Thursday, September 27, 2012

Turkey and Swiss on Rye, Oh My!

Eventually I will stop writing about the Microgrill.  But I've seen so much interest expressed, I though I would share this .............. 

John usually makes our grilled sandwiches on a stovetop cast-iron grill pan.  This new way is quicker and doesn't heat up the kitchen.  And the microgrill is way easier to clean tha the heavy cast-iron.  Another bonus is that it crisps up the crust as well.   I tell you, this was one crunchy samich!

Here's how: Butter one side of each bread slice.  Spread mayo on the other other side.  Layer one side with turkey and cheese.  Put together. 

Spray a little oil on the bottom of the grill pan.  Place in microgrill (always cook with the cover on), cook x 2-3 minutes.  Turn sandwich over and cook another minute. 

A great tip I picked up from the cooking forum at rvnet is to "pre-heat" the empty microgrill in the microwave for a couple of minutes.  It really makes those grill marks appear. 

We are converts.  I'm going to stop at the next Camping World I come across to see if I can pick up another for a good price - one for home and one for the RV.  I didn't envision that we would use it so much at home. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Trip Prep, More Microgrill

Getting Ready to Go

This week, I'm trying to get some household stuff done so I can blast-off next week.  The chores are pretty low-key: get new tires for the Beetle, do laundry, oil the dog ....  Also doing some low-grade mods for the Good Deal Bus and learning, learning, learning.  I spent a lot of the afternoon exploring Google Earth. I learned how to enter coordinates in my GPS.

And I'm thinking about what clothing to take, possible menus, routes, and trip supplies.  I was pleased that on the shake-down cruise last week, I needed everything I had and had everything I needed!    The only exception is my very charming Coleman Lantern, which I am oddly attached to more than I can explain. 

Must find room! 

I love entering destinations into my GPS!

A humble first mod.  I covered all but the back windows with Reflectix.  There is a notable difference, of course, in the interior temps while the GDB is parked. 

Moth balls wrapped in panty hose.  Effective mouse repellent or desperate act? 

First sign of autumn?

I also made plans to attend the Roatrek tech rally the first week of November.  This will be a new experience x 2.  I've never participated in a rally nor have I stayed at a private campground.  I hope to learn a lot. 

                                             More on the Microgrill

I was concerned it may not fit in the bus's 0.7 cubic ft. microwave.  But it does!  

Menu: Bone-in center-cut pork chops, green tomato casserole, and garlic nan.   

The preliminary results are in.  This is without question a practical piece of equipment for any RV kitchen equipped with a microwave.  Whether carnivore or vegetarian .... the Microgrill will provide.  It's simple to use, quick, and should I say it? .......... clean-up is a snap!

John, an inventive home cook and charcoal grilling purist, sums it up well: the Microgrill is the next best thing to outdoor grilling. 




Season with Lemon Pepper, microwave 3 minutes per side.  Sizzling, hot, juicy, cooked perfectly.  The grill marks are a bonus! 

If you are accustomed to a gas grill, you won't miss the absence of smoky flavor.  But we do.  So next week we plan to try experiment with chicken using Liquid Smoke. 

BTW, since I had the camera cocked, here is the Green Tomato Casserole.  It's an unusual dish and we love it! 

(Note: recipe posted under Jerry's comment).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Product Review and Travel Plans

Microhearth TM

Have anybody used this?

I recently read about the Microhearth Grill on a Roadtrek discussion board.  It’s a product that sounds just the thing for a solo traveler who's both lazy and hungry. 

I haven’t bought a kitchen gadget since some long-ago Mother’s Day.  John and I find the basic cooking implements are all we need.  Judging by the number of our kitchen tools, it would appear as though we seldom cook.  
Like most gadgets, this one sounded too good to be true.  Throw a steak in the pan, zap it, and in 4 - 5 minutes, it comes out juicy and sizzling.  Yeah, right. 

But I was intrigued.  And the more product reviews I read, the more convinced I became that this “microwave grill” might be worth the $42 outlay.  So I ordered one last week and it arrived today and we tested it tonight.   For dinner, John made trout amandine with garden fresh English peas on the side.  Rounded out by some warm garlic bread and a chilly Chardonnay.

To test the Mircrohearth, he sliced potatoes into wedges, tossed with oil, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cooked x 4 minutes on one side, turned the potatoes, and cooked for another 3 minutes.   After removing the cover and admiring the grill marks, he topped them with shredded Monterey Jack and bacon bits.  Mmmmm.  Mmmmm!


