Thursday, December 31, 2015

12/31 2016 Yearly Summary

Life is good for me.  I am grateful for my health and being able to live the kind of life I live.  I hope to be able to continue for at least a few more years—the longer the better.  My goal is to continue until I become too sick or feeble to continue, and for as long as I can afford it. 

I’ve had a couple of mild colds, but missed the flu or any major illnesses.  Living alone pays in that you aren’t around many people to catch things from!  My only problem has been trigger fingers on both hands, which has meant using various devices to overcome difficulties gripping things.  I recently had one finger surgically “released” and hope to get the other done next year.   

I spent most of last winter in Florida, and then quite a bit of time in Ohio and Michigan in May through July.  I was able to visit with both sets of grandkids, which was nice, and introduced my California grandkids to some Michigan camping.   I took a short trip into Ontario to try to find some of the homes and burial places of my great-grandparents and got bit by vicious deer flies.  In August, I headed to New England and spent September in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.  I enjoyed seeing the 35’ tides at the Bay of Fundy and visited Anne of Green Gables country in Prince Edward Island.   I loved Nova Scotia!  Had a lot of lobster and lobster rolls in Maine and Canada. 

After a few more days in Ohio and Michigan in October, I headed west through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, then down the Mississippi Great River Road to Louisiana, where I headed west through Texas.  The temperatures really started dropping by the time I got to New Mexico, so I found myself with some very cold nights.  It was also really cold through Arizona, Nevada, and into California. 

The best part of traveling, besides a lot of gorgeous views and interesting things along the way, has been the interesting people I have met.  I’ve made some friends on a blog for women who have the same RV “travel bug” as I have.  It has been fun to meet up with many of them over the past three years and share experiences and tips for this kind of living.  I also have met a lot of friendly people in campgrounds and places I have visited. Talking to strangers is one of the best things you can do when you travel because people are sometimes the best part of the landscape!  (I have not met any ax murderers yet, in spite of warnings.)

Here are some statistics for this past year:

·       Drove through 21 states, adding New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to my map of states visited in my motorhome.  I also visited 4 Canadian provinces.

·       Drove 19,172 miles, and used roughly 2,395 gallons of gas.  That’s about 8.5 MPG, which is typical for me and my vehicle.  Amazingly, these numbers are almost identical to what I drove in 2014! 

·      Spent $260 on propane to heat water and my motorhome, cook, and run the refrigerator while driving.  That compares to spending $365 propane in 2014.  I use a small electric heater to supplement the two propane furnaces, which is one reason I used so little propane.   I did not keep track of the number of gallons I used, but a good estimate would be about 100 gallons.  Not bad for heat and cooking! 

·       I average about 10 gallons of water per day for a hot shower and washing dishes once a day, so that totals about 3.650 gallons per year.  (That does not count a couple of loads of laundry every 7 – 10 days or a very occasional RV wash.)  Most individuals use 80-100 gallons per day, or 29,200 – 36,500 gallons per year, so I do well on water usage.  

I hope all of you who are my family and friends have had equally good years and hope you all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous year in 2016!     

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

12/29 San Francisco Day Out - The Bay Model in Sausalito

Since we were headed to Sausalito for dinner, my son the science teacher suggested we stop here since we had some extra time.  This is a model of San Francisco Bay that the Corps of Engineering used to measure and predict currents throughout the Bay area.  Now it is a museum.

One of the boats the Corps uses to monitor the Bay.  Another one of their tasks is to keep the water clean, so they use this and another boat to collect trash from the waters.

This art piece is supposed to show that elephants and whales are "kindred spirits" because they have so much in common.  Did you know that elephants are excellent swimmers?  They are also closely related to manatees that you see in Florida.

The next few photos just show pictures of the various parts of the Bay Model.

This photo below shows that while most of the Bay is shallow, it becomes very deep just under the Golden Gate Bridge.  It also shows the large area out to sea where the Bay dumps silt.

