Full Time RVing

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Movin On, and Matt & Stephanie's Wedding! Unfortunately this software doesn't make it easy to place pictures in among the text, so they are in the front. Gail and Mary

TJ and Tom Gail and Matt On Friday April 21 we left Orlando for Savannah about 10 AM, thinking that we had about a six-hour 300 mile drive ahead. We expected a traffic jam down near where we were staying, but there were a few more through the rest of Orlando. Later on in Jacksonville we had similar problems. All in all we had a long (almost 8 hours) tiring day. We stayed on Skidaway Island outside of Savannah. This is one of the nicest state parks that we have stayed in. The sites were very attractive and large and the price was only about $18 with the “over 60” discount. The only drawbacks were that there was no sewer hookup and tree cover prevented us being able to connect to the Internet. The campground has a fenced pond on which there are ducks and geese, but there are 2 roosters that wander around the campground. One is beautifully colored, with tail feathers that are longer than regular roosters. The other is speckled and has feathers down his legs, even covering his feet. In order to help get the house in move-in condition we agreed to contribute a few days of manual labor. So for the next three days we put the primer coat on the kitchen cabinets so that they can be painted white. It reminded of what we are missing by not owning a home. The next day we visited downtown Savannah. We were going to eat at Miss Wilkes Boarding House, a wonderful restaurant only open for lunch. People wait in line for a couple of hours to sit at tables seating 10 –12 people you never met before, but it doesn’t matter because the food is southern and great! Unfortunately, we learned that it is not open on the weekend and so we ate at the “Pirates House”, which was a decent southern buffet restaurant. On Sunday we left for Columbia, SC. It was a relatively easy 170-mile drive and we had been at the “Barnyard” campground before. That evening we met our son Matt and soon-to-be bride (on May 6) at the house, which they just bought. On Friday April 30 we left Columbia, SC for the Thousand Trails (TT) Campground in Fair Play, SC, another easy drive, since we knew the territory. With the shortcut from I-385 through Pelzer on Hwy 418 over to I-85, the trip was only about 140 miles. We usually stay here in Fair Play, SC because we belong to the TT system. We stay here, when we have doctor’s office visits in Greenville, even though it is about 50 miles to there. This particular campground is on the shore of Lake Hartwell so the land is pretty hilly. As a result the sites are not flat as one usually expects. They are regrading and repaving many of them this week. Unfortunately, this meant that almost half of the sites were not available. It took a while to get level on this site. The area also has a lot of tree cover, so we are not able to use our satellite/internet connection. On Saturday we drove down to Lawrenceville, GA to visit Mary and Todd and grandsons Jeremy (6 yr old) and Evan (4 yr old). It gave the boys a chance to meet our puppies. They also have a one-year-old golden retriever puppy (88 pounds) that had a lot of fun playing with Jake and Max. On Sunday Tom, Todd, and the boys went to the Atlanta auto show, while the girls (what else?) went shopping. Since the puppies are now over four months old, we weighed them. Max is over eleven pounds and Jake is just over nine pounds. So they weigh almost twice as much as when we got them at two months old On Monday Mary, Todd and the boys got back to their weekly schedule and we drove back up to our RV, about 75 miles. Then in the afternoon we went up to Greenville to take the dress, that Gail will wear to the wedding, to be altered. She found the dress in Chatwicks.com, but it was too big when it arrived. Luckily, the shop we have used for alterations for years will be able to fix it before the Saturday wedding. We also drove back and forth to Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday for doctors’ appointments. On Friday 5/5 we drove up to Greenville to drop the puppies off at the kennel for the weekend. They seemed almost as nervous as Gail was about leaving them with someone else. Then we had lunch at the Olive Garden with some of Tom’s 3M friends. It is always fun to visit with them and catch up with what is going on at the plant. After lunch, we checked in at the Poinsett Hotel in Greenville. This is also where we would have the Rehearsal dinner. The hotel was originally built in 1925 but in the 1980’s it was closed up. Then in the mid 90’s the Westin chain bought it and refurbished and renovated it. There are still some of the original flooring and original chandeliers being used today. The rooms are more spacious than most modern hotels, and are luxuriously appointed. We booked a block of rooms for visiting guests, and the hotel gave Matt and Stephanie a free room for their wedding night. The rehearsal dinner was a success. Forty-four people attended. The food was good; the buffet was presented beautifully, and the service was also great. Gail had made a collage of baby, childhood, and growing-up pictures of Stephanie and Matt, which everyone seemed to enjoy. After the rehearsal dinner, the bridal party and some other friends and relatives visited other drinking establishments in downtown Greenville, where (we were told) they stayed until they were run out at closing time. Saturday morning, we walked down the block with TJ and Brenda to the new park at the Reedy River Falls. It was a beautiful, warm (70ish) cloudless day, and we had not seen the park with its bridge crossing the Reedy River waterfalls. For those of you who live in Greenville and haven’t visited it yet, it is certainly worthwhile to see. In the afternoon, Gail had an appointment with the hairdresser she used when we lived in Greenville to give her a “cut and curl”, then we just relaxed until time to get dressed for the picture taking. After what seemed like an endless list of pictures, it was time for the wedding.

