Time to Load the RV

Our “Summer” is now upon us… finally!

We are leaving on Friday for our first full week of vacation since May 2015, and I am more than ready, especially since the worst of the summer heat seems to now be behind us.

Since we bought our new-to-us RV back in May, our second RV, we’ve enjoyed two weekend trips and one slightly longer trip over the 4th of July, but those shorter trips are just not the same as a full week off with a weekend on either end.

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Our 4th of July trip was a great break from the summer heat.

 

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A quick weekend test trip in early June
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A quick weekend out to the canyon with friends in early August during a little break in the heat
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An epic first-time hike in one of our favorite state parks!

 

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Yes, this is a rattlesnake seen on our last trip.  They are seen often on the trails at in and around the canyon.  Great care should always be used when hiking in areas where these guys are present, including carrying a snake bite kit.

This will be a solo trip for us and the dogs, and it will also be a slightly different RV trip for us, as we will enjoy both rural camping and camping in town for a change to allow us to take advantage of some activities and dining options nearby.  We will also be able to do a bit of fact finding for possible future trips back to this area in the RV, too.

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Our “synchronized sleepers” taking a nap in the RV on a cool day at the canyon… in honor of the Olympics going on that day, of course!

Our upcoming trip will be our first longer trip in this particular RV, and it will also be our first test trip in colder weather.  We’ve really had to give some thought to suddenly going from hot summer days to cold nights near freezing and cooler days next week.  We normally don’t make a trip in cold conditions until the winter months, so our packing efforts are quite deliberate in hopes that we don’t forget something important.

The following discussion came after several recent visits with fellow RV friends who also vacation by RV regularly.  Some are new to RVing and some are not.  We all face the same challenge of code restrictions that limit the amount of time our RVs can be parked at home, only 24 hours at a time.  While we all approach our loading process in much the same way, we all vary our loading processes just a bit, too. Below, I’ve shared information on our own approach that works quite well for us.

We just vacation in our RV at this point in our lives, and our loading process for each trip varies, depending on our destination and the weather forecast.  We must do most of our loading while the RV is in covered storage, as we cannot park it at our house except for very short periods of time, due to restrictions in our area.  We are actually fine with this process, as we’ve learned to load the RV in storage pretty efficiently over time.  We’ve also found that we are able to get away faster on our trips by simply departing from the storage facility, rather than leaving from our house and fighting more traffic.

Preparing the RV and loading prior to a trip basically looks something like this for us.  Checklists definitely help expedite the process, and this list is not necessarily everything we do… just the main things.

Immediately after returning from a trip:

  • Wash all RV linens and return them to the RV right after we return from a trip.
  • Make the bed so we are ready to go if we want to make a trip with short notice.
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Our custom-built mattress is so comfy and makes traveling in the RV all the more enjoyable because “good campers need good sleep!”

Weekend prior to departure:

  • Get gasoline and/or propane for the RV and check all fluid levels. (We filled up for only $1.83 per gallon!)
  • Wash the RV, and/or clean the windshield and other windows, as needed.  (We power wash the windshield and hand wash the front of the RV when we arrive at storage at the end of a trip in the non-winter months to get the bugs off, but it still gets pretty dirty in storage at times, even though it sits in covered storage.)
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While Hubby hooks up our utilities when we first arrive at our campsite, I grab the tall step ladder and clean the front windshield.  Not only does that get the bugs off from our drive, it allows us to see better when using our sunscreens over the windshield while parked, rather than keeping the front curtains closed most of the time.

During the week prior to our trip:

  • Unload any items that we will not need for our upcoming trip from inside the RV and from the basements.  (RV weight management)
  • Load any items that we need for our trip that we’ve stored at home, except food items, including refreshing first aid items.
  • Load a few jugs of water inside for the drive because we never carry water in the RV holding tank while driving to minimize that weight.
  • Load clothes and shoes… and coats!  (We adore camping in cooler weather, especially after a hot summer.)
  • Load non-refrigerated foods and prescription meds. (We load our meds at least a day early so that we lessen the risk of forgetting them.)
  • Plug in the RV to charge the house batteries.  If storms with lightning are in the forecast, we sometimes opt to not plug in until the risk is lessened, even though we have a good surge protector on the RV.
  • Turn on the refrigerator when plugged in, giving it at least 24 hours to reach proper temps.
  • Clean kitchen and bathroom and other areas, as needed.
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The kitchen in our new-to-us RV and the custom rug I had made for the wood floor.  The rug has a padded backing to keep it from scratching the floor.

