After 2.5 months of staying in the same spot, the adventure bug hit. So, we heeded the call and jetted to Las Vegas to celebrate 30 years of marriage, leaving Tagalong secure in the mobile home/RV park we’re at through mid-February. Gulliver stood sentinel at the Phoenix Airport economy parking for four days, watching cars, trucks, airplanes, and passersby.
The hotel we stayed at in Las Vegas, Treasure Island, upgraded us from a deluxe king room with a view of the Strip to a petite suite with the same view, for no additional charge. This suite housed two bathrooms, both of which had a toilet, sink, counter, and closet. The larger of the two bathrooms featured a jacuzzi tub, while the smaller held a shower.
Living in a fifth wheel, we’re used to sharing one bathroom just big enough for one of us, with a decent-size shower. The large bathroom alone spanned more than the living room in our trailer.
Our typical RV showers consist of turning on the water, getting wet, turning off the water, lathering up, and then turning on the water to rinse. That’s it. And that’s after turning on the water heater and waiting a half hour or so for it to generate warm water.
Living in the Lap of Luxury
As you can imagine, we lingered in the luxurious tub, soaking up every minute of it. We could have stayed in our hotel room for the duration of our trip and been just fine, other than needing to go out for food on occasion, but we could do that anywhere. Since we were in Vegas, we took the opportunity to do some sightseeing.
This was the first time we stayed more in the heart of the Strip rather than at one end or the other. We visited the “Avengers” interactive exhibit in our hotel and enjoyed seeing costumes and props that were actually used in filming the movies. (Don't worry, we used hand sanitizer before and after touching any of the exhibits.)
We also roamed the Forum Shops of Caesars Palace, the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian, and the Fashion Show Mall — all of which were within walking distance of our hotel. We walked to the Bellagio and watched the fountain show, toured the Paris hotel, observed the volcano show at the Mirage, and ventured to various restaurants when our tummies rumbled.
We commemorated our milestone anniversary at our favorite restaurant in the area, Battista’s Hole in the Wall. After learning about this gem on our very first Uber ride (years ago), we try to visit it every time we’re in the area. It had been closed when we were stuck in Vegas in the spring to get Gulliver’s new shoes, so we were thrilled to find it open this time.
When we did hunker down in our room, we streamed the “Avengers” movies I hadn’t seen yet, inspired by the exhibit we had witnessed and beaming with excitement whenever we spotted one of the props we had seen.
We’re glad to have gone on another adventure, but that old saying holds true: “There’s no place like home.” Although we may miss that glorious jacuzzi tub, we’re happy to be back in our own space with our own things, including our many windows that showcase the beautiful desert scenery around us. But mostly, we’re thankful we have each other to enjoy this adventurous life journey with.
We didn’t expect to see fall foliage after leaving Massachusetts, but we’ve been following it (or it’s been following us) ever since. We’ve been relishing the reds, yellows, oranges, and purples of the changing seasons.
Between Pennsylvania and Tennessee/Georgia, our “rolling stone” spent a week in College Park, Maryland, at a campground close to Washington, D.C. We had planned that stop early in the summer so that we could attend the Arsenal of Democracy flyover to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
The event was to feature 60 or so WWII airplanes, including the CAF Airbase Arizona B-17 “Sentimental Journey,” flying over the Washington Mall. Unfortunately, weather scrubbed the flyover two days in a row, so it never happened.
We enjoyed our time in the area nonetheless, catching up with some friends near Annapolis and some friends from the Virginia Beach area who stayed at the campground a few nights. We visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Washington Mall, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Marine Memorial.
Between Maryland and Tennessee/Georgia, we spent a night at a rest area in Virginia to cut down on our long journey and to be able to put Virginia on our map.
While in Tennessee/Georgia, before Bob’s head incident, we toured Dollywood with our daughter, Megan, and her fiancee, Sydney, and rode most of the rides. We also ventured to an area between Chattanooga and Nashville, where we hiked to some beautiful waterfalls. And, we sampled some Southern BBQ and enjoyed seeing and playing with the dog we had shipped to Megan in March.
All the sightseeing we’ve done may give you the impression we’re on vacation. We’re really not. I’ve still been doing contract and freelance work and applying for jobs. And Bob’s been actively involved in helping facilitate Project Management Professional classes on Saturdays. Thankfully, neither of us had a lot of work while in the Tennessee/Georgia area or we wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time with Megan.
Go West, Young Man and Woman
We may not be all that young anymore but, after leaving Tennessee/Georgia, we headed west and spent two nights in Arkansas as part of the Boondockers Welcome program. We met some fellow travelers at our stop who were also en route from Tennessee to Arizona and exchanged stories. We took a much-needed day of rest the second day there, not even leaving the trailer.
