WheRVe we been? Our travels, 4th quarter 2020

For a period of travel predominantly dictated by where we had to be, rather than where we wanted to go, there were many more hidden gems in the mix than we expected to find. Come examine them with us? 

The very short version of the story is that attempts to fix my left shoulder kept us in Texas. Attempts to fix the RV sent us to Indiana.

The same description applies to both situations: we’re not exactly sure what’s wrong, but something definitely isn’t right. Both are being examined and treated by experts; we just don’t want to publicize details on either until we can include the end of the story — or at least see it from where we stand. Stay tuned.

We went from TX to KS to IN to TN to FL, and added our 41st RV state with that 5-day stop in Kansas.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3143 
(Map does not reflect exact routing.)

Texas

Our home base for most of October and November really was a base, namely Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The RV park there is safe and spacious, convenient to our doctors and my family, and easy on the budget. Tim served for 25 years, so military bases feel like home to us no matter where they are.

And it felt even more like home on Thanksgiving, when we got one of our boys and his girl, who drove down from Austin for the big meal.

That said, the noise level at Fort Sam is a little high (frequent trains, occasional choppers) and the scenery really isn’t… scenic. So when we had longish breaks between appointments, we went AWOL with a few side trips.

Side Trip 1: our site at Hickory Creek Park, near Dallas, offered one of the best yards we’ve ever had.
We liked it so much we’ve booked a return stay in May, for a Dallas-area wedding.
Sunrises were definitely worth the wake-up.
Side Trip 2: The friends whose land we stayed on in Wyoming are working as camp hosts just south of Dallas for the winter, so we stopped for an overnight visit, and were treated to the usual photo opportunity with their littlest doggo, Henley.
We’ve got history, as you can see in this collage from August.

Side Trip 3: Crane’s Mill Park, Canyon Lake

Side Trip 4: An overnight at the little known but very delightful Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture, a Harvest Hosts location in New Braunfels
Side Trip 5: We spent the night at another Harvest Hosts location, the Medina River Winery in Castroville. As it turned out, our friends, Phil & Stacy of You, Me & the RV, were parked nearby, and they brought their friends, Phil & Shar of A Year to Volunteer over for an evening of wine tasting and plan hatching.
More on that below, in the “Where to next?” section.
(Photo credit: Medina River Winery)

Finally, on December 1, we were bound for somewhere outside Texas.

Destination: the DRV Factory Service Center, in northern Indiana. I know. Everyone’s favorite winter vacation spot. Don’t be jealous. It was the opening they had, and we needed it, so we took it.

But first, we stopped in… Texas. Big state. And if we’re heading north or west from San Antonio to get out of it, we end up stopping for the night within its borders.

Eisenhower State Park is not in Oklahoma…
… but you can see it from there.
A short walk down the embankment behind our site yielded this view of the dam along Hwy 91, just north of the Texas border.

Kansas

When Tim was evaluating various routes to Indiana, he discovered that we could stay in yet another Eisenhower State Park. And since liking Ike that much would allow us to add another RVisited state to our list, we made a reservation at the Kansas version.

Our back-in site on the tip of a peninsula offered 180 degrees of lake views.
December sunset — with a visitor

Indiana

After a stop at MORryde in Elkhart for a suspension check, we then had 3 nights available before our service appointment at DRV in Howe the following week. We could have split the stay between the two parking lots and paid nothing, but we seized the opportunity to go somewhere quieter and prettier.

Hello, Indiana Dunes State Park.
We found lots of RV sites available in December, there on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Surprise?
The trails were nearly deserted, and the weather was chilly, but sunny enough for hiking on our first couple of days.
And since the state park is enclosed within Indiana Dunes National Park, we explored a fair amount of those trails too. So starkly beautiful at that time of year.
But then more typical weather arrived, and as soon the RV was done, we aimed our nose southward again.

Tennessee

We realized when we crossed into Tennessee, that we hadn’t been back since we left after our Amazon CamperForce gig three years ago.
Our 3-night stay at Harrison Bay State Park was far more enjoyable.

