Good Afternoon, We’d like to make a reservation please!

Typical Trip & Destination Planning Protocol


When it comes to trip and destination planning, its a tedious job.  Its probably the hardest thing we endure in our travels.  Extensive research and considerations are made before we actually make a reservation at a campground, RV park or resort.


One of the most frequented questions we are asked is ‘how do you decide where you’re going to park?’ 


That’s a good question, because really, there’s no simple answer.  We will tell you that in our year and a half OTR (on the road), we’ve learned what works for us and what works for us may or may not work for others who we follow or who follow us.  As well, what works at one location may not work for another location.  There are so many variables that makes our choosing a bit of a task; it takes considerable research.  Admittedly, it can be a little stressful in our planning.



1) SIZE MATTERS!  


No really!  Joking aside, its probably THE most important issue we contend with when considering a reservation or where we moor.  Liberty is 42′ (actually 41′ 6″ but who’s counting, right?) and Captain America (our dually truck) is about 20′ and we now have an 8′ Idaho Tote extension off the back of our coach.  So ‘hooked up’, we are 70′.  We need space to maneuver to hook, unhook and wiggle ourselves into our site.  Typically, to reach our comfort zone, we ask for sites at least 85′ or longer; the more the merrier.


Liberty fully hooked up and ready for the road.  
Our leveling jacks and wood blocks
not only protects the site surface
but also helps reduce shake or
instability due to full jack extension.

That said though, if no pull-through sites are available and/or we opt for a back-in site, we can try have our back wheel of our coach on the edge of the concrete or gravel site pad depending on other contingencies (read on).  There are times though, campground/park/resort owners will not allow our auto leveling jacks sit on 10″x10″ blocks to sit on the grass aft of the site.  As well, if we backed our back coach tires to the most rear of our site, this may not allow proper placement of our utility hookups (electric, water & sewer).  That would put our aft leveling jack pads & blocks on the grass which most park and resort owners disapprove of because of landscaping.  If we opt for a back-in site, we unload our toys from our Idaho Tote prior to pulling in.  

Now, not only our length is a determining factor, we also consider site width.  When we park, we certainly don’t want to have our coach entry door and steps out into the grass, dirt or mud.  Nor do we appreciate ‘tight’ spacing where literally, our awnings touch the coach next to us.  That’s too close for our comfort.  Most parks or resorts have enough site width to include a small patio with methodical placement of where ‘most’ coach doors ‘would’ be however, depending on the age of the facility or site planning, that’s not always the case.  Our width during tow with slides in is 8′ however, when fully set up, our slides add another 4-5′ so typically, we need a site at least 15′ wide or wider.  Again, the more the merrier.  Older campgrounds, parks and resorts may have been surveyed and designed with narrower sites back before slide-out concepts appeared on RV’s.





Here’s a good example of tree issue.
The big front tree doesn’t affect Liberty, however,
the rear awning over the slide out cannot be fully extended
because of tree branches that hinder extending and retracting.

Then there’s the issue of trees and obstacles (ie. permanent grills, poles, concrete or wood parking barriers, etc.).  A lot of older parks or campgrounds may have nice shade trees and think they are doing you a favor however, if they are too close and not pruned or cut back, we run the risk of scratches on our full body paint and slide-outs or awnings being hindered from full operation of extending or retracting.  Trees can be a double edged sword for us.  Yes, they protect from wind and shade from hot sun, they also can be damaging to our coach.

Older campgrounds, parks and resorts have been surveyed and setup for smaller campers (ie. under 36′), so door placements are quite different than many of the bigger rigs.  As well, there’s a difference between entrances of a Class A Motorhome than a 5’er or travel trailer.  Most times, entrances to Motorhomes are near the front of the coach with 5’er and travel trailer more centered.  


