When you finally have an address… 

We spent just under 3 weeks in England, Arkansas… on the tower site… with no neighbors… and limited cell service. 

It wasn’t all that bad. We had water and 110 electric (until a few days before we left then the engineer found a 30 amp outlet that we connected to). We didn’t have a sewer so that was a little much in 95 degree weather! Allen enjoyed the no neighbor nudist opportunity and I learned some patience with a flashback to limited 3G connectivity!

We had lunch at Geautreaux’s just about every day and I frequented the laundrymat that I had to add to google maps. I took a 30 mile drive into Stuttgart (the rice and duck capital) to go to Walmart. I found a few little boutique shops in Keo and England that were pretty neat. And I got to meet a lady in one of the Facebook groups I belong to for spouses who travel in an RV for work. 

It was definitely an experience. 

I called Convenience RV Park in Willis, TX Saturday to see if they had a 50amp spot for us to live for about a month. John assured me they did and I could come on in on Monday. They have a pool, a restaurant and a mobile RV service on site so it sounded perfect! 

Well… it wasn’t. We arrived a little after 5pm on Monday and the office was closed. I tried to call John but it just rang and rang until I finally got a message saying “the machine is off”. We checked out the board they had outside the office and walked around to look at the sites. None were 50amp except the site marked overnight only. And none were going to be any kind of easy to get into. The place looked like a dump to be honest. 

Allen found Stow-A-Way Marina & RV Park off the same exit and gave them a call. They said to come on over and they would try and fit us somewhere. We wound up in site #3 with a concrete pad and 50amp FHU. It’s a back in site, a corner lot, but easy enough to get into because the site is actually on a 45 degree angle from the road. The park is all shaded by huge trees so that should help with our electric costs. Rent is $500/month plus electric at 11cents/kW. They have a pool and it’s right on the lake. There’s a convenience store/Marina store up front at the office and a BBQ restaurant that is open Friday-Sunday. The staff seems really nice too. 

I have my mom flying down Monday for a week to visit so that’s exciting! I also have a mobile RV tech coming out next week (not the guy from Convenience RV Park!) to work on replacing our rear air conditioner that stopped working in Haines City, FL

AND we got here just in time for Amazon Prime Day!!! So we ordered a new washer/dryer finally: an Edgestar ventless combo unit for half the price of our Splendide 7100xc. 

We also splurged on a new mattress… we’ve been dealing with a sagging lumpy one since we got our Grand Design Momentum in March of 2015 so it was high time for that! 

And I ordered a silhouette cameo vinyl cutter to make decals for my best friend’s golf outing-I’m really excited about this! 

I got the camper vacuumed yesterday (haven’t been able to do that since before we got to Arkansas!) and the fridge cleaned out. And I stepped on my first fire ant mound…. ouch! We went to the grocery last night, hit Tractor Supply for some more ant killer stuff and some diatomaceous earth to sprinkle around, and of course the liquor store! It feels good to be back in somewhat of a town!!! 

Tower Takedown at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas

I thought I’d post some pictures Allen took while they were removing the tower at Fair Park.  It’s crazy to me how big some of this stuff is!

 

the giant crane they used

  
    
    
  

all gone!

 

Here’s another post with some good photos also… My Boyfriend’s Crazy!

Finally, some customer SERVICE!

So in my last post, I described some issues we were having with the camper. (See here…) Most of this stuff will happen no matter what kind or brand of camper you have. These things move down the road at high rates of speed, they get bumped around, all of your appliances get jiggled and everything gets bounced around on the highway. I realize all this. But, when things are of better quality and craftsmanship, they last a whole lot longer.

