Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Motorhome or 5th Wheel for Full Time? Finally: Here Is The Answer!

In my experience, this is by far the most asked question when it comes to full time RVing. Which is better for full timing? A motorhome or a fifth wheel trailer? So, I can't stand it any more, I am going to go there, somebody has to.

Facebook groups, blogs, YouTube channels, you name it; people want to know. The funny thing is, they get a ton of answers, and most are not very helpful. The most honest answer I see is "it depends" or "personal preference". And it's true. I know, you wanted a clear answer. Well, I will do my best to help you with that. I will attempt to give you some solid points that will help you know which one is right for you. That's really the main issue here because it really does vary by user. Perhaps I can help you understand which type of person you are: a motorhome person or a fifth wheel person! There really IS a wrong answer. The wrong rig can be a terrible mistake, and you must do some deep thinking.

Two types of RV

Our 2015 Redwood Fifth Wheel and RAM Dually Truck
There are some obvious differences; and we won't deal with the obvious here. As one RV salesman answered this question for us many years ago: Well, you either drive your RV and tow your vehicle or you drive your vehicle and tow your RV.  And while that seems super obvious: It actually has the first nugget of truth to it. You WILL need a vehicle if you are driving a motorhome of any size. There are ways to argue around it, but honestly, unless you are driving a very small class B or C motorhome, you are unlikely to be satisfied with the lack of mobility not having a vehicle creates.  Make sure you take this into consideration when comparing ownership costs, maintenance routines and all of that. Two engines, two sets of tires, you get the idea.

Here's Todd test driving a brand
 new Entegra Coach!
Full disclosure for those who don't know: We are "fifth wheel people". We came to this understanding over years of RVing and deep, lengthy (and recurring!) discussions over the years. It wasn't an easy decision at first. But now we know for sure that we are where we should be.  It's right for us. It's not right for everyone. I will do my best not to slant this post toward 5th wheels, ok? I like motorhomes, they are sometimes stunning! We nearly bought one... I mean really close. So I don't dislike them, I promise! But because we are obviously in favor of fifth wheels, this is bound to seem biased. Sorry about that! I really DO want you to have what is RIGHT for you!

So for this discussion to be of any use to anyone we have to agree on an "apples to apples" comparison. We cannot compare an older, used truck and fifth wheel (and it's features and technology) to a new motorhome. That wouldn't be fair. So for this discussion, I will focus on units of both categories that are under about 5 years old. You can find all kinds of things in the older, used market and the variation is so wide that it is of no use to us here. Both rigs depreciate a lot over time, and this also should be about the same.

Ok, there are a LOT of myths and misconceptions out there about both. One of the most often misunderstood misconceptions about fifth wheels (and I hear this a lot) is that they are complicated and time consuming to move. People say, "If you are going to be stationary for months at a time, then you should get a fifth wheel." This is simply not true. In fact, when you consider that hitching and unhitching a towed vehicle (or toad) from the motorhome takes not only several minutes, but a flat stretch of road as well, which may or may NOT be where you are parked, it's at least a wash if not even faster to get on the road in a fifth wheel. I hear how unaffordable motorhomes are. Well, again, that may or may not be true. You are buying a big chassis with an expensive engine that a fifth wheel does not have. On the other hand; the truck you need to pull a heavier fifth wheel (again, less than 5 years old) is likely to cost as much or MORE than the fifth wheel itself. See how that works?

Motorhomes have a built-in integration of systems that is enviable, and I love how everything is built to work together. They usually have a powerful on-board generator that is already installed to work seamlessly with the entire unit. You can even use your house batteries to jump start your chassis batteries should the need arise. Yes, I can do that with my 5th wheel, but it didn't come from the factory that way! I love that motorhomes have a lot of outdoor storage and can usually tolerate a lot of weight in exterior cargo. This, in my opinion, is a big weakness of fifth wheels. The overwhelming majority of them leave the factory overweight, or nearly so. If you are active and enjoy things like biking and kayaking and other activities that entail equipment, you will be working to stay within your weight limits on the fifth wheel. We combat this by putting our heavier items in the back of our truck, as it has a lot of capacity to spare.

Some people just really don't like to pull a big trailer. That's not a bad thing, and it's definitely something that you should try to understand about yourself. While it is not at all difficult, it's not for everyone. Motorhomes are definitely way ahead in this category.  It is daunting to be traveling down a steep grade and see that huge trailer chasing you. They are heavy and if your equipment is not what it should be, the possibilities of a catastrophic failure are high.