This shows a propeller stick in a log!  Now, my dad used to bend propellers from his 1951 Chris Craft in Lake Huron, but never got one stuck like this one is.  I'll bet that boat stopped very quickly!!

12/29 San Francisco Day Out - Chrissy Field

It was cold, but sunny today, so we took a drive to San Francisco for the day.  You do not get very many sunny days in San Francisco!  Here comes the bridge.  Always love driving over this one.  

We had been planning on visiting the California Academy of Science, but the parking lots and building were full, and you could not even get near the place.  So we bailed out of the long line and headed to Chrissy Field, which is the part of the Presidio next to the Golden Gate Bridge.

These are some of the old military buildings that are used for various purposes.

Headed to the beach!

While my grandkids played in the sand, I headed for a walk to the pier and to take some photos.  This is really the best all-around view of San Francisco!

There is a small gift shop and visitor center near this pier, along with rest rooms.

Some signs describing the area, which is a national park. This was originally an airfield and military base guarding the Bay.  Now there are lots of hiking and biking trails.

Great view of the city!!

Telephoto of Alcatraz Island.  I've got to get a new camera because I have spots on my lens that I can't clean off.  Darn! 

And one of the natives, hoping for a snack from the nearby fishermen.

Back across the bridge to the village of Sausalito for a visit to the Bay Model and dinner.

Friday, December 25, 2015

12/25 Driving Miss Daisy - Part 2

Almost everybody knows that when you drive a big vehicle, you have to swing wide when making turns.  I learned that from online videos.  Here are some other things I learned from experience:

·         You not only have to swing wide, but you have such a horrible turning radius that you really need two lanes to pull out into.  This means if I am coming out of a side street or driveway, I need not only the lane closest to me, but I also need part of the lane next to it.  Even if I am turning right onto a two-lane highway, I need to wait until traffic is clear BOTH ways.  Otherwise, I am going to run over the curb, or into the ditch near me, if there is one.  So please be patient if you are behind me.

·         Because it is so long and has a relatively short wheelbase, my vehicle has a lot of “tail swing.”  This means that if I am making a left turn at a multilane intersection, and you are waiting for the light on my right, my tail will swing around and hit you if I am not careful.  What I have to do is pull ahead straight or at a slight angle until I am clear and then turn more sharply.  Shorter Class Cs and most Class As do not have this problem because they have a longer wheelbase to total length ratio.

·         Because of the first two items, I am constantly using my mirrors to look down the side of my vehicle as I turn corners.  I keep my power mirrors set to the right mirror so I can quickly point it down to make sure I do not run over curbs and scrape my nice tires.  I am also always looking to the right or left when I make a turn to make sure no other vehicles are close enough to get hit by my “tail” as it swings around.  It might seem strange, but I look right when I turn left and left when I turn right!  

·         Wind is my enemy.  My motorhome is not top-heavy, but it is very tall.  This means it is much more susceptible to strong side winds than your car is. Not only will a gust of wind as I am coming over a hill try to take the steering wheel out of my hands, but so will being passed by a big truck or even another large motorhome. This means I have to keep my hands on the steering wheel and pay attention most of the time so I don’t lose control.  It requires a lot more concentration this way, but I don’t want to go careening down an embankment somewhere.

·         My vehicle is also a lot wider than your typical car.  That means that narrow roads are really scary, especially if they have narrow shoulders.  Running off a road with a front tire could mean losing control if there is any sort of drop-off, so I have to watch what I am doing carefully.  The other problem with some secondary roads is that they were not graded flat when asphalt was laid down, so they tend to toss my vehicle from side to side, making me have to slow down.  I love wide shoulders and wide roads and am never happy when my GPS takes me on a narrow secondary road.

