Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Re-purposed Toolbox and Other Home-On-Wheels Furnishings


I wanted a new toolbox because my old one proved unsatisfactory. It was actually a fishing tackle box and it was hard to rummage around in.  My sweet mother-in-law had a hard-sided cosmetic case; you know, the one everyone had with the faux satin lining?  It's so cute and evocative, I held onto it after she died thinking I would find a purpose for it one day. 

It was a little beat-up. I cleaned it, removed the peeling and cracked lining, and replaced it with some nubby shelf-liner. 


 I used some vintage National Park stickers to decorate the exterior. 


It's satisfying to re-purpose stuff - especially an item you feel sentimental about. 

Speaking of which, here's my flea market find, a vintage stove-top percolator.  The harvest gold reminds me of the 70's and my mom in the kitchen. 

I also found this nifty hanging storage piece at Tuesday Morning.  It fits nicely over the bathroom door. Now I have a place for my remotes, Kindle, and those small items you tend to lose track of.

So I devoted a large part of this week preparing to leave on Sunday instead of leaving it all till the day before departure.  I'll be ready to go.  It's been a month since my last trip and I'm itching to go, go, go.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

All Better!

Wish I'd seen that sign before I got myself into this.

I spent yesterday here at Burton Campers in Calera, AL where I bought my Roadtrek some 8 weeks ago.

It’s a 2+ hour drive so I didn’t get there until mid-morning.  I reviewed the GDB’s list of symptoms with Lyle, the service manager.  Then they took the GDB away and I was told to wait, they would come get me if they needed me.  I felt like I had just admitted my best friend to the hospital!  It was the typical service department hang-out with faux leather couch, TV, and outdated Trailer Life magazines.  So I worked some crosswords and watched TV with the sound off.  Actually, just like a morning at home! 
Four hours later, everything was taken care of! 

Inoperable Battery switch

The solenoid (I can pronounce it but am still not exactly sure what it is) was replaced.  Lyle told me this is a $300 repair - $100 for the part plus 2 hours of labor.  However, he spoke with Roadtrek and, though my 4-year warranty doesn’t generally cover “electrical issues”, they made an exception.  I should mention that I showed up with chocolate chip muffins for the guys in the service bay. 
Cost $3, savings $300?

Leaking Galley Window 

The leak was sealed with a compound.  After testing, they determined (as I had) that the water was coming into the seam of the upper middle portion of the window.  There was some discussion about taking it to an auto glass place here at home thus saving me a trip back, but here’s hoping the fix works. 

Frozen DVD Door
Lyle pulled the DVD player out of its cabinet – not easy to do because the previous owner had it shimmed in there.  Suddenly the door is opening and closing quite nicely.  Lyle blamed the summer heat.  I hope that fixes it, but I imagine I’ll always hold my breath after watching a movie.  Note to self: ask library how much they charge patrons for DVD replacements.

Non-existent Cable Signal

The cable problem was determined to be, well, pilot error.  Turns out, there is a black button in the upper corner of one of the cabinets that must be pushed in (or is it out?) in order to get the signal.   In my defense, this is both hard to see and hard to access.   And apparently hard to mention in the owner's manual.   

I stopped at a nearby Camping World to return a few items but didn’t buy anything.  How many times do you walk out of that place with more $ than you walked in with?  I got permission to dump the tanks at their “campground” – a parking lot in the back of the building that holds about 16 rigs  But it’s free!  And has water, electric, and sewer.  Is that typical of CWs?  Make a note in case you are passing by on I-65. 
I’m no fan of macerator pumps but it emitted (among other things) a lovely purrrrr.  At least it seemed so after being unusable due of the battery issue.   

Gotta share a priceless tip I received from a member of the Yahoo Roadtrek group.  It’s impossible for one person to man the macerator pump button and see the flow out of the nozzle.  How can one know when the tanks are empty?  So I followed Judy’s advice and bought an 8” long transparent piece of 1 ¼” diameter plastic and connected it to the nozzle.  This causes the hose to set up nicely and allows me to tell whether and when stuff is coming out. 

Photo taken from the pump button - probably 10 feet away
Well, now I have a free place to stay if and when I come back to the dealer.  Next time I’ll go up the night before so I won’t feel rushed.  And make a donation to Camping World, of course. 

