Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Full Timing Activated

Three days ago, Saturday, May 29, 2021 we embarked on our full time journey. Earlier in the week the house closed, we transitioned ourselves into the RV at the KOA in Clearwater/Tarpon Springs and hit the road that morning. 

As Murphy's Law applied itself, we had some troubles with the Wrangler. After a small drive up the road we pulled into Camping World to try and get to the bottom of the issue. After some experiments and visual inspection we discovered that the Wrangler's transfer case was slipping out of neutral as soon as we tried to move. So, we unhooked, drove back to Beth's Mom's house and stored the jeep to get get a service appointment when we return from Mayo, FL - just a week away. We will pull into Three Lakes RV in Hudson, FL the 6th of June and have an appointment to take the jeep in on the 7th. Uber is our friend 😁

The trip here to Mayo, FL and the Suwannee River Rendezvous RV park was uneventful. We arrived, found our spot, leveled, hooked up power to get the AC going for the dogs and then walked down to the office to check-in. Upon walking back we noticed that our entrance steps would not fully retract - so, as it is always something we will have a mobile RV service that we have used before come out and give us a hand. Jeff did as much preliminary troubleshooting as possible, but it seems the gear box may be stripped.

Nothing major to really complain about, and a moving home will always have something that needs to be done - whether it is typical maintenance or something that needs repairing. All part of the experience. We still have some surreal feelings but it is slowly taking hold that we have successfully done this move. Jeff will continue to work remote for the time being but will only be doing so for a short period of time. We have also experienced relaxation, after a very hectic month of selling a house and transitioning over. And we enjoyed that cocktail the very first night....😎

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Another Update on Full Time

Today we are officially 2 weeks away from closing the sale on the house. We have made great strides in getting ourselves setup next door in Beth's Mom's house temporarily. Beth has worked feverishly to try and make this house "livable" for us - and it shows. We have a few more things to clear out of the house and the garage has a section of items that Jeff will be migrating into the RV before we leave. Still awaiting all the parts to arrive to have the tow rig setup installed - hopefully soon.

The current plan has us doing some more cleanout this coming Saturday but we are going to take a well deserved break on Sunday and head over the Hard Rock Casino for some fun and games  - need the mental break for a little bit. 

The following weekend, before the house closing, we'll be bringing the RV down to the house from storage. Jeff has quite a list of items that will be done during that time to get Lucille II ready to go. Several small install items and a lot of re-arranging and packing. We also got new outdoor seating so we'll be purging the old stuff out of the under storage to make room. We also have some items that we have not used since getting the new rig, so that all is going to be removed. General rule of thumb, if we are not using it after a period of time - we get rid of it...there will be no hoarding with "hope" we might use something. This life is not for those that get attached to "stuff" 😝

A side note about two new storage updates...Space is always at a premium so anything that can help is valuable. Jeff got over the door shoe pouches and has cut off just the top row (enough for 4 pair). We will be hanging that on the bed platform edge after we lift the mattress. The overhang of the mattress board will keep them out of the way and off the floor (and out of the  closet). We should be able to to have 4 of them, so 16 pairs if needed. Second, As we were clearing out Beth's Mom's house, we came across two Rubbermaid "wreath" boxes. These are only about 24 inches x 24 inches and 6 inches high, with a lid. We have come to find out they fit perfectly in one of our pass-thru under storage areas. Since these have nice fitting lids, we will store extra paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, etc) and other items we see fit. It clears up space in the main coach. 

Although things are moving at a fairly fast pace, it is more anticipatory than stressful - but it is physically tiring. We will be making the move to do what we have been talking about for several years - albeit a bit sooner than expected. The reality in many ways is still to set in....but it will...if nothing else when we hook the jeep up to the tow rig and start driving north to Suwannee River Rendezvous RV park....😃

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Welcome to our new subscription service

This is a formal welcome to the new subscription service. We apologize for the inadvertent "blank" email everyone received, but sometimes change is hard. 

With Google Blogger doping away with their feed burner subscription service we migrated all our subscribed email addresses to mailchimp. As it is currently set, you will receive an update email every day between 9am and 10am if there have been any updates on our blog the day before.

