Sunday, April 15, 2012

1st Camping Weekend & 1st National Park

This weekend I went out to Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park.   This was hopefully the 1st of many camping weekends!


Thursday afternoon I left school earlier than usual so I could hit the ground running with pre-departure chores!  As soon as I got home I did all my regular evening chores and then went to get the PW.  This took a lot of thought – what need I need to be sure to get from my VUE (my id badge for school tomorrow) and what needed to be done to the PW so I could drive her out – blinds/curtains put up, fridge closed, tag for the storage removed from the window and put away.  I was going to back the PW out of the storage site and put my VUE in it’s place.  This meant that I had to think about where to park the VUE so it wasn’t in the way when I got the PW and where I could get it right in the spot.  Yes, I did have to drive around the storage lot once to get the car on the right side of the spot! 

On my way home I stopped to show of my RV to my friend Andy then came home and started loading and turning the systems back on after a week in storage.  Before I turned the water pump on I had to close the low point drains and then get the air out of the lines.  It took longer than I expected for that and the pump was acting peculiar until Sat AM when it finally got all the air out.   I’d had some trouble deciding what to do about the fridge since I don’t have a level spot to park it on at home.  I wanted to turn it on so I could load it up and get it cold because I probably wouldn’t be able to get it level when I parked at school on Friday.  I ended up deciding to level the coach in my parking spot! I needed to learn how to level it and figured if I couldn’t do it it wasn’t a big deal.  I have a set of leveling block that look kinda like big orange Legos, you just make a little pyramid and drive up on it!  I took a few tries to get the right number of blocks to get the bubble in my level into the circle and even then it wasn’t exactly in the circle but close enough for me.  I made sure to put the bag of leveling blocks on the passenger seat so that I wouldn’t drive off without them in the morning!

I spent most of the evening thinking of random things I just might need and certainly couldn’t leave behind and running back and forth between my house and the RV to get everything I could possibly need into the coach!

Friday I drove the RV to school!  It was quite fun and when I arrived at school several teachers saw me park it on the street right in front and they ran out to look at it!  The day proceeded to be the longest Friday ever, especially since I could look out my office window and see it.  Finally, after an especially brutal Friday Afternoon Meeting, it was time to go! 

The Drive

I decided I’d take 29 into Warrenton and then take 211 to Sperryville and go up to Thorton Gap to get into the park.  This would give me a chance to see how she handled on a steep mountain road!  

Traffic wasn’t so bad through Gainesville and soon I was heading out of Warrenton on 211.   About a mile out of town I noticed that the engine was straining and I had the gas pedal all the way down and she was losing speed!?!?!  At first I thought something was seriously wrong with the engine,  but then I noted that I’d hit the first big hill.  I realized that possibly 55 mph was too fast for her on a big hill and backed off on the speed.  When I let her go a “just right” speed the hills were no problem! Diesel engines are little like myself when going up hills, they like to pick a slow-ish speed and go steady all the way up!  Going up 211 to Thorton Gap we didn’t top 40 but she didn’t strain and we made it!

I stopped at what used to be Panorama for a snack and what turned out to be my last email/facebook/twitter check until today! I thought about eating dinner there but decided to push on to the campground.

Just like diesel engines need different consideration going up hill they also need special considerations going down! A gas engine will mostly hold it’s speed on a downhill, a diesel won’t. Even a small downhill will cause the speed to soar rather quickly unless you drop to a low gear.  I’d figured out how to drop to a low gear, but I was having a hard time figuring out which one was appropriate – I had 4 choices!  And usually as soon as I got it dropped into a low gear for going down the road was suddenly going up again and I had to get back to Drive. 

I was quite glad I was learning mountain driving on very familiar territory and I wasn’t trying to take in the scenery at the same time!  Once I master driving the PW in the mountains it will be a great way to check out new scenery!  You are up so much higher than in a car and the windshield is huge so you can see so much more!

I arrived at the campground in time for dinner!  My parents had gotten me a site and made dinner!  I backed right into my spot – turned a little too soon but I fixed it without needing to get out.  My site was perfectly level so all I had to do was put it in park and take the key out!

The Camping

After dinner my dad and went up to the Ranger Kiosk to pay for my site and decided to walk over to the amphitheater to see if there was cell phone service and ended up walking about a mile down the AT to a rock outcropping to check out the sunset.  The sunset wasn’t very impressive and I hadn’t brought my phone with me since I didn’t expect to have coverage.  By the time we walked back it was getting dark and chilly. 

Friday night was very cold in the mountains! I was glad I’d brought my sweatpants & sweatshirt, and ended up sleeping in them! I was still cold though and about midnight I pulled out my sleeping bag.  I was still cold and I was wishing I’d thought to sleep in my pink long underwear. 

