Warning: Before you begin reading this update, please ensure you have plenty of time to immerse yourself. Feel free to grab a cup-a-Joe, as well!
I know so many of you are wondering what in the heck has happened to us. Well, oh well, what can I say? Yes, we did disappear for a while, but we are not lost. It’s all good… our time has finally arrived! On Wednesday, September 10, 2014, our Lifestyle Luxury 38RS Fifth Wheel, at long last, became our home! We love, love, love our Baby Girl! Oh, and did I mention we love our Baby Girl?
The day she became ours we did not move in (as in spend the night) because it was much too late in the day to offload enough things out of the 6’ X 12’ U-Haul trailer (which temporarily housed all of our worldly possessions) to make sleeping in our new home possible. So, we offloaded as much as we could… as fast and furious as we could. The next day, Thursday, September 11, 2014, we were able to unpack a ton of boxes and get enough things put away that we were able to spend our first night in our new home. And we did. We sleep like babies. Not sure if it is because we bonded immediately with Baby Girl, or if we were just exhausted. I think both!
Because I am so new to this blogging thing, once again I failed to take photos of our elaborate mess. Boxes were stacked two deep across our entire living area, outside on the dealership pad where we were temporarily placed, and everywhere else in-between, but we managed to find a suitable place for most everything. Our “overflow” was given to a sweet young lady who took such good care of us at the Microtel where we stayed for a month waiting on delivery of our Baby Girl. Heather, her husband, and father made two trips to our pad at the dealership to take things off our hands. Thank you, Heather, for saving us a trip to Goodwill. We hope you enjoy all the goodies!
Progress was made quickly and we were organized enough that we were able to make it to Lambright Comfort Chairs in Shipshewana, IN on Friday afternoon to pick up the furniture we ordered back in May when we were up here. Nate and Vernon were waiting for us and installed our furniture. Although it does fit perfectly, we made a silly mistake by getting swivel wall-away recliners. What were we thinking? Well, let me tell you that we simply lost perspective of the small space where our recliners would sit and there is no room to swivel! Well, maybe a tad. I’m sure we can install some type of brakes on the chairs to save them (and us) from banging into the walls and such. Oh, well. We all live and learn! And did I mention we love, love, love our furniture? So does everyone else who has melted into them!
After picking up our furniture, we drove to the Elkhart 4-H County Campground ahead of the fall rally we were attending. The rally is hosted by Howard and Linda Payne of RV-Dreams.com. We attended our first RV-Dreams rally in the spring in Sevierville, TN where we learned a LOT about RVing full-time or even part-time, for that matter. We are grateful to Howard and Linda for sharing with so many of us their life experiences on the road… and so much more! The RV community is blessed to have them. Awesome couple!!
We got parked in our site without much ado as we had previously driven to the campground to pick out what we thought would be the best site. Turned out, we were correct. Once again, we got set up and got settled in. Two days later, however, we were to begin tear-down, again, as we prepared for two days of driving school. We had to be up, out, and ready to go by 8:00 each day which was a little painful, but we managed. We looked at the process of tearing down and setting up as much-needed experience. I am pleased to say that it only takes about an hour each time. Craig works on the outside while I am working on the inside. Slowly, Craig is teaching me the outside set-up, as well, because it is important that I know how to do everything.