We hope to now expand our subscribers as this will be the main format for us to keep everyone posted on our travels; as well as a place we'll post RV  tips and full time info. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Full Time Update

Our move to the full time life is moving at a frantic pace, but we are not overwhelmed anymore, just intent on getting the tasks at hand completed.

The house was listed on a Friday afternoon and we reviewed 9 offers the following Monday. We did not take the highest, but we did take one over the asking price; more importantly, it is a cash buyer with no contingencies - including no inspection. So we are now set to close on the sale May 25th. 

We are fortunate in the fact that Beth's mom's house is right next door. Since she is in an Assisted Living Facility we have the ability to use the house as a staging area. We have had some major cleaning to do and had flooring done in the bedrooms so it is in better shape. It allows us to actually store some items that we can decide to keep or not later. It also will allow us to have a place to stay if one of us has to come back here to tend to her mom. It is highly inadvisable to sell her mom's house while she is living in the ALF.

After the sale contract was executed, Jeff set about making reservations and getting our plans completed for the next year. We will be heading out around Florida/Georgia for a week or two at a time, then back in this area for a month or so at a time. Due to the snowbird population we actually stay in the general area for three months over winter (hard to get anything short term during that time) This allows Beth to visit her mom and make sure things are good here. We are now set to pull out of town on Saturday, May 29...effectively becoming "gypsies" (our affectionate term for full timing).

We have also started the process for getting our tow bar for the Jeep Wrangler. Jeff did the research and we are going with the Roadmaster Sterling all-terrain along with the Invisibrake system. We know we will be on level areas most of the time, but the Sterling allows for us to be a few inches "off", on inclines, or even in turn radius without binding. The setup is expensive, but it is a major piece to make sure the Jeep is towed properly and easy to hook and unhook. Hopefully that will all be installed within the next 2 weeks. They must keep the Jeep for a day to get the tow plate, braking system, and other items installed. Then we will bring the RV in to have it's components installed as well as getting a thorough walk-thru of "how to".

As of this writing, we are fairly done purging personal items and moving some into the other house to be stored. We plan on transitioning our bedroom and personal care items this coming weekend and will start staying in the the house after that point. This will provide the ability to get the sold house totally empty and ready for the new owners.

Since our mail service is now setup we'll start doing address changes a week or so before we head out. Most of all our accounts are online access so it is a formality really, not for actual mail. We will not be changing our vehicle info immediately. The plan is to pay off the rig and once the lien is released we'll have a "fun day" at the tax collector's office (Florida's version of the DMV) getting new driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, and titles.

It still seems a bit surreal...but when we pull out of the neighborhood, Jeep in tow, it will be real. Once we hook up at our first RV park get set and have a cocktail to celebrate - then it will be real. The Gypsy Life for Us....😁

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Pulling the Trigger - Fulltime

Well, it seems we have reached the milestone of going fulltime. The current real estate market in Florida is so "hot" that we need to take advantage before the bubble bursts. 

We will be listing the house this week and we are expecting to have a contract executed within a week (maybe within days of listing). We are fortunate that we have been purging possessions and are continuing to do so as of right now. We have the luxury of using Beth's mother house to stage ourselves for a short time while selling and getting loaded up. 

Mail Service

We have settled on using the Good Sam mail service for our mail forwarding service. After considering the options this one seemed the best for our situation as scanning envelopes is included and managing the mailbox seems to be a breeze. We can quickly choose to send or shred and can let them know to always shred some types of mail. This is the same as MyRVMail - one is for passport members and this one for Good Sam member discounts.

The mail service provides a physical address and the process to get setup was easy. We used their online notary option and the paperwork was completed quickly. Some people have made claim of having issues using the PMB (Personal Mail Box) with their bank but that truly seems to be the exception and not generally the rule. I reviewed several forums and found that almost everyone had easy time changing to the PMB.

We know we may still be a month or so away from changing our address, but it was best to be ready to go with this option so it is one more thing off the list. Next will be making list of all the accounts we need to update - which 90% are online.

Reservations Made

We have started a full breadth of reservations and are all set starting Sept 4 through the middle of April 2022 (with a nice trip to Vegas after our winter stay in Florida included). As is typical for Florida, we had to book for 90 days over winter. But with an average per night price of $37 for that reservation, it is not that bad.

