Camper For Sale

Well, our camping lifestyle will be on hold temporarily. We’ve decided to sell our camper and live on solid foundations for a little while. We LOVE the camping lifestyle, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. In this case, I doubt it’s the end. More like a pause.

When our house was rented out, obviously someone else was paying our mortgage. Now that we don’t have tenants, and don’t really want to rent the house again, we’re back to paying our own mortgage. So, our fun money budget isn’t what it used to be. Our camper payment and lot rent combined equal our mortgage payment, it doesn’t really make sense to try and maintain both since we can only live in one at a time. We’ve thought about storage fees, and budgeted what we needed for this upcoming winter, then sat back and looked at the numbers again and just decided against continuing. Everyone knows we love our ‘family’ here in Kissimmee and since Charlie will continue to use the asthma and lung doctors here in Celebration, we’ll come down for a visit every few months and hang out.

We’ll keep the web site up to date as changes happen. I can say this. If/when we sell the house in Pigeon Forge in a couple of years, we’ll probably get back in the camping business again. πŸ™‚

We’ll also continue to travel and go on adventures, we’ll just be staying in hotels. Hotel points, here we come.


Taking A Break

We’ve been in the camper for almost two years and it’s time for a break. We’ve not traveled to different areas for one reason or another, we just sort of got to Sherwood Forest in Kissimmee, FL and the folks there became instant family so we just stayed. It’s nice to have that flexibility.

As most know, we rented our house out in Pigeon Forge. Our tenants have bought and house and are no longer in need of ours. We got extremely lucky with our tenants as they took very good care of our home. Our fear is that the odds are stacked against us if we decided to continue to rent the house out and the next tenants would be crack heads. πŸ™‚

So we’re back in Pigeon Forge and really love being back in our home. The same with Sylvania, when we stayed at “Green Acres”. It’s nice being in a home with space. As I’ve said before, our camper is 285 sq. ft. and it took some adjusting but once we settled in, we loved it. I very rarely took baths prior to moving into our camper since I’m a shower kind of guy. Once I couldn’t take a bath, I suddenly wanted to take baths. πŸ™‚ Anytime I traveled for business I made sure the rooms I booked all had tubs. LOL!

Our camper is still at Sherwood and our family there is keeping an eye on it for us. We’ve already got our reservations set to stay with them again for the 2014/2015 winter season. And while we miss them very much, it’s great to reconnect and catch up with our friends here in Tennessee.

It’s amazing how much Pigeon Forge has changed in two years. It’s amazing how much life has changed in two years.

We’re working on what our next adventure is going to be and where…..but for now….it’s nice to soak in a tub and take a break.

RV Tips

30 Amp Lesson The Hard Way

When we got our camper the electric usage wasn’t really a major concern. We knew we couldn’t run the A/C, the microwave, and the hot water heater all at the same time. No biggie. We adjust. After the first few times of ‘thinking’ while getting ready to cook, turning things off is now a natural reflex. I’m happy to say we’ve only popped the main 30A breaker in our camper once and it wasn’t me, it was the Mrs. πŸ™‚ I’ve popped a 20A when attempting to cook because I had something else plugged in and on…the coffee maker maybe….I don’t remember.

So, what can we run while on 30A service? I went through our camper and logged the amp usage of each device plugged in. I then found the owners manual and logged the amp usage of installed items. The A/C uses 12.4 amps, the hot water heater uses 12, the microwave uses 13. These are the big pulls on the electric as expected from any item that heats or cools. The fridge pulls 3.5 amps but could be switched to gas if needed…or just temporarily turned off as we learned in a previous article I wrote titled Can I Tow with my Propane On So the Refrigerator will Stay Cold.

On a daily basis we’ve had the A/C on and when lunch time rolls around we’ll throw something in the microwave (12.4 + 13 = 25.4 amps). We’ve got our computers plugged in as well but they’re only .5 amps so 2 amps total. We’re still under 30amps at 27.4 amps. Again, this routine has never popped a breaker on the pole nor has it popped a breaker in our camper.

