Friday, November 27, 2015

Bay City -- Day 30

The most expensive thing you can do with an RV is drive it. That, combined with convenience, is why you see so many rigs with little towable cars ("Toads" or "Dinghys") behind them. Drive to a spot, park, set up camp, and stay. Hop in the toad and run to the store, see the sights, engage the community outside the park.

What if you don't have a toad? Then you have to plan a little differently. Hit the store on your way to the park, load up on supplies. Maybe park at the disc golf course for a round before you reach your final destination, if that's your thing. A lot of people will actually overnight at the Walmart, combining the shopping trip with a money-saving night of free camping. When you're full-time in an RV, saving money becomes an art form.

Since this is the notoriously named Black Friday (for the black mark that it puts on America's soul?), you wouldn't want to overnight camp in a Walmart parking lot. Fortunately for us, we were already safely ensconced in the 60 North RV Park in Bay City, Texas. The WiFi is not as strong as advertised, but the management has four kids on Thanksgiving Break (ages 20, 14, 12, 8 -- 3 girls and a boy) which worked out perfectly for Z. We were even invited to join the Thanksgiving potluck meal at no charge with the rest of the guests of the park. I think there were only about a dozen people around the table, but you could taste the love in every dish that was made. Thanksgiving is best enjoyed with close friends and family, but if you can't do that, delicious dinner with strangers is a nice substitute.

Sometimes things work out in ways that you didn't imagine.

With Z's emotional needs being met by the kids and the spotty WiFi, it was time to recharge the soul batteries for the rest of the crew. We opted to drive to LeTulle Park for disc golf, and that was well worth it. Beautiful old-growth trees, if not a very challenging course. Anya kept taking pictures of the trees, and talking to them. I am pretty sure at one point she actually hugged one.  As a disc golf course, there was room for improvement, but it had been a week, so I was happy just to be able to get out and throw. I did lost one of my favorite discs in the water, but the giddy feeling of Anya's happiness combined with 75 degree weather made the loss much less painful. Besides, it's good to be able to let things go.

Attachment leads to suffering. ~ Gautama Buddha

This journey has taught us all to be a little bit more flexible and patient. This week we were rewarded with some unexpected joys that make it seem like maybe this excursion could actually work in the long run. As long as we don't hold too tightly to our expectations, and remain open to the marvelous possibilities of the universe, anything can happen. And with perspective, all of it is good.

 My birthday is coming up next week. I'm going to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and that is spend the day in my birthday suit. We found an accommodating place down in Edcouch, Texas called Natures Resort, and we're planning to book a week-long stay there. While there I expect to gain the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

Monday, November 23, 2015

RV Boot Camp -- Day 26

Buying an RV and deciding to live in it full time is not a propostion to be undertaken lightly.  There are variables, factors, and considerations several of which are unique to the individual. What kind of RV should you get? What are you going to do with all the stuff that you can’t take with you? How are you going to survive being with your family in 200 sq ft of space 24/7?

There is no single answer that is right for everyone in general, as we are all different personalities with varied interests and priorities. However, there is one thing that I would recommend to anyone that is considering the RV lifestyle.


It cannot be overstated. This is a field that has so many interesting nuances that you will never stop learning new things. I have come across people that have been RVing for decades and they always have new stories to tell about new learning experiences. The internet is a wonderful resource, and we spent many hours watching videos on YouTube about everything from how to dump your black water tanks to what cell phone booster is the best for your coverage area. I joined forums ( is my favorite) and clubs (Good Sam and Escapees are my favorites) and will talk to anybody that wants to tell me anything about their RV experience. By far, the single greatest investment that I have made was RV Boot Camp.