The church Matt and Stephanie picked was an Anglican Church constructed in 1813. It was built entirely of stone, inside and out, and was quaint with arched stained glass windows. The wedding was beautiful and special (as most are), and Gail managed not to cry. It’s hard to believe that our baby is now a married man! The reception was also nice. It was held in a new building on the Furman University campus. Since it was such a beautiful evening, we could enjoy sitting outside, although we kept rushing indoors for the cake cutting, the bouquet toss, etc.

  • Everyone at the reception (not just our families) enjoyed watching Evan and Jeremy dance on the dance floor. You would have thought Evan had been doing it for years, and he could hardly be coaxed to sit down at all! Jeremy was also out there, just not every dance. On our side of the family besides Matt the groom, the following were at the wedding: Our son TJ (a groomsman) and his wife Brenda flew in from Eagan MN. Our daughter Mary and her husband Todd and grandsons Jeremy (ring bearer) and Evan (break dancer) drove up from Lawrenceville, GA. Mike (Tom’s brother) and his wife Judy from Dallas; about a sixteen-hour drive. John (Tom’s brother) and his wife Michele (about a five minute drive) and her daughter Nicole (from Hollywood, FL) Wally (Gail’s brother) and his wife Karen and two of their children Annie and Jimmy, drove from Lexington, KY. Deb (Gail’s sister) and her husband Dave drove down from Charleston, WV; their son David and his wife Val flew in from Chicago. It was so wonderful to see and visit with everyone. How come we wait for celebrations like weddings or ceremonies like funerals to get together as families? On Sunday morning Matt and Stephanie flew to Cozumel, Mexico for their honeymoon. We hung around with Deb and Dave and David and Val until we could pick up the puppies at 3:30 at the kennel. (David and Val’s flight wasn’t until 5:00, and Deb and Dave had to drop them off at the airport, and then drive 6 hours home to WV.) We only had a one-hour drive back to the RV, but we were tired when we got home. We had originally planned to leave today (Monday), but we decided to stay an extra day to unwind and catch up on things like bills, our route for the coming weeks, and this blog. On Tuesday we will drive to just outside of Knoxville which is about halfway to the Cincinnati area, where we have dentist appointments with Tom’s brother Pat on Thursday. After that we will drive down to Cave City in KY to visit Mammoth Cave, then back up to Lexington, KY for Annie’s high school graduation (Gail’s niece mentioned above). We will then head toward the Chicago area to visit family and friends, then on to MN to visit TJ and Brenda. After that we will head to Mt. Rushmore in SD. Until Next Time! Tom and Gail

Thursday, April 20, 2006

  • MOVIN’ ON and STAYING PUT Most of you know that the past 5 ½ months that we have been in FL have, by far, been the longest that we have stayed anywhere since we began fulltiming. We are getting ready to head up to South Carolina for our son’s wedding, and while preparing physically to move on, we have also reflected mentally on what it means to us.

