Our One-Year RV Anniversary

One year ago today, we took the plunge and bought our first RV.  It’s been “quite a ride,” too!

Seriously, we have not regretted our decision at all, and we look forward more and more to our trips out in it, even more than I thought we would a year ago when we first got into this new hobby.  Over the past year, we have visited eight state parks, some closer and some further away, as well as a national forest, a nice private lake, and yes, even a quick overnight stay in the parking lot at a Wal-Mart when nothing else was available in that area.   Most have just been long weekend trips, but two trips were full week-long trips and were just awesome.

We have especially enjoyed having our two dogs along with us.  They have adapted to RV travel well, especially our younger dog who has pretty much grown-up spending time each month in the RV with us, and we no longer have to worry about boarding or finding a pet sitter for them while we are gone.

RV Dogs

Our area is mostly lacking in quality boarding facilities, and we really do not like to board them unless there is no other option available.  That is a story for another post sometime, especially after I spent much of last Friday visiting boarding places around town again for the first time in a few years, which was not a good experience at all.

I can best describe the work that we have done on our RV as basic restorations and a few upgrades.  Ours is a 1990’s model motor home, but it was used very little in its lifetime with only about 30K miles when we bought it last year.  The interior was in very good shape, and there was only a small amount of exterior paint fading on the front and rear.  We have since repainted the front and rear stripes that were faded, and that simple restoration is the single thing that outwardly improved the look the most.  The rest of the exterior received several treatments with a chemical paint restoration product, and we are quite pleased with the exterior look now.

Inside the RV, we painted the ceilings in the two bathroom areas and the wood trim in the driver’s cab, which was in need of some attention from sun and heat exposure over the years.  We also added matching wood molding around the skylights in the main cabin to dress them up a bit.  We replaced all four of the roof vents/skylights right away, as most had holes in the netting where bugs could have flown in.  We also updated all of the plumbing fixtures throughout the rig to avoid any issues with possible leaks in the future, and we also recently updated the hardware in the bathroom.  Everything has been steam cleaned at least twice throughout the RV, including the curtains which are in great shape.  I have also lemon-oiled all of the woodwork once a month, too.  Even though a few of the cabinet doors were a little dry from lack of attention, the lemon oil has brought them back very nicely, and regular oil treatments seem to be working just fine.

My husband has spent quite a bit of time on general engine maintenance over this past year, as he likes to tinker with it in his spare time.  Every belt and hose has been replaced, as well as other work that he wanted to do on it.  We paid a professional RV mechanic to do a few things, including the replacement of pretty much everything associated with braking system and the master cylinder.  We also had the fuel tank removed and boiled out, and we also replaced the fuel pump and filter.  (This is something that we recommend to anyone buying an older motor home now, too.)  The Onan generator was repaired by a certified Onan mechanic, and it has run perfectly since that repair.  We put six new tires on it the day after we bought it, which along with the generator repair, was factored into the price we paid upfront.

At this point, we have a great 31 foot RV that has everything working perfectly on it and many things brand new.  We have beds for four or five people, a new refrigerator and freezer that runs on propane or electric (thanks to the previous owner), microwave/convection oven combo, gas range, double-sided sink, lots of cabinet storage space inside including a slide out pantry and a large closet, a sofa and two nice rocking chairs, two captains chairs that swivel around to the living area when parked, a table for two that folds back against the wall when not in use, two additional tables that can be set up inside when needed, two ceiling mounted refrigerated air conditioners, central heat with a thermostat, bathroom with separate shower and toilet areas, bathroom sink, HD TV with an updated TV antenna on top of the rig and electronic signal finder inside, DVD player, new sound system and speakers, phone connection (if we want it, when available), cable TV connection (when available), automatic step for the main door, gas grill outside (on the side of the rig), and an 18-foot awning, We are out less than $11K on everything, too, including the repairs and updates we have done, which is still well within an acceptable price range for a good RV of this age.  On any given four-day / three-night weekend trip to some nice destinations within a three-hour drive, we save at least $300 in hotel, boarding fees and food costs, even when we factor in the cost of the fuel for the motor home.  But of course, hotels are not even available inside the parks, so camping in the RV has finally opened up this great option for us, rather than having to commute in and out of the parks when we go.