Three days of intense training on how to safely maintain and operate your RV. Starting with the basics of which kind of RV is right for you -- motorhome (Class A, B, C?), trailer (5th wheel, bumper pull?) -- to the important (fire safety, how to drive safely); this is the most important thing that I’ve done since we bought our rig. I would highly recommend it to anyone that is thinking about doing any kind of RVing, whether full time, or just weekenders. My biggest discovery was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’ve done tons of research, but I was limited to the questions that I could come up with. There were entire areas that I didn’t even know that I should be looking into (like how many fire extinguishers should I have? The answer is 5.)

It was a really cool experience, too. We met lots of cool people, some of whom were brand-new to RVing like us, and some that had been doing it for years. RV people are some of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, and these friends that we made I hope to be in touch with for many years to come. When you’re on the road, the whole nation becomes your community, and you never know where you might run into your friends. Or maybe decide to meet up with them at some remote location, like Big Bend National Park (literally the largest National Park in the system, and the least visited.) The beauty of this adventure is that we are only limited by our imaginations (and the physical abilities of our rig.)

So now that I’ve graduated from RV Boot Camp, and the winter chill is in the air (33 degrees when I woke up this morning,) it’s  time for us to head south. We’re looking at spending the next week in Bay City, Texas, at the 60 North RV Park. One reviewer said the WiFi is faster than what he has at home, so that should be happy. Also, there is a disc golf course 4 miles from the RV park, so that’s a bonus. Now, if only they had a big forest, too.

I guess that’s where we’ll be heading the following week. Maybe. Ask me again next week.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Places We've Stayed -- Day 21

When we launched this Grand Adventure, we all expected that it was going to be a one-way trip to Portland, Oregon for a semi-permanent living situation. Doing it in an RV was supposed to make it easier to travel, and less hassle to find a place to live once we got there. As we were preparing for that life-changing event, it occurred to us that we don't really like cold weather. Not even a little bit. I have been quoted as saying that I would not want to live anywhere the high temperature is lower than my age. As I get older, this makes the options fewer, and farther south.

After much discussion, we opted to wait a bit before heading north. This gives us time to get our rig optimized for our personal use, making sure that we have everything that we need, and that all of our systems work. Driving shorter distances has given me much needed practice, as handling this behemoth is very different from the little sedan that I was used to. Also, it is rough on the youngster to be separated from friends and family at this age. We've moved cross country before, but this was the first major move where she had a bunch of friends that she had grown close to.

So, here we are, three weeks on the road and barely 950 miles under our belts. This makes me the perfect person for a Top 10 list of Place We've Stayed. Except I only have eight entries.

From worst to best (based on my enjoyment of the stay):

10. Walmart Supercenter, Huntsville, Texas -- for those of you that don't know, Walmart will often let RVs and big trucks park overnight in the parking lot for free. We actually hit this place up on two occasions, as the convenience of resupplying and staying for free appealed to us. The parking lot is not overly large, so the odds of a big rig parking right next to you and running his generator all night is higher than in other places. BONUS: free WiFi, though the connection was a bit sketchy.

9. TBA

8. TBA

7. Sunset RV Resort, Bee Cave, Tx -- We only stayed here overnight, so I don't have a lot to say. The staff was very friendly, and accommodating considering we were arriving just at closing time. Office is closed on weekends, which struck me as a bit weird. Still, the facilities were nice for the short time that we were there. WiFi was decent.

6. Johnson Branch State Park, Lake Ray Roberts, Tx -- I love lakes (as you can tell by the list) and this one is beautiful. The park had multiple playgrounds for the kids, and tiled shower facilities. The parking pads were severely slanted, and cell reception was unreliable. But if you're trying to get away from it all, I would recommend this place. (When we go back, I'm angling for site 13 in the Juniper Cove, lake view with trees for privacy.)

5. Rainbow's End, Livingston, Tx -- Headquarters of Escapees, and the location of our mail center. Great park, lots of helpful people. The WiFi is pay by the day, and not super strong, but the other amenities make up for it. Swimming pool, clubhouse, and All-You-Can-Eat pancake breakfast on Saturdays!

