The rest of our summer (August and September)


To make it in this lifestyle, as full time RV (recreational vehicle) travelers, one must be flexible.  We like to think we are and so far, we are making it! But we sure have had our moments. So our last post, we provided a recap of our exciting summer. It was about as ideal as we could hope for as far as traveling and seeing new places is concerned. The moments we had was driving our sweet Tiffany (our 40′ monster motor home) and flat towing our car was driving on totally unknown roads! Thankfully, a fellow traveler and blogger read about some of the “tight spots” we got into and suggested using Google Earth to check out our routes before we take off! Success!

Then we arrived at what has become our “home” campground near our daughter and family. It’s an inexpensive (monthly rate) RV family campground, complete with two playgrounds, heated swimming pool, putt putt golf and gently rolling hills surrounded by wooded lots. The downside was that it was a 30 minute drive, or an hour each day. And we went every day to our daughter’s home.  We’ve stayed here about five months so they know us. We had a reservation, like we do every time. BUT for some reason, they gave our reservation away, again….so gotta be flexible. It was not a good start to the month….

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2015 Year End Summary Review


boomerang

Boomerang

We haven’t been as good at blogging the second half of this year. At least we can catch up with a review of our year. The main thing we’ve learned is that we probably misnamed ourselves, The TumbleLees. Perhaps the Boom-a-Rangers would have been better! We had high hopes of visiting many more places and states by now. Instead, we have re-visited some of our favorite places. Much of our travel this year  included trips to help family, especially to our daughter’s home to help welcome to the world our second  grandson in August 2015; selling our first RV and buying our second one in May 2015; and, exploring many state parks in Florida. In spite of not traveling to more states, we have had a GREAT year.

Here are some of our stats:

In 2015, we slept in an RV 331 nights (several family visits for a total of  34 nights away from our RV) for a total of 697 nights in a camper since we started in September 2013.  We moved in and out of 31 campgrounds in 2015 with a total of 70 since we started. We hit a glitch in keeping up with the mileage as our truck was wrecked and we didn’t get that mileage before it was turned over to the insurance company as a total loss. Wow, that sure doesn’t happen every year – but it was very timely as we had just sold the 5th wheel it towed. We can guesstimate we drove the truck 10,000 miles between Jan and May 2015. We know we towed our 5th wheel a total of 12,000 miles from September 2013 to May 2015.

Our biggest hike ever, 9 miles in Callaway Gardens, Georgia

Our biggest hike ever, 9 miles in Callaway Gardens, Georgia

If you know us, you know we love to  hike! But we haven’t been very good at keeping a written journal of our hikes. But I do use the Map My Walk (or hike) app. While it didn’t work for every hike (either battery went dead or we were in an area without any cell phone towers), it calculated we hiked or walked on at least 220 occasions, for at least 608 miles in 10,686 minutes! Sure wish I had kept the stats of our hikes for the past 12 years. ;-{

Our 28' Keystone Cougar XLite 5th wheel and F-150 Ecoboost Ford Truck.

Our 28′ Keystone Cougar XLite 5th wheel and F-150 Ecoboost Ford Truck.

The first half of the year was pretty wild as traveled and we tried to sell our 5th wheel to upgrade to a motorhome on our own. Whew, that was a real chore, but it all worked out perfectly. The full details are here and here. Traveling in our 5th wheel, from January to May, we visited 20 private RV campgrounds/resorts, one KOA, and 8 State Parks (in Florida). Of these, seven were repeat stays. We learned we love camping in state and county parks as this was the first year we managed to do so. We also figured out there are some state parks with sites to fit a 40′ motorhome.  County parks may be a different story as we have learned. You can’t accept the word of the person who answers the phone…..