Getting all new suspension, 4 day
job, slept in our bed every night.
Now, I must talk about service. This is a big one. There are two types of RVers; Those who have had a terrible problem that needs lengthy service, and those who have it in their future. It's going to happen. Most of the time, problems that need lengthy service center stays are related to the engine. Certainly there are exceptions, like body work, but overall engine failure is going to take more time to work out.  This is where the truck/trailer combo always wins. We can take our truck to just about any town for service if we break down and while our truck is being serviced, our home is available and nothing needs to change.  This is not always the case for a motorhome. If lengthy engine or chassis work needs to be completed, it is extremely unusual for the motorhome to be accessible for living in while it is being worked on. A big negative for us. There are very few services that need to be performed on a fifth wheel that would render it inaccessible at night for sleeping. Of course there are exceptions, but we have never been put out of our bed for service yet.

Cost of ownership

Again, the fifth wheel wins here.  In both types you can spend just about as much as you want when purchasing. If you are trying to achieve a high level of luxury and amenities, you are going to get there sooner with a fifth wheel. But purchase price is only one aspect. Maintenance costs are a serious consideration as well. The cost to perform all recommended maintenance on each should be heavily weighed. How much do the tires cost? How much to change the oil and various air and fuel filters and such? How much of this can you perform yourself and how much must be done professionally? All motorized vehicles need meticulous maintenance if they are to be expected to last and perform well, especially with the demands of hauling across many miles for extended periods. Oil changes occur quite frequently!!

Living Space

This is important. If you are living full time in your RV, your living area will be extremely top of mind.  It is often said that the most important thing when selecting your RV is FLOOR PLAN. I don't know if I agree completely, but it's a big deal for sure.  Fortunately in both types of RV there are usually a lot of choices, and more every day.  I don't see this really as a deciding factor between the two. I will comment though, that fifth wheels typically offer a more "house like" feel when they are set up than motorhomes usually do. I think it is something to do with the high ceilings and copious interior storage. I have all of the kitchen equipment I want because I can store it. I also have a large pantry with huge pull-out drawers. I love this. I have looked at a lot of motorhomes, and have never seen a pantry anywhere near as functional as mine. It's a very big part of my day-to-day life. Think about what matter most to you and how you live. Do you cook a lot? Do you like to watch TV on a big screen in a big comfy recliner directly across from it? Look carefully.

Accessibility While Underway

Ok, this one is a bit of an eye-roll for me. "My wife can get up and make me a sandwich while we are driving down the freeway." I bet you have heard this one. Or "My wife can go use the bathroom while we are driving down the freeway." Or "My wife can go start dinner while we are driving down the freeway." I think you know what I am going to say here. Do I really need to say it?  Most of the time RVers like to drive less than 3-4 hours a day, in both types of rigs. Of course there are times when you really need to log some miles, but we are dealing with day-to-day averages here.  It is smart, comfortable and advisable to utilize the myriad of rest stops on America's freeways. Stop, use the restroom, stretch your legs. We never usually stop more than once on a travel day. Having the ability for ONE of us to wobble back to the bathroom during the driving is not even close to being a reason to buy one RV over another. And making dinner while underway?? Well, they made a movie that shows about how feasible that would be, it's called "The Long, Long Trailer" starring Lucille Ball and she was wearing most of the dinner when they stopped.  But the most important thing is, that seat belt needs to stay fastened while you are on the freeway, PERIOD. Even with a very minor tap on the brakes on the freeway or avoiding a texting driver who swerves into your lane... that is going to send Mama flying across the RV and probably injured.  Plus, though motorhomes have quite advanced automatic systems, the driver STILL has to stay behind the wheel while driving down the freeway, and that person needs a rest much more than the passenger does.  Do not use this as an argument to get a motorhome, because it's silly.

One other item that I will pass along, and I know that "motor home people" will have to agree, is noise. Clattering, squeaking, clanking, slamming, bumping... Our fifth wheel, I happen to know for a fact, is the NOISIEST rig in America. Metal pan lids yammering away on pots, plates clattering loudly, doors creaking... it's a veritable concert in there. BUT WE CAN'T HEAR IT.  We are in our very comfy, very silent cab of our truck listening to Traveling Robert. And our generator is not running so that our air conditioner is on.  Motor home's generally have the same noises, so additional "Pre-flight steps" are taken, like insulating all the noisy dishware with skid-proof fabric, locking down drawers and doors, etc. May seem like nothing, but if move around often, this can become an issue for some people. Something to think about. A can rolling around in the pantry would drive my man to insanity, because he makes me store my PURSE in a special place so it doesn't make NOISE.