So the first experiment was a success!  This might be just the thing for a quick, tasty meal-on-wheels.  Tomorrow night, we’ll attempt center-cut chops.    

Travel Planning

After consulting with our good friend Liz, who lives in Laramie, Wyoming, I’ve decided not to venture that far north in mid-October.  She assures me that a 4WD vehicle is in order and there will be a constant vigilance for snow on the high mountain passes.  I have a feeling that someone is eventually going to recommend snow chains.  Time to reconsider.  I’m not into hazardous driving. 

So, at Liz’s suggestion, I decided to go in May.  Bonus: Liz wants to accompany me to Devil’s Tower!  Yay!  I know we’ll have a blast. 

I’ll stick with my original plan for a family visit mixed in with some state parks stays.  This is probably a much better plan for the moment as I’m still getting to know the Good Deal Bus. 

I’m also thinking about a Roadtrek tech rally in Florida the first week of November.  This would allow a visit to the Cape Canaveral National Seashore.  It will be a nice time of year to be there.  Few people.  Lotsa birds. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where Next?

Calendar white space! 

I've got the rig.  I’ve got the time.  Nothing pressing here.   


What are you doing now

I feel loopy, dizzy, liberated.  Frankly, after so many years of structured living, I don’t quite trust this.  My life feels like a dream these days.  But I want to give in to it and not ask questions.  Who knows when it will come again?   

I can quite literally grab my laptop, extra socks, and just ..... go.  The GDB has 1/2 tank of gas, GPS, maps, binoculars, birding books, travel books, and a campground guide.  I can buy Cheetos anywhere!      
Wal-Mart Locations. 
I’d like to do one big road trip before heading for the desert SW after the high holidays.  There is no scarcity of worthy destinations nearby, but I’m ready to take a vacation from the Southeast. 

Probably the best choice this time of year, in many respects, is the Eastern Seaboard.  There are many places I am keen to visit.  And lobsters I want to consume.  There are 3 states in the east whose borders I’ve never crossed by land – Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware.  (Reminds me, I’m re-reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and his description of the Delaware Water Gap in PA reads like a meal you can’t wait to taste).  Yet …..  I feel the need for some wide-open space.  You know - Big Sky stuff.   

Some prairie land feels like the solution. 

I wonder what the Badlands are like in early October? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Maiden Voyage

Well, I learned a lot. 

Lesson One: I got the right rig for my purposes.  The Good Deal Bus - I love driving it and I love living in it!  It’s the minimalist self-contained raging roadtrip machine I’ve wanted for so long.

Wednesday September 19th

Took my time leaving home as it was only an 80-mile drive to FDR State Park in Pine Mountain, GA.  My trusty Garmin took me along the pleasing back roads under clear skies and temps in the low 80’s.  I had a full fridge, empty holding tanks, and a song in my heart.  Well, on the Sirius Sinatra station anyway. 

Stopped for lunch at McD’s in Valley, AL and indulged my love for their fish filet samich.  What does it say about me that I was so content sitting in a homely strip mall parking lot happily chomping away on a Value Meal? 

Moved on to Warm Springs, GA and toured The Little White House – FDR’s modest 3 room cottage in the woods.  For those of you who’ve never been …. go and stop.  This was my 3rd trip and I return because it is one of the most evocative historical sites I’ve ever seen.  The piney seclusion and serenity cover you like a blanket (which must be one reason FDR loved it so). 
I like to stroll through the hushed house alone.  Nothing has changed since the April day in 1945 when FDR suffered a stroke while sitting for a portrait. 
One can almost see the indentation left behind in his small twin bed.  It’s hard to describe the sense of both the man and the time that one gets just being there.  The museum is full of personal treasures and historic documents.  There are cases filled with carved canes that people painstakingly fashioned and sent to FDR. 

Midafternoon, I checked into the rustic office of the FDRState Park.  I have done several overnight backpacking trips here along the 23-mile mountaintop trail but had yet to stay in or even see the campground.  Electric + water = $33.  A bit steep, but worth it because the grounds and the trail are so well maintained.  The campground is quite beautiful. 

Now, I have to tell you, I wasn’t as concerned with my untested technical RV-type skills as I was about the ambience of the campground.  I’ve never had very good luck with established campgrounds – state, national, or COE.  I could sustain an entire blog about my bad experiences. 

