WheRVe we been? Our travels, 2nd quarter 2018

Wow. So uhhh… all that not leaving the Lone Star State we did in the first three months of 2018? We more than made up for it during the 2nd quarter!

Here’s a summary of our travels from Texas (home of our younger son and my side of the family) to Washington (home of our older son and Tim’s side of the family) and Idaho, mapped with a little help from Google.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3,215.

It’s not exact, but it’ll do.
I deliberately left out one-nighters, and some of our stops in WA lack labels because I had to zoom out so far to show our path from end to end.
(source: maps.google.com)

Texas to Washington, March 31 – April 12: We spent our first night in north Texas, having received a quick and positive answer to a last-minute, “Hey, I just realized we’re passing through. Are you guys free?” Erika & Tony, with whom we became friends through the Heartland RV Owners Club, not only secured us a spot in the RV park where they live, but also treated us to dinner!

In many ways, the RV community reminds us of our military community. We’ve got friends all over the place; they welcome us even on short notice; they offer generous support and assistance of all kinds; and we pick up right where we left off, no matter how long it’s been since we last saw each other.

After that, we stopped for a few days in Norman, OK, where the The Toad got upgraded tires, wheels, and axles from our friends at Performance Trailer Breaking; and we got to reconnect with a college friend of mine and her family for Easter dinner (that’s her bunny in the photo below). Moving on to Utah, we stayed for a couple of nights at the beautifully secluded and pleasantly uncrowded Fremont Indian State Park, before continuing to Hill AFB in Ogden to restock the fridge and do the laundry.

– Our scenic spot at Fremont Indian SP
– Flower, the bunny
– The face I make when I find dollar washers and dryers (hurrah for access to military RV parks)
– A nice, long hiking day in Sevier, UT
– A trail with a view, perfect for an afternoon run at Hill AFB

Skagit County, WA, April 14-30: At long last, we arrived in Washington on April 12, but had to hang out on the east side of the Cascades for a couple of days while we waited for a non-blizzardy time to cross Snoqualmie Pass — yes, in April! The primary reason for our visit was to help Tim’s folks clear the last of the stuff out of the house they’d just sold, in order to downsize to a 5th wheel. Like son, like father much? It was a perfect time to experience the best of a PNW springtime. The tulips and cherry trees were in bloom, the sun was out more often than it wasn’t, and although temps were a little chilly for my taste, we were able to enjoy several outdoor activities.

– A colorful afternoon at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
– Tim reminiscing with his mom, over a tub full o’ family mementos bound for storage
– An ornamental cherry tree (maybe one of these?) at our campground
– A view of the Columbia River, from our holding spot at the Wanapum Rec Area
– Midpoint of a “sluggish” run

Here’s an outdoor activity for ya: We ran our first race together in Mount Vernon, in the rain, with temps hovering around 48 degrees.
This was a 5K to benefit the non-profit agency one of Tim’s sisters works for, Community Action of Skagit County.
The things we do for family!
(photo credit: Community Action)

Jefferson County, WA, April 30 – June 1: For the entire month of May, we hung out close-but-not-too-close to our older son and his girlfriend, and were able to spend as much time with them as possible, juggling get-togethers and adventures around their full work schedules and community commitments. They had their home; we had ours.

– Hello, Port Townsend, and what fine beer you have.
– The boy, his girl, and me, at the first stop of what turned into a pub crawl. They let me tag along!
– Tim spent the first week of our stay on a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. Off you go, dear.
– Time for rhubarb at the farmer’s market
– If you visit western Washington, don’t forget to look up every now and then

– A 10-mile hike along the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail
– Another race together, the 40th annual Rhody Run 6K
– I may have been a little excited to spend Mother’s Day with one of the reasons I get to celebrate
– Hair color shenanigans to cement my reputation as an RV park “rebel”

But yeah, it was still too chilly for me.
I got caught doing my “I can’t believe I have to wear this much clothing in May, and I am still effing cold” dance.
(photo credit: K. Eichmann)

Central & Eastern Washington, June 1-22: We helped Tim’s folks kick off their first month of full-time RV living by traveling together to a few different campgrounds. In order, we stayed at the resort located inside Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park, the municipal park in Bridgeport, a privately owned RV park near Dayton, and a military recreation area near Cheney. And yes, by “traveling together,” I mean we helped each other fix things that broke on or in our respective 5th wheels. Ha!

