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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

After our three day mad dash across the country, we slept in yesterday, and I didn’t do much at all the rest of the day. I answered a few e-mails, made some phone calls, tweaked the Google ads on our websites because our ad click rate has dropped off quite a bit, and visited with a couple of folks who stopped by the bus to say hello. Miss Terry seemed to have some pent up energy, because she did several loads of laundry and worked on cleaning up a lot of the sand and grit we accumulated inside the bus from the nasty windstorm we ran into in New Mexico.

I reported yesterday that we paid about 70 cents a mile for fuel on our trip from Arizona to Tennessee, and that we boondocked for the two nights we were on the road. A reader wrote to ask what other costs we encountered on the trip, and how I felt that would compare to traveling in an automobile and staying in motels and dining in restaurants. I don’t have a way to break down wear and tear on the bus or van, so I don’t factor that in.

 

Our van gets about 15 miles per gallon, and averaging gasoline at $3.50 a gallon, we would have spent $315 for fuel, and I think I’d be very conservative in saying $75 a night for motels. So that would come to $465.

I don’t usually factor the cost of meals into our traveling expenses, because we’d have to eat whether we were sitting still or traveling. Our first night on the road we had a quick and simple meal in the bus, and the second night we had a buffet dinner at the Pig Out Palace, the restaurant where we parked overnight in Henryetta, Oklahoma. That set us back about $26. But if we had been in the van, we would have had to buy dinner both nights, so lets add in another $20 for the first night.  

If I’m punching in the right numbers on my calculator, traveling in the bus cost us $976 for food and fuel. In the van, the same trip would have been $511. So yes, we’d have saved $465 making the trip in the van, based upon just the time we spent on the road. However, once we arrived here, we’d still be staying in motels and dining in restaurants. Instead we have our home and all of our things with us. And there is a lot to be said for having your own bathroom when you need it, and sleeping in your own bed.

 

No, RV travel is not cheap. In this day and age, no method of travel is cheap. But for us, this is a lifestyle. If we lived in a sticks and bricks house somewhere, our costs would be increasing for heating and air conditioning, we’d be paying property taxes, and all of the other expenses associated with home ownership.

Besides, what price can you put on the freedom we have to roam this great land of ours at our will?  

Thought For The Day – A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yesterday morning we were on the road by 9 a.m. and drove east on Interstate 40, passing through the lovely rolling green hills of eastern Okalahoma, then crossing into Arkansas. We stopped at the Arkansas Welcome Center near Fort Smith for a stretch and walk around the bus, and fired up our computers to check e-mail. I sure do enjoy having the Verizon air card. It is so convenient to be online just about anywhere and everywhere we go.

Arkansas is a beautiful state, and we marveled at the lush green fields and forests we were driving past, such a change from the barren landscape of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas that we had left behind us the last couple of days. Miss Terry commented that even though she lived in Arizona for most of her adult life, this part of the world just seems to suit her soul so much more.

Our original plan was to drive to West Memphis, Arkansas and spend the night at one of the truck stops before continuing on to the Cherokee Landing Thousand Trails preserve near Middleton, Tennessee. But we made excellent time and when we stopped for fuel, it was just 4:30 p.m. and we still had plenty of energy and daylight left, so we decided to drive the final 80 miles to the campground and get settled in.

We took Interstate 55 south and crossed the Mississippi River. I think I’m getting a handle on my bridge phobia, Miss Terry noticed that I didn’t snivel one time as we crossed the river. We skirted the south edge of Memphis on Interstate 240, then followed State Route 385 east to State Route 57, a nice two lane road that took us through several charming small towns with beautiful antebellum homes and friendly folks who waved as we drove past.

We arrived at Cherokee Landing just after 6 p.m. and checked in with the ranger. I don’t think we’ve ever had a warmer reception at a campground, except maybe at a couple of Escapees parks. By the time we dumped our holding tank and got the bus parked in our site, a half dozen or so of our neighbors had came by to say hello and welcome us. We had never met any of these folks before, though Cathy Holcomb from Auburn, New York, said she almost stopped at our mail service in Boulder City , Nevada a while back to see if she could subscribe to the Gypsy Journal there. We saved her the price of a postage stamp and signed her up right here.

We covered 1,350 miles in three long days of traveling. Our average speed was between 55 and 62 miles per hour, and we spent $950 on fuel, which comes out to about 70 cents per mile. We did not spend any money on RV parks, spending one night in a roadside rest area near Melrose, New Mexico and the next night at a truck stop in Henryetta, Oklahoma. This was not a typical RV trip, and not the way we recommend folks travel. But we’re here and now we can relax.

We’re going to be lazy, sleep in, play tourist, and visit some of the local points of interest before we go to Bowling Green, Kentucky for Life on Wheels next week. We haven’t spent any time in this part of the country before, and there is a lot to see and do.

Thought For The Day – Dolphins are so intelligent that within only a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand at the very edge of the pool and feed them fish.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

I caught a lot of flack from readers after Saturday’s blog, in which I reported that we drove 425 miles in one day. Someone reminded me that I always tell other RVers to take it easy, poke along, and enjoy the ride. All I can say is “Hey, do what I say, not what I do!”

I have decided that we have two transportation modes. One is "traveling." That is a relaxed journey, stopping here and there, with no firm destination or schedule in mind. The other is "going someplace." That is where we just hurry up and get there, so we can enjoy and relax when we reach our destination. Right now we are "going someplace." But the good news is, when we reach our destination either today or tomorrow, we'll have a week to just sightsee and relax. Terry and I are working RVers, and right now we’re in work mode.

After being pounded by strong wind all night, we awoke Sunday morning to just a stiff breeze. While Terry was getting herself ready for the day, I walked around the bus and van, and everything was covered in sand from the nasty storm we had experienced the night before.

We fired up the bus and hit the road, continuing east on U.S. Highway 60, passing through Clovis, New Mexico, and soon afterward crossing the state line into Texas. The highway became divided four lane, and there was little traffic as we passed through the little towns of Farwell, Bovina, Parmerton, Friona, and Hereford, where all we saw was an endless line of cattle feed lots.

At Canyon, U.S. 60 joined with Interstate 27, and we followed it north a few miles to Amarillo, where we picked up Interstate 40 eastbound. The breeze had turned into strong winds again, and as we cruised west, they buffeted us from the side or head on, depending on which way the road curved. I kept the bus between 55 and 60 and stayed in the right hand lane, letting faster traffic blow on by.

When we built the bus, Terry was thrilled to find side windows with solid dual pane upper sections and small crank out jalousie panes at the bottoms. I wasn’t too thrilled at first, but they have worked out very well. Even though we don’t have awnings, we can leave the windows open for cross ventilation even in steady rain, when other folks are closing their regular slider windows to stay dry. However, the winds were so strong that the windows kept blowing open, several inches at a time. We were afraid they would get damaged, so at Groom, Texas we pulled into the parking lot of the Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere (or is it?) and spent some time taping the windows shut with packing tape. We were lucky. I overheard the fellow in a big motorhome parked next to us telling someone on the phone that his awning had blown out and over the top of the coach before being torn almost off.

We have driven past this roadside shrine many times over the years, but never stopped to check it out before. It consists of the huge cross, and sculptures depicting the Twelve Stations of the Cross, symbolizing the crucifixion of Christ. Even if you are not a religious person, this is an interesting collection of artwork. The 190 foot tall cross dwarfed the life size statues around it, as well as the semis and RVs that were parked there.

There is some debate over whether this is really the largest cross in America or the Western hemisphere, as the signs and official website state, since a cross in Elgin, Illinois is supposed to be slightly larger. No matter which is actually bigger, it is one huge cross! I wonder how it withstands those west Texas winds that never seem to let up?

Back on the highway, we crossed into Oklahoma, took on fuel at Sayre, and scooted on across the state. Traffic was moderate in Oklahoma City, even at 6 p.m. on a Sunday evening.

The wind had calmed down by then, and we planned to stop at an Indian casino in Shawnee, about 35 miles east of the big city, for the night. But when we arrived, we learned that they were closed and were moving to another location, so we continued on  and pulled into the Golden Pony Casino at Okemah. The RV/truck entrance was up a steep ramp that gave us some concern, but we made it okay, only to find that the only place to park was on a slanting hillside next to a stinky hog trailer. We checked our cell phones and we had just one bar of access, and it was fading in and out.

We have learned that when something just doesn’t feel right, it’s better to move on if we can. There was nothing terribly wrong with the place, but I just did not like it, so we jumped back on the highway, drove east another ten miles to Henryetta, and parked between a couple of semis in the huge dirt lot next to a restaurant called the Pig Out Palace. We went inside and asked permission to spend the night, and then enjoyed their buffet. We covered 485 miles Sunday. I know, I keep telling myself exactly what you’re thinking right now. What can I say?

A note on the blog timing, because some people have asked. I try to post the blog at night, just before we go to bed, or as close to midnight as possible. But depending on what time zone you are in, and where we happen to be, you may log on late in the evening in the western time zones and see the blog dated for the next day. For example, as I write this, it is just after 11 p.m. here in the Central time zone, and the blog carries Monday’s date. But if our friends in Arizona log on within the next hour or so, they will read it while it is still Sunday. Okay, did that clear up your confusion? Good, because I’m tired and I’m going to bed. J 

Thought For The Day – Bravery is being the only one who knows you're afraid.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

We pulled out of Show Low, Arizona yesterday at 9 a.m. and took U.S. Highway 60 east through rolling hill country skirting the edge of the White Mountains. A little over an hour later we pulled into Springerville, and I stopped in a parking lot to call Mike and Pat McFall, whom we got our PressurePro www.pressureprosystem.com tire monitoring system from. The darned thing kept beeping every 30 seconds and it was driving me crazy! Not a fast high pitched alarm beep to warn of low or high pressure, just a single beep, over and over again. Pat was quick to diagnose the problem, and it was operator error, of course. If I’m the operator, that is a given, I just wanted to know what I had done wrong!