What kind of RVing do you prefer? We like to mix it up with quite a bit of boondocking and full hookup parks too.  Many of the motorhomes these days are "all electric" meaning they do not use propane at all. This is a fairly new phenomenon. There are fifth wheels like this too, but not too many.  Will you be in parks all the time? Then this doesn't really matter. If you are "unplugged" a lot, then it will become a major source of stress trying to make sure you stay powered up. Of course you can run your generator a lot, and you can install a large solar system (as we did) to power everything, just make sure you are ready to see how much that can cost. A modest system can be quite affordable, but something large enough to consistently power a large motorhome with a residential refrigerator is some serious cash. Ask me how I know (we have a residential refrigerator). Sometimes, motorhomes have limited roof space for solar panels. Make sure you investigate this so you are not disappointed.

So, I hope that gives you some perspective. Definitely attend some RV shows and sales lots and spend some serious time just sitting in them and doing some deep thinking. Tell the attentive salesperson to leave you a lone for a bit so you can talk. It's a big decision, and it is almost assured that whatever you decide, if it is wrong, you will take a substantial financial hit to change your mind. I wish you the very best-and don't let anyone tell you one is categorically better than the other. Not true at all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tuttle Creek Campground, Lone Pine, California

Hi Kids!

This place is so cool!

We came down a crazy-long 6% grade, miles and miles long... seemed to last forever. Still, truck did fine with the exhaust brake and minimal brake usage. We are so pleased.  That's no small thing with a 19K pound trailer.

So down from about 8,000 feet of elevation to about 4200. We are still up high, and the temperatures are more mild, mid 80s during the day, and not quite as cold at night, 50's.  MUCH better. Our furnace was running every night at Glass Creek... low 30's every night!  It's odd to experience such a wide swing in temperatures in such a short time. One of the new skills we will have to master, I guess!  Tomorrow we will move and they will swing wildly again... and not in a good way. 100's!! YIKES.

So this campground was one that Dad researched as to whether or not we would fit. His research paid off and we were able to find a site, though most of them are NOT suitable. Most are very unlevel and there the campground is primitive. No hookups (see a theme here?) but there is water and a dump station to access when you arrive and of course when you leave.

The attraction here is Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. Lone Pine is a very small and picturesque town who's claim to fame is the nearly constant occupation by Hollywood making western movies. It all started way back in the 30's... and when you see the natural scenery here it is easy to understand why. They even made the movie "Tremors" here too... I am now anxious to see some of these movies (again) and be able to recognize the area. It's very distinctive!  They made IRONMAN here too.

The Alabama Hills is the natural recreation area that adjoins Lone Pine. It is owned by the BLM and they have miles of free boondocking on the scenic landscape. We chose the campground for simplicity; it's very close to the Alabama Hills recreation area and it is only $8/night. We were glad to have access to the water and dump station. Though, after exploring the Alabama Hills, we could see that there were lots of areas we could have camped out there, for sure.

While here, we visited the Film Museum, where you learn all about what went on out here. It's definitely a MUST DO. Again, I thought of Grammy. These were HER PEOPLE for sure. She so loved all of that stuff. I thought of her constantly as I browsed through the copious amount of memorabilia. Lots of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger, on and on.  So interesting.

The backdrop of this campground (and all of Lone Pine) is the STUNNING Mt. Whitney and the Sierra Nevada range. It is indescribable. The tallest peak in the continental US, thousands of climbers come here to take the ultimate challenge. It is beyond beautiful. I would love to see after a little snow falls, which should be soon beings this is nearly October. The jagged granite peaks are amazing in the early morning when the rising sun lights them up in electric relief. Wish you could see it.

Today we got up early to beat the heat and take advantage of great sunlight effects and took our bikes over to the Alabama Hills Recreation Area to ride among all of the dirt roads off of "Movie Flatts Road". The exact spot where all of the movies were made, exciting ambush scenes, and cowboys and indians fought endlessly. Really epic stuff.

The MONEY SHOT with Mt. Whitney through the arch!
We hiked up to a landmark called Mobius Arch and took the sought after photo of Mt. Whitney through the arch, glowing in the very early sun. It was magical.

I love hiking on granite and sandstone... the rocks are so "grippy" and you can scale up the side of them like a mountain goat! Super fun!

Next we scoured the dirt track roads, up and down granite faces and through slot canyons of giant boulders.

It felt like we were riding around in a Flintstones cartoon! The landscaping is truly other-worldly. It's just amazing to us that there are places like this that occur naturally. NOT man made.

Tomorrow, very early to beat the heat, we will head out and continue south toward Arizona. We are stopping at an Elks lodge for a couple of nights. They have hookups there which we will need with temps as high as they will be. I will get some laundry done and maybe a much-needed pedicure! I need to buy more milk, you know how Dad needs his glass of milk before bed every night. Things are going really well so far, and we hope it continues. It truly is like a dream come true. The only negative so far is being so far away from all of you.

