Thursday, May 31, 2012

Full Timing Expenses

Since it is the end of May, our first calendar month of Full Timer living, I thought I would share our living expenses this month as it relates directly to full time RV living.  Campground Fees – $453; Diesel fuel while pulling the 5th wheel – $40; generator gas and propane – $103; RV service and repairs – $61:  Total $657.  I did not include food, insurance, etc. because we would have those expenses in a home or apartment. The fuel while “pulling” is low because we only pulled 100 miles this month.  June will be a lot more.  I filled the 13 gallon gas tank for the generator plus a spare 4 gallons for backup, so that was exceptional as an expense.  We used a little more propane than we expect on the average since nights have dropped down to the high 30’s and low 40’s.

Our pooch, Sammy, is much improved.  All the lab work came back with no issues except a possible thyroid problem.  The Vet did suggest that we get Heartworm meds for both dogs since we are going to be traveling in the prairie mid-west where there are an abundance of mosquitos.

We have had the campground pretty much to ourselves since the Memorial Day Weekend crowd pulled out on Monday and Tuesday.  That means the dogs get a lot of off-leash time on the trails around the campground.  They are very happy, as are we.

Had an interesting (not spectacular) sunset last evening.  Here are a few pictures:




We move to a Forest Service campground tomorrow for 7 days.  $5 a night with no hookups.  Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Idaho Sunshine

It was a wet Memorial Day weekend starting with overcast and showers when we moved on Friday and rain pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday until dinnertime on Sunday.  Monday morning the sky was partly cloudy and we got to see a real sunrise.  That gave me a chance to take some picture of the campground and the reservoir nearby.

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Sites above us.                                                                 Our site

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The Reservoir                                                                  The mud pit.

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A gallon container of water holds the dish in place          The grill table when you don’t have a table.

I reinstalled the four batteries Monday morning.  Checking the water levels, I found 4 cells that were low on water.  I have turned off the 50 amp power Monday afternoon and most of today, Tuesday, to test the solar charging system.  In bright sunshine, the system maintains the batteries at 93% to 100% charged, even with varying levels of use.  The real test will be next week when we get to a no hookup campground.  Will post the results of my testing next week.

The shocker this week was the very high Gigabyte accumulations on the Verizon Galaxy Tab MiFi.  I hit my 5GB limit on Friday.  So I reduced my internet access (I thought).  Overnight Friday I somehow used another GB of data transfer.  As of this morning I was up to 7.4 GB of usage.  Then I figured out I was leaving my computer on overnight and my automatic backup to IDrive happens at 2 am.  I had reconfigured my photo files on Friday, so IDrive dutifully uploaded the new configuration of a few thousand high resolution photos.  I did set up a password for access to the Galaxy Tab so I know I wasn’t being “tapped into” by another camper.  A $30 lesson learned.  Now I turn off the Tab MiFi access when we are not using it; no more leaving it on 24/7.  I have turned off my automatic backup so I can manually back up when I have access to someone else’s Wi-Fi.  I just need to not exceed 8GB by midnight Thursday.  I should get a better handle on this next month. 

Our big pooch, Sammy, has been acting different the last few weeks; lethargic, poor appetite, and some bowel movement issues were surfacing.  We took him into the vet today.  Heart, lungs, etc. sound good.  He has lost about 13 pounds.  They drew blood for analysis and I brought in a stool sample for analysis.  Should get the lab results tomorrow.  Hope the old boy is ok.  He is 9 and a big dog.  We hope to have a few more good years with him.  The vet prescribed special canned food and some meds for now.

I am slowly settling into this new lifestyle.  Actually read a book a couple weeks ago and started another book yesterday.  I have always been a forward looking “planner” type with difficulty living in the moment.  Rosie is very good about living in the moment, so I am learning from her, but it is a slow transition. Anyway, I am starting to enjoy sitting in the recliner and enjoying the view from wherever we happen to be.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Where was I?  Oh yeah, last Monday we went on a hike.  Now it is Saturday and what a difference five days does make.  On Friday, we moved to Juniper Campground in the Ririe Reservoir Recreation Area near Ririe, ID.  Sites are $16 with full hookups, including 50 amp service.  Talk about luxury; now with the electric side of the hot water heater going, long hot showers are a possibility.   The down side is that we are in a brand new loop on the campground and the “soil” on the site adjacent to the asphalt pad is MUD; wet, nasty, dirty mud, and it is raining.  We came back from a laundry, shopping trip today and the sprinklers next to our camper were going full blast, and it was raining steadily.  That mud is not going away for awhile.  Makes it really tough to walk the dogs to do their business.

