We have lift off! Or perhaps more accurately, we have rolling earthquake! I’m borrowing ‘rolling earthquake’ from an RV inspector who was explaining, in part, why things get jiggled loose in RV’s. We are used to the creaks and groans of our mobile home now, we even think it’s pretty quiet, which is very different from how we experienced Dora (RV) on our maiden voyage. We wondered how we might ever be able to hear the radio. But that was then and this is now.
We left Maine just over a week ago, hitting the road 2 days earlier than originally planned so that we could get out and south before the predicted winter storm hit. The 2 months leading up to this departure had been somewhat insane. Dennis had been away on many business trips, he and I had traveled to New Jersey and Ohio for two of his retirement parties, we had squeezed in a week long trip to Florida to retrieve our newly purchased RV, and there had been the holidays and my knee surgery.
The RV dealership near us had been closed for 2 weeks over the holidays, so the moment they opened we had dropped the RV and the Jeep off to have a towing system added to them and to address a couple of minor issues we needed help with. We were able to retrieve them just one day before departing. The packing frenzy took place between 8 am and 11:30 pm in an all day drizzle. Fun times!
We rolled into my brother’s home in New Jersey after our first day of driving, exhausted from the previous weeks of non-stop bop and now a long day’s drive that ended in several hours of heavy traffic.
The dogs had settled into RV traveling exactly as expected…Alice chilled out on the sofa, Charlie, with the help of a sedative, dozed at the feet of the passenger, staring out the little window as the world whipped by. We stopped a few times to let them stretch their legs and relieve themselves. Leashes and harnesses on, leashes and harnesses off….repeat.
Luckily my brother’s property can accommodate Dora and Boots (the Jeep we are towing) so we parked, locked up and went into the house. We introduced the 3 dogs to each other which turned out to be a highlight; the dogs got along like best friends. Charlie surprised us by being exceptionally confident and clearly excited to see everyone again. Alice was her usual friendly self, however, getting her to walk down a strange hallway to our bedroom was another story. The first night we half dragged, half bribed her, one step at a time, as she lowered herself into a combat crawl, afraid of things unseen. Once she was in our room she was as happy as a clam. The next night Daniel (our thankfully young and strong nephew) had to carry her upstairs and into our room. The mysteries of life!
Because of high winds the next day it was necessary to extend our visit one more night. It was actually a lovely break after the frenetic time leading up to our departure.
*Note to self: don’t only plan on one-night stopovers in getting from point A to B. It’s tiring and we will miss some of the fun stuff along the way.
From there we traveled to Virginia where we checked into a hotel because below freezing temperatures at night meant we couldn’t de-winterize Dora. The hotel parking lot was almost completely empty, and it looked like for sure I could make a U turn and be set up for driving straight out in the morning. But nooo…there was not enough room and we had to unhook Boots from Dora, make the turn and then re-hook everything back up. In the process we also forgot to put on the hand break in the Jeep so had to intervene as he started rolling backwards.
*Note to self: Not all empty parking lots can accommodate the U turn of a rig and towed vehicle. Judge conservatively.
*Note to self: Always, always put on hand break before beginning the unhooking process.
The next morning we rolled out at 6 am with about 1/3” of snow on the ground. We were at the edge of the storm so within 20 minutes we were on dry roads and we were able to enjoy the beauty that is pre-dawn into sunrise.
A campground in North Carolina was our destination, and because of location, we were out of the freezing night time temperatures and were able to go through our first de-winterization. The next night that area was to be hit with a cold front that would drop temperatures into the 20’s. We were just squeaking by.
Well, we tried to de-winterize, which entails getting the anti-freeze out of all the pipes. Half way through the process our inexperience became an obstacle, so a kind soul responded to my request for help and we got the job finished with his assistance. It wasn’t actually complicated, it was just that our newbie brains were sure it was supposed to be more complicated. In the process we also discovered a leak, which led to some phone calls and yet another kind soul making a Saturday evening house call to find and repair the leak. Not only did he repair the leak, he encouraged us to ask as many questions as we could come up with, and he gave us a solid education. Don’t get me wrong, we had done plenty of reading, YouTube watching, and researching ahead of time, but some stuff you only learn or find the right questions to ask when you actually start using the RV. So that was a rainy, tiring, but good evening. Oh…let’s not forget the mud and leashes and harnesses on, leashes and harnesses off…repeat.
