Tag Archives: RVing

My Last Blog Post

In this blog post (my last) I will be reflecting on the trip that we have just finished. Right now it is weird to think that this trip that we have spent so much time planning and then doing is finally over. I think I will miss some parts of the trip, like seeing all the cool places, but I am definitely happy to be going back to school and being around other kids.

Give three words that best describes your trip. Explain why you picked them.

Long (and Short)
The trip seemed to last a long time but looking back now, it seems like it went by quickly.

Understanding
Before this trip I didn’t know much American history, but now understanding the history can help to understand the country now.

Small
The RV was a fairly large RV but nothing compared to a real house and sometimes it felt very small.

What are some important things you learned about America?

One important thing that I have learned on this trip is how the government works and what the different branches can and can’t do. For example the President can’t make laws but he or she can veto them and stop them from being made.

I learned from this trip that America is always changing. I think that one of the reasons for this is that people are coming from all over the world with different ideas and beliefs and sharing them with others.

Another thing that I learned from this trip was that the ideas that America was founded on are ideas that had never been tried in the modern world. I think that America had a lot of things that they tried that no one else had done before.

In what ways do you think you grew this year?

I think that I have a much better understanding of American history and people from this trip, and also the process  of writing blog posts. I think that over the course of this year my writing improved and I think I got better by writing a lot.

If you did the trip for another year, what would you do differently?

If we had another year to travel then I would spend more time in places, especially California, so we could see more of what there and also to have days where we only did work and days where we relaxed.

What was the hardest part about living/schooling on the road?

The hardest parts about living in the RV were not having other kids around to do things with,  being within 35 feet of the same four people for most of the time, and having a bed that deflated every night.

Twenty years from now, what do you think you’ll remember about this year?

Twenty years from now I will remember the national parks most I think because they are very unique and stand out apart from the rest of the trip. Also the ranger books, because we spent a lot of time arguing about doing them. I think I will remember it being hard to always be moving and packing up the RV. But I also had a lot of fun with my family that was memorable

Would you ever do a trip like this with your kids? Why or why not?

This trip had many fun things in it but I wouldn’t want to do it again because I have already done it. I also think that if my kids lived in America there wouldn’t be a need for a trip like this because they would already learn American history in school and we could see places in America because we would live here.

Three Favorite Photos

These are three of my favorite photos that I took using my iPod.

Painted Desert, NM

Painted Desert, NM

Wild flowers in a state park in CA. Edited with Color Splash

Wild flowers in a state park in CA. Edited with Color Splash

Trees in Yosemite NP, CA

Trees in Yosemite NP, CA

Reflecting on the trip

This blog post is about me looking back on our trip and noticing what was good and not so good. We did amazing things and I also got to learn so much about US history and see some of the important and fascinating places in this country.

How did the trip compare with what you hoped it would be?

The trip was pretty much what I hoped for because we explored national parks,  we learned a lot about history, and we had lots of fun doing these things( except for the Ranger books). I also learned how to wood carve.

Give three words that best describes your trip? Explain why you picked them.

Close, because it was like being in a large box where everyone is almost always touching each other.

History, because we learned so much about people and places and we also went to places were they reenact what it was like to live in other times.

Fun, because we got to learn about different cultures and do fun activities.

What are some important things you learned about America? 

I learned that America is not perfect, because there were problems like racial inequality and women were not treated the same as men and these problems have not completely gone away. I also learned that America is humongous and has so many incredible national parks that are there for people to visit. And I learned that Americans think that freedom is very important and they are willing to fight for it.

In what ways do you think you grew this year?

I think that I grew by learning about carving and improving my knowledge of the history of America.

If you did the trip for another year, what would you do differently?

If I could do something differently another year I would like a bigger RV. I would like to know more about World War 1 and the Vietnam War. I would also like to see the national parks that we missed.

What did you miss the most this year?

What I missed most this year was not having my friends to talk with and play with. I also missed, Jenny Lou’s, cheap movies, and Lili our ayi.

What was the hardest part about living/schooling on the road?

The hardest part about living on the road was not having enough time to carve and not having my friends to play with.

Twenty years from now, what do you think you’ll remember about this year?

In the future I think I’ll remember the amazing national parks and the not so amazing Junior Ranger books. I’ll also remember the cool places like Dave and Busters, but also historical places like Plymouth and Sturbridge.

Would you ever do a trip like this with your kids? Why or why not?

I think I might because the history was really cool and the national parks are beautiful. Also because there are places to stop where we could bike or ski. But I would not want to drive a giant RV because it would be very tiring and stressful.

Pick three favorite photos from this trip. 