Day prior to departure:

  • Check air in the tires and add air, as needed.
  • Verify that the fridge and freezer are at proper temperatures and adjust the thermostat, as needed.  (We keep a thermometer in each section.)
  • Buy fresh produce, preferably at one of the farmer’s markets seasonally, if possible.
  • Load food and supplies for the dogs.  (We carry their food in sealed containers.)
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A few fresh veggies for our trip from a local farmer’s market. That fully ripe cantaloupe smells so good, and I can’t wait to feast on those fresh black-eyed peas with a little Tabasco sauce!  Those are yellow zucchinis, not regular yellow squash, and they are quite sweet.  I can only find them from one grower at the farmer’s market.

Day of departure:

  • Load refrigerated and freezer foods.  (I stage these items on a shelf by themselves in the fridge and freezer at home because it’s definitely not good to go off and leave food behind that I missed, especially on trips where we don’t bring the car along and/or when we are camped in very remote locations.  Been there, done that.)
  • Load small electronics and camera bag.  (We keep extra chargers in the RV.)
  • Attach the trailer to the RV, if we are taking it.
  • Leave car(s) in our covered storage as we depart in the RV.

The longer the trip, the earlier we generally start the loading process.  For our ten day trip coming up, we have actually completed most everything up to the items we take care of on the day before or day of departure, with the exception of our food.  This gives me more time this week to work planning our menu and cooking in advance for our trip, as well as writing a blog post about it all!

We no longer load any items in the RV fridge or freezer until shortly before we leave.  We have a RV neighbor who shares our set of plugs in storage that routinely does something to throw the breaker on our set of plugs, even though we’ve reported this many times to management.  Also, we just feel better loading all those items closer to departure because we take food safety seriously, especially on our RV trips.  And even though we don’t have any issues with squirrels or other animals at our storage facility, we never keep food in the RV that might attract them if we can help it.  We’ve heard horror stories about chewed wiring, etc., especially from squirrels, and that’s yet another good reason for us to load in storage.  We have many squirrels in our neighborhood and in our own tree in front.

Fortunately, we do not have a long drive from our house to the RV storage facility, so loading while in storage is a viable option for us.  If we lived further away, though, loading in storage would be more problematic and time-consuming.  We also have several good shopping options near the storage facility, if we need to pick up any items and carry them straight to the RV in storage instead of bringing them home first.

On another RV related subject, we have already made our camping reservations for….

Thanksgiving!

Yes, this is still August.

I am amazed at just how early people are now reserving their RV sites for both Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks, and we were fortunate to think of making our reservation for that week before we totally missed out in securing a site reservation.  When we started traveling by RV five years ago, we had no trouble getting a site for Thanksgiving, but that’s definitely no longer the case.

Autumn is now our Summer in so many ways.  It is the time we tend to take our RV out as often as we can find a way to do so because it is the very best time of the entire year weather wise.  The weather is already cooling off and some seasonal monsoon rains are showing up once again.  Such is the case now and for the past two weeks, and we definitely have RV travel “fever” once again.

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As I’m writing this, it’s only 75 degrees in the late afternoon, and it’s been raining gently on and off for the past three days.  Everything is greening up once again after two very hot months this summer with little rain, and we are ready to take advantage of this great weather in our RV!

I’ll be away from the blog for awhile during our trip, but I hope to return with some good photos of a truly beautiful area and maybe even some helpful RV tips on traveling there.

 

Making Memories

“Life is all about making memories”

Five years ago this month, shortly after we purchased our first motorhome, I found this “making memories” canvas at a local home store and knew it would be a perfect addition to our new cabin on wheels.  It has hung in the bedrooms of our two RVs ever since, and I suspect that no matter what RV we have in the future, we will always have this picture hanging somewhere inside to commemorate the spirit of our RV adventures.

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However, “making memories” is a phrase we used in our travels decades before we ever purchased our first RV.  In fact, we have a very long history of referring to “making memories” when we travel.  For that reason, I immediately knew this canvas would be a great fit as we began our RV travels.

“Today’s moments are tomorrow’s memories.”
— Unknown

My earliest recollection of hearing the “making memories” phrase when traveling dates back to a week-long vacation with some good friends and all five of our combined very young children for a week of vacation at a lake in East Texas one summer in the late 1980s.  To say that this trip was laden with unexpected events would be an understatement.

Here are just a couple of “memories” from that fateful trip.

We took my father’s 1960s era red and white Larson Lapline outboard boat with us, and late one evening while taking a cruise on the lake with all nine of us on board, the motor shut down.  We never could get it started again and had to use the water skis and an oar on board to paddle back to the dock, which fortunately wasn’t too terribly far away but still far enough that it took a while to get there.

