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.
We spent a week in McCaysville, Georgia, moochdocking at our friends’ house so we could visit our daughter, Megan, in Cleveland, Tennessee. Although McCaysville is an hour away from Megan’s place, we enjoyed getting to know Greg and Sharon Rothe (friends from the Commemorative Air Force) better and spending time with Megan and her fiancee, Sydney, every day.
A day before we were scheduled to depart the Rothes’, Megan ventured out to their place to visit us and see the trailer, since she had never seen it before. She got the grand tour and seemed pretty impressed. Since Bob and I planned to leave the Rothes’ the next day, Bob went outside to get some things ready, leaving Megan and me in the trailer.
Not two minutes later, I heard his standard call for me, “Lana Gates!” So I went outside to see what he wanted — only to find him lying on the ground holding his left hand on top of his head. He calmly said, “If I pull my hand away, there’s likely to be a lot of blood.” I dashed back inside to grab a roll of paper towels and returned to Bob.
As soon as he pulled his hand away from his head, blood dripped to the ground. Red covered his left hand. If we had had a volleyball, he could have made “Wilson II” (think “Castaway”). Megan and I had no doubt Bob needed stitches. I snapped a picture of the top of his head so he could see the gash he had inflicted.
Seemingly cognizant, Bob didn’t know what he had hit, just that it had knocked him to the ground but not unconscious. He slowly got up while holding paper towels to his head, and I mopped up the bloody puddle left behind on the ground.
In the house, I helped Bob clean himself up in the bathroom while Megan found the location of the nearest medical center, a hospital about 15 minutes away.
In Search of Medical Attention
The three of us loaded into Megan’s car and headed to the hospital. After checking in at the front desk, a nurse called Bob to a triage room. Megan accompanied him while I stayed behind to finish filling out papers. That done, Megan and I traded places. I walked in to find a nurse cleaning Bob’s head while another nurse asked questions and entered information into a computer.
Both nurses disappeared, and a doctor came in. He said they’d need to fix Bob’s head with staples. A nurse brought in a stapler. The doctor put three staples in the top of Bob’s head. I expected to hear the normal paper-stapling sound but didn’t, thankfully.
After the doctor left, one of the nurses reappeared. I questioned whether three staples was enough to hold Bob’s gash together. She assured me they would hold the skin intact and help the wound heal from the inside out.
After receiving discharge instructions and an antibiotic prescription, we were sent on our way — in and out of the hospital in less than an hour. It can be nice to be in a small town.
Dream Come True and Lessons Learned
Since we needed to get Bob started on the antibiotic right away, we had to find a nearby pharmacy. Earlier in the week, we had passed a little store called McCaysville Drug & Gun. You guessed it, that’s where we went. And Bob got to look at guns while waiting to get his prescription filled. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Now that you know Bob’s OK, you’re probably wondering what caused his laceration. Well, he had ducked under the bedroom of the trailer, the part that hangs over the truck during travel. Normally, we have a tripod under there to support the kingpin — the part that connects inside the bed of the truck. This time, we didn’t.
As Bob ducked — he didn’t duck quite low enough — he managed to hit the hard metal part of the trailer that holds the kingpin. But, he hit it just right so that he scraped the top of his head on a protruding corner, which is why he ended up with a 90-degree cut and will have staples for 10 days.
Lessons learned: 1) Bob shouldn’t duck under that part of the trailer, even if he thinks he can make it; 2) We should attach the kingpin stabilizer every time as a safety measure for inside and outside the trailer.
We’re thankful Bob’s OK. The whole situation could have been much worse. He could have knocked himself out and lay on the ground bleeding for a while before we found him. God was watching out for us. Bob will be getting lots of rest over the next week.
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.
After our first separation from Gulliver and Tagalong since we started our journey in May, we are elated to be back together. We’re happy to be able to sleep in our own bed with our own pillows again. There truly is no place like home.
Gulliver and Tagalong, who both fared well during our absence, greeted us with open arms — and no unpleasant stench or damage. All is well. And Gulliver roared to life with no problem.
Honoring a B-25 Navigator
We enjoyed our tour with the B-25 “Maid in the Shade” in Montana and ended up filling eight living history passenger flights while in Bozeman. On the way from Bozeman to Missoula, we had the privilege of circling the small town of Anaconda in honor of a 95-year-old WWII vet who resides in a nursing home there.
When John E. “Jack” Oberweiser learned the B-25 was 25 miles from his town flying at 6,500 feet and 211 miles per hour, he announced to the staff at his facility, “They’ll be here in two minutes.”
