Happy One Year D20Nomadiversary!

When people take a vacation or a trip to a destination, often there is a sandwich of relaxation pressed between two pieces of stress.  There is the stress of planning the trip, packing everything you may need, and the journey there.  The relaxation kicks in after you arrive and a person can think about nothing if they want and enjoy the time away.  The stress returns with the completion of the vacation and is coupled with the anxiety of returning to work the next day.  So many people work extremely hard to earn a week or two off from the grind; they work, raise a family, send the kids to school, and many other chores and responsibilities that encompass their day.  There are those who flourish in this chaotic lifestyle and, in fact, need it to survive.  To us, the chaos was changing our family and those changes were not welcome.  We decided to do something about it; now, a year later, we could not be happier with our choices, our life, and our future.

Our Travels

We have traveled over 7000 miles, visited 17 states, met some equally awesome people, and have explored countless national parks, museums, and other locations.  It has not always been as easy as that, but through the hardships, we have become stronger and the experiences richer.  This past year has reformed our family and the bond and strength we wield compels us forward.  We are not on vacation, we are not taking a trip, we are not retired; we are living our life the way we want to and enjoying every moment that comes our way.  We have all learned so much over this year of traveling life and have never felt more at peace with living.

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Great Smoky Mountains

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The D20Nomads have seen mountains, rolling hills, majestic rivers, stretches of desert, amazing sunsets and sunrises, vast lakes, and beautiful forest land.  It is difficult to say which was a favorite destination or sight since so many offered so much.  The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina gave us miles of vistas that never seemed to end while the rolling hills and farmland of Lancaster Pennsylvania painted a picture of a very peaceful life.  Arkansas and the hot springs area combined the amazing scenery with deep historical roots and sprinkled in intriguing human interaction which made it one of our best stops so far.  Texas did not lie, everything is bigger there and the state does go on forever when you are driving through it.  Surprisingly though, Texas was a pleasant place to visit and explore.  The contrast between the eastern side of the state and the western side is stark; bustling cities and activity versus more open plains and stretches of horizon.  The real treasures of the country lay just to the west of Texas and as soon as we entered New Mexico we felt it.  There was something about the area that gave us a sense of belonging and peace.  The views of massive mountains, acres of cacti, huge cave systems and what seemed to be the freshest air around spoke to us all.  Arizona was equally as amazing for much of the same reasoning.  The entire southwest culture and life will be difficult to top in our minds.  Our year took a pause in Iowa where we will hold up for the summer and enjoy the surroundings of

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Adventureland Amusement Park and places like Des Moines and Altoona.  Have we seen everything we wanted to, no, but that is the beauty of our life.  We travel and work and live and have fun.  If we don’t get to see something, we know we will be back to explore the area again.  I think that fact more than any about this journey has given us the most peace of mind.  We do not have to jam everything in to one week or worry about prioritizing what to do.  The calmness that brings is amazing and allows us to breath.  Too often, we see families running all over the place and trying to do everything in the small time allotted before they have to go back to work.  Through their struggles we see the enormous benefits of what we do.  The year has taught us much and those lessons will carry us through the next year and beyond.

If we could offer advice to anyone just starting out or thinking about this life, it would be to find your own way of doing it.  Yes, of course ask questions, and get opinions from others who have been doing this a while, but ultimately it is still your life and your travels.  Take what others say, use what others have experienced, trial and error your own ideas and mash up a way of life that works for you and your family.  You will be surprised at what you think you need versus what you actually need.  In our year of travel, we have changed and adjusted so many aspects of how we do things to get to where we are now and we expect to make more of those adjustments in the years to come.  We look back at who and where we were when we began this journey twelve months ago and have a good laugh at those timid and even scared people who pulled out of a driveway in Hahira, Georgia last year.  We have enjoyed sharing our life, both the good and the bad, with all of our family and friends.  Staying connected and maintaining those friendships has made the traveling more exciting to us.  Without the support and, in some cases, the oppositions of everyone around us we would not be able to do this.  We may be out on the road as a single family, but we travel with a whole host of people by our side.

Our Experience with Amazon Camperforce

“Amazon is hiring.”  With those words, the wheels were set into motion as applications and paper work were filed and plans were made to be in Campbellsville, Kentucky for the “peak” season at the Amazon fulfillment center in town.  Before we got to that point, we did what we could about researching and asking questions about working there so we could be as prepared as possible for the experience.  What we found out was that no matter how prepared you think you are to work in a facility doing the type of jobs Amazon requires; it is only through the actual experience that you truly find out what working at Amazon is all about.  This is an account of our personal experiences during the five months we were in Campbellsville; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When most of us order from Amazon, we don’t really think about what happens when we click that final button completing our order.  If you were like us, the order was placed and magically it arrived at our doorstep after a few days.  What you don’t see, or perhaps not even realize, is that when that order is placed so many gears are set in motion to make that magic happen and get you your product in a timely manner.  The order goes through the computer system and ends up on the scanner of a “picker” who then tracks down your item, among others, in a HUGE facility and places it in tote.  That tote now begins the rather long journey down a conveyor belt highway and eventually ends at the packing department where people sort and organize orders for the “packer” who places your items, ever so gently, in the box and sends it on the way to the ship dock where it is sent to your home.  That is about as simple as I can make the process.  Working for Amazon, you would be one of the many cogs that run this enormous machine.  Each cog belongs to a department which is responsible for different aspects of the whole.  Depending on what department you decide to work in, this will have a huge impact on your experience at Amazon.  I worked in the pick department and on the day shift while Christi worked in the pack department and on the night shift.  Our experiences will certainly be a little different than those who do not have younger children or will be a solo worker.  Working on different shifts presented us with a host of other difficulties which we will discuss as we document our experiences.

StickFigurePainFirst, let’s talk about the job itself.  As I said, I was a picker and it was my job to go find the product and get it in the tote and on the conveyor belt so packing could do their job.  I was on the day shift so my schedule was fairly normal as far as a work day goes.  Working at Amazon, the two things to always remember are this is a factory/warehouse job and it is a very physical job.  You will be tired, you will hurt, and you will be sore.  If you can remember that and can accept those facts, you should be good.  The facility is very large and just about every area of it is jammed pack with product of many kinds.  Let me make one fact abundantly clear; I cannot express this one fact any more plainly and I cannot explain the utmost importance of this one single fact; you will walk and you will walk a lot.  Now, things may change in between seasons, but for me, I routinely walked 15 to 20 miles a day and sometimes upwards of 25 miles in a single day.

This is not just walking, it is up and down stairs, many flights of stairs, bending, lifting, temperature changes in the building, squatting, and twisting; it is quite an amazing workout.  You will definitely leave there in much better shape than when you arrive.  I can also not express how important it is to drink water constantly during the day and even while you are off work.  Sure, you may pee like 20 times a day, but you will need the fluids to keep going; as I said, this is a very physical job.  Again, it is very important to remember it is a warehouse type job and not very glamorous.  The pay is decent and the various perks they throw at you during the season help make it more bearable.  As far as a job goes, especially a temporary one with an end in sight, this gig is not too bad.  The more you work, not only hours in a week but how many months you are there as well, will add up to a good paycheck by most standards.