So when we made the long term investment to purchase our 2015 Grand Design Momentum 385TH, it was after extensive research on our part. We had a 2010 Wildwood by Forest River and so we had an idea of what we wanted and didn’t want, what we liked and disliked, and we had a feel for the quality, or lack there of, that goes into the camper making process. We were shopping for our house. Our first house we would buy together, so it was a big deal.IMG_5108

We looked at numerous different brands (no more Forest Rivers!) and went to multiple RV shows and dealers in different parts of the country. After we found the Momentum we did some research on Grand Design. It turned out that the company was just started in 2013 although the owners had been planning for years. They had worked for Jayco I believe and left there to start their own line, with a focus on QUALITY. This was huge for us. A smaller company, not making a billion different campers, they’ll be able to focus on us a little more. Every time we went to a show or visited a dealership, we would try our best to find something we didn’t like about the Momentum. We were trying to be objective. Although we were in love in 2014, I’m really glad they changed some things in the 2015 version. Namely the wood is darker now and there is no carpet on the steps to the bedroom. And after hearing some things, I’m glad they went to the triple axle, although we were kind of excited about the double at first.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 7.41.02 AM

This is a screenshot I took from Grand Design’s website… 

Needless to say, because we now own a Momentum, we were hard pressed to find anything we didn’t like about it.

The last time we walked into a dealership (Palm Beach RV), we met Tony and said, “Show us the best fifth wheel toy hauler you have. We live in it full time with a puppy and travel all over the country for work.”

Guess where he led us… It was meant to be! (If he would’ve taken us to a Forest River model, I would’ve left on the spot-haha!)

So we’ve had our home on wheels for a little over 8 months now and she’s been good to us. This last trip though, kind of threw a lot of things out of whack. I’ll recap:

  • The low point drain is busted. Allen was able to fix it by removing the valve and replacing it with a metal elbow and some more pex, and a plug, all with a bunch of hose clamps. I love how handy he can be sometimes. IMG_3682
  • The bedroom slide is all out of whack. I’m pretty sure the motors are going out, in turn causing the thing to get off track, but I’m no expert on electric slides.
  • The black tank in the half bath won’t drain. I think maybe the wire is broken. You pull the handle and nothing happens. So, grossly, all that is just festering back there…
  • The tank valves don’t seal all the way. So when we get to a campground and take the cap off to hook up the hose, we get a good amount of nastiness that spills out. Not fun.
  • The furnace has started making this awful noise when turned on. It happened in Oklahoma City and when we got here to the Dallas area. It’s really loud and it has a peculiar smell, almost like chlorine but not quite…
  • The stove burner jiggled itself loose. I discovered that when we got here on Monday, but it really could’ve happened anytime as I didn’t cook this trip. We found a little tiny screw and a metal o-ring type thing but it won’t stay in place. So I’m down to 2 burners for now. IMG_3679
  • The driver’s side tail light is LED. It’s been a little shotty since we got the camper, but it’s all the way out now. Sometimes it’ll have about 2 of 7 lights lit, sometimes more, but it’s all the way out now.
  • The kitchen island is squeaky. It sounds like an old house. It squeaks when Charlie walks by! I think from reading things online that maybe some floor boards came loose and need to be glued again, but I’m not sure. This isn’t major, just a bit annoying.
  • The antenna on the roof is broken. I think it’s the gear head… Remember when we stayed in Sparta at our friend’s place. The ones that have the wolf that Charlie was playing with? (Of course you do!) Well, we forgot to put the antenna down when we left, so when we stopped at a rest stop we found half a tree tangled in the antenna! Oops!
  • I would also like to get the latches on the propane doors replaced with locks. They come open when we drive and we constantly have to pull over to close them. It must be from the wind and/or the vibration of the road.

When it rains, it pours….

I’d been trying to get a hold of someone who could help us sort all this out and what to do about it at Grand Design since Monday. After lots of help from Facebook (there is a Grand Design RV Owners page that Allen and I joined) I finally found some answers yesterday.