From Arkansas, we moved on to Oklahoma where warmer temperatures greeted us, a bit of a shock to our systems after experiencing fall weather all of September. We took advantage of the warmth and relaxed pace to clean all the bugs off Tagalong. We also participated in the Friday night ritual of BBQ and catfish at a local restaurant.
We’re moochdocking at a friend’s house on a quiet country road. Our windows overlook barns and pastures where horses feed. Occasionally, we hear the bray of a donkey. We find the laid-back farm culture very refreshing after the last few busy weeks we’ve had.
Bob’s head is healing nicely, and we’re feeling extremely blessed with our lifestyle and the friends and family we’ve seen and stayed with along the way. We appreciate being able to travel and still be home every night. Life is good.
On our Panama Canal cruise last year, we met a young, red-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned missionary gal in Guatemala who’s from Pennsylvania. She turned out to be the translator on our taxi ride throughout the port town of San Jose. Long story short, she took us by the mission she’s involved in there, and we’ve been supporting her and her fiance’s ministry ever since.
Knowing Savannah hailed from Pennsylvania and that we wanted to spend time there, we asked if she knew anyone who might be willing to host us for a week. Her grandparents were kind enough to volunteer, so we’ve been moochdocking at their place this week. It’s been a truly wonderful experience.
They’ve done a lot of traveling, appreciate history, and know the area very well. So, with their guidance and suggestions, we visited Gettysburg and overlooked the expansive battlefield, where history came to life. We rode an Amtrak train from Lancaster to Philadelphia and explored Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Reading Terminal Market, Love Park, and the Rocky statue.
We drove to Amish country in Lancaster for dinner one evening before heading to Sight & Sound Theatres for the phenomenal presentation of “Queen Esther.” The mind-blowing sets had me mouthing “Wow” throughout the show. The costumes and acting were just as spectacular.
If you’re ever in Lancaster, or Branson, Missouri, and have time to attend a show at Sight & Sound Theatres, we highly recommend it. The cost is well worth it.
Because we attended the 7 p.m. show of “Queen Esther,” we didn’t return to our trailer until about 10:30 that night … only to hear a steady, high-pitched noise. When you live in a fifth wheel, any unusual noise is not a good sign.
Before we set out on our epic adventure from Arizona, Bob had hooked up our rig to be able to “plug into itself.” That means through the use of an inverter, we can use our batteries to power our outlets in the rig. Our lights run directly off the batteries, but the TVs and power outlets don’t.
When we’re actually plugged into shore power, that charges our batteries. But, with Tagalong plugged into itself, it creates a loop with the batteries powering the inverter, and then the converter/charger, in turn, tries to charge the batteries. When doing this, the inverter screams a little, which is a bad thing. Turning off the circuit breaker for the charger/controller stops that feedback loop so that the trailer can successfully power the outlets.
We weren’t plugged into shore power at our moochdocking site, so we relied on our solar panels to charge our batteries. Cloudy weather prevented the solar panels from giving us a full charge, so Bob ran the generator for a number of hours to make up for the difference.
Shortly before we left for dinner and the show, he turned off the generator to let it cool. Then he stored it, plugged the trailer into itself, and we hit the road. But, we forgot to turn off the circuit breaker to stop the aforementioned feedback loop — thus, the high-pitched noise.
We immediately turned off the circuit breaker upon entry to the trailer, which stopped the unpleasant noise. But then, Bob turned off the inverter, and we lost all power — and feared we fried our two $1,000 Lithium iron batteries. Because of the late hour and our location in a quiet neighborhood, we couldn’t really run the generator to get the power we needed for the night (our fridge had turned off too).
Had this happened to us while boondocking in the woods, we likely would have run the generator out of necessity. Since that wasn’t the case here, and we were parked in the yard of a home, we decided to plug into the house to try to get some charge on our drained batteries.
Picture us prowling around this sleepy neighborhood with flashlights trying to get this all set up. We looked like robbers.
We successfully plugged into the house with the hope that we’d get enough of a charge that we wouldn’t have to stay plugged in all night. That didn’t happen. So, Bob left a note on our hosts’ vehicle notifying them of what had happened and explaining that we’d unplug in the morning. Our hosts had no problem with the situation. Their kindness and graciousness was much appreciated.
The next day, we breathed a sigh of relief when we learned the batteries were fine. A sunny sky helped us get the full battery charge we needed. I finished my work week, and Bob caught up on some things. Then we ventured into a town an hour away to meet with two friends I hadn’t seen in 32 years.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that Bob and I met in California as part of the Continental Singers & Orchestra back in the ‘80s. In 1988, the year after we met, I went on another tour, this time with the Continental Orchestra & Singers, and I made these two friends then. They both live in Pennsylvania now, and we got reacquainted a few months ago thanks to a Zoom reunion.