  • Staying in one place for so long has meant that the places where we shop for food and wine, where we get our hair cut, where we take the dogs for grooming and to the vet, where we go to the doctor and to many other places have become second nature since the first month we were here. In these ways, staying put has made life easier for us.

  • Staying in one place has also meant that we have put down a few roots. We have met many nice people, made some friends, and lost some friends. We watched as our two lots changed from sand to bricks; we bought a storage shed for one of the lots, we purchased another lot in another section of Deer Creek, and we purchased the puppies. Tom has become a better golfer because he can play whenever he chooses. He has also begun playing tennis again with a group that meets daily. Gail didn’t participate in any of the activities offered after we quit work because she wanted to give the puppies a stable beginning, keeping their smells, their feedings, and their schedules the same from day to day.

  • We have loved staying in one place in FL, and we will probably be back to it again next year, but all these things have encumbered us as we weren’t before, and this may make our life more difficult in the future.

  • There aren’t too many RVs left here in the campground; those still here, for the most part, are waiting for their homes to be built on their RV sites. Many of the RVers left at the end of March; most of the others left right after Easter. We have hugged and waved goodbye, feeling sad that they’re leaving, but looking ahead to our own leaving.

  • We are looking forward to traveling again, even with the high price of diesel fuel. We will head out of here Friday or Saturday, depending on the arrival of several items we ordered. Then we’ll spend the night in Savannah, meeting friends who moved there from Reston, VA last year. Next week we’ll be staying in Columbia, SC, helping Matt and Stephanie paint and tune up their new house. After a weekend in Lawrenceville, GA with Mary, Todd, and the boys, we’ll say in the Thousand Trails campground near the GA/SC border. We have several doctors’ appointments in Greenville that week, then we’ll move to the hotel in Greenville where the Rehearsal Dinner will be held and where we’ll stay for the weekend.

  • This summer we plan on heading north again, but this time towards the Dakotas. We’ll angle back down towards TX before returning in September or early October. We want to return early because the 3rd lot we’re buying currently has a park model on it that will be removed in August. We want to see the condition of the concrete beneath the park model before we close on the lot. On our return, we’ll also pack up whatever’s left in our storage unit in SC and bring it back to FL to our new storage shed.

  • The puppies are four months old now, and they now weigh about twice as much as when we got them, which is still not a lot relative to other dog that we have had. Jake weighs 8.2 pounds and Max weighs 10.0 pounds. We were going to include updated pictures, but apparently when we thought that we were taking still images, we were actually taking some 15 second mini movie clips. Well there probably is a way to retrieve pictures from them, but we want to get this blog out tonight so hopefully we will have that figured out soon.

  • Tomorrow (Friday) we leave for Savannah, GA. We have the coach pretty much back in travel mode. So tomorrow morning it shouldn’t take too long to break camp and head out.

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More puppy pictures! We have been busy doing day by day stuff so, we haven't written any more blogs. We have had a few requests for more pictures so here they are. The first picture is of Jake and Max, after they had been groomed. The rest of the pictures are before they were groomed. Jake the day before being groomed. Max the day before being groomed. Until Next Time! Tom and Gail

