Nope, this isn't our current site - this is Salt Creek County Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington in September of 2004. It was deserted, and lovely, and captures so well what makes fulltiming great.
We're still in Sacramento, living the normal lives of temporarily anchored nomads. We are halfway through our stay, which means that most of the "chores" are done and we have filled the calendar with fun... too busy to blog!
On Saturday, we did one last big chore: visited the Verizon store for our "Free Every Two Years" upgrade to new phones and a new aircard. Of course, they aren't REALLY free - we had to pay taxes on the "full amount" of the phones, which is an absurdly high list price that no one EVER pays. And then, we had to send in rebate forms, a process guaranteed to make you tear your hair out.
At Costco, if you get a rebate on a product, Costco simply deducts it from the price of the item. At Verizon, you walk out with a 3 1/2 foot long cash register tape - one for EACH item - that includes 2 feet of small type detailing the requirements for requesting the rebate. Pay attention, because you have to be 100% correct to have a crack at actually receiving the rebate.
Each rebate request has to be sent in a separate envelope. Each rebate request needs to be accompanied by the the original UPC code from the box. Each rebate request has to be signed in blood (that matches your blood type).
You've seen the Verizon commercials, where each Verizon customer has a crowd of Verizon support personnel following them around, 24/7? How come one of those people can't FILL OUT THE REBATE FORMS???
So, a lot of our time recently has been spent learning our new phones. We also upgraded our aircard to the USB 760, which has the Verizon Access Manager software built in... nice! Our internet speeds are WAY faster than with our old card. Eventually my satisfaction with the new aircard will overcome Rebate Angst, but that wound is still fresh.
Here is another great photo from our early travels - Crater Lake in Oregon. Can you tell my thoughts are turning to the Pacific Northwest?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Nope, this isn't our current site - this is Salt Creek County Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington in September of 2004. It was deserted, and lovely, and captures so well what makes fulltiming great.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Disclaimer: What follows is MY opinion - with Odel’s suggestions taken into consideration. :) Everyone’s needs and desires are highly individual; my comments are intended to give you something to think about as you consider your own needs and desires. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions; I'm sure other readers will enjoy your outlook.
The “perfect” rig doesn’t exist. Your purchase will be a compromise between the ideal traveling rig (small and nimble, with a great turning radius, fabulous visibility, and excellent fuel efficiency) and the ideal “home” (spacious, commodious, and built with solid, long-lasting components).
Everyone will draw that line in a different spot, depending on their budget and their capacity to enjoy close quarters. We have met fulltimers in truck campers or tiny travel trailers on one end of the spectrum, and in 45 foot, quad-slide diesel pushers or 40 foot, 5-slide 5th wheels towed by semi-tracters at the other end of the spectrum.
Scoopy is a 38’, double-slide diesel pusher with a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 31,000 pounds, powered by a 350 horsepower Cummins engine, and she is the right compromise for us. When we are parking in a narrow, wooded back-in site in a Forest Service or state park campground, she is TOO BIG! Sitting in an urban RV park for a month, or on any rainy day, she is TOO SMALL! But for our current travel habits, she is the right compromise.
A 38’ foot, double slide motorhome is the smallest unit we can live in comfortably together. If we COULD be comfortable in something smaller, I would want it - because the smaller your rig, the wider your selection of campsites and the easier your travels. We have sufficient storage for what we need/want to carry, but have to dance with each other a bit as we move around the rig.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t want anything larger. Add two more feet in length and you give up some excellent, slightly shorter campsites; add another slide or two and you give up excellent, narrower sites. The top photo was taken in a Louisiana state park, where we snagged one of the last few sites - in a larger rig, we would have been back out on the road. In this photo, we were out on the road; fortunately, no one else drove through this remote campground.
On the subject of slides:
-- Two slides on the same side are better than two slides on opposite sides. Why? Because slides on the same side don’t add additional width.
-- Each extended slide makes accessing your basement storage more difficult. Add another slide or two and you will be on your knees crawling around on the ground more frequently to get into your storage bays - and dodging trees and bushes more frequently simply walking around your wider rig (photo below).
-- On some rigs, the storage bays are attached to the slides and extend out with them. Much easier access to your stored items, but you give up a lot of storage space. If you have long items (a ladder, for instance, or golf clubs) or heavy items (an auxiliary chest type refrigerator/freezer) to carry, check the dimensions of the available storage space carefully.
-- Each additional slide adds weight to your rig, diminishing the Net Carrying Capacity (the amount of “stuff” you can carry) or adding to the GVWR (the total weight you are moving from one place to another).
-- Each additional slide increases the likelihood of mechanical problems.
