Answering the call of doodie

Military duty ended with Tim’s retirement in 2013. Service to others did not. And that is how we ended up scrubbing a lot of public toilets this season, even though it definitely wasn’t on our list. Semper Gumby!

As mentioned, we’ve served as park hosts here before, early in 2018, and although some of the maintenance team at Kerrville-Schreiner Park has changed since then, our reputation as reliable workers has endured. There was a need, we were here, they asked, we said yes.

Last year, we worked mainly on what can best be described as special projects, and only cleaned restrooms occasionally. This year? The opposite of that.

And that’s OK — not a favorite, but also not unreasonable. And like last year, we are compensated by getting to live rent-free in a site with full hook-ups for the duration.

Mere steps from our site, we enjoy this view of the Guadalupe River, and the Kerrville VA Medical Center.
I get unlimited use of this riverside “yoga studio” as part of the bargain.
It once served as an ampitheater.
Now it helps me forget that we clean public bathrooms.
Another perk? We’re at one end of the Kerrville River Trail, so we’ve got a traffic-free place to go running and biking.
And speaking of free, we’ve got a key to the park host laundry facility.
This is it.
It’s a single washer and dryer shoved into a closet on the backside of one of the bath houses, but it gets the job done.
No quarters required.

It hasn’t all been swabbing decks, though. We also empty trash.

Oh, and Tim has done a fair amount of assisting with grass cutting and tree trimming — between hail and thunder storms, that is. It’s been a rather violent springtime.

Last time he did this was 2015. when we still had a yard.
Hail storm 1
Hail storm 2. We had to wait it out before unloading our groceries!

Some things at the park haven’t changed: we’re still visited by the resident deer and feral cats, and since we got our start a little later this year, we were here for Texas wildflower season, and the bluebonnets were stunning.

Our workamping gigs have become not just a source of income/savings for us, but a valuable and rewarding part of our RVing adventure. Heck, even though we won’t repeat working for Amazon, we consider it an experience worth the time and effort we put into it.

I wrote a (paid!) post for Escapees about how and why we take on jobs like this from time to time, and we’ve in fact signed up for another while doing our thing here in Kerrville.

This fall, we’re taking on seasonal positions that are entirely new and different for us, and we’ll be compensated with both a wage and an RV site.

In San Diego.

Stay tuned, my friends. All will be revealed. We’ve got a few thousand miles to go before then!

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.

Turning 50 was a bit of a surprise. As in, “Baby, pack a bag!”

I still have trouble believing this happened to me.

On March 4, we had just pulled into our RV site near Marrietta, GA — where I thought we’d be spending my birthday week — when Tim handed me a card.

I did as I was told, and packed the suggested items into my suitcase.
And it took me about an hour to make the attitude shift from control freak clenchy, “Oh shit. I am not in charge of this trip,” to realizing that I’d been given the gift of a burden lifted.
I was not in charge of this trip!

Our first stop was a hotel near the Atlanta airport, so I kind of knew we were flying somewhere the next morning, but he wouldn’t tell me where — or actually even admit that we were flying, not driving, to our destination.

My suspicions were confirmed. As we waited to board our 5:00 a.m. shuttle bus to ATL, Tim handed me my passport. The plot seriously thickened.

We checked in at the domestic terminal, and I obediently used my passport as ID, even though I thought we probably should have gone to International Departures. But remember, I was not in charge.

Then we headed to security, and Tim (who rarely bothers to read directional signs) got in the line designated for Sky Priority passengers. The hell???

“Um… Honey? We don’t even qualify as priority travelers on the road. This is not our line.”

“It is this time,” he said. “We’re flying first class.”

I made a squealing noise that I’m pretty sure only dogs could hear. I’d never flown first class! And that may have come up a time or two over the course of our marriage. Cough cough.

Spill it, sister. WHERE TO?

It was only when we checked in at the priority lounge that I learned that the passports were but a ruse. “Pre-boarding for your flight begins in about 30 minutes,” the attendant said. “Enjoy your trip to Hawaii.”

OMG. Hawaii??? We’re going to Hawaii???

I didn’t make the squealing noise again. I couldn’t. I’d lost my breath.

Hawaii had been a running joke between us for decades, each and every time we were asked if we’d been there. Tim had visited dozens of times — once as a child on a family vacation, and several times in his years of active duty as a Navy officer. But I’d never been there. He’d even spent our anniversary there once. But I’d never been there.

So this. was. huge.

We were in the priority lounge, it was not quite 6 a.m., and I’d just learned where we were going.
The details he managed to keep secret!
The multiple little white lies and deceptions it took to keep me in the dark!

