"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Staying warm

Summer has arrived with a vengeance. We have had temperatures in the upper 90's and even flirted with triple digits.
The a/c unit in our 5th wheel has been struggling to keep up and pretty much runs the entire day trying to keep the inside cool. We have been using fans to help circulate the air and that helps it feel cooler. So far we have been weathering the heat pretty well.
Our new generator arrived at the UPS store Monday morning so Rudee dropped by and picked it up. We bought a Boliy 3600 with electric start. We would have liked to have had one of the Honda generators that are favored in the RV community but they are pretty high $$. I did some research and the Boliy provides the necessary power to run our a/c so we can keep cool while we are boondocking and it is 1/2 the cost. The generator is also very quiet which is important when boondocking near others. Here is an internet photo of the one we bought.
When Rudee brought it home we unpacked it, filled it with oil and gas and fired it up! I was very impressed with how quick it started up and how quite it is. The unit already has a 30amp plug in that matches our RV cord so all we have to do in plug in. I think this will be a winner and we look forward to having power whenever and wherever we need it.
The week just trudged along here as far as work is concerned. I'm looking forward to getting "short timers" disease but that is still a few months down the road I think :-).
Friday was our 33rd Anniversary and we celebrated with dinner at Red Lobster in Lafayette In. We drove over in the truck since it would have been a really hot motorcycle ride. On the way to the restaurant we started hearing a strange sound when I was turning and braking. The truck would "pop" and I thought it may be either a shock or the brakes. The truck needed an oil change so Rudee called Big O tires in Lebanon to have that done and since we bought our tires there they will rotate and balance them for free so we figured they could check the noise out while they were doing that. She was told we wouldn't need and appointment and to just get there early Saturday morning and they could have it done later that day.
Saturday morning we were up early and I followed Rudee to Lebanon on the motorcycle where we dropped off the truck. After a quick breakfast at Flapjacks we headed to Indianapolis. Rob Runions Dad has been in the hospital so we stopped in to visit and see how he was doing.
Rob was there and we got to meet his sister from Florida. We didn't get to see his Dad who had been taken from his room for dialysis and was not due to return for awhile.
We ended up taking a ride through Indianapolis and ended up in Plainfield where we met up with Rudee's sister and brother in law, David and BJ. They hopped on their Goldwing and rode with us to Stylesville Indiana where we had an early supper and a nice little bar/restaurant on US 40 the "National Road".
We parted company at the restaurant, Rudee and I rode North while David and BJ headed the opposite direction towards their house.
Sunday we picked up the truck in Lebanon. They had changed the oil, rotated the tires and found that the brakes were worn out and needed rotors as well. They also found a problem in the steering rack that was causing the "popping" noise. They told us that Dodge had a recall on the problem and we needed to make an appointment with them to have it looked at. They said it was safe to drive so we paid the bill and Rudee headed for Plainfield. She will be staying with her Dad the next two nights to help out. She says her Mom is doing a lot better at the rehab facility and hopefully will be home soon.
I guess tomorrow starts another week at work :-(. I guess I need to look at it as one week closer to retirement rather than just another week at work :-).
No real big plans for next week. The Brickyard 400 Nascar race is next week end in Indy so the campground here may fill up with race fans, should be a fun time. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Planning ahead

We have started planning for our first year "on the road" as full time Rv'ers. I wish it was just as simple as deciding which sites to see next and "where are we camping tonight?" but in our case our finances just will not allow us that much freedom. Yep, like many others, we gotta work :-(. We are planning to work camp the majority of the year to supplement our meager pensions and support ourselves. We have figured our budget on paper over and over and over again trying to reassure ourselves that all is well but we really wont be comfortable with the numbers until we are actually "living the budget". Does this make sense or am I just being a "fraidy cat"?
When Rudee's job went south I joined Workamper News and KOA Work Kamper. These sites list open jobs at RV parks around the country and I wanted to see what was out there for us.
We have had some long discussions about our immediate future and have decided we need to stay in the Midwest for at least the next year due to Rudee's parents health issues.
I found a new job listed for next season at the KOA in Terre Haute Indiana. The terms seemed fair, not the best pay/site combination I have seen but far from the worst. Yesterday morning we decided to take a bike ride over and check out the park.
Terre Haute is only about 60 miles from Crawfordsville and is only an hour from her parents home in Plainfield. The park, like most KOA's, is right off the interstate but, after getting off the bike, we noticed the park was far enough away that we could not hear any highway noise at all.
We went into the office and talked to the worker on duty who was a work camper herself. She said she really liked working there and this was her 5th season but she was going to "retire" after this year and She said she would be happy to introduce us to the owner.
Keith came right over to the office after her phone call and we talked for a long time getting to know one another. We were up front on our rig since we are bigger than most and sometimes this causes some surprises when we pull into a park not expecting it. Turns out Keith is not only familier with our type of rig, he tows his 5th wheel with a semi as well! He even hauls a motorcycle on his and is wanting to add a smart car as well. Is this "karma" or what?
He explained the job, hours, pay and benefits to us and we told him all about our previous experiences and what we were looking for. The job would be to help in their small cafe so he was real excited when he heard me talk about my previous job as a grille cook. It was a long time ago but I remember really enjoying my job cooking on a "flat top".
Before we knew it he was showing us around the kitchen and offering us jobs, all we had to do was respond to his job posting on the KOA website and it was ours! We both had good feelings about the place along with Keith and his wife Mary who we only got to meet briefly.
We left there and talked about it most of the day while riding the bike. We even did the budget again on a napkin while eating lunch! Man oh man does that ever stop :-)?
We decided to accept his offer and responded on the website to him this morning. This is not the way I had envisioned our first "adventure", I figured we would be in Yellowstone or maybe the Grand Canyon or eevn the Rocky Mountains, not Terre Haute, Indiana. I guess it's all good though because this is a change of lifestyle, not a vacation right?
We have to be back in Indiana the 2nd week of April to start work and we are still looking for jobs for the first couple of months of 2012 (someplace warm!). The search continues ......... I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quick week.