We bought our Class A motor home, a 2010 Tiffin Phaeton QTH 40′, in May 2015 as well as our flat tow, a 2013 Cadillac SRX. As of December 31, 2015, Bill drove it 2,613 miles. We slowed our pace down considerably, considering we were averaging 2,000/month in the 5th wheel!  We visited 11 campgrounds total: eight private parks and then three unique experiences in the 40′ bus, one more state park in Florida, one County Park in Tennessee and one Sevice Center in Red Bay, Alabama.  We stayed in two repeat campgrounds, near our daughter and at Myrtle Beach.  While we did fit into the County Park, we realized it may be more of a challenge than we thought. We were told they could handle a 40′ motorhome, but the lots were not very level as depicted in this photo:

Lake Marion County Park, Jasper, Tennessee

Lake Marion County Park, Jasper, Tennessee. Normally, we don’t need that step!

We also had many family visits, which were both good and sad. We spent time with Bill’s mom, with Bill helping his brother select an assisted living facility for her in Illinois near his brother.  This visit is not in the map since we didn’t take the RV. We visited my mom and stepdad three times in Sebring (home base) as he battled cancer. Sadly, he lost the battle on December 2, 2015. We are so grateful we had the flexibility to spend as much time with him as we did! And the good and best family times were with our daughter. We were there for her last months of what turned out to be somewhat of a difficult pregnancy, then we were there for the birth of our second healthy grandson. Our daughter stayed home with him for three months. We traveled some during this time. Then we returned to watch him for six more weeks.  He was 4 1/2 months old when he went into daycare and we had to head south. That was a lot of family time. And we managed to visit some dear friends along the way.

Click below read the posts about some of the exciting places we visited: (The numbers signify the campground stay since we began.)

68) Pirateland, site 158, 5401 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29575 Dates: 10/7-11/11/15 (34 nights)

65) Waynesboro North 340 Campground, Eastside Highway, Waynesboro, VA 22980 Campground office: (540) 943-9573.   6/22-24/201

62)Allegro Campground, Red Bay, AL 6/11-6/18/2015

53)Talbot Island State Park, 12157 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32226. Phone: 904-251-2320. Site 16. 3/21-25/2015 (4 nights)

52)Torreya State Park, 2576 NW Torreya Park Rd., Bristol, FL 32321. Site: 008. 3/17-21/2015. (4 nights)

51)Ochlockonee River State Park, PO Box 5, Sopchoppy, FL 32358. Sites: 024 & 027. Phone: 850-962-2771. 3/14-17/2015 (4 nights)

50) Blackwater River State Park, 7720 Deaton Bridge Road, Holt, Fl 32564 Phone: 850-983-5363. Sites 024 & 020. 3/8-14/15. (6 nights)

49) Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl 32459 Phone: 850-267-8330 Site, Loop: 083, 102 3/4-8/15. (4 nights)

48) Fallings Waters State Park, 1130 State Park, Chipley, Fl 32428 Phone: 850-638-6130. Site 017 Dates: 2/27-3/4/2015 (5 nights)

47)Florida Caverns State Park, 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, FL 32446 Phone: 850-482-1228. Site 006, BH1 Dates: 2/23-27/15 (4 nights)

46) Crystal Isles RV Park, 11419 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429. Phone: 888-318-1243
Dates: 2/19-23/15 (4 nights)

44) Tampa East RV Resort, 4630 McIntosh Road, Dover, FL 33527 (866) 786-6298. Dates: 1/13-20/15 (7 nights)

In spite of all these great camping and hiking experiences, we have had to rely more and more on the Lord for our strength as we met the many challenges this year. We were blessed to be able to attend church nearly every Sunday, missing only two or three times due to our travel schedule. The last time we had such a challenging year was in 1999 when not only my dad succumbed to cancer, but I also lost my dear brother in law, who was truly like a big brother to me.  He entered my life when I was a struggling 7th grader. He tutored me when I was failing English. During that year, the lesson we learned was that God was in control even when life seemed out of control! These verses became more and truer to us this year:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

Getting Hitched: “Flat Tow” our “Dinghy” or TOAD


Happy campers!

Our motorhome and toad, fully hitched.

For those who were following our journey last May and June, you will know this is a big deal for us. If you do not know what we are talking about in this title, it all has to do with driving a motorhome and towing an automobile behind it.