When I woke up Saturday morning around 7 and  it really cold in my RV!  I jumped out of bed to turn on the hot water heater then crawled back in for a few more minutes of warm snoozing.  Soon I knew it was time almost time to get up so I decided to turn on the furnace to take the chill out.  I reached up and turned the thermostat a few notches up.   I then decided I needed to check to see if the water was hot so, without getting out of my sleeping bag I shuffled to the sink and turned on the hot water.  I was standing, in my sleeping bag, right in front of where the hot air comes out of the furnace.  Nothing came out of the hot tap – just air, then a little water and more air.  I instantly spun around and shut off the hot water heater because I was worried that somehow in my draining of the lines I’d drained the hot water heater and having it on with no water in it is very bad for the hot water heater.   I then shuffled into the bathroom to see if hot water came out of that tap.  It did, with no air.  Hmmm… I was contemplating this and why the pump was still acting funny (not running when I ran water then running after I turned the water off), when I was rudely interrupted by a wailing alarm.   WTH????  It sounded like a smoke detector, but I knew I wasn’t on fire.  I turned off the fridge & the furnace.  It was coming from under the bed so I figured it must be the LP/Carbon Monoxide detector so I started taking the bed apart so I could get a good look at the detector.  I then remembered that if there’s an LP gas or Carbon Monoxide leak I needed to get fresh air into the coach so I went to open the door.  The sliding door locks from the inside (which I find to be a major safety issue.  The driver/passenger doors open from the inside when locked) so I had to fumble with the lock before I threw the door open.  With the door open and fresh air coming in I proceeded to try to take the bed apart.  Then it occurred to me that maybe I should turn the propane off.   I ditched the sleeping bag and ran around the outside of the coach and flipped the remote shut off.   Then I decided to go see if dad was awake.  He was, but he hadn’t gotten up yet so I walked back to PW while he got dressed and the alarm had shut off!  I went back into the coach and picked up the sleeping bag where I’d dumped it and went to put it on the bed, as soon as I drug the sleeping bag across the floor the alarm started again!  I threw the sleeping back between the driver and passenger seats and waited for Dad.  By the time he got out there the alarm had stopped again and it didn’t start when we got in.  We looked at the alarm panel and read the book about it, no indication of what might have just happened.  The alarm did say “if the alarm sounds evacuate vehicle and call 911”. cell phone service will slow down the calling 911.  Obviously in a National Park I could get the Rangers but, I wasn’t sure what they were going to do.  Even if I had a LP gas leak, there wasn’t much they could do about it other than shut the gas off, which I’d already done.   Dad and I let the RV air out then turned the propane back on and turned the appliances back on and there were no further issues.  Our theory for now is that one shouldn’t shuffle through the RV in ones sleeping bag while the furnace is running.  Glad Dad was there to help with this little glitch, but now I know how to handle it if it happens again! I will say that when I had to go over to Mom and Dad’s coach in my PJs I was very glad I wasn’t wearing skin tight pink long underwear!

After breakfast Dad and went out to hike to Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls.  It was the same loop we’d done the last time we camped at Big Meadows and the same loop I’d done in October, but it’s a nice loop!  Today the woods were still leave-less and it’s been so dry that the creek was down.   There wasn’t a lot to see, but we did a bunch of trillium!  I thought it would be too early, but it looks like they are just getting started!  We walked about 6 miles and ended up back at the visitor center & wayside so we had to get some blackberry ice cream!  We got back to the campground around 4:00. 

We just hung around the campground for the rest of the day.  Dad and I uploaded pictures and then we had about an hour until dinner so I got my bed all set up and sat in my camp chair and read my book.  After dinner we took a walk around the campground to try and find a gal I’d cyber met on an RVing forum who was supposed to be there in her Roadtrek.  We didn’t find her but we got to chatting with the neighbors until about 9:00 and then it was time for bed! 

It didn’t get quite so cold Saturday night, but it was windy!  I heard the wind howling around the campground and my van wasn’t even rocking!  After a few sleepless nights in a tent due to wind I was very glad I was snug inside Roxy and not in a tent!

Sunday morning I packed up my stuff – tried to separate out the stuff that needed to go into the house and the stuff that stayed in the coach, but I didn’t bring a bag or box to put it in.  I’d put a bag, a tub and a cooler in the VUE for this purpose but I realized that I need something in the coach, especially for the dirty clothes! After I was mostly ready to go I enjoyed my coffee and finally finished a book I started reading in FL almost 2 weeks ago.   I finally pulled myself away from the mountains at 10:30.  

Before I left Big Meadows I needed to dump my tanks.  The last time I’d dumped was in Waldo, FL and now the black tank was almost full, the grey tank was finally registering 1/3 and the fresh water was empty (it’d been saying it was empty since last night but so far I hadn’t run out of water).  When I arrived at the dump station there was someone already dumping so I decided to use the bathroom one last time – when I flushed the pump was straining to get the last few drops of water out of the tank!  Perfect!   I opted not to fill with fresh water since I was putting it into storage for at least 2 weeks (hopefully not much more!). 

The Drive Home

The drive back down Skyline Drive was much better!  I learned that she likes 3rd gear when going downhill between 30-40 mph – I still had to use the brake more than I expected but I could mostly hold her in the 30s in 3rd gear.  When I dropped it to 2nd the RPMs surged and it sounded like the engine was straining.  

On 211 I set the cruise control and that held the speed on the hills!