4. Lake Park Campgrounds, Lake Lewisville, Tx -- Beautiful lake, and really inexpensive! Short walk to the disc golf course, and a short drive to Dallas. Internet was unavailable while we were there, but lake views (campsite 30) and some geocaching made up for it.

3. Loyd Park, Joe Pool Lake, Grand Prairie, Tx -- this was our first stop, and we didn't realize how good we had it! Very nice campground, friendly staff, flat site, very private. Nice bathrooms, lake views (site 59). We stayed there right after the flooding, so some of the lakeside sites were unavailable. The staff was diligently repairing and cleaning them while we were there. I would love to come back again!

2. Inks Lake State Park, Inks Lake, Tx -- Park Ranger recommended site 92, and I have to say that she nailed it. Gorgeous views of the lake, and privacy on one side. No internet, being a state park, but tons of lake based activities to distract!

1. City of Hico's Bosque River RV Park, Hico, Tx -- by far our favorite stop. Quaint little town within walking distance that has a 24-hour laundromat, a historic area, and a couple of restaurants. The park has full hookups, amazing WiFi, and a disc golf course! This is going to be a stop for us, any time we're in the area. The one drawback: the flies. Literally a daily battle. At one count we had 30 in various parts of the coach.

And there you have it. Our next scheduled trip is to the Escapees RV Boot Camp, in Livingston this weekend. Once we have that knowledge in hand, we're planning to head south for the winter. We're thinking Corpus Christi, or maybe even Brownsville. We still want to see Portland, but that can wait until Spring. I need at least two more places to round out my Top 10 list!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meeting needs -- Day 15

We've been on the road for two weeks now, and I think that we're getting it down pretty well.

Or so I thought.

This is an amazing, life-changing, epic adventure! So many new experiences and learning opportunities! We're having the time of our lives! Unless you ask each of us individually, and then you start to see the disconnect.

We have five creatures on this rig, two adult humans, one junior human, one dog and one cat. (Any other creatures are stowaways and have no voting rights.) The dog and the cat are pretty easy to satisfy, as long as they have access to food, water, love and waste elimination opportunities. The humans each have different basic needs ranging from disc golf to watching YouTube. The challenge is trying to get all of the needs of all of the beings met in a timely fashion.

Being the patriarch and course planner, it is mostly up to me to decide where we are going, and what needs are going to be met. Fortunately, my helpmate is really flexible (heh, heh) and really just needs to be around some trees. This is the easiest requirement of our nomadic, camping lifestyle! Of course, I get more points the more scenic and prolific the trees are, so I try to find really nice state parks when I can. The animals are mostly happy when Momma is happy, so there's three sets of needs taken care of with very little effort. The final two are more complicated, and require a lot more creativity and compromise.

My darling 10-year-old is a YouTube fanatic. I honestly didn't know such a thing existed, until she became one. I've spend my share of hours sitting in front of YouTube (usually trying to learn something at first and then devolving into mindless entertainment -- or worse.) But my many (many, many) hours pale in comparison to the hardened, seasoned viewing time that my lovely daughter has put in. Honestly, if there were a college degree in watching YouTube, she would have a Ph.D. She can talk for hours about Jack Septic-eye, Markiplier, SkydoesMinecraft, and others. YouTube is her source of life force energy, and without it she gets cranky, almost depressed. So, what's a girl to do when she's on the road, with no internet to speak of?

The other major entity in need of satisfaction is me. I like to think that I'm a simple guy with simple needs, but this trip has proven that to be understatement. Mostly, I don't mind sacrificing my personal happiness for the happiness of my family. I have proven that for years. The only major thing that I can't generate in any random location is my one sporting outlet: disc golf. Really just a fun hobby, it fills with me with great joy. Also a fun family activity, when I can get the girls to come with me.

