Monday, August 29, 2011

Road Prep: Learning to Grill

It's here!  My Coleman Go-Anywhere Gas Grill. 

It all folds up into a portable, light-weight, managable size.  It will never look this pristine again.  Good!

We used it last night to make cheeseburgers and it was a very simple operation - just what I'm looking for.

John does all the grilling in the family and his favorite medium is charcoal. I think the propane option makes more sense on the road though because there is no need to haul around charcoal and lighter fluid. The quick set-up, start-up, and take-down also appeals to me. 




I'll continue to practice over the next few months.  I'll use it for simple meals on the road -a grilled entree alongside a grilled vegetable should do nicely weather permitting.  Add the right wine, a hunk of bread, and that certain appetite that only the outdoors provides.  Contentment ensues.    

The results were tasty but I'm eager to practice some more.

Dissertation update:  the whole enchilada is with the formatter who I will gladly pay to get it right much faster than I ever could.  After one more review, it goes to the graduate school.  Then to an outside reader.  More edits.  Then, the ultimate prize - a defense date! 

I'll close with this head shot of Doris the Exploress.

A rear view only a mother could love!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Memory Lane

Well, since I'm not traveling now - unless you count looking for a parking space at work - I thought I'd share some old photos.  These pics chronicle my journey from tent camping to RV trips to car/hotel travel.

At this point in my evolution, I want to hike, birdwatch, stargaze, sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, and drink my own wine.  That's not too much to ask is it?       

Land Between the Lakes, KY - en route to Minot, ND 
This was the trip of a lifetime!  I tent camped my way from AL to ND (and back) in order to meet up with my old chum - Sharon.  She and I became friends in first grade.  The best we can figure, since I don't remember not knowing her, is that we were in alphabetical order and she sat directly behind me.  We also lived right down the street from each other. 

Sharon and I lost touch when my dad retired from the Air Force in 1969.  But we found each other online in 2001 (32 years later!) and met up in Minot to spend 3 days touring our old neighborhood on base.  We had a blast!   And laughed just as much as ever - maybe more than in 2nd grade.  Only this time, instead of milk, she made beer come outta my nose!

Just a few weeks after our trip was over, 9/11 happened.  I'm so grateful we were able to revisit the base when we did.  We wouldn't have gotten another chance to do so for years to come, as it turned out. 

Desoto State Park, AL - Mother's Day 2002

Same tent as in the previous photo.  I still have that 8x8 Coleman - a great little shelter.  You can see John peeking out from behind it.  I wonder what he was cooking? 

Lakepoint State Park, AL - Summer 2002

This was a trip we took with my brother-in-law Vic and niece Lily.  The boys slept in the tent.  See Sparkle and Ellie in the middle looking for truffles.  They've been gone for 4 years now.  We sure miss 'em!

Leaaving for Lake Martin, AL - date unknown.  Judging by the foilage, I'd say it was Fall. 
Winter camping en la casita - Cheaha State Park

That's me after scarfing down a breakfast of pancakes and bacon.  Pure happiness!

(Sorry about the picture quality.  All of these were taken before I joined the digital revolution).

In 2003, it was back to the solo car-and-hotel mode of travel.  Hotels have their advantages, but lugging one's stuff from car to room (and back again) is not one of them.

The above photo was taken at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Outer Banks, NC.  I was there in December which explains the winter coat.  And the fact that I was the only guest in the entire hotel!  

Then I worked 3 travel nurse jobs over a 3-year period that took me from CA (2004), CO (2005) and New York City (2006).   A great way to travel and really get to know a place.  In 2007, I took the faculty job and then became a student myself in 2009.  Thus my traveling days came to a sudden painful grinding halt. 

I need to fix that! 


Blogger Update Issues

New posts from blogs I follow aren't showing up.

Is anyone else having this problem? 

I haven't had a single comment since the problem started a few days ago. 

Bad Blogger!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why a Casita: Part 2

One afternoon, DH and I were RV shopping.  We looked at Class A diesel pushers and a teardrop.  And everything in between.  As we were driving home, I asked John “Why can’t I stop thinking about Casitas?”  He replied, “Because that’s what you really want”. 

Wise man.   

And a GREAT cook !!!

Following are some additional reasons why a Casita is what I really wanted after all. 

As I’ve stated before, Casitas hold their values for good reason.  Many satisfied owners will tell you these are well-built trailers.  If you’ve never seen one in person, check out how good the fit and finish can be in a quality-built trailer.  The fiberglass shell eliminates leaks, rot, and rust.  The longevity factor is important to me and, should it become unimportant, resale value is good (for an RV anyway).

Customer Service
The family-owned factory has been in business for 28 years and they seem to really like their customers.  For example, when you call, a real person answers the phone.  I’d forgotten what that is like!  I also like earning $200 every time someone views my trailer and buys a new one.  That only happened to me once, but I plan to be more aggressive about referrals when I get my 2012.  I'm sure I can “sell” quite a few during football season.     