I stopped at Wegmans in Gainesville and parked next to another Sprinter!  This one was fire engine red! I think it was work truck of some sort. 

I then took her back to Holly Acres!  It only took a few minutes to switch the cars, unload the RV into VUE, and close down the PW so she’ll be ready for next time!  I do have to go back and visit this week though, I didn’t put toilet chemical in after I dumped because I didn’t have water. 

I got home around 3, which was perfect to get all my weekend chores done for school tomorrow!  It was a great weekend and I can’t wait to do it again! :-)

SNP: Rose River 4.14.12

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I kinda left everyone hanging there! As soon as I got home other things took my attention away from blogging! 

It was a chilly night in Williamsburg on Thursday night, but I was toasty warm in my next of blankets! 

Friday morning was more RV learning – this time we were studying the generator.  I have a propane generator and most bigger RVs have either a gas or diesel generator depending on what type of fuel the vehicle uses.  My dad was skeptical about the propane generator but as we studied the book and then crawled around under the coach to get a good look at it we realized that the propane generator is way easier to maintain!

After our final RV school lessons for the week we went to show her off to my grandmother and take her to lunch.  After lunch I was ready to finish the drive home!  It was a little nerve-wracking leaving “Professor Pleasure-Way” aka my dad, and taking her out on my own, but it had to happen sooner or later!

While we were messing around with stuff and examining the sewer hose we discovered that my sewer cap had gotten broken somewhere between Waldo, FL and Williamsburg!  Somewhere in South Carolina I hit a piece of truck tire and I heard it bang stuff in the undercarriage so I’m guessing that’s what did it.  Luckily for me there’s an RV dealer with a parts store on the way home! 

I zipped across 64 and 295 and then when I hit 95 it was a parking lot.  Of course it was. 

I stopped at McGeorge’s Rolling Hills RV and had my 1st park-between-two-parked-cars experience!  Every other time I’ve parked I’ve parked out in the boonies of the parking lot all by myself.  Gotta learn sometime!  I pulled right in and tucked her right between the 2 cars!  A little closer to the one on the driver side, but between my lines! It did stick out a bit (it’s about 3-4 feet too long for a standard spot, if you back in you can get the overhang over the curb, but I knew I couldn’t back in here – I’m not good enough yet, I’m working on it!).  I went in and quickly found the part I needed and attempted to get the sales clerk to answer some of my other questions but all he knew about Pleasure-Ways was that that they were built in Canada.   I was able to expertly back the RV out of the spot and continued on my way!

I didn’t have space to install the new sewer cap at the RV dealer so I went across to the Bass Pro Shop and pulled into their big parking lot.  I found a spot way out and spent about 10 minutes practicing backing into parking spots.  By the end of my practice session I was able to get it into the parking spot I intended!  The 1st few times I did it I missed the intended spot by a mile! I quickly got the new sewer cap on and set off to explore the store. 

It was around 3:00 when I started back up 95.  Traffic was still slow.  I saw that diesel was $3.93 at the Flying J, so decided to stop since it was so cheap, even though I didn’t really need it.  Ended up doing several laps around the fuel islands so I could get to the diesel pump and get there going the right direction.

Back on 95 traffic was on and off bumper-to-bumper inching along and stopped.  Took almost 2 to get home – it’s less than 50 miles. 

Once home I parked the RV on the main road into my development, but it wasn’t level and I couldn’t see it, and since I’m not supposed to park it here I kinda wanted to keep it close.  I walked in and moved the VUE to the main road and pulled the RV into Bromley Ct!  Backed her right into my parking spots!  I used both, but I backed her in on the 1st try and didn’t do any damage to the cars on either side! :-) 

On the way home I’d discovered that we had a freeze warning so I spent some time on the phone with Dad and kinda drained the lines – not winterized but I got enough water out that should it freeze a little it hopefully won’t burst the water lines.  I also unloaded pretty much everything into the house.  It wasn’t level in my spot either but Dad pointed out that if I turn the fridge off then it doesn’t need to be level, so since I’d emptied it I turned it off!

So ended up staying in the house last night, although I considered sleeping in the RV in the court!  It was kinda nice sleeping in my bed, but I wasn’t a fan of the long walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

This morning I tried to pack and organize the coach!  I tried to think of each event – sleeping, clothing, bathroom, kitchen, entertainment, technology, etc, and what I would need and I what I could store in the coach and what needed to go in the day of a trip.  I used the Awesome Note app on my iPhone to record the stuff I need to pack later in the week before I take her out for the weekend.  I was pretty much just walking around the house & collecting stuff!  Made about a million trips back and forth so I was glad it was parked in my spot!  I have all kinds of stuff in there and I’m prepared for most any event! And it’s not even “full” yet!  I don’t have the kitchen stuff yet though – having a hard time figuring out what I’ll need and what the best tools are to put in there.  I’m starting to think of meals I can make and what I’d need to for each one. 

Of course the RV drew the attention of the neighbors!  The 1st tours I gave were to 2 of the little boys who live across the court, naturally they were most interested in the bathroom!  They also wanted to know if it had video games.  I talked to a few other neighbors all of whom think the RV is awesome and are jealous!  No one seemed to mind it being parked there!  One of my neighbors suggested that I rent it out on the weekends I’m not using it...she could be on to something, although if I didn’t want it out of my sight overnight I’m not sure I’ll be able to let someone else take it on a trip!