As it turns out, when I had adjusted the pressure on the van’s tires a few days earlier, I had not left the screw on sensor caps off for the required minute before reattaching them, and they were sending a message to the monitor inside the bus that something was amiss. I took the sensors off, waited the proper amount of time to put them back on, and everything worked fine. Having the ability to call someone on a weekend morning and have them talk me through a problem is worth a lot to me, and it’s why we chose to deal with Mike and Pat when we got our PressurePro. Thanks again for your help, Pat.

Stopping to call Pat also gave us an excuse to visit one of our favorite stores, Western Drug in Springerville. This is a true old time western general store, where you can buy anything from a new rifle to a trout lure, to tools, food, craft supplies, clothing, or a bottle of booze. Whenever we’re in Springerville, I always stop just to wander the aisles and look at all of the goodies.

I also wanted to get a photo of the Madonna of the Trail statue on Main Street in Springerville. This is one of twelve identical statues erected in 1928 and 1929 by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution across the country, from Bethesda, Maryland to Upland, California. The statues honor pioneer women, and show a steadfast mother with an infant in one arm and carrying a rifle in the other, while a second child clings to her skirts. Men may have explored the West, but it was the women who settled it.

From Springerville, we continued east and soon crossed into New Mexico. Somewhere near Quemado a foolhardy antelope, one of dozens we saw all day, started to jump out in front of us, but thought better of that plan at the last minute and reversed his course to scoot under a barbed wire fence and race off in the opposite direction.

We were tempted to stop for pie in Pie Town, but decided that our diets deserved better than that and kept on going. But don’t you just love a place called Pie Town? Near Magdalena we pulled into a rest area to take some photos of the huge antennae pointed toward outer space that comprise the Very Large Array (VLA), a research facility dedicated to communicating with life from other worlds, if there is any. If these giant dishes look familiar to you, it may be because you saw them featured in the 1997 Jodie Foster movie Contact, in which she plays a scientist trying to contact other life forms from beyond our horizon.

We continued west, fueled up in Socorro at $4.19 a gallon for diesel (ouch!), then took Interstate 25 north a few miles until U.S. 60 split off again, and began a long series of climbs as we motored east through forgotten little towns like Willard, Encino, and Yeso, which consist mostly of empty buildings and deserted streets. All of these little towns have a parking lot somewhere along the highway where one could pull over for the night. Willard was actually very busy, because it was the headquarters for crews fighting a forest fire to the north. One area was dotted with dozens of small tents where the firefighters can rest after their shifts on the fire line, and we saw a crew unloading food and supplies.

The weather had been fine and the bus was running great. We had hoped to make it to Clovis, New Mexico, but as we were driving through Fort Sumner Miss Terry spotted a cloud of dust in the air ahead and commented that it looked ominous. Just as we passed the turnoff to Billy the Kid’s grave, it felt like the old outlaw slammed us broadside when a huge gust of wind rocked the bus. We should have turned around right there and found a place to park, but it was only another 60 miles to Clovis, so we decided to push on. Big mistake!

Every mile we drove the wind got worse, and our speed was down to nothing as I fought the steering wheel. As the sun started to dip below the horizon behind us, we knew we needed to get off the road. About 30 miles east of Fort Sumner we came to a small roadside pullout and spotted another Class A motorhome parked in it. There was room for our bus too, so we called it a day with 425 miles behind us. I walked back to check on the van, and the blowing sand felt like birdshot as it peppered my face and hands.

The weather report says the winds, with gusts over 55 miles an hour, will die down by daylight, so we’ll let it rock us to sleep and get back on the road tomorrow.

Thought For The Day – Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

We spent the day yesterday with my daughter Tiffany and her family, getting in some quality time before we start our long road trip east.

Our first stop was the cinder pit, where we murdered a few tin cans and punched some holes in paper targets. After years of ignoring Glock handguns, I recently acquired one and have been impressed with how it shoots. After Miss Terry fired a few rounds through it, she announced “This is now my gun!” I enjoyed the short time I owned a Glock. L

Son-in-law Jim and I squared off together, and though he’s a darned good shot with his .357 magnum, the old man and his trusty standby .45 Colt semiautomatic showed him that old age and treachery always overcome youth and skill. It’s been years since I’ve done much shooting, but I’ve put literally thousands of rounds down the tube of a .45 over the years, and I guess it’s like riding a bicycle after all.

When we left the cinder pit, we did some geocaching, a hobby Terry and I have enjoyed for several years now, but that we have just recently introduced the kids to. Now they’re hooked too. Here is a photo of our five year old granddaughter Hailey and her Daddy Jim at a cache we found in Pinetop, Arizona.

We have enjoyed our time here in our old home town. Not because we give a hoot for the community any more – too much has changed and little of it for the better, but for the time with our old friends, and especially Tiffany and her family. My little girl has grown into a beautiful and delightful young woman, and not only am I as proud of her as I can be as her father, but I cherish the adult friendship we share. Miss Terry took of Tiffany and me today. You can just barely see her year old daughter Destiny in the carrier on Mommy’s tummy. 

The hardest part of the fulltime RV lifestyle is saying goodbye, especially to people we love so much, and there were lots of tears on everybody’s part last night when it was time to say our goodbyes. We may not have as much time with Tiffany, Jim, and the girls as we would like to have, but we try to make it quality time when we are together.

Today we’ll head east on U.S. Highway 60 into New Mexico. We could backtrack up to Interstate 40 and take it east, which would be faster, but whenever we can we prefer the slower paced two lane roads. A Petro truck stop or Denney’s at an exit ramp in Arizona looks pretty much like one in Kansas or Ohio. If you want to see the real America, you have to get off the super slab and eat in the small town cafes, spend the night in those neat little small town city parks where they welcome RVers to park, usually for free or at very little cost, and talk to the storekeepers on Main Street. It’s a big part of why we travel and why we love our life as gypsies on the open road.  

Thought For The Day – The world is full of willing people - some willing to work and some willing to let them.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Our time here in Show Low has gone much too fast. We were scheduled to leave today, but we’re going to hang around at least one more day and hit the road Saturday or Sunday. We’ve promised my daughter and her husband another geocaching outing, and maybe a quick trip out to the cinder pit for some shooting today.

Terry and I both are feeling much better about our bouts with the flu or whatever was making us sick. I suspect maybe we picked up whatever it was at granddaughter Destiny’s birthday party last week. You put that many runny nosed kids together and the world is a giant petri dish full of germs just waiting to pounce.

Yesterday I dropped Miss Terry off at the laundromat, then drove to the post office to mail off a couple of bins full of newspapers. From there I stopped at my friend Jim Lewis’ Pinetop Book Exchange and we swapped lies until Terry called to say she was finished.

While I picked Terry up, Jim grabbed his pretty wife Shar, and then the four of us met our pals Lyle Worman and Sharon Manor at a pizza place for a goodbye dinner. The fulltime RV lifestyle is a long series of hellos and goodbyes. We’re sad that we’ll be leaving these longtime friends behind when we depart, but we know there are new adventures waiting for us down the road, and that we’ll be back here to renew our friendships next year.

Many fulltime RVers choose to keep a firearm in their rig for defense. We have never had the need to reach for a weapon in our years on the road, but just like a fire extinguisher or a spare tire, it’s good to know that it’s there if we need it.

The legalities of having a gun in your RV vary from state to state, and it is a very complex issue that I don’t have space to get into here. Technically, many of us break the law whenever we cross certain state borders with a firearm in our RV.

A good resource to laws affecting RVers’ and guns is the book Traveler’s Guide to Firearms Laws of the 50 States, available at http://www.gunlaws.com/travel.htm. Many of us have a concealed carry permit from our state of residence. Even though I no longer live in Arizona, I have a non-resident Arizona CCW permit, which is honored in at least 22 other states. Now an Arkansas congressman has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 33 House members, that would allow people with state-issued concealed weapons permits to carry guns wherever they travel in the country, and would require every state to honor the permit, regardless of their own gun laws. You can read more about this proposed legislation at  http://www.nwaonline.net/articles/2008/04/14/news/041508dcgunrecip.txt. I don’t know if it will fly in today’s society, but I’d sure like to see it become law. If states are required to honor other states’ drivers’ licenses and marriage licenses, why not gun permits as well?

Thought For The Day – Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

I know you’ve probably seen this sign making the rounds on the internet, but it still brings a chuckle, even though it’s all too true these days. Where will it all end?

Whatever bug Miss Terry has been fighting pounced on me and really bit my butt the other day. I woke up achy and fuzzy minded, and it got worse all day long. I tried to write, but just couldn’t concentrate. I picked up a book, but reading was no easier, so I just sort of played lazy all day long. I took a nap in the afternoon, hoping that would help, but it didn’t. I finally gave up and went to bed about 9:30 p.m., which was about four hours earlier than is normal for me.

I like our site here at Show Low Lake Campground. We have 30 amp electric, and there is a fresh water bib close enough that I can run a hose over to it and fill our tank. When it is time to dump, I hook up the macerator to a couple of old garden hoses I use for the purpose, and run them into the nearby bathroom and that chore is done without moving the bus.

We are scheduled to leave tomorrow, but I think we’ll try to wrangle an extra day or two and try to get feeling better before we hit the road. They have a 21 day limit, but their busy season has not started yet and the place is almost empty, so maybe they will take sympathy on us.

We never seem to have enough time. There are several friends we had hoped to spend some time with that we never got around to touching base with, and last night we canceled out on a dinner with some folks because we were still feeling pretty puny. Of course, if my daughter Tiffany had her way we’d just pull the wheels off the bus and stay right here. We love visiting our family and friends, and it always hurts to leave them, but our wanderlust can’t be stifled. There are far too many places to go and things to see.

We have to be in Bowling Green, Kentucky May 6 to 10 for Life on Wheels, and along the way we plan to stop at the Thousand Trails Cherokee Landing preserve in western Tennessee for a few days to gather some stories in that area.

There are still openings for the Bowling Green Life on Wheels, and if you have not attended one of these educational conferences, you don’t know what you’re missing. New and wannabe RVers will come away with a wealth of information, but I have known several longtime RVers with years of traveling under their belts who attended and were surprised at how much they learned. Check out their website at www.rvlifeonwheels.com. 