We adults were exhausted from paddling and there was some brief talk of a ruined vacation.  Then…

… my sweet friend, who remains one of my very best friends today and has a great sense of humor, reminded us all that we were just “making memories,” and from that point forward, that phrase stuck like glue to our vacation escapades.

On that same trip, we all dined out at a nearby seafood restaurant one evening.  As we arrived, a big summer thunderstorm blew up, and before we knew it, a tornado was headed our way.  The restaurant staff warned everyone to stay inside and take cover, and panic quickly set in among the guests.  All we could safely do was follow their advice to stay put and take cover, and fortunately, the small tornado veered off in a different direction and did very little damage.  As we resumed our meal and the talk at the table immediately went to the many unfortunate circumstances of our trip, my friend reminded us that we were just “making memories.” 

And she was so right.  To this day, we enjoy recounting that trip with those dear friends and the “series of unfortunate events” that we encountered.  Without all those memories, we might not remember that trip at all now.

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Ever since that memorable trip, we’ve continued to use the phrase “making memories” when unexpected things come up while traveling, both the good things and especially the challenging things.  We’ve had our fair share of “making memories” on vacations over time, for sure, including our RV vacations over the past five years.

Goldeneyes at Davis Mountains State Park
We’ve taken many friends and family members to far West Texas over the past five years to introduce them to the glorious scenery that is far West Texas at Davis Mountains State Park, and we look forward to showing it off to even more people in the future, including the small town of Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory star parties.

 

Some of our fondest RV travel memories to date are the times we have traveled with family members and friends.  When we bought our first RV five years ago, we never anticipated that others we knew would soon follow our lead and buy their first RVs.  Now, it seems that we have found, quite unexpectedly, a great balance of traveling by ourselves with the dogs and occasionally traveling with others, and at this point, it is a perfect fit for us.  And what great memories we’ve made with all of these great people over the past five years, too.

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Caprock Canyons State Park continues to be a go-to RV park for us to share with family members and friends.  Once we take someone here and show them the park and its treasures, people always want to go back again.  We have so many fond memories with loved ones here and look forward to “making memories” with our favorite people and on our own over the coming years in our “home” park.

 

There is just something so special about traveling with those you love the most and getting away from everyday routines, even if only for a weekend, taking time to connect and enjoy each other’s company.  Young parents today would be wise to remember this, too, even if a staycation is more appropriate financially.

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Lake Brownwood State Park, with its rich CCC history, continues to be another favorite place to visit in our RV, especially in the spring when the bluebonnets are in bloom.

 

It’s really all about spending uninterrupted time together, and most of us have to plan our schedules carefully to actually achieve it these days.  It needs to be a priority in our lives on a regular basis.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories.  We just knew we were having fun.”
— Unknown

A group of guys on Hubby’s side of the family has decided to resume yearly tent camping trips together, something they used to do as a family group as they were all growing up when tent camping was all they could afford.  Now, they can bring along the next generation of sons with them, and their first trip is scheduled for late September.  Even though Hubby is a little spoiled to the RV, he is looking forward to resuming this fun tradition with our son for the first time… in a tent.

I can only imagine the memories those guys will make together, including a few I will probably never hear about.  They all have busy lives and careers now, but I’m so glad they are once again taking time to be together and continue a long time family tradition.  Good for them.the-best-thing-about-memories-is-making-them

We are looking forward to “making memories” in our new-to-us RV very soon as we are finally ready to resume travels this fall as the weather cools off.  Our long, hot summer is hopefully winding down, schools are back in session and our travel plans are mostly in place with our inaugural long trip scheduled to begin on Labor Day weekend.  I’m glad we had the summer to really put the RV through some paces here at home, as well as making a couple of quick test trips.

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Northern New Mexico is quickly becoming one of our favorite RV destinations in the summer months, especially when family and friends join us as they did over 4th of July this year.

 

Now, it’s finally time to get this RV show on the road once again… and start “making [even more] memories!”  😀

 

Inspiration in Tough Times

It’s tough right now.

Tough seems to be the operative word right now, but I’m still finding some great inspiration during these tough times.

I.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to watch many of the Olympic competitions in Rio over the past week, many of them live as they happened which is always a special thrill.  Watching these highly disciplined athletes from all over the world strive for excellence is always an honor, and once again, I’ve been moved to tears at times and have also cheered a few of them on from our living room, including athletes from other countries, too.

I also saw “Phelps Face” live on the evening it aired.  I was cracking up watching it and was not at all surprised when it went viral and produced some absolutely hysterical memes afterward.

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Olympic athletes are definitely tough people, including and especially the Paralympic and Special Olympics athletes, and their personal stories are incredibly inspiring.  So many of them have overcome very tough circumstances to be where they are and do what they do.