I finally gave up on trying to figure out why our batteries were draining so fast.  On Wednesday morning we moved to an electric site back at Palisades.  The electric sites there are $8.00 per night vs. the $5.00 for non-electric.  Rosie and I decided lesson one was if you can get an electric site for less than ten bucks, take it and be happy.  We are glad we did experiment with boondocking for a few days.  We learned there is something wrong with our battery storage/drain system, we just don’t know what yet.  I took all four batteries out of the rig and into Idaho Falls to the Big O Tire store where I bought them 2 years ago.  They tested all in good condition and fully charged.  So it isn’t a dead cell in one of the batteries.  Maybe we are using too much electricity off the inverters; meaning unreasonable expectations on our part (maybe too much TV?).  This coming Friday we will move again to a nice, no electric campground about 10 miles from here; and experiment with different levels of usage.  We also asked our RV guy, Tim, to put on his thinking cap since he did the installation of the whole system, and knows a heck of a lot more about the intricacies than I do.

Our current site is really great from a scenic viewpoint.  The sites are all pull through on this loop and we cannot see another camper from our street side view; just junipers and a rolling hillside.  I will post pictures when the sun comes out in a day or so.  Weather forecast says rain through Sunday night.  Monday is supposed to be better with lots of sun for the rest of the week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our First Hike

Not our first hike ever, but our first hike as full-timers.  When we were at this campground last year, we discovered a place called Big Elk Campground about 10 miles from here.  It is too challenging to get to with our trailer, but we just took the truck up there on Sunday morning to see if there was a trail.  Sure enough, at the end of the road was a trailhead for Big Elk Creek Trail #097.


                                 Rosie is chomping at the bit.  She loves hiking.

This was a nice hike on a well defined trail through the woods.  Down below we could hear the roar of the water from Big Elk Creek.  Here are some pictures taken along the way:

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Unfortunately, I am very “out of shape” (unless you consider round a shape) and couldn’t continue on for more than 45 minutes.  As we started up a fairly steep grade, my ole bod just screamed at me “Stop.  No More.”  So we rested for awhile and started back (thankfully) down the hill.  Almost back at the trailhead, we encountered a group of horse riders coming up the trail.  Of course with every group of horse riders there is a big friendly dog running ahead to clear the trail.  So of course Annie started barking like crazy and Sammy went into attack mode.  Fortunately, I had Sammy on a short leash and under control.  So we stepped off the trail about 20 feet and let everyone go by.  That got my ole heart going again.  Sheesh, I gotta get in better shape.

Technology Update:

The Verizon Samsung Galaxy Tab MiFi is working very well here.  We have 3 bars on the pad and on our phones and are getting good speeds for internet access and sending/receiving e-mail.

The solar panels continue to kick out amps to the batteries.  However, the batteries don’t seem to be holding a charge like I think they should.  I ran the generator for 45 minutes Sunday evening to get the batteries up to 72%.  Went to bed last night with 56% battery charge reading and woke up 8 hours later with 26% charge reading.  I purposely did not run the heater to avoid the fan drawdown and turned off both laptops and did not leave either my phone or the Samsung unit plugged in.  The only thing I can figure is the DirecTV receiver came on at 4:00 am to record a show we like to watch later in the day.  I had a phone conversation with Tim, the RV Guy, and he contemplated I could have one bad cell in one of my four batteries, or they just needed a good, long “slow” charge to get fully charged.  Anyway, just things to keep in mind for the future.

This morning (Monday) we had a light breakfast and took the dogs for a long walk (on flat ground) along the river.  I have rigged up two fishing poles with the intention of trying my luck in the river after dinner if the winds calm down.  I will update with the fishing success, or lack thereof,  in my next blog.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Palisades Reservoir Campground, Swan Valley, Idaho


This is a photo from May 2011 of the Snake River as it comes out of the dam on the Palisades Reservoir.  We spent 3 for 4 days here last year in the “hook-up” section.  This time we are in a “primitive” site because we want to give our boondocking skills a test drive for one week.  We arrived and set up Friday about 3:00 pm.  The camping fee here for us Senior Pass folks is $5.00 per night.  That is $35 for the one week we will be here.