I spoke with Ray at Grand Design. We got off to a pretty rough start, I won’t go into details, but he finally gave me phone numbers to a couple mobile RV techs near us. I called and luckily Jeff from Lone Star RV is going to be able to get things done for us in time to go to Ohio for Christmas to visit family! When I called Ray back to let him know, he led with a big apology, so we are all good now. He also said he spoke to “Jerry” in the interim and Jerry had no recollection of speaking with me on Monday. Shocker! Here’s an example from a post I wrote back in August starring the infamous Jerry:

Anyway, while I was on the phone with Amanda at Grand Design I had her switch me over to Jerry in warranty (yes, I’m on a first name basis with these people). I spoke with Jerry multiple times when we were in Louisiana trying to take care of the radio/tv situation. Grand Design had the bright idea to put some Furrion products, and some Haier products in here. (To save money I presume..)  But they don’t communicate well with one another.  The radio in the living room is also a DVD player and that wasn’t working so Jerry sent us a new HDMI cord.  It worked then, but in hindsight I don’t think the cord was the issue.  We still have the same problem with having sound and no picture when we play a DVD but now we just unplug the TV then plug it back in.  It’s the cheap Haier TV.  In the garage (toy hauler) there is a car stereo that also plays DVDs.  But it constantly sounds like it is skipping around a CD in there or trying to spit one out.  Jerry also sent us a new radio that we swapped out.  That worked for a while.  I noticed Monday that it started making noise again.  So he is supposedly sending us ANOTHER radio to swap out and says if we have more issues we will have to take it in to have it looked at.  I’m trying to avoid that because we live in here full time and I’d rather not live at a dealership for days. Also, the closest Grand Design dealer is in Sacramento. And Allen will not be commuting to from Sacramento to San Francisco to work! Anyway, last time, Jerry took forever to send anything out, I mean he said he sent it then a week later I called to see where it was and he still hadn’t sent it. So fingers crossed he actually put it in the mail yesterday!

So for now we wait, and pray that the black tank doesn’t start to smell terrible in these beautifully warm temperatures we are having! I’m glad we are finally getting things resolved and I’m hoping that this turns a new page in our relationship with Grand Design. A lot of people I’ve seen online just rave about how great their customer service is… Maybe we just got the short straw with Jerry. Hopefully things will be better from here on out.

In the meantime I’m getting my tan on at the video store/pizza place/RV office/tanning salon, striving for some color before the holidays. North Dakota made me super pale! And I’m working on crazy Charlie. It seems like she’s been de-socialized in the month we spent in isolation at the North Pole! She did however make friends with a random loose pit bull that came running up to us last night on our walk. I was a little nervous, trying to play it cool, talking in a happy baby puppy voice, but Charlie seemed fine. Now if she would only befriend our neighbor’s boxer “Gator”, I would be a very happy puppy parent indeed!

We also got all of the Christmas shopping that we can do online done yesterday. And ordered our Christmas cards – super excited to get those and mail them out!

Hope everyone else is having a great week! Mine should be better now that I know help is in the works!

Blue Angels in San Francisco

Last week was Fleet Week in San Francisco. Allen lucked out and had an amazing view from the tower. He saw them practicing Thursday then watched the whole show on Friday from level 6 on Sutro! Here’s some pictures he took…  

    
    
 Saturday he was off work so we took Charlie on a long walk over in Candlestick Recreation Area (right next door to the campground).  

we took a break after about a mile so Charlie could rest her little legs

  

there are ground squirrels all over at the park and Charlie tries to chase them into their holes

 
Then we headed down to the Wharf to watch the Blue Angels from the ground. We lucked out and found a good spot at the end of an alley. Very neat! I didn’t try to get any photos, they were just TOO fast! 

After the show we went to Fog Harbor Fish House on Pier 39. I thought it was going to be better than it was. We had calamari and clam chowder (not nearly as delicious as The Old Clam House). Then I got the Mixed Grill (shrimp, swordfish and salmon), and Allen ordered the Wild Alaskan King Salmon. It had a super disgusting taste to it, almost like propane even though I’ve never tasted propane… So he sent that back and got the Pacific Cod (that was much better). After that we were thoroughly stuffed and headed back home on the bike. Luckily we had a few blocks to walk off dinner 🙂  

Mixed Grill

  

Alaskan King Salmon

  

Pacific Cod

 
Sunday we watched the Bengals play a really close game against the Seahawks. And we got to stay home because it was actually on local tv!

5-0 now! 