I hope things are well there. I know the weather must be starting to turn. Seems odd that we won't experience that this time. Hmmmm. Don't know how I feel about that.

Love you all so much! MOM

Elks Lodge #1913, Ridgecrest, California-Great Stop!

Hi Kids!

Well, it's time to start truly making our way to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta on October 3.  We have a long way to go yet, and we don't like to drive extended hours so we have to make a lot of stops. We planned these stops months ago, and it's a lot of fun to finally see them actually happening. Our careful planning and research has paid off (so far) and we have been very happy with every place we have stayed.  We have been living off the grid now for a long time, and we were looking for a place to take care of some business; namely, do some laundry and clean up some stuff. It has been very dirty and dusty with all the outdoor playing we have been doing.  Though our solar has been fantastic for enough electricity, our water tanks only last so long and running the clothes washer uses more water than we would like when boondocking.

After an easy haul down 395 to come down another couple thousand feet in elevation, we arrived in the city of Ridgecrest where there is an Elks Lodge that we had targeted. It offers full hookups (YAY! Sewer!!) and 50 amps of electricity (TWO A/C's!!). This is what we were really after... the temps in Ridgecrest are right at 100 degrees every day, and we are not used to that AT ALL.

This lodge has a terrific setup, lots of room, and several sites. There were a few RV's there but plenty left for us to pick from. They are all pretty level and have a fine, graveled surface. None offer shade, although a couple have a small tree between sites. We chose one of those. We got setup and filled out one of the little slips at the kiosk outside. The lodge was closed on the weekend. The cost of the site is $20/nightly, so we would square up in the bar on Monday.

The big benefit of this location is that it is located very near one of the places we have been really excited to explore; The Trona Pinnacles.  The Pinnacles are tall calcium spires in a large grouping in the middle of what used to be one of several large lakes about 100,000 years ago. The spires were formed by volcanic springs bubbling up from the bottom of the lake, and the chemical reaction between the compounds caused the deposits to be formed in a pile... now they are these ghostly, other-worldly sculptures in the middle of the dessert, surrounded by BLM land that is free to camp on for up to 14 days. It is truly unbelievable and amazing.

Since it was so hot, we chose not to camp near the pinnacles, but to simply drive out early one morning for a bike ride in and around the spires. We wanted to be on our way home before the blazing hot sun got too hot, like about 10 AM. One thing about the dessert, yes, it is a dry heat, so it isn't too bad in the shade, but IF you are in the sun, it is almost unbearable. It's intense on our tender Pacific Northwest Pallor!

We got there as planned and parked not too far from the large parking area and single vault toilet provided. We unloaded the bikes and excitedly took off on a really fun exploration of all the different sandy dirt roads that wind through all over the place. You go up and down hills, through the spires and around the area. Most of the roads are easy riding but you can see deep ruts and washouts from when it rained last. I have read the the roads quickly become impassible if it rains and people get stuck out there. I wouldn't want to experience that, for sure.

Our electric bikes are ideal for this. We never had any problem zooming up steep hills and between the rocks. The fat tires are excellent for this kind of terrain, the bikes are sure-footed and steady. One of the really great benefits is that they are SILENT. You hear nearly nothing except the crunching of the gravel in what feels like a magical place. I just loved it. Having the bikes allowed us to be very comfortable and see most of the area without really getting tired or hot.

We rode for about an hour and half and could feel the air heating up. It was time to go. We had seen most of what we came to see, and were elated that we actually had the whole place to ourselves! Not a single other person there, due to the early hour. It was like being on another planet. We were so glad that we had made the effort to get out there early!

Well, time to get ready to move again! We are headed out early in the morning for Needles, California, and another Elks Lodge. Only for one night, because it is even HOTTER there... 107ish each day this week! YIKES! We are going to keep going the next day to Winslow, Arizona where it is a little higher in elevation and finally better temps. Only in the 80's! That will feel like heaven after being in this blast furnace for a week! So we'll check in from there.

Yellow ghost light made from a bucket!
Oh: Dad made a new ghost-light, he missed his too much. We decided yellow would be better because of the bugs. It was a good choice, no bugs at all bothered us as we enjoyed our new light on our patio last night! Check it out:

I bet it's getting a little more like fall at home! Love you!!! MOM

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Glass Creek Campground, Mammoth Lakes, California

Hi Kids!

 Well, we made it. To yet another stop, and we are now back in California.