We have the unique case that we need to stay in the area as Beth's mom is in an ALF and she needs to visit and be available. So our current plan is to take trips for a couple of weeks and then stay in the area for 3/4 weeks. 

Our only requirement may be to get reservations at some point in summer to fill the gap to Sept 4, which is not usually an issue in Florida and surrounds. 

The Future is Now

We have been talking about this move for a few years and Jeff even had a timeline board to track the significant event dates (social security, Medicare eligibility, etc.) It was always good to see us make some minor moves toward the goal of full time - but it is now accelerated. Jeff was to retire in March of 2022, but we can continue to work as needed from the RV using the jetpack and WeBoost cellular antenna. 

Nervous excitement, some stresses, but overall we feel good about this decision and the path forward. Selling the house, paying off the rig and starting the actual transition is upon us. We will be true full-timers - not just claiming that and then living in a campground in a trailer all year round. We will be doing a lot of traveling and seeing many wonderful places in the coming years...this has been our goal and it is soon to be reached.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Key West, FL - March 2021

We ventured down to the wonderful city of Key West, FL the past week as a get-away and to celebrate Jeff's 61st birthday. We had originally planned to take a Caribbean cruise for the week but the situation with Covid and cruising made us cancel - prior to when the cruise ships cancelled. As luck would have it, we were able to snag a spot at the closest RV park to Key West - Boyd's Key West Campground.

The Campground

Boyd's has the distinction of being less than 5 miles from old town Key West, just across the bridge on Stock Island. The entrance is welcoming even though one might not think so looking at the largely industrial/trailer park areas around it. The staff is extremely friendly and welcoming. They are also fantastic at getting you into your spot, which can be a challenge. Yes, the campground is a bit tight, but once in your spot it really is not noticeable. If you are one that must have a huge amount of space around you - this and not any campground in this area will be suitable for you. We never really noticed how tight it was once we were settled. The sewer connections are at the back of the spot, so even though there is not a lot space between that is not close to where you would be sitting outside your rig.

It's tough to get a reservation here, especially last minute, but it is well worth it, Yes it is pricey but to put your rig so close to Key West comes with a price  - real estate is a premium in this part of the world.

If you like to cook up some fresh fish, directly across from the campground entrance is a great fresh fish market called FishBusterz. You never know what they may have. We looked around one day and they had halibut, which we would have gotten if we were cooking at the campsite that night, but we were not. Two days later Jeff walked over to get dinner and they had lion fish. We had always wanted to try this and it was some of the best fish we have ever eaten. Lionfish are not indigenous to Florida waters; and are, in fact, destroying natural wildlife. It was good to see such a high pile of it at the fish market because that means they are getting caught and removed. Jeff fried it up in the skillet using Zatarains Southern coating.

On Stock Island there are also several restaurants available. Our first night we walked down to Hogfish Bar and Grill. Great little place at the marina with fantastic drinks and food - Jeff highly recommends the seafood enchilada and Beth recommends the hogfish.

Old Town Key West

We had our bikes with us and rode them into Key West several days. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail can easily be accessed a few blocks up from the campground. This takes you off the main road and along the water side of Roosevelt once you cross the bridge from Stock Island onto Key West. It is approximately five miles from campground to Mallory Square at the top of Duval Street.

Describing Key West to someone who has never been can be a rather daunting task. Key West is a wonderful town for eating, shopping, and drinking. There are so many places once can find to just settle back and watch the ships or watch the people. There are iconic spots that one must simply visit to say they went. There are also a lot of attractions that must be seen, in our opinion - the Southern Most Point (see a short video of our bike ride there below), Hemingway's House, Butterfly farm, Little White House, Fort Zachary Taylor, and so many more. 

This trip we made a journey down to Blue Heaven on Thomas Street for Sunday brunch. Their lobster eggs benedict are absolutely the best and they have the best Key Lime pie in all of Key West, according to Jeff who has had it all over town. Well worth the wait to eat there.

Birthday lunch/dinner was specifically set for one of the oldest iconic places on Duval Street - Sloppy Joes Bar. This is one of those must have meals along with a fantastic frozen drink called "Pain in the Ass"  - they simply go together great.