A few days ago our A/C kicked on and it sounded like it was struggling to come back up to power after the compressor engaged. I made a mental note and thought to myself I’ll see if I can check the amp usage at the pole to make sure what I show us pulling is accurate. However, at times when the A/C sounded like it was struggling we were not cooking nor did we have the hot water heater on. My next thought was that the A/C may need to be serviced as we’ve been in Florida for most of the summer and on some days it’s all the A/C can do to keep up. We weren’t popping a breaker and the A/C was still running so it wasn’t high on the priority list.

The other night we were sitting outside and my wife said “Somebody is cooking toast”. I couldn’t smell what she was smelling so it made no difference to me. A few minutes go by and the next thing she says is “Why is our electric box smoking”. WHAT?!?!? I run over to the power pole to find it smoking pretty bad. I lift the panel and trip the breakers manually. I then grab our 30A cord about a foot from the connector and pull it from the plug. One of the pins on socket had overheated and melted through one of the male metal plugs on our main cord.

30 Amp plug30 Amp Socket

It was 9pm and electrical work is not my strength. We call the park to report the incident. They immediately sent over a maintenance crew to replace the outlet on the pole. A friend of mine and I headed to Walmart in hopes to get a new male connector to splice in. Walmart didn’t have any so we bought an adapter, cut it, and spliced it in to get us through the night until I could get to Camping World the next day to get a new connector. In talking with my friend he says this is common for people who run the A/C and microwave at the same time. It doesn’t go over the 30 Amps allowed but it does pull quite a bit of electricity through the lines which causes heat which causes breakdown which ultimately ends up in a “Somebody is cooking toast” situation. : )

From what I understand 50 Amp service is not as prone to this type of occurrence.

So the moral of the story is: Just because you have 30 Amps to use, doesn’t mean you should.

BTW, when I bought the new connector, I bought an extra just in case. : ) Now that I know, I can at least be prepared or can help someone else who might end up in our situation in the future.


One Year In Our Camper

WOW! It’s 8/28/13. We moved into our camper one year ago. I can’t believe it’s been a year.

How many different RV parks have we been to? Three.
How many miles have we covered? Roughly 1,000.

When we set out on this adventure our idea was to cover as much ground as possible in two years. As time went on, we both realized that this lifestyle change suits us and we have no plans on moving out of the camper any time soon. So we revisited our plan and have decided to slow down a bit. This gives us more time to enjoy where we are and to enjoy the people we meet. We’re not rushed, we’re not in a hurry. Our blood pressure is low, we’re not stressed, we love what we’re doing which makes us incredibly happy.

My brother and his family just relocated from England to the Florida panhandle. This means after the coming winter is over here in Kissimmee, we’ll probably head up there for a bit to spend time with them.

The beauty of this is if we don’t like the view from our window, we can move. If we don’t like the area, we can move. We’re not tied up in a lease, we’re not tied down period.

What do I miss the most about living in a house? Nothing really. Maybe better shelter for storms, but so far so good.

Do I miss any of the things we sold/got rid of? Yes, my DSLR camera. Our cell phones have nice cameras but they don’t allow the same creativity as a bigger camera.

Any changes coming up? We might trade our camper in for a fifth wheel. We’ll get a little more living space. Our camper doesn’t really have a place to kick back in a lazy boy. Our current camper is 285 sq. ft. The fifth wheel we’re looking at is 334 sq. ft. Same length as our current camper, the biggest difference is the slide outs. We’ve got one slide out now. The fifth wheel we want has three. Here’s what we’ve got now Zinger ZT32QB. Here’s the one we want Bighorn 3010RE.

Any immediate plans? We’re going to keep on keeping on.

Any regrets? The same regret that I had when we started. I regret that we didn’t do this sooner. On the flip side, most people don’t have this opportunity until they retire and are in their 60’s. So we’re 20 years ahead of our time. πŸ™‚

RV Tips

The Dreaded Black Tank

Let’s talk about poop.

On second thought, let’s not talk about poop. Nobody wants to discuss it, it’s gross, but necessary. We all do it. Some more than others, some less. Sometimes those that do it less wish they could do it more. LOL!

I’m somewhat of a germ-o-phobe. There are several bottles of germ-x throughout our camper. Sometimes germ-x isn’t enough and I use soap. Public restrooms are NOT my thing, but I knew with this adventure came….well…adventure. So if I’m going to use the public restroom at a campground, I watch for the cleaning crew and go in after they’re done. That’s sort of cheating but it helps me adjust.