– Tim’s parents have an inflatable kayak, and we are now considering adding one to our collection of adventure gear
– A hot hike with Tim’s folks, to the ancient Indian caves above the lake
– This unwanted stowaway outsmarted our traps twice, and also dodged the root beer mug, before finally taking that one. final. bite. SNAP!
– In-laws, arriving to join the mayhem. I mean fun.
– Such different scenery than the green forests of western Washington

– Tim’s dad, a talented amateur photographer, got some fantastic shots of the rolling hills of The Palouse. The best one I got was this one of him!
– Another stowaway was hiding inside our tire covers. This is the kind of stowaway we like, but we sent him hopping off into the grass, where he’d be happier.
– The oft-photographed Palouse Falls

Coeur d’Alene, ID, June 22 – July 6: And now we’re kicking off the third quarter of 2018 in a hometown from Tim’s past. He graduated from high school here, and his family still has several friends in the area, so it’s been a trip down many of their Memory Lanes.

What’s better than having a dog?
Having friends nearby with two dogs, one of which is a wriggly, pees-on-contact-but-I-don’t-care puppy!

With all the moving around we’ve done this quarter, it finally happened: I forgot which state we were in.
Let the record show that I have since taken preventive measures.
Not. One. Word.

Tim and his parents recreated a typical family road trip, during opening night of the classic car weekend in Dayton.
What a long, sweet trip it’s been.

Where to next? We’ll head east to Minnesota to visit one of Tim’s cousins, then we’ll work our way back to WA for a little more family time in August and early September. 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.

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

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 1st quarter 2018

Everything’s bigger in Texas and it’s our home base and lots of people we love either visited or were already there — and that kind of explains why we spent the first three months of 2018 in the Lone Star State.

Here’s a summary of our time there, mapped with a little help from Google. Links to prior updates appear at bottom of page.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 970, all in Texas.

We went from San Antonio to Port Aransas, back to San Antonio, up to the Fort Worth area, and back down to Kerrville.
(source: maps.google.com)

San Antonio, December 26, 2017 – Jan 6, 2018: Still recovering from our stint as Amazon Camperforce Associates, we arrived at home base San Antonio after Santa Claus did, but we were just in time for a quick meet-up with new friends, Marc & Julie Bennett of RV Love, before ringing in the new year with old friends from our older son’s years in Boy Scouts. We took a walk through the South Texas RV Super Sale, introduced some of our own family to our Heartland Family, and then our sons arrived for…

Yes, our sons are very tall, and we are very not.
I’m not sure how it happened.
Fed ’em well, I guess.

Port Aransas, January 6-10: Family work party! The two of us, my parents, our younger son from Austin, and our older son & his girlfriend from WA caravanned in three vehicles from San Antonio to Port Aransas to help my brother’s family do some building after Hurricane Harvey. Then it was back to San Antonio to clean up and prepare for…

Fort Worth area, January 14-25: New flooring for the RV! I wrote a detailed post about that whole adventure here. In summary: The first round of vinyl planking looked good until it didn’t (the next day), so we had to extend our visit for a do-over. It was one of only a few RV repairs/upgrades for which we wrote a check instead of doing the work ourselves, and I think we’re still getting over it.

Before: worn, stained, smelly carpeting and cheap linoleum
After: fresh, cushiony, odor-free carpeting and chocolaty vinyl planks

Kerrville, January 25 – March 31: We did a little more work camping, this time alongside friends at Kerrville-Schreiner Park; upgraded from a cranky and complicated manual awning to an automatic one that works with the push of a single button; met fellow RV nomad, Peter, of Faith: the Final Frontier for a couple of beers; and reconnected with Lisa of Always on Liberty for an afternoon of shopping with my mom, her sister, and a bonus giant chicken. One of the best things I did was take a goat yoga class, and I’m pretty sure it offset the worst, which was going through the hassle of upgrading our driver’s licenses to show we’re qualified to drive this much rig. But both of us are official and legal now, and I only cried a few times.

Sorry. There’s no photo of me throwing a hissy fit over having to take an actual driving test at the age of 49.
But you can read about my unattractive meltdown here.

Where are we now? We’re parked for a few days in Salt Lake City, on our journey from Texas (home of our younger son and my side of the family) to Washington (home of our older son and Tim’s side of the family). 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.

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

New truck? Didn’t make my butt look big, but definitely caused a weight problem, plus much crying and swearing.

Warning: I don’t come off well in this story.

I was petulant. I whined. I yelled at my husband (even though it wasn’t his fault). I stomped, swore, shook my fist at the heavens, hyperventilated, and lost sleep.