Well, driving school was awesome! Glyn Carson, our driving instructor, rocked! I have rehearsed for quite some time in my mind which way to turn the steering wheel to go a certain direction; however, it never really clicked. Glyn, on the other hand, was able to get me to understand everything including backing up and parking. Did I mention Glyn is the best driving instructor ever? He really is, and you can’t go wrong learning from the very best… AN ICE ROAD TRUCKER!!! When Craig and I were not practicing backing up and parking, I drove most of the two days, 3.5 hours per day. I had no idea I had such a knack for towing a 38’ 6” rig! I drove down skinny two lane country roads, through fog, downtown, and in traffic. Glyn even made me go ‘round and ‘round city blocks just to practice missing the curbs. I am so very proud to announce that I missed every single solitary one of them! And I have not hit one since! I can now six hours of driving in the mountains… mountains with 6% grades, while Craig snoozed, to my resume. As I was descending on one particular 6% grade, I noticed a curve ahead and I said to myself, “Wow! This is kinda fun!” I have never seen him so proud of me and he tells everyone who will listen about my newly discovered talent! I realize now that just knowing I can get us from Point A to Point B with no trouble at all has lifted a ton of pressure off his shoulders. And might I say I feel quite confident in my driving and parking abilities. It is comical to see so many people struggling to back in to their sites, and I just whip in them. No brag… just fact. Girl power!!!
On Tuesday, September 16, our rally began and would last through Sunday morning breakfast on September 21. Because of our hectic schedule and still trying to gain some semblance of settling in, we did not attend all of the sessions offered, but we did pick and choose the ones we felt we needed a refresher course in. Refreshers never hurt anyone! Craig went to some, I went to others. There were even a couple of classes offered that were not offered in past rallies: Driving Safety (a course for women only), MorRyde Suspensions, and Onan Generators. All three speakers were excellent and Craig learned a lot from them. Well, we actually learned more than “a lot”. Allow me to explain! Craig had asked Gary Wheeler from MorRyde to come down and take a look at a nylon bushing on our MorRyde hitch that was apparently damaged during the manufacturing process. Gary took a quick look and told Craig that it needed to be replaced and that they would be happy to replace it. Craig then mentioned to Gary that we were concerned about the RV brakes because we were having to max out the braking system on our tow truck. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this means, the braking system on the truck regulates how well the brakes work on the fifth wheel. Gary took a quick look at the brake fluid reservoir and asked Craig, “Do you see any fluid in there?” We had no brakes on our new home! Well, if I must say so myself, that speaks volumes to my driving ability if I towed our home around for two days with no brakes! Come to find out, a fitting had not been tightened in the build process and all of the brake fluid leaked out. As far as I’m concerned, it was certainly a “God wink” that we found out before heading to Pennsylvania through the mountains! That you, Jesus!
Before I move on, I want to give a “shout out” to Debbie and Steve, a couple we met at the spring RV-Dreams rally. We saved a spot for them next to us at the rally campground and it was fun to spend time with them again. They are a really fun couple from California who are full timing, and quite the comics. Steve had me laughing myself silly every time we were with them. We had them over for dinner and, later, they had us over for dinner. We provided a ho-hum dinner the first night, but kicked it up a notch the second night. After all, the dinner they fed us was de-lish! Debbie even served sugar-free ice cream with lemon olive oil on one side of the dish, and balsamic vinegar on the other side, sprinkled with raspberries, blueberries and, I believe, strawberries. Sounds like something only a crazy person would conjure up, right? Well, not at all! Debbie knows her stuff (the olive oil and balsamic vinegar were from her very own store she once owned) and it was the absolute, most decadent ice cream dessert we have ever eaten! Thank you, Debbie and Steve, for the 5-star meal… and your company!!!
After the rally, we were on our way to MorRyde for the aforementioned repairs on Monday morning, September 22. It was difficult to discern from our GPS whether we should turn left at the next street, or take the curve just past it. Well, we turned left on the first street and realized it was getting tight with all of the trees next to the road and overhead. I told Craig that we should find a place to turn around. Just like a man he wanted to keep going, but my gut (an important tool in the world of RVing) told me “No!” Just ahead was a small park off the side of the road and it was the perfect chance (and possibly the only chance) to turn around. So, Craig quietly got out of the truck to watch my every move. With ease I backed into the park without consequence and we moved on. Not long after, we made a proper turn that, well, proved to have consequences. In short, we christened our Baby Girl. We later discovered that we had scratched, and I mean scratched, the top and top-sides of our new home. I was a bit dismayed, but these things happen and we just have to deal with it. (I know, I know. Doesn’t sound like me at all, does it?) Times like these simply cannot be avoided. The roads up here in this part of the country are beautiful, tree-lined, and curvy, but none of them are conducive to towing a 13’+ high RV without incident. It helps a tad to know that we are not the only ones this has happened to… or will happen to!
