Nothing Like It

There is nothing like running and running through a productive but very long day, then finally settling into your favorite seat after a glorious dog walk, and looking out the window of your home at an expanse of green grass and trees that leads to a huge, peaceful lake.  A lake that is your front yard, for you to enjoy for a day, or two, or longer.  It’s up to you.  Then you can mosey along to the next restful or interesting spot as the spirit moves you.  Nope.  There is nothing like it.

Today was my “honey-do-list” visit to Phoenix Cruiser (PC).  As usual, Mr. Bob (my hero) took my list into hand and proceeded to knock each item off with efficient grace.  He even searched high and low for that electrical gremlin who continues to pester me at hook-up time–that sounds weird unless you are an RV’er and know what I am talking about…  trust me, it’s not weird, just a nuisance.  We came to an accommodation with the gremlin.  It seems that I must wait an additional 20 or 30 seconds beyond the 128 second countdown for the built-in surge protector to approve the power source.  Patience.  Not my strong suit but, hey, I’ll give it a try.

Mr. Bob took about three hours tinkering with this, fixing that, and explaining the other.  Some of the items were self-inflicted harm.  Like the cabinet that I jammed shut by overloading it so severely that the hinge arm could not extend to an open position.  It just so happened that my tools were trapped in there.  I could say that is why I was unable to fix other items on the list myself, but nobody would be fooled.  Especially Mr. Bob.

Some of the other items are things that a capable, talented, confident fix-it person would be able to handle on their own.  Me, I add them to the honey-do list.  This would include the automatic  house step that sometimes deploys outward even when I am driving (a big no-no) and an extraordinarily stubborn house door lock that arbitrarily threatens to lock me either in or out (apparently that electrical gremlin has some mean mechanical skill, too).  For the house step, Mr. Bob adjusted what could be adjusted, but he also wired in a switch for me so that I can now turn power to the step completely off and untimely deployment will no longer be an issue.  He’s so clever.

I love my little house.  As I wandered around the PC factory (whenever I wasn’t hovering over poor Mr. Bob’s shoulder) I could observe rigs being built in each stage, from completed, shining beauties backwards to hole-riddled shells (the holes holding space for future windows and doors), electrical wires and plumbing pipes exposed, winding and raw.  These guys and gals at Phoenix really know what they are doing.

Dawny and I had a special treat in our wanderings when we met a new PC owner.  It turns out he has never had an RV before, and he bought the same model as we have.  His is a little bit different inside.  One of Phoenix’s tremendous strengths is their willingness and ability to do a certain amount of custom variation.  For instance, this gentleman is quite tall, and Phoenix made the traditional bed length longer for him.  Like Dawny and me two summers ago, he is camped out in the PC parking lot getting used to his rig and having the factory fine-tune and tweak things that need to be done prior to take-off.  We wish him a lovely take-off and an even lovelier flight.

After our house was put back into tip-top order, Dawny and I grabbed a quick walk, a quicker lunch, and took off for Ohio.  After four-plus hours of driving, navigating detours, and struggling with really crappy signage, we finally made it to our destination campground.  We signed up for two nights, no question about it.

What a great place to decompress.  What a great way to decompress.  Nothing like it.

Dawny has already tagged one of the local squirrels with a personal death sentence.  Too bad she is leashed.  And kinda old.  But then we do have two days for her to give it a try.  And I have two days (or more, if I choose) to relax, enjoy, and absorb this beautiful life in this beautiful spot at this beautiful moment in my beautiful home.

(For any interested readers, Phoenix Cruiser’s website is:  www.phoenixusarv.com.  If you are interested in a small to mid-sized motorhome, it is a good place to start perusing their offerings and gathering data.  Their online forum, also found on the website, is active and full of PC-owner-experts waaaaaaaaay more knowledgable than I when it comes to taking care of things that inevitably, with any RV, go awry.  And when it is something you cannot handle yourself, or you do not have a trusted service professional to assist you, or you simply would like to mosey on up to Elkhart, Indiana, then have at it and for just $50/hour Phoenix will work on your PC rig for you).

More on the Wheels

Two years ago I was busy prepping my home of twenty-plus years for sale, disposing of the bulk of my belongings, and waiting for my little house-on-wheels to be built.  It sounds so simple when you look at that sentence.  It wasn’t.  As anyone who has walked through something similar can attest, it wasn’t simple at all.  But it was worthwhile.  Totally.

Part of the preparation process was setting up this blog.  I envisioned the blog would be a place for me and others to share what it is like to age in America today and, more specifically, to talk about traveling this country in an RV.  There has been a tiny bit of conversation in the comments section, but not much.  Way too much of the space here has been taken up by me examining belly button lint–Dawny’s and my own.

Speaking of which, why don’t dogs have belly buttons?