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Auburn VS Georgia, 2010.  We won that one.  And all the others. 

Casitas are reasonably priced.  The pricetag ($14K for the smallest unit) is higher than conventional trailers of comparable size but much less than, say, the smallest Airstream.  Casita Enterprises is able to keep costs reasonable by eschewing a dealer network and declining to customize the units (two factors that turn some prospective buyers away).   

There are tradeoffs with everything in life but the Casita seems to do most things well.  It’s good for camping with hookups, without hookups, or just plain road-tripping i.e. getting to a destination quickly.  I like the idea of unhitching and exploring an area in a car but also the idea of not unhitching and over-nighting in a parking lot.  

The Casita-owner network is impressive.  There are 2 very active Casita forums and yet another for all brands of fiberglass trailers (see below if you are interested).  I can post a question and, before the hour is up, have several responses. While certainly not a major factor in my decision to buy, I like knowing I’m never going to work without a net.

These trailers aren’t for everyone.  The single biggest drawback for most people is the small size.  The difference between feeling claustrophobic and snug.    

Here's some links:

Casita Forum         Casita Club         Fiberglassrv

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Big Developments

Events are gathering momentum.    

Classes resumed today.  I am teaching 3 this fall.  My big class of 51 met at 8 AM and it went flawlessly.  These are the days when all the hard work and preparation pay off.  And you feel it might even be worth it.  Of course, it helps that I have the best students in the world!       

As some of you know, I’ve been working for over a year (15 months to be exact) on this dissertation – it’s become the biggest thing in my life.  Like a 35 pound tumor. 

Today I handed the entire mass over to my 2 other committee members and now must await their feedback.  I expect to get their recommended changes back within 2 weeks.  

The biggest news may be that I turned the whole tumor over to the formatter who will get a draft ready to send to the Graduate School after final approval by my chair.  That’s a big step (among many little steps).  I don't think I've ever enjoyed hitting "send" more.    

I’m elated.  I can literally breathe easier today.  I feel my lungs expanding and a decreased airway resistance.  Good stuff.  Can this be the beginning of the beginning of the end?  Much remains to be done but I AM closer!

Thanks for letting me share.  I truly appreciate the support I receive from you all!   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why a Casita: Part 1

Who knew?  I’m a bit surprised that others, like me, enjoy hearing about the decision-making that determines an RV choice.  So, upon request, I’ll list my reasons for choosing a Casita. 

Frankly, I’ve been reluctant to do so before now because I don‘t want to imply that my choice is the best choice and that anyone who doesn’t want a small fiberglass trailer is either uninformed or misguided in some way.  I support both intellectual diversity and recreational vehicle diversity!

Size - Weight - Appearance

The Casita has a sleek, compact exterior design at only 17’ long, 8’11” tall and 6’8” wide.  The relatively narrow width eliminates the need for side extension mirrors.  These dimensions also mean that the trailer can go where most others cannot.  It also means that the trailer is about as maneuverable as a towable can be.  I also love the shiny eggshell and the minimalist exterior graphics.  And, yes, I must use the “c-word”.................................

CUTE !!!!!
The trailer is small enough for one but large enough for two.  Though the living area is only 7'x14’, the interior is well-designed with no wasted space.  I will be traveling alone mostly but on occasion (at least I hope) my husband will come along.  And, of course, Doris the Exploress. 

The small package has everything I need: kitchen, dining room, bath, permanent bed.  I’m a minimalist and have always enjoyed the challenge of traveling light.  I’m pretty good at it.  Our previous Casita was a 16-footer and we never maxed out the storage space. 

Speaking of small packages ...

 The published dry weight for this model is 2,480 pounds.  Owners of the 17’ models report typical loaded weights of 3,200 pounds.  This relatively light weight translates to better mileage both because 1) the tow vehicle engine can be smaller and thus more fuel efficient and 2) there is just less weight to pull.  Many owners come to Casitas because they want something that their existing everyday driver can pull with ease.    

The interior design also appeals to me with sleek, clean lines and surfaces that beg to remain clutter-free.  But if one should choose to spiff up the d├ęcor, the interior is a blank canvas on which to do so.  The trailers are unique inside and out and they don’t look like anything else on the road.   Although that particular trait could be a double-edged sword if you get too many curious visitors when you’re not in loner mode and not in the mood to entertain.          

I’ll post some more reasons for living la Casita vida in the next installment.     

[Update 2015: years after posting this, it's obvious I did not get a Casita. I found the lean mean road machine of my dreams and decided I would rather not tow after all. However, I stand by my admiring assessment of these wonderful fiberglass eggs.]


Thursday, August 11, 2011

New or Used?

New blog follower “patticake2” asks a good question in the comments section after my last post.  She wanted to know: why buy a new rig as opposed to a used one?  It’s a great question - one of the first that all potential RV owners must answer. 