I probably did more research about the black tank than any other topic on RV’ing. Am I going to need a full on chemical warfare suit when I dump the tank? How thick do the rubber gloves need to be? Should they come all the way to my shoulders or is elbow length ok? Remember the scene in the movie RV when Robin Williams dumps the black tank? Poo spews everywhere, it’s a mess. This had me somewhat paranoid.

This is probably THE BEST video on YouTube on how to dump your black tank.

Not all RVs/Campers are the same. Ours doesn’t have a hookup for a hose to fill the black tank from outside. So we drag a hose inside after the initial dumping of the black tank, fill it up, and dump it again. Afterwards, we do a sniff test and if it passes, we open the gray tank to flush the hose. My method differs in that I dump the gray tank first for about three seconds. I check all of the connections. If I don’t see any leaks, then I proceed with the black tank.

While we’re camping with full hookups, we leave the gray tank open and only close it a couple of days before we’re due to dump the black tank.

We dump our black tank about every 10 days.

Once I got over the fear of dumping the black tank, I no longer use the campground bath houses. I poop in the privacy of my own camper without the fear of dumping the black tank.

The process is so simple and clean that I don’t even wear gloves. My hands have never touched poop. It’s not gross. But I do wash up afterwards…trust me. : )


Green Acres Is Not For Me

Remember the TV sitcom Green Acres? I’ve had a recent similar experience. We’ve even re-written the lyrics to suit our situation. But for the lyrics to make sense, I need to bring you up to date.

November 1st of 2012, we arrived at Sherwood Forest in Kissimmee, FL for our winter stay. If you’ve followed us on Facebook you’ve seen pics where we’ve volunteered during our time there. Needless to say the staff and other guests have become ‘family’. We knew going into Kissimmee that our stay was going to be limited as we had other places on our agenda to see. Our original check out date was suppose to be April 1st of 2013. That got extended to May 1st of 2013 which got extended to May 13th, 2013. On that Monday, we put the camper in storage and headed to Sylvania, GA population 2,956…saaaa-lute (from Hee Haw).

How did we end up in Sylvania?

This is where Charlie grew up. She was raised by her grandparents, Dr. Gerald and Linda Hogsette. Ms. Linda passed away in 1983 and Dr. Hogsette died in 2001. After he passed the family home was left to Charlie’s mom. Charlie’s mom has her own place with her husband up in Mechanicsville, MD and Charlie and I have had our own places in various cities. So there’s been no need for someone to come to this home in Sylvania except to clean, check up on things, etc. Dr. Hogsette’s will strictly states the home cannot be sold or rented. No biggie as it’s a very nice home. Built in 1958, it sits on about 4.5 acres in the city limits at the end of Cork Pond Rd. It’s a 3 bedroom home and each bedroom has its own full bath…..yes, each bedroom has its own full bath. There are 2 half baths in the home as well for guests. To have a home built in 1958 that had this many bathrooms was really forward thinking. The house is roughly 3,500 sq. ft. Our camper is 285 sq. ft. So when we got here, it really took my mind a couple of days to adjust to all of the space. Our plan was to stay here until August, then head north to see some friends.

I grew up in a small town called South Fulton, TN and its twin city, Fulton, KY. Population between the two while I was growing up was around 5,000. So I’m familiar with small town living. I left home in 1988 when I was 17 and went in the Air Force. Since then I’ve lived in populous places. McGuire AFB, NJ, Hickam AFB, HI, Memphis, Mobile, Gulf Breeze, FL, Pensacola, Pigeon Forge, and Kissimmee. For lack of a better term, because the places are populous, I call them ‘noisy’. You’re always surrounded by noise. People talking, traffic, dogs, sirens, etc….noise.

When we got to Sylvania, no noise. It’s dead quiet. At night it’s extremely dark so you can see a million stars. Very peaceful. I fell in love immediately. I didn’t realize how I had missed peace and quiet. Birds singing during the day, deer and other nocturnal creatures roaming the yard at night.

Gracie, our black lab, LOVES it here. We play ball daily. She can run without encroaching on others. She doesn’t have to be on a leash. No traffic to worry about. Dog freedom.