-- Slides definitely add space to the interior of a rig - but it isn’t storage space, and not usually work space (though some multi-slide units include a nice kitchen island), it’s floor space. Great if you have a big dog (or several dogs) or kids, or like to host parties.
-- Almost as important as the additional space are the additional windows with the light and views they provide. Although we didn’t realize it at the time we made our purchase (super-newbies that we were), our bedroom slide is perfect in that respect: the windows are on either side of the head of the bed (rather than behind the bed). We can open the windows to catch a nighttime breeze, or lift the curtain for a peek outside if we hear an unusual sound or want to catch the sunrise. Very nice.
We‘ve been inside several rigs with 3 or 4 slides, and they are wonderfully roomy… but for our current lifestyle, the additional weight, the additional width, the inconvenience of accessing the “basement” storage, and the potential for additional mechanical problems are not worth the added interior space. Check back in a couple years. :)
Next in this series: TOO IMPORTANT TO OVERLOOK
at 12:00 AM
Friday, April 24, 2009
We've been at Cal Expo (click here to read our recent review) for 2 1/2 weeks, and our chores are being accomplished. As the medical appointments and repairs are completed, fun and socializing take their place, so our calendar now leans more towards FUN and less towards WORK.
Yesterday was my last medical appointment: a visit with my dentist. A little filling had fallen out of my front tooth, and I anticipated shots and drilling to replace it... Nope, it was a painless "refill" of the existing hole. Aside from a (gentle) chiding for my poor flossing habits, the visit was painless. Whew!
Actually, I do have one more medical appointment on the calendar - the three week followup on my cataract surgery. That is one I am looking forward to - I can't wait to learn the "official" measurement of improvment in my vision. I know I will need prescription lenses for reading and computing, but I am still in awe of the difference in my vision pre- and post-surgery. Birds! Street signs! The pretty silver tips on Luna's gray fur! The world is looking particularly fine to me these days.
Odel still has a visit to his dentist coming up, and one big appointment coming up just before we leave - a visit with his urologist for the first followup and PSA test results since his proton beam therapy. We are expecting the PSA to have dropped by about half.
We've just about completed everything on our repairs/maintenance/upgrades list: new mattress (love it); new sound system for Scoopy (love it); the reworking of our TV, converter box, satellite receiver, etc. (we can live with it). We're awaiting the return of our (repaired) water pump, and need to visit Verizon for the "new every two" year upgrade to our cell phones and aircard. Everything is on track for completion well in advance of our scheduled May 20th departure.
We've had LOTS of fun socializing, with much more to come: a baseball game this weekend (Sacramento Rivercats), dinner out with friends at a new and well reviewed restaurant on Monday, dinner with friends at a favorite restaurant on Thursday. We've each seen a movie, I've been to a great play, and we have another play coming up next weekend.
My mom has been my shopping companion (she with a bit more success than me). Here is one of cute shoes she found at the new DSW shoe store we visited the other day. I have the same style in gray, and recommended them to her because they fit narrower feet so comfortably.
My sister Nancy and my friend Becky joined me for a six week series of hooping classes from Allison Miller (photo below), a Licensed HoopGirl Workout Teacher (you didn't know that existed, did you?), and we try to get together once a week to practice. I'm aiming to make another video soon - stay tuned, but don't expect a similar outfit. :)
Odel has been on the golf course every week with his buddies from our prior life here in Sacramento. We've done our walking almost everyday, and have added a speeded-up segment after noticing that just about everyone passes us on our usual slow amble.
The weather? WILD! Temperatures in Sacramento usually average in the low 70's in April, but we recently sweltered through 3 or 4 days of record-breaking highs in the 90's. UGH. The hot spell broke a couple nights ago, and we heard rain on the roof last night. Today is sunny, cool and windy... SPRING.
A few days ago, we received an interesting email from Julianne Crane, the editor of RVTravel.com. She had recently found and enjoyed our blog, and said:
For sometime I have been pondering with the idea of writing a series of short profiles about "Good people having fun, doing what they love to do." I am hoping you will agree to let me begin the series with you.
Who would say no to that? So today she added a profile of us to her website. Aside from a little info about us, luna, Scoopy and Jules, she also mentioned Kiva and our experiences there, which reminded me that it has been a long time since I did an update. Coincidentally, today's email included a message from Kiva about recent loans paid back, which resulted in a credit balance in our Kiva account. We were able to help fund 4 more loans, bringing our total loans to 99.
