There hasn’t been much crazy-crazy to write about lately, as we are parked for three weeks and not moving. That doesn’t mean we’re without crazy in every day life. Emerson pooped his pants at a friend’s house because he didn’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom. We went to the beach and …
I am still dreaming of the Nutella Milkshake I had at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Man, I should have gone back for another one 🙄. Too late. And we devoured it so fast there is no picture.
The last week was a different one for us. Oliver worked ahead in school so we could take a stay-cation and go to Universal Studios. I had wanted to go again for a while now that Emerson is
tall enough to ride most of the rides. What better excuse than my birthday? None. I had also invited Anna, “Lela”, along with us back before we left Colorado. We are all HUGE Harry Potter fans. In fact, they are the first books I ever enjoyed reading.
We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel @ Universal Studios, which I recommend. I did look for a good rate to the Portofino Hotel as well, but found the better deal at the HRH. (Florida Resident Rate. I also tried for a Military Rate, which did not get published until almost January 1, 2018 but the FL rate ended up being better. I could only get a club level or suite with Mil rates.) Our pool view was fabulous and the amenities – the pool mainly, were a big hit. The boys played in the pool so long the first day that their toes bled. Yes, this is a Florida thing, and yes I checked their feet after a few hours of swimming. But apparently, not well enough…
We enjoyed 3 full park days and 2 pool days overall. Staying at the big Universal Hotel – Portofino, HRH and Sapphire Bay – is the only way to enjoy Express passes the whole time without having to pay more for them. This is at least $80/person/day in savings. It makes a huge difference, as you can ride all the rides and see both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in 2 days without waiting in lines. WORTH IT.
We walked each morning the park – it’s that close. I find the meal plans aren’t worth it for my family. We pack our own snacks – fruit pouches, nutella and jelly sandwiches, water bottles, apple juice, etc for our main snacks. Saves money and we eat healthier this way. Not that we didn’t eat Berties Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, ButterBeer, Pumpkin Juice and my birthday treats 🙂 It was a bad few days, but walking 10 hours a day, I say it was deserved. Did I mention Emerson didn’t cry or complain once about all the walking? Adrenaline junkie, that kid!
I feel we ate our way through Universal successfully. The Breakfast buffet at the HRH – The Kitchen – was very good. A little pricey overall, but compared to one omelet at $16, the $23 buffet was a steal! We had some amazing Italian at Vivo, and a fun time at Cowfish. The boys loved this place because you could make a “fish” and “send it to the fish-tank.” Then while seated for dinner you get to watch for your fish swimming around on their virtual fish tanks. Oliver ate 2 full children’s meals (like that bento box below) at dinner one night!! Holy Moly.
We returned back to the camper today at Patrick Air Force Base, did some grocery shopping, and in general had a “chill” day. Oliver did his required school work and a few make up reading-log events from last week. (He did read while on vacation! Good kid overall, but man we (Anna and I) battled some attitude and listening with that kid lately. I hope it was all tired from the parks and adjustment from dad not being around, and not what the future has to hold throughout adolescent and teenage years.
This morning we woke up in Homestead, Florida and started the day with a butterfly and caterpillar hunt. The boys loved it! Emerson would not walk away from the caterpillar plants and kept picking them up. Oliver was very engaged in driving a golf cart around during the hunt. They loved it so much the owner gave us a plant with a large caterpillar to take with us on our adventure. He is Emerson’s new best friend and every minute I am threatening to give the plant back if he doesn’t put the caterpillar down!!!
After breakfast we were off, 64 miles straight south on US 1 to Fiesta Key, near Marathon Florida. Oliver had a fever and fell asleep. He refused to take advil despite complaints of aches and pains. Otherwise, our first destination will be marvelous.
Approaching our turn into Fiesta Key, I realized I had an issue. The GPS in the truck is saying 5 more miles, while the phone is saying I am almost there. At the same time I am passing construction, intensely focused on the road. I passed the entrance, according to my phone! While trying to find a place to pull over or turn around, I try to contact the resort. Good luck! This area is single lane with a small shoulder on my side. I choose the widest part, turn on the E-lights, and wait. I am on hold while Encore tries to contact Fiesta Key and link us.
Forget this, I think and wait 4-5 minutes for a gap in traffic and accomplish a spectacular freaking U-turn. Damn I’m Good! They connect me as I turn left into the entrance. My site looks excellent. The roads are wide enough, but it’s a back-in site on the water, and my helper is sick and asleep.
The people here are friendly and I have 3 helpers to ensure I am clear on the sides and that I have backed up far enough into the spot. We do ask a few neighbors to move their cars a touch out of the way. 🙂 Otherwise, the parking job is on par, and I am congratulated multiple times.
Others ask “Where did you learned to drive like that?” and “Did you have to take a school?” and my favorite, “How long have you had your RV?” I answer all the questions with a big ole smile on my face. None know the truck is newly repaired, Haha!
We are super excited! My mom, Nana, and step-dad, Trey, are on their way in their boat and will meet us tomorrow.
We have now been here 4 days and settled in nicely. The facilities are nice, especially considering Hurricane Irma came through these parts. The north side of the campground is still under redevelopment since the storm. There are very cute looking tiny houses on the water over there. I will go sneak a picture.