ThanksgivingDinner2015One way this job becomes even more bearable will be the people you encounter both in the workplace and at your campground.  The people, more than the job itself, really make this an experience you would do again or one you will curse yourself for even considering and questioning why you ever decided to do it in the first place and never do again.  While on the job, you will encounter both full time regular employees and fellow campers who are here for the peak season.  Regardless of who they are, treat each meeting as fresh and new and try to avoid thinking everyone is the same because they have the same badge.  I met people who really made the time on the job much better and the little interactions during the day helped keep a smile on my face and much less drag on my feet.  I also had the displeasure of meeting a few who made the day miserable.  The good news is that the job of picking keeps you moving and you can walk away from or even completely avoid the people you don’t want to see or talk to during the day.  There are also several break room and lunch area choices which make social interaction avoidance an easy prospect.  I am an introvert so I enjoy my alone and recharge time away from people.  That can be a difficult venture in a place like this.  However, finding a quite chair in the building during your breaks is easier than you may think and eating lunch in your car is always an option to escape the chaos of the day.  The managers and supervisors are all very different.  Some are easy to work with while others are more stubborn and set in the way they do things.  Keep an open mind and realize that you may be having a hard time with them but your boss may be having a hard time with whoever is above them in the supervisor chain of command.  Something else to remember, we are a gravity based society and the poop usually rolls downhill to the bottom.

As with anywhere you travel, where you stay has an impact on your state of mind and will go a long way towards a pleasant stay and a horrible one.  Campbellsville is one of the better facilities as far as offering a variety of campsites that offer no more than a glorified parking lot to a lot to do state park.  Campbellsville, from what I have read and heard from others, is also the best as far as distance from the campsites to Amazon itself.

StablesFlyingYoshiWe arrived in early August and decided to stay at the Green River Stables RV and Horse Park Campground; we have a review for this site on the Park Review page of our site.  We decided that, even though Heartland is literally right across the street from Amazon, living in a parking lot with nothing to do for the kids and everyone crammed in there like sardines was not the best option for us.  The Stables, as it is called, was about 15 minutes from Amazon and had horses for the girls to pet and look at but no riding.  This place had a “community” building but it was clearly designed more to be a horse park for weekenders to bring their animals and ride the trails of the state park next door.  I will not get into too much detail because we thoroughly detail the park in our review.  We visited the Green River Lake State Park Campground and it was really nice, so we decided to pack up and move camp sites.

GreenRiverStatePark2We spent from September through December in the state park and it was a great decision.  Again, we have a thorough review of the state park campground on the park review page of our web site.  Our kids, and us for that matter had a wonderful time at the state park when we were not working and the friends we made while staying there will last a lifetime.  Coming home to a scenic lake view with grass and woods and nature all around you helped tremendously in resetting ourselves from a tough day at work. GreenRiverStatePark

As we said at the start of this, our situation and experiences are different than a majority of the people that worked at Amazon.  We are a younger couple with two young children.  This presented our family with some choices to be made.  One of us could work while the other stayed home and that would be the end of it.  This is certainly a possibility; however, depending on your financial situation and how much you are looking to make and save, this may not be plausible.  We knew we wanted to save as much as possible to set ourselves up for the first few months of the new year, so we decided to have both of us work to maximize our pay.  But how does this happen?  We have younger children who could not be home alone and we did not have the option of a sitter.  The only way we could accomplish this was by one of us working the day shift and the other working the night shift.  The time overlap between me coming home and Christi going to work was about ten minutes and our neighbor was kind enough to watch over the girls during that short period.  At first, it was tolerable and almost comical the waving to each other as the cars passed on the road.  As time passed and the weeks went by, this became much less tolerable and a whole lot less comical.  At the height of peak season, we would only see each other a day and a half at most during the week and not say a single word to each other for at least five days.

taking-notes-in-class-notepadWe communicated through old fashion notes and mini letters each day.  We would tell each other about our work time and what happened at home and what needs to be done, etc.  Basically, I would go to work all day and then come home and be a single parent for the night while she was a single parent during the day and went to work at night.   This made us severely cut back our places to go list because we were just so tired on our days off.  We also had to cram everything that we needed to do, shopping for instance, into our very small amount of off time.  This was stressful on our family but we saw it through to the end.

The questions we hear most when people ask about our time at Amazon and we even ask ourselves now that it is over are was it all worth it and will you do it again?  The first question, was it all worth it, is difficult to answer really.  There is not much that makes not seeing your family worth it, however, if you look at it from a pro and con stand point, yes it was worth it.  We had an amazing experience in a new area and faced a new challenge.  We met a handful of really good people that we now will have a lasting friendship with and our kids made great friends that they will also keep as we travel.  We prepared ourselves financially for the upcoming year and are able to do exactly what we wanted to after leaving Amazon.  Sure, we didn’t have the family time we would have liked, but we made the most of the times we were together and that is what matters.

The second question, will we do it again, is also a little difficult to answer with any kind of 100% decision.  With that said, we can offer a resounding maybe as our stance.  We look at it this way; the Amazon Peak Season will be here and they are, seemingly, always looking to hire full time campers.  Depending on where we are, both physically and mentally, we will make the decision to come back on an as needed basis.  I think that is the best answer we can give.  So you are thinking about working for Amazon during their peak season?  I hope this has helped you and shed some light on what not only the job is, but also what the experience is while staying here.  Good luck in your decision and, if you do decide to take on the Amazon challenge remember, it is only temporary and there is a real exit light at the end of the tunnel.

2015: A year of choice and change

2015 was a year of choices and change.  A year ago we were in full get ready to leave mode and we had half a year still to go before we could begin our journey.  We were all getting very anxious knowing that the time was still months away, but it would be upon us very soon.  So many choices to be made; what do we do with all this stuff, what kind of RV are we going to get, what kind of car do we get, what do we do with the old van?  Somehow, we survived the build up and anticipation and answered all of those questions and more.  The change was now upon us and our new life on the road began.  Every day was now about new adventures, new choices, new challenges, and of course change.

We can say, without any hesitation, there have been no regrets or second guessing about our choices.  We are living life on our terms and our way instead of waiting for things to happen and hoping to “get away” for a few weeks during the year of constant struggle.  Sure, it has not always been easy, but through every hardship we have figured it out and found an answer to keep going.  So much so in the first eight months of our journey that we have self nicknamed our family the Figurerouters (Fig-ur-er-outers).  As individuals, I think we have each changed, at least a little.  For myself, I have become much less stressed and have got back to my easy going nature letting things come as they will and rolling with it.  Christi has boomed creatively, not that she was stagnant before, but now there is no distraction of the struggle we once had and she seems so much more focused on what she wants rather than how can we survive.  Trinity has adjusted to this on the road minimal space life better than we would have ever hoped.  She is very comfortable and has really gained an understanding of the more important aspects of life.  Avery, I think, has changed the most of us all.  She still maintains her go back to and recharge from the social aspect of life, but she has really opened up to going out and playing with other kids and actually talking with other people.  Avery is still very much an introvert, like her daddy, but it has been inspiring to see her adjust and grow yet still maintain who she is as a person.  As a family, we have changed as well.  We have become stronger and more connected; we have become a tighter family unit that bands together and helps each other out through any hardship and we have become a happier family, which may be the most important.