The pros and cons of new and used units are varied (and well-documented elsewhere).  But the very best reason to buy an RV someone else already paid full-price for is to get the depreciation discount.  Another good reason, perhaps overlooked, is that reusing an already existing rig is more environmentally conscious.  You know - reduce, reuse, recycle.  Those are about the only rationales I can think of to buy used.  I mean, if cost and conscience weren’t issues, wouldn’t we all buy all-new everything?  With the possible exception of antiques and wine?      

 Here's a list of my reasons for buying new. 

1)      I deserve it.  Well, that looks like an arrogant statement on paper and … I guess it is!  But I’m just being honest.  I’m 53 years old and finally realizing (i.e. really understanding) how very short this life is.  Like many, I’ve worked, lived frugally, and saved aggressively.  I’m thinking it’s time to reap a few benefits.  I want to avoid the error of eating generic oatmeal three times a day while leaving behind a hefty portfolio.  Because I am exactly the kind of person who would do something like that.        

2)      New car smell!  My former Casita was 4 years old at the time of purchase and it was a great rig but …. I look forward to sleeping on cushions that no one else has slept on and using the plumbing that no one ….. well, you know.

Our 1998 16 ft. Casita Spirit Deluxe

3)      Warranties.  We usually shop used – homes, clothes, cars.  Every wonderful 4-legged family member we’ve had over the years was a recycle.  But I want my first couple of years with the rig to be, if not trouble-free, then repair cost-free.    

4)      Casitas hold their value.  The manufacturer states that their fiberglass trailers depreciate, on average, at the rate of $500/year.  The used market prices support that assertion. So I can save 2K by getting a used 2008 as opposed to a new 2012 - not much of a savings.  I hope to use it for the next 10 years.  Then I'll retire and maybe get a bigger rig.  If that depreciation rule-of-thumb is accurate, I can sell the Casita after a decade of ownership for $5,000 less than I paid new.  Not bad. 

5)      Reason #4 notwithstanding, what I really hope is that I will use the trailer on into retirement.  If one amortorizes the original cost over say, 20 years, the expense of buying new is further mitigated.  This trailer will outlive me.     

6)      I get the trailer I want when I want.  I was able to order the floor plan and options that were important to me.  I was also able to make a few special requests – no exterior graphics, no towel bars in the bathroom, no spice rack in the kitchen.  Casita just started offering the under-cabinet mounted TV/DVD player (which I may never use).  It’s pretty spiff.   I won’t be able to pick the trailer up till mid-December and I know it will be ready when I am.  All shiny and everything!

7)      The pilgrimage to the Casita factory in Rice, Texas.  Thousands of owners have made the trek to this place that’s located on the outside of nowhere to pick up their new eggs.  It’s an adventure!  You get to: tour the factory, receive an in-depth orientation from the technician, eat at the legendary Collins Street bakery, and spend a couple of nights at American RV Park for a shake-down with the guidance of the Casita-savvy campground owners.  It’s a tradition that just sounds like a lot of fun.  And a good excuse for a road trip! 

 Speaking of which: rvsue and her canine crew are on the eve of their departure for Rice.  She has been planning this leap into full-timing for years.  If you appreciate funny and engaging blogs, go there immediately!!!   

Saturday, August 6, 2011

More Waiting

And waiting and waiting and waiting and ….  

continuing to window shop for a tow vehicle.  Last weekend DH and I looked at the offerings from Nissan and I was impressed with several they had on the used side of the lot – the Xterra, Frontier, and Pathfinder.  They also had several other makes & models that look promising.  I don’t think it will be difficult to find a good used one for the right price when I am ready – October, November-ish.

I’m also stocking up on necessities – slow but sure.  Last weekend I bought 2 wine glasses I found at Third World Market.  Acrylic!  Hey, you wine snobs - never say never!  These seem to be really good quality and when you set them side by side with the nice Riedels, they are indistinguishable.  Problem solved.  Other things on my list - wheel chocks, leveling blocks, and a water filter. 

Soon I will be buying a propane grill in time to learn how to use it.  We use charcoal at home but a gas grill makes more sense on the road and eliminates 1) the mess of used charcoal 2) the need to carry a heavy bag and starter fluid.  And it’s instant fire and a quick(er) stow-away after use. 
The critically-acclaimed Weber Baby Q 100

I’ve also decided a GPS is in order.  So that will be my next research project.  The Trailer Life Directory that I blogged about recently has campground coordinates and that beats the heck out of street addresses doesn’t it?  One of the most frustrating things about solo travel is pulling off on the side of the road, re-orienting the road map, and trying to figure out how you missed that turn.  If you have a favorite GPS unit, I'd love to hear about it!      

We have a brief semester break which I am enjoying every fleeting moment of.  My dissertation is somewhere in Alaska! It’s being reviewed by my committee chair who is vacationing up there.  It hurts when your research goes on a great trip while you remain home waiting on it to return! 

I’m sure all this planning-stage stuff makes for humdrum reading.  Bear with me!  I’m told December will be here soon!