I considered all kinds of unspeakable acts to try to get out of what I considered a horrifying situation: having to take a written test and an actual driving test in order to get the license I needed to tow our 5th wheel legally.

“Wait. What?” you say. “Emily. Haven’t you been driving that get-up for more than three years already?”

Yes. Yes, I have. I even wrote about what it was like to learn how.

But… our May 2017 upgrade to the new BFT (B is for Big, T is for Truck, and you can figure out the F), a 2017 Dodge Ram 3500, caused us to gain enough combined vehicle weight rating that it bumped us up into a new level of driver’s licensing requirements in our home state of Texas.

Oh hello, Hell. How very unpleasant to encounter you. I am not gonna like this.

If we’d stayed under a 26,000-lb Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR) with the truck/5th wheel combo, as we had with the prior BFT, a 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500, we could have kept our regular old Class C licenses, and motored on as usual.

But the Ram put us over the limit of 26,000 pounds GCVWR. Thus, Class A non-commercial licenses would be required to keep us legal on the roads. And that meant:

  • Written test
  • Driving test
  • Dammit and FML

Top: under 26,000 lbs GCVWR with the Silverado
(Orrrrr… maybe not. See embarrassing update at bottom of page.)
Bottom: over 26,000 lbs GCVWR with the Ram

We bought the new truck in Kentucky in May, and registered it in Texas, but then continued to travel out of state until after Christmas. When we returned to the Lone Star State, we started working through the license upgrade process.

In January, we studied the appropriate material from the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook.

Don’t panic.
If you’re doing this for an exempt/ non-commercial license like we did, there’s a lot of material in here you can skip.
(Screen cap of handbook cover from dps.texas.gov)

In February, we took our 20-question multiple choice tests, and both of us passed on the first try.

We then scheduled our driving skills tests for March, and here’s where things go sideways for me.

Since The Toad was all set up and hooked up for our latest work camping gig as the home sweet home it is, we borrowed a friend’s trailer for practicing and testing purposes. Because his trailer is rated in the same weight class as our 5th wheel, we were able to use it legitimately on test day.

The trailer’s class is 14,000 lbs, which put our GCVWR at about 26,000, which is what was required for the test.

But practice didn’t go well for me.

It probably went even worse for my patient, long-suffering husband, who coached me through it, but he never let on. Yes, nominations for his sainthood will be accepted. Maybe not by the folks at the Vatican, but definitely by me.

I hit curbs. I backed in the wrong direction. I couldn’t get the feel of the damn thing. And worst of all? I knew it was my fault.

I know I should have been making myself practice these skills all along — it’s been 3.5 years since we bought the RV — but I haven’t.

On the outside, I swore. A lot.

On the inside, I cried.

But I knew I needed to do this. I could see the benefit of the training. And I drew inspiration from the knowledge that I’m far from the first woman to drive a big-ass contraption like this. I know women who RV solo. Hell, I’ve interviewed three of them.

As stated above, yes, I have been towing our 38′ RV all this time.

And in the limited situations in which I’d take the wheel, I was very good at it. So good that Tim would usually nap or work on his laptop while it was my turn to drive.

I was safe, skilled, and conscientious — at going forward. On highways. And into parking spots in gigantic lots where I had zero likelihood of having to put our 10 tires, 13+ tons, and 60 feet of vehicular insanity in reverse.

In other words, I was a wimp about it, and relied on Tim as a safety net for doing the tricky stuff.

(Go ahead. Close your eyes and shake your head from side to side with an audible sigh of incredulity. I deserve it, and I’ll wait.)

In order to pass the road test for this license upgrade, I’d have to be able to show proficiency in situations that I have almost always effectively avoided: in-town driving, backing up, and parallel parking.

And after our second practice session, I felt so demoralized and incompetent that I rescheduled my test for a later date, because to be quite honest, I would not have passed me. I knew I was unqualified, and I did not want to go through the trauma of failing the test and having to repeat it.

So with Tim’s help, I dug back in, because I know I need to be able to do these things on my own, without coaching, even though I hate all of it, and I don’t want to do it.

I decided to approach the parking and backing skills like I did yoga.

What???

Hear me out.

When I started doing yoga, there were poses I couldn’t access (yoga-speak for “pretzel myself into”). After regularly practicing the same maneuvers over and over again, I could then perform them correctly, and with ease, almost every time — which is exactly what needed to happen with the trailer.

And on those occasions when I messed up a yoga position? I knew how to make a series of tiny corrections to get myself back on track without damaging anything  — which is exactly what needed to happen with the trailer.