In addition, we have added some outdoor amenities, too.  We each have a nice outdoor chair, and we purchased a great outdoor rug from Camping World that folds up with little effort, is easy to clean and will not mold.  I also made side panels and a front panel for our awning to help us claim a bit more shade in the hotter weather months.  I bought the sun shade fabric and sun shade grommets from Home Depot in their garden section, and the panels were simple to make and just attach to the awning with velcro strips on the sides and to on our regular clips on the front.  Similar awning panels are quite expensive to buy and would have cost over $300 for ours, but I made these for around $80 total.  We also bring along a mister and a good utility fan to use outdoors when it is really hot, too.  Of course, we also have a selection of awning lights and solar light stakes to use at our campsite.  The solar light stakes are great to have, especially when walking outside on a moonless night to walk the dogs, as it gets really, really dark in the middle of nowhere.

The most important benefit of RV travel for us, by far, is the quality time that we’ve been able to have away from home and cell phones and email and news and the everyday stresses of life these days.  We have also been pleasantly surprised at the number of family and friends that have also jumped on the “RV bandwagon” since we bought ours, too.  It’s fun to have family and friends that also enjoy this hobby, and we are looking forward to all the great new experiences in store and the fun new memories that we will make.  We certainly did our part over this past year to make some new camping memories, and it’s been a great ride indeed!

Lakefront Camping Sunset
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A Welcome Break in the Mountains

We just returned from several days in the wonderfully cool mountains of southern New Mexico at Cloudcroft and loved almost every minute of our time there.  As I previously mentioned, this was our first real boon-docking trip in our RV, and I’m happy to say that our preparations for such a trip, along with preparations for colder weather, proved to be good ones.  We only ran into a couple of issues that we were able to work around, including rainy weather conditions and an unexpected issue with noisy next door neighbors, which combined, caused us to move our camp to a drier and more quiet location nearby on our third day out.

The Cloudcroft area was quite beautiful and very green, and the views to the west toward White Sands from the Tularosa Basin Overlook were stunning.

Tularosa Basin Overlook with White Sands National Monument in the distance
Tularosa Basin Overlook with White Sands National Monument in the distance
The scenic Mexican Canyon Trestle west of Cloudcroft, listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Happily, we did most things right on this trip, especially having a full tank of propane and a full tank of water when we set up camp. We also carried along extra water bottles for drinking, too.  Fresh water was available nearby, but we didn’t want to have to break camp to drive to get more if we didn’t have to do so.  Our house batteries worked well for the battery power we needed, as long as we ran our generator a bit during the morning and evening generator times to recharge those batteries.  Cooking outside on our Coleman propane stove and our portable charcoal grill allowed us to conserve the propane in our RV’s tank, which was a good plan for us on this trip, as a big cold front blew through the area late on Friday night, and we needed more propane for the house heater than we originally thought we would need for this time of the year.

On the cooking front, our new little red percolator was a perfect addition to our camping gear, and we really enjoyed the coffee that we brewed in it so much that we may just use it going forward when we camp.  We also used our Coleman oven, which worked great.  Below is a picture of the cornbread that we baked outside on our first night at camp, along with our new Six Can Soup recipe that I recently discovered through Pinterest and was quite good.

Cooking outside with our Coleman oven

The next day, as we learned that the cold front would be blowing through within a few hours, we opted to grill our remaining food items all at once for the remainder of our trip while we had our little charcoal grill fired up, and that was a good decision for sure, since it rained most of the next day and night without a break.

I must admit that I enjoyed not having television on this trip.  We spent some wonderful time outdoors hiking, walking the dogs, and riding our new motorcycle around the area for the first time.  During the day of non-stop rain, we were able to watch a movie on my laptop during generator time at lunch, and we just enjoyed the peace and quiet the rest of the time, opting for some walks in the gently falling rain and just relaxing.

Hiking in the Trestle Recreation Area in the Lincoln National Forest

We had cell signal for phone calls but little to no data service, so we had to use our little handheld weather radio to get updates on the unfolding weather situation.  That worked fine for us, but I confess that I missed the handy weather app on my phone for more informative updates.  But overall, it was good to just “unplug” from the world for a few days.

Our decision to move our camp on the third day due to weather and noisy neighbors was an unexpected development, but overall, it made the rest of our trip much more enjoyable.  We are learning to just deal with these unexpected situations as they arise and go on about our fun, and I think that is a good attitude to have when camping.  It is obviously a situation that is beyond our control in so many ways, and that is part of the fun and challenge of camping in a few respects – learning to adapt.