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Wild horses in the Outer Banks

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A amazing valley at Yosemite

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Yellowstone canyon in Yellowstone.

7 Stages of RV Travel – Our First Big Drive

DisconnectedSeveral people have asked: What it’s like to drive this 35-foot long fifth wheel trailer? Reflecting upon my first driving experience, I’ve detected at least 7 specific emotional “stages”, described below.

Stage 1 – Exhaustion: It took a Herculean effort to get through our last week in the house. The “perfect storm” of new RV, packing for the trip, preparing for house-sitters, and dealing with 170 boxes from our China shipment proved to be overwhelming. There was a lot of unpacking/repacking, along with numerous trips from basement to attic and house to RV. On our last night, Jen was up until 3:30PM with the final push. Needless to say, we were both pretty foggy… not ideal such a momentous launch.

Stage 2 – Trepidation: The moment of loading into the truck was exciting, but also filled with many questions: Have we done enough practice driving? Will we be able to avoid low overpasses? Will our tires hold up under all of the gear we loaded in? Will our fuel be sufficient to get us from one diesel station to the next? Will we get stuck in a bad situation, like trying to do a K-turn in front of a long string of angry commuters? All of these questions were swirling around in my mind as I smiled boldly for the family selfie on the front lawn. Were we really this insane?

Stage 3 – Fear: Not a minute into our drive on the highway with the big rig, and a huge piece of scrap metal (looked like aluminum siding) appeared in the middle of the road. With no way to swerve out of the way, I knuckled down and drove straight over it. The moment of relief that followed, however, was short-lived, as my next glance at the dashboard was one of sheer terror: Trailer Disconnected. What?? Disconnected!!

Thinking it through, I realized that the metal must have dislodged the cable that sends power to the trailer (it’s near impossible for the trailer to accidentally unhitch). Still in crisis mode and without trailer lights or power brakes, I scanned the road frantically for a place to pull over. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of Hartford, which had few good options (remember that K-turn question?). Knuckling down again, we crawled our way through the city, across the Connecticut River, and into East Hartford, where I knew there’d be plenty of space to maneuver at the exit for Cabelas and the UCONN football stadium. Upon inspection, our suspicion about the dislodged cable was true, and we seemed to have made it through the ordeal just shaken, but unscathed. Without another thought, we plugged our trailer back in and resumed our course. Crisis averted.

Stage 4 – Uncertainty: Our first destination was the Travel America truckstop near Willington, CT. I wanted to weigh our rig on a CAT truck scale to see if we were within the limits of our towing capacity. Our combined vehicle weight turned out to be 20,000 lbs, which prompted me to start second guessing our earlier calculations (and the 16K hitch). After a few calls to Ford’s customer service line, we determined that all the numbers – axel ratios, towing capacity, trailer loads – were within limits. Re-assured once again, we were soon back on the road.

Stage 5 – Acceptance: Routes 84 (CT) and 90 (MA) had a good bit of traffic, so although I was feeling better about our weights, I also had to pay close attention to the road. In many ways it felt like being a new driver again, slowing down for every bump and hyperaware of each sway. I cursed all of those RV salesmen who told me that hauling a fifth-wheel was so easy that I might even “forget that I was pulling anything”. Ha, what a load of bull. Still, the more I inched along in what was now becoming rush hour traffic, the more settled I felt behind the wheel. I was making my way around the greater Boston area, and I hadn’t wrecked it yet.     

Stage 6 – Excitement: It wasn’t until we made it through Massachusetts that I actually started to enjoy the ride. At the NH border, the song “Happy” came on the radio and we all started butt-dancing and singing along. The traffic had thinned out, the roads widened and improved, and we were zipping right along. For the first time that day, I appreciated the gorgeous New England scenery of bright blues, deep greens, and late-summer sun. A few other good highway tunes came on – Going Mobile by the Who and Roadhouse Blues by the Doors –  which added to the thrill. We were finally making it happen.

Stage 7 – Relief: Rolling into that KOA Campground, I could feel my back muscles relax. It had been just a 4 hour drive, but it felt like full day’s journey. While the campground (just across the border in Maine) was little more than a stopover, it felt nice to be nestled amongst the tall pines and listen to the sounds of nature. Evening gave us time to test more of the systems and appreciate those creature comforts that we’ve hauled all this way (OK, I admit it. This really is glamping, not camping). Comforted by my home on wheels, I fell quickly to sleep. It was a successful first day of towing… a success that I hope to repeat many times over this year.

What is life like in the RV?

