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.

None of the above: a sojourner meanders through the 2020 Census

We were recently introduced at a gathering as “sojourners,” and that pleased my inner word nerd because it’s a term that isn’t used so very often, and it carries with it a sense of romanticism and history.

Also? I’m pretty sure nobody’s ever called us that before.

And then I got to wondering about wandering. What makes a sojourner different from any other type of person on the move?

Based on my travels from one online dictionary to another (see what I did there?), the meaning hinges more on the destination than on the journey — which seems odd, because the “journ” part is right there inside the word. 

A sojourn is defined as a brief or temporary stay, thus  sojourners are people who spend a short time in one place. 

That’s not an inaccurate way to describe us. Between stints as sojourners, we are travelers — or nomads, wanderers, vagabonds, itinerants, and/or peripatetics. Maybe even pilgrims or hobos, depending on our purpose, and how long it’s been since we last showered and changed clothes. 

No matter what you call us, or what we call ourselves, I have a feeling that completing our 2020 Census form might be a little tricky.

I’ve taken a look at the Census Bureau’s proposed questions, and those involving residence do include “mobile home” as an option, but it’s clear from the list of responses that they mean the kind of mobile home that stays in one place. (“Hello, we’re from the government. Have you experienced an oxymoron today?”)

Anyway, I’ve lifted a few images from the document linked above, and I think you’ll see pretty quickly that in some cases, we’re just gonna have to choose whichever answer is least untrue.

Hmmm.
Our home is owned with a loan, but we also pay rent in the form of campground and RV park fees — unless we’re boondocking or work camping, and then we don’t pay rent at all. And what about the rent we pay for our storage unit?
Shit. Next?

Not sure how to answer this one either.
Do I measure the size of our current RV site?
The acreage of the entire park?

I guess for 18a we’re gonna have to go with an average, as our monthly rent varies widely. Or do I put the amount of our loan payment there?
18b is an easy no, and 19 makes me want to ask, “Wait. How much is it worth? Or how much would we actually get for it? Because we have a proven track record of being shitty at selling things.”

Yes, but it wasn’t parked here, and the address I dig up and give you for wherever we were on this date last year is not going to match our official mailing address.
Oy, this.

Finally some easy ones.
Yes to all!

“Similar debt.”
Ummm, maybe?
It’s more like an auto loan, I guess. Monthly payments and all that.
Scrolling on…

A ha!
A box with our name on it! Best I can tell, this is the only census response that allows for a dwelling that is not actually a building. Even though the question asks you to describe the building. Help!

One.
Let me introduce you to our sole vehicle, a 1-ton dually we call the BFT.
OMG, we’re going to trigger all the federal alarms.

For starters, it’s not a building, you guys. See above.
And the year it was built differs from its actual model year.
Do we even answer this question?
Sheeeesussssssss.

So there you have the points I’m pondering.
Even within this post I’ve wandered — from finding the definition of a single word, to trying to define our home, so that we can check the right box, while living a life that most people would describe as outside the box.

And yes, we will get our Census in the mail, at our official-on-all-the-things address, just like the rest of you. So they will find us. (See Question 9 in this post.)

But depending on where we are, how much fun we’re having, and when we actually call to have our mail forwarded that month, there may be a delay…

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.

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.