My arrival usually coincides with Take-Your-Toddler-Camping Month or the Annual Backwoodsmen’s Inbreeding Seminar.  But not this time.  I got lucky!  I had neighbors several campsites away on either side, but the quiet retiring (and retired) kind.  In fact, I was by far the noisiest resident only because my hair-trigger smoke alarm kept doing its thing. 

It was the ideal setting for a solo shake-down!  Using my evolving backing-up skills, I smugly parked it in Site #302.

It took maybe 10 minutes to hook-up and get the house ready.  Impressive!  Imagine how quickly I could do it if I knew what I was doing.  I fired up the gale-force air conditioner (I think Boeing makes this particular model) only because it was a touch stuffy inside.  The outside weather was ideal - like the first day of autumn come a few days early with a dry sunny-ness and temps in the mid-70’s. 

Campsite backing up to the creek and Delano trail

I had my minimalist camp set up equally quickly followed by Happy Hour which I spent lounging in my tenderfoot equipment.  (You may remember from previous posts that little of my existing camp supplies fit in the Roadtrek so I had to re-outfit; hence, everything was new.  Not the cocktail shaker though).  My shiny chair and table screamed GREENHORN!  Not that I cared.

As the neighbors grilled and enjoyed their campfires, I zapped a delicious Stouffer’s Tuna and Noodle dinner which I served myself with a glass of chilled (!) Pinot Grigio.  Heaven!   I brought along my gas grill along but planned to keep it simple this first trip.  I knew I would stay busy testing all the systems and (re)reading the library of manuals. 

Everything worked!  I’m always surprised when that happens.  By nature and experience, I’m deeply suspicious of sophisticated electronics and I expected multiple glitches.  The only exception, without-a-hitchwise, was the DVD player door wouldn’t open.  O Pioneers! 

I can only guess that the fold-out coach/bed must be comfortable because I slept till 8:45 AM!  It’s hard to determine what time of day or night it is with all the shades drawn.  Like I said …. the perfect rig for me.

                                      Thursday September 20th

After a bowl of cereal, I made a too-weak cup of coffee (even my Melitta Drip apparatus is new) but it was still delish in that satisfying camp-coffee way.  I was able to set off the smoke alarm again in the process.  It goes off for steam.  Really?  I made a better brew on the second cup.  As I say, I learned a lot.    

After breakfast, I went on the briefest of hikes – maybe 40 minutes total.  The creekside Delano Trail trailhead was located right outside my door and basically loops around the side of the hilltop campground. 

Fire ring, creek, and trail from the window

My hiking muscles are in disrepair and it was more humid than I expected.  But the woods were sun-infused, but still lovely and deep.  And I was the only person I ran into on the trail.  I must admit I was distracted by the knowledge that the tasks of unhooking and dumping lay ahead.  Not concerned really, just trying to remember the how-tos.    

But those issues were not issues at all.  I’m learning how to manage the stubborn outside storage doors and the macerator hose that resists confinement. 

The whole experience was wonderful and the trip home was pure fun.  The Good Deal Bus really is a delight to drive – in town, winding back roads, downhill, uphill, interstate.  And it's comfortable in a way that a car just is not.  I didn’t really expect that.   

My next trip may start next week.  I have a cousin who lives in north Alabama I want to see.  She and I have been promising ourselves a nice long visit since about 1972.   After that, my tentative plan is to wind my way southward toward home with detours to a state park or two. 
After so many years of intense work-related focus, I feel liberated by the absence of concrete plans.  Turns out, stating "my next trip may start ...." is not a sign of weakness.  I’m developing an aversion to commitment that I consider healthy and long overdue.  

At any rate, I can’t wait to get back on the road! 

P.S. some of you have requested more interior photos so check out The Good Deal Bus link up top.  I'll post them there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weather Not Permitting

I was leaving for my shake-down trip to Pine Mountain, GA either today or tomorrow. 

Not so fast ....

Thunderstorm84 °F
100% chance of precipitation

Thunderstorm 68 °F
100% chance of precipitation

Thunderstorm77 | 61 °F
100% chance of precipitation
Can't argue with 100% 
Wednesday looks promising!
Partly Cloudy75 | 55 °F
Partly Cloudy
That's OK, I've waited 9 months I can wait a few days more.  And we need the rain.
I know everyone has probably seen this, but .... c'mon, it's just so FUNNY! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day Trip

I'm hoping the weather will permit a brief shake-down cruise next week.  And some good hiking.

Yesterday we traveled to Dothan, AL for some family business and also a stop at Camping World. 

John drove

Yeah, Baby!