Sunday, February 26, 2006

RVs and Communication When we first hit the road on October ’04, we thought that we had the communication issue covered. We had two cell phones that would handle not only voice, but also serve as our link to the Internet, by serving as modems. We rely on the Internet for email, banking, and other financial services. We had used the cell phones as modems at home before we left and they seemed to be reliable, albeit fairly slow. This is what one would expect from a phone modem. When we started, we had a cell phone plan that gave us 400 minutes a month. This had worked fine when we were at home and also had a landline. When we first hit the road we had to make a lot of calls dealing with changing addresses. We were also using the cell phones as our modem, but only used them that way after 9 PM and on weekends, to keep from using up too many cell phone minutes. We forgot to consider that minutes would be used when people would call us. It wasn’t long- the end of the first month - before we went over the 400-minute limit. So we were frustrated even though we were conserving. We finally decided to change to a plan that gave us 800 minutes a month. This was enough time, but we still had to limit our modem use to evenings and weekends. The next issue that we experienced was how to manage the battery life of the cell phone batteries. Sometimes when we would use the phone as a modem at night, we found that there was only a limited amount of battery left on one or other of the phones. Several times we inadvertently ran the batteries of both phones down, so no one could call us. Sometimes the campgrounds we used would offer wi-fi, but usually there was an extra charge. 99% of the campgrounds we used offered some means of getting into the Internet, usually a modem in the campground office or in a laundry room. We sometimes used this access to the Internet, but, more often than not, our RV site was on the back row and the modem was in the office at the front. We lived with this throughout the year. In January ’06 we had a Direcway satellite receiver installed on the rear roof of the coach. This solved the Internet problem, since we now have instant access to the Internet anytime. This of course took a load off our cell phone minutes. Now we rarely go above 600 minutes a month. We knew about the Direcway system all last year, but didn’t want to spend the money. The initial investment and the monthly service charge are high. But we finally decided that it was worth the investment. To help the budget a little, we are going to drop our Earthlink subscription soon. We can do this because Direcway supplies five email accounts as part of the monthly package. Direcway doesn’t have as many features as Earthlink, but it does have Spam control.

Day by Day

PUPPIES: This week was the first one not working for Disney, and we really enjoyed the freedom. It also gave us time to adjust to the new puppies. We still have to get up earlier than we have been used to because the dogs are ready to go usually at 7:30 AM. They have slept through the night every night so far, usually from 11:00 or 11:30 PM to 7:30 to 7:45 AM. We had expected to have to take them out during the night.

We think they sleep longer because there are the 2 of them, but we aren't experts on puppies by any means. We are finding that it's very much like having a human baby around. Yesterday we visited some friends to show them the puppies, and it took about 20 minutes to get all their "stuff" into the car.

The first day that we walked them around the “block”, one couple was so taken with them that they went out and bought a Bichon puppy from another breeder two days later. Ours are 10 weeks old now; theirs is two weeks older and a little bigger.

Here is a picture of Jake discovering another pup on the other side of the mirror. Jake also gave us a scare tonight. Gail suddenly realized that he wasn't anywhere to be seen in the front room. It turns out that he had squeezed into the space where the kitchen slideout goes in and out, next to the pantry wall. She could see him. He came out when called. He might look wide with all of that fur, but he only weighs five pounds, so he is really pretty thin under all of that fur. By the way, Max weighs 5.8 lb.

GOLF: Tom did not get to play in the men’s club golf tournament on Friday mornings all winter because Friday was a workday for us at Disney. This Friday he got to play. Tee-off time was 7:30 AM and it was cool most of the morning because the sun never came out, but the event was fun. He even won low net for his flight. For you non-golfers this means that Tom got to subtract his handicap of 21 from his score of 77 for a net score of 56. There were three flights grouped by handicap. Tom was in the highest handicap group but plans to improve his game enough to move up to the next flight to save face. RV Lot: Friday afternoon we drove over to a company that manufactures storage sheds. Although we had thought of having a shed when we bought the lots, we didn’t like the designs that were offered and didn’t think that anything else was available. For the past 6 weeks or so though, we noticed sheds being installed on quite a few of the other lots. Finally, we asked at the sales office and were told that we could purchase our own shed, with the only requirement being that it was white. We bought one that is twelve feet wide and ten feet deep. We will use this to store items that are currently stored in Anderson, SC, mostly our winter coats and clothing and Christmas decorations.