Our home is 40′ and is on wheels. When we park in a new location, we need a vehicle (referred to as a dinghy or toad) to drive around in, such as to the store, to church, to go sightseeing, etc. We bought our motorhome in May and until we came to Myrtle Beach in October, we couldn’t find anyone to hitch us up! So I’ve followed Bill while he drove the motorhome for about 2,200 miles:  from Cocoa, Florida; to Troy, Alabama; to Red Bay, Alabama; to Jasper, Tennessee; to Bristol, Tennessee; to Waynesboro, Virginia; to Milford, Virginia; to Florence, North Carolina; to our current destination, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That means we put 2,200 unnecessary miles on our car.

I was upset when I saw this ugly bar on the front of our new (used) car!

I was upset when I saw this ugly bar on the front of our new (used) car!

There are several ways to tow a vehicle: Trailer Tow (i.e. put a car in a utility trailer), Dolly Tow (two front tires on a dolly while back wheels spin) and Flat Tow (our choice to have all four wheels down).  There are many professional and good quality articles on this subject.  Trust us, we’ve read them all and watched many YouTube videos on “how to.” We did our research. We knew what we were getting into…but until we actually did it, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. (Understand?) So we hope by sharing our experiences, it might help someone else. We hope you’ll laugh with us, now that it’s over. During the process, a few tears were shed. 😂

We also watched a number of videos which helped us learn more about towing. We also have talked to so many people about their hitches and how they like how they are towing their vehicle. But no one shared a story with us like what happened to us. One thing we have learned in this RVing lifestyle is that everyone has a story of something crazy happening to them. This is one of our crazy stories.

First, just to let you know how the name “toad” came about:  Tow-ed = toad.  And dinghy is affectionally what little boats are called. So it’s a play on words.

The hitch is on the back of our motorhome.

The hitch is on the back of our motorhome. It’s a Falcon by Roadmaster. It came with our motorhome.

Once we knew we were buying a motorhome, we formed an opinion, we would “flat tow.”  That means we would have an (ugly) tow bar on the front of the car, attached to a hitch on the back of the RV.  By flat towing, we probably would have to make modifications to our car.  But the downside to a dolly or trailer, is that you have to “store” them and possibly have to hoist around, park and stash when you are on a campsite. Not every campsite has the room for them. But somehow, everyone makes it work. Bill has a back issue, so we just decided we couldn’t handle having to hoist either around. Yes, Bill does the heavy lifting in our family. Plus, I have a few back/neck issues, too.

Hooking the hitch to the tow bar.

We did test drive a few jeeps (probably one of the most popular Toads) a few months earlier when we first thought about changing from a truck and 5th wheel RV to the motorhome. We loved the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was everything we needed and more. Spacious (we wanted to carry four adults and two children), comfortable and more than anything, easy to flat tow. BUT, we later learned, they don’t get the best gas mileage and for long trips (which we’ve done three times since owning it), and it’s really not “luxury” comfortable. With our back issues (and aging bodies), we need a comfortable ride. So we compromised.  The vehicle we bought, a crossover SUV and car, Cadillac SRX, will only fit four adults and one child. Or three adults and two children. But we first eliminated all the other flat towable vehicles before we even thought about the SRX. There is a yearly on-line publication that says which cars are flat towable. The slogan for our motorhome is “Roughing it smoothly.” And that fits us with our little Cadillac!

We stayed in Myrtle Beach for a full month, not only to enjoy a month at the beach but to get our car and RV “hitched.” Parts have to be ordered but we learned, no one wants to hook up a used “hitch.” Except Camping World. And Myrtle Beach was our first location since buying our motorhome that had one. We also needed to have our washing machine replaced, which they did.  We were very happy with that install, so thought the hitch would also go smoothly.

Well, we were a bit concerned when it took twice as long to rig the car up to tow. We had “face plates” installed, modification to the bumper and grill, installation of a bracket for the “invisi-brake,” made connections for the air brakes,  installed a wiring harness, and probably a few more things I don’t know about (or understand).  In the end, it took a day and a half on the car and 1/2 day on the RV.  So all in all, we spent four days of our 35 days in Myrtle Beach in the waiting room at Camping World, which includes the washing machine install and then to fix that which didn’t work properly on our car. And that is what this post is about. Something had to go wrong, right? Or this would be boring – although it probably is unless you want flat tow one day.