After our repairs were complete at MorRyde in Indiana, we headed off in the direction of Pennsylvania. We wanted to avoid toll ways and certain highways because of construction and resulting delays. So, our GPS routed us through some of the most amazing countryside. It was to be a two day trip and we had no idea where we would end up staying overnight. So, we thought that a Pilot Flying J truck stop would be in order. (They let truckers and RVers stay overnight on their lot for free!) We found the closest location on my phone and headed over. Oh, sheesh! The place was packed, so we found out, but not before we turned too soon into a corner store with no way of driving out. So, I was the designated “spotter” as Craig backed out. Long story short, Pilot Flying J was not to be… so now what?
Walmart? Yes, Walmart. Now, if you know RV lingo at all, we call overnighting at a Walmart “Wallydocking”. (Staying on property of family and friends is called “moochdocking”.) So, I get on my phone and search for the nearest Walmart. By now, it is getting dark, and smart RVers don’t travel at night, but we pushed the envelope and got “caught” after the sun went down. Way down! So, we finally pull into the closest Walmart and phone the store to ask permission to park (which is the proper thing to do) and were told that we could NOT park overnight in their parking lot. WHAT??? How could this be? The lady I spoke with said it is company-wide. (Hey, lady, pull out your phone and Google it!) She was wrong, of course. So, out comes my phone again and we Google the next closest Walmart. It was nearly 13 miles away. But, before we ventured in that direction, a police car pulls up alongside us. What? Just our luck. What did we do, for cryin’ out loud? We were just stopping long enough to make a phone call to another Walmart! Turned out, the policeman was very nice and super excited, to say the least, about our rig. So, we stood outside his patrol car (better than being inside the patrol car) and chatted for about 30 minutes or so. Come to find out, he is originally from Texas, too! He was about to turn himself inside-out with excitement. He asked question after question and could not believe we were actually living in this thing and all of our worldly possessions fit inside. He said it has been his dream to do this and was excited to speak with someone, first hand, who’s doing it. Needless to say, we were just as excited to answer his questions. After a while, we parted on good terms and he left with dreams of RVing dancing in his head! Now, if only he could convince his wife.
By this time, the traffic had died down… luckily! But before we headed off to the next Walmart, I called to ask permission to Wallydock in their parking lot overnight. We were blessed with a “yes” answer, but were told to just park on the outside perimeter of the parking lot. Of course. That’s just the way it’s done. So, we head over, checking out the surrounding area for any negative vibes, found none, and parked on the perimeter by the street, with trees between us and the adjacent avenue. This was our very first Wallydocking experience! (Note: When Wallydocking, RVers do not unhitch, push out the slides, unfurl the awnings, pull out the chairs or grill, or put the Big Foot levelers down on their asphalt parking lot. It is for a quick sleepover to get you to your next location.) It was different sleeping in our home with the slides in, but we did buy a rig that allows us to get to the kitchen sink, refrigerator, bathroom and bedroom with the slides in for just this reason! So, at about 10:00P or so we crawled into bed for a good night’s sleep. Or was it a good night’s sleep? I don’t think so. Craig immediately fell asleep but woke up shortly thereafter. I was still lying there trying to sleep, but various thoughts kept running through my head. Next thing I knew, Craig popped up. “What’s wrong”, I asked. “I thought I heard something”, he replied. If he’s scared, shouldn’t I be scared? Nope. Too tired to care. Well, this went on for a while until we just couldn’t take any more. Next thing we knew, it was 4:00A, we were both wide awake, and on the road by 4:22A… with NO COFFEE, I might add!