September 10, 2014

So I bet your wondering what life in an RV is like for us. Well, I’m not sure we’re experts yet, having only a week under our belt, but I’ll tell you what it’s been like so far.

First, it feels big and small at the same time. It feels big because we are not traveling in a tiny pop-up – we are hauling around 35+ feet of home everywhere we go and this makes it feel BIG. Turns must be wide, narrow roads must be carefully navigated, and we have to scope out gas stations and lunch options that can accommodate our height when traveling with this bad boy hooked to the truck. Side note: so far, Rob has done all the driving (thank you, Rob!) though I did do some practicing in the mall parking just to be ready for anything. It seems to be more tiring than driving a car – having to stay extra alert and focused – but I’ll let Rob comment more on that.

That's us on the right (next to the big rig) trying to figure out the gas choices

That’s us on the right (next to the big rig) trying to figure out the gas choices

Living spaces: Now to how our RV feels small. When four people walk in the door, kick off their shoes, throw their stuff on the counter (though given its size I’m not sure if it even qualifies as a counter), or need to use the bathroom at the same time, it feels just a bit on the small side. I’ve quickly realized that everything must have a place and that we all need to be in the habit of putting things in their place right away. There just isn’t enough free space to leave things laying around. I can see that adding extra hooks (for now we are using the Command brand hooks that are held up with adhesive and are removable since we’ll be reselling the RV next summer) in strategic places will be helpful. Now if I can just get everyone else on board with keeping everything where it belongs so that I don’t have to nag about it, that will be a bonus.

Kitchen view

Kitchen view

I’m also trying to find the places where I can make it feel a bit homey. The window treatments (yes, the RV actually has many window treatments) and couch patterns aren’t exactly my taste but they are survivable for the year. There’s not a lot of space for knickknacks or wall decorations (the things I usually use to make things seem homey) so for now, throw blankets, a couple of candles, our framed visions (see previous blog post), and a digital photo frame with photos of family and friends are what we are making do with.

Connectivity: In theory our campground had internet service but it didn’t turn out to be as reliable as we had hoped for which was a bit frustrating. I suspect that this will be more common than not and so we will likely go ahead with purchasing a mobile hot spot through Verizon when we get back to CT in a couple of weeks. We were going to go ahead with this earlier but decided to wait and see if we could get by without it.  As a result of our lacking internet connection, we are a bit behind in our blogging and posting of photos and we’re now catching up. To make it even worse, we didn’t have internet access through our phones either since we ended up being connected through a different carrier than the carrier that our data plan is with.

Outside: Believe it or not, the hardest thing to do has been putting out the awning on the side of the RV. The awning covers your picnic area and front door so you have a nice homey space. Luckily, we video taped this when we picked up the RV and were able to review the video. Unfortunately, after being put out a couple of times, it seems to be coming apart from the side of the RV so we’re not using it right now. I swear this is not user-error! We’ll check it out with the service dept when we get back to CT for a few days.

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Utilities: As for all of our hookups – one of things we were a bit nervous about – things have gone fairly well. The black water hookup (it empties the waste from the black water tank, aka the toilet tank) was drained with no problems. Phew – no replay of the scene from the movie RV! However, we have seen other RVers with a bridge-like thing that their hose rests on to use gravity to keep things flowing smoothly into the sewer hookup and we’ll be looking to buy one of those b/c it seems better than doing it by hand which is what we’ve been doing. This involves me moving the hose in a snakelike motion to move everything along while Rob holds it firmly in the sewer hole so we are not sprayed with all the sewer-y yuck. Electricity has worked fine but we haven’t been able to get our hot water working yet, despite rereading the manual. Luckily, the campground we stayed at had lovely bathrooms to shower in. We’ll be working to figure this one out b/c things are getting chillier and I had enough cold showers in Capital Paradise to last me awhile.

This is the thing we need to get - no clue what it's called

This is the thing we need to get – no clue what it’s called

Stability: One last thing we’re getting used to is the bounciness. It’s not so noticeable when you are up and walking around the RV but if I am lying down in bed at one end of the RV and Miles or Owen rolls over in bed on the other end of the RV, I can feel it. If someone gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom – everyone knows it b/c it feels a bit like you’re rockin’ and rollin’ on a ship. At first this was a bit disconcerting but I’m getting used to it. However, I still can’t believe this whole thing is being held up by a couple of little legs at the front, 4 tires, and a couple of stabilizers in the rear.

The Boy Cave: The boys seem to be enjoying what they named the “boy cave” and seem to have settled into Miles taking the fold out bed (which has a firm inflatable bed that goes over the top of it) on the main floor and Owen taking the loft bed. Both of them have double size beds so they are enjoying the roominess. They did have one very cold night before we got comfortable with leaving the heater on overnight (just trying to be sure we wouldn’t succumb to some sort of carbon monoxide or propane poisoning during the night).