We have learned a lot from other full-timers, but especially one young couple. They not only live in an RV full-time, traveling all over the US and Canada, they are also working professionals. In fact, they inspired us to give ourselves a catchy nickname: The TumbleLees. They are Jason and Nicky Wynn or “Gone with the Wynns!”  Here is their video to learn from my (Jason’s) mistakes, and “How to Properly Connect and RV Tow Car.” We watched these several times, when we started our education on what we were going to do and then while we were getting our hitch set up.

So we now have the set up we’ve wanted. We’re educated. Bill is confident in his ability to hook the toad up. I’m learning and watching….and praying all goes well!  When it took them so long to rig the car, we both had a few misgivings. But Camping World guarantees their work.

Hitched and on the way out of the campground!

Hitched and on the way out of the campground!

We do try to travel without pressures and for this to be adventure travel, right? Well, not all adventures are fun. It was time to leave and our daughter has made a lot of preparations for us to come visit. She has our grandson counting down the days (he’s learned to count to 10! Smart guy). And we are ready to go.

So once we are all hitched and rigged to go, we tested the lights. Humm, the blinkers are not working. But the lights are on. Then we tested the brake, brake lights not on. And there is a beeping noise in the RV.  We called Camping World and they said to bring it on in. So off we go.

We arrive and Bill is exhausted from the 10 minute, five-mile drive. He doesn’t say anything to me, but he is wondering if our 360 diesel engine can tow.  😖 Upon arrival, we looked at the car and see smoke pouring out of the front tires (brake area).  YIKES! We begin to panic. Bill says get me a cup of water, it looked like a fire could start. I grabbed our cups of water, then he throws the water on the wheels like it was a campfire.  It hardly affects the smoke, so I ran back and got a pitcher of water.  Slowly, the smoke stopped.  Our Service Writer then tells us to unhook the car so they drive our RV into a bay.

Wouldn’t you know, it won’t unhook!  (We have since learned, that is a common problem. You just need a drift pin and a hammer to knock out the pins.) The hitch seemed frozen and the brakes appeared to be  gone, pedal to the floor. We are thinking worst case scenario. I posted a plea for prayers on FaceBook. This can’t be happening!

We were prayed up, praying daily for the Lord’s protection – oh, I’m sure that is what happened…HE did protect us! What if the blinkers worked ok and we just thought the beeping sound was how it is supposed to be? What if we just went on the nearly 200-mile drive we planned to travel? That would have been a disaster. So in reality, disaster was averted.

Camping World was very busy, every bay tied up when we arrived. But the Shop Foreman took our job to get ‘er done. It turned out that the air brake flow was one way. When the RV brakes were on, the car brakes were off. And when the RV brakes were off, the car brakes were on. It took about 5 hours to diagnose it and repair it.  Fortunately, the car brakes were fine, just overheated, and we are now on the road to our daughter’s home. She’s a bit sad as her maternity leave is ending and she wanted to hang out with us a few days before she returns to work. It’s so great to be loved and your only child wants to spend time with you!

So in the end, what lesson did we learn? Expect the unexpected! And what does the Bible say about planning? We have to have faith, we may have been spared something worse. It just wasn’t our time to leave Myrtle Beach.

You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Sunset after we settled back into the campground, on this Veterans Day! Loved seeing the flag flying.

Shenandoah Crossings Resort, Gordonsville, Virginia


The Lodge

The Lodge – where we checked in.

We really didn’t know what we were getting into when we booked our time here! In our last post, we said we were rusty and yesterday, we could have rusted out! Our next post will explain further and will be about our hike to Jones Falls Trail in the Shenandoah National Park, off of Skyline Drive.

We pre-paid for a four day, three night resort stay in this BlueGreen Vacation property, allegedly located in the foothills of the Shenandoah National Park. We would be “refunded” our money for enduring a two hour presentation about the resort.  It was easy to tell we were not buyers as they had us fill out a questionnaire about our vacation styes and preferences. We have lived on “vacation” for the past two years! So for our punishment, they made us endure a full three hours.  However, we will say that the presentation was excellent – but really more for young families. They missed the mark with us and retirees should exempt from the program. However, we did see lots of retirees here. Maybe they will share it with their families….but for us, it would not be cost effective.