2) PAVED vs. GRAVEL vs. DIRT vs. GRASS:  


We try to avoid dirt sites the best we can.  Personally, just the idea of tracking in dirt constantly or wind blowing dirt around isn’t our forte’.  It’s a choice most don’t mind however, we are finicky.  We just put dirt sites last on our list.  Nothing worse than the Captain having to go out after a torrential rainstorm to clean up what has splashed up all over the coach and her underbelly…and Captain America (our dually).  Grass sites aren’t as bad however, we have to deal with mounds and leveling issues.  Not forgetting to mention, critters tend to hide in the grass which can result in a short journey up to our rig in places we wouldn’t think of them entering.  Gravel is ‘ok’; prefer finer gravel vs. larger chip stone because finer gravel allows our leveling jacks to settle better and more evenly.  We noticed we get less shake.  So, paved sites are ideal for us but not a deal breaker if they’re not.  Its cleaner and nicer.  You can ‘see’ things on the ground (ie. creepy crawlies, etc.)  Also, you can store a few things under your coach and not worry about ‘things’ making homes around them as opposed to being on dirt or gravel.  

Liberty on a ‘paved’ and level site on Galveston Island, Texas

3) LEVEL…KEEPING LIBERTY ON AN EVEN KEEL:  


This is hugely important when parking.  Yes, we are gifted with a 6-point hydraulic auto-leveling system and it’s awesome!  With a push of the button, Liberty automatically levels itself giving us a message beep when its completed its leveling process.  ‘Usually’, its right on within a degree or two.  Sometimes though, we have to override the leveling system manually to get it to our liking.  Nothing like trying to cook soups or having your peas roll off our plates because were not as level as we thought; kind of like being on a yacht…or a ship…or a boat…or a canoe.  You get the picture.  We can tell if Liberty is off a degree or two just by how cabinet doors and drawers close.  We are now skilled by eye and feel when our coach is off a couple degrees.  Captain Dan has this wonderful CLINOMETER app on his phone that he pulls up and places it on the floor if we feel ‘not level’.  We always ask parks and resorts how level their sites are when making reservations.  Nothing is more unnerving than having part of our site level with a slope or crowning which makes hooking and unhooking frustrating.  



4)  UTILITIES:  


Ha!  Boy did we learn our lesson on this one after our first few parking experiences.  We would get all cocky thinking we were all set and unhook…well, that was until we start to put our slides out only to see that we were inches from the water spigot or the electric box or couldn’t extend fully. So, we’d have to button it all up and reposition Liberty.  Placement of Liberty on a site is contingent on where the utilities are, where our slides coincide when extended and our entry steps.  Again, older outdated facilities are more than likely to give us issues because back when they built and configured their campground in the 1940’s, slide-outs didn’t exist.  Our electric on our toyhauler was mid-coach but on current Liberty, our electric cord is aft.  We now have an extension if we find ourselves in a predicament of odd electrical box placement. 


5) WiFi CONNECTIVITY:


WiFi connectivity is extremely important to us.  We’ve learned not to depend on their ‘free’ WiFi (*eye roll*); most times is weak at best to nonexistent.  Nothing is ‘free’.  You always get folks who take more than they should and stream videos or movies leaving the rest of us out of connectivity.   So, we need for our own service providers give us data coverage.  We have an AT&T hotspot with 40 GB monthly data which we use mostly for Lisa’s work and trip/destination planning and a smaller data bank with Verizon for a backup in case AT&T doesn’t work and for keeping connectivity with family and friends and for leisure.  For some RVers who work OTR, that’s a very small data plan; we know others who use upwards to 500 GB per month *GASP*.  We have been in areas where neither work; mostly and coincidentally at military bases/posts.  We think it has something to do with communication jamming because campgrounds on military bases/posts are usually near air command facilities.  Its at those places where we concentrate less on internet and more on going out and doing things.  We can always catch up later.


So, there’s the five things we research prior to making a reservation.  Those are the necessities.  Now that we’ve discussed all that, let’s now talk about our destination planning.


We usually sit together over morning coffee or campfire cocktail and talk about places that interest us (ie. National Parks, great hiking places, friends and family we wish to visit, etc.)  Then on trip/destination planning day, we set up our table with laptop, IPad, and both of our cellphones, our road atlas, calendar book, two pencils, two pair of reader glasses and a couple books.  This is when we need good connectivity.  


We open our laptop up to a website called RV Park Reviews which is a compilation of campground and park reviews of fellow RVers.  We rely on their reviews however, they also are ‘opinions’, so we take those into consideration.  We also belong to several online forums and network with RVers with ‘like-minded interests’, standards and coach size/requirements.  We all keep our own notes and those of us who blog, have our own RV Park Reviews section that we all can resort to; thus, we open a window to their blog or website.  We also will open a window or two of potential park or resorts we’ve narrowed down to look at their rates, park site map, rules and other essentials.