It was a pretty day and a nice drive home.  I’m so relieved that the GDB is all better! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Solutions and Problems

I like having 62 cu. ft. of cargo space because I prefer to travel light.  I'm pretty happy with what I've got on board and how it's arranged except that, after 2 trips, I hadn't sorted out how to store garbage beyond using a plastic shopping bag hanging on a hook. 

I've been giving it a lot of thought and shopping around and I think I finally found 2 good solutions at one of those AutoSomething stores.

A lined bag that seals during travel. 
It should be the right size for the minimal trash I produce

It has a pocket for waste bags

Open for business.

I also found a small (8" or so in diameter) vinyl pop-up receptacle for the bathroom.  It has a velcro bottom which should be perfect for travel.

At first, I planned to stow my laundry in the one closet cupboard but there is precious little room for that. Again, I gave it considerable thought, then suddenly had one of those DUH! moments.  I looked in our linen closet and found one of those canvas tote bags I never use and hung it on an over-the-door hook.  This should work both for storing dirty laundry and transporting it to and from the GDB.

Don't you just love simple solutions?

Speaking of which, I've got a laundry list of issues for the Roadtrek dealer with whom I have an appointment on Thursday.  It's about a 2-hour drive one-way but the weather should be nice.  The serviceman keeps telling me I might have to leave the bus and I keep telling him I can't.  How would I get home?  I'll be prepared to camp out if needed. 

I'm resigned that it may take more than one trip but I want to get a start on these (hopefully minor) problems.  I've already mentioned the window leak but I'll go into more detail about the other stuff when I post about the trip. 

At the same time, I'm optimistically hoping all will be resolved by the time I leave on my Atlantic Coast trip in 11 days. 

I suddenly realized yesterday that I'll be at the Roadtrek Tech Rally on election day.  I applied for an absentee ballot but I may have left it too late.  (Update: my ballot arrived 2 days after I mailed the request.  What alacrity!).   

Anybody else on the road November 6th? 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hobbies: mouse-thwartation, blogging, and long walks on the beach

GDB Maintenance

Yesterday John washed the van - bless him - and today we tackled the interior.  We also checked the water level in the batteries and the generator oil level. 

The GDB is looking pretty spiff!

I also got some essence of peppermint oil.  Some folks say this is a rodent-deterrent. 

It would work for me, that's for sure - I'm not crazy about mint.  But I'll do my duty and apply it to some cotton balls and place throughout the GDB.  I'll let you know if it works.  And, of course, if it doesn't. 

Last time we got a heavy rain, I noticed some water leaking into the galley.  We isolated the location of the leak yesterday as I situated myself inside while John, hose in hand, sprayed the window.  There it was - a little trickle of water.  So I need to have the window re-sealed.  I'm wondering if the fix-it guy who will be at the rally in November could do this?  I may drive back to the dealer before that; I'll know more after calling Roadtrek this week.  I'm not sure exactly when the coach warranty expires, but I should have at least 18 months left on it. 


On this last trip, I was thinking about how much I enjoy writing a blog.  And how much of a hobby blogging has become.  And about all the cool people I've connected with since I began.  I was a frustrated blogger in the beginning, as fate conspired to keep me grounded for so long.  But now that I'm road-worthy, I find that journaling helps me to both focus and reflect upon events.  And it's a creative outlet.  I especially like editing the photos at the end of the day and building a post around the images.  For me, blogging just enhances the whole travel experience. 

I also derive a lot of happiness traveling along with you all and staying inspired to follow in your tread marks.  And what a rich source of information!  For example, someone - I think it may have been Barbara of Me and My Dog fame - made cards to distribute to people she meets along the way, people who may want to follow her online.  Good idea.

So I made my own today.  It was fun to design. 


I don't have any heavy card stock so I'll take the file to a printer this week and get some decent copies. 

November Coastal Trip

Meanwhile I'm doing some loose trip-planning for my Atlantic Coast journey.  The Roadtrek Tech Rally begins November 6th in Kissimmee so I'm trying to determine when I should leave so I can mosey down in that direction.  I'm especially looking forward to traveling up the coast after the rally.  I didn't realize until I started looking at the area how much there is to see and do and eat in that part of FL and GA.   I guess living in AL for so long has made me complacent about the ocean but now I realize .... I've missed a whole coast!  