When we orginally began lending on Kiva May 26, 2007), we "invested" $1000 over a period of about 6 months. Our contributions of $25 or $50 per loan were pooled with contributions from other lenders and loaned to pre-screened borrowers. I believe we have had one loan default in two years, and many, many have been repaid in full. Each time our share is paid back, we relend the money so, over time, our original $1000 has helped fund $2500 in loans. That's the kind of sustainability we appreciate. :)
at 11:15 AM
Monday, April 20, 2009
In 1980, I bought a decade-old VW van that had been converted into a camper with a small sink, a bed, a tiny closet and teeny refrigerator. I drove it to Alaska (a 4 month trip) and Baja, and out to Colorado from California - my first experience with an RV. Ten years later, I was living on a houseboat - with both AC and DC power and propane - when Odel and I met. Odel had NO experience with RV’s, so the old VW van and the houseboat provided the sum total of our combined knowledge about RV’s.
The first decision: buy a truck and trailer/5th wheel (aka 5’er) or a motorhome and a towable vehicle? We didn’t know anything about either. We decided on a motorhome for four reasons:
1. Matching trailer size (weight) to truck size (towing/stopping capacity) seemed way too complex to us. We didn't want to figure it out.
2. We didn’t want to have a truck as our “around town” vehicle after we set up camp.
3. Neither of us had experience backing a trailer.
4. My fantasy of our new life included an expansive view of the adventure ahead, enjoyed from a big, comfortable captain's chair with a footrest!
It was the right decision for us. We are totally motorhome-biased so if you want advice about 5’ers and trucks, you’ll need to search elsewhere. There are some advantages to 5’ers, though; here is what we’ve observed in our travels:
5’er wins: A 5th wheel in “camp” has more living space than a motorhome of the same size - in the motorhome, you lose space to the “cockpit” area, and slides in 5th wheels are usually wider than those in motorhomes. If you intend to stay put for longer periods of time, you will have more usable space in a 5th wheel of the same size.
5’er wins: 5th wheels have a better door position than most motorhomes: you often enter into the kitchen, which I consider very handy. Few diesel motorhomes have mid-entry doors, so you are always walking through the living room to go in and out. On the other hand, once you get indoors, 5th wheels have additional steps to access the bedroom, a potential problem if you have mobility issues.
5’er wins: A motorhome towing a car means two engines that need maintenance - which means more money and time spent on maintenance. If your motorhome needs engine repairs, your home goes to the shop.
5’er wins: If you unexpectedly encounter a tight situation, a truck and 5’er can backup to maneuver - a motorhome, towing a car four wheels down, can’t. We have had to unhook the Jeep 4 times in 6 years when we ended up in a spot that didn’t allow turning without backing up. On the other hand, we’ve seen inexperienced drivers back their trailers into positions from which they were unable to extricate themselves without damage.
MH wins: Parking, setting up and packing up a motorhome is significantly faster and easier than doing the same with a truck/trailer combo. We can back into our space, level, and be fully deployed in about half an hour - longer if it was a really buggy drive, since Odel cleans the front of the motorhome each day that we travel. When we’re ready to leave, hooking up the car for towing is a 5 minute job. If you intend to move frequently, a motorhome is the easiest choice.
MH wins: Motorhomes are far easier to back into a space and to drive in general. The towed vehicle tracks inside the motorhome’s path so, if the motorhome makes a turn, the toad is going to make it, too.
MH wins: If you pull into a rest area for lunch on a rainy day, no need to get out and get wet on a dash to the bathroom or kitchen - you’re already home. On a too-hot day, fire up the generator and run the rooftop air conditioning as you cruise down the road - your home is cool and comfortable when you stop for lunch or arrive at your destination (and your generator is exercised).
MH wins: Though we all know it isn’t safe to wander around the motorhome while underway, it is great to have access to the bathroom and refrigerator without the need to pull over. Need to formulate a quick Plan B? All our campground directories are right at hand, along with anything else we might need - not back at “home” behind us.
MH wins: We love having our Jeep as an “around town” vehicle when the motorhome is parked. It’s comfortable, can go anywhere, gets significantly better mileage than a truck capable of towing a large 5’er, and carries plenty of “stuff”.
MH wins: Luna is much happier in the motorhome than she would be in a truck. She has easy access to her condo, her food, water and catbox. A happy cat makes a happy family.
MH wins: The passenger seat is basically a lounge chair. The foot rest comes up, the cushy back reclines to a comfortable angle, the view out of that big front windshield unfolds like a movie. We can see over the tops of all the sedans, SUV's and pickup trucks ahead of us, anticipating slowdowns.
MH wins: Fortunately, we have never had to leave a site quickly in an emergency, but it would be far faster to get both the motorhome and Jeep out of harm’s way if necessary. Two drivers, two motors, no need to take the time to hook up.