Thought For The Day – If work is so terrific, why do they have to pay you to do it?

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I just had to share this picture that reader Janice Clarke sent me after reading yesterday's blog, in which I was complaining about the new buzzwords green, empower, and closure that everybody is batting around these days. Janice said this sign added insult to injury, combining two of the offensive words in one message, and she hoped it would bring me closure!

If you ever watch Jay Leno’s Headlines segment on the Tonight Show, you probably wonder how people can be so dumb to make such glaring mistakes in newspaper stories and advertisements. But as a longtime publisher, I can assure you that typos sneak in no matter how closely you proofread. Read any big city or small town newspaper or magazine and before long you’ll start seeing errors that you would think any high school senior should have caught.

We’re not immune here at the Gypsy Journal. Miss Terry is one of the best proofreaders I have ever known, but once in a while something slips by both of us. I just noticed one in the new issue of the paper. On Page 35 we have an announcement for next year’s Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally, but I goofed and put the date down as February 9-13, 2008. It should have been 2009, of course.

Speaking of RV rallies, we’re really moving along on plans for our Ohio Gypsy Gathering rally September 15-19 in Celina, Ohio. We’re putting together a great seminar schedule, several vendors have already signed up, and registrations continue to come in.

In addition to evening door prizes, jam sessions, line dancing, and a pizza party, we have signed up a great husband and wife musical duo to entertain us one evening. Melissa and Larry Beahm, who call themselves One More Time, perform a fun show filled with nostalgia, novelty and old standards that are sure to have toes tapping and hands clapping. Melissa and Larry have performed at RV rallies, retirement homes, and campgrounds in several states. To get an idea of the fun we’re in for, check out their website at www.omtmusic.com. We hope you’ll join us for the rally. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

We have met many fulltime RVers who work on the road, and I meet many more that want to at the classes I teach at RV rallies and Life on Wheels. Though the term is called workamping, and one popular job with RVers is indeed working at campgrounds, that is usually not the best way to earn money on the road if your motivation is income driven.

You will usually earn more if you pay for an RV site on a monthly or seasonal basis and get a job at a local store or business for the time you will be in an area. The problem with that for many folks is that they feel tied down and don’t get to fulfill their urge to travel.

One job that is perfect for RVers who want to see different parts of the country, enjoy being outside, and are in decent physical shape, is working as a gas line surveyor. Several companies around the country contract with local gas utilities to survey their systems checking for underground leaks. Basically surveyors walk a predetermined route with a leak detector and mark any problem spots detected. A surveyor usually covers from two to three miles in a typical eight hour day, though some days can be as much as five miles.

One of the bigger companies in this industry, and one that is always looking for RVers who want to travel to different parts of the country doing surveys, is Southern Cross, based in Norcross, Georgia. There is a twelve page thread on the Escapees forum at http://escapees.infopop.cc/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/486600661/m/7851042481 about working as a gas line surveyor. I spent some time reading the entire thread the other day, and I was impressed by what I read. The pay is good, they pay a per diem and travel expenses from job to job, they have a health insurance plan, and couples can arrange to work together. It sounds like a pretty good gig for the right person. Could that be you?

Thought For The Day – Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the driveway before it has stopped snowing.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I have been described as a curmudgeon at times, and I can live with that. I’ve been called worse. But sometimes I really can’t help being a cranky old fart. I’m sorry, but stupidity and incompetence offends me.

A good example was an experience I had yesterday at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Flagstaff. I recently bought a new page layout program called InDesign for putting the Gypsy Journal together, and while I know my way around a computer, somewhat, I’m not enough of a geek to understand the manuals that come with most new programs. Especially when they are on a CD. I can’t bookmark a page on a CD and jump back to it like I can with a book. (Okay, I guess real computer geeks can bookmark something on the computer screen, but I’m just an amateur.) Besides, I can’t carry my computer into the bathroom with me, because it’s a desktop, and even if it was a laptop, my lap has been inaccessible ever since I discovered Dairy Queen Blizzards.

A week or so ago I called the Barnes and Noble and ordered a book called InDesign for Dummies, because….. well, you know! Before we left for Flagstaff yesterday, I called the store and to see if the book had arrived, and was put on hold. Nobody ever came back. After about five minutes I hung up and called back, and a young man told me the book had arrived.

So after we dropped a vanload of stuffed envelopes off at the mail service, I went to the store and checked in at customer service. The same young man I had spoken to on the phone was behind the counter, and told me the book was at the checkout counter. I went to the checkout counter, and was told the book wasn’t there, and to go back to customer service. Okay, back to the first guy, who told me to go back to the checkout counter.

“No, I already did that,” I told him. “They sent me back here.”

He just looked at me and said “Okay” and stood there.

“Okay, what?” I asked.

“Okay, what do you want me to do?” he responded.

“Ahh…. find my book for me?”

“Did you ask for it at the checkout counter?”

“Yeah, I just told you that. They sent me back here.”

“Maybe it hasn’t come in yet,” he told me.

“But I called you three hours ago and you said it was here,”

“Okay.”

“Okay what?”

“Okay, what do you want me to do,” he repeated.

I finally found an employee with one or two brain cells, and she sent him to the back of the store to look for my book, which he promptly found and returned with. 

I worry about the future of our nation when these kids take over.

As long as I’m on my soapbox, three new buzzwords I’m hearing every time I turn on the radio or read a news story really irk me. They are green, empower, and closure.

It used to be only tree huggers and granola crunchers who were into saving the rain forest and the spotted owl, but now every yuppie who pulls up to the drive in window of Starbucks in a gas guzzling SUV to buy an $8 extra large super mocha foamy frothy latte in a cardboard cup is green.

Life on Wheels even has a new class on Green RVing. Folks, no matter how you color it, RVing is not green. We probably don’t use any more natural resources in a given year than that yuppie in the SUV, but let’s be honest, nobody has invented a hybrid Class A diesel pusher yet.

Now let’s talk about empowered. Students are now empowered to stand up to aggressive classmates and explain how their behavior negatively impacts others. When I was a kid you just punched the bully in the nose and hoped that worked. If not, you gave him a second helping. Wives are empowered to be their own person, not an extension of their husband. In this day and age, how many Stepford Wives do you really know? (Okay, I just saw a bunch of them in pioneer clothes on TV from that lunatic compound in Texas. But where else?)

As for closure, that one really ticks me off. I lost a dear friend a couple of months ago, and someone sent me an e-mail saying that they hoped I would find closure. I don’t want closure! To me, closure means something is closed. Over. Done with. I loved my friend, and I don’t want closure. I want to remember and continue to cherish my memories of our times together.

I had a brother who was murdered 40 years ago, and back then people said time would heal the wound. So far, it hasn’t. I’ve moved on, but I haven’t closed that memory either.

Thought For The Day – Hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

We’re off to Flagstaff again today to drop off the stuffed envelopes at our mail service, and the wind is just as strong as it was when we made the trip last week. So I know we’re going to get beat up all the way over and back again. Northern Arizona has just three seasons - wind, snow and mud.

My blogs of the last few days have drawn a tremendous number of responses, mostly supportive. However, one writer really unloaded on me, letting me know that he considered me “very biased, self centered, egotistical, and holier than thou” along with “condescending and annoying” and added that that I have a “Nick knows better than all you idiots” attitude. I’m sorry he feels that way, and I apologize if that is the impression I leave with some folks. But at this stage in my life, this old dog just isn’t up to learning any new tricks. The great thing about this country of ours is that we have the right to disagree, or to just not read something that offends us.

On another note, I have received quite a few letters over the last couple of months from people who have purchased Verizon air cards for internet access. Quite a few of these folks were former users of the Hughes tripod systems. All except one of them have been very pleased with their air cards, and those who had been using the tripod systems all agree that the ease of getting online is a great tradeoff for the few times they have not been able to get a signal on their air cards. We’ve been using the air card for seven months now, and I still remain very happy with it.

One of the concerns people have about the Verizon service is the five gigabyte per month limit they have on air card use. I spend a lot of time online every day. I maintain three websites www.gypsyjournal.net, www.motorcycletravelonline.com, and www.publishing4profit.com, I get well over 100 e-mails every day, and do a lot of online research. Miss Terry is not as heavy an internet user as I am, but she also spends a good bit of time online. In our busiest online month, we barely topped two gigs of usage. The good folks at the 3G Store www.3gstore.com publish a guide to just how much five gigs of data are at http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/846/63/. It is a considerable amount – approximately 500,000 e-mails, or 333,333 web page visits, or 1,000 three minute You Tube videos. As you can see, that is a lot of data, so I really don’t think the five gigabyte limit would be an issue for most people. Verizon allows new users a 30 day trial, so what have you got to lose?

Poor Miss Terry has been suffering with severe allergies ever since we got to Show low, and yesterday she came down with a nasty cold or bug of some kind. I’m hoping it passes soon, because she sure is feeling miserable right now.

Thought For The Day – I always try to go the extra mile at work, but my boss always finds me and brings me back.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

I got some negative feedback from Friday’s blog, in which I stated that many new production model RVs will be falling apart long before they are paid off. One reader wrote that they don’t want to read things like that when they are just deciding on which RV to order for fulltiming.

I’m sorry they feel that way, but sticking your head in the sand does not make a problem go away. I’ve been in hundreds of RVs over the years, from small Class Cs to mega-slide diesel pushers, fifth wheels, travel trailers, and truck conversions, and the reality is, as I have said forever, a lot of the stuff being made today is junk. I can’t count the number of new RV owners who have to make repeated trips back to the dealer or factory to have problems corrected that the rig never should have been allowed on a sales lot with.

Several years ago at a Fall Escapade, the owner of a $450,000 coach was lamenting the fact that he was headed back to the factory for the fourth time in less than a year because he had a cabinet door falling off, a slide-out that was not functioning properly, and a list of unresolved issues. “What can you do? It’s just the nature of the beast,” he said.

Horsepucky! If you buy a $450,000 yacht (can you buy a yacht for $450,000 these days?), there’s a pretty darned good chance that someone didn’t forget to seal the hull to keep water out. If you buy $450,000 worth of airplane, you can feel pretty confident that the wings won’t fall off the first time you fly in it. So why do RVers accept the shoddy workmanship the factories are turning out these days?