We open our IPad to Google Earth.  This is an incredible tool for not only locating the park and seeing its location in relation to the roads leading to it but also the park/resort site layout, obstructions, how many trees, close approximities to neighboring sites, how wide roads leading into sites, etc.  


We use our phones to check out our interests (ie. National Parks, historic sites, hiking adventures, etc.) on Facebook groups (ie. RV 5th Wheels, Full-Time RVers, etc.) which we will post our queries on Facebook groups.  In a matter of minutes, we oftentimes get our answers which is wonderful…and we reciprocate.  Its called ‘networking’ and it works.  We ask ourselves, ‘how on earth did RVers do it before the internet?’ 


While one of us is looking up the location we want as a destination, the other will research the park/resort reviews and Google Earth it to make certain of accessibility.  We work as a team.  Once we narrow down our choices, we make our phone calls to check availability.  We have learned, to ALWAYS nail down reservations for holidays well in advance (ie. Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend, Labor Day weekend, etc.); sometimes even 6-12 months in advance.  We’ve learned the hard way in regards to that subject…which…is a very SORE subject between ourselves and vowed never to leave ourselves without a place to go.  


Once we’ve made our phone call and made a concrete reservation, we enter the information in our paper date book.  Yeah, call us ‘old school’ but its what works for us.  Other’s do it electronically but we like to have a datebook where we can pull it out at moment’s notice and see where we will be, when and for how long.  We use highlighters to differentiate reservations.  We make notes of the campground/park/resort, phone number, address, confirmation from whom we spoke with, and our total amount.  Most places require a credit card to make the reservation and some don’t.  For one or two night reservations, we pay cash (and tell them) and longer term, we pay via credit card.  We always read the fine print of what the penalty is if we have to cancel a reservation or arrive later due to weather, RV or vehicle repairs or other unforeseen events.


When we arrive at our destination, I always have in hand a) our datebook, b) credit card or cash, c) any discount card (ie. military ID, Good Sam, Passport America, KOA, etc.) and good manners, a smile and patience.  Once checked in, we go park; sometimes escorted by staff or volunteers but most times, we do it on our own.  We NEVER allow anyone else other than ourselves to direct whomever is driving into our site.  We work very well together with hand signals and commands.  When we get positioned correctly, we unhook, level up, and plugs into electricity.  Captain Dan puts out our yard art, puts up our flagpole, awnings out (if its not windy), outdoor carpet, grill, firepit and outdoor chairs while Lisa puts the slides out, checks for water leaks when Dan hooks up the water,  and pretties up the inside and VOILA!  


Liberty fully moored and flying her colors





Its HAPPY HOUR TIME!!
Words not needed














RVers Take Mother Nature Seriously – A Teaching Moment –

What started out to be a beautiful, relaxing Sunday of sightseeing and shopping Bandera, Texas ended up, as RVers, being a teaching moment.  



We decided after breakfast to drive to Bandera (the Cowboy Capital of the World) that scheduled a well-planned craft show, parade, cowboy demonstrations and bands.  However, when we got there, it was apparent that everything was cancelled.  There was this sad aura once we parked our truck in front of the courthouse.  The courthouse lawn, where there were supposed to be craft vendor tents, posted a stark reminder of how nasty storms can be in Texas.  Instead of seeing busy vendors with shoppers browsing and buying, the only thing we saw was a mangled mess of vendor tent frames all knotted together.  They were set up the day prior so all vendors had to do was set up their exhibits and their wares, but seemingly, God had other plans.


Last night (May 29, 2016), our regular television programming was interrupted several times with weather warnings of high winds, heavy rain (again), hail and flash flooding.  This was a daily occurance which I think is why it may not have been taken as serious as it should have or at least to the RV Park in Bandera that abutted the Medina River.


We walked a short block from our parking space in front of the courthouse down to the municipal recreation park near river’s edge.  We had to literally tiptoe on the grass as it was a soggy mucky mess.  Usually, on a weekend day, its difficult to score a picnic table however, today was a different story.  There were quite a few vacant tables scattered amidst the soggy grass and some of the picnic tables were even gone.  The park usually is quite a popular family outing area; kids playing tag, teens playing frisbee and families gathering around the picnic tables with their coolers on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  We speculate the tables were swept away by the raging flooding river just a few feet away the night prior.  