MH wins: Our coach carries 100 gallons of diesel fuel. It can be a shock to fill the tank (!), but we can drive 600 miles before we even think about looking for a fueling station. For us, that is usually 3 or more days of travel.
MH wins: Most motorhomes come equipped with large on-board generators, located in a spot that could not otherwise be used for storage. Most 5’ers give up storage space to carry a generator. Not an issue for everyone, but we do like having the push-button convenience an onboard generator adds to the fulltiming life.
I’m sure there are other considerations - I’ve heard folks say that 5’ers have more storage space… true? I don’t know… but I do know that we don’t need more storage space than we have, so I don’t care. We know at least five couples who have moved from a truck/5’er combination to a motorhome/toad combination, but I can’t think of anyone who has gone the other way.
We LOVVVVVVE Scoopy!
Today's photos, from top:
at 4:03 PM
Saturday, April 18, 2009
A few weeks ago, we got an email that said:
“…We're coming to the decision that when we retire, hopefully within the next 3 years, we will sell our house, keep the cottage and buy some kind of RV vehicle…We've gone back and forth between 5th wheels and coaches and we're leaning toward the coaches.
“Any suggestions as to what to look for, some aspect that on hindsight you wish you had, or didn't need, which brands have more problems than others, etc; warranties that are a must, things to look for when purchasing from a private seller or a dealer--anything that now you know but when you were first buying had no clue to look for! Basically, any thoughts on "what to look for when purchasing" would be greatly appreciated!!!”
Now that we are settled in Sacramento for the next month, I thought I’d try to answer some of those questions.
I could have written that email six and a half years ago. Odel and I knew exactly ZERO about RV’s when we decided that fulltiming was in our (near) future. We went from zero to purchase in about three months, guided by the internet, the Escapees online forums, various used RV sales sites - online and “real” - and any bit of advice we could drag from anyone we met.
It was both exhilarating and exhausting. We were often up well after midnight, searching the internet for information and “rigs”. Weekends were spent on RV lots, innocents to the slaughter. Before we exited the car, we swore to each other that we would NOT sign anything - no doubt saving us from owning the used 275 HP diesel Bounder with a carrying capacity of under 1000 pounds that the salesman was convinced was the perfect rig for us (read: for him to sell to us).
So, over the new few weeks, I’ll write about what we learned, why we made the decisions we did, and how we made our purchase. My first recommendation, though, for anyone who knows nothing or next to it… visit the RV Consumer Group website. They offer a lot of free, eye-opening information for beginners, some of it scary, all of it useful, and a good antidote to what you’ll hear from salespeople.
Since we aren't traveling for the next month, I'm not taking many photos. For this little mini-series on how and why we made the decision to buy a used class A diesel pusher - and what we have learned since - I'll post some of my favorite photos from our travels, the best way to answer the question most frequently asked of the fulltimer: "What's your favorite place?"
All of today's photos are from our first summer on the road. Top to bottom: Badlands National Park, South Dakota, June 2003; Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming, June 2003; me, relaxing on the glass bottom boat used for the shipwreck tour on Lake Superior, August 2003; Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist (boat), New York, September 2003.
at 1:25 PM
Friday, April 17, 2009
I last posted on Tuesday afternoon, awaiting out new mattress. It arrived, it fit (barely, barely, barely - I think we'll have to peel back the quilt and top sheet to bring in the slide), and it is a vast improvement over our worn out RV mattress. Nice!
On Wednesday morning, I had cataract surgery. It was so easy: nice drugs to painlessly soothe the patient, friendly, calm staff. I went in at 8:30 and was home around 11:30. By 2 pm, the anesthetic and calming drugs had worn off, and things weren't quite so rosy, but it still was not bad. I couldn't see much with the patch on what is my best eye - certainly couldn't read a book or the computer - so I spent the rest of the day and all night doing nothing but laying around on the (comfortable) new mattress.
By Thursday morning, I was SO READY to get that patch off! This was how I felt, pre-followup appointment.
The patch came off at 9:30 am on Thursday, at the eye surgeon's office. On Tuesday, the smallest letter I could read on the eye chart with my right eye was the huge capital E at the top (20/200 vision). On Thursday, when the patch was removed, I could read 5 or 6 lines down - we didn't check it thoroughly because my eyesight is supposed to improve for the next few weeks. Whoopee!
I put on my big, dark, goggle-eyed glasses and we came home, me reading street signs aloud as Odel drove. I could see them! I could read them! This is a good, good feeling.
So, my distance vision is greatly improved. My glasses are now useless, so my near vision is terrible! I'm borrowing Odel's drugstore reading glasses for reading, and read/write on the computer by putting my nose 12 inches from the screen. I might end up with prescription glasses for near vision but, for a traveler trying to figure out which street to turn on, it is great to have distance vision back!
