Thursday, November 6, 2014

Memorable Moments 2014 - Part 1

Our 2014 RV travel season had many memorable moments.  Here are some of them, shown photographically (in chronological order):

The view from our spot in Long Key, Florida State Park  (5/31)

David fishing before sunset off the bridge just south of Long Key State Park  (5/31)

View of mangroves from our spot in the Geiger Key, Florida RV Park  (6/1)

Janet (right) & Cheri (left) in Key West, Florida  (6/2)

Pink Flamingoes in the Homosassa Springs, Florida Wildlife State Park  (6/7)

 The Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park in Crystal River, Florida  (6/10)
This was one of our favorite RV parks this year.  (Our rig is in the middle of the photo.)

Had lunch at the famous Jack's Bar-B-Que in Nashville, Tennessee  (6/16)

Nashville is indeed Music City!  (6/16)

A real record shop in downtown Nashville  (6/16)

Inside Lawrence Records -- Note row after row of LPs and 45s.  (6/16)

An appropriate lighting fixture inside Bootleggers Inn, Nashville  (6/16)

In the next Memorable Moments installment, it's on to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Most Welcome Anticlimax: Almost Nothing Went Wrong!

During our three months and two weeks on the road this year, we covered 5,905 miles towing our 5th wheel, and 2,725 miles with the truck on its own, for a total of 8,630 miles.  Given last year’s troublesome fiascoes, and this year’s run up to our departure, who could blame me for being nervous that many other shoes would drop during our travels?

To my sheer surprise, delight, and relief, I am happy to report that the truck and 5th wheel performed close to perfection!  Only two things went wrong the whole time, neither of which was a big deal. Three weeks into the trip, one of the tires on the RV had a valve go bad, causing the tire to lose air while we were on the highway.  Fortunately, the tire pressure monitoring system alerted us to the problem, and we were only a few miles from our destination for the day when it happened.  We proceeded slowly, and as luck would have it, just down the road from the RV park was a tire service center.  One hour, and a mere $35 later, the problem was solved.  (Hmmm, didn’t I pay $200 in February for RV tire service?  This was now two of four tires that had a problem the service was supposed to address!)

The second problem did not occur until the middle of August.  I heard strange noises coming from the hitch and the 5th wheel’s king pin assembly.  A friendly mobile RV service guy adjusted the hitch and the king pin assembly, putting an end to that problem for only $60.  That’s it.  No show stoppers, no breakdowns.  We spent a total of $95 on repairs for the whole 8,630 mile trip!  HOORAY!  Someone pinch me; I must be dreaming!

So, what do you think was the largest expense category for the trip?  If your answer is fuel, that would be a good guess, but you’d be wrong!  We spent the most on RV park and campground accommodations, averaging a bit over $33 per day.  I realize that’s way less than the cost of a cheap motel, but come on, we’re providing the furnished rooms, toiletries, linens, towels, and meals, as well as the maintenance and cleaning staffs.

Now it’s time for a look at where we went, as shown on an interactive Google map, complete with zooming and panning (see link below).  If you click on a location marker, the name and address of the RV park or campground at that location will be shown.

There are 36 individual locations, starting with the green location marker at our old home base in Fort Myers, Florida, and ending with the red location marker at our new home base in Matlacha, Florida.  Each RV park or campground we stayed at is indicated with a numbered or lettered blue location marker, in order from 1 through 10, then from A through U.  There are three location markers with a red dot under them, denoting a place we were at twice during our travels.  (We stayed at our old home base in Fort Myers a second time, between locations 3 and 4.  We stayed at location I a second time on our way back from Maine, between locations N and O.  We stayed at location 4 a second time on the way to our new home base, between location U and Matlacha.)

Upcoming installments of Going Mobile will feature highlights of our trip, including lots of photos.  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ominous Prelude To 2014’s Summer Travel Season

It was a dark and stormy night.  My bank account lay on the ground, writhing in pain, bleeding red from ongoing expenses that were supposed to come to an end in 2013, but didn't!

We did not leave Fort Myers until the afternoon of May 26, but the hemorrhaging began in mid-January with the addition of an auxiliary fuel tank for the truck and the reprogramming of the truck’s computers to prevent some of last year's mishaps from haunting us again this year.

In February, the kitchen sink faucet had to be replaced, and a persistent slow leaking of air from all of the RV’s tires had to be staunched.

In April, the refrigerator failed in a spectacular way.  We had a Norcold RV refrigerator (not a good brand name for a refrigerator, just as Nova was not a great name for a car), which can run on either electricity or liquid propane (LP) gas.  It has an ammonia cycle design, which uses heat to create cold (don't ask)!  Unfortunately, all of the ammonia leaked out suddenly.  Cost to repair (with “refurbished” parts): $1,500.  Cost to buy a new refrigerator (same make and model): $2,000!  Hey, it’s only a 10.5 cubic foot pipsqueak; the small freezer section isn't even frost-free.  For $2,000, I could buy a residential refrigerator/freezer with sufficient capacity to store enough food to feed a family of twelve for a month.  And the freezer would be frost-free, with an ice maker to boot.  There had to be a better (meaning “way more economical”) solution to this chilling problem.  Fortunately, there was, in the form of a small, conventional refrigerator/freezer that cost only $375.  As added bonuses, the new fridge fit exactly in the space that held the old one, and the freezer is frost-free.  (Although it can't run on LP gas while we're traveling, the new unit can stay cold long enough to keep its contents from going bad until we hook back up to electricity after a day on the road.)

In May, one of the truck’s batteries died.  (This baby needs two of them to turn over that monster diesel engine.)  Then, the week before we were to begin our summer voyage, the truck’s alternator went bad.  (The good news was the alternator failed before we hit the road.  How considerate!)  To top it off, one of the RV’s tires was still leaking air, and had to be serviced again (due to the fact that the tire service in February was not done correctly).

Total expenditures before the first mile of travel in 2014: $3,150.  Would things finally settle down?  Had we thrown enough money into the maw to ensure a trouble-free summer of travel and adventure?  Or, would the RV and truck conspire to complete my financial and psychological demise?  You’ll find out in the next installment of Going Mobile.