Why do vacation weeks fly by and work weeks seem to drag on forever?? Kinda sucks if you ask me :-).

We enjoyed our time in Knoxville and at Wing Ding. Sunday we took a long ride with friends and rode the "tail of the dragon". This is what they call 11 miles of US 129 near the Tennessee/North Carolina border. The road has 366 curves in those 11 miles and riding it is on most bikers bucket list. We have ridden it before so knew what to expect. Some intrepid entrepreneurs have set up camera stations along the route and photograph everything going by and then post the photos on the Internet for purchase. Pretty cool idea and they probably do a pretty good business since there were three seperate companies doing this.

Monday we decided to be lazy and slept in We did venture out to Wal Mart for some grocery with Rob and Jany Runion. We took their truck which turned out to be a good decision as a fairly large storm blew up and we got some lightning and rain while we were out.

Tuesday we did some more riding and eventually found our way to the convention center to pick up our arm bands for the rally. There was not a lot of action there today but that will all change tomorrow when the rally kicks off at 8am. We ended up going to the local zoo which was open late for the rally attendees and we got in free by showing our arm bands. The zoo was nothing spectacular and a lot of the "areas" were under construction. We were both disappointed in it.

Wednesday morning we were up really early. We had all volunteered to man the registration table at the rally. We arrived there and starting working shortly after 7am handing out packets for the the pre-registered members. We were steady busy all the up until our relief showed up at 11am. I had packed us a lunch to avoid the high costs at the rally and Rudee and I found a nice quiet table and took a long break and enjoyed our lunch.
The rest of the day we explored the rally checking out the vendors. The place was pretty crowded since this was the first day so we decided to head back to the 5th wheel and save our shopping for another day.

Thursday we wanted to do some more riding so headed for The Smokey Mountains National Park. Once we made it through Knoxville we were able to stay off the interstate and enjoy the scenery entering the park through the "backdoor" in Townsend Tn. The park road between Townsend and Gatlinburg follows a winding creek with some great views. The temperatures were pleasant and we had a nice ride. Once we got to the main park entrance I turned right and we headed over the mountain to Cherokee North Carolina 30 miles away.
The road climbs and twists for the first 15 miles and then you drop twisting and turning into Cherokee. The ride was great but we did run into some wet roads. We were lucky though and always seemed to arrive right after the rain had quit so we didn't get wet, just got the bike filthy dirty. :-(

Friday we spent our last day attending the rally. The crowd was not as bad and we were able to take our time and browse all the vendors. We ended up buying a new cover for the bike and a couple of small trinkets for each of us. We did walk to a nice Mexican restaurant in a neat area in downtown Knoxville called Market Square. There were several restaurants to choose from and we were lucky to get a table at Soccer Taco because shortly after arriving the line was out the door! We soon found out why. The food was really, really good.
Seemed like every day around 2pm the dark clouds would build and today was no exception so we made a quick retreat to the 5th wheel to beat the storm.
Once back at the campground we loaded the bike back onto the semi for the trip home and settled in for the night.