Our first meal in the bus.  We stopped for lunch at Sonic.  Because we no longer fit under the overhang, we parked in a vacant lot next door.  While John fetched the food, I cranked up the generator and the A/C.  Heaven! 

Is he thinking about golf or another hot dog?

This CW is one of the large ones with probably 20 RVs for sale inside.  The store is extensive as well.  I didn't get quite the level of help I wanted (the first employee who was helping me turned out to be the bookeeper!  The second employee had just started on Monday - I had to show him where the electrical section was).  But I think I got all of what I came for. 

An teeny tiny table - not much bigger than a coaster but it will fit nicely in the bus, water filter, surge protector, voltage meter, and a 30/15 adapter.  Next we went to the dump station where a nice young man let me know that I was managing my waste correctly. 

And, I don't want to brag or anything, but I'm now a member of the Good Sam Club.  But please .... treat me as you would anyone else. 

It felt odd just shopping in the store and not scrambling in and out of all the RV models because ...... now I don't have to!!!

So it was a successful trip.  The Good Deal Bus is a comfortable roadtrip vehicle for sure!

I discovered that my camera battery was low so I charged it going down the road. The convenience of that thrilled me no end.  That experience brought up an inverter question which was answered by the incredibly helpful Yahoo Roadtrek discussion group. 

The only sour note: the built-in TomTom was a navigational nightmare.  It's way too complicated to operate and I don't think it got anything right all day!  It kept threatening to take us on unpaved roads.  I threatened right back.  It seems incapable of recalculating.  The system is very unpopular with the Roadtrek crowd.  Not a problem - I'll just bring along my trusty Garmin on the road.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I’ve been outfitting the Good Deal Bus in fits and starts.  The weather is uncooperative; with humidity in the 70 – 80% range, it’s hard to be outside for more than 10 minutes.  I could plug into shore power for the AC but the nearest outlet requires an extension cord heavier and bulkier than I want to own.  I could crank up the generator but I’m trying to be considerate of the neighbors.

So you run inside, gasp for air, towel off and promise yourself you won't do that anymore.

OK .... does this count as a mod? 
A hippy-dippy sunshade!
I opted for the shoe hanger to store clothes etc … rather than the bulkier plastic storage drawers. We’ll see how well it works.  My need for drawers may supersede this simpler solution.

The bus is certainly a minimalist’s dream machine.  Like a backpack-on-wheels.  But again, that’s part of the fun! 

 I got a nice Coleman sleeping bag which I will fully unzip and use as a bed sheet/bedspread.  It has a nice soft lining.  I can get a micro fleece throw later to use for colder temps.  A towel and 2 pillowcases round out the linen collection.  I’ll use one pillowcase as a laundry hamper.

The mixing bowl will do double-duty - it has a cup-measure on the inside.  It fits perfectly in the microwave and the non-skid bottom should keep it from rattling around.

The galley is now stocked with only the most necessary kitchen items.  I’ll probably use the top shelf for food.  (It should hold all my Cheetos, gummy bears, and pecan logs).  

The 2 plates are separated by a piece of nubby shelf lining to prevent sliding.  That piece of lining can also serve as a placemat.  

Next week we’ll make the 2-hour drive to Camping World.  Where do you stand on the issue of surge protectors, voltage meters, and polarity testers?  Gary, who conducted our the walk-through, talked me out of all that.  I also need 2 backup #1 amp fuses - can't find any around town.   
After that, maybe the weather will allow a shake-down cruise and some quality hiking!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Labors

The good kind of labor.  The kind that no one pays you to do because it's fun. 

I’m trying to get acquainted with the Roadtrek in baby steps since the learning curve is mighty steep.  You all know what I’m talking about! 

Baby steps, as in trying to remember not to bang my head.

Yesterday I got a windshield screen (wrong size – I’ll return it today) and some extra fuses.  Finished lining the shelves with that great nubby stuff.  Moved the utensils into the galley.  Drove the rig to the local shopping center – picked up a tea kettle, a soup/cereal bowl, and 12 bottles of wine.  (The wine purchase was unrelated – we just needed to stock the cellar). 

The Good Deal Bus is so easy to drive around town!   It’s quite a change from the Beetle.  Of course, we parked a good distance from the store entrance.  But I tend to do that anyway.  I also played with the audio system – setting the Sirius channels, adjusting the sound etc …. 

Today the plan is to gas up, adjust the tire pressures, and finish stocking the galley.  I also need to play with the back-up camera to determine its range.  

Meanwhile I’ve been reading the library of manuals.  My head is full! 

 Happy Labor Day everyone!