Last night is the first night we did not go to the tiki bar/restaurant – Lobster Crawl. IT HAS FABULOUS FOOD and a good happy hour from 4-6pm. The conch fritters, clam strips, fish dip, lobster melt, coconut shrimp, and grilled lobster are all on point. The Lobster Bisque is right up there with some of the best soup I have had. Trey says its better than The Capitol Grille lobster bisque, probably 1/3 the price too!
The boys and I have enjoyed walking around the resort and marina looking for fish. Every morning and every night we go see what is out and swimming around. We have seen my favorite – butterfly fish, sergeant majors, a parrot fish, lots of minnows, a puffer fish, baby barracuda, several sea cucumbers, 2 starfish, some snappers and 2 large iguanas in the mangrove tree next to us. Oliver fishes off the sea wall every chance he gets. ☺
Yesterday was a good weather day – low wind, warm weather. We ventured out on the boat to a snorkeling spot some of the locals told us about – Alligator Reef. We shamelessly wore our wet suits, sissy Florida people… the water was 72 degrees. Unfortunately we did not have the right size mask for Oliver and it kept falling off. That, combined with seeing lots of barracuda and a nurse shark while we were anchoring, made his experience less than pleasant. But little Emerson would not be deterred. He jumped right in with me and swam the whole time looking at fish with just a pair of goggles on. Oliver ended up alone crying on the boat. Then took a 2 hour nap. Wish I had taken a picture.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this location and already want to extend my trip here and cannot wait to come back with Tino. (I ended up adding another night! yay)
*There is still a lot of clean-up going on from Hurricane Irma and some of the keys have more damage than others. Overall a lot of businesses are open and looking for your support.
I’ll skip the sappy staring at each other part of the morning. Tino’s flight left without issues. Oliver and I cried, I pried him off Tino when it was time to go. Emerson, bless his heart, looked at us like we were crazy. Clearly not understanding the depth of the issue at age 4. Oliver and I told him we were crying because we would miss daddy. He said “Oh, well, I’m not going to miss him because I have my little Army men.” haha
I stayed at my friends house until I felt comfortable enough to drive home. I planned to stay in bed the entire next day. Oye Ve. It would appear that I have really bad luck lately… I don’t remember my last car accident. (I DO NOT count the camper INCIDENT.) I wasn’t even mad when my watch fell off the bathroom counter the next day and completely shattered…
Now considering buying Rabbit feet and a 4 leaf clover. And bubble wrap. Lots of bubble wrap.
I’m ready for the Keys, water and relaxation.
As you may have seen via Facebook, our departure from New Jersey and Ft Dix was met with a nice snow storm. Obviously this is not ideal weather to leave a campground and drive for hours, but it is the ideal time to leave if your water lines are frozen and your water reserves have run out, and you HATE being cold. Tino finished his last day of training Friday, December 15, and we were all ready to be in Florida. We debated staying Friday night because he was going to be tired and we had no idea when he would be done that day. However, when I woke up Friday and saw the weather I had been monitoring all week predicted snow, I started packing and preparing to leave.
The ground was frozen, the hoses were frozen, the power cord was frozen stiff, as were the bike rack straps.
It was all a small struggle but I got it all completed. While I was working hard the boys were cleaning the snow off of every bench and picnic table they could find. At some point they looked over at the lake we were parked by and thought “we should go break the ice!” Emerson slipped and fell in at the edge of the lake. I only found out when I saw his sweatshirt soaked and muddy while he shivered in front of me. He had refused to put on a jacket this morning, and I couldn’t find his winter coat??! The boys and I had a big talk about playing by lakes, ice and hypothermia. I prefer the scare tactic and slight yelling to get my point across with safety issues, otherwise, these boys drown me out and don’t listen to me.
I pulled in the slides just as the first snow started to fall at 2pm. By 4pm when Tino was finished with his training and walking back to the camping site, the truck was hooked up to the camper (appropriately – I CHECKED!) and there was 3-4 inches of snow on the ground.
Due to my recent mishap with leaving this very same parking space I requested Tino drive until I felt comfortable. Also, I don’t love driving at night. It hurts my eyes… I told him to drive until we found 40 degree weather!
The weather combined with my somewhat irrational fear of the camper falling off or over, made the driving slow. We required 4-wheel drive to make it down the county roads to the Interstate. And for the first few hours of the drive we averaged 10mph. During these first few hours I repeatedly looked in the rear view mirror and saw the Beast resting on the truck bed, while we were driving. Talk about your mind playing tricks on you!!!
We drove all the way to Richmond, Virginia the first night. It was around 20 degrees outside and without being able to put the slides out while “boondocking,” we agreed it would be too cold to sleep in the camper. But first we needed to fuel up the car. Apparently, midnight is shift change time at Marathon and there was no service available. Also, they only had high power diesel fuel for 18-wheelers. I have no idea if my truck can handle this type of fill up. We left, on fumes, to figure out another option tomorrow.