So how do we reconcile all the needs of all the people? Hico, Tx. Seriously, you would think that I have a longer answer than that, but it's been pretty simple. This little town has been the answer to all of our issues, and we plan to come through here as often as possible. They have a wonderful RV park located on the Bosque River, with kickass WiFi and a disc golf course. The camping rates are reasonable, too!

Granted, this doesn't address the deeper issues that we all have, and we realize that we can't stay here forever. The bigger solution is to compromise, and rotate getting our needs met in a revolving sequence. In Hico we golf, watch YouTube, and enjoy the park. When we leave, we try to find a place that meets the needs of at least two people, and then on the next stop we meet the needs of the one that was left out. This is the compromise that we're going to try. I'll let you know how it works out.

Friday, November 6, 2015

THIS is what I signed up for -- Day 11

With the sun up just enough to lend the sky the colors of 80’s mall-girl makeup, reflected off the serene, rippling Inks Lake, the call of the ducks is the loudest sound of this blissful morning. The Canada geese are gathering for breakfast while the winking radio tower miles away reminds me that civilization is still out there.

I could get used to this.

When we first were planning to live in an RV, I had mental pictures of mornings like this, followed by days of hiking, bird watching, and evenings with campfires and bourbon. The reality of last week camping out in Walmart parking lots with no electricity, the difficulty of adjusting to life with no internet, and the unique challenges of keeping three city-minded people from getting discouraged away from the usual creature comforts almost made me throw in the towel and head back to a sticks-and-bricks existence.

But this is life! The chorus of “Amens” from the honking geese punctuates this as I type. I know that it’s been a little rough, and there are still some things to figure out. But I wouldn’t trade this adventure that we’re on for the security of a decent job, a fixed address, and a daily routine that features unchanging scenery.

Today we’re at Inks Lake, which I highly recommend if you’re ever going camping in central Texas. Beautiful scenery, great hiking, lots of lake-related activities. Since this was our first visit here, Park Ranger Kristen New recommended camp site 92 and it is spectacularly located at the end of a peninsula with neighbors only on one side and incredible views all around. The bathrooms with spacious showers are a short walk, with the camp store just a bit further.

We depart today for Hico, and disc golf tomorrow, if the weather holds. But even if it doesn’t, I’m having the time of my life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Calling this week a success! -- Day 9

To say the learning curve has been steep is an understatement, but I'm prepared to call this week a success. There are still a few things that need figuring out, and probably some new things that we haven't encountered yet, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the safety and sanity of a mundane existence.

Lessons from the Road:

1. Call ahead. When we were city dwellers, I would never go to a restaurant without calling to get on the waiting list, I would often call stores to make sure the item that I wanted was in stock, I would call the box office to buy my tickets in advance. This habit is invaluable on the road, but has to be done early! I have learned that Texas State Parks usually close around 5pm and weekends book up really fast.

2. Life without a generator sucks. Camping without electricity is an American tradition that dates back to the frontier days when it was a necessity. Personally, I have never really been a fan of "primitive" camping, and my daughter is even less so. Currently, our generator is not charging our house batteries, which means that if we aren't plugged into shore power, we got no juice. This makes dry camping really challenging, and much less fun.

3.  You better really like your travelling companions. Everybody knows how much I love my family. And I've grown accustomed to our pets. The stress of being on the road will put all of your relationships to the test, and I can admit that I haven't passed all of those tests will flying colors. Still, remaining open to life's lessons, and understanding that this is hard for all of us, I feel like we are all learning to love each other better.

4.  Don't be afraid to ask for help. The RVing community is full of really knowledgeable and helpful people! There are lots of online resources, as well as people that are probably in your campsite, that are willing to help you out of many situations. I highly recommend Escapees RV club,, and

So today, as we wake up just outside of Bee Cave, Tx and enjoy breakfast before hitting the road, I look back on our week and smile. The challenges that we have overcome, and the obstacles that we see in front of us, are just making this adventure more exciting. Can't wait to see what Inks Lake State Park has in store for us today!