His daughter rushed to wheel her mother, 93, also a resident of the facility, into Jack’s room so the high school sweethearts, now married 72 years, could be together for the momentous occasion. Tears streamed down the couple’s faces as they sat holding hands while watching the bomber and hearing the roar of its engines exactly two minutes later, just as Jack had predicted.
Like his buddies, Jack joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 at the age of 18 as soon as he graduated high school, eager to serve his country. He completed basic training at Santa Ana Air Base in California, where he once walked to the Rose Bowl and passed Bob Hope in the stands.
Lt. Oberweiser served as a B-25 navigator in the China-Burma-India theater with the 491st Bombardment Squadron — known as the “Ringers” for their low loss of aircraft and personnel. The squadron targeted airfields, storage areas, and bridges.
Toward the end of the war, Jack spent time in France and Germany ferrying aircraft back to air bases in Europe. On one mission to Cairo, Jack, an avid sports fan, got to listen to the 1945 World Series game between his favorite Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs, actually using the radio signal as a navigation tool.
On another ferrying mission, Jack’s plane made an emergency landing when something went wrong with the landing gear. Heavy rain prevented a fire as the plane slid on its belly.
After the war, Jack and his sweetheart were reunited and raised seven children in Anaconda, where he worked as a football and track coach and taught geometry and bookkeeping.
The whole town celebrated the B-25 flyover in honor of Jack and his service — and, as he stated, “ALL of the local veterans.” It was a true honor for us and the rest of the “Maid in the Shade” crew to participate. After all, that’s what the Commemorative Air Force is all about: educating, honoring, and inspiring.
Inspiring the Next Generation
Not only did we have the privilege of honoring Lt. Oberweiser, but we also got to work closely with a number of Civil Air Patrol cadets in Bozeman, educating them and the public about the history of “Maid in the Shade” and the part B-25s played in the war.
These kids eagerly showed up numerous days to help clean the plane and to ensure crowd safety during our flight operations. They very professionally secured the flight line, standing at attention with their backs to the plane so they could monitor the crowd, resisting the urge to turn around and watch as the bomber’s engines started and as it taxied in after a flight.
Many of the cadets have big ambitions of going into the Air Force and working with aircraft in some capacity or another. We’re thankful for the small part we got to play in inspiring them, and we look forward to what they’re going to do in the future.
This summer, we’ve been able to mark three more states off our list of those to visit: South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Montana. Bob had actually been to Wisconsin and Montana before, but I hadn’t. That only leaves North Dakota for both of us to visit to complete all 50 states.
However, since we left Gulliver and Tagalong in Massachusetts and flew to Bozeman, Montana, we don’t get to count this state on our RV map. But that’s OK. We plan to bring Gulliver and Tagalong here next year.
What Are We Doing in Montana?
Bob and I volunteer with the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), specifically Airbase Arizona. And every summer, Airbase Arizona takes its two WWII bomber planes — a B-17 Flying Fortress, “Sentimental Journey,” and a B-25 Mitchell, “Maid in the Shade” — on tour throughout the U.S. and Canada to fulfill our mission to educate, honor, and inspire.
While on tour, we sell static tours to the public, allowing them to go inside our planes and learn about their history. The B-25 is a true WWII veteran, having flown 15 missions over Italy and Yugoslavia while stationed on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean. The B-17 was built toward the end of the war and never saw combat but served as a fire bomber after the war.
The CAF is made up of volunteer members, and many of us take two weeks a summer (some take more) to go meet one or both of the planes wherever they are to be part of the tour. Bob is a mechanic on the B-25, so he serves as the flight crew chief for our two weeks on tour. That means he’s responsible for maintenance on the plane both on the ground and in the air.
I serve as a ride coordinator, so it’s my job to book passengers on the plane and coordinate the paperwork for the passengers. I also serve as a loadmaster. We fly with four crewmembers on the plane: two pilots, the crew chief, and a loadmaster. The loadmaster flies in the back, or waist section, of the plane and takes care of the four passengers we fly there, overseeing sending them to the tailgunner position during flight. The loadmaster also keeps an eye on the engines.
Typically, we spend one week in a location, offering static tours Monday through Thursday and then flying passengers on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then we move to a new location on Monday. Because of tour stop cancellations due to COVID-19, we’re spending two weeks in Bozeman, Montana, before moving on to Missoula. Bob and I will fly back to Massachusetts from there.
Weathering the Storms
Speaking of Massachusetts, Gulliver and Tagalong experienced their own adventure while we’ve been away. A major storm blew through the area and downed some trees, which toppled wires and resulted in a power outage.
Thankfully, Gulliver and Tagalong were uninjured, and the power has since been restored. So we’ll find out when we get back how the items in our refrigerator and freezer fared.
Meanwhile, we’re honored to be able to be part of the B-25 summer tour.