What fun!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reflections - Alabama Trip

                 Back home & reflecting upon some things I learned on my second outing:

1) Sharing memories may possibly be the absolute best use of one’s time.

2) I like to stand and work on the computer.  Like Elton John typing. 

3) My lower back feels good even after driving for hours – what a pleasant surprise, the captains’ chairs must suit me. 

4) I need to take a hard-copy list of free wifi spots.

5) It’s difficult to multi-task in less than 100 square feet of space.

6) I wish I could talk about propane and propane accessories in a Hank Hill voice.

7) I got the right rig.

From a systems perspective, the trip was a success.  My goal was to learn as much as possible about the GDB.  The only malfunction was the coach battery switch that got stuck "on" but, with the help of the Yahoo Roadtrek group, I was able to find a work-around. I'll get it checked out soon.

Oh, and the DVD player door still refuses to open (after working fine on my Pine Mtn. trip), so I'll see if the company will be willing to replace the unit even though it's out of warranty.  It’s a home theatre system with a radio, dvd/cd player and with an USB port.  Roadtrek uses this one particular unit; not off-the-shelf because it has to be tiny to fit the cabinet slot.

Desoto State Park provided cable but I couldn’t get a signal.  It wasn’t my campsite because it didn’t work when I moved either.  Maybe it’s the cable I took along?  Or maybe the TV is not hooked up to receive cable because the original owner used the in-motion satellite? 

I may end up removing the TV entirely.  It takes up a lot of space and gets in the way of the full view out the passenger-side back window. 
Web Photo
I can watch DVDs on my laptop if I feel the need for some packaged entertainment.  The GDB already has the built-in satellite so I may look in to the pay-as-you-go option but …. do I really want to watch TV?  I’m still trying to figure out the nuances of how I want to travel. 

I’ll spend the next few weeks planning my next trip and following-up on online teaching positions for which I’ve applied.  I’m attending a RT tech rally in Kissimmee, FL the first week of November.  So I might swing by Hilton Head to visit an old friend and make my way down the SC, GA, and FL coasts.  Should be a good time of year to do such a thing.                                                                                       

7 days/6 nights
553 miles
  $ 130
- 4 nights -         
Average Cost
Note: 2 of those days and nights were parked in Charlotte's driveway.  And I spent no money for that 48 hours.

Well, that wraps it up.  Thanks for traveling along!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 7 - Alabama Trip

Monday October 8, 2012

Awoke to a cool and steady gray drizzle.  And an Osprey atop the tree outside my window.  Sorry, no pics.  I was afraid too much movement would cause him to flee.  I watched him for the longest time.  One of my favorite parts of life in the GDB is being able to lift the shade in the morning and stare at the always-changing scene outside the window.  Know what I mean?

It was chilly enough for the heat pump last night.  It worked great! So, that's one more appliance I've conquered.   I have still to use the water pump but I'll get a chance to do that when dry camping, probably in Quartzsite.  

I thoroughly enjoyed last night with nothing to do.  Like John says, I got nothing to do and I can't wait to get started

Tried on my new microfleece nightshirt

I find time passes almost unnoticed in the GDB.  Everytime I look up it's an hour later!  It's like living in some kind of cozy wormhole.

Watched the sunset, did the crossword, had dinner, edited photos, and calculated my mileage - 13.5 MPG.  Not bad for several days on cab A/C and hilly terrain. 

While breaking camp after the rain stopped this AM, I saw my neighbor - a fisherman with a truck camper.  Due to the rain, he was late for his appointment with some fish.  He told me he wanted my rig, I told him he couldn't have it.  But I think the Roadtrek would be ideal for fishing as it could easily tow a boat.  You'd just have to be careful not to get the generator wet when launching.  But I'm already spoiled with the 10-minute set-up/take-down and, as much as I like truck campers, wouldn't want to mess with loading and unloading one from a truck bed. 

I wanted to make some stops in the small towns I traveled through on the back roads (I enjoy Main Street, USA) but the rain continued until I was about an hour from home.  At that point, the sun appeared abruptly and the temperature rose 21 degrees over the next few miles.  By then I was ready to get to the house so I didn't stop except for nourishment. 

Doris indicated she was pleased to see me. 