Another e-mail said something I have been told before; that if I stopped being so negative about the RV industry, I might have more advertising in the Gypsy Journal. I have no doubt about that at all. However, selling advertising will never be a priority with me. In fact, in nine years of publishing, we have never solicited any advertising business. Every advertiser in our publication has approached us, and we have turned away far more advertising than we accept.

I spent over 20 years publishing small town newspapers, and I had a reputation for stepping on toes. Advertisers don’t like that, especially if it is their toes being trod upon. But back then, and today, if I do not believe in a product and a business myself, I don’t want their advertising dollars.

An example is a well known company in the RV world that deals in RV electrical equipment – batteries, solar panels, inverters, etc. At one time this company was one of our advertisers. When Terry and I were in the early stages of building our bus conversion, we spent a lot of money with them, purchasing our inverter, automatic transfer switch, and other electrical components.

Very quickly we discovered that some of the expensive items we had purchased had problems, and worse yet, when I called this company to voice my concerns, promises were made to remedy the shortfalls, but nothing happened. When I repeatedly called back to ask why replacement items had not been shipped as promised, the owner was “unavailable.”  Eventually we gave up, and had John Palmer from Palmer Energy Systems www.palmerenergysystems.com in Lake City, Florida replace the junk components.

When it came time to renew this company’s advertisement, we would not do so. My feeling is that if I know they are unethical, and I still take their advertising, what does that make me?

A couple of months ago, the owner of said company e-mailed me to inquire about a vendor site at our Gypsy Gathering rallies, and said he wanted to get some ads back in the Gypsy Journal. I told him no thanks, and that based upon our prior experience several years ago, I did not want to do business with him. He replied, expressing confusion about any problems, and asked me what he could do to “make it right.”

I wrote back and outlined the ways they had let us down, told him that we had to junk most of what we bought from his outfit and replace it, and as to how he could make it right, the ball was in his court. That was in January, and it was the last I heard from him. So much for “making it right.” He has proven to me again that he really doesn’t care what a customer needs once the sale is made.

Sure, I could let bygones be bygones, take his money, put his ads in the paper, and he’d make some sales to our unsuspecting readers. But there is a problem with that - I have to look in the mirror every morning when I brush my teeth.      

Thought For The Day – As I lay on my bed looking up at the stars, I thought, "where is my ceiling”?       

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yesterday my son-in-law, Jim Robinson, spent the afternoon helping me rewire our headlight system and install the new 12 volt headlights. Our old 24 volt headlights were very antiquated, the wiring was brittle and frayed, and it was time to upgrade. We tapped into our house battery bank, installed a new off/on switch and new dimmer switch, and had the job finished in short order. I couldn’t have done it without Jim’s help, and I really appreciate him spending his day off helping me out.

Today we’ll be celebrating granddaughter Destiny’s first birthday with cake and ice cream. I have to get out of here pretty soon, or I’ll completely undo many months of dieting.

I had quite a few responses to yesterday’s blog, including one from a couple who have been forced to park their RV and take a long term job because of the rising cost of fuel and maintenance, along with the hit their stocks have taken. They hope to get back on the road fulltime in a year or so, but just don’t know what will happen. They said their bubble has not quite burst yet, but they are very worried about what the future holds for them.

Another reader wrote to say that she and her husband are looking for a smaller rig to downsize to, because their eight year old motorhome is giving them a lot of problems. But like so many folks I wrote about yesterday, they are upside down and will be faced with much higher payments for less RV, or have to take a substantial amount out of their savings to buy down their current loan.

On the other hand, one reader wrote that “If people don’t have the resources to replace their RVs as needed, or to handle the increasing costs of traveling and still plan for the future and what they will do when they leave the road, maybe they should have worked harder, or longer before they left their jobs. I have the funding in place to replace my coach as needed, travel as long as I care to, and then purchase a substantial home to retire to. I planned ahead and worked for this time in my life, and I do not feel sorry in the least for those who did not.”

Gee, can you say elitist jerk? I guess us poor folks just don’t deserve to be in his perfect golden world, do we?

Thought For The Day – The old believe everything, the middle age suspect everything, the young know everything.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Is the RV world as we know it getting ready to crash and burn?

We’ve been fulltime RVers for about nine years now, and we have seen a lot of people come and go; RVers who tried the fulltime lifestyle and discovered that it was not right for them, people who work in the industry and move on, and even RV companies that have failed. I have to admit that I’m concerned for the future.

The RV world has always been cyclical – every time fuel prices spike upward we see RV sales slump, and people declare that they are getting off the road if it goes up another penny, dime, or quarter a gallon. However, those price increases always seem to level out in a range most of the people we know have been able to live with. Now, with diesel selling for or very close to $4 a gallon nationwide, and gasoline not all that far behind, I wonder just what the ceiling will be, and how many RVers will say “enough is enough, I’m done!"

Yes, as fulltimers we can adjust to higher fuel prices by not traveling as much or as fast, but still, there has to be a dollar amount where somebody just can’t pay it any more. Nobody I know has unlimited financial resources.

But then what? It is already a buyers’ market, with RVs for sale on street corners and dealers’ lots all over the country, and not enough buyers to go around. If you can’t or won’t continue to pay the spiraling fuel prices, what do you do with your expensive RV? Sell it at a loss, if you can? Park it long term and live in it, but not travel? Turn it into the world’s most expensive storage shed?

Even without today’s high fuel prices, I have wondered for a long time what is going to happen to so many of the Boomer generation who have tied up a substantial portion of their assets in an RV that, based on what I have seen of a majority of the production model rigs, will be falling apart long before their 20 and 30 year loans on them are paid off. A ten year old RV, no matter what make and model, has depreciated a lot, and trade in values are usually nil. So what happens when you’re upside down in an RV that is no longer suitable for your fulltime lifestyle? I guess if you have enough credit, you can trade anyway, and be even further upside down, if you can find a lender who’ll take the risk. But where does that end?

We know many RVers with an exit plan, and the resources to buy a home somewhere when it is time to hang up the keys, assuming their retirement plan doesn’t go sour and their investments hold up. But we know just as many, if not more, who have everything they own in the world tied up in their homes on wheels. What happens to them someday down the road?

I’ve always said that my exit plan is to burn my last drop of diesel, bounce my last check, and have a fatal heart attack on the same afternoon. Is that wishful thinking? It makes as much sense as anything else I’ve seen for those of us with limited resources.

Thought For The Day – There ought to be a better way to start the day than by getting up in the morning.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yesterday was a very long day for us. We were up early to drive the 140 miles to Flagstaff to pick up the new issue of the Gypsy Journal from our printer. Whenever we make a road trip, I always check our tire pressures before we leave. It was sure nice to just turn on the PressurePro and let the readout give me the information instead of crawling around in the wind with a tire gauge! How did I live this long without this system?

The wind that has been hammering Arizona for the last two days beat us up all the way north on State Route 77 to Holbrook, slamming us broadside with gusts that wanted to blow our van all over the road. When we turned west on Interstate 40, it became a headwind, that not only pushed us around, but also destroyed our fuel mileage. Not that a ¾ ton Ford extended length van is an economy car anyway.

We stopped in Winslow for fuel, where we saw diesel at $4.05 a gallon at the truck stops. It’s going to be an expensive year to travel. I’m glad we have so many low cost overnight parking options to help us offset the cost of fuel. Those darned RV parks can get expensive, but by using free campgrounds, Elks and Moose lodges, VFW posts, fairgrounds and other alternatives we save a bundle, keeping our average overnight camping costs well under $5 a night.

We loaded the new issue up at the printer and headed back down the interstate, looking forward to the tailwind we expected. But Mother Nature decided that would be too easy, so the wind direction changed enough that it was more of a quartering force from the rear. Better than going over, but it still required two hands on the steering wheel all the way.

We stopped at Meteor Crater on the return trip, and while it is quite a sight, I have to say that I really didn’t feel like it was worth the $15 per person adult admission fee they charge. Yes, it’s a huge crater, measuring more than a mile across, the result of a massive meteor that slammed into the earth some 50,000 years ago. Scientists estimate the force of the impact was equal to 20 million tons of TNT exploding, which would definitely ruin your day. But let’s be honest folks, it still just a big hole in the ground. I guess if you’re interested in scientific things, it would be interesting to see, but $15 buys a lot of junk food.

At the entrance to the museum, a test model of a space capsule is on display, and inside is a chunk of the meteorite that landed here. There are also some very interesting interpretive signs in the museum.

Outside, we followed a paved path to the crater’s edge, where the wind was blowing even harder. I’m glad I ate so much of that birthday cake at my daughter’s house the other night, otherwise I think I might have taken flight. An observation deck has several telescopes that give visitors a close up view of some of the crater’s features, but on a windy day it was not a fun place to be, even if I wasn’t afraid of heights.

We didn’t tarry long at Meteor Crater, and before long we were back on the highway, fighting the wind all the way back to Show Low. Driving about 300 miles total in this kind of wind in a high profile vehicle is just hard work.  It sure was good to get back to our bus and turn on an electric space heater to take the chill off the air.    

Thought For The Day – Suburbs are areas where they cut down all of the trees, and then name the streets after them.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I guess I spoke too soon when I wrote in yesterday’s blog that our weather had cleared up here in northern Arizona. The wind began to blow and anything not nailed down left for parts unknown. It was so windy I stood around waiting for a house to land on one of my ex-wives and a little Kansas farm girl to crawl out with her dog!

Miss Terry spent most of yesterday baking a cake for Tiffany’s birthday and preparing a nice meal to share with Tiffany, Jim, and the girls. I spent some time online researching some future story ideas for the next couple of issues.

Some of the responses I get when we contact a museum, historical site, or other point of interest to make arrangements to come in and collect information for an article are interesting. Sometimes we don’t get a response at all, other times they simply reply telling us a pair of media passes will be at the front desk. Occasionally we will get a response saying basically, “No thanks, we’re not interested.” This one always amazes me. Who would not be interested in free publicity? On the other hand, some museum directors and public relations people really go the extra mile to make us feel welcome.