2015 saw many choices and change for us all.  Where once we lived in a 2000 square foot home with rooms for days, we now live in a space less than 200 square feet.  We had many hard choices to make when downsizing and to let go of the material life we once lived.  Yes, we still have possessions, we have not completely given up the idea of the material life, but we have shrunk the need to our family’s basics.  Our family is very tech heavy so a lot of our choices have been around that aspect of material items.  Where once we had the ability to go to another room to get away from whatever, we cannot go really anywhere without still seeing the other people.  However, even in that makeup, we have all managed to find our own space and retreat to it if we need to be “alone”.  We even made a change to our family itself.  The D20Nomads were cat people; at one point I think we had four feline friends.  However, when we hit the road, we were not sure we could do a pet and still travel.  That quickly changed and now, after constant asking for the better part of several months, we got a dog that has joined our family and is now firmly entrenched; Lilith really has been a welcomed addition.

2016 has just begun and the outlook for the year is bright.  We have a good plan and probably many back up plans just in case.  We are ready to take on the challenges as they come and conquer them all.  The D20Nomads are still rolling and the game will not end until we are ready to pack away our dice on our terms.  Bring it on Dungeon Master; we are ready to roll for initiative!

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Bathroom DIY Projects: replacing your old worn out toilet with a shiny new one!

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Old and broken.

We have all said it, “I can fix that”.  We, at one point or another, have also made the claim, “It shouldn’t take me very long”.  Never say that EVER!  Inevitably, it will take forever and you will make three times as many trips to whatever store you need to go to for parts and whatnot.  Since we purchased our rig, we have had and continue to have grand plans on updating, replacing, and painting everything.  The bathroom was one we kind of put off because, well, it was the bathroom and no one except us really use it and everything works so why not just leave it for now.  Fast forward now, to a slightly damp and stained carpet in the bathroom.  It seems we had developed a small, but continuous leak in our fancy RV toilet.  The seal had given way and not only would it not hold water in the tank, but it also was leaking out onto the floor.  Sure, we could have tried to just replace the seal, but what fun is that.  It was at this point when both my wife and I uttered the fatal words mentioned above; this is where our story begins.

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Bathroom Bandit?

When the realization of changing out the toilet was unavoidable, we researched a few models that we liked and made sure the measurements would fit in the space we had available.  That point alone, measuring to make sure what you buy will fit your space, is very important; not only the length and width of the toilet, but also the height of the seat itself.  There are so many options out there, high profile, low profile, the material it is made out of, where the flusher is, additional spray, and the list goes on.  Take your time and make sure you find what will work best for you and your home.   We found our toilet on Amazon and we had our order within a few days of the purchase.  I took it out of the box and the first thing that struck me was the unbelievable feather-like weight of the toilet.  It was like holding air in my hands.  It is an odd thing to get such pleasure from a bathroom product, but hey, I was pretty excited.  That would be the second point to make, inspect your product before you put it in just in case something is missing or even broken.  Fortunately for us, everything was there and there was nothing that was broken.  However, we did not realize that the supply hose that connects the PVC coming into the RV to the actual toilet was not included in the package.  So, there was one thing we had to go to the local home improvement store to get.  There would be more as the project continued.

The massive task of removing the old toilet now loomed.  Well, admittedly, the task was not really that massive, but setting the stage with drama sounded good.  Before you even think about undoing the nuts and pulling the toilet off, please remember to first turn off the outside water supply and disconnect the toilet from the RV water supply in the RV.  I cannot imagine someone forgetting to turn off the water before undertaking this task, but, I thought I would remind you anyway.  In truth, there are only two nuts and bolts holding it all down.  One was fairly easy to get to and undo, it was located just inside the step pedal that we used to flush the toilet.

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It is so dark in there.

After wiggling my way into position on the small floor of the extra small bathroom, I was able to get my wrench inside and work the nut loose enough to slowly take it off with my fingers.  A small sense of accomplishment now swelled inside.  That feeling was very quickly deflated when I tried to figure out how the heck to get to the back nut which still held the toilet in place.  There is an access point under the lid, but let’s be real here, unless you have the hands of a mouse or a very bendy wrench, there is no way you are going to reach the nut from above.

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Seriously, how is that even possible?

After trying, and failing, several different methods to reach the nut from that above position, we finally gave in and took to Google and YouTube for the answers.  Typically, this is the easy way to figure out things you have no idea how to do.  This was not one of those times.  We looked at many videos that showed how to remove the toilet, however, they inevitably skipped the part when they removed the actual nuts and the toilet is magically removed and everything is fine.  These were providing no help or guidance what-so-ever.  I returned into my contortionist form and wedged myself back into the bathroom to try again.  During one of my many pauses to curse the creator of this access point and location of the damned nut, my wife finally found something of use.  There was, apparently, an opening behind the toilet that you could get the wrench inside and work free the nut.  Let me again say, the bathroom is REALLY small and there is just inches between the back of the toilet and the bathroom back wall.

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Once again, I wedged myself even further into the back of the toilet area an between the blind feeling around with my hands and just blind luck, I was able to connect the wrench to the nut and get it loose enough to undo it with my fingers.  Here is a minor tip for this portion of your project; wear gloves while digging around the insides of your toilet.  This is especially true if it has been leaking because there is no telling what “fun” very old liquid type stuff you may find down there.  Now that the water has been disconnected and the nuts are off, the toilet easily lifted from the mount and the swelling of pride and accomplishment returned with a rush.  At this point, feel free to pose with your conquered game and claim ownership of your kill; I did and it felt great.

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The old toilet is no more!

All that remained was to put the new toilet in, tighten it down, connect the water supply, and BAM! We have a new bathroom.  This is where the several trips to the home improvement store come into play.  First, the new toilet did not come with the supply hose needed to connect the water so it all works properly.  Second, we had already thrown out the old toilet; which probably had the hose and correct fitting size still on it  You may not want to keep the old probably really gross hose from the old toilet, but it may be a good idea to hold on to it for size and length references.  Here were the obstacles we had to overcome if this was to be a completed bathroom project.  First, the old toilet has the water connection at the bottom of the base so it was an easy connection.  The new one had the supply connection higher up so I needed a longer hose to reach.  Second, because of how the PVC came up through the floor at an angle, I had to get a connector so the hose I still had to buy was not twisted and bent to reach the toilet.  Third, I do not do this very often so my judge of what size the PVC was was not so good.  Off to Lowes I went with family in tow, because when fixing a toilet in your RV, it is a family event.  For anyone who does not think or believe that it is possible to spend an hour or possibly more in only two isles in Lowes, you would be incorrect.  I can only imagine what we looked like as we combed through each box of connectors, picked up and almost bought just about all of the water supply hoses, and generally looked completely lost in our attempt to buy what we needed to complete the job.  This is where having the old pieces to help figure out how the connectors and hoses fit correctly together would be AWESOME!  Sadly, we did not have those pieces and were trying to guess our way through it.  Finally, help arrived via a sales associate.  Unfortunately, this particular associate had no idea how to help us so he referred us to the guru of bathroom plumbing and fixit lady who he guaranteed could help us.  The only thing more amusing than watching us walk around miserably trying to find the parts on our own was watching me try to explain our plumbing situation in the RV bathroom to someone who must have thought I was a crazy person.  She was really nice though and did her best to get us the pieces we needed.