Florida

For the holidays, we’re moochdocking in a friend’s driveway near Pensacola. We’ve stayed here before, and we were greeted by the same cat, who just happens to bear the same name as our late canine companion, Lola.

She’s a vocal one.
Plus, there are foster puppies here this year, and I’ve been getting lots of snuggles.

Where to next?

After a quick run back to San Antonio in January, we plan to spend a significant part of early 2021 in Georgia and Tennessee, doing service work with A Year To Volunteer. When we met founders Phil & Shar in November, we knew right away that their mission meshed well with our own values, so we registered for three of their upcoming projects. After so many rewarding stays in state parks over the years, we are excited by this opportunity to give back — with what sounds like a lot of sweat equity.

I’ll try my best to blog about each project individually, and as ever, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.

Our Pandemic Caveat
We are traveling a lot less than we normally would, and as often as possible we choose destinations that offer ample outdoor opportunities, and are unlikely to be crowded.
When we gather with friends or family, we keep our numbers small, and we request honest communication beforehand about their comfort level.
We continue to wear masks in public and wash/sanitize hands frequently, and we limit our outings.
~ The rrrrOHHHHRRRerrrrs, March 2020 – ?

We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

I did a dumb thing (and nobody got hurt).

Blame it on hormones. Or Mercury in retrograde. Or the children. I don’t care.

I honestly don’t know why I thought it was the ideal moment to try backing up the RV for the first time. 

(I know. I did all that practicing for the upgraded driver’s license last year, but that was with a friend’s flatbed trailer, which I could see behind. That’s not possible with our 5th wheel, which is why I’ve heretofore been too chickenshit to try it.)

Anyway, our site was a giant parking lot at a remote casino in northern CA, for a quick overnight.

There was only one other vehicle in it. 

Sure, it was after dark, but there was plenty of room beside that big rig, and all I had to do was go straight back. 

I knew I could do that. 

In fact, I’d already done it quite successfully on the opposite side of the lot, but after Tim guided me all the way back, he realized he’d backed me up to a closed gate, and we didn’t know if or when someone might need access, so we moved. 

I declined Tim’s offer to spot me in the second location, because I knew I’d be done when my front end lined up with that semi’s cab. Easy peasy!

But also a big mistake. 

That is when we were reminded that some big rigs are shorter than others. 

Some are even shorter than we are. 

Like this one. 

So yeah. I backed into the fence. Because another compounding factor? Wire fences are pretty much invisible in the dark. 

I didn’t feel it — at all — but Tim definitely saw it when he got out to check my position. 

If I’d pushed any farther, there’d have been some flattened fencing — and two red-faced Rohrers exchanging insurance information with the casino manager come morning. 

The truly embarrassing part was that I know better. I paid more attention to my overconfidence than to two critical rules. (Hell. I couldn’t even see those rules, blinded as I was by that sparkly outfit Overconfidence was wearing.) 

  1. Take extra safety precautions after dark. 
  2. Always — always — use a spotter when backing up. Yes, even if the lot is the size of Connecticut. And especially after dark. 

So now my sense of embarrassment is the size of Connecticut.

There’s no photographic evidence of the actual smoosh, but I took a morning-after shot, showing that I’d had to make a forward roll of shame.

Oh, and one showing where I’d scraped the paint off Tim’s bike frame, although that might actually be from a far older boo-boo. Neither one of us is sure.

And uh, one showing that I bent our bike rack pretty good. Dammit. We really like this one, and it took no fewer than three prior duds to get to it.

The fence took no damage; my ego sustained a fairly large bruise. 

And that’s why I’m sharing this story. 

Let it serve as a reminder that things like this can happen to any RVer, new or seasoned. 

It could have been worse, and thankfully, Tim and I go easy on each other when it comes to such incidents, by which I mean we know full well that we take turns being the bonehead. 

This time, it was my turn.

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 1st quarter 2019

My Valentine’s Day surprise was the joyous discovery that we’d finally caught the rat that had been vexing us for 3 weeks and nearly 1000 miles. That story appears below, with pictures, but not of the actual corpse. I have my standards.