When we toured the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky a few years ago, they treated us like royalty. They even had a big sign at the entrance saying “Welcome Nick and Terry Russell from the Gypsy Journal RV Travel Newspaper” We really felt like celebrities!

One of the places I contacted yesterday was the World War II Victory Museum in Auburn, Indiana. Auburn is a neat town, with an impressive collection of museums we have been wanting to check out. I got an immediate response from Bob Krafft, Executive Director of the museum, asking when we would be there, so they could give us a VIP tour and treat us to lunch. Then Bob added that the museum’s founder has a suite at the Indianapolis 500 race track, and if we would be in the area in the days leading up to the big race, he could arrange free tickets for qualifying and practice days! Wow! I don’t think that would fit into our schedule, but what a generous offer!

Today we’re off to Flagstaff to pick up the new issue of the paper, and if we have time, we plan to stop at Meteor Crater on the way back to do a story. I’ve driven by the place where a meteorite crashed into earth centuries ago for years, but never bothered to stop. It will be interesting to finally check it out.

Thought For The Day – Weather forecasts are horoscopes with numbers.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy birthday to my daughter, Tiffany! 26 years ago today the nurse put this tiny pink bundle into my arms and it was love at first sight. My world has never been the same. Now that baby girl has grown into a beautiful young woman with babies of her own, and I’m so blessed that she is not only my daughter, but my friend. She is one of the greatest treasures in my life, and I love her more than words could ever say. Happy birthday, baby.

A few days ago I complained about the cold weather and snow here in northern Arizona, but it has cleared up since then, and yesterday the temperatures were in the mid-70s. I guess I shouldn’t snivel. Our pals Ron and Brenda Speidel are camp hosting at St. Francois State Park in Bonne Terre, Missouri, where the campground is flooded. Ron said they are parked on high ground and have the place all to themselves right now, so I guess it’s a pretty good job, as long as they don’t ask him to mow the grass.

A topic that comes up occasionally with new or wannabe fulltimers that I meet in my classes at Life on Wheels is if they really need to tow a car behind a motorhome. Some say they plan to ride bicycles to wherever they need to go (not a realistic plan), will carry a small scooter or motorcycle to get about (a better option, but still not really workable), or to rent a car whenever they stay for a few days and need alternative transportation. It has been my experience that none of these plans work long term, and that for most fulltimers the choices are either to drive a motorhome and tow a dinghy, or to drive a truck and tow a travel trailer or fifth wheel.

I received an e-mail from a reader over the weekend with whom I had this same discussion three years ago. She reported that after dragging a Saturn around behind them during their first year on the road, they decided to leave the car with a granddaughter and see how much money they would save by renting occasionally instead of paying for insurance, maintenance, and the extra fuel that not only the dinghy would use, but the reduced mileage of the motorhome pulling the car. She said that after a full year, their total savings were $220. She reported that both she and her husband agree that the inconvenience of not having a car when needed far outweighed the few dollars they saved'

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to lose some weight, and though I have not become fanatical about it, by making some changes to my diet (mostly cutting way back on my Pepsi intake and limiting the amount of junk food I eat) I have dropped about 23 pounds. I still have a long way to go, but I’m about to undo a lot of that work. Miss Terry is baking Tiffany a chocolate birthday cake, and what kind of father would I be if I let that poor child eat it all by herself?

Thought For The Day – One man with courage makes a majority.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

I had no idea when I posted yesterday’s blog that I was about to become the Dr. Phil of the RV world! But judging from the e-mail responses I have received, there are a lot of folks out there in need of advice.

So, in the flavor of that illustrious TV shrink, guys, stop being such jerks!

Apparently there are a lot of women out there who are not enjoying the fulltime RV experience at all because the fellow behind the wheel doesn’t understand that life, just like the highway, is a two way street.

One lady wrote that she and her husband became fulltime RVers on January 1, 2007. She said since they left their home in Maryland, they have been to California and then back east twice, to Florida three times, to South Dakota to change their residency, and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and they have not stayed in the same place two nights in a row! Her husband said they bought an RV to travel, and he plans to travel.

Another writer said that as soon as they arrive at a destination, her husband is ready to take off again. They drove seventeen hours, straight through, to get to her sister’s house in Pennsylvania, arrived at 3 p.m., and the next morning at 9 a.m. her husband was ready to leave! She said it isn’t because he and her sister don’t get along, because they are very good friends. He just wants to roll up the miles. The same woman added that they went to San Diego because she has always wanted to see Sea World. They were there when the gates opened in the morning, but by 11 a.m. her husband was bored and wanted to leave. He ended up going back to the truck and spent the rest of the day planning their next trip on his laptop computer. Hey, for what it costs to get into Sea World, I’d be staying until they threw me out with the trash to get my money’s worth!

I also had an e-mail from a wife who said she loves her husband, but has given him an ultimatum – either they go back to a house and yard somewhere, or else she goes alone. She said that in the three years they have been on the road, he has perfected dry camping overnight in WalMarts, truck stops, and rest areas to the point where they have not been in an RV park in more months than she can remember. She wanted to travel and meet new people, while he seems to be committed to winning the title Freddie the Freeloader of the RV world. She says it’s hard to develop new friendships with the folks she meets while they load their WalMart purchases into the trunk of their car, and that she’s tired of going to sleep to the lullaby “Shower Number Three is now open."

Not all RVing husbands seem to be in the same race to see who can make their odometer roll over first. One wife’s complaint was just the opposite. She said they moved out of their large comfortable home and into their fifth wheel almost a year ago, they spent their first night at a campground 22 miles from their home, and they are still there! Her hubby spends days planning great excursions to new places, but every time they are ready to go, he comes up with some reason why they should stay put a while longer. “If we’re not going anywhere, why did we give up our big house to live in a little trailer?” she asked. I think that either her husband has a fear of leaving his comfort zone, or else he may be intimidated with driving the truck pulling a trailer. I suggested that she contact the RV Driving School www.rvschool.com. A lesson spent with one of their instructors might give him the confidence he needs to be comfortable to take to the highway.

I feel sorry for these couples, because they are missing out on the joys of a wonderful lifestyle. There is so much that they could be doing and sharing together.

The good news is that, compared to some of these fellows, I don’t seem like nearly the jerk some folks think I am! J

Thought For The Day – Never trade luck for skill.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Son-in-law Jim and I had planned to upgrade the old 24 volt headlight system on our MCI bus conversion to a newer 12 volt system yesterday, but as it turned out, nobody in town had the four plugs for the back of the sealed beam headlights we needed and they are a special order item. So we ordered the necessary parts and hope to tackle that job next weekend.

With our plans for the day scuttled, Jim and I decided to head back out to the cinder pit and burn up some ammunition. Jim had a new revolver to try out, and I am getting familiar with a Glock 9 mm that just moved into the bus, so we had a good time punching holes in paper. The only problem was that we stopped at my buddy Lyle Worman’s Pinetop Sporting Goods store on the way, and a couple of my old time shooting pals were there. They were quick to rat me out and tell my son-in-law about a couple of my misdeeds from the past. Jeez, accidentally shoot one pickup truck or helicopter, and people never let you forget it!

You can ride a million miles in them without incident, but kill one of the darned things and they make a Federal case out of it! Well okay, the Army did make a Federal case of it, but whatever happened to forgive and forget?

Meanwhile Miss Terry and my daughter Tiffany were having some girl time together, and Jim and I returned to the house just in time to throw some burgers on the grill. It is always fun to spend time with the kids and grandkids, and we’re taking advantage of every minute we can with them, while trying not to take up so much of their time that we interfere with their regular family routines. We can’t be here with them everyday, so we try to make it quality time when we do visit.

I had a long e-mail exchange with a couple over the last three days who are new fulltimers and are finding it hard to adjust to life on the road. The husband, typical of a lot of guys, wants to get out on the highway and drive, as much as 500 miles a day. He said he spent his life chained to a desk in a tiny cubicle in a skyscraper, and it’s time to see something new. His wife, on the other hand, wants to stop and see things along the way. Instead she is seeing the world through a windshield. She says she didn’t leave her home and family behind to spend her days watching the landscape fly by at 70 miles an hour, and her nights sleeping in WalMart parking lots.

This is a common problem, and one of the reasons Terry and I developed our Reluctant RVer seminar for Life on Wheels. For this lifestyle to work, a couple have to be able to communicate, and do a lot of compromising. Much more so, I think, than in their old sticks and bricks home.

Wanting to see everything yesterday is typical of most new fulltimers. It takes a year or so for most people to get out of vacation mode and learn to slow down and enjoy the journey. Folks, no matter how fast you drive, and how many hours a day you put in behind the wheel, you can’t see it all anyway, because there’s just too much to see! And while you’re speeding around the country in a mad rush to get to the next destination, you’re passing a hundred other great places along the way.

I advised this gentleman to make a determined effort to slow down. No more than 200 miles in a day, and no more than two consecutive travel days before they find an RV park to squat down for a couple of days and relax. Otherwise, he’s going to have a very miserable wife, and we all know that when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Thought For The Day – Since bread is square, why is sandwich meat round?

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about our Ohio Gypsy Gathering rally, September 15 – 19 in Celina, Ohio. Today we got confirmation of the dates for next year’s Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally. It will be February 9 - 13 at the Pinal County Fairgrounds in Casa Grande, Arizona. The fairgrounds has raised their rates, so the cost of the rally will be $110, which we think is still a great bargain. We hope to see you there!

I’ve spent the last few days glued to my computer, getting the May-June issue of the Gypsy Journal finished, and late this afternoon we shipped it off to the printer. Now we have a few days to catch our breath before we pick it up the middle of next week, and then it will be a rush to get all of the envelopes stuffed to take them to the mail service to be sent out. I really can’t complain, six times a year we work hard, and the rest of the time we play. It’s a pretty good gig.

