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

Friday, September 28, 2012

overdosing on history

Monday was a day off for us and we headed into DC to see some of the sights. I knew from listening to others that DC has a good mass transit system and parking downtown is almost impossible so we decided to take the subway, a first for us. I'm sure it was pretty easy to spot us as tourist just by the look of confusion in our eyes as we tried to buy our tickets and find the right train heading the right direction. :-)

The subway is actually really easy to get around on and we both enjoyed the experience.
We visited the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the WWII Memorial.

We even had a flyover by Marine 1, not sure if the "prez" was on board or not but it was pretty cool to see it in person since we had seen them flying on TV.

Plus we got a nice view of The White House as we toured the area.

Both of us were pretty  bushed from all the walking but we had a great day.

We are not the only roving managers working for our company, there is another couple who have been doing this for almost a year now. We have talked to John and Gaetana a couple of times and were really hoping to meet them in person sometime. Turns out they were just finishing up an assignment in Maryland and hoped to get the chance to drive over and meet us before they got their next location. I called Gaetana Tuesday morning to let them know we would be moving to the storage lot today and hoped they were still in the area so we could meet. She told me they were not only in the area but the company wanted them to relax for the next week and they would be our relief on the 6th when we had to leave. Cool! I asked where they would be camping and she said they had arrived in the area late Sunday and were at some farm in Northern Virginia. Now, what's the chance??!! I asked if they were at Greenville Family Farm Campground and she said "yes", I told her "so are we"! Turns out they were on site #10 and we were on #18. Too funny!
We had to pack up and leave but did get to meet them before leaving and made arrangements to have dinner together that night.

We made the short drive to the storage lot and got parked fairly easily, a lot easier than last time for sure! We are hooked up to 50 amp electric and water. The sewer is close enough so that I can dump the grey water continuously through a garden hose and will use our new macerator pump for the black tank when we need to empty it.
We bought the macerator (think garbage disposal for sewage, ewwww) at Camping World in Detroit last week. The pump grinds up the "stuff" and pumps it through a garden hose allowing you to empty your tanks into a septic tank, sewer clean out or even a normal toilet up to several hundred feet away. The company is even reimbursing us for the $250 cost of the pump. I did buy new hose which is a very different color than our drinking water hoses. Sure don't want to get those mixed up! :-)

Wednesday was a work day for us and we went over everything we needed to know to run the "store" while the existing managers were gone. We are both a little nervous since this will be our first time alone but we have to start somewhere!

Thursday we headed back into DC. Our first stop was the Holocost Museum. We spent a couple of hours here before heading to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum where we grabbed a quick lunch.

We spent the rest of the day going through the several buildings that make up the Smithsonian. Wow, turned into another long walking day! :-)
Rudee talked to one of the security guards at the American History Museum and he directed us to a nearby restaurant for supper.
Aria's is a casual dining grille right in the heart of downtown. We selected a table outside and enjoyed a leisurely meal while people watching. They even had live music in the courtyard and it didn't cost us an arm and a leg! We shared an appetizer of chips with 3 different dipping sauces and an entree' of Chicken Parmesan, all for under $20!

Today we caught up on some errands and got ready for Saturday, our first day on our own :-o. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 24, 2012

arrived in Virginia

Saturday there was a threat of rain and we hoped it would hold off long enough for the kids to make their rounds. We bought two big bags of candy and wanted to get rid of it, we sure didn't need that temptation hanging around the 5er. :-)
The trick or treating was supposed to start at 5pm and, sure enough, the rain started at 4:30. I went outside and put the awning out so we could stay dry but had my doubts there would be any kids coming. Rudee had the candy ready and we bundled up (it was a cold rain!) and waited.

I guess a little freezing monsoon can't hold back the lure of free candy because here they come! :-)
We had around 30 "spooks" help relieve of us of our candy.