We sort of kind of confidently drive back to Floki so I can fix the toilet for good.  I get into the twisted position needed to reach and be able to somewhat see the pipes and back of the toilet.  Guess what, we got the wrong size and the hose was WAY too long and a handful of totally other wrong things that now made me get back in the car and drive back to Lowes.  This time, however, I had the extra bonus of the correct sizes and length needed to get exactly what I needed; which is what I should have done in the first place.  Second trip to Lowes was successful and I returned home ready to finally finish the work.  Within about ten minutes, I had the pieces in and everything connected.  We turned the water on and SUCCESS!  No water leaks from any of the connections or from the hose or from the toilet itself and the bowl actually held the water like it was supposed to do.

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Mission accomplished.

I cannot even begin to express the sense of accomplishment I felt when the water came back on and the toilet was finished.  It is really exciting to figure out how to do things on your own and, even though it was only a toilet, it is still good to add another trade to the ever growing arsenal of DIY capabilities.  No matter what the task, no matter how difficult or easy the project may be, and no matter what skill level you think you may have research what you’re doing, use YOUTUBE and Google to its fullest, and do not be afraid to ask for help.  It’s your RV so make it your own by doing as much of the work as you can yourself.  Good luck and happy remodeling on your next project.

How we stay connected while on the road

One of the more difficult parts of full time traveling is staying connected in this increasingly digital social media dependent world.  Cell phones and computers have come a long way and the wireless capabilities are growing constantly.  The one drawback is the amount of data which can be consumed in what feels like an instant if you are not careful with its use.  If you live in a typical stick and brick home, data use is no problem.  You can stream movies, videos, game online, Facebook, email and thousands of other things mostly at the same time with no problems.   Once you enter the realm of full time family traveling, that option for unlimited data is no longer as easily accessible.  Thankfully, there are options still available for just about every budget and family.  We knew, even before we launched, that the internet was going to be one issue we had to tackle.  There are many things we could stand to live without, but the internet, and what it provides our family, we could not sacrifice.

As a little background to give you a context and insight into why the internet was a game breaker, we are a big online family.  We game online, create and post YouTube videos, stream our gaming to the masses, we home school which can be internet intensive, we blog, (obviously), we use the social media to network and so many other ways that it is entwined in the very fabric of our life that we just could not give it up.  We researched so many options including phone data plans, satellite, and other cell based methods but nothing really fit who we are and what we needed.  We had to have unlimited data; how we got it didn’t really matter, but having it was important.  We know we are not alone in this idea, which is why we decided to pass along our adventures, trials and errors, and eventual solution to the internet issue that plagues a lot of full time families.  There are answers out there and the one that suits you and your family may not be the same for everyone, but just know that you have the ability to stay connected if you really want it.

One method of obtaining the almighty unlimited wireless data is to find an RV park that provides Wi-Fi, preferably free of charge, to its residents.  This is not always as easy as it sounds.  Even parks that advertise free Wi-Fi do not always have it up and running or it is so weak you have to be right next to the router to get a single bar.  This is still a viable solution and can be successful in allowing you to have descent and even somewhat reliable internet service.  One key point to remember about the park wide Wi-Fi service is that every resident in the park could be potentially using the same service.  This point is important because the more people that access the bandwidth the slower the internet will be and the less you will be able to do.  A lot of parks even block the ability to stream things like Netflix to keep the bandwidth as open as possible.  Still, slow internet is better than no internet any day of the week.  If there is no park wide internet, do not despair; the free stuff could be in a main recreation room or main lounge or in a place similar to those buildings.  This may not be as convenient as sitting in your jammies surfing the internet in the privacy of your rolling home, but at least you have it to use; and I am sure you could probably wear your jammies there if you really wanted.

A second method still centers on the park as well, but it relies on a third party internet provider.  There are companies, like Tengo Internet, which outfit the parks with wireless internet and the residents pay for the use of the service.  The service could be for a day, a week, or even a month.  This service can be hit or miss.  You could be in a park that is great and you get coverage no matter what, or, you could be in a place where you have to drive to nearest bathhouse where the internet antenna is located and sit in your car hoping for a signal.  The biggest problem with this method is the fact that you forked over money for this service that is not always there.  This third party service is not something you can rely on to be at every place you visit during your travels either.  Another problem is in the fact that, especially with Tengo Internet, it only provides access to the internet on ONE device.  This may not be a problem if you only have one device or have some amazing ability to share the time on that one lonely device, but when more people want to use the internet it can be a real issue.

Let’s move back to a word that is much easier to handle when the internet, or really anything, is concerned; that word, of course, is FREE!  Depending on where you call home for that part of your journey, you have a smorgasbord of possibilities and opportunities available to you.  The catch, however, you have to be willing to pack up your already on the road show and take it on the road.  There are magical places around with names like Starbucks, Lowes, McDonalds, and Target that offer their shoppers free Wi-Fi while inside.  Lowes is particularly good in this adventure because the signal can reach out into the parking lot.  Depending on your car situation, we have a mini cooper which is a little on the tiny side, you could comfortably sit and surf until your heart’s content; or until the close the store for the night.  We took advantage of this particular situation a few times, and even though we were a bit cramped, it worked out.   Perhaps the best option is a little place called Starbucks.  We would plan on a day, sometimes as much as once a week, and have an internet binge day.  We loaded up all of our electronic stuff including chargers, laptops, tablets, etc and drove down to the local target which happened to have a Starbucks inside.  A coffee, White Chocolate Mocha, and a couple of hot chocolates later we were comfortably sitting at a table enjoying the free internet and fancy drinks.  This option really works out very well as long as you don’t mind the transport, travel, and drink buying.  If you are looking for an extremely budget friendly unlimited Wi-Fi plan, this would be the one for you.  The big drawback here is the fact that it is away from your home and in a public place so gaming and Netflix could be an issue.  For basic internet use though, this works.

Cell phone hot spots and data use are certainly an option; the problem here is the amount of data you get each month and the price you pay for not only the data, but also the cost of overage.  If you are a heavy user of the internet, I mean like several hundred GB worth of data heavy, then it is impossible to realistically use a cell phone data plan unless you have unlimited budget to go along with the unlimited internet.  Again, if you are only an occasional data user and only use it for the basics, a phone plan may fit you.  A family of almost any size though will struggle to stay within the boundaries the company offers.  We also looked into several companies that advertised unlimited data use.  A few of those were Broadband Q and X-Broadband.   These companies use the cell towers to bounce their signal around so you can pick it up with one of those fancy wireless routers.  These may sound like viable solutions; descent price, unlimited data, and a reputable company.  One offer did have unlimited data, but it was only during the late night and wee hours of the morning time.  Everything else was only a finite amount of data.  Another offer was indeed free; however, it was only a 3G service.  This may not be a big deal for you if you don’t care about the speed.  Streaming is still possible, but it may have a quality degrade and any online gaming would be difficult.  They did have a 4G option, but that was a data limit plan and not unlimited.  The 3G option looked like it was going to be our best option for a time; it was mobile, affordable, and fast enough to at least let us use the internet and stream our videos and movies.  Then we started researching the old Verizon unlimited plans and just like that we found our answer.