   
We wanted to put the valve in the jacks but there were campers parked where we needed to pull the truck to hook up the camper in order to do that… So that had to wait.  

 
We did try to clean the water filter. The water here is gross and we are going through filters that should last 3 months in half the time. We also have a screen on the hose which gets full of debris in about a week and lessens the water pressure considerably. But there’s nowhere around here to get replacement water filters, so we are stuck with trying to clean them for now.  

 I hoping to be out of here, if not this coming weekend, then sometime next week! So I started loosely planning our trip. I use the Good Sam trip planner because it lets you put in height requirements and maps out Flying J and Pilot Travel Centers and rest areas and campgrounds along the way. We are going to go through South Dakota to change our domicile then on to Dallas to bring down the tower at Fair Park. Hopefully that job takes us until Christmastime. I’m just excited to get the heck out of San Francisco and this asphalt parking lot!

Considering a Domicile Change!

I’ve been doing a lot of research on changing our domicile for a few months now. When we were in Slidell, Louisiana we received a bill in the mail from the City tax department. They were charging us a fine for not paying taxes quarterly, even though we pay in full every year. In Ohio, we pay state income tax as well as local income tax. The local city tax also went from 1.5% last year to 2% this year. Plus, that annoying fine they just started adding 4 times a year.

The bill for the fine was the last push I needed to really start looking into our options. The taxes are one thing, even though we don’t actually, physically “live” there, but the fine is another thing all together and the fine alone is over $300/yr. No thanks!

Everything I found online from other blogs and websites (Technomadia, RV-Dreams, Escapees, My Dakota Address, Wheeling It, etc.) was pointing me toward Florida, Texas, or South Dakota.  These states have no state or local income tax.

I spoke with someone at Loring & Associates, PLLC, recommended by Escapees, about all things domicile so I had a good jumping off point. I knew I had to find a mail forwarding service to use as a “home base”. And I had to check vehicle insurance rates. And consider how much it would cost to register our vehicles. A 2015 Grand Design Momentum Toy Hauler, a 2011 Chevy Silverado 3500HD, and a 2006 Suzuki Katana 600. I also needed to consider how often you need to physically be in that state for drivers license renewals and vehicle registrations or inspections. We don’t have ties to Ohio other than family. No property, no house, no doctors or church affiliations, so there’s no real reason we should keep our domicile there if it isn’t beneficial to us. In the far off future we either want to settle down on a ranch and adopt a bunch of animals or get a little shack on the beach or own an RV Park… None of which would include Ohio. And definitely would not include our little town that is ripping us off tax-wise.

FLORIDA was my first choice.

  • I love the beach.
  • Warm weather.
  • Sunshine.
  • The beach.

But when I called Progressive – sike, they wouldn’t talk to me because Allen and I aren’t married, even though I’m on the policy also and he’s given them permission to tell me anything and everything numerous times… When I got a quote online instead, the insurance rates in Florida were absurdly high! I’m talking over double what we are paying now for the camper, truck and motorcycle. So, my dreams of becoming a Floridian, at least for now, are nonexistent.
When looking and comparing Texas and South Dakota, it was kind of a toss up.

TEXAS

  • Allen’s company is based out of Texas and we go to the shop usually at least once a year.
  • The truck is already registered in Texas because that’s where we bought it.
  • I like Texas. And BBQ.
  • But in Texas you have to physically take your vehicle in for a safety inspection once a year. The exception is if you are not in the state of Texas. But as soon as you get back you need to take them. I really would rather not drag this huge camper to a tiny state inspection place every year when we get back into Texas.

SOUTH DAKOTA

  • They have a really low sales tax, not that we will be making another big purchase super soon, but good to think about for when we do get the Smart Car.
  • They make it really easy to register vehicles, you don’t have to physically bring them into the state even.
  • You do have to stay one night to prove YOU are physically present in the state in order to obtain residency status and get your drivers license.
  • We’ve never been to South Dakota. So it might be interesting.

So with all things considered, it really came down to insurance rates. I got quotes from 6 different agencies over the last week. Yes, I spent many hours on the phone. Not super fun. But, I did get a feel for just how much rates vary from one company and agency to the next.