We saw a worthy hotel with a decent parking lot and pulled in. I started to get nervous about the departure and made Tino stop so I could get out and assess the loop around the hotel. Good thing I did! We never would have made the third right turn to get out of the parking lot! It was time to back up the camper… which meant it was time for me to drive K We drove across the street to another hotel with more parking spots and walked in to the hotel to get a room. The boys were still awake and it was 12:30 at night. In signing the paperwork I learned they were not dog friendly! Great. She is either going to freeze in the car or we are smuggling her in and hoping we don’t get caught. At a $250 fee, yikes! (Thank you large Ikea bag! We smuggled!)
After breakfast and a diesel fill up 3 miles away we were on the road. For 13 hours we drove, and drove and it wasn’t until Florida we reached 40 degree weather. It was 48 degrees and 9:00pm when we reached Jacksonville. 3 hours from our destination! We pressed on and made it all the way to my parent’s house. We parked in the middle of the road and went to bed. Parking this thing adequately in the driveway was tomorrow’s problem.
After breakfast at Johnny Grits – our favorite breakfast spot in the area – I was ready for the challenge. Grandma was really excited for the show, we got her a chair and a beverage and put her out of the way but right in front of the action spot. It was obvious there were branches in the way and Trey was there with a large limb cutter to help. My parent’s drive way is a narrow entrance over a culvert, a round about in front of the house to the left, and a large pad and carport to the right in front of the garage. Off the back of the pad is a large field and grass exit with a small hill. In my head over the last few weeks this area became smaller and smaller and the hill bigger and bigger. My nerves settled a lot when I was there to see it all. I determined the best way to park would be to drive straight into the grass field and back the Beast on the pad in front of the carport. This way the power cord could reach the new electrical outlet my parents had installed and it would be on level ground. We ended up cutting 2 branches right at the start and that was the whole show. I maneuvered the truck and Beast like I had done this a hundred times. I corrected only once and parked perfectly on the edge of pad, auto-leveled the camper and put the slides out. Like a Boss! Uneventful for the scrutinizing eyes of my family 🙂
The Griswold’s are here! Let the Christmas festivities begin…
December 21, 2017 – continued.
So I walk into a dealership, and I tell the guy working there that I want to test-drive a big ass truck that I am going to need to pull my big ass camper. He looks at me like I am crazy. I am a 5’5” 120lb little thing. I assure him I know its crazy, but this is what I am going to do, and no there is not a man coming in behind me to also partake in the driving of said Truck. I hold strong and he goes and gets someone to help me. I am at this particular dealership to test drive a GMC 3500 dually. It is really nice with a Denali package. It also comes with a feature for lane departure. Your seat will vibrate if you cross the line without a signal on or if you are not paying enough attention to the road. The ride is smooth, but the dually is wide. I end up taking the truck for the afternoon and drive it over to my husbands office so he can check it out. But not before I take it through a drive-through for some lunch. I made it without hitting a rim or tire on the curb! This is worth congratulating, I took a selfie I was so proud.
Tino loved the truck – not sure what truck loving man wouldn’t. Its big and loud and sexy inside. And I was driving it… 😉 We knew this truck could pull any sort of 5th wheel or travel trailer we would buy. I flash a thought to my friend who has a truck and we always made fun of his parking choices. Always as far away from any other vehicle as he could get, possibly because he washed it 2-3 times per week if able? (LOVE YOU SHANE)
I had sent that selfie to some of my family and in the mean time my step-dad called and said “YOU DO NOT WANT A DUALLY.” I debated his points for a while because he drives a luxury Porsche, even though it does have 4-wheel drive for necessity, and everything I had read in my research says bigger is better in terms of truck. I conceded. The main reasons: it was going to be difficult to drive on a daily basis in town. Parking?!? Not so exciting. And more power than I needed. In the end I valued his opinion tremendously on this as he grew up on a working cattle ranch and has driven and bought all kinds of trucks.
Back to the dealership I went, returning the truck and letting them know I had other options to test drive. We went and looked at the second truck on the list; a slightly older Silverado 2500. After driving the Denali package there was no way I could forfeit the finer things it offered to save a little bit of money. Yes I am spoiled, but I worked hard to get to where I am.
In the end I went back to the first place, Ferguson GMC Buick, and bought a 2015 GMC HD 2500 Diesel Truck. She is beautiful and capable of pulling whatever I buy. (Again, I double checked my weights, towing ability, and the RV I wanted.) Now back to the RV dilemma. Tino did some digging and remembered the name of the company who had THE RV I liked. He called and was informed it had been offline because someone made an offer, but he was pretty sure their financing was going to fall through. Sorry for them, but this was all coming together for me. Except time was running low. The next day I took the boys to school and drove the hour south to look at the 5th wheel again. I took a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions. Mainly comparing the brand and features to that of the competitor model I had seen earlier in the week. This fired up the owner and it was comical to hear his rants and obvious disdain for the other brand. He apparently used to sell that brand but stopped because of the poor customer service they received for their purchasers. That was all I needed to hear, my decision was made. But I left and would have Tino do the purchasing side because I was leaving for Florida and didn’t have time to drive down there again and deal with the process. I am over the process after the truck (3 days). Where are we going to store this thing once we do get it, if we get it now? I instructed Tino to have pick-up day after my trip. I would be gone for 12 days, a trip planned prior to the deployment and life changing decision, at the end of the week. After the trip we would be leaving in 3 weeks for ?? possibly ever??