We weren't sure how this one would be, but we were very pleasantly surprised! Dad does lots of research on places, reading what other bloggers have written that have large rigs like ours, so we don't go in completely blind, but still, you are always a little apprehensive when you pull in. Sometimes you can pull in a place and you literally are trapped and can't get turned around.

This is another BLM location, free for 21 days here. There is, as usual, no hookups so we came in with a tank full of freshwater and empty holding tanks. We do that every time. So far we have been extremely comfortable between our large tanks and are big solar system and generator, we don't suffer much.

It became quickly apparent that we could move around in this campground, and we picked out a level spot. We have found that the leveling blocks we got as an after thought have been used a lot already. Super glad we have them. Very few of these BLM type sites are completely level, and our jacks stroke out sometimes trying to get level.

There is a beautiful, clear creek running through this campground, and it is used mainly by off road enthusiasts. There are 2200 hundred miles of dirt track around this park, and people were there with their toys. I kept thinking of Kevin and Conor... they would love it there. You can ride all day and rarely ride the same road twice.  Naturally we took the RAD Bikes out for a few miles!

Those are "Tufas" in the back ground, ancient!!
This campground is also very close to a favorite place of ours, Mono Lake. It is TEN TIMES saltier than the ocean. It is also extremely alkaline. We have been paddling on it before but we had to do it again. It's a funny place, they ask you to get off of the lake by noon, because the wind kicks up so badly, and so it does. We got off just as the ripples started across the water. By the time we had the kayak packed up it was WINDY.

You can see by the photo of my leg that the lake water just coats everything with what feels like baking soda. This is, in fact, what it is. The boat, our skin... everything was chalk white.

We are getting ready to move again, this time much further south. We will have to go down some very steep grades because we are at almost 8000 feet here! It's very unnerving to look behind you and see that huge fifth-wheel in the rear window, chasing you down the mountain. The truck is doing an excellent job, though, and we are very happy with it.

I will check in when we get where we're going! We are shooting for a place called Tuttle Creek in Lone Pine, California. It is a cute little town where they made a TON of movies, mostly westerns. Grammy would have LOVED to go there!


Monday, September 24, 2018

Washoe Lake Campground, Reno, NV

Hi Kids!

Well you KNEW we would stop in Reno! So here we are. We opted to stay a little out of town at a super nice little campground called Washoe Lake. This is, again, dry camping, no hookups of any kinds, though they do have water and a dump station as you enter the park. The cost is $15 per night.

Loved the covered picnic tables in some of the sites!
This campground is also on a lake. 
We were glad that we stuck to our 2-2-2 rule, because it was a Friday night, and we got one of the last sites that our rig would fit in. Most of the sites were on the small side and we would have really struggled. By late afternoon, all of the sites were taken, and people were parking in the overflow area near the equestrian sites. 

The next morning we got up early and headed for Reno. We weren't sure how long we would be there, but we knew it would be fun. Reno, as you know, is very nostalgic for us. It is the town we spent all of our time in when we first met and were dating. Seems like not long ago at all... and yet is was more than 33 years ago. Wow, time flies.

We were happy to see that Reno has cleaned up a LOT since the last time we were there. The city is much cleaner, less trash and less poverty. We felt a lot safer walking the streets and even saw big improvements. I hope that continues. It's a cute town.

We spent most of our time in Silver Legacy... that was Grammy's favorite place in Reno, ours too.  So even though we weren't big winners, we still had a good time and were glad we went.

Getting ready for a pretty big haul next, back into California for one more stop, and there will be a lot of grades. Grades are always a little more stressful when you are pulling a trailer this big. So far, everything has been performing very well, but we certainly do not take that for granted!!

Love you and miss you so... MOM

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rocky Point East on Eagle Lake in California

Hi Kids!

Rocky Point East, BLM, Eagle Lake, California
We had an easy, uneventful haul down into California. We are trying to keep to our preference of "2-2-2" which is only drive two hours, settled by 2 pm, stay a minimum of 2 nights. We came close, but the drive was a little longer. That's ok.

This is a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) area, and you are allowed to stay on the land for up to 14 days at no charge. Of course, this is very raw camping, no hookups of any kind, and the "sites" if you can call them that, are rarely level or convenient. We were able to hoist our big girl up in a nice area with a view, and we worked to get here level... which worked, but as we are often finding, it means that the trailer is literally on it's jacks completely on one side:
You can see our wheels are well off the ground!

This was a very quiet place and the area is literally surrounded by all of the wildfires we had been hearing about lately. We made plans to go on a bike ride nearby in another local park, and we drove through miles of horribly burned forest. It was very sad and very sobering to see. We had a GLORIOUS 10 mile ride on our bikes through a beautiful, scenic pine forest next to another lake-I cannot remember the name of it unfortunately.  We have been faithfully doing our walking in the mornings and trying to get in better shape for the hiking that lies ahead. That is going very well.