*** I should note that even though some of these companies say they specialize in full time RV insurance, some of the agents I spoke with seemed floored that we actually LIVE in our camper… What???

Also I learned that South Dakota and Texas used to be really cheap states for insurance rates but then full time RVers started using these states for a home base so all the claims were coming back to those two. Overall, across the board, South Dakota is the least expensive of the two. It’s still more than what we are currently paying. But, and I realized this when I started researching, we don’t have the right coverage now.

We are with Progressive for everything. When we traded in the old camper for this one, we just called and switched the coverage over. They asked all the same questions and we answered honestly. They asked where the camper would be at least 6 months out of the year and we said nowhere. We told them we live in it and travel all the time. They made us give an address anyway. So, we do not have the full timers package. I’m sure once that is added, it would bring our current rate up.

So with all said and done, we would definitely save money switching to South Dakota and it’s fairly easy to do.

  1. We need to secure our mailing address with My Dakota Address.
  2. Stay the night in South Dakota.
  3. Get our drivers licenses.
  4. Register our vehicles.
  5. Switch our vehicle insurance.
  6. Change our address with Allen’s work and health insurance.

We just need to time it right. You need to do everything within 90days. Our lives are hard to time. We are in San Francisco now, so we could just take the northern route when we leave here, depending on when and where we are going next. If we stay until winter and there’s snow in South Dakota then that’s not happening. If that’s the case, we could possibly just fly out there for a couple of days over Christmas break to take care of everything. But if we leave in a month and the weather is still nice, we could stop by and take care of everything.  We never make plans, we make tentative plans, loosely. So the loose, tentative plan now is to become South Dakotans!

Losing is Never Easy…

But I never thought it could be this hard.

I’ve known a lot of loss and death in my life but this is by far the worst. My brother passed away suddenly on Thursday. He was only 31.

Allen came home early from work Thursday, which I thought was weird because I had just talked to him at lunch time. My mom had called him and asked him to tell me. I bought a plane ticket and packed my bag (well, I think maybe Allen packed most of it for me) then we went to the airport so I could get on a flight and be back in Cincinnati with my mom by midnight. When I got to the airport, I did the self check in thing then checked my bag and went to security. The security guard told me my ticket was for the following morning, Friday, at 7am. I lost it. Again. So then I had to go through waiting for Delta to figure out what happened. I wound up having to book another flight for 7am with American Airlines that got me here at 10:30am instead of the middle of the afternoon like Delta wanted to do. I’m still waiting for my refund from Delta. But I’m here.

I guess it’s easier to talk about things like plane tickets than it is to talk about what matters.

My brother has struggled with addiction for a long time now. He’s been in and out of trouble for things related to drugs for the past 6yrs or so. (I.E. Stealing to get money for drugs, violating probation, failing drug tests…)  He just got out of prison on June 6th. Right after we had to leave Ohio and head down to Dallas. When I took Charlie swimming in Oklahoma City. I didn’t get to see him. We did FaceTime though. Not the same as a hug. My mom picked him up from prison and he was living with her. He found out that he was HIV positive this last time he went in, so he had just been to the doctor and was going to start medication in the next couple of weeks. His doctor told him and my mom that with medication he could live to be 60, 70, 80 years old.

I don’t know what happened or what kind of struggle he had in his head when he decided to use again. But I don’t understand it. He called me Thursday morning. He asked me what Charlie was doing. He couldn’t wait to meet her. I asked him what he’d been doing all morning. ~silence~ I asked him again. ~silence~ I thought it was weird but drugs never crossed my mind. I just thought he was being spacey like he sometimes got.  I just got kind of annoyed and told him if he wasn’t going to talk to me then I was hanging up. I hung up. My mom says I can’t think that I could’ve changed anything. But…

She came home from work, she cleans houses, at about 1pm and he was on the porch. He’d overdosed on heroin. He was already gone. I would give anything to have him back and anything to not let my mom have been through that. I guess the paramedics came and worked for an hour.