Gail thinks she might also use the shed as a hobby room whenever we’re here for the winter. The one thing she has missed, since we’ve been on the road, has been a dedicated space for her card making and beading. It has been difficult for her to spend much time on her crafts since everything has to be pulled out and set up, then put away before we can eat.

Having this space will also mean that we won’t have to carry all of the craft supplies around the US. Right now, the storage under our bed is completely filled with card making supplies, not to mention the several boxes of craft books and cross stitch materials in our “basement” storage area.

The unit will be delivered at the end of March, which is about when we should be able to move from this campground over to one of our new RV lots. Until Next Time! Tom and Gail

Sunday, February 19, 2006

RV and New puppies

Here are pictures of Jake and Max, our two 9-week old Bichon (pronounced Bee shon) Frise (pronounced Free say) puppy brothers, that we brought home today 2/18. They weigh about 5 pounds and should grow to about 9 to 10 pounds.

In the picture, their faces are stained from tear drainage. We should be able to clean this up in a few days, if we can get them to hold still long enough. We bought them from a local breeder in Winter Haven, FL, and brought them home on Saturday, February 18th. It was a day of adjustment for both the puppies and us. As you might expect, they were a little nervous at first. However they seemed to take to the crate well, in fact they slept all night and didn't wake up until 7:30 the next morning.

After breakfast, we took them for a walk. We put collars on them and connected the leashes. It was a new experience for them, and they didn't quite know what to do at first. We walked around the block, which is maybe a quarter of a mile. It was not fast paced, because they have short legs and would rather wrestle and play than walk along. This also turns out to be a good way t0 meet neighbors. You will probably be hearing more about them as we work our way through the puppy phase.

Day by Day

Friday 2/17 was our last day of working for Walt Disney World. It will be great having the free time again. Like most things in life, there were pros and cons to working. The big negatives were the 25 mile drive and the slow times at the register, when there were few if any 'guests' (customers). On the positive side we got to use the parks for free whenever we wanted and to take friends and relatives in for free. The hourly salary was low, but it helped a little.

Tom finally got a chance to play golf at one of the Disney courses. As a 'cast member' he and a guest (our friend Gary) played for $30 each after 1 PM ($45 before 1 PM). The full rate is $159. However, now that we aren't active cast members we have lost our priviledges. Tom is thinking about working at Wide World of Sports, which is part of WDW and the part of the park where the Braves are having spring training. Until Next Time! Tom and Gail

Saturday, February 18, 2006

RVing and Healthcare Finding good healthcare is one of the challenges for full-time RVers to do well. When we went on the road in October 2004, our plan was to come back to Greenville, SC at the appropriate times, to where our doctors were. This is do-able if one doesn’t travel far from the hometown. For our own situation Tom had appointments with his family practitioner, urologist, dentist, and periodontist. Gail had appointments with a rheumotologist, gynecologist, optometrist, and a dentist; we shared a dermatologist. We grouped our appointments around the times that we would be in the area. This worked pretty well most of the time. However last winter, while we were in Orlando, FL Gail had a problem that required the care of a cardiologist. So that was added to the list. This winter (2005) we came to the Orlando area in October and were planning to stay here until April. So we decided to find healthcare in this area. Fortunately, there is a small regional hospital close to where we are staying, and also there are several doctors in the area. Gail's cardiologist has a branch office near us, and we share a family practitioner, an gastroenterologist, and a dentist. The most difficult issue we have regarding healthcare is that every 2 months Gail needs to have lab work done to monitor the medication she takes for the Rheumatoid Arthritis. In Orlando, it has not been difficult to find a lab, but when we're on the road, we've learned to get the name of a nearby physician from someone in the office, call that doctor's office and ask them if they do their own lab work or can they refer us to the lab that they use. Of course, we have to plan to be in at least a medium to large size town to even find a lab. Now that we have a family practitioner, we were able to get our prescriptions updated. The doctor usually writes a prescription for a year. Then, whenever we need, our mail order prescription company mails a 90 day supply to us. Our mail always comes through a mail-forwarding service, and this adds about a week to delivery, for which we plan. Gail gets a special medicine for rheumatoid arthritis which needs to be kept cold. It gets shipped over-night via UPS. So far that has worked with a few hiccups, but the medicine has always been there when needed. One morning this month we felt overdosed on healthcare. Gail had an appointment with a cardiologist at 9:30; next we stopped by the dentist office to introduce ourselves as new patients and to make appointments to get our teeth cleaned; then we went to the GP where both of us had appointments (Tom’s cholesterol (155 on Lipitor) is in control, and his PSA was in the 3s, Gail blood tests were all good); The last stop was at the Optometrist so Gail could order a new contact lens. Until Next Time! Tom and Gail