Back in the stable

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 6 - Alabama Trip

Sunday October 7, 2012

It’s 4:30 PM and I arrived at Guntersville State Park just a bit ago.  I thought the campground might be busy due to the Columbus Day holiday but I was wrong.  There are just 3 rigs in my little loop.   Lake Guntersville is a large recreational area created by the TVA out of the dammed Tennessee River.  I’ve visited this park many times but never stayed in the campground.  It’s a beautiful part of the state; the lake is lovely, though low, and ringed by softly distant forested hills. 

However, the campground is not what I expected, aesthetically-speaking.  Thanks to the tornado that swept across the northern section of the state this past April.  Untold numbers of trees were lost and, sadly, the campground looks like a plucked chicken.

The campground office has photos of the devastation and it was, well, devastating.  They are rebuilding but how do you replace those old trees?  You can’t.    

Night will come in a few hours and I am positioned to see the sunset over the lake out my front window, feet propped on the sofa.  None too shabby!  In fact, the sun has finally won the battle over the clouds so there should be some serious pastels.  Isn’t it grand when Nature co-operates? 

There’s a fisherman on the pier about 100 feet away from my campsite and a heron even closer.  They have a shared purpose, I suppose.   Wonder who will catch his dinner first?  Thanks to my tinted windows all around neither of them can watch me watch them.  I love that!     

My neighbors have this cute little Scamp.  I find those little fiberglass eggs irresistible!  This one is older but well-cared for. 

I’m just fine with kicking back tonight because I’m not exactly in adventure-mode.  I’m feeling a little lonely after leaving Charlotte and Carla.  I wish they were here so we could continue our time together.  I’m also really missing my mom & dad after seeing (and, shockingly, hearing them) on the DVD last night.    

I’m not sorry to be heading home tomorrow.  I do miss John and Doris so!   
But when I get home, I'll be dreaming of heading out again.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Days 4 & 5 - Alabama Trip

Friday and Saturday October 5-6, 2012

I’m learning that everything takes longer traveling in the bus.  You stop for gas, stop for coffee, stop to pee, stop for lunch.  So I got to Huntsville later than expected – about 4 PM.  Fortunately, I’ve got the time and it feels like a miracle.  Believe me, I'm not complaining.

Charlotte and Carla welcomed me warmly.  Are they capable of anything else?  They are mother and daughter and my 1st and 2nd cousins.  No doubt they think I'm quite mad to be traveling this way but are too polite to say it out loud.

We have had such fun the past two days!  They took me out to dinner Friday night and that was the last time we left the house.  We had plans for Saturday but, about 4 PM, we stopped pretending and decided to stay put.  The fact that it was gray and rainy helped.  This is the house that my parents and I visited many times over the years and I relished being back in a place of such good memories. 

And, of course, we have been talking and laughing non-stop.  Staying up late, sleeping late.  All good stuff. 

We’ve shared a lifetime.  How lucky we were to have such a great extended clan– each member gentle and loving.   I think we always knew it.  I sure did. 

We watched 2 hours of home movies that I had never seen before and all of it touched me deeply.  It was touching in a way that one can only experience looking backwards, knowing how their stories end.  A lantern on the stern.  At 54, I am the youngest of my generation, and the past is starting to feel pretty poignant.  

Watching that young, hopeful, skinny, energetic bunch - all gone now - reminded me of this poem

~ Departures ~

They seemed to all take off at once: Aunt Grace
whose kidneys closed shop;
Cousin Rose who fed sugar
to diabetes;
my grandmother’s friend
who postponed going so long
we thought she’d stay.

It was like the summer years ago
when they all set out on trains
and ships, wearing hats with veils
and the proper gloves,
because everybody was going
someplace that year,
and they didn’t want
to be left behind.

~ Linda Pastan ~

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 3 - Alabama Trip

Thursday October 4, 2012

Spent a satisfying day hanging out in Ft. Payne.  Temps in the low 70’s, the skies sunny.  What fun parking under a shady tree at City Hall, firing up the generator, and having coffee and cake.  Then I explored Main Street on foot.  This small agricultural valley town may not seem like anything special but my family’s roots go deep here. 

Like my Aunt Mildred who taught elementary school for over 40 years – my father was one of her pupils.  And my Uncle Hoyt who was town mayor for a time and town undertaker for a lot longer.  My grandfather, one of the few local doctors, started his practice in 1900.  He owned the very first car in North Alabama, a Model T.  His nine children constantly argued over who got to drive Papa on his house calls.      

The town still smells the same to me – like magnolia. 