And power to the namaste, y’all. That’s what worked! I’m still not what anyone would call great at parking and backing up, but I’ve progressed enough to know how and when to pull forward and fix it — which is what I had to do during the parallel parking portion of my test, and it’s the only “bad” mark I got. I passed!

Tim’s report card is on the left, with perfect marks.
Mine’s on the right, with that one ding for parallel parking control, but I am thrilled beyond coherent speech that it took me only two tries.

So now we’ve completed the whole process, we’re legally licensed just in time to roll out of Texas again, and wow, I hope we never have to repeat that. Our next home state may be determined in part by whether or not we’d have to!

Practice makes perfect-ish.
It also occasionally crushes safety cones.
Sorry, safety cones. I never meant to hurt you.


Important note: I intentionally did not try to tell you whether or not you might be required to upgrade your license or how to go about doing it, because this story is about me. But someone I am lucky to know, an ever reliable source of information and recommendations, has already done those first two things. If you are a Texas RV’er, you’ll find all the information you need in this very thorough FAQ by my friend, David, of Landmark Adventures.


Embarrassing update: Tim read this post, and said, “Um… I guess maybe I didn’t make it clear, or didn’t even tell you, but… we were over the weight limit with the Silverado too.”

Ack! Just not as much??? Meaning we went from somewhat illegal to even more illegal, which is all really just plain illegal? Oy. Back to hyperventilating…

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 3rd quarter 2017

Here’s a summary of our third quarter travels for 2017, mapped with a little help from Google. (Want to review the others? Here’s the first quarter, and here’s the second.)

The map’s a bit misleading, because we did some doubling back on parts of I-81, from northern Virginia to just northwest of Nashville, TN, then to southwestern Virginia, followed by the southeast side of Nashville.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 2565. RV miles traveled this year: about 7665.

Fond du Lac, WI, June 30 – July 5: What an all-American 4th of July experience we had in Fond du Lac! Not only were there fireworks over Lake Winnebago on a perfect summer night, but the local symphonic band played patriotic tunes in the lakeside bandstand, which has been home to these concerts since 1901. It was like going back in time to a much simpler era, when entire communities showed up to make the most of holiday celebrations. We also took in the weekly farmer’s market, and I got to visit with an old friend in her new life on a small farm. She’s got chickens, horses, acreage, and hay bales, and I got to meet Olive, the turkey. He’s a very patriotic looking fellow himself!St. Ignace, MI, July 5-9: Ohhhhh. The upper peninsula. Now we get it. Summertime in northern Michigan is indeed worth singing about (see Kid Rock video) and although we crammed a lot of sight-seeing into our 4-day stay, it didn’t feel long enough. We took the ferry from St. Ignace to Lake Huron’s Mackinac Island — home to the Grand Hotel (remember the movie “Somewhere in Time“?), famous fudge, fantastic bike riding, and no motorized vehicles.

That’s the famous Mackinac Bridge on the lower left, which we crossed under on the ferry, and over in the RV. Luckily, we had a wind-free day for that!
On the lower right is our reward for hiking 9.2 miles at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Erie, PA, July 10-24: The youngest cousin at our kids’ level on Tim’s side of the family tree graduated from high school this year, so we rolled to Pennsylvania to help celebrate, with more family members than we could count. Let’s hear it for reunions! We also took advantage of our first “mooch docking” opportunity, and parked for free in a cousin’s driveway for a week. Other celebrations included Tim’s birthday, and a milestone wedding anniversary for us. Can ya guess which one?

Upper right: a map of Presque Isle State Park.
We biked the 14-mile perimeter, and checked off our third Great Lake for the summer. In June and July, we hit points on Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie!

Haymarket, VA, July 24 – Aug 8: Here’s the deal. Tim’s parents wanted to take him on a birthday trip to the Netherlands. And since we could pick any airport for his embarkation point, we chose one in a part of the country where I had lots of friends to play with. And play I did — with Army, Navy and Air Force friends from several of our prior duty stations, as well as with a fair number of high school friends. Some live in the MD/DC/VA area, and others showed up at my 30th high school reunion in Frostburg, MD. I didn’t ask any of them for permission to share their photos here on the blog, so you get two of my photos from my day exploring part of Manassas National Battlefield Park, and one that Tim’s dad took in the Netherlands.

That’s General Stonewall Jackson up there on the right, rendered in, ummmm…, stone.