There are several great little restaurants in town. Wall’s Diner, Chilito’s, Pop’s Kitchen, and Subway. The closest Wal-mart is in Statesboro about 23 miles away. The closest liquor store is in Newington about 14 miles away. When going to Statesboro or Newington (opposite directions), there’s nothing really to see but pine trees. Kind of serene at first since it’s greenery and very easy on the eyes.

Two weeks into our twelve week adventure and I’m bored out of my mind! I hit a wall. I started feeling isolated. Everywhere we had to go outside of Sylvania was a drive with very little in between. There’s NO WAY I’m making it twelve weeks here. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome for about a week to get away from it all….maybe two weeks….but that’s my limit. At least for now. As I get older, my mindset could change. But at this moment, I miss our 285 sq. ft. camper, I miss our friends, and I miss noise. I don’t like feeling isolated. I’m not a social butterfly. I’m not the guy that talks to everyone in the bar. But sitting down at a bar, seeing people talk, laugh, and enjoy each others company is something I sincerely miss.

I contacted our friends at Sherwood as they’re running a three month summer special. I asked if the summer special applied to July, August, and September. Yes! Great, we’ll be back on July 1st. We’ve got a few things to button up here with the house, but then we’re free again. We did manage to make it to Pigeon Forge to get the remainder of our stuff out the basement. Our tenants said they’ve just about decided that they want to stay in our house as long as we’ll let them. We couldn’t be happier. Everything we own that we don’t want to take with us is in about 10 Rubbermaid containers and will remain here in Sylvania (pictures, books, family heirlooms, childhood memorabilia…you know…stuff that only has sentimental value that you don’t really want to throw away). BTW, there is a monitored alarm system on the house so no squatters. LOL!

Now for the Green Acres re-write. The roles are completely reversed here. Charlie is Edward and I’m Lisa.
Sylvania is the place for me
Farm livin is the life for me
Land spreadin out so far and wide
Keep Kissimmee, just give me that country side.

Sherwood is where I’d rather stay
Playing golf with John and Ray
I just adore our clubhouse view
Dah-ling I love you but give me 192 (the main roadway in front of Sherwood Forest)

Charlie…The chores
Brian…The stores
Charlie…Fresh air
Brian…My hair

Charlie…You are my spouse
Brian…Goodbye Mickey Mouse
Charlie…Sylvania we are there

Charlie says she’s not bored, but I sense otherwise. I know she could make it here longer than I could. It’s sad to see what once was a thriving little town where she grew up is now a not so thriving little town that sort of dwindles away a bit more each day. Proof for those of us from small towns that we can always go home but we can never go back.

RV Tips

Things To Consider Before Changing Residency

uncle-sam-taxesIt’s common talk amongst full time RVers about which state is the best to become a resident. When you really don’t live in one place, most folks have the option of changing which state they’re currently tied.

There are some snags. Whichever state you choose, you’ll have to show proof of residency to get a driver license or to register a vehicle.

Why would someone want to change their state of residency? One word, taxes.

The subject of changing state residency always involves tax rates, vehicle registration rates, and insurance.

There are only 7 states that don’t have income tax. They are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Two other states only tax dividend and interest income. Those states are New Hampshire and Tennessee.

If you’re a resident of California and make roughly $100k per year, the state is taxing you about $4,500 per year. That breaks down to $375 per month. That’s lot rent for one month in a lot of places. So, if you change your residency from California to a state that doesn’t tax personal income, you could essentially save enough money to pay for camping. If you finance your RV and find good rates and a great deal on a camper, your payment could be less than $375 meaning the tax you’re no longer paying California would cover your RV payment.

Vehicle registration rates are most likely cheaper as well. To register a vehicle in California, it’ll cost you $46 plus additional fees based on the type of vehicle, license plate type, and the owner’s county of residence and driving record. If you register a vehicle in Tennessee it’ll cost you $24 per year. Did I mention that Tennessee doesn’t have a smog check. More savings. To find out how much it costs in each state, you can follow this link:

In speaking with a few folks that live in Florida that register and insure their vehicles in the sunshine state, insurance rates are a bit more here vs. Tennessee. I’m not sure how they compare to other states, but I found this useful link that shows Michigan with the highest car insurance rates.