A couple of days we stopped by the Sunset Pier to enjoy a drink and watch the water activity. This is an absolutely wonderful place with great drinks and what appeared to be great food (we did not eat, only enjoyed some nice frozen cocktails).  It is right on the water so you can watch the activity and would be wonderful for sunset if not out on Mallory Square for the daily sunset festival.

We did manage to take a snorkel trip out to the barrier reef with Fury Watersports. We had one trip booked but due to conditions they had to change it to  the Gulf side coral bed. We switched over to go on the bigger catamaran that could handle the choppiness of the ocean side barrier reef. The trip out was great, crew was wonderful and the water was chilly. We were able to rent wetsuits for $10 that helped. The visibility was not great as the strong currents were making it a bit hazy. The trip back to the pier they had an open bar with beer and margaritas. All in all a good trip, but we had wished the water visibility had been better.

Overall we had a great trip - only wishing it could have been longer. We did have a "poop incident" trying to empty the black tank. Unsure what may have be clogging it. We have never introduced any foreign objects to the tank, but the prior owner seemed to have let it dry at some point and we are getting pieces of "peanut brittle" type debris. That saga continues.

A short ride to the Southern Most Point

S. Roosevelt Beach

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Where Am I Going and How Do I Get There - Part 2

We previously discussed trip planning and tools that we use for our adventures. This post will concern itself mainly with how we use rvtripwizard.com and google maps to plan a trip. This is not going to be an in depth training session on RV Trip Wizard. It is a powerful tool with many options that deserves more attention - and they provide excellent help/support for using the product. We will be explaining at a high level how we plan our trip using RVTripWizard. Within the tool you can find decent documentation, a support community and how to videos. 

Choose a Destination

Of course, the first step is choosing where you want to go; not necessarily a specific campground but at least a general geographical area. Once that is chosen RV Trip Wizard can show the campgrounds in that area. There is an option to turn off/on that displays known campgrounds (and if you know of one not on the map you can submit it to them for it to be added). You can select a campground on the map and get a plethora of information, reviews and a direct link to the campground's website. 

During our destination selection (and during choosing stops along our route) we also utilize google maps. This is not for the actual routing since it does not take RV specifics into consideration. We use Googlemaps to look at specific campgrounds and read reviews. Reviews are also available with RVTripWizard from campgroundreviews.com. We also use satellite view (which is also available inside RVTripWizard) to see how things look. This can especially be handy when looking at fuel stops as it can show the room you have to maneuver.

Creating a Trip

For the purposes of this post, we will use our current plan for a trip to Key West we are taking in a few days. This trip begins at our home and ends at Boyd's Key West Campground and includes two fuel stops. When we create a new trip it will present windows that allow us to input our starting location, date of trip and several tabs of information about your rig and route preferences that will help in routing the trip (avoid tunnels, avoid tolls, etc). Once added, you can then add the campground found when doing initial plan and add it after "last stop". The route will then be generated and you will see mileage and travel time (based on your options of travel speed in the trip settings).

The routing may also show when you will need fuel, based on your trip option preferences. We have  an 80 gallon tank and we have our option set to warn we are down to 25 gallons based on trip routing. RV Trip Wizard has "filter" options that can show numerous items on the maps - rest areas, gas stations, dump stations etc. You can select which you wish to see on the map and turn them off with a one click option. So, for example, you chose a fuel station on the map you want to make a stop. You open the details and simply add to last stop (selecting the stop you want it to follow). The new POI is on the map and the table shows mileage and time. 

As a note, in the case of fuel stops, edit the stop and add the amount of fuel you plan to add. The option window will show how many gallons used as well as remaining. We usually simply add fuel to bring the remaining back to 80 gallons. If you have input a cost per gallon the trip costs in the table will also be updated.

Below is a screenshot of our completed trip plan from our home to Boyd's in Key West with two fuel stops. Take note of the route as I have turned off the option to show all campgrounds and filters. Also, the table on the left shows details. Notice the small wrench at the top right of the table - that has all the options you can set for your trip as well as being able to export the trip details. Also notice at the bottom of the table a button that allows you to automatically set the return trip options - unless you are full-timing and just keep going (one day soon for us 😁) The only thing missing in the table is the number of nights we'll be at Boyd's, available when you edit the stop. Once added the dates in the first column will update appropriately.