Part of the Deployment preparation for Tino has turned into 4 weeks of training at Ft. Dix McGuire in New Jersey. Really? Now a 6month trip is 7 or more months gone. L Another month of no husband/father/adult to talk to… We are going with you! It was a logical decision. I really liked the idea of Tino being there for all the troubleshooting and learning process with the camper. Ya know, just to make sure I can do this all on my own hahahaha
My kid can miss a month of school right? Enter the next rabbit hole. Home schooling… Never in my life did I have a thought of homeschooling other than that’s “granola” and I would NEVER do that! (Obviously more on this later.) The short version of the month long development is it is second grade, it hardly matters, it is building on 1st grade and his spelling words were harder last year. He is a young one in his class, having started kindergarten at 4 years old. 3rd grade is when things get hard[er.] It would not even matter in the long run if he redid 2nd grade, but that would be nearly impossible as he is smart. His teachers were fine with the plan and have no worries about him and progression to 3rd grade. They outfitted me with all of his school workbooks, homework sheets, etc. We would home school for the month in New Jersey and figure out our long-term homeschool plan later.
The camper saga turned to be much more painful than the vehicle purchase. We needed a 5th wheel hitch. It was ordered. We needed a special kind of hitch because the truck is not a long bed and we have seen pictures of back windows and frames smashed. It was ordered. I wanted solar – it was ordered. A week, or two later I decided I NEEDED a generator – it was ordered. It was winterized already; this needed to be “undone.” We also thought of parking it on the base and moving into it for a few days before we leave. Fewww more troubleshooting time and cheap storage.
Time kept ticking away, and departure date quickly approaching. Meanwhile I was packing up the personal items from the house and selling as much as I could part with. Think “whatever the name of the book is that helps people purge.” Haha. If it didn’t elicit joy and love, it could go. Mostly the items left via a Facebook moms group. Some were consignment shop worthy, some I gave away, and some went to goodwill. I made $1000 purging. It felt great, and I can’t wait to purge more. The boxed excess was stacked like a game of Tetris into the 3 storage closets in the basement in the house. Tino did not think it would fit and was convinced we would need a storage unit. I had to start a lot of it by myself since he was a non-believer. Did I mention I did a lot of it myself because he has had recent ACL surgery? We do not trust his knee completely yet, and he is in a brace for daily life.
We decided to leave the house furnished, less headache, less work now, and rent it out. We tried listing on Zillow and Trulia but had endless problems trying to list. Our address is not found because it is new construction and apparently takes around 2 years before its mapped. After a month we listed it on Airbnb and VRBO with hopes of a long-term rental. It didn’t take long to have 2 families over the Thanksgiving holiday and 2 families through Christmas and New Years. Not a lot of volume but enough to pay the rent and utilities. We’d come back to the house in January for 2 weeks before Tino leaves for Iraq and figure the rest out then.
Things finally feel like they are coming together. One puzzle piece at a time.
We picked up the camper in the beginning of November, brought it to the house and loaded it with the items I thought necessary to comfortably sustain life for 7-8 months of living. It took an hour or so because I had already loaded most of those boxes and purchased items and stacked them into the garage. Then we moved it to the “famcamp,” Family Camp, on the Air Force Academy. We organized our set up and underneath/outdoor storage areas, decided a lot more than could be purged or added and had our first social event. We took the camper to the Army-Air Force football game for a tailgate J We showed her off and learned how many people can fit – a lot! We tested battery capabilities, generator life, black water tank holding etc. It was a great learning experience. I also learned that leaving the 7-pin power plug plugged into the truck doesn’t kill the truck battery, oops. It also tested the wind resistance, this day had 30+ mph winds with gusts well over that. Most of the flyovers for the game were cancelled. We rocked a little bit, and didn’t notice the rocking at all once entertaining with other people inside with us.
During this break-in week we also experienced running out of propane for the first time. It was a cold, cold evening with snow and wind. We promptly evacuated to the house for heat and comfort and refilled the propane tanks the next day. Talk about fair weather campers 🙂
I am not sure how many times I have said the following things since October:
- What did I get myself into?
- Why did you let me do this?
- Why didn’t I get the smaller 5th wheel?
- She is huge! (the camper)
- I must have lost my mind. Insanity.
- I love her! (the camper)
- This is going to be an awesome, crazy adventure.
- I am really doing this…
October 9, 2017
I did it! I booked my first camping site… I am going to the Florida Keys in January, where it is warm(er) and sunny. Minor detail, I do not yet have the 40 ft. camper I registered for my stay! HAHA. I did however make an offer on said camper, its just slow negotiations to this point.
But let me back up; let me tell you about who I am and what this crazy adventure is about. My name is Lindsey, I am a Physician Assistant, Air Force spouse and mother of two strong-willed little boys. (I am not sure where they get their “saucy” attitudes from…) Life was going well and for once it felt predictable. Tino, my air force hubby, and I were working normal day-to-day schedules. Tino is an instructor pilot at the United States Air Force Academy, USAFA, and I am working in a family practice position in Colorado Springs. Apparently I was complaining a lot and not happy with my current day-to-day dealings in family medicine through May and June because Tino let me know. Next came several months of back and forth on whether or not I should resign from my position. In mid July finally did it: I put in my +2 months notice. My last day would be September 29, 2017. The longest 6-8 weeks of my life followed… I was so close to breaking free from my job, and yet so far!