We knew Verizon had plans that were unlimited but they were very difficult to locate.  We asked a lot of questions, read anything that was posted about it, and did what we could to research the option as thoroughly as possible before committing.  Of course we had concerns; does this really work, is it reliable, can we justify the cost, etc, etc.  After reading a few more posts and recommendations, we found a data plan and decided to go for it.  This has been an amazing choice for us.  We have unlimited and very reliable internet whenever and wherever we go.  We can take it with us in the car and it works while we travel from place to place in the RV which makes those longer trips SO much better.  We use a lot of data, as I said before, we are very heavy users; several hundred GB of data heavy.  This plan has never failed us or slowed down or anything that we were even remotely concerned about.  It works on any signal it picks up, but 4G has been available just about everywhere we go.  We can stream, watch videos, game online, and just use it to surf all at the same time with no real noticeable drag on the bandwidth.  This, for us, has been the best solution we could have ever hoped to find.  It does come with a price tag, but considering the other options, we said it was worth the price to have what we wanted from the very start.

There are a lot of possibilities out there for full time traveling families.  Some answers are much more budget friendly and others will add to your monthly bills.  In the end, it is the balance and trade-off you have to weigh and see what you are willing to pay for or sacrifice.  You have free options and I hope this works options as well as costly ones.  We have offered our experiences, what we tried, what we researched, and finally what worked for us.  This is certainly not a complete listing of possibilities.  There may be other solutions out there that we never came across or even thought of trying; the best advice we can offer is to research your options and be open to any solution until you find what will work.  Ask questions, read what other people are saying, and don’t give up.  You do not have to give up staying connected just because you leave the old stick and brick home.  The answer, and the truth, is out there; you just have to be willing to look a little deeper and maybe think outside of the box.

Whoa! It’s Almost October!

Wow!  Three months has passed since we last blogged?  Where did that time go?  Something something having fun I guess.  Update time!

We spent the summer in Pennsylvania.  We toured Amish country, we went to Dutch Wonderland, we saw knights jousting at the PA Renaissance Faire, we sampled delicious foods, we hiked through Gettysburg, we ate cheesesteaks in Philly, we saw the Liberty Bell and toured Independence Hall, we ate ice cream, and we met new friends.  Life was going full speed but we had a blast.  11813439_1601871436728897_1882384675835078860_n

We are slowing down a bit and staying in Campbellsville, KY for the rest of the year.  While we love our adventures, we also must fund our travels and one of the ways that we are doing so is by working through the Amazon Camperforce program.  During the peak holiday season, Amazon hires RVers to work in their distribution warehouses.  Amazon provides free campsites as well as hourly wages.  Michael has been working since August and Christi will be starting on the night shift next week.  We are staying at the local state park during our time here.  The campground sits right on the lake and the view is fantastic.  The best part of all is that there are currently 3 other families here.  We were a little worried that our kids would run out of playmates once the summer was over, but we didn’t need to worry.  So far, there are a total of 14 kids between the 4 families so the girls have an endless amount of friends to play with.

We decided that this was also a great time to start up Game Day since we will be stationary for a while.  We made some great friends through The Geek Society and would get together every Sunday for tabletop games.  We contacted the local comic shop and they were thrilled to host our event.  We’ve been meeting every Saturday and we had about 16 people at last week’s event.  We can’t wait to see it grow and we hope that it will continue after we leave.  11071079_1618907165025324_7193217897076392088_n

We’re still discussing where we want to go after the holidays but we know we want to go out west.  Where ever our journey takes us, we know that we are loving the nomadic lifestyle!

Set backs only make us stronger

It is said, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”.  Whatever “it” is also beats you down to a sad state of your former self before you decide to rise out of the muck to become stronger.  When you decide to travel full time, you expect things to go wrong over time; over time being the key phrase in that sentence.  The occasional leak from a window or even the roof, the busted plumbing line, clogged drainage, and perhaps a flat tire would be some of the happenstance that might occur while touring the country.  We launched on our journey May 31st, 2015 from Valdosta, GA.  Over the next two weeks, yes, only two weeks, we experienced so many setbacks and bad events that it tested our resolve and made us question if this was really the right thing for us.

It all started the morning we left.  As I was hooking Toady to the car dolly, I apparently laid down in a small pile of fire ants about five of whom decided to taste my arm for breakfast.  As far as omens go, this was not a positive one for me.  If that was the worst thing that was going to happen though, I would have taken it.  As it turns out, it was only the beginning.  Traveling down the road for only the second time, we were still a little on the paranoid side about sounds and watching for any signs of trouble.  Our oldest daughter was following us so we at least had a backup in case something fell off that we didn’t notice.  Typically, while towing the car dolly, Christi and I can each see a fender out the side view mirrors.  Suddenly, I caught a flash of red in the mirror and then a head light and then a little of the front grill.  Something was wrong and it was definitely time to slow down and make my way over to the shoulder.  We get stopped and I go to check out why Toad is trying to pass us only to find he is still tightly attached to the dolly.  The problem was the tow hitch had come away from the back of Floki and was dragging behind us held on only by the two safety chains.  Thankfully, the safety chains did their job and we did not lose our car and dolly down the road.  The hitch locking pin, which is supposed to hold the tow hitch in place, broke off allowing the hitch to fall out of the tow bar on the RV.  *PHEW* narrowly avoid a major disaster but now we have to go find a place nearby to buy a new tow locking pin.  Wal-Mart to the rescue!  After the purchase, we make our way back to the stranded Floki and get the pin reinstalled and everything looks good to go.  Fate, as it seems, would not take long to throw another twist into our plans.

Originally, we had planned to meet my brother and his family for lunch before heading up to a place to stay over before finally heading to the mountains for a few days.  Now, we rejoin our heroes as they leave the side of the highway to continue on their journey.  We pull back on the road and something immediately feels wrong with the ride.  At first, we thought it may be the rumble strips as we crossed over to the highway, but that would have been too easy.  Thankfully, there was a rest area right around the next bend that we were able to pull into and get stopped.  As we were slowly creeping to the rest area, I can see the wheel of the tow dolly wobbling like there is no tomorrow; awesome.  Again, we get stopped and we get out to see what the heck it could be this time.  Somehow, still not quite sure how, all of the lug nuts have become loose and have shaken off to the point of sheering off several completely.  I am guessing that one or two became loose and the shaking made the rest fall off.  So, we are now stuck in a rest area with a busted wheel on our tow dolly and faced with only a few options.  One option is to figure out what happened, figure out how to fix it, and figure out how to get back on the road.  Second option is to abandon the dolly, drive separately and get immediately back on the road.  Third option is to sit there and hate life, cry a little, and give up.  Let’s start from third and work back to first.  We did not just plan for more than a year to just sit in a rest area and cry it out before giving up so option three is not available.  The whole point of full time RV living was to be a family and spend the time and adventure together on the road; plus, we just spent $600 on the tow dolly so option two is not available.  Since we have even started dreaming about this lifestyle, we have always said, “We will figure it out; we are figure-er-outers”.  Option one was the only real path for us.