As you can see from all of the above, driving a motorhome is a lot more active and requires much more attention than does driving a car.  It is not especially difficult, but it is a lot more tiring so most of us do not drive a lot of miles in one day.  I used to think nothing of driving 400-500 miles in a day.  Now, I prefer to drive no more than 200 miles per day.  I have driven 300, but it was really exhausting.  And since I am retired, I can take it a little easier these days in terms of having a deadline.     

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12/23 Driving Miss Daisy - Part 1

Well, actually, I have never given my motorhome a name, although I do occasionally refer to it as the “Beast” because it is so big. Just thought this title was clever.

Before I bought my motorhome, I had never driven anything bigger than a van.  When I went RV shopping, I was amazed at how big these things are, especially when they are indoors in a showroom.  You look up at it and cannot imagine a small being such as you getting behind the wheel and driving it out.  I did take a couple of test drives, but had no real lessons or instruction, other than watching some videos on my computer

Also, when I started out, I was looking at maybe 24 footers.  Then I realized that almost all of those either did not have a permanent bed or would not sleep grandkids or guests, so I started looking at 28 footers.  But most of those had corner beds way in the back, which would mean crawling over it to try to make it every day, or just leaving it looking messy.  I decided that my poor old knees could not handle that, especially since my orthopedic surgeon told me when he replaced my right knee that the kneecap was very thin and not to kneel on it. 

So, I figured what the heck, and went full speed ahead with the biggest Class C they make—32’ long and 12’ high!  Wow!  What had I gotten myself into?  My younger son had to drop me off at the dealer to pick it up and that meant a 75 mile drive back to his house and the storage lot where it would stay until my condo got sold and the weather warmed up.  I think he was a lot more scared following than I was, but we both made it home safely that day.  Since then, I have driven over 71,000 miles, so I am really an expert by now.

I think a lot of people buy a smaller motorhome than they might otherwise because they are concerned about the size making it harder to drive.  The truth is that while big RVs are hard to drive in some ways, they are easy in other ways.  One really easy thing is how well you can see over other vehicles.  I am short, 5’1”, which means I cannot see out of any vehicle well. In a car, I always feel as if I am sitting on the pavement and looking up at everyone else. However, I climb up into the cab of my motorhome, using the substantial running board, and then take another step up into the driver’s seat.  I feel like I am on top of the world!   

Now, I do have to use a booster seat because my driver’s seat is very cheap and is not at all adjustable. It took me a while to get the right setup.  At first, I bought one of those trucker’s gel seats, but it cut into the back of my legs and reduced blood circulation, making them ache or even get numb.  So I tossed that expensive item and ended up with a wedge-shaped foam cushion from JoAnn Fabrics that was thicker in the back and thinner at the front.  I had to cut it down to size and pinned a pillow case over it.  What I really would like is one of those fancy power seats that bus drivers have.  Short of that, I may try to get someone to remove the entire seat and put a 2” thick platform of some sort.

My booster seat, and the high cab, let sme see over everything except another motorhome and a commercial truck.  Love it!! 

In fact, I have gotten so used to driving my motorhome that I find it strange to drive a car these days.  And the length does not really matter once you get used to it.  All you have to do is drive the cab and the rest follows, assuming of course that you keep your vehicle in between those white lines on the highway!  And once you get into the mindset that you are driving a big truck, you just get in line behind the big truckers and follow them at about 60-65 MPH.  (Very few motorhomers really drive faster than this.)

More in a couple of days about steering, trying not to hit curbs, and other driving techniques, such as never getting into any place you cannot get out of! 



Sunday, December 20, 2015

12/20 To Tow, or Not to Tow

AZDonna asked how I manage without towing a vehicle, and here is my answer!

I made a decision when planning my travels not to tow a vehicle behind my motorhome.  I had been told by some very opinionated male members of a popular forum that it was “impossible” to full-time without a towed vehicle.

However, I had never driven a motorhome before and knew my 32’ Class C was going to be enough of a challenge.  In addition, traveling solo would make it harder to hook and unhook another vehicle.  I knew that my goal was travel, so I would not be staying long at any one place, and figured towing a vehicle would make it even harder to stop places and park, let alone get into and out of gas stations! 