We looked up and down as far as we could see and saw the ravaged remnants of uprooted trees, trash cans, floating logs and debris riding the rapid current of the river.  






Then we walked under the bridge of Rt 16 that lead to the Pioneer RV River Resort.





We didn’t have to walk far to see the result of how powerful flash flooding is.  These RV’s were about 50′ from the risen ‘new’ water’s edge; normally, it would be double that distance. 


We posted photos of what we saw.   

Notice the camper on the far left.  That camper was moved completely around.
These sites were supposed to be back-ins.
We’ve heard of ‘tight’ spaces at RV parks but not like this!
This is a sad sight to see.
As RVers, we never want to see the underbelly of any camper or RV.  

Notice the log impaled the RV’s sidewall from the force of the raging river.
This ‘should be’ the generator storage compartment of the RV.
RVers and Campers literally unhooked and got the heck out of there.
A sewer hose left after a quick disconnect from an RV or Camper.
This poor motorcycle lived through it but didn’t come out unscathed.
The bicycle wasn’t so lucky.
Look at the debris that clung to the bike



This camper was taken by the flash flood current.
The trees stopped it from going into the overflow access.
We almost stepped on this little fellow in the grass on one of the ‘now’ vacant RV sites.
This ‘was’ a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic.
The owner most likely cried when he saw it today in this condition.
These flash floods happened so fast.
This RV’er was trying to get out of the park but the flooding river decided otherwise.
This truck and camper was swept about 100 yards before settling on the hill.
Yesterday before the storm, all of these sites were occupied.
Today, vacant.
We stopped to talk with a young family who revisited the RV park to see the aftermath.  They lived through this scary ordeal last night.  What saved them is they saw headlights coming down the road which reflected off the creeping river in the darkness.  The father said he stepped outside to see the river only feet from his camper and truck.  They and about 40 other campers were scrambling trying to get out of there as the river crept closer.  They said they literally got out of there just in time.  They saw one camper being swept past them as they were pulling their camper away.
Since our sightseeing and shopping day was shortened, we started to drive back to our own home on wheels and passed this not far from the RV park…
The river flooded over the roadway leaving reminders of it’s ravage

…and then this camper and truck were swept off of the roadway into the raging river.  A man and his 10 year old son were inside the truck; probably fleeing from the same RV park we had visited minutes prior.  According to news sources, they climbed out of the truck and clung to nearby tree branches awaiting help.  They were found 5:00am this morning…alive.  Thank God!



So, this was our ‘teaching moment’, not only as RVers but anyone who is in the vicinity of raging rivers and flash flooding.  These weather and flash flood warnings are no joke.  They are swift and deadly.  


As RV’ers, this was a visual teaching moment for us to be more attentive and choosy when it comes to selecting RV parks, resorts and campgrounds that may be located near rivers and streams.  We also will watch and take considerable care in what the weather specialists and meteorologists report to us.  We also will make certain to ‘hook up’ when serious inclement weather is forecast.  We will make certain all ‘yard goods’ (ie. camp chairs, rugs, etc.) are put away as to not hinder safe and swift escape.  We will ALWAYS HAVE A QUICK EXIT STRATEGY!


Oh, and we WILL be contacting our insurance company ASAP.  We heard a couple of campers tell us that their RVs are not covered in flooding.


In other words, our Coast Guard motto is SEMPER PARATUS aka ‘ALWAYS READY’.  We will preach and practice it.   Don’t argue with Mother Nature.  She always wins.





How We Get Our Mail

Since we’ve been on the road, we get asked that one looming question, “HOW DO YOU GET YOUR MAIL?”

As nomadic RVers who are rarely in one place for more than a month at a time, our system has worked for the most part. We’ve had some blunders however, we’ve managed to keep our bills paid, packages received and mailings kept down to a manageable minimum.

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NuWave Induction Cooktop – Product Review

Most RV’s and Campers today come with propane gas stoves and ovens.  However, higher end RVs have recently been installing induction cooktops.  At the time of writing this blog post, we had a 5th wheel toy hauler that was equipped with a propane stove and oven.  I wanted another cooking alternative when hooked up to electricity at campgrounds and parks so we didn’t waste our propane supply.

Continue reading “NuWave Induction Cooktop – Product Review”