Thursday, February 02, 2006

RV - Eating IN or OUT?

Before we hit the road we read several books on full-time RVing. Probably because they kept writing about stopping in small town restaurants, we had the impression that RVers eat out often. Now we think that RVers eat out no more often than they did pre-RVing.

For us that is the case. We usually only eat out, if we are out away from ‘home’ and it is time to eat. We rarely leave the RV and drive to a restaurant just to eat. The last time that we left to eat out and see a show was on New Years Eve ’05, prior to going to see the Circe de Soleil in Downtown Disney. We didn't make reservations, so we found that the only place that had available seating was at a very expensive restaurant.

We also keep track of how much we spend on groceries and the cost to eat out. We would like to eat out more often, but it has a negative impact on the budget. In a month we typically spend about $400 - $500 per month for groceries and $180 for eating out. Another contributing factor to our eating in is that Gail is a good cook and plans meals well. This even helps us control our weight (somewhat). Some weeks we never eat out. This week we ate out twice. On Wednesday we stopped on our way home from work. We had to run another errand after work and still had to go to Publix (a grocery store) before going home, so we stopped at Cracker Barrel. On Thursday we were out running errands and stopped at Olive Garden for lunch. This turned out to be our main meal for the day, since we both filled up on the all-you-can-eat Pasta e Fagioli and salad lunch. Then we just had sandwiches in the evening. The campground where we are staying serves a prime beef dinner every Saturday evening, but we haven’t been there yet. We had planned to go on Saturday, February 4th, to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but Gail had made potato salad the day before and Tom cooked some Italian sausage on the grill. Instead we had another great meal in our RV. RV kitchens are not big when compared to the average home or apartment. The biggest difference is that there is not as much cabinet storage space and counter top space. However, we have a four-door refrigerator/freezer with an automatic icemaker. It’s about 12 cubic feet, not large by residential standards, but it’s larger than the refrigerator that’s standard in most other RV’s. The cooling is provided by a system that contains an ammonia solution in coils. The solution is heated electrically or by propane. When we driving, we turn off the refrigerator completely. It’s not safe to have the propane flame lit, especially when pumping diesel fuel. We’ve found that the refrigerator and freezer maintain their temperature for 4 – 5 hours so no food is lost.

The stove is a gas propane three-burner design. There is a microwave/ convection oven that can function as either separately or in combination. We don’t have a garbage disposal or automatic dishwasher. Tom is the dishwasher in the evenings, but he is not always automatic. :^) Our system is that Tom makes breakfast, and Gail washes the dishes, then Gail makes dinner and Tom washes. It works well for us, although there are times when we switch due to whatever else is going on.

Day by Day

Not much else exciting or interesting is going on. We plan to be retired from WDW by 2/18, and we are looking forward to not working and catching up on some things, that we have put off due to our heavy(?) work schedule. Tom plans to join the men's golf league and play golf more often, work on more blogs, and spend more time on stock trading. Gail is working on findng another dog.

Until Next Time! Tom and Gail