We were back home from the patch removal in time to meet the mobile repair guy coming to fix our water pump, which had stopped suddenly. It turned out the pump (under warranty) is faulty, so has to be sent back and replaced. It's a top of the line Shurflo, and I think this is the fourth time we have returned it, under warranty, for a new one. We definitely don't recommend this brand.
After that, I was feeling so good that I got out my hoop for a little play/practice. This was the last day for this hoop; my hoop teacher, Allison, is making me a new one with much prettier tape (including glow-in-the-dark tape). It was fun to be out in the sunshine (75 degrees) practicing.
Today, Friday, the "sight and sound" guys came to rewire our TV and replace the in-dash radio receiver with the newest technology. HOURS of work!
After dealing with all the issues related to the analog-to-digital change, we ended up with great over-the-air local digital stations and satellite TV on our big, old (analog) front TV, and analog and digital over-the-air local programming on the new back TV. Couldn't get the satellite to work back there, but gave it up as not important. What a pain in the patootie all of that was.
The new in-dash sound system is incredible! We can listen to AM/FM stations; Sirius satellite radio (hardwired); either of our MP3 players; CD's; and (get this) music on a flash drive that fits into a USB port on the front of the radio! It all plays through the 8 speakers that run from front to back of the motorhome. All we need to do now is learn to use it - ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
The last thing we did tonight was to pick up my beautiful new hoop from Allison. It has purple sparkle tape for daytime, glow-in-the-dark tape for nightime, and orange and blue "grippy" tape to make it less slick. I'm heading out now to give it a nightime twirl.
New mattress, new lens in my eye, fabulous new sound system, TV system straightened out, new hoop... I'm almost sweaty from spending so much money so fast, but happy, happy, happy with the results.
at 8:04 PM
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Spring weather - you never know what's comin', do you??
Two days ago, as we walked along the levee that protects Sacramento from the waters of the American River, I got goosebumps from the perfection of the day: 70 degrees, sunshine, spring green grass and new leaves on the trees. I saw lilacs blooming and mounds of star jasmine draped on fences. Everyplace has a season that makes you believe you could settle down and live there; spring is Sacramento's "this is the place" season.
Fast forward to today, and behold the fashionable walker. Fleece earwarmers, fleece pullover zipped all the way up, sweatshirt with hood up, fleece gloves, jeans, wool socks and warm shoes. The goggle-eyed sunglasses? That's another story (to follow).
As I write, mid-afternoon, the temperature is 60 degrees (the forecast high for today) and the wind is gusting to 30 mph. And now get this: the forecast for Sunday is 92 roasting degrees! Springtime - wow.
We continue to work on upgrades to Scoopy. We've had her for six years, but she is actually seven years old - we bought her from the original owners, a young couple with 4 small children who had been fulltiming! I don't know how they managed it, but Scoopy looked showroom fresh when we bought her.
For the past year, I have felt it was time for a new mattress - I don't think RV mattresses we meant to be slept on every night for seven years. After laying (or is it lying - I NEVER have understood that rule of grammar) on over a dozen mattresses in four different stores, we finally made a decision. Just before we returned to make the purchase, I remembered that the toe of our mattress slides in three inches just underneath our bedroom vanity when we bring in the slide - and the mattress we had just agreed on was 3 inches deeper than our current mattress! Oh, man... I can picture it now... getting ready to depart in May, doing the last minute checks, latching the closet doors, pushing the button to bring in the slide and... WHOOPSIE, the bed doesn't fit! WHOOPSIE, the slide doesn't close!
A "senior moment" averted... YAY! We visited yet another mattress store, found an 8 1/2 inch deep mattress we both liked, and bought it. We're hoping for delivery today.
The other big research project and purchase came about when we revisited the analog-to-digital conversion - that government-induced irritant. We solved the problem in the bedroom by purchasing a new digital-capable TV, but felt that was too costly a solution for the larger, front room TV.
When we arrived at Cal Expo, Odel got to work hooking up the digital converter box. After the standard interval of hot, sweaty, frustration, he had it all hooked up and working perfectly (and, I admit, digital RV is far superior to analog TV). Whoopee turned to whoopsie quickly, though - we could no longer get a satellite feed on either TV! After another 30 minutes of thought, discussion and ineffective action, we had managed to mangle one of the teeny, tiny little wires in one of the cables, ending any hope that we could fix this mess ourselves.
Since we were going to be calling in the experts in audio/video, I raised with Odel another item on my private "needs upgrading" list: do something about our cobbled together sound system.