It was a very quiet stay, and much needed. We have been going pretty hard since Dad retired, and our life has completely changed, to say the least. We are quite exhausted, and it certainly doesn't feel like we are retired yet. It feels like we are on a vacation. We feel that urgency of "hurry up and see everything because we have to go home." We have to keep reminding ourselves that WE ARE HOME! 

Thank you for the pictures and snapchats from home! It helps SO MUCH. We will check in from our next stop! Love you! MOM

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Hot Soaking At Summer Lake Hot Springs!

Hi Kids!

 Well, this is a first for us. We have never been to a hot springs before. Weird, I know, since we live in the Pacific Northwest which is very volcanic... there are tons of hot springs all over and we have never been.

This hot springs is located in a very lonely stretch of highway in Southern Oregon. We pulled in and were checked in by an extremely friendly, extremely tan woman who obviously worked outdoors a lot. She gave us a quick run down on the place, and told us the rules, "we don't have any rules". But they do have rules posted at the hot springs pools, which basically are; don't make noise and splash about and shower before you enter-oh, and clothing optional after 9 PM. Ok... NOTED.

The main pool is located inside of this little building.
 We got settled in; we were surprised that this very-shall we say rustic-place offered full hookups. It was quite windy so there wasn't much to do.  As soon as we could we got our bathing suits on and headed for the pools.

You know how much I love hot water. Why in the WORLD haven't I gone to visit hot springs? GOOD LORD they are amazing! Obviously, we are changing our travel itinerary to include more of them on this years snowbird trip.

Ohhhh the bliss....
We soaked first in the large rectangle concrete pool in the metal shed. The water was very warm, and nearly too hot to stand coming from the pipe in the wall where the hot springs entered. Naturally I parked my tired shoulders directly under the pipe and the aromatic water worked miracles. Yes, it is a strong sulfur smell, but you actually learn to love it, it just feels so wonderful and so healing.

There were dressing rooms surrounding the pool and a shower to use before entering.

Our full-hookup spot just a short walk from the hot springs.
We had a nice dinner and returned later to enjoy the hot springs again. Then in the morning we took one more dip in the outside rock pools that are just behind the metal shed. They are small, more private pools, and each has it's own spring water pipe running into it. PURE HEAVEN.

Oh what I have been missing all of my life! I know you guys have been to hot springs, and you TOLD me how yummy they are. I should have listened.
Miss you all so much already! I will check in on our next stop! Love you!! MOM

Saturday, September 8, 2018

We Hit The Road! It's Surreal.

HI Kids! 


Well, our life has changed a lot. We finally were able to hit the road, after all the years of planning and dreaming and getting ready. No matter how much we tried to imagine it, it isn't quite that way. I guess things rarely are.

We used to talk endlessly about what our lives would be like when it finally happened, and now it has. I can say that so far, we are having a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that we are not "on vacation". It still feels like we will soon return back "home" to go back to work. But this is how most recently retired people feel, I know.

Our first stop is in Bend, Oregon at the Bend Sunriver Thousand Trails. It is our second stay at a Thousand Trails park, and it has been an excellent experience. We weren't sure what to expect, because there are definitely a lot of stories out there about the Thousand Trails parks. We are very happy so far. The staff at this park have been extremely friendly and helpful and the park is like a summer camp. Lots to do, close to Bend and we have been busy every day trying to take advantage of all of it.

The park we are in is right on the Little Deschutes river, and we took our inflatable kayak down and had a nice paddle. It's one of our favorite things to do.

There have been so many fires burning all over the pacific northwest area that the air quality has been pretty poor most days. Still, the weather has been incredible, though already dipping down into the low 30's at night in the high desert. We aren't used to that quite yet, just coming from the west side where temps have been extremely high day and night. Temperatures shoot right back up into the 80's during the day.

There is a lot of hiking and biking to do in this area, and we have done both. We spent two days exploring the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, just a short drive from the park. The evidence of past eruptions is overwhelming, with an enormous lava flow, and huge cinder cone.  Hard to believe it happened so long ago, and yet the area is still completely transformed into a sea of lava rock and even huge flows of obsidian. It makes me think of the effects of the recent flows going on now in Hawaii and how forever changed it will be. I mean, we are talking thousands of years. Wow.

We leave Monday for the Summer Lake Hot Springs for only one night. It will be my first experience using a natural hot spring and I am looking forward to it. It will be a full-hookup RV site so I will definitely be doing a LOT of laundry! No sewer hookups here at the Thousand Trails, so using the washing machine is definitely out!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

NEW A/C And Great Service Experience!