We’ve been enjoying catching up with family and friends and visiting old haunts in New England. Bob successfully replaced the cover to the electric cord compartment on our rig, the original of which we lost somewhere in New York. And I’ve picked up some more work (though still not a full-time job).
Other than that, we haven’t had a lot of adventures lately, unless you count walking up and down hills in the neighborhood we’ve been staying in to try to get some exercise. But, we thought it might be a good time to address some common questions about our RV lifestyle. So, here we go:
Does Lana drive?
Yes, I do drive when we’re towing Tagalong. Bob and I both took an RV driving course and found it well worth the cost as it gave us the confidence needed for driving the rig all the time. The instructor, Jordy, met us at the dealership when we picked up our rig. We wanted Jordy to drive the rig off the lot, but he wasn’t allowed to. So Bob did it, with good guidance.
Jordy sat in the passenger seat and gave us tips and advice and lots of instructions for eight hours that day and the next. We went to an empty parking lot, where he set up cones for us to weave in and out of to get used to handling the truck-trailer combination. And then, he made us do the same course in reverse, weaving in and out of the cones going backward.
So, yes, I drive, and I actually think it’s kind of fun. Gulliver was made to tow, so he handles Tagalong quite well. We just have to remember to make wide turns and to watch for low-hanging branches and wires. I haven’t backed up our rig into any parking spots yet. I’m not opposed to it, but I’d rather attempt that in a wide open space than in a tight campground.
How do you get mail and packages?
We signed up for a mail-forwarding service in South Dakota, our state of domicile. Any mail or packages sent to that address can be routed to an address of our choice.
When we need to order things from Amazon or another delivery service, we have them sent to an address we plan to visit. For example, we had a number of packages delivered to my parents’ house before we reached their area. We did the same thing before arriving at Bob’s brother’s in Massachusetts.
If we’ll be at a campground or some other venue that doesn’t accept packages, we can arrange to have them sent to an Amazon locker and pick them up there.
Do you have a washer and dryer in your fifth wheel?
Although our rig is plumbed for a washer and dryer in the bedroom closet, we opted not to cram them into that space. Instead, we use the area for clothes storage. We do laundry at friends’ and families’ when moochdocking. And, when we don’t have that option, we go to a local laundromat, which we don’t mind at all. We can wash and dry all of our laundry in two hours.
How long do you stay in one place?
That really depends. Ideally, we like to stay in one place for at least a week. But there have been a number of times we’ve stayed somewhere overnight on our way to a certain destination.
We spent two weeks In South Dakota near my parents’, a month in Michigan on my cousin’s farm, and it looks like we’ll be at Bob’s brother’s for a month (sandwiched around two weeks when Gulliver and Tagalong stay and we fly to join the B-25 tour in Montana).
Why did you decide on a fifth wheel? What is a fifth wheel anyway?
A fifth wheel is a travel trailer that connects to the towing vehicle inside the bed of the truck rather than off the back of the bumper. We chose a fifth wheel for a number of reasons. For one thing, we only have one engine to maintain.
Another factor that influenced our decision is the variety of layouts available in fifth wheels. Motorhomes have limited layout options because of their drivability. But fifth wheels come with the bedroom upstairs or in the back, the kitchen upstairs or in the middle, the living space in the back or in the front, etc. They also usually have a kitchen island, which gives them more of a homey feel.
We chose the Jayco Pinnacle 37MDQS because it’s designed for full-time living (some are designed for weekend getaways), and it includes an office, with a closing door, in the middle of the layout, right off the kitchen. A separate office topped our priority list when evaluating rigs because I wanted to be able to close the door at the end of the workday and be home.
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.
Living full time on the road requires a number of things: a spirit of adventure, confidence in one’s driving ability, and an affinity for travel. But the most important element is flexibility. Here are three reasons why:
Six months before we started full-time RV living, we had planned our first two months of stops. Having been stationary to that point, we had no idea what constituted ideal travel distance for a day. Nor did we know I would lose my job, the keeping of which necessitated moving only on weekends. The biggest variable we didn’t account for was COVID-19, which closed a lot of campgrounds.
We ended up hitting the road earlier than originally anticipated. Two weeks before leaving, we canceled most of the campground stops we had booked. And we quickly learned some lessons that required flexibility. Having that flexible attitude allowed us to enjoy our daily circumstances despite the changes and upsets that came with them.
If you’ve been following our journey, you know we broke our fifth wheel on the very first leg of our grand adventure. The cosmetic damage ended up breaking our pride more than anything else. Bob fashioned a weather-proof fix that we continue to live with because, although we tried to get replacement parts while near Elkhart, Indiana, that didn’t pan out. We’ve decided to live with the constant reminder of our error and get it fixed this winter.