Scoopy came with an in-dash radio/cassette tape player with a 12 CD changer that rides in a cabinet over the driver's head (and no slot to play a single CD). During the seven year interval, technology has marched forward. We added a satellite radio receiver (check out this photo for insight into the level of craftsmanship that can be reached with velcro and an empty green chile can). Yes, that nest of antenna wire rides on the dashboard.
The receiver gets the satellite signal from the antenna, then sends it to an unused FM channel on the radio. This negates one of the advantages of satellite radio - that you can drive across country listening to the same station - since we have to keep looking for an unused channel as we drive from one urban area to another. I'd love to get rid of the whole mess, and have a hard-wired satellite radio receiver. AND, ever since I saw my sister Nancy plug her MP3 player into the front of her car radio so we could listen to her hand-picked selections... I wanted THAT, too!
Well, it's on the way. We paid a visit to Paradyme Sound and Vision, and have Friday scheduled as the day they will solve our TV problems and replace our old radio with a new one. We're getting all-new technology, including a built-in satellite receiver, a slot for a CD, and a USB port to plug in (and charge up) our MP3 players, and a remote. Yippee!
This last photo is of me and Gypsy (Marty). I began reading her blog, On the Road Again, a couple of months ago, when she was staying here at Cal-Expo. I liked her liberal views and adventurous spirit, and was sorry that she left Cal-Expo two days before we arrived.
Marty was back in town today and dropped by for an afternoon visit. I'm so sorry we didn't get to spend more time together... I have a feeling we could be good friends. Let's hope our paths can cross again.
Now, about those sunglasses: I am having a cataract removed tomorrow. In between mattress research and dealing with our electronics challenges, I've visited the lab (electrolyte check now required before surgery), our doctor (EKG now required before surgery), and the eye surgeon. One of the many items I received from him was an oversized pair of dark, very protective sunglasses. Since it was too windy today to wear a brimmed hat, and since my usual sunglasses are less than optimal, I wore the goggle-eyes. Jeez, those things are HUGE!
I'm not likely to post to the blog for a couple of days while I recover. Later!
at 1:30 PM
Friday, April 10, 2009
I need a new hobby.
It has to replace my current hobby: the world of food. Touching, sniffing, admiring, preparing, and discussing food. Sampling regional specialities. Visiting farmer's markets and coming home with the artisan cheese, the grass-fed beef. And then eating it.
Or maybe I just need to grow some willpower. But I have to do SOMETHING because I will NOT buy larger pants!
I've fought the battle of the bulging waistline (and hips, thighs and arms) with success - way too many times. For the past several days, sucking in my stomach to zip up my jeans, I have been pondering that problem: I know how to take it off, but I don't know how to keep it off. But I think a recent experience has provided me with a good clue.
Last week, we visited a grocery store in an upscale shopping area near Sacramento. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful - sort of a food gallery, with displays and lighting much like an art gallery. Stand back, contemplate, admire - then, fill your basket.
More than your average market, this store caters to the workers in the nearby offices and the harried parents on their way home with a huge and compelling selection of prepared foods - to be taken home, or to be heated and eaten IN the store, at bistro-style tables on a mezzanine overlooking the action. Knowing this, we went at noon, hungry, intending to buy something for lunch before doing our small shopping.
We followed our noses to the deli counter and ordered two sandwiches to be heated, toasted, melted in the wood-fired oven. I don't remember all the goodies stuffed into my sliced baguette - sort of a Mediterranean mixture with peppers, cheese, ham, totally delish - but I do remember Odel's: sliced pork tenderloin, sliced apples, and slices of Havarti cheese, all heated and melted together on a roll. And this was a GROCERY STORE!
Sandwich orders placed, we took a little wander through the area, ooohhhing and aaahhhing over all the offerings. When Odel saw Brandy Fried Chicken, his face fell - he couldn't believe he had ordered a sandwich when fried chicken was available! So he bought a piece of that, too...
You get the picture. We ordered too much, ate too much - and enjoyed ourselves, our food, and the experience immensely.
And that's the problem. As we left the store (at least the theory of eating first worked - we bought only the wine we came for and a pound of asparagus), I realized that food shopping was just like going with my quilting friends into a fabric store, or with a beader to a bead shop, or with an avid reader to a bookstore: food as hobby.
Well, I either need a new hobby, or I need to be less avid!
As soon as we settled in at Cal Expo, I dug out my dieting library (Donna, I'm going to try the WW Core plan) and renewed my determination to fit comfortably into my current wardrobe once again. I alerted Odel and, this time, did something very different: instead of talking him into dieting - oops, I mean changing his eating lifestyle - I told him he was on his own.