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

In an effort to steer the conversation towards something more RV-related, today’s post will discuss the wheels part of our lifestyle.  I’ll note what works for us, but keep in mind that there are many, many ways of doing this and other options work much better for other travelers.

Our house-on-wheels is, more specifically, a 25-foot long motorhome (rather than a trailer towed behind your vehicle).  Unlike most people with motorhomes, we do not tow a car behind us (called a “toad”).  When researching the RV lifestyle and all the different types of rigs and ways of traveling, I decided to wait to see if I was going to really need a toad.  I am happy I waited, since it has saved a lot of money not having to insure and maintain another vehicle.  And it turns out that we have been able to navigate life just fine without one.  At 25 feet, we fit into most parking lots easily, taking up just one and a half spaces front to back.  Even a tiny trailer towed behind a normal-sized car is longer than that.

As for the decision to go with a motorhome rather than a towed trailer, the primary reason I went with the former is my total lack of confidence in being able to maneuver the latter.  Watching people back their trailers up into their camping sites can be highly entertaining.  I do not think that even after two years I would be able to handle that very well, especially without a second person to act as spotter.  Dawny would eagerly fill that role, but I fear she may run off after the first squirrel, leaving me in the lurch (and the source of great entertainment for our neighbors).

There are several benefits you get when your car and your house are all wrapped up in a motorhome.

When stuck in a traffic jam, you can make a sandwich, use the potty, or take a nap, all without leaving the car.  Heck, if the traffic is stopped long enough, I imagine you could make a few bucks selling tickets to the potty.  Just kidding!  I would never!  Also, if the weather is really hot or chilly, you can fire up your generator and have the A/C or heat on without having to run the vehicle engine.  Nearly every winter I see news stories about people stranded on some interstate when caught by a surprise snow storm.  Not only would you be warm and safe, you could host quite a party.  When traffic begins to move again, send your new friends on their way, hop into the driver’s seat, and mosey along.  (Cautionary side note:  The party scenario is for extroverts only.  Introverts can just roll down their shades, lock their doors, and crawl into bed until traffic starts moving again.)

If you are camped someplace that turns scary and wild in the middle of the night, you can hop out of bed and zoom away without having to go outside at all.  In just ten steps I can cover the distance from my bathroom or bedroom in the rear of the rig to the driver’s seat.  Turn the key, and off we go!  The only thing I might lose is my electrical cord.  If you hook up water, too, then you’re liable to have some damage when the hose is pulled off the connection to the house but, hey, small price to pay if the situation is dire.  Personally, I operate my water system using the water pump and fresh water holding tank and do not hook up to on-site water.  Simply refilling the tank once every week or two is easier for me.  Inflicting less damage while fleeing zombies or bad guys is just a side benefit.

Unlike most RV’s nowadays, mine does not have a slide-out.  In the interest of simplicity, I opted not to get one.  While it affords extra floor space when it is slid out, it also adds extra weight, takes away storage space for the slide frame and mechanism, and is one more thing that can possibly go wrong, not to mention the potential access point it gives to spiders, dirt, and moisture.  Dawny and I don’t need any more floor space, but I can see how it might be nice if more than one person was living here.

I love our little house.  In the area between the rear (bedroom/bathroom) and the front (pilot house), I have all the comforts of home:  a full kitchen, dining room/living room/office, loads of cabinets, several closets, and an entry foyer.  The TV is at the very front over the driver and passenger seats (and Dawny’s bed) and can be viewed from my favorite spot at the dinette or from my bed in the rear.  It is a very open floor plan with clear line-of-sight throughout and windows on all four sides.  This is especially nice when the weather is bad and we are housebound for a spell.  Things feel cozy, not claustrophobic.  If interested, you can view my floor plan at the manufacturer’s website, www.phoenixusarv.com.  It is the model 2351 but without the slide and with a closet in place of the chair behind the passenger seat.

In the interest of full disclosure, be aware that there are a couple of downsides to traveling in a motorhome compared to towing your house behind you, especially when you don’t have a toad.  No matter where I go, even on a short little errand, I must take my entire house with me.  Actually, this can be a benefit.  Driving the house a ways at 60 miles an hour can interrupt any hitchhikers who may be spinning webs or building other kinds of houses on mine (with the exception of tenacious little critters like Renaldo).  Also, Dawny is with me always that way.  While I am shopping, I can run the generator so that she can have the A/C or heat on, if needed.  And when I come back with my groceries, I can pop the gelato right into the freezer and the rotisserie chicken into the refrigerator.  Heck, I can crank up the antenna and watch some TV before returning to the campground if I want to.

OK, so that downside wasn’t too bad.  Let’s try again.