Over the river and through the woods we went… in the dark. On a positive note, we beat the morning rush hour traffic. OK. I’m good with this. We are on our way. We told our GPS to avoid tolls, and it took us literally! Although we were able to see some amazing countryside including, but not limited to, the Cumberland Gap, we realized once that leg of our journey was over we spent probably $300.00 more in fuel than if we had just paid the $100.00 in tolls! Ya live and learn and come to realize these things eventually!
On our way to our destination, French Creek State Park, we stopped at the Youghiogheny Overlook Welcome Center in Maryland. Don’t ask me how we entered into Maryland, but we did. (I told you we took the long way around!) The view from that vantage point was amazing! So, meandering through the countryside might have taken a longer time than expected, but the views were worth every extra minute!
Before I go any further, I want to just say that I have made an executive decision on how I will display pictures of our adventures. Writing a blog takes a lot of time (which is one reason I am so far behind) and to upload photos into my blog at corresponding points within the narrative takes too much time. So, what I am going to do is just talk about our adventures and eventually I will upload a slideshow, or two, with captions at the bottom of each photo. I hope you don’t mind!
After 13-1/2 hours of driving (a very long day for RVers), we finally arrived at our destination, French Creek State Park, around 5:00P. A couple who were already in the campground was standing there staring at us. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this lifestyle, it is a hoot to watch others arrive, park, and set-up. Parking, especially. It’s kinda like being strategically located next to a boat ramp and all of the comical things that go on there… like boats sinking, or getting away! Well, in our case I knew what this couple was doing so I politely asked them if they were looking for a chuckle while waiting for us newbies to set up house. They chuckled, too, and immediately walked over. I’m guessing they wanted front row seats? Everyone is always curious about another’s story, so we chatted with them for a short while and explained our situation… our lifestyle change. Before it got too dark, however, we had to cut our conversation short and set up. They, of course, understood. It’s just the way that is! For newbies, we got set up in a reasonable amount of time, hung out for a bit to unwind, drew the shades, and off to bed we went. We slept like babies!
We awoke the next morning to beautiful surroundings. We were actually experiencing a “season” change, something we don’t get to experience in Texas. The leaves were already changing colors, falling gently from the trees, and the clean fresh air was energizing! Awesome!
Later that afternoon (Wednesday, September 24, 2014), our friend and fellow “Dreamer”, Kelly, came by to visit and see our new home. We visited for a while and caught up since we last saw (and met) each other at the Spring RV-Dreams Rally in Sevierville, TN. Kelly is a sweetheart and we were so happy to see her again.
Thursday, September 25, was a day of relaxation and organizing. Now, we’re not trying to build Rome in a day as it will, from what we hear, take about a year to have everything in its place and, more importantly, know where to find everything. One day at a time and today was just one of those days.
The next day, Friday, September 26, we left out of our campsite about 9:30A to pick up Kelly at Brandywine Creek Campground where she and Bill have been staying. From there, Kelly directed us to Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA, just outside of Lambright, PA.
The Shady Maple Smorgasbord is a unique dining experience that is built around creating great traditions with friends and families. For one price they offer the largest selection of popular PA Dutch cooking as well as a vast amount more of other fabulous cuisines. They pride themselves in being the largest buffet on this side of the United States and are eager to continue to grow. They serve over 1 million people every year and award around 80,000 free birthday meals as well. They make it a priority to give the customer the freshest products all of the time. – Taken from the internet. –
Yes, all of the food served is made right there with the freshest ingredients! We made our choices and sat down to eat. The place is magnificent and so popular that busloads of tours come through regularly.
After lunch we mozied over to what is often referred to as “the Amish Walmart”. We picked up a few items that we needed and then mozied over to the Shady Maple Farm Market. This is an Amish grocery store where all of the produce is fresh from local fields and most everything is baked fresh to perfection! We had a hay day there and picked up a few groceries. Amazing!