About 2 weeks from my last day of work, when I was just laying down to sleep after a long day at work, Tino said the dreaded words “ We need to talk.” I immediately woke up and responded, “Wait! Don’t say anything. Are you sure I need to hear this?” [We had had some “deployment scares” earlier in the year and it was stressful and the back and forth painful. I had told him from then on not to tell me anything anymore until I needed to know and it was certain.] He shook his head yes, and told me he was being deployed to Iraq for 6 months leaving in January.
This was met with lots of emotions and an inner dialogue took place:
“Okay, at least I quit my job so I can do this alone with less stress,”
“Wait, what IS your job going to be?”
“Hold up, I am about to be stuck inside for the worst 6 months of weather in Colorado…”
“No, I do not want to do this, I am outta here [Colorado].”
I began to consider my options… where did I want to go, if I didn’t want to stay in Colorado Springs? I was running from the cold, so why not run all the way down to Florida? Of course, as soon as I decided we were headed down south, Hurricane Irma began stirring up trouble in the Caribbean. Something clicked. I don’t want to just “run down to Florida,” I want to travel the country. I want my kids and I to see the sites and have fun things to do while Tino is away in Iraq and I am losing sleep. We had been to a large RV dealer earlier in the summer after a fun camping trip and discovered that there are some really cool toys out there. You can spend all your $$ if you wanted to on these different RVs, fifth-wheels and travel trailers, or the monster Class A motorhomes! Wow. So here I am several months later, considering buying one, I had NO idea which one, and would I need to buy a truck to pull it or a small car to drag behind something?
I did research, hours and hours of research. I did find several blogs about people who do this – have “extended stays” in their campers and travel the country. (Saying that you are “living in your camper” is taboo and not allowed. So that’s not what we do, the politically correct phrase is to say that you’re on an “extended stay” J.) But in my research, I found that there is currently not a whole lot of information out there about this lifestyle. And yet… I was hooked! Yep, I am doing this.
So fast forward to last weekend: I am done working, but unemployment doesn’t really feel good yet. There is SO much to do now that I’ve decided to take the plunge. Luck would have it, that my neighbor informed me of a camper showing happening that very weekend…in my city! Cool, rearrange the whole Saturday, cause we are going. Do I care that we have hockey practice for 2 boys, 2 soccer games that we also coach, a flag football game and a cross-country meet this weekend? Nope. Going.
Generally, I am between Class C motorhomes and fifth-wheels still, but am not opposed to a good travel trailer. If you know campers, this means I have no idea what I really want, but I know I want one– I’m a female after all! – that I am going to have an extended stay in this thing I buy and I need it within the next 2 months. (Today, I know I need it in about 2 weeks?!?! But I will get to that…)
I ended up falling in-love with a +40 ft 5th wheel mid berth bunkhouse and a +35ft Class C. I also like a huge toy hauler. Great. Options again. After stewing on these for 24 hours I decide the Toy hauler is just to big and I will not feel comfortable driving it across the country, and back? The class C is nice, really cool, but not a lot of living space for the 3 of us long term, and what do I do with it in July after this adventure ends? Guess I narrowed it down. -Enter more wishy-washy behavior. By this time the hubby is saying things like “whatever you want”, “you have to make the decision” and is trying to be supportive but is not being helpful in making my decision. Haha. BTW I haven’t said this, but he thinks this plan is amazing and is totally on-board. Really, he is amazing. Sunday I feel I have made the decision. 5th wheel. I really like the wood plank vinyl flooring, the room for the boys and the open living space in the back. Did I mention the kitchen island and full size fridge? Yes, I want this one. We do our Internet search for the camper and cannot find it. Great. Its gone, did they sell it at the show? Ugh, I should have made an offer then. I love this camper. Now I am back to finding the one I want and getting it here. Closest one is in Kansas, 5 hour drive. Fine. How do I pick up? I cannot focus and task Tino with finding me a truck. Our cars are not equipped for pulling these things. I make a plan, buy a truck, buy the hitch, buy a camper. I search local camping dealers, I am back to trying to find something closer and reaffirm my desire to do this and that the layout is what I want.
Monday morning, I set out on my plan. Tino has sent me a link to 3 local trucks to go test drive. Ugh, car buying – isn’t that the man’s job? I start driving in circles and am panicking. I do not know where I am going. I cannot decide where to go first, I pull into a big box store parking lot where people are made famous for what they are wearing, or not wearing. I am texting Tino about my freak-out and near tears when he calls! Oh, thank you God. He proceeds to calm me down and says, “just pick one. It doesn’t matter.” So off to the camper place I go. It is freezing, raining, a great day to walk through some campers without heat or power. I am at a rival company to the camper I fell in love with, but they have a model with the same layout. I do not like it as much, but it is everything I need for this trip. Confirmation received. Off to test drive trucks.
To be continued…
Since we last left off things with the camper had been quiet. Things with Oliver however, have been busy. We found a tick on his head from the Lyme’s disease infested forest in Pennsylvania; a fall on ice resulting in a split open chin, visit to the ER and stitches; a tooth knocked out by his brother; and almost 3 weeks of homeschooling completed.