But… hasn’t he done this before?

Yep. Some of our friends and family might remember that Tim also pulled off big surprises on my 30th and 40th birthdays, and are now wondering why I didn’t detect the pattern and see this one coming.

Short answer: I no longer needed the escape. 

In 1999, I was a stay-at-home mommy to a toddler and a preschooler. I needed an escape. So the man hired a limo — which he’d secretly won at a silent auction we’d both attended — to take us around the Baltimore-Annapolis area for a grand evening out. I was so clueless, that when it pulled up, I said, “Oooh, the people across the street must be going somewhere fancy tonight!” Duh.

In 2009, I was juggling two part-time jobs in Norfolk, VA, while also wrangling the needs of a tween and a teenager. I needed an escape. So the man flew my mother in (I thought that was the surprise), threw a dinner party in our home (then I thought that was the surprise), and presented me with two tickets for a weeklong trip to The Bahamas. That was the surprise and the reason my mother was there. She kept the boys! 

But now, in 2019, we live simply, we travel where we want to, we work when we want to, and the boys are grown and flown. I really didn’t need an escape from this reality, nor was I expecting one. At all. Especially not one this freakin’ big!

And when you got there?

Here’s one of my favorite parts: When Tim planned this 10-day trip, the only arrangements he booked in advance were our round trip airfare between the mainland and Honolulu, and our first two nights of lodging. That’s it.

He wanted me to be able to point at a map or guidebook and say, “Let’s go there!,” even if that meant flying to another island. Which we did.

There were times when we didn’t know where we’d be sleeping that night, where our next meal was coming from, or where we could do a load of laundry.

Luckily, the thrill of uncertainty has a way of nourishing my spirit, so I was okay with all of that. Our lodging ended up spanning a wide variety of options: 2 airport hotels, 1 luxury military resort, 1 no-frills military campground, and 1 Airbnb.

And that is how “Emily’s Hawaii 5-0” happened. Here are a few of the pics, in roughly chronological order.

First stop, the island of Oahu, where we stayed at the Hale Koa resort, visited the USS Arizona Memorial
… climbed to the top of the Diamond Head Crater
… enjoyed poke in several forms …
… and attended a luau, at which Glen Madeiros was the host (yes, the “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” guy from the 80’s).
He asked all those celebrating March birthdays to stand, and that is how that Glenn Madeiros ended up singing Happy Birthday to me this year.

On the 4th day, we flew to the Big Island, where we rented a car so that we could see as much of it as possible.

We spent two nights at the Kiluea Military Camp, inside Volcanoes National Park
… and we spent a full day exploring it.
Parts of the park are still closed (or just gone) after last year’s eruption and earthquakes. We were told that this view of the Kilauea crater is vastly different than it was prior to May of 2018.
At the time of our visit, there was no moving (molten) lava on the island. The solidified stuff is still pretty cool, though. No pun intended.
We stared at this marvel too.
We then headed southward toward the tip of the island, and took in a tour of a coffee plantation
… admired the sea turtles on the black sand beach at Punalu’u …
Bloop!
… and made the unpleasant 5-mile round trip hike in high winds and blasting sand just to set foot on …
… one of only four green sand beaches in the world.
Oh, and Tim stood at what his GPS indicated was the southernmost point of the island, which makes it the southernmost point in the US. It’s unmarked, but a short hike from the end of the aptly named South Point Road will get you there.
From there, we went to our Airbnb rental in Kona. It came with a dog!
We later hiked down to the Pololu Valley and beach
And also spent some time just lying on a beach and playing in the waves. A sea turtle swam with us. I may need a new tattoo…
And then there were the sunsets. Ooooh, the sunsets.

And now for the bad news: Honey, I’ve found where I want to live. Mahalo!


Author’s note: This is my first post using the newly and extensively upgraded version of our blogging platform, so things might not work like they used to for you, any more than they did for me. If you take the time to let me know of any issues, I promise I’ll do my part to figure out how to fix them.

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

Born to run? You’d have thought so, but no. It was harder than that.

I yanked up my big-girl leggings and learned how to do not one, but two exciting new things this year — things I have said out loud, and multiple times, that I’d never do.

Backpacking was one of them, and that one’s my husband’s fault.

The other? At age 49, I’m a runner now too! Which means I am my father’s daughter after all.

I like my big-girl leggings loud.
These literally give me rosy cheeks.

And it wasn’t easy. When I started back in January of this year, I struggled to run for even 5 minutes at a time, then I’d have to walk for 10-15.