Around noon I decided I was done loading and organizing and headed out to get the safety inspection, run to Wal-Mart for a few things, and take it to storage. 

I started at Lake Ridge Auto Care, which is where I take the VUE for it’s inspection & maintenance.  The guy told me that he couldn’t do my inspection because he thought I was too tall to get into the garage.  He suggested that I go to Holly Acres, which is where I’m storing it!  I thought they only inspected trailers, but the guy told me they did motor homes.   So I decided to hit Wal-Mart 1st then go to Holly Acres get the inspection and put her away.  

They are expanding our Wal-Mart and the parking lot is full of construction stuff and half of it is blocked off.  There was no place to park!  All the spots were filled up with cars!  I drove around the parking lot a bit and then decided to try Target.  I found a whole empty lot at Target, which was perfect for backup practice before I went in.  Taking fewer tries to get it exactly where I want it!

After Target I headed over to Holly Acres.  After thoroughly confusing one of the parts guys who didn’t understand that “Class B”, “van”, & “Mercedes Chassis” all indicated a driveable RV I learned what I’d kinda already known, Holly Acres can only inspect trailers.  

They sent me over to Ward’s Towing – I know them because they are the people I call when someone parks in my spot.  I called ahead and yes they could inspect me and if I came in the next hour we could do it today!  I zipped right over there.   When I got there I was directed to go around back and find "Mr. Kelly.  I drove around and found a huge 2 bay truck garage and parked right in the middle and walked in – there were 2 guys standing there talking – one had a auto mechanic jumpsuit on that said “Kelly” so I knew I had the right guy, the other was a younger guy wearing a Wards Towing T-shirt.  I explained that I needed a state inspection.  He asked me to pull the RV into the garage.  Both the guys said they’d help guide me.  I walked out, fired her up and pulled her right in.  As I jumped out the younger guy said “WOW, you know your way around a corner!  You are for sure the primary driver for that van!”   I was floored by such a compliment from a real truck driver!  Never mind that the van is so easy to drive!  I told them it was new and I hadn’t even had it a week yet!  They both had a bunch of questions about the van and then we started talking road trips and it was like social hour here in the garage!  Eventually, Michael, the young guy who was very nice and very cute, had gone back to his work, and we got the inspection underway.  It was a full interactive inspection as I got to turn it on it and operate the turn signal and the brakes and the wipers and such.  The whole time Michael was in and out and we kept chatting.  Turns out he’s the guy who drives the rig that could tow my van should she have difficulty!  Good to know that he’ll come for me if I need him! Assuming whatever issue happens here not in Montana or something! About an hour later, inspection done & new friends made I headed back to Holly Acres to leave the RV!

My storage spot is quite tight between 2 boats.  I knew I couldn’t back in, not yet anyway, so I pulled in forward.  She slid right in, no problem! The site is no where near level, but the fridge is turned off.  I backed her up a few times trying to make sure she was straight so they boats could get out if they needed to.  There’s a bump at the edge of the space that she doesn’t like backing over – gotta give her a lot of gas to pop her over!  But I know I can back her right out so no worries there! 

Andy was home and probably would have come to get me but I wanted to walk home! It’s 5 miles with sidewalk the whole way.  It wasn’t the most pleasant walk – it was mostly along 2 busy roads, but it only took me an hour and half and it was a lovely afternoon!  On my way out of the storage lot I saw another Sprinter pull in! I had to walk by their storage spot so I stopped to talk!  Theirs is made by a different company but they love it!

In all the running around today I actually got to drive on hills!  1,100 miles from FL and no real hills!  I guess because it’s so short in the front going down hill is kinda like sitting in the front car on a roller coaster!  Driving in the mountains is going to fun! :-)

So, she’s all tucked away in her spot!  I’ll probably go check on her at least once and I’m going to get her out Thursday night so I can go to SNP this weekend!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Had a nice quiet night at Wal-Mart and I was up before the sun ready to go!  I got a shower, made coffee and had a nice breakfast while doing internet stuff.  

It was about 8:30 when Dad came out and said that they were ready to go.  I jumped out to flip off the propane (I don’t like to have it on when I’m planning on getting fuel since the appliances that use it have an open pilot light) and made sure the fridge was working on battery, then jumped back in and got settled for the 300 mile drive ahead of us. 

I ended up in the lead and was zipping down the road passing trucks left and right, just like I would in my VUE!  I noticed that the PW was harder to drive at the higher speeds – I was going a “normal” highway speed – 70-75 (speed limit was 70), I got more buffeting from trucks and she kinda rattled more, but I kept going. 

Soon we stopped at a rest stop for a quick break – I didn’t even shut off the engine, just put her in park, jumped back to the bathroom and sat down again. 