The dog has been throwing up because she keeps eating toys. And if left out in the mornings she thinks it’s fine to poop anywhere. Emerson has been known to step in it and wake me screaming crying. Let’s not even get into the raging attitudes from both boys and myself that accompanied the epic full moon!
Now, for yesterday’s adventure…
I thought about waiting for Tino… to help me move and empty the tanks as it would be easier. Ultimately I decided to do it without him as I will be for the next 6 months. I loaded the car for the laundry mat afterwards. Fun day ahead!
I did everything right. I followed my checklist. Only had a small issue with the heavy #3 slide. I messed with the rubber underneath and it came right in.
I checked everything twice. I backed up the truck onto the trailer hitch like a Boss, no corrections, first time! The locking arm swung closed like it is supposed to when you do things well. It was awesome.
And that was the end of awesome.
All of this started because the water tanks are finally reading full. The forecast is calling for 20s and 30s for the next week. That’s too cold for me to be outside dealing with all the stuff. Today is the day to move the camper to the dump station and back as it will be 46°. Not a big deal. Surprisingly it was quick clean up in the camper to secure everything that had moved out of position since our last drive.
I was going slow to turn and take the camper over to the dump station. It had been three weeks since it had been moved so I was very cautious, I was maybe going 5 miles an hour when all of a sudden I hear a very loud metal on metal sound and felt a loud thud and jerk. I looked into my rearview mirror in horror..
The camper was no longer attached to the truck and was grounded. I freaked out! Immediate tears and feelings of doom followed. I had no idea what to do. I had no one to call. Tino is in training all day without a phone, unreachable. I have no phone numbers for anything at joint base Dix McGuire. I quickly tried to lower the legs and get the camper to lift off the truck but quickly saw the blinking red asshole lights!
How are we going to move off of this road?
Is my home ruined?
Is the truck drivable if I ever get it out?
Am I going to make it home for Christmas and be able to leave next Friday?
Is this worth it? I seriously debate throwing in the towel for the whole idea
I continue to panic and cry and call Trey hysterically. He didn’t answer. So I kept calling. When he did finally answer his first question was “is someone hurt?” I quickly responded “No.” Then he told me to calm down. It did not work. Through tears and sobbing I explained what I was looking at and the situation. He said surely there is someone on base who has some equipment that can lift the camper up off the truck. I thought yes that has to be true. “I’m going to need my phone to use the Internet to look up a phone number to call.” I asked him if he ever thought about giving up when he had to pay stupid tax. Because that’s where I am at right now. I’m not sure of his answer, (?No) but I heard him talking about $ set aside for emergencies and these stupid tax situations. Yes, yes. I know that. We hung up. I think, hmm they are going to need a crane to lift this. And I’m surrounded by trees on both sides. Just great. Tears.
I ran down the street to scream for Oliver who was waiting for me at the dump station. He came back looked and had lots of questions. NOT NOW KID.
The first number I called was useless. Then I found the base operator number. I dialed, she answered, distant and bored. As I cried I told her that I’m having a really bad day. She perked up. I explained I’m staying at family camp and my camper just fell onto my truck, I need help. She immediately responded “I am so sorry ma’am, I will get you connected to the base police right away.”
The police immediately said they would dispatch an officer but that I should call my insurance company for help. They come often and have no problem getting on base. He wasn’t sure how much I would get charged if he dispatched someone else to help me. I hung up.
Where was I? InsuranceCompany? I have no idea. I looked through the glove compartment. Nothing. OK think. I remember Tino calling Progressive when we had the issue with the 7-pin. I dial progressive and proceeded to wait on hold for 5-10 minutes? No idea. A neighbor came driving up to leave in his camper. He u-turned in my space and drove away. Cool. Thanks for seeing if I needed help! He must not be a service member… @$$#0/3
In the meantime the police showed up. His first comment was I know nothing about this. What do you need. I begin to explain the process of the jacks and how they weren’t working. He asked if I had manual jacks or someway to put blocks under it so we can lift it off the car. I told him no it’s all electronic and it’s not working. He suggested restarting the battery. I looked at him like he was crazy. The battery? It doesn’t work like that. I should him the control panel read to him what the blinking red asshole lights mean and how to reset it. Oh shit I was pressing the wrong reset button. I quickly started lowering the camper legs and lifting the camper up off the truck again. Then it became apparent that the hitch was embedded in the tailgate and I did not want to lift the truck up off the ground with it. We started working hard to lower the tailgate. Got it.
The camper raised high enough with the legs to drive the truck out. We assessed the issue. The only possible solution was to reattach the camper if we could get a high enough and continue on my mission and empty the water tanks. We raise the camper as high as it could though we’re not sure that it was high enough to see on the hitch. Sure enough that it right onto the hitch like a boss and the clamp again immediately closed as it should when you do it right. Obviously I did not trust it and checked it four times with a flashlight and everything. At least this time I had an officer to watch as I attempted to drive the camper. 5 feet backwards nothing, 5 feet forward, nothing. Everything seemed fine.
He blocked traffic and I made my turn. Shaking and nervous. All seemed fine.
Oliver was at the dump station to direct me when to stop in line with the tank. I waved to the officer and told him all was well and he departed.