We went to plan the funeral Saturday. My step dad passed away 5yrs ago and we went to the same place. The price has tripled since then. We had to leave because we couldn’t afford it. That’s not a good feeling, to have to shop around for a funeral. But we found a place that was really nice. We are going to have a visitation and service on Wednesday evening then have him cremated. My mom wants to bury his ashes with his dad’s.

In the meantime, I miss Allen and Charlie like crazy and I so wish I could have both of them here with me. They are leaving Texas tomorrow to head out to San Francisco. I’m worried about them traveling by themselves but Allen says they’ll be fine. I remind him of fifty things Charlie related everyday it feels like. He jokingly reminded me yesterday that I’m missing out on some blogging opportunities driving cross country. Touché. But I will fly back to San Francisco at some point yet to be determined. (I for sure have to wait until I get my plane ticket refund).

We started a Go Fund Me page to help with the expenses. (If you would like to help, I would be so grateful) We wrote his obituary.  We picked out an outfit we think he would’ve loved.  (This pair of white skinny jeans he was loving!) I’m ordering a really pretty rainbow colored casket spray. (Gay Pride)  We’ve been making a list of songs he loved that we are going to play at the funeral.  We went through boxes of old pictures yesterday.

 

This is a button I found from probably kindergarten. I think I am going to wear it at the funeral.

Losing is never easy.

But I never thought it could be this hard.

I love you Adam. And I will miss you forever.

Taste of Dallas

We went to the Taste on Saturday. I was surprised that it wasn’t bigger actually. (The Taste of Cincinnati was bigger)  But we had some good food. Allen and I met up with Cletis, a guy he works with. I love Cletis. We parked by he tower so therefore got in free. Sshhh…

 We had alligator on a stick, a brisket sandwich, shrimp and crab on a stick, ribs, and chicken. Yum!

        

On our way home we stopped by Randy’s Farmers Market. We picked up some tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, onions and plums. We found some local honey too. I’ve heard that if you eat local honey it’s supposed to help with allergies. I hope it works! We also got some bbq sauce and some chips and salsa. The salsa is no joke-SO spicy! And we like hot and spicy, but this is off the charts!

  

When we got back we went to the pool to hang out. Allen has been teaching me how to swim and I think I’m getting the hang of it. I mean, I can doggy paddle and survive but I’ve never been able to swim on top of the water. He was a lifeguard and taught swim lessons when he was younger and he’s been pretty patient with me.

        

Towards the end of the day I went and got Charlie and brought her up to the pool. She’s done a lot of swimming in the last week! The other night she was running around with a pup named Tater and she ran INTO the pond and swam back out!  She’s a brave little thing!

RV Ranch of Keene, TX

I think we got lucky with this spot. We would normally stay at Trader’s Village in Grand Prairie. This time we wanted to try somewhere new because we have a different, bigger camper and Trader’s Village can be really tight depending on where they put you. I started calling around to different parks when we were in Oklahoma City on Friday. We started with parks between Cedar Hill (the shop) and downtown Dallas (the new job site). I called about 6 different campgrounds (with pools because it’s ridiculously hot and I just need a pool), and everywhere was full! That’s never happened to us here. So we had to keep going further out and finally found this place, the RV Ranch.  It’s an hour from the job site and 40min from the shop. So that sucks. Luckily Allen will probably be able to ride the bike most days.

Anyhow, we headed down I-35 and got here Sunday afternoon to 90+degree sunny weather! We got an easy pull through spot with a nice little half moon shaped patio and a little arbor type things so Charlie has some shade. Our spot is long enough to open the hatch and leave it as a back porch but I can’t really see that happening with how hot it is. I don’t think our AC’s will shut off during the day!

      We are right across from the showers and laundry in the adult (21+) section. And the pool is one row over behind the office. The office is also a tanning salon and a movie rental store and a pizza place…   Charlie and I went exploring this morning and I think we are in the fancy section. The other half of the park is mostly filled with mobile homes and long term residents. Overall, I think we are going to like it here. I can’t wait til my sunburn from OKC fades so I can use the pool!