A big consideration is that when you tow a vehicle, you cannot back up!  Since my biggest fear is getting into somewhere I cannot get out of, that was a major negative to towing.

The other consideration was cost.  The tow apparatus for towing “four wheels down” would cost at least $3,000.  Then there would be the cost of the towed vehicle itself and insurance.  A bike rack and my old bike on the back would be a lot cheaper.

So, how do I manage without a towed vehicle? 

Really, it is not very hard. First, I tend to drive for one or two days, and then stay in one place for a few days.  I do all my grocery and other shopping and running errands while on driving days.  There is almost always room to park my big vehicle at chain grocery stores and places like Home Depot that are located in shopping centers.  I just park way out at the ends of rows and take up several spaces.  Doing my shopping like this breaks up a long day of driving and lets me stretch my legs a bit. 

I keep a running grocery list and also make sure I have all of the basics, like spices and baking supplies.  I carry a lot of paper things in an underneath storage bin so I don’t run out of those. In general, I tend to carry a lot of groceries anyway so that if I get someplace a long way from stores, I have at least a week worth of food, usually even more.  Taking my RV to the grocery store also means I can put things in the refrigerator, freezer, or cupboard as soon as I buy them—no lugging bags of stuff from one vehicle to another!

Shopping centers usually also have fast food restaurants along the edges, so that means I can pick up something after doing the shipping. I like malls, especially, because they have department stores, food courts, hair salons, and all sorts of things in one handy spot with tons of parking.  A benefit of malls with big stores is that they also tend to have a lot of free internet I can get from the parking lot with my WiFi booster!  (Instead of going inside a McDonalds to use their internet, I sit in my recliner in my vehicle to eat my food and go online!)

Virtually every state and national park visitor center has parking for big vehicles.  Ditto for bigger museums.  I often will look on Google maps or call a museum ahead of time to ask about parking.  The only times I have had problems are in big cities and where cars are illegally parked in RV parking spots. Sometimes in small towns, there will be street parking around the corner or even an overflow lot somewhere not too far away. Towns along rivers or lakes often have parking for people towing boats, so I have parked at a lot of marinas. 

Very occasionally when I am near a big city I will rent a car for a day or so.  Enterprise really does come to get you, even driving 10-15 miles to do so, especially if you call before making the reservation.  I figure I can rent a car for a couple days a month for the cost of just the insurance cost of towing a vehicle. 

Yes, it is a pain sometimes to have forgotten something at the store and having to unhook electric and water, put my slides in, and drive to a store, but that is balanced by the problem of having that vehicle behind me  when getting into and out of gas stations and parking lots.        

Saturday, December 19, 2015

12/19 Inspiration

I am in California visiting family for the holidays, so I will not be making regular posts.  However, there are some things I have been thinking about, so I thought some of you might be interested in some things about my lifestyle.

There have been many events and people who inspired me to decide that I wanted to live in a motorhome full time and travel the country.  First, I think I was born with the travel bug.  I was a voracious reader as a child and loved Sunday travelogues on television.  Detroit, where I grew up, had several I remember, way back in the 50s.  One was George Pierrot’s World Adventure Series. If you lived in the Detroit area in the 50s and 60s, you remember him.

One of the guests on the George Pierrot show was Don Cooper.  His travelogues were a combination north woods lumberjack meets the Marx Brothers slapstick. (If you are from Michigan, you might remember that his films featured his brother, Dennis, and partner, Arnie.)   Another funny traveler was Stan Midgely, who rode a bike all over the country.  I remember that he used to carry sugar cubes instead of granulated sugar for his on-the-road coffee so it wouldn’t spill and mess up the rest of the stuff in his pack.    