Soon the dreaded fuel light came on!  It was about 10 miles before the exit with the Pilot Truck stop I’d planned to go to.  I knew from yesterday that I still had 5 gallons left and that if I was getting 18 miles to the gallon I would make it the 10 miles.  Didn’t stop me from worrying though!  I pulled in, jumped out at the pump to get fuel and was back on the road pretty quickly. 

Almost immediately after getting fuel I crossed the line into Virginia and gas prices fell by 20cents a gallon.  grrrr.  I totally could have made it too.  Dad had told me it was 200 miles across North Carolina – in actuality it was about 182, I got gas at mile 180 and we knew there was a Love’s at exit 1 in VA.  Oh well!

When I entered my gas purchase and the odometer reading into my “Gas Cubby” iPhone app the app informed me that I’d gotten 16.7 miles per gallon from the last fill up.  WHAT?!?!?!  My 1st fill up I’d been getting 18.5 miles per gallon.  What happened?   This is where I learned that driving a diesel engine is different from a gas engine.  Diesel engines have a “sweet spot” where they get the best gas mileage – not to slow and not too fast.  All my driving at normal highway speeds had pushed her past her sweet spot!  I slowed back down to the 65-68 mph that I’d been going when I was behind Dad.  I also noticed that the van was easier to drive – not as much buffeting and the ride was nice and smooth.  So, no matter what the speed limit is, I’m sticking to under 70 when I’m in the van!  And as an added bonus I probably won’t get a speeding ticket!

When I pulled off to get fuel, I got separated from Mom and Dad. They pulled off but there was no place for them at the truck stop so they went on.   We caught back up at a rest stop about 30 miles into VA for lunch.  It was at this point that I left my RV for the 1st time since I’d gone in after dinner last night.   I’d gone outside but I’d not gotten out of arms reach!  16 hours and almost 200 miles without going outside!  Not sure if this is a good thing or not. 

Yesterday at lunch we were talking about road trips and Russell shared a Charles Kuralt quote – roughly: “Thanks to the interstate system it is now possible to travel from coast to coast and not see a thing!”  I’d like to amend that quote to add: “And not even leave your vehicle!” 

After lunch we cam the rest of the way into Williamsburg. I wasn’t planning on coming here, I was going to just go straight home, but I had the spare tire in my RV and we decided that between the fix a flat kit and my roadside assistance the spare tire wasn’t carrying it’s weight and had to go, it’s not got a spot in my parents garage.  Also a few years ago my parents got me some leveling blocks for a rental RV and they needed to get into my RV.  I also decided I should visit my grandmother.   We are staying at a city park on the Chicahominy River.  It’s a nice park – big sites, hook ups, nice view! I had to back my RV into it’s site and I mostly did it by myself!  Mom helped a little but she mostly helped with the easy part – getting it far enough back in the campsite. 

We spent the rest of the day running errands for my parents and then had dinner and hit up Sweet Frog! 

It’s quite chilly here!  Temps were in the 50s when we got here – I was glad I’d brought my fleece and a long sleeve shirt!  Very crazy going from 90s on Tuesday to 50s on Thursday! I’m kinda happy actually because I get to test out the coach’s heater and see just how cold I get tonight!  It’s only going down into the 40s so should be ok, although I don’t have the proper gear! 

Tomorrow I’ll go the rest of the way home.  I can’t say as I’m fully happy about this, I don’t really want to put Roxy away and go back to regular life!  I’m considering stretching the week out by 1 more night and going to Prince William Forest Park tomorrow…we’ll see when I get back to Woodbridge! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

4 States in 1 Day

We had plans to meet my friends Russell & Amy for lunch in Savannah GA and had planned to leave Waldo at 8:00.  Before I went to bed I assured Mom and Dad that I’d be up in plenty of time.  Well…not so much…I woke up at 7:37!  yikes!  I quickly made coffee, showered, dressed, cleaned things up since I was having guests later and was mostly ready to go by a little after 8. 

We were debating what was up with my tanks – the black tank was saying it was 1/3 full some of the time and 2/3 full some of the time and the grey tank still claimed to be empty.  No idea why the grey thought it was empty – we have some theories that I won’t go into here.  Dad decided I should dump at the campground since I had a sewer connection right there.   It didn’t take long to fill up with water and dump the tanks and we were ready to roll at about 8:30. 

When we were ready to roll I pulled out of my site and to wait for them to pull out and go around, it took them a very long time and I was wondering what was going on. When I looked out the back I saw that they were stopped,  mere feet from the campsite! Then I saw the door open and both Mom and Dad cam out…not a good sign. Dad pulled out of his site and quickly got into some trouble.  He didn’t see the telephone pole and got his coach, with his tow vehicle attached, wedged in.  The only way to get the coach out was to back up.  The only way to back up the coach was to take the car off.   Of course the car was jack-knifed and it was very hard to get the pins in the towbar off and free the car, but eventually they did and were able to get the car and the coach out and we were on our way!

We didn’t stop till Savannah and we made it there by Noon!  I called Amy and Russell and they came right over for a lovely lunch at Hoolihans!  It was great to see them and talk “Road Trips”!  So nice to stop and see friends along the way – might be enough to make driving back to FL another time appealing!