The campground was having a haunted hayride later that evening and we talked about going but it was still raining and had gotten colder so we just stayed indoors with the fireplace on. :-)

Sunday morning we were up early and packing up for the road. We pulled out of the campground about 8:30 and headed back onto  the toll road. Our trip today took us through Pennsylvania, a little bit of Maryland and finally into Virgina. The traffic steadily increased as the day wore on and after 320 miles we were ready to stop for the night. I researched campgrounds in the Washington DC area near where we would be working and there were not a lot of options. Most were too far away and all of them were very high priced. I stumbled on this place Greenville Farm Family Campground. They have mixed reviews on the internet but were fairly reasonable for the area and could accommodate us. We arrived with an open mind :-). The entrance was a bit weird, down a long lane and then you have to make a loop around their garage next to their house where the office is. Once we registered we drove back to the campground area. This is a working farm as well as a campground. The pull through site we were assigned was long and fairly easy to get into. The biggest complaint we read about was the sites being unlevel, well ours was too but nothing that a couple of boards under one side of the 5er tires couldn't solve. We are paying $40 per night for a full hook up, pull through site and are about 20 miles from the storage facility so this should work well for a couple of days.
Our plan today is to drive over and meet the managers and scope out the RV parking at the storage lot before deciding if we will move over there or extend our stay and commute. Then we are catching the train into DC and will do some sightseeing before starting work Wednesday. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

training done, moving on

We finished our training Thursday and got the call to move to Virginia and cover for a management couple who are taking vacation. OK, now the hard part begins. We have to get this big old 5th wheel out of this tight parking spot between all these buildings. :-o
Friday morning we packed everything for travel and I hooked on. With Rudee guiding me I tried several different ways to make the turn between the buildings to head out the exit row. We finally got the 5er into the row by backing down it but to do that I had to jacknife the truck at a sharp angle and did not have room for the front of the truck to "swing around" so we were straight. We unhooked the truck and I was able to reposition it and then hook back on and back out of the storage facility lot. The only casualty was a broken turn lamp lens on the truck from a gutter downspout :-(.
The whole ordeal took us over an hour just to go about 100 yards! I told Rudee, never again will I put us in that position. When we get to a new assignment there will have to be plenty of room for us, if not the company will need to reimburse us for a nearby campground, a motel or we will just move on.

Once we hit the road we were both stressed out and still had to put some miles under our belt. We headed south skirting Toledo and then jumped on the Ohio Turnpike. I avoid toll roads as much as I can but this is the quickest way east from here and the company will pay me for the toll charges we incur.
The toll road was not too bad and we made pretty good time. We did stop in one of the service plazas for a break and I noticed they had a lot of services for RVers although the $20.00 dump station fee seemed a little "over the top" :-o.
We decided to pull in fairly early and found a KOA just east of Cleveland that could accommodate us. We pulled in to the Streetsborough KOA  just before 4pm and got set up in a nice long pull through. This week end they are celebrating Halloween with a bunch of activities including the kids trick or treating. The last several years we have joined our motorcycle buddies for a week end camp out at White River Campground in Indiana for their Halloween week end. This will be the first year we have missed and were both kinda bummed about it so we decided to stay an extra night here to rest, recharge and celebrate Halloween :-). We will be missing our friends back home but are looking forward to the "fun" here. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

still training

We are still in training here in Michigan. We have been learning a lot! I sure hope we can remember it all :-).
There is one other couple working for the company as roving managers and Rudee called them and picked their brains a little. They really like the work and are enjoying themselves. They welcomed us aboard and gave us all their contact information offering their help whenever we needed it.
Our training at this site will be completed today and then we train for two days at a nearby site. Friday we don't know where we will head. Talking to the other roving team this is somewhat normal and you will only get 24-48 hours notice when moving to a new site. This will be something new to us but we are "mobile" so it is not really a problem,

Here is Rudee hard at work learning how to complete one of the many reports that are required each month.