Ashland City, TN, August 9-22: One of us was very, very excited about the total solar eclipse on August 21, and insisted on booking a campground as close to the path of totality as possible. The other was just along for the ride. But an old shipmate of Tim’s drove down from Boston to view the spectacle with us, so I had the pleasure of watching those two 50+ men act like little boys on Christmas morning, as we stood in the middle of a cornfield in Springfield, TN, waiting for it to go from light, to dark, and back to light again. All they lacked were feetie pajamas.

Is it time yet? Is it time yet?

Damascus, VA, August 23 – Sept 18: We spent almost a month in Trail Town USA, so that Tim and a friend from Norfolk could tackle a 7-day hike together on the Appalachian Trail. I used the first week to fly to San Antonio for my regular round of 6-month cancer appointments, and plenty of check-in time with family. This also happened to be when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, and we watched, horrified, as my brother’s hometown of Port Aransas was nearly wiped off the map. His family, their pets, and their house made it through, and their town will too, but it’s going to take a years-long, arduous effort of cleaning, restoring, and rebuilding.

Top left: Yet another visit to the mammography clinic’s changing room. All clear!
Top center: My parents taking our younger son grocery shopping the day before fall semester classes started at UT-Austin.
Top right: Tim & Greg starting their hike.
Bottom: just a tiny part of the scenic Virginia Creeper Trail. It took us two visits, two years apart, but we’ve now biked the entire 34 miles — some of them twice. I wrote about the first half here and the second half here.

Manchester, TN, Sept. 18 – Christmastime: I’d say “here we sit” in Tennessee again, but we’re really not doing all that much sitting. We’ve taken on seasonal jobs as pickers at the Amazon fulfillment center in nearby Murfreesboro, and after two weeks of work, I’ve walked 65 miles! I blogged two weeks ago about why we did it and what we expect from this adventure with the CamperForce program, and I’ll post an update on how it’s going when we reach the halfway point.

My typical “work hair” style channels my inner Rosie the Riveter.
That’s the official t-shirt on the upper right, and our back yard for pretty much the rest of the year on the bottom.

For now, here we don’t sit, and the current plan is to make our way back to San Antonio after we’re done working. Not sure we’ll make it before Santa Claus arrives, but we’ll definitely have done our job as elves this year!

Stuffed peppers experiment: not the cooking part, just the recipe posting part

Bear with me while I learn a new trick?

Jump to Recipe

Your reward will be this slow cooker recipe I like, in an easy-to-print format that my prior food blogging efforts lacked. See the cute little “print” button under the photo? Click that.

This recipe also happens to be perfect for cool autumn weather, and it’s fairly adaptable to various types of -free diets.

I had to use a recipe I already had a photo for, because I didn’t want to cook a thing and document every step and learn how to post it all at one go, so you get an oldie.

I first served this dish in 2011, and I’d happily give credit to its original publisher if I remembered where I’d found it in the first place, so if it’s yours, speak up!

Ready?

5 from 1 vote
Print

Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Hearty, savory, warm, filling, and very, very, juicy. I highly recommend serving these in bowls instead of on plates!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 375 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 15.2 oz can Hunt's seasoned tomato sauce for meatloaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • 5 whole bell peppers, any color
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small potato, any variety, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage, spicy, mild, or sweet

Instructions

  1. In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the tomato sauce, oregano and pepper.

    Wash peppers and pat dry. 

    If they do not sit upright, slice a very thin piece off the bottom. Finely chop the pieces and place in large bowl. 

    Add the onion, potato, parsley and crushed red pepper to the bowl, and toss to combine. 

    Add the sausage and mix to incorporate.

    Using a paring knife at a slight angle, cut the tops off the peppers; discard the seeds. 

    Spoon the sausage mixture (about 1 cup each) into the peppers.

    Arrange the peppers upright in the slow cooker and place the tops over the filling. Cover and cook until the sausage is cooked through and the peppers are tender, 5-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. 

    Using two large spoons, transfer the peppers to serving dish, letting any excess liquid drain into the sauce first. Stir the sauce and serve with peppers.

Let me know what you think!

There’s one standout in every crowd?
More likely I just used what I had on hand at the time.


Here are links to other recipes I’ve posted. I will probably not go back and reformat them, even though there aren’t that many, because I’m just not that ambitious, and I have no designs on becoming a Food Blogger (capitalization intentional). But I’ll post future recipes in the format above, for ease of both viewing and printing.

You can also find my recipes by going to my “Categories” drop-down bar and selecting “RECIPES.” This feature appears on the left or near the bottom of any page, depending on what type of device you’re using.

Yes, I use my slow cooker a lot. No, I have not upgraded to an Instant Pot.

Yet.