If I want to tour a little town with tiny streets and tight parking spaces, I’m pretty much out of luck.  Same thing with big cities.  I can’t imagine trying to drive my house through the streets of New York City or the heart of Washington, D.C.  There are ways to deal with this, though.  You can rent a car in situations where that might make sense.  In a city, you can use taxis, Uber, or public transportation.  I have also found that fellow campers can be very generous and offer rides to the store and other places when they notice I don’t tow a car.

Another potential downside of traveling in a motorhome with no toad is what do you do when either the motor part or the house part needs a massive repair?  Your whole house and your wheels are all stuck in the shop together.  Where do you go?  How do you get around?  What about all your stuff???  All good questions.  The one time my RV was in the shop for an extensive period of time (two weeks), we were lucky to be visiting a friend with a dog-friendly house, a spare room, and time to drive us around.  If that hadn’t been the case, I would have seen if the shop would have let us stay with the rig–many will–and if not, we would have to have found a pet-friendly hotel nearby and maybe rented a car.  A nuisance, yes.  Insurmountable, no.

So, approaching our two-year anniversary, I can honestly say I am very happy with the choices I made when we set out on our adventure.  For anyone reading this post who is considering a similar purchase and looking at all the choices, I would simply recommend that you research, research some more, then research again (yay Google!) and go see as many RV’s as you can.  It pays to go to an RV show, if possible, where there will be lots of types of RV’s and manufacturers.  What looks good on paper can look (and feel!) very, very different in person.

Thanks for reading, and if anyone wants to pipe in with their own RV lifestyle experiences and choices, please feel free to use the comment section.  It might take a little time before the comment posts, as each one comes through me first.  This is my home, after all.  Meanwhile, happy trails to everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommas out there!

Confession:  Unable to rest while an unsolved mystery lingers in the air, I googled the question of canine belly buttons.  Yes, of course, dogs have belly buttons.  They are very small compared to ours.  They don’t have innsies or outies, just a tiny scar covered by fur.  With no room for lint.

Honey-Dew and Gremlins

It’s that time of year again.  It turns out that living in an RV isn’t much different than trying to maintain a car and a house, all in one.  There are all sorts of things that need to be taken care of on a regular basis, such as inspecting and resealing roof seams, checking the plumbing, and fixing things that naturally fall apart in a house that travels 10 or 15 thousand miles in a year (such as my house-door lock that conveniently broke last week).

Not being terribly adept at anything mechanical, let alone electrical, I brought my little house back to its manufacturer, Phoenix USA, in Indiana for the experts to tackle my annual “honey-dew” list.  As things go awry during the course of the year, if I can’t fix it or find someone who can and it is something that can wait, I simply add it to this list.

Mr. Bob took care of about 15 items in just three hours, including attempting to diagnose a mysterious electrical gremlin who plays occasional havoc when I plug in to shore power.  This is a problem I’ve had for almost a year.  I thought I had it all figured out last summer, and that it was associated with the refrigerator, but shortly after the “fix,” the gremlin returned.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bob could not find the gremlin either.  It’s really no surprise that it fled when we tried to replicate the problem while in the shop.  We hooked up to shore power half a dozen times or more without issue.  Mr. Bob checked and tested various wires and outlets, but with nothing to fix, it’s pretty silly to keep trying to fix it, so we moved on down the list.  That gremlin was probably snickering quietly to himself off in some dark corner.

The really neat thing about bringing the rig back to where it was made is that the master electrician can be consulted about weird problems like this.  And the master plumber can be consulted about all things plumbing.  And Mr. Bob, well, he’s just the master.  These guys know my rig because they built it, and they built it well.

For anyone reading this post who may be considering buying a small motor home, I wholeheartedly recommend Phoenix USA.  They do a lot of custom work to accommodate what customers want in different floor plans and equipment, and their after-sales support is stellar.  If you are interested in more information on the company and their products, their website is www.phoenixusarv.com, and it’s a good place to start.

With our appointment completed by lunchtime, we continued our journey east, towards family and old friends.  After rolling around in a very directed and somewhat stressful fashion since leaving Florida nearly a month ago–dodging floods on the way to an appointment in Texas and outrunning severe weather/hail/tornadoes on the way to Indiana–it feels absolutely delightful to slow our pace as we camp a couple of nights at this beautiful state park in western Ohio.

I must say, however, the weather continues to be a bit freaky.  Today sunshine alternated with tiny hailstones, which alternated with snow flakes shooting by my window as if they’d been shot out of a nerf gun (winds are sustained at 30 miles an hour and gusting around 50).  Or are those delicate pink petals from those early flowering trees that we’ve seen on our short, brisk walks?

Well, with any luck, our electrical gremlin stayed behind in Indiana.  If it did sneak back on board, at least I can be confident Phoenix will do all they can to help.  Meanwhile, maybe the gremlin can bunk with Renaldo.  In a snowbank.  Blanketed with blossoms.  Heaven forbid he hangs around log enough to give him a name.