The nice neighbors a few spaces down came out to see if I needed help. Apparently they had seen Oliver by the station and me walking around with my hand on my head. They also had noticed the camper stopped for a while at the exit.
They did not realize what had happened. After they realized it was cold and I was still shaking from nerves as well they kindly left me to do my job.
I hooked everything up here shaking fingers. I guess the black water was too heavy for its goods and the tubing became dislodged from the sewer hole. Black water everywhere. Gross.
In the mean time the boys had run off to play with the dog. They came back covered in dog poop. Awesome.
The rest of the emptying was uneventful. Backing the beast back into its space was also not bad. Oliver helped some and I only got out of the truck once to check positioning. 🙂 the camper auto-leveled without an issue, though I closed my eyes at first. I ended up walking away and set up power and water again. I came back to a nice green light. Feww.
The boys walked in to the camper and undressed quickly. I put out the slides. They changed and we left. I couldn’t stay, even though the camper looked perfect and the truck was driving fine.
The laundry room on base is cool, it has a pool table, ping pong and couches. I needed a friend right now. Kristen is a good friend who I have known for almost 8 years. Altus, Spokane, Colorado Springs together and now they are stationed here at McGuire. We drove the 30 minutes to our friend’s house. Here the boys could play with her kids and I could have time to recover. Haha. Tino still has no idea…and won’t until tonight. I drowned myself in Christmas cards and baking. It was good.
Tino handled it well. I still haven’t filed my claim. Car insurance or trailer insurance?
A fox ate our gingerbread camper I left on the picnic table during the chaos. We slept well in the camper last night, and right now I’m in Philadelphia at the children’s Please Touch Museum. Fixing the truck is the problem for our coming weeks in Florida… ?do I even need a tailgate? Lol
All-in-all, I still plan to do my trip. I will never be done checking the locking handle on the goose neck hitch. And I likely will have ptsd driving, especially with the beast attached, for some time.
I am ready for the crazy shit to stop happening…
And lastly, if you are waiting to take this kind of adventure, don’t let my stories scare you out of it! There have been more good days than bad days! And we love our home on wheels.
I really hope I don’t have issues over the 1200 mike drive to Florida next week…
In the last 24 hours, we have prayed…a lot! We’ve experienced failure lights, had to back up a lot (back up camera still not figured out–thanks Tino) an insurance claim, a slide out that would not retract, and drove under 13’3″ bridge, successfully. Oh!!! Almost forgot, we hit a curb. A big one.
My relationship with god is really strong right now!
Ok from the top. We left Scott AFB for Ohio, I drove for a few hours and we made a stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The boys loved it!! We didn’t have great plan ahead skills with this stop and didn’t know where to park or that the museum closes at 4pm. We got there at 3:20pm. We (I) kinda freaked out and didn’t know if Hank would fit through the tunnel so we passed it and choose to park in a big empty parking lot. We walked through the tunnel and half debated going back to the truck and pulling through the tunnel for the full effect. Ugh, forget it. The museum was very cool and had most of the winning race cars from every years race in their display. There is even a car you can get in and take your own pictures or professional pictures.
Next we had a few hours drive through Ohio to our tbd boondocking site. A likely Cracker Barrel somewhere down the road near Pennsylvania. Tino was driving now, for the second time… around 9:30pm we found our location at the St Clairsville/Wheeling, PA exit. We decided to get some diesel before setting up for the night to have a quicker get away in the morning. After 3 days of driving we were all ready for a shorter day and more play time at the Shawnee State Park. (Reserved a month ago or so.) After we filled up we attempted to exit the gas station and the turn was cut short. We hit the curb of all curbs and I saw my livelihood, safety, and home on wheels tipping to the already heavy left side and crashing. I screamed and I wanted to close my eyes, I could not. All I could do was hold my breath and watch in horror. OMG it didn’t fall, but it did make a 30 degree tip, clear the curb and pop back up on all its wheels. Then I cried. [prayers]
We circled around and went back to the Cracker Barrel. Went towards the Rv/Bus area as the sign directed. We entered the wrong way for the spaces. Did we (Tino) try anyway? Yes, we did. How did it go? Exactly like you can imagine. [prayers] We missed. And we jack knifed turned. And I kept my eyes closed. [prayers] There was a class A motor home in the middle space and at the time we were closest to his vehicle he attempted to walk out his front door. 😳 He looked up, closed the door some and watched the entertainment. With a few corrections Tino adjusted enough to be able to safely maneuver and “go around.” We drove around and parked the beast. [prayers]
Next we encountered family discussions that included things like: do we turn on the generator? Do we put down the leveling jacks? And if we put down the jacks do we have to disconnect from the truck? We googled for answers. In the end we put down the legs to take some pressure off the truck and stabilize us a little bit. We turned on the generator but ended up leaving it off until the battery died somewhere around midnight. We needed heat as it was 38-40 degrees out… in the morning we had a nice breakfast and left for our next nights reservation at the park.