My birthday surprise was even better, and also involved rodents I did not get pictures of. We saw lots of mongooses in their natural habitat — in Hawaii.

That story’s here, and you’ll learn just how I found myself saying to a hotel clerk in Honolulu, “Well, I didn’t even know I was going to be here today…”
And yeah, I did laundry there too.

Here’s the summary of our 1st quarter travels, mapped with a little help from Google.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 4230

We started the new year in Pensacola, and then headed back to Palestine for the final round of work on the ranch (see 4Q2018). From there we went to Shreveport, then clockwise to Indiana, the DC area, the Atlanta area, the RVE Summit in Alabama, and back to Texas again, ending the quarter in Corpus Christi.
(Not all stops are shown, hence the discrepancy between my mileage count and Google’s.)

I covered Pensacola and Palestine in my 4th quarter 2018 post, so I’ll start with…

Shreveport, LA, Jan. 15 – Feb. 11: After a frenetic 4 months in Texas, we needed a place to hide out and just be us, before our scheduled RV service appointments in Indiana. We didn’t want to be too cold. We didn’t want to go too far out of the way. And we didn’t want to be in Texas anymore. Barksdale AFB Famcamp for the win! We’d spent a couple of quick overnights there in years past, and knew our stay would be quiet, safe, convenient and economical.

So much for that whole “not too cold” thing.
We tried, but Mary Jo still ended up developing a case of the frosties.
Did our level best to try all the foods Louisiana is famous for.
We went to Ralph & Kacoo’s for seafood po’ boys and gumbo, to Strawn’s for pie, and to Julie Anne’s Bakery for king cake.
I made my own Cajun 10-Bean & Sausage Soup with locally made products, and wow, was it tasty!
And since we were eating a lot of calories, we tried to burn some off too, while also supporting a local non-profit.
So yes, I’m still running! I haven’t made it to 10 miles, but I can run a 10K, and I’ve added FL, LA, IN, VA, AL and two Hawaiian islands to my list of “running states.”
Yay me!
Because I am like a moth to a flame when it comes to Peculiar Things and Random Goofballery, I had to have my picture taken here, at the corner of Highland & Stoner.
I’m still giggling.
Shreveport. Who knew?

Northern Indiana, Feb. 13-22: Service Appointment 1 was at MORryde in Elkhart, to have 4″ risers installed on the RV so that it would sit levelly while towing. Tim can give you the long, detailed explanation. I thought until we actually arrived that we were having something done to the truck, so I am really not a reliable source of information. Service Appointment 2 was at DRV in Howe, for our first round of warranty repairs on the new RV.

It was while parked for two nights in the MORryde garage that we finally caught The Stowaway Rat that had helped itself onboard in Shreveport.
We’re pretty sure it came up through that opening in the floor beneath our kitchen sink, where it left that tremendous mess.
It laughed in the face of every trap we set, even moving one of them to the base of the stairs one night to trap us.
It pushed aside widely touted deterrents like steel wool and fabric softener sheets, pooped in my kitchen, scritched around in the walls all night, and turned up its nose at several popular types of bait, but it ate my avocado.
That thing had to die.
And the next day, it did.
Hard.
The peanut butter it had been ignoring for weeks finally became tempting enough to taste.
SNAP!
Best. Valentine’s Day gift. Ever.
So yeah, you’d better believe that hole in the floor was on the list of fixits we supplied to our service team at DRV!

DC Area, Feb. 23 – March 3: Still cold. But worth it to witness the bat mitzvah of a dear friend’s daughter. Her mom and I have been friends since she was 13, so it was a full circle, full heart kind of milestone, and one I probably would have missed if Tim and I didn’t have the freedom to take our home with us wherever we want to go.

We’ve really got to get better at abiding by that “Follow 70 degrees” rule that most full-time RVers recommend.

