Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflections on 4 years of Fulltime Motorhoming

We started our fulltime life in the motorhome by first holding an auction to sell everything we had accumulated in 35 years of married life -- which was a lot of stuff! This was a big decision for us and took about 6 weeks of hard work to get everything organized and ready for the big auction. We engaged a great auctioneer  who handled all the advertising, and pre-auction publicity.

The auction Saturday was clear, but cold -- unusually so for early fall in South Dakota, but we were pleased with the hundreds of folks eager to bid on our stuff. We sold furniture, wood working equipment, jewelry, kitchen pots and pans, and much more. The great thing about the auction was that everything was sold and removed in one very busy day! We were also pleased at the overall proceeds of the auction -- about 25% higher than we had hoped.

Rick had to finish working over the fall semester and as a result, we could not leave until Christmas 2007. We left South Dakota in clear, cold weather, but in Nebraska, hit heavy snow as you can see. Our 36' Itasca Meridian coach did a great job on the ice, but we were really pleased to finally pull off into the RV park for the night. What a start to fulltiming!

A foot of snow later, we were ready to continue. Fortunately, the RV park plowed the roads and our site so we could head out, but we wondered what kind of life we were embarking on. 

We finally made it to Florida where we spent a wonderful winter and really got into the concept of fulltime living in our coach. In fact, we loved the lifestyle so much, that we ened up trading the 2004 36' Meridian for a 2008 Winnebago Tour 40' coach. 

Moving day is always a thrill, even from one coach to another. Here, all the stuff from the 36' coach is stacked on our site while we awaited delivery of the new 40' rig. We were amazed at how much stuff we had on board.

The 40' coach arrives! Wow, what a difference. We loved the new Tour 40' and ended up fulltiming almost 3 years in this great coach, which took us over 35,000 miles around the country. We learned that the extra room and amenities were very well worth while.

The Tour took us all over the country and we saw things we had only dreamed about. Here, Rick is getting ready to crew in a hot air balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta where we joined other RVers at a rally sponsored by the Escapees  RV Club. 

What a sight! Rick watched as hundreds of balloons lifted off to join him in the air. Wow -- we never dreamed we could do this. 

The 40' Tour made its way to the Pacific coast twice over the three years that we had it and we greatly enjoyed the trips. What a great way to travel and to take in the sights such as this beach on the Oregon coast. We were fortunate to have our old Golden Retriever, Cody, with us for 3 years before he passed. 

The 40' Tour was great, but then Winnebago came out with the 42' tag axle model and we were amazed at the extra space and features it offered. The king bed, stacked washer/dryer, dishwasher and 4 slides sold Orinda. Rick was taken with the large holding tanks and the 4 (FOUR!) big tvs helped seal the deal. This rig is great to drive and live in. 

We took the new coach on a 9,000 mile trip over 6 months last summer/fall and had a great time. Here, we are at an Escapees Rally in Gillette, WY as a weather front blew through.

The new Tour takes a breather next to Yellowstone Lake. After 4 full years of fulltime living in a motorhome, we can say with certainty it is a great lifestyle. We have meet hundreds of great people, seen amazing things, and participated in events that we could only dream about. If you are interested in this life, be sure to fully check it out as it is a whole new world that awaits you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas - 2011

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas
and a wonderful new year! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spending the Winter at the Olde Mill Stream RV Resort

After several months of traveling the country, we are settled into the Olde Mill Stream RV Resort in Umatilla, FL which seems to be a great spot. This is the first time we have spent the season here and so far, we are delighted with the park. This is the entrance which typifies the high maintenance standards seen throughout the park.

 There is a very nice clubhouse for the many activities going on in the park and we have already been to a couple of events here. While not a huge place (I would guess there are about 300 sites), everyone if very friendly and outgoing.

 One of the events that occurred during the Christmas season is the memory tree ceremony which allows residents of the park to trim the tree with memories of departed loved ones. There is also a very well done tribute to veterans which we found especially meaningful.

 One of the pleasant surprises we found at the park, especially for Rick, is this electric RC flying field located right in the park -- indeed, only a couple streets from our lot! Cool! Rick is working on a model aircraft again and is looking forward to doing some flying.