Last week when we had our tires mounted the technician could not get the winch that holds the spare tire to work correctly. We just put it into the back of the Dakota temporarily but I wanted it back under the 5er out of the way. Saturday I got the chance to take a look at the winch. Unfortunately it was beyond repair and I needed to do something different. With Rudee's help I removed the winch and crank handle figuring I could put some bolts through the cross member that the winch was mounted to and attach the spare to that. We made a run to the hardware store and bought the longest bolts they had a the necessary nuts and washers. Once we got these installed we found that the bolts were about 2" short. Rats! Back to the hardware and I bought some threaded rods called "allthread" and a few more nuts and washers.
That did the trick and we were able to get the spare mounted again! :-)

Sunday we headed west to visit Mike and Les Kennedy who are fellow fulltimers and have been staying nearby.

They visited us in Terre Haute before heading to Michigan where Mike decided to have a heart attack :-o. Luckily they were close to good medical care and, after getting a stint, he is well on his way to a full recovery.
They had made arrangements to meet Jim and Sandy at their "summer home" in Dimondale Michigan for a cook out. We enjoyed spending the day with them and getting to know Jim and Sandy.

The weather has turned a little cooler, I guess it is just a reminder that summer will soon be over :-(. I am not looking forward to the cold and snow but we'll take it as it comes :-). I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

busy week

We have been training everyday this week preparing for our jobs as roving storage unit managers. Our days are spent renting storage units, taking payments and closing accounts as the people "move out". Our shifts are 9am to 6pm but we usually don't get away from the office until around 6:30. We are both getting the hang of things but there sure is a lot to learn :-o.
Today was a bit different, we were scheduled to have an auction at 1pm. We stayed busy with our "normal" duties as well as having to answer call after call from people asking about the auction. We can't give out a lot info just time, place and procedures. several tried to pump us for the number and content of "units" we had up for bidding but we are not allowed to release any of that info. Rudee and I had no idea anyway so we were just as curious as the bidders were. :-)

The bidders started rolling in shortly after noon and we had about 30 people participating. The auctioneer laid out the ground rules and then we all paraded to the first unit. My job was to remove the lock, break the seal that had been attached to the latch and open the unit for the bidders to inspect. The rules are just like on the TV show Storage Wars. They have 5 minutes to look in the locker but they cannot touch anything or go inside the unit. Once everyone has gotten to look inside the auctioneer sells the contents to the highest bidder.
I enjoyed watching the bidders and had fun trying to figure out who the "pros" were.
We sold a total of 8 storage units. A couple of them were pretty sparse and one of the "pros" bought one for $5.00. There were several boxes, a decent looking kitchen table and 2 chairs. Right after he won the unit he reached in and picked up a gold bracelet that was on the floor next to one of the boxes which turned out to be a heavy chain made out of 14 carat gold. Not a bad find for $5.00!
Once all the units were sold the winning bidders all came to the office and paid for their unit. They have 24 hours to clean out the locker and most of them spent the remaining afternoon doing just that.
Tomorrow I get to sweep all the emptied lockers out so they are ready for new renters, lucky me! :-)

We have not gotten any information on our first assignment but our training will be completed tomorrow. OMG! Are we ready to do this on our own? :-o
I guess we'll find out pretty soon.
Our plan is to move the 5th wheel out of the storage lot Saturday and will probably find a campground close by with full hook ups. Our black and grey tanks are starting to get a little full. :-) I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

rocky start

Saturday evening all the kids and grandkids met at our site for a taco buffet, campfire and mini birthday party for moi :-). We had a really nice time but the night just flew by and then it was time to say goodbye to them for awhile. That is probably the toughest part of this lifestyle, all the "see ya laters" :-(
We will be getting together again in 5 weeks for our sons wedding but, again, it will be too short of a visit.

We took our time Sunday morning getting on the road. We were headed for Elkhart Indiana where we would spend the night. We planned to arrive before 4pm but even the best laid plans go astray. We were about 50 miles away when one of tires on the 5er threw it's tread off :-o

I pulled over right away and was able to get the spare installed in fairly short order. We do have Good Sam Emergency Road Service but using the air supply on the truck and my impact gun I can change a tire pretty easily. No sense sitting on the side of the road waiting for what could be a long time when I can be back on the road in 20 minutes myself. :-)