So, several things to consider before changing state residency. Do your research before making the decision. I think it would be smart to talk to an accountant before making the decision. When speaking with an accountant, I would recommend talking to one that knows the rules of the state you are considering, not one from your own state.

RV Tips

How to Stay Connected

Trailervania Wireless
Trailervania Wireless

Many of you know that Charlie and I both work online. This 2 year trip is dependent on a few things and one of those is the internet. Without the internet, we can’t work. Without work, we don’t get a paycheck. Without a paycheck, we don’t have a camper, and many other things. You get the idea. I did a TON of research on this topic and with cellular coverage getting better everyday, I was nervous but confident that we’d be able to connect in most places. : )

What happens when we can’t get a connection? Thankfully we’ve not had to deal with this yet. There have been several times when the campground wireless would slow to a crawl and getting anything done online was very frustrating. We’d mentally make a note of the time of day and eventually we could time when the internet was good and when it was bad. The demographic at RV parks consists of mostly retired folks so they’re out adventuring during the day. We knew we could work after 9am ish until around 1pm or 2pm. Around 1pm or 2pm maybe everyone is in their camper enjoying lunch and catching up on email, facebook, pinterest, etc. This became our lunch time to step away from the computer. Then between 2pm and 3pm the internet would free up again until around 6pm. After 6pm, forget it. I’m not even sure how people who are using the internet at that time even have the patience to stay connected. It’s worse than my first 2400 baud modem. LOL!

There were days where the schedule above didn’t work out and we had to resort to other options.

My job provides my with an iPhone and an iPad. Both of which now are 4G capable and both are hotspots. This works well, but you’ve gotta watch the usage as data limits apply. My job requires me to be online every Tuesday for our weekly Skype meeting (voice only so I can stay in my pajamas). I checked data usage prior to a meeting and then after. With 4 people on Skype voice only, the meeting lasted about 3.5 hours and used about 550MB (megabytes). Not bad since the work plan has a collective 10GB (gigabyte) usage limit. I use the word ‘limit’ loosely as Verizon will let us go over the 10 GB plan allowance and bill us for every 1 GB over.

How does Charlie stay online? We have a personal Verizon Wireless plan as well and purchased a 4G hotspot. She also has an iPad that’s 4G capable and a hotspot as well. Her iPhone can become a hotspot but it’s only 3G (slower than 4G) so she only uses it for a hotspot when absolutely necessary.

We realize not all places will have 4G, but so far the coverage with Verizon has been pretty good. The campground in GA was on the outskirts of 4G so our 3G signal was pretty good, although there seemed to be some interference as we would often bounce from the 3G network to the ‘O’ (older) network. Very odd and annoying, but again, the campground wireless was sufficient for most of our needs.

We arrived in Kissimmee, FL for our 5 months stay to avoid winter completely. The cable provider here is Bright House. We asked the front desk if they provided cable internet for long terms stays. They do, we signed up, and on day 2 we now have cable internet in our camper….just like home. It’s $29 per month and no data limits. We’ve got our Roku box connected up and we’re streaming from Netflix and Hulu once again. You can stream Netflix and Hulu from your computer or mobile device, but again, data limits apply so be very careful when doing this. HD shows/movies use a TON of bandwidth. Research shows that a standard definition movie or show streamed from netflix uses about 400MB (megabytes) per half hour. That same 30 minute show in high definition uses about 1.5GB (Gigabytes). Compression works a little differently for movies. A standard definition movie would need about 500MB to 700MB depending on the length of the movie and a high definition movies uses about 3.6GB (gigabytes) for a 2 hour film. If you have a 6GB plan from Verizon this means you could watch one HD movie, and about 3 standard definition movies and reach your limit. Needless to say, we’ve done zero streaming using our hotspots.

Here’s a few alternatives I’ve looked at but have not yet moved forward. Once we get out west, staying connected may become more difficult as coverage is more sparse. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but at least it looks like we have options.

Exede Satellite Internet: Their pricing seems reasonable and they boast of speeds rivaling those of a home connection. I’ve not tested or tried this service, but they’ll be the first I call if the need for satellite internet arises. You’ll still have to be mindful of data limits.

Millenicom: I recently learned of this service. From what I can tell, they use Verizon towers, are 3G and 4G capable and don’t have data limits. Pricing is very reasonable.