With the disk in the mail to our printer, we stopped at my buddy Jim Lewis’ Pinetop Book Exchange, a neat little used bookstore, to drop off some of the books we’ve finished and to pick up a couple of new ones. Jim and I have been friends 20 years or more, going all the way back to our Tucson days, and we always have a fun time together. When it was time to close, we followed Jim to his house to see all of the remodeling his wife Shar has been doing, and then they took us out to dinner. It was a nice evening, good food and good conversation with good friends, and Jim picked up the tab! It just doesn’t get much better than that! J

The cold front that brought wind and snow to northern Arizona seems to be on the way out, and the weekend is supposed to be nice. My son-in-law Jim Robinson is going to come by today to see if he can help me figure out how to swap out the 24 volt headlights on our MCI bus conversion for a 12 volt system. The 24 volt bulbs are hard to find and expensive, and we’ve wanted to make the change for a while now. I drafted Jim to help with the project, and he is always willing to lend a hand. We try to avoid driving at night, but sometimes things happen and we find ourselves on the highway after dark. When that happens, I want the best illumination we can get.

Thought For The Day – Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth...Amen.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Plans are coming together for our Ohio Gypsy Gathering rally, September 15-19. the rally will be held at the Mercer County Fairgrounds in Celina, a charming small town located on the shore of Grand Lake St. Marys, at one time the largest manmade lake in the world.

We have over thirty RVs registered for the rally already, along with several vendors signed up, and our seminar schedule is coming together very well. Just as we do with our Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally, we are limiting vendors to one of each type of product. So if you want a vendor spot and don’t want to get shut out, contact me as soon as possible to reserve your spot. You can register for the rally at the link listed below. We also welcome non-commercial seminars, and if you want to share your knowledge of an RV related topic, send me an e-mail at editor@gypsyjournal.net.

Dry camping can save RVers a lot of money, and allows you to really enjoy the lifestyle. But many newbies are hesitant to stretch their wings outside of a campground because they are not sure how and if they can dry camp safely and comfortably.

Now there is good news for people who have never dry camped, but want to learn how to take advantage of their RV’s self-contained systems. John Palmer, of Palmer Energy Systems in Lake City, Florida has developed a new dry camping workshop. The eight day sessions are limited to fifteen RVs, to give students plenty of one on one attention, and cover all aspects of living off the grid. John is one of the most experienced dry campers we have ever met, and he taught us a lot about dry camping when we were relatively new to the experience. For more information, call John at (941) 928-4573.

Several people have asked us about our travel schedule for this year, hoping we can get together somewhere. We’ll be covering a lot of miles in the months ahead. We’ll leave Show Low, Arizona toward the end of the month, and plan to spend a week at the Cherokee Landing Thousand Trails/NACO preserve near Middleton, Tennessee before we teach at the Bowling Green, Kentucky Life on Wheels conference May 7-10.

From there we will make a stop in Lexington, Kentucky for my annual appointments at the V.A. hospital. When we leave Lexington we plan to stop in Celina to get some early details worked out for the rally, and then I will be speaking at the Heartland Owners Rally June 12-15 in Branson, Missouri.

We still have not made a commitment to Life on Wheels in Lewiston, Idaho July 6-11, but if we do go, we will leave the bus somewhere in the Midwest and drive out in the van. July 22 will find me speaking at the AmeriCamp RV rally at our favorite hangout, Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana.

There was some talk about me giving a seminar at the FMCA rally in Essex Junction, Vermont August 7-10, but that seems to have been pushed to their back burner. We hope to spend at least a few weeks in New England before we teach at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Life on Wheels conference September 7-10. From there we’ll beat a hasty retreat back to Celina, Ohio for our Gypsy Gathering rally. After that, we plan to take a couple of months off and just play and wander wherever the urge takes us. If at all possible we’ll spend some time back on the Texas Gulf coast around Rockport/Fulton. There are a bunch of seafood restaurants there we haven’t tried out yet.

But, like most fulltimers, a lot of our plans are written in jello. We could make a left or right turn at any intersection and go off in a totally different direction!   

Thought For The Day – The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Would someone tell Al Gore to shut up? Global warming is a myth! I know, because it snowed off and on all day yesterday here in Show Low, Arizona! The day started windy and cold, with scattered overcast, and about noon we looked out and big snowflakes were falling. Later in the evening we were at daughter Tiffany’s house for dinner and it began to snow in earnest, and when we left to come home about 8 p.m. snow was sticking to the ground and cars. L I do not approve! I don’t like cold and I don’t like snow.

I guess I should not complain, looking at the national weather picture and the tornadoes and severe thunderstorms tearing through parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.We’ll be traveling through that area in a couple of weeks and I hope things calm down by then.

Bad weather is always a concern for RVers. We try to avoid extremes of cold or heat, but tornadoes are a danger in much of the country during the spring and summer, and strong thunderstorms can occur just about anywhere. That’s why I consider a weather radio necessary equipment in every RV.

I get a lot of questions about fulltiming from wannabes who read the website or pick up a copy of the Gypsy Journal, and while most of their questions are pretty basic and make sense, sometimes I get a letter that makes me scratch my head and wonder if they are for real. I got one today from a couple who have decided to become fulltimers and plan to hit the road in early June, asking me what was the best way to sell their home and possessions, find an RV to purchase, tell their family and friends they are leaving, and find new homes for their three horses, two dogs and six cats by their deadline. Uhhh… my best advice is to start planning about two years ago.

Another writer wants me to tell him which make and model is the best RV for his needs, which dealer to buy it from, and how much to pay for it. I don’t have anything to do this weekend, just send me your checkbook and credit cards and I’ll go shopping for you.

Yet another correspondent contacted me over a year ago asking about a bus for sale by a businessman that is well known in bus circles as a con man and a thief. I advised him to look elsewhere and told him why. He then posted his question on one of the internet bus bulletin boards, and received several replies that basically told him the same thing I had. He still paid the dealer a very large down payment, and a year later he still has not received his bus or a refund. Now he wants me to tell him what to do next. How about you just send me whatever money you have left, because sooner or later someone is going to rip you off anyway. 

Thought For The Day – Flashlights are tubular metal containers kept in a toolbox to store dead batteries.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This week I am busy getting the May-June issue of the Gypsy Journal finished so we can get it printed and mailed next week. I picked a good time to be chained to my keyboard, because we are in for some ugly weather the next couple of days, with highs in the low to mid-50s, wind, and possible thunderstorms.

Speaking of wind, just how dumb are some people? I wrote last night about the herd mentality after two RVs came into the nearly empty campground and parked almost on top of us, then built smoky campfires. The next morning the B van pulled out, but left his fire smoldering in the wind, right here in the middle of a pine forest!

I went out and poured two five gallon pails of water on it and stirred the ashes to be sure it was completely out. It was only about six years ago that the Rodeo-Chediski Fire burned down 460,000 acres of forest here, and nobody wants to see a repeat of that horror story. Folks, if you build a campfire, be sure it is completely out before you leave it unattended. Like the bear says, only you can prevent forest fires!

A while back, before we decided to get our PressurePro tire pressure monitoring system, we were approached by a representative of an outfit called Saf-Tee tire pressure systems. I decided to go with PressurePro because of their excellent reputation, and because I know PressurePro vendors Mile and Pat McFall www.pressureprosystem.com, who have been serving the RV industry for a long time.

I’m glad I did, because according to a thread on the Escapees forum at http://escapees.infopop.cc/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/372602561/m/9161000803 Saf-Tee has a lot of product on back order, and customers have had their credit card charged and are still waiting for their systems. A post last night by one of their customers said he received an e-mail from Saf-Tee saying that they no longer want to do business with RVers because they are rude when they call asking when their orders will be shipped. Now, I have not seen that e-mail personally, but if that is indeed true, I’d be calling my credit card company canceling my order.

Folks, why do business with someone you have never heard of that comes along promising the world, when there are honest dealers and vendors out there who have a proven track record? We’ve only had it a short time, but already I wonder how we traveled so long without our PressurePro system. And I know that if I ever do have a problem with the equipment, or a question about its operation, Mike and Pat are just a telephone call away.

Thought For The Day – A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It is amazing how our perspective changes over time. Ever since I first discovered the White Mountains of Arizona while I was in the Army, I wanted to live here. It took me over twenty years to accomplish that goal, and for the next ten years I loved it. Now when we visit our old hometown, we look around and ask ourselves why.

Maybe it’s because we have had the opportunity to see so much of this great land of ours since we hit the road, or maybe now we are looking at the place through different eyes. Terry and I agree that if my daughter and her family ever moves away from here, we would have no reason to return. The same small town politicians are running things with the same good old boy network that I butted heads with when I published the local newspaper, and the few things that have changed in our absence are not for the better.

Did you ever notice that people are like sheep? There are 75 campsites here at the city owned Show Low Lake Campground. Until this morning, the only RVs here were our bus, and two rigs owned by workampers. Terry and I have a nice site tucked away in the pine trees with 30 amp electric, a water bib close enough that we can run a hose to it to fill our fresh water holding tank, and a dump station. When you check in, the workampers just tell you to find a site and come back and let them know where you are parked. Today a fellow pulled in with a B van, and drove all around the place, and guess which site he chose? You got it, one close enough that I could reach out and scratch his back! A few hours later, someone pulled in with a travel trailer, and they parked on the other side of us! What’s with the herd mentality? And of course, these are campers, not RVers, so the first thing they did was build a smoky fire. L

If you have been reading my blog or the Gypsy Journal for very long, you know that I am not a fan of the Montana LLCs that people form to avoid paying sales taxes on RVs. I have said all along that they are a can of worms that I don’t want to touch, and that sooner or later some folks are going to really get bit on the butt with them. Yesterday there was a post on the Escapees forum about LLCs, in which the Bennett Law Firm of Missoula was quoted as saying that Montana LLCs fall into a “gray area” and that the State of Texas is looking at them closely, and that if an LLC owner is “caught” they will recommend a Texas attorney, but that is the only help they offer. This from the folks who make money setting up LLCs! Why in the world would somebody expose themselves to the problems this could lead to, just to save a few bucks in sales tax? The penalties could cost you so much more! There is a lot of debate on this issue, pro and con, and you can read some of it at this link, but I would never get involved in a Montana LLC. http://escapees.infopop.cc/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/154607461/m/8361027403

Thought For The Day – Never tell the boss or Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

In this day and age, it’s probably not politically correct to admit that I am a gun owner. Worse yet, I am a handgun owner! I have owned, used and carried firearms all of my adult life. Being a fulltime RVer, I have found that finding a place to shoot on the road can be very difficult, so in the nine years we have been on the road, the only time I have fired a handgun was when I had to qualify for my concealed weapons permit a couple of years ago.