From day 1, our rear A/C hasn't been right. We should have whined more about it, and in retrospect, we are kicking ourselves. It cost us plenty, because we had to replace it on our dime. Don't do what we did, if something is not right when you buy a new RV, INSIST on getting it fixed-even if repeated visits to service are required. We learned our lesson.

This is our coach only 10 minutes
after arriving at B Young!
Our A/C is also a heat pump and we use it a ton. Whenever we are plugged in, and the temperature is a little chilly (but ABOVE 35 or so degrees) we use the heat pumps on our unit to keep us toasty. As you might assume, that is a lot of use.  Well, the switch that converts cooling air to hot air (it's all the same function, just a question of which way the air is flowing) seized in the "cooling" position.  Not only that, the cooling function was just mediocre. Since we only have 2 A/C's in our big Redwood, that becomes a problem in a heat wave.

We purchased our Redwood from B Young RV near Portland, Oregon.  We have commented about them before, but I just have to give them yet another shout out-more than 4 years after our purchase!-For great customer service in their service department.  All RVers hear a ton of tales about poor service, lack of service, long waits for service... none of the above apply to B Young RV, at least in our experience. In the middle of a heatwave, Richard Tran (our favorite service adviser!) scheduled us in less than a WEEK from my call for a new A/C. We arrived on time, and we left within three short hours. How's that for a good outcome?  Thank you so much B Young RV for making service a priority for your customers, and to Richard for working hard to make us happy! Sorry this looks like an ad for them... it's not. We are just very grateful.  We pay full fare for their services :-)

Something I know now after ordering our fifth wheel with two heat pumps: One is enough. We have been going through winter with only one working heat pump for 4 years now, and it has always been enough. Remember, a heat pump will not heat if the outside temp goes below about 35-40 degrees, and then the furnace turns on.  If you are thinking of adding heat pumps to your rig, keep this in mind. One is probably enough.  But two A/C's is a necessity in temps over about 85, if there is no shade, especially.

We chose a newer version of our unit, the Coleman Mach 8 15K BTU with heat pump.  Very low-profile (and great feature, reducing our height!).  We thought the old A/C was working "ok"... now we know that it was NOT.  Our coach is nice and cool now, even in the 100 degree temps we are currently suffering here in Washington state. We always have a heat wave every summer and I won't dread it as much any more!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New Electric Dump Valves, And MORE!

This is just one of those things that is going to make me smile for a very long time, while I am doing something that always made me frown. That makes it to my "A List" of upgrades to an RV.

Our beautiful new Drain Master electric valve
control in the lower right. We are SO pleased!
We did a lot of research, and learned from others who did the same job, and we knew that we had to have the Drain Master electric dump valves. We previously installed the Drain Master sewer waste management system that they offer, and have been beyond happy with it.  The most unpleasant chore, BY FAR for full timers is tending to your waste water. Anything that we could do to improve the experience, we were all about that.

Not only did we install the valves, we did a major reconfiguration of our plumbing system. You see, our fifth wheel has two gray tanks. They are each 45.5 gallons (totaling 90 gallons of capacity).  Our freshwater holding tank is 107 gallons. We do a LOT of boondocking (or dry camping) and our water system is a critical piece to our lifestyle.  If we join the capacity of both tanks by capping our sewer outlet with a twist-on Valterra gate valve, we can go about 2 weeks before needing to visit a dump station to recharge because both tanks will fill to capacity by equalizing.  If we do NOT do this, one of our tanks fills within a very short time, while the other one remains nearly empty. What a wasted use of tank space!

Our wet bay valve switches
upper right. They light RED when
valve is open, GREEN when
valve is closed.
We followed logical thought on the exterior temporary valve and thought, "What if we internally plumbed the two tanks together permanently?"  What a concept. We did some hard thinking and decided it would work. So, we took the opportunity of the electric valve installation project to tackle it, while the belly cover of the trailer was off (a big job in and of itself!). We also changed the inch and one half size grey tank plumbing to 3" plumbing. Our grey tanks, when full, take quite a while to empty at the dump station. That is cumbersome when you have a line of RV's behind you.

The big day finally arrived. Four days were allotted to do the job. We had assembled our supplies and products, done our research, and purchased, what we thought, would be the correct ABS pipe to do the plumbing job. As they say... the road to hell is paved in good intentions.