The tires we had were Goodyear Marathons and you don't have to search long to find a lot of people having problems with them. Rudee and I discussed it and decided to go ahead and replace all of the tires on the 5er with heavier duty ones. I knew it was going to be expensive but since this is the 2nd blow out in less than a year we had to do something.
I have weighed the rig and we are within specifications for the existing axles and tires but heavier tires with a better speed and weight rating will give us better piece of mind (I hope). The tires we are buying are 14 ply Goodyear G614 radials with "Made in the USA" stamped on them. No more Chinese rubber for me!
Monday morning I called Goodyear and reported having problems and they directed me to a nearby dealer. I called them and they had the type and size of tires I wanted so we packed everything up and headed over.
The manager came out and inspected the old tires and called Goodyear with his findings. He spent the better part of an hour just communicating back and forth with them before saying they would only warranty one of the old tires for a whopping $50! The one that threw the tread caused some minor damage to a floor cross member and the fender molding so that has to be handled separately. I was not too happy with their decision and will be addressing it with corporate soon.
The manager said it would take them about 1 1/2 hours to change all 4 tires and the spare so we decided to get an early lunch to kill some time. We were hoping to get on the road by noon and he was estimating we would be done by 12:30 so no problem. Unfortunately the manager was a bit optimistic on his time estimation :-(. We were gone for well over an hour getting lunch and when we returned the right side wheels had been removed and they were waiting on the tires to arrive from their "warehouse". The technician said the warehouse was nearby and the manager was picking them up, He told me it shouldn't take him more than 1 1/2 hours once the tires arrived. Yep, another 1 1/2 hours ..... crap!  The tires finally arrived and were mounted, balanced and put on the 5er. We pulled out of the lot at 2:30pm only took them 3 hours and 45 minutes to replace my 5 tires. Yep, Goodyear is gonna hear about that one too. So if you are ever in the RV capitol of Elkhart, Indiana and need tires, I would not recommend Masten Goodyear unless you really want to make a day of it!

Once back on the road we made decent time and arrived in Lavonia, Michigan in about 4 hours. We were a little later than we planned but you just have to roll with the punches I guess.
While deployed at a storage facility we will be parked on site. Each facility is a little different and this one has some challenges. The first was getting parked near the electric plug in. They installed a 50 amp RV hook up but it is at the rear of one of the storage buildings down a narrow alleyway with very little room to maneuver. I swear I don't know how we did it but we managed to shoe horn our rig into position. Poor Rudee was running from one side of the rig to the other helping me. There is no water or sewer hook ups but we will be fine for the few days we are here.

Tuesday will be our first training day and looks to be busy since there will be an auction here later this week. Wish us luck! I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

and the adventure begins!

Time to let the kitty out of the burlap. :-)
Rudee and I applied and have been hired as roving managers for a storage company. The storage facilities are in several states (not all) across the U.S. and we will be paid to travel to the sites where the current managers have left the company and new managers have yet to be hired. We will run the facilities until replacements are found and trained. Eventually we will be the ones doing the training but need to get comfortable doing the jobs ourselves first.
Our training begins Monday when we travel to the suburbs of Detroit to a facility where we will assist with an auction :-o. I have heard the auctions are the hardest part of the job, with the "corporate" team coming in and hanging out with you for a day or two to make sure all goes well. We like the TV show "Storage Wars"  where they show all the fun and excitement of auctioning off the contents of the storage units but don't think it will be all "fun and excitement" for us :-). Who knows maybe I'll get to meet Brandi from the show someday :-) ........ YUUUUP!

This job will take away some of our freedom since it will be a 40 hour a week job when we are on assignment but will still give us some opportunity to explore some new areas and still make a nice chunk of $$. They even reimburse us for our medical insurance! Cool!
One big downside is a lot of the states they do business in are cold in the winter. Shoveling snow, or even seeing snow for that matter, is not what I wanted for this lifestyle but we have spent cold winters in the 5er before so don't see that as a deal breaker. We still have all of our cold weather "stuff" so we are prepared for it, just not looking forward to it :-).

Both of us are excited for this new chapter and our bank account sure can use the boost. We will be saying goodbye to the family today :-( and heading north tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.