We made a few phone calls before assessing that we were not going anywhere for the night.  Rather than panic, we found a hotel close by that allowed pets and we checked in for the night to reset our minds, find out what we needed to fix the wheel an where to get the parts, and get a good night sleep to start fresh in the morning.  The night falls on our heroes, but daybreak brings a new attitude and a better state of mind.  Parts in hand and tools to fix it, I set off in Floki in hopes of getting the wheel changed out and the dolly hooked back up and ready to go by the time the girls meet me there after breakfast.  As our luck would have it, the hub assembly I bought was the wrong one and too small.  Also, there was no locking nut in the “full assembly kit” to hold the wheel hub n place even if it did fit.  I make a quick call to Christi, who had the forethought to tell me to take the phone, “Just in case”, she is awesome like that, and we are back at the supply place to exchange the kit for the other one.  One side note, for as crappy as our string of luck has been, there have been flashes of good mixed in which has made the bad events possible to navigate.  One such good spot was the fact that when I originally went to buy the hub assembly, the guy said to leave the broken stuff and he would just throw it out at the store.  Either through his forgetfulness or just laziness, the bag with all the old parts was still in the back with the old locking nut.  *PHEW* the correct part and all needed parts and tools in hand, we drive back to the broken dolly and get to work.  Amazingly, the hub fits and after some elbow grease, get the hub in place and locked and the wheel on and all lug nuts tight as can be before hooking everything back up and finally continuing down the road.  Georgia had finally released us from its vice grips and allowed the Mooneys to venture outside of her boundaries.

Now, follow our heroes as they reach and begin to climb the treacherous Great Smoky Mountains to their final destination Fort Wilderness Campground.  We own a 1988 well used RV.  We were well aware that the power this 350 Econoline engine had was minimal at best and we were certainly worried that Floki would have issues when we got to the steeper inclines.  As it turns out, we were correct.  As the climb got steeper and steeper, Floki struggled more and more to get up the mountain pulling Toady behind us.  So much so, that at one point, we were almost going backward.  By the power of Picard, there was one single pull off area going up the mountain and it was in the right spot at the right time.  We get off the road and decide to unhook Toady and Christi would drive the lead the rest of the way to the camp site.  *Foreshadowing* the strain on the engine and cooling system was a lot.

Could it be?  Could our heroes have actually made it to their destination without further issues or devastating events?  Yes!  The travel gods were smiling, or sleeping and not paying attention, and the Mooneys found their way in more or less one piece.  After a rejuvenating experience in the mountains, it was time to get back to the perils of the road and see what fate had in store for us once again.  If you were paying attention to the foreshadowing, you knew something was going to happen.  To play it safe, we decided to drive separately down the mountain until we got out of the mountains and to more level ground.  The way down was interesting, but passed without any issues.  We pulled over to gas up and re-hook Toady to Floki and as we pulled up to the pump, the very distinctive flow of steam began to billow from the engine.  No worries, Floki was probably just overheating a little so we let him cool down and I topped off the fluids to be sure.  We gas up, reattach Toady to Floki, check the air pressure, and we are back on the road with high hopes.  *insert sound of high hopes being crushed* Almost immediately after we start driving, I see smoke/steam coming from underneath the RV itself and the engine.  We are in trouble and it is not good at this point.  We get off at the next exit and limp to the gas station to stop.  After emerging from a very real cloud of smoke and steam, we get out and just stare at Floki wondering if we can even continue or is this the end of the road; again.  We were smoking so bad that a couple stopped and followed us to the gas station to make sure we were alright and not on fire.  Let me say that again; NOT ON FIRE!  Floki was not going anywhere, not now, not soon, and certainly not without help.  Would he ride again?  Not even our heroes knew that answer.

As the mid day sun burns down on our down trodden heroes, they cannot help but laugh because it is impossible to do anything else.  Floki would have to be towed and taken to a repair place, that much was a fact and undeniable.  Sadly, the only RV repair place was about 25 miles in the reverse direction; yes the direction we just left and back into the clutches of the dreaded Great Smoky Mountains.  A good turn of events in the midst of the bad found us with road side assistance as a part of our insurance package, *PHEW*, also, we had just acquired a new smart type phone with a data plan that was very useful in tracking down information about what happened and where to take it to be fixed.  Progressive, our insurance company of course, arranges the tow and initially informs us that we are only covered up to the first 15 miles of the tow.  Still, small victory that we were able to get Floki towed in the first place.   We were also informed that it would be at least two hours before the truck can get to us.  That piece of information now puts us into a bind; the shop close about 4:30 or so and we are about 25 miles from the shop.  We would be cutting it close if we had any shot of getting fixed and back on the road before dark.  *tick* *tick* *tick* *tick* the time goes by and still no sign of the tow guy.  It was becoming more and more clear that we would be stuck in another location we had no plans on seeing at all.  Suddenly, on the horizon, there appears a tow truck; unfortunately, it has arrived with no chance of us being seen by a mechanic today.

Floki on the hook

The sight of Floki “on the hook” was a sad one as we rolled back to the mountains and to an unknown cost.  Arriving at the RV repair place, I nervously walk into the office and wait to talk to one of the middle men inside.  We are going to have to leave Floki here, go find yet another hotel, and wait for the inevitable call in the morning telling us what is wrong, and more painfully, what it will cost to fix.  Quietly, we gather a few belongings and track down a hotel that will take us.  A good night sleep and a fresh outlook are not going to fix things this time, but we are exhausted, frustrated, and ready for something good to happen.  The next day would bring no relief to our pains.  The phone rings and the hits keep on coming.  The middle man tells us we need some hoses replaced, fluids topped off, and a new water pump, pause for the moment to sinking in, then comes the bad news.  They do not have the parts in stock and have to order them; one place will cost us more and it will not be here until Wednesday or Thursday while the other place will be a little less and be there Monday or Tuesday; then comes the worse news.  The repairs will cost us anywhere between $700 and $1000 in total, pause another moment to allow for more sinking in, wow.  Our heroes now find themselves at the proverbial fork in the road.  What choice do we really have but to have the repairs done and figure-er-outers a way to pay for it.  Once again, plans we had to meet up with some friends are changed and a whole week of activities and visiting must be scrapped.  With great doubt and uncertainty, we gather up everything we need and head to Christi’s mom’s house to wait out the storm, lick our wounds, and get ourselves right before tackling yet another problem.  The Mooneys are a resilient bunch though and they absolutely refuse to quit on their dreams.