It is SO MUCH easier to moderate my menus if I only have to please my own palate, so this time, Odel gets a pass. If he wants some of my vegies to accompany his Marie Callendar's Chicken Pot Pie, or some of my tossed salad alongside his KFC, I'll make enough for two. :)
I kicked it off with an energy-packed breakfast yesterday morning: an Eggbeaters omelet with red pepper, spinach, a little parmesan cheese, and Gimme Lean (soy) sausage (see photos above).
And here is Odel's breakfast: a diet cola and a bratwurst sandwich!
at 8:28 PM
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
We're back at Cal Expo RV Park (read our review from May 2008 here), a large and unattractive RV park hidden at the back of the California state fairgrounds in the middle of Sacramento. That's us, right there in the center, shoe-horned into our tight site.
We have stayed here twice a year since we left Sacramento 6 years ago and only one thing has changed: the price has gone up. For full hookups (50 amp), we pay $550 a month - no cable TV, no "resort" amenities... even the laundry room is inadequate!
So, why are we here? For us, it is all about location. We come to Sacramento to visit family, friends and our established doctors and dentists and, for a prolonged stay, Cal Expo is the best alternative for us. From here, we can walk to the grocery store, our credit union, movie theatres, two large bookstores, restaurants and a big shopping mall. We are steps from the American River Parkway and biking/walking trail with unlimited exercise opportunities. When one of us takes the car to head off for an appointment, the other can use footpower for entertainment or errands.
The challenge at Cal Expo is to find a site that is bearable for a month and we've tried many, many different sites during our stays, looking for one that suits. Because we want 50 amp electrical power, we stay in the "back lot", a much more level alternative to the paved, but very sloped, front lot.
The night lighting here is what I would expect to find in a prison yard - brighter than a sunny day. With careful selection, it is sometimes possible to avoid a gazillion lumens beaming onto your pillow at night - but of course we park in daylight, when the security lighting isn't on. Consequently, we usually park on "the slab", the concrete foundation slab of a long-gone warehouse building, where the nightlighting is slightly muted. The slab has the added benefit of being a bit cleaner - as you can see in this photo of our "view", most of the parking in the back lot is on dusty (or muddy) gravel.
After we set up yesterday, we got busy. We headed to the bike trail for a long walk, then veered over to Long's Drugs (a few blocks off the bike trail) to get a prescription filled. A Quest Lab is near Long's, so we stopped in to have blood drawn for minor blood tests. A couple blocks away, we visited my good friend Pat, at work in her office. Back on the trail, we were soon home with two chores crossed off our list, our exercise done, and smiles on our faces. Location, location, location!
at 8:39 AM
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Al of the "Bayfield Bunch" recently asked a few questions about our blog - specifically, how to "stretch" the blog to utilize the entire screen instead of the middle two-thirds as is common with most Blogger blogs. He is working on a beautiful redesign of Travel with the Bayfield Bunch, and when he mentioned to his readers that I had provided some useful information, several readers asked me the same question: How do you expand the width of your blog?
I use one of Bloggers canned "stretch" templates, two column templates where the "blog post" column is stretched across the width of two columns. I use Minima Lefty Stretch for Semi-True Tales (narrow column on the left), and I use Minima Stretch for We Called It Home (narrow column on the right), our blog of campground reviews. Fonts and colors of both blogs have been customized to complement each other.
Here is my advice if you are thinking of switching (double click on the screen shots to enlarge them; use the back arrow to return here):
First, go to "Layout", then pick "Edit HTML". If you haven't saved your current blog template recently (or ever), pick "Download Full Template".
This will save your current template as a file on your own computer, so you can upload it easily if you make any boo-boos when checking out new templates (I learned this through EXPERIENCE - ouch!).
Then, go to "Pick New Template'. Scroll around to find any of the templates with "stretch" in the name.
Click the radio button for one of the stretch templates, then click "preview template" (under the radio buttons). You will get a little preview of how your blog would look if you made the change.
Making the change itself is very simple, BUT you lose any customizing your have done - colors, fonts, etc. All your posts will be there, and all of your "widgets", I am fairly certain. If you have added any special bits of HTML code to your current template or widgets (for instance, I like my recipes to open in new windows, so I have added a bit of html for that), you might lose that. It is a change most easily made before you have done a lot of customizing to your blog - but it is always fun to try new "looks" for your blog.