Afterward, we headed back to “our place” to drop off our food purchases and then to Brandywine Creek Campground to take Kelly home. We were also invited to have dinner with Greg and Cori who are parked right next to Kelly and Bill. Greg and Cori (and Hobi, their awesome dog) are actually living at Brandywine until the spring. Greg and Cori are still working (ugh!), but will give up their jobs and begin full timing in the spring. They are young (late 40s) and we have to hand it to them for livin’ the dream at such a young age! (Way to go, kids!)
When we arrived, Cori had appetizers ready for us. So, we chowed down while Greg cooked chicken and burgers on the grill. After dinner, Craig and I had our first “official” campground campfire with our (fairly) new RV friends. What a great group of people with which to share our “first campfire” experience in this new life of ours.
Before I move on, I would just like to give a special shout out to Kelly’s husband, Bill. Today was Bill’s very last day of work! Bill is a tad bit apprehensive about retiring, but we think he’ll do just fine. While at the Shady Maple Farm Market, Kelly picked up Bill’s favorite cake as a celebration surprise. It was a black forest cake with “Free at Last” written on the top. Yes, freedom is a scary thing for most, but NOT ME! We enjoyed our visit, complete with a delicious dinner, relaxing around the campfire with friends, and departed Brandywine about 10:00P. We drove (slowly, I might add) back to our campground and, once again, slept like babies.
Saturday morning, September 27, we awoke to another gorgeous day. We had our coffee outside and just lingered. Believe it or not, I picked up my laptop to update my blog and got a good bit accomplished; however, not before I had to put it away. We had to get presentable for our return to Brandywine because Greg and Cori had invited us over to participate in the campground’s annual bonfire. It was HUGE! It was also a fundraiser for a couple of local school sporting events, so we had dinner for $5.00 each and we also purchased raffle tickets. Of course, we won nothing! After the bonfire we headed back to Greg and Cori’s campsite where we enjoyed more fellowship with a great couple! (Kelly and Bill had to travel to Indiana to have some work done on their RV; otherwise, they would have been with us.) Eventually, we packed it up and, once again, returned home.
Sunday, September 28, was a travel day for us. We would be moving to Brandywine Creek Campground. However, as I crawled out of bed I realized I was very dizzy. That told me, immediately, that I was dehydrated. So, passing on my morning coffee I began guzzling water, instead. I was pretty much no help to Craig in tearing down, but he graciously packed up everything. I just made the ‘final check’. Otherwise, something could get smashed or, worse, broken when pulling in the slides and traveling. It’s a girl thing!
Before too much time had elapsed, it was time to pull out. At Brandywine Creek Campground we took Bill and Kelly’s site right next to Greg and Cori. Getting to this campground, however, was a bit precarious. Although the roads here are narrow, curvy, hilly, and with low-hanging branches, they are beautiful! I kept rehearsing over and over again with Craig that he needs to square off his turns (which he doesn’t think he always has to do!), GO SLOW, deliberate, and think… about what he’s doing! Well, I must admit he did a pretty good job of towing, but not before he rounded a curve in the road and proceeded to run smack dab over someone’s beautiful plant on the roadside with the RV tires. Now, that curve was not “deliberate” on his part. He should have been further out into the curve so the back of the rig would miss any structures along the side of the road. Again, you live and learn, but he just needs to take my word for it, right?
Today, Monday, September 29, is installation day. Greg owns RV Solar and will install our solar this week. As a matter of fact, Greg and Craig are working on it as I write this. Having solar will allow us to boondock, or dry camp, off grid… like in the Arizona dessert! Craig is really anxious to make it out West. Actually, we are both just anxious to see this great land that God has made!
Well, folks, that’s a wrap! Apologies for the delay in updating you on our whereabouts and travels thus far. I know some of you have been anxiously awaiting my update. Forgiveness is requested. We are so very blessed to be where we are in life. No worries… just happy! One of my favorite sayings…
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life!
Before I let you go, here are some photos of our travels! (Stayed tuned for more photos in my next post.)