If only our politicians were as inspirational as our Olympic athletes are.  Sigh.  I guess we can dream…

No doubt the Olympics tend to bring out the best in people during the games, even we spectators that are simply watching on our televisions thousands of miles away.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

II.  The weather here at home has been tough over the past five weeks, with no rain and typically hot weather for this time of year.  Despite the hot weather, the yard work has not gone away, and I’ve had to be more diligent in working in the yard to get those chores done and still try to avoid the worst of the heat each day.

I would much rather enjoy the cool(er) mornings with a good cup of coffee, but I also don’t want to work in the heat later.  The plants, grass and trees still need water to keep them from dying in this heat, and I’m their water source right now until the weather cooperates once again.

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Without a doubt, caring for the yard in recent weeks has been pretty tough.

My little reward for all this hard work is enjoying our little outdoor paradise and the wonderful beauty of nature just outside our doors each day, something we haven’t always had here at home in years gone by when we didn’t have the time to tend the yard as we do now.  Right now, though, we just enjoy it in the cooler part of the day, but hopefully soon, the weather will moderate, and we can enjoy it much more.

All ten of our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in full bloom, and they are absolutely gorgeous, despite the very tough hot and dry weather.  This is something I’ve come to look forward to each summer in early July, and once again, they did not disappoint, having grown even more since last year.

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Birds have to be tough survivalists in the weather we’ve been having lately, but sometimes it doesn’t work out for them.  For the second year, a little nest in the tree in our backyard failed.  A dove built the nest and seemed to be thriving before we went on our trip over the 4th of July weekend, but when we returned, it had failed.  Once again I am very sad, too.  Nature isn’t always kind, by any stretch.

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Doves are visiting in abundance, as well as robins, cardinals, house finches and blue jays, thanks to our beautiful trees and bird feeders, and I love to hear the doves cooing in the early mornings to greet a new day.

 “Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land.”  Song of Solomon 2:12

III.  One of our local sportscasters is once again doing something fun as the high school football season will be underway soon.  He interviews a different coach each day about their players and their upcoming opponents, and he actually tracks the number of times each coach says the word tough in the interview.

This sportscaster has found a creative way to keep viewers interested in all the interviews, not just the ones that concern their home team, and it’s fun to watch each evening.  One coach recently uttered the word tough 28 times during the interview, too.

Hats off once again this year to a very creative sportscaster!  Who knew tough could actually be quite funny!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ” Proverbs 17:22

IV.  A dear friend and her elderly mother are both going through a very tough time right now.  Her mother became seriously ill about three weeks ago and is not expected to live.  She moved her mother to a private nursing home with Hospice care a few days ago, and I’ve been on call for her each day to help as needed.

It seems that I’m now the “go-to” person when friends need advice to care for their parents toward the end of life, since I’ve already “been there and done that” several times.  I’m so happy when I can help others with the knowledge I gained and resources we used and/or learned about as our own parents all fought their own terminal illnesses.

Without a doubt, this is how God uses so many of us… by simply sharing our personal experiences and testimonies with others in this way to help them in their own struggles, and I always give thanks when I’m able to help someone else during a tough time… because I *have* been there and done that and know how I desperately needed help myself.

If there is any good that can come from enduring tough times ourselves, it’s being able to grow in our own faith and also help someone else lessen the effect of their own tough times by loving and helping them through it.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

V.  Our country is in a tough spot these days, for sure.  It’s sad when there just seems to be nothing good on the horizon for our nation on a macro level, but the good I’ve seen manifest on a micro level lately has truly been uplifting.  This is where we can actually make a difference anyway.  Spewing hate and division on a macro level accomplishes nothing good but does afford a few loud voices some attention, unfortunately, as well as a lot of misinformation… and I do mean a *lot* of it.  In times when it’s just so tough to find out what is true and what is not, we have to dig deep to look for it.

Perhaps we should just show what we’re made of each day on a micro level, and maybe, just maybe, some day things will improve on a macro level, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Bible and Cross

I need to remind myself every single day that God is still in charge, too,… “our refuge and our strength” in times of trouble. — Ps. 46:1

And to my sweet friend in Louisiana who sometimes reads my posts here, I continue to pray for you daily as you and your family an pets endure the horrific flooding and possible loss of your home/cars/etc. Our tough times pretty much pale in comparison to your tough times right now.  I am once again reminded to never take anything in this life for granted and to ever be thankful for even the smallest of blessings each and every day.

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Have a blessed week, friends, and look for blessings, joy and inspiration all around you, no matter where you are!  😀

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27