Fast forward about a week and we rejoin the fight with our heroes now armed with two brand new freshly minted “emergency” credit cards and a renewed sense of goodness that will carry them forward.  In the midst of this fast forward, I will quickly fill you in that included with all this major “fun” several minor issues have plagued our travels.  The turn signals and lights in general have decided to stop working, the front cab has developed a shaking while we drive; hopefully because of a balance issue but we will revisit that later, and we have fixed a few leaking pipes under the sink.  It’s at this point when I begin thinking of a particular clip from the Ghostbusters movie that I feel fits our situation very well…

Now that we have all had a good laugh at our situation, let’s continue.  During our down time, we laid out a new plan and travel, so when we pick up Floki, we know exactly what we are doing and where we are going.  Since we are still in the mountains, we decide to drive separate for a while and clear or at least try to clear the heavy ups and downs the region presents.  Good news, the mountains release us and we are allowed to head east and to the sanctuary of level land.  A quick stop for gas and we reattach the family and it’s back on the road as a family.  Cruising down the road, it occurs to me that every moment something bad does not happen the more relaxed I am feeling.  *BAM* that was reality smacking me with a two by four or the sound of our front tire blowing out while doing 60 on the highway with a car in tow.  Needless to say, the sound and subsequent actions after your first tire blow out sober you up real quick.  The crazy thoughts we had about making it from point A to point B with no stops in between were quickly wiped away by shredded rubber and the sound of a metal rim grinding on the road.  Slowly and gingerly we make our way to the shoulder with no further issues and put it in park and finally take a moment to breathe and get ready to put out yet another fire.  We exit the RV and are greeted with a completely shredded front tire but still feel ok because, hey, it’s a tire; how hard can it be to change a flat, um yeah.  Getting the lug nuts loose was no problem, getting the front raised enough to then take the tire off was no problem, however, raising the hub high enough to replace the flat with the spare; BIG problem.  The measly regular jacks we have were no match for the hefty weight of Floki’s front end and no matter where we placed the jack; we just could not get it up off the ground high enough.  For at least an hour, I did battle with the wheel hub only to finally wave the white flag and admit defeat.  Throughout my trials with the wheel, would stop occasionally and laugh out loud.  Passersby must have thought me quite mad; here is a man obviously struggling, but still maniacally laughing at a shredded tire, an RV with a blue cab, and a wheel hub that refuses to lift any higher than a few inches from the ground.  It is again at this moment, after all the little and big problems have piled up and piled up and as the extra money we once had has been slowly but surely depleted, that I cannot help but think about another certain movie clip that once again fits our situation…

After a good chuckle, we now pick our heroes up on the phone with a nice gentleman with a tow truck, awesome.  Smaller than the jack I am using but ten times more powerful, he places the little cylinder that could under the wheel well and, with a few simple pumps on the lever, Floki is raised from the ground and the spare is put on and tightened in place.  This tow guy is so awesome; he even checks the other five tires and uses his portable air compressor to fill our spare to a usable pressure.  After offering a small sacrifice to the tow guy gods, we are back on the road and, for the next several hours, Christi and I are at are highest paranoia levels as we are checking the mirrors and investigating every little sound.  This is not how traveling should be; the journey should be half the fun of this lifestyle but instead, it has become the most stressful and hated part of our lives.  Things have got to get better and soon.

Our heroes make it to their next location without further incident and a good night sleep, cup of coffee and a fantastic shower is all that is needed to bring the frame of mind back from the brink of defeat and headed in the right direction.  Do not think that our plight is over though; we still have one more seven hour trip to make before we reach the end of our two week tale of horror and misfortune.  The Mooneys recharge their batteries and head north on the final leg of what has become a very round-about route north to Pennsylvania.  One long blast on the horn and we are underway.  After a short ride, we pull in for some gas and while the kids and mommy go in for some food and drink, dad stays behind to pump the gas.  Standing there, the pump is having trouble with keeping a flow of fuel going into the tank.  As I am playing with the handle and trying to position it so it will stay engaged, I hear the little splashes of some kind of liquid hitting the ground under Floki.  It appears the fuel that is being put in is not finding its way to the tank, but out a hole somewhere in the process.  My first thought is that we have a busted fuel tank and looking at the underneath there is no way to get to the fuel tank without first taking off the black and gray water tanks.  This is not looking good for our heroes once again.  But wait, the flow of fuel has slowed and I can see better with my flashlight and it seems the fuel is leaking from a rubber connector hose which is still not accessible without taking off the black and gray water tanks; light, but ever so dim.  The drama builds as the scene now finds Michael sitting on the ground stinking of gasoline and grease and once again dirty from having to dig around the RV.  Christi and the girls emerge and she asks the question, “Do I want to know?” I reply, “no, no you don’t”.  We both sit on the ground next to our busted up RV and suddenly I know what Admiral Adama must have felt like after a tough battle with the Cylons.  Beaten, bruised, in bad need of repairs, but still floating through space and sustaining the life of her crew.  Desperate, like the dying man on the battlefield asking for morphine to numb the pain, I turn to the one tool that just may get us back on the road and to our destination…

duct-tape

DUCT TAPE!!!  The savior of people with broken stuff everywhere; duct tape is our Obi Wan Kenobi…it is our only hope.  Christi leaps into action, well, slowly stands up and walks into the store to buy a roll.  She returns and the duo begin tearing off strips of tape and very generously begin wrapping the torn hose.  Piece after piece, agonizing inch by inch the black hose becomes duct tape gray and easily twice as thick as it used to be.  Now the moment of truth, pumping fuel into the tank to see if the job is complete;  SUCCESS!!!!!  No leaking from the hose!  The tank is filled and the Mooneys are back to the journey.  A few hours later, our heroes arrive in Lancaster, PA and stop in their site with a great sigh of relief that this part of the journey is complete.

Two weeks had passed since we officially launched and just about every day was an adventure and an ordeal that we did not expect or even dream of happening.  It tested our resolve, it tested our fortitude, it tested our belief in our dreams, but we never gave up and we put on our figure-er-outer hats and figured it out.  We are brand new to this life right now, but we feel we can offer at least this small piece of advice to anyone who may be experiencing something similar or wondering how they would handle it if this was happening to them.  Yes, get mad, get angry, get frustrated, even cry it out if you feel the need to but when all that is out, sit down and really look at the problem and think of all the possible solutions, even the ridiculous ones.  There is an answer; you just have to look for it.  If traveling full time is your dream, things are going to happen and sometimes, obviously, they happen in bunches.  Do not give up so easily on your dreams; make them happen.  Be and do what you want no matter what gets in your way and don’t forget to laugh, even in the face of the terrible misfortune you are experiencing.  This is our life, these are our stories, and we will figure it out!

Leaving for Orlando: the real deal

Bird Friends

The day had finally arrived.  I was on my very last day of post planning for school and was just waiting for the call to go home.  I was hoping that this would be an early release, or at least that I would be told “you really don’t have to be here anymore”, and I would just be a dust cloud outline and already home.  Unfortunately, this was the first in a very long string of events that pushed us to the brink of that one dreaded question full time families ask themselves…”What the hell did we get ourselves into?!?!?!”.  It was turning 4:00 by the time I pulled into the RV Park and after a few difficulties in packing, getting the tow dolly hooked up and loaded with Toady, and making sure everything was secure we finally headed out of Valdosta at 6:00.

We gassed up Floki and headed south to Orlando.  For some added spice to the pot, the gas gauge does not work and we were unsure how big our fuel tank was, so we are making a best guess on exactly how far to go before we stop to put some more in the tank.  We figured Gainesville, Fl.  to be a fair and safe bet so after cruising down the highway, worried that every noise was something falling apart or falling off, we pulled off what appeared to be a good exit.  We figured out very quickly that the station we were trying to get to was going to be a tight fit for Floki and Toady to fit into and then pull out of after fueling.  Definitely a lesson learned, although not one we really would learn because we end up doing the same thing later in our travels.  To make the exit, I had to pull Floki all the way through and blocked most of the path to the exit.  This fact did not stop other motorists from attempting to literally squeeze through and make it to the driveway out.  One fine gentleman, uttered some not so nice words my way.  Yes, I should probably not have been there in that station and yes I was totally blocking most of the driving area, but hey…I am new to this and learning as I go.  Gas ordeal complete, we slowly and gingerly pull out of the gas station and get back on the road south.