This is our site. We opted for some extra concrete on our pad which really helps and gives a very nice patio area. We are also going to get a small shed for Rick's model workshop and storage which should be great. All in all, we think we will like staying at the Olde Mill Stream and will keep you posted as the winter progresses. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tightening the show head wall attachment -- FINALLY!

We have enjoyed our Tour motorhome, but I noticed that the shower head mount constantly loosened after a few days of use. I tried first to simply re-tighten the screws, but quickly found that the sheet metal screws used to hold the mount to the fiberglass enclosure had stripped the holes. Rats!

Rick tried first to shim the hole with filler, wood, etc., but after a couple weeks, the holes enlarged and the screws loosened up again. 

Finally, while wandering in our local Ace Hardware Store, Rick found these rubber and brass compression inserts. When a bolt is threaded into the insert and tightened, the brass threads compress the rubber and expand the insert so that it holds tightly.

These are simple to install -- just drill a hole in the fiberglass enclosure just large enough for the insert to fit tightly. 

I used a small expanding grinding bit to open the holes in the enclosure. Just go easy with this step and make sure the holes do not get too big to force fit the inserts in,

The inserts just slip in, no glue is needed. 

 Now, the new stainless steel machine screws are used to re-mount the shower head holder. I was delighted to find that the screws snugged down perfectly and held the mount firmly to the fiberglass. Plus, the rubber inserts eliminate any possible leaks behind the mount.

A simple repair and it worked great.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City -- LOTS of bones!

 We visited our son who is in the Air Force and based in Oklahoma City and had a great week. We stayed at the Roadrunnner RV park which is a pretty nice park and located close to most things in the city. As you can see, we had a nice site and everything worked well.

 Located nearby, is the very unique Museum of Osteology -- which is literally a boneyard! This is a fascinating place where the skeletons of all manner of creatures are displayed.

 Orinda was in her glory with the grandkids who really liked the museum -- and Grandma! To their right is a small glass display showing how the bones are cleaned for display. They actually use bugs that eat everything, right down to the bones.

 When you enter the museum, you are greeted by this amazing display of all kinds of skeletons, including whales, giraffes, rhinos, and many, many more.

 This killer whale is remarkable and is a swimming mode. It was interesting to see how these skeletons are put together and the museum does a great job in displaying them.

 This hippopotamus was huge, even in the bone view. We were impressed by the size of the skull and the other bone structures.

 This display of monkeys was very well done and showed the animals in all different poses. These displays are very challenging to create and must take many hours to prepare.

 Our son and his boy loved the place. Our grandson is about 3 and was full of questions about every animal and bone. This turned out to be a great place to visit for all ages.

 Orinda was impressed by this elephant skull -- it is almost the same size as she is! The tusks are several feet long and we would have hated to see one of these charging us in the wild!

 The museum also has a hands-on area where kids of all ages can handle the various bones. Our son was amazed at the jaw size of this alligator and it is easy to see why these animals can do some serious damage with these jaws!

Here's trouble! Our grandson, Caleb, wondered how he would look if he had horns like many animals. Fortunately, the museum had some you could try on and this made for a very happy 3 year old! Equally happily, we were able to leave the horn in the museum when we left, so every one was happy.

The "Bone Museum" is a great place to visit and offers some unique displays that are well worth the time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Installing Grease Fittings on the Dump Valves - smooth action!

We have three dump valves on the 42' Tour -- two grey tanks (60 gallons each) and the black tank -- also 60 gallons. I really like the large size of these holding tanks and they have worked well. However, after a few months of daily use, the valves start to get sticky and work with difficulty. Time to add grease fittings!

I originally got this idea from Mark Nemeth, Escapees' technical director and first used it on our 2008 coach. The modified dump valves worked great and I had no problems over 2 years of fulltime use, so I decided to do the same modification on our new coach.

Here are the few tools needed. You will need to get one 1/4" zerk grease fitting for each dump valve (I got mine at Lowe's), a 1/4" x 28 thread thread tap, 3/16" drill, and of course, a grease gun with grease. The zerk fittings are only a buck or so and the tap is just a few dollars, so this is a very inexpensive modification.