As we plan future trips, if we decide to go ‘off grid’ we’ll do so for only a limited time as our livelihood depends on the internet. One of the top items on my bucket list is to make it to Montana, go completely off grid, turn everything off, and just stare up at the stars on a clear night.

RV Tips

Can I Tow with my Propane On So the Refrigerator will Stay Cold

RV Propane
RV Propane

After doing a ton of research on this subject the decision is really split. There are as many arguments for towing with propane on as there are towing with propane off.

Why would one want the refrigerator running while they’re towing? Simple, so when they pull over at a rest area, they can have lunch in their RV with cold drinks, cold lunch meat, ice, etc. A pretty good reason if you ask me.

Since we’re newbie’s the first time we towed, we decided to tow with the propane off. We put the refrigerator on high the night before so it would be nice and cold when we cut power. We cut power, hooked up, and headed out. If you haven’t read our other posts, we were going from Pigeon Forge, TN to Brunswick, GA. A trip that should’ve taken about 8 hours actually took about 10 hours.

10 hours later, we arrive at our destination. We did stop for lunch at a Pilot, but didn’t get into the fridge because we had let our food supplies run low since we were moving. I was pleasantly surprised to find the fridge still nice an cold when we arrived in Brunswick. 10 hours without power, without propane and the ice was still frozen.

When towing to our second destination 4 hours from Brunswick, GA to Kissimmee, FL again, we left the propane off, turned the refrigerator on high the night before, cut power and everything was nice and cold when we arrived in Kissimmee. Ice and all. : )

I’m guessing even on the 10 hour trip, we could’ve open the fridge to get out whatever we needed to have lunch and everything would’ve still been fine when we arrived in Brunswick.

In the end, it’s really going to boil down to a personal preference, but I like to err on the side of safety. I realize the propane system on an RV is very safe, but if an accident were to happen while towing and propane line gets busted open, that could really spell disaster. And now that we know the fridge will stay cold even on long trips, there’s no need to tow with the propane on.

RV Tips

Weekenders vs. Full Timers

Cousin Eddie Dumping Shitter
Cousin Eddie Dumping Shitter

About 2 weekends in to life in the camper, we could immediately tell there was a clear difference between people who only camp on the weekends, vs. people who are either long term or full time campers.

We’ll call them weekenders just to keep it simple. We’ve found that a lot of weekenders don’t clean up after their pets, let their kids run wild, are noisy, don’t clean up after themselves, and generally don’t respect privacy.

My first trip to the big house to shower on a Saturday morning was shocking. Water everywhere, towels forgotten, trash not in the trash can, toilets not flushed. I had not seen the bath house in this shape on any weekday. Thankfully, parks have clean up crews that come through at least once per day to straighten up. Needless to say, I quickly learned the schedule of the clean up crew and would go immediately after they were done on Saturdays.

Non weekenders have a great deal of respect for space, privacy, and cleanliness for the most part which depends greatly on the campground owners/rules.

Some parks allow long term and full time. Some long term folks and full time folks that stay in one spot tend to collect more stuff than they need. So they add a shed. When that fills up, they stack stuff outside of the shed and around the RV. In my opinion, it makes the campground look a bit messy. My idea of living in a camper full time is to keep to minimums and so far, after an initial adjustment, it’s been relatively easy. I don’t see myself needing a shed or a bigger RV just to hold my stuff.

I know a weekender is going to read this at some point and disagree. Just remember, I didn’t say ‘ALL’ weekenders. : )

I also know that a full timer is going to read this and think I’m bashing them for having a shed. For some, sheds are necessary and I’ve seen many that keep it looking nice…again, I didn’t say ‘ALL’. : ) It’s actually the campground that lets some full timers get away with a messy campsite. So far we’ve been very fortunate to have chosen campgrounds that have better rules in place to keep the trash out. Sure, these campgrounds cost a little more in some cases, but I’d rather spend a few extra bucks and live where people respect their stuff and others.

Don’t let this scare you. Just know that people are people no matter where you go. It’s the same at apartment complexes, it’s the same with neighborhoods, it’s the same in RV parks. So, you make the best of it. You lead by example. If you keep your place clean, smile at folks, say hello, that attitude is contagious and will get through to others.