Darkness now sets around us, which is one thing I absolutely did not want to do…drive and arrive in the dark.  Darkness, however, is where we are and what we are driving in the rest of the trip there.  We arrive in the area and finally make our way to the Thousand Trails Park.  Tired, hot, and just plain ole worn out from a long day, we pull in to find the park office closed and no after hours check in available.  I was already unhappy about the leaving late and driving in the dark and knowing I would have to set up in the dark, but now we were literally locked out of the park because we needed a key code to open the gate to get in to find a site for the night.  There are not many words to describe my mood and feelings at that time, and the ones that do exist are not real nice to say or type.  Needless to say, I was just ready to put it in park and call it a night until the office opened in the morning.  Thankfully, as we were sitting at the gate key pad staring at the numbers like a dog looking at an empty food bowl, a car pulled in behind us and let us in with their code.  Our relief, however, was short lived, since we still had no idea where to go or what to do.  This was the first time any of us had been to this park and, as it turns out, the park is massive.  Its pitch black and here we are creeping through in an old 1988 RV with a blue cab and a mustache on the front trying to locate an empty somewhat level spot to call home for a few days.  Finally, we find one and somehow get pulled in enough to stop and get hooked up to the basics before falling over and calling it a night.

There are many ways to perk yourself up after a long and arduous day on the road; I am here to tell you that there is no better way than a good night sleep, a cup of coffee, and a glorious shower to wash away the grime and funk of the previous day.  Our first travel and set up was in the books and we felt good about accomplishing something we had talked about for so long.  We were officially on the road and a whole new chapter of our life was beginning.

Meet Lilith!

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Meet Lilith! We’ve added a new traveling partner to our group. Lilith was rescued by the Humane Society. She was pregnant when they found her and heartworm positive. Unfortunately, she was so sick that the puppies didn’t make it. She spent several months in treatment and recovery and was eventually deemed ready for adoption. Lilith was a very timid and shy dog, which didn’t attract many suitors. She was passed by for weeks in favor of puppies and more energetic dogs. That changed as soon as Avery met her.

We had been looking at dogs for a few weeks in anticipation of adding a new family member, but hadn’t found the right fit yet. Avery sat in front of Lilith’s cage and gently, Lilith walked over and licked Avery on the hand. It was love at first lick. Up until this point, Avery didn’t want anything to do with any of the dogs. They were too noisy, or too jumpy, or too bitey. She preferred looking at the fish. Avery looked at us in absolute wonder and said, “She licked me!”. She looked at Lilith again, gave her a pet, and she turned to us once again and said “This one. We’re getting this one.” Two days later, the adoption papers were completed and Lilith spent her first night as a nomadic dog.

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Lilith has been a fantastic addition and is really starting to let her personality shine. She loves to play fetch and lick faces. She is a quick learner and is starting to pick up basic commands. Lilith adores everyone in the family and spends most of her nights snuggled to one of the kids. We’re happy to have her a part of our family!

Ready, Set, Launch!

It’s here!  It’s here!  It’s here!  We have finally moved into the RV! The D20 Nomads are mobile!  Here is an update on life up to this point.

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Floki’s first park

Originally, we had planned on staying in our sticks and bricks house until June of 2015 so that Michael could finish out the school year and we would have plenty of time to purge and sell all of our household stuff.  We started sorting through everything, moving items that we wanted to get rid of into the dining room and items that we were keeping into one of the bedrooms.  Our landlord, however, decided that he had other plans.  A real estate agent showed up to let us know that our landlord was putting the house on the market.  Things were a mess; not the “oh we have company coming over” mess, but the “where the heck did that tornado come from?” mess.  Confusion and time suddenly accelerated.  The real estate agent was under the assumption that we were moving out by April even though the rental agency that we had our lease through was completely unaware that the house was going on the market.  We had stuff  everywhere so the house was nowhere near show ready.  Despite being told that the house wouldn’t show until after we had moved out, four people showed up to view the house the first week that it was put on the market; most of whom came without notification.  It was clear that we needed to get out and much quicker than we first had planned.  We panicked a bit, but after recovering from the initial shock that we had less time than we had thought, weeks instead of months, a game plan was soon formed.

We put in our 30 day notice with the rental agency and got to work on purging the house.  We had three weeks of yard sales and gave away everything else that we wouldn’t be taking with us.  Wow, it was a LOT of stuff!  Why did we ever need all of that stuff and where and how did we even acquire it?  We decided to stay at a local RV park during the last two months of Michael’s school.  This actually worked out in our favor because the monthly rent was less than our house rent and all utilities are included.  We would be able to save quite a bit by staying in the RV Park for those two months.  We did our move out inspection on a Monday, which could be a whole new blog by itself, and headed over to the park.  It was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.  So many questions flew around us as we drove the short distance to the park.  Are we sure we want to do this?  Are we ready to do this?  Are we going to be ok?  Did we get rid of enough?  Where are we going to put the stuff we have left?  All of it didn’t matter though, the time had arrived and we were GOING to make it work.

We are a family that has gotten used to figuring stuff out and overcoming obstacles along the way.  We are not a family accustomed to having things fall our way or even right into our lap.  We got to the park and found our assigned space, and within 15 minutes of being here, the lady who works in the office came by to see if we would be interested cleaning the bath house in exchange for free rent.  We had planned on looking into workamping while on the road, so having an opportunity to workamp fall in our laps was very exciting.  We agreed eagerly.

Setting up took some time since we were brand spanking new and really had no idea what we were doing.  Our RV neighbors were very friendly though and offered assistance and advice.  This has been a huge learning curve and experience; both setting up the RV and learning to navigate inside the confined space.  We’ve been bumping into things and each other but everyday gets better and we are figuring it out.  You would think that in such a small area nothing would get lost and we would be able to find what we needed.  That particular theory is so far not working for us as we keep losing things regardless of the space.  Figuring out the best set up for beds, computers, and everything else that we need has been an evolving experience, but it is taking shape and new ideas are coming to us as we experiment with the RV.  We’re already planning on taking two chairs out to add more storage space and turn it into a little entertainment area to better accommodate our electronics addiction.  I really think all those years of playing Tetris has finally paid off.

A week has gone by and it really feels like home now.  All hook ups, both inside and out, are connected and functioning properly and some of the small fixes have been completed to boot.  We have found a rhythm and routine during the day and even the night time getting ready for bed has become smooth.  The family has adjusted and figured it out.  The girls are enjoying the new areas to explore and bike ride, Mommy and daddy are enjoying the new atmosphere and experience, and the family is enjoying the new sense of togetherness.  Even in the small space, we have all found our little niches and somewhat quiet places to retreat to when we need a break.  Every day is a new one and we are excited to greet each new challenge and adventure with a new found vigor and confidence.  It has only been a week, but it has been a very good start to our new life.