We have used this trip planning tool for quite some time and find it to be the best overall planning aid. I work on longer trips and modify as I go along - for example, I have been planning our Alaska journey for about 6 months, off and on. I open it up, work on it and then save it. I also create trips with desired destinations and then go back to them once we are ready for that planning and add more specifics. For example, we have an old west tour that has stops of the points of interest. Once we decide to start planning we'll go back in and start looking and adding campgrounds in the area. 

For a longer trip, below is our current Alaska journey that includes a side trip to Michigan so we drop our guns off at a family member to avoid Canada issues. 👮 I have selected campgrounds that currently are open, knowing it will all have to be reviewed as we get closer to this adventure. I also have to add more stops from Michigan to our Canada entry point. I have minimized the table on the left and the POI on the right so it only shows map - lot of zooming and scrolling for this trip to be planned - but will be worth it. 

So that's an overview of how we use RVTripWizard for planning. In the next part we'll discuss how we take the trip data out of RVTripWizard and use Excel to actually add timings that help with our trip schedule and outlook. 

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Installing Dirt the Devil CV1500 with Vroom

So, a few weeks ago we made a post about our newest upgrade purchase - the Dirt Devil CV1500 Vacuum with Vroom extension hose. 

This upgrade will provide a central vacuum and we can finally do away with our dust buster and broom/dustpan. The Vroom hose extends up to 35feet allowing it to reach front to back in our rig. We can quickly and easily extend the hose, use it to pick up small or large jobs and then retract it quickly. Having a couple of dogs this will help keep things in line (of course Jeff spreads some dirt too). 

The Dirt Devil bag that is available is not paper but a paper/cloth hybrid. It can hold a lot of debris without fear of it busting. It is located in the top of the unit and is an easy job to replace. It came with three bags and we ordered a few more 3 packs from Amazon just to be prepared.

Here is our video of the installation. Jeff did this and is still making some minor adjustments to the overall hose - and his back may need a bit of adjusting too after crawling around under the sink. 😄

Please bear in mind, this is his first video ever and had no one to hold the phone while creating it. He'll get better and will be doing another one that involves our awning tie down/poles to keep the awning out all the time (except for gale force storms 😬). Feel free to comment or ask questions - just be nice. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

This RV Upgrade Really Sucks

First a shoutout to a great online store for RV upgrades and accessories - RVUpgrades.com. This current purchase has not been our first and probably will not be our last. This one came courtesy of one of their emails, as we had never really looked into this type of item - but we are looking forward to installing it and then putting it to use.

Ok, enough with the theatrics - introducing our current upgrade task - the Dirt Devil CV1500 Central Vacuum With Vroom RV Retractable Hose System. After taking a look at the reviews and the details of this item we decided it will be well worth the money (about $249). We will eliminate our old broom/dustpan and the "dust buster" hand held vacuum we use. The current plan is to install the power unit under the kitchen sink on one side, wrap the Vroom hose up around the sink and mount the access hose against the inside of the opposite kitchen cabinet door. The extended hose (35 feet) will reach back to the bedroom, bathroom and easily into the cockpit. 

The hope is to have this installed for our upcoming Key West trip. Jeff plans on actually making a video of the item and the install process. We'll publish that here on the blog for all to view (and maybe laugh out loud or some such). Stay tuned....

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Where Am I Going and How Do I Get There - Part 1

Almost all RV forums and discussion groups will eventually have what can become a rather heated argument over trip planning and usage of GPS. For us, Jeff is the planner and his background in IT, along with a Type A personality, contribute to his obsession with planning and trying not to be caught "off guard". Of course, no one can predict events so Jeff also has patience and flexibility. 

Planning an RV trip, outside the quick little weekend somewhere close, requires some sense of direction and the ability to plan a route that is both safe and in most instances quick. The discussion of planning routes and timing arrivals/departures can be rather complex; thus, this topic will be split into segments. 