After lunch it was full steam ahead – we were aiming for North Carolina!   We made plans to stop for fuel in South Carolina at exit 82 which was going to be early for Dad and pushing it for me.   

At about mile 50 Roxy went down to 1 bar left and the fuel light came on and the bar started blinking…I kinda panicked!  I radioed Mom and Dad and said I was getting off to get fuel (we’d gotten separated and they were more than a few cars ahead) and that I’d catch them at their fuel stop.   I got off at exit 53, which is probably the only exit in the whole state that doesn’t have at least 3 options for diesel fuel.  I tried the BP, no dice, so I went to the Horizon’s station.  I pulled into the gas station and turned off the propane, then set out to find the diesel pump so I could make sure I went in going the right way and all.  There was a big pick up truck towing a 5th wheel so I figured he was diesel and went to look near him – couldn’t find the pump, so I went in to ask and the clerk pointed me in the right direction.  I went back out and went to pull the RV to the pump and luckily remembered just in time that the fuel tank is on the opposite side from my car!  Around the gas station I went turning several tight corners and being even more happy that I’d gotten such a small little RV!  Finally I was at the pump!  I opened the fuel door, took off the cap, put on my diesel gloves and went to pump. Only it wouldn’t pump.  No pay at the pump or anything.  Hmmm…  I figured I needed to pre-pay or leave my card…so I took off the diesel gloves, closed up the tank and walked in.  Sure enough she needed my card.  At last I went back out to the RV and pumped the fuel!  I put in 19.5 gallons!  It’s a 25 gallon tank, so I didn’t need to panic quite so much, but I didn’t know that!

I met up with my parents at exit 82 where they’d aborted plans to get fuel and got DQ Blizzards instead.  We went on up the road to a Flying J close to the border of NC for them to get fuel.  It was 6:00 when we got there and the parking area was already full of RVers bedding down for the night! 

We pushed ahead to Lumberton, NC (avoided a stop at the tackiest place on I-95: South of the Border!) where we parked up at Wal-Mart.  We are one of about 10-20 RVs here!  When we pulled in I jumped out to snap a picture of both of our RVs and the Wal-Mart sign and when I did I met a local drunk redneck.  He told me that he and his buddies were leaving and we could have the spot where they’d parked their cars because it was safer at that spot than it was where I’d parked – the security was better and I could leave my stuff out if I wanted to!  Then I went to my parents RV and was standing in the door when “Wille the Pimp” (of “People of Wal-Mart” fame) came by in his beat up panel truck and asked if we wanted him to Rainx out tires and wash the bugs the off the windshield.  I remarked as to how must have gotten the “full service” Wal-Mart! 

We went to dinner at Fuller’s BBQ which was just one exit back on the highway.  It was a yummy southern buffet – they had BBQ but they also had lots of veggies – well, they started as veggies anyway, I guess I should call them side dishes.  It was a yummy dinner!  Now we are back at the Wal-Mart all snuggled into out coaches – I made sure to get close enough to get the wifi!  They are predicting a chance of thunderstorms and showers tomorrow so it could get interesting! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We Found Waldo!

After my leisurely morning at Collier-Seminole, it was time to start the drive north! 

We left from my parents RV resort a little after 11, which was at least an hour ahead of what we’d planned so that was good!

As I’ve been learning about the RV and getting settled in it I’ve had to keep reminding myself that this one is not a rental, it’s mine and I can put stuff where I want it, decide on modifications, and I won’t be giving it back in a few days and flying home!  When we rolled out the RV Resort it really hit me that this marvel of RV engineering was coming  home with me! And that I got to keep it forever (or until it falls apart, which ever comes first!) :-) 

Florida is a big, ugly state.  Naples is allllll the way in the far southwest corner so we had to drive the length of it – most of it along I-75.   The drive was really rather uninteresting, but I’ll tell you about it anyway!

The batteries died on my iPod speaker less that 50 miles from Naples! I just used the scan feature on the radio to channel surf and I found some good stations…and the sound quality was way better out of the nice speakers rather than the little iPod speaker.  I was able to recharge my iPod speaker – charges via USB – so brought that back!

I’m learning to trust the fuel gauge – it’s digital and it has 10 lines and as the tank goes down lines disappear.  Dad figured up that each line equals 2.5 gallons and should be about 50 miles.  It seems accurate!  (Yes, I get about 500 miles to the tank…about 20 MPG) I had my 1st experience getting diesel!  Not that big of a deal since I went through the RV lanes at the Flying J and it was really very similar to just getting regular gas.  I did have to stop a few feet before the pump and cut off the propane before I got up there and then remember to turn in on again after (wouldn’t want my frozen dinners to thaw out!).  I went into the Flying J and got my rewards card so next time I can get discounts!

I continue to enjoy driving the RV!  I can see almost everything – having a hard time judging distances in the driver mirror – and it’s very maneuverable!  Just gotta get that radio fixed!

We found some hills in Florida!  We were just north of Ocala on US301 (it goes all the way up to VA…) and I started seeing signs: “Hill blocks view”.   Hill blocks view of what?  The flat?  I thought maybe it was a warning that the hill blocked the view for people pulling out of driveways and such, but Dad said the sign means that the hill blocks the drivers view of the road!  Only in Florida would you need a sign to warn you about a tiny hill. 