Marietta, GA, but really Hawaii, March 4-17: You’ve probably already seen one of my social media posts or read my full length blog post about it, plus the little blurb above, so I’ll spare you yet another recap. Except for a few seconds of this guy.

Alohaaaaaaaaaa

Lake Guntersville State Park, AL, March 17-25: My own Tim the Tech Guy has teamed up with a Savvy Woman With An Idea to create a new RV navigation platform, and together they attended workshops at the 3rd annual RV Entrepreneur Summit to get the proverbial ball rolling.

You can watch for details and launch updates at Wanders!

NAS Corpus Christi, March 26 – April 1: Some RVing friends were parked in the area, so we hung out with them, and also got to spend time with our younger son and his girlfriend, who drove down from Austin; and have lunch with my brother and his kids, who drove over from Port Aransas.

Life is good …
… and we are grateful.
(Thanks for this sweet pic, Mark!)

Right now: We’re back at Kerrville-Schriener Park, one of our favorite places to stay when we need to run around central Texas for a while. We’ll also spend time in San Antonio, where we’ve got family, friends, and Fiesta to enjoy, and a round of medical and dental appointments to endure. I turned 50, and you know what that means. I’ll also be checking in with all my breast cancer docs, and hoping for the 5-Year All-Clear.

Plus, we’ll be celebrating two family graduations, Mother’s Day, and lots of birthdays, and those will keep us here until the end of May.

Where to next? By mid-June, we’ll head back to Indiana for our RV manufacturer’s club rally. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go!


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 4th quarter 2018

Well, we certainly didn’t put on the miles like we did in the 3rd quarter, but I’m writing this post from an entirely different 5th wheel than the one we started in, and there were lots of cows and puppies!

Due to commitments both expected (medical appointments, construction work on a friend’s ranch) and unexpected (buying a new RV!), we mostly made Texas triangles between San Antonio, Houston and Palestine, with a quick zip across I-10 during the final week of 2018.

We arrived in Texas in mid-September and stayed there, which, combined with our first quarter of the year, makes 2018 The Year We Spent More Than Half our Time in the Lone Star State In Spite of Ourselves.

Here’s a summary of our 4th quarter travels, mapped with a little help from Google.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 2590.

We went from San Antonio to Houston to Palestine, and around again twice more, with brief side trips to Kerrville, Medina Lake, and Granger Lake.
Then we took off two days after Christmas to ring in the new year with friends in Florida.

San Antonio, Sept 16 – Oct 29: A funny thing happened while we sat at Lackland Air Force Base, juggling medical appointments. Enough things finally went wrong with The Toad that we decided to throw in the towel and start shopping in earnest for a new RV — a process that was neither quick nor painless. We spent hours talking, agonizing, losing sleep and making lists of pros & cons before pulling the trigger.

It sort of started with a moisture leak that caused a mushroom to grow out of a corner in our living room.
Tim fixed the leak, then gutted and replaced the wall. And since we too had begun to feel gutted, by the never-ending repairs to our 10-year-old 5th wheel, we chose to move on.
And speaking of moving, I took up running in 2018, and completed my first 10K in September. My daddy and my husband ran it with me. That made me smile.

We ended up making three trips over six weeks to the Houston area, braving its infuriating spaghetti mix of highway interchanges, to buy the RV.
First look – 10/10
Thorough inspection – 10/30
Gotcha Day – 11/29
You’ll find more details about our 2018 Mobile Suites 38KSSB in this post.

Some upgrades we’re enjoying in the new RV
– a cozy electric fireplace
– an automatic dishwasher
– a residential fridge (no more 8 cubic feet of refrigerator tetris!)
– a hall closet for Tim’s computer command & control center
That closet was intended to be a laundry room, and you can just see the washer hookups there behind our printer. We opted against installing a W/D. Why would I want to give up my regular opportunities to collect Tales From The Laundromat?

One of the benefits of being in central Texas when we need muscle, is that we can usually convince our younger son (left) to make a trip from Austin to help out.
For this job, swapping out our pin box, he brought a friend.
And those boys were quite willing to cooperate, especially knowing that gas money and a BBQ lunch were part of their compensation package.