Yesterday my son-in-law Jim Robinson, five year old granddaughter Hailey and I went to the cinder pit in Lakeside, Arizona, where the local shooters go for target practice. Some may wonder at the wisdom behind taking a small child on a shooting excursion. But I grew up around firearms and was taught at an early age that they were not toys and were to be respected. I taught my kids the same way, and I am glad to see that my daughter and her husband are passing down the tradition. Owning a firearm carries with it a great responsibility, and part of that responsibility is educating our children about firearms safety.

I was pleased that even though my shooting skills may be rusty, I could still put my rounds where they need to be with several handguns. Jim has been instructing Hailey on gun safety and shooting, and he carefully helped her pop away with a .22 rifle. I was pleased to see that the little one is very careful and serious when on the range.

I introduced Jim to a couple of handguns he had never fired before, and he did just fine with them. Especially when you consider that Jim is missing half of his trigger finger, and had to use his middle finger to pull the trigger. But even with a .45 semiautomatic he did very well.

Now, if my taking a five year old girl target shooting offends you, you might want to stop reading now. I have a lot of respect and affection for my son-in-law, but that has never stopped me from picking on him every chance I get. So I have to tell you how he lost that finger.

It wasn’t a construction accident, a mishap with a lawnmower, or anything mundane like that. Not our Jim! Anybody can do something foolish like that. This boy stands out from the crowd. Jim’s finger was bitten off by a monkey! Yes, a monkey. It seems that when he was a kid, his parents took him to a zoo in Germany, where Little Jimmy stuck his finger into a chimpanzee’s cage and the ape took it for, well, finger food.

I’m sorry if my making light of Jim’s misfortune seems crass to you, but I have a sick and twisted sense of humor that finds that story funny as hell. A missing digit hasn’t slowed Jim down one bit. He’s a hard working man who dotes on his wife and girls, puts up with his vagabond in-laws, and would give you the shirt off his back. Just don’t ask to borrow his gloves, because they probably won’t fit. Unless you too have been to the monkey cage!

Thought For The Day – I was an atheist but I gave it up because they don’t have any holidays.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

The White Mountains of Arizona includes some beautiful scenery, and yesterday we spent the afternoon enjoying it. We introduced my daughter’s family to our hobby of geocaching, and I do believe we have some new converts.

Our first cache of the day was located at the Pintail Lake Wildlife Viewing Area, just north of Show Low, and five year old Hailey was delighted to find a box of “treasure.” As we were leaving the cache we ran into another couple coming to find it, and exchanged pleasantries with them for a few minutes.

Another cache took us to the Wagon Wheel area, where we walked a trail overlooking the Mogollon Rim, the giant up-thrust of pine forest that runs diagonally across north-central Arizona. By the time we were done we must have walked between two and three miles, which I should be doing everyday. As I’ve shared with you before, geocaching is the perfect RV hobby. We can do it anywhere, it doesn’t cost a fortune to buy the equipment you need to get started, it’s fun, and the exercise will do us all a lot of good. To learn more about this fun hobby, check out the Geocaching Article I wrote a while back.

We returned to Tiffany’s house for steaks that son-in-law Jim grilled, and I knew my daughter was hooked when I noticed her looking at GPS units online.

Our youngest granddaughter, Destiny, will be a year old in a couple of weeks, and when we arrived here Thursday she had just begun taking a few tentative steps. What a difference a couple of days make! Tonight she was walking all over the place. Sure, sometimes she looked like a drunken sailor, and she plopped down on her bottom more than once, but she got right back up and was at it again. It is so beautiful watching a child discover the new freedom walking gives them.

As much as Terry and I enjoy visiting with our family and friends here in our old hometown, it takes a toll on us. Poor Miss Terry’s allergies have her eyes and nose running nonstop, and the thin air here at 6500 to 7000 feet leaves me short of breath and tired a lot. I recognize the signs of altitude sickness and know that I need to take things a little easier until my body acclimates. Of course, about the time that happens it will be time for us to head on down the road again. But it’s worth it just to spend some time with my daughter, and to play with those granddaughters of ours. 

Thought For The Day – When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane, you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

One topic that comes up a lot with new and wannabe fulltimers is whether or not they should purchase a campground membership. My response is always yes and no, but not right away. How’s that for ambiguous? Maybe I should run for political office. J

I think new fulltimers should wait until they have at least a year on the road under their belts before they commit to buying an expensive campground membership. That first year too many are still in vacation mode, running all over the place trying to see everything at once and trying to cram 36 hours into every day. It takes at least a year for most folks to start to slow down and define their own RVing style. It would be a total waste of money to jump into an expensive membership where all of the campgrounds are located on the west coast, or down south, only to discover that you find yourself spending more of your time in the Midwest or in New England .

Once they get the need for speed out of their systems, some fulltimers find that they enjoy sitting a couple of weeks at a time in a campsite before they feel the urge to move on. For folks like this, a campground membership with locations in the areas where they enjoy traveling, can be a real money saver. Other people, however, are too susceptible to “hitch itch” and want to be on the move more frequently. Some, like Terry and I, hate making campground reservations because we abhor having to stick to a travel schedule. In that situation, a campground membership may not fit their lifestyle.

Within our first month on the road, we let a fast talking salesman convince us that we needed a very expensive campground membership where most of their locations were in the far western portion of the country. We signed on the dotted line, shelled out a small fortune, and in almost nine years on the road, have only been back in that area one time. What a waste of money!

We spent the next seven years without a campground membership and never felt the need for one. A couple of years ago we did purchase a resale nationwide Thousand Trails/NACO membership www.thousandtrails.com. We got it at a very good price, just $100 plus the transfer fee. It allows us to stay at any Thousand Trails or NACO campground for up to 14 days, and we can go from there right to any other without being required to stay out of the system for any length of time. Our annual dues are $500, which entitles us to 50 nights of camping in a calendar year, and any nights over 50 are $5/night. Thousand Trails/NACO campgrounds can be found from Washington and Oregon to Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and Michigan.

To be honest, we have not yet used the membership enough to make it pay off. However, we are trying to slow down a bit and cut out some of the rallies and speaking events we attend, to give us more time to utilize the membership. A comparable membership would cost about $8,000, so we feel the investment will work out.

One thing you have to understand is that no two campground memberships are necessarily alike. Every membership chain, from Thousand Trails to Western Horizons to any of the others out there, seem to have a dozen or more membership plans and options. Some plans allow more or less time in a campground than ours does, others require a week or two out of the system between visits, some are limited to specific campgrounds within a geographical area, and on and on.

Campground membership salespeople work on commission, and many are very experienced at the hard sell. More than one unsuspecting RVing couple were lured into a membership sales office with an offer of three nights of free camping in exchange for sitting through a one hour sales presentation, and walked away with an expensive membership they neither wanted or needed.

In my opinion, the resale market is the only way to go. There are plenty of people out there who want to unload a membership just to get out from paying the annual dues, and if you find the right seller at the right time, you can save a bundle, like we did. However, you must know exactly what you are buying. Get the contract number and call the membership company and learn what that particular membership includes, or if the dues or rights under the contract will change if you purchase it.

You will also run across people who bought an expensive membership and still believe the salesman’s claim that it is an “investment” and that they can sell it for what they paid, or even make a profit. Pass those deals over, because there are too many other people out there who will be more than willing to part with their membership for a couple of hundred dollars, or even give  it to you because they never use it and want to stop paying the annual dues.

When I found our membership, I put a post on the Escapees forum http://escapees.infopop.cc/eve stating that I was looking for a low cost resale membership. I was deluged with offers of anywhere from $5,000 (what part of low cost didn’t they understand) to free. The lady we bought our membership from was a widow who no longer RVed. She offered to give us the membership, but my attorney advised us to pay her $100 to make it a binding contract.

When and if you decide that a membership is right for you, do your homework, learn what is available and what the different membership contracts have to offer, and then shop the resale market. You will save a lot of money!

Thought For The Day – Where are we going in such a hurry? And what's with this hand basket?

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Friday, April 4, 2008

It is cold here in Show Low, Arizona! Last night the temperature dropped down to 33 degrees, which is about 40 degrees below my acceptable comfort level. Would somebody please turn up the heat?

We left the Verde Valley Thousand Trails just after 9 a.m. yesterday morning and took Interstate 17 north about 60 miles to Flagstaff, climbing all the way. Our site at the Thousand Trails was at 3200 feet elevation, and when we hit Interstate 40 in Flagstaff we were at 7,000 feet. For this stretch of the trip, Miss Terry followed me in the van, giving our old Detroit Diesel engine less of a load. The bus did fine. I got to just under 30 miles per hour on a couple of the steepest grades but I stayed in the right lane, kept the transmission geared down so the temperature gauge stayed in the safe zone, and we chugged right along. At one point a passing trucker called me on the CB radio and asked what year the bus was and if we had converted it ourselves. I told him the details, then apologized for slowing down traffic, but he said “You’re doing fine, we’ve got an entire extra lane to pass you in. You just take your time and arrive safe and with your bus in one piece.” Some truckers get ticked off when they have to pull out to pass us, but this fellow was a real gentleman, and we chatted for a few minutes before he was out of radio range.

In Flagstaff, we pulled off the highway long enough to hook up the van, and then headed east on Interstate 40. We had planned to stop at Meteor Crater to do a story for a future issue of the Gypsy Journal, but dark clouds hung heavy in the sky and we decided to stop in sometime in the next week or two when we have to make a run to Flagstaff in the van.