More recently, we encountered railroad tracks preceded by a sign that read, “Rough Crossing.” If you come across a sign like that, believe it. There’s a reason these warnings are not a common occurrence.
Well, we didn’t slow down as much as we should have and lived to regret it. After arriving at our destination and opening our closet, we discovered the upper closet rod had bounced out of its secure position, dropping all of the clothes it held on top of those hanging on the lower closet rod. The additional weight put pressure on the closet doors. We couldn’t even open one of them.
We were able to remove all of the fallen clothes from the closet, but one end of the rod holder had broken off. That meant we couldn’t rehang the clothes until finding a fix. Bob secured the holder in place with a nut and bolt and put the rod back in position, and we rehung the clothes.
Fearing it would only be a matter of time before a similar incident occurred, we rigged a support to secure both 4-foot closet rods. Not only will this prevent a recurrence of what we experienced, but it will also keep the two rods from sagging under the weight of the clothes they hold.
Other things have broken too. And those events always require flexibility as we may have to alter plans and make a trip to a hardware store in order to fix something.
One of the most significant things requiring a flexible attitude is the weather. We learned the importance of this before ever hitting the road when a fellow RVer delayed his trip by a day to allow a storm to pass at his next destination.
Keeping an eye on the weather is paramount as a full-time RVer. You don’t want to pull in your slides during rain and get water (and possibly resulting damage) in your coach if you don’t have to. Neither do you want to set up in a storm if it can be avoided.
If you know one day is going to be more blustery than another for travel, it’s best to move on the less windy day and not take a chance of a gust blowing your rig off the road.
To ensure success in any type of travel situation, especially RVing, it’s best to take a bit of advice from Frank Waturi in “Joe vs. the Volcano” and “get yourself into a flexible frame or else you are no place.”
We planned our RV lifestyle around me working full time. Although that’s not currently happening, I have been doing some contract work. To successfully complete and submit any work requires reliable internet service — no matter where we are in the U.S. So, how do we ensure that necessity? Through a combination of technologies. Let me explain.
One of the ways we connect to the internet is through our cellular network. For us, that’s Verizon. We can use our phones as mobile hotspots when needed. Just as our cellphones can access the internet anywhere we have Verizon service, they can transmit that same service to other devices nearby, such as our laptops.
Some full-time RVers have personal Wi-Fi devices or hotspots from multiple cellular carriers rather than just one. That way, travelers can get the best internet coverage no matter their location.
For example, we have a Verizon Jetpack MiFi device and a T-Mobile Mofi hotspot device we purchased from a third-party company called Millenicom. While moochdocking at my cousin’s farm in southwestern Michigan, we found the Mofi device worked better than its Verizon counterpart. In our current location elsewhere in Michigan, the Verizon device performs more effectively.
Both of our devices offer unlimited data. Some cellular providers, however, throttle hotspot service when you hit a certain threshold of use, which results in super slow internet. We acquired the unlimited Verizon device shortly before the company ceased offering that feature. You can do some digging to find other unlimited options, such as the one from Millenicom.
Sometimes we can hop on our camping host’s Wi-Fi network, whether that be a moochdocking location or a paid campground. In either case, we get the stability and strength of the host’s Wi-Fi.
In situations with spotty Wi-Fi from a host, we can transform our router into a repeater. That means the router grabs the host’s Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcasts it inside our trailer. Why don’t we just capture the host’s signal directly from our phones? Because the router has a much wider range than our phones to pull in the Wi-Fi.
Boosting the Signal
To ensure stable internet with our Verizon and T-Mobile solutions, we use the Wilson Signal Booster Reach Extreme RV Kit. An external antenna captures cell service from all providers in the area and sends that service to a booster unit. Then, an internal antenna rebroadcasts that cell signal throughout our trailer. The only caveat is that the hotspot or mobile phone has to be within 10 feet of the internal antenna in order to access the boosted signal.
Another booster we use is a MIMO antenna. This one assumes your mobile hotspot has external antenna ports. Our Verizon one has those ports, but our Millenicom one does not. This booster plugs into your mobile hotspot device and sticks to a window to amplify the cellular signal.
Up in the Air
Still another option RVers use to deal with online matters is satellite internet. This requires a satellite internet antenna to capture the signal and a satellite modem to transmit the captured signal to your rig. Antenna options include offerings from MobilSat, Winegard, iNetVu, and AVL.
We’re eagerly awaiting the release of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband internet, which promises fast internet access from anywhere in the world for a reasonable price. Relying on 12,000 satellites in a row in low-earth orbit, the technology is expected to be available in the U.S. and Canada later this year. And, it’s targeted for nearly worldwide availability in 2021.
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.