Getting together in person with all of our spouses was icing on the cake. We had a wonderful time of fun and fellowship over a Mexican meal in a town equidistant from the three of us. As I shared that night, events like this are the highlights of Bob’s and my new lifestyle. We’ve been able to see and visit many people we hadn’t seen in numerous years, and it truly is a blessing.
Having lived in Mesa, Arizona, for 24 years, we forgot what it’s like to experience the four seasons. The Valley of the Sun, as the Phoenix area is known, really only has two seasons: hot and mild. Leaves don’t fall off trees until December and January. Although frost warnings occur on occasion, high temperatures typically only dip down into the 50s or 60s. And spring is the month of February.
Being in Massachusetts for the past six weeks, however, has been a good reminder of what true seasons are like. We’ve gone from warm, shorts-and-tank-top weather to slightly cooler temperatures. Crisp mornings greet us most days. Other days humidity lingers in the air. Trees are starting to change color. The days are growing shorter.
The changing seasons signal time for us to move on to our next destination. We’ve accomplished what we wanted to in Massachusetts: spent lots of quality time with family and friends. We also visited our old haunts, including Lee’s Hot Dog Stand (where I worked the summer before we wed), Friendly’s (where Bob worked as a teen), Kay’s Dairy Bar (known for its seafood), and Kimball Farm (which has the best ice cream around).
We explored Bob’s childhood homestead and young adult home, as well as the apartment building where we lived early in our marriage. And we roamed the trails behind Narragansett Regional High School that Bob used to run with his cross-country team. It’s been a fruitful and fulfilling time in New England.
It’s also been a reminder of the changing seasons we find ourselves in as a couple with all of the kids grown and living on their own. Of Bob’s new state of retirement. Of my shift from full-time work to contract/freelance work after being laid off my full-time job. Did I mention I love our life?
In addition to these changes, we finally received our South Dakota license plates, which we’ve been trying to get since June. Their addition solidifies yet another transition to our South Dakota residence status.
Along with those, Tagalong got tattoos. We adhered the stickers we’ve been collecting from popular and not-so-common places: Niagara Falls, New York; and Falls Park and Corn Palace, South Dakota. And, we added B-25 stickers for good measure.
As we get ready to move on, we’ll have to rely on our checklists to ensure we don’t forget anything. This is the longest our trailer has been in one place since we started living in it. We’ve truly been blessed to be able to keep it at Bob’s brother Bill’s (yes, that’s Bill Gates) for the past six weeks. It’s been fun spending time with Bill and his wife Kim and experiencing New England again.
But we’re ready to get back on the road and start venturing south. Stay tuned for more adventures.
We left my cousin’s farm in southwestern Michigan and spent three nights in the Jackson, Michigan, area, moochdocking and spending time with our sister-in-law and her family. We just missed my brother, who was in Arizona at the time to wrap up the sale of their home there.
First Boondockers Welcome Experience
On our way from Michigan to a beautiful campground on Lake Ontario in northwestern New York, we made a pitstop in Fremont, Ohio (between Toledo and Cleveland), and stayed on the property of a wonderful couple as part of Boondockers Welcome. It being our introduction to Boondockers Welcome, we hoped for the best but didn’t know what to expect. We couldn’t have asked for better.
The open-air location erased any fears of our rig hitting low-hanging branches. The host greeted us on his electric bike as we arrived and led us around the property to our parking spot — complete with full hookups: electric, water, and sewer. Hookups are not required for a Boondockers Welcome host and are really more of a luxury. We welcomed the amenities and gave the host a small stipend in gratitude for their use.
Situated on a small paved road that spanned the farming area, the property offered nice sunset views. We rode our electric bikes down to the end of the road and back — about 4 miles — enjoying the flat landscape and the cool breeze in our faces.
Living the Campground Life
We slept in the next morning, packed up after a quick oatmeal breakfast, and headed toward the campground in New York. Gulliver led us on an uneventful trip around Lake Erie and through Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Buffalo, New York.
We arrived at Four Mile Creek State Campground to find a lot of other people had the same idea of staying in the area. Bob backed into our spot like a pro, missing posts on the driver’s side and the front of the rig, while wowing our new neighbor — and doing it on the first try.
This was our first true campground stay since the one night in the campground in Minnesota where we tore our roof didn’t really count. The majority of campers, weekend warriors, left the New York park the day after we arrived. We stayed five nights and enjoyed sitting outside, observing and listening to the birds, riding our bikes to explore the campground and Lake Ontario, and watching the dancing flames of campfires.
We also ventured to Niagara Falls to view God’s amazing creation there. The sight is truly awe-inspiring.