First, drill the hole above the drain valve handle, being sure that the hole will be within the dump valve body cavity as shown above. Then, use the tap to create threads in the plastic valve housing. I did not have a regular tap handle, so simply used a 3/32 socket and ratchet to hold the tap -- worked great. 

 The threads are easily cut into the plastic. Make sure that the threads go all the way through the plastic housing (have the valve closed during this operation), and in a couple minutes, you will have a nice, threaded hole.

Screw in the zerk grease fitting as shown and gently tighten. I tightened them down until the shoulder of the fitting was secure on the dump valve, but be careful of tightening these too much as you are working with plastic. This completes the actual modification.

Finally, clip the grease gun on and start pumping. This will take a fair amount of grease as you are filling part of the valve assembly. During this filling process, I moved the valve in and out and after a few times, the action got much smoother and easier as the grease was distributed. If you fill the grease while the valve is open, you can actually see the valve begin to close as the grease is pumped in, pushing the valve body closes. This is a clear indication you have more than enough grease in the valve.

After repeating this procedure for all valves, enjoy the smooth opening and closing of the valves. I found that I did not need to re-grease the valves on our prior coach more than once a year to keep the valves working freely.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Amarillo and Cadillac Ranch

Driving into Amarillo, TX, we passed Cadillac Ranch, on the old Route 66. This iconic sight consists of Cadillacs of different years (1949 - 1963) buried halfway into the ground. 
 This closeup of some of the cars shows Cadillacs from the late 50's, complete with fins. This is a remarkable sight of a real piece of Americana and is unlike anything else we have ever seen. Quite a welcome to Amarillo!

 Amarillo is the site of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, we arrived on a day that the museum was closed, but we still were able to view these amazing statues in bronze outside.

This sculpture portrays the original cowboy days of calf roping and range riding.

 These lifesize bronze sculptures are very impressive and life-like. Amarillo was originally the real cow town and the site of thousands of cattle coming through. Must have been quite a sight.

We had already seen a couple of the painted horse statues in town and began to look for them as we traveled. Amarillo is also know for it's helium production and indeed we stayed at an RV park on Helium Road. Amarillo is a true American original and well worth a visit.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Amarillo, TX and the Big Texan Steakhouse

We spent a couple days in Amarillo, TX and enjoyed touring around this Texas town. Amarillo is the home of the Quarter Horse Association and in recognition of this, we found a number of lifesize horse statues throughout the city that featured painted scenes on them. Interesting!

We had heard about the Big Texan Steakhouse and decided this was one place we had to check out. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was clear that this is no ordinary eating joint! Orinda was impressed with the big "whiteface" steer welcoming us as we approached. 

 The key word of the Big Texan is BIG! There are all kinds of displays to point the way and there is a definite fun atmosphere in the air.

Although we did not have a dog along, the Big Texan wanted to let you know that they were ready to welcome 'em! There is also parking for RVs, a motel, in fact, everything the tourist needs to have  a great dinner!

Orinda had seen TV coverage of the Big Texan and it's Free Steak Challenge. Apparently, many years ago, a group of hungry cowboys came in and had a contest to see who could eat the most steaks. One guy ate 4 one pound steaks AND all the trimmings in under an hour. The owner of the Big Texan was duly impressed, and stated that henceforth, anyone who could eat that much in one hour would get it free -- and so it is to this day. In fact, here is the free meal, with a 48 ounce steak as the centerpiece. 

 Inside, the Big Texan is a classic steakhouse. There is a singing cowboy to serenade you at the table, excellent service and the food was great (and reasonably priced). In the picture above, you can see 6 timers under the steer skull that are set to 60 minutes -- yup, these are the timers for folks attempting to complete the free meal in an hour. Amazingly, as we entered, one guy had just finished the huge steak in 50 minutes -- he earned that free meal!

 Finally, if you had a few too many, or if the huge steak is weighing you down, the Big Texan offers free limo service (for pickup too) to and from the steakhouse. Of course, the limos are complete with longhorn steer horns on the hood! Now that is how cool is that! Rick was wondering how a set of horns might look on the motorhome, but Orinda was not too keen on that idea.

By all means, go to the Big Texan if you are in Amarillo.