2-3 uneventful hours later we arrived. It was a small town with narrow roads. Yippee. The gps tells me to go one way, Tino’s phone tells me another. Great. I pull into a dollar store type lot and proceed to block the road and every car because what I though was a pull through parking lot is in fact a dead end. Don’t care, not moving until I know where I am going. At that exact moment, a truck pulled up beside me and proceeds to tell me that our trailer lights are out and they saw the cord dragging behind us. “Are you kidding me? Great. Thanks” was all I could manage as I lay my head on the steering wheel. [prayers] Meanwhile Tino had gotten out and is trying to guide me in backing up. I get out and I’m not sure if I yell or go calmly pick up the shredded 7 pin power cord and yell his name. Hmm we unplugged this last night when using the battery and generator for power. I did not plug it in this morning. Tino arrives and says “Oh Dear Lord. I plugged it in this morning. I heard it click in. It was good.” Now what – we say and/or think. I can’t remember. He calls the insurance company. I hear words like “tow to a facility.” And a firm no, not an option. Then yes, that will work. [prayers] He writes down some numbers. We decide to get to our spot and set up then call our these people for help. We also called the park and confirm there are 2 entrances. Perfect. I back up the beast, first try, and get back on the road. We drive carefully to our campsite. Great. A long back in site. A narrow road with trees. I got this. [pep talk] Boom, backed it in like a boss. Cool. Jacks down, unhook, autolevel. Tino walks away to call for help.
Blinking red a$5hole lights. I assess and assess and try and fix the problem. Seems level. Maybe the back levels are all the way out. We know the left side is heavy. A stocked fridge. A full heavy freezer. A full water tank. I can’t overcome the failure after 30 minutes of trying. Someone will be here in an estimated 75 minutes with 7 pin hook up and various options to try and fix the problem here at the campsite. For an extra $70. Fine. Excellent. We don’t have to get towed somewhere and be homeless for an unknown period of time? [prayers]
I give up on making a nice green light and go inside. Seems fine. I need a break. The boys are starving. Slides out. Make lunch. There is a knock on the door!! Wow that was fast! ?15 minutes not 75 as estimated. 20 minutes later I hear things are not as they should be. The colors are not the same as he expected. They are trouble shooting the correct locations for right turn signal, brake lights etc. whatever. I continue dealing with the boys. They need to run I let them out, bundle up and had out myself. They cannot figure out the last three wires. Black, blue, and yellow. We end up calling Jayco because electrician-on-call-road-side-assistance-guy (toothless) Bill, is about to guess and leave. We have super speedy help and they email a copy of the schematic for the pin. Turns out those wires are power breaks, batter charger and an extra? Left turn signal wire. Solved. Done and done. Later the bill comes $330. Swallow. Breath. “Stupid tax” paid. We spent the rest of the day playing and have movie night.
In the morning we have school time with the boys. Not great routine yet, but completed. Time to pack up. I start to bring in the slides. #3 – the big heavy one with fridge, pantry, oven, tv, fireplace etc on it won’t budge. No power to it. [prayers]
I go outside and press the dreaded auto level button.
Blinking red a$5hole lights. [prayers]. Ok. Shit just got real. We try to hook it up to the car and move it to more level ground. I maneuver slowly. We have 2 slides out. (To help offset each other and some weight. Ok. More level ground. [prayers] autolevel.
Blinking red a$5hole lights. Sigh. Fear. prayers.
Replaying earlier conversation with the dealer in my head. “Do we need/should we buy leveling blocks?” “No” he said. “You should be good. You have autoleveling, and your pads are bigger. Much bigger than they used to make. You should be good.”
Hhdhgcmhvgjkjddbjker We should have bought leveling blocks, maybe that would fix this. I go scouting and find some spare wood laying near the closed up for the season site host camper. [prayers] We get it leveled with the blocks! [prayers]!! Go inside press the becoming-dreaded-#3 retract button and it starts to move! Then stops. [prayers] I can’t take much more. It’s seems stuck!? Fine I’ll empty some space of the cow in the freezer. [prayers] no change. It seems stuck. Tino goes and pushes. Nothing. Ok, think. Re-attack. [prayers] Underneath the corner getting stuck the laminate floor is puckering. Eventually we figure out its the rubber next to the sliding rail underneath the slide out. Tino holds it down, I retract. Perfect. Slides in.
We head out. Me driving. Still feeling lots of anxiety. The pre-programmed destination Fort Dix in the gps. [prayers]. The brakes seem to be working. The lights on the trailer are working. Fewww dodged that one.
I’m not tolerating the boys shenanigans well. I’m again driving down these tiny streets. And guess what? The gps takes me the wrong way. I kept telling Tino this wasn’t right and no, we weren’t on this road yesterday. We are going away from the highway I want to be on and down some old country lane. With dirt piles. Great. I stop in the middle of the road and have Tino figure out what’s going on, where do we go now and do I have to backup out of this situation. My nerves are shot. I feel like throwing up. [prayers]. This day, if on my adventure with the boys, would be over. We’d go to a nice level area in a big campground and try again later. Tomorrow? Next week? Whatever. But today, we have to get to New Jersey for Tino’s training.
We end up doing a loop around town on the tiny country road which ended up being beautiful. (Did not start that way!!) and enter the toll booth for the highway. I literally feel Iike throwing up. I park the car and make Tino get in the drivers seat. He CAN handle the highway (maybe not town) and I need a break.
So here we are, current situation I’m writing this on an iPad and Tino is driving us to New Jersey. My relationship with God feels pretty strong right now. I’m not even watching the road. Or the camper. At all 😁