We were sorta aiming for Jacksonville tonight, but we didn’t quite make it.  It was getting late and it we pressed on we wouldn’t get in until 7:30 so we stopped a little short in a town called “Waldo”!  We found Waldo!  There’s not much here – a gas station, a subway, a flea market on weekends, and a bunch of cops!  The town is a huge speed trap!  When we were coming in we went past the campground and had to do a U turn.  There was a light with a green arrow.  Dad was ahead of me and he took the whole cycle of the light to turn around!  I started into the intersection when it was on yellow and it quickly changed to red meaning I’d totally run the red light.  I knew the cop (silly me assumed he was the only 1) was busy with a speeder, but just as I turned he was done and he came back down the road toward me….I was sweating bullets for a few minutes waiting for him to come to the campground to nail me for running the red light, but they seem more worried about the speeders!

This is a nice campground, no idea what the name is.  It’s basically a big field with hook ups!  It was almost 90* when we got here, but it’s cooling off nicely – the fan in my RV is pulling in the air from outside making it nice and cool in my bed! 

Tomorrow we are having lunch with Russell & Amy in Savannah and then likely heading on to North Carolina! 

I’m also hoping to begin to solve the mystery of why my black (toilet) tank is almost full, yet the grey (shower & sink waste) is still reading as empty.  We have a few theories, but it makes no sense that the tank would still be empty!  Stay tuned!

Collier-Seminole State Park

My 1st State Park in my RV! 

I was looking for a legal, cheap-ish, place to camp near my parents in Naples and the logical choice was Collier-Seminole State Park.  It’s out about 10-15 miles from my parents and it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere (but I still have some cell phone service – it comes and goes). 

South Florida is mostly swamp & mangrove forest so as soon as civilization ends the swamp quickly begins. 

The park is good sized with a nice campground that can accommodate anything from tent campers to folks with rigs up to 40’.  The campsites are large and easy to get into.   They are all relatively level also, but this after all Florida.  They have water and electric hook ups as well!  What more can you ask for – a lovely setting & electricity!)

They have a few hiking trails & opportunities to canoe & kayak.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 and decided to take a sunrise stroll along the 1 mile nature trail! It was chilly in the RV so I decided it was the perfect time for a walk and that way I’d wait & take a shower when I got back and hopefully not disturb my neighbor in the tent with the water pump noise.   I quickly threw on some clothes and made coffee to take with me. 

The trail was lovely – mostly boardwalk, all flat!  Glad I’d walked before my shower as I ended up needed significant amounts of bug spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay!

In the heat of the day I find this area simply unbearable – intense sun, dry spiky plants, flat, flat, flat, flat, and then there are the bugs!  Those Seminole Indians must have been a hardy bunch to survive and thrive in the Everglades!

Along the way there were some interpretive exhibits about Baron Collier who wanted this land to be a National Park but wasn’t able to accomplish it.  He was a millionaire who helped build the road from Tampa to Miami (getting the road through the swamp was quite a feat of engineering) and loved the Everglades and wanted the land set aside.  I also learned that this area is one of only a few places where the Royal Palms grow naturally!

In the early AM, with sun just peeking between the Palm fronds and the temps still bearable it was very easy to see what Baron Collier saw in this land and that riches it holds!  There are all kinds of birds and cool animals – panthers, snakes, alligators, turtles, frogs (none of which I saw!) – as well as plants and flowers!  Too bad the early morning hours are short!

She has a name!

I’m not one who normally names her vehicles, but my RV is going to be the exception!

Her name is Roxy, how’d we get that?  Let me explain…

I haven’t have the privilege of meeting the woman I bought the RV from but she seems like an amazing woman!  My understanding of the story had been that her husband had died, therefore she had to sell the RV.  That was not entirely the case.  Turns out that her husband died and then she bought the RV so she could go RVing solo! Then she met a man and life took a different turn.   I can tell that my RV was her baby, it was very well taken care of and she went the extra mile to make sure it was totally ready for me!

And so since the woman I bought it from’s name is Roxanne and she goes by Roxie, we changed the spelling a bit and arrived at Roxy!

Hard to get used to calling a vehicle by a name, but she’s so much more than a vehicle! :-)

Pleasure-Way 101

After getting to bed late last night I had a hard time getting to sleep – a new bed, a new place and trying to get the bed setup right made for less sleep than I would have liked!  But, the good news is that tonight I know exactly how to do it and I’m sure I’ll get more sleep! :-) 

I was up at 6:15 and decided to turn on the hot water heater so I could get a shower when I was ready to get up.  So I got up and flipped it on, thinking I’d crawl back into bed – well, the light didn’t come on like it was supposed to.  hmmm….  I dug out the owners manual and started trying to figure it out.  The book was no help, but I thought I’d try again to flip it on…  This time I noticed that it says “on” at the bottom of the rocker switch…and I was switching it up rather than down – maybe it was already on?  I ran some water and sure enough it was hot!  Later I told my dad about it and we realized that the switch for his hot water heater was the opposite so he must have turned it on when he meant to turn it off! 