We had another early start the following morning, and we rolled on down into South Carolina and into a motor coach resort in Hilton Head Island. We had no idea that luxury resorts for RV’s existed, so we ecstatically pulled into our camp site in a setting that was nothing short of paradise. We totally lucked out! With wide-eyed wonder we looked at the massive motor homes that surrounded us. Dora looked like a little gremlin next to them. It was a complete pleasure to walk around on paved pathways, in and amongst tropical landscaping. We were totally patting ourselves on our backs that we had decided to book for 3 nights. Because of the strange weather patterns it was significantly cooler than normal, but it was beautiful and we enjoyed exploring the area. The best part was the beach. It is so much like our beach at home in Maine, but it must be 10 times longer and at least twice as wide at low tide. The dogs exploded in joy at finally being able to run off leash and really burn off some energy. We decided that a return trip to HHI is definitely in our future, but for longer than 3 nights.
Because it was chilly we were running our heat a lot, and our heat runs on propane. We noticed a bit too late that our propane was down to 1/4 tank and we had 3 chilly nights ahead, so we did what most RV’ers do, we purchased two small space heaters. Problem solved. We topped up the propane on our drive down to Florida at a Camping World. The HHI resort offered propane deliveries to the sites once a week, but we weren’t going to be there on their delivery day.
*Note to self: Fill propane as religiously as gasoline.
While in HHI we discovered another leak, this time in the kitchen. We decided we’d get it taken care of when we got to our next destination in Florida. I made an appointment with someone while we were en route. After a reservation mishap, our long travel day was extended to include making our way to a different resort where our rig and hookup requirements could be met. We were completely exhausted by time we’d hooked up and walked and fed the dogs. Yay for leftovers and wine for us! And strangely, there was no more puddle in the kitchen. I tried to make it puddle again by running all the taps, but nope….everything was bone dry. Not sure what happened, but we think perhaps the water pressure was too high in HHI and we had not made adjustments on our water pressure regulator.
*Note to self: always check water pressure during hookup.
The next morning at 5:30 am we (the dogs and I) dropped Dennis off at the front gate of the resort for his Uber ride to the airport. Off he went with his golf clubs to spend a few days playing golf in Ft. Lauderdale. We went back to bed.
To keep me on my toes I noticed that when flushing the toilet I could see toilet paper down the pipe that leads to the holding tank, and we should never be able to see ‘stuff’. I checked and emptied the holding tank. No change. That led me to watching a whole lot of YouTube videos on how to unclog an RV toilet….SO many ways. I loaded the dogs in the car, went to the dog park with them, then went to buy a plunger and a snake (praying that I wouldn’t have to resort to the snake). After we returned, I gave the toilet two plunges and all was well. The issue is that unlike a toilet in a house that has an entire tank of water for every flush, RV’s have a small spray of water generated by a foot pump. It turns out it is good practice to let a LOT of water run with each flush.
*Note to self: Long flushes are good.
As luck would have it I have two friends who live relatively close by to our current camp site. Jenna came over last night for a visit, and today Kathy dropped in. I feel so blessed to have these two women in my life, and I cherished every moment with each of them. The dogs were equally pleased with their company…and dogs know good people.
Our booking in this camp site is for 6 nights. There has finally been a settling in, the emergence of a routine that helps the dogs feel more at home and assists me in relaxing into life on the road. I cleaned the RV and the Jeep. I did grocery shopping and handled laundry. Google helped me find a lovely dog park in town and a lovely trail along Lake Minneola to stroll with the dogs. With my knee still recovering from surgery, long dog walks aren’t on the books for a little while, but a stroll along the lake before a play session in the dog park did wonders for them and me. Today I also set up a small fenced in area against the side of the RV, so now the dogs have twice the space to lie around in and we can enjoy fresh air without a leash. The resort rules say “no dog fencing allowed”….look at me breaking the rules. Even if I’m told to take the fencing down, it was worth the pleasure of sitting out in the warm sun with the dogs lying on the grass next to me. 🙂
*Note to self: Notice you still don’t like to break the rules.
Living in close quarters, people and dogs, has worked out so far. Alice has chosen her spot, Charlie has chosen his, and Den and I have become more fluid in our movements of hooking and unhooking at each camp site, as well as dealing with the constant cleaning. Thankfully small spaces get cleaned up pretty quickly. We are feeling more informed about the inner workings of the RV and feel we are moving beyond conscious incompetency. There haven’t been a lot of evenings of watching TV or even playing cards or Mah Jongg. Other than my two visitors, days have been filled with the activities of life, somehow slowed down by our learning curve. But that is changing.
Maine is where our house is. It’s where we have everything set up to be most convenient and most accommodating for us and the dogs. It’s where life is at its easiest. And yet, where ever we are, we are home. Home truly is the comfy old slipper kind of feel, and it’s not really provided by the stuff we surround ourselves with, it’s just what emanates from within us.
*Note to self: I am always home.