It was overcast most of the afternoon and a light shower went through around 6 pm.  Then the clouds parted and the sun came out. until nightfall.  We did not get a lot of sunlight for the solar panels to recharge the batteries.  When we went to bed, the panel display for the solar system showed the batteries were 68% charged.  We set the thermostat for 65 degrees so the fan would not run so much overnight, yet we would not be too cold since the temp was supposed to fall to 35 degrees.

When I arose at 5:45, the display panel showed the battery charge level at 52%, so we did not use a lot of battery overnight.  The sun came out pretty early and by 9 am, the battery level was at 78% and that was after two hours of TV viewing running off the inverters.  By noon, with the TV off and only charging the laptops, the batteries were up to 92%; so it appears the solar panels are doing their job.  We only ran the generator for 5 to 8 minutes to brew coffee and make toast, so the generator charging was not significant.

My morning systems check showed one empty propane tank, so I went to a nearby Sinclair Station and filled it up. Also filled up my 5 gallon gas container for the generator gas tank.  That led into our lunch time and another hour of satellite TV powered by inverters.  Ain’t technology wonderful?  After lunch we leashed up the pooches and headed down to the river bank for a walk and exploration.  Here are some pictures:

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A really nice site, but too much shade for our panels.

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This is us in the center of the picture.                               Rosie focused on Facebook and E-Mail.

As I write this about 3 pm, the solar panel is pumping out 10.1 amps into the batteries and the batteries are 82% charged.  I have two Fantastic Fans going and two laptops are powered up.   The generator has not been on more than 20 minutes total all day.  The solar power installation is looking pretty good. 

Tomorrow, we are going on a day hike to an area nearby called Big Elk Campground.  The road is Big Elk is narrow and gravel, so no way am I going to ever pull our camper up to that campground.  We drove up last year on a day trip and loved it, so Rosie is insisting that we revisit tomorrow and pack a picnic lunch.  Tuesday I have some work to do in Jackson Hole and in Pinedale, WY.   Rosie and the pooches are going along for the ride.  I hope to get in some fishing before we leave here.  My lower back is acting up, so we will see if I can work up the energy to throw out a line.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where Did The Week Go?

Wow!  A whole week gone by in  a flash.  Full timing makes time fly Smile.

Rosie was able to return to her former exercise routine this week; aquatic exercise in the local pool on Tuesday and Thursday, and Yoga on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.  I kept working on the camper to-do list along with reorganizing the basement for the umpteenth time.  One of these days I will get it right, but it may take a while.

On Friday, some friends has organized a “Bon Voyage” get together for us at the Green Belt on the Snake River in downtown Idaho Falls.  We didn’t know so many people would miss us Winking smile; about 40 of our friends showed up for burgers and other picnic type items.  Our good friend, Doug Skinner, did the grilling and we all had a great time.  Five fur kids in attendance also.

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  The first arrivals.                                                            Burgers on the grill.

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A great setting.                                                         Our fur kids, Sammy and Annie

Technology Note*  I have been looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet at the Verizon store for about 6 months.  In addition to the usual Tablet features, it works as a Wi-Fi connection for up to five laptops providing a 3G connection to the internet where ever we can get a Verizon signal.  The store price on this was $229.00.  Wednesday evening I was surfing the Verizon Wireless web site when I notice there was a web only “special” on this unit for $49.99.  Way to good a deal to pass up.  This was a “web only” discount, so I had to do the whole process on the web site, with a little help from a “chat salesperson”.  At 2:45 on Friday afternoon, Fed Ex delivered said unit to the UPS store we are using for a mail forwarding service.  I am a little nutso about new technology items, so I was hanging around the UPS store waiting for it.  Got it back to the camper, but only had time to activate it and play with it for a bit before we had to leave for the party mentioned above.

Saturday morning I set up the Wi-Fi connection, established a password to log on and connected both of our laptops to the Galaxy Tab.  Setting a password on a Wi-Fi unit is important.  Your fellow campers can “see” this connection up to 100’ away.  I have heard stories of people not setting a secure password access and then they are surprised when they surpass their Gigabyte limit of 5 GB or 10GB in a short period of time.  Other people are logging onto their system and downloading all kinds of cool stuff to their computers, unknown to them.  Verizon charges $50 month for 5GB and $80 month for 10GB.  Anyway, the system works great at this location.  Download speeds are much faster than the campground Wi-fi.  However, we are in a full 3G area.  I am sure speeds will diminish in areas with lower signal strength.  I have seen other blogger complain about Verizon Mi-fi equipment (not tablet type, just a connection device), so I will continue to report on how it works.