A quick shower and coffee and I was ready to get started with the day! 

Before I came down my dad had gone over almost every inch of the RV with a fine toothed comb and was ready to tell me everything about it.  We went over almost every system and aspect.   We learned that the battery for the chassis (the “car” battery) is under the floor of the driver seats and VERY hard to get to.   We learned where all the flat tire gear is stashed.  We learned which battery, house (powers the RV stuff) or chassis starts the generator.  We learned about how to by-pass the hot water heater when you winterize.  We learned how to make the TV work.   At one point we were both laying on the ground with our heads stuck under the RV looking for the fresh water drain and trying to figure out which tank was which! 

The whole time we were doing this my parents friends were stopping by to meet me, see the RV and discuss RV park politics.  My parents have a site in an RV community and so all their friends are RVers (although they all have big class A (busses)) and were excited to see my coach some even brought me gifts!  It kinda reminded me of a college dorm where all the sudden someone would show up and we’d start talking! 

After lunch we went out to run some errands and I finally got to drive my RV!  I’m amazed at how easy it is to drive!  At one point I kinda forgot I was driving an RV – felt like my VUE!  It’s very easy to steer and very nimble. After 1st getting lost in the RV park (kinda sad since it’s a circle – but I was thrown off because the other Sprinter in the neighborhood, the fix-it guy’s tool truck, had moved sites and I thought I was in a different place) we went to Wal-Mart, Lowes and Publix – the RV easily navigated each parking lot & some quick lane changes!

After the errands we went out to Collier-Seminole State Park, where I am camped tonight.  We found my site, but there was a road right behind it!  I’d been told I could move if I wanted to, so after backing into the site (for practice!) I ended up picking another site and moving over there – once again, backing up to get in.  In both instances my dad helped a bit, but for the most part the RV went exactly where I was expecting it to go and did what I told it to! :-)  It wasn’t hard to get in either site!  Admittedly it helped that the sites were both wide and very flat! 

At the park the RV learning continued – this time it was a lesson in putting out the awning – not something that I’ll be doing frequently because it’ kind of a pain, especially if I did it alone. 

This evening we went to Marco Island for dinner with a friend of my parents who used to live in their RV park but now has a house. 

Now I’m all settled in bed in my RV.  It’s starting to get chilly! YAY!  The sun & heat are quite intense down here!  I’m definitely not a fan of Florida!  Tomorrow afternoon we will start the drive northward!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


After what seemed like the longest month ever I am finally in FL getting ready to go to sleep in my RV! :-) 


The flight down was long and largely uneventful.  Andy picked me up at 7 am and we zipped up to the airport.  There was no line at security and the flight to Boston was on time!  In Boston things got frustrating – my departure gate was in a different arm of the terminal so I had to go out of security and back through again.  Grrrr…  Then the plane was about an hour late leaving!  Better that flight than the 1st one! I did get to watch The Muppets, for free because of the delay, so that was nice! That movie is so awesome!  Also read a great book called “How NOT to RV!”. 

Finally after  what seemed like the longest 2 hours of my life we landed in Ft. Myers!  I zipped off the plane and hurried to baggage claim.  Mom and Dad were waiting, in the RV, in the cell phone lot!  I was excited when I arrived at baggage claim and the bags were already going around – but mine didn’t come out.  I waited and waited.  Then the carousel stopped.  After a few minutes it got going again and then I saw my RV sitting outside…Mom and Dad had pulled around…my bag *still* hadn’t appeared.  Finally, it came out and I practically took out a small child trying to get to it and run out to the curb.  As I ran out the door I could see my Dad pulling away – like he was going circle and come back, but luckily he saw me and Mom jumped out. 

We had a bit of difficulty opening the sliding door – which I did find rather humorous, came all that way and I couldn’t get in! 

She’s every bit as beautiful in person as she is in the pictures! The seats are very comfortable and there’s a bunch of cabinets & hidey holes to store stuff. 

Dad drove out of the airport – no way was I going to try and navigate that!  We’d planned to go to dinner at Bahama Breeze, a chain my parents discovered in Seattle and they have one in Ft. Myers, but the line was out the door! I’d wanted to stop at Trader Joe’s for some frozen meals so we stopped there and at Moe’s for dinner before coming back to my parents lot. 

I did drive her just a tiny bit, in the parking lot from Trader Joe’s to Moe’s.  Handles just like a car!  Very easy to drive!  Doesn’t seem very big at all!  Tomorrow I’ll drive her around so I’ll get a better feel for it.   I would have driven home from Moe’s but it was dark and I don’t have a clue where anything is so I let Dad drive. 

Tonight I’m staying on my parents site at their RV resort.  This is rather against the rules so don’t tell anyone! First night in my camper and I’m already breaking rules!  Tomorrow night I’ll be in a proper campground!

I’ll leave you with 2 quick pictures:



The view down the aisle from my bed!



My bed, ready for blogging and then sleep!  Prob won’t need the blanket, it’s humid and warm here, but I’ve got it just in case!

Good night!