By the way, I have the Geeks on Tour to thank for teaching me the very simple way to capture screens shots using Picasa: with Picassa open, use the PrtScrn button to automatically capture and save screenshots as "photos" in Picassa in their own special Screen Captures folder. SO easy. If you haven't already signed up for their free newsletter, think about it - I learn new things everytime the newsletter arrives in my mailbox, especially about Picassa.
at 10:52 AM
Saturday, April 4, 2009
After a windy (but short) drive on Wednesday, we settled into our favorite site at the Placerville Elks Lodge - which is actually located in Shingle Springs, California, about 5 miles from my parents' house. Only one other rig was here, so we snagged the site next to Luna's favorite rock, in the little garden between Scoopy and Jules.
Then we headed to my parents' house to visit with them and await the arrival of my sister Nancy and Auntie Carol, the Carol of Paws and Hooves Ranch, in Sunizona, Arizona. She is here visiting her brother (my dad). It was a fun, mini-family reunion.
Then it was time to tackle the mail.
One of the questions most frequently asked about full-timing is: "How do you get your mail?" Most full-timers use a mail forwarding service; of these, the two most well-known are the Escapees Mail Service in Livingston, TX (part of the Escapees RV Club) and Alternative Resources in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In general, your choice of mail service depends on your choice of "domicile state" - the state that you choose to call home as a fulltimer. We chose South Dakota as our domicile state. We register our vehicles there, have SD drivers licenses, and use Alternative Resources as our mail forwarding service.
We try to have Alternative Resources forward our mail to us a couple of times a month, but that doesn't always fit our travel plans. Because we didn't know our specific itinerary between leaving Arizona and arriving in Sacramento, we didn't receive our mail for at least a month. Approaching Sacramento, we instructed Alternative Resources to forward our mail to my parents' address. We asked the Escapees Mail Service, the forwarding service for the Boomers (we handle the Boomer mail as volunteer Membership Coordinators), to send the month's accumulation of Boomer mail along, too.
We also placed several online orders for various goodies, and directed the packages to my parents' house: new lacings for my LaFuma lounge chair, a birthday present for Odel from his daughter, an order of Teavana tea, and some glow-in-the dark tape for my hoop. We had a heap of packages when we arrived to visit my parents.
Odel immediately opened his gift (a beautiful new golf club) and I checked on the orders - the fun stuff. That left our personal mail and the Boomer mail, two fat packages that represent NO fun!
When we lived in our house, getting home mail delivery was usually somewhat fun, a combination of (too much) junk mail, (too many) glossy catalogs, monthly magazines, bills, and maybe a card or postcard or some other bit of personal snail mail. Bills came in small numbers on any given day.
On Wednesday, our personal mail package included three bank statements to be balanced, two credit card bills to be checked, half a dozen medical billing statements from Medicare and Blue Cross (none of which we can figure out), the sickening statements for our investment accounts, half a dozen envelopes marked "Important Tax Information Enclosed" and a few RV club magazines.
With all the junk mail and catalogs tossed by Alternative Resources (a good thing!), the distilled essence of a month's worth of snail mail is an unhappy prospect, and I expect to spend the rest of today balancing accounts and tackling our 2008 taxes. A month's worth of Boomer mail (new memberships, renewals, checks to be deposited... even some cash!) took most of Thursday to process.
It's far better to get the mail forwarded weekly, or twice a month, which we will do for the next month while we stay in Sacramento. But now... into the mailbag I go.
at 8:49 AM
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Six years ago, on April 1, 2003, we drove out of our site at Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento, CA, to begin our lives as full time RV'ers. The escrow on our house closed that day, and we spent the night in Bakersfield, California, full of curiosity and questions about our new lifestyle.
Fast forward to now... and we are still learning! Just a few weeks ago, we finally learned what the Batt Boost switch on the control panel of Scoopy does (uses the "house" batteries to start the engine if the "chassis" battery is dead).
Here I am (six years younger - the aging doesn't stop) standing in Lake Superior in August of our first year of travel. Each time we see this photo, we promise ourselves that we will get back to the Great Lakes sometime soon! But that happens with so many places...
This year, we're back in the Sacramento area on the anniversary of our departure - a first. Looking back over the past years, we've celebrated in beautiful spots:
April 1, 2004: Lone Pine, CA, in the Alabama Hills at the foot of Mt. Whitney off Hwy 395.
April 1, 2005: Grand Gulf State Park, Mississippi, still one our favorite state parks.
April 1, 2006: We hiked to the top of Wasson Peak, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ.
April 1, 2007: Visiting Odel's family in Memphis, Tennessee - ummmmm, BBQ!
April 1, 2008: LBJ Municipal Park, Fredericksburg, TX, with our friends Buddy and Jackie.
Parked three sites from us here at the Lodi Elks is a couple who have been full timing for 17 years (or was it 18?). They love it and have no plans to stop unless/until health changes preclude travel. Hooray for them - maybe we'll be there one of these years.
at 8:13 AM