Saturday morning we hooked on and pulled out. The campground was right off the interstate and we were quickly headed North towards Indiana. We had driven about 10 miles when we heard the news on the CB radio that both lanes of the interstate were closed ahead of us due to a bad accident with a hazardous material spill and we would be diverted onto a very twisty 2 lane road :-O. Not good! Rudee grabbed the map and started planning an alternate route to the detour. The back up on the interstate was about 3 miles long of stop and go traffic we were directed off an exit and onto the 2 lanes. Leaving the CB on channel 19 to listen to the truckers we heard of a better detour than following all the thousands of people taking the "official" detour so off we went following a couple of semis in front of us. I have to say the CB paid off in a big way because shortly after leaving the crowd we heard of a big mess on the detour route where a semi had run off into the ditch and now it was closed as well! The route we took was a very nice 2 lane road with very little traffic that eventually put us onto US 25E and through the tunnel at Cumberland Gap before returning to the interstate far enough North to avoid all the chaos. The bad news is our "little" detour added about 3 more hours to our travel time. We decided to spend another night at the casino parking lot and continue home Sunday.

We slept a little better boondocking Saturday night than we did the week before and woke up refreshed and ready to go. I still want to get a generator so we can enjoy some of life's little comforts when we do this boondocking thing :-)

We made it back home and set up at the KOA shortly after noon. We both had a great time and are looking forward to our next trip.
Monday will be back to work for me and Rudee will be at her parents house helping out but hopefully we can stir up some excitement later on in the week. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 4, 2011

taking a break

Rudee spent most of the last week helping out at her Mom and Dad's house. Her Mom is having some back problems that landed her in the hospital so she has been splitting her time between there and helping her Dad at home.

Friday finally got here and we were sure ready to pack up and leave! I had to finish the day at work while Rudee caught up the laundry and got the 5th wheel ready to travel.
As soon as I got home and changed my clothes we started disconnecting all the hoses and cords. I had loaded the bike up Thursday evening so as soon as I hooked the truck onto the Montana we were ready to go.
Traffic through Indianapolis was very heavy coupled with all the road construction they are doing around the "loop" made for a nervous drive. Once we were through the city though, things settled down and I was able to just set the cruise control and relax some.
We decided not to go too far tonight and stopped after a little over 125 miles at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrencenburg Indiana. When the built the Casino they opened it before building a parking garage so they have a huge parking lot up the road from the main casino and they would shuttle all the guests back and forth. The garage has been open for several years now and the parking lot does not get used so that is where the park over sized vehicles. The lot is huge and sits right off the interstate. We arrived around 7pm and the parking lot was virtually empty so we had our choice of spots in the 300 acre paved lot :-).
The signs in the lot have a phone number listed to call for the shuttle. We wanted to go to the casino and have dinner so we called the number and asked for a ride. The shuttle showed up in about 2-3 minutes and picked us up right at our 5th wheel. Now that's service!
We had a nice meal and played some of the penny slots before catching the shuttle back "home".

We have never "boondocked" (going without hook ups) in our Montana. We followed the proper etiquette and didn't set up "camp" by leaving the slides and awning in and the jack up. The weather was a little warm and it would have been nice to have a fan blowing. We both woke up several times in the night but we did get some sleep. I can see where it would be nice to have a generator so we could at least run a fan.

Saturday morning we showered and walked over the Burger King next door and had breakfast before heading back out to the interstate.
We headed south on I-75 and the traffic wasn't too bad. I set the cruise control on 64 and the miles clicked away pretty fast. We only had another 250 miles to Knoxville which would be home for the next week.
The truck did a great job on the trip down and we had no problems. The truck has a "jake brake" which is an engine retardant device that slows you down. Without this these, when going down hill, these big trucks just keep picking up speed. You can adjust the jake brake to keep your speed at a consistent level and don't have to keep using your brakes to slow you down on the downhill grades. With the cruise control set and the jake brake on I can relax and let the trucks computer do most of the work. :-).

We pulled into the Volunteer Family Campground just north of Knoxville in Heiskell, Tn. and stopped to register http://volpark.com/. We didn't even have a chance to get out of the truck when a guy on a golf cart said to follow him to our site and we could come in a register after getting set up. That's not the usual procedure we see at most places but it felt good that they were not just wanting their $$ up front.
We were led to our site which was about the same size as our site at the KOA. We were able to navigate the roads pretty easily with our rig but the sites were not long enough to leave your tow vehicle hooked up. There was not enough room at our site to park the semi so they showed us to the long term storage area and told us we were welcome to park it there.
The park is a Passport America park so we got our site at 1/2 price. When we went to register they had us in a "premium" site and said it was not a "discounted" site because they didn't know we had PA. I reminded them that when we reserved the site we made it very clear that we were PA, they said they had just recently purchased the park and had run into some problems with reservations set up by the previous owners. In the end they gave us our discount but seemed a little miffed that they were losing some income.

We are here to attend "Wing Ding", the national GWRRA motorcycle rally. There are several of our friends camped here with us and we are looking forward to the rally starting Wednesday morning. We will have a few days before the rally to do some riding through the mountains, relax and just enjoy life. I'll keep you posted.