November & December: Palestine, Castroville, Medina Lake, and Granger Lake, TX; Mandeville, LA; Pensacola, FL

In November, we added a new experience to our RV lifestyle: ranchdocking.
It’s like moochdocking, but on a friend’s ranch.
We can plug ourselves into a 50-amp outlet in the garage, and fill our fresh water tank from a spigot on the ranch house, but we’ve got no sewer hookup. Stays are limited to 7-8 days before we need to go dump, but the rent is free and the views are fantastic!

We were at the ranch because back in the spring, Tim helped take down the owner’s historic log barn at its old site in Boerne, and move it in pieces to its new home in Palestine. This past fall, it was time to start putting things back together.
The original barn was built in the mid-1800’s. That’s it in the top left photo, prior to its disassembly in March.
While Tim reassembled the Lincoln Logs, I got to know some of the furrier residents of the ranch. A litter of puppies was born in November, and I snuck in daily snuggles.

People We Love!
– Lunch in Castroville with Dan & Lisa of Always on Liberty and Sean & Julie of Chickery’s Travels
– Early December shenanigans at Medina Lake with David & Cheryl of Landmark Adventures, hyping the book written by our mutual friends, Marc & Julie of RVLove.
– A quiet Christmas with our younger son at a Corps of Engineers park just outside Austin
– A wine infused overnight with old Navy friends in Louisiana, on our way to Florida. I was over-served!

We watched the sun set on 2018 in Pensacola, and spent the first few days of 2019 there.
Our friends, Jay & Kris, have a home just northwest of town, and we moochdocked in their driveway in return for some sweat equity on household projects.
And it’s one of Jay’s cousins who owns the ranch, so we’ve definitely felt like part of the family this year!

Right now: We’re back on the ranch for our third stay. This time, Tim’s leading the charge on installing the tin roof.

Barn progress as of January 9, 2019

And look who was waiting to play with me when we returned!

Where to next? By mid-January, we’ll start making our way northward to Indiana, for our February warranty appointment at the DRV manufacturing facility in Howe. After that, we’ve got the annual RVE Summit on the calendar for March, and we’ll be back in Texas by late April. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go!


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

3Q 2018    2Q 2018    1Q 2018    4Q 2017    3Q 2017    2Q 2017    1Q2017   2016

Go big or go home? Went big. Bought new home.

And yes, it’s on wheels. See?

This is the way we want to live until it becomes unfeasible to do so.
We’re still looking for that permanent place to park ourselves and put down roots, but it’s no longer the focus of our travels.
Like so many of our adventures together, we’ll figure it out along the way.
And if we’re paying proper attention, we’ll know it when we get there. 
We have found several cities we enjoy visiting, but what we enjoy more is the freedom of not being tied to any of them.

I know what you’re thinking. In our most recent annual update, we said we weren’t going to buy a new RV. That we were going to keep making modifications and upgrades to our 2008 Heartland Bighorn “until we feel like we’re done.”

Welp, by late September, we felt done, for a few big reasons.

First, we’d realized something about Own Less, Do More: that what we were doing disproportionately more of was maintenance and repairs. That’s… that’s not really what we’d had in mind, although yes, we know it’s all part of the cost of ownership.

Second, Tim has fallen into a ground-level opportunity on an RV-related programming project that excites him, and whether or not that turns into a profitable gig, it means he really needs to be able to put in more hours at the keyboard than under the RV.

Third, we’d begun to feel as if we were surrounded by ticking time bombs — like the roof, the air conditioning, and the refrigerator — and that replacing those big-ticket items was likely to cost us more out of pocket than the value of our 10-year-old coach.

Along those same lines, the remaining upgrades we wanted to make — adding solar power, having the exterior painted, installing double pane windows and a quieter cooling system — mmmmaybe didn’t make economic sense when all of those things come standard on newer 5th wheels designed for full time living.