Saturday afternoon we were walking the dogs around the park when we noticed a rental RV with a flag from Austria attached to the radio antenna.  We really enjoy meeting Europeans vacationing in the USA and went over to say Hi.   Rosie greeted them in German (the language in Austria) and that got things of to a great start.  They were on a 4 month trip through the western US and were having a great time.   Later in the evening, Rosie hosted them at our camper and had a long conversation with them.  They exchanged cards with us; they write a blog in German so I can’t fully understand it, but Rosie is a good translator.  I had a meeting to go to, so I missed out on the evening with them, but they may be back here for another evening before we leave here on Friday.

Our next destination is a campground at the base of the Palisades Dam in Swan Valley, ID; about 15 miles from the Wyoming border.  Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Full Timers At Last!

The house is closed.  The extra car is sold.  All the stuff we want to keep is either in storage; or with us in the truck and/or camper.  I think we are officially full timers. 

We are currently in the middle of a month long rental at Snake River RV Park and Campground in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  This is a really nice park.  A former KOA, it has tent sites, RV sites, and cabins.  The owner is active on the site and there is a staff of 10 or so working diligently to make our experience here a good one.

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We have a 30 amp electric site with water.  The monthly rate of $400 includes a honey wagon that dumps our tanks every Tuesday and Friday.  There is a flat $75 charge for electricity for the month.  The daily rates are in the mid $30 range.  The sites are gravel pull thrus and grassy back ins.  The sites are level.  We selected our site in early April.  It is on the end of a row of pull thrus, which means we have a large grassy area with two trees and no neighbors on our street side. 

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We are the very last site on the row on the right.     This is the front of our site.  Note the neat fire ring.

                                                     This is the view from our front door.

We are about 100 yards from the Snake River, but there is no direct access from the park.  There is wildlife in the area including a variety of water fowl, squirrels and what appears to be either muskrats, marmots, or beavers.  Every time I try to get close enough for a picture they scurry off to the river.   Here is a picture of one of the resident squirrels watching me with some degree of curiosity:
We have hosted friends at our site and the staff has no problem with guests parking on the grass in empty tent sites across the road.  Overall, a very pleasant place to spend our first days of our new life.  However, we are anxious to hit the road. 

A final note on the significance of this day.  Forty five years ago, in a small apartment on Olympic Blvd in Los Angeles, California I was fortunate enough to wed the lovely lady that is sharing my life today.  We hope this adventure will take us through the next forty five years.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Deal Is Done!

Well, all the waiting and all the stress and all the worry are over.  We closed on our stick house yesterday at 2:00 pm; one day later than it was scheduled thanks to the slowness of one BofA employee who went on vacation last week.  I guess there was no one to fill in for her while she was away.  After the closing we took all of our house keys and the garage door opener back to the house, left them on the kitchen counter and exited through the garage using the 10 second delay on the automatic garage door.  What a relief.

The next objective was to sell our RAV4 (I am not into towing a toad behind the fifth wheel).  I took the RAV4 into the local Toyota Dealer for a lube, oil and filter so I could get a “99" point inspection so I would have something to show prospective buyers that the vehicle was in good condition.  While I was there, I  “wondered” if the dealership would be interested in buying the car.  So I inquired.  Thirty minutes later they offered me my bottom line price.  A sales person helped me transfer all our stuff to a dealer car, got a check cut and drove me back to the campground.  I pulled the title out of the safe and signed it.  He handed me the check.  Objective accomplished in about 2 hours.  Another relief.

Rosie had mixed emotions about not having her own vehicle any longer.  She was happy that we sold it for the price we wanted, but there was a little regret over “losing some independence”.  She is not comfortable driving the big ole truck, but I reassured her that with a little time behind the wheel it would be OK; and I promised to take her anywhere she wants to go without complaint until she is comfortable going on her own.

We sat down and talked about the emotions we were both experiencing.  This is a “transition”  phase where we are out of the house and sold all our stuff; but haven’t hit the road yet.  There is still some organizational work to do on the fiver; plus some logistical items like changing the address on our truck & camper registration, notifying Idaho DMV that we sold the RAV, getting new driver’s licenses and a few other issues before we are truly ready to go.  So, in effect, we are in a kind of limbo between home ownership and full timing; no going back, but not going forward (yet) either. 

On May 18th we will move out to Palisades Dam campground in Swan Valley, ID and try out one of their no hookup sites for a week to test our solar system and adjust to water rationing.  Not much exciting to blog about yet, but I will try to write something interesting a couple of times a week until we head out in earnest on June 7th.