It was oh, probably my gazillionth attempt at running since my teen years. I’d rarely stick with it long enough to build endurance for any more than a 2-mile slog, because I’d…

  • feel every single step
  • dread the hills, and running into the wind, and running uphill into the wind
  • occasionally reactivate an old hip injury
  • panic when I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath
  • stay in when the weather was bad, or when I felt icky
  • find plenty of other forms of physical fitness that came way, way easier

So I’d wrap myself in my blanket of excuses, and then give up for another year or so before trying it again.

Paradoxically, my father’s been an avid runner for as long as I can remember. Boston Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, other full and half marathons, and all the K’s — dozens, if not hundreds of road races.

Quite honestly, I thought running ability was my birthright, so another piece in my Puzzle of Frustration was that it did not come naturally to me. At all. My brother can do it, and so can his kids. But clearly, I didn’t get the gene.

Yet I’d hear Dad’s voice in my head with every attempt, with advice he gave me when I was still a teenager: If you can just get to three miles, then you can run six. And if you can run six miles, you can run ten.*

So I tried again this year, and y’all? I got it to stick this time. Longer than ever! Nine months later, I’m running 3-6 miles, about 3 times/week.

Yay me!

What’s different this go-round?

Weight. I started 10-20 lbs lighter than any other time I’d tried to take up running, and that made it much less stressful on my joints. Less pain, more gain.

Goals. All I wanted was to be able to make running a regular and enjoyable part of my fitness regimen, at distances and durations that did not leave me feeling like I might die before noon. In other words, I really don’t need to act like I’m training for a marathon.

Motivation. Since my breast cancer diagnosis in December of 2013, I’ve been a bit more stubborn than usual about finishing what I’ve started — or at least giving an effort my all until I realize that stopping might be a better option.

Method: I chose not to follow a published training plan, but rather to follow my own body’s cues.

I had two rules:

  1. Improve in some way with each running session. (More than once it was, “Well, at least I swore less this time.”)
  2. Forgive myself and try again in two more days if I don’t achieve Item 1.

Progress was slow, but I stayed with it, and after using my unconventional method for about two months, I could run 3 miles without stopping to walk. That’s when I signed up for my first race!

It was just a 2.5 mile fun run, here in San Antonio back in March, but my daddy ran it with me, and we doubled back to finish the course with my mom, who’d walked it.
Cancer has messed with our family more than once, so participating in Give Cancer The Boot felt pretty damn right.

About that time, Tim started running with me. He’s been a runner before, and has a couple of half marathons under his belt, but his 2013 3-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail did a number on his knees, and he’s been reluctant to run again. Luckily, my pace is slow enough that it rarely causes him any issues.

We ran our first 5K together in April, in Mount Vernon, WA.
(Photo source: Community Action of Skagit County)

And here’s how I know I am really a runner this time. I have:

  • experienced chafing, nausea, dehydration, cuboid bone stress, the usual leg aches & pains, and a lost toenail
  • reactivated and successfully repressed my SI joint injury several times
  • found a treasure or two

    Road shoulder reward

  • swallowed a bug
  • run into brutal winds that mysteriously disappeared or blew in my face yet again after I turned around to complete the second half of my run, expecting to have them push me back home
  • encountered countless animals, domestic and wild, alive and dead

    Cute baby bunny

    Slug? Not nearly as cute.

  • logged miles in TX, OK, UT, WA, ID, ND, SD, and MT, and rarely the same route twice

    Hey, Utah. Your running trails are pretty.

  • tried and rejected two pairs of shoes before finding the pair (Brooks Ghost 10)
  • learned that I am a neutral pronator
  • been caught in unexpected downpours

    Can’t run under a rainbow without rain.

  • noticed leg muscle definition I’ve never had before, not even during the 6 years I was a Jazzercise instructor
  • participated in one fun run with Dad, two timed races with Tim, and a 10K with both of ’em

    The 40th Annual Rhody Run, in Port Townsend, WA, came with beer at the end!
    We ran the 6K (yes, six), and did not disgrace the family name.

    My first 10K was the Project Brave Pajama Run in San Antonio last month.
    Dad and Tim placed first in their age groups. (They were the only runners in their age groups. Shhhh.) And we got super hero cape cookies at the end!
    (Photo credits: my mama)

  • decreased my pace from a 14:30 mile to about 11:20. If I’m only running a 5K, I can “sprint” at about 10:45
  • had to dodge only one vehicle 

But I have not run so far or so long that I’ve had to duck behind a tree, dumpster, or other structure for a potty break, and I consider that a plus.

It’s an exhilarating feeling to cross a finish line, no matter what my statistics say about my performance.
(Photo source: Mays Cancer Center)


*I’ve made it to 8. Once. Still working my way up to 10.