I also blame John Steinbeck and the last book he ever wrote, Travels With Charley.  According to his son, Steinbeck knew he was dying, so in 1960, he bought a pickup camper and borrowed his wife’s standard poodle, Charley, as a companion for a trip around the United States.  I was a high school senior when it was published and it left a strong impression on me—hence the name of this blog. It is likely that Steinbeck used a lot of “poetic license” in writing this rare work of non-fiction, but that never mattered then or now to me.  (Last time I wrote on this blog about this book, a writer who has based his career on showing the book to be fiction and a lie commented, which amazed me that someone would even bother caring about that after all these years!)  Here is some of the history about the book.  The book is still in print and available on Amazon, by the way.   

Much more recently, about five years ago, I discovered a man named George who started writing a blog in May 2003 about his adventures with his motorhome, Ms. Tioga.  He had survived cancer and decided he wanted to live the rest of his life as a vagabond, so he spent his savings on a used Fleetwood Tioga, installed solar panels, and took off.  He had very little income and had spent most of his savings, so he invented a kind of boondocking that suited him.  You can read about these early years and how he lived on the archives of his old blog: .  The best way is to start at the beginning and work forward.  He spent many years living in Mexico and posting wonderful photos and experiences.   

His “Magazine” is well worth reading, just on its own.  This area is where he has collected articles on various things of interest to anyone wants to full-time as he did.  George had an enormous following on his blog.  Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, George had a heart attack and drove Ms. Tioga off the road, smashing it into pieces and losing everything he had.  He is now living in a senior apartment in California, and says he is very happy riding around on his electric bike and enjoying his new life. He still posts, but admits it does not make for as interesting reading as his old life was. 

Next, I am going to write about what it is like to drive a big vehicle.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

12/9 Hidden View COE Campground, Hensley Lake, CA

I have been here before and enjoy the views and the quietness of this isolated campground, north of Fresno, California.  Being a Corps of Engineering facility, it is well-cared-for and has things like paved roads and camping pads.  About half the sites here also have electric.  It was easy to pick out a site this visit because I was the only person there, other than a volunteer camp hosting couple! 

It was foggy the day I took this photos and it rained most of the next day, so these are not the best quality pictures, but you can see how hilly and scenic this area is.

You can see how low the water level is on the lake.  It should be at least halfway up the water intake tower near the dam.

I took this photo at the camp host site, so they were not too far away if I needed help.  The campground also has a gate which is locked during the evenings and nights.  Also good cell service so I was able to get good Verizon internet through my hotspot. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

12/4 Drive to Valley of Fire State Park

I decided I wanted some electricity for a few days, and had been here before and knew it was a very pretty place.  I have lights and heat without electricity, but I have a lot of papers to grade right now, and my motorhome has only two 12 volt outlets I can use--one in the bedroom closet and the other in the hallway under the TV that is there for the bunks.  I have a 12 volt cord and charger for my laptop, but it does not reach all the way to my "office" recliner.  So I have to do the following:
  1. Charge laptop in back closet.  Takes about two hours since 12 volt is slower than 110 volt.
  2. Take laptop out into living room and work for two hours or until battery dies. 
  3. Stop work and repeat Step 1, above, ad infinitum. 
The result is that I can only work two hours out of every four.  I can run my generator and plug my laptop into a 110 like I usually do, but I am sensitive to how much noise it makes and how neighbors might now appreciate it.  I am going to investigate getting another outlet installed or buying a 12 volt extension cord, which I did not even know they make. In the meantime, it is much easier to have the usual electrical hookup in a campground.

It was a very nice drive here, once I got my propane refilled and got out of the Las Vegas area.  Look how the road goes down this valley.  Headed there.

Lots of patterns in this mountain.

Voila!  Here it is!

You can see a little of the red sandstone that gives the park its name.

Made it and found one of the last electric/water sites.  I know from the last time I was here to pick a site along the edge, overlooking the valley, because there is a tiny bit of cell service there that enables me to get a bit of internet access through my hotspot.

Lots of red rock, but the prettiest stuff is behind me.  I will take more photos today when the sun is shining more.