We moved to a more open area in Silver campground with fewer trees, the overflow area, which allowed us to dry out a bit better once the rain broke since we didn’t have water dripping from the trees above us.  The group next door at our original spot didn’t even arrive at camp until 11 pm on day two, and they spent about two hours setting up their tent camp, talking, laughing and hammering tent stakes literally right next to our bedroom window.  The next morning, they also fired up a very loud sound system, and that is what ultimately caused us to move.  Personally, we think that loud radios and sound systems should be banned at places like this in national forests and some remote state parks, as literally everyone in the campground had to listen to their very loud music.  Many of our fellow campers were unhappy with these folks, just as we were, since most of us were there to actually enjoy nature and have some peace and quiet for a few days.  No officials in the park ever asked them to moderate their noise either.  We could have remained in our original spot and been miserable or just take an hour, pack up and move, which we did.  Our new spot was one of the most quiet spots we’ve ever had, so it all worked out fine for us, and we were grateful that we were able to move away from all the noise.  We just wish that some rules regarding loud noise like this in these beautiful places could be implemented to make camping a more enjoyable experience for all that make the trip there.  The overflow lot is lined with nice, tall pine trees, so it really was not bad at all.  Our motor home is 31 feet in length, and we were fortunate to find a spot in the main campground for that first day, too.  Rigs that are longer would likely just need to camp in the overflow lot anyway.

It is rather disappointing that the campgrounds here in the national forest pretty much shut down after Labor Day weekend, with the exception of this one extremely crowded campground, Silver Campground.  The weather in this part of New Mexico is generally quite nice in the early fall months, and it would seem that the national forest folks that run this area would just rather not mess with campers any longer than they must do so.  I’m so glad that state parks are run with a different attitude toward overnight guests.  We will likely just focus on visiting state parks going forward and only plan a return trip here on some less frequent occasion.  That is a shame, since this is a gorgeous place.

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Never Forget

On this anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to simply share one of the most beautiful music videos of all time, at least in my opinion.  I first saw it in 2002, and I have come back to watch it and listen to the words many times since then because the lyrics are so beautiful and sad, yet leave me full of hope at the same time.  Michael W. Smith’s music has a fabulous way of doing that at times, and this portrayal of how so many of us feel when we see our flag, especially in times of national trial or remembrance, is so accurate and moving.  Our flag is not just a piece of cloth.  It embodies who we are as a nation and the highest ideals of who we are striving to become.  This video makes me want to cry, and then it makes me want to get up and be a better person today than I was yesterday.  That is who we are as Americans, at heart, I think.

I recently heard someone say that someday, the 9/11 anniversary will simply fade into obscurity and will hardly be noticed, probably after most of us that are old enough to vividly remember the day are gone.  After all, who really thinks much of Pearl Harbor Day anymore?  I must sadly confess that I probably fall into that category.  But while I am alive, I will never, ever forget this anniversary and the thousands of my fellow citizens that died that day and afterwards.  I recently read Let’s Roll, Ordinary People – Extraordinary Courage by Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer who was one of the men on Flight 93.  It is one of the most inspirational books I have read in quite some time, too.  (Last year, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the Flight 93 Memorial was dedicated in a solemn ceremony, and this article tells more about that event.)

Even though I was going through some very hard days during the Fall of 2001, it pales in comparison to what so many others were going through that were directly impacted by the attacks.  Still, the combination of events, both personal and national, caused me to pursue God in a way that I had never done before.  For the opportunity to experience God’s grace and help and love more than ever before, I humbly remain grateful because it changed me forever.

Peace to you today, hug those you love, do something kind for someone, and remember the courage and sacrifice of those that have paid the ultimate price for us.

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RV Bathroom Organization Idea

Update 10/12/2014: For those of you coming to this post from Pinterest and/or Buzzfeed – welcome!  I am truly amazed at how popular this little post has become since I first posted it, but it is a great, simple modification for the RV.  Feel free to check out more posts here on “camping,” “travel” and “RV” by looking under my “Fun” category at left, too.

Now on to my original post on this little helpful tip.  (FYI – we found this bathroom set at our local WalMart.)

As we continue to make preparations for our upcoming camping trip to the mountains in a few days, we made a decision to update all of our bathroom accessories in the RV to something a bit more attractive.  In the process, I also wanted to find a way to secure some of the taller items that we typically leave out on our bathroom cabinet.  While I initially had something in mind like a shallow tub with a bottom in it, my husband came up with an idea that we both really like now – a simple, matching towel bar!

Towel Bar for RV Bathroom Organization
Towel Bar for RV Bathroom Organization

This is just the perfect solution as far as we are concerned, and it looks so nice with the other matching accessories, including the toilet paper holder, a small hook, a round hand towel ring and a longer bath towel bar.  Our larger bottle of lotion was a bit too wide to fit in the gap between the towel bar and the wall, so we just bought the next smaller sized bottle.  Everything else fit perfectly, and we are once again very “happy campers!”

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