start, we enjoyed the weekend immensely.

We left home after I finished work on Friday afternoon, pulling out from home just after 5PM, and arriving at our campsite a little after 6PM. This time we were in site #36, which has a perfectly level concrete pad and lots of great shade.

We got set up pretty quickly, and then I cooked some pasta for dinner. The sauce was from a jar but I added sauteed onion, garlic and mushrooms, as well as some vegan Gardein meatless meatballs. Andy had made a big chopped salad for the weekend, which we topped with our favorite gourmet vinegars, and we also opened a bottle of wine. Great dinner!

However, it didn’t take long after we got there for the ants to find us! When we were at Wall Doxey two weeks earlier, we had a problem with ants getting in the cat food that we normally just leave on the floor for the girls to nibble on, so we knew we couldn’t leave the cat food out. But this time the ants found the chocolate chip cookies that we were storing in the overhead compartment. The cookies were in a clamshell package from the bakery, and the little buggers had no problem at all finding their way into the package. They were also trying to get into the Tupperware container that held the dry cat food, but fortunately they had not succeeded when we sighted them.

We wound up putting the cat food in the refrigerator, but the cookies were a lost cause as far as I was concerned. But my hubby, who can’t stand to watch a TV show where someone is drawing blood or throwing up, decided that a few ants would just add some protein to his cookies. He spent a good half hour going over each individual cookie, brushing off the ants he could see (they kept burrowing and hiding under the chocolate chunks), and then he put the cookies in zip-lock bags and put them in the refrigerator. And he’s still eating those cookies, even though an occasional ant still scurries across the surface.

Even after we hid everything that we thought the ants might be after, I was still seeing a line of them in the overhead storage area, as well as some others scattered around the RV (around the sink, near the dinette, in the shower). So I finally grabbed a can of Off! and sprayed the overhead. Dumb move….with the vent fans blowing, the bug spray quickly spread throughout the RV, and only then did I think about the cats breathing in that stuff (as well as myself since it blew back in my face).

Long story short, the ants pretty much disappeared and the cats survived, although one of them threw up a little bit right before bedtime. I felt terrible about possibly harming them with the spray, and won’t make that mistake again. Before our next trip, Andy is going to bomb or spray the RV thoroughly to get rid of any critters that might still be in there. We’ll also carry some ant baits with us in the future.

Otherwise, it was a very relaxing weekend. The weather was perfect, considering it is still late summer–the remnants of Hurricane Harvey had passed through here the day before we left and there had been a lot of rain, but the rest of the weekend was mostly sunny with lower temperatures and humidity.

We did a hike on Sunday morning around the lake after having our “traditional” Sunday-morning-in-the-RV breakfast of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. We cooked a foil-packet meal of onions, peppers, garlic, potatoes and Tofurkey kielbasa. We had our first campfire of the season on Saturday night, although the wood that Andy gathered was pretty damp from the Harvey rain so it didn’t burn very well.

One of my favorite parts of each camping trip is getting up early in the morning while Andy is still asleep and then going for a walk while it’s still peaceful and quiet outside. The temperatures each morning were in the low 60’s, and I enjoyed some peaceful walks around the campground and down to the lake.

We broke camp around noon on Monday (Labor  Day), and after a stop at the dump station we headed home. We let the cats ride free both coming and going on this trip, without being confined to their crates. I drove on the return trip, and Maggie eventually settled on the back of the dinette where she could look over my shoulder out the windshield. Molly, however, decided it was safer to stay under the seat, which was fine until we got home, and she refused to come out. It took me a good 15-20 minutes to finally drag her out without hurting her or pulling any of the under-seat wiring loose. While we don’t mind the kitties hiding under the seats while we’re in camp, we’re going to have to come up with a solution to keep them out of there while we’re in motion–another project for Andy before our next trip.

Since we’re planning to become full-timers, we try to learn or experience something new on each trip that will help us in the future. In addition to the above, some other new things this time were:

  • Tested and used the outside shower (just for rinsing dishes, not washing our bodies!)
  • Concluded after five trips that the coffee percolator is not a good fit for the RV life, even though it makes great coffee.  It’s just too messy to clean up all those coffee grounds. We have already purchased a small five-cup drip maker that uses a paper filter basket–much easier clean-up.
  • This was our first trip when we didn’t have to run the A/C 24/7. We were able to use just the fans quite a bit, which was nice but it also meant managing humidity levels differently in the RV.
  • The pasta meal was something new–and we learned that cooking pasta, sauteing veggies, simmering sauce, draining pasta and cleaning up splatters is quite challenging in a very tiny RV kitchen. The foil packet meals on the grill are much easier, but we wanted to practice options for when we can’t cook outdoors.
  • We took ice cream with us this time, and confirmed that the freezer works VERY well. That ice cream was rock-hard even with the freezer set on medium.

Last of all, we have a bit of a mystery going on. The RV has two bubble level indicators on the back to help when setting up. On our last trip we found that one of the indicators had lost the liquid from the little glass tube.  On this trip we found that the second indicator had also lost its liquid. No idea what’s happening to them, but we need to get those replaced.

Now we have just under three weeks to get ready for our next adventure, which will be a 381-mile trip to Sevierville, TN for our first RV rally! Stay tuned!!