The one thing to remember, this is just one method and some people prefer the "winging it" style. We do not have any desire to be staying in rest stops, Walmart or the like so we plan our trips with not only the destination in mind, but stops along the way. 

A major component of one's plan is how far you want to travel in one day. Some people use mileage and others use time. We do a combination - we prefer to be stopped by 3pm and we prefer to keep our miles to about 250 in any given day. If we can average 60mph that's about 4 hours of drive time. Then we stop, hook up and enjoy the evening relaxing at the pool or outside with some rum or vodka concoction. 🍹

Once you decide what your travel style is like and if it is the planner type, these posts may be of help. If you're a "winging it" style, maybe you can be enlightened to how planners think so you can understand another point of view. Jeff used to be a "winging it" and slowly moved to the planner style. 

As a planner, you will want to review and look at the different tools that you can use. There are several options, some free some not, and they all have different features. Through trial and error we chose our main planning options - rvtripwizard.com, excel, google maps and our Garmin RV 890.

We only use GoogleMaps to help pick our destination campground and use it in conjunction with RVTripWizard. We export trips from RVTripWizard into Excel and, after adding some columns, we create a completed trip with destination/arrival times and stopover times. As we begin our trip, we put our daily destination into the Garmin and it provides us traffic and weather delays as well as estimated arrivals and counts down our traveling day.

So, that is our style of planning and the main tools we use. In Part 2 (coming soon if not already there) we'll detail how we use RVTripWizard. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Inverter Saga - Part Deux

Life can throw you a lot of curves and time can escape from you so quickly. I realized that I had been neglecting this blog and amidst a lot of life events. Beth and I are fine, physically; but have had some intense things going on with her Mom. It has finally settled and now more can be done to continue our journey to full timing. 

Looking back on prior posts I noticed that I never provided an update to the inverter saga. Since the time I modified the inverter we have made 2 trips. Each trip had no issues with the modified inverter. 

I do take some level of precautions, which probably mean nothing but my own feeling of security. I do not start the inverter while I am connected to shore power. Once I disconnect either at home or at a park I then turn on the inverter. It powers up just fine and the refrigerator operates as it should. Also, before I connect shore power, I turn the inverter off (this is done using the remote switch in the coach).

So, as far as it appears, the modification of removing the GFI and replacing with a standard outlet was a success. I'm sure the switching component would work when connecting/disconnecting shore power, but I feel more comfortable with my process especially since we are not sure why the first inverter burned out.

Next trip is coming mid/late March - Boyd's in Key West for a week....will be a well needed vacation and  Jeff's birthday celebration trip.

Where's my Mail?

One of the most interesting (or irritating depending on your outlook) things I see on RV groups is people asking how to get their mail while being full time. Many of these people have simply sold everything, jumped in their camper and hit the road with no prior planning. I might like living spontaneously in where I go to dinner but not how I live. For each their own and I wish them well along their journey. I’m somewhat a planner and like to have my “ducks in a row” so I’m not scrambling later.

Even in our digital world, we cannot live without mail of some type. Most of the time our monthly credit card bills and the like can be viewed online; but, there are other things that still rely on mail notices – vehicle or license renewals, for example. As a Floridian I can perform my renewal online but I need to have a place to receive the actual paperwork or license.

As a full time RVer the first step before resolving the mail issue concerns picking a domicile state. Another post will deal with that specific and suggestions. Suffice it to say you need to decide where you want your address to be located. Once that decision is made you can then research mail forwarding services.

Mail forwarding services provide you a physical address in your domicile state and will collect your mail as it comes in. Depending on the service you usually can view scans of the envelopes online and choose to have the item forwarded to your current location, shredded, or held for future disposition.

Of course, some full timers may have decided to keep their residence or have close family that will allow them to use their address. All of this is moot if you fall into that category. 

There are numerous mail services and I’ve listed some below. Some are strictly in one state while others can provide a physical address in multiple states. Again, picking your domicile state is critical. Each has their own rates and variations of service levels. All will require a completed USPS Form 1583.

As of this publishing we have not chosen our mail forwarding provider. We do know that Florida will be our domicile, and the Escapees service is on top of the list right now. Since we are already Florida residents we only need change address and get new driver’s license, etc.