It begins... 
I'm not going to lie, this was, BY FAR, the most confounding, frustrating, difficult and scary job we have ever attempted. It was hard. We both decided that we do not EVER want to do something like this again. The valve installation was EASY. The re-plumbing was not.  There came a very sobering, terrifying moment when we had finished cutting off the factory plumbing to our three holding tanks. Looking at those three gaping tank openings with no plumbing was intimidating... so, mustering as much courage as could, we laid our big patio mat under the trailer, in 97 degree temperatures, and dove in. Yes, that is my blue yoga mat that Todd used for a headrest. It just got nuts under there, I'm not kidding.

First we assembled what we envisioned would fit in the limited space to get the tanks joined. Nope, didn't fit. It was crucial to make sure that there was always a downhill-flow from one end of the tank system to the other. Easier said than done! Back to Home Depot.  More pipe fittings. More swearing and sweating and dust eating. Back to Home Depot again... You know the drill. Day 1... Day 2... Day 3... Ugh.

Finally, we came up with our pipe conglomeration (which we called "the unit" with disdain). It was actually a simple design, and of course simple is best, wish we would have tried it FIRST. It fits in the space with nary a fraction of an inch to spare.

"The Unit"
The upper 90 degree pipe is the outlet for the conjoined grey tanks coming down from above. They then make a 180 degree turn into the electric valve before joining the main exit pipe. The 90 degree pipe on the lower right is the entrance from the black tank. This is the location of the second electric valve (not shown).

Reminds me a little of heart surgery... only I would rather have done heart surgery. We both needed heart surgery a couple of times. And maybe diapers... but I digress.

Turns out that in retrospect, had we known what we do now, it wasn't difficult at all. The installation of the electric valves and the associated wiring and switches (We chose to have them located both in the wet-bay outside and inside the coach with our other controls for remote tank dumping while in a park) were simple to install. The installation instructions and resources from Drain Master are SUPERB and we didn't struggle at all.  After installing them, they immediately worked exactly as they were supposed to. Imagine our relief!

After installation. The two valves are side by side.
You can see how little room for error there is!
The valves are sturdy. Next to the cable-operated factory installed valves there is no comparison. These work flawlessly, and they are extremely strong. I wouldn't want my fingers to be in the way when they shut! This should end pesky black tank "dribbling" when toilet paper gets stuck in the blade. I cannot see that happening with these valves. We always used to dread the ugly "surprise" we usually got when opening the cap on our sewer system to hook up the hose. It leaked all the time, after taking the valve apart, it was easy to see why. ICK.

No more struggling with sticky, non-functioning levers!  Hurray!!!

After getting everything installed and satisfying ourselves that it was all working properly (the proper word would be "gloriously") we began the arduous process of re-installing the Coroplast under belly. What a job that is. Definitely don't want to be doing any of that again any time soon! We took the opportunity to tend to any rusty spots and other items while we were in there. We were happy to see that things were in pretty good shape, if not sloppily thrown together by the factory.  We did a lot of cord and hydraulic line tidying up while in there. 

So, now we LOOK FORWARD to our next tank dumping chore! How's THAT for an improvement?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

END Sugar Ants in Your RV!

Every spring there is a surge of request asking for help to get rid of sugar ants in RVs. Sugar ants are virtually harmless, they don't bite or really do anything other than swarm your RV looking for what they love, sweet stuff. If you ever spill anything sweet on any surface in your RV you will instantly know how they got their name. You will see swarms of these little critters appear seemingly overnight and it can be a little overwhelming!

Take heart. There is a simple way to get rid of them. It's not instant, but it is safe and effective and cheap!

Sugar ants have a sophisticated way in which they communicate a "sweet find" to the rest of their nest. When a single ant finds something good to eat, it immediately shares it's location with all the others in the nest, and they all do the same. They march (often in a single, orderly black line that you have to see to believe) to the source and they devour it.

Using this knowledge you can knock out the entire nest in one easy step. Using a specific type of ant trap found in most stores in the pest control section, you feed them the sweet, deadly concoction containing basically borax (deadly to ants, but pretty harmless to people) and sugar. The bait comes in a tidy little plastic pouch that you simply set out and wait for the feast to begin.

The ants gleefully gorge on the syrup and transport it back the to their nest, feeding it to all the others. Pretty genius to have them help you kill the nest, right? Yes, it does take a day or two or even three. You will see an alarming swarm of ants all over the traps-and you will be tempted to nuke them with ant spray. DON'T! They will keep to themselves, focused on harvesting the deadly nectar and rushing it  back to the nest. Let them do their job. Then one morning, you will find they are GONE! I mean GONE. Not one. It's magic.

If you are transient and not staying more than a day or two, this method is not very helpful. Just know that the ants will go away after you leave. They will not breed in your coach and multiply. This is when spray might be a little more helpful.