Owen in the living room/dining room area

Owen in the living room/dining room area

Overall, we are getting used to this traveling home on wheels and all its little quirks!

Being a truck owner again

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July 30, 2014   This isn’t my first time owning a truck. Those of you who knew me way-back-when may remember “Jake”, my 1981 white Ford F150 that I drove while I lived in Atlanta. Jake used to belong to my great-Aunt Alice before I took the wheel and Jake was about as basic a vehicle as you could get – I’m talking no radio even. Despite that, we made a good (well, interesting, at least) pair cruising down Peachtree Road! And now, here I am again (as a co-owner this time) with a Ford truck in the driveway.

What a process this has been – truck-buying, I mean. I thought this might be a pretty simple task, one we could check off of our to-do list right away but….not so much. I’ll give credit right up front though – Rob did the majority of the legwork on this task. And we’re finally done – we now have a truck that can safely pull a big RV all over the country!

We looked at Chevys, Fords, Dodges and, as expected, each had their pluses and minuses. We took test drives, asked tons of questions (that clearly showed our inexperience with all things associated with hauling an RV), spent time with numerous salespeople, and surfed the web endlessly for the perfect truck. We read up on what to look for in a tow vehicle, we talked to RV salespeople, and we surfed the web some more. Who knew all the things that had to be considered? Used vs new, long bed vs. standard, crew cab vs. extended cab, diesel vs. gas, and so on. And the other thing we had to keep in mind was resale – because we’re planning on selling the truck next summer and we’re really hoping for it to hold it’s value (alas, our budget counts on it). So, that meant also considering what other people want to buy so that we can sell it quickly and for a good price.

Who knew that once we finally honed in on what we wanted, it wouldn’t be available on this side of the country? Argh. But it all turned out alright in the end and we now have a shiny, silver 2013 Ford F250 Super Duty diesel truck. Crew cab (which means the boys have a full back seat) and with spiffy running boards so that we can actually get into it without looking ridiculous.

So now we’re working on naming this  beauty of a truck b/c every big truck should have a name, right? And Rob has come through again – two good suggestions. “Burl” (or Burly) is option #1. Try to follow along while I explain…If you’ve ever watched the claymation TV Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you may remember a certain song sung by folksinger, Burl Ives. No, not ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’ – but one much more fitting for our situation… ‘Silver and Gold’.  Get it?! The truck is silver and our last name is Gold so it works, right?

Ok, so here’s choice #2.. “Vin” (or Vinnie) because it’s a diesel truck so it’s like calling it Vin Diesel, and he’s a truckish kind of dude, right?

We haven’t presented these options to the boys yet and we haven’t gotten their suggestions (which I’m sure they’ll have) so who knows what this great, silver, beast of a truck will finally be called. Feel free to give us some suggestions and I’ll keep you posted on the final decision.  🙂

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Our new truck – yet to be named

My Home on Wheels.

IMG_5061So, on Thursday we finally picked out the RV that we will be using on our trip around America. This RV was one of the first of a lot of RVs that we looked at and Owen and I both liked it as soon as we saw the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse is the place where the bunks are kept. In this RV the bunk house is a loft and under the loft is a comfortable area with a fold out couch. This is good because the loft is very big and we would have a lot of space to play in under it, the only thing that I don’t like about this is that I have to pull out the couch every time we setup camp. When you first walk in to the RV there is a couch directly in front of you on the opposite side of the RV and a booth next to it. Also in the main room is a TV already hooked up and a kitchen with a microwave and stove and some places to put food. The master bedroom has a big bed and a shower and bathroom and some closets. Overall I can’t wait to try out our new RV. I think that it will be great for what we are doing.

Besides the RV that we bought, we got to look at some big RVs just for fun. Thesewere really cool even though we knew we wouldn’t buy them. They were so big you could probably use them instead of a house!My favorite big one was a 45-foot Predator. Inside there was a place for a car at the very back of the RV in a separate room. In the living room there was a loft above the door to the car storage with a queen sized bed. Also in the living room there was a big kitchen and a 4 person brown leather couch and next to it a huge dining booth.On the wall of the living room was a 55-inch flatscreen TV and the master bedroom had a king size bed with a big shower and another large TV. Even though we won’t buy this RV I think that it would be a lot of fun to live in and maybe some time in the future we can use it.

I think that the RV that we bought will be a great one and I can’t wait to use it on our trip.