Our view

Our view from our backyard

We were also rusty in that we didn’t really scope out the area. We usually know exactly what we will be able to do when we pick an area to stay. And we usually check the weather so we know when the best days are to hike. But for us, we ended up only being able to hike on our day three due to our obligatory two three hour presentation. It turned out to be a bad weather day we learned once we hit the Shenandoah National Park!

Cabin next door

Cabin next door

To see our complete photo album about Shenandoah Crossings, you can visit it here, on Flickr.

So with that all said, here are the pros, cons and review of the resort and campground.

Pros:  There are a lot of activities on site for children, probably from ages 2 to 17. Most are shown in our photo album on Flickr, but in summary, Putt Putt, swimming pool, splash park, playgrounds, horse back riding, tennis, tether ball, corn hole, horse shoes and more. We did see people on bicycles but they were struggling as it is hilly. There are several laundry rooms, but you probably have to drive to them, unless you are in the campground. Best part, they are FREE! Wow, what a deal.

If you don’t have pets and really don’t appreciate dogs barking and cats meowing (or pigs squealing as our neighbors had last week) this place is for you. We noticed no dog poop to walk around, but then we hit the horse manure….but that’s under the cons….If you love wine and wine tastings, this is also a great location. That’s about the main thing to do close by if you want an outside activity from the resort.

We can speak about our cabin, it has everything you would want for a great cabin camping experience. Really nice towels for bathroom, kitchen and the pool. Comfortable beds with linens and pillows. The kitchen is fully stocked with utensils, dishes, cook ware, outdoor grill with all utensils (they are under the sink), paper towels, dish soap, dishwasher soap, salt and pepper shaker, even two servings of delicious coffee grounds. You just need to bring your own aluminum foil, baggies, etc., condiments and food. Nicely appointed and it looks like a working wood fireplace. We didn’t try it.

Swimming Pools area

Cons:  Our big deal is to be able to take nice walks and long hikes. Our first day here, we didn’t see the on-site hiking or walking trails. It looked like you would have to walk on the road and most vehicles seem to exceed the 15 mph speed limits. Day 2, I was desperate for a walk and said I did see people walking around the laundry area (near the stables). So the good news is that we managed a challenging three mile hike around the campground (where I took most of the photos), but the bad news is that a good stretch of it meant we had to tip toe around horse manure. On day three, we did have to drive to the Shenandoah National Park for a great hike…but it took us 1 1/2 hour to drive 64 miles to the trail head we selected. That was a real bummer as it was advertised as being in the foothills.

Stables

Stables

If you want to eat out, it was recommended to drive to Charlottesville. It is at least 30 minutes to get there. This is a very rural area, so the speed limits and roads dictate you don’t go anywhere fast. We don’t enjoy eating out, so we had to pick between Walmart Super Store or a Food Lion to shop for groceries. We had no idea they had such a nice grill, so off we went for steaks, etc. It took at least 30 minutes to go 16 miles to go to Walmart. We thought it would have more variety. We were pleased with our rib eye steaks, corn on the cob, baked potatoes (I had a sweet one), mushrooms, onions and fresh salad. For our second night, we brought an easy meal. And our third night, Bill bought a frozen pizza and I had left over homemade manicotti (made by our son in law) with fresh salads.

And of course, if your pets are like your children, you can’t come here. In fact, if pets were allowed, our daughter and family would have joined us for a day or two. We were told, NO PETS. But then when we walked around the campground, we saw several there.

RV Campground:  It looked deluxe, but pricey. All sites were flat, concrete pads, outdoor grills, picnic tables and some had hot tubs (presidential suite). Great area for children and within a short walk to the swimming pools, splash park, Fitness Center, General Store and more.

Campground Site

RV Campground

Would we return here? No, it’s not for us. But was it nice and would we recommend it? Only if you fully understood what you were getting into.  So our lesson learned? Let’s go back to scripture as we usually bathe our travels in prayer….

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21