This was one of the last straws.
We’d noticed some odd bulging behind the trim in a living room corner.
We thought it might be due to water intrusion from the roof, and then a mushroom grew there. An actual mushroom!
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s a very clear sign of having a moisture problem.

In the course of repairing the source of and damage from that issue, Tim found a mystery puddle at the base of the toilet.
He stepped out of the bathroom, looked at me, and said, “That’s it. I’m done. I can’t keep up with this.”
And as the primary (OK, sole) fix-it guy in this partnership, he is the one who gets to make that call.

The scales had finally tipped. Our original intent was to run that baby into the ground, but it ran us down instead.

Although we hated the idea of letting go of all the work and money we’d put into The Toad over the four years we’d owned it, we also knew that we were merely putting lipstick on a pig, and that we were ready to say goodbye to what we now refer to as our “Training RV.”

I’d say that’s when and why we started RV shopping, but the truth is, we’re always kind of looking. You know how when you own a house, you go to home shows for the latest ideas, you monitor real estate sales in your area, and maybe even attend an occasional open house, even if you’re not actually looking to buy? It’s the same with RV ownership, but this time, we were looking with intent.

We put together a long list of  Gains & Gives, and we both agreed that any new (or new-to-us) coach would have to offer enough in the Gains column to offset the incurred hassle and debt, and to make it worth walking away from all the work we’d done on the Bighorn.

A few of our prospective Gains

  • 6-point automatic leveling
  • better suspension
  • newer appliances
  • improved HVAC, insulation, windows, and body paint
  • manufacturer’s warranty
  • less worry over aging RV
  • time recovered from long-term future repair projects

A few of our known Gives

  • leaving the Heartland Owners Club
  • the freedom to modify 10-year-old coach however and whenever we want
  • going from a paid off RV to one requiring monthly loan payments
  • nearly new furniture and flooring
  • trading the devil we knew for a devil we’d have to learn

Out of the Old, Into the New
The friendships we’ve made through the Heartland Owner’s Club are a gift to us, and the support and advice we received as members kept us on the road both literally and figuratively.
We will repay that debt by continuing those friendships, and also by continuing to recommend the Heartland brand.
They did right by us.
Our brand switch is due merely to being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a deal.

To cut through several pages of further details: we ended up trading in the Bighorn, and buying a 2018 DRV Mobile Suites 38KSSB. It had all the Gains, and because it was still sitting on the dealer’s lot at the end of the model year, it was marked down to a price we were willing to pay.

Gain: residential refrigerator
No more glorified dorm fridge!

Gain: updated decor, in subtle colors and patterns that (we hope) will not look dated within 5 years

We purchased from ExploreUSA RV Supercenter in Alvin, TX, and this floor plan photo came from their original ad for our RV.
We are not likely to do business with them again, but I won’t go into detail here until we’ve given them a chance to respond to our list of grievances.
(If you’re dying for details, go to this Yelp review and read the entry by J R., dated 5/10/2018. Our experience was very similar.)

Now, we’ve done a lot of moving in our 27 years together, and whether we count this RV as our 12th home or our 13th vehicle, the transfer process out of the old and into the new was every bit as time consuming and complex as moving into a new house — not just to make everything fit, but to store it in places that made sense. In other words, just because I have room in a bedroom drawer doesn’t mean I want to store 2 cans of corn and a jar of applesauce in there. 

Speaking of bedroom drawers, here are two of mine (note lack of room for corn or applesauce), along with my entire collection of hanging clothing.

Little decorative touches we’ve made to turn house into home

We are happy with our purchase. The upgrades in quality and technology were worth it, but yes, after only 3 weeks onboard, we’ve got a list of items that need factory attention — because RV manufacturing seems, sadly, to be focused far more on quantity than on quality, no matter what the sales brochure says.

Our first warranty visit to DRV is scheduled for mid-February.

Oooh, northern Indiana for Valentine’s Day. Yay?

I had this decal custom made after a discussion with friends about RV manufacturing quality.
There was wine.
And there was one slightly tipsy friend who said, “When you get right down to it, every single one of them is just a shitty box on wheels.”
Truth.