I sure do love my new PressurePro tire monitoring system! It was so nice not to have to crawl around on my hands and knees checking tire pressures with a gauge before we got ready to head out. Instead I just scrolled the monitor through our tire readout and confirmed everything was shipshape. How cool is that? We also hit a rough stretch of roadway somewhere on I-40 and at first it felt like we had a flat tire. But the PressurePro monitor showed all was well, and before long the pavement smoothed out and we were fine. For someone who went through a front end blowout like we did a few months ago, that peace of mind is priceless! I sent Mile and Pat McFall an e-mail as soon as we arrived at our campground to thank them again for their great service in getting us set up with our system. If you don’t have a tire monitoring system, check out their website at www.pressureprosystem.com. Having had it just this short time, I can tell you that I would never be without one again.

We stopped at the Flying J in Winslow for fuel, and because I needed my daily dose of frustration. This time around, two big diesel pushers with dinghies were at each of the RV pumps, but they had first driven through the parking lot and come into the island from the wrong direction. The end result was that no other RVs could wait in line as they normally would with the traffic flow, because these clowns couldn’t have gotten out then. I was tempted to pull in the correct way anyway, which would have put us nose to nose and let them unhook their toads and back out, but it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I pulled into the truck island instead and took on fuel.

I always check the Flying J website  http://flyingj.com/fuel/gasoline_CF.cfm before hitting the road to check fuel prices, but apparently the folks who run the truck stop in Winslow don’t. Yesterday their website showed car/RV diesel at $3.85 a gallon. But even after our 8¢ a gallon discount off the trucker price, and paying cash, it still cost $3.93 a gallon.

We had lunch at the Flying J, then got back on the interstate for another 30 miles, getting off in Holbrook to follow State Route 77 south 50 miles to our old hometown of Show Low, where we took a site at Show Low Lake Campground, with just over 200 miles under our belts for the day.

Show Low Lake Campground is owned by the city, and operated by Recreation Resource Management. We stayed here several weeks last year, and will be here about three weeks this time around, while we visit my daughter’s family and spoil our grandkids. It should be interesting. Two of the workampers were having a really nasty argument while we were parking, with lots of screaming and cursing going on. The company has an ad in our upcoming issue of the Gypsy Journal for workampers, and I think I can understand why. 

Before I close, I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that RVSEF will be at our Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally in Celina, Ohio in September weighing RVs. Rick Lang from RVSEF asked me to include his telephone number, (207) 522-3336 so folks can call ahead to reserve their weighing times.

Thought For The Day – Never argue with an idiot. He will bring you to his level and then beat you with experience!

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

We’ll be on the road today, leaving the Verde Valley Thousand Trails and going north on Interstate 17 to Flagstaff, where we will pick up Interstate 40 eastbound. The climb up to the high country is pretty steep, and I think Miss Terry will drive the van to make things easier on the bus. It’s about 60 miles to Flagstaff, and we’ll hook the van up once we get there.

We plan to stop at Meteor Crater, located about 45 miles east of Flagstaff, to get some information for a story for the Gypsy Journal. From there it’s another 100 miles to Show Low, where we’ll squat down for two or three weeks and enjoy a visit with my daughter Tiffany and her family, and all of our friends in our old hometown. I’m hoping that the strong winds that normally hammer northern Arizona will give us a break until we get into Show Low.

This route is about 50 miles longer than taking State Route 260 from Camp Verde east to Show Low, but that route involves about eleven miles of climbing 6% and 7% grades on a twisty two lane road. Our bus would not handle that very well. We’ve been over that route before, in our first motorhome, a 36 foot Class A, and have found that the longer route actually is almost as fast, and much easier driving.

It won’t be all play time for us in Show Low. We need to get the May-June issue of the Gypsy Journal finished and mailed out, and I always have a couple of ongoing book projects. My next book, Overlooked America , All The Places You Missed Between Dollywood And Disneyland, is in the final proofing stage, and I hope to have the first copies back from the printer in a few weeks.

We’ve actually been working on several projects, including our Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally, planned for September 15-19 at the Mercer County Fairgrounds in Celina, Ohio. We have a good lineup of seminars, including classes on holding tanks, fire safety, safe RVing, warranties and recalls, boondocking, blogging, high speed internet, weight and tire safety, a solos roundtable, crafts, and more. The folks from the RV Safety and Education Foundation www.rvsafety.org will be on hand weighing RVs, and The RV School www.rvschool.com will be giving driving classes in the student’s own RVs. You can contact either organization ahead of time to reserve your weighing or class time now.

This will be our first Ohio rally, and we’re hoping for a good turnout. With no Fall Escapade planned by the Escapees Club in the Midwest this year, we hope some of the RVers who normally attend will put us on their calendar instead. We’ve already got quite a few RVs registered, and we hope we’ll see you there too.

Thought For The Day – My wife does all of the driving, I just get to hold the steering wheel.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

One of the best things about the fulltime RV lifestyle is the friends you make.

Miss Terry has become accustomed to the fact that I can leave the bus to take the trash down to the dumpster, and be gone an hour or two, and eventually come back with two or three new pals. Or walk up to the office to pick up my mail, and run into someone we met six months and a thousand miles ago.

Yesterday was a day for friends. I walked down to the dumpster, met a fellow along the way who noticed the Life on Wheels logo on my hat and asked about the program. When I told him I’m an instructor, he had a dozen questions. As it turns out, he had just picked up a sample copy of the Gypsy Journal at the campground Activity Center the day before, read it, and mailed off a subscription.

On my way back to the bus, I ran into Jean Watson and she introduced me to the new dog that has adopted her and hubby John. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t pass up a pooch without getting acquainted, so I spent some time scratching the pup’s ears.

Just as I walked up to the bus, Terry told me that Henry Gartner had just driven past on his motorized cart. Many of you who go to RV rallies will know Henry better as Flakey the Clown, his alter-ego when he represents Blue Ox towing products at FMCA and other rallies nationwide. I caught up with Henry, we chatted a while, and of course I had to play with the bunny rabbit riding on his cart with him. It wasn’t a dog, but what the heck, a bunny is still better than a cat.

We had not seen Henry and his wife Kathy in over a year, so he went back to their motorhome and brought her over to the bus for a visit. They are a neat couple, and we have always enjoyed getting together with them.

Soon after Henry and Kathy left, Rick and Joyce Lang from the RV Safety and Education Foundation www.rvsafety.org pulled up to take us to dinner. We cross paths with Rick and Joyce at RV rallies and at Life on Wheels all over the country, but we had never had the opportunity to spend much time together socially. It was nice to finally do so.

Rick had read my blog entry about Hog Wild, the neat barbecue place we had found in Cottonwood, and we were headed there when my cell phone rang. It was Sid and Rain Dudley, blog readers who we met and had lunch with Sunday. Sid had also read the blog about Hog Wild and they were headed there, but he couldn’t find the restaurant. I gave him directions, and they pulled in right ahead of us. We invited them to join us at one big table, and had a great dinner together. Sid and Rain and Joyce and Rick all lived in Maine before hitting the road, so they had spent some time comparing notes on lobsters and other Maine lore, then they discovered that they are all NASCAR fans and had been to some of the same race tracks. It is a small world, isn’t it?

Back at the bus, our tummies were full from all of the good food, and our heads were spinning from all of the visiting we had done.

This is our last day at the Verde Valley Thousand Trails. We’ll be leaving tomorrow, headed for our old hometown of Show Low. We plan to spend two or three weeks there spoiling grandkids and visiting our old friends from the days when we lived in a sticks and bricks home.

Thought For The Day – Not to know is bad, but not to wish to know is worse.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yesterday we visited Montezuma Castle National Monument, a few miles north of Camp Verde and just off Interstate 17. The imposing cliff dwelling isn’t really a castle, and Aztec emperor Montezuma never lived here, but it was the centerpiece of a busy community from about 1100 A.D. to 1430 A.D.

We have visited Montezuma Castle before, and I am always amazed at the engineering that went into it by the “primitive” people who built this high rise apartment complex perched on the face of a cliff overlooking Beaver Creek. This was home to the Sinagua people, who thrived for nearly 300 years in the Verde Valley, and then mysteriously disappeared.

Archeologists have spent decades exploring the ruins and the artifacts left behind by the people who lived here, but why they left and where they went remains a mystery. Some scholars think war or famine caused the Sinagua to leave the area, while others speculate that it may have been disease. During our visit yesterday, signs warned that the local ground squirrels may be carriers of bubonic plague, the Black Death that decimated medieval Europe, so I think that is as good an explanation as any. Whatever the reason was that caused the Sinagua to leave the region, their story is preserved at Montezuma Castle and at nearby Tuzigoot National Monuments.

Our National Parks, National Monuments, and National Historic Sites are treasures that belong to the American people and we have visited many of them from coast to coast over the years. If you are over age 62, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass costs just $10 and is good for life. The pass provides access to National Parks, National Historic Sites, National Monuments and other Federal properties for the pass holder and up to three other adults in a non-commercial vehicle.

For citizens with disabilities, the free lifetime National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Access Pass provides the same free access to the same locations. Citizens who do not qualify for the Senior or Access Passes can purchase the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, which costs $80 and is good for one year. For more information on the various passes and how to obtain one, visit https://pwrcms.nps.gov/pwr/fees_passes.htm or http://store.usgs.gov/pass/general.html. The previously issued Golden Age and Golden Access passes continue to be honored for the pass holder’s lifetime, or can be exchanged for the corresponding new passes at any facility that issues the passes.

For folks under the age of 62, a Volunteer Interagency Pass can be earned by volunteering at any National Park, Monument, or Wildlife Refuge for 500 hours in a year. This pass is good for one year and offers free admission to any park, monument, or refuge, but does not offer half price camping.

The passes can save you a lot of money in entrance fees. I have used my Golden Access pass at sites across the country, and also received 50% off camping fees at Corps of Engineers campgrounds where we have stayed. Some states even honor the senior and disabled passes for their state parks. You do have to be aware though, that some private concessionaires who run the parking at places like Mount Rushmore do not accept the passes. So even though admittance is free, you may still have to pay a parking fee.

Thought For The Day – I plan on living forever. So far, so good.

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