Here’s the old family home.  The musician Randy Owen, of Alabama fame, bought it some years back as a place to house visitors. 
My parents were married in the parlor located on the lower left.  I spent many happy hours on that porch (much later, that is)!   

The slate steps are original and look and feel exactly the same. 

The town is proud of Alabama.  And they are proud of their town.         

City park entrance
Of course, I spent some time at our family cemetery – a reminder, once again, that nothing lasts. 
My parents had their first date in this theater.  The movie was Gone With The Wind.

Later, I dropped into the library to catch up on blogging and email.  

After my day in town, I stopped to air up the tires, returned to my campsite, grabbed a hot shower, and settled down to enjoy a quiet sunset.  Soon a family with 3 little boys pulled into the space next to me and proceeded to set up a tent.  Boys of the age who like to yell at the top of their lungs and hit things with sticks.  I’m sure they are a lovely family but …. nooooo thank you. 

Besides, what’s the point of being on wheels if you can’t move when you want to? 

I scouted the campground on foot and found a separate area with 31 pull-through sites.  It was maybe ½ full of both small and large rigs but seemingly very quiet.  Perfect!  But wait…. 

At the first site I tried, my polarity tester read “reverse polarity”.  Danger! it said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

So I moved to an adjacent spot which happens to be right next to ….. another Roadtrek!  What are the odds?   Unfortunately, by now it was practically dark and getting past cocktail hour so I didn’t get to meet the owner.  Maybe tomorrow.

I’m having a blast learning the ins and outs of the GDB.  I must be catching on because I’m able to glide around the interior with minimal injury now.  Not only are my movements more efficient, but the bus feels much bigger now that I’ve been living in it.  Thank God it didn’t get smaller!   And I feel competent now after all the hook-practice.  Not to mention my backing-up skills.       

Tonight’s menu:  leftover gravy and biscuits from yesterday and some sausage that John grilled before I left.  

So, I’m snug for the night.  I wouldn’t mind staying another day but cousin Charlotte is expecting me in Huntsville tomorrow.    

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 2 - Alabama Trip

Wednesday October 3, 2012

Left Cheaha in the late morning.  Stopped at Dandy RV in Anniston for coffee and cookies and it was.  Dandy, I mean.  As I mentioned in my last post, the lounge was a nice place to hang-out. 

Then on to Gadsden where I stopped at Cracker Barrel thinking they might have wifi but no luck.  However, they did have some bacon, eggs, biscuits, and gravy that made me very happy indeed.  Earlier in the day, I was too late for the breakfast buffet at Cheaha’s Lodge and I just couldn’t stop thinking about how good a very large breakfast would be. 

Check it out, Carolyn @ amigoingsomeplace.  See what the competition is doing?  (I think Carolyn enjoys inspiring envy in the rest of us with her mega-breakfast photos).
Well, maybe it doesn't look that good but trust me ....
Stopped at Wal-Mart in Ft. Payne and picked up a few necessities like turtle cake.  Needless to say I won’t be much hungry for dinner so will have some leftover fried chicken and a bag ‘o salad. 

Got to the Desoto campground later than I planned – about 5:15.  Still plenty of daylight to hook-up though.  No problems with that part tonight except that I am supposed to have cable but I must not have it hooked up correctly.  That’s OK – I brought several movies and have some good books on Kindle.

It is quiet here, at least for now.  They expect a full complement in the campground this weekend.  The leaves are changing far in advance than back home.  That, and the perfect temps, makes this area even lovelier.  North Alabama – a well-kept secret.    

Foothills of the Appalacian chain

Where the Appalacian Trail should start

I’m looking forward to sight-seeing town tomorrow. My parents are from here and we visited often when I was small.  I remember everything – including how the Ben Franklin Five & Dime smelled.  It’s gone, of course, along with the drugstore with the soda fountain.  I’ll probably park on Memory Lane and stroll.  Getting to do this feels positively luxurious.   In the past 30 or so years, when we’ve visited - mostly burying the people we love -  we’ve had other obligations that made us rush. 
Think I’ll go stretch out and do the crossword.  All I did today was drive 90 miles, have a late lunch, and stop at Wal-Mart, yet I’m pleasantly tired. 

I’ve got the fantastic fan on and the canopy windows open providing the ideal cross-breeze.  Did I mention I love my home-on-wheels?