Preparing for Uneventfulness
We thought this campground offered full hookups but learned it really only provided electricity. Water was available relatively close by. Bob and our neighbor connected their water hoses together to fill his fresh water tank and ours. When the time came for us to leave, we carefully maneuvered to the on-site dump station to empty our gray and black water tanks.
Remember the tank-emptying adventure we shared while in Michigan? This experience proved somewhat similar in that we spent a couple of days leading up to our evacuation day driving around the campground both in Gulliver and on our bikes trying to determine the best route to maneuver our coach to the right position at the dump station. Overachievers? Maybe. But we’ve found it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Bob even rigged a contraption where he can connect three lengths of PVC pipe together to measure low-hanging tree branches and wires. And he made a football goal-like U for the top of it for those rare occasions when we need to lift branches or wires a bit to pass by without snagging one of the air conditioners on our roof.
Toll Roads and Truck Stops
After a successful tank dumping, we headed across upstate New York, paying close to $50 in tolls due to our four axles. Ouch! It felt more like fees for trolls from the children's stories we grew up reading. We also lost the cover to our electric cord compartment somewhere along the way. Thankfully, that’s not a huge deal, and we should be able to replace it.
Because we spent six to seven hours on the road that day and wanted to ensure plenty of time to set up at our new destination, we spent that night at a truck stop in Massachusetts about an hour from our intended endpoint. A good friend met us for breakfast the next morning before we ventured on our way for the last leg of that journey.
Bob’s PVC contraption came in quite handy for maneuvering through low-hanging wires to our new moochdocking site in Massachusetts. We didn’t have to do any lifting, but we were able to measure the wires to finagle the best way to fit our rig through.
Now we’re parked and happy, hanging out with family and enjoying lots of fresh seafood.
After equipping Gulliver with new shoes, we left the tire shop in Northern Las Vegas around 3:30 p.m. on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, wanting to get some ground behind us. Three hours later, we stopped for the night at a rest area north of Tonopah, Nevada. We slept comfortably without unhooking the trailer or opening any slides and, as a result, were able to get back on the road early the following morning.
Saturday we drove through the historic town of Hawthorne, Nevada, home to the Hawthorne Army Depot and nearly 2,500 bunkers that were used to store reserve ammunitions after major military conflicts, starting as early as 1930. We also skirted Walker Lake, which is surrounded by camping areas, and witnessed three young bighorn sheep cross the road in front of us.
Wanting to put California on our map (the rule is we have to spend a night in a state to be able to put it on our map), we spent Saturday night in a casino parking lot in Susanville, California, arriving around 2 p.m. Although the casino was closed due to COVID-19, the restaurant remained open. After donning the face masks we were given to walk through the casino, we enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner in the restaurant.
We ventured farther north on Sunday, semi-circling California’s magnificent Mount Shasta at the end of the Cascade Mountain Range. Standing 14,179 feet tall, Mount Shasta’s snow-topped summit peeks above the pine trees from many miles away and is quite a sight to behold.
Mission Accomplished: Medford, Oregon
We had planned to park and stay at one of my cousins’ in Medford, Oregon, upon arrival but learned he had been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19. So, we opted to visit his sister and her husband who are also in the area. After examining their driveway, however, we determined we wouldn’t be able to get our trailer up it, especially with the low-hanging branches. (Our rig stands 13 feet, 3 inches tall.)
We quickly searched RV parks/campgrounds in the area and found a place behind what used to be an Econolodge with 12 RV spots. The location had one vacancy, which we took for two nights. The spaces were tight, and we had the biggest rig. It reminded me of “A Goofy Movie” when Pete and PJ set up their expansive RV next to Goofy’s.
The majority, if not all, of the other 11 spots were occupied by full-time residents. To say the place was sketchy is an understatement. For example, one of the residents suggested we fill our rig with marijuana to sell elsewhere. But we just needed somewhere to park and sleep for two nights while hanging out with my cousin. And it worked without event, thankfully. We were happy to pull away from there and have no intention of going back.
We headed to a Jayco dealer to get estimates on some minor RV repairs: drawers opening every time we go down the road, loose flooring in the hallway that leads to the bedroom and bathroom, non-functioning USB plug-ins, ripping/peeling trim on our internal stairs and, of course, the cattle guard-related cosmetic damage to the outside of our rig.
As it turned out, the service center didn’t have trim color to match the exterior of our rig and wouldn’t be able to get it for a number of weeks. Not planning to spend that many weeks in the area, we opted to deal with that later down the road. But we are having the other issues looked at.
With free parking in the RV shop in Medford, Oregon, we headed to Eugene, Oregon, where our son and two of Bob’s brothers live. Although temporarily homeless, we’re enjoying catching up with family.
This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.